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Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1

04.17.11 at 4:42 pm ET
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And finally, there was a streak.

For the first time in 2011, the Red Sox own a multi-game winning streak. That their winning streak comes on the strength of consecutive outstanding starts is no surprise. One day after Josh Beckett dominated the Blue Jays, Jon Lester continued to stifle Toronto in an 8-1 Red Sox victory.

It wasn’t nearly as dominating as Beckett’s performance, but the left-hander’s third straight quality start was exactly what manager Terry Francona described before the game as the key ingredient to sustained success.

“If you get consistent pitching, you can have inconsistent hitting and still win. I think we all know when we get our lineup going, we’€™ll be pretty good. We’€™ll score some runs,” said Francona. “If you pitch, you give yourself a chance every night.”

The Sox are now in position to finish their nine-game homestand — on which they are currently 4-4 — with a winning record.


–Remember when Jon Lester didn’t get a single swing and miss in his first start of the year against the Rangers? That seems like a long time ago.

For his third straight outing, Lester featured overpowering stuff. Even though he struggled with his command at times (three walks), he limited the Blue Jays to one run on six hits in six-plus innings while striking out five. He elicited nine swings and misses, four on fastballs (a pitch that topped out at 95 mph for the day), one on a change and four on cutters.

In his last three starts, Lester now has a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 16 hits allowed in 20 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, jarrod saltalamacchia

Street closures around Fenway Park on Monday

04.17.11 at 3:07 pm ET
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Courtesy of the Red Sox, the information about the many, many street closures near Fenway Park for Monday’s Patriots’ Day game:

According to information provided by the Boston Transportation Department website, there will be significant street closures in the Fenway neighborhood and surrounding areas tomorrow, Monday, April 18, 2011, on account of the 115th Boston Marathon. The Red Sox urge all fans to use public transportation, provide extra time for making the trip to Fenway Park and to arrive early. The game on Monday is scheduled to start at 11:05 a.m. and the Fenway Park gates will open to the public at 9:35 a.m.

The following streets will be closed to vehicular traffic tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. and lasting until at least 6:00 p.m.: Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Live Blog: Sox look for two straight

04.17.11 at 1:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox will try to notch their first multi-game winning streak of the young season, with Jon Lester on the mound against Jesse Litsch and the Toronto Blue Jays. Carl Crawford (5-for-10 career vs. Litsch) returns to the lineup as the leadoff hitter, while Jed Lowrie (batting .500) will hit sixth so that the switch-hitter can have some protection against left-handed relievers by separating David Ortiz and J.D. Drew.

WEEI.com is live on the scene. For the latest updates from the game, click below.

Red Sox/Blue Jays Live Blog

Francona on Crawford: ‘He’s going to be a huge part of our offense’

04.17.11 at 1:19 pm ET
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It was virtually certain that Carl Crawford was going to return to the Red Sox lineup on Sunday, after sitting on Saturday. But it was less clear where he would return.

Crawford is hitting .137 with a .342 OPS this year; as a leadoff hitter, he is hitting .107 with a 138 OBP, .281 OPS and no walks. Yet a day after Jed Lowrie went an impressive 3-5 in the leadoff spot against the Toronto Blue Jays, Crawford returned to the top of the order against the Blue Jays and starter Jesse Litsch (against whom Crawford is 5-for-10 in his career).

Manager Terry Francona sat Crawford on Saturday not as a punishment but in attempt to give his struggling leftfielder a bit of rest.

“I just wanted to do a couple things, reassure him how we feel which I think it pretty obvious, and to find out if I can help,” said Francona. “This is certainly not a guy that when he doesn’€™t hit you run from. He’€™s going to be a huge part of our offense.”

Francona is hoping the day off relieved some of the pressure Crawford has felt through the beginning of the season.

“I think a day like yesterday after being in the cage and not having to take it right to the game sometimes can help,” said Francona. “I know he was itching to play yesterday too’€¦.which I’m really glad about’€¦.I just think that hopefully this will help him a little bit.”

After talking with Crawford, Francona felt that it was necessary to get him back in the lineup as soon as possible and try to get him in a groove offensively.

“Once he gets going — I think we all know it, at least I do — he’€™s gonna get real hot. I just hope it starts today,” said Francona.

Other Notes:

Jed Lowrie celebrates his 27th birthday Sunday and  will make his fourth start this season at shortstop. After going 3-for-5 with a homer on Saturday to improve his average for the season to .500, Francona said that Lowrie’s, “so hot right now I don’€™t know how to keep him out of the lineup.”

Instead of batting leadoff, Lowrie will hit sixth and occupy the slot between David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. Francona felt that having the switch-hitting Lowrie slotted between the two left-handed hitters would give the Blue Jays some pause about the idea of bringing in a left-handed reliever.

–Lineup changes are nothing new for this team. Sunday will represent the 12th batting order the Sox have used in 14 games. Francona elaborated a little bit on the method behind the lineup madness.

“If we had one or two lineups, everything was going right. I don’t know if that makes sense right now,” said Francona. “I’€™ve talked a lot about being consistent. We’€™re trying to do everything we can to play as well as we can and put guys in the best position. We’€™ll see. I do know as we get into the season, things normally settle down.”

-With the recent lineup changes due to Wednesday’s rainout, Francona chose to skip John Lackey‘s start on Wednesday in favor of keeping the rest of the pitching rotation on schedule. While Francona empathizes with with Lackey’s frustrations he said he felt it better to affect one one of his pitchers rather than all of them.

“This is not easy for  [John] Lackey right now and we understand that,” said Francona. “We felt as a staff it’s better to take one guy, try and make him adjust than take all five guys because then you’re really doing a disservice to the staff. I told Lack to do whatever he felt. Whatever he wants to do to get ready, that’€™s up to him. … Lack doesn’€™t do a lot of moaning and groaning. I think he was mad he wasn’€™t pitching. I would have been, too. But he’€™ll take it and go with it.”

-While the offense continues to struggle Francona is putting his focus on getting quality pitching out of his starters every day.

“If you have consistent pitching you can have inconsistent hitting and still win,” said Francona. “I think we all know once we get our lineup squared away, we’€™ll be pretty good, we’€™ll score some runs. But if you pitch well then you give yourself a chance to win every night.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jed Lowrie, john lackey,

How Jonathan Papelbon’s slider could have changed Red Sox history

04.17.11 at 12:39 pm ET
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In 2007, Jonathan Papelbon was being groomed for the rotation during spring training. He’d suffered an almost-catastrophic injury at the end of his spectacular first season as a closer, enduring a shoulder subluxation at the end of the 2006 campaign, and the Sox thought that his long-term health might be better served while working on a five-day routine.

Moreover, Papelbon had made three solid starts to begin his big league career in 2005, allowing just four runs in 16 innings (2.25 ERA) while striking out 15 (and walking 10). The Sox thought that he could be a valuable asset as a member of the rotation.

There was only one problem. Papelbon couldn’t spin a decent breaking ball. He’d tried a slider in the minors, with poor reviews. He was throwing a curveball in big league camp in 2007; the pitch was flat, lifeless and eminently hittable.

Sox manager Terry Francona thought that Papelbon could be a solid starter based on his explosive mid-90s fastball and diving splitter, but the lack of a legitimate third pitch would limit his value in the rotation. He would see too many pitches fouled back, see his pitch counts run too high, to get deep into the game.

“I think that was the concern I had,” acknowledged Francona. “I looked at him more as a two-pitch pitcher and maybe a guy who would have to work so hard to get through five. I never thought he wouldn’€™t be successful or get people out, but he’€™d have to work so hard to get through five that all of a sudden he’€™s not going deep in games. He’€™s too good a pitcher. I always thought he could impact us better in the bullpen.”

It was a role, of course, that has suited Papelbon well. He has become one of the game’s elite closers, having made four All-Star teams, mostly on the strength of that fastball and splitter. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon, slider,

What a difference a year makes for Jed Lowrie

04.16.11 at 10:54 pm ET
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It was April 17, 2010 and  Jed Lowrie found himself in Ft. Myers, recovering from an intense bout of mononucleosis that left him wondering about his baseball future. It’s not exactly the ideal way to spend your 26th birthday.

‘€œThe way I felt physically was one of my worst birthdays,’€ said Lowrie. ‘€œIt was definitely a trying time.’€

Snap to one year later and life has done an about-face for the shortstop.

Saturday Lowrie hit from the leadoff spot, going 3-5 with a home run and two RBI as he willed the team to its third victory of the season.

‘€œWe needed that little spark today and he was able to do that right off the top of the lineup,’€ said teammate Mike Cameron. ‘€œThat’€™s how you set the tone for your team. You get the kind of pitching that we got today and Lowrie was the guy who’€™s swinging the bat real well for us in some key situations. He’€™s been doing it all year long.’€

Hitting an impressive .500 on the year, Lowrie has been crucial to the Sox’€™ stagnant offense when he’€™s been inserted into the lineup. Batting leadoff in place of the struggling Carl Crawford paid off toda,y but according to Lowrie its not about his placement in the lineup, but that he remains consistent.

‘€œI understand the situation that we’€™re in, but I think it would have been a mistake for me to try to do anything more than what I’€™m capable of doing,’€ said Lowrie. ‘€œFor me it was just about staying within myself and getting on base because I think that’€™s what I do best.’€

His efforts have not gone unnoticed by his teammates as Lowrie has been one of few Red Sox to come through with runners in scoring position this season.

‘€œHe’€™s been great,” said Adrian Gonzalez about Lowrie’s performance. “Him and Pedey are the two guys that are really feeling good at the plate and swinging the bat great and we have to build off of them. The rest will come but right now you got to play your hot hand and he’€™s been great for us.”

While the Sox may be underperforming, Lowrie is doing his best to take advantage of the opportunities he’€™s being given on this team and this year he only wants one thing for his birthday: A Red Sox win.

John Farrell reacts to Josh Beckett’s dominance

04.16.11 at 6:30 pm ET
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It was supposed to be the continuation of a nice homecoming for John Farrell. Instead, he saw his former ace tear apart his new lineup batter by batter on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

After his spectacular start six days ago against the Yankees, Josh Beckett picked right up where he left off against the Jays, throwing a strong seven innings and striking out nine batters. Beckett’€™s three-hit, one-run performance had his former pitching coach singing his praises after the game.

‘€œHe was difficult to get anything started against,’€ Farrell said after Saturday’€™s game. ‘€œWe’€™re all in the same division, we’€™re all competing every time we walk on the field, and to his credit he pitched a very good game.’€

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett doesn’t want to hear about last season anymore

04.16.11 at 5:49 pm ET
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Josh Beckett’s message after his second straight standout start? He’s not here to talk about the past.

Following his seven-inning, one-run outing in the Red Sox‘ 4-1 win over the Blue Jays Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, Beckett was fairly matter-of-fact regarding the performance. He explained his change-up wasn’t quite as sharp as it had been, but he felt good enough physically to execute all of his pitches (as the nine strikeouts might suggest).

“I think execution-wise and health-wise and everything, I definitely think my last two starts were a notch above what I was most of the year last year,” Beckett explained.

Then came one more question regarding the difference between the 2010 Josh Beckett and the 2011 Josh Beckett, more specifically how the power to his fastball matched up.

“I can’t remember. Are we going to just keep asking questions about last year? How many starts do we have to go before we forget last year?” the starter said. “I know I stunk last year. Maybe we can move forward a little bit.”

What Beckett has through three starts this time around is a 1.80 ERA thanks in large part to holding opponents to three hits or less with at least nine strikeouts in back-to-back outings for the first time in his career. Couple the appearance against the Jays with his masterpiece vs. the Yankees and you have 15 innings pitched, one run allowed, 19 strikeouts and just three walks.

It’s a two-game run that has seen Beckett allow just five hits in 49 at-bats, limiting opponents to a .102 batting average.

‘€œI definitely pushed myself a little bit more. I definitely felt good today,” he said. “And that was one of the things where on a day game like today where maybe the energy is down a little bit. That’€™s a way of picking myself up.’€

Read More: Josh Beckett,

Closing Time: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1

04.16.11 at 4:23 pm ET
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Josh Beckett‘s second consecutive strong outing gave the Red Sox a much-needed victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Beckett pitched seven strong innings, fanning nine batters and allowing just three hits. The win was a confidence booster after falling to a 2-10 start. The final game between the division rivals will decide who wins the series. An absent Carl Crawford turned out to be for the best in the Sox first win since the Yankees series.

Here are a few things that went right and wrong in Saturday’s game:


Jed Lowrie filling in for Carl Crawford at the top of the batting lineup proved to be a genius move by the coaching staff. Lowrie singled to start the game, hit a two-run home run (his first of the season) in the second inning, and continued to make solid contact all day long, even when he was making outs. He continues to have the hottest bat on the team, and in terms of productivity was an upgrade from Crawford’€™s slumping numbers.

Josh Beckett had his second straight dominant outing, throwing seven complete innings and only giving up one earned run on three hits. Beckett commanded his pitches with ease and kept his fastball up in the mid-90s for the duration. In his last start, Beckett threw eight innings, allowing just two hits and no runs against the Yankees. We saw that same Beckett on the mound again today. Maybe there is something to be said about the starter’€™s performance when Jason Varitek is behind the plate. In any case, with a productive offense and a pitching performance like Beckett’€™s, the formula adds up to a win.

Defensive awareness was prevalent in the victory. Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez anchored the right side of the infield with sliding stops and hustle plays that kept the Blue Jays offense at bay, and Beckett on the mound for more innings.

The Red Sox stranded yet again a large number of players on base. Through just four innings, the Sox left eight men stranded, and were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, but still held a 4-1 lead. Although there was no need for a sense of urgency, it has to be a little concerning that this isn’€™t the only game in which the Sox have left plenty of runners in position to score.

Through seven complete innings, the Blue Jays had struck out five Red Sox batters, most of them on swings and misses. Though the Sox had eight hits, many pitches within the strike zone were swung on and no contact was made.

The cold weather and gusty winds didn’€™t help anybody out on the field, but the Sox seemed to shake it off well for the victory.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Jed Lowrie, Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett has a message: Jason Varitek is great, but stop with the personal catcher talk

04.16.11 at 11:40 am ET
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Besides Josh Beckett’s utter dominance of the Yankees a week ago, another story-line emanating from the eight innings of shutout ball was the question regarding Jason Varitek’s importance in the equation.

With Beckett pitching at another level from what he showed in his first start of the season, which was caught by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, some were jumping to the conclusion that Varitek’s presence was a big reason for the pitcher’s success.

Beckett’s take …

“It’€™s not a big deal. Who wouldn’€™t want Jason Varitek catching? But it doesn’€™t mean I don’€™t want Salty, and I don’€™t ever want it to seem like that,” Beckett said. “When Salty is back there I have the same drive and I still feel the same way.

“If you go around the league there isn’€™t a [expletive] out there that wouldn’€™t want Jason Varitek catching. That doesn’€™t mean they wouldn’€™t want Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching. When there are questions like there always asked of me, it’€™s almost like they’€™re trying to stir something up, but there’€™s nothing to stir up.”

Beckett has thrown 112regular season games to Varitek, 76 more than any other catcher (with Paul Lo Duca coming in No. 2). Conversely, he has had Saltamacchia as a battery-mate just two occasions, once last season (7 IP, 3 R) and the game in Cleveland.

And while Beckett’s career ERA with Varitek behind the plate (3.95) is hard to ignore, he is adamant that the same sort of success can be had with Saltalamacchia catching.

“I don’€™t want to take credit away from Jason either. There are bunch of papers in that newspaper, and that has to say something in it,” Beckett said. “But you go around the league and there isn’€™t anybody who would say, ‘€˜No’€™ to Jason Varitek catching. That doesn’€™t mean they don’€™t want Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching, but nobody is going to say no to Jason Varitek catching. The guy is a Hall of Famer. It’€™s all good.

“It’€™s always asked, ‘€˜Do you like it when Jason Varitek catches?’€™ [Expletive] yeah I like it. He’€™s an [expletive] Hall of Famer. Then they write, ‘€˜He would rather have Jason Varitek catching.’€™ I never said that. It’€™s crazy.”

For Beckett, who pitches Saturday against the Blue Jays, the bottom line isn’t difficult to decipher.

“We make the decisions,” he said. “They throw down suggestions and then we throw what we want to throw.”

Read More: Josh Beckett,
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