|05.04.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
It represented a low-point in the recent struggles of J.D. Drew. On Tuesday, the outfielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, two of them looking. After one of those, he had a brief conversation with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck to express displeasure with the call.
The moment was revealing on multiple levels. First, it showed a hitter who has simply struggling at the plate. In his last nine games, Drew is 4-for-28 (.143) with a .429 OPS and seven strikeouts. On the year, he has struck out 22 times in 91 plate appearances, or roughly once every four plate appearances. That, in turn, suggests a persistence of some of the issues that left him so frustrated in 2010, chiefly with the way balls and strikes are being called.
‘A lot of offspeed he’s been out in front of. I think he’s still battling the strike zone a little bit,” said Sox manager Terry Francona, who has Mike Cameron in the lineup in place of Drew in deference to those struggles. “He’s pretty stubborn. He’s got a pretty good eye. If he doesn’t think he can hit it, he’s not going to swing. There’s been a lot of offspeed that he’s been out in front of that, when he’s good, he bangs the ball off the left-center field wall. That’s when he’s really locked in. Hopefully, that’ll come soon.’
Plate discipline and strike zone recognition, of course, is part of Drew’s life blood. It is an essential component of why he was such a desirable player for the Sox — he knows the pitches he can drive, and he lays off pitches that cannot, particularly if they’re not in the strike zone.
That trait can be a mixed bag.
‘When he’s hitting, it’s good. When he’s not, not,” said Francona. “He has a great eye, and I don’t think he feels like he can handle things that aren’t strikes. Saying that, sometimes, knowing you’re right but making outs’¦ Some of it is knowing umpires and things like that. There’s a lot that goes into it.’
Drew will be back in the lineup on Thursday against Joel Pineiro, against whom he is 2-for-11 in his career. Against Wednesday’s Angels starter, Ervin Santana, Drew is 4-for-23 (.174) in his career, while Cameron is 2-for-2.
|05.04.11 at 3:31 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Wednesday afternoon. The Red Sox have closed to within one game of .500 as they send Josh Beckett to the mound Wednesday night vs. the Angels, but Francona said he’s trying to avoid putting pressure on the players to overcome their disastrous start as quickly as possible.
“I try not to look at, ‘OK what are you doing in April? What are you doing in May?’ Those are artificial deadlines,” he said. “What our record is is what our record is. But it does feel better to be playing better baseball.”
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is slated to return to action after missing Tuesday night’s game due to sickness. “Youk said he feels OK,” Francona announced. “He was scuffling last night, though.”
Beckett has not pitched since last Wednesday in Baltimore. Francona said the extra rest stems from a long and tiring outing in Anaheim two weeks ago. Said Francona: “With no days off coming up, and we had to juggle our rotation anyway, we decided to give him an extra day. ‘¦ We’ve got a lot more games. He’s going to make probably 33 more starts. We don’t want him missing starts. So we bought him an extra day.”
Reliever Bobby Jenks has had some struggles in his first month with the Red Sox. Said Francona: “He’s had a couple of really rocky outings. I thought the other day, he started letting it fly. He was throwing about 98 [mph], but he didn’t know where it was going. And he understood that. He got a little out of his game, probably heard some of the fans and was trying hard. I think some of the human factors probably got involved. He’s trying so hard to do the right thing ‘ things you appreciate, but things we’ve got to fix.
“And I think he went back with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], looked at some of the things out of his delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays out of the stretch a little bit for a while just to kind of shorten up everything and keep it a little bit more compact.”
|05.04.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox‘ resurgence. Gammons said Sunday’s win over the Mariners, when Tim Wakefield stepped in for Clay Buchholz and pitched a strong game, might prove to be the game that got the Sox in gear.
“I think the mental hurdle of having to go to Tim Wakefield, have him step up big, and winning a game started by Felix Hernandez, I think that gave them a little sigh of relief,” Gammons said.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been on a tear of late and looks very comfortable in the leadoff spot. “I’m still a believer that there’s a lot there that we haven’t seen with him being a greater player,” Gammons said. “Because I think he can bunt. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a guy who gets 100 walks, but he can get that on-base percentage up higher.
“When he gets on base, everybody on the field moves. That dash home from second base last night when [Vernon] Wells made such a great play on it, just a little single, was just classic Jacoby Ellsbury ‘ his speed, his athleticism.”
Added Gammons: “I’m just such a believer.”
Josh Beckett is scheduled to pitch Wednesday after having this start pushed back so that he had six days between outings, although the team insists he isn’t injured. “I think his elbow was a little tired. That’s sort of the impression that I got,” Gammons said. “Again, they’re being very cautious, like taking [Jon] Lester out last night. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing in April and May, to be very cautious.
“I think they just want to stay away from creating panic. But I think there was something in there that said, OK, he was tired. And you don’t want to blow him out in the first week of May. So, I think that’s why they’re being so cautious. But there’s no question there was something ‘ there had to be something there. I was told by some coaches, well, it’s just something we’re not going to talk about now. They didn’t seem worried about, but they were cautious about it. And that’s a good thing. Because Josh is the type who will go out and pitch no matter what. And that could be an issue.”
Reliever Bobby Jenks has had some hiccups of late, but Gammons said the team doesn’t appear to be concerned. “I think it’s that combination of the psychological and the mechanical,” he said. “But his stuff has been so good that they’re not really worried about it. I think they think in time he’s going to be fine pitching the seventh and eighth innings.
“And I do think that [Matt] Albers has been a surprise. His stuff’s always been there. I think it’s better than it used to be. I was talking to a friend of mine on the Astros who said when he was good there, he was 91-93. He’s been 94-95 all along with a lot of movement. He might be a big surprise for them.”
|05.04.11 at 11:10 am ET|
Josh Beckett will look to get back in the win column Wednesday night after registering no-decisions in his last two starts. One of those no-decisions came against these same Angels on April 21. Beckett, who is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA on the season, gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over eight innings in what eventually became a 4-2 extra-innings win for the Red Sox.
In his career, Beckett is 3-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 11 starts against the Angels. Current Angels are hitting .256 against him. Bobby Abreu‘s 101 plate appearances against him are more than twice as many as any other Angel. He’s hitting just .188 with a staggering 25 strikeouts, but he has a .356 on-base percentage thanks to an equally eye-popping 21 walks. Vernon Wells has had the most success against Beckett, as he’s hitting .293 with five home runs and eight RBIs in 41 at-bats.
Opposing Beckett will be Ervin Santana, who is 1-3 with a 4.89 ERA this season. The Sox dealt him a loss on April 23, knocking him around for nine hits and five runs over seven innings. Santana bounced back on Friday by holding the Rays to four hits and one earned run over six innings to pick up his first W.
With the loss a week and a half ago, Santana fell to 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA in his career against Boston. Current Sox are batting .250 against him. David Ortiz has done the most damage with a .308 average, two homers and four RBIs in 26 ABs. Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis are both hitting over .300 with a homer and three RBIs. Jason Varitek, who has caught each of Beckett’s last four starts, has struggled mightily with Santana, as he is 2-for-20 with six strikeouts.
|05.04.11 at 9:10 am ET|
Let’s get right to some early week nuggets:
* – Over the last three games, the Red Sox have faced three of the best starting pitchers in the game in Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren. And they won all three games. Against the starters, the Red Sox went 21-for-81 (.259) with four doubles and one home run. Once the starters left the game, the Sox battered the bullpens to the tune of 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs.
* – Last night, Jon Lester was brilliant again. Here’s what was working for him:
Curveball: Lester threw 13 curves, 10 for strikes, and the Angels went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He averaged +1.69 points per pitch overall with his curve including a whopping +2.00 vs. righthanded batters (11 curves). His curveball YTD average vs. RHB entering last night: +0.17. Masterful.
Fastball: I’m combining his two-seam and four-seam here as he was “on” with both, averaging +1.25 points per pitch on the 59 fastballs thrown, leading to 2-for-17 with nine strikeouts. The +1.25 mark was easily his best fastball average of the season, eclipsing the +0.95 average he put up in the 1-0 loss in Cleveland on April 7.
Change: Lester threw only four changeups, but all four were strikes, getting two outs while allowing one single.
* – The Red Sox homered three times on Tuesday night. It was the third time this season that they’ve hit three in a game. They have yet to hit more than three in a single contest. Last season, they hit three or more 24 times.
Note this: All three homers came in the 8th inning (Gonzalez, Ortiz, Scutaro), marking the first time that the Red Sox have hit three home runs in an inning since last August 13, when Ortiz, Beltre, and Drew all homered in the 4th inning in Texas.
And this: Since the start of the 2008 season, every team has had at least one instance where they have homered three or more times in an inning except the Mets and the Royals.
And this too: Boston, San Diego, and Atlanta are the only teams that have not allowed a three-HR inning since the start of the 2008 season. Kudos to anyone that remembers the last time the Red Sox allowed three homers in an inning: July 30, 2006 at Fenway against the Angels, Curt Schilling allowed 3rd inning home runs to Orlando Cabrera, Vlad Guerrero, and Juan Rivera.
Finally: The Angels (for the time being) are the only team that has allowed a three-HR inning in each of the last four seasons. The Royals, Twins, Brewers, and Blue Jays have given one (or more) up in each of the last three years, but none in 2011… yet.
—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »
|05.03.11 at 9:52 pm ET|
If it had been the World Cup, it would have felt like the Red Sox had been condemned to the group of death: On three consecutive days, they had the unenviable assignment of facing three right-handers who can each lay claim to the title of the best in the American League.
It would have been something of a triumph for the Sox to claim a single victory across those three contests. Yet remarkably, the team claimed its third straight victory Tuesday night against the trio of elite starters thanks to a mix of tremendous starting pitching and timely hitting in a 7-3 victory that pulled Boston within a game of .500.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Jon Lester cost himself consideration as a top contender for the Cy Young award in each of the last three seasons with slow starts to the year. Not so in 2011.
Lester continued his strong start with a tremendous effort, logging seven innings in which he allowed just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 11. He threw 93 pitches and 66 strikes, but the Sox made the decision to end his day both because they had Daniel Bard in the bullpen and in apparent deference to the fact that the left-hander a) had thrown at least 108 pitches in each of his previous five starts, and b) was starting on four days’ rest, something that he likely will have to do again in his next start.
The outing marked the 15th time in Lester’s young career that he has reached double-digits in punchouts. He featured a dominant cutter (6 swings and misses) as well as a fastball that he could throw for strikes at will. Of his 40 four-seamers, a remarkable 80 percent were strikes as the 27-year-old improved to 4-1 on the year. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.03.11 at 8:03 pm ET|
The matchup for Dustin Pedroia was imperfect. Angels starter Dan Haren has held the Red Sox second baseman hitless (with one walk) in 13 career plate appearances. With Pedroia having played every game thus far this season, it might have been a natural spot for the second baseman to take his first day off.
But Pedroia, who is back after having missed all but two games over the final three-plus months of last season, is having no part of suggestions that he might be able to use a day off — whether against Haren or anyone else. And Francona is open to being talked out of resting the 2008 AL MVP, even when he has little to no success against an opposing starter.
‘I was thinking about it the other day, and he said he was going to kill me. There was an adjective in front of it,” said Francona. “He’s a really good player. Sometimes we talk about [Jason Varitek] not getting hits but still winning the game. This guy impacts the game all over the field. I will certainly try to get him a day before he really desperately needs it. But right now, I don’t think that’s the case.”
Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez are the only two players to appear in the starting lineup in all 29 Red Sox games this year. As colleague Rob Bradford discussed with Pedroia and Gonzalez, that is a reflection of the fact that both players feel very good about the status of their recoveries from surgery — Pedroia having had a screw inserted in his left foot last September, while Gonzalez had the labrum of his right shoulder repaired after the season. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.03.11 at 12:45 pm ET|
It was an at-bat for the ages.
With an assist from Gary Marbry of Nuggetpalooza fame, some of the facts that made the at-bat so remarkable:
–Pedroia’s 13-pitch at-bat matched the longest of his career. His other at-bat of that length came in his third game in the majors, on Aug. 27, 2006, when Pedroia worked a 13-pitch walk against Cha-Seung Baek of the Mariners.
–Pedroia now has the only recorded hit on an at-bat of 13-plus pitches by a Red Sox at Fenway Park (with records of such things dating to the 1970s in baseball-reference.com). He became the first Red Sox since Damon Buford (in 1998) to record a hit in a plate appearance of 13-plus pitches. Since 1993, in fact, Sox hitters were 1-for-10 with five walks in plate appearances of 13-plus pitches.
–No hitter had ever gone to as many as 13 pitches in an at-bat against Weaver in his career. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.03.11 at 7:57 am ET|
After handing Angels No. 1 pitcher Jered Weaver his first loss of the season Monday night, the Red Sox now get to face the Angels’ 1-A starter in Dan Haren on Tuesday night. Haren, who is 4-1 this season, ranks second in the American League in ERA (1.23) and first in WHIP (0.75). As is the case with Weaver, Haren’s only loss came against the Sox. He gave up four runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks over six innings in a 4-3 Boston win on April 22.
With the loss, Haren dropped to 2-6 against the Sox in his career, although he does have a solid 3.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP against them. David Ortiz has had plenty of success against Haren — he’s hitting .318 with three home runs and six RBIs in 22 career at-bats — but most of the Sox have struggled with him. As a team, Boston is hitting just .216 off Haren. No one has had a tougher go of it than Dustin Pedroia, who is 0-for-12 with a walk and five strikeouts in 13 plate appearances.
The Sox will counter Haren with an ace of their own in Jon Lester, who is 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP this season. The 27-year-old southpaw also opposed Haren in that April 22 game, and he earned the win by tossing six shutout innings. Lester, who has won each of his last three starts, improved to 3-1 against the Angels in his career. But in a reverse of Haren’s situation, Lester has a less-than-stellar 4.81 ERA and 1.63 WHIP against them.
Current Angels are hitting .238 against Lester. Torii Hunter has had the most success, as he is hitting .375 with a homer and four RBIs in 16 ABs. Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick — the three players with the most ABs — are all hitting .200 or worse against Lester. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.02.11 at 10:41 pm ET|
For the second time in as many nights, the Red Sox had the unenviable task of facing one of the top right-handers in the majors. One day after they outlasted Felix Hernandez and the Mariners in a 3-2 walkoff win, the Sox drew Angels ace Jered Weaver, who entered the night 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA.
But for the second straight night, the Sox proved capable of holding their own against one of the league’s elite. This performance, in fact, was even more impressive, as the team knocked Weaver — who had thrown at least 6 1/3 innings while permitting no more than two earned runs in any outing — out after just five innings thanks to an epic string of at-bats in the Halos ace’s final inning.
After Carl Crawford lined a one-out double to left, Jason Varitek negotiated an eight-pitch walk. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a seven-pitch fielder’s choice groundout (admittedly, one on which he chased a full-count curveball that was out of the zone) before the Sox received their most impressive — and arguably their most important — at-bat of the 2011 season to date. Ellsbury stole second to put two men in scoring position for the Sox second baseman, who fouled off nine pitches in a 13-pitch at-bat.
On the final pitch, Pedroia lined a 91 mph fastball back through the box for a two-run single. The Sox, who had been trailing 2-1, assumed a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish, en route to hanging the first defeat of the season upon Weaver.
Moreover, the approach helped to knock Weaver out after six innings, allowing the Sox to go on the rampage against the Angels bullpen. The team would erupt for six runs in the seventh — the most they’ve scored in any inning this year — while going 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position to claim an impressive 9-5 win against the Angels.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
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