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September 25, 2007
FINAL: Red Sox 7, A's 3
BOSTON -- With the postseason looming, it was a good night for the Red Sox to begin putting all the pieces together in preparation for the playoffs.
And so they did.
Curt Schilling, it what may be his final start of the regular season, allowed only one run over six efficient innings and staked his claim for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Josh Beckett. Manny Ramirez returned to the lineup and went 1-for-2 with a walk in his five-inning appearance, the first time he's played since straining his right oblique muscle on August 28 in New York. Kevin Youkilis, sidelined since being hit by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch on Sept. 16, also got back in action, coming in as a pinch-hitter for Eric Hinske in the fifth and going 0-for-2.
That was just the top of the good news for the Sox in their 7-3 victory over Oakland, who also got a three-hit performance from J.D. Drew, two RBI from Jacoby Ellsbury, the 33rd home run of the season by David Ortiz and airtight relief from Manny Delcarmen, Eric Gagne and Jonathan Papelbon.
The victory dropped the Sox' magic number for clinching the A.L. East to four. The Yankees' game at Tampa Bay was tied in the eighth inning when the Sox game ended; if New York lost, the number would go down to three.
The Sox also had a chance to pick up some ground on Los Angeles of Anaheim in the race for the A.L.'s best record, as the Angels were losing to the Rangers when the Boston game ended.
Cleveland, the other team involved in the race for the best record, has a late game at Seattle.
The A's actually drew first blood with a first-inning home run by Daric Barton. The Sox, though, tied it in the bottom of the first on a single by Ramirez -- who was batting second to maximize his number of at-bats before being lifted in mid-game -- a walk to Ortiz and a double by Mike Lowell.
Oakland starter Chad Gaudin matched zeroes with Schilling from then until the fifth, when he imploded. He walked four straight batters -- Ramirez, Ortiz, Lowell and Drew -- without recording an out, forcing in the go-ahead run. Ex-Sox left-hander Lenny DiNardo came on in relief and was touched for a sacrifice fly by Ellsbury, making it 3-1.
Schilling was impressive as he put down the A's with 86 pitches over six innings, allowing six hits and no walks with six strikeouts. He gave way to Delcarmen, who pitched a scoreless seventh, and the Sox increased the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the inning on a two-out single by Drew, a walk to Jason Varitek and an RBI single to left by Ellsbury.
Gagne came on in the eighth and handed it over to Papelbon with two runners on and two outs. Papelbon retired Mark Ellis on one pitch, a pop to shortstop, and the Sox broke it open in the bottom of the eighth. Lugo walked, went to third on a hit-and-run single by Dustin Pedroia and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bobby Kielty. Ortiz then put the exclamation point on the night with a two-run homer to right.
With the game decided, manager Terry Francona rested Papelbon and brought in Corey to close things out in the ninth. Corey was touched for an RBI double by Jack Hannahan and a sacrifice fly by Kurt Suzuki.
See the box score here and the game play-by-play here.
Posted by Art Martone at 10:30 PM | Permalink
Okajima throws bullpen session
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- Hideki Okajima, who had been shut down by the Sox because of arm fatigue, threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday afternoon and, according to pitching coach John Farrell, should be ready to pitch an inning on Thursday night against Minnesota.
Okajima, who boasted an 0.83 earned-run average at the All-Star break in exceeding expectations as the eighth-inning setup man to closer Jonathan Papelbon, had been roughed up recently.
The latest carnage was a four-run meltdown against the Yankees on Sept. 14 that helped cost Boston a game to New York. That continued a string of mostly mediocre outings. From Aug. 10 to Sept. 14, Okajima had been cuffed for 11 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings over a 13-game stretch, inflating his E.R.A. from 0.98 to 2.28.
And while manager Terry Francona chided the media for saying that Okajima's main problem was fatigue, the Sox ultimately shut him down after the Sept. 14 outing.
This afternoon was his first bullpen work since then. Farrell was pleased with what he saw, and even used the "f" word -- fatigue -- that Francona has steadfastly refused to use.
"His stuff was crisp," said Farrell, who stood in the batter's boxes, simulating a hitter, as Okajima went through his workout, giving him a better look at the left-hander's stuff.
"He had no problem with his long toss or getting loose. We don't anticipate any setbacks. There was some fatigue we dealt with like we did with some other guys (on the staff) who got breaks during the season. He (Okajima) had some successive appearances where it was clear he needed some down time and we were fortunate (with a lead in the division) to be able to give him the time," said Farrell.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 4:48 PM | Permalink
Youkilis to return tomorrow
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- First baseman Kevin Youkilis, who hasn't played since being drilled on the inside of the right wrist by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch on Sept. 15, will be back in the starting lineup Wednesday night against Oakland.
Youkilis and manager Terry Francona both announced that bit of happy Red Sox news Tuesday afternoon.
Youkilis, who has missed the last seven games, said he had a cortisone shot in the ailing wrist on Friday while he and the Red Sox were in Tampa. The shot helped take out some of the persistent swelling in the joint, allowing him to be able to take batting practice Monday at Fenway Park during the team's day off.
''Hopefully now I'll be fine for the rest of the year," said Youkilis, who is batting .288 with 16 homers and 81 RBI. ''I'll be a lot happier camper being able to play. The worst thing in all of sports is not to be able to play on a daily basis. That's worse than the pain in the body.''
Francona said Youkilis could be available to pinch hit Tuesday night. Eric Hinske has started the games Youkilis missed and was only batting .111 (3-for-27) in those seven games heading into Tuesday night's game against the A's.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 4:38 PM | Permalink
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez, who hasn't played since leaving the Aug. 28 game in New York because of a strained left oblique, is back in the starting lineup Tuesday night as the Red Sox open their final week of the regular season with the first playoff game a week or so away.
Ramirez is in left field and batting second.
Manager Terry Francona said moments ago during his daily press briefing that it was likely Ramirez would get two or three at-bats before calling it a night. He has missed the Sox' last 24 games, and Boston was 12-12 in those games without Ramirez.
The reason Ramirez is hitting second instead of his customary cleanup spot is that he can get those at-bats as quickly as possible as he readjusts not only to hitting in game situations again, but also getting his body back into shape for playing a full game in the field.
In essence, it is a spring-training type of usage for Ramirez, but the time frame for the slugger to be ready to go a full nine will be accelerated with the postseason around the corner. Ramirez has been taking regular batting practice sessions for almost two weeks, including a session at Fenway Park Monday on the team's day off.
Hitting is one thing, said Francona. Another is playing the outfield where Ramirez will be standing around and then ''going in directions (chasing fly balls and base hits) not preconceived.''
Jacoby Ellsbury, who has started in left field in the bulk of the games Ramirez missed, is expected to return to left when the Sox decide Ramiez's night's work is over.
Ramirez's teammates, not surprisingly, are happy to see him return to the lineup. And they joked about his position in the batting order, a spot generally reserved for a player with speed who can handle the bat.
"Hitting second he's going to move the runners over, play some small ball, drop down a bunt, do the little things," cracked Kevin Youkilis. "(If he plays well) he might get a (contract) extension. He's one of the (roster-expanding) September call-up guys."
"I think he's going to bunt the first time up," said Jonathan Papelbon.
David Ortiz, meanwhile, is well aware that where Manny hits in the order isn't going to change the Athletics' game plan for him.
"I told him he's not going to fool anybody unless he changes his name and cuts off his dreadlocks," said Ortiz.
The sight of Ramirez in the lineup, though, is a boost to the team because the Sox know they need his bat to succeed in the playoffs.
"It's great. We absolutely need him. We need to get the ball rolling and get it rolling in the right direction," said Papelbon.
Ramirez is batting .292 with 20 homers and 86 RBI.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 4:19 PM to Projo Mannybeingmanny
Photo: Are the Sox being hit by the SI cover jinx at the worst possible time?
Look who's on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated . . .
Posted by Art Martone at 4:16 PM | Permalink
Ramirez in tonight's lineup
Manny Ramirez is in tonight's lineup batting second and playing left field. Here's the full Red Sox lineup:
1. Dustin Pedroia, 2b
2. Manny Ramirez, lf
3. David Ortiz, dh
4. Mike Lowell, 3b
5. J.D. Drew, rf
6. Jason Varitek, c
7. Coco Crisp, cf
8. Eric Hinske, 1b
9. Julio Lugo, ss
p. Curt Schilling
And here's the Oakland lineup
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Mike McDermott at 3:36 PM to Projo Mannybeingmanny
| Comments 1
Galasso cartoon: Walking the tightrope
Posted by Art Martone at 11:08 AM | Permalink
| Comments 1
Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: Postseason permutations
Click here to listen to today's edition of projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam. Today's topics: the status of Youkilis and Ramirez; where Ellsbury fits into the lineup if Ramirez returns; the offense's surprising resiliency; Wakefield's rotation spot secure; which relievers might be left off the postseason roster; Curt Schilling's chance for redemption; and the challenges posed by Oakland and Minnesota.
Here are some excerpts from Sean's comments.
Would the Sox consider Ellsbury in center for the postseason? "I just think that they are so comfortable with Coco Crisp's defense, and I think Ellsbury's pretty good defensively, but not yet in Coco;s class in patrolling center field. I think that Crisp has been such a constant for them in his defensive coverage, and when you get into the playoffs and you've got to catch the ball, and make all the plays, and win low-scoring games, and plays get magnified -- I have a hard time believing that they would take Coco out of that position."
Why Wakefield as the number four guy, and not Lester? "I think that maybe there was a time a couple weeks ago, when Lester had a particularly strong start, that there was at least the outside possibility of him eclipsing Wakefield, in no small part because it would give them a lefty starter, and that might present a different look to a couple of those teams they might match up with. But I think that Lester's continued struggles with pitch count and pitch efficiency have ultimately probably not only cost him a spot in the rotation, but it's possible he may not be on the postseason roster, at least for the first round, because he doesn't have any experience coming out of the bullpen, and if he's not going to start, I'm not sure there's a lot of incentive to have him on the roster."
And who would benefit from Lester not being on the roster? "I guess we can go back and forth on who benefits from that. Tavarez is one guy. Javy Lopez is another. I'm not sure what the attraction is with Lopez, other than being able to show the other team that you have a second lefty in the bullpen, behind Hideki Okajima. But left-handers are now hitting almost .300 for the year against Lopez -- .298 in fact -- and he gave up the huge home run the other day to Carlos Pena that sort of forced the late-inning comeback. And that's just the latest of incidents in which he's had difficulty in big spots against lefties. So it's one thing to be able to say that you have a lefty specialist out there, but if he's not getting the job done, how valuable is that?"
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:27 AM to McAdam
Baseball Today: Tuesday, September 25
THE TASK AT HAND: Sean McAdam examines five questions facing the Red Sox at the dawn of the season's final week. The unanswered, and unanswerable, question is what the Sox will do if faced with pulling out the stops to win the division. Turns out that many members of the current Boston organization were faced with that same decision in 1996 while with the Padres and they elected then to go for the title. (Boston Globe) Coincidentally or not, they got swept by the Cardinals in the first round. (baseball-reference.com) (Don't be fooled by the fact the Cardinals had the first two home games; back then baseball played a 2-3 schedule in the division series, with the team that had home-field advantage hosting the final three.) Of course, the Padres' N.L. West competitors, the Dodgers -- who pulled Ramon Martinez after one inning of the winner-take-the-West season finale in order to get themselves ready for the playoffs -- also got swept. So take from all that what you will.
FROM THE SOURCE: The 'new' Curt Schilling (above, AP Photo) takes the mound tonight in what will probably be his final start before the postseason, his transformation from power to finesse almost completed. The Boston Globe's Gordon Edes has a profile of Schilling, who also took to 38pitches.com last weekend to congratulate himself and his teammates for making the postseason, gently chide those who thought they wouldn't make it (though I don't know of anyone who felt they wouldn't qualify for the postseason at the least), and give his opinion on postseason awards. The Boston Herald's Steve Buckley says pay attention, because October is Schilling's time of year.
OVERLOOKED: No one's paying much attention to the fact that Terry Francona is the first manager in Red Sox history to get his team to the postseason three times, but his players are. (Boston Herald)
DEJA VU: Fred Lynn says Jacoby Ellsbury's late-season success, similar to the success he enjoyed as a September callup in 1974, may make it easier for him next year. (Boston Herald) In Lynn's case, he went on to become the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1975.
STIFLING: The passion of Red Sox Nation reminds Tim Wakefield of Beatlemania . . . Wakefield being about the only member of the Sox who's actually old enough to remember Beatlemania. (Boston Globe) And, say the players, that's both a good and a bad thing.
YOU BEAT US TO IT: Geez, Tao, at least wait until we actually say thank you! (taoofstieb.blogspot.com)
Oh, by the way: Thanks.
FOR WHAT? For making the road to the A.L. East crown a little easier. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees in a makeup game yesterday at Yankee Stadium (New York Daily News), increasing the Sox' lead over the Yanks to two games with six to play. Since a tie does Boston no good -- by virtue of having won the season series, the Yankees would win the East if the teams finished tied for first -- the Red Sox need to beat out New York for the division title. The magic number now sits at five as we begin the final week of the regular season.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE: The Daily News' Bill Madden notes that being two games back instead of just one -- which is what the deficit would have been had the Yanks won yesterday -- seems amazingly different, which is why baseball is so unpredictable. Even Andy Pettitte, yesterday's losing pitcher, agrees. (New York Daily News)
EXPLAIN IT TO ME LIKE I'M FOUR YEARS OLD: I don't know when this yearly rookie hazing ritual took root in baseball. (New York Post) And I don't know why everyone thinks it's so funny.
PLAYING BY THE RULES: Both the Post's Joel Sherman and the Daily News' Mike Lupica say the Joba Rules have worked well for the Yankees.
HELLO? ANYBODY HOME? MSN.ca's John Brittain can't figure out why Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is riding ace Roy Halladay so hard in the waning days of a lost season.
A.L. RACES: The Angels lost ground in their bid to finish with the A.L.'s best record by losing to the Rangers. (Los Angeles Daily News) That race now stands Indians/Red Sox/Angels . . . It's almost over for the Tigers in the wild-card race as they lost to the Twins. (Detroit News) They'll be eliminated with their next loss, or the next Yankee win.
N.L. RACES: The Brewers beat the Cardinals (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . The Mets lost to the Nationals (New York Daily News) . . . The Padres lost to the Giants. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
To see how all those games affected the races, check out the divisional standings and wild-card standings. (Projo Stats)
CRIPPLING BLOWS: The Padres are going to have to make their final playoff push without two of their starting outfielders. Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley both went down with injuries Sunday (San Diego Union-Tribune), and while Cameron may be able to make it back if San Diego gets into the playoffs, Bradley is lost for the season. I'm sure you've all seen and heard the bizarre -- and unbelievable -- manner in which Bradley got hurt; ESPN's Jayson Stark says a player so important to his team can't afford to lose control the way Bradley did at such a crucial point of the year. But SI.com's Jon Heyman relates what Padres players said set Bradley off: Comments from umpire Mike Winters that, if true, demand disciplinary action from MLB. Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who heard the whole thing, may be a key witness in the MLB investigation. (Denver Post)
ANOTHER LOSS: The Brewers will have to try and catch the Cubs in the N.L. Central without starting catcher Johnny Estrada. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
'TWO DIFFERENT TEAMS': Jeff Kent's broadside at the Dodgers' younger players the other days was expounded on by old friend Derek Lowe, who says the L.A. clubhouse has almost split into 'two different teams' because of ''young players thinking they are bulletproof . . . walking around believing they don't have to listen to anybody.'' (Los Angeles Times) In that context, the Dodgers' disintegration in the N.L. West and wild-card races becomes a little easier to understand.
WILL HE PART OF THE SOLUTION? Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone tells USA Today's Hal Bodley that the team's pitching was pretty good until injuries hit, proving the organization needs more pitching depth to compete in the A.L. East. Whether or not Mazzone is there to help build the depth is an open question; he was a hire (and best friend) of deposed manager Sam Perlozzo, and new baseball operations chief Andy MacPhail may want to bring in a new staff.
GOING FOR IT: The Braves' Chipper Jones would like to win his first batting title. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) The Tigers' Magglio Ordonez has the lead in the A.L. race, but he's hurting. (Detroit Free Press)
WHERE TO GO, WHERE TO GO . . . SI.com's Jon Heyman handicaps potential 2008 landing spots for Barry Bonds.
RIGHT HERE!: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Dave O'Brien thinks the Braves should bring back Tom Glavine.
QUICKLY: Marlins pitching coach Rick Kranitz has left the team over what sources say is a salary dispute (Palm Beach Post) . . . Giants third baseman Pedro Feliz is a free agent at the end of the season and is looking for a multiyear deal (San Francisco Chronicle). If the Alex Rodriguez domino falls it could be a wild winter of third-base musical chairs in the majors, and Feliz may benefit; he could get what he's looking for from one of the teams which loses out in the bidding for high-profile stars like A-Rod and Mike Lowell . . . The Marlins are expected to see who's interested in Dontrelle Willis (Palm Beach Post) . . . The Twins' Rondell White is all but certain to retire (St. Paul Pioneer Press) . . . Phillies GM Pat Gillick says says he's retiring at the end of next year. (Philadelphia Daily News)
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 7:09 AM | Permalink