July 31, 2009

G102: Red Sox 6, Orioles 5

Red Sox - 012 010 200 - 6 11  2
Orioles - 003 002 000 - 5 9 0
Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning and Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the win with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Smoltz could not hold a 3-0 lead (David Ortiz clocked a two-run dong in the third) and Baltimore tied it right away. Jacoby Ellsbury whacked a solo shot to start the fifth and he was on board when Yook went yard two innings later. LBJ was 3-for-5 with two singles, a homer, 2 runs scored, an RBI, a stolen base and a dong-robbing catch on Luke Scott to end the Orioles sixth.

Yook singled twice in addition to his homer. ... Josh Reddick (#68) made his major league debut when he pinch-hit for Rocco Baldelli to lead off the top of the ninth. He grounded out to shortstop on a 0-1 pitch and played RF for the bottom of the inning. ... The 5-6-7-8-9 spots in the Red Sox order went 2-for-16.

Smoltz (6-8-5-0-2, 87) was relieved by Ramon Ramirez (1B, F7, E1, 5U, 6-4), Hideki Okajima (K, BB, BB, PF3, L1) and Bot (K, F8, K).John Smoltz (7.04, 66 ERA+) / Jeremy Guthrie (5.21, 88 ERA+)

Boston is currently 2.5 GB New York. Yankees/White Sox at 8 PM.Check out the very last sentence in this ESPN story on Victor Martinez:
But a bigger deal, for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, fell apart when Boston refused to part with both Buchholz and reliever Daniel Bard.
One other story from last week worth noting: Kevin Youkilis had three friends who committed suicide when he was young and his Hits for Kids foundation is raising money for Riverside Trauma Center and its efforts to prevent youth suicide.

Red Sox Trade For Victor Martinez

In:
Victor Martinez C/1B/DH (Cleveland)
Casey Kotchman 1B (Atlanta)
Chris Duncan LF (Cardinals)
Brian Anderson CF (White Sox)
Out:
Justin Masterson P (Cleveland)
Adam LaRoche 1B (Atlanta)
Julio Lugo SS (Cardinals)
Mark Kotsay 1B (White Sox)
Nick Hagadone P (Cleveland)
Bryan Price P (Cleveland)
Hunter Strickland P (Pirates)
Argenis Diaz SS (Pirates)
Still Here:
Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Casey Kelly, Ryan Westmoreland, etc.

UPDATE II: Adam LaRoche has been traded to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman. The Red Sox confirmed this one right away.UPDATE: The Red Sox have traded pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price for Victor Martinez.

There are reports that if the Martinez deal goes through, Adam LaRoche will be sent to the Mets. ... The arrival of Martinez has to signal the end of the George Kottaras Era, as well.
USAToday's Bob Nightengale reports that the Red Sox are very close to trading for Cleveland's Victor Martinez.

Fox says neither Clay Buchholz nor Daniel Bard is part of the deal.

The Games Are Legit

The idea that any team's championship is "tainted" because one or two or seven of the players on the 25-man roster used performance-enhancing drugs is ignorant of history, completely lacking in common sense and has no place in any even semi-intelligent discussion of the issue.

The games were the games. The results and records are final -- and absolutely legitimate. The Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. The Yankees won the 2000 World Series. The Reds won the 1919 World Series.

No player's career totals should be revised or otherwise singled out for special notation.

Two quick examples: Norm Cash admitted that he used corked bats when he won the 1961 American League batting title. Should his stats be erased? Gaylord Perry said he routinely cheated during his pitching career. Should Perry's Hall of Fame plaque be tossed in the trash?

Baseball players are human. Therefore, baseball players will sometimes do unethical or illegal or damaging things to themselves to gain an edge on their opponents. No one should be surprised by this.

And anyone thinking that the game can be "cleaned up", that all the evil doers can be named and shamed and then the sun can once again shine over our great game is a moron. Kind of like the people who think the US was a beacon of democracy and niceness before Bush/Cheney rolled into DC and effed everything up. I hear that and I think you cannot possibly be that stupid.
Bronson Arroyo admitted yesterday that he has used both androstenedione and amphetamines -- and would not be surprised if his name was on the infamous 2003 list.
Before 2004, none of us paid any attention to anything we took. Now they don't want us to take anything unless it's approved. But back then, who knows what was in stuff? The FDA wasn't regulating stuff, not unless it was killing people or people were dying from it.
Arroyo began taking andro after 1998 -- and he loved it.
I felt like a monster. I felt like I could jump and hit my head on the basketball rim.
Arroyo said he stopped using andro in 2004 (only because he heard that it could contain some known steroids, such as Winstrol) and quit taking amphetamines in 2006.
Meanwhile, the traded deadline ends in a few hours. Keep F5-ing the Globe's Extra Bases.

Red Sox Still Working Out Pitching Philosophies With Matsuzaka

Before the Ortiz news hit, I thought Daisuke Matsuzaka's negative comments about the Red Sox organization's pitching philosophies (published by the Globe on Tuesday) would be the big story to come home to.

While in Florida, Dice spoke to a Japanese reporter:
If I'm forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan. The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the major leagues, I couldn't train in my own way, so now I've lost all those savings.
Both John Farrell and Terry Francona said they were disappointed by the comments, but were also uncharacteristically blunt in their responses.

Farrell:
[B]ut there has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player. So the disappointment comes from [him] basically airing his dirty laundry.
Francona:
At times, he's been his own pitching coach. ... I've talked to Dice and Masa [translator Masa Hoshino]. I've had enough. I think they've had enough of me.
Take this with a grain (or pillar) of salt, but here are some CHB's observations:
The Sox are frustrated. They have done everything they can to accommodate Matsuzaka. They are angry that he puts the World Baseball Classic ahead of the World Series. They think he was out of shape when he reported this year. ... He never seems to be part of the team - even on days he pitches.
Tito and Dice spoke on Wednesday and the manager thought it went well. Francona also mentioned past discussions/issues with Matsuzaka:
Pitch counts. I know it bothered him, it ate at him. I understood that. Trips to the mound sometimes, he didn't view it like we do. Well, I want to understand it. When John Farrell makes a trip to the mound, we're not trying to get in the way of the game, we're trying to help. But if it doesn't help, we want to know why. So we're trying to learn.

I don't think it's fair for us to expect him to come to the United States, join our team, and jump on board with everything we've done when he hasn't done that his whole life. [But] there are things we're not willing to bend on because of health and productivity and he understands that. Don't know that he fully agrees, which I don't know that I would either if I grew up in a different environment with different training methods. ... We're still working on it.
Predictably, Matsuzaka issued a statement on Thursday, softening the rough edges of what had been previous reported:
I want to correct some misunderstandings. I did not go public with any complaints and I regret that some of my private conversations were made public without my knowledge or consent. Also, I never said in public or in private conversation that: "If I'm forced to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan."

I had no intention of criticizing the team and we are, in fact, working together to communicate, to exchange ideas, and to try to understand one another's baseball culture as we move forward. The team and I have had many meetings and conversations, and after shaking hands with the general manager, manager, and coaches on [July 24], I was able to resume my training in a good state of mind.
The Red Sox will check in with Matsuzaka's progress when the team is in Tampa Bay next Tuesday.

July 30, 2009

Ortiz "Blindsided" By Positive Drug Test, Promises To Share All Information

Small update below.

David Ortiz:
Today I was informed by a reporter that I was on the 2003 list of MLB players to test positive for performance-enhancing substances. This happened right before our game, and the news blindsided me. I said I had no comment because I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

I want to talk about this situation and I will as soon as I have more answers. In the meantime I want to let you know how I am approaching this situation. One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive. Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me - I will not hide and I will not make excuses.

I want to thank my family, the Red Sox, my teammates, and the fans for their patience and support.
Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reported this morning that both Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tested positive in 2003.

As you can see from this screenshot of this Globe webpage -- 11:30 PM Thursday -- both Tony Massarotti and Dan Shaughnessy have chosen to immediately jump to the conclusion that "Big Papi is a myth", he is "forever damaged", and "his entire Red Sox career is a lie".

Me, I'm going to save my judgment until more information is known. That may not be the norm among sports columnists -- where the goal often seems to be proclaiming louder and more self-righteously from the rooftops than anyone else -- but what do I know? I'm a mere blogger.

Notice that these mainstream pundits are doing exactly what they deride bloggers of doing -- passing immediate judgment before all the facts are known.

Back

Home at 8:30! Ended up not hearing *any* of this afternoon's game. In fact, we did not even get a score until 6:30 or so. Nice of the Red Sox to split the series and lose both games we were at .... Booooooo.

It seems there was some other Red Sox-related story today, no? I think L and I listened to more sports radio this afternoon than we have in our entire lives.

G101: Red Sox 8, Athletics 5

Athletics - 000 004 100 - 5 10  0
Red Sox - 010 002 32x - 8 10 0
Gio Gonzalez (7.75, 53 ERA+) / Jon Lester (3.79, 123 ERA+)

Driving home today, hope to catch the game on the car radio.

Gamethread: Check either ish's blog or ThreadSox.

July 29, 2009

G100: Athletics 8, Red Sox 6

Athletics - 500 012 000 - 8 10  2
Red Sox - 300 000 111 - 6 9 1
Brett Anderson (4.32) / Brad Penny (4.71)

If you are at this game, feel free to stop by Section 19, Row 14 of the Grandstand and say hello to Laura and me.

Gamethread: Check either ish's blog or ThreadSox.

July 28, 2009

G99: Athletics 9, Red Sox 8 (11)

Athletics - 020 000 113 02 - 9 21  0
Red Sox - 005 001 010 01 - 8 14 3
Vin Mazzaro (4.75) / Clay Buchholz (3.72)

JoSapalooza I

There are 20 FoJoS (friends of Joy of Sox) in the left field pavilion. If you are at the game, feel free to swing by Section 18, Rows F & G of the Left Field Pavilion and say Hi.

Gamethread: Check either ish's blog or ThreadSox.

July 27, 2009

G98: Red Sox 8, Athletics 3

Athletics - 000 001 110 - 3  9  0
Red Sox - 101 310 20x - 8 14 1
Trevor Cahill (4.50, 90 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.42, 136 ERA+)

Cahill faced the Red Sox in Fenway earlier this month. On July 8, he threw five shutout innings, allowing only one hit, before J.D. Drew opened the sixth with a solo home run. Dustin Pedroia singled, Kevin Youkilis walked, and David Ortiz belted a three-run dong. The Red Sox won 5-4.

On July 7, Beckett went 6.2 innings against Oakland, allowing two runs, in a 5-2 win. He has a 2.44 in nine Fenway starts this year.

Gamethread: Check either ish's blog or ThreadSox.

Off To Boston

We drive to Boston this morning! We are attending two of the four games against Oakland. It's the first time games Laura and I have been at Fenway Park in more than four years.

Tuesday's night game is also JoSapalooza I. Nine commenters, along with various family members and/or friends (and one non-JoS mystery guest!), will gather for dinner beforehand and then have a live in-park gamethread!

Laura and I are taking the Fenway tour earlier in the day -- I think it's the third time for me -- and we're going on Wednesday night by ourselves.

As far as threads for all four games, see either ish's blog or ThreadSox. (I'll have posts go up with the various games, but probably very little else.)

I have a four-game winning streak (at least) at Fenway:
April 6, 2001 - 1918 is finally out and I'm in Boston for an early morning TV appearance. No ticket for the game, but I'm in a bar beyond left field when Manny crushes the first pitch he sees as a Sock in Fenway for a three-run dong. Bedlam! A security guard lets me into the park for the ninth inning to watch Rolando Arrojo nail down an 11-4 win over the Devil Rays.
September 22, 2003 - In Boston for a book-reading at a B&N. Jeff Suppan goes six innings and it's tater time for Manny, Flo and Trot as the Sox edge the Orioles 7-5. (The next night would have been the game to see!)
May 8, 2004 - SoSH BaSH game. And, appropriately enough, Gehrig38 is on the mound! Curt throws a complete game and Pokey Reese hits two home runs, one of them an inside-the-parker into the right field corner, where we are seated. The Royals are routed 9-1.
July 20, 2005 - Laura and I drive from New York for a day game in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the day we met. The Sox get six runs in the first inning -- Tampa Bay starter Mark Hendrickson faces only six batters and gets none of them out -- and cruise to a 9-4 victory.

Bill Madden, Bill James & Dinosaurs

Bill Madden, Daily News, July 26, 2009 (my emphasis):
The stat geek Bill James, who has made a fortune taking credit for having invented on-base percentage, last week revealed to the waiting world his position paper on steroids in baseball, which, essentially says that there is no harm in steroids and steroids have had no harm on baseball. ...
First of all, James's article is here (pdf). It's probably best if you read it yourself. It's not James at his best, but he does raise many points for discussion. I want to focus on Madden's insults.

James is looking damn good for his age, because on-base percentage has its roots in a statistic called "Reached First Base", first used by the National League in 1879.

In The Numbers Game, Alan Schwarz outlines the genesis of the still-raging battle over which statistics are best at evaluating a player's performance. Henry Chadwick -- the man who invented the box score -- came up with what would much later be known as "Range Factor" for fielders in 1872.

In 1917, F.C. Lane -- the top writer at Baseball Magazine, sort of the Peter Gammons of the Deadball Era -- understood the value of simply getting on base, whether by a hit or a walk. He knew instinctively that a guy who batted .300 with no walks was far less productive than a guy who hit .260 with a ton of walks. Many players of the time, including Johnny Evers, agreed.

In the late 1940s, Branch Rickey hired statistician Allan Roth (Canadian!) to compute the Dodgers' batting averages in every ball-strike count, splits against left- and right-handed pitchers, spray charts for batters, bunting success rates, and pitch counts.

It's common sense: when a batter steps into the box, he has one goal. Not to make an out. Which means getting on base. Yet it is cement-heads like Madden who have, down through the decades, resisted the use of common sense in baseball.
I can only suppose James also agrees with Carl Everett that dinosaurs never existed and men never walked on the moon.
Madden here adopts the favourite debating tactic of nine-year-olds. (It's also amusing that Madden brings up dinosaurs while remaining ignorant of statistics that have been around the game for almost 140 years.)

Instead of discussing James's points with intelligence like an adult, Madden simply says that because James believes something that Madden thinks is nutty, then it follows that James must believe all sorts of silly things. Case closed. And as everyone knows, the average American is highly adverse to ever taking a pill of any kind to address a problem he or she might have. P.S. Baseball players have been taking certain kinds of "good" steroids -- like cortisone -- for decades.
Then again, didn't he just tell us a couple of years ago that teams would be more successful bringing their closers into the game in the seventh inning
No. He did not. And Madden should (and probably does) know this. Why he is pretending to look like an idiot before a national audience, I could not tell you.

It is not a stretch to say that Bill James has been the most important/influential person in baseball over the last thirty years. Madden, as one of the game's most veteran sportswriters, should make it his business to understand James's theories.

What James has always said -- and what anyone not already schooled/brainwashed in the "traditional" way of thinking about baseball would regard as common sense -- is that a manager should use his best available pitcher in the situation where he feels the game is most on the line.

That pivotal moment might come in the seventh inning, or the eighth inning, or the ninth inning. It probably would not occur in the sixth or earlier since his team would presumably have enough at-bats to potentially mount a comeback, if necessary.

Madden and other sportswriters understand this concept from other angles. We often hear that, in a pinch, a pitcher should go with his best stuff and not risk getting beat on his 3rd-best pitch. James's proposal is exactly the same. Why bring in your 4th-best relief pitcher at the most important part of the game while your top or #2 reliever sits in the pen? Why save "the closer" for the ninth inning, at which point the game may have been lost an inning or two ago?
and that bullpens-by-committee were the way to go?
You're getting warmer. The "committee" idea is not, as one former Red Sox manager seemed to believe, akin to pulling names out of a hat and putting whoever was picked into the game. It's simply another way of saying "use your best available pitcher in the tightest spot".

For example, if the Red Sox are up 2-1 and the Yankees have two men on and no outs in the eighth inning of a critical game, the best move for Terry Francona may be to bring in Jonathan Papelbon to try to keep the Yankees from tying the game or taking a lead. Then, in the ninth with no one on base, another pitcher -- Tito's 2nd-best arm -- could get the final three outs.

Of course, if Manny Delcarmen or Ramon Ramirez coughs up the game in the ninth, Tito likely would catch hell for not playing by "the book". But who knows? Maybe MDC would have done the same thing in the 7th or 8th, the Yankees would be up 5-3 by the ninth and Papelbon would have never taken his jacket off. ... And it's not like closers never blow games.

July 26, 2009

In The Booth

NESN's Don Orsillo has had at least eight different partners in the booth this season as Jerry Remy recovers from lung cancer surgery. None of them have been as good as Gordon Edes, who filled in for the Orioles series this weekend.

Edes, who was at the Globe for nearly 12 years before moving to Yahoo! Sports last August, did not offer too much analysis, but NESN viewers weren't getting much of from anyone, anyway. What he did offer was concise news on what's going on throughout baseball (including the National League!), trade rumours, what teams are looking for as the trading deadline nears and who they are shopping. He had good information on the Orioles' young pitchers.

Sadly, it all came as a shock because we've never heard this fresh insight from Remy, or any of the other fill-ins this year.

Edes was low-key, but the last thing I want to hear is a pompous McCarver/Sutcliffe-type proclaiming his opinions loudly and insistently. He also had a nice easy rapport with Orsillo. And he spoke when he had something to say, knowing that quiet (on a TV broadcast) is not something to fear; rather, it shows the announcer understands and is in tune with the flow of the game.

I heard Jim Kaat for only a handful of innings -- I'm not sure how many games he did -- and it seemed he talked more about pitching in general, rather than anything specific to the Red Sox. Nevertheless, he'd be a great replacement if Remy cannot return.

Once Dennis Eckersley toned down his slang and sat upright in his chair, he has been pretty good, though he still gives us more shtick than insight into various strategies on the field.

I'll love Dave Roberts forever for 2004, but he has been an utter disaster in the booth. All he seems capable of doing is narrating the replays, describing exactly what we saw and what Orsillo just finished calling. Then he wraps it up with "that's a good piece of hitting" or "he didn't give in to the pitcher" or "he didn't give in to the hitter" some other worthless cliche. And if I had a dime for every time he says "you know", I could buy out Tom Werner's stake in the team.

I say all this knowing that calling a game must be incredibly difficult and learning on the job cannot be easy. It is unfair to pass judgment on someone based on a week or a month, or maybe even a season, of games. However, while Eck has clearly improved, Roberts has not. (With the Extra Innings package, I'm not always given the NESN feed, so I'm always happy when I do. Lately, however, I have been muting games so as not to start grinding my teeth the second I hear Roberts's voice.)

Also: Orsillo did the first three innings of one game by himself in the early part of this season and was a revelation. With Remy, he rarely did anything other than strict play-by-play, along with too-long recitations of an opposing player's career or a stream of numbers from the press notes. Flying solo, though, he ditched that and proved to be extremely adept at both calling the game and doing analysis. I loved it. (Did he work by himself when he did PawSox radio?)

I have no idea what NESN is going to do -- or if Remy will try to return this year or next -- but Kaat, after getting some schooling on what's going on in the Sox organization, would be a fantastic addition to the NESN team. I'd also be happy with Announcer Boy going it alone.

G97: Orioles 6, Red Sox 2

Orioles - 103 110 000 - 6 10  1
Red Sox - 000 010 010 - 2 6 0
Smoltz (5-9-6-1-6, 83) has been annoyed with himself for being unable to slam the door on a rally and record the third out in an inning without allowing a run. He had the same problem today; four of Baltimore's six runs scored with two outs.

In the third, the Orioles had a man on second and two outs. But Smoltz allowed back-to-back RBI doubles to Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold and, after a visit from John Farrell, gave up a run-scoring single to Ty Wigginton. Boston trailed 4-1. With two outs in the fourth, Brian Roberts singled and Felix Pie doubled him in.

The Sox could do little with Hernandez, who retired the first nine batters and 13 of the first 14. Jacoby Ellsbury and Adam LaRoche each had two singles.

The Yankees beat the A's 7-5, so Boston is back to 2.5 GB.
David Hernandez (3.55, 128 ERA+) / John Smoltz (6.31, 74 ERA+)

Hernandez is a rookie right-handeder with seven games (six starts) under his belt. He's fortunate to have a good ERA considering how many baserunners he's allowed: 41 hits and 15 walks in 38 innings (1.474 WHIP).

Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek have the afternoon off.

Also: Athletics/Yankees at 1 PM.

July 25, 2009

G96: Red Sox 7, Orioles 2

Orioles - 000 200 000 - 2 10  0
Red Sox - 310 100 02x - 7 10 1
David Ortiz clubbed a three-run home run to dead center in the first and Adam LaRoche went the other way in the eighth for a two-run Monster dong to lead Boston to victory. Lester (7.1-8-2-2-9, 109) had another strong outing and the Red Sox are now 1.5 GB in the East.

Other good hitting news: Jacoby Ellsbury had two doubles and two RBI and Jason Bay singled, doubled and walked. Daniel Bard (.2 IP) and Ramon Ramirez (1 IP), both of whom have had little work since the break, finished up for Lester.
Jeremy Guthrie (5.12, 89 ERA+) / Jon Lester (3.87, 120 ERA+)

Adam LaRoche will likely get his first start in a Red Sox uniform tonight.

[Update: He's at first base, batting 7th, wearing #23. However, Kevin Youkilis has the night off, so Mike Lowell remains at third.]

LaRoche, on his expected playing time:
I've talked with Tito a little bit, but we haven't discussed whether it's going to be a platoon situation, or once a week, or never, or every day. I have no idea. I told Tito that I'm pretty easy, and I'm not going to complain much. You tell me when you want me to play, and I'll be out there.
And:
To come over and play for this club and have a chance to move forward in the playoffs is something that, when it happened my first two years in Atlanta [2004-05], I think I took it for granted. We haven't been anywhere close the last few years with Pittsburgh. I can handle not playing as much if we have a chance to play in October.
Lester has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his past nine starts. He has not allowed an earned run to the Orioles this year: seven shutout inning on both April 19 and June 29. ... Guthrie has given up 22 home runs this year, the most in the American League; he's actually tied with Joe Saunders. ... In five games since returning from the DL, Mike Lowell has hit .412 (7-for-17).

Also: A's/Yankees at 1 PM.

Schilling On Papelbon's Inconsistency

Posted to SoSH, Friday at 11:30 PM:
Couple things.

1) The gun reads what they want it to read on some nights, first hand knowledge and experience of that:)

2) Paps has much less fast ball command this year than in years past, it happens.

3) His split is less consistent this year, not getting the drop as much. That happens to as your middle finger tends to 'bow' towards your pinky the longer you throw the pitch, eventually (at least for me) requiring a grip change to get consistent action. Mine was caused by the dreaded finger moving while at the same time arm speed dropping due to labrum tear. Arm speed = #1 pre-req for split movement.

4) I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pap rules start to change if the team does in fact envision him moving on. Why protect an asset you will not control?

5) I'd still take him as my closer over anyone other than Mo or Nathan.
#4 interests me a lot. If the Red Sox believe Papelbon is likely to become a free agent after 2011 (and ask for more $ than the team believes it should pay for a 31-year-old closer), would they start overworking him?

brimac noted that Papelbon has allowed 1.36 baserunners per inning this season. He then offered a "scattered sampling" of other closers and their BR/IP (stats do not include last night):
Nathan     0.81
Rivera 0.85
Broxton 0.94
Hoffman 1.02
Cordero 1.11
K-Rod 1.19
Sherrill 1.12
Jenks 1.35
Papelbon 1.36
Capps 1.75
brimac included HBP in his totals; that's why this 1.36 number is slightly higher than Bot's 1.31 WHIP.

July 24, 2009

G95: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Orioles - 010 000 000 - 1  7  0
Red Sox - 000 210 00x - 3 9 1
J.D. Drew snapped an 0-for-24 slide with a single to start the fourth. Mike Lowell followed with a double and Jason Varitek singled to tie the game at 1-1. Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly gave the Red Sox its first multi-run inning since the 5th inning last Friday and a lead the team did not surrender.

Jonathan Papelbon had a dicey ninth, however, as the Adam Jones and Nick Markakis singled and, after Aubrey Huff was sawed off and popped to short, Nolan Reimold walked to load the bases. Bot bore down and struck out both Luke Scott and Melvin Mora for the win.

Penny (6.1-5-1-0-4, 108) was strong, not allowing more than one hit/baserunner in any inning. The run he allowed was unearned; Reimold singled, stole second, took third when Varitek's throw sailed into center field, and scored on a sac fly. After that single, Penny retired 15 of the next 17 batters. With one out in the seventh, he gave up a double to Reimold (who was 3-for-3 with a walk tonight) and Tito quickly went to the pen.

Dustin Pedroia had three singles and Jason Bay had a single and a walk. Kevin Youkilis had a rough night, striking out swinging three times, although he did draw a walk and score Boston's third run, on Drew's fielder's choice.

The Yankees beat the A's 8-3, so Boston remains 2.5 GB.
Brad Bergesen (3.51, 130 ERA+) / Brad Penny (5.02, 93 ERA+)

The Red Sox are back home, where they have an MLB-best 31-14 record this year, to face the Orioles and A's. It's time to win a game or six.

Adam LaRoche has been activated. Mark Kotsay was placed on waivers this afternoon. If no team claims him within 48 hours, the Red Sox can either release him outright or send him to the minor leagues.

Bergensen makes his second start of the season against the Red Sox. On July 1, he allowed only one run in eight innings, but got a no decision. Down 5-1 with three outs to go, Boston ralled for four runs in the top of the ninth inning -- won 6-5 in 11. Canada Day miracle!

Penny also faced the Orioles earlier this year. On April 17, he lasted only three innings and allowed six hits, five walks, and eight runs. Yet he avoided a loss as Boston rallied from a 7-0 hole and won 10-8.

The Globe's Adam Kilgore looks at some Pitch F/X data on John Smoltz's starts. ... Jason Varitek has allowed 71 stolen bases this season, the most in the majors by a large margin; A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox is second, with 60. Runners have been successfuly against Tek 91% of the time -- the Rangers were 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts in their three-game sweep earlier this week -- ranking him last in baseball.

Also at 7: A's/Yankees.

Rice's #14 To Be Retired

Jim Rice's #14 will be retired by the Red Sox before next Tuesday's game against the Athletics.

Rice will be inducted to the Hall of Fame, along with Rickey Henderson and Joe Gordon, this weekend. (The Globe has a lot of Rice stuff today.)

Rice will be the seventh Boston player to have his number retired, following Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Johnny Pesky (6), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9) and Carlton Fisk (27).

The Joy of Sox gathering is also that night. I have one ticket left, so if anyone out there wants to attend, let me know.

Five Years Ago

Happy Anniversary!






video






Me, that evening:
The Game Of The Year. I'm speechless.

Today's game had it all -- a brawl featuring A-Rod and Varitek, 4 Red Sox errors (including 3 on three consecutive plays), New York taking a quick 3-0 lead, Boston coming back 4-3 (with 4 hits on four consecutive pitches in the 4th), Tito getting ejected, blowing the lead and trailing 9-4, cutting the gap to 9-8, falling back 10-8, and then winning the game 11-10 with a 2-run Mueller home run off Rivera in the 9th. ... And two perfect innings from Ramiro Mendoza.

Every batter Rivera faced -- all five -- hit the ball hard. ...

This game could really turn this team around. They played hard Friday, but fell short. Today, they stormed right back after both the fight and the Yankees' 6-run 6th and puts several runs on the board. ... I'm ready for a 20-4 run. I believe! How about you?
(box score)

It took a couple of weeks to get going, but from August 10 to September 3, the Red Sox went 20-3!

July 23, 2009

Off-Day Outtakes: Van Halen

Fact: The only Van Halen albums worth listening to are the first four -- I, II, Women And Children First, Fair Warning -- though I'll admit Diver Down has its moments. I'm amazed at how many songs from their first six albums these guys had written before they were even signed.

Cherokee Demos (1974)
01  Angel Eyes 
02 Believe Me
03 Simple Rhyme
04 Take Your Whiskey Home
Hound Dog Demos (1975-1976)
01  Guitar Instrumental (w/Somebody Get Me A Doctor riffs)
02 (Studio Talk)
03 Babe Don't Leave Me Alone
04 Fools
05 Ice Cream Man
06 She's The Woman
07 Woman In Love
Zero (1976 -- Produced: Gene Simmons/Remastered: thir13en)
01  On Fire
02 Woman In Love
03 House Of Pain
04 Runnin' With the Devil
05 She's the Woman (used in Mean Streets)
06 Let's Get Rockin'
07 Big Trouble
08 Somebody Get Me a Doctor
09 Babe, Don't Leave Me Alone
10 Put Out the Lights
Warner Brothers Demo (1977)
Disc 1
01 Feel Your Love Tonight
02 I'm The One
03 Runnin' With The Devil
04 Voodoo Queen (evolved into Mean Streets)
05 Little Dreamer
06 Last Night (evolved into Hang 'Em High)
07 Somebody Get Me A Doctor
08 Light In The Sky
09 Get The Show On The Road
10 Babe Don't Leave Me Alone
11 Big Trouble
12 On Fire

Disc 2
01 She's The Woman (used in Mean Streets)
02 I Wanna Be Your Lover
03 Bring On The Girls (aka Beautiful Girls)
04 We Die Bold
05 Young And Wild
06 Let's Get Rockin'
07 Put Out The Lights
08 House Of Pain
09 In A Simple Rhyme
10 You Really Got Me
11 Happy Trails
12 Gonna Take A Lotta Drugs
Women And Children First sessions
01  And The Cradle Will Rock ...
02 Romeo Delight
03 (Instrumental) (aka Act Like It Hurts, aka Tora! Tora!)
04 Everybody Wants Some
05 Loss Of Control
06 Take Your Whiskey Home
07 Fools
08 In A Simple Rhyme
09 Take Your Whiskey Home (intro only)
(samples at 192, downloads at 256)

July 22, 2009

G94: Rangers 3, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 001 000 000 - 1  6  0
Rangers - 001 200 00x - 3 10 0
Clay went only 4.
Green donged, but what else? Fuck all!
Day off - clear our heads.
Clay Buchholz (1.59, 292 ERA+) / Dustin Nippert (5.40, 82 ERA+)

Update: Vicente Padilla (4.67, 95 ERA+) scratched, flu-like symptoms. Nippert has pitched in four games this season, all in July, two starts and two relief: 10 innings, 13 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Also: Adam LaRoche will join the team in Boston on Friday. The Yankees beat the Orioles 6-4 this afternoon.
Adam Kilgore, Globe:
On Friday, Clay Buchholz walked around the Red Sox clubhouse in Toronto and shook hands with some of his closest teammates. ... "Hopefully I'll see you soon," Buchholz told them. ...

Buchholz [had] assumed he would rejoin Boston in September or maybe next season.

Buchholz has thrown 104.2 innings total this season, and the Red Sox wanted him to take a scheduled, one-start sabbatical. He would rest for two days and then resume his usual throwing schedule.

The next day, Buchholz received a call from a Sox official telling him to throw. A day later, he was told to throw a complete bullpen session. "I sort of knew what was going on without them telling me."

1 PM: Orioles/Yankees.
Tim Wakefield, on the "sharp pain in my glute area":
I felt a little twinge on Friday on my way to Toronto, and I had a lot of work to do that day - threw a simulated game. I felt fine, but just afterwards it just tightened up on me. ... I've been getting treatment every day. ... It's just a minor setback.
Wake said he was "very confident" that he will be 100% by the time he is eligible to come off the DL on August 2 -- his 43rd birthday.

David Ortiz:
It happens, man. It's not always going to be roses and flowers. We go through this every year. There will be a point we'll get out of it. You just have to keep on fighting.

Lugo Traded To Cardinals

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have agreed to swap Chris Duncan for Julio Lugo.

I wouldn't care if it was Sandy Duncan or Duncan Hines, but Chris Duncan is an actual major league outfielder. Had a hell of a 2006, hitting only .227/.329/.358 this year. He is also MFY Shelly Duncan's brother.

He has options, so he's likely bound for the Bucket.

Gammons: Red Sox Rejected Trade Of Buchholz For Victor Martinez

Gammons:
On the Adam LaRoche deal: The Red Sox have been searching for ways to upgrade their sliding offense for weeks. This deal has been on the table for three weeks, and after losing their fourth straight game on Tuesday and declining to trade Clay Buchholz for Victor Martinez, Theo Epstein took LaRoche. ...

The Red Sox felt they had to move Wednesday because the Pirates had a deal to send LaRoche to another team in exchange for a better offer than Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland, but Boston was willing to take on his entire salary.

Sox Trade For Adam LaRoche

The Red Sox have traded for Pittsburgh's Adam LaRoche.

UPDATE, 1:15: WEEI says the Pirates are getting Greenville (A) pitcher Hunter Strickland and Portland (AA) shortstop Argenis Diaz.

Post-Gazette:
12:46 p.m.: Strange, but LaRoche is still sitting in the Pirates' dugout during the game. Hard to tell if he has a uniform on because he is wearing a jacket over the jersey, but he is wearing a Pirates cap. Could be that the Pirates are awaiting paperwork to be completed.
No word yet on who the Red Sox are sending to Pittsburgh.
       AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
2004 .278 .333 .488 .821 108
2005 .259 .320 .455 .775 100
2006 .285 .354 .561 .915 130
2007 .272 .345 .458 .803 108
2008 .270 .341 .500 .841 123
2009 .247 .329 .441 .770 108
This is an upgrade over Mark Kotsay. LHB LaRoche, 29, will most likely play first against against right-handers, with Youkilis moving to third base. Mike Lowell has a .903 OPS against lefties this season.

LaRoche has also been a much better hitter in the second half. The past three seasons, post-July 1 (grabbed from SoSH):
2006: .324 AVG  53 RS  19 HR  50 RBI
2007: .321 AVG 40 RS 11 HR 43 RBI
2008: .321 AVG 34 RS 17 HR 51 RBI
Fangraphs calls LaRoche
good enough to start against right-handers for a team not in contention, but he's a reserve on any team really trying to win. ...

His defense at first is below average, so the overall package is worth about +1 to +2 wins per season. He's not a terrible player - just a bit below average. He's also the kind of player you should never pay serious money to, which is why the Pirates had to be thrilled to dump the rest of the $7 million he was owed for 2009. ...

LaRoche gives them the ability to not have a hole at first base, and that has value. Is it worth $3 million? If you're the Red Sox, apparently it is.

If The Sox Get A Bat, Who Sits?

In the five games since the All-Star break, the Red Sox (1-4) are hitting .200 (32-for-160) and only .161 (5-for-31) with runners at second and/or third.

Sean McAdam says they "would like some depth at the corner infield spots or perhaps additional outfield help and could be persuaded to part with Manny Delcarmen or Takashi Saito".

So how can the front office improve the offense? A slightly improved bench would be nice, but that won't help the everyday concerns of the club.

So, for everyone who says, "we need a big bat", which of the nine regulars sits? "Corner infield" would mean Lowell is the odd man out, but the Red Sox, having unwisely signed him to a three-year deal after he was MVP of the 2007 World Series, are on the hook for $12 million with Dr. D. for 2010. And it remains to be seen if the Red Sox will eat his contract so soon after pushing away the plate on Lugo.

The outfield is set. Jason Varitek is not being dealt. And it appears that those well-considered cries to push David Ortiz out of town have quieted. Jed Lowrie is probably the lowest guy on the totem pole, but he's coming back from hand surgery, so the front office won't jettison him before seeing what he can do now that he is healthy.

Grabbing a good hitter -- as if there are a dozen or so milling about out there simply waiting for a call -- sounds good, but actually fitting him into the Red Sox lineup/roster is a bit stickier.

SoSHer DieHardSoxFan1:
Mike Lowell, according to Fangraphs, is 1.2 runs above average at the plate and 8.2 runs below average with the glove. All told, he's .4 wins above replacement. That is not "fine," nor is it merely OK. Stiffs like Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot and Kevin Kouzmanoff have had better seasons than Lowell. In fact, the only everyday 3B having a worse season than Lowell is Emilio Bonifacio. And if you don't buy into Lowell's UZR, take a look at Dewan's +/- ratings. The defensive guru says Lowell has made 19 fewer plays than the average 3B.

If you are the Sox, you take a look at your aging, arthritic 3B and realize you need another option. He's barely above replacement level for christ's sake.
As far as starters, grabbing someone to DH and play 1B -- Aubrey Huff has been mentioned -- and moving Yook to third would make the most sense. But that would mean either putting Lowell on the bench, finding someone to take him off our hands, or DFA-ing him. All three of those options seem unlikely right now.

The Last 40 Innings

      0 000
010 000 100
100 000 000
100 100 010
000 001 001
The Red Sox have gone 40 innings without scoring multiple runs.

July 21, 2009

G93: Rangers 4, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 000 001 001 - 2  5  0
Rangers - 200 000 11x - 4 7 0
So ... race you to the Tobin.

Texas jumped on Beckett for two quick runs in the first -- Kinsler double, Jones two-out walk, double steal (Varitek did not even get out of his crouch, grrr), Blalock two-run single.

Beckett then set down the next 14 batters, but the Red Sox could do little with Hunter during that time. Hunter was also helped out by some great catches from Kinsler in foul territory and Byrd in right field.

Boston cut the lead to 2-1 when Pedroia singled with two outs in the sixth and Youkilis followed with a double to the gap in right-center. but Beckett allowed single runs in the seventh and eighth.

The closest the Red Sox came to tying the game was in the seventh. Down 2-1, two walks had put runners at first and second with one out. but Varitek struck out (yes, the last pitch was high in the zone) and Lowrie popped to short. Varitek was also the potential tying run with two outs in the ninth, but he grounded harmlessly to third.

No Red Sock had more than one hit. Jason Bay walked three times.

David Ortiz committed an astonishing stupid base-running gaffe leading off the second. He singled to right, and even with the play in front of him, tried to "run" for a double. He was thrown out by 15 feet. And NESN's Dave Roberts actually defended Flo's foolery, saying it was good move because he was "trying to create a spark". As though hitting a leadoff single wasn't any good.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 6-4, to push the Red Sox -- currently on a season-high four-game losing streak -- out of first for the first time since June 7 and are 1 GB.
Josh Beckett (3.35, 139 ERA+) / Tommy Hunter (2.35, 189 ERA+)

Beckett closed out the first half of the season on July 12 with a complete game, three-hit shutout of Kansas City. He will be pitching with nine days of rest. Even with two bad outings in his last ten starts, his ERA over that period is 1.72. ER allowed: 0, 1, 0, 0, 6, 0, 0, 5, 2, 0.

A rookie in both 2008 (three starts, 11 innings) and 2009, Hunter will be making his eighth major league start tonight.

The Boston bats remain quiet. The Red Sox hit .188/.255/.302 in the Toronto series, losing two of three. Last night's game brought their post-ASB line to .202/.257/.302.

Since June 24, Jason Bay is batting .149 and slugging .243 (21 games). ... J.D. Drew is 1-for-his-last-26. ... After a hot June, David Ortiz's hitting has gone back into hibernation: .218/.279/.509 in July (he has four doubles and four home runs among his 12 hits to boost his SLG).

Amalie Benjamin notes:
Friday night against the Blue Jays, Daniel Bard became the first Sox reliever to strike out at least three batters in three consecutive appearances since Alan Embree from Aug. 7-17 in 2002. The last Sox rookie reliever to do it was Craig Skok, in four straight games from July 17-Aug. 7 in 1973.
            W   L   PCT    GB
Red Sox 55 37 .598 ---
Yankees 55 37 .598 ---
Rays 51 42 .548 4.5
Blue Jays 46 47 .495 9.5
Orioles 41 51 .446 14.0
In New York, Sergio Mitre gets the ball against the Orioles. It will be his first major league appearance since September 15, 2007. 7 PM.

Wakefield to DL; Buchholz To Start Wednesday

Tim Wakefield suffered a lower back strain during a side session last Saturday and the Red Sox placed him on the disabled list this afternoon.

Clay Buchholz is now with the team in Texas and will start tomorrow night.

More On Smoltz

Terry Francona said if he had thought John Smoltz was tiring in the sixth inning last night, "I would have taken him out."

SoSHer sprowl:
Pitchfx confirms the obvious: by the sixth inning, Smoltz had lost it. Velocity fell below 90 consistently.
Jason Varitek, on Smoltz:
He's still playing catch-up quite a bit, not only with his health, but with the game. ... Everybody's in their stride in the middle of the season and he's not. ... He's still continuing to get his baseball feel and his baseball strength.
Tek implies that Smoltz is still in something of a "spring training" mode. If so, then why is he getting big league starts? (I suppose the implosion of Daisuke Matsuzaka has something to do with that.)

But Smoltz has made 11 starts this year -- six in the minors and five with the Red Sox. He has pitched 53 innings, far more than the 27.2 innings that Josh Beckett led Sox pitchers with in camp this year; in fact, Clay Buchholz was the only other pitcher with more than 20 IP. So even with the caveat of recovering from surgery, Smoltz should be far beyond the "spring training" stage.

Smoltz:
The two-out runs are getting on my nerves. ... My whole season has been like that. ... I've had times I threw horrible and put up zeroes. I believe I was throwing well. I can't explain some of the hits they got.
Smoltz had not allowed three home runs in one game since June 8, 1997 -- and had last given up three dongs in one inning on June 19, 1994.

July 20, 2009

G92: Rangers 6, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 100 100 010 - 3  8  1
Rangers - 000 105 00x - 6 10 0
Smoltz (5.2-9-6-0-5, 96) was impressive through five innings, but allowed three home runs and five runs in the sixth. It was too deep a hole for the Boston bats.

Smoltz was at 75 pitches entering the sixth. He allowed a solo shot to Michael Young (who also singled and doubled off Smoltz) to tie the game at 2-2. Josh Hamilton doubled and after Andruw Jones struck out, Hank Blalock lined an RBI single to right. 3-2. Marlon Byrd struck out, but David Murphy golfed a two-run dong to right. 5-2.

Still, Terry Francona stayed with Smoltz. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed Murphy's homer with a first-pitch blast of his own, to deep center. 6-2. Why Tito left Smoltz in to face Salty is a mystery. He's a 42-year-old guy in only his fifth major league start since coming off major shoulder surgery. And he was at 95 pitches. Manny Delcarmen had been warming up since Hamilton's double. Why such a long leash?

With two outs in the first, Kevin Youkilis singled to left and David Ortiz doubled to deep center. The Sox took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Jason Varitek's double scored J.D. Drew. Mike Lowell tried to score from first and was a dead duck at the plate.

After Texas took a 6-2 lead, the only excitment came in the eighth. With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and with two outs, he stole second (the 41st SB of the year and the 100th of his career) and scored on Yook's single. C.J. Wilson came out of the pen to face Ortiz -- and got Flo on one pitch, a shattered bat foul pop to catcher.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 2-1 on Shemp's walk-off dong. Boston and New York are tied once again -- at 55-37 -- atop the AL East, with 70 games to go.
John Smoltz (5.40, 89 ERA+) / Kevin Millwood (3.46, 128 ERA+)

Both Sean McAdam and Amalie Benjamin write about the poor performance the Red Sox have received from the leadoff spot this season.

McAdam says the Sox #1 hitters have a .309 on-base percentage, while Benjamin has it at .307. ESPN has it at .306. (WTF?) Whatever it is, it's bad.

ESPN's rankings have Boston next-to-last (13th) in the American League -- only Oakland at .298 is worse -- and 27th overall among the 30 major league teams (the Phillies (.285) and Cubs (.277) are also worse, but they also have pitchers batting a few times most nights).

Benjamin also notes that the Red Sox leadoff OBP is
tied with the ninth spot for worst in the lineup. In fact, the Sox also have a significantly worse slugging percentage out of the top spot than the ninth, giving the on-base plus slugging nod to the No. 9 spot.
The slugging is .353 at leadoff and .398 at the bottom of the order.

From the leadoff spot:
         GMS    AVG   OBP   SLG
Ellsbury 49 .288 .320 .356
Drew 14 .190 .299 .414
Pedroia 24 .214 .264 .301

Lugo 3 .462 .500 .615
Baldelli 1 .000 .250 .000
Van Every* 1 .000 .000 .000

(*: did not start)
Nick Green is hitting .115 (6-for-52) over his last 18 games. ... Jason Varitek played his 1,400th game in a Red Sox uniform yesterday, moving into 9th place on the club's all-time list. ... Dustin Pedroia has a career-best 10-game hitting streak. ... Jacoby Ellsbury's next stolen base will be the 100th of his career.

TSW & OBP

SoSHer Rough Carrigan, quoting Bill Nowlin's "Day by Day with the Boston Red Sox":
For more than 10 years, Williams never had back to back games where he did not get on base safely, from July 14, 1940 to September 26, 1950.
I need to repeat that:
For more than 10 years, Williams never had back to back games where he did not get on base safely, from July 14, 1940 to September 26, 1950.
Even considering Williams's lifetime OBP of .482 -- the best in the sport's long history -- and the fact that he missed all of 1943, 1944 and 1945, this nearly defies belief.

I emailed Nowlin (he is, among many other things, the main editor of When Boston Still Had The Babe, a biography project on the 1918 Red Sox that I was part of) and this was Bill's reply:
The research which revealed that 10-year stretch was done by Herm Krabbenhoft of SABR, working from the daily records at the Hall of Fame. He was working on an article he published where he found that Ted holds the record for CGOBS (Consecutive Games On Base Safely): 84.

Actually, the 10-year stretch properly reads: From July 14, 1940, through Sept. 26, 1950, Williams never had back-to-back games without reaching safely, if a couple of pinch-hit appearances in 1941 and '48 are discounted.

But on Sept. 27, 1950, he failed to reach base in a doubleheader - again, his lapse confined to one day. It was nearly four years later, in September 1954, that he went two straight games without reaching base. It happened just twice more, once in 1958 and once in his final season, 1960.
So: Williams went back-to-back games without reaching base only four times over 18 seasons -- nearly his entire playing career.

July 19, 2009

G91: Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1

Red Sox   - 100 000 000 - 1  6  1
Blue Jays - 020 001 00x - 3 6 0
Boston had two chances to get to Halladay in the early innings, but could not -- and Halladay cruised to his fourth complete game of the season (9-6-1-0-7, 105).

With one out in the first, Dustin Pedroia singled and Kevin Youkilis followed with a double. David Ortiz's line out to right brought in FY with a quick run (Halladay had thrown only 10 pitches), but Alex Rios hauled in Jason Bay's deep drive to the wall in dead center.

In the third, Pedroia and Youkilis singled with one out. But Ortiz grounded into a force play and Bay flew to Rios again. The only other baserunners for the Red Sox aftre that were Ortiz, who singled in the sixth, and Bay, who forced him at second.

Lester (7-5-3-4-6, 112) walked four batters for the first time this season. He had not walked that many since September 2, 2008 -- and the time before that? April 29, 2008: his 8-1-0-4-6 game against Halladay. A nine-day layoff because of the All-Star Game might have contributed to some rustiness.

Rod Barajas -- he of the .107/.107/.214 batting line in July and .169/.207/.325 since June 6 -- drove in all three Toronto runs.

After Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios both walked in the second (on a total of nine pitches), Barajas's double into the left field corner brought them both home. In the sixth, Overbay doubled, Rios singled, and Barajas hit a sacrifice fly to center. He also singled in the fourth.
Jon Lester (3.87, 120 ERA+) / Roy Halladay (2.85, 151 ERA+)

MLB.com preview:
Lester enters the second half of the season on a bona fide hot streak. The 25-year-old lefty has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his past eight starts since May 31, yielding one run or fewer in six of those outings. Just 21 strikeouts shy of last year's career-high total of 152 ...

Fresh off a start for the American League in the All-Star Game, Halladay returns to the Jays' rotation in search of his first win since June 7. Over his past four starts, including an injury-shortened outing on June 12 that led to a two-week stint on the disabled list with a right groin issue, Doc has gone 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA.
In those eight starts, Lester has a 1.48 ERA. ... Red Sox batters vs Halladay.

These two aces last met on April 29, 2008 at Fenway Park. Lester threw eight shutout innings, allowing only one hit, and the Red Sox rallied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Halladay -- Ortiz walk, Manny single, Youkilis RBI single -- to win 1-0.

Mike Lowell will likely get the day off, with Jed Lowrie playing third and Nick Green at shortstop.

Tigers/Yankees at 2 PM.

Recommended Reading

Tony Massarotti had a great article in Friday's Globe -- How Red Sox Pitchers Work The Strike Zone -- that focused mostly on Jon Lester:
Together, armed with countless options, the pitcher and catcher of the Red Sox must negotiate their way through the strike zone on a daily basis. With the help of Jason Varitek and an interactive graphic, Mazz explains the art of executing a successful pitching game plan.
Jeffrey Brown has an excellent interview with Clay Buchholz at Sox1Fan. Clay talks at length (far more in depth than the usual mainstream articles) about his struggles last year and his motivation this summer.

The Daily News features Sean Forman, the man behind Baseball Reference.

Also: Ryan Howard has hit 200 career home runs in the fewest number of games in baseball history. The milestone dong came last Thursday, in his 658th game. Ralph Kiner now has the old record: 706 games.

July 18, 2009

G90: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 2

Red Sox   - 010 000 100 - 2  6  1
Blue Jays - 010 320 00x - 6 8 0
Penny (5-8-6-1-3, 82) allowed six hits and five runs in the fourth and fifth innings and the Red Sox were sufficiently kept off balance by Rzepczynski, who was credited with his first major league victory.

Without one in the fourth, three straight singles broke a 1-1 tie and gave Toronto a one-run lead, then Bautista's double made it 4-1. (Penny bemoaned that pitch, a hanging curve, afterwards.) Scutaro began the fifth with a double and one out later, Lind homered to left for a 6-1 score.

Boston had taken a 1-0 lead on Jason Bay's double and Rocco Baldelli's single. Then they squandered a possible big inning. After Baldelli's hit, the Sox had men at first and third with no outs, but Jed Lowrie struck out looking, George Kottaras fouled to third and J.D. Drew grounded to second.

Kevin Youkilis doubled with one out in the third and was stranded at third. With runners at first and second and one out in the fifth, Yook struck out and David Ortiz grounded to second. Lowell began the ninth with a double -- and was stranded there.

Lowrie hit reliever Jesse Carlson's first pitch of the seventh for his first home run of the season.

Justin Masterson pitched two innings, retiring all six men he faced in the sixth and seventh, on 22 pitches.

The Yankees beat the Tigers 2-1, so Boston's East lead is back down to two games.
Brad Penny (4.71, 99 ERA+) / Marc Rzepczynski (3.00, 144 ERA+)

Rzepczynski is making his third major league start (and appearance) -- and his Skydome debut. In 12 major league innings, he has allowed seven walks and seven hits, while striking out 12.

Daniel Bard has retired 29 of his last 31 hitters (including four of four last night), 17 of them by strikeout. He has also stranded his last six inherited runners, dating back to June 16.
I'm trusting my stuff earlier in the count, which has allowed me to get ahead of guys. It's amazing what happens when you get ahead of guys.
In Bard's last six appearances, he has thrown 77% strikes and batters are hitting .037/.036/.074.

Theo On Bay, Lugo, Trading Deadline

Theo Epstein said the Red Sox made an "aggressive" offer to Jason Bay about one week ago, but the two sides could not agree on a contract extension. There is now a mutual decision to table any talks until after the season.

Bay wants to remain with the Red Sox:
I'm not trying to set a precedent. Just looking for something that's fair. ... I'd still love to get something done here. I like it here. But that being said, we just basically at this point right now don't want it to be an ongoing distraction ... But the way things have gone so far, like I said, very encouraged with that.
Epstein:
I think we were really hopeful with the aggressive offer that we made that we could have reached a deal now. But we have complete respect for Jason as a player and a person and for what free agency means to players. He's worked his whole career and had a really consistent career to get to a point where he can set his family up for life. ... We'll see what the future brings. We still want to retain him.
Epstein also spoke about Julio Lugo:
[O]wnership has been consistent that we'll do what we need to do to keep the best possible team on the field. A sunk cost is a sunk cost. ... This was one of the free agent signings that doesn't work out. We were paying for past performance, not current performance. That's the true definition of a mistake, and as the decision-maker, that's on me.
Epstein, on the trading deadline:
I think we don't have one glaring weakness, [but] there are opportunities to get better. Exactly which opportunities we pursue or try to pursue relates probably more to health than anything else. ...

We want to create as much depth and redundancy as we possibly can, because if you don't address depth before July 31 or in some cases in August, then you're left without an opportunity to do so down the stretch and into what we hope will be another postseason.

July 17, 2009

G89: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1

Red Sox   - 200 020 000 - 4  6  1
Blue Jays - 000 100 000 - 1 5 0
Buchholz (5.2-4-1-3-3, 103) was on, except for a brief hiccup in the fourth inning, Kevin Youkilis belted a two-run dong in the first, and David Ortiz hit a two-run double in the fifth to pull the curtain down on Romero's night (4.1-5-4-5-8, 93).

With one out in the fifth, Dustin Pedroia grinded out a 12-pitch walk (bcfbfffffbfb) against Romero in the fifth. Romero lost something in that battle -- he walked Yook on five pitches (bbbcb) then gave up a double to deep left to Flo on a 3-2 count.

HH gave up a double to Adam Lind to open the Jays fourth, but he was erased when he tried to take third on Scott Rolen's grounder back to the mound. Lyle Overbay (who had three of Toronto's five hits) hit a ground rule double to right-center. Scott Rolen had to stop at third, but he soon scored on Alex Rios's sacrifice fly.

Buchholz may have tired in the sixth. After getting the first two batters, he was at 92 pitches. After Overbay singled and Rios walked, Terry Francona came with the hook. I was blacked out from watching at work, but it sounded as though HH had his good curve and change and his fastball was consistently at 94-96. (links to pitchfx charts)

Bullpen: Bard struck out three of the four batters he faced, Hideki Okajima stranded a two-out double in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon cruised through an eight-pitch ninth.
Clay Buchholz (2009 debut) / Ricky Romero (3.00, 144 ERA+)

Jason Bay:
I still don't think we've played our best yet. ... We're starting to hit our stride.
This is the fifth consecutive year that the Red Sox have begun the "second half" of the season in first place. They open with a six-game road trip -- three games each in Toronto and Texas.


This is Buchholz's first major league appearance since August 20, 2008. He has made 16 starts for Pawtucket and had a 2.36 ERA.
It's an opportunity that I've been waiting for all year. ... I'm ready to go. I've prepared for it for a good while now. ... I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a little bit (frustrated). But all I could do is go out there and pitch every fifth day and help that team win and try to get better every day I go out there. I knew everything else was sort of out of my control ...

Maybe the first couple of pitches (I'll be excited). But after that, that's how these guys stay in the game forever - because they control their emotions and everything else. I'm sure the adrenaline will be running, but ... I'm not going to be nearly as amped as I was a couple of years ago.
Rookie of the Year candidate Romero has a 2.38 ERA over his past eight starts (since the beginning of June); the lefty has held opponents to a .221 average in those 56.2 innings.

The Yankees (3 GB) host the Tigers at 7 PM. A.J. Burnett -- 1.34 in his last 5 starts/33.2 IP -- faces rookie Lucas French.