|08.06.11 at 4:06 pm ET|
The Red Sox find themselves in second place for the first time in a month, having dropped the series opener against the Yankees by a 3-2 count on Friday. Now, the Sox will try to bounce back behind John Lackey against CC Sabathia.
Sabathia has been on an incredible run, going 7-1 with a 1.01 ERA in his last eight starts. Lackey has not been that dominant, though he has been solid of late, with a 3.52 ERA, 26 strikeouts and three walks in his last five starts.
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|08.06.11 at 3:58 pm ET|
John Lackey was downright terrible in the first half of the 2011 season. Many Red Sox fans were calling for the right-handed hurler with a 6.84 ERA to be traded, moved to the bullpen or even released.
Since the All-Star break, however, Lackey (9-8, 6.23 ERA) is 3-0 with a 4.32 ERA in four starts. In that span, he has struck out 19 batters, while walking just a pair. Though his most recent start was the worst of the four, the veteran 32-year-old still managed 6 2/3 innings against the Indians and, despite allowing five runs on eight hits and back-to-back home runs, kept his team in the ballgame. The Red Sox eventually lost to Cleveland 9-6. He has silenced critics and re-established his place in the rotation.
On Saturday, Lackey will need to be on top of his game as the Red Sox take on the Yankees and their ace, CC Sabathia. Sabathia (16-5, 2.55 ERA) has been one of the best pitchers in the bigs all season, and is very consistent. He has allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his last eight starts, throwing at least seven innings in each outing. In that span, he has also averaged a whopping 9.75 strikeouts per game. However, he did match a season-high by allowing 10 hits to the White Sox in his last appearance.
Lackey has a bad history against current Yankees batters. New York batters enter the game with a collective .272 batting average, .348 on-base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage against him. They have nine home runs and 35 extra-base-hits in a combined 393 at-bats. Additionally, four of them have been hit by Lackey, including shortstop Derek Jeter who has been beaned five times. Mark Teixeira has arguably the best numbers against the Red Sox starter. The first baseman is 22-for-66 in his career against Lackey with two home runs and 11 RBIs. Jorge Posada (.319), Curtis Granderson (.316), Brett Gardner (.333) and Andruw Jones (.333) also enter the game with batting averages above the .300 mark.
The Red Sox have not seen quite as much consistent success across the board. Four of the eight players with at least 20 plate appearances against Sabathia — Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury — are hitting under .230 against the 2007 Cy Young award winner. Designated hitter David Ortiz and third baseman Kevin Youkilis are tied for the team lead in home runs against the Yankees starter with two apiece. Youkilis also brings a .371 batting average, .488 on-base percentage, .714 slugging percentage and six extra-base hits in 35 career at-bats. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.06.11 at 1:28 am ET|
It was the singular showdown of a classic Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park.
With the Red Sox leading, 2-0, they managed to get the bases loaded with two outs against Bartolo Colon. The Yankee starter was pulled by manager Joe Girardi in favor of Boone Logan, a long man in the Yankees pen who is one of the unsung heroes of a surprisingly dominant bullpen.
Into the batter’s box stepped the most dangerous and consistent hitter in the American League this season, Adrian Gonzalez. One would figure the advantage would be in favor of the batter. But Logan wasn’t concerned about the star quality of the batter just getting his team out of a big jam.
“A lefty is a lefty and that’s a big situation, no matter who’s at the plate. You can’t think of it like it’s Gonzalez is at the dish. If you do, that’s when you can probably get in trouble. Just stay confident and go to work.”
And work in this case required just three pitches. Fastball, slider and slider, with the final two coming on uncharacteristically ugly swings from Gonzalez.
“First pitch, coming in figuring he’s looking off-speed,” Logan said. “That’s typically what lefties do, coming in, especially with the bases loaded. I came in there, instead of throwing slider, I went fastball first pitch. He was definitely looking off-speed and then my next [pitch] a slider, which wasn’t one of my better ones, he didn’t look very good on it. I said, ‘If I throw this next slider in the dirt he’ll swing over it.’ And he did.”
“If I would have been looking slider, I wouldn’t have swung,” Gonzalez said. “Last time we faced him in New York I had a pretty similar situation, bases loaded, and I don’t know if he came in to face me or if he was already in the game, but I worked the count and I was able to get a walk. He usually attacks me with sinkers in, sliders away. So I wanted to see how he was going to attack me early. And he went with a four-seamer down in the zone ‘ good pitch, just at the knees. And I told myself to look fastball, middle-away. And he threw a good slider to put me 0-2 and then I just tried to battle. He dropped down a little bit and I wasn’t able to pull back.
Logan said he was as proud of the relievers behind him as he was to strike out the American League’s best hitter on three pitches, giving his team the chance for the go-ahead rally in the next half-inning.
“It’s awesome when the whole bullpen goes in there and puts up zeros, especially against Boston, keeping a one-run lead from the sixth inning, on,” Logan said of the trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera after him. “It’s a great feeling. I’m proud of the guys.”
|08.06.11 at 12:46 am ET|
Red Sox fans have seen this movie before.
An ace pitcher is cruising along against the vaunted Yankee lineup, like Jon Lester was on Friday night. The Sox left had allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, throwing just 73 pitches in the process.
Then, boom. All of sudden, the Yankees start taking pitches, fouling off pitcher’s pitches and making every swing count. The Yankees still work the pitcher as well as any team in baseball and they proved it again Friday night, trailing 2-0.
Even the best pitchers the Red Sox ever had – like Pedro Martinez, circa 1999 – have fallen victim to this in the last 15 years that Derek Jeter has been a captain. And Jeter was at the middle of things – or more to the point – the start of things on Friday night.
Eduardo Nunez fell behind quickly two strikes to open the sixth, with the Lester and the Red Sox in command, 2-0. Then six pitches – including two foul balls – later, he was on base with a walk. Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI single to left-center and it was 2-1.
‘Just really lost command,” Lester said. “You have to tip your cap to them. They did a good job being patient that inning. I threw some pretty good pitches they laid off, whether it was a ball or strike, they stayed within themselves and it seemed like the first five innings, we dictated both sides of the plate and in the sixth inning, they did.’
Lester would throw his final 35 pitches of the night in that sixth inning as the Yankees rallied for three runs off Lester.
‘The first thing was Nunez’s at-bat, the fact that he was able a 3-2 walk after fouling off some really tough pitches,” Granderson said. “I think he threw pretty anything and everything at him. Derek got his first hit of the ball game, I got my first hit. Nunez read it really well and was able to score.” Read the rest of this entry »
|08.05.11 at 11:51 pm ET|
It was a small moment in the game, one that ultimately had no bearing on the outcome. Even so, whenever there is a hard takeout slide on a potential double play in a Red Sox-Yankees game, the matter can almost always take on a life of its own as reaction is culled from both clubhouses about whether a play is clean, dirty or a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Such a moment could have taken place in the top of the third inning. Yankees third baseman Eduardo Nunez was on first with no outs and Derek Jeter at the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Jeter grounded to shortstop Marco Scutaro, who fired to Pedroia for the force at second. Nunez came in hard at second, coming in under Pedroia, who had to hurdle Nunez while firing to first. The throw beat Jeter, but the Yankees captain was ruled safe at first, with first base ump Mark Carlson ruling that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had come off the bag while reaching up for the throw.
Nunez’ hard slide could have been an issue, just as was an attempt by Alex Rodriguez to take out the second baseman in 2007, which Pedroia deemed “kind of cheap” but “no big deal” at the time. This time, Pedroia seemed more interested in crowing about his pivot — and recalling the most memorable endorsement deal of retired first baseman Fred McGriff‘s career — than assessing the ethics of Nunez’ play.
“He was out at first, huh? It was [expletive] Tom Emanski textbook turning a double play, that’s what that [expletive] was,” cracked Pedroia, recalling the home instructional video that was advertised ad nauseum for years. “Textbook.’
|08.05.11 at 10:38 pm ET|
It had the makings of a great start but instead came to a screeching halt.
Jon Lester had dominating stuff out of the chute against the Yankees. The left-hander, who entered the night with an 8-1 career record and wins in each of his prior five starts against New York, appeared primed to continue his ownership of his AL East rivals, on a night when he featured a swing-and-miss fastball (which topped out at 95 mph), curve and cutter.
However, a game that the Sox led, 2-0, into the fifth swung over the course of two half innings. In the bottom of the fifth, the Sox loaded the bases with two outs against starter Bartolo Colon but, in a painstakingly deliberate frame that included a pitching change, could not score. Then, after the long half-inning, Lester appeared to lose velocity, feel and confidence with his fastball, in an inning that he started with a walk to No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez and that resulted in the Yankees pushing across three runs, the last on a two-out RBI double by Nick Swisher.
And so, on a night when the Sox could do nothing against the Yankees bullpen, Boston’s seven-game winning streak against New York came to an end in a 3-2 loss. The defeat dropped the Sox into second place by a game, the first time that they have trailed in the division since July 6.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Adrian Gonzalez had his 14-game hitting streak come to an end, going 0-for-4. His hitless night was most notable for a three-pitch strikeout against reliever Boone Logan with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, an at-bat in which he went down swinging on a slider in the dirt. It was Gonzalez’ first three-pitch strikeout since July 19.
–Lester saw his streak of five straight victorious starts against the Yankees — the longest by a Sox left-handed pitcher since at least 1919 — come to an end. His outing came apart in no small measure due to a sudden affliction with command woes. In the three-run sixth, he walked a pair of batters, and issued four free passes in the game. It was the most walks Lester had permitted since allowing five to the White Sox on May 30.
–Though the Sox managed to knock Colon out of the game after 4 2/3 innings, they failed to take advantage of the early turn to the Yankees bullpen, a group that underscored why it leads the American League in ERA. New York’s relievers delivered 4 1/3 scoreless innings, as Logan (1 1/3 innings), Rafael Soriano (1 inning), David Robertson (1 inning) and Mariano Rivera (1 inning) allowed just two hits and no runs.
That snapped a streak of 23 straight victories for the Sox in games in which they knocked out the opposing starter before he’d made it through five straight innings, dating to May 7. The team is now 26-4 in such games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Jacoby Ellsbury continued his incredible midsummer surge. The leadoff hitter gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the third inning when he delivered a double off the Wall in left center. It was his 51st extra-base hit of the year; already, Ellsbury has become the fourth player in Red Sox history to reach 50 extra-base hits and 30 steals in the same season, joining Johnny Damon (2002, 2003), Bill Werber (1934) and Tris Speaker (1912-14).
Since June 30, Ellsbury has been accelerated in a season that was already shaping up to be an All-Star campaign. In his last 31 games, he is now hitting .375 with a .423 OBP, .669 slugging mark and a 1.092 OPS, along with nine homers.
–Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his excellent stretch of shutting down opponents’ running games. He gunned down a pair of Yankees (Derek Jeter and Nunez) trying to steal second; according to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, Saltalamacchia — who caught just seven of the first 48 runners (14.6 percent) who tried to steal on him — has now caught 10 of 26 (38 percent) since June 16, including five of his last seven.
–Matt Albers delivered two hitless innings of relief. Against the Yankees this year, he has yet to allow a run in four appearances spanning six innings.
|08.05.11 at 7:25 pm ET|
It’s the battle for first place at Fenway Park, where both the Red Sox and Yankees arrive with identical 68-42 records, on pace for 100 wins each. Jon Lester will look to continue his career dominance against the Yankees, while Bartolo Colon will attempt to continue his improbably resurrection, six years removed from his Cy Young season.
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