June 30, 2011

G80: Red Sox 5, Phillies 2

Red Sox  - 000 021 020 - 5 13  0
Phillies - 000 000 002 - 2  4  0
Lester (7-2-0-2-5, 120) was nearly untouchable and Jason Varitek cracked two solo home runs as Boston avoided a sweep in Philadelphia. The win was Terry Francona's 700th regular-season victory as Red Sox manager.

Lester and Hamels were matching each other bagel for bagel until Hamels was hit on the right hand by Adrian Gonzalez's line drive in the fourth inning. Hamels (4-2-0-0-2, 53) made the play on Evil Bert and then retired Dustin Pedroia to end the inning, but did not return to the mound. X-rays were negative on Hamels's right hand contusion.

With Hamels gone, the Red Sox wasted no time in scoring runs. Josh Reddick tripled off David Herndon with one out in the fifth and scored on Drew Sutton's single. Marco Scutaro singled and, after Lester fanned, Jacoby Ellsbury hit the second of his three singles to bring in Sutton.

Varitek homered off Herndon with two outs in the sixth to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. In the eighth, Pedroia and Varitek hit back-to-back dongs off Drew Carpenter. Reddick nearly made it three in a row, but his fly ball was caught at the base of the wall in right-center.

Boston's 5-8 hitters -- Varitek, Reddick, Sutton, Scutaro -- each had two hits.

After Daniel Bard pitched the eighth, Bobby Jenks faltered in the ninth, allowing a lead-off single and a one-out, two-run home run to Ryan Howard. After Jenks walked Shane Victorino, Tito went to Jonathan Papelbon, who quickly dismissed the next two hitters.

The Red Sox begin a three-game weekend series in Houston on Friday night - and then the scourge of interleague play will finally be over ... until next year.
Jon Lester / Cole Hamels

Theo talked about a lot of stuff.

AL East: Brewers/Yankees at 1 PM.

ESPN: Nomar Swings And Misses

As John Lackey took his warm-ups in the bottom of the first inning last night, ESPN's play-by-play man Dave O'Brien noted Lackey's 7.36 ERA, as an on-screen graphic informed us that among MLB pitchers with at least 10 starts, Lackey's ERA is the absolute worst in baseball.

Nomar Garciaparra, in the analyst's chair for the evening, responded:
Lackey's ERA may be high, but he's 3-1 since coming off the disabled list.
Hey! 3-1 sounds pretty good. Who would turn their nose up at three wins out of every four starts? ... No one, that's who.

But - just out of curiosity, since we were talking about ERA - what was Lackey's ERA in those four starts?


Well, maybe he got slapped around in that one loss. Dude gets hammered and it throws his stats out of whack. It happens. What was Lackey's ERA in his three wins?


Hmmmm. Lackey pitched 19.2 innings in those three wins and allowed 17 hits, 4 walks, and 2 home runs; he also hit 3 batters. Boston won the games by scores of 6-3, 16-4, and 10-4.

June 29, 2011

G79: Phillies 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox  - 000 010 000 - 1  5  0
Phillies - 010 000 10x - 2  8  0
Another night in Philly and another strong pitching performance - Worley (7-5-1-2-5, 116) - stifles the Boston bats. The Red Sox will face Cole Hamels (lowest WHIP in the NL) tomorrow afternoon.

Lackey turned in one of his best starts of the season (7.2-8-2-1-5, 90) - and he drove in the Red Sox's only run! With two outs in the fifth and Josh Reddick on first, Lackey (.086 career average) fell behind 0-2, looked at three straight balls, fouled a pitch off, then clubbed a double to the wall in left-center. It was his second career two-bagger and second career RBI; Lackey is 3-for-8 since joining the Red Sox (can he play RF?). Reddick and Lackey were the only two Boston players to advance past first base.

Philadelphia scored a run on the first three pitches of the second. Shane Victorino lead off with a single on an 0-1 pitch and Raul Ibanez hit a first-pitch RBI single. Ibanez hit a solo home run in the seventh.

After all the fuss, Adrian Gonzalez had an uneventful night in right field. Ibanez doubled to the wall in right-center in the fourth, and Gonzalez deferred to Jacoby Ellsbury, who threw the ball back in. Ibanez's home run sailed far over his head. Jimmy Rollins grounded a single into right to start the eighth inning, which Gonzalez picked up cleanly. Two batters later, Chase Utley tripled off the top of the right field wall. Bert gave it a leap, but it was beyond his reach.
John Lackey / Vance Worley
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, RF
Youkilis, 3B
Ortiz, 1B
Saltalamacchia, C
Reddick, LF
Scutaro, SS
Lackey, P
AL East: Reds/Rays at Noon and Brewers/Yankees at 7 PM.

June 28, 2011

Ortiz Will Play 1B Wednesday; Gonzalez In RF?

David Ortiz will play first base tonight. He says his mitt is "hard as a rock, but good hands never leave you".

That probably means Adrian Gonzalez will be in right field for the second time in his career and first time since 2005. If that happens, adding insult to (the risk of) injury is the fact that John Lackey - tied with Tim Wakefield as the starter with the worst GB-to-FB ratio on the staff - will be on the hill.

But perhaps Terry Francona will give Gonzalez - one of only five MLB hitters with an OPS over 1.000 - his first day off of the season and go with J.D. Drew, whose vision seems fine after taking batting practice on Tuesday, against Phillies RHP Vance Worley.

Dustin Pedroia: "It'll be good offensively, but damn, I've gotta play second, first and right. That's a lot of ground to cover, man. I've got small legs."

David Ortiz: "Talk to you tomorrow when I hit a bomb."

G78: Phillies 5, Red Sox 0

Red Sox  - 000 000 000 - 0  2  1
Phillies - 020 012 00x - 5  6  0
Cliff Lee (9-2-0-2-5, 112) pitched his third consecutive complete game shutout, and extended his scoreless inning streak to 32 (5th longest in Phillies history). In five June starts, he has allowed one run in 42 innings.

Lee did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. Boston had four baserunners, all of whom were the leadoff batter in their respective inning:
2nd - Youkilis walk
6th - Scutaro single
7th - Pedroia walk
8th - McDonald double
None of the runners advanced even one base.

Beckett (6-5-5-1-1, 84) allowed a two-run home run to Domonic Brown in the second. Brown doubled in the fifth and scored on Lee's sac fly, and Shane Victorino clubbed a two-run dong in the sixth. Franklin Morales and Bobby Jenks - both activated off the disabled list before the game - each pitched an inning of relief.

Josh Beckett / Cliff Lee

John Gonzalez, Philadelphia Inquirer:
The next few days figure to test our collective patience and sanity. Brace yourself: Boston fans are coming. ...

They've gotten out of control, these Boston fans. They've mutated. There was a time when they took a perverse pride in their suffering, when they romanticized their lack of sports luck. Then the Pats won and the Sox won and the Celtics won and, more recently, the Bruins won. ...

The people in Boston have become obnoxious, arrogant, condescending. ... an openly supercilious lot who never hesitate to tell you exactly how good they have it. ...

[T]he fans there have become the sports equivalent of the mouthy businessman who gets loaded at the bar and won't shut up about how much money he's made and how much better his life is than yours. He drones on and on about his summer house and his expensive cars and his cushy Rich & Famous lifestyle ... Their gloating is insufferable.

Over at the Globe, Chad Finn tries to make sense of Gonzalez's apparent disappointment that Bruins fans did not riot after winning the Stanley Cup ("So, more rioting=less obnoxiousness. Got it.") and chides him for basing his opinion of Boston fans on ESPN, WEEI, the Montreal Gazette, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

(Well, at least Gonzalez did not suggest (as a PI columnist did in March) that fans bring D-cell batteries to throw at the Red Sox this week.)

A Simple Request to the Boston bats: Make Tito Apologize.

Beckett has not pitched since June 15, when he one-hit the Rays, as illness has laid him low. He still leads MLB with a 1.86 ERA.

Lee has pitched two complete game shutouts in the time Beckett has been out (June 16 and 22) and has allowed only one earned run over his last four starts (33 innings).

The Phillies (49-30) have the best record in baseball, with the Yankees (45-31) and Red Sox (45-32) at #2 and #3.

Philadelphia is 10th in the National League in average (.246), 7th in OBP (.320), and 11th in SLG (.373), and 8th in R/G (4.05). ... Their pitching staff is 1st in ERA (3.05), shutouts (11), and fewest walks (207), 2nd in WHIP (1.191, only .003 behind Atlanta's 1.188), 3th in opponents average (.243), 2nd in opponents OBP (.301), and 3rd in opponents SLG (.350).

Also: The Red Sox are the streakiest team in baseball. ... "The Franchise Moves That Almost Happened".

AL East: Brewers/Yankees and Reds/Rays at 7 PM.

Greatest Linescore Of The 19th Century

140 years ago today!

June 28, 1871, National Association
Philadelphia Athletics - 2  4  3    7  9  8    3  5  8  -  49 42 10
Troy Haymakers         - 1  2  3   10  4  4    2  4  3  -  33 32 10
Troy did not play again until July 3 - when they scored in every inning again!
New York Mutuals       - 5  0  1    0  0  0    0  5  5  -  16 20 12
Troy Haymakers         - 1  1  2    2  3  9    9  4  6  -  37 36  8
Note: Troy did not score in the last inning on June 19 or in the first inning on August 3, so the Haymakers' consecutive inning scoring streak is 18.

No More Number 2

Jeter Filter is the Chrome Extension that filters out Derek Jeter from any webpage you visit.
Thanks to Rob Spectre for helping to make the world a better place.

June 27, 2011

"What The #@*& Was I Thinking?" #1

July 3, 2007:
He'll never grab my heart the way Pedro did, but I'm really starting to enjoying watching Dice pitch.

June 26, 2011

G77: Red Sox 4, Pirates 2

Red Sox - 000 101 200 - 4  6  2
Pirates - 000 110 000 - 2  5  4
The Red Sox snapped a four-game losing streak and avoided a sweep in Pittsburgh, thanks to several errors by the Pirates and another good outing from Andrew Miller (6-5-2-1-2-4, 109), who pitched out of a huge jam in the fifth.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia got the Sox on the board when he led off the fourth with a double, took third on Josh Reddick's fly ball to center and scored when Andrew McCutchen's throw sailed way over the bag and was tipped into the stands by third baseman Chase d'Arnaud, who was scrambling back into foul territory and made a valiant attempt to catch the errant sphere.

Boston tied the game in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. James McDonald (6-5-2-0-2-5, 101) walked Kevin Youkilis on four pitches. Darnell McDonald bunted back to McDonald (they are cousins, by the way); the NL McDonald tried to get the lead runner and threw the ball into left field. Yook raced to third and later scored on Reddick's sac fly to left. (Sox McDonald went into the game for J.D. Drew in the second inning. Drew had bunted a ball off his face in batting practice and the area around his left eye was clearly bruised. He struck out looking in the first and played only one inning in the field, before being taken out.)

In the seventh, the Red Sox scored two more runs, again without getting a base hit. Tim Wood began the inning in relief of J. McDonald and walked Marco Scutaro on four pitches; he was then pulled. Daniel Moskos walked David Ortiz (the pitch before ball 4 was crushed high and deep, but just to the foul side of the RF pole) and committed an error on Jacoby Ellsbury's bunt. Chris Resop was the next man out of the pen and he allowed an RBI groundout to Pedroia, an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez (two singles, two BBI), and a sacrifice fly to Youkilis.

Note: And because Scutaro scored Boston's third run, Wood (who is not my cousin, by the way (and neither is Brandon Wood) is credited with the loss, even though Moskos moved Scutaro to third, and Resop let him - and other inherited runner - score. That makes zero sense.

Miller wriggled out of a potential big mess in the fifth. He issued an eight-pitch walk to J. McDonald, and gave up singled to Garrett Jones and d'Arneaud to load the bases. McCutchen's hard grounder skipped by Yook and a run scored, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Jones was initially waived around third, then suddenly not, but that stop sign was too late and he could not get back to the bag before Youkilis tagged him out. Miller then bore down and struck out Neil Walker on three pitches and got Matt Diaz to fly harmlessly to right.

Jonathan Papelbon walked the first batter of the ninth, but retired the next three men: a seven-pitch strikeout of Eric Fryer, and lazy fly balls to right and center.

The Yankees beat the Rockies 6-4.
Andrew Miller / James McDonald

The Red Sox have lost four in a row (and five of their last seven) and are in second place for the first time since June 5. They have scored a total of 10 runs in those four losses.

Dustin Pedroia: "We started the season 2-10 and we've been kicking ass ever since. I don't think anybody's going to go home and jump out of their hotel room because we lost four in a row."

Bobby Jenks (left back tightness) made a rehab appearance for Portland (AA) last night, pitching one inning and allowing one hit. ... Josh Beckett threw 50 pitches off a mound and said he felt "pretty good". ... Daniel Bard made only his third appearance since June 10 last night. He has not allowed a run in his last 12 innings, dating back to May 27. He has allowed one of eight inherited runners to score in that span, however.

AL East: Rockies/Yankees and Rays/Astros at 2 PM.

June 25, 2011

G76: Pirates 6, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 101 000 200 - 4  9  1
Pirates - 000 410 10x - 6  8  2
Lyle Overbay's three-run home run highlighted a fourth inning in which Wakefield (6-7-5-4-2, 86), after breezing through the first three innings, faced eight Pirates and allowed two singles (including a run-scoring hit by Karstens), a double, a home run, a walk, and a stolen base. The fifth inning began with a single, double, and error by Dustin Pedroia to bring in another run.

Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury each hit solo home runs in the seventh to bring Boston to within one run. The Pirates then upped their lead to 6-4 and Joel Hanrahan - on his 24th pitch of the inning - struck out Adrian Gonzalez (who had driven in the Red Sox's first two runs, on a groundout and solo dong) with Dustin Pedroia at second to end the game.

It was Boston's fourth straight loss (after winning 14 of 16 games since June 3) and it dropped the Red Sox into second place, 0.5 GB the Yankees.

The Red Sox had a flicker of hope when, one strike away from defeat, Pedroia smacked a fly ball to right. Xavier Paul went back and leapt at the wall, but could not make the catch. As Pedroia pulled into second base with a double, a Pirates employee assumed the ball had been caught and the game was over and started the fireworks display! Gonzalez took a ball, then fouled off four pitches before going to far on a checked swing to truly end the game. And the rest of the PNC fireworks were set off.
Tim Wakefield / Jeff Karstens

Karstens has made 12 starts this season, and he has allowed more than two earned runs only twice. In four starts this month, he has a 0.65 ERA. In 27.2 innings, he has allowed only 16 hits and three walks (a drool-worthy 0.69 WHIP), with 11 strikeouts. However, the Pirates won only two of the four games, because they scored a total of five runs (2, 0, 2, 1).

Wakefield is hoping for Win #184 as a member of the Red Sox (and career Win #198).

Sidebar: R.A. Dickey and Wakefield are the two knuckleballers in the majors. And down in Allen, Texas, two dentists/baseball fans have a practice called Dickey & Wakefield Dental. But it's not a tribute; their names are Steve Dickey and Brian Wakefield. The Mets' Dickey:
Wow, that's amazing! What are the odds of that? I tell you what. I would definitely feel comfortable going there. You've got to have a steady hand to throw a knuckleball, and also to do the work they do. ... I'm going to text Tim. He's going to love this.
Also: Amy alerted me to a Bats post at the Times about the 2011 Red Sox's progression from doomed to dominant.

AL East: Rockies/Yankees at 1 PM; Rays/Astros at 7 PM.

June 24, 2011

G75: Pirates 3, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 100 000 000 - 1  9  1
Pirates - 002 001 00x - 3  9  0
It was a soggy, squanderific night in the City of Bridges. Lester (6-8-3-1-5, 107) was not sharp, but the bats offered no assistance. The Red Sox left 11 men on base (including two each in the seventh and eighth innings) and were 0-for-8 with runners at second and/or third.

Boston took a 1-0 lead when Jacoby Ellsbury walked to start the game, took third on the first of Adrian Gonzalez's two hits, and scored on Kevin Youkilis's grounder to third.

With two outs in the third, Dustin Pedroia and Gonzalez singled, and Yook walked to load the bases, but Darnell McDonald grounded out. McDonald also ended the fifth inning with men on first and second. In between those rally-killing at-bats, Lester lost the lead, allowing a single, double, walk, and single (plus a run-scoring DP) to begin the bottom of the third.

Josh Reddick singled to open the seventh and Pedroia walked with one out, but Tony Watson got Gonzalez to foul out to the catcher and Daniel McCutchen came in to strike out Youkilis.

In the eighth, facing Jose Veras, McDonald and pinch-hitter J.D. Drew singled. Jason Varitek bunted the runners to second and third. Marco Scutaro flinched and turned away from at least two of Veras's breaking balls (NESN said sliders; Gameday says curveballs) and struck out looking. As the rain poured down, David Ortiz came out as a pinch-hitter and, with so much rain dripping off his helmet he had to quickly take his hand off the bat handle to wipe it off as Veras was going into his motion, fell behind 1-2, fouled off three pitches, and finally grounded out to shortstop, ending the Sox's last threat.
Jon Lester / Paul Maholm

Maholm has pitched at least six innings in nine of his last 11 starts. His ERA at home (2.12) is more than two runs better than his road mark (4.63).

Scott Atchison has been recalled from Pawtucket and will be available tonight. Michael Bowden was sent down.

The May 17 game against the Orioles (postponed due to bad weather) will be made up as the first game of a day-night doubleheader on September 19.

AL East: Rockies/Yankees at 7 PM; Rays/Astros at 8 PM.

Sherman: Jeter Is "Mainly An Out Machine Who Every Once In A While Hits A Single"

Joel Sherman, Post, June 15:
I wrote this column in today's Post about how the Yankees could be getting a blessing in disguise with the minimum, 15-day absence of Derek Jeter, who is now on the DL with a calf strain.

Jeter was a burden on the everyday lineup, made more so by the refusal of Joe Girardi to lower an icon to the eighth or ninth slot where he belongs these days. Remember, memories don't play these games. The 2011 version of Jeter, like the 2010 version of Jeter, is mainly an out machine who every once in a while hits a single. There are few extra-base hits, little impact, negative clutch. He offers steady, but rather range-less defense. There is none of the live-wire athleticism associated with his prime. As much as his most ardent fans want to close their eyes and pretend he is offering something special, he is not. He turns 37 in less than two weeks and age has robbed him of what was Hall-of-Fame greatness.

But Girardi has been afraid to offend him in, say, the way the manager has dissed his pal, Jorge Posada, by dropping Posada in the lineup and out against left pitching. Jeter has retained a leadoff spot without any of the traditional leadoff attributes such as on-base acumen or elite speed, and there is no counterweight of at least he is giving power.

So without the shadow of Jeter lurking and potentially sulking about jobs being taken away, the Yanks can now look at Eduardo Nunez at short and Brett Gardner atop the order for an extended period and see what they have. And what should also help the psyches of those trying to fill these shoes is this not Jeter circa 1999 or 2009. Nunez and Gardner can perform at league average and outdo the 2011 Jeter. ...
Onion, June 15:
Yankees captain Derek Jeter hit a seeing-eye wormburner through the left side of the infield for his 2,994th career hit Monday, leaving him just six toppers down the third-base line, Texas Leaguers, or check-swing humpback liners short of 3,000 hits.

"These last six chop singles off home plate and difficult-to-field slow rollers to shortstop are going to be hardest for him," said manager Joe Girardi, who wouldn't rule out Jeter grounding a ball off the lip of the infield grass and taking a bad hop off the second baseman's shoulder as a possible route to 3,000. "Derek just needs a couple of swinging bunts and a few official scorers to mistakenly give him a hit on what is clearly an error, and he'll join the immortals that hung around just long enough to reach this tremendous milestone."

When asked if he would take grounding the ball off the pitcher's back foot and the pitcher not being able to find it on the field as his 3,000th hit, Jeter answered, "Yes. God, anything."

This Pitch Concerns His Desire To Play

Nine days after his last start, Josh Beckett says he is doesn't feel well. The Red Sox seem to wonder. Terry Francona says "doctors are trying to figure it out". Is there an indisputable disconnect between the team and its unflashy pitcher?

Just wondering: Has Beckett now become to the Sox what "Medical" Bill Cartwright once was to the New York Knicks? Is it Beckett – or Beckout?

In case you missed it – though most didn't – Beckett was unable to start last Tuesday because of a stomach virus. His start was re-scheduled for this Saturday against National League pushovers, the Pittsburgh Pirates. News comes tonight that Beckett is still sick -- maybe he now has the flu -- and he will not be playing this weekend. Supposedly, he may pitch next week.

Before we go any further, we all need to understand something here. This is not solely about this season and about whether Beckett has "intestinal turmoil" or the flu. This goes well beyond that. During his break-out season of 2003 and on into 2004, Becket missed small chunks of time with various assorted ailments, including five stints on the disabled list because of blisters. He came to the Red Sox having earned a reputation of being someone who required a great deal of, well, maintenance.

And he was stubborn as a inbred mule. In his first season with the Red Sox, he willfully ignored the advice of catcher and clubhouse sage Jason Varitek and threw fastball after fastball after fastball, convinced his Texas heat could eventually blow away AL hitters, all the while allowing 36 home runs. After a more successful 2007, Francona spoke of how Beckett was beginning to understand the "responsibility" of playing in the American League East, which was a nice way of saying that Beckett had an obligation to his manager and teammates to maybe mix up his pitches a bit more.

Then came last season, when he had to pitch on a wet mound in New York, an assignment that clearly did not sit well with him. He lost his footing a few times in the muck and injured his back, and you could hear all the camo hats in Camp Kick-Ass groan simultaneously.

Well, if they didn't make him pitch in the rain, he wouldn't be hurt.

Blah, blah, blah.

At the moment, nobody should dispute that Beckett is in some level of discomfort. The greater question concerns if and when he can play through it. Beckett already has said that he expects to deal with the issue of germs all year – an alibi if he pitches poorly, no doubt.

Beckett, of course, is merely 31 and presumably has a healthy immune system. While it is always dangerous to wonder whether players are capable of playing through illness - the Red Sox would be wise to remember the case of Trot Nixon, who once vomited on Luis Sojo at second base – the issue here is clearly much bigger. In the minds of the Sox – and maybe others – Beckett has a reputation, something only he can be responsible for. Last year, sidelined by mononucleosis, Jed Lowrie openly wondered whether he still had a role on the Red Sox, but at least Lowrie's remarks were motivated by the desire to play, something that hardly makes him different from the majority of athletes.

In Beckett's case, the problem seems to be the opposite.

Does he want to pitch or doesn't he?

June 23, 2011

In Fewer Than 25 Words: How MLB Can Fix The AL's No-DH Problem For Games In NL Parks

This should be very simple: The Red Sox -- and every other American League team -- should be able to use their best hitters in all 162 of their regular season games (without having any of them play wildly out of position).

That the Red Sox front office is discussing playing Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield during the team's nine-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Houston is completely bizarre and utterly fucked up. This situation -- which is magnified for Boston because of the talented players involved -- should be a colossal embarrassment for MLB.

To solve this problem, all Bud Selig has to do is say something like this:
Because the American League uses the DH, in any game featuring an American League team, both teams have the option of using a DH.
Ta-da! Problem solved! And it doesn't even involve creating a new rule. This is already what happens in inter-league games in AL parks.

But because Selig remains allergic to common sense, Francona will leave one of his best two hitters on the bench or concoct some risky fielding alignment. Tito will likely (a) have Evil Bert and Flo split the nine games at first, depending on the opposing starter (thus keeping both non-outfielders out of the outfield) and have the other guy pinch-hit or (b) figure out which Red Sox starter(s) is least likely to give up hits and fly balls to right field and start Gonzalez out there on those nights, and pray everything goes okay.

But why should one of these guys have to suddenly ride the bench for a week and a half (5.5% of the regular season)?
           AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS  OPS+  RC  RC/9   XBH%
Gonzalez  .359  .410  .609  1.019   175  70   8.9   12.9
Ortiz     .313  .391  .586   .977   164  59   8.1   12.5
AL Ranking
            Gonzalez    Ortiz
AVG            #1         #7
OBP            #3         #8
SLG            #2         #4
OPS/OPS+       #3         #5
Runs           #3         #9
Hits           #1         #8
Singles        #3
Doubles        #1         #8
Home Runs      #8         #5
X-Base Hits    #1         #2
Times On Base  #3         #9
Total Bases    #1         #4
RBI            #1         #8
Runs Created   #2         #5
WPA            #1
WAR            #1
If we don't play David for 11 days, that's going to kill him. I don't want to do that. ...

Gonzi has been taking some balls out in the outfield. He's very willing to do it. ... If you put Gonzi in right — that's the one place he says he can play — you're potentially taking J.D. out of the lineup or moving him to left. We've got guys all over the place. And then the other thing is, Gonzi, if something ever happened to him, I'd catch a lot of [grief]. ... I actually have some anxiety over this one. I want to do what's right, and I've got to try to figure out in my own head what is right. ...

Gonzi, I have no doubt, just from watching him out there, that if it's hit to him, he'll catch it and he'll throw the ball to the right base. I don't think he's going to run something down like [Carl Crawford] or [Jacoby Ellsbury]. But I don't doubt he'll make the plays he's supposed to.
Francona's comment about not wanting Ortiz to sit on the bench for 11 days is odd. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if Gonzalez played every game at first base, Ortiz would likely pinch-hit every single night (or vice versa).

Six of the nine games are against the Pirates - 25th in both Team OPS (.633) and R/G (3.77) - and the Astros - 20th in Team OPS (.694) and 19th in R/G (3.99) - two teams the Red Sox should be able to win two out of three or sweep without too much trouble, no matter who is in the outfield. (The Red Sox are #1 in both Team OPS (.803) and R/G (5.41).)
WEEI, post-game show, June 20:
Dave O'Brien: So you're on pace to walk 100 times this season. Now, in the past you've been content to walk 70 times, in that area. What gives this season? Why all the walks?

Dustin Pedroia: No protection. No protection. We gave Adrian 154 million dollars and I can't get protection, this is unbelievable. I don't care how hot he's hitting, he's hitting .360, I need somebody back there protecting me. I don't want to walk, are you kiddin' me?!

June 22, 2011

G74: Padres 5, Red Sox 1 (7½, rain)

Padres  - 100 400 00 - 5  7  0
Red Sox - 000 010 0  - 1 10  2
And the game was called shortly before 7 PM.

The Yankees (43-29) beat the Reds this afternoon in the first game of their day-night doubleheader, so they and the Red Sox (44-30) are currently tied for first place. (Update: New York lost the nightcap, so Boston has a one half-game lead.)

6:10 PM: The game is in its fourth rain delay, with the Red Sox preparing to bat in the bottom of the eighth. It has been raining all afternoon, sometimes quite hard. The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes. The two earlier in-game delays came in the top of the third (38 minutes) and in the middle of the fifth (31 minutes).

Lackey (3.1-4-5-4-4, 83) had a rough fourth inning, allowing two singles, two walks (one with the bases loaded), hitting two batters (one with the bases loaded), and throwing a wild pitch (with the bases loaded). Lackey's portion of the inning went: BB, HBP, 1B, K, BB (run), HBP (run), WP (run), 1B (run). The Blamethrower may say later today that the ball was watery and wet. He's right, but that is far from the whole story of that inning. He finished the day having thrown 48 strikes and 35 balls.

Adrian Gonzalez is 4-for-4, with one RBI. Dustin Pedroia has singled twice and walked. ... Boston squandered a bases loaded/one out situation in the first when David Ortiz grounded into a double play. Kevin Youkilis GIDP with two on to end the seventh.
Clayton Richard / John Lackey

In three starts since coming off the disabled list, Lackey has a 5.03 ERA (19.2 innings, 17 hits, 4 walks, 15 strikeouts). Boston has won all three games: 6-3, 16-4, 10-4.

Like all of the Padres' starters, Richard has received very little run support (see RS/GS). In his nine losses, San Diego has averaged only 2.3 runs. Richard has a 4.18 ERA in his last six starts, but the team has lost all six games: 4-0, 2-1, 4-3, 3-0, 2-1, 6-5.

AL East: Yankees/Reds at 12:30 and 7 PM. Rays/Brewers at 2 PM.

June 21, 2011

G73: Padres 5, Red Sox 4

Padres  - 022 000 100 - 5  7  1
Red Sox - 101 101 000 - 4 13  0
Boston collected 13 hits, including two doubles and a triple, but missed many opportunities to score, going 3-for-13 with RATS and leaving 11 men on base.

The Red Sox, who had scored 10+ runs in five of their last nine games, lost for only the third time in 17 games. The Yankees/Reds game was rained out, so Boston now has a one-game lead in the East.

After getting two outs in the second inning, Aceves (5-4-4-6-4, 99) walked five straight hitters, forcing in two runs. At one point in the inning, the Padres saw 33 consecutive pitches without putting the ball in play. (The MLB record for most consecutive walks is seven, by Dolly Gray of the Senators, in the first game of a doubleheader against the White Sox, on August 28, 1909.)

Aceves also retired the first two batters in the third, but then gave up a double, single, stolen base, double to put the Sox in a 4-1 hole.

Boston chipped away. Josh Reddick tripled to start the third and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's single. In the fourth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked, took second on Marco Scutaro's single, and scored on Reddick's double. Adrian Gonzalez knocked in Scutaro in the sixth to tie the game.

Dan Wheeler relieved Aceves and pitched a perfect sixth, but loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Daniel Bard came in and got Anthony Rizzo to hit a weak infield grounder, but the tie-breaking run scored.

The Red Sox came up empty many times. Down by two runs in the third, Gonzalez batted with runners on first and second and no outs. He hit into an unusual 1-5-6 double play, reaching safely as the two lead runners were put out. After Kevin Youkilis singled, David Ortiz grounded out.

In the fourth, after Reddick's double had cut San Diego's lead to 4-3, Ellsbury batted with runners on second and third and one out. He struck out, Dustin Pedroia walked to load the bases, and Gonzalez struck out looking.

Salty batted with a man on third with two outs in the fifth and struck out. Also in that inning, Ortiz stole second base, his first steal since August 3, 2008, and the 11th of his career. Padres starter Latos (5.2-10-4-4-8, 120) was completely ignoring him, so Tiz took off. When Latos went into his windup, Ortiz slowed down, then turned it on again, and slid safely into second.

Youkilis ended the sixth with runners on first and second. In the seventh, J.D. Drew walked with one out and Salty singled, but Scutaro flied out and Reddick grounded out. In the bottom of the ninth, down by one run, Youkilis singled and Drew Sutton pinch-ran. With a chance to win the game, Ortiz hit into a 5-6-3 DP. And Drew struck out.

The announced attendance was 38,422, the largest regular season crowd since World War II. The previous record was 38,347 (May 21, 2009, against the Blue Jays).
Mat Latos / Alfredo Aceves

Terry Francona, on Josh Beckett's "intestinal turmoil":
[H]e hasn't felt good the last couple of days. He was going to go home and see if he felt better. The more we were thinking about it, before he got out of here, we said, "You know what? This is silly. If you're that sick, you're kind of worried about pitching tomorrow." I'm not sure how good he'd feel anyway. So we stayed away from Aceves [on Monday].
Latos set a major-league record last year of 15 consecutive starts of at least five innings pitched with two runs or fewer allowed. Mike Scott (1986) and Greg Maddux (1993-94) had streaks of 14 starts; Maddux also had a 13-game streak (1995). (Pedro Martinez's longest streak was 10 games.)

I would have thought a Deadball Era pitcher had a string of more than 15 such starts -- the BRef data goes back only to the start of the 1919 season -- but this ESPN sidebar says Latos, Scott, and Maddux are the top three on the list since 1900.

In 2011, Latos has received very poor run support; the Padres have scored three or fewer runs in nine of his 13 starts.

AL East: Yankees/Reds at 7 PM; Rays/Brewers at 8 PM.

Extremely Offensive

Jeremy Lundblad, ESPNBoston:
[A] 14-5 win over the San Diego Padres on Monday ... marked the sixth time in their past 29 games that the Red Sox have scored at least 14 runs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team with six 14-run games in a single-season span of less than 30 games was the 1930 New York Yankees. That team, led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, pulled it off seven times in just 20 games. ...

In the last 29 games alone, Boston has matched its most 14-run games in a season since 2003. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1950 (seven) to find the last time the Red Sox had more than six such games in a season. ...

Boston is currently averaging 5.49 runs per game, which leads the majors and would be the ninth-highest in franchise history. This comes despite averaging 4.1 runs in April. ...
1930 Yankees
2011 Red Sox
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
Maybe they should just leave the duck boats parked in the center-field garage, motors running. The way the Red Sox are playing these days, John W. Henry may want to ensure those vehicles are available for booking long about late October or so. No one prints World Series tickets before the official start of summer, but few teams have looked so consistently other-worldly for the better part of two months now as the Olde Towne Team.

The Sox are 42-18 since their 2-10 start, their best record over a comparable stretch since they closed the 2004 season with a 42-17 finishing kick.

They have won 14 of their last 16 games, a stretch in which they have outscored their overmatched foes by a 128-67 margin. ...

The Sox have scored five or more runs in an inning 14 times this season. ...

The Sox sent 14 batters to the plate [in the seventh inning on Monday], the 15th time this season they've batted around in an inning and the second time in two nights. No team in the majors has had more innings this season where they've batted around. ...
Yankees' and Red Sox's schedules/scores taken from Baseball Reference

June 20, 2011

Beckett Scratched With Illness, Aceves Will Start

Josh Beckett has been scratched from his start tonight because of illness (aka a bug, the flu, "intestinal turmoil"). Alfredo Aceves, who last worked on Thursday, will get the ball.

Red Sox Considering Playing Gonzalez In RF (Is It April 1?)

The Red Sox have discussed playing Adrian Gonzalez in right field for some of the games in the upcoming nine-game interleague road trip that starts Friday in Pittsburgh.

Terry Francona:
We've talked to him. We'll see. I'm glad he's willing to do it. I don't want David [Ortiz] to sit nine straight games ... maybe a couple of times ... I know he's done it. We'll see.
I wouldn't say it's willingness, but the fact that I've done it before. If I was approached on it, and Tito wanted to do it for a couple games, I'd be OK with it. I'm not an outfielder, and I wasn't an outfielder, but if it meant getting Papi in the game and get him a few more games, it's definitely something I would do.
He's done it before? Of Gonzalez's 1,567 professional games (637 in the minors and 930 in the majors), he has played in the outfield in exactly one of them: September 30, 2005. Eight innings in right field, three putouts and one error. ... Gonzalez also says he has played the outfield in winter ball.

This idea is wall-to-wall insanity. Forget about EB's dubious ability to chase after line drives in the gap -- why risk an injury (hamstring, running into a wall) to an absolutely torrid wrecking ball of a hitter in games against the friggin' Pirates and Astros?

redsox2020: "If they want Ortiz in the lineup this bad, why don't they just let him pitch?"

curly2: "[S]it him the last game in Pittsburgh. It's a day game after a night game, and they're off the next day, so it would be like two days off. Play Papi at first that day. Then maybe you can give Adrian one of the games in Houston as a day off."

Buzzkill Pauley: "By 'we'll see' I assume Tito meant 'no way in hell' but hey, we'll see."

G72: Red Sox 14, Padres 5

Padres  - 000 003   0 11 -  5 13  0
Red Sox - 101 100 (10)1x - 14 14  0
Miller (5.2-7-3-3-6, 89) pitched five scoreless innings, but stumbled in the sixth. After a single, walk, and strikeout, Orlando Hudson hit his first home run of the season into the Monster Seats and the game was suddenly tied at 3-3.

That was a drag, but then the Red Sox batted in the seventh.
Luebke pitching
Ellsbury  - cbbbf   BB
Pedroia   - bcbf    FC/6-4
Gonzalez  - f       2B off LF wall , RBI (4-3)
Frieri relieves Luebke
Youkilis  - bbbc    F7
Ortiz     - iii     BBI
Drew hit for McDonald
Drew      - bcbb    BB
Scutaro   - cbbcbf  HBP, RBI (5-3)
Varitek   - fbbf    HBP, RBI (6-3)
Scribner relieves Frieri
Reddick hit for Cameron
Reddick   - c       1B to RCF, 2 RBI (8-3)
Ellsbury  - cffbfff 1B to LF
Pedroia   - cbbfb   BB, RBI (9-3)
Gonzalez  -         1B to RCF, 2 RBI (11-3)
Youkilis  - bcffbff 2B to LF, 2 RBI (13-3)
Neshek relieves Scribner
Ortiz     - cbf     K
The last time the Red Sox scored 10 or more runs in an inning was May 7, 2009, when they scored 12 runs in the sixth inning against Cleveland. They scored all 12 runs before making an out, setting a new American League record and tying the MLB record. (The Tigers scored 11 runs without making an out against the Yankees on June 17, 1925, and the Dodgers scored 12 times before making an out against the Phillies on May 24, 1953.)

Tonight, seven of the nine batters in the starting lineup had at least one hit, one run, and one RBI.

The Red Sox also continued their first-inning torment of starting pitchers. In the last five games, Boston batters have seen a total of 175 pitches in their first time at bat (33, 44, 13, 46, 39).
Wade LeBlanc / Andrew Miller

Miller, 26, was a first round pick of the Tigers in the 2006 amateur draft (6th pick overall). He signed on August 8, 2006, and made his major league debut 22 days later. Miller had a 5.69 ERA in parts of two seasons with Detroit and was traded to the Marlins (as part of the Miguel Cabrera deal) after the 2007 season. He had a 5.89 ERA with the Fish in 2008-10. Boston acquired Miller last November.

Miller has always walked too many batters, but in his last three starts for Pawtucket, he issued only one walk while striking out 22. Maybe he figured something out, or maybe it's simply a fluke. (In May, however, he walked 22 and fanned 27.) Or maybe it's because of his new pre-game routine:
I go out with [pitching coach] Rich Sauveur maybe 10 or 15 minutes earlier than most guys would and get loose like you would before the game. Then I sit down with Rich and the catcher and do a mini half-inning where we sit down for 4 or 5 minutes and talk and maybe go over the lineup a little bit. Then I get up and try to simulate game speed and simulate hitters and maybe work out some kinks that generally I've had to battle in the first inning. By the time I go out and pitch in the real first inning, it feels like it would in the second or third inning. So far it's been great. I think it's accomplished everything we were hoping it would, and I've gone out there and felt aggressive and in the zone to start the game.
LeBlanc, who is also 26 and also a lefty, has made two starts this season: April 24 against the Phillies and June 14 against the Rockies. He was recalled from Tucson (AAA) last week when Aaron Harang went on the disabled list.

The Red Sox have played three three-game series against the Padres. In each series, Boston won the first and third games, while dropping the second.
June 18-20, 2002 at San Diego: 4-2, 2-3, 5-0
June  8-10, 2004 at Boston:    1-0, 1-8, 9-3
June 22-24, 2007 at San Diego: 2-1, 1-6, 4-2
AL East: Yankees/Reds at 7 PM; Rays/Brewers at 8 PM. (Not that you asked, but the Red Sox's magic number for clinching the division is 91.)

Former Red Sox Prospect Anthony Rizzo Hits For Cycle With First Four Hits Of Career

Anthony Rizzo was one of the four players Boston traded to San Diego in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. The 21-year-old first baseman began the year in Tuscon (AAA), but after hitting .365/.444/.715 in 52 games, the Padres called him up.

Rizzo made his debut on June 9 against the Nationals - and tripled in his second at-bat. Two days later, he homered and doubled. Then, after an 0-for-13 skid, he singled against the Rockies last Wednesday.

Four hits in his career: triple, home run, double, single!

Even with all the data at Baseball Reference and Retrosheet, we do not know if Rizzo is the first major leaguer player to hit for the cycle with his first four hits*. But at the B-Ref blog, John Autin did answer some other questions:
Is Rizzo the only player with exactly four career hits, including one of each kind?
No. Jerry Brooks also had only four hits - and his game log is even more remarkable than Rizzo's. Batting almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter, Brooks went 2-for-9 (double and home run) with the 1993 Dodgers and then 2-for-5 with the 1996 Marlins (triple and single). ... Also, it is a virtual certainty that Rizzo will get a fifth hit in the majors.

Autin also asked:
How many hitters have had a single, double, triple, and home run as their only four hits in one season?
Has there been a season in which a player had only three hits (double, triple, and home run, but no single)?

Tangents are pursued and comments are made and we learn the name of the only player to hit home runs as a pitcher, pinch-hitter, and designated hitter in the same season. Added coolness: he was a National Leaguer!

* - In comments, Dave M reports that the first four hits of old friend Bill Hall's career, when he debuted with the 2002 Brewers, were, in order: home run, triple, double, single. ... So Rizzo is not the first player to hit for the cycle with his first four hits.

June 19, 2011

G71: Red Sox 12, Brewers 3

Brewers - 020 000 100 -  3  4  1
Red Sox - 600 212 10x - 12 14  1
Tim Wakefield (8-3-3-1-6, 98) won his 183th game as a member of the Red Sox. He now needs only 10 more victories to become the franchise's all-time leader in wins.

The first six Boston batters of the game reached base and scored against Gallardo (3-9-8-2-4, 93), which gave Wakefield more than enough run support. All nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit and eight of them scored at least one run.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia singled to start the bottom of the first, and they advanced to third and second, respectively, on a wild pitch. Two pitches later, Gallardo muffed Prince Fielder's toss to first base on Adrian Gonzalez's grounder, and Ellsbury scored. Perhaps bothered by his misfortune, Gallardo hung a 2-1 curve to Kevin Youkilis and the Sultan of Sweat clubbed it into the Monster Seats. David Ortiz singled, J.D. Drew singled, and (two outs later) Josh Reddick walked. Ellsbury won an eight-pitch at-bat with a ground rule double to right field, scoring two more runs.

In the three games, Milwaukee's pitchers threw a total of 103 first-inning pitches (Shaun Marcum 44; Randy Wolf 13; Gallardo 46).

Pedroia homered in the fourth and Gonzalez followed with a triple into the triangle (career hit #1,000), and later scored on Ortiz's FC. Reddick doubled in the fifth and scored on Pedroia's sac fly. Marco Scutaro hit a two-run dong in the sixth. Pedroia doubled and Gonzalez singled him home in the seventh.
Yovani Gallardo / Tim Wakefield

Carl Crawford hopes he can return to the Red Sox's lineup in time to play in Houston (July 1-3), his hometown.
Definitely wouldn't want to miss that series. It'll be cutting it close, that's for sure. ... A hamstring injury, you don't want to mess around with that. You see a lot of guys try to come back too early and they mess it up and end up being out even longer. We just want to make sure when I come back, I stay there.
AL East: Blue Jays/Reds at 1 PM, Marlins/Rays at 1:30 PM, and Yankees/Cubs at 8 PM.

Clay Buchholz Placed On DL

Clay Buchholz has been put on the disabled list (retroactive to June 17) with a lower back strain.

Andrew Miller has been promoted from Pawtucket and will start tomorrow night against the Padres.

June 18, 2011

G70: Brewers 4, Red Sox 2

Brewers - 202 000 000 - 4  8  1
Red Sox - 020 000 000 - 2  9  1
Lester (8-7-4-3-8, 115) struggled early, giving up home runs to Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart on his third and fourth pitches of the night. (His second pitch, a 1-0 offering to Weeks, actually should have resulted in the first out. Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both chased Weeks's pop-up over by the Red Sox dugout, but there was confusion about who was calling for it, and the ball hit off Gonzalez's glove for an error as he tried a last-second basket catch.)

Plus, Lester's fifth pitch was drilled for a double by Ryan Braun. But in the span of four pitches, the threat was over, as Prince Fielder flied to left and Casey McGehee lined into a 5-4 double play.

It was only the third tme in his career Lester had allowed a leadoff home run to his first batter (Hanley Ramirez, July 2, 2006; Ian Kinsler, April 1, 2011) and the first time it had happened at Fenway. It was the second time Lester has given up back-to-back homers (Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, May 4, 2009).

In the Brewers third, George Kottaras hit a dong and Lester, after getting two outs, suddenly lost his control. He walked Braun on five pitches, walked Fielder on four, and fell behind McGehee 3-0, before McGehee singled in Milwaukee's fourth run.

Boston had tied the game in the second against Wolf (7-9-2-1-3, 111). Kevin Youkilis doubled and David Ortiz walked. After Darnell McDonald lined out to third and Marco Scutaro was called out on strikes, Saltalamacchia and Mike Cameron had RBI-singles.

After that, though, the bats were fairly dormant. Singles in the third by Yook and Tiz with two down went for naught as McDonald struck out. Scutaro doubled to lead off the fourth but was stranded there. Yook reached on an error by Fielder to open the eighth, but Ortiz rapped into a 3-6-3 DP.
Randy Wolf / Jon Lester

Wolf has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 14 starts this season, and five of his last six starts.

Home Cooking: The Red Sox have 10+ hits in each of their last four home games (batting .340) and have homered in each of their last 11 games at Fenway. They have won 12 of their last 16 home games.

In his last 11 home games, David Ortiz is hitting .511 (23-for-45). Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .533 (24-for-45) in his last 10 games at Fenway.

Overall, Gonzalez has reached base in 17 straight games, with a batting line of .415/.500/.846 (1.346 OPS). Of his 27 hits, 15 have gone for extra-bases: eight doubles, one triple, six home runs. ... In 26 games since May 20, Evil Bert is hitting .415/.471/.698. ... Gonzalez leads the American League with 99 hits; he also has 999 career hits.

AL East: Yankees/Cubs at 4 PM; Marlins/Rays and Blue Jays/Reds at 7 PM.

Left Hamstring Strain Puts Crawford On DL

Carl Crawford was placed on the 15-day disabled list this afternoon with a left hamstring strain, and Josh Reddick was summoned from Pawtucket.

Terry Francona said the healing time for Crawford's injury would be roughly 10-14 days, so the move was a "no brainer".

In 52 games for the PawSox, Reddick is batting .230/.333/.508, with 14 home runs. He batted .221 in May and is hitting .115 in June. His average with runners on base is only .205. ... Reddick was 5-for-13 in five games with the Red Sox in late May and early June.

Banged Up Red Sox Still Steamrolling Over Everyone

More than a few Red Sox are banged up, but it has not slowed the team down at all.
Since April 16   40-17  .702
Since May 7      28- 9  .757
Since May 24     17- 5  .772
Since June 3     12- 1  .923 (outscoring opp. 100-46)
The Red Sox lead all MLB teams in batting average, on-base percentage, runs, runs per game, hits, doubles, RBI, total bases, and OPS. They are second in walks and slugging percentage (.004 behind the Yankees), and third in home runs.

John Lackey:
One thing you can hang your hat on when you're out there is if you give up a couple of runs, hang in there because the boys are coming, (and) they can really swing it.
Carl Crawford suffered a minor left hamstring strain in the first inning last night. He said the hamstring was "a little sore" and "we'll come back [Saturday] and see how things are." The implication in the morning papers was that the Red Sox may play it very conservative and put Crawford on the DL. [Update: And they do. Crawford on DL, Reddick called up.]

Jed Lowrie is on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder, although an MRI did not show any significant damage. "It's pretty stiff. ... I don't know how they're wording it per se ["strain"], I just know it felt like it slipped out."

Terry Francona:
[H]e had the bruising back there, and then you get some weakness because of it, and I think that's probably why he felt there was either a mild subluxation ... that was the feeling. I think you get swelling, you get bruising and you lose strength. So regardless of what we call it, we need to get that thing stronger, and to do that we're going to have to let it settle down first and get him on a pretty good strength program ...
Clay Buchholz will not make his scheduled start on Tuesday. Buchholz was given an extra two days of rest before his start last Thursday, but lasted only five innings and 81 pitches. Buchholz said he "felt like I was having to manipulate my delivery for it not to hurt and that's something you don't want to do". He also admitted he should have told the team how much it was bothering him. "It feels all muscular. It's not going up and down my leg (like a nerve). It's just in one particular spot."

Jonathan Papelbon's suspension was reduced to two games. He began serving it last night, and will be available Sunday afternoon. "I asked for two games and they looked at the videotape and I guess decided that two games was fair enough ..."

It's official: Andrew Miller will be called up from Pawtucket for Monday night's game.

On June 1, Rich Hill had Tommy John surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament, which he was told had been "hanging on by a thread".
I think 10-12 months is what I'm going to shoot for. I think 12-14 is probably something that's more realistic, but ... everybody is different, everybody heals differently. You don't want to push it. This isn't something that one month is going to make a difference as far as years. You don't want to end up having to backtrack.

June 17, 2011

G69: Red Sox 10, Brewers 4

Brewers - 202 000 000 -  4  8  1
Red Sox - 220 012 30x - 10 14  0
Adrian Gonzalez singled, doubled, and homered in his first three at-bats, David Ortiz chipped in with three hits, and John Lackey (8-8-4-0-5, 111) found his bearings after two rough innings, setting down 15 straight Brewers as the Red Sox pulled away for an easy victory.

Lackey threw 25 pitches in the top of the first and allowed three hits and two runs, but that didn't seem so awful after Marcum threw 44 pitches in the home half and gave those runs right back -- Ellsbury HR, Pedroia F8, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis K, Ortiz 2B (2 RBI), Crawford 1B, Scutaro BB, Drew 4-3. Marcum (1-4-2-1-1, 44) may have hurt himself; that inning was the extent of his night.

Crawford left the game with a left hamstring strain after beating out his infield single. Youkilis had a two-run single in the second; he also was pulled from the game, in the fifth, with an upset stomach (from watching Lackey's early innings, perhaps).

After allowing four straight singles to start the third, the Blamethrower was aided by a double play started by Dustin Pedroia, who had a phenomenal night in the field. That DP brought in the game-tying run (4-4), but Lackey was suddenly in a groove, finishing the inning with a strikeout. Milwaukee's only base runner for the rest of the night was a one-out single in the eighth (and he was doubled off when Ellsbury ran in towards shallow right-center for a pop-up and, still in a sprint, threw quickly to first).

Evil Bert broke the tie with a dong (#15) in the fifth. Jason Varitek and Pedroia had RBIs in the sixth and J.D. Drew drove in two runs in the seventh.

The Cubs beat the Yankees 3-1 this afternoon, so Boston's lead is back to 2.5.
Shaun Marcum / John Lackey

The scourge of inter-league play is upon us again. The Red Sox's slate (through July 3) is Brewers (3) and Padres (3) at home, then on the road for the Pirates (3), Phillies (3), and Astros (3). Then it's back to Fenway, where the Blue Jays (3) and Orioles (4) will take us to the All-Star break.

The Brewers lead the NL Central with a 39-31 record, 1 GA of the Cardinals, 2 GA of the Reds, and 3 GA of the Pirates. Milwaukee is 5th in the NL is R/G (4.39), 6th in OBP (.322) and 2nd in SLG (.421). They are 7th in team ERA (3.70) and 3rd in WHIP (1.252).

Boston and Milwaukee have played only six games against each other since 1997:
June 6-8, 2003 (Boston won 2 of 3: 3-9, 11-10, 9-1)
May 17-18, 2008 (Boston won 3 of 3: 5-3, 7-6, 11-7)
AL East: Yankees/Cubs at 2:15 PM and Marlins/Rays, Blue Jays/Reds, and Orioles/Nationals at 7 PM.

June 16, 2011

Time Of Saturday's Game Changed To 7 PM

The Red Sox have changed the starting time of Saturday's game against the Brewers from 1 PM to 7 PM, so fans can attend or watch the Bruins' parade, which begins at 11 AM.

G68: Red Sox 4, Rays 2

Red Sox   - 120 000 001 - 4  6  0
Rays      - 010 001 000 - 2  6  0
Boston tagged Price (5-5-3-5-5, 106) for three runs within a span of 10 batters in the first two innings and Buchholz and three relievers made that stand up, as the Red Sox completed a 8-1 road trip.

With one out in the first, Dustin Pedroia worked an eight-pitch walk. Adrian Gonzalez doubled to right, Kevin Youkilis was hit in the left shoulder (prompting warnings to both teams) to load the bases, and David Ortiz walked to force in a run.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled off the wall in right-center with one out in the second and scored on Darnell McDonald's single to center. Pedroia followed with an opposite-field double, scoring McDonald and giving the Sox a 3-0 lead. Price threw 63 pitches in the first two innings (33 and 30).

Tampa got a run back when B.J. Upton walked, stole second and scored on Sam Fuld's double. After Buchholz (5-2-1-3-5, 81) departed with tightness in his lower back, Alfredo Aceves allowed a solo shot to Casey Kotchman. Daniel Bard got the final out of the seventh and pitched a perfect eighth.

Gonzalez's solo home run in the ninth - a line drive to right field - gave the Red Sox a two-run cushion. In addition to his double in the first, Evil Bert also walked twice.

In the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon allowed a leadoff double to Kotchman and an infield single to Upton. Kotchman had to stay at second, so Elliot Johnson was sent up to bunt. He popped the first pitch up into foul territory on the left side where Youkilis made a diving catch. Bot then struck out pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano (on three pitches) and Sean Rodriguez (on a full count splitter).

Jed Lowrie may have re-injured his shoulder during his first inning at-bat. He struck out on a 1-2 pitch and was grimacing on his way back to the dugout. Marco Scutaro took the field in the bottom of the first.

The Yankees remain 1.5 GB, but the Rays have slipped to 5.5 GB and the Blue Jays are 7.5 GB.
Clay Buchholz / David Price

WEEI has a cool interview with Terry Francona, which was shortly before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
How different are Game 7s from just any other big playoff game?

We've had so many elimination games since I've been here that those are obviously every bit as important, because if you don't win those you don't get to Game 7. Speaking truthfully, and I really mean this ... I'm so much more relaxed once we get there and are able to enjoy it.

We've talked about Dave Roberts stealing and it all looked like it was in slow motion and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I never once, for one minute, thought he'd be thrown out. I just really love it. You just work so hard to get there. It's not like I don't care. It's not like I don't get nervous. ...

You can't change how you're built. Sometimes you'd like to. I just really enjoy it. ... [P]art of it's probably because of the faith I have in our players, and we do a lot of preparation, so I get more relaxed. ...

I remember back in '07 when we were in Denver ... when the security guy wouldn't let Pedey in the ballpark - "Hey I'm really a player," and the guy said, "Nah. Show me your ID." And he said something like, "Go ask Jeff Francis who I am." Pedey came in that day, he had a lather going and he was all worked up. I remember thinking, "Boy I don't want this to be over. I mean, I want to win, but I'm not ready to go home."
AL East: Orioles/Blue Jays at 12:30 PM and Rangers/Yankees at 1 PM.

It's Time To Discuss Realignment Again!

Possible realignment of baseball's two leagues and six divisions is back in the news.

ESPN's Buster Olney reports that four sources confirm that a simple form of realignment has been raised in labour talks and is being seriously considered. It would call for two leagues of 15 teams, rather than the current structure of 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League.

Another more radical possibility is to scrap the divisions altogether and have two 15-team leagues, with the top five teams from each league making the playoffs. The Astros and Marlins are two candidates to switch to the AL.

ESPN analyst Jim Bowden, who has worked as a general manager of both the Reds and Nationals, says:
The time has come for baseball to go beyond moving just one team to a new league and to discuss a realignment plan that makes sense geographically and is in sync with the plan to expand the playoffs.
Since any proposal I would like to see implemented -- four divisions of seven or eight teams each, with only four teams making the playoffs -- will never be considered, I'll say that Bowden's idea (which would also eliminate the DH!) is pretty damn good. Since realignment was discussed in the late 90s, I have always wanted the Mets in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox.
Eastern Division        Southeast Division
Boston Red Sox          Atlanta Braves
New York Mets           Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees        Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies   Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays       Washington Nationals
Central Division        Western Division
Cincinnati Reds         Arizona Diamondbacks
Cleveland Indians       Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers          Houston Astros
Minnesota Twins         Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates      Texas Rangers
Midwest Division        California Division
Chicago Cubs            Los Angeles Angels
Chicago White Sox       Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals      Oakland Athletics
Milwaukee Brewers       San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals     San Francisco Giants
Bowden's plan would increase the number of playoff teams from eight to 12 (the three division winners and the three teams with the next-best records, playing in a 1-6, 2-5, 3-4 format). He would also shorten spring training and start the season around March 24.

June 15, 2011

G67: Red Sox 3, Rays 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 300 - 3  4  1
Rays      - 000 000 000 - 0  1  0
Beckett (9-1-0-0-6, 97) pitched the first one-hitter of his career, his first shutout since July 12, 2009, and the Red Sox's first complete game of 2011. It was also Beckett's ninth career complete game of nine innings (six in the regular season and three in the playoffs).

With two outs in the third, Reid Brignac hit a medium-speed grounder down the third base line. Kevin Youkilis came in and gloved it, but his throw was on one hop to Adrian Gonzalez and, most likely, not in time. AG couldn't scoop the throw and Brignac was safe. That was Beckett's only baserunner, as he retired the next 19 batters. (Beckett threw more than five pitches to only two of his 28 batters.)

Hellickson (7-4-3-2-2, 94) matched Beckett pitch-by-pitch for six innings. He allowed only two baserunners -- Dustin Pedroia's first-inning single and Jacoby Ellsbury's walk in the fourth -- and both of them were immediately erased on double plays.

With one out in the seventh, Pedroia tripled off the wall in right-center. Matt Joyce drifted back and leapt at (or maybe crashed into) the wall, but could not catch the ball. The Rays intentionally walked Gonzalez and pitched to Youkilis, who had a miserable game last night and was 0-2 so far against Hellickson, including an ugly three-pitch strikeout his last time up. Youkilis took a strike, then drilled a fastball about four rows deep in left field for his 10th dong of the season.

At 2:20, it was the Red Sox's quickest game of the season. The second-quickest game (2:24) was played last night.
Josh Beckett / Jeremy Hellickson

Last 7 starts
              IP    H   R  ER  BB   K   ERA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Beckett      44.2  33   9   9  18  38  1.81  .209  .309  .241
Hellickson   46.0  29  12  11  19  29  2.15  .180  .267  .304
In his last start, Hellickson allowed five earned runs and seven hits to Baltimore in 5.2 innings. Since May 1, Beckett has made eight starts with a 1.65 ERA. Beckett also has had six no-decisions in his last 10 starts.

Jacoby Ellsbury has hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games (.397/.455/.603/1.057). During his current 11-game hitting streak, he's batting .423. From June 7-12, Ellsbury had six straight multiple-hit games.

Adrian Gonzalez has hits in 20 of his last 23 games, with a .406 average. Over the last month or so (May 8, 33 games), he's hitting .388. Gonzalez has a hit or a walk in 58 of his 66 games.

Marco Scutaro is hitting .432 in his last 10 games (which includes four games before his DL stint). ... Since getting the good news on his shoulder, Dustin Pedroia is hitting .412/.524/.706/1.230.

AL East: Rangers/Yankees and Orioles/Blue Jays at 7 PM.

More Unprecedented Fun

One last tidbit from the Red Sox's recent nine-game winning streak, courtesy of Paul at YFSF (June 13):
So the Boston Red Sox are on a huge roll, the best of any team so far this season. They've won nine straight, scoring at least five runs in each of them. A streak like that — nine games with five or more runs scored — isn't all that uncommon. It happens on average twice a season. But the Sox haven't just scored five runs a game; they have pulverized opponents for 83 runs in those nine games. That's a little more rare. ...

No Red Sox team has ever had a nine-game run in which they've won every time and scored 83 runs. The closest came in 1950, when the Ted Williams-led squad scored 80 runs over the first nine games of an 11-game streak. ...

So since the turn of the 21st century, the Red Sox are the third team to score this many runs while winning nine in a row - and the first Boston team ever to do it. And that's why we love baseball. Because every day, every week, is the opportunity to see something we might not have seen before.
MLB umpires are not getting any better.

Q: In How Many Ways Is This Hat Racist?

Chris Jaffe looks at the increasing add-on fees when buying a baseball ticket. Over the last five years, the Red Sox have been the worst offenders. (One thing that angers me is being charged to print your ticket(s) at home.)

Is Miguel Cabrera one of the best hitters that baseball has ever seen?

Links to a couple of good baseball pieces at Grantland, Bill Simmons's new ESPN-sponsored site: David Eggers on Wrigley Field and Chris Jones on John Lackey, and Jay Caspian Kang on Ichiro.

June 14, 2011

Globe: Sox Planning To Add Andrew Miller To Rotation

The Globe's Peter Abraham reports that "a major league source" says the Red Sox are planning on adding Pawtucket lefty Andrew Miller, 26, to the rotation.

Abraham: "Miller has a clause in his minor-league contract that would allow him to declare free agency tomorrow if he is not promoted to the majors."

In five starts since May 24, Miller has a 2.08 ERA (30.1 innings, 23 hits, seven walks, 30 strikeouts). In three June starts, Miller has walked only one while striking out 22.

For the season, Miller has appeared in 13 games (12 starts) and has a 2.47 ERA and 1.173 WHIP. He was acquired from the Marlins for LHP Dustin Richardson last November and re-signed as minor league free agent in December.

Abraham's source says the Red Sox want to have Miller face the Padres next week and "will create space in the rotation by shifting around the starts of John Lackey and Tim Wakefield".

I cannot see how the team could make a six-man rotation work, though, so maybe Wakefield gets bumped back to the pen, or Lackey gets dropped out of a plane ...

Miller, asked whether he thought his next start would be in Boston:
I don't know. I got my agent in town and we'll probably talk about it [the free agency option] tonight. It's a tough decision, but we'll see. I think things are certainly going in the right direction here and it would be a shame not to keep it going.

I mean, they've treated me great here. The Red Sox, in general and in every aspect, have given me every opportunity and it's been first class and I don't have any complaints at all. It's a good place and a good fit for me. I'll start, I'll relieve, I'll play second base, it doesn't matter. If there's a spot in the big leagues, I want it.
With the way Miller has been pitching -- he faced Charlotte on Tuesday (5.1-5-1-1-10, 96) -- not calling him up would absolutely mean losing him to another team. (SoSH thread)

G66: Rays 4, Red Sox 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  5  0
Rays      - 000 011 02x - 4  7  0
Shields (9-5-0-3-5, 110; 2.60 ERA) pitched his third shutout and fourth complete game of the season. It was also the 12th time in his 14 starts that he pitched at least seven innings.

Shields's four CG are more than the totals of 22 MLB teams (including the Rays, who have one non-Shields CG); only three teams have pitched more complete games this year than Shields (Phillies 6, Rangers 5, Mariners 5). ... Shields's three complete-game shutouts are also more than the totals of the Red Sox, Royals, Blue Jays, Athletics, Yankees, Cleveland, and White Sox combined. ... Five teams -- Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros, Reds, and Cubs -- don't have three shutouts of any kind this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury walked to start the game and, with one out, Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-4) singled him to third. Kevin Youkilis (0-for-4, with 2 GIDP) struck out, but David Ortiz walked to load the bases. Carl Crawford, making his first plate appearance at the Trop since leaving the Rays and signing with the Red Sox, grounded out first-to-pitcher.

Ellsbury and Gonzalez singled in the third, but Yook GIDP to end the inning.

J.D. Drew singled to start the fifth, but Marco Scutaro flew out and Ellsbury GIDP.

Gonzalez singled with one out in the sixth, and Yook GIDP.

Scutaro walked with one out in the eighth, but was stranded there as Ellsbury flew out and Dustin Pedroia struck out on one of Shields's many devastating changeups in the dirt.

Wakefield (7-4-2-5-2, 119) allowed a home run to Justin Ruggiano in the fifth. Tampa scored another run in the sixth on two walks, a fielder's choice, and two passed balls. It was the most pitches Wakefield had thrown in a game in almost eight years (September 18, 2003, 119, also against the Rays).

Terry Francona's top priority in the eighth inning should have been keeping the Rays from adding to their 2-0 lead (since Boston had only one more inning to bat). Calling on Tommy Hottovy was not a wise move. Matt Joyce doubled, Evan Longoria was hit by a pitch, and Casey Kotchman singled (scoring Joyce). Alfredo Aceves took over and got out of trouble, but a single by John Jaso scored Kotchman.
Tim Wakefield/ James Shields
Very dangerous. This team is very dangerous right now. I have seen this before.
David Ortiz
The Red Sox are 6-0 on this road trip. They have begun a road trip 7-0 only twice since 1967.

1977: This was the memorable 9-0 west coast trip from July 29 to August 7. Boston beat California 6-5 (10), 3-0, 1-0; beat Seattle 3-2 (10), 12-4; and swept Oakland 3-1, 1-0, 2-1, 5-2).

2002: After taking four in Tampa Bay (May 3-6: 3-2, 7-5, 2-0, 5-3), the Red Sox flew out to Oakland and swept the A's (May 7-9: 9-7, 12-6, 5-1), giving them a 24-7 record and a five-game lead over New York. The Sox then lost their next two games, in Seattle.

In 1939, the Red Sox won the first 12 games of a 22-game (!) road trip (July 4-23); they finished with a 17-5 record.

Sidebar: In 1939, 144 of Boston's 152 games were played in under 2:35! ... From August 11, 1937 to September 30, 1939, 356 of the Red Sox's 358 games lasted less than 3:00! (The streak probably continued into 1940, but the times of many games in April are unknown.)

A SoSHer pointed out (in the thread linked above) that 51 of the 65 games this season have been part of winning or losing streaks of three games or more. It does look odd when you break the season up into winning and losing streaks:
Joe Maddon has arranged his starting pitching so the Red Sox -- who have won nine straight games and are 6-0 on their current road trip -- will face Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and David Price.

Tonight's game will be the Rays' third game in as many cities in three days. After playing in Seattle and Anaheim, the Rays played a weekend series in Baltimore. They travelled to Detroit for a make-up game on Monday and then flew home for the Red Sox series.

Johnny Damon, who reached base in his 38th consecutive game last night, setting a new club record:
This is what every major league team has to do. I don't think you'll ever be happy with certain road trips ... But it's been one of the more grueling ones that I've been a part of in all my years.
AL East: Rangers/Yankees and Orioles/Blue Jays at 7 PM.

June 13, 2011

Shorter Post: "The Red Sox Are Good"

The Red Sox have the best record in the American League (39-26) and are second to the Phillies (40-26) in MLB.
                  W- L  RS/G  AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   ERA
Since April 16*: 37-16  5.7  .287  .355  .471  .826  3.51
Since May 13:    22- 6  7.0  .302  .369  .513  .882  3.66
Since May 24:    14- 4  7.7  .305  .368  .536  .903  3.84
Since June 3:     9- 0  9.2  .329  .401  .565  .966  3.56
That 37-16 (.698, a 113-win pace) is the best record in MLB since April 16. The Red Sox had the best AL record for May (19-10) and they have the best AL record in June (9-1).

RS:    350 (#1 in MLB; Yankees #2 with 330)
RS/G: 5.38 (#1 in MLB; Yankees #2 at 5.24)
H:     635 (#1 in MLB; Cardinals #2 with 629; Yankees #18 with 548)
2B:    142 (#1 in MLB; Cardinals #2 with 131; Yankees #23 with 99)
HR:     77 (#2 in MLB; Yankees #1 with 95)
BB:    241 (#4 in MLB; Yankees/Reds #1 with 246)
AVG:  .276 (#1 in MLB; Cardinals #2 at .274; Yankees #12 at .257)
OBP:  .349 (#1 in MLB; Cardinals #2 at .347; Yankees #3 at .340)
SLG:  .450 (#1 in MLB, tied with Yankees)
OPS:  .799 (#1 in MLB; Yankees #2 at .790)
TB:  1,034 (#1 in MLB; Rangers #2 with 968)
XBH%: 9.0% (#1 in MLB; Yankees/Diamondbacks #2 at 8.5%)
Boston is 25-19 against RHP and 14-7 against LHP. Both record are 4th-best in MLB and Boston is the only team in the Top 5 of both categories.

RA/G:        4.32 (#7 in AL; Mariners #1 at 3.70; Yankees #5 at 4.05)
ERA:         4.08 (#8 in AL; Athletics #1 at 3.35)
Fewest Hits:  535 (#2 in AL; Rays #1 at 516; Yankees #4 at 540)
Fewest Walks: 222 (#12 in AL; Cleveland #1 with 180; Yankees/Rangers #10 at 216)
Strikeouts:   470 (#2 in AL; Jays #1 with 486)
WHIP:       1.295 (#5 in AL; Mariners #1 at 1.216)
Red Sox pitchers have also hit 40 batters, nine more than Toronto and 17 more than Texas, Detroit, and Cleveland.
Adrian Gonzalez has had at least one RBI in nine consecutive games (a career-high). It's the longest streak for a Red Sox hitter since Manny Ramirez went 10 games in 2002 (September 14-24).

The Red Sox record (since 1919) is 12 games, held by Ted Williams (August 31-September 13, 1942) and Joe Cronin (June 27-July 9, 1939). Williams also had an 11-game streak (May 30-June 10, 1950).

Gonzalez's streak ties Jason Bartlett (May 8-18) for the longest in the majors this season. The longest MLB streak since 2000 is 15 games (Mike Piazza, Mets, June 14-July 2, 2000). The MLB record is 17 games, set by Ray Grimes of the Cubs (June 27 to July 23, 1922).

After David Ortiz had three straight dismal seasons years against left-handed pitchers, the near-universal sentiment for 2011 was that Flo should not be in the lineup against southpaws. ... Ortiz's success against lefties has been perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this season. Among all American League hitters with at least 75 PA against LHP, Ortiz is 4th in average, 3rd in OBP, 5th in SLG, and 5th in OPS.

Ortiz vs LHP
         PA    AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
2008    121   .221   .308   .433    .741
2009    188   .212   .298   .418    .716  
2010    200   .222   .275   .324    .599  
2011     81   .343   .432   .571   1.004
Overall, Ortiz is 4th in the AL in average (.325), 5th in OBP (.395) and 2nd in SLG (.624). His 1.019 OPS is 2nd in the league. He is slugging was well as he ever has. His career-highs were in 2006 (.636, 54 HR) and 2007 (.621).

In 30 games since May 10, Ortiz is hitting .370/.423/.815/1.238. And since May 19 (23 games), he is hitting .396/.444/.857/1.302, with two or more hits in 14 of his 22 starts.

Jacob Peterson, Beyond the Box Score, June 5:
Ortiz struck out in 28.0% of his at-bats last year, and has fanned in 21.6% of his career at-bats. This year, his K rate is [10.5%]. ...

I would guess that both players [Ortiz and Prince Fielder] ... sought to make changes in their batting style over the offseason ... [and] became determined to make better contact. ...

Regardless of where this change has come from, the results are striking. Fielder has cut his swing-and-miss rate on pitches in the strike zone from 9.0% to 2.5%. ... Ortiz's story is similar. On pitches in the zone, his swing-and-miss rate has fallen from 9.8% to 8.1%. Out of the zone, the drop is from 9.6% to 5.8%. On all pitches, he's whiffed 3% less often (6.8% this year vs. 9.8% career).

You often hear hitters (and hitting coaches) preach increased contact rates, but rarely do you see such dramatic examples of this strategy being successfully applied. ... It should be very interesting to see what happens if/when pitchers start picking up on these new approaches, and what adjustments these two great hitters make in response.
I'm not sure where Petersen got the swing-and-miss rates. Fangraphs has Ortiz's 2011 rate of "contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown inside the strike zone" at 88.9%, down from a career rate of 86.0%. Another category is "percentage of strikes that were swung at and missed" (which is measuring the same thing from the other side, right?), but in this category, it's 9.5% for his career and only 6.7% this year. Maybe I am missing something obvious, but those %s don't add up. ... Flo's contact rate on pitches outside the zone is 77.6% this year (way up from his career rate of 51.9%).
Roster Moves and Rehabs: Drew Sutton was sent back to Pawtucket as Darnell McDonald (strained left quadriceps) is expected to come off the disabled list tomorrow. In nine rehab games with the PawSox, McDonald hit .345 and drove in 11 runs. Franklin Morales (left forearm strain) began his rehab with PawSox and threw one perfect inning of relief (nine pitches) yesterday.

The Red Sox traded catcher Mike McKenry to Pittsburgh which opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. That spot could be taken by right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who has been pitching for Salem (A) as he returns from Tommy John surgery. His first two starts were rough -- 12 earned runs in 7.1 innings -- but he has now thrown nine consecutive scoreless innings and will likely be with the Red Sox at some point in the second half of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury has a 10-game hitting streak (21-for-49, .429); he has a hit in 16 of the last 17 games (30-for-75, .400). His .318 batting average is 6th in the AL. He has 84 hits (#2 in AL), 49 runs scored, (#3), 56 singles (#4), 21 doubles (#2), 24 stolen bases (#1), 109 times on base (#8).
When Do Standings Matter?
So when do the standings matter? At the end of the season, when all the playoff spots are set. But when can we tell who is good and who is bad? It looks like somewhere in August. The terrible teams and great teams separate in June, but the middle is still muddled. This appears to clear up somewhere in August.
Times Oakland batters have had a 3-0 count: 107.
Times they have swing at the next pitch: 0.

Finally, the Balk of the Year.