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September 29, 2005
Johnny Damon is the type of player who helps win games in many ways, and he showed two of them in the third inning Thursday night.
Damon won an 11-pitch battle with Toronto starter Scott Downs, poking a one-out single to right that sent Tony Graffanino to third. Damon barely fouled off three pitches, staying alive in the at-bat until he could reach out and softly hook his single to right.
And his speed helped the Sox score their run in the inning. Edgar Renteria hit a grounder to shortstop that could have been an inning-ending double play, but Damon got to second base so quickly he was able to slide into Aaron Hill's legs, keeping the Jays' second baseman from attempting to make a relay throw as Graffanino scored.
Posted by at 8:00 PM | Permalink
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This and That, Game 159
Matt Clement drilled Vernon Wells with a riding fastball in the third. It his 15th hit batsman of the season, tops on the Red Sox and second in the league to the 18 plunked by Tampa Bay's Casey Fossum . . . Lumbering David Ortiz was credited with 11th infield hit on a grounder to the right side in the sixth . . . Manny Ramirez's 42nd homer, a two-run shot into the Toronto bullpen in the sixth, was the 432nd of his career, pushing him past Cal Ripken and into 34th place on baseball's all-time list . . .
Posted by at 7:42 PM | Permalink
Almost no leg to stand on
Boston catcher Jason Varitek has become very good at sticking his left leg out at the last second to block the plate on an unsuspecting baserunner.
Several times that ploy has resulted in the baserunner hitting his foot and hopping over the plate without touching it, giving Varitek a chance to grab a throw and tag out the runner. Such a play on Oakland's Eric Byrnes helped Boston win a playoff series in 2003.
But that maneuver also can put his foot and leg at risk. And Thursday night he almost paid for doing it.
Eric Hinske was trying to steal third base in the second inning. Varitek's throw sailed off the glove of third baseman Bill Mueller and rolled into left field.
Hinske took a while to get up and head for home. Left fielder Manny Ramirez fielded the ball and threw to the plate. At the last second, Varitek threw out his left leg. Hinske, though, slid right through the obstacle, scoring the run. Varitek moved gingerly for a few seconds after Hinske's slide, but shook it off and stayed in the game.
Posted by at 7:30 PM | Permalink
Arroyo to the bullpen
Bronson Arroyo, who lasted only three-plus innings in his 79-pitch start Wednesday night, will be in the bullpen beginning Friday night when the Yankees invade Fenway Park.
How much Arroyo has to be used will have a direct impact on the Sox' starting pitching plans for Monday, when a playoff game between Boston and New York would be played in Yankee Stadium if the teams finished tied for the American League East title and a wild-card berth had been claimed by Cleveland.
Arroyo would be on his normal rest for Monday. If he has to pitch over the weekend, the Red Sox will have to find a Plan B.
Boston manager Terry Francona said Thursday afternoon that he wouldn't hold back pitchers Friday or Saturday just to have them fresh in case they're needed for Monday. But if, going into Sunday's game there's a chance there could be a game Monday, Francona said the Sox would determine at that time who might be starting that game and use the pitching staff accordingly on Sunday.
Posted by at 5:40 PM | Permalink
Youkilis ready this weekend?
Kevin Youkilis, who suffered a fracture of the tip of his right ring finger on Sept. 18, could be an option off the bench for manager Terry Francona this weekend in the big series against the Yankees.
Youkilis has been taking batting practice the last few days. Francona said Thursday night he wouldn't start Youkilis, necessarily, but would consider him as a pinch hitter.
First things first, though. The Sox' medical staff has to weigh in.
``There's a chance he'll be cleared for us to use off the bench,'' said Francona. ``He swung the bat okay (Wednesday).''
Posted by at 5:36 PM | Permalink
MVP -- Ortiz or A-Rod?
One major backdrop that will play out over the weekend concerns the MVP race in the American League.
Boston's David Ortiz and New York's Alex Rodriguez are the top two candidates, with one last chance to influence voters as to their value to their respective teams when the Red Sox host the Yankees in the crucial three-game series, beginning Friday night.
Some opinions on who should get the award were offered in the Boston clubhouse Thursday afternoon.
Catcher Jason Varitek was asked if the MVP award should go to the team that wins the American League East.
``No, I think it should go to David Ortiz, period,'' said Varitek.
``It's a unique situation,'' said Kevin Millar. ``We all know how valuable David has been around here for our team. Alex has been put up some great numbers. Where would (the Angels) be without Vladimir (Guerrero)? And how about (Yankee reliever) Mariano Rivera. If ever a relief closer could be MVP, here's that guy. They're all great players.''
``I think (Ortiz) is the MVP. He's on our team. I'm biased,'' said Boston manager Terry Francona.
``I don't get wrapped up or care about individual awards, but if someone has watched our season, David has had a very special season for this ballclub. I hope he wins it,'' said general manager Theo Epstein.
Posted by at 5:25 PM | Permalink
Sox acquire veteran lefty Mike Stanton
There were only four games remaining on the Red Sox' regular-season schedule, and there's the specter of a fifth game, a playoff game against New York at Yankee Stadium on Monday should the teams finished tied at the top in the American League East.
But Boston general manager Theo Epstein couldn't pass up veteran left-hander Mike Stanton, whom the Washington Nationals were ready to make available.
So Epstein acquired the well traveled Stanton for a pair of undistinguished minor league right-handers, Rhys Taylor and Yader Peralta.
Stanton, 38, who was released by the Yankees on July 1 and signed with the Nationals 12 days later, was expected to join the Red Sox for his second stint around the scheduled first pitch. Stanton pitched for Boston in 1995-1996.
Overall this year Stanton is 3-3 with a 4.75 earned-run average in 55 games for New York and Washington.
How he was to be used wasn't clear as rain fell at Fenway Park Thursday afternoon, but Stanton likely wil give Boston another situational left-hander to go along with Mike Myers, especially with New York's lineup featuring left-handed hitters Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui with right-handed hitter Gary Sheffield in between.
``These last four or five games are likely to be close games, and maybe extra innings, and if we didn't get him and had a situation where Tito could have used him to get an out, we couldn't have lived with ourselves,'' said Epstein.
``This is not a panic or desperation move,'' said Epstein. ``We had the opportunity to add a pitcher at a very low acquisition cost for the last four or maybe five games.''
Stanton's E.R.A. was over 7.00 when the Yankees released him, but seemed to have regained his touch with the Nationals.
``Our scouting reports were decent,'' said Epstein. ``He's excited. He's pitched in this rivalry before. He was released by the Yankees and he's being brought in and could be given a chance to beat them.''
Epstein and Francona conceded that it is rare to make a trade this close to the end of the regular season. While the Sox made room for Stanton on the 40-man roster by moving injured pitcher Wade Miller to the 60-day disabled list, Stanton will not be eligible for the postseason roster because he wasn't in the Boston organization as of Sept .1.
Still, every game, every out now is important. And if Stanton can help, well, that's why he'll be here.
``Our goal is to get to the playoffs,'' said Francona. ``We want to do well in the playoffs, but we have to get there first. If he comes in and gets one hitter out, that might be enough.''
Posted by at 3:40 PM | Permalink