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Josh Beckett will take the no-decision with a smile

05.10.11 at 12:50 am ET
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It would have been understandable if Josh Beckett had been dissatisfied with the fact that he ended up with a no-decision on Monday night.

The right-hander logged seven shutout innings, allowing just six hits (all singles) while walking one, despite the fact that catcher Jason Varitek said the wind-whipped field made it tough to get a feel for pitches. Yet the 1-0 lead that Beckett entrusted to the bullpen evaporated when relievers Alfredo Aceves and Jonathan Papelbon were touched for a game-tying run.

And so, despite a 1.99 ERA in his seven starts, Beckett still has just a 2-1 record. Yet after his team claimed a 2-1 win over the Twins in extra innings, Beckett explained why the no-decision was no bother to him.

“I don’t have an arbitration case to win,” he joked. “You know, we get paid to win games and a team win’s way better than me getting a win and a loss. I’ll finish up 2-1 if we win the rest of my starts, I’d be completely happy with that.”

The relief for Beckett associated the game ended with more than just the outcome. In Beckett’s last start, he logged 4 1/3 shutout innings before heavy rains led to a delay of more than two hours in an eventual 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Angels — a contest that finished at nearly 3 a.m., the latest Sox game in history. And so, there was solace for Beckett not just in victory, but also in his bedtime.

“I didn’t want this to be another my last start, as far as what time we got done with that one,” said Beckett.

Those concerns aside, the Sox are thrilled with what they are getting from Beckett at this stage of the season. His dominance has been particularly pronounced at Fenway Park, where his 0.34 ERA this year represents the best home ERA in the majors. Yet his excellence has not just taken place in Boston, as Beckett has given up two or fewer runs in four of his seven starts. Increasingly, he is a pitcher whom the Sox are confident they can rely upon.

“He was tremendous,” said manager Terry Francona. “Really pitched well. We’€™ve come to kind of expect that, which is good for us. He’€™s feeling good about himself. He’€™s throwing a lot of strikes with all his pitches, and been really effective.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Twins 1

05.09.11 at 11:07 pm ET
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It wasn’t exactly flawless, but the Red Sox were happy to take their third straight win however they could get it.

The team seemed ready to claim a clean 1-0 victory, as starter Josh Beckett dominated in a fashion that nearly permitted a fifth-inning run stand up. But the Sox bullpen coughed up the lead in the eighth inning, when the Twins proved opportunistic and feisty against relievers Alfredo Aceves and Jonathan Papelbon in tying the game, 1-1.

But that merely set the stage for the dramatic conclusion. Hideki Okajima logged a pair of shutout innings in extras, setting a new career high by staying on the mound through 43 pitches. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, Carl Crawford delivered his second walkoff hit of the homestand, driving a double off the Wall in left-center to score pinch-runner Jose Iglesias from first to give the Sox a 2-1 win that allowed the team to conclude its homestand with a 6-5 record.


Josh Beckett continued to look like one of the most dominant starters in the game. The right-hander delivered seven shutout innings in which he allowed six hits (all singles) and one walk while striking out five. His curveball was his primary swing-and-miss offering, while he elicited a pair of double play grounders on fastballs. For the year, Beckett now has a 1.99 ERA.

More broadly, he continued a pattern of dominant Sox outings. On nine separate occasions this year, Sox starters have not yielded a run — most in the majors.

Jason Varitek was more than just a valet for Beckett. The catcher went 2-for-4, including a leadoff double in the fifth that set the stage for the first Red Sox run of the game.

Adrian Gonzalez capped off his tremendous homestand by going 2-for-5 with an RBI. During the 11-game stint at Fenway with a .341 average, three homers and 10 RBI.

Jacoby Ellsbury went 1-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, tied for the second longest of his career. He is just the 10th player in Red Sox history to have three separate hitting streaks of at least 17 games.


–The Sox were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, continuing their year-long frustrations in that regard. The team is now hitting .218 on the year with runners on second and/or third. The Sox stranded 10 runners.

–With Daniel Bard unavailable, it was Alfredo Aceves who was asked to pitch the eighth inning for the Sox. While he threw well, a pair of mental lapses proved costly. First, Aceves went after a swinging bunt by Denard Span, and ended up getting in the way of Kevin Youkilis, a delay that may or may not have resulted in Span beating the third baseman’s throw to first for an infield single. Then, for the second time in as many games, Aceves balked, thus putting Span in scoring position. (Aceves became the first Sox pitcher since John Dopson in 1989 to balk in back-to-back games.)

That proved costly for the Sox, as with two outs, Jason Kubel punctuated an impressive at-bat against Jonathan Papelbon (who was being asked to record a four-out save) by fouling off three straight 2-2 pitches before fisting a single just over the outstretched glove of second baseman Dustin Pedroia for a run.

Darnell McDonald committed a baserunning gaffe after entering in the ninth as a pinch-runner. McDonald got picked off by reliever Jose Mijares, marking the reserve’s second blunder on the bases this year. He had previously slipped and overrun the bag to end a game in Cleveland.

Clay Buchholz on track to start Friday

05.09.11 at 5:17 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz only needed 61 pitches to toss five shutout innings in Saturday’s game, but of course, his outing featured so much more than that. He had to do everything possible to remain warm during the course of a rain delay that lasted just over two hours. That involved four different throwing sessions in the batting cage behind the Red Sox dugout.

By the end, it was a day that was somewhat more taxing than a typical start.

“I probably threw 160 pitches given the in-between, so maybe there was a little bit more [work than usual],” said Buchholz. “But with the stress of being out there and pitching to a hitter, there were only 61 of them.”

That might help to explain why Buchholz was able to proclaim that he feels “fine” as he prepares for his next start, slated for Friday in Yankee Stadium.Buchholz took Sunday completely off, but will now have a normal between-starts routine in preparation for his next outing.

“He felt fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. He’€™ll go back to work like today is his day one after the start: side on Wednesday, then he does a short side on Thursday and he has Friday,” said pitching coach Curt Young. “He does have one extra day of rest with the day off [for the Red Sox on Thursday]. We’€™re just really eliminating yesterday as his day one. Today is his day one. He’€™ll play catch and do his regular routine coming into the game.”

Manager Terry Francona said that the team will wait until Tuesday to announce its rotation for the rest of the week as they “try to get a couple things back in a little bit different order,” likely meaning separating the starts of Sunday starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett in order to give catcher Jason Varitek a day between the starts of his batterymates. But for now, it appears that even with his unusual effort on Saturday, Buchholz’ workload will not alter how the Sox align their starters in the coming days.

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Sunday was an exhibition of what Red Sox lineup was built to do

05.08.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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Entering the bottom of the third inning of Sunday’€™s matinee between the Red Sox and Twins, the home team found itself in a 3-1 hole early when No. 8 hitter Carl Crawford stepped into the box. The left fielder hit a rocket to center field that careened off the wall, allowing the speedster to motor into third for his first triple of the season. With no men out, Jason Varitek hit a bouncer to first that allowed Crawford to score and close the gap to just one run.

Next, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury roped a single to the outfield to put yet another duck on the pond. With the No. 2 man in Dustin Pedroia at the plate, Ellsbury took off for second and stole the bag successfully for the 10th time in 2011. Pedroia worked a five-pitch walk to put two men on for Adrian Gonzalez in the three hole. Gonzalez, one of the two centerpieces the Red Sox’€™ offseason acquisitions who entered the game hitting .373 with men on this season, responded with a knock up the middle to tie the ballgame.

Somewhere, Theo Epstein was smiling.

Boston went on to score two more runs that inning before eventually toppling the Twins 9-5, tying a season-high for runs in the process, but the way the Sox rallied in the third  inning was emblematic of how the team was supposed to perform based on its very design this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia

Why John Lackey was sitting in the Red Sox bullpen

05.08.11 at 6:25 pm ET
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Want to know how stretched the Red Sox‘ bullpen has been of late? One glimpse down past the right field fence during the Red Sox’ 9-5 win over the Twins Sunday afternoon might offer a pretty good glimpse.

For much of the game, there sat a stranger to the usual group — John Lackey.

With the Sox relievers having been taxed due to the past few days, Lackey volunteered his services to pitch out of the bullpen. And while the starter never got in the game, he did warm up in the ninth (although that simply served as the righty’s usual bullpen session between starts).

“It was pretty fun. Good view,” Lackey said after the game. “It’s been a while.”

Almost seven years, to be exact. The last time Lackey sat out in the bullpen as a potential reliever was June 27, 2004, when he was actually called upon to pitch the seventh inning in an Angels loss to the Dodgers. The only other times he pitched out of the bullpen was during the 2002 postseason, when he turned in two separate relief appearances in the American League Division Series and World Series, respectively.

So why now?

“Have you been here the last few days?” said Lackey. “Just helping out just in case something happened.”

Despite a 31-pitch inning from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning, the Red Sox didn’t need to get out of their comfort level when it came to bringing in pitchers. Following Matsuzaka’s six innings, Matt Albers came on for two, and Daniel Bard pitched one.

Closing Time: Sox hitters come to bat for Matsuzaka

05.08.11 at 4:31 pm ET
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For perhaps the third time in the still-young 2011, the Red Sox offense single-handedly won the Hometowne Team a game as it put together nine runs to tie its season high in a 9-5 win over the Twins in Sunday’€™s matinee. Five runs ties for the second-most amount that Boston has allowed this season in a win.

Four of the top five hitters in the Red Sox lineup (Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz) had two hits or more with Ellsbury and Gonzalez each racketing up three hits of their own, tying season highs for both. Boston chased Minnesota starter and former Red Sox farmhand Carl Pavano after allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs over five innings of work.

It originally looked like Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was going to be the Mr. Hyde version of himself after he allowed three earned runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning alone. However, the Japanese righty finally settled down as the game waned on and ended with a line of six innings pitched with five hits and four earned runs allowed and four strikeouts.

For more on what went right and what went wrong in Boston’€™s 9-5 win, see below.


-Gonzalez didn’€™t need someone to give him presents to make it a memorable 29th birthday on Sunday, unless you count the pitches he received from Pavano as gift-wrapped. The Sox first baseman went 3-for-5 with a Monster home run and two RBI. The opposite-field shot was his second in three games after failing to hit one over the big green wall in his first 16 games at Fenway. For good measure, he threw in an extra wall-ball single in the seventh. Maybe those preseason notions about him being built for Fenway were right after all. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Francona has a ‘conversation’ with MLB and other Red Sox notes

05.08.11 at 1:59 pm ET
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Terry Francona is done talking about Joe West, umpiring and any disciplinary action after Friday’s brouhaha.

After saying he hadn’t heard anything Saturday morning, Francona added Sunday that he has since spoken to someone at MLB about his ejection by Angel Hernandez and the confrontation with West when he tried to ask about a step-balk called in the second inning of Friday’s loss to the Twins.

‘€œI really don’€™t want to rehash it,” Francona said. “Actually, I had a conversation since but it’€™s private. Out of respect to the league, I can’€™t go running to you guys with a conversation I had with you guys, that’€™s no good.’€

Asked point-blank if the possibility of a suspension was broached, Francona dismissed it quickly.

‘€œThat wasn’€™t even part of the conversation,” Francona said. “It was just a conversation.”

Meanwhile, Francona said that his bullpen is nearly back up to speed after a three-day nightmare that started Wednesday and finished with Friday’s rough outing by spot starter Tim Wakefield, who was followed Alfredo Aceves.

‘€œWe’€™re one day removed from Wake and Aceves throwing a lot of pitches,” Francona said Sunday. “They’€™re out in the bullpen and nobody else is taxed. But our two guys who have the ability to be stretched out probably aren’€™t available [Sunday].

‘€œI think there’€™s a chance [Monday] but we’€™ll see. But that’€™s one of those where they have to say they’€™re available because we could talk them into it and that’€™s no good.’€

What’s also no good is having Daisuke Matsuzaka getting roughed up as he was in the first inning Sunday, throwing 34 pitches and allowing three runs in the first. But Francona said he is not worried about the aftereffects of Matsuzaka’s relief appearance early Thursday morning.

‘€œNo, that won’€™t affect him,” Francona said prior to Sunday’s game, before joking, “You’€™re asking me if I know what we’€™re going to get out of him? No, not since [2007]. Whatever happens won’€™t be because of a limitation because he’€™s been down.

‘€œI don’€™t know. I hope it doesn’€™t hurt him, that’€™s certainly not what we’€™re trying to shoot for. We’€™re always trying to balance guys’€™ health and things like that. When you try to help one guy, it certainly affects the other guys so we try to balance it and make sure guys are ok. We certainly would love to win today but there’€™s a lot more going on past today or yesterday so you always try to keep it in perspective and balanced.’€

Read More: angel hernandez, Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joe West

Sunday’s Red Sox matchups: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Carl Pavano

05.08.11 at 12:58 pm ET
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Search for ‘€œup-and-down’€ in a dictionary and you’€™ll find Carl Pavano‘€™s 2011 season. In his six starts this year, he’€™s had three quality starts, but he’€™s also had three starts where he allowed six or more earned runs.

Pavano gave up seven earned over four innings in his first start of the season, but bounced back by giving up just one run over his next two starts. Then he gave up another seven in 4 2/3 innings his next time out, only to respond by holding the Indians to three runs over seven in a win. Most recently, he gave up six earned on 12 hits over 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Royals.

Pavano is 3-3 with a 6.09 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in seven career starts against the Red Sox, the team that drafted him back in 1994. He won his only start against them last season, allowing just one run over six innings.

Current Sox have torn Pavano apart, though, as they are hitting .343 against him. Of the eight Sox who have faced him, six are hitting over .300. David Ortiz leads the way, as he is 5-for-9 with a home run and three RBIs. The only player who has really struggled with Pavano is Mike Cameron, who is 1-for-15 with six strikeouts.

Opposing Pavano will be Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is 2-3 with a 4.33 ERA this season. Matsuzaka will be making his first start since April 29, when he left in the fifth inning with right elbow tightness. He came out of the bullpen in the 13th inning of Wednesday’€™s contest with the Angels and ended up with the loss after allowing two runs. Prior to that, he had given up just one run in his last 19 innings.

Matsuzaka is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA in four career starts versus Minnesota, but the six current Twins who have faced him are batting .378 against him. Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau are both hitting .500 and Denard Span is 3-for-5. Michael Cuddyer has struggled, though, as he is 1-for-8 with four strikeouts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl pavano, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, Twins

Terry Francona expects to be without Marco Scutaro ‘for a while’

05.08.11 at 11:58 am ET
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Shortstop Marco Scutaro had an MRI Sunday morning and was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. The team expects him to be out indefinitely, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

“He’s over getting get an MRI,” Francona said before Sunday’s game with the Twins. “His left oblique had been a little tender for a few days and after the rain delay [Saturday] he went back out, and I don’t know the exact incident, it started grabbing at him, and actually started grabbing at him pretty good.

“Even knowing the MRI wasn’t going to be till this morning, we know he’s going to be down for a while with his symptoms so we got Iglesias here.”

The Red Sox had to call up rookie Jose Iglesias since Yamaico Navarro also sustained an oblique strain and was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Saturday by Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox won Saturday despite having three-fourths of their infield either sick or on the bench. Kevin Youkilis – who started as the DH – came in to play third base in the ninth while Jed Lowrie nearly didn’t make it through because he got sick during the rain delay.

“We were in a little bit of a bind,” Francona said. “Youk was DHing, Lowrie was sick and we didn’t know if Jed was going to be able to play after the rain delay so we were kind of dealing with that.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jed Lowrie, jose iglesias, Kevin Youkilis

Iglesias ‘surprised’ to be called up so soon

05.08.11 at 11:29 am ET
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A lot of things had to go just so for Red Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias to reach the big leagues in just his second season of professional baseball. First, Yamaico Navarro, who would have been above Iglesias on the prospects depth chart due to his previous MLB experience, went down with a back injury last week. Then, Marco Scutaro was sent to the disabled list with an injury to his oblique Sunday morning. With the big club’s depth up the middle of the infield depleted, the 21-year-old was the next logical choice, and now he will put on the Red Sox uniform for the first time as a major-league ballplayer.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” said Iglesias through a Spanish translator. “It wasn’t something I was expecting. I just got a call after the game from [Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler] and they gave me the news. It came as a shock.”

With Jed Lowrie maintaining his hold on the shortstop position, Iglesias won’t get much playing time immediately barring any more injuries to the Sox infield, but he’ll just be looking to do whatever he’s told and make the most out of opportunity.

“I’m just here to help in any way that I can. I don’t have any defined role, but whatever they need me to is what I’m here for and that’s what I’ve expressed to [Red Sox manager Terry Francona].”

Even if he doesn’t get an at-bat or more thah a passing inning in the Sox infield, Iglesias said he’ll be more than happy to just experience the rarified air that is the big leagues.

“It’s a thrill and a privilege to be hear with a team like Boston, particularly this team, and especially at this young age,” Iglesias said. “No worries. No concerns about that. Just be ready whenever I’m called on.” Read the rest of this entry »

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