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Francona: ‘Glad we’re playing at home’ 05.20.11 at 12:32 am ET
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An Adrian Gonzalez walk-off two-run double on Monday. A Jarrod Saltlalamacchia RBI double in the eighth that scored the only run of the game on Wednesday. A Carl Crawford walk-off single with the bases loaded on Thursday.

Over his team’s last three games, Red Sox manager Terry Francona has become no stranger to dramatic finishes in Fenway Park, and he believes a lot of it is tied to the pros of playing at home in baseball. Had Thursday’s game been played under similar circumstances on the road, perhaps Crawford’s RBI doesn’t prove to be a game-winner because the Tigers would still have another chance to bat in the bottom of the inning. What’s more, Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t have preserved the tie in the half inning before the winning rally because Francona would need to save his closer for a potential save in either the bottom of the inning or extra frames.

“I think I’€™m glad we’€™re playing at home,” Francona said. “You know how we feel on the road sometimes. You get into games like this [at home], and if there’€™s a mistake or something, you go home. That’€™s the luxury of playing home. And you can use your closer where you can’€™t normally on the road.”

Starting pitcher Josh Beckett added that although close wins aren’t always best for the heart, they’re necessary for a team’s psyche.

“Sometimes, it’s nice to have a laugher,” he said. “But sometimes a team needs something like that. Three out of the last four wins, that’s pretty exciting.”

As for Crawford, his walk-off hit was his third of the season (all of which have come in May) and ninth of his career. In a year when he has struggled to produce at the plate, moments like this can only help the left fielder, whose average bumped seven points to .212 with a 2-for-4 showing  at the plate Thursday. In the 10 games following his first walk-off, Crawford hit .341. After dipping again with a 2-for-19 overall performance in his last five outings before Thursday, Francona and the Sox hope it’ll jumpstart another resurgence in Crawford’s bat.

‘€œIt’€™s got to be good for his confidence,” said Francona. “It’€™s a good time to hit. The infield’€™s playing in. The outfield’€™s playing in. He stayed on the ball really well. That’€™s the one thing you don’€™t want to do is roll over or pull off, and he stayed on it really well.’€

Read More: carl crawford, Terry Francona,
Jerry Remy on D&C: Sox pitchers’ injuries ‘legit’ 05.18.11 at 12:16 pm ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning for his weekly appearance. He hit on a variety of topics ranging from John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka being placed on the disabled list, Jorge Posada and the Yankees saga, and the recent success of the Red Sox lineup. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Watching the game Monday night from the booth in his first game back from a recent illness, Remy could tell that something was just not right with Matsuzaka. “He just didn’t look comfortable. Sitting there watching, you knew something was going on,” Remy said. “His velocity was only at 87-88. He is normally up at 92-93. He just didn’t have a pitch that day he was comfortable throwing. … I know he got hit by the line drive, so I wondered if that had any effect.”

Remy said he isn’t buying the theory that the Red Sox put Matsuzaka and Lackey on the disabled list just to give them a break. “It’s all legit, they don’t just throw guys on the disabled list to take time off,” he said. “It kind of puts them in a bind, really.”

Remy was asked about Lackey, and he expressed how some time off and being away from the game can help a player. “The guy is a fierce competitor,” Remy said. “I hope he can get it back together and pitch like he did with the Angels. … Guys with minor injuries get that time away from making their regular start and get a chance to look at things and get a fresh attitude. Sometimes that helps you.”

Talking about Lackey’s fiery emotions on the mound and calling out teammates, Remy said: “He’s always been that way. I remember that when he was with the Angels. … When you get to know him, he is the complete opposite of that, he’s nothing like that at all in the clubhouse. He is one of those good guys.”

Remy also touched on the recent battle between the Yankees and Posada, when the veteran refused to play after being scheduled to bat in the No. 9 spot. Remy was disappointed in Posada’s actions, as he has been a classy player in his 17 years in the league. “It’s too bad because it kind of tarnishes his very good reputation for being a very good player for many many years,” Remy said.

Remy added that older players think they can get more time to work things out than other players.”When you start aging and you are not producing, you think you have an entitlement to work your way out of a slump and the manager has to make that difficult decision. … When guys start to get old they are usually the last to know that they can’t do it anymore.”

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jerry Remy
Some Red Sox have dealt with wounds to their own pride 05.15.11 at 9:05 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The Jorge Posada tempest seemed to clear up on Sunday night. The catcher made his public mea culpa, said that he made a mistake, apologized to Yankees manager Joe Girardi and said that he planned to talk with New York GM Brian Cashman about the situation. He admitted that he acted poorly out of frustration when he asked out of the lineup on Saturday — when he was slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — and that he hoped to put the incident behind him.

There are members of the Red Sox who can certainly identify with the challenges of dealing with a wounded ego when their role shrinks from what it has long been. Certainly, the early stages of the 2010 season offered a number of case studies in the phenomenon.

At that point, Tim Wakefield was transitioning unhappily into the bullpen. Mike Lowell was being asked to adjust to duty as a reserve, at a time when he desperately wanted to start. Yet he was playing reasonably well at a time when David Ortiz was not hitting, and so Ortiz was left to look over his shoulder to wonder whether he would be replaced by Lowell against left-handed pitchers.

That was a challenging time for the Sox, particularly given that those dynamics were all the more strained because the Sox weren’t playing well.

“In our situation last year, we went through a tough April,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “It doesn’€™t always work out the way you want. You’€™re trying to balance the team, personal. You want everything to mesh, and it doesn’€™t always do that. But what’€™s more important is, not that you’€™re not going to run into problems, but how you get through them and where you go from there. David and I had to slug it out a little bit in April last year. There’€™s no getting around it. But we did, and we came through and got better for it. That’€™s what we try to do.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada
Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘There’s something funny about the passion of this team’ 05.11.11 at 12:50 pm ET
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Hall of Fame baseball analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gammons said he’s trying to figure out why the Sox can’t seem to put things together and get over the .500 mark.

“There’s something funny about the passion of this team,” he said. “I still don’t see the offense. They haven’t scored 10 runs in a game all year. I don’t believe they’ve been ahead by four runs at the end of the fourth inning all year. So, games have really been struggles for them.

“They probably will click on all cylinders. But for the time being ‘€¦ Is it right to say that it’s almost like there’s a little chip missing here? I really sense that, that there’s a personality chip missing that’s different than what they maintained last year when they overachieved.”

Added Gammons: “I can’t put my finger on it. I thought about it all last week. I kept thinking, ‘Jeez, there’s just something funny about the way this team is playing.’ Whether they need one more guy to kind of come in and stir things up with [Dustin] Pedroia, I don’t know. That’s sort of the way I feel. But I don’t see anybody in that division running off and winning 100 games, so they’re in a very good position if they do get hot to make up whatever they need to make up.”

One player who does not lack intensity is Carl Crawford. “I don’t think he realized what it would be like to come to Boston and start out struggling,” Gammons said. “He cares so much, he practices so hard that I think he just drives himself into the ground. But now that he’s starting to relax ‘€¦ He’s obviously very popular. Every time he does anything, his teammates’ reaction to him is wonderful, it really is.”

John Lackey‘s failure to be a stopper has made him a target for critics. Gammons said he would like to see Lackey take more responsibility for his struggles. Said Gammons: “I’ll admit that that game [the 13-inning, 5-3 loss to the Angels on May 4], having to play that game for 16 hours or whatever it was, that deflates you. But that’s a time when John Lackey has to step up and say, ‘OK, here I am.’ ‘€¦ That wasn’t the case. They need him to be more consistent. He has not been what he was brought here to be, pure and simple.

“The only thing that surprised me is I’ve never really heard him say, ‘I’m really mad about the way I’m pitching.’ You always hear, ‘Well, the ball found a hole,’ or something happened, a bad call. He should be too good for that stuff.”

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Read More: benjie molina, carl crawford, David Ross, Dustin Pedtroia
Sunday was an exhibition of what Red Sox lineup was built to do 05.08.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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Entering the bottom of the third inning of Sunday’€™s matinee between the Red Sox and Twins, the home team found itself in a 3-1 hole early when No. 8 hitter Carl Crawford stepped into the box. The left fielder hit a rocket to center field that careened off the wall, allowing the speedster to motor into third for his first triple of the season. With no men out, Jason Varitek hit a bouncer to first that allowed Crawford to score and close the gap to just one run.

Next, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury roped a single to the outfield to put yet another duck on the pond. With the No. 2 man in Dustin Pedroia at the plate, Ellsbury took off for second and stole the bag successfully for the 10th time in 2011. Pedroia worked a five-pitch walk to put two men on for Adrian Gonzalez in the three hole. Gonzalez, one of the two centerpieces the Red Sox’€™ offseason acquisitions who entered the game hitting .373 with men on this season, responded with a knock up the middle to tie the ballgame.

Somewhere, Theo Epstein was smiling.

Boston went on to score two more runs that inning before eventually toppling the Twins 9-5, tying a season-high for runs in the process, but the way the Sox rallied in the third  inning was emblematic of how the team was supposed to perform based on its very design this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
Terry Francona on The Big Show: Carl Crawford will ‘be up at the top somewhere’ if he keeps hitting 05.04.11 at 3:31 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Wednesday afternoon. The Red Sox have closed to within one game of .500 as they send Josh Beckett to the mound Wednesday night vs. the Angels, but Francona said he’s trying to avoid putting pressure on the players to overcome their disastrous start as quickly as possible.

“I try not to look at, ‘OK what are you doing in April? What are you doing in May?’ Those are artificial deadlines,” he said. “What our record is is what our record is. But it does feel better to be playing better baseball.”

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is slated to return to action after missing Tuesday night’s game due to sickness. “Youk said he feels OK,” Francona announced. “He was scuffling last night, though.”

Beckett has not pitched since last Wednesday in Baltimore. Francona said the extra rest stems from a long and tiring outing in Anaheim two weeks ago. Said Francona: “With no days off coming up, and we had to juggle our rotation anyway, we decided to give him an extra day. ‘€¦ We’ve got a lot more games. He’s going to make probably 33 more starts. We don’t want him missing starts. So we bought him an extra day.”

Reliever Bobby Jenks has had some struggles in his first month with the Red Sox. Said Francona: “He’s had a couple of really rocky outings. I thought the other day, he started letting it fly. He was throwing about 98 [mph], but he didn’t know where it was going. And he understood that. He got a little out of his game, probably heard some of the fans and was trying hard. I think some of the human factors probably got involved. He’s trying so hard to do the right thing ‘€” things you appreciate, but things we’ve got to fix.

“And I think he went back with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], looked at some of the things out of his delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays out of the stretch a little bit for a while just to kind of shorten up everything and keep it a little bit more compact.”

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Read More: bobby jenks, carl crawford, curt young, Dustin Pedroia
Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘Papelbon’s back’ 04.29.11 at 11:57 am ET
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MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Red Sox and news from around the major leagues. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Jacoby Ellsbury seems to have settled into the leadoff spot while Carl Crawford has dropped toward the end of the order while he continues to struggle. Even when Crawford gets in a groove, Millar said he’d prefer to see Ellsbury batting first.

“I think he’s your leadoff hitter,” Millar said. “That needs to be his role ‘€” to get on base, steal bases, slap the ball around, play good defense. Carl Crawford and him are very similar players. Obviously, [Crawford] having more of a track record and probably hits for more power, but they’re very similar players. But I think Ellsbury’s your leadoff guy.”

Millar said he expects the Sox bats to heat up along with the weather. Said Millar: “The ball flies in the summertime. ‘€¦ Fenway Park when it’s cold, it doesn’t play as small as people think, but summertime comes around, that beautiful weather, that wind starts flying off the Green Monster.

“The ballpark plays really small. So, I think it just has to do with summertime the ball flies. Wintertime, it’s not fun. You look at Minnesota, it was snowing the other day. It’s not fun to hit in that.”

Jon Lester has regained the form that made him one of the league’s most feared pitchers last season. “He throws to the inside part of the plate to right-handers, has command of that side of the plate, dominates with power stuff, he’s got 95-96 in his back pocket, he’s got a great cutter,” Millar said. “But to me, what makes Lester effective is that he can dominate right-handers. There’s no living away-away-away. He has in-in-in, and I’m coming back in again and I’m going to come back in there again. Then he mixes in his curveball and throws a nice little changeup to the outside part of the plate to right-handers. Now, he’s got both sides of the plate.

“Those are the good pitchers. Jon Lester is by far one of the top five pitchers in the big leagues because he dominates right-handers on the inside part.”

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Read More: carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon
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