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Reynolds on D&H: Umpires ‘really messed up’ with ejections

08.26.10 at 4:52 pm ET
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Harold Reynolds

Former major league second baseman and current MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds called into the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon to talk about all things baseball, including recent umpiring controversies, Johnny Damon‘s decision to stay in Detroit, and Boston’s chances for the postseason.

“I don’t know a lot of teams that can lose an MVP, a Gold Glove first baseman who finishes in the top five every year. I mean, you lose those two type of players, I don’t know how many clubs that can do that and still be able to bounce back, but they’ve done a great job of hanging in there and they’re going to need some luck,” Reynolds said of the Red Sox. “They’re in a tough division, they’re in the best in baseball, and it’s going to be difficult to hunt down two solid teams they’re chasing right now.”

Below are highlights. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On the Sox’ decision to pitch Tim Wakefield in Wednesday night’s game and hold Jon Lester until Friday:

I thought it was the right move. One, I think you can throw Wakefield in and he’s pretty reliable. I know it was a little bit of a rougher night than they expected, but I look at the Tampa series and I look at what the Rays have done against left-handed pitching and they’ve been horrible. [Yankees lefty] CC Sabathia took them into the eighth [inning] with a no-hitter, they got no-hit already by [A's lefty Dallas] Braden, last year by [White Sox left Mark] Buehrle. If you look at left-handers dominate the Rays, I think you match him up with the Rays all day long.

On what the Red Sox would need to do to make the playoffs:

Obviously, they got to keep winning as often as they can. I was thinking sweep, too [against the Mariners]; take advantage of it and try to beat up on a team that’s down right now, but baseball’s not always like that and doubleheaders aren’t easy to sweep. It’s a miracle that they’re in it with all the injuries they’ve had to key players. I don’t know a lot of teams that can lose an MVP, a Gold Glove first baseman who finishes in the top five every year.

I mean, you lose those two type of players, I don’t know how many clubs that can do that and still be able to bounce back, but they’ve done a great job of hanging in there and they’re going to need some luck. They’re in a tough division, they’re in the best in baseball, and it’s going to be difficult to hunt down two solid teams they’re chasing right now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dan Bellino, Harold Reynolds, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez

Getting the right read on Beckett

08.26.10 at 11:44 am ET
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Is Josh Beckett back now?

No, that wasn’t intended to be a silly or insulting pun. It is the question that Red Sox coaches, management and fans are asking themselves after watching the right-hander get into a groove under less-than-ideal conditions on Wednesday.

Beckett went 6 1/3 innings in a 5-3 win over the Mariners in the day portion of a day-night doubleheader at Fenway. He allowed four hits and three runs, walking one and fanning seven while allowing two home runs to get the win and move over .500 at 4-3 on the season.

While Beckett has not been his dominant self this season, in his last two starts he has shown signs that he might be coming around, and at just the right time.

But the next hurdle in that process is overcoming that one bad inning.

It’s that one hiccup that has caused him problems all season, and Wednesday was no different.

For six innings, Beckett allowed just a leadoff comeback single by Ichiro to open the game and a two-out walk to Josh Wilson in the sixth.

“Felt good for about six innings of it,” Beckett said. “Seventh inning was pretty tough. I think I was getting ahead in the count, not working behind. It makes things a lot easier when you’re working ahead.”

In between, he retired 19 straight batters – and 20 consecutive outs – and showed the kind of stuff that the Red Sox were expecting from him all season.

Then, after the Red Sox scored four in the sixth, Beckett had his burp in the seventh. Russell Branyan crushed a 93 MPH belt-high fastball over the Mariners bullpen in right to make it 4-1. Jose Lopez single to left and Casey Kotchman drilled a two-run homer to right. All of a sudden, it was 4-3 and skipper Terry Francona had to go to his bullpen as Daniel Bard came on in relief to stop the bleeding.

If that sounds familiar, there’s good reason. In his last start, with only a 1-0 lead, Beckett gave up four runs in a matter of 13 pitches and again it was the gopher ball that hurt him. He blanked the Angels for five innings before giving up a home run and four runs in the sixth. He gave up two more in the seventh before being pulled.

With each outing, Beckett looks more and more himself. He’s been painting the black on both sides of the plate with his fastball and keeping it low in the strike zone, setting up his killer curve and cutter nicely. When he’s been getting in trouble, Beckett believes he’s been leaving pitches over the middle third of the plate.

The challenge for Francona and pitching coach John Farrell has been to gauge when Beckett appears to be tiring since when he loses it, it comes very, very quickly. Last Thursday against the Angels, there was no one warming in the pen in the sixth. But in the seventh Wednesday, Francona had Bard ready and at the call. That extra inning means all the world to Francona.

Beckett, of course, has not been himself this season, in part because of bad luck and in part because of bad health. It was on a wet mound similar to the one he was on Wednesday at Fenway that led to all his problems this summer. On May 18 at Yankee Stadium, he slipped and tweaked his back.

So, Beckett was prepared for the less-than-idea conditions on Wednesday.

“I don’t know, I think everybody has to deal with the elements,” Beckett said. “I think the whole field is pretty [crappy] if you look at it. I think the mound is particularly [crappier] than the rest of the field. I think the whole field is in pretty bad shape. That’s part of playing up here whenever you get that weather.”

He missed two months as his lower back was – as they say – barking at him. If now he can only keep the dogs in the house for an entire game, Francona and the Red Sox would be very grateful.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Josh Beckett, Mariners

Quickie From A Wet Wednesday

08.26.10 at 8:58 am ET
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A few quick notes from Wednesday’s split:

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* – Josh Beckett allowed 2 HR in the 7th inning yesterday, the 3rd time in 2010 that he’s allowed two HR in an inning. So in his career, he’s had multiple homer innings 5 times in 2006, 3 times in 2010, and twice over his other 8 seasons (2002, 2008).

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* – On 6 different occasions in August, the Red Sox have managed one or zero extra base hits. And they are 6-0 in those games. Prior to this month, the Sox were 15-62 (.195) in those games. It’s just the 2nd 6-game streak of it’s kind since 2000 (the White Sox did it in June, 2005) and the last longer streak was 7, by the Braves in May/June, 1992.

The longest win streak ever in such games is 9, by the 1937-38 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 1936 New York Giants.

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* – Seattle lost a game in which they outhomered their opponent by 2 or more for the 14th time since 2007, the 2nd most in the AL in that span (Toronto, 17). The Red Sox have lost 10 such games in that span.

It was just the 2nd time since the start of the ’09 season that the Red Sox have allowed 2+ more HR than they’ve hit but won anyway, the other coming April 26, 2010 at Toronto.

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* – Daniel Nava grounded into a double play as the tying run in the 9th inning of Wednesday’s second game. It was the first 9th inning GIDP where the tying run was either on base or at bat since August 31, 2007 (Varitek). I’m old school, and I realize that he hit that ball hard, but I’d have liked to have seen Nava take a strike there as the count was 2-0. Of course, then Lowrie ended the game by flying out on another 2-0 pitch.

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* – Finally, how about this kid! Great catch on a foul ball early in the game last night. While everyone around him was covering up, he reached down and speared it backhanded, probably saving the life of the woman in front of him in the process. Bravo!

Kid, if you’re out there and want a copy of that photo for your wall, email me at GMarbry@WEEI.com!

Friendly wager leads to ejection for Adrian Beltre

08.26.10 at 1:51 am ET
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Both Adrian Beltre and Terry Francona were ejected just prior to the third inning Wednesday night. (AP)

[Click here to listen to Adrian Beltre explain his side of the story after being ejected by home plate umpire Dan Bellino before the third inning began Wednesday.]

Adrian Beltre explained that when he was ejected by home plate umpire Dan Bellino just prior to starting the third inning of the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Mariners he was talking some friendly “smack” to Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez and didn’t say a word to the ump. Bellino tossed Beltre while the third baseman was getting ready to warm up at his position, presumably believing he was still talking about a called third strike the half-inning prior.

“I was talking to Felix, we had a little bet where he told me he was going to strike me out three times and I told him I was going to take him deep. He struck me out in the first at-bat and I went back to my position and he was talking smack,” Beltre explained. “I was facing him, talking in spanish. I told him the next at-bat I was going to take him deep over the Monster. That’s all I said to him. I heard the umpire talking to me. I told him I was talking to [Hernandez], and he threw me out. I had no idea why he threw me out. I wasn’t even talking to him.”

Beltre immediately ran in from third when he figured out Bellino — a 31-year-old umpire who had been called up from the International League (AAA) — had ejected him. Second base umpire Angel Hernandez, who had sprinted in from his position, got between the player and the ump.

“It’s frustrating for a rookie umpire to do something like that, especially with how important the game is to us,” said Beltre, who had only been ejected fro one other game in his career, coming on Aug. 24, 2002. “Knowing I’m not even facing him. I’m not even talking to him. I’m talking in Spanish and he’s behind me. So how does he take the initiative to take me out of the game in a game like in the second inning?

“I never got close to him. They wouldn’t let me. I was trying to find out why, why he would throw me out. He has no reason to throw me out in that situation. I don’t know why a rookie is behind home plate today. I’m guessing he’s a rookie because I’ve never seen him before. So why would he take the initiative to throw me out in a game like that, in the second inning when we’re trying to win a pennant race.”

Also ejected was Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who had come out to calm down his player before attempting to get an explanation from Bellino. Hernandez also stepped in between Francona and the rookie umpire during the ensuing argument.

“He’s protecting the young umpire. They have their code or whatever, like we do. I guess I figure, if a guy’s old enough to throw you out, he’s old enough to get yelled at,” Francona said of Hernandez’ involvement. “I just wanted an explanation. Like I  said, if a guy’s going to throw you out, he out to be able to tell you what happened. So I couldn’t get an explanation. So I started cursing. That was real helpful.”

“I think Tito was trying to get an explanation as to what was going on,” Beltre said. “We were all confused.”

“I don’t have any history with the guy. He struck me out a pitch me seeing on the video was low. I said it was low, he said it was a good pitch and I walked away. That was it.”

For more on the Red Sox see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Closing Time: Mariners 4, Red Sox 2

08.25.10 at 9:49 pm ET
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It was a game that left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouths of Red Sox’ fans everywhere.

Also the Sox were able to gain 1/2 game on both the Yankees and Rays in the standings — putting them 5 1/2 back of both teams — it could have been a whole lot better for the home team if it could have managed a sweep against the hapless Mariners. Instead the Sox had to settle for a single victory Wednesday, dropping the night-cap of the teams’ doubleheader, 4-2, at Fenway Park.

The results set the stage for the Red Sox’ three-game series in St. Petersburg, with all three contending American League East teams getting Thursday off. Besides the inability to pick up an extra game heading into the showdown with the Rays, another monkey wrench that was thrown the Sox’ way was a back injury suffered before the game by Thursday night’s scheduled starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. The ailment forced Tim Wakefield into the emergency start, while pushing Jon Lester to Friday’s start at Tropicana Field.

Here is what went wrong for the Red Sox, and what went right:

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Felix Hernandez pitched. With his 7 1/3-inning outing, in which he surrendered two runs (one earned) on four hits, the righty has now allowed just six runs in 30 1/3 innings over four career outings at Fenway Park. The performance lowers his ERA to 2.47 (second only to the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz’ 2.26), while pushing Hernandez over 200 innings for a third straight season. This time out the starter struck out nine with a walk. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they weren’t able to work the count enough to drive the Mariners’ ace from the game prior to the eighth inning, with his final pitch count totaling 122.

- The Red Sox lost some valuable ammunition against Hernandez early on, as Adrian Beltre was thrown out of the game (along with manager Terry Francona) in the third inning. Beltre ran in from his position prior to starting the third, continuing an argument with home plate umpire Dan Bellino that had begun after the third baseman was rung up on strikes the previous half inning. Upon arriving at the umpire, Beltre was almost immediately greeted by second base ump Angel Hernandez, who had sprinted in from his position to intercept the player. It was just Beltre’s second ejection of his career, with the other one coming almost eight years to the day (Aug. 24, 2002). For Francona, who was tossed out after coming on the field to pick up the argument for Beltre, it was the 29th ejection of his career and third of the season.

- Wakefield got off on the wrong foot, and it cost him. The starter successfully fielded a comebacker off the bat of Seattle leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki in the game’s first at-bat. But the subsequent throw to first baseman Victor Martinez appeared to slip out of his hand, going well wide of his target. The error put Suzuki at second, eventually leading the Mariners first run when the outfielder scored on Russell Branyan’s groundout.

- Another decisive defensive play — although not an error — came in the sixth inning. With two outs and Casey Kotchman at second, Wakefield allowed a sinker liner to left off the bat of Matt Tuiasosopo that Daniel Nava dove head-first for but couldn’t come up with. The result was the ball getting behind outfielder, leading to the Mariners’ fourth run and the end of Wakefield’s night.

- The Red Sox narrowly missed two chances to equalize Hernandez’ performance in the eighth inning. First, with runners on first and second, the Sox down two, and one out, Victor Martinez greeted reliever Brandon League by hitting his first pitch down the left field line. The ball landed a foot foul, spoiling the opportunity to score at least one run. Then, with runners on second and third and two outs, David Ortiz hit a liner that left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo managed to barely reach up and grab after being turned around at the last-second. The move to let Ortiz hit was a curious one by Seattle interim manager Daren Brown considering the DH was 3-for-9 against League and there was a base open.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- J.D. Drew showed that Hernandez isn’t totally unhittable, launching a one-out solo homer to center field to cut the Mariners’ lead to 4-2 i the sixth inning. It was the second homer of Drew’s career against the pitcher, moving his career numbers vs. Hernandez to 9-for-23. Drew also was the only player to hit a home run against Hernandez at Fenway Park, having gone deep July 3, 2009. Victor Martinez even followed with a single. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the momentum didn’t last long with Hernandez striking out David Ortiz for the 24-year-old becoming the third-youngest pitcher since 1952 to strike out 1,000 batters (only behind Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden).

- Despite taking the loss, Wakefield’s outing might have been good enough on most nights. Making his first start since July 20, at Oakland, the 44-year-old allowed four runs (3 earned) on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out two and not walking a batter while throwing 91 pitches.

- The normally sure-handed Josh Wilson helped keep the Red Sox in the game with a pair of misplayed balls in the third inning. First the Seattle shortstop booted a grounder off the bat of Kevin Cash, putting runners on first and third and leading to the Sox’ first run when Hernandez tossed a wild pitch. Then, just for good measure, Wilson booted another ball, this time off the bat of Marco Scutaro immediately after Cash’s grounder.

The Cowboy tries to police Papelbon

08.25.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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[Click here to listen to Jonathan Papelbon's take on being told to hurry up by umpire Joe West.]

The game had proceeded at a surprisingly clipped pace given the conditions. The Red Sox and Mariners were navigating through the final inning of Boson’s 5-3 victory in the first contest of a day-night double-header, but Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was not in a rush.

The mound, damp with the steady drizzle of the day, had sent the pitchers scurrying to clean their spikes all day. Papelbon was no different. But umpiring crew chief “Cowboy” Joe West, who was assigned to adjudicate at second base for the contest, took umbrage when the Sox closer — a frequent target of pace-of-game infractions — took what he viewed as the necessary time between pitches.

West walked towards the mound and shouted at Papelbon while pointing to a watch on his left wrist. The message was obvious enough.

“He just reminded me I’m on the clock,” said Papelbon. “I understand all that.”

Even so, Papelbon went from the conversation with West to the back of the mound to keep cleaning the mud from his shoes. He ended up pitching a perfect ninth inning, requiring 18 pitches (12 against Casey Kotchman) to record his 32nd save of the year.

For the Sox closer, the advice from West seemed a bit puzzling.

“For me and my safety, staying healthy is priority over anything,” Papelbon said. “The mound got beat up for nine innings with rain, so I’m not going to go out there and put myself in a situation where I’m going to slip and get hurt.

“I understand it takes a little more time, and there are rules in Major League Baseball that say we have to do this in a certain amount of time, but I also think there are certain situations where you have to give and take a little bit, and understand players need to make sure that they’re out there playing in safe conditions and not going to get hurt.”

West, of course, became an object of national attention earlier in the season when he told the Bergen (N.J.) Record that the Red Sox and Yankees had played their games at a pace that was “pathetic and embarrassing,” a remark that was received with some concern by members of the two clubs. On Wednesday, in a game that lasted 2 hours 44 minutes, he apparently was once again trying to address the issue.

Read More: Joe West, Jonathan Papelbon,

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Mariners 3

08.25.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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It’s necessary to get the qualification out of the way first. A solid outing against the Mariners does not exactly come with the same degree of difficulty as one against the 1927 Yankees. Seattle entered Wednesday averaging 3.29 runs per game, the lowest mark by an American League team since the Toronto Blue Jays averaged 3.10 runs per contest in 1981.

That said, the Red Sox have been eager for any signs of optimism about Josh Beckett that they can get, and in the first game of the day-night double header, they received some. After allowing a leadoff single (on a comebacker) to Ichiro Suzuki to lead off the game, Beckett did not allow another hit through six innings.

Beckett faltered in the seventh, allowing three runs on a pair of homers. Even so, his first victory since Aug. 3 (after allowing 19 runs in his previous 16 innings) gave the Sox not only a 5-3 win but also some cause for hope with the pitcher going forward.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Beckett effectively mixed his changeup and curve with a fastball that he located to both sides of the plate to keep the Mariners off balance for much of the day. He took advantage of a strike zone that was interpreted liberally by home plate ump Rob Drake. He allowed just four hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven.

With his seventh-inning falter, however, Beckett did extend his streak of games in which he’s allowed a homer to five, matching the longest such run of his career. His fastball velocity appeared to dip in the seventh.

It was also somewhat noteworthy that Beckett did not have any physical issues on the mound, given that the rainy conditions were somewhat reminiscent of the May 18 game in Yankee Stadium in which he tweaked his back.

Marco Scutaro continued his recent offensive surge. He collected a pair of hits, and now has multi-hit games in five of his last six games, during which he is hitting .478 (11-for-23). He is hitting .395 during a nine-game hitting streak.

Daniel Nava had his first run-scoring hit since July 10, delivering a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth that proved pivotal.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox employed both Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, meaning that the availability of the team’s two key relievers will be in question for the nightcap.

Bard needed 20 pitches to record five outs. His stuff seemed somewhat less explosive than usual, as his velocity was in the mid- (rather than high-) 90s, and he did not record a strikeout. He also issued a walk, the ninth time in his last 16 plate appearances that he has given up a free pass.

Papelbon, meanwhile, was aggressive in the strike zone, but lacked the ability to close out Mariners hitters with two strikes. Most notably, with one out, Casey Kotchman, after falling behind 0-2, fouled off six Papelbon pitches en route to a 12-pitch at-bat. That resulted in an 18-pitch ninth inning for the Sox closer.

Ryan Kalish went 0-for-3, and is now 2-for-24 (.083) during the homestand.

–Though he had a fine day at the plate, drawing a pair of walks and delivering a sacrifice fly, Mike Lowell‘s base running limitations became evident when he was gunned out trying to advance from first to third on a single that bounced down the left-field line and into the corner.

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