|08.11.10 at 12:01 am ET|
TORONTO — After hitting an eighth-inning home run which gave the Red Sox the lead for good in what turned out to be their 7-5 win over the Blue Jays Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, Mike Lowell said that he doesn’t feel like his surgically-repaired right hip should be the impetus for extra time out of the lineup.
“I don’t think like I need any,” Lowell said. “I’m willing to accept the fact that Victor Martinez can’t catch every day and he’s a middle of the lineup guy. So I have no problem the days he doesn’t catch and he plays first. That’s logical and totally reasonable. But from a standpoint where I can only play three in a row and need a day, I mean this turf is as tough as anywhere. If you feel 100 percent you’re going to feel a little stiff playing on this turf. There’s not much time left. For eight weeks I can do anything.”
Lowell, who also had a sacrifice fly, noted that he isn’t going to try and duplicate the numbers of the injured Kevin Youkilis at first base (“If I try to do it, I’ll fail,” he said), and that he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to the group he considers “the team.” In his opinion, that designation, he explained, are those who are in the clubhouse on a regular basis.
“Have I played at times to prove people wrong? Yeah, when people think you’re done. But no one on my team. I consider the team the people in this clubhouse. I don’t consider any outsiders part of this team because if you don’t grind it out everyday here with everyone in the clubhouse you’re not really part of the team,” he explained. “I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to what I consider the team. But I do want to contribute and I do want to produce.”
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|08.10.10 at 10:26 pm ET|
For much of the year, Mike Lowell and Jed Lowrie were rendered afterthoughts on the Red Sox roster. Lowrie missed the first half of the season while recovering from mono, while Lowell languished on the bench and then was shuttled to the disabled list, in part because he did not have a useful role on the team.
But both have become prominent regulars on the Sox due to injuries, and both played huge roles in leading the Sox to a 7-5 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. With the game tied, 5-5, Lowell ripped a homer to left against reliever Shawn Camp. After pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish singled, Lowrie blasted a double (his second of the game) high off the wall in straightaway center for an insurance run.
In the process, two players who had been marginalized for much of the year emerged as central as the Sox claimed their second straight win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Jed Lowrie had his second two-double game of the year, as the switch-hitter collected one two-bagger from each side of the plate. Lowrie has been a critical contributor for the Sox with Dustin Pedroia down, hitting .311 with an .870 OPS.
–Lowell hit his second homer since returning from the D.L. earlier this month, and had his second multi-RBI game of August.
–J.D. Drew gave the Sox a brief 5-4 lead when he crushed a homer to right field against Jays starter Ricky Romero in the fifth inning. It was Drew’s first homer since July 22.
–Though David Ortiz has struggled significantly against left-handers this year, he has had no problems against Romero, either this year or in his career. He collected a pair of doubles against Romero, and now has five doubles and a homer in 16 career at-bats against the Toronto southpaw.
–With Daniel Bard unavailable, Manny Delcarmen delivered a dominating performance in the eighth inning, striking out a batter in a perfect inning that he required just 11 pitches to navigate. Opponents are 0-for-11 against Delcarmen in August.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The middle infield defense was mistake-prone, as Lowrie and Marco Scutaro struggled to work together on a pair of plays that resulted in one error (charged to Lowrie) and another play that created a bases-loaded jam.
–Bill Hall struck out twice in his three at-bats, going 0-for-3. Despite being a part-timer for most of the year, Hall has 24 multi-strikeout games this year, a mark that ranks second on the Red Sox to David Ortiz (33).
–Marco Scutaro went 0-for-5, and is now hitting just .159 with a .400 OPS in August.
WHAT WENT BOTH RIGHT AND WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The process of trying to acclimate Felix Doubront to life in the bullpen at the major league level is admittedly a challenging one for the Red Sox, as the Sox will hope that he proves capable in the face of challenges even though most of his outings in the coming weeks will represent some kind of “first.” Tuesday was just such a day.
For the first time in his professional career, he entered in the middle of an inning with runners on base. Doubront was summoned with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, asked to preserve a 5-4 lead. He immediately got what should have been in inning-ending grounder that was botched by the middle infield tandem of Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie. No matter. With the bases loaded, Doubront got a huge three-pitch strikeout against Travis Snider, the last pitch being a nasty swing-and-miss curveball.
But when he was asked to follow up that effort by pitching the seventh inning, he stumbled, leaving a fastball up and over the middle of the plate to Jose Bautista. The American League leader in homers crushed the pitch out to left field, tying the game. He recovered quickly to retire the next three hitters, but what could have been the defining performance of the game instead turned into a footnote. Still, the new experiences should only help Doubront going forward.
–Daisuke Matsuzaka was alternately spectacular and vulnerable for the Sox. He struck out the side on just 14 pitches in the first inning, marking the second time this year that he had struck out three batters in an inning. (The first also came against the Blue Jays.) In stretches, he was simply overpowering. And yet there were other stretches in which he completely lost his command, with damaging results. Most notably, he walked the first two batters of the third inning (No. 9 hitter John McDonald and leadoff man Fred Lewis), and followed that by allowing a three-run homer to Travis Snider on a fastball down the middle.
As a result, an outing where Matsuzaka appeared capable of cruising to victory ended with him recording a no-decision and failing to last six innings. For the night, he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven. He allowed two homers in a game for just the second time this year, and gave up a homer with at least two runners on base for just the second time this year. Still, when he threw strikes, he was dominant.
His up-and-down outing did have the benefit of inspiring a grassroots poetry movement.
|08.10.10 at 4:43 pm ET|
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is on pace to return to the Red Sox when they return to Fenway Park on Aug. 17, both Pedroia and Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters. Pedroia had an aggressive day of running in spikes prior to his team’s series opener against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. He will run the bases on both Wednesday and Thursday and then visit with Dr. George Theodore in Boston on Friday.
Barring a setback either before or during the exam, Pedroia could be cleared for a weekend rehab assignment on Saturday and Sunday in Pawtucket. That would be a prelude to his return to the Sox on Tuesday.
Pedroia has been out since suffering a fractured navicular bone in his left foot on June 25, when he was hitting .292/.370/.502/.871. The Sox are 20-18 in his absence.
The 2008 American League MVP expressed frustration on Friday that he was unable to meet his initial goal of returning in fewer than six weeks. Even so, during a conversation on Friday, he remained convinced that he will have a chance to impact his club’s playoff fortunes.
“I’m going to come back and make an impact. That’s a fact,” said Pedroia. “I just don’t know when that’s going to be.”
Now, it appears that a date is becoming more clear.
|08.10.10 at 2:18 pm ET|
The Red Sox have plenty of experience adding young arms from their minor league system into the bullpen in the middle of the year. Indeed, the team has a striking track record of success in that regard, starting with Jonathan Papelbon in 2005 and including the likes of Manny Delcarmen, Justin Masterson and Daniel Bard in recent years.
But no one whom the Sox have attempted to add to their bullpen ranks in the middle of the season has been quite like Felix Doubront.
All of the other pitchers who the Sox have brought up for bullpen assistance had relief experience upon which they could draw. Papelbon and Masterson were closers in college before being asked to contribute in relief in the majors. Delcarmen and Bard had already transitioned to full-time relief roles in the minors before they were added to the big-league bullpen. Even Junichi Tazawa, who made his major league debut by giving up a walkoff homer in the 15th inning against the Yankees almost exactly one year ago, had experience working out of the bullpen in Japan.
But Doubront? He had all of one professional relief appearance before tossing a very impressive inning of relief on Saturday in New York, striking out a pair and getting a groundball out.
The closest parallel to Doubront’s current situation came last year, when Michael Bowden received something of an apprenticeship on the fly. He tossed two scoreless innings of relief in an early-season win over the Yankees in April, then came back up in September and was asked to pitch in several games when the Sox were either ahead or behind by several (anywhere from three to 10) runs, before pitching the fifth inning of a tie game on the final day of he season.
Yet even that comparison is imperfect, since Bowden was getting a taste of the bullpen without any expectation that he would be an integral member of it. The Sox had several effective relievers — Bard, Hideki Okajima, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito — to stabilize the bridge to Papelbon. Bowden’s presence in the bullpen was being driven almost solely by the opportunity to further his player development, rather than because of a need on the part of the Sox.
Doubront, on the other hand, is viewed as a pitcher who could end up impacting the Sox bullpen significantly. The Sox called him up in spite of his developmental needs, rather than because of them. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.10.10 at 10:38 am ET|
The Red Sox earned a split of their four-game series against the Yankees by winning Monday, 2-1. On Tuesday, they begin a three-game set against a Blue Jays team that has won five of its last six — against the Rays and Yankees.
The Sox will send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound with a record of 8-3 and a 3.96 ERA. Against the Blue Jays in his career, Matsuzaka is 6-1 with a 3.45 ERA.
Matsuzaka pitched well in his last two outings against the Indians and Tigers, totaling 14 innings, five earned runs and 11 strikeouts to help the Sox earn two important wins.
The Blue Jays will hand the ball to Ricky Romero, who is 9-7 with a 3.37 ERA. The Sox have hit well against Romero, especially David Ortiz, who in 14 plate appearances has a .462 batting average with three doubles, a home run and five RBI.
Romero’s best outing of the season came against the Yankees on Aug. 3, when he pitched a complete game and held his opponent to two runs.
|08.10.10 at 10:22 am ET|
* – 1st Inning, No Score, JD Drew picks up an infield hit.
It was his 7th infield hit of the season, more than he’s had in any of the past three years. Ichiro leads the AL this year with 41.
* – 1st Inning, No Score, Red Sox get 2 hits in the first inning but fail to score.
Adrian Beltre strikes out with two on to end the inning. Over the two weeks that ended Sunday, the Red Sox had hit .106 (5-47) with 2 outs and RISP, last in the majors in that span.
It was the 171st time this season that the Yankees have allowed exactly 2 hits in an inning. They’ve allowed at least one RBI in 119 of those (69.6%), the highest percentage in the AL.
* – 1st Inning, No Score, Jon Lester retires leadoff hitter Derek Jeter.
Entering Monday’s game, Lester had allowed the first batter faced to reach base at a .364 clip, ranked 83rd out of 129 pitchers with 15+ starts this season. Last season was an even worse .406, ranked 93rd.
Over the last two seasons, Tim Wakefield has allowed just a .135 OBP to the first batter faced in starts, the lowest mark in the majors in that span (min. 30 starts):
.135 – Tim Wakefield
.180 – John Lackey
.180 – Jason Hammel
* – 1st Inning, No Score, Jon Lester retires the Yankees in order.
For Lester, it was his 56th perfect inning this season (3 batters faced with OBP of .000), 7th most in the AL. Roy Halladay leads the majors with 75, followed by Cliff Lee with 70.
It was Lester’s 5th “three up three down” inning against the Yankees this year. Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Toronto’s Ricky Romero each have 10 perfect innings against New York.
* – 2nd Inning, No Score, Bill Hall picks up an RBI hit on an 0-2 pitch from Phil Hughes.
It was Hall’s first 0-2 RBI hit since 2007 and just Boston’s 3rd of this season.
* – 2nd Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Phil Hughes needs 37 pitches to get out of the inning.
It was the 4th most in an inning by a Yankee this year as AJ Burnett had a 41-pitch inning and Vazquez has had 39-pitch innings twice (including one on Friday against Boston). It was the first time that Hughes has thrown more than 33 pitches in an inning at home. He’s thrown more than 37 once in his career, April 13, 2008, at Boston.
* – 3rd Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Phil Hughes retires the Red Sox in order.
It was the 45th perfect inning of the season for Hughes and the 4th time that he’s set Boston down in order. James Shields and CC Sabathia each have 9 such innings against Boston this season, the most by any opponent.
* – 4th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Jon Lester walks a batter for the 3rd straight inning.
It’s the first time he’s issued a walk in three consecutive innings since May 25, when he did it in five straight. He also had a three inning streak on May 15.
* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, JD Drew strikes out looking.
It was the 29th “looking” strikeout by Drew this season. Bet you won’t guess who leads the team (and is tied for 2nd in the majors) in “called strike threes”:
38 – Justin Upton, ARZ
37 – Marco Scutaro, BOS
37 – Rickie Weeks, MIL
* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Jon Lester strikes out Marcus Thames looking.
It was Lester’s 3rd “looking” strikeout of the game and his 54th of the season, which leads the AL and is 2nd in the majors:
59 – Yovani Gallardo, MIL
54 – Jon Lester, BOS
49 – Jered Weaver, LAA
* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Austin Kearns singles for the first hit of the game against Lester.
It was the 6th time since the start of 2008 that Lester has taken a no hitter into the 5th inning, putting him in a tie (with 5 others) for the 4th most in that span:
9 – Gavin Floyd
7 – John Danks
7 – CC Sabathia
Hey, did you know that Felix Hernandez has not made it through four innings with a no-hitter intact in 89 starts since the beginning of 2008? Neither has Zack Grienke (88 starts). But Brandon Morrow, who came within an out of a no-no against Tampa Bay on Sunday, has gone to the 5th without allowing a hit six times in just 37 starts in that span.
* – 7th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Victor Martinez strikes out with runners on 2nd and 3rd to end the inning.
Boston would end the day going 0-5 with RISP and 2 outs and 0-12 after Scutaro’s bases loaded double Friday night.
* – 7th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Yankees load the bases with none out but the Lester and Bard get three consecutive strikeouts.
The last time that the Red Sox loaded the bases and then fanned the side without any runs scoring was June 2, 2009, when Jonathan Papelbon allowed 3 straight singles to start the 9th in Detroit and then struck out the side.
* – 8th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Mark Teixeira homers leading off the inning against Daniel Bard.
Monday was the 12th time this season that Bard had finished an inning and then started the next inning. In the first 11, the leadoff batter of the 2nd inning was 2-11 (.182, both singles) against Bard.
* – 8th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-1, Jonathan Papelbon induces Austin Kearns to ground out on his first pitch with runners on 1st and 2nd to end the inning.
Entering Monday, opponents were 5-6 (.833) this season when they put the first pitch in play against Papelbon with RISP. In his career in that situation, opponents were hitting .389 (14-36) with 6 doubles and 2 HR.
* – 9th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-1, Jonathan Papelbon strikes out the side (around a walk) to preserve the win for the Red Sox.
For Papelbon, it was his 30th save of 4+ outs in his career and 2nd this season. 19 of those 30 have come on the road.
So that’s how I watch the games.
One final thought (as I watch the replay of Bard’s first pitch to Berkman again trying to figure out how a pitch right down the middle gets called a ball):
Why do fans boo when the pitcher makes a pickoff throw to first? I mean, if Brett Gardner is on first base and that booing Yankee fan is on the mound, isn’t he going to throw over as well?
|08.09.10 at 7:13 pm ET|
“Better than I have all year,” the Red Sox closer said in regard to how his physical well-being was during what turned out to be a 2-1 win for the Red Sox over the Yankees, Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. “It’s probably as good as I felt all year, and I’m not just saying that.”
Papelbon’s optimism regarding his state was evidenced by his stuff. Using a 96 mph fastball and what he considered his best splitter of the season, the Sox closer came up big in getting the final four outs for his 28th save of the season.
All of this on Aug. 9.
“For me I’ve always tried to take pride in the second half of the season,” said Papelbon, who now hasn’t allowed a hit in any of his last four outings. “It’s always what I prepare for, the stretch run when I’m going to be needed to go out there and pitch every day I can.”
The effectiveness Papelbon showed Monday was no fluke. With the kind of stuff he was mustering, it is easy to believe the closer when he utters “it doesn’t matter” in response to having to face Mark Teixeira for the game’s final out. (A showdown that resulted in a strikeout of the Yankees’ first baseman.)
Papelbon is on a much more conservative pace than he was a year ago. At this time last season, he had thrown 825 pitches. This year he’s at 768 (which is in line with the 2008 pace of 746 pitches by Aug. 9).
“I felt good,” he said. “I think if I can put my body in a position to be at it’s best my pitches are going to be at their best. I think that goes hand in hand.
As for the ups and downs he has had to endure in the halls of public opinion, Papelbon seems at peace with the reality that comes with his occupation.
“It’s just the nature of our role,” he said. “I think Mo across the street or next door will tell you that as well. I compare our role to a field goal kicker a lot. Whether they get the field goal or not, to lose it or win it they’re still going to talk to the quarterback.”
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