|07.31.10 at 9:43 am ET|
Daisuke Matsuzaka has had quite an interesting season for the Red Sox. In 14 starts he has compiled a 7-3 record with a fairly decent 4.09 ERA. However, the Japanese right-hander has pitched more than six innings only twice, and has walked three or more batters in nine of his starts.
His last three outings have been relatively stress-free ‘ save for the five walks he issued against Seattle on July 25 ‘ to the tune of giving up only four runs in 18 2/3 innings of work.
Matsuzaka has had a fair amount of success against this current Tigers roster, with only Johnny Damon sporting a batting average over .200 in at least 10 at bats against the righty.
For Detroit, flamethrower Max Scherzer (7-8, 4.45 ERA) will be taking the mound, looking to bounce back from his last appearance against Tampa Bay. In that outing July 26, he and Rays starter Matt Garza had dueling no-hitters going into the sixth inning, but then Scherzer was touched for a grand slam by Matt Joyce and was subsequently taken out of the game.
In his last outing against the Sox on May 14, Scherzer struggled, allowing six runs on three home runs in only five innings in an eventual 7-2 loss. The Sox do not have much experience against the righty, although Mike Cameron is hitting .333 in six at-bats against him.
|07.31.10 at 12:22 am ET|
The Red Sox were seemingly on their way Friday night. Instead they had to walk off with a 6-5 loss to the Tigers.
After David Ortiz‘ grand slam brought the Sox within a run in the ninth inning, Adrian Beltre ripped a two-out double, which was followed by an intentional walk to pinch-hitter J.D. Drew. That paved the way for Mike Cameron to step to the plate against Detroit closer Jose Valverde.
Valverde, who was now at 54 pitches, had faced Cameron the inning before, striking out the Sox’ outfielder by throwing four splitters and one fastball. This time around the closer came back primarily with the heater, tossing fastballs on his first five offerings to Cameron, inducing a full count.
But then, with the prospect of the Sox loading the bases and Eric Patterson coming to the plate, Valverde came back with a splitter, freezing Cameron and finishing off the game with the Red Sox’ last hope looking at a called third strike.
“I swung at a lot of splits the first time, so he threw me all fastballs in the last at-bat,” Cameron explained. “Then the split, for a strike. I just didn’t get it done.
“The guy hadn’t thrown me no strikes with the splitter, but he threw a good pitch, made a good pitch with that one. Sad as it may seem, I guess I have to chalk it up, tip my camp to him.”
|07.31.10 at 12:19 am ET|
The last thing Johnny Damon wanted to do was miss his return to Fenway Park for the first time as a member of the Detroit Tigers. But the outfielder, who starred on the 2004 World Series champions, had to pull himself out of the starting lineup before Friday’s series opener with sharp pain due to spasms in the middle of his back.
“I think [Saturday] is going to be a big day,” Damon said of his chances of playing the rest of the weekend in Boston. “I’m hoping I’m ready to play. I’m hoping this is just a two-day thing. I was doing everything in my power to give [outfielder Brennan] Boesch that day off.”
Damon’s injury is just the latest to hamper the Tigers lineup as Brandon Inge is out with fracture in his left hand, Carlos Guillen is out with a right calf strain and Magglio Ordonez is out with a fractured right ankle. Inge, Guillen and Ordonez are all on the disabled list. Starter Armando Galarraga had to leave Friday’s game one out shy of a win when Kevin Youkilis drilled a liner off his right ankle.
“I tried doing everything I could to get ready for this game,” Damon said after Detroit’s 6-5 win. “I know we’re very shorthanded. I wanted to come out and play in front of the Fenway crowd without wearing that Yankee uniform. But that looks like it’s going to have to wait.
“I’m not sure how long this [injury will take to recover]. You could say it came out of the blue. I felt it before the game in Tampa [Thursday]. I didn’t really think much of it after the game [Thursday] but when I started moving around today, I was in considerable pain.”
Still, Damon managed to keep his characteristic good humor following Detroit’s nail-biting 6-5 win over the Red Sox on Friday, a game that featured two home runs by a Johnny of a different name. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta, in his first game since being acquired from Cleveland on Wednesday, homered twice and had three hits in the much-needed win for the Bengals, snapping a four-game losing streak.
“It’s a good thing we have a Jhonny who can hit home runs,” Damon said. “[It was] a Jhonny who helped produce today for us. That was huge.”
|07.31.10 at 12:12 am ET|
It was a struggle from the outset for Jon Lester. In his prior outing against the Mariners, Lester had retired each of the first 16 batters while featuring an incredible four-pitch arsenal that rendered him, quite literally, unhittable. On Friday against Detroit, however, the left-hander said that he felt “terrible” while warming up, a sentiment that continued into the game when the Tigers tallied their first hit of the night on his second pitch and kept adding on.
“I go through one start with probably the best stuff I’ve ever had in my life to nothing,” Lester rued.
The result wasn’t pretty. The left-hander allowed a career-worst 11 hits, and suffered his third loss in as many starts, the first time in his career that he has ever dropped three straight outings. He gave up a pair of homers to Jhonny Peralta, matching a season high for homers allowed, while yielding four runs (all earned) in six-plus innings. He absorbed the ‘L’ in his team’s 6-5 loss, and his record since the All-Star break is now 0-3 with a 4.57 ERA.
Lester’s struggles were particularly surprising given the depleted state of the Tigers lineup. The team is without lineup mainstays Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen, while Johnny Damon was a late scratch due to back spasms. Yet Lester couldn’t capitalize.
“Lineups don’t matter if you go out there and execute pitches. I just flat out didn’t do that tonight,” he said. “It was just one of those nights. You have them. In 30-some odd starts of the year, you’re going to have some where you don’t feel good. Physically I feel fine. Just no rhythm, no balance, no execution. You name it, there wasn’t any of it tonight.”
Even so, on a night when his stuff was not as sharp as is usually the case, Lester managed to prevent the game from getting out of hand, and also kept the bullpen in line. Though he labored through 115 pitches, he competed in what his teammates considered admirable fashion.
“Obviously it wasn’t his best stuff,” said catcher Victor Martinez. “Once again, he was able to battle and gave us a chance to come back and win the game. He didn’t have his best stuff and he threw six-plus and that was it. Somebody else, when they don’t have their best stuff, they don’t make it through three or four innings.”
Still, Lester was not one for silver linings. On a night when the Sox slipped to 6 1/2 games back in the wild card standings, he was not in a celebratory mood — not that he ever would be following a loss.
“Obviously it’s later in the season and we’re trying to win ballgames and get back into this thing, but a loss is a loss. It doesn’t feel good regardless of what time of the season it is,” said Lester. “Any time I take the ball I don’t want to lose. It doesn’t matter the time of the year. They all don’t feel good.”
|07.31.10 at 12:02 am ET|
The play’s importance grew as the game progressed.
With nobody out in the seventh inning, and the Red Sox trailing, 4-1, Eric Patterson walked to lead off the home half of the frame. But whatever optimism the inning began with for the Red Sox soon disappeared when the Sox outfielder was gunned down by Detroit catcher Gerald Laird.
Marco Scutaro immediately followed with a single, before Jed Lowrie struck out and Kevin Youkilis lined out to end the inning. But it was two innings later that the sting of the ill-advised stolen base attempt really took hold, as the Sox fought back from a 6-1 deficit in the ninth thanks to David Ortiz‘ grand slam, cutting the lead to just a run. Unfortunately for the Sox, that’s where the rally would end, with the home side falling just a run short, losing to the Tigers, 6-5, in the series opener at Fenway Park.
“In that situation obviously you don’t want to run into an out, but if you can get a bag there and possibly push one run across, it’s a lot easier to score two runs than it is three later in the ballgame. It just so happens it was a fastball up, a good pitch for the catcher to throw and he threw it up the line right at my helmet. If he throws that anywhere else I’m probably safe. You understand that you can’t make mistakes like that. You learn from it, adapt and move on,” said Patterson, who had been caught on just two of his 24 stolen base attempts in his big league career.
“On that pitch I felt like I got a good jump but looking at the video it was a fastball up, which for a catcher it’s a great pitch to throw on. It was just a perfect spot. If that balls on the bag I’m safe. It was just one of those things that was unfortunate because it turned out to what seems like a big play. Again, I understand late in the game like that you have to be 100 percent sure and it didn’t work out today.”
Patterson made it clear after the loss that the decision to steal was his, and his alone.
“He was trying to make something happen that probably wasn’t there,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
|07.30.10 at 11:02 pm ET|
The Tigers lineup seemed to present little threat to Red Sox starter Jon Lester. With the lineup already stripped by injuries to second baseman Carlos Guillen, third baseman Brandon Inge and outfielder Magglio Ordonez, Detroit announced shortly before the game that left fielder Johnny Damon would be scratched with back spasms.
Didn’t matter. Jhonny Peralta, acquired by the Tigers in a trade on Thursday, blasted a pair of homers against Lester in his Tigers debut. Peralta became the first Tigers player since Billy McMillon in 2000 to launch a pair of homers in his first game with Detroit, and the Sox could manage little offense until a too-little, too-late ninth-inning grand slam by David Ortiz en route to a 6-5 loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Perhaps he is just a victim of the very high expectations that he has set for himself, but for the third straight outing, Jon Lester — who pitched serviceably, allowing four runs in six-plus innings, was hit hard. He set a new career high by allowing 11 hits, and matched a season high by conceding two homers.
For the third straight start, he allowed three or more earned runs (matching his longest such streak of the year, which previously took place in the first three games of the year). Since the All-Star break, Lester is now 0-3 with a 4.57 ERA.
—Adrian Beltre had a chance to put the Sox on the board early, batting with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the first. But he bounced into a harmless comebacker, and the Sox are now 1-for-13 with the bases loaded since the All-Star break.
–In his first relief appearance since going back from the rotation to the bullpen, Tim Wakefield exhibited rust. In his first relief appearance since May 17 (and first appearance of any sort since July 20), Wakefield allowed a pair of runs in an eighth inning in which he gave up a walk, single and wild pitch.
—Mike Cameron offered a glimpse of the defensive limitations that have resulted from his abdominal injury when a ball to the gap in left-center ticked off the tip of his glove. It was a play that a healthy Cameron likely would have made in past seasons. While he has always ranked as one of the top defensive outfielders in the game for several years, Cameron entered Friday with a -11 rating in the John Dewan Plus/Minus system (meaning he had made 11 fewer plays than the average center fielder on comparable plays), a mark that ranked 30th among big league center fielders.
–Though Jeremy Hermida was robbed of a hit on a diving play by second baseman Will Rhymes, he suffered another hitless night, going 0-for-3. He is now 2-for-20 since returning from the disabled list, including an 0-for-17 stretch that dates to his first start off the disabled list. With a left-handed reliever on the mound in the eighth, the Sox elected to pinch-hit for Hermida, whose playing time seems to be in some jeopardy (even with a right-hander on the mound, he was not originally in the starting lineup).
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
Martinez had a strong overall game at the plate, doubling twice, walking and driving a ball the opposite way to left-center. His first double came while batting left-handed, and his second came after he had turned around against left-handed reliever Phil Coke. The right-handed double was particularly noteworthy, given that Martinez had struggled more with his slightly fractured left thumb while batting from the right side.
With an assist from the umpire, Martinez also threw out an attempted base thief, the first runner he’s gunned down since returning from the DL.
—David Ortiz launched a grand slam against Tigers closer Jose Valverde with one out in the ninth inning, giving the Sox their second grand slam in as many games and Ortiz his first since 2008. That blow turned around the night for Ortiz, who was 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts to that point in the game. He is striking out with great frequency, having done so at least once in each of the last 13 games, the longest such streak of his career.
—Marco Scutaro, who hit a grand slam on Wednesday, hit his second homer in as many games. It marked the fifth time in his career that he has hit homers in consecutive games. He also added a single, and has reached base in seven of his last 10 plate appearances.
|07.30.10 at 7:48 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, in Boston to work out with his team on Friday before heading to Pawtucket to continue his rehab assignment on Saturday and Sunday, suggested that he is excited to once again be playing baseball, and eager to return to the Sox to help them down the stretch.
Ellsbury has played just nine games this year, and just three since suffering broken ribs during a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre on April 11. The 26-year-old went on the disabled list after four fractures were found by a CT scan, returned for three games in late-May and then was placed back on the D.L. due to ongoing discomfort that revealed an additional non-displaced rib fracture. After missing more than 90 games, he said that he is “chomping at the bit” to return to games for the Red Sox, and is excited that — with his rehab at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona concluded — he is nearing that goal.
Ellsbury played three games in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League this week, and got to test his recovery by running the bases, stealing, sliding and playing outfield. His assignment to Pawtucket should offer a good gauge in the coming days of how close he is to be major league ready.
“I just can’t wait to get back. I just can’t wait to get back and I know we’re definitely in striking distance of both [the Yankees in the AL East and the Rays in the wild card],” said Ellsbury. “I’m doing everything in order to play and that’s the biggest thing right now, doing all the baseball activities, doing everything I can to play and ultimately, the last step is playing in the games and that’s what I’ve done the last couple of days in Fort Myers.’
Ellsbury said that he will likely experience some pain over the duration of the season, but that he is confident that he cannot worsen his injury by playing. That being the case, he suggested that there is little holding him back aside from a return to getting game ready.
“I was chomping at the bit from Day One to get back and playing. … If I can go out there and not make it worse, I’ll play with any discomfort I have so that was from day one and that was when I came back, I was under the impression that’s how it was going to be,” said Ellsbury. “As long as I know I’m not going to hurt it worse, I’m ready to go.”
Ellsbury was not sure how many more rehab games he will need before returning to the majors. The Sox plan to have him play on Saturday and Sunday in Pawtucket before re-evaluating him.
Ellsbury said that both he and the team are “on the same page” regarding the course of his rehab. Though there had been questions about his decision to go to Arizona for his rehab (a course that was set, Ellsbury noted, by both him and the team), the outfielder said that there are no hard feelings between him and his teammates, and suggested that the Sox have been nothing but supportive of him during his efforts to return.
‘[The rest of the Red Sox were] all in favor,” Ellsbury said of his rehab in Arizona. “They were wondering what I was doing six days after the injury taking batting practice, [asking], ‘What are you doing?’ So they’re all in favor. Every time I come in here, everyone is happy to see me. It’s just like where we left off. The teammates, the coaching staff’s been awesome. …
“I think if there’s any question [about his relationship with the team], I think it’s false,” he added. “I think we’ve been on the same page for a while. The team, myself, everybody. That’s why they sent me to Arizona. That’s why they sent me to Fort Myers. Everything’s been in their hands. We’ve been on the same page for a while. I’m happy to start playing baseball. That’s the biggest thing.’
|07.30.10 at 5:50 pm ET|
NESN baseball analyst Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday afternoon to discuss the trade deadline, what is out there for relief pitching, and how trade rumors spring up out of nowhere.
Said Gammons: “A lot of times people like to guess. I think agents like to throw it out there. … Some of it makes a lot of sense, but the fact is we have so many media outlets. I find it a lot of fun, but it can also drive you crazy trying to chase them all down.”
Following is a transcript of the interview. To hear the whole interview visit The Big Show audio on demand page.
What do the Red Sox do between now and the conclusion of the deadline tomorrow at 4 p.m.?
I don’t think they’ll get the outfield bat they’d like to get. There was some talk today, once the [Houston] Astros made that deal to get [Brett] Wallace to play first base, they made it clear to everybody they want to move Lance Berkman, who’s not had a good year. I think it has something to do with a knee operation he had in spring training, but apparently that doesn’t fit because he can’t play the outfield. And I’m not really sure where Berkman’s going. My guess is they don’t come up with an outfield bat and they’ll pick up a reliever or two. I was actually working on something this afternoon where I was taking 35 of the available relievers and I was going to a 30-team trade. You took all these different guys, move one for another, one for another, and then the same guy, Joe Beimel, still ends up in Colorado [Rockies], he’s the 30th trade and he ends up back in Colorado on the same day. That’s how valuable all these guys are. There isn’t a relief pitcher out there that you could say, this guy will have an ERA under 5.00 the last two months of the season. I would put Matt Capps right in that category.
Looking at Capps and what he went for, but catchers are hard to find.
Everyone that has talked to me about that trade, every general manager, that Washington [Nationals] made a great trade. [Wilson Ramos] is going to catch for them for 10 years, he’s going to hit 20 home runs in the big leagues, and call a game, which most of the college catchers never learned to do. He’s really good, that was a surprising trade. Out of all the guys out there, Scott Downs is considered to be the best, not great, not as good as Hideki Okajima his first three years in Boston, but OK. Right now Toronto [Blue Jays] want a primary guy or they’ll gamble and take the two draft choices.
Does it seem like a lot of relievers appear out of nowhere, have good years, then disappear?
Well, I mean look at Joe Borowski, he saves 47 games one year, and he’s out of baseball the next. That’s sort of the nature of relief pitchers. If you think about where the Yankees and Red Sox were two years ago, and Joba Chamberlain. We used to be on alert, “Joba Chamberlain may pitch tonight.” And now, you couldn’t possibly think about Joba Chamberlain and Daniel Bard being in the same league. Bard is three times the player Joba Chamberlain is. It’s a really unpredictable thing. The guys that are there; the [Chad] Qualls, the [Aaron] Heilmans, the [Kyle] Farnshworths. Kevin Gregg is OK, he’s been alright in the past, at least you kind of know what you’re going to get with him. He’s nothing great, but he can pitch the sixth or seventh inning. You’re right, they are bottom feeders. Even Brandon League in Seattle, I had a general manager say to me today, “Just promise me you’ll never talk about how good Brandon League’s stuff is, and just go look at his results over the last four years, and remember exactly who he really is.” It’s really hard when you’re doing this, but you can get lucky for two months. Qualls was great for the Astros in the playoffs in 2005. He currently has the worst earned run average of any relief pitcher in major league baseball, but he still throws 95 [mph]. He can go some place: Tampa, Boston, someplace, and put together two good months pitching in the sixth or seventh inning.
|07.30.10 at 5:14 pm ET|
The Red Sox continue to get closer to fielding a full roster. Dustin Pedroia just completed a round of batting practice, on a day when he received a positive progress report about his still-healing broken foot. Jason Varitek is now off crutches for his broken foot, and Jacoby Ellsbury is working out with the club as he prepares to shift his rehab assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.
Here are the details:
–Both Varitek and Pedroia had scans on Friday to examine the progress of their broken bones, and Sox manager Terry Francona suggested that both had experienced “significant healing” since their last such exams. Pedroia, who had experienced discomfort while running in Anaheim on Monday, ran again on Friday with more promising results. He was told that he can begin to ramp up his activities as he moves closer to a return.
“Pedroia actually just came in from running. It went real well. It showed significant healing. Not healed, but good healing,” said Francona.
“More importantly, I think his exam went really well, so he’s got the go-ahead to start ramping up the running again. He did about 10 to 12 [sprints at] 90 feet, and the idea is just to kind of keep building. I think he took some groundballs, too . He felt good.”
Varitek is not yet that far along, but he is now off crutches, and will be able to start walking without a boot on Saturday. So that was good news.
“He’s a bit away from playing, for sure, but both reports came back really good,’ said Francona.
Francona said that Pedroia would “probably” require a minor league rehab assignment before getting back in the lineup.
–Ellsbury is working out with the Sox on Friday, and will play in Pawtucket on Saturday and Sunday. At that point, he’ll be re-evaluated and the next step will be determined.
–The Sox will hold off on a roster move involving Mike Lowell for another day or two, waiting for the trade deadline to pass before deciding what to do with the corner infielder, who could get dealt in the next 24 hours.
“There’s possible movement. The deadline is tomorrow,” said Francona. “It just seems to make sense to get through another day or two days and then do what we need to do.”
(For Lowell’s thoughts, click here.)
—J.D. Drew, who was scratched from the lineup just prior to Tuesday’s game and then sat out of Wednesday’s game, is back in the lineup after a three-day respite. “That’s great news,” said Francona.
–Francona said that he is trying to steer clear of conversations with GM Theo Epstein, as he does not want to put the general manager in a position where he feels like he needs to make a move that fails to balance the short- and long-term interests of the club.
“I know Theo and those guys are down there working. If he thinks he can make us better while making sense, he’ll do it. I’m confident of that,” said Francona. “I think he does a good job of trying to stay, keep track of the present and the future. Sometimes when you’re in uniform, all you care about is today. [I] try not to have conversations with him where he feels like, pressure from me to do something that would hinder our future.”
|07.30.10 at 5:11 pm ET|
Talking prior to the Tigers series opening game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park Friday night, Johnny Damon said that if he would have remained a member of the Sox following the 2005 season the team might have won more than just the 2007 world championship.
“I actually think they would have won one more here,” Damon said. “During that offseason we just acquired Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and I was coming off a solid year. Signing me would have been a very easy thing to do. But with stuff going on with the front office here, was Theo [Epstein]here or was he not, all that kind of stuff. But you know what, things happen for a reason. I love playing here. I went to New York, which was against a lot of people’s wishes. But I fell in love with New York also. I’m one of those players I guess you could say like David Cone who can go anywhere and make the best of it, and that’s what I did. The fortunate thing was that I did get to win in New York, which I don’t think I would have ever been satisfied without it.”
When asked if things would have been different if Epstein wasn’t on hiatus during the time he was making his decision to sign with the Red Sox or Yankees after becoming a free agent, Damon said, “Maybe, I really don’t know all that was going on. I knew that I kept telling them I was ready to come back but it fell on deaf ears. I enjoyed the four years over in New York. Now I’m in Detroit and hopefully i can be there past this year but we’ll see.”
Damon, who indicated he wants to play at least one more season after this one, commented that he didn’t know if he would be welcomed any differently than when he returned to Fenway as a Yankee in ’06.
“These fans know I can be a difference-maker in a game, so for me getting booed isn’t just stuck to Boston and Fenway Park. I get booed everywhere,” the 36-year-old Damon said. “The teammates on this team can’t believe how much I get booed how much I get booed everywhere. It’s part of the game. I told these guys I’ve been around this game 16 games, been reeking havoc on these teams for so long, they’ve grown to hate me.”
Damon is currently in the midst of a one-year, $8 million deal with the Tigers. He is hitting .281 with a .373 on-base percentage. For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.
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