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September 27, 2005
Red Sox-Yankees -- it's Destiny
The Sox know they have to play Toronto two more times after splitting Tuesday's day-night doubleheader.
And they're trying to play them one at a time.
But ever since they received the 2005 schedule they had a feeling that the last weekend of the season, when the Yankees visit Fenway Park for a three-game set, would be crucial for playoff hopes.
That, of course, is proving true. With five games to go, the teams are tied for the top in the American League East, not to mention tied with Cleveland for the wild-card spot.
Three-game series don't get any more important than this weekend's with New York.
``We can't be kidding ourselves,'' said Johnny Damon. ``It's going to be an incredible weekend. It's the master plan, God's way, Yankees-Red Sox. We're even now. We just need to try to win some games before that series starts.''
Posted by at 11:39 PM | Permalink
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Welcome to Fenway, Craig Hansen
Craig Hansen, the fire-balling rookie right-hander, made his Fenway Park debut Tuesday night.
And he didn't get to break in in any cushy situation. Manager Terry Francona called on Hansen with runners at second and third and one out in a 5-5 game.
Hansen struggled in his third big-league outing. He gave up a go-ahead sacrifice fly to right to Russ Adams, an infield single to Frank Catalanotto and a walk to Vernon Wells that loaded the bases before escaping further damage on Corey Koskie's 2-and-0 drive that was hauled in a few feet from the center-field fence by Johnny Damon.
He also got a bit lucky to keep the Jays from scoring more. He uncorked a wild pitch with the bases full that was so wild, it hit the back wall on the fly and bounced quickly back toward catcher Jason Varitek, freezing the runners.
One curious aspect of Hansen's outing was his pitch selection. Hansen, taken by the Sox with the 26th pick in the first round of last spring's draft, is known for a fastball that can reach 96 miles an hour, as it did on a few occasions last night. And while the former St. John's University All-American has a good slider, his bread and butter is his heater.
But his pitch sequence to Wells, with runners at first and third and two outs was slider (ball), slider (ball), slider (strike), fastball (ball), slider (strike), fastball (foul), slider (ball). And for Koskie it was slider (ball), slider (ball), fastball (crushed deep to center).
``I feel as comfortable with my slider as I do with my fastball,'' said Hansen, 22. ``I thought how exciting (pitching at Fenway) would be, but it was more than I thought. It was very loud. Every time I go out there is just another step in my career. Every time gets a little easier. My nerves are calming down a little bit.''
Posted by at 10:11 PM | Permalink
So-so Schilling outing
If the Red Sox' season comes down to the final game of the regular season in a win-or-go-home situation, Boston's starter will be Curt Schilling.
But the erstwhile ace right-hander didn't offer any evidence Tuesday night that the Red Sox and their fans should be supremely confident when he takes the mound against the New York Yankees.
Schilling was tagged for five runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He coughed up leads of 3-0 and 5-2. And while he fanned eight, with his fastball topping out at 94 miles an hour, he also was hit hard, with even several of the outs recorded on rockets that found their way to Red Sox gloves.
He coughed up a two-run homer to Gregg Zaun in the fourth, gave up two more runs in the fifth on three straight hits and a sacrifice fly to open the inning, and left after surrendering the run that tied the game at 5-5. That run was produced by Vernon Wells, who got on top of a high fastball and drilled it to center for a single.
Schilling left runners at first and third. And as he exited, he barked at plate umpire Brian O'Nora, apparently upset with a call on a 1-and-1 pitch to Wells. Schilling and catcher Jason Varitek thought Wells had tipped the ball on his half-swing, but O'Nora said he hadn't.
That made the count 2 and 1 instead of 1 and 2. Eventually Wells smoked Schilling's 115th and final pitch.
Since returning to the rotation, Schilling has a 5.56 earned-run average.
As usual, Schilling was hard on himself.
``We have a winnable game sitting there with the chance to be in first place all alone with me on the mound. In my mind that's a lock and it wasn't. That's the most disappointing thing. I just pitched horribly in a bunch of situations. I was letting them feel like they were in the game the whole way. I'm not shutting them down and that's not something I'm accustomed to.
Health isn't a factor, he said.
``I'm healthy. That's the problem. I can't point to anything except I'm pitching like crap. I'm fine. I'm just not pitching well. It's been a long time. It's frustrating,'' he said.
Posted by at 9:48 PM | Permalink
Damon's left shoulder hurting?
Boston center fielder Johnny Damon charged Vernon Wells' game-tying single to center in the seventh and threw the ball back into the infield.
And after he let the ball go, it looked as if he was in pain. Coming quickly to mind was the fact that he has been hampered by a strained left rotator cuff, prompting him to have two cortisone shots in the troublesome shoulder in a span of 11 days, the second of which was administered on Sept. 20.
After Tuesday night's game, though, Damon said it wasn't his shoulder that was bothering him.
``I had a cramp in my calfs,'' said Damon. ``My shoulder's fine. But my whole body was cramping up from around the fourth or fifth inning. I was drinking so many fluids. We were here so long today it felt like I was working out for 13 hours.''
Posted by at 9:35 PM | Permalink
At 8:00, with the count 2 and 2 on Manny Ramirez in the third inning, a roar went up from the crowd.
Ramirez, looking mystified, stepped out of the batter's box.
The cheer was for the scoreboard on the Green Monster, which showed that Baltimore had taken a 5-1 lead over the New York Yankees in the second inning. The Sox and the Yanks, of course, were tied for first in the American League East as they played their respective games.
At 8:50, all was quite when the score changed again -- New York 7, Baltimore 5, in the fourth inning.
But as Toronto manager John Gibbons made a call to his bullpen in the sixth, another loud roar engulfed Fenway Park as Jason Frasor trotted in. No, it wasn't because Frasor happens to be a favorite son.
The cheer was because of yet another change on the scoreboard. Baltimore overtook the Yanks in the bottom of the fourth, and the numbers on the Monster reflected the change -- Baltimore 8, New York 7.
It was a situation that clearly bore watching.
Posted by at 9:11 PM | Permalink
Fast start, early shower
Toronto rookie left-hander Gustavo Chacin was sharp at the outset.
Chacin retired seven of the first eight batters he faced, dispatching the Red Sox on only 24 pitches over that stretch.
But Chacin was knocked out after only 3 2/3 innings, charged with five runs. Of the last 13 batters to face him, 9 got hits, and most were hit very hard, as were some of the outs.
Posted by at 8:35 PM | Permalink
For the first 105 games, Johnny Damon's hits came in bunches.
Over that span, Damon notched 45 multiple-hit games.
Lately, hits have been more difficult to come by for the Red Sox center fielder. Entering the night game, Damon had managed only 7 multiple-hit games in his previous 37.
But after his third at-bat, in the fourth inning, Damon already was 2 for 3. His double in the third contributed to a three-run flurry, and in the fourth, he had an RBI single in Boston's two-run rally that produced a 5-2 advantage.
Posted by at 8:23 PM | Permalink
Ahead, but behind
One basic tenet of pitching is to get ahead in the count. If you do that, it increases your odds of having success.
Tell that to the Jays' Gustavo Chacin, who started the night game. The rookie left-hander got ahead of four straight hitters in the third inning, and promptly surrendered four straight hits and three runs.
Tony Graffanino bounced an 0-and-1 pitch over Chacin's head and into center field for a single; Johnny Damon slapped an 0-and-1 pitch for a double inside the third-base bag; Edgar Renteria crushed a two-run double off the Green Monster on a 1-and-2 pitch and David Ortiz laced an 0-and-1 pitch to right for an RBI single.
Just like that, it was 3-0, Red Sox.
Chacin had retired the previous four batters on a total of seven pitches.
Posted by at 7:57 PM | Permalink
A Close Call
Curt Schilling, whose celebrated right ankle woes included surgery last fall, escaped with just a bruise on his left knee on a hard shot hit back up the middle by Frank Catalanotto in the third.
The sharply struck one-hopper hit off the inside of Schilling's left knee as he completed his follow-through. The ball ricocheted toward second baseman Tony Graffanino, who picked up the ball and made a throw to first that was just a shade too late to get Catalanotto.
Schilling just shook off the blow. He wasn't limping and the training staff never left the dugout.
Posted by at 7:49 PM | Permalink
Not a big hit
The Jays' Corey Koskie thought the first pitch from Curt Schilling hit him on the right elbow, so after the pitch settled into catcher Jason Varitek's mitt, he threw his bat toward the Toronto dugout and began to go to first.
But plate umpire Bill Welke called him back. He ruled the pitch had not hit Koskie, calling it a ball.
Koskie objected and so did Toronto manager John Gibbons, who came out of the dugout to join the relatively mild argument. Welke's word, though, was the only one that counted, even though a replay showed he was mistaken.
No matter. Koskie wound up getting a free pass to first base anyway, on a walk.
Posted by at 7:15 PM | Permalink
In ceremonies prior to the night game of the doubleheader, the Red Sox honored their 2005 minor league award winners.
Left-hander Jon Lester, 21, the Eastern league Pitcher of the Year after going 11-6 with a league-leading 2.61 earned-run average for Double A Portland, was the organization's Pitcher of the Year.
Dustin Pedroia, 22, a second baseman who played for Portland and Pawtucket, was the Offensive Player of the Year. Outfielder David Murphy (Defensive Player of the Year), Infielder/outfielder Alejandro Machado (Baserunner of the Year), left-hander Felix Doubront (Latin Pitcher of the Year) and first baseman/outfielder Carlos Fernandez (Latin Player of the Year) also were honored.
In addition, Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky was introduced to the crowd on the occasion of his 86th birthday.
Posted by at 6:52 PM | Permalink
Going for two
So now that the Red Sox have held serve, tumbling the Blue Jays, 3-1, in the opener of the day-night doubleheader, and pulling back into a tie with the New York Yankees in the American League East, it was time for a few hours of relaxation before trying for a sweep of Toronto.
Curt Schilling, who had been rained out of Monday night's start, is to face left-hander Gustavo Chacin. Schilling is 1-0 against the Jays this season, having beaten them, 12-7, on Patriots Day. Chacin is 1-0 in two starts against the Sox this year.
Posted by at 4:49 PM | Permalink
This and that, Game 1
Edgar Renteria was charged with his 30th error of the year when he bobbled a hard hopper hit by Aaron Hill in the seventh. He's the first Red Sox shortstop to commit 30 errors since Jackie Guttierez was guilty of 31 miscues in 1984. Previous to that, the only 30-error Red Sox shortstop was Rick Burleson (34 in 1976) . . . Manny Ramirez was tagged with his seventh error when he misplayed a ball off the wall by Frank Menechino from a single into a double in the fifth . . . Third baseman Bill Mueller turned in a dazzling defensive play, snagging Vernon Wells' hard grounder on the backhand, spinning and firing a strike to first for the out in the fourth . . . Doug Mirabelli committed his fifth passed ball, and it came with a runner at third, producing the Jays' only run, in the fifth. It was the second time this year that has happened . . . The attendance of 35,700 was the largest at Fenway Park since a Sept. 28, 1990 game, also against the Blue Jays, drew 35,735 . . . David Ortiz, the league's top RBI man, knocked in two runs, boosting his total to 142. He had been held without an RBI in his previous four games.
Posted by at 4:42 PM | Permalink
Who's at Home?
No one was covering the plate.
As a result, the Red Sox lost out on a glittering chance to pull off a double play that would have killed a budding Toronto rally in the eighth in the opener.
All's well that end's well, the Jays did not score in the inning. But it could have been easier after first baseman John Olerud had tracked down Vernon Wells' foul popup near the wall on the home-plate side of the Boston dugout.
The play began with Blue Jays at first and third and one out. Alex Rios, running from first, had taken off for second base on a stolen-base attempt. As he was sliding into second, thanks to a decoy by Edgar Renteria, Olerud and catcher Doug Mirabelli were chasing the foul popup.
As Olerud hauled in the ball, second baseman Alex Cora was at first base, yelling for the ball because Rios had just started back to the bag from second. Olerud, though, noticed home plate was uncovered -- rookie pitcher Jonathan Papelbon got caught watching the play and forgot to cover home.
Olerud started toward home, freezing the runner at third, but allowing Rios to slide safely back into first base.
``I knew Dougie was right with me, and when I looked up, I saw (Gregg Zaun) start running from third and I didn't see anyone at home. I didn't want to let the run score. I had Dougie in my ear, yelling `first, first, first,' but my first reaction was to go home,'' said Olerud.
Papelbon whiffed Shea Hillenbrand for the final out, making the lost easy out moot.
Posted by at 3:24 PM | Permalink
Rookie Jonathan Papelbon, who clearly has become the Red Sox' main setup man, showed veteran's mettle in the eighth inning of the first game.
The power-armed right-hander, featuring an electric high fastball that consistently hit 93 and 94 miles and hour, and aided by the fact he was throwing out of the bright sunshine at the mound and into the shadows at home plate, worked in and out of trouble, preserving the Sox' 3-1 lead.
Papelbon was ahead of each of the five hitters he faced, either at 0-and-2 or 1-and-2. A walk and a bloop single put runners at first and third with one out.
But Papelbon set down the numbers three and four hitters, Vernon Wells and Shea Hillenbrand, on a foulout to first and a whiff. He ended the inning with a flourish. After zipping a pair of 94-mile-an-hour heaters past Hillenbrand, he finished him off with a nasty 84-mile-an-hour slider that Hillenbrand missed by a foot.
Papelbon, who lowered his earned-run average to 2.93 for his first 30 2/3 innings, has impressed his teammates.
``He has been awesome,'' said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon Monday night. ``He'll be a great pitcher in the near future. He's got a great demeanor. He gets the ball and takes care of business. He's not afraid of anybody. He's a big kid, a nice kid. You look at him and think this guy could possibly be great.''
Veteran Mike Timlin was especially impressed by Papelbon's ability to make adjustments in the heat of yesterday's struggle with the Jays.
``When he can fix things as they're going wrong on the mound, that's big,'' said Timlin, who wound up notching his 12th save.
Papelbon, meanwhile, credited veteran catcher Doug Mirabelli with helping him right himself in the middle of his inning.
``I was struggling with my fastball. It was riding (up) a bit. I wasn't staying through the target (with his delivery). Dougie noticed I was off a little bit. He came out and settled me down. He told me to stay on top of the ball and to throw the ball right through him. Fortunately I was able to make the adjustments,'' said Papelbon.
Papelbon threw all fastballs until the final pitch of his outing, the filthy slider that overmatched Hillenbrand.
Posted by at 3:15 PM | Permalink
A strong Wake
Tim Wakefield continued his run of strong outings, allowing just one run -- and it was unearned -- in seven innings in the opener.
The knuckleballer threw 109 pitches, and is scheduled to come back for a final regular-season start Saturday against the Yankees, on three days' rest.
Wakefield lowered his earned-run average to 3.96, the first time it has been under 4.00 since it was 3.98 after a win at Texas on July 5.
In his seventh start since being knocked out, literally (liner off his right shin) in Anaheim on Aug. 18, Wakefield has posted a sterling 2.96 E.R.A. Over that stretch, in which he has gone 4-1 (his only loss was 1-0 duel to the Yankees' Randy Johnson) he has struck out 40 and walked only 10 in 54 2/3 innings.
Overall, Wakefield is 16-11.
``It's just what we needed,'' said manager Terry Francona. ``Wake was outstanding. He got us deep enough into the game. I think under ordinary circumstances we could have sent him back out there and he would have been fine. I don't think these are ordinary circumstances. He's throwing the ball so well.
``We don't want to know (where the Sox would be without him). I hope we don't find out. He's been so good and so consistent. His ball is moving all over the place but he's throwing strikes,'' added Francona.
Wakefield is well aware of the stakes at this time of year.
``It's pretty much a must-win. You can't get caught up in (the playoff atmosphere),'' said Wakefield. ``You just try to pitch one inning at a time and try to keep your team in the game as long as possible. I have a lot to be thankful for. I am very blessed to be able to still play at 39. It's not over yet. We still have a lot of games left and getting into the postseason is the most important thing. My personal stats don't mean a whole lot to me right now.''
Posted by at 3:00 PM | Permalink
Sox behind the 8-ball?
During the top of the sixth of the opener a black balloon floated onto the field, landing in shallow left field and drifting over to shallow center.
The balloon resembled a pool ball, the eight-ball, with a black numeral 8 on a white background. The balloon was on the field for two pitches before a member of the grounds crew jumped out from the Blue Jays' bullpen and raced over to scoop it up during a break in the action.
Posted by at 2:37 PM | Permalink
Sun 1, Left Fielders 1
The bright sunshine gave the left fielders trouble in the early going of the afternoon game.
But the Sox' defensively challenged Manny Ramirez got the better of ol' Sol, while the Jays' Gabe Gross was scorched.
Ramirez battled a high fly hit by Eric Hinske leading off the second. Ramirez backed up as the ball neared him, and turned away from the ball, clearly having trouble seeing it. He reached out his glove, made a backhanded stab at it about thigh-high and the ball nestled into his glove for a putout.
In the bottom of the inning, Gross tried to track down Alex Cora's two-out fly ball near the line. Gross also shied away from the ball as he slid feet-first to the line. He reached up his glove but wasn't as fortunate as Ramirez. The ball clanged off his glove and fell to the turf. Cora was credited with a lost-in-the-sun double.
Posted by at 1:47 PM | Permalink
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No defense for this
With Manny Ramirez at the plate, a runner at third and one out in the first inning, the Blue Jays were playing their infield back.
When the count went to 1 and 2, though, shortstop Guillermo Quiroz and second baseman Frank Menechino charged into an infield-in position as Dave Bush delivered the pitch. The pitch was a ball. On the next pitch, only Menechino charged. It was another ball.
For the 3-and-2 pitch, Menechino stayed in an infield-in position with Quiroz back.
Ramirez, though, drilled a single to center for an RBI, foiling the Jays' defensive alignment.
Posted by at 1:33 PM | Permalink
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What's he watching?
When the ball left Edgar Renteria's bat in the first inning of the day game, it looked as if the Red Sox shortstop had a home run.
At least, Renteria seemed to think so.
But the ball, knocked down by a strong wind, hit high off the wall. Renteria, in a bit of a home-run trot, had to hustle to make it to second for a double, and he caught a break because second baseman Frank Menechino seemed to concede the double.
Menechino fielded a one-hop throw from left fielder Gabe Gross, but didn't even look to slap a tag on Renteria, who still was several feet from the bag. So Renteria had a double, snapping an extra-base drought. Renteria had gone 56 at-bats over 13 games without an extra-base hit before the double, his 33rd of the year.
Renteria eventually scored as the Sox open up a quick 2-0 lead.
Posted by at 1:26 PM | Permalink
Home Run? No, says umpire
On what promises to be a long day and night of baseball at Fenway Park, it took only two pitches before the first controversial call.
Toronto's Frank Catalanotto lofted Tim Wakefield's second pitch of the game high and deep over Pesky's Pole in right. First base umpire James Hoye watched it closely and called it foul, prompting a protest from Catalanotto, who put his hands up to his helmet in disbelief.
Jays manager John Gibbons joined the discussion, as did plate umpire Broian O'Nora, but the call wasn't reversed. A few pitches later, a disgusted Catalanotto was walking back to the plate, a strikeout victim.
Posted by at 1:08 PM | Permalink
With the Toronto Blue Jays starting a right-hander (Dave Bush) in the day game, Boston manager Terry Francona is sending out a lineup that features a couple of platoon players.
John Olerud starts at first base instead of Kevin Millar, and Alex Cora is at second base instead of Tony Graffanino. The odds were good that Millar and Graffanino would be in the nightcap because the Blue Jays will start a left-hander, Gustavo Chacin.
There is one minor alteration in the batting order, though. Francona moved up Bill Mueller from eighth to sixth, putting the switch hitter between left-handed hitters Trot Nixon and Olerud, making potential bullpen matchups more difficult for Toronto manager John Gibbons.
Doug Mirabelli, starter Tim Wakefield's personal catcher, hits eighth.
Posted by at 11:41 AM | Permalink
Win now, Worry about the next game later
On the rare occasions when the Red Sox are faced with playing a doubleheader, manager Terry Francona has used that situation to make sure everyone gets some playing time.
But today's day-night doubleheader is different. With only seven games remaining prior to the first pitch, and with a pennant and possibly a wild-card playoff berth on the line, Francona's playing-time philosophy changes.
And, even moreso than usual, they really have to take one game at a time, worrying about winning the first game without being as concerned with any fatigue factor in the nightcap.
``Mostly we're trying to win the game. If something crops up (such as an injury), we'll manage it, but it's not the time to divide playing time just to give at-bats to be sharp. We need to win every game,'' said Francona.
``What's in front of us is more important than what's down the road,'' he said. ``If we mess around here what happens down the road won't matter.''
But Francona also said he'd have to be careful how he uses the bullpen today. In the past, he could count on Keith Foulke being able to pitch in both ends of a doubleheader. Of this year's bullpen corps, Francona mentioned situational left-hander Mike Myers as one reliever he could use in both games. The situations in each game, though, would dictate if he had to bring in, say, Mike Timlin, for saves in both games if the Sox found themselves needing to close out wins.
Posted by at 11:21 AM | Permalink
Youkilis Takes His Cuts
Kevin Youkilis, who suffered a fracture of the tip of his right ring finger on Sept. 18, hit in the cage Tuesday morning.
The session was promising, but there still are no guarantees that the infielder will be able to hit before the week is over, said manager Terry Francona.
``He tolerated it really well,'' said Francona. ``He might be ready for the middle-ish or the end of the week. If he's not, we haven't lost anything. If he is available, he's a pretty good hitter. It's what he can tolerate and can he be effective. I appreciate him trying.''
Posted by at 10:50 AM | Permalink
Damon: No Hometown Discount
Johnny Damon, a free agent after this season, was quoted in today's New York Post as saying he would not give the Red Sox a hometown discount in negotiations in the offseason.
This morning, as he got ready to go out for batting practice in preparation for the "day" portion of the day-night doubleheader against Toronto, Damon said his focus is not on his contract situation.
``That's not of importance. I'm here to play baseball,'' said Damon, who was seen reading the story in the newspaper a few minutes earlier.
``The contract stuff, that may have, or could have been taken care of a long time ago. A lot of people want to know about the contract situation, but I want to know about making the playoffs,'' said Damon.
Damon, whose agent, Scott Boras, has a reputation for being a hard-line negotiator who seeks top dollar or beyond, will be seeking a multiyear deal. Reportedly he would have been satisfied this spring woith a four-year, $40-million dollar deal, similar to that signed by shortstop Edgar Renteria.
But the two sides never came close to agreeing on a new deal, and the Sox' usual policy is to wait until the season is over to negotiate. Damon has not been happy about that, but it certainly hasn't hurt his performance.
Damon, plagued by various injuries this season, nevertheless enters today's game fourth in the league in batting at .314. He also boasts the league's longest hitting streak, at 29 games.
``I don't think Johnny's distracted when he plays,'' said manager Terry Francona.
Posted by at 10:39 AM | Permalink