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Francona pregame hits

04.21.10 at 7:17 pm ET
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On having Varitek catch and Lowell DH:

“We’re trying to strike some balance and put a lineup out there that will win.

“All things considered, having Tek catch tonight makes sense. He’s been swinging the bat great to boot, and I wanted Mike Lowell to face this guy.”

On Martinez:

“It was a difficult night and that will be the hope. That’s what we’re always trying to do. Let him have a good work day where you don’t have the game hanging over your head. … This way you can work and kind of take a breath.”

“I think he cares a lot. There’s no getting around it. We all do. It’s been a tough stretch, but we’ll find out how tough we are.”

Will defensive struggles hurt him offensively?
“I think he swung the bat good last night. I think that as a catcher, I think they’re always going to lose at-bats. There’s no way around it. If they’re any good at what they do, because they’re babysitting the pitcher, there’s things that go into it, just the wear and tear of a long game, those things all enter into it. But yeah, I think anyone who cares about their staff, it’s always part of the game. I guess that’s why what Mauer does is so extra special offensively because of the grind that they go through. Not just the physical grind but the mental grind.

“I don’t think you’ll ever hear a pitcher second-guess or not want to throw to him, which is a tell-tale sign. They all enjoy his enthusiasm and he works hard to run the game right.”

“It’s probably a little bit of everything. Wakes a special breed and that was kind of the perfect storm last night. He’s rushing, and when he rushes he’s going high on the arm side, which we all see. At the same time, when Wake’s pitching, you can’t come and get the ball. It has to come to you or he’s going to end up chasing it.”

On David Ortiz:

“He went out today and extra hit, and actually swung the bat good. He’s trying to get his base where he can stay back, because his hands are following his body.
“You can’t talk about having a loop in your swing or not getting the pitches or whatever, but he really wants to try to stay on that back leg so he can start driving the ball to left-center. I f he feels that he can drive the ball to left-center, he’ll cover more of the plate.”

Like last year?

“Yeah, there’s a lot of similarities. When you see somebody check-swinging, they’re in between.”

Will he have multiple games off?

“We’ll see, I honestly don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t know if it makes a lot of sense to make the lineup out at 4 o’clock the day before, but we’ll see how it goes.

“We haven’t really had a roster for about a week where we could do much of anything. We’re a little bit behind the eight ball, and last night we were too.”

On his dealings with Ortiz:

“He didn’t fight me on it. I wouldn’t expect anybody, when we pinch-hit for them to come back and high-five us. He’s been an unbelievable player here. I just want him to know that we care about all of our players and we try to do what we think is right for our team, that’s basically what it is.”

On Manny Delcarmen:

“From the very first pitch it was noticeable. His arm swing was a little longer, a little cleaner. The ball came out with a lot more crispness.

“It’s hard to be excited when you’re losing, but that was a very exciting part of the game because it was very noticeable the way he threw the ball.”

On J.D. Drew:

“Kind of like David, he’s got his body out a little bit ahead of him. J.D.’s got some of the best hitter’s hands you’ll ever see, but when their hands come forward, there’s not a lot left to do anything with the ball.

“I’m sure he’s not happy, but he handles things very well. I think he’s been frustrated. Everybody shows it differently.”

Read More: David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, mike lowell, Terry Francona

Remy on D&C: Sox ‘still have their issues’

04.21.10 at 3:01 pm ET
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Jerry Remy

NESN analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox’ recent troubles. Remy said that Tuesday night’s walk-off win over Texas was a much-needed victory for the Sox. “They needed to win desperately, because it was getting pretty ugly around there. Hopefully it can carry on, but they’ve still got their issues. There’s no question about that.”

Those problems were certainly on display despite the victory, and probably the most noticeable was keeping the opposition from running wild on the basepaths. The Rangers had a club-record nine steals in the first five innings with Tim Wakefield on the mound, and Victor Martinez has had his problems keeping runners in check behind the plate. “Last night was just a combination of both he and Wakefield not being able to throw out runners,” Remy said. “With Martinez it is just mechanical problems; everything he is throwing to second base he is getting underneath and it is going sailing high on him. So he has to make some adjustments back there like getting his elbow up and getting some accurate throws there.”

The other hot topic from the first game of the Rangers series was Terry Francona’s decision to pinch hit for David Ortiz. With two lefties on the horizon, Ortiz is likely to be on the bench with Mike Lowell as DH. But the bigger issue will be how he reacts to being lifted on Tuesday. “There comes a point where you have to make a move. They did that last night with the pinch-hitting role,” Remy said. “Even I was stunned when I saw it. I was not surprised, but I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of a turning point.’ You probably won’t see him in the lineup tonight and probably not tomorrow night either because they have two lefties going. How he’s going to react? I don’t know. When he has time to think about it, I hope he takes the high road.”

Added Remy: “I still think it is going to get better for him. I actually thought he had a decent series against Tampa Bay. I thought it was the best series that he had even though a lot of the results weren’t there. He drove a ball hard to the opposite field off the wall, he hit a couple of balls hard to first base. My feeling was that that was some of the best at bats that he has had. Then he comes back last night and looks bad in the first couple of at-bats and is pinch hit for. It is a very touchy situation because [Francona] loves to protect his players, but on the other hand he wants to win games.”

Remy also touched on the injuries in the outfield. He said that Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence has been a big hindrance to the Sox lineup, as it has lost the leadoff hitter. “With Ellsbury they tried to hold out because they thought they would have him longer playing than if they put him on the DL, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “So they have a patchwork outfield out there now and it makes a big difference because with Ellsbury out, he is their leadoff guy, their ignitor. He is the guy at the top of the lineup who kind of makes things go, and with him out they have had to put [Marco] Scutaro up there and it is not the same lineup. And all those things add up to losses, and that is what they have been getting.” Read the rest of this entry »

Francona on D&H: Stick with Vic at catcher

04.21.10 at 2:18 pm ET
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David Ortiz (left) and Terry Francona are searching for answers early this season. (AP)

Terry Francona called into the Dale & Holley Show on Wednesday for his weekly segment on the state of the Red Sox. Aside from the come-from-behind win last night, the Sox have been struggling, and the Red Sox manager said it isn’t just one thing.

“Sometimes it’s different every day, and I think that’s why teams get into problems,” said Francona. “It’s not just one thing. It’s an inconsistency. One day it might be defense. One day it might be a bullpen guy. One day it might be a bad start. One day it might be a baserunning error. That’s why you try to play the game correctly all the time, because you don’t know what the score is going to be at the end of the game.”

Francona also talked about his decision to pinch hit for David Ortiz on Tuesday, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return to Boston and the new call-ups who paid immediate dividends.

A transcript follows. To listen to the interview, click here.

You’ve got to feel good for Darnell McDonald last night.

How about that. On a night when we are scrambling going into the game, we are scrambling during the game, and this kid comes right out of the hotel and hits the home run to tie the game, hits the ball off the wall to win the game. You could see the joy on everyone’s faces. It wasn’t just for us. It was for him. It was a lot of relief and a lot of excitement.

How did you decide to call up McDonald?

Again we had [Josh] Reddick because they were starting a right-hander and we knew with the lefties coming McDonald would be next if [Jacoby] Ellsbury couldn’t do it. As we watched Jacoby during the afternoon we were ready for this because we thought it was a possibility. We didn’t want it to be. As the week progressed we thought there was a chance it would happen so we got him ready. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury

Red Sox vs. Rangers matchups, 4/21

04.21.10 at 11:35 am ET
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David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia (right) are looking for hitting answers. (AP)

Josh Beckett has settled down after a rough Opening Night, and the potential ace of the staff will look to make it three quality starts in a row — a lone bright spot out of this early season funk for the team.

Beckett will need to do two things to win this ball game: Keep Nelson Cruz in the ballpark and keep Nelson Cruz in the ballpark. The powerful right-handed hitter has battered American League pitching this season to the tune of seven home runs, tops in the AL.

Red Sox pitchers haven’t been great in that category, as they have surrendered 16 long balls as a group (fourth most in the AL).

The rest of the Ranger lineup has only accounted for three home runs, but with powerful hitters like Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton ready to bust out, Beckett will need to make sure this isn’t the night they do just that.

The Rangers will send another unfamiliar Red Sox foe to the mound in Matt Harrison. The 24-year-old lefty gave up four earned over six innings in a Rangers 15-8 win on Sep. 6, 2008, but he has not seen the Sox since.

The Red Sox have not faired well against left-handed pitching this season. Andy Pettitte dazzled at Fenway on Apr. 7, only surrendering one earned run. While Francisco Liriano was a little bit better, holding the Sox scoreless on Apr. 15.

Harrison sports a 1.38 ERA through his first two starts, but he has not registered a win on the season despite pitching well.

Josh Beckett is looking for his third straight quality start. (AP)

RANGERS VS. JOSH BECKETT

Vladimir Guerrero (39 plate appearances): .242 average/ .359 OBP/ .455 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

Michael Young (16): .125/ .125/ .125, 3 strikeouts

Ryan Garko (8): .000/ .125/ .000, HBP

Josh Hamilton (6): .333/ .333/ .333, 3 strikeouts

Ian Kinsler (6): .333/ .333/ .667, 2 strikeouts

Elvis Andrus: 1-for-3

Andres Blanco: 1-for-3

David Murphy: 0-for-2, SAC Fly

Joaquin Aries: 1-for-2, 1 strikeout

Nelson Cruz: 0-for-2, 1 strikeout

Chris Davis: 0-for-2, 1 strikeout

Never faced: Julio Borbon, Taylor Teagarden

RED SOX VS. HARRISON

Matt Harrison has looked good out of the gate for Texas. (AP)

Adrian Beltre (10): .400/ .400/ .800, 1 homer, 2 strikeouts

Mike Lowell: 2-for-3

David Ortiz: 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia: 0-for-2, 1 walk

Marco Scutaro: 0-for-1, 2 walks

Kevin Youkilis: 1-for-3, 1 homer, 1 strikeout

Never faced: Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek

What has been the impact of the steals?

04.21.10 at 1:13 am ET
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The situation has gotten ridiculous.

Despite their 7-6 walkoff win, the Red Sox’ inability to control an opponent’s running game took on historic proportions on Tuesday night. The Rangers swiped nine bags during the contest, all against the pairing of Tim Wakefield and Victor Martinez. That incredible sum represented a new franchise record for most steals in a game by the Rangers (surpassing the eight steals the team had last Aug. 15 against the Sox), and setting a record for the most steals ever by a team in a single game in Fenway Park. The Sox tied their team record for the most steals allowed in a single contest, matching an inglorious mark achieved on Oct. 3, 1913.

Since Martinez gunned down Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in the third inning of the Sox’ third game of the year, 29 straight runners have been successful in their attempts at base thievery. The Sox have now permitted an incredible 31 steals (on 32 attempts) in the young season, far and away the most in the majors. Of those, 23 steals have come (in 24 attempts) on Martinez’ watch, while all eight base stealing attempts against Jason Varitek have been successful.

The Sox are on a pace to yield 359 steals over the course of the season. To put that in context, just one team since 1990 (the 2001 Red Sox) has allowed as many as 200 steals in a season.

Sox manager Terry Francona said after the game that he was “pretty concerned” with the fact that the Sox couldn’t control opponents’ running games, acknowledging that giving away so many bases made for “a hard way to win.” Martinez suggested after Tuesday’s game that it was an embarrassing tally.

“It bothers me a lot,” said Martinez. “They were obviously running every time, everywhere. But I can’t control that. They’re getting on base, and wasted no time to go. I was back there, trying to relax and doing the best I can. Obviously, I didn’t get the result I wanted.

“That’s me. I’m the one who has to catch the ball and get it out there. I’m not doing it right now. But like I say, it’s a long season, and I still have a lot of work to do. Like I’ve always been, I’m never going to give up. I’m going to keep working on it, and see what happens.”

Obviously, opponents feel emboldened to run with impunity on the Sox right now. But what, exactly, has been the impact of opponents’ aggression on the basepaths?

A review of each of the 31 steals against the Sox reveals that the steals have played a direct role in either eight or nine runs*, depending on whether Rangers outfielder Julio Borbon would have been able to score from second on a single to left at Fenway on Tuesday, or whether he only scored because he had swiped third.

Of those runs, exactly two have played a direct role in the outcome of the game:

–In the Sox’ fourth game of the season, Willie Bloomquist stole second with two outs in the eighth inning, then crossed the plate with the winning run on a single in Kansas City’s 4-3 victory.

–In the Sox’ 10th game of the season, Carl Crawford stole second against Josh Beckett with two outs in the third inning. He then scored on a high chopper of a single that glanced off of third baseman Adrian Beltre. That was the only run the Rays would score in the first nine innings, resulting in a 1-1 tie through nine innings that the Rays went on to win, 3-1, in 12 innings.

For the sake of reference, here is the list of all 31 steals against the Sox, along with the impact of the steal both in terms of whether it directly resulted in a run (note: if a steal was followed by a homer or another sequence of events that would have led to a run without a steal, it was considered NOT to have contributed to a run) and whether it had an impact on the outcome of the game.


Game INN Team Final score Player Base =Run? =Win?
1 4 Yankees Sox, 9-7 Jeter 2nd N N
1 4 Yankees Sox, 9-7 Gardner Home Y N
3 5 Yankees Yanks, 6-4 Granderson 2nd N N
3 10 Yankees Yanks, 3-1 Gardner 2nd N N
4 2 Royals Royals, 4-3 Ankiel 2nd N N
4 8 Royals Royals, 4-3 Bloomquist 2nd Y Y
5 7 Royals Sox, 8-3 Getz 2nd Y N
6 1 Royals Sox, 8-6 Podsednik 2nd Y N
6 3 Royals Sox, 8-6 Podsednik 2nd N N
7 2 Twins Twins, 5-2 Punto 2nd N N
7 4 Twins Twins, 5-2 Span 2nd Y N
7 6 Twins Twins, 5-2 Span 2nd N N
10 2 Rays Rays, 3-1 Longoria 2nd N N
10 3 Rays Rays, 3-1 Crawford 2nd Y Y
10 3 Rays Rays, 3-1 Zobrist 2nd N N
10 9 Rays Rays, 3-1 Pena 2nd N N
11 1 Rays Rays, 6-5 Crawford 3rd N N
11 6 Rays Rays, 6-5 Upton 2nd N N
12 3 Rays Rays, 7-1 Zobrist 2nd N N
12 5 Rays Rays, 7-1 Crawford 3rd N N
12 5 Rays Rays, 7-1 Zobrist 2nd N N
13 3 Rays Rays, 8-2 Crawford 2nd N N
14 1 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Cruz 2nd N N
14 3 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Andrus 2nd Y N
14 3 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Andrus 3rd Y N
14 3 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Guerrero 2nd N N
14 3 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Guerrero 3rd N N
14 3 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Cruz 2nd N N
14 4 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Borbon 2nd M N
14 4 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Andrus 2nd N N
14 5 Rangers Sox, 7-6 Cruz 3rd N N

When one considers that steals may have had an impact in two of 14 games thus far, it becomes clear that the Sox cannot afford to be entirely cavalier about the running game. The team and Martinez promise that they will not be.

“You’re going to see for sure that I’m not giving up,” insisted Martinez. “Whatever got me here, it’s because I’ve been working a lot through my whole career. It’s going to get better. I promise it’s going to get a lot better. The only thing I can control right now is come to the ballpark and keep working hard every day. I’ve done it before, so I know it’s there. I know I can do it.”

Now, the Sox will look for Martinez to prove that claim. GM Theo Epstein said before the game that the stolen bases represented cause for concern, and that sentiment was no doubt amplified while watching the Rangers’ track meet.

“Some have speculated that we don’t care about [stolen bases], that we just want to always want to make the pitch and don’t worry about the baserunner,” said Epstein. “That’s not true. I almost wish that were true. We care about it. We definitely recognize the importance of stopping the running game and thus far we haven’t been able to do it. it was an emphasis throughout spring training and thus far we haven’t got the results. We need to continue to work at every aspect of it and it’s multi-dimensional. We need to do what we need to do to improve because we’re giving the opposition an unnecessary advantage right now in that area.”

* – Disclaimer: revisionist history is, of course, a dangerous thing. And it is impossible to say whether the at-bats that followed each of the 31 steals would have followed the same course as they did but for the steals. That said, we assume all other variables over the course of the game to be constant in hopes of approximating some measure of the impact of steals. Sorry for those who object to the methodology.

Read More: Jason Varitek, stolen bases, victor martinez,

Closing Time: Red Sox 7, Rangers 6

04.20.10 at 10:59 pm ET
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History might have remembered the Red Sox’ 7-6 win over the Rangers Tuesday night as the game in which the Sox tied their franchise record for most stolen bases surrendered in a single contest (9). Digging deeper it might also be designated as the evening in which Texas tied their own organization’s mark for most steals in a game less than an hour and a half after first pitch, or the moment the Sox entered the 15th game of the season having allowed 32 of 33 basestealers to reach safely.

But in the here and the now the only thing that matters in the eyes of those who pull for the Red Sox is that their team snapped its five-game losing streak. (Click here for a box score.) Sox fans waking up Wednesday morning, this is finally a feel-good story for their team.

So, what went right, and wrong for the Red Sox in their series opener against the Rangers? We’ll try and narrow it down:

KEY PLAY OF THE GAME

Darnell McDonald’s two-out, bases-loaded single off the left field wall, allowing for the Red Sox’ walk-off win. For more on McDonald click here.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Finally deciding to put Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list: Before the game Red Sox’ general manager Theo Epstein said that in hindsight the team perhaps waited too long to place Ellsbury (ribs) on the D.L., which is where the outfielder finally landed prior to Tuesday night’s game. Maybe it was perfect timing. Because Ellsbury hadn’t improved and was disabled on the same day as Mike Cameron, the Sox needed someone other than Josh Reddick to promote. That player was Darnell McDonald. McDonald, who had been the 27th overall pick in the 1997 draft, showed a glimpse of why he was hitting .429 against lefties in his short stint with Triple A Pawtucket, launching a game-tying, two-run homer over the left field wall against Texas lefty reliever Darren Oliver.

And then there was the game-winner …

Terry Francona’s decision: When Bill Hall came out to pinch-run with two outs in the seventh, after Mike Lowell had walked, the assumption was that the move was to replace the replacement designated hitter. But Hall ran right by Lowell at first, signaling to Victor Martinez (the potential game-tying run) at second that he was coming on for the catcher, who just happened to be 3-for-4 at the time. While Hall didn’t score, he did also didn’t leave the game, as Francona chose to put him in left field (replacing Jeremy Hermida, who had already homered), allowing the red-hot Jason Varitek to leadoff the eighth inning. The move paid off as Varitek (hitting from the right side for the first time this season) doubled into the left-field corner, setting the stage for McDonald’s heroics.

WHAT WENT WRONG RED SOX

Ummmm … those stolen bases: Vladimir Guerrero stole a base. Enough said (although he does now have two on the year). The good news was that the Red Sox were able to hold down the baserunning of Matt Treanor, keeping the catcher at one career stolen base. So who was to blame for the chaos? Even though Tim Wakefield worked extensively on controlling the running game throughout spring training and the early part of this season (he had only given up one steal entering Tuesday), the Rangers were clearly getting a head-start on the Sox starter this time around. Catcher Victor Martinez made some decent throws, and made some that weren’t so decent. But you might start wondering how much the success rate will ultimately effect the catcher’s confidence, an issue that might have already translated into something as simple as consistently throwing the ball back to the mound.

David Ortiz/J.D. Drew still haven’t found their way: For the first time in exactly seven years, Ortiz was actually pinch-hit for in a key situation. That moment came when, with the lefty Oliver pitching, Sox manager Terry Francona chose to go with Mike Lowell with the tying run at first and two outs in the seventh. Lowell walked, and when the players ultimately came back to the dugout Ortiz was on the top step offering encouragement. But the fact remains the same: After going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Ortiz is hitting .146 with 17 strikeouts, while Drew has dropped to .133 after an 0-for-4.

(Note: It is believed that the last time Ortiz was pinch-hit for in a meaningful situation was April 20, 2003 when Manny Ramirez pinch-hit for the then-first baseman in the seventh inning with Toronto lefty Trevor Miller on the mound.)

McDonald goes from undisclosed location to hero

04.20.10 at 10:38 pm ET
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It was not clear that Darnell McDonald would be on the Red Sox roster on Tuesday night. The Red Sox were waiting for Jacoby Ellsbury to take batting practice before determining whether the outfielder would need to go on the disabled list, and thereby necessitating the addition of McDonald to the roster.

During that time, McDonald was in an undisclosed location in Boston outside of Fenway Park, awaiting his fate.

“It’s a secret spot. I can’t divulge the spot. It’s a secret spot. They have a fast way of getting you here when they do make the decision,” McDonald chuckled before the game. “There’s some vending machines. You’ve got to pay for it. I kept my receipts.”

The call went out, and McDonald was hustled into the home clubhouse at Fenway at roughly 5:30 p.m., when the Sox selected his contract from Triple-A Pawtucket. He had put himself in position for the callup with a tremendous start to the 2010 season, in which he hit .341/.372/.683/1.055 with two homers in eight games for the PawSox.

It was an impressive run, to be sure, particularly given that he missed a couple weeks of spring training due to a strained oblique, an injury that can linger and affect hitters for a while.

“I wasn’t exactly surprised. I felt good before I injured my oblique, and a few games after I came back from the injury, I was still feeling pretty good. Being in my situation, I tried to get off to a fast start and just be consistent,” said McDonald. “Once you get in that mode of feeling good, you try to ride it for as long as you can. You don’t ever know how long it’s going to last. Hopefully when I come up here and get some at-bats, I feel the same way.”

McDonald had no idea what his role would be entering the game, but when he found out, he made the most of it. The right-handed McDonald was brought into the game to pinch-hit for fellow call-up (and lefty swinger) Josh Reddick against Darren Oliver in the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on second and the Sox trailing the Rangers, 6-4. He watched four pitches, then, on a 2-2 slider, blasted it for a homer to left-center field to tie the game at 6-6.

He thus became the first Red Sox to homer in his first at-bat with the club since Orlando Cabrera did so on Aug. 1, 2004. He became the first Sox pinch-hitter to hit a homer in his first at-bat with the club since Curtis Pride did so on Sept. 19, 1997.

That round-tripper, in turn, may have earned him not only reimbursement for his vending machine receipts, but perhaps even a free meal or two.

Read More: darnell mcdonald,
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