ATLANTA -- In the 1970s, Atlanta Fulton County Stadium earned the nickname The Launching Pad because of the number of home runs that were routinely hit there, many by home run kind Henry Aaron.
That ballpark is gone now, reduced to a parking lot beyond its replacement, but Wednesday night, the Red Sox helped make Turner Field its worthy successor.
Delivering the long ball early and often, the Sox belted five homers tying a season high and recorded their second straight shutout, an 11-0 thrashing of the Atlanta Braves.
The winning margin was the Red Sox biggest since pounding Seattle 14-3 in the home opener. It was the first time since July 18-19 of last season that the Sox had posted consecutive shutouts. In coming back to win the final two games of the series, the Sox outscored the Braves 15-0.
J.D. Drew homered to start the game, and later in the first, Coco Crisp added another, his third of the series. David Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights in the second and Manny Ramirez and Eric Hinske helped pile on with late-inning blasts.
When Ramirez connected for his 11th homer and third in the last five games it marked the 44th time that both Ramirez and Ortiz had homered in the same game.
The last time the Sox cranked five homers in a game was April 22 of this season when they hit five four in succession against the Yankees at Fenway.
Of the 11 runs the Sox scored, all but two scored as the result of homers. The five round-trippers gave the Sox 78 for the season, well behind Detroit, Texas and Tampa Bay, all of which entered yesterdays action 85 homers.
''We scored early which is always good and we took some real good swings,'' said manager Terry Francona. ''And then we kept swinging and added on.''
''We've been looking for offense,'' said Ortiz, ''and tonight, it seemed like everybody put it together. That was nice because everybody contributed.''
Everybody, that is, except Julio Lugo, the only position player in the starting lineup to go without a hit in the 15-hit attack. Lugo seemed poised to break into the hit column in the ninth when he hit a sinking liner to right with two on in the ninth. Indeed, the ball fell in, but Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur came up firing and gunned down Jason Varitek at third on a force play, leaving Lugo with a fielders choice. Lugo's average dipped to .201 for the season.
Beyond that, the positives were everywhere.
Almost obscured by the power display was the work of starter Julian Tavarez, who won his second straight start and fourth straight decision. Tavarez hasn't lost since May 11, almost six weeks ago.
''He takes the ball whenever you give it to him,'' said Francona, ''and he really enjoys pitching. This is the most he's pitched (as a starter) in a long time and his confidence is growing. We feel like when he goes out there, we have a great chance to win.''
That's no illusion. In games started by Tavarez this season, the Sox are 8-5, more than acceptable from a No. 5 starter.
Tavarez, 5-4, went seven innings and allowed just four hits. Through the first sixth innings, thanks to two double plays and just two hits against him, Tavarez had faced the minimum number of hitters.
He retired the first 10 hitters he faced before Willie Harris lined a single into center for Atlanta's first hit.
''Tonight,'' said Tavarez, ''my sinker was good and I was able to keep the ball down and get some groundball outs. I treated (the score) like it was 0-0 and I didn't want to let anybody score. In games like that, you have to go out and take it one batter at a time.''
''He's doing a very good job for us,'' said Varitek of Tavarez. ''Even when we got the big lead early, he was still trying to pitch. He did a good job of keeping his concentration. He's given us quality starts.''
After seven innings and 97 pitches, Tavarez gave way to the bullpen. Joel Pineiro pitched the eighth for the Sox, while Mike Timlin retired the side in order in the ninth as the Sox improved 10-5 in interleague play this season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Indians scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon, breaking open a tie game en route to a 6-3 win over the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox.
The loss to Indianapolis was the third in a row for Pawtucket (31-38). Including Sunday’s loss in Richmond, the PawSox have now dropped four straight. The Indians (43-28), who lead the International League West and boast the best record at the Triple-A level, have won nine of their last ten home games.
“I can’t say it enough, we say it every night,” Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson said, “but 3-3 in the the eighth inning – imagine that! - the same type situation (as the two previous contests). What I’m really impressed by, with this ballclub that we’re playing, is that when they get people at the corners, they find a way to get them in. That’s the difference right now between the three games – they’re all as close as they can be. But they’ve done a tremendous job and I salute them.”
Jon Lester started for the PawSox and fell behind 1-0 in the bottom of the third when Michael Ryan rocked an 89mph fastball over the right field wall. Ryan’s shot, his third of the year, landed just the other side of the foul pole.
Bobby Scales opened the fourth for Pawtucket with a drive to left center that fell for a triple. When Jeff Bailey followed with a grounder to short, Scales raced home to even the score.
Ryan tormented Lester again in fifth with a leadoff triple that sent Jacoby Ellsbury crashing into the center field fence. Lester walked the next batter, Einar Diaz, and Luis Matos singled through short to give the Indians the lead. Brian Bixler followed with a base on balls to fill the sacks. Yurendell de Caster grounded to Alex Prieto, who started a short-to-second-to-first double play, with Diaz coming home from third to make it 3-1.
In the sixth inning Edgar Martinez replaced Lester, who threw 92 pitches, 47 for strikes, and gave up five hits and four walks to go with three strikeouts. While Lester struggled, Indianapolis starter Michael Tejera limited the PawSox to three hits through six and one-third innings. The tricky left-hander, changing arm angles like an overworked housepainter, struck out four and walked two before giving way to Josh Sharpless in the seventh.
Sharpless entered the game with one out and Bailey, who drew one of the walks off Tejera, on first base. After Bailey moved up on a wild pitch, Cash drew a base on balls and Michael Tucker bounced back to Sharpless to put runners at second and third with two out. Chad Spann then slammed an 0-2 delivery into left that scored both runners and tied the game at 3-all.
Bryan Corey started the eighth for Pawtucket and loaded the bases, sandwiching walks to Bixler and Brad Eldred around de Caster’s base hit. Bixler raced home on an infield out by Jose Hernandez, and the Indians took a 5-3 lead when Humberto Cota followed with a single to center. Luis Ordaz then squeezed home Eldred from third to make it 6-3.
Corey slapped a hard tag on Ordaz, and harsh words ensued. Both benches emptied, with Ordaz and Johnson, the PawSox skipper, engaging in a heated exchange. Ryan, who went 3-for-4, followed with a single that sent Cota to third before Corey managed to get the final out.
Brian Rogers started the ninth for Indianapolis, but gave way to Franquelis Osoria after issuing back-to-back walks to Michael Tucker and Spann. The next batter, George Kotteras, slashed a line drive toward the right field line. But Eldred, the 6-foot-5 Indianapolis first baseman, speared the ball and doubled Spann off first. Franquelis Osoria, who got the win Tuesday with two scoreless innings, ended the three-hour contest by getting Ellsbury on a grounder to second.
Bryan Corey (2-4) took the loss while Mark Corey (1-0) got the win. Osoria earned his sixth save.
Lester, the blue-chip left-hander who went 7-2 for Boston last year before undergoing treatment for lymphoma, described his performance as “Not good. It was a battle through the whole thing,” he added. “Mechanically, it just didn’t feel right. When I did make an adjustment, I couldn’t repeat it.”
Johnson’s take on Lester was more philosophical. “I thought Jon did a pretty good job,” said the manager. “His pitch count went a little high. He had a couple of 25-pitch innings. But he was in the mid-90s after five innings. I was really pleased with him. He’s not, because John’s not gonna be pleased unless he goes out and throws eight or nine innings and walks away with a ’W’.”
Notes: Scales, the versatile switch-hitter, went 6-for-15 against Indianapolis last month at McCoy Stadium and is 5-for-13 so far in this series. During the first three games here, he’s seen action in left field and at second base.
Thursday night the PawSox face the Indians for the final time this season. Kason Gabbard (6-2) is Pawtucket’s likely starter versus Shane Youman (3-5).
More on Schilling: He'll be placed on the DL Friday
ATLANTA -- Curt Schilling will be placed on the disabled list Friday, at which point the Red Sox will make a temporary roster move that could involve either a 14th position player or a reliever to help in the weekend series in San Diego and the first game of the series against the Mariners Monday in Seattle. The Sox will not promote a starter until Tuesday, when Schilling's replacement will be needed in the rotation.
Asked if Jon Lester would be one of the candidates to take Schilling's turn, manager Terry Francona declined to speculate, saying such advance talk ''just doesn't make sense.''
ATLANTA -- More details are still to come, but the Red Sox just announced that Curt Schilling won't make his next shceduled start Sunday in San Diego. Instead, Josh Beckett will pitch Sunday on regular rest (thanks to Thursday's off-day), with Julian Tavarez pitching Monday in Seattle.
That leaves Tuesday in Seattle as a TBA. Speculation is almost certain to center on Jon Lester.
Schilling returned to Boston Tuesday to have a weakened shoulder examined.
Jon Lester, who may be a candidate for a start this weekend, pitched five innings today in Indianapolis, and he showed some of his old control problems. Lester threw 92 pitches, just 47 of them for strikes. He walked four and gave up three runs, all of them earned, in his five innings. He gave up five hits, including a solo home run by Indianapolis' Michael Ryan, and struck out three.
Lester gave up a triple, a walk, a single and another walk to start the fifth inning. But he got out of the inning having given up only two runs, thanks to a double play ground ball and a pop up.
Lester left the game with Pawtucket trailing the Indianapolis Indians, 3-1.
-Coco Crisp, six-game hitting streak, during which he is 10 for 18 (.556)
-Kevin Youkilis, four-game hitting streak, during which he is 6 for 15 (.400)
-Mike Lowell, 1 for his last 16 and 9 for 54 (.167) over his last 15 games, dropping his average from .337 to .299.
-Julio Lugo, 0 for his last 11, now hitting .119 in the month of June.
Red Sox vs. Buddy Carlyle
-Mike Lowell, 1 for 2
-Alex Cora, 0 for 1
-J.D. Drew, 0 for 1
-No other active Red Sox player has faced Carlyle.
-Carlyle has never faced Boston.
Braves vs. Julian Tavarez
-Chipper Jones, 9 for 14 (.643), 1 HR
-Edgar Renteria, 8 for 16 (.500), 1 HR
-Andruw Jones, 3 for 21 (.143)
-Jeff Francoeur, 0 for 1
-Brian McCann, 0 for 1
-Chris Woodward, 0 for 1
-No other active Braves player has faced Tavarez
-Tavarez is 4-3 with a 5.28 E.R.A. in his career against Atlanta.
-All-time series: Atlanta 25, Boston 19
-David Ortiz has five hits at Turner Field in his career -- four of them are home runs
-The Braves have not yet scored more than three runs for Buddy Carlyle, who is making his sixth start tonight.
Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: Schilling headed for the DL?
Sean McAdam is back as Art Martone's guest on projo SoxTalk. Click here to listen to the full audio file. Sean and Art talk about Josh Beckett's excellent start last night, but the main topic of conversation is Curt Schilling: Will he go on the disabled list, and if he does, who replaces him in the rotation?
Here are some excerpts from Sean's comments.
On Beckett's performance: "It would have been interesting to see had he been able to go longer, but with the 50-minute rain delay the Red Sox didn't want to take any chances in bringing him back, and certainly the game seemed pretty much in control. But for six innings he was very dominant: four hits, only one runner past second base, and not only made sure that the Red Sox' losing streak didn't grow past one, but made sure that his own personal losing streak stopped there too."
On Schilling: "My guess is that they're going to shut him down for a little while, see if he can build up his shoulder muscles, strengthen that area a little bit. And you know, it's probably not a bad thing when you're going on 41 to have a little break in the middle of the season. I don't know that anyone expected him to hold up for 35 starts, given the number of innings in that arm. I think the good news is that there is no labrum or rotator cuff issues, probably just a weakened shoulder area that can benefit from some rest, and I wouldn't be surprised if today or tomorrow they announce that he's going on the disabled list for 15 days."
On who would take Schilling's spot: "They could have Lester pitch Sunday in Schilling's next turn, in San Diego, and then have him continue to take Schilling's turn next time, and then when Schilling returns it would only be a bump of a day moving from the number-one spot in the rotation to presumably the number five, bumping Julian Tavarez more permanently. The other thought is, maybe they bring somebody else up and spot him for those two starts, whether that be Kason Gabbard, whether it be Davern Hansack, David Pauley, those are three options, and I'm sure that's part of the discussion that's going on now."
Curt Schilling spoke this morning with WEEI's John Dennis, the day after an MRI found no structural damage to his shoulder.
Dennis asked about seemingly conflicting reports on whether Schilling had felt pain on Monday, when he was battered by the Atlanta Braves. Schilling said he was "not discomfort-free," and added that "pain is a relative term."
He was more direct when asked to compare the feeling Monday with what he encountered in 1995, as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, when Schilling needed surgery for a torn labrum.
Schilling said that, in 1995, he was throwing in the mid 90s one moment, and then he was suddenly throwing in the low 80s. He said that he did not feel any pain on that occasion until the next morning. The feeling on Monday night was eerily similar, said Schilling: he simply could not summon the velocity that he had been able to get on his pitches earlier in the season. But unlike in 1995, he did not feel in pain on Tuesday morning, he said.
After Monday's game, Atlanta's Chipper Jones said it was the worst he had ever seen Schilling throw. Schilling said that Jones should know, since they have faced each other often over the years.
Schilling said that no determination had been made about his next scheduled start, which is Sunday in San Diego. But he added that he will not be picking up a baseball until Friday, making it unlikely that he would make the start.
ACES: Curt Schilling said at the beginning of the season that he still wanted to be considered the ace of the Red Sox staff. It soon became obvious, however, that the title now belongs to Josh Beckett (AP Photo, right) . . . and never moreso than last night. One day after a disheartening defeat in which Schilling's skills, and his health, were called into question, Beckett overpowered the Braves for six innings -- leaving the game only after a 48-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh -- and led the Sox to a 4-0 victory. (projo.com) ''He was very dominant,'' said manager Terry Francona of Beckett, who improved to 10-1. ''He threw strikes and he kept his fastball down in the zone. That’s the Beckett we’ve seen all year.''
Beckett's view of his performance was more succinct: ''No horse-bleep pitches.'' (Boston Herald) He had help, especially from Coco Crisp, who continued his superlative defensive season with another spectacular catch in center field. (Boston Herald) ''That was the greatest catch I’ve ever had behind me,'' said Beckett. ''That’s about the third or fourth time I’ve told him that [this year]. I guess I’m going to have to go back and look at all of them and figure out which one actually is the greatest catch.''
THE NATION EMERGES VICTORIOUS: One day after praising their fans for standing up to the Boston invaders, the Braves, in the story above, admit that they're irked at feeling like visitors in their own park. (AJC's Dave O'Brien has taken to calling Turner Field ''the Southern Fens''.) ''It is frustrating, I'm not gonna lie,'' said Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson. ''You would like the home team to be the home team.''
REMEMBER WHEN? The Omaha World-Herald does a quick Q-and-A with Fred Lynn, most of which centers on his college days -- the hook: Omaha hosts the College World Series -- but some of which touches on his Red Sox career.
DOESN'T SEEM SO BAD NOW, DOES IT?: There was plenty of angst in Red Sox Nation last week when Josh Fogg, who entered the game with a 1-5 record and an ERA over 5.00, shut down the Sox at Fenway Park and beat Curt Schilling. But last night -- at Coors Field, no less -- he did the same thing to Mike Mussina and the Yankees. (New York Post)
IS THAT ALL YOU GOT? When asked to comment on the Yankees' recent resurgence, George Steinbrenner said nothing. (New York Post) ''Maybe, like others,'' writes George King, ''he believes the resurgence is due more to the competition (White Sox, Pirates, Diamondbacks and Mets) than anything else.''
FORGOTTEN MAN: Back in Maryland, Sam Perlozzo is slowly coming to grips with his firing. (Baltimore Sun) He said he had yet to hear from any of his former players, and when asked if that surprised him, he replied: ''Yes, sir.''
ENOUGH, ALREADY: The players, in San Diego for a series with the Padres, seem fed up with the whole situation. (Baltimore Sun) Some, like Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada, spoke fondly of Perlozzo; Kevin Millar, on the other hand, seemed pleased . . . which couldn't have surprised Seth Mnookin very much, something he's made clear again and again. (sethmnookin.com)
LOCALLY: With Brad Lidge on the disabled list because of a strained oblique muscle on his left side, Dan Wheeler is once again closing for the Astros. (mlb.com) He'd lost the job back to Lidge on June 8.