|04.18.10 at 6:58 pm ET|
Jon Lester pulled few punches after getting tagged for seven runs on seven hits in six innings in a 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. (For a more complete look at what took place in Boston’s 7-1 loss to the Rays, click here.) Now 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA this year, the 26-year-old made clear that he views his results in his first three starts to be unacceptable.
“I don’t know what I have to do, I just have to be better,” said Lester. “I have to be better and it’s unacceptable. I’m letting the rotation down, I’m letting the bullpen down. After last night, I have to do a better job and go deeper in that ballgame. I have to give them a blow and I didn’t do that. Most importantly, I’m letting the team down with how I’m throwing the ball right now. I need to pick it up and kick myself in the [expletive]. I don’t know what else I need to do but I’m going to figure it out and everything’s going to ride on from there.’
Lester gave up a pair of two-run homers, one to Carlos Pena (who now has five homers against Lester, more than any other hitter) on a first-pitch fastball in the second inning and another to B.J. Upton on a full-count fastball.
But it was Lester’s three walks (all of which came around to score) and inability to put batters away when ahead in the count that the pitcher and his team found particularly troubling. Upton’s at-bat offered a good example: the Rays center fielder was behind, 1-2, before fouling off a pitch and then watching a pair of fastballs miss the zone. Then, with the count full, Upton could sit on a fastball that he launched atop the camera well beyond the center field bleachers.
“These guys are too good hitters to let them back into the count,” said Lester. “I think I was 1-2 to B.J. and I end up throwing basically some [expletive] pitches to him and he gets back into the count where he feels comfortable and I become predictable and he hits it out.”
Pitching coach John Farrell agreed with that assessment, noting that Lester frequently got ahead of Rays hitters only to let them work their way back into deep counts in which they could sit on fastballs. Of the seven hits that the southpaw permitted, six, Farrell said, were on either fastballs or cutters. Farrell suggested that between the inability to put Tampa Bay hitters away and the concession of free passes, a lot of the damage done against his protegee was “self-manufactured.”
“It was a first pitch to Pena. You tip your hat in that situation,” said Farrell. “The other hard contact, the other base hits off hard, power type stuff, came after he had been up in the count and worked the count full or deep to then, I’m not going to say backed himself into a corner, but relied on that approach.”
Thus continued what is becoming a familiar trend. Lester has a 2-6 record and 5.46 ERA in March/April, a pattern that he had been hoping to avoid this year.
To date, he has failed to do so. To the contrary, through three starts, he is off to the worst start of his career. Yet as disappointing as the start has been, the Sox remain optimistic that the pitcher’s outstanding arsenal — on dramatic display in the first inning on Sunday, in which he struck out the side against the Rays on 16 pitches — will soon equate to a reversal of misfortune.
“He’ll get himself turned around. He’s run into this the last couple years for whatever reason,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Once he gets on a roll, he’s showed what he can do. We just want him to start soon.”
|04.18.10 at 5:11 pm ET|
The Red Sox continued a stretch of poor baseball, losing for the third straight night and fifth time in six games. Little went right for the Sox on Sunday, as the Rays tattooed Jon Lester while Rays counterpart Matt Garza bordered on unhittable. That diabolical combination resulted in a 7-1 wipeout.
Garza was spectacular in delivering eight shutout innings, consistent with his remarkable career against the Red Sox. In the regular season, he is now 6-2 with a 2.92 ERA against the Sox (and, of course, he had a pair of ALCS victories over Boston in 2008). He allowed four hits (all singles) and two walks while striking out five to lower his ERA to 0.75.
The Sox’ 4-8 start is their worst after 12 games since 1996, when the team opened with a 2-10 record.
Lester looked overpowering in striking out the side against the Rays in the top of the first inning. But in the top of the second, Mike Cameron got a bad jump on what appeared to be a catchable fly ball off the bat of Evan Longoria. The ball landed on the warning track for a double, and Lester — pitching out of the stretch and perhaps with some frustration — gave up a homer to Rays first baseman Carlos Pena on the next pitch.
Of course, Pena might not have needed any help against Lester. He now has five homers against the Sox lefty, the most by any hitter against Lester.
What Went Right for the Red Sox
—Jason Varitek continued his strong offense, flying out to the warning track twice in left and flicking a single to left against Garza, a pitcher against whom he’s struggled mightily in his career.
–Lester notched his 500th career strikeout, catching Willie Aybar looking at a 93 mph fastball in the top of the fourth inning.
—Scott Schoeneweis tossed a pair of shutout innings, helping to give most of his bullpen counterparts a day of rest.
–Prospect Ryan Westmoreland made an appearance at the park, taking in a game with his friends while continuing his rehab.
What Went Wrong for the Red Sox
–The Red Sox offense has been abysmal of late, managing just seven runs in its last four games. On Sunday, the team had five hits (four singles) and two walks. The team is now averaging just 3.4 runs per game this season, and has scored one or zero runs in four of their 12 contests.
–Lester got bombed by the Rays, allowing seven runs on seven hits (two homers) and three walks in six innings. His career ERA in March/April now stands at 5.46, and his record in the month is a dismal 2-6. On the season, he is now 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA, and the Sox have lost all three of his outings.
—Victor Martinez wasn’t behind the plate, instead serving as the designated hitter on Sunday. Yet even while his defensive work did not require any scrutiny, he continued his season-opening offensive struggles. Martinez had a soft lineout to second and also grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. In 12 games, he has grounded into more double plays than any other player in the majors (5) at this point of the young season. Last year, he grounded into six double plays in 56 games with the Sox.
Martinez has been seeing plenty of pitches (4.12 entering Sunday, 15th most in the majors), and he’s been making hard contact (his 26.8 percent line drive rate, according to Fangraphs, is the best of his career). But thus far, whether because of bad luck or a genuine struggle, his results have been wanting.
He is hitting .224 with a .622 OPS.
—Mike Cameron has seemed to struggle a bit in his adjustment to Fenway Park. After committing a key error that opened the door to four unearned runs on Saturday, Cameron had a difficult time picking up the ball off the bat of Longoria leading off the second, resulting in a double. Cameron also had a bad read on a ball in the Yankees series, letting a Jorge Posada fly ball hit the base of the wall for a double, a key play in what ended up being a 3-1 extra-inning loss for the Sox.
–Broken record: The Sox couldn’t stop the Rays on the bases. Since the second game of the season, the Sox have seen 19 straight runners successfully steal a base against them.
–The Sox have lost five of six contests against AL East opponents.
|04.18.10 at 2:20 pm ET|
It was the day of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, and Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca could not help but marvel at the potential of his team’s Game 2 starter.
“Special. Special. It’s what, as an organization, we want to be able to promote to the big-league level, that potential No. 1 starter, someone who has abilities along the lines of a Josh Beckett and can neutralize an opposing offense,” said Apodaca. “He’s far from a Josh Beckett, as far as being able to truly command the strike zone. But Josh evolved into what he is right now. [Beckett] is at the top of his game right now. He’s one of the top pitchers in professional baseball today. That’s what we’ve seen a preview of what Ubaldo could possibly be. He has that type of ability.”
On Saturday, Jimenez accomplished something that Beckett never has, throwing a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves. Of course, Beckett probably need not feel any slight, since he has accomplished some things in his own career (two World Series rings, a World Series shutout) that are still absent from Jimenez’ resume.
Even so, it is interesting to compare the Rockies right-hander to Beckett and one other Red Sox pitcher.
Jimenez, 26, was born on Jan. 22, 1984, making him 15 days younger than Jon Lester. The two actually have some striking career similarities, beyond the fact that both have no-hitters.
In his young career, Jimenez is 34-28 with a 3.70 ERA, great strikeout numbers (7.9 per 9 IP) and command issues (4.1 walks per 9 IP). Lester, who like Jimenez made his big league debut in 2006, is 42-17 with a 3.72 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine frames.
As for Beckett, the Sox acquired him when he was roughly the same age as Jimenez is now. Through his age 25 season, he was 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine frames.
Jimenez may not be quite the equal of Beckett or Lester (whose success has been in the American League) to this point, but he’s clearly not far from fulfilling Apodaca’s prophecy. He has an overpowering arsenal — his fastball on Saturday was 97-98 mph in the ninth, and he complements that with a dominating breaking ball that registers less than 80 mph and a terrific changeup — that already has established him among the top arms in the National League.
‘He’s good ‘ so good,’ said Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez, who pitched with Jimenez for the Rockies in 2006 and 2007. ‘Unbelievable. He’s got everything. He’s young, he throws hard, he’s got a good pitcher. If he can control the zone, he can be great. ‘¦ He can keep getting better and better and better.’
|04.18.10 at 12:36 pm ET|
A few notes leading into Sunday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays:
–With Saturday night’s game having finished after midnight, the Red Sox felt that Victor Martinez should not catch on Sunday. Instead, because the team wanted to keep the switch-hitter (a career .300/.348/.400/.748 hitter against Rays starter Matt Garza) in the lineup, David Ortiz (.136/.296/.455/.751, 2 HR) was left out of the starting lineup so that Martinez can serve as designated hitter and Jason Varitek (.133/.235/.200/.435) can catch.
“I didn’t feel comfortable running Victor back out there to catch, and I wanted his bat in the lineup against Garza,” said Sox skipper Terry Francona. “Until they give us two DH’s, something’s got to give on some days. And I actually thought that David swung the bat a little bit better last night, especially in the second game. He’ll probably not be too happy with me today. Sometimes, we’re trying to win the game today and make it work. I think ‘Tek needed to catch just because of the length of that second game.”
After featuring the same lineup in each of the first four games of the season, the Sox have now changed their lineup in each of the last eight games.
–It’s unclear whether Jonathan Papelbon will be available for the Sox today after his wife delivered the couple’s second child (a son) on Saturday.
“I hope so,” Francona said of Papelbon’s availability. “He’s still at the hospital. He really wants to be here, but obviously there’s a priority with [his wife].”
–There is a chance that the Sox bullpen could be rather thin, especially if Papelbon is unavailable. On Saturday, Daniel Bard threw two innings (though just 17 pitches), Manny Delcarmen tossed a frame and both Ramon Ramirez and Scott Atchison had two-inning stints.
Francona said that the team is hopeful that Bard, based on his pitch efficiency, would be able to pitch.
“We’ll see,” said Francona. “Obviously, we’d like him to be.”
Bard has appeared in seven of the Sox’ 11 games thus far, though the frequent off days to start the year have been a large factor in that workload volume.
“The workload can be a little bit skewed, if somebody says that somebody has been in a certain amount of games. If you have days off in between, you might as well take advantage of it,” said Francona. “But we always keep an eye on their workload. That’s for sure.”
—Jacoby Ellsbury was slated to hit in a cage prior to Sunday’s game, one week after his collision with Adrian Beltre. While the Sox cannot say with absolute certainty that he will avoid the disabled list, the team remains optimistic that such an option will be unnecessary.
“I guess it could be a possibility. We don’t want it to be,” said Francona. “We sat with Jake twice the other day because we were short. We kind of mapped out the days that, if we do retroactive you, this is when you’ll comeback. He looked a little bit surprised, like, ‘I’ll never be that long,’ which was encouraging for us.”
The team likely would have had to put Ellsbury on the disabled list had Mike Cameron not come back so quickly from his kidney stone.
—Ramon Ramirez was with the Rockies in 2006 and 2007, when he encountered a young Ubaldo Jimenez. Suffice it to say that, based on what he saw of the young pitcher, he was unsurprised by the no-hitter that Jimenez hurled against the Braves on Saturday.
“He’s good — so good,” said Ramirez. “Unbelievable. He’s got everything. He’s young, he throws hard, he’s got a good pitcher. If he can control the zone, he can be great. … He can keep getting better and better and better.”
|04.18.10 at 8:41 am ET|
With a career 2-5 record and 5.08 ERA, the numbers don’t lie ‘ Jon Lester struggles in April. But if there is silver lining in this dark cloud (a fitting thought given the recent weather), it is that the Tampa Bay Rays might be just what the doctor ordered for the Sox’ lone left-handed starter.
Lester was tagged for 13 earned runs in his first two starts against the division rivals last season, but in his final three appearances he only gave up three total runs, highlighted by an eight-inning, two-hit gem on Sep. 13.
In his career vs. the Rays, Lester is 6-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 12 starts.
To be successful in this game, Lester will have to stifle Carlos Pena’s bat. Pena has slugged .778 vs. Lester and his four home runs are the most by an opponent against the big lefty.
Matt Garza comes into Sunday’s game red-hot, and may be establishing himself as “the guy” in the rotation for the Rays. Garza has gone eight innings in each of first two outings, while only giving up a total of three runs (two earned.) Both of the starts came against the 1-11 Baltimore Orioles, but Garza has thrived pitching against Boston.
RAYS VS. JON LESTER
Carlos Pena (31 plate appearances): .296 average/ .323 OBP/ .778 slugging percentage, 4 homers, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
B.J. Upton (31): .172/ .226/ .276, 1 homer, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Carl Crawford (30): .286/ .333/ .321, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Jason Bartlett (24): .391/ .417/ .391, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Dioner Navarro (22): .294/ .429/ .294, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Evan Longoria (21): .300/ .333/ .550, 1 homer, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Pat Burrell (13): .167/ .231/ .167, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Ben Zobrist (13): .222/ .462/ .222, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts
Willy Aybar (12): .167/ .167/ .333, 6 strikeouts
Kelly Shoppach (11): .333/ .455/ .778, 1 homer, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Gabe Kapler (9): .286/ .444/ .286, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Never faced: Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez
RED SOX VS. MATT GARZA
Jacoby Ellsbury (36 plate appearances): .313 average/ .371 OBP/ .344 slugging percentage, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Marco Scutaro (36): .219/ .306/ .219, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (35): .206/ .229/ .441, 2 homers, 2 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (28): .261/ .393/ .522, 1 homer, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (27): .136/ .296/ .455, 2 homers, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Victor Martinez (23): .300/ .348/ .400, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
J.D. Drew (22): .158/ .227/ .368, 1 homer, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (20): .150/ .150/ .300, 1 homer, 3 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (17): .133/ .235/ .200, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Adrian Beltre (10): .300/ .300/ .300, 2 strikeouts
Jeremy Hermida (6): .200/ .333/ .400, 1 walk, 2 strikeout
Never faced: Mike Cameron, Bill Hall
|04.18.10 at 12:21 am ET|
The Red Sox saw momentum come at funny times against James Shields and the Rays in a 6-5 loss on Saturday night. A sloppy first-inning followed by lights-out stuff from Clay Buchholz had Rays hitters just as confused as the fans who stayed for the late game. Additionally, poor defensive play from Marco Scutaro was atoned for when he crushed his first home run in a Red Sox uniform, though it was another Sox infielder that slugged his way into the record books. Though all of the Sox’ runs came from homers, exposed was the fact that they went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
All four of the of the first-inning runs scored by the Rays unearned thanks to a two-out miscue by Mike Cameron in center. After Jason Bartlett gounded to short and Carl Crawford singled to right on a 94-mph fastball, Zobrist grounded to first on a play that advanced the already off Crawford. Crawford’s steal of third didn’t even get a throw from Victor Martinez given that there were two out. Following a walk issued to Evan Longoria, the slowly charging Cameron dropped a fly from Carlos Pena, allowing the inning to continue and the flood gates to open.
What Went Right for the Red Sox
– Pedroia’s two-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh inning made him the first second baseman in Red Sox history to belt five round-trippers in the month of April. Tim Naehring (1994), Mike Andrews (1969), and Bobby Doer (1941) had all hit four in April. The blast made it a three-run game at 6-3.
What Went Wrong for the Red Sox
– Run-prevention became quality start prevention when Mike Cameron blew the easy lineout in the first. As a result of the blunder Buchholz unraveled in the first and had thrown 43 pitches and allowed four unearned runs before the first frame was over. The game eventually strayed from being a low-scoring affair on both sides, but had Cameron not dropped the ball and the wheels not fallen off in the first inning, the Red Sox may have had themselves a comfortable margin of victory.
– Mike Cameron wasn’t the only Red Sox defensive upgrade to downgrade sprits at Fenway on Saturday. Scutaro booted a routine grounder to short in the top of the sixth inning, allowing B.J. Upton to reach base and eventually advance into scoring position. The error did not prove costly as Red Sox reliever Scott Atchison escaped the inning by striking out Pat Burrell
– The Rays continued to run against the Red Sox from the get-go. Carl Crawford took off on a 3-1 count to Ben Zobrist and as a result wasn’t doubled up when the Rays right fielder grounded to second. On the very next at-bat the Rays left fielder stole third uncontested and scored on the error to Cameron with two down.
B.J. Upton also got in on the action, stealing second base after reaching on an error to Marco Scutaro. He appeared to have also stolen third base during Pat Burrell’s at-bat in the inning, though the scoring was changed later in the game to state that he had advanced on a wild pitch from Atchison.
|04.17.10 at 8:23 pm ET|
The game began that began Friday night as a pitcher’s duel continued to be an April nail-biter as it extended deep into extra innings on Saturday. Josh Beckett went seven innings and allowed and allowed an unearned run to counter Wade Davis‘ five innings of one-run ball, yet it was the Jeckyll-and-Hyde Red Sox bullpen that ironically sealed the game’s fate.
With Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched the ninth on Friday, unavailable after the birth of his son, Gunner, Daniel Bard entered the game to begin extra innings. He promptly fanned Burrell on three pitches before inducing a groundout to first from Reid Brignac and fanning Dinner Navarro on an 83-mph slider. All nine pitches Bard threw in the tenth went for strikes. Following the clean innings from Bard, Delcarmen’s 12th was nothing short of ugly.
Delcarmen walked Evan Longoria on a full count to begin the 12th and got Carlos Pena fly out on a lazy ball to left field. Jeremy Hermida remained busy when B.J. Upton promptly scorched one into the glove of the left fielder on the next pitch. Delcarmen was an out away from escaping the inning before Pat Burrell send a 2-0 fastball into the Monster seats to make it a 3-1 game. Brignac flew to Drew to end the inning.
The game had appeared to be in the bag for the Red Sox in the 11th inning when an error by Evan Longoria with two men on loaded the basses for David Ortiz. With the five-man infield installed for the Rays, the struggling designated hitter again grounded one to Pena, who got the force-out at home. Adrian Beltre then gave Longoria a shot at redemption by grounding into a 5-3 double play.
Ortiz had nearly ended it immediately upon the game’s resuming. Ortiz blasted Lance Cormier’s third pitch, blasting it just foul down the right field line. Ortiz worked the count full and and eventually grounded out on a hard-hit ball to first baseman Carlos Pena. Adrian Beltre bounced to third before Jeremy Hermida went down swinging on a 78-mile-an-hour curveball.
Rafael Soriano pitched the bottom of the 12th and earned the save. The newly acquired reliever fanned Hermida to begin the bottom of the inning before Varitek drove a fastball to centerfield for a double. Mike Cameron, who had entered the game after Bill Hall was pinch-hit for Victor Martinez, flew out in foul territory to Longoria and Scutaro flew to right field to end the game.
Lance Cormier, who had appeared to have gotten himself into trouble in the 11th and allowed some hard-hit but harmless balls in the ninth and 10th, earned the victory, throwing three scoreless innings while allowing two hits and picking up a strikeout.
The previous highlight of the game had been a throw from second baseman Reid Brignac. Kevin Youilis was easily gunned down at the plate in the sixth inning after Tim Bogar sent him from first base on a David Ortiz single, keeping the game at a deadlock.
|04.17.10 at 6:00 pm ET|
Ashley Papelbon gave birth to the couple’s second child Saturday, rendering closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable for either of tonight’s games between the Red Sox and Rays. Daniel Bard will continue the first game, currently tied 1-1, should the Red Sox not score in the bottom of the ninth.
The newborn Gunner Papelbon weighs 8 pounds, 8 ounces and is 21.5 inches.
|04.17.10 at 5:15 pm ET|
“I’m pretty happy with how today went,” Ellsbury said, adding that he’d “like to hope [the middle of the week] would be a reasonable time” to return.
|04.17.10 at 3:33 pm ET|
According to a team source, relief pitcher Alan Embree has agreed to push his opt-out date back from April 15 to April 30. If Embree is not on the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster by that date then he will be eligible to become a free agent. Embree has pitched in four games for the PawSox, allowing three runs on two hits in 3 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out three. Pawtucket Red Sox radio broadcaster Dan Hoard was the first to report the news.
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