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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays matchups, 8/10

08.10.10 at 10:38 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka

The Red Sox earned a split of their four-game series against the Yankees by winning Monday, 2-1. On Tuesday, they begin a three-game set against a Blue Jays team that has won five of its last six — against the Rays and Yankees.

The Sox will send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound with a record of 8-3 and a 3.96 ERA. Against the Blue Jays in his career, Matsuzaka is 6-1 with a 3.45 ERA.

Matsuzaka pitched well in his last two outings against the Indians and Tigers, totaling 14 innings, five earned runs and 11 strikeouts to help the Sox earn two important wins.

The Blue Jays will hand the ball to Ricky Romero, who is 9-7 with a 3.37 ERA. The Sox have hit well against Romero, especially David Ortiz, who in 14 plate appearances has a .462 batting average with three doubles, a home run and five RBI.

Romero’s best outing of the season came against the Yankees on Aug. 3, when he pitched a complete game and held his opponent to two runs.

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Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Ricky Romero,

Watching Monday’s Game “Nuggetpalooza” Style!

08.10.10 at 10:22 am ET
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Ever wanted to watch the game with me? Well, let’s do it!

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* – 1st Inning, No Score, JD Drew picks up an infield hit.

It was his 7th infield hit of the season, more than he’s had in any of the past three years. Ichiro leads the AL this year with 41.

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* – 1st Inning, No Score, Red Sox get 2 hits in the first inning but fail to score.

Adrian Beltre strikes out with two on to end the inning. Over the two weeks that ended Sunday, the Red Sox had hit .106 (5-47) with 2 outs and RISP, last in the majors in that span.

It was the 171st time this season that the Yankees have allowed exactly 2 hits in an inning. They’ve allowed at least one RBI in 119 of those (69.6%), the highest percentage in the AL.

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* – 1st Inning, No Score, Jon Lester retires leadoff hitter Derek Jeter.

Entering Monday’s game, Lester had allowed the first batter faced to reach base at a .364 clip, ranked 83rd out of 129 pitchers with 15+ starts this season. Last season was an even worse .406, ranked 93rd.

Over the last two seasons, Tim Wakefield has allowed just a .135 OBP to the first batter faced in starts, the lowest mark in the majors in that span (min. 30 starts):

.135 – Tim Wakefield
.180 – John Lackey
.180 – Jason Hammel

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* – 1st Inning, No Score, Jon Lester retires the Yankees in order.

For Lester, it was his 56th perfect inning this season (3 batters faced with OBP of .000), 7th most in the AL. Roy Halladay leads the majors with 75, followed by Cliff Lee with 70.

It was Lester’s 5th “three up three down” inning against the Yankees this year. Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Toronto’s Ricky Romero each have 10 perfect innings against New York.

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* – 2nd Inning, No Score, Bill Hall picks up an RBI hit on an 0-2 pitch from Phil Hughes.

It was Hall’s first 0-2 RBI hit since 2007 and just Boston’s 3rd of this season.

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* – 2nd Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Phil Hughes needs 37 pitches to get out of the inning.

It was the 4th most in an inning by a Yankee this year as AJ Burnett had a 41-pitch inning and Vazquez has had 39-pitch innings twice (including one on Friday against Boston). It was the first time that Hughes has thrown more than 33 pitches in an inning at home. He’s thrown more than 37 once in his career, April 13, 2008, at Boston.

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* – 3rd Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Phil Hughes retires the Red Sox in order.

It was the 45th perfect inning of the season for Hughes and the 4th time that he’s set Boston down in order. James Shields and CC Sabathia each have 9 such innings against Boston this season, the most by any opponent.

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* – 4th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Jon Lester walks a batter for the 3rd straight inning.

It’s the first time he’s issued a walk in three consecutive innings since May 25, when he did it in five straight. He also had a three inning streak on May 15.

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* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, JD Drew strikes out looking.

It was the 29th “looking” strikeout by Drew this season. Bet you won’t guess who leads the team (and is tied for 2nd in the majors) in “called strike threes”:

38 – Justin Upton, ARZ
37 – Marco Scutaro, BOS
37 – Rickie Weeks, MIL

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* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Jon Lester strikes out Marcus Thames looking.

It was Lester’s 3rd “looking” strikeout of the game and his 54th of the season, which leads the AL and is 2nd in the majors:

59 – Yovani Gallardo, MIL
54 – Jon Lester, BOS
49 – Jered Weaver, LAA

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* – 5th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Austin Kearns singles for the first hit of the game against Lester.

It was the 6th time since the start of 2008 that Lester has taken a no hitter into the 5th inning, putting him in a tie (with 5 others) for the 4th most in that span:

9 – Gavin Floyd
7 – John Danks
7 – CC Sabathia

Hey, did you know that Felix Hernandez has not made it through four innings with a no-hitter intact in 89 starts since the beginning of 2008? Neither has Zack Grienke (88 starts). But Brandon Morrow, who came within an out of a no-no against Tampa Bay on Sunday, has gone to the 5th without allowing a hit six times in just 37 starts in that span.

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* – 7th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Victor Martinez strikes out with runners on 2nd and 3rd to end the inning.

Boston would end the day going 0-5 with RISP and 2 outs and 0-12 after Scutaro’s bases loaded double Friday night.

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* – 7th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Yankees load the bases with none out but the Lester and Bard get three consecutive strikeouts.

The last time that the Red Sox loaded the bases and then fanned the side without any runs scoring was June 2, 2009, when Jonathan Papelbon allowed 3 straight singles to start the 9th in Detroit and then struck out the side.

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* – 8th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-0, Mark Teixeira homers leading off the inning against Daniel Bard.

Monday was the 12th time this season that Bard had finished an inning and then started the next inning. In the first 11, the leadoff batter of the 2nd inning was 2-11 (.182, both singles) against Bard.

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* – 8th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-1, Jonathan Papelbon induces Austin Kearns to ground out on his first pitch with runners on 1st and 2nd to end the inning.

Entering Monday, opponents were 5-6 (.833) this season when they put the first pitch in play against Papelbon with RISP. In his career in that situation, opponents were hitting .389 (14-36) with 6 doubles and 2 HR.

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* – 9th Inning, Red Sox leading 2-1, Jonathan Papelbon strikes out the side (around a walk) to preserve the win for the Red Sox.

For Papelbon, it was his 30th save of 4+ outs in his career and 2nd this season. 19 of those 30 have come on the road.

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So that’s how I watch the games.

One final thought (as I watch the replay of Bard’s first pitch to Berkman again trying to figure out how a pitch right down the middle gets called a ball):

Why do fans boo when the pitcher makes a pickoff throw to first? I mean, if Brett Gardner is on first base and that booing Yankee fan is on the mound, isn’t he going to throw over as well?

Papelbon has never felt better, and it showed

08.09.10 at 7:13 pm ET
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NEW YORK — And in his 46th game, Jonathan Papelbon felt like himself.

“Better than I have all year,” the Red Sox closer said in regard to how his physical well-being was during what turned out to be a 2-1 win for the Red Sox over the Yankees, Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. “It’s probably as good as I felt all year, and I’m not just saying that.”

Papelbon’s optimism regarding his state was evidenced by his stuff. Using a 96 mph fastball and what he considered his best splitter of the season, the Sox closer came up big in getting the final four outs for his 28th save of the season.

All of this on Aug. 9.

“For me I’ve always tried to take pride in the second half of the season,” said Papelbon, who now hasn’t allowed a hit in any of his last four outings. “It’s always what I prepare for, the stretch run when I’m going to be needed to go out there and pitch every day I can.”

The effectiveness Papelbon showed Monday was no fluke. With the kind of stuff he was mustering, it is easy to believe the closer when he utters “it doesn’t matter” in response to having to face Mark Teixeira for the game’s final out. (A showdown that resulted in a strikeout of the Yankees’ first baseman.)

Papelbon is on a much more conservative pace than he was a year ago. At this time last season, he had thrown 825 pitches. This year he’s at 768 (which is in line with the 2008 pace of 746 pitches by Aug. 9).

“I felt good,” he said. “I think if I can put my body in a position to be at it’s best my pitches are going to be at their best. I think that goes hand in hand.

As for the ups and downs he has had to endure in the halls of public opinion, Papelbon seems at peace with the reality that comes with his occupation.

“It’s just the nature of our role,” he said. “I think Mo across the street or next door will tell you that as well. I compare our role to a field goal kicker a lot. Whether they get the field goal or not, to lose it or win it they’re still going to talk to the quarterback.”

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon,

Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Yankees 1

08.09.10 at 5:43 pm ET
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Somebody needed to step up for the Red Sox, and Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon did just that.

The Sox starter befuddled the Yankees for much of Monday afternoon’s series finale at Yankee Stadium, holding the hosts scoreless through 6 1/3 innings before giving way to relievers Bard and Papelbon. The end result was a 2-1 win for the Sox over the Yanks and renewed optimism as Terry Francona’s team heads to Toronto.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Lester set the tone for the Sox, rebounding from four straight appearances in which he allowed four runs or more. This time Lester dominated the Yankees until running into a bit of trouble in the seventh, finishing by giving up four hits and three walks while striking out six. The appearance lowered Lester’s ERA to 2.94.

- Bard got two of the biggest outs of the game (and maybe the season) in the seventh when he came on for Lester with one out and the bases loaded. Bard first fanned Derek Jeter on 99 mph fastball, and then whiffed Nick Swisher to end the inning thanks to another 99 mph heater. It allowed the Red Sox to head into the eighth inning still holding a 2-0 lead. Jeter came in 0-for-4 against Bard, but Swisher had three hits in his four previous at-bats vs. the reliever.

- Jacoby Ellsbury managed to find some positive vibes while hitting in the No. 9 spot. Although all parties involved believe moving the outfielder down in the lineup is nothing more than a “temporary” move, it seemed to pay dividends Monday when Ellsbury ripped a Phil Hughes pitch over the head of shortstop Derek Jeter for his first hit since May 23. The hit — which appeared to be a product of a hit-and-run with Bill Hall set in motion from first — snapped an 0-for-16 slump for Ellsbury since he returned from the 15-day disabled list.

- The Red Sox are running again, thanks in large part to the presence of Ellsbury, who finished the day with four stolen bases (tying the all-time Red Sox record, also held by Jerry Remy). It was Ryan Kalish, however, who got the attack going, stealing second after notching a base hit in the second inning. The theft allowed for Kalish to score the Sox’ first run of the day when Bill Hall singled him home. J.D. Drew even got into the act via a double-steal in the seventh, with Yanks catcher Jorge Posada choosing to try and gun down Drew at second instead of Ellsbury at third. The Red Sox, who came in dead-last in the majors with just 34 steals, had stolen as many as three bases in a single game just twice this season. It marked the first time since June 17, 2008 that the Sox have stolen six bags in a game.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Lester was seemingly on his way to some quality late-inning drama in the form of a no-hit bid, having not allowed a Yankees’ hit through the first 4 1/3 innings. But Austin Kearns was able to turn on a 1-2 fastball from the lefty, rifling the ball into left field for the hosts’ first hit. New York would manage somewhat of a threat in the frame when Derek Jeter managed a two-out single, just past diving first baseman Mike Lowell. But Lester would come back and strike out Nick Swisher with a 94 mph fastball to leave Jeter at first and Kearns at third.

- After coming through with his dramatic seventh inning performance, Bard ran into some trouble in the eighth when Mark Teixeira took him deep. Alex Rodriguez proceeded to single against the reliever, who then allowed a walk to Jorge Posada. Bard would rebound to get pinch-hitter Lance Berkman on a pop-up to shallow left field before giving way to Papelbon, who induced an inning-ending ground out off the bat of Austin Kearns with one pitch. The outing would seemingly leave Bard unavailable for Tuesday’s game in Toronto, having thrown a season-high 29 pitches (tying him with his April 29 appearances).

Ellsbury sure lineup change is ‘temporary’

08.09.10 at 2:03 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Speaking before the series finale in Yankee Stadium Monday afternoon, Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury talked about the merits of being dropped down from the lineup’s top spot to the No. 9 hole, classifying the move as ‘temporary.’

“It’s something that I’m pretty sure will be temporary, get rolling and be back in the top of the lineup,” said Ellsbury, who is 0-for-16 in the four games since returning from the 15-day disabled list.

Ellsbury agreed with Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s assessment that the opportunity to see more pitches before heading into his first at-bat might be beneficial as he continues to find his rhythm after not having played in a major league game since late May. For his career, Ellsbury has started 13 games hitting the ninth spot, totaling a .385 batting average while positioned last in the lineup.

“When you’re hitting low you can see what the guy is throwing so when you come up you can let it loose,” Ellsbury explained. “I’m just going to stay with my approach. I’ve always been able to hit and I don’t think that’s going to change now.”

Ellsbury also wouldn’t blame the lingering soreness he is experiencing in his ribs, which he insists can be tolerated and shouldn’t be a hinderance in the outfielder contributing to the team.

“It’s something I’ll have to manage, do everything I can to be on the field every day,” Ellsbury said. “I’ve always taken pride in being an everyday player, preparing my body to play every day. I just have to get here early, take care of my stuff every day, and stay a little later so I can play the next day.

“I still feel it when I wake up in the morning,” he added when asked if diving for a ball Sunday night presented any additional problems. “I’m at a point where I can help the team win with it. I’m not 100 percent, but I don’t think anybody is at this point in the season. it’s at the point where I can help the team win.”

For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 8/9

08.09.10 at 10:51 am ET
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Jon Lester

The Red Sox will look to salvage a split of their four-game series with the rival Yankees in Monday’s matinee. A 6-3 win to open the series gave Boston hope that it could potentially sweep or at least take three out of four from New York as the two sides battle for the AL East division with the end of the season fast approaching. However, the Red Sox offense sputtered on Saturday and Sunday, producing just four runs and 13 hits collectively against New York pitchers. Bill Hall, the seventh hitter in the lineup, accounted for three of the team’s six hits on Sunday. The rest of the lineup will need to produce more as the Sox take on Yankees starter Phil Hughes Monday. Jon Lester takes the mound on the other side for the Sox.

Lester (11-7, 3.07 ERA) has been walking the line of disappointment since the All-Star break. In that time, he’s been 1-4 with a 4.13 ERA, a number that is rather lackluster for the lefty. He’s lost four straight starts and his ERA has been on a steady climb from 2.76 on July 3 to its current state of 3.07. His innings have also decreased in each of those four starts (8, 7 2/3, 6 and 5 respectively). There are signs for both optimism and pessimism heading into Lester’s start against the Yankees. The optimist might point to his 4-1 career and 1-0 season records against the Yankees. The pessimist might argue that his 4.96 career ERA at the new Yankee Stadium and his 4.01 career ERA against the men in pinstripes might not be much to write home about.

Trying to predict how Hughes (13-4, 3.96 ERA) will perform might also produce a debate. He started the season red-hot, going 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 39 strikeouts in his first six starts. He has since cooled off some and saw his ERA go north of 4.00 at the end of July before his last start, in which he gave up only one run to the Blue Jays over 5 1/3, pushed it back down to 3.96. He’s alternated wins and losses and his last four starts after winning that start against Toronto. That trend should make Sox fans at least hopeful as should Hughes’ career line against the Red Sox (1-2, 6.48 ERA). That last number is Hughes’s third-highest against any opponent behind the Astros (7.94) and Royals (7.71). Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jon Lester, Phil Hughes,

Report: Cubs to visit Fenway in 2011

08.09.10 at 9:21 am ET
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According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs are set to make their first-ever visit to Fenway Park for an interleague series May 20-22, 2011. The Red Sox played at historic Wrigley Field in 2005 but have yet to witness a return visit from the NL Central squad.

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