|04.07.11 at 9:49 am ET|
Thursday afternoon’s series finale between the Red Sox and Indians features a pair of aces who looked like anything but in their first starts of the season. Jon Lester giving up five earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in Boston’s opener against the Rangers was bad, but the Indians’ Fausto Carmona was even worse in his first start. He gave up a staggering 10 earned runs on 11 hits over three innings in a loss to the White Sox.
Carmona is 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in seven career games against Boston, but current Red Sox have fared even better than those numbers would indicate. As a team, they’re hitting .336 against Carmona. Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz are both hitting .400 or better against him, while Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia aren’t far behind at .375. Ortiz and J.D. Drew each have a home run and five RBIs off Carmona.
Lester hasn’t been great against the Tribe — he has a 4.53 ERA in eight starts — but he does have a 3-1 record against them. Current Indians are batting .314 against the southpaw, though. Jack Hannahan, Austin Kearns and Adam Everett are all hitting .500 against him, while Orlando Cabrera and Lou Marson are both hitting .400 or better as well. One guy who has struggled, though, is Shin-Soo Choo, who is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts against Lester.
|04.07.11 at 9:39 am ET|
CLEVELAND — Join Rob Bradford and a cast of characters in following all the action from Progressive Field, where the Red Sox will be looking for their first win of the season when taking on the Indians. It all starts at noon.
|04.07.11 at 3:23 am ET|
Here we go with Week 2 of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Thursday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’s division and which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series.
Also this rule: If a team that many felt was a real threat to win 100 games and score 1,000 runs is on pace for zero wins and 518 runs after the first week, they lose the top spot in the rankings.
Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing email@example.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.
(Note: Team record and last week’s ranking is in parentheses and all stats are through 4/6.)
1. Rangers (6-0, 6). An absolute beat-down of the Sox and a win over Felix Hernandez means a five-spot jump to the top spot for the AL champs. I guess I’d ask this after watching the three-game massacre over the weekend, though: We knew the lineup was good (though I’m guessing they won’t be hitting 11 HRs a series), we knew the bullpen was good, but is that rotation going to be good enough to get the Rangers to 90+ wins?
2. Phillies (4-1, 2). Was going to put them in the top spot until Cole Hamels tossed a Lackey against the Mets on Tuesday night (2.2 innings, seven hits, six runs). Wilson Valdez had a terrific first week filling in for Chase Utley, hitting .364.
3. Yankees (3-2, 3). Lost in the fast start for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez is Derek Jeter continues to look lost at the plate (.167/.273/.167). Even his Intangible Rating and Wanting To Win More Than You Percentage is down from 2010.
4. Red Sox (0-5, 1). Pitcher A: 4.69 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, Pitcher B: 4.63 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.
Pitcher A is John Lackey in his Red Sox career. Pitcher B is A.J. Burnett in his Yankees career. If we all agree that Burnett has been, to date, an absolute disaster of a contract, don’t we have to say the same about Lackey one year and one start into his five-year, $82 million deal?
5. Braves (3-3, 5). I understand the AL/NL difference, and you’d have to factor in age as well, but if the Braves called the Sox tomorrow and offered Derek Lowe straight up for Lackey would you make the deal? I guess probably not, Lowe is going to be 38 in June and is just a year removed from a 4.67 ERA/1.52 WHIP season. He’s off to a strong start in 2011, though, with a 0.77 ERA in his first two starts.
6. Reds (5-0, 10). On the subject of former Idiots (does one ever lose idiot status, I wonder? Watching ESPN the other night, I can tell you Rick Sutcliffe sure hasn’t …), Bronson Arroyo won his first start of the season. Lowe and Arroyo have been gone for a combined 11 seasons and have made at least 30 starts in all of ’em. Arroyo is 71-60 for the Reds, with a 3.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Wily Mo Pena? According to the club’s webiste, Pena is one of the “exciting newcomers” for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno. Pena last played in a big-league game on July 12, 2008.
|04.06.11 at 11:55 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Kevin Youkilis‘ first thought was to drop the ball. After that, he expected some sort of chaos. Just not this kind of chaos.
To set the scene …
With nobody out and the bases loaded, reliever Dan Wheeler had been brought on to face Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley. Hitting lefty, the Indians’ leadoff man shot a line-drive toward Youkilis at third base. The infielder’s first instinct was to execute a play that rarely works because of umpire’s discretion — drop the ball, catching the baserunner off guard, and then take advantage of the frozen baserunners to get multiple outs.
But as the ball approached, Youkilis discovered that the option of getting the final decision when it came to how the out was executed had gone out the window when the liner took an unexpected turn to the left.
“I was messing around with it in my head,” Youkilis said after the Red Sox‘ 8-4 loss to the Indians. “It kind of went far. I was trying to go back and do it, but it worked a little too much. It got Tek a little off guard. We play around, not to trick ‘¦ I never thought I’d be the guy to pull that off. At first I was like try to drop it. Then it was a little too far out of my range, so I tried to catch it, literally. But that was in the back of my head to try and drop it.”
Once the ball was on the ground, and the third base umpire Dan Iassogna ruled it was a legitimate drop, Youkilis scooped up his miscue, ran over and tagged third base for the force out and threw home. The problem was that catcher Jason Varitek didn’t see Youkilis tag the bag and subsequently failed to tag Travis Buck, who accounted for the hosts’ fourth run.
‘I’m trying to figure out — it’s probably the weirdest play I’ve ever been part of,” Varitek said. “I’m trying to see and learn what I could have done different besides, obviously, tagging him, but I didn’t actually see the play.’
Youkilis said he never yelled to Varitek to tag the runner, and Wheeler explained that while he wanted to warn the backstop that that force play was off, he couldn’t get the words out in time. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez did manage to shout a warning, but was too far away for it to take effect.
‘Yeah I was trying to yell, but heat of the moment, it’s hard for them to hear you,” Gonzalez said.
“Once the ball got out of my glove, I was like, that’s a double play, easily,” said Youkilis, who remembered Mike Lowell adeptly making the same sort of play from time to time. “That play will always work. As a runner, you’re going back to the base. At that time, it was a crazy play. A lot of times it works, most of the time the umps call it.”
Following the miscommunication, the flood gates opened as Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera launched a Wheeler sinker into the right field seats for a three-run homer, making it 7-2 Indians. It would be all the Tribe would need to hand the Red Sox’ their fifth loss in as many tries.
“We all know we’re in a hole, but the big thing is we’ve got 150-something games left,” Youkilis said. “This is a team that can get so hot, you roll of eight out of 10, you’re back over .500. I think that’s one thing we have to try to do. We can’t win this series, but we can salvage a ‘W’ tomorrow and go into the next series and try to win that series. It’s a long road. A lot of crazy stuff happens. You saw it tonight. This team’s going to be a good team. Once we start swinging the bats a lot better, you’ll see a lot more ‘W’s’ start coming up.”
|04.06.11 at 10:31 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — There were more than a few folks who believed this Red Sox team would make history. Few, however, could have predicted that this would be how they would distinguish themselves.
Wednesday night, the Sox remained winless for the 2011 season, dropping a 8-4 decision to the Indians. It marks just the second time since 1966 that they have began a season going 0-5, having done it last in ’96. The Red Sox have gone 0-6 three times in franchise history, not having fallen in such a hole since ’45.
The biggest blow came in the sixth inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera broke open a two-run game with a three-run homer off of Sox reliever Dan Wheeler.
Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in a decent start for the Red Sox, although, like Josh Beckett the night before, he wasn’t able to go past five innings. The Sox starter gave up three runs over his 96-pitch outing.
Here is what went wrong (and went right) for the Sox …
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Jason Varitek made a rare mental mistake in the sixth inning that proved to be key. With nobody out, the bases loaded, and the Red Sox trailing by a run Michael Brantley hit a line-drive off Wheeler which third baseman Kevin Youkilis dropped. The third baseman proceeded to pick the ball up, tag third and throw home. But Varitek was unaware that the force play was off, and didn’t tag the oncoming runner, allowing the run to score and keep runners on first and second with one out. The next batter, Cabrera, added insult to injury with his three-run homer. Tim Wakefield also allowed a solo homer to Matt LaPorta.
– The Sox relievers, which hadn’t allowed a run since Opening Day, let the game get away. First, it was Dennys Reyes, who started his outing by hitting two batters before walking Jack Hannahan on four pitches. That led to Wheeler’s appearance, which, in turn, led to the flood gates opening.
– Key members of lineup continued to struggle. Jacoby Ellsbury struck out three times, dropping his average to .143, while Youkilis went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .133. Despite managing his first hit of the season — an infield RBI single — Marco Scutaro is now batting just .067.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Matsuzaka’s performance was somewhat encouraging considering he started the outing with a 28-pitch first inning. He rebounded to not allow a run after the second inning.
– Carl Crawford managed a two-hit day, along with his first two stolen bases as a member of the Red Sox.
|04.06.11 at 7:02 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Join Rob Bradford and a cast of characters in following all the action from Progressive Field, where the Red Sox will be looking for their first win of the season when taking on the Indians.
Update: Matt LaPorta made it 8-4 Cleveland with a solo home run off reliever Tim Wakefield to lead off the eighth inning.
|04.06.11 at 3:13 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show Wednesday, telling Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley that after the team’s 0-4 start to begin the season, he believes in being more concerned than panicked.
“I’d say that’s a good way to put it,” Francona said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be smiling about right now, but I think there’s a difference between being concerned and being panicked.
“I don’t think anybody’s too happy with our start, but it’s our responsibility to turn it around. I don’t think panicking is the right way to do it, but when things aren’t going the way you want them to go, you try to work to fix it.”
Francona said that given the team’s disappointing stretch to open the season, players have to avoid trying to do too much.
“I think the last thing we want to do is try to win a game in Cleveland that we lost in Texas,” he said. “That’s a dangerous way to play the game.”
Francona said that “you’re going to see a much better player” in Carl Crawford as he gets more and more comfortable. Crawford signed a seven-year, $142 million deal as a free agent in the offseason and is hitting .133 in a Red Sox uniform.
“I think it’s more [trying to impress everybody], not so much the money,” Francona said. “That kind of goes out the window, I think, once the game starts. I think he’s on a new team and he’s a real conscientious kid, and I think he’s trying a little bit too hard. I think it’s human nature. .. Right now he’s just trying a little too hard to do too much, and that happens sometimes. We wish it didn’t, and our job as coaches is to try to help these guys not do that, but you always fight that at the beginning of the season.”
Regarding the batting order, Francona stressed that he wants to be able to put newcomer Adrian Gonzalez in a position to drive in runs. Gonzalez had three RBI in the season-opener last week, which have accounted for a quarter of the Red Sox’ 12 runs this season.
“I think he’s going to be comfortable with wherever you put him in the order. He’s a bonafide really good hitter. I really want [Dustin Pedroia] up there, either second or third. He may not be the prototypical No. 3 hitter, but I think he has the ability to maneuver the bat, run the bases, get on bat in front of [Kevin Youkilis] and Gonzalez.”
As for the catching situation, the manager said “there isn’t really a rotation,” and that Jason Varitek will be catching Wednesday because the Sox plan on using Jarrod Saltalamacchia Thursday. Using Varitek Wednesday allows the Sox to give Saltalamacchia two games in the series without having him play a day game following a night game.
|04.06.11 at 2:56 pm ET|
Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the slow-starting Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“They just haven’t had anybody get off to a particularly good start,” Gammons said. “Again, it’s only four games. It is amazing, that statistic that nobody’s ever won the World Series starting 0-4.”
Gammons said the Red Sox didn’t seem as energized when he saw them in Florida, but they were not alone in lacking intensity coming out of spring training.
“Except for the teams that had a lot of competition for positions, it just seemed as if everybody was bored by the 10th or 15th of March this year,” Gammons said. “The Red Sox basically had no jobs open for positions players. It just seemed like spring training mode. What have they won, like two games since March 13 or something? It just seemed a little muted. It didn’t upset me that [Jon] Lester and [Daniel] Bard both seemed a little out of whack, but I think sometimes that does happen to teams, where they have trouble getting going.”
Added Gammons: “It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, you kind of go: All right, it can’t go too long because they play the Yankees, the Rays and the Jays in the first week-and-a-half of the season at home.”
Gammons said the Sox hitters deviated from the team’s strategy of showing patience and instead started consistently swinging at the first strike Tuesday night in Cleveland. And new outfielder Carl Crawford “is pressing dramatically. I’m not really sure why it’s happening.”
As for Crawford being moved around in the batting order, Gammons predicts he’ll eventually settle into third. “I think Terry [Francona] first and foremost is trying to get Carl comfortable,” Gammons said. “Just, ‘Please, you’re not here to carry the team. You’re here to just be what you’ve been in your major league career, which is a great player. He was out jumping at everything in Texas, and that sort of carried over last night.”
|04.06.11 at 11:27 am ET|
A few notes on last night’s game and a pitch-by-pitch analysis of Josh Beckett’s outing:
* – The Red Sox lost despite allowing three runs (or fewer) AND walking more time (4) than they struck out (3). Prior to last night, they had won 45 such games in a row, dating back to July, 2007.
* – Boston collected only four hits last night after getting only five hits Sunday. The last time the Sox were held to five hits or fewer in consecutive games was last April 18-19 against Tampa Bay (five hits in each game).
* – When Adrian Gonzalez reached on a fielding error by the pitcher, it marked their sixth straight game with at least one ROE. There has only been one longer streak by the Red Sox since 1991 (eight games in 2001). The club record streak is nine straight games.
* – The Sox have now lost 11 of their last 13 games in which they failed to hit a home run, dating back to September 4.
* – Boston pitchers combined to strike out 12, while allowing only five hits and no home runs. When they’ve fanned 12 or more, allowed no homers and five or fewer hits, they had lost only once since 1938 prior to last night (54-1). The Indians had NEVER won such a game with those hitting stats, losing all 32 since 1932 prior to last night.
Using my quick and dirty weighting system (detailed at the end of this post, but pitches that improve win chances get positive points), I tracked Josh Beckett’s start last night on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Let’s see what pitches he was using and which ones were effective:
JOSH BECKETT vs CLEVELAND:
1st Inning (16 total pitches; +2):
Fastball – 8 (-3 pts)
Changeup – 5 (+3 pts)
Curve – 2 ( 0 pts)
Cutter – 1 (+2 pts)
2nd Inning (8 total pitches; +8):
Fastball – 6 (+5 pts)
Changeup – 1 (+2 pts)
Curve – 1 (+1 pts)
Cutter – 0 ( 0 pts)
3rd Inning (35 total pitches; +2):
Fastball -24 (+2 pts)
Changeup – 6 (+3 pts)
Curve – 5 (-3 pts)
Cutter – 0 ( 0 pts)
4th Inning (24 total pitches; -1):
Fastball -10 (-11 pts)
Changeup -10 (+4 pts)
Curve – 4 (+6 pts)
Cutter – 0 ( 0 pts)
5th Inning (23 total pitches; -6):
Fastball – 9 (-3 pts)
Changeup – 5 (-1 pts)
Curve – 4 (+1 pts)
Cutter – 5 (-3 pts)
Overall (106 total pitches; +5):
Fastball -57 (-10 pts; -17.5 per 100)
Changeup -27 (+11 pts; +40.7 per 100)
Curve -16 (+5 pts; +31.3 per 100)
Cutter – 6 (-1 pts; -13.7 per 100)
* – All five hits and all four walks allowed by Beckett came on fastballs as hitters went 5-for-11 (.455) with one strikeout and off Beckett’s heater. Three of those five hits went for doubles.
* – Beckett threw his fastball on 3-2 counts eight times, giving up a double, getting two outs, walking two, and three were fouled off. The only other pitch he tried on a full count was a curveball (once), and it was fouled off.
* – Opponents went 0-for-3 with one strikeout against his curve, 0-for-5 with two strikeouts against his change, and 0-for-1 against the cutter.
* – Beckett threw his cutter only six times: once in the first inning and the other five in his fifth and final inning. Four of Beckett’s six cutters missed the strike zone.
* – Overall, Beckett threw 61 percent strikes: 65 percent of his fastballs were strikes, 63 percent changeups, 56 percent curveballs, and 33 percent cutters. For this analysis, a strike is a called strike or any pitch swung at.
Pitch Result Scoring System:
Batted Ball Out: +2
Strike 1 or 2: +1
2-Strike Foul: 0
Ball 1, 2, or 3: -1
Home Run: -8
Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net and their awesome Pitch F/X tool for their help in putting this together.
|04.06.11 at 10:16 am ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning. Remy discussed Boston’s slow start, Terry Francona‘s shuffling of the lineup and the play of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Remy said he’s not getting too concerned just yet and that he thinks the players are just putting a little too much pressure on themselves right now.
‘I think they’re pressing right now,’ Remy said. ‘Any time you come out of spring training, you want to get off to a good start, and that certainly hasn’t happened. Down in Texas, the pitching was not what you’d expect it to be with those three guys coming out of the chute. And then last night, they just didn’t hit. There’s no question they’re pressing right now to get that first win and individuals trying to get off to a good start. That’s normal. If this happens in the middle of the season, a four-game losing streak, it wouldn’t be as magnified as it is right now.
‘But coming out of spring training with such high expectations, you’d think you’d be better than what you are right now,’ he continued. ‘You’d think you’d at least have a couple wins under your belt, and that’s not the case. Until you get that first one and second one and third one, you’re not going to get into the flow of the season very well. You get the feeling when you’re around the club that, ‘Hey, we just got to get this first one out of the way and then we can go.’ But it just hasn’t happened yet.’
The hosts asked Remy if maybe Francona is pressing with all the lineup shuffling, especially moving Carl Crawford from third to seventh to second.
‘I don’t know if he’s pressing or if he’s just trying to find a comfort level for Crawford,’ Remy said. ‘When Crawford was with Tampa Bay, the most success he had was hitting second. They had hoped to hit him third in this lineup and then he had a terrible first game against those left-handers down in Texas. ‘¦ I still eventually think he’s going to settle into the 3 spot when he gets to being Carl Crawford. That’s going to happen. It just hasn’t happened so far.’
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