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Closing Time: Angels 7, Red Sox 2

08.19.10 at 10:17 pm ET
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If this were May or June and the Red Sox had just taken two-of-three from the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park and finished the season winning 9-of-10 in the season series, Thursday’s night’s loss wouldn’t be that bad.

But the game was played on Aug. 19 and the Red Sox couldn’t afford to settle for a Meatloaf “2-out-3 ain’t bad” scenario.

The Yankees clobbered the Tigers, 11-5, earlier in the day in the Bronx to take 3-of-4 in that series and move 29 games over .500.

The Red Sox needed a win just to keep pace and had one of their aces on the mound in Josh Beckett. The game, like the pennant race, was played with little room for error early on, as David Ortiz belted his 27th homer of the season in the fourth for a 1-0 lead.

Beckett looked like he had every intention of making that hold up – that is until the sixth. Four runs later, highlighted by a long three-run homer by Red Sox killer Hideki Matsui and the tone of the night and season suddenly darkened.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

It’s been this kind of season. The bad news began before the first pitch even began when Dustin Pedroia admitted that his left foot isn’t fully healed and it still ‘feels terrible.’ With Pedroia out of the lineup, the energy level dropped in the Red Sox order and that’s no knock on his replacement Jed Lowrie. Just simple fact.

Things went south for Beckett too quickly. This has been the case many times this season for Beckett, when he loses it on the mound, there’s no time for Terry Francona to really get the bullpen ready. With the Sox and Beckett clinging to a 1-0 lead in the sixth, Bobby Abreu opened by grounding out innocently to Mike Lowell at first, Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo followed with game-tying doubles. Torii Hunter scorched a rocket of a grounder off the backhand of Adrian Beltre at third.

With runners at first and third, and still one out, Hideki Matsui crushed a first-pitch fastball over the wall and into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center. In the space of 13 pitches, the Angels had scored four times. Beckett got through the sixth allowing four runs but would not survive the three-run seventh for the Angels. He finished his night allowing six runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out six.

Beckett has made 14 starts this season and allowed at least four earned runs in half of them.

Ervin Santana made just one mistake. While David Ortiz launched his poorly-placed fastball [inner-third, belt high], it was really the only significant mistake he made while the game was close. He retired five of the next six batters and settled down to allow just two runs on four hits over seven-plus innings to improve to 13-8 on the season.

Runners in scoring position. Stop here and hit refresh if you’ve heard this before. The Red Sox couldn’t take advantage of golden opportunities presented by the opposing pitcher. Santana walked four and left with the bases loaded and no one out in the eighth. The Red Sox managed to score just one run on a sacrifice fly by Beltre. Not what you’re looking for when you’re down 7-1 and sense another big Fenway late-game moment.

Manny went back to bad Manny. Delcarmen walked three and allowed a run while retiring just one batter in the seventh. Not the consistency the Red Sox need as their season-long search for a bridge from starter to late-inning relief continues.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

Jed Lowrie looks refreshed. He played well at second as a last-minute starter for Dustin Pedroia, even making a couple of slick plays in the field. Lowrie doubled Marco Scutaro over to third with none out in the ill-fated eighth. He has reached base safely in career-best 14 straight games with a plate appearance since July 26. Getting Monday off and resting the first two games of the Angels series seems to have rejuvenated Lowrie, who could be getting a lot more playing time if the Red Sox decide to play it safe with Pedroia.

Read More: Angels, Dustin Pedroia, Hideki Matsui, Josh Beckett

Pedroia scratched due to foot that ‘feels terrible’

08.19.10 at 7:02 pm ET
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The development grabbed attention, but it was not entirely surprising. After batting practice prior to Thursday’s game, Dustin Pedroia was scratched due to soreness in his left foot.

The second baseman had been told to expect days where he would not be able to play due to pain in his foot. And on Wednesday night, Pedroia had lost sleep due to discomfort in the region where he fractured his navicular bone on June 25. He arrived at the park hoping to play, but after a round of batting practice, he tried jogging around the bases. His discomfort was obvious, and thus made the decision to scratch him from the lineup fairly obvious.

“It’s not fully healed and I’m going to have days where it feels terrible,” said Pedroia. “It’s kind of impossible to break your foot in the area where I broke it and play 43 straight games. I knew that. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and I’ll play tomorrow.”

When Pedroia returned from the disabled list on Tuesday, it was with the understanding that he would need occasional days off going forward. Thus far, he’s shown some evident discomfort on the field in his two games with the Red Sox, first when hopping up awkwardly while diving (unsuccessfully) for a ball up the middle on Tuesday and then again when stealing a base on Wednesday.

[Click here to listen to Dustin Pedroia explain the pain that kept him out Thursday.]

The steal, Pedroia realized after the fact, was likely ill-advised. It was a sign, too, of the challenge of negotiating between his baseball instincts and his health.

“[The steal] was stupid. Not very smart,” said Pedroia. “I’ve got to play how I play. That’s part of my problem – always diving all over the place and doing things. I’ve got to be smart about everything.”

Pedroia has been assured that he does not risk a worse injury so long as he is candid in his assessment of how he feels. If he keeps the team informed of when he is in too much pain to play, then his recovery can eventually be complete.

But the reality that he now faces is that he will not be able to play out the rest of the schedule without occasional breaks. As his body dictates, Pedroia will need to take occasional days off as dictated by his foot. And as excited as Pedroia is to once again be on the field, there is frustration that he won’t be able to remain in the lineup every day going forward.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m playing some days. There is some positive stuff I take out of it. But it sucks not being able to go out there every single day,” said Pedroia. “They kind of won’t let me go out there if it’s hurting. It’s pretty sore in the area I broke it. That’s when you’ve kind of got to take a step back, get treatment, and hopefully it’s better tomorrow. … It’s tough, but we’ve got guys who can step up and take over. Right now, whenever I can be in there, I’ll be in there. The consequences [of ignoring the pain] are a lot worse than dragging my foot out there.”

Read More: Dustin Pedroia,

Hospitalization for Salty

08.19.10 at 5:19 pm ET
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Just when the Red Sox seem to be getting healthy bodies back, down goes another. And while a trip to the hospital to get a sore leg checked out didn’t seem like much initially, Red Sox manager Terry Francona and team medical officials are glad they didn’t take any chances with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Wednesday.

Saltalamacchia was taken to Massachusetts General before Wednesday’s game complaining of soreness in his lower right leg.

“[Wednesday] his right lower leg was sore so we took him over to MGH to get him looked at,” Francona said. “We thought it was going to be a quick look-at and come back. An hour turned into two and then three. He wound getting back right about game-time. He’s got an infection in his lower right leg and I believe they’ve eliminated MRSA [bacteria infection]. They’re waiting on some of the blood tests to come back on the staph.”

Francona, who is a sponsor of the website www.strikeoutinfection.com after his health scares over the last several years, said the infection is not contagious and that Saltalamacchia will be treated over the next 48-72 hours and then will get some rest at home.

Saltalamacchia was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list and was admitted to the hospital and remained there Thursday, being treated with antibiotics while he and the team wait on test results to come back.

The Red Sox recalled catcher Dusty Brown from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his spot on the roster and back up Victor Martinez.

Read More: jarrod saltalamacchia, MRSA, Red Sox, Staph

Clemens could face 30 years

08.19.10 at 4:32 pm ET
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Roger Clemens has been indicted on multiple charges surrounding his alleged dishonesty in refuting steroid use in 2008. While under oath and addressing Congress, Clemens denied allegations from former trainer Brian McNamee that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

“I’ve been accused of something I’m not guilty of,” Clemens told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee two years ago, adding, “I have never taken steroids or HGH.”

Following Clemens’ testimony, a perjury probe was opened by the FBI. Two years later, Clemens faces charges of perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of Congress. He faces six counts total, each of which carry maximum sentences of five years, meaning that if convicted, the seven-time Cy Young award winner and Red Sox great would be behind bars for up to 15 years.

While no date has been set for Clemens’ trial, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton will preside over the case. Evidence reportedly includes bloody gauze and vials that McNamee saved.

A former police officer and trainer, McNammee became infamous in 2007 when the George J. Mitchell Report alleged that he obtained human growth hormone, anabolic steroids, and amphetamines for Clemens and Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte.

Approached by congressional investigators, Pettitte, who himself had already confirmed his involvement with performance-enhancers, said that Clemens had admitted to him that he used HGH. Clemens responded to the development by saying that Pettitte “misremembered the conversation.”

Given that McNamee said under oath that he injected Clemens at least 16 times between the 1998, 2000, and 2001 seasons, the conflicting stories of each side made for one of the bigger storylines to emerge in the Mitchell Report’s wake. Clemens then filed a defamation suit against the former trainer, a case that was practically thrown out entirely last year.

A two-time World Series champion as a member of the Yankees, Clemens began his prolific career in Boston, winning three Cy Youngs, an American League MVP award, and an All-Star Game MVP award. He won four more Cy Youngs after departing Boston, the most recent of which came in 2004 as a member of the Houston Astros. In total, Clemens struck out 4,672 batters over 24 seasons between the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros.

Read More: Roger Clemens,

Red Sox vs. Angels matchups, 8/19

08.19.10 at 1:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Angels will face each other for the 10th and final time this season Thursday afternoon, and the Angels couldn’t be any happier that it will be the two teams’ last matchup while the Sox wished their season series could last just a bit longer. The Sox are 9-0 this season against the team that swept them in the 2009 ALDS and will go for the rare season sweep – they’ve also swept three-game season series with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks – Thursday night. Josh Beckett will try to clinch the sweep when he takes to the hill against Los Angeles starter Ervin Santana.

It’s more than safe to say that Beckett (3-2, 6.51 ERA) has struggled in his last two outings. Over those two starts against the Yankees and Rangers, he’s thrown just 9 2/3 innings while giving up 13 combined earned runs on 21 hits. In his last start against Texas, he gave up three home runs to the AL West-leading Rangers en route to a 10-9 loss. That start was only the latest in a long series of struggles for the righty fireballer. Beckett has allowed six or more earned runs five times in 13 starts this season. To illustrate the bipolarity of his season, that number is one less than the amount of times he’s allowed just three runs or less. Without knowing exactly which Beckett they’ll get Thursday, the Boston bats may have to be at their best, and they have been in 2010 when he’s been on the mound. Beckett has received six or more tallies in run support seven times this season. However, when the offense has been at the top of its game, Beckett has not necessarily been the same; he has an 8.22 ERA in games with that much run support this season.

As shaky as Beckett’s been for the Sox, Santana (12-8, 3.99 ERA) has been nearly as stable for the Halos. He is tied for the team lead in complete games with three and is second in ERA and strikeouts to ace Jered Weaver, who leads the American League in the latter category with 186 punchouts while Santana has 130. Santana has proven he has the ability to rebound after a horrid Aug. 4 start against the Orioles in which he have nine earned runs on 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings. After that start, he saw his ERA balloon from 3.65 to 4.11. However, after last Saturday’s seven-inning, one-run performance against the Blue Jays, that stat is back down to just below the 4.00 mark. That being said, the Boston power hitters may still be licking their chops a little when Santana steps onto the hill. He’s allowed a home run in five straight starts and is sixth in the AL in that category with 21 homers allowed on the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ervin santana, Josh Beckett,

How Nava gave Beltre goose bumps, saved a season

08.19.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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Daniel Nava makes a diving catch in left field to keep the Red Sox ahead of the Angels. (AP)

It’s not how you start, but how you finish.

That was never more true than on Wednesday night as Daniel Nava made a spectacular diving grab off a fast-sinking liner to left off the bat of Maicer Izturis to end the eighth inning.

With two outs and runners on first and second and the Red Sox clinging to a 6-5 lead over the Angels, if the ball hits the grass, the game would surely be tied.

The speedy Alberto Callaspo, who had already annoyed the Red Sox with three great defensive plays, would surely score from second and pinch runner Brandon Wood would have made it to third base and Daniel Bard and the Sox would be in deep doo-doo. But the catch nearly didn’t happen because of a mistake a lot of outfielders make, even when they’re kids.

“I did the old Little League thing, first step back and then once I saw it, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get moving,’ ” Nava said. “Yeah, initially I went back but then I had to cruise on in.”

Leave it to Nava, a Californian, to put it in those terms. Just like his personality, laid back and smiling all the while.

After taking a misstep backward, Nava quickly corrected himself and took off with everything he had. He dove at the last possible moment and extending his right arm, he caught the ball just before it hit the ground. Inning over. Threat averted. Game saved. Season still alive.

And for those thinking that’s hyperbole, consider the Red Sox would have fallen 6 1/2 games behind the Rays and Yankees in the AL East and seven games back in the loss column.

“That was huge,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “That gave me goose bumps right there. It was a huge turnaround right there it would’ve been a tie ball game right there and somebody else coming up to hit. That was huge. Might have been the play of the game right there.”

Francona agreed with his third baseman’s assessment.

“He might have taken one step back but he recovered with the timing of it, guys on base, probably play of the game,” Francona said.

Nava didn’t just do it with his glove. He used his whole body on Wednesday. Pinch-hitting for Darnell McDonald in the seventh and the bases loaded in a tie game, Nava fell behind two strikes to flame-throwing Kevin Jepsen but then the Red Sox caught a huge break. Jepsen came inside with a 95 mph heater. It drilled Nava in the right rib cage, a sensitive area for the Red Sox this season to be sure. But it forced in David Ortiz with the go-ahead run.

“Don’t know how great an at-bat it was,” Nava admitted. “I was in an 0-2 hole. Anytime they want to hit me, I’m happy to take it in that situation.”

Read More: Angels, daniel nava, Maicer Izturis, MLB

Boxscore Breakdown: Notes From Wednesday’s Win

08.19.10 at 9:15 am ET
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A few notes from the 9th straight win over the Halos:

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* – No team since at least 1920 has gone winless against the Red Sox while playing more than 4 games in a season. But the Angels could become the first one today. Here is the list of teams that have gone 0-10 or worse in a season series:

0-13 – Colorado vs. Atlanta (1993)
0-12 – Baltimore vs. Toronto (2010*)
0-12 – Minnesota vs. Texas (1999)
0-12 – Detroit vs. Cleveland (1996)
0-12 – Sand Diego vs, Montreal (1994)
0-12 – NY Yankees vs. Oakland (1990)
0-12 – Baltimore vs. Kansas City (1988)
0-12 – Kansas City vs. Baltimore (1970)
0-11 – Oakland vs. Baltimore (1978)
0-10 – Kansas City vs. NY Yankees (1998)

* – still games to be played

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* – Last night, Daniel Nava was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. It was just the 41st bases loaded plunking in the majors this season and the first time a Red Sox player has been hit in such a situation. What’s more, it was an 0-2 pitch that got Nava. There have now only been 4 Red Sox players hit with the bases loaded on an 0-2 pitch since 1994. The last was Jason Varitek in 2008. Finally, it broke a tie. The last time ALL THAT happened to a Red Sox player prior to last night? John Valentin in 1994.

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* – Jonathan Papelbon struck out all three batters he faced last night. It was the 5th time in his career that he has faced at least 3 batters and struck them all out, tied with Lee Smith for the most ever by a Red Sox pitcher. Billy Wagner holds the major league record for the most such outings in a career with a whopping 32.

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* – Wednesday night marked the 50th time that an opposing starter has lasted 5 or fewer innings against the Red Sox. The most ever in a season is 67, against the 1987 squad.

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* – The Red Sox put 20 runners on base last night. It was the 14th time this season that they’ve done it (during regulation, 9-inning, games only) and the 4th time against the Angels. Boston’s OPS against the Angels this season is 1.028, on pace for the highest ever by any Angels opponent in a season (min. 6 games played versus Angels):

1.028 – Boston Red Sox, 2010
.950 – Detroit Tigers, 1994
.949 – Baltimore Orioles, 1994

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* – Last night, Marco Scutaro grounded out leading off the bottom of the 1st inning. It marked the 15th consecutive game that the Red Sox first batter of the game has been retired.

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* – Wednesday’s night the Red Sox scored 3+ runs for the 18th straight time against the Angels. It’s their longest current streak against any team. Their longest all-time streaks (since 1950):

33 – vs Baltimore Orioles (2006-08)
29 – vs Los Angeles Angels (1993-96)

Obviously, that streak doesn’t include last year’s ALDS.

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* – David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 9 games last night. The longest streak by a Red Sox player this year is 14, by Adrian Beltre. If that stands, it would be the fewest games as the longest hitting streak by a Red Sox player in a season since Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans each had 14 game streaks in 1982. The last time that the longest streak was fewer than 14 games was way back in 1972, when Carlton Fisk and Rico Petrocelli led the team with 12 game streaks.

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