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Beckett’s gamble pays off 09.16.08 at 6:01 pm ET
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With one out in the sixth inning, wIth Jason Bartlett hitting and Akinori Iwamura at first, Josh Beckett induced a grounder back to the mound. But with Iwamura running it would appear as though going to first would be the safe play. Beckett no likey playing safe. The Sox pitcher whipped around got the ball to Dustin Pedroia just before Iwamura’s arrival, leading to the second baseman flipping it over to first for the inning-ending double play.

It seemed like a little thing, but that kind of execution can make a world of difference in these sorts of endeavors. And, by the way, Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine is out after six innings, having thrown 93 pitches.

And in case you cared about such things, 24 of Beckett’s 77 pitches have been curveballs.

Put it on the board 09.16.08 at 5:51 pm ET
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The Red Sox have broken a scoreless tie thanks to Kevin Youkilis‘ sacrifice fly, plating Jacoby Ellsburyfrom third. Ellsbury had reached on an infield single, followed by what was originally ruled another infield hit from Dustin Pedroia and then changed to an error. 

Another case of super timing on the behalf of WEEI.com, with Alex Speier writing a tremendous blog entry on Ellsbury almost becoming an Tampa Bay Ray.

Youkilis deserves kudos for what was a seven-pitch at-bat, hanging in on a Sonnanstine curveball long enough to drive it for the RBI.

By the way, speaking of fly balls in Tropicana Field, a couple of the Red Sox were in the dugout before the game noting that this field was actually tougher than Minnesota’s roof in terms of fly balls, partly because the presence of a sea of wires and catwalks. I still say Japan was the worst, especially considering they built it so the setting sun would shine through the roof and directly into the outfielders’ eyes.

Floyd spoils ex-mates’ fun 09.16.08 at 5:36 pm ET
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At three minutes before 8:23 p.m., former Red Sox Cliff Floyd (remember that glorious 2002 campaign) lined a single between first and second for Tampa Bay’s first hit of the game, with one out in the fifth inning. Floyd came into the game with the most at-bats of any Rays hitter against Beckett, having gone 7 for 25.

After a walk to Dioner Navarro, it brings up Eric Hinske, whom Beckett delivered four straight curveballs to the first go-round. This time: 1. High fastball, ball; 2. Curveball, swinging strike; 3. Fastball, foul ball; 4. Curveball, foul ball; 5. Inside fastball (just missing), ball; 6. Another inside fastball, ball; 7. (I’m predicting curveball) … Whooo, changeup, swing and a miss for strike three.

While I’m waiting for Gabe Gross to do something, I want to make mention that that the image in center field here (I think it’s supposed to be a Ray) is like a gigantic blob of clip art … back to the action.

Beckett strikesout Gross to strand a pair, getting him swinging on a cutter. In the at-bat he threw the outfielder two cutters, two curves and one fastballs, continuing the trend on the night of offering a baseball-throwing mixology. The Sox starter has thrown 67 pitches through five innings, striking out five.

Lowell hobbled 09.16.08 at 5:12 pm ET
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Mike Lowell came up a bit lame when throwing out Jason Bartlett on a slow roller, clearly showing some pain in the right hip that has been diagnosed with having a torn labrum. After Sox manager Terry Francona came out to check on him, the third baseman remained in the game, although Lowell seemed to be clearly dinged up on the play.

As Francona and Lowell have both reiterated, this isn’t something that figures to get any better with rest.

In other news, Josh Beckett has cruised through four innings without giving up a hit, with the score still standing at 0-0 heading into the fifth.

Speaking of injuries, J.D. Drew is back after attending his grandmother’s funeral in Georgia. Drew shagged some balls in the Sox’ early batting practice session, and took about 40 swings in the cage. He also received his first cortisone shot since battling his current back ailment, last Friday.

Bay has a baby 09.16.08 at 4:53 pm ET
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Jason Bay and his wife, Kristen, have had a baby, Evelyn Jane Bay, coming into the world at 6:47 p.m. Bay arrived approximately 45 minutes before the birth. As I once told Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod — parenthood, the ultimate draft and follow.

Sorry no photos of the youngster has been distributed for blogging purposes yet although thanks to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette we do have a preview of what Mrs. Bay’s new life might in store for in the coming years.

Also, in the Perfect Timing Dept., our man Will Leitch whips off his column with a heavy Bay slant. Good times!

Speaking of bringing humans into the world … Actually, not really, but Josh Beckett did go through another 1-2-3 inning in the third. 

Beckett threw five curveballs, interesting four of which were to his former teammate, Eric Hinske. According to our Stats Inc. peeps, Hinske is hitting just .200 against right-hander’s curveballs and .335 vs. their fastballs.

Beckett throwing a curve 09.16.08 at 4:49 pm ET
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It was 7:30 eight minutes ago, and counting, and Josh Beckett has come out of the gate in somewhat unusual fashion, throwing curveballs on eight of his 17 first-inning pitches. It worked, getting a 1-2-3 initial frame. According to our friends at Stats Inc., Beckett has thrown his fastball 69.8 percent of the time to right-handed batters and 60 percent of the time to lefties. That’s slightly more than a year ago, when he threw the heater 64.4 percent of the time to righties, and 59.8 to left-handers. He is also throwing his curve to lefties more this year.

Of the Rays who have hit Beckett, Jason Bartlett leads the way, having gone 6 for 15.

Two of the Red Sox who has had some aforementioned success against Andy SonnanstineMike Lowell (walk) and Jed Lowrie (single) — each got on. But the Tampa Bay pitcher got both Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp to go down on strikes. I missed Varitek previously when mentioning those with a positive history against the Rays’ hurler, having entered the game 5 for 9.

By the way, I challenged Lowell to a race to see which of the co-authors of “Deep Drive” was currently faster, the one with the torn labrum in his hip or the one with the healthy labrum in his hip. I told him not to be fooled, I’ve been wearing black shoes all year just to make me look slower.

Beckett got through the second with another 1-2-3, although there were a couple of hard hit balls. He went back to the fastball more, throwing one curve, one change, one cutter, and the rest of the 10 second-inning offerings were fastballs.

Ringing endorsement 09.16.08 at 4:25 pm ET
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It’s 7:10 p.m. (actually it was 7:10 about three minutes ago) and the first pitch was just thrown by Tampa Bay’s Andy Sonnanstine. If you’re wondering who on the Red Sox has had good success against Sonnanstine: Mike Lowell 6 for 12, Jed Lowrie 2 for 3, and Coco Crisp is 4 for 11. Kevin Youkilis is just 1 for 10, David Ortiz is 3 for 13, and Dustin Pedroia is 2 for 12.

Pedroia already derailed traditional thinking with an infield single in the first inning. It was semi-interesting talking about endorsement deals for the Sox second baseman. He has locked up an arrangement with Salem Five, is most likely going to sign an extension with Easton, and has a 10-year deal with Louisville Slugger (which is common). By having the arrangement with the bat company he is guaranteed a better quality of wood. 

If there is one thing we’ve learned it’s you can’t win an MVP with cedar. Which reminds me, Tampa Bay senior advisor Don Zimmer has said that Pedroia is his American League MVP. Zimmer was already on Pedroia’s good side after the two met during last year’s All-Star break sojourn to Foxwoods, where the former Sox manager told him not to let anybody change the way he hit, threw, or played in general. 

Oh, one of Pedroia’s first endorsement deals was with Red Bull, in the minor leagues. Shocker!

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox,
Tuesday’s Five Answers … 09.16.08 at 8:50 am ET
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Fantasyland has woken up out of his Jay Cutler-induced happy nap to finally ask me the most pressing issues of the time. So while sitting on the banks of the bay, breathing the same air Warren Sapp once circulated, I will be much more prompt in my response …

5. Is it time to worry about Papelbon?

He has been ‘€œHepburn’€ shaky over his past seven appearances, posting a 6.00 ERA. A simple slump or there is a fatigue issue?

Answer: The only fatigue issue is the one facing me after deciding it was a good idea to head over the Applebees at 1 a.m. after Monday night’s game for some of the shiniest food in town. Decisions like this are what makes and breaks sports writers, having to decide if there is enough in the tank to eat riblets, drink four Diet Cokes and still be motivated to update the blog while watching infomercials at 3 a.m. As long as that sauce doesn’t find its way on to the company computer, this was a no-brainer.

As for Papelbon, over-worked isn’t the issue, as I think they have still managed him pretty well. Remember, this is a guy who every single day undergoes strength tests on his pitching shoulder to make sure there is no slippage. There might be some aches and pains that are factoring in, which I’m sure the Red Sox will start making a priority.

4. Still confident that the Sox will win the division?

Two back in the loss column with 13 games left, this three-game series with the Rays will go a long way in telling the story.

By the way, Peter King managed to get away from his Starbucks and airline talk to get down to what he knows best. No, not football, baseball. C’€™mon. Today he gives us the following, courtesy of his ‘€œMonday Morning Quarterback’€: ‘€œI don’€™t care what Tim Wakefield‘€™s numbers (9-10, 3.92 ERA) say. The only more valuable Red Sox this year are Dustin Pedroia (200 hits, 13 games left), Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester.’€

Uh, OK.

Whenever you start a statement with the words ‘€œI don’€™t care’€ regarding statisitics, it’€™s a pretty good sign that you know the argument is weak. Wakefield has been fine this season, but more valubale than Papelbon? Dice-K (16-2, 2.97 ERA)? J.D. Drew (.408 OBP)?

But those are just numbers. Peter King doesn’€™t care about that.

Answer: I don’t care what Fantasyland Man Kirk says, those calibers clearly point to the fact I have reached full muscle capacity. Um, I guess there is something to the theory. It’s kind of like when you start out talking about someone by saying, “I like him a lot, but …” Putting frosting on lima beans won’t taste good, but it sure goes down a lot smoother with just the beans.

So I guess I should answer this one by saying, “I do passionately care about the number of games that separate the Red Sox and Rays (now one game closer after last night’s win) and do think this series will be the cannon-blast that puts Boston ahead of Tampa Bay for good.”

3. The Brewers canned Ned Yost with 13 games left today. How does this match up with the firing of Jimy Williams in 2001?

I miss Dan Duquette. He was sort of ‘€œsneaky’€ crazy. He’€™s been out of the MLB loop for years, but you never know when that next job will open up. I could see him as a GM a year from now. Of course, I could also see him as the ‘€œNext Great Sports Blogger’€

winner a year from now.

Answer: This takes the cake. Jimy’s ship was a little bit more offshore from Playoff Island, although you can’t buy the kind of wackiness that came with Joe Kerrigan coming out from the curtain as the new manager. You know what they should have done, got that fake elevator door “Candlepins for Cash” used and had him come out of it. My dad was on that show when I was in second grade. He knocked down seven pins to win seven dollars. I was so bummed that he actually wasn’t beamed down through that magical door by the network spaceship.

I have the name for Dan Duquette’s blog: “Good Bat. Good Arm. Should Help Us.”

2. I have the Pats going 11-5. Too high?

Just look at the schedule:

Miami: 3-0, Bye, At San Fran: 4-0, At San Diego: 4-1, Denver: 4-2, St. Louis: 5-2, At Indy: 5-3, Buffalo: 6-3, Jets: 7-3, Miami: 8-3, Pittsburgh: 8-4, At Seattle: 9-4, At Oakland: 10-4. Arizona: 11-4, At Buffalo: 11-5.

Answer: C’mon Kirk. First rule of cross-promotion. If you write the Patriots will win a lot of games than it won’t find it’s way into the Pats locker room and one of players won’t wave it front of a sea of cameras pointing to it as another act of disbelieving. We need the air time!

I guess it is encouraging that you didn’t start by saying, “I don’t care what anybody says, the Patriots are going to go 11-5.” That must mean there is some merit to be found.

1. I’€™m on record as saying that either Cindy McCain or Michelle Obama would be the best-looking First Lady in history (Jackie O is the captain of my all-time overrated team, joining a squad that features the likes of Suzanne Somers and Sandra Bullock, among others). Agree?

This will be a tough one for Bradford. I know he had a poster of Ida Saxon McKinley on his wall throughout high school.

Answer: Out of respect to our great nation, I will not dignify that with an answer. I will only say that I might have been in a riblet-induced fog when taking Eleanor Roosevelt with the fifth pick in my First Lady draft at Appelbees last night.

17,965 09.15.08 at 11:50 pm ET
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The number on top is how many pitches Mike Timlin is currently in the books for as a major league hurler after tossing his latest eight in the Red Sox‘ 13-5 win over Tampa Bay Monday night at Tropicana Field.

That isn’t a record. Deciphering relief pitchers pitch totals is an inexact science considering many of those lumped in the category had started at some point. What is a record is what Timlin accomplished with his eight-pitch outing.

Timlin has now appeared in 1,051 relief appearances, a major league record among righty relievers, surpassing the guy who used to take the Sox veteran under his wing for some wings 19 years before, Kent Tekulve.

“He was a hero of mine,” said Timlin of the former Pittsburgh Pirates closer. “I met him in 1990 at a rookie enrichment program. It was fascinating listening to him and Bob Horner talk. They took us out to Hooters. We just all sat around, listening to stories what it was like to be in the big leagues. That was a pretty cool thing for me. Now me passing the very same guy, it’s pretty neat.”

Timlin isn’t having a memorable season — lowering his ERA to 5.96 with his scoreless inning — but he was afforded a memorable evening Monday.

While admitting he doesn’t have a chance at catching Jesse Orosco’s mark for most relief appearances (1,248), Timlin left the visitors clubhouse last night flush with the pride that comes with having made more non-left-handed relief outings than anybody … ever.

For a few moments, Timlin was able to step out of the muddiness that has been the most recent of his 18 seasons and relish what has been a fairly amazing path. There were mentors like Tekulve and Bill Monboquette, the pitching coach who taught him the sinker and the power-pitcher’s persona. He had the moments, such as when he was traded from first-place St. Louis to last-place Philadelphia in 2002, leaving him teetering on the brink of retirement.

“I got kind of sick of it right there,” he remembered. “Philadelphia is a great place, I’m not bashing Philadelphia … I told my wife, ‘I’m sick of it. I don’t want to come to the yard anymore.’ There were some circumstances that were going on and I just didn’t enjoy it. I usually enjoy coming to the yeard but at that point I wasn’t.”

The next year he found himself in Boston and playing baseball for a living was fun again.

What was perhaps the most powerful round of summarization came in his reflection on an amazing run of good health. He has had his elbow shaved down a bit, a knee operation, and some other aches and pains, but there hasn’t been a pitch-induced ligament injury to be found.

While the stats will show Timlin throwing a certain number of pitches per season, the reality is that he managed to stay durable while tossing nearly double of what the published numbers suggested. Take 2004, for instance. The records show he threw 1,146 pitches that season. But thanks to the diligence of then-bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, who charted every single throw — warm-ups, side sessions, and the any other throwing done in season — it was determined that Timlin’s actual pitch count that season was almost double what the stats suggested.

It was all part of a pretty extraordinary path that led to a well-deserved place in the spotlight Monday night.

Also from the Red Sox win …

– The Red Sox win snapped a seven-game losing streak at Tropicana Field.
– The two teams used 38 players and combined for nine home runs (6 by the Red Sox).
– Jason Bay’s fourth-inning home run hit and stayed on the C-Ring catwalk in center field. It’s just the third time in Tropicana Field history a fair ball has hit the catwalk and not come down, and first such occasion on the C-Ring.
Scott Kazmir was bad. The nine runs he allowed matched a career high. He surrendered a career-high four home runs. He threw nine straight balls to begin the game. The home run allowed to David Ortiz was the first allowed by Kazmir to a left-handed hitter in more than a year.

Gary from Chapel Hill checks in … again 09.15.08 at 6:06 pm ET
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You didn’t think he was going to stop there, did you?

“This is the 20th time the Red Sox have had six or more homers, with their record slated to stretch to 19-1. Amazingly, the Sox did it four times in two months during the 2003 season, from June 7 to Aug. 3. The Sox record is eight homers in one game.”

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