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Red Sox vs. Orioles Matchups, 4/20

04.20.09 at 10:17 am ET
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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

Read More: justin masterson, mark hendrickson,

Pre-game notes: Lugo back with the team

04.20.09 at 9:42 am ET
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Shortstop Julio Lugo was in the Red Sox clubhouse early Monday morning, back from a rehab stint in Fort Myers. Lugo, who is recovering from knee surgery, is scheduled to workout at Fenway Park Monday before spending the next few days on a rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket. Lugo reported that he’s at 80 percent and still feels soreness in his knee when he bends down and leans to the right, but has no problem running or hitting. He wasn’t sure how long the stay with the PawSox would be but suggested he would be ready after a couple of games.

“I just need to get ready to play,” said Lugo, who played only five innings at shortstop in Fort Myers. Regarding whether or not he became increasingly antsy to return after Jed Lowrie went on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left wrist, Lugo said, “I was already ready antsy to get back.”

Lugo conducted various running exercises (weaving, jogging backwards) in shallow right field with trainer Paul Lessard and first base coach Tim Bogar looking on. 

David Ortiz is in the lineup, hitting third against Baltimore lefty Mark Hendrickson. Asked whether or not he thought about giving Ortiz a day off, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “If he’d have needed it, we’d have done it … some thought to it … don’t think he wanted today off.” Ortiz, who stands at .170 with no homers and four RBI, is 4 for 19 with three walks and four strikeouts against Hendrickson.

Francona also said Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a mild strain in his right shoulder, will play catch Tuesday from 60 feet.

Read More: David Ortiz, Julio Lugo, Red Sox,

Some stuff from another win

04.19.09 at 5:44 pm ET
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The Red Sox won their fourth straight game, beating Baltimore, 2-1, at Fenway Park, Sunday afternoon. Much more will be coming your way, but until then let’s give you some tidbits from the victory:

– It is the Red Sox’s 10th win in their last 12 games against the Orioles at Fenway, and has now won their sixth straight series over Baltimore.

Jason Bay went 0 for 3, snapping his 24-game on-base streak, which entered the day as the second-longest in the American League behind Oakland’s Jack Cust (40).

Kevin Youkilis went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk and has reached base safely in all 12 of Boston’s games this season, hitting safely in nine of those with seven extra-base hits (4 doubles, 3 home runs) over his last seven games. This season he is 22 of 47 (.468) with three homers, six doubles, nine RBI, 12 runs, and six walks.

Jon Lester earned his first win of the season with seven scoreless innings, his longest scoreless outing since pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings against Tampa Bay on Sept. 8, 2008. It marks his longest outing overall since allowing five runs in seven frames at Toronto on Sept. 20, 2008 and is the first scoreless outing by a Red Sox starter this season.

– Lester fanned a season-high nine batters today, one shy of his career high set June 21, 2006 against Washington. It marks his fifth career outing with as many as nine strikeouts, his first since fanning nine against Tampa Bay on Sept. 8, 2008. Lester remains undefeated in nine career starts against the Orioles, going 7-0 with a 2.45 ERA, his highest marks for starts, wins and innings against any club in his career. Boston is 8-1 in thos nine starts.

Takashi Saito gave up one run in the ninth inning but recorded his first save as a member of the Red Sox, his first save overall since Sept. 27, 2008 at San Francisco while with Los Angeles in his 2008 regular season finale. Red Sox relievers are now 5 for 5 in save opportunities. 

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Varitek day off, Lowrie to AZ

04.19.09 at 12:29 pm ET
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With a morning game on Monday and after catching Josh Beckett on Saturday night, Jason Varitek got a break from the starting lineup on Sunday. George Kottaras was penciled in the lineup to catch Jon Lester.

Francona said that Varitek didn’t need a lot of convincing to take a break.

“When a guy’s 32 years old or something, you don’t necessarily always ask,” Francona said. “That’s just kind of common sense. We’ve got a lot of baseball left to play this year. I talked to ‘Tuckster’ a couple of days ago and said, ‘This is probably what we need to shoot for.’ I think he was in agreement. Just trying to make a long season work.”

Jed Lowrie, meanwhile will be seen Monday to have his left examined again. Lowrie is on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left wrist.

“He’s in Phoenix,” Francona said. “He’ll be seen early tomorrow morning. All the MRIs, all the pictures have either gone with him or are on the way.”

Read More: Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, MLB, Red Sox

Beckett: ‘I don’t support this at all’

04.19.09 at 12:10 pm ET
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Josh Beckett isn’t happy.

The pitcher learned two days ago that the best resolution he was going to garner from the appeal of his six-game suspension was what was announced Sunday morning — a five-game suspension, which would allow Beckett to pitch next Saturday on six days rest. But because it was what was best for the team — with the club gaining some sort of control over the timing, compared to what could have happened if MLB decided to uphold the six-gamer right before a start, forcing Beckett to potentially miss two starts — the Sox ace accepted the decision.

Here is what Beckett had to say on the matter:

“Everybody has to answer to somebody and my bosses told me this was the best thing for the ballclub. If it was up to me I would have seen let’s go through with this whole thing because I don’t think I deserve even one game. But when your boss tells you something is best for the whole group that’s what we do.”

“I don’t support this at all and if it was up to me we would have went through this whole process. But it could have eventually been a lot worse through the whole thing. Everybody has to answer to somebody. When your boss tells you to do something you obviously want to do what’s best for the whole team.”

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Beckett begins five-game suspension

04.19.09 at 11:56 am ET
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Terry Francona announced Sunday morning that Josh Beckett’s suspension has been reduced from six games to five for a pitch near the head of Bobby Abreu last Sunday in Anaheim.

The suspension begins today and Francona added that Beckett will start this Saturday against the Yankees at Fenway Park.

“Beckett has accepted, agreed to a five-game suspension so he will pitch Saturday,” Francona said. “I don’t think that the organization felt like it was ever going to get lessened (below) five, regardless of how we feel like what happened. Once the decision was made to overturn the umpires, looking at past history and how the league feels about it, regardless what kind of case Josh stated, I don’t think they go below five because they want you to miss a start.

“Once it came to the point that they came to the five, over the phone, it seemed like the best thing to do for the ball club, and that’s what Beckett agreed to,” Francona added. “I don’t think he ever remotely felt like he ever did anything on purpose. I probably need to say that. It still probably for the betterment of the ball club to not take a chance where (hearing) comes up in the middle of a start and you have a tough time answering the bell.”

Read More: Josh Beckett, Red Sox, suspension,

Top 9: Sox Win, 6-4

04.18.09 at 10:21 pm ET
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The Red Sox bullpen is on a tremendous roll. In the last four games, the team’s relievers have logged 13.2 innings and allowed just one run. Jonathan Papelbon completed the relay tonight, following the scoreless innings by Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito with a zero of his own to close out his fourth save of the season.

It was an eventful night for Papelbon, whose stuff seemed less explosive than it had been on Friday. His fastball was mostly in the 92-94 range, down a bit from the 96es he was pumping one day earlier. His command, too, was less sharp, as the Sox closer threw 12 of 23 pitches for balls.

Still, he was good enough, even though he had to snuff a rally of his own making. Papelbon got a flyout to short by Cesar Izturis before allowing the next two men (Brian Roberts on a single to left, Adam Jones on a hit-by-pitch) to reach. Nick Markakis then went from an 0-2 count to a 3-2 count, but popped up to right for the second out. That left Aubrey Huff as the Orioles‘ last hope. Huff popped meekly to short for the game’s final out.

Papelbon has now pitched in back-to-back games. If the Sox have a lead in a close game on Sunday, it will be interesting to see who the Sox ask to shut the door in the ninth, since both Papelbon and Hideki Okajima have pitched in consecutive games, and the team is trying to avoid having Takashi Saito work on zero days of rest at this stage of the year.

Manny Delcarmen? Ramon Ramirez? Both have pitched well enough to be worthy of trust in the ninth, if need be.

8th Inning: Saito Sighting

04.18.09 at 10:07 pm ET
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Takashi Saito is now on, and one wonders whether he’s impressed that the Bruins are now blowing out the Habs by a 5-1 count. More likely, he is just happy to have his faculties still intact after the first batter he faced (Ty Wigginton) smoked a liner back up the middle for a single.

The Sox have been extremely judicious in their use of Saito. This is just his third appearance of the year. Every other Red Sox reliever had appeared in at least four games prior to tonight. The team is hoping to keep Saito healthy for the long haul, and given the depth of the bullpen, the Sox have had the luxury of avoiding overuse of a pitcher who was shut down with elbow problems last year.

The payoff is evident tonight. Saito is mixing a 92-93 mph fastball with a devastating slider. (He’s also flashed a curve.) He struck out a pair, and five of his 17 pitches resulted in swings and misses.

He did give up a hard single to Ty Wigginton, a lumbering corner infielder who nonetheless managed to steal second. Opposing baserunners are now 7-for-8 when trying to steal against Jason Varitek. Overall, opponents are 11-for-12 against the Sox.

Saito got through his inning of work cleanly, and will yield the ninth to Jonathan Papelbon. Sweet Caroline reverberates, for better or worse.

BOTTOM 8: RED SOX 6, ORIOLES 4

Orioles reliever Jim Johnson is now on. His night started with a groundout by Jacoby Ellsbury and a strikeout of Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia has now punched out twice on the evening, his first multi-strikeout game of the 2009 season.

David Ortiz followed by lofting a lazy pop to right, but with Nick Markakis positioned in the fourth row of the bleachers, it was up to Brian Roberts to range to about medium-depth in right field to make the play. He was in position to do so, but the ball clanked off his glove, allowing Ortiz to meander into first.

Kevin Youkilis, in need of a triple for the cycle, followed by rattling a ball down the left-field line and off the Wall. He scooted safely into second, and so will have to content himself with a 4-for-5 night with a homer, two doubles and four runs batted in. It would appear that he does quite well on days after being hit in the head. (Does the Elias Sports Bureau maintain a list of such things?)

J.D. Drew received an intentional walk. Evidently, Dave Trembley is a fan of the intentional walk. (For those wondering about his intellectual influences, Trembley said that he’s been reading Bill James since the writer was working out of a boiler room in Lawrence, Kansas, and he consumes just about everything he can read about baseball: Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, etc.)

Jason Bay and Johnson engaged in a spirited duel that resulted in a full-count. With the runners in motion, Bay flied to deep-ish right-center for the final out of the inning. Bay is definitely hitting the ball more to the opposite field than he did in his first year with the Sox.

Papelbon in, “Shipping Up to Boston On,” Sox trying to win their third straight.

RED SOX 6, ORIOLES 4

7th Inning: Okajima flies

04.18.09 at 9:44 pm ET
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Hideki Okajima turned in a sharp seventh, throwing eight of his nine pitches for strikes and punching out a pair of Orioles (Adam Jones and Nick Markakis). This marked the first time of the year that Okajima was pitching on back-to-back days (he recorded two crucial outs in the eighth inning of Friday’s 10-8 Red Sox win). In his Red Sox career, Okajima entered tonight with an incredible 0.39 ERA when pitching on zero days of rest.

BOTTOM 7: RED SOX 6, ORIOLES 4

Brian “Delicous” Bass yielded to Jamie Walker, who was not dynamite. He allowed a double to right by the only batter he faced, J.D. Drew. Walker seems to be lapsing into the role of left-handed specialist, and so he was quickly replaced by right-hander Chris Ray to face the predominantly right-handed segment of the Red Sox lineup.

Ray struck out Jason Bay and got Mike Lowell to fly to shallow center. Then, in an intriguing move, Orioles skipper Dave Trembley elected to intentionally walk Jason Varitek. It was Varitek’s first intentional walk of the season (his last came last Sept. 24 against the Indians). The move was slightly puzzling, given Varitek’s well-documented struggles as a left-hander facing righties.

The side-arming Ray is rough on right-handed hitters, and so Sox skipper Terry Francona elected to send Chris Carter to the plate to pinch-hit for the right-handed Nick Green. Carter fell behind 1-2, and then got “Eddings-ed,” the home plate umpire’s expansive interpretation of strikes on pitches away from left-handed hitters leading to a called third strike on a change-up. Carter looked bemused, but with fewer than 10 big-league at-bats under his belt, was in no position to argue.

On to the eighth, with Takashi Saito coming in.

RED SOX 6, ORIOLES 4

6th Inning: Lightning Round

04.18.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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Josh Beckett sailed through his sixth and final inning, needing just eight pitches to get Cesar Izturis and Felix Pie to ground out and getting a warning-track fly ball from Brian Roberts that Jason Bay caught with a leap against the Wall. Beckett finishes the night with six innings, six hits, four runs (three earned), four walks and five strikeouts. He’s walked nine batters thus far this year, an uncharacteristic total.

BOTTOM 6: RED SOX 6, ORIOLES 4

Presumably, Dustin Pedroia does not consider Brian Bass to be delicious. He got drilled in the left thigh by a 93 mph fastball to lead off the inning. After limping towards first and being checked by team trainer Paul Lessard, Pedroia took off for second on the first pitch to David Ortiz. Bass and the Orioles did not fall for the MVP’s bait (Bass… bait… anyone? anyone?), as Pedroia was gunned down at second. Pedroia, who was 20-for-21 on steal attempts last year, is now 2-for-3 in 2008.

Ortiz rolled a ball towards where a second baseman would ordinarily be positioned, but because the Orioles had shifted against the slugger, it was shortstop Cesar Izturis who threw him out. Kevin Youkilis then waved at a slider down and away, and Bass has now delivered two very solid innings of relief work.

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