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Red Sox vs. Indians matchups, 4/6

04.06.11 at 8:19 am ET
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In Game 2 of their three-game set against the Indians, the Red Sox will go up against right-hander Mitch Talbot. The 27-year-old pitcher made his major league debut against Boston back in September 2008 as a member of the Rays, giving up four earned runs in three innings of relief. Talbot gave up eight more runs in his final two appearances that season and then spent all of 2009 in the minors.

The Rays traded Talbot to Cleveland after the season, and Talbot managed to crack the Indians rotation last spring. In his first full season, he went 10-13 with a 4.41 ERA in 28 starts. One of those starts came against the Red Sox on June 10. Talbot lasted just four innings and gave up five runs, although only two were earned.

Talbot struggled this spring, posting a 1-1 record and 8.61 ERA in six starts, but he still managed to grab the fifth spot in Cleveland’s rotation. Current Red Sox have fared well in a limited number of at-bats against Talbot. No one has had more than five plate appearances against him, but of the 10 guys who have faced him, five have a batting average of .500 or better. Kevin Youkilis has done the most damage, as he has a home run, a double, a walk and three RBIs in five appearances. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo homer in his only at bat against Talbot.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will be on the hill for Boston. He went 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA last season and has yet to regain the form that earned him an 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA just three years ago. The Indians might be the perfect team for Matsuzaka to get off to a good start against, though.

In his career, Matsuzaka is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in five starts against the Tribe. He earned a pair of wins against them last season, allowing just one run in 16 innings over those two starts. Of the 11 current Indians who have faced Matsuzaka, only Shin-Soo Choo has a home run off him. Six of the 11 are hitting .182 or worse against him.

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A closer look at Josh Beckett’s first start of the season

04.06.11 at 7:40 am ET
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CLEVELAND — Most went into Tuesday night identifying Josh Beckett as the be-all and end-all when it came to signifying the Red Sox‘ success or failure. Well, after the Sox’ 3-1 loss to the Indians, Beckett didn’t turn out to be that sort of definitive lightning rod many were banking on.

Beckett went five innings, giving up three runs while striking out four and walking four. He threw 106 pitches, succumbing to third (35 pitches), fourth (23) and fifth (24) innings which limited the starter’s time on the mound.

‘€œLike I said last time, the adjustments that we made, they’€™re becoming more easy for me to get to,” Beckett explained. “I don’€™t revert back to other things. That being said, you can’€™t throw 100 pitches in five innings. You’€™re not going to survive very long.’€

If you had to get a read one way or another on how Beckett felt about his first start of the season, the vibe would probably be laced with more positives than negatives. Understanding that in this results business, business was not good, there were signs that Beckett was continuing to take steps forward and further away from 2010.

Those watching Beckett against a less-than-imposing Indians lineup will point to the pitcher’s inability to put hitters away in those final three innings, with talk of Beckett’s velocity not going past 93 mph will lead the arguments.

True, the righty’s heater wasn’t what it was in Houston just days before. But he wasn’t the only Red Sox pitcher with slightly diminished returns when it came to radar gun readings Tuesday night. Relievers Matt Albers and Daniel Bard also seemed somewhat victimized by weather hardly conducive to airing out high 90’s heat.

Albers, for instance, saw his fastball average 92 mph and max out at 95 in Texas. Tuesday night he averaged 91, while topping out at 92. Beckett? On 57 fastballs he averaged 92, while hitting 93 five times.

The problem was that with the diminished velocity, and suspect location as the innings went on, Beckett’s fastball failed to be a weapon. Ten times the pitch was put in play, five of which went for hits. In the last three innings, four of the heaters put in play went for hits (all of which were in the strike zone).

There was no question Beckett’s best weapon was his change-up. He threw it 27 times (14 for strikes), while not seeing any of the five times it was put in play go for a hit. He struck out both Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana swinging at the pitch.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Beckett’s change was the velocity. It dipped to levels hardly seen at any point in his Red Sox career, even in spring training, with the strikeout pitch to Cabrera clocking in at 85 mph (due in part to a slide-step). And, most important, it was a pitch that never lived in the middle of the strike zone, only hovering around the outside edge to lefty hitters.

To get an idea how much confidence Beckett has in his change-up right now, understand that he threw it 12 more times than his curveball. His first start of the ’10 season the trend was reversed, with the starter going with the curve 14 more times than the change, a pitch that was rapped for hits four of the six times it was put in play in that game against the Yankees just more than a year ago.

‘€œI felt like it was all right,” said Beckett regarding his overall stuff. “I’€™ve got to get ahead a little more. One hundred pitches in five innings, it’€™s not good enough here.’€

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Adrian Gonzalez to opposing managers: Don’t bother with the shift

04.05.11 at 11:32 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — For the first time this season, an opponent of the Red Sox decided to implement a shift against Adrian Gonzalez, pulling three infielders to the right side of second base. In the case of the Indians, it paid off, with the lefty first baseman going 0-for-4, including a two ground outs to the right side.

But Gonzalez says not only isn’t the strategy a new one, but it has never been an effective one.

“Last year it probably helped me more. I hit more balls to the third base side than the pull side,” he explained. “It’s something I guess managers feel comfortable doing that for whatever reason. But I think it benefits me more than it hurts me, although obviously not tonight.”

He has a point. Of Gonzalez’ 110 singles in 2010, more were hit to left field than right field. The problem, he said, Tuesday night was more pitch selection than anything else.

“I did a poor job today of being selective and getting good pitches to hit,” he said.

Reaction from the Red Sox’ clubhouse after coming up empty against the Indians

04.05.11 at 11:12 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Here is some of the reaction from the Red Sox after they fell to 0-4 thanks to a 3-1 loss to the Indians Tuesday night at Progressive Field. (Spoiler: They’re not panicking.) …

JOSH BECKETT: “There’€™s too much history here. Everybody here knows how to win. We’€™ve got to figure it out. Nobody is going to come out of the blue and feel sorry for us and help us out. We know what we’€™ve got to do. We’€™ve got to go out and execute.”

DAVID ORTIZ: “Everybody’€™s trying dog. Everybody’€™s trying hard. All it’€™s going to take is one click, man. Just one click. That’€™s what turns things around.”

“When you’€™re facing this kind of situation, you definitely want to get the first one out of the way. And keep on moving. That’€™s how things get started. Everyone’€™s trying. Probably some of us are trying a little too hard, but that’€™s baseball. Things happen.

“You’€™ve got to just keep on playing. That’€™s what I believe. That’€™s why we don’€™t have 17 games in the NFL or 82 in the NBA. We’€™ve got 162 so you can figure things out, because this is a hard game to play. You’€™ve got to go day by day. Everyone tonight has to wipe their mind off and come back tomorrow.

“Everyone’€™s got a great attitude. Everyone’€™s coming down early and getting ready to play. Things just aren’€™t happening right now.”

DUSTIN PEDROIA: ‘€œThe guys that were here before, they’€™ve won. The guys that we got have won. We all know how to win. you can’€™t keep a good man down for long, that’€™s about it.

“Nobody wants to lose four in a row. We’€™ll come out tomorrow and play as hard as we can. I thought we did some good things today, a lot better than the first three. We’€™ll get out and battle tomorrow.

“There’€™s going to be times where we score 29 in the last 18 innings. We’€™ll figure it out. We didn’€™t have very many guys on today, that was tough. We’€™ll figure it out.’€

TERRY FRANCONA: ‘€œIf we let it build. It’€™s not a lot of fun. I don’€™t think anyone is going to feel sorry for us. We just need to come out and just play the game right and things will work out. But if we feel sorry for ourselves, that won’€™t help.’€

CARL CRAWFORD: “It’s a little surprising. It’s frustrating. We’ve got big hopes for the season on this lineup, so the way we’ve been playing so far is a little bit of a surprise to us. We’re all furstrated about it. I know a lot of guys got a lot of pride in here and are upset about it. At some point, that has to change, man.”

JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA: “I think we’€™re all pretty frustrated. We know we’€™re better than this. I think everyone knows we’€™re better than this. We’€™ve just got to step up our game. It’€™s part of being the Red Sox. We know everyone else is going to step up their game. We need to do the same thing.”

J.D. Drew explains the play at the plate in the second inning

04.05.11 at 10:54 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — While it was just one run in a game the Red Sox would ultimately lose, 3-1, at the hands of the Indians Tuesday night at Progressive Field, J.D. Drew’s second-inningbaserunning adventure in the second inning was notable at the time.

With two outs and two strikes on Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the second, and the game still scoreless, Drew stood at second, while David Ortiz took a lead off third. Saltalamacchia took advantage of an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin that was out over the plate, depositing it into right field.

Ortiz scored easily for the game’s first run, but Drew wouldn’t be so lucky. With right fielder’s Shin-Soo Choo’s throw fast approaching home plate, Drew chose not to slide, despite the urging of Ortiz, who was attempting to direct the baserunner from behind the play.

With Drew still upright, Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana gathered in the throw. Finally, just before Santana went to sweep a tag, the Sox baserunner broke off into a late slide, but it was too late. The backstop had applied the tag before Drew could fully execute his slide, resulting in the inning’s final out.

Drew’s thinking? After the Sox’ loss he explained that he believed sprinting to the corner of the plate — because of the Santana’s presence in front of the plate — would be the wiser play. The problem was that the Indians’ catcher closed the gap faster than anticipated.

“At first I thought I was going to run right through the bag, but as I started to see him come closer ‘€¦ at the last second I thought I might be able to run through it,” Drew said.

“It’€™s kind of better to run through the plate and start sliding a little bit later instead of sliding way out there. You’€™re just slowing yourself down.”

Closing Time: Red Sox still winless after loss to Indians

04.05.11 at 9:53 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — The Red Sox didn’t follow Charlie Sheen’s lead Tuesday night.

While the actor was performing his ‘act’ just a few blocks away — surely drawing more than the announced crowd of 9,025 at Progressive Field (the smallest crowd the Sox have played in front of since 2000) — Terry Franconas bunch couldn’t stake claim to such Sheen staples as “Winning” (or even “Tiger Blood.”)

Truth be told, as bad as Sheen might have been in his debut in Detroit, what the Red Sox continued to churn out might be considered more offensive.

The Sox dropped to 0-4 on the season after falling to the Indians, 3-1, in a game where Josh Beckett wasn’t quite good enough, and the team’s offense was far from acceptable.

Here is what went wrong and went right for the Red Sox:


– The lineup, which was supposed to be perhaps the best in team history, has yet to find its way. Against Cleveland’s fourth starter, Josh Tomlin, the Sox managed just three hits over seven innings. Some key cogs in the batting order stayed cold at inopportune times, with Carl Crawford (0-for-4, .133), Kevin Youkilis (0-for-2, .182) and Marco Scutaro (still without a hit for the season) coming up empty.

J.D. Drew offered a healthy dose of optimism when ripping a double in the right field corner in the second inning in his first at-bat. Unfortunately for the outfielder, who was playing in his second game of the season, the good times came to a screeching halt when he waited far too long to slide when running home on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s single. The result of the baserunning boo-boo (which wasn’t the fault of David Ortiz, who was urging Drew to slide after crossing the plate, himself) was an out.

– Beckett couldn’t make it into the sixth inning against what is considered a far-from-potent Indians lineup. He finished throwing 106 pitches over five frames before giving way to Matt Albers. A 24-pitch fourth inning, along with a 33-pitch fifth didn’t help matters for the righty.


– Beckett’s outing, while far from spectacular, wasn’t all that discouraging. He finished his night giving up three runs on five hits over his five innings, striking out four and walking four. His best pitch was clearly the change-up, which dipped down to as low as 85 mph (a level usually not seen with the righty throwing the pitch). The fastball, however, failed to have the giddy-up seen in Houston, sitting at 93 mph.

– Keeping Saltalamacchia in the lineup paid off for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, with the catcher giving the Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning when he plated Ortiz with an opposite field single on Tomlin’s 0-2 pitch. Saltalamacchia also drew a walk.

– The bullpen held its own despite being stretched out due to Beckett’s pitch count. Albers, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard each came on to throw one scoreless inning apiece.

Red Sox live blog: Josh Beckett allows three runs in five innings; Indians cling to 3-1 lead

04.05.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Join Rob Bradford as he breaks down the Red Sox game against the Indians as it happens live from Progressive Field.

Red Sox vs. Indians

Terry Francona explains his approach toward Carl Crawford’s spot in the lineup

04.05.11 at 5:42 pm ET
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CLEVELAND ‘€“ For the fourth time in four games, Red Sox manager Terry Francona tried out a new lineup, Tuesday night.

Most notably, Carl Crawford, who hit seventh after manning the No. 3 spot for the first two games of the seasons, was slotted in the second slot with Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin on the mound.

Francona said he still might be moving Crawford around, whether it’€™s the No. 2 or 3 spots, or potentially finding himself lower in the order against left-handers. Throughout his career, the outfielder has spent more time in the second spot than any other place in the lineup.

Crawford explained that prior to Tuesday night’s game at Progressive Field that he hit leadoff for most of his minor league career up until he reached Triple A, when the speedster was moved to No. 3.

‘€œIn the big picture I don’€™t think it matters. But I just thought third the first couple of days, coupling with him being new, I thought he was trying to do too much,’€ Francona said regarding Crawford, who did have two hits in the last game of the Sox’€™ series in Texas.

‘€œMaybe get him and [Jacoby] Ellsbury back to back and let them get on base and cause some havoc. We may drop him down in the order, at least for a while, against lefties, just to kind of make our batting order look a little better but we’€™ll see. Again, when guys are hitting and they kind of get into the groove, that won’€™t matter as much. I just thought he was trying too hard the first couple of days.’€

The move also put Dustin Pedroia at No. 3, a position he manned his junior year in college and for seven games in 2010. In the game he hit three home runs ‘€“ June 24 in Colorado ‘€“ the second baseman was hitting third.

‘€œI think he’€™d hit anywhere,’€ Francona said regarding Pedroia. ‘€œHe’€™s even told me he’€™d hit first. I don’€™t think that’€™s ‘€¦ I think he tries too hard. But no, again, our batting order might change a little bit early on, depending on who’€™s pitching for them, who we have available, how we’€™re swinging. I don’€™t think it’€™s that big a deal. I think that’€™s what sometimes a day off will do for you.’€

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Clay Buchholz on Big Show: Chemistry with Jarrod Saltalamacchia not ‘something that happens overnight’

04.05.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz joined The Big Show Tuesday, discussing a number of topics with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley. On the subject of his first start, in which four of the five hits he allowed to the Rangers left the park as solo homers, he noted that he could expect mistakes to be hit hard in Texas.

As for having a new starting catcher, Buchholz preached patience for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He said that the 25-year-old, who has started all three games thus far and is 0-for-10 at the plate, is learning with both the pitchers and Jason Varitek.

“He’s definitely got a person that he can go to in ‘Tek to figure out some of the things that he needs to know as far as what our pitchers do, what our staff does, what the bullpen does,” Buchholz said. “We sat down a couple of times, talked about what I like to do as far as being ahead in the count, throwing strike one and going from there.

“It’s not going to be something that happens overnight. It’s going to be repetition that you have to go through to make it sort of a second nature type of thing. That’s what you’re working for. You want to be on the same page all the time with your catcher, and that’s definitely what we’re trying to do here.”

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Nuggetpalooza: Beckett’s decline and pitch type stats

04.05.11 at 12:25 pm ET
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What can the pitch type stats tell us about Josh Beckett’s recent decline? Well, let’s see:



* – Average velocity on Beckett’s fastball has declined each of the last three seasons:

2007 – 94.6
2008 – 94.3
2009 – 94.0
2010 – 93.2

* – Usage declined markedly in 2010 (54.3 percent) from 62.0 percent in 2007 and 63.7 percent in 2008.

* – Beckett’s ability to throw his heater for a strike also dropped in 2010, to 52.6 percent. It had been right around 56 percent in each of the previous three seasons.

* – Fewer batters chased fastballs out of the zone in 2010 (23.2 percent) vs. the three prior years (26.5 percent in 2007, 28.8 percent in 2008, 26.9 percent in 2009).

* – Look at these batting averages against Beckett’s fastball:

2007 – .247
2008 – .265
2009 – .260
2010 – .316

* – And the slugging percentages:

2007 – .377 (12th lowest allowed in baseball that year; min. 1000 fastballs)
2008 – .410
2009 – .442
2010 – .550 (7th highest allowed in baseball last year; min. 1000 fastballs)

* – And, finally, “isolated power” allowed (the difference between slugging percentage and batting average):

2007 – .130
2008 – .145
2009 – .182
2010 – .234

* – That ISO allowed by Beckett on fastballs last year was the highest by any Red Sox pitcher since at least 2003 (min. 700 fastballs thrown):

.234 – Josh Beckett, 2010
.222 – Casey Fossum, 2003
.218 – Pedro Martinez, 2004

* – In 2010, opponents hit .520 (26-for-50) and slugged .900 (four home runs) when they hit a first-pitch fastball from Beckett. Compare that to a .288 average and .500 slugging on first-pitch fastball over the previous two seasons.



* – Beckett used his curve only 18 percent of the time in 2010, down from 23-25 percent in each of the previous three seasons.

* – Beckett’s batting average and slugging allowed on his curve have fluctuated from season to season (batting average allowed/slugging percentage allowed/ISO power allowed):

2007 – .164/.271/.107
2008 – .232/.424/.192
2009 – .209/.328/.119
2010 – .233/.360/.127

* – Overall, it doesn’t appear that his curve is a big issue due to the small sample, although the stuff/command trends are all negative: strike percentage, swing-and-miss percentage, and out-of-zone chase percentage.


* – Beckett used his changeup 11.5 percent of the time last season, higher than either 2008 or 2009 and close to his 2007 usage (12.1 percent).

* – While his strike percentage was below 40 percent in 2009 and 2010 (after 46 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2008), his batting average allowed on changeups was MUCH BETTER over the last two seasons (.200 and .245) vs. the previous two (.341 and .342).

* – His ISO Power allowed on changeups was a problem in 2008, but his 2010 was similar to 2007:

2007 – .174
2008 – .300 (yikes!)
2009 – .053
2010 – .184



* – After throwing the cutter less than five percent of the time from 2007-2009, Beckett went to it 16 percent of the time in 2010.

* – Opponents’ put up a .297 average against the cutter and a .473 slugging percentage.

* – Beckett threw his cutter on 3-2 counts on 13 occasions in 2010 and opponents went just 1-for-7 with one walk and five strikeouts. He tried it 11 times over the previous two years and was much less effective: 4-for-7 with three walks and two strikeouts.


Here’s what I’ll be interested to see when Josh Beckett takes the mound tonight in Cleveland:

* – Fastball Effectiveness – Opponents fighting off Beckett’s heater for singles is one thing. But extra-base hits is the danger signal. Also, can he get ahead using the fastball without getting first pitches ripped like last year?

* – Fastball Velocity – Is it still dropping? We may not get an answer to this tonight as early April velocity isn’t always indicative of mid-season speeds.

* – Cutter/Change/Curve Usage – While his fastball was still Beckett’s favored offering in 2010, he went away from his curve last season in favor of more cutters (by a lot) and changeups. What will his mix look like this year? Especially on “pitches of decision” like 3-and-2, 2-and-2, or 2-and-1.

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