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How the Yankees finally got to Jon Lester 08.06.11 at 12:46 am ET
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Red Sox fans have seen this movie before.

An ace pitcher is cruising along against the vaunted Yankee lineup, like Jon Lester was on Friday night. The Sox left had allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, throwing just 73 pitches in the process.

Then, boom. All of sudden, the Yankees start taking pitches, fouling off pitcher’s pitches and making every swing count. The Yankees still work the pitcher as well as any team in baseball and they proved it again Friday night, trailing 2-0.

Even the best pitchers the Red Sox ever had – like Pedro Martinez, circa 1999 – have fallen victim to this in the last 15 years that Derek Jeter has been a captain. And Jeter was at the middle of things – or more to the point – the start of things on Friday night.

Eduardo Nunez fell behind quickly two strikes to open the sixth, with the Lester and the Red Sox in command, 2-0. Then six pitches – including two foul balls – later, he was on base with a walk. Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI single to left-center and it was 2-1.

“Just really lost command,” Lester said. “You have to tip your cap to them. They did a good job being patient that inning. I threw some pretty good pitches they laid off, whether it was a ball or strike, they stayed within themselves and it seemed like the first five innings, we dictated both sides of the plate and in the sixth inning, they did.”

Lester would throw his final 35 pitches of the night in that sixth inning as the Yankees rallied for three runs off Lester.

“The first thing was Nunez’s at-bat, the fact that he was able a 3-2 walk after fouling off some really tough pitches,” Granderson said. “I think he threw pretty anything and everything at him. Derek got his first hit of the ball game, I got my first hit. Nunez read it really well and was able to score.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Jon Lester vs. Bartolo Colon 08.05.11 at 10:00 am ET
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Jon Lester

The Red Sox and Yankees will take the field together Friday for the first time since June 9, and while some things have certainly changed in the two months since, others haven’t at all. For instance while Dustin Pedroia’s batting average was .247 on that day, Josh Beckett’s ERA was 2.06, just a little lower than its current state of 2.20. While Derek Jeter hadn’t stroked his 3,000th hit, Mariano Rivera was still, well, Mariano Rivera (16 saves and a 1.90 ERA then, 28 saves and a 1.74 ERA now).

But what absolutely hasn’t changed has been the proximity of the two squads at the top of the AL East standings. Following their 8-3 win over the Yankees on June 9, the Red Sox stood two games ahead of their rivals, their largest division lead of the adolescent season. The two teams now enter Friday’s series opener tied for that top spot in the AL East as starters Jon Lester and Bartolo Colon head to the hill to try to give their respective teams the division lead for one day at least.

Lester (11-4, 3.17 ERA) has pitched well in his two starts since returning from the disabled list with a lat strain. In those two appearances, he allowed just three earned runs over 13 1/3 innings to bring his ERA to its lowest level since early May. Lester owns an 8-1 record against the Yankees in 14 career starts to go with a 3.56 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 86 innings.

This particular group of men in pinstripes is collectively hitting .251 against the southpaw. Jeter’s .333 average (14-for-42) leads the way in that category while Mark Teixeira’s 13 strikeouts against Lester a team-high as well. Arguably the most productive plate appearances have come from Russell Martin who is 1-for-2 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch for an OBP of .833 when he’s faced Lester in the past.

Colon (8-6, 3.30) has actually had more experience than his Friday foe than Lester has had against his, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into success. Colon is 8-11 against the Red Sox in 24 outings (23 starts), making Boston the team he’s faced most in his career while maintaining a losing record against the club. He lost his two starts against the Sox this season, despite allowing two earned runs or fewer in both.

That being said, David Ortiz and Carl Crawford, the two Boston hitters who have faced Colon the most in the past, are a combined 11-for-77 (.143) in their careers against the stout right-hander. Perhaps the pair would do well to look toward MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, whose .308 average and two home runs against Colon are team-highs, for guidance Monday.

Colon has pitched well overall as of late as he’s gone 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts. Those outings, however, were a proceeded by a start against the Blue Jays in which he surrendered eight runs (only three were earned) in just 2/3 of an inning. These latest trio of starts, during which he’s also struck out 19 hitters in 18 1/3 innings, appear to prove that he has fully recovered from a left hamstring strain that kept him out of the Yankees rotation for the last few weeks of June. Read the rest of this entry »

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Peter Gammons on M&M: Ellsbury ‘possible’ MVP candidate 08.04.11 at 1:14 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

MLB and NESN analyst Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday to talk Jacoby Ellsbury and his break-out season, Erik Bedard coming to Boston, as well as all other things Red Sox related. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

After Wednesday night’s walk-off home run–his second walk-off hit in as many nights, Ellsbury is continuing to have his best season as a professional and may now be mentioned as a potential MVP candidate.

“I think it’s possible because it is not a dominant MVP season,” Gammons said. “I mean, I think there are a number of guys. I was thinking about this yesterday, you can make arguments for all three guys at the top of the Red Sox order. When you get down to the discussion, and I’ve voted for MVP many times, you boil it down to six, seven, eight guys and you go from there, but it is fascinating at the monster years those three guys have had.

“What I was getting at, when I was on the phone at the trade deadline with other teams is the regard he has around baseball. Managers and general mangers going, ‘this guy has got to be one of the five best players in the league.’ … It is amazing the reputation he has as a player. Now he is a dominant center fielder, he has so much speed. … When you have a leadoff hitter with the highest on base, the highest OPS, the highest pitches per at bat and the guy hits 18 home runs, that is amazing.”

Gammons added: “I actually got to know Jacoby well in 2004 [playing in the Cape League] and I went to a lot of games in Falmouth when he played for Falmouth. A lot of times he hit ninth, he was a left fielder. I still don’t understand why he wasn’t playing center, but that’s OK. It is hard to picture the power he developed, he was just a developing athlete and it’s been fascinating to watch. He is really ripped. It is almost like a guard in basketball kind of body. He is extremely strong he just doesn’t look it.”

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Jayson Stark on M&M: ‘So many issues and they tend to linger’ with Erik Bedard 08.03.11 at 1:14 pm ET
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Jayson Stark

ESPN baseball insider Jayson Stark joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Red Sox and the trading deadline. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Red Sox landed pitcher Erik Bedard from the Mariners in a last-minute deal Sunday, as part of a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. The Red Sox were also rumored to have a deal in place for Athletics pitcher Rich Harden Saturday night, but that did not go through because of concerns regarding Harden’s heath.

Stark explained why the Sox appeared to be more interested Harden than Bedard.

“I think there have always been worries about the fit for Erik Bedard and his personality in a town like Boston, I think that was part of it,” Stark said. “The other part of it was they matched up better with Oakland than they did with Seattle. I mean, the Seattle deal ended up being very complicated, [Seattle] wanted two players back, and one of them to be a big league-ready outfielder/position player, and the Red Sox really didn’t have that guy to trade. They had very little time to put that deal together. I am told they didn’t have a match until the Dodgers stepped in.”

Stark went on to say that maybe Bedard was the Red Sox’ only option to add a starting pitcher and that is why they traded for the injury-plagued pitcher. Bedard has only pitched in one game since June after going on the disabled list because of a sprained knee.

“He hasn’t thrown a pitch in August or September in any season since 2007,” Stark said. “When he goes out there, other than the debacle the other night, he is usually pretty good. How often is he going to go out there? I don’t think that is a question anyone can answer. Given the fact that the Red Sox had virtually no options at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon, he was the best they could do.”

Added Stark: “Anything can linger with Erik Bedard. There have been so many issues and they tend to linger. The Mariners really took their time with this one. From what I heard, he probably could have pitched a week or 10 days earlier than he did. They wanted to wait ’til they got off the road and pitched him in Seattle where he is comfortable, and put him the best possible environment and a pitcher’s park. … You have to see him for what he was. There was a market where there were almost no options and he was the last option standing.”

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Red Sox notes: No update on Clay Buchholz, Erik Bedard to start Thursday 08.01.11 at 5:23 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona did not offer an update on pitcher Clay Buchholz Monday prior to the team’s tilt with the Indians. Buchholz saw specialist Robert Watkins Monday for a lower back strain, but Francona said the findings of the appointment are not currently known.

“Clay was seen by Dr. Watkins. The appointment’s already been done,” Francona said. “Now, we need to let Dr. Watkins, Tom Gill, Mike Reinold, all the medical people talk to Theo [Epstein], have a chance to sit and meet and talk, and kind of sift through things. Maybe we’ll have something later tonight. At the latest, I would assume we’ll have something tomorrow.”

Buchholz has not pitched since June 16. Francona added that he expects Gill to prepare a statement on the status of the pitcher, at which point the team will have more information to share.

In 14 starts this season, Buchholz is 6-3 with a 3.48 earned run average. He has 60 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings.

- No update on reliever Bobby Jenks, who has been on the disabled list since July 16 with back tightness. Jenks, who has been on the DL three times this season, did not talk to the media prior to the game.

- Francona said the “knee is not an issue” with newcomer Erik Bedard, who made his return from a knee injury by allowing five runs over 1 1/3 innings Friday against the Rays.

The manager expressed excitement to see what Bedard can do as a member of the Red Sox, as Francona praised the 32-year-old Canadian pitcher for his breaking ball and ability to handle the rigors of the AL East. The best season of Bedard’s career came as a member of the Orioles in 2007, as he posted a 3.16 ERA and racked up 221 strikeouts in 182 innings of work.

- Bedard will pitch on Thursday, which allows scheduled starter Jon Lester to move back a day. Francona said the plan is to remain with six starters. Due to the fact that he is still being brought along from his injury, Andrew Miller will be available in the bullpen on the day of Bedard’s debut.

“Bedard there 57 pitches I think in an inning and [one-third],” Francona said. “He hadn’t pitched in a month. The way we interpreted it from the Seattle guys was that if he had pitched on Wednesday, they were going to hold him to like 75 or 80 [pitches], so we probably need to stay somewhat close to that also.”

Depending on whether he comes on in relief of Bedard on Thursday, Miller’s next start will be either Monday or Tuesday against the Twins. If he does not pitch out of the bullpen on Thursday, the plan is for him to take his scheduled turn on Monday, though he would be pushed back a day if he pitches Thursday.

- The Red Sox don’t have an off-day until Aug. 11, the day before their three-game series with the Mariners in Seattle. As a result, the Sox will continue with their six-man rotation until then.

- One player happy to see Bedard on his team is Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The 26-year-old is just 1-for-9 against the lefty in his career with five strikeouts.

“Huge,” Saltalamacchia said when asked how big Bedard could be for the Sox down the stretch. “A left-handed arm to go with what we’ve got is going to be a good addition. He’s been in the AL East before, so he knows what to expect, so we’re looking for good things.”

As for the uncertainty regarding Buchholz, the catcher just hopes that it eventually ends with Buchholz healthy and back to form.

“I’m sure it’s frustrating. He’s a big part of this team,” Saltalamacchia said. “We want him to be here, we want him to be a part of the rotation, but the main thing is for him to be healthy. We can’t have this lag on for another year or two, so he’s just got to figure out what it is, get healthy, and when he’s ready to pitch he’s going to be good.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox snap eight-game losing streak to White Sox, win 10-2 07.30.11 at 10:13 pm ET
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Jon Lester

After losing eight straight games to the White Sox, the Red Sox finally were able put an end to that streak Saturday night as they won in Chicago, 10-2. Before Saturday’s game, the Red Sox had lost 11 of their last 12 and 14 of their last 16 to the White Sox, dating back to August of 2009.

After two hits and no runs through the first four innings, the Red Sox were able to get to White Sox starter Philip Humber (8-7) in the fifth when they erupted for four runs and chased him from the game.

That would be all the offense Red Sox starter Jon Lester (11-4) needed, as he went eight innings and looked to be back to his dominant self in his second start since returning from the disabled list because of a left latissimus strain. It was his first victory in exactly a month, since June 30 vs. the Phillies.

The Red Sox also added five runs in the top of the ninth inning to end any hope the White Sox had of coming back.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the 65th win of the year for the Red Sox:

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

• The victory for Lester brought his record to 3-3 all-time against the White Sox. He had a 5.94 career ERA against Chicago entering the game. Lester went eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out eight. Lester’s eight strikeouts tied for the his third most in a game this season. He has done that on four other occasions. Lester entered Saturday fourth in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings, averaging 8.7 per game.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s double in the fourth inning extended his season-long hit streak to eight games, and he has now reached base in 30 of his last 32 games overall. He has three home runs and 10 RBIs during the eight-game stretch. His solo home run Friday night was the only run the Red Sox scored in the 3-1 loss to the White Sox.

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Saturday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Jon Lester vs. Philip Humber at 8:42 am ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester made his first start in just under three weeks on Monday, and he looked sharp doing it. The Red Sox ace allowed just one run on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings of work against the Royals. Lester (10-4, 3.23 ERA) struck out six Kansas City batters and threw only 89 pitches as manager Terry Francona made a point not to rush him back. Overall, in his last three starts, hard-throwing southpaw is 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA and 16 strikeouts. It doesn’t appear Lester will be held back this time around, as Boston takes on the White Sox and Philip Humber Saturday.

Humber (8-6, 3.27 ERA) has not taken the mound in close to two weeks as he was skipped last time through the rotation. Unlike Lester, Humber’s reason for missing a start had nothing to do with health. Rather, it was due to poor performance. In his last two outing, the 28-year-old right-hander has allowed an even 10 runs in just 9 1/3 innings of work. Humber picked up the win in his only career start against the Red Sox, a 10-7 White Sox victory on May 31 of this season. He lasted 7 2/3 innings in that game, allowing four runs on nine hits.

That game is about all the experience Red Sox hitters have against Humber. Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis lead the team with four prior plate appearances against the White Sox starter. Catcher Jason Varitek has the team’s one long ball. Overall, Boston batters enter Saturday’s game with a .333 batting average, .357 on-base percentage, and .519 slugging percentage.

Longtime White Sox Paul Konerko and A.J.Pierzynski are a combined 11-for-23 in their careers against Lester, with eight RBIs. However, in the rest of the team’s 73 at-bats, the other White Sox batters enter Saturday’s game with just five RBIs. Carlos QuentinBrent Morel and Brent Lilibridge are hitless against the Boston southpaw in a combined 23 plate appearances. Overall, current White Sox batters are hitting .260 against Lester, with a .390 on-base percentage and .365 slugging percentage. Read the rest of this entry »

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