|4th Inning: Baldelli Out||04.20.09 at 12:18 pm ET|
Rocco Baldelli, who had been dealing with leg soreness, left the game prior to the top of the fourth inning, replaced by Chris Carter in right field. The injury was described as a mild left hamstring strain.
Justin Masterson started the inning by walking Aubrey Huff on four pitches, but then recovering by getting Ty Wigginton to his into a 6-4-3 double play on a slider. Luke Scott whacked a single into right on a changeup, but Masterson rendered the hit harmless by striking out Gregg Zaun on a slider that broke over the outside corner to the left-handed Zaun. Through four, Masterson has needed just 14 pitches per inning and 56 overall. Barring a hiccup in the fifth inning, he should pitch into — or perhaps even complete — the sixth.
BOTTOM 4: RED SOX 3, ORIOLES 1
Mark Hendrickson has settled nicely. He retired Jason Varitek (pop to right), Nick Green (strikeout, changeup) and Jacoby Ellsbury (strikeout, fastball up-and-in) in order.
The 6-foot-10 Hendrickson enjoyed a brief basketball career with the Philadelphia 76ers. He once had this to say about the challenges of making the transition to the NBA (a league whose best two players came straight out of high school) and MLB (a game where even the best players spend years in the minors.
“Without a doubt, (the easier transition to the pros) would be basketball. You have idea what it’s like in the minor leagues,” said Hendrickson. “I kind of laughed when the Blue Jays gave the speech (to minor leaguers) saying, ‘You’re professional athletes now.’ I just thought, these kids have no idea what it’s like to be a professional athlete.”
|3rd Inning: Freel injured||04.20.09 at 12:11 pm ET|
Ryan Freel led off the inning for the Orioles, toting with him a most unusual stat line: an .071 average and .314 OBP thanks to one hit in 14 at-bats and five walks. Freel collected the Orioles’ first hit of the day against Justin Masterson, beating out a grounder into the hole between short and third.
That started an unfortunate succession of events for Freel, who was sacrificed to second by Felix Pie. Masterson wheeled around to try to pick off Freel, but his throw caught the Orioles utility player in the back of the helment. Freel remained on the ground, barely moving, for a couple of minutes, and had to be helped off the field by the Orioles training staff. Freel suffered a concussion as a member of the Reds in 2008, and it looks like he just absorbed another one.
He was replaced at second by pinch-runner Robert Andino, who moved to third on Brian Roberts‘ groundout to second and then scored when Cesar Izturis lined a ball that ricocheted off the glove of Mike Lowell (who was playing on the grass to take away the bunt from Izturis) and to shortstop Nick Green. Izturis beat the throw by a couple steps, permitting the Orioles their first run of the game.
Izturis stole second, with Sox catcher Jason Varitek making a terrible one-hop throw to second. Izturis likely would have stolen the base regardless, but it nonetheless had to rate as one of the worst throws of Varitek’s career. (Opponents are now 8-for-9 trying to steal on Varitek this year.) The steal was rendered harmless, however, when Nick Markakis flew out to center. Masterson is now at 44 pitches through three innings.
BOTTOM 3: RED SOX 3, ORIOLES 1
First, our man Gary From Chapel Hill (who has some unbelievable stuff in Nuggetpalooza about Hideki Okajima on zero days of rest) checks in with this nugget:
This is the 17th time since the start of the 2004 season that the first four Red Sox batters have reached base in the first inning of a game. The Red Sox have won 15 of the last 16.
Ortiz, who was on an 0-for-10 skid in the first inning until his first-inning double, struck out swinging at an 86 mph fastball from Orioles starter Mark Hendrickson. Kevin Youkilis followed by smashing a ball to center that Felix Pie tracked down for the second out of the inning. Hendrickson should have concluded a very tidy 1-2-3 third, but Rocco Baldelli‘s fly to right-center crashed off the glove of Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis for a three-base error.
One could imagine Orioles manager Dave Trembley swallowing hard at that sight, given his insistence that a small-market team like Baltimore cannot compete in the A.L. East if they give outs away to the potent lineups of their division.
In this instance, the consequences of Markakis’ error reinforced the point. Hendrickson issued a six-pitch walk to Jason Bay, then battled Mike Lowell for an eight-pitch strikeout on a nice curveball.
The Red Sox did not score, but Hendrickson needed 14 pitches to complete the inning after Markakis’ error. His day on the mound just became one inning shorter.
RED SOX 3, ORIOLES 1
|2nd inning: Varitek Unloads||04.20.09 at 11:43 am ET|
Everybody knows about Justin Masterson‘s sinker. The pitch served as his ticket to a second-round selection by the Red Sox in the 2006 draft, and then to the majors last year.
But late last year, he unveiled a four-seam fastball that has surprising velocity and, at times, good movement across the plate. He’s featuring that pitch today, having gotten leadoff man Aubrey Huff to swing and miss under a 92 mph four-seam fastball for a strikeout (presumably, Huff was anticipating a sinker), getting Ty Wigginton to fly meagerly to center on a 95 mph fastball and then, after a walk to Luke Scott, getting a groundout to second from Gregg Zaun on the sinker.
Masterson has yet to allow a hit through two innings, a not uncommon theme for the right-hander. Last year, opponents were 11-for-62 (.177) against him in the first two innings.
BOTTOM 2: RED SOX 2, ORIOLES 0
Jason Varitek, batting right-handed, fell into a quick hole against Orioles starter Mark Hendrickson. But after falling behind 1-2, he worked his way back to a full count, and then unloaded on a batting practice fastball (85 mph) from the Baltimore left-hander. Varitek smoked a ball into the Monster Seats for his third homer of the year and his first as a right-handed hitter.
Interestingly, seven of Varitek’s 13 homers last year came with two strikes, including four that came on full counts. This was his first homer on a two-strike pitch this year. Varitek is now batting .250, but with six of his eight hits having gone for extra bases, he now has a .976 OPS.
The Red Sox went down quickly thereafter, with Nick Green popping to first, Jacoby Ellsbury grounding out to second and Dustin Pedroia striking out swinging on a ball that was very down and very outside. One might criticize his pitch selection, except that he actually hit a similar pitch for a single in the first.
RED SOX 3, ORIOLES 0
|1st inning: For starters, it’s Masterson||04.20.09 at 11:27 am ET|
Justin Masterson makes his first start since taking the bump last July 5 against the Yankees. On that day, he pitched well in a 2-1 loss, allowing a pair of runs in six innings. Last year, he was 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA as a starter and 2-2 with a 2.68 ERA as a reliever.
Jon Lester‘s seven-inning effort yesterday, which permitted all of the relievers except for Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito to take the day off, looms large, since Masterson will be limited to roughly 80 or so pitches today. A year ago, Masterson threw six or more innings in eight of his nine starts, but his rope was longer (he threw between 88 and 105 pitches in every start).
Masterson got off to a quick start, showing more velocity than he did as a starter last year. His final pitch of the inning was a 96 mph four-seamer that resulted in an excellent play up the middle by Dustin Pedroia, who dove to his right to glove the ball and then hopped up to throw out Nick Markakis at first. Before that, Masterson has already shown his full array of pitches in a 1-2-3 first: his second pitch of the game (against leadoff man Brian Roberts) was a changeup, and he flashed his slider against two-hole hitter Cesar Izturis.
Masterson needed just 12 pitches (nine strikes) to navigate the first.
BOTTOM 1: ORIOLES 0, RED SOX 0
Jacoby Ellsbury showed signs of life at the plate yesterday, going 2-for-4 with a double, and nearly impaled three members of the Orioles with the wicked bullet he hit to lead off the bottom of the first. Actually, not really: he got incredibly lucky, dropping a pop up down the left-field line between an unholy convergence of shortstop Cesar Izturis, left-fielder Luke Scott and third baseman Ryan Freel. Izturis could not glove the ball after a long run, and so the ball kicked around down the left-field line while Ellsbury sprinted into second, his hitting streak now at six games.
Ellsbury then stole third and jogged home when Dustin Pedroia hit a pitch that was outside and in the dirt into center for an RBI single. Pedroia is clearly enjoying the return home: he is 6-for-13 during the homestand.
The Red Sox have clearly found something that will work for them in the top of the first, namely, hitting the ball in the direction of O’s designated hitter Luke Scott, charitably described as a left-fielder by the lineup cards today. Scott is not good in the field, a fact made clear by the fact that Aubrey Huff is not always the Orioles D.H. when he plays.
That became evident when David Ortiz hung in well against a fastball from Orioles starter Mark Hendrickson. The Sox D.H., mired in a dreadful slump, drove the ball to the warning track in left. Scott could not decide whether to try to catch it or play it off the Wall. He backed off, and the ball hit a couple feet off the base of the Wall. Still, it was a good swing and a good outcome for Ortiz, who had a poor history against Hendrickson (.231 average, no extra-base hits) prior to today.
Ortiz’ double put runners on second and third, and after Kevin Youkilis walked (get used to opponents pitching to Ortiz, pitching around Youkilis), Rocco Baldelli hit a run-scoring fielder’s choice. Hendrickson settled, getting a key out when Jason Bay — batting with runners on the corners and one out — fouled out to first, and then Mike Lowell flied to right to end the inning.
But the Sox have staked Masterson to an early lead, and Hendrickson’s pitch count is at 29 after one inning.
RED SOX 2, ORIOLES 0
|Patriots’ Day Notes: Red Bull for breakfast?||04.20.09 at 10:52 am ET|
The Patriots’ Day phenomenon is unique, and certainly a beloved institution of the baseball calendar for Red Sox fans. For players, however, it represents something else.
Baseball players are creatures of routine. The idea of starting a game at 11:05 a.m. qualifies as a mild shock to the system. At a time when they’re typically waking up, the players must be free of any sand in their eyes and ready to stare down at pitches that are moving with the velocity of a car on the Autobahn.
And so, one would hazard, it will be a good day for sales of one particular brand of products. Energy drinks will flow like blood (is water a better metaphor), coarsing through the veins of those players who are trying to play at a time unfamiliar since their days of Pony League baseball. Read the rest of this entry »
|Masterson not changing a thing||04.20.09 at 10:33 am ET|
I don’t know if you heard, but Justin Masterson is starting again.
Monday morning the 24-year-old righty will start a game for the first time since July 5, which was also the day he morphed into a harder-throwing reliever without a change-up. That was an evolution Masterson chose to make. This time around, he isn’t making any such alterations. What worked last Tuesday in his four innings of shutout relief will work in his start against the Orioles.
“I don’t want to (change),” said Masterson. “I want to keep the intensity, everything I did as a bullpen guy into there. Just let it loose. Five, six seven innings. It’s got to be some sort of some sort of mental issue instead of mental. It has to be all the time just, ‘OK, here we go,’ no matter if I’m starting or relieving.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox vs. Orioles Matchups, 4/20||04.20.09 at 10:17 am ET|
If history is a guide, then Justin Masterson will throw a no-hitter today. Of course, that would be quite a conclusion to draw from the three hitters in the Orioles lineup whom the young Red Sox right-hander has faced. Draw from this what you will – here are the career histories of the Masterson against the Orioles and the Red Sox against Baltimore starter Mark Hendrickson.
ORIOLES VS. MASTERSON
Luke Scott (2 career plate appearances): 0-for-2
Aubrey Huff (1): 0-for-1
Adam Jones: 0-for-1
RED SOX VS. MARK HENDRICKSON
Most notable in the Red Sox’ history against Hendrickson is how David Ortiz has performed against the 6-foot-10 left-hander. Ortiz, struggling thus far this year, has not performed terribly well against the southpaw who has held lefties to a career .260 average, .315 OBP and .370 slugging mark, as opposed to a line of .300 / .348 / .476 against right-handers. But Sox manager Terry Francona — who admitted to giving some thought to allowing Ortiz a day off if he wanted it — suggested that Hendrickson could be a good match-up for Ortiz, forcing the designated hitter to stay on the ball longer. Ortiz impressed Francona as a man who wanted to play today, and so it is J.D. Drew who sits in favor of Rocco Baldelli today.
Hendrickson has a career 2-6 record and 8.56 ERA against the Red Sox, mostly achieved when he was a member of the Devil Rays (back when the team possessed that now-anachronistic moniker). You wouldn’t know it based on the numbers of current members of the Sox against him.
Rocco Baldelli (12 career plate appearances): .182 average / .250 OBP / .273 slugging / .523 OPS
Jason Bay (10): .222 / .300 / .333 / .633
Mike Lowell (8): .250 / .250 / .250 / .500
David Ortiz (23 career plate appearances): .211 average / .304 OBP / .211 slugging / .515 OPS
Jason Varitek (18): .188 / .278 / .250 / .528
Kevin Youkilis (11): .273 / .273 / .636 / .909
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