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Closing Time: Red Sox bats go silent in loss to Twins 08.02.12 at 9:49 pm ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester may not be even close to the All-Star form everyone expected him to be going into 2012, but game-by-game, slowly but surely, the struggling lefty is improving.

Unfortunately, his latest performance was again not good enough as the Red Sox fell to the Twins, 5-0, to open their four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday night.

Lester tossed eight innings – the first time he’s done so since pitching a complete game on May 14 – and his pitching line was encouraging. He struck out seven, didn’t walk anyone – for the first time since June 27 – and didn’t give up a home run either, the first time he’s done that since the Red Sox returned from the All-Star break.

While Lester may have pitched well enough to win, his counterpart was even better. Samuel Deduno, in just his fifth big-league start, kept the Red Sox scratching their heads time after time Thursday night. The 29-year-old righty allowed only two hits in a six-inning shutout to take the victory, despite walking four and striking out just one.

Here’s what went right and wrong for the Red Sox as they fell for the second straight time to fall back to a .500 record:

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Read More: Jon Lester, Red Sox, Samuel Deduno, Twins
Thursday’s Red Sox-Twins matchup: Jon Lester vs. Samuel Deduno at 10:00 am ET
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Jon Lester

The Red Sox welcome the struggling Twins to Fenway Thursday night for the first in a four-game series.

Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49) will take the mound for Boston, looking to rebound from an atrocious July in which the 28-year-old posted a 9.36 ERA. After kicking off the month with a strong outing in Oakland, allowing just one run over 6 2/3 innings, Lester has given up at least four runs and failed to make it past the sixth inning in each of his last four starts.

In 21 games with their nominal ace on the mound, the Sox are a disappointing 8-13. Particularly troubling however, have been Lester’s struggles at home this season, where he is just 2-6 with a 7.39 ERA in 12 games. That’s unusual for Lester. In the three seasons prior to 2012, he has been essentially the same at home as on the road. If anything, he’s actually been better at Fenway, with a 3.34 ERA compared to his 3.40 on the road.

His struggles, however, have not been limited to Boston this year. On April 23 in Minnesota, for instance, in his one and only start against the Twins, Lester allowed five earned in seven innings, though the Sox pulled out a 6-5 win. Collectively, Minnesota’s current lineup is hitting .282 with an impressive .413 on-base-percentage in 104 plate appearances against the lefty. While Lester has surrendered just two home runs, the Twins have gotten to him in other ways, boasting more RBIs (17) and walks (17) than strikeouts (14).

Red Sox fans can take heart, however, in knowing that the Twins enter Wednesday with the worst run differential in the American League (minus-84) and plan to send a 29-year-old rookie with just 28 innings of big league pitching experience to the hill Thursday night. After pitching 2 2/3 innings in relief for the Rockies in 2010 and three innings for Padres last year, Samuel Deduno (2-0, 3.13) has made four straight starts for Minnesota, earning wins in his last two outings.

Deduno struggles with his control, but when he can command it he has an excellent curveball, which he throws nearly a 30 percent of the time. The right-hander’s curve is also his out pitch, accounting for an incredible 75 percent of pitches in two-strike counts. He also features a fastball in the low 90s and a slider, which account for 41 percent and 23 percent of his pitches, respectively.

Deduno has not faced any current Red Sox hitters.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, Minnesota Twins, Samuel Deduno
Sources: Chances of Red Sox dealing Beckett less than 50-50; team not close on adding or subtracting 07.30.12 at 9:40 pm ET
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One source characterized chances of a deal involving Josh Beckett as less than 50-50 (AP)

With a bit more than 18 hours left until the trade deadline, here is where things stand with the Red Sox, based on conversations with multiple major league sources:

– A major league source disputed the notion that the Sox were actively shopping or looking to engage in an outright dump of Josh Beckett, in which the team would be willing to absorb the lion’s share of his contract. If the Sox were to move the right-hander, part of the reason would be financial relief from one of the team’s biggest long-term deals. That said, the team has engaged in conversations about the right-hander with other teams, discussing a variety of packages that might offer the framework for a potential deal.

For now, the source portrayed the Red Sox as being more likely to retain Beckett than to trade him, pegging the chances of a deal as less than 50 percent. There is considerable complexity related to a deal involving the pitcher, including: a) the player return for the pitcher; b) the amount of the remaining roughly $37 million on his deal that would be assumed by both teams in a deal; and c) Beckett’s right, as a player with 10 years of major league service and five with the same team, to veto a trade.

The source said that the Red Sox have not gotten to the stage in negotiations with other teams at which they would have asked Beckett about his willingness to waive his 10/5 right to veto a deal.

WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reported earlier on Monday that the Braves and Rangers are not in on the pitcher right now.

– The team is not discussing Jon Lester with other teams. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Trade Deadline, Cody Ross, daniel nava, jarrod saltalamacchia
Closing Time: Adrian Gonzalez, Pedro Ciriaco lead Red Sox to late win over Yankees 07.28.12 at 9:25 pm ET
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Pedro Ciriaco

NEW YORK — The Red Sox looked ready to cave in, with their season seemingly on the brink of collapse.

But after the bullpen blew a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning, the lineup responded to Mark Teixeira‘s game-tying two-run homer with a two-run rally of its own in the top of the ninth. The key damage was done by Pedro Ciriaco, who delivered a go-ahead triple and then scored an insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth. Ciriaco, batting second in place of  Carl Crawford, went 3-for-5 and scored three runs, improving his average to .356 on the year.

The victory brought the Sox back to one game under .500 with three games left before the trade deadline.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Adrian Gonzalez had one of his most impactful games of the season, going 3-for-5 with a run-scoring double in the first against starter CC Sabathia and then later adding a three-run homer in the fifth against the giant left-hander to put the Sox in position to claim a 6-4 win over the Yankees in the Bronx.

It was Gonzalez’s 10th homer of the year, and with those two hits, he improved to .418 (best in the majors) with a 1.146 OPS with runners in scoring position. The homer snapped a string by the Sox of seven straight solo homers.

• It was anything but perfect for Jon Lester, but the left-hander had his best stuff in some time, limiting the Yankees to four hits and two walks in six innings while striking out six. However, he was also touched for four runs as he once again proved vulnerable to the longball. He was taken deep by the Yankees twice, and has now allowed seven homers in his last three starts.

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, Jon Lester, Pedro Ciriaco,
Red Sox Pregame Notes: Bobby Valentine on his ‘manager no-no’ and Carl Crawford’s schedule at 2:57 pm ET
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Carl Crawford

Outfielder Carl Crawford is not in the lineup because he’s on a “four-day program,” manager Bobby Valentine said on Saturday.

“I’m learning, I’m figuring it out what it is,” Valentine said. “It’s preventative and building up. Were preventing in his early going that he doesn’t overuse his elbow and that we’re building up tolerance as we go. I don’t think it’s going to be four days and a day off a year. I hope not. We’re building to a point to get beyond that.”

Crawford initially started the first six Red Sox games (in as many days) after the Red Sox activated him from the DL on July 16. Valentine said that, at that time, he ignored the plan that had been set up by the Sox for his usage.

“They told me before that game [when Crawford played beyond the four-game schedue] that he wasn’t playing, and I kind of did the old veto power. ‘Who says he’s not playing?’ And I played him,” said Valentine. “I did a manager no-no thing and went against what I was told to do. Never to be done again.

“I like to have Carl every day,” he added. “I’d like to have all my good players every day, but I understand the situation better now than I did then.”

Crawford, who smashed a solo shot on Friday night, has strong career numbers against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, against whom he is a career .319/.338/.449/.787 hitter. Still, Crawford has struggled thus far against lefties (4-for-20 with seven strikeouts and a walk), contributing to Valentine’s decision to sit him. (Daniel Nava, starting in left in place of Crawford, has never hit against Sabathia; he is hitting .148/.266/.241/.508 against lefties this year.)

“He has a four-day program, and I figured it’s better to play four of the next days than play this game and the three after this considering they’re all righthanders after today,” said Valentine. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bobby Valentine, carl crawford, Jon Lester,
Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Jon Lester vs. CC Sabathia at 10:09 am ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester will take the mound for the Red Sox against the Yankees for the second time this season on Saturday afternoon, going up against New York lefty CC Sabathia.

In his most recent outing, Lester tossed four innings and allowed 11 runs and four home runs as the Red Sox lost 15-7 to the Blue Jays. On the season Lester is 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA.

Boston has lost Lester’s last four starts, and the lefty allowed 22 combined runs over that stretch. His last win came a month ago, on June 27, when he allowed four runs in seven innings en route to a 10-4 victory over the Blue Jays.

He last took the mound against the Yankees on July 8 at Fenway. He allowed four earned runs and lasted 4 1/3 innings as the Red Sox lost 7-3. Nick Swisher leads Yankees batters with eight RBIs in his career against Lester and Derek Jeter has a .365 batting average against the southpaw.

The Yankees lost Sabathia’s last start, 5-4 to the Athletics. He allowed three runs and struck out six through seven innings. It was Sabathia’s second start since coming off the DL, making the lefty 1-1 since his return.

His first game off the DL was a 6-1 victory over Toronto, when Sabathia threw six innings and allowed zero runs.

The 32-year-old will be making his first start against the Red Sox this season. He has pitched against 11 current Red Sox batters, surrendering seven RBIs to Jacoby Ellsbury. In 71 plate appearances against Sabathia, Carl Crawford is batting .319.

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Read More: C.C. Sabathia, carl crawford, Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury
Mitch Williams on D&C: Red Sox ‘good enough’ for playoffs 07.25.12 at 9:47 am ET
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Mitch Williams

MLB network analyst Mitch Williams joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox’ mindset heading into the trade deadline and their chances of making it to the playoffs. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“This team is good enough,” Williams said. “Talent-wise it absolutely is good enough. Performance-wise I think there have been some guys on the team that obviously have not performed up to their capabilities.”

Based on Boston’s ability to win, Williams said the Red Sox should — and will — look for additions before July 31.

“Buyers,” Williams said of the Red Sox. “With the wild card teams there’s too much baseball left to just punt on the season right now. I look down in Miami and what they’re doing. They’re dismantling already and you’ve got 60-something games left. That’s just telling your players, your fan base that as a front office you’re giving up. And there’s a lot of playoff spots out there, and you don’t have to quit because they quit.”

Williams said Jon Lester is one of the players who hasn’t answered the call. Williams said the lefty is struggling because he won’t throw his most successful pitch, the four-seam fastball.

Lester, for reasons unknown to Williams, has continued to use the cutter, although it is the lefty’s weakest pitch.

“That’s the problem. I have not been able to figure it out,” Williams said. “He’s absolutely fallen in love with that pitch. … The thing about the cutter is there are two guys in the game of baseball right now that throw cutters that are cutters. That is Mariano Rivera and Kenley Jansen. It’s natural. They have to think to throw a four-seamer straight. It comes out of their hand cutting. It’s cutting from the minute it leaves their hand. The cutters that most pitchers are throwing today are just maybe sliders that are just offspeed fastballs that are moving maybe two inches.”

Added Williams: “When you can’t command the cutter, it just becomes a spinning, non-breaking 91 mph fastball.”

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Read More: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kenley Jansen, Mariano Rivera
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