Archive for August, 2011

Closing Time: Red Sox go deep to beat Yankees

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

With a righty on the mound in Phil Hughes and only one lefty in the Yankee bullpen, Red Sox manager Terry Francona elected to move Dustin Pedroia back into the No. 2 spot and stack his lineup with lefties. Sure enough with the score tied in the sixth inning, his counterpart Joe Girardi called on his lefty — Boone Logan.

Logan’s first assignment was Jacoby Ellsbury. The only problem was Ellsbury already had a history of success against Logan with three hits in five at-bats. The other problem is that Ellsbury has been wearing everyone out. Since June 30, Ellsbury has 32 extra base hits, 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 52 games.

Curiously, Ellsbury had yet to hit a home run over the Monster seats. You can cross that off his to-do list as well because Ellsbury took Logan deep to left-center giving the Red Sox the lead and sending them on their way to a 9-5 victory on Wednesday night at Fenway.

Is Ellsbury an MVP candidate? Sure. More importantly, he’s become a complete player and he seems to keep adding to his game as the season rolls along. Here’s what else went right on a night when Josh Beckett entered the rarefied air of the immortal Al Nipper.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- With Ellsbury on second and two out in the third, the Yankees intentionally walked David Ortiz to face Jed Lowrie. Smart strategy in just about any situation, but Lowrie has been quietly putting together a nice run. Since Aug. 18, Lowrie had a hit in nine of his last 10 games (14-for-40). Make it 10 out of his last 11 as Lowrie ripped an RBI single to right that gave the Sox a 2-1 lead.

- As if to illustrate the logic behind Girardi’s thinking, Ortiz took Hughes deep over the center field wall his next time up. It was the 28th home run of the year for Ortiz and extended his hitting streak to 14 games — his longest streak of the season. Ortiz has  the best OPS on the team and his numbers are approaching his peak seasons of 2005-07.

- Not to be lost in Ortiz’s fireworks was a two-out single by Adrian Gonzalez that set up the inning. Gonzalez has had a rough time against Yankee pitching this season and was mired in a 1-for-20 stretch against them before his timely two-out hit.

- There are two ways to look at Beckett’s outing. There was a four-run sixth (see below) and in between there were six sometimes spectacular frames. Beckett has made five starts against the Yankees this year and the Red Sox have won all of them. He’s allowed just 22 hits over 34 innings and struck out 38. He’s the first Red Sox pitcher to win four games against the Yankees since Nipper in 1987.

- Jason Varitek was both lucky and good in going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. The luck came in the sixth when his awkward half-swing resulted in a double down the vacated third base line. The good happened in the eighth when he blasted a two-run homer into the bullpen in right-center that gave the Sox some insurance runs.

- Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon retired all six batters they faced making for an uneventful eighth and ninth innings. How this for uneventful? Since July 17, Papelbon has struck out 20 batters in 17 innings without allowing a run, or a walk, while surrendering just three singles.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Beckett was great through five innings allowing just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts. But things unraveled quickly in the sixth after he hit Mark Teixeira with a wayward breaking ball to open the inning. A double, a walk and a misplay by right fielder Josh Reddick opened the door to a four-run Yankee sixth.

To put into perspective how good Beckett has been against the Yankees this season, the four runs were more than he had allowed in in his previous four starts, total.

- Reddick’s miscue in the outfield when he turned an Eric Chavez double into three bases and ultimately an unearned run, was the only real blemish on an otherwise stalwart defensive night for the Sox. Reddick may continue to get more chances in right field, however, because J.D. Drew sprained his right middle finger in a rehab outing with Pawtucket on Tuesday. It’s too early to determine if Drew’s anticipated return on Thursday from a left shoulder impingement will be delayed.

Theo Epstein takes stock of Red Sox roster options

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein checked in on a number of roster issues and questions about the future of certain Red Sox — including himself — prior to Wednesday’s game against the Yankees. Among the issues discussed:

–Epstein said that the market for August waiver deals was unpromising, given that players who are available in August typically a) have been passed over by every other team and b) require a significant cost of acquisition if they are any good.

Asked specifically about whether he thought the Sox needed to upgrade their left-handed relief and find a right-handed outfield bat off the bench, Epstein suggested his team was comfortable with current personnel. He noted that Franklin Morales (3.47 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 7 walks, .242 batting average against in 23 1/3 innings) has been “throwing the ball really well,” and that the team features minor league left-handed options (including Felix Doubront as well as a pair of southpaws — Trever Miller and Randy Williams — who are not currently on the 40-man roster).

“In an ideal world, if that guy would be out there, we’€™d have made a trade,” Epstein said of left-handers. “But looking at the factors I know why it didn’€™t happen and we’€™re content with what we have.” (more…)

Red Sox notes: Time and time again, pace is an issue with Josh Beckett and the Sox

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

With all the complaining and moaning about the length of Red Sox-Yankees games, there is some irony not lost on Terry Francona.

With Tuesday’s three-hour, 59-minute marathon, the two teams have combined to play 11 games of at least 3:24, including two over four hours this season. Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager and now an MLB operations executive, oversees how well games are managed by players, managers and umpires alike.

“What’s interesting about this is, because Joe Torre is in charge of this, he had the greatest quotes of all on why these games are long,” Francona said Wednesday. “But it’s two really good teams, and there’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot of attention to detail. Every pitch seems pretty big, every base runner seems pretty big and then there’s [the fact] so many of these are nationally televised games, that’s going to slow it down, too. I think it’s just the fact that they are important to both teams and we treat it that way. I think the players feel that way and the players feel that way.”

The Red Sox manager said he isn’t about to tell Wednesday’s starting pitcher Josh Beckett to do something that will make him feel uncomfortable. Beckett was criticized by former Mets manager Bobby Valentine on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball during his start on Aug. 7 for taking as much as 45 seconds between pitches to deliver the baseball.

“That’s not going to make me lose sleep,” Francona said of Valentine’s critique.

Wednesday’s game was on ESPN nationally but the lead crew of Dan Schulman, Orel Hersheiser and Valentine were not calling the game. Francona acknowledged that major league baseball will occasionally inform teams when they believe pitchers are being too deliberate and slowing the pace of the game.

“They could,” Francona said. “From our standpoint, we always want our pitchers to work quick, just because your defense is going to be better and the game flows better. But if I have my choice of him pitching slow and winning and getting a letter from the [MLB], that’s what I’d go with rather than him hurry and get knocked around.”

On Aug. 7, Beckett labored through 101 pitches over six innings, in a 3-2 game won by the Red Sox in 10 innings. That game took four hours, 15 minutes, with no delays.

“I understand the point,” Francona said. “That just happened. It was a tough night for him He kind of slugged his way through it but he’s generally pretty good.

“I notice it on my way home. Seriously, look at my watch and go, ‘Whoa! It’s 11:30.’ Not during a game. The only game I probably ever notice when there’s a game, 11-0, one of those type games. Games are fun.”

The best sign for Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after getting drilled in the left forearm by a 93-MPH cutter from Mariano Rivera, was his presence in the batting cage, taking hacks with no visible discomfort.

“I think we thought it was OK just because it got the meat [of the forearm],” Francona said. “When it first happened, it’s hard to tell when a guy check swings, where it hits him. From my vantage point, it looked like it hit him on the back of the hand, which is kind of scary but he just got a good old-fashioned bruise. I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more, with the way that ball cuts. That’s a pitch that kind of has a mind of its own.”

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said before the Red Sox game against the Yankees Wednesday night that J.D. Drew suffered a mild setback in his rehab outing Tuesday night, with the outfielder spraining his right, middle finger while playing for the PawSox.

“We don’t think it’s anything major but he’s not going to play tonight. So we’ll see how long that puts him back,” Epstein said. “Right now, we’re status quo. We’ll see what happens when J.D.’s ready.”

Drew went 3-for-3 in the Tuesday night game, and was potentially set to rejoin the Red Sox’ lineup Thursday.

“I don’t think it as anything major, but it’s just kind of uncomfortable swinging the bat today when he tried it,” Epstein explained. “So we said they have a day off tomorrow anyway, just come back here and we’ll check it out and see where we go from there.” (more…)

Red Sox vs. Yankees Live Blog, August 31

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The Red Sox and Yankees will go back to work on Wednesday night, one night after New York took a 5-2 win behind CC Sabathia. While the Yankees had their ace at work last night, Josh Beckett, one of the Sox’ co-aces, will be on the hill and looking to become the first Sox pitcher in 24 years to beat New York four times in one year.

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

Red Sox vs. Yankees Live Blog

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Phil Hughes

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The Red Sox and Yankees play the middle game of a three-game series Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the two bitter rivals fight for home field advantage in the playoffs. Boston will turn to Josh Beckett, who looks to continue his hot streak despite making his first start in a week. New York will hope Phil Hughes can turn things around against the Red Sox, as the young right-hander is winless against Boston this season.

Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA) is in the middle of his worst month of 2011 so far, which is hard to believe considering he’s 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in August. The one major blemish came against the Mariners on Aug. 13, when Beckett allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings. His four other outings this month were all quality starts and Red Sox wins.

One of those quality starts came against the Yankees on Aug. 7, when Beckett gave up just one run over six innings. He also held the Rangers to one run over six innings in his last start, a 13-2 win over Texas last Wednesday. One point of concern may be the home run numbers against Beckett; he’s given up at least one longball in each of his last seven starts, including two against the Indians and two against the Mariners. His 16 home runs allowed are the 28th most in the American League.

Beckett has dominated the Yankees in four starts this season, going 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. The Red Sox haven’t lost to the Yankees in a Beckett start since last August. The 31-year-old wasn’t nearly as successful against New York in 2010, when he went 1-2 with a 10.04 ERA in five starts. Of course, an injury-riddled season left Beckett with a 5.78 ERA for the entire year, compared to his current ERA of 2.43, which ranks fourth in the majors.

The Boston starter has only lost once at Fenway Park this season, a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Royals on July 28. The game was lost in the fourth inning, when Kansas City scored all four runs thanks to a three-run homer and a fielding error by Drew Sutton. Despite the loss, Beckett is still 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA at home.

The Yankees are hitting .264 with 18 home runs in 543 plate appearances against Beckett. Bobby Abreu is the only player in major league history to have faced the right-hander more than Derek Jeter, and the long-running Jeter-Beckett showdown has yet to find a decisive victor. In 93 matchups, Jeter is hitting .291 with four doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and twelve strikeouts. Robinson Cano is the only Yankee with a batting average over .300 against Beckett, as he’s hitting .324 with eight doubles and three home runs in 75 plate appearances. Cano isn’t the only Yankee with good power numbers against the Boston starter, as Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson also have three home runs against Beckett, while Mark Teixeira has two.

The cards will be stacked against Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA) when he takes the mound against the Red Sox ace. The right-hander hasn’t recorded a win against the Red Sox since May 7, 2010, and that was thanks to a 10-run performance from the Yankees offense. It’s been a miserable season for Hughes, as his ERA has never been lower than 5.75 all year.

The 25-year-old has struggled to find a rhythm because of a three-month stint on the disabled list. After showing depleted velocity and allowing 16 runs in his first 10 innings of the season, Hughes was sent to the DL with a shoulder injury. He pitched two of those first 10 innings against the Red Sox on April 8, allowing six runs on seven hits to give Boston its first win of the season.

Earlier this month, Hughes managed to pitch back-to-back quality starts for the first time all year, holding the Twins and Rays under three runs over six-plus innings. However, the streak was snapped by the A’s in his last start, when Hughes allowed six runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Yankees still managed a win, thanks to a league-record three grand slams.

In his last appearance against the Red Sox, Hughes came on to pitch the 10th inning at Fenway Park in a 2-2 game on Aug. 7. After yielding a one-out double to David Ortiz, Hughes gave up a walk-off single to Josh Reddick and took his fourth loss of the year. It wasn’t the first time the right-hander struggled at Fenway Park; over the last three years, Hughes is 2-1 with a 6.00 ERA in Boston.

As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .256 with two home runs in 104 combined plate appearances against Hughes. Ortiz is batting .467 with a home run, three triples and five RBIs in 18 matchups, while Jacoby Ellsbury is 3-for-6 with a double and two walks. Although Boston’s lefties have done well against Hughes, right-handed hitters like Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro have struggled. Pedroia is hitting .200 with a home run and three strikeouts in 17 plate appearances, and Scutaro is at .199 with two strikeouts in his team-high 23 matchups with Hughes.

(more…)

Ryan Kalish expected to be ready for 2012 following neck surgery

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The ill-fated 2011 season of Ryan Kalish has come to a conclusion with news that the outfielder will require surgery on Thursday to repair a bulging disk in his neck, according to a team source. The disk is impinging a nerve, resulting in the persistent pain and soreness in his upper trapezius muscle and neck.

The decision to undergo surgery was made after the 23-year-old flew to Los Angeles earlier this week for a consultation with orthopedist Dr. Robert Watkins. While both the Sox and Kalish had hoped that a conservative course of treatment might permit him to return to games — both for Triple-A Pawtucket and then in the majors, at least as a September call-up and potentially as a contributor in the postseason — the absence of progress led to the decision to have surgery now, at a time when having the procedure will allow Kalish to rehab in time to have a normal offseason of strengthening in advance of spring training.

Thus ends a trying year for Kalish, whom the Sox sent to Pawtucket to open the season in hopes that he would conclude his minor league development and be ready to graduate for good to the majors. Kalish made a very strong impression in two months at the big league level in 2010, hitting .252 with a .710 OPS, four homers and 10 steals in 54 games. (more…)

Francisco Cervelli takes his unlikely place in rivalry

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli is an excitable guy. Everyone knows this. His teammates know it. His opponents recognize it. When a big moment occurs he likes to celebrate. Cervelli himself certainly doesn’t dispute it.

“That’€™s Cervelli,” Cervelli said. “Like I say, I never try to do anything to any hitter, that’€™s just me. I feel happy when we get a strikeout, and it’€™s a big game, it’€™s bases loaded. If they got a base hit, they’€™d tie the game. So for me, it’€™s good, and I try to transfer the energy to my teammates.”

So, when Cervelli rocked a 3-1 fastball from John Lackey over the Monster and on to Lansdowne St. in Tuesday night’s 5-2 Yankee win over the Sox, he was understandably happy. So happy that he clapped when he crossed home plate.

“He was pumped for that ninth home run of his career, yeah,” Lackey said. Informed it was actually his third, Lackey responded, “Somebody told me that. I don’t even know.”

Ninth or third, it really didn’t matter, but the clap wasn’t appreciated. “I thought it was a little excessive honestly,” Lackey said. “But that’s not a spot to handle something like that.”

That turned out to be his next at-bat when Lackey planted a fastball in his back.

“I was definitely not trying to hit him,” Lackey said. “I was trying to knock him down for sure. You can go look to see where he stands in the box. You got to get him off the plate a little bit. I threw a 3-1 pitch that he hit out. I definitely wasn’t trying to hit him but I was definitely trying to move him back. You don’t want to put a baserunner on in a two-run ballgame.”

He added later, “Nobody likes to get hit. I’ve been fined twice this year for hitting batters and I paid them because they were right. This one, I’m not afraid to tell you if I was trying to hit someone. I would have told him to his face.”

Cervelli didn’t see it that way and had words with Jarrod Saltalamacchia before taking first. Both benches emptied. Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild was ejected and everyone had something to say in multiple languages. (more…)