Archive for April, 2010

Closing Time: Orioles 5, Red Sox 4

Friday, April 30th, 2010

The Red Sox appeared headed to an impressive 4-3 come-from-behind victory when J.D. Drew delivered a go-ahead homer for Boston in the top of the eighth. But the bullpen betrayed that advantage in Baltimore, as Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada smashed a game-tying homer off of Daniel Bard in the eighth inning, then delivered a game-winning single back up the middle in the bottom of the 10th against Manny Delcarmen, as Baltimore claimed a 5-4, walkoff victory. (Recap.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

John Lackey was spectacular at times for the Sox. He featured a terrific curveball and slider that helped him to a season-high six strikeouts. He allowed three runs (two earned) in seven innings, allowing just five hits (four singles and a double), while throwing a whopping 120 pitches.

Lackey became the first Sox pitcher to throw 120 pitches this year. Entering Friday, all major league hurlers had combined to throw just nine games of 120 or more pitches.

J.D. Drew entered Friday with just one multi-hit game in 2010, two homers and a .181/.282/.306/.588 line. But the right-fielder smashed a pair of solo homers — one to left-center on a fastball from David Hernandez in the second inning, and another to dead center on a Jim Johnson fastball in the eighth inning — for his fifth multi-homer game as a Red Sox, and his first of the 2010 season.

Dustin Pedroia continued his current hot streak, going 2-for-4 with a homer to right-center and 2 RBI. He is now 10-for-26 (.385) in his last six games. His homer was his first since April 17, and just the third opposite field homer of his career. His six homers in April matched his career-high for any month (previously achieved in August 2008).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox defense, anticipated to be a strong suit this year, continued its disappointing path. A pair of errors led to a key unearned run in the fourth, as center fielder Darnell McDonald kicked a leadoff single to center by Miguel Tejada, then, after a walk put runners on first and second, third baseman Adrian Beltre booted a double-play grounder to allow a run.

Beltre was also caught out of the position in the first inning, when he was heading towards the bag on a planned pickoff throw to third. Matt Wieters shot a run-scoring single to left through the vacated hole.

Beltre in particular has made several sloppy plays this season (five errors), but the Sox defense as a whole has also been well short of advertised. Entering Friday, the Sox had a .691 defensive efficiency, ranked 19th among the 30 major league teams.

Daniel Bard grooved a 96 mph fastball to Miguel Tejada in the bottom of the eighth that the third baseman slammed deep into the left-field stands for a game-tying solo homer. It was the third homer that Bard has allowed in 14.2 innings this year. He gave up five longballs in 49.1 innings in the 2009 season.

–Beltre’s challenging evening did not stop there. He was also thrown out at third on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play, and was called for baserunner interference in the top of the seventh, thus turning what would have been a force out at second into a double play. The interference call (which was debatable) may have cost the Sox a run, since with two outs, McDonald walked and both Marco Scutaro and Pedroia singled, a rally that yielded one run but could have resulted in more.

Beltre did, however, go 3-for-5 to improve his average to .338.

Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups, 4/30

Friday, April 30th, 2010

It was a nice trip to Toronto for the Red Sox, as they swept the Blue Jays to get back to .500 on the season, at 11-11. Now they will face a familiar opponent ‘€” the Baltimore Orioles, who the Sox took two of three from last week.

John Lackey will be on the hill in Friday night’s game, getting his second crack at the Orioles this season. Baltimore got its licks in against the Sox starter on April 24, as Lackey let up 10 hits on the day and walked a pair. But he was able to keep the Orioles from putting up big numbers on the scoreboard, as he let up just three runs in seven innings of work.

On the year, Lackey is 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA, mostly thanks to a rough outing against Tampa Bay on April 19, when he let up eight earned runs in just 3-1/3 innings. The right-hander has done well against Baltimore in the past, posting a 9-3 career record with a 3.21 ERA.

The Orioles will have 24-year old right-hander David Hernandez on the mound. Hernandez emerged as Baltimore’s fifth starter this spring, winning the job over the highly touted Chris Tillman, but has failed to find early success thus far, at least in terms of his record. He is 0-3 with a 4.84 ERA in his first four starts in his second big league season, but he pitched fairly well against the Sox last week at Fenway Park, when he allowed three earned runs over five innings of work.

Control issues have plagued Hernandez early this year, as he has 10 walks over 22-1/3 innings of work. But when you take a closer look at his numbers, he has actually performed relatively well. What has hurt his is a lack of run support, as the Orioles tallied just three runs total in his first three starts before breaking through against the Sox on April 25 to score seven times.

Despite it being just his second year, he has faced the Sox more than any other team. Last year he had mixed results vs. Boston, going 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA. His had his best performance of the 2009 season against the Red Sox, allowing one run over seven strong innings in his first start against the Sox on July 26. In his other three appearances, however, he lasted past the fifth inning just once and lost two of the three games.

Here are the matchups.

Red Sox vs. David Hernandez

Dustin Pedroia (14 career plate appearances against Hernandez): .231 average/.286 OBP/.923 slugging, 3 home runs, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (14): .385/.429/.846, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (13): .167/.231/.333, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Victor Martinez (11): .182/.182/.182, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (9): .333/.333/.444, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Adrian Beltre (5): .500/.600/.500, 1 walk

Mike Lowell is 2 for 3 vs Hernandez, while Jeremy Hermida has one walk in his two appearances against the Orioles’ starter. Jason Varitek and Jonathan van Every are both 0-2 against Hernandez. Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald have never faced the right-hander.

Orioles vs. John Lackey

Miguel Tejada (37 career plate appearances against Lackey): .297 average/.297 OBP/.432 slugging, 2 d0ubles, 1 home run, 9 strikeouts

Nick Markakis (28): .320/.393/.360, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts

Cesar Izturis (21): .190/.190/.190, 4 strikeouts

Julio Lugo (20): .222/.300/.278, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Ty Wigginton (16): .286/.375/.500, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Adam Jones (14): .143/.143/.286, 1 triple, 5 strikeouts

Luke Scott (9): .375/.444/1.250, 2 home runs, 2 strikeouts

Matt Wieters (9): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Nolan Reimold (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 strikeout

Garrett Atkins is hitless in three at bats against Lackey. The sox starter has never faced Craig Tatum, the Orioles’ backup catcher.

Frandsen claimed on waivers by Angels

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Infielder Kevin Frandsen, whom the Red Sox traded for from the Giants in spring training, was claimed off waivers by the Angels after the Sox had designated him for assignment to make room for Alan Embree on the 40-man roster. The right-handed-hitting Frandsen, 27, hit .258 in 17 games for Triple-A Pawtucket with two home runs, managing a .308 average against left-handed pitching.

Lars Anderson promoted to Triple A

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Red Sox prospect Lars Anderson was promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday. Anderson is expected to make his PawSox debut at McCoy Stadium on either Thursday or Friday night.

Anderson, 22, was hitting .355/.408/.677/1.086 in 17 games for Portland this season. He ranked third in the Eastern League in batting and was tied for second in both homers (5) and RBI (16). He also led the league with a .677 slugging pct. and was tied for second in total bases with 42.

The left-handed-swinging Anderson, who struggled throughout the 2009 season in Double A, was described as once again driving the ball to all fields in 2010 after becoming pull-heavy in his approach at times last year. Members of the Red Sox organization suggested that he was taking a more relaxed approach to the game this year, something that helped his on-field performance.

The first baseman had reached base safely in 16 of his 17 games played, had a season-high seven-game hitting streak from April 11-19 (9-for-24, .375) and was amidst a six-game hitting streak with the Sea Dogs (10-for-21, .476) at this time of his promotion to Pawtucket. He hit .350 vs. lefty pitching (7-for-20) and .357 vs. right-handed pitching (15-for-42 with all 5 HR). Anderson, who predominately batted fifth in the Portland lineup this season, went 3-for-4 with a run scored in his last Sea Dogs’€™ game on Tuesday night to lead Portland to a 2-0 win at Binghamton. In his previous game last Sunday he was 2-for-5 with a season-high four RBI including an RBI single in the seventh inning and a tiebreaking three-run home run in the ninth inning to give Portland a 9-5 victory at Trenton.

Anderson, who is ranked as Boston’€™s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America after earning the No. 1 ranking prior to the 2009 season, spent all of last season with Portland and was a midseason Eastern League All-Star.

Nielsen ranking: Sox second most hated MLB team

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Based on an Internet algorithm created by the Nielsen Co., the Red Sox are the second most hated team in Major League Baseball, trailing only the Indians. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Nielsen formula uses various keywords to find out whether people have positive, negative or neutral reactions to different brands and products. Following the Red Sox on the list are the Reds, Astros and fifth-place Yankees. The teams ranking the most popular are the Giants and A’s.

Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 0

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

For the first time in two weeks, the Red Sox are no longer a team under .500.

Thanks to an ace-affirming start from Jon Lester and a pair of hits and an RBI from Darnell McDonald Hobbs (guess that makes Mike Cameron Bump Bailey,) the Sox completed a sweep of the Blue Jays on Wednesday night with a 2-0 win.

And while a record of 11-11 is nothing to write a song about, it sure beats 4-9 with a stick.

The Sox get a day off Thursday, then head to Camden Yards for a three-game set with the Orioles, the grand poobah of the “Let us Help You Get Fat and Happy Club.”

So what went right and what went wrong for the Red Sox in a bizarre three-game series (played in front of, oh, maybe 40,000 total) that saw nearly five times more runs scored in the first six innings (23) than in the final 21 (five)? Let’s narrow it down:

What Went Right For The Red Sox

To put it mildly, Jon Lester has his groove back: I suppose it’s possible that a Red Sox starter will have a more dominant outing than the one authored by Lester (7 IP, one hit, no runs, two walks, 11 Ks) on Wednesday, but I’d stash that chance in the Highly Unlikely file. Gone, I think, is worry about slow starts and mechanical problems. And give Francona a lot of credit for sending Lester back in the game for the seventh inning. I thought he was done after 106 pitches. But his final inning was perhaps his strongest, as he sandwiched a Vernon Wells foul pop-out to Kevin Youkilis around strikeouts of Jose Bautista and Lyle Overbay (getting Overbay looking on a nasty curve.) His ERA, once 8.44, is already down to 4.71. Any bets that it’ll be below 3.00 at the All-Star Break?

The A-List: I suspect that Lester for seven innings, Daniel Bard for the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon to close is the closest to a “rocking chair” game that Terry Francona will ever have. Bard did give up a leadoff double to Alex Gonzalez in the eighth, but struck out Adam Lind, Fred Lewis and Travis Snider to get out of the mini-jam. Bard once again was clocked at 100 MPH and and has struck out eight men in his last three innings. And Papelbon looked properly rested in the ninth, pitching a perfect frame for his seventh save.

Is Darnell McDonald a keeper? Could be. Had another RBI for the Red Sox on Wednesday and now has six for the season, or more than either David Ortiz or Victor Martinez (combined 2010 salary of $20.7 million.)

What Went Wrong For The Red Sox:

Another rough night for Victor Martinez: Now hitting .247, Martinez hit into his league-leading eighth GIDP. Part of an 0-for-4 night for Martinez, who hasn’t homered since the second game of the season.

J.D. Drew is still spinning: After complaing of vertigo earlier in the week, Drew looked plenty off-kilter Wednesday, going hitless to see his average drop to .181. Hope it ends better for J.D. than it did for Jimmy Stewart’s character in the Hitchcock classic.

Popular opinion? Ortiz’ days with Sox are numbered

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

When Terry Francona decided to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz on April 20 against Rangers left-hander Darren Oliver, Ortiz summed up the move in one word: embarrassing.

If that was his sentiment then, you have to wonder how he feels Wednesday, one day after he was pulled for Lowell with the bases loaded Tuesday night in a tie game against the Blue Jays. The Jays predictably brought in right-hander Kevin Gregg to face Lowell, who delivered by drawing a walk to force in the winning run. This time, the Red Sox can’t hide behind the fact that a lefty was on the mound. Ortiz was lifted simply because the Red Sox needed to get a hit, and Francona obviously felt that having Lowell at the plate gave his team a better chance at doing that.

Is this the final curtain on Ortiz’s career with the Sox? National columnists are certainly acting like the apocalypse is around the corner, with multiple headlines claiming something along the lines of, “The end is near.”

Even if Ortiz claims he wants to play two or three more seasons, it is becoming increasingly apparent that his career is winding down. Not that it wasn’t apparent last season, when similar stories littered national headlines about Ortiz’ decline before he picked things up in the second half.

Ortiz’ struggles have been a hot topic even for those outside Boston all season ‘€” see here and here ‘€” and he had to carry the burden of myriad questions concerning his issues at the plate into this season. He has been under the microscope all year, and not even Boston’s struggles with starting pitching can overshadow his paltry numbers: a .154 average, .241 OBP and just one home run in 58 plate appearances this month.

The talk has seemed to shift from whether Ortiz can turn things around to what the Red Sox will do with Big Papi. Last year, Ortiz had the luxury of waiting to get out of his slump. But this year his struggles are not new and the Red Sox have capable alternatives ‘€” Lowell and even Victor Martinez ‘€” to go to instead of Ortiz.

How bad have things gotten for Ortiz? When Ryan Howard signed his extension with the Phillies earlier this week, a lot of the talk concerned whether the Phillies would come to regret the move when their first baseman becomes the next Big Papi and suffers a steep decline.

People seem to be looking at this as if Ortiz’ career is already over, taking measures like pondering his Hall of Fame credentials or  wondering what Ortiz’s place amongst the best hitters in Red Sox history, as WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane did a few weeks ago.

Calling Ortiz’ career over might be a little drastic, even though he clearly is not the same player he once was. But one thing is clear: National opinion seems to be that Big Papi’s time as a member of the Red Sox is coming to an end. It might not be the apocalypse, but if and when that times comes it likely will be a disaster in Red Sox Nation. Brace yourselves.

Francona on D&H: ‘Trying to do the right thing’

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Red Sox manager Terry Francona called in to the Dale & Holley show Wednesday for his weekly interview. Francona has had to make some tough calls on David Ortiz and Tim Wakefield early this season, and he discussed what it’s like making those decisions.

“Guys that we’€™ve really leaned on and have been a huge part of some of the success here, all of a sudden they are hearing things they haven’€™t heard before,” Francona said. “That’€™s part of where we are at right now. The best thing I know to do is win and be honest with guys. We are doing the best we can. I don’€™t know that every decision is going to be perfect. It doesn’€™t mean we aren’€™t going to run into a bump in the road, but we are trying to do the right thing.”

To read the rest of the interview, look below. To listen, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Clay Buchholz did exactly what you needed last night, didn’€™t he?

We couldn’€™t have drawn it up any prettier. It was well documented where our bullpen was. You come into a game like that and certainly first and foremost you are thinking we got to win this game somehow. But in the back of your mind you are thinking if thing don’€™t go well we can’€™t ruin our bullpen. There are a lot of superlatives I’€™d like to use. He was so good. Then in the eighth when we gave him an extra opportunity, when we throw the ball away on the ground ball, he buckled down and probably threw better pitches at that point then he had earlier in the game.

What went into the decision to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz?

We are trying to do everything in our power to kind of scratch and claw and find a way to win a game. I didn’€™t think that Mikey was going to face the lefty. I thought they’€™d make a change. At that point, [Scott] Downs has been so tough on us and if they want to let him face Mikey, I think he was 5-for-9 against him. He’€™s got some good number. Every night, the way we are situated right now, there is going to be room to be second-guessed. You can either hit for somebody. You can’€™t hit for somebody or we don’€™t. I think what we need to do is win the game. When we win the game it will normally seem like the right move. When we lose the game it will seem like the wrong move.

How do you handle that situation as a manager, with Ortiz saying he is embarrassed for being pinch-hit for?

I think you guys make more of it than we do. That’s not what I’m thinking about during the game. I don’t think David heard me when I was yelling at him right away. The idea is never to embarrass anybody, of course. But we are trying to run the game, and you don’t know the situation before the at-bat comes up. You wait, but that’s certainly not something we would ever try to do is embarrass anybody. (more…)

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays matchups, 4/28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Jon Lester will try to stay on track against the Blue Jays Wednesday night.

The left-hander had struggled early this season, going 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in his first four starts. Control has been an issue, as he has 13 walks so far in 2010. But he looked significantly better in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles, pitching 5-2/3 innings of shutout ball before leaving in the sixth with men on second and third. Daniel Bard closed things out, and Lester ended up with a line of zero runs allowed on four hits with seven strikeouts (although he did walk four).

Lester has been solid against Toronto, with a 4-3 record and 3.03 ERA in nine career starts. Last season, Lester faced the Jays three times, going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his four starts. He allowed just one earned run in each of the three victories, including his eight-inning stint on Aug. 20 when he scattered three hits and struck out five.

Brett Cecil will be making his second start of the season for Toronto. He allowed four earned runs and had eight strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings of work in an April 23 victory over Tampa Bay. He was victimized by a pair of  home runs by Willy Aybar and Gabe Kapler, but was solid in his first work of the 2010 season.

Cecil faced the Red Sox twice in his rookie year, and did not have much success. In his first game he was tagged for eight runs on 11 hits in 4-2/3 innings, allowing five home runs, including four in the fifth inning. His second outing against Boston was not much better, as he allowed six runs (four earned) in 4-1/3.  The long ball was a problem again, as J.D. Drew smacked a pair of homers in the Boston win.

There isn’t much history to go on for the Sox against Cecil, but the little that exists is mostly positive.

Blue Jays vs. Jon Lester

Vernon Wells (24 career plate appearances against Lester): .222 average/.375 OBP/.444 slugging, 1 home run, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Jose Bautista (21): .235/.333/.412, 1 home run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Aaron Hill (19): .118/.211/.176, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Adam Lind (15): .143/.200/.214, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Lyle Overbay (15): .308/.400/.462, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Jose Molina (13): .455/.538/.455, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

John McDonald (10): .125/.222/.125, 1 strikeout

John Buck (8): .125/.125/.250, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Randy Ruiz and Travis Snider are both hitless in three appearances against Lester, while Edwin Encarnacion also was shut down in his only appearance against the Sox starter. The left-hander has never faced Alex Gonzalez or Mike McCoy.

Red Sox vs. Brett Cecil

Victor Martinez (10 career plate appearances against Cecil): .250 average/.400 OBP/.375 slugging, 1 walk

Dustin Pedroia (6): .400/.500/.600, 1 double, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (6): .400/.500/.400, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (5): .400/.400/1.000, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (5): .200/.200/.800, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (2): 1.000/1.000/4.000, 2 home runs

Jason Varitek (2): 1.000/1.000/4.000, 2 home runs

Cecil has never seen a number of Red Sox players. Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Marco Scutaro, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald have not faced the Jays starter.

Remy on D&C: ‘No flow’ for Sox early in season

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to talk about the state of the Red Sox as they look to complete a the three-game sweep in Toronto Wednesday night.

Remy said that the biggest concern early on is the lack of consistency for the Sox. “My concerns would be that there is no flow to anything right now,” he said. “You are still trying to figure out what you are going to do with [David] Ortiz, what to do with [Mike] Lowell, and you’ve got [Tim] Wakefield in the bullpen. So you’ve got three veterans that can’t be happy with what you are doing. You’ve got two of your outfielders out in [Jacoby] Ellsbury and [Mike] Cameron. … They’ve got to get more out of [Victor] Martinez. He hasn’t produced at all and he is a key part of that lineup.

“It has been very weird,” he added. “There has been no flow to the games, and I think part of that is because there is no flow to the team right now. They are not the edition of the Boston Red Sox that you expected to see coming out of spring training, and I think that makes a big difference.”

Remy was also asked whether he thought David Ortiz might “erupt” at some point after he was pinch-hit for by Mike Lowell once again in Tuesday’s win. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he erupts one of these days. This can’t be fun,” Remy said. “And I was a little surprised because I thought this early in the season maybe this is the moment ‘€” you are always looking for that one moment. Then when I saw Lowell come out I went, ‘Uh oh, this is not going to play very well.’ And as you saw, Ortiz kind of just walked all the way to the other end of the dugout and then up to the clubhouse.”

As for how long Terry Francona will continue to platoon the two veterans, Remy said that one of the players has to get hot before that ends. “But what has to happen is somebody is going to have to prove that they can be the everyday DH,” he said. “I can’t imagine them going the whole season with a platoon situation at the DH position, I just can’t see that happening. So, one of them is going to have to take charge. And quite frankly, to this point it has been Mike Lowell who has been a better hitter.”

Remy also speculated on what Wakefield’s role will be as a reliever. With Daisuke Matsuzaka set to make his 2010 big league debut in Baltimore, Wakefield will be going from the rotation to the bullpen. “I think it would be more of him coming on in the sixth inning if he had to,” Remy said. “Give him a couple of innings ‘€” the sixth and seventh ‘€” and then go to the eighth with the set-up guy and the closer. Like I said, you don’t want to bring him into situations where you are in a one-run game and you get a passed ball, and all of a sudden you have a runner in scoring position.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

I’ve got a feeling that the Red Sox might get eliminated before the Bruins and the Celtics. I look at Tampa and I look at New York and I say, ‘That streak of postseason appearances, that is in jeopardy.’

Well, I tell you, those two teams are very good ‘€” there is no question about that. We’ve seen both of them and they are really very good. Tampa is ‘€” I don’t think surprising people ‘€” but they’re off to their best start ever and they are really, really good. So you can’t afford to drop seven, eight, nine games behind either one of those teams and hope to bounce back. Now, every club will hit a skid now or then during the season, but you don’t expect Tampa or New York to hit very long skids. You don’t think you are going to make up seven or eight games on them, so you’ve got to stay in the hunt here. Especially at the beginning of the year here when things are so out of whack for the Red Sox. You see strange lineups out there every day, you’ve got some injuries ‘€” as I mentioned on the broadcast last night, for Francona this has to be very tough to manage right now. You’ve got all the veterans he has to deal with and the injuries he is dealing with. So they’ve got to find a way to hang tight in this early going until they get this thing straightened out. And hopefully they won’t fall too far behind these other clubs. (more…)