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Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Rays 1 05.24.10 at 9:28 pm ET
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David Ortiz got the scoring going for the Red Sox with his ninth homer of the season, and eighth for the month of May. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox continued to gain momentum while going through what was thought to be a defining stretch of games, beating the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, 6-1, Monday night at Tropicana Field. It gave the Sox a 7-4 mark in their run of meetings with Detroit, the Yankees, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and now the team with the best record in the majors, the Rays. (Click here for a recap.)


- Clay Buchholz kept on keeping on. The righty followed up his eight-inning, two-run outing against Minnesota with a less pitch-efficient, yet almost equally as impressive performance against the first-place Rays. Buchholz went six innings, allowing one run (a solo blast by Carlos Pena) on six hits, striking out eight and walking just one. The Sox starter threw 108 pitches. Perhaps Buchholz’ signature moment came in the second inning when, with runners on second and third and one out, the hurler struck out both Reid Brignac and Jason Barlett to get out of the jam. Another highlight came in the third when Buchholz finished off a seven-pitch at-bat to Evan Longoria by striking out the Tampa Bay slugger swinging with a nasty changeup.

- Jeremy Hermida continued his two-out magic, ripping a bases-loaded single to left in the Red Sox’ three-run third inning with two outs. The outfielder has now notched 18 of his 24 RBI with two outs, and tied him with Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero for the most two-out RBI in the American League.

- Dustin Pedroia, who said prior to the game he was having a hard time sleeping and eating while enduring an 0-for-19 slump, put all of his troubles in the past right away, coming away with singles in his first two at-bats. The first-inning single, his first hit since May 19, was sent back up the middle into center field, while Pedroia’s second hit was blooped into shallow right field. The third-inning hit was made possible when what would have been a pop up to Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso was ruled a foul ball after it hit part of the roof’s structure. Pedroia capped his night with a ground-rule double, boosting his average nine points (.270) with the 3-for-5 performance.

- David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis continued to tear it up in the month of May, each going deep. First it was Ortiz who continued his power surge, launching a 92 mph fastball from Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis into the right field seats for his ninth homer of the season, and eighth of the month. Coming into the game he had gone 20-for-57 (.351) since May 1. Youkilis’ hot streak continued when he sent his 10th homer of the season over the left field wall in the fourth inning. The hit allowed the first baseman to reach safely in his 23rd straight game, a stretch in which he has now hit seven homers. Youkilis also drew a walk, adding to his major league-best total of 25 for the month.

- The Red Sox offense did what few have done against any Tampa Bay starter. By the time Wade Davis’ night was done, he had allowed five runs in just 3 2/3 innings, the most the righty had allowed in any appearance this season. The Rays’ starters came in with a major-league best combined ERA of 2.72, had allowed two earned runs or less 29 times and three earned runs or less 38 times. Only nine times in 44 games had the Rays’ relievers come into the game prior to the seventh inning. Want more? Coming into Monday night Tampa Bay had allowed 138 runs, the fewest runs allowed by a major league team through the first 44 games of the season since 1990, when the Oakland A’s gave up 138. The Rays’ team ERA of 2.87 is almost a full run better than the next closest team, Seattle (3.83).


- Victor Martinez, who came into the game having gone nine for his last 17, was forced from the game in the third inning after Brignac fouled a ball off the catcher’s left foot with two outs in the second. Martinez stayed in the game at the time, proceeding to walk in the third. But upon reaching first Red Sox manager Terry Francona chose to replace him with pinch-runner Jason Varitek. X-rays came back negative, with the team classifying the injury as a contusion to Martinez’ left toe. It resulted in the first time Varitek caught Buchholz since Martinez came to the Red Sox at last year’s trade deadline.


- Jed Lowrie visited with the Red Sox, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before his scheduled trip to Boston for a check-up. Lowrie has been batting mononucleosis since spring training. To read more on what Lowrie had to say regarding his status click here.

- Mike Cameron (abdominal) is slated to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

- Josh Beckett will throw another flat-ground side session before taking to the bullpen. The starter is eligible to come off the disabled list (back) June 3.

Martinez leaves game with left toe contusion 05.24.10 at 8:41 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez was forced to leave his team’s game with the Rays Monday night after being struck in the left foot by a Reid Brignac foul ball.

The Brignac foul ball off of Martinez’ foot came with two outs in the second inning and resulted in Red Sox manager Terry Francona and head trainer Mike Reinold to visit the catcher, who remained in the game. Martinez would eventually be replaced in the third inning after drawing a walk off of Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis, giving way to pinch-runner Jason Varitek.

X-rays on the foot were negative and the team was classifying the injury as a left toe contusion.

It marked the first time since Martinez came to the Red Sox following last year’s trade deadline that Sox starter Clay Buchholz had thrown to Varitek.

Checking in with Jed Lowrie 05.24.10 at 8:25 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jed Lowrie doesn’t know where he’s going, but he does know where he’s been and is intent on not heading back any time soon.

The Red Sox infielder was back with his team for the first time since contracting mononucleosis, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before heading back to Boston for some check-ups in the coming days.

“I’m just concentrating on putting this behind me,” said Lowrie, who said he is starting to put back the 12 pounds he loss due to the illness. “At the end of the day, I want to get better, I want to put it behind me, and I want to play baseball. That’s what this is about. I want to play baseball, and I want to be healthy. This is as frustrating as it gets, but I think the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing I’m going to play healthy.”

Lowrie can now lift weights and participate in some baseball activities while rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla. And while there is no timetable for a return, his current state is a far cry from what he experiencing upon first dealing with his illness.

“I caught it. It could have been worse. It was still significant,” he said prior to the Red Sox series opener with the Rays. “It was bad. I’d sleep 12 hours a night and wake up tired. It wasn’t any fun. It’s taken a while, and it’s going to take a while to build back up, too.

“At first, I was sleeping so much that I would show up to the field and then go back and go to sleep. As I progressed, i was staying up a little more but still lying on the couch and watching TV. I was pretty sedentary for a while.”

Lowrie, who hasn’t been able to watch too many Red Sox games due to satellite TV in his apartment, believes a benefit from the time off is the chance for his surgically-repaired left wrist to get healthier. Still, there remains the frustration regarding not knowing exactly when a return to active duty is going to present itself.

“It’s just an everyday thing. It’s not necessarily a day-to-day basis,” Lowrie explained. “When I started, I couldn’t do anything, and it worked to where I had a day I could do something and the next day I’d need off. In baseball, you play every day. You’re not playing once a week where you’re saving your energy for that one game. I want to be playing every day. I don’t want to be coming back and not have the energy to play every third day. I don’t want to be someone where the manager has to come in and ask, ‘How are you feeling today?’ I want to know I’m 100 percent.”

Uncovering the value of Adrian Beltre 05.24.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Figuring out Adrian Beltre isn’t always easy. Take for instance …

Coming into this season no visiting player in the history of Tropicana Field had a worse OPS (.475) when playing at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. So, one would expect more doom and gloom when the Red Sox visit The Trop for the first time this season, correct? Hold your horses.

Upon further evaluation, since the beginning of 2008 Beltre has actually performed well in at Tropicana Field, carrying a five-game hit streak into Monday night’s game. During the stretch the third baseman has an OPS of .909, with .350 batting average.

Deceiving, isn’t it? And it is because of Beltre’s perception of deception that you don’t get the sense that Red Sox fans have truly found their happy place when it comes to the 31-year-old.

Perhaps it’s because they know there is a strong likelihood that Beltre is one and done in Boston, ultimately drifting into the free agency sunset with his agent, Scott Boras. Or maybe it was all of that defensive promise (hat tip to Joe Maddon here) that was called into question when Beltre made his seventh error on May 8 (his last, by the way). Then there was the fact he is replacing one of the team’s more popular players in Mike Lowell, who had earned the benefit of the doubt the new third baseman still hasn’t been afforded.

But as we sit here right now, Beltre has been worth the Red Sox’ investment. In fact, if you were to make up the team right now, he would be in the conversation to be making his first All-Star appearance, leading all American League third basemen in batting average (.325) and doubles (14).

The fact is that when it comes to looking at the engines that are making this somewhat surprising offense go, Beltre has been one of the most underrated, yet important.

You might look at Beltre and see a corner man who has fewer home runs (3) than every other starter except Marco Scutaro. Or the fact that nobody in the major league’s most patient lineup is as impatient as the third baseman. But Beltre’s value has been equally as important as those working counts or amping up their slugging percentage.

Beltre has hit when it counts, in his own unique way.

- He his hitting .533 with runners in scoring position and two outs (8-for-15). (By the way, Jeremy Hermida leads the AL with 19 RBI in this situation, having gone 7-for-19.)

- He is leading the AL with a .48o batting average (12-for-25) after getting the count to 0-2.

- He is slightly behind former teammate Ichiro Suzuki for the batting average on two-strike counts, hitting .355 to Ichiro’s .360.

Even when Beltre started out the first month as one of the few Red Sox hitters carrying a batting average north of .300, the talk was of how most of the hits were singles, and the needed punch wasn’t there. Well, since May 1 Beltre leads all Sox hitters with 12 extra-base hits (tied with Kevin Youkilis).

It may not last, or perhaps we simply remember Beltre as a chip at the trade deadline. But as we sit here, these are the facts when it comes to the third baseman. Just a simple reminder.

Reaction to Daisuke’s almost no-no 05.23.10 at 1:33 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka only allowed one hit in eight innings of work Saturday night. (AP)

Thanks to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, here is some reaction from the Red Sox and Phillies clubhouses to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s near no-hitter in the Sox’ 5-0 win over Philadelphia, Saturday night. (For more on the performance click here):

Terry Francona

“From the very beginning, you could see, he got in a rhythm. He got it, he threw it, that’s the best fastball we’ve seen. He established that. then his slider, he threw some of the better changesups we’ve seen. We made some defensive plays behind him. That was fun to watch.”

“That ball, we made some plays, Herm [Jeremy Hermida] caught a ball fairly deep. The ball [Adrian] Beltre caught, I don’t know how he did. The ball to Daisuke, maybre that ragball drill is worth it afterall. I know they hate it, but I don’t know if it’s self defense or he’s that good. But it seemed like the stars were aligned. And on the base hit,  I actually, my view, I thought he caught it, because his body kind of shielded it. I’m kind of yelling and everyone was yelling what are you yelling about.”

Marco Scutaro

“They call me Hanley Scutaro now.”

“What do you want me to say? If I was six feet, I’d probably get it. I’m [Dustin] Pedroia’s size, so …

(Did you think you had a shot on reaching the only hit against Matsuzaka) “Yeah, I did. What can I say? I know all the country of Japan is hating me right now. Sorry, sorry. My bad, my bad.”

“I didn’t notice this one until I was running on third. And I looked at the scoreboard and I see no hits. And Polanco told me too. He’s like, hey, tell Daisuke he’s throwing a no-hitter.”

(How close were to catching the base hit?) “I think I was very close. I don’t know, I haven’t checked the replay. I was kind of close.”

Adrian Beltre

“I thought in the seventh inning when he caught that line drive by Werth, I thought he definitely was going to get it. Normally when you get a play like that, it’s a sure base hit up the middle. He hit the ball really hard and I don’t know how he got it. After that I thought, ‘Man, this guy is going to get a no-hitter today.’”

(On his diving play in the eighth inning) “You get a little more aggressive because you’d rather have an E-5 than a hit in that situation. You don’t get many chances to play behind a no-hitter and you want to do whatever you can to prevent any little single.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Phillies 0 05.22.10 at 10:15 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched no-hit baseball through 7 2/3 innings against the Philies Saturday night. (AP)

There was truly just one thing that dwarfed everything else when looking at the Red Sox’ 5-0 win over the Phillies Saturday night in Philadelphia — Daisuke Matsuzka’s performance.

The Sox’ starter went 7 2/3 innings without giving up a single hit before Juan Castro blooped a single over the out-stretched glove of Marco Scutaro, into left field, to break up what would have been the first no-hitter by an American League pitcher in a National League park since the advent of interleague play.

Matsuzaka managed to finished off his outing by inducing a fly out from Ross Gload, closing out his line having allowed just the one hit while walking four and striking out five. He threw 112 pitches, 73 strikes.

“Dice did a good job,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who has already caught four n0-hitters. “He stayed powerful through the zone. He stayed aggressive, continued to stay aggressive, and had a good mix of his pitches.”

We were kind of fastball cutter early and then mixed in some sliders

The no-hitter was almost ended earlier in the eighth when, after walking Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz lined a shot between third and shortstop. But Adrian Beltre not only managed to dive and stab Ruiz’ smash, but also threw over to first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the double play.

Matsuzaka also got a scare against the National League’s top hitting club when Jayson Werth rocked a line-drive back up the middle. But the Red Sox pitcher stuck up his glove and grabbed the shot to end the seventh.

The Red Sox’ offense was mostly supplied in the fifth inning, when they put up four runs against Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick. The runs came on RBI doubles from David Ortiz and Beltre, to go along with J.D. Drew’s run-scoring single. The Sox also managed a run in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jeremy Hermida.

Matsuzaka also contributed with a single of his own in the third inning, along with a sacrifice bunt, while Jacoby Ellsbury, playing for the first time since the sixth game of the season, went 0-for-4 with a walk and run.

For a complete recap click here.

Ortiz told Hanley ‘do the right thing’ 05.21.10 at 12:21 pm ET
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Speaking prior to the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over Minnesota Thursday, David Ortiz confirmed that he had texted Hanley Ramirez, encouraging the Marlins’ shortstop to apologize to his manager and teammates.

“I told him to talk to his manager and do the right thing. I don’t know if what he did was because of what I said, but I always try and tell him the right thing to do,” Ortiz said. “I think he did what he was supposed to, go down to apologize to his teammates and his managers. Move on. It’s not a big deal. Things happen.”

Ortiz referenced his own mentors when he was a young player with the Twins, and the guidance they delivered which was similar to the kind he offered Ramirez.

“Eddie Guardardo used to tell me how to do things when I was with Minnesota,” Ortiz said. “But on the other hand, I was well educated for me to snap or doing something crazy that is when you push me all the way to the end where I can’t do anything else. I’m not saying what my boy did was that crazy or stupid.”

Earlier in the week Ortiz did tell WEEI.com that the whole situation — with Ramirez loafing after a ball Monday and subsequently getting benched by Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez — could have been handled differently.

“This is not about embarrassing the player that he is,” said Ortiz, who befriended Ramirez — a fellow native of the Dominican Republic — prior to the Red Sox trading the shortstop following the 2005 season. “Sometimes we might need to be reminded about things we do that we think is the right thing but it’s not. There are more eyes watching. But embarrassing you, or your embarrassing your manager or your teammates is not the right way to go.

“You say, ‘Son, let’s talk. What happened?’ That’s all it is. You’ve got people watching you. It’s not the right thing to do. Don’t do it. Slap on the hand.”

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