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July 8, 2007
Game Story: Tigers 6, Red Sox 5
DETROIT — On the whole, Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox’ $103-million Japanese import, turned in a very solid, very consistent first half in his first taste of major-league baseball in this country.
Yesterday, though, with the Red Sox needing innings because of a tired bullpen and in need of a win to prevent a sweep by the Detroit Tigers, Dice-K was unable to deliver at sweltering Comerica Park.
Matsuzaka was cuffed around for six runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, in only five innings as the Detroit Tigers held off Boston, 6-5, ending the first half for both teams.
The Red Sox, to their credit, battled fatigue from the 13-inning loss the previous night and the steamy 90-degree heat in trying to climb out of the 6-2 hole that Matsuzaka put them in.
But with runners at first and third and two outs in the ninth, J.D. Drew’s miserable weekend in the Motor City came to a forgettable end with a foulout to third as the late-inning rallies ultimately came up a run short, despite four errors by the fumble-fingered Tigers.
Matsuzaka’s record fell to 10-6 and his earned-run average rose, but to a still very respectable 3.84 for his first 18 big-league starts.
The Sox, meanwhile, head into the All-Star break boasting a 53-44 record, which positions them 10 games up on New York and Toronto in the American League East.
Most of the Tigers’ damage at Dice-K’s expense came on fastballs, including the homers by Gary Sheffield (solo, first inning), Marcus Thames (solo, third inning) and Carlos Guillen (two-run, third inning).
“We’re pretty good at hitting mistakes,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
Matsuzaka, whose location with his fastball was much better on May 14 in a complete-game 7-1 win over the Tigers in Boston, became well aware of that yesterday.
“Certainly, control was an issue. Both Tek [catcher Jason Varitek] and I felt I was unable to hit the strike zone very well today,” said Matsuzaka through his translator, Masa Hoshino.
“I wasn’t able to throw the fastball for strikes. When a game ends up going like it did today, I tell myself there are going to be days like this,” he said.
That was pretty much Varitek’s opinion, as well.
“The ball just wasn’t coming out of his hand like it has been,” said Varitek. “He battled with what he had for the day. He just didn’t have a whole lot to work with. He didn’t have command of his pitches the way he normally does.”
The Sox and their fans, intimated Varitek, have become a little spoiled by Matsuzaka already. Yesterday’s start marked the first time in seven outings that Matsuzaka had allowed more than two runs. Over those previous six starts Matsuzaka’s earned-run average was a glittering 1.29 (6 earned runs, 42 innings), though he was just 3-2 over that stretch because of poor run support.
“Excellent,” said Varitek when asked to assess Matsuzaka’s first half.
“He has given us quality start after quality start more often than not. Unfortunately today we couldn’t get him the extra runs he needed [to pay him back for those poorly backed efforts] as much as he has helped us in tight games,” said Varitek.
Manager Terry Francona doesn’t go in for much analysis during a season, but he has no complaints with Matsuzaka.
“He’s been a major-league pitcher for a long time,” said Francona, referring to his eight-year career in Japan.
“There are adjustments to be made pitching in a different league and things like that, but we didn’t have to remake him. He came in here pretty polished,” said Francona.
As for Matsuzaka, reflection on his first half is going to have to wait, too.
“No thoughts in particular,” said Matsuzaka when asked to assess his first half-season in the big leagues.
He was pressed to expand his answer.
“Maybe I can think about that once the whole season is over,” he said. “What I need to do is go over what I did and that when I did lose, it seemed to be because of a similar pattern. Going into the second half I have to avoid those patterns and help my team win.”
The unfortunate pattern yesterday was fastballs over the heart of the plate to very good hitters, a recipe for disaster no matter who is throwing.
But for Matsuzaka, who has settled in quite nicely after sporadic struggles during his first two months with the Sox, yesterday’s performance seemed more of an aberration than what the team should expect from him in the second half.
-- STEVEN KRASNER
Posted by Chris Venditto at 6:59 PM | Permalink
Red Wings 6, PawSox 4
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Pawtucket Red Sox went their separate ways for the annual three-day All-Star break after suffering a 6-4 loss yesterday to the Rochester Red Wings.
A three-run uprising by Rochester in the eighth, fueled by Brian Buscher’s two-run double off reliever Craig Breslow, was the key inning.
“We’ll get three days to clear the mind,” said veteran infielder Joe McEwing, “clear the thoughts, and make some adjustments. We’ll get out in the second half, and go get ’em.”
Catcher George Kottaras, who helped Pawtucket erase a three-run deficit in the seventh, was in agreement.
“It will be good to take a step back and recoup,” said Kottaras, who will get to spend the break with his family in nearby Toronto. “Recoup mentally and physically. I can’t lose focus too much, but it will be good to do that.”
PawSox starter Devern Hansack made a premature getaway. He was ejected in the fifth inning complaining about a line-hugging double by Rochester’s Chris Heintz, which in his view should have been ruled foul.
Asked whether he had said the “magic word,” Hansack nodded in the affirmative.
Up until then, he had pitched well, allowing just four hits and a walk, while striking out five. He allowed two unearned runs, including one on a wild pitch in the third that put Rochester up, 2-0.
Meanwhile, PawSox hitters did little against Wings starter Nick Blackburn, who has been one of the stingiest hurlers in the International League. Blackburn, who had allowed just one earned run in a span of 52 innings, faced just two hitters over the minimum through six scoreless frames.
But the PawSox finally came alive in the seventh, erupting for three runs, to knot the score, 3-3.
Michael Tucker and Brandon Moss each singled off Blackburn to open the frame, before Tucker was doubled home by Bobby Scales.
Kottaras’ groundout and a sacrifice fly by Chad Spann accounted for the other two runs.
But the respite didn’t last long.
Rochester regained control in the eighth, when Barry Hertzler hit lead-off man Tommy Watkins.
Breslow, who is one of three PawSox headed to the Triple-A All-Star Game in Albuquerque, came in and got the next two outs, then allowed three straight hits, including Buscher’s big blow.
In the ninth, Spann doubled in Moss to cut the margin to two runs. But that was as close as it would get, as Wings’ closer Bobby Korecky picked up his 22nd save.
“We’re right on the verge,” said Ron Johnson, Pawtucket’s ever-optimistic skipper. “We have an opportunity to do some things.”
AROUND THE BASES: Besides Breslow, Moss and RHP Travis Hughes will be headed for Albuquerque. …After the game, RHP Chris Smith was reassigned to Double-A Portland. Smith, who is making the transition from starter to reliever, was 0-0, 1.80 in two appearances with Pawtucket. … The PawSox’ next action will be Thursday, when they’ll begin a four-day visit to Syracuse. It’s entirely possible that Boston’s top pitching prospect, right-handed starter Clay Buchholz, will be with the club. Buchholz is currently with Portland, where he’s gone 7-2 with a 1.76 ERA.
Posted by Chris Venditto at 6:40 PM to PawSox
Traveling in style
The Red Sox six representatives to the All-Star Game will be flying from Detroit to San Francisco in style.
Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell and Hideki Okajima will be flying on owner John Henry's private jet, making the trip from Detroit to San Francisco in 4 hours, 7 minutes, according to traveling secretary Jack McCormick.
They will not be using the private jet to return, though. Each player will be on whatever flights they wanted to arrange given family considerations. Each player on the All-Star team receives two first-class tickets from Major League Baseball for their use to travel to and from the event.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:31 AM | Permalink
Sox Streakers for July 8
-Daisuke Matsuzaka has struck out eight or more batters in six consecutive starts. In his last four starts, he is 3-0 with an 0.62 E.R.A.
-Coco Crisp, nine-game hitting streak, during which he is 13 for 35 (.371)
-David Ortiz is 6 for his last 10, with five walks.
-Jason Varitek is 10 for 22 (.455) over his last six games.
-Alex Cora is 16 for 83 (.193) over his last 30 games.
-Eric Hinske is 0 for his last 10.
-Julio Lugo is 0 for 5 in the Detroit series, dropping his average to .189.
-Manny Ramirez is 8 for 45 (.178) over his last 13 games.
-The Red Sox have lost five straight road games.
Red Sox vs. Nate Robertson
-Dustin Pedroia, 1 for 2 (.500)
-Jason Varitek, 4 for 9 (.444), 1 HR
-Kevin Youkilis, 5 for 13 (.385), 2 HR
-Julio Lugo, 2 for 6 (.333)
-Wily Mo Pena, 1 for 3 (.333)
-Coco Crisp, 8 for 27 (.296), 2 HR
-Mike Lowell, 2 for 8 (.250)
-Manny Ramirez, 3 for 12 (.250)
-David Ortiz, 3 for 17 (.176)
-Eric Hinske, 0 for 2
-J.D. Drew, 0 for 3
-Robertson is 1-3 with a 6.55 E.R.A. in six career starts against Boston.
Tigers vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
-Curtis Granderson, 2 for 4 (.500), 1 HR
-Carlos Guillen, 1 for 4 (.250)
-Magglio Ordonez, 1 for 4 (.250)
-Ivan Rodriguez, 1 for 4 (.250)
-Gary Sheffield, 1 for 4 (.250)
-Sean Casey, 0 for 3
-Brandon Inge, 0 for 3
-Craig Monroe, 0 for 4
-Matsuzaka beat Detroit with a complete-game effort on May 14 at Fenway Park. The final score was 7-1.
-This is the final regular-season meeting for these three teams. The season series stands tied at 3-3. All-time series: Boston 999, Detroit 940.
-Matsuzaka today tries to become the first Red Sox rookie since Al Nipper in 1984 to win 11 decisions.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:29 AM to Projo Sox Streakers
No "starting" news
Josh Beckett, who is one of the candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game -- Detroit's Justin Verlander and Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia are the other logical choices based on performance and when they last pitched -- says he doesn't know if the honor will be bestowed upon him by Tigers' manager Jim Leyland.
"Haven't heard anything," said Beckett as he left the clubhouse to play catch.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:28 AM | Permalink
Ramirez is sick
Manny Ramirez is out of the starting lineup.
"He's sick," said manager Terry Francona. "He was sick last night. He said he has the flu. Intestinal turmoil. Call it what you want."
Of course, being out of the lineup the day before the All-Star break with the Red Sox in Detroit is nothing new.
In 2003, Ramirez seemingly was miffed because Pedro Martinez was allowed to go home to the Dominican Republic on the day before the break while the Sox were on the road, playing the Tigers. Martinez was not scheduled to pitch that day.
So Ramirez came down with what he called "flu in the throat," a condition he informed manager Grady Little about in the early morning hours before the game and did not play in it.
And then there's the All-Star Game factor. Several times Manny has come down with an ailment or disclosed a family illness that kept him from going to the All-Star Game.
Not this year, apparently. Francona said he expected Ramirez to join his five teammates for the trip to San Francisco for the All-Star Game, which will be played Tuesday.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:19 AM | Permalink
| Comments 1
Starting Lineups, July 8
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:17 AM | Permalink
Late Notes -- Tigers 3, Red Sox 2, 13 innings
By STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
DETROIT -- A day of rest, apparently, did wonders for Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.
In his first at-bat, Ortiz took advantage of a fat changeup from outstanding Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman (9-1) and launched it into the right-field seats, giving the Red Sox a quick 2-0 lead.
It was the 14th homer of the year for Ortiz but his first in 14 games and his first in 55 at-bats.
"I may see my pitch once a night, so when I see it, I can't miss it, especially from a pitcher like that guy," said Ortiz, who has been frustrated lately by a power outage and a sore right quadriceps.
Ortiz didn't see many pitches to hit, or even swing at last night, for that matter. He pulled a double into the right-field corner in his sixth-inning at-bat, but he walked in his four other plate appearances. The last three were intentional walks.
"I'm not frustrated," said Ortiz of the walks. "You've just got to deal with it. I just have to be patient and take my walks."
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was rolling the dice by walking Ortiz intentionally because then the Tigers had to pitch to Manny Ramirez, the Sox' cleanup hitter. The strategy worked for Detroit.
In the eighth, after a free pass to Ortiz put runners on first and second with one out, Ramirez hit a hard bouncer to third that should have been a double play, but was bobbled by Brandon Inge, who was able only to get a forceout. The Sox didn't score, though.
In the 10th, another intentional walk to Ortiz again put runners at first and second with one out. This time Ramirez hit a first-pitch grounder to Inge, who started an inning-ending double play.
In the 12th, Ramirez followed Ortiz's intentional walk by drawing an unintentional walk, filling the bases. But again the Sox came up empty.
GABBARD PITCHES WELL
Rookie left-hander Kason Gabbard pitched well enough to win, but he was up against one of the Tigers' aces, and he was partially undone by his only two walks of the game.
Gabbard walked Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, the first two batters he faced in the fifth. They ultimately scored on Craig Monroe's two-out double over Ramirez in left, tying the game at 2-2.
Overall, Gabbard gave up only three hits in 6 1/3 innings.
HERE AND THERE
The Sox went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, failing on their last 11 opportunities after Ortiz's first-inning homer. J.D. Drew had a particularly tough time. He took a called third strike on a full-count fastball down the middle with Ortiz at third and one out in the sixth, and he flailed and missed three sliders from Jeremy Bonderman for an eighth-inning whiff with runners at first and third and two outs.
Kevin Youkilis, who was held out of the starting lineup for the fifth time in the last six games because of a strained left quadriceps, was called on to pinch hit for Drew with the bases full and two outs in the 12th. He flied out to right.
The Sox made three outstanding defensive plays in support of Gabbard.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia went two steps to his right, made a diving backhanded pickup of Placido Polanco's bouncer, popped up quickly and threw to first for the out.
With two on and one out in the fifth, first baseman Eric Hinske draped himself over the tarp along the first-base line and caught a foul popup.
In the sixth, shortstop Alex Cora made a leaping, lunging stab of Gary Sheffield's line drive, robbing him of a hit.
Rookie Jeff Bailey, playing first base, and catcher Jason Varitek had communication issues on a foul popup near the Boston dugout with the bases loaded and two outs in the 11th. Bailey, who had entered the game in the top of the inning as a pinch hitter, reached out at the last second and gloved the ball about thigh high.
He batted twice, grounding sharply to third for a forceout in the 11th and bouncing out to the pitcher in the 13th, making him 0 for 6 in the big leagues. Bailey, who was called up from Pawtucket on Friday, is likely to start today's series finale against left-hander Nate Robertson.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 1:31 AM | Permalink
| Comments 1
Red Sox Fall, 3-2, in 13 innings
By STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
DETROIT -- When the Tigers' Ivan Rodriguez made solid contact with a chest-high cutter from Jonathan Papelbon, propelling the baseball into right-center field, the Red Sox' Coco Crisp got a great jump and began racing after the ball in the spacious Comerica Park outfield.
Crisp, Boston's speedy center fielder, ran as hard as he could, giving every ounce of effort he could coax from his tired body in trying to track down Pudge's missile with the game on the line in the 13th inning.
Crisp dove, stretching out his glove as far as he could.
But, not for lack of effort, Crisp came up a few inches short.
The ball landed safely on the turf just past him, the base hit allowing Gary Sheffield to trot home from second base with two outs as Detroit edged Boston, 3-2, in a tense game between two of the American League's top two teams.
"I didn't know when he hit it if I had a chance or not," said Crisp. "I went after it and when I looked up, it was right there. I thought I was going to catch it. Then it was like slow motion when I was falling down and reaching for it. It was like an inch out of my reach. That's why they call this a game of inches."
Papelbon, who entered the game in the 13th and promptly drilled Sheffield with his first pitch of the night, and manager Terry Francona were two of the people in the ballpark holding their breath as Crisp, who has made highlight-reel catches routine, tried to chase down Rodriguez's drive.
"I thought it was a sure hit, but at that point (with Coco going after it) you don't know," said Papelbon.
"That would have been a sensational catch if he had made it," said Francona. "And he got very close to it."
Instead, the ball fell safely, Rodriguez was credited with a single, and Boston had dropped the first two games of this series with only today's matinee remaining before the three-day All-Star break.
It was a game that featured outstanding starting pitching, from the Tigers' Jeremy Bonderman (8 innings, 7 hits, a first-inning two-run homer to David Ortiz) and the Sox' rookie left-hander Kason Gabbard (6 1/3, three hits, including a two-run double by Craig Monroe in the fifth after his only two walks).
There also was air-tight relief pitching, though ineffective hitting could have been part of that equation, too, as the Red Sox and Tigers took turns squandering glittering scoring chances in the extra innings. Detroit used five relievers, who combined for five scoreless innings. Francona also called on five relievers, who worked a combined 6 1/3 scoreless innings before Papelbon coughed up a run and the game.
"That was a war of attrition kind of thing," said Red Sox lefty Javier Lopez, who retired the only two batters he faced.
"Any time you have the ability to save Papelbon until -- what was it, the 13th? -- it's nice to have him at the back end still," said Lopez, acknowledging, of course, that it didn't end well in this instance.
As such a game drags on -- this one lasted 4 hours, 28 minutes -- playing in it becomes a grind, said Eric Hinske, who started at first base and stayed in the game until he was pinch-hit for in the 11th.
"A game like that is intense," said Hinske, who contributed an outstanding catch of a foul ball, grabbing the ball as he draped himself over the tarp with runners at second and third and one out in the fifth.
"There's more energy in the park than normal," he said. "It's fun. Then it gets to be the 11th and 12th and 13th, and it gets to be a mental grind. You really have to try hard to make sure you have good at-bats. Tonight their bullpen did well, so did ours. It was a great game."
Well, it wasn't so great for Papelbon. The flame-throwing right-hander is used to coming in with a lead. This time he came in with the game tied.
"It's different," he said of the two situations. "Not necessarily mentally different, but there are different situations to go over. It's not easy, man. But I've still got to be able to deal with those situations and come out ahead. Live and learn. It's part of the growing experience."
Papelbon's outing took an immediate downward turn when his first pitch nailed Sheffield around the left shoulder.
"I was trying to get the pitch in, but I just bailed out and didn't stay through my delivery," said Papelbon. "That's absolutely not what you want to do with your first hitter."
Papelbon kept a close eye on Sheffield at first, not wanting the Tigers' stolen-base leader, to get a walking lead on him.
The Sox right-hander retired Magglio Ordonez on a fly ball to right, but Sheffield took off on a 2-and-1 pitch to Carlos Guillen and when catcher Jason Varitek's throw to second was high and wide, Sheffield was in scoring position thanks to his 12th stolen base of the year.
Papelbon slipped a called third strike past Guillen for the second out of the inning, but Rodriguez got on top of a 1-and-0 cutter and the Tigers claimed the win.
"I left that ball up," sighed Papelbon. "That's not what I wanted to do. You can't be leaving balls up like that. If I get it down he either misses it or hits it on the ground to the right side.
"This was one of those games where neither teams deserves to lose and the first team to make a mistake loses," said Papelbon. "I made a mistake by hitting Sheff and I left a pitch up to Ivan and we lost. Just have to deal with it."
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:55 AM | Permalink