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Ellsbury keeps rolling

06.17.09 at 9:34 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury is quietly amidst a run that is every bit as exceptional as anything he has done since breaking into the majors in 2007.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ellsbury jumped on a fastball up and on the inner-half of the plate and absolutely blasted it, sending a liner over the right-field bullpens for his third homer of the year. He has also walked a pair of times in today’s game, tacking on a stolen base for good measure. The homer was Ellsbury’s second in four games, and continued a phenomenal June in which Ellsbury has hit .375 with a .469 OBP, 1.019 OPS and seven steals.

If Ellsbury sustains this pace for another two weeks, this could be his best month in the majors. His current single-month bests:

AVG – .361 (Sept. 2007)
OBP – .396 (May 2008)
OPS – .927 (Sept. 2007)
SB – 18 (May 2008)

After seven innings, the Sox are ahead of the Marlins, 5-1.

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Smoltz’ post-start comments

06.17.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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John Smoltz looked good despite an apparant discomfort with the ball (which may or may have not been a minor league ball) in his final rehab start Wednesday in Pawtucket. He hit 91 on the gun with his fastball in a start that focused on doing as much with his changeup as possible.

In four four innings of work, Smoltz threw 61 pitches, 36 strikes of which went for strikes. He allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out two. After his start, the righty spoke with the media about how he feels going into his Red Sox debut next Thursday against the Nationals.

Smoltz on his feel for the ball in his final start:

“I felt really good, I just lost feeling for the ball during the game. The two innings I threw in the bullpen I felt great. I just lost the feel for the baseball and struggled with that, but overall I physically felt great. Sometimes you’€™ve got to fight the elements and I’€™m not a guy that doesn’€™t throw his fastball where he wants to and my split was all over. It was a little bit of a struggle feel-wise. I’€™m anxiously awaiting my [Red Sox] first start.”

On using his changeup deep in counts and the different pitcher he has become:

‘€œI had to work on that pitch awfully hard because that’€™s not a comfortable pitch, that’€™s not my pitch that I would go to. It was one more opportunity to get to it and unfortunately the grip affected that pitch a lot and I did not throw it well. I threw some good ones. My two innings in the bullpen were outstanding with it but nobody saw that. I’€™m overall pleased with the amount of work that I’€™ve put in to get to this point and now I’€™ll have to find a way for eight days to maintain some sort of program to get me ready for Thursday.’€

On having the majors on his mind:

‘€œIt seems like the last three games have been in a way where your mind is getting for something, something changes and you have to get ready for the moment that you’€™re in and I can honestly say when I was out there today I didn’€™t think I didn’€™t think one bit about pitching in the big leagues and setting up anybody for those kind of hitters. Now I will.’€

On the six-man rotation:

‘€œThat’€™s going to be [the Red Sox’€™] call. With me, more or less, I’€™ve got a job to do and I can’€™t worry about that.’€

On watching the Sox from the dugout:

‘€œI know I lead the team in innings watched [laughter]. Soon I’€™ll be able to get up and down and hopefully walk in and out [of the dugout] hopefully seven times and shake some hands. The environment in that place is [something] I’€™m comfortable with but I just hope it warms up. The hotter the better for me.’€

On Fenway:

‘€œI’€™ve pitched there as a visitor many times and felt that you had to be on your game, you had to make pitches because of the wall in the left and short porch in the right. It just always makes you feel like you have to make really good pitches and fortunately I’€™ve been able to do that as a visitor and now I want to do it as a home player.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be a long eight days and I’€™m prepared for that. I’€™ll probably have two good side sessions to work on some stuff and then I’€™m going to rely on the catching they’€™ve got up there. I’€™ve been excited to throw to [Varitek] for a long time and even George [Kottaras] . Throw to either one of those is something I’€™ve wanted to do since spring training and hopefully, with no hiccups,  that will come soon.’€

On his final rehab start and his time in the minors:

“I was trying to do too much maybe a little bit in this shorter game. I thought I did a great job intensity-wise in the bullpen acting like a threw too innings. I didn’€™t just want to come here and pitch four innings and then wait all that time. It’€™s not about saving my bullets, it’€™s about having those bullets as good as possible. It hasn’€™t flown by but it has been rewarding to this point to at least have an opportunity to at least engage in questions after a real game [laughter].”

On the progression throughout his rehab stint:

“For the most part, with the exception of today, I threw the ball everywhere I wanted to throw it. Today I don’€™t know if I threw too many first-pitch strikes, which is a big key for me. I can get a lot of quick pitch outs and a lot of quick action and so today was the only day in the six starts that I didn’€™t have a real good feel but physically it was probably my best day. There wasn’€™t too much grind getting ready, so physically that’€™s very encouraging because as you progress and get through some of those rough times, there’€™s been a lot of time where to get loose, I’€™m learning to do this all over again. Today was more encouraging having gone through not being at my best feel-wise. It really comes down to trying to find a way to execute the best pitch at the right time.

“Now it’€™s time to start getting ready for the things that I know will take me through not only a baseball game but through the season.”

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Penny’s worth

06.17.09 at 8:56 pm ET
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Brad Penny, who has been pitch-inefficient for much of the night, just breezed through the fifth inning in 12 pitches. As was the case in his last outing against the Yankees, he is showing more power (fastball regularly at 96 and 97 mph) and better breaking stuff, with a curve and change that have both effectively unbalanced the He’ll likely be out of the game after reaching 100 pitches through five innings (Justin Masterson is warming in the bottom of the fifth), but he has once again turned in an excellent line: 5 innings, three hits, one run, four walks (perfect, he’s not) and three strikeouts. That’s one earned run in his last 11 innings.

Update: Penny is out, Masterson on for the sixth — and by on, we mean “on like Donkey Kong.” Masterson retired the side in order in the sixth on 13 pitches, striking out Dan Uggla and John Baker in the process.

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Buchholz booed in Pawtucket

06.17.09 at 8:56 pm ET
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After giving up a two-run homer to Knights catcher Cole Armstrong, Clay Buchholz was booed in the sixth inning of Pawtucket’s bout with Charlotte. The PawSox still lead the Knights, 5-3, in a game started by John Smoltz.

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Pedroia bounces back

06.17.09 at 8:50 pm ET
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The move to the leadoff role has coincided with Dustin Pedroia’s worst stretch of baseball in more than a year. Since moving into the top spot of the lineup, the 2008 A.L. MVP was hitting .190 with a .277 OBP, .276 slugging mark and .553 OPS in his previous 13 games entering Wednesday’s tilt against the Marlins.

But in the past couple of games, the scrappy second baseman has shown signs of emerging from his funk. On Tuesday, he went 2-for-5, lining pitches away to right field. On Wednesday, he continued to succeed with an opposite-field approach. Batting with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, he zipped a 96 mph Andrew Miller fastball to right for a two-run single. That hit came one inning after he had lined another single to right against Miller.

In his career with the bases loaded, Pedroia is now 15-for-36 (.417) with a .476 OBP and .611 slugging mark.

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Why the Sox acquired Rocco

06.17.09 at 8:12 pm ET
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Rocco Baldelli is not an everyday player. When he has been in a few straight games this year, he has become worn down by the end. He’s well aware of his limitations, and so he takes pride in those contributions he can make while playing sporadically.

At this point, with roughly 40 percent of the season concluded, we know this much: the man can hit left-handed pitchers.

Baldelli stepped to the plate with runners on second (David Ortiz, following a double – more on that in a moment) and third (Mike Lowell, after a single) in the bottom of the second. He lined a first-pitch, 93 mph fastball from left-hander Andrew Miller into left-field for a run-scoring single that tied the game, 1-1. The Sox later tacked on another run against the Marlins starter to take a 2-1 lead after two.

On the year, Baldelli is now hitting .311 with a .900 OPS against lefties. In that sense, he is doing precisely what the Sox hoped he would when they signed him this winter.

As for Ortiz, somewhat surprisingly, he is doing more damage against left-handers than right-handers this year. He now has 11 extra-base hits and a .440 slugging percentage in 75 at-bats against lefties, compared to 10 extra-base hits and a .321 slugging mark in 140 at-bats against righties.

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The Nostalgia! Smoltz done in Pawtucket

06.17.09 at 8:05 pm ET
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John Smoltz‘ Triple-A time is over after four innings on Wednesday.

After Michael Restovich grounded out to third, Smoltz walked Daryle Ward on four pitches. Betimit then flew out, nearly taking Paul McAnulty to the warning track. Cole Armstrong ended the fourth by grounding out to first, which sparked a standing ovation for Smoltz.

In four innings of work, Smoltz threw 61 pitches, 36 strikes of which went for strikes. He allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out two. He placed a high priority on throwing his changeup, which led to several missed bats.

Smoltz is slated to face the Nationals in D.C. next Thursday in his Red Sox debut. Check back here for his post-start comments.

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Smoltz allows leadoff homer in third

06.17.09 at 7:49 pm ET
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John Smoltz ran into a bit of trouble in his third inning of work on Wednesday, allowing a leadoff homer to Keith Ginter on a 2-0 count.

After back to back flyouts by Miguel Negron and Eider Torres, center fielder Brent Lillibridge singled to center and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Josh Kroeger ended the inning by grounding out to second on a 3-2 pitch in a seven-pitch at-bat.

Smoltz threw 24 pitches in the inning and mixed in a higher percentage of fastballs than he did in the second inning, in which he was a bit more resourceful. In total, the right-hander has thrown 49 pitches, 31 strikes, and has given up a run on three hits while striking out two. His fastball has been at 91 mph regularly according the gun at McCoy Stadium. He will return for the start of the fourth.

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“Different pitcher” arrives in Pawtucket

06.17.09 at 7:27 pm ET
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John Smoltz said that he was going to be a different pitcher. If Wednesday’€™s second inning is any indication, he’€™s going to be a damn good one.

After getting Michael Restovich to fly out and striking out Daryle Ward, Smoltz gave up the Knights’€™ first hit to former Yankee Wilson Betemit. He eventually got Cole Armstrong to stiek ouyt swinging on a changeup after the Charlotte catcher worked the count full, but what was so impressive was his habit of going back to his changeup and curveball time and time again.

Even though both Betemit and Armstrong made him throw more pitches than he would have liked, he still relied on the change, a pitch that he feels will be a big part of the new pitcher he has become.

Through two innings Smoltz has thrown 25 pitches, 15 strikes, allowed one hit, and struck out two.

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Ellsbury’s error

06.17.09 at 7:24 pm ET
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For the first time in his major-league career, Jacoby Ellsbury committed an error.

In the top of the first inning, with Hanley Ramirez on first and two outs, Jorge Cantu lined a Brad Penny pitch towards the gap in left-center. Ellsbury got a great read on the ball and was positioned to track it down, but it skidded off the edge of his glove for a two-base error that scored Ramirez from first. Prior to that, Ellsbury had played 232 games and had 554 chances without an error, the longest gaffe-free streak by an outfielder in Red Sox history, and the longest errorless stretch in the majors since Endy Chavez went 253 games without an error from 2005-2008.

As a result of Ellsbury’s error, the Sox trail the Marlins, 1-0, after the first inning.

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