|Red Sox-Twins series preview||05.17.13 at 12:34 pm ET|
The Red Sox head to Minnesota to take on the Twins for the second time this month (and the final time this season) for a three-game weekend set starting on Friday night. The second-place Red Sox look to continue to make up ground in the AL East, starting the day one game behind the 25-16 Yankees.
May hasn’t been kind to the Red Sox, who have lost nine of their 15 games this month. But the Sox managed to take their last series, against Tampa Bay, thanks to some late-inning heroics Thursday from third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who hit a bases-loaded double in the ninth inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory. The Red Sox had dropped their previous three series prior to taking two of the three games from the Rays.
The Twins may be in fourth place in the American League Central, but they are only one game under .500 and three games behind the first-place Tigers and Indians. The club is an even 7-7 in May, dropping two of three to the last-place White Sox in their last series. The team’s decent start is especially surprising given the performance of its starting rotation. The Twins starters have the second-highest ERA in the majors at 5.30, second (but more than a point lower) than the Astros.
The Sox and Twins met earlier this month at Fenway. The Twins outscored Boston 31-18 in the four-game set and won three of the games. The Twins have had their way with the Red Sox on Boston’s home turf, sweeping their only series there in 2012, but the Sox fared well in Minnesota in 2012, sweeping a three-game series last April.
Friday: Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.69) vs. Vance Worley (1-4, 7.15)
Saturday: Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.75) vs. Scott Diamond (3-3, 4.08)
Sunday: John Lackey (1-4, 4.05) vs. Pedro Hernandez (2-0, 5.79)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• Even though he’s batting .211 on the season and his OBP isn’t much higher, Middlebrooks seems to be heating up as of last. His go-ahead three-run double in the ninth inning off of Rays closer Fernando Rodney on Thursday night was his first hit in the seventh inning of a game or later, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. That double was his seventh extra-base hit in as many games, and he hit .296 over that span.
• If there’s one Red Sox hitter who has been consistently good at the plate this season, it’s Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has seven multi-hit games this month. The second baseman is leading the team in batting average (.340), OBP (.428), walks (24) and runs scored (25).
Read the rest of this entry »
|Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia explain what went wrong on costly pop-up||05.15.13 at 12:14 am ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It had already been a tough inning for John Lackey. The Red Sox starting pitcher, who carried a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning, had seen that advantage get flushed as an opportunistic Rays team rallied on the strength of four hits — including a check-swing double down the left-field line by Luke Scott.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Lackey’s outing stood in considerable peril. It was 3-3, and a mislocated pitch to Matt Joyce could mean two or even three runs.
But after a first-pitch swing-and-miss changeup, Lackey put a pitch right where he wanted it — a fastball that got on Joyce’s hands. Joyce popped it up a mile (“I hit it on the barrel — I hit it really well, just I hit it really high”), long enough that back down on earth below, trouble started brewing.
The footwork of Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia as they crept towards the ball was hesitant, uncertain and in Napoli’s case, a bit faltering. Ultimately, when the ball settled, it did so just behind Napoli and bounced on the ground; Pedroia hollered for Napoli not to touch it, to see if it might roll foul. But it stayed just inside the line, coming to a halt on the dirt of the basepaths.
Two runs scored, with the Rays claiming a 5-3 lead that ultimate provided the final margin of victory. Ballgame.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” acknowledged Lackey. “I made a pitch, and I needed an out.”
Napoli took full responsibility for the miscue. He suggested that he didn’t lose the ball against the roof, and that instead, his problem was purely fundamental as opposed to visual. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Stephen Drew delivers walkoff victory for Red Sox||05.07.13 at 12:01 am ET|
Stephen Drew punctuated his best game with the Red Sox with a two-out, walkoff double in the bottom of the 11th inning that drove home catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia from second base to give the Sox a 6-5 victory. It was Drew’s fourth hit of the game, his 13th career game with four or more hits, and his third career walkoff hit (last on April 27, 2011).
Drew provided most of the Red Sox offense in helping the team to snap its three-game losing streak. He delivered a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning and then later adding a game-tying solo homer into the right field grandstand in the bottom of the seventh inning. He also added a one-out single in a tie game in the ninth. The homer pushed Drew’s average above .200 for the first time in his Red Sox career.
Since starting the year in a 2-for-23 rut, Drew — aside from a surprisingly high strikeout rate — has been more or less what the Sox hoped he might be when they signed him. He’s delivered steady, solid defense at short while offering on-base ability and some pop. In his last 14 games, Drew is now hitting .292/.364/.521 with a pair of homers.
“He’s been swinging the bat much better of late,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “A big night for him, a key hit, obviously to walk it off. The home run gets us another run closer earlier in the ballgame. The one thing we’ve talked to Stephen about is that over this past 10 days or so it’s almost like the end of spring training for him with the number of at-bats he’s starting to compile and you see his timing getting better and better. a solid night at the plate for him.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
|Series preview: Red Sox return to Toronto, resume AL East slate||04.30.13 at 1:26 pm ET|
The Red Sox will head north of the border for the second time already this year to open up a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays will come into Tuesday a startling 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox, who own the best record in baseball and are looking to set the new club record for wins in April after matching a previous franchise high in concluding a four-game sweep against the Astros. The Sox are coming off a 10-game homestand (their longest of the season) in which they went 7-3.
Many baseball experts picked the Toronto Blue Jays to take the AL East title, with some predicting they’d win the pennant, if not the World Series. But the Blue Jays have not gotten off to the kind of start they would have liked or anticipated, heading into the last game of April in the cellar of the division with a 9-17 record. Toronto is coming home after a 1-6 roadtrip, capped by a four-game sweep in New York at the hands of the Yankees. The Jays have won only one of their series so far this year, taking two from the Royals earlier in the month (the only time they’ve won back-to-back games).
To say the Jays have been disappointing thus far would be an understatement. The roster has been ravaged by injuries both minor and major, from soreness limiting starters like Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey to the loss of star shortstop Jose Reyes for three months due to a severely sprained ankle. But the biggest problem has been a general lack of performance. At the start of play on Monday, the Jays were as far from first place as the Marlins were in the NL East. The Astros were actually a half a game closer to the division lead than the Jays, trailing the AL West-leading Rangers by nine games.
It’s hard to pinpoint where Toronto’s biggest weaknesses have been. They’re in the bottom third of many offensive categories, including OPS, runs scored and batting average. Their pitching hasn’t been much better; the staff had the fourth highest ERA in the majors at the start of Monday’s games. With that being said, here are the matchups for the upcoming three-game series.
THE MATCHUPS Read the rest of this entry »
|Opinion: Can’t help but like this Red Sox team||04.17.13 at 8:32 am ET|
I like this Red Sox team.
Maybe that’s unpopular and maybe I’m shortchanging the powerful ugliness of the previous year-plus. Or maybe that’s an obvious point and I’m just overreacting to the 9-4 start. But I don’t care.
I like this team.
I like that the Sox removed the bad apples from the bunch. Yes, it was helpful that Magic Johnson’s Venture Capital Firm team was willing to pick up the tab for the necessary bloodletting. But credit Ben Cherington and his staff for finding the right guys to replace the lost talent.
And the right manager, too.
If nothing else, John Farrell (and Juan Nieves) seem to have the co-aces on the right track. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have a combined ERA of 0.88. Every time they take the mound, there is legitimate reason for confidence. The team has yet to lose one of their starts.
I like that the new guys have contributed to wins. Shane Victorino had a huge Opening Day and added a walk-off hit against Tampa. Mike Napoli added a walk-off two days later and put the series opener in Cleveland out of reach with his third double in as many at-bats. Ryan Dempster should have two wins already.
I like that the lineup has speed and OBP at the top, power in the middle, and a bottom third with promise. It’s well-balanced and multifaceted. It’s helped the Sox win with home runs one night, walks the next. One day it’s defense, the next day it’s aggressive baserunning. It should serve them well as the schedule throws its numerous challenges at them throughout the season.
I like that the bullpen is deep with a slew of different weapons.
All of those components make the team fun to watch and should lead to wins. But the reason to really like this team goes beyond that.
I like that this team likes itself. You can see it on the face of Jacoby Ellsbury, who finally is running wild on the field and smiling again in the clubhouse. It’s obvious when the players joyously tackled each other after their second walk-off win in three days. It’s apparent when they blast music before a game or support each other after a (so far rare) loss.
|Will Middlebrooks celebrates ‘three homers, two streakers and seven paper airplanes’||04.07.13 at 9:00 pm ET|
Sure, there were the three homers, something that he’d never before done as a professional. But the memories of going deep three times were only part of what made it such a memorable day for Will Middlebrooks in a 13-0 Red Sox blowout over the Blue Jays.
“It felt like a normal day. It ended up being a special day,” Middlebrooks said on the WEEI postgame show following his epic game. “Three homers, two streakers and about seven paper airplanes on the field. It was a crazy day all around.”
The three homers were self-explanatory — Middlebrooks blasted a first-pitch fastball straight down the right field line for a two-run homer against Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey in his first at-bat, unloaded on another Dickey fastball (on a 3-2 count) for a two-run homer to the second deck in left-center and then unloaded on a 3-1 fastball from reliever Dave Bush for another homer, just over the wall in left-center, for his third homer of the game.
For a moment, it appeared that the third baseman — who swatted 15 homers in 75 games last year, and became the first Red Sox since Dustin Pedroia in 2010 to go deep three times in a game — might have connected for a fourth longball, but his bid to left field against a Bush curveball died on the warning track.
“They must have turned the A/C off on me. They didn’t want me to get that one,” Middlebrooks said on the postgame show of the wind vectors inside Rogers Centre. “[The other Red Sox players said] the weight room was unlocked if I wanted to go in between innings.” Read the rest of this entry »
|How Dustin Pedroia helped J.A. Happ get back on the mound||04.06.13 at 2:17 pm ET|
TORONTO — Credit Dustin Pedroia for helping the Blue Jays get their starting pitcher on the mound Saturday afternoon.
J.A. Happ got the start for the hosts at Rogers Centre only after going through a lengthy comeback from surgery on the navicular bone in his right foot. The lefty last pitched Sept. 3, 2012, having to ultimately shut things down in order to under go a procedure to put two screws in his injured foot.
Early on in that recovery process, it was Pedroia who lent a helping hand.
The Red Sox’ second baseman, who underwent the same surgery as Happ, was in communication with the pitcher during Happ’s check-up with Dr. George Theodore in Boston in September.
“It just so happens I was getting a check-up in Boston and I talked to him a little bit then, his experiences through it,” Happ said. “He was great in terms of helping with a timeline. It’s a frustrating thing because there’s so much downtime and being off your feet, so he was a help in that way. Just letting me know it’s going to seem like a long time, but you have to bear through it and it’s going to eventually going to get better.
“He was saying it took him several months to get back up and running. It’s basically longer than you think it’s going to be. He said, ‘You need to give yourself that time in order to let it heal.’ It was nice to know because sometimes you want to rush thing. It’s nice to know if you take your time to do it the right way once, you won’t have to do it again.”
The 30-year-old Happ made the Blue Jays’ rotation after posting a 1.90 ERA in seven spring training appearances.
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