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Friday, July 31, 2009

Ortiz did steroids; and this is a surprise?

You gotta love baseball and its never-ending witch hunt involving steroids.

The latest chapter hit home yesterday as David Ortiz's name (along with Manny Ramirez) was supposedly on the list of 104 players who failed PED tests in 2003.

This whole saga is too frustrating to put into words but I'll leave it at this: the fact that Ortiz was implicated is completely predictable and it's further proof that baseball can't have it both ways. They rode the popularity of sluggers in the late 90s and early millennium but now old sports writers and MLB get all self-righteous and start questioning the integrity of a game that they completely turned a blind eye to.

The average fan doesn't care what happened six years ago. We live in the moment. If they test positive today that's a different story but can't we all accept that most of the big stars have used at some point and move on? The endless leaking of names is a joke.

Of course on such a big day, Ortiz stepped up in Boston's game as he smacked a three-run homer in the seventh that put the Red Sox up 6-5 en route to an 8-5 win in the series finale vs. the Oakland Athletics.

As I said yesterday, it was almost a must-win and given the result, it could be one of the turning points of the season.

Jon Lester cruised through the first five innings with Boston (59-42) nursing a 1-0 lead but he ran into trouble in the sixth as Oakland (43-58) scored four runs.

Jason Varitek (3 hits, 3 RBIs, run) had singled home the Sox' first run in the second inning. Mike Lowell's lucky RBI double (a pop-up that fell in between first and right field and then bounced into the stands) and another Varitek RBI single cut the A's lead to 4-3.

Tommy Everidge gave Oakland a 5-3 lead in the seventh with an RBI single but that just set the stage for Ortiz's heroic moment.

In the eighth, Boston tacked on two insurance runs as Varitek knocked in J.D. Drew with a double and Jacoby Ellsbury added a sacrifice fly.

Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 26th save in the ninth.

Today is one of the most interesting days in baseball every year, the trade deadline. The Sox have made a big splash in 2004 (trading Nomar) and last year (trading Manny for Jason Bay) and this year, there's rumors of Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez or Roy Halladay coming to Boston.

The Red Sox have the young prospects to make a blockbuster deal and as they've shown, they're not afraid to pull the trigger.

Boston opens up a weekend series in Baltimore tonight before heading off for Tampa Bay and finally New York. The Ortiz steroid saga is only beginning and he will face much different treatment away from the pink hats and homers of Red Sox Nation.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Where did it all go wrong?

I can't say I saw this one coming. The Boston Red Sox are completely falling apart and in any given game, either their pitching or hitting is terrible. They can't put both parts together in the same contest anymore. Or so it seems.

Once again, they lost to the Oakland A's, 8-6 last night at Fenway as the Yankees won their series in Tampa.

Brad Penny (7-5) gave up five runs in the first inning and though the Sox (58-42) made a decent comeback attempt, it fell short.

Adam Kennedy hit the first pitch of the game over the Monster as the A's (43-57) took a 1-0 lead. It got much worse as a run came home on Ryan Sweeney's groundout then Rajai Davis had a three-run double.

Mike Lowell (2 hits, 5 RBIs), one of Boston's only hot hitters, cut the Oakland lead to two when he hit a three-run bomb in the first.

Penny settled down for a couple innings but he later gave up a solo homer to Kurt Suzuki (2 runs, 2 hits) in the fifth. He threw 100 pitches in five plus innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Justin Masterson relieved Penny and gave up a two-run double to Eric Patterson in the sixth that put the game out of reach (8-3 Oakland).

The rotation which was one of the Red Sox's biggest strengths has now become woefully imbalanced. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are aces but Penny, John Smoltz and Clay Buchholz are pretty useless. Dice-K is fighting with the Sox over training methods and Tim Wakefield is on the DL. Ugh.

Boston chipped away with single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth. Dustin Pedroia's (2 hits, RBI) groundout drove in Jacoby Ellsbury (3 runs, 2 hits, steal). Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly scored Jason Bay and finally, Lowell got an RBI single off A's closer Andrew Bailey.

For the second time in a month, A's starter Brett Anderson (6-8) won at Fenway. This outing wasn't nearly as dominant but it was still a win. He went six innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.

Despite allowing a run on three hits, Bailey struck out two and recorded his 13th save.

I don't believe in must-win games in July but this afternoon's series finale is mighty close to that for the Red Sox. It's Gio Gonzalez vs. Jon Lester and Boston needs to win to gain some semblance of momentum. Losing three of four to the A's at home would be a real bad sign.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The one that got away

With the Yankees playing out of their minds for the last month, the chances for the Red Sox to gain ground on them (especially now that they're in second) have been few and far between.

Coupled with the fact that Boston (58-41) was playing a crappy team (the Oakland A's) at Fenway, last night's loss was one of the more disappointing setbacks of the season.

The Sox were up 7-4 going into the ninth but a meltdown by Nick Green (two errors) and the bullpen led to a 9-8 Oakland (42-57) win in 11 innings.

Before the game, Jim Rice's #14 was retired and put up on the right field awning with the other retired numbers.

Clay Buchholz (5.2 innings, 2 runs, 9 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts) left with a 5-2 lead but the Red Sox bullpen (which hadn't allowed a run in 24 innings) completely imploded against a terrible offense.

The Athletics banged out a season-high 21 hits. Adam Kennedy (5 hits, 3 RBIs), Mark Ellis (4 runs, 4 hits, RBI, steal), Orlando Cabrera (3 hits) and Rajai Davis (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run, steal) were the biggest stars for Oakland.

Another aspect that the loss overshadowed was the Red Sox' offense coming through with 14 hits of its own. J.D. Drew (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI), Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 RBIs, run), Mike Lowell (2 hits, 2 RBIs) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, run, RBI, steal) all had strong performances.

Brett Anderson takes on Brad Penny tonight.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm sure Adam LaRoche will turn everything around

The Red Sox finished a terrible post-All-Star game road trip in fitting fashion last night, with a 3-1 loss to Texas, giving the Rangers the sweep.

Boston (55-39) has now lost a season-high five games in a row and they're two games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Vincente Padilla was scratched before the game and Texas (52-41) was forced to start Dustin Nippert. If you know anything about the Sox in the last decade, they can solve most top of the rotation starters but for some reason they often struggle against journeymen and young guys.

Nick Green gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the third with a solo homer.

In his second start of the season, Clay Buchholz (1-1) worked slowly and didn't have his A stuff. Your favorite laptop stealer lasted four innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

Nippert (2-0) as expected, baffled the Sox and got the win. He went 5.2 innings, allowing a run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Fantasy stud Ian Kinsler improved on his 20-20 season with a solo homer (his 23rd) in the third and a steal (his 21st). Believe it or not, the Rangers also beat the Red Sox using small ball. George W. Bush is rolling over in his grave!

In the fourth, Taylor Teagarden's groundout scored a run then Elvis Andrus' squeeze scored former Sox great David Murphy.

The bigger news of the day, considering the shitty on-field performance, was that Boston acquired Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche for two no-name prospects (that I'm too lazy to look up) and the Cardinals traded Chris Duncan for Julio Lugo.

Neither guy is going to change the pennant race but LaRoche allows the Red Sox to rest Mike Lowell more when necessary and he gives them another option against righties. He also has a history of stronger second halves.

As for Duncan, he's starting out in Pawtucket so who knows when (if ever) he'll be called up to the big club but the fact that Lugo was traded for another human being is mind-blowing.

Mercifully, Boston flew home last night and have today off before starting a series tomorrow against the Baltimore Orioles.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Red Sox forget how to score runs, win baseball games

Ok, what gives? Since returning from the All-Star break, the Boston Red Sox have been terrible. They lost their fourth game in a row (first time that's happened in a year) last night, 4-2 to the host Texas Rangers.

For the most part, the pitching has been fine, it's the lack of timely hitting that's become an epidemic for the slumping Sox (55-38). To make matters worse, the Yankees are on fire and with their win last night, they took over first place in the AL East.

Hank Blalock gave Texas (51-41) a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-run single off Josh Beckett.

Kevin Youkilis cut it to 2-1 with an RBI double in the sixth which scored Dustin Pedroia.

The Rangers couldn't do much against Beckett after the first inning but they kept chipping away and David Murphy had a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Josh Hamilton singled home Michael Young in the eighth.

Beckett (11-4) went all eight innings for Boston, giving up four earned runs on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

Rangers youngster Tommy Hunter (2-1) went 6.1 innings, allowing only one earned run on four hits. He walked one and struck out two.

The Sox got one in the ninth off Rangers closer C.J. Wilson as Mike Lowell singled home Jason Bay (3 walks) but if you were watching the game, you knew there was zero chance they were coming back.

Wilson walked one and struck out one for his ninth save of the season.

Tim Wakefield went on the DL yesterday with a back strain, meaning Clay Buchholz is back up already and will pitch the series finale tonight. Let's hope the Texas native has better luck than Beckett did.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What about John Smoltz?

After losing 6-3 to the Texas Rangers last night at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the Boston Red Sox have to ask themselves, how much longer do they let the John Smoltz experiment play out?

He actually cruised through the first five innings last night and entered the bottom of the sixth with a 2-1 lead. As fast as you can say, deep in the heart of Texas, his outing was over as the Rangers (50-41) exploded for five runs in the inning, including three home runs.

Michael Young (3 hits, 2 runs; captain of the All-Underrated team) started it off with a solo bomb to left center. Hank Blalock (2 hits, 2 runs) singled home Josh Hamilton and then former Sox outfielder David Murphy (2 hits) golfed a fastball for a two-run homer. Finally, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who the Sox desperately wanted over the winter) hit the first pitch he saw out of the park.

Smoltz's (1-3) final line was 5.2 innings, six earned runs on nine hits with five strikeouts. Terry Francona seemed to leave him in too long but then again his pitch count was still low and he had been great up until then.

With Clay Buchholz pitching great in Pawtucket (and good enough last Friday vs. Toronto), I have to think that Smoltz has a short leash. He's had a Hall of Fame career and from all reports, he's a nice veteran presence to have around but this isn't a Hollywood movie, it's a pennant race. The Red Sox can't afford to have Smoltz (and Brad Penny) being such liabilities as the season turns to August and September.

Boston (55-37) took a 1-0 lead in the first on David Ortiz's RBI double which scored Kevin Youkilis. Like Friday night in Toronto, Ortiz just missed a homer as his shot glanced off the top of the wall.

Jason Varitek made it 2-0 Sox in the fourth with an RBI double scoring J.D. Drew. Unfortunately, Mike Lowell was gunned down at the plate on the same play.

Kevin Millwood (9-7) prevailed in the battle of former Braves pitchers. He went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Youk knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI single in the eighth but the Red Sox offense continued to sputter in the team's third straight loss. Ellsbury was moved back to the top of the lineup but Jason Bay, Varitek, Drew and Nick Green are all in big time slumps at the same time.

C.J. Wilson notched his eighth save for Texas as he got four outs including two strikeouts.

Texas native Josh Beckett looks to get his team back on track tonight.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Please trade this guy to a contender, just not in the American League

After being in the middle of constant trade rumors for weeks, you'd think that maybe Roy Halladay would be a tad distracted. Maybe not.

The Blue Jays ace stifled the Red Sox (55-36) yesterday as Toronto (46-47) won 3-1 at the Rogers Centre to take the weekend series.

It might be the timing-the dead of summer-but Halladay has been talked about endlessly by various baseball writers and national media. After spending his whole career in Toronto, he deserves to experience playoff baseball, something that the Blue Jays likely won't sniff for a while since they're in the same division as Boston, the Yankees and Rays.

The Phillies have been the most consistently mentioned suitor and if Philadelphia could acquire Halladay, I think it would make them the favorites to come out of the National League. That's how good this guy is; he's probably a nose ahead of Tim Lincecum for the title of best pitcher just because he's a veteran that's been around longer. I just hope he doesn't end up somewhere else in the AL.

He improved to 11-3 with a complete game gem. He allowed one run on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Jon Lester (8-7) matched him for a while but he didn't get any help from the Sox' dead bats. Lester went seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts.

David Ortiz knocked in Dustin Pedroia in the first for Boston's only run. They couldn't make anything else happen for the rest of the game and they resorted to something completely out of character-swinging at first pitches-as the innings dragged on.

Rod Barajas provided all the offense for the Blue Jays. He had a two-run bloop double in the second and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Boston flew to Texas after yesterday's contest and will play three against the surprising Rangers. Fresh off a sweep of the Tigers, the Yankees sit just one game back of the Red Sox entering tonight.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How does Bruce Chen keep finding work?

The Boston Red Sox (54-34) ended the first half of the 2009 regular season yesterday on a high note as they blanked the Kansas City Royals (37-51), 6-0 at Fenway.

Coupled with the Angels sweep of the Yankees, Boston is now three games up on New York in the AL East going into the All-Star break.

Sox ace Josh Beckett (11-3) pitched a three-hit shutout, making it a very memorable 100th career win. He didn't walk anybody, struck out seven and only needed 94 pitches to get through Kansas City's sorry lineup.

Rookie Aaron Bates had a huge day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run and an RBI. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Rocco Baldelli each added two hits. Red Sox hitters walked nine teams as Royals starter Bruce Chen and a host of pathetic relievers, couldn't throw strikes. Jason Bay walked three times and was hit by a pitch twice.

Youkilis started the scoring with an RBI single in the first. Boston added three in the fourth as Bates doubled home Nick Green (3 walks, 2 runs), Bates scored on David Ortiz's groundout and Jason Varitek walked with the bases loaded.

Baldelli plated the final run with an RBI double in the eighth which scored Ortiz.

Pedroia is sitting out the All-Star game to be with his pregnant wife but Youk, Beckett, Bay and Jonathan Papelbon all headed to St. Louis for the All-Star festivities. The Red Sox return to action Friday night for a three-game series in Toronto.

The first half has to be considered a big success for Boston as they find themselves with the best record in the American League, in the toughest division in baseball. At various times, their hitting, relief and starting pitching has carried them. Boston is one of baseball's deepest and most talented teams. There's no reason they shouldn't be playing deep into October this season.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hammer don't hurt 'em!

Aside from the fact that the Kansas City Royals were involved, last night's game at Fenway had all the trappings of a playoff classic.

Jon Lester and Brian Bannister dueled for seven scoreless innings before Boston was able to push a run across in the eighth. That was all the Sox (52-34) would need as they won 1-0.

Bannister (6-7) lasted 7.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.

Lester (8-6) continued his stretch of lights out pitching with eight scoreless frames. He gave up four hits, walked two and struck out eight.

Mark Teahan was the only Royal (37-49) who could solve Lester. Teahan had three of his team's four hits for the game.

Mark Kotsay started the eighth inning rally for the Sox with a single. Aaron Bates pinch ran for him and Nick Green bunted him to second (with two strikes!). After Bates moved up on a passed ball, Dustin Pedroia came through in the clutch with a rope double off the Monster.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of last night was that Jonathan Papelbon had his best outing of the season. He got a 1-2-3 ninth (something he's been allergic to this season) with a strikeout. It only took him 11 pitches and he was hitting 97 on the juiced NESN gun.

John Smoltz looks for his first Red Sox win tonight.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Poppa, love it when you call me Big Poppa

David Ortiz's horrible April and May seem like a distant memory, no? Big Papi continued to find his stroke as we continue to get deeper into the summer.

Last night, he blasted a three-run bomb and also drove in a run with a groundout as Boston (51-33) beat Oakland (35-48), 5-4 to take the three-game series at Fenway.

Tim Wakefield continued his remarkable season as he picked up his AL-leading 11th win with a classic Wakefield outing. In six innings of work, he gave up 10 hits but only three runs as he walked one and struck out a season-high eight.

Jonathan Papelbon labored through 30 pitches (in only the ninth) to get his 22nd save. He allowed a run on two hits with a walk but he struck out two including Jack Cust (3 hits) to end the game.

Cust had given the A's a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI single.

In the sixth, J.D. Drew hit a solo homer and three batters later, Ortiz provided a vintage Papi swing.

Kurt Suzuki (3 hits), who should have been Oakland's All-Star representative instead of Andrew Bailey, cut it to 4-3 with a two-run single in the seventh.

Ortiz's groundout in the seventh gave Boston the two-run cushion that Papelbon would desperately need.

Scott Hairston crushed a ball to center in the ninth with two guys on but Jacoby Ellsbury caught it near the wall in center and it was only a long sacrifice fly.

The still hapless Kansas City Royals come to Fenway tonight for a four-game set that wraps up the first half of the season. The Red Sox lucked out that Royals ace (and probable AL All-star starter) Zach Greinke pitched last night so they'll miss him this time around.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm in the club howling "A Bay Bay, A Bay Bay"

After their bats slept through Monday night's game, the Red Sox woke up last night and beat the A's 5-2 behind their All-Star contingent.

Josh Beckett (10-3) joined teammate Tim Wakefield in the 10-win club. Beckett went 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

Jason Bay broke out of his slump with a double, homer, two runs scored, a walk and two steals. Dustin Pedroia, who missed Monday night's game to be with his wife in the hospital (she's about to give birth), returned last night with an RBI single and walk.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up one hit but still struck out the side in the ninth for his 21st save of the season.

Oakland (35-47) took a 1-0 lead in the first when Scott Hairston hit a solo home run off Beckett.

Boston (50-33) took a 2-1 lead in the second on Bay's homer (a bomb to the light tower in center) and a run came home when Nick Green grounded into a double play.

In the third, Jason Varitek (2 hits) plated two runs with a single.

Adam Kennedy cut it to 4-2 Boston in the fifth with an RBI double but Pedroia drove in the last run with the single in the sixth.

The Red Sox look to take the rubber game of the series tonight with Wakefield getting the start.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Pink Hats respond appropriately to a legend's return

If you are a male, around my age (25) that grew up in New England, odds are your favorite baseball player was Nomar Garciaparra. He was a lethal hitter, a slick fielder and a guy that played the game the right way (ie. hustling 24/7) as the old timers like to say.

He was an AL rookie of the year, a five-time All-Star, a two-time batting champion, MVP runner-up and yet since he left the Red Sox his career took a complete U-Turn that few would have ever imagined. Injuries have limited him to a role player and he can't seem to ever stay off the DL.

His path to Cooperstown which seemed inevitable now seems impossible at age 35. Since the Sox made the stunning trade in 2004 and Nomar went to the Cubs, he's bounced from Chicago to LA and finally Oakland.

It's hard to believe that A) it's been five years since the face of the franchise was traded (I remember exactly where I was when I heard that unbelievable news) and B) that he hadn't returned to Fenway again until last night.

Such was the backdrop of last night's Red Sox-A's game. I'm sure Kevin Costner has already bought the rights to some whimsy script about the emotional event.

When Nomar came to the plate in the top of the second against John Smoltz, he received the longest standing ovation I can remember at Fenway. It must have lasted over a minute. It was truly a goosebumps inducing moment.

That was about the only memorable thing from last night as the A's (35-46) completely shutdown the Red Sox (49-33), 6-0 behind the outstanding pitching of rookie Brett Anderson.

In the best game pitched against Boston so far this season, Anderson threw a complete game, two-hitter. He walked two and struck out nine.

To much less fanfare than Nomar, Smoltz was making his Fenway debut in a new uniform and it wasn't a good one. In six innings of work, he gave up five runs on ten hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Nomar (2 hits) actually produced the first run with an RBI single in the fourth. Mark Ellis (2 hits) added a two-run double in the frame and Adam Kennedy (3 hits, 2 RBIs) scored Ellis with an RBI single.

Kennedy made it 5-0 with an RBI single in the sixth which scored newly-acquired Scott Hairston.

Another old friend, Orlando Cabrera (who should have never left) hit a solo homer in the ninth of Takashi Saito.

If the game happens tonight (it's pouring at the moment), Josh Beckett will take the mound for Boston.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yeah, Hell Yeah

It might be a pain in the ass to buy tickets and get in and out of the city but on a sunny summer day, there's few places in the world I'd rather be than at Fenway Park.

I was reminded of this fact yesterday as my parents, buddy and myself took in the series finale of the Sox-Mariners series. It was my first Red Sox game in two years.

Boston (49-32) won 8-4 but what I'll remember most when I look back on yesterday is a specific moment that had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

In the middle of the third inning, as the Mariners (42-39) took the field, the Red Sox PA announcer read off the six players that made the 2009 All-Star game. We had missed the announcement show since we were en route to Fenway at the time.

Jason Bay, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis were all expected to be All-Stars but they saved the most deserving choice for last: Tim Wakefield. In his 17th season in MLB, the knuckleballer made his first All-Star team. He got a standing ovation and on the jumbotron in center, they showed him in the dugout. It was a wonderful moment.

After losing the first two games of the series, Boston really needed yesterday's contest, especially considering that the Yankees were only a game behind.

A diverse offense and stellar relief gave the Sox a much-deserved win.

Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 runs) and David Ortiz (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) gave Boston an early 2-0 lead as they both hit solo homers in the first off Seattle starter Brandon Morrow.

The Mariners took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on Ronnie Cedeno's bases-clearing triple. Ryan Langerhans made it 4-2 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly.

Red Sox starter Jon Lester threw a season-high 122 pitches to get through 6.2 innings. He gave up four runs (one earned) on eight hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 runs, 2 RBIs) cut the deficit to one (4-3 Seattle) as he smacked another solo homer in the sixth inning.

Boston finally delivered some hits with men on base in the seventh, to the tune of five runs.

On a 3-0 pitch, Ortiz tied it with an RBI single. Ellsbury walked with the bases loaded and then Mark Kotsay had a clutch, two-run single. Ellsbury scored the final run on a passed ball.

Justin Masterson (1.1 innings, 3 strikeouts) and Hideki Okajima (clean ninth inning) didn't allow any baserunners and also saved Papelbon from making an appearance.

The Oakland A's come to Boston for three games and then the Kansas City Royals wrap up the first half with a four-game set at Fenway. These are very winnable series for the Red Sox, they need to take advantage of this break in the schedule before the All-Star game.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Major League Baseball: where yesterday doesn't mean shit

I'll be the first to admit that Major League Baseball's season is way too long, the games are usually pretty boring and the whole organization is run with an idiocy that rivals the last Bush administration. Haha, with those barbs out of the way, I will also say that one of the reasons I have always stuck by baseball is because it delivers so many thrills and moments that you cherish if you're lucky enough to witness them as they unfold.

After the worst loss of the season (thus far), the Boston Red Sox regrouped yesterday in Baltimore for one of its most rewarding wins of the season, 6-5 in the series finale.

Orioles (35-43) rookie Brad Bergesen completely kept the Sox off-balance for eight innings and departed with a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead.

Wouldn't you know, Boston (48-30) tied it up with four in the ninth (two-run homer by Kevin Youkilis and two-run single by Rocco Baldelli), and won it going away with an RBI single by Julio Lugo in the 11th.

Oh and Jonathan Papelbon set a Red Sox record with his 133rd save of the season. So just another day at the office.

I predicted that Josh Beckett would be the stopper for Boston that he usually is and through the first four innings yesterday afternoon, I was not even close.

The Orioles scored a run in the first, run in the second, two in the third and one in the fourth to take a 5-1 lead. Even when he's not on top of his game, Beckett can still find it in the midst of a subpar start. In the fifth-seventh innings (when the Sox just needed stability), Beckett set down Baltimore three times in a row, in order.

In seven innings, he gave up five runs on six hits, with two walks and five strikeouts. He didn't factor into the decision and neither did Bergesen which is a joke. The rookie gave up one run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

Losing yesterday would have been bad for the Sox, especially with the Yankees (seven straight wins; 2.5 games back) and Rays (8-2 in their last 10; 5 back) breathing down their backs.

With an off-day today back in Boston, the Sox can relax (assuming their mansions aren't floating away in the rain) in preparation of the Seattle Mariners who come to Fenway for the holiday weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sorry, I just puked a little in my mouth

When you look up what the fuck in your baseball dictionary (Red Sox edition), chances are a picture of last night's game in Baltimore will be front and center.

It had a little bit of everything: a rain delay, a historical comeback and a bullpen implosion which all added up to the worst loss of the season for the Red Sox, 11-10.

Behind John Smoltz and a locked in offense, Boston (47-30) led 9-1 in the top of the fifth when the rains came. After a delay of an hour and 11 minutes, the game restarted.

The Sox actually pushed across another run in the seventh to go up 10-1 before the O's (35-42) scored five in the seventh and five in the eighth against the best bullpen (statistically) in baseball. It tied for the second-worst loss in Red Sox history, in terms of largest lead blown.

Smoltz deserved better. He cruised through four innings, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts. He only threw 52 pitches so he looked poised to record his first win for Boston.

Rich Hill didn't stand a chance against the Red Sox' lineup. He gave up nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 3.1 innings. He walked three and struck out three in what might be his final start for Baltimore.

Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the first as he hit a two-run shot to center just out of the reach of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. On Monday, Jones had robbed Youkilis of another home run and it looked like he caught the ball last night, but after running into the wall he dropped his glove over the wall. He was shaken up and left the game after the second inning.

Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 3 RBIs, steal) increased the Red Sox lead to 4-0 in the second with a two-run double.

Felix Pie (2 hits, 2 RBIs) replaced Jones and delivered an RBI triple in the bottom of the second to make it 4-1 Boston.

It looked like it was going to be a laugher as the Red Sox scored five more runs in the fourth. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 2 RBIs) crushed a solo homer to right center, Youkilis had an RBI double, David Ortiz added an RBI single, Jason Varitek pretended to be hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Ellsbury closed it out with an RBI single.

Pedroia produced the Sox' last run with an RBI single in the seventh which scored Jeff Bailey (3 hits, 3 runs).

After two scoreless innings (with five strikeouts), Justin Masterson was knocked around big time in the seventh. Luke Scott hit an RBI double, Oscar Salazar (2 hits) hit a pinch hit, three-run bomb and Pie closed it to 10-6 with an RBI single.

Manny Delcarmen settled things down and got the final two outs of the seventh but Hideki Okajima was also completely ineffective, giving up four runs on five hits.

Orioles rookie Matt Wieters had an RBI single, Ty Wigginton hit a sac. fly, Brian Roberts hit an RBI single and finally, against Jonathan Papelbon, Nick Markakis (2 hits) hit a two-run double to the gap in left center.

Papelbon came in (after Takashi Saito) and was trying to get a five-out save, with runners on first and second in the eighth.

Boston couldn't do much in the ninth vs. Orioles closer George Sherill. Bailey led off with a single and Youk was hit by a pitch with two outs but Sherill got Jason Bay to strikeout for the third out and his 17th save of the season.

There's no question that this was a terrible loss that could stick with the Red Sox for a while but the good news is that they get right back at it this afternoon with their ace Josh Beckett on the mound in the series finale.