|Red Sox-Rays series preview||05.14.13 at 12:06 pm ET|
The Red Sox head to St. Petersburg, Fla., to take on the Rays, looking to get back track after a 2-5 homestand. It’s been a rough stretch for the Sox, dropping eight of their last 10 games and falling out of first place. They go into the series with their divisional rivals in third place with a 22-16 record, two games behind the Yankees.
They’ll face off against a fourth-place Rays team that just pulled above .500 again for the first time since the first week of the season, winning their 19th game of the year on Sunday. Their season has been disappointing so far, but it seems that the Rays are starting to get hot. They’re coming off a three-game sweep of the Padres and have won their last five contests.
For the past few years, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has been among the best in the league. But it’s been the offense that has carried the Rays as of late. The lineup has scored 90 runs in just the last 14 games, while the pitching staff has been inconsistent. But manager Joe Maddon indicated he thinks that everything is starting to come together for the Rays. “The pitching is starting to look like it’s supposed to, and while all that’s happening, let’s maintain this offensive production and see where it takes us,” Maddon said after the Rays’ 4-2 win over the Padres on Sunday.
Here are the matchups for the three-game set.
Tuesday: John Lackey (1-3, 2.82) vs. Matt Moore (6-0, 2.14)
Wednesday: Jon Lester (5-0, 2.73) vs. David Price (1-3, 4.78)
Thursday: Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.69) vs. Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.09)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia was one of the few Red Sox hitters to have a good homestand against the Twins and Blue Jays. Over the seven games, Saltalamacchia went 8-for-18 with a home run and four doubles, boosting his average to .263 with an .895 OPS. The catcher is second on the team with nine doubles, behind only Mike Napoli.
• Daniel Nava continues to be one of the most consistent hitters on the club, hitting .288/.391/.500 on the season with five home runs, seven doubles, 16 walks and 24 RBIs. The outfielder batted .308 on the seven-game homestand in four starts. Nava has been impressive both with the bat and in the field, splitting time between left and right field without making an error in 210 innings.
• Outfielder Shane Victorino’s most memorable moment of the series might have come in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game when he ran full speed into the right field wall in a failed attempt to catch a home run off the bat of Emilio Bonifacio. But Victorino blasted his first two home runs during the homestand and batted .393 over the seven games. Victorino owns the third-highest batting average and OBP on the team, and has put up a .308/.370/.393 line through 29 games.
|Daniel Nava’s latest masterpieces could be found in right field||04.29.13 at 12:28 am ET|
Robbie Grossman found out just how far Daniel Nava’s defense has come.
The Houston outfielder hit two balls to right field that should have gone for extra-base hits during the Red Sox’ 6-1 win at Fenway Park, but Nava altered fate with his glove.
The first grab came in the second inning, when Nava ranged back toward the warning track in right field, in front of the Red Sox’ bullpen, and executed a basket catch of Grossman’s blast.
Then, in the ninth, Nava closed out the Red Sox’ win with an even more spectacular catch.
The right fielder sprinted toward Grossman’s blast as it started curling toward the right field wall. Then, just as it was ready to fall in, Nava left his feet, extended his body and plucked the ball out of the air just before touch down.
It was a catch he later called, “The funnest I’ve ever had.”
But when asked which grab he would classify as more difficult, it was the one he didn’t leave his feet on he identified as tougher to execute.
“Probably over the shoulder because I knew the wall was coming up,” he said. “I think the other one was just instinct, run after the ball and hoping to get there. The other one I knew I was going to be underneath it but the last quarter of the way it just fell in my glove.
“Those two plays … [Rick] Ankiel had that play where he came in and kind of lost it in the sun, and I was talking to [Jacoby Ellsbury] and [Dustin Pedroia] and said, ‘There are some balls if they’re in that perfect spot I’m going to need your help.’ You can look good one day and the next day you look like you’ve never played baseball before.”
Nava’s improvement in the field has been fairly remarkable. The 30-year-old credits former Red Sox’ minor-league outfield instructor Tom Goodwin, and current Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, in helping him prioritize his defense in the minor leagues following his return to Pawtucket in 2011.
And while most had noticed his ability to manage Fenway’s left field, considering Nava hadn’t played right field until last season, there was some skepticism regarding an ability to man what is perceived as one of baseball’s toughest positions.
“It’s been different,” said Nava of playing right field. “You go from one of the shortest distances and areas you have to cover in left to one of the largest you have to cover in right. That distance alone makes it a little more challenging. I’m always looking at Arnie and Ells to make sure I’m in the right spot, but also I’m also not giving away too much space. I like it, but it’s taken a while to adjust to the differences of the vastness of the area you have to cover.”
|Larry Lucchino on D&C: Red Sox’ success ‘an early vindication’ of front office’s offseason approach||04.25.13 at 10:53 am ET|
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Saturday’s emotional pregame ceremony at Fenway Park, the possible closer controversy that lies ahead, and many more important topics from early in the season.
The Sox sit atop the American League East at 14-7, and one of the most memorable victories was on Saturday against the Royals. In that contest, Daniel Nava hit a game-winning home run in the eighth, hours after the ceremony honoring the victims and heroes of the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt.
“We talk a lot about the importance of Fenway Park as a community meeting place and the importance of a baseball team in bringing a community together, a sense of unity and connection and connectedness,” Lucchino said. “All of that came together last Saturday in a beautifully orchestrated event. I call it a ceremony because I think it was a celebration of those who passed away — at least a recognition of them, a moment when people could remember them and also celebrate the first responders and the action that we all took so much pride in last Thursday and Friday.”
The Sox front office and management focused this past offseason on bringing in good clubhouse players, but also ones who could perform in Boston. This was a sharp contrast to a year earlier, when they brought in highly touted stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford who turned out to be awkward fits in Boston.
“It is in some sense an early victory, an early vindication of all of that approach,” Lucchino said. “Just as I said to you guys before, we were never trying to get the coolest guys in the class to form a fraternity in the clubhouse. What we were trying to do is get good teammates who could perform in the crucible that is Boston and make this team likable but also good. Talent is always a part of it. But Ben Cherington and his staff made a concerted effort to consider the personalities — there should be a noun for teamsmanship — the kind of people we were getting. That’s proven to be at least part of the very successful start.”
There have been a number of factors in the team’s early season success. The offense has been led by new acquisitions Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, new manager John Farrell seems to be succeeding greatly in his return to Boston, and David Ortiz is back and playing well. Lucchino, though, said that the pitchers’ success has been the key.
“For me, it starts with pitching,” Lucchino said. “The key to this team this year was going to be pitching. We knew we had a bulked-up bullpen. We knew we had some depth and some talent in that bullpen, and of course that’s one of the keys to winning baseball in the modern era. … But the revival of the starting rotation is really I think probably [the] most important factor among those that you cited — the leadership that they provide, the sense of momentum that they provide when they take the field and just the quality of their stuff. The stuff may not be contagious, but the winning is contagious and the example that they set at the top of the rotation is contagious, and baseball is, after all, a game about pitching.”
Since Joel Hanrahan‘s hamstring injury, Andrew Bailey has stepped into the closer’s role and pitched very well. With Hanrahan due to come off the disabled list soon, a closer controversy may await the Red Sox.
“I think that there will be a controversy, yes,” Lucchino said. “I think the fans and the media will be fascinated by this question. But as I just said a minute ago, without you posing the question, is that it’s not such a bad thing to have a couple of closers. Hanrahan goes down and Bailey is ready to step in without missing a beat.”
|Saturday’s Red Sox hero Daniel Nava almost retired … twice||04.20.13 at 11:20 pm ET|
Daniel Nava could have mailed it in Saturday.
The outfielder first got hit in four of the five toes on his right foot with an Aaron Crow slider in the seventh inning. In the same frame, he contributed to killing a rally when he was picked off second base by Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez. That could have been the end of the story.
But as we’ve discovered with Nava, quitting isn’t part of the story.
On a day that was drenched with emotion — primarily due to the continued healing process following the Boston Marathon bombings – Nava offered the a storybook punctuation for what turned into a 4-3 Red Sox win over the Royals. It was his three-run homer into the Sox’ bullpen that allowed for one of the most notable Fenway Park moments certainly ever uncovered so early in a season.
But after the game, Nava admitted that was very close to being one of the fans instead of the on-field hero. The 30-year-old almost retired … twice.
“Yeah, I did,” Nava said when asked if he contemplated calling it quits, “a couple of times.”
Without the proper context, it might be hard to fathom that the switch-hitter would have ever contemplated retiring at such a relatively young age.
This is a guy who has legitimately established himself as an everyday outfielder who is (far and away) leading the Red Sox’ offense with a 1.144 OPS, .342 batting average to go along with four home runs and 14 RBI.
He carries a 1.084 OPS and .323 batting average against right-handers, and a 1.413 OPS and .429 batting average versus lefties. Nava also is hitting .417 with a 1.417 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Yet it was just more than a year ago the California native was on the verge of quitting.
He showed up to Fort Myers in early February prior to the 2012 spring training only to discover that he wouldn’t be working out with the major leaguers despite a good portion of the 2010 season in the big leagues, and all of ’11 in Triple-A.
He had contemplated retirement before, when after college and before signing on to play Independent League ball, nobody seemed to want him.
“I think I did the first time because I was faced with the option of maybe never playing again, so I had to be realistic,” Nava said. “Nobody picked me up for a whole year, so I considered stop playing because I was playing Church League softball, and that’s all I had. And then last spring training when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make any team out of spring training, I definitely was thinking I realistically could be done.
“I got there early and when I realized I wasn’t going to big league camp but everybody else was. It was then I felt I needed to be realistic and that I might be done here. If you’ve got guys below you going to big league camp and you’re not going to big league camp, you have to look at things and be realistic. They might not have any plans for me in the future.”
The Red Sox Player Development staff encouraged Nava to be patient throughout those days in spring training when he was starting his day just as the major leaguers he had played with the previous two years were finishing their workouts.
After some extensive contemplation, Nava decided to stick it out. As the first 16 games of the ’13 season suggests, it was a fortunate decision for the Red Sox … and everybody who came to watch them Saturday afternoon.
“I knew it might not have been realistic (to make a team) and I might be done,” said Nava of ’12 spring training. “I had to sit down and think if I wanted to play Independent League ball again. I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. Fortunately it worked out.”
|Closing Time: Red Sox solve Justin Masterson, Indians for fifth straight win||04.17.13 at 10:31 pm ET|
The Red Sox jumped all over one of the best pitchers in this young season, Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, and never looked back.
The Sox saw their first five hitters of the game reach base on the way to a three-run first inning. When it was all said and done at Progressive Field, the Red Sox had come away with a 6-3 win over the Indians on Wednesday night.
The win was the fifth straight victory for the Red Sox (10-4), the longest such streak since June 16-21, 2012. The Sox are six games over .500 for the first time since 2011.
The first-inning runs were the first given up by Masterson in 19 innings, with the former Red Sox hurler having not previously allowed an opponent to cross the plate since April 2. The 15 hits by the Red Sox matched a season high, having pounded out an equal amount in their April 7 win in Toronto.
Here is what went right (and wrong) for the red-hot Red Sox.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• Alfredo Aceves stretched the streak of Red Sox starters allowing three runs or less to 14 games to start the season. Aceves finished his five-plus innings giving up three runs on seven hits, throwing 106 pitches.
• Mike Carp’s three extra-base hits (2 doubles, triple) matched the total number of extra-base hits surrendered by Masterson in the pitcher’s previous three outings.
• The Red Sox hitters came out the gate taking the ball the other way against Masterson, with eight of their 11 hits against the right-hander going to the opposite field.
• Daniel Nava rebounded from his four-strikeout game Tuesday with a pair of hits and two RBIs.
• Shane Victorino had one his best games as a Red Sox, coming away with his second three-hit game of the season while making a few key defensive plays in right field. The most notable contribution with his glove came in the third inning when he threw out Lonnie Chisenhall trying to stretch a single into a double to lead off the frame.
• Junichi Tazawa cleaned up Aceves’ mess in the sixth inning, coming on to throw two perfect innings, striking out his last four batters.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• The Red Sox left 10 men on base, It was the fourth time this season the Sox have left 10 or more on base, though John Farrell’s team has won all four. The Sox squandered some golden opportunities early on, not scoring despite loading the bases in both the second and fourth innings.
• Aceves wore down in the sixth, allowing back-to-back homers to Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi to cut the Sox’ lead to two.
|Red Sox notes: Why Daniel Nava is starting over Jackie Bradley Jr.; next steps for John Lackey, Franklin Morales||04.13.13 at 11:24 am ET|
Despite a history of trouble against Rays ace David Price (he’s 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts), Daniel Nava will start in left field today over Jackie Bradley Jr. Manager John Farrell said he thinks Nava’s strong start to the year — he’s hitting .421 with three homers in six games — outweighs his past issues with Price. By inserting the switch-hitting Nava between right-handers Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes, Farrell suggested, he is not only going with a player who is off to perhaps the strongest start on the team but also achieving a measure of lineup balance.
“We talked about how confident Daniel is right now, and at some point in the game, the ability to break up those right-handers is going to be needed, without too much pinch-hitting or really emptying the bench,” Farrell said, “I realize he’s [1-for-15] coming into today against Price, but I think overall he’s put up very good at-bats as consistently as anyone in our lineup, on either side of the plate.
“Whether it’s riding the hot hand or just playing on the momentum that he’s started and generated himself with his own performance, we’ll ride it as long as we’re capable.”
Meanwhile, Bradley will sit for the second time this week against a left-handed pitcher. Farrell suggested that there is “a balance” that must be considered between Bradley’s player development needs and the effort to give the team the best chance to win.
“I think going up against a guy like Price or [Wei-Yin] Chen with some of the recent developments with Jackie over the past three or four days, and just wanting to put the most competitive lineup we can on the field — I’m not here to say that there’s roster changes that are going to take place because Jackie’s not playing for the second time in four games, but we’ll continue to find the right combinations,” Farrell said.
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
- On the topic of John Lackey‘s recovery from a biceps strain, Farrell said the Sox are “hopeful to put a ball back in his hand in the next couple days.”
“There’s decreasing symptoms – the tightness that he’s felt in the bicep is gradually going away,” Farrell said. “So I don’t know that we have a template that we’re going to exactly follow, but certainly the way he feels is the most important guide in all this.”
Lackey will have to pitch in at least one minor league rehab game, Farrell said, before he is activated so that he can come as close as possible to simulating the stress of pitching in the big leagues to make sure that he is prepared to return to the Red Sox rotation without the sort of incident that landed him on the DL in Toronto. Read the rest of this entry »
|Six homers, Jon Lester pace Red Sox to rout of Blue Jays||04.07.13 at 3:52 pm ET|
TORONTO – The first five Red Sox batters in Sunday’s series finale reached and scored against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey. The five-run first ultimately led to a 13-0 win for the Sox over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
With the win — which saw the Red Sox hit six home runs — John Farrell’s crew heads into their home opener at 4-2
Will Middlebrooks highlighted the attack, notching his first career three-home run game. The Red Sox’ third baseman first deposited a two-run blast over the right field fence, then hit a solo shot to left in the fifth, and finally notched his fourth hit of the game in the seventh with his third homer. (He almost had a fourth homer, with his last bid dying on the left field warning track.)
Daniel Nava also contributed in the seventh, helping the Red Sox come away with their first back-to-back home runs of the season when he followed Middlebrooks’ third blast. Also homering for the visitors were Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli.
Jon Lester picked up his second win of the season, not allowing a run over his seven innings. The lefty, who lowered his ERA to 1.50 after two starts, struck out six while not walking a batter.
Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Ellsbury led off each of the three games at Rogers Centre by getting on base, this time ripping a first-inning single over shortstop Jose Reyes. He also managed his fourth stolen base of the season.
- Besides producing offensively, Middlebrooks also made a standout defensive play in the fourth inning. The third baseman charged in on Maicer Izturis’ slow roller, bare-handed the ball and threw out the baserunner by a step.
- Dickey was ineffective in his second start with the Blue Jays, allowing eight runs (7 earned) on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings. It was just the fourth time the knuckleballer had allowed at least eight runs, having done it once last year against the Braves. The righty ended up throwing 100 pitches.
- Jose Iglesias continued his early-season tear, claiming two more hits to put his batting average at .529.
- After hitting a ball to the warning track in his first at-bat, Nava launched another deep fly ball out in the third inning. The difference the second time was that it produced a run, scoring Middlebrooks from third.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- Since the series in New York, Jackie Bradley has cooled off considerably. The rookie went 0-for-4 with a walk, finishing the series going 1-for-11 with a pair of free passes and five strikeouts. Bradley heads home hitting .150.
- Mike Carp wasn’t able to take advantage of his first at-bat of the season, lining out to second on the first pitch he saw.
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