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6th Inning: Jason Bay is a Very, Very Strong Man

05.08.09 at 9:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox broke through against James Shields in the sixth. Dustin Pedroia hit a leadoff single off the pitcher’s glove to open the frame, and David Ortiz followed by working a seven-pitch walk. That put runners on first and second for Jason Bay.

Bay fell behind, 0-2, but Shields decided to come back with a fastball. The choice was a poor one. Bay slammed a homer off the Sports Authority sign above the Monster Seats for his fourth homer in the last five games, and his second straight day with a round-tripper, following his absolute bomb to right-center on Thursday (measured at 413 feet by the fantabulous HitTrackerOnline.com).

In case you weren’t already convinced, Jason Bay is a very, very strong man…even though he might not think so.

Bay’s blast came in the middle of another steady sixth-inning drumbeat. One day after the Sox scored 12 straight runs before recording an out, the team plated five before a single batter was retired on Friday against Shields. Mike Lowell followed Bay by ripping a ball down the left-field line, and bellyflopping into second base with a double. (His urgency, no doubt, a product of his getting thrown out by left-fielder Carl Crawford in the fourth.) J.D. Drew then delivered his first homer in 59 at-bats, ripping a hanging changeup into the visitor’s bullpen for his fourth homer of the year.

The shot gave the Sox a 5-3 lead.

Shields bounced back to avoid any further harm, striking out the side. But somehow, it seems unlikely that he’ll be terribly excited about the feat.

The sixth-inning remains a magical place for the Sox this year. They have now scored 32 runs in the inning — their most in any frame — while permitting opponents just four runs — the fewest they’ve permitted in any frame. Given that the Sox are now 14-0 when leading after six innings, that’s a pretty useful formula for victory.

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4th Inning: The Wall Giveth and Taketh Away

05.08.09 at 8:37 pm ET
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The Sox have had at least one hit in each of the first four innings, but have yet to push a run across against Rays starter James Shields. Twice, the Sox have stranded a runner on third base: first when Jason Varitek grounded to first after Jeff Bailey’s two-out triple, then again in the fourth, when the proximity of The Wall in left field played a key role in killing a Sox rally.

Jason Bay led off by lining a ball off the Wall. The speedy Carl Crawford pounced on it to hold Bay to a single. Mike Lowell then followed with a rope of his own off the Wall, this time to left-center. Bay was able to sprint from first to third, but Crawford was again lightning quick to the ball, and so Lowell (still not the fleetest man in the world following hip surgery) was cut down when the throw beat him to second.

In any other park, the Sox likely would have had a run and a man on second. Because of Fenway’s confines, Boston had a man on third and one out, a situation that turned into a missed opportunity when J.D. Drew lined out to first and Jeff Bailey struck out swinging.

Rays still lead, 3-0.

Crawford, by the way, hit a one-out ground-rule double to the Triangle in the fifth, and is a) now a homer short of the cycle and b) would have had either an inside-the-park homer or triple had the ball stayed on the field.

Shields, meanwhile, is operating nearly as fast on the mound as Crawford is everywhere else. He has needed just 66 pitches to get through the first five innings. He had an eight-pitch fifth, and has yet to go to a three-ball count on a single Red Sox hitter.

Crawford, Rays Back At It, Lead 2-0

05.08.09 at 8:06 pm ET
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Brad Penny must have found it somewhat disheartening to see Carl Crawford foul off a pair of 2-2 pitches and then line a single to left field with one out in the first. It was, after all, Crawford who entered the history books at Penny’s and the Red Sox‘ expense last Sunday, when he swiped six bags.

And so, it came as little surprise when Crawford took off for second on the first pitch (a curve) to Evan Longoria, and was safe by a mile. That put the speedy Crawford — now at 21 steals without having been caught this year — in scoring position, from which he scored with two outs on a single to left by Pat Burrel to give the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first.

Crawford now has 51 career steals against the Sox, moving him out of a tie with Willie Wilson and into sole possession of the fourth most by any Boston opponent since 1954. He has a pretty clear shot at jumping to second by the end of this season (if not by the end of tonight, given what he did on Sunday), but he’s got some work to do to catch Rickey Henderson:

RICKEY HENDERSON: 89
BERT CAMPANERIS: 63
LUIS APARACIO: 54
CRAWFORD: 51

In his second at-bat, Crawford lifted a fly ball down the left-field line. Jason Bay tried to make a catch while sliding into Fenway’s virtually non-existent foul territory down the left-field line. The tactic backfired, as Bay missed the ball and it hopped over his head into the corner. Crawford roared into third (former teammates Julio Lugo and Nick Green have both raved about watching Crawford’s extra gear — Lugo called it a seventh gear — as he pursues a triple). Crawford tagged and scored easily when Evan Longoria followed with a sac fly to fairly deep right.

Crawford is now tied for seventh for most triples against the Red Sox since 1957 with nine. His presence on that list is unsurprising. Some of the other names of players who are tied or ahead of him are:

Brooks Robinson – 12
Luis Aparicio – 12
Jim Landis – 11
Rod Carew – 11
Jerry Lumpe – 10
Floyd Robinson – 10
Robin Yount – 9
Paul Molitor – 9
Zoilo Versalles – 9
Willie Wilson -9
George Brett – 9
Chuck Knoblauch – 9
Carl Crawford – 9

Scoring a bazillion runs in an inning

05.08.09 at 6:37 pm ET
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I failed to track down the box score from the last time that a team pushed a dozen runs across the plate in a single inning before recording an out. Jerry Karpowicz one-upped me. Thanks to the power of Jerry and the mighty Retrosheet, here is the box score from the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 12-run explosion in 1953 against the woeful Philadelphia Phillies.

Yesterday, we noted in Five Things that it was singularly bizarre to see Carl Erskine receive credit for a save in that game. But what we failed to appreciate was that “Oisk” (as he was affectionately known by Brooklynites) entered a 3-2 game and shut down the Phillies with four innings of scoreless relief.

Even more remarkable, however, was that the 12 straight runs scored required Erskine to hit. The pitcher had a .156 career average and .355 OPS. But in that historic outburst, Erskine — the fourth batter of the inning — singled to right. Eventually, it was the pitcher who stopped the rally by striking out as the 13th man to hit that inning.

So, if you ever wanted to know what Mike Lowell (the first man to make an out in the Red Sox‘ 12-run sixth inning on Thursday) has in common with a former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, now you know.

Red Sox vs. Rays Match-Ups, 5/8

05.08.09 at 6:12 pm ET
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The Rays are now 5-2 against the Red Sox and 9-14 against everyone else. Tonight’s pitching matchup is a reprise of last Sunday’s affair in Tampa Bay, a 5-3 Rays win in which Tampa Bay went absolutely crazy on the bases, swiping a total of eight bags. Carl Crawford stole six by himself.

“I don’t know how you can throw him out,” said Sox shortstop Nick Green, who was a teammate of Crawford’s in Tampa Bay a few seasons ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brad Penny, carl crawford, james shields,

Final: Red Sox 13, Indians 3

05.07.09 at 9:44 pm ET
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One inning notwithstanding, it was a great night for Indians pitching. In innings 1-5 and 7-8, Indians pitchers allowed just one run on four hits. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the 12 runs and nine hits they permitted in an historic sixth inning were sufficient to sabotage their night in Boston.

Once again, the Sox offense was led by Jason Bay, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI double and three-run homer in the sixth. Julio Lugo, making his first start since Sunday, added three hits and three runs.

Tim Wakefield allowed just two runs in six innings, improving to 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA. He has a team-high five quality starts this year (in six starts).

6th Inning: Red Sox score a record-setting dozen

05.07.09 at 9:10 pm ET
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The Red Sox had been among the least productive teams in baseball when hitting with the bases loaded this year. Among the 14 American League teams, the Sox were among the worst in baseball. Their average (.244, 12th), OBP (.273, 12th), slugging (.378, 12th) and OPS (.651, 13th) with the bags packed all ranked near the bottom of the junior circuit.

In the sixth inning, they made up for their previous failures. After a leadoff single (Julio Lugo) and walk (Dustin Pedroia), Jason Bay clanged a game-tying RBI double off the Wall in left-center, and Mike Lowell was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rocco Baldelli.

Baldelli fell behind 0-2, took a ball, then fouled off a pair of 1-2 pitches before lining a two-run single to right-center. (Sox 1-1 in the inning with the bases loaded.) After starter Jeremy Sowers walked the last batter he faced, J.D. Drew, to re-load the bases, reliever Masa Kobayashi gave up a two-run double to left to Jeff Bailey. (Sox 2-2 in the inning with the bases loaded.) Nick Green then followed with an infield single on which the runners couldn’t advance (on a ball hit to the right side, Kobayashi committed the cardinal sin of failing to cover first), and so the bases were loaded for George Kottaras.

Kottaras lined a fastball up-and-away to center for a two-run single. (Sox 3-3 with the bases loaded.) Julio Lugo, batting for the second time in the inning, collected his third hit of the game, this one on a check-swing that produced an infield single, to again load the bases. Dustin Pedroia followed by lacing a two-run single to left-center (Sox 4-4 with the bases loaded).

That, in turn, led to a hook for Kobayashi, who was replaced by Matt Herges. Herges avoided a bases-loaded situation by falling behind, 3-1, to Jason Bay, and then offering a cookie that Bay deposited into the right-field bullpen for his ninth homer of the year. The three-run blast gave the Sox 12 straight batters on base, and 12 runs without a single out being recorded in the inning.

The Sox then raced through three outs, but the damage was complete. The 12 runs were their most scored by the Red Sox in an inning since a 14-run outburst in the first inning of a game against the Marlins on June 27, 2003, in an eventual 25-8 win.

The 12 runs scored before the first out was recorded tied a modern major-league record. It had been accomplished once before, by the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth inning on May 24, 1953. (No sign of the box score for that game, but amazingly, Carl Erskine did get a save in the 16-2 win.)

The Sox broke the previous American League mark of 11 runs before the first out of an inning, set by the Tigers on June 17, 1925.

Tim Wakefield, who was in position to lose the game prior to the start of the inning, is now nearly assured of his fourth win of the year.

5th inning: Indians take the lead

05.07.09 at 8:19 pm ET
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Just a few moments are often enough to change the complexion of a Tim Wakefield start. After he started the game with four scoreless innings, he ran into a mix of a reduced feel for his signature pitch and some bad luck in allowing Cleveland to take the lead.

Wakefield allowed a Matt LaPorta leadoff single to left. Then, with third baseman Mike Lowell playing in to guard against the sacrifice, Luis Valbuena (one of the many, many players to move as part of the three-way deal that took J.J. Putz from Seattle to the Mets) instead chopped a ball that bounded over Lowell’s head and down the left-field line for a poorly struck double that put runners on second and third.

Wakefield then threw a run-scoring wild pitch, and after hitting leadoff man Ben Francisco, gave up a sac fly to deep-ish center by Asdrubal Cabrera (deep enough, in fact, that Francisco could advance to second). But Wakefield stemmed the rally there. After walking Victor Martinez, he got a 6-4-3 double play from Mark DeRosa.

That’s two double-play balls tonight for Wakefield, matching his first five starts of the year. It is the first time he’s gotten multiple double plays in the same game since Sept. 29, 2007.

4th Inning Update: Red Sox 1, Indians 0

05.07.09 at 8:09 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield remains in the proverbial zone. He has cruised through the first four innings tonight, giving up no runs and just one hit (a leadoff single to open the fourth). The Indians did load the bases against him in the top of the fourth, as a two-out hit batter (David Dellucci) and walk (Ryan Garko) put Wakefield in his first real bind of the evening. But he escaped it when Johnny Peralta‘s smash to third was knocked down by Mike Lowell, who stayed with the ball and got Peralta by a step at first. Opponents are now 1-for-8 with the bases loaded against Wakefield this year.

Through four innings, Wakefield threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 16 batters he faced (62.5 percent), quite a bit above his season-long average of 48.3 percent entering tonight.

The Sox haven’t done anything since Julio Lugo led off the game with a triple and scored on Dustin Pedroia‘s single. Indians starter Jeremy Sowers has retired seven in a row, and 11 of the last 12 Sox hitters.

And there is a baseball game…

05.07.09 at 7:31 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Indians are now underway. A few pre-updates completely unrelated to Manny Ramirez:

Jacoby Ellsbury (hamstring tightness) is out of the starting lineup, but is available to play tonight.

–First baseman Kevin Youkilis (left side) is not available. The team hopes to have him back for the series against the Rays.

–Outfielder Rocco Baldelli was activated from the disabled list, and is starting in center tonight in place of Ellsbury. To clear a roster spot for Baldelli, the Sox optioned Jonathan Van Every back to Triple-A Pawtucket. Baldelli said that he feels in excellent shape, and that there are no remaining restrictions on his baseball activity.

–Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch in Columbus on Sunday and stay with Triple-A Pawtucket rather than travel with the major-league team to the West Coast. Matsuzaka will most likely make a third rehab start with Pawtucket before a decision is made about whether to activate him from the D.L.

David Ortiz was a late scratch with a stiff neck. Somewhere, someone will mention that Manny Ramirez was a pain in his neck.

Mark Kotsay, whose return from back surgery has been delayed by a sore calf, will be watched by the Sox medical staff as he tries to engage in baseball activities for the first time since suffering the injury. He anticipates that if all goes well, he should be activated in 1-2 weeks.

Tim Wakefield jumped off to a quick start tonight, giving up a walk to Victor Martinez (a fairly wise strategy, since the Cleveland catcher clubs Wakefield’s knuckleballs to the tune of a line of .429 / .467 / .714, one homer). The Sox immediately staked him to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, when Julio Lugo led off the game with a triple (his first three-bagger since 2007, and just the second time in 388 career starts as a leadoff hitter that he has led off a game with a triple) and scored when Dustin Pedroia lined a single to left.

The rally stopped there, as Jason Bay grounded into a fielder’s choice and Mike Lowell hit into a 6-4-3 double play. For Lowell, that is eight double plays this year, tied for the most in the majors with Andre Ethier and Dustin Pedroia. (Pedroia and Ethier are close friends dating from their time as teammates with Arizona State.) The Red Sox leave the first leading, 1-0.

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