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Trade Deadline: Astros expected to sell, sell, sell

07.05.11 at 11:02 am ET
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Not that it comes as a big surprise to anyone, but Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com report that the Astros, the league’s worst team with a 29-57 record as of Tuesday, will be aggressive sellers come the end of the month.

The only untouchables on the roster are expected to be franchise player and recently named All-Star Hunter Pence as well as right-handed starters Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles. Carlos Lee, who is owed $18.5 million next season and the balance of that figure this season, will most likely not be moved due to his excessive contract and lack of production.

Everyone else appears to be fair game, including southpaw Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 2.97 ERA). Rosenthal has mentioned the Yankees as potential suitors for Rodriguez, who is owed $23 million combined over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The pair also mentions Michael Bourn, the Astros speedy leadoff hitter who leads MLB in stolen bases with 35 and is considered a solid centerfielder. They list the Braves, Giants and Nationals as possible destinations for Bourn.

Rosenthal and Morosi note that a switch in ownership could be the cause for a potential firesale, given potential owner Jim Crane‘s willingness to start from scratch. However, the $680 million sale may not become official until after the July 31 trade deadline, although it is stated that the team could still trade several players regardless.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Houston Astros, Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez

Nuggetpalooza: Interleague Recap

07.05.11 at 10:53 am ET
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Another interleague “season” is in the books. Coming up is a statistical look at “Interleague 2011″. But first, a quick nugget from yesterday’s loss:

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* – In the 9th inning, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez struck out in succession (while each represented the tying run), snapping a streak of 156 straight innings where both had batted in the same inning without both striking out since May 19. It had only happened once in the last 264 innings in which they both batted (since April 16).

Note this: Monday was the 120th time since the last time that the Red Sox came to bat in the 9th inning at Fenway trailing by one or two runs and all three outs came via strikeout. That time, April 11, 1997, it was Troy O’Leary, Bill Haselman, and Nomar Garciaparra whiffing against Seattle’s Norm Charlton with the Red Sox trailing 5-3.

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* – While the Red Sox were going 10-8 in interleague play, the Yankees and Angels were putting up major league best 13-5 records. The Astros, at 4-11, had the worst interleague record in the majors this year. The best records ever for one interleague season belong to the 2006 Red Sox, 2006 Twins, and 2002 A’s (16-2). The worst ever was 2-13, by the 2010 Pirates.

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* – Boston won at least 50 percent of their interleague games for the 9th straight season, trailing only the Yankees, who did it for the 14th season in a row. It was the 7th consecutive year that the Astros have not won more than 50 percent of their interleague games.

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* – The Red Sox hit a major league leading .300 in interleague play this year. They also led the majors by scoring 100 runs in their 18 games (5.6 average), seven more than the Yankees. The Phillies wound up at .220, the lowest mark in the league, barely worse than the Marlins (.221).

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* – The Blue Jays and Rangers each hit 26 home runs in their 18 interleague games to lead the league, while the Padres hit just four in 15 games, tying the 1997 Yankees for the fewest in an interleague year.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Trade Deadline: Mets weighing big offer to Jose Reyes?

07.05.11 at 10:11 am ET
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Don’t expect Jose Reyes in a Red Sox uniform or any other jersey except for the one he’s worn his entire major-league career for the time being.

While the shortstop is in the midst of his best season as a big leaguer, a New York Post report stated that the Mets are considering a “substantial” offer to retain the services of the free-agent-to-be after the 2011 campaign is up. That means that the team will look to keep Reyes for the duration of the season rather than try to shop him around leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Reyes leads the majors with a .354 average and 124 hits but has not played since Saturday when he pulled up lame with a hamstring strain on an infield single. Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who the Post’s Joel Sherman called a “Reyes convert,” downplayed the injury in terms of how the team is approaching Reyes’s upcoming contract negotiations, telling the Post ‘€œBefore we jump to any long-term conclusions, let’€™s see about this injury. I will say this, most players miss a few days at some point of the season, and so in that context this is not unusual.’€

Reyes had reportedly told the team that he was unwilling to negotiate a deal during the season, citing the chance for such negotiations to cause an off-the-field distraction that could affect his on-the-field performance.

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Brett Cecil

07.05.11 at 9:39 am ET
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After the All-Star roster announcements came and went without Jon Lester‘s name being said, the Boston lefty told reporters that he was disappointed he wouldn’€™t be playing in his second Midsummer Classic. He’€™ll get his first chance since being snubbed to prove why he should’€™ve been chosen when he takes on the Blue Jays for the fourth time this season Tuesday night while Toronto counters with its own lefty starter in Brett Cecil.

Lester (10-4, 3.43 ERA) ranks second in the American League behind fellow All-Star snub CC Sabathia (11-4) in wins and seventh in strikeouts with 105, although his ERA pits him at the non-All-Star spot of 19th in the league heading into Tuesday night’€™s matchup. After allowing four runs or more three times in the month of May, Lester rebounded to toss quality starts in each of his five June outings, including a seven-inning, two-hit, no-runs-allowed performance against the Phillies in his last start. Interestingly enough, Lester has received a decision in each of his last nine starts (6-3 over that span) and has a reached a no-decision in only three of his 17 appearances in 2011, compared to six ND’€™s in 16 starts for Josh Beckett.

Lester is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in those four previous starts against Toronto. However, that last stat is skewed a bit by a horrendous outing in which he allowed five earned runs over 5 1/3 innings on May 10. In his other two starts, he has allowed just two combined runs over 14 innings. He has absolutely owned Jose Bautista (.192 average, 6 strikeouts) and Aaron Hill (.083, 9 strikeouts) while John McDonald (.975 OPS) and Corey Patterson (1.222 OPS) have more success against Lester.

Cecil (1-3, 7.24 ERA) on the other hand was never a consideration for the All-Star squad this season and for good reason. The Toronto lefty has allowed five earned runs or more in three of his five starts this season and has pitched into the seventh inning just once. That being said, his only win came against the Sox back on April 15 (6 IP, 2 H, 3 ER in a 7-6 win) before being demoted to Triple-A at the end of the month.

Although his struggles against lefties this season have been well-documented, don’€™t be surprised to see Darnell McDonald get the start because of his 5-for-7 performance against Cecil with two doubles and a walk in eight career plate appearances. J.D. Drew, who has two home runs off Cecil, could be a candidate to take the other outfield spot in right. Read the rest of this entry »

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Buchholz ‘a little miserable’ as he prepares to see back specialist

07.04.11 at 7:19 pm ET
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When Clay Buchholz landed on the disabled list on June 19 due to soreness in his lower back, it seemed like the type of common precaution that a team takes during the middle of the year. Give a pitcher a two-week vacation to rest an ache, with the bonus of allowing his arm to rest and regenerate, and then get a pitcher back at the height of his abilities down the stretch.

It hasn’t quite worked according to plan. Buchholz had pitched through his cranky back in a number of starts, and pitched well, forging a 6-3 record and 3.48 ERA in 14 starts, including a 5-0 run with a 2.59 ERA in his last nine turns of the rotation.

And so, the expectation was that he would need little more than 15 days to get healthy before returning to the rotation, a stretch during which the Sox might be able to give Andrew Miller a trial in the rotation. Initially, Buchholz showed signs of progress with the injury, but more recently, he has seen little improvement. Soreness persists.

“I’€™ve been sitting out for two and a half weeks and getting a little miserable with it. There’€™s nothing I want to do besides go out there and throw and pitch and try to help this team win. But I feel like I’€™ve got to be healthy to do that,” Buchholz said prior to Monday’s game. “It felt like it was getting better for a while. Started doing some treatments on it. It’€™s not going down, but it’€™s sort of staying the same. That’€™s what we’€™re looking at.

“We’€™ve already said it’€™s probably going to be after the All-Star break sometime, so hopefully those couple days off at the break will kind of give it a rest by not doing anything, just sort of laying around.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Lackey on health: ‘No excuse there’

07.04.11 at 6:51 pm ET
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The Red Sox were hopeful that John Lackey‘s start last week in Philadelphia would represent a turning point. He shut down a very good opposing lineup in a ballpark that typically does not permit such outcomes.

But then, he took the mound on Monday against the Blue Jays and had barely stepped on the rubber when he had given up a double to leadoff man Rajai Davis. That was the first of nine hits and seven runs that Lackey would allow on the afternoon, as his record dropped to 5-8, his ERA blowing up to an unsightly 7.47 mark that ranks as the worst in the majors.

It was one of the worst outings of the pitcher’s 10-year career. Only twice had he turned in shorter starts: Once after being ejected after hitting the first batter of the game, another as part of a planned two-inning tuneup for the playoffs at the end of the regular season in 2009.

The Sox put seven runs on the board, typically more than enough to ensure a victory. Instead, Lackey’s horrible line permitted no shot at a victory, and the Sox fell, 9-7, to the Blue Jays.

“That’€™s a tough way to win, when they score that much early and then they add on,” noted Sox manager Terry Francona. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Lackey gets lit up as Blue Jays beat Red Sox

07.04.11 at 5:13 pm ET
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This time, it wasn’t the weather. Instead, on a picture perfect Fourth of July, the Blue Jays provided plenty of pyrotechnics against Red Sox starter John Lackey, exploding for seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings against the Red Sox starter.

Down by a touchdown in the third inning, there was little that the Red Sox could do to escape their hole. Though their bats came alive in the middle and late innings, their seven-run output was not enough, as the Sox suffered a 9-7 defeat in the resumption of division play following the mid-year interleague jaunt.

Lackey added another chapter to a season that has featured several alarming performances and developments. He allowed nine hits and seven runs while recording seven outs. Though the Jays swung and missed at nine of his 65 pitches, they spread line drives all over the park, including a solo homer by Aaron Hill and three doubles.

The outing was dismal in its own right, but all the more disconcerting for the Sox considering that it represented part of a pattern. Lackey has now given up seven or more runs in four of his 13 starts this year, tied for the most such starts in the majors. He has allowed at least four runs in eight of his outings.

On a team that entered Monday with the third-best record in the majors, Lackey has represented an impediment to success. His 7.47 ERA is the worst in the majors by a starter with at least 50 innings pitched this year; indeed, no other starter comes within a half-run of him. The Sox have a 5-8 record (.385) when he takes the mound, and a 44-26 mark (.629) when anyone else takes the hill.

In his last outing in Philadelphia last week, Lackey seemed as if he might be ready to turn a corner. He held the Phillies to two runs in 7 2/3 innings in one of his best outings of the year. But he backed that fine outing up with one of his worst of the year, and indeed his career.

Lackey is struggling as never before, and as he does so, he is presenting the Sox with the kinds of dilemmas that they never anticipated when they signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million deal after the 2009 season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Lackey was knocked out after recording just seven outs, marking the quickest hook he’s ever received as a result of a beat-down by opponents. Though he has made two shorter starts in his career, both had extenuating circumstances attached to their brevity:

He had a two-inning outing on Oct. 1, 2009, that represented a year-ending final tuneup before the postseason. The other was a start on May 16, 2009, in which he was ejected after hitting the first batter of the game.

Kevin Youkilis left Monday’s game in the fourth inning after being drilled at the top of his back by a fastball from Jays starter Brandon Morrow.

–The Red Sox fell victim to the Toronto running game and at the same time struggled with their own. The Jays scored their first run in the first inning when Rajai Davis swiped third against Lackey and then advanced home when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s high throw went into shallow left.

As for their own baserunning miscues, Dustin Pedroia was caught stealing second in the first on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play, while Josh Reddick was picked off of first in the second.

–With a man on and no outs in the sixth inning, the Blue Jays replaced starter Brandon Morrow with left-handed reliever Luis Perez. That, in turn, prompted manager Terry Francona to pinch-hit for Josh Reddick (0-for-2 in his first two at-bats on Monday) with the right-handed Darnell McDonald. But McDonald struck out in that at-bat, and struck out again in the eighth inning with runners on second and third and no outs.

McDonald is now hitting .117 on the season, including a .128 average (5-for-29) against lefties. Reddick, meanwhile, is 7-for-9 (.778) this year against lefties.

–Gonzalez had a tough day, going 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and a double-play grounder. On the season, he has grounded into 20 twin killings, most in the American League.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury matched a career-high (achieved four previous times) by collecting four hits while going 4-for-5. He also collected his first triple of the 2011 season, banging a two-run triple off the warning track in straightaway center field. On the year, his average now stands at .310.

Dan Wheeler turned in a tremendous effort in relief of Lackey, retiring all eight batters whom he faced, in the process getting one more out than Lackey. He sailed through his 2 2/3 innings in just 25 pitches. It was the right-hander’s longest outing since Sept. 27, 2006, when he pitched three innings for the Astros. He now has a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings spanning 15 outings since coming off the disabled list on May 20.

David Ortiz broke an 0-for-23 stretch, dating to June 20, by looping a pop-up down the left-field line for an eighth-inning double. He finished the day having gone 1-for-3 with a walk.

Sox agree to deal with Dominican prospect Marcos for $800K

07.04.11 at 2:01 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox have agreed to terms with 16-year-old Manuel Marcos on an $800,000 bonus. The deal is not yet official, pending routine physical and background examinations to which all international signees are subject.

Marcos, who hails from the Dominican, is considered one of the most athletic players in this year’s international class of signees. The center fielder features a number of above-average tools. He is an above average defender and runner with a very strong arm. He features good bat speed with a line drive stroke. Marcos also showed good baseball instincts and what one evaluator called a great work ethic.

News of the signing was first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America.

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The winners and losers in another round of Interleague madness

07.04.11 at 9:05 am ET
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So, interleague is over. Abner Doubleday would want us to reflect …

John Lackey came away as the only Red Sox pitcher with a hit thanks to his RBI double in Philadelphia. Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield led the way with four strikeouts each, with Jon Lester totaling three. In all, Sox hurlers were 1-for-21, but did see 4.24 pitchers per plate appearance (best in the American League). They didn’t, however, manage a single sacrifice, while the Yankees‘ pitchers came away with seven.

– The Red Sox finished with the highest batting average of any team in interleague play, hitting .300, also claiming a major league-best .839 OPS. Somewhat surprising, despite scoring just 10 runs in their first five games on the recent 10-game interleague road trip. the Sox also managed more runs in interleague play than any other club (100).

Josh Reddick finished with the fourth-best interleague average, hitting .438 in his 12 games, while Adrian Gonzalez was sixth (.423), and Kevin Youkilis tied for 11th (.383). Reddick was second in OPS (1.250), with Jason Varitek sneaking into the big league leaders (21st) with a 1.030 OPS.

– Baltimore can at least claim the best group of hitting pitchers in the American League, with Zach Britton going 5-for-8 with a home run, and Chris Jakubauskas notching two hits in three at-bats. The only other AL hurlers to come away with a pair of hits were Minnesota’s Scott Baker, the Angels Tyler Chatwood, Seattle’s Doug Fister and Josh Tomlin of the Indians.

Freddy Garcia of the Yankees and and the Royals’ Felipe Paulino led the way among AL pitchers with three sacrifices apiece.

– Tampa Bay’s James Shields got his money’s worth, seeing the most pitches among any American League hurler (35). All it translated into, however, was five strikeouts and a walk.

– In all, American League pitchers went 33-for-277 (.119) with Britton’s blast being the only home run. They struck out 123 times and drew just six walks. It was a slight improvement on last season when they hit .105 (27-258), without a single home run, striking out 126 times and drawing nine walks. Since 2007 there has been just five homers from AL pitchers, with Josh Beckett, Mark Buehrle, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia joining Britton.

– As for National League clubs using the designated hitter, the Rockies did better than most, claiming a 1.037 OPS and .304 batting average (all thanks to Jason Giambi). The Braves struggled the most, hitting .115 with just a .302 batting average (thanks primarily to Chipper Jones).

– The NL as a whole didn’t produce in the DH spot like it had in previous seasons, finishing with a .212 batting average, 19 home runs and .654 OPS. It was, in fact, the lowest batting average ever produced at the position by the league since interleague was introduced. Just two years ago, NL designated hitters totaled a .815 OPS, the second-best during the interleague era.

-And finally … The Angels and Yankees led the way with 13 interleague wins apiece, while the Astros (4-11), Royals (5-13) and Cubs (5-10) all struggled. The Red Sox? They came in at 10-8, their worst mark since 2004.

Monday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: John Lackey vs. Brandon Morrow

07.03.11 at 5:25 pm ET
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The Red Sox return to American League teams and American League rules Monday when they begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays, part of a seven-game homestand that will close out the first half of the season.

Monday also is Independence Day, which does not bode well for the Red Sox. Boston is 4-6 in its last 10 July 4 starts, including 1-6 in the last seven. The Sox last won on July 4 in 2008.

More encouraging is Boston’€™s 6-3 record against Toronto this season. The last time the Red Sox and Blue Jays played, Boston swept Toronto by a combined score of 35-6 in three games.

John Lackey will take the mound for the Red Sox. Lackey is coming off his best start since returning from the DL, pitching 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Phillies and giving up two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. His overall record this year is 5-7 with a 6.81 ERA and a .290 batting average against, but June was Lackey’€™s best month this season, with a 3-2 record and a 5.28 ERA. This might mean he’€™s starting to turn his season (and career in Boston) around.

Lackey is 5-6 with a 5.12 ERA and a .264 BAA in 17 career starts against the Blue Jays, but in two starts this season he’€™s 1-1 with an 8.24 ERA. He won his last start against them on June 11, giving up four runs in six innings of a 16-4 blowout in Toronto.

Lackey’€™s opponent for that game was Brandon Morrow, whom the Red Sox will face again on Monday. Morrow is 4-4 with a 4.56 ERA this season but is coming off his best start of the season, pitching seven innings of one-run baseball on Wednesday against the Pirates. He gave up four hits and three walks and struck out 10 batters.

Morrow has struggled badly against the Red Sox in the past. In four career starts, Morrow is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and .304 BAA. He gave up nine runs in less than five innings of that 16-4 loss on June 11.

Read the rest of this entry »

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