|Ryan Lavarnway: ‘This is what you dream about as a kid’||09.28.11 at 12:44 am ET|
BALTIMORE — Ryan Lavarnway had long since proven his credentials as a hitter. For three years as a Red Sox minor leaguer, the 24-year-old had demonstrated that he had the makings of a legitimate big league hitter, thanks to both a sound, disciplined plate approach and a compact swing that produced more consistent power than any other Sox minor leaguer.
Even so, there had been skepticism at times about his defense. He was viewed by some as wooden behind the plate — even though he’d worked hard for years to improve his behind-the-plate athleticism. There were questions about his ability to control the running game, even though he’d thrown out 37 percent of attempted base stealers while making just one throwing error in 2011, the top marks among Sox minor league catchers. And then there were the questions about whether he was up to the task of being a signal caller who could earn the trust of a pitching staff.
“It was rumored he wasn’t great defensively but he was a good hitter,” Sox catcher Luis Exposito, Lavarnway’s teammate last year in Double-A and this year in Triple-A, said before the game. “For me, he’s definitely, from what I’ve heard and seen, developed into a good catcher. He’s done the work he’s needed to do. He’s developed himself into this situation where he’s the guy tonight.”
And so he was. Lavarnway, who enjoyed a stint as the Sox DH at the end of August and also spent a few innings behind the plate in the late innings of some games, made his first big league start as a catcher on Tuesday night, at a time when both Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been injured. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Beckett helps Red Sox breathe easier after win over Rays||09.16.11 at 10:43 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game, Rays skipper Joe Maddon — a veteran of a 1995 Angels team that endured one of the biggest pennant race collapses in big league history — noted that when a team is feeling the weight of a meltdown, all it needs is for one or two players to lift the weight off the whole team.
Josh Beckett proved to be that player for the Red Sox Friday, giving Boston its first quality start in nine games while also giving the Red Sox a chance to collect a sorely needed 4-3 win over the hard-charging Rays. The win put the Sox back up by four games in the wild card race, and ensured that Boston will have no worse than a two-game pad in the standings when the Rays leave town.
Beckett shined in his first outing since spraining his ankle 10 games ago against the Blue Jays. The righthander allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits while striking out seven and walking just one over six innings. With the win, Jon Lester can approach Saturday’s start as a chance to stick a dagger in the Rays’ playoff hopes, rather than as a game that the Sox must approach with desperation.
Here’s a look at what else went right (and what went wrong) for the Red Sox on Friday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
|Jason Varitek proves he still the most trusted on the Red Sox||09.01.11 at 1:09 am ET|
Captain Jason Varitek is proving to be somewhat of an ageless wonder for the Red Sox. And certainly, he among the most trusted on the team. Just ask Josh Beckett, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or the manager Terry Francona.
He proved to be both ageless and trusted on Wednesday night as he came up with a key double on a hit-and-run play to tie the game after the Yankees had the momentum with a four-run sixth. His execution of that play in the bottom of the sixth with Josh Reddick at first base – called for by Francona – was a great example of what Varitek is all about.
Just get the job done.
“The hit-and-run [double], it’s perfect, it goes down the line, climbs up the wall, goes past the outfielder, and Red is running like crazy and that was a big play in the game,” Francona said. “Then the home run. We’ve gotten a lot of offense from our catching. It’s really been terrific. It’s come from two guys but still we’re getting the offense.”
Phil Hughes, after walking Reddick, was looking to get Varitek off-balance, not hard to do since the Red Sox catcher tends to fly open. Well, fly open he did, getting his front foot up and down before the late-breaking curveball even arrived at the plate.
But even though his timing was off, Varitek didn’t miss a beat – keeping his bat back while his legs and backside were already gone, and driving a double down the left field line and off the top of the sidewall, scoring Reddick. The pool cue shot knotted the game, 5-5.
“It’s just the other things, like today, it was a hit-and-run and trying to get a guy over,” said Varitek, who added a two-run homer in the eighth for insurance. “You’re trying to do the little things and I was able to accomplish both and one ball happens to go out of the park. We had a hit-and-run, it’s something we practice. Tito does a lot with me, and has over the years. It’s one of the first this year but it came at the right time.”
Varitek now has 10 home runs to go with his 32 RBIs and .240 average. At 39 years, 142 days, he became the oldest Red Sox player to homer since Ellis Burks at 39/210 on April 8, 2004. Varitek and Saltalamacchia also became the first pair of Red Sox catchers with double figures in homers since Bob Tillman (14) and Jim Pagliaroni (11) in 1962. Read the rest of this entry »
|Even on days he goes deep, it’s still all about ‘little things’ for Jason Varitek||08.27.11 at 7:37 pm ET|
He was there because he had clubbed a two-run home run, the only for his team that game, in the second inning of a 9-3 win over the Athletics. He was there because he went 2-for-4 total for the game, just the eighth multi-hit game of the season for him and the first one he had tallied since July 10, and drove in three of the team’s nine runs on the day. He was there for his offense. Emphasis first on the ‘offense,’ second on the ‘his.’
See, the seat in the press conference room usually isn’t designated for guys who have been squatting for nine innings. It’s there for the manager to give his pre- and post-game thoughts and for that night’s starting pitcher to break down his latest outing.
However on Saturday with the weather causing the Red Sox to quickly prepare for the second game of a doubleheader, the team decided to bring Varitek to the press instead of the other way around.
So how did Varitek handle his more stately press accommodations with all the media cameras and recorders in Fenway Park pointed his way?
He chose to deflect the attention.
The man who bears the C on his jersey said no more than three sentences about his home run ‘ the big event that caused him to be the center of attention in the first place ‘ even though it was his ninth home run of the season, a solid number for a player considered to be a second catcher on his team’s roster. They were as follows.
‘I hit it pretty good. The kind of balls that are hit in that direction tail off and head left toward the corner. I hit it good.”
When asked about his personal goals and if his .234 average, nine homers and 26 RBI, all of which would represent his best numbers since being relegated to essentially backup status in 2010, met those goals, Varitek would have none of that talk.
‘I have team goals, I always have,’ he said. ‘What happens from there, there’s so many elements in the game that you’re trying to do. I try not to spend too much time worrying about that stuff.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone appears to be in preparation mode for the oncoming Hurricane Irene, including the Red Sox.
Boston was scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday against the A’s, but with Irene making its way up the eastern seaboard and the rain actually arriving by the fifth inning, the Red Sox decided it’d be best to score enough runs for both games, in case the second was canceled due to the inclement weather even though said contest is believed to begin shortly after Game 1’s conclusion.
As such, the Sox piled on the runs like East Coasters piled on plywood at their local hardware stores Saturday in a 9-3 rout of the A’s in Game 1 of the scheduled doubleheader. Every Red Sox starter factored in the offense somehow as each of the starting nine had either a hit, run scored or RBI.
Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester also did his job, allowing just two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks over six innings while striking out four. The southpaw’s record improved to 14-6 on the season with the victory while his ERA dropped to 3.09, the lowest its been since early May.
Lester’s outing was cut short after just 87 pitches due to a 45-minute rain delay following the end of the sixth inning. A second rain delay after the seventh inning lasted two hours and 15 minutes. In total from first pitch to last pitch, the game lasted six hours and six minutes, although it goes in the books as lasting three hours and six minutes without the delays.
With the win, the Red Sox move 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, whose game with the Orioles in Baltimore was postponed.
Here’s what else went right (and a few tidbits that went wrong) in the Sox win:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-The Sox were able to chase Oakland starter Guillermo Moscoso after just four innings as the A’s righty had his worst outing as a starter this season. His nine hits allowed and seven earned runs allowed either tied or broke season-highs while he failed to notch a strikeout for just the second time as major-league starter.
-With Adrian Gonzalez‘s lead-off double in the third, the Red Sox first baseman broke a personal single-season record for hits at 183. (He ended with 184 after a single in the sixth.) His previous high was 182, which he achieved in 2007 while with the Padres. He continues to lead the majors in that category ‘ the Rangers’ Michael Young was the next closest entering Saturday with 177 ‘ after never finishing higher than seventh in the National League in hits during his five-year stay in San Diego. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jerry Remy on D&C: Erik Bedard ‘will be a huge addition’||08.10.11 at 10:42 am ET|
NESN color commentator Jerry Remy checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show and guest hosts Dale Arnold and Rob Bradford Wednesday morning to discuss Erik Bedard‘s start in the Red Sox‘ win Tuesday night, the catching situation come playoff time and other Red Sox news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Making his second start with the Red Sox, Bedard went five innings, giving up two runs on three hits. All of the runs came in the first inning when Bedard walked four batters, including one with the bases loaded as he faced a tight strike zone from umpire Tim McClelland.
“Maybe had he had a few more starts under his belt, his control would have been a little bit sharper than it was, but the fact is I thought he got squeezed quite a bit in the first inning,” Remy said. “You don’t see a guy like Bedard walk four guys in an inning, that’s not him. Most guys would crumble after an inning like that, because they aren’t getting calls, they’re all ticked off. ‘¦ A veteran guy can get through that, and he obviously did that last night.”
Remy said that Bedard has done well so far in Boston, and he expects him to be a “huge” addition to the team.
“So far, so good,” Remy said. “He is fine around the clubhouse. He may be one of these guys that is not comfortable around the media, and we’ve seen that before. Sometimes when you meet them one-on-one they are totally different than they appear in front of the media. He’s been fine. He is still getting to know his teammates, he hasn’t been here a long time. The starting rotation, they have a very close bond together, so they welcome in a member of the new family.
“As far as pitching-wise, I think he will be a huge addition to this team, I really do. I like what I have seen in the first couple of starts from him. It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but it’s been good and it will get better as long as he stays healthy.”
|Closing Time: Darnell McDonald, Jason Varitek keep things right for Red Sox vs. lefties||08.09.11 at 11:30 pm ET|
It was a backwards sort of night for the Red Sox offense. The team reached base more times through walks (8) than with hits (6). Yet for much of the night, the Sox could not take advantage of Minnesota’s command struggles, in part because the top seven hitters in the lineup were a combined 3-for-21.
Yet the Sox were nonetheless propelled to a 4-3 victory over the Twins by an unlikely duo that did the entirety of the damage against Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano. Darnell McDonald blasted a two-run homer as part of a 2-for-3 night, while Jason Varitek walked in front of one of McDonald’s homer and later delivered a run-scoring single of his own.
Their performances helped to improve the Sox — a team that was expected to struggle against southpaws because of its left-leaning lineup — to 27-12 this year in games started by an opposing left-hander.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— After a disastrous first inning (37 pitches of which 21 were balls for four walks and two runs) that was reminiscent of his poor first start back from the DL on July 29 (1 1/3 innings, 6 walks, 6 runs), Erik Bedard settled into a dominant groove over the remainder of his outing.
The left-hander, in his second start with the Sox, recovered to deliver four shutout innings in which he permitted two hits and didn’t walk another batter. He required just 53 pitches (35 strikes) over those four frames. On the night, aside from his first inning command issues, Bedard was strong, getting swings and misses on his 91-93 mph fastball, changeup and curveball. He was in position to earn the win after throwing 90 pitches in five innings before the bullpen gave up the lead.
— Darnell McDonald blasted a homer as part of a 2-for-3 day against Twins starter Francisco Liriano. Since July 1, McDonald has asserted himself as a highly productive option against left-handed pitchers. During that time, he’s hitting .278 with a .409 OBP, .611 slugging mark, 1.020 OPS and three homers in 44 plate appearances against southpaws.
— For the 13th time this season (second most in the majors), the Red Sox drew seven or more walks. They are now 12-1 in such contests.
|Meet Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Red Sox’ latest speed demon||08.03.11 at 1:05 am ET|
Before Tuesday night, the only occasion Jarrod Saltalamacchia was able to call himself a major league pinch-runner was on June 20, 2008, when the catcher subbed in for an injured Gerald Laird in the fourth inning of what turned into a 14-inning loss for the Rangers against the Nationals.
His second go-round was a bit more dramatic.
The end result of Saltalamacchia’s pinch-running foray in the Red Sox‘ 3-2 win over the Indians was the catcher diving head-first toward home plate, just beating the tag from Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana.
The race home from second base allowed for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s first career walk-off hit ‘ a single to center — and allowed for Saltalmacchia to remind some of his running prowess.
‘Obviously I was checking the outfield, seeing what depth they were at and they were basically playing normal depth so I knew on a line-drive I had to make it got through but at the same I’ve got to get going and score,’ he said. ‘[Third base coach Tim Bogar] obviously never held me up and just kept going, and, like I said, my speed just took over.”
Asked if this was his first pinch-running opportunity, Saltalamacchia forgot about that fateful day three years before. ‘That would be a first, I think. Like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of work in the weight room running. I think they saw my speed during BP and stuff. I had two triples, what do you say? I was catching up to Jose Reyes for a little bit, but then kind of slowed down.’
Saltalmacchia moved to second on a bloop single from Josh Reddick, setting the stage for Ellsbury’s heroics.
‘Salty runs well,’ Varitek said. ‘He runs real well for a big man.’
When asked about challenging the likes of Carl Crawford or Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia simply responded, ‘All I know is I have the same amount of triples as them.’
|Closing Time: Red Sox close out best July in franchise history||07.31.11 at 5:41 pm ET|
CHICAGO — There was also a baseball game.
The Red Sox did not allow the looming trade deadline to distract them from the field. Instead, the team claimed the rubber match against the White Sox by a 5-3 margin, narrowly emerging with a winning (2-1) record on the three-game road trip. It marks the seventh straight road trip from which the Sox have emerged with a winning record. The Sox now have a 33-21 record (.611) away from Fenway that ranks as the best road mark in the majors.
The Sox put the final touches on a 20-6 month, a .769 winning percentage that ranks as the best in franchise history for the month. It was also the team’s first 20-win month since May 2007.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
‘¢ Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-4 with a walk and delivered a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh inning to put a cap on a remarkable month of July in which he collected a hit in all but one game. Pedroia hit .411 with eight homers, 22 RBI and a 1.188 OPS during the month.
‘¢ Jason Varitek crushed a two-run homer to left-center against Mark Buehrle in the top of the second inning, his second straight plate appearance with a homer against a lefty following a roundtripper against Royals rookie Tim Collins last week. Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have now combined for 16 homers (second most of any team in the AL) and 56 RBI (tops in the AL).
‘¢ Andrew Miller bent but did not break. He allowed a season-high 10 hits (all but one of which were singles) while forging a new season-high with eight strikeouts and walking a season-low one batter on a day when his fastball regularly registered 94-95 mph. The volume of hits was alarming, but the Sox will gladly take the results from a Miller who throws 73 of 106 pitches (69 percent) for strikes.
‘¢ Adrian Gonzalez quietly extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning double to left-center, and later added a run-scoring double in the top of the ninth. The first baseman is 23-for-43 (.534) during the stretch.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
‘¢ Carl Crawford went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .250 with a .599 OPS since returning from the disabled list. On the year, Crawford is hitting .144 against lefties.
|Jason Varitek: We have young players, too so ‘kiss my rear end’||07.10.11 at 7:34 pm ET|
Tired of listening to Baltimore’s young players complain about the discrepancy in payrolls as the main reason for the big difference between the Red Sox and Orioles in the standing, Red Sox captain Jason Varitek finally decided to set the record straight following Sunday’s 8-6 win that completed a four-game series sweep heading into the All-Star break.
“We have some youth, too. So they can literally kiss my rear end,” Varitek said, when asked if he thought other teams like the Orioles were jealous of the Red Sox and they’re massive financial resources.
To Varitek’s point, the Red Sox started 24-year-old Kyle Weiland Sunday in his major league debut, the same age as Josh Reddick, who has assumed a regular spot in left field in the absence of the injured Carl Crawford.
Kevin Gregg, who instigated Friday’s brawl with David Ortiz, said after that game the Orioles won’t be “intimidated” by the Red Sox and their “$180 million” payroll. Orioles manager Buck Showalter ruffled feathers in spring training when he said he takes pride in “kicking the butts” of the Red Sox and general manager Theo Epstein, and their well-paid roster.
The Red Sox and Orioles completed a heated, four-game weekend series in which eight uniformed personnel were ejected, including four players in the brawl Friday night and both managers from Sunday’s game, that featured three more batters hit by pitches and Mike Gonzalez throwing behind Ortiz in the sixth.
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