|09.01.10 at 3:04 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Has it been done? Yes. Often? No.
It is now Sept. 1, and the Red Sox are eight games back in the division and seven games back in the wild card race. It is difficult to understate the magnitude of that deficit.
No team has ever erased an eight-game September deficit to advance to the postseason. But there is at least some precedent for Sox fans looking for the possibility of overcoming a seven-game hole, as that trick has been accomplished four times in major league history.
In the most dramatic instance, the 2007 Phillies surged to a 13-4 mark over the final 17 games of their season, wiping out a seven-game deficit against the collapsing Mets to win the NL East on the final day of the season, sneaking into the postseason with an 89-73 record.
More recently, the 2009 Twins hit the gas pedal after finding themselves with a 68-68 record and seven games behind the Tigers on Sept. 6. They went 18-8 from that point forward, forcing a one-game playoff with Detroit that they won to reach the American League Division Series.
In 1938, the Cubs escaped a seven-game hole in which they resided on Sept. 1. Chicago went 21-7 down the stretch, beating the tumbling Pirates (12-16 down the stretch) by two games.
And, in 1934, the Gashouse Gang Cardinals went 22-5 down the stretch, zooming from seven games behind the Giants on Sept. 6 to a pennant that they won by two games.
So, there is some measure of precedent for the Sox to come back. That said, it is also a startling reminder of just how daunting a task the team faces.
After all, even what GM Theo Epstein described as a “super hot” stretch might not be enough to overcome the gap that now exists. The 2007 Rockies, for instance, won 14 of their final 15 regular season games. Yet in doing so, they only came back from a 4 1/2 game deficit in the standings to tie the Padres on the last day of the regular season and force a one-game playoff.
That said, the Sox have little choice but to assume that they have the ability to buck the odds of history, and join the small group of teams capable of making one of the greatest comebacks ever.
“Still playing. When that day comes, when we’re done, we’re done. But it’s not over yet,” said Victor Martinez after his team’s loss on Tuesday. “Like I say, I mean, we come tomorrow, play hard and see what happens. It’s not over yet.”
|09.01.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday for his weekly conversation and revealed that Felix Doubront was sent back to Boston due to suffering neck pain on his non-throwing side.
‘On his non-pitching side of his neck in the front there he was having some pain,’ Francona said of Doubront. ‘So we actually decided because of last night to send him back to Boston today to get him looked at and figure out what’s going on there to rule out some things. The good news is that it’s not his pitching arm, in fact it’s not his arm, it’s his neck but it’s on the other side and he was starting to grab at it a little bit so we kind of wanted him to get it looked at and we’ll see what the word on it is.’
Francona was also asked about various controversial decisions in the Tampa Bay series, including J.D. Drew’s catch on a sacrifice fly and not inserting Jonathan Papelbon in the extra-inning loss.
Below is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
It was kind of a frustrating night last night all the way around?
Yeah, we needed a bounce-back night and didn’t get it. Yeah, it was.
Are you worried about your team getting down on itself?
No, not really. I mean, we obviously care and the players care a lot. I think sometimes a missed play can be misconstrued or something. I think we’ll handle that. Again, we rather be eight games in first place than where we are and I think there’s a lot of caring about some of the games we’ve played but no, we’ll keep playing.
You know the standings. How do you look at this thing?
Well, I think obviously we have to get hot, but I think the way to get hot is not by talking about, and I’ll probably get asked 30 times a day, but I think the best way to do that is to take care of the business at hand. I’ve always said that, I’ll always feel that, it will never change. We know there is a lot of work ahead of us but the best way to get that done is to stay in the present. That’s that way in everything and I’ll never be convinced differently. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.01.10 at 11:24 am ET|
With the Red Sox sinking deeper and deeper into a hole for both the AL East and wild card race, Jon Lester will look to provide something positive on Wednesday night when he takes the mound at Camden Yards. The Orioles will counter with rookie Jake Arrieta, who will make his first career start against Boston.
Lester (14-8, 3.12 ERA) bounced back from one of the worst outings of his career against Toronto and was dominant to earn a win vs. the Rays. He allowed one unearned run and walked five batters but struck out 10 over seven innings. The performance marked the third start over Lester’s last four appearances in which he didn’t allow an earned run.
The Orioles are all too familiar with Lester’s dominance as he holds a 12-0 record with a 2.00 ERA in 15 starts against them. That’s the best record of any active starter against an opponent. In his three outings this season, the left-hander is 2-0 and has allowed only one run over 19 innings of work. The last meeting between the two sides came in early July at Fenway Park when Lester allowed one run through seven innings in a 9-3 Red Sox win. Ty Wigginton has had the most success against the Boston starter, hitting .389 with a home run in 23 career plate appearances.
Arrieta (4-6, 5.10 ERA), meanwhile, will look to break a three-start losing streak. After being called up in early June, the right-hander has made 14 appearances this season and has been a serviceable starter for Baltimore. He’s lacked run support in his last three outings, receiving just two runs despite pitching well against tough opponents in the Rays, Rangers and White Sox. He had the most difficulty in his last start at Chicago, allowing four runs over four innings in an 8-0 loss. Wednesday will mark the first time Arrieta has faced Boston.
The Orioles will try to win their fifth consecutive game for the first time this season. After defeating the Red Sox on Tuesday, Baltimore improved to 17-10 under manager Buck Showalter. Even if they sit in the cellar of the AL East at an American League-worst 49-83, the O’s will try to play spoiler down the stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.01.10 at 10:59 am ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning and said he doesn’t believe the Sox have given up on the season yet.
‘Have they turned the page yet toward next year? No, they haven’t done that yet,’ Remy said. ‘And the reason I say that is because there’s too many guys on this team that have a lot to play for. They’ve got young guys that are trying to prove they’re going to belong here at the beginning of next year, guys like [Ryan] Kalish. And they’ve got veteran guys who are playing for contracts. [Adrian] Beltre, [Victor] Martinez, [David] Ortiz ‘ all these guys are playing for contracts.’
Remy was also asked his opinion of Theo Epstein and the job he’s done this season.
Below are the highlights of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Do you think after last night’s loss, we’re looking at this team turning the page to next year?
Well, it’s pretty obvious after the weekend that when you could have been possibly 2½ games out, you end up seven games back. It’s going to be an incredible battle from here on out and I don’t know whether they have the weapons to be able to do that. It was frustrating because you had chances to win every one of those games down in Tampa and you’re looking at a 2½-game spread, which makes things exciting. All of a sudden you come to Baltimore, you get a day off, you go back and you’re seven games out and you’re looking up at two very, very good teams.
Have they turned the page yet toward next year? No, they haven’t done that yet. And the reason I say that is because there’s too many guys on this team that have a lot to play for. They’ve got young guys that are trying to prove they’re going to belong here at the beginning of next year, guys like [Ryan] Kalish. And they’ve got veteran guys who are playing for contracts. [Adrian] Beltre, [Victor] Martinez, [David] Ortiz ‘ all these guys are playing for contracts. So, they’re going to continue to play and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.31.10 at 10:05 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — An Orioles team that has been an easy mark for numerous teams for much of the 2010 season continued to give the Red Sox fits on Tuesday night. Just hours after Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that his team needed to get “really hot” in order to stoke the embers of its flickering playoff hopes, Boston fell flat in Baltimore against an increasingly familiar nemesis.
Young left-hander Brian Matusz owns a 7-12 record and 4.72 ERA on the year, but he has overmatched the Sox in his brief career. Matusz stifled the Sox lineup in the Orioles’ 5-2 victory. In four starts against the Sox this year, he is now 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA after allowing two runs in six innings. He struck out six and walked just one.
The Sox’ third straight loss left them eight games behind the Yankees in the division and seven behind the Rays in the wild card.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The effect of Marco Scutaro‘s physical issues on his ability to throw a baseball were apparent, and costly. In the bottom of the first inning, he fielded a grounder in the hole by Ty Wigginton, but did not bother to throw to first to try to catch the lumbering runner.
More costly, with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the third, Scutaro fielded a soft grounder, double pumped and then fired towards second with an awkward submarine motion. The throw sailed wide of the bag, heading down the right-field line and allowing both baserunners to score. Scutaro pulled his glove off his left hand and feigned throwing it to the turf.
–The Sox offense has disappeared. For the fifth straight game, the Sox scored three or fewer runs, the team’s longest such streak of futility since a six-gamer in July 2009.
—David Ortiz and J.D. Drew saw their hellacious struggles against Matusz deepen. The two went a combined 0-for-5 with five strikeouts against the Orioles southpaw. Ortiz is now 0-for-9 with eight punchouts against Matusz, while Drew is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. When Drew walked against Matusz to lead off the seventh, it represented a minor triumph for the duo.
—Felix Doubront, against whom left-handed hitters were 5-for-35 without a single homer this year, got touched for longballs by left-handers Luke Scott and Felix Pie in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving Baltimore insurance runs that all but snuffed out any hope of a comeback.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Josh Beckett turned in his strongest outing in four weeks. The right-hander allowed three runs, just two earned, in his seven innings of work, and of the seven hits he allowed, two were infield singles and two were broken-bat flairs. But for Scutaro’s gaffe, he easily could have finished the night with just one run allowed.
Beckett was more aggressive using his secondary pitches early in counts, throwing his curveball at the start of at-bats to keep the Orioles honest. The approach had an unsettling effect on the O’s, allowing Beckett to snap a streak of five straight starts in which he’d allowed a homer, and resulting in his lowest earned-runs yield since Aug. 3.
—Jed Lowrie gave the Sox an offensive spark at a time when the lineup appeared moribund. With the Sox down, 3-0, in the top of the fifth, he smoked a 388-foot homer to left field off of Matusz for a two-run homer that put the Sox back in the game. Lowrie, who also singled, is now hitting .287 with a .912 OPS and a career-high four homers.
–For the first time since undergoing surgery to remove the cavernous malformation of his brain stem, prospect Ryan Westmoreland was in uniform for a game, joining the Lowell Spinners to continue his rehab. For more on the progress of a player who was rated the top prospect in the Sox system entering 2010, click here.
|08.31.10 at 8:37 pm ET|
LOWELL – Six months ago, Ryan Westmoreland literally needed to be held up by his belt to take swings with a whiffle ball bat in the hospital.
On Tuesday, the 20-year-old Red Sox prospect showed some encouraging signs as he participated in another round of baseball activities in his long road back from brain surgery.
Westmoreland, who underwent a procedure to remove a cavernous malformation from his brain stem in March, spent the early afternoon taking roughly 60 swings off a tee and in rounds of soft toss at LeLacheur Park with the Lowell Spinners, the site of his last minor league stint with the Red Sox organization.
‘I hit the ball pretty well for being only six months out,’ said Westmoreland, who plans on rehabbing in Lowell until Thursday before heading down to Greenville to work with the Single-A Drive for the remainder of its season. ‘I’m not nearly in the shape that I used to be, but I feel great.’
The organization is taking it slow with Westmoreland in his recovery.
“It’s all on him as far as how he feels and how he’s going to progress,” said Spinners’ manager Bruce Crabbe. “What he’s capable of and we are just going to ride the wave and see where it takes us.”
His work in the batting cage took place well before the rest of the team went out for its regular work. Westmoreland said he has hit the ball off the tee on 10 different occasions during his rehab and stepped up to soft toss ‘ from the side and from in front ‘ only a couple of times.
But this small step can be seen as a major victory in the recovery process, both mentally and physically.
It was Westmoreland’s father, Ron, who remembered watching his son go through some aggressive rehab just a week after the life-threatening surgery in Phoenix.
‘It was actually Andre Ethier‘s brother who was one of the therapists. He put a whiffle ball bat in (Ryan’s) hand and they had to hold (Ryan) up by his belt,’ said Ron Westmoreland. ‘They were pitching him balls and he was swinging and he was making contact. That was a pretty inspirational moment.’
Both father and son have said the doctors have been impressed where the prospect is in his recovery process, but one of the biggest hurdles that he has had to overcome is the ability to regain his eyesight.
Westmoreland said he was close to being legally blind after the surgery and in the first couple of months he had trouble watching television and movies. He slowly moved up to playing golf and worked on building muscle memory watching things that stood still.
Now he has 20/20 vision in his right eye and 20/25 in his left. His vision was a perfect 20/20 in both eyes before the surgery. His goal is to build up enough momentum with the soft toss from different angles where he can take regular batting practice, but he had no timetable on when that would happen.
‘I saw a quick improvement,’ said Westmoreland. ‘My eyes have learned how to focus on things that are still, it’s just now they are learning how to focus on things coming at me.’
For now Westmoreland will have to be a cheering teammate on the bench at whatever level he goes to work out. On this night, Westmoreland was introduced to a loud ovation before the Spinners game against the Tri-City Valley Cats ‘ an affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Some prospects would be disappointed returning to the same level for a second straight year, but Westmoreland plans on taking small victories one step at a time until one day he can put on the Red Sox uniform in Boston.
“It was amazing just because, at one point, there was a question about whether I was going to do anything again ‘ breath, walk,” he said. “To be able to now do baseball activities ‘ and pretty advanced activity for baseball and rehab ‘ it’s great. To be able to do the thing I love, play baseball, although it’s second to being alive, which I’ve taken grips to, it’s special just to be around the game.”
“I’m alive,” he added. “And now let’s work back and let’s try to get to Fenway.”
|08.31.10 at 7:53 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Part of the reason that Manny Delcarmen became expendable was that he had been bypassed by a teammate.
Delcarmen’s struggles forced the Sox to see if they could find viable alternatives to him. The role that he once occupied, helping to pass the baton to Jonathan Papelbon in games when the Sox had a middle-innings lead, was put up for grabs while Delcarmen was relegated to pitching in games in which his team trailed.
In dealing Delcarmen, Sox GM Theo Epstein explained that he’d been bypassed by other relievers, including Felix Doubront. In eight games as a reliever, the 22-year-old has a 3.12 ERA and a whopping 12 strikeouts in just 8 2/3 innings. He has walked only two batters in that time.
The Sox, Epstein said, still view Doubront as a starter for the long-term. But for the rest of this year, and perhaps even for next year, the team may have the left-hander work out of the bullpen.
As of now, the Sox have six starters under their contractual control for the 2011 season: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. While trades or injuries could alter the outlook, Epstein suggested that Doubront could follow a time-honored tradition of having future starters cut their teeth in relief.
“We like Doubront a lot. He’s had a really consistent development path through the minors as a starter, and we see him long term as a starter, but like a lot of starting pitchers, the first stage of his big league career might be as a reliever, especially in this organization,” said Epstein. “We have a full slate of starters coming back. We have some kids we like in the minor leagues, Doubront included. We think he’s a major leaguer at this point. As long as he continues his development, there’s a chance he’s here to stay. If the only opportunity exists in the bullpen, he’s certainly proven that he has a chance to be an effective one.”
|08.31.10 at 5:06 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — It’s not a white flag, the Red Sox insist.
Yes, the Red Sox have parted with a member of their big league club on the Aug. 31 deadline for waiver trades, and yes, they got a 21-year-old, Single-A prospect in return. The deal that came down featured veteran reliever Manny Delcarmen heading to the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Chris Balcom-Miller, a player who is years away from pitching at the big league level.
“This is not one of those moves that helps us tomorrow at the big league level,” Sox manager Terry Francona said of Balcom-Miller, “but we think down the road it could be great.’
That said, GM Theo Epstein said this deal — made with the Sox seven games behind both the Rays and Yankees in both the AL East and wild card races — was not to be confused with the sign of surrender that was hoisted four years earlier, when the Sox (trailing in the division by eight games, and 6 1/2 games back in the wild card) traded David Wells to the Padres for George Kottaras.
The difference, Epstein suggested, is that whereas Wells was a key member of the rotation at the time of being dealt, Delcarmen had become “a diminishing asset,” someone whom the Sox were no longer using in the highest-leverage relief situations. Once he had been supplanted by Felix Doubront on the bullpen depth chart, the Sox made the decision — following his having been claimed off waivers by the Rockies — that they were willing to part with the former first-rounder, who had spent his career in the organization for which he’d rooted while growing up in Hyde Park.
“[The Wells trade] was a bright line, an example where our hopes for contention that season had completely dissipated based on the injuries and the talent we had left on the roster, whereas I think this club is capable of winning games,” explained Epstein. “Let’s be honest: We need to get really hot in order to make this thing interesting. Really hot. Hotter than we’ve gotten at any point in the year. We haven’t done that yet. It doesn’t mean we can’t do that. I don’t think moving what had become for us a lower-leverage reliever is going to make the difference one way or the other in that.”
Delcarmen had entered the year as a pitcher whom the Sox anticipated using in key late-inning situations. Indeed, over the early stretches of the season, he was one of the team’s most effective pitchers. But he endured mechanical inconsistencies that manager Terry Francona said made it difficult to know whether he was going to be a dominant reliever or one who was unable to retire opponents.
That, in turn, led to different usage patterns for the right-hander, who was 3-2 with a 4.70 ERA this year, a mark that included a 9.00 ERA since June 3.
“Manny wasn’t necessarily pitching in the highest leverage situations any more. We had a couple guys who had passed him on the depth chart, most recently Doubront,” said Epstein. We ran Manny through waivers, which we do as a matter of routine with all our players. “The Rockies were motivated to acquire him. We ended up getting a prospect we liked. Manny gets a change of scenery. It’s not a reflection of any grander plan than that.
“We’re constantly looking for guys we can lean on in high leverage situations,” Epstein continued. “The way the season evolved, at this point in time, Manny wasn’t one of those guys, so we thought it worthwhile to get an asset that can really help is in the future for what was now becoming a diminishing asset for us.
“Manny has been a pleasure to have around, a hometown kid originally drafted by the Red Sox who’s helped us win a lot of games over the years. We certainly wish him well and will be watching him pitch in the National League now.” Read the rest of this entry »
|08.31.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
BOSTON, MA ‘ The Boston Red Sox today traded right-handed pitcher Manny Delcarmen and cash considerations to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for right-handed pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller, who has been assigned to Single-A Greenville. The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
The 28-year-old Delcarmen has gone 3-2 with a 4.70 ERA (23 ER/44.0 IP), 32 strikeouts and 28 walks in 48 relief appearances for the Red Sox this season. A second-round selection by Boston in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, the right-hander ranks fourth in club history with 289 relief appearances, compiling a 11-6 record with a 3.89 ERA (123 ER/284.1 IP) and 243 strikeouts over parts of six seasons with the Red Sox. Since 2008, the Boston-native ranks among American League relief leaders in appearances (T-6th, 185), innings (11th, 178.0) and strikeouts (T-17th, 148).
Balcom-Miller, 21, is 6-7 with a 3.31 ERA (40 ER/108.2 IP), 117 strikeouts and 19 walks in 19 starts for the Rockies Single-A Asheville affiliate this season. He ranks seventh in the South Atlantic League in ERA and ranks among the circuit’s starters in strikeouts per nine innings (1st, 9.69), opponent batting average (2nd, .214), fewest walks per nine innings (2nd, 1.57) and fewest base runners per nine innings (2nd, 9.77). In 2009 Balcom-Miller was named Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year after posting a 4-0 record with a 1.58 ERA (10 ER/57.0 IP) and 60 strikeouts in 11 starts for Short-A Casper. Selected by Colorado in the sixth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, he is 10-7 with a 2.72 ERA (50 ER/165.2 IP) and 177 strikeouts compared to 29 walks in 30 career starts in the Rockies system.
With today’s moves, the Red Sox 40-man roster is now at 38.
|08.31.10 at 11:41 am ET|
Amidst an exceedingly difficult season that has seen the Opening Day starter struggle to be healthy (he missed more than two months with a back strain) or effective, the right-hander has rarely found the form that had characterized his first four years in Boston (and particularly his three most recent campaigns, from 2007-09).
It is worth looking back at Beckett’s pre-2010 resume, if only to offer a contrast to his disappointing 2010 season. During that time, it has been sometimes forgotten this year, Beckett had compelling credentials as a front-of-the-rotation starter, a two-time All-Star whose performance earned him a four-year, $68 million contract extension from the 2011-14 seasons.
From 2006-09, Beckett was tied for third in the majors with 65 wins. His 3.71 ERA from 2007-09 ranked third among pitchers who threw at least 450 innings while working exclusively in the American League. His 8.66 strikeouts per nine innings ranked sixth in the majors from 2007-09.
This year, obviously, has been another story. Despite pitching in front of an upgraded defense, Beckett (4-3) is allowing a career-worst 10.4 hits per nine innings. His 1.4 homers and 2.9 walks per nine frames are the second worst marks of his career.
But the most eye-popping number tells a blunt tale of his struggles. Beckett’s 6.50 ERA is not merely the worst of his career. It has put him in reach of an ignominious sort of Red Sox history.
Right now, Beckett’s ERA is the eighth-worst ever by a Sox pitcher who has thrown at least 75 innings. (For the list, “topped” by Jim Bagby with a 7.09 ERA in 1939, click here.) Even more surprising, Beckett has a shot at producing the worst ERA ever by a Sox pitcher in a season in which he throws 100 or more innings. That mark is held (quite unexpectedly) by Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, who suffered through a dismal first year in Boston in 1934, producing a 6.50 mark.
If there is a silver lining for Beckett and a Sox team that has him under contract for the next four years, it is that some of the pitchers on this list have recovered in subsequent years to produce outstanding seasons.
Grove is the most noteworthy example. After his horror show of a Sox debut in ’34, he led the American League in ERA in four of the next five seasons. Buchholz, of course, went from a 6.75 ERA in 2008 to the lowest ERA (2.21) in the majors this year. Bagby went on to produce a couple of 17-win seasons in which he had ERAs around 3.00.
And so, there would be precedent for Beckett to leave behind his struggles of 2010. For that matter, there remains time for him to do so this season. After all, he will still show in stretches the impressive stuff that helped lead to his emergence as a leader of the Sox pitching staff over the last few years.
One of the great puzzles of his season is the fact that his pitches will show plenty of life, at times overpowering hitters for a few innings at a time, before he suddenly sees an outing fall apart in a big inning. That has been the case in his most recent two outings. If Beckett can harness his effectiveness for a full outing, then he might well be able to remove himself from the running for one of the worst ERAs in Red Sox history.
Even so, it is nothing short of stunning that, as Beckett prepares for his start against the Orioles on Tuesday, his season has a chance to rank as one of the worst in franchise history.
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