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June 10, 2007
Game Story: Big Unit outduels Dice-K as D'backs win
PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Daisuke Matsuzaka versus Randy Johnson matchup lived up to its advanced billing yesterday.
They threw fastballs and sliders and every other types of pitches they had in their respective repertoires, whiffing nine apiece in the Boston Red Sox-Arizona Diamondbacks interleague series finale at Chase Field.
Hits were at a premium as they battled each other to a virtual standoff after six innings, with Johnson and his Diamondbacks holding a one-run edge over Matsuzaka and his Red Sox.
But it was an errant toss by Boston pitcher Mike Timlin that enabled Arizona to pull away for a 5-1 victory in front of a crowd of 46,622, salvaging one game in the three-game set.
The setback capped an up-and-down seven-game journey for the Red Sox. Boston dropped the first three in Oakland, extending their season-long losing streak to four games and to six losses in seven games before rebounding for three straight victories heading into yesterday’s game.
The 3-4 record on the road trip dropped Boston’s first-place lead in the American League East to a still comfortable 9 ½ games, but now the second-place team is the surging New York Yankees, who have won six in a row. When June began, the Yankees were 13 ½ games behind Boston. They have sliced four games off their deficit over the last 10 days.
The focus of yesterday’s game, though, was the Johnson-Mastsuzaka matchup. And the difference was one leadoff walk.
Johnson, 43, who had two difficult seasons in New York, has bounced back from back surgery and is looking more like the Big Unit of old as opposed to an old Big Unit.
Dice-K, meanwhile, is establishing himself in the big leagues as a rookie from Japan.
There was little to choose between their performances yesterday.
Johnson (4-2, 3.52) was stung for a run in the fourth. He issued a leadoff walk to Manny Ramirez and Ramirez, running on the pitch, scored on Mike Lowell’s full-count double into the left-field corner. That was it against Johnson, who surrendered only four hits, walked three and fanned nine.
Leadoff walks got Dice-K into trouble twice. Orlando Hudson’s walk leading off the fourth turned into Arizona’s first run, on a single by Stephen Drew. Conor Jackson’s leadoff walk in the sixth helped produce the tie-breaking run. He scored on Carlos Quentin’s one-out double to left-center, putting Arizona on top, 2-1.
Matsuzaka, like Johnson, also allowed only four hits over his six innings, fanning nine and walking four. Ultimately, though, he suffered his third straight loss in dropping to 7-5 for the season. In two starts on the road trip he went 0-2, but allowed only four runs in 13 innings and was backed by a total of just one run.
“He pitched his heart out,” said Boston manager Terry Francona, praising Dice-K.
“They made him work. We made Randy work. It was a great match-up. You knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of offense early in this game. Dice-K was great. He used all his pitches.
“Randy looked pretty good,” added Francona. “You won’t see a lot of guys saying, ‘Randy’s pitching, he’s getting older, let’s jump into the batter’s box.’ ”
Boston catcher Jason Varitek was impressed with both pitchers.
“(Dice-K) did a very good job,” said Varitek. “There was one ball he left up after a walk and they hit it in the gap. I thought he threw well and fought well.”
And Randy? The crusty old, irritable flame-throwing lefty?
“He threw the ball well, too,” said Varitek. “There weren’t a lot of multiple hits in an inning for either team.”
No, there were a lot of quiet outs. But the game finally got away from Boston in the eighth when the Diamondbacks wanted to drop down a sacrifice bunt, and the Red Sox’ pitchers were too generous.
First it was Javier Lopez. The left-hander entered with a runner at first and none out and Boston down, 2-1. He got ahead of Stephen Drew, who fouled off a bunt attempt and then missed one, falling into an 0-and-2 hole. But then Lopez missed with his next four pitches, walking the Arizona shortstop.
Out went Lopez, replaced by Timlin. This time it was Quentin up to sacrifice. He dropped down a good bunt in front of the plate. Timlin picked it up and air-mailed his throw down the right-field line and suddenly it was 4-1, Arizona. The Diamondbacks added another run on a single by Chris Young.
“They tried to give us outs (on sacrifice bunts) and we didn’t take them,” said Francona. “That’s never good. You do that, it’s a tough way to win. Mike usually handles that play, but he just nursed his throw over there. He knew. He felt bad.”
Timlin, just activated from the disabled list (shoulder tendinitis) on Saturday, made no excuses after barehanding the ball and launching his throw high over the head of Dustin Pedroia. And even though Pedroia is shorter than the average player, this throw would have gone over Manute Bol’s head.
“Just a bad toss,” said Timlin, adding he had a good grip and that the ball didn’t slip out of his hand.
“I just threw it away. I didn’t finish my throw. It got about two inches away from the tips of my fingers and I thought, ‘That’s not good at all.’ The ball came out of my hand well (during his time on the mound) except that one to first base. That was just a bad error,” he said.
And a bad way to end a road trip that could have been better and could have been worse.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 9:28 PM | Permalink
Final: Diamondbacks 5, Red Sox 1
The Red Sox squandered a chance to sweep Arizona, and salvage a winning streak on their road trip, as their bats went silent this afternoon and they were beaten by the Diamondbacks, 5-1.
Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed only two runs in six innings of work, but suffered the defeat. The Diamondbacks broke the game open with three runs against the Boston bullpen in the bottom of the eighth.
More later . . .
Posted by Art Martone at 8:24 PM | Permalink
Game Story: Gabbard, PawSox roll to 6-3 victory
PAWTUCKET - When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last February, Red Sox manager Terry Francona made it a point to tell all the young arms in the organization the big club is looking for reliability.
Kason Gabbard took that message to heart and has become the model of consistency for the Pawtucket Red Sox this season.
The lefthander improved to 6-2 yesterday, while helping the PawSox to a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Lynx in front of 9,731 at McCoy Stadium. Gabbard worked six solid innings, allowing just two runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
“Obviously I have a lot of confidence in all my pitches,” said Gabbard, who threw 99 (63 for strikes). Batterymate Kevin “Cash did a great job calling the game, and I haven’t faced these guys yet this year, so we just went after them.”
The two runs Gabbard allowed yesterday were by way of a two-run homer by the Lynx’ Danny Sandoval, who belted the roundtripper in the top of the fourth inning.
“I tried to go in with a two-seamer,” said Gabbard. “It didn’t do nothing, obviously, except go over the fence.”
Of the 25 earned run Gabbard has allowed this season, 17 of them have come off the long ball. He’s allowed seven two-run homers and three solo shots.
Despite the two-run homer yesterday, Gabbard was efficient, had command of all his pitches, especially his curveball and he worked quickly.
“He’s becoming a very professional pitcher,” said PawSox manager Ron Johnson.
“He’s professionalized himself, and I know I use that term a lot maybe because of lack of a better term, but just watching the total package he’s been consistent.”
Gabbard didn’t do it alone yesterday, however, as his offense banged out nine hits, including a three-run homer by Brandon Moss in the five-run third inning before Michael Tucker added a solo shot in the sixth inning.
“If we can get Michael Tucker swinging the bat the way he can there’s no doubt in my mind that will upgrade everyone else’s performance,” said Johnson. “He’s that guy in the lineup, a veteran guy, who can make other people better. It was really nice to see him [hit that home run] today.”
“When we’re scoring runs it’s a lot easier to pitch,” he said. “You just try to throw strikes and get guys out.”
After Gabbard was done for the day, reliever Craig Breslow, after a three-day rest, got himself into a jam to begin the seventh inning. The crafty lefty surrendered back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with no outs. After a wild pitch scored Ottawa’s third run of the game, Breslow struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning relatively unscathed.
“He had three days off and maybe he felt a little too strong,” said Johnson. “He looked liked he was overthrowing a little bit, but all of a sudden he strikes out the side.”
The PawSox manager had reliever Edgar Martinez throwing in the bullpen as Breslow closed out the inning and the southpaw told Johnson “I’m fine.” So, Johnson sent him back out for the eighth inning where he retired the first two batters he faced and allowed back-to-back singles before Johnson gave him the hook. Travis Hughes came in and earned his fifth save of the season for his 1 2/3 innings of work with two strikeouts.
It was a solid day at the ballpark for the PawSox, especially after having a very difficult night on Friday in a 6-2 loss where nothing went right, then having a day game yesterday.
Johnson said he learned a lot about the character of his team.
“I’m really proud of these guys to see them bounce back,” he said.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 6:14 PM to PawSox
FINAL: Pawtucket 6, Ottawa 3
PAWTUCKET -- The Pawtucket Red Sox scored five runs in the third inning and one in the sixth en route to a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Lynx today at McCoy Stadium.
PawSox pitcher Kason Gabbard improved to 6-2 with his six-inning five-hit performance, allowing two runs. Travis Hughes earned the save for Pawtucket. Brandon Moss belted a three-run homer in the third and Michael Tucker added a solo shot in the sixth for the win.
Posted by Joe McDonald at 3:51 PM | Permalink
Red-Hot Drew Sitting
J.D. Drew finally has gotten hot, going 6 for 10 with a pair of homers, a double and seven RBI in the first two games of this series.
But when manager Terry Francona made out his lineup for today's game, he left off Drew because he's a left-handed hitter and imposing left-hander Randy Johnson, seemingly back to form after offseason back surgery, is starting for the Diamondbacks.
"J.D. is swinging the bat so well right now, but this guy (Johnson) makes you do this," said Francona. "He's one of the few guys in this league you make adjustments for because he's so dominating a left-hander. I'm sure there are not many times where he faces the other team's best lineup."
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:10 PM | Permalink
Dice-K hitting cleanup?
Daisuke Matsuzaka was not a bad hitter in Japan, even boasting one homer.
"I saw him take some swings (last week) and he looked like he knows what he's doing," said manager Terry Francona. "I asked him if he wanted to hit cleanup today. He said, '(Against) Randy Johnson? No, no.' This (facing the flame-throwing lefty) may not be a true test of his hitting prowess."
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:06 PM | Permalink
Lowell has sprained thumb
Mike Lowell is starting despite a sprained left thumb that has been giving him trouble.
Lowell rolled over on the thumb while trying to make a diving play to his left in a game against the Yankees last Sunday night.
"He's finally found a way to tape it and give it support," said Francona.
Lowell is only 1 for 16 on the trip, dropping his average from .333 to .313.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:04 PM | Permalink
Manager Terry Francona said the team may bring left-hander Jon Lester to Boston tomorrow for a side session.
The left-hander had a rough outing for Pawtucket yesterday, coughing up three runs on five hits and three walks before manager Ron Johnson pulled him with two outs in the third inning after he had thrown 70 pitches.
"He was not too pleased," said Francona of Lester's reaction to his rehabilitation outing. "Physically he was okay."
Francona said it's likely he, pitching coach John Farrell and general manager Theo Epstein will schedule a side session for Fenway Park tomorrow, depending on when the Red Sox return to Boston from Phoenix. They want to be able to see him throw and talk to him.
Lester has only more start before his rehab assignment is over, after which the team will have to assign him somewhere, with Boston or Pawtucket.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:57 PM | Permalink
Ramirez Returns to Lineup
Manny Ramirez, who missed Saturday night's game because of a sore left wrist, is back in the starting lineup today, a welcome addition because manager Terry Francona is sitting the team's other big bopper, David Ortiz, with imposing left-hander Randy Johnson starting for the Diamondbacks.
Ramirez was hit by a pitch on the wrist during Friday night's game.
"He's good enough to play," said Francona. "In any situation it's good to have him in there. And with who's pitching for them, he's obviously a big bat in the lineup."
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:53 PM | Permalink
Starting Lineups -- June 10
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:51 PM | Permalink
Late Notes -- Rusty Papelbon records save
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Jonathan Papelbon, who has had difficulty handling the scarcity of save opportunities over the last month or so along with the kid-glove treatment he has been receiving from manager Terry Francona and the staff, notched his 14th save of the season Saturday night in Boston's 4-3, 10-inning win over Arizona.
It was not a smooth save.
Papelbon hit Chris Young with one out on a 1-and-2 fastball that just sailed up and in. He also permitted a two-out infield single to deep short by Conor Jackson.
But with Young taking off from second and having third base easily swiped on a 2-and-0 pitch to Mark Reynolds, Papelbon ended the game by retiring Reynolds on that pitch on broken-bat popup to second.
It was Papelbon's first appearance since last Sunday, when he was tagged for a game-losing homer by the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. He has had only four save opportunities since May 6, and has appeared in only 10 games since then.
Part of that inactivity is because the Sox haven't played close games that warranted him coming in to close them out, part of that is because the Sox don't want to burn out Papelbon the way they feel they did last year, when he had to miss the final month because of shoulder troubles.
So they have used ''touch-and-feel'' sessions in the bullpen, throwing enough to keep his arm strong and his mechanics sound, but not enough to wear him out, they hope.
But that hasn't made it easy on Papelbon, whose frustration meter clearly is reaching its limit.
''I didn't pitch for five days. It's tough to go out and be Grade A, 100 percent sharp,'' said Papelbon, who is 14 for 15 in save chances this year.
''I just have to ride it out, grind it out like tonight. The problem with 'touch and feel' is that you're only throwing about 75-80 percent. You can't duplicate game (action). You can only get to a certain point,'' he said.
Papelbon is not upset with the coaching staff. He understands what they're trying to do.
''It's a tough thing to manage a closer,'' said Papelbon. ''You have to have them ready for the perfect situation. But every situation isn't going to be perfect. It's a tough gig.''
Lowell's thumb hurting
Mike Lowell's left thumb is sprained, the result of a defensive play he tried to make last Sunday night at Fenway Park in a game against the New York Yankees.
Lowell gloved a ball going to his left with a dive, but his hand rolled over as the glove stuck in the dirt. The result is a sore thumb.
''It's just a nagging thing,'' said Lowell Saturday night after his pinch-hit sacrifice fly had given the Sox a 4-3, 10-inning win.
''We try to tape it. The best way is to tape it back, but if we do that I can't hit. I'll just have to ride it out,'' he said.
Maybe it's a coincidence, but since suffering the injury, Lowell has gone 1-for-16 on the trip, dropping his average from .333 to 313.
For the second time on the trip, Julian Tavarez pitched well enough to keep the Red Sox in a game, but left with Boston trailing.
Each time, though, Boston took him off the hook and took the game into extra innings. The Red Sox lost Tavarez's start in Oakland in the 11th on the first game of the trip, but they won last night, 4-3, in 10 innings.
The Diamondbacks scratched out a run in the second against him and then Stephen Drew clubbed a two-run homer over the head of his older brother, J.D., on an 0-and-2 pitch in the fourth, giving Arizona a 3-0 lead.
In the Drew at-bat, Tavarez threw a down-and-away changeup on 0 and 1 that had Drew fooled and lunging at with a wild, ineffective swing. Tavarez and catcher Jason Varitek tried to then come inside with a fastball, but Drew pounced on it for his third homer of the season.
''I left it a little bit too much over the plate. It was a mistake. Sometimes you get someone out with those pitches, sometimes you don't,'' said Tavarez. ''After that I had to stop the bleeding.''
He did just that, retiring 9 of the 10 batters he faced after Drew's homer.
Tavarez also showed he could handle the bat. He walked up and slapped a drag-type bunt on a 1-and-2 pitch past pitcher Micah Owings in the air and dropping it in front of second baseman Orlando Hudson for a base hit in the second. He also walked in his only other plate appearance.
Dynamite bullpen work
The Sox' bullpen was airtight.
Brendan Donnelly worked a spotless seventh, overmatching all three batters he faced, including a whiff of Eric Byrnes. Hideki Okajima worked around a leadoff error by Julio Lugo in the eighth and blanked the Diamondbacks for two innings, keeping it a tie game and ultimately being awarded the win when Papelbon stifled Arizona in the 10th.
Here and there
J.D. Drew continued to show a resurgence at the plate. He went 3-for-5, two of his hits going to center field, a clear sign he is staying more balanced and not rolling over on pitches the way he had been the last few weeks. His luck is also changing -- he dunked a broken-bat single to right, as well . . . Manny Ramirez's left wrist, which was hit by a pitch Friday night, was more sore than was expected. He sat out Saturday night's game, but he was available to pinch-hit late if he had been called upon. Francona is hoping he'll be able to play in the series finale . . . The crowd of 49,826, including a very large and vocal Red Sox fan base, set a record at Chase Field. The old record was 49,707 for game 6 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees. The previous regular-season record of 49,548 was established on Opening Day this year, April 9, against Cincinnati.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:31 AM | Permalink
Game story: Red Sox 4, Diamondbacks 3, 10 innings
By STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Mike Lowell began the game on the bench, but the Boston Red Sox third baseman is a student of the game.
He watches it intently, even when he’s not in the starting lineup. And as he watched Saturday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Lowell was looking ahead, trying to figure out when manager Terry Francona might be calling on him.
So around the fifth inning, Lowell went back into the clubhouse, working with the trainers to find a taping job on his sprained left thumb that would enable him to hit. They tried it one way, he’d take some swings, and then they’d have to make some adjustments.
As the innings went by and the Red Sox crept back into the game, Lowell also did some work with hitting coach Dave Magadan, hitting off a tee, doing some soft-toss work and taking some light batting practice with Magadan throwing to him.
Francona’s S.O.S. for Lowell came in the 10th inning, with the score tied, the bases loaded and one out.
And Lowell came through, delivering a fly ball to right field off Juan Cruz that was deep enough to permit David Ortiz to tag up and score the deciding run as Boston overtook the Diamondbacks, 4-3, before a record-setting crowd of 49,826 at Chase Field.
''He didn’t just sit around,'' said Francona. ''He started to get loose at one point and did some hitting. He handles his responsibility whatever it is the best he can all the time. That’s how professional he is.''
The victory was the third in a row for Boston, which began this road trip by losing the first three games. Julian Tavarez turned in a solid six-inning effort, but the Sox needed a two-run homer by Jason Varitek in the sixth and Varitek’s tying double in the eighth to lead to the win, which was claimed by Hideki Okajima (two scoreless innings) and saved by Jonathan Papelbon (14th).
Lowell’s winning RBI came in a role he doesn’t experience very often.
''Pinch hitting is a totally different mindset,'' said Lowell, who battled back from an 0-an-2 count to 2-and-2 before lofting his game-winning fly ball.
Normally that pinch-hitting mindset is an aggressive one. See the first pitch you like and take a hack at it. The first pitch from Cruz was a fastball.
''That probably was the best pitch of the at-bat to hit,'' said Lowell. ''But it was coming so fast, it was a little too hard for my approach (into the ball).''
Lowell took the pitch for a strike, and then was frozen by a breaking ball for strike two and that 0-and 2 hole.
Still, he said he didn’t try to change anything in his approach.
''At 0-and-2 you’re still look to get a pitch you can do something with,'' said Lowell. ''You may expand your strike zone a bit. But I don’t adjust my swing in those situations. You work and work on your swing, and then to change it for one at-bat can be tough.
''I was just lucky I have more of a fly ball swing than a ground ball swing right now. And then I was praying that David’s choppy steps would get him home in time,'' he joked.
Ortiz, who had opened the inning with a walk and moved up on singles by Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew (3-for-5), took off from third base a split-second after Carlos Quentin made the catch.
Quentin’s throw was way off to the first-base side of the plate, so Ortiz, whose legs took a beating playing first base the first two games of the series because there is no designated hitter in games in National League cities, scored easily.
''This playing-first bull is killing me,'' sighed Ortiz after the game, heading to the trainer’s room.
Ortiz got the bottom of the 10th off, pulled with the Sox ahead and Francona looking to tighten his defense with Papelbon on the mound. So Lowell, sore thumb and all, stayed in the game at third and Youkilis moved from third to first.
And despite a couple of Diamondback baserunners against Papelbon, Lowell’s sacrifice fly stood up as the game-winner.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:26 AM | Permalink
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