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Friday Red Sox Nuggetpalooza!

06.17.11 at 11:12 am ET
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It’s finally Friday and you know what that means: Nuggets!

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* – The ninth spot in the Red Sox order (Varitek, Saltalamacchia, Scutaro, et. al.) have really put it together recently, batting .333 (17-for-51) with three home runs and an OPS of 1.032 since May 31. They’ve also drawn walks in five straight games, their longest such streak since at least the start of last season. For the 2011 season, the last spot in the Red Sox order has put up an MLB-high .766 OPS:

.766 – Red Sox
.739 – Orioles
.729 – Mariners

The Red Sox’ ninth place hitters also lead the majors with nine home runs, 34 RBI, and 35 runs scored. They are tied for the lead with 14 doubles (with Twins) and 28 walks (with Orioles). The Red Sox ninth spot hasn’t led the league in OPS since they put up an .810 in 2003.

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* – A key play in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Tampa Bay was Jeremy Hellickson’s intentional walk to David Ortiz, bringing up Kevin Youkilis, who would blast a three-run homer. It was the fifth straight time that the Red Sox have scored (i.e. collected at least one RBI) in the same inning as they received an intentional walk. In those five innings (dating back to June 7 at New York), the Red Sox have totaled 12 RBI.

Note this: Tampa Bay batters have taken intentional passes in 10 different innings this season and have only one RBI total in those innings.

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* – The Red Sox threw a one-hit shutout at the Rays on Wednesday, marking the third time in a little over a year that they’ve done that in a road game (last May 25 at Tampa and last May 22 at Philly). So which teams have gone the longest without tossing a one-hit (or no-hit) shutout in a road game?

6,158 days – Orioles (8/5/94)
4,792 days – Blue Jays (5/2/98)
4,369 days – Rangers (6/29/99)
3,922 days – Indians (9/18/00)

So a child that was born on the day that Baltimore’s Ben McDonald was one-hitting the Brewers is a senior in high school now.

Only one other AL team since 1960 has had three one-hit road shutouts over a two season span: The 1994-95 Kansas City Royals. Their three gems came over a 389 day span… EXACTLY the same number of days that the Red Sox had between their first last year and third last night.

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* -  While we’re on the subject (and since I need more content), the Rays have now been shut out on one or fewer hits at home three times in the last 386 days. Four teams (Rays, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox) have suffered such low-hit shutout losses at home this season. Look at which teams have gone the longest without such a home loss:

11,375 – Twins (4/23/80)
 4,292 – Dodgers (9/14/99)
 4,019 – Royals (6/13/00)
 3,724 – Orioles (4/4/01)

During that 31 year streak, the Twins were one-hit at home twice (1980 and 2005) but they managed to score a run in each of those games, extending the streak. Who was the pitcher that shut them down back in 1980? Bruce Kison of the Angels, when the Twins lineup featured such household names as Hosken Powell, Rob Wilfong, Roy Smalley, and Butch Wynegar.

Note this: The last time Boston got shut out on one hit or fewer at Fenway was April 11, 2007, when Seattle’s “King” Felix Hernandez stymied the Sox.

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How Gerrit Cole helped make Spinners pitcher Mike McCarthy’s future on the diamond

06.17.11 at 10:32 am ET
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Right-hander Mike McCarthy bested No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft Gerrit Cole in mid-May. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Each individual player who is drafted has a unique journey and a different story. Some have easier paths than others, and others simply make the most of an opportunity that they are presented with. One of those players that made the most of an opportunity was right-handed pitcher Mike McCarthy out of Cal State-Bakersfield, who was drafted in the 14th round this June by the Red Sox.

McCarthy was a relative unknown entering this season. He was undrafted after his redshirt junior season. But then, on May 13, he had a unique chance to make an impression in front of a phalanx of radar guns.

That night, McCarthy was on the mound for Cal State-Bakersfield against UCLA stud pitcher Gerrit Cole. Cole, who had been receiving a great deal of national attention and would later be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, was followed in every outing by an army of scouts.

“We enjoyed being at UCLA, having the opportunity to challenge ourselves, both as an athletics club and a baseball team,” McCarthy said. “We really enjoyed it and showing them what [Cal State Bakersfield] baseball is all about.”

Head coach Bill Kernan told McCarthy that the matchup offered a chance for him to make a name for himself.

“My coach told me the day before, ‘If you pitch well here, there are a lot of scouts here and they will notice you,’” McCarthy said. “I kind of laughed and said, ‘I know.’ He said, ‘I know you always perform well under pressure,’ so that gave me a little extra boost and I left everything I had on the field.”

McCarthy certainly did leave everything he had on the field and he pitched one of his best games, if not the best game, of his senior season. McCarthy pitched a complete game two-hitter, giving up one run [not earned] and striking out seven in Cal State-Bakersfield’s 5-1 win over a Bruins team that was ranked No. 24 in the nation at the time.

On that night, he certainly outpitched Cole, who did not have one of his best outings of the year, allowing 10 hits and five runs in a complete-game loss.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, gerrit cole, lowell spinners, mike mccarthy

Friday’s Red Sox-Brewers matchups: John Lackey vs. Shawn Marcum

06.17.11 at 9:00 am ET
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John Lackey

It’s back.

After dipping their collective toes in the interleague pool a month ago, the Red Sox will play their next 15 contests against National League foes, starting with Friday night’s game against the Brewers. Although nine of those 15 games will be played on the road in NL parks with senior circuit rules, this weekend’s series against Milwaukee – as well as the following three-game set against San Diego – will be played at the DH-friendly confines of Fenway Park. The Sox will send out John Lackey for the start Friday while the Brewers will counter with a man who is no stranger to the Boston ballpark, former Blue Jays hurler Shawn Marcum.

Lackey (4-5, 7.41 ERA) will take the hill for the third time since missing nearly a month while on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. Although his pitching was rather pedestrian (11 2/3 IP, 7 ER) in those two previous starts, he earned wins in both thanks to tons of run support from his offense (six runs on June 5, 16 last Saturday). One might think that Lackey would be one of the happiest people in Fenway on Friday, given that he won’t have to step into the box with a bat in his hands, but his stats at home this season may point the other way. The righty, who has earned decisions in each of nine starts this season, is 2-2 at Fenway in 2011 but owns an ERA of 8.27 and a .321 batting average-against in four starts there.

Perhaps a little change will do him some good in the form of the Brewers lineup. Only four Milwaukee hitters, including former Red Sox utilityman Mark Kotsay, have ever faced Lackey. That means the team’s heavy hitters Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks will rely more on what they see on the videotape than what they’ve seen in person when they face Lackey.

Friday will mark the first time Marcum (7-2, 2.68) has faced Boston while wearing a Brewers uniform. The 29-year-old has enjoyed a lot of success for Milwaukee, becoming the relative ace for a team that boasts a rotation with former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke as well as fireballer Yovani Gallardo. Marcum has pitched against the Red Sox 16 times since entering the majors in 2005, making them the team he’s faced the most in his career. Also with Friday marking his ninth appearance at Fenway (3-2, 3.52 ERA in eight previous starts), the stadium will become his most frequented baseball destination.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that every Red Sox position player has faced Marcum at least three times, although Adrian Gonzalez has only seen Marcum in interleague play when he was with the Padres. That being said, that breadth of experience hasn’t at all translated into production. The current Sox roster is hitting only .194 against Marcum with Dustin Pedroia (2-for-18) and Kevin Youkilis (4-for-22, nine strikeouts) being the chief strugglers. Even J.D. Drew, who has had some success with three home runs and two doubles off Marcum, owns just a .227 average against the right-hander to go with 10 strikeouts. Jason Varitek (4-for-10 with three walks) is the only batter with an average higher than .250 against Marcum but may not get the start as he has caught just one of Lackey’s nine starts thus far in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: john lackey, Shawn Marcum,

Closing Time: Red Sox beat Rays to finish off road trip in style

06.16.11 at 10:25 pm ET
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Darnell McDonald contributed with an RBI single and a nice catch on a Matt Joyce drive in the Red Sox' win Thursday night. (AP)

The Red Sox are also coming home conquering heroes.

With their 4-2 win over the Rays Thursday night, the Sox finish off their nine-game road trip having lost just one contest, and has now claimed victories in 10 of their last 11 games. The Red Sox took two out of three against third-place Tampa Bay despite scoring just seven runs for the series.

The only downside of the Sox’ latest win was due to the continued ailments lingering with shortstop Jed Lowrie (shoulder) and Clay Buchholz (back). Both players were forced to cut their nights short due to the injuries.

Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox as they return home for a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Padres …

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Darnell McDonald, who entered the game with just one RBI on the season, drove in Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the Red Sox’ second run with a single to center. McDonald also made a nice leaping catch against the center field wall in the sixth inning on a drive by Matt Joyce. With lefty David Price on the mound, the outfielder was subbing in for Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury would pinch-hit for Mike Cameron in the eighth inning, continuing his streak of playing in all the Red Sox games this season, a feat just he and Adrian Gonzalez have managed.

- Despite leaving after just five innings, Buchholz produced when he was on the mound one again. The starter allowed just one run on two hits and three hit. He struck out five, lowering his ERA to 3.48. The only run against Buchholz came in the second inning when Sam Fuld doubled in B.J. Upton in the second inning.

- The Red Sox were able to get Tampa Bay starter David Price out of the game after just five innings, forcing the lefty to throw 106 pitches. Price gave up just one hit after the second inning, but had to toss 33 pitches in a one-run first inning, and 30 in a second inning the Red Sox managed two runs.

- Dustin Pedroia continued to find his old stroke, this time coming away with an RBI double in the second inning. Pedroia came into the game hitting .407 on the road trip, having notched at least one hit in every start on the nine-game swing except one.

- Daniel Bard went his eighth straight outing without surrendering a run, pitching a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. It was just the third time the late-inning reliever has been used on the road trip.

- Gonzalez continued to master American League pitching, this time hitting his 14th homer, a solo shot off Tampa Bay closer Kyle Farnsworth. The homer, which allowed for some insurance in the ninth inning for the Sox, allowed the first baseman to finish the road trip with 11 RBI.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Because of lingering back issues, Buchholz only managed to go five innings, throwing 81 pitches. The righty seemed to be pitching very deliberately throughout his outing, although he was able to use all of his pitches. He had been pushed back heading into his last start due to the back woes, rebounding to allow just one run over seven innings.

- Alfredo Aceves, while coming on and throwing 95 mph, ran into some trouble after relieving Buchholz in the sixth. The righty gave up a solo home run to Casey Kotchman, who was hitting .335 after his third homer of the season.

- Lowrie’s shoulder problems continued, with the shortstop being forced to leave after just one at-bat (a first-inning strikeout against Price). Lowrie has been nursing a sore left shoulder since colliding with Carl Crawford on May 27, and is now in the midst of a 15 at-bat hitless streak. Lowrie, who is just 1-for-18 on the current road trip, was replaced by Marco Scutaro.

Andrew Miller on pitching in majors: ‘I like my chances’

06.16.11 at 9:29 pm ET
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Left-hander Andrew Miller talked with Pawtucket Red Sox announcer Dan Hoard prior to Thursday’s PawSox game about his experience in the Sox organization since signing a minor league deal this offseason, and why he remained with the club rather than exercising a June 15 opt-out. The 26-year-old acknowledged that the opt-out clause was on his mind in his most recent start on Monday — when he allowed one run, struck out 10 and walked one in 5 1/3 innings, the day before the opt-out date — but suggested that, even as he contemplated his options, he didn’t envision leaving the Sox.

“Ultimately, though, I knew things were well taken care of between the organization, myself and the agent,” Miller told Hoard. “I’ve been treated phenomenally here. I knew things would work out well, and was able to go out there with it a little bit in the back of my mind and still pitch well.”

Miller said that Sox GM Theo Epstein, in a meeting with Miller on Tuesday, made clear that the left-hander is part of the organization’s big league plans. That, in turn, allowed the pitcher to maintain a level of comfort in staying with an organization in which he has been, in his own words, treated “phenomenally.”

“I had a conversation with [Epstein]. He told me generally what would happen. They’re going to take care of me,” Miller told Hoard. “I think I am part of their plans, that I am a big part of the plans for the organization. Obviously my goal in signing here was to get better but also to help the big club win some games at some point. I’m looking forward to that opportunity when it comes.

“You’ve got to look at all your options,” Miller added of his opt-out, “but just because it’s an option doesn’t mean it’s a good option. I think, everything here has been so great. Everyone in general has been so good to me, and everything we’ve done has worked like a charm, so it seemed like a great place for me.”

Miller has a 2.47 ERA this year, and in his last four starts, he has a 1.78 ERA with 26 strikeouts and three walks in 25 1/3 innings. Those results have convinced the pitcher that his decision to sign a minor league deal with the Sox was the right course.

“There are certainly still lots of strides to be made, but like I said, things have gone the direction we envisioned. Everything has gone as well as I could have hoped for. I would hope the organization thinks the same from their side,” said Miller. “I signed here because it seemed like a good fit. It seemed like a great organization. So far, it’s been better than I expected.”

While Miller did not discuss details of when he might pitch in the majors — reportedly, he will start for the Sox in the majors next week, perhaps as soon as Monday — he expressed confidence that he is ready to perform effectively when he does get called up.

“I’m certainly confident that if I throw the way I have the last three weeks or so that I’d do pretty well and hold my own up there,” said Miller. “You never know till you go out there and compete, but certainly I like the way I’m throwing the ball and I like my chances.”

To listen to the complete interview between Miller and Hoard, in which Miller discusses the new pre-start routine that has contributed to his effectiveness, click here.

Read More: andrew miller, dan hoard,

Thursday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. David Price

06.16.11 at 1:39 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz

After being scratched from his prior start with a sore back, Clay Buchholz shined against Toronto in his most recent outing. Buchholz (5-3, 3.59) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings of work. He struck out six Blue Jays batters while walking a pair. In fact, Boston’s 26-year-old hurler walked no more than two batters in each of his last nine starts.  In his career against Tampa Bay, Buchholz is 3-2 with an impressive 1.81 ERA and 43 strikeouts. Thursday, Buchholz will look to continue add on another quality start, going against Tampa Bay’s David Price.

Price (7-5, 3.51) had one of his worst starts of the season Saturday in Baltimore. He allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings. He allowed two home runs to Orioles batters after having given up zero longballs in his three previous starts. In his career at Tropicana Field, Price is 20-8 with a 2.50 ERA. And, in his career pitching against Boston the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft is  4-2, with a 3.18 ERA.

B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman are the two Rays with the most success in their respective careers against Buchholz. Upton is 4-for-10 with one home run, a double and two walks. However, this season Upton boasts a measly .167 average against his divisional rivals. Kotchman is 6-for-9 against Buchholz with half of his hits being doubles. He is hitting a scorching .342 this season, but has cooled off in the month of June, tallying a .250 pace. Neither former Red Sox Johnny Damon and Kelly Shoppach have done anything notable against Buchholz.

The Boston bats have a decent history against Price. Every hitter on roster has fasted the Rays starter. Kevin Youkilis (.385), Darnell McDonald (.333) and Jed Lowrie (.333) have all hit Price well and enter Thursday’s game with a combined six extra-base hits in 38 at-bats. Mike Cameron is 3-for-6 with a home run, while headline offseason acquisitions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are a combined 0-for-8.

Rays vs. Clay Buchholz

Evan Longoria (21 plate appearances): .278 BA/.381 OBP/.389 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

Ben Zobrist (15): .231/.333/.231, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

B.J. Upton (12): .400/.500/.800, 1 HR, 1 double, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Casey Kotchman (9): .667/.667/1.000, 3 doubles, 1 strikeout

John Jaso (8): .143/.200/.286, 1 double, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Johnny Damon (6): .200/.333/.400, 1 double, 1 walk

Matthew Joyce (5): .333/.400/.333, 2 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Reid Brignac (2), Sean Rodriguez (2) and Kelly Shoppach (2) are all hitless against Buchholz. They have struck out a combined five times.

Sam Fuld, Elliot Johnson and Justn Ruggiano have not faced the Boston starter.

Red Sox vs. David Price

Marco Scutaro (19): .111/.158/.111, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Darnell McDonald (14): .333/.429/.538, 1 HR, 1 triple, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (14): .385/.429/.538, 2 doubles, 2 strikeouts

Jed Lowrie (12): .333/.333/.500, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (12): .167/.167/.333, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 4 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (10): .111/.200/.222, 1 double, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (7): .167/.286/.167, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (7): .167/.286/.333, 1 double, 1 walk

Mike Cameron (6): .500/.500/1.000, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Jason Varitek (6): .167/.167/.300, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Carl Crawford (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 strikeout

Adrian Gonzalez (4): .000/.000/.000

Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked in his only plate appearance against Price.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz,

Here comes ‘Moneyball’ … the movie; do you like what you see?

06.16.11 at 12:57 pm ET
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Here is the first look at the movie “Moneyball,” the story of the A’s and their general manager Billy Beane. It is being directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is due out in September.

Thoughts …

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