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Jimenez as Josh Beckett?

04.18.10 at 2:20 pm ET
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It was the day of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, and Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca could not help but marvel at the potential of his team’s Game 2 starter.

“Special. Special. It’s what, as an organization, we want to be able to promote to the big-league level, that potential No. 1 starter, someone who has abilities along the lines of a Josh Beckett and can neutralize an opposing offense,” said Apodaca. “He’s far from a Josh Beckett, as far as being able to truly command the strike zone. But Josh evolved into what he is right now. [Beckett] is at the top of his game right now. He’s one of the top pitchers in professional baseball today. That’s what we’ve seen a preview of what Ubaldo could possibly be. He has that type of ability.”

On Saturday, Jimenez accomplished something that Beckett never has, throwing a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves. Of course, Beckett probably need not feel any slight, since he has accomplished some things in his own career (two World Series rings, a World Series shutout) that are still absent from Jimenez’ resume.

Even so, it is interesting to compare the Rockies right-hander to Beckett and one other Red Sox pitcher.

Jimenez, 26, was born on Jan. 22, 1984, making him 15 days younger than Jon Lester. The two actually have some striking career similarities, beyond the fact that both have no-hitters.

In his young career, Jimenez is 34-28 with a 3.70 ERA, great strikeout numbers (7.9 per 9 IP) and command issues (4.1 walks per 9 IP). Lester, who like Jimenez made his big league debut in 2006, is 42-17 with a 3.72 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine frames.

As for Beckett, the Sox acquired him when he was roughly the same age as Jimenez is now. Through his age 25 season, he was 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine frames.

Jimenez may not be quite the equal of Beckett or Lester (whose success has been in the American League) to this point, but he’s clearly not far from fulfilling Apodaca’s prophecy. He has an overpowering arsenal — his fastball on Saturday was 97-98 mph in the ninth, and he complements that with a dominating breaking ball that registers less than 80 mph and a terrific changeup — that already has established him among the top arms in the National League.

“He’s good — so good,” said Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez, who pitched with Jimenez for the Rockies in 2006 and 2007. “Unbelievable. He’s got everything. He’s young, he throws hard, he’s got a good pitcher. If he can control the zone, he can be great. … He can keep getting better and better and better.”

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Pre-game notes: Red Sox vs. Rays, 4/18

04.18.10 at 12:36 pm ET
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A few notes leading into Sunday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays:

–With Saturday night’s game having finished after midnight, the Red Sox felt that Victor Martinez should not catch on Sunday. Instead, because the team wanted to keep the switch-hitter (a career .300/.348/.400/.748 hitter against Rays starter Matt Garza) in the lineup, David Ortiz (.136/.296/.455/.751, 2 HR) was left out of the starting lineup so that Martinez can serve as designated hitter and Jason Varitek (.133/.235/.200/.435) can catch.

“I didn’t feel comfortable running Victor back out there to catch, and I wanted his bat in the lineup against Garza,” said Sox skipper Terry Francona. “Until they give us two DH’s, something’s got to give on some days. And I actually thought that David swung the bat a little bit better last night, especially in the second game. He’ll probably not be too happy with me today. Sometimes, we’re trying to win the game today and make it work. I think ‘Tek needed to catch just because of the length of that second game.”

After featuring the same lineup in each of the first four games of the season, the Sox have now changed their lineup in each of the last eight games.

–It’s unclear whether Jonathan Papelbon will be available for the Sox today after his wife delivered the couple’s second child (a son) on Saturday.

“I hope so,” Francona said of Papelbon’s availability. “He’s still at the hospital. He really wants to be here, but obviously there’s a priority with [his wife].”

–There is a chance that the Sox bullpen could be rather thin, especially if Papelbon is unavailable. On Saturday, Daniel Bard threw two innings (though just 17 pitches), Manny Delcarmen tossed a frame and both Ramon Ramirez and Scott Atchison had two-inning stints.

Francona said that the team is hopeful that Bard, based on his pitch efficiency, would be able to pitch.

“We’ll see,” said Francona. “Obviously, we’d like him to be.”

Bard has appeared in seven of the Sox’ 11 games thus far, though the frequent off days to start the year have been a large factor in that workload volume.

“The workload can be a little bit skewed, if somebody says that somebody has been in a certain amount of games. If you have days off in between, you might as well take advantage of it,” said Francona. “But we always keep an eye on their workload. That’s for sure.”

Jacoby Ellsbury was slated to hit in a cage prior to Sunday’s game, one week after his collision with Adrian Beltre. While the Sox cannot say with absolute certainty that he will avoid the disabled list, the team remains optimistic that such an option will be unnecessary.

“I guess it could be a possibility. We don’t want it to be,” said Francona. “We sat with Jake twice the other day because we were short. We kind of mapped out the days that, if we do retroactive you, this is when you’ll comeback. He looked a little bit surprised, like, ‘I’ll never be that long,’ which was encouraging for us.”

The team likely would have had to put Ellsbury on the disabled list had Mike Cameron not come back so quickly from his kidney stone.

Ramon Ramirez was with the Rockies in 2006 and 2007, when he encountered a young Ubaldo Jimenez. Suffice it to say that, based on what he saw of the young pitcher, he was unsurprised by the no-hitter that Jimenez hurled against the Braves on Saturday.

“He’s good — so good,” said Ramirez. “Unbelievable. He’s got everything. He’s young, he throws hard, he’s got a good pitcher. If he can control the zone, he can be great. … He can keep getting better and better and better.”

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Red Sox vs. Rays matchups, 4/18

04.18.10 at 8:41 am ET
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April has been the cruelest month for Jon Lester. (AP)

With a career 2-5 record and 5.08 ERA, the numbers don’t lie — Jon Lester struggles in April. But if there is silver lining in this dark cloud (a fitting thought given the recent weather), it is that the Tampa Bay Rays might be just what the doctor ordered for the Sox’ lone left-handed starter.

Lester was tagged for 13 earned runs in his first two starts against the division rivals last season, but in his final three appearances he only gave up three total runs, highlighted by an eight-inning, two-hit gem on Sep. 13.

In his career vs. the Rays, Lester is 6-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 12 starts.

To be successful in this game, Lester will have to stifle Carlos Pena’s bat. Pena has slugged .778 vs. Lester and his four home runs are the most by an opponent against the big lefty.

With Josh Beckett getting back on a roll and John Lackey consistent in his first two starts, now is the time for Lester to get into a rhythm and solidify the top of the starting rotation.

Matt Garza comes into Sunday’s game red-hot, and may be establishing himself as “the guy” in the rotation for the Rays. Garza has gone eight innings in each of first two outings, while only giving up a total of three runs (two earned.) Both of the starts came against the 1-11 Baltimore Orioles, but Garza has thrived pitching against Boston.

He sports a 5-2 record with a 3.23 ERA in his career vs. the Red Sox, and who can forget his memorable game 7 in the 2008 ALCS when he outdueled Lester to push the Rays into the World Series?

Massachusetts native Carlos Pena displays plenty of power against his hometown team. (AP)

RAYS VS. JON LESTER

Carlos Pena (31 plate appearances): .296 average/ .323 OBP/ .778 slugging percentage, 4 homers, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

B.J. Upton (31): .172/ .226/ .276, 1 homer, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Carl Crawford (30): .286/ .333/ .321, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Jason Bartlett (24): .391/ .417/ .391, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Dioner Navarro (22): .294/ .429/ .294, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (21): .300/ .333/ .550, 1 homer, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Pat Burrell (13): .167/ .231/ .167, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Ben Zobrist (13): .222/ .462/ .222, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

Willy Aybar (12): .167/ .167/ .333, 6 strikeouts

Kelly Shoppach (11): .333/ .455/ .778, 1 homer, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Gabe Kapler (9): .286/ .444/ .286, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Never faced: Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez

Matt Garza will face the Red Sox for the first time this season on Sunday. (AP)

RED SOX VS. MATT GARZA

Jacoby Ellsbury (36 plate appearances): .313 average/ .371 OBP/ .344 slugging percentage, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (36): .219/ .306/ .219, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (35): .206/ .229/ .441, 2 homers, 2 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (28): .261/ .393/ .522, 1 homer, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

David Ortiz (27): .136/ .296/ .455, 2 homers, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (23): .300/ .348/ .400, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (22): .158/ .227/ .368, 1 homer, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (20): .150/ .150/ .300, 1 homer, 3 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (17): .133/ .235/ .200, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (10): .300/ .300/ .300, 2 strikeouts

Jeremy Hermida (6): .200/ .333/ .400, 1 walk, 2 strikeout

Never faced: Mike Cameron, Bill Hall

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Closing time: Rays 6, Red Sox 5

04.18.10 at 12:21 am ET
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The Red Sox saw momentum come at funny times against James Shields and the Rays in a 6-5 loss on Saturday night. A sloppy first-inning followed by lights-out stuff from Clay Buchholz had Rays hitters just as confused as the fans who stayed for the late game. Additionally, poor defensive play from Marco Scutaro was atoned for when he crushed his first home run in a Red Sox uniform, though it was another Sox infielder that slugged his way into the record books. Though all of the Sox’ runs came from homers, exposed was the fact that they went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Key Play

All four of the of the first-inning runs scored by the Rays unearned thanks to a two-out miscue by Mike Cameron in center. After Jason Bartlett gounded to short and Carl Crawford singled to right on a 94-mph fastball, Zobrist grounded to first on a play that advanced the already off Crawford. Crawford’s steal of third didn’t even get a throw from Victor Martinez given that there were two out. Following a walk issued to Evan Longoria, the slowly charging Cameron dropped a fly from Carlos Pena, allowing the inning to continue and the flood gates to open.

What Went Right for the Red Sox

- Pedroia’s two-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh inning made him the first second baseman in Red Sox history to belt five round-trippers in the month of April. Tim Naehring (1994), Mike Andrews (1969), and Bobby Doer (1941) had all hit four in April.  The blast made it a three-run game at 6-3.

- Buchholz recovered well from a disasterous first inning (see below). He attacked the strikezone with more confidence and as a result didn’t allow another baserunner until John Jaso’s double in the top of the fourth with one out. Even following the extra-base hit, Buchholz continued his redeeming dominance by catching Sean Rodriguez looking on an 86-mph slider and getting Jason Bartlett swinging on a 91-mph fastball to end the inning.
- The infield brought to power for the Red Sox. Scutaro debuted his home-run swing on a night that required some offense to make up for lackluster defense. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Scutaro launched a 91-mph fastball from James Shields into the Monster seats to make it a 4-1 game. After Pedroia brought the Sox within three in the seventh, Youkilis blasted Andy Sonnanstine’s second pitch over the Monster with Victor Martinez on first for a two-run blast.

What Went Wrong for the Red Sox

- Run-prevention became quality start prevention when Mike Cameron blew the easy lineout in the first. As a result of the blunder Buchholz unraveled in the first and had thrown 43 pitches and allowed four unearned runs before the first frame was over. The game eventually strayed from being a low-scoring affair on both sides, but had Cameron not dropped the ball and the wheels not fallen off in the first inning, the Red Sox may have had themselves a comfortable margin of victory.

- Mike Cameron wasn’t the only Red Sox defensive upgrade to downgrade sprits at Fenway on Saturday. Scutaro booted a routine grounder to short in the top of the sixth inning, allowing B.J. Upton to reach base and eventually advance into scoring position. The error did not prove costly as Red Sox reliever Scott Atchison escaped the inning by striking out Pat Burrell

- The Rays continued to run against the Red Sox from the get-go. Carl Crawford took off on a 3-1 count to Ben Zobrist and as a result wasn’t doubled up when the Rays right fielder grounded to second. On the very next at-bat the Rays left fielder stole third uncontested and scored on the error to Cameron with two down.

B.J. Upton also got in on the action, stealing second base after reaching on an error to Marco Scutaro. He appeared to have also stolen third base during Pat Burrell’s at-bat in the inning, though the scoring was changed later in the game to state that he had advanced on a wild pitch from Atchison.

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Bullpen fails Sox as Rays win, 3-1

04.17.10 at 8:23 pm ET
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The game began that began Friday night as a pitcher’s duel continued to be an April nail-biter as it extended deep into extra innings on Saturday. Josh Beckett went seven innings and allowed and allowed an unearned run to counter Wade Davis’ five innings of one-run ball, yet it was the Jeckyll-and-Hyde Red Sox bullpen that ironically sealed the game’s fate.

After Daniel Bard tossed an extremely efficient two innings on 17 pitches (16 strikes), Manny Delcarmen struggled in the 12th inning and served up the decisive two-run homer to Pat Burrell.

With Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched the ninth on Friday, unavailable after the birth of his son, Gunner, Daniel Bard entered the game to begin extra innings. He promptly fanned Burrell on three pitches before inducing a groundout to first from Reid Brignac and fanning Dinner Navarro on an 83-mph slider. All nine pitches Bard threw in the tenth went for strikes. Following the clean innings from Bard, Delcarmen’s 12th was nothing short of ugly.

Delcarmen walked Evan Longoria on a full count to begin the 12th and got Carlos Pena fly out on a lazy ball to left field. Jeremy Hermida remained busy when B.J. Upton promptly scorched one into the glove of the left fielder on the next pitch. Delcarmen was an out away from escaping the inning before Pat Burrell send a 2-0 fastball into the Monster seats to make it a 3-1 game. Brignac flew to Drew to end the inning.

The game had appeared to be in the bag for the Red Sox in the 11th inning when an error by Evan Longoria with two men on loaded the basses for David Ortiz. With the five-man infield installed for the Rays, the struggling designated hitter again grounded one to Pena, who got the force-out at home. Adrian Beltre then gave Longoria a shot at redemption by grounding into a 5-3 double play.

Ortiz had nearly ended it immediately upon the game’s resuming. Ortiz blasted Lance Cormier’s third pitch, blasting it just foul down the right field line. Ortiz worked the count full and and eventually grounded out on a hard-hit ball to first baseman Carlos Pena. Adrian Beltre bounced to third before Jeremy Hermida went down swinging on a 78-mile-an-hour curveball.

Rafael Soriano pitched the bottom of the 12th and earned the save. The newly acquired reliever fanned Hermida to begin the bottom of the inning before Varitek drove a fastball to centerfield for a double. Mike Cameron, who had entered the game after Bill Hall was pinch-hit for Victor Martinez, flew out in foul territory to Longoria and Scutaro flew to right field to end the game.

Lance Cormier, who had appeared to have gotten himself into trouble in the 11th and allowed some hard-hit but harmless balls in the ninth and 10th, earned the victory, throwing three scoreless innings while allowing two hits and picking up a strikeout.

The previous highlight of the game had been a throw from second baseman Reid Brignac. Kevin Youilis was easily gunned down at the plate in the sixth inning after Tim Bogar sent him from first base on a David Ortiz single, keeping the game at a deadlock.

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Papelbon unavailable

04.17.10 at 6:00 pm ET
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Ashley Papelbon gave birth to the couple’s second child Saturday, rendering closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable for either of tonight’s games between the Red Sox and Rays. Daniel Bard will continue the first game, currently tied 1-1, should the Red Sox not score in the bottom of the ninth.

The newborn Gunner Papelbon weighs 8 pounds, 8 ounces and is 21.5 inches.

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Red Sox pre-game notes

04.17.10 at 5:15 pm ET
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- Terry Francona confirmed prior to the conclusion of Friday night’s game that Mike Cameron, who has not played since Wednesday, will return to the lineup in the second game. Cameron missed time due to a kidney stone, which has since passed.

- Francona talked about the Rays’ incessant base-stealing against Red Sox, saying “There’s going to be guys like (Carl) Crawford — some guys you can’t stop. If we stop the guys we’re supposed to stop, we’re going to be OK.”

- Should the Sox not score in the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon will continue the game if he is available. In case he isn’t — a likelihood given that his wife is expecting the couple’s second child today — Daniel Bard will be called upon.

- Jacoby Ellsbury threw and took 25 swings today. Francona said the left fielder could return by the middle of the week after not playing since a collision with Adrian Beltre last Sunday.

“I’m pretty happy with how today went,” Ellsbury said, adding that he’d “like to hope [the middle of the week] would be a reasonable time” to return.

- Francona defended David Ortiz, saying “he’s still getting into deep counts. I think there are some times he’s still in between a little bit.”

- The tarp has been on the field all afternoon, though there hasn’t been much chatter of potential for a delay.
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