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Red Sox vs. Indians Match-Ups, 4/28

04.28.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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Novelty abounds in the match-up between the Indians and Red Sox tonight. Not only are the Sox going for their 12th straight win – which would match their 12-game winning streak of the 2006 season as their longest of the decade – but both teams will be facing the starting pitchers for the first time. Brad Penny has never faced the Indians, and Anthony Reyes will be enjoying his unveiling against the Red Sox.

So what to expect without a history to rely upon? Well, contact – early and often – would seem a decent guess. Of the 127 pitchers to log at least 15 innings, this year, Reyes ranks 112th with 4.24 strikeouts per nine innings, while Penny is 123rd (fifth to last) with a 3.00 ratio.

RED SOX VS. ANTHONY REYES

Reyes was a highly regarded prospect coming up with the Cardinals but never panned out. The Indians were able to acquire him for a minor-leaguer whose expected ceiling was that of a big-league reliever. Because he has spent almost all of his career in the National League, only a few members of the Sox have seen him:

Jason Bay (7 career plate appearances): 3-for-6, walk
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3
Brad Penny (2): 0-for-2

INDIANS VS. BRAD PENNY

As was probably obvious from the fact that Penny has hit against Reyes, the two did make a start against each other once before, when Penny was with the Dodgers and Reyes with the Cardinals. The Cards hammered Penny that day (10 hits and six runs in five innings) en route to an 11-3 win.

Though Penny has faced Reyes, he has never before faced the Indians, and so most of the Clevelanders will be enjoying their first first-hand view of the pitcher. Here is the history of Penny against the members of the Indians whom he faced when they were with other clubs (including the three pitchers who have hit against him):

Mark De Rosa (28 plate appearances): .296 average, .286 OBP, .407 slugging, 1 homer
Tony Graffanino (6): 1-for-6, single
Carl Pavano (4): 1-for-4, single
Kerry Wood (3): 0-for-3
Anthony Reyes (2): 0-for-2

Papelbon shaky, Sox survive

04.27.09 at 9:46 pm ET
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Closer Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth and ran into a bit of trouble, giving up a run on three hits. It was just the Sox’ closer’s second run allowed all season. Still, the Red Sox held on to win their 11th straight game, with Papelbon getting Ben Francisco, the potential game-tying run, to pop up to first baseman Kevin Youkilis to secure a 3-1 victory for the visitors over Cleveland.

It was the third straight outing that Papelbon has allowed at least one baserunner, although the closer didn’t walk a batter for the first time in his last three appearances.

The win streak is the Red Sox’ longest since June 16-20, 2006.

Bay does it again, also

04.27.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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Jason Bay sat on a 0-1, 99 mph fastball from Cleveland closer Kerry Wood and launched his fifth home run of the season into the center field bleachers at Progressive Field in Cleveland, giving the Red Sox a 3-0, ninth-inning lead over the Indians.

Bay had been 2 for 12 with a home run against Wood.

Also, those in the preseason questions about the Red Sox who had Mike Lowell hitting a triple before Curt Schilling are the big winners. The Sox third baseman reached third after Cleveland centerfielder Grady Sizemore dived and missed Lowell’s sinking line-drive. (As Alex Speier pointed out at the time, Schilling did hit a triple in 1999 and, in the words of Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible!”)

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Wakefield does it again

04.27.09 at 9:19 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield is on quite a roll. 

This time, while pitching in Progressive Field in Cleveland, the Red Sox starter went seven innings, not giving up a run and just one hit. He did walk four while striking out five before giving way to Manny Delcarmen.

In his last three starts Wakefield has 23 innings, giving up three earned runs. 

Unfortunately for Wakefield, Cleveland starter Cliff Lee kept pace, going eight innings without giving up a run. That leaves the Sox hurler at 166 career wins, still 27 shy of topping Cy Young and Roger Clemens as the Red Sox’ all-time winningest pitcher. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage to check out Kirk Minihane’s piece today on how Wakefield has snuck into the pantheon of great Boston sports figures.  

I’m interested if folks believe Wakefield will surpass Clemens and Young. It will be interesting considering the young pitching talent the Red Sox have on-deck, although the pitcher’s contract (a $4 million team option every year) will work in the favor of the 42-year-old sticking around.

Your thoughts …

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a scream for help

04.27.09 at 1:19 am ET
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You get the sense listening to the Yankees after their third and final loss of their weekend sweep at the hands of the Red Sox that they’re a team reeling, sitting on the brink. And we haven’t even reached May yet.

Their most experienced big-game pitcher had a brain freeze at the most inopportune time and it seemed to unhinge the Yankees, a team that is supposed to be filled with steady veterans who can handle playing in a hostile environment like Fenway Park.

But not if you listen to them postgame Sunday. All of this paranoia and pessimism, of course, stems from Andy Pettitte’s inability to keep an eye on Jacoby Ellsbury at third base when all of his teammates and coaches were trying to warn him of what was about to happen.

“Even if he’s going to come from the windup, you’ve got two outs, bases loaded, just take a look back, just to make sure he stops,” said Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, who was just late with the tag as Ellsbury stumbled and then slid head-first across home plate. Read the rest of this entry »

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9th Inning: Saito On, Red Sox Win

04.26.09 at 11:19 pm ET
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Takashi Saito, the go-to option for the ninth inning on nights when Jonathan Papelbon is unavailable, finds himself in precisely that position tonight. He hasn’t been dazzling thus far with the Sox, entering tonight with a 5.06 ERA and one save, his career ERA creeping above 2.00 (from 1.95 before this year to 2.03) in the process.

But he’s now 2-for-2 in save situations with the Sox. He got Jorge Posada to pop out to second, retired Hideki Matsui on a pop-out to third and then, after Melky Cabrera singled to center, getting pinch-hitter Johnny Damon on a deep fly-out to right.

Saito’s work was less significant than that of 24-year-old Justin Masterson, 25-year-old Hunter Jones and 22-year-old Michael Bowden, who limited the Yankees to one run in their eight innings en route to a sweep of a three-game series against the Yankees and a nine-game homestand against the Orioles, Twins and Yankees.

8th inning: Bowden Mowin’

04.26.09 at 10:58 pm ET
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Noteworthy: Jonathan Van Every is in as a defensive replacement in right for J.D. Drew.

Michael Bowden has been in deep counts against virtually everyone he’s faced, but he’s held the Yankees hitless through two innings. His fastball is not overpowering – it tends to be a 91-94 mph offering – but his quirky, funky delivery allows him both to hide the ball and create deception, even on a fastball that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of movement.

Bowden got Mark Teixeira to fly to left, then got Nick Swisher to tap a comebacker on a changeup. Then, on a full count, Bowden had Robinson Cano swinging out of his shoes at a 93 mph fastball that ducked under the hitter’s bat for a strikeout. It was an impressive outing for Bowden, who has allowed just two runs in three starts in Triple-A this year. Bowden has 15 strikeouts in 14 minor-league innings, and two in as many frames tonight.

His first taste of Yankees-Red Sox is likely at a successful conclusion. Takashi Saito is warming in the bullpen, readying to close the ninth.

BOTTOM 8: RED SOX 4, YANKEES 1

Mark Melancon remains in the game for the Yankees in the eighth, in part becuase he needed only seven pitches for his first big-league inning. The sequel was not as good as the original.

Kevin Youkilis hit a grounder that snuck under the glove of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (another entry in the log of those who think that the Yankees’ shortstop is overrated for his glove work) for a single. On a night when Youkilis is 1-for-3 with a walk and single, his batting average, OBP and slugging marks have all gone down.

Melancon then lost the strike zone, walking Jonathan Van Every on five pitches and hitting Jason Bay to load the bases.

But Mike Lowell hit into a fielder’s choice to third baseman Angel Berroa, who threw home for a force, Jason Varitek struck out and Nick Green (in perhaps his final at-bat as the Red Sox’ starting shortstop) grounded to second for a force out, the Sox squandering three runners.

The night has been a significant and successful player develoment moment for Melancon, Bowden and Hunter Jones.

Takashi Saito is coming in for the ninth.

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 1

7th Inning: Debutante party

04.26.09 at 10:52 pm ET
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Michael Bowden is one of the top Red Sox pitching prospects. But late last year, after he made his major-league debut with an August start (a win over the White Sox), the Red Sox decided not to undergo the effort of trying to prepare him for work out of the bullpen for the stretch, feeling that it would be too disruptive to do so at the conclusion of what had been a dominating 2008 campaign.

It appears that preparation is overrated. Bowden – called up specifically for today’s game to assist a short-handed bullpen that is without Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez – retired the Yankees in order in the top of the 7th. Angel Berroa fouled out to the catcher, Brett Gardner lined out to left and then Derek Jeter – in his 8,102nd at-bat, a number that is tied with Mickey Mantle for the most in Yankees history – struck out swinging at a 91 mph fastball. (Did Jeter ask for the ball?)

Bowden’s second professional relief effort – and first as a major leaguer – is off to a solid start.

BOTTOM 7: RED SOX 4, YANKEES 1

Mark Melancon came in to replace Andy Pettitte, who actually finished the night with 116 pitches – his most since last May 17. Melancon is described by some as the potential successor to Mariano Rivera. His first big-league appearance was perfectly solid – a three-up, three-down inning against Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.

Did Jacoby Ellsbury call his steal of home?

04.26.09 at 10:44 pm ET
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Okay, so maybe Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t quite “call” his straight steal of home – the first by a Red Sox in 15 years – but he did talk about his zest for stealing home prior to the Red Sox’ 4-1 win over the Yankees, Sunday night. Ellsbury had a favorite move as a Little Leaguer, taking off for the plate when the catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher. He was never thrown out on the play.

So, he was asked, had he asked either manager Terry Francona or third-base coach/baserunning coach DeMarlo Hale for permission to steal home at the major-league level?

“I think they’€™ll leave it up to me on that,” Ellsbury said. “They don’€™t want to be responsible for something like that. Some of those plays are just more instinctive. If you think about it, it’€™s too late.”

Apparently, Ellsbury was able to apply his instincts in this game. He saw that left-hander Andy Pettitte – pitching with his back to third base – was paying him little heed, and so Ellsbury was able to get an outstanding jump on the pitch to J.D. Drew. Though he almost tripped, he was still able to dive head-first across the inside corner of the plate, scratching the dish with his hand for the run.

The steal of home is the culminating gesture on an extraordinary series of baserunning by Ellsbury. He has four steals this weekend, and 10 on the year. He suggests that greater exposure to opposing pitchers has been a boon in his thieving practice.

“The more times you see a guy, it definitely is going to help. It’€™s not going to hurt,” said Ellsbury. “Anytime you see a guy more and more, you get more comfortable. You see some tendencies he has. It makes him easier to read.”

This weekend, Ellsbury forced a balk by Joba Chamberlain, then scored from second when he took off on a steal and kept running when Chamberlain uncorked a wild pitch. He stole a base on a pitchout on Saturday, a play that Ellsbury described as more exciting than causing a balk.

“Balks are nice ‘€“ free base ‘€“ but balks just mean they’€™re paying attention to you, but I think beating a pitchout is a little more exciting to myself and fans as well,” said Ellsbury. “I’€™ve been (beating pitchouts) since Little League…You don’€™t want to go on pitchouts, but it’€™s too late. If you’€™re already half-way down, you might as well go the rest of the way to second instead of going back to first.”

Yet Ellsbury suggested that scoring from second on a wild pitch was even more of a rush than beating a pitchout.

“Definitely,” he said. “I think there’€™s a little adrenaline that kicks in when you see that play opening up.”

Of course, the steal of home will now surely take the title of his greatest thrill of the weekend. But, it seems fair to say that it has been a unique and fascinating run for Ellsbury.

“It’€™s been fun. It’€™s been a good series,” he said before the game. “You never get exhausted crossing the plate.”

6th Inning: Masterson Out

04.26.09 at 10:14 pm ET
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Justin Masterson entered tonight having thrown no more than 84 pitches in any game this year. He has surpassed that total in the top of the sixth, and so it seems a bit of a stretch to think that he might end up pitching beyond this inning.

There is some reason to believe that he is tiring in the sixth. Nick Swisher led off the inning with a warning track fly-out to left-center. Robinson Cano then followed by yanking a single to right. Cano is now 7-for-14 this series, and four straight Yankees (Jeter single, Teixeira deep fly to right, Swisher deep fly to left, Cano single) have made solid contact.

Jorge Posada followed by walking to put runners on first and second with one out. That led to Masterson’s departure from the game after 99 pitches, with Hunter Jones called into action for his first meaningful appearance in his major-league career.

Jones proved impressive in responding to the call. He left a slider up to the first batter he faced, but Hideki Matsui lined it to right for an out. He then struck out Melky Cabrera on an 86 mph fastball that had excellent lateral movement for the third out of the inning, ending the Yankees‘ threat and closing the book on the starting pitcher.

Masterson finished with 5.1 innings, 6 hits, one run, one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 99 pitches, 62 strikes, and is in line for his first career win over the Yankees.

BOTTOM 6: RED SOX 4, YANKEES 1

Andy Pettitte is giving the Yankees a yeoman’s effort this evening. He navigated through the sixth, getting groundouts from Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek to start the inning. Nick Green then singled, but got caught stealing when he took off prematurely on Pettitte’s first move (with Jacoby Ellsbury up 2-1 in the count, no less).

Pettitte is now at 114 pitches, his most since last July 20. Interestingly, no one is up in the Yankees’ bullpen.

Hunter Jones has given way to Michael Bowden, who is about to make is second professional relief appearance, second major-league appearance, and first major-league relief appearance. This is a weird game.

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 1

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