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Closing Time: Mariners 4, Red Sox 2

08.25.10 at 9:49 pm ET
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It was a game that left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouths of Red Sox’ fans everywhere.

Also the Sox were able to gain 1/2 game on both the Yankees and Rays in the standings — putting them 5 1/2 back of both teams — it could have been a whole lot better for the home team if it could have managed a sweep against the hapless Mariners. Instead the Sox had to settle for a single victory Wednesday, dropping the night-cap of the teams’ doubleheader, 4-2, at Fenway Park.

The results set the stage for the Red Sox’ three-game series in St. Petersburg, with all three contending American League East teams getting Thursday off. Besides the inability to pick up an extra game heading into the showdown with the Rays, another monkey wrench that was thrown the Sox’ way was a back injury suffered before the game by Thursday night’s scheduled starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. The ailment forced Tim Wakefield into the emergency start, while pushing Jon Lester to Friday’s start at Tropicana Field.

Here is what went wrong for the Red Sox, and what went right:

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Felix Hernandez pitched. With his 7 1/3-inning outing, in which he surrendered two runs (one earned) on four hits, the righty has now allowed just six runs in 30 1/3 innings over four career outings at Fenway Park. The performance lowers his ERA to 2.47 (second only to the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz’ 2.26), while pushing Hernandez over 200 innings for a third straight season. This time out the starter struck out nine with a walk. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they weren’t able to work the count enough to drive the Mariners’ ace from the game prior to the eighth inning, with his final pitch count totaling 122.

- The Red Sox lost some valuable ammunition against Hernandez early on, as Adrian Beltre was thrown out of the game (along with manager Terry Francona) in the third inning. Beltre ran in from his position prior to starting the third, continuing an argument with home plate umpire Dan Bellino that had begun after the third baseman was rung up on strikes the previous half inning. Upon arriving at the umpire, Beltre was almost immediately greeted by second base ump Angel Hernandez, who had sprinted in from his position to intercept the player. It was just Beltre’s second ejection of his career, with the other one coming almost eight years to the day (Aug. 24, 2002). For Francona, who was tossed out after coming on the field to pick up the argument for Beltre, it was the 29th ejection of his career and third of the season.

- Wakefield got off on the wrong foot, and it cost him. The starter successfully fielded a comebacker off the bat of Seattle leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki in the game’s first at-bat. But the subsequent throw to first baseman Victor Martinez appeared to slip out of his hand, going well wide of his target. The error put Suzuki at second, eventually leading the Mariners first run when the outfielder scored on Russell Branyan’s groundout.

- Another decisive defensive play — although not an error — came in the sixth inning. With two outs and Casey Kotchman at second, Wakefield allowed a sinker liner to left off the bat of Matt Tuiasosopo that Daniel Nava dove head-first for but couldn’t come up with. The result was the ball getting behind outfielder, leading to the Mariners’ fourth run and the end of Wakefield’s night.

- The Red Sox narrowly missed two chances to equalize Hernandez’ performance in the eighth inning. First, with runners on first and second, the Sox down two, and one out, Victor Martinez greeted reliever Brandon League by hitting his first pitch down the left field line. The ball landed a foot foul, spoiling the opportunity to score at least one run. Then, with runners on second and third and two outs, David Ortiz hit a liner that left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo managed to barely reach up and grab after being turned around at the last-second. The move to let Ortiz hit was a curious one by Seattle interim manager Daren Brown considering the DH was 3-for-9 against League and there was a base open.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- J.D. Drew showed that Hernandez isn’t totally unhittable, launching a one-out solo homer to center field to cut the Mariners’ lead to 4-2 i the sixth inning. It was the second homer of Drew’s career against the pitcher, moving his career numbers vs. Hernandez to 9-for-23. Drew also was the only player to hit a home run against Hernandez at Fenway Park, having gone deep July 3, 2009. Victor Martinez even followed with a single. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the momentum didn’t last long with Hernandez striking out David Ortiz for the 24-year-old becoming the third-youngest pitcher since 1952 to strike out 1,000 batters (only behind Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden).

- Despite taking the loss, Wakefield’s outing might have been good enough on most nights. Making his first start since July 20, at Oakland, the 44-year-old allowed four runs (3 earned) on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out two and not walking a batter while throwing 91 pitches.

- The normally sure-handed Josh Wilson helped keep the Red Sox in the game with a pair of misplayed balls in the third inning. First the Seattle shortstop booted a grounder off the bat of Kevin Cash, putting runners on first and third and leading to the Sox’ first run when Hernandez tossed a wild pitch. Then, just for good measure, Wilson booted another ball, this time off the bat of Marco Scutaro immediately after Cash’s grounder.

The Cowboy tries to police Papelbon

08.25.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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[Click here to listen to Jonathan Papelbon's take on being told to hurry up by umpire Joe West.]

The game had proceeded at a surprisingly clipped pace given the conditions. The Red Sox and Mariners were navigating through the final inning of Boson’s 5-3 victory in the first contest of a day-night double-header, but Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was not in a rush.

The mound, damp with the steady drizzle of the day, had sent the pitchers scurrying to clean their spikes all day. Papelbon was no different. But umpiring crew chief “Cowboy” Joe West, who was assigned to adjudicate at second base for the contest, took umbrage when the Sox closer — a frequent target of pace-of-game infractions — took what he viewed as the necessary time between pitches.

West walked towards the mound and shouted at Papelbon while pointing to a watch on his left wrist. The message was obvious enough.

“He just reminded me I’m on the clock,” said Papelbon. “I understand all that.”

Even so, Papelbon went from the conversation with West to the back of the mound to keep cleaning the mud from his shoes. He ended up pitching a perfect ninth inning, requiring 18 pitches (12 against Casey Kotchman) to record his 32nd save of the year.

For the Sox closer, the advice from West seemed a bit puzzling.

“For me and my safety, staying healthy is priority over anything,” Papelbon said. “The mound got beat up for nine innings with rain, so I’m not going to go out there and put myself in a situation where I’m going to slip and get hurt.

“I understand it takes a little more time, and there are rules in Major League Baseball that say we have to do this in a certain amount of time, but I also think there are certain situations where you have to give and take a little bit, and understand players need to make sure that they’re out there playing in safe conditions and not going to get hurt.”

West, of course, became an object of national attention earlier in the season when he told the Bergen (N.J.) Record that the Red Sox and Yankees had played their games at a pace that was “pathetic and embarrassing,” a remark that was received with some concern by members of the two clubs. On Wednesday, in a game that lasted 2 hours 44 minutes, he apparently was once again trying to address the issue.

Read More: Joe West, Jonathan Papelbon,

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Mariners 3

08.25.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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It’s necessary to get the qualification out of the way first. A solid outing against the Mariners does not exactly come with the same degree of difficulty as one against the 1927 Yankees. Seattle entered Wednesday averaging 3.29 runs per game, the lowest mark by an American League team since the Toronto Blue Jays averaged 3.10 runs per contest in 1981.

That said, the Red Sox have been eager for any signs of optimism about Josh Beckett that they can get, and in the first game of the day-night double header, they received some. After allowing a leadoff single (on a comebacker) to Ichiro Suzuki to lead off the game, Beckett did not allow another hit through six innings.

Beckett faltered in the seventh, allowing three runs on a pair of homers. Even so, his first victory since Aug. 3 (after allowing 19 runs in his previous 16 innings) gave the Sox not only a 5-3 win but also some cause for hope with the pitcher going forward.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Beckett effectively mixed his changeup and curve with a fastball that he located to both sides of the plate to keep the Mariners off balance for much of the day. He took advantage of a strike zone that was interpreted liberally by home plate ump Rob Drake. He allowed just four hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven.

With his seventh-inning falter, however, Beckett did extend his streak of games in which he’s allowed a homer to five, matching the longest such run of his career. His fastball velocity appeared to dip in the seventh.

It was also somewhat noteworthy that Beckett did not have any physical issues on the mound, given that the rainy conditions were somewhat reminiscent of the May 18 game in Yankee Stadium in which he tweaked his back.

Marco Scutaro continued his recent offensive surge. He collected a pair of hits, and now has multi-hit games in five of his last six games, during which he is hitting .478 (11-for-23). He is hitting .395 during a nine-game hitting streak.

Daniel Nava had his first run-scoring hit since July 10, delivering a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth that proved pivotal.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox employed both Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, meaning that the availability of the team’s two key relievers will be in question for the nightcap.

Bard needed 20 pitches to record five outs. His stuff seemed somewhat less explosive than usual, as his velocity was in the mid- (rather than high-) 90s, and he did not record a strikeout. He also issued a walk, the ninth time in his last 16 plate appearances that he has given up a free pass.

Papelbon, meanwhile, was aggressive in the strike zone, but lacked the ability to close out Mariners hitters with two strikes. Most notably, with one out, Casey Kotchman, after falling behind 0-2, fouled off six Papelbon pitches en route to a 12-pitch at-bat. That resulted in an 18-pitch ninth inning for the Sox closer.

Ryan Kalish went 0-for-3, and is now 2-for-24 (.083) during the homestand.

–Though he had a fine day at the plate, drawing a pair of walks and delivering a sacrifice fly, Mike Lowell‘s base running limitations became evident when he was gunned out trying to advance from first to third on a single that bounced down the left-field line and into the corner.

Red Sox notes: Pedroia, team waiting on 2nd opinion

08.25.10 at 12:20 pm ET
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Red Sox skipper Terry Francona said Wednesday the team is waiting for the latest results on the scan of Dustin Pedroia‘s left foot.

“The disks have been sent to [Jonathan] Deland and [Robert] Anderson. I’m sure at some point we’re going to talk to Anderson,”Francona said. “Deland is in Austria. I can’t guarantee when he’s going to see that disk. I would shoot more for Anderson [seeing disk Wednesday].”

After playing two games, collecting one hit and one run and a steal, Pedroia complained of soreness in the left foot that kept him from sleeping last Thursday. His foot was scanned on Friday and it showed his foot was only half-healed. He was placed back on the disabled list last Friday.

Pedroia, Francona and the team were hoping to avoid a significant ‘surgery’ on Pedroia’s left foot to aid with the healing.

No decision has been made and the team is waiting on the second opinions to come in from the two foot specialists to decide if surgery is necessary.

Pedroia fouled a ball off his left [front] foot on June 25 in San Francisco and went on the disabled list for seven weeks before coming back for the Angels series last week at Fenway for three games before being forced back onto the DL. He had a scan of his foot last week after complaining of soreness and saying it was “feeling terrible.” Pedroia and the team sought out a second opinion from orthopedic specialists Deland and Anderson to determine if surgery were needed.

Meanwhile, after experiencing the first official washout of their 2010 season Tuesday night, Francona said he expects both games of the day-night doubleheader to be played on Wednesday at soggy Fenway Park. Francona said he was making his observation based on the radar team officials have seen.

“Everything says it’s supposed to clear out… and I don’t think they anticipate any problems,” Francona said. “Hope they’re right.”

The Red Sox will start Josh Beckett in Game 1 against Seattle David Pauley, scheduled for a 1:35 p.m. start. Jon Lester opposes Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the nightcap, set for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch.

Hideki Okajima pitches tonight in Buffalo for Triple-A Pawtucket. The team hopes to talk to him back in Boston before the team leaves on its charter Thursday for the weekend series at Tampa Bay.

“Oki [pitches] tonight. He’ll come back from Buffalo tomorrow. Plan is to sit down with him before we go to Tampa.”

– The Red Sox may be facing the lowly Mariners but they will have their hands full in the nightcap as they face one of the very best pitchers in the game enjoying of the best seasons in the game. Felix Hernandez is just 9-10 this season but he has a 2.51 ERA, trailing only Clay Buchholz‘s 2.26 mark in the American League. He leads the league in innings pitched with 197 and is second in strikeouts with 183.

“He’s one of the best, one of the very best, stuff-wise, ERA-wise,” Francona said Wednesday morning. “He burst onto the scene. He hasn’t gone under the radar with us. His stuff is as nasty as you can find.”

– Victor Martinez could very well wind up catching both Beckett and Lester in the day-night doubleheader as Francona tries to field the best offensive lineup, especially facing F-Her in the 7:10 p.m. game.

“We’ll see,” Francona said when asked if Kevin Cash – with a .148 average – would help split catching duties. “This is not an ordinary beginning-of-the-year, early-year doubleheader [where] we’re looking for ways to find guys at-bats and keep guys sharp. We didn’t play [Tuesday] night and we don’t play [Thursday]. So, you’ll see some changes but you’ll also see some guys play both games.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, felix hernandez, Hideki Okajima, Jon Lester

Francona on D&H: I think Pedroia will be back

08.25.10 at 11:52 am ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday morning for his weekly discussion on the Red Sox. This week, the Boston skipper talked about Dustin Pedroia’s injury situation and Michael Jordan’s baseball playing days as portrayed in ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Jordan Rides the Bus.”

“The best way I can put it is that he passed all the tests and I think everybody felt he was safe to come back and try to play,” Francona said of Pedroia. “Now in saying that, they also warned him, and very aggressively, that if he felt pain, he’d have to let us know because that’s when he could do damage. So, when he felt some pain, we immediately went and got a scan and the scan showed there was no further damage, which we were very relieved. Since he was sore, we put him on the DL.”

Francona also touched on the difference of receiving criticism as a player and as a manager of a team.

Below is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Last night it was pretty obvious that the field was going to be tough to play on. It doesn’t look much better today, does it?

No, but we’re getting a better forecast. I know it’s ugly out there right now but it sounds like in the next couple hours, most of this is going to be out of here and we’re going to play. It might not be the best day we’ve ever seen and as the day progresses, I think we’re going to be okay. That’s alright because you know what, sometimes in the day games when it’s not sunny, it’s a heck of a lot easier to see and the field is a little mushy. That was kind of the problem last night, the forecast wasn’t getting better. I kind of said that we were chasing our tails, by the time we got on the field it would be too sloppy to play. Finally, probably cooler heads prevailed and we figured out this wasn’t going to work.

How does last night’s postponement affect the pitching matchups and lineups today?

Well, so far, we have the same exact lineup as we did last night, so does Seattle for the first game. Now in Game 2, we’ll probably have some changes, I don’t think they’ll be wholesale changes. When we play doubleheaders early in the year, you pretty much don’t see everybody play. This isn’t really that time of the year and we basically didn’t play last night and we don’t play tomorrow, so you’re going to see a lot of guys probably play both games. That’s the time of the year it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Michael Jordan, Terry Francona,

Chat live with Lou Merloni at noon

08.25.10 at 11:01 am ET
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Join WEEI’s Lou Merloni in a live chat leading into a day of doubleheader baseball. Bring all your Red Sox-related questions, comments, and opinions:

Red Sox vs. Mariners matchups, 8/25

08.25.10 at 10:28 am ET
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Jon Lester

After Tuesday’s game was rained out, the Red Sox will play their first doubleheader of the season on Wednesday. The night cap sets up an electrifying matchup between aces Jon Lester and Felix Hernandez in the series finale. Lester will look to rebound from his worst outing of the season, while Hernandez will attempt to even his record and reach double digits in wins.

Lester (13-8, 3.26 ERA) uncharacteristically had a brief and ineffective start against the Blue Jays in his last time on the mound. The lefty allowed eight hits, three walks and two homers for a total of nine runs in only two innings of work. He received his eighth loss of the season as the Red Sox were blown out, 16-2. Prior to that abysmal performance, Lester pitched 14 1/3 straight scoreless innings against the Yankees and Rangers on the road to pick up a pair of wins. His ERA is now at its highest point since the middle of May.

For his career, Lester is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA in six starts against the Mariners. In his outing against Seattle this season, he suffered a loss despite striking out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Lester allowed four earned runs and was outdueled by David Pauley (starter of the first game of the doubleheader Wednesday) and the Mariners’ bullpen.

Hernandez (9-10, 2.51), meanwhile, has pitched phenomenally this season, holding an ERA under three and amassing 183 strikeouts. Though his numbers are nearly identical from last season, he hasn’t come close to repeating his record of 19-5 due to lack of run support. In his last start, the right-hander shut down the Yankees offense over eight innings, allowing no runs and striking out 11 in the process.

The Seattle starter has pitched well against the Red Sox with a 3-1 record and 3.17 ERA in seven career starts. His last outing vs. Boston came in July, 2009, when he received a no-decision after allowing three runs in seven innings of work. Hernandez was in line for the win but the bullpen blew the lead, allowing two runs in the bottom of the eighth. J.D. Drew has the most success against Hernandez on the Boston roster, hitting .400 with a home run in 23 plate appearances.

The Red Sox have an off day on Thursday before heading to Florida to open up a crucial three-game set against the Rays. They’ll return back to Fenway Park on Labor Day weekend in a home stand with the White Sox and Tampa Bay. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: felix hernandez, J.D. Drew, Jon Lester,
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