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Power Rankings: Rating potential Red Sox postseason opponents 09.17.13 at 9:48 am ET
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“We still have work to do.”

This has become Red Sox manager John Farrell’s mantra leading into the final 11 games. But the reality is that the work to be done isn’t about the regular season, but rather what awaits come Oct. 4. That’s when the Sox will kick off their best-of-five American League Division Series against some yet-to-be-determined team.

So, with the reality of a playoff series looming, let’s take a look at which teams the Red Sox will most want to face, and which ones they’ll probably want to steer clear of:

Oakland Athletics 1. Athletics

The A’s have the second-best record in the American League, standing three games in back of the Red Sox. But the reason why they get the nod over the ultra-talented Tigers is for the simple reason that Bob Melvin‘s club is red hot. Sure, they got blown out by the Angels on Monday night, but since Aug. 26 they are 16-5 and had won eight of nine games before their latest loss.

Record vs. Red Sox: 3-3

Why Red Sox won’t want to play them: During the A’s recent run (starting on Aug. 26), they have three pitchers with ERAs under 2.00 — Bartolo Colon (4 starts, 1.13 ERA), Sonny Gray (3 starts, 1.83 ERA) and Dan Straily (4 starts, 1.90 ERA). Colon, in particular, has given the Sox trouble, allowing two runs in 13 2/3 innings this season. The A’s also possess the same kind of opportunistic success that has characterized the Red Sox, carrying a .342 batting average with runners in scoring position over the last 21 games.

Why Red Sox will want to play them: Two of the A’s hottest pitchers (Gray, Straily) are, for all intents and purposes, rookies. They haven’t faced a Red Sox lineup that has fared quite well against newbie hurlers this season. Also, during Oakland’s hot stretch, its bullpen hasn’t exactly been lights out, carrying a 4.81 ERA in that span, with hitters managing a .314 batting average against closer Grant Balfour in the last three weeks of games.

Detroit Tigers2. Tigers

Considered by many as the American League’s most talented team from top to bottom, the American League Central-leading Tigers are one game behind Oakland and four games in back of the Sox. After treading water in recent weeks, Detroit has managed to find something of a groove lately, winning five of their last six games (albeit with three of the wins coming against the Mariners and the White Sox). Read the rest of this entry »

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For Shane Victorino, visit to Cleveland represents what could have been 04.16.13 at 3:30 pm ET
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Shane Victorino

Shane Victorino was coming off the worst season of his career. But when he reached free agency, it didn’t feel like it. The 32-year-old encountered considerable interest in multi-year deals from multiple teams, with two positioning themselves as his most aggressive suitors.

He ended up signing, of course, with the Red Sox, who gave him a three-year, $39 million deal. However, he only landed in Boston after giving considerable thought to the possibility of joining up with the Indians, who had a four-year, $43 million deal on the table.

Cleveland made a strong pitch to Victorino, suggesting that he was part of an offseason strategy that would yield an aggressive approach to the free agent market. New Indians manager Terry Francona was part of the pitch.

“I didn’t know who was going to come calling [in free agency], but I took every offer seriously, took everything in perspective. In the end, I chose [Boston], but no hard feelings against Cleveland,” Victorino said on Monday. “You look at the moves [the Indians] made after I signed here, throughout the offseason, that made their team better — [Michael] Bourn, [Nick] Swisher. Having Terry as their manager now, a guy that has managed World Series teams… Obviously, there was definitely hopes of being a winning team there and turning things around, so there was some definite interest. There was no hard feelings anywhere. I just thought Boston might be a better fit for me.”

Victorino talked to Francona early in the free agent process. Immediately, the outfielder could understand the appeal of playing for the former Red Sox skipper. Read the rest of this entry »

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It appears Daisuke Matsuzaka will begin season in minor leagues 03.18.13 at 6:02 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka likely will have to continue his comeback in the minors. (AP)

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s career hit another bump in the road Monday.

The former Red Sox pitcher was told by former Red Sox manager Terry Francona that he would not be making the Indians’ major league team. The Indians manager also informed veteran Matt Capps he also wouldn’t be breaking camp with the big league team.

Both Matsuzaka and Capps were with the Indians on minor league deals.

“Just didn’t want to create any unrealistic expectations, thought it was respectful to tell them,” Francona told reporters.

Matsuzaka only pitched eight innings in spring training, totaling a 2.25 ERA while allowing 10 hits. He was recently battling leg cramps.

There is a strong possibility the right-hander will remain in the Cleveland organization, possibly pitching for Triple-A Columbus.

“Having Tito here is big,” Matsuzaka told reporters through translator Jeff Cutler. “In speaking with Tito and [Cleveland general manager] Chris [Antonetti] this morning, they told me that they want me on this club and they see me on this club. Having heard that directly from them, definitely made me feel comfortable staying here.”

Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber are contending for the Indians’ fifth starter spot.

If Matsuzaka had made the major league roster, the 32-year-old would have made $1.5 million with the chance to bump that up to $4 million with incentives.

“This is not the end,” he told reporters. “This is definitely not the end.”

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Reports: Daisuke Matsuzaka signs minor league deal with Indians 02.10.13 at 2:21 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka agreed to a minor league deal with the Indians. (AP)

According to multiple reports (first from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com), former Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka agreed to a minor league contract with the Indians. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the right-hander will earn a base salary of $1.5 million if he makes the big league team, while Heyman reports that Matsuzaka can make as much as $4 million based on various contract incentives.

Matsuzaka, a free-agent this winter for the first time in his career after concluding a six-year, $52 million deal with the Red Sox, struggled in 2012 as he returned from Tommy John surgery in June. He went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts that spanned just 45 2/3 innings, with his ERA representing the highest ever by a Red Sox starter who made at least 10 starts in a season. Still, at times, he showed an ability to get swings and misses and his control was better than had been at any point since his rookie year of 2007, as he punched out 8.1 batters per nine innings (his best rate since 2009) while walking 3.9 per nine. In six big league seasons, the right-hander went 50-37 with a 4.52 ERA in 117 games.

With the Indians, Matsuzaka will be reunited with his former manager with the Red Sox, Terry Francona.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Indians matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Chris Seddon 08.10.12 at 9:22 am ET
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Clay Buchholz

At a quick glance, Clay Buchholz’s 4.48 ERA is alarming. It’s the righty’s highest ERA since 2008 – when he logged just 15 starts – and although it’s the best one on the starting rotation this season, it’s not saying much next to the likes of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, both of whom are having career-worst seasons.

But if you erase his cumulative 2012 ERA from your evaluation of Buchholz, you’ll likely come out much more satisfied, especially looking at his performances throughout his last four starts. During that span, Buchholz has suddenly become the Red Sox’ most reliable starter, going 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 14 strikeouts. With some run and bullpen support, Buchholz easily could have earned wins in each of those starts.

Such was the case in his last outing against the Twins on Saturday, when he may have put together his best performance of this four-game run. In that one, he finished with seven innings, giving up seven hits, one run – which was unearned – with 16 ground ball outs as he left the game with a 2-1 lead and in line for the victory.

However, the bullpen blew it for Buchholz. Andrew Miller began the eighth by loading the bases before Alfredo Aceves relieved him and gave up a sacrifice fly that tied the game. Then, in the ninth, after the Sox regained the lead, Aceves yielded four runs to the Twins, including Joe Mauer’s game-winning three-run home run as the Twins ran away with a 6-4 victory..

On Friday night, Buchholz will try to get back in the win column when the Sox play the Indians in the second game of their road trip. In four career starts against Cleveland, Buchholz is 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA. He last faced the Indians on May 11, when he went 6 1/3 innings and gave up four runs – three earned – on eight hits en route to a 7-5 victory.

On the other side, Chris Seddon will take the hill for the Indians, aiming to bounce back after a difficult first start of the season on Aug. 5. Against the Tigers, Seddon pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on seven hits as the Indians lost, 10-8.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Indians matchups: Erik Bedard vs. Justin Masterson 08.03.11 at 2:33 pm ET
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Erik Bedard

The Red Sox and Indians will play their season series finale Thursday night in a pitching matchup between a former Red Sox hurler and a brand new Boston trade acquisition. Erik Bedard will make his Red Sox debut in Fenway Park, a venue that hasn’t treated him well in the past. As for Masterson, he returns to Boston for just the second time since being traded for Victor Martinez in 2009.

Bedard (4-7, 3.45 ERA) will be making just his second start since June after missing most of last month with a knee sprain. The 32-year-old left Seattle on a bad note, recording just four outs in his last start with the Mariners. He gave up five runs on three hits and walked four in an 8-0 loss to the Rays.

Despite that lackluster performance, Bedard has posted a solid ERA after a rocky start to the season. He lost his first four starts of the year to go along with a 7.71 ERA, but recovered well with a 1.39 ERA in May, and a 2.25 ERA in June. However, because the Mariners rank 30th in batting average, on-base percentage and runs scored, he has very few wins to show for it.

It’s no secret Bedard has struggled as a visitor in Fenway Park. He has a 6.99 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and allowed the Red Sox to hit .270 in six career starts. Of course, he no longer has to face the top-ranked offense in the majors, and will face an Indians lineup that ranks 15th in runs scored and 22nd in batting average.

Back on April 10, Bedard lasted only four innings against the Indians while giving up six runs on 10 hits, including two homers. In 45 combined plate appearances, Cleveland’s lineup has hit .324 off Bedard with two home runs and four RBIs. Travis Hafner is 4-for-14 in his team-high 19 matchups, including five walks and seven strikeouts. Asdrubal Cabrera is 3-for-6 in eight plate appearances with a home run and two RBIs.

Masterson (8-7, 2.56 ERA) has developed into one of the Indians’ top starters, leading the pitching staff in ERA and strikeouts (112). The right-hander won his first five starts of the season but has gone 3-7 since, despite keeping his ERA below 3.20 throughout the year. In Masterson’s last six losses, the Indians scored just four total runs (0.67 runs per game).

The 26-year-old is coming off one of the best months of his career, going 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in seven July starts. In 45 2/3 innings, Masterson surrendered 32 hits and eight earned runs while striking out 37 hitters and walking seven. He’s only been taken deep four times this season, and just once since May 30. In his last outing, Masterson pitched through the eighth inning, allowing two runs on nine hits in a 5-2 win over the Royals. Back on May 23, Masterson held the Red Sox to two runs over seven 2/3 innings to lead the Indians to a 3-2 victory.

The Red Sox have compiled 82 plate appearances against Masterson, with Carl Crawford leading the way from his days in Tampa Bay. In 16 career plate appearances, Crawford is hitting .385 with a double, two home runs and four RBIs. Marco Scutaro, on the other hand, has struggled in 13 matchups, managing just one hit and one walk. Newly acquired Mike Aviles has hit .333 in 12 plate appearances vs. Masterson, including an RBI double and three strikeouts.

Indians vs. Bedard

Travis Hafner (19 plate appearances): .286 BA/.474 OBP/.286 SLG, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts

Asdrubal Cabrera (8): 3-for-6, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jack Hannahan (5): 3-for-5, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Michael Brantley (3): 1-for-3, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Austin Kearns (3): 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Carlos Santana (3): 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Matt LaPorta (2): 0-for-2, 1 strikeout

Lou Marson (2): 1-for-1, 1 double, 1 walk

Red Sox vs. Masterson

Carl Crawford (16 plate appearances): .385 BA/.438 OBP/.923 SLG, 2 home runs, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (13): .083/.154/.083, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Aviles (12): .333/.333/.417, 1 double, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (9): 2-for-9, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (8): 1-for-7, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jacoby Ellsbury (7): 0-for-6

Kevin Youkilis (6): 0-for-3, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5): 1-for-5, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Adrian Gonzalez (3): 0-for-2, 1 walk

Josh Reddick (3): 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Indians matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Carlos Carrasco at 1:21 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield

The Red Sox and Indians will square off for the third game of a four-game series at Fenway Park Wednesday night, as Boston looks to build its lead in the American League East before a highly anticipated weekend set with the Yankees. We’re several days into August, and no two pitchers are more excited to be rid of July than Wednesday’s starters, Tim Wakefield and Carlos Carrasco.

The Red Sox won four of the five games Wakefield (6-4, 5.06 ERA) started last month, but the veteran right-hander struggled to a 6.23 ERA in July, his worst monthly total of the season. In 30 1/3 innings, he gave up 25 runs, 42 hits, five homers and six walks while striking out 19.

Wakefield took a tough-luck loss in his last outing, tossing seven innings of three-run, three-hit ball against the White Sox on July 29. The 3-1 defeat may have been karmic retribution for his outing on July 24, when Wakefield gave up seven runs and 10 hits but got the win as Boston erupted for 12 runs against the Mariners. The knuckleballer had a better June ERA (5.01), but the Red Sox went just 2-3 in his five starts.

Although Wakefield has been in the league since 1992, he has limited experience against a relatively young Indians lineup. Still, he’s shut down the only two hitters he’s faced more than 10 times. Travis Hafner has just one hit in 18 plate appearances and has struck out six times. Asdrubal Cabrera is 2-for-12 with two RBIs and three strikeouts. Matt LaPorta has had the most success against Wakefield. In five plate appearances, he’s 2-for-4 with a home run.

Carrasco (8-9, 4.67 ERA) will also be happy to put July in his rearview mirror, as he had one of the worst months in the major leagues. In five starts, the right-hander went 0-5 with a 9.13 ERA, capped off by a three-inning, seven-run outing against the Royals last Friday. During that game, Carrasco threw at the head of Billy Butler and was suspended for six games. He appealed the decision, allowing him to make the start Wednesday.

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