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The decline of J.D. Drew?

06.22.11 at 9:09 am ET
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At a time when Josh Reddick has been giving evidence of a maturing approach at the plate, J.D. Drew has been unable to make any kind of offensive impact for the Red Sox. His game-ending punchout on Tuesday night — a check swing on a 95 mph fastball against Padres closer Heath Bell — placed a punctuation mark on a season-long drought.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona maintains that he still expects that Drew will go on one of his annual hot streaks in which he proves capable of hitting home runs in bunches. Yet while that possibility certainly looms, it is also fair to ask whether Drew is simply in a state of career decline at age 35. Certainly, his standing among his peers suggests as much.

For years, Drew’s numbers have suggested a player who is subject to an unfair degree of criticism. This year, however, statistics offer him no quarter.

There are 68 outfielders in the majors who have had at least 200 plate appearances. Of those, Drew ranks in the bottom 20 percent in nearly every offensive category.

Drew’€™s nine extra-base hits are tied for 64th ‘€“ just one ahead of notorious batter’€™s box lightweight Juan Pierre. His .230 average is 61st; his .328 slugging percentage is 63rd; his .660 OPS is 57th. Though his .332 OBP ranks in the middle of the pack, his 19 runs (in a lineup that leads the majors in scoring) are second to last and his 18 RBIs are 57th.

Moreover, there are other telling aspects that speak to a decline in his other tools. He has become a more conservative baserunner as his speed has diminished, as he’€™s taken an extra base (first to third on a single; first to home on a double; second to home on a single) just 17 percent of the time, less than half the 38 percent clip at which he did so last year.

In fact, 2011 marks the third straight year of decline in the rate at which he’€™s taken an extra base. That trend points to the toll taken by the game on his legs at age 35. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Padres matchups: John Lackey vs. Clayton Richard

06.22.11 at 8:20 am ET
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John Lackey and Clayton Richard will take the mound in Wednesday’s series finale between the Red Sox and Padres in a matchup of two pitchers who have had their fair share of struggles this season. While Richard has been more effective statistically, a severe shortage of San Diego run support gives the win-loss edge to Lackey, who’s made some major improvements since his elbow injury.

Lackey (5-5, 7.02 ERA) has shown new life since his return from the DL, recording convincing wins in each of his last three starts. The Red Sox offense provided an average of 10.6 runs in those three games, but Lackey never gave up more than four.

The right-hander struck out eight over six innings in a win against the Blue Jays on June 11, and most recently he went eight innings while surrendering four runs and striking out five against the Brewers. Before being sent to the DL after a 9-3 loss on May 11, Lackey was 2-5 with an 8.01 ERA. Since returning on June 5, he’s 3-0 with an ERA of 5.03.

Lackey doesn’t have much experience against the National League, although he’s seen plenty of Jason Bartlett from his days in Tampa Bay, and Orlando Hudson from his time in Toronto and Minnesota. In 26 career plate appearances, Bartlett is hitting .320 with a double, three triples, and an RBI. Hudson is batting .261 with a triple and three RBI. Lackey has dominated Ryan Ludwick in just six plate appearances, holding him hitless and striking him out three times.

In terms of ERA, Richard (2-9, 4.35 ERA) has pitched consistently better than Lackey this season, but a lack of run support has deflated his record tremendously. In Richard’s nine losses, the Padres have averaged 2.3 runs. The offense provided more than enough run support in his two wins, scoring eight runs on May 16, and 11 runs back on April 2.

The Padres have lost in Richard’s last six starts, although the left-hander has posted a respectable 4.18 ERA this month. However, he was knocked around by the Twins in his last outing, surrendering six runs on 10 hits through five innings. Richard’s current numbers don’t justify his performance in 2010, when he finished 14-9 with a 3.75 ERA.

As for his experience against Boston, the three-year pro hasn’t faced a current Red Sox hitter more than seven times. Mike Cameron leads the way with seven plate appearances, going 2-for-6 with a walk, a double, and a home run. Marco Scutaro has had the most success in just six plate appearances with two walks, two hits, and a home run.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clayton Richard, john lackey, Padres, Red Sox

Pitching coach David Ortiz has some words of advice for Alfredo Aceves

06.22.11 at 1:02 am ET
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Maybe David Ortiz could’ve saved Curt Young some trips to the mound Tuesday night by offering him some friendly advice for Alfredo Aceves during his 42-pitch nightmare of a second inning.

As it turned out, Ortiz spoke to Aceves after the Red Sox dropped a 5-4 decision to the Padres at Fenway Park and tried to get the open-minded pitcher to look at things from a different perspective.

“I was just talking to him. Sometimes you overlook some things as a pitcher and to me, like I tell him, hitting is not easy,” Ortiz recounted. “When you get yourself in trouble thinking about what you want to throw, that gives the hitter opportunity to have more than just the half-second you have for thinking. Sometimes it works your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But other than that, I think he came out good.”

The popular question after Aceves walked five straight in the second inning to force home two runs and give the Padres their first lead of the night, 2-1, was whether anyone had seen such a lapse before.

“I’ve seen that before,” Ortiz said. “It’s not the first time, it’s not going to be the last one.”

To be honest, though, it’s been a while since it happened in the majors. Cleveland’s Jason Davis was the last to accomplish the dubious feat on April 24, 2005, in the eighth inning at Seattle.

But Ortiz wasn’t so concerned about history as he was pumping up his teammate. And after watching Aceves rebound from the second inning and finish five innings with 99 pitches (53 strikes), he felt like his starting pitcher deserved some credit for showing his talent and his guts.

“Alfredo has got good stuff. He just got caught in a situation,” Ortiz said. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, David Ortiz

Closing Time: Padres 5, Red Sox 4

06.21.11 at 10:55 pm ET
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So this was the San Diego pitching staff that everyone was talking about.

One night after the Padres bullpen had collectively allowed 11 runs to the Red Sox, including 10 in one inning, relievers Chad Qualls (win), Mike Adams (hold) and Heath Bell (save) closed the door on a Boston team that had put up double-digits in three of its last five games heading into Tuesday night’s affair. Boston had reigned in a 4-1 early deficit by the sixth inning, but the trio of San Diego hurlers held down the fort for the remaining 3 1/3 innings as the Padres held on for a 5-4 win.

The Red Sox dropped just their third game in their last 17 contests dating back to June 3 while the Padres broke a streak of six consecutive losses.

Here’s what went wrong and a few things that went right for the Red Sox in Tuesday night’s loss.


Alfredo Aceves‘s start fell apart in the second inning, even after he retired the first two batters on seven pitches. The spot starter, the replacement for Josh Beckett who was out with the stomach bug, walked the next five batters he faced, allowing two runs to score in what would be a 42-pitch inning. He would allow two more runs the following inning while his attempts to throw strikes were slapped to the outfield.

Aceves’s six walks on the night were a career-high as was his pitch total of 99. His five-inning, four-run performance wasn’t horrible for a starter taking the hill on an emergency basis, but the control issues are certainly concerning for the Red Sox going forward.

–The biggest culprit offensively for the Red Sox was their performance with men on base. The team strung together 13 hits but stranded 11 runners in the losing effort. The biggest culprits were the most unusual suspects. Adrian Gonzalez stranded six of his teammates on the basepaths while David Ortiz left five men on. The team as a whole was just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the loss. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, David Ortiz, josh reddick

Red Sox vs. Padres Live Blog, June 21

06.21.11 at 6:37 pm ET
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The Red Sox are amidst a historic offensive run. On Monday, the team plated 14 runs for the sixth time in 29 games, becoming the second team since 1900 to put up two touchdowns in a 30-game span. The only other team to accomplish the feat was the 1930 Yankees, who scored 14 or more seven times in 20 games. The team is now 42-18 since its 2-10 start, its best 60-game stretch since closing out the 2004 season with a similar finishing kick.

WEEI.com (and friends) will be on the scene at Fenway Park as the Red Sox take on Mat Latos and the Padres in hopes of continuing the offensive brigade. For the latest news, analysis and updates from the game, join the Live Blog below.

Red Sox vs. Padres Live Blog, June 21

Terry Francona, Jon Lester and the art of saving ‘gas in the tank’

06.21.11 at 6:30 pm ET
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Terry Francona has earned a reputation of mastering his roster over the course of a 162-game season to keep it fresh for a playoff push. Whether you’re David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett or Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox manager has kept lines of communication open so he knows when his stars need rest while keeping his bench players alert to when they’re needed.

Jon Lester was the latest to be called into Francona’s office Tuesday to have a “long-run” discussion and how best to use him throughout the season.

“We actually sat with Lester today just to kind of get his feelings on some things because to get where we want to go, we’re going to have to lean on some guys, there’s no getting around it. However you say it, the more gas they have left in the tank, the better.”

In other words, Francona wants Lester fresh in August and September, when the team is either making a push to win the division title or trying to hold its playoff position. And obviously, the hope is he is just as fresh in October, just like closers Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon were in 2004 and 2007, respectively.

“You’ve seen it in the past with Pap or Foulke, they’ve had a lot left and we’ve gone to them extensively, and it’s helped us win,” Francona said.

Francona said it’s not just Lester but it’s every pitcher on the staff he’s monitoring because each pitcher is built differently and pitches differently.

“Each guy, but if you get to the end of the season, and they’re dragging, that’s no good,” Francona said, before referencing the Yankees of the mid-90s and early 2000s.

“It seemed like a long time ago, the Yankees always took their guy and gave them – not a forced rest – but a little two-week [break]. It’s great idea because at the end of the season, guys feels good about themselves, but you also have to be good enough to do it, you have to win enough games to be able to do it.”

Of course, to be able to implement his plan, he needs reliable role players at the back end of his staff to be able to step in and help the team not miss a beat. With the 2011 Sox, those players go by the names of Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves and now, Andrew Miller. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon

Terry Francona gives Josh Beckett some time to ‘get his legs back under him’

06.21.11 at 5:10 pm ET
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After a bout with “intestinal turmoil,” Josh Beckett will tentatively make his next start Saturday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced before Tuesday’s game with the Padres at Fenway. Alfredo Aceves was assigned with taking Beckett’s place in the rotation Tuesday night against the Padres.

“He actually looks just OK,” Francona said Tuesday of Beckett. “l’m glad we [pushed him back]. I think it was neccessary what we did. He didn’t look that good. What we’re hoping for, tentatively, is he’ll pitch Saturday. Because of some of the versatility of guys like Aceves, adding Miller and Wake, we can get around it, especially with an off day.

“What we’ll do is probably pitch him Saturday. That will allow him to have a side day and have a relatively normal week as opposed to just the first day he feels good, get him out there and pitch. Let him get his legs back under him and stuff like that.”

The rotation now sets up to have John Lackey pitch Wednesday, Jon Lester Friday in Pittsburgh, Beckett on Saturday and Tim Wakefield on Sunday in the series finale. Andrew Miller will start the opener against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Tuesday, eight days after his start Monday night against the Padres.

Read More: alfredo aceves, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett, Terry Francona

Terry Francona on The Big Show: Unsure about Adrian Gonzalez in outfield

06.21.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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When the Red Sox finish up their three-game series with the Padres on Wednesday, they will head to Pittsburgh to begin nine straight games against National League opponents. That’s an obvious dilemma for manager Terry Francona, who has to figure out a way to get David Ortiz in the lineup.

One scenario involves moving first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to right field, but Francona said on his weekly interview with WEEI’s Big Show that there is still much to be considered. Click here to listen to the whole interview.

“David is certainly not going to play nine games,” Francona said. “Gonzie has talked to us and we’ve gone back and forth with him about possibly going to right field. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m a little bit confused. If we ever send him out there and something bad happens — and by that I don’t meaning a bad play. Do you move JD [Drew]  to left field for a couple of days. He’s never done that. I don’t know. That’s the best answer I can give you. We have a day off before we go to Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of things we need to talk about and then we’ll figure it out. There’s some anxiety. Just being truthful.”

This is a different scenario for Francona than in past years when he could mix and match Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz and third and first base. Also, the games in National League parks are consecutive.

“We have nine in a row in the National League. That hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here,” Francona said. “So again it’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with. I’m not excited about it. It puts at a real disadvantage, not just competitively but in keeping David sharp.”

Here’s the rest of the transcript from Francona’s appearance: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, andrew miller, Big Show, David Ortiz

John Kruk on M&M: ‘Why not use DH the whole time?’

06.21.11 at 12:56 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined the Mut & Merloni show for his regular Tuesday noontime interview, and the biggest discussion was about the interleague play that is once again underway in Major League Baseball. Although the Red Sox are in a three-game set with the Padres at DH-friendly Fenway Park, the guys still wanted to get Kruk’€™s thoughts on the designated hitter rule, and the man who played 10 seasons in the big leagues said he thought the rule should be expanded.

‘€œThat’€™s the thing that has yet to be figured out about interleague is how do we go about fixing the rules,’€ Kruk said. ‘€œI don’€™t know if National League managers would be opposed to it, but why not use the DH the whole time? So you have to use an extra player in the National League? You see how that plays out in the American League. It’€™s not like you’€™re double-switching and all that stuff, so what’€™s the difference? Why can’€™t the National League adopt it? Why can’€™t they do that in the World Series also? Why can’€™t they just adopt the DH for both leagues? It’€™s not like the National League doesn’€™t have anyone that can hit.’€

In fact, the ESPN analyst gave his opinion that interleague play lasts too long ‘€“ each team plays 18 games against a foe from the opposite league ‘€“ and loses it luster a little bit. He even offered a solution to help keep the practice fresh in the eyes of the media and the fans.

‘€œI didn’€™t realize it was that many, to be honest with you, because they play some and then they go back to American League teams are playing American League teams. Then, two or three weeks later, you go back to interleague. So I didn’€™t realize it was 18 games,’€ he said. ‘€œI don’€™t have an issue with if one team has a common foe. Washington, Baltimore, they should be a foe. Of course, the two New York teams. I guess they determined Philly and Boston should be a sibling rivalry. Oakland, San Francisco. If they play three and three, I think that’€™s plenty. I think 18 games, it’€™s like watching Yankees-Red Sox 18 times every year. After awhile, it’€™s just another game.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, John Kruk,

Nuggetpalooza: Romp at Fenway

06.21.11 at 11:42 am ET
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Some news and nuggets from last night’s romp at Fenway:


* – The Padres threw 68 pitches in the 7th inning last night, tied for the third most pitches thrown in an inning since the start of the 2008 season. The only ones with more:

69 – Cardinals – vs. Phillies (6/13/08)
69 – Yankees – vs. Indians (4/18/09)


* – For the game, the Padres staff wound up throwing 217 pitches despite not pitching the 9th inning. It was the most pitches thrown in an “eight inning” game since the Yankees needed 232 in a 15-5 loss in Tampa in 2009.

The most pitches in an eight inning game since 1995 is 252, by the Marlins in that famous 25-8 thrashing at the hands of the Red Sox in 2003.


* – Boston batted around in the 7th inning, the league leading 15th time this year that they’ve done so:

15 – Red Sox
14 – Indians
12 – Cardinals

The Angels and Brewers have batted around only three times each this season. The Mariners have not batted around 15 times in either of the last two full seasons.


* – Reliever Ernesto Frieri last night became the first Padres pitcher ever to allow four earned runs or more) without allowing a hit (he walked two and hit two).


* – The Red Sox’ 14 runs were the fourth most ever scored in an interleague game by a team that did not hit a home run. It was just the fourth time in the last 50 years that the Red Sox scored 14 or more runs without benefit of a home run in any game.


* – Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .545 (18-for-33) in interleague games so far this season. If he can keep it up, he’s on pace to set the single season interleague record:

.545 – Adrian Gonzalez, BOS, 2011
.508 – Joe Randa, KC, 1999
.493 – Hideki Matsui, NYY, 2003

Boston currently has three players in the interleague top ten for this season: Gonzalez (1st, .545), Kevin Youkilis (3rd, .480), and David Ortiz (9th, .414).  Dustin Pedroia, at .345 this interleague season, still sports a .362 lifetime interleague average, the highest in history, 14 points ahead of the now-injured Albert Pujols.

As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .360 in interleague play. The record is .330, by the 2007 Angels. They are also averaging 8.7 runs per interleague game, currently ahead of the single season record, held by the 2003 Red Sox (8.4).


* – In their last 24 games at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have gone 16-8 while hitting .309 and averaging 6.1 runs per game. They’ve collected 11 or more hits in 15 of those 24 contests.

Of course, they’ve been outstanding on the road as well, winning 16-of-19 while averaging 6.8 runs per game in that span with a whopping 31 home runs.


* – Kevin Youkilis has reached base 11 times in his last 16 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a guy who is hobbled. That includes eight RBI in his last six plate appearances with RISP and two outs. For the 2011 season as a whole, here are the AL leaders in batting average with RISP and two outs (min. 35 AB):

.415 – Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
.389 – Kevin Youkilis, BOS
.342 – Josh Willingham, OAK

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