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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Scutaro's slam helps Red Sox sweep the Angels

It's time for everyone to jump back on the Boston Red Sox' bandwagon.

They're still seven games behind the Yankees and five behind the Rays for the wild card but at least now, it looks like August and September will be competitive as they went 6-4 on their West Coast trip and wrapped it up with a nice 7-3 win and a sweep of the Angels yesterday afternoon in Anaheim.

Josh Beckett (2-1) was solid in his second start back from the DL. Beckett went seven innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

In a game that both Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon were promised a day off, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings respectively.

Just before the series finale began, the Angels (52-52) found out starter Joel Pineiro was scratched with an oblique injury (which will keep him out 6-8 weeks). The Red Sox (58-44) caught a big break by facing five Angels relievers but for most of the contest, it didn't seem like they'd fully take advantage of that.

Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall hit solo homers in the second for the early 2-0 lead.

Bobby Wilson and Reggie Willits were both credited with RBI singles in the bottom of the second but they didn't deserve them since Boston fielders made mistakes on both plays. Jeremy Hermida, who is brutal in the field, hesitated on Wilson's liner to left and Hall lost Willits' pop-up in the sun.

Maicer Izturis hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give Los Angeles a momentary 3-2 lead but Kevin Youkilis tied it up with a solo homer in the seventh.

Finally, Marco Scutaro (3 hits, 2 walks, career-high five times on base) came through with one of the biggest plays of the season: he hit a grand slam off Fernando Rodney with no outs in the top of the eighth.

Eric Patterson (3 hits, run) also had a good game hitting out of the ninth spot.

Boston comes home and gets a three-game set beginning tomorrow against the sinking Tigers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lackey finally earns some of his joke contract

One thing I never understand is why people get so wrapped up with hefty contracts in sports. Yes athletes make way too much but since we don't pay them, who cares?

As soon as the Red Sox signed John Lackey last winter, everyone save for maybe him and his trophy wife and agent, knew that Boston was overpaying him. Still, if you're a big market team with one of the highest payrolls in MLB, that's the way it goes.

Without question, Lackey had predictably been a flop in his first season until his last three starts. At the time when they need him most, Lackey (10-5) has put together three great outings in a row. For him, last night's was surely the most meaningful as he returned to Anaheim and helped the Sox (57-44) 4-2 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Lackey went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

Making it even sweeter, he outdueled his former protege, Jered Weaver (9-7). The younger and more talented Weaver brother was in control for most of his night: seven innings, two runs (both earned) on two walks and eight strikeouts.

It looked likely to be another low-scoring loss for the Red Sox as the Angels took a 1-0 lead in the third on Bobby Abreu's RBI double.

Jed Lowrie (2 hits) had the play of the game as he put Boston ahead 2-1 in the seventh with a two-run double over Juan Rivera in left field.

Adrian Beltre made it 3-1 in the eighth with a crucial RBI double.

Abreu got Los Angeles back to 3-2 with a solo homer off Lackey but from there, Daniel Bard got the final two outs of the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth on nine pitches for his 24th save of the season.

Marco Scutaro (3 hits, 2 runs) scored in the ninth after an error by Howie Kendrick. Darnell McDonald (2 hits, walk, run) also had a fine night at the plate, especially considering he was a last-minute replacement for J.D. Drew, who had a strained hamstring.

Josh Beckett takes on Joel Pineiro this afternoon as the Sox try to sweep the Angels, improve to 7-0 against them this season and end this trip 6-4 (which is much better than you could have imagined a few days back).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ortiz's bombs get Red Sox off to good start in Disneyland

Last night in Anaheim, Clay Buchholz was back to his All-Star form and David Ortiz looked like the guy who won the 2010 Home Run Derby.

Buchholz (11-5) went seven innings, allowing one run on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts and Ortiz hit two home runs as Boston (56-44) won 6-3 against the Los Angeles Angels (52-50).

Dan Haren's Angels debut was a dud as he had to leave in the fifth after Kevin Youkilis' (3 hits, stolen base) line drive went off his arm. He left the game with a contusion. Haren went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

Bobby Abreu put LA up 1-0 in the first with a solo homer.

In his first game back in almost a month, Victor Martinez tied it up with an RBI single in the second inning.

Ortiz put his team in front with a solo homer in the third and then a clutch two-run shot in the eighth.

The 4-1 cushion came in handy as Scott Atchison served up a two-run bomb to Hideki Matsui (2 hits) in the eighth.

Jonathan Papelbon got the final four outs for his 23rd save of the season.

John Lackey makes his return to Angel Stadium of Anaheim tonight, facing Jered Weaver, who's leading the AL in strikeouts and is having a great season even though he somehow wasn't in the All-Star game in his home park.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Okajima lets his stinkbomb speak for itself

Just when it appeared the Red Sox were gaining a sliver of momentum, winning the first two games in Seattle, it all came crashing down as they couldn't pull out a win in Lester's gem on Saturday night and yesterday afternoon the bullpen imploded for the millionth time this season.

Seattle (39-60) won 4-2, to earn a split in a series that Boston (55-44) simply had to have. Now, the Sox are eight games behind New York (goodnight) and five behind Tampa Bay for the wild card (keep dreaming). Ugh.

Yesterday's goat was Hideki Okajima (3-3), who had another terrible outing in a terrible season for him that's been chock full of them.

Dice-K had given his team the standard six inning outing: four hits, one run (earned), five walks, four strikeouts. Typical with Matsuzaka, he pitched out of trouble well (including a bases loaded, one out jam) but his high pitch count (110) cost his team since someone other than Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon had to enter the game.

Okajima entered with no outs and a runner on first in the eighth and promptly gave up five hits for two runs (both earned). You have to believe me that none of the balls were hard hit, two were bunt hits, but that doesn't matter at all. He compounded things by screwing up one of the bunts, he fielded Casey Kotchman's (3 hits) bunt, turned to third, hesitated then threw to first. Everybody was safe.

Jose Lopez (2 hits) gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the third with an RBI single.

Kevin Youkilis (2 hits) tied it up for Boston with an RBI double in the fourth and ex-Mariner Adrian Beltre put the Red Sox ahead with an RBI single.

In the fateful eighth, Michael Saunders drove in two with a bloop single and Kotchman scored on Milton Bradley's bunt.

David Aardsma, another ex-Red Sox player, got a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save.

After a 3-4 stretch in Oakland and Seattle, the Sox wrap up their west coast trip with three in Anaheim against the Angels. Clay Buchholz takes on Joel Pineiro, former Sox bum.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lester strikes out 13 but it's not enough as Sox lose to Mariners 5-1

This is not an excuse but when you have a ton of injuries and a shitty bullpen not to mention a fraud lineup, you're susceptible to crazy games such as Thursday night at Safeco Field and last night.

In both cases, Red Sox starting pitchers carried no-hitters deep into the game and yet that didn't matter. Boston (55-43) was lucky to pull it out in 13 innings on Thursday but luck wasn't on their side last night as Jon Lester struck out a career-high 13 but that wasn't enough as the Mariners (38-60) won 5-1.

Lester (11-5) actually had a perfect game going until the sixth when Eric Patterson dropped a routine fly ball by Jack Wilson. Obviously, the next batter Michael Saunders crushed a two-run homer that the Sox never could recover from.

In the eighth, Milton Bradley tripled and then Wilson knocked him in with a suicide squeeze. When Chone Figgins decided to stop fighting his manager Don Wakamatsu and hit an RBI double, you had to know it was over. Manny Delcarmen made sure there would be no comeback as he hit Jose Lopez with the bases loaded for the Mariners' last run.

When all the damage was done, Lester went 7.2 innings and allowed four hits, five runs (four earned), one walk with 13 strikeouts.

Former Sox spot starter David Pauley has resurfaced in Seattle and he held his own against one of the game's best: 5.2 innings, five hits, one run (earned), one walk, five strikeouts.

Boston's only run came in the fourth on David Ortiz's 19th home run of the season.

The Red Sox turn to Dice-K this afternoon as they try to take the series from the Mariners. Seattle counters with lefty Doug Fister.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lackey nearly throws no-hitter, Sox almost suffer worst loss in years but end up winning in 13 innings

To nobody's surprise, John Lackey has largely been a disappointment for the Boston Red Sox so far this season.

Last night though, he was on and he nearly threw a no-hitter. Lackey went 7.2 innings before giving up a hit and left with a 6-1 lead after eight innings (2 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts). Game over right? Not so much with this car crash version of the Sox.

Boston (54-42) gave up five runs in the ninth to the awful Mariners (37-59) but somehow recovered to win 8-6 in 13 innings after Safeco Field thanks to Eric Patterson's two-run double.

Milton Bradley had walked, stolen second base, moved over on a grounder then scored in the second on a passed ball so Seattle had a 1-0 lead without a hit. It was crazy that they almost got no-hit after that.

Bill Hall gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the third with a two-run homer and David Ortiz (2 hits) drove in Marco Scutaro (2 hits, 2 RBIs) with an RBI single.

J.D. Drew added to the Red Sox tally with a two-run bomb in the sixth and Scutaro notched a solo shot in the seventh.

Manny Delcarmen completely melted down in the ninth against Seattle's pathetic lineup. Delcarmen gave up four runs (three earned), two hits and a walk; he didn't record an out.

Franklin Gutierrez cut it to 6-3 with a two-run homer and Casey Kotchman notched an RBI double. Jack Wilson grounded into a fielder's choice, allowing Bradley to score but then Hall threw away the relay to first and the tying run scored. With that, Jonathan Papelbon blew the save.

Hideki Okajima (3-2) pitched his best game of the year, getting two scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th, including wiggling out of a bases-loaded, one out jam in the 12th.

Ramon Ramirez pitched a clean 13th, with a strikeout to get his second save of the season.

So this game went from a revelation from Lackey, to the worst loss in years and then finally, an incredible win when it looked over.

Josh Beckett returns tonight and faces Jason Vargas, a quality lefty.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Will the Red Sox be toast by the trade deadline?

If you've learned anything from fantasy baseball (and hopefully I have since I currently run an obnoxious five teams), it's that when a starting pitcher returns, it always takes him at least a few starts to find his form. I don't know why hitters can seemingly adjust faster but Clay Buchholz proved this point once again yesterday afternoon.

He was at the top of his game on June 26 when he left a game in San Francisco with a strained hamstring (running the bases, don't get me started with the JV NL rules).

The Sox (53-42) desperately needed a win from him and a series victory over Oakland (48-47) but he couldn't deliver as the A's won 6-4 to take two out of the three from the free-falling Sox.

You can't blame Buchholz (10-5) for his sub par performance: 4 innings, 6 hits, 5 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts.

The A's have won seven of eight and they were able to scratch away despite an average start by Gio Gonzalez (9-6): 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts.

Adrian Beltre (3 hits, 3 RBIs, run, stolen base) continued to show why he's been the Sox MVP, keeping their patchwork lineup intact during all the lineup shuffling.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie (2 walks, hit, run, RBI) made his 2010 debut for Boston and he played well. To say the guy has been cursed with injuries and other problems (mono) would be an understatement. Hopefully he can stay healthy and get his career back on track.

Beltre gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single which knocked in Lowrie.

Buchholz had only given up three runs this season coming into yesterday but Matt Watson hit a solo shot in the second to tie it up then Jack Cust put Oakland ahead 3-1 in the third with a two-run bomb that scored Kurt Suzuki (2 hits, 2 runs).

Lowrie cut it to 3-2 A's in the fifth with an RBI single but Oakland added three in the home half of the inning. Mark Ellis had an RBI single and Rajai Davis knocked in two with his two-run single.

Beltre closed out the scoring with a two-run blast in the sixth.

Michael Wuertz had a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout for his second save of the season.

Rumors are swirling about who the Red Sox are trying to acquire: Jayson Werth, David DeJesus, Chris Snyder, relievers. Theo Epstein has to go for it now or else he can raise the white flag ala 2006 and admit this season is going nowhere fast.

Boston begins a four-game series at Safeco Field in Seattle tonight. The Mariners are one of the worst teams in baseball so realistically the Red Sox need to win at least three of these games even though it seems like they always struggle in the Pacific Northwest. The good news is that they miss King Felix who pitched last night.

John Lackey opposes Ryan Rowland-Smith tonight at 10:10 p.m. EST.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sox miss out on chance to gain a game on Yankees and Rays

With the team in a tailspin lately, the Red Sox finally seemed to be receiving some good luck after their win in Oakland on Monday night not to mention Clay Buchholz (Wednesday) and Josh Beckett (Friday) are scheduled to return to the mound for the big club this week.

All those good things were overshadowed by a bitter loss last night, 5-4 to the A's in 10 innings at the Oakland Coliseum.

Boston had 12 hits to Oakland's (47-47) but that didn't matter when Kevin Kouzmanoff singled home Daric Barton off Michael Bowden for the winning run.

The Yankees got blown out by the Angels earlier in the night and the Rays ended up losing in extra innings to the Orioles, two gifts that the Red Sox (53-41) were not able to take advantage of.

In likely his last start for a while, Tim Wakefield (6 innings, 3 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts) pitched decently but couldn't hold onto a 4-0 lead.

Kevin Youkilis gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double off Dallas Braden (4.2 innings, 10 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts), Marco Scutaro (2 hits, 2 runs) scored on the play but David Ortiz was thrown out at home. The Sox looked about to run away with it in the second as they added three more runs.

Bill Hall had an RBI single, Scutaro drove him in with a double and he scored on Darnell McDonald's (2 hits) RBI double.

The A's got it all back in the third as two scored on Jack Cust's double, Kurt Suzuki scored on a passed ball and Kouzmanoff drove in Cust with a sacrifice fly.

Bowden inherited Ramon Ramirez's (0-3) mess, it wasn't his fault Boston lost. Ramirez walked two, gave up a hit and was charged with the winning run.

Andrew Bailey (1-3) threw two scoreless innings for the win as Oakland's bullpen was just a hair better than Boston's.

Buchholz faces Gio Gonzalez this afternoon in the series finale. The Red Sox need a good start from Buchholz and a win to give them some juice heading into Seattle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teach me how to dougie Dice-K

What do I always say about Dice-K? He is the single most unpredictable player in MLB and probably professional sports. Therefore after I bashed him and Ben Sheets going into last night's series opener in Oakland, they responded by turning in a classic pitcher's duel.

It figures that one of the most exciting games of the season was a 10:05 p.m. EST start so who knows how much of Red Sox nation actually saw it, especially considering how low their television ratings are this season.

The Red Sox (53-40) started off the pivotal 10-game West Coast trip with a 2-1 win at the Oakland Coliseum. Dice-K (7-3) went 6.2 innings and allowed one earned run on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Most surprisingly, Dice-K worked quickly and efficiently and was only on 89 pitches when he got yanked in the seventh.

Ben Sheets (4-9) nearly matched him going 6.2 innings and giving up two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Daniel Bard went 1.1 scoreless innings and Jonathan Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth for his 21st save of the season. Dice-K's fine work allowed Terry Francona to skip over all the bum relievers that have been omnipresent this season.

Rajai Davis gave Oakland (46-47) a 1-0 lead in the third with a solo home run.

David Ortiz tied it up in the fourth when his sacrifice fly knocked in former A's outfielder Eric Patterson, who had tripled. Adrian Beltre (3 hits) produced the winning run with a solo shot two batters later.

In his last start before Josh Beckett returns to the rotation, Tim Wakefield goes tonight against Dallas Braden, he of the perfect game on May 9. Braden has been on the DL and also has struggled since then, he hasn't won a game since then.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rangers take 3 of 4 at Fenway, send Sox on do or die West Coast swing

Even before they acquired ace Cliff Lee, I thought the Texas Rangers were finally a legitimate threat to take the sisters of the poor AL West and more importantly, make some noise in October.

They always have a formidable lineup and this year is no exception. Now with Lee, they boast one of the most underrated and deep pitching staffs in MLB.

It's no surprise that they took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend. What's surprising is the one game they lost was the one that Lee started on Saturday night. Granted, he went nine innings and the Sox tied it in the ninth before winning in 11 innings.

Yesterday it was former closer C.J. Wilson's turn to completely shutdown to Boston (52-40) as the Rangers (53-39) won 4-2.

Wilson (8-5) went 6.2 innings, striking out a career-high 10 as he gave up one earned run on three hits with five walks.

As of today, the Red Sox are 3.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL wild card and 6.5 games behind the Yankees. The good news is that Clay Buchholz is scheduled to start Wednesday in Oakland and Josh Beckett is set to return on Friday in Seattle. The bad news is that Boston's next 10 games are on the West Coast and 20 of their next 27 are away from the friendly confines of Fenway.

They are not going to catch New York period, end of discussion. I don't think they'll catch the Rays either but that's their only hope. The A's are average, the Mariners are terrible and the Angels are OK, so even though this trip will be a test of endurance, a .500 mark is certainly reasonable.

Sox ace Jon Lester (11-4) couldn't win yesterday despite eight solid innings. He allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Possible trading chip Michael Bowden made his first appearance of 2010 for Boston and it was a good one: a clean inning with two strikeouts. Time will tell if he's a solution in the bullpen but right now, he's a better option than Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Manny Delcarmen or Dustin Richardson.

Adrian Beltre gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI double.

Texas scored two in the fourth on Nelson Cruz's (2 hits) double and an error by Beltre. The Rangers added a run in the fifth on a double steal by Elvis Andrus (3 hits) and Julio Borbon, the latter whom stole home. Finally, Ian Kinsler added an RBI single in the eighth when Andrus just beat the tag at home by Kevin Cash.

Mike Cameron hit a solo homer in the ninth off Rangers closer Nefalti Perez but he was able to work around that with two strikeouts for his 24th save of the season.

As if the 10:07 EST start time tonight in Oakland wasn't bad enough, Dice-K faces Ben Sheets. This could very likely set the record for longest game in MLB history after they faced each other earlier this season in a complete shitshow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

All-Star break? Uh yes please

The 2010 All-Star break couldn't come at a better time for the Boston Red Sox. They currently have 11 players on the disabled list (including Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, Jeremy Hermida, etc) and they all need a few days of rest.

Boston (51-37) ended the unofficial first half on a high note as they beat Toronto (44-45) 3-2 yesterday afternoon at the Rogers Centre.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-3) took advantage of some crazy shadows with the roof partially open and went six solid innings. He allowed two earned runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

Marco Scutaro, David Ortiz and Darnell McDonald provided all the offense for the Sox. After Scutaro doubled in the sixth, McDonald drove him in with a two-run bomb. Ortiz followed that with a solo homer, Boston's second back-to-back homers of the series.

Aaron Hill hit a two-run homer in the seventh to pull the Blue Jays within one but Daniel Bard (2 scoreless innings, 1 hit, 1 strikeout) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 inning, 1 hit) combined to shut the door in the last three innings.

Papelbon picked up his 20th save.

The news wasn't all good as Adrian Beltre left the game with a strained hamstring. There are reports today that he'll miss the All-Star game tomorrow night (his first) but we'll have to wait and see I guess.

Through 88 games, the Red Sox have to be considered a huge success to be only three games behind Tampa Bay (the Wild Card leader) and five games behind the Yankees, who have the best record in baseball. It is also without a doubt, the best mangering job of Terry Francona's career so far. There's been so many lineup changes and a constant carousel of minor league players coming up and Tito has done a superb job of pulling all the right strings.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Is it time for the All-Star break yet?

Yikes, this is getting ugly. With the Triple A lineups the Red Sox are forced to trot out each night, they have no chance against anyone, particularly a good team like the Rays. Boston's hand is forced too because they don't really have many trade chips and not to mention there have so many needs (middle of the lineup bat, relievers) to fill.

Last night, Tampa Bay (51-33) swept the Sox (49-36) 6-4 at Tropicana Field as David Price became the first 12-game winner in the AL (probably solidifying that he'll start the All-Star game next week).

Price (12-4) went 7.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.

Tim Wakefield fell to 3-7, lasting 5.2 innings but allowing six earned runs on four hits with six walks and three strikeouts.

Mercifully the Red Sox have an off-day today and then a three-game series in Toronto before they can regroup and hopefully return somebody next week when they start back up.

This was actually a game that Boston deserved to win but unfortunately they got in way too big a hole early. The Rays went up 2-0 in the fourth on Evan Longoria's solo homer and B.J. Upton's infield single. Tampa added three more in the fifth: Kelly Shoppach scored on a passed ball, Carlos Pena had an RBI single and a run scored on Sean Rodriguez's groundout.

David Ortiz started the ill-fated Sox comeback with an RBI double in the sixth. Carl Crawford answered with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth which turned out to be the deciding run.

Mike Cameron (3 hits) hit a solo homer in the seventh then a sacrifice fly in the ninth. That wacky Joe Maddon even had Matt Garza close out the Sox (since Rafael Soriano had worked four games in a row) and he nearly gave it away as Darnell McDonald (3 hits) hit an RBI double and Ortiz walked before Kevin Youkilis flew out to center to end it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ride it 'til the wheels fall off

If you've been paying attention to the Red Sox lately, you had to see this coming. With an unfathomable amount of injuries to key players piling up each day, the Sox were getting by with backups and scrubs but right now, it seems like the wheels are beginning to fall off.

For the second night in a row, Boston (49-35) lost to Tampa (50-33) at Tropicana Field, this time it was 3-2. After losing their way a bit, the Rays seem to have regained their step, no surprise with all the talent they possess and the Yankees continue to chug along at the top of the AL East.

Rookie Felix Doubront (1-1) did enough in his second MLB start to garner a win or at least no decision for the Red Sox but instead he was saddled with the loss. He went 5.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Rays starter Jeff Niemann improved to 7-2 with six innings of fine work: one run (unearned), four hits, three walks and five strikeouts.

Jason Bartlett gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the third with a sacrifice fly that scored John Jaso.

Boston tied it up in the fourth with an RBI infield single by Daniel Nava (2 hits).

A run scored on Jaso's groundout in the fifth and then Carl Crawford had the game's biggest hit: a solo homer off Hideki Okajima in the eighth.

Boston scratched out a run in the ninth with an RBI triple by Eric Patterson which scored Bill Hall. However, with Kevin Youkilis pulled in the fourth inning with an ankle injury and David Ortiz getting intentionally walked, Niuman Romero ended the game with a harmless groundout.

Rafael Soriano converted his 23rd save despite allowing two walks.

Marco Scutaro had two hits, a walk and a stolen base in the loss.

Tim Wakefield takes on David Price tonight as the Red Sox try to avoid the sweep and tread water in the AL East.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Same old Dice-K

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Dice K's pitch count gets way too high early, he can't hold a lead and the Sox end up losing a game they had firmly in their grasp.

I've said before that Matsuzaka is the most unpredictable player in MLB but you have to admit that he's good at racking up insane pitch counts and blowing leads.

Last night in Tampa was an especially ugly one as the Sox (49-34) led 5-1 going into the bottom of the fifth but eventually lost 6-5 to the Rays (49-33).

Dice-K went five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

One of the most frustrating parts of the loss was the fact that Boston had gotten Rays starter Matt Garza (4 earned runs, 7 hits) out after just three innings. No surprise though, Tampa's bullpen is better than Dice-K and our god-awful middle relievers (Ramon Ramirez).

The Red Sox also wasted a career night by utilityman Eric Patterson who is filling in for Dustin Pedroia. Corey Patterson's little bro had two solo homers and a double.

Carl Crawford (3 hits) put the Rays up 1-0 in the first with an RBI double.

Boston answered with four two-out runs in the top of the third. Patterson hit his first homer, Kevin Youkilis had an RBI triple, Adrian Beltre had an RBI single and Bill Hall (2 hits) had an RBI single.

After Patterson's second blast in the fourth, Boston's offense was completely silenced.

Tampa Bay scored two in the fifth on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly and Crawford scored on Kevin Cash's passed ball.

John Jaso tied it up with a two-run single in the sixth and Jason Bartlett produced the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Rafael Soriano (who somehow didn't make the All-Star team even though he's 22 of 23 on save chances) worked the ninth for the save.

Felix Doubrant gets his second start for Boston tonight against Jeff Niemmann. Coupled with a Yankees win last night in Oakland, the Red Sox are 2.5 games behind New York and half a game behind Tampa Bay. They can't afford a slide going into the All-Star break even though they're completely decimated by injuries.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Baltimore still has a baseball team?

Before yesterday's game vs. the Orioles (the 82nd game of the 2010 season, ie. the start of the second half), six Red Sox were named to the AL all-star team: Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Kevin Youkilis is also one of five candidates for the last spot, online voting ends Thursday. Pedroia and V-Mart won't be playing in the All-Star game due to their injuries.

That news far overshadowed the actual game which was a sun-soaked dirty diaper. Baltimore (25-56) avoided the sweep with a 6-1 win over Boston (49-33). If they had won and the Yankees lost, the Sox would have jumped into first place in the AL East. Instead, they're 1.5 games back of New York and half a game ahead of Tampa Bay.

The Orioles victory was all thanks young lefty Brian Matusz. My buddy works for the Bowie BaySox, Baltimore's Double A team and he has raved about Matusz since he was called up last season. He improved to 3-9 with seven shutout innings. He allowed two hits, walked three and struck out eight.

John Lackey (9-4) started out well but his defense and lack of offense behind him was his undoing. He went 7.1 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

It was scoreless until the fourth when Nick Markakis (3 hits, 2 runs) scored on Lackey's wild pitch. Scott Moore added an RBI single in the frame.

Baltimore scored two more in the eighth thanks to Marco Scutaro's throwing error and a sacrifice fly by Adam Jones.

When Julio Lugo is hitting RBI triples you know its over and that's exactly what happened in the ninth for the O's. Markakis padded his stats with an RBI single.

Boston finally got on the board in the bottom of the ninth as Youk hit a solo homer over the Monster. It was one of only three hits on the day for the Sox, Beltre had a double.

The Red Sox hit the road for three in Tampa Bay starting tonight then three north of the border in Toronto.

Dice-K takes on Matt Garza tonight at 7:10 p.m.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sox bullpen is a complete mess

It's a familiar complaint by fans of pretty much any MLB team: we don't have enough arms in the bullpen.

However, the Red Sox (47-32) are in a serious crisis mode with their bullpen in 2010 because Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez all have ERAs over 4.5 and they are struggling with a capital S.

The Tampa Bay Rays (45-32) salvaged a game at Fenway Park last night with a 9-4 win as they scored six runs in the eighth off Delcarmen and Ramirez.

All told, Dice-K gave Boston a good start by his low standards. He walked the bases loaded in the first but obviously got out of it. He went six innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.

Matt Garza (9-5) continued his mastery of the Sox as he gave his team the solid outing that desperately needed: seven innings, three earned runs on six hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

Tampa went up 3-0 in the fourth on a two-run double by Kelly Shoppach and an RBI single by Ben Zobrist.

David Ortiz cut it to 3-1 in the sixth with an RBI double which scored new guy Eric Patterson.

The Rays clinched this one with the six runs in the eighth. Carlos Pena hit an RBI double, Sean Rodriguez had a two-run single and Jason Bartlett hit a three-run bomb off Ramirez and into the Monster seats.

Ortiz fueled a minor comeback in the eighth with a two-run double and Adrian Beltre drove in the other run with a long sacrifice fly. That was one of at least three or four deep fly balls the Red Sox hit to the warning track.

The Fourth of July is always a big deal in Boston and the Sox will be home with the Orioles playing the role of jobber for what should be some big holiday weekend crowds.

The Red Sox are off tonight and then they get things started against the hapless O's tomorrow night.