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Red Sox-Rays series preview 06.10.13 at 4:20 pm ET
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The Red Sox will spend a lot of time on the road in the coming weeks, kicking off a stretch of 11 of 14 games being played outside of Fenway Park. Their first stop will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., making their second visit to Tropicana Field to take on the Rays.

Former Red Sox first baseman James Loney is having a strong season for the Rays. (AP)

For the most part, the Red Sox enjoyed their last visit to the Trop, taking two of three from Tampa Bay back in mid-May. So far this year, the Red Sox have enjoyed a lot of success against the Rays, owning a commanding 5-1 lead in the season series against their divisional rivals.

The month of June has been kind to the Red Sox thus far; the Sox are 6-2 in their last eight games, coming off a 4-2 homestand in which they won series against the Angels and the Rangers. The Sox now sit alone at the top of the AL East, a game and a half ahead of the Yankees, and own the best record in the American League at 39-25. For the Red Sox, it seems like things are clicking on all cylinders.

“This is a great clubhouse, a great group of guys. It starts with the top and works its way down,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said after Boston’s 10-5 win over Los Angeles on Sunday. “Everybody knows their role and everybody knows what approach to take, which makes things easier. We’ve got a good group of veterans with a good group of young guys. It’s a lot of fun, especially being in first place, but we know we have to focus on tomorrow.”

The Rays sit four games out of first place, occupying fourth place in the AL East standings at 34-28. After a loss to Baltimore on Sunday, the Rays slipped to .500 in the month of June with a 4-4 record after a six-game win streak to conclude May.

The usually dominant Rays pitching staff has been somewhat of a disappointment so far this season, ranking in the bottom third of the majors when it comes to ERA and runs allowed. The loss of ace David Price hasn’t helped matters; the reigning AL Cy Young award winner has been sidelined since his last start against Boston, back on May 15. Matt Moore, who began the year with an 8-0 record, has gone from being a sure thing when on the mound to a big question mark after he was hit hard in his second outing in a row, losing his last two decisions. He gave up nine runs on 12 hits to the Orioles, and with the loss, the Rays dropped to fourth place while the Orioles moved into sole possession of third.

“It seemed like when I was getting ahead, I just wasn’t making a pitch,” Moore said. I would say that I feel like I got shelled to death more so than putting runners on when they didn’t have to do much.”

The Rays will turn to their most consistent starter, Alex Cobb, in the first game of the series. Here are the rest of the pitching matchups for the three-game set:

Monday: John Lackey (3-5, 2.79) vs. Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.39)
Tuesday: Jon Lester (6-2, 3.60) vs. Roberto Hernandez (3-6, 5.03)
Wednesday: TBD vs. Chris Archer (1-1, 4.91)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

• With two home runs on Sunday, Saltalamacchia made people take notice of the hot streak he’s been on as of late. The catcher has put up a .273/.341/.515 line through 49 games on the season, belting eight home runs and 16 doubles. Through his last eight games, Saltalamacchia is hitting .367/.387/.833 with 10 RBIs and eight extra-base hits. Although Saltalamacchia’s high batting average on balls in play (.385) and increased strikeout rate (33.5 percent this year as compared to 31 percent in 2012 and a 29.8 percent career mark) suggest that he may not be able to sustain this type of production, he has been drawing more walks and getting on base more consistently than in years past.

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Read More: Alex Cobb, James Loney, jose iglesias, mike carp
Red Sox-Rays series preview 05.14.13 at 12:06 pm ET
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Boston native Alex Cobb, scheduled to pitch for the Rays in Thursday's series finale against the Red Sox, struck out 13 Padres in just 4 2/3 innings in his last start. (AP)

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.

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Read More: Alex Cobb, daniel nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, James Loney
Hot Stove: James Loney leaves Red Sox for Rays 12.03.12 at 10:44 am ET
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The James Loney era in Boston proved brief. The 28-year-old first baseman, whom the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers as part of the August blockbuster deal between the two teams, reportedly agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal. Loney hit .230/.264/.310/.574 in 30 games with the Sox, and .249/.293/.336/.630 overall in 144 games between the Dodgers and Sox.

Still, Loney is a premium defensive first baseman (something on which the Rays place a premium) whose career offensive numbers (.282/.339/.419/.758) were suppressed somewhat by the fact that he played in a ballpark (Dodgers Stadium) that represents one of the least favorable hitting environments in the majors. The Rays will hope that Loney, once considered a top first-base prospect, might return at least to career norms, though with the hope that he does have some upside given that, in his first two years in the majors in 2006-07, the 2002 first-rounder hit .321/.372/.543/.915.

Read More: 2012 Hot Stove, James Loney,
James Loney: ‘I know they’re always trying to build a championship team here’ 08.26.12 at 2:58 pm ET
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James Loney knows full well what he’s getting into.

The 28-year-old veteran first baseman arrived in Boston Sunday as the only major league-ready player to come from the Dodgers in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. He knows what kind of year it’s been in Boston.

“I knew a bunch of those guys that got traded,” Loney said in the Sunday press conference before going out and making his Red Sox debut at first base. “I know a bunch of guys here still but I know they’re always trying to build a championship team here. I know it didn’t work out and this year I guess there were some things going on.”

He’s heard all about playing in the intense baseball market of Boston from the outside. Now, he gets to experience it first hand.

“I’ve heard that,” Loney said. “You hear that. I think a lot of big-market, big city teams are like that. You don’t think about it when you’re out there. You just go out and play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia
Carl Crawford makes it rain money in Anaheim 04.22.11 at 9:27 am ET
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Times continue to get tough for Carl Crawford.

The Red Sox did beat the Angels, 4-2, Thursday night, and Crawford did come away with two walks and a stolen base. But that didn’t lift the cloud that continues to hover over the outfielder, who went without a hit for the 10th time in his 17 games played, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Another reminder regarding Crawford’s struggles came when he put down a sacrifice bunt to get to Jason Varitek with one out and runners on first and second in a scoreless game in the sixth.

The bunt actually turned into a well-executed play for the Red Sox, with Jacoby Ellsbury ultimately driving in the game’s first run, but it also offered a dose of reality considering Varitek is hitting .043 and you’re sacrificing with the player who had been perceived as one of the team’s best run-producers at the start of the season, residing in the lineup’s No. 3 spot.

Another picture that told the story of the pressures surrounding Crawford was that of the money thrown on the field when the left fielder stepped into the on-deck circle. (Hat tip to Larry Brown Sports.) You might remember the Angels were the ones who finished second in the Crawford sweepstakes this past offseason, a notion that evidently even the laid-back Southern Californians aren’t about to forget.

Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter, for one, holds no hard feelings.

“Everybody had him coming here,” Hunter told the Boston Herald. “I had him coming here … He made his choice. But I’m his homeboy first.”

Hunter later added, “That was his business. His business plan didn’t work out for me. He made his decision and I respect that. I was a free agent once. I’m a fellow baseball player. I know what it’s like. I’m not upset at all. I love him.

“I was in Fort Myers with Boston for years. I respect that organization like crazy. Those guys coming up with $142 (million), they really wanted him. I tip my cap.”

Before the game, Crawford told CBSSports.com that, in his mind, one solution to his problem is not listening to the wave of advice that has come his way since the struggles began.

“Right now the best advice is no advice,” Crawford said. “At this point, everybody seems to be a hitting coach. At this point, I’m just shutting everybody out.”

Of 196 qualifying players, Crawford has the lowest OPS (.371), just above the Yankees’ Brett Gardner (.388), who did beat out Crawford for lowest batting average (.128 to .143). The Dodgers’ James Loney possesses the worst on-base percentage (.190), with Gardner and the Red Sox’ outfielder trailing just behind at .196 and .200, respectively.

Read More: Brett Gardner, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, James Loney
Hot Stove roundup, 2 p.m.: Pat Gillick elected to HOF, Marvin Miller, George Steinbrenner miss 12.06.10 at 2:14 pm ET
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Longtime general manager Pat Gillick was elected to the Hall of Fame on Monday by the Veterans Committee, while former players’ association boss Marvin Miller missed election by one vote. Dave Concepcion, who starred at shortstop for the Reds in the 1970s, finished third in the balloting, while the late George Steinbrenner was among the candidates who received fewer than eight votes.

Gillick, who served as GM of the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies over 27 seasons, guided his teams to three World Series titles: the Jays in 1992 and ’93, and the Phillies in 2008.

“It all goes back to the players they have on the field,” Gillick, 73, said in a news conference at the winter meetings in Orlando. “I could stand in the middle of the field and 4 million people aren’t going to show up.”

Miller, now 93, was disappointed to fall short for the fifth time. “Many years ago those who control the Hall decided to rewrite history instead of recording it,” he said in a statement. “The aim was to eradicate the history of the tremendous impact of the players’ union on the progress and development of the game as a competitive sport, as entertainment, and as an industry.”

Quick hits:

  • A consolation prize for teams that missed out on the Adrian Gonzalez trade sweepstakes appears to have emerged. According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, Dodgers first baseman James Loney is available for interested teams. The Cubs and Nationals, who have both expressed interest in Carlos Pena, are potential buyers for Loney.
  • Speaking of Gonzalez, the figures keep on changing. Rosenthal writes the deal between the Sox and Gonzalezwill be no more” than $154 million over seven years, good for $22 million a year.
  • The Red Sox, among others, are interested in left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes. The Red Sox previously decided to non-tender Hideki Okajima and are hoping to add a setup man to fill the gap. Fuentes posted a solid 2.81 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 48 innings this past season for the Angels and Twins.
  • Adrian Beltre is asking for a five year, $70 million deal, according to Buster Olney.
  • Seven teams have reportedly “checked in” on free agent infielder Bill Hall, who played with the Red Sox last year. The Yankees are part of this list.
  • Peter Gammons reports that catcher A.J. Pierzynski was “a minute away” from signing with the Dodgers when White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf stepped in. As was reported earlier, Pierzynski recently re-signed with the White Sox.
Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, Hot Stove, James Loney
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