|05.25.10 at 1:11 pm ET|
The Red Sox will look to continue their climb up the AL East ladder Tuesday night as they take on the division-leading Rays for the middle game of a three-game series. The Sox took the first game, 6-1, the team’s first win over Tampa Bay this season, thanks to stellar pitching by Clay Buchholz and two clutch home runs from David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis. Sox ace Jon Lester will look to continue the current streak of solid pitching performances while Rays starter James Shields will try to cool the hot Boston bats.
Lester (4-2, 3.47 ERA) was excellent in his last start on May 20 against the Twins. In that game, he held the Twins to just one run and struck out nine in a complete-game effort, the first and only complete game tossed by a Sox starter so far in 2010. That performance against Minnesota was just the latest in Lester’s resurgence as the ace of the Boston staff. After giving up 15 total earned runs in his first three starts, including a season-high seven to the Rays on April 18, he has returned back to his old form, surrendering just eight runs in his last six starts.
Shields (5-1, 3.08), on the other hand, has been just as stellar as his Boston counterpart while being much more consistent. He has given up more than three runs on just one occasion. Luckily for Sox fans, that one time came against the local nine in a game where he surrendered four earned runs over 6 2/3 on April 17. However, the Rays still managed to pull out the 6-5 victory en route to their early-season sweep of the Sox at Fenway.
No matter how many runs these two pitchers allow, fans can still expect the two to rack up the strikeouts when they each take the hill Tuesday. Shields ranks second in the AL in K’s with 66 while Lester is not too far behind in fourth with 63. However, despite Shields’ slight advantage in this category, it would not be surprising to see Lester come out on top in the strikeout column by the game’s end. The Rays as a team strike out the second-most in the AL with 357 total K’s. Carlos PeÃ±a (47), B.J. Upton (46) and Evan Longoria (44) all rank in the top-10 of the junior circuit, meaning Lester could have a punchout field day.
One matchup to look out for will be between Shields and Youkilis. Youkilis has been one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball in May. In his last eight starts, he’s gone 12-for-30 (.400) with five home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored. As good as he’s been lately, he has been just as bad against Shields, hitting far below the Mendoza Line at .115 with nine strikeouts in 29 career plate appearances. It will be interesting to see if Youkilis can continue his excellent May against a pitcher with whom he has struggled so mightily in the past.
If Youkilis and the Sox can overcome Shields and the Rays, they will move to within 6½ games of first place. They are currently just 1½ games behind the Blue Jays and 2 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings.
Red Sox vs. James Shields
Marco Scutaro (43 career plate appearances against Shields): .250 average/.279 OBP/.350 slugging, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 double, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
J.D. Drew (30): .370/.433/.741, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
David Ortiz (30): .385/.467/.846, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 doubles, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (29): .115/.207/.154, 1 double, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (28): .357/.357/.464, 3 RBI, 3 doubles, 2 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (28): .462/.500/.769, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Jacoby Ellsbury (25): .167/.200/.167, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Jeremy Hermida (22): .250/.318/.300, 2 RBI, 1 double, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (22): .190/.227/.333, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Adrian Beltre (19): .167/.211/.389, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 double, 11 strikeouts
Victor Martinez (16): .375/.375/.438, 3 RBI, 1 double, 5 strikeouts
Mike Cameron is 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout against Shields. Bill Hall has never faced the Tampa Bay starter.
Rays vs. Jon Lester
Carl Crawford (34 career plate appearances against Lester): .258 average/.303 OBP/.290 slugging, 1 RBI, 1 double, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Carlos Pena (34): .310/.353/.862, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 1 double, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
B.J. Upton (34): .188/.235/.375, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Jason Bartlett (28): .346/.393/.346, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Dioner Navarro (25): .250/.375/.250, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Evan Longoria (24): .304/.333/.565, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 6 RBI
Ben Zobrist (16): .333/.500/.333, 2 RBI, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Willy Aybar (15): .200/.200/.400, 3 doubles, 7 strikeouts
Gabe Kapler (12): .333/.500/.333, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts
Hank Blalock (10): .333/.400/.333, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
John Jaso, Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have never faced Lester.
|05.25.10 at 12:07 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Through all the particulars that surrounded Clay Buchholz‘ outing Monday night against the Rays, one thing that almost went unnoticed was the reunion that occurred in the third inning.
Not since Victor Martinez came to the Red Sox at last season’s trade deadline had Buchholz thrown in a game to Jason Varitek, who came on to serve as the pitcher’s batterymate after Martinez was forced to leave with a contusion of his left big toe.
“It had been a long time,” said Buchholz on the way out of the Tropicana Field visitors clubhouse.
Now it’s Jon Lester’s turn.
With Martinez’ toe expected to keep him out of the starting lineup, Varitek figures to get the start Tuesday night. And while the pairing is nothing new — with Lester having thrown to the Red Sox captain 80 times throughout his career — there is an adjustment.
First, Lester hasn’t thrown to Varitek since April 28 in Toronto, when he allowed just one hit over seven innings. But, as the starter explained following his complete game victory over Minnesota in his last start, each catcher does present different approaches when it comes to game-plans and such.
“Vic likes a lot more changeup, speaking for myself. Tek will sometimes rely on my cutter,” Lester explained. “Then again, Vic will do the same thing, and Tek will do the same thing. They have different feels for the game, not that one is right or one is wrong. I like throwing to both of them. They both have their positives.”
Lester has thrown to Martinez seven times this season, compared to just twice with Varitek. And while the pitcher clearly has a comfort level with Varitek after teaming up these last few years, there did appear to be a growing familiarity when it came to Martinez’ approach.
“He’s done a good job. He came in last year, having obviously seen us, but he had to learn a new staff. Not that it’s taken him a while, but it’s taken everybody a while to feel comfortable in those big situations,” Lester said of Martinez. “He’s done a good job. You build confidence, that’s the name of the game. He just needs to get better with each pitcher because each pitcher is different in their own way. He’s done good. With our whole staff he’s gotten a whole lot better.”
It is no secret that Martinez and Varitek have slightly different approaches. As Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell put it, “They are two different people and have two different ways in the way they rely on pitch selections. That’s not to condemn in any way, but that’s the difference in two players.”
In spring training Farrell also touched on the catchers’ differences.
‘They have two different approaches to the game,’ he said. ‘Not to say Victor doesn’t pay attention to the scouting report, because that’s not true. But he wants to get the feel and the reaction from the hitter on a given pitch to get the information to make the next selection. There’s a foundation there with the report, but how that’s executed and played out in a game is a little bit different.’
Thus far this season the Red Sox pitchers’ ERA with Martinez behind the plate is 4.78, while the ERA with Varitek present is 4.08. But, as Lester pointed out, the progression of Martinez is the most encouraging aspect of the evolution, including his increased “pop time” throwing to second base, which has now bettered that of Varitek.
The bottom line is that with the improvement of Martinez behind the plate and Varitek at the plate, the Red Sox’ catching equation has offered strength. No team in baseball has a better slugging percentage out of the catching position or as many home runs. The combination of Varitek and Martinez is also hitting a combined .291.
It’s a dynamic that, in times like these, the Red Sox should feel fortunate to have — no matter the subtle differences.
|05.24.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after his team’s 6-1 win over the Rays, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that he didn’t expect the the Sox would have to make a roster move for Victor Martinez, who suffered a contusion on his left big toe on a second-inning foul ball off the bat of Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac. X-rays were negative.
“The news is really good. When we’re watching him and you guys saw the same thing I did. He was hurting. He’s day to day, like we all are,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I think it’s to the point where I don’t think we have to make a roster move. [Jason Varitek] catches tomorrow, obviously. But I think in a pinch, Victor will be available. We’ll certainly check with him in the morning but I think we dodged a bullet there.”
Martinez, who said he suffered an injury to the same toe a few years ago when fouling a ball off his foot, was in obvious discomfort, with the toe nail on the injured foot clearly bruised following the game. The catcher had remained in the game, but after drawing a walk in the third inning Jason Varitek replaced him as a pinch-runner.
“It’s painful. It’s a lot of pain,” Martinez said. “The good thing is the X-rays came out negative and there’s no break in it. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. But it’s really, really painful … I tried to stay in but it was just getting worse. There was a lot of pain.”
Martinez had entered the game having gone 9-for-17 in his last four contests (.529).
|05.24.10 at 11:15 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox plan to activate outfielder Mike Cameron on Monday. In order to make room for the 37-year-old on the roster, the Sox will designate outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment.
“While I was here I had a good time. I got chance to play every day. Like I said, it’s a tough situation for everybody,” said McDonald. “[Terry Francona] expressed that to me. It’s one of those things. Like I said, I hope some other doors have opened up from getting an opportunity here.
“I have nothing but love for the people here, the fans especially. It was a great opportunity. You never know. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, and hopefully I showed some people I can play in the big leagues and that I’ll get another chance to do it.”
Cameron has been on the disabled list since April 20 with a lower abdomen strain. He is hitting .233/.361/.333/.694 in 11 games. He completed an eight-game rehab assignment in Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday by hitting a walkoff homer for the Sea Dogs.
McDonald, 31, ended up assuming an unexpectedly prominent role on the Sox. After being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket when Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were placed on the D.L. on April 20, he played in 31 games, hitting .263/.320/.400/.720 with three homers. He assumed instant relevance when he hit a homer in his first Red Sox at-bat and then added a walkoff single off the Green Monster against the Rangers on April 20.
|05.24.10 at 9:28 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox continued to gain momentum while going through what was thought to be a defining stretch of games, beating the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, 6-1, Monday night at Tropicana Field. It gave the Sox a 7-4 mark in their run of meetings with Detroit, the Yankees, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and now the team with the best record in the majors, the Rays. (Click here for a recap.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Clay Buchholz kept on keeping on. The righty followed up his eight-inning, two-run outing against Minnesota with a less pitch-efficient, yet almost equally as impressive performance against the first-place Rays. Buchholz went six innings, allowing one run (a solo blast by Carlos Pena) on six hits, striking out eight and walking just one. The Sox starter threw 108 pitches. Perhaps Buchholz’ signature moment came in the second inning when, with runners on second and third and one out, the hurler struck out both Reid Brignac and Jason Barlett to get out of the jam. Another highlight came in the third when Buchholz finished off a seven-pitch at-bat to Evan Longoria by striking out the Tampa Bay slugger swinging with a nasty changeup.
– Jeremy Hermida continued his two-out magic, ripping a bases-loaded single to left in the Red Sox’ three-run third inning with two outs. The outfielder has now notched 18 of his 24 RBI with two outs, and tied him with Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero for the most two-out RBI in the American League.
– Dustin Pedroia, who said prior to the game he was having a hard time sleeping and eating while enduring an 0-for-19 slump, put all of his troubles in the past right away, coming away with singles in his first two at-bats. The first-inning single, his first hit since May 19, was sent back up the middle into center field, while Pedroia’s second hit was blooped into shallow right field. The third-inning hit was made possible when what would have been a pop up to Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso was ruled a foul ball after it hit part of the roof’s structure. Pedroia capped his night with a ground-rule double, boosting his average nine points (.270) with the 3-for-5 performance.
– David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis continued to tear it up in the month of May, each going deep. First it was Ortiz who continued his power surge, launching a 92 mph fastball from Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis into the right field seats for his ninth homer of the season, and eighth of the month. Coming into the game he had gone 20-for-57 (.351) since May 1. Youkilis’ hot streak continued when he sent his 10th homer of the season over the left field wall in the fourth inning. The hit allowed the first baseman to reach safely in his 23rd straight game, a stretch in which he has now hit seven homers. Youkilis also drew a walk, adding to his major league-best total of 25 for the month.
– The Red Sox offense did what few have done against any Tampa Bay starter. By the time Wade Davis’ night was done, he had allowed five runs in just 3 2/3 innings, the most the righty had allowed in any appearance this season. The Rays’ starters came in with a major-league best combined ERA of 2.72, had allowed two earned runs or less 29 times and three earned runs or less 38 times. Only nine times in 44 games had the Rays’ relievers come into the game prior to the seventh inning. Want more? Coming into Monday night Tampa Bay had allowed 138 runs, the fewest runs allowed by a major league team through the first 44 games of the season since 1990, when the Oakland A’s gave up 138. The Rays’ team ERA of 2.87 is almost a full run better than the next closest team, Seattle (3.83).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Victor Martinez, who came into the game having gone nine for his last 17, was forced from the game in the third inning after Brignac fouled a ball off the catcher’s left foot with two outs in the second. Martinez stayed in the game at the time, proceeding to walk in the third. But upon reaching first Red Sox manager Terry Francona chose to replace him with pinch-runner Jason Varitek. X-rays came back negative, with the team classifying the injury as a contusion to Martinez’ left toe. It resulted in the first time Varitek caught Buchholz since Martinez came to the Red Sox at last year’s trade deadline.
IN OTHER NEWS …
– Jed Lowrie visited with the Red Sox, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before his scheduled trip to Boston for a check-up. Lowrie has been batting mononucleosis since spring training. To read more on what Lowrie had to say regarding his status click here.
– Mike Cameron (abdominal) is slated to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.
– Josh Beckett will throw another flat-ground side session before taking to the bullpen. The starter is eligible to come off the disabled list (back) June 3.
|05.24.10 at 8:41 pm ET|
The Brignac foul ball off of Martinez’ foot came with two outs in the second inning and resulted in Red Sox manager Terry Francona and head trainer Mike Reinold to visit the catcher, who remained in the game. Martinez would eventually be replaced in the third inning after drawing a walk off of Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis, giving way to pinch-runner Jason Varitek.
X-rays on the foot were negative and the team was classifying the injury as a left toe contusion.
It marked the first time since Martinez came to the Red Sox following last year’s trade deadline that Sox starter Clay Buchholz had thrown to Varitek.
|05.24.10 at 8:25 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jed Lowrie doesn’t know where he’s going, but he does know where he’s been and is intent on not heading back any time soon.
The Red Sox infielder was back with his team for the first time since contracting mononucleosis, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before heading back to Boston for some check-ups in the coming days.
“I’m just concentrating on putting this behind me,” said Lowrie, who said he is starting to put back the 12 pounds he loss due to the illness. “At the end of the day, I want to get better, I want to put it behind me, and I want to play baseball. That’s what this is about. I want to play baseball, and I want to be healthy. This is as frustrating as it gets, but I think the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing I’m going to play healthy.”
Lowrie can now lift weights and participate in some baseball activities while rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla. And while there is no timetable for a return, his current state is a far cry from what he experiencing upon first dealing with his illness.
“I caught it. It could have been worse. It was still significant,” he said prior to the Red Sox series opener with the Rays. “It was bad. I’d sleep 12 hours a night and wake up tired. It wasn’t any fun. It’s taken a while, and it’s going to take a while to build back up, too.
“At first, I was sleeping so much that I would show up to the field and then go back and go to sleep. As I progressed, i was staying up a little more but still lying on the couch and watching TV. I was pretty sedentary for a while.”
Lowrie, who hasn’t been able to watch too many Red Sox games due to satellite TV in his apartment, believes a benefit from the time off is the chance for his surgically-repaired left wrist to get healthier. Still, there remains the frustration regarding not knowing exactly when a return to active duty is going to present itself.
“It’s just an everyday thing. It’s not necessarily a day-to-day basis,” Lowrie explained. “When I started, I couldn’t do anything, and it worked to where I had a day I could do something and the next day I’d need off. In baseball, you play every day. You’re not playing once a week where you’re saving your energy for that one game. I want to be playing every day. I don’t want to be coming back and not have the energy to play every third day. I don’t want to be someone where the manager has to come in and ask, ‘How are you feeling today?’ I want to know I’m 100 percent.”
|05.24.10 at 4:44 pm ET|
The preliminary numbers were released Monday in All-Star balloting and the Red Sox aren’t even close to being represented in the field.
Dustin Pedroia is behind only Robinson Cano for the starting nod at second base, but his 279,452 votes aren’t even in the same galaxy as Cano’s 491,188. Victor Martinez, currently third among catchers with 119,997 votes in a futile category (see Mauer’s votes below), is the only other Red Sox hitter among the top three in voting at his position.
The leaders at each position are as follows:
1B – Mark Texiera, Yankees: 396,034
2B – Robinson Cano, Yankees: 491,188
3B – Evan Longoria: 541,253
SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees: 639,227
C – Joe Mauer, Twins: 644,533
DH – Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers: 374,333
OF – Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 366,903
OF – Carl Crawford, Rays: 319,953
OF – Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 307,928
Unfortunately for the 2010 Red Sox, today’s news isn’t as big a slap in the face as may initially meet the eye. In fact, the numbers would dictate the Red Sox shouldn’t have a starter in the infield, outfield, or behind the plate.
There are certainly cases of hard luck. Adrian Beltre leads American League third basemen with a .325 average, though his power numbers don’t touch those of current-vote leading Rays third-baseman Evan Longoria. Similarly, Beltre’s average is head and shoulders better than second-place Alex Rodriguez‘ .291, though Rodriguez has the edge in homers (six to Beltre’s three), RBI (32 to 26), OBP (.375 to .360) and slugging percentage (.485 to .466), among other categories. Same goes for Michael Young, which is why Beltre and his stellar average haven’t cracked 100,000 votes.
The most unfortunate case may be that of Kevin Youkilis, who finds himself fifth among first basemen with 150,702 votes. The injustice isn’t that he trails Justin Morneau, whom he does in all fairness (Morneau’s numbers rival those of only Paul Konerko, another snub who unlike Youkilis does not rank in the top five vote-getters at first-base). The head-scratcher is that Teixeira, currently batting just .209 with seven homers, leads all first baseman, including Morneau and his .701 slugging percentage.
That may be about it though. As well as Pedroia has hit for power early on, the fans are trusting the numbers — and Cano has Pedroia beat in every traditional category — by choosing the Cano. The Yankees second baseman leads Pedroia in homers (nine), RBI (28), average (.335), and OPS (.956).
The 81st All Star Game will be played at Angel Stadium on July 13.
|05.24.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Figuring out Adrian Beltre isn’t always easy. Take for instance …
Coming into this season no visiting player in the history of Tropicana Field had a worse OPS (.475) when playing at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. So, one would expect more doom and gloom when the Red Sox visit The Trop for the first time this season, correct? Hold your horses.
Upon further evaluation, since the beginning of 2008 Beltre has actually performed well in at Tropicana Field, carrying a five-game hit streak into Monday night’s game. During the stretch the third baseman has an OPS of .909, with .350 batting average.
Deceiving, isn’t it? And it is because of Beltre’s perception of deception that you don’t get the sense that Red Sox fans have truly found their happy place when it comes to the 31-year-old.
Perhaps it’s because they know there is a strong likelihood that Beltre is one and done in Boston, ultimately drifting into the free agency sunset with his agent, Scott Boras. Or maybe it was all of that defensive promise (hat tip to Joe Maddon here) that was called into question when Beltre made his seventh error on May 8 (his last, by the way). Then there was the fact he is replacing one of the team’s more popular players in Mike Lowell, who had earned the benefit of the doubt the new third baseman still hasn’t been afforded.
But as we sit here right now, Beltre has been worth the Red Sox’ investment. In fact, if you were to make up the team right now, he would be in the conversation to be making his first All-Star appearance, leading all American League third basemen in batting average (.325) and doubles (14).
The fact is that when it comes to looking at the engines that are making this somewhat surprising offense go, Beltre has been one of the most underrated, yet important.
You might look at Beltre and see a corner man who has fewer home runs (3) than every other starter except Marco Scutaro. Or the fact that nobody in the major league’s most patient lineup is as impatient as the third baseman. But Beltre’s value has been equally as important as those working counts or amping up their slugging percentage.
Beltre has hit when it counts, in his own unique way.
– He his hitting .533 with runners in scoring position and two outs (8-for-15). (By the way, Jeremy Hermida leads the AL with 19 RBI in this situation, having gone 7-for-19.)
– He is leading the AL with a .48o batting average (12-for-25) after getting the count to 0-2.
– He is slightly behind former teammate Ichiro Suzuki for the batting average on two-strike counts, hitting .355 to Ichiro’s .360.
Even when Beltre started out the first month as one of the few Red Sox hitters carrying a batting average north of .300, the talk was of how most of the hits were singles, and the needed punch wasn’t there. Well, since May 1 Beltre leads all Sox hitters with 12 extra-base hits (tied with Kevin Youkilis).
It may not last, or perhaps we simply remember Beltre as a chip at the trade deadline. But as we sit here, these are the facts when it comes to the third baseman. Just a simple reminder.
|05.24.10 at 9:45 am ET|
Heading into the weekend, there was very little optimism regarding the Red Sox and their ability to win a three-game series against the Phillies. The Phillies, after all, have one of the best offensive teams in all of baseball and a great pitching rotation to boot. However, with the return of Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list and great pitching from Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, the Sox won twice in their first interleague matchup of the season.
Now with their sights on Tampa Bay, the best team in all of baseball, the Sox hope to continue to climb up the standings and back into playoff relevance with Clay Buchholz on the mound Monday night.
Buchholz, who is 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA on the season, pitched extremely well his last outing, stifling a very good Minnesota team over eight innings. Having won five games already, which is good for second best in the American League, Buchholz has been the Sox’ most reliable pitcher all season.
The Rays turn to Wade Davis to pad their impressive division lead and prove they are the new kings of the AL East. The young righty, who is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA, has pitched consistently well all season, helping solidify one of the best rotations in the game. The Rays’ league-leading team ERA of 2.87 has allowed them to coast to a 32-12 record, building a comfortable lead on the Sox and Yankees in arguably the best division in baseball. Read the rest of this entry »
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