|05.07.10 at 3:14 pm ET|
Red Sox pitcher John Lackey called in to The Big Show Friday afternoon (Listen at The Big Show audio on demand page) and talked about beating his former team in his last outing. “You want to beat your boys about as much as anything,” he said of Wednesday’s win over the Angels.
Asked why the Angels did not meet the Red Sox’ offer when Lackey was a free agent, he said Los Angeles did make “a run” at retaining him. “The money was around the same, honestly,” he said. “It was more so I might have gotten an extra year over here. I was in a situation where I had two great options. And I chose to come out here. My wife — it was kind of a family decision. We wanted a new challenge, to move on and check something new out.”
Lackey said Boston fans have lived up to their reputation since he’s been here. “We were talking about it in the clubhouse the other night,” he said. “It’s a different vibe every night. Over there, people are a little more laid-back, eating sushi and crap in the stands. These people are having dogs and beers and ready to get after it. It’s fun.”
As for the recent firestorm of criticism of David Ortiz, Lackey was disappointed with the reaction to the slugger’s struggles. Said Lackey: “As much stuff as that guy’s done for that organization, that was kind of eye-opening to see as many people turn on him as did so quickly. That was kind of crazy. But it is what it is. You kind of knew what you’re signing up for when you come over here.”
Lackey said he isn’t too concerned with how far the Red Sox have fallen behind the Yankees and Rays in the early going. “It’s a game of runs,” he said. “We’re playing 162 games. They’ll get cold, eventually. And hopefully we’re hot at the same time. You’ve just to keep grinding it out, keep working. … We just need to concern ourselves with playing better baseball. We’ve got too many good players not to be in this thing in the end.”
|05.07.10 at 10:56 am ET|
Usually you don’t see a “must win” series in early May, but the Red Sox can’t lose any more ground to the Yankees. The Sox sit five games back of the Yankees ‘ 6½ back of the first-place Rays ‘ and will look to keep the recent good vibes going in Fenway Park vs. their longtime rivals.
The teams have gone in different directions since meeting in the infant stages of the 2010 season. The Yankees have been consistent and the Red Sox have not. Part of that inconsistency on the Red Sox starts with the rotations, namely Josh Beckett. At times, Beckett has looked like the ace of the staff, while other times it’s looked like his name and “ace” don’t belong in the same sentence.
Beckett will look to improve on his first outing against the Yankees, when he gave up five earned runs in 4-2/3 innings on Opening Night. After two mediocre starts against Texas and Tampa, Beckett bounced back with a quality start vs. Baltimore ‘ two runs over seven innings in a no-decision.
The right-hander will need to keep Robinson Cano in check, which this season has been easier said than done.
Cano is in this top-three in average (.362), slugging percentage (.695) and home runs (9) in the American League. He has been the spark plug behind the Yankees offense, and his numbers against Beckett are in line with his production this year.
The main reason why the Yankees are so steady this year is starting pitching. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett are a combined 12-1, and Friday’s starter, Phil Hughes, is a perfect 3-0. Hughes solidified the back end of the bullpen last year for the Yankees in their title run, and he seems to be doing the same to the end of the rotation.
He has only allowed four earned runs in his four starts this season, and the 23-year-old is coming off probably his best outing of the season ‘ zero runs in seven innings ‘ against the White Sox.
Both teams come in to the contest with four-game winning streaks in their back pockets, and Beckett will need to set the tone tonight to help the Red Sox climb their way back into the division race. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.06.10 at 10:55 pm ET|
The Red Sox completed a four-game series sweep of the Angels by running away with an 11-6 win over LA, Thursday night at Fenway Park. Daisuke Matsuzaka got his first win of the season despite giving up four runs in the first inning. The Sox starter finished his second outing by giving up five runs over 5 1/3 innings. The Red Sox were able to negate Matsuzaka’s shaky start by scoring five runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth. (Click here for a recap.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– They played the Angels: LA left town having surrendered 28 runs and 31 hits. After issuing eight walks to the Sox Thursday night, the Angels finished the four-game set having allowed 23 free passes. The Red Sox also made just one error in the series, compared to the visitors’ four (2 Thursday night).
– They re-discovered their No. 3 hitter: Victor Martinez finished the series going 6-for-17, having knocked in four runs Thursday night via two hits. The first knock was a two-run, third-inning homer that got the Sox on the board, giving Martinez two for the season. The second hit would be a key two-run double in what turned out to be a five-run fifth for the Sox. It was a welcome sight for the Red Sox, who were third-to-last in the majors with just eight RBI out of their No. 3 spot.
– Martinez wasn’t alone in his offensive resurgence: Another middle of the order presence continued to emerge for the Sox, with No. 5 hitter J.D. Drew garnering another hit (to go with 2 runs and an RBI), allowing him to finish 7-for-15 for the series. Drew came into the homestand with a .214 batting average and finished the four-game set hitting .253. Adrian Beltre also upped his average to .353, notching two more hits to finish the series having gone 7-for-17.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Daisuke’s first inning: Matsuzaka suffered through a horrific initial frame, throwing 39 pitches on the way to giving up four runs. It started with walks to three of the game’s first batters, with a single mixed in, and was defined by Howie Kendrick’s two-run double off the center field wall. Matsuzaka, who only had one free pass in his three rehab outings in Pawtucket, has six in 10 big league innings.
– Delcarmen hits a bump in the road: Manny Delcarmen hadn’t given up a home run since April 16 — his third relief appearance of the season — until Thursday night. After coming in for Matsuzaka in sixth inning, the second batter Delcarmen faced, Mike Napoli, took the righty into the Red Sox bullpen. That resulted in the first runs surrendered by the relief pitcher since that April 16 game against Tampa Bay. (It also tied the Sox with Arizona for the most homers given up by a bullpen this season — 17.)
|05.06.10 at 7:06 pm ET|
Talking to the media prior to the Red Sox‘ Thursday night game with the Angels, Sox general manager Theo Epstein talked about a variety of topics, including his assertion in the Boston Herald after Sunday’s loss that change might be on the way if the team didn’t start playing better.
“One reporter came up and asked me a question: ‘What kind of baseball are you guys playing?’ And I don’t think there’s a single player in that clubhouse that would disagree with me. I didn’t call anyone out,” Epstein said. “I didn’t call our players out. We’re all in this together. But the fact of the matter is we were not playing good baseball. We all know that. We weren’t playing the kind of baseball we were capable of. Tito had a meeting, a couple of other things ‘ there’s a reason you do those things, not that they ultimately matter. Ultimately it’s how our players play, and they’ve done a great job this week. It’s nice to see guys take a deep breath, relax, be themselves and go out and play good baseball.
“I was asked, ‘Will this change by itself?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it’ll change by itself or we’ll have to find a way to change it.’ I actually didn’t even mean personnel changes. Obviously, that’s the natural connection when a GM says that, but I actually meant, have a meeting, find ways to put guys in a better position to succeed. There was no followup, which I understand, because that’s naturally what you would expect when a GM says that. But I was actually alluding to the meeting we were going to have the next day. And Tito had a meeting.
“You can’t make personnel changes this time of year that are anything more than symbolic. Maybe once a decade you’ll find a trade you can make this time of year. But they’re really symbolic. And we don’t really believe in change for change’s sake.”
Epstein also pointed out that since he took over prior to the 2003 season, every year except 2005 there has been at least one month as bad as the stretch the Sox just went through.
“One-sixth of the season is 27 games, and we ended up going 13-14 our first sixth. Every year I’ve been here, since ’03, except one, we’ve had a sixth of the season when we went 13-14 or worse,” he said. “You just don’t realize it at the time because you’re in the middle of a pennant race. It’s deeper in the year ‘ when we’ve never done it in that first sixth. Getting out of the gate slow means that there’s no context for your slump, makes things look a lot worse than they are sometimes. and it amplifies it. ‘¦ I think it’s important to keep it in context. Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, put your head down, play good ball for a month or so, and see where we are.’
Here is a transcript of the rest of the conversation with Epstein:
|05.06.10 at 1:36 pm ET|
The Red Sox haven’t had a poor outing from a starter since, well, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s last start. Matsuzaka will make his second appearance this year against the Angels, and his results will have to be much, much better to keep the streak of solid starting pitching flowing.
Matsuzaka threw 95 pitches and gave up seven runs, as he labored through a tough 4.2 innings against the Orioles. In his defense, it wasn’t a pretty weekend for any of the Red Sox in Baltimore.
We’ve seen good Daisuke and bad Daisuke against the Angels in his career. In 2008, Matsuzaka gave up six earned runs in five innings, but he bounced back in 2009 with six shutout innings, while only surrendering three hits.
Martinez clearly holds the offense advantage against Angels starter Scott Kazmir ‘.455 average for Marinez to .188 average for Varitek ‘ but getting Matsuzaka comfortable and back into a flow might come into play.
Even though David Ortiz went deep last night and has showed some power over the last week, expect to see Mike Lowell in this game. Lowell is a career .250 hitter vs. Kazmir, but he has four homers against the lefty. Ortiz has only mustered a .205 average against Kazmir, so expect to see Lowell in this matchup.
Kazmir is an all too familiar face to the Red Sox. In his 23 career starts, Kazmir has an 8-7 record with a 3.59 ERA, which was compiled mostly in a Tampa uniform. The 26-year-old was on the mound in Game 3 of the ALDS last year, which happened to be the last game of the Red Sox’ season.
The Red Sox go for the sweep and a little payback for last year’s ending.
ANGELS VS. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA
Bobby Abreu (21 plate appearances): .125 average/ .333 OBP/ .250 slugging percentage, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Hideki Matsui (16): .250/ .438/ .500, 4 walks, 1 strikeout
Torii Hunter (10): .200/ .200/ .500, 1 homer, 2 strikeouts
Maicer Izturis: 1-for-6
Jeff Mathis: 0-for-4, 3 strikeouts
Juan Rivera: 0-for-3, 1 strikeout, 1 SAC fly
Kendry Morales: 1-for-2, 1 walk
Erick Aybar: 1-for-2
Howie Kendrick: 0-for-1, 1 walk
RED SOX VS. SCOTT KAZMIR
David Ortiz (50 plate appearances): .205 average/ .300 OBP/ .364 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (45): .250/ .333/ .600, 4 homers, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (45): .237, .333/ .316, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (44): .188/ .386/ .313, 1 homer, 9 walks, 11 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (36): .517/ .600/ .793, 1 homer, 6 walks, 1 strikeout
Adrian Beltre (21): .111/ .238/ .111, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Marco Scutaro (20): .278/ .350/ .333, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Victor Martinez (11): .455/ .455/ .455, 1 strikeout
J.D. Drew (8): .143/ .250/ .429, 1 walk, 3 strikeout
Bill Hall: 2-for-6, 1 strikeout
Jeremy Hermida: 1-for-3, 2 strikeouts
|05.06.10 at 8:46 am ET|
While Boston’s focus is on the struggles of David Ortiz, in New York they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with former Red Sox slugger Jason Bay. The Mets left fielder stranded six runners in Wednesday’s 10-inning, 5-4 loss to the Reds and was removed as part of a double switch in the bottom of the seventh inning, after he ended the top of the inning by striking out with two runners on base. Bay is hitting .238 with one home run and nine RBI on the season, after going 0-for-12 in Cincinnati.
“It’s painful,” Bay told the New York Post. “There are a lot of guys doing a lot of good things offensively to help us win, and I’m not one of them. It’s a massive funk.”
Said Mets manager Jerry Manuel: “I’m sure [Bay] has been through something like this before. For me, it’s different, because I haven’t witnessed it before. The only way to get out of it is keep going out there.”
The Mets are 15-13 after a 2-4 road trip and next host the Giants Friday night.
|05.06.10 at 5:02 am ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona is typically committed to taking a patient approach with his struggling players, especially when they have proven track records of success. As Francona — who managed his 1,000th career game for the Red Sox on Wednesday — explained, he is not patient by nature, but has learned the trait as a manager out of necessity.
‘I don’t think I’m a very patient person. You talk to anybody who knows me ‘ who really knows me — I’m not,’ Francona said. ‘But if I’m not patient [as a manager], I’m not doing my job properly, or have a chance to not do it properly. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you are patient. I just really think you can make some mistakes.
‘I just think that when I went to Philadelphia, that was supposed to be part of my job description. I knew that going in. [Philly] I knew going in that it was going to take some patience. I just couldn’t attack the players every night. That’s not what was needed for us to get better.’
Currently, Francona’s patience is being tested in the case of David Ortiz, who homered and went 2-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday, one day after an 0-for-4 performance that led to popular demand for his benching. (For more on Francona’s decision with Ortiz, click here.) Here are a few of the most prominent instances of Francona’s patience as the manager of the Sox:
2004/2005: Mark Bellhorn
During the 2004 playoffs, Mark Bellhorn seemed completely lost. He had poor at-bats, made errors in the field, and at one point, with his postseason average at .080 (2-for-25), Fenway Park chanted in unison for defensive whiz Pokey Reese to replace the second baseman.
Francona refused to abandon a player who had been a solid year-long contributor, and Bellhorn rewarded him with three key postseason homers that played a major role in the Sox’ title.
The next year, Francona tried to remain equally patient with the second baseman, but this time, to no avail. The Sox stuck with Bellhorn for as long as possible, but shortly after the All-Star break, he landed on the D.L. with a thumb injury, and the Sox moved to replace him with Tony Graffanino. Bellhorn was released later that season.
2007: Dustin Pedroia
Through May 1, 2007, Dustin Pedroia owned a .172 average and .518 OPS for his rookie season, on the heels of marks of .191 and .561 in 98 plate appearances at the end of 2006. At the time, there was popular sentiment for the Sox to turn to Alex Cora (in the midst of a terrific start to the year) as the everyday second baseman.
As Pedroia pointed out on Tuesday, Francona resisted, and a star was born.
‘A couple of years ago, I was hitting .170 and everyone was ready to kill me, too,’ Pedroia recalled of a campaign when he was named Rookie of the Year. ‘What happened? Laser show.’
2007: J.D. Drew
J.D. Drew’s first season in Boston was greeted as a tremendous disappointment. The outfielder, in the first campaign of his five-year, $70 million deal, showed almost no power and hit for a poor average, with a .252 average and .731 OPS in early September.
With the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury, there were calls for Francona to shift playing time from the veteran to the rookie. Francona dismissed such suggestions, and Drew ended up playing a key postseason role, hitting .350 in the ALCS and World Series, including a huge grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS against Cleveland.
‘I don’t know if every manager does it,’ said Drew. ‘When I was struggling, I came in here and got off to a slower start than I’d like. He knew I was here for five more years regardless.
‘I knew I had to work through it. I wasn’t begging for any time off or anything like that. I was trying to fight through it. You get a good veteran manager like Tito, he understands the game and understands that sticking by guys sometimes is what you have to do to get them out of [a slump]. It worked out well.’
2007: Eric Gagne
Eric Gagne was a colossal flop after coming to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2007. But it was not for lack of opportunities that he failed.
Francona kept inserting Gagne into games in meaningful situations during the regular season. At times, there were indications of promise. More often, Gagne got shelled.
Though the Sox had a playoff berth all but locked up, Gagne’s struggles for a time jeopardized the team’s hopes of winning a division. Nonetheless, Francona felt an obligation to see what the reliever could deliver before the postseason arrived. He came to the situation that Gagne represented an option of last resort, and so stayed away from him in meaningful postseason situations.
2009: David Ortiz
The memory of Ortiz’ challenging 2009 season are fresh, in no small part because he is living through similar struggles this season. As of last June 2, Ortiz was an offensive non-entity, hitting .186 with a .566 OPS and one homer. Yet there he remained, in the lineup, night after night.
‘[Francona] came to me with the same line that he always came to me: I’ve got your back no matter what the situation. That’s great, man. You never forget about that kind of stuff,’ Ortiz recalled last season. ‘Even when things aren’t going good, he knows how to stick with you. Not too many people know how to do that.’
The payoff ended up being substantial. Ortiz hit .265/.357/.553/.911 with 27 homers over the final four months (103 games) of the year, reclaiming status as a formidable middle-of-the-order presence.
The Sox have no idea whether the 2010 season will follow a similar arc. There is reason for some encouragement, with Ortiz now having hit three homers in his last four games.
That said, it may well be that the 34-year-old does not enjoy the sort of dramatic rebound that he achieved last year. It could be that moments like the homer on Wednesday are nearly over. But it is all but certain that the Sox and Francona will keep Ortiz in the lineup for as long as possible in order to make a determination about his ability to produce.
The willingness to give players a chance to show whether they are capable of performing to their career levels has been a hallmark of the success of the Sox for a half-dozen seasons under their manager.
‘He lets us play. He doesn’t have a lot of rules and lets us play,’ said catcher Jason Varitek. ‘Of course you have to give him credit. You can’t not give credit where credit is due. A tenure that long here means you’ve got to be winning a lot of games. He deserves credit for that.’
|05.06.10 at 12:24 am ET|
Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro remained on the ground for a few moments after trying to slide around the tag of Angels catcher Mike Napoli on a play at the plate. On the play — in which Scutaro was waved in from second with one out on a sharp single to left by Kevin Youkilis, and got gunned down by a sizable margin at the plate — Scutaro said that he hit his right knee hard on the dirt, resulting in some swelling.
“I was trying to slide around and my knee got stuck,” he said.
Still, Scutaro said that he expected to be “fine” and did not anticipate any reason why he would not be available to play on Thursday.
Third base coach Tim Bogar’s decision to send Scutaro with one out on a ball that was sharply hit to left came under some scrutiny. Manager Terry Francona, however, insisted that Bogar made the right decision, noting that the shortstop appeared to bounce over the plate.
“I think Marco, he’s safe if he hits the plate. I don’t know that Bogey can run down. A guy bounces over the plate. I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t think he does either,” said Francona. “That’s just kind of bad luck. Marco is trying to evade and he ends up bouncing over. And again, I didn’t see the replay but that’s what it looked like. At the time it’s a big run. No, I thought it was a good decision.”
|05.06.10 at 12:09 am ET|
|05.05.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
The Red Sox entered the year believing that their starting rotation would be one of the team’s greatest strengths. With John Lackey added to the group of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, the team had visions of banging out quality starts one after another.
Yet in April, the performance didn’t cooperate with the script. Sox starters ended April with a 4.86 ERA (10th among 14 AL teams), a .280 batting average against (13th) and .352 OBP against (13th) and an uninspired 6-6 record. Yet in the final days of the month, the staff strung together some performances that may have represented a turning point.
Starting with an eight-inning, one-run effort by Clay Buchholz on April 27 against the Blue Jays, the Sox rotation has lived up to its preseason billing. Over the last eight games, including Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Angels (recap), in which John Lackey turned in seven dominant innings (2H, 1R, 14 groundball outs, 4 strikeouts), the rotation has now gone 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA and a 42-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54.1 innings.
“We have five guys in the rotation who can do that every day,” said third baseman Adrian Beltre. “Lackey was outstanding today, and of course he’s been like that throughout the year. We knew that the first four weeks we saw of our pitching staff was on and off. It was going to change. We expect the guys can hopefully stay healthy and keep doing that.”
Lackey, in fact, has been the linchpin of the rotation to date. He is 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA, and in his six starts, he has delivered five quality outings of at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs, tied for the most in the American League. On Wednesday, he struggled with his command early, throwing just 22 of his first 41 pitches for strikes, before he settled into a dominating groove. He retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, and featured perhaps his best fastball of the season, both in terms of velocity (he touched 95) and later, command.
“He looked so relaxed on the mound and when he throws the ball, it gets on you,” said catcher Victor Martinez. “I can tell you as a hitter facing him, that’s what makes him so tough. He looks like he doesn’t even try, and when he throws the ball, you’ve got to be ready to hit.”
On Wednesday, the Angels weren’t ready to handle that challenge. Lackey, meanwhile, proved more than up to the task of separating the sentiment of facing his former team for the first time from the responsibility of pitching his game.
‘I heard dugout chirping a little bit but it was probably [Jered Weaver] messing with me,’ Lackey chuckled after the game. ‘They know how I am when I get between the lines. It’s business time. I’ll be friends with you later.’
After the second inning, ‘probably had my best fastball command that I’ve had this season, for sure. That was encouraging. Then kind of added pitches as the game went along.’
More and more, the Sox rotation is living up to its billing come business time. And with that, the team has now claimed wins in six of its last nine contests to pull itself back up to .500. If the starters can sustain their current run, then the team can foresee bigger things in the coming weeks.
“We need to be a lot higher than .500,” said Lackey. “This is the starting point. We need to keep moving.”
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