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April 19, 2007
UPDATED: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
TORONTO -- He was only in the lineup because Terry Francona wanted to rest Julio Lugo's legs on the turf of the Rogers Centre.
And he went from fill-in to hero.
Alex Cora kept the game tied when he turned an outstanding double play with runners on first and third and one out in the eighth, and then he won it with an RBI triple in the top of the ninth as the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1, eighth-inning deficit -- against Roy Halladay, no less -- and defeated the Blue Jays, 5-3, in the rubber game of their three-game series today.
Eric Hinske had opened the ninth with a walk. Dustin Pedroia forced him at second when he failed to successfully bunt, and Lugo then went in to run for Pedroia.
And Lugo came all the way around from first when Cora belted a triple up the gap in left-center field, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead. They made it 5-3 moments later on a sacrifice fly by Coco Crisp.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the bottom of the ninth, the first time he's pitched in back-to-back games this year, and recorded the save.
The Sox were trailing, 3-1, and looking doomed when they came to bat against Jays ace Roy Halladay in the top of the eighth. They had been held to five hits over the first seven innings and, with a makeshift lineup that had Mike Lowell on the bench, in addition to Lugo.
But Crisp opened the eighth with his second bunt single of the game. After Kevin Youkilis popped out, manager John Gibbons lifted Halladay -- whose pitch count was only at 95 -- in favor of left-handed reliever Scott Downs.
The controversial move seemed to work out when Downs struck out David Ortiz. Gibbons then called on right-hander Shaun Marcum to face Manny Ramirez.
That move didn't work nearly as well. Ramirez blasted a monstrous home run to dead center field, tying the game at 3-3.
The Jays ran at Mike Timlin, who came in to start the eighth, right away as Vernon Wells opened the inning with a double. Wells moved to third on a grounder by Frank Thomas and Timlin intentionally walked Lyle Overbay, setting up a double play.
It seemed they were going to get one when Aaron Hill grounded back to the mound. Timlin, however, bobbled the ball momentarily, then made a slightly wild throw to second that pulled Cora, who was covering from shortstop, to the first-base side of the bag. He was able to catch it, tag the base, and still get off a throw -- despite a very hard takeout slide by Overbay, who appeared to go out of the baseline to hit him -- that doubled up Hill at first, ending the inning.
The Sox had taken a 1-0 lead off Halladay in the second on a walk to Ramirez, a single by J.D. Drew, a fielder's-choice grounder by Jason Varitek that left runners at first and third, and a sacrifice fly by Hinske. A solo home run by Thomas leading off the bottom of the second tied the score, and the Sox squandered a golden opportunity (bases loaded, one out) in the third when Ramirez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Still, Julian Tavarez -- making his first appearance since April 7 -- matched Halladay pitch for pitch through the first five innings. He faltered in the sixth, however, allowing a one-out homer to Alex Rios that gave Toronto its first lead. Adam Lind then singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a double by Wells, making it 3-1.
Click here for the box score.
Posted by Art Martone at 3:55 PM | Permalink
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PawSox split doubleheader
The Pawtucket Red Sox defeated Rochester, 4-0, in the second game of their seven-inning doubleheader today at McCoy Stadium and earned a split of the twinbill.
Pawtucket fell, 3-0, in the opener. Starter Davern Hansack took the loss, giving up all three Rochester runs in 5.1 innings. Second baseman Matt Tolman homered for Rochester. Craig Hansen pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief for Pawtucket.
The PawSox are now 1-4 at McCoy Stadium.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 3:42 PM to PawSox
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They Got The DP Anyway
The feed wasn't very good. And second-base umpire Ed Montague could have called an automatic double play because the Jays' baserunner, Lyle Overbay, seemed to be out of the baseline when he tried to take out shortstop Alex Cora.
But with the game tied at 3-3, one out and runners at first and third in the bottom of the eighth, the Sox still managed to get out of the inning on a double play because of Cora's terrific turn.
Cora, starting in place of Julio Lugo, reached high and to his left for the feed from pitcher Mike Timlin. Cora managed to tap his right foot on the bag as he came down and his momentum carried him toward the second-base side of the base.
Overbay slid into Cora as he was releasing the ball to first. The throw nailed the batter, Aaron Hill, by a whisker, at least in the eyes of first-base umpire Brian Knight, keeping it a tie game.
Montague could have called it an automatic DP because from where Overbay slid to get a piece of Cora, he wouldn't have been able to reach out and touch the base. Montague didn't see it that way, but it didn't matter.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:03 PM | Permalink
Great Baserunning Instincts
It isn't often you see a baserunner move from second to third on a groundout to third base.
But some outstanding recognition and baseurnning skills by the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells in a crucial part of today's game made that happen.
Frank Thomas hit a hard hopper to third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who had to be playing back of the base to respect Thomas's power and also because of speed of ground balls on the turf.
Wells took off as the ball neared Youkilis, who had no play on the Jays' runner. Youkilis threw to first for the out. So Toronto had a runner at third with one out in a 3-3 game.
But after an intentional walk to Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill bounced into an inning-ending double play back to pitcher Mike Timlin, with shortstop Alex Cora making a great turn.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:56 PM | Permalink
Rios Owns Tavarez
There are times when the batter-versus-pitcher matchups can be overstated.
But apparently, it's safe to say that the Jays' Alex Rios owns Boston pitcher Julian Tavarez.
Prior to today's game, Rios was 5 for 6 in his career against the right-hander.
Tavarez retired Rios on a groundout in the first inning. In his next two at-bats, though, Rios tagged a double and tie-breaking solo homer, so he's now batting a sizzling .777 (7 for 9) against Tavarez.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:30 PM | Permalink
Big Papi, The Stolen Base King?
David Ortiz has only six stolen bases in his career.
But today, with runners at first and second and two outs in the sixth, Ortiz, who, naturally, was not the object of much attention from the Jays' middle infielders, took off for third on a 2-and-0 pitch to Jason Varitek.
Ortiz had a good jump and likely would have been safe with a surprise stolen base, but Varitek flied out to left on the pitch.
As Ortiz walked into the dugout, Manny Ramirez waited for him, a smile on his face, no doubt joking with Big Papi about his baserunning move.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:16 PM | Permalink
No Respect for The Captain
It isn't only Red Sox fans who have noticed Jason Varitek's declining skills at the plate.
In the sixth inning today, Boston had David Ortiz at second base and two outs with J.D. Drew coming to the plate. The score was tied, 1-1. And the Jays had their ace, Roy Halladay, on the mound.
But in the on-deck circle, batting sixth in manager Terry Francona's mix-and-match lineup, was Varitek, the Sox' captain and starting catcher. He already was 0 for 2 in the game, dropping his average to .200.
So Toronto manager John Gibbons had Halladay intentionallty walk Drew to get to Varitek with runners now at first and second with two outs.
Halladay missed with his first two pitches, but Varitek was late on a fastball and lofted a high fly down the left-field line that Adam Lind hauled in near the line with Varitek, thinking (hoping?) the ball would go foul into the seats, barely having gotten one-quarter of the way down the first-base line.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 1:59 PM | Permalink
Julian Tavarez isn't the only pitcher with a good sinker today.
The Jays' Roy Halladay has a good sinker, too, as two members of the Sox became painfully aware.
David Ortiz and J.D. Drew each fouled a down-and-in sinker off his right foot. Each of them walked gingerly out of the batter's box and walked around home plate before resuming their respective at-bats.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 1:46 PM | Permalink
The Helpful Bunt
The Red Sox tried two bunts in third, and got two hits out of that, even if one of them did go foul.
Alex Cora, leading off the inning, tried to bunt the first pitch he saw and fouled it off.
But that brought third baseman Jason Smith in a step or two on the turf, protecting against the bunt. So when Cora hit a soft looper toward the shortstop hole on the next pitch, Smith wasn't able to get back in time, the ball falling inside the line that indicates on turf the separation between the infield and the outfield.
Coco Crisp was next. He dropped down a beautifully deadened bunt in front of the plate and beat the throw from catcher Gregg Zaun for a base hit.
Cora faked a bunt on the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning, but had to back away from the inside fastball, taking it for a ball. He wound up grounding out to shortstop in the at-bat.
Crisp, though, opted to bunt again on the first pitch of the eighth inning, and again, he dropped a beauty in front of the plate and reached first safely. Crisp's two hits, put end to end, probably totaled about 47 feet.
In the ninth, Crisp crushed a ball about 398 feet and made an out to deep center, but at least it was a productive out, a sacrifice fly that gave the Sox a two-run cushion.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 1:39 PM | Permalink
Manny -- Finally, A Homer!
Manny Ramirez has been in a season-long slump.
The hits haven't been coming, let alone any extra-base power.
But as his second-inning at-bat today showed, it isn't as if he's coming out of his shoes, swinging at everything and anything.
Ramirez fell behind, 0 and 2, against Roy Halladay, one of the game's top pitchers. But Ramirez didn't give in. He took a couple of close pitches, fouled one off, worked the count full and then watched ball four, earning a leadoff walk.
And he wound up scoring the game's first run, on a deep sacrifice fly to left by Eric Hinske.
Maybe he should have been more patient in his next at-bat.
Ramirez came to the plate with the bases full and one out in the third and swung at Halladay's first pitch, bouncing one to third baseman Jason Smith, who started an inning-ending double play, croaking a very promising rally.
But Ramirez loves to hit at the Rogers Centre. He entered today's game with 25 homers here, the second-most of any opponent lifetime (Alex Rodriguez has 30) at this ballpark.
Now, he has 26. He worked the count to 2 and 0 against Shaun Marcum with two outs and one on in the eighth and the Sox down by two runs, and then crushed a game-tying two-run homer to center.
It was Ramirez's first homer of the year. Last season Ramirez was homerless until a visit to Toronto, when he bashed two homers in an April 21 game, the Sox' 17th game. Today's game is Boston;s 14th of the year.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:54 PM | Permalink
The Sinker Worked, Mostly
The concern with a sinkerball pitcher when he hasn't pitched for a while is that he will be "too strong," throwing a bit harder than normal, which leaves the ball up in the zone, taking away the sinking action because of the extra velocity.
That was one reason the Sox had Julian Tavarez, pitching today for the first time since April 7, throw a side session on Sunday in Boston and face a few hitters during early batting practice in Toronto on Tuesday.
If the first inning today is any indication, that game plan worked.
Tavarez retired the first two hitters on harmless bouncers, thanks to his sinker, and he fanned Vernon Wells with a nasty, well located slider for the third out.
But, when a sinkerball pitcher gets one up to a powerful hitter, the ball may not be coming back.
That's what happened in the second inning, when designated hitter Frank Thomas crushed a thigh-high 2-and-1 fastball over the fence in left-center, tying the game at 1-1.
Overall, though, Tavarez gave Francona more than the manager could have expected, even if he did walk off the mound trailing, 3-1, with one out in the sixth.
Tavarez got 10 of his 16 outs on ground balls and also fanned four. There were only two flyouts.
In the sixth, though, fatigue may have set in. Alex Rios launched a tie-breaking homer and before Francona could get a right-hander ready to replace Tavarez, the Jays had added another run on a single by Adam Lind, a wild pitch and a double by Vernon Wells.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:49 PM | Permalink
In the first two games of the series, when the Blue Jays put the shift on David Ortiz, they moved the third baseman (Jason Smith on Tuesday night; John McDonald on Wednesday night) over to the second-base side of the second-base bag while pushing the second baseman, Aaron Hill, into shallow right in the "hole."
They left the shortstop, Royce Clayton, at short, albeit shaded closer to the bag at second. The reason they did that was because Clayton isn't used to playing on the right side of the bag, while Smith and McDonald are more comfortable over there.
Today, with McDonald replacing Clayton at short in the starting lineup, the Jays shifted in a more traditional way, with the shortstop sliding over to the other side of the bag and the third baseman, Smith, playing "shortstop," near the base.
That alignment resulted in the rare 1-5-3 double play.
With a runner at first and one out, Ortiz hit a one-hopper back to pitch Roy Halladay. Halladay turned and threw to second for the force. Smith took the throw for the out at second and his relay to first easily beat Ortiz for the double play, 1-5-3 in the scorebook.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:40 PM | Permalink
Projo SoxTalk with Art Martone and Steve Krasner
Today, Steve Krasner calls us from Rogers Centre, where the Red Sox are ready to conclude their series with the Blue Jays. He goes over the unusual starting lineup and touches on Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, Doug Mirabelli and Dustin Pedroia.
Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:52 AM to Krasner
The Yankees Are Coming
Manager Terry Francona does not like to look ahead.
So when he was asked this morning about this weekend's series against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, he gave a typical response.
"To be a good team you have to stay in the moment," said Francona. "We have to worry about finding a way to beat Toronto today. Roy Halladay (the Jays' pitcher today) doesn't care about the Yankees. So for me to talk about them doesn't make sense."
When pressed, though, he did address the experience factor in big games on the mound that the Sox would seem to have over the Yankees. Boston's starting trio will be Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka while New York, which has an injury-ravaged rotation, will counter with Andy Pettitte and rookies Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright.
Francona, while acknowledging the Sox' edge in experience on the big stage, also said it doesn't necessarily make any difference.
"Look at Wright," said Francona of the left-hander, who was bumped up from Double A for his first big-league start on Tuesday night, a win over Cleveland.
"He has no experience. But if he throws 94 with a (good) breaking ball, he can (beat us)," said Francona. "That's what's so cool about this game. You don't know. You don't have to have 10 years (of experience) to compete."
Francona alluded to the fact the Sox had experience on the mound for the pivotal five-game series against the Yankees last summer and Boston was swept. Yet that doesn't mean those same pitchers won't pitch well against New York this year just because of their inability to rise to the occasion in that series, Francona intimated. The experience, he noted, is necessarily the only indicator of potential success in the present.
"That's like saying that sweep fiasco inthe series will scar us. No, it won't. That (sweep) didn't help us last year, but it doesn't affect us this year," said Francona.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:50 AM | Permalink
More Playing Time for Mirabelli?
If Doug Mirabelli thinks that the fact he has slugged a home run and driven in two runs in each of his last two starts as Tim Wakefield's personal catcher will give him an opportunity to play more often than once every five days he would be mistaken.
Manager Terry Francona fairly bristled at the notion that he would insert Mirabelli more often and sit Jason Varitek more, even though Mirabelli's offensive contributions in far fewer at-bats is superior to what Varitek has been offering the offense.
"Jason's our captain. He's our catcher. Playing Mirabelli two days in a row is not like playing Wily Mo (Pena) two days in a row to get his at-bats. (Sitting) back-to-back for Tek doesn't help him. He'll go down to the bullpen and catch everyone anyway so he doesn't get sluggish," said Francona.
"When we get hits from Mirabelli, that's good. But Jason's our catcher," he said.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:45 AM | Permalink
Wholesale Lineup Changes
Manager Terry Francona has juggled his starting lineup for today's series finale in Toronto.
Mindful of the fact that the Sox have played this series on turf, which takes its toll on the players' legs, and also mindful that today's game begins roughly only 10 hours after last night's game was completed, Francona is mixing and matching while, he said a few minutes ago, putting out a lineup he thinks can beat Toronto ace Roy Halladay.
So Kevin Youkilis is making the move across the diamond from first base to third base, with Eric Hinske getting the start at first. That gives Mike Lowell a day off, and shortstop Julio Lugo gets his first day off, replaced at short by Alex Cora.
Lugo's absence from the lineup has prompted Francona to push Coco Crisp up to the leadoff spot for today's game.
Of course, the changes haven't exactly fueled the lineup with hot hitters. Crisp, at the top of the order, enters the game batting .136. Catcher Jason Varitek moves up to sixth in the order, and he is batting .212. Hinske is holding up his end, at .800, but after him are Dustin Pedroia (.188) and Cora (.143).
And that doesn't even account for a cleanup hitter (Manny Ramirez) batting .191 without a home run. Ramirez has started slowly before, but usually he breaks out when the Sox visit Toronto, one of his favorite parks to hit in. A year ago his first two homers of the season came in a game at the Rogers Centre.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:27 AM | Permalink
Starting Lineups -- April 19
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:23 AM | Permalink
Sox Streakers for April 19
Who's Hot: David Ortiz (8 for his last 20 with 2 doubles and three home runs), Eric Hinske (17 for his last 34 dating back to last season, 4 for 5 so far this season)
Who's Not: Coco Crisp (2 for his last 19, batting .136), J.D. Drew (1 for his last 11), Dustin Pedroia (0 for his last 7 and 1 for his lats 22, now batting .188), Manny Ramirez (4 for his last 28, now batting .191 with no home runs), Jason Varitek (2 for his last 13, now batting .212), Kevin Youkilis (0 for his last 10, now batting.239).
Key Matchups: Against Julian Tavarez, Royce Clayton is 4 for 20 (.200) with a home run; Alex Rios is 5 for 6 (.833). Against Roy Halladay, David Ortiz is 16 for 58 (.276) with 5 home runs.
-Boston has held opponents to a .200 batting average this season, tops in the majors.
-The Red Sox have held opponents to three or fewer runs for eight straight games. The last time the opposition scored more than three was in Julian Tavarez's last start, April 7 at Texas.
-Red Sox starting pitchers have had decisions in all 13 games of the 2007 season. The last time that happened: 1918, when starters had decisions in the first 39 games.
-Red Sox starters lead the majors, giving up just three home runs this season.
-The Blue Jays have won six of their last eight meetings against the Red Sox.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:20 AM to Projo Sox Streakers
Baseball Today: Thursday, April 19
Lots of interesting stuff going on in the world of the baseball; just not a whole lot of it involves the Red Sox:
BACK ON TOP: Tim Wakefield was superb as the Red Sox again took over possession of first place in the A.L. East . . . Jonathan Papelbon wasn't as superb, but if a hit and a walk and three strikeouts constitute a subpar outing from your closer, I'll take it . . . Steven Krasner, the author of the two previous stories, goes Inside The Game.
COME ON BACK: We'll be talking to Steve on Projo Sports Talk today at noon. And Steve will be blogging before, during and after this afternoon's game in Toronto.
YOU ARE THERE: The blog "A Red Sox Fan In Pinstripe Territory" posts some pictures from the Rogers Centre.
FIRST OF THE YEAR: Congratulations, Mark Buerhle! (Chicago Sun-Times)
LOST EVENING: Two no-hitters on the same date? Well, the Padres say David Wells had no-hit stuff last night. But he didn't get a no-hitter, he didn't get a decision, and he didn't even get to stay around until the end of the game; he was ejected for arguing a call from the dugout in the 12th inning in the Padres' loss to the Diamondbacks. Wells has always had a penchant for shifting the blame to the umpires -- I remember him claiming he blew up in a game against the Red Sox in 1998 because the plate umpire blew a 1-and-1 call to John Valentin, causing him to lose his concentration -- and last night was no different. ("I had to get six outs in the seventh, which is very, very tough to do.") But he also said first-base umpire Doug Eddings rubbed his belly in a "you're fat" gesture, something Eddings denies, which Wells called "stepping over the line. When the umpire makes a gesture, I think that's personal." Ah, Boomer. Life's never dull, is it? (San Diego Union-Tribune)
INTO THE FIRE: The Yankees finally have their weekend rotation set: Andy Pettitte on Friday, Jeff Karstens on Saturday and Chase Wright on Sunday. (Newsday)
CRUEL FATE: One start after looking absolutely unhittable against the Red Sox -- and, really, looking as if he were at the very beginning of a Hall of Fame career -- Felix Hernandez had to leave last night's start in the first inning because of elbow tightness. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
NOT MY CONCERN: Bill James gives David Pinto a couple of theories on why so many long-term contracts were handed out last winter (baseballmusings.com), and one of them -- "The GMs who made the deals probably won't last until the end of the deal, so it's going to be someone else's problem'' -- is a little scary if you're worried about the long-term health of an organization.
DREAM SEQUENCE: It's the radio-personality version of hitting the lottery -- get into a fight with the manager and become a national story. (Philadelphia Inquirer) But Howard Eskin says that was never his intent, no, no.
NIGHTMARE SEQUENCE: Howard Eskin is the least of Charlie Manuel's problems; he just got the dreaded vote of confidence from his boss. And, oh, just to make life a little more interesting for Charlie, Ryan Howard may have a serious knee injury. (Both stories, Philadelphia Inquirer). Excuse me, Jimmy Rollins? You may want to rethink your preseason prediction.
LET'S GO TO THE TAPE: Ozzie Guillen proves he never said he was going to order his pitchers to hit Sammy Sosa. Wouldn't have been out of charcter, though, would it? (Daily Southtown)
OLD FRIENDS: Mike Gonzalez, a member of the Red Sox system for a couple of weeks in 2003 (and someone they attempted to trade for last winter), has come down with a bad elbow (mlb.com) . . . Bill Simmons used to call his hang-dog look "the Derek Lowe Face." Apparently, that's what the Dodgers saw a lot of last night in Colorado (Los Angeles Daily News) . . . Dave Roberts has a mild cause of food poisoning (San Francisco Chronicle) . . . Adam Stern is back in the minors after spending two days with the Orioles (Baltimore Sun) . . . Josh Bard is recovering from his groin injury (San Diego Union-Tribune) . . . Jay Payton may return to the Orioles' lineup this weekend (Washington Post).
AND FINALLY . . . It's tough to link to PawSox stories when they keep getting rained out. But today we had a nice feature on Bobby Scales, to go with yesterday's look at Davern Hansack.
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 7:12 AM | Permalink
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