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Red Sox’ Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava likely to sit against Max Scherzer in Game 2 10.13.13 at 2:08 am ET
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The man who spared the Red Sox from the infamy of a no-hitter will not be in the lineup on Sunday for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

According to a team source, Daniel Nava, whose ninth-inning single off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit represented the Sox’ only hit of the game in a 1-0 Game 1 loss to Detroit, is expected to be out of the lineup for Game 2 against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, against whom the Sox switch-hitter is 1-for-9 with a walk and two strikeouts in his career. Likewise, first baseman Mike Napoli — a career 1-for-13 hitter with one walk and five strikeouts against Scherzer, is expected to sit on Sunday. In their places, the Sox are expected to start Jonny Gomes (2-for-6 with two strikeouts against Scherzer) in left field and Mike Carp (2-for-8 with a walk and five strikeouts against the Game 2 starter) at first base.

Though the Sox had contemplated the possibility of having Will Middlebrooks (1-for-6 against Scherzer with four strikeouts) sit in favor of Xander Bogaerts (never faced Scherzer), the team seems inclined to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup for Game 2, with Bogaerts once again available off the bench.

In two regular season starts against the Sox, Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 for the season) had a pair of two-run, seven-inning yields, striking out 14 and walking three in his 14 innings of work. He lost to the Sox on Sept. 3, when Middlebrooks delivered a two-run single to give the Sox and starter Jon Lester a 2-1 win.

Read More: daniel nava, Jonny Gomes, Max Scherzer, mike carp
Xander Bogaerts: ‘If I get [Joaquin Benoit] back I’ll probably do damage to him’ 10.13.13 at 1:30 am ET
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Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino took a few moments after his team’s 1-0 loss to commend his clubhouse neighbor.

“Great at-bat, bro,” he told Xander Bogaerts. “It was awesome to watch.”

Bogaerts had the final at-bat of the game against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, making the right-hander work for seven pitches (thanks in part to a 2-2 foul ball on a hard slider) before popping out on a 3-2 changeup for the final out of the Red Sox’ 1-0 loss. But even after he stranded Quintin Berry on second base as the potential game-tying run, Bogaerts felt confident in the approach he took and the fight he presented against the Tigers closer. Indeed, Bogaerts suggested that he already recognized how valuable a teaching tool that single at-bat already was, less than an hour after the final pitch of the game.

“I definitely feel like I’ve learned from that at-bat till now. I think my confidence has grown so much. Laying off so many tough pitches against a good closer like that in a big situation, my confidence level is pretty high for the next time up,” said Bogaerts. “I think he only threw me like two fastballs — first pitch for a strike and then all off-speed. I laid off some tough pitches. If I get him back I’ll probably do damage to him because I probably know what he has now.

“In a big situation like that, to be under control, lay off some tough pitches like that, it wasn’t easy. I’m really happy with myself for that,” he added. “[It was a] good at-bat. I laid off some tough pitches that he threw me, some good pitches. He had a slider but I think it was more like a cutter because it cut too fast. Good game, tough loss but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

Bogaerts said that he went to the plate with the mindset not to try to do too much, to avoid swinging for the fences and instead a) giving Berry an opportunity to steal and b) finding a way to drive him in. He controlled his pulse even at a time when Fenway was ready to explode after Daniel Nava finally broke up Detroit’s no-hitter with one out in the ninth.

“The fans were really into it,” said Bogaerts. “I really wanted to do something for the fans — not try to hit a home run, just a base hit would have been good, tied up the game and we would have gone on from there.”

In hindsight, there was a pitch in the at-bat that Bogaerts would have loved to have attacked — but that he could not. After Bogaerts took a first-pitch fastball for a ball, he let the second pitch of the plate appearance — also a fastball, this one down the gut — pass by in order to permit Berry a chance to take second. It was, Bogaerts suggested, a necessary sacrifice, albeit a regrettable one in that he didn’t see another fastball in the at-bat.

“Berry’s got to get in scoring position. I can’t go up there, swing and get a foul ball or ground ball and he’s not in scoring position. [But] that was a really good pitch to hit, man — a fastball, just had to let it go,” lamented Bogaerts. “[It was] one of the two fastballs. The first was a ball and that was right down the middle. But he left to steal, so I had to let it pass so he could be in scoring position. That was definitely the pitch that I missed, so it’s all right. [But then Benoit's] 3-2 changeup, that’s pretty tough.”

There will be, it would seem, other opportunities to come for the 21-year-old, who has demonstrated convincingly already his ability to keep the game under control even on the postseason stage. That was true when he walked twice in the late innings against Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALDS, and it was true once again on Saturday.

Closing Time: No no-no, but Anibal Sanchez, Tigers dominate Red Sox en route to 1-0 Game 1 victory 10.13.13 at 12:08 am ET
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The Red Sox were dominated in virtually unprecedented fashion, as former Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez and four relievers (Al Alburquerque, Jose VerasDrew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit) combined to carry a no-hitter into the ninth inning before ultimately settling for a nail-biting one-hitter that propelled the Tigers to a 1-0 victory over the Sox in Game 1 of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Sanchez tossed six no-hit innings with stuff that was simply overwhelming from the first inning, when he became the second pitcher in postseason history to strike out four batters in an inning (the other instance having come 105 years earlier, when Orval Overall of the Cubs accomplished the feat in the 1908 World Series), working around a one-out wild pitch on a swinging third strike to Shane Victorino (and a subsequent walk to Dustin Pedroia) by punching out both David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. (Sanchez had already struck out Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the first.)

Though Sanchez struggled at times to keep his stuff in the strike zone, resulting in six walks against a Sox team that couldn’t really put the ball in play against him, he kept working his way out of harm with key punchouts on the strength of a fastball that ran from 93-97 mph, a killer slider that resulted in numerous check swings and a changeup that he employed cleverly against both righties and lefties. The result? One of the most unhittable postseason efforts ever, six no-hit innings (requiring 116 pitches — hence the exit after six frames) in which the Sox went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the few instances when Sanchez’s wildness permitted them to put a runner on base.

A quartet of Detroit relievers recorded the next seven outs without permitting a hit, before Daniel Nava finally punctuated a one-out, seven-pitch at-bat in the ninth by punching a single to left-center off Detroit closer Benoit. Still, the Sox were unable to capitalize on the hit (or on pinch-runner Quintin Berry‘s two-out steal of second), as Stephen Drew‘s flyout to deep right faded just shy of the warning track and Xander Bogaerts skied a full-count changeup for the final out.

Sanchez, the Detroit starter and former Red Sox prospect, got the only run of support he’d need in the sixth, when Detroit scratched out a single run against Sox starter Jon Lester, on a night when the left-hander was little short of brilliant. A one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera followed by a fastball that terminated in Prince Fielder‘s ribs put runners on first and second. That preceded what proved to be a pivotal moment, when Victor Martinez dribbled a slow grounder to short. Stephen Drew charged and fired the ball to second, but Dustin Pedroia‘s relay to first arrived in Mike Napoli‘s glove a fraction of a second after Martinez had crossed the bag. (Jon Lester would disagree with the call, eventually yelling at first base ump Rob Drake, but replays offered evidence of the verdict’s accuracy.) The inning thus sustained, Jhonny Peralta stayed on a 2-2 curveball and dumped it into center for a run-scoring single that proved the only run the Tigers would need.

The Sox struck out 17 times, tying a record for the most in a nine-inning postseason game, a standard previously established by the 1998 Astros against the Padres and the 1968 Tigers against the Cardinals. They came within two outs of being the third team ever to be no-hit.

The Sox must now look to see if they can kick their offense into gear against Max Scherzer, the likely AL Cy Young winner this year, in Game 2 of the ALCS or else face the possibility of traveling to Detroit down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

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

Red Sox pregame notes: Sox plan to continue to lean on depth against Tigers; defining Jake Peavy’s role; Mike Napoli’s timing challenge 10.12.13 at 6:58 pm ET
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The Red Sox‘ success this year relied not just on a core of stars but also on the supporting scaffolding afforded by considerable depth. Throughout the season, the Red Sox were comfortable flipping around their lineup to incorporate players like Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes to take advantage of platoon splits and favorable matchup histories (while trying to avoid unfavorable matchup histories).

That strength, suggested manager John Farrell, will very much play into how the Red Sox approach their lineup construction in the American League Championship Series against the Tigers.

“The depth of our roster and the depth of our players has been a main contributor to our success this year,” said Farrell, “and we’€™ll look to take advantage of that, best we can.”

The first demonstration of that notion came in Farrell’s Game 1 lineup, where Farrell elected to put David Ross behind the plate instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia based on how Ross and Lester worked together in an early September start against the Tigers. More changes to the regular order are likely on Sunday in Game 2 in deference to the fact that Detroit Game 2 starter Max Scherzer represents a well-nigh lethal matchup for right-handed hitters, having held them to a .165/.219/.275 line during the regular season while punching out 31.6 percent of all right-handed hitters he faced.

Given Scherzer’s performance, Farrell said on Friday that the Sox would consider their options at a couple of spots in the lineup, likely including Will Middlebrooks at third (1-for-6 with four strikeouts against Scherzer) and Mike Napoli (1-for-13 with a single, one walk and five strikeouts against Scherzer) at first. Farrell said that if he does have someone start at first base in Napoli’s absence, it would likely be Carp (rather than, for instance, Daniel Nava).

But there is a very real chance that the Sox will find starts in the series for 13 of their 14 position players — with perhaps four of the position players who aren’t in the Game 1 lineup potentially getting a start at some point, even with the Tigers featuring four right-handed starters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is expected to start most of the games behind the plate. Jonny Gomes could see a start — perhaps against Scherzer, against whom he is 2-for-6. Xander Bogaerts could start in place of Middlebrooks. Carp seems a realistic option at first base against Scherzer.

In other words, a Sox team that featured a deep assortment of players who saw regular playing time in the regular season likely will remain committed to that construct in the postseason.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

  • The Sox put up stronger numbers during the regular season against right-handed starters than they did against lefties, a reflection of the fact that key contributors like Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz were considerably more productive this year against righties than lefties. In theory, then, the Sox should benefit from the fact that they will face only right-handed starters in the ALCS. But when the right-handed starters in question are Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez, Scherzer in Game 2, Justin Verlander in Game 3 and Doug Fister in Game 4, the Sox aren’t exactly counting their fine fortune.
    “We have fared better against righthanded starters. The numbers bear that out. But still we’re going up against some righthanders that are the best that the game has to offer,” said Farrell. “How we maintain that approach that has been so successful for us, whether that’s fighting off tough pitches to continue to build a pitch count against them, we’re going to lean on Stephen to David to Ells to Nava — all the guys that have been there — and yet we know there are some matchups, like in Nava’s case against Scherzer, that’s not been a good matchup for him, so how we look to tap into our depth, that’s where we are with that.”
  • Farrell said that Jake Peavy is available out of the bullpen, but suggested that the Sox won’t have him leapfrog pitchers with established roles in the bullpen. “Out of fairness to jake, and in fairness to all, we’€™ve got guys who are familiar with certain roles and while there wouldn’€™t be hesitancy to use a starter, it would have to be a specific situation,” said Farrell. “In other words, I’€™m not jumping him ahead of [Junichi] Tazawa or maybe even [Brandon] Workman in a certain situation.’€
  • Mike Napoli is still managing the plantar fasciitis in his foot that prompted the Sox to rest him at intervals in September. He had one cortisone shot during the regular season, but to this point, he has not had another injection to manage what he’s described as the stabbing pain in the appendage. While the physical issue remains one that he has to contend with, however, Farrell said that it doesn’t appear to be impacting him negatively either on the bases or at the plate.
    “I wouldn’t say it’s getting worse. He’s shown that there’s a pretty substantial pain threshold that he’s able to deal with. Even when he had that rest through the end of the season, that last week of the season, I thought he ran the bases pretty aggressively in the final series against Baltimore and then against Tampa,” said Farrell. “If there’s something being felt, he’s not letting on with the way he’s running the bases”
    Napoli went 2-for-13 with four walks and four strikeouts in the ALDS against the Rays. Farrell attributed some of the unevenness of his plate appearances to the challenges created by the halting schedule of the postseason.
    “He’s got maintenance in that swing, so he lays off for a week, gets a couple of games back, and then we shut down for another four days,” said Farrell. “He’s a guy that needs regular at-bats to find that timing, to hone it, and to capitalize on the power that he has.”
  • Farrell on having someone as intelligent as Craig Breslow on his team: “He uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.  But I think the intelligence clearly plays out on the mound.  This is someone who’s been a very good performer for us, whether it’s against right’€‘handers, left’€‘handers, and because of his ability to keep things emotionally under control on the mound is another reason why he’s so trusted, by all of us, late in the game and some high leverage situations,” said Farrell. “But yeah, I think there’s some comments down in the clubhouse that probably are better suited for other places than here, when he starts to speak, and some guys might not think along with him.”
Could Felix Doubront be X-factor in ALCS? 10.12.13 at 4:55 pm ET
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The heart of Detroit’s lineup is little short of ferocious. The trio of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the scorching hot Victor Martinez is enough to inflict heart palpitations on nearly any pitcher.

But there is one Red Sox hurler who has mowed through that formidable trio: Felix Doubront.

The left-hander doesn’t have a ton of exposure to the Tigers, but his performance against those three hitters bears notice:

vs. Cabrera: 1-for-6, double, 2 strikeouts, no walks

vs. Fielder: 0-for-6, 1 strikeout, no walks

vs. Martinez: 0-for-3

That’s a combined 1-for-15 — the sort of success that few pitchers have experienced against the group.

“It’s [manager John Farrell's] decision. I’m waiting for the opportunity to come out and pitch,” Doubront suggested agreeably. “I don’t know if that’s going to be the situation — one hitter, one inning. I’m just there, waiting.”

Doubront has known fellow Venezuelans Cabrera and Martinez since he was a 16-year-old hanging around the Venezuelan Winter League. He knows Martinez particularly well, given that the two were teammates with the Sox when Doubront made his major league debut in 2010.

“I’ve enjoyed pitching to them,” said Doubront. “It’s fun. It’s a challenge. Knowing those guys as friends, you always want to get them out some way, somehow.” Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox ALCS Game 1 lineup vs. Tigers: David Ross behind the plate for Jon Lester 10.12.13 at 4:34 pm ET
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In a repetition of the pairing that led the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Tigers (and, on that day, starter Max Scherzer) in early September, the Red Sox will once again pair catcher David Ross with Jon Lester for Game 1 of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series against the Tigers on Saturday. Ross — who caught Game 2 of the ALDS againt the Rays (a game started by John Lackey), will catch and bat ninth.

Ross does have some familiarity (if not success) against Tigers Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez, having hit .182 with a .250 OBP and .455 slugging mark as well as a homer in 12 plate appearances against the former NL East foe. The Tigers, meanwhile, have six members of their starting lineup with career averages of .400 or better against Lester — perhaps explaining in part why Farrell wanted to build on the battery combination that yielded so much success in the final month of the regular season.

For complete batter vs. starting pitcher matchups, 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

Daniel Nava, LF

Stephen Drew, SS

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

David Ross, C

Jon Lester, SP

Red Sox to start Clay Buchholz in Game 2, John Lackey in Game 3 of ALCS vs. Tigers 10.11.13 at 4:32 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell said that after Jon Lester makes the Game 1 start in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series against the Tigers, the team will feature right-hander Clay Buchholz in Game 2 and John Lackey in Game 3, flip-flopping the two right-handers from the order in which they pitched in the Division Series. Jake Peavy is once again slated to start Game 4. Farrell suggested that Buchholz threw well in his Game 3 start against the Rays, and that while Lackey also ultimately earned a win, the Sox thought he might benefit from some side work, including pitching against some teammates in live batting practice on Friday.

Asked if he’d identified his starter at third base for Games 1 and 2 of the series, Farrell said that Will Middlebrooks would start Game 1, but then the team was contemplating the possibility of changing course (presumably, meaning the possibility of a playoff start for Xander Bogaerts) for Game 2, when Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer (against whom Middlebrooks is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts in his career — though with what proved to be the game-winning two-run single against him in September) will be on the mound.

“Based on some matchups, we’ve got some things that we’re looking at in a couple of different spots,” said Farrell.

It is worth noting that Middlebrooks is not alone in his struggles against Scherzer. Mike Napoli is 1-for-13 with one walk and five strikeouts against him; Daniel Nava is 1-for-9 with a walk and two strikeouts; Mike Carp is 2-for-8 with a walk and five strikeouts.

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