June 17, 2008
Steve Krasner reports that the Red Sox have placed pitcher Bartolo Colon on the 15-day disabled list. Colon has back stiffness following hard swings he took during last night's Red Sox-Phillies game. The Sox have called up relief pitcher Chris Smith to take Colon's spot on the roster.
Colon's next scheduled start was to be Sunday against the Cardinals. The Sox plan on using Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will be coming back from the DL, on Saturday, and plugging Jon Lester into the Sunday start.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 3:40 PM | Permalink
May 4, 2008
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON – Familiarity, apparently, breeds a bunch of base hits and runs for the Red Sox’ offense. Or maybe it was just a case of being comfortable at home.
Last weekend on the road, Boston was effectively shut down by a pair of Tampa Bay right-handers, Edwin Jackson and James Shields. That trend was loudly reversed this weekend at Fenway Park.
Jackson permitted only one run on five hits over seven innings in a 2-1 Rays win last Saturday. Shields was even better the following day, blanking the Red Sox on two hits in a complete-game 3-0 victory. Shields fanned seven.
So Boston’s hitters took their lumps on the road against the duo. In Fenway, it was the opposite. The Tampa Bay pitchers who were pummeled as the Red Sox hitters, having seen Jackson and Shields a week earlier, made adjustments that were highly effective.
Friday night, Boston’s offense battered Jackson for six runs on nine hits in only four-plus innings in a 7-3 triumph. Last night, Shields gave up more hits to the first three batters of the game than he had in his nine-inning, 99-pitch performance at Tropicana Field.
Indeed, the first four Red Sox batters hit safely – Jacoby Ellsbury (single), Dustin Pedroia (single), David Ortiz (RBI double) and Manny Ramirez (two-run single) – accounting for a quick 3-0 lead. Over his 3 2/3-inning stint, Shields coughed up 10 hits and 7 Runs, allowing at least one run in each inning. He threw 98 pitches, one fewer than in his complete-game win.
Of course, the same familiarity-breeds-hits theory might have been applied to the Rays against Josh Beckett, at least early.
Last Sunday, Beckett whiffed 13 Rays and gave up only four hits and one earned run in seven innings. Last night, over the first four innings, Beckett was touched up for three runs on five hits and had punched out only two.
After limiting the damage in a fourth-inning jam to one run, though, Beckett retired 12 of the final 14 batters, surrendering only one more run, on a homer by Akinori Iwamura in the eighth.
The Red Sox have been the beneficiaries of a pair of do-overs this week.
And they have made great use of them.
Last night, with runners at second and third and none out in the first, Ramirez hit a chopper up the third-base line. Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria charged the ball instead of hanging back and seeing if it would roll foul. Longoria gloved the ball and threw on the run to first, his throw beating Ramirez for what looked to be the first out of the inning as a run scored.
Plate umpire Bill Welke, though, ruled Longoria had snatched the ball in foul territory. So the out didn’t count, the runners went back to their respective bases and Ramirez got back in the batter’s box. He then grounded Shields’ next pitch up the middle for a two-run single.
On Thursday night, Coco Crisp was handed a second chance when his game-ending fly ball to right was negated by a balk by Toronto’s B.J. Ryan. Crisp drilled the next pitch he saw for a single to right.
Shields was charged with a wild pitch in the second, but Ellsbury deserved the assist on the play.
Ellsbury, who was 9-for-9 in stolen-base attempts, was on first with one out. Shields’ 1-and-1 pitch to Pedroia was a changeup in the dirt. As catcher Dioner Navarro moved a half-step to his right to block it, he took his eye off the ball to glance at Ellsbury, checking to see if he was on the move. Ellsbury had taken his secondary lead, but had stopped.
The ball clanged off Navarro’s foot and bounced away, allowing Ellsbury to ease into second base. He scored when Pedroia dunked Shields’ next pitch over first baseman Carlos Pena.
A half-step in the wrong direction likely cost Tampa Bay a run in the fourth.
The Rays had one run in, the bases loaded and one out and were trailing by only 5-3 when Nathan Haynes laced a liner to Ramirez in left field.
Pena, the runner at third, took a half-step toward home when Haynes made contact. Realizing the ball was going to be caught by Ramirez, Pena retraced his steps back to third so he could tag up. His momentum was going back to the bag as Ramirez made the grab.
Pena tagged quickly and tried to get his momentum shifted to the plate as Ramirez made his throw home. The throw was accurate and easily beat Pena, who was a dead duck at the plate for the rally-killing double play.
Had Pena headed back to third on contact, he would have had a better chance of scoring.
Tampa Bay’s Akinori Iwamura gave away his offensive plan in the third.
On the 1-and-0 pitch from Josh Beckett, Iwamura prepared to bunt for a base hit but pulled the bat back as the ball sailed up and away. Third baseman Mike Lowell, already in on the grass, moved in another step, on full alert.
So when Iwamura dropped down a bunt – and it was a good one -- on the 2-and-1 pitch, Lowell was in great position to make a play. He charged the ball, barehanded it and fired to first in one motion, his throw beating Iwamura by a half-step.
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Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:08 AM | Permalink
May 2, 2008
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON – A spark can come from the unlikeliest of sources.
It did last night for the Boston Red Sox, in the form of a lightning bolt off the bat of rookie Brandon Moss that lit the team’s slumping offensive pilot light.
Moss crushed a solo homer to center, a towering drive off the roof of the camera perch just to the right of the 379-foot marker.
The blast off Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson, with two outs and none on in the fourth, gave the Sox a 2-0 lead over the Rays.
And just like that, the Red Sox’ week-long slump vanished.
By the time Jackson notched the final out the inning, the Red Sox were on top, 6-0, as Boston rained hits all around Fenway Park.
Jason Varitek ripped a single to center. After a walk to Julio Lugo, Jacoby Ellsbury dropped an RBI single into left-center; Dustin Pedroia ripped a two-run single to left and David Ortiz bashed a run-scoring single through the Rays’ shift.
Slump? What slump?
Boston starter Clay Buchholz had difficult locating his fastball, especially early. Of the first 24 fastballs he threw, only 9 were strikes, including two that were smacked for singles.
So when his lack of command of the pitch got him into trouble in the third inning, pitching coach John Farrell strolled to the mound. It was clear that Farrell discussed a change in pitching philosophy against the Rays because after the visit, Buchholz and catcher Jason Varitek stayed away from the fastball.
The result? Three straight strikeouts, defusing a first-and-second, none-out jam.
Buchholz threw 13 pitches after Farrell’s visit. Only three were fastballs.
The first batter he faced, Jonny Gomes, fanned on three pitches – slider (called), changeup (swinging), curveball (waving wildly). Carlos Pena was next. The sequence of pitches to him was curveball (ball), changeup (strike swinging), fastball (strike swinging), curve (foul), fastball (foul) and curve (called strike three).
Evan Longoria followed Pena. By then it must have been clear to him that Buchholz had abandoned his fastball. With the count at 1 and 2 -- (called strike), curveball (foul), slider (ball) – Longoria appeared stunned when Buchholz delivered a 93 m.p.h. fastball over the plate. He took it for strike three.
Over the first five innings, Buchholz unofficially threw 39 fastballs, only 18 of which were strikes.
When Carl Crawford reached base on a one-out single in the first inning, Buchholz paid close attention to him, and with good reason. Crawford is one of the game’s best basestealers and this season he is again among the league’s leaders, with eight.
So with Gomes, the Rays’ designated hitter, at the plate, Buchholz threw over to first base five times during the course of the at-bat in an effort to keep Crawford close.
Buchholz also made use of the slide-step in his delivery out of the stretch to the plate.
He was effective on two counts – keeping Crawford from running and getting out Gomes.
Crawford wasn’t able to attempt a steal, and Buchholz whiffed Gomes. The impressive part of the strikeout was that Buchholz caught Gomes looking at a curveball for strike three.
When using a slide-step, curveballs have a tendency to flatten out because it is more difficult for the pitcher to get on top of the ball. Instead of being able to throw over the top for the curve, as Buchholz generally does, the arm angle may slip down a little so the ball doesn’t break down sharply on a downward plane, it remains on more of a flat plane.
Buchholz, though, was able to maintain good curveball-throwing mechanics despite using the slide-step, and buckled Gomes’ knees with the breaking ball for the punchout.
Moss, playing right field, put a nice charge on Jason Bartlett’s liner to right-center with runners at first and second and two outs in the second and racked up his second assist of the year.
Moss was playing shallow for the Rays’ number nine hitter. He got the ball on the second hop. And even though he took an extra hop-step, his throw home was strong and accurate, nailing Longoria trying to score from second, keeping it a 0-0 game.
Crawford overestimated his speed and took an unnecessary gamble in running into a double play that ended the fifth.
He was perched on third with one out and the Rays losing, 6-1. Gomes hit a grounder to third, forcing Crawford back to the bag a step.
Nevertheless, despite the fact his momentum had shifted him back to third, and despite the fact that the Rays were down by five runs, Crawford took off for home as Mike Lowell threw to first. Kevin Youkilis, the Sox’ first baseman, received Lowell’s throw for the out there, and then threw home where Varitek, Boston’s catcher, slapped a tag on Crawford for a double play.
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:48 PM | Permalink
April 24, 2008
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON – Justin Masterson made his big-league debut yesterday.
Great things are predicted for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound right-hander. The 23-year-old certainly seems to have all the tools for stardom – size, live arm and intelligence, to name three.
Here are some first-game impressions:
-- His motion is three-quarters. The beginning of his motion is deliberate, but then he explodes off the rubber, slinging the ball to the plate, reminiscent of the finish to Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley’s delivery. His delivery, though, does seem to put a lot of stress on his elbow.
-- He works very quickly, a sign of an extremely confident pitcher, not the typical first-game-in-the-bigs body language. Masterson was by no means wide-eyed, in awe of his surroundings. He looked like he belonged.
-- He can field his position. Masterson quickly came off the mound when speedy Chone Figgins attempted to bunt for a hit in the third. Under control, Masterson raced in, picked up the ball, planted his feet, squared up to first and threw a strike for the out.
-- He looks like he can control the opposition’s running game. He used his normal high leg-kick delivery in the second and the Angels’ Maicer Izturis swiped second without a throw. The next time the Angels had a runner at first, Masterson used the slide-step. And he showed quick feet and a good move to first, almost picking off Gary Matthews Jr. in the third.
-- He has the stuff to compete at the big-league level. Masterson was able to keep the Angels off-balance with his fastball (up to 92 m.p.h.), changeup (80-84) and slider (78-80), but his bread and butter was the sinker, generally 87-90. Of the 18 outs he recorded, 11 came on ground balls and he also whiffed four, so there were only three balls hit into the outfield for outs.
His batting average still is a mere .189.
Late in the game, though, David Ortiz is a tough out. At least he was on this homestand, which wound up yesterday.
In his last at-bat over the last seven games, Ortiz went 4 for 4 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI. He walked in his other three final at-bats.
Yesterday, Ortiz was 0 for 4 when he faced Scot Shields with a runner at second and two outs in the ninth and the Sox down, 7-3. Shields surprised Ortiz by dropping in an 81 m.p.h. curveball for a called strike, making the count 1 and 2. He tried another 81-m.p.h. curve but missed, so it was 2 and 2.
It’s rare to double up with breaking balls. But throw three in a row? Not likely. So Ortiz had to know a fastball was coming. It did, a fat one over the heart of the plate, and Ortiz crushed it to right for a two-run homer, Boston’s final runs in a 7-5 loss.
Earlier, Ortiz had given indications that he’s still battling a slump, and that he wasn’t terribly confident facing Angels left-hander Joe Saunders. Ortiz attempted to beat the shift by dropping down a bunt on an 0-and-1 pitch in the first inning, but missed the pitch.
Another indication came in the fifth. The count on Ortiz reached 3 and 0.
Ortiz rarely swings at a 3-and-0 pitch. He did it only seven times last year (3 for 5). Yesterday, though, figuring he would get a fastball, he hacked at the 3-and-0 offering from Joe Saunders, the first time this season he as swung at 3 and 0.
He got the fastball, and he hit it well, but the high drive died in the triangle and was hauled in by Torii Hunter.
The last time Manny Ramirez faced Frankie Rodriguez, the Angels’ ace closer, it was last Oct. 5. And the Red Sox left fielder clubbed a dramatic, titanic, tie-breaking three-run homer well over the Green Monster with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 of the American League Division Series, spurring Boston to a sweep of the series.
They met again yesterday. The circumstances weren’t nearly as pressure-packed. The Angels had a 7-5 lead and there were two outs with none on in the bottom of the ninth.
Rodriguez slipped two fastballs, each at 93 m.p.h., over the outside corner for called strikes. He missed with a fastball and a slider. His 2-and-2 pitch was a 93 m.p.h. fastball that Ramirez hit very well – but flied out to the triangle in center.
It is said that stealing third base is easier than stealing second.
Pitchers don’t tend to pay as much attention to the runner at second as they do at first, so the runner can get a bigger lead and jump, as a result.
Yesterday, Coco Crisp made it look real easy to swipe third.
In the fourth, after hitting a double, Crisp wasn’t held close by the Angels shortstop or second baseman and Saunders only gave him a cursory look. So Crisp got a nice walking lead and took off for third, sliding in safely without drawing a throw because he had such a good jump.
In the sixth, Crisp made it 2 for 2, again getting a great jump and sliding into third without a throw.
Those who complain about any negative Ramirez comments should pass on this item. This may be construed as Manny Bashing.
Leading off the second, Ramirez hit a high popup behind first base that twisted in the wind. Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman was in obvious trouble trying to track this ball in the bright sunshine and the swirling wind.
Ramirez could see all of that. The play was right in his path.
Nevertheless, Ramirez lolly-gagged his way down the first-base line. So when the ball fell safely onto the grass, totally missing Kotchman’s glove about 15 feet behind the dirt part of the infield, Ramirez had barely made it to first base.
It should have been a double, had he been running out of the box.
As things turned out, it didn’t matter. Kevin Youkilis walked, pushing Ramirez to second. Ramirez was held up at third on Jed Lowrie’s single to center and scored on Coco Crisp’s one-out chopper to the right side.
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Posted by Steven Krasner at 6:03 PM | Permalink
April 23, 2008
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON – Is competition bringing out the best in Julio Lugo?
It was clear over the winter and in spring training that the Red Sox think very highly of young shortstop Jed Lowrie, and there’s no doubt the 2005 draft pick from Stanford was nipping at the heels of Lugo, who had a weak first season offensively and defensively for Boston in 2007.
An injury to Mike Lowell prompted the Red Sox to recall Lowrie from Pawtucket on April 10. Since arriving in the big leagues for the first time, Lowrie generally has sparkled. He has played three infield positions and he has stuck in a few clutch base hits along the way.
Lugo, meanwhile, already has committed six errors. And nine games ago, when Lowrie was beginning to make a favorable impression, Lugo was batting .238.
Maybe Lugo was feeling the heat. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
But since then, Lugo has fashioned a nine-game hitting streak, including an RBI single in the second inning that boosted his average to .333 (25 for 75). He wound up going 2 for 3, raising his average to 338.
He even has mixed in an outstanding defensive play or two. Last night he made a diving play to his left, something he rarely does. He got up and threw out the baserunner. He also made a strong relay throw, cutting down a runner at the plate in the second; turned a short-hopper up the middle into a nifty 6-3 double play; started a routine 6-4-3 twin killing, and made a fine play in the hole.
And how well is Lugo going right now? He drifted back for a major league popup hit by Vladimir Guerrero and dropped it. He calmly recovered, though, picking up the ball and throwing to second for a forceout.
It wasn’t a totally great night for Lugo, though. He fouled a ball off his left foot in the sixth, and was hobbling around a bit thereafter.
For the last two seasons, the Angels generally have tried to get David Ortiz out with offspeed stuff – sliders, curveballs and changeups.
They mix in the occasional fastballs. It depends, naturally, on who is pitching and what stuff that pitcher may have. But the Angels pitchers have used the fastball as kind of a “show me” pitch while attacking him with the breaking stuff.
The problem with that philosophy, though, is that if you hang a breaking ball, even a struggling Ortiz can feast on it, which is what happened in the fifth inning.
Jon Garland hung a 74 m.p.h. curve on the inner half of the plate and Ortiz ripped it into the first row of seats in the right-field corner for a game-tying two-run homer.
The pattern changed in the seventh. Right-handed reliever Justin Speier, keeping the ball away from Ortiz, threw six pitches to the Sox’ designated hitter – all fastballs – and walked him.
The headfirst slide into first base is not a universally accepted concept, partially because not everyone is convinced you get to the base faster that way, and also because there’s the fear of injury, such as a separated shoulder.
There’s a different feeling when it’s used to avoid a tag. It’s more accepted, but still the injury fear is there.
Last night, Dustin Pedroia beat out a grounder to deep short in the fifth, sliding wide and reaching out with is left hand to tag the base as he slid by in his successful effort to avoid the tag of Casey Kotchman, who had to come off the bag to the home plate side to catch the throw from shortstop Erick Aybar.
Pedroia, who missed time in training camp in 2006 because of a slight separation of his left shoulder, appeared to be injured in the same way as he got up from the bag. Trainer Paul Lessard and manager Terry Francona checked on him. Pedroia stayed in the game, and scored when Ortiz laced his tying homer.
Kotchman’s baserunning mistake cost the Angels at least one run in the second inning.
Kotchman was at first and Jeff Mathis was at second base with one out. On Jon Lester’s 1-and-1 pitch to Maicer Izturis, Mathis got a good jump and broke for third.
In such a circumstance, the runner at first has to be aware of what the runner at second is doing. So when the runner from second takes off for third, the runner at first should take off for second because normally, if the catcher makes a throw, it will be to third base, leaving a safe move to second virtually guaranteed.
But Kotchman didn’t recognize soon enough what Mathis was doing. So while Mathis was safe at third, Kotchman remained at first base. He acknowledged his mistake by tapping his chest in a “my bad” gesture to first-base coach Alfredo Griffin as he returned to the bag.
Izturis crushed the next pitch into the gap in left-center for an RBI double. Had Kotchman been at second, as he should have been, he would have romped home, too. Instead, he was running from first.
When Manny Ramirez bobbled the ball in the outfield, Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel waved home Kotchman. Good relay throws from Ramirez to shortstop Julio Lugo and then Lugo to catcher Kevin Cash easily nailed a sliding Kotchman at the plate.
So instead of a 3-0 Angels lead with a runner at second and one out against a struggling Jon Lester, it was only 2-0 with two outs and a runner at second. The Angels did not score again in the inning.
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Posted by Steven Krasner at 10:57 PM | Permalink
April 21, 2008
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz pitches in the 1st inning of today's game against Texas.
BOSTON – Clay Buchholz is only 23 years old and, as a rookie, he will go through a few trials and tribulations.
But he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to mixing his pitches and keeping the opposition off-balance.
Two early Texas at-bats speak to that pitch-selection maturity, aided, of course, by the calls of the catcher, in this case Kevin Cash.
In the second inning, Buchholz thoroughly confused Rangers’ designated hitter Jason Botts. Buchholz slipped a 93-m.p.h. fastball past Botts for strike one, and then Botts flailed and badly missed a 76 m.p.h. curveball for strike two.
Botts clearly was expecting another curveball, or something offspeed. Buchholz, though, delivered a 93 m.p.h. fastball, and Botts missed it, his swing late.
One inning later, Buchholz befuddled Josh Hamilton, who entered the game batting .299. Hamilton swung through a 76 m.p.h. changeup for strike one. Then he couldn’t hold up and foul-tipped a 74 m.p.h. changeup.
Down, 0 and 2, Hamilton, who had waved and missed a 76 m.p.h. curveball for a whiff in the first, apparently was looking for another offspeed pitch. He didn’t move a muscle as Buchholz whipped a 91 m.p.h. fastball past him for a called third strike.
David Ortiz had a few big hits in the four-game series with the Rangers, showing flashes of his dominant presence at the plate.
Still, he hasn’t yet found a consistent groove, as evidenced by his ups and downs yesterday. He’s not quite locked in, though he’s getting closer.
In the third inning, for instance, Big Papi came to the plate with runners at first and third and none out in a 0-0 game. It was gimme RBI opportunity for Ortiz, who has knocked in at least 117 runs in each of the last four seasons.
The count reached 1 and 2 when Texas reliever Dustin Nippert hung an 83 m.p.h. slider on the outer half of the plate. It was a pitch that, when he’s in his groove, Ortiz crushes to left-center. But Ortiz pulled off the ball and barely stayed alive on a foul tip.
Nippert’s next pitch was away, too. This time it was a 93 m.p.h. fastball. Ortiz again pulled off the pitch and was unable to reach it, swinging and missing for a strikeout.
Ortiz wasn’t able to drive the ball to left field in his next at-bat, either, but he got a break when Milton Bradley lost his routine high fly ball in the sun, the ball falling behind the outfielder for a gift RBI double, capping the Sox’ five-run rally.
But in the fifth, Ortiz managed to keep his front shoulder in and drive a pitch on the outer half of the plate off the Green Monster for a two-run double that put Boston on top, 8-0.
Good things happen to good teams. And vice versa.
The Red Sox are a good team. The Rangers are not.
Take a look at the bottom of the fourth, when Boston pushed across five runs for a 5-0 lead.
It started with a four-pitch walk. Then Nippert balked him to second, wheeling to make a throw to first and then inexplicably holding the ball. Lowrie tried to sacrifice. It was a terrible bunt, popped up. But the placement was perfect toward the shortstop grass, the ball falling for a single. Lugo bounced a 15-hopper up the middle, perfectly placed over the bag between the shortstop and second baseman for an RBI.
Lugo committed a mistake and was trapped off first on Kevin Cash’s weak popup/liner to second, a seemingly easy double play, but Kinsler’s throw to first short-hopped Ben Broussard and got away for an error, allowing a run to score.
Ellsbury reached when shortstop Michael Young fielded his roller in the hole and threw wide to first. Pedroia ripped a two-run double to right-center for the only hard-hit ball of the inning. Then Ortiz and the Sox got a gift RBI double when left fielder Milton Bradley lost Ortiz’ high fly in the sun, the ball almost hitting Bradley on the head as he sank to the turf, trying to protect himself.
Baserunning instincts – the good and the not so good.
* J.D. Drew showed good instincts in moving from first to second on a wild pitch in the second.
As Kason Gabbard delivered his pitch to the plate, Drew moved out to his secondary lead. Then, seeing the ball was going to be in the dirt, Drew started his momentum toward second, just in case the ball got away from catcher Gerald Laird.
The ball did indeed bounce up on Laird and roll only a few feet away. Not every baserunner would have then dashed toward second. But because Drew had anticipated the ball would hit the dirt, he was able to take off and make it to second base without a throw even though Laird quickly pounced on the wild pitch.
* Jacoby Ellsbury, who generally makes outstanding baserunning decisions, got caught in no-man’s land between third and home and was tagged out on a double play that was scored 8-2-4-2 on Kevin Youkilis’ fly ball to center with runners at first and third and one out.
Ellsbury tagged, went halfway to the plate and then retreated to third as Dustin Pedroia attempted to take second on the throw home. When the Rangers threw to second to try to nail Pedroia, Ellsbury started home again as Pedroia raced back to the uncovered first-base bag. Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler saw Ellsbury, had him trapped and threw to catcher Gerald Laird for the putout.
* Jed Lowrie scampered quickly from first to third on Julio Lugo’s chopper over the second-base bag in the fourth, making a nice, crisp turn at second and easily beating a throw to third. Most baserunners would have stopped at second.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:06 PM | Permalink
September 8, 2007
BALTIMORE – What’s wrong with Daisuke Matsuzaka?
Has he hit the wall in the major leagues? If it’s not fatigue, is there something physically wrong with him?
How else to explain Matsuzaka’s dreadful performance last night when the woeful Baltimore Orioles, losers of 15 of their last 17 overall and a franchise-record-tying 11 straight at home, battered the right-hander for eight earned runs on six hits in only 2 2/3 innings at Camden Yards, a game the Boston Red Sox lost, 11-5.
Included in that ugly line were two gopher balls, a solo shot in the first by light-hitting Tike Redman, who began the year playing ball in Japan, and a grand slam by Scott Moore, a veteran of only 53 big-league at-bats before unloading on a fat fastball for his first hit in 14 at-bats in the majors this year.
Moore’s slam capped a seven-run third-inning explosion at the expense of Matsuzaka, who had been handed early leads of 2-0 and 4-1. As the ball disappeared into the bleachers, well past Coco Crisp’s vain attempt at a leaping catch, Dice-K put his hands on his knees and bent over in frustration and irritation, and a few seconds later he was yanked by Boston manager Terry Francona.
The start was by far the shortest of the season for Matsuzaka, who had gone at least five innings in each of his previous 28 outings.
His fastball had very little life or movement. His slider had precious little movement or bite. And in the seven-run third, Matsuzaka was missing consistently up and away with fastballs to left-handers and tried to navigate his way through the jam by using just fastballs and sliders, a plan that clearly didn’t work.
What makes last night’s horror show all the more distressing is that it cannot be shrugged off as an isolated, one-of-those-games kind of outings. It continued a downward spiral for the former Japanese League star, for whom the Red Sox paid over $100 million to secure his rights and sign him to a contract last winter.
The postseason is around the corner, and Dice-K is faltering badly down the stretch.
Over his last three starts, Matsuzaka is 1-2 with a 12.56 earned-run average, having been strafed for 22 hits and 20 earned runs in only 14 1/3 innings. And over his last five starts, Dice-K is 1-4 with a 9.57 E.R.A., tagged for 32 hits and 28 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that maybe he is getting tired, worn down by the season, which is longer here than it is in Japan and features much more travel.
The Sox have tried to give him extra rest between starts – as they try to do with everyone in the rotation. Over his last five starts, for instance, he worked on an extra day of rest three times.
As the innings have piled up, so have the gopher balls he has been surrendering.
Over his first 17 starts, totaling 114 2/3 innings, Matsuzaka was victimized for only 9 homers, which averages out roughly to one every 12 2/3 innings. But beginning with his start in Detroit on July 8, the last day before the All-Star break, Dice-K has been crushed for 14 homers in only 12 starts totaling 69 2/3 innings, roughly one every five-plus innings. It’s worse over the last four outings – 6 homers in the last 20 1/3 innings, or one roughly every 3 1/3 innings.
In his last two seasons in Japan, Matsuzaka pitched 215 innings in 28 games in 2005 and 186 1/3 innings in 25 games in 2006. This season, Masuzaka has made 29 starts already, totaling 184 1/3 innings, and it’s only Sept. 9.
Prior to last night, the Sox have been quick to discount any tired-arm theories.
In his previous start, staked to a 10-1 lead against Toronto, Dice-K came unglued in the sixth inning. Matsuzaka retired only one batter in the inning and ultimately was charged with seven runs.
After the game, manager Terry Francona waved off any suggestions that Matsuzaka might be getting tired, bemoaning a little bit of bad luck on a flare and a touch bounce. Catcher and team captain Jason Varitek echoed the theme.
Last night, it was hard to watch Matsuzaka struggle through the third – single, double, walk, walk, single, walk, strikeout (after Aubrey Huff ‘s bid for a grand slam to right curved foul at the last instant), popup, grand slam – without wondering if there’s something wrong with Dice-K, and if can be counted on down the stretch and through the postseason.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 9:58 PM | Permalink
BALTIMORE – Reliever Eric Gagne threw a 40-pitch bullpen session early yesterday afternoon, and pronounced himself “perfect” and ready to return to action.
Gagne, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 26 because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, said he threw all of his pitches during his workout and didn’t feel any discomfort. He said the plan for him now is to take today off and then he’ll be available to pitch in a game beginning tomorrow.
He said he thought the Red Sox might be careful about when they use him the first time, likely in a situation where the game is not on the line, but he’s encouraged by how he feels.
“I’ll be able to give some innings to the bullpen (corps) so they’re not overworked. That has been the most frustrating part of it, not being able to give the guys down there some rest,” said Gagne after his session in steamy conditions at Camden Yards.
“But the Red Sox really took their time with me. We didn’t want to rush it because we had a good lead. There’s never a good time to get hurt, but this was a better time. They wanted me to be healthy (when he returned rather than be rushed back),” he said.
There was little follow-up, at least on the Red Sox’ side of things, from Friday night’s spirited banch-clearing gathering that resulted from Daniel Cabrera’s fastball behind Dustin Pedroia’s head one pitch after a fake dash down the third-base line by Coco Crisp had rattled the Orioles starter into committing a run-producing balk.
One member of the Sox wondered if Baltimore was taking “ducking practice” as they set up for batting practice, but Boston was more concerned with the fact it had won Friday night’s game and was trying to win again last night.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley addressed the situation in a pregame radio show, saying, “He (Cabrera) lost his poise, embarrassed himself and it’s not going to happen again.”
Cabrera had said, apparently with a straight face after the game, that the pitch had “slipped” out of his hands, that he was trying to pitch inside and it simply got away from him.
Upon hearing that, one member of the Orioles reportedly said, “Yeah, and the dog ate his homework, too.”
Pedroia wasn’t too pleased at being the target.
“The guy is an idiot,” said Pedroia after the game. “It kind of freaked me out. I was upset they took him out of the game. He is good to hit. He’s 9-15. The guy (stinks).”
“I’m just glad Pedroia didn’t get hurt, to be honest with you,” said Trembley.
Kevin Youkilis set a record for American League first baseman by playing in his 179th consecutive game without committing an error on Friday night. The previous mark of 178 had been set by Mike Hegan with Milwaukee and Oakland from Sept. 24, 1970 to May 20, 1973.
Youkilis handled 1,510 chances, starting 167 of the 179 games. Hegan had only 52 starts and 787 chances in his 178 games.
Youkilis wasn’t impressed with the record.
“I didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I just go out and play every day.”
David Ortiz’s homer in the first inning was his 28th of the year and his seventh in his last 15 games. The two-run blast to center in the first increased his season’s total to 98 RBI . . . J.D. Drew smacked a double to left-center in his first at-bat for the second game in a row. He has had an extra-base hit in back-to-back games only six times all year . . . Jacoby Ellsbury slammed an RBI double off the first-base bag in the second inning. He has had at least one hit in each of the eight games he has played in since being recalled from Pawtucket on Sept. 1.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 9:05 PM | Permalink
September 7, 2007
BALTIMORE — How often do you see a runner at third fake a mad dash toward home plate, trying to get the opposing pitcher to balk?
And how often does it work? Almost never?
Well it worked for the Sox’ Coco Crisp in the fourth inning last night. Crisp’s fake of a steal of home forced Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera to balk, enabling Crisp to trot home with the run that put Boston ahead, 3-0.
And it led to a spirited bench-clearing gathering around home plate after Cabrera’s next pitch following Crisp’s fake dash went behind Dustin Pedroia’s head.
Plate umpire Mike DiMuro quickly jumped out in front of the plate after the errant pitch and issued warnings to Cabrera, the Orioles’ bench and the Red Sox’ bench. The Sox, meanwhile, began spilling out of their dugout in anger at what they had just witnessed.
Third-base umpire Bill Welke tried to head them off at the pass and basically was successful in sending them back to the dugout until Cabrera engaged began engaging in a shouting match with members of the Sox and had to be restrained by teammates and umpires Laz Diaz, Wally Bell and DiMuro.
So the Sox piled back onto the field as Cabrera broke free of restraints, ran from the mound to the infield grass near third base, threw his glove and the ball to the turf and motioned for them to come and get him. As he was doing that, catcher Ramon Hernandez had to be restrained by, among others, the Sox’ David Ortiz, from getting at someone on the Sox, whose identity wasn’t clear in the confusion in front of the Boston dugout on the third-base side.
Players then rushed out of both bullpens, which, interestingly enough at Camden Yards, are basically on top of each other in center field, so they entered the scene together.
After the uprising was calmed down, and the relievers strolled back to their respective bullpens, side by side, the umpires had a meeting near the mound with Cabrera standing on the pitching rubber. Then they had an animated chat with Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, who clearly was unhappy with their decision that Cabrera would be ejected from the game, no doubt for breaking away from the pack and physically challenging the Sox.
Mirabelli out for a while
Doug Mirabelli’s left hamstring, which he strained while running the bases in the third inning Thursday night, was “more tender than we were hoping,” said manager Terry Francona yesterday before prior to batting practice.
So Mirabelli, who had been making his first appearance since Aug. 17, when he suffered a right calf strain, will be out for a while. There is no timetable for his return.
Francona, though, said the Sox have no plans to add another catcher to the roster as of now, electing to go with Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash. Francona said Mirabelli could work behind the plate in an emergency.
Mirabelli, meanwhile, said he wants to make sure he’s healthy when he does return so he doesn’t re-aggravate either the calf or the hamstring injury. Clearly he’s hoping to be ready to play when the postseason roster is set.
Ramirez still on the mend
Manny Ramirez’s rehabilitation from an oblique strain continues to progress, Francona said, but it will continue in FortFt. Lauderdale, Fla., because the Sox’ left fielder has been given permission to go home for personal reasons. He was scheduled to depart from Boston yesterday and was expected to return to Boston tomorrow.
“He’s getting close to resuming baseball activities,” said Francona, who added that, as with Mirabelli, there is no timetable for Ramirez’s return to the lineup.
Moss is on first base
Brandon Moss, an outfielder in the Red Sox system, is going to play first base for Santiago in Winter Ball.
Francona said Moss, who was promoted from Pawtucket to Boston when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1, was willing to go to winter ball and willing to learn a new position, giving him more versatility. Francona was on the field at Camden Yards early yesterday afternoon with Moss, showing him various footwork and positioning aspects of playing the position as well as talking about the mental and physical aspects of being a first baseman.
Francona knows from experience. He had to make the switch from outfielder to first baseman during his professional career.
No excuses from Wakefield
Tim Wakefield reiterated yesterday that his back was not bothering him in his disappointing start Thursday night (6 runs, 9 hits, 32/3 innings). The knuckleballer said he didn’t feel comfortable at all on the mound, but wasn’t using a 10-day layoff (he was scratched from a start last Friday because of a sore back) as an excuse. He’s scheduled to throw a side session today.
Around the bases
Eric Gagne, who had a successful bullpen session (20-25 pitches) on Thursday will throw another side session today. … The opposition has only one hit in its last 45 at-bats against flame-throwing Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, computing to a miniscule .022 batting average against the right-hander. The Angels’ Orlando Cabrera had that hit, a single on Aug. 17. Papelbon has retired the last 16 batters he has faced. Overall, opposing batters are hitting only .135 (24 for 178) against Papelbon. … The Orioles are batting .029 against Red Sox rookie right-hander Clay Buchholz in two games. Buchholz no-hit Baltimore last Saturday (the Orioles were 0 for 26 — one out came on a pickoff) and he coughed up one hit in nine at-bats to the Orioles in three impressive relief innings Thursday night.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 10:58 PM | Permalink
August 22, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Well, two out of three isn’t bad. You can’t win ‘em all.
Trot out whatever cliché you want, but the Boston Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field was a disappointment.
The Sox failed to hit in the clutch (1 for 10 with runners in scoring position) and one bad pitch from Daisuke Matsuzaka – a two-run homer to B.J. Upton in the sixth – helped cost Boston a sweep of the three-game set.
The script for Matsuzaka at the Trop didn’t change.
And that wasn’t a good thing for the right-hander or the Red Sox.
Matsuzaka, who had another schizophrenic outing (eight strikeouts, four walks) was locked in a pitcher’s duel, and once again he blinked. Dice-K, nursing a 1-0 lead in the sixth, issued a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and then was tagged for an opposite-field homer to right by Upton that gave the Devil Rays a 2-1 lead.
The homer came on a high-and-away fastball, on Matsuzaka’s 99th pitch of the game. The blast, the 18th surrendered by Matsuzaka this season, was the second and final hit he coughed up last night. Matsuzaka was lifted after six innings, having thrown 111 pitches, only 67 of which were strikes.
It was reminiscent of Dice-K’s first appearance at the Rays’ dome, on July 29. In that one, Tampa Bay and Boston were tied, 0-0, when Dioner Navarro took Matsuzaka deep in the bottom of the seventh. The solo shot sparked the Devil Rays to a 5-2 win, with two of the runs charged to Dice-K.
Of course, with a little more offensive support last night, Matsuzaka wouldn’t have been done in by his one big mistake.
Through the early innings the Red Sox squandered several glittering chances to pull away from the Rays.
The wastefulness began in the third inning when Boston did manage to score a run, but failed to blow the game open right then and there against Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson, who had a 3-12 record and a dreadful earned-run average of 5.69 entering the game.
The inning began with Dustin Pedroia getting hit on the left elbow by a fastball. He stayed in the game and raced to third when Kevin Youkilis lofted a double off the right-field fence. And after Jackson showed he wanted no part of David Ortiz, walking him for the second time in the game, the Red Sox had the bases filled with none out.
That brought up Mike Lowell, hitting in the cleanup spot because Manny Ramirez had the night off from the starting lineup. Lowell has been a hot hitter lately, and has been especially productive against Tampa Bay this year. He was batting .488 (20 for 41).
In this at-bat, Lowell was served up a 3-and-1 cookie from Jackson, and the Boston third baseman crushed it. But he hit it on a line directly at left fielder Carl Crawford.
Pedroia scored on the sacrifice fly, putting Boston on top, 1-0, but that was all the Red Sox were able to manage in the inning because J.D. Drew hit a broken-bat popup to second and Jason Varitek bounced to first.
Boston’s Eric Hinske made it to third base with one out in the fourth on a walk, a stolen base and a throwing error on the play by catcher Josh Paul. But he was stranded. Julio Lugo bounced out to shortstop Josh Wilson with the infield in and Alex Cora, who replaced Pedroia (bruised left elbow) flied to left.
In the fifth, third-base coach DeMarlo Hale got a little giddy with Ortiz’s sudden burst of baserunning speed. Ortiz, who had legged out a triple and an infield single Tuesday night, doubled to left with one out. And when Lowell grounded a single up the middle, Hale waved home the lumbering Ortiz.
But Ortiz took a peek back to the outfield as he was about one-third of the way home, and that cost him a step or two. The throw from B.J. Upton arrived in the air and Paul slapped the tag on the sliding Ortiz for the second out of the inning. Lowell moved up to second on the throw, but after a walk to Drew, Varitek fanned on a 98 mph fastball.
Posted by Corey Bourassa at 10:25 PM | Permalink
July 12, 2007
BOSTON – Over the last few days, as Red Sox enjoyed the break and got ready for the second half of the season, the team’s offensive struggles became one of the few “needs improvement” marks on Boston’s first-half report card.
And while a few members in the Sox’ batting order hadn’t been producing as expected, any time the focus is on Boston’s offense, two names pop to the top of the list.
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Neither one had a stellar first half, especially in terms of home runs.
Ortiz’s problem (14 homers after a club-record 54 a year ago) may be partially attributable to a right knee injury that he said could require postseason surgery, though no MRI was scheduled, according to manager Terry Francona. Ortiz had 52 RBI, 11 fewer than team leader Mike Lowell.
Ramirez had only 11 homers and 45 RBI, well below his norms.
So the second half dawned last night.
Ortiz and Ramirez loudly answered the bell. Neither one homered, but the duo accounted for five RBI, including a key two-out ribbie apiece in the sixth as the Red Sox trimmed the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-4, at Fenway Park.
“This team hasn’t played to its capablities (offensively),” said shortstop Julio Lugo, whose 2-for-4 night raised his average to .201.
“Everybody hasn’t gotten hot yet. Manny and David haven’t gotten hot yet. This is the time for them to get hot. Everybody’s got to get hot sometime,” added Lugo.
Clearly there is no time like the present for Ortiz and Ramirez to heat up.
It was last night’s type of production that the Red Sox have been seeking lately. They ended the first half of the season having scored four runs or less in 16 of their 32 games before the break.
And if they are going to put pressure on the opposition over the stretch run, it has to be the big boppers in the middle of the order, Ortiz and Ramirez, who have to begin carrying this offense.
They started doing that almost immediately last night.
In the first, Ortiz ripped an RBI single to right and Ramirez followed with a run-scoring double into the left-field corner, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead at the expense of Blue Jays’ ace right-hander Roy Halladay.
They teamed up in inflicting a little more damage in the second. Ortiz ripped another single to right, sending J.D. Drew to third, and Ramirez delivered Drew with a sacrifice fly to right, putting Boston ahead, 5-1.
The game tightened up after that, though. Tim Wakefield served up back-to-back gopher balls in the sixth to Matt Stairs and Alex Rios, cutting what had seemed to be a comfortable cushion into a one-run lead, at 5-4.
It was a time in the game that cried out for Ortiz and Ramirez to do something.
And they did, set up by Dustin Pedroia’s tough-at-bat, infield single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Ortiz, facing left-hander Brian Tallet, crushed a sizzling liner to center that played tricks on Vernon Wells, the ball somehow eluding his lunge as he backed up to the fence. Pedroia scored easily, and it was 6-4 game.
Ramirez then greeted Casey Janssen with a ground-ball seed up the middle that glanced off the glove of diving second baseman Aaron Hill and zipped into center field for an RBI single – Ramirez’s third RBI of the game – and a 7-4 advantage for Boston.
While Ramirez got good wood on the ball, it was Ortiz who was especially impressive at the plate last night. In addition to his three hits, he also scalded a lineout before fanning in the eighth after having fouled a ball of his sore right knee.
“David didn’t elevate the ball, but he got two balls through the infield and had that lineout and the ball to center,” said manager Terry Francona. “He’ll hit home runs by mistake like that.”
Ortiz and Ramirez gave the Sox the breathing room they desired and then the bullpen trio of Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon (21st save) made that lead stand up.
“I know there are a lot of reasons every game in important to win, but it’s nice to come out of the gate (for the start of the second half) and get a win,” said Francona.
It also was very nice to see Ortiz and Ramirez produce, albeit without the long ball.
“They’re going to do it at some point,” said Kevin Youkilis of contributions from the heretofore dynamic duo.
“You’re not going to hold those guys down all year. They’re going to drive in runs. If they don’t have 80 or 70 RBI in the first half people think they’re having a bad year. But there still are a lot of games to go,” added Youkilis.
And Ortiz and Ramirez got off to good start in the second half, helping the Red Sox do likewise.
Posted by Thom Cahir at 11:00 PM | Permalink
May 15, 2007
Today on Projo SoxTalk, Steven Krasner joins Art Martone to talk about the Red Sox' nice victory last night over the Detroit Tigers. Click here to listen to the full audio file. Krasner was impressed by Daisuke Matsuzaka, he's still unimpressed by Coco Crisp, and he's not overly optimistic about a quick return from Josh Beckett. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
On Daisuke Matsuzaka: "He looked very good. He looked like the Daisuke that the Red Sox thought they'd be getting, and maybe even sooner than they thought he might adjust to this country and to big league batting orders."
On Coco Crisp's inconsistency: "From what I see, he's a .250 hitter, you know, and he's got some speed. Once he gets on the bases he can cause some havoc, but I'm not convinced he's more than a .250 or a .270 hitter."
On Josh Beckett: "I don't think he'll make that start Friday [his next scheduled appearance] and I wouldnt be surprised if he missed at least two starts and has to go on the DL because he has to miss three. You can't make it heal faster, and even if it heals you still have to give it time beyond that, because he's not going to be able to throw a curveball, let's face it."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:21 AM | Permalink
April 30, 2007
Today on Projo SoxTalk, Steve Krasner talks about the panic in the Bronx as the 9-14 Yankees wonder what's going to happen to their manager. Other topics of discussion: Why Alex Cora probably won't be the regular second baseman anytime soon, and encouraging signs from Manny Ramirez. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:50 AM | Permalink
April 27, 2007
Steve Krasner, who unfortunately was stuck in the airport in Baltimore, took five minutes to join Art Martone on today's edition of Projo SoxTalk. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Today, Krasner and Martone discuss the Yankees' surprising decision to start 20-year-old Phil Hughes (are they panicking?), the Orioles' highly questionable decision to throw fastballs to Wily Mo Pena (Krasner doesn't think this means that the powerful outfielder has really turned a corner), and how Josh Beckett has made himself a 5-0 pitcher. We also speculate on whether they'll be a game tonight in the wet, wet Bronx.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:50 AM | Permalink
April 26, 2007
Today on projo SoxTalk, Steve Krasner speaks to us from his hotel in Baltimore, where last night he saw Curt Schilling put on a vintage performance -- sort of. The results were vintage, but the method was not. As Schilling loses velocity on his fastball, he's forced to rely more on wits.
Here's an excerpt from Steve's conversation with sports editor Art Martone:
Krasner: "He's getting outs, as he says. He's certainly not throwing 96 miles an hour anymore, in fact his fastball is more in the 88-89 range, but he's managing to get outs. He's getting the opposition to swing early in the count, which keeps him in the game longer."
Martone: Do you think eventually this changing style of pitching, the other teams will adopt to it, and that they'll be able to hit him a little bit easier, or do you think he's actually reinveting himself for the maybe third time in his career and is going to be able to continue pitching this way indefinitely?
Krasner: Well he's definitely reinventing himself, and I think quality pitchers are able to learn and adjust to what they have and be able to survive because you're one step ahead of the hitter, or your able to put the ball where you want to. Location obviously is important. I think the opposition will catch up to what he's doing, and I think what that means is maybe they'll be looking more offspeed and not worried that he's going to blow the fastball by them, because at 88-89 they'll be able to react to it. So it's a constant battle of adjustments for everybody, and certainly for Schilling, but when you're a quality pitcher, somehow someway you find ways to get outs."
Krasner and Martone also discuss last night's strange at-bat by Julio Lugo, and last night's great at-bat by David Ortiz. Click here to listen to the full audio.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:50 AM | Permalink
April 25, 2007
Today's guest on Projo SoxTalk with Art Martone is Steve Krasner, who is down in Baltimore for tonight's scheduled game with the Orioles. We say scheduled because the forecast is for steady rain tonight at Camden Yards, so this short two-game series might become even shorter. Barring an unlikely decision to call a double-header tomorrow, a rainout tonight would probably mean the Sox would throw Beckett, Matsuzaka and Wakefield this weekend in New York, rather than Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Tavarez.
Speaking of Tavarez, Art and Steve spoke a little bit about his precarious position in the rotation following last night's rough start against Toronto. Here's what they said:
Martone: I know you weren't at the game last night, but [Tavarez] didn't really pitch that well, and there's a lot of talk now that his spot in the rotation might be in jeopardy.
Krasner: Yeah, I mean, I would think that talk would come up, because with Lester now pitching for Pawtucket -- 85 pitches I believe he's supposed to throw tonight and then one more start, and then his rehab is actually up, so they'd have to make a designation. They'd have to send him somewhere, so who knows, in a week or so Lester could be in the rotation in Boston.
Martone: That's right. In fact, [the PawSox game will start shortly after noon from Rochester], we're going to have the game on the blog, so we'll be blogging that, but one of the interesting things about this was last night they switched [Lester] back to next Tuesday rather than Monday, which is his normal day, and one of the reasons they did that we believe was that it gets him into the Tavarez spot in the rotation.
Krasner: Ah, well there you go. And what that would also do, though, is actually help out the bullpen, because I think Tavarez could be a more effective relief pitcher than some of the guys they have there.
Krasner and Martone also discuss what's going on with Wily Mo Pena. Click here to listen to the full audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:18 AM | Permalink
April 20, 2007
Today, Steve Krasner discusses the coming Yankees-Red Sox series, and what moves you may see over the weekend. Click here to listen to the full audio file.
Here are some excerpts of Krasner's comments:
On whether Papelbon will be available tonight:
"My guess is no ... he's thrown 46 pitches in less than 24 hours, while it was a day game (yesterday), which gives him a little resting time for tonight. I don't know that they're going to tip their hand and say whether he will be able to or not -- but if he is pitching tonight it could be for a very limited number of pitches if they can work it that way."
On who would close in Papelbon's absence:
"I have no clue whatsoever. I don't think there's anybody out there that you can really look at and say, 'Wow, this is the guy we want out there.' Okajima actually has pitched the best out of anybody. ... I think it would fall stricktly to a matchup thing. You could see four pitchers in the ninth inning if they have to."
On whether Alex Cora might play for Dustin Pedroia:
"It's possible. Pedroia certainly is struggling offensively, but otherwise the lineup will be intact. (Terry Francona) rested enough people in Toronto so that everyone will be ready to go."
On whether Francona will play Wily Mo Pena against Andy Pettitte, in place of J.D. Drew:
"I would think he'd want Drew out there. I think he'd want his defense and I think Tito's gone out of his way to say, 'Listen, it's not like this guy can't hit left-handed pitchers.' Tito might be tempted to use Pena; he did have some good swings certainly in Toronto, including this home run, but I would think you go with your best lineup, and I think the best lineup is J.D. Drew behind Manny Ramirez."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:38 AM | Permalink
April 19, 2007
Today, Steve Krasner calls us from Rogers Centre, where the Red Sox are ready to conclude their series with the Blue Jays. He goes over the unusual starting lineup and touches on Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, Doug Mirabelli and Dustin Pedroia.
Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:52 AM | Permalink
April 18, 2007
This morning from Toronto, Steve looks back on Daisuke Matsuzaka's surprising fourth-inning meltdown. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:00 AM | Permalink
April 17, 2007
Today, we call Steve Krasner in Toronto to talk about the coming series with the second-place Blue Jays, and to review the Red Sox' offensive explosion against the Angels. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:43 AM | Permalink
April 12, 2007
Today, Steve Krasner explains how Seattle's young Felix Hernandez shut down the Red Sox and upstaged the debut of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:03 AM | Permalink
April 10, 2007
The third-base coach has to know the arm strength and accuracy of the opposition's outfielders.
That knowledge tells him, along with the variable of the baserunner's speed, when to send a guy home.
Give Boston's third-base coach, DeMarlo Hale, a high grade for doing his homework.
With catcher Jason Varitek on second base and Dustin Pedroia at first in the third inning, Julio Lugo banged a bad-hop single off third baseman Adrian Beltre's midsection. The ball ricocheted into left field, where left fielder Raul Ibanez chased it down.
Ibanez picked up the ball in relatively shallow left as Varitek was just rounding the third-base bag. Hale waved home Varitek, gambling that an expected weak throw from Ibanez would allow the slow-footed catcher to score.
Hale was right.
Varitek beat the weak one-hop throw, and the Sox got a bonus when the ball hit Varitek and rolled away from home plate, permitting Pedroia and Lugo to each move up an extra base.
-- STEVEN KRASNER
Posted by Steven Krasner at 3:55 PM | Permalink
With some pitchers, you can tune into a game for one pitch and see a camera shot of the pitcher and know exactly from the body language that it's a bad day.
Derek Lowe was like that.
So is the Mariners' Jeff Weaver.
Yesterday the enigmatic right-hander, who hadn't pitched since March 31, could not find the plate in the first inning. His first six pitches were out of the strike zone. And his control was spotty, at best, throughout the inning.
As each pitch missed, Weaver, his shoulders slumped, would turn and look into the dugout as if pleading that either he wanted to get in out of the cold or he was upset the plate umpire was squeezing him.
Pitching coach Rafael Chavez did make a visit at one point, but manager Mike Hargrove, whose Mariners hadn't played since last Wednesday because of snowouts in Cleveland, resisted the urge to get up a reliever in the bullpen, clearly hoping Weaver could shake off the rust.
That is, until Coco Crisp yanked Weaver's 43rd pitch inside the first-base line for a ground-rule, two-run double, putting Boston on top, 4-0. At that point, left-hander Jake Woods began throwing.
Weaver finally ended the inning on his 47th pitch (only 22 of which were strikes), retiring Dustin Pedroia on a fly ball to left.
Weaver's body language didn't get any better in the second inning. He dejectedly walked around the mound as Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis led off with doubles into the left-field corner. And when J.D. Drew's one-handed fly ball to center floated into the seats for a two-run homer and a 7-0 Sox lead, Weaver, hands on hips in disbelief the ball had gone out, once again stared into the Mariners' dugout, seeking the hook or sympathy.
Neither came. He finished the inning as Woods continued to throw in the bullpen, as he had been doing all inning.
-- STEVEN KRASNER
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:29 PM | Permalink
April 1, 2007
Just in time for Opening Day, we're relaunching SoxBlog with a new look and expanded Sox coverage. Providence Journal sports columnists Sean McAdam, Joe McDonald, Steve Krasner and sports editor Art Martone will each have their own side blogs.
Mannybeingmanny will follow the man through the season, Streakers will track who's hot and who's way not.
These are just the first of the new features we've planned. The 2007 season is just beginning...
Meanwhile, I'm debugging this morning. If anything seems a little squirrely, it should be all better by tomorrow.
Posted by Sheila Lennon at 8:54 AM | Permalink