|08.09.10 at 8:36 am ET|
NEW YORK — The memory is not prominent in Jon Lester‘s mind.
After all, at first, the pitcher could not remember the last time he took the mound at Yankee Stadium, thinking that he had done so this season before realizing that, no, this would be the first time he’d taken the mound in the Bronx since disaster almost struck. Lester’s last start in Yankee Stadium took place last Sept. 25. The line score (2 1/3 innings, eight hits, five runs) from one of his worst outings of the season became immaterial thanks to the last pitch he threw.
Lester’s 78th pitch of the night was cracked back up the middle by then-Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera. The ball, according to Lester’s description that night, “was going about Mach 7″ when it rocketed off of the inside of his right knee. Instantly, he went down in a heap on the mound, and onlookers feared that his tremendously bright future might have been suddenly jeopardized.
“It was a well-struck ball. You cringed that it hit the kneecap, with a chance of it shattering or cracking,” pitching coach John Farrell recalled on Sunday, before cracking a smile. “Thankfully, he’s big-boned.”
Despite the tremendous force of the liner, serious damage was avoided. There was no fracture; there were no bone fragments. It was just a contusion, and Lester’s season and career continued on without interruption.
On Monday afternoon, he will pitch in the Yankees’ home ballpark for the first time since that day. But the thought that he narrowly averted catastrophe will not be on Lester’s mind today, just as it has not been a consideration in the nearly 11 months since the incident.
“As a pitcher you can’t think about that stuff. Then you’d start flinching and worrying about balls coming back at you,” said Lester. “It hit my knee. That’s part of baseball. It’s just like us throwing inside to guys. You’re going to hit guys. They can’t think about that. So you just move on.”
|08.09.10 at 12:34 am ET|
NEW YORK — All involved were in agreement that Kevin Cash’s pickoff attempt of Robinson Cano at third base in the fifth inning could have been a big play. And it was. Just not for the Red Sox. The result: Yankees 7, Sox 2.
“It could,” Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre said , “changed the outcome of the game.”
With the Red Sox trailing, 4-1, with one out in the fifth inning the bases loaded full of Yankees and Josh Beckett struggling to what would turn out to be his final frame, Kevin Cash and Beltre took a chance.
Just before Beckett delivered a 1-2 cutter that would get Brett Gardner on a swinging third strike, Beltre signaled to Cash to attempt catch Cano leading off third. So, immediately after the strikeout, the catcher whipped a throw that was headed directly for the third baseman’s glove. The problem was that hit ricocheted off of the baserunner’s helmet, landing in left field and allowing another run to score.
So instead of the Sox ending the inning with their starting pitcher still in the game and trailing by just three runs, they found themselves having to stare down the heart of the New York lineup. The immediate result was a two-run double from Derek Jeter, and the end of Beckett’s night.
For the participants, the only regrets were not executing the play a bit better.
“My whole thought was that the pitcher is out there, he’s struggling a little bit, we’re falling behind hitters, anything I can do to avoid the meat of the lineup coming up – which they were with Jeter getting ready to hit – it would have been a big play if I made a better throw,” Cash explained.
While the ball appeared to be on a direct line to its intended target, Cash explained that the part of the equation where he fell short was in not getting ball on the inside of the bag.
“We’re taught to throw the ball inside the base,” Cash explained. “It was headed right down the line and it just nicked his helmet. If I do make a good throw I think we have him out and it could have been a big momentum swing for us.”
|08.08.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
It seemed to be all in place for the Red Sox on Sunday night.
A Tampa Bay loss earlier in the day to the Blue Jays meant a Sox win over the Yankees would trim the Rays’ wild-card lead to 3.5 games and New York’s AL East edge to five games. Josh Beckett – winner of his last two starts and the owner of a 2.18 since his return from the DL July 23 — was on the mound facing Dustin Moseley (career 5.25 ERA), who was filling in for A.J. Burnett (late scratch — back spasms). And with Jon Lester on the hill Monday the idea of taking three-of-four from the Yankees and jumping back into the AL East race did not seem unrealistic at 8:05 on Sunday night.
But those thoughts were quickly erased as the Yankees grabbed an early 2-0 lead and never looked back, pounding Beckett over 4.1 innings on the way to an eventual 7-2 win. The Red Sox now trail the Yankees by seven games and the AL East hopes for the Sox appear dashed for 2010. And the Sox (63-49) are now tied with the Twins as the two teams try and catch the Rays for the wild card.
Lester (11-7, 3.07) will be opposed by Philip Hughes (13-4, 3.96) in the series finale on Monday.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett simply didn’t answer the bell in a huge spot, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in 4.1 innings. He gave up a pair of runs in the second inning on four hits, appeared to settle down in scoreless third and fourth frames, but came unglued in the fifth. Mark Teixeira homered to lead off the inning, followed by a walk to Alex Rodriguez and HBP to Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada then struck out, but Lance Berkman doubled home Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. After a Curtis Granderson walk, Kevin Cash committed a throwing error attempting to pick Cano off at third. Cano scored on the play, and Derek Jeter then doubled home Berkman and Granderson to give the Yankees a 7-1 edge and chase Beckett from the contest. Beckett has now made four starts vs. the Yankees this season, allowing 33 hits and 24 ER in 19.1 IP.
– Moseley filled in brilliantly on short notice, allowing just two runs on six hits in 6.1 innings, walking two with five strikeouts. He was relieved by Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, who promptly gave up an infield single to Mike Lowell and a walk to Marco Scutaro to load the bases for David Ortiz (Bill Hall had reached earlier via an infield single and was at third base). A chance, perhaps, to trim the lead to 7-6 with a homer but Boone Logan – in relief of Chamberlain — was able to induce a ground out to second from Ortiz to end the inning.
– Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 and is now hitless in 16 at-bats since returning from the DL.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Though he made a throwing error in the second inning that proved costly, Bill Hall did have three hits, including his 13th HR of the season.
– Adrian Beltre was able to extend his hitting streak to 14 games with a leadoff double (his 34th– sixth in the AL) in the seventh inning.
– Tim Wakefield pitched three scoreless innings of relief, giving up just one hit while striking out three.
|08.08.10 at 7:01 pm ET|
NEW YORK — It’s a fairly quiet evening here in the Bronx, aside from the news that the Yankees scratched A.J. Burnett after he experienced back spasms. With Burnett out, Dustin Mosely takes the ball for New York, thus rendering a not trivial percentage of this fine work from intern Matt West moot. Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup for the Yankees as the cleanup hitter, and looked strong in batting practice, so it appears that the line drive that he took off the bat of teammate Lance Berkman during batting practice on Saturday will not keep him out for any extended period.
A few Red Sox notes, on a day when the Sox will have a chance to narrow the gap between them and the Rays to 3 1/2 games following the near no-hitter twirled against Tampa Bay by Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow — a player whom the Mariners selected in the first round of the 2006 draft over Daniel Bard (for more on that, click here) and Tim Lincecum:
–Josh Beckett takes the mound at Yankee Stadium, the venue where his season went haywire on May 18 when he slipped while throwing a pitch to Alex Rodriguez.
“Thanks for bringing that up,” said Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
The Sox are thrilled with what they’ve seen so far from Beckett in his three starts off the disabled list. He is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA, and the Sox have won all three of his outings. The team has seen him build from outing to outing, as he has become more aggressive while realizing that his stuff affords him the opportunity to dominate.
“We wanted so bad for him to be Beckett, not to be out there in name only. That’s why we tried to be so patient. I think that proved to be a good decision,” said Francona. “He’s going out there and pitching now, that doesn’t guarantee a win, but it’s pretty exciting.
“You can see the progression,” Francona continued. “He’s getting a better feel for his breaking ball, throwing it better. I think that really should bode well for us.”
As painful as it was for the Sox to be without Beckett for two months, they believe their could be benefit in the form of having him stronger down the stretch, thanks to the fact that his arm was spared quite a bit of work.
–Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek both made strides in their attempts to return from foot fractures. Pedroia “had a real good day,” according to manager Terry Francona, running the bases more aggressively than he had to this point and also having a productive day in the field. Pedroia said afterward that he plans to run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto to get a measure of his progress. His goal, as he said Friday, remains a return for the Sox by the start of the next homestand on Aug. 17.
Francona said that a rehab assignment was certainly a possibility given the amount of time Pedroia has missed (just over six weeks and counting). Right now, the only remaining hurdle for him is a return to running at full speed.
As for Varitek, he reported a “night and day” difference in how his foot feels now vs. a week ago. He took batting practice on the field for the first time since breaking his foot at the end of June, and after jogging for the first time a few days ago, he went running at what he described as 75 percent on Saturday, without any evidence of a setback. He is nearing the six-week mark of his injury, a point at which, the catcher said, “the governor comes off more.” Barring setbacks, Varitek is hopeful that, at that point, he will be able to start testing his foot to see how it responds to the demands of catching.
–Victor Martinez gets the start at first base on Sunday night, something that the Sox believe will help them keep both Martinez and Mike Lowell fresher and more productive.
Martinez’ desire to catch could potentially come at his own detriment, particularly given that he spent a month on the sidelines without a rehab. Since returning on July 26, he has played every inning of all 11 Sox games, and he has been behind the plate for all but 15 frames.
“He loves to catch. He loves to catch everyday,” Francona said appreciatively of Martinez. “He doesn’t say anything about anything.”
The Sox feel that giving him some extra time at first base can help to keep him healthy and productive. The same is true regarding Lowell, whom Francona suggested had become fairly adept at managing his hip injury.
“[The days off] give him the best chance to be productive,” said Francona.
–After recording his first big league relief appearance on Saturday, Felix Doubront is likely unavailable on Sunday. Doubront impressed the Sox with a three-up, three-down inning that included a pair of punchouts.
–Jacoby Ellsbury is working to find his feel at the plate, according to Francona, who suggested that the leadoff hitter (0-for-12 in three games since returning) has been letting pitches get deeper on him than is ideal. Francona said that he also thinks that Ellsbury is working to regain his speed, but that Ellsbury would be helped immensely once he collects his first hit, something that might permit him to regain some lost confidence.
–Mike Cameron was planning on swinging off a tee for the first time since being placed on the disabled list on Monday.
–Kevin Youkilis wanted to rejoin the Sox either Sunday or Monday in New York, but as he recovers from his season-ending surgery, the Sox told him to take time to recover. The Sox he should either rejoin them in Texas next weekend or for the start of the next homestand.
While the Sox appreciate the player’s desire to be with his team, they also note that — given that he has not been slightly queasy in the aftermath of the surgery — there is little value to having him rush to the dugout.
“He can’t do anything right now physically,” said Francona.
|08.08.10 at 3:58 pm ET|
Heading into their four game series with the Yankees, the Red Sox knew they needed to take at least three out of four to stay within earshot of the top spot in the AL East. Even with Saturday night’s setback, the Sox still have an opportunity to prove that despite the wave of injuries and inconsistent play that has plagued them all season, they still have a shot at postseason play.
Josh Beckett (3-1, 5.70 ERA) will take the mound Sunday night, looking to extend his current streak of success. Since returning from the disabled list on July 23, he has yet to give up more than three runs in any of his three starts.
Last time out against Cleveland, Beckett pitched tremendously, going eight strong innings while only surrendering three hits and one run. He also struck out eight Indians’ batters, tying his season high in that category.
With that said, Beckett has struggled against the Yankees in 2010. In three starts against the pinstripes, the big righty has thrown 14 2/3 innings, allowing 17 earned runs and four home runs.
Beckett’s former teammate A.J. Burnett will take the ball for the Yankees. Burnett (9-9, 4.93 ERA) has had a maddeningly inconsistent year, at times showing ace-like stuff, while at others looking like a career minor leaguer. His last start on August 2 would fall into the latter category, as he was touched for eight hits and eight runs in only 4 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays.
Against the Red Sox this year Burnett is a 0-1 with a woeful 10.61 ERA in two starts. A match up to look out for is Burnett vs. Adrian Beltre. Beltre is hitting.323 with seven RBI in 33 plate appearances against him.
|08.08.10 at 12:50 pm ET|
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Newly signed first baseman Carlos Delgado wrapped up his first workout as a member of the Red Sox organization Sunday. After stretching out along the third baseline, Delgado and Red Sox first base prospect Lars Anderson took ground balls at first base. Delgado then fielded some more ground balls from his knees, followed by questions from onlooking reporters.
Coming off two hip surgeries, the 38-year-old Delgado signed a minor league deal on Saturday and will eventually join a Red Sox team that has been bitten quite badly by the injury bug. Anticipated to split time with Mike Lowell at first base, Delgado stressed that he himself feels healthy enough to make a difference down the stretch.
“I’m not going to come here to embarrass myself,” Delgado said. “I wasn’t going to call anybody and say I’m ready to work out if I couldn’t run, if I couldn’t run the bases, if I couldn’t change directions.”
The veteran slugger garnered interest from the White Sox, Rockies, and Mariners, but ultimately said the Red Sox were his choice based on their playoff potential. Just 27 homers short of joining the 500 home-run club, Delgado noted that his decision to sign was based on the team’s regular-season record, and not his own records.
“I like to win. In the process, if I hit the home runs that I need, it will be great. I’ve played for almost 16 years in the big leagues and I’ve only been to playoffs one time, so you’re sitting at home and you watch these guys play in October and you see that intensity and the passion they have, and that’s where you want to be,” Delgado said. That’s the reason why I get motivated to do what I do to come back and play.”
Getting only one at-bat in Toronto’s 1993 World Series season and not having as much as a sniff of the playoffs since, Delgado, despite rewriting the Blue Jays’ record book and hitting less than 30 homers just once from 1997-2008 (he had 24 in 2007), seems to be far from concerned with personal achievement. The drive to win that he has built up over years of watching the teams in his division go on to win the World Series (it’s happened six times) is quite apparent. Now he wants his turn.
“That’s the only [reason] you should play — to win,” Delgado said. “Not everybody can win, but I’ll die trying.”
Delgado is no stranger to the AL East, as he established himself as one of the top left-handed hitters of his generation as a member of the Blue Jays. Though baseball in Toronto wasn’t awfully competitive in his time there, he still got a sense of just how intense the baseball atmosphere in Boston.
“They were tough. They were always tough, they were always cocky, very passionate, very driven to win,” Delgado said of the Red Sox as he recalled the 90′s all the way through 2004. “I played against them for 11 years in a row when I was in Toronto, and they seemed to always kick their [expletive deleted]. You’ve got to respect that. … They always find a way to put a good product on the field.”
Delgado hasn’t spoken to any current Red Sox players, but assured those on hand Sunday that although he is more reserved than Boston sluggers past, he will be a big part of the team on and off the field.
“I’m like a chameleon. I’ll blend,” Delgado said. “I’m probably not the rah-rah-rah kind of guy, but I’ve been around long enough and I’m confident enough that I can fit into any clubhouse.”
In his career, Delgado has hit .280/.383/.546 with 473 homers and 1512 runs batted in in parts of 17 seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets. He played in just 26 games last season, his last in New York.
|08.08.10 at 7:02 am ET|
NEW YORK — Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz could muster nothing against Yankees starter CC Sabathia on Saturday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts (two called) and a double play in Boston’s 5-2 loss to New York. Yet while Ortiz gave some credit to the Yankees ace, he also made no secret about his displeasure with the strike zone of home plate umpire Jerry Layne.
On both of Ortiz’ called strikeouts, he stood at home plate, hands on hips, with a look of disgust about the calls. After the game, he was feeling no more charitable towards the strike zone.
“It was a joke,” said Ortiz. “The fact is that on top of [Sabathia] being that good, he’s got [an ump] calling all kinds of [expletive]. That made him better.
“I didn’t see that many strikes that I can hit,” Ortiz added. “Swinging at all kinds of [expletive]. That’s what you’ve got to do. Swing, swing, swing, swing and good luck.”
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