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July 22, 2007
Game Story: Red Sox 8, White Sox 5
BOSTON – Statistically speaking, it couldn’t match the offensive onslaught that took place in the Bronx over the weekend, where the New York Yankees scored 38 runs in their last two games alone and 45 in their last three.
Still, given how desperate the Red Sox were for a well-placed or well-timed hit earlier in the week, their 29 runs, all in pursuit of three straight wins over the Chicago White Sox, will more than suffice.
The lineup’s awakening doesn’t guarantee anything going forward, but it served to remind the Sox what they’re capable of.
``I think we just keep it (focused) on what we did today,’’ said manager Terry Francona after the Sox held off the Chicago White Sox 8-5, ``because you just don’t know. I’m sure Cleveland’s pitching will have something to say about how we swing and our approach. You just show up and try to score enough runs today and, sure, we hope there’s always momentum or carryover.
``But guys feel good at the plate, and that’s good.’’
Earlier in the week, of course, that was hardly the case. Starting July 13, one game into their first homestand if the second-half, the Sox went through a stretch of seven games during which they scored more than five runs only once. Starting June 1 until yesterday, the Sox hit only .248 with runners in scoring position, landing them 12th in the American League in that category.
Things bottomed out when, while hosting Toronto, Kansas City and the first game of the White Sox’ series, they averaged just three runs over five games.
But after breaking out Friday night, the Sox kept hitting all weekend, hardly missing David Ortiz, who continues to rest a bruised left shoulder.
``Things are going good,’’ agreed Kevin Youkilis. ``We weren’t too worried about hitting with runners in scoring position and stuff like that. You guys keep track of that. The big thing is just winning ballgames; it doesn’t matter how you do it.’’
It helps, though, to stake your starting pitcher – Tim Wakefield, in yesterday’s case -- to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, thanks to a three-run homer from Manny Ramirez.
It didn’t hurt to get another three-run homer in the fifth – this one from Mike Lowell, who hadn’t homered – solo or otherwise – since July 5, before the All-Star break.
Those runs proved especially useful when Wakefield began to falter and Manny Delcarmen, the first of three pitchers out of the Boston bullpen, was uncharacteristically ineffective as the White Sox narrowed an 8-1 laugher into an 8-5 squirmer. Hideki Okajima had to strike out A.J. Pierzynski with the based loaded in the seventh to preserve the lead.
No one has come to symbolize the offensive rebirth more than Ramirez, who in addition to his first inning homer, contributed a sharp run-scoring single in the sixth. In the just-completed 11-game home-stand, Ramirez hit .385 (15-for-39) with 13 RBI. Having gone without a home run for a stretch of 16 games – the final 15 of the first half, and the first game of the home-stand – Ramirez has now homered in four of his last 10 contests.
Now that the tablesetters such as Coco Crisp (..346 over his last 20 games) and Julio Lugo (.457 over his last 12) are getting on base, the responsibility falls to Ramirez, Lowell (just three homers in his last 31 games) and Youkilis (just two RBI on the homestand) to drive them home.
The next seven games are on the road, beginning with four in Cleveland -- who went into yesterday tied for 10th in the A.L. in team ERA – and ends in Tampa Bay, which was on the receiving end of the Yankees’ weekend eruption.
``It’s starting to come around,’’ said Youkilis of the team’s offense. ``Now, we just have to keep it going.’’
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 7:35 PM to McAdam
Game Story: Buchholz fans 10 but PawSox fall
PAWTUCKET – Boston’s highly touted prospect Clay Buchholz displayed an overpowering fastball that was consistently clocked between 93- and 96-miles-per-hour, a paralyzing curveball, a very effective changeup, and a slider that fooled several of Louisville’s batters yesterday in front of a crowd of 9,530.
But even his impressive performance – 10 strikeouts, three hits, two earned runs, five innings pitched – couldn’t stop the PawSox from falling, 11-1, to the Bats.
That’s because Louisville exploded for six runs on six hits in the top of the sixth inning against Pawtucket relief pitcher Barry Hertzler (1 inning, 6 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks), who got booed by the crowd for his sub-par performance.
Pawtucket never recovered.
Yesterday, however, was about Buchholz and developing him into a future Major League pitcher. He certainly lived up to the hype yesterday after allowing three runs (2 earned) on five hits in his first PawSox outing.
“I felt good out there,” Buchholz said. “I felt balanced…I just go out there and pitch to get outs. Being out there I don’t just want to throw fastballs the whole game and let them get hit hard so I try to go out there and mix up my pitches.”
Buchholz, who went 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA for Portland (AA) where he led all of minor league baseball for much of the season in strikeouts (116), threw 74 pitches yesterday, 53 for strikes. He threw 26 fastballs, 25 changeups, 13 curveballs, and 10 sliders.
“He threw the ball really well,” Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson said. “I was really impressed with his stuff. It was fun to watch…It was a good outing. He threw good stuff. His fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup all looked really good.”
Buchholz, the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year last season (11-4, 2.42 ERA, 140 strikeouts), looked sharp early. He only gave up one hit while striking out three over the first two frames.
He said that the difference between the Double-A hitters and the Triple-A hitters is that the Triple-A hitters adjust more quickly. That was evident yesterday. The Bats were able to score two runs on Buchholz their second time through the batting order.
Buchholz ran into a bit of trouble after walking Paul Janish with one out in the top of the third inning. Janish advanced to third base on a Chris Dickerson double and scored on a Ryan Hanigan single.
Dickerson tagged up and scored from third base on Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly to center field to give the Bats a 2-0 lead. Buchholz did not give up another hit after that. He struckout six of the last eight batters that he faced.
“It’s a game of pitches and if you throw a good pitch and they hit it, then you have to tip your cap to them but I really get frustrated out there whenever I throw a bad pitch and it gets hit but that’s what they are supposed to do,” Buchholz said of the hanging breaking ball that Dickerson launched for a double. “They are getting paid to play too so if you hang them up there then they are going to hit it hard.”
Pawtucket cut Louisville’s lead in half in the bottom of the fifth frame when Zach Borowiak (1-for-2, double, 2 walks, RBI) drove in Kevin Cash (2-for-4, run scored) with a double, but that’s as close as Pawtucket got.
Louisville blew the game open in the top of the sixth inning when Jay Bruce and Jesse Gutierrez each hit RBI singles, Dickerson hit an RBI triple, Hanigan hit an RBI double, and Janish hit an RBI fielder’s choice grounder. Gutierrez scored on a throwing error in the inning.
Louisville starter Elizardo Ramirez (2-2) scattered five hits and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings with three strikeouts.
Pawtucket only managed six hits yesterday.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 5:12 PM to PawSox
Manny Back to Cleanup
Manny Ramirez was ecstatic when manager Terry Francona batted him third in yesterday's lineup. That's the spot in the order he prefers, though three years ago the Sox decided their best lineup was to have David Ortiz batting third, followed by Ramirez.
But Ramirez went 0 for 4, including a strikeout, as the Sox' number three hitter in Boston's 11-2 win over Chicago.
So yesterday, Ramirez was back in the cleanup spot, flip-flopping with Kevin Youkilis, who batted fourth yesterday.
"Manny was excited about hitting third, but then didn't get a hit so he wanted to go back to fourth," said Francona. "That's the end of that baseball genius (move)."
Ramirez, though, remained as the designated hitter in the absence of Ortiz (strained left shoulder). Eric Hinske started in left field.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:13 PM | Permalink
Schilling Fine the Day After
Curt Schilling, who threw 40 pitches and was dominant in a three-inning rehabilitation outing in Pawtucket last night, clearly was bouyant this morning.
How is he the day after, manager Terry Francona was asked.
"Talkative," cracked Francona. "That's a good thing. He's excited, as he should be. He threw the ball pretty good."
Francona said Schilling would make another rehab start for Pawtucket, Thursday in Toledo, but wouldn't commit to a plan after that.
"We'll see what happens and go from there," said Francona.
But Schilling's performance last night was highly encouraging, he said.
"We're hoping he can come back and pitch with vengeance, which will be great for anyone who cares about the Red Sox," said Francona.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 12:08 PM | Permalink
Ortiz Still Out
Designated hitter David Ortiz will miss his second straight game today because of a strained left shoulder, and he said it's possible he won't be able to return to the lineup until Wednesday night, the final game of a three-game series in Cleveland.
Ortiz suffered the injury during Friday night's game on a head-first slide into second base. Ortiz underwent an MRI yesterday. The test showed there was no structural damage.
"It's better than it was, but it's a little sore today," said Ortiz this morning. "The MRI showed some fluid in there, but no fracture. It might take a couple more days to be better than what it is. Maybe by the third game in Cleveland (it will be healthy enough to allow him to play). We'll see how it goes."
Ortiz said he has been working with the Sox' trainers to regain his flexibility, and has already made strides in that regard, he said. He's able to bend his left elbow in a hitting position and almost bring it up to his shoulder height, which is an improvement over yesterday.
Ortiz's injury is nowhere near as serious as the right shoulder injury he suffered on a similar type of slide during the 2004 season. He still was able to play through that discomfort, and this time it's his back shoulder as he hits, and not his more important lead and follow-through shoulder, which generates the power.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:59 AM | Permalink
Lester Starts Tomorrow; Tavarez Sent to Bullpen
Jon Lester will be recalled from Pawtucket and will start tomorrow night's series opener in Cleveland.
The left-hander will be replacing slumping right-hander Julian Tavarez in the Red Sox' rotation, said manager Terry Francona this morning. Francona said a roster move to make room for Lester will be announced after today's game.
Lester, who battled through non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which was diagnosed last August, was 5-8 with a 3.89 earned-run average in 14 starts for the PawSox this year. Last year, after being promoted from Pawtucket, Lester, Boston's second-round pick in 2002, was 7-2 with a 4.76 E.R.A. in 15 starts for the Red Sox before being sent to the sidelines for treatment.
The Red Sox have been very careful with their handling of Lester, 23, wanting to make sure he was healthy enough and strong enough to handle the rigors of pitching in the big leagues before calling him up.
After having gone through cancer treatments, Lester was able to arrive at spring training on time, but it wasn't until recently that the Sox decided he was ready to return to the majors, especially with Tavarez's recent struggles opening the door in the rotation.
"I don't know if it was myself or John (Farrell, the Sox' pitching coach), but we asked RJ (Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson), 'If we're 100 percent and don't need Lester, should Lester be here?' And RJ said, 'Yes.' That clinched it for us," said Francona, insisting he couldn't remember when Lester was told of his promotion, though it likely was a couple of days ago.
Francona admitted that seeing Lester start tomorrow, after all he has gone through, including some inactivity caused by a forearm strain in June, will be special.
"I can't sit here and tell you there won't be some emotion when he takes the mound," said Francona. "His folks will be there and I'm sure for them it will be extra special."
Francona said Lester took the news in stride.
"He's not your typical 23-year-old," said Francona, referring to Lester's maturity. "Jon just wants to win the game. He's ready to pitch. He just said, 'Okay, tell me where to be and when to be there.' He was very businesslike."
Not that Lester hasn't been chomping at the bit to return to the big leagues, especially after all he has gone through. Lester had his bouts with inconsistency in Pawtucket, which probably were to be expected.
"He had to fight wanting to be here and pitching down there," said Francona. "He felt a committment to come up here and help us win and (he was) pitching for Pawtucket. He had some frustrations."
The same could be said for Tavarez, but on strictly a performance level. Tavarez was pitching well enough as the number five starter in the rotation until recently. Over his last three starts Tavarez was 0-2 with a 10.80 E.R.A. Overall, Tavarez, who is in the bullpen as of this afternoon, is 5-8 with a 5.27 E.R.A.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:36 AM | Permalink
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Starting Lineups, July 22
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:28 AM | Permalink