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‘Miracle at Fenway': 10 years later, Red Sox’ historic 2004 season recalled fondly in new book 07.16.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Red Sox‘ 2004 World Series championship team that ended an 86-year title drought, local author Saul Wisnia has come out with a new book, “Miracle at Fenway.” The book focuses on the building of the ’04 squad — following the heartbreak of the ’03 season — and recounts the memorable ’04 postseason from the viewpoint of fans, players and front-office personnel.

Following is an excerpt from the book, a section about Dave Roberts‘ steal in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees that ignited Boston’s unforgettable comeback.

“Running Man”

The first thing he thought about was Maury Wills.

In this, the biggest moment of his baseball life, Dave Roberts was trying to focus on the topic at hand. It was the ninth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox trailed, 4-3, and Roberts stood on first base representing the tying run.

If the Sox lost, their season was over; the Yankees led the best-of-seven series three games to none, and were set to celebrate on the Fenway Park grass after just three more outs. They had the right man on the mound to get those outs in Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of his or any generation.

The home fans were abuzz, urging on a Boston rally, but Roberts could not hear them. Inserted into the game moments earlier as a pinch runner for Kevin Millar, whose leadoff walk against Rivera had raised the masses to their feet, Roberts knew it was his feet that everybody in the ballpark and millions of TV viewers were now watching.

He was a reserve outfielder who had not played in a week, and he had been put in here for one reason: to steal second base and give the Red Sox a chance to tie the game on a single. The crowd knew it, the TV and radio analysts were pontificating on it, and the cameras were bracing for it — zoomed in and ready to capture the moment.

Roberts could feel the sense of urgency, could anticipate the eyes upon him. Still, poised on the grandest of stages, he had the clarity to think back 10 months to moments in a near-empty ballpark 3,000 miles away. Moments spent with Maury Wills.

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Read More: Dave Roberts, Mariano Rivera, Maury Wills, Miracle at Fenway
Tom Verducci on D&C: High strikeout rate ‘bad news for the Red Sox’ regarding postseason hopes 09.27.13 at 9:08 am ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about news from around Major League Baseball.

Looking at the postseason, Verducci said the Achilles’ heel for the Red Sox might be their strikeout rate.

“What I’ve found in the last few years is strikeouts really matter. Teams that did not strike out play better and win more in the postseason,” he said. “In other words, as we get more and more strikeouts — and this is now the seventh consecutive year in baseball we’ll have more strikeouts per game, which is unbelievable when you think about that. Teams that are winning — the Giants last year, the Cardinals in ’11, the Giants in ’10, the Yankees in ’09 — all of them ranked no worse than ninth in their league in strikeouts.

“And the teams that have finished in the top five in strikeouts have lost nine of 11 series and gone 16-28 in the postseason. That’s bad news for the Red Sox, who are fourth in the league in strikeouts. I just think that teams that are able to avoid that strikeout, who can put the ball in play — and not to say the Red Sox don’t grind out guys; they do — but foul off pitches, get to another pitch, those are the teams that are having success as the strikeout rate is going up.”

The Red Sox are known as a patient hitting team that makes pitchers work, taking a lot of pitches and getting into teams’ bullpens.

“You’re absolutely right, and strikeouts are a consequence of that,” Verducci acknowledged. “No one sees as many pitches, no one sees as many full counts. They’re willing to give pitchers strikes. Now, the one vulnerability I think that approach has is when they face power pitchers that attack the strike zone, they don’t do so well. They’re ninth in the league when they face power pitching, hitting .211 against power pitching.

“When you give pitchers that first strike, that’s fine, because you’re making them throw pitches and a lot of guys don’t have the command. But when you’re giving good pitchers strike one, now you’re more at risk of not getting the job done. That’s why I think a team like the Tigers is probably the worst matchup on paper for the Red Sox because they do have power pitchers that pound the strike zone.”

Added Verducci: “I would give the Tigers a slight edge, because [Justin] Verlander seems to have straightened out his mechanics, but Boston is right there with them.”

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Read More: Bud Selig, Mariano Rivera, Tom Verducci,
Yankees cherish rivalry with Red Sox, playing at Fenway 09.16.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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The Yankees won’t always admit it, but the bad guys from New York relish their trips to Fenway Park.

In the midst of a 162-game, seemingly never-ending season, Fenway Park provides endless intensity from its 37,400 rabid fans.

“What makes it so special?” asked Derek Jeter. “It’s a good atmosphere. It’s fun to play here. We played a lot games here over the years, so it’s something as a player you look forward to because the fans get into it.”

Even Boston’s — and these days, baseball’s — resident villian, Alex Rodriguez, is enamored with the Hub.

“I love competing against the Red Sox,” said Rodriguez. “A lot of people forget that I almost came here. I conceded a lot to come here, but the [players' association] took it down. Fenway is a great stadium. I visited Harvard again last year, too, and took my two daughters. I love Boston, it’s a great town.”

“Just being able to play here at Fenway is amazing,” said Mariano Rivera. “I love it. I’ve been playing here for so many years and I look forward to coming here to play.”

Even players no longer sporting the Yankee pinstripes still recall their favorite Fenway memories.

“It’s the best rivalry in any sport,” said former Yankee and current Indian Jason Giambi. “You feel like you’re in a heavyweight fight every time you play. You’re mentally, physically exhausted after every game. Not only is it important to the team, but it’s important to the fans and media, too. It’s got a lot of hype to it. It’s fun to be part of, and it challenges you as a baseball player. I definitely miss it.”

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Read More: Aaron Boone, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera
Exit Sandman: Top 10 Mariano Rivera moments vs. Red Sox at 11:13 am ET
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As the 2013 season winds to a close, so does the career of arguably the greatest closer in baseball history.

Mariano Rivera, who holds the MLB record for most saves (651) and games finished (948), announced during spring training this year that he will retire at the end of 2013.

While this news has a huge effect on the Yankees, his retirement will have a profound effect on many other teams, especially the Red Sox, who have faced Rivera in 115 games over the past 19 seasons.

Here’s a look at the top 10 Mariano Rivera moments vs. the Red Sox over the course of the future Hall Of Famer’s career:

10. Rivera’s first appearance against Boston, Sept. 10, 1995 — Entering the major leagues as a 25-year-old rookie in 1995, Rivera originally was brought up as a starting pitcher before being converted into a reliever by the end of the season. In what would be the first of many, many appearances against the Red Sox, Rivera pitched two scoreless innings while striking out one batter, outfielder Willie McGee, in a 9-3 Yankees victory.

9. Rivera booed at Yankee Stadium, April 6, 2005 — The beginning of the 2005 season was pretty rough for Rivera. After missing time in spring training with elbow bursitis, Rivera had two straight blown saves against the Red Sox, including a miserable performance on April 6 in which Rivera gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning. After he was pulled, Rivera, who had four straight blown saves against the Red Sox dating back to the 2004 postseason, was booed by the Yankee Stadium crowd as he walked to the dugout.

8. Rivera shuts down Sox in ’99 ALCS, Oct. 13-18, 1999 — After coming back from two games down to defeat the Indians in the ALDS, the Red Sox were rolling and looked poised to continue their run against the defending World Series champion Yankees. However, the Sox were overmatched, especially by Rivera, who recorded two saves in three appearances while not allowing any runs, and were eliminated in five games. The Yankees went on to win the World Series again that season, their third title in four years.

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Read More: Mariano Rivera, Red Sox, Yankees,
Mariano Rivera on last regular-season game at Fenway Park: ‘Hopefully it’s not the last time’ 09.15.13 at 8:17 pm ET
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Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, prior to a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park to honor his remarkable career, expressed his appreciation for the fact that his foremost rivals were celebrating his 19 big league seasons.

“It’s different. Let’s put it that way,” said Rivera. “I’m humbled and honored and I appreciate what they’re doing.”

He suggested that because his first time pitching in Fenway Park came so long ago — on July 16, 1996, he recorded two scoreless innings in a surgical 26 pitches in the first of his 55 regular-season games at Fenway — it was difficult to recall that day in sharp detail. Still, he expressed his affection for Fenway as a visitor, and the many memories he has of the park.

You come here to play against the Red Sox in Fenway, it’s always great games,” he said. “It’s never easy. It’s not. Big moments, big games, every game means something. The games are spectacular. … I always take this opportunity to remember where 19 years I played against the Red Sox. Trying to do my job, it’s not easy.”

In a sense, this is the second time that Rivera has been honored prior to a Red Sox game. The first came prior to the home opener in 2005, when Rivera was cheered at a time when he had blown some early season saves against the Red Sox, the year after he’d blown saves in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS at Fenway as part of the Sox’ epic comeback that netted a return from a 3-0 deficit en route to Boston’s seven-game triumph in that series followed by the Sox’ first World Series title in 86 years.

“It was great,” Rivera said with a grin about that reception. “Hey, they won. You know? We don’t give it to them; I didn’t give it to them. They won.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Mariano Rivera,
Red Sox-Yankees series preview 09.13.13 at 9:39 am ET
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The Red Sox may not have completed the sweep against the second-place Rays, but they’ll come home to Fenway with an 8½-game lead in the division and a magic number of 8.

It was an impressive road trip for the Sox, who took series in New York (three of four) and St. Petersburg (two of three), and now have won seven straight series. They’ve already accrued more wins in September 2013 (eight) than they did in the last month of either 2012 or 2011. It appears the Red Sox have gotten hot just at the right time.

“We continue to play a very good brand of baseball,” manager John Farrell said after Thursday’s series finale with the Rays. “We’re executing for the most part in key moments and we come ready to get after it every single night.”

The Red Sox are hitting milestones left and right lately. Koji Uehara broke the franchise record for consecutive batters retired on Wednesday night, passing Ellis Kinder (32 in 1952). Uehara now has 34 consecutive outs. Mike Napoli collected his 31st bases-loaded RBI in Wednesday’s contest, which represents the highest total by a Red Sox player since Vern Stephens‘ 32 in 1950. And with their 89th victory of the season, the Red Sox have won 20 more games than they did in all of 2012, good for the largest season-to-season turnaround since the 1967 Impossible Dream team.

With a good amount of distance between them and the second-place Rays in the division standings, the Red Sox look to be a virtual lock for a postseason berth. They also have the ability to make a big impact on the wild card standings. Though the Sox don’t have any remaining regular-season games against the Rays, the team currently occupying the second wild card slot, they’ll come home to face the Yankees, who are hanging on to playoff hopes, staying within a game of Tampa Bay with a win on Thursday. Interestingly enough, the Yankees won their series finale with the Orioles on a wild pitch from Baltimore closer Jim Johnson in the top of the ninth inning, the second time this week they’ve won thanks to a wild pitch.

The Yankees, who have been playing nonstop baseball without an off day since Aug. 29, haven’t been playing bad baseball since the last time the Red Sox saw them (which, albeit, was five days ago). They managed to take three of four from Baltimore, moving ahead of the Orioles and Indians in the race for the second wild card spot. The Yankees just barely eked out the three victories in Baltimore, winning two of them by one run and the other by two runs.

The injury bug still is biting the Yankees. It was decided earlier in the week that shortstop Derek Jeter, who has played only 17 games this season, will return to the disabled list with an ankle injury and will not return this season. To fill the shortstop hole, the Yankees acquired the defensive-minded but light-hitting Brendan Ryan from the Mariners. Although the Yankees pulled out the victory on Thursday night, they lost a key member of their lineup when Brett Gardner was removed from the game and was diagnosed with a left oblique strain, an injury that can take a few weeks to heal. Gardner is scheduled to receive an MRI to determine the severity of the strain, but he will at least miss the series with the Red Sox, if not the remainder of the regular season. Catcher Austin Romine also is sidelined after suffering a concussion earlier in the week.

With the regular season winding down, this will be the last time the Red Sox face the Yankees barring a meeting in the playoffs, which means this weekend will be Mariano Rivera‘s final games at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are set to honor the closer on Sunday night.

Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend set.

Friday: John Lackey (9-12, 3.48) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.99)
Saturday: Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86) vs. C.C. Sabathia (13-12, 4.82)
Sunday: Clay Buchholz (10-0, 1.61) vs. Ivan Nova (8-4, 3.17)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ As noted earlier, Uehara set a new Red Sox record with 34 straight batters retired. He’s been unbelievably dominant since taking over the closer’s role and just continues to get better. Uehara has recorded 26 straight scoreless outings, passing Daniel Bard for the longest streak in team history. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in over two months, not since June 30, which was 30 appearances and 32 2/3 innings ago. Since becoming the closer, Uehara has earned four wins (no losses) and 18 saves in 20 opportunities. His ERA as the closer is an absolutely remarkable 0.25, while his WHIP is an equally mind-boggling 0.3273. Opposing hitters are batting a meager .084/.099/.126 against Uehara in his last 34 games, and he’s walked only two batters while striking out 51. That means his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a staggering 25.5. According to wins above replacement, Uehara has been worth more wins than any other reliever this season, which really is not surprising when looking at his unbelievable numbers.

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Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, daniel nava
Red Sox to honor Mariano Rivera at Fenway Park on Sunday 09.12.13 at 11:06 am ET
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The Red Sox plan to honor Yankees closer Mariano Rivera prior to Sunday night’s Red Sox-Yankees game, the future Hall of Famer’s last regular season — and quite possibly last — appearance at Fenway Park prior to his retirement. From the press release:

The Boston Red Sox will pay tribute to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park this Sunday, September 15, before the 43 year-old’€™s last regular season game at the ballpark.  Major League Baseball‘€™s all-time saves leader announced that he would retire at season’€™s end after a 19-year career.  Rivera has made more appearances than any other visiting reliever in the 102-year history of Fenway Park.

Fans coming to Sunday’€™s game, scheduled to start at 8:05 p.m., are invited to be seated by approximately 7:30 p.m.  A limited number of tickets are still available for the game.  

Rivera has made 55 career regular season appearances at Fenway Park, going 2-4 with a 2.54 ERA and 36 saves (and eight blown saves — his most in any visiting park) in 60 1/3 innings. He has made five additional postseason appearances against the Red Sox at Fenway, recording three saves but also blowing two — Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, both of which the Sox won in extra innings en route to their historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. Rivera has blown only five saves in 47 career postseason opportunities.

Read More: Fenway Park, Mariano Rivera,
Buster Olney on M&M: I’d take Red Sox over Tigers to win AL 09.11.13 at 1:47 pm ET
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ESPN’€™s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the first-place Red Sox and the American League playoff picture.

After Tuesday night’€™s 2-0 win over the Rays, backed by the return of Clay Buchholz after a three-month stint on the disabled list, Boston pushed its AL East lead to a season-high 8½ games. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox have a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

‘€œIt’€™s really been amazing, especially how the pitching staff has progressed,’€ Olney said. ‘€œIf you would have thought back six months ago and said they’€™re going to lose Joel Hanrahan, they’€™re going to lose Andrew Bailey, [Junichi] Tazawa‘€™s not going to be as effective at times as they had hoped, and oh yeah, Koji Uehara is going to turn into Mariana Rivera, you would have said no way. But you’€™re right, they have a chance to go to the World Series.’€

Olney discussed the amazing turnaround Boston has experienced from a 69-93 team last year that had a fire sale toward the end of the season to a World Series contender this year.

‘€œI really think that last year framed 2013 for them in a really good way,’€ Olney said. ‘€œI think they’€™re excited to get to work, from John Lackey dropping the weight, to Jon Lester probably feeling like he had something to prove, John Farrell probably happy to leave a situation that had increasingly become dysfunctional in Toronto.’€

The hosts put Olney on the spot, asking if he would take the Red Sox or the Tigers to win the pennant.

“This is a coin flip, you could make a strong case for either side,” Olney said. “I don’€™t think there’€™s a right answer for that question. But right now, based on the way they’€™re throwing and the confidence that Lester has and that big game that he pitched against Detroit, I’€™d take the Red Sox.”

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Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz, Joe Girardi, John Farrell
Closing Time: Red Sox come out on top of Yankees in roller coaster contest 09.05.13 at 11:40 pm ET
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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.

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Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, jake peavy, joba chamberlain, Mariano Rivera
Jerry Remy on D&C: Mariano Rivera ‘a class act’ 07.17.13 at 9:59 am ET
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NESN Red Sox color commentator Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning for his weekly baseball discussion, and he offered his thoughts on Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

Remy said he watched the Midsummer Classic to see how the Red Sox players would fare as well as to watch the final All-Star appearance of Mariano Rivera. The retiring Yankees closer was named MVP after pitching a scoreless eighth inning in the American League’s 3-0 victory at Citi Field in New York.

“It was great to see him come in and see him get the respect of both the American League and National League and the fans in New York,” Remy said. “You talk about a class act. Has there ever been a bad word said about this guy? Never. It’s a real rarity to see a guy like that.”

Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig did not get an All-Star invitation despite his tremendous first six weeks in the majors. Remy is fine with that decision.

“I didn’t think he belonged there, to be honest with you,” Remy said. “I know he’s an exciting kid and all this stuff. But let’s see him for a year. And some of his antics have been crazy. I don’t think that’s a good example for Major League Baseball right now. I think he’s got to grow up a little bit. He’s obviously a very talented kid. But heck, right now I could go back and have a good month and be named to an All-Star team — I’m quite confident at the age of 60.

“I think he’s got a lot of growing up to do. Let’s give him a chance to grow up at the big league level. He’ll be an All-Star many times over.”

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jerry Remy, john lackey, Mariano Rivera
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