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5th inning: Bay State for Boston

04.25.09 at 5:55 pm ET
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Josh Beckett returns to the mound, his team suddenly back in the game thanks to an incredibly unlikely source of offense: Jason Varitek came into today with a career .205 average, .250 OBP, .318 slugging mark and .568 OPS with the bases loaded. All of that will be forgotten for a day after he turned on a 96mph fastball and buried it in the visitor’s bullpen.

Beckett is back for his fifth and, almost certainly, final inning. Hunter Jones is no longer warming now that the Sox are back in the game. He has been replaced by Manny Delcarmen, who has thrown 7.1 scoreless innings this year.

But Delcarmen will not be necessary this inning. Beckett got Hideki Matsui (whose four-year, $52 million deal looks a lot worse for the Yankees than the one signed by Johnny Damon) grounded to second, and Angel Berroa followed with a line-out to first. When Brett Gardner lined out to center (on a ball nearly misjudged by Jacoby Ellsbury), Beckett had his first 1-2-3 inning, achieved with just 10 pitches. As such, there’s now a possibility that he will be back out for the start of the sixth against the top of the Yankees’ order (though it seems a safe bet that he will not face Robinson Cano again today).

BOTTOM 5: YANKEES 6, RED SOX 5

A.J. Burnett returns to the hill after getting stung for five runs in the fourth, but he may not be long for this game. He fell behind 2-1 to Jacoby Ellsbury, who blasted a 95 mph fastball into the visitor’s bullpen for a game-tying solo homer. It was Ellsbury’s first homer of the year. He is now hitting .361 (13-for-36) on the current homestand.

Dustin Pedroia then jumped on a first-pitch fastball, ripping the 95 mph offering into the left-field corner. Yankees’ left-fielder Johnny Damon did a good job of racing to the ball to hold Pedroia at first with a single.Burnett then lost the strike zone, falling behind 3-1 to David Ortiz who then scraped the left-field Wall with a double on a changeup. Once again, Ortiz uses the opposite field at Fenway to his advantage, the result being a runners on second and third situation with no outs for Kevin Youkilis.

Youkilis, a career .313 hitter with a .436 OBP and .968 OPS in his career with runners on second and third, took a fastball off the thigh to load the bases for J.D. Drew. Of course, that wasn’t a terrible outcome for the Yankees, since Drew has his worst career numbers in every offensive category (average – .216; OBP – .304; slugging – .432; OPS – .775) with the bases loaded. True to form, Drew hit a hard grounder straight to New York first baseman Mark Teixeira, who fired home to Jorge Posada, the catcher in turn relaying the ball back to Teixeira for a 3-2-3 double play.

But Jason Bay prevented the Sox from wasting the rally. One day after his game-tying homer off of Mariano Rivera in the ninth, Bay blasted a ball towards the same part of the ballpark. This time, it clanged high off the Wall for a two-run double to give the Sox an 8-6 lead.

Burnett, Jon Couture of the New Bedford Standard Times notes, has now given up eight earned runs today, the same number he allowed in his final four starts (spanning 27.2 innings) of 2008 against Boston.

RED SOX 8, YANKEES 6

4th inning: Grand slam gets Sox back into it

04.25.09 at 5:35 pm ET
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Derek Jeter leads off with a single, getting all fastballs. So far today Jeter has seen seven pitches, all heaters. (As a quick aside, thus far I can only identify one changeup from Beckett all day.) Jeter swiped his third base of the year, making opponents 11 for 14 in stolen base attempts against Jason Varitek this year. The pitch, a fastball, was actually a good one to throw — high and outside — but the catcher had some problem getting it out of his glove. 

After a Johnny Damon fly out, Mark Teixeira drew his third walk of the day, marking the 15th time in his career that he has drawn as many free passes in one game. It’s interesting to note that throughout the Red SoxAmerican League Division Series against the Angels last year the Sox’ scouting report insisted that Boston’s pitchers pitch around Teixeira to get to Vladimir Guerrero.

Robinson Cano followed a Nick Swisher (who is getting bombarded by curveballs) strikeout with a double off the left field wall, scoring both Jeter and Teixeira for a 6-0 New York lead. It marks the most earned runs allowed by Beckett in a start since he gave up eight on Aug. 17 in Toronto last season. It was that start that prompted his trip to Dr. James Andrews

Beckett is at 93 pitches through four innings.

One saving grace for the Red Sox might be the fact that A.J. Burnett tends to lose his edge when staked to big leads (although six runs might be enough to have some sort of lapse in concentration and still result in a win). The frustration regarding his lack of focus when the heat wasn’t on weighed on the staff in Toronto almost more than the constant wave of injuries. His highest opponents’ batting average (.253) has come with the difference in the score being more than four runs, while having given up more homers with the difference being four runs than three, two, one, or when the game is tied. And in case you didn’t know, Burnett has allowed just a .118 batting average in his three Fenway Park starts coming into Saturday.

The trend held up with the Red Sox mounting somewhat of a really immediately after falling in a six-run hole. The home team was able to get on the board for the first time thanks to Jason Bay’s RBI single. I don’t know if you realized, but Bay was born to play in Boston … I wrote it so it must be true.

And, sure enough, Burnett loses his focus once more and surrenders a grand slam to Jason Varitek, his third career salami. It was Varitek’s first grand slam since May 7, 2006. Varitek hadn’t gotten a hit in three chances with the bases loaded this season, and had one hit in 19 plate appearances in the situation last year.

3rd inning: Cano connects

04.25.09 at 5:09 pm ET
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Mark Teixeira worked a leadoff walk against Beckett, but nearly had his second career homer at Fenway (and first as a Yankee). He drilled a liner that screamed towards the Pesky Pole, but the ball faded a couple rows foul just shy of the right-field landmark.

Beckett then seemed to find his curveball against Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher. After a first-pitch fastball missed the zone, Beckett threw five straight hammers for a pair of called strikes, two fouls and, finally, a swing-and-miss for a strikeout.

Beckett went back to the curve against Robinson Cano, but even though the pitch nearly bounced off the plate, Cano managed to golf it and keep it fair, clanging it high off the Pesky Pole for a two-run homer. It was Cano’s second career longball against Beckett, a pitcher who he’s dominated (.333 average, .945 OPS entering today).

Jorge Posada then lined a 2-1 fastball to center for a single, but was erased when Hideki Matsui hit into a fielder’s choice grounder to second. That brought up Angel Berroa, now a 3-for-7 career hitter against Beckett. Berroa fisted a blooper that fell safely in shallow right, less than 200 feet from the plate, to put runners on the corners. It would be interesting to see a footrace between Matsui and first-pitch thrower Usain Bolt…or, for that matter, Doug Mirabelli. Brett Gardner erased the threat, finally swinging at a pitch to hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice, but Cano’s blast allowed the Yankees to double their lead.

Beckett is at 73 pitches.

BOTTOM 3: YANKEES 4, RED SOX 0

A.J. Burnett is sailing, a fact that is in line with his career against the Red Sox. He is 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA in eight career starts against Boston, perhaps explaining why the Red Sox kicked the tires on a possible deal this offseason. Through three innings, he has needed just 37 pitches, or one more than Beckett needed to escape the first.

Burnett blitzed through a 1-2-3 third, getting Jason Varitek on a comebacker, Nick Green on a grounder to short and Jacoby Ellsbury to fly to shallow right. The Sox have had just two baserunners through the first three innings. That is in keeping with his M.O. of being at his strongest the first time through a lineup: opponents have hit .221 with a .305 OBP and .325 slugging mark against him in innings 1-3 over his career.

2nd inning: Angel Berroa makes his rivalry debut

04.25.09 at 4:46 pm ET
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The inning-ending double play by David Ortiz in the bottom of the first was his first twin killing in 50 games.

For reasons that remain unclear, Angel Berroa – unlike Mark Teixeira – did not sit in the Fenway Park interview room for a pre-game sit-down with the media. Go figure.

Josh Beckett settled down after his 36-pitch first, retiring Berroa ona grounder to third (second pitch) and striking out Brett Gardner on three pitches (the last a 95mph fastball on the inside corner; presumably, Gardner was looking for a curve that Beckett hasn’t been able to locate…or maybe not – how Gardner watched three fastballs for called strikes is something of a mystery). But Derek Jeter jumped on an 0-1 fastball, lining the pitch back up through the box and into center for a base hit. That permitted Jeter and WBC teammate Kevin Youkilis the opportunity to exchange pleasantries at first. Josh Beckett, it would appear, is trying to promote social networking. Or something like that.

No matter. Beckett got Johnny Damon to pop out to shallow center on a 1-2 pitch, so Beckett got through the second unscathed on just 11 pitches, 10 strikes.

BOTTOM 2: YANKEES 2, RED SOX 0

A.J. Burnett seems like  apitcher capable of testing the temperature of Kevin Youkilis‘ hot streak. Youkilis had poor numbers entering today (.200 / .238 / .200 / .438) against Burnett. He got out to a 2-0 count, but then grounded out to third. Seeing Youkilis put a 2-0 pitch in play is a rarity: entering today, he had seen 398 2-0 pitches in his career, and had put bat on ball in just 24 of them, hitting .375 on that count with three homers and four doubles.

J.D. Drew followed by turning in a solid at-bat against Burnett, foiling a couple two-strike pitches on his way to an eight-pitch walk. Drew now has eight walks in as many games on this homestand.

Jason Bay followed by lining out to right on a 95 mph fastball. Bay has been driving the ball to the opposite field in 2009 far more than he did last year, though it remains to be seen whether that approach can be rewarded in Fenway Park. Mike Lowell then went down, getting overpowered on some of Burnett’s nasty signature curveballs. Lowell swung through a pair of hooks en route to a strikeout, firing his bat angrily towards the dugout after recording the last out of the inning. Lowell’s familiarity with Burnett from their time as Marlins teammates has done him few favors: the Sox third baseman entered today hitting .235 / .278 / .294 / .572 against the right-hander.

YANKEES 2, RED SOX 0

1st inning: Beckett struggles

04.25.09 at 4:31 pm ET
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Amusing moment right off the bat, as Derek Jeter had to wait for a full minute before Fox was ready for the game to start. We know who butters MLB’s bread.

Jeter tried to make up for lost time, taking a 96 mph fastball from Josh Beckett for a ball and then slashing the second pitch he saw towards the hole between short and third. Mike Lowell, who has been playing excellent defense in the early going, made a diving play to his left, and got to his knees to throw Jeter out by a couple steps at first. It is worth noting that Lowell’s hip injury has not appeared to hinder his lateral quickness, especially in the field. Though his range seemed diminished in spring training, it has not been an issue in the regular season.

Johnny Damon (greeted at Fenway by the now-familiar chorus of boos) followed by lacing a 97 mph fastball on a full count for a single to center. Damon must be an exercise in terrible frustration for pitchers thanks to his penchant for getting into two-strike counts, fouling off pitches and then lacing a hit. Of his 2,288 career hits, 832 have been on two-strike counts (36.3 percent).

Beckett then lost the zone, firing four straight balls to Mark Teixeira. One wonders whether the slightly longer-than-usual time between starts (six days, thanks to his five-game suspension) has him searching for comfort out of the gate.

That brought Nick Swisher to the plate, against whom Beckett jumped out to a The Sox pitched out with runners on first and second and a 1-2 count. Or, at least, Jason Varitek called for a pitchout. But Beckett crossed him up by throwing a curve for a ball, prompting an immediate mound conference. Beckett threw another curve on the 2-2 pitch (grounded foul), and a pair of 97 mph fastballs away (both fouls foul), a 98 mph fastball low and away and then, on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Swisher lined a 97 mph fastball to center for a run-scoring single. Given that Beckett has held opponents to career marks of .166 / .212 / .251 after reaching a 1-2 count, the at-bat by Swisher was a huge turn of events in the early going.

Though he fell behind 2-0 to Robinson Cano, he came back to retire him on a fly to center (96 mph fastball). Then, with two outs, Jorge Posada looped a change-up (Beckett’s first of the game, on his 33rd pitch) into shallow left for a run-scoring single.

Beckett does not appear to have a very good feel for his curve, or any other pitch. He threw first-pitch strikes to just one of the seven batters he faced. With Beckett having already thrown 17 of 36 pitches for strikes, there seems little chance that he’ll be pitching deep into today’s game.

BOTTOM 1: YANKEES 2, RED SOX 0

Jacoby Ellsbury wasted little time in recording the first out of the game off of A.J. Burnett, flying to left on the third pitch of the game. Ellsbury has been good at the dish of late, though he’s been imperfect as a table setter. He’s led off 26 innings this year, and is 5-for-25 with a walk and a double (.200 average, .231 OBP, .240 slugging).

Dustin Pedroia – he of “95 coming in, 195 going out fame” – lined a single to right, but was promptly erased when David Ortiz grounded into a double play, Derek Jeter gloving the ball just to the left of second, stepping on the bag and relaying the ball to first. It was the first double-play ball of the season by Ortiz, but the Sox’ fifth in the last two days.

“This guy is a proven hitter,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Ortiz before the game. “He’s going to hit. You hope it isn’t against you.”

Ortiz is 1-for-7 this series, with four strikeouts and a double play ball.

Red Sox – Yankees Pre-Game Notes

04.25.09 at 4:03 pm ET
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Usain Bolt (wearing a 9.69 jersey to connote his world-record time in the 100-meter dash) is getting ready to throw out the first pitch. Perhaps that means it will be a speedy game.

Actually, correct that – Bolt spent several moments shaking off his catcher (in this case, Justin Masterson – who did play catcher in high school, and is also the first Jamaican-born MLB player), checking an invisible runner at second and posing in his warrior’s stance before firing his pitch.

The Red Sox face a different Yankees team today. After last night’s game, New York placed three players (Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Bruney, Cody Ransom) on the 15-day disabled list, the effect of which is that the Pinstripes will be testing their depth in significant fashion very, very early.

“I have faith in our system,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said resolutely.

The Yankees recalled pitchers Mark Melancon (described by some as the successor to Mariano Rivera and David Robertson, along with infielder Angel Berroa. Berroa’s had a weird path through major-league life: he was the A.L. Rookie of the Year for the Royals in 2004, signed a long-term deal at the beginning of the following year and saw his performance promptly fall off a cliff. Now, he’s a place-holder for Alex Rodriguez.

(The straight dope on all this stuff can be found, as ever, on the LoHud Yankees Blog.)

A few other items of note for today’s start between former Marlins teammates A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett:

–Yankees starter CC Sabathia said that he appreciated the fact that Sox officials wanted to meet with him at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. Sabathia did not enjoy the free-agent process, however, suggesting it was far more “nerve-wracking” than he’d expected. He skipped the recruiting circuit.

Jonathan Papelbon was in the bullpen around 12:45pm today working on his mechanics. His control on Friday was poor, and the Yankees appeared to be seeing the ball well against him. His last pitch of the night was his best: the 97mph fastball he blew past Mark Teixeira, up in the strike zone, was crucial.

Nonetheless, because he needed more than 20 pitches for his one inning, it was never a consideration for Red Sox manager Terry Francona to ask him to pitch in the 11th. Francona suggested that it was important for him to manage according to the best interests of his club, rather than due to the identity of his opponent.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will travel with the Red Sox when they hit the road on Monday. He will throw a couple of bullpen sessions during the roadtrip, at which point the Sox can decide on his next step in returning from a shoulder strain.

–The Sox’ current eight-game winning streak is their longest since winning 12 straight from June 16-29, 2006, an interleague feast. It is the longest Sox winning streak in April since April 20-27, 1982. A win today gives the Sox their longest April winning streak of all time.

Hideki Okajima gave up four hits and two runs without retiring a batter last night, but the left-hander noted that all of the hits (except for a Derek Jeter double to right) were bloops and dunks. He did note that the Yankees seemed to be trying to go to the opposite field against him.

Girardi on injuries: It is what it is

04.25.09 at 3:52 pm ET
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Leave it to Yankees manager Joe Girardi to use a football analogy on NFL Draft Day to sum up his team’s injury woes.

“It is what it is,” Girardi said in his best Belichickian imitation. “At some point of the season, you’re going to have to deal with this. Every club has to deal with this. We just happened to have to deal with this at the same time. But we have faith in our system, we have faith in the young kids we’re bringing up.”

To recap the last 24 hours for the Bronx Bombers-Chien-Ming Wang (right hip), Brian Bruney (elbow flexor) and Cody Ransom (quad) were all placed on the disabled list. They have been replaced with relievers Mark Melancon and David Robertson and infielder Angel Berroa.

Not exactly Jeter, A-Rod and Rivera but still you get the sense that the Yankees are just trying to keep their head above water, especially after Friday night’s meltdown by future hall of famer Mariano Rivera in the ninth.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: injuries, Joe Girardi, MLB, Yankees

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 4/25

04.25.09 at 12:41 pm ET
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Not a fun day for hitters.

Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett have long been considered two of the more unhittable pitchers in the majors, dating to their time as teammates with the Florida Marlins in the first half of this decade. Both feature mid- to high-90s velocity on their fastball and paralyzing curves, as well as changeups that they sell well.

The warm weather is conducive to offense, but the shadows that will creep across home plate during the game are not.

YANKEES VS. JOSH BECKETT (2-1, 3.79)

Beckett has been something of a caged animal while serving his five-game suspension for throwing at Bobby Abreu and then engaging in confrontational behavior towards the Angels a couple weeks ago. He has seemed unsure what to do with himself, pacing pre-game before disappearing to some nether-region of the ballpark for his in-game purgatory. Whether that leaves him overly excited on the mound today or focused and dominating remains to be seen. What is known is that few Yankees — aside from Robinson Cano — have done much against him over the years.

Melky Cabrera (34 career plate appearances): .300 average / .353 OBP / .333 slugging / .686 OPS
Robinson Cano (34): .333 / .412 / .533 / .945
Johnny Damon (35): .258 / .324 / .419 / .743
Brett Gardner (5): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000
Derek Jeter (36): .294 / .314 / .412 / .726
Hideki Matsui (15): .214 / .267 / .357 / .624
Jose Molina (10): .100 / .100 / .100 / .200
Jorge Posada (25): .304 / .360 / .348 / .708
Nick Swisher (11): .444 / .545 / .778 / 1.323
Mark Teixeira (9): .111 / .111 / .111 / .222

RED SOX VS. A.J. BURNETT (2-0, 3.20)

Dustin Pedroia’s unique brand of confidence first became apparent against A.J. Burnett. He hit his second career homer off of the right-hander, then with the Blue Jays, in Sept. 2006, to lead off a game. His quip became infamous.

“95 coming in,” said Pedroia, “195 going out.”

Burnett has largely gotten the better of the 2008 A.L. MVP since then, but suffice it to say that Pedroia is unlikely to lack confidence today even after getting two hits (one homer) in his last 15 at-bats against the man who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees.

Jason Bay (15 career plate appearances): .308 / .400 / .538 / .938
J.D. Drew (20): .294 / .400 / .353 / .753
Jacoby Ellsbury (15): .267 / .267 / .267 / .534
Nick Green (6): .333 / .333 / .667 / 1.000
George Kottaras (1): .000 / .000 / .000 / .000
Mike Lowell (18): .235 / .278 / .294 / .572
David Ortiz (23): .227 / .261 / .455 / .716
Dustin Pedroia (23): .222 / .391 / .556 / .947
Jason Varitek (17): .267 / .353 / .400 / .753
Kevin Youkilis  (21): .200 / .238 / .200 / .438

Mo, Mo, Mo. Rivera gets his fill of Red Sox

04.25.09 at 1:50 am ET
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When the best closer in the history of baseball blows a game like he did Friday night at Fenway Park, every little detail is examined as a potential explanation.

Like Mariano Rivera entering the game in the bottom of the eighth with Jacoby Ellsbury on first and two out and already a strike on Dustin Pedroia.

Was that the difference? The extra work, coming into the eighth and going back to the bench and then coming back for the ninth. Could that have possibly bothered him?

“Nah, nah, nah,” Rivera said. “I just made a bad pitch. That’s all it is. If I made my pitch, it’s a little bit different. They told me already so I was preparing for that. It wasn’t something I wasn’t expecting. I was ready for that.”

What he and the Yankees may not have been ready for was leaving his trademark cutter out over the plate to Jason Bay. That “bad pitch” on a 1-0 count was sent into the first row of Monster seats in deep, deep left-center with two outs and Kevin Youkilis on board to tie the game, 4-4. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Johnny Damon, Mariano Rivera, Red Sox, Yankees

Post-Game: Walking Off a Win for the Red Sox

04.25.09 at 12:44 am ET
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The Red Sox‘ 5-4 win over the Yankees was a rare triumph indeed – in fact, it was one-of-a-kind. Among the 1,995 games (excluding ties) between the eternal rivals, this was the first time that the Sox had hit a game-tying homer in the ninth and then hit a walk-off homer in extra innings. A few other notes on the walk-off (as well as a recommendation to check the LoHud Yankees Blog for reactions from the Yankees’ clubhouse):

Mariano Rivera blew a save for against the Sox for the 12th time in his regular-season career, and for the first time in just over two years. He last failed to close out a lead when he allowed two runs in 0.2 innings on April 20, 2007. His 12 blown saves against Boston are his most against any club. It was also Rivera’s first blown save since last August 12.

–It was the Sox’ second straight walk-off win against the Yankees. Outfielder Jonathan Van Every had a walk-off single against the Yankees in the 10th inning of last year’s season finale, a 4-3 win for Boston in the second game of a doubleheader.

–This was the first time the Red Sox beat the Yankees with a walk-off homer during the regular season since Bill Mueller’s legendary homer against Rivera on July 24, 2004.

–The Sox last hit a game-tying ninth-inning homer and won a game with a walk-off on Sept. 23, 2003, when Todd Walker tied the game with a three-run shot in the ninth and David Ortiz clubbed a solo homer against the Orioles in the 10th for a 6-5 lead.

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