|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 »
|05.26.10 at 10:34 pm ET|
If there was one concern for Red Sox fans heading into the season, it was that the Red Sox and their perceived three-headed monster of a rotation couldn’t depend on just pitching and plan on winning 3-2 games time and time again against the big guns of the AL East. The Red Sox continued to throw monkey wrenches at that logic on Wednesday night by beating the Rays, 11-3, and sweeping the series. (For a complete recap click here.)
While a five-run ninth for the Red Sox may have led to the score indicating a blowout, what the bats did against the starter might tells the better story of why the this is a Boston team that can compete with the Rays. With the night not looking promising early on for John Lackey (6 H, 3 BB, 2 ER through his first four innings), the Red Sox made Matt Garza, who entered the contest second in the American League in ERA, look sub-par by pounding the 26-year-old for six runs in five innings. The offense, led by six RBI from Adrian Beltre (2 HR) and a dinger from David Ortiz, did what few expected it to do this season: bail out the pitching when it seemed to be faltering.
Only Lackey straightened it out, allowing no runs after that fourth inning and walking just one more before departing with one down in the seventh. The numbers weren’t amazing for Lackey (6 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 115 PC), but the longevity of the start proved extremely valuable given that the Sox’ offensive outburst chased Garza after just five innings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Garza, who entered the night 6-2 lifetime vs. the Red Sox in the regular season with a 2.92 ERA, was uncharacteristically off, falling behind hitters regularly. This led to Red Sox hitters working the count to run up the Rays’ ace’s pitch count so much that in addition to walking five batters in his five innings, Garza threw very hittable fastballs deep in counts.
An example of this came in Garza’s final inning. After jumping out ahead of Ortiz, 0-2, with nobody out and Dustin Pedroia on first, the designated hitter worked the count to 2-2 before blasting an inside fastball to right field for a no-brainer that give the Sox a 6-2 lead.
– A night after using three relievers, the Red Sox were able to be rather economical on a night that Lackey allowed 12 runners to reach base. He appeared to plead with manager Terry Francona between the sixth and seventh innings, and with 107 pitches under his belt, he returned for the seventh before being chased following a one-out single by Evan Longoria.
– Beltre hit a three-run bomb off a breaking ball from Garza with two down in the third inning. The shot was particularly noteworthy since the pitch dropped so much that Beltre literally was on one knee when hitting his second homer of the game.
– The Red Sox got solid relief pitching from Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez. After Okajima replaced Lackey and allowed a harmless while recording the final two outs of the seventh, Ramirez had a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Marco Scutaro, batting leadoff, went 0-for-4 and saw his average drop to .251, the lowest it has been since the sixth game of the season when he was hitting .250 (4-for-16).
– Lackey and Jason Varitek were out of sync early on so much to the point that the two appeared to be reviewing signs in the dugout between the first and second innings. The two had a mound visit in the second inning in which they appeared to be discussing the same issue.
|05.26.10 at 5:23 pm ET|
With one game to go on their six-game road trip, the Red Sox are looking to finish strong and continue climbing the AL East standings. They took two out of three against the Phillies and are looking to sweep the Rays after Jon Lester combined with three relievers on a one-hitter in Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory Tuesday night. Since going on their second-longest losing streak of the season from May 15-17, the Red Sox have reeled off seven wins in their last eight games. The only blemish came in the first game of their series against the Phillies last Friday, a 5-1 loss. The man on the mound for that game is the same one who will pitch Wednesday, John Lackey.
In his last game, Lackey (4-3. 5.07 ERA) continued struggling. He lost his third straight decision by giving up four runs and six hits through five innings, his second-shortest performance of the season. He also struggled with control as well; only 58 percent of his 107 pitches were strikes. His previous appearance against the Rays on April 19 didn’t go as planned, either. In what turned out to be his shortest appearance all season, Lackey gave up eight runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings. When all was said and done, his ERA inflated from 1.42 to 5.62. The Red Sox are going to need Lackey to figure things out quickly though because if history serves right, the offense is going to have a difficult time solving Matt Garza.
The day before Lackey’s outing against Tampa Bay, Garza (5-2, 2.37 ERA) took the hill at Fenway and shut down the Sox. In eight innings, he gave up four hits and allowed no one to advance beyond first base until the eighth. When all was said and done, Garza shrunk his already small earned run average from a small 1.12 to a microscopic 0.75. He’s riding some momentum, too. Last Friday, Garza pitched his eighth career complete game, but the Rays offense didn’t back him up and Tampa Bay lost 2-1. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.26.10 at 1:12 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show Wednesday and talked about David Ortiz‘ turnaround. Said Francona: “That’s what I was trying to tell people six weeks ago is ‘Just slow down.’ When you’re a radio personality or a writer, you can be wrong. When you’re the manager, a coach or a GM, we don’t have that luxury of changing our mind so you have to patient. When you have good players, a lot of times that patience pays off.”
As for Ortiz’ slow trot around the bases Monday that has gotten some press, Francona said, “I guess more what I care about as long as the ball goes over the fence, then I’m OK.”
Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
So, in the offseason when you were talking about run prevention, this is what you meant.
Again, when you get pitching, everything looks a lot better. [Jon] Lester pitches against a really good team. [Adrian] Beltre made some plays that on normal nights, normal players, they probably not only score runs but have rallies. He’s going left and right. You’re seeing a guy play with confidence and the ability. Yeah, it’s exciting. Did it take us a while to get there? Yeah, but now that it’s kind of got there, it’s fun to watch.
I [Michael Holley] was talking about how bad David Ortiz was and how maybe the Red Sox should release him, but I was wrong. What do you think the biggest key to his turnaround has been?
You’re probably not the only one to say that. Again, that’s what I was trying to tell people six weeks ago is “Just slow down.” When you’re a radio personality or a writer, you can be wrong. When you’re the manager, a coach or a GM, we don’t have that luxury of changing our mind so you have to patient. When you have good players, a lot of times that patience pays off. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.26.10 at 10:41 am ET|
* – The Red Sox had 4 pitchers combine for a 1 hit shutout last night. It was the first game in the majors this season in which a team allowed no runs and one hit (or less) while using four or more pitchers. Out of the 16 such games since 1952, 11 have come since 2002. It was the first such game in which Boston or Tampa have been involved.
ONE OTHER THING: There have now been 7 such games by a road team since 1952, but there have been 9 games in which a player has hit 4 HR in a game. So, yeah, it was rare.
* – Since 2000, the Red Sox have thrown 12 one hit (or no hit) shutouts, the most in the majors (the Mets and A’s each have 11). Last night was the 3rd time since 2000 that the Sox have turned the trick against Tampa.
* – The Red Sox 6-7-8-9 hitters combined to go 0-14 last night. It’s the first time that they have failed to get at least one hit between them this season (they did it 10 times in 2009). Last night was the first time that the Red Sox have won despite a combined o-fer from 6-7-8-9 since May 29, 2005. They had lost 22 straight going in.
* – The Red Sox have now won 15 straight games (regulation, nine inning games only) in which their pitchers fanned 12 or more opposing batters (2-0 this season). It’s the longest such streak ever by a Red Sox team (the previous long was 10 games). The MLB record is 24 consecutive wins in such games by the ’95-’97 Seattle Mariners. The Rays had won both games in which their batters had 12+ strikeouts this season prior to last night. Of course, it seems that they had won nearly every game so far this season no matter what they did.
* – Big Papi did not strike out last night. After striking out 38 times in his first 109 plate appearances through May 16 (34.9%), he has fanned only twice in 25 PA since then (8.0%).
* – Manny Delcarmen had his 5th “perfect” outing of the season (1+ innings without allowing a baserunner). That’s out of 19 total appearances (26%). He had only 2 such outings after July 3 last season (out of 32 appearances, 6%).
* – Daniel Bard tossed his second straight perfect inning. Don’t look now, but he has not allowed a HR in 11 consecutive outings. The only longer streak by Bard was 27 straight outings at the start of his career.
|05.25.10 at 10:03 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox won their fourth straight game and second in a row against the Rays, beating Tampa Bay, 2-0, behind another standout pitching performance by Jon Lester. The Sox starter, who went six innings, was followed up by three scoreless innings of relief by Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, respectively. David Ortiz supplied all the offense the Sox would need, launching a two-out, two-run double in the third inning. (Click here for a recap.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Lester continued a dominating run by Sox starters, allowing just one run over six innings while striking out nine. Over the last 26 innings, Red Sox starting pitchers have given up just a single run. During the Sox’ current four-game win streak the starters are a combined 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA. The game marked just the second time in 12 chances that the Rays had lost a game to left-handed starter (the other being Dallas Braden‘s perfect game).
– David Ortiz (who has seemingly been in the “What Went Right For The Red Sox” category every game). After hitting his two-out, two-run double into the left-center field gap in the third, Ortiz now has 21 RBI in his last 18 games after totaling four for the entire month of April. Making it even more impressive this time around is that Tampa Bay starter James Shields has been a strikeout machine against lefties, fanning more left-handed hitters than any pitcher in baseball.
– Adrian Beltre reminded Joe Maddon why the Tampa Bay manager dubbed him the best defensive player in the history of mankind (or something like that). Here is what Maddon told our man Alex Speier: ‘[Beltre is] clearly the best [third baseman] I’ve ever seen in person. I think [Evan Longoria] is good, I used to think Scott Brosius was really good. ‘¦ [Eric] Chavez was good, but Beltre was stupid good. I think Beltre is the best who I’ve ever seen with my two eyes ‘ defender, not just third baseman, but defense.’ After making two diving stops of grounders Tuesday night to prevent Tampa Bay rallies, that opinion most likely hasn’t changed.
– Home plate umpire Bob Davidson seemed to do the Red Sox some favors, making some generous strike calls in favor of Lester. One finally pushed the Rays’ patience to the point of no return, with Carl Crawford first disputing a strike well outside the zone before getting into a heated argument in which he made contact with Davidson before being ejected. Upon his leadoff hitter’s ejection, Tampa Bay manager Maddon got tossed after executing a good ol’ fashioned, nose-to-nose exchange with the umpire.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Jacoby Ellsbury, who was originally held out of the lineup just for the sake of getting a “breather,” according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona, was struck with a pain in his left side prior to the game. The ailment led the Sox to alter their plans of designating outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment, instead choosing to DFA reliever Scott Atchison. The execution of designating Atchison, who does have an option left, is purely procedural and he is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday.
– Lester’s only downfall was his control. The lefty starter walked five during his 111-pitch outing, matching a career-high he had accomplished on three separate occasions. Two of the previous five-walk outings were totaled in 2006, with the other coming in Cleveland on April 14, 2008, believed by many to be the last game before Lester went on his current run of excellence. After that game against the Indians (4 1/3 innings, 4 runs), Lester had a heart-to-heart with pitching coach John Farrell, who managed to get the lefty believing exactly how dominant he could be. Since that game in Cleveland, Lester is 34-14 with an ERA of 3.20.
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