|04.13.11 at 6:27 pm ET|
Life goes on for the Red Sox, except now life can be without baseball for two straight days.
The players arrived to Fenway Park in preparation for their series-finale against the Rays Wednesday afternoon only to discover the game had been postponed due to weather. Most stayed for a bit, getting their usual work in, while also answering the inevitable question ‘¦
‘Is this just what the doctor ordered for a team that has begun its season 2-9?’
‘I’m not Nostradamus,’ David Ortiz cracked before taking inside batting practice. ‘We’ll see. I don’t know. I mean, hopefully we can turn the page, try to get things better and start winning some games.’
One thing Ortiz wanted to make perfectly clear was that despite the season being in its infancy, the Red Sox aren’t taking this bump in the road lightly.
‘Pretty much everybody’s working really hard right now. That’s why I’m one of the guys that believes that we’re going to turn things around because you don’t see nobody taking anything for granted right now,’ the DH said. ‘Everybody’s like worried, I’m not going to lie to you. Everybody’s working their butt off just to get things better. Things are just not coming the way we expected, but right now, everybody’s trying to change things around.’
It has gotten so bad, Ortiz said, he actually used a word that he has attempted to eliminate from his vocabulary during the course of a baseball season.
‘I know that it’s early in the season, but it’s the Red Sox, man,’ he said. ‘I’m not used to that. I’ve been here nine years and I’m not used to that. I look at it, and it’s frustrating. I don’t use that word, but I have to now.’
Ortiz did go out of his way to say that the onus is on the players, not front office and coaching staff.
‘Man, the coaches and the manager, they’re doing their best, man,’ he said. ‘They can’t go out and there and hit and pitch and catch for us. They put together for us what we need to do, but after that, it’s on us. We’ve got to take over. They can do nothing else.’
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that while he appreciated Ortiz’ sentiments, in his opinion the responsibility for turning things around goes beyond just the players.
‘It’s up to us,’ said Francona. ‘That’s the biggest thing, is that it’s up to us. I appreciate what David is saying. As a staff, I don’t think we want to point fingers. It’s our job, certainly, to understand where we need to play better. But I don’t ever want them to feel like it’s us against them. It’s easy to stand up here and pat them on the back, and we’ve gotten to do that a lot. When things aren’t going well, it’s important to be there for them. I want them to feel that way.’
RED SOX RIDING HOT HAND WITH LOWRIE
Before the game was postponed, Francona had penciled in Jed Lowrie to start at shortstop.
Lowrie is currently hitting .438, having played three of the last four games (going 6-for-10). When asked why the almost-27-year-old (his birthday is April 17) was getting another start, Francona’s offered a no-nonsense answer.
|04.13.11 at 12:52 pm ET|
Hall of Fame baseball reporter and MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox‘ struggles. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Gammons speculated that the Red Sox will attempt to call off Wednesday’s game early due to both the rain and the team’s need for a break. “A couple of days of breathers wouldn’t be a bad thing at this point,” he said.
Regarding the 2-9 start, “I think everyone is completely shocked,” Gammons said of the team’s reaction, adding, “I don’t get a sense of anger as much as, ‘What in the world is going on here?’ I liken it to what’s going through Albert Pujols‘ mind when he’s hitting about .170 right now, going, ‘This is impossible.’ A lot of weird things have happened.”
Gammon said Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s performance on Monday appeared to show that the pitcher is frustrated with the team’s request to throw more strikes. “It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever seen pitched,” he said.
As for the possibility of moving Matsuzaka to the bullpen, Gammons said: “With all the pressure he feels from Japan, where he is such a big star, if the Red Sox asked him to become a reliever, I don’t know how he’d react to that. I worry about that tremendously, that he would kind of go, ‘That’s a demotion. I’m a star. I’m not doing that.’
“I know they’ve said that there’s no way they’d trade him, but I still think if this thing doesn’t get any better, maybe they could ship him and deal him for a big contract somewhere else. ‘¦ It’s a very difficult situation.”
|04.13.11 at 11:19 am ET|
It’s a fairly short post today, well, mainly because I’m weary of all the bad news and I’m ready for the Red Sox to start playing better.
* – Through 11 games, Boston’s starting pitchers have posted an average “game score” of 42.2, the second worst such mark by Sox starters though 11 games since 1958:
38.6 – 1973
42.2 – 2011
42.7 – 1980
42.8 – 2009
44.1 – 1996
Notes: The 1973 starters (Luis Tiant, Bill Lee, Marty Pattin, John Curtis, Roger Moret) would recover to average a 53 game score, third best in the AL. The Red Sox ended the season at 89-73. … The 1980 squad ended up 83-77 as the starters (Mike Torrez, Dennis Eckersley, Steve Renko, etc.) finished with an average game score of 47, tied for second worst in the AL. … After allowing 4+ runs in nine of their first 11 games in 2009, the Sox rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Brad Penny, Tim Wakefield, etc., ended up with an average game score of 49 (tied for sixth) and 51 percent quality starts (tied for second) as Boston won 95 games. … In 1996, the Red Sox again won 85 games despite middling average game scores (47, tied for sixth) and quality starts (43 percent, tied for seventh) from their starters (Roger Clemens, Tom Gordon, Wakefield, Aaron Sele).
|04.13.11 at 10:19 am ET|
While the Red Sox‘ fifth starter has been a question mark from the beginning of the season, the No. 3 pitcher hasn’t been that impressive, either. In the final game of the series against the Rays (weather-permitting), John Lackey will face off against James Shields.
Lackey has been hit hard in both of his starts this season. Although he recorded Boston’s first win of the year last Friday in the home opener, he hardly earned it. Giving up seven hits and six runs over just five innings against the Yankees, Lackey was the beneficiary of a lot of run support in the 9-6 victory.
After Lackey’s mediocre 2010 campaign (14-11 with a 4.40 ERA) and two bad games this season (1-1 with a 15.58 ERA), this start is an important one for him. He has fared well against the Rays in his career, going 11-4 in 16 games, but the new lineup changes in Tampa Bay could pose a problem. Newcomer Johnny Damon is hitting .360 against him with two doubles and five RBIs. Ben Zobrist, Reid Brignac, Casey Kotchman and John Jaso could also pose problems as they are all batting over .300 against Lackey.
Shields is 1-1 with a 4.73 ERA in his two starts this season. He gave up three home runs in his last outing, a 9-7 victory over the White Sox. As he led the league in home runs allowed last year with 34, the Rays hope he isn’t continuing on that trend in 2011.
Shields has failed to live up to his “Big Game James” moniker in Boston. He has struggled mightily at Fenway Park, with a 1-7 record and a whopping 7.71 ERA. J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia are all hitting over .300 against him. They also have a combined seven home runs against Shields. On the other hand, Kevin Youkilis has struggled, going 3-for-31 with 10 strikeouts.
|04.13.11 at 9:48 am ET|
Remy noted there have been signs that indicate the Red Sox will break out of the slump soon. “You’ve got to believe it,” he said. “They’re just too good to be playing like this. It’s frustrating for everybody.”
Added Remy: “The catalyst to me is [Carl] Crawford. When he gets going, I think everybody’s going to get going.”
Jed Lowrie has had the most success at the plate among Red Sox hitters, but he remains in a part-time role while the struggling Marco Scutaro starts at shortstop. “I still think Jed Lowrie has a chance to be a very good player,” Remy said. “And I think he’s showing that. He’s finally healthy. He’s finally come into spring training strong. He looks good when he’s playing, especially at shortstop, and he’s swinging the bat well.
“And I think if Scutaro goes into an extended slump, I think they’ll make that move. I don’t think they’re going to make it yet. I think they like the idea of getting Scutaro on track and then having Lowrie be this utility guy that can play all four positions in the infield.”
Remy, like most other people, remains confounded by Daisuke Matsuzaka. “I can’t figure it out,” Remy said. “The other night it was just fastballs right down the middle of the plate. It was like batting practice. ‘¦ It makes you sick to watch.”
However, Remy said: “They can’t take him out of the rotation just yet. They’ve got to give him a chance to get straightened out because they’re not that deep in the starting pitching department. ‘¦ They’ve just got to keep their fingers crossed and hope that the guy pitches better than what he has right now. Whether that’s going to happen or not, nobody knows.”
Remy isn’t buying the theory that Matsuzaka tanked his start Monday to prove a point to the team. “I have a hard time believing that,” he said. “I just read that in the paper this morning. Are you kidding me? I can’t imagine any professional athlete in any sport saying, ‘OK, here’s what you want me to do? Well, I’m going to do it, and watch the results.’ That’s hard for me to believe. I just don’t think that’s accurate at all.”
Touching on the Manny Ramirez situation, Remy said he enjoyed the slugger’s time in Boston, but he has little sympathy for a player who apparently ran afoul of the league’s drug rules for a third time before announcing his retirement late last week. Said Remy: “In my mind, that’s just stupid. I don’t know how else to describe it. … I don’t think it’s sad, I think it’s just stupid.”
|04.13.11 at 1:29 am ET|
At a time when the Red Sox are struggling for offensive consistency, infielder Jed Lowrie has been red hot. The infielder was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles (both off of starter David Price) in the Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Rays, and he is now hitting .438 this season.
In his career, Lowrie owns better numbers as a right-handed hitter (.314 average, .919 OPS) than as a left-hander (.226, .685), though some of the switch-hitter’s struggles as a left-hander can be pinned on the broken bone he suffered in his left wrist and his lengthy rehab from surgery to fix it. This year, Lowrie is 5-for-8 batting left-handed, and 2-for-8 with two doubles and two walks batting right-handed.
“The results are there. That’s always nice,” said Lowrie, who also lamented the fact that in his biggest at-bat of the night — a two-on, two-out situation against right-handed reliever Joel Peralta in the bottom of the eighth, he flied out to center. “But I’m really, really happy with the way that I’m working right now and my approach. I’ve always believed that if I keep that approach the results will be there, and they’re there right now.”
While Lowrie has been playing the role of a utility infielder who backs up all four Sox infielders, manager Terry Francona acknowledged after the game that he will try to find more playing time for the 26-year-old.
“He’s really swinging it,” said Francona. “He’s having some pretty professional at-bats. That’s what we saw at the end of last year. … When he’s swinging like this — and we think he’s a good player — but when he’s swinging like this, you probably look for ways to get him in there.”
While Lowrie played third on Tuesday (with Kevin Youkilis serving as DH and David Ortiz sitting against Price), the most logical place for him to get more playing time would be in favor of shortstop Marco Scutaro. Not only is short the position where Lowrie suggests he feels most comfortable, but in an infield that features Youkilis, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Scutaro (hitting .172 with a .480 OPS) would appear in the greatest danger of losing playing time.
|04.13.11 at 12:27 am ET|
In another dominant performance by Jon Lester Tuesday night, runs were hard to come by for the Sox as they lost their ninth game of the season, 3-2. With a 1-0 lead going into the top of the 5th, Lester had his only hiccup of the game when he allowed three consecutive singles to load the bases. The next play would prove to be the deciding factor as Sam Fuld squibbed the ball up the first base line.
‘It was one of those where we’re playing in because we can’t double him up, and the play is to go to the plate,” said manager Terry Francona. “We just didn’t get it there in time.’
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez went home with the ball, but the throw wasn’t able to beat lumbering catcher Kelly Shoppach to the plate as he scored the tying run. Gonzalez appeared to hesitate for a moment before releasing the throw.
‘I just wanted to make sure I got a good throw in,” said Gonzalez. “From such a short distance, if you throw a little bit low or a little bit high, I know from first base perspective it’s tough to make a quick adjustment so I wanted to make sure I gave him a good throw to the chest.’
After the miscue, Lester allowed a two-run single to Johnny Damon that would end up being the game winner. Though Lester was left without a victory despite an excellent performance for the second straight time, he did not fault his teammate for the game-turning play.
“I’m not going to question a guy for being aggressive,” said Lester. “It’s what he saw. I think that was the only play. We had Sam Fuld running. He’s pretty fast. I think that was really the only play there. It just didn’t go our way.’
While there was the opportunity for a tag play on Fuld and a possible double play, Gonzalez was quick to dismiss notions of that by pointing out that if he had applied the tag then the force would no longer apply at the plate, thus making the play at home impossible.
As Boston continues to struggle there are a lot of mounting questions and few comforting answers. For most of the Sox, the answer is just to wait it out.
“The best thing is that we’re still in mid-April,” said Gonzalez. “You can easily get yourself out of this hole at this time of the year. You don’t want to be in this position in August. It’s still really, really early and we’re going to bounce back just fine.”
|04.13.11 at 12:10 am ET|
Top ace Jon Lester was overpowering the Rays with a nasty combination of a 94 mph fastball, a 87 mph cutter and a sharp upper 70s curve. Just one inning prior, Lester struck out the side, using all three pitches to make the heart of the Rays order look helpless.
But then came the fifth. With the Red Sox leading 1-0 on a Darnell McDonald homer to left, Lester allowed one-out singles to Kelly Shoppach, Dan Johnson and Elliot Johnson, the 7-8-9 hitters in the lineup. A slow-motion Sam Fuld chopper to Adrian Gonzalez was fielded by the Sox first baseman but a throw home for a force play was too late. Johnny Damon followed with a two-run single to center. Three runs in five batters and Lester could only hope for his dormant offense to make up the 3-1 deficit.
“Four singles beat me,” Lester said. “But you know what, I’ll take that every start. If you’re going to beat me with singles, then I’ll tip my cap. Probably the only pitch in that inning that I want back is the ball I threw Damon, just the right side of the plate, up a little bit and he was able to put a good swing on it.”
During the fifth, it looked certain that his outing was drawing to a close with his pitch count nearing 90. But then he got the second of three double play grounders to end the fifth. His third came to end the seventh and finish his night at 109 pitches.
“It’s kind of hard not to notice [the pitch count],” Lester said. “It’s on three screens in the ballpark. You know what’s going on. You try not to let it get into your head. Obviously, it’s there but you try to worry about executing one pitch at a time. For the most part, I was in that mindset tonight. A couple of times I got away from it, it didn’t hurt me. I got some foul balls or some balls.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.12.11 at 10:07 pm ET|
On the strength of a spectacular cutter that headlined a full array of swing-and-miss pitches, Lester struck out seven Rays through four shutout innings, navigating a 1-0 lead into the fifth. But at a time when the little things have not gone well for the Sox, that trend continued, leading to the unraveling of the evening for both the pitcher and his team.
A mist started falling in the top of the fifth inning, and the Rays started rallying. The Rays amassed three straight one-out singles, and then, unstoppable Granite Stater Sam Fuld hit a slow chopper to first. Adrian Gonzalez charged and gloved it cleanly, but then (perhaps due to the rain?) struggled with his grip. The extra fraction of a second was the difference between the runner at the plate (lumbering Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach) being safe and out on the fielder’s choice grounder. Johnny Damon then followed with a two-run single to give the Rays all the runs they would need en route to a 3-2 victory.
The Sox now sit alone in last place in the AL East at 2-9.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The Red Sox couldn’t muster any offense against Rays starter David Price. Perhaps more importantly, they could do nothing to drive up his pitch count, in no small part due to Price’s ruthless efficiency. The left-hander threw first pitch strikes to each of the first 13 Red Sox batters he faced. He relied primarily on a mid-90s four-seam fastball, low-90s two-seamer and an effectively unbalancing changeup en route to his first victory of the year. He allowed just five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
–Once again, the Sox were terrible with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-7 in such moments, and are now 7-for-52 (.135) with runners in scoring position dating to Saturday. For the year, the team is hitting .192 (20-for-104) in such scoring opportunities.
—Carl Crawford‘s challenging start to his Red Sox career continued. He reached base in his first plate appearance after getting hit by a pitch, but was promptly erased when Price picked him off. He then went hitless in his remaining three at-bats, and is now hitting .152.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Aside from the brief hiccup in the fifth, Lester was tremendous. Though he permitted seven hits in his seven innings of work, all were singles. Lester struck out eight, and now has punched out 15 in his last 14 innings while permitting just 10 hits in that span. The first game of the season — in which Lester did not strike out a single member of the Rangers lineup — is now a distant memory.
—Jed Lowrie enjoyed a tremendous night against Price, collecting a pair of doubles and lining out hard to third. In part-time duty, he is now hitting .438 (7-for-16). However, in his most meaningful at-bat of the game — batting left-handed against reliever Joel Peralta with runners on first and second and the Sox down, 3-2, in the eighth — Lowrie flied out to center.
—Darnell McDonald offered exactly the sort of thump the Sox were hoping for when they stacked their lineup with right-handers against Price. McDonald slammed a hanging curve into the Monster Seats in the bottom of the third to give them a 1-0 lead. That, however, was the team’s only offense against the Rays.
|04.12.11 at 7:11 pm ET|
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