|Red Sox’ Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava likely to sit against Max Scherzer in Game 2||10.13.13 at 2:08 am ET|
The man who spared the Red Sox from the infamy of a no-hitter will not be in the lineup on Sunday for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
According to a team source, Daniel Nava, whose ninth-inning single off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit represented the Sox’ only hit of the game in a 1-0 Game 1 loss to Detroit, is expected to be out of the lineup for Game 2 against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, against whom the Sox switch-hitter is 1-for-9 with a walk and two strikeouts in his career. Likewise, first baseman Mike Napoli — a career 1-for-13 hitter with one walk and five strikeouts against Scherzer, is expected to sit on Sunday. In their places, the Sox are expected to start Jonny Gomes (2-for-6 with two strikeouts against Scherzer) in left field and Mike Carp (2-for-8 with a walk and five strikeouts against the Game 2 starter) at first base.
Though the Sox had contemplated the possibility of having Will Middlebrooks (1-for-6 against Scherzer with four strikeouts) sit in favor of Xander Bogaerts (never faced Scherzer), the team seems inclined to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup for Game 2, with Bogaerts once again available off the bench.
In two regular season starts against the Sox, Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 for the season) had a pair of two-run, seven-inning yields, striking out 14 and walking three in his 14 innings of work. He lost to the Sox on Sept. 3, when Middlebrooks delivered a two-run single to give the Sox and starter Jon Lester a 2-1 win.
|Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview||09.20.13 at 10:33 am ET|
It’s official: the Red Sox are playoff-bound. The Sox clinched a ticket to the postseason on Thursday with a win over the Orioles. But the celebration awaits, as the Red Sox look to wrap up the division title Friday night in the opener of a three-game weekend series.
The Sox will welcome the Blue Jays for the final home series of the regular season. They look to bounce back from a tough series against the Orioles, the only AL East team that owns a winning record against them. The Orioles took two of three from the Red Sox, handing them their first series loss since Aug. 16-18 against the Yankees. Despite that, the Sox still are playing some of their best baseball of the season this month, going 12-5 in September.
The Red Sox own the best home record in the American League at 51-27, second only to the Braves. The differences between the 2012 team and this year’s squad are obviously bountiful, but the turnaround at Fenway Park is huge. The Sox posted a .420 winning percentage in Boston last year and already are 17 wins better than the 2012 club at Fenway.
The Orioles may be the one team in the AL East that has the Red Sox’ number, going 9-6 against the Sox with three games left to play. But the Blue Jays have been relatively pesky for the Sox as well, taking seven of the 16 games in the season series thus far, including two of three the last time the two clubs met.
The Blue Jays have had a disappointing season, to say the least. After a busy offseason in which they acquired the likes of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the Jays will finish as the only AL East club not in the mix for a playoff spot, and the only team in the division that will come in under .500. Aside from Reyes, the Jays’ acquisitions have fallen well short of expectations. However, the Blue Jays can play spoiler to the AL teams still in the race; they just took two of three from the Yankees, pushing them 3½ games back in the wild card chase, and have upcoming series with the Orioles and Rays.
The Blue Jays spent just two days above last place since April 20 and have not been out of the cellar since June 23. They surged briefly in June, pulling above .500 for a couple of games, hitting their season-high mark of two games better than .500, but slipped back to a losing record on June 28 and haven’t recovered since. They’ve been eliminated from any chance at postseason play and sealed their fate as a last-place team this season, now sitting 22 games behind the Red Sox.
But just because they’re in last place doesn’t mean they can’t do some damage. The Jays actually have one of the best offenses in the majors according to OPS, ranking fifth in the majors and fourth in the American League. They’ve got plenty of firepower, hitting 93 home runs, good for third amongst all teams. They’ve even scored the fourth-most runs in the majors. It’s their pitching that has been very, very subpar. They come in with the third-worst staff ERA amongst major league teams, better than just the Astros and the Twins.
Here are the pitching matchups for the final three Fenway games of the regular season.
Friday: Jon Lester (14-8, 3.75) vs. Esmil Rogers (5-7, 4.47)
Saturday: Felix Doubront (10-6, 4.15) vs. Mark Buehrle (11-9, 4.17)
Sunday: Clay Buchholz (11-0, 1.51) vs. R.A. Dickey (13-12, 4.21)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• Craig Breslow again came through as one of the most reliable relievers on the team Tuesday when he came into a no-out situation with runners on second and third in a tie game, set to face the heart of a tough Orioles lineup. Breslow made quick work of the three, four and five batters, using just six pitches to escape the jam. The lefty, who has shown the ability to get outs against both righties and lefties, has allowed just one run and 10 hits in his last 22 2/3 innings, good for a tiny 0.40 ERA. Though Breslow doesn’t have overwhelming stuff (he’s averaging just under five strikeouts per nine innings this season), he’s proven to be one of the go-to options in late innings.
|The unlikely role model: Why phenom Xander Bogaerts finds inspiration in underdog Daniel Nava||09.17.13 at 7:25 am ET|
What can the top Red Sox prospect in decades learn from a player for whom entry into professional baseball — let alone the big leagues — represented an unlikely story? As it turns out, plenty.
Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts have taken very different paths to the majors. One is a phenom, one of the youngest players in the American League, an exciting young infielder with all the makings to become a star. The other was cut from his college baseball team, served as an equipment manager, was undrafted and had his independent league contract purchased for a dollar. Yet the two have found common ground, and formed an unexpected mentor-mentee relationship.
Nava has had a huge impact on the field for the Red Sox this year, posting the highest OPS (.844) among Red Sox outfielders (also good for ninth among all major league outfielders) and hitting .306 coming into Tuesday. He has set career highs in doubles (28), home runs (11) and RBI (63). He’s made considerable strides on defense, mastering the wall in left and expanding his versatility, learning to play first base while also becoming a solid right fielder. And Nava has exemplified the Red Sox’ patient offensive approach, seeing an average of 4.14 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks 11th best in the majors.
But he’s become an important force inside the clubhouse, which has become apparent with the arrival of Bogaerts. When asked which members of the Red Sox he goes to with questions about the game and who has been the most helpful in easing the transition from the minors to the majors, Bogaerts lists a few names, a group that almost always includes Nava.
“I talk to Nava a lot. I like Nava, man,” said Bogaerts. “I don’t understand how he’s so patient. So I always ask him about that. He always looks for the pitch to drive.”
There are a lot of similarities between Nava’s and Bogaerts’ games, despite their differing backgrounds and experience levels. Nava has shown the ability to take a lot of pitches and get on base often, posting a .392 OBP in 493 plate appearances. In five minor league seasons, Nava never finished a season with an OBP lower than .372, ending with a mark above .400 three times. Clearly, he’s not afraid to take a walk, drawing free passes in about 10 percent of plate appearances. Bogaerts has also finished each year with high marks in the on-base category, finishing with OBPs above .370 in each of his last two minor league seasons. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, he walked in about eight percent of plate appearances.
Bogaerts sees an opportunity to learn from Nava’s patience at the plate, hoping to tailor his approach to become more selective. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox-Yankees series preview||09.13.13 at 9:39 am ET|
The Red Sox may not have completed the sweep against the second-place Rays, but they’ll come home to Fenway with an 8½-game lead in the division and a magic number of 8.
It was an impressive road trip for the Sox, who took series in New York (three of four) and St. Petersburg (two of three), and now have won seven straight series. They’ve already accrued more wins in September 2013 (eight) than they did in the last month of either 2012 or 2011. It appears the Red Sox have gotten hot just at the right time.
“We continue to play a very good brand of baseball,” manager John Farrell said after Thursday’s series finale with the Rays. “We’re executing for the most part in key moments and we come ready to get after it every single night.”
The Red Sox are hitting milestones left and right lately. Koji Uehara broke the franchise record for consecutive batters retired on Wednesday night, passing Ellis Kinder (32 in 1952). Uehara now has 34 consecutive outs. Mike Napoli collected his 31st bases-loaded RBI in Wednesday’s contest, which represents the highest total by a Red Sox player since Vern Stephens‘ 32 in 1950. And with their 89th victory of the season, the Red Sox have won 20 more games than they did in all of 2012, good for the largest season-to-season turnaround since the 1967 Impossible Dream team.
With a good amount of distance between them and the second-place Rays in the division standings, the Red Sox look to be a virtual lock for a postseason berth. They also have the ability to make a big impact on the wild card standings. Though the Sox don’t have any remaining regular-season games against the Rays, the team currently occupying the second wild card slot, they’ll come home to face the Yankees, who are hanging on to playoff hopes, staying within a game of Tampa Bay with a win on Thursday. Interestingly enough, the Yankees won their series finale with the Orioles on a wild pitch from Baltimore closer Jim Johnson in the top of the ninth inning, the second time this week they’ve won thanks to a wild pitch.
The Yankees, who have been playing nonstop baseball without an off day since Aug. 29, haven’t been playing bad baseball since the last time the Red Sox saw them (which, albeit, was five days ago). They managed to take three of four from Baltimore, moving ahead of the Orioles and Indians in the race for the second wild card spot. The Yankees just barely eked out the three victories in Baltimore, winning two of them by one run and the other by two runs.
The injury bug still is biting the Yankees. It was decided earlier in the week that shortstop Derek Jeter, who has played only 17 games this season, will return to the disabled list with an ankle injury and will not return this season. To fill the shortstop hole, the Yankees acquired the defensive-minded but light-hitting Brendan Ryan from the Mariners. Although the Yankees pulled out the victory on Thursday night, they lost a key member of their lineup when Brett Gardner was removed from the game and was diagnosed with a left oblique strain, an injury that can take a few weeks to heal. Gardner is scheduled to receive an MRI to determine the severity of the strain, but he will at least miss the series with the Red Sox, if not the remainder of the regular season. Catcher Austin Romine also is sidelined after suffering a concussion earlier in the week.
With the regular season winding down, this will be the last time the Red Sox face the Yankees barring a meeting in the playoffs, which means this weekend will be Mariano Rivera‘s final games at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are set to honor the closer on Sunday night.
Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend set.
Friday: John Lackey (9-12, 3.48) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.99)
Saturday: Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86) vs. C.C. Sabathia (13-12, 4.82)
Sunday: Clay Buchholz (10-0, 1.61) vs. Ivan Nova (8-4, 3.17)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• As noted earlier, Uehara set a new Red Sox record with 34 straight batters retired. He’s been unbelievably dominant since taking over the closer’s role and just continues to get better. Uehara has recorded 26 straight scoreless outings, passing Daniel Bard for the longest streak in team history. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in over two months, not since June 30, which was 30 appearances and 32 2/3 innings ago. Since becoming the closer, Uehara has earned four wins (no losses) and 18 saves in 20 opportunities. His ERA as the closer is an absolutely remarkable 0.25, while his WHIP is an equally mind-boggling 0.3273. Opposing hitters are batting a meager .084/.099/.126 against Uehara in his last 34 games, and he’s walked only two batters while striking out 51. That means his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a staggering 25.5. According to wins above replacement, Uehara has been worth more wins than any other reliever this season, which really is not surprising when looking at his unbelievable numbers.
|Did Daniel Nava’s paternity leave benefit him on the field? The numbers say so||09.02.13 at 9:33 pm ET|
On a day that he moved into the top five in on-base percentage in the American League, Daniel Nava struggled for answers when asked why he’s been so good. It’s a hard thing to pinpoint, but perhaps he benefited from last month’s paternity leave in more ways than one.
Nava only had three days of paternity leave as he went to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter, Faith, but when you consider that he hadn’t played the two days prior, Nava ended up with five days off between games, a rare non-All-Star-break experience in which he had the better part of a week off without it being due to injury or performance.
While the biggest takeaway from the that time was his family’s new addition, Nava’s play has been off the charts since returning. In 17 games, he’s his .425 with a sky-high .500 on-base percentage and nine doubles. For the sake of comparison, he hit .279 with a .353 OBP and four doubles in his 17 games prior to the birth of his daughter.
“Maybe I need to have a baby more often,” Nava said with a laugh. “I wish I had an answer for [the play since Aug. 8], because if I did I’d bottle it up and sell it to everybody and say ‘This is the key to success.’”
Nava says he doesn’t think the break helped him physically, saying that going the few days without a bat in his hands didn’t make him feel any fresher. However, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of being mentally refreshed upon his return. After all, it isn’t that often that you get time off during the season with things more important than baseball on your mind.
“I’m sure that definitely helped,” Nava said. “When it’s your first [child], you obviously don’t know what to expect, so maybe going into it I was just thinking more about my wife and her safety and the baby’s health and all that stuff more than I realized, and then once it happened I was able to relax. I don’t know. I didn’t lose sleep when she was [nearing her due date].”
Nava’s current run has improved his OBP on the season to .387, which ranks him behind Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Joe Mauer and David Ortiz. It’s been a career year for Nava, but his manager played it cool when asked about seemingly unforeseen success.
“I don’t think what he’s doing this year should be seen as a total surprise,” John Farrell said after Monday’s loss. “This is very much a part of his track record as a player.”
While Nava’s always had good on-base percentages relative to his batting averages, this is indeed uncharted territory for him. He’s never been in the high .380s range for on-base percentage this deep into a season, and whatever the cause of it is, he’ll take it.
“I don’t know,” Nava said honestly when asked what’s allowed him to thrive this season. “I really don’t. Obviously it helps knowing your role and helps knowing when you’re going to play and not going to play. I’ve said from the get go that that allows any player — Johnny [Gomes], myself, [Mike] Carp — to get in a rhythm. Once you get in that rhythm you can just come to the field and know, ‘This is when I’m going to play and when I’m not going to play,’ and you’re able to lock yourself in.”
|Red Sox-Dodgers series preview||08.23.13 at 11:17 am ET|
It will be a clash between two first-place clubs and a chance to see some old friends as the Red Sox head to Los Angeles to take on the red-hot Dodgers this weekend.
Almost exactly a year ago, the Red Sox and the Dodgers completed one of the biggest trades in MLB history, with the Sox sending first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles in exchange for pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, first baseman James Loney and minor leaguers Ivan De Jesus and Jerry Sands. Both teams benefited from the blockbuster deal, and now both sit atop their respective divisions.
Beckett — who talked to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford about his trying last days in Boston — is done for the season after having surgery in July to relieve pressure on a nerve in his neck. The former Sox starter made only eight starts on the season, going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA. Gonzalez has been a big part of the Dodgers’ success in 2013, putting up a .297/.346/.456 line with 26 home runs and 77 RBIs. Punto, who was only with the Red Sox for a brief few months in 2012, has benefited from more regular playing time, batting .257 with a .335 OBP in 276 plate appearances. And Crawford, who was more than ready to get out of Boston, looks revitalized, hitting .289/.340/.413 in 88 games.
“I want to win all three games. Bad,” said Crawford, who has made his feelings about his time in Boston well known. “Then on to the next series.”
The deal allowed the Red Sox to rebuild their club and become a contender this season, just a year after losing 93 games. “At the time things weren’t going well for us and we simply weren’t who we wanted to be,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “Though there were many reasons for that, we felt a significant reallocation of money might allow us to reshape the team more quickly and get us started down a different path.
“It wasn’t about the players we traded. It was simply an acknowledgment that things weren’t working.”
The blockbuster has played a part in the Dodgers’ success this year, undoubtedly. But there are many reasons why LA, a team that played .500 baseball in the first half, has become the hottest team in baseball, going 28-5 since the All-Star break. The rotation, the bullpen and the offense has begun to click and get hot at the same time, and a few additions (starter Ricky Nolasco and, most notably, rookie sensation Yasiel Puig) have sparked a talented team and made it one of the toughest clubs to beat. The Dodgers sit 9½ games ahead of the second-place Diamondbacks, their biggest lead of the season. They grabbed hold of the division lead on July 22 and haven’t looked back since, continuing to expand the gap between them and the rest of the division.
The Red Sox aren’t in a bad spot either, but the race for the AL East title is a little more competitive, to say the least. The Sox briefly lost their lead in the division, with the Rays pulling even with Boston on Tuesday, but a series win against the Giants (and a victory by the Orioles over the Rays) means that the Red Sox are alone again at the top. The series victory against the reigning World Series champs was the first series win for the Sox since taking two of three from the Astros earlier this month. The Red Sox have played .500 baseball this month, going 10-10, but they still have yet to lose more than three games in a row. They hope that the resurgence of Will Middlebrooks, the addition of top prospect Xander Bogaerts, the return of David Ross and the eventual return of Clay Buchholz can inject some life into a club that’s been unable to string wins together.
|Red Sox-Giants series preview||08.19.13 at 10:19 am ET|
Red Sox fans will prepare to stay up late, as the Sox head out to the West Coast for some interleague play, first stopping in San Francisco for a three-game set with the 2012 World Series champions.
The long-anticipated arrival of top prospect Xander Bogaerts is here. The infielder has been called up by the Red Sox in an attempt to shake up the roster after a series loss to the Yankees, the third series loss in a row for a club that seems to be in need of a jolt. A flurry of roster moves came down after Sunday’s 9-6 loss, with reliever Rubby De La Rosa, infielder Brock Holt and catcher Ryan Lavarnway returning to Pawtucket, and David Ross being activated off the disabled list.
The Red Sox are hoping that the roster moves will supply a much-needed spark. The Sox have hit a rough patch, dropping nine of the 17 games they’ve played this month. Their lead in the AL East, which was four games less than a week ago, is down to just one game over the Rays. The Sox have dropped multiple series in a row only twice this season, but have lost their last three.
“We’re just not playing well,” said David Ortiz. “We need to step up and try to win some games, you know? I guess it’s just one of those funks that you walk into. We just need to get out of it.”
Manager John Farrell echoed a similar sentiment. “We’re very confident in our team,” he said. “We have a good team. And yet we’re going to go through some peaks and valleys.”
The Red Sox hope they can find their bearing against a struggling Giants club. It’s been a tough year for the defending World Series champs, who now look like they won’t have a shot at capturing the title three times in four years. The Giants have fallen into last place with a 55-68 record, sitting 17 games back of the red-hot Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants had gotten off to a decent start, going 15-12 in April, but it would be the only month to date in which they finished with a winning record. An 8-17 showing in July dropped the Giants far out of the race for the division title.
A lot of factors have contributed to the fall of the Giants. Injuries have taken their toll, with the club losing center fielder Angel Pagan for much of the season (Pagan likely will be able to return to the team in September), while Ryan Vogelsong has missed a big chunk of time with a broken hand. But really, it’s been mediocre performances from many different parts of the team that have led to the losing record. The offense has been average, sitting in the middle of the pack in most categories, though they Giants have hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors. It’s been the pitching staff that has been a disappointment. The rotation ranks in the bottom third in the majors with a 4.47 ERA, although the bullpen corps has been solid all season long.
The last time the Red Sox visited AT&T Park was in 2010, when the Sox took two out of three from the Giants.
Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set.
Monday: Jon Lester (10-7, 4.31) vs. Tim Lincecum (6-12, 4.38)
Tuesday: Jake Peavy (9-5, 4.41) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.75)
Wednesday: Felix Doubront (8-6, 3.95) vs. Chad Gaudin (5-2, 3.06)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• Since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket last week, Will Middlebrooks has been showing the Red Sox that they made a good decision in bringing him back to the big league club. The third baseman has hit safely in all nine games since the promotion and is hitting a scorching .462/.548/.692 with three doubles and a home run. Middlebrooks also appears to be showing more patience, drawing four walks in 31 plate appearances while striking out only six times.
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