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Nuggetpalooza: Three in a row!

05.04.11 at 9:10 am ET
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Let’s get right to some early week nuggets:

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* – Over the last three games, the Red Sox have faced three of the best starting pitchers in the game in Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren. And they won all three games. Against the starters, the Red Sox went 21-for-81 (.259) with four doubles and one home run. Once the starters left the game, the Sox battered the bullpens to the tune of 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs.

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* – Last night, Jon Lester was brilliant again. Here’s what was working for him:

Curveball: Lester threw 13 curves, 10 for strikes, and the Angels went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He averaged +1.69 points per pitch overall with his curve including a whopping +2.00 vs. righthanded batters (11 curves). His curveball YTD average vs. RHB entering last night: +0.17. Masterful.

Fastball: I’m combining his two-seam and four-seam here as he was “on” with both, averaging +1.25 points per pitch on the 59 fastballs thrown, leading to 2-for-17 with nine strikeouts. The +1.25 mark was easily his best fastball average of the season, eclipsing the +0.95 average he put up in the 1-0 loss in Cleveland on April 7.

Change: Lester threw only four changeups, but all four were strikes, getting two outs while allowing one single.

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* – The Red Sox homered three times on Tuesday night. It was the third time this season that they’ve hit three in a game. They have yet to hit more than three in a single contest. Last season, they hit three or more 24 times.

Note this: All three homers came in the 8th inning (Gonzalez, Ortiz, Scutaro), marking the first time that the Red Sox have hit three home runs in an inning since last August 13, when Ortiz, Beltre, and Drew all homered in the 4th inning in Texas.

And this: Since the start of the 2008 season, every team has had at least one instance where they have homered three or more times in an inning except the Mets and the Royals.

And this too: Boston, San Diego, and Atlanta are the only teams that have not allowed a three-HR inning since the start of the 2008 season. Kudos to anyone that remembers the last time the Red Sox allowed three homers in an inning: July 30, 2006 at Fenway against the Angels, Curt Schilling allowed 3rd inning home runs to Orlando Cabrera, Vlad Guerrero, and Juan Rivera.

Finally: The Angels (for the time being) are the only team that has allowed a three-HR inning in each of the last four seasons. The Royals, Twins, Brewers, and Blue Jays have given one (or more) up in each of the last three years, but none in 2011… yet.

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Closing Time: Red Sox 7, Angels 3

05.03.11 at 9:52 pm ET
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If it had been the World Cup, it would have felt like the Red Sox had been condemned to the group of death: On three consecutive days, they had the unenviable assignment of facing three right-handers who can each lay claim to the title of the best in the American League.

On Sunday, it was reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. On Monday, it was heretofore-perfect Angels starter Jered Weaver. And on Tuesday, it was Angels right-hander Dan Haren.

It would have been something of a triumph for the Sox to claim a single victory across those three contests. Yet remarkably, the team claimed its third straight victory Tuesday night against the trio of elite starters thanks to a mix of tremendous starting pitching and timely hitting in a 7-3 victory that pulled Boston within a game of .500.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jon Lester cost himself consideration as a top contender for the Cy Young award in each of the last three seasons with slow starts to the year. Not so in 2011.

Lester continued his strong start with a tremendous effort, logging seven innings in which he allowed just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 11. He threw 93 pitches and 66 strikes, but the Sox made the decision to end his day both because they had Daniel Bard in the bullpen and in apparent deference to the fact that the left-hander a) had thrown at least 108 pitches in each of his previous five starts, and b) was starting on four days’ rest, something that he likely will have to do again in his next start.

The outing marked the 15th time in Lester’s young career that he has reached double-digits in punchouts. He featured a dominant cutter (6 swings and misses) as well as a fastball that he could throw for strikes at will. Of his 40 four-seamers, a remarkable 80 percent were strikes as the 27-year-old improved to 4-1 on the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox vs. Angels Pregame Notes: No rest for the not-so-weary

05.03.11 at 8:03 pm ET
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The matchup for Dustin Pedroia was imperfect. Angels starter Dan Haren has held the Red Sox second baseman hitless (with one walk) in 13 career plate appearances. With Pedroia having played every game thus far this season, it might have been a natural spot for the second baseman to take his first day off.

But Pedroia, who is back after having missed all but two games over the final three-plus months of last season, is having no part of suggestions that he might be able to use a day off — whether against Haren or anyone else. And Francona is open to being talked out of resting the 2008 AL MVP, even when he has little to no success against an opposing starter.

‘€œI was thinking about it the other day, and he said he was going to kill me. There was an adjective in front of it,” said Francona. “He’€™s a really good player. Sometimes we talk about [Jason Varitek] not getting hits but still winning the game. This guy impacts the game all over the field. I will certainly try to get him a day before he really desperately needs it. But right now, I don’t think that’€™s the case.”

Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez are the only two players to appear in the starting lineup in all 29 Red Sox games this year. As colleague Rob Bradford discussed with Pedroia and Gonzalez, that is a reflection of the fact that both players feel very good about the status of their recoveries from surgery — Pedroia having had a screw inserted in his left foot last September, while Gonzalez had the labrum of his right shoulder repaired after the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, bobby jenks, Clay Buchholz, dan wheeler

Amazing but true: Why Pedroia vs. Weaver at-bat was one of a kind

05.03.11 at 12:45 pm ET
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It was an at-bat for the ages.

Seem like hyperbole? It’s not. The 13-pitch at-bat between Dustin Pedroia and Jered Weaver that concluded with a two-run single was unlike any other on record at Fenway Park.

With an assist from Gary Marbry of Nuggetpalooza fame, some of the facts that made the at-bat so remarkable:

–Pedroia’s 13-pitch at-bat matched the longest of his career. His other at-bat of that length came in his third game in the majors, on Aug. 27, 2006, when Pedroia worked a 13-pitch walk against Cha-Seung Baek of the Mariners.

–Pedroia now has the only recorded hit on an at-bat of 13-plus pitches by a Red Sox at Fenway Park (with records of such things dating to the 1970s in baseball-reference.com). He became the first Red Sox since Damon Buford (in 1998) to record a hit in a plate appearance of 13-plus pitches. Since 1993, in fact, Sox hitters were 1-for-10 with five walks in plate appearances of 13-plus pitches.

–No hitter had ever gone to as many as 13 pitches in an at-bat against Weaver in his career. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, jered weaver,

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Angels matchups: Jon Lester vs. Dan Haren

05.03.11 at 7:57 am ET
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After handing Angels No. 1 pitcher Jered Weaver his first loss of the season Monday night, the Red Sox now get to face the Angels’€™ 1-A starter in Dan Haren on Tuesday night. Haren, who is 4-1 this season, ranks second in the American League in ERA (1.23) and first in WHIP (0.75). As is the case with Weaver, Haren’€™s only loss came against the Sox. He gave up four runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks over six innings in a 4-3 Boston win on April 22.

With the loss, Haren dropped to 2-6 against the Sox in his career, although he does have a solid 3.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP against them. David Ortiz has had plenty of success against Haren — he’€™s hitting .318 with three home runs and six RBIs in 22 career at-bats — but most of the Sox have struggled with him. As a team, Boston is hitting just .216 off Haren. No one has had a tougher go of it than Dustin Pedroia, who is 0-for-12 with a walk and five strikeouts in 13 plate appearances.

The Sox will counter Haren with an ace of their own in Jon Lester, who is 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP this season. The 27-year-old southpaw also opposed Haren in that April 22 game, and he earned the win by tossing six shutout innings. Lester, who has won each of his last three starts, improved to 3-1 against the Angels in his career. But in a reverse of Haren’€™s situation, Lester has a less-than-stellar 4.81 ERA and 1.63 WHIP against them.

Current Angels are hitting .238 against Lester. Torii Hunter has had the most success, as he is hitting .375 with a homer and four RBIs in 16 ABs. Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick — the three players with the most ABs — are all hitting .200 or worse against Lester. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Angels, Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Red Sox

Closing Time: Red Sox 9, Angels 5

05.02.11 at 10:41 pm ET
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For the second time in as many nights, the Red Sox had the unenviable task of facing one of the top right-handers in the majors. One day after they outlasted Felix Hernandez and the Mariners in a 3-2 walkoff win, the Sox drew Angels ace Jered Weaver, who entered the night 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA.

But for the second straight night, the Sox proved capable of holding their own against one of the league’s elite. This performance, in fact, was even more impressive, as the team knocked Weaver — who had thrown at least 6 1/3 innings while permitting no more than two earned runs in any outing — out after just five innings thanks to an epic string of at-bats in the Halos ace’s final inning.

After Carl Crawford lined a one-out double to left, Jason Varitek negotiated an eight-pitch walk. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a seven-pitch fielder’s choice groundout (admittedly, one on which he chased a full-count curveball that was out of the zone) before the Sox received their most impressive — and arguably their most important — at-bat of the 2011 season to date. Ellsbury stole second to put two men in scoring position for the Sox second baseman, who fouled off nine pitches in a 13-pitch at-bat.

On the final pitch, Pedroia lined a 91 mph fastball back through the box for a two-run single. The Sox, who had been trailing 2-1, assumed a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish, en route to hanging the first defeat of the season upon Weaver.

Moreover, the approach helped to knock Weaver out after six innings, allowing the Sox to go on the rampage against the Angels bullpen. The team would erupt for six runs in the seventh — the most they’ve scored in any inning this year — while going 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position to claim an impressive 9-5 win against the Angels.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox vs. Angels Live Blog, 5/2

05.02.11 at 7:08 pm ET
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The latest from Fenway Park as the Red Sox have the unenviable task of trying to stop Jered Weaver, who concluded a perfect month of April in which he went 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA. Clay Buchholz does the honors for the Sox.

Red Sox vs. Angels Live Blog

Red Sox vs. Angels pregame notes: The reshaped rotation

05.02.11 at 5:29 pm ET
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The stomach flu has been a pox upon the Red Sox in recent days. Not only did it mean that Clay Buchholz had to get pushed back from his scheduled start on Sunday (granted, that worked out fine for the Sox when Tim Wakefield allowed the team to beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners), but also because Angels ace Jered Weaver — who was slated to pitch on Sunday against the Rays — got pushed back to Monday against the Sox after he endured a gastrointestinal protest.

Weaver carries a ridiculous 6-0 record and 0.99 ERA into Fenway Park for his start, continuing a run where the Sox have had to face several elite starters in the season’s first five weeks.

“This guy’€™s good tonight. He’€™s feeling pretty good about himself. He’€™s leading the league in almost everything,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We might not knock him all over the ballpark, but it’€™s kind of satisfying when you can find a way to beat him.”

While Buchholz will be tasked with facing Weaver tonight, the Sox have now set up their rotation for the rest of the week. After Jon Lester makes his scheduled start on Tuesday, Josh Beckett (six days rest) will pitch on Wednesday, John Lackey (four days rest) will pitch on Thursday and Daisuke Matsuzaka (seven days rest) will take the mound on Friday.

Matsuzaka came out of his start on Friday with a stiff elbow. Though he says he feels fine, the Sox wanted to exert some caution with based on the injury.

“Dice came out of the game the other day. We’€™re trying to buy him a couple days. He says he doesn’€™t need it. If somebody comes out like that, we’€™d like to make sure they’€™re OK,” said Francona. “We had him down for a day, then he played catch. Now he’€™ll start his normal five-day cycle. Trying to take advantage of the time off, give a day off.”

Meanwhile, Francona said that the team wanted to give Beckett a bit of a breather after the team “leaned on [him] pretty hard there a couple games.” With no off days scheduled until May 12, the team felt like it wanted to give the right-hander (who is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in five starts) extra rest now at a time when Wakefield’s start made it easy to do so, particularly in the aftermath of a 125-pitch workload two starts ago in Anaheim.

“Part of it, not because of the way he’€™s pitching, because he’€™s pitching great, just wanted to try to get everybody situated where they all feel as good about themselves as they can physically. I think, this was just, to give them that day was important,” said Francona. “That game in Anaheim … pitch counts are pitch counts, but there’€™s a reason we probably watch stuff like that. We just want to monitor their workload so he can go out, be Beckett.”

Beckett had a 25-pitch bullpen session on Monday afternoon, which Francona said went without a hitch. The manager said that the pitcher was on board with the idea of additional rest for this start.

“Just in talking to him, again we talk to all of them, we have the opportunity so it made sense,” said Francona. “We leaned on him pretty hard. There’€™s no days off coming up. When you have the ability to give a guy an extra day, sometimes you’€™ve got to take it, because we won’€™t be able to going forward for a couple weeks. … We keep an eye on the workload. It’€™s not just the starters. It’€™s the relievers. We talk about health and production going hand in hand all the time.”

With the tweaked rotation, the Sox will still have two days between the starts by Beckett and Matsuzaka, something that presumably will make it easier for Jason Varitek to continue to catch both of them.

OTHER NOTES

–The fact that the Sox feel their starters can benefit an extra day underscored the value of having a pitcher such as Wakefield in the bullpen who can step in for a spot start, thus giving members of the rotation extra rest in stretches of the schedule that feature few off days. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, jered weaver, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis

Nuggetpalooza: Weekend Nuggets!

05.02.11 at 3:01 pm ET
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Before I get to the nuggets, I’d like to give a shout out to the Triangle NC Red Sox Nation group, who held a charity wiffle ball home run derby on Saturday and 48 members showed up. It was a hoot! Your’s truly (pictured) jacked a few mammoth blasts (and might have even won the thing) and went home with some sweet swag, including baseballs signed by Jim Ed Rice and Dwight Evans. It’s a great group, and Sean Bunn, who heads up the group  and organizes over 100 functions per year, has to be the hardest working Governor in Red Sox Nation. Not to mention that he did a spot-on imitation of John Wasdin on Saturday as the wiffle ball pitcher! If you’re reading this and live in North Carolina, be sure to join up and join in the fun!

Now here are a few things that struck me from the weekend at Fenway and around baseball:

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* – The Red Sox hit five doubles and received six walks on Saturday night, yet were shut out. It was the first time in recorded baseball history that a team has failed to score despite five or more doubles and six or more walks.

Actually, only two teams have done that and scored fewer than TWO runs: The Boston Braves lost to the Reds, 3-1, in 1948, and the 1927 White Sox lost to the Red Sox, 2-1.

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* – On Sunday, Red Sox hitters struck out 11 times and only walked once. Incredibly, they have now won the last five times that they’ve struck out 10+ times and walked one or fewer times, dating back to last July 26. The all-time longest streak of wins in such games is six, set by the Padres over a span from 1983 through 1986.

The 1972-1973 Astros are the only other team to win five such games in a row.

Note this: Prior to this five game winning streak, the Red Sox had lost 17 of their previous 18 such games over the prior seven seasons.

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* – Carl Crawford picked up the seventh walkoff hit of his career yesterday, but it was only his second with two outs. Most importantly, this one came as a member of the Red Sox. His other two-out game winner came against Boston: A three-run homer on opening day in 2003 which pretty much killed the “closer by committee” experiment after one game.

Note this: Prior to his hit yesterday, Crawford was 2-for-14 with no RBI in his career with two outs in the 9th inning of a tie game.

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Monday’s Red Sox-Angels matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Jered Weaver

05.02.11 at 2:29 pm ET
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The Red Sox were lucky enough to avoid Jered Weaver in last weekend’s four-game series with the Angels, but they won’t be so fortunate this time around, as he’ll take the mound Monday night. They actually would have missed Weaver again, but the 28-year-old righty was scratched from his start Sunday with a stomach illness. Coincidentally, so was Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox’ starter for Monday.

Weaver is an incredible 6-0 this season, making him just the fifth pitcher since 1900 to win at least six games in April. In addition to wins, he also leads the American League in ERA (0.99) and strikeouts (49) and is second in WHIP (0.79). Weaver’s last two victories have been of the complete game variety. He has allowed just one run on 13 hits and a walk while striking out 18 in that span.

If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, though, Weaver is just 2-4 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 career starts against Boston. Two of those losses came last season, when he had a 6.00 ERA in two starts. David Ortiz has had the most success against Weaver, as he is hitting .323 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 31 career at-bats. Kevin Youkilis has a pair of homers off him, but he’s hitting just .200 in 30 ABs. Dustin Pedroia has struggled the most, batting .136 with no RBIs in 22 ABs.

For Boston, Buchholz is just 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA this season. After appearing to take a step in the right direction with a win over the Athletics two starts ago, Buchholz struggled in a loss to the Orioles on Tuesday despite the fact that it was his longest outing of the season. He gave up four runs on 12 hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings.

He has done well against the Angels, though, as he is 4-2 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts. Moreover, current Angels are hitting just .185 against him, with no one batting better than Alberto Callaspo‘s .286 mark. Bobby Abreu is the only Angel with a homer off Buchholz (he has two), but he’s hitting just .235 in 17 at-bats. Erick Aybar has had a miserable time with Buchholz, as he has yet to reach base in 15 plate appearances against him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Angels, Clay Buchholz, jered weaver, Red Sox
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