|08.20.09 at 11:41 pm ET|
As the Red Sox and Yanks get ready to square off this weekend, you wonder if this is the last shot the Sox have to catch New York in the AL East.
I think that most of us have changed our focus to the Wild Card, but what would happen if the Sox sweep the Yanks? Would the East be out of the question? Does it really matter? After all, let’s not forget that the Sox have won the World Series as both the Wild Card representative and the AL East winner. This series has been pretty lopsided so far this year, with the Sox winning the first eight only to get swept by the Yanks less than two weeks ago down in the Bronx.
So what should we expect this weekend? I will be shocked if we see a sweep, let’s start with that.
Early in the year, the Yanks had some serious issues. Their bullpen was awful. One of the reasons was because their rotation was struggling to get deep into the games, leaving the pen over-exposed. C.C. and Burnett weren’t exactly locked in. Joba was giving them five strong every night, refusing to get deep in any of his starts. Wang was a mess. A-Rod was still recovering from hip surgery and Mark Teixeira got off to a rough start as he usually does every year. As a result, the Sox took the first eight these two played.
A few weeks ago in the Bronx, the Sox were the team in disarray. Jason Bay missed the weekend series and David Ortiz was busy dealing with the media talking vitamins and supplements instead of HR’s and RBI’s. We saw the last of John Smoltz, but we may have been introduced to Clay Buchholz once and for all. The bats were silent and panic settled in all across Red Sox Nation as the Yanks took all four games. But I must say, doesn’t this weekend bring back a little old school feel?
Both teams are playing good baseball at the same time for the first time this season. If the Sox had this lineup when they were in New York, they very easily could have won three of four. I must admit that Pettitte/Burnett/Sabathia sounds a lot better than Penny/Tazawa/Beckett, but I really believe that you can throw match-ups out the window and look more at how teams are playing. That’s what makes this weekend so intriguing.
Isn’t it good to have the Yankees in the mix again? Did you have fun last year when you were more concerned with the Rays than the Yanks? I didn’t. I want to hate them. I want to fear them. It’s just more fun that way. You had to know that this year was going to be different for the boys from New York. Did you see what they did in the offseason? For years I’ve been pretty hard on their offseason moves, and rightfully so. Think of all the wasted money they have spent on players who were either flashes in the pan or over-priced players out of their prime. Let me just throw a few names at you.
Let’s start with what I call “smoke a mirrors” — Chris Hammond, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright.
This is what the Yanks did for years. They reached for the free agents coming off of career years who had never done it before and haven’t done it since. They also signed the over-priced free agents who were well out of their primes. They took a shot and not much of it worked out.
This year, yeah they spent some serious dollars, but they were spent wisely…for once. They grabbed a starting pitcher in C.C. Sabathia who isn’t on his way out of his prime but is hanging out right in the middle of it. C.C. was a year removed from winning the AL Cy Young award and is young enough for the Yanks to think they have an “ace” of the staff for many years to come. They also snagged the best YOUNG hitter on the free agent market in Mark Teixeira. (Young is the key word here.)
Seeing that already have AROD signed through 2017, they may possess the best 3-4 punch in all of baseball for the next seven years. When it comes to these two highly sought-after free agents, it’s awful tough to say that the Yanks will ever regret spending the cash it took to land them. You may not be able to say the same when you talk about what they gave A.J. Burnett. That five-year deal may have been a reach, but he’ll no doubt give them three years or so of quality starts. When it comes to A.J., it’s not about his age as much as his history of arm trouble. That’s a deal we may have to wait and see on.
But the point is made, I hope. They went out and spent a lot of money, but it was money that was spent on players who were still in their primes. They weren’t one-year wonders. They weren’t guys on their way out. They are all good — very good – and that’s the difference.
So get ready. The Yankees are back. You can hate them again. I’m talking, “I can’t stand the sight of them” type of hate. Both teams are confident and playing well. This may be the best test for both teams and its going to take place right here at Fenway Park. Sit back and enjoy the hatred!!
|08.20.09 at 1:16 pm ET|
The 38th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Brett Cecil looked nothing like the highly-touted prospect he was considered back when he faced the Red Sox on May 20. Baseball America ranked Cecil as Toronto’s third-best prospect entering the season, but the five homers he served up to Red Sox hitters begged to differ with any promise he may have previously shown.
Jason Varitek led the charge in the 8-3 Boston victory, belting two solo shots and claiming responsibility for two of the eight runs allowed by Cecil in four and two-thirds innings. Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, and David Ortiz also contributed dingers against the lefty.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Cecil has gotten his act together since then. In his last five starts, the Maryland native is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA and has given up just one home run in 31.1 innings. Tonight’s lineup card will again be difficult for Sox manager Terry Francona to fill out, as Ortiz, Lowell, Varitek, and Victor Martinez have all had success against Cecil.
Victor Martinez (7 career plate appearances vs. Cecil): 2-for-5, BB, HBP
Jason Bay (3): 2-for-2, homer, 2 RBI, BB
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 1-for-2, BB
Mike Lowell (3): 1-for-3, homer, SO
David Ortiz (3): 1-for-3, homer, 2 RBI, SO
Dustin Pedroia (3): 1-for-3, double
Kevin Youkilis (3): 2-for-3, SO
Jason Varitek (2): 2-for-2, 2 HR
BLUE JAYS VS. JON LESTER
The last time Jon Lester faced the Blue Jays back on July 19, the lefty was a hard-luck loser. Though he turned in a quality start, Lester’s three earned over seven innings were no match for Roy Halladay‘s one -run complete-game effort. Catcher Rod Barajas was the thorn in Lester’s side in that game, driving in all three runs and collecting two of his team’s six hits.
Lifetime, Lester is just 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 29 innings at the Rogers Centre/SkyDome. Those numbers would be much worse were it not for what he was able to accomlish back on May 31. In the 8-2 Red Sox win, Lester fanned a career-high 12 Blue Jays over six innings of three-hit ball. The win remains his only victory in Toronto to date.
As was seen coming a mile away by Alex Speier, Jon Lester is currently on pace for a 240 strikeout season. No Red Sox left-hander has ever even reached the 200-K mark, as Lester enters tonight just 14 strikeouts shy of Bruce Hurst‘s team-record 190. Pedro Martinez struck out 313 in ’99, giving him the club’s record for righties.
Kevin Millar (27): .190 average / .333 on-base / .238 slugging, RBI, 5 BB, 4 SO
Marco Scutaro (21): .316 / .381 / .368, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SO
Vernon Wells (21): .250 / .381 / .500, homer, 3 RBI, 3 BB, SO, HBP
Jose Bautista (18): .267 / .333 / .467, homer, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO
Aaron Hill (16): .000 / .125 / .000, 2 BB, 6 SO
Adam Lind (15): .143 / .200 / .214, BB, 8 SO
Lyle Overbay (15): .308 / .400 / .462, RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO
Rod Barajas (10): .375 / .400 / .500, 4 RBI, SO, HBP
John McDonald (8): 1-for-6, SO, HBP
|08.19.09 at 11:53 pm ET|
PAWTUCKET — Paul Byrd sat in the Paw Sox dugout in the first contest of a day-night doubleheader in which he was starting the night game against the Rochester Red Wings. He high-fived manager Ron Johnson in the clubhouse and certainly seemed eager to get back on the mound.
The Red Sox signed Byrd to a minor-league contract on August 5 in hopes that he could get in shape in time to help the team down the stretch. After two outings in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, Byrd moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket to face advanced competition for the first time on Wednesday.
His line of four innings giving up three runs on six hits while walking one and striking out three (in a 5-1 loss, the PawSox’ ninth straight defeat) doesn’t tell the entire story of the outing. Byrd’s main goal was to get a feel for the ball and move his pitches around the strike zone. By and large, he did that, throwing 49 of his 74 pitches for strikes. Two of his three strikeouts came on his slider.
“The most important thing is that I’m commanding pitches,” Byrd said. “What I mean by that is I can throw the ball to both sides of the plate, slider both sides, I have good command on my changeup and I can keep it down. Those things are what’s really important to me. I hung my slider here and there but overall I felt really really good.”
Byrd pitched a 1-2-3 first inning on five pitches, four of which were strikes, before he ran into some trouble in the second. After a leadoff double by left fielder Justin Huber, Byrd gave up a single and a walk to load the bases before a double from DH Trevor Plouffe scored two runs. Byrd settled down with three straight outs, ending the inning with a strikeout on a fastball to leadoff hitter Matt Tolbert to conclude a 10-pitch battle of an at-bat.
“I thought the slider was pretty good,” Byrd said. “It wasn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be but I got some big strikeouts on it and in the second inning the leadoff hitter bothered me, I went 0-2 on him, and I tried to throw a slider in. It started in but ended up over the middle and he hit it down the line. That’s the one pitch that will cost me a couple hours of sleep, it’ll bother me a little bit. Overall I threw a lot of good quality pitches.”
Byrd had a similar third inning. After a fly out to right, he gave up a double to catcher Jose Morales and a single to left off of Huber that scored Morales from second. Once again he settled down for two straight outs with a fly out to left field and a strikeout on an offspeed pitch. Byrd came out in the fourth with two groundouts before giving up a single to center off the bat of Dustin Martin. He then hit Tolbert but got Steven Tolleson to fly out to center to conclude his night.
Three of the six hits off of Byrd came on his fastball, which hovered around 86-87 mph and topped out at 89 mph. He mixed in his slider and changeup, garnering six outs on fly balls against three on the ground.
While Byrd received the loss, he was happy with the outing and confident that he could be ready for the Red Sox in the near future.
“I feel good. Today was a big step for me because I needed to see that my fastball was good enough,” Byrd said. “There were a lot of swings and misses, there were a lot of missed hits, there were a lot of foul balls where they were out in front and then I beat them in a lot. So I needed to see that I wasn’t going to be throwing batting practice and that my fastball had life because there’s 85, 86 mph that leaves the park and there’s 85,86 mph that is sneaky and it cuts and sinks and guys can’t figure it out. I needed to see that I still had that and I felt for the most part I did.”
Byrd could conceivably pitch two more outings before the September 1 date for expanded rosters. By then, he hopes to reach a pitch count in the 90s while further refining his slider. The Sox will certainly welcome the help if Byrd can pull out another decent outing before they hit the home stretch leading up to the playoffs.
“When you see experience at that level of what this guy has done in his career it’s fun to watch,” Pawtucket manager Johnson said. “Hopefully a lot of our young guys were watching, especially during the innings when he gave up the runs because (he had) the calmness, the maturity, the consistency to make pitches to stay in certain areas. He bent a little bit but you didn’t see all of the sudden the game speed up or him serve one up and a guy crush one. I never got the feeling we were going to be in a situation where we would give up massive amounts of runs and that’s what veteran major league players do.”
|08.19.09 at 8:36 pm ET|
PAWTUCKET — Byrd went four innings giving up three runs on six hits, walking one with three strikeouts. He finished with 74 pitches, 49 of which were strikes. Byrd was shaky with runners on base, and most hits were off his fastball, which sat right around 86 mph.
|08.19.09 at 6:50 pm ET|
Byrd will take the mound tonight for the Pawtucket Red Sox after throwing two outings for the Gulf Coast Red Sox in hopes of being ready for Boston by September 1 when rosters expand.
“I think, and this is just me thinking, that I will be need to be ready for September 1,” Byrd said. “It won’t be profitable for them and they’ll let me go and I understand that. So it’s just a rush job for me getting ready but honestly my arm hasn’t had this much time off without a surgery in forever, so I feel strong. I feel great and ready to go.”
Byrd said he had no indication the Sox were interested in him and had planned on sitting out the rest of the season until the team called in early August.
“I think they got into a situation where some guys got hurt,” Byrd said. “They thought they were getting better but they weren’t sure they were getting better, so I was sort of an insurance policy to see what happens and see if I could get out there on time and see if I still had what it took.”
Byrd pitched last season with the Red Sox after the team acquired him from the Cleveland Indians on August 12, after he had cleared waivers. In eight starts with Boston, Byrd went 4-2 over 49 innings, walking 10 and striking out 26 en route to a 4.78 ERA.
He declined the Sox’ offer of arbitration, did not sign with Boston or any other club and instead opted to spend time with his wife and two kids with the idea of joining a team mid-season. Byrd, however, had no takers. Once the Sox determined a need for pitching help, they signed Byrd to a minor league contract on August 5 and sent him to Florida to build up strength and regain his form.
“It was one of those things where I figured I’d sit out and pick up with a team later in the season and it would all work out,” Byrd said “Then I realized I’m not Roger Clemens and the economy messed up some things so people were interested but not real interested. I just kept throwing to my 13-year-old’s baseball team and having fun and then the Red Sox called and asked how quick I could be ready. So, I’m here to find out.”
Byrd pitched two outings in Florida for a combined 7 innings giving up four runs and striking out three. PawSox manager Ron Johnson expects Byrd to pitch five to six innings or 75 to 80 pitches tonight against the Rochester Red Wings.
“My body is a little behind my arm’s conditioning a little bit,” the righthander said. “I’ve been working out. I’ve been doing some conditioning, not to the same intensity level that you do when you’re playing but most people are a little run down in September. I feel pretty darn good.”
A fresh veteran arm with playoff experience could be a welcome sight for the Sox in September as they fight for a playoff spot. The Sox face a tough schedule next month with two series against the Rays, and one each against the White Sox, Yankees and Angels. Somewhat surprisingly, Byrd may swoop in to become one piece of the puzzle missing for the Sox.
|08.19.09 at 3:00 pm ET|
|08.19.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
ROY HALLADAY VS. RED SOX
Just last week, one member of the Red Sox described Roy Halladay as being ‘in a class by himself’ among American League pitchers in terms of the stuff that he features on the mound. He is a force of nature, one whom J.P. Ricciardi described during an interview on Dale & Holley today as capable of swinging the balance of power in any division by himself.
Still, it is worth noting that David Ortiz has more homers (5) than any other hitter against Halladay, and that of the 79 hitters to face Halladay at least 25 times, Kevin Youkilis ranks eighth in OPS (.939) and fifth in OBP (.429). ]
David Ortiz (99 career plate appearances): .275/.323/.505/.828, 5 HR, 12 Ks
Jason Varitek (81): .213/.272/.347/.619, 2 HR, 22 Ks
Kevin Youkilis (56): .347/.429/.510/.939, 1 HR, 6 Ks
Dustin Pedroia (38): .200/.243/.343/.586, 1 HR, 2 Ks
Mike Lowell (31): .233/.258/.533/.791, 3 HR, 7 Ks
J.D. Drew (28): .320/.393/.440/.833, 1 HR, 4 Ks
Jacoby Ellsbury (21): .286/.286/.667/.953, 2 HR, 3 Ks
Jason Bay (16): .267/.313/.533/.846, 1 HR, 3 Ks
Casey Kotchman (15): .200/.200/.200/.400, 0 HR, 1 K
Victor Martinez (12): .300/.417/.400/.817, 0 HR, 2 Ks
Alex Gonzalez (6): 0-for-4, walk, sac fly
Nick Green (6): 1-for-6, single, 4 Ks
Brian Anderson (3): 2-for-3
CLAY BUCHHOLZ VS. BLUE JAYS
Buchholz made his first big-league start of 2009 in Toronto against the Blue Jays in the first game of the second half. He pitched well that day, allowing four hits in 5.2 innings, allowing one run and earning the win.
That was intended to be a one-game call-up. Indeed, it was: Buchholz was optioned to Triple-A the next day. But Tim Wakefield tweaked his back in a side session the day after Buchholz’ start, commencing a D.L. stint that is still going. And so, Buchholz remains in the majors, and is now facing the buzzard’s luck of a third straight start against an ace. Today, he opposes Roy Halladay, after having pitched against CC Sabathia of the Yankees and Justin Verlander of the Tigers in his prior two outings.
Buchholz has a 2.08 ERA in those two starts, but an 0-2 record.
Aaron Hill (7): .143/.143/.143/.286, 3 Ks
Kevin Millar (7): 0-for-5, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Lyle Overbay (7): 5-for-7, .714/.714/.857/1.571, 1 2B, 1 K
Vernon Wells (6): 0-for-4, 2 walks
Adam Lind (5): 2-for-5, 1 2B, 1 K
Marco Scutaro (5): 0-for-2, 3 walks, 1 K
Rod Barajas (3): 0-for-2, walk
Jose Bautista (2): 0-for-2
John McDonald (1): 1-for-1, double
|08.19.09 at 12:37 pm ET|
Red Sox Manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley Show (Tom Caron filling in for Michael Holley) for his weekly interview on Wednesday afternoon and had the following to say (CLICK HERE for the complete audio interview):
– On Dustin Pedroia: “Dustin will not be back tonight (against the Jays)….When he is comfortable enough to play, we will certainly welcome him back.”
– On Josh Beckett being effected by Jason Varitek’s injury: “You can’t use anything as an excuse, because that’s what it would be is an excuse. But watching [Beckett] walk around yesterday you could just see that he had some anxiety before he even left the dugout. He was pacing through the clubhouse.”
– On Jason Varitek’s injury: “This isnt something new, this is something he has played with all year… He couldnt look left… Probably going to set him back 3-4 days….He wanted to play, thought it wasnt in his best interest.”
– On Clay Buchholz pinch-running last week: “With Youk being suspended, it was probably something we needed to do… You certainly have to measure what one run is worth as opposed to Clay sliding into home and breaking a finger….He actually did a pretty good job, he just didnt see the ball.”
– On JD Drew asking to come out of the game against the Rangers: “He was aware of what was going on… He wasn’t coming out… I think it (injury) has been nagging at him for a whie… Aggrevated it on the swing (homerun against Texas).”
On the current pitching rotation: “We are going to stay right on rotation… We dont have a lot off days coming up… The extra day is needed right now….If we have the extra day, we will leave him (the starting pitcher) in the game.”
– On Tim Wakefield: “There is weakness in that calf because of his back… At some point he is probably going to need a surgery….We are not going to put him in a situation where he is going to hurt himself or not field his position….we just want to get some better answers.”
– On Daisuke Matsuzaka’s rehab: “It is going off the charts… He is really doing a good job… He will pitch a side on Friday… Monday he is will pitch in a Gulf Coast Game…He is back on the radar of the major league team…hope to help us in September.”
– On Clay Buchholz’ recent pitching: -“If he does what he has been doing, he will give us a chance to win… Clay can’t go into the game worried about Halladay…. Let us do our job.”
– On Daniel Bard: “There is no concern… I think he has held it together pretty well.”
– On Wednesday’s starting lineup: Casey Kotchman will play first. Kevin Youkilis moves to third. Mike Lowell will get the day off. David Ortiz will remain at DH. Victor Martinez will catch once again. Nick Green will be at second for Dustin Pedroia.
|08.18.09 at 7:18 pm ET|
Though Jason Varitek was originally in the Red Sox‘ starting lineup against the Blue Jays, he was scratched due to what manager Terry Francona told reporters was a stiff neck. Victor Martinez will instead catch Josh Beckett, marking the first time that the two will be paired together for a game.
This is the third time that Beckett will start with a catcher other than Varitek this year. In the prior two starts, when paired with George Kottaras, he is 0-2 with a 10.97 ERA. When paired with Varitek, Beckett is 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Varitek caught all of Beckett’s starts in 2008, and caught all but one of his starts in 2007. In ’07, Beckett allowed two runs in eight innings (2.25 ERA) in the only game caught by Doug Mirabelli, and had a 3.32 ERA in 29 games when paired with Varitek.
|08.18.09 at 3:14 pm ET|
After losing two in a row in Texas, the Red Sox will look to get back on track ‘ and more importantly, back in the Wild Card race ‘ in Toronto Tuesday night. As they look to do so, the team is no doubt heartened by the fact that ace Josh Beckett will be on the mound.
Beckett (14-4, 3.10 ERA) has been lights out in August, giving up only two runs in his last three starts. What’s more, the AL wins leader has gone 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last six starts.
But interestingly enough, he has yet to face the Blue Jays this season. In 10 career starts against Toronto, Beckett hasn’t enjoyed much success, going 3-5 with a 5.95 ERA. These less than impressive statistics can perhaps be attributed to the very impressive statistics of Blue Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells, who’s batted .321 lifetime against Beckett with five homers.
Pitching for the Blue Jays is Ricky Romero. The 24-year-old Romero is only in his first season with Toronto, but he has already proved he belongs in the big leagues. The rookie left-hander has gone 10-5 with a 3.70 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 2009. Still, he’s been the losing pitcher in both of his starts against the Sox this season. In 8.1 innings against Boston this year, Romero has a 9.72 ERA with 10 walks.
Tuesday night will also mark the return of Kevin Youkilis following his five-game suspension for charging the mound against Detroit. He two homers and two walks in six career plate appearances against Romero.
SOX VS. ROMERO
J.D. Drew (6 career plate appearances against Romero): 1-for-5, walk, 3 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (6): 2-for-5, homer, walk
Kevin Youkilis (6): 2-for-4, 2 homers, 2 walks, strikeout
Jason Bay (5): 1-for-3, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
David Ortiz (5): 3-for-5, strikeout
Nick Green (4): 0-for-3, walk, 3 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (4): 1-for-4, 2 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (4): 0-for-1, 3 walks
Victor Martinez (3): 1-for-3
Jacoby Ellsbury (2): 1-for-1
BLUE JAYS VS. BECKETT
Lyle Overbay (33 career plate appearances against Beckett): .333 average/ .455 OBP/ .407 slugging, 6 walks, 7 strikeouts
Vernon Wells (32): .321/ .406/ .893, 5 homers, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
Aaron Hill (25): .333/ .360/ .500, 2 strikeouts
Kevin Millar (20): .263/ .300/ .368, walk, strikeout
Rod Barajas (12): .400/ .500/ .900, homer, walk, 2 strikeouts
Marco Scutaro (7): 3-for-7, 2 strikeouts
John McDonald (6): 2-for-4, 2 walks, strikeout
Raul Chavez (5): 0-for-4, walk, 2 strikeouts
Joe Inglett (5): 1-for-5, strikeout
Adam Lind (5): 3-for-5, homer, strikeout
Edwin Encarnacion (3): 0-for-3
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