When in god’s name did the city of Boston become so freaking cool? It’s seems as though every year, four new movies are set in Boston. The market is officially flooded for Boston in popular culture. You have the smartest people, your sports teams kick butt, you have unique (some may say annoying) accents and now every movie that wants to get an Oscar nod throws a script together and shoots the film in Beantown…ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. But I digress, here are your 2011 Boston Red Sox.
Left field: Carl Crawford. 2010 splits: .307 average, 19 home runs, 90 RBI, .851 OPS. Brief: A great signing for the Red Sox no doubt. Although don’t give the front office too much credit considering only three to four teams in the league could afford to pay for his services. Nonetheless, Crawford is simply a freak who possesses more tools than the Jersey Shore house (sappy joke I know, I’ll pick it up).
Center field: Jacoby Ellsbury. 2010 splits: .192 average, 0 home runs, 5 RBI, .485 OPS. Brief: Go ahead and chalk the 2010 season for Ellsbury, who was injury-riddled since jump street. When healthy, he provides another speed demon to go along with Crawford and another bat that should flirt if not cruise past the .300 plateau.
Right field: J.D. Drew. 2010 splits: .255 average, 22 home runs, 68 RBI, .793 OPS. Brief: If I’m not mistaken, Drew is a player that occasionally makes Sox fans want to scratch out their retinas. With new acquisitions Drew should be able to fall into a more comfortable role which will allow him to do his thing without catching as much flak: produce at an above average rate.
Third base: Kevin Youkilis. 2010 splits: .307 average, 19 home runs, 62 RBIs, .975 OPS. Brief: What a great, consistent hitter Youkilis is. He was a steading force in a 2010 lineup that was up and down for a majority of the season.
Also, what an attractive batting stance. (Which one of these sentences was sarcastic?). How will Youkilis handle the move to third base? Does he have the mobility? Does he have the quickness? Will his Civil War beard block his visibility on sharp grounders to the hot corner? Only time will tell.
Shortstop: Marco Scutaro. 2010 splits: .275 average, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, .721 OPS. Brief: Everytime I see a Scutaro highlight I sing “Su-su-sudio” by Phil Collins in my head, but that’s neither here nor there. Scutaro seems to be a great fit in this powerful Boston lineup. A nice bat that can consistently put the ball in play and good range at shortstop. The dude just needs to find a way to stay healthy this season.
Second base: Dustin Pedroia. 2010 splits: .288 average, 12 home runs, 41 RBI, .860 OPS. Brief: Hard to match his MVP season in 2009 and this year, with the potent lineup, he won’t have to. He’s coming off of foot surgery so it should be interesting to see what kind of start he gets off to. Still, the little man is one of the best in the business.
First base: Adrian Gonzalez. 2010 splits: .298 average, 31 home runs, 101 RBI, .904 OPS. Brief: Another newly minted superstar acquisition for the BoSox. They desperately needed another power hitter and the Red Sox got one in Gonzalez. The question all the blow hard baseball writers will ask is how will he do coming to the American League? I think this is an overrated statistic. Then again, I could have no idea what I’m talking about.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz. 2010 splits: .270 average, 32 Home runs, 102 RBI, .899 OPS. Brief: Remember at the beginning of last year during Big Papi’s struggles when ESPN and the like made us feel like the sky was falling and that Ortiz couldn’t make contact playing tee-ball? Please, people don’t overreact, the baseball season is a marathon. One day you’ll wake up in the middle of July with a broken air conditioner and sweat soaked sheets that make you feel like you wet the bed and you’ll turn on the TV and see Ortiz is yet again putting up monster numbers…and you can run tell ‘dat homeboy.
Catcher: Jared Saltalamacchia. 2010 splits: .167 average, 0 home runs, 2 RBI, .625. Brief: I have a special place in my heart for Salt. I read a story last year that the only reason he was stuck in the minor leagues is because he struggled mightily throwing back to the pitcher. Now this conjures up memories of Rube Baker repeating Playboy articles to himself in Major League II. But, as a former high school catcher and neurotic head case, I can tell you that, that mental block is real and it can be one of the loneliest feelings on earth. Can I have a hug please?
Ok, we’ll be back next week for a report on starting and relief pitchers. PEACE.
Nine outs away from going six feet under for the season, the Red Sox showed much more than a pulse late in the ALCS Game 5 last night.
The Sox roared back to the prime of life, their 8-7 victory over the Rays at Fenway Park causing heartbeats to surge up and down the Eastern seaboard and sending a shiver of dread through the Tampa Bay area. Down 7-0 after 6 innings in Game 5 of an ALCS in which they trailed 3-1, the Red Sox staged the biggest comeback ever in an League Championship Series game by a winning team, putting a fresh spin on the meaning of a near-death experience in the process.
The Sox scored four times in the seventh, three coming home on a David Ortiz home run and added three more in the eighth to tie, two on a J.D Drew homer and the tying run on Coco Crisp’s two-out RBI single before Drew hit a walkoff RBI single in the ninth that literally caused Fenway to rock and sway.
The tone in the dugout before the Ortiz blast was not as down as it could have been, Crisp said, considering how close the Sox were to elimination.
Game 6 is on the schedule for tomorrow night in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Josh Beckett starting for the Sox opposite James Shields in an attempt to even the series and send it to a Game 7 on Sunday night at Tropicana Field. The Rays are still one win away from the World Series but momentum definitely slipped out of their grasp and into the Red Sox’ lap with the loss.
The Red Sox had been utterly punchless through six scoreless innings against Scott Kazmir (two hits, three walks, seven strikeouts), while Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled (four-plus innings, two walks, five hits, three home runs, five runs). The Rays pushed their lead to 7-0 in the seventh inning on B.J. Upton’s two-run double off of Jonathan Papelbon, who then settled in to get the game to Justin Masterson (1-0) for the ninth.
The pitcher every Sox fan hates to watch was up to his old tricks in the first inning last night at Tropicana Field. Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded to open the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, and the groan that rippled across Red Sox Nation said it all.
Here we go again.
Then Matsuzaka recorded an out. And another. And another. And another. The frustration of what often felt like the worst 18-3 season in history was nowhere to be found. Acquired in part because of what he could do in big games, Matsuzaka was an assassin. And the BoSox needed it.
Dice-K didn’t allow a hit until the seventh, making Jed Lowrie’s fifth inning sacrifice fly stand as the Sox drew first blood and stole homefield advantage with a taut 2-0 victory over the Rays. Victory wasn’t assured until rookie Justin Masterson retired Rookie of the Year lock Evan Longoria on a double play grounder to end the eighth. Closer Jonathan Papelbon then stayed perfect in the postseason with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
But the story was Matsuzaka. He left after allowing consecutive hits to open the eighth, Tampa Bay’s third and fourth hits of the game. He struck out nine and escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the seventh.
The Rays finally recorded a hit in the seventh when Carl Crawford lined a clean single to right. They were still in the game at that point because Matsuzaka was matched nearly pitch for pitch by Rays starter James Shields, who limited the Sox to two runs and six hits through 7 innings, aided by some outstanding defense.
The Sox gave Matsuzaka the only run he’d need in the fifth, though Tampa Bay’s sterling glovework minimized the damage. Lowrie’s sacrifice fly scored Jason Bay, but Mark Kotsay was stranded at third when second baseman Akinori Iwamura smothered a Jason Varitek shot with the infield in, followed by shortstop Jason Bartlett’s excellent over-the-shoulder running catch of Jacoby Ellsbury’s bloop in short left.
Meanwhile, Matsuzaka was cruising. His biggest scare came in the seventh with runners at first and third and none out. In short order, Matsuzaka popped Dioner Navarro to left, struck out Gabe Gross and got Bartlett to ground to short. Inning over, 1-0 lead preserved.
The Sox tacked on a run in the eighth. Pedroia singled with one out to chase Shields. Two batters later Kevin Youkilis doubled off the glove of a sliding Crawford in left to plate the insurance run.
That made a winner of Matsuzaka, who was only frustrating to watch for those wearing Rays colors.
The Red Sox wanted to drink beer and champagne last night, not make a quiet and somber flight to Southern California. Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie became the latest Red Sox heroes to make wishes come true. Lowrie, the rookie shortstop who had struggled through September, shoved all that aside with a ninth-inning walkoff RBI single off Scot Shields that propelled the Red Sox past the Angels, 3-2, and into the AL Championship Series. The next plane the Red Sox will board will be bound for St. Petersburg, Fla., tomorrow afternoon, and it will be a flight they will make willingly for what should be a bruising and highly entertaining best-of-seven series against their fiercest regular-season foes, the Tampa Bay Rays. The victory against the Angels gave the Sox a 3-1 Division Series win and prevented them from having to fly to LA for a deciding Game 5 on enemy territory. Dustin Pedroia, who snapped his 0-for-15 slump with an RBI double off Angels starter John Lackey that scored Ellsbury in the two-run fifth, wanted no part of a cross-country flight. Lowrie’s hit salvaged what would have been a bone-crushing loss to the Angels, who had created a shocking 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth inning. It also would have wasted the second superb postseason start in a row for Jon Lester (seven scoreless innings). Lester was outstanding, stifling any slim or substantial scoring opportunity the Angels gained. Tied at 2 entering the ninth, either team could have claimed momentum, and at first, it appeared the Angels had a stranglehold on it. Juan Rivera led off with a double and then pinch-runner Reggie Willits reached third with one out. Manager Mike Scioscia decided to call for the squeeze play, but Erick Aybar could not get the bunt down on a Manny Delcarmen pitch. Willits was caught halfway home and Varitek chased him all the way back to third, tag-tackling him with the ball bouncing out of his glove after the out was called.
As momentum shifts go, that one was seismic. Delcarmen got the final out, leaving the distinct impression that it was a matter of guessing who would come to the rescue in the bottom of the ninth. It was Lowrie, but Jason Bay set him up perfectly with his one-out ground-rule double past a diving Willits in right. He slid safely home for the winning run and the celebration was on, the flight delayed.
And Tampa Bay likely will prove tougher to overcome than the Angels, who fell to the Red Sox for the third time in a row in a Division Series.
Nation Notes: The pain was too much for Mike Lowell. Having him attempt to play was too painful and too damaging for the Red Sox. So after a consultation with doctors on the torn labrum in Lowell’s right hip yesterday, the third baseman was removed from the American League Division Series roster. That move likely (though not certainly) signals the end of the season for the third baseman, who will head into the offseason bound for surgery. Because he was taken off the roster in the middle of the series, Lowell will also not be available for the AL Championship Series, but he could be added to the World Series roster if he were to recover in time. That seems unlikely at this point, though. Lowell was replaced with infielder Gil Velazquez, 28, who had spent 11 years in the minor leagues before finally making his major league debut in September.
It’s still code red for the Angels, but they lived to play another night, after inching by the Red Sox in 12 innings, 5-4, in Game 3 of the Division Series last night at Fenway Park.
Erick Aybar’s RBI single off of Javier Lopez was the fatal blow as Los Angeles snapped the Red Sox’ record 11-game postseason winning streak against the Angels and closed the series deficit to 2-1. The Sox still are one win away from advancing to the ALCS against either the Tampa Bay Rays or Chicago White Sox, but if they lose tonight, the series shifts back to Anaheim, Calif., for a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The Red Sox had, then wasted, their late chances. They had two on with one out and the bases loaded with two outs in the 10th against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, but the threat ended with a Jed Lowrie flyout to right. Coco Crisp reached second base in the 11th with a single and a stolen base, but Pedroia stranded him there with a groundout. And in the 12th, David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk, but Kevin Youkilis (fly ball to center), Jason Bay (strikeout) and Alex Cora (hard groundout to third) failed to get him in. Jered Weaver tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.
Prior to the 12th, the Sox bullpen pitched six scoreless innings, salvaging an off night for starter Josh Beckett, who gave up four runs on nine hits in five difficult frames. Beckett was a shell of his 2007 October self in his 2008 postseason debut. His outing was the shortest of his postseason career, and he gave up more hits than he has in any playoff game. Beckett needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning, allowing one run. The big damage came on a pair of home runs by Mike Napoli, whose two-run blast in the third tied the game at 3. His solo shot in the fifth put the Angels ahead, 4-3.
The Red Sox did tie the game in the fifth, when Youkilis doubled in Jacoby Ellsbury (double). One walk later, Angels starter Joe Saunders was out of the game. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and four walks just like his counterpart.
In the end, the Angels got a second life in their final chance. Tonight, they can put the pressure on the Sox, who do not want to go back to the West Coast. Game 1 starters Jon Lester and John Lackey will square off again tonight.
There was nothing clean, pretty or easy about it but the Red Sox held off the Angels in a 7-5 nailbiter last night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Division Series. J. Drew’s’s ninth-inning two-run home run off closer Francisco Rodriguez salvaged the night after the Red Sox wasted early 4-0 and 5-1 leads.With the series shifting to Fenway Park for Game 3 tomorrow and Game 4, if necessary, on Monday, the Red Sox hope the only reason they would have to come back to Los Angeles this year would be to face the Dodgers in a World Series. A win tomorrow would give the Sox their third straight sweep of the Angels in a Division Series.
Drew’s home run made it all possible after the Angels stormed back from their early four-run deficit, eventually tying it in the eighth on a Chone Figgins leadoff triple and Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly. David Ortiz led off the inning against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez with a double off the wall that looked as if it could have been caught by right fielder Reggie Willits. Coco Crisp, who pinch ran for Ortiz, nearly got picked off second base on a highly debatable call by second base ump Ed Rapuano. Nonetheless, after Kevin Youkilis grounded out, Drew sent his blast soaring over the wall in center.
Jonathan Papelbon collected the final six outs for the Sox and got credit for the win. Kevin Youkilis, playing third base for the banged-up Mike Lowell, made two standout defensive plays for the first two outs of the ninth inning. Playing in on Torii Hunter, Youkilis charged the bunt he thought might be coming and, picking it up bare-handed, made the off-balance throw to first before the speedy Hunter got there. The next batter, Juan Rivera, lofted a high pop-up into foul territory that appeared to be drifting into the stands but Youkilis made a last-second backhanded catch for out No. 2.
Jason Bay’s three-run home run off starter Ervin Santana in the first inning set the early tone and gave the Sox a 4-0 lead. It was Bay’s second home run in as many games, as he became the first Red Sox player to homer in each of his first two career postseason games. After Santana retired the first two batters, the Red Sox went to work. Back-to-back singles from Ortiz and Youkilis brought up Drew, who lined a double into right-center to drive in Ortiz for the first run. Then came Bay, Wednesday night’s Game 1 hero for his two-run home run, who did even better this time around.
In the fourth, Alex Cora connected for a two-out double and was driven in by the hot-hitting Jacoby Ellsbury’s double as the lead grew to 5-1. However, the early leads dwindled thanks mainly to a slow-motion collapse from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. He gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and required 108 pitches to last only five innings. He walked three, struck out five and allowed eight hits.
Reliever Hideki Okajima did not help matters when he put two runners on with no outs in the seventh and Justin Masterson eventually walked in a run to narrow the score to 5-4. Papelbon relieved Masterson after Figgins’ triple to start the eighth, and while Teixeira’s sac fly temporarily breathed life into the Angels, Drew settled matters in the top of the ninth inning.
Nation Notes: Josh Beckett, who is scheduled to speak to the media today for the first time since straining his right oblique Sept. 26, is still on target to pitch Game 3. Beckett was fine yesterday after his aggressive side session Thursday when he threw 67 pitches.
All of a sudden, it is the Angels who look mortal and ordinary, with the Sox having a brand new lease on life. The victory was the 10th postseason win in a row by the Red Sox against the Angels, tying a major league mark. Jason Bay’s two-run home run in the sixth inning off Angels starter John Lackey erased a 1-0 deficit, with the Sox adding the two insurance runs in the ninth.
Jon Lester had a superlative start, getting stronger and stronger in his seven innings. The only run allowed by the left-hander was unearned, with the Angels taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning shortly after shortstop Jed Lowrie made a fielding error. Channeling the big-game makeup and stuff of last year’s postseason ace Josh Beckett (oblique, pushed back to Game 3 for now), Lester looked every bit like a No. 1. Getting stronger as he completed his seventh inning, Lester retired the last seven batters he faced, four via strikeouts. Lester allowed six hits, walked just one and struck out seven.
Justin Masterson pitched the eighth, when the Red Sox received two shining examples of defense. Mark Teixeira led off with a blooper into shallow center field that Jacoby Ellsbury, who was playing the No. 3 hitter deep, managed to catch up to with a forward rolling dive. After Vladimir Guerrero hit a sharp single to left field, Torii Hunter blooped a ball behind first base. Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Youkilis was unable to make the catch but, after tumbling to the grass, alertly got up and made a strong throw to Mike Lowell to nab Guerrero, who was trying to go from first to third on the single.
The Sox tacked on the third and fouth runs in the ninth inning on RBI singles by Ellsbury and David Ortiz. Ellsbury reached base all five times he came up. Jonathan Paplebon closed out the win with a scoreless ninth.
Before Bay’s shot, the Bosox were 0-for-10 with runners on base, including 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. With Garret Anderson (single) on first base and two outs in the home half of the third, Guerrero hit the grounder that Lowrie was unable to handle. Ranging to his left, Lowrie bent down to field the ball, which popped in and out of his glove, allowing Guerrero to reach first and Anderson to move up. Hunter then blooped a soft single into left that scored Anderson for the 1-0 Angels lead. The error was Lowrie’s first in 155 chances and 49 games at short.
Nation Notes: Mike Timlin may have pitched his last game in the major leagues. The veteran relief pitcher said he is considering retirement, and that he will discuss the matter with his family during the off-season before making a decision.
No major news yesterday regarding Josh Beckett was good news for the Red Sox, who said the injured ace still is in line to start Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday at Fenway Park
Josh Beckett originally was scheduled to start Game 1 tomorrow night in Anaheim, Calif., but that changed when he injured his oblique muscle during a bullpen session Friday. Yesterday, before the team boarded a flight to the West Coast, Francona refused to elaborate on the right-hander’s injury but didn’t sound alarmed when discussing it.
Beckett has made a career of shining in big games, especially when October rolls around. Francona believes the player who will replace him in Game 1, Jon Lester, has a great chance of doing the same. Yesterday, Lester was named AL Pitcher of the Month for September, in which the left-hander was 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in five starts, striking out 28 and walking 13.
Lester has faced the Angels four times in his three years in the big leagues, going 1-1 with a 7.78 ERA. In his last start against LA, the 24-year-old received a no decision in an eventual 6-4 Sox loss at Fenway on April 23. Lester (16-6, 3.21 ERA) will oppose Angels ace John Lackey (12-5, 3.75) in Game 1. In Game 2 on Friday night, Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90) will face righty Ervin Santana (16-7, 3.49). And in Game 3, Beckett is in line to match up against lefty Joe Saunders (17-7, 3.41). That, of course, could all change if his injury fails to improve. Potential replacements are knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and playoff-tested Paul Byrd, both of whom made the trip to Anaheim yesterday.
Nation Notes: The Red Sox were encouraged by what they saw from third baseman Mike Lowell (right hip injury) and right fielder J.D Drew (lower back strain) during the club’s optional batting practice yesterday at Fenway Park. Both players took their cuts in the cage but neither was allowed to do any defensive work. They will both work out this afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., before Terry Francona submits his final roster for the Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow.
Details of the Red Sox’ first-round playoff series fell into place early this morning. About the only thing left unknown is who wins it.
The AL West champion Los Angels Angels will host the wild card Red Sox in the Division Series, with Game 1 set for next Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif. Game 2 will be Friday before the series moves to Fenway Park a week from tomorrow.
Last night’s 19-8 loss to the Yankees sealed the Red Sox fate and clinched the AL East for the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost to the Tigers much earlier in the evening. The Red Sox will fly to Anaheim on Monday afternoon, the day after their regular-season concludes. Depending on whether or not today’s game gets washed out by predicted rains, tomorrow’s regular-season finale could be a doubleheader.
Rains yesterday wreaked havoc with the Sox’ rotation and more today would cause it to take on a new shape as well. An unexpected band of rain forced Daisuke Matsuzaka to be scratched last night and moved into today’s starting slot in place of Josh Beckett. Beckett cannot be expected to make a full-fledged start tomorrow, since that would jeopardize his availability for Game 1 or 2 in Anaheim. A much shorter-than-usual start for Beckett might be the answer or else the club could turn to its young arms.
Matsuzaka’s scratch forced David Pauley to be the emergency starter and he was not effective at all. In just 2 innings, he allowed seven runs (six earned) and six hits. A parade of relievers followed and the Yankees’ lineup continued to feast on their offerings.
The Red Sox took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first on home runs from Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis. They were down 12-4 after four innings in a game whose start was delayed by 91 minutes and was interrupted again by rain for 38 more.
One note of concern occurred in the third inning, when Mike Lowell, who was serving as the DH, was lifted for a pinch hitter. Lowell’s hip injury flared up and for precautionary reasons, the club took him out of the game. He will be re-evaluated today.
There was absolutely no sizzle in Game 1 of what is usually a feisty and important rivalry.
What felt remarkable about the rain delay was the atmosphere felt like a final weekend game from last year if the Tampa Bay “Devil” Rays were in town, and not the Yankees.
Now the Yankees, out of postseason contention, are last year’s Devil Rays, and this year’s Rays are last year’s Yankees. The bottom line is, the here and now did not possess any of the suspense and drama that the schedule-makers hoped they might create when they put these perennial rivals down as foes for the last weekend of the season.
Nation Notes: The J.D Drew Saga continues, as Drew’s bad back isn’t close to ending. J.D knew after Thursday’s series finale against Cleveland that soreness would prevent him from playing in last night’s series opener against the Yankees, so with two days remaining in the regular season, the Red Sox are left unsure if their right fielder will be available in the postseason.
With Tampa Bay’s loss yesterday, the Red Sox retained their slim hopes to win the American League East by beating the Indians, 6-1.
Only a sweep of the Yankees and a Tigers sweep of the Rays this weekend will give the Red Sox the division and home field for the first round of the playoffs against either the Twins or White Sox. Otherwise, they’re headed to Anaheim, Calif., as the AL wild card.
The Sox cruised past the Indians behind six strong innings from Jon Lester, who took a no-hitter into the sixth before Josh Barfield led off with a double and scored on Jamey Carroll’s single. Lester finished his breakout season 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis stroked two hits apiece, with Youkilis blasting his career-best 28th home run in the seventh, which helped draw the Sox within two games of the Rays with three to play.
Nation Notes: It was one and done for J.D. Drew. Tentatively scheduled to be the designated hitter last night, Drew woke up with stiffness in his back and legs and was relegated to the bench. The Bartolo Colon saga is officially over. The Red Sox placed Colon on the restricted list, opening up a spot on the 40-man roster. The team suspended Colon without pay because he refused to pitch out of the bullpen. Colon will be a free agent in the offseason. The Sox announced their minor league awards, and the recipients were honored before last night’s game. Reliever Daniel Bard (Greenville/Portland) was the pitcher of the year; first baseman Lars Anderson (Lancaster/Portland) was offensive player of the year; outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin (Greenville) was defensive player of the year; and outfielder Wilfredo Pichardo (Gulf Coast Red Sox/Lowell) was base runner of the year. Lefthanded pitcher Manuel Rivera (Dominican Summer League) was the minor league Latin Program pitcher of the year, and first baseman Eddie Lora (DSL Sox/GCL Sox) was the Latin Program player of the year.
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