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Closing Time: Red Sox 11, Rays 5 09.08.10 at 10:27 pm ET
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Red Sox skipper Terry Francona was right.

Earlier in the day, he said his team would still have fight in them, even after the bout is long over.

Whether it’s Marco Scutaro belting a pair of home runs to left with a bum right shoulder, Josh Reddick collecting three hits in his career for the first time or Lars Anderson breaking through with his first two big league hits, the Red Sox showed that Tuesday night’s 14-5 embarrassment at the hands of the Rays was wiped from their memory banks.

That skill will come in very, very handy as they play the Yankees six times and the White Sox four times in the final three weeks. The Red Sox, if nothing else, showed Wednesday they will play hard to the end of the schedule.

The Red Sox were rewarded Wednesday night with an 11-5 win over the Rays, completing their homestand with a 2-4 mark as they have Thursday off before embarking on a six-game road trip through Oakland and Seattle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

– Marco Scutaro sure knows how to handle pain. Fresh from his first start at second base since 2008, Scutaro returned to shortstop on Wednesday and had his second career two-homer game. He also collected a double and a single in posting his seventh career four-hit game. His other came on Aug. 9, 2009 vs. Baltimore.

— The Rays had a pitching meltdown starting with Matt Garza. The Red Sox took advantage of the right-hander who had one of his worst nights of a good season. Coming in, he was 14-7 with a 3.46 ERA. But on this night, his fastball was flat and the Red Sox capitalized by going deep four times.

Tim Wakefield hits his payday. By getting one out deep into the fourth inning, Wakefield guaranteed his contract for 2011 at $2 million, up from the base of $1.5 million when he agreed to a two-year extension last November. On top of that, Wakefield earned his first win since before Independence Day by lasting five innings, allowing six hits and five runs – four earned. It was his first win since July 2 and a 3-2 win over Baltimore at Fenway.

— Rookie first baseman Lars Anderson looked a lot more comfortable. Not only did he collect his first two big league hits but he drove in his first run in a three-run seventh and made a diving grab of a Brad Hawpe grounder down the right field line. He scooped and threw onto Scott Atchison covering.

— The long ball brigade was out in force. Not only did Scutaro go deep twice, David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez all went yard as the Red Sox turned the tables on the Rays pitching staff from Tuesday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

– J.D. Drew continues to slide. Drew went 1-for-4 and struck out and now has a season batting average of .254. He finished the homestand 3-for-17 and has homered once this month, on Sept. 1 against Baltimore’s Jake Arieta.

— Rays manager Joe Maddon was managing the late innings as if the game were a one-run playoff contest. This wasn’t really that bad for the Red Sox but terrible for the loyal fans who chose to stay behind and get their nine innings-worth of baseball. Despite the Red Sox scoring three in the fifth, one in the sixth and three more in the seventh to make it an 11-5 contest, Maddon saw fit to use six pitchers in the game, with four of the changes coming in the middle of an inning.

Read More: josh reddick, lars anderson, marco scutaro, Tim Wakefield
Closing Time: Rangers 10, Red Sox 9 08.14.10 at 12:21 am ET
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The Ballpark at Arlington is known as one of the best hitting environments in the majors. On Friday, in a slugfest between the Red Sox and Rangers, there were ample reminders of how that reputation was forged.

Unfortunately for the Sox, those reminders came at their expense, as they suffered their second devastating loss in as many days. Despite claiming leads of 8-2 in the fourth inning and 9-6 in the seventh, the Sox allowed the Rangers to come all the way back in a 10-9 loss in 11 innings, with Texas claiming he walkoff when Nelson Cruz homered on the first pitch that reliever Tim Wakefield threw.

With the defeat, the Sox missed a significant opportunity to make up ground in the wild card race, as the Tampa Bay Rays lost. Due to their inability to hold their lead on Friday, the Sox remained four games behind the Rays in the wild card, and five back of Tampa Bay in the loss column.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Nearly anything that involved the presence of a wooden bat in the hands of the Rangers “went wrong” for the Red Sox.

–Sox starter Josh Beckett turned in his second straight poor outing. He gave up six runs on 10 hits in five innings, and the Rangers took him deep a season-high three times. Beckett’s short outing, in turn, led to an overextension of the Red Sox bullpen.

Beckett had been 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his first three starts off the disabled list. In his last two outings, however, he has allowed 13 runs on 21 hits and four homers in 9 2/3 innings (12.10 ERA).

–The Red Sox made a pair of costly defensive miscues. In the bottom of the seventh, J.D. Drew misjudged a liner to right off the bat of Nelson Cruz. The catchable ball ticked off the tip of Drew’s glove, and was ruled a double. That opened the door for a pair of two-out runs in the seventh. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Jed Lowrie rushed an off-balance throw on a dribbler up the middle off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero. A strong throw would have gotten the slow-footed Guerrero and ended the inning. Instead, the Texas DH was safe at first when Lowrie’s throw pulled first baseman Mike Lowell off the bag, with Josh Hamilton alertly scoring from second on the play to tie the game, 9-9.

Daniel Bard not only allowed the tying run to score on the Guerrero grounder, but also had to endure his longest outing of the season. Bard (who struck out three) threw a season-high 32 pitches, and is almost certainly unavailable for Saturday.

Josh Hamilton played the role of Superman. He enhanced his American League MVP candidacy by going 4-for-5 with his 25th homer, a double and the heads up play to score the tying run from second on an infield grounder. He also played spectacular defense in center field.

Jacoby Ellsbury left the game with what was described as “left side pain.” Given the rib injuries that cost him 98 games this year, such a diagnosis sounds less than promising for the Sox. Manager Terry Francona said after the game that Ellsbury will leave Texas on Saturday to receive an MRI for a determination of the injury’s severity. For more on Ellsbury’s situation, click here.

–The Sox went 1-for-15 from the seventh inning through the end of the game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

J.D. Drew gave strong indications that he is readying to shake off his midsummer slump. The right fielder, who had been hitting .195 over his previous 23 games, went deep twice, going 3-for-5. Drew has now gone deep four times in as many games, and two of his shots have come against left-handers. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Drew’s second homer on Friday came against Rangers southpaw Darren Oliver, who had not allowed a homer to a lefty in more than a year (last one on Aug. 5, 2009).

–Also joining the Home Run Derby were David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie, each of whom hit their second homers in as many days, as well as Adrian Beltre. In fact, Ortiz, Beltre and Drew went deep in back-to-back-to-back at-bats in a seven-run fourth inning, marking the first time that three straight Sox hitters had gone deep since four consecutive Sox hitters launched roundtrippers against the Yankees on April 22, 2007.  As for Lowrie, the homer was his first against a right-handed pitcher this year.

Mike Lowell went 2-for-4 with a walk to improve his numbers since coming off the disabled list to .333 with a .937 OPS, but perhaps the most striking element of his night came in the field. While his athleticism has been impaired by his degenerative hip condition, he made a leaping catch of a Michael Young liner in the bottom of the eighth inning that likely saved the Sox a run, since the next hitter (Josh Hamilton) ripped a double.

Read More: Daniel Bard, J.D Drew, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton
Sox hit lanes for Beckett Bowl 07.30.10 at 6:55 am ET
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Josh Beckett hosted his annual charity event Beckett Bowl on Thursday night at Lucky Strike Lanes near Fenway Park. Tim Wakefield, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash were among the Red Sox players who bowled to benefit Beckett’s charity. Click here to see photos from the event.

Read More: Bekett Bowl, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield,
Red Sox vs. A’s matchups, 7/20 07.20.10 at 10:01 am ET
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Monday night’s 2-1 win at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum certainly can qualify as one of the biggest wins of the season for the Sox, considering the importance of this 10-game West Coast road trip. With the Sox knowing they cannot afford to lose many more series in the second half if they want to hang with Tampa Bay and New York, beating Oakland could prove to be the perfect cure for a group plagued by injuries.

Tim Wakefield (3-8, 5.65 ERA) takes the ball Tuesday night, hoping to forget about his last two starts and prove he is capable of staying in the rotation for the remainder of the season. With Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz returning from the disabled list this week, the veteran knuckleballer could use a strong outing to solidify himself in the rotation, although it is unlikely he will stay put after Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s impressive outing on Monday. Wakefield has struggled of late, having gone only two innings his last outing against Texas — the shortest outing of the season for him — giving up eight hits and six runs en route to a 7-2 loss. The month of July has not been kind to Wakefield. So far this month he has pitched only 15 2/3 innings, giving up 14 earned runs to total a hefty 8.04 ERA.

The Athletics have a few hitters with some success against Wakefield in the past. Jack Cust, in 25 plate appearances, has an impressive .455 average to go along with three doubles and three RBI. Kurt Suzuki has a .400 average in 16 plate appearances to go with a double and two home runs.

Toeing the rubber for the A’s will be 26-year-old Dallas Braden. Since throwing the 19th perfect game in MLB history on May 9, Braden (4-7, 3.83 ERA) has struggled. That historic outing against Tampa Bay was his last win, as he has lost five decisions since. He does have an impressive numbers at home, compiling a 3-4 record and a 3.15 ERA. With Braden coming off the disabled list and having not pitched since June 22, it will be interesting to see how many pitches the A’s will afford the young left-hander. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dallas Braden, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield,
Closing Time: Rangers 7, Red Sox 2 07.15.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The night started well, anyway. For one batter. Tim Wakefield struck out Elvis Andrus to begin the game but it was pretty much a disaster after that for the knuckleballer and the Red Sox as the Rangers connected for six straight hits to build a 6-0 lead before the Red Sox even had a chance to get their first swings after the All-Star break.

Combine that with the fact that they were facing a pitcher that had won five of his seven starts since re-joining the Rangers on June 5 and Boston’s fate was pretty much sealed only minutes after the moment of silence for Yankee legends George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

All told, Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Rangers was a pretty simple story of bad starting pitching against a red-hot Texas lineup.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Wakefield simply didn’t have it. He threw 26 pitches in the first inning. Not bad by Daisuke Matsuzaka standards. But after the strikeout of Andrus, he gave up three singles to Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero before Josh Hamilton’s double. Nelson Cruz followed with a two-run single and Bengie Molina connected for a two-run homer and it was 6-0. Wakefield appeared to collect himself with a five-pitch second inning, in which he retired all three batters. Wake had no such luck in the third when he faced three batters and retired none.

Wakefield suffered his shortest outing since Sept. 6, 2008, also against the Rangers. That night, like Thursday, he allowed seven runs. Thursday, Wakefield also yielded eight hits while striking out two.

– The Red Sox had no answers for Tommy Hutton. After the Rangers scored six in the first, the Red Sox went out in order in the first and could only muster a pair of solo homers against starter Tommy Hutton.

Terry Francona would have dearly loved to have had a longer night from Wakefield for the simple fact that he has Felix Doubront going Friday and John Lackey on Saturday. Especially with Doubront, there’s no guarantee the 22-year-old hurler can give them the six or seven innings they need to save a bullpen that had to get 21 outs on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- The Red Sox bullpen of Robert Manuel, Dustin Richardson and Scott Atchison did not allow a run over the final 21 outs of the game. Manuel came in and allowed Wakefield’s final run to score but didn’t yield one of his own. The lefty Richardson did walk three batters and recorded only one out but he was rescued by Atchison, who entered with two on and none outs in the sixth. Atchison allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings to keep the Red Sox within a big inning of getting back in the game.

‘€œThe bullpen was outstanding,” catcher Kevin Cash said. “You hate to see an effort like that where they kept us in that ballgame and a big hit there or big hit at any point and we’€™re right back in it. But tip your cap to the bullpen. They were outstanding, every one of them.’€

– The Red Sox got part of their power stroke back as J.D. Drew and Bill Hall hit homers over the Monster. Drew appears to warming up after a rough trip in Toronto, where he was just 2-for-11. Drew had two hits on Thursday, hitting out of the No. 5 hole behind Kevin Youkilis.

– Though Hall did commit an error on a sharply hit ball by Josh Hamilton in the third inning, he made a couple of outstanding plays at third base, filling in for Adrian Beltre, who could return to the hot corner on Friday night. In the fifth inning, Hall snared a sharp liner off the bat of Molina. Then, in the sixth, with Ian Kinsler at the plate, and runners at first and second, Hall fielded a grounder, stepped on the bag and then leaped in the air and threw a strike to Kevin Youkilis to complete the double play.

– Cash, while hitless with a walk on the night, continues to impress defensively behind the plate. Nelson Cruz tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt but Cash recovered quickly in the fifth to nail Cruz with an accurate throw down to Eric Patterson at second.

Read More: bill Hall, J.D Drew, Rangers, Red Sox
Red Sox vs. Rangers matchups, 7/15 at 3:44 pm ET
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The Red Sox will return to the field Thursday night to start the second half of the season after a three day layoff. Coming back to Fenway, the Sox will have their hands full with the top team in the AL West, the Rangers. The last time they played Texas, also at Fenway, back in April, the Sox took two of three, including a 7-6 win in the debut game of outfielder Darnell McDonald. The last time the two played each other, however, the Red Sox didn’€™t face the resurgent Tommy Hunter.

A three year veteran of the league, Hunter (5-0, 2.34 ERA) didn’€™t even start playing this season until June 5 because a left oblique strain from spring training forced him to start the season on the DL until he was able to rehab in triple-A Oklahoma City for May. Since coming back to the league, the 2007 first round pick has had a nearly blemish free season, winning five of seven decisions, never giving up more than three runs or three walks. In six of his starts, Hunter has pitched six or more innings, but on June 16, he lasted only 2 1/3 innings after straining his hip flexor. Hunter came back five days later and continued his strong performance for this season. The Rangers will have to take pride in that, however, as Hunter is 0-1 in his career at Fenway Park. In 2008, Hunter lasted only 1 2/3 innings after giving up seven hits and nine runs. His current ERA at the park is 48.60.

On the other side, Tim Wakefield has had a hard go of it this year. The 18 year veteran hasn’€™t won back to back decisions all year and has double the amount of losses than wins (3-7, 5.22 ERA). The Rangers aren’€™t even fazed by the knuckleball; in 34 career games against Texas, Wakefield is 10-15 with a 6.09 ERA. Rangers DH Vladimir Guerrero hasn’€™t been on the team beyond this season, but of all the men on his team, he’€™s handled the knuckle the best with his extra large strike zone. Guerrero is 10-for-23 with five home runs and eight RBI, but he can also control himself at the plate as well; Guerrero has nine career walks against Wakefield, compared to only three strikeouts.

The Red Sox don’€™t have enough players on the roster to count on significant production of Tommy Hunter, but do keep an eye out for David Ortiz. After winning the home run derby, Ortiz should continue his hot streak with the bat, especially off of Hunter, who he is 2-for-5 against with a three run home run. Only time will tell if the derby has affected his swing for the rest of the season or not.

The home stand will be a quick one for the Sox; after playing three games at home against Texas, they will travel out to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim (again, for some Red Sox) for another West Coast swing.

Rangers vs. Tim Wakefield

Mike Young (49 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .233 BA/.327 OBP/.395 SLG, 1 double, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Vladimir Guerrero (30): .429/.600/1.790, 1 double, 5 home runs, 8 RBI, 9 walks, 3 strikeouts

Bengie Molina (22): .350/.409/.650, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 1 strikeout

Ian Kinsler (13): .154/.154/.385, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Josh Hamilton (6): .333/.333/.333, 2 RBI

David Murphy is 0-for-2 with a strikeout, while Nelson Crúz and Chris Davis have both walked in their lone plate appearances against Wakefield. Elvis Andrus, Joaquin Arias, Andres Blanco, Julio Borbon and Matt Treanor have yet to face the Boston starter.

Red Sox vs. Tommy Hunter

Adrián Beltré (6 career plate appearances against Hunter): .500 BA/.500 OBP/.667 SLG, 1 double, 1 RBI

Marco Scutaro (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (5): .400/.400/1.000, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis (5): .600/.600/1.000, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Eric Patterson (2): .500/.500/2.000, 1 home run, 1 RBI

J.D. Drew is 0-for-4 with an RBI against Hunter. Mike Cameron, Kevin Cash, Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, Gustavo Molina, Daniel Nava and Ryan Shealy have yet to face the Texas starter.

Read More: Rangers, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, Tommy Hunter
Red Sox vs. Rays matchups, 7/7 07.07.10 at 9:52 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to salvage one game in their three-game series with the Rays as the two sides bring their series in the Sunshine State to a close Wednesday night. In what is slowly and unfortunately becoming the story of the season, the Red Sox will try to elude the injury bug once more after the team got a scare Tuesday when Kevin Youkilis, who earlier in the day had been announced as the leader of the American League Final Vote contest to be the last member of the AL squad at the All-Star game, left the game with a sore ankle. With Youkilis out of the lineup, the Rays were able to intentionally walk David Ortiz three times in favor of pitching to Niuman Romero, who grounded out to second with two men on base for the final out in the ninth following an Ortiz walk. Youkilis announced after the game that he expects to be back at first Wednesday. Youkilis and the rest of the Sox lineup will have their hands full, though, as they take on recently named first-time All-Star David Price Wednesday. Boston will counter with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

On the surface, it appears that Wakefield (3-6, 4.96 ERA) is leaps and bounds away from the form he was in this time last year when he was named to his first All-Star squad. His performance in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings has been especially poor; he has a combined 7.91 ERA in those frames as opposed to the 2.54 and 3.78 ERAs he has put up in innings 1-3 and 7-9 respectively. He has especially struggled in the fourth, when that number balloons to 13.50. Luckily for the Sox’ elder statesman, Wednesday’€™s contest will be away from Fenway Park. On the road this season, Wakefield is 2-2 with a 3.66 ERA as opposed to his numbers of 1-4 and 5.89 at the Fens. He has even better career stats at Tropicana Field, where he has yet to pitch this season but is 10-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 18 career starts.

Unfortunately for Sox fans, Price (11-4, 2.42) has been just as impressive at the Trop, especially this season. He is 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA at the Rays’€™ indoor stadium this year. For a taste of how dominant he has been at home, look at his last start there on June 26 against the Diamondbacks. The lefty recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts in eight innings and allowed just two runs over that time en route to a 5-3 Rays win. Interestingly enough, Price has pitched to a decision in 15 of his 16 starts, with the lone no-decision coming way back on May 1.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Price, Tim Wakefield,
Closing Time: Red Sox 3, Orioles 2 07.02.10 at 9:16 pm ET
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On a night where both J.D. Drew and Tim Wakefield were easy headline-stealers, Daniel Nava once again found himself in the limelight in a 3-2 Red Sox victory over the Orioles on Friday night. In a tie game with two down and Marco Scutaro at second base, Nava was called on to pinch-hit for Eric Patterson and promptly dropped a blooper into shallow right field that fell in the middle of an Orioles gathering consisting of Ty Wiggington, Julio Lugo, and Nick Markakis. Brad Bergesen took the loss but was masterful in his 7 2/3 innings, with Wakefield picking up his third win of the year. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Drew had his 17th multi-homer game of his career second of the season. Given how effortless his second dinger was, it should come as no surprise that the Orioles were the victim of the other such performance, a 2-for-4, two-homer night in an April 30 Red Sox’ loss.

Both of Drew’s shots were to left field, with the first barely clearing the wall and the second a no-brainer into the monster seats. His first homer put the Sox on the board in the bottom of the second and gave them a 1-0 lead following a double play grounded into by Adrian Beltre. Later, with the Sox down 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Drew launched a screamer to left that got out in a hurry. Given his recent injury concerns, it was a bit peculiar just how hard he ran on the play, as he was about halfway to second before breaking into a trot from his initial sprint.

Perhaps noteworthy is the fact that all four of Drew’s big flies in his multi-homer games this season have been solo shots.

– Wakefield was tremendously economical, throwing 96 pitches through eight innings. The first inning was fairly indicative of his night, as he threw just six pitches and got three fly-ball outs. He didn’t work himself into trouble often, as the fifth frame, in which six Orioles hitters came to the plate and one scored, was his most troubling of the night. He saw four batters or less in all of his other innings.

– After Adam Jones became the first baserunner of the night for the Orioles with one down in the second, kind-of-new Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash re-introduced his arm to the AL East by gunning the Orioles’ center fielder down while attempting to steal second, thus ending the inning and inducing a roar from Fenway Park.

All in all Cash did well re-acclimating himself with Wakefield’s knuckleball, as a pass ball following a strikeout to Orioles designated hitter Josh Bell in the top of the seventh was the lone negative, a play that proved to have no bearing on the inning.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Aside from Drew’s solo blasts, the Red Sox didn’t exactly fare well in effort to get past Bergeson and into the Orioles’ bullpen. Bergesen was efficient on the night, throwing 100 pitches through 7 2/3 innings. Though his final pitch was a double off the left field wall by Scutaro, Bergesen proved to be far more difficult than his 6.83 ERA entering the night would have suggested.

In the first seven innings, the Red Sox were able to put just three men on base, as Drew scored on each of his two hits. Kevin Youkilis singled in the second and reached on an error in the fourth, while Darnell McDonald singled in the fifth. None of the three baserunners were advanced to second.

Bergesen even came back to get Drew in the seventh. After jumping ahead 0-2 with two fastballs that Drew watched, the Orioles starter nibbled around the plate with a pair of sliders before getting Drew swinging on an 83 mile-an-hour changeup.

– Markakis had an impressive night in the field and as impressive a night as an Oriole hitter could have had against Wakefield. He made his first head-turning play of the night in the third inning, diving to snag a liner off the bat of Darnell McDonald that was falling fast and thus recording the first out of the inning.

Then, as generally seems to be the case with Markakis in Fenway, the offense came. After Miguel Tejada flew out to Scutaro to begin the top of the fourth, Markakis tied the score at one with a homer to right. It was Markakis’ fifth homer in Fenway. He entered the night hitting .308 with 16 doubles and four dingers in Boston.

Read More: Tim Wakefield,
Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups, 7/2 at 10:12 am ET
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The Red Sox head into Friday night’€™s contest against the Orioles after a much-needed day of rest. News hit late Thursday night that Jason Varitek, who had stepped in to replace Victor Martinez as the Sox starting catcher when Martinez went to the disabled list with a broken thumb earlier in the week, broke his own foot in Wednesday’€™s 9-4 loss to the Rays. That makes him the fifth position player who was on the opening-day roster currently on the DL. Boston traded for old friend Kevin Cash to take Varitek’€™s spot behind the plate. Cash, who took over for Doug Mirabelli as Tim Wakefield‘€™s personal catcher during his time in Boston in 2007, will in all likelihood get the nod behind the plate Friday night as Wakefield takes the hill against Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen.

Wakefield (2-6, 5.21 ERA) certainly isn’€™t performing at the same All-Star level he was at around this time a year ago. On July 2 last year, he was 10-3 with a 4.18 ERA and two complete games to his credit. This season, his ERA is almost exactly a full run higher and the wins have not been nearly as forthcoming. His statistics at Fenway Park, where he’€™ll be taking the mound Friday, are even worse. He’€™s 0-4 with a 6.51 ERA this season when pitching at home. There is some cause for optimism, however. In his last four starts, the knuckleballer has thrown at least 6.1 innings and has allowed more than three earned runs just once.

Another reason Sox fans should think positive before Friday’€™s game is that their team will be facing Bergesen (3-4, 6.83 ERA), who has had his own share of struggles this season. Bergesen’€™s numbers are the worst for a starter on a staff that ranks last in ERA and batting average against in the American League. He was relegated to the bullpen after allowing six runs to the Yankees over just 2.1 innings on June 2. He didn’€™t fare much better upon his return to the rotation in his last start against the Nationals on June 26, when he gave up five runs in just four innings. In his 11 starts, Bergesen has allowed three runs or less on just three occasions and hasn’€™t done so in over a month-and-a-half.

The Sox will look to take advantage of Bergesen’€™s struggles on the mound, and they’€™ve shown in the past that they are very capable of doing so. Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew all have lifetime averages of .333 or above against Bergesen. However, one matchup to watch out for will be between the Baltimore starter and Kevin Youkilis. In his last seven games, Youkilis is hitting just .154 with 10 strikeouts and just two walks. His unlucky streak could continue when he steps in against Bergesen, who he is just 1-for-8 against in his career.

There are certainly some interesting matchups to look for when Wakefield takes the mound as well. The knuckleballer has owned Orioles sluggers Nick Markakis (.174) and Ty Wigginton (.167) in the past. Surprisingly though, he has struggled against Cesar Izturis, who has a lifetime batting average of just .257 but has managed to muster a .462 average in his time against Wakefield.

Red Sox vs. Brad Bergesen

Marco Scutaro (10 career plate appearances vs. Bergesen): .444 average/.400 OBP/.556 slugging, 2 RBI, 1 double

Adrian Beltre (9): .444/.444/1.000, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 doubles, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (9): .333/.333/.444, 2 RBI, 1 double

Kevin Youkilis (9): .125/.222/.125, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (8): .375/.375/.750, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 strikeouts

Darnell McDonald is 0-for-2 with one strikeout against Bergesen in his career. Mike Cameron, Kevin Cash, Bill Hall, Gustavo Molina, Daniel Nava and Eric Patterson have never faced the Baltimore starter.

Orioles vs. Tim Wakefield

Miguel Tejada (79 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .303 average/.321 OBP/.566 slugging, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 5 doubles, 2 walks, 14 strikeouts

Julio Lugo (45): .222/.378/.361, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 doubles, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts

Nick Markakis (25): .174/.240/.391, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Ty Wigginton (19): .167/.211/.333, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Cesar Izturis (14): .462/.462/.615, 1 RBI, 2 doubles, 2 strikeouts

Corey Patterson (12): .083/.083/.083, 2 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Adam Jones (11): .200/.273/.200, 1 walk

Craig Tatum is 1-for-3 with one RBI and one strikeout against Wakefield in his career while Matt Wieters is 0-for-1. Jake Fox and Scott Moore have never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Brad Bergesen, Tim Wakefield,
Will Sox Cash in on a fill-in for Martinez? 06.28.10 at 11:53 am ET
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Though catcher Victor Martinez having suffered a fracture of the top of his left thumb on Sunday, the Red Sox are hopeful that an exam today will reveal that the 31-year-old might be able to avoid the disabled list. But, if he does get sidelined for any period of time, there is one obvious candidate to serve as a short-term fill-in: Kevin Cash.

With minor-league catchers Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown both on the disabled list for Triple-A Pawtucket, the Sox are without any minor-league catchers in their system who have meaningful experience trying to corral knuckleballs. Both Wagner and Brown have had occasion to work with Tim Wakefield in spring training, and they also have experience catching former Sox minor leaguer Charlie Zink. But the injuries to both leave the Sox without an obvious in-house alternative to Jason Varitek to work with Wakefield in the pitcher’s next start.

Cash, of course, was Wakefield’s catcher for all of the 2008 season, and he also has experience catching Red Sox pitchers Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett (as well as relievers such as Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima). Cash was designated for assignment last week by the Astros, who wanted to clear a roster spot for top prospect Jason Castro. He was hitting .204 with a .271 OBP, .333 slugging mark and .605 OPS in 20 games for Houston this year.

Cash accepted an assignment to Triple-A Round Rock, but the 32-year-old would likely be available for a minimal acquisition cost. He is “definitely out there” as an available catcher, according to one major-league source, and if Martinez is sidelined — again, something the Sox are hoping will not be the case — he would be an obvious fit as a short-term fill-in.

Read More: kevin cash, Tim Wakefield, victor martinez,
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