|07.04.11 at 6:51 pm ET|
The Red Sox were hopeful that John Lackey‘s start last week in Philadelphia would represent a turning point. He shut down a very good opposing lineup in a ballpark that typically does not permit such outcomes.
But then, he took the mound on Monday against the Blue Jays and had barely stepped on the rubber when he had given up a double to leadoff man Rajai Davis. That was the first of nine hits and seven runs that Lackey would allow on the afternoon, as his record dropped to 5-8, his ERA blowing up to an unsightly 7.47 mark that ranks as the worst in the majors.
It was one of the worst outings of the pitcher’s 10-year career. Only twice had he turned in shorter starts: Once after being ejected after hitting the first batter of the game, another as part of a planned two-inning tuneup for the playoffs at the end of the regular season in 2009.
The Sox put seven runs on the board, typically more than enough to ensure a victory. Instead, Lackey’s horrible line permitted no shot at a victory, and the Sox fell, 9-7, to the Blue Jays.
|07.04.11 at 5:13 pm ET|
This time, it wasn’t the weather. Instead, on a picture perfect Fourth of July, the Blue Jays provided plenty of pyrotechnics against Red Sox starter John Lackey, exploding for seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings against the Red Sox starter.
Down by a touchdown in the third inning, there was little that the Red Sox could do to escape their hole. Though their bats came alive in the middle and late innings, their seven-run output was not enough, as the Sox suffered a 9-7 defeat in the resumption of division play following the mid-year interleague jaunt.
Lackey added another chapter to a season that has featured several alarming performances and developments. He allowed nine hits and seven runs while recording seven outs. Though the Jays swung and missed at nine of his 65 pitches, they spread line drives all over the park, including a solo homer by Aaron Hill and three doubles.
The outing was dismal in its own right, but all the more disconcerting for the Sox considering that it represented part of a pattern. Lackey has now given up seven or more runs in four of his 13 starts this year, tied for the most such starts in the majors. He has allowed at least four runs in eight of his outings.
On a team that entered Monday with the third-best record in the majors, Lackey has represented an impediment to success. His 7.47 ERA is the worst in the majors by a starter with at least 50 innings pitched this year; indeed, no other starter comes within a half-run of him. The Sox have a 5-8 record (.385) when he takes the mound, and a 44-26 mark (.629) when anyone else takes the hill.
In his last outing in Philadelphia last week, Lackey seemed as if he might be ready to turn a corner. He held the Phillies to two runs in 7 2/3 innings in one of his best outings of the year. But he backed that fine outing up with one of his worst of the year, and indeed his career.
Lackey is struggling as never before, and as he does so, he is presenting the Sox with the kinds of dilemmas that they never anticipated when they signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million deal after the 2009 season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Lackey was knocked out after recording just seven outs, marking the quickest hook he’s ever received as a result of a beat-down by opponents. Though he has made two shorter starts in his career, both had extenuating circumstances attached to their brevity:
He had a two-inning outing on Oct. 1, 2009, that represented a year-ending final tuneup before the postseason. The other was a start on May 16, 2009, in which he was ejected after hitting the first batter of the game.
–The Red Sox fell victim to the Toronto running game and at the same time struggled with their own. The Jays scored their first run in the first inning when Rajai Davis swiped third against Lackey and then advanced home when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s high throw went into shallow left.
–With a man on and no outs in the sixth inning, the Blue Jays replaced starter Brandon Morrow with left-handed reliever Luis Perez. That, in turn, prompted manager Terry Francona to pinch-hit for Josh Reddick (0-for-2 in his first two at-bats on Monday) with the right-handed Darnell McDonald. But McDonald struck out in that at-bat, and struck out again in the eighth inning with runners on second and third and no outs.
McDonald is now hitting .117 on the season, including a .128 average (5-for-29) against lefties. Reddick, meanwhile, is 7-for-9 (.778) this year against lefties.
–Gonzalez had a tough day, going 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and a double-play grounder. On the season, he has grounded into 20 twin killings, most in the American League.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Jacoby Ellsbury matched a career-high (achieved four previous times) by collecting four hits while going 4-for-5. He also collected his first triple of the 2011 season, banging a two-run triple off the warning track in straightaway center field. On the year, his average now stands at .310.
—Dan Wheeler turned in a tremendous effort in relief of Lackey, retiring all eight batters whom he faced, in the process getting one more out than Lackey. He sailed through his 2 2/3 innings in just 25 pitches. It was the right-hander’s longest outing since Sept. 27, 2006, when he pitched three innings for the Astros. He now has a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings spanning 15 outings since coming off the disabled list on May 20.
—David Ortiz broke an 0-for-23 stretch, dating to June 20, by looping a pop-up down the left-field line for an eighth-inning double. He finished the day having gone 1-for-3 with a walk.
|07.04.11 at 2:01 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the Red Sox have agreed to terms with 16-year-old Manuel Marcos on an $800,000 bonus. The deal is not yet official, pending routine physical and background examinations to which all international signees are subject.
Marcos, who hails from the Dominican, is considered one of the most athletic players in this year’s international class of signees. The center fielder features a number of above-average tools. He is an above average defender and runner with a very strong arm. He features good bat speed with a line drive stroke. Marcos also showed good baseball instincts and what one evaluator called a great work ethic.
News of the signing was first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America.
|07.04.11 at 9:05 am ET|
So, interleague is over. Abner Doubleday would want us to reflect …
– John Lackey came away as the only Red Sox pitcher with a hit thanks to his RBI double in Philadelphia. Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield led the way with four strikeouts each, with Jon Lester totaling three. In all, Sox hurlers were 1-for-21, but did see 4.24 pitchers per plate appearance (best in the American League). They didn’t, however, manage a single sacrifice, while the Yankees‘ pitchers came away with seven.
– The Red Sox finished with the highest batting average of any team in interleague play, hitting .300, also claiming a major league-best .839 OPS. Somewhat surprising, despite scoring just 10 runs in their first five games on the recent 10-game interleague road trip. the Sox also managed more runs in interleague play than any other club (100).
– Josh Reddick finished with the fourth-best interleague average, hitting .438 in his 12 games, while Adrian Gonzalez was sixth (.423), and Kevin Youkilis tied for 11th (.383). Reddick was second in OPS (1.250), with Jason Varitek sneaking into the big league leaders (21st) with a 1.030 OPS.
– Baltimore can at least claim the best group of hitting pitchers in the American League, with Zach Britton going 5-for-8 with a home run, and Chris Jakubauskas notching two hits in three at-bats. The only other AL hurlers to come away with a pair of hits were Minnesota’s Scott Baker, the Angels Tyler Chatwood, Seattle’s Doug Fister and Josh Tomlin of the Indians.
– Freddy Garcia of the Yankees and and the Royals’ Felipe Paulino led the way among AL pitchers with three sacrifices apiece.
– Tampa Bay’s James Shields got his money’s worth, seeing the most pitches among any American League hurler (35). All it translated into, however, was five strikeouts and a walk.
– In all, American League pitchers went 33-for-277 (.119) with Britton’s blast being the only home run. They struck out 123 times and drew just six walks. It was a slight improvement on last season when they hit .105 (27-258), without a single home run, striking out 126 times and drawing nine walks. Since 2007 there has been just five homers from AL pitchers, with Josh Beckett, Mark Buehrle, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia joining Britton.
– As for National League clubs using the designated hitter, the Rockies did better than most, claiming a 1.037 OPS and .304 batting average (all thanks to Jason Giambi). The Braves struggled the most, hitting .115 with just a .302 batting average (thanks primarily to Chipper Jones).
– The NL as a whole didn’t produce in the DH spot like it had in previous seasons, finishing with a .212 batting average, 19 home runs and .654 OPS. It was, in fact, the lowest batting average ever produced at the position by the league since interleague was introduced. Just two years ago, NL designated hitters totaled a .815 OPS, the second-best during the interleague era.
-And finally … The Angels and Yankees led the way with 13 interleague wins apiece, while the Astros (4-11), Royals (5-13) and Cubs (5-10) all struggled. The Red Sox? They came in at 10-8, their worst mark since 2004.
|07.03.11 at 5:25 pm ET|
The Red Sox return to American League teams and American League rules Monday when they begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays, part of a seven-game homestand that will close out the first half of the season.
Monday also is Independence Day, which does not bode well for the Red Sox. Boston is 4-6 in its last 10 July 4 starts, including 1-6 in the last seven. The Sox last won on July 4 in 2008.
More encouraging is Boston’s 6-3 record against Toronto this season. The last time the Red Sox and Blue Jays played, Boston swept Toronto by a combined score of 35-6 in three games.
John Lackey will take the mound for the Red Sox. Lackey is coming off his best start since returning from the DL, pitching 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Phillies and giving up two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. His overall record this year is 5-7 with a 6.81 ERA and a .290 batting average against, but June was Lackey’s best month this season, with a 3-2 record and a 5.28 ERA. This might mean he’s starting to turn his season (and career in Boston) around.
Lackey is 5-6 with a 5.12 ERA and a .264 BAA in 17 career starts against the Blue Jays, but in two starts this season he’s 1-1 with an 8.24 ERA. He won his last start against them on June 11, giving up four runs in six innings of a 16-4 blowout in Toronto.
Lackey’s opponent for that game was Brandon Morrow, whom the Red Sox will face again on Monday. Morrow is 4-4 with a 4.56 ERA this season but is coming off his best start of the season, pitching seven innings of one-run baseball on Wednesday against the Pirates. He gave up four hits and three walks and struck out 10 batters.
Morrow has struggled badly against the Red Sox in the past. In four career starts, Morrow is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and .304 BAA. He gave up nine runs in less than five innings of that 16-4 loss on June 11.
|07.03.11 at 5:14 pm ET|
Kevin Youkilis drew a two-out, bases loaded walk in the top half of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the ninth to secure a 2-1 win and series sweep for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
With one out in the ninth, Drew Sutton worked a pinch-hit walk in the 9 hole, and Jacoby Ellsbury put two men on with a single to right. Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two out, and Astros reliever Mark Melancon intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez to face Youkilis with the bases loaded and two outs. After getting ahead in the count, 3-0, Youkilis drew a five-pitch walk to bring in the winning run.
Josh Beckett returned to form after a tough outing against the Phillies, striking out a season-high 11 hitters while allowing just one run on five hits over eight innings.
Despite Beckett’s strong stat line, he got off to a rocky start on Sunday. After starting with a strikeout, he gave up three hard-hit balls in the first inning, including two singles and a sharp liner right to Youkilis at third. Beckett got out of trouble by popping up Matt Downs and went on to retire the next 11 batters he faced.
The Astros slowed Beckett’s roll in the fifth inning with a leadoff double from Brett Wallace and a pinch-hit RBI single from Angel Sanchez, tying the game at 1. Houston struggled to put a rally together against Beckett after the fifth, and the Boston starter was pulled after eight innings and 102 pitches.
Meanwhile, Boston was shut down by relievers Sergio Escalona, Wilton Lopez and David Carpenter up until the ninth inning. David Ortiz pinch hit for Navarro with one on and one out in the eighth, but his interleague rust showed as he grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
|07.03.11 at 12:22 pm ET|
In his first season with the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez has more than lived up to his reputation and he David Ortiz lead a contingent of four Red Sox players who have been named to the 2011 American League All-Star team. Gonzalez and Ortiz were voted in as starters in fan balloting, while Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett were selected as reserves. The vote was by players and selections made by the managers — Ron Washington and Bruce Bochy.
Gonzalez (.353/.407/,593) entered play Sunday with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs. It’s the fourth straight All-Star selection for the first baseman. Ortiz, who was voted in as a designated hitter, has had a strong comeback season for the Sox, posting lines of .302/.383/.565 to go with a team-high 17 home runs and 49 RBIs. This is his seventh All-Star appearance.
Ellsbury, who will be making his first All-Star game appearance, has also had a bounceback year after missing most of last season with injuries. He’s hitting .300 with a .361 on-base percentage and has reclaimed the leadoff spot in the Sox lineup.
Rounding out the list of Sox revivals is Beckett who entered his start on Sunday with a 6-3 record and a 2.20 ERA in 98 innings pitched. It’s the third All-Star selection for the right-hander. The game will be played on Tuesday, July 12 in Phoenix.
Here are the rest of the starters and reserves for the All-Star Game:
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
2B: Robinson Cano, Yankees
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF: Curtis Granderson, Yankees
OF: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
C: Alex Avila, Tigers
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B: Howard Kendrick, Angels
3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
OF: Michael Cuddyer, Twins
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
OF: Matt Joyce, Rays
OF: Carlos Quentin, White Sox
DH: Michael Young, Rangers
C: Russell Martin, Yankees
C: Matt Wieters, Orioles
RHP: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
RHP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
LHP: David Price, Rays
RHP: James Shields, Rays
RHP: Justin Verlander, Tigers
RHP: Jered Weaver, Angels
LHP: C.J. Wilson, Rangers
LHP: Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
RHP: Aaron Crow, Royals
RHP: Brandon League, Mariners
RHP: Chris Perez, Indians
RHP: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
RHP: Jose Valverde, Tigers
1B: Prince Fielder, Brewers
2B: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3B: Jose Reyes, Mets
SS: Placido Polanco, Phillies
OF: Lance Berkman, Cardinals
OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
OF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
C: Brian McCann, Braves
1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
1B: Joey Votto, Reds
2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
3B: Chipper Jones, Braves
SS: Starlin Castro, Cubs
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
OF: Jay Bruce, Reds
OF: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
OF: Hunter Pence, Astros
OF: Justin Upton, D-backs
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
RHP: Matt Cain, Giants
RHP: Roy Halladay, Phillies
LHP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
RHP: Jair Jurrjens, Braves
LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
LHP: Cliff Lee, Phillies
RHP: Tim Lincecum, Giants
RHP: Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
RHP: Heath Bell, Padres
RHP: Tyler Clippard, Nationals
RHP: Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
LHP: Jonny Venters, Braves
RHP: Brian Wilson, Giants
|07.03.11 at 11:09 am ET|
“Ted Williams, to many, is the greatest hitter of all time,” Damon said. “Obviously, he could have gotten more hits if he wasn’t as great as a hitter, maybe. I mean, he walked so many times and spent five years of service for our country. But just having the Boston ties that I do have, and knowing the history of that franchise and the history of Ted Williams, it’s a special moment.”
Damon’s hit was a leadoff single through the left side of the Cardinals’ infield. The game was briefly stopped to announce the accomplishment on the scoreboard, and Rays fans gave Damon a standing ovation. Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker also applauded, and Rays first base coach George Hendrick gave Damon a hug.
“I’m very happy for [Damon],” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve talked about him on different occasions [about] how he’s unique, and this, furthermore, indicates why he should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Damon needs two hits to tie Lave Cross and Harry Heilman for 70th place.
|07.03.11 at 9:00 am ET|
Interleague play finally comes to its end on Fourth of July Eve, meaning the American League players will see their National League friends (and foes) for the last time until the All-Star festivities of July 11-12 and then potentially the World Series in October. The Red Sox may not look back upon their adventure through the interleague section of the schedule as the team began the bulk of interleague play 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in first place and now find themselves mired in second looking up at the Bronx Bombers. But that difficult stretch, which included a nine-game road trip through NL ballparks, will come to a close Sunday when the Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett to the hill to face the Astros and their starting pitcher, rookie Jordan Lyles.
Beckett (6-3, 2.20 ERA) is coming off the worst start of his 2011 season in which he allowed five runs to the Phillies ‘ four of those runs came on separate two-run homers by Dominic Brown and Shane Victorino ‘ despite allowing just six baserunners (five hits, one walk) over six innings last Tuesday. Remarkably, that was the first time all season that the righty had allowed more than four runs; by comparison, he had done just that four times in the first two months of the 2010 season. The blip on the radar raised Beckett’s ERA to 2.20, its highest level since May 4, but even then, that mark is still good enough for second in the American League as is his 0.929 WHIP (behind Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander in those respective stats).
Against Houston, Beckett is 2-2 with a 2.20 ERA in his career with the latter stat being the third-lowest among foes that the fireballer has faced at least five times. These particular set of Astros have fared well though, albeit most of their limited experience comes from their time in a different uniform. Jason Michaels and Carlos Lee are a combined 7-for-18 against Beckett with both having hit a solo home run. The rest of the Astros squad has a combined 17 at-bats against the Boston starter.
Lyles (0-3, 4.75) hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination in his first six starts at the major-league level, none of which have obviously come against Boston meaning no Sox hitter has faced Lyles, but hasn’t been especially horrible either. He, too, allowed five earned runs over six frames in his last outing (a 7-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday) but before that he had allowed three earned runs or fewer in his four of his five previous starts. Still, starts like those won’t get you very far when you’re pitching for this Astros team that has struggled with bullpen issues at times and offensive problems at others. Despite a relatively solid game log, Houston is just 1-5 in games that Lyles has pitched thus far in 2011.
Astros vs. Beckett
Jason Michaels (11 career plate appearances): .400 BA/.455 OBP/.800 SLG, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
Carlos Lee (8): .375/.375/.875, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Clint Barmes (6): .333/.333/.333
Michael Bourn (4): .000/.000/.000
Hunter Pence (4): .500/.500/.500, 1 strikeout
Jeff Keppinger (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout
Brian Bogusevic, Carlos Corporan, Matt Downs, Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace have never faced the Boston starter.
Red Sox vs. Lyles
No Red Sox hitter has ever faced Lyles in the past.
|07.02.11 at 10:14 pm ET|
Andrew Miller looked sharp in his third outing in a Red Sox uniform. He picked up his second straight victory and in three starts with Boston has still yet to allow more than three runs in a start, this time leading the Sox to a 10-4 win over the Astros in Houston.
The Red Sox bats gave Miller an early lead, putting up a three-spot in the first frame as each of the first five hitters reached base. And, they did it without hitting an extra-base hit. Jacoby Ellsbury got things started against Astros left-hander J.A. Haap with a leadoff walk. Dustin Pedroia followed with a soft chopper to shortstop Clint Barmes, who made an errant throw to first baseman. Carlos Lee. Lee couldn’t manage to stay on the bag, missed Pedroia diving head first into the bag and was charged with an error.
Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI single to right field and Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases, singling to left. David Ortiz, who played first base in the field, battled back from 0-2 to work a walk. It was the fifth bases-loaded walk Boston has earned this season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then grounded into a double play, but the Sox caught another break as third baseman Chris Johnson threw to second rather than throwing home, which he had plenty of time to do.
Michael Bourn one-upped Ellsbury, tripling to left-center field on Miller’s first pitch to start things off for Houston. That hit also extended his hitting streak to 11 games. On the very next pitch, Angle Sanchez put the Astros on the board, knocking a single back up the middle. After a Hunter Pence single, Miller settled in, getting Carlos Lee to fly out and Jason Michaels to ground into a double play
The top of the lineup accounted for another run in the fifth as Ellsbury and Pedroia provided back-to-back doubles. Pence answered in the bottom of the sixth with his tenth longball of the season, taking advantage of a changeup Miller left up in the zone.
Alfredo Aceves took over for Miller in the seventh, but his replacement in the No. 9 spot — Yamaico Navarro — left more of an impact. Called up for Mike Cameron Saturday, Navarro belted his first career home run over the left field wall to raise Boston’s lead to three runs. In 42 at-bats in 2010, Navarro batted .143 with five RBIs and 17, yes, 17 strikeouts.
After retiring Barmes and J.R. Towles to start the bottom of the seventh, Aceves ran into some problems. Pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger lined a 2-2 fastball into right field for a single. Bourn followed with another sharply hit single, this time to center field. Matt Downs pinch hit for Sanchez and earned a walk, albeit on a questionable 3-2, call to load the bases. At that point Daniel Bard replaced Aceves to face Pence. After getting squeezed again by umpire Cory Blaser, Bard missed badly with the count full, and walked in a run. Luckily for Boston, Lee grounded the first pitch he saw to third base to end the inning.
After Saltalamacchia plated Gonzalez on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to left in the top of the eighth inning, Darnell McDonald, who entered the game batting .115, hammered a three-run bomb that quickly exited the park over the left field wall. Youkilis finished the scoring for Boston, driving in Gonzalez on a single to left.
Houston picked up a meaningless ninth-inning run off Dan Wheeler. Bourn recorded his fourth hit of the game, singling to center, and took second on a defensive indifference.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Miller continued to build his case to stay in the rotation once Clay Buchholz returns form the disabled list. The 6-foot-7 southpaw pitched six strong innings, allowing the Astros just two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out three throwing 85 pitches on the evening.
– In six innings, Ortiz (1B) and Gonzalez (RF) not only avoided injury, but played solid defense. Neither were overly tested defensively, but both handled routine plays. Saturday marked the second time manager Terry Francona has tried this lineup.
– Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect eight inning, using only eight pitches to retire the side. He struck out Johnson and got Barmes and Michaels to fly out to center field.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Youkilis reaggravated a left ankle injury in the eight inning, sliding into third base. He batted in the bottom half of the inning, singling in Gonzalez, but was replaced in the field by Drew Sutton in the final frame.
– After retiring the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning, Aceves was unable to close out the inning. He allowed two hits and a walk and was credited with the run that Bard walked in.
– Marco Scutaro was the least productive Red Sox batter. Going 0-for-4 on the night, interestingly enough, he never stepped to the plate with a runner on base.
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