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Red Sox versus Orioles 9/18 Preview

09.18.09 at 9:18 am ET
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Tim Wakefield was an all-star pitcher for the first half of this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka was fresh off an 18-win year in 2008. Brad Penny and John Smoltz were low-cost, high-reward (or so we hoped) signings that were suppose to generate more upside and promise in their return from injury. And Justin Masterson, a second-year sinkerballer, was a valuable and flexible option to fill in if a spot start was needed or a long relief outing was called for.

 Add aces Josh Beckett and Jon Lester to forefront that rotation and it is no wonder why Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.66) had not the slightest idea when he would eventually be summoned from Pawtucket and promoted back to the majors.

Now, one of those five still has his back acting up, another just picked up his first win since June, and three find themselves sporting new uniforms. Yet, in that time, the Boston Red Sox (89-59) gave Buchholz the opportunity to prove he has what it takes to be part of their dominant rotation.

 And so far, he has done just that.

 After surrendering only two runs (one earned) in seven innings in a 2-0 defeat to Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers on August 13, Buchholz has yet to lose a game winning four of his last six outings and turning in quality starts in six of his last seven.

 Now, coming off a 7-1 homestand, the Sox travel to Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles (60-86) in the series finale against the Birds. Despite dropping last night’€™s game 4-3 to the Los Angeles Angels with Billy Wagner being tagged with the loss in the 9th, the Sox look to continue their hot streak handing the ball over to the hard-throwing Buchholz.

 In his last start opposing Baltimore, Buchholz hurled one of his best games since pitching a no-hitter against the Orioles two years ago. In the contest, Buchholz breezed through Baltimore’€™s lineup tossing seven shutout innings in a swapping 10-0 massacre.

 In his career, Buchholz owns a 3-2 record with a 4.75 ERA in six appearances against the O’€™s squad, but sports a skyrocketed 11.57 ERA in three games at Camden Yards.

 Though the Orioles watched their playoff dreams diminish before they started, the team sends righty Jeremy Guthrie (10-14, 5.06) to the mound as they attempt to play the role of spoilers in the Sox hunt for the wild-card.

 Leading the league in home runs allowed (30), Guthrie has since began to turn his disappointing season around by winning three of his last five decisions.

 The Red Sox, however, have had plenty of success against Guthrie with designated hitter David Ortiz hitting .333 with two home runs in 25 plate appearances and centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury batting .375 with one home run in 25 appearances as well. In eleven career appearances (10 starts), Guthrie has gone 1-4 with a 4.74 ERA when facing the Sox.

Holding a six game lead in the AL Wild Card over the Texas Rangers, the Sox are poised to clinch the playoff berth in the fastest way possible as the magic number sits at 12. Although he has all but secured the third start in the playoff rotation, Buchholz looks to keep his momentum and end the season on a hot note.

Here is how the two pitchers have fared in their respective careers against each team:

 

Clay Buchholz vs. Orioles’€™ batters

Brian Roberts (17 career plate appearances) .429 AVG/.529 OBP/.643 SLG, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Nick Markakis (15) .100/.400/.100, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

Luke Scott (9) 0-for-7, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Melvin Mora (8) 1-for-6, 1 walk, 1 hit-by-pitch, 2 strikeouts

Felix Pie (6) .200/.333/.200, 1 walk

Ty Wigginton (4) 2-for-4, 1 home run, 2 strikeouts

Nolan Reimold (3) 0-for-3

Matt Weiters (3) 2-for-3

Robert Andino (2) 0-for-1, 1 walk

Cesar Izturis (2) 0-for-2

Chad Moeller (2) 2-for-2

Jeff Florentino (1) 0-for-1

Justin Turner (1) 0-for-1, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Guthrie vs. Red Sox batters

Kevin Youkilis (30 plate appearances) .269 AVG/.367 OBP/.423 SLG, 1 home run, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (29) .320/.414/.400, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (25) .375/.400/.583, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (25) .174/.240/.304, 1 home run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (25) .333/.400/.810, 2 home runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (21) .333/.429/.722, 1 home run, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (21) .263/.333/.474, 1 home run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jason Bay (13) .500/.615/1.200, 2 home runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Nick Green (9) .250/.222/.375, 1 strikeout

Casey Kotchman (7) .429/.429/1.000, 1 home run, 2 strikeouts

Rocco Baldelli (7) 0-for-7, 1 strikeout

Brian Anderson (6) 1-for-6, 1 strikeout

Joey Gathright (5) 4-for-4, 1 walk

Jed Lowrie (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Victor Martinez (1) 0-for-1

Red Sox pregame Thursday 9/17

09.17.09 at 5:51 pm ET
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Here are some of the highlights from Terry Francona’s pregame talk with reporters. Papelbon says he’s ready to go tonight after being unavailable Wednesday.

Francona on Youkilis:

“Actually a lot better. But he’s much improved. He’s doing a lot better, which is terrific.”

Francona on expanded rosters:

“I actually don’t like it. I think there’s needs to be some amendments in the rules. I understand where you want to call up players. I think that’s great. You play all year under one set of rules and then September 1, it’s vastly different.”

Francona on visitors playing LF at Fenway after last night:

“Every team has a different mentality. Some teams play deep and some teams decide we’re going to play shallow and take something away. When Manny (Ramirez) was here, we didn’t know what our philosophy was.

“I do think we’re built for this ball park and we’ve got some guys like Mike Lowell and some of our things we do well show up more here and sometimes some of our deficiencies show up on the road. I think our record should be better than it is on the road.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Transcript: Peter Gammons On Dale & Holley

09.17.09 at 2:22 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst and Hall Of Fame writer Peter Gammons joined Dale & Holley at noon Thursday to discourse on the Angels’ troubles in Boston, playoff matchups, the Joba Rules and much more. Check out the highlights below.

Click here for the link to the audio.

On how the Angels play in Boston

Alex Cora, who is king of the text messages, said that the Angels just don’€™t play the same in Boston. He said that before the Angels actually ended up losing the game. They just don’€™t play with that intrepid bravado that they normally have when they play in Boston.

They do play differently in Boston, and it will be something very interesting to watch when they play in the playoffs if they continue to play that way there. And I thought that play [Juan Rivera letting Alex Gonzalez‘€™ game winning hit drop] kind of summed up the tentativeness that they show in Boston.

On baseball’€™s grading of the umpires in light of the Nick Green non-strike call.

To a degree but not as strongly as they were when Sandy Alderson ran them. I mean, he really tried to ride hard and make sure that the officiating is top shelf. Those were both good umpires that I thought had bad nights. But it is true, trying to get that third strike in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium is really tough.

On the American League playoff matchups between the Yankees/Tigers and Red Sox/Angels

I will go with the Yankees/Tigers first. The only way that Detroit has a chance is if Verlander beats Sabathia in Game 1. And then they go, OK, how well will A.J. Burnett fare with the pressure of being down one-nothing. How will Andy Pettite’€™s shoulder bounce back? That becomes a very interesting scenario, but Verlander has to beat Sabathia in Game 1.

And then, you know, it becomes a little different. They get behind, you know, and Mark Teixera pops out with the tying run on second base he’€™s going to find out what it’€™s like for people to say that he’€™s not really a Yankee. As silly as it is. That’€™s the only way that series goes. I think that the Yankees will end up beating up on the Tigers bullpen.

Red Sox/Angels is a fascinating series, it really is. Because the Angels have hit like crazy up until the last two weeks and you just wonder if they are going to get it back come October. Also, their pitching is good. Lackey is throwing as well as he has all year. Kazmir has really helped them and, you know, Weaver is a good pitcher. But, if Beckett is complete healthy, and I know he was sick there for a couple of weeks and lost a little strength in his legs that helped him lose his curveball, but if Beckett is right and the way that Lester and Buchholz are throwing and the depth of that bullpen. I think the Red Sox are going to be very difficult to beat in that series, I really believe that. As good as the Angels are, I think they can beat them.

And if we end up with another Red Sox/Yankees series, that’€™s going to be fascinating. The whole Pettite, Burnett, Chamberlain equation is going to be fascinating to watch. It has a chance for great theater. As much as the Yankees have been the best team in the regular season I do see some vulnerabilities there come October.

Is there a psychological hurdle when the Angels play the Red Sox?

It bothers them. I know it really bothers Mike Scioscia, they’€™ve had these three playoff losses and I think sometimes they try too hard. I think that’€™s part of it. It bothers them so much ‘€” OK, we have to beat these guys. I like the whole approach of Torii Hunter ‘€” just go play. Stop talking about it and just play. I do think they worry too much about it. And I’€™ll tell another factor that will be very interesting when these two teams play, as it was last night ‘€” Brian Fuentes scares me. He scares me in a lot of places, but he particularly scares me at Fenway. I remember players saying that to me in 2007 when he came into relieve for the Rockies.

Mike Scioscia has been very good about saying, “Oh, Fuentes is my closer.” There is no doubt that if we come back here and have Games 3 and 4 in Boston that if the matchups come, that it is Jason Bay and Mike Lowell or something, I don’€™t think it’€™s any question that Kevin Jepsen will be the guy he brings in. And he may pitch him in the eighth and ninth innings. Because I think that Fuentes could become a critical factor in the playoffs.

On the transformation of Daisuke Matsuzaka

I thought his arm was really loose, the ball was jumping the way it hadn’€™t been for a year, year-and-a-half, and he was getting swings and misses on his fastball, which he clearly wasn’€™t getting early in the year. I talked with the Angels and they said he was OK, but he wasn’€™t what he was when he first came over here. He wasn’€™t 95 with a great breaking ball. He only had four or five starts in the minor leagues and he may get better, get stronger come October.

What happened in the late-season collapse of the Tampa Bay Rays?

Their pitching hasn’€™t been as good. They had one of those magical years last year where basically they had a five-man rotation that was healthy all year. If I am not mistaken, their primary five starters started 155 of their 162 games. Staying healthy is a huge key. They had that. I thought they got very lucky in getting by with a bullpen of matchups. It is hard not having a couple of dominant arms. They got by with it for a year, and as we have all seen, it has kind of gone up in flames in the last three months.

And some of the players, remember the playoffs last year when we thought B.J. Upton was developing into a star? Well, he’€™s been terrible. That impacted them dramaticall,y and Pat Burrell has been a disaster. And they had a couple of injuries and they just don’€™t have the depth to compete. They did learn a good lesson, and that is, just thinking you have a five-man rotation isn’€™t good enough. You have to have pitching depth. They gave away Edwin Jackson, they gave away Jason Hamel ‘€” who have been a No. 2 and No. 4 starter for Detroit and Colorado ‘€” and that was a serious mistake. That’€™s why I hated the [Red Sox’] proposal for Halladay. Just ’cause I am almost paranoid about teams’ pitching depth. So many things can happen, and Tampa Bay paid a huge price for two very bad pitching deals ’cause Andy Sonnanstine turned into Andy Sonnanstine again, you know?

On the Joba Chamberlain rules and the effect on the young pitcher

Chamberlain won’€™t start Game 3 of the playoffs, unless Pettite is hurt and maybe he does start Game 3, then you have Chamberlain against [Rick] Porcello in Game 3. Which is a fascinating study, the way Jim Leyland ‘€¦  they are both going to end up with 165 innings. Porcello is two years removed from high school in New Jersey and he’€™s got 13 wins, he’€™s had a fabulous year for a 20-year-old.

Leyland gave him basically a two-week shutdown around the All-Star break. I call it ‘€œThe Pedro.’€ They always used to give Pedro a week off before the All-Star break and a week afterward and that is what they did with Porcello. Twice he has started on seven or eight days’ rest. He had 10 on five rather than four days’ rest and, as I said, he is going to go into the playoffs with 165 innings.

The one thing that Joe Girardi said to me was that they did give [Chamberlain] eight or nine days off and that he completely lost his rhythm, that he needed to pitch every fifth day to be able to maintain his delivery, so they went along with it. My question always has been: If they were three games behind the Red Sox as opposed to six games in front of them when they instituted all these rules, would they have been able to do it with Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre as their fourth and fifth starters? I don’€™t think so.

Abreu not dwelling on Easter altercation

09.17.09 at 12:08 pm ET
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Upon first reaching the the majors in 2001, Josh Beckett played the first eight seasons of his career in the same division as Bobby Abreu. The two were first NL East opponents, as Abreu was a member of the Phillies when Beckett got the call for the Marlins. Beckett was traded to the Sox in November of ’05, and Abreu joined him in the AL East eight months later. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the two were non-divisional opponents that they nearly came to blows.

After Beckett took nearly nine seconds to begin his delivery on April 12 in Anaheim, Abreu called time at the beginning of Beckett’s motion and backed away only to have the pitch thrown toward his head. The two began barking at one another, benches cleared, and Justin Speier reminded the world he existed by being ejected along with teammate Torii Hunter, manager Mike Scioscia and coach Mickey Hatcher. The mess, in addition to warranting fines for Angels players, cost Beckett six games.

Now that considerable time has elapsed since the altercation, Abreu views the incident as being in the rear view mirror, though he remains puzzled as to why he was the target of a pitch that hurlers typically hold on to or let sail towards the netting for safety’s sake.

“It was really bothering me,” Abreu said of the ordeal prior to Wednesday night’s game. “He just [threw] the ball at me. You know, you could throw the ball somewhere else, but not at the batter.”

With the two set to face each other for the first time since that game– a 5-4 Angels victory on the heels of the Nick Adenhart tragedy ‘€” Abreu hopes it is the last thing on either team’s mind. At the very least, the outfielder knows he hasn’t dwelled on it.

“I [forgot] about that,” Abreu said. “It happened earlier in the season. It was something that wasn’t supposed to happen, because like everybody knows, [I] just [called] timeout early and he just [wanted] to throw the ball, but that’s in the past. I’m fine with it right now, I’m here and I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”

Abreu’s “thing” has gone pretty well this year. In addition to a high average (.302) and on-base percentage (.401), his 29 steals paint a picture more of the player he was in Philadelphia than the one he was in New York.

Abreu noted that he has not spoken to Beckett about the incident, nor has he spoken to any Red Sox players on the matter.

Abreu’s 84 plate appearances against the Sox ace makes Beckett the outfielder’s most commonly faced pitcher. His .215 average would suggest that Abreu still has some learning to do when it comes to the pitcher, but while he has struggled to figure him out from a hitting standpoint, Abreu can at the very least recognize the intensity that Beckett brings.

“That’s the way he pitches, I guess,” Abreu said. “That’s the way that he handles the mound, and everybody’s different. Everybody has a different mentality, but I respect everybody’s mentality and the way they are.”

Red Sox vs. Angels Preview 9/17/09

09.17.09 at 11:40 am ET
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It took an entire month for Boston Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (15-6, 3.82) to end his win-less drought and pick up his 15th victory of the season. When he takes the mound tonight in the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels (86-59), Beckett hopes it won’t take nearly as long to collect win number 16.

Last Saturday, Beckett finally recovered from one of his worst five-start spans in his career by pitching a shortened five-inning, complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays. From August 18 to September 7, Beckett surrendered 12 home runs in just 31.1 innings going 0-2 with a 7.76 ERA in that stretch.

Looking to repeat his efficient performance and regain his potential Cy Young dominance that carried the Red Sox pitching staff  (86-58) through the first four months of the season, Beckett squares off tonight at Fenway where he has had success this season. In front of the home crowd, the Texas righty has compiled a 9-1 record with a 3.42 ERA in 14 starts including three complete games and two shutouts.

Against the Angels, Beckett owns a career 2-3 record with a 4.26 ERA in seven starts- in the regular season. In Game 1 of the 2007 ALDS, Beckett hurled a 4-hit shutout opposing John Lackey in a series which the Red Sox would ultimately win and later be crowned World Series Champions sweeping the Colorado Rockies in four games.

Attempting to avoid a sweep, the Angels place the ball in the hands of young righty Ervin Santana (7-8, 5.52) to try to end their three-game losing skid. A year ago, Santana compiled his best season to date in the majors where he finished with a 16-7 record and a 3.49 ERA striking out 214 batters in 219 innings.

Plagued by an injury-filled season which began on the disabled-list, Santana has struggled to remain consistent from start to start. After winning four consecutive starts from August 6 to August 22, Santana has gone 0-2 in his last four decisions though he has received minimal run support in return.

Against the Red Sox in particular, Santana has had his troubles. In five career starts, the San Cristobal native sports a 1-2 record with a 5.67 ERA.

With the regular season winding down, a Boston-Los Angeles match-up seems likely in the first round of the playoffs. Since 2004, the Red Sox have overpowered the Angels winning 9 of the 10 games played and showcase a 3-0 series record in the ALDS since that year against the Halos.

Here is how both pitchers have fared against their opponents in the past:

Josh Beckett versus Angels’ batters:

Bobby Abreu (85 career plate appearances) .215 AVG/.393 OBP/.354 SLG, 2 home runs, 19 walks, 21 strikeouts

Vladimir Guerrero (39) .242/.359/.455, 2 home runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

Maicer Izturis (27) .346/.370/.423, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Chone Figgins (21) .333/.429/.389, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts

Gary Matthews Jr. (19) .167/.211/.222, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Howie Kendrick (17) .375/.412/.375, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Juan Rivera (17) .133/.235/.133, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Torii Hunter (13) .455/.462/.545, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Napoli (7) 0-for-6, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Jeff Mathis (5) 1-for-5, 1 strikeout

Ryan Budde (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Kendry Morales (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Reggie Willits (3) 0-for-2

Robb Quinlin (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Erick Aybar (1) 1-for-1, triple

Ervin Santana versus Red Sox batters

David Ortiz (14 career plate appearances) .417 AVG/.500 OBP/.833 SLG, 1 home run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (12) 0-for-11, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (10) .222/.300/.333, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (9) .375/.444/.750, 1 walk

Victor Martinez (9) .500/.556/.875, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jacoby Ellsbury (6) 1-for-6, 1 strikeout

Joey Gathright (6) .600/.667/.800, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia (6) .400/.500/.600, 1 walk

Jason Bay (3) 1-for-3

Kevin Youkilis (3) 1-for-2, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Brian Anderson (2) 1-for-2, 1 home run

Alex Gonzalez (2) 1-for-2, 1 strikeout

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Angels react to controversial loss

09.17.09 at 1:00 am ET
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The visiting clubhouse was not the most tranquil place following Boston’s 9-8 walkoff victory Wednesday night. The game was marked by unearned runs, big innings and highly questionable calls. Between the call of ball four on Nick Green ‘€” one Angels player asked a reporter, “Did you see the K Zone? Are you [expletive] kidding me?” ‘€” and the overall mistakes made in a game they felt they let slip away, many players wore their hearts on their sleeves as they addressed the media.

TORII HUNTER

On how the team is taking it: “I can’t speak for these guys. I can speak for myself. I know what I feel like. I’m pissed. You know, I’m pissed off.”

“There’s some sick talent on here. I love this team, I love them to death. But to win we’ve got to show nuts.”

Asked if the Fenway crowd can induce some unjust calls: “I’ve seen it happen.”

“If you play nervous, you’re going to make mistakes. Show some nuts.”

“”We need to do better. Got to do better, got to play better, got to have more fun. Play every game, play to win, but enjoy it and have fun. Let your God-given ability take place. You don’t let a crowd or an atmosphere change anything. If you strike out, you strike out. If you mess up on a play you mess up on a play. Don’t show me signs of soft, [show] nuts. ”

On the ninth inning: “What happened at the end of the game, that call, has nothing to do with our loss. We lost that game a long time ago. We made too many mistakes. You make mistakes to a veteran team like Boston, a team that really knows how to play the game, you’re going to get beat every time. You can’t make mistakes, and that’s what we did.”

BRIAN FUENTES

Is Fenway Park intimidating?: “I don’t know. Maybe for some, [but] not for me. You know, I’m out there doing my job.”

On which call to Green upset him more: “The 3-2 pitch.  I had a problem with that. It’s a big pitch, a huge pitch, and I’m buckling down and they’re buckling down. [The umpires] need to do the same. I’m a little frustrated right now emotionally, but I know in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t something against me, but for whatever reason they missed the call.”

“The checked-swing before [the 2-2 pitch] I wasn’t OK with. The first-base umpire has a better look at it, that’s why they asked him for help. On the replay it shows that he went around there, too. That time you just say, ‘Hey, they made a mistake, they missed it. OK, let’s go.’ I told Mike [Napoli] that, I said ‘he missed it, let’s go.’ We come back, I make another quality pitch and we don’t get that one either, so to have it happen twice in one at-bat, it’s frustrating. I’m the one that put the guys on base. Yeah, the bases are loaded, but I’m going to pitch my way out of it.”

On his four-pitch walk to Ortiz: “I pitched around him. This guy hit the long ball last night and I wanted to take a chance with Drew. It’s just a choice we made.”

On throwing only fastballs to Green: “I put two fastballs by him and then he started fouling them off and I didn’t feel like he was catching up to it, and I just wanted to stick with that pitch.”

MIKE SCIOSCIA

“What was the count in the end, 3-4 to Green?”

On whether he looked at replay or cared to: “Didn’t need a replay. Did not need a replay. Did not need a replay.”

“Our guys are upset, no doubt about it.”

“With any umpire, if a guy is calling a pitch on a certain location all night, you know, you want them to call [it] in any situation, and I think it’s what our guys were frustrated about tonight.”

“You’ve got to play at a high level and absorb, whether it’s an umpire missing a call, whether it’s a bloop hit, whatever bad hop, whatever goes your way. Tonight we had more offensive opportunities that we didn’t cash in on and opened the door for them defensively, so I think the game is bigger than that ninth inning where all that focus is. You know, it’s frustrating when a game ends like that [in which] even though you didn’t play your best game, you still had a chance to win it. I think the frustration is in our play overall. We cracked the door open for them and haven’t done some things that we’ve been all season, certainly on the defensive side.”

On whether the checked-swing call or ball four call upset him more: “I thought we had them a couple of times. I was surprised. It’s a good umpiring crew, and I think we really feel strongly they missed a couple times that we had Green struck out, and unfortunately that’s the focal point of the game and it didn’t go our way.”

On intimidation of Fenway: “Last year, what did we win, five out of six here in the regular season? It comes down to how you play. If you’re going to miss bunts or you’re going to not play well enough to absorb some calls that don’t go your way, then I think it’s going to be a tough road.”

On potentially facing the Sox in the playoffs: “We’re playing well. We’ve beat these guys here, we’ve beat them at home. It’s just going to be a matter of how we’re playing the game. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but that’s the bottom line.”

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Green battled through ‘dead leg’

09.17.09 at 12:25 am ET
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Talking after the Red Sox’ 9-8 win over the Angels, Wednesday night at Fenway Park, Nick Green said he was dealing with a painful issue with his right leg when batting with the bases loaded, two outs and the Sox down by a run in the ninth inning. Green would walk on a 3-2 fastball from Angels reliever Brian Fuentes, saying that he could barely get down to first first base his leg was hurting him so badly.

“I didn’t feel right,” he said. “That’s for sure.” Green called his ailment a “dead leg,” which he first started feeling when waking up Monday. “I don’t know what it is, it feels like dead leg,” said Green, whose bases-loaded walk set up Alex Gonzalez‘ game-winning, bloop single. “I almost collapsed every single swing, and almost collapsed walking down to first, and almost collapsed when I was leading off [first base]. I don’t know what’s wrong with it.”

Green hadn’t told Red Sox manager Terry Francona of the ailment, having thought he would be able to endure the pain once he entered the game. “I thought I was fine, but it was different once you get into the game,” he said. “You can get away with stuff in batting practice. It’s just different when you get in the game. … It doesn’t really hurt, just every time you put pressure on it, it collapses.”

Green continued: “That’s why I said I was battling for my life. I seriously did not think I could get a hit.” Green said his leg was so bad that once he got to first base he couldn’t even take a secondary lead.

In Hunter, Ortiz has a true fan and friend

09.16.09 at 8:47 pm ET
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Torii Hunter doesn’t need convincing that David Ortiz can still hit. Close friends from their days progressing through the Minnesota ranks together, Hunter claims Ortiz is the best hitter he’s come across in his professional career. In a season spiked with early struggles, inconsistency and a public relations nightmare, Ortiz undoubtedly could appreciate anyone who has stayed on his bandwagon. Hunter fits the bill perfectly and, a day after watching his pal slug his major league-record 270th homer as a designated hitter, his support remains unwavering.

“I said that [he would have a resurgence],” Hunter said of Ortiz. “I know that the average is not there, but for a guy that struggled for the first two months and didn’t get a home run after a month-and-a-half, I definitely think he’s having a pretty good season and he’s definitely hot at the right time.”

For Hunter, perhaps greater than the timing of Ortiz’ hot streak is the fact that he was on hand to watch No. 34 set the career-defining record.

“He’s a great friend ‘€¦ He’s one of my buddies, so I definitely say that [Ortiz breaking the DH home run record] is great news because we were in the minor leagues together and we roomed together, we hung out together,” Hunter said. “Just to see him break that record in the DH spot is very big.”

Ortiz entered Wednesday night’s game hitting .529 (9-for-17) over his last six games. With 24 homers on the season, he is just one dinger shy of his sixth 25-homer season, the previous five of which have come with the Red Sox.

Some could view Ortiz’ stretch as yet another example of streakiness, but the center fielder sees the classic Ortiz as being back at the top of his game.

“This is when David Ortiz is at his best,” said Hunter, also acknowledging with a laugh that “it sucks” that he very well could be a few weeks away from facing the postseason Angel-killer in October.

The two players keep in contact throughout the season and went to dinner following Tuesday night’s Red Sox victory. Though he was happy to arrive to the ballpark with Ortiz Wednesday, Hunter wouldn’t mind staying away from his hot-hitting friend in October.

“It sucks that he’s getting so hot in September and maybe October, [with the Angels] possibly being that opponent, but we just have to do what we have to do,” Hunter said. “When we’re on the field, we’re enemies, but off the field we’re always friends.  We’re good competitors, big-time competitors. We have a lot of fun, but at the same time we’re both trying to help our team win.”

Ortiz saw perhaps the darkest time in his career in late July when a New York Times report claimed that he and former Boston teammate Manny Ramirez appeared on a list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing substances in 2003. Ortiz’ insistence upon collecting facts before addressing the report led to speculation by fans and media alike. Hunter, seemingly irritated that names were leaked and conclusions were jumped to, provided reassurance to his friend in a time of utmost uncertainty. Read the rest of this entry »

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Youkilis talks back spasms

09.16.09 at 4:51 pm ET
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Kevin Youkilis spoke to the media in the Red Sox clubhouse prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Angels, speaking for the first time publicly about the back spasms which has kept him out of the lineup both for the first two games of the Sox’ current three-game set. Youkilis said that he definitely wasn’t able to play Tuesday, but was hopeful that the spasms will have subsided enough to be back in the lineup Thursday. Here is some of what he had to say:

“I’ve got back spams. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but hopefully soon.”

“I’ve been getting phone calls about kidney stones all day. There’s no kidney stones. I think it was one of those things where it was in the kidney area, just in the back area. I don’t know, a lot of stuff being run with.”

(Did he ever think it was kidney stones) “I never personally did, maybe people around thought I had kidney stone. You play telephone sometimes that’s how it works.”

(Where is it?) “Right in my kidney area in my back.”

“I’ve had back spasms every year and at some point they go away. Hopefully they’ll go away and be good to go tomorrow.”

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Red Sox Vs. Angels Matchups, 9/16

09.16.09 at 1:53 pm ET
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It’s been a September swoon for the Angels offense, and the frustration is starting to show.

The Halos are batting .242 in 14 games this month, with a league-worst 44 runs (3.1 per game). Last night against Daisuke Matsuzaka and friends, the AL West leaders did not get a hit until the fifth inning, and they went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, finally collecting an important hit with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-1 loss.

“Am I frustrated? No,” center fielder Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. “Am I irritated? Yeah.”

Said last night’s losing pitcher, John Lackey: “We gotta figure out a way to score some runs against those guys.”

Up steps Joe Saunders, a rare lefty who has had consistent success at Fenway. In three games in Boston, Saunders is 3-0 with a 2.75 earned run average. His career record against the Sox is 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA.

Since coming off the disabled list Aug. 26 after suffering from shoulder stiffness, Saunders has won all four of his starts, posting an outstanding 1.85 ERA. On the year, he’s 13-7 with a 4.81 ERA.

Saunders was the starter in his team’s only playoff victory over the Sox last year, but he wasn’t around at the end as he gave up four runs in 4-2/3 innings. The Angels won 5-4 in 12 innings, their only postseason win over Boston in their last 13 meetings.

For the Sox, Paul Byrd, who spent the 2005 season in Anaheim, is coming off a no-decision vs. Baltimore. He allowed a pair of runs on six hits in five innings of a game the Sox went on to win 7-5. He’s 1-1 with a 6.08 in his brief major league stint this season.

Below are the matchups. And for more on the game, check out the WEEI Red Sox team page here.

Byrd vs. Angels

Torii Hunter (52 career at-bats) .173 average, .200 on-base percentage, .192 slugging, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts

Vladimir Guerrero (27) .370, .393, .704, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Gary Matthews Jr. (18) .278, .278, .333, 3 strikeouts

Maicer Izturis, (13) .231, .286, .385, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Bobby Abreu (12) .250, .357, .250, 2 walks

Chone Figgins (11) .273, .333, .273, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Kendry Morales (9) .556, .556, 1.000, 1 home run

Juan Rivera (6) .167, .167, .667, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

Reggie Willits (6) .500, .500, .667

Howie Kendrick (5) .400, .400, .400, 2 strikeouts

Erick Aybar (4) .500, .500, .500, 1 strikeout

Mike Napoli (4) .500, .500, 1.250, 1 home run, 2 strikeouts

Jeff Mathis (3) .333, .600, .333, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Saunders vs. Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia (21 career at-bats) .333 average, .333 on-base percentage, .381 slugging, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (18) .167, .211, .167, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis (18) .222, .364, .500, 1 home run, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (17) .235, .278, .412, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Brian Anderson (11) .091, .091, .091, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (11) .182, .250, .182, 1 strikeout

Jed Lowrie (10) .200, .273, .200, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Victor Martinez (9) .333, .333, .333, 2 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (7) .286, .444, .429, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (5) .200, .333, .400, 1 walk

Jason Bay (5) .400, .500, 1.600, 2 home runs, 1 walk

Rocco Baldelli (3) .667, .667, .667

Nick Green (2) .500, .667, .500, 1 walk

Joey Gathright (2) .500, .500, 1.000, 1 strikeout

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