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Beckett’s best?

05.23.09 at 8:40 pm ET
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After allowing Gary Sheffield’s run-scoring, two-out single in the top of the first, Josh Beckett retired the next 12 batters before giving up a two-out single to Ramon Martinez in the top of the fifth. It was Beckett’s longest streak of consecutive outs this year, besting the eight straight he recorded during one stretch in his Opening Day start against the Rays.

Martinez stole second and then Beckett walked Luis Castillo to put runners on first and second with two outs. Beckett escaped harm, however, thanks to a spectacular play from shortstop Nick Green. David Murphy blooped a 94 mph cutter on his fists over third base and towards the foul-line in left. Green got a great jump on the ball and lunged to make a running catch, capturing his balance with a slide.

Beckett has allowed just three hits and one run through five despite striking out just two batters. In 98 starts with the Sox prior to tonight, Beckett struck out two or fewer on just six occasions.

Read More: Josh Beckett, nick green,

Crazy 18s for Jacoby

05.23.09 at 7:51 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game for the Red Sox by lining a Mike Pelfrey fastball for a single to right, thus extending his hitting streak to 18 games, matching a career long. His current run is not quite as impressive as the one he authored in 2008:

2009: .342 average / .373 OBP / .430 slugging

2008: .370 / .386 / .580

Nonetheless, the Sox will take this run over a poke in the eye with a stick, especially given Ellsbury’s ability to score once on base. His speed was once again an impact factor in the first, as he advanced to second on Dustin Pedroia’s infield single, then led a double steal (Ellsbury’s 18th swiped bag, Pedroia’s fifth) that put both runners in scoring position. After David Ortiz whiffed, Kevin Youkilis lined a single to left to plate both runs and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Noteworthy: in the three games since hitting his first homer of the year, Ortiz has gone 1-for-9 with four strikeouts. He was on the field for early batting practice today, a sign, perhaps, that he is once again searching a bit.

Since returning to the lineup on Wednesday, meanwhile, Youkilis has gone 5-for-12 (all singles) with four RBI.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis,

Red Sox and unearned runs

05.23.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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A compelling case can be made that a pitcher should be charged with an earned run if he commits the error that allows an opponent to score. After all, an E1 suggests that the mound on the mound is morally culpable for the mistake, and so why not commit to a statistical Weltanschauung that remains committed to that principle?

The prevailing baseball paradigm, however, is that any error – including one by the pitcher – will suffice to create an unearned run. And so it was that the Red Sox gave up an unearned run in the first. Carlos Beltran had an infield single (to shortstop Nick Green) with two outs, advanced to second when Sox starter Josh Beckett threw wildly to first on a pick-off throw and then scored when Gary Sheffield dropped a single to left.

The Mets’ 1-0 lead came on the 11th unearned run allowed by the Sox this year. Surprisingly, given the concerns about the Red Sox’ defense, the Sox entered tonight with 10 unearned runs, a mark that was tied for the sixth fewest in Major League Baseball. That is a far cry from the brutality at work in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, where the Nationals have a major-league leading 28 unearned runs, while the Orioles have permitted an A.L.-worst 25.

After the top of the first, the Mets have a 1-0 lead.

Read More: Red Sox, unearned runs,

K-Rod has something that Papelbon will never get as a Red Sox

05.23.09 at 3:31 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon considers himself a member of “a fraternity.” He likes to watch every closer, to see how they go about their business, to see how they go through the business of the sport in contract negotiations, to see their successes in hopes that the stature of the job will continue to grow both in terms of on- and off-field respect.

“We have to stick together, so to speak. We’€™ve got to make teams recognize how valuable closers are,” said Papelbon. “I think, for the most part, every one of your closers out there is doing a good job of that.”

Towards that end, Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets — the renowned K-Rod, who burst onto the scene as an October force for the Angels in 2002, and since 2004 has been one of the elite closers in the game — is an object of interest for the pitcher. Rodriguez, who signed a three-year, $37 million deal to close for the Mets this offseason, has been brilliant with his new club. After recording a save with a 1-2-3 ninth against the Sox on Friday, he is 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA and a major-league leading 12 saves in as many opportunities.

In 2008, Rodriguez set a new standard for closers by recording an incredible 62 saves. And so, of course, it comes as little surprise that Papelbon watched.

“I definitely appreciate what he did last year,” he said.

Papelbon has spoken freely of his desire to set a new bar for his position. That being the case, it is interesting to hear of Papelbon’s intention — or lack thereof — to challenge Rodriguez’ mark.

“No. Not here. Not here. No,” Papelbon said of whether he ever daydreamed of pursuing such a mark. “Not enough chances: the way our ballclub is put together, the way the ballclub of Anaheim was put together last year, the way we manage, the way that (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia manages, not enough chances. There’€™s a little bit of luck involved there.”

Because Papelbon believes that saves are partly the byproduct of luck, strategy and circumstance (for instance, a team that wins a bunch of blowouts will “penalize” a closer by offering fewer three-run games to enter), Papelbon suggested that he feels that save percentage is a more meaningful barometer of success. In that respect, the two relievers have been fairly closely paired in recent seasons. Like Rodriguez, Papelbon is perfect in his save opportunities this year, going 11-for-11 with a 0.95 ERA. Rodriguez had a 90 percent success rate last year, while Papelbon converted 89 percent on his opportunities en route to a career-high 41 saves.

Interestingly, Papelbon suggested that Rodriguez’ contract — which fell short of the established closing standards for years (B.J. Ryan received a five-year deal) and annual value (Mariano Rivera received a three-year deal worth $15 million a season after the 2007 campaign) — should not serve as the basis of comparison for whatever he might glean when eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

“I took it as that’€™s what he was able to do. That’€™s what he was able to get. It shouldn’€™t have a whole lot of effect on me,” said Papelbon. “Being in a different division, a different type of pitcher. Pitching here in Fenway Park every night is a lot different than pitching in Anaheim.”

Read More: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon,

Notes from Sox loss

05.22.09 at 10:53 pm ET
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Here are some tidbits from the Red Sox’ 5-3 loss to the Mets, Friday night at Fenway Park:

– It was the first loss by the Sox to the Mets since July 14, 2001, and first loss to New York at Fenway Park since July 14, 2000. Boston leads the all-time series, 10-9.

– The loss marked just the second time the REd Sox have lost an interleague game in which their opponent made at least three errors, the first time since Sept. 2, 1997 at Montreal.

– Daisuke Matsuzaka’s five-inning, four-run outing encompassed 80 pitches, the fewest ever for the pitcher in an outing of at least five innings.

Jacoby Ellsbury has hit safely in each of his last 17 games since May 2. It is the majors’ longest active streak and the second-longest of his career behind an 18-gamer from Sept. 5-28, 2008. It is the longest by a Red Sox center fielder since Johnny Damon hit in 29 straight from June 10-July 17, 2005.

Jason Varitek homered for the fourth time in his last five games, all of which have come off left-handers. 

Dustin Pedroia has now hit safely in each of his last eight interleague games dating back to June 22, 2008, during which he is batting .583 (21 for 36) with two homers, four doubles, five RBI, eight runs, and two steals. He has recorded two or more hits in each of his last six such contests.

Johan Santana improved to 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA on the season. He is now 5-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 13 career games (10 starts) against the Red Sox. It was his first win at Fenway Park since May 2, 2003.

K-Rod Closes Out Mets Win

05.22.09 at 10:02 pm ET
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Francisco Rodriguez has had his fair share of struggles against the Red Sox, most notably in the postseason, where he is 0-3 with a 7.37 ERA against Boston.

But in the regular season, the Mets (and former Angels) closer has been money against the Sox. Entering tonight, he had a 2-0 record and 1.23 ERA to accompany his 30 punchouts in 23 innings against the Sox.He continued that trend tonight, getting three straight fly balls from Jason Varitek, Julio Lugo and Jacoby Ellsbury to close out a 5-3 Mets win. Johan Santana was brilliant, moving to 6-2 while allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings.

The Sox lose for the first time during this homestand.


05.22.09 at 9:55 pm ET
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There was a triple-digit radar gun reading in the eighth inning, and it wasn’t the result of a pitch from Daniel Bard (who came on in the top of the ninth for the Sox).

Instead, it was Mets reliever Bobby Parnell who lit up the scoreboard when he unleashed a 100 mph fastball on a 2-2 count to Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew. The pitch was a ball, but the velocity was nonetheless eye-opening. A Cliff’s Notes bio on Parnell: he was taken by the Mets in the ninth round of the 2005 draft. He entered tonight with a 2-0 record and 1.96 ERA. He delivered a perfect inning of work that included a strikeout.

Bard responded with a perfect inning of his own, though his fastball was “only” clocked at 96-97 mph.

Francisco Rodriguez is on in an attempt to close it out for the Mets.

Johan Santana is really, really good

05.22.09 at 9:37 pm ET
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Somehow, Johan Santana needed just 28 pitches to blitz through the sixth and seventh innings, and his 118th pitch resulted in a Kevin Youkilis whiff on a changeup, one batter after Santana punched out David Ortiz with 92 mph gas. (No further exchanges occurred between Santana and Youkilis, who seemed not too far from tussling in the fifth.) Santana almost got dinged by Dustin Pedroia, whose fly ball to left fell just short of the scoreboard.

Now that David Ortiz’ home-run drought has concluded, Pedroia’s may come into sharper focus. The second baseman, who hit 17 dingers last year, has not hit any since Opening Day. His 38-game homer-less streak (entering tonight) is easily the longest of his career, breaking his previous long of 27 games without a homer. He has had 160 at-bats since going deep in the first game of the 2009 season.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Johan Santana,

Julio Lugo…poor, poor Julio Lugo

05.22.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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It is entirely possible that no one in baseball has his defense subjected to so much scrutiny as Julio Lugo. The Red Sox shortstop got off to a dreadful start in the field in 2007 and, though he turned in some excellent work in the field down the stretch of that championship campaign, the impression has been unalterable.

Tonight, he will add fuel to those who suffer moral outrage at the sight of his defense. (You know who you are.) Not only did he fail to make a concerted effort to turn a double play, but he also failed to knock down a six-hopper that traveled through the middle of the infield for a run-scoring single in the top of the seventh. For an above-average shortstop, the ball could have been an out; for others, the ability to knock it down would have at least prevented the run from scoring. Lugo, who semmed to overrun the ball on a dive, did neither, and so the Sox now trail 5-3.

Read More: Julio Lugo,

Youkilis and Santana: Thems is (almost) fightin’ words

05.22.09 at 9:06 pm ET
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A near fracas occurred in the bottom of the fifth, when Johan Santana fired a 93 mph fastball (on a 2-2 pitch with two outs) off of the elbow of Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The pitch was barely inside off the plate, and likely hit Youkilis only because of his willingness to hover over the inner half of the plate.

Youkilis looked to the mound as he headed to first, and uttered a pair of profanities (though neither seemed directed personally at Santana, and rather suggested general bemusement about the discomfort of a pitch off the elbow). Apparently, Santana took the naughty words personally, and so there was a bit of a verbal joust while the home-plate umpire (Paul Nauert) ran to block Youkilis from any advances to the mound. Though that was unnecessary (Youkilis did not show any intention of charging the pitcher), the usual elevation of blood-pressure spread across the park: in the Red Sox bullpen, the pitchers made a couple steps towards the door. Players in both dugouts shuffled towards the top step. The Mets bullpen door opened a crack.

But the fuse never lit, order was restored, Santana struck out Jason Bay (his sixth punchout of the night) and the inning was ended, presumably with order restored.

Still, it will be fascinating to see what happens if Youkilis — not the most popular of players in New York — faces Santana again. That, however, seems unlikely: the Sox have made the left-hander throw 90 pitches through five innings. Still, Santana and the Mets lead, 4-3, after five.

UPDATE: Following the game, winning pitcher Johan Santana took exception with Kevin Youkilis staring back at him after being plunked in the fifth inning of Friday night’s 5-3 Mets’ win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. “I just told him to just take his base,” Santana said. “That was about it. But he was still looking at me and talking and it fires me up. I’ve got respect for everybody and I respect this game but at the same time, I’m going to play hard. If you’re looking at me like that, you’re going to get it back because I’m a gamer and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Youkilis said that he was merely joking after getting hit, and that he uttered what intended to utter a profanity in jest while telling the pitcher, “That hurt.”

“I was joking around,” said Youkilis. “He told me to head to first base. Whatever. I was headed that way. I don’€™t know. Maybe I should have ran to first base. Like I’€™ve said, I’€™ve changed a lot of my ways of playing the game.  Maybe I need to revert back to getting (ticked) off, throwing my bat down and going down to first. I’€™m not going to change my ways now. I’€™m pretty happy with going out there, enjoying the game and having fun.

“Everyone always told me in my career that I shouldn’€™t get so serious, you should enjoy the game and joke around,” Youkilis added. “When I do do it, I change my ways and joke around a little bit, I guess it’€™s the wrong thing. What are you going to do? Win some, lose some, I guess.”

Read More: Johan Santana, Kevin Youkilis,
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