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Red Sox vs. A’s Live Blog — Doubleheader Edition!

08.27.11 at 12:05 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Yankees have a split noon/5pm doubleheader. The teams had little time to regain their bearings for the noon start, but there was enough time for right-hander Scott Atchison to be shipped off in favor of Michael Bowden to provide the Sox with bullpen depth.

For the latest news, analysis and updates from the doubleheader, join the Live Blog, below.

Red Sox vs. A’s Live Blog, Game 1

Despite struggles, Matt Albers feels he’s been a few pitches away from better August

08.27.11 at 11:23 am ET
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Red Sox reliever Matt Albers was by all counts having a career year before the calendar flipped to August. His 2.09 ERA and 0.95 WHIP were easily the best stats of his six years in the majors. But in the weeks since August 1, those numbers have swollen to 4.33 and 1.43 as the 28-year-old’€™s stats have not only fallen back to earth but also closer to Albers’€™s career averages of 4.99 and 1.54, numbers that led to him to be cut by the Orioles in the offseason.

Friday’€™s 15-5 loss to the A’€™s was just the latest in a line of poor Albers outings that have signaled the man who had been at one time a reliable reliever may no longer be deserving of such a title. Albers allowed four runs on four hits in just one inning of mop-up work after entering in the eighth of a 9-4 game.

Although the on-paper stats would indicate otherwise, Albers said Saturday that he felt he was very close to having a decent outing.

‘€œI felt like I was just one pitch away,’€ he said. ‘€œI had two strikes and two outs on a few guys and just wasn’€™t quite able to make the pitch to get out of the inning.’€

Albers’€™s day-after analysis appears to be spot-on. After surrendering a double to Jemile Weeks to start the inning, Albers retired the next two batters he faced (Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui respectively) to place himself one out away from a painless frame. Had Albers retired the next batter, his season ERA would’ve stood pat at a respectable 3.67, and no one would have thought anything of it.

Instead, this is how the rest of the inning played out:

-Despite starting up 1-2 in the count, Albers threw three straight balls to Josh Willingham to walk the Oakland slugger.

-Albers went up 0-2 this time to Brandon Allen before he allowed a 1-2 double that scores Weeks and puts two runners in scoring position.

David DeJesus doubled off Albers on a 1-1 count to clear the bases.

-Albers settled slightly and went up again 1-2 to Kurt Suzuki but followed that with two balls and a fastball that the catcher grooved to center to score the fourth run of the inning.

-After having two-strike counts to three of his previous four opponents, Albers finally struck out Cliff Pennington on three straight strikes.

An ability to get ahead of hitters as Albers did Friday is usually one of the first signs of success for pitchers. His velocity also appears to be where it should be as he topped at 96 mph Friday night. But it was his inability to retire hitters despite both of those cases that had Albers shaking his head the most the day after. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Jon Lester vs. Guillermo Moscoso

08.27.11 at 10:49 am ET
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The Red Sox kick off a doubleheader against the Athletics Saturday at noon. The team rescheduled both weekend games to Saturday in the hopes of avoiding Hurricane Irene.

Jon Lester starts for the Red Sox, looking to win his third decision in a row and pick up his 14th win. Lester has allowed just two earned runs over his last 13 innings, allowing just three hits in each start. His ERA has dropped by over half a run in his last 10 starts.

Guillermo Moscoso starts for the Athletics. Moscoso has given the Athletics three quality starts in a row, going 2-1 with four earned runs and a 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last 20 innings.

Despite winning his last home start, Lester has still been a weaker pitcher at Fenway then on the road this season. He is just 4-4 at home, and his 3.63 ERA is nearly 0.8 runs higher than his away ERA. He is much better at preventing home runs at home, however.

Moscoso has struggled on the road this season, going 2-5 with a 3.81 ERA that is a run higher than his home ERA. His opposing slugging is consistent at home and on the road (.341 vs. 366), but teams are batting 25 points against Moscoso on the road. He also has a 1.33 strikeout-walk ratio on the road, as opposed to a 2.15 ratio at home.

Lester is a sub-.500 pitcher against Oakland in his career, going 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA and a .298 opposing batting average. He hasn’€™t faced the Athletics since 2009, when he gave up 10 earned runs in two starts.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Lowrie: ‘I’m not getting the results I expect from myself’

08.27.11 at 6:55 am ET
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How to describe a night in which a player goes 0-for-5 with a career-high four strikeouts and an error?

“It was a horse [expletive] night,” said Jed Lowrie, shortly after setting a career high for his most strikeouts in a game. “There’s no other way to say it.”

Yet for Lowrie and his team, one bad night would be a relatively insignificant matter. The bigger issue is the infielder’s performance over a more prolonged stretch.

Lowrie has now played 16 games since returning from the disabled list, where he spent the better part of two months dealing with a left shoulder injury incurred on May 29, when he clipped Carl Crawford while chasing a fly ball. Though Lowrie did enjoy some success on the recent road trip through Kansas City and Texas, going 10-for-27 (.370 with a .400 OBP and .407 slugging mark), his overall performance since coming back suggests that he is still struggling with his timing, with the injury or both.

In his return from the D.L., Lowrie is now hitting .237 with a .266 OBP, .305 slugging mark and .571 OPS. He feels that he has been identifying the right pitches to swing at, but as was the case during his 0-for-5 on Friday night, he is failing to do anything with them.

“The ball I hit hard was right at a guy. The other four, [in three right-handed at-bats], I swung through three pitches. The left-handed at-bat, I didn’€™t see one strike and got rung up. It happens,” said Lowrie. “My approach feels fine. I’€™m not driving the ball. I’€™m not really driving the ball the way that I’€™d like to. When I do, guys are running it down. I don’€™tknow. I’€™m sure my shoulder has something to do with it, but I’€™m so tired of having something to say about that. You just strap it on and give what you got that day.”

Meanwhile, defensively, Lowrie’s gaffe on Friday was simply the latest in a startling cluster of errors. He has committed 15 errors in 71 games in 2011 (10 at shortstop, five at third base). That is almost double his total of eight errors in more than double that number of games (168) from 2008-10.

While Lowrie was playing third base on Friday, and has been used primarily at that position in recent games with Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list, he suggested that the shuffle between positions on the left side of the infield is not to blame.

“I’€™m playing a lot more third base this year. [But] I feel comfortable over there. Tonight was a silly error. A guy capped one off the bat. It spun more than I thought it would. It good behind me or I got ahead of it,” said Lowrie. “But, I know I’€™ve got good hands. I’€™m more worried about making the plays than how many errors I’€™ve got. It’€™s really not what I’€™m concerned about.”

In the past, Lowrie has often talked about the need to separate the process from the results. Nonetheless, at a certain point, players are judged by the proverbial bottom line. That is the reason why the 27-year-old wrestled the starting shortstop job from Marco Scutaro in April, when Lowrie almost single-handedly revived a moribund offense. And it is part of the reason why it remains an open question how playing time will be divided once Youkilis returns from the DL.

Since May 1, Lowrie is hitting .225 with a .279 OBP, .310 slugging mark and .589 OPS. In that same span, Scutaro — who started the year delivering little production — is hitting .289 with a .348 OBP, .405 slugging percentage and .753 OPS.

Clearly, things have changed quite a bit since the start of the season. And whether it is the result of his injury or not, Lowrie recognizes that there is a need for him to deliver more than what he has offered.

“I feel like I’€™m playing the game well. I’€™m not going up there and swinging at pitches out of the zone. I’€™m missing a lot of pitches now, whereas early in the year, if I got a pitch out over the plate, I was driving it. Now, a perfect example tonight, I got a hanging breaking ball and swung right through it, fouled it straight back,” said Lowrie. “I feel like I’€™m playing the game well right now, but I’€™m not getting the results that I expect from myself. That’€™s really the only way to put it.”

Darnell McDonald: ‘I’ll be ready [to pitch] for the playoffs’

08.27.11 at 12:53 am ET
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It was the most lighthearted moment from an otherwise dreary and dreadful night at Fenway for Red Sox fans and players alike.

Darnell McDonald coming in from right field to start and finish the ninth inning for the Red Sox, saving the bullpen an inning of work on a night where they were force to come in early and relieve an ineffective Tim Wakefield in a 15-5 loss to the A’s.

McDonald is not just any position player filling in for an inning. This was a player in high school in Colorado who impressed scouts with his ability to throw 95 off the mound as a pitcher. But that was also the last time he actually pitched in a game.

That is, before Terry Francona asked him coming off the field in the eighth inning if he could save the Red Sox pen an inning with the prospects of a split doubleheader just over 12 hours away.

‘€œI just came in [from right field after the eighth] and Tito just asked me if I could throw an inning and I said I was more than happy to do it.’€

His first pitch – from the stretch – to Scott Sizemore sailed all the way back to the screen.

‘€œI haven’€™t pitched since high school. It’€™s been a few years and obviously, you can see the rust on me. Really, it was a lot tougher than it looks,” McDonald said. “Was trying to throw strikes. I was a little wild early on and couldn’€™t find my release point but a couple more bullpen sessions with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], I’€™ll be ready for the playoffs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tim Wakefield: ‘That win will eventually happen, hopefully’

08.27.11 at 12:10 am ET
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Tim Wakefield‘s sixth crack at his 200th career victory yielded one of his worst outings of the season, as the knuckleballer lasted just four innings (his shortest start of the year) while allowing eight runs (matching a season high), four of which were earned, on eight hits, two walks and two homers in the Sox’ 15-5 loss to the A’s.

While the 45-year-old has now been stuck on 199 career victories for more than a month, he suggested that his frustration on Friday night was the result less of his failure to achieve the milestone and more due to his inability to work deep into the game. With the Sox having landed in Boston at roughly 5 a.m. on Friday, and with the team scheduled to play a doubleheader on Saturday, Wakefield (6-6, 5.10) bemoaned the brevity of his outing.

“That [200th] win will eventually happen, hopefully. The thing I pride myself most in is to try to give myself quality innings, get deep in the game and not have to use the bullpen like we did tonight,” said Wakefield. “That’€™s my biggest disappointment, knowing that we have a doubleheader tomorrow and only being able to go four innings tonight.”

Wakefield, who has made as many starts (19) as he did in 2010 and who has now logged 130 2/3 innings this year, said that he does not feel worn down at this stage of the year.

“I feel great. I thought I had some pretty good movement on the ball except for there in that fourth inning. The ball started leaving the ballpark,” said Wakefield. “I feel fine physically. I worked really hard this offseason and I’€™m maintaining my program with [Sox strength coach] Dave Page and everything feels great.”

Wakefield is now 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA in his six starts following his 199th victory on July 24. Manager Terry Francona, asked if Wakefield was at a point in the season in which he could use extra rest, declined to suggest that the knuckleballer needed a breather before his next start.

“I bet you every pitcher might be able to benefit from a little of downtime. I just think Wake had a tough night,” said Francona. “This last streak he’€™s been on when he’€™s trying to get this win, there’€™s been a lot of things happen where he’€™s left this game with leads and we’€™ve given them up or something has happened. Nah, he’€™s OK. He’€™s worked hard so he can do this. I think he’€™s OK.’€

David Ortiz continues to own lefties

08.26.11 at 11:56 pm ET
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In 2006, David Ortiz had arguably the best season of his career. He smacked a career-high 54 home runs with 137 RBIs and recorded a slugging percentage of .636, a personal best.

One area that stood out in that 2006 season was his performance against left-handed pitchers. Ortiz went deep 18 times against lefties this season, and had an OPS of .988 — far and away his best production against southpaws.

He followed that up with another strong season in 2007 although his home runs dipped to five. But since 2008, Ortiz has struggled in that department. He reached his nadir last season with lines of .222/.275/.324 and only two home runs in 185 at bats.

That’s what make his renaissance this season all the more remarkable. Not only are his all-around numbers approaching his peak levels, but he has particularly thrived against lefties hitting .328/.429/.588 entering playing Friday night. His OPS of 1.016 against lefties is the highest mark of his career when he’s had at least 80 at bats.

In an otherwise forgettable 15-5 loss to Oakland on Friday night, Ortiz continued his torrid stretch going 3-for-4 against Gio Gonzalez and Brian Fuentes, both of whom are left-handed.

After opening the game with a single, Ortiz took Gonzalez deep in the fourth inning. It was his eighth home run against lefties this season, which equals his mark from the last two years combined. He added a double to right in the seventh against Fuentes, blasting it through the shift the A’s had employed against him.

Since returning from a right heel injury, Ortiz is now 6-for-12 with two doubles and two home runs. Tired and exhausted after a long trip that saw the team get in at 5 a.m., he wasn’t in much of a mood to talk about his success. “It was a bad day man,” he said. “We got our [butts] kicked. Nothing you can do about it but come back tomorrow and fight back.”

But it’s worth remembering that his success is the product of work that’s gone back to spring training and the offseason. “It’s all right here,” he told reporters back in Fort Myers, referring to his mental approach.

All the work that Ortiz put into the offseason has continued to pay off. On a night when not much else seemed to go right, Ortiz’s mastery of lefties was at least a silver lining.

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Closing Time: Tim Wakefield’s wait for 200 continues

08.26.11 at 10:47 pm ET
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It may seem like it’s taken forever for Tim Wakefield to get his 200th career win, but he’s had longer droughts in his career. In a span that covered the end of the 2000 season and lingered into 2011, Wakefield went 11 starts without recording a victory for the Pirates.

It’s now six starts and counting since Wakefield last had a win on July 24, which is tied for the fourth-longest drought of his Red Sox tenure. But all of that is small comfort as he continues to sit on 199 wins.

Wakefield gave up eight runs — four earned — in four innings of work in a 15-5 loss to the A’s Friday night at Fenway and while he was often a victim of bad luck, Wakefield was also hurt by the long ball. He’s now given up 10 home runs in his last eight games after surrendering two more against the A’s.

Wakefield’s start comes on the heels of Andrew Miller‘s most impressive outing of the season, which may open the debate about who deserves to stay in the rotation in the month of September. But with a loaded schedule that includes 23 games in 23 days beginning Tuesday against the Yankees, the Sox may be in no hurry to make a decision.

For now, the wait simply continues for No. 200.


– The fourth inning started poorly and got progressively worse. It began with some bad luck after Wakefield appeared to catch Kurt Suzuki with a full-count fastball but home plate umpire Brian Runge called it a ball. After a pop-up that would have ended the inning, Scott Sizemore took Wakefield deep to make it 4-1.

That’s when things really went bad. Wakefield struck out Jemile Weeks but he reached on a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. After a walk, Hideki Matsui launched a two-run double to center and then Josh Willingham made it 8-1 with yet another home run. For good measure, an error by Jed Lowrie prolonged the inning.

– It was probably inevitable after the team plane landed around 5 a.m. from Texas, but the Sox were a step behind defensively all night. Saltalamacchia’s passed ball opened the door to further damage in the fourth and then in the seventh, Mike Aviles had problems in left field and Lowrie committed his 15th error of the season. His five alone at third base are as many as he has had in his previous seasons.

– Lowrie’s struggles with lefties continued as he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez and also struck out against reliever Jerry Blevins. Lowrie is hit-less in his last eight at-bats against lefties and has only two hits in last 14 at bats. He also struck out looking with runners on second and third in the seventh against the right-handed pitching Grant Balfour.

– After giving up four runs in the eighth, Matt Albers has given up 13 runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last five appearances.


David Ortiz continued his impressive assault against left-handers. He came into the game hitting .328 against lefties and went 2-for-2 against Gonzalez and added a double against reliever Brian Fuentes. Ortiz swatted his 26th home run of the year and now has eight home runs against lefties this season, which is even more impressive when you consider that he had eight combined the last two seasons. Since returning from a heel injury, Ortiz is 6-for-12 with two doubles and two home runs.

Dustin Pedroia tied his career-high for home runs with his 17th of the season in the fourth inning off Gonzalez. Pedroia is now 33-for-82 (.402) with six home runs out the cleanup spot in 20 games.

Scott Atchison was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to provide protection to the pitching staff in case things got out of hand either Friday night or in Saturday’s doubleheader and the Sox needed him on Friday. He gave them three solid innings in relief of Wakefield, allowing one run on three hits.

– Kudos to Darnell McDonald for picking up the Sox with an inning of mop-up work in the ninth. It’s never an ideal situation for a position player to take the mound, but McDonald gave it a shot. It was the first pitching appearance of his career.

Read More: Closing time, David Ortiz, Oakland A's, Tim Wakfield

J.D. Drew ‘feels good’ after first rehab start

08.26.11 at 10:20 pm ET
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LOWELL — Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew made his first significant step in returning to the lineup Friday night when he made a rehab start with the Lowell Spinners, the short-season Single A affiliate of the Red Sox. Drew went 0-2 with a run scored batting third as the team’s designated hitter.

Drew has been on disabled list since July 26 with a left shoulder impingement.

“I felt good,” he said. “It is just a matter of getting back in the swing of things and seeing some pitches. It was really unique to come back to a ballpark of this size and lighting. It is kind of different, but I just got back in the swing of things.”

Prior to his first at-bat he received a loud ovation from the crowd only to strike out on six pitches. Drew took the first four pitches, fouled a pitch off and then swung and missed at a breaking ball. Drew next came to the plate in the fourth inning and flew out to shallow left field on a 1-1 pitch.

“I felt the swings got better as the night went on,” Drew said. “The first at-bat was more figuring out how to work the count and as the night went on my approach got better and a little cleaner.”

In Drew’s third at-bat he was hit by a 2-2 breaking ball on the right shoulder. Drew then scored all the way from first base on a double.

His final at-bat came in the eighth inning where Drew earned a walk on nine pitches. Drew did take some healthy cuts, fouling off four pitches.

“That last at bat I fouled off a lot of pitches and that guy was throwing pretty hard,” Drew said. “It was good to see. I felt like my approach was nice and clean so it worked out pretty well.”

According to Drew, getting back into the swing of things at the minor league level can be difficult because of the unfamiliarity with the ballparks and inconsistencies from pitchers.

“It’s actually a little easier at the big league level because you have a history with guys that you’re facing,” he said. “You’re more comfortable in your ballpark and the parks you’re playing in. Here it is completely up in the air whether you’re going to get a fastball down the middle or pitches all over the place. For the most part those guys were throwing the ball well. It was fun to play.”

Drew is scheduled to play again [weather permitting] Saturday for the Spinners before playing for Triple-A Pawtucket next Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes well, he is expected to be activated Sept. 1 when the rosters expand to 40 players.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “It will be a judgement call on the weather tomorrow. Supposedly the weather is going to get progressively worse as the afternoon goes along. I don’t know if I will come out, or just stick around Boston and get some good workouts in and try and fine tune my skills before Pawtucket.”

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Red Sox notes: How Ryan Lavarnway helped Sox, J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis get tuned up

08.26.11 at 7:02 pm ET
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Turns out Terry Francona and the Red Sox are also taking measures to brace themselves for a wet and wild weekend at Fenway Park.

They optioned catcher Ryan Lavarnway to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Friday’s game and called up middle-man and sometimes spot-starter Scott Atchison. The move gives the Red Sox an extra arm in the bullpen with a night game followed by a day-night doubleheader starting at noon on Saturday.

It’s the second time in 11 days the Red Sox will be playing three games in a 24-hour window. So, what does Francona think of the havoc Hurricane Irene has already caused with his weekend?

“It wasn’t my decision,” Francona said. “It’s kinda common sense, they want to play the games. I think more than just the Red Sox are doing that. I think it’s a severe enough weather thing. I know the weather is crazy here in New England but when [forecast] calls for a hurricane, probably you move it up out of common sense.”

So, the team decided to shore up their fortress by calling up Atchison, just in case.

“We talked to Lavarnway later [Thursday] night after we had a chance to talk, before we left,” Francona said. “We decided that with the three games coming up in two days, we probably better protected our pitching. So we got Atch here. He’s been lengthened out to three innings at a time and we’ve all seen what he can do.

“Just really wanted to protect our bullpen. It would be nice to have the extra position player. Saying that, Lavarnway is a catcher-DH, we have that. If you’re going to protect your lineup in a doubleheader, that’s probably not where you do it. We swapped them out and wanted to protect our pitching.”

As for Lavarnway, Francona had nothing but glowing things to say about the 24-year-old catcher, who made six starts as DH while the team was without David Ortiz and third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Francona said the team wasn’t concerned about Lavarnway sitting on the bench and not getting at-bats since it’s August and he’s had plenty of plate time already.

“That’s always a good thing,” Francona said. “He’s got about 450 at-bats in the minor leagues and he played a pretty significant amount with us so we weren’t really that concerned.”
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