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Drew, reconsidered

09.27.08 at 3:25 pm ET
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Manager Terry Francona said after today’s rainout that the team is hoping to have outfielder J.D. Drew play right field tomorrow. The team has seen repeated attempts to get the outfielder back in the lineup fall short. As Drew himself noted before the game, there’s a clear need for him to demonstrate again that he can play. 

“That’s been the plan, to keep playing him,” said Francona. “But when he said he couldn’t (play), we didn’t. Then he said he can, so we will.”

There would appear some urgency to have Drew get back into a game. He’s had just two at-bats and played three innings since August 17. In the one game that Drew played, he said that he could feel his lack of strength, and became fatigued while running at game speed. Whereas the team feels that Mike Lowell could return–health permitting–without game activity, Drew seems to represent a different case. 

“J.D. is a little different (than Lowell). He’s got two at-bats now in 39 days,” said Francona. “We’re trying also to know that he can stay out there. We played him three innings and he was fatigued. We’re trying to answer as many questions as we can.” 

If Drew wakes up tomorrow and declares himself unable to go, it would be far from surprising to see the team leave him off the postseason roster.

Was ever a World Series in this way won?

09.27.08 at 1:05 pm ET
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The Red Sox face an obvious sense of playoff roster uncertainty. It is almost impossible to say whether or not either Mike Lowell (hip) or J.D. Drew (back) will be available to contribute, or in what capacity they might do so. Obviously, the team is better when both players are available to them.

But both have had false starts in their efforts to return to the field in recent days. Drew played three innings and then had to leave Wednesday’s game. Lowell had one at-bat on Friday before having to head to the trainer’s room.

If the Sox take either player on their postseason roster, they face the possibility of inserting both them into games–even in a limited capacity, such as pinch-hitting–and having a recurrence of the physical woes that have sidelined them. That, in turn, could leave the team with some wasted roster spots, a fact of which both players are aware. Lowell said on Friday that he is not “owed a roster spot.” Drew struck a similar tone this afternoon.

“We’re scratching our heads a little bit,” said Drew. “Right now, what I’m doing and what the trainers are doing, we’re trying to do everything that we can to get it to a point where I can be on the roster if everything is healthy. I can’t in good conscience say, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go,’ and then leave (manager Terry Francona) stranded after playing one game and not being able to walk the next day. We’ve got to get past that point.”

As much as the uncertainties about Lowell and Drew loom over the 2008 postseason, they also offer a reminder of the Red Sox’ good fortune to win the World Series in 2007. It is easy now to forget how unclear the condition of Boston’s lineup was entering last October. 

Manny Ramirez missed four weeks last year, as a strained oblique sidelined him from Aug. 28-Sept. 25. But he did manage to have 21 plate appearances in the season’s final week, and he came out of the gate raking. He hit .389 with a .476 OBP. 

Ramirez then steamrolled his way into and through the postseason. He hit .326 with a .492 OBP and .522 slugging mark, hitting four homers and driving in 16 runs in 14 games.

But when Ramirez returned, there was no guarantee that he would remain healthy or  be ready to perform when the bell rung in October. Had he not been able to do so, it is hard to imagine the Sox would have won it all last year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Sox can’t win this year. The 2003 Marlins, after all, won it all even though Mike Lowell was limited to three pinch-hitting appearances in the Division Series as he recovered from a broken hand. Lowell returned to the lineup in the NLCS and World Series, and as he pointed out on Friday, he played a contributing role (most notably with two homers against the Cubs in the seven-game NLCS) to a championship.

Read More: J.D Drew, Manny Ramirez, mike lowell,

Post-game: Lowell status update

09.26.08 at 10:38 pm ET
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Git yer game recap of the Yankees‘ 19-8 win over the Red Sox here

The Angels, who clinched the best record in the A.L. tonight, have opted to host Game 1 of the Division Series against the wild-card Red Sox on Wednesday, Oct. 1, with an off-day before Game 2 on Friday, Oct. 3. The series will then move from Anaheim to Boston for Games 3 and (if needed) 4 on Oct. 5-6, before returning (if necessary) for a winner-take-all Game 5 in Angels Stadium on Oct. 8. 

Mike Lowell’s role in that series is now in question after he endured a recurrence of the pain from the torn labrum in his hip. Here is the clubhouse reaction:

Mike Lowell

On how his hip felt today versus in Tampa Bay, when he injured it while coming in on a grounder:

“I told the trainers that if (the pain in) Tampa was 100, this was an 85…maybe an 81.”

On the questions about his availability for the postseason roster:

“I would defer. We’ll see what time says. By no means do I think I’m owed a roster spot, just because I’ve played here, if I’m not going to be able to do anything to help the team win. But in a short series it’s a little different. You don’t have to carry as many pitchers, maybe pinch-hitting is an option. We’ll see. I’m not ruling out anything yet, but obviously I was disappointed today.”

Did the injury recur on the fly-out to left?

“The swing doesn’t hurt me. It’s the non-swing. It’s when I kind of started and stopped because you recognize it’s not a strike. You take the pitch there, and that’s when it really grabbed. I don’t know how to really avoid that. I can’t go into a pitch pre-determined that I’m taking this one and I’m swinging at the other one. I don’t know. We’ll go from there.”

Could you go into playoffs without playing in more games?

“Yeah, I’m not worried about the at-bats. In ’03, I didn’t play for a month and I feel like I did some good things in the postseason. I don’t know that’s the ideal recipe. But I think I can do it. I kind of want to prove to myself and to them that I can play in the field. I don’t particularly want to try something that is going to be an utter failure. But I’m not classifying it as that. We’ll still see. I’m not writing it off yet.” 

On whether he could be a pinch-hitter in the postseason:

“Absolutely. It might cut down on my triples.” (Note: Lowell has six career three-baggers, roughly one for every 350 at-bats.

Terry Francona 

On Mike Lowell’s injury:

“He’s sore. That was certainly discouraging tonight from our side of it…He’s certainly not ready to pull the plug or quit trying to play, so we’re on board with him trying. The plan was to play him at third base Sunday. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“We’ll see how it goes. It was certainly discouraging tonight. Because of how tough he is and what he means to us and him still wanting to play, we don’t want to pull the plug either. We’ll just monitor as we go and do the best we can and see what happens.”

On scratching Daisuke Matsuzaka from Friday’s start:

Francona disclosed that the team had already planned not to have Josh Beckett start this weekend, and so the decision to postpone Daisuke Matsuzaka’s start was relatively easy given the poor weather conditions.

“The weather was so uncertain (that) we didn’t want to have his start interrupted after an inning. There was so much uncertainty we decided to go ahead and make a change. I know (Saturday) might be iffy (from a weather standpoint) but we’ll go ahead and try to let him pitch uninterrupted and we didn’t think tonight there was a very good chance of that happening.”

Bottom 9: Wild card for fightin’ Sox

09.26.08 at 9:53 pm ET
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The Sox will not go gently into that good night. (The term contains some performative irony, since in the famous Dylan Thomas poem, the refrain was meant as a form of protest against aging. In this instance, it is the young Sox who continue to fight as if the A.L. East is at stake, despite entering the inning with a 19-5 deficit.)

Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out double in the top of the ninth for his fourth hit of the night. That ties a career high, achieved once before on July 9 in an 18-5 win over the Twins. 

Jed Lowrie followed by driving in his longtime teammate (the two first played together as part of a high school traveling team in Oregon in 2001) after a nine-pitch at-bat against Yankees reliever Chris Britton. In the process, it is believed that Lowrie set some kind of record for the most tenacious at-bat in the history of everything in a game in which his team had utterly no hope.

Chris Carter followed by walking on five pitches. As he accepted a free pass, there seemed general consensus that the Yankees should immediately designate Britton for assignment, or at least make him walk home from Boston. 

Following a George Kottaras strikeout, Jonathan Van Every lofted a high fly ball to deep right that was misjudged by Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera for a two-run triple between the rain drops. That narrowed the gap to 19-8.

Jeff Bailey then tacked on a six-pitch walk, bringing Sean Casey (who, like every other batter this inning, has spent time at Triple-A Pawtucket since the start of 2007–Casey, however, was only there on a rehab assignment) to the dish. But Casey flied to center, bringing this taut affair to an end. The final score: 19-8. The 2008 Red Sox are your A.L. wild card team.

Top 9: The final count

09.26.08 at 9:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox pitchers tonight:

Allowed 19 runs–most in the regular season since a 19-7 loss to Texas in 2002 (though the Sox did also give up 19 to the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS in 2004).  

Threw 213 pitches–most in a nine-inning game since requiring 222 pitches in a 14-11 loss to the Yankees on August 18, 2006. 

Took one for the team–none of the pitchers who will be relied upon for key postseason innings had to pitch tonight.

Top 8: Continued consideration of the carnage

09.26.08 at 9:24 pm ET
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The Sox enter the eighth inning trailing 16-5, and having required 177 pitches to get to this point. That is tied for the 15th highest pitch total of the season for the Sox in a nine-inning game this year. The season-high of 202 pitches, established in an 11-6 loss to the Orioles on August 20, is in severe jeopardy. 

Of course, the Sox were on the road when taking the drubbing from the Birds, and so they only needed eight innings to log 202 pitches. If Devern Hansack fails to throw at least 25 pitches this inning, any new “season high” will have to come with a Ford Frick-style asterisk. 

A minor miracle of note this year: the Sox are the only team this year to throw at least 175 pitches in a game of nine or fewer innings that they won. Even more miraculous: the Sox have accomplished the feat twice. On July 13, the Sox threw 176 pitches yet permitted just one run in a 2-1 win over the Orioles. And on June 6, the Sox beat Tampa Bay 7-1 in a game in which their pitchers totaled 177 pitches.

Of course, that particular contest was slightly more notable for other reasons—————>

More milestones were just reached: Bobby Abreu just rounded out his free-agent resume with a sac fly that drove in his 100th run of the year. That run means that the Sox matched their season high in runs allowed with 17. But Hansack managed to escape the inning with just 22 pitches, and so they have 199 on the night. Presuming that they cannot find a way to navigate the ninth inning with three or fewer pitches, they will set a new season high–but they must endure the shame of the asterisk with this “accomplishment.”

Top 7: …and counting

09.26.08 at 9:02 pm ET
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With a run-scoring double by Robinson Cano, the Sox have now allowed 16 runs tonight, second highest yield of the season.

Devern Hansack has just entered the game. Remember when the lobsterman was being discussed as the possible 2007 closer for the Sox? Instead, he is now a member of the bullpen taxi squad that the Sox are carrying in September. We’ve seen the whole bunch of pitchers who are either unlikely or on the bubble to make the postseason roster: David Pauley, David Aardsma, Mike Timlin, Chris Smith, Devern Hansack. 

Also, this game is so long that I believe I just glimpsed Dustin Pedroia in the dugout, sans Grizzly Adams beard. Advantage: Mauer.

Top 7: 15…

09.26.08 at 8:55 pm ET
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The Sox have allowed another pair of runs in the seventh, and now trail 15-5. The yield is tied for the second biggest permitted by the club this season. Boston gave up a season-high 17 runs–in a win!–against the Rangers on August 12, and had also allowed 15 runs on three prior occasions this year, most recently on Sept. 6 against the Orioles.

Bottom 6: Ellsbury’s “big” night

09.26.08 at 8:50 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury just tallied his 16th three-hit game of the year. For that, he is indebted to teammate Kevin Cash. After homering and collecting an infield single earlier this game, Ellsbury hit a liner off of Cash. Cash was ruled out, and Ellsbury was credited with his third hit of the night. I believe that Ellsbury gets credited with an infield hit, his second of the night.

He now has 35 infield hits this year, third in the American League, behind only Ichiro Suzuki (51) and Carlos Gomez (50). Of course, Ellsbury can take heart that there is no need to stifle reports of a desire by teammates to punch him in the face.

Top 6: Vultures reconsidered

09.26.08 at 8:41 pm ET
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So if Daisuke Matsuzaka leads major-league starters in games in which he claimed a win despite taxing his bullpen, who has won the most in spite of a consistent failure to live up to the other side of a quality start? Who has won frequently despite permitting four or more runs?

 

Angels starter Joe Saunders and White Sox hurler Gavin Floyd both lead the majors with five wins in games in which they permitted at least four runs. Among Red Sox pitchers, Josh Beckett has claimed three such W’s this year, Tim Wakefield has two, Justin Masterson, Bartolo Colon and Matsuzaka each have one…and Jon Lester, author of a 16-6 season, has none.

 

The southpaw is the anti-vulture. I’d suppose that would define Lester as a provider, or a symbiotic creature, or something like that. But a quick google search suggests that the opposite of a scavenger is a predator, like a lion or a tiger (though no mention of the Napoleon Dynamite-inspired Liger or Tigon).

Obviously, it’s getting late here…

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