« April 20, 2007
April 22, 2007 »
April 21, 2007
Online only: Inside The Game by Steven Krasner
BOSTON -- Bunting for a base hit.
It’s a lost art. Very few hitters in the big leagues in this day and age try to bunt their way on base.
Maybe it’s because it’s the type of hit that doesn’t wow anybody at the arbitration table. Or maybe it’s because, as the advertisement slogan said in a commercial a few years ago, "Chicks digs the long ball."
But Coco Crisp, and to a lesser degree, Alex Cora, have been showing over the last few days that the bunt can be a major offensive weapon. They made the point clearly yesterday.
Crisp racked up another bunt single yesterday, his third bunt single in his last three games. Crisp had a pair of them in Thursday’s come-from-beind victory in Toronto. All three of them have come from the left side of the plate for the switch hitter.
He hasn’t done it in the traditional sense. He doesn’t drag bunt. He doesn’t try to place it perfectly down the third-base line. He has pushed all three of them out in front of the plate, deadening them nicely, and then using his blazing speed to beat a throw.
Cora, meanwhile, used a bunt attempt to pull in the third baseman in Toronto and then lofted a bloop single over his head.
Today, Crisp and Cora dropped down successful back-to-back bunt singles in the second inning, leading to a two-run uprising that enabled Boston to pull even, at 2-2.
That’s right. The Red Sox. Back-to-back bunt singles.
Sure, David Ortiz’s sixth homer of the year, a two-run blast inside the right-field foul pole, expanded the Red Sox’ advantage to 7-4 in the fourth and seemed to take the wind out of the Yankees’ sails.
But those beautiful bunts by Crisp and Cora helped to inflict the same amount of damage on New York.
Battle of the titans
Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you.
Such was the case between Boston starter Josh Beckett and red-hot Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez.
In the first inning, Beckett threw a total of 12 pitches to the first three hitters. Of those pitches, 11 were fastballs.
He changed his pattern when Rodriguez got to the plate. Beckett threw a changeup and two curves. But with a 1-and-2 count on A-Rod, he froze the Yankee third baseman with a 96-mile-an-hour inside-corner fastball for a called strike three.
In their second matchup, two curves and a changeup produced a 2-and-1 count. Beckett again tried to slip a fastball past A-Rod. He wasn’t successful. Rodriguez turned on it and drilled a double over the head of left fielder Manny Ramirez.
A fastball and a curve had A-Rod down, 0-and-2, in the fifth. And with catcher Jason Varitek calling for a high, hard one out of the zone for a waste pitch, Beckett delivered one at 97 miles an hour. Rodriguez swung at it, but couldn’t get on top of it. He popped it up to second base.
But in the seventh, with runners at first and second and two outs, Beckett’s pitch count up 102, faced A-Rod one last time, holding a 7-4 advantage. He knew it would be his last hitter, a message imparted by pitching coach John Farrell.
The radar-gun readings on his first three pitches of the at-bat were 98, 98 and 95. The count was 2-and-1. The next pitch, Beckett’s 106th, came in at 96 miles an hour, and Rodriguez took a smooth swing and zipped a liner over the head of first baseman Kevin Youkilis for an RBI single, trimming the Yanks’ deficit to 7-5.
Slide, Papi, slide!
It’s a harrowing sight for manager Terry Francona and his teammates when David Ortiz has to slide. Apparently, he never mastered Sliding 101.
On Friday night, crash-landing was a better way to describe how Ortiz "slid" into second base. He was safe, but how he didn’t get hurt was a miracle.
Today, for the good of the team, Big Papi had to slide in the first inning. He tagged up on Manny Ramirez’s fly ball to right and rumbled from second to third, sliding in safely and looking this time as if he almost knew what he was doing as he got down.
He then pushed his luck, trying to score from third on J.D. Drew’s grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano.
Cano threw home and nailed Oritz, who again made a good slide, and might have been safe, though replays weren’t conclusive.
There were two reasons the Yanks were able to throw him out. Number one, of course, is that Ortiz is a slow runner. But manager Joe Torre also had his infielders playing halfway, even though it was a tie game and just the first inning, in an effort to choke off that run.
That defensive alignment helped out rookie right-hander Jeff Karstens.
Why, why why?
Why would Torre have Wil Nieves bunt after Kevin Thompson’s leadoff double in a 2-2 game in the first?
Granted, Nieves is a rookie, and it would be nice to move the go-ahead run to third with less than two outs. But did Torre think that Karstens, who had looked shaky in coughing up two runs in his first big-league inning of the year, was primed to blank Boston the rest of the way? Why give up an out?
New York got a break when Nieves fouled off two bunt attempts and third basmean Mike Lowell threw away his weak grounder, trying to throw out Thompson retreating to second. Having Nieves bunt, though, didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
New York did get two runs in its half of the second, but the Yanks’ 4-2 lead after 1 1/2 innings turned into a 4-4 tie by the time Karstens escaped the bottom of the second.
Posted by Art Martone at 8:22 PM | Permalink
Terry Francona's comments
Some of what Terry Francona had to say in his postgame press conference:
On Josh Beckett
''He threw 60 pitches in the first three innings, then he had an 8-pitch fourth and an 8-pitch fifth [which is why he was able to last until the seventh] . . . He got his fastball in a little bit to right-handers, threw his breaking ball for strikes, and had a nice chanegup.''
On the bunting the Sox did in the game, specifically the back-to-back bunt singles by Coco Crisp and Alex Cora in the second and the sacrifice bunt by Cora in the fourth
''I always laugh a little when people say we don't bunt . . . If guys can bunt and they can execute, that's good.''
On Crisp and Jason Varitek seemingly emerging from their slumps
''Coco's been impacting us with his legs . . . Jason's taking some healthy swings. Take enough of those swings, and you'll see some results.''
On Hideki Okajima
''It's nice to see him respond in a postive way [to the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry] . . . He was valuable again today. He has command of his fastball, a good off-speed pitch, and he's willing to pitch every day. Now, he won't pitch every day, but it's good that he wants to.''
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 7:34 PM | Permalink
| Comments 1
Final: Red Sox 7, Yankees 5
BY ART MARTONE
Journal Sports Editor
BOSTON -- David Ortiz hit a two-run double in the second inning and a two-run homer in the fourth, leading the Red Sox to a 7-5 victory over the Yankees today at Fenway Park.
Ortiz' homer, into the lower right-field box seats with two outs, gave the Red Sox a 7-4 lead. It was Ortiz' 179th home run as a member of the Red Sox, moving him past Nomar Garciaparra into sole possession of 10th place on the franchise's all-time home-run list.
The Sox had broken a 4-4 tie earlier in the inning. Coco Crisp singled to left for his second hit of the day, stole second, went to third on a bunt by Alex Cora and came home on a grounder to short by Julio Lugo. Kevin Youkilis then walked, setting the stage for Ortiz.
Trailing 7-4, the Yankees put together a two-out rally in the top of the seventh that pushed across a run and knocked Josh Beckett out of the game. Derek Jeter singled, Bobby Abreu walked and Alex Rodriguez lined an RBI single into right.
Hideki Okajima replaced Beckett to face the left-handed Jason Giambi. Beckett, who had struggled in the first two innings (four runs allowed), retired 14 of 15 batters from the top of the third until there were two outs in the seventh. He wound up pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowed 9 hits and 5 runs, 3 earned, with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. The victory raised his record to 4-0.
Okajima struck out Giambi to end the inning.
Okajima retired Robinson Cano to begin the eighth, then was lifted in favor of Mike Timlin. Timlin retired Josh Phelps and Kevin Thompson on popups.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth and recorded his fifth save. He allowed a walk, with one strikeout.
The Yankee starter, rookie Jeff Karstens (0-1), was lifted with one on and one out in the fifth. He worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed 9 hits and 7 runs, all earned. He walked 2 and struck out 1.
The Sox, who came back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits, had tied it 4-4 with two runs in the bottom of the second. With one out, Crisp and Cora beat out back-to-back bunt singles, moved up a base on a wild pitch, then came home to score on a grounder by Lugo and an RBI single by Youkilis.
Melky Cabrera had broken a 2-2 tie with an RBI single in the top of the second inning, and another run scored when Jeter grounded into a double play as the Yankees scored twice and moved ahead, 4-2.
Thompson had opened the second with a double. Wil Nieves, after failing to bunt him to third, hit a grounder down the third-base line that Mike Lowell fielded near the bag. Sensing he had no chance to get Nieves at first, he threw to second in an attempt to nail Thompson. But the throw went into right field, putting runners at second and third.
Cabrera's single to center scored Thompson, making it 3-2. When Jeter grounded into a double play, second to first, Nieves came home with New York's fourth run.
In the bottom of the first, Ortiz blasted a two-run double over the head of Abreu in right field, scoring Lugo and Youkilis and lifting the Red Sox into a 2-2 tie.
Lugo had led off the inning with a single and Youkilis followed with a double into the left-field corner.
Two-out RBI singles by Giambi and Cano had given the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Jeter had singled with one out and moved to second on a walk to Abreu. Beckett struck out Rodriguez for the second out, then surrendered a bloop single to right by Giambi.
Cano followed with an infield hit to second, driving in Abreu.
Posted by Art Martone at 7:30 PM | Permalink
A chat with Mientkiewicz
Yankees’ first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz spent much of his time before the game today in a long discussion with reporters about two issues.
One was about his positioning on Coco Crisp’s triple in the five-run Boston eighth-inning Friday night. Mientkiewitz did not guard the line and the bouncing ball got past him for a triple.
That turned out to be the smaller part of the chat. More time was spent on Mientkiewicz’ experience with the Red Sox and, especially, the controversy he was involved in when he kept the ball he caught for the final out of the 2004 World Series. Mientkiewicz came under fire for keeping the ball for some time before donating it to the Hall of Fame.
``I wanted to give it to the Hall of Fame long before that, but I didn’t know the protocol,’’ he said.
The articulate Mientkiewicz spoke at length about how the incident bothered him. It caused problems for him and his family and, for a time, colored his experience with the Red Sox. But he said he realized that focusing on the ball was not the right way to remember his time in Boston.
``My wife loved it here and I enjoy it,’’ he said. ``My only regret is not being able to come back for a full year.’’ Mientkiewcz detailed how got along so well with his teammates while he was in Boston and how much respect he has for John Henry and Theo Epstein.
``There are no ill feelings toward the Red Sox at all,’’ he said. ``My time here was phenomenal.’’
Mientkiewicz spoke about he gave the ball from the seventh game of the Yankees series to Derek Lowe; how, on the advice of Tino Martinez, he put away the glove he used in the World Series-clinching game and now has it in a case; and how he now enjoys being with the Yankees, although he does not enjoy looking at his batting average (.139).
While fans might get uptight with the Sox-Yankees rivalry, it is not the same among the players, he insisted.
``The thing that gets lost in the shuffle is both sides respect each other immensely,’’ he said.
Posted by Paul Kenyon at 3:35 PM | Permalink
The managers agree
There was no direct mention of Yankees’ manager Joe Torre in Terry Francona’s pre-game meeting with the media this afternoon, but Francona spent part of the time defending a key decision his counterpart made Friday night.
The issue involved Coco Crisp’s triple in Boston’s five-run eighth inning. The Yankees, and Torre, have been questioned for not having first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz guard the line. Crisp’s hit bounced between Mientkiewicz and the bag and was the key blow in the rally.
Francona was asked a general question about how he decides whether to have his first and/or third baseman move closer to the line in late innings. Francona began by saying he takes several factors into consideration, including the hitter, the man on deck and the score. But then he went into detail about how he does not like to do it.
``We probably guard the lines less than any team in baseball,’’ he said. ``Just getting over on the lines is something people used to do. If you don’t do it now, you open yourself up to criticism, but it may not necessarily be the best way to win.’’
By this point, Francona obviously was aware that the issue was brought up because of Crisp’s hit. He went into more detail about how he does not like to guard the lines.
``I’d rather play them where you normally play them. You spend a lot of time working on your defense,’’ he said. He asked if the discussion was about Mientkiewicz’ position on Crisp’s hit. He was told it was.
``I would have had him in the same place,’’ he said.
Posted by Paul Kenyon at 3:13 PM | Permalink
Dice-K versus the Yanks
The Matsuzaka Media Mafia will be in its glory tomorrow night when Dice-K pitches against the New York Yankees for the first time. It’ll be a primetime showdown against the Yanks’ Chase Wright and everyone is interested how the Japanese import will handle the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
“He’s certainly not lived through it,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I know my first year I think I said all the right things, but I had no idea. I don’t think anybody does until you go through it. Saying that, he has pitched a lot of professional games and he’s been a big deal, the center of attention and a real good pitcher. This certainly won’t overwhelm him. From what I’ve seen of him, he enjoys immensely things like this. He’ll be just fine.”
Matsuzaka has pitched extremely well in his three starts, but you would never know that by his 1-2 record. In his last two starts the right-hander has allowed just five runs in 13 innings of work. He just hasn’t received much offensive support.
Tomorrow will be the first time he will face the type of potent lineup like the Yankees have, so it’ll be interesting to see the outcome.
Posted by Joe McDonald at 2:18 PM | Permalink
NO REST FOR VARITEK
Television has helped insure that Jason Varitek will catch all three games of this series for the Sox, assuming he stays healthy.
Many teams like to give their catcher a rest when a day game follows a night game. The Red Sox will do that with Varitek once the season heats up. However, manager Terry Francona said in his pre-game meeting today that this early in the season he had hoped to use Varitek in all three games against the Yankees, especially since Tim Wakefield is not scheduled to pitch.
The fact that all three contests are being nationally televised has made it easier to do that, Francona said. Today’s game does not start until 3:55, giving Varitek more time to recover than a 1 or 2 p.m. start. Even better, the finale will be the Sunday night game on ESPN, again giving Varitek more time to rest between games.
``We’ve kind of established that we know we can win when he doesn’t hit. (We want him in) because of his catching abilities and running the game,’’ Francona said. ``But when he does hit, it certainly helps. He’s a switch hitter with power. He’s that bridge to the bottom of the order. It certainly did impact the game last night. We’ve been used to that a long time here.
The Yankees go today with Wil Nieves behind the plate. Jorge Posada, one of a host of Yankees off to a great start the plate, hurt his thumb last night.
Posted by Paul Kenyon at 2:17 PM | Permalink
Damon on the Shelf
Yankee center fielder Johnny Damon is out of the lineup today because of a sore back and a sore right hamstring.
Damon said he felt his back tighten up when the team played on the turf in Minnesota two weeks ago, and part of that discomfort, he said, can be attiributed to his tight hamstrings.
He said he felt more discomfort in his back Friday night after making a sliding catch on Kevin Youkilis's looping fly ball in left-center in the fifth inning. He caught his cleats in the turf while making the inning-ending catch.
Damon, the former Red Sox rock star who now gets booed as a Yankee, did not have a good night at the plate, going 0 for 5. He whiffed twice and grounded out three times, taking weak hacks.
"My back is sore. It's not in one spot. It's all over," said Damon. "So I'll get some treatment. We'll figure it out and get it right so I can play tomorrow."
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:11 PM | Permalink
Youkilis is ready to go
For all those in Red Sox Nation who adore Kevin Youkilis, and were concerned about his left hand after he was hit by Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte in the bottom of the first inning Friday night, there’s no need to worry because Youk is just fine.
Even though it appeared there was a sniper in the stands when he was hit, Youkilis remained in the game and is in today’s lineup.
“I bet he’s going to be pretty sore,” said Francona.
When Youk was hit, the manager and team trainer immediately rushed to home plate to see if he was ok. But, as Francona got to the plate, Youk jumped up and sprinted to first.
“You know what? I’m not even going to go out there anymore,” joked Francona. “I almost pulled a hamstring. I just got out there and had my momentum going in the right direction and he peels off to first. I’m not chasing him around the field.”
Posted by Joe McDonald at 2:04 PM | Permalink
Sox Streakers for April 21
Information from the team's official pregame notes:
-Josh Beckett (3-0 in 3 appearances, 18 innings, 10 hits, 3 runs, 18 strikeouts, 5 walks)
-Alex Cora (4 for his last 8 with double, triple, 3 RBI)
-Coco Crisp (6 for his last 16
-J.D. Drew (5 for his last 10; 3 hits last night)
-Mike Lowell (9 for his last 24 with two doubles, a homer and 6 RBI)
-David Ortiz (10 for his last 26 with four doubles, three homers and 9 RBI)
-Hideki Okajima (7.0 consecutive scoreless innings; 6.0 hitless innings; has retired 17 of last 18 batters)
-Julio Lugo (0 for his last 12)
-Dustin Pedroia (0 for his last 13; 1 for his last 28)
-Manny Ramirez (6 for his last 39; now batting .189)
-Kevin Youkilis (2 for his last 16)
-Wily Mo Pena (0 for 5 as a pinch hitter)
Yankees vs. Josh Beckett
-Robinson Cano, 4 for 8 (.500), 1 HR
-Jason Giambi, 3 for 7 (.429), 2 HR
-Johnny Damon, 4 for 11 (.364), 0 HR
-Jorge Posada, 2 for 7 (.286), 0 HR
-Derek Jeter, 2 for 8 (.250), 0 HR
-Doug Mientkiewicz, 3 for 13 (.231), 1 HR
-Melky Cabrera, 2 for 9 (.222), 0 HR
-Bobby Abreu, 6 for 39 (.154), 2 HR
-Alex Rodriguez, 1 for 9 (.111), 0 HR
None of the Red Sox has faced Yankee starter Jeff Karstens.
-The Red Sox have won three straight against the Yankees.
-The Red Sox have won 8 of their last 10 games, and they own the best winning percentage in the American League.
-Last night's game was the first time in nearly three years that the Red Sox have won after trailing by four runs or more in the eighth inning. It was the first time they've done it against the Yankees since 1981, when Rick Miller's home run off Dave LaRoche capped a rally from five down and gave Boston an 8-5 win.
-The Red Sox no longer lead the American League in E.R.A.; they are now second behind Oakland. But Boston does have the best bullpen E.R.A. in the A.L., at 2.63.
-Boston relievers are 5 for 5 in save opportunities.
-Josh Beckett is the third Red Sox pitcher ever (the first two were Babe Ruth and Roger Clemens) to win in his first three appearances while giving up no more than one run and striking out five in each game. He's also the third pitcher to do so in the majors over the last 20 years (Pedro Martinez and Kevin Tapani were the others).
Posted by Mike McDermott at 1:58 PM to Projo Sox Streakers
Francona's take on today's lineup
Red Sox infielder Alex Cora has been playing well of late, especially in critical situations. As a result, Red Sox manager Terry Francona inserted Cora into the starting lineup today. It will also give rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia a chance to take a breather.
Pedroia has been pressing a little too hard at the plate, so he took some extra BP this morning with hitting coach Dave Magadan. Francona said Pedroia will be back in the lineup tomorrow night against lefty Chase Wright.
Francona called his lineup tweaking a chance to give guys some more at-bats in order to stay sharp, while giving other guys a much-needed day off.
“It’s human nature to press,” said the Sox manager when asked about Pedroia’s mindset at the plate. “We all do, but when it starts hurting your at-bats, you have to try to find a way to channel that into a positive and it’s hard to do.
“You start to see guys stride too far or want to swing too hard,” added Francona. “We’ve all done it and he has to get through it. He knows he has our support and he does work hard. He has a lot of things in his favor, he just having a little bit of a tough time at the plate right now.”
Posted by Joe McDonald at 1:52 PM | Permalink
It's a great day for the game
Melky Cabrera, 8
Derek Jeter, 6
Bobby Abreu, 9
Alex Rodriguez, 5
Jason Giambi, DH
Robinson Cano, 4
Doug Mientkiewicz, 3
Kevin Thompson, 7
Will Nieves, 2
Jeff Karstens, SP
Julio Lugo, 6
Kevin Youkilis, 3
David Ortiz, DH,
Manny Ramirez, 7
Mike Lowell, 5
Jason Varitek, 2
Coco Crisp, 8
Alex Cora, 4
Josh Beckett, 1
Posted by Joe McDonald at 1:35 PM | Permalink