|05.28.10 at 12:03 am ET|
A few items from the Red Sox clubhouse following the end of Boston’s season-best five-game winning streak:
—Daisuke Matsuzaka suggested that he has been dealing with “lower body soreness” after his eight-inning, one-hit effort against the Phillies. More on that here. He suggested that he is frustrated by the fact that his body “didn’t cooperate.” Yet none of the other key observers on the Sox (Terry Francona, John Farrell or Jason Varitek) suggested that there was a physical cause for Matsuzaka’s eight walks (tied for most in his career).
Varitek, for instance, noted that the pitcher was just as “powerful” on Thursday as he was against the Phillies last Saturday. The catcher spent quite a bit of time after the game talking to Matsuzaka (through translator Masa Hoshino) in the clubhouse.
“Obviously, he was struggling with his command and his release point,” said Varitek. “At different times, he was able to throw through me. At other times, his arm would drag or his arm would be in front. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know he’ll do the work to try to figure it out.”
Nor did Farrell suggest that any physical factors were in play in Matsuzaka’s struggles against a Royals team that entered Thursday with the fewest walks (129) in the American League.
“He seemingly lacked command from start to finish tonight,” said Farrell. “The delivery tonight was very similar to what we’ve seen, yet the ability to repeat and execute some pitches in the strike zone was obviously varied.”
—Jacoby Ellsbury has shown no improvement in the discomfort in his ribs over the past few days. The Sox will have him further examined on Friday morning to try to determine the issue. A return to the D.L. would appear possible, depending on the diagnosis.
Earlier on Thursday, Ellsbury discussed both his “setback” as well as his recent comments about how the Sox’ medical staff has handled his injury.
“I think he wants to play tomorrow, and as long as he can do it, we’re OK with that, especially with Wake pitching,” said Francona. “He’s done a good job of trying to get himself back in there.”
—Josh Beckett is scheduled to throw long-toss on Friday. If that goes well, then the Sox could have him throw his first side session since he went on the disabled list on May 19.
—Manny Delcarmen turned in an outstanding two-inning outing, needing just 21 pitches (16 strikes) to make it through his frame. Opponents are hitting just .127 against him this year.
“He’s in a very good stretch right now. He’s pitching ahead in the count, he’s pitching with a lot of confidence,” said Farrell. “He’s got three pitches he can go to at pretty much any time. Most importantly, he’s throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate. As he does that, he’s gaining confidence each time out and he’s gaining responsibility as well.”
|05.27.10 at 11:47 pm ET|
One outing, he shows the brilliance that attracted scouts from all over the baseball world to Japan five years ago to watch him pitch.
The next outing, those closest to him can’t understand why he can’t throw a strike.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the latter Matsuzaka was the one that showed up Thursday night at Fenway Park against Kansas City and it came with another red flag – another potential ailment to watch.
After walking eight batters and hitting another over 4 2/3 innings against Kansas City on Thursday night, Matsuzaka said he experienced ‘lower body soreness’ since allowing just one hit over eight shutout innings last Saturday in Philadelphia.
“It’s tough to say how much effect there was because it’s really a matter of my personal feel,” Matsuzaka (3-2, 5.77) said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. “So I don’t think I can describe. I think, looking back on it, yes, there was an effect.”
The eight walks by Matsuzaka matched a career high with the Red Sox, equaling eight free passes on May 5, 2008.
“I don’t think that’s the most important issue,” Matsuzaka said of his lower body issue. “It might have looked like I got out of those innings OK but in my mind, I still felt there were still adjustments I needed to make. It’s been a long time since my body didn’t cooperate like this. I had to rely a lot on my upper body. My velocity was there but there was no movement or bite to my pitches, not to mention any command.”
|05.27.10 at 10:44 pm ET|
The Red Sox could not continue the recent string of superior starting pitching on Thursday night, getting a troubling four-plus innings from Daisuke Matsuzaka in a 4-3 loss to the Royals. The Sox, who had won eight-of-nine heading into the series opener with Kansas City, fall to 27-22 on the season. (For a recap click here.)
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
— Matsuzaka completely melted down in the fifth inning, issuing five walks against a team that had entered Thursday’s series opener with the fewest free passes in the American League. Matsuzaka had pulled off some of his 2008 magic in the first four innings, allowing no runs despite walking two in the first inning and loading the bases with no outs in the fourth. But the fifth was a disaster for Matsuzaka, who the Sox had hoped would build on his brilliant outing last Saturday against the Phillies. Matsuzaka’s five walks in the inning were the most by a Red Sox pitcher in a frame since Darren Oliver on 5/11/02. He threw 114 pitches in 4.2 innings, allowing three runs on two hits and eight walks, adding an HBP and WP for good measure. The eight walks were the most allowed by a Sox pitcher since Matsuzaka’s eight on 5/5/08. And again, this wasn’t the 1927 Yankees he was facing on Thursday. He walked Chris Getz on four pitches to lead off the fifth, a .188 hitter. He walked Mike Aviles, who had just one walk in his 85 plate appearances this season. A big step back for Matsuzaka following the near no-hitter.
— In his pregame meeting with the media on Thursday, Terry Francona said that Jacoby Ellsbury continues to have soreness in his ribcage area and the pain has not diminished. A DL stint looms as a possibility. Marco Scuatro continued his struggles in the leadoff spot Thursday, and his batting average stands at a season-low .250 (two hits in his last 17 at-bats.)
— The Red Sox did not put a single runner on base in the final three innings vs. the Royals bullpen.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— J.D. Drew had three hits, and his .283 batting average is his highest mark since May 14. It it his 11th multi-hit game of the month.
— Manny Delcarmen pitched two perfect innings of relief. His numbers for the 2010 season are the best of his career, with a 1.88 ERA and a miniscule WHIP of 0.92.
— Who would have guessed with a Joe West crew in the house that we’d have an umpire in the middle of the action? Turns out it wasn’t Cowboy Joe, but Paul Schrieber, who was hit by a Drew grounder in the fourth inning. Since the ball made contact with Schrieber before a Royals player touched the ball it was ruled a hit. It looked like it would have been a relativity out if Schrieber had avoided contact. And with men on first and second the Red Sox took advantage of the break, as Adrian Beltre singled in Kevin Youkilis, who would have likely been forced out at second were it not for Schrieber.
|05.27.10 at 9:52 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury anticipated continued improvement. He had tested his recovery from hairline fractures to four ribs (incurred in his April 11 collision with teammate Adrian Beltre) during his three-game minor league rehab assignment, and again after making his return to the majors over the weekend. After he made a diving catch to his right on Sunday, he felt fine.
But then he started dealing with soreness in the same area as he had encountered the fractures on Tuesday in Tampa Bay, a pain that has been slow to improve. And so, Ellsbury was out of the lineup on Thursday for the third straight night.
Naturally, it has been a frustrating turn of events for the 26-year-old after he missed six weeks following the collision.
“It’s kind of hard. I felt good. I felt good on my rehab,” said Ellsbury. “It’s tough. You work hard to get back, and you have a little setback.”
The outfielder met the team’s medical staff prior to Thursday’s game to review the CT scan and X-ray that he underwent in Tampa Bay on Wednesday in an effort to make sense of his the setback. That is the same medical staff with which Ellsbury appeared to accuse of questionable treatment of his initial injury in an interview on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Ellsbury tried to make clear that he did not find fault with the Sox’ medical staff for his initial diagnosis with a contusion (rather than a hairline fracture).
“It was just, originally, we thought it was just bruised ribs and it turned out to be four fractures. For an injury like that, you had to see it on an MRI or CT scan. It just takes a couple more evaluations. The symptoms just kept on going. It just took a little bit of time to see what was going on,” said Ellsbury. “I think everyone has my best interests [in mind]. Everybody wants you to play. I want to be out there playing.”
Yet, for now, it is unclear when that might happen. While the Sox are hoping to avoid sending him back to the disabled list, they have not ruled out such an outcome.
‘We don’t want to rush into putting him on the D.L.,’ said Sox manager Terry Francona. ‘At the same time, he’s not ready to play because of the way he feels so we’re just trying to get to the bottom of it. We’ll get to the bottom of it. We’re just not there yet. Whether we have to get more opinions, we’ll do whatever we feel is necessary.’
Ellsbury will be re-examined on Thursday as the Sox continue their efforts to figure out what is ailing the outfielder. But the symptoms have offered little promise, as Francona said that Ellsbury is feeling “the same, not better.”
|05.27.10 at 5:56 pm ET|
Francona acknowledged that Ellsbury is still have soreness issues with his side.
“He’s been examined,” Francona said. “We’ve looked at the pictures. All the medical people have looked at everything. He’s really tender. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.”
The team is trying to get to the bottom of an issue that is becoming more complicated every day after Ellsbury told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he was activated after his ribs weren’t completely stable.
“[The pain] is along the same ribs that cracked,” Ellsbury told ESPN.com after Wednesday’s game. “All the ribs are moving, so it can affect the back ribs as well, where it hits the front of the spine. So you not only feel the impact at the direct place where you were hit, but the back side, too, along the band. I felt that originally, but I hadn’t felt it again until now.
“I think they downplay it because they misdiagnosed it,” Ellsbury continued. “They said you treat it all the same way. Remember that comment? How do you treat a bruise the same as a break?”
Francona said Thursday that the team is looking at all possibilities concerning the outfielder, who played just three games before sitting out Tuesday’s game at Tampa Bay. He hasn’t played since.
“We don’t want to rush into putting him on the DL,” Francona said. “At the same time, he’s not ready to play because of the way he feels so we’re just trying to get to the bottom of it. We’ll get to the bottom of it. We’re just not there yet. Whether we have to get more opinions, we’ll do whatever we feel is necessary.”
“I think the hope is he’ll run around in the outfield a little bit. We’d like to catch him [Friday]. We’d really like to catch him [Friday] because of Wake. If he’s not ready, we won’t do it. I think he’ll be ready to catch.”
As for Thursday’s scheduled home plate umpire and the report that Joe West is facing sanctions from MLB after his quick hook of Mark Buerhle on Wednesday in Cleveland, Francona did a nice side-step, deferring to the White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who didn’t hold back in his criticism of the controversial umpire.
“Our goal is to win today and make it through nine innings,” Francona said. “I’d rather not get suspended so check with Ozzie.”
West was the same umpire who publicly criticized the Red Sox and Yankees for their lengthy games following their opening series of the season in April.
Josh Beckett, on the disabled list with a strained lower back, hopes to take another step in his return to the rotation with a scheduled side session on Friday at Fenway.
“I hope so,” Francona said. “If he throws his side [Friday] everything is going very well. If we need to back it up another day, we will.”
|05.27.10 at 2:25 pm ET|
After winning five straight games, including eight of their last nine, the Red Sox return home after sweeping the Rays to begin a four-game series to close out the month of May. Doing damage in the American League East over the past week has vaulted Boston into third place, two games behind New York and six games behind Tampa Bay in the loss column. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be on the mound on Thursday night as he comes off one of the best starts of his career, while Kansas City will counter with Brian Bannister, who will look to continue to keep the ball on the ground.
Matsuzaka shined in his last start and delivered a dominant performance against the Phillies. He allowed just one hit over eight shutout innings while walking four and punching out five hitters. Matsuzaka carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning where he managed to attain the first two outs, only to lose it on a bloop single by Juan Castro.
The only other quality start Matsuzaka has had this season was against the Blue Jays on May 11. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out nine. The performance marked Matsuzaka’s only start this year in which he didn’t allow a walk. In his three other starts, he’s failed to complete six innings or allow fewer than five runs.
Matsuzaka faced the Royals in his major league debut in 2007 and struck out a career-high 10 hitters. For his career, he’s posted a 2.84 ERA and has won both of his starts against Kansas City.
The Royals enter the series with an improved offense, as they lead the majors with a .280 batting average. Leading Kansas City at the plate this year has been Billy Butler, who’s hitting .348 with five home runs and 28 RBI. Butler, however, along with seven other Royals hitters, has never faced Matsuzaka.
Bannister, meanwhile, has been solid this season with a 3-3 record and 4.72 ERA. In his last start against the Rockies, he allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings to help the Royals earn a 9-2 win. Bannister was able to keep the ball on the ground as he picked up 11 ground-ball outs, something he’ll look to repeat at Fenway Park on Thursday night. In four career starts against the Red Sox, Bannister is 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA, with three of his losses coming in Boston. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.27.10 at 9:18 am ET|
* – Since the start of the 2007 season, the Red Sox are now 38-15 in games decided by 8+ runs (2-2 this year). That .712 winning percentage is tops in the majors in that span:
The Rays are 29-29 in such games in that span (5-2 this season).
* – Adrian Beltre became the 12th Red Sox player to drive in at least 6 runs and score at least 3 runs in a road game since 1952 and the first since Bill Mueller in 2003. It was the first time that it’s been done by any team against the Rays at their place.
* – Last night was just the 5th time in Matt Garza’s career that he has allowed 3+ HR in a start (his team is 1-4 in those) and the 5th time that he has thrown fewer than 56% strikes (his team is 0-5 in those). The Red Sox are now 7-2 this season when the opposing starter fails to throw at least 56% strikes and are 26-5 in those games since the start of last season, the 3rd highest winning percentage in the majors:
.933 – Texas Rangers (14-1)
.909 – Philadelphia Phillies (20-2)
.839 – Boston Red Sox (26-5)
Only the Yankees (32) have seen more opposing starters fail to throw 56% or more strikes since the start of last season than the Red Sox (31).
* – Carlos Pena went 1-4 last night, picking up just his 2nd hit of the season in a game that Tampa lost. He is now 2-45 (.044) in losses. BJ Upton sat out Wednesday’s game, but his 0-4 on Tuesday dropped his average in losses this season to .071 (3-42). The pair is hitting a combined .252 in Rays’ victories.
* – The Sox forced Garza into three full counts in the first inning last night. It’s the 8th time that the Sox have forced an opposing starter into 3+ full counts in the opening inning since the start of last season. They are 7-1 in those games and have averaged 7.9 runs in those games.
* – Boston pitchers allowed 15 baserunners last night, snapping a season-long streak of 7 consecutive games without allowing 15 or more. During each of the last two seasons, they had 3 such streaks of 7+ games, including an 11-gamer each year. But here’s how you win a championship: In 2007, they had 6 separate streaks of 7+ games, including one of 18 games, a 12 game streak, and an 11-gamer.
|05.27.10 at 8:44 am ET|
Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said the pain he has been experiencing the past couple of days is in the same area of his ribs and similar to the discomfort he had after colliding with Adrian Beltre on April 11. Ellsbury talked to reporters about the issue before and after Wednesday’s game, clarifying comments the Red Sox made that the pain was coming from a different area and questioning the Sox medical team’s handing of the issue.
“[The pain] is along the same ribs that cracked,” Ellsbury told ESPN.com after the game. “All the ribs are moving, so it can affect the back ribs as well, where it hits the front of the spine. So you not only feel the impact at the direct place where you were hit, but the back side, too, along the band. I felt that originally, but I hadn’t felt it again until now.”
Added Ellsbury about the Sox’ treatment: “I think they downplay it because they misdiagnosed it. They said you treat it all the same way. Remember that comment? How do you treat a bruise the same as a break?”
|05.27.10 at 8:18 am ET|
So, you were holding your breath to see how the Red Sox were going to come out of this stretch — at Detroit, at New York, home against Minnesota, at Philadelphia, at Tampa Bay. You can exhale. Here are the particulars of the 13 games — in which they went 9-4 — following the punctuation that was a series sweep of the Rays:
– Most wins in the majors (9).
– Lowest opponents batting average against in the majors (.214).
– Lowest ERA in the American League (3.22).
– Fewest hits allowed per nine innings (7.06).
– Daniel Bard didn’t give up an earned run in seven games.
– The starters totaled an ERA of 3.06, with Tim Wakefield ( no runs in 10 1/3 innings), Buchholz (1.77 ERA), and Lester (2.05) leading the way.
– Scored the third-most runs (72).
– Fourth-most hits (119) and extra-base hits (46).
– Saw the most pitches per plate appearance (4.13), easily out-distancing second place Colorado (3.97).
– Amazingly had just one stolen base.
– Ortiz had six homers, Youkilis five, and Beltre three.
– Youkilis was second in the majors with a .527 on-base percentage. He drew a big league-best 16 walks.
– Beltre led the Sox with a .417 batting average, with Ortiz coming in at .410, Youkilis at .333, and Victor Martinez at .314. The top of the order, Marco Scutaro (.191) and Dustin Pedroia (.188), struggled. Pedroia did, however, see more pitches than any player in the majors, followed by Youkilis.
– Second-best fielding percentage in the American League (.990), making just five errors.
– Eight stolen bases against (one caught stealing), with Tampa Bay managing just a pair.
|05.26.10 at 11:12 pm ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning and talked about the resurgence of the Red Sox and David Ortiz. Remy said he isn’t convinced the team will keep Ortiz around next season despite his huge production this month.
“Probably not,” Remy said. “I think they’re hoping to get the best they can out of him this year and let next year play itself out. The nice thing about this is now that he comes to the plate, you have confidence in him again and more importantly, he has confidence in himself.”
A transcript follows. Visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page to hear the interview.
If those critics who called the Red Sox a flawed team that neither pitches nor plays defense could be considered premature in their judgments, wouldn’t those critics who are now jumping on the bandwagon and calling them the team to beat also be considered premature?
Well, they’re certainly playing a lot better. They’re playing more to their capability right now, there’s no question about that. Finally the pitching is starting to show up. The biggest surprise at the beginning of the year was that these pitchers, who were supposed to be one of the best in the American League, weren’t doing it and now they’re doing it. [Clay] Buchholz has been unbelievable. [Jon] Lester, as you can see, over the last four or five starts has been incredible. We’ve got to get Lackey straightened out tonight, but now they’re pitching the way they’re capable of pitching. It makes everybody else look a lot better. It makes the bullpen look better, the offense doesn’t have to score 10 runs a night, so it’s been good baseball over the past couple of weeks.
Was there a launching point for this team for when they started to turn things around? There wasn’t a benches-clearing brawl in any games and Terry Francona hasn’t been thrown out in any huge tirades, so would you chalk this up to the starting pitchers getting their acts together?
I think it was strictly the starting pitching because when the season started, these guys were not pitching the way they were capable of pitching and it was the biggest surprise to everybody. I think that’s what turned things around. When you get into games like last night and you get it lined up where you hope to get one more out of Lester, but he had a high pitch count, and you can go to guys like [Manny] Delcarmen, [Daniel] Bard and [Jonathan] Papelbon, it makes the game easy. The game wasn’t easy the first month of the season. They were getting four innings, five innings, you get into middle relief ‘ which is always a problem for any team ‘ but I think they [the way they have] turned the whole thing around is the way they’ve been pitching. No meetings, nothing like that, it was strictly the fact that they were pitching better. Read the rest of this entry »
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