Fenway Fables

A Red Sox Blog With A Focus on the Team’s Past

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July 31, 2008

Manny continues to be distraction as Sox are swept at Fenway by Angels

by @ 5:40 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

No one can say for sure if Manny Ramirez will remain a Red Sox by this afternoon’s 4 p.m. trading deadline.  What they can say is that shortly after last night’s four-error, 9-2 debacle of a series-sweeping loss to the Angels, manager Terry Francona had had enough.  The Red Sox will hold a team meeting before tomorrow night’s game against Oakland – with or without Ramirez.

Losers of eight of their 12 games since the All-Star break and closer to third place in the AL East than first, the Red Sox’ level of play is threatening to become a bigger distraction than their left fielder.

And as we all know by now, that is saying something.

The recent distractions that Ramirez has caused have hurt the club’s focus, which likely has led to the sloppiness. The team isn’t playing near championship-caliber, and the major league-best Angels not only highlighted their differences but exploited them.  With a day off today, the Red Sox will take a break and then make a change, one they hope transcends the muddle they are in.

Four errors – Varitek missed a throw to the plate, Beckett threw a ball away on a pickoff attempt, shortstop Jed Lowrie missed a throw from Varitek on a stolen base attempt and first baseman Kevin Youkilis missed a two-hopper, deflated the crowd.  Those miscues, plus Beckett’s failure to back up the throw that Varitek missed and a bloop single that fell between three Red Sox defenders in the sixth, highlighted the lowlights.  The Angels scored three times in the fourth, two runs coming on Garret Anderson’s single. They scored five more in the sixth, two runs coming on Anderson’s two-run homer.  The Red Sox’ lone runs came on a Coco Crisp two-run shot in the fifth, his first long ball since June 17.

There could be changes by the time the door closes for tomorrow’s meeting or the same cast of characters could still be here, including Ramirez – if he shows.

July 30, 2008

Struggling Sox almost no-hit lose to Angels

by @ 5:30 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The Red Sox prevented John Lackey from throwing a no-hitter with two outs to go last night.  The good news stopped there.  The bad news kept coming.

In the aftermath of a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, the Red Sox were as sullen as they were disappointed with themselves. The Sox recognized the cold reality that they had just played an inferior brand of baseball in front of a superior team that earlier in the day probably got substantially better by trading for Mark Teixeira.  Getting un-whupped is going to take some work for a team that has lost seven in a row to Los Angeles, and has lost the first two series of a homestand in which they have won one game in five tries against the New York Yankees and an Angels team with the best record in baseball.

Manny Ramirez did his already suffering popularity ratings no favors in the seventh inning when he reminded nobody of U.S. Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay after hitting a high chopper to Angels third baseman Chone Figgins. The long throw from Figgins was high and first baseman Robb Quinlan was forced to leap off the bag to snare it. Ramirez, however, had not quite reached the bag, so Quinlan had time to come down for the out.  It could be that the tendinitis Ramirez has in either his right or left knee, or both, slowed him down some, but the boos from the crowd did not sound real sympathetic to such a theory.

Clay Buchholz (2-6) was unable to keep up with Lackey (9-2) as the Angels right-hander approached the Sox starter’s magical no-hit night at Fenway less than a year ago. Buchholz gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Nation Notes:  David Aardsma, who has been on the disabled list since July 20 (retroactive to July 19) with a right groin strain, threw a side session yesterday at 85-90 percent, and is scheduled to throw another Friday. Julio Lugo is unlikely to go on the upcoming trip to Kansas City and Chicago, likely staying in Boston. Lugo has been rehabilitating in water to focus on non-weight-bearing activities. His left quadriceps tear is not ready for baseball activities.

July 29, 2008

Sox lose 7-5 to Angels

by @ 12:42 pm. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The 439th consecutive regular-season sellout last night at Fenway park received a personal forget-me-not from the AL West leaders, who demonstrated why they have a commanding divisional lead with a convincing 7-5 victory last night that extended their winning streak over the Sox to six games.

The Angels, who lead the majors with 65 wins, erased a 2-1 deficit with a six-run sixth. Daisuke Matsuzaka suffered most of the damage, which included home runs by Casey Kotchman and Torii Hunter.  The Angels improved to an astounding 40-18 against teams with records above .500, compared to 25-22 against those at .500 or below. They also bettered their MLB-best road record to 34-19.  The Red Sox, who fell to 4-6 since the All-Star break, squandered an opportunity to pull into a first-place tie in the AL East with Tampa Bay, which lost in Toronto.

Matsuzaka (11-2) allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks in five-plus innings, losing for the first time since June 21. Opposing starter Jered Weaver (9-8) surrendered three runs on six hits in 5 innings to earn his first career win at Fenway.  Matsuzaka, who hadn’t surrendered a home run in his previous five starts, was tagged for two in the sixth – resulting in a sudden reversal of fortune, a quick hook and a five-run deficit for his teammates to erase.

The Angels struck first in the second inning, when Vladimir Guerrero cracked a leadoff double to right field and scored on Juan Rivera’s sacrifice fly.  Manny Ramirez’ two-run single in the fourth provided Matsuzaka with a 2-1 lead, but everything completely changed upon the arrival of the sixth.  Matsuzaka issued a leadoff walk to Chone Figgins before Kotchman crushed a 90-mph fastball into the home bullpen to push the Angels ahead, 3-2. Maicer Izturis followed with a lined double to the right field corner, and Guerrero moved him to third with a base hit past diving first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Matsuzaka then left a 2-1 slider over the heart of the plate to Hunter, who sent the ball onto the roof of a Lansdowne Street parking garage for a three-run homer.  Matters didn’t improve under reliever Justin Masterson, who surrendered base hits to two of the first three batters he faced before Jeff Mathis pushed across the Angels’ seventh run (Howie Kendrick) with a suicide squeeze.

The Sox got one run back in the sixth on Jed Lowrie’s RBI double, but left the bases loaded when reliever Jose Arredondo struck out Jacoby Ellsbury.  In the ninth, Ramirez blasted a solo shot into the Monster seats off MLB saves leader Francisco Rodriguez (No. 44) to complete the scoring.

Nation Notes: Despite reports in the Houston Chronicle and on ESPNDeportes, talks between the Red Sox and the Houston Astros regarding shortstop Miguel Tejada are not serious, however the Sox do appear to have interest in reliever Doug Brocail.  Bartolo Colon came through his side session yesterday and appears to be in line for game action in the next week or so. The pitcher has been on the disabled list since June 17 with a lower back strain, injured taking a swing while he was at the plate.

July 28, 2008

Sox salvage final game of series

by @ 10:34 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

When it comes to addressing pending questions, the Red Sox managed to satisfactorily answer more than a fidgety, under-the-gun SAT-taker last night at Fenway, resulting in an exhale-inducing, 9-2 win over the Yankees.

Hours after saying he would be open to a trade, Manny Ramirez showed he wasn’t about to give up on his current team once again by going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI.  Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury (3-for-4) snapped out of a month-long slump, and David Ortiz (2-for-4, three RBI) provided some much-needed reassurance that his wrist injury has sufficiently healed by crushing his first homer at Fenway since May 18.

If that wasn’t enough, Jon Lester (9-3) extended his unbeaten streak to 10 consecutive starts by holding the Yankees to two runs on nine hits in seven strong innings, while striking out eight. He became the first Sox southpaw other than David ‘Boomer’ Wells to defeat New York at Fenway since Darren Oliver on April 12, 2002.  Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin finished the job for the Sox, combining on two innings of one-hit, shutout relief.

It all added up to the end of the Sox’ collective hitting slump and the termination of a four-game losing streak to the Yankees, bringing them back to within one game of the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox also avoided losing three straight home games for the first time since July 17-19 of last year, while ending the Yankees’ winning streak at eight.  The Sox, who batted .165 in the first two games of the series and scored only three runs, immediately snapped out of the funk in the first with a three-run rally. Ramirez followed singles by Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz with a one-out, run-scoring double to right-center. Mike Lowell then slammed a two-run single to center.

Nation Notes:  With the trade deadline bearing down, the bullpen remains a concern for the Sox. There have been inconsistencies, especially with some of the younger pitchers (Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen) and at least one veteran (Hideki Okajima).  Even Justin Masterson, who had been incredible in his first relief appearance at the major league level, came back down in his second shot at it. Masterson faced three batters Saturday, allowed a hit to each one, and watched both of his inherited runners score.  Bartolo Colon is scheduled to throw a side session today, after throwing 35 pitches a few days ago. There should be more news after today’s session, but the team might try to get Colon in a game soon.

July 26, 2008

Sox lose 1-0 to Yanks, Manny sits

by @ 9:28 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The starting pitchers turned in masterful performances in the series opener, with Joba Chamberlain staying a move ahead of Josh Beckett in a 1-0 Yankees victory.  Chamberlain (3-3) allowed only three hits in seven innings, while striking out a career-high nine and walking only one. Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera (26th save) finished up to send the Sox to their second 1-0 defeat of the season (the other being a May 28 loss in Seattle).

The Red Sox fell a game behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East, while New York remains three games back of the Rays (two shy of the Sox). The Yankees further bolstered their playoff chances during the game by acquiring outfielder Xavier Nady and lefty reliever Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh in exchange for four minor leaguers. The Sox were among the many teams interested in Marte.

Beckett, a winner in each of his previous three starts against the Yankees this season, allowed only a third-inning run and scattered nine hits in seven innings. He struck out six, including five on curveballs, stranded seven baserunners and held the Yankees to only one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. Beckett threw first-pitch strikes to 21-of-29 batters and went to only four three-ball counts. 

The Red Sox continued to offer unreliable offensive support for their ace. They have scored only eight runs when he has been in the game in his seven losses but have piled on 64 runs in his nine wins. Against Chamberlain, the Sox managed to advance only two runners past first base.  The game’s only run was scored in the third on three consecutive, two-out singles by Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. Abreu and Rodriguez found open spots in center field, while Giambi benefited from a drastic, pull-hitter shift to the right side with a checked-swing, infield single to the left. Shortstop Jed Lowrie was positioned to the right side of second base and had no chance to make a play on the slow roller, which would have been right at him under normal defensive alignments.

Designated hitter David Ortiz went 1-for-4 in his return from the disabled list.

Nation Notes: The Red Sox have had it with Manny Ramirez, Ramirez sat out last night’s game against the Yankees after telling Sox management he had a sore knee. The admission by Ramirez came after manager Terry Francona had already penciled the slugger’s name into the lineup. The Sox were forced to juggle the lineup, and despite the return of David Ortiz, lost the game, 1-0.  Ramirez had an MRI on his knee yesterday, which came up clean. It’s hard for anyone but Ramirez to know how his knee truly feels. However the owners are mad, the manager and GM are frustrated. Teammates are angry.

July 25, 2008

Ortiz returns to face the Yankees

by @ 5:36 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

For nearly two months now, it has been quieter around the Red Sox, both at the plate and in the clubhouse.

Those are the two places where, in his inimitable way, David Ortiz exudes presence, noise and thunder. When he comes back to play tonight, he will greet his teammates with a fond flurry of expletives and then try to hit the expletive out of the baseball.  Fenway Park always erupts when Big Papi is around, but this time it promises to be louder. Gone since May 31, when he took a swing in Baltimore and partially tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist, Ortiz will return to a team that has not fallen to pieces in his absence.  They were one game behind the first-place Rays when he got hurt; today they are tied for first.  The Sox went 26-19 without Ortiz; they were 34-24 when he got hurt.

Nation Notes: While the Red Sox examined whether to pursue White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe, major league sources indicate the team backed away from a possible deal to acquire him.  The Red Sox really like the job done by Jed Lowrie and feel that Alex Cora can be an adequate backup to Lowrie until Julio Lugo returns to the seen sometime in mid-August. That’s not to say the Sox won’t consider another veteran shortstop if the fit and price is right. The Sox are still pursuing relievers. They had explored a possible deal with Washington for Jon Rauch but major league sources indicated that the asking price of Lowrie and Michael Bowden was way too high. Rauch was dealt to Arizona.

July 24, 2008

Sweep sweep in Seattle

by @ 7:44 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

Most teams are happy to go .500 on a road trip.  With all the challenges the Red Sox have had putting up wins this year away from home, they were absolutely thrilled to salvage a 3-3 record on their West Coast swing.  That’s not to say their 6-3 victory over the Mariners yesterday was a walk in the park.

In fact, it took 12 innings, with the Red Sox bullpen, highlighted by 2 2/3 hitless innings by Justin Masterson in his relief debut, producing 6 2/3 scoreless innings of support.  Mike Lowell’s two-run single in the 12th, followed by Sean Casey’s RBI single, gave the Red Sox the cushion they needed for the most pleasant of return trips home.

Two of the four hits allowed by the Sox relievers were of the infield variety and both took weird bounces that neither Jonathan Paplebon (in the 11th) nor Craig Hansen (12th) were able to make plays on.  Hansen did nothing good for the blood pressure of Sox followers when he loaded the bases in the 12th on two singles and a walk, but he got three outs (and his second save) and the sweep of the Mariners was complete.  Masterson came into the game in relief of starter Clay Buchholz with two on and one out in the sixth, just after the Mariners had tied the game on Jose Vidro’s two-run home run. He got two strikeouts to get out of the jam and his next two innings were perfect.

A day off today, followed by a weekend of baseball against the Yankees, lay ahead but after yesterday’s nail-biter, the Red Sox were a happy bunch of campers.  If momentum means anything, the three consecutive road wins and the presence of Big Papi should give the Sox the kind of homefield advantage most would describe as unfair.

Nation Notes: Manny Ramírez showed up yesterday morning and reported his right knee was sore, an overnight development that caught the Red Sox by surprise.  Manny didn’t play on Wednesday and is considered day to day.  Dustin Pedroia stole second in the first inning for his 10th stolen base, which gives the Sox four players who have reached double digits in steals: Ellsbury (35), Crisp (14), and Julio Lugo (12).  Short-stop Jed Lowie Lowrie has started in five straight games and performed well: .333 (6 for 18) with three RBIs and has played admiringly in the field.

July 23, 2008

Sox win 4-2

by @ 5:49 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

Everyone knows that Daisuke Matsuzaka is capable of pitching aggressively and dominating batters. For whatever reason, however, he has been incapable of doing so for much of this season.  It is also an established fact that J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell have been RBI machines for most of this season. But on the current road trip they had sputtered to a near halt.  Last night, things were looking up for all three and as a result the Sox took their second straight from the Seattle Mariners, 4-2, at Safeco Field.  Drew and Lowell arrived at last night’s game a combined 2-for-33 over the first four games of the trip, with one RBI between them (Lowell).With the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Oakland A’s, the Red Sox drew back to within half a game of first place.  Matsuzaka (11-1) held the Mariners to two hits through seven scoreless innings before finally surrendering a pair of runs and three hits in the eighth. Notoriously inefficient with his pitch count all year, leading to the game going to the bullpen way too early, Matsuzaka was taken out in the eighth inning after having thrown an efficient 99 pitches. With runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, Hideki Okajima came in and got two quick outs. Jonathan Paplebon pitched the ninth and collected his 30th save.

Nation Notes:  Entering last night’s game, Brandon Moss had yet to bat this trip; he has made one appearance, as a pinch runner for Ramírez Monday, since play resumed after the All-Star break. Since his recall June 5, he has played in 28 games, starting 12, and has a seven-game hitting streak (.458, 11 for 24) that began June 30.  The pitching matchups for the Yankees series are set: On Friday night, Josh Beckett will face Joba Chamberlain; Saturday afternoon it’s Tim Wakefield vs. Andy Pettitte; and Sunday night Jon Lester faces Sidney Ponson.  The Sox inquired about reliever Jon Rauch before he was traded by Washington to Arizona, but the Nationals were asking for top prospects Michael Bowden and Jed Lowrie-NOT happening.

July 22, 2008

Sox finally win on road

by @ 5:52 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The Sox’ 4-0 shutout of the Mariners last night marked their first road win after five consecutive losses and also gave them their first victory since the All-Star break.  If it sounds like there’s a Mount Everest being made out of a molehill here, well, that’s just the way it feels these days when it comes to what the Red Sox can and cannot do when they stray away from Fenway Park.  The Red Sox’ road record is now 22-32.

Jason Varitek’s two-run home run in the fifth inning and Jed Lowrie’s two-run single in the eighth were more than enough for the Sox on a night when Jon Lester dominated the Mariners.  Lester (8-3) held Seattle to eight hits, three coming in the eighth inning, and did not walk a batter while striking out six. His ERA dipped to 3.20, eighth-lowest in the league, and the Sox pulled off their baseball-best 11th shutout of the season.  Lester left with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth when Willie Bloomquist’s shot up the middle caromed hard off his right ankle.  Jonathan Papelbon induced an inning-ending double play to the next batter, then closed out the ninth for his 29th save. He got five outs for the first time this season.

Lester, pitching in front of his hometown crowd, was putting on a good show for them for once. He had no record and an 8.10 ERA in two previous Seattle starts.  This was Lester’s first start in nearly two weeks, as the Sox targeted the All-Star break as the perfect opportunity to get him a midseason break.

Nation Notes:  Jason Varitek indicated yesterday that when he caught Daisuke Matsuzaka in the last game before the All-Star break, he’d developed an eye infection so bad he couldn’t see out of his right eye. Varitek is not sure how his eye became irritated, but it took a couple of days for the infection to clear.  Michael Bowden, the Sox’ prized 21-year-old righthander, made his Triple A debut last night. Pitching in Columbus against the Clippers, the Triple A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Bowden gave up three runs in four innings and was pulled after allowing a leadoff double in the fifth.  Bowden allowed seven hits, five doubles, walking none and striking out four. He threw 84 pitches, 57 for strikes.  Bartolo Colon played catch yesterday and is scheduled to throw a side session in Boston on Thursday.

July 21, 2008

Red Sox swept in LA

by @ 6:36 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

About the only thing that went right for the Red Sox over the weekend was that nobody got hurt. Their feelings, and spot in the standings are another story after the Los Angeles Angels sent the Red Sox to their third painful loss in a row with a 5-3 victory last night.The sweep by the Angels, their first over the Red Sox in seven years, left the Sox 1 games behind the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who also lost. But there was little forward progress made by the Sox in the series, as the Angels consistently outplayed them.  Outscored, 20-8, and out-hit, 30-19, in the three games by the AL West leaders, the Sox watched the loss in the finale unfold before their eyes late.  Entering the eighth inning, Sox starter Tim Wakefield had allowed just two runs on four hits and was trying to protect a thin 3-2 lead. The advantage went from svelte to zilch in the blink of an eye.  Back-to-back doubles from Juan Rivera and Howie Kendrick tied the game. A two-run double by Casey Kotchman off Manny Delcarmen brought out the brooms.

The Red Sox have now lost five in a row on the road, 10 of their last 12 and have a 21-32 overall mark when they stray from Fenway Park. Manager Terry Francona said he had no plans yet to shake up the lineup to provide a spark. Until designated hitter David Ortiz rejoins the team, which is expected Friday back at Fenway, the Red Sox will have to ride this one out.

Nation Notes:  David Aardsma was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday because of a groin injury. Rookie Justin Masterson was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace him.  Top pitching prospect Michael Bowden, is scheduled to make his Triple A debut tonight for Pawtucket. Bowden has been on the DL with a strained calf. Bowden was 9-4 with a 2.33 ERA in 19 starts this season for Portland and was named to the Eastern League All-Star team.  Jon Lester, who hasn’t pitched since July 8, draws the start tonight against Seattle. Lester, leads the Sox staff with 125 innings.

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