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.