David Ortiz homered and Tim Wakefield allowed four hits in seven innings, leading the Boston Red Sox to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
Mike Lowell and Doug Mirabelli also homered for the Red Sox. Wakefield (2-1) struck out four, walked three and lowered his ERA to 1.35. The 40-year-old knuckleballer has allowed only three earned runs in 20 innings.
Brendan Donnelly worked a perfect eighth and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his third save, striking out pinch-hitter Adam Lind with two on to end it.
Toronto starter Tomo Ohka didn't allow a hit until Lowell homered to left with two outs in the fifth, his first of the season.
Mirabelli led off the sixth with his second home run, and Ortiz opened the seventh with his fifth.
One out later, J.D. Drew chased Ohka with a single. Victor Zambrano came on and gave up a single to Lowell, a fielder's-choice grounder to Coco Crisp and an RBI single to Mirabelli.
Ohka (0-2) allowed four runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Matt Stairs singled off Wakefield in the first, but the knuckleballer responded by retiring 10 straight batters before stumbling in the fourth. With two outs, he loaded the bases with consecutive walks to Frank Thomas, Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill. Wakefield escaped by striking out Jason Phillips on four pitches.
The Blue Jays finally broke through against Wakefield in the seventh when Royce Clayton doubled and scored on John McDonald's bloop single to left.
Notes: Ortiz appeared to have a single in the fourth when he hit a ball between first and second into short right field. But 2B Hill, playing deep with the shift on, fielded the ball and threw out Ortiz by a step. ... The Red Sox hit only eight home runs over the first 12 games of the season.
Yankees to start two rookies this weekend against Red Sox
Chase Wright looked at his cell phone Wednesday.
“There's quite a few new numbers that I haven't seen,” he said.
That's what happens when you win your major league debut for the New York Yankees.
After beating Cleveland at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, Wright faces an even tougher task Sunday: He's scheduled to start at Fenway Park in a nationally televised game against the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“All right,” he said after reporters informed him of the news. “This is the first I heard of it.”
Manager Joe Torre assumed that pitching coach Ron Guidry had told Wright, but word hadn't filtered down to the 24-year-old left-hander, who allowed three runs and five hits in five innings in the 10-3 victory over Cleveland. Wright has never even been to Fenway.
“It's going to be pretty intense,” he said. “Down at the minor league levels, we know we're playing the Red Sox and stuff, but it's a whole different level up here.”
With Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano on the disabled list, New York will start Andy Pettitte against Curt Schilling on Friday in the first meeting between the teams this season. The Yankees follow with a pair of rookies, Jeff Karstens and Wright, while Boston goes with Josh Beckett and Dice-K.
New York currently has four rookies in its rotation: Kei Igawa started Wednesday against the Indians and Darrell Rasner was slated for Thursday. It will be the first time prior to September that the Yankees started three straight rookies since Scott Kamieniecki, Jeff Johnson and Wade Taylor at Oakland from July 18-20, 1991, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Torre's first preference wasn't to go with youthful starters in Boston, but his depleted staff leaves him no choice.
“If you can give me an alternative, I'll use it,” he said. “Spring training we had too many. Now we hope we have enough.”
Wright, who hadn't pitched above Double-A prior to this week, said he didn't hear much razzing in the minors — the biggest crowd he pitched in front of before Tuesday was during a spring training game this year at Lakeland, Fla. He said heckling at high school games inspired him to pitch better.
Fenway figures to be a wee bit more hostile.
“I don't think anybody knows what that is up there until you get up there,” Torre said. “We just feel emotionally he can handle it. I'm not saying he's not going to have some butterflies. You hope he will, because that's the excitement part.”
Karstens will rejoin the Yankees on Thursday and be activated Saturday. He felt stiffness in his right elbow during a spring training start March 25 and made a minor league rehab start Monday.
Hideki Matsui, recovering from a strained left hamstring, is to start a rehab assignment Friday in Tampa, Fla., and Torre expects the left fielder to be available for Monday's series opener at Tampa Bay. Mussina, who strained a hamstring April 11, likely will have a rehab start before he is activated. Pavano, sidelined by a sore forearm, probably will start throwing in a few days.
Right-hander Matt Clement (shoulder surgery) continues his slow progress. He has been playing catch from 120 feet . . . The weather hasn't been kind to a lot of teams this spring, but the Sox' Portland team has been hit hard. The Sea Dogs have had postponements in 9 of 14 dates this spring. They have lost 7 of their first 10 scheduled games at home . . . At least one matchup for the Yankee series this weekend has been solidified. Curt Schilling and Andy Pettitte will square off in the opener, Friday night. The injury-depleted Yanks have not yet listed their pitcher for the games Saturday and Sunday night.
Wily Mo Pena finally got his first hits of the year.
The brawny outfielder crushed a solo homer and also singled in his three at-bats Tuesday night against the Blue Jays, starting in right field in place of J.D. Drew.
But tonight, Pena is back on the bench. Manager Terry Francona has Drew back in the lineup after a day off. Pena's not complaining, though.
"That's all right. I just have to be ready when they put me out there again," said Pena. "But now I feel more comfortable at the plate."
Pena escaped injury when he turned his right ankle slightly on the turf while making a catch of a fly ball in shallow right after calling off second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the sixth inning Tuesday night. Pena said he could feel his ankle turning, but was able to take the weight off it at the last minute, falling back on his rear end as he made the catch.
Lost a bit in the aftermath of Daisuke Matsuzaka's outing in Toronto on Tuesday night was the performance of his Japanese countryman, Hideki Okajima.
The left-hander whiffed all three batters he faced in the eighth inning, showing an effective use of his changeup in punching out Gregg Zaun, Royce Clayton and Jason Smith.
The most important part of that outing was the fact that all three batters were right-handed (Zaun, a switch hitter, was batting right-handed). It showed manager Terry Francona something. Most left-handed relievers tend to be one-batter, lefty-on-lefty specialists.
"With Okajima being left-handed and being able to get right-handers out has been a big plus for our bullpen," said Francona this afternoon. "That has a chance to really impact our bullpen."
Francona was just as glowing in his praise of Okajima after the game Tuesday night.
"That changeup of his is a real weapon," said Francona. "It's a very good changeup, and if he can locate his fastball to go along with that changeup, he can be tough on right-handers."
This season, Okajima has appeared in six games, totaling 6 2/3 innings. He has fanned eight, and has an earned-run average of 1.35, giving Francona more confidence in calling for him in any set-up situation.
Jon Lester, who is rounding into shape, will make one more start for Greenville (Class A) before moving up to Pawtucket for a start, likely next Wednesday in Rochester.
Boston manager Terry Francona said at his daily press briefing a short time ago that Lester, the promising left-hander whose 2006 season was cut short in August when he was diagnosed with acute anaplastic large cell lymphoma, would start for Greenville Friday night. His pitch count will be raised to 85.
After that outing, Lester will rejoin the Red Sox in Boston, where he will throw a side session on Sunday and will talk with Francona and general manager Theo Epstein about the next phase of his development, which is expected to include a jump to the PawSox.
Talk of when Lester might be able to reclaim a spot in Boston's rotation still is premature. Francona said the Sox want him to get to the point to where a pitch-count limit isn't imposed on him, as it is now as he gets his body back into pitching shape.
Who's Hot: Tim Wakefield (2 ER in 13.0 IP so far this year), Hideki Okajima (14 straight batters retired), Mike Lowell (5 for his last 16), Julio Lugo (8 for his last 23), David Ortiz (6 for his last 16), Kevin Youkilis (8 for his last 26).
Who's Not: Dustin Pedroia (1 for his last 19), Manny Ramirez (4 for his last 25), J.D. Drew (0 for his last 7).
Key Matchups: Against Wakefield, Alex Rios is 5 for 13 (.385), Royce Clayton is 10 for 33 (.303), Frank Thomas is 7 for 36 (.194) with three home runs.
-The Red Sox have allowed three or fewer runs in seven straight games.
-The Blue Jays have won four straight over the Red Sox.
It seems like every night we have a reason to suspect that maybe Manny will emerge from his early-season slump, and every night he doesn't do it. He had great career numbers against John Lackey and Hector Carrasco, but failed to make a dent against those two Angels starters over the weekend, even as his teammates pounded them. Then last night, he entered Toronto's Rogers Centre (the building formerly known as SkyDome), where he has slugged more home runs than any visiting player. But all we got was a second-inning single as the Red Sox failed Daisuke Matsuzaka again. Ramirez was 6 for 14 lifetime against temporary Toronto closer Jason Frasor, but he lined out to Vernon Wells in the ninth inning with a chance to start a Red Sox rally. On the bright side, Ramirez's batting average went up, from .200 to .205.
Today, the Seattle Times' Jerry Faull advises fantasy owners against pushing the panic button on Ramirez: "There's no doubt that a serious hot streak is on the way."
The Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant says this about Rangers minor leaguer Victor Diaz: "Some folks think this guy could hit like Manny Ramirez if only he'd stop acting like Manny Ramirez."
THE NIGHT BEFORE: Who was that guy pitching for the Red Sox in the fourth inning last night, and what did he do with Daisuke Matsuzaka? Unlike last week's shutdown at the hands of Felix Hernandez, the Sox had their chances, but a combination of bad luck, plays not made, and a surprising fourth-inning meltdown by Matsuzaka -- made even more surprising by his absolute dominance in the other five innings he pitched -- doomed them. At least it was a record-setting night for Dice-K in one regard. (All stories from projo.com)
WELCOME BACK, LARRY: A few years back, I made a delightful discovery: The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, the work of a very good writer named Larry Mahnken. He wrote entertainingly and insightfully on the Yankees, and the RLYW was a daily stop for me.
Over the course of the last few years, life interferred -- among other things, he lost most of his possessions in an apartment fire -- and Larry began writing less and less; the bulk of the blog work was being done by other people. I missed him, and found myself becoming a less frequent visitor.
So imagine my surprise -- and delight -- when the season began and Larry was back in the forefront of RLYW, on the new and improved Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.
He's able to put the Yankees in perspective better than anyone I know, including those in the mainstream media. He's a Yankee fan through and through, and it shows, but he's not a blind Yankee fan; he acknowledges their faults and pokes fun at the absurdity that can sometimes surround New York baseball. (I wish I did as well at the absurdity that can sometimes surround Boston baseball.) It's a wonderful place, a combination of the serious (like the bullpen counter in the left rail, which projects usage for Yankee relievers over the season), the funny (the second-by-second counter across the top listing how long it's been since the Yankees last won the World Series) and the absurd (a list of all the newspaper covers featuring A-Rod this year). It's a great place to visit, for Yankee fans and non-Yankee fans alike.
This isn't meant as a knock at anyone doing the work there while Larry was away; they did a fine job. But I missed Larry's voice, and what he brought to the site.
And I, for one, am glad he's back.
NEXT TARGET: 'YOU JUST CAN'T PITCH ANY BETTER THAN THAT': Tim Marchman gives the New York take on the baseball cliche "that's a good piece of hitting". (New York Sun) Locally, Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis get credited with that quite often. Coco Crisp and Wily Mo Pena never do.
HERE'S HOW IT'S DONE: The Tigers' Todd Jones, who's been writing his own stuff for years (first in newspapers, then online), has a primer for managers on how to handle closers. (sportingnews.com) It has local interest because a) it was the Dan Wheeler/Brad Lidge controversy in Houston that apparently moved him to comment on this issue, and b) I still can't my arms around the fact that Todd Jones, the guy banging around the back of the Red Sox bullpen in 2003 on what we all thought was his last legs, is not only still around but has saved 84 games since the beginning of the 2005 season. Stranger than fiction, I'm telling you.
YOU WANT IT, YOU GOT IT: Let me get this straight: The radio guy wantedCharlie Manuel to blow? (Philadelphia Inquirer)
YOU'RE MY IDOLS, DODGER FANS: I never thought I'd ever type his name, but the fact that Sanjaya got booed at Dodger Stadium makes me think there's hope for the republic yet. (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
LET'S CALL THE PIZZA MAN! I added this to yesterday's post at about 11 a.m. yesterday, and you have to see it in case you missed it. And if you didn't click through to John Tomase's story yesterday, do it now. This is one we'll be talking about for a long, long time.