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Sunday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. David Price 09.17.11 at 10:48 pm ET
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His quest for 200 wins now complete, Tim Wakefield seeks win number 201 on Sunday afternoon as he takes on the Rays at Fenway Park. The Rays counter Wakefield with young gun David Price, who is searching for his 13th win of the season. The game will be the finale of a four-game series that could prove pivotal in determining the American League wild card winner. With a loss on Saturday, the Red Sox hold a slim three-game wild card lead.

Price enjoyed success against the Red Sox this season, going 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA. Price has pitched well in September, but struggled with run support. In his past three outings, he is 0-1 with two no decisions despite allowing just six earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. In his last outing, a 4-2 loss to Baltimore, Price allowed one earned run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Wakefield struggled in both of his outings against the Rays this season. The knuckleballer is 0-1 against the Rays and has given up seven runs (five earned) in 10 1/3 innings of work.

Rays’ star Evan Longoria has the most success against Wakefield, batting .438 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in his career. Former Red Sox Johnny Damon also found success against Wakefield, batting .309 with four doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs against his former clubhouse mate.

The Red Sox will try to wake up their bats against Price, but it will not be easy, as most of the Boston lineup is hitting .250 or under against the Tampa Bay left-hander. Kevin Youkilis has the most success against Price, hitting .333 with two doubles in 23 plate appearances, but Youkilis has been sidelined since Friday with continuing discomfort from hip bursitis and a sports hernia. Darnell McDonald is the second-most successful batter against Price, racking up a .316 batting average with a triple, two home runs and three RBIs against Price. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Price, Tim Wakefield,
With Matt Moore, the merrier for the Rays 09.17.11 at 9:43 pm ET
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Forgive Matt Moore if he still refers to the Tampa Bay Rays in his postgame press conferences as ‘€œthey’€ instead of ‘€œus’€. The 22-year-old rookie was called up just six days ago on Sept. 11, but he has already made quite an impact on the club.

On Saturday, Moore made a statement against the Red Sox when he pitched three innings in relief of Jeff Niemann, allowing just two hits, one run and striking out two. Moore’€™s performance under the intense pressure of a playoff race in an enemy ballpark was impressive, and manager Joe Maddon was not shy about just how much Moore could mean to the Rays.

‘€œHopefully, he’€™s our wild card,’€ Maddon said.

This type of performance is not overly surprising from Moore, who is widely regarded as the Rays’€™ top prospect and has been referred to in Tampa Bay as a ‘€œphenom.’€ Moore was impressive in his time in the minors this year, going 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 27 combined starts in Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. The left-hander set franchise record for most strikeouts by a minor leaguer by racking up 210 strikeouts this season.

But translating minor league prowess into big league power is not always an easy transition, and so all eyes were on Moore when he came out to start the sixth inning. His first pitch was a 96-mph fastball that went for a strike against Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. His second pitch? A 98-mph fastball that was in for strike two.

‘€œFirst pitches he threw, I was like, ‘€˜It’€™s that easy, huh?’€™’€ Rays pitcher Joel Peralta said. ‘€œ98 [mph], I mean, I can’€™t believe it.’€

Moore, like many rookies, had a few issues getting through his first high-pressure outing. In the sixth inning, Moore walked Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz before getting himself out of the jam by forcing Josh Reddick to ground into a fielders’€™ choice and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to pop out.

Moore started the seventh inning by allowing two consecutive singles, but got Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out before striking out Pedroia with the tying run on third base.

‘€œI just try to stay within myself,’€ Moore said of pitching out of jams. ‘€œIt’€™s easy in situations like that to get out of what you need to do. When I do that, that’€™s when things start going wrong for me, so I just tried to stay within myself.’€

By the eighth inning, Moore settled down and retired Gonzalez, Ortiz and Conor Jackson in order to finish his night.

‘€œTo go three innings under those circumstances is quite a testament to his make-up,’€ Maddon said. ‘€œThat’€™s what’€™s going to make him good with us. He’€™s got a great arm, absolutely. But it’€™s the make-up that carries you through those moments and it’€™s the make-up that makes you a very successful pitcher in the American League.’€

Moore impressed more than just his manager, however. He also impressed his role model, pitcher David Price.

‘€œIt’s not easy pitching in this park,’€ Price said. ‘€œThis is an environment he hasn’t felt before so for him to go out there and do what he did is pretty special.”

Price knows what it is like to be in Moore’€™s shoes. In 2008, Price was a 23-year-old rookie who was called up to help the big club in mid-September. Price made five appearances out of the bullpen, pitching 14 innings while earning a 1.93 ERA and striking out 12 to help the Rays earn a playoff spot. Price made five appearances in the postseason and continued his impressive run, allowing one earned run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out eight.

This September, the Rays are hoping Moore can play a similar role to that of Price’€™s in 2008. Moore would like nothing more than to satisfy that hope.

‘€œI was a big fan of [Price] coming up,’€ Moore said. ‘€œI remember he came out of the bullpen and he was strong for them. Given the opportunity, if I have that role, it’€™s something I’€™m definitely looking forward to.’€

Closing Time: Red Sox bats stifled by Tampa Bay pitching 09.17.11 at 7:26 pm ET
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In what comes as no surprise to those familiar with Tampa Bay’s pitching staff, the Red Sox could not get their bats going against the Rays’ pitching staff and lost, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon.

The Rays did most of their damage early, roughing Red Sox starter Jon Lester up for two runs in the first inning before adding to their total with a run in the third and a run in the fifth.

The Red Sox pitchers did their part. Despite his difficult first inning, Lester calmed down and put in seven innings of work before the Red Sox before handing the game over to Daniel Bard and Franklin Morales, both of whom did not allow a run.

But in the end, the Red Sox were simply unable to take advantage of multiple opportunities to mount a come-back and lost their second game of the series.

Here’s a look at what else went wrong for the Red Sox Saturday.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

– The Red Sox were a terrible 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. Two of their three runs scored on sacrifices. Dustin Pedroia‘s three-pitch strikeout at the end of the seventh inning with the tying run on third was an especially painful moment for the Red Sox.
– For the second consecutive game, the Red Sox found themselves facing a 2-0 deficit entering their first at-bats of the day by virtue of a two-run home run. Unlike Friday’€™s game, the Red Sox did not respond in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own and spent the entire game trying to start a come-back.
– The Red Sox struggled to find a way to quiet Desmond Jennings, who scored twice in each of the last five games between the Red Sox and Rays. Jennings reached base in the first inning on Saturday via a four-pitch walk and scored on Ben Zobrist‘€™s home run. In the third inning, Jennings doubled, advanced to third on a fielders’€™ choice and scored on a wild pitch.
Jacoby Ellsbury stole his first base since Aug. 26 with a swipe of second in the fifth inning, but he promptly ended the inning when he was caught stealing third with two outs in the inning.

What went right for the Red Sox

– Lester was able to go deep into the game, pitching seven innings and allowing four runs on five hits.

– Bard had a clean eighth inning for the second consecutive night, ending a string of three bad appearances. The velocity on Bard’s fastball had dropped to the 94-96 mile per hour range while he was struggling, but on Saturday it was back up to his more typical 98 miles per hour.

Mike Aviles, starting in place of the injured Kevin Youkilis, delivered a big hit for the second night in a row. Aviles’€™ double in the third inning drove in Carl Crawford, cutting the Rays lead to 3-1. Aviles scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly, bringing the Red Sox within a run of the Rays.

Adrian Gonzalez flashed the leather a few times on Saturday. In the fourth inning, Gonzalez went up for a ball off Casey Kotchman‘€™s bat and started a double play to end the inning after Lester walked two consecutive batters. In the sixth inning, Gonzalez made a diving grab to his right, robbing Kotchman of extra bases and ending the inning.

Josh Reddick got his first hit of the series, a single to right in the fourth inning

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester
Pregame notes: Clay Buchholz, Erik Bedard throw side sessions 09.17.11 at 4:26 pm ET
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The Red Sox received some good news before Saturday’s game when Clay Buchholz was able to throw a 30-pitch side session. Buchholz has been out since June 16 with a stress fracture in his spine. Buchholz threw from 60 feet on Saturday and had Conor Jackson stand in as a batter, although Jackson was not swinging. Buchholz said he was pleased with the outing even though he is not yet throwing at 100 percent.

“I was probably 75 percent, maybe 80 percent toward the end,” Buchholz said. “If I get to throw three more [side sessions] with nothing, no pain added, there’s a good chance I’ll be 100 percent by the third time.”

Buchholz threw off a mound Thursday and recovered well, saying he woke up with “nothing out of the ordinary” Friday. If Buchholz recovers well from Saturday’s session, manager Terry Francona said he hopes to let him throw again either Monday or Tuesday.

“He came through it really well and felt good about himself,” Francona said. “Now we’ve got to figure out the next step, and not because of him physically necessarily but because Monday is [a doubleheader]. Can we get him to throw in between or do we need to maybe wait until Tuesday?”

Although Buchholz said he was pleased with his progress so far, he is not sure that he will be able to see game action by the end of the regular season.

“My thought process has never been pitching in the regular season,” Buchholz said. “I want to be back by the playoffs. If we work up to that point and I feel good enough to pitch in that last series [of the regular season], then I don’t see why not, but it’s not my goal.”

Erik Bedard also threw a side session before Saturday’s game. Bedard has been sidelined since suffering a strained lat on Sept. 3. Francona said it is still too early to determine when Bedard will return to the rotation. Both Bedard and pitching coach Curt Young reported that the lefty executed the 35-pitch exercise without incident.

“We’ve got some moving parts right now, obviously,” Francona said. “We want to see how he comes through the side and then we want to gauge where we think he is. Then we can make some decisions.

– Francona’s comments on Kevin Youkilis‘s status prior to Saturday’s game did not sound promising. Youkilis is still very sore and will not play Saturday. Francona said he does not know whether rest will help Youkilis recover sufficiently from the discomfort he’s facing related to hip bursitis and a sports hernia.

“We’re certainly going to give him the chance, but right now we just don’t know,” Francona said. “Either way, if a guy’s good, we want to play him but right now, that’s probably not realistic. Where it goes from here, we just don’t know.”

– Francona clarified what type of neck issue J.D. Drew is dealing with, saying the neck was just stiff and should not be anything serious or set him back further. Drew is still struggling to hit after suffering an avulsion fracture in his middle finger, but the right fielder did see improvement throwing.

– Closer Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 30th save Friday, marking six straight years in which Papelbon had 30 saves. Francona reflected briefly on Papelbon’s growth over the years prior to Saturday’s game.

“It’s especially nice when you see guys come through the organization and you see them grow up,” Francona said. “I can even think back to that game in Ft. Lauderdale [when Papelbon was a rookie] where he missed the bus and thought the bus was going to swing by and pick him up. Now you look at a guy who has 30 saves in six straight seasons. It’s kind of funny.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Erik Bedard, J.D Drew, Jonathan Papelbon
Bobby Jenks finds strength from diagnosis, looks toward future 09.17.11 at 4:17 pm ET
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Bobby Jenks addressed the media on Saturday for the first time since being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism Sept. 13. Jenks, who appeared much thinner than his listed weight of 275 pounds, said he is finally starting to feel better after a difficult few weeks.

“There’s nothing life or death right now,” Jenks said. “I’m feeling very good. In another week or two, I’m going to start exercising again, try to start getting back on a regular routine. Right now, I’m on a lot of blood thinners. We’re just trying to take care of this thing first before we move on to looking at the spine and doing the back surgery again.”

Jenks said doctors found the blood clot in his lung when they performed a CT scan as part of a preoperative procedure. Pulmonary embolisms can be deadly if not caught and treated quickly. Jenks will continue to take blood thinners and have repeat CT scans done until the clot disappears. Doctors are not sure where the clot came from, but Jenks said he thought it developed on his way to a rehab start in Salem.

“When I left Florida going into Salem to make my rehab start, the next day I felt really sick and very fatigued when I went on the field,” Jenks said. “I felt all the symptoms that went along with this. It’s not 100 percent that that’s where it came from, but most likely that’s when it happened.”

Once Jenks recovers from the embolism, he will require back surgery to remove two growths on his spine that have caused nerve damage. Jenks said he has two “little hooks” growing off his spine that did so much damage to his ligament over the years that it calcified the ligament and did nerve damage under his scapula. Dr. Kirk Wood will perform the surgery on Jenks. Since recovery should take just a few weeks, Jenks is optimistic he will be ready in time for Spring Training in February.

Jenks has not pitched since July 7 and threw just 15 2/3 innings, compiling a 6.32 ERA while going 2-2. The spate of injuries that sidelined Jenks since July (back problems, colitis, pulmonary embolism) have been trying for the reliever, who is in the first year of a two-year, $12 million deal.

“I think the fact that he knows what’s going on . . . I think he’s doing pretty well,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s been a hard season.”

And while Jenks, who admitted that it has been difficult for him to join a new team and be unable to contribute, has experienced plenty of bad luck this season, he remains optimistic about the future.

“Obviously I was going through a lot this year mentally, a lot of struggles and just trying to stay positive for so long,” Jenks said. “I’ve just come to the point where, being a spiritual person and a Christian, I find myself very blessed. Things happen for a reason.”

“I’ve got some good luck coming my way one of these years, for the next few years hopefully.”

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Red Sox find stability in Josh Beckett’s return 09.17.11 at 12:23 am ET
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Fenway Park exploded in applause when Josh Beckett struck out John Jaso to finish his outing on Friday night. The fans’ excitement was well-founded.

Beckett’€™s six innings of work Friday represented the first quality start from a Red Sox pitcher since Jon Lester‘€™s seven innings of shutout ball on Sept. 6. His performance in a 4-3 victory proved pivotal in delivering the first Red Sox win in a game when scoring less than five runs since beating the Athletics, 4-0, on Aug. 27.

Beckett (13-5, 2.50 ERA), like many of the Red Sox, was a question mark because of injury before the game. His 108-pitch outing provided answers.

The right-hander looked like a healthy starter poised to help the Red Sox in a tight wild card race. Beckett allowed three runs — two earned — on seven hits through six innings Friday. He also notched his 1,000th strikeout in a Red Sox uniform when he struck out Ben Zobrist in the top of the sixth inning.

With the Red Sox searching for wins recently, Beckett’€™s strong outing was well-received by manager Terry Francona.

‘€œIt’€™s welcome anytime,’€ Francona said. ‘€œIf you give yourself a chance to win every night, you’€™re going to win some games and we haven’€™t done that very consistently lately. If our pitcher is able to stay out there, it gives your offense a chance and we’€™re not playing catch-up all the time.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh Beckett, Terry Francona,
Closing Time: Beckett helps Red Sox breathe easier after win over Rays 09.16.11 at 10:43 pm ET
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Before Friday’€™s game, Rays skipper Joe Maddon — a veteran of a 1995 Angels team that endured one of the biggest pennant race collapses in big league history — noted that when a team is feeling the weight of a meltdown, all it needs is for one or two players to lift the weight off the whole team.

Josh Beckett proved to be that player for the Red Sox Friday, giving Boston its first quality start in nine games while also giving the Red Sox a chance to collect a sorely needed 4-3 win over the hard-charging Rays. The win put the Sox back up by four games in the wild card race, and ensured that Boston will have no worse than a two-game pad in the standings when the Rays leave town.

Beckett shined in his first outing since spraining his ankle 10 games ago against the Blue Jays. The righthander allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits while striking out seven and walking just one over six innings. With the win, Jon Lester can approach Saturday’s start as a chance to stick a dagger in the Rays’ playoff hopes, rather than as a game that the Sox must approach with desperation.

Here’s a look at what else went right (and what went wrong) for the Red Sox on Friday.

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

Read More: Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett,
Pregame notes: Drew suffers another setback, Youkilis out for at least two games 09.16.11 at 6:36 pm ET
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Terry Francona sounded like a doctor making rounds in his pregame press conference on Friday when he offered updates on the slew of players battling through injuries. The newest revelation regarded J.D. Drew, who has been out since July 19 with what was originally a shoulder impingement. During a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket, Drew earned more time on the DL when he suffered an avulsion fracture to his middle finger.

Now, Drew has a new health concern.

‘€œ[Drew] had a little bit of a neck problem yesterday so we’€™ll wait a little bit,’€ Francona said.

Francona had better news about Friday’€™s starting pitcher Josh Beckett, who has not pitched since Sept. 5 due to a sprained ankle. Beckett is not on a pitch count and Francona expects Beckett to pitch with no limitations.

“It’€™s been 11 days [since he last pitched],” said Francona. “It’€™s not like it’€™s been forever. Again, we’€™ll keep an eye on it. If there are limitations, they would be if he was stiff or tired or something like that, but I don’€™t think we need to put a number on him going into the game.”

Francona also confirmed that Kevin Youkilis will not play Friday or Saturday due to discomfort from bursitis and a sports hernia. Youkilis was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Thursday’€™s 9-2 loss to the Rays. Mike Aviles will get the start at third base on Friday.

“We’€™re going to have to let this thing calm down a little and then we’€™ll go from there,” Francona said. “How much [and] when we get out of him will be determined by how quickly he recovers and how good he feels, because last night, he didn’€™t feel very good and it was pretty obvious.”

– Francona had no updates on pitchers Erik Bedard (strained lat) and Clay Buchholz (stress fracture in back), but he did name some of next week’€™s starters. John Lackey will pitch one game of the doubleheader against the Orioles on Monday and Kyle Weiland will make his next start on Tuesday night. Francona said he does not know who the second starter will be on Monday but said he is reluctant to give the start to Alfredo Aceves.

“If you’€™re going to start [Aceves], you’€™re losing him for three days beforehand and three days after,” said Francona. ‘€œRight now, I don’€™t think that makes us a better team.”

Although there are an abundance of call-ups to help out in the bullpen should Aceves have to start, Aceves has been one of the strongest relievers outside of Jonathan Papelbon since Daniel Bard‘s recent struggles.

Aceves has a 1.48 ERA in his last 12 outings, striking out 24 while allowing just four earned runs in 24 1/3 innings of work. Francona has little room for error when it comes to fiddling with his pitching staff since the Red Sox enter Friday night’s game just three games ahead of the Rays in the wild card race.

Read More: alfredo aceves, J.D Drew, john lackey, Josh Beckett
Thursday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Kyle Weiland vs. Jeremy Hellickson 09.15.11 at 10:27 am ET
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The Tampa Bay Rays linger just four games behind the Red Sox with 14 left to play, making this weekend’s four-game series in Boston a crucial matchup. In a rematch of Saturday’s game, the Red Sox will pit September call-up Kyle Weiland against Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson Thursday night.

Hellickson emerged victorious in their last meeting, allowing three earned runs on five hits through six innings to help the Rays to a 6-5 win. Weiland lasted just four innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out one and walking three. Despite his brief outing, there were some positives for Weiland Saturday. In the first inning, Weiland loaded the bases with no one out then forced a ground out, struck out Johnny Damon and got Matt Joyce on a fly out to escape the inning with just one run allowed.

The Rays faced Weiland for the first time Saturday. In their limited at bats against him, B.J. Upton has the most success, going 2-for-3 with a double.

The Red Sox have a bit more experience against Hellickson, who has faced the Red Sox three times this season. Hellickson is 1-1 against the Red Sox with a 3.93 ERA over 18 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford hit Hellickson best. Gonzalez is hitting .333 against him with a triple, home run and three RBIs. Crawford is also hitting .333 against Hellickson with two doubles. Read the rest of this entry »

Jerry Remy on D&C: ‘A split would be fine’ this weekend 09.15.11 at 10:17 am ET
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NESN color commentator Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday for his weekly appearance on the show. Remy addressed reliever Daniel Bard‘s struggles, talked late-season managing strategy and previewed the upcoming series with the Rays.

“A split would be fine,” Remy said on what the Red Sox need to do this weekend. “They’re coming in here with good pitching. It’s not like there’s going to be a lot of runs scored by the Red Sox because [the Rays] can really pitch. If you split with them at this time of the year with the amount of games remaining, I think that’d be pretty good.”

If the Rays pitching has been good, however, the Red Sox pitching has been questionable at best in September. Remy pointed to pitching as a reason for the Red Sox’ September struggles. Boston pitchers have a collective 6.36 ERA in September while the Rays are nearly half that with a 3.54 team ERA.

“The reason is now you’ve lost guys like Josh Beckett,” Remy said. “That makes a huge difference in your rotation. When you look at it, you’re going into the final three weeks of the season with a couple of triple-A guys in their rotation. That makes a huge difference.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To listen the the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daniel Bard, Jerry Remy, Josh Beckett, kyle weiland
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