|Closing Time: It’s a big 10-4 for Red Sox in win over Brewers||06.17.11 at 10:19 pm ET|
After five innings of Friday’s series opener between the Red Sox and Brewers, it looked like it would once again be The Adrian Gonzalez Show at Fenway Park. The Red Sox first baseman had just driven a ball into the first row of Monster seats to give the home team a 5-4 lead. The home run was Gonzalez’s third hit in three at-bats and had placed the powerful lefty just a single shy of the cycle with four innings still left to be played.
Then, the rest of the Red Sox offense decided to jump in on the fun.
The Sox offense added five more runs in the remaining innings and rode a strong finish by starter John Lackey to a 10-4 victory, the team’s 12th in its last 13 games. Every Boston batter who stepped into the box, including two substitutes, either reached base or drove in a run. (Both occurred in the cases of eight of the 10 players to see action.)
Here’s what else went right and one measly thing that went wrong in the Red Sox win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
–The biggest reason behind the Red Sox late surge in runs came not in the late innings but actually in the first. Although he allowed only two runs in the frame, Milwaukee starter Shawn Marcum, who had held this current set of Sox hitters to just a .194 career average before Friday, was taken out with a left hip flexor strain after throwing an astounding 44 pitches just to get three outs. As unfortunate as the injury was for Marcum and the Brewers, it allowed the Red Sox to get to relievers Marco Estrada and Daniel Herrera earlier than they would have and stretch the two relievers out enough to the point where they could score three and four runs on them respectively.
—David Ortiz didn’t care much for Tropicana Field as he went a combined 0-for-8 down over the Sox three-game series in Tampa Bay. But he sure looked a lot more comfortable on his return home to Fenway, going 3-for-5 in Friday’s winning effort. That ties the DH’s season-high for hits and improves his home batting average to .353 on the season. Read the rest of this entry »
|Sunday’s (7:05 p.m.) Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Justin Verlander||05.29.11 at 8:00 am ET|
To those who follow the comings and goings of both the Red Sox and Tigers on a regular basis, the pitching matchup for the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader will look awfully familiar. Indeed, Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett faced each other when Detroit played in Boston on May 19. In that game, Beckett bested Verlander as he allowed just one run over six innings in a 4-3 Sox win before being pulled with neck stiffness. The Detroit fireballer was no slouch either with a quality start (8 IP, 3 ER, 9 strikeouts, 0 walks) of his own. Both pitchers earned no decisions after Boston reliever Daniel Bard allowed back-to-back home runs in the eighth to tie the game at three apiece before Carl Crawford hit a walk-off single in the ninth.
If Beckett’s (4-1, 1.69 ERA) performance against the Tigers in his last outing isn’t enough to instill any confidence from Red Sox fans, his career numbers at Comerica Park certainly should. In two career starts at the Detroit ballpark, Beckett is 2-0 over 14 2/3 innings pitched with just one earned run allowed. He has also struck out 17 Tigers on their own turf in that time. Another set of stats that should add to the good feelings concerning Beckett’s start is his performance thus far in the month of May. In five starts and 30 innings pitched, he has allowed just two earned runs for a monthly ERA of 0.60 to lower his American League-best mark in that category to 1.69.
If those numbers don’t frighten Detroit hitters, their own batting figures against Beckett certainly should. As a team, Detroit is hitting .205 against the righty. In fact, no Tiger with more than four plate appearances against Beckett has an average higher than .231 in such situations. Miguel Cabrera, he of the .313 career batting average, has yet to grab a hit, going 0-for-8 with a walk when facing Beckett.
If nothing else, the Tigers can at least take solace in the fact that they will be sending their own ace to the bump Sunday night. Verlander (4-3, 3.42 ERA) had been one of the best pitchers in the junior circuit with a no-hitter, the second in his career, already to his credit this season. But the tall righty came back down to earth slightly in his last start on Tuesday against the Rays. In that outing, Verlander allowed a season-highs in hits (nine) and runs (six) over six innings while striking out a season-low two batters.
The Sox bats will look to jump all over a potentially vulnerable Verlander, and expect middle-of-the-order hitters Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, both of whom have two home runs and three RBI against the righty, to possibly lead that charge. Also, Red Sox manager Terry Francona would be well-advised to keep Jason Varitek behind the plate as he has been for nine of Beckett’s 10 starts this season. The Boston captain is 2-for-5 with two RBI and a walk against Verlander while fellow backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 0-for-6 with four punchouts. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Red Sox 4, Indians 2||05.24.11 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Red Sox couldn’t do much against Indians starter Fausto Carmona, yet in a continuation of the run that has allowed them to climb back towards the top of the AL East, they were able to translate their limited offense into a victory. On a night when the Sox collected just five hits while Carmona was in the game, that proved to be plenty thanks to the pitcher who likely deserves the title of best in the American League to this point in 2011.
Josh Beckett is amidst a season-opening run that is among the best in team history. Beckett gave up one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, and has now gone five straight starts allowing one or fewer runs, a streak that is tied for the longest by a Sox pitcher since at least 1919. (He is the fourth Sox pitcher to have such a run on record in a single season in that span, and the first since Derek Lowe in 2002.) His ERA during the run is a svelte 0.60, and his 1.69 ERA for the year not only leads the American League but also ranks among the best in club history to this point in the season.
His dominance permitted the Sox to claim a 4-2 victory over the Indians, the first time in five attempts this year that the Sox have won in Cleveland.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett improved to 4-1, with the Sox now owning a 7-3 record in his 10 starts — a mark made all the more impressive by the fact that he has received the least run support of any Sox starter this year. He is now undefeated in his last nine starts, his longest run since going 11 straight at the start of the 2007 season. Read the rest of this entry »
|Matt Albers: ‘It’s definitely frustrating’||05.22.11 at 12:17 am ET|
Anything that could’ve gone wrong for Matt Albers did. The 28-year-old righty, who had been stellar all season for the Red Sox, was called upon in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Cubs to bridge the gap to Jonathan Papelbon with usual setup man Daniel Bard scheduled for a day off.
But the only thing Albers set up was a Cubs win. He surrendered singles to Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro to start the inning and followed that with walks to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena and a double to Reed Johnson that turned a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 deficit. To top it all off, Pena trotted home when Jed Lowrie dropped Alfonso Soriano‘s pop-up.
Albers would ultimately be charged with six runs, five of them earned. He threw 31 pitches without recording an out, setting a dubious Red Sox record in the process. That was also the most pitches thrown by an American League pitcher without getting an out in recorded history.
‘It’s definitely frustrating,’ Albers said. ‘We get the lead, and coming into the game, I want to shut the door and get that win. ‘¦ I had a few guys two strikes and just wasn’t able to put them away. They had a couple tough at-bats and then a couple back-to-back walks hurt me.’
Catcher Jason Varitek said Albers’ biggest problem in the inning was his location.
‘Matty was just missing,’ Varitek said. ‘Matty’s done such a good job for us, but it was one of those things where guys took some good swings on some good pitches and got those first two hits. Then on the walks, he wasn’t overly wild, but he was just missing.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Saltalamacchia starts to make his presence felt for Red Sox||05.19.11 at 12:43 am ET|
The return of former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez to Fenway Park after an offseason departure to the Tigers had many playing the ‘What if?’ game heading into Wednesday night’s matchup between the two clubs.
After all, Boston management had chosen to divert free-agent funds away from a potential Martinez signing ‘ they offered him either three years/$36 million or four years/$42 million if he wanted to re-sign, far short of the four years, $50 million the Tigers paid ‘ in favor of signing big fish Carl Crawford, trading and signing Adrian Gonzalez and making captain Jason Varitek and relative newcomer Jarrod Saltalamacchia their catching tandem for the 2011 season.
That decision has come under plenty of scrutiny in the early stages of 2011. Saltalamacchia went through a period of defensive struggles, especially with his throwing from behind the plate. Meanwhile, while Martinez entered the night hitting .317, the Sox’ backstop duo was hitting just .204 entering Wednesday’s game, bad enough to be 11th among AL teams for catchers’ batting average. What’s more, their one home run combined would be last in the AL if it weren’t for the Joe Mauer-less Twins.
But on Wednesday, the Sox were left with no reason to lament the absence of Martinez. With two outs in the eighth inning of a scoreless tie, Saltalamacchia drove a pitch from Detroit reliever Daniel Schlereth to deep left-center to score Crawford from first for the game’s only run.
The RBI was Saltalamacchia’s first game-winner as a member of the Red Sox, and all of a sudden the story went from the prowess of catchers past to the potential of catchers present.
Saltalamacchia’s RBI double has only been the latest in what has been a notable turnaround for both him and Varitek at the plate. Since April 28, the tandem is hitting a much more solid .276 (19-for-69), beating out the averages of the Red Sox players at second base, shortstop, left field and right field over that time. By comparison, their .145 combined average from April 1-27 ranked dead last by position on the team. Read the rest of this entry »
|Peter Gammons on M&M: Jason Varitek ‘really believes’ in Alfredo Aceves||05.18.11 at 1:25 pm ET|
MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to offer his views on the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Gammons said that this month’s bad weather might turn into good news for the Red Sox in the long run.
“When they make this up in July as part of that day-night doubleheader on a Thursday night in July, theoretically, the Red Sox pitching staff should be in much better shape at that time,” Gammons said. “And the Orioles pitching staff should be pretty worn down. I think we saw, as [the Orioles] tried to use six relievers to get nine outs the other night, they don’t have a lot or reserves there after [Jeremy] Guthrie and the three kids. I think that’s a much better time for [the Red Sox] to play.”
With John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list, Gammons was asked if there are any available arms in the minor leagues. “No, there really isn’t,” he said. “[Pitching coach] Curt Young said to me yesterday that they’re very hopeful that within a month, [Felix] Doubront will be ready. He got set back in spring training when he had the elbow problems. Then he recently had the groin. He got up to I think 4 2/3 innings, and had the groin pull. He’s out for a couple of weeks, so that sets him back.
“And even though Andrew Miller is starting to throw much better and, according to Curt, has really started to calm down his delivery, we know he’s got the stuff but he really needs to wait a couple of months. He needs to be able to repeat that delivery, get back to where he was 4-5 years ago. He is so intelligent and so hyper, if he came up here and it all sped up on him, it might set him back another half a year.
“So, I don’t think there’s anybody. [Kyle] Weiland is not ready yet. I had heard that there was a possibility that they would take a look at one or two of the veterans that are out there still looking for jobs. Like, sign Kevin Millwood, put him in Pawtucket and see what happens.”
Asked about Pedro Martinez, Gammons said that does not appear to be an option. “When I last saw Pedro at the end of March, I can tell you he was not thinking about pitching,” Gammons said. “It would be fun, but I don’t think possible. He really wasn’t throwing. He was talking about knocking coconuts out of trees, not throwing to a catcher.”
Alfredo Aceves is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation, and at least one Red Sox player is encouraged by what he’s seen so far. Said Gammons: “Jason Varitek was making a very passioned support speech to me about Aceves. He really believes. I started laughing at first, because it seems that Aceves shook off every pitch that Tek put down. But at the same time, he said that there’s a lot there. He’s really optimistic about him pitching well.
“You guys know, Jason doesn’t go out of his way ‘ he is never a phony about pumping people up. But he really believes there’s a lot there. It will be interesting to see if the guy does do it for what they need him for ‘ five, six starts, whatever the time frame. Maybe this is his chance to do well. I don’t know. Jason really believes it.”
|Some Red Sox have dealt with wounds to their own pride||05.15.11 at 9:05 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Jorge Posada tempest seemed to clear up on Sunday night. The catcher made his public mea culpa, said that he made a mistake, apologized to Yankees manager Joe Girardi and said that he planned to talk with New York GM Brian Cashman about the situation. He admitted that he acted poorly out of frustration when he asked out of the lineup on Saturday — when he was slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — and that he hoped to put the incident behind him.
There are members of the Red Sox who can certainly identify with the challenges of dealing with a wounded ego when their role shrinks from what it has long been. Certainly, the early stages of the 2010 season offered a number of case studies in the phenomenon.
At that point, Tim Wakefield was transitioning unhappily into the bullpen. Mike Lowell was being asked to adjust to duty as a reserve, at a time when he desperately wanted to start. Yet he was playing reasonably well at a time when David Ortiz was not hitting, and so Ortiz was left to look over his shoulder to wonder whether he would be replaced by Lowell against left-handed pitchers.
That was a challenging time for the Sox, particularly given that those dynamics were all the more strained because the Sox weren’t playing well.
“In our situation last year, we went through a tough April,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “It doesn’t always work out the way you want. You’re trying to balance the team, personal. You want everything to mesh, and it doesn’t always do that. But what’s more important is, not that you’re not going to run into problems, but how you get through them and where you go from there. David and I had to slug it out a little bit in April last year. There’s no getting around it. But we did, and we came through and got better for it. That’s what we try to do.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Ortiz on Posada: ‘They’re doing that guy wrong’||05.14.11 at 11:35 pm ET|
NEW YORK — David Ortiz knows the challenges of being a designated hitter. For years, he hated the idea that, in his mid-20s, he was viewed as incapable of holding his own defensively to the point where his glove was taken away from him. Over time, he came to embrace the role of the designated hitter, but it took time.
Based on his experience, and on the respect that he has for the career of longtime Yankees catcher — and now DH — Jorge Posada, he had very clear feelings about what New York is doing. After the Sox beat the Yankees, 6-0, Ortiz inquired about what was going on with his longtime rival, who — after being slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — took himself out of the lineup with what Posada described as back stiffness and a need to clear his head, and which the Yankees said was unrelated to health concerns.
“You want to know what I think? They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong,” said Ortiz. “You know why? That guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DH-ing sucks. DH-ing is not easy.
“From what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that he’s not even going to catch bullpens. That straight up will start messing with your head. And you’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man.”
Ortiz made clear that he did not endorse the idea of a player pulling himself out of a lineup. At the same time, he expressed sympathy for Posada’s position, suggesting that the change of role was confusing and frustrating.
“You don’t do that,” Ortiz said of a player taking himself out of the lineup. “But that’s what I’m trying to tell you guys. The confusion, the frustration that you’re living in, sometimes makes you make mistakes. He’s not perfect. He’s a human, just like everyone else. He probably [thought] it was the right thing to do, but now you see that [it wasn’t].”
Ortiz remained convinced that, while Posada has gotten off to a dreadful start, hitting .165 with a .272 OBP and .621 OPS, he is capable of more. Indeed, Ortiz felt that if his Yankee counterpart were to catch, it would help him improve his performance at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »
|Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘There’s something funny about the passion of this team’||05.11.11 at 12:50 pm ET|
Hall of Fame baseball analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Gammons said he’s trying to figure out why the Sox can’t seem to put things together and get over the .500 mark.
“There’s something funny about the passion of this team,” he said. “I still don’t see the offense. They haven’t scored 10 runs in a game all year. I don’t believe they’ve been ahead by four runs at the end of the fourth inning all year. So, games have really been struggles for them.
“They probably will click on all cylinders. But for the time being ‘¦ Is it right to say that it’s almost like there’s a little chip missing here? I really sense that, that there’s a personality chip missing that’s different than what they maintained last year when they overachieved.”
Added Gammons: “I can’t put my finger on it. I thought about it all last week. I kept thinking, ‘Jeez, there’s just something funny about the way this team is playing.’ Whether they need one more guy to kind of come in and stir things up with [Dustin] Pedroia, I don’t know. That’s sort of the way I feel. But I don’t see anybody in that division running off and winning 100 games, so they’re in a very good position if they do get hot to make up whatever they need to make up.”
One player who does not lack intensity is Carl Crawford. “I don’t think he realized what it would be like to come to Boston and start out struggling,” Gammons said. “He cares so much, he practices so hard that I think he just drives himself into the ground. But now that he’s starting to relax ‘¦ He’s obviously very popular. Every time he does anything, his teammates’ reaction to him is wonderful, it really is.”
John Lackey‘s failure to be a stopper has made him a target for critics. Gammons said he would like to see Lackey take more responsibility for his struggles. Said Gammons: “I’ll admit that that game [the 13-inning, 5-3 loss to the Angels on May 4], having to play that game for 16 hours or whatever it was, that deflates you. But that’s a time when John Lackey has to step up and say, ‘OK, here I am.’ ‘¦ That wasn’t the case. They need him to be more consistent. He has not been what he was brought here to be, pure and simple.
“The only thing that surprised me is I’ve never really heard him say, ‘I’m really mad about the way I’m pitching.’ You always hear, ‘Well, the ball found a hole,’ or something happened, a bad call. He should be too good for that stuff.”
|Peter Gammons on M&M: Red Sox catching ‘still a precarious situation’||04.27.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
A recurring theme in the discussion was the financial restraints the Red Sox and other major league teams are dealing with this season. Gammons took a question about Marco Scutaro accepting a utility role (now that he’s been replaced by Jed Lowrie as starting shortstop) and showed how the finances will play a key role in Scutaro’s future in Boston.
“I think he’d accept [the utility role].” Gammons said. “I think the question is going to be: Do the Red Sox feel they need to clear his money to be able to get a catcher or another pitcher in time if they need one. I think that would be a question. I think a lot of teams ‘ I know the Mets would love to have Scutaro play second base, but they don’t want to pay him. There’s one of the problems that you run into. He’s an ideal utility guy, because he can play second, short and third, and he’s so great around the clubhouse. But the question is, Do you want to pay that kind of money if indeed ownership doesn’t want to go any further until the trading deadline and you need another catcher and it costs 5, 6 million dollars.”
Asked if the Red Sox have extended themselves close to their financial limit, Gammons said: “I think so. And I think that will change in the middle of the season. The Phillies are going through the same thing. [Phillies general manager] Ruben Amaro said last week ‘ the question was posted actually about Scutaro, because they still don’t know when [injured second baseman] Chase Utley‘s coming back. They can say bravely, ‘He’ll be back at the end of May.’ They don’t know that. The thinking was Scutaro’s the perfect guy. And Ruben said, ‘I have no more money. We can’t make any moves.’
“I think a lot of teams went right to the luxury tax threshold and spent a lot of money and said, ‘OK, we’re not spending any more until we desperately need something. So, figure out what’s wrong.’ I think the Red Sox, the Angels, the Phillies, Texas, the White Sox, I think a lot of them are in that position right now.”
Added Gammons: “I think most teams in baseball this winter, I think most of the big-market teams spent to their limit before the season. I hear that from the Phillies, I hear it from the White Sox, I heard it from the Tigers, I hear it from a lot of people. It’s not unusual, but people don’t want to add money right now. And they’re not sure where the economy’s going, they’re not sure where the labor agreement is going ‘ although I still don’t believe the labor agreement is going to greatly impact the game. But a lot of teams just are holding. It’s not just the Dodgers and Mets, it’s a lot of teams.”
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