|05.23.09 at 7:40 pm ET|
A compelling case can be made that a pitcher should be charged with an earned run if he commits the error that allows an opponent to score. After all, an E1 suggests that the mound on the mound is morally culpable for the mistake, and so why not commit to a statistical Weltanschauung that remains committed to that principle?
The prevailing baseball paradigm, however, is that any error – including one by the pitcher – will suffice to create an unearned run. And so it was that the Red Sox gave up an unearned run in the first. Carlos Beltran had an infield single (to shortstop Nick Green) with two outs, advanced to second when Sox starter Josh Beckett threw wildly to first on a pick-off throw and then scored when Gary Sheffield dropped a single to left.
The Mets’ 1-0 lead came on the 11th unearned run allowed by the Sox this year. Surprisingly, given the concerns about the Red Sox’ defense, the Sox entered tonight with 10 unearned runs, a mark that was tied for the sixth fewest in Major League Baseball. That is a far cry from the brutality at work in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, where the Nationals have a major-league leading 28 unearned runs, while the Orioles have permitted an A.L.-worst 25.
After the top of the first, the Mets have a 1-0 lead.
|05.23.09 at 3:31 pm ET|
Jonathan Papelbon considers himself a member of “a fraternity.” He likes to watch every closer, to see how they go about their business, to see how they go through the business of the sport in contract negotiations, to see their successes in hopes that the stature of the job will continue to grow both in terms of on- and off-field respect.
“We have to stick together, so to speak. We’ve got to make teams recognize how valuable closers are,” said Papelbon. “I think, for the most part, every one of your closers out there is doing a good job of that.”
Towards that end, Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets — the renowned K-Rod, who burst onto the scene as an October force for the Angels in 2002, and since 2004 has been one of the elite closers in the game — is an object of interest for the pitcher. Rodriguez, who signed a three-year, $37 million deal to close for the Mets this offseason, has been brilliant with his new club. After recording a save with a 1-2-3 ninth against the Sox on Friday, he is 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA and a major-league leading 12 saves in as many opportunities.
In 2008, Rodriguez set a new standard for closers by recording an incredible 62 saves. And so, of course, it comes as little surprise that Papelbon watched.
“I definitely appreciate what he did last year,” he said.
Papelbon has spoken freely of his desire to set a new bar for his position. That being the case, it is interesting to hear of Papelbon’s intention — or lack thereof — to challenge Rodriguez’ mark.
“No. Not here. Not here. No,” Papelbon said of whether he ever daydreamed of pursuing such a mark. “Not enough chances: the way our ballclub is put together, the way the ballclub of Anaheim was put together last year, the way we manage, the way that (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia manages, not enough chances. There’s a little bit of luck involved there.”
Because Papelbon believes that saves are partly the byproduct of luck, strategy and circumstance (for instance, a team that wins a bunch of blowouts will “penalize” a closer by offering fewer three-run games to enter), Papelbon suggested that he feels that save percentage is a more meaningful barometer of success. In that respect, the two relievers have been fairly closely paired in recent seasons. Like Rodriguez, Papelbon is perfect in his save opportunities this year, going 11-for-11 with a 0.95 ERA. Rodriguez had a 90 percent success rate last year, while Papelbon converted 89 percent on his opportunities en route to a career-high 41 saves.
Interestingly, Papelbon suggested that Rodriguez’ contract — which fell short of the established closing standards for years (B.J. Ryan received a five-year deal) and annual value (Mariano Rivera received a three-year deal worth $15 million a season after the 2007 campaign) — should not serve as the basis of comparison for whatever he might glean when eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.
“I took it as that’s what he was able to do. That’s what he was able to get. It shouldn’t have a whole lot of effect on me,” said Papelbon. “Being in a different division, a different type of pitcher. Pitching here in Fenway Park every night is a lot different than pitching in Anaheim.”
|05.22.09 at 10:53 pm ET|
– It was the first loss by the Sox to the Mets since July 14, 2001, and first loss to New York at Fenway Park since July 14, 2000. Boston leads the all-time series, 10-9.
– The loss marked just the second time the REd Sox have lost an interleague game in which their opponent made at least three errors, the first time since Sept. 2, 1997 at Montreal.
– Daisuke Matsuzaka’s five-inning, four-run outing encompassed 80 pitches, the fewest ever for the pitcher in an outing of at least five innings.
– Jacoby Ellsbury has hit safely in each of his last 17 games since May 2. It is the majors’ longest active streak and the second-longest of his career behind an 18-gamer from Sept. 5-28, 2008. It is the longest by a Red Sox center fielder since Johnny Damon hit in 29 straight from June 10-July 17, 2005.
– Jason Varitek homered for the fourth time in his last five games, all of which have come off left-handers.
– Dustin Pedroia has now hit safely in each of his last eight interleague games dating back to June 22, 2008, during which he is batting .583 (21 for 36) with two homers, four doubles, five RBI, eight runs, and two steals. He has recorded two or more hits in each of his last six such contests.
– Johan Santana improved to 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA on the season. He is now 5-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 13 career games (10 starts) against the Red Sox. It was his first win at Fenway Park since May 2, 2003.
|05.22.09 at 10:02 pm ET|
But in the regular season, the Mets (and former Angels) closer has been money against the Sox. Entering tonight, he had a 2-0 record and 1.23 ERA to accompany his 30 punchouts in 23 innings against the Sox.He continued that trend tonight, getting three straight fly balls from Jason Varitek, Julio Lugo and Jacoby Ellsbury to close out a 5-3 Mets win. Johan Santana was brilliant, moving to 6-2 while allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings.
The Sox lose for the first time during this homestand.
|05.22.09 at 9:55 pm ET|
There was a triple-digit radar gun reading in the eighth inning, and it wasn’t the result of a pitch from Daniel Bard (who came on in the top of the ninth for the Sox).
Instead, it was Mets reliever Bobby Parnell who lit up the scoreboard when he unleashed a 100 mph fastball on a 2-2 count to Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew. The pitch was a ball, but the velocity was nonetheless eye-opening. A Cliff’s Notes bio on Parnell: he was taken by the Mets in the ninth round of the 2005 draft. He entered tonight with a 2-0 record and 1.96 ERA. He delivered a perfect inning of work that included a strikeout.
Bard responded with a perfect inning of his own, though his fastball was “only” clocked at 96-97 mph.
Francisco Rodriguez is on in an attempt to close it out for the Mets.
|05.22.09 at 9:37 pm ET|
Somehow, Johan Santana needed just 28 pitches to blitz through the sixth and seventh innings, and his 118th pitch resulted in a Kevin Youkilis whiff on a changeup, one batter after Santana punched out David Ortiz with 92 mph gas. (No further exchanges occurred between Santana and Youkilis, who seemed not too far from tussling in the fifth.) Santana almost got dinged by Dustin Pedroia, whose fly ball to left fell just short of the scoreboard.
Now that David Ortiz’ home-run drought has concluded, Pedroia’s may come into sharper focus. The second baseman, who hit 17 dingers last year, has not hit any since Opening Day. His 38-game homer-less streak (entering tonight) is easily the longest of his career, breaking his previous long of 27 games without a homer. He has had 160 at-bats since going deep in the first game of the 2009 season.
|05.22.09 at 9:30 pm ET|
It is entirely possible that no one in baseball has his defense subjected to so much scrutiny as Julio Lugo. The Red Sox shortstop got off to a dreadful start in the field in 2007 and, though he turned in some excellent work in the field down the stretch of that championship campaign, the impression has been unalterable.
Tonight, he will add fuel to those who suffer moral outrage at the sight of his defense. (You know who you are.) Not only did he fail to make a concerted effort to turn a double play, but he also failed to knock down a six-hopper that traveled through the middle of the infield for a run-scoring single in the top of the seventh. For an above-average shortstop, the ball could have been an out; for others, the ability to knock it down would have at least prevented the run from scoring. Lugo, who semmed to overrun the ball on a dive, did neither, and so the Sox now trail 5-3.
|05.22.09 at 9:06 pm ET|
A near fracas occurred in the bottom of the fifth, when Johan Santana fired a 93 mph fastball (on a 2-2 pitch with two outs) off of the elbow of Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The pitch was barely inside off the plate, and likely hit Youkilis only because of his willingness to hover over the inner half of the plate.
Youkilis looked to the mound as he headed to first, and uttered a pair of profanities (though neither seemed directed personally at Santana, and rather suggested general bemusement about the discomfort of a pitch off the elbow). Apparently, Santana took the naughty words personally, and so there was a bit of a verbal joust while the home-plate umpire (Paul Nauert) ran to block Youkilis from any advances to the mound. Though that was unnecessary (Youkilis did not show any intention of charging the pitcher), the usual elevation of blood-pressure spread across the park: in the Red Sox bullpen, the pitchers made a couple steps towards the door. Players in both dugouts shuffled towards the top step. The Mets bullpen door opened a crack.
But the fuse never lit, order was restored, Santana struck out Jason Bay (his sixth punchout of the night) and the inning was ended, presumably with order restored.
Still, it will be fascinating to see what happens if Youkilis — not the most popular of players in New York — faces Santana again. That, however, seems unlikely: the Sox have made the left-hander throw 90 pitches through five innings. Still, Santana and the Mets lead, 4-3, after five.
UPDATE: Following the game, winning pitcher Johan Santana took exception with Kevin Youkilis staring back at him after being plunked in the fifth inning of Friday night’s 5-3 Mets’ win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. “I just told him to just take his base,” Santana said. “That was about it. But he was still looking at me and talking and it fires me up. I’ve got respect for everybody and I respect this game but at the same time, I’m going to play hard. If you’re looking at me like that, you’re going to get it back because I’m a gamer and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Youkilis said that he was merely joking after getting hit, and that he uttered what intended to utter a profanity in jest while telling the pitcher, “That hurt.”
“I was joking around,” said Youkilis. “He told me to head to first base. Whatever. I was headed that way. I don’t know. Maybe I should have ran to first base. Like I’ve said, I’ve changed a lot of my ways of playing the game. Maybe I need to revert back to getting (ticked) off, throwing my bat down and going down to first. I’m not going to change my ways now. I’m pretty happy with going out there, enjoying the game and having fun.
“Everyone always told me in my career that I shouldn’t get so serious, you should enjoy the game and joke around,” Youkilis added. “When I do do it, I change my ways and joke around a little bit, I guess it’s the wrong thing. What are you going to do? Win some, lose some, I guess.”
|05.22.09 at 8:58 pm ET|
Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
Julio Lugo had his brain cramp in the top of the fourth. The Red Sox plated a pair of runs – one unearned – in the bottom of the inning thanks in no small part to a bad error by Ramon Martinez, who kicked an easy out into left field. Then, in the top of the fifth, the Sox turned in a pair of noteworthy defensive plays:
With Daniel Murphy on first after walking, Angel Pagan (in as a replacement for the injured Ryan Church) dropped a perfect sac bunt down the third-base line. Daisuke Matsuzaka fielded it and took his sweet time throwing to first, where he clipped Pagan by a step. Because Mike Lowell had vacated third to play the bunt, Murphy kept steaming around second and, without hesitating, tried to sprint into the empty base. But Kevin Youkilis fired back across the diamond, and Lowell managed to sprint back to receive the throw and dive across third to block Murphy from the bag. And so, the Sox had a rare 1-3-5 double play.
That play was huge, since Dustin Pedroia followed by committing an error on an easy grounder to second that hit him in the glove but that he booted for his second error of the year.
Still, Matsuzaka erased the baserunner by striking out Gary Sheffield — badly — on an 81 mph curveball. The pitch was Matsuzaka’s 80th and final offering on the night. He finished with a respectable five innings, five hits, four runs, two walks and four strikeouts. The Mets only hit a few balls hard against him, and the outing showed marked improvement from his season-opening performances.
Still, he is on the hook for a potential loss, exiting with the Sox trailing, 4-3.
|05.22.09 at 8:34 pm ET|
Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had sailed relatively smoothly through the first three innings, hit a major pothole in the fourth. He needed 30 pitches to face eight batters in the frame, and allowed three runs in the inning.
Matsuzaka gave up a one-out double to Carlos Beltran (a ball that was scorched down the right-field line and hopped into the grandstand for a double), walked Gary Sheffield (likely wise, given the slugger’s history against him), a run-scoring single to David Wright, and then, after a force out (more on that in a moment), allowed back-to-back, two-out, run-scoring singles to Omir Santos and Ramon Martinez.
Matsuzaka could have met a better fate. The singles by Santos and Martinez were softly hit. More significantly, perhaps, the Sox had a shot to turn a double play to end the inning and stop the rally after just one run. With one out and runners on first and second, Jeremy Reed grounded a ball to Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia delivered a strong feed to Julio Lugo, but Lugo remained flat-footed after catching the ball, and his relay to first had no steam whatsoever.
It is debatable whether the Sox could have turned two. Reed is extremely fast, and has grounded into just 23 double plays in 1,094 career plate appearances. Even so, the fact that Lugo failed to put himself in a position to make the play even close was clearly the source of some frustration to the Sox, as first-base and infield coach Tim Bogar was seen lecturing the shortstop in the dugout following the inning.
So, the Mets rallied for three runs, and lead, 4-1. Matsuzaka is at 65 pitches, and is perhaps an inning away from reaching his pitch limit of 80-90 pitches tonight. (Daniel Bard started warming in the fourth.)
Ryan Church has left the game for the Mets entering the bottom of the fourth due to a sore right hamstring.
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