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Red Sox vs. Orioles Match-Ups, 7/26

07.26.09 at 1:10 pm ET
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David Hernandez is facing the Red Sox for the first time in his career. So far this season, he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.55 through six starts. A rookie, Hernandez was called up to pitch in his first major league game back on May 28th. He defeated the Tigers 5-1 and earned his first career win, tossing 5+ innings and only allowing a run on five hits.

Since then he has been inserted into the Baltimore rotation and has done quite nicely on a team that is 41-55. Born in Sacramento, Hernandez went to Cosumnes River College, which is located in his hometown. Other big leaguers who are alumni of Cosumnes include Jermaine Dye and Fernando Vina.

John Smoltz is on the bump today for the Sox. Here are his stats vs. the current Orioles, many of which are based on his ill-fated start that was interrupted by a rain delay after four innings, the result of which was Baltimore’€™s epic comeback against the Boston bullpen:

Robert Andino – .200/.200/.200 (0 HR, 0 RBI 6 SO)
Gregg Zaun (9) – .125/.222/.125 (0 HR, 1 RBI 5 SO)
Aubrey Huff (7) – .167/.286/.167 (0 HR, 1 RBI 1 SO)
Cesar Izturis (7) – .429/.429/.571 (0 HR, 0 RBI 1 SO)
Brian Roberts (7) – .286/.286/.286 (0 HR, 0 RBI 0 SO)
Ty Wigginton (7) – .429/.429/.429 (0 HR, 0 RBI 1 SO)
Luke Scott (5) – .000/.400/.000 (0 HR, 0 RBI 0 SO)
Nick Markakis (2) – .000/.000/.000
Melvin Mora (2) – .000/.000/.000 (1 SO)
Nolan Reimold (2) – .500/.500/.500
Rich Hill (1) 1.000/1.000/1.000
Adam Jones (1) .000/.000/.000 (1 SO)
Felix Pie (1) 1.000/1.000/3.000 (1 RBI)
Matt Wieters (1) – .000/.000/.000

Read More: david hernandez, john smoltz,

Bringing the heat

07.26.09 at 12:34 pm ET
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On the day Red Sox Nation takes pride in the ‘most feared hitter’ of his generation taking his place in Cooperstown, Red Sox skipper recalled the most feared pitcher he ever faced in the majors.

“Nolan. Hands down,” Francona said of Nolan Ryan. “Everybody thought it was Dwight Gooden. It wasn’t close. He threw the ball one time in Montreal, with all those shadows. He threw a ball that I thought was going to hit me in the ribs and it didn’t and I kind of whimpered.

“And then I got in the box and actually got back out of the box and remember thinking I’m not ready to do this and I never felt like that before. I thought if that ball had hit me, it would have killed me and I never remember feeling that about anybody else.”

Then there was the time in Cincinnati in 1987 when he met Ryan face-to-face.

“He was in the weight room once in Cincinnati and he didn’t talk a ton and I didn’t know him,” Francona recalled. “But he walked in and he said something to me, and I was even surprised he knew who I was, ‘Hey nice game last night.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ He said, ‘It’s bowtie time.’ I thought, ‘Oh no.’ My (backside) just slammed shut.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Nolan Ryan, Red Sox, Terry Francona,

Youk in an uncomfortable spot

07.25.09 at 7:23 pm ET
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Kevin Youkilis was about as upfront as he could be with reporters when he was asked about how he felt about being given the night off – at least from the starting lineup on Saturday night.

“I just had an off day,” Youkilis said of his day off on Thursday, which he shared with the rest of the team. “I feel good right now. My body feels fine. I usually don’t need an off day.”I don’t get too many off days so I don’t know how to deal with them.

“I watch the game the same way,” he added. “If I’m not playing, I still watch the game. I understand what’s going on and watch what pitchers do and watch what hitters are doing and help out any way I can.”

Indeed, he spoke honestly about just how hard it is for him to watch from the dugout. Even more difficult is thinking about possibly pinch-hitting.

“The key to pinch-hitting is not thinking and just go up there,” Youkilis said. “There’s no key to pinch-hitting. You just go up there and try to have a good at-bat. It’s the worst thing to do in all of baseball – for me. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, Youk,

Red Sox vs. Orioles Match-Ups, 7/25

07.25.09 at 2:29 pm ET
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After coming off a tough loss to Toronto in which the Red Sox bats were virtually silent throughout most of the game, Jon Lester will certainly be happy to face the Baltimore Orioles tonight.

Lester, who is 8-0 lifetime against the Orioles with a 2.18 ERA, will be looking to keep his perfect streak alive as he faces off against Jeremy Guthrie, who is 1-2 with a 4.01 ERA in nine games against Boston. Guthrie’€™s last start at Fenway came on April 17 when he allowed 8 runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The Red Sox are 7-1 this season against Baltimore, who currently occupy last place in the AL East. Boston, who held a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees before the All-Star break, is now trailing New York by 2.5 games.

ORIOLES VS. JON LESTER

Nick Markakis (29 career plate appearances against Lester): .250 average/ .276 OBP/ .393 slugging, walk, 7 strikeouts

Brian Roberts (28): .240/ .321/ .480, homer, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts

Aubrey Huff (27): .320/ .370/ .560, homer, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Melvin Mora (21): 3-for-20, walk, 4 strikeouts

Adam Jones (18): 5-for-15, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Gregg Zaun (9): 1-for-7, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Luke Scott (8): 0-for-8, 3 strikeouts

Ty Wigginton (8): 4-for-8, strikeout

Robert Andino (4): 3-for-4

Nolan Reimold (3): 1-for-3, strikeout

Matt Wieters (3): 1-for-3, strikeout

Felix Pie (2): 0-for-2, strikeout

RED SOX VS. JEREMY GUTHRIE

Kevin Youkilis (26 career plate appearances against Guthrie): .182 average/ .308 OBP/ .227 slugging, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (21): .389/ .476/ .500, 3 walks, strikeout

Mike Lowell (19): 3-for-17, homer, 2 walks, strikeout

David Ortiz (19): 5-for-17, walk, 4 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (17): 5-for-14, homer, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (17): 4-for-16, walk, strikeout

Jason Varitek (15): 4-for-14, homer, walk, 4 strikeouts

Jason Bay (6): 3-for-5, 2 homers, walk, strikeout

Rocco Baldelli (4): 0-for-4

Nick Green (3): 1-for-3

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

Read More: Jeremy Guthrie, Jon Lester, Orioles,

Mickey Wiswall Brings Star Power to Fenway

07.25.09 at 12:15 pm ET
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Who says you can’t go home?

For Stoneham, Mass., native Mickey Wiswall, Thurday’s Cape Cod League All-Star game held at Fenway Park was a homecoming of sorts.

“I played in the Valley League in Virginia last summer and I didn’t get to have the family support there that I have here tonight,” Wiswall said of playing in front of family and friends on Thursday night. “Having the game at Fenway Park and to have all of my friends and family here has been great.”

Wiswall started at first base for the East Division All-Stars, a position that he just started playing this summer. The Belmont Hill alum made the Kevin Youkilis-like transition from his natural position at third base to the other corner infield spot.

Wiswall has been a force this summer for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, leading the team and Cape Cod League as a whole with 19 RBI. All-Star assistant coach Scott Pickler loves what he’s seen from Wiswall each and every night

“He comes in and plays hard every night,” Pickler said of Wiswall’s effort this summer. “He’s handled his role very, very well.”

In addition to spending his summer playing on the sun- (and, at least this summer, rain-) soaked diamonds of Cape Cod, Wiswall will return to The Heights as a junior member of Boston College’s baseball team. Wiswall was an offensive standout for the Eagles as a sophomore clubbing a team-high 14 home runs and 63 RBI all while hitting .320 for the team.

Boston College’s stock as a national collegiate baseball powerhouse has certainly risen in recent months after Eagles catcher Tony Sanchez was selected fourth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mike Belfiore went in the sandwich round. Wiswall attributes the seemingly new attention to coach Mike Aoki’s desire to keep local ballplayers in the area.

“When coach started recruiting my class he said he wanted to keep some of the better New England players in New England,” Wiswall said of the very New England feel that the team has. “Being a New England kid and helping them get to the regionals hopefully was a big step in that direction.”

Wiswall and his Eagle cohorts soared to a 34-26 record during the 2009 season. The Eagles also grabbed headlines by playing in a 25-inning thriller against Texas during College World Series Regional play.

New England kids with a feverish passion for baseball like Wiswall consider 4 Yawkey Way their baseball cathedral. Growing up and playing baseball in the heart of Red Sox Nation, Wiswall’s experiences at Fenway Park have ranged from his own playing to seeing his beloved Red Sox come back from historic playoff deficits.

Wiswall was a spectator in the Fenway Park stands on October 19, 2004. That night speedster Dave Roberts and David Ortiz helped turn the tide of Red Sox Nation’s hopes for a championship.

“I was at Fenway Park until 3:00 in the morning,” Wiswall said as he recounted his favorite Fenway Park memory. “I was at the age where I could really appreciate the game and see how dedicated the fans are to it.”

Wiswall has memories playing and spectating in America’s most beloved ballpark. The Boston College junior left on Thursday night with new ones of him playing on the All-Star stage.

Read More: Boston College, cape cod, cape league, Eagles

Introducing Chris Duncan

07.25.09 at 12:04 am ET
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Prior to Friday’€™s game against Columbus, Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Michael Bowden sits at his locker, facing away from the rest of the clubhouse, in a deep focus as he prepares for his start. Manager Ron Johnson gets some things done around his office while watching TV. A group of players sit in the middle of the room with a deck of cards. It’€™s the same old McCoy clubhouse, except for the big guy in the corner wearing the wrong team’€™s gear and frantically filling out papers for a physical: meet Chris Duncan.

The first baseman/outfielder who was acquired in Wednesday’€™s Julio Lugo trade, Duncan came to Pawtucket Friday straight from the airport. He had been demoted by St. Louis to Triple-A Memphis earlier Wednesday, hours before being traded.

‘€œIt would have been cooler if I was actually going to Boston, but I’€™m still excited to come here, get a chance to play, and hopefully get back on track,’€ Duncan said. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter was hitting .227 with five homers this season for the Cardinals after hitting at least 20 dingers in both 2006 and 2007.

Duncan’€™s career in St. Louis was definitely a bumpy one. He was able to be named the team’€™s Rookie of the Year in 2006, win a World Series title, and play under both Tony La Russa and his father, Cards’€™ pitching coach Dave Duncan. However, when the struggles came, so did the hounding from the fans and media.

‘€œI learned a lot,’€ Duncan said, still wearing a sleeveless shirt with a cardinal perched on a baseball bat. ‘€œI had the chance to play for the greatest manager ever and play a lot of winning baseball. It was just time to move on.

‘€œI was just getting a lot of criticism and booing,’€ Duncan added. ‘€œIt just wasn’€™t easy, but that’€™s part of the game and hopefully I can start fresh here.’€

Duncan also acknowledged the depth at the positions that he would try to play for the Red Sox. With news coming the same day of Mark Kotsay being designated for assignment, Duncan understood that he may be in the minors potentially until September call-ups. Be that as it may, he’€™ll be willing and able if and when he does get the call.

‘€œI’€™m just trying to get settled in here,’€ Duncan said. ‘€œ[I’€™ll] get some at-bats and let that stuff take care of itself.’€

His father Dave isn’€™t Duncan’€™s only relative in baseball. Chris is the brother of Yankee Shelley Duncan (currently playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), who made more news with a pen than his bat on September 14, 2007, when he signed ‘€œRed Sox suck!’€ on a young fan’€™s ball at Fenway Park. Given the opportunity, Chris, still practicing his penmanship on the forms necessary to clear him to play, said he just may settle the score between the rivals and siblings.

‘€œMaybe I’€™ll put ‘€˜Yankees suck!’€™’€ Duncan joked.

That won’t be necessary, but then again neither will much of an offensive output from Duncan, given Adam LaRoche‘s stranglehold on his ideal job in Boston. Considering the Red Sox were able to get him for a guy they were planning on giving up for free, anything the former first-rounder can bring is gravy.

Read More: Chris Duncan, Julio Lugo, mark kotsay, Shelley Duncan

Big Brother was watching

07.24.09 at 8:20 pm ET
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Adam LaRoche, like any player going from a cellar-dwellar to a perennial championship contender, couldn’t be happier to be wearing a Red Sox uniform.

He met with the media prior to his first official game with his new team following Wednesday’s trade that sent him from Pittsburgh to Boston for minor leaguers Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland.

After acknowledging his appreciation to Red Sox management for bringing him to Boston, he said there’s only one really tough adjustment.

“The hardest part this year is leaving my little brother,” the 29-year-old LaRoche said of his 25-year-old brother Andy with the Pirates.

LaRoche got his chance to play with baby bro when the Dodgers traded Andy to the Pirates last season.

But quickly, both LaRoches learned that all the brotherly love in the world won’t turn them into the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

“I got a chance to play with him for a year,” Adam said. “It’s something that I can never replace. Obviously, we would have love to have done that for the next 10 years but not on a losing club.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam LaRoche, Red Sox,

Montero might have been a missed opportunity for Sox

07.24.09 at 2:28 pm ET
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With an aging Jason Varitek behind the plate and no great catching prospects in the minors, the Sox have been rumored to be looking for a backstop to fulfill their long-term needs before the deadline.

In December, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported that Boston turned down an offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks who proposed 25-year-old catcher Miguel Montero in exchange for 22-year-old pitcher Michael Bowden, a prized Sox prospect who management has been very reluctant to trade away.

But did the Sox make the wrong move when they passed on Montero?

An article today on azcentral.com might have the answer. Since a back injury sidelined everyday catcher Chris Snyder, Montero “has taken the job and run with it.” Beginning June 18, Montero has played almost everyday, going 36 for 106 (.340) with seven homers and 20 RBI. In contrast, Varitek, whose contract is up at the end of the season, is batting .231 with 13 homers and 39 RBI in 73 games behind the plate.

Rumors have been circulating since mid-May that Boston is looking for a catcher, most notably the Indians Victor Martinez.

Read More: Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Jason Varitek, miguel montero

Red Sox vs. Orioles Match-ups, 7/24

07.24.09 at 12:46 pm ET
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ORIOLES VS. BRAD PENNY

Brad Penny‘s second-half struggles have been well-documented– a 4.37 career post-break ERA compared to 3.97 prior– but the Red Sox didn’t get to fully realize them until last Saturday. Penny allowed six earned to the Blue Jays over five innings in 6-2 Boston loss.

While the Red Sox have made more headlines for their five-game losing-streak dating back to the second game back from the break, that isn’t the only skid they’re looking to end tonight at Fenway. Boston has lost the last four games started by Penny dating back to June 28.

Penny has faced the Orioles just once this season, his second start in a Boston uniform on April 17. Penny was dreadful, lasting only three innings (his second-shortest Red Sox outing) and giving up eight runs, all of which were earned. The right-hander walked five Baltimore batters and struck out just one. Here are the numbers for Orioles hitters against Penny:

Ty Wiggington (22 career plate appearances vs. Penny): .400 BA / .455 OBP / .600 SLG, homer, 3 RBI
Cesar Izturis (11): .100 / .182 / .100, BB, 3 SO
Aubrey Huff (10): .000 / .100 / .000, BB, 3 SO
Melvin Mora (6): 3-for-5, double, RBI, BB
Luke Scott (5): 4-for-5, double, SO
Greg Zaun (5): 0-for-4, BB, SO
Adam Jones (3): 1-for-1, RBI, 2 BB
Brian Roberts (3): 1-for-3, RBI, SO
Nick Markakis (2): 1-for-2, homer, 4 RBI

RED SOX VS. BRAD BERGESEN

Like Penny with the Orioles, Bergesen has faced the Red Sox only once, but the results were far different. The Baltimore rookie baffled the Red Sox for eight innings, but recieved a tough-luck no-decision.

Having thrown 103 pitches, Bergesen was pulled with the Orioles up 5-1. A four-run ninth led by a Kevin Youkilis two-run homer and Rocco Baldelli two-run single tied the game up for the Red Sox, who ended up winning in 11.

The 23-year-old righty has been stellar as of late, giving the Orioles quality starts in nine of his last 10 outings (5-2, 2.41 ERA). Bergesen has gone at least eight innings in four of those starts. On the season he’s 6-4 with a 3.51 ERA and 54 strikeouts through 110.1 innings. Here’s how Red Sox hitters have fared against him:

J.D. Drew (4): 1-for-4
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3, 3 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 0-for-3
Nick Green (3): 0-for-3
Mark Kotsay (3): 0-for-3, SO
David Ortiz (3): 1-for-3, SO
Dustin Pedroia (3): 2-for-3, double, RBI
Jason Varitek (3): 0-for-3, SO
Kevin Youkilis (3): 0-for-3

Read More: Bergesen, Penny,

Cape Cod sluggers get their first sniff of Fenway

07.24.09 at 12:52 am ET
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Fenway Park is a miraculous place for anyone who has ever picked up a bat. A hitter’€™s park with a left field wall that’€™s generous to righties and a triangle in center that’€™s treacherous to everyone, its dimensions are almost as awe-striking as the legends that live within its confines. Sluggers of all types have hit there, and as a new class got their first crack at it Thursday for the Cape Cod Baseball League Home Run Derby, the lessons being learned on the fly were both apparent and amusing.

‘€œThat’€™s the only way you’€™re getting out [of the park]!’€ eventual derby-winner Connor Powers said after his turn in the first round, panting as he pointed to the green monster with his bat. Reporters laughed as Powers made his declaration, but the Mississippi State and Harwich Mariners star grinned as he assured them it was no joke. ‘€œI’€™m serious, I can’€™t hit it oppo here.’€

Opposite-field shots clearly weren’€™t what were expected out of Thursday’€™s two-round competition, but the right-handed slugger’€™s admission served as a reminder that, while those on display in the six-man event are likely a peek into the next class of big-league power-hitters, they are still players learning the game and adjusting to big-league surroundings. All this of course, while soaking up the aura of a park like Fenway.

‘€œI definitely feel like a big-leaguer [right now],’€ Brett Eibner of Wareham said after his turn in the event’€™s first round. The centerfielder panned across the field, wide-eyed, from left to right while standing in front of the home dugout, where former Cape Leaguer Brian Roberts sat just minutes before. ‘€œA lot of kids, when they grow up they dream about doing stuff like this. It’€™s just amazing.’€

Eibner hit two out in the first round and was edged out by Powers and Cameron Rupp for a shot at the finals, and the fact that Powers won the whole thing with just five total homers (he edged Rupp, 2-1, in the last round) speaks volumes to what each shot meant to the crowd and the players.

The biggest hit of the day came in the first round for Rupp. After using the left field wall to the best of his ability for two homers, he propelled himself into the finals with a blast to straightaway center, causing all on hand to rise to their feet for event’€™s deepest homer. Upon being told that the dinger signaled the end of his turn because he was the last batter in the round and had tied for the lead, sarcastic disappointment was ubiquitous on the field’€™s right side, where his West coaches and teammates were watching.

‘€œYou know what?’€ Rupp exclaimed. ‘€œI was just getting in a groove!’€

The energy within the players was clearly less out of the spirit of competition and more out of excitement for the opportunity to play on a big-league field. Jedd Gyorko, who posted the competition’€™s only O-fer, paid no attention to the results and cheered on teammates on the grass of what he called ‘€œone of the most memorable parks ever made.’€

Brewster’€™s Harold Martinez spoke of the memories he has of Fenway Park, though he’€™d previously only been there once in his life on what he called a ‘€œvisit.’€ When thinking of Fenway, it wasn’€™t Mo Vaughn, Manny Ramirez, or David Ortiz that came to mind. In fact, wasn’€™t even a Red Sox: it was Ken Griffey, Jr.

Now 10 years after watching on TV as Griffey edged out Jeremy Burnitz with 16 total homers to win the ‘€™99 Derby, Martinez was in the very same batter’€™s box competing for a title of his own.
‘€œThat was amazing, just watching all those guys hit home runs [in ‘€˜99],’€ said Martinez. ‘€œ[Now being here], it’€™s awesome.’€

Martinez watched as Powers slugged his way past him and the rest of the field, but the Fenway dirt on his cleats seemed to be enough for the Whitecap and Hurricane.
Powers, the 11th-round pick of the Dodgers, admitted that whether or not the next generation of power-hitters have any connection to the Red Sox, the venue of the derby was special for everyone.

‘€œIt’€™s Fenway Park, what more could you ask for?’€ said Powers, who grew rooting for the White Sox. ‘€œI’€™m not even a Red Sox fan and it’€™s just awesome.’€

No, nobody hit 16 homers, nor did anyone even hit 10. Half that was enough to name a champion, but for these sluggers, this derby wasn’€™t about the home runs.

‘€œIt’€™s just another thing I can knock off my list of things I’€™ve always wanted to do,’€ said Eibner.

Read More: cape cod, CCBL,
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