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Closing Time: Red Sox score seven in seventh to sweep Yankees 06.10.11 at 1:43 am ET
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It looked like CC Sabathia would finally take Round 3 of his 2011 heavyweight bout with Josh Beckett. The hefty lefty cruised into the seventh inning of a 2-0 contest having allowed no runs on just two hits and two walks.

Then, the Red Sox offense kicked in.

Following a David Ortiz single, Jed Lowrie drove in Boston’€™s first run with a triple that was aided by a slipup in rightfield by Nick Swisher. Carl Crawford then grounded out, but Mike Cameron (double), Jason Varitek (single) and Jacoby Ellsbury (single) got on base in consecutive at-bats to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Adrian GonzalezKevin Youkilis and Ortiz added RBI hits, with the DH’€™s being a two-RBI double to give him six RBI in the series, later in the frame that supplied Boston with a comfortable five-run lead in what would be an eventual 8-3 victory.

Sabathia finished with 6 2/3 innings pitched while allowing a season-high six earned runs on eight hits.

Beckett, who looked like he would be on the losing end for most of the game, gladly welcomed the run support to earn just his fifth win in 13 starts despite his outstanding start to the season. In the victory, the righty lasted seven innings and allowed just the two runs, both of which came on a two-run home run by Curtis Granderson in the Yankees‘€™ second at-bat of the game. The Red Sox ace now has a 3-0 record against New York in three starts this season, all against Sabathia,  with an extremely low ERA of 0.83.

The win gives the Sox their second sweep at Yankee Stadium in 2011 and gives Boston a two-game cushion over New York in the AL East standings. The game’€™s start was delayed three hours and 27 minutes by rainstorms in the Bronx area. Because the game wasn’€™t allowed to begin on time, both starters were allowed to take the mound without issue.

Here’€™s more on what went right and went wrong in the Red Sox win.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Thanks to the rally in the seventh and Marco Scutaro‘€™s single in the ninth inning, every Red Sox hitter gathered a hit in the win, a feat the team had “failed” to accomplish in its 11-6 thrashing of the Yankees the night before. Although it wasn’€™t on a home run this time, Ortiz did extend his hitting streak to nine games with his single in the seventh while Ellsbury extended his own streak to seven contests. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, C.C. Sabathia, David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie
Pregame notes: Buchholz dealing with back, Lackey to throw ’90ish’ pitches Sunday 06.04.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Clay Buchholz stated after his start Friday night  that he was thinking about a potential abnormality in his back while on the mound, and Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Saturday’s contest that the the idea of there being any kind of malady had given him some cause for concern. Out of that, the skipper said Buchholz may get a few extra days off instead of pitching in his scheduled spot on Wednesday against the Yankees.

“I think we want to sit down with him and figure out the best way to go forward, whether it’s in five days or giving him a couple extra days,” said Francona. “We can do that with the day off on Monday.”

As a result, Tim Wakefield will do a regular bullpen session on Saturday in preparation to potentially take Buchholz’s start on Wednesday in New York. Spot starter Alfredo Aceves will also move to the bullpen full-time in preparation for John Lackey’s return to the rotation Sunday “so that we have everything covered,” according to Francona.

The manager cautioned though that all of these moves were precautionary and that everything could still go according to the original plan depending on how Buchholz’s back feels before the start of the upcoming road trip.

“Maybe we don’t know today,” he said. “Maybe we need a couple extra days to see.”

There’s more pregame injury notes on Lackey and Marco Scutaro after the jump as well as Francona’s thoughts on Jed Lowrie‘s issues when hitting as a lefty in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, john lackey
Kevin Youkilis gives new meaning to the ‘Hundred Years War’ 05.23.11 at 12:35 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis, the man who has been hit more than any other batter in Red Sox history, believes the Cubs might have been given an extra chance to equal the score on Sunday night from Saturday’s beanball exchange that left Marlon Byrd with several fractures below his left eye.

On Sunday night – with the Red Sox up, 5-1, in the eighth inning – Kerry Wood came inside on Jed Lowrie with his first pitch. He just missed hitting him. He didn’t miss with the second, drilling him on the back of the leg. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox warned both teams and no one was ejected.

“I understand the whole thing,” Youkilis said. “You throw it once and you miss, and you throw it again. I don’t know why. I guess they felt like they needed to get another one in because we hit them twice. It’s the game of baseball.

“No, I didn’t see that coming but the other day they’re upset they didn’t like the warning when I got hit [Saturday]. They’re saying two guys got hit to one so, I guess now we’re even until 100 years from now when we play again.”

Cubs manager Mike Quade had a slightly different take. He wasn’t upset at Hickox or the umpiring crew for the warning Sunday night in the eighth inning since he believes it was directed more toward the Red Sox than it was his team.

“No,” answered Quade when asked if the warning upset him. “They have to do what they have to do. They warned us [Saturday] night. I guess that was a warning for them. That’s the way I look at stuff. That’s OK.”

Read More: Beanball, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Jed Lowrie
Epstein: Path to improvement for Red Sox isn’t the trade market (yet) 05.13.11 at 8:14 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein would rather be on the road right now, continuing to scout amateur talent in anticipation of a 2011 draft in which his club has four of the first 40 picks. Instead, he is in the Bronx for a first-hand look at his 17-20 club which is, by his own account, “underperforming as a team.”

The question that he and the Sox decision makers have been puzzling over for the season to date is how (whether?) can the team improve? How can the pattern of underperformance and the inconsistency be fixed?

For now, the trade market offers few solutions. The Sox look for upgrades on a year-round basis — whether the offseason, spring training, the first month of the season, the days leading up to July 31. But the trade market has yet to truly take shape. And so, even if there were an opportunity for the club to improve by going outside the organzation, it likely won’t present itself until after May.

Only once under Epstein (in 2003, when the team traded for Byung-Hyun Kim in May) have the Sox enacted a major deal in the season’s first two months. The GM did not seem to expect that the 2011 season would mark the second such occasion. Instead, he believes that it is up to the current Sox roster to improve its play in order to vault the team from its season-long sub-.500 malaise into a level spot with the cream of the AL East crop. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: jarrod saltalamacchia, Jed Lowrie, jose reyes, Theo Epstein
Terry Francona expects to be without Marco Scutaro ‘for a while’ 05.08.11 at 11:58 am ET
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Shortstop Marco Scutaro had an MRI Sunday morning and was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. The team expects him to be out indefinitely, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

“He’s over getting get an MRI,” Francona said before Sunday’s game with the Twins. “His left oblique had been a little tender for a few days and after the rain delay [Saturday] he went back out, and I don’t know the exact incident, it started grabbing at him, and actually started grabbing at him pretty good.

“Even knowing the MRI wasn’t going to be till this morning, we know he’s going to be down for a while with his symptoms so we got Iglesias here.”

The Red Sox had to call up rookie Jose Iglesias since Yamaico Navarro also sustained an oblique strain and was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Saturday by Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox won Saturday despite having three-fourths of their infield either sick or on the bench. Kevin Youkilis – who started as the DH – came in to play third base in the ninth while Jed Lowrie nearly didn’t make it through because he got sick during the rain delay.

“We were in a little bit of a bind,” Francona said. “Youk was DHing, Lowrie was sick and we didn’t know if Jed was going to be able to play after the rain delay so we were kind of dealing with that.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jed Lowrie, jose iglesias, Kevin Youkilis
Pregame Notes, Red Sox at Orioles: Time to Scut to new role? 04.27.11 at 7:38 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Yes, Jed Lowrie has been starting nearly every day at shortstop. That said, when both he and Marco Scutaro have been on the field at the same time, it is Scutaro who has played shortstop and Lowrie who has moved to accommodate him.

The reason has been straightforward enough. Lowrie prepared to be a utility infielder prior to the season, playing all four positions around the diamond during spring training. Scutaro meanwhile prepared solely for everyday duty as a shortstop.

But that dynamic may soon change. Lowrie entered Wednesday hitting .400. For all practical purposes, even though the Sox haven’t called a press conference to announce it, he has become Boston’s everyday shortstop. While it made sense to Francona to have Lowrie move around the diamond to start the year, that seemingly is less the case as Lowrie becomes more and more acclimated to playing short.

Scutaro, of course, has experience as a utility man, having played short, second and third (as well as a smattering of games in left, right and at first) in his career. That being the case, while Francona did not commit to that alignment, he suggested that Scutaro could morph into the versatile backup role for which Lowrie was originally slated.

“I thought coming into the year the right thing to do was play Scutaro,” said Francona. “I kind of said we think Jed is a starting player but not right now. But when you hit .450, it’€™s my responsibility to put him in the lineup ‘€“ at least a lot of the time. I don’€™t think Scut likes it very much and I don’€™t blame him because he’€™s done everything we’€™ve ever asked.

“I would say early in the year because Jed moved around so much that he was the obvious guy to move around,” Francona continued. “As Jed plays short that’€™s something I’€™ve got to think about. The first week a guy sits a little bit, that’€™s probably not the best time to say, ‘€˜Hey, let’€™s’€¦’ I’€™ve got to pick my spot.”

Francona suggested that Scutaro is comfortable as a second baseman; he would seemingly be an easy choice to start at second on days when Dustin Pedroia sits. At times when Kevin Youkilis is out of the lineup, however, the dynamic might be slightly different, since the Sox might have a superior defensive team with Scutaro at short and Lowrie at third. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro
Zero for Three: Sox amidst home run drought in third spot 04.26.11 at 12:10 pm ET
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That the Red Sox have been carried by pitching through their recent run is indisputable. The team has won eight of its last nine contests at a time when its starting five has a combined 0.88 ERA, something that has allowed the team to enjoy a wildly successful stretch even at a time when the offense has been modest.

In fact, the rotation has been good enough to mask some of the lineup’€™s early season shortcomings (though not all, as the highly scrutinized Carl Crawford and catchers can attest). Nonetheless, there are some interesting puzzles to the performance of the team’€™s offense through the first 25 days of the season, and few are greater than the team’€™s dreadful performance in the third spot in the lineup.

The Sox are one of two American League teams without a homer from the spot, joining the Rangers. The hitters in the third spot in the lineup have combined to hit .233 (10th among the AL’€™s 14 teams) with a .320 OBP (T-10th), .302 slugging mark (11th) and .622 OPS (12th).

A position that characteristically yields run production has instead seen the Sox drive in just seven runs, tied for the fewest by any spot in the batting order. That relates in part to the struggles from the leadoff spot (.198/.263/.363/.625), but even so, with Dustin Pedroia getting on base in more than 40 percent of his at-bats, there have been plenty of opportunities to drive in runs with an extra-base hit.

The third spot in the lineup simply hasn’€™t delivered. That suggests a deficiency, given that the third spot of the lineup is, on average, the second-most prolific RBI spot in the lineup (behind only the cleanup spot) in the AL this year, just as has been the case for each of the last five seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie
Closing Time: Red Sox 5, A’s 3 04.20.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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After much searching, the Red Sox discovered the magic formula for winning baseball. Though he gave up a home run on the first pitch he threw, Clay Buchholz settled down and did not permit another A’s run over the rest of his outing. While strike zone difficulties knocked him out of the game in the sixth inning, Buchholz nonetheless became the fifth straight Sox pitcher to throw five-plus innings while allowing one or no runs, as the Sox beat the A’s, 5-3.

The run of Sox starting pitching is historic. The last time that the Sox went five straight starts in a single season with one or fewer runs allowed in five or more innings was 1947. Unsurprisingly, the Sox have enjoyed their best stretch of the year in the process, winning four of the five contests.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jed Lowrie apparently brought the cape with him to the West Coast. One day after the shortstop went 0-for-4 to see his seven-game hitting streak end, he started a new one in impressive fashion, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. In fact, his day could have been even more impressive, but in his first at-bat of the game, Lowrie was robbed of an extra-base hit when A’s right fielder David DeJesus made a leaping catch in the right field corner. (DeJesus later continued his anti-Lowrie campaign, making a tremendous diving catch in foul territory down the right field line against the infielder.) Even though he sat for much of the first two weeks of the season, Lowrie — who started at third base for the Sox, with Kevin Youkilis serving as DH and David Ortiz out of the lineup — is now second on the Sox with three homers and leads the team with 11 RBI.

–Buchholz was effective if not overpowering. The right-hander gave up a homer to Coco Crisp on his first pitch of the game (the first time that Crisp has ever homered on a game’s first pitch), but then prevented the A’s from further damage. The A’s had their opportunities, but Buchholz held them hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Buchholz did, however, struggle with his command (though it’s worth noting that he appeared to take issue with the strike zone of home plate ump Mike DeMuro). One outing removed from walking a career-high five, he issued four free passes, resulting in his pitch count getting run up to 102 in his 5 1/3 innings. That, in turn, left him without a quality start through his first four turns on the mound.

Daniel Bard reinforced his place as the reliever entrusted with getting the Sox’ most important outs. Manager Terry Francona went to him with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Sox in possession of an increasingly shaky 4-1 lead. Bard blew away Pennington with three straight 96 mph four-seam fastballs, and then, after Crisp hit a ball that sliced foul by inches down the left field line, Bard retired the Oakland center fielder on a pop up. He pitched another scoreless inning as well.

Bard, who has now stranded all five inherited runners he’s received this year, entered a game as early as the sixth inning for the first time since last April 23. That he can impact a game in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings adds to the case that he is the most valuable reliever in the Sox bullpen.

Marco Scutaro, who had been on the bench for the prior four games, swung well in his return to the lineup. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, and was stopped from collecting a third hit only by a terrific diving stop by shortstop Cliff Pennington.

Kevin Youkilis is driving the ball with consistency, having collected five extra-base hits (three homers, two doubles) and driving in six in his last half-dozen games. He gave the Sox a 2-1 lead with a solo shot in the top of the fourth. Youkilis also has seven runs in his last six games.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Just hours after Peter Gammons suggested that “one of the things that’€™s killed [the Red Sox] is that Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is in baseball, which is to get on base and run,” the center fielder (batting ninth once again) matched a career high by striking out three times, all looking. Ellsbury now has 14 strikeouts in 54 at-bats this year, and after an 0-for-4 day, is hitting .182.

There was an upside to Ellsbury’s struggles, however. J.D. Drew impacted the game from the leadoff spot, hitting a solo homer (his first of the year).

–Sox pitchers continued to perform in spectacular fashion with Jason Varitek behind the plate, as the team now has a 2.33 ERA with the catcher behind the plate. However, Varitek’s offense has remained virtually non-existent thus far. After an 0-for-4 day, he is now hitting .050 (1-for-20).

Bobby Jenks had his second terrible outing in his last three appearances. Last Friday, he set one career high by allowing four earned runs and matched another by permitting four hits. Entrusted with a 5-1 lead in the eighth, Jenks recorded just two outs and allowed another run while allowing three singles and walking a batter. That, in turn, forced the Sox to bring Jonathan Papelbon into the game in the eighth inning.

Read More: bobby jenks, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury
Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is’ at 4:42 pm ET
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MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni Show on Wednesday to discuss the state of affairs with the Red Sox. He suggested that the issues with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate may require some kind of change in the coming weeks, discussed Jed Lowrie‘s potential as an everyday shortstop and gave his view of where the Sox might find left-handed help for their bullpen.

He also discussed the Sox’ leadoff woes, which became pronounced while Carl Crawford was occupying that spot for eight games. Gammons suggested that the Sox never envisioned having Crawford hit leadoff, and that the situation was forced by the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury was not taking the approach needed to occupy the top spot in the order.

“I don’€™t think there was ever an intention to hit [Crawford] leadoff. Never did. I thought it was third or fifth,” said Gammons. “I think one of the things that’€™s killed them is that Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is in baseball, which is to get on base and run. His four home runs, to me, are one of the worst things that’€™s happened to this team early in the season, because I think it’€™s encouraged him to get wider and wider with his swing.

“They need him hitting leadoff. They need him to get on base 37 percent of the time or 38 percent of the time. I think he’€™s kind of gotten away from that. I appreciate he didn’€™t play for a year, and I understand how difficult it is to come back, but I think that’€™s sort of been overlooked. The guy who’€™s supposed to hit leadoff isn’€™t getting on base.”

Ellsbury entered Wednesday’s game hitting .196 with a .281 OBP, .451 slugging mark and .732 OPS, along with a team-leading four homers. He has walked five times and struck out on 11 occasions in 57 plate appearances this year.

Gammons also suggested that the defensive struggles of Jarrod Saltalamacchia could soon reach critical mass. Given the questions about how often the 39-year-old Jason Varitek can catch while remaining healthy and productive, the Sox may be in a situation where they are left with few desirable alternatives if Saltalamacchia doesn’t improve behind the dish.

“The Saltalamacchia question is something that’€™s going to continue to be raised here. I know that [Sox manager Terry Francona] is trying to give him a breather, get him established again, but it’€™s a problem,” said Gammons. “You look around, though ‘€“ where do they go to get someone else? Their doctors never would have passed Russell Martin (who signed with the Yankees as a free agent) last winter. They red-flagged him as soon as he became a free agent, as much as some of the people in their front office liked him.

“So the question is going to be, if they really feel that this is an issue, and not hitting, but the defensive part, the throwing, do you just go immediately to (Double-A catcher) [Tim] Federowicz, who’€™s the best catch-and-throw guy in the organization, and hope that he pulls a [Doug] Mirabelli, and just hits fastballs in the middle half of the plate into the screen once in a while? This is an issue that in the next two weeks is going to be addressed, and I don’€™t know which direction it’€™s going.”

Gammons expressed dismay that Saltalamacchia’s struggles have quickly become an issue for the Sox.

“He’€™s such a good guy. He cares so much. He tries so hard,” said Gammons. “[But] you just can’€™t have this on a championship team, especially when a big part of that championship team is built around power pitchers who are in a couple of cases struggling for their identity. I would be shocked now if Varitek doesn’€™t catch [Josh] Beckett all the time now. Clearly, they’€™ve made the decision that he’€™s going to catch [Daisuke] Matsuzaka, whose earned run average is massively different with Varitek catching. But I don’€™t think they can afford to let Jason go out and try to catch 120, 130 games.”

Yet while Saltalamacchia’s defense (and, for that matter, offense) have both been concerns, and the Sox don’t have a catcher who is clearly ready to assume an everyday major league role in their system, Gammons noted that there aren’t viable alternatives on the trade market. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bengie Molina, Jacoby Ellsbury, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
Francona: Sox are trying to play Jason Varitek as Saltalamacchia tries ‘to earn those stripes’ 04.19.11 at 3:15 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona, in his weekly interview on The Big Show, acknowledged that he has been trying to increase Jason Varitek’s playing time in recent games because of his strengths in working with a pitching staff. Francona said that he talked with starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia about the idea that it would take time for members of the pitching staff to become as comfortable with him as they are with the longtime Sox catcher.

“I don’€™t think that is a knock on Salty. I told Salty last week, ‘€˜Right now, you’€™re trying to earn those stripes,’€™” said Francona. “I think sometimes a catcher can put down the same signs, but depending on who it is, the pitcher throws with a little more commitment. I think Tek has earned that. It’€™s always going to be hard for the next guy to come in to compare themselves, the way the game’€™s being run, with Tek. That’€™s been Tek’€™s strength for so long. He certainly didn’€™t get dumber. … You’€™re talking about one of the very best who’€™s probably ever played this game. They don’€™t come along very often.”

Francona noted that Varitek’s workload needs to be managed at this stage of his career, but noted that he has been increasing his recent usage of him. Saltalamacchia started eight of the Sox’ first nine games, but Varitek has been in the lineup for four of the last seven games. Entering Tuesday, Sox pitchers had a 2.40 ERA throwing to Varitek, and a 7.29 ERA with Saltalamacchia.

Asked to what degree he was trying to balance Varitek’s age with the desire to have him work with pitchers, Francona responded, “I’€™d be lying about that if I didn’€™t say I was thinking about it right now. We’€™ve obviously tried to get him in there a little bit more just because of some of the strengths you guys were talking about. I’€™ve got to be a little bit careful about running him out there too much. He has gotten a lot of wear and tear. We don’€™t want to reach for too much and get him hurt. Then we’€™re really in a bind. We’€™ve tried to not have him go back to back days so we can keep him fresh and do the things he can do.”

Saltalamacchia will be behind the place for John Lackey’s start on Tuesday in Oakland.

Francona also addressed several other topics. Among them: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro
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