September 30, 2011

Pedroia: "I Wish I Could Have Played My Whole Career For Him"

When Terry Francona expressed frustration this evening about his "inability to reach guys I've been able to [reach] in the past" and how certain players exhibited a "sense of entitlement" while he "wanted desperately for our guys to care about each other on the field", we may not know exactly which players he was referring to (though we have a few clues in various news articles).

But we know he wasn't talking about Dustin Pedroia:
[T]he biggest thing that I am upset with, and I think a lot of guys are upset with, is the accountability of each other. It's not the manager's fault. We need to hold ourselves more accountable as a team, as players. There are a lot of things that went on that was disrespectful and we played like it. ...

[H]e gave me a chance when I was struggling as a rookie. I was hitting .150 and he stood by me and helped me become the player that I am today. I'll forever remember that. ... I hope he gets a job in the National League for a team that we don't get a chance to play because it would be like playing against one of my family members.

I love him. ... [H]e's done everything for me in the five years I've been in the big leagues. My heart's broken for him and I wish he was back and I wish I could have played my whole career for him.

Francona: "It Was Time For Me To Move On"

John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino on behalf of the Boston Red Sox:
We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Tito's status. During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas. Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Tito's sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.

We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances. His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten. We wish him only the best going forward.
Theo Epstein:
Tito and I didn't know each other when he was hired eight years ago, but over time we developed not only a great working relationship but also a personal friendship that will always be important to both of us. He proved to be an unflappable leader for our major league club, displaying consistency, calmness, hard work, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor, and faith in the players even at the most difficult of times. Without Tito's commitment over eight years, we would not be the organization we are today. Nobody at the Red Sox blames Tito for what happened at the end of this season; we own that as an organization. This year was certainly a difficult and draining one for him and for us. Ultimately, he decided that there were certain things that needed to be done that he couldn't do after eight years here, and that this team would benefit from hearing a new voice. While this may be true, his next team will benefit more than it knows from hearing Tito's voice. I will miss seeing Tito every day in the manager's office, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best in their next chapter.
Terry Francona:
We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club. I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players. After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. I've always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team.

In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation. This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball. They packed Fenway Park for every game and because of them, I had a special sense of pride coming to work every day. I want to thank John, Tom, Larry and Theo for giving me the opportunity to manage this team through some of the most successful years in this franchise's history. I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.
Francona will hold a press conference at 7 PM (NESN).

Reports: Francona Expected To Step Down Today

Another Update!

Theo Epstein, 1:45 PM:
John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and I met with Terry Francona this morning at Fenway Park to exchange thoughts and information on the 2011 season and discuss areas for improvement going forward. We all plan on taking some time to process the thoughts expressed in the meeting. There are no immediate plans for an announcement.
Example
Updated!

Gordon Edes, 11:06 AM:
Terry Francona told Boston Red Sox staff members on Thursday that he will not be returning as manager, a club source said on Friday.
Example


Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports:
Terry Francona will meet with Red Sox management on Friday morning, and the expected resolution is that he no longer will be the team's manager, major league sources say.

While Francona's departure is not certain, it is the likely outcome, in part because he is pressing for a resolution, sources say. He would not be fired; the Red Sox would simply decline their club options on him for 2012 and '13.
Daryl Van Schouwen, Chicago Sun-Times:
Francona has had enough of his eroding Boston experience, a ­major-league source said, and will ask the club not to exercise the option on his contract.

"He has had his fill of the whole thing," the source told the Sun-Times.
The Red Sox front office is smart enough to know that dumping Francona would not solve any of the problems that led to their collapse. And I have no doubt that Theo Epstein was telling the truth yesterday when he said:
[N]obody blames what happened in September on Tito. It would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted. ... [W]e don't believe in scapegoats, and in particular no one blames Tito for what happened in September. We all failed collectively.
Gordon Edes was on ESPN late last night saying that it's possible the team wanted to make a change but are content to make it look like Tito's decision. I would assume that if Francona was leaving it was because he wanted to leave, but there is always more going on behind the scenes that we will never know about.

At yesterday's press conference, Francona admitted that he had called a team meeting on September 7, after the Red Sox had beaten the Blue Jays 14-0. (my emphasis)
This team I think became challenging at the end. There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren't putting our best foot forward toward winning. We spent a few minutes in the clubhouse that day talking about that. There were some things that did concern me. Normally as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn't always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.
The Herald reports:
Francona was in part annoyed over complaints about the buses to the ballpark and wanted players to focus their energy more positively.

Meanwhile, a number of players put themselves into a position to have their professionalism called into question. According to multiple sources, more than one pitcher drank beer in the clubhouse during games on the days he didn't pitch.

While clubhouse imbibing is a tradition as old as baseball itself ... the Red Sox also had a number of players break down during the season, suggesting that they weren't taking proper care of themselves.
More Francona:
Ultimately you don't need a team that wants to go out to dinner together. But you need a team that wants to protect each other on the field and be fiercely loyal to each other on the field. That's what ultimately is really important. ... I wanted us to handle things on the field a little bit better than we did. At times, we just didn't get there and it was very difficult.
Theo Epstein:
[W]e did sense that things weren't right. A lot of things went wrong and a lot of things had to go wrong for us to blow the lead but they did. I don't think any of them were completely unforeseen. We tried different things. I know Tito talked about his meeting in Toronto. I actually addressed the team later on in the month before a game. ... There was a lot of talent in that clubhouse and we didn't get results commensurate with that talent.
Francona will meet with Epstein and the ownership group at 10 AM this morning.

Of all the possible changes the team could make this winter, this is probably the most surprising - and depressing.

September 28, 2011

G162: Orioles 4, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 001 110 000 - 3 11  0
Orioles - 002 000 002 - 4  7  2
12:02 AM:
Robert Andino's line drive single falls in front of Carl Crawford in left field, and as Crawford fails to field the ball cleanly, Nolan Reimold scores the game-winning run. Jonathan Papelbon - entrusted with a 3-2 lead at the start of the inning - struck out the first two batters, but gave up a first-pitch double to right to Chris Davis, an RBI-double to right-center to Reimold, and Andino's game-winning single. (Shades of his meltdown in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS.)
12:06 AM:
Evan Longoria lined a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole in the bottom of the 12th inning to win the AL wild card for the Rays. Longoria had hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, when Tampa, down by seven runs with only six outs to go, began its unlikely comeback. (Nice work by Girardi to leave Proctor out there until he lost the game. The Assman faced the most batters (13) and threw the most pitches (56) of the 11 Yankee pitchers in the game.)
Yankees - 140 110 000 000 - 7  9  1
Rays    - 000 000 061 001 - 8 10  1
Example
Jon Lester / Alfredo Simon
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Lavarnway, C
Drew, RF
Scutaro, SS
Crawford, LF
Aviles, 3B
Lester will start on three days rest for only the second time in his major league career. His first short-rest start was on April 23, 2008, against the Angels at Fenway Park. Lester (5-9-4-2-1, 80) got a ND, and Boston lost the game 6-4.

Last Saturday in New York, Lester threw only 55 pitches before being lifted. Over his last eight starts, there has been a drastic decline in his performance. Lester says he is neither hurt nor worn down from the long season, so let's hope this string of bad luck (or poor concentration or whatever the hell it is) turns around.
                       IP    H   R  ER  BB   K    ERA
0816-0906 (5 starts)  31.0  19   5   4  11  32   1.16
0911-0924 (3 starts)  13.2  21  16  16   8  10  10.45
Terry Francona (last night):
This is really good for baseball, not so good for my stomach. ... I don't think I've been that nervous in a long time. Go back to the hotel and not sleep and show up tomorrow and see what we can do.
Carl Crawford:
The whole game tomorrow is probably going to feel like the ninth inning of this game.
Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in 35 straight games against the Orioles, dating back to April 17, 2009. ... I'd like to know what the record is for one player against a specific team.

Yankees (Dellin Betances) / Rays (David Price), 7 PM.
Example
Wild Card Probability (%)
          Cool     BP
Red Sox   59.1    51.5
Rays      40.9    48.5
Game thread.



What Can Happen?

Red Sox win + Rays win = Red Sox at Rays, G163 tomorrow at 4 PM

Red Sox lose + Rays lose = Red Sox at Rays, G163 tomorrow at 4 PM

Red Sox win + Rays lose + Rangers win* = Red Sox at Rangers, ALDS 1, Friday at 5 PM

Red Sox win + Rays lose + Tigers lose** = Red Sox at Rangers, ALDS 1, Friday at 5 PM

Red Sox win + Rays lose + Rangers lose + Tigers win = Red Sox at Tigers, ALDS 1, Friday at 5 PM

Cleveland at Tigers, 7 PM
Rangers at Angels, 8 PM

* - Tigers game irrelevant
** - Rangers game irrelevant

Red Sox On Hunt For Pitcher To Start Possible Tie-Breaker

The most surreal aspect of the Red Sox's September slump and subsequent fight for the wild card spot is the fact that Theo Epstein is exploring a trade for a pitcher to start a possible tiebreaker game on Thursday evening. If the Red Sox and Rays both win or both lose tonight, they will play a do-or-die game in Tampa Bay, beginning at 4 PM tomorrow. The winner will begin the ALDS on Friday night in either Detroit or Texas.

Ken Rosenthal reports that Kansas City lefty Bruce Chen is one candidate. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors mentions Chien-Ming Wang (Nationals), Rodrigo Lopez (Cubs), and Aaron Harang (Padres) as possibilities.

Adding to the insanity*, the Red Sox would most likely have to make the deal before knowing if a game on Thursday would be necessary, and any new pitcher would not be eligible for the postseason roster.

* It's insane, but it also shows that the team will explore any and every possibility, however unorthodox and/or costly - in a trade and any potential fall-out with John Lackey or Tim Wakefield, who might otherwise get the start on short rest -- it might be. That determination and open-mindedness is an admirable trait.

Rob Bradford (WEEI) says the team might activate Clay Buchholz, who was originally scheduled to fly back to Fort Myers and pitch in an Instructional League game today. Buchholz, who has not pitched since June 16, is still with the team.

Hitler Is Not Happy With Boston's September Stumble

September 21



September 28



He was also not pleased about the Jenks signing.

September 27, 2011

G161: Red Sox 8, Orioles 7

Red Sox - 002 302 010 - 8 11  0
Orioles - 100 201 021 - 7 13  0
Third-string catcher Ryan Lavarnway, pressed into starting his first major league game behind the plate, with Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both hurt, hit two home runs -- the first two dongs of his major league career -- and drove in four runs. He also made a big play early on, gunning down Adam Jones trying to steal third in the second inning.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro also went deep as Boston kept pace with the Rays, who beat the Yankees 5-3.

Boston and Tampa Bay are both 90-71, tied for the American League wild card. The fourth and final AL playoff team may be determined tomorrow night, or the matter may need to be settled in a one-game playoff game (4 PM) at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

Ellsbury's 32nd home run gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the third. After singles by David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth, Lavarnway drilled Britton's full-count fastball to left-center, and Boston led 5-1.
(Lavarnway's next PA was in the next inning, with two outs and the bases loaded, but he flew out to right, as Nick Markakis made a diving catch on the grass towards the foul line.)

Baltimore got two back right away on a two-run shot by Matt Wieters, but after Carl Crawford's one-out triple in the sixth, Scutaro hit a ball that just cleared the wall in left, to increase the Sox's lead to 7-3.

Bedard (3.1-5-3-3-6, 84) was pulled in the fourth, and Alfredo Aceves (3.2-3-1-0-1, 36) held the line until the eighth inning. Unfortunately, that was when the trouble began.

Bard took the hill in the bottom of the eighth with an 8-4 lead. He allowed a leadoff single to Wieters, then got two outs before giving up an RBI single to Chris Davis (8-5) and a run-scoring triple to Nolan Reimold (8-6).

J.J. Hardy opened the bottom of the ninth with a single off Jonathan Papelbon. Markakis (the potential tying run) battled Bot through an 11-pitch at-bat, but grounded out to first, moving Hardy to second. Vlad Guerrero singled Hardy to third. Lavarnway made a play on Wieters's dribbler in front of the plate - it seemed to happen in slow motion - throwing him out at first, but Hardy scored (8-7) and pinch-runner Matt Angle took second. Papelbon had another battle on his hands with Jones, getting ahead 0-2, but having Jones work the count full, fouling off four pitches along the way. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Jones grounded out to Jed Lowrie at third to end the game.

One game remaining in the regular season. One game to decide who continues on to the post-season. ... Maybe. ... We may end up needing G163 on Thursday.
Example
Erik Bedard / Zach Britton
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Lowrie, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Lavarnway, C
McDonald, RF
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Example
It's embarrassing, man.

What's embarrassing?

You guys are better than this.

Well, I mean, you know, it happens. It's baseball. ... But let me tell you, don't let us win today ...

Yankees at Rays - Bartolo Colon / Jeremy Hellickson - at 7 PM.

Wild Card Probability (%)
          Cool     BP
Red Sox   63.4    55.1
Rays      36.6    44.9
Game thread.

"Why Purposely Choose To Be Miserable?"

From a few blogs:

Surviving Grady:
When the only thing between you and the post-season is the Baltimore Friggin' Orioles and you can't get it done, you just don't want it bad enough. When Tommy Hunter and a bunch of no-name relievers shut you down, it's time to go looking for your nuts. When you're one of the aces of the staff and a team with no .300 hitters and a collective average of .255 puts up six on you, all the bad-ass looks and F-bombs don't mean a thing. And when you're coaching for the playoffs with three games to go, you can't nap in the middle innings while your starter is running out of gas, you yank him at the first sign of trouble.
A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory:
The entire wild card lead has been blown. It was a lead that didn't even matter when it was so big, because we were supposed to win the division, with the WC an automatic boobie prize. Now it's wild card or nothing, two games left, tied.

There was more magic in the air in Baltimore tonight. "Other team" magic. ... Now we must continue to sweat.
Over The Monster:
We're in coin flip territory now, and it's difficult to watch knowing every mistake might be the one that effectively ends the season ...
Toeing The Rubber:
The last thing I read last night that was Red Sox-related came from a friend on Facebook who was writing about what a terrible team this is and how awful they are that he can't believe he's still following them. Talk like that annoys me. ... The collective "What have you done for me lately" mindset of many of the fans (and the sports media growing a collection erection over being able to write about how horrible the team is) makes me madder than the current state of the team. ...

Just like there was no reason to believe the Red Sox would go into such a tremendous nosedive throughout September, there's no reason to think they can't pull off a few more wins. Sure it will be difficult. ... But giving up is easy. Turning straight to "poor us for having to endure this team" mode is predictable and feeding right into the hands of the sports media. ...

Why mope around expecting the worst when being excited at the prospect of the best happening is so much more fun? Why CHOOSE, why purposely choose to be miserable when there is still a glimmer of hope?

That glimmer might be faint and extremely difficult for some people to see, but it's there. And as long as it is, I'll be in front of the television at 7 o'clock tonight ... Don't miss out just because the world is telling you not to bother.

September 26, 2011

G160: Orioles 6, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 010 100 001 - 3 11  0
Orioles - 010 014 00x - 6  8  1
Robert Andino's three-run inside-the-park home run with two outs in the sixth broke the game open. Jacoby Ellsbury tracked the ball all the way to the wall in straightaway center and had caught it, but his collision with the wall knocked it loose. Dazed, Ellsbury flipped the ball to J.D. Drew, who fired it into the infield; the relay to the plate was too late.

Tampa Bay beat the Yankees 5-2, so after 160 games, the Red Sox and Rays are tied at 89-71 for the AL wild card.
Photobucket

This was Beckett's second start in a row in which Terry Francona watched him run out of gas in the middle innings and did not pull him. In six starts since September 11, Beckett and Jon Lester have posted an 8.18 ERA.

Beckett allowed a single, a walk, and another single to start the fifth, as the Orioles tied the game at 2-2. After a sacrifice bunt, Beckett issued another walk, loading the bases. He got out of trouble, however, with an infield pop-up and a strikeout. Through five innings, he had thrown 86 pitches. Aceves was ready, but Tito, in a close-to-must-win game, tried to squeeze another inning out of Beckett.

Vlad Guerrero started the sixth with a single (setting a new MLB record for hits by a Dominican-born player (2,587)) and stole second. Yes, Vlad, pushing his walker, with the tennis balls on the bottom making two little trails in the infield dirt, stole second base. Beckett got two outs, then walked Mark Reynolds and gave up an RBI double to Chris Davis. Aceves was warming again, but Francona stayed with Beckett and watched as Andino clubbed his ITPHR to deep center. Now down 7-4, Tito still let Beckett (6-7-6-4-5, 108) pitch - and he got the next batter, thanks to a great play on a bunt by Dustin Pedroia.

Aceves came in to pitch the eighth, with the Red Sox down by four. Why? We will likely need him tomorrow night. He threw 16 pitches.

Boston rallied in both the eighth and ninth innings. After Clay Rapada struck out David Ortiz to open the eighth, Adrian Gonzalez singled to right. Pedro Strop came in and walked Jed Lowrie (who had homered in the fourth) and allowed a single to J.D. Drew, loading the bases. As the potential go-ahead run, Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out on four pitches and Marco Scutaro grounded into a force play.

In the ninth, against Jim Johnson, Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and balked to second. He took third on Carl Crawford's grounder to first and scored on Pedroia's single to right. Ortiz followed with an infield single to the shortstop hole. Gonzalez, as the potential tying run, was undisciplined at the plate, swinging at pitches out of the zone and flying out to left. Lowrie struck out swinging to end the game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Saltalamacchia was hit in the right side of his chest by a foul ball off the bat of Adam Jones. He was in considerable pain in the dirt behind the plate and left the game. Although Salty has "a baseball-sized lump on his shoulder", x-rays of his right collarbone were negative and he hopes to play tomorrow night.
Example
Josh Beckett / Tommy Hunter
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Lowrie, 3B
Drew, RF
Varitek, C
Scutaro, SS
Coming off the high of the most important win of the season, the Red Sox will finish the regular season in Camden Yards, while the Rays (1 GB in the wild card standings) host the Yankees.

Boston's magic number is 3, so the earliest anything will be decided is after one of the games tomorrow night. A Red Sox-Rays playoff game for the wild card would be played on Thursday in Tampa Bay. The ALDS begins on Friday.

The Red Sox bullpen threw eight innings last night, so a solid start from Beckett would be most welcome. Scott Atchison has pitched in four of the last five games (78 pitches) and has a mild groin strain. Franklin Morales threw 44 pitches last night, in his first appearance since the second game of last Monday's doubleheader. In the second game last night, Daniel Bard threw 28 pitches and Jonathan Papelbon threw 29.

Terry Francona:
Maybe we get hot this week and carry it on and kick everybody's butt. Maybe we try so hard to get in there we're tired and we don't win. There are a lot of ways this is going to go. We don't know what it is yet.
David Ortiz:
It's been tough, man - it's tough and it won't get any easier. But I'm a warrior, man, and I fight back. That's all you can do: come back and give everything you've got.
Dustin Pedroia:
Just because we've had a tough couple of weeks doesn't mean we're done. ... We're on a one-game winning streak. Smile, bro. It's all good.
Monday
Red Sox at Orioles - Josh Beckett / Tommy Hunter
Yankees at Rays - Hector Noesi / James Shields
Tuesday
Red Sox at Orioles - Erik Bedard / Zach Britton
Yankees at Rays - Bartolo Colon / Jeremy Hellickson
Wednesday
Red Sox at Orioles - ??? / Alfredo Simon
Yankees at Rays - ??? / David Price

Wild Card Probability (%)
          Cool     BP
Red Sox   88.4   90.6
Rays      11.5    8.9
Angels     0.1    0.4
Game thread.

TMZ: Lackey Divorcing Cancer-Battling Wife

In his post-game comments last night, John Lackey was extremely testy, expressing anger and disbelief at a text message he said he received shortly before he took the mound.
Let me tell you the truth. Thirty minutes before the game, I got a text message on my cellphone from one of you ... somebody in the media, talking about personal stuff. And I shouldn't even be standing up here having to deal with this. I'm sitting here listening to music. I don't know who got my phone number, but that's over the line.
There were several tense moments when no one in the crowd around his locker said a word. Lackey added: "This is unbelievable I've got to deal with this."

I think we now know who sent the message. This morning, TMZ reported that on August 30, Lackey filed for divorce from his wife, Krista, who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy in March.

It is important to stress that we have no facts about this story. While this looks like (and may very well be) Gingrichian behaviour from the Lemon - who has been contemptable in so many ways over the last two years - it is also possible that their marriage was falling apart before she was diagnosed with cancer.

Back in May, Lackey said, bluntly, "Everything in my life sucks right now."





Then there is a whole line of jokes about Red Sox fans fervently wishing they could divorce John Lackey.

September 25, 2011

G159: Red Sox 7, Yankees 4 (14)

Red Sox - 000 011 200 000 03 - 7 15  1
Yankees - 300 000 100 000 00 - 4  6  0
Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run bomb to right-center - his third home run of the doubleheader and 31st of the season - will lead the highlights from this nail-biting marathon, but the outstanding performance by the Boston bullpen was equally important in giving the Red Sox a crucial one-game lead in the wild card standings with three games left on the schedule.

A quintet of relievers, led by Jonathan Papelbon (2.1-0-0-0-4, 29) and Franklin Morales (2-1-0-2-2, 44), pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. Coupled with Lackey's righting the ship (6-5-4-3-4, 86) after a rough first inning, the Yankees managed only two singles in the last 12.2 innings.

Papelbon came out of the pen to strike out rookie Austin Romine with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. For some reason, Joe Girardi - who had several halfway-decent players on his bench, including Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter - opted not to pinch-hit for Romine, who was making the 16th plate appearance of his young career. ... In the 13th, Morales fanned Brett Gardner with the winning run on third base.

Ellsbury became the first 30 HR/30 SB player in Red Sox history in the afternoon game, and he ended the nightcap by setting a new MLB record for RBI (103) for a leadoff hitter*. He leads all MLB players in extra-base hits and total bases. Ellsbury has been on fire for the entire second half of the season, with an OPS of 1.130 in July, .912 in August, and 1.088 in September. If Ellsbury wins the AL MVP award, Sunday's doubleheader will be seen as the tipping point.

*: Ninety-five of Ellsbury's 103 RBI have come while hitting in the leadoff spot. Darin Erstad (2000 Angels) holds the all-time record with 100.

In the sixth inning, Pedroia tried to score the tying run on a pitch that sailed to the backstop. The ball caromed right back to Romine and Pedroia, knowing he was a dead duck, tried to leap over the catcher's tag, but it didn't work.
Example
John Lackey / Ivan Nova

Game 2 of a day/night doubleheader.

The Rays beat the Blue Jays 4-2, cutting Boston's lead in the wild card standings to only one-half game.
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 3B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Lowrie, 3B
Drew, RF
Scutaro, SS
Varitek, C
Game thread.

G158: Yankees 6, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 000 101 000 - 2  6  2
Yankees - 202 011 00x - 6  8  0
Jacoby Ellsbury hit two solo home runs (#29 and #30), making him the first player in Red Sox history to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season. There have been only eight 20/20 players in Boston history. Two of them -- Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia -- are from this season.

The outcome of six of Wakefield's first 14 pitches tells you all you need to know about this afternoon:
1 - Gardner singles (bunt)
2 - Gardner steals second
3 - Jeter singles (bunt), Gardner to third
7 - Jeter steals second, Gardner scores on E-2 (missed catch)
13 - Jeter to third on passed ball
14 - Jeter scores on wild pitch 
Example
Tim Wakefield / A.J. Burnett

Game 1 of a day/night doubleheader. Game 2 is at 6:30 PM.
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Jackson, RF
Scutaro, SS
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, 3B
AL Wild Card
Red Sox  88  69  ---  Magic#
Rays     87  71  1.5     4
Angels   86  72  2.5     3
Remaining Games
Red Sox  - 2 at MFY, 3 at BAL
Rays     - 1 vs TOR, 3 vs MFY
Angels   - 1 vs OAK, 3 vs TEX
Wild Card Chances
          Cool    BP
Red Sox   87.8   87.1
Rays       9.8    9.2
Angels     2.4    3.6
Game thread.

Blue Jays/Rays at 1:30 PM and Athletics/Angels at 3:30 PM.

September 24, 2011

Lester: "I'm Not Tired. I'm Not Hurt."

                       IP    H   R  ER  BB   K    ERA
0816-0906 (5 starts)  31.0  19   5   4  11  32   1.16
0911-0924 (3 starts)  13.2  21  16  16   8  10  10.45
Jon Lester:
I'm not tired. I'm not hurt. There's nothing wrong with me. I wouldn't go out there if there was something wrong with me. It's nothing physically. [So what is wrong?] I stink. If I had the answer, it wouldn't happen. You go 32-0 every year if you had the answer of why you stink sometimes. It just happens. It's part of baseball. Teams go through stretches like this ... Pitchers go through stretches like I'm doing. It's the name of the game. Other times, you throw the ball right down the middle and it gets popped up. That's baseball. You make a pitch on the black, and it gets hit 400 feet. ... It's not a good time to have this stretch.
Example
Adrian Gonzalez: "When we get into the playoffs, whoever we play better watch out because we're going to go in being the underdog, especially the way we've been playing this month, so we've got nothing to lose. Plain and simple, we're not playing good baseball. At the same time, we can come out tomorrow and win the two games and pretty much be a lock to be in the playoffs. All these things can turn in a matter of 12 hours. The last time we went through this, we came out of that and we were the best team for two or three months. When we come out of this, we're going to be the best team and that's why I like our chances going into the playoffs."
Example
Complicating that optimism is the fact that the Rays won this evening, beating the Blue Jays 6-2. (The Angels beat the A's 4-2.) Tampa Bay is 1.5 GB the Red Sox for the wild card and, if everything goes wrong tomorrow (with Wakefield and Lackey, it's a serious concern), the two teams could be tied with only three games left in the season.

G157: Yankees 9, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 000 100 - 1  9  0
Yankees - 062 001 00x - 9  9  0
It took only two pitches for the Yankees to increase their lead from 1-0 to 6-0.

Russell Martin's bloop single to left glanced off Carl Crawford's glove for two runs, as he tried to make a diving catch. Then Derek Jeter hit a first-pitch, opposite-field, three-run homer.

Amid the underachievers and out-of-their-leaguers that Boston has been sending to the hill this month (Lackey, Weiland, Miller, Wakefield, Bedard), Lester was supposed to have been someone we could depend on.

Instead, his last three outings have been horrific: 13.2 innings, 21 hits, 16 runs, 8 walks, 10 strikeouts, 10.54 ERA.
Example
Jon Lester / Freddy Garcia

Terry Francona asked for input on today's lineup from his coaches and a few players, and made some changes:
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B
Aviles, 3B
Scutaro, SS
Reddick, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Tito:
We didn't swing the bat very well last night. Spoke to Demarlo and some of the players [including Pedroia] ... I asked for their opinions. ... When I got let go in Philadelphia I told myself that if I ever got another chance I'd be true to myself. Whether people agree with me or not, that's the way I feel bout it and that's important for me.
Theo Epstein:
We had a rough April and we played close to .700 ball for four months and now we're having a real rough September. ... I don't think there's a sense of doom of inevitability at all because this isn't inevitable. If we score more runs than the other team tonight, we'll win. If we do it the next night, we'll win two in a row and we're back. ... Everyone gets knocked on their ass sooner or later. It's what happens afterwards that matters. ... I will say this. Win a game or two in a row here, I do think this team could feel unburdened a little bit and get dangerous in a hurry. It starts with winning one game.
Meanwhile, the Daily News is making a fool of itself:
Photobucket
AL Wild Card
Red Sox  88  68  ---  Magic#
Rays     86  71  2.5     4
Angels   85  72  3.5     3
Remaining Games
Red Sox  - 3 at MFY, 3 at BAL
Rays     - 2 vs TOR, 3 vs MFY
Angels   - 2 vs OAK, 3 vs TEX
Cool Standings has the up-to-date wild card chances: Red Sox (95.2%), Rays (3.7%), Angels (1.1%).

Game thread.

Blue Jays/Rays at 7 PM and Athletics/Angels at 9 PM.

WC Watch: Rays, Angels Lose

Friday's scores:
Blue Jays 5, Rays 1
Athletics 3, Angels 1
AL Wild Card
Red Sox  88  68  ---  Magic#
Rays     86  71  2.5     4
Angels   85  72  3.5     3
Remaining Games
Red Sox  - 3 at MFY, 3 at BAL
Rays     - 2 vs TOR, 3 vs MFY
Angels   - 2 vs OAK, 3 vs TEX
Cool Standings has the up-to-date wild card chances: Red Sox (95.2%), Rays (3.7%), Angels (1.1%).

September 23, 2011

G157: Red Sox at Yankees, PPD

Update, 7:06 PM: Postponed, rain; Sunday doubleheader at 1:00 and 6:30 PM
Red Sox -
Yankees - 
Russell Martin, waiting until after the Yankees had clinched the East before opening his cake hole:
Anything to get the Red Sox out would be awesome for me. ... I hate the Red Sox. ... I would love to see them lose. ... When you wear the pinstripes, you just kind of learn to be that way, I guess. ... It would be fun to be the spoiler and get 100 wins.
Example
Jon Lester / Freddy Garcia
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Aviles, 3B
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Saltalamacchia, C
Reddick, RF
Saturday: Tim Wakefield / A.J. Burnett
Sunday: John Lackey / Ivan Nova

AL Wild Card
Red Sox  88  68  ---   (3 at MFY, 3 at BAL)
Rays     86  70  2.0   (3 vs TOR, 3 vs MFY)
Angels   85  71  3.0   (3 vs OAK, 3 vs TEX)
Game thread.

WC-Runner-up Watch: Blue Jays/Rays at 7 PM and Athletics/Angels at 10 PM.

September 22, 2011

Francona: "I'm Not In A Very Good Mood Right Now"

David Ortiz:
I've never seen anything like that around here as long as I've been here. If you would have told me in August this would happen in September, I would have laughed at you. ... I've been here nine years. We've never collapsed that bad. Trust me, we've been through some tough times. But this is bad. ... Right now it's depressing.
Terry Francona:
I'm not in a very good mood right now. ... We certainly haven't made it very easy for ourselves. That doesn't mean we can't get where we want to go. But we have our work cut out for ourselves.
Dustin Pedroia:
We're not playing good. ... What are we this month? Five and ... [16] ... That's a sign of a shitty team. Good teams don't 5-16 in any month.
Carl Crawford:
We just can't really explain what's going on. ... [I]t makes a lot of people nervous. ... I'm still very confident this team will find a way to get to the playoffs.
Wild Card Odds
                 Red Sox   Rays   Angels
BP:               91.5%    6.0%    2.4%
Cool Standings:   87.3%    4.5%    7.5%
(Photo: Josh Reddick)

September 21, 2011

G156: Orioles 6, Red Sox 4

Orioles   - 010 001 220 - 6 10  0
Red Sox   - 001 210 000 - 4  9  1
Beckett was solid through five innings and the Red Sox had a 4-1 lead. Then, Beckett became John Lackey.

Two singles and a stolen base gave Baltimore a run in the sixth. Mark Reynolds's second home run of the night, a two-run job in the seventh, tied the game. And then Beckett left runners on second and third in the eighth for Alfredo Aceves. Vlad Guerrero's single scored them both to complete Beckett's line: 7.1-7-6-1-8, 109.

Carl Crawford tripled and scored in the third, doubled in two runs in the fourth, and singled in the sixth. In his final at-bat, leading off the ninth, he grounded out to second.

Jacoby Ellsbury's single in the third extended his hitting streak against the Orioles to 33 games.

Mike Aviles followed that single by hitting into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, but replays showed he easily beat the relay (his foot is on the bag in the shot below) and should have been called safe. Mike Winters's blown call cost the Red Sox a run, as Marco Scutaro was coming home from third on the play. ... Viva la human factor!


Example
Tommy Hunter / Josh Beckett
Ellsbury, CF
Aviles, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Pedroia, 2B
Reddick, RF
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Varitek, C
With the Yankees beating the Rays 4-2 this afternoon, the Red Sox are one step closer to a playoff spot. Their Wild Card magic number is now 6.

Game thread.

Rays/Yankees at 1 PM and 7 PM.

REM Calls It A Day - After 31 Years

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

Schilling: "I Don't Think Red Sox Will Make Playoffs";
Francona: "I Don't Give A Shit"

Curt Schilling, WEEI (Dennis & Callahan), September 20, 2011:
It's kind of crashing down around them. Somebody asked me last night about them making the playoffs and I said, "You know how I feel about these guys, you know how I feel about Terry ... I don't want them to make the playoffs because I don't think they have a chance to go anywhere." I don't think they're going to make it. I don't know that they have the horses. I hope they do, I want them to, but I think there's been a huge momentum shift and I can see Tampa winning out.
So it's better to miss the post-season entirely than be one of the eight playoff teams and take your chances?

Beyond pointing out that he says "I don't want them to make the playoffs" and then 10 seconds later says "I want them to" make the playoffs, I'll limit my comments to this: Schilling has changed quite a bit since his "Why Not Us?" days.

Terry Francona, after being told about Schilling's comments:
I don't give a shit.

September 20, 2011

G155: Orioles 7, Red Sox 5

Orioles   - 004 000 030 - 7 14  2
Red Sox   - 102 200 000 - 5 10  1
Playoff Tito was in the house, calling on Daniel Bard to pitch the seventh inning. Down 4-1 in the third, Boston had fought back - with Adrian Gonzalez's two-run dong in the third and a group effort in the fourth, highlighted by Mike Aviles's RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury's 200th hit of the season (which also extended his hitting streak against the Orioles to a record (?) 32 games) - and now led 5-4.

Bard retired the Birds in order in the seventh, but in the eighth he gave up two singles sandwiched around a strikeout. Jonathan Papelbon jogged in to nail down a 5-out save - but after striking out Chris Davis looking with a fastball at the letters, Nolan Reimold grounded an 0-2 pitch into left for a single, loading the bases. Robert Andino quickly cleared them, lining a full-count pitch down the right field line for a three-run double, giving the Orioles a 7-5 lead.

Pedro Strop set down the bottom of the order in the eighth and Jim Johnson got the save in the ninth. After Ellsbury reached on catcher's interference, Dustin Pedroia grounded into a double play, and Gonzalez grounded out 3-1.

Bedard lasted only 2.2 innings (2.2-5-4-2-0, 76), though he was charged with only one earned run. He threw a jaw-dropping 51 pitches in the third inning, facing eight batters and recording only two outs.

The Yankees beat the Rays 5-0. Boston's wild card lead over Tampa Bay remains at 2 games, with the Angels 3.5 GB.
Example
Rick VandenHurk / Erik Bedard
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Reddick, RF
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, 3B
Bedard makes his first start since September 3. He has been sidelined with a balky knee and a lat muscle strain near his left shoulder. While Bedard is not on a strict pitch limit, Terry Francona said 100 pitches "might be a bit much".

Vanden Hurk is a September call-up, who made two relief appearances, then lasted only 2.1 innings (53 pitches) in a start on September 10. In his six innings this month, he has allowed five hits (single, double, three home runs), five walks, and four runs. .. There is no reason why the bats should cool off at all.

Game thread. ... Rays/Yankees at 7 PM.

September 19, 2011

G154: Red Sox 18, Orioles 9

Orioles   - 302 121 000 -  9 13  1
Red Sox   - 425 000 70x - 18 20  3
Jacoby Ellsbury began the seventh inning with an inside-the-park home run (NESN and WEEI calls) (he scored with ease, standing up (video)) and Conor Jackson ending the scoring in the frame with a grand slam over the Wall as the Red Sox offense exploded against eight Baltimore pitchers.

Boston's 18 runs tied a season-high (first done only six days ago, on September 13). The 20 hits also tied a season-high (May 25 and September 6). ... Runs scored in September's five wins: 12, 14, 18, 4, 18. ... And amid that firepower, there have been 14 losses. It's been a strange and annoying month.

After Lackey (the less said about him, the better; 4.1-11-8-2-3, 105) put the Sox in a 3-0 hole in the first inning, Boston responded with four runs against Matusz (1.2-6-6-2-0, 49), with Jed Lowrie capping the inning with a two-out, three-run bomb.

Both Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia reached base in all five of their plate appearances. ... Jackson, Lowrie, and Pedroia each had four RBI. ... Lowrie, Ellsbury, and Marco Scutaro each scored three runs.

The Red Sox are 5 GB in the East and 2 GA in the Wild Card. With eight games remaining, their WC magic number is eight.
Example
Brian Matusz / John Lackey

Game 2 of today's day-night doubleheader:
Ellsbury, CF
Scutaro, SS
Gonzalez, 1B
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Lowrie, 3B
Jackson, LF
Varitek, C
McDonald, RF
Boston is now 4-14 in September and only 1.5 GA of the Rays for the wild card. Those 14 losses are more than the team had in any of the previous four months: May (10), June (9), July (6), or August (12). Boston lost 15 games in April. ... The Yankees beat the Twins 6-4, pushing the Red Sox 5.5 GB in the East.

Silver Lining Dept.: Matusz - 9.84 ERA and 2.023 WHIP in 10 starts (43 innings) - makes Lackey looks like Verlander.

Game thread.

New Day Rising

Nearly an hour of tuneful, paint-peeling rock from the magnificent Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü, from London's Camden Palace (1985).



Is this your celebrated summer?

G153: Orioles 6, Red Sox 5

Orioles   - 002 310 000 - 6  8  0
Red Sox   - 001 120 100 - 5 12  1
Similar to his last start, Weiland (4.2-5-6-2-5, 85) started off strong, this time retiring the first seven batters. Then, the implosion. In a stretch of five batters in the fourth and fifth innings, he allowed three home runs.

But the first two Baltimore runs were a product of the bright sun in left field. In the second inning, Nolan Reimold had completely lost sight of Josh Reddick's fly ball and it fell for a double. In the Orioles third, Reimold lifted a pop-up to short left-center. Darnell McDonald moved in, lost the ball, the tried for basket catch when he saw it again; the ball glanced off the tip of his glove. Josh Bell then lined a pitch to left center and this one clanked off McDonald's glove for a two-base error. Matt Angle followed with a two-run double off the Wall, just out of McDonald's reach as he leapt against the scoreboard.

McDonald got one of those two runs back with a solo shot in the third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's triple to deep center scored David Ortiz in the fourth. With two outs in the fifth, Marco Scutaro walked and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's double. Dustin Pedroia tripled and cut the Baltimore lead to 6-4. (It looked like Orioles CF Angle may have trouble tracking all three of those extra-base hits because of the sun.)

David Ortiz then ripped Guthrie's first pitch down the right field line. Watching the replay on the Orioles' feed, I could see the ball hit the low wall just past the foul pole (near the second "e" in the word "here" on an advertisement) - which would be a fair ball. The umpires conferred and ruled it was a foul ball. A NESN replay hinted that the ball may have struck the top of the wall in foul territory, then caromed over by the "here" sign. I thought the MASN replay was pretty definitive until I saw the NESN clip.

Ortiz ended the at-bat (and inning) with a fly ball to deep center. Boston trailed by only one after Scutaro doubled with two outs in the eighth and scored on Bert's single.

Alfredo Aceves pitched out of a second-and-third-no-out jam in the home half of the eighth, retiring Chris David on a fly ball to short right, then striking out both Robert Andino and Reimold (who had hit back-to-back dongs off Weiland in the fourth).

Jim Johnson made quick work of the Red Sox in the ninth. Mike Aviles grounded to short, McDonald grounded to third, and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to second.
Example
Jeremy Guthrie / Kyle Weiland

Game 1 of today's day-night doubleheader:
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Reddick, RF
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, 3B
Here is a strange (or scary) fact: Since August 29, the Red Sox are 5-14 - and in only one of those five wins did they score fewer than nine runs.

Runs (wins in bold): 2, 9, 2, 0, 12, 4, 0, 14, 10, 4, 2, 5, 1, 18, 4, 2, 4, 3, 5

Weiland is pitching on three days rest, but he threw only 61 pitches on Thursday, in the opening game of the Rays series. This game is a makeup of the May 17 postponement.

Game thread. Twins/Yankees at 1 PM (makeup of April 6). The Rays are off today.

Crawford: I'm Sorry For The Year I've Had

Carl Crawford, in his recent diary entry at ESPNBoston, tells Red Sox fans that
I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see. ...

Ortiz said recently he thought we should panic. I try not to panic at all. But as you're coming to the end of the regular season, you definitely get a little worried. You definitely have to worry a little bit. ... If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated.
After Saturday's game, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Adrian Gonzalez's surgically repaired right shoulder was "weak" and "tired" and that discomfort in the shoulder had prevented the first baseman from taking on-field pre-game batting practice.

Terry Francona pointed out that Gonzalez has been "taking BP every other day on the field for about a month and a half. ... [Fox] could have announced it in July ... [T]hat's not entirely an big surprise." As far as Gonzalez's shoulder, Tito said, "I don't feel the need to announce every single bump and bruise and inadequacy that we have. That's not going to help us win at all."

Evil Bert, who went 0-for-12 (with three walks) in the Rays series, dropping his September batting average to .271 (though he does have a .977 OPS), acknowledged that he doesn't feel right at the plate:
I'm swinging at pitches I shouldn't be swinging at. I'm not mechanically right ... I'm just trying to get too overaggressive and trying to make things happen instead of just taking walks.
Clay Buchholz's next two side sessions are set for tomorrow and Thursday. ... Bobby Jenks talked about his lost season.

I read this at Fox Sports: "Ellsbury is the only player this season with 100 runs, 90 RBI, 25 homers and 30 stolen bases — and one of only 20 players in history to reach those marks." It's not true. Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp have also reached those totals this year, and there are now 48 players who have done so since 1901. However, Ellsbury is only the 13th player in AL history.

Mike Aviles is hitting .361/.373/.458 since joining the team (75 PA):
Anytime you're up, you're up. We're not down. We haven't played the best of ball, but we're not down. We're still up. Anytime you have a lead, you should be in that driver's seat. You shouldn't be in the back seat.
Francona:
I choose to believe, knowing the guys down in the clubhouse like I do.
Jonathan Papelbon:
[E]very game from here on out we have to start sending messages, not only to other teams but to our own team, and start getting that confidence flow as a team. ... We have to start finding our identity, and the only way we're going to do that is play one out, one play at a time, and gain confidence with each play. And if we can find that identity and peak at the right time, we'll be unstoppable.

September 18, 2011

Now Playing


Probable/Possible Starters
M 0919 vs BAL - Weiland / Guthrie
                Lackey / Matusz
T 0920 vs BAL - Bedard
W 0921 vs BAL - Beckett
T 0922 OFF
F 0923 at NYY - Lester / Garcia (?)
S 0924 at NYY - Lackey / Burnett (?)
S 0925 at NYY - Bedard or Wakefield / Hughes (?)
M 0926 at BAL - Beckett
T 0927 at BAL - Wakefield or Bedard 
W 0928 at BAL - Lester (If Sox have not clinched)
  
T 0929 (ALE/WC playoff game(s)?)
F 0930 ALDS 1 - 
S 1001 ALDS 2 -
S 1002 
M 1003 ALDS 3 -
T 1004 ALDS 4 -
W
T 1006 ALDS 5 -

G152: Rays 8, Red Sox 5

Rays     - 030 120 200 - 8  7  0
Red Sox  - 000 200 300 - 5  8  2
Wakefield (5-6-6-1-5, 103) was ineffective; at this point, he is seriously trying the patience of even his most blindly loyal fans. In addition to allowing 10 base runners in the three innings in which he gave up runs, Wakefield hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. And Jarrod Saltalamacchia was charged with four passed balls, including two on consecutive pitches in the fifth inning. Desmond Jennings singled and stole second on the first pitch to B.J. Upton (a pitchout). After Upton took a strike, Salty's two passed balls moved Jennings to third and then across the plate. It was ugly.

Saltalamacchia leads all MLB catchers with 25 passed balls, well ahead of Josh Thole of the Mets (16). AL runner-up J.P. Arencibia has only 12. Salty also has more passed balls than every other MLB team, except the Mets, who he trails by only one.

With two outs in the seventh, down 8-2, the Red Sox rallied. Marco Scutaro singled off Jake McGee and Jacoby Ellsbury singled off Carlos Ramos. Mike Aviles then cranked a three-run homer to left-center, bring Boston to within three runs.

In the eighth, David Ortiz nearly hit a one-out dong into the Red Sox bullpen, but Matt Joyce caught it at the short fence. Pinch-hitter Carl Crawford doubled, but Darnell McDonald popped out to second.

Look at home plate umpire Jerry Layne's two strike calls on McDonald in that at-bat.
Pitches 2 and 3 - well outside, and both called strikes.

Baseball must institute a system of accurate pitch calling that allows games to be decided solely by the players on the field. However, MLB seems content to allow incompetent umpires to blatantly call pitches wrong, over and over and over, to miss tags right in front of their faces, and to imagine tags that were never made. MLB pretending that its officiating is not a farce is an insult to the integrity of the game.

If you think I'm annoyed simply because these calls went against the Red Sox, you are wrong. Josh Beckett received at least two extremely generous strike three calls against the Rays on Friday night, calls so obviously wrong that Joe Maddon couldn't keep quiet, and was ejected for complaining about them. Those pitches - and any others Beckett actually threw outside of the strike zone - should have been called balls.

It's very simple:
Strikes should be called strikes
Balls should be called balls
Runners who are out should be called out
Runners who are safe should be called safe
Balls landing foul should be called foul
Balls landing fair should be called fair
How could a baseball fan (or player, or team, or commissioner) be against those concepts? And yet MLB actively resists taking the easy steps to make those concepts a reality.
Example
David Price / Tim Wakefield
Ellsbury, CF
Aviles, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Jackson, LF
McDonald, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Scutaro, SS
Price makes his fifth start of the year against the Red Sox in what feels like a cruel mismatch. In the previous four - April 12, June 16, July 15, August 17 - he has a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 innings (18 hits, 11 walks, 21 strikeouts). Price has given up four home runs to the Red Sox, but allowed a total of only eight runs.

Wakefield is gunning (or fluttering?) for his 187th Red Sox win. Since NESN will no doubt point admiringly to Wakefield's 21-7 career record against the Rays, I will add that he was 13-1 between 1998 and 2005. How that totally awesome record (achieved against guys like Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Carl Crawford) will aid him this afternoon against the 2011 Rays is a matter for smarter baseball minds than mine.

Tampa Bay has stolen 22 bases (in 26 attempts) against the Red Sox this season, and Peter Abraham writes that they "may be running a lot with Wakefield on the mound". They may, but opposing runners have only a 50% success rate this season with Wakefield pitching (8 of 16). By contrast, they are 28 of 32 (88%) against Josh Beckett and 29 of 32 (91%) against John Lackey. Contrary to conventional wisdom, runners have been reluctant to run on Wakefield this season - twice as many attempts against Lackey, who has pitched only four more innings than Wakefield - and have been far less successful.

Game thread. ... & Yankees/Blue Jays at 1 PM.

September 17, 2011

G151: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

Rays     - 201 010 000 - 4  6  0
Red Sox  - 002 000 100 - 3  7  0
For the second straight game, Tampa Bay scored three early runs (in the same 201 configuration, actually) and this time, the Red Sox failed to come back. Boston is 3 GA of the Rays for the wild card, with 11 games remaining in the season.

Lester (7-5-4-4-5, 107) allowed a two-run dong to Ben Zobrist in the first, and Desmond Jennings doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the third. The Rays added a run with three singles in the fifth, with Evan Longoria getting the RBI.

Carl Crawford singled to begin the home half of the third and scored on Mike Aviles's double high off the Wall. It was a foolish decision by Tim Bogar to send Crawford with no one out, and Crawford didn't help matters by not sliding. He appeared to be tagged out, but home plate umpire Brian Knight called him safe. However, Knight was out of position and could not see if a tag had been made (so he guessed). Marco Scutaro bunted Aviles to third and Jacoby Ellsbury knocked him in with a fly ball to right.

With two outs in the fifth, Ellsbury reached on an infield hit and stole second. Then he got greedy and tried to steal third, but Neimann (5-4-2-2-6, 89) stepped off the rubber and threw him out at third. Ellsbury drove in the Sox's third run in the seventh with a grounder to short.

In the ninth, Aviles singled with two outs; he finished the day 3-for-4. Joey Gathright pinch-ran and stole second without a throw, but Marco Scutaro grounded to third to end the game.

Daniel Bard pitched the eighth inning and retired Tampa's 2-3-4 hitters in order, on 12 pitches. It looks like he has fixed his problems.

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 7-6 (Toronto blew a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning), so Boston fell back to 4.5 GB New York in the East.
Example
Jeff Niemann / Jon Lester
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Reddick, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Crawford, LF
Aviles, 3B
Scutaro, SS
Chances Of Red Sox Making Playoffs:
Baseball Prospectus: 98.1%
Cool Standings:      95.9%
So, if you believe the Red Sox are "teetering on brink of collapse", save that worry for October. It is currently grossly misplaced.

Ye olde game thread. ... But, first, Yankees/Blue Jays at 1 PM.

What If?

What if the Red Sox:
Split this weekend with Rays: 1-1
Split four games with Orioles: 2-2
Lose Yankees series: 1-2
Lose Orioles series: 1-2
While the Rays:
Split this weekend with Red Sox: 1-1
Win Yankees series: 3-1
Win Blue Jays series: 2-1
Win Yankees series: 2-1
The Red Sox -- 5-7 over the season's final 12 games -- would finish at 92-70.

The Rays -- 8-4 over the season's final 12 games -- would finish at 91-71.

And the Red Sox would still win the wild card.

September 16, 2011

G150: Red Sox 4, Rays 3

Rays     - 201 000 000 - 3  8  1
Red Sox  - 201 100 00x - 4  9  2
Beckett (6-7-3-1-7, 109) showed few ill effects and no loss of velocity, Daniel Bard pitched a clean eighth inning, walking a batter but striking out the side, and Mike Aviles's home run over the Wall in the fourth ended up being the margin of victory.

Both Beckett and Shields (7-7-4-3-4, 112) were hit for early runs. After Evan Longoria's two-run homer in the first just cleared the Wall, Boston quickly tied the score. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and scored on Dustin Pedroia's single. Pedroia took second on a wild pitch and scored on David Ortiz's opposite field single.

In the third, Longoria drove in another run - and Tiz matched it as his double brought home Pedroia (again), who had singled and stolen second.

Tampa mounted a threat in the sixth. Johnny Damon singled and stole second and third; he stole three bases in the game, and the Rays swiped seven bags. Beckett then struck John Jaso out looking, though the inning-ending pitch appeared well outside. Beckett had received a similar gift from home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the previous inning, when B.J. Upton was rung up on an outside pitch. After the call on Jaso, Joe Maddon was ejected.

The Sox bullpen allowed only two fair balls to be hit in the last three innings. Alfredo Aceves walked two, but struck out two. Bard struck out the side, with the first K coming after Damon half-swung at a pitch that ended up hitting him in the back foot. Jonathan Papelbon struck out the first two Rays, allowed a single and stolen base to Upton, but fanned Longoria for the save.

The Blue Jays scored a run in the bottom of the ninth off Boone Logan and Cory Wade and beat the Yankees 5-4. Boston moved to 3.5 GB the Yankees in the East, while also increasing their lead in the wild card race to four games over the Rays and five games over the Angels, who lost to Baltimore 8-3.
Example
James Shields / Josh Beckett
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Reddick, RF
Scutaro, SS
Crawford, LF
Varitek, C
Aviles, 3B
The 2011 Season, in Three Parts
April 1-15:           2-10  .167
April 16-August 31:  81-42  .658  (107-win pace)
September 1-15:       3-11  .214
                     86-63  .577  (3rd best in AL/6th best in MLB)
Beckett returns to the mound for the first time since September 5, when he suffered a sprained right ankle and left after 3.2 innings. Terry Francona says Beckett is not on a limited pitch count, but he'll keep a close eye on him:
He hasn't been out very long, but we reserve the right to see how he's feeling. It's one of those days where we'll check with him. Just because he may look like he's cruising, I wouldn't want to send him back out there if he was laboring inside. We'll keep an eye on him.
Shields has 11 complete games. That's more than 26 of the other 29 major league teams. Only the Phillies (18), Angels (11), and Mariners (12) have more. No MLB pitcher has had more than nine CG in a season since 1999.

Game thread. ... Yankees/Blue Jays and Angels/Orioles at 7 PM.

September 15, 2011

G149: Rays 9, Red Sox 2

Rays     - 004 002 300 - 9  9  0
Red Sox  - 001 000 001 - 2  6  1
Miller (3-3-4-2-1, 61) retired the first seven Rays, then gave up a double to John Jaso. After getting the second out of the inning, he walked Desmond Jennings, allowed an RBI-single to B.J. Upton (both the bat and ball sailed out towards shortstop Marco Scutaro; the bat arrived first, and because Scutaro was avoiding the lumber, the ball rolled untouched into left field), and was tagged for a three-run home run by Evan Longoria.

Those four runs were more than enough for Tampa Bay as the Red Sox continued their September slide. What was a nine-game WC lead over the Rays when the month began is down to a mere three games, with 13 games left on the schedule (including three against Tampa this weekend). Boston has lost seven of their last eight games, nine of their last 11, and 11 of 14.

Bright Spot: Jose Iglesias's single in the ninth inning was his first major league hit.
Example
Jeremy Hellickson / Kyle Weiland
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 3B
Reddick, RF
Crawford, LF
Saltamacchia, C
Scutaro, SS
Tampa Bay is in town for the most important four games of the year ... so far! Tonight is a rematch of last Saturday's game in Florida, which the Rays won 6-5.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia wants Weiland to be more aggressive:
Not one pitch stays straight, so I think we're going to attack the zone a little bit more tomorrow, try to get them to swing a little bit instead of going 2-0, 3-0 on guys and walking. He's got good enough stuff where we don't have to hit the corners. He can just go after guys.
David Ortiz is wearing a brace to help alleviate the discomfort in his back. He does not know if he will be able to play tonight. Adrian Gonzalez, who left yesterday's game with a tight calf, might be able to DH in Ortiz's stead. Gonzalez said he felt discomfort when he grounded out in the third inning, the muscle tightened up when he was in the field in the fourth, and got worse during his home run trot in the sixth. Evil Bert: "They didn't want me to keep going out there and making it worse. Better play it safe than sorry, I guess."

The Red Sox are only 12-13 in their last 25 games at Fenway Park.
East
Yankees  90 58  ---
Red Sox  86 62  4.0   
Rays     82 66  8.0
All three teams have 14 games remaining
Yankees Magic # over Rays: 7
Yankees Magic # over Red Sox: 11
  
Wild Card
Red Sox  86 62  ---
Rays     82 66  4.0
Angels   82 67  4.5
Red Sox Magic # over Angels: 10
Red Sox Magic # over Rays: 11
Game thread. ... The Yankees are off, and begin a series in Toronto on Friday.

September 14, 2011

G148: Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 4

Blue Jays - 200 000 030 - 5  8  3
Red Sox   - 021 001 000 - 4  6  3
Daniel Bard imploded yet again, as the Blue Jays rallied in the eighth inning. Bard walked the first two batters (on only nine pitches), then committed a throwing error on a bunt to load the bases with no outs. From there, it was fairly easy for the Jays to score, with pitcher-turned-outfielder Adam Loewen's two-run single being the big blow.

Bard - considered the "closer-in-waiting" with Jonathan Papelbon headed into free agency this winter - blew his fifth save of the year, and was charged with his eighth loss. In his last three appearances - 2.1 innings (17 batters!) - he has allowed four hits, five walks, and nine runs. Over his career, Bard has 5 saves and 15 blown saves.

Boston did not have any baserunners in the last three innings.

Lackey (5.1-7-2-1-4, 115) stumbled early, but held on, stranding runners on base in every inning, as the Sox came back. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis singled to start the second. Ryan Lavarnway reached on the first of two errors by third baseman Brett Lawrie, scoring FY. After a strikeout and a wild pitch, Jason Varitek's ground out brought in the second run. In the third, Jacoby Ellsbury tripled and scored on Marco Scutaro's sac fly. Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo dong (#26) in the sixth.

The Mariners beat the Yankees 2-1 in 12 innings and the Orioles beat the Rays 6-2.
Example
Rickey Romero / John Lackey

Afternoon baseball!
Ellsbury, CF
Scutaro, SS
Gonzalez, 1B
Pedroia, 2B
Youkilis, 3B
Lavarnway, DH
Crawford, LF
Varitek, C
McDonald, RF
Also: Josh Beckett has been named as Friday's starter.

Game thread. ... Rays/Orioles at 7 PM and Yankees/Mariners at 10 PM.

September 13, 2011

G147: Red Sox 18, Blue Jays 6

Blue Jays - 032 000 001 -  6 10  1
Red Sox   - 220 204 17x - 18 18  1
Tim Wakefield (6-6-5-2-6, 96) won his 200th career game as the Red Sox turned a see-saw battle into a laugher, scoring a season-high 18 runs. Wakefield is the 108th pitcher in baseball history to reach 200 victories; he is the 90th pitcher since 1900 to reach that milestone, and only the 69th since 1920.

It was also Wakefield's 186th victory as a Red Sock, leaving him seven wins shy of passing Cy Young and Roger Clemens, and setting a new franchise record. 

Tablesetters Jacoby Ellsbury (two singles, double, home run (#26), three RBI, four runs scored) and Dustin Pedroia (two doubles, two home runs (#s 19 & 20), five RBI, four runs scored) led the offensive barrage.

Ellsbury and Pedroia are the first teammates in Red Sox history to have 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. (Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 17 games. Pedroia had been 3-for-34 in his last eight games.)

The Red Sox last scored as many as 18 runs on August 2, 2009, when they beat the Orioles 18-10.

The bottom third of the order was also on fire: Carl Crawford singled, doubled, walked, and scored three runs; Marco Scutaro singled, doubled (the 1,000th of his career), walked, scored twice, and drove in two runs; and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled, doubled, scored twice, and drove in four runs.

Wakefield struggled in the second and third innings, allowing a three-run home run to J.P. Arencibia and a two-run bomb off the top of the left field foul pole to Jose Bautista. But he settled down, retiring 11 of the last 13 batters he faced, and walked off the field to a huge ovation in the middle of the sixth.

Alfredo Aceves pitched two innings and Junichi Tazawa, in his first major league game since September 4, 2009 (Tommy John surgery), pitched the ninth.

The Orioles beat the Rays 4-2, so Boston increased its wild card lead over Tampa Bay to four games.
Example
Brandon Morrow / Tim "Still Looking For 200" Wakefield
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 3B
Reddick, RF
Crawford, LF
Scutaro, SS
Saltalamacchia, C
Josh Beckett will start Thursday or Friday. ... Kevin Youkilis will have off-season surgery on the hernia on his left side. ... Clay Buchholz will throw in the bullpen on Wednesday or Thursday. ... Erik Bedard may start one of the games of Monday's doubleheader.

Called up: Lars Anderson, Joey Gathright, Jose Iglesias, Trever Miller, and Junichi Tazawa.

Boston begins play tonight 4 GB the Yankees in the East and 3 GA of the Rays for the Wild Card.

September 1-12:
NYY -  W  W  W  W  W  W  L  L  L  L  W  W  = 8-4
BOS -  L  L  W  L  L  W  L  L  L  L  L  .  = 2-9
TBR -  L  L  W  W  W  L  W  .  W  W  W  W  = 8-3
The problem with the Red Sox this month has not been hitting or scoring runs:
      GM   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  RS  R/G
BOS   11  .262  .330  .438  .768  54  4.9
NYY   12  .238  .325  .408  .733  62  5.2
TBR   11  .237  .337  .394  .730  55  5.0
The problem is the pitching staff:
     GM   ERA   WHIP  S ERA  R ERA  RA  RA/G   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
BOS  11  6.61  1.684   6.80   6.43  73   6.6  .289  .386  .479  .865
NYY  12  3.98  1.408   4.24   3.49  50   4.2  .260  .334  .418  .752
TBR  11  3.30  1.079   3.45   2.78  37   3.4  .214  .273  .379  .652
The Red Sox starters' and relievers' ERAs in the past 11 games have been putrid. And while both Boston and New York's pitching staffs are having their worst month of the season in WHIP (so far), Tampa Bay is having its best month.

Jon Lester's four-inning performance on Sunday was the fifth straight game in which Boston's starter has not gone more than five innings; the last time that happened was September 21-25, 2001 (Casey Fossum, Derek Lowe, Hideo Nomo, David Cone and Frank Castillo).

One bright spot in the bullpen is Jonathan Papelbon. Since July 17, he has pitched in 19 games and faced 66 batters: 20 innings, 4 hits (all singles), 0 runs, 2 walks, 23 strikeouts.

Josh Beckett threw off a mound yesterday and reports are that he may pitch this weekend against the Rays.

Dustin Pedroia: "I'm not really concerned. If we play good, we're going to win. That's basically it. We're a pretty damn good team."

David Ortiz: "I think going back to the house will help us. We play better at the house. This road trip was pretty bad. We need to come back fresh on Tuesday and try to go back to where we were."

Game thread.

Rays/Orioles at 7 PM and Yankees/Mariners at 10 PM.