|Daniel Nava’s latest masterpieces could be found in right field||04.29.13 at 12:28 am ET|
Robbie Grossman found out just how far Daniel Nava’s defense has come.
The Houston outfielder hit two balls to right field that should have gone for extra-base hits during the Red Sox’ 6-1 win at Fenway Park, but Nava altered fate with his glove.
The first grab came in the second inning, when Nava ranged back toward the warning track in right field, in front of the Red Sox’ bullpen, and executed a basket catch of Grossman’s blast.
Then, in the ninth, Nava closed out the Red Sox’ win with an even more spectacular catch.
The right fielder sprinted toward Grossman’s blast as it started curling toward the right field wall. Then, just as it was ready to fall in, Nava left his feet, extended his body and plucked the ball out of the air just before touch down.
It was a catch he later called, “The funnest I’ve ever had.”
But when asked which grab he would classify as more difficult, it was the one he didn’t leave his feet on he identified as tougher to execute.
“Probably over the shoulder because I knew the wall was coming up,” he said. “I think the other one was just instinct, run after the ball and hoping to get there. The other one I knew I was going to be underneath it but the last quarter of the way it just fell in my glove.
“Those two plays … [Rick] Ankiel had that play where he came in and kind of lost it in the sun, and I was talking to [Jacoby Ellsbury] and [Dustin Pedroia] and said, ‘There are some balls if they’re in that perfect spot I’m going to need your help.’ You can look good one day and the next day you look like you’ve never played baseball before.”
Nava’s improvement in the field has been fairly remarkable. The 30-year-old credits former Red Sox’ minor-league outfield instructor Tom Goodwin, and current Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, in helping him prioritize his defense in the minor leagues following his return to Pawtucket in 2011.
And while most had noticed his ability to manage Fenway’s left field, considering Nava hadn’t played right field until last season, there was some skepticism regarding an ability to man what is perceived as one of baseball’s toughest positions.
“It’s been different,” said Nava of playing right field. “You go from one of the shortest distances and areas you have to cover in left to one of the largest you have to cover in right. That distance alone makes it a little more challenging. I’m always looking at Arnie and Ells to make sure I’m in the right spot, but also I’m also not giving away too much space. I like it, but it’s taken a while to adjust to the differences of the vastness of the area you have to cover.”
|Daniel Bard headed back to minors to make room for Joel Hanrahan||04.28.13 at 6:15 pm ET|
Daniel Bard has been sent back to Double-A Portland in order to make room for Joel Hanrahan, who will be activated off the 15-day disabled list.
Hanrahan turned in his second rehab outing with Triple-A Pawtucket, Sunday, retiring three straight batters (pop-up, fly ball to left field, and a grounder to the mound) after initially issuing a five-pitch walk. The righty threw 17 pitches, topping out at 96 mph. He has been out of action since April 14 with a strained right hamstring.
“Physically, I felt good,” Hanrahan told the Providence Journal after his McCoy Stadium outing. “Obviously it didn’t start off right with the leadoff walk. I was a little jumpy, a little excited. I was able to step back, get things going. Overall, I felt good. That’s the main thing: My leg didn’t bother me.”
Before being put on the disabled list, Hanrahan had allowed six runs over 4 2/3 innings, having first tweaked the hamstring during his second outing of the season, in New York.
“I feel like the thing that’s been holding me back isn’t holding me back anymore,” Hanrahan said. “I feel like I can go back to the big leagues and compete.”
Bard pitched twice since his promotion to the Red Sox, turning in a scoreless inning April 25 (hit, strikeout) before Saturday’s outing in which he was pulled after throwing eight of his nine pitches for balls (2 walks).
Prior to getting the call from the Red Sox, had allowed five runs over nine innings, striking out four and walking four. In his last three outings with Portland, he didn’t allow a run while surrendering just one hit.
|Closing Time: John Lackey helps lead Red Sox to sweep of Astros||04.28.13 at 4:31 pm ET|
John Lackey picked up right where he left off before suffering his injury scare in Toronto.
The Red Sox starter allowed one run on five hits over six innings, leading his team to a 6-1 win over the Astros Sunday at Fenway Park. Lackey’s ERA after two starts stands at 2.61, having given up two runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays before leaving with a strained right biceps.
“A healthy John Lackey, one who’s capable of a career that has been very good, he gives us a huge boost, not in terms of just innings alone, the number of innings that he can pitch, but the performance,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When you look back to when he was healthy, we can all recognize the last couple of years have been as much competing against his own body as it has been the opponent. He’s in a good place right now, and there were no physical issues today. He came out of today fine. He does give us a seasoned veteran and a very good pitcher in that spot in the rotation.”
Farrell added, “I thought the ball got out of his hand better than expected, not only in terms of velocity but in the action to which some of his pitches showed at the bottom of the strike zone, whether it was a two-seamer to get a number of ground balls. He had a good cutter. Consistent sharpness to his curveball, as we saw in Toronto in his first outing. Honestly, it was better than expected in most ways today.”
The win was Lackey’s first since Aug. 23, 2011 at Texas (614 days), snapping a career-long stretch of seven starts without a victory.
With the victory — the Red Sox’ 18th of the season (18-7) — the Sox have now matched their total number of series sweeps for the entire 2012 campaign (3). It was their fifth straight win, and matched the most victories the franchise has ever totaled in April (1998, 2002).
The game ended on a diving catch by Daniel Nava in which the right fielder extended his entire body in hauling in Robbie Grossman’s deep flay ball.
Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Sox’ latest win:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- David Ortiz didn’t skip a beat, driving in the Red Sox’ first run via a one-out RBI single, plating Nava (double). The hit made the DH 12-for-15 against right-handed pitching, and 7-for-14 with two strikes. Ortiz would later add to his production with an RBI double into the right field corner in the seventh. The designated hitter currently carries a .516 batting average (16-for-31) after eight games.
- Stephen Drew broke a 1-1 tie with a triple to right field in the fourth, scoring Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (both of whom had singled). It marked the second multi-RBI game of the season for Drew, who has now reached base in six of his last eight games.
- Dustin Pedroia remained on fire, this time making it a 4-1 game with his fifth-inning double down the left field line, scoring Nava. It marked the fourth straight game the second baseman — who came into the game hitting .364 with a .930 OPS on the homestand — has notched at least one RBI. Carp would quickly drive in Pedroia with a double of his own, off the left field wall.
- Lackey got out of a huge jam in his final inning, stranding the bases-loaded in the sixth inning. With the bags full, and the Red Sox holding a 5-1 lead, the starter struck out Fernando Martinez before getting Matt Dominguez to ground out to shorstop. Lackey finished his outing getting nine of his 14 outs on the ground.
- With two outs in the second inning, Nava saved a run by going back to the warning track in right field and hauling in Robbie Grossman’s drive via a basket catch.
- The Red Sox forced Houston starter Bud Norris to throw 29 pitches in the first inning. The Astros Opening Day starter would need 108 pitches to get through six innings. The Red Sox have seen more first-inning pitches than any team in baseball.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- Lackey struggled out of the gate. After retiring his first two batters, the righty allowed walks to Jason Castro and Carlos Pena before giving up Ronny Cedeno’s run-scoring single.
- Jacoby Ellsbury was caught attempting to steal for the first time this season, getting gunned down by Castro at second with two outs in the second inning. The outfielder had been successful in his first 11 attempts this season, setting a new organizational record for most swipes in the month of April.
- Mike Napoli’s pop-up to shallow right field fell in between three Astros fielders in the fourth. But the Red Sox’ baserunner got greedy, trying to stretch Houston’s misfortune into two bases. The result was Napoli being thrown out at second for the inning’s first out.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo reasserts prospect status; Sean Coyle, Garin Cecchini white hot||04.28.13 at 10:26 am ET|
The 2012 season officially represents a footnote for Anthony Ranaudo. His results through his first four starts of 2013 have been so overpowering that his previous year now simply looks like an aberration in which injuries to his groin and shoulder prevented him from performing with the stuff that made him the team’s top pitching prospect entering the year.
Now, he’s dominating in a fashion comparable to the way that he overpowered his opponents in his first professional assignment in Single-A Greenville at the start of 2011 — only this time, he’s carving up lineups in the Double-A Eastern League. A 2012 season in which he was getting hammered while pitching in Double-A now appears to be the outlier in his professional performance.
“Last year, give him a mulligan,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “He just wasn’t 100 percent, and if he was 100 percent, he was just behind the eight-ball because he didn’t really have a spring training and I think he was just trying to play catch-up last year. … We just never saw the real Anthony Ranaudo. And we’re starting to see it now.”
On Saturday, Ranaudo delivered his most impressive outing to date. He retired the first 13 batters of the game to open a contest in which he logged six shutout innings while recording a career-high nine strikeouts. For the first time since 2011, he did not walk a batter. He gave up two hits — one infield single and a one-out triple — and after the triple, he struck out the next batter to keep his shutout intact. The 23-year-old elicited 12 swings and misses — nine on fastballs, two on curves, one on a change — on 89 pitches while throwing a hearty 69 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Ranaudo showed a power curveball on Saturday (with 10 of his 15 curves going for strikes), but foremost, he continued to show the ability to dominate with his fastball. After sometimes struggling to break 90 mph last year, mostly working around 88-92 mph, Ranaudo has been sitting effortlessly in the 92-94 mph range, and often topping out higher than that, around 96 mph. On Saturday, there was even more in the tank, as his fastball was 93-97 mph, sitting at 95. He’s been able to work with an arm slot that takes advantage of his 6-foot-7 frame to power his fastball down in the strike zone at an angle that gets the ball under the swing paths of most opponents.
“This year, we’re seeing a healthy Anthony Ranaudo — plus fastball, feel for a breaking ball and changeup,” said Boles. “I think the biggest thing now is, he’s been able to put himself in a position with his delivery where he’s able to angle the fastball down. We never really saw that — we saw it very rarely last year. I think it was because of the physical ailments he was going through, but now he’s able to leverage the fastball down. Obviously, the velocity is sitting around 92-94 mph with his fastball, so there’s been an uptick in his velocity from last year to this year.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Astros matchups: John Lackey vs. Bud Norris||04.28.13 at 8:39 am ET|
Barring any setbacks, John Lackey will make his first start at Fenway Park since 2011 on Sunday, facing Bud Norris and the Astros.
Lackey left in the fourth inning of his only start this year, in Toronto on April 6, with what turned out to be a right biceps strain. Fortunately for him, that was unrelated to the elbow injury that had required Tommy John surgery and sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.
Lackey hasn’t pitched at home since Sept. 19, 2011, when he gave up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings to the Orioles but the Sox went on to win, 18-9.
In his 11-year career, Lackey has faced the Astros just once, back in 2007 as an Angel. Craig Biggio was hitting leadoff for the Astros that day, and Lackey allowed six runs on eight hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings (though the Angels went on to win 10-9).
Norris is off to a bit of an uneven start for the Astros, although he has been one of their better starting pitchers. On April 17, he gave up six runs on five hits and three walks in the first inning, getting knocked out of a game the Astros eventually lost 7-5 to Oakland before he got three outs.
He bounced back to some degree in his next start on April 23. Against the Mariners, Norris allowed just one run, with two strikeouts and two walks, but he lasted just five innings. He’s only made it to the sixth inning once in his five starts this year, on April 12, when he shut out the Angels for seven innings.
Having been with the Astros for the entirety of his five-year career, Norris, 28, has faced the Red Sox only once. That start came on July 1, 2011, when he struck out 10 over six innings but gave up four runs on four walks and four hits.
Two of the Sox’ former National Leaguers, Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino, have enjoyed quite a bit of success against Norris in small samples. Drew is hitting .556/.667/.778 with two doubles in 12 plate appearances, and Victorino has a .400/.625/.600 line with a double in eight PAs. David Ross has faced Norris just three times, but homered in one of those meetings.
The only current Astro with much firsthand knowledge of Lackey is Carlos Pena, who has three home runs and a .436 OBP against him in 39 plate appearances.
|Red Sox notes: Daniel Bard explains Saturday night struggles; Ryan Lavarnway sent down||04.28.13 at 12:12 am ET|
After what was perceived as a fairly significant step forward in his road back to a relied-upon major league reliever, Daniel Bard took a step back Saturday night during the Red Sox’ 8-4 win over Houston.
Making his second appearance with the Red Sox this season, Bard came on in the eighth inning and threw just nine pitches, eight of which were balls. The wildness resulted in two walks and a charged run after Matt Dominguez’ RBI single off Bard’s replacement, Alex Wilson.
“My slot got a little high,” said Bard, who threw all fastballs to both Carlos Pena and Carlos Corporan. “I was locked in in the bullpen. I was throwing it as good as I can throw the ball and then I got into the game it probably crept up a little high, which is usually not what I want to be doing. Just a matter of adjusting it back to a lower slot. It’s nice when you’re able to recognize it right away, get to work and fix it for the next time.”
In his previous appearance, Bard threw eight of his 18 pitches in the strike zone, coming away with 10 strikes. He finished the outing – his first since being promoted from Double-A Portland – giving up a hit while striking out one.
After walking Pena on four pitches, Bard received a visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves.
“He said it was my tempo, said I was a little slower to the plate than I had been,” the reliever said. “I think that’s probably a valid point. Nothing major. I think it’s just slot wasn’t there and I didn’t have time to make adjustments – that’s on me.
“You learn from it and move on. Fortunately we still won the game and I think that’s all that really matters in the end.”
“I think Bardo was maybe going a little too slow,” said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “His momentum, tempo was a little slow. I know we’ve talked about it. When he’s quicker to the plate, he’s been downward angle and getting the ball in the zone. He still had the good stuff, still throwing hard. Nothing I don’t think that he can’t fix pretty easily. Wilson did a great job. We needed that. He came in a tough situation, got us out of a big jam, struck out a good hitter with the bases loaded. That was big.”
- After the game, catcher Ryan Lavarnway was told he would be heading back down to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Sunday’s starting pitcher, John Lackey.
“I’m working my butt off down there and it’s been noticed,” he said before leaving the clubhouse. “I just going to go down and keep doing my thing and keep getting better every day.
“For me the more repetition I get, the better I’m going to keep getting. If there’s not a defined role for me here this is probably the best move for me.”
Lavarnway, who was called up Thursday, didn’t get an at-bat during his three-game stint with the Sox. He had been hitting .310 with a homer, seven RBI and seven walks in 11 games. The catcher had also thrown out four of eight baserunners attempting to steal.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel like, at the plate, I’m at a place where I can make pitch-to-pitch adjustments on my own based on how I feel instead of having to finish the at-bat and ask the hitting coach advice. Last year I was kind of searching. This year I know what direction I want to be going in and I’m on my way.”
- Reliever Craig Breslow took a positive step toward rejoining the Red Sox Saturday night, throwing a scoreless inning for Triple-A Pawtucket against Columbus at McCoy Stadium. Breslow — who was coming off a three-run stint in Portland, in which he didn’t get an out, in his first rehab outing — allowed a hit, a walk and struck out a batter while throwing 15 pitches (7 strikes). The lefty will throw for the PawSox again Sunday.
|Closing Time: David Ortiz, Red Sox stay red-hot in win over Astros||04.27.13 at 10:49 pm ET|
Felix Doubront overcame a rough start to turn in a quality outing, leading the Red Sox to an 8-4 win over the Astros. The victory was the Sox’ fourth straight, and 14th in their last 19 games.
The Red Sox improve to 17-7, a win total they hadn’t reached in 2012 until May 15. The Astros’ loss also ensures the Sox will have won six of their eight series thus far this season.
Doubront lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits while throwing 103 pitches. After allowing two runs in the first, the lefty rebounded to not allow another score until Houston added one more in the seventh. It was the fourth time in 36 career starts he has lasted at least 6 2/3 innings, the same distance he reached in his last start.
“The one thing that we’ve seen is that many times it’s taken him a couple innings to get into the flow of the game,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell of Doubront. “That was the case again tonight. It was in spring training. Once he hits his stride, he becomes much more efficient. That was the case again tonight. Forty-one or 42 pitches after two innings, then all of a sudden you start to see those 9-to-14 pitch innings that allow him to get deeper into the game. it’s just a matter of him finding his rhythm on the mound and fortunately he was able to come through that first inning without a big number on the board.”
Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Sox:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Jacoby Ellsbury is now 3-for-5 with the bases-loaded this season after the leadoff hitter drove in the Red Sox’ first two runs via a one-out single in the second. The hit drove in both Jarrod Saltalmacchia (walk) and Will Middlebrooks, who had doubled off the top of the left field wall.
- David Ortiz notched the second second-inning bases-loaded hit for the Red Sox, rifling a double into the left field corner to score both Ellsbuy and Stephen Drew (walk). It was the designated hitter’s second hit of the game, giving him 11 hits in 14 at-bats against right-handed pitching. The hit made it 4-2 Red Sox.
- Ortiz added another RBI by lining out to left field in the fourth, scoring Daniel Nava (double). The at-bat came after Houston manager Bo Porter replaced starter Brad Peacock with lefty Travis Blackley to face the DH. Peacock finished his night allowing five runs on six hits and five walks over 3 1/3 innings.
“I think when David’s healthy, I don’t want to say it’s more focused. The fact is he has a major injury he suffered a year ago that’s behind him. We all know what type of hitter he is,” Farrell said. “You see the progression and the continued improvement the last two years, particularly against left-handed pitching. Tonight that was the case again. Blackley’s got good stuff, and the sac fly on a good fastball off the plate away — that’s not easy to do. We’re all recognizing he’s doing things that look to him to be very easy. But it’s hard to imagine or script out that he would come back and have this type of performance given the layoff.”
- Drew reached base three times, once via a seventh-inning single that plated Saltalamacchia with Red Sox’ sixth run. He also walked twice.
- After going two straight games without a hit for the first time this season, Nava bounced back a pair of hits, including a seventh-inning RBI. That single to left was followed by Dustin Pedroia’s third hit of the game, pushed the Sox’ lead to five runs. It was Pedroia’s second straight three-hit game, while seeing the second baseman now reach base in 23 of his 24 games this season.
- Jonny Gomes broke out the leather for a second straight night, saving potentially two runs by reaching up and grabbing Robbie Grossman’s line-drive just before the left field wall in the eighth inning.
“There’s been a couple times he’s entered the ballgame and he’s been challenged right away. He makes a heck of a play on a line drive right at him. If that ball gets over his head, that inning has a chance to get more interesting than it was already,” Farrell said. “He’s done an excellent job defensively in left field for us.”
- With the bases-loaded and two outs in the eighth, reliever Alex Wilson fanned the potential game-tying run, pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel. It was the lefty hitter’s 19th strikeout in 46 plate appearances.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- Doubront threw 31 pitches (just 14 strikes) in the first inning, leading to an early 2-0 lead for Houston. It was the most pitches ever thrown by the lefty in a first inning. The Astros first run came when Doubront issued a bases-loaded walk to Chris Carter. (It was the fourth time in the starter’s career he has forced a runner home with a free pass.) That was followed by sacrifice fly from Ronny Cedeno.
- Mike Carp made two outs in the Red Sox’ four-run second inning.
- Daniel Bard was pulled after throwing nine pitches, eight of which were balls. He would be charged with a run after Matt Dominguez greeted Wilson with an RBI single, scoring Carlos Pena.
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