|05.07.11 at 8:30 pm ET|
The Red Sox could be facing a challenging situation with their middle infield depth.
After Saturday’s game, Marco Scutaro wore a large ice pack on his left side. The shortstop said that the area started bothering him on Friday night. On Saturday, he was pulled for pinch-hitter J.D. Drew in the bottom of the eighth inning, even though it required the Sox to sacrifice their DH position by putting Kevin Youkilis (who started Saturday as the designated hitter, with David Ortiz on the bench against left-hander Brian Duensing) while moving Jed Lowrie from third to short.
Scutaro said that he is not sure what the precise problem is.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked about the injury. “We’ll find out tomorrow.”
The 35-year-old will be re-evaluated in the morning to determine the type and extent of the injury. But if it will sideline him, it could leave the Sox in a bit of a bind.
The team’s infield depth has recently been compromised, as versatile infielder Yamaico Navarro — who was hitting .329 with a .436 OBP, .612 slugging mark and 1.047 OPS for Triple-A Pawtucket — was placed on the PawSox’ seven-day disabled list on Saturday after suffering an oblique strain on Tuesday. Based on performance, major-league readiness and the fact that he is on the 40-man roster, Navarro would have been the ideal fill-in should Scutaro be sidelined, since the 23-year-old can play second, short, third and has now dabbled in all three outfield positions this year.
Scutaro, meanwhile, has been available as a backup shortstop and second baseman (as well as a third baseman, though the Sox have preferred to use Jed Lowrie at that position) since Lowrie took over as the everyday shortstop. Scutaro went 2-for-3 on Saturday, and after a rough start that cost him his everyday job, he is now climbing towards statistical respectability. He has hits in each of his last four contests, having gone 6-11 (.556) in that time to bring his season totals to a .235 average with a .316 OBP and .625 OPS.
Especially given that Navarro is unavailable as a fill-in, the Sox would no doubt hope that Scutaro’s injury will turn out to be relatively insignificant when he is examined tomorrow.
|05.07.11 at 6:05 pm ET|
Yes, the Red Sox won, but for a while, the question will be at what cost.
That was because of a bold decision by manager Terry Francona to stick with starter Clay Buchholz after a 127-minute rain delay. The right-hander was brilliant through two innings, but then came a pair of storm systems that soaked Fenway Park.
The Twins went the conservative route, lifting starter Brian Duensing from the game. No one would have batted an eye had Francona done the same with Buchholz.
But he did not. According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports, the right-hander stayed warm by throwing simulated innings under the stands. It was a bold gambit, and ultimately a rewarding one. Buchholz returned to the mound to deliver three more shutout innings, getting deep enough into the game not only to earn the victory in the Sox’ 4-0 triumph over the Twins, but also to keep the bullpen intact so that four different pitchers (Rich Hill, Matt Albers, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon) could have manageable workloads.
However, the measure of the game will be taken in the coming days and starts, when a determination is made about how much — if at all — Buchholz was impacted by the lengthy down-time in the middle of his outing.
A couple caveats that might help to explain the rationale for the decision are in order:
1) Buchholz has a rubber arm. He is the only Sox starter who does not need to ice after outings.
2) The right-hander was only asked to throw 61 pitches on Saturday. Of those, just 31 came after the delay.
3) The Sox have an off-day on Thursday, and so they have the ability to adjust the amount of rest they give to Buchholz if necessary.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Clay Buchholz delivered one of the most impressive five-inning starts in recent Red Sox memory. On a day when he was able to pound the strike zone with his fastball, change, curve and cutter, Buchholz had a line that would have been stellar in its own right. He tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while punching out six Twins. He needed just 61 pitches.
But to look at the outing without marveling at what Buchholz did after a 2-hour, 7-minute rain delay would be a mistake. Under uniquely challenging circumstances, Buchholz pulled the plug in the middle of his outing, waited out a multiple-front weather system that took as long to pass as some complete starts, then warmed back up and got on the mound.
That he was able to give the Sox even a single inning was eye-opening. But he did much, much more.
He struck out the first batter he faced (Luke Hughes) on three pitches. He breezed through the third inning in just eight total pitches (seven strikes). Each of his nine fourth-inning pitches was a strike. He then opened the fifth with a four-pitch strikeout before his command finally faltered, as he issued a six-pitch walk to Rene Rivera and falling behind Hughes, 3-1. But then, in a play that may well have been the difference between Buchholz winning the game and getting a no-decision, Hughes hit a liner towards left that Jed Lowrie caught on a dive to his left before getting up to double up Rivera.
Buchholz has now allowed two runs in 11 2/3 innings (1.59 ERA) in his last two starts, both wins.
–It took Rich Hill little time to emerge as the Red Sox left-on-left matchup reliever of choice. When Buchholz left the game, manager Terry Francona summoned Hill (who was selected from Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday) rather than Hideki Okajima to handle the dangerous left-handers at the top of the Twins order.
Though Hill walked Denard Span to lead off the inning and then hit the right-handed Trevor Plouffe with a fastball to put runners on first and second with no outs, he quickly and dazzlingly recovered. Hill got Twins No. 3 hitter Justin Morneau to roll over a curveball for a 3-6-1 double play. Then, with two outs and a man on third, Hill struck out Jason Kubel at another curveball. Hill has now thrown 2 1/3 shutout innings since joining the big league club, and he’s now made eight appearances with the Red Sox (between 2010 and 2011) without allowing an earned run.
Hill is the 17th pitcher since 1919 to begin his Red Sox career with eight straight outings in which he did not yield an earned run. The longest streak was the 13-game Sox unveiling by Ramon Ramirez in 2009.
–Hill’s outing commenced a nearly perfect bullpen relay by the Sox, who received a shutout inning each from Hill, Albers, Bard and Papelbon.
–Lowrie committed a second-inning error at third base (a position he was playing with Kevin Youkilis serving as DH on a day when David Ortiz was out of the lineup) — his third in two days — but he more than atoned for the gaffe. For starters, his diving play was a pivotal play in the game, at a time when Buchholz was starting to falter. Secondly, he drove in the first Red Sox run with two outs in the first, when he lined a single to left against Minnesota starter Brian Duensing.
The hit improved Lowrie to 15-for-35 (.429 average) with 10 RBI on the year against left-handed pitchers.
—Jacoby Ellsbury wasted little time in extending his hitting streak to 16 games, clubbing a double off the Wall in left field to lead off the top of the first. It was noteworthy that Ellsbury got the hit against Duensing, thus becoming just the second left-handed hitter this year to get an extra-base hit against the southpaw. Ellsbury later added a two-run single.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Kevin Youkilis went 2-for-4 and drove in the Sox’ second run, so to identify his day as something that went wrong would be somewhat inaccurate. That said, it became evident that he is displeased with some element of his plate approach, on a day when he struck out twice. The first was nearly costly, as Youkilis went down swinging with runners on second and third and one out, making him 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts in such situations this year. (Lowrie bailed out Youkilis with his two-out single.) Then, in the seventh, he punched out with two on and two out against fireballing Twins left-hander Glen Perkins. As he returned to the dugout, Youkilis slammed his hand on a padded dugout bench in apparent frustration.
Youkilis has now struck out 31 times in 124 plate appearances this year, a 25 percent rate that would represent a career high.
|05.07.11 at 1:10 pm ET|
|05.07.11 at 12:29 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is now starting to see improved results. After a tremendously challenging first month with his new club, in which all of his offensive stats ranked among the worst in the majors, May has represented a new start.
Since May 1 — a game when Crawford had a pair of hits, including a walkoff single — the outfielder is hitting .391 (9-for-23) to lift his average to .200 for the season. The improvements have been welcome, even if he still suggests that he is searching for his comfort at the plate.
“I just wanted to do so well, man. It felt so good to get the game-winner. I don’t know what kind of turnaround it’s going to do for me just yet, but at that moment, I definitely felt good about what happened,” Crawford said on the Sports Saturday Show. “I feel like [my mechanics are] getting there a little bit better. It’s a process right now. Hopefully at some point, I start to feel like my old self.”
As challenging as Crawford’s first month in Boston was, the outfielder said that he never contemplated the notion that he had made the wrong decision in coming to Boston as a free-agent, when he signed a seven-year, $142 million deal in December. He insisted that his struggles were not a byproduct of his specific environment, but rather of the fact that he was in a new environment.
“I didn’t ever think I made the wrong decision,” said Crawford. “It never crossed my mind because any way it had gone it would have been a new place. I’m pretty sure I would have went through these struggles this first month wherever I had gone just because it was new and I had to get used to it. That thought never ran across my mind. I know people are probably thinking that, but for me, I’ve never struggled like this before, but I know what it’s like to struggle.”
As for Boston, Crawford expressed no qualms about the city, though he did note that there is a necessary process of adaptation. He is still sorting out a routine, figuring out elements such as when to leave his house for the daily 30- to 40-minute drive to the park, and when to arrive for early work in the batting cages so that he does not intrude upon the routines of his teammates, most notably including fellow early bird Dustin Pedroia, who, like Crawford, often arrives early at the park.
“I’m not uncomfortable, fully uncomfortable. It’s just different, stuff I’ve got to get used to,” explained Crawford. “I’m a big routine guy. That’s the biggest thing. Trying to come up with a routine has been a little bit tough, but that’s one of the things I’ve been working out slowly but surely. … I’m not exactly comfortable like I normally would be just yet. But I’m finding ways. … Over time, I think I’ll get more and more comfortable, doing what I normally do.”
Crawford remains in the eighth spot in the lineup for now, a role that he has accepted given his early season struggles. That said, he is hopeful of moving up to more customary vantage points soon.
“I’ve hit at the top of the lineup my whole career, so obviously I’m more comfortable at the top of the lineup,” said Crawford. “Hopefully, at some point, if I get things going there, I can get back there. I definitely feel more comfortable at the top of the lineup.”
To listen to the complete interview, click here.
|05.07.11 at 10:02 am ET|
Saturday’s Game 2 of a four-game set with the Twins pits Clay Buchholz against Brian Duensing. Duensing, who is 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA this season, will be making his first career start against the Red Sox. He did make two relief appearances against them last year, though, allowing one run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings. Only six current Sox have faced him, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia being the only one to get a hit.
After a shaky first outing of the season, Duensing has registered four straight quality starts and his ERA has steadily decreased each game. Most recently, the 28-year-old lefty held the Royals to three runs (two earned) over seven innings, but ended up with the loss.
Buchholz, who is 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA this season, is coming off his first quality start of the year. On Monday, he allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings in a win over the Angels.
Buchholz is 1-1 in two career starts against the Twins. He got knocked around in his first outing against them back in 2008, giving up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. He was much better when he met them last year, though, as he held them to two runs on five hits and a walk over eight innings to pick up the W. Only four current Twins have faced Buchholz. Justin Morneau and Denard Span have enjoyed their limited time against him, as both are hitting .500. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.07.11 at 1:27 am ET|
Red Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo rebounded in impressive fashion after having his first difficult outing with Single-A Greenville. The 6-foot-7 right-hander had what was statistically his most impressive start of the year for the Drive, logging six innings and allowing just one hit (a single) and a walk while striking out six.
Ranaudo allowed a two-out single to the Kyle Eveland of the Kannapolis Intimidators in the second, but quickly erased the baserunner when he was caught stealing to finish the inning. Over his final four innings, the 2010 sandwich pick retired all 12 batters he faced.
In five starts for the Drive, Ranaudo is now 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 11 walks in 27 1/3 innings. Of the seven earned runs he’s given up, six of them came in his prior outing on April 30.
For Ranaudo’s thoughts on his outing, click here.
|05.07.11 at 1:06 am ET|
Yes, that was a blister that formed on the middle finger of Clay Buchholz in his start on Monday. But while the condition was a somewhat uncomfortable one for the pitcher, it might not be a bad thing.
Buchholz, after all, delivered his first quality start of the 2011 season in the contest, going 6 2/3 innings while allowing two runs. It is at least possible that the formation of the blister was a byproduct of his rediscovery of one of his most important ingredients for success in 2010: His two-seam fastball.
In the days leading up to his start, Buchholz — who had gotten nearly as many flyballs (32) as groundballs (15) in his prior two starts — made an adjustment with the grip of his two-seamer in a bullpen session. The result was one of his better sinkers of the year. On Monday against the Angels, Buchholz (2-3, 4.81 ERA) elicited 14 grounders and 10 flyballs.
His two-seamer was working in a fashion that was similar to what he did last year. In the process, he ran into an issue that was also similar to what he dealt with throughout the 2010 campaign: The blister on his middle finger. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.06.11 at 11:47 pm ET|
Until this week, it seemed fair to wonder whether the idea that Adrian Gonzalez had a made-for-Fenway swing was an act of wishful thinking by the Red Sox. The slugger has a reputation as one of the foremost opposite-field power hitters in the game, with a smooth, powerful stroke that is capable of launching balls on the outer half of the plate into the heavens.
But until this homestand, Gonzalez had never even scraped the Wall with a ball. But then, with the onset of May, he started to make himself at home in Boston.
On Monday, he clanged a three-run double off the Wall in left-center. On Tuesday, he crushed his first Fenway Park home run, a moon shot that landed in the back of the visitor’s bullpen.
But it was on Friday night — during a night that was otherwise dismal for the Red Sox, who suffered a 9-2 loss to the Twins — that his signature swing achieved the long-anticipated result. In the bottom of the fourth, Twins starter Scott Baker — who showed mid-90s velocity that he had never before unveiled, and certainly not sustained, against the Sox — elected to throw Gonzalez a 1-1 curveball.
It wasn’t a bad pitch. It was on the outer edge of the plate, perhaps even a touch off it, and it tumbled below Gonzalez’ knees. Yet the first baseman somehow managed to stay with the offering and get the barrel on it for an impressive wallop. The ball carried over the Green Monster and over the Monster Seats, saved from Landsdowne Street by the Sports Authority sign. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.06.11 at 11:13 pm ET|
Manager Terry Francona and umpire Joe West have had their run-ins over the years. Of course, he’s not alone.
The crew chief of the umpiring group that is in charge of the Red Sox/Twins series is perennially ranked among the worst in the game. He has developed a reputation for drawing attention to himself, fueled by such deeds as hiring a PR firm to represent him and to promote his musical career.
On Friday night, West and Francona ended up butting heads (figuratively) after the Sox manager was ejected for arguing a balk call against Tim Wakefield in the top of the second inning. Home plate ump Angel Hernandez ruled that Wakefield took a step towards home, rather than stepping towards third base before turning around and picking Denard Span off first base for what appeared to be the third out of the second.
After the run-scoring balk was called, Francona ran out of the dugout to find out what the ruling was. He would soon be both disappointed and out of the game, based on the fact that a manager is automatically ejected for arguing a step-balk ruling.
‘I never did get an explanation,” said Francona. ‘I know the rule, but, to be honest with you, the way it happened, I got out there real quick because I was stunned. Angel said, ‘If you come out here,’ before I’d even talked, I was thrown out, so I figured I’d find out. It’s hard to sit there and not find out what happened in a play like that. I’ve seen Wake do that 30 times. …
“I got thrown out because I came out, and since I was already thrown out, I figured I could get an explanation, but Joe wouldn’t let me. … You’re not allowed to even ask, which is, to me, very silly. You get a run added. You think you’re out of an inning. I don’t understand why you can’t find out what somebody did. I understand if you go and scream at somebody, you get thrown out. But that seems like a bit of a silly rule.’
Francona was clearly dissatisfied. After Hernandez thumbed him out of the game, the Sox manager continued to pursue the home plate umpire in search of his explanation. West, in an attempt to separate Francona from Hernandez, charged in from his station at third base. (Umpiring crew chiefs, in fact, are instructed to separate uniform personnel who have been ejected from umpires following an ejection.)
“Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business,” said Francona. “That was me and Angel. Joe didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t really appreciate what he did. I think he was wrong.’
West essentially appeared to be playing man-to-man defense, getting very close to Francona so that he could block the manager’s access to Hernandez. There was contact between the manager and crew chief, though it was not clear from replays whether that was initiated more by Francona or West. At the least, at one point, West appeared to be more or less hand-checking the Sox skipper.
Francona thought that West’s conduct was unacceptable.
‘He was grabbing me,” said Francona. “I didn’t appreciate that. I thought he was wrong. I thought he was out of line.’
Now, it remains to be seen what the fallout of the ejection will be. Major League Baseball will review the fracas to determine whether Francona, West or both acted in a manner that would warrant punishment. Francona’s parting gesture as he left the field — when he threw gum from his mouth in the direction of home plate, where Hernandez was stationed — will also gain scrutiny, as might Francona’s comments.
But ultimately, for Francona, the ejection was secondary to the 9-2 loss that was hung on his team at the end of the game.
“We lost,” said Francona. “That’s really what I care about.”
|05.06.11 at 9:50 pm ET|
The Twins seemed to represent a relatively easy mark for Red Sox pitchers. While Boston had gotten hammered, 11-0, on Thursday by the Angels, the Sox rotation had a sterling 2.33 ERA over a 19-game stretch. Meanwhile, Minnesota entered the night averaging 3.07 runs per game, making them the most anemic offense in the majors.
However, on Friday night, the Twins erupted for nine runs on 11 hits — with an assist from a dreadful defensive effort by the Sox. With Minnesota starter Scott Baker plowing through the Sox lineup, the result was a 9-2 Twins win that extended the Sox’ losing streak to three and dropped the team’s record on the year to 14-18, a mark that has them alone in last place in the AL East.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–A trio of defensive lapses proved costly for the Sox. In the top of the second, Tim Wakefield nearly escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But after striking out Alexi Casilla, a Denard Span smash right at Adrian Gonzalez appeared to skip just over the first baseman’s glove for a two-run single. The prolonged inning then resulted in a third run when Wakefield was ruled to have balked when picking off Span.
Then, in the top of the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and one out, reliever Alfredo Aceves nearly limited harm. He struck out Ben Revere, but then Drew Butera‘s hard grounder to short went off the end of Jed Lowrie‘s glove and into center field for a two-run error.
One inning later, Lowrie committed another gaffe. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s throw to second beat Trevor Plouffe, but the ball came loose as Lowrie attempted to apply the tag. Plouffe, who was credited with a steal, advanced to third, thus putting him in position to score when Alfredo Aceves balked.
–A lot has been asked of Tim Wakefield in recent days. He threw 76 pitches in a spot start on Sunday, helping the Sox to beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. On two days’ rest, he then made a 12-pitch relief appearance in Wednesday’s 13-inning marathon. And so it was fair to wonder whether fatigue played a factor in the 44-year-old’s poor performance on Friday night.
Wakefield threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs (six earned) on nine hits, striking out one and walking four.
Perhaps more disconcerting for the Sox, the outing continued a pattern of abbreviated outings by Sox starters. Josh Beckett threw 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday in an outing that was truncated by a lengthy rain delay; John Lackey then threw just four innings on Thursday in an outing that was truncated by ineffectiveness.
Lackey and Wakefield became the first Sox starters to allow eight or more runs in consecutive games since Pedro Martinez and Wakefield did the trick on Sept. 19 and 20, 2004.
–The Sox committed a pair of run-scoring balks. It was the first time since Oct. 2, 2001, that the team had been called for that infraction multiple times in the same game.
One of those balks not only resulted in a run, but also in the ejection of Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who may face discipline from the league after he came into contact with crew chief Joe West and threw his gum on the way off the field. (For more on that incident, click here.)
–It was an ugly game for Lowrie, who was charged with two errors and went 0-for-3 with a whiff. Lowrie has now struck out in seven straight games, and 13 times in his last 11 contests.
—Dustin Pedroia did not appear to benefit from a day off on Thursday. Though he walked, he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a double play ball. He is now 6-for-53 (.113) in his last 13 games. After striking out four times on Wednesday, Pedroia has struck out multiple times in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Adrian Gonzalez showed off why so many in the baseball industry thought that he would be a hand-in-glove fit with Fenway Park. On a Baker curveball that was down and way (out of the strike zone), the slugger managed to go down to get the pitch, generating enough loft to send the ball soaring off the Sports Authority sign in left field for his homer over the Green Monster.
—Jacoby Ellsbury had a pair of singles to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. However, he also got caught stealing for the fourth time this year.
–Aceves spared the Sox bullpen. Recalled from Pawtucket before the game, he contributed 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out two and walking two to drop his ERA for the year to 2.13.
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