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Jacoby Ellsbury going streaking

05.10.11 at 4:05 pm ET
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Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury is obviously on a roll. The center fielder has reeled off hits in 18 straight games — the last 17 contests of which have come atop the team’s batting order.

This marks the third hitting streak of at least 18 games in Ellsbury’s career, a fairly remarkable accomplishment given that this is only his third full year in the majors (he shuttled between the majors and minors in 2007, and he missed most of 2010 with injury — indeed, he played in just 18 games all of last year). He has already thrust himself into historic company in team history.

According to the Red Sox’ media relations staff, Ellsbury is one of just two major leaguers with at least two hittings streaks of 18-plus games since 2008. The Rangers’ Michael Young, who has two such stretches, is the only other player to accomplish the feat in the last four seasons.

In the 111-year history of the Red Sox, Ellsbury is just the fifth Red Sox player to reel off three streaks of at least 18 games. He joins:

Nomar Garciaparra (4 streaks of 18-plus)
Dom DiMaggio (3)
Wade Boggs (3)
Johnny Damon (3)

During the stretch, Ellsbury is hitting .367 with a .405 OBP, .494 slugging mark, .898 OPS and 14 runs. He has also stolen seven bases (while being caught three times) during the run.

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Red Sox at Blue Jays matchups: Lester vs. Drabek

05.10.11 at 3:21 pm ET
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Opening Day represented grounds for confusion about Jon Lester. The left-hander allowed five runs and three homers in 5 1/3 innings against the Rangers; he did not strike out a single batter. Something between confusion and concern permeated New England.

Since that day? There’s no more confusion. Lester is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA that ranks as the lowest in the American League since the second day of the season. Over 41 innings, he’s struck out more than a batter an inning (10.1 per nine innings) while yielding just 3.1 walks per nine frames. He’s allowed just two homers — one fewer than his Opening Day yield — in his past six starts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Blue Jays, Jon Lester, kyle drabek,

Nuggetpalooza: Homestand ends on high note

05.10.11 at 10:56 am ET
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That 2-1 win in 11 innings last night just “felt” like a big one. Now the Red Sox head to Toronto and are back within one game of the .500 mark. They’ve been one game under .500 three times before this season and lost two straight all three times. Fourth time’s the charm?


* – Carl Crawford drove in his first extra-innings run as a member of the Red Sox last night, becoming the 77th Sox player with at least one since they began tracking such stats in 1974. The club leaders in that span:

16 – Dwight Evans
13 – Jim Rice
 8 – David Ortiz
 8 – Manny Ramirez
 8 – Troy O’Leary


* – David Ortiz came to the plate in the 10th inning last night with the winning run on third against Twins’ reliever Jose Mijares. The lefty threw Ortiz five straight sliders, then wasted a fastball before retiring Ortiz on a groundball into the shift with a sixth slider. Why so many breaking balls? Well, Ortiz has handled fastballs from lefties to the tune of 11-for-23 (.478; all 11 hits are singles) this season compared to 1-for-12 (.083) against breaking balls from lefties. That’s why.


* – Lowest batting average allowed during innings one through three (min. 10 batters faced each inning in 2011):

.104 – Josh Johnson, FLA (6-for-67)
.118 – Josh Beckett, BOS (8-for-68)
.128 – Chris Young, NYM (5-for-39)

Other Red Sox:

.219 – Jon Lester (16-for-73)
.259 – Clay Buchholz (21-for-81)
.270 – John Lackey (20-for-74)
.286 – Daisuke Matsuzaka (20-for-70)

Dice-K, Lackey, and Buchholz have combined to allow 35 runs in the first three innings. Beckett has allowed one.


* – Is Lasik in Pedroia’s future or something? Pedroia has swung and missed 59 times already this season. In 2009, he missed on just 81 swings ALL SEASON. He has whiffed on 20.7 percent of his swings in 2011, after entering the season with the second lowest career swing and miss percentage ever among players with “pop” since they began tracking the stat in 1988 (min. 9,000 pitches seen and a .450+ slugging percentage):

 6.8% – Tony Gwynn
 8.6% – Dustin Pedroia
 9.9% – Brian Giles
11.8% – Barry Larkin
11.9% – Mike Greenwell
11.9% – Joe Mauer

As a team, the Red Sox have missed on 19.7 percent of their swings this season, which would be their highest since 2001.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Josh Beckett will take the no-decision with a smile

05.10.11 at 12:50 am ET
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It would have been understandable if Josh Beckett had been dissatisfied with the fact that he ended up with a no-decision on Monday night.

The right-hander logged seven shutout innings, allowing just six hits (all singles) while walking one, despite the fact that catcher Jason Varitek said the wind-whipped field made it tough to get a feel for pitches. Yet the 1-0 lead that Beckett entrusted to the bullpen evaporated when relievers Alfredo Aceves and Jonathan Papelbon were touched for a game-tying run.

And so, despite a 1.99 ERA in his seven starts, Beckett still has just a 2-1 record. Yet after his team claimed a 2-1 win over the Twins in extra innings, Beckett explained why the no-decision was no bother to him.

“I don’t have an arbitration case to win,” he joked. “You know, we get paid to win games and a team win’s way better than me getting a win and a loss. I’ll finish up 2-1 if we win the rest of my starts, I’d be completely happy with that.”

The relief for Beckett associated the game ended with more than just the outcome. In Beckett’s last start, he logged 4 1/3 shutout innings before heavy rains led to a delay of more than two hours in an eventual 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Angels — a contest that finished at nearly 3 a.m., the latest Sox game in history. And so, there was solace for Beckett not just in victory, but also in his bedtime.

“I didn’t want this to be another my last start, as far as what time we got done with that one,” said Beckett.

Those concerns aside, the Sox are thrilled with what they are getting from Beckett at this stage of the season. His dominance has been particularly pronounced at Fenway Park, where his 0.34 ERA this year represents the best home ERA in the majors. Yet his excellence has not just taken place in Boston, as Beckett has given up two or fewer runs in four of his seven starts. Increasingly, he is a pitcher whom the Sox are confident they can rely upon.

“He was tremendous,” said manager Terry Francona. “Really pitched well. We’€™ve come to kind of expect that, which is good for us. He’€™s feeling good about himself. He’€™s throwing a lot of strikes with all his pitches, and been really effective.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Twins 1

05.09.11 at 11:07 pm ET
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It wasn’t exactly flawless, but the Red Sox were happy to take their third straight win however they could get it.

The team seemed ready to claim a clean 1-0 victory, as starter Josh Beckett dominated in a fashion that nearly permitted a fifth-inning run stand up. But the Sox bullpen coughed up the lead in the eighth inning, when the Twins proved opportunistic and feisty against relievers Alfredo Aceves and Jonathan Papelbon in tying the game, 1-1.

But that merely set the stage for the dramatic conclusion. Hideki Okajima logged a pair of shutout innings in extras, setting a new career high by staying on the mound through 43 pitches. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, Carl Crawford delivered his second walkoff hit of the homestand, driving a double off the Wall in left-center to score pinch-runner Jose Iglesias from first to give the Sox a 2-1 win that allowed the team to conclude its homestand with a 6-5 record.


Josh Beckett continued to look like one of the most dominant starters in the game. The right-hander delivered seven shutout innings in which he allowed six hits (all singles) and one walk while striking out five. His curveball was his primary swing-and-miss offering, while he elicited a pair of double play grounders on fastballs. For the year, Beckett now has a 1.99 ERA.

More broadly, he continued a pattern of dominant Sox outings. On nine separate occasions this year, Sox starters have not yielded a run — most in the majors.

Jason Varitek was more than just a valet for Beckett. The catcher went 2-for-4, including a leadoff double in the fifth that set the stage for the first Red Sox run of the game.

Adrian Gonzalez capped off his tremendous homestand by going 2-for-5 with an RBI. During the 11-game stint at Fenway with a .341 average, three homers and 10 RBI.

Jacoby Ellsbury went 1-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, tied for the second longest of his career. He is just the 10th player in Red Sox history to have three separate hitting streaks of at least 17 games.


–The Sox were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, continuing their year-long frustrations in that regard. The team is now hitting .218 on the year with runners on second and/or third. The Sox stranded 10 runners.

–With Daniel Bard unavailable, it was Alfredo Aceves who was asked to pitch the eighth inning for the Sox. While he threw well, a pair of mental lapses proved costly. First, Aceves went after a swinging bunt by Denard Span, and ended up getting in the way of Kevin Youkilis, a delay that may or may not have resulted in Span beating the third baseman’s throw to first for an infield single. Then, for the second time in as many games, Aceves balked, thus putting Span in scoring position. (Aceves became the first Sox pitcher since John Dopson in 1989 to balk in back-to-back games.)

That proved costly for the Sox, as with two outs, Jason Kubel punctuated an impressive at-bat against Jonathan Papelbon (who was being asked to record a four-out save) by fouling off three straight 2-2 pitches before fisting a single just over the outstretched glove of second baseman Dustin Pedroia for a run.

Darnell McDonald committed a baserunning gaffe after entering in the ninth as a pinch-runner. McDonald got picked off by reliever Jose Mijares, marking the reserve’s second blunder on the bases this year. He had previously slipped and overrun the bag to end a game in Cleveland.

Clay Buchholz on track to start Friday

05.09.11 at 5:17 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz only needed 61 pitches to toss five shutout innings in Saturday’s game, but of course, his outing featured so much more than that. He had to do everything possible to remain warm during the course of a rain delay that lasted just over two hours. That involved four different throwing sessions in the batting cage behind the Red Sox dugout.

By the end, it was a day that was somewhat more taxing than a typical start.

“I probably threw 160 pitches given the in-between, so maybe there was a little bit more [work than usual],” said Buchholz. “But with the stress of being out there and pitching to a hitter, there were only 61 of them.”

That might help to explain why Buchholz was able to proclaim that he feels “fine” as he prepares for his next start, slated for Friday in Yankee Stadium.Buchholz took Sunday completely off, but will now have a normal between-starts routine in preparation for his next outing.

“He felt fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. He’€™ll go back to work like today is his day one after the start: side on Wednesday, then he does a short side on Thursday and he has Friday,” said pitching coach Curt Young. “He does have one extra day of rest with the day off [for the Red Sox on Thursday]. We’€™re just really eliminating yesterday as his day one. Today is his day one. He’€™ll play catch and do his regular routine coming into the game.”

Manager Terry Francona said that the team will wait until Tuesday to announce its rotation for the rest of the week as they “try to get a couple things back in a little bit different order,” likely meaning separating the starts of Sunday starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett in order to give catcher Jason Varitek a day between the starts of his batterymates. But for now, it appears that even with his unusual effort on Saturday, Buchholz’ workload will not alter how the Sox align their starters in the coming days.

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Sunday was an exhibition of what Red Sox lineup was built to do

05.08.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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Entering the bottom of the third inning of Sunday’€™s matinee between the Red Sox and Twins, the home team found itself in a 3-1 hole early when No. 8 hitter Carl Crawford stepped into the box. The left fielder hit a rocket to center field that careened off the wall, allowing the speedster to motor into third for his first triple of the season. With no men out, Jason Varitek hit a bouncer to first that allowed Crawford to score and close the gap to just one run.

Next, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury roped a single to the outfield to put yet another duck on the pond. With the No. 2 man in Dustin Pedroia at the plate, Ellsbury took off for second and stole the bag successfully for the 10th time in 2011. Pedroia worked a five-pitch walk to put two men on for Adrian Gonzalez in the three hole. Gonzalez, one of the two centerpieces the Red Sox’€™ offseason acquisitions who entered the game hitting .373 with men on this season, responded with a knock up the middle to tie the ballgame.

Somewhere, Theo Epstein was smiling.

Boston went on to score two more runs that inning before eventually toppling the Twins 9-5, tying a season-high for runs in the process, but the way the Sox rallied in the third  inning was emblematic of how the team was supposed to perform based on its very design this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia

Why John Lackey was sitting in the Red Sox bullpen

05.08.11 at 6:25 pm ET
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Want to know how stretched the Red Sox‘ bullpen has been of late? One glimpse down past the right field fence during the Red Sox’ 9-5 win over the Twins Sunday afternoon might offer a pretty good glimpse.

For much of the game, there sat a stranger to the usual group — John Lackey.

With the Sox relievers having been taxed due to the past few days, Lackey volunteered his services to pitch out of the bullpen. And while the starter never got in the game, he did warm up in the ninth (although that simply served as the righty’s usual bullpen session between starts).

“It was pretty fun. Good view,” Lackey said after the game. “It’s been a while.”

Almost seven years, to be exact. The last time Lackey sat out in the bullpen as a potential reliever was June 27, 2004, when he was actually called upon to pitch the seventh inning in an Angels loss to the Dodgers. The only other times he pitched out of the bullpen was during the 2002 postseason, when he turned in two separate relief appearances in the American League Division Series and World Series, respectively.

So why now?

“Have you been here the last few days?” said Lackey. “Just helping out just in case something happened.”

Despite a 31-pitch inning from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning, the Red Sox didn’t need to get out of their comfort level when it came to bringing in pitchers. Following Matsuzaka’s six innings, Matt Albers came on for two, and Daniel Bard pitched one.

Closing Time: Sox hitters come to bat for Matsuzaka

05.08.11 at 4:31 pm ET
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For perhaps the third time in the still-young 2011, the Red Sox offense single-handedly won the Hometowne Team a game as it put together nine runs to tie its season high in a 9-5 win over the Twins in Sunday’€™s matinee. Five runs ties for the second-most amount that Boston has allowed this season in a win.

Four of the top five hitters in the Red Sox lineup (Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz) had two hits or more with Ellsbury and Gonzalez each racketing up three hits of their own, tying season highs for both. Boston chased Minnesota starter and former Red Sox farmhand Carl Pavano after allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs over five innings of work.

It originally looked like Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was going to be the Mr. Hyde version of himself after he allowed three earned runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning alone. However, the Japanese righty finally settled down as the game waned on and ended with a line of six innings pitched with five hits and four earned runs allowed and four strikeouts.

For more on what went right and what went wrong in Boston’€™s 9-5 win, see below.


-Gonzalez didn’€™t need someone to give him presents to make it a memorable 29th birthday on Sunday, unless you count the pitches he received from Pavano as gift-wrapped. The Sox first baseman went 3-for-5 with a Monster home run and two RBI. The opposite-field shot was his second in three games after failing to hit one over the big green wall in his first 16 games at Fenway. For good measure, he threw in an extra wall-ball single in the seventh. Maybe those preseason notions about him being built for Fenway were right after all. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Francona has a ‘conversation’ with MLB and other Red Sox notes

05.08.11 at 1:59 pm ET
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Terry Francona is done talking about Joe West, umpiring and any disciplinary action after Friday’s brouhaha.

After saying he hadn’t heard anything Saturday morning, Francona added Sunday that he has since spoken to someone at MLB about his ejection by Angel Hernandez and the confrontation with West when he tried to ask about a step-balk called in the second inning of Friday’s loss to the Twins.

‘€œI really don’€™t want to rehash it,” Francona said. “Actually, I had a conversation since but it’€™s private. Out of respect to the league, I can’€™t go running to you guys with a conversation I had with you guys, that’€™s no good.’€

Asked point-blank if the possibility of a suspension was broached, Francona dismissed it quickly.

‘€œThat wasn’€™t even part of the conversation,” Francona said. “It was just a conversation.”

Meanwhile, Francona said that his bullpen is nearly back up to speed after a three-day nightmare that started Wednesday and finished with Friday’s rough outing by spot starter Tim Wakefield, who was followed Alfredo Aceves.

‘€œWe’€™re one day removed from Wake and Aceves throwing a lot of pitches,” Francona said Sunday. “They’€™re out in the bullpen and nobody else is taxed. But our two guys who have the ability to be stretched out probably aren’€™t available [Sunday].

‘€œI think there’€™s a chance [Monday] but we’€™ll see. But that’€™s one of those where they have to say they’€™re available because we could talk them into it and that’€™s no good.’€

What’s also no good is having Daisuke Matsuzaka getting roughed up as he was in the first inning Sunday, throwing 34 pitches and allowing three runs in the first. But Francona said he is not worried about the aftereffects of Matsuzaka’s relief appearance early Thursday morning.

‘€œNo, that won’€™t affect him,” Francona said prior to Sunday’s game, before joking, “You’€™re asking me if I know what we’€™re going to get out of him? No, not since [2007]. Whatever happens won’€™t be because of a limitation because he’€™s been down.

‘€œI don’€™t know. I hope it doesn’€™t hurt him, that’€™s certainly not what we’€™re trying to shoot for. We’€™re always trying to balance guys’€™ health and things like that. When you try to help one guy, it certainly affects the other guys so we try to balance it and make sure guys are ok. We certainly would love to win today but there’€™s a lot more going on past today or yesterday so you always try to keep it in perspective and balanced.’€

Read More: angel hernandez, Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joe West
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