|10.17.13 at 7:28 pm ET|
DETROIT — First baseman Mike Napoli has been one of the few Red Sox hitters to make an impact in this series. He’s 3-for-12 with a walk, a double and of course his Game 3, game-winning homer against Justin Verlander, continuing a year in which — despite some considerable ups and downs — he’s delivered more or less everything the Sox could have hoped for when they pursued him last offseason and, after initially agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal that was scuttled by a diagnosis of a degenerative hip condition, was revised to a one-year, $5 million with incentives that pushed it up to $13 million for the 2013 year. Now, after a year in which his offensive performance — a .259 average, .360 OBP, .482 slugging mark, 23 homers and 92 RBI in 139 games, along with better-than-expected defense at first base — was very much in line with career norms, he is on the cusp of hitting the market again.
Napoli will be a free agent once the World Series wraps up the season. But for now, Napoli is more focused on being the last team standing than the personal question of what lies beyond the crowning of a champion.
“I’m not worried about that right now and I don’t think they are right now. We’re trying to win a championship,” said Napoli. “I want to be here. I love it here. It’s a great situation, great city, fans are awesome. It’s been awesome. I want to be here, but we’ll worry about that [later].”
Whereas teams were reluctant to give Napoli a multi-year deal last winter once his hip condition was diagnosed, the fact that he’s remained healthy this year and that the MRIs taken to date have shown no further degeneration of his hip condition suggest that he could be positioned well in an offseason market that has a shortage of first basemen. But again, Napoli suggests that there are more important things for him to worry about at this juncture.
“I’ll find out [if the industry views the risks associated with the hip any differently] in the offseason I guess. I’m pretty sure I’m still going to have to go through my physicals, see how my hips are, all this kind of stuff,” said Napoli. “I’m not really worried about that right now. I’m worried about winning tonight.”
|10.17.13 at 5:50 pm ET|
DETROIT — The Red Sox have scored more than one run in just one inning this series. Their offense has been dormant, getting dominated by Tigers starters to the tune of a 1.00 ERA with 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings. Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks are a combined 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts, turning what had been one of the Sox’ foremost strengths this year — a relentless one-through-nine lineup — into an afterthought.
It was time to make a change. It was time for Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts has batted just four times this postseason. He’s impressed in each of them, collecting two walks in the ALDS, working Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit to a full count before popping up to end Game 1 of the ALCS and then doubling to the opposite field against Benoit in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS. The Sox see a player whose approach suggests the ability to put a charge into the lineup.
“The one thing that Xander has shown in the brief opportunities that he has had is a consistent approach. It’s time to throw him into the fire,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “I think the overriding thing is the approach that we see. He seemingly doesn’t pull off of pitches. If a pitcher looks to attack him away, he doesn’t expand the zone. And even in the first at-bat against Benoit, I thought the most impressive take was the split that he took with two strikes. He didn’t offer at it. He shows the control, the emotional control, under the environment, and this is a unique environment right now as compared to the regular season.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.17.13 at 4:27 pm ET|
DETROIT — There may be a sense of a missed opportunity for the Red Sox. After they claimed 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS with their impressive 1-0 win over Justin Verlander, the team failed to capitalize on something tantamount to an offensive breakout, as 12 hits yielded just three runs in a 7-3 loss in Game 4 to Doug Fister and the Tigers. The Sox now face a most unsavory prospect, chiefly the need to win two games started by Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — the trio that combined to post a 0.86 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 21 innings in the first three games.
The task, of course, is not impossible, even if all three continue to display sheer dominance. After all, the Sox won two of the three games started by that group. Even so, the likelihood of winning — of repeating the trick of claiming W’s in two of the three games against Sanchez, Scherzer and Verlander — is fairly low if the Sox can’t enjoy a breakthrough.
So, it is worth asking: Do teams show an ability to adjust inside of a series against starters who dominate them in the postseason?
To date, there have been 11 instances since the expansion of the playoffs to include a Division Series round where a starter struck out at least 10 batters while allowing one or fewer runs and then came back to start another game in the same series. In those 10 initial games, the starters (roll call: Mike Mussina in the 1997 ALCS, Kevin Brown in the 1998 NLDS, Bartolo Colon in the 2001 ALDS, Randy Johnson in the 2001 NLCS and World Series, Cliff Lee in the 2009 World Series and 2010 ALDS, Justin Verlander in the 2012 ALDS and 2013 ALDS, Adam Wainwright in the 2012 NLDS, Clayton Kershaw in the 2013 NLDS) combined for a ridiculous line of a 0.58 ERA with 127 strikeouts (13.3 per nine innings) and 19 walks (2.0 per nine innings) while going a combined 8-0 with three no-decisions.
How did that dominance translate in the second matchup? Read the rest of this entry »
|10.17.13 at 4:03 pm ET|
DETROIT — With the Red Sox starved for offense against a Detroit rotation that has a 1.00 ERA with 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings through the first four games of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, the Sox have inserted 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts into the lineup for Game 5 as they try to solve the riddle of right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who fired six no-hit innings against them in Game 1 of the series.
Bogaerts has stepped to the plate four times this postseason, drawing two walks, lining a double to right-field against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit on Wednesday (in the process becoming the youngest Red Sox ever to deliver a postseason hit) and flying out on a full-count offering by Benoit to end Game 1. Middlebrooks, meanwhile, is 1-for-10 with a double and five strikeouts in the ALCS and 4-for-23 with two doubles, three walks and nine strikeouts in 27 total plate appearances in the postseason.
Jonny Gomes is in the lineup in left field, with Daniel Nava — the only Sox player to collect a hit in the game started by Sanchez — sitting. David Ross is once again behind the plate and paired with starter Jon Lester.
RED SOX LINEUP
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
David Ross, C
Jon Lester, SP
|10.17.13 at 3:46 pm ET|
Former Red Sox outfielder and Fox Sports 1 analyst Gabe Kapler joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday morning to discuss Boston’s offensive struggles during the American League Championship Series, as well as whether Kapler would start Xander Bogaerts in Game 5 of the series.
The Sox offense, which led baseball during the regular season with 853 runs scored, has been downright anemic during the best-of-seven series against Detroit with a .186 batting average. Detroit’s starting pitching has feasted on Boston’s hitters through the first four games, as Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister are a combined 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 27 innings.
When looking at the reasoning for Boston’s offensive shortcomings, Kapler said that it’s more of Detroit’s excellent pitching than it is Boston’s lack of execution at the plate.
“I think that’s the big misconception in the playoffs,” Kapler said. “You’ve seen this over and over and over every single year, the big boys, the starting pitching, they come out and they dominate. … It’s great starting pitching just beats good hitting in the postseason. The Red Sox are a run-scoring machine, they were all through the season. They’ve just run into a buzz saw. … Really what this is about is the Tigers pitchers doing exactly what they’ve done all season long. I don’t think there’s any magical formula about it.
“These guys are now out-stuffing the Red Sox, particularly a guy like Justin Verlander, whose stuff has picked up in the postseason. … I think they are just bringing their ‘A’ game. Not that they’ve attacked the Red Sox in any different way, it’s the Red Sox are in a little bit of a postseason slump. Offenses is an absolute ebb and flow and it’s about just timing and the starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.”
|10.17.13 at 10:01 am ET|
The Red Sox look to regain control of the American League Championship Series on Thursday night, as Jon Lester and the Sox will face off against Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers in Game 5 of the ALCS at Comerica Park.
After three straight close games that were decided by only one run, Game 4 finally featured some offense from both teams, as the Tigers scored seven runs off of Boston starter Jake Peavy. The Boston bats also finally made an appearance, as the Sox recorded 12 hits in the contest.
Despite collecting as many hits in Game 4 as they did in Games 1-3 combined, the Sox only managed to score three runs, thanks in large part to the team going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. By the time the game had ended and the Tigers secured the 7-3 victory, Boston had stranded 10 men on base.
The Sox offense will hope to score more runs on Thursday in support of Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA), who did not receive any help from the offense during his first ALCS start on Saturday in Game 1 of the series.
Lester was great in the series opener, as he only allowed one run on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. Lester has proven himself in October, as he holds a career record of 3-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 10 postseason games.
Despite Lester’s strong performance, Sanchez, the starter for Detroit in Game 1, was just a little bit better. Sanchez held the Red Sox hitless through six innings, as the Tigers took Game 1 by a score of 1-0. The Boston offense was nowhere to be found in the contest, as the Sox collected their first hit of the game with one out in the ninth inning.
“Whether it was Sanchez or every guy they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff,” Boston manager John Farrell said after the game. “They executed well. But there might have been a couple of pitches that were pitchers’ pitches that seemed to go against us.”
Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) showed in his Game 1 start just exactly why he led the American League in ERA this season, as he kept the potent Sox lineup off balance for six strong innings.
It was a bit of an odd start for Sanchez, as the former Sox prospect did not allow a hit and struck out 12 but also walked six.
|10.17.13 at 9:56 am ET|
Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss Boston’s Game 4 loss to Detroit in the American League Championship Series, as well some of the team’s potential shakeups before Game 5 gets underway Thursday night.
Jake Peavy, Boston’s Game 4 starter, simply did not have it on Wednesday night, as the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner only lasted three innings, surrendering seven earned runs on five hits.
Hazen said that he didn’t think Peavy pitched all that poorly.
“The walks in the second inning were tough,” Hazen said. “I actually didn’t think he threw the ball all that poorly. I thought he just missed down and continued to miss down. He didn’t have that bounce-back where he made that adjustment to get back up a little bit higher in the strike zone, and I think that kind of undid it a little bit, both in pitch counts that inning and he had to work pretty hard just to get out of that. So, look, this guy’s been good for us, and he pitched a heck of a game for us in Game 4 in Tampa, and sometimes you have those starts here and there, but by and large, this guy’s been a pretty big contributor for us.”
Hazen said that he couldn’t say whether Xander Bogaerts would get the start in Game 5 over Stephen Drew or Will Middlebrooks, but he acknowledged that the addition of Bogaerts could have a positive impact on the lineup.
The left side of the Sox infield has struggled throughout the series, as Drew and Middlebrooks have a combined batting average of .087 over the first four games. Neither player has scored nor knocked in a run during the series.
“I can’t guess on that. I think John [Farrell] will make that decision later on today,” Hazen said. “I think if this guy does get into the lineup, there’s going to be an infusion of energy. We’ve seen a couple of really, really good at-bats during the postseason. He’s obviously a talented kid. I think John is looking for ways to continue to spark the offense.”
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