|09.28.14 at 1:22 pm ET|
The Red Sox conclude their 2014 season at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon against the rival Yankees. Clay Buchholz will pitch against Michael Pineda during Derek Jeter‘s last-ever game in the major leagues.
Buchholz (8-10, 5.31 ERA) has been resurgent of late, and is looking to gear up for next season. For seven innings last Tuesday against the Rays, the right-hander kept Tampa Bay off the board in a great outing. But in the eighth inning, things fell apart. He was charged with five runs and the loss.
“When you get that deep into a game, not giving up a run yet, it’s tough to swallow giving up five in one inning,” Buchholz said after the game. “But like I said before, it is what it is.”
Save for his start against the Pirates on Sept. 17, Buchholz pitched into the sixth inning in all of his previous nine starts. In three of those outings, he made it into the eighth inning. But one of the worst appearances over a stretch since August happened to come against the Yankees. Buchholz threw 114 pitches by the fifth inning on Aug. 3 against New York, allowing seven runs, eight hits and five walks. Three of the runs were plated by former Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew.
The only other appearance Buchholz has against the Yankees this year came back on April 10 at Yankee Stadium. He took the loss in that one, although he was charged with just two earned runs in six innings.
Jeter has solid numbers against Buchholz in his career. The shortstop has eight hits and two RBIs in 29 career at-bats.
|09.27.14 at 6:52 pm ET|
For Clay Buchholz, the scenario is a dream.
He was the kid from Texas who grew up with that poster on his wall of his baseball idol, the one of the guy the young shortstop-turned-pitcher fashioned his baseball world around. And now — one week from Sunday — Buchholz will get the opportunity to become the last pitcher Derek Jeter ever faces.
“It’s a game you try and go as deep as you can to be that last pitcher that he faces. I’ve definitely thought about that,” Buchholz said. “You have to take care of everybody else before you get to that point. There is going to be a lot of stuff going on. It’s something that’s pretty neat to think about.”
When Buchholz first stared down Jeter — resulting in the shortstop claiming an infield single during an April 16, 2008 game at Yankee Stadium — such a moment seemed implausible for the young pitcher. (“I was definitely nervous. There were definitely some nerves going on,” he said.)
“He was a guy I idolized growing up, playing shortstop,” added the Red Sox starter, who has faced Jeter 32 times, limiting him to a .276 batting average without any homers. “It was pretty neat being in that stadium and pitching against the Yankees for the first time in your career.
“It was just him. I grew up and there were Yankees hats everywhere. Boston and Yankees. Everybody was either wearing a Boston hat or a Yankees hat where I grew up. He was the guy I watched the most. I liked the way he played the game.”
Getting to Jeter’s final at-bat will be a feat. Other pitchers have such acts in similarly monumental moments and come up short. (Surely, Cleveland starter Bud Anderson wanted to be that guy in Carl Yastrzemski’s last game on Oct. 2, 1983, but instead that fell on reliever Dan Spillner.)
Still, Buchholz is grateful for the opportunity to give it a whirl.
“It’s a game to me that’s a little bit different in a couple of different ways. But at the same time, it’s still baseball. I have to go out and execute pitches and try to get outs,” the pitcher said.
“Things are going to be magnified by a pretty good amount. I’m sure I’ll have to do a couple of sit-downs about it. I’m sort of looking forward to it, actually.”
|09.27.14 at 5:46 pm ET|
When Joe Kelly took the mound in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Yankees, he entered previously uncharted territory. Never before had he pitched more than seven innings in a big league start.
Yet when he retired the first batter of the eighth, he wasn’t exactly in a mood to call it a day. He’d entered the inning with 81 pitches. He sniffed nine innings.
“I’ve never thrown a complete game and it’s something I really, really wanted to do today,” Kelly acknowledged after the contest. “It didn’t happen so mentally I was kind of angry and frustrated at myself.”
What had been a dominant outing unraveled quickly. Kelly, armed with 10-1 lead through 7 1/3 innings and still pumping 98 mph gas for strikes, permitted four straight singles, and when the dust settled on the inning, his final line revealed a four-run yield in those 7 1/3 frames en route to an eventual 10-4 Sox win.
“I kind of gave it away today. I mean I’m glad we won. It’s definitely good to go out on a win and go deep into the game,” said Kelly. “But the end of the day it’s something I have to do better at. I want to throw a complete game really, really bad. I’ve never had one in my career and it’s just something that makes me frustrated at myself, letting it get away a little bit at the end.” Read the rest of this entry »
|09.27.14 at 5:19 pm ET|
Yoenis Cespedes arrived for the first time at a noteworthy milestone on Saturday. On Saturday, in the Red Sox‘ 10-4 win over the Yankees, Cespedes drove in a pair of runs, giving the 28-year-old 100 RBIs for the first time in his career.
Of course, that his milestone came in a Red Sox uniform is of some note on the opposite coast. Since the head-spinning July 31 trade that shipped Cespedes (and a competitive balance draft pick) to the Sox in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, the Oakland A’s have been in something of a freefall. While Cespedes has hit .274 with a .301 OBP, .431 slugging mark and 33 RBIs in 50 games, the A’s are 21-32 while scoring just 3.5 runs per game, making them the worst offense in the American League in that time.
Cespedes could not say what role his absence had played in his former team’s offensive decline, but did acknowledge that even now, he remains surprised that he is no longer in Oakland.
“I don’t know [why the A’s offense has struggled]. I would have to be there to give you a better answer on that, but I don’t know,” said Cespedes through interpreter Adrian Lorenzo. “I was surprised when [the trade] happened. I’m still a little surprised. I thought there was a chance it would happen next season. I didn’t think it would happen this season because I didn’t think Oakland was going to re-sign me after this contract, but yeah, definitely surprised.”
The Sox, meanwhile, have been pleased by his addition and what he’s delivered. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.27.14 at 4:13 pm ET|
The main event is Derek Jeter. All else represents a sideshow in the final weekend of the season, albeit a sideshow of intriguing relevance.
Jeter, in the lineup as the designated hitter, batted twice on Saturday before being pulled, punching out on a 99 mph fastball from Red Sox starter Joe Kelly and then beating out a chopper just to the left of second base for an infield hit, his 164th career safety at Fenway Park. The sight of Jeter pouring everything he had into a sprint from home to first represented a fitting emblem of the player, who now has just one remaining game in his career.
While many who were in attendance will take one of their last opportunities to see Jeter on the field as their lasting memory of the game, there were a number of elements beyond the retiring Yankees shortstop that held more lasting significance for the Red Sox in a 10-4 blowout win over the Yankees. Among them:
— Arguably the most significant development was the image of a thoroughly pounded Masahiro Tanaka exiting the field after pitching a season-low 1 2/3 innings and yielding a season-high seven runs (five earned) on seven hits while throwing just 25 of 50 pitches for strikes. As the Yankees try to make a decision about whether he’s healthy enough to avoid Tommy John surgery, and thus whether he’ll be ready to pitch in 2015, Saturday’s struggle represented a billowing red flag for the pitcher’s status entering next year, and hence the state of the Yankees rotation for next season.
— Tanaka’s counterpart, Joe Kelly, concluded his promising first two months with the Red Sox by delivering arguably his best start with the Sox. He featured a 99 mph fastball in his first inning of work, and was still working at that velocity in the seventh. He also showed a changeup that elicited swings and misses from left-handed hitters while once again getting plenty of outs (eight) on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.27.14 at 1:00 pm ET|
Deven Marrero, whom the Red Sox recognized on Sunday as their Defensive Player of the Year, was elated to be at Fenway Park on Saturday to witness the penultimate game of Jeter’s career. Marrero, a 24-year-old who was the Sox’ first-round selection in the 2012 draft and who concluded the year in Triple-A Pawtucket, suggested the proximity to the Yankees captain was little short of an inspiration.
“It’s awesome. That’s someone who I want to be. I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox. That’s my goal. He does everything right. He plays the game hard. He’s a champion. That’s all I want to be. To see him finish out like this is so cool. I really wish I could have played with him on the same field, but I just want to continue his legacy. I hope I can continue that in Boston,” said Marrero, who elaborated that his desire to be the Red Sox’ Jeter suggested an ambition “to be a champion. That’s what he is for the Yankees, a champion. He won all those championships and he was the captain. He set a good example for those who will come up behind him.”
Of course, Jeter’s legacy was forged on the basis of his all-around production and steadying defensive influence from a premium position. While Marrero has Gold Glove potential as a defender, his offense has lagged behind his glove. He enjoyed a spectacular start to the year in Double-A Portland, hitting .291 with a .371 OBP and .433 slugging mark, but after a solid start following a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, he slumped severely, hitting .210 with a .260 OBP and .285 slugging mark in 50 Triple-A games. He did experience some recovery during a solid PawSox postseason run, but the exposure to Triple-A pitching represented, more than anything, a lesson in adversity. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.27.14 at 9:53 am ET|
After not winning a single game with the Red Sox in the month of August, Kelly (5-4, 4.15 ERA) has won three of his four starts in September. He struck out five and allowed two runs in his latest victory against the Orioles last Sunday. Both runs came against him in a tough sixth inning, but Kelly recovered to pitch into the seventh inning.
Manager John Farrell said after the game that the right-hander’s perseverance during the sixth frame has been emblematic of Kelly’s latest starts.
“There’s been times in recent starts here where there’s a moment inside the game where there’s a real competitiveness that comes out of him,” Farrell said. “The last out he recorded in Kansas City against [Omar] Infante; today after it looked like we turned a double play and we don’t get it, he settles right back in to get the next hitter out. He’s able to rise to the moment and execute quality pitches.”
One of Kelly’s wins in this recent stretch came against the Yankees in the Bronx. He threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed five hits and three runs. Martin Prado’s solo home run was one of the few mistakes Kelly made in an otherwise good outing. Prado is the only Yankees hitter with an extra-base hit against Kelly.
|09.26.14 at 10:14 pm ET|
It becomes a bit harder to write this on a night where the Red Sox owner wrote this:
Have you ever seen anything like this? pic.twitter.com/Qgogv0IhIM
So, we’ll keep this brief:
The Red Sox entered the year a wealth of upper levels pitching prospects in Triple-A and Double-A. Assessments of the team’s rotation depth naturally centered around Henry Owens (Baseball America’s No. 2 Red Sox prospect entering the year), Allen Webster (No. 4), Brandon Workman (No. 8), Matt Barnes (No. 9), Anthony Ranaudo (No. 11) and even Brian Johnson. Virtually no one was talking about Steven Wright, who — despite a solid first impression in some big league call-ups — went unranked by the publication.
Wright will not — or at least should not — be overlooked entering 2015.
The right-hander made his first big league start of 2014 on Friday night in an eventual 3-2 Sox loss to the Yankees. Against a New York lineup that looked like it was straight out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he proved effective, allowing two runs (none earned) on four hits (all singles) in five innings. He walked two and struck out four, his knuckleball moving well enough that he gave fits to both the Yankees lineup and catcher Dan Butler (two passed balls). In 21 big league innings, he has a 2.57 ERA with 22 strikeouts and four walks. Of all the prospects whom the Sox have cycled through the big leagues from Pawtucket over the final two months of the year, Wright’s ability to throw strikes while eliciting either swings and misses or bad contact has been the most consistent.
The net result? Wright will be in the conversation going forward for innings at the big league level in 2015. His ability to change speeds and throw strikes with his knuckleball suggests a pitcher who has a chance to contribute to the Sox rotation. He will not be overlooked in prospect circles, and certainly not in the Red Sox organization, for what he might be able to offer going forward.
“He’s in the right place,” said manager John Farrell, “an organization that embraces this type of pitcher.”
OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME
— Rusney Castillo, to underscore that Thursday’s home run power was no fluke, went deep again, crushing a slider from right-hander Shawn Kelly onto Lansdowne Street. In 30 big league at-bats, Castillo is hitting .267 with an .813 OPS. He’s showing a surprising ability to get his bat on the ball given that he’s facing big league pitching for the first time and that he’s doing so after what amounts to a 16-month stretch without playing in games following his defection from Cuba, and he’s not merely making contact but showing an ability to drive the ball.
|09.26.14 at 8:01 pm ET|
Derek Jeter acknowledged that he managed to claim little sleep on Thursday night, after he punctuated his career in New York with a ninth-inning walkoff single to right. The game — which he declared to be the last one he’ll play at shortstop — was a singularly emotional, draining experience, in which the Yankees captain found himself fighting back tears both in the clubhouse prior to the game and then again while on the field during the game.
“I can’t think of a better way to end my career at Yankee Stadium,” said Jeter. “You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
He was so emotionally exhausted, and simply fatigued from the lack of sleep, that Jeter said that Friday marked the first time in his career that he asked for the night off. Yet he does not want his final, singular Yankee Stadium moment to be his last ever on a baseball field. Though Jeter has Friday night off, he plans to play as either a pinch-hitter or designated hitter during the series. Had the Yankees been playing somewhere other than Boston, Jeter suggested, he might have called it a career after New York. But under the circumstances, he wanted to have a last chance to play at Fenway Park.
“If there’s anywhere to play besides New York, I guess it’s only fitting that it’s here in Boston because of all the games that I’ve played here, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. If you can’t do it in New York, this is the next-best place, I guess. … I’m playing here because I have respect for this rivalry, for Boston, and the fans. If it was anywhere else I don’t know if I’d play,” said Jeter. “My plan was always to play here. I wanted to take something from New York, that’s why I said it was my last time playing shortstop. I have the utmost respect for the Red Sox organization and their fans here. I would love to come and play here one last time.”
Jeter said that he had lunch and spent a bit of time outside in Boston on Friday, and that his reception was pleasant, welcoming. That, he noted, represented a dramatic change in his history in the city.
“People were just saying congratulations on the career and that I’m a Red Sox fan, I hate the Yankees but I respect you. It was brief. I wasn’t outside much because I hadn’t slept much. I tried to stay in. When I was walking here through the stands, there were fans cheering, which was kind of different,” said Jeter. “I remember coming here in the All-Star Game in ’99 and the car that was dropping us off went to the wrong entrance. I was out of the car walking to the stadium and I thought they were going to kill me, they were all over me. So it’s funny how things have changed. … I think after they won, it sort of — I don’t want to say they softened up, so don’t say they softened up, but I think they’ve become a little bit kinder. And thank you for that.”
|09.26.14 at 6:28 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury‘s season is winding down in anticlimactic fashion. His first year in New York is ending not only without the promise of a playoff appearance, but also with Ellsbury sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Ellsbury’s year has been solid if somewhat short of his career norms. He’s hit .271 with a .328 OBP and .419 slugging mark, a bit down from his career line with the Red Sox of .297/.350/.439, though he did hit 16 homers (the second highest total of his career) and steal 39 bases, making him one of the premier power/speed combinations in the game, in 149 contests. Though Ellsbury characterized his season as ultimately disappointing based on the imminence of its conclusion for the Yankees, he also suggested that the transition from the Sox to the Yankees — in the first year of his seven-year, $153 million deal — had gone as well as he could have hoped for.
“I think a lot of my goals are team goals. Obviously it’s not a good feeling not to make the postseason,” said Ellsbury. “I know a lot of guys are going to work hard in the offseason from day one, try to get better. From a personal standpoint, I’m always setting the bar high for myself, always trying to improve. That’s going to be no different this offseason, but from a team standpoint, it’s something, yeah, you don’t want to experience again. When you do win, it’s the best feeling. You want to feel that again.”
As for his adaptation to New York, Ellsbury said that his first year with an organization other than the Sox had gone as smoothly as he could have hoped.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Ellsbury. “I like that comfort. I’d never been anywhere else. I like the, I always wanted to play for one team. It obviously didn’t work out that way. But this has been an unbelievable season in the sense of, the guys walking in the clubhouse, I’ve loved my first season in New York. I loved everything about it. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about the next, at least, six years.” Read the rest of this entry »
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