|Closing Time: Red Sox come out on top of Yankees in roller coaster contest||09.05.13 at 11:40 pm ET|
NEW YORK — This was a roller coaster.
The Red Sox seemed ready to deliver a resounding statement, marching to a 7-2 lead through 6½ innings. Then, they seemed ready to absorb perhaps their most crushing defeat of the season while enduring a six-run disaster in slow motion in the seventh, when Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton and Junichi Tazawa collaborated on a horror show of an inning. But the Sox did not shrink from their adversity, instead rallying in the ninth to tie the game against Mariano Rivera when Mike Napoli singled with two outs, pinch-runner Quintin Berry advanced to third on a stolen base and throwing error and then scrambled home on a game-tying Stephen Drew single.
That served as a the prelude to the Sox pushing ahead in the 10th, when Shane Victorino punched a 96 mph fastball from Joba Chamberlain to right for what proved the game-winning hit in a topsy-turvy 9-8 win over the Yankees that underscored the drama and chaos that characterize this attention-commanding rivalry.
At one point, the game seemed like it would be an emphatic sign of the Sox’ readiness to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in October. Then, it seemed a clear warning sign. Ultimately, it was an anything-but-simple-to-digest stew — a mix of the team’s strengths both early in games (the ability to negotiate 46 pitches from starter Ivan Nova in the third and drive him out of the game in the fourth) and late (the comeback to tie the game against the greatest closer in history, leading to the Sox’ 21st win of the year in their final at-bat), as well as its weaknesses in the middle innings, where the passage from starters to closer Koji Uehara is now anything but clearly outlined.
But for the Sox, those messages matter less than the bottom line. And right now, the Sox own 85 wins, have claimed 13 of their last 18 and continue to look like a team that is readying to pull away from the rest of the division.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Victorino continued his startling success as a right-handed hitter facing right-handed pitching, blasting a long solo homer to left against the second offering from reliever Preston Claiborne and then, most significantly, working his way back from a 1-2 hole against Chamberlain to fight off a couple of pitches for foul balls and then, in the seventh pitch of the at-bat, punching a single to right to score Jacoby Ellsbury from second. With his 2-for-6 performance, Victorino now is hitting .313/.423/.522 as a right-handed hitter facing right-handed pitching.
– Middlebrooks continued to show evidence of an improved, more impactful approach, delivering a game-changing hit for the third straight game. On Tuesday, it was his two-run single to center on a slider from Max Scherzer that proved the margin of difference. On Wednesday, he blasted a grand slam to left-center to set the Sox’ home run derby in motion. And on Thursday, he had a pair of key hits, first going inside-out on a 94 mph fastball on a 2-2 count in the third to line a single to right, and then in the top of the fourth, when he unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and pulled it down the left-field line and into the second deck to put the Sox ahead, 3-2.
Despite the fact that he’s spent roughly nine weeks this year off the big league roster (while on the DL and then in the minors), Middlebrooks is nonetheless still tied for third on the team with 13 homers. He’s shown power all year, but he’s been a drastically better hitter since returning from the minors.
Prior to being optioned to Pawtucket, Middlebrooks was hitting .192/.228/.389 with nine walks and 60 strikeouts. Since his return, he’s now hitting .347/.412/.560 with eight walks and 18 strikeouts.
|Kevin Youkilis: ‘I’m proud to be a Yankee’||02.15.13 at 11:47 am ET|
Kevin Youkilis‘ first day in Yankees camp was an interesting one, with the former Red Sox star saying Thursday, “I’ll always be a Red Sock,” and admitting that he still had not met face to face with longtime adversary and new teammate Joba Chamberlain.
Youkilis took a new approach Friday, acknowledging that his comment about his devotion to Boston wouldn’t gain him many fans in New York.
“Let’s be honest, I mean, the comment by itself looks terrible, but that was not what it was meant to be,” he told the media in Tampa, Fla.
“I went on ESPN,” Youkilis added. “I said, ‘Oh my God,’ that does not look good. It is one of those things that you have to take with a grain of salt. It wasn’t meant to be like that. It was talking about the history of who I am.”
Youkilis also got some ribbing from Yankees veterans like Andy Pettitte, who chuckled about the New York Post back cover that showed Youkilis with the headline “Red Blooded.”
“The back page was right there and I was getting ragged on pretty good,” Youkilis said.
Youkilis did his best to soothe New Yorkers who might question his loyalty.
“I’m a Yankee today and I’m excited,” he stated. “I’m proud to be a Yankee.”
Added Youkilis: “I think the Yankee fans are going to love the fact that every day I’m going to bust my butt and get dirty on the field and do all that stuff. It wasn’t meant to be anything like, ‘My heart is in Boston,’ because honestly it wasn’t there. My heart is in New York. I’m excited to live in the city. I’m excited for the whole experience.”
Youkilis also finally met with Chamberlain, who left a voicemail for Youkilis in December that went unanswered.
“I said hi to Joba today,” Youkilis said. “We shook hands. He is growing a mustache. Tomorrow, we’ll hug. It will all be fun. Everything is good. Life is good. There is no reason to get all worked up on the second day.”
|New Yankee Kevin Youkilis: ‘I’ll always be a Red Sock’||02.14.13 at 9:03 pm ET|
Kevin Youkilis might reside in New York now, but he hasn’t surrendered his loyalty to Boston.
“To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox, and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house, to say I’d just throw it out the window, that’s not true,” Youkilis told the New York media after his arrival Thursday at Yankees camp in Tampa, Fla.. “I’ll always be a Red Sock.”
Added Youkilis: Guys play on different teams and that’s a part of your history; that’s a part of your life and you can’t change that. It was great years in Boston. One bad half-year doesn’t take away from all the great years I had there and all the good things I’ve been able to do along the way and accomplish as a team, as an individual. It was great.”
Youkilis, who shaved his facial hair to meet Yankees standards, was signed to fill in at third base for the recuperating Alex Rodriguez. The 33-year-old, who hit a career-low .235 last year with the Red Sox and White Sox, said he’s not expecting to replace A-Rod’s production.
“You can’t be thinking about shoes to fill, because I’ll never be Alex Rodriguez,” Youkilis said. “I mean, Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all time. I’m not going to be that same guy. But I can be a good major league player who can help the team win, and that’s all you’ve got to do.”
Youkilis greeted some of his new teammates in the clubhouse, but he did not meet face to face with former rival Joba Chamberlain, who threw a number of pitches at Youkilis’ head over the years.
“You guys have written a lot about it, and I think it’s just something you guys keep going on and on about,” Youkilis said. “But we’re here at spring training as a team and ready to play. I hope the only drama this year we create is walk-off home runs and hits.”
Added Youkilis: “At some time, we’ll all sit down and talk, but things all are going to be OK. Don’t worry.”
|Release of Kris Johnson highlights strange case of 2006 draft for Red Sox||05.17.11 at 12:02 pm ET|
In some respects, the 2006 draft was a major success for the Red Sox. At the time, it was considered a thin talent class. In retrospect, it has largely borne out that projection.
There have been a few superstars who were taken with early picks — Evan Longoria (No. 3 overall, Rays), Clayton Kershaw (No. 7, Dodgers) and Tim Lincecum (No. 10, Giants) stand out most prominently — yet even a number of the top 10 picks in that draft (No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar, Royals; No. 2 pick Greg Reynolds of the Rockies, No. 4 pick Brad Lincoln of the Pirates, No. 6 selection Andrew Miller with the Tigers, No. 9 pick Billy Rowell of the Orioles) have done little in the five years since they were picked.
As such, the Red Sox have been, by and large, quite pleased with the returns they had from that year’s class of draftees. They acquired several players who have already either become major league contributors — first-rounder Daniel Bard, second-rounder Justin Masterson — or who still have a chance to carve out such roles — ninth-rounder Ryan Kalish, 17th-round pick Josh Reddick, 18th-round selection Lars Anderson.
“I know a lot of us who were involved with it will always be proud of that ’06 draft,” former Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod (now the Padres Assistant GM) said last year.
But it was a draft that was also filled with several notable misses for the Sox. In spring training, the team released first-rounder Jason Place, a player who could not translate his considerable tools into performance, (or more on him, click here) and third-rounders Bryce Cox, whom the team once imagined as a closer-in-the-making but who never passed Double-A and Aaron Bates, a first baseman who got a five-game taste of the majors in 2009 but who never showed enough of a bat to establish himself as a big league contributor at a position that demands offense.
And on Tuesday, the strange case of the 2006 draft continued with the news (via the Triple-A PawSox) that left-hander Kris Johnson had been released. Johnson was a sandwich-round pick whom the Sox took in ’06 as the No. 40 overall selection. For a time, the pick was subject to particular scrutiny, since the Sox took Johnson one pick in front of Joba Chamberlain (whom the Sox had removed from their draft board due to medical concerns). Read the rest of this entry »
|Olney Looks at the Market For Jason Bay on D&H||10.15.09 at 11:51 am ET|
ESPN Senior Writer Buster Olney, in an interview on the Dale & Holley Show, suggested that the Red Sox could be inclined to draw the line on a new deal for Jason Bay at four years given the concerns about his defense. Olney said that general managers and scouts with whom he has talked have described Bay as “basically a designated hitter playing outfield,” which will temper the length of his contract.
“[Bay] provides the kind of power that the Red Sox need. But he’s basically a designated hitter playing outfield. That’s the assessment of most of the general managers and scouts that I’ve talked with. He’s so defensively challenged that he’s going to go very quickly to being a DH. If you’re the Red Sox, do you lock yourselves into a five-year deal with a guy who probably projects to DH after Ortiz leaves? I seriously doubt it,” said Olney. “I do wonder whether Seattle or San Francisco or some other team, maybe the Cardinals if they don’t re-sign Holliday, if some other team will step up and be so desperate to land a power hitter like him – because let’s face it, the free-agent market stinks – will there be another team that gives that fifth year? If that’s the case, I think the Red Sox aren’t going to move.”
Olney also said that he did not expect the Yankees to be involved in bidding on the premier free-agent outfielders — Bay and Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday — this offseason, given the anticipated arrival of heralded outfield prospect Austin Jackson and the potential need to move Derek Jeter to left field in the coming years.
“I think they’re absolutely not going to pursue one of the high-priced free-agent outfielders. I think what they’re going to do is make an offer and try to get Johnny Damon to come back for one year. Short of that, they’ll probably try to do something with [Hideki] Matsui,” said Olney. “They’ve got this terrific young outfielder in Austin Jackson coming up in the next two years. They’re going to have to make a decision, probably, to move Derek Jeter, and I think LF is probably going to be the most likely spot for him.
“I think the Red Sox’ primary competition for Jason Bay is going to come from Seattle and San Francisco. I really get the sense that the Red Sox internally are going to set a price for Jason Bay and they’re not going to go beyond what they’re comfortable with.”
Some other highlights from the interview are below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.
Are you surprised that the ALCS is Angels-Yankees, with the Red Sox at home?
I am. I picked the Red Sox to win, and obviously that was wrong.
As the series went along and the season went along, I was sort of reminded of the 2005 Yankees, with Ruben Sierra in right field and Gary Sheffield in left field, the sort of older, slower, defensively challenged group of guys. I think that was exposed by the Angels. Certainly something I underestimated was how well John Lackey was throwing at this time of year. He had a lot of life on his FB in Game 1, and I think that set the tone.
Are the Yankees afraid to let Joba Chamberlain start in this series?
He’s clearly shown that, for now, for whatever reason, he’s absolutely suited to come out of the bullpen.
In the last game of the regular season, he came out of the bullpen and suddenly he was the old Joba – the fire-breathing Joba. He was attacking the strike zone with fastballs.
I think at this point they’re, “Well, okay, that’s what works for him, and this is how we’re going to go.”
If the weather messes with their plans for CC Sabathia in Game 4, Chad Gaudin will go in Game 4, and Joba’s just going to stay in the bullpen.
The Yankees appear to have gone from a high-priced collection of talent to being a good team.
The guys they brought in deserve some credit for beginning to change the culture: AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher.
For years, there was a cold war going on between Derek [Jeter] and Alex [Rodriguez]. It’s probably too strong of a way to put it, but there was a lot of tension there.
I would give credit to both sides to make an effort to change. Alex certainly changed the way he goes about his business. He doesn’t make himself as available. He’s focused more on baseball. I think you saw, during the postseason, Derek acknowledged Alex and is working with him more than in the past.
I think the culture is really different.
Is the New York media making a big deal about A-Rod being seen having dinner with Kate Hudson in Miami last night?
No. But you know how these things go.
It will probably become a big deal if he goes hitless.
He’s as locked in as ever this postseason. You can always tell that by how he’s driving fastballs. In that series against MN, he hit the ball to CF and RF. That tells you he’s not anxious at the plate.
He’s swinging the bat as well as I’ve ever seen him in the postseason. And he has really good numbers in his career against Angels starters, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders in particular.
You said that the Sox reminded you in the playoffs of the ’05 Yankees – a slow team that was beaten by the Angels. What can they do this offseason?
It’s a tough team to makeover because of the existing contracts. Lowell is under contract for 2010 and so is David Ortiz. I think they’re going to need to do something. They may not be able to go out and get the perfect solution now, and that would be someone like Prince Fielder.
They made some trades. Their depth in their farm system is not what it was a year ago because some of the guys have been promoted, some of them have been traded. So they’ll probably have to go for, especially if they don’t sign Holliday or Jason Bay, a Grade B solution.
I would not be surprised if they make a decision one way or the other to moving out, say, Mike Lowell, or telling Mike Lowell he’s going to have a very reduced role for next year. To me, he’s the most vulnerable guy, given what their strengths are and what they’re going to need.
|Red Sox at Yankees Match-Ups, 8/6||08.06.09 at 3:25 pm ET|
You couldn’t find two more different teams than the Red Sox and Yankees at this juncture in the season.
In 18 games since the All-Star break, Boston forgot their winning ways and forfeited first place in the AL East en route to an unimpressive 8-10 record. New York, on the other hand, could hardly be stopped as they went 14-5 and reassured Mr. Steinbrenner that he was getting plenty of bang for his buck(s).
Now the Yankees (65-42) sit atop the AL East standings with Boston (62-44) trailing by 2.5 games as the two teams prepare to begin a four-game series in the Bronx this weekend.
Although Boston leads the season series 8-0 in 2009, it might be wishful thinking to assume the Red Sox will continue their dominance over the Yankees during this rough stretch. If anything, the odds are stacked against the Sox. The two biggest concerns seem to be that slugger Jason Bay is set to miss the first two games of the series, and the bullpen is fatigued after pitching 8.2 innings in just two games against Tampa Bay this week.
Not to mention the series opens tonight with John Smoltz facing the 23-year-old Joba Chamberlain, who is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts. Smoltz, in contrast, is 2-4 with a 7.12 ERA in seven starts this season. But what’s perhaps most notable about Smoltz’s poor pitching performance this season is that it’s almost unprecedented. As WEEI.com’s DJ Bean writes in today’s LEEInks:
“Smoltz has now given up at least five earned runs in three consecutive starts dating back to July 20 (1-2). The last time Smoltz had such a stretch, the Braves were in the NL West in September of 1993… For what it’s worth, Smoltz has never seen one of these streaks reach four games.”
But that could all change tonight as Smoltz faces a Yankees lineup that’s first in the American League in OPS, OBP, and slugging percentage. New York has been outscored 55-31 in their eight losses to Boston this season, but don’t expect that discrepancy to stay so lopsided this weekend.
Still, there might be hope after all: Chamberlain is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against Boston this year, and recently acquired All-Star Victor Martinez has gone 10 for 21 with two doubles, a homer, and six RBIs in four games since being traded from Cleveland.
Dustin Pedroia (14): .500 / .571 / .667, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (12): .182 / .250 / .182, BB, SO
David Ortiz (12): .273 / .333 / .273, RBI, BB, 4 SO
Kevin Youkilis (11): .333 / .636 / .333, 5 BB, 2 SO
Jason Bay (9): 4-for-7, homer, 3 RBI, BB, SO, HBP
Jason Varitek (7): 1-for-5, BB, 3 SO, HBP
Victor Martinez (6) 2-for-5, homer, 2 RBI, SO
Nick Green (5): 2-for-5, RBI, 2 SO
Casey Kotchman (3): 1-for-3
Jed Lowrie (2): 0-for-2
Rocco Baldelli (1): 0-for-1
YANKEES VS. SMOLTZ
Johnny Damon (9): 0-for-7, 2 BB, SO
Derek Jeter (5): 1-for-5, double, 3 SO
Alex Rodriguez (5): 1-for-5, RBI, SO
Melky Cabrera (4): 1-for-4, SO
Nick Swisher (4): 1-for-4, SO
Eric Hinske (3): 0-for-3, 2 SO
Jorge Posada (3): 1-for-3, homer, 2 RBI
A.J. Burnett (2): 0-for-2, 2 SO
Mark Teixeira (2): 1-for-2, SO
Jerry Hairston (1): 0-for-1, SO
|Penny Drills A-Rod||06.11.09 at 7:27 pm ET|
If this is Brad Penny’s last start as a member of the Red Sox, chances are that his teammates will remember him fondly.
With two outs and a runner on third, Brad Penny fired a 96 mph fastball inside to Alex Rodriguez for a ball. Penny followed that with a 97 mph fastball for a called strike and then, with his third pitch, he drilled Rodriguez with another 97 mph fastball in the middle of the lower back.
The clearly intentional drilling was likely in response to the fact that the Yankees have twice drilled Jason Bay with pitches – first when Joba Chamberlain fired a fastball into Bay’s back in early May in New York, and again on Tuesday when Jose Veras pounded Bay (hitting .480 against the Yankees this year) with another mid-90s heater.
Both benches were warned.
There is an irony to any discipline that might be meted out by Major League Baseball: if Penny is suspended for intentionally drilling Rodriguez, the suspension could either a) be served with another team, if the pitcher does get traded to make room in the rotation for John Smoltz; or b) could buy some time with a quick-fix clearing of the log-jam in the rotation by forcing Penny to miss a turn.
Anyhoo, Penny’s featured his best fastball velocity of the season in the first inning, firing six fastballs at 97 mph, and sitting in the 95-97 mph range. Still, the Yankees are making him work: Penny threw 25 pitches in the first, and the Yankees swung and missed at none.
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