June 30, 2006

G77: Marlins 5, Red Sox 2

Hell of a streak. Let's start a new one tomorrow night (when we'll send out a major league pitcher).

Our worries about Jason Johnson, who started tonight on 11 days rest (and hasn't been all that good on a normal schedule), were well-founded. Four pitches into the first inning and Florida led 1-0 (foul, Hanley Ramirez single, HBP, Mike Jacobs double). Johnson allowed five runs, six hits, one walk, and two HBP in the first two innings.

But from there, the Sox pitchers held the line. Johnson faced the minimum six batters in the third and fourth, Julian Tavarez pitched shutout ball in the fifth and sixth, Rudy Seanez got out of trouble (2nd/3rd, 1 out) in the seventh, and Craig Hansen threw eight pitches in breezing through the eighth.

There was a hint of a comeback in the sixth. Coco Crisp began with a walk against Dontrelle Willis. Mark Loretta struck out and Kevin Youkilis singled. Then Manny Ramirez singled to right, scoring two runs. (Manny collected his 1997th, 1998th, and 1999th career hits tonight.)

Mike Lowell followed with another single, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out. Jason Varitek flied to right on a 3-2 pitch and Gabe Kapler grounded into a force. And that was that.

Despite being at 104 pitches, Willis batted in the bottom of the sixth (Tavarez walked him) and came out for the seventh. I thought maybe the Sox could nail him quickly for a run or two, but he needed only 12 pitches to get the side in order.

With one out in the ninth, Kapler reached on an infield error. With pinch-hitter David Ortiz on deck -- and a buzz in the crowd that was audible over Marlins radio -- Alex Gonzalez struck out on a 2-2 pitch in the dirt (many SoSHers said all five pitches he saw were balls). Ortiz lifted a ball to deep right that was caught at the wall. (It must have been close, though, because Gameday's red dot was actually on the other side of the fence.)

Elsewhere: Five Yankee pitchers combined to one-hit the Mets 2-0 (I guess we put 'em in a slump (the hit came leading off the sixth)), and Toronto beat the Phillies 8-1. So New York is 3 GB and Toronto is 4 GB.

***

Lineups:
Crisp, CF       Ramirez, SS
Loretta, 2B Uggla, 2B
Youkilis, 1B Jacobs, 1B
Ramirez, LF Cabrera, 3B
Lowell, 3B Willingham, LF
Varitek, C Hermida, RF
Kapler, RF Ross, CF
Gonzalez, SS Treanor, C
Johnson, P Willis, P
Red Sox Winning Streaks

Games  Dates
15 April 25-May 10, 1946
13 July 18-27, 1948
12 June 16, 2006 -
12 August 3-14, 1995
12 July 15-25, 1988
12 May 29-June 11, 1946
12 July 4-16, 1939
12 July 28-August 8, 1937
Jason Johnson (5.96) / Dontrelle Willis (4.05), 7:30 PM

Coco's Catch



Timlin looks like he literally cannot believe his eyes.

Leap Of Faith

Coco Crisp:
I was able to get a nice push off the ground and -- I don't want to say soared through there, or can I say soared through there? Able to glide up there long enough to make that catch. ...

I was playing him to hit the ball the other way and he pulled it slightly. ... I didn't think I was going to get there. ... I kind of balled up, after I caught it, I balled up because I was going to hit the ground pretty hard. Kind of cannonballed into the ground. When I hit, I tried to hold on to it, I looked at it, I was like, 'Yes! It's still in there.' Because sometimes that ball flies out.
Mark Loretta:
Everybody in the infield raised their hands just out of instinct. It was one of those [plays] that gave you chills. The first thing you're thinking is that ball's in the gap, it's tied, OK, now it's a man on second or third or inside the park -- who knows? He came out of nowhere. It was incredible.
Curt Schilling:
That had to be one of the funnest and most interesting games ever to watch. There were 15 or 16 things in that game, then if you add all the things that I saw, where we threw pitches where I knew three pitches before the pitch that I was going to throw before I got to that count, and we got to that count and [Jason Varitek] called that pitch and the guy did exactly what we thought he was going to do.
Crisp:
I was just asked the other day which I'd rather do, hit a game-winning homer or make a game-winning catch. I said I would rather make a game-winning catch. ... It's more likely I'll have a game-winning catch than a game-winning home run, anyway.
Schilling:
I think this might be the most complete team I've ever been part of. I don't think there's anything we can't do. We can hit. We can work pitchers. We can catch with anybody I've ever seen.
Manny Ramirez has told Theo Epstein that he wants to stay with the Red Sox and finish his career in Boston. Manny has also been bothered by occasional soreness in his right knee and the team would prefer that he skip the All-Star Game.

Chris Snow offers an updated list of the Sox's Top 10 prospects:
1. 2B/SS Dustin Pedroia
2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
3. RHP Michael Bowden
4. RHP Clay Buchholz
5. RHP Edgar Martinez
6. 2B/SS Jed Lowrie
7. CF/RF Adam Stern
8. CF David Murphy
9. RF Brandon Moss
10. OF Yahmed Yema
Are YES announcers being encouraged (or ordered) to criticize Alex Rodriguez?

June 29, 2006

G76: Red Sox 4, Mets 2

Bottom of the 7th: Coco Crisp bunts for a hit (catcher out along the third base line, can't make a play). On the first pitch to Alex Gonzalez, Crisp steals second. On the next pitch, Gonzo bunts him to third. Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch to left for a sac fly, giving Boston a 3-2 lead. Four pitches, four bases, one (eventual) game-winning run.

Top of the 8th: Mike Timlin in relief of Curt Schilling (7-7-2-1-6, 103). Gets the first two outs, gives up a single to Carlos Beltran. Falls behind David Wright 3-0, pours in a strike, then Wright drills a ball to the gap in left center. Crisp sprints to his right, leaps as if he's jumping off a diving board, sails through the air, snares the ball and tumbles to the grass. Third out! (SNY showed seven or eight replays of the catch from at least four different angles -- and it looked more amazing each time.)

(Note: Our former CF would have had no shot at that ball, and Beltran would have scored standing up from first on the Noodle. After the 4th replay or so, all I could do was laugh at the amazingness of that catch.)

Then: David Ortiz bangs his 23rd home run to dead center for some insurance (Flo singled and doubled also), though who needs insurance with Jonathan Papelbon in for the ninth? Pap retired the Mets in order on eight pitches.

(Also, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tagging on Mike Lowell's fly ball to left-center in the sixth was HUGE! I was shocked when I saw Ortiz take off from second -- oh shit! -- but even with his premature belly flop slide into the bag, he beat Carlos Beltran's throw (and Manny moved from first to second). Because of that, Tiz was able to score on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly, tying the game at 2-2.)

That's 12 wins in a row -- sweeps of four consecutive three-games series. The only Red Sox teams to win more consecutive games were the 1946 club (15) and 1948 (13). It was also the first time this year that the Mets dropped three straight games. And the SNY team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez were actually quite good: funny, informative, and never truly moronic.

Boston also played its 16th straight game without an error, setting a new AL record and tying the MLB mark (1992 Cardinals). ... A good night! ... Marlins? You're next.

***

Tom Glavine (3.33) / Curt Schilling (3.61), 7 PM

Morons

As noted in comments, WEEI handed out placards with "Welcome Back, Pay-dro" on them. Disgusting. I assume the mouthbreathers at the station were cool with Martinez signing his $75,000,000 deal with Boston in 1998 -- at that time, the biggest contract ever given to a pitcher in baseball history. (Feel free to voice your opinion.)

Also disgusting was the "Pe-dro" chant (sung to the tune of "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl") after Alex Gonzalez homered in the third inning. As reported by some SoSHers, there were also some scattered "Who's Your Daddy?" chants. (Why don't these people just get it over with and buy an NY cap?) ... I know there are Red Sox fans who are every bit as idiotic and clueless as Yankee fans, but it's disheartening when the evidence is so clear.

(Or maybe the mediots were right, after all. There is a segment of Red Sox fans [sic] who never wanted to win the World Series, instead relishing the tag of lifetime loser, being spoon-fed their opinions, and booing the greatest players to ever wear the uniform they claim to love. And happily using insults created by Yankee fans.)

SoSHer Smiling Joe Hesketh was at the game:
Lots of Mets fans there last night who had traveled up from NY for the game. ... Everyone there at the park seemed to be in a great mood, relaxed and having themselves a great time. ...

[T]he overall repection Pedro got last night was unbelievably positive. He got a standing O when he went out to the OF to stretch out, a standing O when he went to the bullpen to warm up, and a huge standing O when he went to the dugout afterwards. Fans were going crazy for him; at the very end of the national anthem a leatherlung screamed "We love you Pedro!" and got a big cheer. ...

Seeing Pedro pitch live I was reminded of his incredible charisma on the field. He's a fascinating player to watch.
Pedro:
I'm just extremely happy I was able to come back. I didn't have my A game today. They took advantage of it. I didn't make pitches. ... The Red Sox are a hot team right now, a team that would probably unload on anybody. ... [N]ot even a win will give me the satisfaction I feel from that reception I got from the fans.
Injury Report: Matt Clement threw 30 pitches on Tuesday and will have another session tomorrow. ... Wily Mo Pena begins his rehab assignment tonight in Lowell; he'll move on to Pawtucket on Sunday.

June 28, 2006

G75: Red Sox 10, Mets 2

The reception for Pedro Martinez when he took the mound for the bottom of the first inning sounded tepid and perfunctory. I expected a much more raucous ovation; perhaps that happened before Extra Innings picked up the ESPN feed. I hope so. (SoSHers thought the reception was 90% cheers and 10% boos. If so, we may have to rethink the perception of Red Sox fans as intelligent. Ten percent morons is not good.)

The Red Sox wasted little time to knock Martinez's pitches around the lot. He missed location with all of his pitches, and his fastball was nothing out of the ordinary. Youkilis and Loretta began the inning with singles. Ortiz grounded back to the mound. It should have been a double play ball, but Pedro after looked at third, he glanced at second (where he had a good shot at forcing Loretta), then threw to first for one out.

Ramirez walked to load the bases. Nixon hit a sacrifice fly to center for one run, Varitek singled to center for a second, and Lowell got two bases (and brought in two unearned runs) when Lastings Milledge dropped his fly ball at the left field warning track. (Milledge has had nothing but nightmares in left the past two nights; I felt sorry for him on Lowell's fly.) After one inning, it was 4-0 Red Sox.

Boston scored four more times against Pedro in the third: Ramirez double, Nixon RBI single, Varitek single, Lowell 6-4-3 DP, Crisp walk, Gonzalez 2-run home run to left. And that was the end of Martinez's night (his shortest outing of the season): 3 innings, 7 hits, 8 runs, 6 earned, 2 walks, 1 strikeout (75 pitches).

On the other side, Josh Beckett was superb. Through seven innings, he allowed only four hits (including two solo home runs) and no walks, throwing only 86 pitches. After allowing a two-out double in the eighth, he battled Carlos Beltran through 13 pitches, eventually walking him. Javier Lopez came in and struck out Carlos Delgado. Manny Delcarmen pitched the ninth, striking out two.

It was Boston's 11 straight win, the first time the team has won more than 10 in a row since August 3-14, 1995.

***

Pedro Martinez (3.01) / Josh Beckett (4.84), 7 PM

El Rey

Example

Pedro Martinez makes his return to Fenway Park tonight -- the first time he has been back on the Boston mound since October 18, 2004. That was Game 5 of the ALCS against the Yankees, a 14-inning victory and one of the greatest games in Red Sox history.

The members of the 2004 World Series champions were cheered as they returned to Fenway Park, whether as Red Sox players in 2005, opposing players, or guests at the ring ceremony. Red Sox fans have not had the opportunity to thank Pedro Martinez for his huge contributions. He moved over to the National League and when the rings were being handed out, he was busy pitching for the Mets.

After a highlight film was shown after the first inning last night, Martinez stepped out of the third base dugout and was loudly cheered. That's a good warm-up. When he walks out of the visiting dugout and walks to the mound (or when he leaves the bullpen shortly before the first pitch), the ovation should be deafening.

As hard as it is to believe, there has been talk of the possibility of Pedro being booed; indeed, some people who call themselves Red Sox fans have openly called for boos. The reception for Martinez last night hopefully has dispelled all thoughts of that insanity. But even before the series began, I couldn't imagine it. Pedro Martinez should get a standing ovation when he comes out of the dugout for every goddamn inning.

Pedro, yesterday:
I saw 86 years of agony from the fans here. And they were here every day. The fans are true fans. That's why they have so much of my respect. Regardless of how rough they were when you didn't do your job, I believe they are the most faithful fans I've ever seen. I got the opportunity to compete out there, to be part to of this town, to be part of the championship. I can't be any luckier than I am.
If Doug Mirabelli can earn a wild ovation for his return to Fenway, what should Pedro receive? If Roger Clemens received a standing ovation -- while wearing Yankee pinstripes -- what should Pedro receive? He should receive an ovation like Fenway Park has never heard. Anything less would be embarrassing. Anyone who would not cheer until he was hoarse is no fan of baseball and no fan of the Boston Red Sox.

Part of the problem is that the media is busy likening the return of Pedro to the return of Johnny Damon. However, there is no comparison. Damon was a key part of the Red Sox offense and he played hard for four years. In May 2005, he vowed never to play for the Yankees, then signed with the Yankees and took potshots at the Red Sox all winter.

Martinez, in his seven seasons in Boston, established himself as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Every one of his starts was an event, a baseball holiday. He hated the Yankees, and burned with the desire to bring a World Series title to Boston. After he did that -- an accomplishment many of us doubted we would ever see -- he rejected a fair offer from the Red Sox, and signed with the Mets.

For all of Pedro's achievements, I maintain that he is underrated. The fact that he failed to win the AL Most Valuable Player award in either 1999 or 2000 -- although he came close in '99 (F you, George King) -- is proof of how little the media understood what he was doing in Boston.

Martinez's performance in 2000 was the greatest year any pitcher has had since the mound was moved back from 45 feet. Koufax? Gibson? Johnson? Grove? No. As great as those pitchers were, every single one of their seasons -- measured against their peers -- pales next to the Pedro Martinez of 2000. That is not opinion; that is historical fact.

Example

On the all-time ERA+ list, Pedro has the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 25th and 39th best seasons. The only pitchers in history who can touch him are (in order) Walter Johnson (5th, 10th, 22nd (twice)), Roger Clemens (12th, 16th, 27th), Greg Maddux (4th, 5th, 50th (twice)), and Christy Mathewson (11th, 15th). That's it. [ERA+: The ratio of the league's ERA, adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark, to that of the pitcher (above 100 is above average, below 100 is below average).]

Here are the top 10 ERA+ seasons of all-time:
Player          Age  Year   ERA+
Tim Keefe 23 1880 294
Pedro Martinez 28 2000 285
Dutch Leonard 22 1914 279
Greg Maddux 28 1994 273
Walter Johnson 25 1913 259
Greg Maddux 29 1995 259
Bob Gibson 32 1968 258
Mordecai Brown 29 1906 253
Pedro Martinez 27 1999 245
Walter Johnson 24 1912 240
Pedro is often compared to Sandy Koufax (who posted only the 56th and 70th best ERA+ seasons). While their raw numbers look similar, Koukax pitched from a higher mound (in a pitcher's park (LA)) and at a time when the rule book strike zone was enforced. Pedro's home park favoured hitters and he worked in one of the highest offensive eras in the game's history. With no disrespect to Koufax, Martinez leaves him in the dust.
       Year  ERA+
Pedro 2000 285
Pedro 1999 245
Pedro 2003 212
Pedro 2002 196

Koufax 1966 190
Pedro 2001 189
Koufax 1964 187
Koufax 1963 161
Pedro 1998 160
Koufax 1965 160
Koufax 1962 143
Pedro 2004 125
Koufax 1961 124
This blog grew out of a Pedro website (pedro45.net) I began in February 2001 (now here). In March 2003, it resembled more of a blog than a collection of articles on the Sox and Pedro. And in August 2003, I moved the blog here.

So, while I remain a huge fan of Pedro, I don't think I'm that far off by saying that he deserves much of the credit for the 2004 World Series title. His agreeing to a long-term contract was the first in a series of moves that transformed the Red Sox into the powerhouse -- and perennial contender -- we see today.

The amount of good will generated by Pedro in his seven years is almost incalculable. For many seasons, he (and Nomar) was the Red Sox. Where would the Red Sox have been if Pedro Martinez had stayed in Montreal? How much different would those seven years -- 1998-2004 -- have been? If Pedro is not in Boston, does Manny agree to leave Cleveland? Does Keith Foulke sign? Does Curt Schilling agree to a trade/contract extension? Does David Ortiz agree to stay?

The fans loved him immediately. His first start at Fenway -- his third start in 1998 -- was a two-hit, complete game shutout. Right away, there were chants and fans waving signs and Dominican flags. Pedro soaked up all the adulation and gave it right back. He was never shy about his love and respect for the city and its fans. He loved pitching in Boston as much as we loved having him in our uniform. And when he wasn't cold-blooded on the mound, demanding your constant attention, he was dancing on the bench, being taped to a dugout pole, simply enjoying himself.

We were spoiled. Martinez pitched so well, for so long, that when he became merely the best pitcher in baseball, we were disappointed. He had set the bar too high.

In the 1999 regular season, he allowed more than 3 earned runs only twice in 30 starts. He allowed 0, 1 or 2 runs in 24 of 30 starts!

After 12 starts in 2000 -- on June 19 -- his ERA was 0.99. 0.99! Some of the season-ending numbers for Pedro in 2000 (and the second place finisher):

Batting Average Allowed: .167 (Hudson, .227)
On-Base Percentage Allowed: .213 (Mussina, .291)
Slugging Percentage Allowed: .259 (Colon, .371)
Home ERA: 1.84 (Mussina, 2.90)
Road ERA: 1.66 (Wells, 3.24)
Hits Per 9 Innings: 5.31 (Hudson 7.52, only 3 AL pitchers below 8.00)
Baserunners per 9 Innings: 7.2* (Mussina 10.8)
Strikeouts/Walk Ratio: 8.88 (Wells, 5.35)

*: New major league record, breaking the old mark set by Guy Hecker in 1882.

And finally, perhaps Martinez's most overpowering start: September 10, 1999 -- 17 strikeouts in a one-hitter at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees did not hit a fair ball on any of his final 52 pitches. During the final two innings, with their team losing 2-1, even Yankee fans were on their feet cheering.

At 7:15 or so tonight, Red Sox fans will have the opportunity to thank Pedro Martinez for every one of his seven years in Boston -- and perhaps especially for the last game he pitched in a Red Sox uniform -- Game 3 of the 2004 World Series: seven innings, three hits, six strikeouts, no runs.

Typical Pedro.

June 27, 2006

Gammons Undergoes Surgery For Brain Aneurysm

Redsox.com:
Peter Gammons, the award-winning baseball writer and the face of news and analysis for millions of fans through the years, underwent surgery Tuesday for an aneurysm in his brain, The Boston Globe and ESPN reported.

Gammons, 61, reportedly was stricken earlier Tuesday and was taken to a Boston-area hospital. He is expected to be in intensive care for the next 10 to 12 days.
The news was first posted at SoSH at 6:08 PM. I cannot believe NESN made no mention of this during the game?!? (Was it mentioned on WEEI?)

G74: Red Sox 9, Mets 4

Jon Lester (2.76) / RHP Alay Soler (3.32), 7 PM

Ortiz: 13 Walk-Offs In 3+ Seasons!

Mind-boggling.
07/26/03 Yankees - RBI double - 5-4
09/23/03 Orioles - Solo homer - 6-5 (10)
04/11/04 Blue Jays - 2-run HR - 6-4 (12)
06/11/04 Dodgers - RBI single - 2-1
10/08/04 Angels - 2-run HR - 8-6 (10)
10/17/04 Yankees - 2-run HR - 6-4 (12)
10/18/04 Yankees - RBI single - 5-4 (14)
06/02/05 Orioles - 3-run HR - 6-4
09/06/05 Angels - Solo homer - 3-2
09/29/05 Blue Jays - RBI single - 5-4
06/11/06 Rangers - 3-run homer - 5-4
06/24/06 Phillies - 2-run homer -5-3 (10)
06/26/06 Phillies - RBI single - 8-7 (12)
Then there are these three road games, not technically walk-offs:
08/16/05 Tigers - Solo HR in 9th to tie,
3-run HR in 10th - 10-7
09/12/05 Blue Jays - 2-out solo HR in 11th
(2nd HR of game) - 6-5
09/14/05 Blue Jays - 2-run HR in 9th - 5-3
Coco Crisp:
He's unbelievable. When he comes up, you just know he's going to come through. You just wait for the right opportunity to jump over the gate so you can be the first to greet him.
Alex Cora:
I was saying on the bench, if you don't pitch to David in the 11th because you're afraid he's going to beat you, why pitch to him in the 12th? I guess Charlie knows Manny. It's tough. ... I saw this out west where you didn't want Barry [Bonds] to beat you. But that was just Barry. Not to take anything away from Jeff Kent and those guys, but the distance between whoever was hitting fourth in San Fran and the man hitting third was huge. It's not like that here.
Gabe Kapler:
I don't know how he does it, to be honest with you. At this point it's semi-cartoonish.
The victory was also the team's ninth straight win, their longest streak since they won 10 in a row from August 24 to September 3, 2004. The Sox have also swept three consecutive series (three-game minimum) for the first time since July 15-24, 1988.

Jonathan Papelbon's ERA shot up to 0.46. It's a strange feeling, being shocked when a Red Sox relief pitcher gives up a run (considering Rudy Seanez has now allowed 10 of 14 unherited runners to score) but watching Chase Utley's home run off Papelbon was disorienting.

Wily Mo Pena will spent this weekend at the extended spring training camp in Fort Myers before heading to Pawtucket. Pena is going to play games at first base for the PawSox, a position he has played in winter ball.

The New York Mets' arrival has coincided with the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1986 Red Sox team.

Three sites to check out: Red Sox Nation, Baseball Nooz and Armchair GM.

June 26, 2006

G73: Red Sox 8, Phillies 7 (12)

It wasn't a towering home run. It was "only" a single to left-center, so maybe this hit wasn't as grand, as dramatic. But it was still another walk-off hit for the lengendary David Americo Ortiz.

Down a run in the botom of the 12th, Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis both doubled to tie the game. Then after Mark Loretta walked, the Phillies decided to take their chances with Ortiz, rather than push Yook to third, loading the bases for Manny Ramirez.

Ortiz cracked a 1-2 pitch to left center, bringing home the run that cemented Boston's 9th straight victory.

***

Youkilis, 1B    Rollins, SS
Cora, 2B Utley, 2B
Ortiz, DH Abreu, RF
Ramirez, LF Howard, 1B
Nixon, RF Rowand, CF
Lowell, 3B Dellucci, DH
Crisp, CF Victorino, LF
Mirabelli, C Bell, 3B
Gonzalez, SS Coste, C
Tim Wakefield (3.82) / Cory Lidle (5.00), 1 PM

Anibal Sanchez, the former Sox pitching prospect traded to Florida in the Beckett/Lowell deal, made his major league debut in Yankee Stadium last night. He pitched 5.2 shutout innings, allowing seven hits and no walks, and striking out two.
I feel like all the time [when I was with Boston] that I was preparing for that game, Boston against the Yankees. But the Marlins are giving me the opportunity here.
The Marlins won the game 5-0, splitting a day-night doubleheader.

Jonathan Papelbon is only the second pitcher in the last 40 years to allow one run or less in his first 38 innings of one season. In 1981, the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela allowed one run in his first 52 innings (game log).

June 25, 2006

Phillies at Red Sox, Ppd.

Today's game was postponed/rained out and will be played tomorrow afternoon at 1 PM.

***

Did Ortiz call his shot yesterday? The Globe: "Alex Gonzalez said he heard David Ortiz tell one of the grounds crew members before the bottom of the 10th, 'That's it.'"

Maybe that's not so amazing, after all. At least 90% of Red Sox fans probably thought the same thing.

Tim Wakefield (3.82) / Cory Lidle (5.00), 2 PM

Lidle started against the Red Sox on May 21 (6-5-3-2-6, 94). Philadelphia chased Lenny DiNardo in the third inning that day and went on to win 10-5. Both Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell homered off Lidle.

June 24, 2006

Automatic For The People

When David Ortiz rounded third and headed home, he said his teammates "were kind of looking at me like a whole bunch of 10 year olds like, 'you're amazing'".

Can you blame them?


SoSH Drocca:
Although I'm sure everything has been said:
Doesn't anyone else think this is just a little weird?
Bizarre? Something?
I mean this is just not the way life or baseball actually works.

G72: Red Sox 5, Phillies 3 (10)

5:13 PM -- At work, I was half-working on a Word document with the Phillies radio in my right ear. The count was 2-2. I clicked over to the Gameday screen -- and there it was -- before the radio caught up. ... And I swear, my first thought was Gameday is playing a joke on me.

***

Mark Loretta, in the box score:
AB  R  H  RBI  RBI#   AVG
3 1 3 1 31 .313
***

Curt Schilling (3.55) / Brett Myers (3.77) (who may have other things on his mind, though I'm sure the nice folks at Fenway will refrain from bringing it up (heh)), 1:20 PM

Ortiz Getting Stubborn Re: Shift?

Despite the extreme shifts employed against him this year, David Ortiz says he'll keep hitting the way he has.
The only difference in my numbers is my batting average, and you know the reason why. All those balls that they take away from me with the shift, that's the only reason why I'm not hitting .300. I can do nothing about it. ... That's what they want me to do, change my approach. Then I'm going to shut down my home runs, bring my RBIs in. I don't want to change my approach. ... They get what they want [if I do that].
Is it me or has Ortiz been going the other way a lot less this year, not using the Wall? I understand his frustration -- and his desire to blast the ball through the mob on the right side of the field -- but he shouldn't be stubborn about it.

I maintain that dropping down a bunt every third game or so will make some teams think twice about leaving the left side of the infield deserted (it will also lift his batting average (and put a runner on base for Manny)). And having Trot Nixon in the #2 spot instead of Mark Loretta against RHP will increase the likelihood of runners on base for Ortiz, which would mean the infielders couldn't cheat as much in their shift.

Beckett Being Beckett

Terry Francona:
Two-seamed his fastball, threw his breaking ball very effectively, threw some real good changeups. He pitched. He elevated his fastball, used both sides of the plate with his fastball, threw a couple breaking balls in hitters' counts. Just really pitched effectively. Took the sting out of some pretty good hitters' bats.
Coco Crisp:
He was putting his pitches in the spot he was asked, more so than the movement being so dominant. His location was unbelievable today. If the ball was called to be thrown up, it was thrown right at the mitt, up. If it was away, it was away. His control was unbelievable.
In the eighth, Josh Beckett tired and missed location on several pitches, including the one that Chase Utley clubbed for a two-run home run. Varitek set the target outside (and sort of low), but Beckett threw the pitch (as Jerry Remy would say (and say and say)) "middle in".

Beckett:
It was my most draining game of the season. I didn't get myself into too many jams. It would've been nice to finish and if I had a shutout I probably would have put up more of a stink to stay in.
Interleague play remains a blight on the game and the sooner it is exterminated, the better, but at least Boston is winning these games. The Sox are 9-1 against the NL, outscoring their opponents 73-39, with nearly a 100-point advantage in team batting average (.333 to .236). ... Wily Mo Pena took BP yesterday and hopes to return (after a rehab assignment) the first week of July.

June 23, 2006

G71: Red Sox 10, Phillies 2

It was the Beckett (8-3-2-0-8, 104), Manny (3-for-4; double, 2 home runs, 4 RBI) and Gabe (1-for-1; 3-run home run) show at Fenway, as the Red Sox outhit the Phillies 13-4 and won their seventh straight game.

With Beckett's performance, Red Sox starters have allowed 3 earned runs or less in each of the last 10 games (19 ER/61.2 IP, 2.79 ERA).

9:37 PM -- Beckett retired the first 16 Phillies, but David Bell singled up the middle. Mid-6th now: Sox up 6-0.

6:30 PM -- Hoping to play despite threats of rain.

After allowing 14 earned runs in two starts to Toronto and New York, Josh Beckett made some mechanical adjustments and surrendered only five earned runs to Texas and Atlanta. ... Ryan Madson pitched 6.2 innings in his last start, against Tampa Bay.

Philadelphia has lots eight of their last 10 -- and the Red Sox have won six straight.

Ryan Madson (5.79) / Josh Beckett (5.09), 7 PM

June 22, 2006

Be Like Dan

This sounds like fun. Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch writes:
So you think you know what Dan Shaughnessy is going to write, even before you read his column?

We're going to have a little contest. Next week, the New York Mets come into town, and of course with them will be Pedro Martinez. We know Shaughnessy will write a column about the return of Pedro. You probably have a good idea what it is going to read like.

So write it.

That's right, write Shaughnessy's column about Pedro's return, complete with all the phrases and references he's bound to use. When you're done, email it to me. I'll go through them, and when Dan's column appears, (Right now Pedro is lined up to pitch on Wednesday) whoever's column is the most like Dan's in both style and substance will win a prize. I'm not sure what the prize will be, but it will be a nice prize.
Over at Dan Shaughnessy Watch, The Chief likes the idea, adding that contributors should (to achieve the proper frame of mind) "borrow a friend's motorcycle and ride it, helmetless, into a concrete wall. Next, get really, really drunk. Then write your column."

Paxton Crawford, Part II

I don't really have anything original or thought-provoking to add about the Paxton Crawford story (you may have noticed I rarely write or post about steroids, though I did just start reading Howard Bryant's Juicing The Game) but I have a strong feeling these kinds of admissions (see, also, David Segui) are going to be trickling out for quite a few years.

Crawford was surprised when Globe reporter Gordon Edes (looking at the byline, it has to be Edes and not newcomer Chris Snow) told him (via phone) that he'd covered the Red Sox for about a decade (including Crawford's time with the Sox in 2000-01) and had no idea if anyone was using steroids. Crawford claims steroid use was widespread -- "It was just everywhere".

P.S.: It was in late June 2000, that drugs, vials and syringes were found in the glove box of Sox infielder Manny Alexander's car.

To those who think that steroids may not help pitchers:
When I started using, I noticed my fastball jumped from 92-93 to 95-96 mph. But the biggest change for me was consistency. My breaking pitches had more velocity and sharper break. I was probably using the most back in 2001, when I made the Red Sox' rotation out of spring training.
Only three current Sox -- Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Trot Nixon -- were with Crawford in 2001. Wake and Tek voiced suspicion over the details of Crawford's story, although Varitek did admit:
There's so much we don't know about what other guys are doing. ... Granted, this team over the years has gotten to where guys hang out more, go to dinner, and I still don't think you're necessarily going to know, no matter what it is.

Sox Getting Hot As Summer Begins

The Red Sox offense is heating up -- the team is batting .345 (89-for-258) in their last seven games. They have recorded 12 or more hits in five consecutive games, which means everyone's getting involved.

In fact, over the last week, it has been the two shortstops who have the highest batting averages: Alex Cora (8-for-14, .571) and Alex Gonzalez (6-for-13, .462). Trot Nixon is hitting .455 (10-for-22) and Mark Loretta is at .400 (12-for-30).

In fact, over the last 30 days, Nixon's OBP is higher than leadoff man Kevin Youkilis (.460 to .447). I would love a 1-2 of Yook and Trot against right-handers, though some would argue against giving the opposition a chance to bring in a LOOGY to face Nixon and Ortiz back-to-back.

(So far this year, Nixon is hitting .236/.391/.400 against southpaws (so he's walking) and Ortiz is at .240/.327/.552. Papi's high slugging comes from hitting nine singles, six doubles and eight home runs against lefties.)

But would the benefit of having these guy getting five plate appearances a game outweigh a possible problem that might come up once, maybe twice (7th and 9th?) in a game?
AVG OBP SLG
Youkilis .337 .443 .558
Nixon .366 .453 .534
The starting pitching has also been steady. In the team's current six-game winning streak, the starters' runs allowed totals have been: 1, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1 (that three-run total belongs to Kyle Snyder, who is now in Pawtucket).

Jason Johnson will make his first Red Sox start on July 1 in Florida. Theo Epstein:
We're buying low. He's had a bad couple of months. Because of that, the acquisition cost was extremely low. We're not giving up a player. Cleveland is sending over a lot of money to us in the deal to help pay a lot of the salary.
It's absolutely a very low risk, which is why I don't mind the addition. And our infield is better than Cleveland's. However, Eric Wilbur passes along some scary numbers on Johnson this year.

Pedro Martinez talks about returning to Boston. ... David Ortiz is the third player in history to have hit at least five grand slams in the same park. The others: Cecil Cooper of the Brewers (County Stadium) and Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns (Sportsman's Park). ... Jon Lester mixed his pitches well, getting strikeouts on his fastball (5), curve (4) and cutter (1). ... Dustan Mohr declined his assignment to Pawtucket and is now a free agent.

June 21, 2006

Paxton Crawford Admits Steriod/HGH Use With Sox

Former Red Sox pitcher Paxton Crawford, in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, admits to using steroids and HGH while with Boston from 2000-01. One snip hints at how common such usage may have been on the club:
One time [in 2001], I walked right into the Red Sox clubhouse with a bunch of needles wrapped in a towel and left them on my chair. A few minutes later, one of my teammates came running over, saying, 'Paxton, someone knocked your chair over and your freaking needles are all over the floor!' Man, we just died about that. He said it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen, told me I was nuts. But that's the way it was back then.

Pedro At Fenway Next Wednesday

In the second game of the Mets-Red Sox series, according to the New York Times. Josh Beckett should be the Sox pitcher.

G70: Red Sox 9, Nationals 3

I missed Jon Lester's start against Atlanta, so tonight was my second chance to watch the young lefty pitch. And he was nothing short of sensational. Working with a quick 4-0 lead -- courtesy of David Ortiz's second inning grand slam -- Lester shut down the Nationals on three hits and one run in six innings. He also struck out 10 (Ks by inning: 212 221).

What was especially nice about the Red Sox two four-run rallies was they both happened with two outs. In the second, Lowell and Crisp grounded out before Gonzalez, Youkilis and Loretta singled. Then Ortiz banged his fifth career grand slam, and 21st home run of the season, to dead center.

Gonzalez began the sixth with a double, but Youkilis and Loretta made outs. Then Ortiz was walked intentionally, Ramirez singled* home a run (on the first pitch), Nixon (3-for-5; now batting .333) doubled home two more and Varitek doubled home Trot.

Seanez, Delcarmen and Tavarez each pitched one of the final three innings. Let the record show that MDC was the one who allowed no runs or hits. (Interestingly, the only times Washington got the leadoff man on base, he scored.)

*: In his at-bats following an Ortiz intentional walk, Ramirez is now 5-for-8.

***

Shawn Hill (2.42) / Jon Lester (3.48), 7 PM

The Kids Are Alright

One day after Terry Francona said the club has called up Craig Hansen to "fortify our bullpen", the manager had a private chat with four of the younger pitchers on the staff.

The result? Jon Lester will remain in the starting rotation, Hansen and Manny Delcarmen will pitch middle relief, and Javier Lopez will be used mostly as a LOOGY.

Tito:
We're getting to the point where we'd like to keep them here and we kind of want them to carry some responsibility. I'm OK with it; I'm actually a little excited. ... I want them to pitch with confidence and to know that we're not going to back away from them. This isn't an instance where they have to be here. We kind of want them here.
This is great news. I fully expected to see Lester in Boston by September and think that Hansen is ready for the majors (he was throwing some nasty 98-mph fastballs last night). And Delcarmen can certainly be trusted in the same situations as Julian Tavarez or Rudy Seanez. The kids won't be perfect, as I mentioned in my Transition post, but it's time.

Delcarmen: "As I walked out, I told Hansen, that's probably one of the best talks ever. All the meetings I've ever had with managers before were to send me down."

So what does the staff look like now?
SP            RP
Schilling Delcarmen
Beckett Hansen
Wakefield Lopez
Lester Timlin
Johnson Papelbon
Tavarez
Seanez
I doubt Theo Epstein is done.

Random Stuff: Boston is 13 games over .500 for the first time this season. ... Tim Wakefield has 11 quality outings (in 15 starts); he's tied with Curt Schilling for the team lead. ... Alex Cora is hitting .304 this season (almost 60 points higher than his career average of .246); in his last 17 games, he's 19-for-50 (.380).

Steven Krasner's Inside the Game hitting off a tee for the past two days and has done a little soft-toss. He took ground balls in the outfield for the first time since his June 1 surgery.

The Globe has news about Keith Foulke and his elbow tendinitis. ... The Sox are a major-league-best 32-4 when their starting pitcher outlasts the other team's starter. ... Tim Lampa has started a dating service for Red Sox fans. "You're crossing off the main thing when you're looking for someone: They're not a Yankees fan."

Welcome, Jason Johnson

The Red Sox bullpen has another pitcher -- Jason Johnson. The former Cleveland righthander was obtained today in a trade for a player to be named later.

Johnson, 32, was designated for assignment yesterday. He was 3-8, 5.96 in 14 starts this year, but has always been a great ground ball pitcher: his GB-to-FB ratio this year (2.85-1) is third in the AL.

Kyle Snyder was optioned to Pawtucket.

June 20, 2006

G69: Red Sox 11, Nationals 3

Ten of the 14 Red Sox batters faced by Livan Hernandez reached base -- and six of them scored. Boston led 8-0 after four innings, giving some support for Tim Wakefield, who, except for a four-batter hiccup to start the sixth inning, pitched extremely well (6-4-1-1-4, 103).

The rout was a balanced attack: Mark Loretta, Trot Nixon and Alex Cora had three hits apiece; Coco Crisp and Ramirez each had two hits; and Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell walked twice. ... Every Boston starter scored a run -- except David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, which is somewhat odd.

After Wakefield, Julian Tavarez pitched the seventh and Craig Hansen -- called up as Jermaine Van Buren was sent down -- pitched the eighth and ninth.

Media Moron Moment: Before tonight, I had never listened to a game called by Bob Carpenter and Tom Paciorek. These guys were cringingly bad. Hearing them offer nothing but praise for Tavarez's pitching abilities was strange and I chuckled at Carpenter's mid-game comment that "Florida is about to win their 9th game in a row -- they're up 6-0 in the 5th, so they've got a long way to go ..." Mmmmmmmm, that's good stupidity! [/artfern]

But what was most annoying was both men announced the game like a couple of ignorant nine-year-olds. How many times did one of them say: "Well, if X hits a double here and then Y goes yard, then the Nats are right back in this"? I truly lost count. Then if X made an out, they both would insist the game was completely out of reach and Washington had better look forward to tomorrow. This went on all night long.

Also: Ryan Howard (2 home runs, triple) drove in all seven of Philadelphia's runs, but the Yankees rallied for a 9-7 victory (Bernie Williams went 5-for-5). Boston's lead remains at two games. Toronto beat Atlanta 6-5; the Jays are 3.5 out.

***

Livan Hernandez (5.18) / Tim Wakefield (3.97), 7 PM
Youkilis, 1B    Soriano, LF
Loretta, 2B Vidro, 2B
Ortiz, DH Guillen, RF
Ramirez, LF Anderson , DH
Nixon, RF Zimmerman, 3B
Lowell, 3B Fick, 1B
Crisp, CF Clayton, SS
Mirabelli, C Schneider, C
Cora, SS Byrd, CF
Hernandez faces Boston for the second time in his career. In his last start, he threw a season-high 138 pitches. (Mike Lowell is hitting .362 (17-for-47) against Hernandez.)

Wakefield continues to get paltry run support from his mates (3.79 runs per start versus 5.72 runs per start for all other Boston pitchers). Wakefield has not allowed more than three earned runs in his last four outings, but he has received credit for only one win.

June 19, 2006

G68: Red Sox 6, Nationals 3

Hey, we won! Kyle Snyder did fine (5-4-3-0-6, 67), relying heavily on a nice slider and a 12-6 curve -- he struck out Alfonso Soriano three times with nothing but breaking stuff. The foursome of Van Buren, Lopez, Seanez and Timlin allowed a mere three hits and no runs over the final four innings.

Most of the offense came from the bottom of the order: Varitek doubled, singled, and walked and scored a run; Crisp singled twice, walked and scored once; Lowell singled and walked twice, and scored; Kapler singled, doubled and scored; and Cora singled, walked and drove in two runs.

Manny Ramirez added some insurance with a leadoff double in the seventh -- he scored (increasing the lead to 5-3) on a bases-loaded walk to Cora -- and he homered in the eighth (6-3).

Philadelphia beat New York 4-2, so the lead in the East is now 2 games. Toronto was off; they are 3.5 out.

***

6:05 PM -- To make room for Kyle Snyder, J.T. Snow -- the only player in Red Sox history to wear #84 -- was designated for assignment (the team has 10 days to either trade him or put him on waivers).

After pitching in all three games in Atlanta, Jonathan Papelbon is not available tonight. ... Gabe Kapler gets a start in right field.
Youkilis, 1B Soriano, LF
Loretta, 2B Vidro, 2B
Ortiz, 1B Guillen, RF
Ramirez, LF Ward, DH
Varitek, C Zimmerman, 3B
Lowell, 3B Fick, 1B
Crisp, CF Clayton, SS
Kapler, RF Schneider, C
Cora, SS Byrd, CF
***

Tony Armas Jr. (4.18) / Kyle Snyder (22.50), 7 PM

The Red Sox open a nine-game homestand against three NL East teams: the Nationals, Phillies and Mets (who, at 43-25, lead the East by 9.5 games).

Right-hander Armas was one of two Sox pitching prospects traded to Montreal in November 1997 for Pedro Martinez (Carl Pavano was the other). In his last start, Armas threw 82 pitches in 3+ innings against Colorado, allowing seven runs. He has never faced the Red Sox.

Snyder -- who will wear #52 -- was a first-round draft pick for Kansas City in 1999 (and 7th overall). He had Tommy John surgery in 2000 (one of four arm surgeries he has had) and made his debut at Fenway Park on May 1, 2003. In 29 major league games (19 starts), he is 2-9 with a 5.91 ERA.

Pitching coach Al Nipper:
[H]e's very excited about coming over here for the change of scenery. ... I know in the past, from hearing from other people in the industry, he's had problems elevating balls in the zone, but I don't know much about lately. Obviously, if he keeps the ball down in the zone, he can create a good, downhill plane being the tall kid he is [6-8], but if you can't create that downhill plane and you're elevating, hitters at this level don't miss those pitches too often.
Snyder is certainly well rested -- he has not pitched in a game since June 8. Boston has off days this Thursday and next Monday and won't need a fifth starter until July 1, so after tonight's start, Synder will likely be sent to Pawtucket.

0.25

Jonathan Papelbon threw five scoreless innings on the road trip, lowering his ERA to 0.25.
         G   IP   H  R BB   K  PIT   ERA
April 13 14.1 7 0 2 14 205 0.00
May 13 12.2 6 1 1 10 178 0.71
June 7 8.2 6 0 1 11 113 0.00
Totals 33 35.2 19 1 4 35 496 0.25

PA AVG OBP SLG
vs LHB: 71 .203 .225 .246
vs RHB: 58 .091 .138 .109
Totals 129 .153 .186 .185
Manny Ramirez's fourth inning home run was the 452nd of his career, tying him with Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Thome for 29th place on the all-time list. ... The Sox have signed their top pick in the June 6 draft, 18-year-old outfielder Jason Place. ... Alex Cora gets a start at shortstop tonight.

How dumb was Joe Morgan last night? Zach tells you. My favourite? "Maybe Seanez tried to wake up the Red Sox by giving up that home run [to Francoeur]." ... Maybe we should start calling Rudy "No-Doz"?

Chris Snow, Globe:
The Sox now have 22 come-from-behind wins, second most in baseball to the Brewers (24). The Yankees, meanwhile, have 20 blown-lead losses, second most in baseball to the Devil Rays (25). The Sox are 9-4 in games decided after the seventh. The Yankees are 7-12.
New York lost yesterday -- and dropped one game behind Boston -- when Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-winning, two-run home run off Chien-Ming Wang.

June 18, 2006

G67: Red Sox 10, Atlanta 7

Seven-inning stretch: Red Sox led 3-2. Both teams went to their bullpens. And in those 2.5 innings, a total of nine relievers allowed 14 hits and 12 runs.

Rudy Seanez allowed a first-pitch, three-run homer to give Atlanta a 5-3 lead in the home half of the seventh. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez both struck out to start the Boston eighth. Amazingly, in addition to making the second out of the inning, Manny also made the third out!

In between, against a trio of Atlanta pitchers, the Red Sox rallied: Nixon walked, Varitek walked, Crisp singled (5-4), pinch-hitter Lowell doubled (Sox led 6-5), pinch-hitter Cora singled (7-5), Youkilis hit a two-run home run (9-5), Loretta singled, and Ortiz was hit by a pitch.

Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 23rd save by getting the final four outs, including ending the eighth with the potential tying runs on base. ... Those of us not named Joe Morgan didn't need any more evidence that a pitcher's won-loss record tells us little about his actual performance, but as Boston finished off the sweep, it was Seanez that received credit for the victory.

***

7:06 PM -- Jeff Horrigan reports that Kyle Snyder will start tomorrow night against Washington.

Tonight, Mike Lowell (.231 lifetime vs. Smoltz) is on the bench, as is Chipper Jones, who will miss his second consecutive game with a sore right thumb.
Youkilis 3B Giles 2B
Loretta 2B Renteria SS
Ortiz 1B Thorman LF
Ramirez LF AJones CF
Nixon RF McCann C
Varitek C Francoeur RF
Crisp CF LaRoche 1B
Gonzalez SS Betemit 3B
Schilling P Smoltz P
Jonathan Papelbon has faced 124 batters this year. Only 22 of them have reached base -- less than 18%. In 34.1 innings, he has allowed only 18 hits, four walks and one run (0.26 ERA), with 34 strikeouts.

It looks like Pedro Martinez will pitch either the first or second game of the Mets' series at Fenway June 27-29, depending on whether the Mets give him an extra day of rest because of an off-day on June 26.

***

Curt Schilling (3.59) / John Smoltz (3.78), 8:00 PM

The two pitchers have faced each other only twice before, both when Schilling was with the Phillies. Both games were played in Atlanta.

On June 3, 1992, Schilling (7-6-0-0-6) led the Phillies to a 4-1 victory. Smoltz lasted only three innings (3-6-4-2-1).

More than five years later, on June 28, 1997, Smoltz (7-6-0-2-7) came out on top, winning 9-1. Schilling's line: 5.2-8-7-4-12.

June 17, 2006

G66: Red Sox 5, Atlanta 3

Yook leads off the game with a home run, Ortiz goes deep, Gonzo goes 3-for-4, Beckett goes six (6-3-2-4-5) and knocks in a run, and Papelbot closes it out. Solid.

***

Josh Beckett (5.26; 7.00 in eight road starts) / Lance Cormier (6.10), 1:20 PM

Atlanta's scheduled starter, Horacio Ramirez, was scratched because he's still not 100% after being hit in the head by a line drive last Sunday.

Manny's off today. Lineup:
Youkilis LF
Loretta 2B
Ortiz 1B
Nixon RF
Varitek C
Lowell 3B
Crisp CF
Gonzalez SS
Beckett P
(Beckett has a 1.750 OPS this season! So Tito the Moron bats him 9th. Of course! Jeez.)

Lester Shines, Helps Sox Stop Skid

Jon Lester showed poise in escaping two jams last night. In the fourth, he retired Adam LaRoche with two men on. And in the fifth, Atlanta loaded the bases with one out. Chipper Jones hit a sacrifice fly to right (putting Atlanta on the board at 4-1), Andruw Jones walked to reload the bases and Jeff Francoeur grounded out to short.

Afterwards, it sounded like Lester took advantage of the open base and pitched around Andruw:
You've got to pick your poison. You've got Francoeur on deck. He's a little bit more of a free swinger. You can make a decent pitch and get him out. Andruw, he hit 50-something home runs [51] last year. In that situation, I wanted to maybe get him to swing at my pitch, which he didn't.
Schilling:
What you want a guy like that to do is prove he can learn up here without regressing, and I thought tonight was a tremendous step forward for him and the people who are evaluating him. ... Tonight, he was so much more under control. ... He moved the ball in and out, he changed speeds, and we saw the things that we know are going to make him be what he is in the future.
Another reason to like Lester? On the tomahawk chops: "I hated those as a kid."

Let's all hope Lester continues to shine -- Sean McAdam reports that the Sox have had conversations with the Angels about (gulp) Jeff Weaver. ... And you thought the Derek Lowe Face was bad.

There were a handful of roster moves: Matt Clement was put on the 15-day disabled list (right shoulder sprain) and Gabe Kapler was called up from Pawtucket. Dustan Mohr and Mike Holtz were designated for assignment.

Righthander Kyle Snyder was claimed off waivers from the Royals. Snyder (who is 6-foot-8) pitched in one game for Kansas City this year, allowing nine runs (five earned) and 10 hits in two innings to Texas on June 8. At Omaha, he was 0-4, 3.88 in 10 games (nine starts). Over three big league seasons, he's 2-9, 5.91 in 29 games.

Javier Lopez is ecstatic to be back with the Red Sox: "This is the team that Rule Fived me and gave me an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues ... Most of my wife's family is from the Fall River area, so they obviously love it, being a big-time Red Sox family. They're pretty excited."

June 16, 2006

G65: Red Sox (36-28) at Atlanta (30-37)

Career Win #1!

IP H R ER BB K BF PIT

Lester 6 5 1 1 3 5 26 93
Seanez 1 0 0 0 0 2 3 14
Timlin 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 7
Papelbon 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 16

Jon Lester was sharp (only one Atlanta batter reached second in the first four innings), and after Tim Hudson walked the bases loaded in the third, Jason Varitek brought everybody home with a two-out double off the wall in right center.

Other games: New York 7, Washington 5 & Florida 3 Toronto 1. ... We are 1 GB, the Jays are 2GB.

***
Jon Lester (6.23) / Tim Hudson (3.79), 7:30 PM

Clement On DL; Chicago Wanted Seanez?

Update: Clement was put on the DL; Gabe Kapler called up.

An MRI done on Matt Clement's right shoulder was inconclusive. More tests are being done today.

Clement:
It's on the side of my biceps and shoulder, I guess like a dead feeling, not like a dead arm. A dead arm I would pitch through. Something that slows me up and I guess scares my body enough that it affects the way I throw. It's tough to go out there and pitch and not know what your arm's going to do each time. I honestly don't think it's anything serious.
Chris Snow (who sadly will be leaving the Globe to take a front office job with the NHL Minnesota Wild) on Clement:
One statistic above all encapsulates that his arm and stuff has lost its snap: Clement, in 235 career games through May 24, had failed to record a strikeout in a game just twice. In his past three games he has failed to strike out anybody in two of those games.
Some choices to fill Clement's spot should he go on the disabled list: David Pauley, Abe Alvarez, or Matt Ginter.

The Twins swept the Red Sox (in a series of three or more games) for the first time since August 1994. Boston scored only six runs in the three games. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were a combined 3-for-24: Ortiz 3-for-13 and Manny 0-for-11 (though he did walk three times in the second game).

Tito on Javier Lopez: "I'm excited ... Supposedly makeup-wise he's off the charts. Everyone I've talked to raves about him." Uh huh. Lopez, who has had control issues in the majors, walked his first batter last night on four pitches, then surrendered an RBI-single.

Eric Wilbur writes:
I listened to Peter Gammons on WEEI on the drive home [Thursday] afternoon, saying the White Sox were actually interested in acquiring Seanez in exchange for Lopez. But the Red Sox were hesitant to do so with the hopes Seanez may still turn it around this season once he finds his fastball.
Arrrg.

June 15, 2006

G64: Twins 5, Red Sox 3

Swept. ... Plus I had to listen to Joe Sciambi and Joe Morgan on ESPN2. Oh the humanity! Some notes:
ESPN2 is on the air for about four seconds before Morgan says something moronic: Sure, Kevin Youkilis gets on base a lot, but he's too slow to score many runs or strike fear in the defense.

Neither announcer can be bothered to say whether the two errant Wakefield pitches in the first inning are wild pitches or passed balls. They never mentioned them.

Morgan on the Red Sox pitching staff: "Schilling will give you a lot of wins because he's a winner."

With Morneau batting in the second inning, Morgan notes "something interesting in the statistics": Wakefield hold LH batters to a .175 or so average -- so that may be why Castillo and Punto (both switch-hitters) batted right in the first inning. Very timely, Joe.

At one point Sciambi gushes over Joe Mauer: "He plays every. single. day." Mauer has played in 59 of Minnesota's 65 games.

Morgan after Varitek pinch-hits in the 8th with the bases loaded (as the go-ahead run) and pops up the first fucking pitch: "No reason to go up looking for a walk when the tying run is at second."
***

This afternoon, Cleveland beat New York 8-4 and Toronto topped Baltimore 4-2, so at game time tonight, the East standings are:
Boston 36 27 --
Toronto 38 29 --
New York 37 28 --
Boston has scored only three runs in 21 innings against the Twins. Two of those runs came on solo home runs (Varitek, Crisp). Alex Gonzalez has the other RBI. This is unacceptable.

Tim Wakefield (3.93) / Carlos Silva (7.73), 8 PM

Video: Bat Boy Tackles Fan On Field

Nearly forgot about this. Last night, in the top of the eighth as David Ortiz was about to bat, a fan ran onto the field. I'm pretty sure the guy was running the bases. He ended up making a head first slide into home. When he got up, he was promptly tackled by the Red Sox bat boy -- who also managed to get in a few punches.

After the moron was hauled off -- and after both teams gave the kid a standing ovation -- FSN actually showed a replay of the tackle. Ortiz was amused.



Thanks to Aaron Gleeman.

Riske Traded to White Sox

... for lefty Javier Lopez once a Rule V pickup by Boston in 2002, later traded to Colorado). He should be with the team in Minnesota tonight.

With the AAA Charlotte Knights (International League) this year, he posted a puny 0.55 ERA in 33 innings (28 hits, 6 walks, 26 strikeouts). And he's had decent WHIPs in the minors for three years (1.06, 1.33, 1.19).

In 115.1 career major league innings, however, he has a 6.09 ERA (79 ERA+) and a ton of walks.

Riske threw only nine innings for the Sox and he certainly wasn't going to get into any high-leverage situations, so I don't hate this or like this move. It just is. Tito wanted a LOOGY with Foulke out, so Theo got him one.

Transition, Part 2 - And Existing Contracts

(updated: tidied up a bit, with contract stuff at the end)

I was advocating more innings for Jermaine Van Buren and Manny Delcarmen. Last night, Terry Francona gave them a shot -- and they let the game get out of reach.

After getting rid of Matt Clement's mess in the 5th, Van Buren flopped in the 6th: single, walk, sac bunt, intentional walk, bases loaded walk. Delcarmen then gave up a grand slam to his first batter. After that, he did alright -- a walk and a single in 1.2 innings. ... This provides a good segue into the transition issue I mentioned a couple of days ago.

It is imperative that the Red Sox integrate younger players into the team, especially the pitching staff. As the season began, we had Schilling (39), Wakefield (40 in August), Timlin (40), Seanez (37) and Wells (43). Clement will be 32 in August.

Steps in the right direction included getting Beckett (26), bringing Papelbon (25) north, declining to sign Damon for four years (32), trading for Crisp (26), and moving Youkilis (27) to first base.

Since April, we have seen an influx of many young arms -- Delcarmen (24), Hansen (22), Lester (22), Pauley (23 this Saturday), and Van Buren (26 next month). The learning curve involved in adjusting to the major leagues can be steep, and it is a fact that these young guys will struggle. They will walk batters and give up handfuls of line drives and home runs -- and they will do it in high-wire games against contenders. Having that happen when you are 25 games out in July is one thing; watching it in the Bronx in a mid-September battle for first place or the wild card is quite another.

The 2006 team is still a contender. Even with the struggles in the pen and from Clement, Beckett and the 5th spot, the absence and subsequent lack of punch from Crisp, Varitek's slow start -- the Sox have been at (or near) the top of the East. And there is no reason why they won't stay near the top.

We have to remember that some of what is making us tear out our hair this summer will pay off in 2007, 2008 and beyond. This is assuming that a lot of the top prospects (Hansen and Lester, especially) stay in red socks. And we will see similar struggles and slumps from pitchers Michael Bowden and Clay Buccholz, as well as position players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Murphy, and Jed Lowrie.

Working younger players into the mix is essential and I'm glad Theo et al. are doing it. They seem to have a keener eye on the future than they do in the Bronx. I bitch and yell and moan as much as anyone, but I have to remember to have patience.

***

I looked at the Red Sox contract information at Cot's:

Players whose contracts (major league only) end after this season: Nixon, Beckett, Youkilis, Loretta, Timlin, Gonzalez, Riske, Cora, Mirabelli, Pena, DiNardo, Papelbon, Stern, Alvarez, Delcarmen, Choi, Lester, Pauley, Van Buren, Mohr, Holtz, Machado, Edgar Martinez, Brandon Moss, David Murphy -- and possibly Foulke, Wakefield, and Seanez.

Players whose contracts end after 2007:
Schilling -- $13 (option year vested with 2004 World Series victory)

Clement -- $9.5 (last year of three-year deal)

Lowell -- $9 (last year of four-year deal)

Tavarez -- $3.1 ($3.85 club option for 2008, guaranteed with 125 appearances in 2006-07 or 65 appearances in 2007)

Foulke -- $7.5 club option ($1.5M buyout or $3.75M player option; 2007 option vests at $7.5 with 45 games finished in each of 2004-05-06 or total of 95 games finished in 2005-06; 2007 option vests at $7.75 with 53 games finished in 2006)

Wakefield -- $4 club option (contines until Sox decline an option)

Seanez -- $2.1 club option (or $0.2M buyout; 2007 option vests with 30 games finished in 2006)
Players whose contracts end after 2008:
Ramirez -- $20M (club options for 2009 ($20) and 2010 ($20))

Varitek -- $9 (last year of four-year deal)

Hansen -- $1 (last year of four-year deal)
Signed for 2009 and beyond:
Ortiz -- $12.5 in 2009, $12.5 in 2010 ($12.5 club option for 2011 (no buyout))

Crisp -- $15.5 in 2009 ($8 club option for 2010 or $0.5 buyout)
(Of course, several of the players listed in the 2006 paragraph above will likely still be around.)

June 14, 2006

G63: Twins 8, Red Sox 1

Matt Clement / Brad Radke, 8 PM

Red Sox Slammed In A Grinder

In eight innings, Curt Schilling (8-6-1-1-5) threw a season-low 91 pitches -- being even more economical than Johan Santana (8-5-1-0-13, 102) -- but those 91 pitches wiped him out. He called it a "grind game. You grind it every inning." I assumed that was the reason why Terry Francona had to go to the bullpen for the ninth.

Schilling:
The important thing for me was, I didn't get caught up in what he was doing. That might not have been the case in the past. He was dominating so quickly, so thoroughly, you can get caught up in the game like that. I had to stay with what we planned on doing ... and not match him strikeout for strikeout, No. 1 because I couldn't, and No. 2, then I'd have to pitch a way that doesn't work for me.
Santana struck out the first five Red Sox batters; through five innings, he had 11 Ks. Only two lefties have struck out more Sox in a game. Randy Johnson (Seattle) fanned 15 in eight innings in 1998 and Mickey Lolich (Detroit) struck out 15 in nine innings in 1972. ... Twins fan and blogger Seth Stohs offers a detailed analysis of both Schilling and Santana, which pitches they threw, in what counts, and at different times through the order. Very interesting stuff.

Despite the loss, it was one hell of a game (more of my comments are in the G62 post). There were several great plays in the field from the Sox, especially Kevin Youkilis's throw to third on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the ninth to nab Luis Castillo, who had greeted Jonathan Papelbon with a double. Lew Ford stupidly bunted down the first base line (if he had bunted towards third, he would have had Lowell come in and field the ball and left third base open for Castillo.) ... Torii Hunter made a similarly dumb move, trying to steal third in the fifth; he was easily thrown out on an inning-ending K2-5 double play.

A great catch from Manny Ramirez (after losing a line drive in the lights) to end the eighth, with a man on second was matched by Hunter, who leapt and reached behind his head on a Ramirez liner in the eleventh. ... Nick Punto's nifty dive and flip to second for a force play in the 12th kept the Sox from scoring more than one run.

In New York, the Yankees beat Cleveland 1-0 in another pitchers duel and are now tied with the Red Sox for first place. Toronto is two games out.

Apparently, Keith Foulke was more injured that he was telling Red Sox management. Francona "I think this has been bothering more than he let on for a while. To their credit, they try to pitch through a lot of things. ... He didn't say anything to anybody."

Notes: Trot Nixon is hitting .522 (12-for-23) in his past six games. ... Jonathan Papelbon (0.28 ERA) has now pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings. ... Gabe Kapler is expected to remain with the PawSox for at least a week or two. ... Wily Mo Pena was scheduled to have his stitches removed from his left wrist yesterday.

Kevin Millar, whose Orioles were in Minnesota last weekend, left a present for Francona: a bag of dog shit. Tito: "I called him back and said, 'Any chance you had of ever coming back here just went right down the toilet with that bag.' The poop reminded me of how well he hit in '05." ... Alright, I added that last sentence.

Karen Guregian has a great story on Manny Ramirez taking a 8:00 AM flight to Minneapolis yesterday. Fans at Logan and on the plane -- especially, Bill Barton, who found Manny sitting next to him in first class -- were pleasantly surprised. Guregian: "As Barton found out, if you sit down for a casual chat with Ramirez, he's warm and friendly, and contrary to speculation, seems happy and content to still be in Boston. He'll proudly talk about his kids, especially how much his eldest son Manny enjoys baseball."

June 13, 2006

G62: Twins 5, Red Sox 2 (12)

Dear Julian Tavarez:

Turn in your uniform, walk out the door, and never come back.

***

As noted in comments: Mike Timlin was activated and Jermaine Van Buren was recalled from Pawtucket. In addition to David Pauley being sent to the PawSox, Keith Foulke was finally put on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow tendinitis. (It really sucked having the pen be an arm short for the first week and a half of June while the team hoped Foulke would rebound.)

Curt Schilling (3.81) / Johan Santana (3.16), 8 PM

In his last two starts -- against Oakland (8-2-1-0-9, 103) and Seattle (5-5-1-1-2, 101) -- Santana allowed a total of two runs.

Transition

I was planning on writing a little about this year's team and how 2006 is a transition year for the Red Sox -- though not strictly rebuilding, since the team is still a strong contender. No time today, however, so my thoughts will have to wait. In the meantime, a few beat writers are sort of thinking the same thing.

Steven Krasner looks at the influx of youth on the pitching staff, Michael Silverman compares the 2006 team to 2005 (and at no point gives the edge to 2005; stats) and Amalie Benjamin chats with Papelbon, Pauley and Lester.

The clock is ticking on Willie Harris. Gabe Kapler went 4-for-10 in three games with Portland and was sent to Pawtucket, where he was 2-for-5 with two RBI last night.

June 12, 2006

Three Cents

After 2004, I put together a book of my blog posts from that life-changing season. I did it solely for myself -- in addition to all the other books, magazines and videos I now have on my shelves, I wanted a physical record of my thoughts and mood swings from October 16, 2003 to October 30, 2004.

I put up a link to the Cafe Press page last April but didn't care if anyone else bought a copy. (And honestly, I wouldn't have bought it if I wasn't me. CP's production costs put the price at $21.07. That's steep. I rounded it up to $21.10, so my "royalty" on each sale is three pennies.) Like I said, I did it for myself.

Last week, I was shocked to see that on May 25, someone ordered a copy! ... So if JK from California is out there, send me an email.

Ortiz Gives Delcarmen First ML Win; Clement Set To Start Wednesday

Thirty minutes after David Ortiz's walk-off home run gave him his first major league victory, Manny Delcarmen was holding the lineup card for Game 1. He still had goose bumps.
I was thinking about it with two outs and Ortiz up. I was like, 'Man.' Then when he hit that, I just about tripped over the fence trying to jump on the field. It kind of hit me when everybody started shaking my hand, when I got to home plate. It was pretty cool.
(The Globe has a great overhead shot of Ortiz joining the mob at home plate.)

Matt Clement threw in the bullpen yesterday and said he'll likely start Wednesday in Minnesota.

Keith Foulke claims he made only two mistakes among his 38 pitches yesterday -- and they both resulted in flyouts. He also said his back is not an issue. So what's the problem then, Keith? Because something is bothering you.

David Pauley will be sent to Pawtucket when Mike Timlin (who threw 25 pitches in a side session) is activated on Tuesday.

Francona, getting my blood boiling again: "We were not only within striking distance, but you look down at the end of the bench and we had Manny sitting there with his spikes and a bat ready to hit. We felt we were coming. You could kind of feel it. We just couldn't stop them." ... Arrrgggg.

June 11, 2006

G61: Rangers 13, Red Sox 6

Ten of the first 14 Rangers reached base against David Pauley, who still was able to gut out five innings, Rudy Seanez (in 0.2 inning) allowed one inherited runner and two of his own to score, and Keith Foulke allowed seven hits and four runs in the final two innings.

But the most annoying moment in the game -- and with Texas scoring 13 runs on 22 (!) hits, there were many of them -- came in the bottom of the seventh.

Texas was up 9-5, but Boston was rallying, and had runners at first and second with two outs. A home run would bring the Sox within one with two innings to go, a pretty nice position to be in considering the rough start.

With Mirabelli up, Francona had both Manny and Varitek on the bench -- yet he stayed with his back-up catcher. A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third, but on a full count, Mirabelli looked at a pitch right down the middle of the plate, striking out to end the inning. The Rangers roared right back in the eighth with four against Foulke, and that was the ball game.

Without question, Manny Ramirez should have been hitting (although apparently he was going to hit for Cora if Belly got on?) in that spot. Any manager who wants to win baseball games would have sent him up. Varitek likely had been promised the nightcap off (except in an emergency), but Francona has to weigh that promise -- and the goddamn off day tomorrow! -- and ask himself if having Varitek catch two innings is worth having a legitimate shot at getting back in the game.

Tito (being Tito) felt it was more important to give the captain the entire night off. Indefensible. I probably give Tito more grief about his job performance that is warranted, but this decision is absolutely indefensible.

***

Game 2:
Crisp CF
Loretta 2B
Ortiz DH
Lowell 3B
Nixon RF
Snow 1B
Mirabelli C
Cora SS
Harris LF
David Pauley / Way Back Wasdin, 5 PM

***

Jeter makes the final out (deja vu all over again!) of the Yankees' 6-5 loss to Oakland. Lead is up to 1.5.

G60: Red Sox 5, Rangers 4

Ho-hum!


How many times can this happen?!?

***

First of two today: Millwood / Beckett, 12 PM

(David Pauley will start Game 2; Matt Clement may be headed to the DL for the first time in his career. Manny Ramirez will probably get Game 2 off, with Kevin Youkilis moving to left.)

Lester Waits 8 Hours To Make Debut

Jon Lester arrived at Fenway Park around 10 a.m. and had to wait more than eight hours to take the mound. "I was trying not to go stir crazy. Just sitting around, watching TV, trying not to think about the game, and when they told me to get ready, just try to hurry up and get out there."

Lester was surprised at the volume of the crowd. "I'm not used to that. Couple pitches I let the crowd kind of influence what I was doing. It's just like in the 0-2, 1-2 counts, 3-2 counts, they start getting on their feet, getting loud. You definitely feel the energy in the stadium. Sometimes it pumped me up and I wanted to throw as hard as I could. That kind of got me in trouble."

Lester (#62):
I'm not satisfied with the four walks and [the fact that I threw] a lot of pitches in four innings. That's kind of the biggest thing right now -- keep the pitches to a minimum and get as many outs as I can in a few pitches. Obviously, I was disappointed. I wanted to go as far I could and 4.1 innings isn't very far. ... But I'm happy to get that first one under my belt and get it done.
Wily Mo Pena expects to start playing in four weeks. ... Craig Hansen was sent back to Pawtucket to make room for Lester, who will remain in the rotation.

June 10, 2006

G59: Rangers 7, Red Sox 4

After a delay of almost five hours (4:47, to be exact), during which time he actually sat in the stands chatting with his parents, Jon Lester walked to the Fenway Park mound for his major league debut.

The consensus at SoSH was that he did well: a little wild (overthrowing his fastball), but his breaking stuff and changeup were good, as was his composure. Varitek seemed to call for the fastball too often in the early innings. The umpiring behind the plate was wildly inconsistent, which obviously didn't help. On his departure, Laura wrote me: "As he left the mound, he looked overwhelmed, like he was choking back emotion. To his standing O, he did the hat-tip-that's-a-cap-adjustment thing, didn't look up, looked like he wasn't sure if he should or could. Very nice."

Lester's line was nothing special: 4.2-5-3-2-4-4, 102. He left in the fifth with the score tied at 3-3. Julian Tavarez came in and was very good, retiring the first six Rangers he faced, but he wilted in the seventh, loading the bases and then (when he should have been pulled) allowing a two-run single.

After Manny Ramirez brought Boston to within a run (5-4) with an opposite field home run in the eighth -- the 450th of his career -- Keith Foulke (on 10 days rest) surrendered a two-run shot to Hank Blalock in the ninth. The Sox went in order in the bottom of the ninth.

****

7:00 PM -- Doubleheader tomorrow: games at 12 and 5.

5:40 PM -- Tarp back on. Second game cancelled. Start time for today's game set, for now, at 6:15.

4:40 PM -- A rainy afternoon in Boston has delayed things for hours. Sounds like one game will start about 5:15 with Lester getting the ball. I'd say it's doubtful the second game gets played (when would it start -- 10 PM?)

Sunshine among the raindrops: Jeter struck out looking to end Oakland's 5-2 win the Bronx.

***

Lefthander Jon Lester, 22, makes his major league debut this afternoon in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

Francona:
I saw him this spring, and I didn't see him pitch that well, but you could see a lot of things in him, why people are in love with him. He competes, he's left-handed, he's got a great body, he's got three or four different pitches, he commands. He's on his way to being a very solid major league pitcher and, hopefully, this will be a good first step.
Lester put up a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings in April, but since May 1, his ERA has been 1.29. In 11 starts for Pawtucket, he is 3-4, 2.70.

Lester got the start when Matt Clement, bothered by muscle twinges and spasms in his right shoulder and biceps, asked if his start could be moved back to Sunday. Clement:
I requested a couple of extra days, which is something I've never done in my career. ... I've just been having a tough time recovering this time. If I could guess, I'd say it's a combination of two things - the changing of my mechanics and how much work I did between starts. ... I've had a lot of things in my career that I've pitched through that I've probably been stupid to do a lot of times, but ... it's just feeling weird enough that I felt I needed to do this.
Lester / John Rheinecker, 1 PM