|Dave Magadan knows better than most how David Ortiz can start hitting lefties again||05.21.15 at 12:59 pm ET|
This might be the worst stretch against left-handers David Ortiz has ever endured.
The Red Sox designated hitter has just six hits in 44 at-bats against lefties (.136), with not a single walk.
Not even at was perceived to be his low point against southpaws, throughout the 2009 and ’10 seasons, was it this bad. In ’09, when he finished the year with a career-worst .212 clip against left-handers, Ortiz only dipped below .200 for two games the entire season. And a year later, when the troubles led left his average vs. lefties at .222, his low point was .175 in early June.
As former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan remembered Wednesday, those were the days of panic for some predicting the downturn as the beginning of Ortiz’s end.
“If you remember, there was a clamoring of should we release him, is he done,” the current Rangers hitting coach said. “There was a lot of talk about that. They were talking about his bat speed and all that. But I remember distinctly telling him, ‘David, you take BP with guys throwing 50 mph. If you didn’t have bat speed you couldn’t hit balls where you do in BP and we’re going to look back at this moment and we’re going to laugh. We’re going to use it to make you better down the line because this is going to make you a better hitter, a better player. As tough as you are, it’s going to make you’re tougher.’ He ended up proving all the doubters wrong.”
Ortiz evidently took the pep talk to heart, going on to hit a combined .293 with a .889 OPS over the last four seasons.
But the first 40 games of this season has offered an uncomfortable reminder of what happens when the production against left-handers comes to a halt.
Now Ortiz finds himself searching for the same kind of solution Magadan helped the DH uncover five years ago.
“It was showing old video. Showing him what he did against left-handers, how he used the field,” Magadan said. “A lot of his troubles back then was that he was using half the field. And it was more trouble with the relievers than it was the starters. Lefty starters he was still getting his hits, but it was the guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out he had a little too much of a pull approach. Then it was when he started opening up the left side of the field is when he got going.
“You can say it about any lefty hitter, these guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out usually have really good breaking balls. And if you’re up there worried about getting the head out and pulling the ball ‘¦ Most of the time they’ll flash you inside to get you going away, so that flash got him leaning away and then they would come with the breaking ball.”
Ortiz has seemingly made a conscious effort of returning to an opposite field approach against left-handers, at least when elevating the ball.
But one noticeable trend this season has been an inability to hit the ball on the ground to the left side, as is evidenced by not a single ball hit on the ground to the left of second base against a lefty hurler.
There might be a reason: unlike five years ago, the balls he is putting in play are coming on pitches on the inside part of the plate.
Here are the 13 hits Ortiz had managed against lefties by the time May 20, 2011 rolled around …
“When he started hitting the ball the other way, taking his base hit over there, it changed the way they were pitching him,” Magadan remembered. “They started throwing more fastballs on the inner-half. But he needed the pay back of hitting balls over to the left side, keeping the defense and the pitchers honest for it to flow from there.”
Evidently, it’s time for another adjustment from Ortiz.
|Saturday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Felix Hernandez||05.16.15 at 9:35 am ET|
After allowing just four runs in his last 19 innings over three starts, Porcello’s ERA has dropped to 4.50, the best among Red Sox starters. He also leads Boston starters with a 1.32 WHIP and is second with a .269 batting average against. He has 38 strikeouts and just 11 walks. He was plagued by the long ball at the beginning of the season, but Porcello has gone three games without allowing a home run.
In his last start, the 26-year-old went five innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out three. He struggled to find the form that he had in his previous two outings, but Porcello was able to spread out baserunners enough and work out of jams to limit the damage. The Red Sox won the game, 5-4, but Porcello received a no-decision, which held his record at 3-2. It was the fourth straight Boston win in games that Porcello has started.
In eight career starts against the Mariners, Porcello is 4-3 with a 3.96 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, 42 walks and 10 strikeouts. He has made two starts at Safeco Field and has a 2-0 record with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP at the home of the Mariners.
|Wednesday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Wade Miley vs. Sonny Gray||05.13.15 at 8:31 am ET|
Wade Miley will take the mound for the Red Sox on Wednesday to close out a three-game series in Oakland against Sonny Gray and the Athletics.
Miley has had a rough start to the 2015 season and finds himself last among Red Sox starters with a 6.91 ERA. He also holds a 1.53 WHIP and a .286 batting average against, both of which are much worse than his career averages. He has received a loss in each of his last three outings. The silver lining may be that the 28-year-old’s last two starts marked the only times that he went at least six innings this season.
Miley’s last outing resulted in a 7-0 Red Sox loss in Toronto. He went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out eight Blue Jays. Two of Toronto’s four tallies against the lefty came on solo home runs, one by Josh Donaldson in the first inning and one by Chris Colabello in the second. After that, Miley settled down and did not allow another run until the sixth inning, when he gave up two.
When asked about his outing after the game, Miley told reporters that it was “not very good.”
“The way we’re going right now, offensively, two runs seems like a big gap, to be honest with you,” manager John Farrell added.
The loss dropped Miley’s record to 1-4. He has not faced the A’s in his career.
|Monday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Scott Kazmir||05.11.15 at 10:25 am ET|
Rick Porcello gets the start as the Red Sox continue their road trip with a visit to Oakland on Monday night. The A’s will send out a pitcher who has become familiar with the Sox over the years, Scott Kazmir.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Porcello has settled down over his last two outings. He has recorded two wins in a row with back-to-back seven-inning appearances against the Blue Jays and Rays. After struggling with home run balls in his first few starts, Porcello kept the ball in the park in each of those games. The 26-year-old also has been inducing more ground balls of late, as 50 percent of balls in play were on the ground in his last start, compared to times when he has struggled this year and that number dropped to 40 and 20 percent.
In his last start, a seven-inning shutout of the Rays, Porcello allowed eight hits, all of them singles, while walking none and striking out six.
“Seven strong innings. He scattered eight hits,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “We turned an uncommon double play to get out of a potential jam. The biggest thing was he didn’t walk anyone, and I thought after the fourth inning, those final three innings, he threw the ball down in the strike zone a little bit more consistently. But on a day where we needed a strong performance, he gave it to us.”
Porcello now leads Red Sox starters with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, and is second with a .250 batting average against.
In 11 career outings against the A’s, Porcello is 4-5 with a 3.73 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP, 26 strikeouts and 20 walks. He has made seven appearances at O.co Coliseum, going 1-for-4 with a 5.09 ERA, a 1.78 WHIP and five home runs allowed in 35 1/3 innings of work.
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. R.A. Dickey||05.10.15 at 9:24 am ET|
Buchholz has had trouble maintaining consistency after his great start on Opening Day. In his last start, the 30-year-old went 6 1/3 innings against the Rays, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. He gave up two runs in each of the first two innings before settling in and not allowing Tampa Bay to score again until the seventh. In the second inning, Buchholz gave up a two-run home run to designated hitter Joey Butler. It was the first home run of Butler’s career. The loss dropped Buchholz’ record to 1-4.
“I felt like I settled in fairly decent,” Buchholz said after the game. “There were a lot of pitches I didn’t feel like I got the benefit of the doubt on on the strike zone, but you can’t let that affect you. There’s going to be a lot of times that’s the way you feel about it. For the most part I felt like I threw the ball well, the line doesn’t show for it and the loss is not good either.”
Buchholz takes his 6.03 ERA and 1.60 WHIP to face a Blue Jays lineup that has been one of the most productive in baseball to this point. In his last outing against Toronto, which came at Fenway Park in late April, he made it through just 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four.
Through six outings, Buchholz has not been very fortunate in the run support department, as the Red Sox have been held to just one run in three of his starts.
In 13 career starts at the Rogers Centre, Buchholz is 8-3 with a 2.16 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 61 strikeouts and 33 walks.
|Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview||05.08.15 at 9:24 am ET|
After a nine-game homestand against three AL East opponents, the Red Sox head north of the border on Friday for the second series of the year against the Blue Jays. Both teams are struggling, as Toronto is 5-5 in its last 10, and Boston is 3-7.
The Red Sox have dropped their last two series, being swept by the Yankees and dropping two of three to the Rays. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have won just three series on the year and lost two of three games in Fenway Park in late April when they last faced the Red Sox. Luckily for both teams, the division looks to be fairly evenly matched, so stringing together a few wins could mean capturing the top spot.
“I think the whole division is a complete mud bog,” ESPN’s Buster Olney said on Middays with MFB on Wednesday. “We still haven’t seen what’s going to define the division.”
The Blue Jays are coming off a series win against the Yankees in which Toronto’s pitchers allowed just eight runs through three games. This is welcome news for the Blue Jays, who have had similar struggles to the Red Sox when it comes to finding consistency on the mound. Even after the improved performance against New York, Toronto’s pitching staff ranks 28th in baseball with a 4.83 ERA, 28th with a 1.46 WHIP, and 27th with a .269 batting average against.
“We have not thrown the ball well from the rotation; we haven’t gotten innings out of the rotation,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters prior to the Yankees series. “Our offense has carried us, I think that goes without saying, but these guys are all capable of going on a run and getting a lot better.”
By comparison, the Red Sox pitching is 29th with a 4.86 ERA, 25th with a 1.39 WHIP, and 23rd with a .263 batting average against. In response to the poor start on the mound, the team dismissed pitching coach Juan Nieves on Thursday.
|Mookie Betts’ 2 solo home runs lift Red Sox past Rays||05.05.15 at 11:12 pm ET|
In a pitching duel between Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly on Tuesday, Mookie Betts was responsible for the only two runs of the game.
He hit a pair of solo home runs over the Green Monster, one off of Smyly in the sixth inning and the other off of Ernesto Frieri in the eighth.
Smyly had a no-hitter going and had allowed just two base runners up until Betts first home run.
“I think it was a curveball or cutter or something that he threw, left it a little up and I put a pretty good swing on it,” Betts said, adding: “He had been blowing fastballs by me all night, so I was just kind of ready for a fastball and he left another cutter up there and I was able to swing at it.”
The second homer came on Frieri’s first pitch of his outing.
“I was just first pitch, ready to go,” Betts said. “I figured, you know, he’d try to get strike one, and I was going to be ready for that.”
Betts’ 2-for-4 game raised his season average to .234. He is currently riding a four-game hit streak and has hits in seven of his last eight games.
“I’ve had a couple balls that didn’t fall for me [earlier in the season] and then I’ve mixed in some bad at bats as well,” Betts said. “But I feel like I’m close and I’m right where I want to be.”
|John Farrell: Hanley Ramirez injury a chance for Allen Craig to ‘gain a little rhythm’||at 5:17 pm ET|
With Hanley Ramirez out of the lineup and listed as day-to-day after injuring his shoulder while running into the wall to make a catch Monday night, Allen Craig will get the start in left field and bat sixth on Tuesday night.
In his pregame press conference on Tuesday, manager John Farrell said that Ramirez is still being evaluated, but if he is to miss a significant amount of time, Craig would likely be one of the first in line for extra at-bats.
Craig has struggled at the plate so far this season. In 45 plate appearances, he is hitting just .146 with a home run as his only extra-base hit, two RBIs, three walks and 12 strikeouts.
Farrell hopes that a potential increase in playing time will serve Craig well.
“Any time you lose one player, it’s going to provide opportunity,” Farrell said. “Allen’s back in the lineup tonight in left field tonight with [Rays pitcher Drew] Smyly the left-hander on the mound. So any player that’s been a starting player in the past, this is an opportunity to hopefully gain a little rhythm.”
After his All-Star season in 2013, when Craig hit .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs in St. Louis, the 30-year-old’s numbers have dipped. In 126 games last year split between the Cardinals and Red Sox, he hit .215 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs. His OBP dropped from .373 to .279 from 2013 to 2014. This season, his OBP is just .222.
Craig suffered a foot injury late in 2013, which may have contributed to his unimpressive numbers since then.
“I think last year, you can directly point to the foot as being a reason why [he struggled],” Farrell said. “… He wasn’t able to maybe reproduce his natural normal swing. He wasn’t hitting from a strong base that he had been accustomed to. I thought in Spring Training he started to show the player he’s been with some consistent at bats. And then you go into a reserve role, that’s a tough thing for a position to player to maintain timing.”
As long as Ramirez is out, the Red Sox will be missing one of their best offensive weapons, but Farrell hopes that Craig and the rest of the Red Sox lineup don’t try to do too much to fill his shoes.
“I think the one thing that we want to be sure of is that because of Hanley’s absense, no one thinks they’ve got to be Hanley,” Farrell said. “Perform to the best of their ability, everyone do their job, and collectively, that should make up for the difference there.”
Porcello is currently 2-2 with a 5.34 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and a starting-rotation best .242 batting average against. He has been one of the more consistent of Red Sox starters but has dealt with his own struggles throughout the year as well. He has thrown at least five innings in each of his five starts but has struggled with maintaining effectiveness throughout the game at times. Porcello had one start — a five-inning outing when he allowed eight runs on 12 hits to the Orioles — that makes his stats look worse than they would be otherwise.
One of the biggest concerns with the 26-year-old at this point is the frequency of home run balls that he has allowed. Through five starts, Porcello, who relies on batters hitting the ball on the ground to be effective, has allowed six homers.
Porcello’s last start was perhaps his best of the season. He went seven innings against the Blue Jays, allowing just one run on two hits and two walks while striking out six on the way to his second win of the season. He did not allow a home run for the first time in 2015, but still did not force batters to ground out as much as he would like. Of balls put in play, just six were on the ground while 11 were either fly balls or line drives.
“He gave us exactly what we needed,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “Seven strong innings. Turns it over to the bullpen with [Junichi Tazawa] and Koji [Uehara] doing their job. As much as we talked about the starter setting the tone, Rick certainly did that tonight.”
In seven career starts against the Rays, Porcello is 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, 30 strikeouts and eight walks.
|Monday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Jake Odorizzi||05.04.15 at 11:00 am ET|
The struggling Red Sox, coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, open up a three-game home set with the Rays on Monday night. Clay Buchholz will take the mound against Jake Odorizzi.
Buchholz (1-3) joins the rest of Boston’s starting rotation with a very inconsistent first five starts. He has gone six innings or more in three of his outings and did not allow more than two runs in any of those games. However, the 30-year-old did not receive much run support in those starts, and received a no-decision in one and a loss in another. In his other two starts, however, he made it through just 3 1/3 innings and 2 2/3 innings while allowing 15 runs (13 earned) in total.
Buchholz is sitting on a 5.76 ERA, which is second worst among Red Sox starters. He also holds the worst WHIP (1.56) and batting average against (.295) in the rotation. He leads Boston starters with 33 strikeouts and eight walks.
In his last start, Buchholz was hit hard by the Blue Jays and received a loss. Through just 2 2/3 innings he allowed five runs (four of them earned), six hits and one walk while striking out four. Buchholz was given a 4-0 lead by the offense going into the third before giving Toronto the lead. He was pulled after 62 pitches in a game that the Red Sox eventually lost 11-8.
“Whenever the team gives you a four-run lead you’re supposed to come out a lot better than that,” Buchholz said after the game. “Went out there with a game plan of throwing strikes, let them put the ball in play and get outs. Walked the first guy. All the contact that they made — they hit the ball hard and it wasn’t at any of our players in the field. I have to do a lot better job than that.”
In 19 career starts against the Rays, Buchholz is 8-6 with a 5.71 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, 120 strikeouts and 39 walks.
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