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Sticking to the formula: Red Sox offensive explosion against Rays starters continues a pattern 10.06.13 at 10:37 pm ET
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Two games, two statements.

It seemed fair to expect that, based on what transpired during the regular season against the upper echelon of left-handed starters, and specifically against Rays Game 1 and Game 2 starters Matt Moore and David Price, the Red Sox might struggle to claw their way to some offense in the first two contests of their American League Division Series. It didn’t happen that way.

The Red Sox beat up on both Rays left-handers in a way that they’d never done so before. Moore had a 1.80 ERA against the Sox during the regular season. In part because of some of the defensive lapses behind him, it hardly showed on Friday, when they mauled the All-Star for eight runs (seven earned) while knocking him out of the game after 4 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Price had gone 20 straight starts against the Sox without giving up as many as six runs — the second-longest streak by any pitcher since 2000 — before getting beaten up for seven runs in seven-plus innings.

“Are you surprised?” Shane Victorino beamed on Saturday night. “C’mon, man.”

Victorino was kidding. On one level, he and everyone else with the Sox recognized that it was startling to see the Sox erupt for such lopsided wins (claiming victories of 12-2 and 7-4) against starters with the pedigrees of Price (the reigning AL Cy Young winner) and Moore (an All-Star this year). Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox pregame notes: No training wheels for Brandon Workman; Koji Uehara is available for overtime 10.05.13 at 6:24 pm ET
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A few pregame notes from Red Sox manager John Farrell:

As discussed here, the selection of David Ross over Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate in Game 2 was a fairly straightforward one.

– Farrell and the Sox had an interesting choice in the ninth inning of the 12-2 blowout win over the Rays in Game 1. The team could have used the lopsided score as an opportunity to introduce rookie Brandon Workman to postseason contests. Instead, the Sox elected to have Ryan Dempster continue his reacclimation to relief work. Dempster rewarded the approach with a scoreless ninth that included a pair of punchouts.

Why Dempster over Workman?

“Thinking that today they’€™re might be more situations looking to bring a guy in for a strikeout … and wanted to get another relief appearance, at least another outing for Dempster as he continues to build in that way,” said Farrell.

The fact that Dempster was the bullpen priority over Workman says a lot about the regard in which the Sox hold the 25-year-old in his first exposure to the big leagues.  The Sox are prepared to throw Workman into the deep end and trust his ability to swim in postseason waters.

‘€œI think what he’€™s shown us is the ability to control his emotions and there’€™s no hesitancy on my part to bring him in in maybe a less than situation where maybe there might be a little bit of a higher leverage situation,” said Farrell. “I don’€™t doubt his ability to meet the moment.” Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox ALDS Game 2 lineup: David Ross, Jonny Gomes start vs. Rays LHP David Price 10.05.13 at 3:09 pm ET
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It’s a limited sample, of course, but when the opponent is David Price, even a hint of success will suffice to inspire a lineup alteration. That is the case for the Red Sox as they look to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS on Saturday.

The team will turn to David Ross behind the plate against Price. Ross has just five career plate appearances against Price, but he’s homered in two of them. Meanwhile, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a career line of .071/.176/.143 in 17 career plate appearances against the 2012 Cy Young winner. Those lines, coupled with the fact that Saturday starter John Lackey has had some difficulty controlling the running game (opponents were successful in 36 of 43 stolen base attempts against him in the regular season) and that Ross is viewed as one of the best in the game at controlling opponents on the bases, led to the decision to start Ross (in the No. 9 spot) while sitting Saltalamacchia.

“He’€™s important to us,” manager John Farrell said of the decision to start Ross. “These are the situations [why] we signed him ‘€“ against a left-handed starter, a good one and taking advantage of David’€™s abilities.”

With Ross in the lineup, Will Middlebrooks moved up from the No. 9 to the No. 7 spot in the order. Jonny Gomes remains in the lineup in left field against the left-hander, with Daniel Nava sitting.

Lackey, meanwhile, will be making his first playoff start for the Red Sox. His past success on the postseason stage (including a victory in Game 7 of the World Series as a rookie in 2002) played a part in the Sox’ decision to sign the right-hander to a five-year, $82.5 million deal after the 2009 season. In 14 career playoff games (12 starts), Lackey is just 3-4 but with a 3.12 ERA in 78 innings.

For complete batter vs. starting pitcher matchup information, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP Read the rest of this entry »

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A game-changing gaffe: Red Sox crash through opening created by Wil Myers misplay 10.04.13 at 10:39 pm ET
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For a moment, when David Ortiz jumped on the 2-0 fastball from Rays starter Matt Moore and crushed it to right, at a time when the Rays owned an early 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the fourth inning, it appeared that the Red Sox would be celebrating a game-tying two-run homer. Then, all of a sudden, they weren’t, the ball’s trajectory assuming a more modest outcome that permitted Tampa Bay right fielder Wil Myers to camp under it.

But with no warning, Myers abandoned his spot, sprinting forward like a man escaping a burning building. This, however, was no escape. This was the spark of a conflagration.

Myers’ puzzling decision to run in and let the ball land on his vacated spot on the warning track — bouncing off the dirt and over the bullpen fence for a ground-rule double — inspired considerable befuddlement, particularly when the play proved pivotal. A potential runner-on-first, one-out situation transformed into a second-and-third, no-out rally. The Sox took advantage in the extreme, not just of Myers’ misplay but of subsequent Rays defensive lapses in the inning, to plate five runs and change the course of the game completely. A 2-0 Sox deficit turned into a 5-2 advantage by the end of the bottom of the fourth, and from there, the Sox kept adding on in a 12-2 victory.

So what happened?

“I waved [center fielder Desmond Jennings] off. I called the ball myself. I saw it up there. It’s loud out there, so a hand motion, I had the ball, I was under the ball, and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was a loud crowd today. That was totally my fault. I should have taken more charge out there and caught the ball,” explained Myers. “The thing was, when I saw him out of the corner of my eye, the center fielder has priority, but it was totally my fault. I messed that up. It won’t happen again.

“[Jennings] didn’t say anything at all,” Myers added. “The reason why was it was a loud crowd, so I thought maybe he’d called something, and since the center fielder has priority, that’s what you’re supposed to do. I didn’t hear anything. It’s one of those things that I had to take control of the situation and catch the ball.” Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Time: Red Sox unleash the hounds, crush Rays and Matt Moore to take 1-0 ALDS lead 10.04.13 at 6:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox looked like they would once again be overmatched by left-hander Matt Moore. The Rays starter dominated through three no-hit innings, continuing a pattern that stretched back to the regular season. Indeed, to that point, the current members of the Red Sox organization owned a dismal .134 average (13-for-97) in their careers against Moore, and it looked very much as if the Sox were once again going to get taken out of their approach by an above-average left-handed starter.

But with the Sox trailing, 2-0, on the strength of a pair of Rays solo homers against Jon Lester, Boston exploded for a five-run, 10-batter fourth inning, aided by the appearance of a pair of familiar Sox traits (the ability to run up pitch counts and run the bases well) and an unfamiliar demonstration by the Rays (a number of defensive lapses). After Dustin Pedroia broke up Moore’s no-hitter with a leadoff single up the middle, David Ortiz drove a ball to deep right that proved pivotal. Rays right fielder Wil Myers appeared to be camped under the fly ball close to the Red Sox’ bullpen fence, but as it descended, he sprinted forward, with the ball bouncing safely off the warning track for a ground rule double.

The Sox soon capitalized, with Jonny Gomes slamming a one-out, two-run double off the left field Wall, then scoring on a two-out infield single by Stephen Drew in which Moore first failed to beat Drew to first (on a grounder to first base) and then was caught unaware as Gomes made his mad dash from second. Will Middlebrooks then doubled to left, with Drew scoring only because left fielder Sean Rodriguez badly misplayed the ball off the Wall. A passed ball on a Jacoby Ellsbury strikeout extended the inning, with Shane Victorino capping the scoring by punching a single to right.

The rout was on. The Sox once again batted around and plated three more runs in the fifth inning, and Lester cruised from the fourth inning on, retiring 11 straight from the fourth through seventh innings to give the Sox a 12-2 victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS. The top-to-bottom contribution proved historic: All nine Red Sox starters had at least one hit and scored at least one run, just the third time in postseason history that such a thing has happened. (The other two came when the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals accomplished the feat and the 1936 Yankees did the same, both in the World Series.)

Game 2 is slated for Saturday at 5:37 p.m.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Why Rays possess Red Sox’ kryptonite: The truth about Red Sox and left-handed starters 10.04.13 at 1:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox enjoyed a year of tremendous consistency, and so it should come as little surprise that the team experienced comparable success against both left-handed and right-handed starters. The team had a .602 winning percentage in games started by opposing right-handed pitchers and a .593 mark in contests where the opposing starter was a left-hander.

On the surface, that balanced performance would suggest that the team should not have particular discomfort with the idea of facing Rays left-handers Matt Moore and David Price in Games 1 and 2 (and, potentially, Game 5) of the best-of-five American League Division Series — particularly given that the team won 10 straight games against left-handed starters from Aug. 21 through Sept. 14, before a three-game dip in the season’s final two weeks, after the team had effectively clinched the division.

But the reality was that, against the top half of left-handed starters — a group that includes Price and Moore — the Sox were typically overmatched. Their 10-game winning streak did include a pair of impressive wins against some of the better lefties in the game (Price and Hyun-Jin Ryu), but the victory over Price was a credit primarily to the Sox’ pitching, on a night when Price allowed two runs in eight innings while punching out nine and walking none. That sort of dominance was par for the course among the better left-handed starters in big leagues.

Put another way: There were 32 left-handed pitchers this year who logged at least 150 innings. Here they are, sorted from best to worst ERA: Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox Game 1 lineup: Jonny Gomes in left, Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching 10.04.13 at 12:15 pm ET
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The Red Sox will feature right-handed hitter Jonny Gomes in left field for Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series, with Daniel Nava available in a reserve role, against Rays left-hander Matt Moore. Gomes is just 2-for-12 with a double against Moore, while Nava is 0-for-3 against him. Meanwhile, Saltalamacchia is just 0-for-1 against Moore, while David Ross has never faced him. It is Saltalamacchia who will be behind the plate for Game 1, which presumably means that Ross will get the Game 2 start against Rays left-hander David Price.

For complete batter vs. starting pitcher histories, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Shane Victorino, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Jonny Gomes, LF

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Stephen Drew, SS

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jon Lester, SP

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