|Kevin Millar on M&M: Jon Lester needs confidence, Red Sox need to decide between Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias||06.14.13 at 1:23 pm ET|
Kevin Millar joined Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon and was pretty adamant when it came to how Jon Lester can get back on track.
“Lester needs to take the ball, get on that mound, pull his hat down and believe in himself,” the former Red Sox and current MLB Network host said. “He does go through these periods where it’s almost like Jon Lester doesn’t believe how good Jon Lester really is. I think that’s just part of keeping going. John Farrell needs to be a big part of this and figure this out, because [Lester] needs to get straightened out.”
The two other obvious factors are location and velocity, Millar said. Lester’s velocity is down — from 95-97 mph to 88-92 — and when location isn’t there during any given start, it spells bad news for the lefty.
“A guy on the golf course asked me yesterday, ‘Mariano Rivera, how does he dominate the game with one pitch?’ ” Millar recalled. “Let me tell you, it’s real easy. Location. Mariano Rivera paints the baseball. Whether it’s a cutter or a fastball, it’s down and in, it’s down and away, it’s elevated up and in, it’s elevated up and away. Period. You never see Mariano Rivera pitch in the middle of the plate.
“This isn’t rocket science. Lester needs to find a way to hit spots, work down in the zone and pound the zone. Pound the zone.”
One player who does believe in himself — and has performed better because of it — is the same guy who had a walk-off single against the Red Sox last night: Chris Davis. The Orioles first baseman is an early MVP candidate with a .338/.417/.688 slash line, 21 homers and 56 RBIs.
Millar attributed a lot of that to the mental part of the game.
“[Orioles manager] Buck Showalter deserves a lot of credit with this young man,” Millar said. “You saw the numbers and talent in the minor leagues, and finally he said, ‘You’re my guy. You’re going to strike out. You’re going to play every day.’ It allowed Chris Davis to know that I’m going to be in the lineup whether I strike out or hit a home run, and you’re starting to see the game slow down.”
|Stephen Drew believes this might be his best defensive season||06.10.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While Stephen Drew said before Monday’s game he hadn’t talked about any sort of change in playing time now that Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks are both on the Red Sox roster, the shortstop didn’t express any concern regarding a change in role.
“No, we haven’t sat down and gone over that kind of stuff,” Drew said. “We’ll see what happens. [Iglesias] has done a great job since he’s been up here. He’s had a great year.”
Farrell made it clear that Iglesias’ playing time wouldn’t come strictly as a result of the Red Sox facing left-handed pitching, potentially leading to an off day for the lefty-hitting Drew.
The likelihood is that Iglesias’ playing time — which Farrell is planning on resulting in three or four appearances per week — comes more at third base, with Drew getting one or two days off every seven days.
“This isn’t going to be strictly a matchup,” Farrell said. “There may be a left-handed matchup when [Iglesias] plays shortstop on a given day, or if there’s a lefty on a day game following a night game and we give Stephen a day down. That would be part of it. Stephen has done a very good job for us at shortstop, defensively. He’s been streaky at the plate. We feel good about our infield depth.”
While Drew entered Monday hitting just .234 (.182 against lefties), his defense has been extremely solid at shortstop.
Drew, who has made just one error this season, believes that this actually might be his best defensive season in an eight-year big league career.
“I think so, at least in a long time,” he said when asked if 2013 might be his best defensive effort. “I had some good years in Arizona, but I think this year has been really good. It’s still early. Hopefully I can keep playing defense the way I’ve been playing.”
|Closing Time: Jacoby Ellsbury steals a piece of Red Sox history in blowout win over Phillies||05.30.13 at 10:22 pm ET|
The Red Sox will arrive in Yankee Stadium the same way they left it after the first series of the year: In first place in the American League East. The Sox ensured they would enjoy the divisional pole position by dispatching of the Phillies, 9-2, in a game notable for the team’s ongoing ability to conjure starting pitching depth and for the continuation of its ability to take advantage of rookies in what turned into an offensive explosion in the late innings against the Philadelphia bullpen.
Franklin Morales joined Alfredo Aceves and Allen Webster as pitchers who delivered serviceable outings when pressed into duty for injured teammates. In this instance, with Clay Buchholz missing a turn in the rotation, Morales proved serviceable if unexceptional, delivering five solid innings in which he gave up two runs. The Sox offense ensured that outing would prove sufficient by jumping early on rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone for four runs in the first. While those proved the only runs Pettibone permitted, he became the sixth straight rookie starter (in as many games) whom the Sox knocked out in five or fewer innings; rookie starters have a combined 10.64 ERA in those six starts against the Sox.
Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury continued a recent surge in which he looked like a player capable of altering the dynamic of the Red Sox lineup.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Ellsbury continued his recent surge. He went 3-for-4 with a walk and also got hit by a pitch, matching a career high by reaching base five times in a game (something he’d done four previous times, last on Sept. 13, 2011). He also set a new personal and Red Sox team record with five stolen bases; his previous best was four, accomplished against the Yankees on Aug. 9, 2010. The contest marked the 10th straight game in which he’s reached base. Over those 10 games, he’s now hitting .400/.489/.550, pushing his line for the year up to .268/.337/.372. Though he (somewhat startlingly) scored just one run despite spending the entire game in scoring position, he’s playing with considerable and obvious confidence in the batter’s box, in the field and on the bases, something that bodes well for a Sox team that entered the game having gotten just a league-average OBP (.327) from its leadoff spot. Read the rest of this entry »
|Stephen Drew: ‘I don’t plan on sitting out too much longer’||05.19.13 at 2:19 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — Stephen Drew was out of the Red Sox’ lineup for a second straight game after aggravating his back during an eighth-inning slide. The shortstop was optimistic, however, regarding the possibility of returning within the next few days.
“I hope so. I don’t plan on sitting out much longer,” said Drew when asked if believed a return was imminent. “I know I needed that day [Saturday], and then we have the quick turnaround [Sunday afternoon]. Give it one more day and hopefully it kind of settles down and we get back after it.”
Drew described as a “hyperextension on my spine,” having slid in awkwardly while legging out a double.
For May, the shortstop is hitting .321 with a .969 OPS. He was replaced in the lineup by Pedro Ciriaco, who collected a pair of hits while subbing Saturday.
“It’s not so much a surprise as it is being cautious because it’s your back,” Drew said. “Yesterday going into the cage, throwing and trying to do that motion, it wasn’t feeling so good. Throwing more so than the hitting, twisting and stuff. I actually threw first to see how that felt and it was just in the same place I felt it the night before.”
|Jacoby Ellsbury was slated for off day, but Shane Victorino not quite ready||05.18.13 at 6:24 pm ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell had planned to give Jacoby Ellsbury his first day off of the season Saturday night, but Shane Victorino’s back still wasn’t quite healthy enough to allow for the outfielder’s return to the lineup. Victorino would have hit leadoff and played centerfield.
Farrell did say prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Twins Saturday night at Target Field that there is some hope that Victorino is ready to return for the teams’ series finale.
“He was hopeful for today last night,” said Farrell of Victorino, who left Thursday night’s game in the ninth inning after colliding with the Tropicana Field fence. “He’s a hard guy to keep out of the lineup because he wants to get in every day and he’ll probably push it or risk it a little bit more than maybe we’re comfortable with. I think the additional day will be good.
Ellsbury is hitting .247 with a .312 on-base percentage, having stolen 13 bases in 15 attempts. Heading into Saturday night’s game, the center fielder was 2-for-15 with three walks on the current road trip. Both Twins starters for the series’ final two games — Scott Diamond and Pedro Hernandez — are left-handers.
“Still some inconstancies with the timing,” said Farrell regarding Ellsbury. ” There’s time where he’ll show good patience, he’ll work deep in the count, and the next at-bat may be a little bit over aggressive trying to make something happen. And it comes down to timing. We see him where he’s squaring up some balls, he gets on base and he’ll create some havoc. But the consistency to which he’s made himself known for is a little elusive right now. He’s a key part for us. We need him to, and we may need to work with him, to get him going everyday. But his consistency has a huge effect and a huge impact on who we are offensively.”
In other injury news, Stephen Drew experienced some pain in his back while running through some hitting, fielding and throwing drills earlier Saturday afternoon, leading to the shortstop’s exclusion from the lineup. Drew, who tweaked his back while beating out a double in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game, had been slated to hit seventh against Diamond.
|Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview||05.10.13 at 9:31 am ET|
The Red Sox welcome the Blue Jays to town this weekend for the first time in 2013, opening up a three-game set on Friday night. It’s been a little over a week since the two teams met up in Toronto, where the Red Sox took two of three from the last-place Jays.
Things haven’t been going well since the Red Sox left Toronto, however. Boston was swept in Texas before coming home and dropping three of four to the Twins to kick off the homestand. The slide has resulted in it becoming a little more crowded at the top of the division. The Red Sox now are sharing second place with the Orioles, percentage points behind the Yankees.
Toronto still sits alone at the bottom of the AL East with a 13-23 record, and the Jays’ week didn’t go much better than Boston’s. The Jays dropped the first two games of their series in Seattle and split a four-game set with the Rays, losing Thursday night’s game in the 10th inning when reliever Brad Lincoln walked in the winning run with the bases loaded.
If that weren’t enough, the Jays lost their most consistent starter of 2013 when J.A. Happ was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings on Tuesday night. Though the scene at Tropicana Field was terrifying and looked to be devastating, Happ was released from the hospital the next day and expects to miss only a few weeks with a knee injury he suffered when he collapsed to the ground.
The Jays also were faced with the reality that Ricky Romero was not ready to return from the minor leagues. The former ace of the staff allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings over two starts and was unable to get more than one out in his start on Wednesday. The Toronto bullpen was responsible for more than 16 innings of work in only two days.
The Jays have been disappointing in 2013, to say the very least. But R.A. Dickey, who was matched up against David Price in a Cy Young duel on Thursday night, said that a lack of effort isn’t the problem. “We’re not maybe playing the smartest baseball,” Dickey said after the loss on Thursday, “but we’re playing hard as crud.”
A divisional rival coming to town always makes for an exciting series, but this three-game set should be especially interesting given the controversy surrounding the teams’ last meeting. After Clay Buchholz’ brilliant two-hit, eight-strikeout performance against the Jays last Wednesday, Toronto radio analyst Dirk Hayhurst accused Buchholz of doctoring the baseball with a foreign substance. He and broadcaster Jack Morris pointed to Buchholz’ arm, at a substance that the pitcher maintains was rosin mixed with sweat. Buchholz seemed unfazed by the accusations, insisting, “I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I definitely don’t think if I’d given up nine runs in 2 1/3 innings it would have been an issue. That’s my guess. I don’t know. It is what it is.” Regardless of whether the claims had any basis, the story gained national attention, and there’s no doubt it will be something that is talked about as Buchholz takes the mound against the Jays on Saturday.
|Closing Time: Stephen Drew delivers walkoff victory for Red Sox||05.07.13 at 12:01 am ET|
Stephen Drew punctuated his best game with the Red Sox with a two-out, walkoff double in the bottom of the 11th inning that drove home catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia from second base to give the Sox a 6-5 victory. It was Drew’s fourth hit of the game, his 13th career game with four or more hits, and his third career walkoff hit (last on April 27, 2011).
Drew provided most of the Red Sox offense in helping the team to snap its three-game losing streak. He delivered a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning and then later adding a game-tying solo homer into the right field grandstand in the bottom of the seventh inning. He also added a one-out single in a tie game in the ninth. The homer pushed Drew’s average above .200 for the first time in his Red Sox career.
Since starting the year in a 2-for-23 rut, Drew — aside from a surprisingly high strikeout rate — has been more or less what the Sox hoped he might be when they signed him. He’s delivered steady, solid defense at short while offering on-base ability and some pop. In his last 14 games, Drew is now hitting .292/.364/.521 with a pair of homers.
“He’s been swinging the bat much better of late,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “A big night for him, a key hit, obviously to walk it off. The home run gets us another run closer earlier in the ballgame. The one thing we’ve talked to Stephen about is that over this past 10 days or so it’s almost like the end of spring training for him with the number of at-bats he’s starting to compile and you see his timing getting better and better. a solid night at the plate for him.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
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