|05.15.11 at 11:51 pm ET|
It took 40 games, but the Red Sox can finally say they haven’t lost more than they’ve won.
Not only did the Sox reach .500 for the first time this season, but they punctuated the moment in style, claiming three-game series sweep of the Yankees in New York thanks to a 7-5 victory Sunday night. It marked just the third time in the last 25 years that the Red Sox have swept a series of three or more games at Yankee Stadium.
And while Sox starter Jon Lester didn’t turn in his finest performance — allowing four runs over six innings, striking out seven and walking four — the lefty also made it a game to remember. By picking up his fifth win of the season, Lester claims the best winning percentage (.718) in Major League Baseball history for any pitcher with 50 or more decisions.
Here is what went right (and wrong) in a memorable win for the Sox:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– David Ortiz is showing the kind of power that the Red Sox crave out of the designated hitter position, launching his seventh homer of the season. The solo shot put him in the lead for home runs among all eligible designated hitters. Somewhat surprisingly, Ortiz reached seven home runs last season just two days later than this time around.
– Kevin Youkilis‘ bat came alive while in the Bronx. The third baseman hit his second homer of the series, a three-run shot in the third inning. Prior to going deep Friday night, Youkilis hadn’t hit a homer in his previous 12 games. Six of the cleanup hitter’s seven home runs have come with at least one runner on base.
– The Red Sox catchers finally have a home run. Jarrod Saltalamacchia took Joba Chamberlain over the right field fence for his first homer of the season, and first by any Sox backstop. The home run, which came with Saltalamacchia hitting from the left side, marked the catcher’s first extra-base hit against a right-handed pitcher this season.
– The work Lester has put in regarding his pickoff move is apparently paying off, as was evidenced when he caught Brett Gardner stealing on the pitcher’s first move in the fifth inning, throwing to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who ultimately tagged out the baserunner. Five of the seven runners trying to steal against the lefty have been caught this season.
– Dustin Pedroia is now 7-for-9 in stolen bases after swiping his seventh bag in the seventh inning. The previous earliest Pedroia has stolen seven bags has been May 27, 2009, a season in which he tied his career high with 20 steals. The stolen base this time around paid off when Alex Rodriguez allowed a Youkilis weak grounder to go through his legs, allowing Pedroia to race home with the Sox’ seventh run.
– Daniel Bard still hasn’t allowed an inherited runner, fanning Nick Swisher with two outs and the potential tying run at second in the seventh. The reliever has now stranded all seven of the runners he has inherited this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Lester allowed two more home runs, making it four straight starts in which the lefty allowed a long ball after going four appearances in a row without surrendering a homer. It took until July 30 last season for Lester to give up nine homers.
– The Red Sox squandered a chance to break open the game in the seventh when Yankees reliever David Robertson struck out Jed Lowrie looking to end the inning. It was the ninth time the Sox have struck out with the bases loaded, the most in the American League. It also marked just the second game this month Lowrie has gone without a hit.
– Carl Crawford’s first error as a Red Sox proved costly. The left fielder mishandled Alex Rodriguez’ single just past the third base bag, allowing Curtis Granderson to cut the Sox lead to a single run in the seventh inning while putting the tying run at second.
– A team finally adopted the strategy of pitching around Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox’ No. 3 hitter was intentionally walked for the fourth time this season, while also picking up a conventional walk. Earlier Sunday, Alex Speier looked at teams’ reluctance to previously pitch around Gonzalez this season.
– The Red Sox allowed two hits to Mark Teixeira, who entered Sunday night having gone just 1-for-20 against the Sox in ’11.
|05.15.11 at 9:05 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Jorge Posada tempest seemed to clear up on Sunday night. The catcher made his public mea culpa, said that he made a mistake, apologized to Yankees manager Joe Girardi and said that he planned to talk with New York GM Brian Cashman about the situation. He admitted that he acted poorly out of frustration when he asked out of the lineup on Saturday — when he was slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — and that he hoped to put the incident behind him.
There are members of the Red Sox who can certainly identify with the challenges of dealing with a wounded ego when their role shrinks from what it has long been. Certainly, the early stages of the 2010 season offered a number of case studies in the phenomenon.
At that point, Tim Wakefield was transitioning unhappily into the bullpen. Mike Lowell was being asked to adjust to duty as a reserve, at a time when he desperately wanted to start. Yet he was playing reasonably well at a time when David Ortiz was not hitting, and so Ortiz was left to look over his shoulder to wonder whether he would be replaced by Lowell against left-handed pitchers.
That was a challenging time for the Sox, particularly given that those dynamics were all the more strained because the Sox weren’t playing well.
“In our situation last year, we went through a tough April,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “It doesn’t always work out the way you want. You’re trying to balance the team, personal. You want everything to mesh, and it doesn’t always do that. But what’s more important is, not that you’re not going to run into problems, but how you get through them and where you go from there. David and I had to slug it out a little bit in April last year. There’s no getting around it. But we did, and we came through and got better for it. That’s what we try to do.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|05.15.11 at 8:00 pm ET|
|05.15.11 at 12:02 pm ET|
After four straight wins and six straight quality starts, Jon Lester struggled on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He gave up five runs on seven hits and five walks over 5 1/3 innings and came away with a no decision. He’ll look to rebound from that start in Sunday night’s series finale against the Yankees.
Lester, who is 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA this season, is 6-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 12 career starts against the Yankees. He was especially dominant last year, when he went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts versus New York.
Current Yankees are hitting just .236 against Lester. Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson are all hitting under .200. Alex Rodriguez has three home runs and six RBIs in 26 at-bats, but he’s batting just .231. Derek Jeter has had the most success against Lester, as he is hitting .333 in 36 ABs.
Getting the start for the Yankees will be Freddy Garcia, who is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA this season. After getting saddled with back-to-back losses, he picked up his second win on Tuesday when he held the Royals to one run on six hits over six innings. He pitched an inning out of the bullpen against the Sox back on April 10 and gave up one run in one inning of work.
In his career, Garcia is 8-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 17 appearances against Boston. Current Sox are hitting .248 against him. Carl Crawford leads the way with a .333 average, one homer and two RBIs in 18 ABs. David Ortiz has two long bombs and six RBIs in 33 ABs, but he’s hitting just .242. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 11:35 pm ET|
NEW YORK — David Ortiz knows the challenges of being a designated hitter. For years, he hated the idea that, in his mid-20s, he was viewed as incapable of holding his own defensively to the point where his glove was taken away from him. Over time, he came to embrace the role of the designated hitter, but it took time.
Based on his experience, and on the respect that he has for the career of longtime Yankees catcher — and now DH — Jorge Posada, he had very clear feelings about what New York is doing. After the Sox beat the Yankees, 6-0, Ortiz inquired about what was going on with his longtime rival, who — after being slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — took himself out of the lineup with what Posada described as back stiffness and a need to clear his head, and which the Yankees said was unrelated to health concerns.
“You want to know what I think? They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong,” said Ortiz. “You know why? That guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DH-ing sucks. DH-ing is not easy.
“From what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that he’s not even going to catch bullpens. That straight up will start messing with your head. And you’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man.”
Ortiz made clear that he did not endorse the idea of a player pulling himself out of a lineup. At the same time, he expressed sympathy for Posada’s position, suggesting that the change of role was confusing and frustrating.
“You don’t do that,” Ortiz said of a player taking himself out of the lineup. “But that’s what I’m trying to tell you guys. The confusion, the frustration that you’re living in, sometimes makes you make mistakes. He’s not perfect. He’s a human, just like everyone else. He probably [thought] it was the right thing to do, but now you see that [it wasn’t].”
Ortiz remained convinced that, while Posada has gotten off to a dreadful start, hitting .165 with a .272 OBP and .621 OPS, he is capable of more. Indeed, Ortiz felt that if his Yankee counterpart were to catch, it would help him improve his performance at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 10:40 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Josh Beckett entered his start against the Yankees on April 10 with a cloud of question marks hovering over him. His first start of 2011 — a five-inning, three-run effort against the Indians — had done little to dampen the doubts about whether a dreadful 2010 campaign represented an irreversible decline.
But then Beckett dominated the Yankees on that April night, logging eight shutout innings and punching out 10 while allowing just two hits, as he and the Sox beat New York and their ace, CC Sabathia, 4-0. It was the start of a run that has vaulted the right-hander back to top-of-the-rotation status.
‘That was obviously kind of a special night. It springboarded him,’ Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett prior to Saturday night’s game. ‘He’s had a lot of well-pitched games ‘ maybe not quite to that, that was a pretty impressive evening. But a lot of similar stuff. He’s throwing strikes with all three pitches. He’s softened up his changeup a little bit. He’s throwing his two-seamer to lefties. For me, seeing him the amount I have, that’s been a pivotal pitch. It backs the lefties out and opens up the plate and then he spins the breaking ball. He’s working quicker. He looks confident. He’s getting the ball and throwing it. I can see why, because he’s throwing strikes and he feels good about himself.’
Beckett delivered another outstanding start against the Yankees and Sabathia on Saturday night. He logged six shutout innings, permitting just four hits while striking out nine, to lead the Sox to a 6-0 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett, Beckett and Beckett. The right-hander became just the second pitcher since 2000 to have multiple starts against the Yankees in the same season in which he logged at least five shutout innings and struck out nine, joining Felix Hernandez, who did the deed in 2010 en route to his Cy Young Award. He has a scoreless innings streak of 18 1/3 innings (matching a career best, previously set in 2004), and he became the first Sox pitcher to go three straight starts without permitting a run since Tim Wakefield in 2007.
For the year, Beckett (3-1) now has a 1.75 ERA. Opponents are hitting .175 against him, the lowest mark against any AL pitcher. Beckett now has held his opponent scoreless in four starts this year, most in the majors. In short, he has been about as good as any starter in the majors.
—Adrian Gonzalez continued his ridiculous home run binge. After going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and double play grounder with the bases loaded to start the game against CC Sabathia, Gonzalez unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and drilled it into the right field grandstand for his eighth homer in his last 11 games. He has now gone deep in four straight contests, one short of the Red Sox team record, accomplished five times by: Jose Canseco (’95), George Scott (’77), Dick Stuart (’63), Ted Williams (’57) and Jimmie Foxx (’40).
|05.14.11 at 6:45 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Red Sox will look to take a second straight game against the Yankees on Saturday night, as Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia face each other for the second time this season. In the first, Beckett was brilliant, logging eight shutout innings and leading the Sox to a 4-0 victory over New York on April 10.
“That was obviously kind of a special night. It springboarded him,” Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. “He’s had a lot of well-pitched games — maybe not quite to that, that was a pretty impressive evening. But a lot of similar stuff. He’s throwing strikes with all three pitches. He’s softened up his changeup a little bit. He’s throwing his two-seamer to lefties. For me, seeing him the amount I have, that’s been a pivotal pitch. It backs the lefties out and opens up the plate and then he spins the breaking ball. He’s working quicker. He looks confident. He’s getting the ball and throwing it. I can see why, because he’s throwing strikes and he feels good about himself.’
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|05.14.11 at 6:06 pm ET|
NEW YORK — By now, the storyline has been hashed and rehashed ad nauseum. In 2010, Jacoby Ellsbury was limited to just 18 games while trying to recover from rib fractures. As he missed almost 90 percent of his team’s games, his toughness came into question, and with it, there were those who wondered about his commitment to the team.
Fast forward to 2011. Those conversations aren’t occurring anymore.
To the contrary, Ellsbury joins Adrian Gonzalez as the only Red Sox players who have appeared in all 38 games thus far this year. The center fielder has started 35 of the contests, entered two as a pinch-runner for David Ortiz and been in one more as a pinch-hitter. His ability to remain on the field at this stage of the season is particularly noteworthy given that his job description — center fielder and base-stealing leadoff hitter — requires physical punishment.
Friday night’s game illustrated that notion. On a two-run fifth-inning homer by Russell Martin, Ellsbury slammed into the wall while making a leaping attempt at the ball. After he bounced to the warning track, he required a moment to pull himself off the dirt.
“I thought I had a chance at it,” said Ellsbury. “Just ran out of real estate.”
Then, in the ninth, he stole second base on a pitchout. When Russell Martin‘s throw bounced off of his legs, Ellsbury hopped back up and started towards third. But then, when the ball didn’t trickle far enough for him to advance, Ellsbury slammed on the breaks. His ankle rolled and he felt a sudden pain just below his right knee, yet he stayed in the game.
“I think it just comes with the territory. There’s going to be times you’ve got to go in hard. It’s just part of stealing bases,” said Ellsbury. “You’re going to hit the second baseman. You’re going to hit the shortstop. Balls are going to hit you. It’s what you take with stolen bases I guess.”
On Saturday morning, Ellsbury reached out to manager Terry Francona to let him know that he was fine and ready to play again. The gesture — and Ellsbury’s role as one of the most durable players on the team in 2011 — was appreciated.
“I think he understands that by being out there, whether he’s at full strength or not, especially batting leadoff, he can impact the game in a lot of different ways. And that’s an admirable trait,” said Francona. “You probably remember how much I talked about Johnny Damon and how he did that. As a manager and coach, you really appreciate that in players. I think Jacoby’s done a tremendous job, because there are some days when he’s been a little bit beat up, and that’s going to happen when your game is speed and you’re hitting walls and diving into bases.”
Thanks to a 19-game hitting streak that came to a conclusion earlier in the week, the outfielder entered Saturday with a .295 average, .344 OBP, .450 slugging mark and .793 OPS with four homers. He was leading the American League at the start of the day with 12 steals. In what he has done thus far this year, Ellsbury has helped to render the 2010 season an afterthought.
Francona suggested that both his performance and his durability to date have been meant to offer a message.
“I think it’s a priority [for Ellsbury],” said Francona. “However you want to say it, whether he wants to prove it to whoever ‘ maybe to himself, or [the media] or me ‘ but yeah, I think he definitely wants to be out there.”
|05.14.11 at 9:48 am ET|
Saturday night features the premier pitching matchup of this weekend’s series, as Josh Beckett squares off against CC Sabathia. They’ve already met once this season. Back on April 10, Beckett shut the Yankees down in a 4-0 Red Sox win, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out 10 over eight innings. Sabathia gave up just one run, but the Sox made him work and chased him from the game in the sixth inning.
Beckett, who is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA this season, has continued to pitch well since then, but he has registered just one win in his last five outings to go along with four no-decisions. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 innings, most recently holding the Twins scoreless for seven on Monday.
Beckett is 11-7 with a 5.90 ERA in 23 career starts against New York, and current Yankees are hitting .272 against him. Robinson Cano has had the most success, as he is hitting .339 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and five walks in 66 career plate appearances against Beckett. Mark Teixeira is hitting just .205 with 15 strikeouts in 39 at-bats, but he also has two homers and eight walks.
Sabathia is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA this year, but he has give up three or more runs in each of his last five starts. In his last start against the Rangers on Sunday, Sabathia allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks over six innings, but he still ended up with the W.
With the loss back in April, Sabathia fell to 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 career starts against Boston. Current Sox are hitting .258 against him. Kevin Youkilis has done the most damage with a .433 average, two homers, five RBIs and six walks in 37 plate appearances. At the other end of the spectrum, Dustin Pedroia is hitting just .188 with no RBIs and eight strikeouts in 32 ABs. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 12:04 am ET|
NEW YORK — Sports nutritionists may cringe to know what fueled Adrian Gonzalez in his latest dazzling exploit as a member of the Red Sox. Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a homer (his fourth in three games and seventh in his last 10 contests), a walk and a sac fly, playing a huge role in the Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees.
And after the contest — after he had turned on a Bartolo Colon fastball up and over the middle and driven it into the right field stands — Gonzalez had an explanation.
“I had a great cheesesteak before the game that got me ready. They make some great cheesesteaks here. They definitely rival the Philly ones. I told them if I did good, it was going to be because of that cheesesteak,” said Gonzalez. “I feel good at the plate.”
Right now, even Gonzalez’ double-entendres are flying effortlessly into the night. But obviously, it is more than plays on words that have the Sox dazzled.
Gonzalez is hitting as well as anyone in the majors. His success is clearly a byproduct not just of incredible natural talent — hand-eye coordination and a powerful, graceful swing — but also a remarkable approach. The homer against Colon was evidence of the latter.
Gonzalez is typically looking for a pitch up and away to drive to the opposite field. His three homers in two games in Toronto all left the park to left field. But on Friday night, he altered his approach not to the ballpark (Yankee Stadium has an infamous jet stream to right field) but instead to the pitcher’s approach.
“Bartolo was going to pound me in. I knew that. he wasn’t going to give me much to go the other way with,” said Gonzalez. “My gameplan was to pick and choose my spots to look for a pitch middle-in that I could drive to right field. After ball one, I thought that would be a good spot, and I think he left it more middle than he wanted to.
“Success or not is not going to be because of the park,” Gonzalez added. “This is a game of execution. If a pitcher doesn’t execute his pitch, I’m going to be able to put a good swing on it. If eh executes pitches, pitching dominates hitting everytime. If a pitcher is able to make his pitches, they’re going to get me out more often than not. So I’m just going up there looking for a pitch I can handle, looking to put a good swing on it. I’m never worried about the ballpark. I learned that early, playing in San Diego, that you can’t let the ballpark get in your head. So I just go out there, try to execute a gameplan.”
Read the rest of this entry »
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