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September 28, 2007
Brief postgame notes:
Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, who recently returned to the lineup after missing 24 games with a strained oblique, was taken out of tonight's game with a sore quad. Manager Terry Francona said he knew Ramirez was sore prior to the game, but he was still able to get three much-needed at-bats in. He was taken out of the game in the top of the eighth inning as he was expected to lead off the bottom of the inning.
"We tried to sneak in that last at-bat," said the manager. "I knew he was sore, nothing pulled or anything. It just got to a point where it was time for him to come out. We're trying to continue to build and not go backwards. The more at-bats we can get him, the better off we're all going to be."
Ramirez was not at the ballpark for the celebration.
Posted by Joe McDonald at 11:49 PM | Permalink
Clinching Sights and Sounds
--The strains of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" played over the loudspeaker around 11:40, about 50 minutes after the celebration had begun in the center of the diamond. Utility infielder Alex Cora was in the booth upstairs, making sure the song was played and directing the crowd in the audience participation part of the song, which plays in the bottom of the eighth at every home game.
-- Jonathan Papelbon, wearing a red Red Sox T-shirt and black spandex shorts, looked as if he were auditioning for "River Dance" as he kicked off his shoes and hot-footed it around the infield until he was stopped by general manager Theo Epstein, who no doubt didn't want his ace closer spraining an ankle with the postseason less than a week away.
Papelbon embraced Epstein. There was a lot of hugging going on as the teammates exchanged congratulations while Cora continued to make sure each pitcher's theme song was blared over the loud speaker.
--Jason Varitek dressed and left the ballpark before the Orioles rallied to beat the Yanks and hand the Red Sox their first division title since 1995. So did Kevin Youkilis. But with the title in the bag, both players returned to Fenway and partook in the festivities.
--Finally, at around 11:50, roughly an hour after they had been crowned champions, the red Sox began leaving the field. Still about 1,000 fans were left in the stands, most of them surrounding the Boston dugout on the first-base line, though some were in the first and second rows of the third-base stands.
-- STEVEN KRASNER
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:41 PM | Permalink
| Comments 1
Red Sox manager Terry Francona:
“There are still things to play for. This was a very big accomplishment for the organization and for the city. We need this to just be the beginning, but it’s also a big accomplishment.”
GM Theo Epstein:
“Our players really wanted this. We felt like we were the best team in the division, and it was good to go out and get it. I’m happy for our fans, because they deserve this, too, they waited a long time.”
“We had half of our team watching [the Yankees-Orioles] in nothing but jock straps.”
“A lot of credit goes to the Yankees for winning this thing so many years in a row. It’s never easy in the American League East. They’re a great team, but it means that much more that we were able to win this division. . . “We knew they weren’t going anywhere. They are too good of a team. They never go away. It almost feels like you have a stalker when they’re in your division; every time you turn around they’re there."
"No one here gave up. We knew if we played our kind of baseball all year we would end up here.”
“It’s game time. It’s October and that’s when great players play great, and hopefully we have a couple of those guys in this clubhouse.”
“I’m proud of everybody. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment. It’s been a team effort all year and there are a lot of guys who have contributed. It’s been a great season and there’s plenty more to come. We’re not going to stop here.”
“I love this. This is the best part about playing baseball. Not being able to do this last year was very tough. Doing this every year would be great. This was fun and this is what you play baseball for. To celebrate this after 7 ½ months, you put all the time and effort in and this is what it’s all about. Once this night is over we have to keep moving forward. We want three more celebrations, because that’s when it gets really fun.”
“This is awesome. It’s a great feeling. This is unbelievable and I’m definitely going to enjoy this.”
Team owner John Henry:
“This is an incredible satisfaction."
Team chairman Tom Werner:
“We have the greatest fans in Boston. There were still thousands of people still standing there, watching the game. It’s a great night for Red Sox fans. This team played great baseball all year and they deserve to be division champions. They’re going to be dangerous in the playoffs.”
“This is awesome. What we’ve got here in this clubhouse is unbelievable. God, it pays off when you work hard. This is where we wanted to do this.”
“The one thing we said in spring training was we were going to do this as a team.It wasn’t going to be one person who is going to do it, and we’ve done it.”
Posted by Joe McDonald at 11:39 PM | Permalink
By STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- As soon as Boston polished off Minnesota, 5-2, last night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox retreate to their clubhouse to watch the Yankees and the Orioles' game, well aware that if Baltimore came from behind for a victory, the American League East title would be theirs.
Boston's magic number was one. And when the Orioles came from behind for a 10-9, 10-inning win against New York, the title for the Red Sox, their first divisional crown since 1995, was secured, sparking a celebration in the clubhouse and in the stands, where about 2,000 fans stayed to watch the Yankee-Orioles game on the video screen in center field.
There was no plastic in front of the lockers in the Red Sox' clubhouse, but most of the players were in a celebratory mood.
Many of the Sox went upstairs to their lounge to watch the game. Others stood around the clubhouse watching one of the three TVs in the clubhouse, outnumbered greatly by the media in the room to catch their reactions.
And when the improbable happened, a three-run rally off great Yankee closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Timlin jumped out of his seat and high-fived Javy Lopez.
Around those pair of Red Sox, teammates Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, Jon Lester, Eric Hinske, Kevin Cash, Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz jumped off the couch and other chairs in a corner of the room, a collective "Yeah!" arising from their throats as Jay Payton's bases-loaded, two-out hit rolled to the wall in left-center for a three-run double that pulled Baltimore even, at 9-9.
Boston's PR director, John Blake, then announced the clubhouse was closed to the media, forcing at least 50 or so media members to leave the room to the Sox.
By that time, several members of the Red Sox already had dressed and left the clubhouse, notably captain and catcher Jason Varitek and slugger David Ortiz.
But outside there were about 2,000 people still in the stands at Fenway because the Red Sox were showing the Yankee-Orioles game on the video board in center field, cheering madly when Baltimore tied the game.
There was concern in the stands when the Yanks filled the bases in the top of the 10th with one out, but again, loud cheers when ex-Soxer Chad Bradford was able to wriggle out of the inning unscathed, keeping it a 9-9 game.
And when Tike Redman blooped a one-out double into the left-field corner off Edwar Ramirez, the Orioles had the winning run in scoring position and the cheers from the fans standing in the aisles behind the Red Sox dugout along the first-base line were loud, growing even louder after a passed ball moved Redman to third.
A pair of walks filled the bases for none other than ex-Cowboy-Up Soxer, Kevin Millar. He fanned. But Melvin Mora dropped down a surprise bunt for a game-winning hit, making the Sox champions of the A.L. East.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:38 PM | Permalink
FINAL: Boston 5, Minnesota 2
BOSTON _ It was the top of the seventh inning at Fenway last night when the scoreboard on the Monster showed the Baltimore Orioles had come back from five-run deficit to get within a run of the Yankees when the 36,843 fans in attendance erupted and begin The Chant of “Yankees . . .”
Meanwhile, Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka gave the type of performance the club was looking for in preparation of the upcoming postseason. He improved to 15-12 with an impressive eight-inning 119-pitch performance to lead Boston to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
At this point the wait was on.
At the conclusion of the Red Sox game, the Yankees and Orioles were in the seventh inning.
The emergence and transformation of the Japanese sensation to Major League Baseball has been an interesting one. The crafty right-hander has lived up to expectations, but hasn’t gone above and beyond. What makes his 15 wins impressive, however, is the fact there wasn’t much of a cultural shock to his game, at least not one that was noticeable.
“He’s had a very successful first season,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. “He certainly made a baseline performance that he can approve upon going forward. He’s made a lot of adjustments this season, probably more than any of us can appreciate.”
Dice-K begin his first season with the Red Sox on a high note, recording a 7-2 record in his first 10 appearances through the end of May. It reached some peaks and hit some valleys in the second portion of the season, but he ended his first regular season with the Red Sox in fine fashion last night.
“Certainly the second half there were a few bumps in the road than he anticipated, but overall it’s been a successful first season,” Epstein said.
The Red Sox gave Matsuzaka a two-run cushion in the bottom of the first inning as Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew each provided a RBI for a 2-0 Boston lead. Lowell, who has been on a tear this season, collected his second RBI of the night to give the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage in the third inning. The run was the veteran’s 118th RBI of the season.
Boston added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Lowell reached on a one-out double and was driven home on a two-out single by Kevin Youkilis for a 4-0 advantage. With a four-run lead, Matsuzaka couldn’t keep the Twins at bay for long as Minnesota scored a pair in the top of the seventh, including a solo home run by Justin Morneau.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz continues his offensive dominance as he smoked his 35th homer of the season, a solo shot into the Monster Seats in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Boston a 5-2 advantage. He fell a triple shy of the cycle last night.
Posted by Joe McDonald at 9:38 PM | Permalink
UPDATED: Buchholz 'sort of bitter' about being shut down for season
BY STEVEN KRASNER
and JOE McDONALD
Journal Sports Writers
BOSTON -- Right-hander Clay Buchholz, who no-hit the Orioles on Sept. 1 in his second big-league start, is being shut down for the season by the Red Sox.
Manager Terry Francona said minutes ago that Buchholz's strength and mobility, among other things the organization test for on a regular basis, are not at the levels the Sox would like to see in order to have him continue to pitch.
So rather than risk his promising career by using him over the final three regular-season games and then in the postseason, the organization has decided to err on the side of caution.
Buchholz called himself ''sort of bitter'' about the decision.
''I feel a little bit tired right now, but it really wasn’t a big deal to me,'' said Buchholz. ''When they called me into the office I knew what it was about. They said they’ve been thinking about it for awhile; they’re thinking about the long-term issue.
''I understand that fact, but it feels like all the hard work, and the year I’ve put together this year, and to go home, I’m sort of bitter about it. It makes me want to work even harder and get back here next year.''
Francona met with general manager Theo Epstein and others in the organization to discuss Buchholz's status. Buchholz, who turned 23 last month, was told yesterday.
''Obviously this wasn’t our first choice,'' said Epstein. ''It wasn’t even our second choice. It was pretty much our last choice. Unfortunately, this is something, after talking with the medical staff, we have to do. Clay has been suffering from fatigue and a weak shoulder – on and off – this month. It’s to a point where he can’t pitch safely in October.''
''We test all of our pitchers and Clay is at the point where we're not real comfortable about having him go out there and pitch. He quite possibly could do it, but with what the future holds for him, we don't think that's the right thing to do," said Francona.
''There's some fatigue, and with that comes a lacking of strength,'' added Francona. ''To pitch him now, it would be very disrespectful to try and get some innings out of him. That's something that would not be in his best interests.''
There had been much talk this month, especially after his no-hitter, that the Red Sox were placing a ceiling on his total numbers of innings pitched this year in an attempt to keep him healthy for the future. Francona indicated this afternoon that the ceiling hadn't been reached, that this decision was strictly because his arm was showing signs of fatigue. Not injury, stressed Francona, but fatigue.
Buchholz, who began the year in Double A Portland and then moved up to Pawtucket before a quick trip to Boston for a one-day cup of coffee, an Aug. 17 start. He was sent back to Pawtucket after that game, an 8-4 win over the Angels, but was called back up on Sept. 1 when the rosters were expanded.
Buchholz pitched only twice after his 115-pitch no-no. He worked three innings in relief in Baltimore on Sept. 6 and he started against Toronto on Sept. 19, working the first 4 2/3 innings, throwing a total of 68 pitches. He took the loss in that one, a 6-1 setback. Buchholz, who showed impressive command with his fastball, curveball and changeup, finishes his first taste of the big leagues with a 3-1 record and a 1.59 earned-run average.
Before making it to the big leagues Buchholz went 7-2 with a 1.77 E.R.A. in 16 games for Portland and 1-3 with a 3.96 E.R.A. in eight starts for Pawtucket.
Buchholz had thrown some side sessions in the Boston bullpen this month, but Francona said the Sox kept him from throwing for four or five days so they could get the most accurate possible readings of the tests. The Sox were "excited" about the prospect of Buchholz contributing in the postseason, but had to be objective when it came to looking at the test results.
And those results prompted the Sox to call an end to Buchholz's glorious 2007 season.
''He’s been shut down for the year and he’ll start his rest for the offseason,'' said Epstein. ''He needs to go have a great winter of strengthening and conditioning and come back ready to throw a lot of innings next year.''
Posted by Steven Krasner at 6:10 PM | Permalink
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Ellsbury Slated to Start
Jacoby Ellsbury, who had to leave Thursday night's game because of cramping in his right calf, is penciled into the starting lineup in center field for tonight's game against Minnesota.
Ellsbury fouled two pitches off his lower right leg in his first-inning at-bat. Eventually, the contusion that resulted from those two foul balls led to the cramping. It was clear something was bothering him when Ellsbury, a very solid outfielder, looked to be in discomfort in getting a poor jump and being unable to get to Garrett Jones's looping single in the fourth.
He was replaced by Bobby Kielty at the start of the fifth.
Ellsbury has been filling in for Coco Crisp, who has been ill. Crisp was unavailable again last night, missing his fourth straight start.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 4:58 PM | Permalink
Starting Lineup, Sept. 28
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 4:25 PM | Permalink
| Comments 2
It has seemed all year that this Red Sox team has not done too much offensively in clutch situations late in games. But by one measure, they're not doing too badly for the season. The Web site Baseball Reference measures a team's batting statistics in "late and close" situations -- which it defines by plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the game tied, with the team ahead by one or with the tying run on deck. By this measure, the Red Sox on-base percentage plus slugging percentage is fourth in the American League, and second among the four playoff teams.
Here's how the American League teams stack up in this category:
1. Seattle, .812
2. Cleveland, .766
3. Oakland, .751
4. Boston, .738
5. Chicago, .735
6. Los Angeles, .732
7. New York, .724
8. Baltimore, .723
9. Texas, .705
10. Tampa Bay, .696
11. Minnesota, .694
12. Toronto, .688
13. Detroit, .662
14. Kansas City, .660
Posted by Mike McDermott at 2:45 PM | Permalink
Projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam: Entering the final weekend
Click here to listen to today's edition of projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam. Today's topics: problems clutch hitting, the impact of the rain, David Ortiz's hot streak, Terry Francona's starting pitching options, Jacoby Ellsbury's injury and Coco Crisp's illness, and a big final weekend in the National League.
Following are excerpts from Sean's comments.
Ortiz: "Ortiz has been terrific really for most of September. I remember thinking back in August whether this guy was going to get to half of his home-run total from a year ago, when he set a club record with 54, and you're thinking: Is he even going to get to 27 this year, half of that output? And now he's at 34, and that shows what kind of a home-run run he's been on here in the last five or six weeks or so."
Sox playoff rotation: "I think they've left open the possibility that it could be either guy in Game 2. It's certainly going to be Beckett to open the series, and then I think they are remaining flexible enough that it could be either Schilling or Matsuzaka in Game 2, and then of course the other would pitch Game 3. They certainly have enough downtime here in the next week or so to figure that out."
Crisp: "He's battling a whole bunch of different things at once, including an inner-ear infection that left him a little dizzy early in the week. I know that they were going to try to get him looked at yesterday. He's also got that back-hip thing that's been going on for the better part of a week and a half, and sort of nagging at him. I get the feeling that if he had to play tomorrow, or tonight for that matter, he could, but they've been trying to stay away from him. Maybe this Ellsbury thing changes it. Then again, they do have Moss and Kielty, with a little bit of depth, and you can always move people like Lugo and Cora in an emergency out in the outfield. So I think that they're going to be careful here, but once he can play, I'm sure they'd like Crisp to get a game or so before the postseason arrives."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:23 AM | Permalink
Baseball Today: Friday, September 28
ON HOLD: Dustin Pedroia's reaction to popping up with the go-ahead runs in scoring position and two outs in the bottom of the eighth (above, Journal photo by Bob Breidenbach) perfectly encapsulates a frustrating night for the Red Sox as they lost to the Twins, 5-4. (projo.com) Frustrating because the pitching matchup (Josh Beckett vs. Boof Bonser) seemed to favor them; frustrating because it kept the magic number for clinching the A.L. East at two. There was good news, however; in Inside The Game, Steven Krasner reports that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are locked in again offensively, and just in time for the postseason. (projo.com) And the notebook, written by Krasner and Joe McDonald, tells of Hideki Okajima's successful return to the mound, which also bodes well for the postseason.
AND SPEAKING OF THE POSTSEASON . . . It continues to look like it'll be the Sox vs. the Angels in the first round. Brendan Donnelly spent the first part of his career in Orange County and knows what his new team -- albeit one he's no longer contributing to, because of his elbow injury -- can expect. (Boston Herald) Terry Francona, meanwhile, is keeping his playoff pitching plans close to the vest. (Boston Globe)
WHERE THEY STAND: The Sox remain tied with Cleveland for best record in the American League because the Indians lost to the Mariners. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) The Yankees stayed alive in the division race by beating the Devil Rays. (New York Daily News)
MEMORIES . . . Some members of the last Red Sox' division winner, the 1995 edition, remember what clinching night was like. (projo.com) The Sox will get another shot at nailing down the title tonight.
HOT TOPIC: J.D. Drew's offensive rebirth -- he's hitting .324 in September -- is beginning to attract mainstream attention. (Boston Globe)
TALK ABOUT A CELEBRATION: On the night Mike Lowell broke the Red Sox' record for most RBI by a third baseman in a single season, he was chosen to undergo one of baseball's random drug tests. (Boston Herald)
YOUTH WILL BE SERVED: FoxSports.com's Dayn Perry says the Red Sox' and Yankees' playoff chances have been bolstered by their young players.
TIED: The Mets -- who led their division by seven games on Sept. 12 -- are on the cusp of making history for all the wrong reasons. They lost their fourth in a row last night, 3-0 to old friend Joel Piniero and the Cardinals (New York Daily News), and now are tied for first in the N.L. East with the Phillies, who beat the Braves (Philadelphia Inquirer) The Daily News' John Harper says they're playing scared, but the New York Post's Mike Vaccaro says there's still time to right the sinking ship. The Post's Joel Sherman notes that Pedro Martinez was The Mighty Casey last night: ''the anticipation was great, the outcome disappointing.''
JUST A LITTLE? Martinez tells ESPN.com's Amy K. Nelson he's ''a little worried about how things have developed.''
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: On sny.tv, Ted Berg and Mike Salfino -- who writes fantasy football sports blog, by the way -- contemplate the epic collapse of the Mets.
AND TO MAKE IT WORSE . . . Matthew Cerone's Mets Blog says the Mets' fold isn't made any easier by being in the same city as Yankee fans.
THE OTHER N.L. RACES: The Cubs lost to the Marlins (Chicago Sun-Times) . . . the Brewers lost to the Padres (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . the Diamondbacks beat the Pirates (Arizona Republic) . . . the scorching Rockies beat the Dodgers (Denver Post).
To see how all those games affected the races, check out the divisional standings and wild-card standings. (Projo Stats)
FUNNY MAN IN A NOT-SO-FUNNY SITUATION: Cubs fan Bill Murray is keeping the faith despite his team's three straight losses to the Marlins. (Palm Beach Post)
THE ALL-TIME GREATS: Baseball Prospectus lists the 13 biggest late-season collapses in baseball history, based on ''teams that had the highest percentage chance to reach the playoffs at some point during the regular season [and] then failed to do so.'' Two Red Sox teams -- from 2002 (No. 11) and 1978 (No. 7) -- make the list. The team most famous for folding at the end, the 1964 Phillies, are only at No. 10; BP notes ''it was not quite as bad as it might seem at first glance because of the disparity in the schedules. From September 18th onward, the Phillies played teams with an average winning percentage of .548, as opposed to .470 for the Cardinals, which was enough to wipe the equivalent of a game or two off of their lead.'' Coming in at No. 1: The 1995 Angels.
NOT-SO-MASSIVE TIE: Baseball Musing's David Pinto reports that last night's action eliminated the possibility of a five-way tie in the National League, though there's still a chance for four-way ties. MLB.com lists the various tie-breaking scenarios.
YOU SAY POTATO, I SAY . . . Some people call the wild spring to the finish in the National League exciting. USA Today's Hal Bodley calls it an exercise in mediocrity.
THE REAL COMMISSIONER In an ESPN The Magazine profile, Matthew Cole says ''Scott Boras isn't ruining baseball. He's running it.''
HARD TO BELIEVE: On the blog Birds In The Belfry, Bob Bryant says it's time to face up to the truth: Orioles followers are ''fans of a ballclub worse than the Washington Nationals.''
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN: Jimmy Piersall was back in his native Connecticut, touting Dom DiMaggio for the Hall of Fame and talking about what it was like growing up as a Red Sox fan in a sea of Yankee rooters. (Westport News)
THIS IS WHY THEY'RE BALLPLAYERS AND NOT SABERMETRICIANS: SI.com reports that most major-leaguers think the most important offensive statistic is RBI.
END OF THE LINE: Bruce Froemming reflects on the end of his 37-year umpiring career. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
MORE REVELATIONS: San Francisco Weekly reports that Greg Anderson's cellmate in jail, Marlon Leftwich, says Anderson ''shared one shocking anecdote after another about Barry Bonds and BALCO'' during their time together in prison. Whether they're true is another matter entirely, but they certainly are shocking.
QUICKLY: With trade rumors swirling, yesterday may have been Jon Garland's last start for the White Sox (Chicago Sun-Times) . . . The Pirates may put Jason Bay on the trade market (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) . . . Todd Helton's hot September has ended rumors that the Rockies might again try to move him this winter (Denver Post) . . . Sammy Sosa wants to stay with the Rangers (Dallas Morning News) . . . The Reds have a decision to make on Eddie Guardado, who's been pitching better recently (Cincinnati Enquirer) . . . Boras says there'll be no hometown discount for the Braves if they want to keep Andruw Jones (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 7:16 AM | Permalink