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John Lackey talks wanting to stay in, optimism after win 07.16.11 at 9:04 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ‘€“ John Lackey was going to come out. That was a fact. He wanted to stay in. That was another fact.

But the most important fact for the Red Sox Saturday was that Lackey turned in a solid performance in his team’€™s 9-5 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“A lot to like,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “We’€™d love for him to get hot. That would be one of the best things that could ever happen to us.’€

The starter lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs (3 earned), on 10 hits, while striking out seven and walking one. He was taken out with runners on first and second in the sixth after Johnny Damon reached via a two-out error, and Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch.

Lackey was visibly upset when Francona came to take him out of the game, but after the game explained that was just a product of the emotion of the outing.

‘€œYeah, I felt like I could have got that guy out. Looking back on it, we had a two-run lead. That’€™s probably Tito protecting me a little bit, too. I can respect that,’€ said Lackey, who was replaced by lefty reliever Randy Williams. Williams came on and retired Casey Kotchman via a ground out to second.

‘€œYou can’€™t do much about it. I already had a visit (from pitching coach Curt Young). It’€™s not like you can argue your way out of that one.’€

And, as Francona later explained, that’€™s exactly why he always makes the call to the bullpen before arriving on the mound.

‘€œI don’€™t pay much attention,’€ said Francona to pitchers’€™ reactions when being taken out. ‘€œThat’€™s why I always make the move before I go out there. There can’€™t be a discussion. I need to do what I’€™m going to do so I always do it before I go out there.’€

When asked if he enjoyed Lackey’€™s fiery temperament, Francona said, ‘€œI think he is that way a lot of times. Again, the way the game started (giving up three runs in the first inning), the fact that he stayed out there, because those two innings were long. What was it? Fifty (pitches) after two? He only walked one and he hit the batter.”

Lackey also talked about the benefit of recharging over the All-Star break, trying to build off his last start which saw him hold Baltimore scoreless over 6 2/3 innings.

‘€œIt was definitely nice to shut it down for a few days, for sure,’€ said Lackey, who lowered his ERA from 6.84 to 6.70. ‘€œWhat happened, happened. You can’€™t do anything about that. I’€™m gonna go out there and compete my butt off and try to win every time I go out there.’€

The explanation for Marco Scutaro’s rough first inning 07.16.11 at 8:36 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was one of roughest defensive innings Marco Scutaro has had since arriving with the Red Sox.

First came Johnny Damon’s grounder to lead off the home half of the first inning, which Scutaro ranged over, grabbed and threw wide to Adrian Gonzalez at first base for an error. And it was that play that led to the uncertainty which followed.

“Damon hit the ball, it hit my finger and I couldn’t find the grip on the ball,” Scutaro explained following the Red Sox’ 9-5 win at Tropicana Field Saturday. “I just kind of threw it and after that my finger was a little numb. I couldn’t feel it. I hate when that happens. I just had my hand too close to the ball when it hit the glove.”

With his right index finger throbbing, Scutaro was forced into action two more occasions. The next one coming when Evan Longoria grounded to him, resulting in a wide throw to second which Dustin Pedroia ranged just enough for to get a force out. The shortstop then rallied to finish off the inning with a 4-6-3 double play, although the damage had already been done via a three-run frame for the Rays.

“It was frustrating,” said Scutaro, who explained that the numbness subsided as the game progressed. “I don’t mind making errors, but when they cost runs, that really pisses me off.”

Closing Time: John Lackey, home runs lift Red Sox past Rays 07.16.11 at 7:44 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — No matter who the pitcher, the Red Sox offense seems intent on not slowing down.

This time the Sox offense jumped all over Rays All-Star James Shields, touching him up for six runs over six innings on the way to a 9-5 win Saturday at Tropicana Field.

Shields came into the game carrying a 2.33 ERA, and having shut out the Sox the last time he faced them. But he could not repeat those strong results.

The attack was led by home runs from Josh Reddick, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, who all built on the Sox’ major league-best HR road total (now 62).

Earning the win was Red Sox starter John Lackey, who rebounded from a shaky first inning in which he allowed three runs while throwing 35 pitches. The righty finished his outing by allowing four runs (3 earned) on 10 hits, striking out seven and walking one over 5 2/3 innings.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– After giving up three runs in the first inning, Lackey settled down. The Sox starter wouldn’t give up another run until the fifth inning, thanks in part to a bevy of ground balls. The righty induced two double plays, with seven of his nine non-strikeout outs coming on the ground.

– Pedroia remained red-hot, this time hitting a solo homer in the seventh inning. It marked the first time in his career that he has homered in three straight games. With two hits, the second baseman is now over .290 (sitting at .291).

David Ortiz, who was robbed by the shift in his first at-bat, came up big with a two-run double to right field in the third. It was the designated hitter’s first hit of the series and gave the Sox a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

– Ellsbury continued his power surge, hitting his 13th homer of the season with a leadoff shot in the fourth. Ellsbury came into the game riding a six-game hitting streak, during which he was 11-for-25 with three homers. Another outfielder helping out via the long ball was Reddick, who helped the Sox respond to Tampa Bay’s three-run first by hitting a two-run job in the second. Eleven of Reddick’s 25 hits this season have been of the extra-base variety.

– With the potential tying run on first, newcomer Randy Williams came on for Lackey in the sixth to face Casey Kotchman. With one pitch, the lefty got Kotchman to ground out and end the threat. He would go on to get Evan Longoria on a pop up and Matt Joyce via a punch-out in the seventh before giving way to Daniel Bard.

– Bard extended his scoreless streak to 20 2/3 innings by not allowing a run in 1 1/3 frames.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Marco Scutaro suffered through a horrific first inning, starting with an error on Johnny Damon‘s grounder to lead off the Rays’ half of the opening frame. Two batters later, Scutaro failed to make an accurate throw to second base, allowing Kotchman to reach. The shortstop made one more shaky throw to second to leave an unappetizing image for what turned into a three-run frame for the hosts.

– After fouling a ball off his kneecap with two outs in the fifth inning, and subsequently crumpling the ground, Tampa Bay’s Joyce got up to immediately take Lackey over the right field wall to cut the Sox’ lead to two runs. Up until that point, it was one of the few hard-hit balls off the Sox starter.

Adrian Gonzalez made his third error of the season on a two-out grounder by Damon in the sixth, ironically in the same inning Kotchman committed his first of the year

Jarrod Saltamacchia had a rough day at the plate, striking out three times.

Closing Time: Andrew Miller, Red Sox can’t keep good times rolling against Rays 07.15.11 at 10:46 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox‘ starting pitching situation got a bit off-kilter on the way to a 9-6 loss to Tampa Bay Friday night.

Andrew Miller, who had entered his start against the Rays with a 3-0 mark and 3.57 ERA, turned in his roughest outing since joining the Red Sox, allowing seven runs on five hits while walking five. The lefty left with two outs in the third inning and the Sox trailing by five runs.

The loss snapped a six-game win streak for the Red Sox, who have lost just two of their 10 games in July.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Sox’ series-opening defeat at the hands of the third-place Rays …

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Miller went his second straight start without striking out a batter. His velocity was similar to his previous two starts, with the fastball sitting around 91 mph and maxing out at 94 mph. The biggest blow against the lefty was Ben Zobrist‘s grand slam with one out in the second inning, making it 5-1 at the time.

– For the first time in the last six games, the Red Sox weren’t able to get the opposing starting pitcher out before the fifth inning. While they did make David Price throw 121 pitches, he still left with a 7-3 lead after completing six innings. It snaps the longest such streak by a Red Sox team in 28 years. Price finished his outing striking out seven, walking one and allowing five hits.

Dan Wheeler ran into some trouble against his old team, in large part because Casey Kotchman hit a bomb against his old team. Wheeler, who had only allowed one run in his last six outings, gave up a two-run homer to Kotchman in the sixth inning. It was the first homer allowed by the righty since May 4.

Dustin Pedroia made a rare baserunning miscue in the first inning after building on his major league-best batting average against lefties (.394) with a single to left. The second baseman tried to stretch the liner into a double, but was easily gunned down by Sam Fuld for the game’s second out.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Alfredo Aceves turned in another outstanding relief appearance, coming in for Miller and throwing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball (allowing just two hits). The righty hasn’t allowed a run in any of his last three relief outings, stretching 7 1/3 innings.

– Pedroia continued his dominance against left-handed pitching, not only notching the first-inning single against Price, but taking the Rays’ ace deep with a solo shot in the sixth inning. He now has a homer in five of his last seven games, and a total of six since June 30. He added a double in the eighth inning, boosting his batting average to a season-high .289.

Darnell McDonald made a positive impression in his first at-bat, taking Price over the left field wall for a solo shot in the second inning. He now has at least one hit in each of his last four games, all against left-handers.

Jacoby Ellsbury kept his power surge going, launching a solo home run off Price in the third inning. It was just the third homer allowed by Price to a left-handed batter in the pitcher’s career.

Marco Scutaro also continued a mild hot streak when it comes to hitting home runs, claiming his third of the month via a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his second homer in as many games.

Andrew Miller explains why drop in velocity shouldn’t be a concern 07.15.11 at 12:58 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ‘€“ Andrew Miller stands at 6-foot-7 and has broken off fastballs of excess of 96 mph in the past. That, he explains, doesn’€™t mean you should be expecting non-stop, eyebrow-raising radar gun readings every time he pitches.

Some talk has been made of the difference between what kind of velocity Miller was delivering in the minors (and even his first outing with the Red Sox this season) compared to what is showing up at now.

In his first start, against the Padres, according to Pitch FX he maxed out at 96.1 mph with an average fastball of 93.2 mph. The next appearance (vs. the Pirates) his fastball topped out at 94.9 mph with an average of 92.40 mph.

In his start in Houston, Miller’€™s heater reached 93.9 mph with an average of 90.83 mph. And in his last start, against the Orioles, the fastball hit a max of 93.9 mph with an average of 91.28 mph.

‘€œIt’€™s just one of those phases to be honest with you. I’€™m not really concerned with my velocity,’€ Miller said. ‘€œObviously it’€™s nice the higher it is, if you can control it, because it’€™s something you can use to your advantage. It’€™s just one of those things. I feel great physically. I’€™m not battling through anything, sore or tired or anything.

‘€œI’€™ve always pitched at a certain level and then kind of bumped it up a little bit. I think a lot of time expectations are maybe that I throw harder than I actually do. And for me, while I think I was throwing the ball harder for whatever reason, it has come down. It will be nice if comes back, but I’€™m not concerned about it.’€

The bottom line is that Miller continues to get wins for the Red Sox, having gone 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA, a trend he is hoping to continue Friday night at Tropicana Field.

‘€œWhen I came up it was like, ‘€˜We’€™re going to do a six-man rotation.’€™ Unfortunately it seems like guys have been hit by the bug or something because it’€™s one guy after another,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s what I’€™m here to do, fill in the best I can. I know I can’€™t replace some of those guys shoes but if we can go out there and win some games we’€™re reaching our goals and we’€™ll try to do that every time out.’€

Josh Beckett after being scratched: ‘I could have pitched’ 07.12.11 at 9:56 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Speaking during the All-Star Game, Josh Beckett explained that the decision not to pitch in the second inning — as was planned by American League manager Ron Washington — was precautionary after the Red Sox starter felt stiffness in his left knee toward the end of his warm-ups.

Beckett said that he didn’t believe he had re-injured the knee, which was originally hyper-extended during his most recent start, and that it shouldn’t prevent him from making his next scheduled start, Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I don’t think so,” said Beckett when asked if the injury could lead to a missed start. “I could have pitched. I’m not comfortable going out there and getting hurt int he All-Star Game and costing myself starts in the second half. I think that’s how everybody should be. This game does mean a lot with the home-field advantage and everything but at the same time there are some important things that are ahead.”

Beckett said he felt the knee getting progressively more stiff as his warm-up tosses progressed, having already experienced some discomfort from the cross-country flight.

“I was almost done with my warm-ups. I think I had about 10 pitches left,” he said. “A lot of it is you don’t get to go through the same routine. You’re rushing around, you’re doing this, you’re doing that. It’s in the back of your head when you feel it. You’re like, ‘If something happens here I’m going to make a lot people out here look not good, including myself.’

“I think I would have pitched through it (in a regular season game). It wasn’t one pitch, it was just kind of progressively got a little bit stiffer. I don’t know what to say. It sucks to be warming up in an All-Star Game and have that happen. I was in a good situation, I was pitching early in the game, I was going to be able to hang out with the guys for the last few innings. It’s tough, but I think I did the right thing here.”

Another factor helping make the decision was the promise Beckett made to Red Sox manager Terry Francona before leaving for the All-Star Game.

“I was just warming up and it didn’t feel 100 percent. I told Tito when I left if I feel at all when I’m out here I’ll speak up and it just wasn’t something I was comfortable going out there and messing with. I don’t think I re-injured it, but I’ve definitely still got some inflammation in there,” said Beckett, who was confident he could pitch in the All-Star Game after executing a side session at Fenway Park Sunday.

“When I first got here, I don’t know if it was because it was a long flight, it was  little bit stiff. I got on the bike a little bit, went outside, jogged around a little bit, got a little bit better. Just something I wasn’t going to mess with. … That was one thing Wash emphasized, ‘I want to give you guys just like you came here.’ I’m sure he understands.”

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

How Manny Acta ended up helping Adrian Gonzalez to the finals 07.11.11 at 11:55 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The pre-Home Run Derby notes listed all the participants and their pitchers … except one.

Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder — Sandy Guerrero

David Ortiz and Robinson Cano — Jose Cano

Matt Kemp — Rob Flippo

Matt HollidayYadier Molina

Jose Bautista — Alex Andreopoulos

Adrian Gonzalez — TBA

Well, Gonzalez — who used San Diego coach Ray Crone when he last participated in the event in 2009 — found his pitcher. And here’s how …

“He didn’€™t have anybody to throw to him,” remembered Cleveland manager Manny Acta. “I was just sitting at my locker reading and he said, ‘€˜Hey, I’€™m still looking for somebody to throw to me.’€™ I overheard him and said, ‘€˜I’€™ll throw to you.’€™ So he said, ‘€˜Let’€™s go.’€™ It was good to see. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination.”

With guidance from Gonzalez, Acta got the job done despite having no history with the Red Sox first baseman at all. The result was 31 total home runs, just one shy of the eventual champ, Cano.

“It was impressive doing it in front of so many people. But he took all the pressure off of me,” said Acta, who was instructed to throw waist-high, out over the plate.

“People get amazed by the distance but it’€™s whomever hits the most home runs that wins it. He was very consistent. He would just wait on his pitch and when he got it he didn’€™t miss it.”

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Andre Ethier talks reunion with Dustin Pedroia … with the Diamondbacks 07.11.11 at 10:08 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The rumors have circulated for a few years now: Andre Ethier wants to come to Boston to join forces with his college teammate, Dustin Pedroia.

While Ethier didn’t dismiss the notion completely, he did take the diplomatic route when asked if the Dodgers All-Star could see himself reuniting with Pedroia.

“Maybe when we’re 38 years-old we’ll end up playing here on the Diamondbacks together for the lsat year or two,” said Ethier, who will be eligible for his final year of arbitration following the 2011 season.

“Maybe one day we’ll have an opportunity to play with one another. It would be fun. Right now he has his thing in Boston. We’re trying to do what we’re doing in LA. If the paths meet somehow I guess it would line up perfect for us.”

Ethier resisted any sort of gloating regarding his presence at his second All-Star Game while Pedroia seemingly just missed the cut.

“He has a lot more awards in his trophy case than I do, so I can’t say anything about All-Star Games,” the 29-year-old said.

Ethier not only has remained friends with Pedroia since their college days, but still work out together in the offseason, while also taking family vacations together. So when the outfielder was asked about the second baseman’s up and down first half, Ethier offered a educated perspective

“Relax, right? The Laser Show,” he said. “He’s a great player. I think he’s had a great year up until this point. He’s coming off a tough injury. I saw it first-hand all winter the steps and the stuff he had to do just to get to the point he’s at now. I kept telling him to slow down, take a month or two later than he actually did. But being him he wanted to come back right away. He’s done more than enough to help that team. Once he starts getting that rhythm and starts feeling himself again, especially with the way that lineup is, the way that team is, he’s going to flourish.”

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Adrian Beltre really thought he was going to remain with the Red Sox 07.11.11 at 9:30 pm ET
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You would think that Adrian Beltre’s dream of returning to the Red Sox died when the Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez in early December. Not the case, said the now-Texas Rangers third baseman.

“They made a great choice. I think Gonzalez is one of the best, if not the best, hitters in baseball. But I thought I had a chance at that time that maybe both of us could (be on the Sox),” Beltre, now a two-time All-Star. “All I know was I wanted to be on a team that had a good chance to win.

Beltre, who would sign with the Rangers a month after the Gonzalez deal, was then asked how such a dynamic could have possibly happened, with the former Padre manning first base, Kevin Youkilis at third, and David Ortiz serving as the designated hitter.

“I have no idea,” he said. “But they could figure something out.”

Beltre, who is having another standout season (.273, 19 HRs), reiterated that he is extremely happy with his choice, the Rangers. The owner of a five-year, $80 million deal is in the process of buying a home in the Arlington, Texas area after previously solely putting down roots in Southern California.

But if you asked Beltre where he was going to end up when the 2010 season came to an end, his first answer most likely wouldn’t have been with Texas.

“I thought I had a good chance to go back to Boston,” said the 32-year-old. “It didn’t’ change until a couple of weeks before I signed.”

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Remember when Justin Upton was going to be a Red Sox? 07.11.11 at 9:01 pm ET
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PHOENIX — The fact that Justin Upton was sitting among the National League All-Stars Monday showed exactly why Red Sox fans were bombarded with the outfielder’s name last November.

He is young (23). He is good (.293 batting average, 15 HR, 14 SB). And he is under contractual control through 2015 with his salary never getting above $14.5 million. (He makes just $4.25 million this season, and $6.75 million next year.)

Upton now finds himself as one of the hosts for this year’s All-Star Game, still serving as part of the foundation for the Diamondbacks. But this past offseason, he was being dangled by Arizona, and the Red Sox were at least listening.

“When I first started to hear [the rumors], you don’t pay that much attention to it, but then you start thinking, ‘Where am I going to be in a few weeks, a few days?’ You you just try and go about your business,” Upton said. “You just try and let it roll off your back.

“To be honest with you, when I first found out I was playing golf and then I just kept playing golf. I wasn’t too worried about it. If you worry about it all the time you’ll never make it.”

Upton’s tone became pointed when it was then suggested Arizona was entertaining a potential deal in order to motivate the outfielder.

“That’s a terrible way to motivate somebody,” he said. “If that was their reason behind it, that’s ridiculous.”

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