July 31, 2012

G104: Red Sox 4, Tigers 1 (6, rain)

Tigers  - 001 000 - 1  3  1
Red Sox - 000 40x - 4  6  0
Justin Verlander (5-6-4-4-6, 107) did not have his best stuff and Boston was able to score four times in the fourth, thanks to four singles and two walks, one with the bases loaded. Verlander tied a season-high with four walks.

It drizzled and rained most of the evening, and the game was called (!) with Detroit batting with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, after a rain delay of 1:45.

Verlander was off from the start, throwing 35 pitches in the first inning, and leaving the bases loaded. Ellsbury singled and, after two were out, both Adrian Gonzalez and Ross walked. Verlander was able to strike out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ending the threat.

Cody Ross and Salty both singled to start the fourth-inning fun. After Will Middlebrooks struck out, Kelly Shoppach walked on a full count, loading the bases. Pedro Ciriaco lined a single into left field, tying the game at 1-1. The bases remained loaded. Jacoby Ellsbury worked a five-pitch walk, scoring Salty. Carl Crawford chopped a single over Verlander's head, and when 2B Omar Infante tried to bare-hand the ball on the muddy infield dirt, it skipped past him for an error. Two runs scored. Dustin Pedroia then hacked at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Josh Beckett (2.2-1-1-2-2, 49) left the game in the third inning with a back spasm. He retired the first eight batters, but gave up an infield single to Infante, grazed Austin Jackson with a pitch, and then issued two walks, forcing in a run. After the second walk, he called the trainer out.

Clay Mortensen relieved Beckett and pitched 2.2 innings. He issued a walk to Prince Fielder to start the sixth and retired Delmon Young before departing. Franklin Morales came in. Pinch-hitter Ryan Rayburn forced Fielder at second for the second out. Then Alex Avila singled and Jhonny Peralta walked. the Tigers, trailing by three, had the bases loaded and Infante due up.

That was when the umpires called for the tarp - and at roughly 11:18, they declared the Red Sox the winners!

Boston has won four straight and has gained four games in the standings in four days. Down in New York, the Yankees scored five times in the first inning only to see the Orioles strike for seven runs of their own in the top of the second and cruise to an 11-5 win. The Yankees' lead in the East is down to 5.5 games; the Red Sox are 7.5 GB.
Example
Justin Verlander / Josh Beckett
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, DH
Middlebrooks, 3B
Shoppach, C
Ciriaco, SS
The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4 PM EST.

Ryan Sweeney will likely be placed on the disabled list today. After grounding out in the eighth inning last night, a frustrated Sweeney punched a door and hurt his throwing hand.
I just came down, walked down the stairs, and kind of punched the door a little bit, which I've done before, but maybe not to this extent. ... I've never broken my hand before, so I don't know what that feels like. I know it hurts a little bit right now.
Since June 12, Sweeney is 4-for-45 (.083).

July 30, 2012

G103: Red Sox 7, Tigers 3

Tigers  - 101 000 100 - 3  6  1
Red Sox - 200 002 12x - 7 10  1
Clay Buchholz (8-5-3-2-4, 108) turned his third consecutive strong outing and Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks each hit a two-run homer. The Red Sox have gained three games in the East standings in three days, and now trail the Yankees (who lost to Baltimore 5-4) by 8.5 games.

Austin Jackson hit Buchholz's second pitch of the game for a home run, but the Red Sox quickly took the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury walked in the bottom of the first and scored on Carl Crawford's triple to left-center (the carom eluded Jackson and rolled towards center field). Dustin Pedroia's grounder to shortstop scored Crawford, giving Boston a 2-1 lead.

Detroit tied the game in the third, but Boston went ahead for good in the sixth when Crawford walked and Pedroia homered over the Wall. Kelly Shoppach tripled to start the seventh and (after catching his breath) scored on Ellsbury's single. In the eighth, Adrian Gonzalez singled and Middlebrooks lined a missle into the Monster Seats.

Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each had two hits. Pedroia drove in three runs.

This is the Red Sox's first three-game winning streak since June 19-21.

Also, Ryan Sweeney punched a wall after his eighth-inning at-bat and will have x-rays taken.
Example
Max Scherzer / Clay Buchholz
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Middlebrooks, 3B
Saltalamacchia, DH
Sweeney, RF
Shoppach, C
Ciriaco, SS
Buchholz has allowed two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts, with a 2.47 ERA since May 27. ... Scherzer and Buchholz faced each other on April 8, the third game of the season, a crazy and maddening game the Tigers won 13-12 in 11 innings.

The rest of the series:
Tuesday: Justin Verlander / Josh Beckett
Wednesday: Rick Porcello / Aaron Cook
Bobby Valentine says "it's about time to put the pedal to the metal". Adrian Gonzalez says the team has two months of playoff baseball left. Good old Cool Standings has the Red Sox (51-51) at 5% to win the division (best of the non-Yankee teams in the East) and 17% to win one of the wild cards.

The Red Sox have explored the idea of trading both Beckett and Ryan Sweeney.

David Ortiz is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday, but his return will likely be delayed.

Valentine Identifies Red Sox's Most Pressing Need

As the trade deadline nears, Bobby Valentine knows what the Red Sox need:
I think we need a better press corps. Probably help the mental state of our group.

July 29, 2012

G102: Red Sox 3, Yankees 2 (10)

Red Sox - 020 000 000 1 - 3  9  0
Yankees - 000 000 110 0 - 2  7  0
Pedro Ciriaco's bloop hit to right field with one out in the tenth inning scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia with the go-ahead run. Ciriaco is now 11-for-22 (.500) against the Yankees this season.

Saltalamacchia began the inning with a walk off David Robertson. Will Middlebrooks attempted to bunt and was hit in the right arm by the pitch, but the umpires ruled that the ball hit his bat. Both Bobby Valentine and Josh Beckett were ejected for arguing the blown call. Middlebrooks still managed to get on base, though, with a single to right. Ryan Sweeney grounded into a fielder's choice, moving Salty to third, setting the stage for Yankee Killer Ciriaco.

Sweeney got the Red Sox on the board in the second inning with a two-run double, scoring Adrian Gonzalez and Saltalamacchia.

New York erased the lead in the late innings. Russell Martin homered to begin the seventh. The Yankees stranded runners at first and third in that inning as Andrew Miller needed only three pitches to retire Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to keep the lead at 2-1. With two outs in the eighth, Jones doubled off Miller and Martin greeted Alfredo Aceves with a single to tie the game.

After Boston took a 3-2 lead, Aceves dispatched the Yankees: Teixeira fouled out to right, Robinson Cano grounded to second, Nick Swisher was hit by a pitch, and pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez struck out (losing a nine-pitch battle).

Doubront (6.1-4-1-5-8, 109) dealt with a lot of baserunners, but kept New York off the board for six innings. Kuroda (8-7-2-1-4, 102) was aided by four double plays in a span of five innings.
Example
Felix Doubront / Hiroki Kuroda
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Sweeney, RF
Ciriaco, SS
The Red Sox slapped Kuroda around on July 6 (5.2-10-7-1-3).

Doubront has faced the Yankees twice this season, April 21 (6-4-1-3-7) and July 7 (6.1-4-4-1-6). (That April start was the infamous bullpen meltdown game.)

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Carl Crawford did not play yesterday against CC Sabathia, even though he is hitting .319 (22-for-69) against the porty left-hander. That's the second highest average of all Red Sox batters against Sabathia. (Crawford is 4-for-20, with seven strikeouts, against lefties this season.)

It turns out that the Red Sox's medical staff has Crawford on a "four-day program", meaning he cannot play more than four consecutive days, to protect his left elbow from overuse. But what makes this so strange is that the Red Sox had an off day on Thursday.

Crawford looked good on Friday night, hitting a few line drives and slugging his first home run of the year. So Saturday was actually only his second consecutive game, not fifth. (Maybe his elbow not understand the concept of off days.)

Incredibly, the existence of this plan was news to Crawford:
I'm not really sure what's the program. ... I just found out about that today. Like I said, [Valentine] texted me this morning and told me that.
Manager Bobby Valentine was told about the plan awhile ago, but he immediately went against it and played Crawford for six consecutive games before giving him last Sunday off. Valentine admitted that was a "no-no".
They told me before that game that he wasn't playing, and I kind of did the old veto power, "Who says he's not playing?" and I played him. Never to be done again. ...

I don't think it's going to be four days and a day off all year. I hope not.
Valentine said he is getting these orders directly from the medical staff, not from GM Ben Cherington.

What a mess. The lack of communication between the training staff, the front office, Valentine, and Crawford is shocking.

Crawford:
I don't want to run from guys. It feels more like I'm hiding from somebody. Not playing against someone is more embarrassing than anything. My body is fine right now.
Crawford also said that he was told in April that he would need Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, and the sooner he gets it done, the better.
I try not to even think about it, to be honest with you. ... I figure one day it will blow out and when that happens, time to go, you know?
The front office has said repeatedly that surgery is not inevitable.

And before the game, there was a bizarre scene in the Red Sox clubhouse when former manager and current ESPN analyst Terry Francona chatted for about thirty minutes with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Cody Ross, and others. One report said that Pedroia offered Francona a chair and the two started talking. The Herald's Michael Silverman wrote that Tito was soon "surrounded by an adoring, giggling and ever-growing circle" of players. According to all reports, Valentine remained in his office across the hall.

July 28, 2012

G101: Red Sox 8, Yankees 6

Red Sox - 300 030 002 - 8 11  0
Yankees - 001 030 020 - 6  6  0
Pedro Ciriaco's triple in the top of the ninth inning eluded Yankee center fielder Curtis Granderson, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury with the tie-breaking run. A sacrifice fly from Dustin Pedroia made it 8-6 and Alfredo Aceves needed only eight pitches to set down New York in order the bottom of the ninth.

Ellsbury drew a five-pitch walk with one out against Rafael Soriano. Granderson was playing shallow and Ciriaco's ball was hit over his head. Granderson got a late break on the ball and was back-pedaling after it.
He lunged back and to his left for it and as he was tumbling to the ground, the ball fell wide of his glove.
He rolled around on the ground before chasing after the ball.
Pedroia followed with a fly to left to score Ciriaco (who went 3-for-5, stole a base, and scored three runs).

Adrian Gonzalez (also 3-for-5) drove in four runs, including three on a fifth-inning home run to right center.

The start of the game was delayed by two hours because of rain. When the skies were finally clear, Boston went right to work against Sabathia (6-8-6-2-6, 104). With one out, Ciriaco and Pedroia both singled to the opposite field, and Gonzalez doubled to right, scoring one run. With two outs, Will Middlebrooks made it 3-0 with a double to the gap in left-center that rolled to the wall.

Lester (6-4-4-2-6, 101) retired the first eight Yankees before Chris Stewart hit his first home run of the season.

With two down in the fifth, Ciriaco singled and Pedroia walked. Gonzalez then nailed a first-pitch slider to deep right-center (his 10th home run of the year) to give Boston a 6-1 lead.

Lester faltered in the home half of the inning, though. He walked Andruw Jones on four pitches and gave up a two-run dong to Jayson Nix. Russell Martin then walked, went to second on Ichiro Suzuki's single, advanced to third on Stewart's bunt, and scored on a weak grounder from Derek Jeter.

Mark Teixeira tied the game with two outs in the eighth with a two-run blast off Vicente Padilla. That excited the Yankee fans, but their happiness was temporary.
Example
Jon Lester / CC Sabathia
Ellsbury, CF
Ciriaco, DH
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Shoppach, C
Aviles, SS
Nava, LF
On Monday: Daisuke Matsuzaka begins a rehab assignment with Pawtucket and Andrew Bailey starts a rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.

July 27, 2012

G100: Yankees 10, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 101 100 000 -  3  8  0
Yankees - 301 200 04x - 10 10  0
The Red Sox's offense was limited to three solo home runs, which was not nearly enough firepower to offset the Yankees' team attack. Seven of the nine Yankees collected a hit, and six of them either scored or drove in a run.

Raul Ibanez's two-run homer capped a three-run first. Mark Teixeira's sacrifice fly in the third brought home Derek Jeter, who began the inning with a single. Russell Martin hit a two-run bomb in the fourth, closing the book on Cook (4-7-6-1-1, 65).

Curtis Granderson belted a grand slam in the eighth off Mark Melancon. Granderson ended the night 3-for-5; he also doubled and scored in the first inning.

Dustin Pedroia went deep with two outs in the first inning, giving Boston a short-lived 1-0 lead. Adrian Gonzalez singled and Cody Ross hit a ground-rule double to right center, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out on three pitches to end the threat.

Carl Crawford hit his first dong of the year in the third, and Salty went deep in the fourth. Except for those two home runs, Boston had only one baserunner advance past first over the final eight innings - and that happened with two outs in the ninth.
Example
Aaron Cook / Phil Hughes
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Nava, DH
Aviles, SS
Hughes faced Boston in the second game of the July 7 doubleheader, going 5.1 innings and allowing 10 hits and five runs. In each of his last two outings, Hughes has pitched at least seven innings and allowed only two runs. In nine starts since the beginning of June, he has a 2.77 ERA. In his last five starts, it's 2.25.

After a dismal debut against the Orioles, and since coming off the disabled list, Cook has put up a sterling 2.16 ERA in five starts.

This will be Ichiro Suzuki's first home game as a Yankee. Speaking about the rivalry, he said:
Just a few days ago, I wouldn't even think about being in that situation, that I would be wearing this uniform, playing against the Red Sox. ... When I watch it, sometimes I thought it's like a fight -- not in the real sense of them actually fighting, but really, a physical, fighting atmosphere.
The Yankees will be without Alex Rodriguez, who suffered a non-displaced fracture on his left hand on Tuesday night, thanks to a Felix Hernandez pitch.

The Red Sox are 49-50, 10.5 GB the Yankees in the East and 4.5 GB in the wild cards race. (Boston is 1-5 against the Yankees this season.) Dustin Pedroia: "Every game is crucial. We're at a point now where we need to win. That's basically it. It doesn't matter who we're playing."

Unique Batting Lines, Radical Shifts, and Booing The Yankees

Diane Firstman writes Value Over Replacement Grit and she has been compiling lists of unique AB-R-H-RBI batting lines.

Using Baseball Reference's Play Index, Firstman has been searching for rare batting lines from 1918-2011 that might look something like this: 0-1-0-3: 0 official at-bats, 1 run scored, 0 hits, 3 runs batted in. Her only criteria is that the player must have started and finished the game.

So far, she has posted The Zero ABs, The One ABs, and The Two ABs.

As a linescore addict, I love this kind of stuff. Here are some box score lines that have happened only once in major league history:
AB R  H RBI  Player          Date
0  1  0  3   Clyde Barnhart  September 13, 1923 (G2)
1  0  1  4   Doc Lavan       June 7, 1918
1  1  0  3   Nick Punto      August 5, 2006
1  2  0  3   Glenn Wright    August 13, 1930
2  1  2  6   Chris Gomez     May 17, 1994
2  4  0  2   Frank O'Rourke  May 30, 1929 (G2)
2  5  0  0   Joe Morgan      June 30, 1977
2  5  1  5   Roy Cullenbine  July 31, 1941 (G1)
2  6  2  1   Mel Ott         April 30, 1944 (G1)
***

Here are some articles about the growing use of shifts and the radical stuff going on in Tampa Bay.
Dave Hruska, Joe Maddon, Spray Charts, and Defensive Shifts: Part I, The Cutoff Man, May 2, 2012

Dave Hruska, Defensive Shifts Part II: New York at Kansas City, The Cutoff Man, May 8, 2012

Dave Hruska, Defensive Shifts Part III: The Blue Jays Use of Brett Lawrie, The Cutoff Man, July 2, 2012

Hunter Atkins, Rays' Joe Maddon is the King of Shifts, New York Times, May 8, 2012

Rob Neyer, How Many Runs Are Joe Maddon's Shifts Really Saving?, SB Nation, May 8, 2012

Colin Wyers, Who Gives A Shift?, Baseball Prospectus, May 30, 2012
We are often told how pitchers "reach back" for extra velocity when they are in trouble. Is it true? Baseball Prospectus' Max Marchi took a look: Reaching Back for a Little Extra.

John Thorn, Whitman, Melville and Baseball, Our Game, June 15, 2012

Larry Granillo, The 1930 Cardinals Telegram Mystery, Baseball Prospectus, July 18, 2012:
On September 9, 1930, the St. Louis Cardinals, helmed by skipper Gabby Street, found themselves tied for second place, 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. That morning, Street received a telegram that read:
Do not worry, you will lose today, regardless of your pitching choice; you will win the next three.
That afternoon, the Cards lost to the Giants 2-1 before winning the next three. The next day, at the start of St. Louis' series against the Boston Braves, Street received another telegram:
Everything O.K. You will win two and lose one.
Over the next two days, the Cardinals won two and lost one, just as the telegram predicted. For the remainder of the month, as St. Louis fought its way towards the pennant, the telegrams continued. According to all published reports, the telegrams were never wrong. Cardinals players began to "accept as gospel" the mystery telegrams.
And, finally, a quote:
"The day it becomes uncool to boo the Yankees is the day we need to reevaluate what the national pastime is all about."
Joe Posnanski, July 10, 2012

July 26, 2012

An In-Depth Look At The "Chaos, Arrogance, And Mistakes" Of Curt Schilling And 38 Studios

Jason Schwartz, Boston Magazine:
End Game

Curt Schilling set out to build the greatest video-game company the world had ever seen, and to get rich — Bill Gates rich — doing it. Instead, the whole thing exploded in his face. Drawing on exclusive interviews with the Red Sox legend and his former employees, Jason Schwartz takes us inside the chaos, arrogance, and mistakes that led to the destruction of 38 Studios and the loss of $75 million in taxpayer money.
Schwartz also has this brief follow-up on one point.

(P.S. In late May, when the company went under, there were various columns criticizing Schilling for grabbing taxpayer money, a liberal evil he had railed against time and time again when talking politics.)

July 25, 2012

G99: Rangers 5, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 100 101 000 - 3  5  0
Rangers - 000 300 11x - 5 10  0
Bottom of the seventh. 3-3. Rangers at first and third, two outs. Beckett at 108 pitches. Michael Young due up, with Matt Albers ready in the pen. Bobby Valentine made the walk to the mound ... and left Beckett in.

With a 1-0 count on Young, Beckett threw a wild pitch that brought in the go-ahead run - and the Red Sox dropped the rubber game of the three-game series in Texas.

Beckett (7-9-4-2-3, 114) had a rough fourth inning - giving up five hits (including two doubles) and three runs - but generally pitched well otherwise, though he did leave the bases loaded in the third.

Jacoby Ellsbury began the game with a walk. He raced to third on the first of Pedro Ciriaco's two singles and scored on a double play ball from Dustin Pedroia. Will Middlebrooks homered in the fourth and Pedroia went deep in the sixth.

Ciriaco singled and stole second with two outs in the eighth, but Pedroia flied out to left. The Red Sox went in order in the ninth, against Joe Nathan.

Boston has Thursday off before starting a three-game series against the Yankees in New York on Friday night.
Example
Josh Beckett / Derek Holland
Ellsbury, CF
Ciriaco, DH
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Crawford, LF
Shoppach, C
Aviles, SS
ESPNBoston's Jeremy Lundblad assesses the Red Sox's playoff chances. According to simulations run by AccuScore, Boston - 4 GB in the wild card race with 64 games to play - has a one-in-10 chance of winning one of the two wild cards.

Since July 25, 2011, the Red Sox have played an entire season's worth of games and went 77-84, the fourth worst record in the American League over that span. Only the Twins, Mariners, and Royals played worse.

July 24, 2012

G98: Red Sox 2, Rangers 1

Red Sox - 000 100 001 - 2  6  2
Rangers - 000 001 000 - 1  5  0
Mike Aviles lined a single over shortstop with two outs in the ninth inning, scoring Daniel Nava and snapping a 1-1 tie. (Aviles had ended the second inning with the bases loaded and had stranded a man at second in the fourth.)

Nava had started the rally with a two-out walk. Pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia also walked, setting the stage for Aviles. The win ended Boston's four-game losing streak.

Buchholz (7-4-1-3-1, 105) turned in another strong outing. Vicente Padilla wiggled out of a first-and-third jam of his own making - a two-base throwing error on an ill-advised pickoff attempt - in the eighth. Alfredo Aceves set the Rangers down in the ninth (allowing only a two-out walk) on eight pitches for the save.

Boston scored in the fourth when Cody Ross walked and scored on Kelly Shoppach's two-out double to right that David Murphy misplayed.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Martin Perez
Ellsbury, CF
Ciriaco, DH
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Crawford, LF
Shoppach, C
Aviles, SS
The Red Sox traded Brent Lillibridge to Cleveland for 26-year-old minor league right-hander Jose De La Torre (who has been assigned to Pawtucket).

Yankees Rent A Declining Ichiro

At the plate in 2012, new Yankee outfielder Ichiro Suzuki can best be summed up as "Mike Aviles without the power".
          AVG   OBP   SLG  OPS+
Suzuki:  .261  .288  .353   83
Aviles:  .262  .286  .412   83
While Suzuki can still play right field, he has been in serious decline as a hitter since 2010, and, at age 38, is not running as often. He's a free agent at the end of this season, so New York is renting a replacement-level platoon hitter with a very famous name for about three months at a fairly low cost. He'll do the job in the field in Brett Gardner's absence and his noodle bat won't make much of a difference one way or the other in the lineup.

Other 2012 splits (not including last night's stats):
                AVG   OBP   SLG
Against LHP:   .236  .242  .267
In July:       .208  .235  .273
With RISP:     .175  .255  .263
Late/Close:    .215  .257  .262
High Leverage: .175  .229  .190
He's 2-for-13 in three games at Yankee Stadium III. His first game there will be Friday night against the Red Sox.

July 23, 2012

G97: Rangers 9, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1 10  2
Rangers - 004 005 00x - 9 11  0
Five of the first six Rangers to bat in the third inning against Doubront (5-8-6-3-6, 111) reached base, and four of them scored. Texas added five more runs in the sixth to cruise to an easy win.

With Texas down 1-0, Craig Gentry began the third with a single, and Ian Kinsler walked. Elvis Andrus grounded a single up the middle that Dustin Pedroia gloved near second base and threw over Adrian Gonzalez's head at first. Two runs scored, giving Texas the lead. Josh Hamilton doubled home Andrus and (after Adrian Beltre flew out) Michael Young singled in Hamilton.

In the sixth, Doubront walked Nelson Cruz and gave up a two-run homer to Mike Napoli. (Actually, Doubront struck out Napoli on three pitches, but home plate umpire Bill Wilke called what was nearly a pitch down the middle "ball one" and Doubront could not finish Napoli off. Instead, Napoli finished Doubront off, as his homer sent Felix to the showers.) Franklin Morales came in and allowed a double and two singles. Those three hits, along with an error in left field by Carl Crawford, lead to three more runs.

Boston's run came via Jarrod Saltalamacchia's solo home run in the second inning. The Red Sox banged out hits in seven of the nine innings (leaving eight men on base), but those hits were spread out fairly evenly. Feldman's performance (7-7-1-0-5, 105) was exceptional, considering that he had not pitched in 14 days (since July 8).

The Red Sox (48-49) slipped under .500 for the first time since June 16.
Example
Scott Feldman / Felix Doubront
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Sweeney, RF
Aviles, SS
Boston begins a six-game road trip with a three-game series in Texas, before moving on to New York. The Red Sox are a combined 1-7 against the Rangers and Yankees this year, and have been outscored 73-48. Boston is 5-11 in Arlington over the last three seasons.

Texas (56-38) leads the AL West by five games. They lead the AL in scoring runs, at 5.03 runs/game; Boston is third at 4.99. The Rangers have the highest team batting average and on-base percentage in the league, and are second in slugging.

What Is Wrong With Jon Lester?

In his last 12 starts since May 19, Jon Lester has a 6.75 ERA in 69.1 innings. Opposing hitters have a .961 OPS (.318/.364/.552) over those starts. His ERA for the season stands at 5.46.

Lester:
I've let my team down a lot this year. It's hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now. ... [I]t's embarrassing.
So, what the hell is going on?

WEEI's Rob Bradford:
Three separate major league voices, all of whom have an extensive history of analyzing the Sox lefty, came to the same conclusion when asked by WEEI.com what is wrong with Lester.

According to the trio, this doesn't appear to be a physical issue (which both Lester and the Red Sox have continuously stated), and neither the velocity or overall stuff has disappeared to the point of diminishing returns. (And, just for good measure, another former major leaguer who made a living identifying pitch-tipping said Lester is not tipping his pitches.)

There is a consensus. Three takes, one consistent conclusion:

-- When delivering the ball, Lester is throwing his lead leg out toward the plate instead of executing more of a straight, more compact, up-and-down motion.

-- The leg kick is leaving his front foot to drift toward the right. ("Sometimes his toe was pointing toward the Blue Jays dugout," said one of those analyzing the situation.) One of the results of such an approach is opening up his body to the hitter well before he should, allowing the hitter to get a great look at what is being delivered. Blue Jays hitters whispered after the game that every curveball the starter threw could be easily identified.

-- Another result of letting his lead leg drift out and and over is Lester's arm slot dropping, which causes both a lack of command and the flattening out of his fastball. A delivery that included a more straight-up, down-and-through motion would automatically force a more over-the-top arm angle, not allowing the lefty to throw across his body.

When asked if this has been something out of the blue, one of those breaking down the situation said these are issues that have gotten progressively worse over the last two years.

July 22, 2012

G96: Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 7

Blue Jays - 540 020 040 - 15 18  0
Red Sox   - 300 112 000 -  7  9  0
Jon Lester (4-9-11-5-2, 94) turned in the worst performance of his seven-year career, allowing 11 runs (including a career-high four home runs) to the Blue Jays. His previous high was nine runs allowed (in only 2+ innings), which happened on August 20, 2010, also at Fenway against Toronto.

The last Red Sox starter to allow 11 earned runs was Doug Bird, back on May 24, 1983. Lester became only the 11th Boston starter since 1918 (and only the third since 1945) to allow 11+ runs in a game.

After the Blue Jays batted around in the first inning - Brett Lawrie swatted Lester's first pitch of the afternoon over the Wall, and five of the next six Jays reached base - Adrian Gonzalez got three runs back by hitting his 9th home run of the year.

But Lester gave those runs back and more, as he walked Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion and was hit for back-to-back home runs with two outs: J.P. Arencibia's three-run shot and Rajai Davis's solo blast.

Lester kept the Jays off the board in the third and fourth - double plays in both innings helped him out. After he walked Davis and allowed a two-run dong to Travis Snider to start the fifth, Bobby Valentine finally yanked him.

Jaocby Ellsbury hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the fifth. ... Two-out doubles by Ryan Sweeney and Mike Aviles and a single from Nick Punto scored two runs in the sixth.

Boston dropped to 48-48 and is in last place (once again) in the East. The Red Sox begin a road trip against the Rangers and Yankees in Texas Monday night.
Example
Henderson Alvarez / Jon Lester
Ellsbury, CF
Nava, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Sweeney, RF
Aviles, SS
Punto, 3B

Linescore Of The Day

Cubs      -  0 0 0   0 0 0   0 0 0  -  0  4  1
Cardinals -  0 0 0   0 0 0  12 0 x  - 12 16  0
St. Louis sent 17 hitters to the plate, and tied a franchise record for runs in an inning. Back on September 16, 1926, the Cardinals scored 12 times in the bottom of the third inning against the Phillies.

Elias Sports Bureau reports that St. Louis tied a record for a shutout in which a team scored all its runs in one inning*. Cleveland scored 12 runs in the fourth inning of a 12-0 win over the New York Yankees on July 2, 1943. ... The Cardinals are the first team in major league history to score 12 runs in an inning to break a scoreless tie in the seventh inning or later.

The Cardinals tied a major league record for doubles in an inning with seven. The Boston Bees also had seven, against the Cardinals, in the first game of an August 25, 1936 doubleheader, at St. Louis' Sportsman Park. The Bees won that game 20-3.

* But what is the record for most runs by a team in any game in which it scores in only one inning?

The inning:
Cardinals 7th
Justin Germano pitching.
David Freese reached on an infield single to third.
James Russell relieved Germano.
Jon Jay popped bunt out to third.
Allen Craig hit for Jake Westbrook.
Craig doubled to left, Freese to third.
Rafael Furcal singled to left, Freese scored, Craig to third.
Skip Schumaker tripled to deep center, Craig and Furcal scored.
Matt Holliday walked.
Carlos Beltran ground-rule doubled to right, Schumaker scored, Holliday to third.
Yadier Molina intentionally walked.
Lance Berkman popped out to second.
Manny Corpas relieved Russell.
Freese doubled to right, Holliday and Beltran scored, Molina to third.
Jay doubled to left, Molina and Freese scored.
Craig doubled to right, Jay scored.
Furcal walked.
Rafael Dolis relieved Corpas; Joe Mather at third.
Schumaker doubled to left, Craig scored, Furcal to third.
Holliday doubled to right, Furcal and Schumaker scored.
Beltran struck out, reached on wild pitch, Holliday to third.
Tyler Greene ran for Beltran.
Tony Cruz hit for Molina.
Cruz struck out swinging.

July 21, 2012

G95: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 3

Blue Jays - 001 002 301 - 7  7  1
Red Sox   - 030 000 000 - 3  5  2
Jarrod Saltalamacchia's three-run home run (#18) in the second inning gave Boston an early lead, but the Red Sox managed only two hits after that blast, and dropped another game to the last-place Blue Jays.

Edwin Encarnacion tied the game with a two-run bomb off Cook (6.1-4-5-1-1, 86) in the sixth and J.P. Arencibia gave Toronto a 4-3 lead with a solo shot to start the seventh. Brett Lawrie knocked in two insurance runs in that inning. (Two of the five runs allowed by Cook were unearned.)

The Red Sox's second started strongly with a single by Adrian Gonzalez, a double from Cody Ross, and Salty's dong into the Jays' pen. But Villanueva (6.1-4-3-2-5, 101) and three Toronto relievers slammed the door after that, allowing only two hits (one of which was a bunt single by Pedro Ciriaco) and two walks. No Boston runner ventured past second base.

Ross walked and went to second on a wild pitch in the fourth, but Salty struck out and Will Middlebrooks lined into a 6-4 double play. In the fifth, Ciriaco's single and a walk to Daniel Nava put runners on first and second with one out, but Carl Crawford lined to left and Pedroia grounded to shortstop.

Example
Carlos Villanueva / Aaron Cook
Nava, RF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Sweeney, CF
Ciriaco, SS
Villanueva has not allowed a run in his last two starts, both six-inning efforts, against Kansas City and Cleveland. He has allowed only seven hits in those 12 innings.

In his last three starts (22 innings), Cook has a 1.23 ERA. Here's an oddity: in 29.2 innings pitched this season, Cook has only two walks and two strikeouts.

Hot: In 22 games since June 23, Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .411, and has raised his average nearly thirty points, to .295. ... Cold: Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in an 0-for-14 slump and is only 1-for-25 over his last eight games, and 8-for-61 (.131) since June 25 (with 27 strikeouts in 17 games).

July 20, 2012

G94: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1

Blue Jays - 220 010 001 - 6  9  0
Red Sox   - 000 000 001 - 1  9  1
Yet another desultory night at Fenway - as frustrating as Thursday night as exhilarating - as Josh Beckett allowed two singles, two doubles, one triple, two walks, and four runs to the first 12 Toronto batters. The Red Sox had a few minor scoring opportunities, but did not cross the plate until the final inning.

Beckett (6-7-5-3-7, 96) gave up a triple to Cody Rasmus, the second batter of the game. Rasmus tried to score on Edward Encarnacion's grounder to Will Middlebrooks at third, but replays (according to what I heard on the radio) showed that he was blocked and tagged, and never touched the plate. If home plate umpire Sam Holbrook had not blown the call, the Jays would have had a man on first and two outs rather than one out, a man on first, and a 1-0 lead. ... Rasmus doubled in two runs in the second.

In his 16 first innings this year, Beckett has allowed 19 earned runs for a 10.69 ERA.

Laffey (7-8-0-0-4, 88) scattered eight singles, and Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen mopped up.

In the third, singles from Mike Aviles and Jacoby Ellsbury gave the Red Sox men at first and second with one out. But both Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia flew out to right.

A one-out single in the fourth was erased on a double play. A leadoff fifth-inning single was stranded at second, and a one-out hit in the sixth could not advance.

Boston's seventh began with singles from Middlebrooks (2-for-4) and Kelly Shoppach (2-for-3). But Aviles struck out looking, Pedro Ciriaco forced Shoppach at second (moving WMB to third), and Ellsbury fouled out to third.

In the ninth, Middlebrooks singled to right, took second on DI, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Aviles's fielder's choice.

Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-4, only the second time in his last 25 games he has failed to get a hit.
Example
Aaron Laffey / Josh Beckett
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Shoppach, C
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, DH
In the aftermath of last night's thrilling walk-off win, ESPN Boston has posted a poll. I don't usually look at online polls, but I noticed this one.

Both choices presume that the reader/Red Sox fan was not interested in the team or season before this recent stretch of success. It supposes that a person would be interested in the team only if they are 'going someplace', only if they are winning.

I understand that there is the issue of injured players (Ellsbury, Crawford) coming back to the lineup, but I believe that a fan follows and supports her team no matter how many players are on the disabled list, whether they are in first place or last place. ... When I checked, 81% had voted "Absolutely!"

July 19, 2012

G93: Red Sox 3, White Sox 1

White Sox - 000 100 000 - 1  8  0
Red Sox   - 000 000 003 - 3  8  0

With one swing of the bat, Cody Ross erased all frustration over a couple of wasted scoring opportunities earlier in the game. His three-run home run off Addison Reed - Ross's third three-run bomb in two games - gave the Red Sox a walk-off win in what had been a tight pitchers' duel between Jose Quintana (8-5-0-0-2, 103) and Clay Buchholz (8-6-1-1-6, 107).

Both starters were on their game and it seemed like the play of the game would be Adam Dunn's daring first-to-third dash in the fourth inning, and a subsequent sacrifice fly.

Dunn walked to start the fourth and he sprinted to third when Paul Konerko chopped a single through the infield and into right. Ross's throw to Will Middlebrooks was perfect, but just an eyelash or two late. Alex Rios then lifted a fly ball to right and Dunn scored.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox could do nothing with Quintana. Boston's only base runner in the first six innings was Pedro Ciriaco's two-out triple in the third.

But they threatened in the bottom of the seventh. Three consecutive singles from Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Ross loaded the bases with one out. Middlebrooks grounded a ball to shortstop; Alexei Ramirez broke right, but the ball went to his left. He recovered instantly, grabbed the ball and threw to second from one knee, starting a 6-4-3 double play.

In the eighth, Mike Aviles singled with one out. Ciriaco popped out to right and after Aviles took second on a wild pitch, Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to short to end the inning.

Alfredo Aceves took over for Buchholz in the ninth and wiggled in and out of some trouble. With two outs, Dayan Viciedo singled and Gordon Beckham hit a ground-rule double to right (if the ball had stayed in the field of play, Viciedo would have scored easily). With men at second and third, Eduardo Escobar grounded to second for the third out.

Matt Thornton began the ninth for Chicago. Carl Crawford lined a single to right, and was then forced at second by Pedroia. Gonzalez grounded an 0-2 pitch into right for a hit and Pedroia stopped at second. Reed came in from the pen and Nick Punto ran for Gonzalez.

Ross looked at a ball and a strike before launching an inside fastball over the Wall in left. In the last two games, Ross has five hits, including a double and three home runs, four runs scored, and nine RBI.
Aceves is the guy tossing the Gatorade on his teammates.
It was a celebration, you know. Everybody has his own style. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a good thing that we win and we've got to celebrate. When are we going to celebrate? Tomorrow? No. Right after we win.
Example
Jose Quintana / Clay Buchholz
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Shoppach, C
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, DH

Lester Speaks Out

Jon Lester opened up to ESPN's Gordon Edes before last night's win:
You think I'm happy right now? You think I like coming to the park with almost a 5 ERA (4.80) next to my name, with a 5-7 record? I mean, who would be happy?

You think last night me coming off the field getting booed was fun? C'mon, who would want to do that? It's much cooler for me to walk off the field to a standing ovation after pitching my ass off. ...

It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for my wife to be sitting in the stands to hear that. I'm embarrassed for her. I'm embarrassed what she has to hear in the stands. ...

I don't want to show up at the park and go, "[Expletive], I'm going to give up seven runs in four innings and call it a day, then go home and count my money because that's all that matters." ...

This is a tough place to play, you know? I love playing here because it makes people accountable. It makes you accountable for what you do. There's no excuses here. If you pitch like [expletive], you can't come in and say, "Aw, the mound's a little wet" because you've got Dave (Mellor, the groundskeeper) down there saying, "No, it wasn't." This place makes you accountable. ...

If baseball was that easy to fix when you're not going right, you wouldn't see slumps. My biggest frustration is when people think we're robots. We're going to have bad games. We're going to have bad seasons. Do we want them? No, I hate this. ...

Every single guy cares, every single guy busts their ass every night, every guy grinds out at-bats. It doesn't matter if it's Mauro Gomez or if its Pedro Ciriaco or if it's Will or Adrian or David. ... I think that's what caught everybody so off guard here, that article about being toxic. This clubhouse is great.
You can quibble with a small point here and there, but it's an excellent piece.

July 18, 2012

G92: Red Sox 10, White Sox 1

White Sox - 100 000 000 -  1  4  0
Red Sox   - 103 402 00x - 10 14  0

Cody Ross (3-for-5) hit two three-run home runs - in consecutive innings - and Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-4) drove in Boston's remaining four runs. Jacoby Ellsbury also had three hits, and he and Ross each scored three times.

Felix Doubront (6-4-1-3-2, 96) held the White Sox in check and the bullpen - Matt Albers, Mark Melancon, and Andrew Miller - threw three perfect innings of relief.

Ellsbury doubled to begin the first inning and Gonzalez singled him home.

In the third, Ellsbury and Carl Crawford each singled and Ross nailed a dong off the left field pole. With two outs in the fourth, and Pedro Ciriaco and Ellsbury aboard, Ross hit another tater, to left-center. Gonzalez followed that with an opposite field shot of his own.

Evil Bert added a two-run single in the sixth, after Crawford was hit by a pitch and Ross doubled. ... Gonzalez has hit safely in 22 of his last 23 games; the one exception was July 8, when he left the game after one AB with flu-like symptoms.
Example
Pedro Hernandez / Felix Doubront
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Ross, RF
Gonzalez, 1B
Middlebrooks, 3B
Gomez, DH
Aviles, SS
Shoppach, C
Ciriaco, 2B

David Ortiz To DL; Gomez Called Up

David Ortiz - .316/.414/.609, and an AL-best 1.024 OPS - is the latest Sock to be placed on the 15-day disabled list. The decision came after a second opinion was received on his injured Achilles heel.

According to the Globe, Ortiz was told his heel would take 10 to 14 days to heal. Mauro Gomez has been recalled from Pawtucket.

July 17, 2012

G91: White Sox 7, Red Sox 5

White Sox - 210 301 000 - 7 11  1
Red Sox   - 200 000 030 - 5  9  0
Chicago led 3-2 and had runners at second and third with two outs in the fourth. Jon Lester had fallen behind Kevin Youkilis 3-0 and it looked like he was willing to pitch around him and take his chances with Adam Dunn.

But then Lester got two called strikes to run the count full. His sixth pitch of the at-bat was up a bit but right over the heart of the plate - and Youkilis drilled it over the Wall, increasing the White Sox's lead to 6-2.

Lester lasted only four innings (4-7-6-3-4, 91) in yet another disappointing outing. Junichi Tazawa pitched four innings of relief (4-4-1-0-4, 50) and Franklin Morales, bumped from the rotation, pitched the ninth.

For the second straight night, Boston rallied in the eighth. Carl Crawford singled, went to second on a groundout and stole third. He scored on Will Middlebrooks's single. Then pinch-hitter Kelly Shoppach went deep for two more runs. But the Red Sox went in order in the ninth.

Crawford had the kind of game the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him: 3-for-4, three stolen bases, two runs scored, and an RBI.
Example
Philip Humber / Jon Lester
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Nava, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Middlebrooks, 3B
Saltalamacchia, C
Sweeney, RF
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 2B
UPDATE: Globe:
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz does not have a tear or rupture in his Achilles' tendon and will take a few days off, but will not be placed on the disabled list ...
Example
"This (expletive) team is cursed," Ortiz said humorlessly as he limped toward the showers ...

This list may not be complete (and does not include players who missed games without going on the DL (e.g., Adrian Gonzalez, Will Middlebrooks, and now Ortiz)):

Start of Season
Carl Crawford, 15-Day disabled list, left wrist surgery.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, 15-Day disabled list, Tommy John surgery.
Rich Hill, 15-Day disabled list, Tommy John surgery.
Andrew Miller, 15-Day disabled list, left hamstring strain.
Andrew Bailey, 60-Day disabled list, right thumb surgery.
John Lackey, 60-Day disabled list, Tommy John surgery.
Bobby Jenks, 60-Day disabled list, back surgery.
Chris Carpenter, 60-Day disabled list, right elbow surgery.

April 14 - Jacoby Ellsbury, 15-Day disabled list, subluxation of right shoulder.

April 23 - Jason Repko, 15-Day disabled list, slight left shoulder separation.

May 2 - Kevin Youkilis, 15-Day disabled list, lower back strain.

May 6 - Aaron Cook, 15-Day disabled list, left knee laceration.

May 13 - Darnell McDonald, 15-Day disabled list, right oblique strain.

May 22 - Ryan Sweeney, 7-Day disabled list, concussion.

May 22 - Cody Ross, 15-Day disabled list, fracture of navicular bone in left foot.

June 10 - Rich Hill, 15-Day disabled list, feft forearm soreness.

June 16 - Josh Beckett, 15-Day disabled list, right shoulder inflammation.

June 17 - Ryan Sweeney, 15-Day disabled list, toe injury.

June 24 - Clay Buchholz, 15-Day disabled list, gastro-intestinal problem.

July 3 - Daisuke Matsuzaka, 15-Day disabled list, right upper trapezius strain.

July 6 - Dustin Pedroia, 15-Day disabled list, sprained right thumb.

July 15 - Scott Atchison, 15-Day disabled list, right forearm tightness.

Through it all, the Red Sox are 1 GB in the wild card standings, with 72 games remaining.

July 16, 2012

Ortiz Injures Right Heel, Will Have MRI On Tuesday

David Ortiz came up lame between second and third base in the eighth inning on Monday night. He limped around the bases (on Adrian Gonzalez's home run) and back to the dugout. After the game, Ortiz said he injured his right heel and will have an MRI on Tuesday.

Gordon Edes, Twitter:
Ortiz said he didn't hear a pop. "I think I'll be all right," he said, but was pretty grim-faced as he left.

Last August Ortiz missed nine games with bursitis in the same (right) heel. Have a suspicion this is related
SoSH: Bobby Valentine said that Ortiz has an Achilles injury and would miss several days. Ortiz was not using crutches.

Valentine:
He wasn't sure if it was going to get out, so he was going to score. It went out, he went to slow down, and pop. It's that Achilles. You know he's had the heel, where the Achilles attaches in the back of the heel. I guess he's had it in the past. ... David's a little upset and a little sore, but it doesn't look like he pulled anything or tore anything. It's probably going to be some days, though. ... We're not going to lose him for long, it doesn't look like. We've been playing short all year; no need to start anything new now. We're prepared for it. We're battle-ready.

G90: Red Sox 5, White Sox 1

White Sox - 100 000 000 - 1  5  0
Red Sox   - 100 000 04x - 5 10  2
Adrian Gonzalez's three-run opposite-field home run in the eighth inning snapped a 1-1 tie. He finished the game with two hits and four RBI.

David Ortiz singled in the first and walked in the eighth - and became the first player in Red Sox history (since at least 1918) to have at least one hit and walk in 10 consecutive games.

Carl Crawford, playing in his first game of 2012, began both Boston rallies. With one out in the first, he singled up the middle, was off with the pitch and raced to third on Ortiz's hit, and scored on Gonzalez's liner to right.

Crawford began the eighth with a five-pitch walk against Leyson Septimo. Ortiz also worked a five-pitch walk and Gonzalez drove a 2-1 pitch into the Monster Seats in left center. After a pitching change, Cody Ross singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Mike Aviles's single.

Aaron Cook (7-5-1-0-0, 97) allowed an unearned run in the first inning. Kevin Youkilis - who had three of Chicago's five hits - singled. He took second on Adam Dunn's groundout to second and, when he saw that the entire left side of the infield was empty (because of the shift on Dunn), sprinted for third. Gonzalez's throw to Will Middlebrooks was wild, and Youkilis scored. It was the only time the White Sox got a runner past second base. (Yook also doubled in both the third and sixth innings.)

Pedro Ciriaco had two singles and a double.
Example
Dylan Axelrod / Aaron Cook
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 2B
Now playing left field ... Carl Crawford.

Crawford underwent wrist surgery in January, then sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow during spring training. In an 11-game rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast Sox, Portland, and Pawtucket, Crawford batted .306 (11-for-36) with an on-base percentage of .432.

(In his last 17 games, Daniel Nava is hitting a paltry .127 with a .501 OPS.)

Today is also the return to Fenway Park of Kevin Youkilis, who was traded to the White Sox on June 24. In 16 games with Chicago, Yook is hitting .295/.397/.475.

Youkilis thanked Red Sox Nation for his wonderful memories of Boston:
What an amazing run I have had these past 8½ years in Boston!

It has been an honor and a privilege to play every home game of my career in Boston before a sold out Fenway Park. I would like to thank everyone who gave me an opportunity in Boston, and stood behind me through all these years. To the Spinners, the Sea Dogs, the PawSox, and to all those teammates on the Red Sox since 2004, I am forever grateful. ...

And, last but no means least, to all the Red Sox Nation, the home of the most dedicated and knowledgeable fans in baseball, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. That final game at Fenway was the most emotional day of my life on the baseball field. It could not have been scripted any better. And to all those kids out there in Red Sox Nation, I can give you my Dad’s advice. "Life is like a throw to first base, always aim high."

I love you all, and thanks,

Kevin Youkilis

Book Review: Fenway Park: A Salute To The Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium In America, by John Powers and Ron Driscoll

In honour of Fenway Park's 100 years of existence, the Boston Globe has produced a beautiful coffee-table book (9x13) that, like the baseball park it celebrates, is a gem.

Its 250 pages include dozens of never-before-republished colour and black-and-white photographs, reproductions of newspaper pages, and interviews with past players. The book also comes with a poster of the blueprints for the extensive 1934 renovations. And at $30, it is very reasonably priced. (The anniversary book produced by the Red Sox is $75 online and $80 at the store across the street from the park.)

In addition to the decade-by-decade history, there are pages devoted to people who have worked in the Park, including switch board operator Helen Robinson (who worked the park's main switchboard for more than 60 years), organist John Kiley, and grounds keeper Joe Mooney, and superfan Lib Dooley (who attended 4,000+ consecutive home games).

Sidebars on other random things and events: Duffy's Cliff, the Red Seat, the extensive renovations during the winter of 1933-34, the day Ted Williams retired for the first time (in April 1952, when he went to fight in the Korean War), Fenway's first night game, the Citgo sign, Chuck "The Maniacal One" Waseleski, the true distance down the left field line, and the late '90s plans to destroy the park and move the Red Sox to a modern, replica stadium.

That plan was vigorously protested by many fans and groups like Save Fenway Park, and it was not until 2005 that the new ownership group led by John Henry formally announced that the park would remain intact and in use. Since then, there have been several rounds of renovations. They have been seamless - indeed, it now seems a little odd to see old footage of the screen atop the Wall - and the park has (for the most part) retained its coziness and magic.

Despite the cramped seats and increase in loud music between innings, Fenway Park remains one of my favourite places on Earth. This book does an excellent job of telling the story of why people have such a close attachment to Fenway Park. It celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly about a baseball park that, at 101 years of age, is still going strong.

(Disclosure: I was sent two copies of this book by Running Press. The second copy is the prize in this year's W-L contest.)

Consecutive Games With At Least 1 Hit And 1 Walk

David Ortiz has tied a Red Sox record (since 1918) with at least one hit and one walk in nine consecutive games.

July 15, 2012

G89: Red Sox 7, Rays 3

Red Sox - 120 031 000 - 7 14  0
Rays    - 300 000 000 - 3 10  0
Mike Aviles tied the game with a two-run home run in the second.

Daniel Nava gave the Red Sox a lead with a solo shot in the fifth.

Will Middlebrooks had three hits and drove in two additional fifth-inning runs

Josh Beckett (6-8-3-2-7, 104) settled down after an uncomfortable first inning, in which he faced eight batters, hitting one and allowing four hits. Beckett retired 13 of last 16 batters he faced, from the second inning through the sixth. Beckett was dealing with dizziness and "borderline blackout periods" on the mound.

Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and scored an insurance run in the sixth. He finished the series 6-for-14.

David Ortiz had two hits and a walk. He's the first Red Sox player to have at least one hit and one walk in nine consecutive games since Ted Williams in 1950.

Adrian Gonzalez (back in the lineup after missing two games with back stiffness sustained when saying hello to some f@#&ing kid at a mall) had two hits.

Alfredo Aceves walked three Rays in the ninth inning, bringing Hideki Matsui to the plate as the potential tying run with two outs. Shemp lofted an easy fly to right field for the final out.

Boston heads home to play four games against Kevin Youkilis and the White Sox, starting tomorrow night. It looks like Carl Crawford will be in the Red Sox lineup.
Example
Josh Beckett / James Shields
Ellsbury, CF
Nava, LF
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 2B
Junichi Tazawa is being called up for today's game and Scott Atchison is apparently going on the disdabled list.

The Red Sox have lost 11 of their last 15 games, scoring three or fewer runs in nine of the last 11 games. ... David Ortiz has at least one walk in eight consecutive games. ... Daniel Nava is in a 7-for-60 (.117) slump.

July 14, 2012

G88: Rays 5, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 000 201 000 - 3  7  1
Rays    - 001 010 21x - 5  5  1
Buchholz (6.1-3-4-1-8, 87) allowed only three hits and two runs through six innings, a strong showing coming off the disabled list.

But he began the seventh with a walk and an HBP and Matt Albers allowed both of those runners to score - on a bases-loaded walk and a sac fly - turning a 3-2 Boston lead into a 4-3 deficit. The Rays scored those two key runs on no hits; their first two runs scored on a sac fly and an infield error.

Down 4-3 after seven, the Red Sox rallied in the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury began the frame with a double to right. However, he advanced no further. Pedro Ciriaco popped up a bunt attempt (he said he was doing it on his own - grrrrrr) and, after David Ortiz walked, Joel Peralta came in and got both Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks to fly harmlessly to center.

B.J. Upton's home run in the eighth off Andrew Miller added some insurance. Mike Aviles singled to begin the Boston ninth, but Fernando Rodney got the next three batters, two by strikeout.

Middlebrooks hit a two-run dong in the fourth. ... Ellsbury and Aviles had two hits each.

Boston dropped back to .500 (44-44).
Example
Clay Buchholz / David Price
Ellsbury, CF
Ciriaco, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ross, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B
Aviles, SS
Shoppach, C
Lillibridge, 1B
Nava, LF
Buchholz makes his first start since June 19. He went on the disabled list after that outing with esophagitis and gastrointestinal bleeding. He made one rehab appearance, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings for Pawtucket last Sunday. Buchholz has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last seven starts.

Price faced the Red Sox on May 26 in Boston, allowing only one run in seven innings. (Boston won that game 3-2 on a pinch-hit, two-run, walk-off home run by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.)

Carl Crawford played nine innings in left field for Pawtucket last night, going 0-for-4 with a walk and stolen base. He is expected to play a full game today, take Sunday off, and join the Red Sox on Monday when they host the White Sox.
Whether I'm ready or not, I'll be out there, hopefully. It's time to get out on the field and see what I can do. I feel the pressure of everybody wanting me to be out there. I want to be out there myself.
Also: Ryan Westmoreland underwent surgery on Friday for a complication of a cavernous malformation in his brain.

Ebbets Field: A Model Stadium

Bob Duff, The Windsor Star:
Every one of the 31,000 green-coloured seat bottoms fold up.

Each of the 1,000 lights illuminate brightly.

It's so realistic you half expect the toilets to flush. ...

A year ago, Mark Williams, owner and head designer of Imagine That Laser Art Products, was commissioned to build a 1/48th scale replica of [Brooklyn's Ebbets Field] ... The ballpark measures 16 by 12 feet in diameter and stands over two feet high. ...

Like mom's apple pie, every aspect of the project was assembled from scratch. Each one of the railings was hand soldered. The screens attached to the railings are all hand tied.

The replica comes complete with hot dog stand, ticket windows, even some pigeon poop running down the side walls and a bird's nest tucked in under the roof.

"It's fully operational," Williams said. "We designed all the parts, did all the researching ourselves through the internet and photographs. Everything is very accurate and because it's made of wood, it lends itself to an older texture and it looks like it's real." ...

Still to be added before completion is the diamond, the roads around the stadium, and the ballplayers. Williams will utilize a 3D printer to make replicas of former Dodgers, so that likenesses of Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson may once again patrol Ebbets Field.
When Ebbets Field is completed in the next month or two, Williams will begin work on a replica of the Polo Grounds.

Zack Greinke Starts Three Consecutive Games

Zack Greinke of the Brewers is the first pitcher in 95 years to start three consecutive games for his team.

Greinke started against Houston last Saturday, but was ejected after two batters (0-2-1-0-0, 4). He came back and started Sunday's game (3-5-3-2-5, 66). And thanks to the All-Star break, Greinke was in line to start the Brewers' game last night against the Pirates (5-7-6-2-6, 97).

The last pitcher to start three games in a row was Red Faber of the 1917 White Sox. And he did it in two days! Faber started both games of a September 3 doubleheader against Detroit (lasting 4.2 and 1.1 innings, respectively), then pitched all nine innings in St. Louis on September 4.

July 13, 2012

G87: Red Sox 3, Rays 1

Red Sox - 120 000 000 - 3  7  2
Rays    - 000 001 000 - 1  6  0
The Legend of Pedro Ciriaco continues. Three more hits (he's 10-for-12 in his last three games), two key RBI, and a steal of third base! ... He is the first player in Red Sox history to have three consecutive games of 3+ hits and at least one stolen base.

David Ortiz got the Red Sox on the board in the first inning with his 23rd home run. In the second, after Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney walked and Mike Aviles was hit by a pitch, Ciriaco grounded a single up the middle for two runs.

Franklin Morales (5-2-0-3-5, 95) stranded a runner at third in the first inning when he picked B.J. Upton off first. In the fourth, Morales walked the bases loaded with two outs, but fanned Luke Scott to get out of trouble.

A two-base error by Aviles put Ben Zobrist on second to start the sixth, against Scott Atchison, and Zobrist scored on Sean Rodriguez's two-out double. Tampa Bay left runners at first and third in that inning.

Zobrist doubled off Vicente Padilla to open the eighth, but was wiped off the bases when Ryan Sweeney caught Upton's fly ball to right and gunned Zobrist down trying to advance to third, 9-6-5. Alfredo Aceves retired the Rays in order in the ninth on 10 pitches.

Jacoby Ellsbury, out of the Red Sox lineup for three months, went 1-for-5 in his return, with two strikeouts and a GIDP.
Example
Franklin Morales / Jeremy Hellickson
Ellsbury, CF
Nava, LF
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Middlebrooks, 3B
Saltalamacchia, C
Sweeney, RF
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury is expected back in the Boston lineup tonight. Ellsbury has been out since April 13 with a partially dislocated right shoulder.

Will Middlebrooks, who missed seven games with a left hamstring strain, says he is ready to return tonight.

Carl Crawford began a short rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday night and is set to the Red Sox on Monday.

Dustin Pedroia should return next Thursday, when his DL stint runs out. "I feel great. I heal quick. Like I said, I'm a lizard."

If all of that news makes you feel good, click on over to Gordon Edes's recent ESPN article that outlines how "signs of disconnects are everywhere", despite what anyone says publicly. It is pretty dismal reading and I have to assume it is not the usual media bullshit, considering it's from Edes. (See also this.)

Nick Cafardo Still Hates Jacoby Ellsbury

Nick Cafardo, Globe, July 8, 2012:
... while Ellsbury keeps rehabbing and rehabbing and rehabbing in the minors. If he can play in the minors, why can't he play here?
When Ellsbury was out with five cracked ribs in 2010, Cafardo made numerous petty implications in print that Ellsbury was either a wimp or refusing to come back and play. (I recall noting some jabs in the comment section of various threads at the time; I wish I had compiled them all.)

Naturally, the spectacularly ignorant and chronically lazy Cafardo forgot (or "forgot" or never knew) that part of Ellsbury's problem that season was that he tried to come back too early and reinjured himself.

July 10, 2012

Review: Infinite Jest, The Audio Book

In March, Hachette Audio released an audio version of David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel, Infinite Jest, in two versions, as an audio download (56 hours) and as a Playaway - an iPod-sized device that runs on a battery.

Hachett advertises the recording as "unabridged", but, as I'll explain shortly, the audio book is definitely not unabridged. In fact, roughly 10% of the novel - the famous endnotes - is missing.

Note: My review of the recording (I received a Playaway from Hachette) is at the bottom of this lengthy post. But first - Wallace's novel is read by Sean Pratt, who was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions by email.

1. When did you come into the project?

I first heard about it from the producer, John McElroy, in 2009, when he mentioned the possibility that he'd be producing IJ for Hachette. We talked about the project for over nine months, until it was green-lighted.

2. Are you a big fan of Wallace and/or the book?

I'd heard of DFW and IJ, of course, but like most people, I'd never read any of his work. Once, I knew we were a "go" for the project, I did watch some interviews, etc. on YouTube as well as read about the book itself. I thought both he and his work were very interesting and complex.

3. What are some of the other books you have narrated?

I've done a LOT: about 660 titles in 16 years. They include almost every genre you can think of....and some I'd rather not discuss... :-) Favorites would be Ben Hur, Raintree County, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Michael Burlingame's Bio of Abraham Lincoln, The Drunkards Walk, many of the Robert Heinlein books, and A Death in the Family.

4. How did doing this book differ from the others? If you have done non-fiction books, then this one is quite different, with a non-linear manuscript, nearly 400 endnotes/digression, and a cast of hundreds. How was it decided how to read it, techniques to use ...?

It's unlike anything I've narrated! Period. Is it like anything you've read?

The demands are enormous. Wild syntax. Serpentine sentences. Unattributed dialogue. Foreign language (some of it made-up). Crazy characters who come and go, willy nilly. Yikes! But I can always tell when an author has taken the time to read their work aloud in order to hear what the words sound like. The flow is always better, the tempo is consistent and the words and phrases have a real melody to them. When you narrate a well written book, like IJ, it's like a surfer catching a wave; it just carries you along. Without doubt, though, it's the most difficult, most rewarding book I've worked on.

5. How many hours a day did you work? How long did the project take? (Is that different than other books?)

First of all, the decision was made not to read the endnotes. As a narrator, that seems right to me. IJ is difficult enough to follow, at times, without creating yet another level to distract the listener. Don't get me wrong, the endnotes are great, but given the constraints of our format, I can't see how they'd have worked. I know that's not what DFW's biggest fans want to hear, but as a performer, that's what I believe. What we have here is the pure narrative as it unfolds.

Second, to some extent, you need to trust the narrator to make choices. They're not always the choices the director or another actor would make, but they're his. John gave me a lot of leeway on my performance. Still, there were moments where I understood his reservations and made adjustments. One, actually involved DFW's use of abbreviations. I wanted to spell all of them out for the listener as a courtesy; it's hard to comprehend what's going on in an audiobook when you're not spelling things out. I mean, while most people know what "i.e." or "Dr." means, not many know "e.g", "Q.v.", "c", "A.D.A" or some of the more idiosyncratic ones that DFW came up with. But John convinced me that they were many instances where they needed to be kept "as is" and so that's what we did; that's why they call it a collaboration.

6. With so many uncommon words (Madame Psychosis's radio show has a ton of them), did you have phonetic cheat sheets? Multiple takes?

If you count "scoring" the text - when to breath, what's the most important word or phrase in each sentence, is this parenthetical phrase more or less important than the main sentence, circling words to be looked up later, etc - that takes a significant period of prep, especially for so long a novel. Our recording sessions ran five to six hours, with breaks every hour or so.

7. With two-page sentences and odd sections (i.e., James Incandenza's filmography), what kind of a challenge was this book? (Did you have phonetic cheat sheets?)

On two-page sentences: That's where the scoring comes in. They're too hard to tackle, otherwise.
On keeping characters straight: I had separate sheets with all the characters and their voice notes, a pronunciation guide, and a blank sheet to take notes on.

And as I said, note 24 (J.O.I's filmography) isn't included in the recording. It's a PERFECT instance of why the endnotes present such a challenge for the audiobook format: a long list of discrete subjects, punctuated with technical language, and parodic precis of each film. Works on the page, but man, it would be quite another experience to listen to it.

8. Did you listen to Wallace reading from IJ and, if so, how did that influence your approach? (I heard a small part of The Pale King being read (the opening section) and I thought the reader lacked DFW's voice's warmth.)

In general, I don't listen to the author because...

1) For good or ill, I want my interpretation to be first and foremost in my head. Does an actor watch Oliver's Hamlet before he starts rehearsals? I sure wouldn't!

2) Authors and narrators have very different jobs: one writes, the other reads aloud. I think if you'd listened more to Robert Petkoff's performance (which I thought was great, incidentally), you'd see where he takes it. As an actor, his range is necessarily broader than Wallace's, and that makes all the difference.

***

In another interview, Pratt conceded that "I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to it ... Not just the length, but the depths of people's devotion [to the book]. ... It was the hardest book I ever had to narrate... it was maddening, engaging, enlightening, frustrating and entertaining."

For those people unaware of Infinite Jest, here's Hachette's description:
A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human - and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.
As Pratt noted, this audio book does not include the 388 endnotes - which are nearly 10% of the book. I think that is a huge mistake, because they are not necessarily any harder to read or understand than the main portion of the book. Hachette includes a PDF file of the endnotes with the audio download, but that's not much help if you are listening while in transit, or blind. At Goodreads, someone quipped, "That is like reading Finnegans Wake and not including the words that make no sense."

Hachette spokeswoman Megan Fitzpatrick told The Huffington Post that the decision to ignore the endnotes was an "incredibly difficult decision for all involved, and we debated different options for a long time before beginning production. Because some of the endnotes are pages-long digressions, if we had them read in line with the main narrative, we would have run the risk of making the already complex story unfollowable for listeners."

Nick Maniatis of The Howling Fantods website wrote in mid-April that the "endnotes are essential to the enjoyment and understanding of this novel [and] there is much significant material missing if the endnotes are excluded". I agree. While some endnotes are simply casual asides offered by the narrator, many others include key information to the book's many subplots.

Roughly one month later, Maniatis spoke with Hachette Book Group's Vice President of Audio, Anthony Goff, who confirmed that the audio endnotes will be recorded and available. Maniatis reported on May 24 that Goff "understand[s] that having recorded end notes are essential to Infinite Jest".
By way of explanation it was made clear that current audio book technologies (both in file size support by digital delivery, and sheer file management if end notes are recorded as individual files make it very difficult to do things exactly as they would like. i.e. 450-ish files if the content was produced in order to allow readers to skip end notes - though why you'd want to skip them when the first 350 pages are already dizzying is another question - the novel trains the reader to cope...

The Audible UK version of the original audio book will become available for purchase around September (pdf end notes), and the 6 hours of recorded end notes are expected to be available in the summer for everyone (for an additional, smaller, cost).

The end notes will not be integrated, but it does sound like Hachette Books have long term plans for making this work as the technology allows it. Maybe some enterprising person (or Hachette Books...) will take note of where each end note occurs so people who've purchased the whole text can integrate them somehow.
I note that the issue of the limitations of current technology was not mentioned during the initial complaints about the missing endnotes, although, in retrospect, it was hinted at. Statements from Hachette mentioned "the complexity of the endnote issue" and conceded that it was "unable to include them".

Once the endnotes are released, however, I have no idea how a listener would use them with the original release. Do you need to switch between two devices? How would it work with separate mp3 audio files? Because new chapters or sections of the book often begin within a track, I don't see why endnotes could not similarly be included within the respective tracks. Not every endnote would need its own track.

****

So (finally) what do I think of the actual in-hand recording?

I love it. I love the fact that Infinite Jest exists in an audio format at all. (I wish they had used the original hard cover art for the Playaway rather than the 10th anniversary paperback version.) The reading, while abridged, is thoroughly enjoyable. Any fan of Infinite Jest should be thrilled with Pratt's performance.

(The Playaway consists of 55 tracks, each roughly an hour in length. The back of the Playaway has eight buttons (play/pause, reverse, forward, volume, speed of playback, etc.) and a little window displaying the track number and time remaining). It requires a AAA battery.)

I listened to various parts of the book, mostly a few sections from near the middle of the novel:
Gately driving Pat Montesian's Aventura through the Boston streets for food supplies for Ennet House (pages 461-69 and 475-79)

The AFR's murders of the Antitoi brothers (480-89)

A conversation between Gately and Joelle and the question of her beauty/deformity (531-38)

Randy Lenz's night-time activities (538-47)

Gately's midnight showdown with the Nucks (601-19)
Pratt's different voices seem true to the book's many characters, though I was distracted by the voice used for Joelle van Dyne, which sounded like a slightly effeminate man.

Listening to someone read a book forces you to listen to every word, whether you want to or not. It both slows the text down and opens it up, so you really hear the rhythmic repetition and hard snaps of consonants in a sentence like "She pulled some Commonwealth Substance-Abuse study in a black plastic binder off a long black plastic bookshelf filled with black plastic binders."

Pratt's reading gives a entirely new perspective to Infinite Jest. What comes through in his reading is Wallace's extraordinary linguistic dexterity, his unerring ear for dialogue, his care in crafting sentences, and his sly and understated wit. I found myself grinning at various sentences, the casual humour of which I almost certainly missed when reading silently to myself.