|Mike Aviles, Cody Ross and Daniel Nava are making David Ortiz really dangerous||06.21.12 at 12:18 am ET|
There’s no disputing the fact that David Ortiz is having another prodigious offensive year.
He’s leading the Red Sox offense.
But the most encouraging sign for the team might be found in those around him in the batting order and just how much they’re taking advantage of his production.
Mike Aviles homered Wednesday night, a three-run blast to left that gave the Red Sox the lead for good in the second inning.
One inning later, Cody Ross connected for a three-run double that put the Red Sox up, 6-2.
“I’ve watched a number of games on TV when I was in the other league and the Red Sox were on,” Ross said. “Especially last year, they led every category in baseball, offensively. It just looked like a lot of fun. Now I’m here and I’m part of it and getting to enjoy it and reap the rewards. Guys are just getting on base left and right, it seems like. We’re coming up with big hits, just Red Sox baseball.”
The Red Sox have scored 29 runs in their last three games, including a season-high 15 runs in Wednesday’s 15-5 romp over the Marlins.
“Everyone knows that we have a pretty good offense,” Aviles said. “We scuffled for a little bit but it seems everything is going back to the way we’ve been. Everything is clicking and we’re just getting everything on the same wavelength and it’s helping.
“I was just looking for a pitch I can drive. There were two outs and if Salty doesn’t hustle to second base on Youkilis’ ball, the inning is over. I want to say that because I know that’s going to be overlooked. Just because he ran hard gave me a chance to hit.”
Aviles brought up the old cliche about hitting in a lineup being contagious. With Ortiz heating up with three homers in three games, Aviles and the Red Sox want to spread the winning germ right now.
“Hitting is definitely contagious, and so is winning,” Aviles said. “Absolutely. Anytime you get a couple of wins together, you get that good confidence rolling, and that’s where we’re at now.”
What’s starting to happen is what’s been happening around Fenway every year since Ortiz became a full-time force in the lineup in the middle of 2003. Everyone is getting hot at the same time.
Daniel Nava had four hits Wednesday and raised his average to .333 in 34 games. That 102 at-bats. Not insignificant.
“He’s contributed since Day 1,” Ross said. “I was telling somebody the other day I still haven’t seen him give up an at-bat. And that’s one of the main reasons we’re playing well. He’s contributed and come up and done an outstanding job. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Even Kevin Youkilis got into the act, collecting a single and a double to raise his average to .225. Of course, on his double in the sixth, pinch-runner Will Middlebrooks came into the game. In his only at-bat in the eighth, he launched a laser of a two-run homer to left.
Middlebrooks had done a lot to blend in with the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz already. He’s got seven homers and 27 RBIs in 37 games, and by the way, he’s batting .303 in his first big-league experience.
“It’s fun but it’s a business, too,” Middlebrooks said of watching the offense up close. “When you’re here, winning is very important. In the minor leagues, it’s more individual development. You have guys like Pedey and Adrian and “Big Papi”, you want to blend in and you want to be able to help; just watching those guys go about their business and pick up little things they do.”
You got the feeling watching the Red Sox over the last two days at Fenway, they’re ready to break out like they do every summer in the last 10 seasons.
But this year’s Red Sox have a bit of ground to make up. The offensive display they put up on Wednesday showed – as a group – they’re ready for the challenge.
|Ryan Kalish: ‘I can smile about it now’||06.20.12 at 12:51 am ET|
There was a collective gasp among the 37,701 inside Fenway Park when Ryan Kalish dropped the fly ball of Jose Reyes to open the seventh inning, with the Red Sox hanging on to a 7-5 lead.
Kalish – in his first game back at Fenway this season – got a good jump off the bat, ran to the spot like any good major league outfielder does, stuck out his glove and expected the ball to float right into the web.
The ball glanced off the tip of his glove and went to the wall for a three-base error and the Marlins were in business against Matt Albers and the Red Sox.
“Just missed it,” Kalish said, while breaking into a grin that a kid gives to a parent when he’s been caught doing something wrong. “Obviously, I can smile about it now but at the time, I wasn’t. I just dropped it. There’s no excuse for that and it won’t happen again.”
This was quite the bumpy night for Kalish filled with plenty of turbulence.
In the fifth, he misjudged a two-out fly ball off the bat of Logan Morrison that landed close to the base of the wall in left-center. That apparent miscue allowed the Marlins to tie the game, 5-5.
“We talked about it,” Kalish said. “With two outs, I probably should have tried to go to the wall first. If there were no outs, I could’ve played it different. I haven’t been in this park in a while. I’m going to make an adjustment.”
Then in the sixth he struck out for the second out with an important insurance run standing just 90 feet away at third, in the person of Daniel Nava. He appeared so disheartened that he forgot to run to first after swinging at the pitch in the dirt. The throw was made to first and Nava had to hold.
Kalish said the previous blunders had nothing to do with “The Drop” in the seventh.
“That wasn’t really in my head, especially with that play,” Kalish said. “It was just one of those things, you drop a ball. I really can’t remember ever dropping a ball like that in my life. It’s funny it happened in the big leagues.”
While Albers got two outs, Bobby Valentine decided to pull the reliever and insert Andrew Miller. During the pitching change, Cody Ross came over to play the role of big brother.
“He’s such a good outfielder,” Ross said. “This place can get the best of you. I’ve had my troubles out there as well. I just told him that. I said, ‘Listen, man, we’ve all done it, we’ve all dropped fly balls. I dropped one this year already. I’ve misplayed a few balls. It happens. Shake it off. You’re a great outfielder and we’re going to get out of this right here.’ The bullpen came in and did a great job of not letting them get that run in right there.”
Ironically and appropriately, it was Morrison flying out to Kalish to end the inning without a run scoring.
“I had a ton of support from the guys, Cody especially, having so much experience,” Kalish said. “When they made that pitching change right after, he just kind of talked to me and calmed me down. That really helped me out, got my confidence back.”
And his calming words?
“He had done it himself,” Kalish said of Ross’ conversation with him. “He’s done it before in his career.”
Ross wasn’t the only player to offer advice. Kevin Youkilis gave his during the seventh inning stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bobby Valentine: ‘We’ll have a winning record at home’||06.19.12 at 9:20 pm ET|
Bobby Valentine is a confident man.
He knows what the record shows — and that’s a 14-19 mark at Fenway. Only the Royals, Twins and Mariners are worse at home so far in 2012. But Valentine is confident that won’t last.
“That’s the good news,” Valentine said. “We’ll have a winning record at home when it’s all over and it means we’ll win a lot more than we normally do.”
Starting with Josh Beckett, Valentine had a lot to catch up with when he arrived at the park on Tuesday.
“It’s been a medical day for me. Everything seems to have gone perfectly,” Valentine said.
The news started with Beckett, who Valentine said was hopeful to just miss one more start and be back toward the end of the homestand against the Jays. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford both worked out at Fenway before Tuesday’s game. Ellsbury hurt his right shoulder in the team’s home opener on April 13 against the Rays and hasn’t played since.
“Close to playing — close to game activities,” Valentine said of Ellsbury. “I don’t mean tomorrow. But he’s close. He’s made great, steady progress.”
Meanwhile, Valentine said Crawford could be on a Minor League rehab assignment by next week. Crawford started the season on the disabled list recovering from left wrist surgery. When it appeared things were getting better, he sprained UCL joint in his left elbow.
Then there’s closer Andrew Bailey. He underwent right thumb surgery just before the season.
“Andrew came in this afternoon, I talked to him, he’s feeling great,” Valentine said. “He has a mound session here [soon], and you know, we’re going to take it from a mound to another mound to a simulated situation to possibly an inning down in Florida, and then off to a rehab assignment.”
While Scott Podsednik‘s groin injury is not considered serious (officially “mild”), the team doesn’t need another extended stay on the DL for an outfielder.
“It’s a not few days,” Valentine said. “It’s probably not two weeks. When it gets to that middle ground, it’s really a difficult decision. To play short for seven days, it’s tough. Scott’s not real happy about it. He thinks seven days would be fine He’s playing so well, I’d love to have him in there. I think this is the right thing to do.
“I think we’re playing OK. We’re getting some health back. We’re going to play our best tonight and take it from there.”
|Josh Beckett: ‘People are trying to sabotage us’||at 6:24 pm ET|
Before Tuesday’s series opener with the Marlins at Fenway, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine joined his players in vehemently denying a report this week that the atmosphere inside clubhouse is “toxic.” Olney reported that players and team staff are frustrated with the way the team is being handled inside the clubhouse, leading to a potentially explosive atmosphere.
“I don’t know to define toxic,” Valentine said Tuesday afternoon in his first public comments since Olney’s blog that ripped the Red Sox culture. “It’s too big a word for me. “I’m not going to comment on people’s articles. I don’t even comment on [Boston media] articles. Why would I comment on somebody who I don’t think knows anything.”
[Click here to listen to Bobby Valentine respond to Buster Olney's column.]
After about seven minutes of answering questions, the subject of the Red Sox clubhouse came up again.
“It’s a bunch of guys who get dressed and play loud music before the game and seem to get ready. I don’t have a word for it. I don’t think it’s Romper Rooms or whatever it is, it’s a lot of guys. It’s a lot of men who hang out together, and a lot of changing parts in there, too.”
Josh Beckett was even stronger about Olney’s column.
[Click here to listen to Josh Beckett stick up for his teammates]
“Completely fabricated,” Beckett said before being asked if he thought the Red Sox still had a good clubhouse. “Absolutely. I don’t know where people get that from. I think people want that to be the case and I just don’t think it is. I think this is probably one of the tightest-knit groups I’ve ever been a part of, with dinners on the road, a couple family trips here this last time. We do a lot of stuff together. There’s a good continuity here. I think there are certain people, they want it to be that way, and so they report it that way. it’s just not like that at all.”
Beckett was then asked if he’s bothered by the speculation.
“That people are trying to sabotage us? I don’t think that’s good at all,” Beckett said. “We don’t pay too much attention to it. the only time we have to deal with it is when we have to answer questions. This is a really good group of guys. It’s one of the tighter groups I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been a part of some pretty tight groups.”
Cody Ross came off the disabled list on Tuesday and was thrown right into the starting lineup. He also threw himself right behind his teammates.
“It’s one of the better [clubhouses] I’ve ever been on,” Ross said. “All the guys get along real well. We enjoy playing with each other, we enjoy hanging out with each other – just a really good vibe in here.” Read the rest of this entry »
|ESPN’s Chris Singleton on M&M: ‘Just a different feel’ around Red Sox||06.18.12 at 1:19 pm ET|
Fresh off covering two weekend games at Wrigley Field between the Red Sox and Cubs, ESPN MLB analyst Chris Singleton joined Mut & Merloni on Monday morning to share his impressions of the Sox and the challenges they face. To hear the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Singleton’s immediate impression was of a club that sorely lacked consistency in the simple fundamentals of the game.
“The defense was ugly,” Singleton said. “[Dustin] Pedroia had a couple of nice plays, but there were some real shaky plays at third, whether it was [Will] Middlebrooks or [Kevin] Youkilis. They were throwing the ball around last night kind of like a youth league team, and some of the baserunning was very sketchy.”
In light of Buster Olney’s recent characterization of Boston’s clubhouse as “toxic,” Singleton agreed that team chemistry appeared to be a real concern.
“It’s not the same type of Red Sox feel that I’m used to seeing in the past,” Singleton said. “And with the slow start to the season, with a new manager and with a tougher American League East, I’m extremely doubtful that the Red Sox will see the postseason this year.”
According to Singleton however, the red flags surrounding the Sox clubhouse are nothing new.
“Well, it wasn’t just this weekend,” Singleton said. “It’s really been over the course of the season in times that I’ve done games for the Red Sox and you know, there is just a different feel. And it goes back to last year as well. Even though last year, sure, they got off to the slow start and then they started playing great baseball, you know, winning cures all ills, of course. But when the real adversity sets in, if you guys aren’t committed to each other, and really willing to sacrifice and pick each other up, then you’re going to be defeated.”
|Friday’s Red Sox-Nationals matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Stephen Strasburg||06.08.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
Going into 2012, not much was expected out of Felix Doubront. During spring training, the 24-year-old left-hander was battling just to grab a spot in the Red Sox rotation, and marred by inconsistency and injuries in his first two big league seasons, he was just looking for a chance to prove his worth.
As it turned out, Doubront got that chance, and he’s proved that worth and then some. Two months into the season, Doubront clearly is the most consistent pitcher on the Red Sox staff, sporting team-bests in wins (six, against two losses), ERA (3.75) and strikeouts (66) in 11 starts.
What’s more is that the Venezuelan is improving, especially of late. In his last six starts, Doubront is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA and has been a big reason why the Red Sox have climbed out of their hole and are now floating around .500. His latest gem came on Saturday in Toronto, as he pitched 6 1/3 innings, gave up two earned runs and struck out seven to help the Red Sox to victory, a win that put the team at a season-best three games above .500.
Since that start, however, the Red Sox have struggled, losing three straight before Thursday’s win over the Orioles. Doubront now will attempt to carry his success across leagues as the Red Sox welcome the Nationals to Fenway Park for the beginning of interleague play on Friday night. Opposing Doubront on the hill will be highly touted Stephen Strasburg, who will make this start exactly two years after making his heavily hyped MLB debut in 2010.
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick by the Nationals in the 2009 MLB draft, has been closely monitored throughout his short big league career, and for good reason. He quickly climbed the minor league ranks in 2010 and was promoted to the Nationals after two months in their system. In his debut, he pitched seven innings, gave up two earned runs on four hits and struck out 14 and picked up the win against the Pirates.
|Thursday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Brian Matusz||06.07.12 at 9:06 am ET|
After a rough start to the season, Clay Buchholz tries to continue a recent streak of solid outings when he takes the mound at Fenway on Thursday night against the Orioles.
The 2012 season has not gone the way Buchholz was hoping, to say the least. Despite ranking 82nd in innings pitched and posting a 5-2 record, Buchholz has given up the most earned runs (43) of any pitcher in the majors and his 1.73 WHIP (walks and hits per inning) is also the highest in baseball.
But after also spending most of the first two months with the league’s worst ERA, the 27-year-old righty appears to have found his form.
Buchholz is coming off his two best performances of the year, a seven-inning, two-run loss to the Rays and an eight-inning, two-run win over the Blue Jays. The starts have helped lower his ERA to 6.58. That’s hardly Cy Young worthy and still third worst in the majors, but it’s a far cry from the 15.75 he had in early April.
His last two starts are actually part of a longer trend as Buchholz has pitched well in four of his last five games. His improvement began in earnest on May 11 vs. Cleveland when he pitched into the seventh inning, allowing eight hits but holding the Indians to just three earned runs. In his five starts since then, Buchholz has a 4.03 ERA and has held opponents to three or fewer runs in all but one game.
Unfortunately for Buchholz, his one bad start in that stretch came against the Orioles when he allowed 10 baserunners and five runs over five innings at Camden Yards on May 21. This Orioles team has hit Buchholz well in general, boasting a .329 batting average and .393 on-base percentage in 85 plate appearances. J.J. Hardy, in particular, has had a lot of success against Buchholz, with four hits, including two home runs, in just six plate appearances.
While the Sox are hoping Buchholz’s ignominious rank atop the standings in ERA, runs and WHIP continues to fall, there is one category in which they wouldn’t mind seeing him stay out in front. Buchholz leads the league with a staggering average run support of 10.77. (Interestingly, Felix Doubront averages the second-highest run support in the league, at 9.67.)
If past performance is any indication, the Sox offense will face an uphill battle to provide that sort of run support on Thursday against 25-year-old lefty Brian Matusz. Now in his fourth big league season, the former fourth overall pick has held this Sox lineup to a .238 batting average and 12 RBIs in 97 plate appearances.
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