|05.20.09 at 9:25 pm ET|
It has become standard operating procedure. Once again, Brad Penny didn’t strike anyone out (more literally, he struck out two). Once again he succeeded despite that fact.
Penny, after making it through the first six innings without permitting a run, was touched for a pair of runs in the seventh before leaving with two outs following an infield single, the ninth hit he’s allowed this year. He turned in his fifth quality start of the season, tied with Josh Beckett for second on the team behind Tim Wakefield’s six. For the sixth time in his eight starts this year, Penny struck out two or fewer. He was hittable, having permitted nine hits, but thanks to excellent defense (notably, the work of Jacoby Ellsbury to track down 11 fly balls, and a sharp double-play turned by Mike Lowell), he held the Jays in check throughout the night.
|05.20.09 at 9:02 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury ran down another pair of fly balls in the sixth inning, and now has an unbelievable 11 put-outs with three innings left. He broke the Red Sox record of 10 put-outs by an outfielder in a single game, accomplished four times, and stands just one shy of the major-league record of 12 put-outs, accomplished 10 times (but just twice in a nine-inning game) with nine outs left.
|05.20.09 at 8:48 pm ET|
It was a long, long, long time coming. One-hundred forty-nine at-bats had passed since David Ortiz last homered. The slugger’s struggles had reached epic status.
But in at-bat No. 150, Ortiz unloaded on a 1-1 fastball with a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, sending it deep towards center. The crowd roared, and the extra breath may have helped to push the ball just over the wall and into the camera well. The crowd erupted as Ortiz went from a sprint to a trot, and when the slugger crossed the plate, he stopped, taking a bit more time than usual for his point towards and conversation with the heavens. At home, Ortiz was embraced, first by Dustin Pedroia, then Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay. The Sox gave him the silent treatment for just a moment when he entered the dugout, before the pile-on occurred, the full team erupting in celebration. The fans joined, until Ortiz accepted the invitation to a curtain call for his first homer of the season.
Now, the wait for No. 2 commences.
Ortiz’ blast followed Jason Varitek’s. The inning continued with the Sox hitting Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil like a pinata, with a Kevin Youkilis single, Jason Bay homer, and Mike Lowell homer driving the rookie from the game. Cecil left having allowed eight runs on 12 hits, including a Toronto-record-tying five homers.
The Sox are up, 8-0, in the fifth. The eruption has ended a team-wide drought for the Sox, who had gone eight straight games with five or fewer runs.
|05.20.09 at 8:40 pm ET|
Leading off the fifth, Jason Varitek jumped on a 2-1 fastball from Jays starter Brett Cecil, lining the ball a few rows into the center-field bleachers for his second homer of the game. It is Varitek’s first multi-homer game since August 16, 2005.
Worth noting: Varitek leads all major-league catchers with seven homers.
|05.20.09 at 8:12 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury recorded a pair of put-outs in each of the first four innings, then called off Dustin Pedroia on another pop up just behind the infield in the fifth. He has a total of nine put-outs as the game enters the bottom of the fourth. In case you were wondering, the record for most put-outs by an outfielder in a nine-inning game is 12, done twice:
–Lyman Bostock, Twins, 5/25/77
–Earl Clark, Boston Braves, 5/10/29
Interestingly, no one has ever exceeded 12 put-outs, even in an extra-inning game. Eight centerfielders have recorded 12 put-outs in extra-inning games, most recently Oddibe McDowell of the Rangers in 1985.
|05.20.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
Jason Varitek can still hit left-handed pitching. That was the case even during his abysmal 2008 campaign, when he still hammered southpaws for a .284 average and .863 OPS, and it remained the case this year, when he carried a .238 average but with a .918 OPS thanks to two homers in 21 at-bats against southpaws.
Varitek improved on those totals against Jays starter Brett Cecil, jumping on a cookie of a 2-2 slider and lining it off the shelf just above the Wall in left-center for his sixth homer of the year. The launch gave the Sox and 1-0 lead, and improved Varitek to a .273 average and 1.098 OPS against lefties this year.
Julio Lugo then followed by jumping on a full-count fastball, which he lined off the left-field wall for a double. Lugo reached third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s bunt single (which extended the centerfielder’s power-deficient hitting streak to 15 games), then scored on Dustin Pedroia’s double-play groundout.
After Pedroia’s twin-killing, David Ortiz had another sad at-bat, fouling off a fastball in the heart of the strike zone, taking a slider for a strike and swinging feebly through another fastball over the middle for a strikeout. Ortiz has not gotten the ball out of the infield while striking out three times in six plate appearances since returning to the lineup on Tuesday.
Red Sox are ahead after three, 2-0.
|05.20.09 at 7:42 pm ET|
His 15-game exile on the disabled list concluded — a stretch that included an inglorious 0-for-6 on a reha assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket — Kevin Youkilis stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second, armed with a .393 average, .505 OBP and .719 slugging mark. He promptly set about the process of improving on those numbers. Facing Jays rookie Brett Cecil for the first time in his life, Youkilis went to a 2-2 count. Cecil went back to a changeup — a pitch on which Youkilis had swung and missed earlier — and the Sox cleanup hitter hooked it towards the hole between third and short. The ball bounced off the glove of the diving Scott Rolen and into shallow left for a leadoff single.
Though Jason Bay followed with a single to right to put runners on first and second with no outs, the Sox wasted the opportunity. Mike Lowell grounded to short for his major-league leading 12th double play ball, and with Youkilis on third, Rocco Baldelli grounded to deep third.
It’s scoreless after two.
|05.20.09 at 7:32 pm ET|
David Ortiz has never faced Brett Cecil before in his career. Often, hitters will take a pitch or two against a thrower whom they have not encountered in order to familiarize themselves with his release point and movement. But Ortiz, seemingly eager to take a cut at a fastball, hacked at a sinking 93 mph offering, the ball grounding feebly to first for the final out of the first inning. He’s now hitting .201, and is fighting to stay above the Mendoza line today.
Brad Penny has kept the Jays off the board through the first two innings, keeping Jacoby Ellsbury busy in the process. Ellsbury has four put-outs through the first two innings, including a brilliant over the shoulder catch on an Aaron Hill liner to the warning track. Penny’s given up a pair of hits and a pair of loud outs, but has not been harmed.
Entering the bottom of the second, it’s still scoreless.
|05.20.09 at 6:42 pm ET|
After Tim Wakefield elicited an astonishing 16 flyball outs on Tuesday, positioning himself with the second highest number of air outs (80) in the majors this year, Gary From Chapel Hill mined his usual statistical gold to come up with this gem about the rarity of the outing:
Most Air Outs (Flyouts/Popouts/Foulouts) In One Appearance Since 2004 (includes sacrifice flies):
19 – Greg Smith, OAK – 6/30/08
17 – Brad Radke, MIN – 7/15/05
17 – Javier Vazquez, NYY – 4/30/04
16 – 15 times including Wakefield twice (8/26/05 and last night), Lester (7/28/07), Schilling (7/28/04)
15 – 18 times
|05.20.09 at 5:22 pm ET|
Asked to comment on the struggles of David Ortiz and whether his return could help, Youkilis took a mighty swing.
‘Well, I think if everyone stopped asking questions about David Ortiz and left him alone and maybe he’ll start hitting again if everyone just leaves him alone. Maybe talk about the weather outside or something. Maybe get off the baseball convo (conversation) and maybe talk about something else. Maybe that’ll help him out.
‘As baseball players and as athletes, there’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re going through a slump,” Youkilis continued. “You have to deal with it yourself. Then when you have added pressures on you, with people writing stuff, people talking around town. David Ortiz wants to get out of a slump as much as you guys want to get him out of the slump and the fans do. I think there’s a lot of added pressures all around that you don’t want.’
As of Wednesday, Ortiz was batting .203 with just 15 RBIs and no home runs. Youkilis returns, trying to pick up where he left off, batting .393 with six homers and 20 RBIs.
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