|05.25.11 at 6:13 pm ET|
The Red Sox have beaten the Tigers in both of their meetings this season, but both contests came down to a battle of the bullpens. It’s fitting, then, that reliever Alfredo Aceves will take the mound on Thursday in Detroit.
Before last weekend’s start against the Cubs, Aceves (1-0, 2.42 ERA) had started only five games in his three-year career, and four of those came as a rookie back in 2008. The right-hander pitched well in his last outing, allowing just one run on three hits through five innings.
Aceves left the game with a 2-1 lead and was in line for the win, but the Cubs rallied for eight runs in the eighth inning off Matt Albers and Franklin Morales, forcing Aceves to take a no-decision. The former Yankee now has a lifetime ERA of 3.18 in 31.1 innings as a starter, but he’s never gone deeper than seven innings.
Part of Aceves’ success in his last start may have been due to a lack of familiarity on the part of the Cubs — only two of their hitters had ever faced him — an advantage he will also enjoy against the Tigers. Only three hitters on Detroit’s roster have seen Aceves, and former Boston catcher Victor Martinez is the only one to face him more than once. In five plate appearances against Aceves, Martinez is 1-for-5 with a strikeout.
Jim Leyland will send Max Scherzer to the hill as the Tigers fight to catch up with the Indians in the AL Central. Nine Red Sox batters have faced Scherzer (6-1, 2.98 ERA), who is having his best season in his fourth year in the big leagues. The Tigers won seven out of Scherzer’s first eight starts this season, and the right-hander was undefeated until he took a loss against the Pirates on May 21. In his outing on May 16, Scherzer tossed seven innings without surrendering an earned run, but took a no-decision as the Tigers fell to the Blue Jays, 4-2.
Although most of the Red Sox lineup has seen Scherzer before, no Boston hitter has faced him more than nine times. In just five plate appearances, David Ortiz has dominated the Tigers’ starter, with two home runs, a single, and four RBI. Dustin Pedroia (1-for-3) has the only other homer off Scherzer.
While the old guard has had some success against the 26-year-old, Scherzer has all but shut down two of Boston’s newest acquisitions. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have combined for just one hit in 15 plate appearances, although Gonzalez does have two walks and an RBI. Scherzer has been able to keep these two Red Sox lefties in check, but has allowed left-handed opponents to hit .279 this season, while holding righties to just .246.
|05.25.11 at 3:08 pm ET|
It was batting practice.
The Red Sox lineup teed off on the Indians, flashing the sort of muscle that team decision-makers no doubt anticipated seeing from time to time when they assembled the club in the offseason. The team exploded out of the blocks with a seven-run first inning (the most runs the team has scored in an inning since last August) in which it collected nine hits, most since they racked up 10 in a memorable 25-8 win over the Marlins in 2003. The Sox then kept adding on.
The team’s 10 extra-base hits were its most since last June 3, and represented the team’s biggest output on the road since June 20, 2007, in a game against the Braves. Of the members of the starting lineup, every one scored at least one run. Only one (shortstop Jed Lowrie) failed to collect either a hit or an RBI.
That set the stage for a 14-2 wipeout of the Indians, the most lopsided Sox road victory since a 14-2 win over the White Sox in 2007.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–The list of accomplishments by the Sox batters in Wednesday’s game is long. Before getting to that, then, it’s worth taking stock of the performance of Jon Lester. Lester started slowly, allowing a pair of singles in the first (marking the career-high eighth straight inning, spread over three starts, in which he’d allowed at least two baserunners). But he escaped without any harm, and then did what a good starting pitcher should do when entrusted with a huge lead.
Lester, primarily on the strength of fastballs and a very good cutter, retired 15 straight Indians in one stretch. After working to a 7.27 ERA over his previous three starts, Lester ended up delivering six shutout innings on a day when the ball was evidently jumping in Cleveland.
His pitch efficiency (97 pitches in six innings) left something to be desired, and he did issue a walk in the sixth (extending his career-long streak of games in which he permitted a walk to 19). Even so, he allowed just three hits while punching out seven over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 3.36. He became the first pitcher in the American League to reach seven wins.
Moreover, he has now held opponents scoreless in 26 of his 134 career starts (19.4 percent) — or roughly one out of every five outings.
He continued a fine run by a rotation that now has a 1.95 ERA over its last eight starts. It was the Sox’ major league-best 12th game this year in which a starter didn’t allow a run.
As for the offense…
—Carl Crawford went 4-for-4 with a homer and two doubles. It was the first time in his Red Sox career that he’d collected more than two hits in a game. It was Crawford’s 30th career four-hit game, and his fifth career game with three or more extra-base hits.
—Dustin Pedroia put the Sox on the board with a two-run homer in the first. It was his first homer since April 15, ending a drought that had reached 136 at-bats. Pedroia went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI.
—Adrian Gonzalez continued his electric May, going 2-for-6 and driving in yet another run. He’s driven in 28 this month, most in the majors; he also leads the AL with 21 multi-hit games this year.
—David Ortiz continued his explosive May. He went 2-for-6 and launched a homer to deep right. He is hitting .337 with a 1.056 OPS, eight homers and 16 extra-base hits (most in the majors) in the month.
–Two Sundays ago, Red Sox catchers did not have a single homer on the year. But then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went deep on May 15 and he hasn’t stopped crushing the ball since. He now has four homers in a six-game stretch, and the Sox now are tied for 11th in the majors with five homers from their catchers. Saltalamacchia, after going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, now has a .240 average and .716 OPS on the season, better than the AL averages of .229 and .673 at the position.
—Drew Sutton, a late addition to the lineup when Kevin Youkilis was scratched due to a sore left hand, matched a career high in hits and set a new career high for extra-base hits by going 3-for-5 with two doubles.
—Jacoby Ellsbury (3-for-4 with two walks) had his fourth three-hit game in his last 16 contests. His five times on base matched a career-high, achieved twice before — both in the 2009 season. Since returning to the leadoff spot on April 21, he’s hitting .341 with a .395 OBP.
—Mike Cameron got his first double of the 2011 season. His streak of 19 straight games without a double — dating to last year — was the sixth longest of his career. He did, however, have a pair of homers this year.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Jed Lowrie was the only Sox member of the lineup without two hits. Indeed, he was the only one not to collect a single hit, going 0-for-5 with a walk. Over his last 24 games, Lowrie is hitting .233. His average for the year has now fallen to an even .300.
–While Franklin Morales did touch 97 mph with his fastball, the left-hander allowed a pair of runs on three hits in his inning of work, thus denying the Red Sox a shutout.
|05.25.11 at 11:18 am ET|
|05.25.11 at 10:59 am ET|
The Red Sox will look to Jon Lester to sustain the momentum of Tuesday’s victory over the Indians, a team against whom the 27-year-old lefty has had quite a bit of success. Lester (6-1, 3.68 ERA) hasn’t taken a loss in his last seven starts, and six of those games have been wins for Boston.
He had one of his best outings of the season in his last start against Cleveland, but took a no-decision in a 1-0 loss on April 7th. In that start, Lester struck out nine and allowed just three hits over seven shutout innings, but was removed after his pitch count reached 109. The Indians scored in the eighth against Daniel Bard, when Asdrubal Cabrera squeezed in a run.
Cleveland’s hitters have had plenty of experience against Lester over the past five years, hitting a combined .284 in 113 total plate appearances. Former Red Sox Orlando Cabrera has a team-high six hits, two doubles and four RBI in 21 plate appearances.
The Indians have driven in 14 runs against the left-hander, but Lester has yet to give up a home run to any of the current Cleveland batters. Still, he’s already allowed nine long balls this season, after surrendering just 14 all of last year. Lester has managed to hold two of the Indians’ most talented hitters — Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo — to just one hit in 26 combined plate appearances.
The Indians will send another 27-year-old to the mound, as Mitch Talbot will get the start. Due to an early-season elbow injury, Talbot (1-0, 1.46) will be making just his third start of the season, and his first since April 11th, when the right-hander threw eight brilliant innings of five-hit ball in a 4-0 win over the Angels.
Talbot’s other start came against Boston on April 6th, when the Red Sox fell, 8-4. It was the fifth of Boston’s six straight losses to open the season. Talbot received a no-decision in the outing, surrendering two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro all had singles off Talbot, while Adrian Gonzalez added a double.
The Sox have had success against Talbot in his three-year career. In 47 total plate appearances, Boston has hit a combined .324 against the Indians starter, and posted a .468 on-base percentage. Only two Red Sox — Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury — have homered off Talbot, but Youkilis also has a double and three RBIs against the Cleveland starter. Dustin Pedroia has contributed three hits and two RBIs, and is the only Red Sox player to get hit by a Talbot pitch.
|05.25.11 at 9:33 am ET|
The Indians and Red Sox might seem like polar opposites as franchises. They possess very different fan bases and very different resources; as a consequence, their roster-building strategies necessarily diverge.
Yet philosophically, the two organizations converge in an important way. Indeed, the Indians served as something of a model for the Red Sox in their attempts to create their current organizational structure.
In the late-1990s, Ben Cherington — now the Red Sox Assistant GM — was a video advance scout in the Indians front office. It was his first full-time job in baseball. While working in excess of 100 hours per work, he made next to nothing — he ended up eating little besides mac and cheese that year — he was exposed to one of the most influential front offices in baseball of the last two decades, a group that yielded numerous future GMs.
The Cleveland front office at the time offered a glimpse of what the Sox (in no small part due to the influence of GM Theo Epstein and Cherington) have tried to do with their own front office, chiefly, identifying talented individuals and letting them grow and advance in their roles. In essence, the team applies its player development principles to its own front office.
“You need to take the same approach with young people in your office that you do with a minor league player. There should be a development plan for them. You want to challenge them to improve on their weaknesses. You don’t want to put them into a position to fail,” said Cherington. “The focus on developing our own people in the front office is really a priority for us, just as it was in Cleveland.
“In some ways it was the Moneyball theory looked at through a different lens. It was finding undervalued assets, finding people who could make an impact on the team through good decisions, and finding them when they were young, finding them when they would work incredibly cheap, when they would work incredibly long hours, and putting them in an environment where they could learn enough about the game and where they would interact with the staff and scouts to eventually be in decision-making positions and impact the team. … It wasn’t finding guys with high on-base percentages, but it was finding people who were undervalued.”
In this episode of Minor Details, Cherington offers a glimpse behind the curtain of how development and decision-making work in the Red Sox front office.
To listen to the podcast, click here.
Ep. 10: Hall of Famer Peter Gammons discusses Red Sox prospects and player development challenges
Ep. 9: The winding path of Andrew Miller: A look at the unique sets of career choices that the 25-year-old left-hander has run into during his baseball career, and how he ended up signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox.
Ep. 8: Key prospect issues in spring training: Five key spring training storylines of note for Red Sox minor leaguers.
Ep. 7: The Red Sox’ Cuban connection: A look at the talent base that has inspired the Sox to spend heavily on players who defected from Cuba, along with the professional and cultural challenges that those players face once in the U.S. Guests are Red Sox minor league outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, minor league hitting coach Alex Ochoa (who spent 2010 helping prospect Jose Iglesias adjust to professional baseball in the U.S.) and agent Edwin Mejia of Athletes Premier, an agency whose stable of clients includes some players from Cuba
Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars, with Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye and Red Sox minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs, who was recruited to play football at Auburn and could have taken part in the 2011 BCS title game
Ep. 5: The human side of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, with Padres (and former Red Sox) prospect Anthony Rizzo, Sox scout Laz Gutierrez and Sox farm director Mike Hazen. The episode also includes a discussion with Baseball America’s Jim Callis about the state of the Sox farm system following the trade for Adrian Gonzalez
Ep. 4: Evaluating prospects and making blockbusters, with former Diamondbacks GM/Red Sox Assistant GM Josh Byrnes and former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson (who was Jeff Bagwell‘s manager in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Astros)
Ep. 2: Red Sox trade chips with Keith Law of ESPN.com
Ep. 1: Baseball America’s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects, with Mike Hazen and Jim Callis
|05.24.11 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Red Sox couldn’t do much against Indians starter Fausto Carmona, yet in a continuation of the run that has allowed them to climb back towards the top of the AL East, they were able to translate their limited offense into a victory. On a night when the Sox collected just five hits while Carmona was in the game, that proved to be plenty thanks to the pitcher who likely deserves the title of best in the American League to this point in 2011.
Josh Beckett is amidst a season-opening run that is among the best in team history. Beckett gave up one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, and has now gone five straight starts allowing one or fewer runs, a streak that is tied for the longest by a Sox pitcher since at least 1919. (He is the fourth Sox pitcher to have such a run on record in a single season in that span, and the first since Derek Lowe in 2002.) His ERA during the run is a svelte 0.60, and his 1.69 ERA for the year not only leads the American League but also ranks among the best in club history to this point in the season.
His dominance permitted the Sox to claim a 4-2 victory over the Indians, the first time in five attempts this year that the Sox have won in Cleveland.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett improved to 4-1, with the Sox now owning a 7-3 record in his 10 starts — a mark made all the more impressive by the fact that he has received the least run support of any Sox starter this year. He is now undefeated in his last nine starts, his longest run since going 11 straight at the start of the 2007 season. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.24.11 at 4:12 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show Tuesday afternoon to talk about the injury status of Dustin Pedroia and Daisuke Matsuzaka. He also addressed his decision to let Daniel Bard pitch to Cleveland’s red-hot Asdrubal Cabrera in Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Indians. Boston had a 2-1 lead heading into the eighth, but Bard (1-4) gave up two runs in the inning and took the loss. Cabrera’s RBI double proved to be the game-winner.
“When Bard’s in the game, Bard’s pitching.” Francona said. “The reason we took him out is we lost the lead and we’re trying to minimize his workload. But we never match up Bard with lefties or righties or take him out for a lefty. I think last year he led the league vs. lefties, so he’s almost like having a lefty. That right there for me, it’s not an option.
“I actually don’t mind facing [Cabrera] — and again I know Cabrera is hot right now — but having the open base sometimes can really be an advantage. Bard, if you look back at the at-bat, he threw [Cabrera] a breaking ball that I don’t know how he fouled off and kept himself alive. I think if I’d have [intentionally walked Cabrera], it would have been more for me to maybe cover my backside and I wouldn’t have agreed with it, so I really don’t want to do something like that.”
Francona also said that Bard has not performed as well as he did last season.
“What he did last year was probably hard to duplicate. He was on such a run for such a long period of time,” Francona said. “I don’t think his command at times is exactly what it was last year, because when he throws the velocity is tremendous. I think there’s times when the life through the zone isn’t quite the same. Not always, just sometimes. Because you see right now like last night when he makes a mistake, he got hit, and we didn’t really see that last year. Now saying that, it’s obvious how much confidence I have in him because we go to him almost every time somebody’s on base or the game’s on the line because of the amount of confidence we have in him.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.
How’s [Pedroia] doing today?
You know what? He’s OK. He popped his head in about an hour ago kind of gave me a thumbs up. I think he gave us all a scare last night, including himself. He went around the bag [Monday night against Cleveland] and kind of slipped. It was wet and he turned an ankle and he’s got that screw in there and gave him a little zinger, kind of a bolt of lightning going up that leg. We obviously needed to get him out of there because of that.
The doctors came over right away and looked at him and he’s OK, and again he got the feeling back real quick. I was kind of thinking about giving him today off anyway, because we’ve got the noon game tomorrow, and that kind of clinched it after that.
|05.24.11 at 2:57 pm ET|
The Red Sox will send Josh Beckett (3-1, 1.73) to the mound in the second game of their seven-game road trip Tuesday night in Cleveland, while the Indians will counter with Fausto Carmona (3-4, 4.76).
Beckett has a lifetime record of 3-5 against the Indians with a 5.55 ERA. He was forced to leave his last start after six innings with neck pain, but he said it will not effect him when he returns to the mound. Beckett did earn the win in that game, only giving up one run and striking out three.
Carmona is coming off of a tough outing against the White Sox. He lasted only five innings and gave up eight runs on seven hits, while striking out three in an 8-2 loss. Carmona is 2-3 with a 3.44 ERA in his career against the Sox. He has struggled particularly against David Ortiz, who is batting .333 with a double, a home run and 5 RBIs.
The Indians have plenty of experience against Beckett as Orlando Cabrera has faced him 53 times, and Asdrubal Cabrera 20 times. They are batting .220 and .353 respectively.
|05.24.11 at 11:14 am ET|
Some random notes following last night’s punch to the gut and a few leftovers from the weekend as well:
* – Carl Crawford has now put 28 balls in play in double play situations (first base occupied, less than two outs) and grounded into two twin-killings. Out of 169 batters with 20 or more balls in play in DP situations this season, Crawford’s 7.1 percent rate ranks in the top 30 for DP avoidance.
Since the start of the 2008 season, Crawford’s GIDP rate on DP-situation balls in play is now 6.1 percent, the fourth lowest rate in the majors in that span (min. 200 DP-situation balls in play):
Crawford’s GIDP last night marked the second time in his career that he has grounded into a game ending double play with the tying run (at least) on base. The other came in 2009.
* – Monday marked the 39th time since 2000 that the Red Sox have bounced into a game ending GIDP, and the fifth time that it was the Indians on defense (more than any other opponent). However, it was the first game ending GIDP by a Red Sox WITH THE TYING RUN ON BASE since August 31, 2007, when Jason Varitek hit into a 4-6-3 against Baltimore down 9-8 with runners on first and second.
Cleveland has ended two games ALREADY THIS SEASON by turning a double play with the tying run on base. They had two last year as well.
* – The Red Sox lead the AL with a .540 OPS after falling behind 0-and-2. Their 348 plate appearances that have gone through 0-and-2 is tied for second most in the AL, trailing only the Angels (379). Last night, the Red Sox found themselves in eight 0-2 holes but wound up getting two singles (Pedroia, Gonzalez) and a hit batsman (Ellsbury) out of them.
* – Daniel Bard faced three batters last night, all lefties, and threw 10 fastballs and one slider. The slider was a nasty one to Michael Brantley that nearly got him out of the inning. I wondered why he didn’t go back to it. It appears that he has little confidence in throwing it to left-handed batters this season. After averaging +1.28 points per slider to lefties last year (they went 1-for-21 with 12 strikeouts), he’s averaging just -0.07 this year (he’s thrown 29, but opponents are 2-for-7, both doubles, with just one swing and miss).
—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »
|05.23.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
The Red Sox knew that they were acquiring a left-handed slugger with a made-for-Fenway swing this winter when they traded for Adrian Gonzalez. Little did they know that one of the players on their roster would prove that he, too, was ready to become the same type of force at home.
As Rob Bradford detailed today, the partnership between David Ortiz and Gonzalez has yielded tremendous dividends for the Red Sox thus far this year. Gonzalez is hitting .342 with a .391 OBP, .574 slugging mark, .965 OPS, nine homers and 41 RBI. Ortiz, meanwhile, is now hitting .299 with a .373 OBP, .530 slugging mark, .903 OPS, nine homers and 22 RBI.
“We talk, and I watch the way he approaches pitching because he’s in front of me and that gives me a good idea,” Ortiz said in the story. “We talk all the time, but remember it doesn’t matter how much you talk because you still have to go out and execute.”
That said, it is fascinating to note that Ortiz is executing in a fashion that is distinct from the rest of his Red Sox career this year — at least at Fenway Park. On the road, a healthy number of Ortiz’ hits (5 of 22 — 22.7 percent) have been left of straightaway center. Still, most of his hits have either been directly up the middle or pulled.
Fenway Park has been a completely different story. Whether he’s taking his cue for Gonzalez or simply employing a different approach, Ortiz is going after the Green Monster as never before.
Of his 27 hits at Fenway Park this year, 14 have been to the left of center, most of them hits off or over the Green Monster. The fact that more than half of his hits (51.9 percent) at Fenway have been to the opposite field represents a clear departure from the rest of his Red Sox career, in which Ortiz has never had more than 37.7 percent of his hits to the opposite field.
Consider that in the 2008 season, he had just 16 hits to the left of center in the entire season (granted, one in which he missed a significant period with a wrist injury). Now, Ortiz has nearly surpassed that output in 26 home games — demonstrating an approach with which his hitting coach is thrilled.
“When David is at his best that’s what he’s doing best, reacting to the ball in and driving balls off the Monster,” said Dave Magadan.
In both 2009 and 2010, when Ortiz got off to slow starts, he worked with Magadan to emphasize using the whole field in order to turn his results around. This year, however, that approach has been in place almost from day one, with impressive results.
The Sox have never had a team with two left-handed hitters who launched 30 homers in the same year. In 2011, both Gonzalez and Ortiz are on pace to go deep 32 times — well before the weather warms up and balls start flying. It is one thing that both players are starting to exhibit similarities in approach. For the Sox, the most significant development is that the two are demonstrating some similarities of results, helping to explain why the Red Sox are leading the majors in runs (102) and runs per game (5.1) in May.
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