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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.

11th Inning: Red Sox win on Youkilis Walkoff

04.24.09 at 11:26 pm ET
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In 2007, it was Hideki Okajima who enjoyed his coming out party in mid-April by locking down the Yankees in three straight games. Like Okajima that year, Ramon Ramirez entered tonight’s game against the Yankees amidst an unexpected run of brilliance. He has logged 9.1 scoreless innings in his seven appearances, the longest active scoreless streak by an A.L. reliever. The right-hander is unimposing, but manager Terry Francona suggests that he jumps at opposing hitters in such a fashion that it makes it difficult to view anything that he throws as something other than a mid-90s fastball. Thus, his changeup and slider, though both around 88-90 mph, are effective pitches.

Yet Ramirez looked excitable in his warm-up pitches, his last throw to the plate coming with the sort of finish one might expect for the final out of the World Series. And so, perhaps, it came as little surprise when he had command difficulties to start the inning, throwing five of his first six pitches for balls and, in the process, walking Jorge Posada.

But Nick Swisher, who has all of four sacrifice hits in his career, pushed a bunt too hard at first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The 2007 Gold Glover pounced and fired to second to cut down Posada for an out. The play proved huge, since Robinson Cano followed by slashing a one-out single to right. A potentially run-scoring hit instead put runners at first and second. And so, when Melky Cabrera hit a changeup (90 mph!) to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who tagged Cano and fired to first for a double play, the game remained tied heading into the bottom of the 11th.

BOTTOM 11: YANKEES 4, RED SOX 4

David Ortiz stepped to the plate against Damaso Marte to lead off. Ortiz, hittin gjust .219 with a .288 OBP, nonetheless will always be thought of as one of the great threats in the game when the game is on the line.

But it’s been a while since Ortiz has been that guy. Of his 16 career walk-off hits, none has come since the 2007 season (a homer that year against Tampa Bay won a game on Sept. 12), and he’s had just that one since August of 2006. And so, a once-unthinkable event — Ortiz striking out on a nasty Marte slider — was not nearly as shocking as it once might have been.

That brought Kevin Youkilis to the plate with one out and none on. Youkilis crushed a 2-2 fastball into the Monster Seats for a walkoff homer, the second of his career (the other came last June 22 vs. St. Louis).

Red Sox win, 5-4, to take the first game against the Yankees in dramatic fashion. Ramon Ramirez takes the win.

10th inning: High drama

04.24.09 at 11:08 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon started off the first extra frame by allowing a leadoff single up the middle to Jose Molina. After a Ramiro Pena sacrifice bunt, Dustin Pedroia made the play of the game, saving the go-ahead run by diving and making a backhand stop of Derek Jeters grounder. The gem held Molina at third while getting Jeter at first for the inning’s second out.

The single to Molina was the second time in seven chances that Papelbon has allowed the first batter he faced to reach. 

Johnny Damon walked and then took second on defensive indifference. Papelbon still has yet to attempt a pickoff throw after trying just 10 all of last year. The two-out free pass led to high drama, with Mark Teixeira facing the Sox’ closer, entering the at-bat 0 for 2 in the regular season against Papelbon. In the postseason Teixeira had a sacrifice fly and walked once in his two plate appearances against Papelbon.

Teixeira goes down swinging on a 96 mph fastball. The count was full when the man of the hour whiffed, a situation he came into the game with a .222 batting average for his career. 

With Damaso Marte on for the Yankees, Nick Green led off with a strikeout. He had boasted two walkoff hits in his career, the last coming in 2005 and the first accomplished against the Red Sox in ’04. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a pop out to shortstop. Dustin Pedroia finished off the inning with his second straight strikeout. He is still without a walk-off hit for his career and is the second time this season he has had a two-strikeout game. Pedroia has swung and missed twice tonight after having only swings and misses all season.

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 4

9th Inning: Sox Keep the Lights On Against Sandman

04.24.09 at 10:42 pm ET
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The Yankees are a perfect 7-0 when leading after eight innings this year, and a colossal 1,110-30 (.974) since 1996.

Much of that owes to the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, whom Jonathan Papelbon still refers to as “The Godfather,” the standard bearer for all closers. New York is 77-12 against the Sox in games in which Rivera has pitched. Still, he is mortal against the Sox, having converted 44 of 56 (79 percent) of save opportunities: still excellent, but short of his 89 percent success rate (486-of-546) against everyone else.

Still, the idea of having to come back against Rivera (who is currently trying to convert his first save of four or more outs this year, after having forged a 0.38 ERA in 15 such appearances last year) is no doubt daunting for the Sox, who have yet to win a game that they trailed after eight innings this year.

Javy Lopez entered in the top of the ninth in hopes of preventing any further damage. Instead, he continued his struggles in the early portion of the season. The left-hander hit the first man he faced (Mark Teixeira) with a slider off the foot, threw a wild pitch and then walked Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher to load the bases. It is safe to say that he is having difficulty locating his pitches tonight, continuing a season-long trend: entering tonight, he had thrown just 52 percent of his pitches for strikes in his seven appearances.

The struggles forced the Sox to get Hunter Jones loose in the bullpen, yet somehow, Lopez escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam (a situation that yielded 2.3 runs in an inning for the average major-league team in 2008) unscathed. With the infield playing in, Lopez got Robinson Cano to ground a one-hopper right to Dustin Pedroia, who started a 4-2-3 double play that immediately changed the complexion of the inning and offered a reminder of what Lopez does well. Ten of his 15 outs this year have been recorded on grounders.

Lopez continued to sail pitches against switch-hitter Melky Cabrera, but nonetheless got him to pop a full-count changeup to Jason Varitek in foul territory. The Yankees fail to blow the door open, and so it is up to Rivera to preserve a two-run lead.

BOTTOM 9: YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2

A couple days ago, David Ortiz mused that people suggesting that Mariano Rivera is vulnerable because of diminished velocity on his cutter are crazy. The movement of the pitch, he said, remained the bedrock of its success. Ortiz tested that proposition, fouling off five straight cutters before Rivera blew a 92 mph four-seamer past the slugger up in the strike zone.

Kevin Youkilis, however, jumped on a cutter and lined it up the middle for his first hit of the game. J.D. Drew, however, dribbled a roller to second for the second out of the inning. (The Sox 3-4-5 tandem of Ortiz, Youkilis and Drew is 2-for-12 with three strikeouts and two walks tonight.)

But down to their last out, Rivera left a 92 mph cutter up and over the middle of the plate to Jason Bay. Bay crushed the pitch, his blast (aided, no doubt, by the unusually warm conditions tonight), barely clearing the Green Monster at its farthest point in left-center. The ball clanged off the shelf straight up from the 379 foot marker where the Wall meets the center-field fence, and the two-run homer tied the game at 4-4.

It was Bay’s fourth homer of the year. Bay had been 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his four career plate appearances against the Yankees closer.

Mike Lowell followed by lining a single, but Jason Varitek ended the threat by striking out. Still, the Sox have erased a two-run deficit against Rivera, and extra innings are here.

The homer was Bay’s first game-tying or go-ahead shot in the ninth inning as a member of the Red Sox, but the fifth of his career. He’s never hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth. He does, however, have one career walk-off, which he hit in the bottom of the 13th for the Pirates against the Rays last June 28.

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 4

8th inning: Enter Sandman … Early

04.24.09 at 10:28 pm ET
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As we get into the final two innings we should give you an update on the Yankees‘ late-inning relief and how they are faring.

The closer — or ‘Godfather’ as Jonathan Papelbon calls him — Mariano Rivera has appeared in seven games, allowing six hits and not a single run. The man setting him up for the most part this season, Brian Bruney, allowed a run in his last appearances after going seven straight games without giving up a score. Bruney has also struck out two or more batters five times while not having pitched more than one inning in any of his appearances.

This eighth inning it is Jonathan Albaladejo (AL-bə-lə-DAY-ho) to begin the frame, with Damaso Marte and Rivera warming up.

Cody Ransom stole his first bag of the year, making Sox catcher Jason Varitek 2 of 11 on throwing out runners this season. Ransom was hurt going into third on a subsequent ground out by Derek Jeter, although it was difficult to tell how he hurt himself. Possibly a tweaked knee rounding the base. I don’t think he’ll be jumping on any 60-inch platforms tonight

Takashi Saito stranded pinch-runner Ramiro Pena, striking out Johnny Damon on a 92 mph fastball. In case you were wondering, Saito has allowed 10 stolen bases in his career, with just one attempt against him failing.

After striking out Mike Lowell and getting Jason Varitek to ground out, our man ‘AL-bə-lə-DAY-ho’ hit Nick Green. It was the second hit batsmen of the night for Yankees pitchers. In somewhat of an odd move, New York manager Joe Girardi took out ‘AL-bə-lə-DAY-ho’ with the count 0-1 to Jacoby Ellsbury. It marks the first time this season Rivera will have entered a game in the eighth inning. Ellsbury is 0 for 3 against ‘The Godfather’.

In appearances of more than one inning last season — which there were 15 of —  Rivera’s ERA was 0.38. Ellsbury greeted Rivera with, you guessed it, a broken bat blooper to keep the inning alive, putting runners on first and second. In case you didn’t know, Rivera likes breaking bats. His next Red Sox hitter, Dustin Pedroia, is 0 for 5 with two walks.

Pedroia is now 0 for 6, striking out looking on a 92 mph cutter. That’s 12 baserunners left on by the Sox.

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2 

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