|04.22.09 at 3:43 pm ET|
The rain keeps coming, with no indication about when or whether play will resume. New media relations staffer Leah Tobin is in her first week working with the Red Sox after working for the Astros and Padres in recent seasons. The change of working environment has been palpable: in those jobs, she never had a rainout, and endured only one rain delay at her home field thanks to the retractable roof in Houston and the perfect weather in San Diego. In Boston, Tobin has now faced a rainout and delay on consecutive days.
Anyhoo, with no game in progress, here’s hoping that those of you who are getting antsy for baseball can take solace in the following — a list of 20 things you might not have known about the Red Sox. In no particular order (these will be posted about five at a time…keep checking back!):
1) Jason Varitek went 2-for-5 with a homer on Monday. As our man Gary From Chapel Hill informs us, the Red Sox have won the last 17 games when he has collected at least two hits for them, dating to last May.
2) The fact that Manny Delcarmen has logged 8.1 scoreless innings this year has been well documented. But his regular-season dominance stretches back further than that. He has thrown 19.2 scoreless innings over 14 appearances dating to last Sept. 9. (He did, however, endure quite a blemish on that run of excellence in the form of a seven-run yield in just two innings against the Rays in the ALCS.)
3) We mentioned in the Five Things We Learned on Saturday that Hideki Okajima has an obscene 0.36 ERA when pitching on zero days of rest. Gary From Chapel Hill went into his Land of Magical Numbers to discover that he has the lowest such mark since the stat started being chronicled. Also on the list? Pedro Martinez, based on his work as a reliever for the Dodgers in 1993.
4) Kevin Youkilis deserves his title of on-base machine. He’s reached safely in each of the Sox’ first 14 games this year. He’s still got a ways to go before he catches up with his before-his-time soulmate in the mechanics of reaching base, Wade Boggs. Boggs started the 1983 season by reaching safely in 27 straight games.
5) Nick Green is making his ninth start of the year at shortstop. It is his most career starts at the position in any single season. As we mentioned in today’s Five Things, Green has a good chance of becoming the 10th player to spend 25 or more games at short since the start of the 2004 season. Who are the other nine? Click here for the answer.
6) George Kottaras recorded his first big-league RBI today in his eighth career game. He joines teammates Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek as Red Sox players who have started their careers with seven games without an RBI. Haywood Sullivan owns the Red Sox record for the longest start to a career without driving in a run, having gone 19 games without doing so after he debuted.
7) Reserve first baseman / outfielder Chris Carter believes that most rainouts are unnecessary concessions to the weather. While playing with Triple-A Tucson in the Arizona system, he claims to have endured monsoons on an annual basis. Don’t believe that Arizona endures monsoons? Think again!
8) Julio Lugo played in his first rehab game for Triple-A Pawtucket, going 0-for-3 with a walk. Lugo played eight innings. His rehab outing was less impressive than that of Jonathan Van Every, who in his first game since spraining an ankle in early March hit a grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning to tie the game for the PawSox. Pawtucket went on to win, 8-7, in 11 innings.
9) It’s Terry Francona‘s 50th birthday. He’s 3-4 in career games on his birthday. Whoops: make that 4-4: the game was just called.
|04.22.09 at 2:53 pm ET|
Tim Wakefield is the ever-underappreciated glue of the Red Sox pitching staff. Perhaps because he does not light up a radar gun, insufficient value is conferred upon his predictable ability to log innings.
Sox pitching coach John Farrell goes out of his way to identify what Wakefield has meant to the club over recent years. Since the start of the 2007 season, he ranks in the top three on the club in wins, innings and starts. The man takes the ball, and delivers in a major-league average or slightly above average fashion. There’s value to that.
There are moments, of course, where those talents — durability and, despite the unpredictable nature of his pitch, relatively predictable performance — are more widely appreciated. Wakefield’s two most recent starts — last Wednesday in Oakland, when his bullpen was running on fumes thanks to a one-inning start from Daisuke Matsuzaka the previous day, and today in the first half of a doubleheader — are such a time.
He gave up a one-out double to deep right-center to Denard Span. Once again, Wakefield was undeterred while pitching with a man in scoring position, getting infield pop-outs from Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau. He has now stranded eight runners on the afternoon.
The rain has arrived in Fenway, as has the seventh-inning stretch. Over his last two starts, Wakefield has turned in 16 innings and allowed three runs. It will be one of the best combined two-game lines of any Red Sox starter this year.
BOTTOM 7: RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
David Ortiz is clearly looking to right his form by attacking the opposite field. With reliever Juan Morillo on to start the seventh, Ortiz played Wall Ball, lofting a ball high off the Green Monster in left-center. In better weather, the ball would have been deposited in the stands for Ortiz’ first homer of the year. Instead, the Sox D.H. had to settle for a double, his fourth extra-base hit of the year.
Kevin Youkilis followed Ortiz by walking. Youkilis has now walked 10 times this year, compared to six by Ortiz. Ortiz, in fact, is now in his sixth straight game without getting walked, either a sign that opponents are unafraid to challenge him or that they do not want runners on base in front of Youkilis or, more likely, both.
Morillo is struggling to find the strike zone, raising the possibility of a novel event: R.A. Dickey is loosening in the Twins bullpen, presenting a chance that two knuckleballers could be in the game at the same time.
Morillo walked J.D. Drew, who is delivering quality at-bats every time he steps to the plate, to load the bases for Jason Bay. The right-hander then walked Bay on four pitches to force in a run.
“I like walking,” Bay said before today’s game.
That’s a good thing, since he now has an A.L.-leading 16 walks in 14 games this year. This from Gary From Chapel Hill:
The Sox got their 1st bases loaded walk of 2009 after receiving 17 in 2008, 4th most in the majors:
25 – Tampa Bay
21 – Oakland
20 – Chi Cubs
17 – Boston
It was the 3rd “RBI-walk” allowed by the Twins this season already after they allowed only 4 such walks during all of last season. The Orioles led the league last season, allowing 30.
And…yes! Thanks to that free run, Morillo has been yanked in favor of R.A. Dickey! I’m guessing that Ron Gardenhire could become the next Davey Johnson, appearing in a “How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S” commercial on a day when he brings in a knuckleballer with the bases loaded.
Upon entering, Dickey promptly gave up a run-scoring single to left by Mike Lowell. Did we mention that the Sox are getting some good productivity from their seventh hole this year? (16 RBI and counting.) It’s a bit surprising to see no pinch-runner for Lowell — one might expect the team to rest his achy hip.
George Kottaras lifted a sacrifice fly to left for the inning’s first out. Also noteworthy: it was the first career RBI for Kottaras… unless, of course, rain wipes out this inning of play. Which it might.
Following Kottaras, Nick Green blooped a ground-rule double down the left-field line to expand the lead to 10-1. But as the runners navigated the bases, the field was evidently turning to slop, and so umpires suspended play. RAIN DELAY STARTS AT 2:46PM!
A debate is currently churning about whether, if the duration of the game is rained out, the score would be 10-1 or if it would revert to the last completed inning of play, meaning that the game would end in a 6-1 Red Sox victory.
Here’s what’s at stake: if the seventh inning doesn’t count, Kottaras loses his first career run batted in.
Nick Green would be denied his fifth career game with three or more RBIs (and first since 2005).
Juan Morillo’s dignity would be restored, as his line of 0 innings, four runs, one hit and three walks would be expunged.
And, of course, a game that featured two knuckleballers would suddenly be revised so that only one took his turn.
Drama abounds! Or, at the least, one must needs pretend that it does to salvage some intrigue for what could be a verrrrry long rain delay. For those looking for a way to pass the time, might we encourage you to visit the Rainout Blog?
RAIN DELAY: RED SOX 10, TWINS 1. MAYBE.
UPDATE: THE RUNS, AND STATS, COUNT. NICK GREEN AND GEORGE KOTTARAS CAN BREATHE MORE EASILY. JUAN MORILLO WEEPS.
|04.22.09 at 2:20 pm ET|
Entering today, opposing starters had recorded a quality start (at least six innings, no more than three runs) in eight of the 14 games against the Twins, tied for the most quality starts recorded against any club in the majors this year. It looks like Minnesota is about to take sole possession of first place in that inglorious category.
Tim Wakefield flew threw the top of the 6th in 11 pitches, getting three straight fly-outs to center off the bats of Joe Crede, Mike Redmond and Nick Punto. Wakefield has needed just 85 pitches through six frames.
Redmond might not understand much about deciphering the riddle of Wakefield’s knuckleball, but he’s been a source of great insight about Marlins-turned-A.L. East pitchers over the years. He was a personal catcher, at various times, for Matt Clement, Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett.
BOTTOM 6: RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
Craig Breslow remained in to start the sixth, striking out right-hander Nick Green. But Jacoby Ellsbury followed by continuing his recent dynamism at the plate, slashing a single to center. The Sox leadoff hitter is 2-for-4 today, and 12-for-35 (.343) in his last seven games. His exuberance got the better of him: Ellsbury took off for second prematurely, and was picked off by Breslow on a 1-3-4 play. The play is officially ruled a caught stealing, and so Ellsbury is now 6-for-8 on steals to start the year.That allowed Breslow to make it through a relatively expedient sixth. Dustin Pedroia flied to the warning track in left-center for the final out of the inning.
It’s Earth Day, and so there are lots of cameos by cows on the NESN broadcast. I don’t know what else to say about that. Moo.
RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
|04.22.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
One of the more revealing aspects of a catcher’s work with Tim Wakefield is how he mixes in non-knuckleball pitches. Wakefield and George Kottaras were in sync against Nick Punto leading off the inning, with Wakefield dropping a 59 mph curve on a 2-2 pitch for his third strikeout of the game. If nothing else, the success of Kottaras on the heels of Kevin Cash‘s fine work in 2008 suggests that life goes on without Doug Mirabelli in Boston.
Following the punchout, Carlos Gomez lined a double down the left-field line, and Wakefield hit leadoff man Denard Span as the lineup turned over. Alexi Casilla then hit a potential double-play grounder, but Wakefield deflected the ball off the top of his glove. Dustin Pedroia had to change direction, and did a nice job to glove the ball and flip it towards second, but shortstop Nick Green dropped the ball for his second error of the game.
Instead of runners on the corners and two outs, the bases remained loaded with one down. Justin Morneau lined a single to right to plate the first Twins run of the game, but with the bases still crammed, Wakefield got harmless flies to first from both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Through five, Wakefield — always prone to being a fly-ball pitcher — has recorded eight outs on fly balls and just four on grounders.
BOTTOM 5: RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
This is one of the faster games of the year…Kevin Youkilis lined out to lead off, but J.D. Drew — apparently fully recovered from his confrontation with influenza earlier this week — lined a single to center. He now has three hits (two doubles) today, and is 12-for-28 over his last eight games.
Jason Bay could not advance Drew, instead becoming Baker’s second strikeout victim of the game. Bay is now 1-for-9 in his last three games.
With two outs, Mike Lowell stepped to the plate and bounced a double down the left-field line for his second extra-base hit of the game. The ball did not score Drew, but it continued Lowell’s excellent production from the bottom third of the order. As mentioned earlier, Lowel has 15 RBI from the seventh spot in the batting order. With the Sox in the middle of their 14th game of the year, that makes Boston the only team in baseball with an average of more than an RBI a game from that spot in the order. Surprisingly, a couple of teams are averaging exactly one per contest: both the Blue Jays and Dodgers enter today with as many RBIs from the No. 7 hole as they have played games.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Twins decided that they could not risk any further runs if they want to have any hope of remaining in the game. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire elected to turn to left-hander (and former Red Sox) Craig Breslow, a product of an inferior institution of “higher learning” in New Haven.
Breslow had a fine partial season in Minnesota last year, posting a 1.62 ERA while playing the role of southpaw specialist. Though he entered today’s contest with a 10.12 ERA this year, he did his job in this instance, retiring George Kottaras on a fly to center on his first pitch.
RED SOX 6, TWINS 1
|04.22.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
To this point, the pairing of Tim Wakefield and George Kottaras has been virtually flawless. Kottaras has yet to commit a passed ball with the knuckleballer on the hill. Wakefield did, however, uncork his first wild pitch of the season in the top of the fourth. Jason Kubel reached on a leadoff single, and then after Michael Cuddyer struck out, Wakefield tossed the errant pitch — quite a bit outside and in the dirt, with Kottaras having little hope — to allow Kubel to advance to second. Wakefield walked Joe Crede, but with two on and one out, quelled the incipient rally by inducing a 6-4-3 double play from Mike Redmond. The Twins miss Joe Mauer (expected back around the beginning of May), particularly in this game – Mauer has better than a .400 career average against Wakefield.
That was Wakefield’s second double-play ball of 2009. He has averaged just under 10 per season over the last three years.
BOTTOM 4: RED SOX 6, TWINS 0
Twins starter Scott Baker settled to produce his first homer-free inning of the game. For those keeping track at home, he’s now allowed seven bombs in eight frames. Still, the Sox’ accomplishments to start the game were rare indeed, according to Nuggetpalooza master Gary From Chapel Hill:
The last time that the Red Sox hit multi-RBI HR in three straight innings was July 10, 2004 against Texas at Fenway:
Garciaparra (1st inning off Rogers)
Bellhorn (2nd inning off Rogers)
Ramirez (2nd inning off Rogers)
Ramirez (3rd inning off Rogers)
All four HR were two-run shots.
Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to May 1, 1987, when Boggs, Evans, and Boggs went deep in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings at California.
In the fourth, Baker worked quickly, retiring Nick Green and Jacoby Ellsbury before Dustin Pedroia interrupted his clean frame by ripping a Wall single on a sharp liner to left. Pedroia, 1-for-3 today, is 10-for-21 (.476) on the current homestand. David Ortiz stranded Pedroia by flying out to left. He seems to be trying to hit the ball to the opposite field quite a bit.
|04.22.09 at 1:25 pm ET|
Nick Punto is hardly an imposing figure. The Twins utility man is a career .252 hitter with a .320 OBP and .651 OPS. And so, he seemed a slightly unlikely person to interrupt Tim Wakefield‘s hitless journey through the Twins lineup.
But interrupt it Punto did, leading off the third by swatting a double into the gap in left-center. But with a man on second and no outs, Wakefield refused to bend. He got Carlos Gomez (the centerfielder who was the centerpiece of the deal that made Johan Santana a New York Met, and who is now hitting just .194 this year) to foul out to first and Denard Span to loft a pop-up down the left-field line. After a stray knuckleball hit Alexi Casilla, Wakefield recovered to retire Justin Morneau on a grounder to first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
The play was an excellent and familiar one by Youkilis, who ranged to his right and gloved the ball with a dive, flipping to Wakefield for the final out of the inning.
RED SOX 4, TWINS 0
The assault on Scott “Home Run” Baker continues. Kevin Youkilis struck out on a check-swing to lead off, but J.D. Drew followed by ripping a double to right, his second two-bagger of the afternoon. Jason Bay then lined a ball to right center, with Michael Cuddyer making a diving catch to save a run. The reprieve was brief: Mike Lowell hit a two-out laser into the first row of the Monster Seats, the third two-run homer by the Sox in as many innings. Lowell has three homers and a team-leading 15 RBIs from the seventh spot in the batting order. Repeat: 15 RBIs in 14 games from the seventh spot in the batting order. Ridiculous.
George Kottaras ended the inning by grounding to first. Wakefield has a cushion that would put Mattress Discounters to shame.
RED SOX 6, TWINS 0
|04.22.09 at 1:10 pm ET|
Wakefield again cruised in the second inning, getting Jason Kubel (pop to second base) and a warning track fly ball off the bat of Michael Cuddyer that Jacoby Ellsbury caught while pinned against the wall in straightaway center. Nick Green then made a nice play on a wicked hop off the bat of Joe Crede, but threw the ball in the dirt to fist, allowing the Twins third baseman to reach. It was Green’s third error of the year, but of course, it is worth keeping in mind that shortstop is a position to which he’s adjusting after having spent most of his pro career at second. But Wakefield proved imperturbable, retiring catcher Mike Redmond on the second pitch on a fielder’s choice groundout to third.
Through two innings, Wakefield has needed just 25 pitches. At this pace, he could record back-to-back complete games for the first time since 2005. (Prior to the ’05 season, Wakefield hadn’t done that trick since 1997.)
BOTTOM 2: RED SOX 2, TWINS 0
After Mike Lowell lined to center to start the inning, George Kottaras worked a walk. That brought No. 9 hitter Nick Green to the plate. The shortstop, evidently eager to make amends for his ultimately harmless gaffe in the top of the inning, crushing a two-seam fastball from Twins starter Scott Baker and clearing the Monster Seats. The homer was the 11th of Green’s career (in 828 plate appearances, and his first as a member of the Red Sox).
The homer — coupled with the one hit by Kevin Youkilis an inning earlier — was an ominous sign for the Twins. Baker has now allowed six homers in as many innings this season. A year ago, he allowed 20 homers in 172.1 at-bats and struck out 141 batters. This year, he is finding bats rather than missing them.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed by lining a one-out single back up the middle. Ellsbury stole second (his sixth swipe of the young season), and then advanced to third on Dustin Pedroia‘s fly to shallow right. But Ellsbury was stranded there when David Ortiz fouled out to third.
RED SOX 4, TWINS 0
|04.22.09 at 12:56 pm ET|
As mentioned earlier, Devern Hansack was placed on unconditional release waivers today to make room on the 40-man roster for first baseman/oufielder Jeff Bailey. While the move might at first blush seem like a rough one for Hansack, who dislocated his shoulder last week, it appears that the outcome could actually be a good one for the pitcher (the dislocated shoulder notwithstanding).
The Sox have offered Hansack a minor-league deal so that he can rehab with the organization in Fort Myers following surgery. The 31-year-old has indicated to the club that he will accept that offer once he clears waivers on Friday. His pay will actually improve, since he will receive termination pay for his full minor-league salary, and he will also get the additional money of a new minor-league deal.
According to this plan, Hansack will receive a bit of a bump in salary while putting himself in the best possible position to return to health in hopes of resuming his pitching career.
|04.22.09 at 12:53 pm ET|
The fact that Tuesday’s washout necessitated a day-night doubleheader might prove to the Red Sox‘ benefit. Tim Wakefield, who was going to pitch last night, instead gets to start this afternoon’s contest. The 42-year-old owns a career 54-43 record and 3.57 ERA in day games, compared to a 125-115 mark and 4.62 ERA at night. Suffice it to say that eggs and knuckleballs are not considered the breakfast of champions by opposing hitters.
Wakefield breezed through the top of the first against the Twins, retiring Denard Span (fly to right), Alexi Casilla (strikeout on a 73 mph FASTBALL) and Justin Morneau (fly to short) in order. Morneau is the only member of the Twins lineup who enjoys any real track record of success against Wakefield.
BOTTOM 1: TWINS 0, RED SOX 0
Twins starter Scott Baker recorded a pair of quick outs, retiring Jacoby Ellsbury on a groundout to third (Joe Crede, playing in, made an excellent diving play to his left to glove the ball) and then retiring Dustin Pedroia on a fly to right. But David Ortiz used an inside-out swing to loop a slider away for an opposite-field single, and prolonging the inning for Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis is off to the sort of torrid start that will help to erase any questions about whether his 2008 MVP candidacy was a fluke. He continued that run, lining a ball down the right-field line. Though the ball curled towards the Pesky Pole, it stayed inside of it, and the two-run homer was the fourth of the year for Youkilis. The opposite-field shot was something of a novelty for Youkilis, who did not hit a single oppo shot last season.
J.D. Drew followed with a double down the right-field line, but Jason Bay grounded hard to third to end the inning. Baker fooled no one in the first.
RED SOX 2, TWINS 0
|04.22.09 at 12:14 pm ET|
Francona and the members of the Red Sox erupted in this unique form of celebrating the skipper’s 50th birthday.
“It’s all gravy from here,” mused Francona. “Probably appropriate.”
Presumably, Francona meant that it was appropriate that he spend the entirety of his quinquagenary (also known as his semi-centennial, also known as his turning 50) at the ballpark trying to squeeze in a double-header. He had no plans for the day, aside from showing up at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. for the 7:10 p.m. scheduled start, so the day-night doubleheader did little to disrupt his festivities.
As for the Red Sox roster:
–Julio Lugo‘s return to rehab games was delayed by a day, thanks to Tuesday’s rainout in Pawtucket. He will play today, work out with the team on Thursday, then play Thursday through Sunday before the team re-evaluates him. Francona left open the possibility that Lugo could be activated for the series against the Indians at the start of next week.
–In order to create a 40-man roster spot for Jeff Bailey, the Sox placed Devern Hansack on unconditional release waivers. While the move seems cold-blooded (Hansack dislocated his shoulder while pitching on April 13), there is a decent likelihood that he will be re-signed in a deal that could favorable.
–While a doubleheader is typically a managerial nightmare, the Sox bullpen — coupled with days off on either side of today’s scheduled day-night affair — makes that less of a concern. The Sox can have pitchers work for more than three outs, bolstered by the knowledge that if there is a double-header, there will be a day to recuperate. Moreover, with a deep bullpen that has featured strong performances from the likes of Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Papelbon, the team is well-situated to deal with the demands of a pair of games.
–The Sox believe that they caught the signs of Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s shoulder fatigue earlier this year than they did last year, when he ended up on the disabled list for 3 1/2 weeks. Matsuzaka was scheduled to throw from 60 feet (“He’ll probably inch out to about 70,” said Francona) for the second straight day on Wednesday.
–The Sox are planning on wearing green uniforms for the night game in celebration of Earth Day.
–Boxes of MLB 2009: The Show, the video game whose advertisements feature Dustin Pedroia, sat in the Red Sox clubhouse, available to any player who wanted a copy of the game.
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