|05.23.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
The Red Sox knew that they were acquiring a left-handed slugger with a made-for-Fenway swing this winter when they traded for Adrian Gonzalez. Little did they know that one of the players on their roster would prove that he, too, was ready to become the same type of force at home.
As Rob Bradford detailed today, the partnership between David Ortiz and Gonzalez has yielded tremendous dividends for the Red Sox thus far this year. Gonzalez is hitting .342 with a .391 OBP, .574 slugging mark, .965 OPS, nine homers and 41 RBI. Ortiz, meanwhile, is now hitting .299 with a .373 OBP, .530 slugging mark, .903 OPS, nine homers and 22 RBI.
“We talk, and I watch the way he approaches pitching because he’s in front of me and that gives me a good idea,” Ortiz said in the story. “We talk all the time, but remember it doesn’t matter how much you talk because you still have to go out and execute.”
That said, it is fascinating to note that Ortiz is executing in a fashion that is distinct from the rest of his Red Sox career this year — at least at Fenway Park. On the road, a healthy number of Ortiz’ hits (5 of 22 — 22.7 percent) have been left of straightaway center. Still, most of his hits have either been directly up the middle or pulled.
Fenway Park has been a completely different story. Whether he’s taking his cue for Gonzalez or simply employing a different approach, Ortiz is going after the Green Monster as never before.
Of his 27 hits at Fenway Park this year, 14 have been to the left of center, most of them hits off or over the Green Monster. The fact that more than half of his hits (51.9 percent) at Fenway have been to the opposite field represents a clear departure from the rest of his Red Sox career, in which Ortiz has never had more than 37.7 percent of his hits to the opposite field.
Consider that in the 2008 season, he had just 16 hits to the left of center in the entire season (granted, one in which he missed a significant period with a wrist injury). Now, Ortiz has nearly surpassed that output in 26 home games — demonstrating an approach with which his hitting coach is thrilled.
“When David is at his best that’s what he’s doing best, reacting to the ball in and driving balls off the Monster,” said Dave Magadan.
In both 2009 and 2010, when Ortiz got off to slow starts, he worked with Magadan to emphasize using the whole field in order to turn his results around. This year, however, that approach has been in place almost from day one, with impressive results.
The Sox have never had a team with two left-handed hitters who launched 30 homers in the same year. In 2011, both Gonzalez and Ortiz are on pace to go deep 32 times — well before the weather warms up and balls start flying. It is one thing that both players are starting to exhibit similarities in approach. For the Sox, the most significant development is that the two are demonstrating some similarities of results, helping to explain why the Red Sox are leading the majors in runs (102) and runs per game (5.1) in May.
|05.23.11 at 1:16 pm ET|
Quade was with the Pirates organization as a minor leaguer through 1983 and managed in their minor league system thought 1986, just two years before they drafted Wakefield as a first baseman. A year later, in 1989, Quade heard that they were converting Wakefield to a knuckleball pitcher.
Sunday night – 22 years later – Wakefield threw just 75 pitches, allowing four hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a win Sunday night before a national TV audience.
“I was a Pittsburgh guy when I first signed and was over there and know a lot of people in that organization that saw him go from a guy going nowhere as an infielder/first baseman,” Quade said. “He’s had one helluva career. I wish we would have not allowed him to have such a good night.
“He’s been a wonderful for this guy for this organization for, heck, I’ve lost track for how many years. What a valuable guy to have in your pen, he can throw every day, he can start for you.”
Wakefield came in at 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He left 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
“I know he struggled going in but he threw a high percentage of strikes with his knuckleball,” Quade said. “If those guys do that, they’re usually tough. He threw one fastball to my catcher and it was a base hit. He’s been around the block. If his knuckleball is good, he’s real tough. I’ve heard lots of stories.” Read the rest of this entry »
|05.23.11 at 10:52 am ET|
Clay Buchholz looks to continue Boston’s winning ways as the Red Sox begin a seven-game road trip Monday night in Cleveland. The Red Sox have won Buchholz’s last four starts, a streak in which Buchholz himself has gone 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA, striking out 22 and walking just five.
May has always been a good month for Buchholz. In 13 career starts in May, Buchholz is 9-2 with a 3.52 ERA. He has only faced the Indians twice in his career, going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in 10 total innings.
The Indians counter with former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson. Although Masterson posted a 3.77 ERA in 67 games with the Red Sox, then followed it up with a 4.67 ERA with Cleveland from mid-2009 through 2010, he is finally showing the talent the Red Sox saw in him so long ago. In nine starts this season, Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA.
Buchholz pitched well in his only start at Progressive Field, throwing seven innings of three-run baseball on June 4 last season. The only problem was that his opponent, again Masterson, pitched the best game of his career, a complete-game two-hitter that the Red Sox lost, 11-0.
Luckily for Buchholz, this Indians squad is far different from previous squads, with only two Cleveland players having more than four previous at-bats against him. Former Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera is Buchholz’s biggest nemesis, batting 4-for-8 with a walk in nine plate appearances. Third baseman Adam Everett is 1-for-5.
The Red Sox haven’t had much success against Masterson either, however. Only newcomer Carl Crawford has had any luck, batting .300 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. He has also walked twice. David Ortiz has also homered Masterson, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 1-for-2 against him.
|05.23.11 at 9:47 am ET|
ESPN baseball analyst Orel Hershiser joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, after serving on the broadcast crew for the Red Sox‘ 5-1 victory over the Cubs on Sunday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Hershiser said Tim Wakefield‘s stellar performance Sunday shows that the knuckleballer has plenty left in the tank. “I think he still can [be successful],” Hershiser said. “And I think what you’re finding, too, is not the fact that his body’s breaking down, he’s actually got a chance to be even better as he goes on. Because he’s at the point where the game is slow for him. He’s not into results. He really can just relax out there.”
Added Hershiser: “When he has an outing like last night, it’s part of the grace of who he is now. And he understands the game. And he understands where he fits.”
With the Red Sox finally winning games consistently after their disastrous start, Hershiser said the Sox’ ability to overcome adversity will pay dividends. “It’s actually going to build character for the team,” he said. “It actually could be really good in the long run, because that common bond, that cosmic experience that now they can trust each other, now they can look to each other.
“Carl Crawford looks around the locker room now and he goes, ‘These guys are with me, no matter if I hit .150 and sign a longterm deal where maybe some of that money’s out of the salary structure that another guy might have gotten. They’re with me. They’re not looking at that. They’re looking at the team, the whole.’
“[Dustin Pedroia‘s] not hitting yet, but Pedey is still out there grinding it away. And that’s another great example for the other guys, that when they go through a tough time, our emotional leader doesn’t quit. And they’re going through tough times in the pitching rotation and in the bullpen ‘ it seems like a revolving door down in the bullpen ‘but they just keep working through it. And now they look up, they’re a half-game out.
“This team is solid. The ability was always there. Now we’re seeing that there is character also.”
|05.23.11 at 3:17 am ET|
Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew criticism for his slow start at the plate this season after hitting just .216 (11-for-51) with six RBIs in the month of April.
Those critics are nowhere to be found now, as the young Red Sox catcher is batting .389 (7-for-18) with three home runs and one double in his last five games.
‘I’m feeling more comfortable,’ said Saltalamacchia, who was 1-for-4 with a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning of Sunday night’s 5-1 win over the Cubs. ‘As soon as I managed to slow things down, I’ve been putting good at-bats together.’
Saltalamacchia managed only four hits in 29 at-bats (.137 batting average) in his first 10 games, but thanks to his recent hitting tear at the plate, he’s raised his season batting average to .237 (22-for-93).
‘At the beginning of the season I was pressing a little bit, trying to go out and hit everything as hard as I could,” he explained. “Now, I’m kind of letting the ball get deeper. I’m not trying to pull everything, I’m trying to put it in the big part of the park, and good things happen.’
Not only has Saltalamacchia seen a boost in his average, but also his slugging percentage, which was a mere .258 after the Red Sox’ 11-0 loss to the Angels on May 5. Saltalamacchia’s slugging percentage now sits at .398.
|05.23.11 at 12:35 am ET|
Kevin Youkilis, the man who has been hit more than any other batter in Red Sox history, believes the Cubs might have been given an extra chance to equal the score on Sunday night from Saturday’s beanball exchange that left Marlon Byrd with several fractures below his left eye.
On Sunday night – with the Red Sox up, 5-1, in the eighth inning – Kerry Wood came inside on Jed Lowrie with his first pitch. He just missed hitting him. He didn’t miss with the second, drilling him on the back of the leg. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox warned both teams and no one was ejected.
“I understand the whole thing,” Youkilis said. “You throw it once and you miss, and you throw it again. I don’t know why. I guess they felt like they needed to get another one in because we hit them twice. It’s the game of baseball.
“No, I didn’t see that coming but the other day they’re upset they didn’t like the warning when I got hit [Saturday]. They’re saying two guys got hit to one so, I guess now we’re even until 100 years from now when we play again.”
Cubs manager Mike Quade had a slightly different take. He wasn’t upset at Hickox or the umpiring crew for the warning Sunday night in the eighth inning since he believes it was directed more toward the Red Sox than it was his team.
“No,” answered Quade when asked if the warning upset him. “They have to do what they have to do. They warned us [Saturday] night. I guess that was a warning for them. That’s the way I look at stuff. That’s OK.”
|05.22.11 at 10:54 pm ET|
The oldest player to participate in a game for the Red Sox proved to be one of the best pitchers in baseball ‘¦ at least for one night.
The 44-year, 280-day-old Tim Wakefield did his job and then some in making his third start of the season, allowing one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. The knuckleballer needed just 75 pitches to complete his 194th career win (not walking a single batter).
The end result was a 5-1 win for the Red Sox over the Cubs Sunday night in the teams’ series finale at Fenway Park. It placed the Sox just 1/2-game behind both the Yankees and Rays for first-place in the American League East.
Here is what right (and went wrong) in the win …
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Wakefield was the star of the game, not even close. In his two starts of three or more days rest, the hurler has allowed two runs on six hits over 12 1/3 innings, walking just one. Wakefield’s efficiency was mind-boggling at times, with the starter throwing just 35 pitches through four innings, 50 through five, and finishing his sixth frame having tossed just 63.
– Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued to display the talents the Red Sox saw in him when trading for the catcher last July, launching a 1-0 fastball over the left field wall for his third home run of the season. Entering the game, Saltalamacchia was hitting .429 in his previous four games (6-for-14), while hitting virtually the same from both sides of the plate (.231 vs. lefties; .238 vs. righties).
– Mike Cameron, who came into the game just 4-for-28 with three RBI against lefties, came through when it counted in the fourth inning, driving in the Sox’ second run on a sacrifice fly to center field. The RBI, Cameron’s fifth of the season, came against Chicago’s lefty starter James Russell.
– With two more hits, David Ortiz found himself hitting over .300 this late in the season for the first time since 2007. Unfortunately for Ortiz, he was forced to finish the game with a .299 batting average after grounding out in his final at-bat. It marked the designated hitter’s 15th multi-hit game of the season, tying him for second on the team with Jacoby Ellsbury.
– Jed Lowrie entered the night having torn up left-handed pitching, and he didn’t stop Sunday. The shortstop, who was hitting .449 vs. southpaws, singled in his first at-bat against Russell, and then plated the Red Sox’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
– Adrian Gonzalez came away with his second contest of four or more hits, and eighth game with three or more hits (the second-most in the majors). He is now tied with the Mets’ Jose Reyes for the most games with two-or-more hits (20).
– With his two-run double in the seventh, Kevin Youkilis extended his season-high hit streak to 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Ellsbury was caught stealing for the fifth time in 20 attempts this season, this time by Cubs’ catcher Wellington Castillo in the fifth inning. It tied the outfielder for the third-most time caught stealing in the majors.
– Wakefield’s knuckleball was almost too good at times, as was evidenced when he allowed Jeff Baker to reach on a swinging third strike in the fifth. The pitch took a hard left against the righty hitter, glancing off of Saltalamacchia’s glove. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Alfonso Soriano helped alleviate the pain by popping up the very next pitch to end the inning. The starter would throw one more wild pitch, coming in the sixth inning.
|05.22.11 at 6:15 pm ET|
One day after watching his teammate take a fastball from Red Sox righthander Alfredo Aceves under the left eye, Carlos Pena said his former team couldn’t have been more genuine is showing their concern for the welfare of Marlon Byrd.
“Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, Big Papi, they all took time to talk to me at first base and ask about him. They were genuinely concerned. We’re competitors on the field but in the end, we’re all in this game together.”
Byrd was sent immediately to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary during the game and spent Saturday night there. Pena went to visit him after the game Saturday night and said that Byrd’s vision in his left eye was blurred but that Byrd could recognize Pena. He was diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Cubs, prior to their interleague series finale Sunday night at Fenway Park.
|05.22.11 at 2:14 am ET|
On Saturday night, he added to his long resume as one of the franchise greats. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with a 2-2 count and a runner on first, Ortiz stayed back on a 93 mph fastball that was elevated on the outer half of the plate. With a swing that would make teammate Adrian Gonzalez proud, he launched the ball just over the Green Monster for his ninth homer of the year, and his 300th as a member of the Red Sox.
“I heard people talking about it yesterday for the first time,” said Ortiz. “It’s an honor for me to be mentioned in that category with those guys that played here for a long time. Through the years, they were putting up great numbers.”
Ortiz, of course, has been doing the same thing. That is true not just of his career in Boston, but also of a 2011 season that has seen him get off to his best start since 2007.
The Sox DH now has five homers in his last 10 games, giving him nine on the year — tied with Adrian Gonzalez for the most by a member of the Sox. He is hitting .294 with a .370 OBP, .525 slugging mark and .894 OPS, ranking in the top 10 in the AL in slugging, OPS and homers.
Of particular note, however, has been the fact that Ortiz has been crushing the ball to left and left-center, and that he has cut down his strikeouts considerably. In fact, Ortiz has walked as many times (20) as he’s struck out. In fact, his strikeout rate (once every eight plate appearances) is at its lowest since he came to the Sox in 2003, something that Ortiz believes is at the heart of his early-season success.
“Just trying to stay in the strike zone, try to not get out of it,” said Ortiz. “When I get out of it, I get in trouble.”
That hasn’t happened often in his Red Sox career, and it hasn’t happened often in 2011. As a result, while Ortiz passed one milestone, it didn’t seem like a gold-watch accomplishment that he might ride off into the sunset. Instead, the DH is on pace once again to clear 30 homers, meaning that he reached his milestone on Saturday night in a fashion that does justice to the way that he reached it.
“Pretty amazing, isn’t it?” marveled teammate Jason Varitek. “He’s done a lot and he’s continuing to do what he does and swinging the bat real well.”
|05.22.11 at 12:17 am ET|
Anything that could’ve gone wrong for Matt Albers did. The 28-year-old righty, who had been stellar all season for the Red Sox, was called upon in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Cubs to bridge the gap to Jonathan Papelbon with usual setup man Daniel Bard scheduled for a day off.
But the only thing Albers set up was a Cubs win. He surrendered singles to Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro to start the inning and followed that with walks to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena and a double to Reed Johnson that turned a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 deficit. To top it all off, Pena trotted home when Jed Lowrie dropped Alfonso Soriano‘s pop-up.
Albers would ultimately be charged with six runs, five of them earned. He threw 31 pitches without recording an out, setting a dubious Red Sox record in the process. That was also the most pitches thrown by an American League pitcher without getting an out in recorded history.
‘It’s definitely frustrating,’ Albers said. ‘We get the lead, and coming into the game, I want to shut the door and get that win. ‘¦ I had a few guys two strikes and just wasn’t able to put them away. They had a couple tough at-bats and then a couple back-to-back walks hurt me.’
Catcher Jason Varitek said Albers’ biggest problem in the inning was his location.
‘Matty was just missing,’ Varitek said. ‘Matty’s done such a good job for us, but it was one of those things where guys took some good swings on some good pitches and got those first two hits. Then on the walks, he wasn’t overly wild, but he was just missing.’ Read the rest of this entry »
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