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Archive for September, 2011

Red Sox Lose to Orioles 4-3 Rays Win, It’s All Over

The Baltimore Orioles came from behind once again to beat the Red Sox last night at Camden Yards and Tampa Bay had to overcome a 7-0 lead by the Yankees to win the Wild Card. This was a shocker because the Red Sox had John Papelbon pitching in the ninth with a one run lead.

He threw a 95 mph fastball past the first two hitters, striking both out, and it looked as though the game was in the bag. Before you could blink an eye Chris Davis hit a double down the right field line and the next hitter, Nolan Reimold, hit a gapper to right center to tie the game. This brought up Robert Andino who hit Papelbon for an RBI double in Boston a few weeks ago to win that game. Here he was again facing Papelbon with the winning run on second base and, sure enough, he gets the base hit to left field to win the game for the Orioles and end the season for the Red Sox.

This loss is a big disappointment for all Red Sox fans but the Tampa Bay Rays had a great September coupled with a terrible September by the Red Sox who gave them the opportunity to win the Wild Card race. They took advantage of that opportunity. This last game against the Yankees proved how much heart they have. Overcoming a 7-0 lead in a must-win situation is commendable no matter who you’re playing against. I have to give them credit for their character and perseverance.
 
On the other hand, the Red Sox organization will have to live with this disappointment and think about what they will do to improve this ball club for next year. My guess is there will be some players who will not return next year and they will make some additions to solidify areas of weakness. In my opinion, they need more starting pitchers and a right handed power bat that can play right field. I’m sure GM Theo Epstein will be looking at the free agents who are available or will make a deal or two before spring training. Will they sign Big Papi? Will Papelbon be back? What’s to happen with Scutaro? Who will be the back-up catcher? Lots of these questions will be answered in the off season.

 Right now the big question is what happened to the 2011 Red Sox?

Sox and Rays Win – Stay Tied With One To Go

The Red Sox got the win they needed last night in Baltimore by a score of 8-7 but the Tampa Bay Rays also won their game with the Yankees in a come-from-behind victory 5-3. So now it comes down to the last day of the season. How exciting you say. Another scenario like the 1967 Red Sox having to win the last two games against the Minnesota Twins to get into the World Series. This, of course, is a completely different story. This is for a Wild Card win and far from getting to a World Series but no less crucial.

The win last night in Baltimore was big. Who would be the player to step up and get this team out of the valley of doom? Big Papi? Gonzalez? Pedroia? Nope, none of them. It was a rookie catcher by the name of Ryan Lavarnway who got the call from manager Terry Francona because Saltalamacchia and Veritek are injured and could not play.

All the rookie did in this game was hit two homeruns, one with two men on and the other a solo shot which proved to be the winning run. Both were to left field. He also did a very good job behind the plate both receiving and calling the game. His four RBI turned out to be critical because Baltimore hitters almost came back to win the game in the eighth and ninth innings. Ellsbury and Scutaro also hit homeruns which proved to be important as well.

Eric Bedard started the game for the Sox and gave up a run in the first inning. By the time he got to the fourth inning he seemed to run out of gas giving up a two run homerun to Oriole catcher Matt Weiters. Believe it or not I would rather have Lackey as my number three starter than Bedard. He’s shown nothing out there that would make me think he could win a ballgame for the Red Sox. Fortunately in this ballgame the Sox had enough runs for the win because Bard was very shaky giving up two runs in the eighth. Papelbon started the ninth and was also shaky but closed the game out with the winning run at the plate.
 
I think it will be tough for Tampa Bay to beat the Yankees three games in a row. The Red Sox must win, of course. Lester will be starting with three day’s rest. If the bats stay hot and Lester steps up there’s a chance the Sox will make it. The pressure is on this team now more than anytime during this season. Everyone expected this team to be playing in a World Series this year but here they are fighting for their Wild Card lives. Go Sox!

Red Sox Lose to Orioles Now Tied With Rays

Putting it plain and simple, the Red Sox lost to the Orioles last night in Baltimore 6-3 and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees in St. Pete 5-2. With that combination the two teams are now tied for the Wild Card race in the American League. The question now is can the Red Sox beat the Orioles at least one of their last two games and can the Yankees win two in a row against the Rays? The answer to that question is yes and yes. Should both teams win their remaining games they would have to play a one game playoff to see who wins the Wild Card. A flip of the coin is usually determines whose home park the game will be played.

It’s amazing how well the Orioles have played against the Red Sox the past two series. You’d think they were the 1966 Champion Orioles instead of a last place club that has the worst pitching in the division. After a fourteen inning must win game against the Yankees Sunday night in New York and a very late arrival into Baltimore Monday morning you would think the Red Sox players would be drained both physically and mentally for their first game of this three game series. But they weren’t. They just couldn’t score enough runs

You had to feel pretty good with Josh Beckett starting and Tommy Hunter starting for Baltimore. Beckett looked good the first four innings giving up only a solo home run to catcher Matt Weiters in the second inning. Things changed in the fifth and sixth when he started to get tired. He started getting the ball up in the zone and got tagged for five runs in the two innings. Second baseman Robert Andino topped the scoring off in the sixth when he hit a three run inside-the-park home run to center field. Jacoby Ellsbury almost made a spectacular catch at the fence but his glove hit the wall and the ball popped out. By the time the ball got to the cut-off man and into the infield Andino crossed the plate.

Camden yard is a great hitters ball park. The dimensions are short and the ball carries well. Red Sox hitters have to produce more runs in the remaining two games and they have to be more selective at the plate. They’re getting their hits now but not driving in enough runs especially in this park. They also need to get runs early so the starting pitcher doesn’t have to worry about making mistakes early in the game. However you view their performance it comes down to these two games. Win them both and let things fall where they may.

Red Sox Split With Yankees Winning the Night Cap 7-4 in Fourteen Innings

In the first game of the day/night doubleheader AJ Burnett looked like the reincarnation of Cy Young. The big right hander came up with an excellent performance against the Red Sox winning 6-2. He went 7 2/3 innings giving up just five hits for his 12th win of the year. His only mistakes were to Jacoby Ellsbury, who belted two home runs to right field off of him. It was Ellsbury’s 29th and 30th four-baggers and his 100th RBI of the year. He becomes the only player in Red Sox history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. He’s had a great year and the Red Sox should consider signing him to a multi-year contract as fast as possible.

The Sox played another sloppy game. Crawford allowed a ball hit by Derek Jeter to get by him in left field and it rolled all the way to the left field fence for a double. In the 3rd Jorge Posada drove a hanging knuckleball into the right field stands for a two run home run. The Yankee hitters took advantage of Wakefield’s wildness (5 walks) and Red Sox hitters could not put a rally together all game. Both teams had about three hours between games to eat and get ready for game two.

The nightcap was much more dramatic. It took the Red Sox 14 innings to finally win a ballgame but I’m sure they don’t mind how many innings it would take. Who else but Jacoby Ellsbury could have ended this marathon? He hit a three run home run off Scott Proctor in the top of the 14th to win it for the Sox. What a year he’s had. Big hits, clutch home runs, a top base stealer and an outstanding defensive centerfielder. He’s carried the Red Sox on his back all year. He’s an MVP in all aspects of the game.

The Red Sox bullpen did a great job in this game. Terry Francona utilized just about everyone. Lefthander Franklin Morales got the win by consistently throwing a 97 mph fastball by Yankee hitters. John Lackey threw a pretty good game throwing more changeups effectively. There was even a JD Drew sighting in this game. He got a hit and knocked in a run. The whole lineup was much more aggressive and got some big hits that helped get this big win they so desperately needed. The win should give the Red Sox a big lift going into Camden Yards to meet the Orioles for the last three regular season games.

A one game lead in the Wild Card race with three to play is a lot better than one game out and three to play. Just ask the Rays.

Red Sox Can’t Take Advantage of Tampa Bay Losses to Yankees

The good news last night was that the Yankees won a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0 and 4-2. Just what the doctor ordered. The bad news was that the Red Sox could not take advantage of the losses as the Orioles came back from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Sox 6-4. Beckett started the ball game and looked almost unhittable early in the game. That is until the sixth inning when the Orioles got an RBI single to center by JJ Hardy to make the score 4-2.

 It looked as though Beckett started to tire in the seventh inning. He gave up a two run home run to Mark Reynolds on a fastball over the plate. It was his second four-bagger of the game. That tied the game at four apiece. Terry Francona finally went to his bullpen. Alfredo Aceves got the call having to face Vladamir Guerrero, who has had a terrific career but is now close to retirement. After getting ahead 0-1,  Acevas laid a fast ball right down the middle to Guerrero and he quickly lined it to center field for a two run single. That made it 6-4 and that’s how it ended.

Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter did a nice job by keeping his team in the game even though he gave up four runs. He had to leave in the seventh after pulling his groin. Carl Crawford had a good night pounding out three hits and knocking in two runs. Adrian Gonzalez got two hits which gives him 208 for the season. That’s a Red Sox record for most hits in a season. The rest of the lineup could not get anything going throughout this game. Josh Reddick, in particular, has really struggled. He had a real good first half hitting well over .300 for most of that time but the second half has been a different story. He seems to be trying to pull the ball too much. He, like all the left handed hitters on the Red Sox, need to go the opposite way to be productive. Take advantage of the wall in left field. When you try to pull the ball it usually ends up a grounder to second base or shortstop. The best hitters in baseball go the other way. It’s also the best way to get out of a slump.
 
The Red Sox have the day off which is good. Relax a little bit. Spend time with the family. Maybe it will help them physically and psychologically. Of course, they still have to go out and win games. If they beat the Yankees two out of three and do the same in Baltimore they should clinch the Wild Card. They’ll have to play and pitch better than they showed against Baltimore. I still think they’ll do it.

Red Sox Lose – Stay 2 Games Ahead as Rays Lose to Yanks

It looked as though there was finally going to be some good news for Red Sox Nation. On this night it wasn’t the middle relievers who gave it up, it was the “Big Two”, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. Bard had an easy seventh inning but in the eighth he gave up singles to Matt Weiters and Mark Reynolds. Terry Francona decided to bring in his closer in the eighth inning and the record shows that Papelbon hasn’t had much success coming into a game in the eighth inning. After giving up a hit that loaded the bases second baseman Robert Andino lined a double down the line in right field that scored all three runners. That made the score 7-5 and that’s how it ended.

 Our part-time friends, the NY Yankees (only when they play Tampa Bay) beat the Rays at Yankee Stadium 5-0. The Rays have always had a tough time beating the Yankees, especially at Yankee Stadium. They play two games today so this will be a good chance for the Red Sox to expand their lead in the Wild Card race but they’ll have to beat this great Baltimore Oriole team.  Beckett starts for the Sox.

All the hype before this game was about Eric Bedard.  He hadn’t pitched for 17 days because of physical problems. It was a very important start for him and the ball club as a whole. This team desperately needs a number three starter for the rest of the season and especially in the playoffs. There’s no way Terry Francona wants to send out John Lackey after his last outing or Tim Wakefield  because he’s also been giving up a lot of runs.

Bedard looked in control his first two innings. He spotted his fastball to the inside and outside corners and his curve ball was good enough. The third inning was his Waterloo. He looked like he was running out of gas but was still throwing the ball well.  As the pitches accumulated you could see he was done but not after giving up four runs.  His pitches were staying up in the strike zone but after giving up two hits it looked like he would get out of the inning. Vlady Guerrero lined a pitch to right field that should have been the third out but Josh Reddick misplayed the ball and it tipped off his glove for an error and an Oriole run. That’s the kind of night it was for the Red Sox. When a last place team like the Orioles beats your two best relievers it sends chills down your spine and your blood pressure sky high. Just ask Terry Francona.

Red Sox Split With Orioles in Day/Night Doubleheader

It looked like the Red Sox were going to continue to give the Tampa Bay Rays another chance to overtake them in the Wild Card race after losing to the last place Orioles in the first game of their day/night doubleheader. The Orioles held on for the win by a score of 6-5. Right hander Kyle Weiland got a chance to stop the bleeding but the Orioles wrapped three homeruns against him that netted all six runs.
 
Oriole starter Jeremy Guthrie, a 17 game loser so far this year, wasn’t much better. He gave up 10 hits to the Sox hitters but they couldn’t come up with the big hit when they needed it. The big play in the game was a controversial call from a ball hit down the right field line by David Ortiz that was clearly a fair ball but first base umpire Mike Estabrook called it a foul ball. Francona came out and argued with him but it was to no avail. It would have been an easy double and the tying run in scoring position. It was not to be and the Red Sox lost the ball game.

The second game was a whole different story. The Red Sox bats went ballistic. They scored 18 runs and won the ballgame 18-9. The Orioles showed why they’re a last place team and why their pitching is so terrible. Red Sox hitters took advantage of mistake after mistake by, not only their starter, but the rest of their bullpen. They banged out 20 hits to all parts of the ball park. Jed Lowrie hit a three run homer and Connor Jackson hit a grand slam into the monster seats in the eighth inning which put the game away for good. Jacoby Ellsbury gave the fans a real treat by hitting an inside-the-ballpark home run off the fence in right center field. As the ball hit off the fence and bounced toward center field he turned on the burners like an F-15 jet fighter and scored easily. It was his 28th home run of the year. He’s definitely an MVP candidate this year and has impressed everyone with his consistency.

John Lackey had another terrible outing giving up 11 hits and 8 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. It’s got to be difficult for the Red Sox to keep running him out there but they have no choice. Bucholtz is still on the disabled list. Alfredo Aceves seems to be the only alternative but Terry Francona would like to keep him in the bullpen, especially in the playoffs. I guess we’ll have to root for the Yankees against Tampa Bay.  Hell is really freezing over, for sure.

Red Sox Slop Their Way to Another Loss vs. Tampa Bay 8-5

It would have been a lot better if the Red Sox had yesterday off instead of Thursday. The only appropriate definition for what occurred at Fenway Park on a clear, brisk Sunday afternoon is that they played a sloppy and mistake-ridden game. Two throwing errors by third baseman Mike Aviles and 4 passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the Rays second chances to put runs on the board and that’s exactly what they did. Tim Wakefield struggled through five innings with a knuckleball that fluttered all over the strike zone and too many times to the backstop.

Saltalamacchia’s performance behind the plate will definitely not be one for an instructional video on how to catch a knuckleball. He must have been overjoyed when Terry Francona finally took Wakefield out of the game. While Aviles made restitution for his two errors by hitting a three run home run in the 7th inning, Salty had a horrific day at the plate going 0-4 with two K’s.

I’m sure the Tampa Bay hitters are very sad about leaving Fenway Park and heading to New York for a four game series against the Yankees. Red Sox fans will have to pull for the Yankees in that series if the Sox are to have any chance of keeping their slim 2 game lead in the Wild Card race.

Since Baltimore has nothing to lose at this point in the season they, I’m sure, would love to knock Boston out of contention for a play-off berth. Overall, the Sox are not hitting or pitching well. It would be a big lift for them if the offense could score some runs early taking pressure off the starters. Francona could hit-and-run more with certain hitters so they focus on hitting the ball the opposite way. And speaking of that, why doesn’t Adrian Gonzalez try and hit the wall more often. There’s no doubt his shoulder is bothering him so why not go the opposite way. It’s the same with Pedroia. He’s best when he hits up the middle and to right field. When things are going bad everyone tries to hit the ball out of the ball park. It makes it a lot easier for opposing pitchers.

 The Red Sox have four excellent relief pitchers in the bullpen, Alfredo Acevis, Franklin Morales, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. These are the men with the best stuff and they should do the bulk of the pitching in relief the rest of the way. Beckett and Lester have got to give you, at least, seven innings in their remaining starts and the rest of the starters at least five innings. If they don’t, the off-season will come a lot sooner than later.

Tampa Bay Pitching Proves to be too Tough for Red Sox in 4-3 Loss

It’s true. Good pitching beats good hitting, even when you’re playing in Fenway, a hitter’s ballpark. The Rays  silenced the Red Sox bats in game three of the all-important four game series holding off a ninth inning rally by the Red Sox and getting a big home run from Ben Zobrist in the first inning off starter and loser John Lester. It seems as though Tampa Bay has always been tough on the Red Sox even from their inception. On this day, their big right hander Jeff Nieman, featured an excellent twelve to six curve ball and a sinking fastball that kept Sox hitters off balance throughout his five innings of pitching.  From there, left-handed rookie phenom Matt Moore came in and featured a 97 mph fastball which he threw by Red Sox hitters almost at will and to top everything off Joel Peralta saved the game after Joey Gathright stole second base with two outs in the ninth. Peralta then got Scutaro to pop out to end the game. It couldn’t have been scripted better for Joe Madden and his team. The Red Sox lead, once again, goes down to three games in the battle for the Wild Card between these two teams. The Red Sox need to win todays to get it back to four games which will make it very tough for the Rays to overtake them.

It would have been a big boost if John Lester could have followed up on a real good performance by Josh Beckett the night before but you could see, right from the first inning, that he didn’t have good command and velocity of his pitches. His bread-and-butter pitch is his cutter. When he has that pitch going for him he ties up right-handed hitters inside and it’s almost impossible for them to get good wood on the ball. It wasn’t to be yesterday. His curveball was also almost non-existent. He hung it a number of times, fortunately for him, out of the strike zone. But there is one thing Lester does have no matter what kind of stuff he throws on a given night, and that thing is “HEART.” I have such great respect and admiration for him both as a pitcher and as a person. We all know what he’s been through with his battle against cancer. I know the doctors say that he’s cancer-free after taking chemotherapy treatments but I also know from working for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s “Jimmy Fund,” that it can reoccur at any time in the life of a former patient. Yet he goes out there every five days and gives the Red Sox and us fans everything he has. When I watch him on TV or at Fenway I want to go up and give him a big hug and thank him for his courage and his competitiveness. He’s an inspiration to me  and to everyone else, especially those who have had to battle cancer in their lives. I hope he pitches for the Red Sox for another twenty years and I hope and pray he stays cancer-free for the rest of his life. That’s more important than a win or even a World Series.

Red Sox Lose to the Rays 9-2

You knew it wasn’t going to be a good night for the Red Sox when one of the most bizarre plays took place against them in the third inning. After giving up a double to left field, Red Sox starter Kyle Weiland gave up a walk to left fielder Desmond Jennings. With men on first and second the aberration takes place. The next hitter is BJ Upton who is a home run threat, especially at Fenway. Weiland threw Upton a tailing fastball in on his hands. Upton swings and hits a weak ground ball to shortstop.

The problem is he shatters his bat in half sending the larger section towards shortstop. The other problem was the ball and the bat got to shortstop Marco Scutaro at the same time. While trying to get out of the way of the jagged-edged bat the ball went through his legs and into left field for an RBI single for Upton. I’ve never seen anything like that before and probably won’t ever again. It was crazy.

The damage wasn’t done, however. Evan Longoria was the next hitter. He waited for a fastball away and got it. He drove that fast ball to right field and for a second it looked like the strong wind would hold it up but it landed just over the Red Sox bullpen wall for a three run home run. Later in the game Casey Kotchman hit a two run blast to right which just about put the game away. Terry Francona gave his call-up players a chance to play in the eighth inning which allowed the starters to take a breather.

Tampa Bay got a decent outing from right hander Jeremy Hellickson. He kept Red Sox hitters off balance all night. It was an example of how important change of speeds is to a pitcher’s success. He only pitched 5 2/3 innings and threw 117 pitches. Not great but good enough for a win. Kyle Weiland on the other hand threw almost exclusively fastballs to the Rays hitters. If he had a 97 mph fastball it wouldn’t be so bad but he’s clocked around 90-92. He needs to throw more curves and change-ups if he’s to be effective. I like him, though. His fastball has good movement most of the time and once he learns the other pitches he could be pretty good fourth starter.

If the Red Sox win two out of the next three against Tampa Bay they’ll win the Wild Card. That’ my prediction, right or wrong. Of course, the way they’re playing right now they wouldn’t win a tic tac toe game against a seven year old child. Wake up men, wake up.

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