June 30, 2009

G77: Orioles 11, Red Sox 10

Red Sox - 220 500 100 - 10 16  0
Orioles - 001 000 55x - 11 16 1
That is not a typo.

Who could have guessed when the rain was falling in the middle of the fifth with Boston up 9-1 we should have wished the game would have been wiped out?

As surprising and annoying as this one was, it's still only one loss -- and we come right back with Josh Beckett tomorrow afternoon.

***

Playing ball again after a 1:11 delay. Masterson in.

***

Rain delay at 8:36 at end of top of fifth. Baltimore needs to finish the bottom half for the game to be official.

So far, the Red Sox bats have been raining down hurt on the Orioles:
Lugo: 2 hits, 2 runs
Pedroia: 2-run double
Yook: HR, double, single, 3 RBI, 2 runs
Ortiz: double, RBI single
Ellsbury: RBI single and solo HR (moon shot crushed to rcf)
Bailey: single, 2 runs
Smoltz: 4-3-1-1-2, 52.

***

UPDATE: It turns out the Red Sox will not wait until Thursday before making a decision about Mike Lowell. The team put Lowell on the 15-day disabled list today (retroactive to June 28) and called up Jeff Bailey.

***

John Smoltz (9.00, 51 ERA+) / Rich Hill (6.03, 75 ERA+)

Look for more fastballs tonight from John Smoltz. John Farrell:
It could have been that it was his first time back and he didn't know what to expect velocity-wise. I'd like to see the ability to pitch off his fastball more.
In addition to giving Mike Lowell an injection of Synvisc in his right hip*, the Red Sox medical staff drained 15 ccs of fluid from the area. Lowell could return to the lineup as soon as Friday, but, as Terry Francona said, "the worst-case scenario, he goes on the DL just to buy us a couple of weeks where he can get a second wind for the second part of the season."

(*: If Lowell could not play without getting this injection, wouldn't it qualify (broadly-speaking) as a performance-enhancing drug? Of course, this drug is legal and allowed by MLB. But it clearly helps the player better perform his job. And if Lowell's hitting and fielding are superior having had the injection, hasn't his performance been enhanced?) Am I totally off-base?

Lowell:
If I don't have a big improvement in mobility and flexibility and all of that I have to believe their going to think of something DL-wise, but if I feel really good I might play Friday. So Thursday is probably the day we chart what's going on.
Francona said that Jacoby Ellsbury could be back in the leadoff spot "in the future", but for now J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia "are our two best on-base guys and since Ellsbury's been hitting seventh, he's just been (doing great), and we've been playing great baseball."

Drew, on his eighth-inning at-bat last night:
There's not a player alive who wouldn't know he needed a double for the cycle in that situation. I was trying to hit a double. [And how do you do that?] I don't know ... I was just going to hit the ball and run straight to second.
Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 132nd save last night, tying Bob Stanley for the Red Sox's all-time mark. Bot again expressed his awe for Mariano Rivera and his latest milestone:
A (four)-out save for 500 is pretty neat. And an RBI. That's the icing on the cake. Just seeing what Mo did is absolutely incredible. ... He's "The Godfather" of our role ... You're talking about a guy who has 500 saves and has been through countless postseasons. When you're just aching day in and day out -- I don't know, man. ...
Steve Buckley notes that "when Rivera was Papelbon's age, he had 84 career saves". That was 11 years ago. Can Papelbon still be closing games in 2020, at age 39?

Jason Bay is 1-for-13 in his past three games.

Orioles starter Hill has been highly erratic this season and hasn't completed five innings in four of his last six starts.

June 29, 2009

G76: Red Sox 4, Orioles 0

Red Sox - 100 300 000 - 4 11  0
Orioles - 000 000 000 - 0 6 0
J.D. Drew tripled on the third pitch of the game and scored the game's first run. He also hit a two-run homer in the fourth and singled in the sixth -- and made several nice running catches in right field.

Lester (7-5-0-0-8, 108) allowed only one Baltimore baserunner past first base.

Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay each singled twice, Jacoby Ellsbury stole two bases, and Dustin Pedroia singled and walked twice. Jason Bay (0-for-5) recorded the game's final out with a back-handed tumbling catch in short left field.

***

Jon Lester (4.68, 99 ERA+) / Jason Berken (6.32, 72 ERA+)

Boston has scored a mere nine runs in its last four games, batting only .205/.261/.291 as a team.

Perhaps facing the last-place Orioles (34-41, 12 GB) -- with a staff ERA of 5.01, third-worst in MLB, and a rookie making his seventh career start -- will get the bats going again.

In his last start, Berken allowed three runs (two earned) to the Marlins in five innings. He has gone more than five innings only once in his last four starts.

Lester has given up three or fewer earned runs in six of his last seven starts. In his four June starts, Lester has a 2.33 ERA. Against Baltimore on April 19, Lester threw seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts. Boston swept that series (April 17-20), outscoring the Orioles 30-14.

Decision Coming Re Lowrie, Lugo, Green

Mike Lowell was in Boston this morning getting an injection of Synvisc into his right hip.

Terry Francona:
For some people, it's like a miracle. For other people, it's not. I've had it done and it didn't do a thing for me. [Brad Mills] had the same shot, and two hours later, he felt like he was brand new. The good news is if it doesn't work, [it won't be a setback ...

[Possible trip to the DL?] I guess it could happen. ... [I]f he didn't respond to this, it's probably something we'd have to think about ...
Jed Lowrie went 1-for-2 yesterday as Pawtucket's DH yesterday. Francona said that waiting until the All-Star break to bring Lowrie back "might be realistic, I don't know".

Ian Browne notes:
If Lowell doesn't respond to the shot and needs a DL stint, the 15 days would be up as soon as the All-Star break ends. The Red Sox begin the second half in Toronto on July 17.
And Julio Lugo is well aware that his Red Sox career could come to an end in a matter of a few weeks. Lugo's name has been almost completely absent from Francona's lineup cards. He has started only three games since June 5.
Tried to talk to the manager once. It's his decision. There's nothing I can do. I'm a player. They make the lineup. ... Something's going to have to happen. ... Let's not throw wood on the fire. I'm here right now and I don't want to start a war. Let's try to let it be for now and see.
Since no one knows how well Lowrie will play when he returns, or if he might reaggravate the injury, the Red Sox may decide to hang on to both Nick Green and Lugo. That would mean being one man short in the bullpen, however.

Lugo has been an obvious disaster in the field, but he's hitting .292/ .361/.385, good for a 91 OPS+. That is better than both David Ortiz (79, though it's been rising) and Jacoby Ellsbury (87) and is nearly equal to Dustin Pedroia and Green (both 92).

A couple of things from Amalie Benjamin's latest Mailbag:

Re Jed Lowrie:
The organization will give Lowrie every chance to prove that he can be the answer at shortstop. The timing is such that Lowrie will have some time to demonstrate whether or not he can be an everyday shortstop in the big leagues before the trading deadline. ... The Sox have inquired on just about every available shortstop in the big leagues, and have determined that it's not quite worth it at this point ...
Re clubhouse chemistry:
I've been particularly impressed with the attention to chemistry demonstrated by a few players in particular: Justin Masterson, Mike Lowell, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito. Clubhouse dynamics often fall along the lines of the languages spoken by players, but these players make sure to talk to everyone ... Saito, in fact, has told me that Penny brings players of different backgrounds together better than almost anyone he's ever seen.
***

On Saturday, Jason Bay was out of the lineup for only the second time this season -- resting while the temperature hit 95 in Atlanta. "It's too hot for a Canadian." ... Bay's replacement, Mark Kotsay, drove in the game's only run.

Saturday's win was only the second time in Tim Wakefield's Red Sox career that he had won a game by a 1-0 score. The other one? His second start in a Boston uniform -- May 30, 1995, in Oakland. Elias says that stretch -- 14 years, 28 days -- is the longest span for any pitcher in major league history between 1-0 wins for the same organization.

The Red Sox finished interleague play with a 11-7 record (.611, a 99-win pace).

June 28, 2009

G75: Atlanta 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 000 001 - 1  5  1
Atlanta - 100 100 00x - 2 6 2
Penny pitched well (6-6-2-0-2, 106) but two solo home runs -- Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson -- was enough for Hanson (6-2-0-2-2, 97) and a quartet of relievers.

On his ninth pitch of the afternoon -- a fastball to Kelly Johnson -- Penny grimaced, called out the trainer and was seen shaking his right arm. Penny said afterwards that his thumb had gone numb when it "popped out of the joint for a second. It was nothing. I just needed a second to let it come back."

Boston's run came when Jason Varitek's two-out single scored Kevin Youkilis.

There was an odd play in that inning. Youkilis singled and Jason Bay struck out. David Ortiz tapped a grounder to second. Johnson gloved the ball and went to tag Youkilis, but Yook froze in the basepath. So Johnson threw to Casey Kotchman at first base to retire Ortiz. Kotchman then threw down to shortstop Diory Hernandez, who chased Youkilis back to first.

Hernandez's throw back to Johnson at the bag was high and Yook was able to slide back in safely. So ... Ortiz grounded out to second and the runner at first did not advance!

***

Brad Penny (4.93, 94 ERA+) / Tommy Hanson (3.13, 136 ERA+)

Penny: 3.81 ERA in his last 10 starts (all of May and June). At $5, he's becoming a bargain at the back end of the rotation.

Terry Francona:
He's gotten us into the sixth pretty regularly. Now, his stuff is getting better, too. His stuff is more powerful. ... He's starting to locate, he's starting to throw it downhill. [Trade rumours?] I didn't pay much attention, because I knew where we were. We didn't sign him to trade him. We signed him to win.
Hanson would be making his fifth career start today. However, he has been battling the flu and Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said it was "very iffy" if he could go this afternoon. If not, Kris Medlen (6.12, 69 ERA+) will get the ball for his fourth career start.

MLB.com:
Hanson continued his recent trend of creating trouble for himself and then pitching out of it. Against the Yankees on Tuesday, the 22-year-old rookie held the Yankees scoreless over 5.1 innings, but walked five batters and hit another. The wildness drove up his pitch count to 99 in the fifth, forcing him out of the game despite allowing just four hits.
Mike Lowell will fly back to Boston tonight and get an injection of Synvisc in his ailing right hip on Monday morning. Lowell:
It's not normal to look forward to an injection, but I'm really looking forward to it. I want to feel the relief that hopefully it can provide. I defer to them when they say I can play after that.

June 27, 2009

G74: Red Sox 1, Atlanta 0

Red Sox - 000 001 000 - 1  6  0
Atlanta - 000 000 000 - 0 4 0
Wakefield (6-3-0-1-1, 88) did not allow an Atlanta baserunner to reach third base in the mid-90s Georgia heat, and pocketed his 174th victory as a Red Sock.

After Manny Delcarmen pitched a perfect seventh and got the first out in the eighth, Justin Masterson walked pinch-hitter Matt Diaz. The Big Donkey then wild pitched him to second. A grounder to first put Diaz at third, but Masterson retired Martin Prado on a harmless fly to right.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Brian McCann cracked a deep fly ball off Jonathan Papelbon to right-center. Both Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew called for it near the warning track. Drew gloved the ball and the two fielders collided, but because both of them had nearly come to a stop, there was little nothing more than a chest bump. Garret Anderson followed with a double to left-center on an 0-2 pitch. Bot got Casey Kotchman to ground to second (he directed FY where to throw, a la Sexy Lips) to end the game.

Mark Kotsay drove in the game's only run, with an opposite field single to left. Kevin Youkilis had walked with two outs and David Ortiz followed with a walk of his own. Both passes had Atlanta manager Bobby Cox muttering to himself in the home dugout. Several close calls during both at-bats and the umpires determined that each batter had checked his swing on ball four. Kotsay then knocked Vazquez's 2-2 pitch into left.

Youkilis also singled in the first and tripled in the eighth (capping an 11-pitch AB). Ortiz singled and walked twice. Wakefield lined a single to center in the third.

***

Tim Wakefield (4.47, 104 ERA+) / Javier Vazquez (3.18, 133 ERA+)

This will be Wakefield's 382nd start for the Red Sox, tying Roger Clemens for the most starts in club history.

There is also this:
Career Pitching Wins

Cy Young 192
Roger Clemens 192
Tim Wakefield 173
20 wins to go!

***

June 27 in Baseball History:
1911 - In the 7th inning at Huntington Avenue Grounds, the A's Stuffy McInnis steps into the batter's box to lead off and hits Ed Karger's warm-up pitch for an inside-the-park home run while the Red Sox are still taking their positions. Boston manager Patsy Donovan protests to umpire Ben Egan, but Egan rejects the protest on the basis of AL president Ban Johnson's new rule prohibiting warm-up pitches. Johnson's time-saving rule, which declares that pitchers must throw as soon as the batter is in the box, is soon withdrawn.
There have always been complaints that baseball games drag on for too long.

Happy 66th birthday, Rico Petrocelli!

Today is also the sixth anniversary of Boston's 25-8 win over the Marlins.

Lowell Considering Injection, Unsure About DL

Mike Lowell may receive an injection of Synvisc on Monday in Boston.
I'm a little frustrated that I think things were going so good for these first 60 games, and then I just woke up one morning, I felt really tight. ... [We're] searching for things to kind of loosen it up.
Does Lowell think he may need to go on the disabled list?
I don't know, I hope not.
***

Josh Beckett left after seven innings last night because of "intestinal turmoil". Terry Francona also said Beckett had "some throat stuff" bothering him all week.

Sean McAdam says Beckett missed "the chance to become the first Red Sox pitcher in 45 years to shut out the same team in consecutive starts".

Note:
Bill Monbouquette shut out the 1964 Washington Senators 7-0 on July 13 (9-4-0-0-3) and 5-0 on July 17 (9-6-0-0-3).

The last Boston pitcher to have consecutive complete-game shutouts was Roger Clemens in 1992 -- 5-0 against the Royals on May 9 (9-3-0-1-4) and 3-0 against the Angels on May 15 against the Angels (9-4-0-1-6).
Beckett had shutout Atlanta 3-0 on June 20 (9-5-0-0-7).

Last night's win was the 800th of Francona's managerial career. Tito has an overall record of 800-731 (.523) -- and is 515-368 (.583) with the Red Sox. He is also 28-14 (.667) in the postseason and is the only manager in baseball history to win his first eight World Series games.

Pawtucket: Two Triple Plays In Last Four Games

Pawtucket turned two triple plays in its four-game series against Norfolk.

The first one happened in the fifth inning on Tuesday night. Jolbert Cabrera lined out to second baseman Travis Denker, who tagged second to retire Joey Gathright and fired to Aaron Bates at first to triple off Justin Christian.

Then, in the first inning last night, Christian and Gathright were again on first and second, when Chris Carter caught Brandon Snyder's fly ball in short left field and threw to Denker, who threw to Bates.

JoS On The Baseball Show This Morning

I'm making my second appearance on "The Baseball Show" on CSN.

I will be on with a couple of other Red Sox bloggers at approximately 9:55 AM this morning.

June 26, 2009

G73: Red Sox 4, Atlanta 1

Red Sox - 000 011 020 - 4  7  1
Atlanta - 000 000 001 - 1 8 0
David Ortiz broke up a pitchers' duel by clubbing his 8th dong of the year in the fifth. Jurrjens came in with a 90 mph fastball on the inner half and Flo cranked it to deep right-center.

Beckett (7-6-0-0-6, 98 (69 strikes)) was superb. He was never really in any trouble. Atlanta had a guy at third in the third, but there were two outs at the time and Beckett got Chipper Jones looking. Beckett allowed two singles to start the fourth, but got the next three hitters in order.

Boston scored in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia doubled, took third on a balk and scored on J.D. Drew's groundout.

Hideki Okajima pitched the eighth. He committed a fielding error, then walked Martin Prado, but rallied and struck out Jones, Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman (who had been 3-for-3 against Beckett).

Jonathan Papelbon allowed a solo home run to Dan Ross in the ninth and surrendered a two-out double to pinch-hitter Brian McCann, but fanned Gregor Blanco to give the Red Soix their 45th win -- best in the AL and only two fewer than the Dodgers.

Boston added two insurance runs in the eighth. Jurrjens began the inning having thrown 83 pitches. He walked Nick Green, who was bunted over to second by pinch-hitter Julio Lugo. Pedroia singled to center and Green's run made it 3-0. Bobby Cox had Rafael Soriano warming in the pen, but stayed with Jurrjens (97 pitches and obviously tiring) as he gave up a single to Drew, balked (again) to move the runners up, and walked Kevin Youkilis. Ball four went to the backstop -- FY scored and Drew took third. Yook got greedy and tried to advance to second, but he was tagged out 2-4-3 trying to get back to first. Jurrjens then threw another eight pitches to retire Jason Bay.

It was mind-boggling. Cox let Jurrjens throw 31 pitches in the eighth inning -- and sat on his ass as his young starter had a mini-meltdown while throwing his second-highest pitch total of the season (he threw 120 back on April 17 (log)).

Jurrjens by innings:
10-12-11 11-15-15 9-31 - 114
***

Josh Beckett (3.74, 125 ERA+) / Jair Jurrjens (2.89, 147 ERA+)

Dave Magadan, who was ejected from Wednesday's game in Washington for arguing balls and strikes, has been suspended by MLB/Yankee Bob for one game (which will be served tonight) and fined an undisclosed amount of money.

Time Off Did Not Help Lowell's Hip

According to WEEI's Rob Bradford:
Mike Lowell said [after last night's game] that his surgically-repaired right hip felt no better after getting four of the previous five days off and a decision regarding the approach would be made on the way to the team's next series in Atlanta. One option that Lowell has been weighing are shots to help lubricate the hip, along with additional time off. Lowell originally felt tightness in his hip last Thursday after having few problems while playing in all but two of the Sox' games up until that point.
Terry Francona:
I think it was my mistake that I went [that long before giving him some time off] because he doesn't complain. I probably need to be more aware of making him take a day, even when it aggravates him, so he won't drag that hip the second part of the year.
After hitting .308/.332/.525 in April/May, Lowell has slumped dramatically in June: .209/.289/.313. (His BABIP has also dropped more than 100 points to .200 in June, so there may be some bad luck at play.) Lowell is 3-for-26 (.115) in his last seven games.

When Nick Green replaced Lowell in the eighth inning last night, Julio Lugo took over at shortstop -- his first time in the field since June 14. Lugo committed an error on the first pitch/batted ball of the inning. Since June 6, when his playing time dropped to nearly nothing, Lugo is 7-for-10, with a .900 slugging percentage.

Lowell could be headed for a DL stint when Jed Lowrie returns. Playing for Pawtucket, Lowrie was hit by a pitch on the left knee on Tuesday. He has not played since then, though he may work out today.

Overall, Smoltz Encouraged By Outing

John Smoltz:
I can't be disappointed. Once I got through the first inning, I felt normal again.

I'm very encouraged by how good I can be, and how I felt. ... I was really disappointed on the bloop hit [Anderson Hernandez's single that put the Nats up 4-0]. Two runs is two runs. You're going to give up two runs. But that was pretty much the unfortunate pitch that put their young pitcher in a nice position to have a four-run lead.

In a matter of a few starts I'll be honed into where I want to be. My familiarity will come back real quick in two or three starts.

When I hit Nick Johnson, I kind of sped things up a little bit. All in all, a lot of hits were a product of poor placement and good placement by them. Before you know it, it's 4-0 ...

I definitely have enough [velocity] right now. My fastball is probably better than I give it credit for. I probably didn't establish enough fastballs. ... I know what in-game adjustments I have to make. I'm astute on one thing. This type of game sticks in my memory.
John Farrell:
He's now got 35 innings under his belt. You see it with the guys in our rotation now. The power pitchers don't get their stuff until the fifth, sixth week of the season. Keep in mind, John's just coming out of spring training, as far as we're concerned.
Terry Francona:
There was a little more velocity on his fastball than maybe I expected. I thought he had depth to the split and breaking ball. He just left some up, and early on he got a little ahead of himself in his delivery. I was really encouraged.
SoSH Jnai, on Smoltz's outing, with pitch-f/x data:
Inning 1 was a little bit like watching DiceK on a bad night. He was ineffectively wild, threw the ball all over the place, left some terrible pitches up over the plate, and the Nats hit them. ...

He did seem to settle down as the outing wore on.

As for stuff, let's see. He's throwing a fastball from 90-93.5 with some good movement, an 84-87 mph change that's the featured breaking pitch against LHH, a 82-86 mph slider that's featured against RHH, and a slower (75-78 mph) curve that's used intermittently against both types of hitters. ...

He had a lot of trouble throwing his fastball for strikes ... He also gave up 3 line-drive outs on the changeup, so it was hit fairly hard. ...

Overall, Smoltz was very breaking ball heavy, but exceptionally so for counts where the hitter had a slight advantage. It's like he would fall behind and go to the breaking pitch for strikes rather than being confident in his fastball.

"We Haven't Figured Out Anything Yet"

Dave Cameron, Fangraphs, talking about David Ortiz:
The list of guys who have been written off as over the hill and then shoved that right back in everyone's face is long and distinguished. You would think that eventually, we'd learn our lesson. There may be a point at which a major league player just loses enough of his ability to stop being productive, but we suck at figuring out when that point is. We're so bad at it that we should just stop trying.

We haven't figured out what numbers show that a player is truly washed up. We haven't figured out what it looks like when that happens. We haven't figured out how to combine scouting and statistical analysis to give us a warning before a player heads off the cliff. All we've figured out is how to guess wrong a lot.
That reminded me of a Bill James quote from a March 2005 interview he did with SoSH:
I believe in a universe that is too complex for any of us to really understand. Each of us has an organized way of thinking about the world -- a paradigm, if you will -- and we need those, of course; you can't get through the day unless you have some organized way of thinking about the world. But the problem is that the real world is vastly more complicated than the image of it that we carry around in our heads.
The SoSH interview is no longer online, but there is a bit more of it here.

There there are these James quotes from a legnthy Freakonomics Q&A:
If a player used steroids, this could cause his home run total to explode at an advanced age — but so could weight training, Lasix surgery, better bats, playing in a different park, a great hitting coach, or a good divorce. It is almost always impossible to infer specific causes from general effects. ...

I would say generally that baseball statistics are always trying to mislead you, and that it is a constant battle not to be misled by them. ...

[W]e do horrible analysis sometimes. There will never be a shortage of B.S. What we do, essentially, is to pick up things that people say and ask "Is that true?" This can be done with regard to almost anything — any sport, including politics. The people who analyze politics on television say absolutely ridiculous things with a frequency that would make the laziest baseball announcer look like Socrates by comparison. ...

People who think that they know when a manager should bunt and when a manager should pitch out and when a manager should make a pitching change are amateurs. People who have actually studied these issues know that the answer disappears in a cloud of untested variables. ...

We haven't figured out anything yet. A hundred years from now, we won't have begun to have the game figured out. ...

June 25, 2009

G72: Nationals 9, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 000 001 002 - 3  8  2
Nationals - 401 002 20x - 9 11 1
The Nats batted around against Smoltz in the first inning, scoring four times on four hits, one walk and one HBP.

Smoltz (5-7-5-1-5, 92) settled down -- he retired Washington in order in the second, fourth and fifth innings -- but the damage was done. His fastball was around 91-93, and while he had trouble all night commanding his slider, he showed flashes of dominance. He struck out the side in the fifth.

Daniel Bard and Takashi Saito each allowed two runs out of the pen. David Ortiz had a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Rocco Baldelli hit a first pitch, two-run homer in the ninth.

***

John Smoltz (2009 debut) / Jordan Zimmermann (5.03, 87 ERA+)

Smoltz, 42, begins "a new chapter" tonight. He last pitched in a major league game on June 2, 2008. Eight days after that, he had right shoulder surgery. This will be his first start since April 27, 2008.

Back in mid-January, when Smoltz signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox, Theo Epstein said:
When I close my eyes and envision it, I see [John Smoltz] starting important games for us late in the season and hopefully into October.
Expectations are high, but how Smoltz will do against major league hitters remains a question mark. He had a 2.63 ERA in six minor league starts, but half of those starts were at A and AA.

Still, as long as his shoulder is healthy, a fair amount of hype is warranted. Look at his ERA+ over the years -- he hasn't really had even an average season since 1994 -- especially the three full seasons after he left the bullpen and became a starter again (at age 38!): 138, 127, 137.

Smoltz:
[C]oming back from surgery, as I've said many times, this is not a half-year job. This is not something I wanted to do just for a half a year. I plan on pitching past this year. ... I enjoy what I'm doing. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get back to this point, and if I were doing it to prove one human being or 10 human beings wrong, I'd be foolish. I'm doing it because I love it. When I came back from the surgery, I knew I could pitch again.
J.D. Drew played with Smoltz in 2004:
He's probably the most competitive player that I've ever played with. Ever. High school, college, anywhere. Just everything he does, he competes at it and he loves it. I think that's exactly what [Red Sox fans] will see.
Chipper Jones:
It's like the Red Sox have made a big trade or signed a blockbuster free agent in the middle of the season.
Ian Browne notes that Smoltz is the only pitcher in history to have at least 200 wins and 150 saves:
Smoltz's entire body of work is fascinating, because it hasn't been replicated to such an extended degree in two different roles. Dennis Eckersley comes the closest, but he wasn't Hall of Fame caliber (149-130, 3.71 ERA) as a starter. The Eck was a first-ballot Hall of Famer because of his dominance (390 saves) as a closer.

As a starter, Smoltz is 206-141 with a 3.33 ERA and 2,731 strikeouts. During his four years in the bullpen (2001-04), Smoltz was about as overpowering (2.41 ERA, .215 opponents batting average) as any closer.
Trivia: The first major league batter to get a hit off Smoltz? Dave Magadan, back on July 23, 1988. Neither man remembers much about the at-bat.

Finally -- months ago, while poking around for Smoltz stuff, I discovered that he isn't too keen on full equality for all people. Back in July 2004, he expressed his disgust for gay marriage:
What's next? Marrying an animal? ... If somebody believes two men should be able to get married, well, I think that's wrong. That's against everything that man is built on.
Smoltz later claimed that "Nowhere in my conversation was I critical of gays". I guess comparing gay marriage to bestiality was supposed to be a compliment. To my knowledge, he has not shed his ignorance (or his support of the FARM Act) in the subsequent five years.

***

With Smoltz joining the pitching staff, Dusty Brown is headed back to Pawtucket after four days in the bigs:
It was everything I expected it to be. It was great and it couldn't have come at a better time. ... It was awesome and everyone was great to me. You get a taste of it now. When I go back I know what I'm playing for and where I want to be.
Jason Varitek (who has caught 53 of the Sox's 71 games) says he has had a sore neck since June 12.
I don't know how I did it. I don't know if it was from whiplash from a foul ball or what. ... We've been treating it and we're staying on top of it and hope it goes away.
The Globe notes:
Sixty percent of Varitek's hits (26 for 43) have been for extra bases, the second-highest ratio in the majors behind Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, whose at 64 percent. Nine of Varitek's last 12 hits (six doubles, three homers) have gone for extra bases.
Since June 6, Ortiz is batting .357/.480/.833.

June 24, 2009

G71: Red Sox 6, Nationals 4

Red Sox   - 000 312 000 - 6  7  0
Nationals - 010 002 100 - 4 8 0
David Ortiz crushed a three-run home run in the fourth, Jason Varitek hit a two-run dong in the sixth and the Sox bullpen, in relief of Lester (6-6-3-2-6, 103) held back the Nats.

Jacoby Ellsbury made two nice running catches to keep the score at 6-4. With a runner of third and two outs in the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman drove the ball to deep left center, but LBJ ran it down, banging into the wall. With one out on the bottom of the ninth, Willie Harris's drive to deep right-center was also hauled in.

Ortiz now has 1,002 career RBI and 296 career home runs. He also singled and scored in the sixth on Tek's dong. ... Dustin Pedroia had a double and an RBI-single. ... Jason Bay struck out three times and went 0-for-4.

The Yankees and Blue Jays both won, so Boston stays 5 GA in the East.

***

Jon Lester (4.69, 100 ERA+) / Craig Stammen (4.76, 91 ERA+)

Stammen is a rookie right-hander who has made only six starts. He debuted May 21.

Oatmeal:
Pedroia, 2B
Drew, RF
Youkilis, 3B
Bay, LF
Ortiz, 1B
Varitek, C
Ellsbury, CF
Green, SS
Lester, P

Brown Makes Debut

Catcher Dusty Brown made his major league debut in the ninth inning of last night's win over Washington. He and Daniel Bard were the Boston battery for the final inning.
I got the first one out of the way. No harm done -- thank God. It was exciting. Lucky I've caught [Bard] plenty. It would have been different if I never caught him before and go out there in my first MLB outing and try to catch [a pitcher who throws] 98 [mph].
Bard:
For me, it's the only time I've been more of a veteran than [another guy on the field]. ... I made it a little tough on him, probably [loading the bases with one out], but he did a great job and didn't make me look too bad.
In the 17 games since being taken out of the leadoff spot, Jacoby Ellsbury has hit .356/.451/.542 with 10 walks and only six strikeouts. Although he hit second in five of those games, his usual spot has been 7th. ... Since May 2, he is hitting .333/.392/.450.

With a stolen base in the sixth inning, Ellsbury became only the fourth player in Red Sox history to steal at least 30 bases in two seasons (only Tris Speaker has done it more than twice):
Tris Speaker     1909-10, 1912-14
Harry Hooper 1910-11
Johnny Damon 2002-03
Jacoby Ellsbury 2008-09
Jason Varitek, since May 30: .176/.328/.294.

Dustin Pedroia, in 85 PA as leadoff hitter: .182/.250/.247.

Nick Green, since June 9: .349/.383/.628.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is staying in Boston while the team is on the road, working out, but not throwing. ... Jed Lowrie was hit on the knee by a pitch last night while playing for Pawtucket, but the injury is not considered serious.

Schadenfreude 89 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
Forget the blather about the Yankees struggling against pitchers they aren't familiar with. These days they couldn't hit their fathers in the backyard hard enough to crack a window. ...

It was the Yankees' fifth defeat in six games to NL East also-rans (Nationals, Marlins and Braves) and the common thread running through it all is the lack of hitting. ...

The loss dropped the Yankees five games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, and it seems a lot longer than 22 days ago the Yankees had a one-game lead on their blood rivals. ...

Girardi said possible changes in the batting order could be in store, but if it's the same names, what difference will the order make? ...

Right now the Yankees are fighting a nuclear war with pocket knives.
Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
Alex Rodriguez continues to look like a shell of his former self, taking another 0-for-4 to extend his latest slump to 1-for-23 and drop his average to .207. A-Rod is hitting .143 (9-for-63) in June, struggling as he works his way back from his March hip surgery. ...

As bad as A-Rod has been lately, he was hardly the only goat last night, as the Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners, including eight between the second and fourth innings.

Jorge Posada struck out four times for only the fifth time in his career, combining with Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod and Robinson Cano to go 1-for-19 in the No. 2-6 spots in the lineup. ...

Despite the offseason spending spree - $423.5 million for Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett - the results have been largely the same as last season.

A year ago, the Yankees were 37-33 after 70 games, a third-place team sitting six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Last night's loss - their ninth in the past 13 games - dropped the Yankees to 38-32, five games behind the Sox, who have won 10 of 13.
            W   L   PCT    GB    RS   RA    DIF
Red Sox 43 27 .614 --- 376 305 + 71
Yankees 38 32 .543 5.0 378 346 + 32
Blue Jays 39 33 .542 5.0 366 323 + 43
Rays 37 35 .514 7.0 402 335 + 67
Orioles 32 38 .457 11.0 324 373 - 49

June 23, 2009

G70: Red Sox 11, Nationals 3

Red Sox   - 010 110 161 - 11 17  0
Nationals - 100 101 000 - 3 8 1
... and a tight, see-saw game became a laugher in a ten-batter eighth inning, thanks to two-RBI hits from both Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Those two guys were also the offensive stars of the game. Bay went 4-for-6, with three singles and his 19th home run (capping off a nine-pitch AB in the second), three runs scored and three RBI. Ellsbury was 4-for-4, with two singles, two triples, one walk, three RBI and a stolen base. He scored only one run, but was stranded at third two other times.

Dustin Pedroia had two doubles and a single and Kevin Youkilis had two hits, two runs and two RBI. ... The Red Sox scored at least one run of each of the six Washington pitchers.

Penny (5.2-6-3-3-6, 112) had trouble with two-out hits in the first and sixth innings and all three of his walks came in the fourth inning, but he was able to get out of jams when he needed to. Daniel Bard loaded the bases with one out in the ninth (a walk and two singles), but got a 3-6-1 DP from Nick Johnson to end the game.

Atlanta shutout the Yankees 4-0, so Boston is 5 GA in the East -- their biggest lead since September 15, 2007.

***

I forgot to mention: The Nats Can't Spell.

Winn.

***

Brad Penny (4.94, 95 ERA+) / John Lannan (3.38, 129 ERA+)

In nine starts since May 3, Penny has a 3.71 ERA over 53.1 innings -- and has not allowed an earned run in his last 11 innings of work.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka out of action for the foreseeable future and John Smoltz's health still a question mark, it seems unlikely (even with Clay Buchholz in Pawtucket and Justin Masterson's ability to rejoin the rotation) that the Red Sox will be trading Penny.

Lannan is a 24-year-old lefty in his second full season with Washington. He had a 3.91 ERA (112 ERA+) in 31 starts last year. In his last four outings this season, he has gone 28.1-17-10-15, with a 1.91 ERA.

Lannan grew up on Long Island and rooted for the Yankees. In his last start, he tossed 8.1 innings in a 3-2 win over the New Yorkers in the Bronx. What does he think about facing the rival Red Sox?
Not a big deal. I wasn't really into the whole Yankees-Red Sox thing. I liked the Yankees, but I didn't hate the Red Sox. ... Before that rivalry really heated up.
Lannan says he stopped going to games in 2000 and never saw the Red Sox play at Yankee Stadium.

****

Over in Yankeeland, Bob Klapisch says Joe Girardi is "entering a critical phase of his managerial career". Given Girardi's history of overworking his players, Klapisch wonders about CC Sabathia, who was pulled from his start on Sunday in the second inning with tenderness in his left biceps.

That injury comes after Sabathia pitched at least seven innings for eight straight starts (May 8 to June 16) -- and after he led the major leagues in innings pitched and batters faced in both 2007 and 2008.

The Yankees -- 4 GB -- are in Atlanta tonight. The Blue Jays are 5 GB and the Rays are 6 GB.

Could Matsuzaka Miss The Rest Of The Year?

No one is saying when Daisuke Matsuzaka might return to the Red Sox rotation. But reading between the lines of Terry Francona's and John Farrell's comments, though, the idea of Dice missing the rest of the season is a serious possibility.

Matsuzaka:
I don't think that's really my decision and I don't think frankly anybody really knows how things are going to proceed. All I can do right now is do what I need to do. ... Let's say, in the end, they start using a five-man rotation without me and that's working well. If those guys are pitching well and the rotation's working well all throughout the year, maybe there won't be a space for me to come back.
Over the weekend, Francona was not shy about expressing his negative opinions about the WBC. However, if Dice was planning on pitching in the 2009 WBC, he should have made sure he was in top shape to participate. It appears that he was not.

The Herald's Michael Silverman notes that every Red Sox pitcher
has been on the team's shoulder and arm strength and conditioning program since last year ended. Except Matsuzaka. ...

The team already said that Matsuzaka's involvement in the WBC is behind his two trips to the DL because he was throwing pitches in earnest before his body was ready. Matsuzaka was not ready because he was not on the Red Sox' shoulder program. ...

Penny and Papelbon rave about the program. Not until Matsuzaka made his last start Friday did he state it was time to try a different approach.
If Matsuzaka failed to follow the team's conditioning program and did not, in anticipation of the WBC, begin his spring training earlier, he deserves to catch a lot of the anger currently being directed at the WBC.

Silverman also has a quick look at how Matsuzaka is currently perceived in Japan.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie began his rehab assignment with Pawtucket on Sunday, going 0-for-1 with two walks and an RBI. ... Jonathan Van Every will undergo arthoscopic surgery on his left knee sometime this week. ... The Red Sox are the only major league team with a winning record when their opponent scores first: 15-11 (.577).

June 22, 2009

Farrell Discusses Matsuzaka

Pitching coach John Farrell was asked about Daisuke Matsuzaka during an interview on WEEI's "The Dale and Holley Show" this afternoon.

The Globe's Chad Finn has extensive quotes, including:
Our every intention will be to get him back this year. ... There are going to be objectives that he's going to have to meet along the way here both in terms of strength and conditioning, both from a body standpoint and from a shoulder standpoint. ...

By his own admission he knows there's the need to take a step back before taking steps forward ...

I think it's important to clarify, there are reports out there that Daisuke is suffering from a sore shoulder. That is not true. ...

I wouldn't say he is loathe to listen [or is stubborn], that's not the case. But I will tell you this, every elite performer ... they're very strong in their mindset in terms of what they're individual strengths are ...

[W]e're not talking about wholesale changes with Daisuke. This is centering around physical strength and conditioning, and overall shoulder strength.

Off-Day Outtakes: Nirvana

Nevermind - Outtakes
01  In Bloom
02 Breed
03 Stay Away (Pay To Play)
04 Polly
05 Dive
06 Lithium
07 Sappy
08 Here She Comes Now
09 Aneurysm
10 Drain You
11 Endless Nameless

AND:
a Lithium
b Something In The Way
c Smells Like Teen Spirit
d Territorial Pissings
e New Wave [Polly]
f New Wave [Polly Speed Mix]
***

In Utero - Original Steve Albini Mix
(with Additional OT/Demos)
01  Serve The Servants
02 Scentless Apprentice
03 Heart-Shaped Box
04 Rape Me
05 Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
06 Dumb
07 Very Ape
08 Milk It
09 Pennyroyal Tea
10 Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
11 tourette's
12 All Apologies
Source: Remastered German Universal LP (#424-536-1)

BONUS TRACKS:
13 Marigold
14 Sappy
15 I Hate Myself And Want To Die
16 Moist Vagina

OTHER DEMOS:
02 Untitled Demo
07 Into The Dirt
13 Marijuana
14 I Want It All
15 Happy
16 Untitled Demo
These last songs come from a set that included poor quality versions of the Albini tracks.

jos1

L-girl guest post!

On Tuesday, July 28, an historic event will take place at Fenway Park: JoS1. Joy of Sox gamethreaders will meet in person - most of us for the first time - and attend that night's game against the A's together.

Allan and I are really excited about this. It will be our first trip to Fenway since moving to Canada in 2005. (Highlights from our last visit here and here.) And we're really looking forward to meeting more people from the Joy of Sox community!


We purchased a block of 20 tickets in the new pavilion in left field (a view). We've had one cancellation, and one former threader seems to be MIA, leaving five tickets up for grabs. Tickets are $75 each. If you're a member of Joy Nation and you'd like to join us, don't be shy! Email me at movetocanada-at-gmail for details.

This post is also an historic occasion for another reason: it's the first-ever non-redsock post at Joy of Sox. But since I'm organizing JoS1, it seems only fair.

June 21, 2009

Infinite Summer

Today, thousands of people all over the world began reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest -- 75 pages per week.

Infinite Summer will last, appropriately enough, until September 22. (Check out that link for various testimonals, a central message board, a "How To Read IJ" guide, links to dozens of groups/blogs who are going to be reporting their progress, even special bookmarks.)

Matthew Baldwin is the man behind IS:
Tackling Infinite Jest has been on my to-do list for more than a decade. I'm challenging everyone -- myself included -- to finally make time for this celebrated novel, and do so in the company of readers around the world.
IS has got me in a mood to re-read IJ -- while I have returned to various sections of the book dozens of times, I've read it straight through only once -- but I'm going to wait until November, when baseball season is over. By chance, November 2009 is when a lot of the action in the novel, published in 1996, takes place.

(I posted about my love/obsession with IJ last September after Wallace committed suicide.)

A winter read will also lead me right into the Spring 2010 publication of Wallace's unfinished novel, The Pale King, about which I am tremendously excited.

***

Other Stuff:

Demolition of Yankee Stadium

The Break Of The Curveball

Cleveland Tourism

G69: Red Sox 6, Atlanta 5

Atlanta - 200 000 210 - 5 14  1
Red Sox - 300 100 101 - 6 10 0
Nick Green hit a walk-off home run on Jeff Bennett's first (and only) pitch of the bottom of the ninth, giving Boston a win on a windy, misty Father's Day (shades of a homer in the gloamin'?).

Green was also the very last person in Fenway Park to realize the game was over:
I didn't comprehend the fact that it was a walk-off. I realized it when I hit second base and everyone was standing at home plate -- then I realized what was going on.
***

***

Tomorrow 9 AM: A Special Historic Announcement!

Matsuzaka On DL; No Timetable For Return

Ben Collins, Globe:
Daisuke Matsuzaka has been placed on the 15-day DL, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said on Sunday, and he hinted it could take months for the struggling right[-hander] to recover.

"It's not going to be a two-week DL thing," said Francona. "We have a lot of work ahead of us to get him back to being Daisuke."

Matsuzaka had an MRI done yesterday that showed "a little bit of weakness in his shoulder," but there is no true structural damage. ...

Matsuzaka will be sent to the Red Sox spring training complex in Florida when he begins his rehab. There is no timetable for his return.
Catcher Dusty Brown was called up from Pawtucket to fill Matsuzaka's roster spot. He will be available for today's game against Atlanta.

June 20, 2009

Dice Pulled From Rotation; Tests Will Include MRI

The Red Sox announced this afternoon that Daisuke Matsuzaka will not make his next scheduled start and will be given several medical tests on his right shoulder, including an MRI.

With an off-day on Monday and John Smoltz making his Sox debut on Thursday, skipping over Dice's spot in the rotation will be easy.

Matsuzaka admitted after last night's four-inning outing:
If I keep going like this, I have no right to be part of this rotation. ... [N]ever before have I faced such a tough time period, but I also believe that it has to end some time, and I have to do what it takes.
Dice met with Terry Francona, John Farrell and other members of the coaching staff Saturday afternoon for what Francona called a "very honest" conversation.
We need to get him looked at physically. He's gonna get looked at by (Red Sox physician) Tom Gill. He's going to get tests done. There's a potential for MRIs. ...

Some of it started with the WBC and not having a consistent base. It looks to me like he's struggling to get the velocity he wants (because of that). But it meant a lot to him, and I understand that.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
After looking at video, Matsuzaka (1-5) said midgame adjustments he thought he was making were "completely different from what I actually thought I was doing, so I was quite disappointed."
***

Post:
The Yankees took a look at Pedro Martinez yesterday in the Dominican Republic and informed the right-handed pitcher they will pass on signing him.

Scout Gordon Blakeley was in Santo Domingo to watch Martinez's fastball clock between 86 and 90 mph on an older gun. The Yankees were joined by representatives from the Rangers, Rays, Angels and Brewers. ...

G68: Red Sox 3, Atlanta 0

Atlanta - 000 000 000 - 0  5  1
Red Sox - 000 011 10x - 3 7 0
Beckett: 9-5-0-0-7, 94 pitches. In a tidy 2:11.

Beckett did not allow an Atlanta runner to second base until there was one out in the eighth inning. At one point, he retired 17 of 18 batters. Pitches by inning:
14-8-12  12-11-9  13-10-5
The Red Sox hit five doubles off Lowe (6.1-7-3-1-2, 110). Back-to-back two-baggers from Jason Varitek and Nick Green with two out in the fifth broke the scoreless tie. J.D. Drew doubled to start the sixth and scored on Kevin Youkilis's single. In the seventh, Varitek doubled (again!) with one out, took third on Green's single, and scored on Dustin Pedroia's fielder's choice.

David Ortiz had the other double, which he golfed to dead center field in the second inning. The ball hit the wall just below the camera porch.

***

Derek Lowe (4.08, 104 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (4.15, 113 ERA+)

The last time Lowe was on the Fenway Park mound was in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. His last appearance in the park was the following April when he received his World Series ring. His 2009 game log is here.

Papelbon Comments: Manufactured Controversy

Are Jonathan Papelbon's comments about possibly one day pitching for another team (OMG maybe the Yankees?!!11?!!?) really causing controversy?

I can understand the media wanting to make a mountain out of 1/10 a molehill, but I hope Red Sox fans are smarter than that.

On Thursday, there was this exchange between Papelbon and Jody McDonald of SIRIUS XM Radio:
McDonald: "If you couldn't work out a contract with the Red Sox before free agency comes up and you eventually become a free agent, is the Bronx ever a possibility?"

Papelbon: "Oh, of course. I mean, I think if we can't come to an agreement on terms here in a Red Sox uniform, I mean, I think that's pretty much the writing on the wall. If they can't come to terms with you they're letting you know that, 'Hey you know what? We can go somewhere else.' And I think it's the same way on the other side, 'Hey if ya'll can't come to an agreement with me then I can go somewhere else.' Not only in the Bronx, but anywhere. I think anywhere is a possibility. You always have to keep that in the back of your mind because you can't just be one-sided and think that, 'Oh I'm going to be in a Red Sox uniform my entire career.' Because nowadays that is very, very rare and hopefully we can because there's no question I would love to stay in a Boston Red Sox uniform but I have to do what's best for me and play in an atmosphere where I'm wanted and play on a team where I'm wanted and that's all I can really say about that, you know?"
That's it.

What's the big deal?

Papelbon's comments can be boiled down to: "I want to play baseball after 2011."

If Bot and Boston cannot come to an agreement before the closer becomes a free agent after the 2011 season, Papelbon said that in all likelihood he would sign with one of the other 29 major league teams and keep pitching. He would prefer not to retire at age 31.

End of story.

Still, Papelbon felt he needed to spell out on Friday what should have been obvious to everyone in the first place:
It kind of (ticked) me off today because it made it seem like I wanted to go play for (the Yankees), which is nowhere even close, nowhere even in the ballpark of what I want to do. ...

I said I would go play for any team, but for me to go play for another team I'd have to be protected and my family would have to be happy and I'd have to be happy. Right now, that's here ... So why the (expletive) would I want to go play anywhere else? ...

I'm in a situation here, I'm playing for the best general manager and manager in the game of baseball and I've got a (expletive) World Series ring here, you know, so do I want to go play anywhere else? Hell no.

June 19, 2009

G67: Atlanta 8, Red Sox 2

Atlanta - 200 220 101 -  8 11  1
Red Sox - 000 002 000 - 2 2 1
A horrific five-batter start from Matsuzaka put the Red Sox in a quick hole. Coupled with their weak offense -- Boston has collected only three hits in their last 14 innings -- it was a disheartening night from beginning to end.

Boston got a two-run bomb to left from Jason Bay in the sixth, but that was the offense. Only one other Red Sox runner advanced past first base -- and that was Bay, as well, as he doubled in the second and took third on a passed ball.

How bad was Dice's first inning?

Nate McLouth: First pitch HR to right-center

Yunel Escobar: Ball 1, line drive single to left

Chipper Jones: First pitch double roped to right

Brian McCann: Ball 1, ball 2, ball 3, ball 4 (bases loaded)

Garret Anderson: Ball 1, ball 2, ball 3, ball 4 (RBI, bases loaded)

As Justin Masterson began throwing in the bullpen, Matsuzaka slipped a strike past Matt Diaz to a raucous cheer -- the first strike he had thrown that was not hammered for a hit. It was Dice's 13th pitch of the night. He lasted two batters into the fifth (4-8-6-4-2, 67) and saw his ERA rise to 8.23.

Matsuzaka did have a decent stretch after that bases-loaded walk gave Atalanta a 2-0 lead. He struck out Diaz and got lucky when Casey Kotchman lined into an unassisted DP to Kevin Youkilis. Dice walked the leadoff man in the second, but had no other trouble (11 pitches), allowed a two-out single in the third (12 pitches) and retired the first two batters in the fourth on three pitches.

Then a walk, double and single doubled Atlanta's lead to 4-0. And Dice allowed back-to-back doubles to start the fifth; both of those runners eventually scored, as well.

That 12-batter stretch was encouraging -- until the roof fell in. And so, the only question being asked is: How long can the front office keep sending him out to the mound?

***

Kenshin Kawakami (4.54, 93 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (7.55, 62 ERA+)

Kawakami (who turns 34 next Monday) is a rookie right-hander from Japan. He made his debut on April 11 and has made 12 starts this year. In a spring training game back on March 30, Kawakami allowed two runs to the Red Sox in six innings.

Opponents are batting .372 against Matsuzaka, along with a robust 1.059 OPS. That OPS would be good for 5th best in MLB. His BABIP is .444! ... Beckett got his act together. So did Lester. Penny doing well, too. It's your turn, Dice.

IYI: On Wednesday, Dustin Pedroia became the first Red Sox second baseman since 1954 to log at least three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases in a game. ... Derek Lowe is blogging.

Flip Flop Fly Ball

Check it out!

Schadenfreude 88 (A Continuing Series)

Ken Davidoff, Newsday:
On a long, long day at Yankee Stadium, the comic highlight occurred in the middle of the first inning, when public-address announcer Paul Olden invited fans to move up to the field- and main-level seats.

A few lax security guards didn't act quickly enough, though, and before you knew it, SOME COMMONERS HAD CROSSED THE MOAT!!! into the infamous Legends Suites.

Look out! The revolution had begun!

But the trespassers soon trudged back into the field- level seats last night, and in short time, they smiled as Stadium employees handed them menus by which they could order popcorn for $7 and a smoked chicken Caesar wrap for $9. ...
Mark Hale, Post:
The announced attendance was 45,143, but the actual count was probably closer to 10,000. After the top of the first inning, the Yankees invited fans to sit in the lower levels -- allowing them to view the putrid offense with a keener eye.
Anthony Mccarron, Daily News:
Even with an extra five hours and 26 minutes to think about it, the Yankees still could not figure out how to hit an unfamiliar pitcher. ...

It was the first time the Yanks have been shut out at their new home and they scored only seven runs in the series.

The loss to the lowly Nats, which meant that the worst team in baseball - by far - took two of three games from the Yanks, plunged Joe Girardi into a funk. ...
Jay Greenburg, Post:
The best rotation money can buy has thrown the AL's third-fewest innings, part of the reason why a bullpen one would never want to overwork has only the league's 10th best ERA ...

The good news is that in a season ending today, the Yankees would be in the postseason ...

"I had a good rhythm, just sometimes started drifting," said Chamberlain, who said he has to do better, then said he thinks he's doing fine. We liked the first answer more.
Bill Madden, Daily News:
They waited 5-1/2 hours in the rain to play a baseball game at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, and if you didn't know better, it could have been because the Yankees wanted no part of Craig Stammen.

It mattered not that the Washington Nationals' rookie righthander was not exactly a household name. Or even that, with his 5.86 ERA for his first five major league starts, he pretty much symbolized this desolate Washington team that is keeping pace with the '62 Mets as baseball's worst ever. All that mattered was the Yankees had never seen him before ...

Joked one veteran scout Thursday night: "I don't know, if I were a team playing the Yankees in the postseason, I'd call up three pitchers from the minor leagues - any three pitchers - and take my chances."
***

Jeane MacIntosh, Post:
A golf-resort developer put nearly two dozen NHL stars on ice -- taking millions they had invested with him and blowing it on parties packed with porn stars, hookers and his baseball buddies, including ex-Yankees Roger Clemens and Reggie Jackson, according to two explosive lawsuits filed yesterday. ...

Jowdy got rowdy, squandering their cold cash on "lavish parties" that included "various female porn stars, escorts, strippers [and] party girls" to impress Clemens, Jackson, banned star Pete Rose and ESPN announcer Joe Morgan ...

The suits also allege that Jowdy:

* Put a Clemens gal pal named Adrian Moore, described as a "regular party attendee who was close to Clemens," on his payroll "as a personal favor" to the former Yankee Cy Young winner. ...

A call to Clemens' business manager was not returned. In statement sent to TMZ.com, Morgan said he "never went to any of those parties."
Well, we know how faulty Morgan's memory can be.

June 18, 2009

G66: Marlins 2, Red Sox 1 (5, rain)

Marlins - 020 00   -  2  8  1
Red Sox - 100 00 - 1 1 0
Game called at 11:24 -- after a delay of 2:26. Sox lose.

***

8:58 PM: Rain delay in the top of the 6th, with a man on first and no out for the Fish.

All the runs so far have come on solo home runs, Kevin Youkilis for Boston and Dan Uggla and Ronny Paulino for Florida.

Lester (5-8-2-0-4, 110) was less effective than his recent starts, but had settled down after throwing 54 pitches through the first two innings and 70 through the first three.

The Red Sox had soggy bats against Nolasco. Their only base runner for the first four innings was Yook's dong to left field. In the fifth, David Ortiz swing on a 3-0 pitch, popped up and reached when Emilio Bonifacio dropped the ball. After Mike Lowell flew to left, Ellsbury forced Tiz at second. LBJ stole second, but was left there as Jason Varitek struck out swinging.

The Nationals shut out the Yankees in New York 3-0.

***

Rocky Nolasco (7.62, 55 ERA+) / Jon Lester (4.76, 99 ERA+)

Lester has really turned a corner in his last three starts: 22 innings, 7 hits, 7 walks, 34 strikeouts, with opponents hitting .099/.175/.127.

Since missing the Yankees series (June 9-11) with a right shoulder sprain, Jacoby Ellsbury is 8-for-20 (.400) with two homers, five RBI, five runs scored, five walks and five stolen bases.

In his last 10 games, David Ortiz is hitting .400/.545/.920, with half of his hits going for extra bases (including four home runs).

Rain is in tonight's forecast.

Seriously, Fire Joe Morgan

Last Sunday night, after the Cardinals had broken up Cliff Lee's bid for a no-hitter in the eighth inning, Joe Morgan told a story:
[O]ne of my great experiences when I was a young player. Don Wilson was pitching a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves. They had Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty, Felipe Alou and Hank Aaron, of course. And they got to the ninth inning, he got two outs, no one on base, and Hank Aaron was the hitter. And in my infinite wisdom, I ran in to the mound. I said, "You know, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Hank Aaron walked right here. He said, "Get back to second base." I proceeded to go back to second base. He threw three fastballs right by Hank Aaron. No-hitter.
Cool story.

Too bad it never happened.

Well, Wilson did throw a no-hitter against the Braves and Aaron did strike out to end the game (June 18, 1967) ... but Morgan watched the entire game from the bench.

Telling tall tales about his playing career is nothing new to Morgan.

Two years ago, Morgan spun a yarn about his major league debut with Houston. It was against the Phillies in 1964, when the Phils were busy blowing their National League lead. Morgan's RBI single beat the Phillies during the historic tailspin, causing manager Gene Mauch to overturn the clubhouse buffet table, screaming that his club had been beaten by "a Little Leaguer"!

Again -- not close and no cigar.

Phil Mushnick of the Post noted:
... the Phillies played the Reds, Braves and Cardinals during that losing streak; Houston wasn't in the mix.

Furthermore, Morgan, though called up in 1964, did not have an RBI that season for Houston.

And he did not make his big-league debut in '64, either. That came Sept. 21, 1963, when he went 0-for-1, pinch-hitting against the Phillies. The next day, Morgan did have an RBI single to beat the Phillies, but those Phillies were well out of the race and not in the throes of a historic collapse; they'd actually won four of their previous five games.
Morgan has also told false stories about Ernie Banks.

June 17, 2009

G65: Red Sox 6, Marlins 1

Marlins - 100 000 000 - 1  6  0
Red Sox - 020 200 11x - 6 9 1
Penny (5-3-1-4-3, 100) danced between the raindrops all night, stranding seven runners, including five at either 2nd or 3rd, in the first four innings. He relied mostly on his fastball, as his breaking stuff was ineffective. Penny retired six of his final seven batters, though, and collected his 100th career victory.

The one Florida run was unearned, as it scored on the first error of Jacoby Ellsbury's major league career (at 232 games, it was the longest errorless streak by an outfielder in Red Sox history). Lyndon made up for the gaff: he walked twice, stole a base, and hit his third home run of the year (over the bullpens in right-center) in the seventh.

David Ortiz doubled, walked twice, and scored three runs. Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5, stole two bases and drove in three runs. Rocco Baldelli singled twice.

The game was the 500th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park, dating back to May 15, 2003.

The quartet of Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon put up a 4-3-0-2-5 line. The only jam was from Ram-Ram, who allowed a walk and single to start the eighth, before getting a fly ball to left and two strikeouts.

The Natinals beat the Yankees 3-2, so Boston is now 3 GA in the East.

***

Andrew Miller (4.30, 98 ERA+) / Brad Penny (5.32, 89 ERA+)

In his last time out, Penny pitched six shutout innings against the Yankees.

He has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his last eight starts and in 10 of his 12 starts this season. Since the end of April, he has posted a 4.10 ERA (the AL average for the season is 4.45).

Lineup:
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Youkilis, 1B
Bay, LF
Lowell, 3B
Ortiz, DH
Baldelli, RF
Varitek, C
Green, SS
Terry Francona said moving Daisuke Matsuzaka to the bullpen is unlikely:
My first thought was that if we tell him that we're putting him in long relief that's probably not going to build his confidence a whole lot. You know, there's a lot of things to think about. When you put a guy in the bullpen, who comes out of the bullpen? When you send a guy to the bullpen, how does he react to the bullpen?

Also, Daisuke is typically our guy who takes the longest to warm up ... he goes out there a good 45-50 minutes before the game and throws a lot, so is that going to work? ... We can't just get caught up in what the fans and [media] are caught up in because we'll make some poor decisions.

The Joy Of Six

Me, yesterday:
The Red Sox will not implement a six-man rotation ...
Errr, not so fast!

It looks like the team will introduce such a scheme, at least for awhile.

Terry Francona:
It might be for a time or two through ... [T]hat wouldn't be the worst thing for a short period of time. Again, not for a long period because guys don't pitch enough. With days off, the All-Star break, you have too many good pitchers that won't pitch enough. But for a short period of time we could live with that, yeah.
Perhaps that short period of time will be until the All-Star break. Boston has four days off (July 13-16) and could reset its rotation, if necessary.

John Smoltz:
It's really a situation of surplus and it gives them ways to try to figure out how to make this thing work with some creativity and some strength. ... there's an opportunity to rest and keep guys fresh. ... I think everybody gets carried away with what might happen, when the reality is, where we're at today is a pretty good place.
Francona and Smoltz talked about Smoltz's Sox debut next Thursday, June 25, against the Nationals.

The Sox manager also saw nothing untoward in Clay Buchholz's recent comments:
If you go down and ask 25 guys in Pawtucket, which one of them do you think is going to say, "I don't want to go to the big leagues." I mean seriously, who do you think would do that? Whoever says it, we don't want him. This kid's pitching his ass off. I think Buch is maturing rapidly and handling a situation that maybe he wouldn't have been able to in the past.
The Globe's Ben Collins manages to insult Manny Ramirez in a story about David Ortiz's offensive resurgence. It was completely unnecessary, yet sadly typical of a segment of the Boston media.

June 16, 2009

G64: Red Sox 8, Marlins 2

Marlins - 001 010 000 - 2  7  1
Red Sox - 011 600 00x - 8 13 0
Wakefield (6-6-2-1-4, 93) earned his 173rd win as a Red Sox pitcher. He needs only 20 more to surpass Cy Young and Roger Clemens and become the team's new all-time leader. If all goes well, it should come in the latter half of next season.

David Ortiz, hitting in the #5 spot, clubbed his 5th home run of the season leading off the fourth inning. The Red Sox sent 11 men to the plate -- Volstad's sinker stopped sinking and the Boston hitters were bringing forks and knives to the plate to dine on his fastball -- and Ortiz also drove in the final run of that frame with an RBI single. He walked in the sixth and just missed a home run in his first at-bat, flying out to deep right-center in the second.

Dustin Pedroia and the bottom third of the lineup -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Nick Green and George Kottaras -- each had two hits. Ellsbury also stole two bases and scored twice. Green drove in three runs.

After Wakefield departed, Manny Delcarmen (P8, K, 1-3), Takashi Saito (4-3, 6-3, F8) and Daniel Bard (K, single, 5-3, P3) did the rest.

Bard took Hanley Ramirez apart to start the ninth, getting him to swing and miss a first pitch fastball. He threw a ball out of the zone, then dropped a curve at 85 for another swing and a miss before fanning him on a 98 heater.

***

Chris Volstad (4.07, 104 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.50, 105 ERA+)

Wakefield in 2009:
                ERA  IP   H  BB   K   AVG  OBP  SLG
First 6 starts 2.92 40 27 18 25 .186 .304 .262
Last 7 starts 6.25 36 48 16 18 .320 .393 .480
In his last eight games, Dustin Pedroia has gone 4-for-36. He had Sunday off, as well as yesterday's off-day.
I'm just beat up a little bit. My legs feel heavy. Tito, he always seems like he makes [the day off] the right time.
MLB.com:
Volstad's last outing was the worst in his young career. For the first time in his career, he allowed six runs, 10 hits and did not strike out a batter. The 22-year-old was in trouble in almost every inning when he faced the Cardinals last Tuesday and struggled from the start, allowing a three-run homer in the top of the first.
It's only 38 plate appearances, but David Ortiz has a nifty 1.001 OPS in June (.303/.395/.606), with three home runs and seven RBIs.

Smoltz: Sox Debut Will Be Next Week In DC

UPDATED: Smoltz's first start will be on Thursday, June 25, against the Nationals.

***

John Smoltz believes his first Red Sox start will be next Tuesday or Wednesday against the Nationals.
There's no pinpoint hard date, but that's what it looks like. ... It hinges on a lot of variables that we are constantly looking at. I've got pitch either [Wednesday] or Thursday in one more rehab start.

MLB Players: Red Sox Top Pick To Win World Series

In the June 8 issue of Sports Illustrated, the results of a survey of 341 major league players was published:
Which Team Will Win The World Series?

Red Sox 31%
Dodgers 22%
Blue Jays 9%
Cardinals 9%
Cubs 6%
SI: "Poll was conducted in mid- to late May, just as Toronto began a nine-game losing streak and the Yankees (seventh in the poll at 3.6%) were in a nine-game winning streak. ... The defending champion Phillies were ninth (3.1%)."

Red Sox Are Rolling -- With An Easier Schedule Ahead

Since the beginning of June, the Red Sox have played four series against first-place teams (Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, Phillies). Boston went 9-3 in those games, outscoring their opponents 72-48.

Boston's schedule is about to get much easier. Their next 25 games -- from tonight until the All-Star break -- are against teams that are currently under .500. Sixteen of those 25 games are at home. There is no better time to fatten their two-game lead in the East.

Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny and Jon Lester will face the Marlins this week. The big question is who will start Friday's game against Atlanta -- John Smoltz or Daisuke Matsuzaka?

John Tomase, Herald:
Barring the trade of Penny, the most likely route for Smoltz into the rotation is through Matsuzaka, who could either be placed on the disabled list or shifted to the bullpen. If it's the latter, reliever Daniel Bard could be shipped back to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Smoltz, whose rehab window expires on Friday.
Gerry Callahan of the Herald would like the Red Sox to bury Matsuzaka in the bullpen, letting him mop-up or pitch in long relief.

If Penny is not traded, that will be a real possibility (though Callahan's "dump his ass" mentality is knee-jerk and childish). Tony Massarotti ponders that scenario, as well as four others. The Red Sox will not implement a six-man rotation, all public indications (as recently as two days ago) are that Smoltz will start, so the only other option is sending Wakefield to the pen.

Yet another potential starter, Clay Buchholz, is frustrated at being in Pawtucket:
I want to be in the big leagues and I do want to go somewhere where I'll be able to play and pitch every fifth day. ... [I]t's sort of a logjam up there (in Boston). Whenever they come to a problem, they seem like they find a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is -- it's frustrating at times. Everybody knows that this game doesn't last forever, for a pitcher especially. I feel like I don't want to waste bullets here.
Farm director Mike Hazen responded:
There should be an expectation of the player to feel like he's ready to go to the big leagues ... I think we're reading into it more that he has that confidence, that swagger, to seize the opportunity when it comes. Ultimately, he's just got to go out and continue to perform every five days. He's held up his end of the bargain. ... He's handled every situation that's been thrown at him like a pro. ... And his performance has been unbelievable. ... I believe wholeheartedly that Clay Buchholz wants to pitch for the Boston Red Sox. I believe wholeheartedly that both (Buchholz and Michael Bowden) want to be Boston Red Sox and that both of them will be, and that they'll help us win another World Series. It's just a matter of the timing of the situation.
***

Jason Bay was asked if there was anything new regarding a contract extension:
There's really nothing to say about it. It's been a hot topic. I understand that. Until there's something to say, there's nothing to say. In spring training, we said we would revisit it at some point. Now we're two months into the season, so there's still a lot of time left. It's not really something that I'm hung up with. If it's in the cards, it'll get worked out. If not ...
The herald's Michael Silverman has a Pedro update, saying Martinez
has been working out six days a week at Licey Stadium in downtown Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for the last several weeks ... with scouts from major league teams stopping by to take looks. He is trying to stay on a five-day throwing program in anticipation of signing with a major league team, probably by the end of this month. His plan is to go on a 2-[3] week minor league tuneup stint before being ready to pitch in the second half of the MLB season, right after the All-Star break. ... He wants to have a good enough showing where he can continue to pitch through at least 2011.
***

Nick Cafardo took an unwarranted shot at Julio Lugo in his June 14 Globe story (my emphasis):
It was as if he experienced that Philadelphia freedom. As if he had run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art pumping his fists like Rocky. That's how invigorated Julio Lugo felt last night.

"Of course, when you get hits, you feel good," said Lugo, slipping on a pair of $400 Gucci sneakers after the Red Sox' 11-6 win over the Phillies. "The only way you feel comfortable is by having success."
I'd say Cafardo is better than that, but he is fairly worthless as a baseball writer.

Finally: Bloomsday!