|Closing Time: Ryan Dempster drills A-Rod, but Rodriguez, Yankees get last laugh vs. Red Sox||08.19.13 at 12:19 am ET|
There has been little drama surrounding the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in recent years, but the teams’ series finale Sunday night at Fenway Park, an 9-6 Yankees win, featured a good-sized dose of it. And there is one, central character for everyone to thank: Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez — who before the game drew the ire of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, and who hired a lawyer who slammed the entire Yankees organization in a New York Times report Saturday, and who is appealing his 211-game suspension for connections to the Biogenesis scandal — stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the night, donning the same what-did-I-do face he has so often of late. Right-hander Ryan Dempster gave him four straight fastballs: the first behind the knees, the second and third inside.
With the fourth, though, hitting 92 on the radar gun, Dempster found Rodriguez’ back. Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora immediately warned both benches, bringing a fuming Joe Girardi flying out of the Yankees dugout. He tossed his hat and was quickly ejected.
Both benches cleared and the bullpens emptied as Rodriguez stood near home and stared at the mound. No punches were thrown — indeed, the teams’ personnel didn’t get so close that they had to be forcibly separated — and order was quickly restored.
Four innings later, the story changed from beaning to beaming. Dempster threw Rodriguez (3-for-4) another fastball, and this time it was the controversial third baseman who didn’t miss. It landed 10 rows deep in the center-field seats, and with a fist pump around first and emphatic clap after stepping on home plate, Rodriguez began what ended up being a decisive four-run rally for New York.
The Red Sox loss, coupled with a Rays win on Sunday, left Boston with just a one-game lead in the AL East as the team embarks for its six-game trip to California. It also marks the third straight series loss for the Sox, who had dropped that many in a row just once previously this season (May 3-12 against the Rangers, Twins and Blue Jays).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– A month of struggles continued for Dempster, who despite seven innings of one-run ball his last time out owned a 5.46 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in his last five starts entering Sunday night.
Early returns were positive, with Dempster getting Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki swinging to start things off. But after that things fell apart for the 36-year-old righty. He allowed seven runs on nine hits, one walk and that notorious hit-by-pitch in 5 1/3 innings. He finished with only one additional strikeout.
|Birth of daughter, recent hot streak have Daniel Nava riding high||08.17.13 at 9:44 pm ET|
You would have to go back to a blown call at home plate on July 29 to find something for Daniel Nava to complain about. Since then, he’s hitting .379. He’s gotten a hit in each of the last six games he’s started and reached base in each of the last 29, hitting .345 with a .407 OBP and .427 slugging mark. A pair of doubles in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Yankees brought his average up to .583 over his last four games with a plate appearance.
But the most important thing that’s happened since then is that Nava became a father. His wife, Rachel, gave birth to their daughter, Faith, on August 5. Nava said that so far, everything has been perfect.
“Life’s been awesome,” Nava said. “It’s been great. It’s a blessing to have a healthy kid and a healthy wife. I have nothing to complain about from that end.”
You might think that having a baby would have some sort of effect on Nava’s on-field performance, whether it be positive because he’s more relaxed or negative because of a lack of sleep. But Nava said that hasn’t been the case.
His wife and daughter are still in California, so Nava’s had peace and quiet at home.
“I have a good wife. She was like, ‘I’ll handle the baby during the season,’” Nava said. “In the offseason, I’ll pick up some of the slack.”
As far as being less worried, Nava said they never really had any reason to worry during the pregnancy anyways.
“I think anyone would say that once they get through that situation, they’re obviously happier and maybe more relaxed. But we didn’t have anything too crazy to worry about going into it,” Nava said. “So from my perspective, it hasn’t really affected me. But who knows? Maybe if I got tested before, like some sort of psychological exam, and then now, it might be different. But I don’t really feel it.”
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: John Lackey vs. James Shields||08.11.13 at 8:47 am ET|
The Red Sox-Royals contest Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, the finale of a four-game weekend set, features a pair of starters in the form of right-handers John Lackey and James Shields who probably could empathize with each other. They both have had strong seasons — Lackey owning a 3.21 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, Shields 3.36 and 1.27 marks — but don’t exactly get the offensive support they might appreciate.
The Red Sox average 3.33 runs in games Lackey starts, while the Royals put up 4.03 in games Shields pitches.
There was no greater example of that than Lackey’s most recent start, Monday’s 2-0 loss to the lowly Astros. Lackey tossed six innings of two-run ball while mostly scattering eight hits and two walks and striking out 10, his second-highest total all season.
The team survived a bit of a scare in the second when Lackey rolled his ankle fielding a slow bouncer off the bat of Matt Dominguez, who was out at first on the play. Lackey shook it off and went on to pitch four more solid innings, only to take the tough-luck loss after throwing 113 pitches.
“John had very good stuff, got some key strikeouts when he needed to,” manager John Farrell said to the media afterward. “Obviously when a guy goes down making a play, you’ve got immediate concern. We continued to monitor it closely every pitch he threw, every inning he went through. There’s no question he pitches with a lot of heart. He never wants to come out of a game. Unfortunately, he pitches on a day we come up on the short end.”
Overall, Lackey arguably has been the Red Sox’ best starter throughout 2013, but he has seen a dip in his effectiveness since he last won a game July 12. In four starts since, he has an ERA nearing five while allowing opponents a .330 average and .851 OPS, raising his season ERA from 2.78 to 3.21.
|Cardiac Kids redux: Top 10 Red Sox victories of 2013||08.08.13 at 10:18 am ET|
If nothing else, the 2013 Red Sox certainly have a flare for the dramatic. They own the best record in the American League (70-46), and nearly one in five of their home games has ended with them hopping off celebrating a sudden win. They had that magic on the road with them Wednesday night when Stephen Drew‘s three-run homer in the ninth proved to be the difference in a 7-5 win over the Astros.
Here is a subjective, unscientific look at the top 10 Red Sox wins of the season, walkoff or otherwise:
10. May 6, 6-5 over Twins — In one of a number of nearly five-hour affairs, Drew collected his fourth hit of the night at a very opportune time — with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, the winning run on second in the form of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Drew sent a double to left-center to end it, bailing out soon-to-be-injured closer Joel Hanrahan and giving the Sox their only win in a seven-game stretch.
9. June 18, 3-1 over Rays — A long day of baseball at Fenway ended on a very bright note, with Jonny Gomes punting his helmet after rounding third during a celebratory trip around the bases following his walkoff two-run home run. It gave the Sox a sweep of their doubleheader with Tampa Bay, and salvaged a game in which eight shutout innings from Felix Doubront went to waste after Andrew Bailey blew the save in the ninth.
8. June 6, 6-3 over Rangers — In a season chock full of walkoffs, it comes as no surprise that David Ortiz has had a hand in the late-inning heroics. What may be a surprise, however, is that the opposing team intentionally walked the batter in front of him to get to Ortiz. Such was the case with first base open and the game on the line with Dustin Pedroia at the plate. When Pedroia took his base, Ortiz sent a first-pitch splitter into the Rangers bullpen for the 19th game-ending hit of his career.
7. May 26, 6-5 over Indians — Down 5-1 with an inning and a half to play, the Red Sox got one in the eighth and four more in the ninth for their third win in a row against Terry Francona’s crew. Jacoby Ellsbury did the honors this time around, as his double to left-center field scored Gomes with the tying run and Drew as the winning run. He has been one of the hottest hitters in the majors ever since.
6. July 3, 2-1 over Padres — Gomes started celebrating the Fourth of July a little early with a different kind of fireworks, but not before sitting on the bench for three hours. John Farrell sent him to pinch-hit for Brandon Snyder to lead off the ninth inning of a 1-1 game at Fenway, and he promptly sent a no-doubter over the Monster to end it.
5. April 15, 3-2 over Rays — The annual Patriots Day matinee ended in dramatic fashion courtesy of a Bailey blown save in the top of the ninth, then a Mike Napoli double to left-center in the bottom half to bring Pedroia to the plate. Ryan Dempster turned in his best outing of the season: seven innings of one-run ball, giving up only two hits while striking out 10. The game ended less than an hour before the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line.
|Red Sox pregame notes: Bullpen in flux as Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales near returns; plaudits for Jonny Gomes||08.04.13 at 2:10 pm ET|
Daniel Nava is becoming a daddy, and Brandon Workman may as well be singing Diddy: Nobody can hold him down.
The outfielder will miss the Red Sox’ series in Houston against the Astros, and as a result of him being placed on MLB’s paternity list, the Red Sox will likely call up Workman to pitch out of the bullpen. Workman was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday, but since he is replacing a player out on paternity leave, he is exempt from the rule that would otherwise force him to stay in the minors for 10 days.
Workman, of course, made a splash with three consecutive quality starts in July, but was bumped from the rotation when the team traded for Jake Peavy. The plan is for him to work out the bullpen, and manager John Farrell said Sunday there is no timetable set in stone for his workload. Instead, Workman will just pitch when the game situation calls for it.
“Hopefully it’s a clean inning coming in to start with, but if not we’re not going to hold him to that — or hold the staff to that,” Farrell said, adding that he may pitch back-to-back days somewhere along the way. “It’ll depend on if there’s an inning where it’s a short one. At the moment, we’re not rushing into that.”
Workman has exactly two relief appearances as a professional, both having come this year. But now he finds himself in the middle of a bullpen that is very much in a state of flux.
The Red Sox have a number of relievers in the major leagues and with Pawtucket who have shuttled to and from the cities, with Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre and Steven Wright among them. Drake Britton was called up last month and seems to have stuck, while his fellow southpaw, Franklin Morales, is on the mend from a pectoral strain and has retired all 13 hitters he’s faced in three rehab outings with Triple-A Pawtucket.
As a result of all that, the team is starting to hit a home stretch with some bullpen roles still up in the air — an odd position, especially given how successful the Red Sox have been this season, and how well the relievers have performed since the All-Star break, a time during which Boston’s bullpen has a 1.59 ERA that is tops in the American League.
|Red Sox-Diamondbacks series preview||08.02.13 at 2:36 pm ET|
The Red Sox welcome the Diamondbacks to Fenway this weekend, looking to maintain their division lead and keep up their winning ways after a three-game sweep of the Mariners.
It was a wild night at Fenway on Thursday, when the Red Sox scored six times in the bottom of the ninth inning to steal a victory from the Mariners, winning on a Daniel Nava single after notching six hits in the frame. It was technically the club’s second walkoff in one day, since their 15-inning contest on Wednesday didn’t end until after midnight, though it ended the same way: with a walk-off celebration. With the win on Thursday, the Red Sox took a one-game lead over the second-place Rays.
The deficit was the biggest the Red Sox have overcome this season, and it gave them their 11th walkoff win of the season. The game was reminiscent of the Mother’s Day Miracle in 2007, which is the last time the Red Sox overcame a deficit of that size in the ninth inning.
“Is it magical? It’s a lot of fun. Is it magical? I’ll leave that up to you to decide,” Nava said. “I don’t think anyone saw that happening tonight.”
The Red Sox made one of the biggest splashes at the July 31 trade deadline, dealing shortstop Jose Iglesias and three lower-level prospects for starter Jake Peavy. Peavy will make his debut in a Boston uniform Saturday.
It will be a return to Fenway for outfielder Cody Ross, who was one of the few bright spots in the Red Sox 2012 season. His new team, the Diamondbacks, sit 3½ games behind the red-hot Dodgers in what used to be a tight NL West race. After losing four of their last five games and dropping to 55-53, the Diamondbacks slipped from a half-game back and haven’t held the division lead since July 21 after spending more than two months in first place.
It’s been a little while since the Diamondbacks have visited Fenway Park, last coming to Boston in 2010, when the Red Sox swept them in a three-game series. The Sox have taken five straight against Arizona and are 7-5 all-time against them.
“We know we’ll have a tough series,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. “I’ve played quite a few games at Fenway Park myself. It’s kind of exciting, but at the same time, you’ve got to be able to dig in and have staying power. The games can be pretty exhausting.”
Here are the matchups for the three-game weekend set.
Friday: Jon Lester (10-6, 4.27) vs. Randall Delgado (3-3, 2.85)
Saturday: Jake Peavy (8-4, 4.28) vs. Patrick Corbin (12-2, 2.24)
Sunday: Felix Doubront (7-5, 3.77) vs. Brandon McCarthy (2-4, 5.00)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• The Red Sox have had something special going late in games this season. They lead the majors with 11 walkoff wins, including the two in a row against the Mariners. Though Red Sox hitters are batting only .195 in extra innings and .262 in the ninth inning, they’ve drawn a total of 59 walks, good for an OBP of .360 in the ninth and .311 in extras. But it’s the Red Sox bullpen that deserves a huge chunk of the credit when it comes to the club’s ability to create late-inning magic. Red Sox pitchers have posted a 2.98 ERA in the ninth inning while allowing just seven runs in 25 2/3 extra innings. It was a combination of Koji Uehara, Matt Thornton, Craig Breslow and Drake Britton to keep the Sox in the game on Wednesday, while Steven Wright, just called up from Triple-A, threw three scoreless innings to make the team’s ninth-inning heroics possible.
|Closing Time: Red Sox mount comeback of season, score six in ninth to top Mariners||08.01.13 at 10:32 pm ET|
In a season of comebacks, this might have topped them all.
Down five runs in the ninth inning with Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen on the mound, the Red Sox stormed back to tie the game on a Jonny Gomes RBI single. Then, with one out and the bases loaded, Daniel Nava teed off on a first-pitch fastball from Yoervis Medina to hand the Sox an improbable 8-7 win on Thursday night.
The Sox started the comeback against Wilhelmsen, who left after surrendering a pair of hits and walks while not retiring a batter. The righty proceeded to give way to Oliver Perez, who allowed back-to-back singles to Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia to close the game to within a run.
Following Perez’s punchout of Ortiz, Medina came on to face Gomes, who lined a 3-2 fastball into center field to score Pedroia. After the game-tying hit, Medina walked Stephen Drew to load the bases with just the one out.
That’s when Nava launched a rocket over the head of center fielder Michael Saunders on a first-pitch fastball, clanging it off the base of the wall in center for the Sox’ second walkoff win in as many nights.
It figured to be an uphill battle for the Red Sox before a pitch was thrown, but thanks to Henry Blanco it became Mount Everest in a hurry. With Seattle starter Felix Hernandez once again dominating, the Mariners’ light-hitting catcher’s fifth-inning grand slam helped put the Sox in a substantial 7-2 hole. But, the Sox wiped out the deficit to close out the series.
The win gave the Red Sox sole possession of first place, giving them a full game lead over idle Rays.
Earlier in the game it didn’t look good for the Sox, with Dempster allowing five or more runs for the third time in his last four starts. This time Seattle’s five-run fifth helped chase Dempster, who finished giving up seven runs on nine hits, striking out six and walking five.
Conversely, Hernandez continued to stake his claim to the title of baseball’s hottest pitcher, allowing one run over seven innings. Entering Thursday night’s game, the rigthy hadn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his previous six starts, totaling a 1.43 ERA during the stretch.
Here is what right (and wrong) for the Red Sox:
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Gomes, who did not enter the game until the eighth inning when he walked as a pinch-hitter for Mike Carp, proved a game-changer in the game’s final inning. He made a pair of huge defensive plays, first pairing with Brock Holt to execute the defensive play of the night, with the left fielder taking a line drive off the left-field wall from Saunders and immediately firing it into third. The one-hop toss was scooped up by Holt, who tagged out Kendrys Morales. Gomes (who, of course, had a game-saving play with a diving catch that turned into an unassisted double play in the top of the 15th inning on Wednesday) proceeded to make a spectacular catch — in which he barreled into the metal scoreboard — to end the inning. He then delivered the game-tying single up the middle in the ninth. Read the rest of this entry »
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