|5th Inning: Twins get on the board||04.22.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
One of the more revealing aspects of a catcher’s work with Tim Wakefield is how he mixes in non-knuckleball pitches. Wakefield and George Kottaras were in sync against Nick Punto leading off the inning, with Wakefield dropping a 59 mph curve on a 2-2 pitch for his third strikeout of the game. If nothing else, the success of Kottaras on the heels of Kevin Cash‘s fine work in 2008 suggests that life goes on without Doug Mirabelli in Boston.
Following the punchout, Carlos Gomez lined a double down the left-field line, and Wakefield hit leadoff man Denard Span as the lineup turned over. Alexi Casilla then hit a potential double-play grounder, but Wakefield deflected the ball off the top of his glove. Dustin Pedroia had to change direction, and did a nice job to glove the ball and flip it towards second, but shortstop Nick Green dropped the ball for his second error of the game.
Instead of runners on the corners and two outs, the bases remained loaded with one down. Justin Morneau lined a single to right to plate the first Twins run of the game, but with the bases still crammed, Wakefield got harmless flies to first from both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Through five, Wakefield — always prone to being a fly-ball pitcher — has recorded eight outs on fly balls and just four on grounders.
BOTTOM 5: RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
This is one of the faster games of the year…Kevin Youkilis lined out to lead off, but J.D. Drew — apparently fully recovered from his confrontation with influenza earlier this week — lined a single to center. He now has three hits (two doubles) today, and is 12-for-28 over his last eight games.
Jason Bay could not advance Drew, instead becoming Baker’s second strikeout victim of the game. Bay is now 1-for-9 in his last three games.
With two outs, Mike Lowell stepped to the plate and bounced a double down the left-field line for his second extra-base hit of the game. The ball did not score Drew, but it continued Lowell’s excellent production from the bottom third of the order. As mentioned earlier, Lowel has 15 RBI from the seventh spot in the batting order. With the Sox in the middle of their 14th game of the year, that makes Boston the only team in baseball with an average of more than an RBI a game from that spot in the order. Surprisingly, a couple of teams are averaging exactly one per contest: both the Blue Jays and Dodgers enter today with as many RBIs from the No. 7 hole as they have played games.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Twins decided that they could not risk any further runs if they want to have any hope of remaining in the game. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire elected to turn to left-hander (and former Red Sox) Craig Breslow, a product of an inferior institution of “higher learning” in New Haven.
Breslow had a fine partial season in Minnesota last year, posting a 1.62 ERA while playing the role of southpaw specialist. Though he entered today’s contest with a 10.12 ERA this year, he did his job in this instance, retiring George Kottaras on a fly to center on his first pitch.
RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
|4th Inning: Wakefield’s Twin Killing||04.22.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
To this point, the pairing of Tim Wakefield and George Kottaras has been virtually flawless. Kottaras has yet to commit a passed ball with the knuckleballer on the hill. Wakefield did, however, uncork his first wild pitch of the season in the top of the fourth. Jason Kubel reached on a leadoff single, and then after Michael Cuddyer struck out, Wakefield tossed the errant pitch — quite a bit outside and in the dirt, with Kottaras having little hope — to allow Kubel to advance to second. Wakefield walked Joe Crede, but with two on and one out, quelled the incipient rally by inducing a 6-4-3 double play from Mike Redmond. The Twins miss Joe Mauer (expected back around the beginning of May), particularly in this game – Mauer has better than a .400 career average against Wakefield.
That was Wakefield’s second double-play ball of 2009. He has averaged just under 10 per season over the last three years.
BOTTOM 4: RED SOX 6, TWINS 0
Twins starter Scott Baker settled to produce his first homer-free inning of the game. For those keeping track at home, he’s now allowed seven bombs in eight frames. Still, the Sox’ accomplishments to start the game were rare indeed, according to Nuggetpalooza master Gary From Chapel Hill:
The last time that the Red Sox hit multi-RBI HR in three straight innings was July 10, 2004 against Texas at Fenway:
Garciaparra (1st inning off Rogers)
Bellhorn (2nd inning off Rogers)
Ramirez (2nd inning off Rogers)
Ramirez (3rd inning off Rogers)
All four HR were two-run shots.
Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to May 1, 1987, when Boggs, Evans, and Boggs went deep in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings at California.
In the fourth, Baker worked quickly, retiring Nick Green and Jacoby Ellsbury before Dustin Pedroia interrupted his clean frame by ripping a Wall single on a sharp liner to left. Pedroia, 1-for-3 today, is 10-for-21 (.476) on the current homestand. David Ortiz stranded Pedroia by flying out to left. He seems to be trying to hit the ball to the opposite field quite a bit.
|3rd Inning: No Need for No-Hitter Pools||04.22.09 at 1:25 pm ET|
Nick Punto is hardly an imposing figure. The Twins utility man is a career .252 hitter with a .320 OBP and .651 OPS. And so, he seemed a slightly unlikely person to interrupt Tim Wakefield‘s hitless journey through the Twins lineup.
But interrupt it Punto did, leading off the third by swatting a double into the gap in left-center. But with a man on second and no outs, Wakefield refused to bend. He got Carlos Gomez (the centerfielder who was the centerpiece of the deal that made Johan Santana a New York Met, and who is now hitting just .194 this year) to foul out to first and Denard Span to loft a pop-up down the left-field line. After a stray knuckleball hit Alexi Casilla, Wakefield recovered to retire Justin Morneau on a grounder to first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
The play was an excellent and familiar one by Youkilis, who ranged to his right and gloved the ball with a dive, flipping to Wakefield for the final out of the inning.
RED SOX 4, TWINS 0
The assault on Scott “Home Run” Baker continues. Kevin Youkilis struck out on a check-swing to lead off, but J.D. Drew followed by ripping a double to right, his second two-bagger of the afternoon. Jason Bay then lined a ball to right center, with Michael Cuddyer making a diving catch to save a run. The reprieve was brief: Mike Lowell hit a two-out laser into the first row of the Monster Seats, the third two-run homer by the Sox in as many innings. Lowell has three homers and a team-leading 15 RBIs from the seventh spot in the batting order. Repeat: 15 RBIs in 14 games from the seventh spot in the batting order. Ridiculous.
George Kottaras ended the inning by grounding to first. Wakefield has a cushion that would put Mattress Discounters to shame.
RED SOX 6, TWINS 0
|2nd Inning: Green Day||04.22.09 at 1:10 pm ET|
Wakefield again cruised in the second inning, getting Jason Kubel (pop to second base) and a warning track fly ball off the bat of Michael Cuddyer that Jacoby Ellsbury caught while pinned against the wall in straightaway center. Nick Green then made a nice play on a wicked hop off the bat of Joe Crede, but threw the ball in the dirt to fist, allowing the Twins third baseman to reach. It was Green’s third error of the year, but of course, it is worth keeping in mind that shortstop is a position to which he’s adjusting after having spent most of his pro career at second. But Wakefield proved imperturbable, retiring catcher Mike Redmond on the second pitch on a fielder’s choice groundout to third.
Through two innings, Wakefield has needed just 25 pitches. At this pace, he could record back-to-back complete games for the first time since 2005. (Prior to the ’05 season, Wakefield hadn’t done that trick since 1997.)
BOTTOM 2: RED SOX 2, TWINS 0
After Mike Lowell lined to center to start the inning, George Kottaras worked a walk. That brought No. 9 hitter Nick Green to the plate. The shortstop, evidently eager to make amends for his ultimately harmless gaffe in the top of the inning, crushing a two-seam fastball from Twins starter Scott Baker and clearing the Monster Seats. The homer was the 11th of Green’s career (in 828 plate appearances, and his first as a member of the Red Sox).
The homer — coupled with the one hit by Kevin Youkilis an inning earlier — was an ominous sign for the Twins. Baker has now allowed six homers in as many innings this season. A year ago, he allowed 20 homers in 172.1 at-bats and struck out 141 batters. This year, he is finding bats rather than missing them.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed by lining a one-out single back up the middle. Ellsbury stole second (his sixth swipe of the young season), and then advanced to third on Dustin Pedroia‘s fly to shallow right. But Ellsbury was stranded there when David Ortiz fouled out to third.
RED SOX 4, TWINS 0
|All is well for Devern Hansack (except his shoulder)||04.22.09 at 12:56 pm ET|
As mentioned earlier, Devern Hansack was placed on unconditional release waivers today to make room on the 40-man roster for first baseman/oufielder Jeff Bailey. While the move might at first blush seem like a rough one for Hansack, who dislocated his shoulder last week, it appears that the outcome could actually be a good one for the pitcher (the dislocated shoulder notwithstanding).
The Sox have offered Hansack a minor-league deal so that he can rehab with the organization in Fort Myers following surgery. The 31-year-old has indicated to the club that he will accept that offer once he clears waivers on Friday. His pay will actually improve, since he will receive termination pay for his full minor-league salary, and he will also get the additional money of a new minor-league deal.
According to this plan, Hansack will receive a bit of a bump in salary while putting himself in the best possible position to return to health in hopes of resuming his pitching career.
|1st Inning: Wakey, Wakey||04.22.09 at 12:53 pm ET|
The fact that Tuesday’s washout necessitated a day-night doubleheader might prove to the Red Sox’ benefit. Tim Wakefield, who was going to pitch last night, instead gets to start this afternoon’s contest. The 42-year-old owns a career 54-43 record and 3.57 ERA in day games, compared to a 125-115 mark and 4.62 ERA at night. Suffice it to say that eggs and knuckleballs are not considered the breakfast of champions by opposing hitters.
Wakefield breezed through the top of the first against the Twins, retiring Denard Span (fly to right), Alexi Casilla (strikeout on a 73 mph FASTBALL) and Justin Morneau (fly to short) in order. Morneau is the only member of the Twins lineup who enjoys any real track record of success against Wakefield.
BOTTOM 1: TWINS 0, RED SOX 0
Twins starter Scott Baker recorded a pair of quick outs, retiring Jacoby Ellsbury on a groundout to third (Joe Crede, playing in, made an excellent diving play to his left to glove the ball) and then retiring Dustin Pedroia on a fly to right. But David Ortiz used an inside-out swing to loop a slider away for an opposite-field single, and prolonging the inning for Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis is off to the sort of torrid start that will help to erase any questions about whether his 2008 MVP candidacy was a fluke. He continued that run, lining a ball down the right-field line. Though the ball curled towards the Pesky Pole, it stayed inside of it, and the two-run homer was the fourth of the year for Youkilis. The opposite-field shot was something of a novelty for Youkilis, who did not hit a single oppo shot last season.
J.D. Drew followed with a double down the right-field line, but Jason Bay grounded hard to third to end the inning. Baker fooled no one in the first.
RED SOX 2, TWINS 0
|Terry Francona confronted by Grim Reaper||04.22.09 at 12:14 pm ET|
At about 9:30 this morning, Terry Francona was ushered into his office by a small cadre of Red Sox players and coaches. There, standing ominously, was the Grim Reaper, sickle in hand.
Francona and the members of the Red Sox erupted in this unique form of celebrating the skipper’s 50th birthday.
“It’s all gravy from here,” mused Francona. “Probably appropriate.”
Presumably, Francona meant that it was appropriate that he spend the entirety of his quinquagenary (also known as his semi-centennial, also known as his turning 50) at the ballpark trying to squeeze in a double-header. He had no plans for the day, aside from showing up at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. for the 7:10 p.m. scheduled start, so the day-night doubleheader did little to disrupt his festivities.
As for the Red Sox roster:
–Julio Lugo‘s return to rehab games was delayed by a day, thanks to Tuesday’s rainout in Pawtucket. He will play today, work out with the team on Thursday, then play Thursday through Sunday before the team re-evaluates him. Francona left open the possibility that Lugo could be activated for the series against the Indians at the start of next week.
–In order to create a 40-man roster spot for Jeff Bailey, the Sox placed Devern Hansack on unconditional release waivers. While the move seems cold-blooded (Hansack dislocated his shoulder while pitching on April 13), there is a decent likelihood that he will be re-signed in a deal that could favorable.
–While a doubleheader is typically a managerial nightmare, the Sox bullpen — coupled with days off on either side of today’s scheduled day-night affair — makes that less of a concern. The Sox can have pitchers work for more than three outs, bolstered by the knowledge that if there is a double-header, there will be a day to recuperate. Moreover, with a deep bullpen that has featured strong performances from the likes of Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Papelbon, the team is well-situated to deal with the demands of a pair of games.
–The Sox believe that they caught the signs of Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s shoulder fatigue earlier this year than they did last year, when he ended up on the disabled list for 3 1/2 weeks. Matsuzaka was scheduled to throw from 60 feet (“He’ll probably inch out to about 70,” said Francona) for the second straight day on Wednesday.
–The Sox are planning on wearing green uniforms for the night game in celebration of Earth Day.
–Boxes of MLB 2009: The Show, the video game whose advertisements feature Dustin Pedroia, sat in the Red Sox clubhouse, available to any player who wanted a copy of the game.
- Red Sox sign 1st-round pick Trey Ball (UPDATED)
- Cup of Coffee: Shaw, Haeger help Sea Dogs earn split
- Players of the Week, June 10-16: Keury De La Cruz and Anthony Ranaudo
- Red Sox reportedly sign 12th-rounder Jake Drehoff
- Wendelken added to South Atlantic League All-Stars
- Red Sox reportedly sign Bryan Hudson, Jantzen Witte
- Cup of Coffee: Spinners open season with 15-strikeout gem
- SoxProspects Video of the Week: A-Ball hitters
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #39.1: Mellen's Excellent Adventure
- 2013 Annual Drive - Help Keep SoxProspects Free!