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Eleven years after first World Series triumph, John Lackey in position to make history 10.30.13 at 12:11 pm ET
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When the Red Sox signed John Lackey after the 2009 season, the team imagined a scenario in which it had a postseason-tested rotation like none other. At the time, with Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on their roster — three different pitchers who had earned the victory in a World Series-clinching contest prior to their 25th birthdays — the team could claim an unmatched ensemble of pitchers who had contributed to October triumph.

It took a long time for either the Sox or Lackey to be in position for such a vision to come to fruition, with the team changing in numerous ways since his signing (including the departure of Beckett). But now, in Lackey’s fourth season in Boston, 11 years and two days removed from his winning performance over the Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, Lackey has an opportunity to once again play a pivotal role in a potential clincher, just as he did in permitting one run in five innings in Game 7 as a 24-year-old. The right-hander will get the ball for Game 6 on Wednesday night, with an opportunity to pitch his team to a title.

Lackey, however, is hardly playing highlights of the 2002 World Series on loop.

“I was a rookie. We had a pretty veteran team’€¦ Our bullpen was probably our main strength on that team. I was trying to get five or six innings and turn it over to those guys.  My job was just basically not to screw it up,” Lackey recounted on Tuesday. “That was a long time ago, man. I don’t think that’s going to play much into [Game 6]. I think most of those guys in that game aren’t even playing anymore.”

Indeed, of the 28 other players in that Game 7, only one (Francisco Rodriguez) played in the big leagues this year. That, in turn, underscores the rarity of what Lackey is trying to accomplish. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino win Gold Gloves 10.29.13 at 9:59 pm ET
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For the second time in the last 23 years, the Red Sox received recognition for defensive excellence in the form of multiple Gold Gloves. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and right fielder Shane Victorino were recognized as 2013 American League Rawlings Gold Glove Awards at their respective positions.

From the press release announcing the awards for Pedroia and Victorino:

This marks Pedroia’€™s third Rawlings Gold Glove Award, as he also received the honor in 2008 and 2011. Since the award’€™s inception in 1957, he is the sixth player to win at least three with Boston, along with Frank Malzone (3 at third base), Carl Yastrzemski (7 in the outfield), George Scott (3 at first base), Fred Lynn (4 in the outfield) and Dwight Evans (8 in the outfield).

Pedroia led the majors while establishing club records with both a career-high 160 games and 159 starts at second base in 2013. According to Fangraphs, he topped all major league second baseman with 15 defensive runs saved and also led the American League with an .836 zone rating at the position. His .993 fielding percentage (5 errors/688 total chances) ranked second among AL qualifiers at second base, percentage points behind Tampa Bay’€™s Ben Zobrist (.9927 to .9928).  Pedroia did not make his first error of the season until his 70th game on June 15, ending a club-record 69 errorless games at second base to begin the year.

For Victorino, it is his fourth Rawlings Gold Glove Award, tied with Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips for the second-most among 2013 winners behind the Cardinals’€™ Yadier Molina, who earned his sixth at catcher. He previously won Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons from 2008-10 while with the Phillies.

In his first season with the Red Sox in 2013, Victorino made a career-high 106 starts in right field and appeared in 110 games overall at the position. He also made 11 starts and played in 15 games in center field. The Hawaii native tied for sixth in the American League with a team-leading 10 outfield assists, and his nine assists from right field tied for the AL lead and marked the most by a Red Sox right fielder since Trot Nixon recorded nine in 2005. He tallied the third-most putouts among AL right fielders (264) and his three double plays tied for second-most in the circuit at the position. According to Fangraphs, Victorino led the AL with 24 defensive runs saved in right field.

The Red Sox have multiple Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners for just the second time in the last 23 years (also three in 2011: Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Jacoby Ellsbury in center field) and 11th time overall since the award began in 1957.

In addition to Boston’€™s 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners, Jacoby Ellsbury was a finalist in center field but the award went to Baltimore’€™s Adam Jones.

The complete list of winners:

C – Salvador Perez, KC (AL), Yadier Molina, STL (NL)

1B – Eric Hosmer, KC (AL), Paul Goldschmidt, ARI (NL)

2B – Pedroia, BOS (AL), Brandon Phillips, CIN (NL)

SS – J.J. Hardy, BAL (AL), Andrelton Simmons, ATL (NL)

3B – Manny Machado, BAL (AL), Nolan Arenado, COL (NL)

LF – Alex Gordon, KC (AL), Carlos Gonzalez, COL (NL)

CF – Adam Jones, BAL (AL), Carlos Gomez, MIL (NL)

RF – Victorino, BOS (AL), Gerardo Parra, ARI (NL)

P – R.A. Dickey, TOR (AL), Adam Wainwright, STL (NL)

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Surprise! Koji Uehara’s postseason achieves historic pinnacles 10.29.13 at 3:37 am ET
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ST. LOUIS — No one saw this coming. Not even Koji Uehara.

The right-hander continued his dazzling postseason run on Monday night, recording the final four outs (without permitting a baserunner) of the Red Sox‘ 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series. The effort was familiar in its singularly overpowering and efficient nature: strikeout, strikeout, groundout, flyout, good night — 15 pitches, 11 strikes, victory. When entrusted with leads, Uehara has been automatic this postseason.

Indeed, he has now reached historic pinnacles at the end of games. His save on Monday marked his seventh of the postseason, tying him for the most ever by a closer in one playoff run. (The mark was previously reached by John Wetteland (1996), Troy Percival (2002), Rob Nen (2002) and Brad Lidge (2008).)

Uehara expressed surprise about reaching that milestone, pausing to reflect on the accomplishment before trying to explain his thoughts about it.

“I didn’€™t take that into any consideration when I was on the mound,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. “I was expecting a lot of close games, so part of it was expected.”

Yet to merely take stock of the fact that Uehara has recorded a number of saves does a disservice to his work. After all, he’s now recorded four saves of four or more outs, becoming just the fourth pitcher in playoff history to do so — following Goose Gossage (6 in 1981), Mariano Rivera (5 in 1998, 2000 and 2003; 4 in 1999, 2001 and 2001) and Jonathan Papelbon (4 in 2007). That is the sort of company in which Uehara’s October excellence belongs.

“He’s almost been our Mariano Rivera,” said Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, boldly drawing parallels between this year’s Sox closer and the man who most dramatically embodies dominance in that role. “Mariano Rivera for the Yankees, now Koji is our Mariano Rivera for Boston. Very effective. Reliable. Recovery time, resilience, unbelievable, too.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Jon Lester dominates, pitches Red Sox within win of title 10.28.13 at 11:19 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester further cemented his place as one of the most dominant postseason pitchers of this generation, allowing one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings to lead the Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series. With the win, the Sox are now up, 3-2, in the best-of-seven championship, needing just one win to secure their third title in the last 10 years.

Lester relied on an overpowering fastball and cutter to collect seven punchouts and walk none. Though he gave up a fourth-inning solo homer to Matt Holliday (snapping his scoreless innings streak in the World Series at 16 2/3, the second longest ever by a player to start his career in the Fall Classic), he otherwise shut down St. Louis completely. He was so dominant, in fact, that the Sox elected to commit to him even when the game was tied, 1-1, in the top of the seventh. With two on and one out, Lester remained in the on-deck circle (with no activity in the bullpen) when David Ross batted.

But Ross delivered a key double to plate the go-ahead run, and after Lester grounded out, Jacoby Ellsbury dropped a single to center for an insurance run against Cards starter Adam Wainwright, putting the Sox in position to cruise to their win.

Lester now has a 1.97 career ERA in 11 postseason starts, the third best mark ever as a starter with 10 or more playoff starts. This October, he’s been even better, with a 1.56 mark in his five starts. He became the fifth Red Sox pitcher ever to have three or more starts in which he pitched into the eighth in a single postseason, and the first since Bruce Hurst in 1986. (The others: Bill Dineen and Cy Young in 1903; Luis Tiant in 1975; and Hurst in 1986.)

He has been, in short, a force, a huge reason for the Sox’ progression to the brink of a title.


David Ortiz continued his absurd World Series performance, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double in the first and a pair of infield singles. When he lined out in the sixth, it broke a string of nine consecutive plate appearances in which he’d reached, tied for the longest such run in World Series history. For the World Series, he’s now 11-for-15 with a line of .733/.750/1.267. He has a career .465 average in the World Series, the highest ever by a player with 50 or more career plate appearances in the World Series. Read the rest of this entry »

Shane Victorino improved and available off bench, expected in Game 6 lineup 10.28.13 at 6:17 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — While Shane Victorino is not in the Game 5 lineup after getting scratched hours before the first pitch of Game 4 of the World Series, manager John Farrell said that the outfield has experienced considerable improvement in the lower back stiffness that sidelined him. Farrell said that Victorino might have been able to start Game 5, but given that there would be some question about the duration for which he could stay in the game, the determination was made to have him available off the bench as a late-innings replacement (capable of hitting or playing the outfield) with the expectation that he will be able to return to the lineup for Game 6.

“Pressed into it, we could probably start him, but with some uncertainty there on the duration, I don’t want to end up losing out on him and then using somebody else, have to pick him up,” said Farrell. “He’s available off the bench, but didn’t want to get into a situation, not knowing how long he could go, that we’d end up losing a player. We can use him a little more at our discretion that way.”

Farrell said that Victorino as much as Victorino “wants to be on the field,” he understood the decision to keep him out of the lineup for one more game.

‘All signs point’ to Jake Peavy in Game 7, but Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront would also be available 10.28.13 at 6:08 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — As became evident in Game 4 of the World Series, when Red Sox starter John Lackey made his first relief appearance since 2004, this is a time when a number of players can be pressed into duty in unusual roles. That being the case, it comes as little surprise that Lackey’s rotation mate, Jake Peavy, is available to the Sox out of the bullpen for Monday’s Game 5 between the Red Sox and Cardinals.

That said, Sox manager John Farrell said that, “as of now,” if  there is a Game 7 of the World Series, “everything points to [Peavy as the starter of that game] right now.” While left-hander Felix Doubront has been outstanding in the last two games of the series out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless frames in Game 3 and 2 2/3 innings in which he was charged with one run in Game 4, Farrell said that the team is not currently trying to preserve the southpaw for a start in a potential winner-take-all contest.

“Everybody’s going to be available Game 7,” Farrell said. “We haven’t gotten to a point of saying, you know what, let’s hold [Doubront] out as a potential starter.”

Doubront would be available on Monday “in an emergency.”

Meanwhile, another pitcher who could be available for Game 7 is Clay Buchholz. Farrell said that the right-hander came out of his four innings in Game 4 feeling good, and volunteered immediately to contribute to the Sox when the series returns to Boston. Read the rest of this entry »

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Koji Uehara unveils new secret weapon for World Series save like no other 10.28.13 at 10:02 am ET
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ST. LOUIS — It had been a while since Koji Uehara had thrown to first base. A long while.

“His last pickoff throw was the third-to-last game of the year,” noted Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. “I pay attention to those things.”

Now, Uehara has one pickoff throw in the postseason, and it proved a historic one. In the bottom of the ninth inning, asked to close out a 4-2 win, Uehara permitted a long one-out single to right that one-hopped the fence by injured Cardinals slugger Allen Craig. The fact that it was Craig who crushed the pitch was noteworthy, given that any other player on the Cardinals roster would have advanced to at least second base. But the hobbled slugger, limited to swinging a bat and little else, could do no more than limp to first, where he was replaced immediately by pinch-runner Kolten Wong.

Uehara got a pop-up from Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter, bringing Carlos Beltran — one of the best postseason performers of this generation — to the plate representing the tying run. On a 1-1 pitch, Uehara executed a perfectly timed spin and throw to first, at a time when Wong was trying to jump out to a secondary lead at first. Caught leaning, Wong was unable to retreat to the bag, thus becoming the first game-ending pickoff victim in World Series history.

“I just did it on my own,” Uehara said through interpreter C.J. Matsumoto. “I didn’t read any scouting report.”

Still, it was a conversation that Uehara had during the advance scouting meetings to discuss the preparation for the Cardinals, Lovullo had encouraged the right-hander — who had two pickoffs in his career, most recently in 2011 when he was with the Rangers — to consider throwing to first, knowing that he has quick feet and a good move.

“In our meeting, I speak through the interpreter, so I’m not exactly sure how the message gets portrayed, but I talk about how strong his move is. There’s strength to it. So don’t be afraid to use it if you want to throw over at any time. Don’t hesitate,” said Lovullo. “In our advance scouting meeting with the pitchers, we talk about some tendencies and habits. I encourage these guys to throw over on their own. Whether or not he was trying to mix up the looks or throw a hitter off his rhythm, those are things we talk about. There was a method to his madness.”

Madness was a good word for what transpired. Shock, on the part of the Cardinals, was another, as St. Louis saw a game conclude in stunning fashion — the culmination, some Sox noted, of a reversal from the events of Game 3, when the Sox suffered a 5-4 walkoff loss that ended in confusion with the obstruction call that awarded the game-winning run to Craig.

“That was wild. That was awesome. It was kind of like [Game 3]. I bet they’re dumbfounded, like, ‘What just happened?’ ” said Sox catcher David Ross. “We had one of the better, probably second to [David Ortiz] for me, one of the best postseason hitters up (Beltran) and [Wong] gets picked off. I was real happy.”

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