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Red Sox 6, Rangers 0
The Red Sox have won their four-game series with the Rangers, sweeping the last three games in impressive fashion.
While Boston's offensive output Thursday wasn't what it had been in the middle two games, ending as it did after the fourth inning, the Sox poured it on early once again, using the same longball that had so tormented them in the first series of the year.
For each of the first four innings, the Red Sox went deep. In the first, it was Adrian Gonzalez, smacking a middle-in pitch over the wall in center field to put the first run up on Alexi Ogando, who spent much of the time he didn't spend giving up homers striking batters out.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, he was usually giving up homers. David Ortiz did the honors in the second inning, cleaning out an inside pitch to go long to right field. Up next was...Adrian Gonzalez again, who made it five homers in three games and ten at bats, with both of his shots Thursday coming on the first pitch of the at bat. Finally, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went opposite field for his fourth homer in as many innings.
The 6-run lead would hold up with ease, as Andrew Miller pitched a surprisingly dominant game. Only walking two batters in 6.1 innings of work, Miller kept the Rangers down all night, inducing ground balls all night when he wasn't striking out Josh Hamilton three straight times.
If the first two wins told the Red Sox that they could win, this one may have them thinking that they should win any potential playoff series. Not only did they hold them down yet again while adding four homers, but of all things they've actually managed to make their run differential against the Rangers positive for the season series, having now outscored them 41-37 over the course of the year.
Three For The Road
Jed Lowrie On A Hot Streak
The on-again, off-again infielder has started to find his rhythm, maintaining a seven-game hitting streak despite having a number of good swings that ended up lined right into gloves of late. In that time he's batting .370 for the Sox, and has even come around from some unfortunate defensive plays, even providing some highlight material of late. This is, of course, coming at the perfect time, with the Sox in the midst of a Kevin Youkilis disabled list stint.
Order has been restored. While there's no complaining to be done about Ellsbury's homers, it was always a bit...wrong that he had more than Adrian Gonzalez. Now, Ellsbury is still tied with Gonzalez, but with the pace he's on it's hard to imagine that's going to last much longer.
Of course, above them is David Ortiz, who just hit number 25. Which is a pretty normal thing in its own right.
Double Header On The Horizon
With Hurricane Irene coming to town Sunday, the Red Sox have reworked their scheduled game into a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at noon with the second half beginning at 5.
This outcome only came about after some negotiating between the players and the team, with the organization wanting to ensure that both ends got in before the rains came by playing the doubleheader on Friday. The players, however, weren't interested in playing at noon after a flight that's only expected to get them into Boston seven hours earlier.
Red Sox MVP -- Adrian Gonzalez
Remember how two games ago he won for hitting two homers? And it was a " 'nuff said" situation? Well, same old same old.
Up Next -- 7:10 p.m. Friday vs. Oakland | Tim Wakefield (6-5, 4.97 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (10-11, 3.24 ERA)
Tim Wakefield goes for 200...again. But, finally, the Red Sox actually seem to be running hot. And after the ridiculous comeback the Athletics allowed the Yankees to stage ultimately resulting in 22 runs Thursday afternoon, their pitching staff can't be feeling too good either.
This one was over after four innings—possibly even one, depending on your view of things. After all, Texas just could do nothing with Miller, or Aceves and Wheeler after him.
Thus ends a tremendously successful road trip for the Sox, who left Boston playing .500 baseball over the last few weeks, and returned 6-2 for their troubles.
Andrew Miller’s night is done after 6.1 innings of dominant work against one of the best offenses in the game.
The hook came with Miller up around the pitch count he was given in his last outing after a one-out single to left. His impressive performance tonight, combined with a solid start against Kansas City, has somehow rejuvenated the Andrew Miller experiment. He seemed to have his control down for once, hitting edges and corners when necessary and only giving up a pair of walks. Perhaps most impressive was the sheer lack of significant contact he allowed to one of the best lineups in the majors. On a night when he was expected to be the weakest link for the Sox, he just may have been the strongest.
Despite putting their first two batters of the inning on base, the Rangers still failed to score in the sixth, as a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play kept them stuck on a goose egg through six.
With Feldman recording another 1-2-3 inning to start the frame, the Rangers looked like they might finally break through and perhaps start to claw their way back into things. A throwing error by Marco Scutaro allowed Omar Quintanilla to reach to start the frame, and Miller allowed his second walk of the night against Ian Kinsler, putting two men on with no outs.
Elvis Andrus couldn't get the job done, but his ground ball was not hard hit enough to let the Sox turn two, so with a runner now on third all the Rangers needed to get on the board was a productive out. And, with Josh Hamilton on the mound...they didn't get it. For the third time on the night, Miller struck out Hamilton, and ended up getting even more out of it. With Andrus taking off at first, Saltalamacchia through down and got the ball there so early that the Texas shortstop tried to reverse direction and get caught in the rundown. Instead, a quick tag on the back ended the frame--and the threat--with no damage done.
There are three reasons to believe that the fifth inning did not actually happen:
Another inning, another homer seems to be the mantra for Boston so far Thursday, as they’ve added their fourth bomb in the fourth inning to take a 6-0 lead over the Rangers.
Again, the homer came with a baserunner—this time Carl Crawford, who again had his toe-tap going at the plate, lining a single right back up the middle to lead off the inning. And again it was the first inning that got Alexi Ogando in trouble, this time delivered to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Again the pitch was outside, and again it was knocked out to left field for a bomb. It’s just getting to be repetitive at this point.
Andrew Miller “bounced back” from his most difficult inning of the night with another easy one in the fourth. Striking out Josh Hamilton for the second time in a row to start things, Miller sat the side down in order to hold the Rangers scoreless.
Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, Gonzalez has made it five homers in three games and ten at bats. The result is that the Sox have again doubled their lead, building it up to 4-0.
The extra run came due to Jed Lowrie having drawn the first walk off of Ogando in the game, but it was once again Adrian who put the runs on the board. Having failed with the middle-in approach in the first, the Rangers opted to pitch Gonzalez away to much the same outcome. The first pitch he saw was definitely on the outer part of the plate, so Gonzalez decided to go opposite field with it, launching another his second shot on as many pitches.
Andrew Miller faced the most trouble he has yet in the bottom of the inning, allowing a leadoff walk and perhaps causing an infield single himself when he knocked down a weak chopper, keeping it from getting to Jed Lowrie. But the next ground ball found its way to the ranging third baseman on the grass, allowing him to start a nifty double play to escape the inning.
The Red Sox have doubled their lead to 2-0 after David ortiz picked up his first home run since removing the boot.
The pitch to Ortiz was not so egregious as the one to Gonzalez in the first, but perhaps showed a lack of familiarity with the big slugger. Inside is where Ortiz likes them, and inside is what he got, cleaning out a fastball that was in an area that only a select few can call their wheelhouse.
Other than that, though, Ogando has been dealing, recording five of his six outs via the K. Too bad whenever he allows contact the ball is leaving the park.
Andrew Miller, meanwhile, has been dodging contact as well, adding another pair of strikeouts in the second to work around a leadoff single from Michael Young. With the lack of walks in the first couple innings, Miller looks entirely unlike himself out there.
The Red Sox once again have an early lead over the Rangers thanks to the fourth homer from Adrian Gonzalez in three games.
Alexi Ogando got off to a strong start, striking out Ellsbury on six pitches, but a very hard hit fly ball from Jed Lowrie did not promise good things, though it did end up in Nelson Cruz’ glove. Sure enough, the very next pitch to Adrian Gonzalez was straight down the middle. Gonzalez took a big swing, and drilled it well out to center for a solo shot.
Andrew Miller did not have nearly so much trouble, recording three quick outs in the bottom half of the first, getting Josh Hamilton on a breaking ball that came back to catch the inside edge of the zone for strike three.
The Sox have to be feeling good after their last couple of games. 30 hits and 24 runs will do that to a team, especially when it comes against a division leader who had dominated them through the first four games of the season series.
So mission accomplished when it comes to this series. A series split down in Arlington wouldn't really be a bad thing, given how the season started and the relative strength of the competition, and when that's done with a run differential more suited for football, all the better.
To pull off an actual series win, though, they're going to need to win a matchup involving Andrew Miller. Luckily, he'll have the fullest lineup behind him the Sox have seen in a week.
Boston Red Sox (79-50)
Texas Rangers (74-57)
Pitching Matchup: Andrew Miller (5-1, 4.99 ERA) vs. Alexi Ogando (12-5, 3.30 ERA)
The good news for Andrew Miller is that their plate discipline doesn't quite reach the heights the rest of their offensive tools do-important given his issues when it comes to control. The bad news is that they're not particularly bad at that sort of thing, either, and they've got the power to make Miller pay for his mistakes.
Alexi Ogando faces a situation similar to that of Matt Harrison yesterday, with a tough lineup posing an unusually stiff challenge to a relatively inexperienced Major League starter. The advantage for Ogando is that he seems, generally, to be a slightly better pitcher than Harrison. The disadvantage come from being right-handed, which is usually a pretty bad sign for opponents of the Sox.
Red Sox 13, Rangers 2
The mystique is gone. After an 11-5 beatdown of the Rangers Tuesday, the Red Sox took it a step further Wednesday, absolutely dominating Texas to the tune of 16 hits and 13 runs.
The scoring started immediately thanks to a few lucky hits. Jacoby Ellsbury bounced a chopper over Matt Harrison's head for a leadoff infield single, and then advanced to second when Adrian Gonzalez blooped one into center field. Dustin Pedroia's ground ball found a hole, and just like that it was 1-0 Boston.
The line drives off the bat of David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, and Carl Crawford were not so much about luck, though Lowrie's did find a glove. But again the Sox found themselves on the right side of fortune, with Mike Napoli failing to receive the throw home on Crawford's double, allowing Ortiz to score with ease.
The scoring just kept going as the game progressed, with single runs being pushed across in the second, fourth, and fifth frames. And then came the two-run homers. First was Ellsbury, wrapping one around the right field foul pole in the sixth. Next was Carl Crawford, who continues to show improvement by going long to dead center. Finally it was Adrian Gonzalez picking up his third in just two games, launching a long foul ball just to the right of the foul pole, and then straightening it out and planting it in the stands in right.
The Rangers' only real offensive achievement was to get Beckett out of the game after only six innings thanks to some long at bats. Mike Napoli scored their only run off Boston's ace with a long home run, and they mounted threats in a couple of innings, but could never really open the floodgates against him.
With the blowout, the Sox have pulled within just a few runs of the Rangers in their season series. Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, the Sox have shown that not only can they hit the Rangers' pitching, but more importantly, can shut down their lineup. They can enter into any playoff series now feeling fully confident.
Three For The Road
No Rust For Ellsbury, Ortiz
Jacoby Ellsbury did a bit of everything tonight, picking up three hits including a long ball and an infield single, making another tremendous catch in center, and stealing a base. Clearly this is not a situation like 2010, when Ellsbury made a short return and then went right back out with his injury aggravated. He's playing at full speed and full strength.
The same is true for David Ortiz, who picked up two solid hits and went from first-to-home on Carl Crawford's double in the the first. He looked a bit awkward on the way home, but that was just a matter of hesitation on his decision to risk it, and when he got to the dugout he was all smiles. That heel is just fine.
Carl Crawford's Hot Bat
Entering Wednesday's game 7-for-23 with a double, a homer, and two walks to just three strikeouts in his last six games, Carl Crawford went 2-for-3 with another double and homer, and a sac fly that came on a very hard hit line drive. If you're looking for a reason, check out his stance and how quickly he closes it these days-not to mention how his timing step is now less pronounced, previously trending very far towards right field. Sox fans have wanted him to drop the ridiculously open pose, but if this works for him, then it works for him.
Back On Top
Coco Crisp isn't with the team anymore, but he certainly came through for them tonight, driving in five runs with four hits including a pair of homers. That was enough to defeat the Yankees, giving the Sox sole possession of first place once again. Given that the Sox seem to just now be getting hot again, that's bad news for New York.
Red Sox MVP -- Carl Crawford
Ellsbury and Gonzalez would also be reasonable choices, but Carl seemed to make the hardest contact of anyone all night, and really, it's just nice to see him performing at last. Everyone's always said that if he can perform the way he should, the Sox would be nigh unstoppable. Well, he might finally be starting to do that.
Up Next -- Andrew Miller vs. Alexi Ogando
It strikes fear in even the most courageous of Sox fans' hearts, but the upcoming Andrew Miller start may not be all that bad. He was actually pretty strong in his last start against the Kansas City Royals, and after a couple of difficult games, the Texas lineup could be ripe for the picking. Alexi Ogando has been a nice surprise for the Rangers in the starting rotation, but the Sox have a lineup that can make any right-handed pitcher weep.
Talk about a beatdown. The Sox pick up sixteen hits, three homers, and thirteen runs en route to a huge, huge blowout.
David Ortiz is back and showing no signs of rust. Jacoby Ellsbury might even be better than he was when he left. Adrian Gonzalez is hitting homers. And suddenly it’s looking like Carl Crawford has some life in him again. Who’d have thunk it?
Even better, this all came on a night when Coco Crisp lifted the A’s over the Yankees. Current and former Red Sox getting the job done to put Boston up a game in the A.L. East.
On the third pitch of his at-bat in the eighth inning, Adrian Gonzalez hit a towering fly ball that bent just barely foul around the right field pole.
On the fourth pitch of his at-bat in the eighth inning, Adrian Gonzalez straightened it out for a two-run shot.
That’s three homers in two games now for the Boston first baseman, who seems to have turned it back on for the final stretch.
Meanwhile, Ryan Lavarnway has taken over behind the plate. The first major league pitcher he worked with didn’t make him work too hard, as Matt Albers just keeps on giving up more and more hard contact. It only resulted in the one run Wednesday, but it’s clear that Albers just doesn’t have it at this point, so some time on the disabled list might be in order. The Sox havve held on to Scott Atchison for just such an occasion, and I suppose Bobby Jenks is on the way back besides, if anyone is still interested in seeing whether or not he can actually pitch a scoreless inning.
The Red Sox just keep pouring it on, and now it’s coming from the most encouraging of sources: Carl Crawford.
There’s been a noticeable difference in Carl Crawford’s approach at the plate of late. Instead of trying to close his stance with a big timing step, Crawford is now closing right before the pitch, and then taking a small, in-control step.
Cue results: 7-for-23 (.304) with a double, a homer, and a pair of walks to just three strikeouts in his last six games, Carl has now added another couple of hits with a homer to center field Wednesday night. The homer came with Jed Lowrie on base via a single, making it 11-1 for the Sox, and five runs batted in for Crawford.
Beckett is out of the game, leaving Franklin Morales with an opportunity to further prove himself. He took full advantage of the situation, too, striking out two batters en route to a 12-pitch 1-2-3 inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury is back, and looks just as good as he did when he left.
Texas turned to the bullpen with Matt Harrison finally ending his long, difficult night. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the pen offered no relief. A leadoff single for Darnell McDonald set the stage for Jacoby Ellsbury, who wrapped one around the pole in right for, amazingly, his 23rd home run of the season.
He made an impact in the bottom of the inning too, making a nearly identical play to the running grab he had in Tuesday’s game, tracing down a long fly ball in center that would have absolutely been extra bases. To recap, that’s a terrific defensive play, a single, an infield single, a stolen base, and a home run for the MVP candidate. Simply put, he’s doing it all.
The running grab helped Beckett end his night with six full innings pitched. The count never really got under control, but it’s impossible to scoff at a one-run night against this bunch in Texas. Terry Francona can now turn to his bullpen with a pretty much untouchable lead.
The Red Sox are up 7-1 after five innings, though Josh Beckett can count himself lucky to have dodged both runs and balls in a line-drive filled bottom half.
David Ortiz once again showed that he was suffering from no undue rust following his time in the boot, knocking a double into right to start the inning. Jed Lowrie laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Carl Crawford’s lineout to right was deep enough to score him from third and give Boston their seventh run of the night.
For the Rangers, the bottom of the inning represented their best chance so far to really put some runs up on Beckett and maybe claw their way back into things, putting David Murphy and Endy Chavez on base with a couple of singles before an out was recorded. But then Beckett got lucky. Not so much because Omar Quintanilla popped up, but because Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus both laced line drives and got not a single run because of it. The first went straight back at Beckett, who threw up a glove in defense and had the ball run right into it for the out. The second one made its way to Dustin Pedroia, who made the catch and then left the game to get some rest with the big lead.
No, Josh Beckett wasn’t really three innings into a no-hitter. One does not record 18 more outs with the sort of pitch count Josh Beckett was dealing with. But now it’s 100% official, as Mike Napoli went quite deep to give the Rangers both their first hit and first run of the game.
It did not, however, really make any difference in the overall complexion of the game, as the Sox had already scored in the first half of the inning. Darnell McDonald legged out the second Boston infield single of the game, and came home on Marco Scutaro’s double. Score one for the weaker half of the lineup.
76 pitches now for Beckett. Six innings is still quite likely, but seven is definitely a stretch.
Matt Harrison has recorded his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the third. Josh Beckett picked up his second. You’ve got one guess as to whose inning required twenty pitches.
It’s crazy how long some of these at bats for Beckett have been. Leadoff man Omar Quintinilla hit five foul balls in his nine-pitch at bat, though it could’ve been ended earlier had home plate umpire Dana DeMuth not chosen to ignore a pitch right down the middle. A two-pitch out from Ian Kinsler made it seem like Beckett could mitigate that first difficult batter, but up came Elvis Andrus and up went Beckett’s pitch count some more as the light-hitting shortstop fought his own nine-pitch battle.
The good news is that the lead is high enough that the Sox might not need their ace to go too deep. But they’d certainly like him to with Andrew Miller set to start Thursday’s game.
The Red Sox have tacked on another run in the second inning, and now hold a 5-0 lead with Josh Beckett picking up three quick outs behind them.
The run came around to score thanks to a single and stolen base from Jacoby Ellsbury, and an RBI base knock from Dustin Pedroia with a walk to Adrian Gonzalez in between. That makes the three MVP candidates a combined 5-for-5 with a walk on the night; so in other words, just another typical day at the ballpark.
Josh Beckett, meanwhile, managed to bring his pitch count down some with a few quick outs. Instead of picking up strikeouts like in the bottom of the first, Beckett induced a couple of easy flies and a groundout to retire the side on just 13 pitches, leaving him at 40 through the first two frames. Still high, but not as high as it could be.
The Red Sox couldn't have asked for a better start. Five hits led to four runs in the first inning, giving the Sox a big lead right out of the gate.
The early attack started with something of a whimper, really, as Jacoby Ellsbury hit a high chopper over the head of Matt Harrison on the mound and legged out an infield single to give the Sox a leadoff baserunner. With one out, Adrian Gonzalez dropped a bloop single into center and Dustin Pedroia grounded through the hole to left, and just like that it was 1-0 Sox.
Then the loud contact started. David Ortiz came to the plate for his first at bat in over a week and promptly laced a line drive into right field to set up first-and-third, scoring Adrian Gonzalez in the process. Jed Lowrie had a hard-hit shot, but Elvis Andrus went up to snag it in the air leaving two outs and two on for Carl Crawford. While Crawford's struggles this year have been especially pronounced against lefties (as always), the beleaguered left fielder followed suit with a line drive double to score Dustin Pedroia and, thanks to Mike Napoli's inability to receive the throw to the plate, David Ortiz.
If there's one thing the Rangers have going for them right now, it's that Harrison isn't alone with his high pitch count. A pair of walks to Josh Hamilton and Michael Young left Beckett with 27 pitches on his arm for just three outs.
The Red Sox are almost healthy again, as David Ortiz will fifth for Boston for the first time since August 14.
While Ortiz has been stuck in a walking boot with bursitis in his right heel since then, he's been raring to go for a good few days now. It wasn't until Tuesday, though, that the Sox' slugger got the medical go-ahead.
Ortiz will return to the five-spot that he's become so accustomed to over the season-to-date, leaving Dustin Pedroia at cleanup. Ryan Lavarnway will be moved to the bench with Ortiz' return, though given the Sox' lack of big right-handed bats, he could be a valuable pinch-hitter as the season continues, possibly even getting some starts behind the plate.
Boston Red Sox (78-50)
The Rangers will mix up the bottom of the lineup tonight to accommodate some defensive arrangements. Ian Kinsler will be getting a day off from fielding, playing DH as Mike Napoli moves behind the plate. The biggest absence will be Nelson Cruz, who's replaced in right field by David Murphy.
Texas Rangers (74-56)
Pitching Matchup: Josh Beckett (10-5, 2.46 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (10-8, 3.28 ERA)
Josh Beckett dodged the opening series in Texas by virtue of being named the no. 4 starter to begin the year. My how things have changed.
Unfortunately, Beckett has been shy of dominance this month, with a 4.13 ERA through his first four starts. Still, he's had decent-to-good outings against Cleveland, New York, and Kansas City, with his first-inning meltdown against Seattle being the only real black mark.
While Beckett's numbers against the Rangers as a whole aren't the prettiest in the game, Texas has actually been reasonably kind to its native son when he's returned home, with an ERA under 4.00 in the bandbox that is Arlington. Given that Lackey managed to dodge being completely destroyed in his outing, Beckett stands a decent shot Wednesday.
As for Matt Harrison, the Sox should prove a pretty serious test for the young lefty. He has one strong start against them from that first series, but he's spent the last couple of months beating up on weaker offenses. With David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury back now (Harrison's splits against lefties are non-existent), the Sox have the perfect lineup to potentially expose a pitcher whose peripherals don't match the top-of-the-line results he's been seeing.
Red Sox 11, Rangers 5
The Red Sox have finally defeated the Rangers, and they did so in convincing fashion.
The scoring started early, and continued consistently for the first four innings. In the first, it was Jacoby Ellsbury singling in his first at bat back from injury, and then scoring as Adrian Gonzalez finally got off of his homer schneid with a no-doubter into the stands in right to give Boston a 2-0 lead. The attack continued in the second with Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford leading off with singles and scoring on a Jarrod Satlalamacchia double and a sac fly from Marco Scutaro, and rolled right along into the third when Carl Crawford paid the sac fly forward and Ryan Lavarnway hit an RBI double to score another, making it 6-0.
The Rangers finally mounted a rally in the bottom of the third, picking up three straight ground ball singles to start the frame, and then having three runs come in on a walk and two sacrifice flies. But just when it seemed like momentum was shifting with the Rangers recording two quick outs in the top of the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez went deep for the second time on the night, this time going opposite field to extend the lead back up to four.
The Rangers would pull back within three in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn't score again over the next two innings, leaving the Sox free to put things away in the eighth. Ryan Lavarnway singled, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled, and then with two outs both came home on a double from Marco Scutaro that just missed being a homer by inches. The Rangers decided not to pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, giving him the free pass, but that proved to not be terribly helpful when Dustin Pedroia planted a ball off the wall just below where Marco Scutaro's had hit, bringing both runners around to push it deep into blowout territory at 11-4. The Rangers got just one run back in the ninth on Ian Kinsler's homer, and the Sox finally picked up a win over Texas.
It was every bit what the Sox needed from their offense after C.J. Wilson had shut them down the night before. Baserunner after baserunner, run after run, and long hit after long hit. The invincible aura of Texas has been dispelled now, and hopefully they'll be able to take advantage of that in the last two games of the series.
Three For The Road
Adrian Turns The Power On
It had been over 20 games since Adrian Gonzalez last went deep for the Red Sox, but it's been the case all year long that his homers have come in bunches. Given that he went deep twice tonight, it's not difficult to imagine that there might be more coming in the future.
Unfortunately, Alfredo Aceves pitched tonight in an 11-4 game. Given the recent struggles of Matt Albers, the Sox have some serious questions to answer about the seventh inning, and right now about the only reliable member of the pen free for that inning would be Alfredo Aceves. While he's served the Sox quite well as a long man this season, it might be time to only use him when the game might actually be in question, given how desperately the Sox could find themselves in need of a scoreless inning or two in the next few weeks.
Lavarnway Keeps On Rolling
In his first at bat of the night, Ryan Lavarnway struck out on one of Colby Lewis' hard-breaking sliders that have served him so well against righties this year. It's not the sort of thing a guy is likely to see in the minors, to say the least. In his second at bat, however, Lewis again tried to get him on the slider. This time, Lavarnway got out ahead of the pitch, making contact in front of the plate before it could sweep away, and shooting it into left field for a big double. He might not play again tomorrow with David Ortiz expected to be back, but he's shown the sort of ability to adapt that should help make the transition to the majors that much easier.
Red Sox MVP -- Adrian Gonzalez
Two homers? 'Nuff said, I should think.
Up Next -- Josh Beckett vs. Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison will be the second lefty of the series for the Red Sox, but he's got absolutely nothing in the way of splits. Of course, with Josh Beckett on the mound that might be for the best, since Jason Varitek will be behind the plate. It will be interesting to see how the lineup shakes out tomorrow too, with everyone but Kevin Youkilis back from their injuries. Hopefully for once they come out in full force to support Josh Beckett, too--he's had some trouble with run support in his amazing rebound year.
Against Texas? Can it be?
Why, yes, yes it can! Ian Kinsler homered, but somehow the Rangers couldn’t pick up seven runs in the ninth and—shock of shocks—the Red Sox have now beaten them.
It was a long time in coming.
For all intents and purposes, this one seems to be over.
The Red Sox opened up on the Rangers in the eighth inning to the tune of four runs thanks to some big hits from the middle infielders.
First, though, they needed baserunners, and it was Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia who did the honors with a pair of line drives, Saltalamacchia’s ending up in the corner in left for a double. Jacoby Ellsbury took an ill-advised hack on the first pitch he saw to help out the Rangers with a ground out, but Marco Scutaro came through big time behind him, doubling off the very top of the wall in left to extend the lead to five.
Not wanting to pitch to the man that already had two homers on the night, Texas elected to intentionally walk Adrian Gonzalez. Usually this wouldn’t be a controversial decision, but let’s be frank: it’s never a good idea to get up Dustin Pedroia’s ire. The Muddy Chicken—as he is now known—launched a double of his own just south of Scutaro’s, and just like that it was a 7-run game. Alfredo Aceves entered the game and, working around a leadoff walk, sent the game into the ninth with the same.
With a little help from Franklin Morales, the Red Sox escaped some more trouble in the seventh inning to maintain their lead at three runs.
Having wasted a leadoff single from Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox entered the bottom of the seventh with the lead still at 7-4. There, John Lackey ran into some small trouble, giving up a leadoff single to Endy Chavez. While he would get the next two batters out, Terry Francona thought better of letting him pitch to Josh Hamilton, calling instead on Franklin Morales.
The crucial at bat started out fairly poorly, with Morales appearing wild, and falling behind 2-0. Morales fought back to a 2-2 count, however, and on the fifth pitch of the at bat, Morales lined out to Carl Crawford to end the threat.
There’s not much to be said of the sixth.
The Red Sox went down 1-2-3, and at this point it seems like Colby Lewis has finally found some rhythm to his night—at least enough that he’s not giving up a run in every frame.
John Lackey found himself in a little bit of trouble again after a walk and a single brought the tying run to the plate, but managed to put a glove on a sharp comebacker and fire to second to start a double play. He earned that escape, to say the lease.
The Sox need to dodge three runs for three innings to hold on and claim their first win against the Rangers.
John Lackey gave up a run in the bottom of the fifth, but it could have been much, much worse.
With the Sox failing to score for the first time in the top of the inning, the Rangers put three good swings on the ball. Ian Kinsler led off with a very hard hit fly ball/line drive that seemed to scream extra bases before Ellsbury made a tremendous running grab, chasing down the gapper and earning a tip-of-the-cap from Lackey. Two pitches later and it was Marco Scutaro making a great ranging play to just barely catch Elvis Andrus at first.
There was no defense that could save Lackey from Josh Hamilton, however. While he managed to keep his fastball away from the powerful outfielder, Hamilton went out and got it, hooking an absolute rocket shot into the stands in right for the solo homer, and trimming the Boston lead back to just three runs.
The Red Sox got exactly what they needed in the fourth inning: a momentum-stopper.
After the Rangers had hit Lackey hard in the third, it was possible that the game was starting to turn in a direction Boston most certainly wouldn’t enjoy. And, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro making some quick outs, it was up to Adrian Gonzalez to dodge the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for Texas.
He did so in pretty spectacular style, adding evidence to the theory that his homers come in bunches with his second bomb of the game, this one to the opposite field to give the Sox their four-run lead back.
Out came John Lackey in need of a quick inning, and while it didn’t start off too well—Mike Napoli’s fly ball took Reddick well onto the warning track and Mitch Moreland singled immediately thereafter—he picked up a pair of strikeouts on just seven total pitches to turn things around in a hurry.
John Lackey just got beat by sequencing.
With seven ground balls in the game, about two or three should have gone for hits. That’s what a long history of ground balls tells us. And that’s what John Lackey had happen. Two found a hole, and a third ended in an infield single. Over the course of three innings, this isn’t a terrible thing. The problem comes when they happen all at once, in a row, with zero outs.
It’s not really something Lackey can control, it’s just random luck. But suddenly instead of having another inning with a harmless single, he had the bases loaded, and one walk later (he did start to lose control at the end), he had a run in.
Josh Hamilton swung 3-0 to save him some trouble, providing just a sacrifice fly, as did Michael Young, so the Rangers only scored two more runs in the inning. But man, that’s a tough one to deal with.
The good news is that the Sox are still in a pretty good position thanks to another pair of runs coming in the top of the frame on a sacrifice fly from Carl Crawford, and Ryan Lavarnway’s double. The rookie DH hit that slider this time, going in front of the plate to catch it at just the right time. A pretty good bit of hitting there.
Boston’s surprising start against Colby Lewis keeps on going, as the Sox scored two more runs off the righty starter in the second.
There was more leadoff trouble for Lewis, albeit this time of a rather bizarre variety, as Jed Lowrie hit a dribbler down the first base line. Lowrie, the ball, and Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland all converged a few feet in front of first, with Lowrie running past the ball and around Moreland’s last-second tag attempt for the infield hit. The second base knock, off the bat of Carl Crawford, was rather more substantial, and set up runners at first and second with nobody out.
Ryan Lavarnway would strike out—not terribly surprising, as Colby Lewis flashed the sort of slider that it’s unlikely Lavarnway has seen much of in the minors—but Jarrod Saltalamacchia got hold of a good pitch and doubled off the wall in right to bring a run in to score. One Marco Scutaro sacrifice fly later, and the score was 4-0, Sox.
With a big lead behind him, Lackey continued his effective pitching. Though he walked Mike Napoli after a long battle, Lackey struck out Michael Young and induced a ground ball from Nelson Cruz for two outs. Mitch Moreland’s ground ball was a little less routine, with Adrian Gonzalez’ dive inadvertently knocking the ball away from Dustin Pedroia. But, being the top defensive pair they are, Pedroia quickly changed direction, scooped up the ball, and tossed it to a recovering Adrian Gonzalez for the third out.
It finally happened: Adrian Gonzalez picked up his 19th home run of the season.
It had been 22 long games without a home run for Gonzalez—part of an extended power outage since the All-Star break for a man who typically ranks amongst the best in the league at hitting the ball a long ways. Colby Lewis ended all that by falling behind 2-0, and then hanging a slider. Gonzalez knew exactly what to do with it, knocking a no-doubter into the stands in right.
The most surprising part of the inning, however, was the Rangers’ half of the inning. Facing off against a team that kills him and, specifically, two batters who routinely destroy him in Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton, John Lackey threw 13 pitches, got two groundouts, and a strikeout of Elvis Andrus.
It’s a good start for Boston, who were in sore need of one against this team that has had their number all year long.
The Red Sox will have Jacoby Ellsbury back in their lineup Tuesday night for the first time since Friday, when he was hit by a pitch in the back towards the end of a game against the Royals.
Ellsbury's return comes at just the right time, just one day after the Sox were blanked by C.J. Wilson. With right-hander Colby Wilson on the mound, Ellsbury will also have a favorable matchup right off the bat.
Whether or not the return of Ellsbury alone will be enough to make a difference for the Red Sox, however, remains to be seen. After all, it was the failure of the whole team, not any particular individual which sunk Boston's offense Monday. A one-man fix would be pretty impressive.
Boston Red Sox (77-50)
The only change in Texas' lineup will be the addition of left-handed Endy Chavez in center to face the right-handed John Lackey.
Texas Rangers (74-55)
Pitching Matchup: John Lackey (11-9, 6.02 ERA) vs. Colby Lewis (11-8, 3.83 ERA)
John Lackey hasn't exactly been on fire of late, but he's still be pretty reasonable over his last few games, so it's probably not too much to ask for a decent out--
John Lackey career ERA in Arlington: 6.78
John Lackey career vs. current Rangers .356/.407/.557
John Lackey career OPS vs. Josh Hamilton: 1.469
John Lackey career OPS vs. Ian Kinsler: 1.428
Oh God no...
So the Rangers will probably do pretty well tonight.
As for Colby Lewis, well, he's pretty bad against lefties this year, with a .824 OPS against them this season. That, at least, plays into the Red Sox' strengths. Typically, the same can be said of his fly balls. Unfortunately, he does have a good slider, which the Sox can have trouble with, and there's just the fact that he's a good pitcher in general. And, when you take Lackey's numbers against Texas into consideration, he looks like a monster, plain and simple.
Rangers 4, Red Sox 0
The Red Sox fell to the Rangers 0-4 Monday night, picking up only four hits as a dominant C.J. Wilson shut them down for 6.2 innings.
The Red Sox gave up the first run of the game in controversial fashion, when a clean catch in right field in the third was ruled a trap by first base umpire Doug Eddings. Instead of having two outs and a man on first (or an inning-ending double play), the Sox were stuck with a runner in scoring position and one out. One single later, and the Rangers were on top.
The big blow, however, came in the sixth. With two men on, two outs, and two strikes on Mike Napoli, Bedard left a two-seam fastball up in the zone. Napoli took it out of the park, and for all intents and purposes, put the game on ice. It ruined what had been a strong game from Bedard, and completely took away any wind that may have been left in Boston's sails.
Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson was as good as he's ever been against Boston, inducing tons of weak contact and groundouts all night long. The depleted Boston offense could only mount a couple of half-hearted rallies against Wilson and the Texas bullpen, ultimately going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position to seal their fate.
To say this is a disappointing loss would be an understatement. The Rangers are, after all, a possible playoff opponent, and so far the Sox haven't proven capable of beating them even once. What's more, after three games of solid offensive production, the lineup went right back in the hole Tuesday night.
Three For The Road
The Misfortune Of Erik Bedard
It seems like Erik Bedard just can't catch a break--if it's not one thing, it's another. The baserunner who scored the first run of the game came from a walk that was not a walk at all, with the final pitch being a clear strike three. But with a small zone reminiscent of his second start, he did not get the call, leading to the "trapped" ball in right and the first run of the game. If you look deep enough into it, you can even blame the home run on this sequence of events, since Bedard was forced to throw so many extra pitches, tiring late. When these sorts of things keep going on around Bedard, it's no wonder he's losing games even with his rather impressive performances.
Morales Up, Albers Down
It was another tough outing for Matt Albers tonight. Though the former Oriole didn't allow any runs, he did give up a pair of two-out walks to load the bases before escaping the frame. Meanwhile, Franklin Morales came in and struck out two batters in a clean inning of work. I wouldn't necessarily be looking forward to seeing more of Morales, but that might be just what we get given the two players' recent results.
Lavarnway Stays Patient
There were no more hits tonight for Ryan Lavarnway, but the exciting young rookie picked up a pair of walks to do his part in a game where baserunners were a scarce commodity indeed. Patience might be a much-needed virtue for Lavarnway soon, too, as David Ortiz draws closer to returning and taking his spot as the designated hitter back.
Red Sox MVP -- Erik Bedard
Four earned runs in six innings isn't pretty, but the offense was pretty terrible, and if there's any player on the team who needs some love right now, it's Bedard. His offense never scores for him, the defense doesn't back him up in the field, the umpires are constantly taking strikes away from him, and when they're not doing that they're messing up calls in the outfield. Bedard seems to do nothing but perform well, and receive no results from it to hang his hat on.
Up Next: John Lackey vs. Colby Lewis, 8:05 p.m. EST
John Lackey has slowly become...reliable. Not the sort of reliable that you want to start in the first game of the playoffs, but the sort that makes games winnable. If the offense can support him any, then he might stand a good chance--especially with the possibility that David Ortiz and/or Jacoby Ellsbury will return to action. With Colby Lewis struggling mightily against lefties, it would be a big bonus to the Sox.
The Red Sox did their best to put up some runs in the ninth, with Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Lavarnway drawing walks, but without any hits to speak of, they couldn’t push any across.
The Rangers move to 4-0 against the Red Sox this season, adding onto the punishment they inflicted at the start of the year. Erik Bedard is still winless with the Sox, picking up his second loss in four starts, and C.J. Wilson moves to 13-5.
The good news for the Sox is that reinforcements are likely on the way. Hopefully with the return of some big bats, the offense can find its way back into shape.
Well, the Sox now have something positive to take from the game: a good inning from Franklin Morales, who struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Of course, this also means that we’re likely to see more of Morales in the near future, so I’m not sure you can even say we draw even on that exchange.
Meanwhile, the 9-1-2 hitters in the lineup went 1-2-3, making them 0-for-10 on the night.
Long story short: it doesn’t look terribly good for the Sox right now, with Neftali Feliz coming out to close out the game in the ninth.
The Red Sox are six outs away from being shut out after a series in Kansas City gave the impression that the offense may, finally, have been back.
For what it’s worth, the Sox are facing C.J. Wilson—no easy task—but the four hits they’ve achieved aren’t impressive in any context. Amazingly, the seventh proved one of their best frames, with Jed Lowrie and Ryan Lavarnway both reaching with one out. But Wilson snagged a come-backer from Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded out after Koji Uehara entered the game to end the threat with no runs scoring.
The Sox would dodge their own trouble in the bottom of the inning as Matt Albers continued to struggle, allowing a leadoff double and a pair of two-out walks to load the bases. He got Michael Young to fly out however, holding Texas’ lead to a still pretty insurmountable 4-0.
Erik Bedard was one pitch away from escaping the sixth inning unharmed. He couldn’t do it.
With the Red Sox again going 1-2-3 in the top of the inning, Bedard ran into the first truly difficult inning of his outing, though not really through hard contact. A pair of one-out ground balls—one of which never left the infield—cost Bedard a couple of baserunners. He struck out Nelson Cruz, and picked up two strikes against Mike Napoli, but just couldn’t finish the job. The Texas catcher took advantage of a two-seam fastball that missed, and made Bedard pay to the tune of three big runs.
With C.J. Wilson’s domination continuing, this one seems like a bit of a long shot for the Sox right now.
Another inning, another poor showing for the Red Sox offense, which picked up just one more hit in the fifth.
The hit came off the bat of Carl Crawford, who sent a sharp ground ball past a diving Elvis Andrus. That’s three hits in the game now, so they’ve at least reached the Tampa Bay plateau.
Erik Bedard made quick work of the Angels in the bottom of the frame, needing just seven pitches to pick up a strikeout and a pair of flies. But it won’t matter how well Bedard pitches if the Sox can’t score some runs.
C.J. Wilson and Erik Bedard had quick, if not entirely quiet fourth innings, helping out both of their pitch counts.
For Wilson, it was a nine-pitch frame aided by a double play after Dustin Pedroia singled, giving the Sox only their second hit of the game. It’s pretty awful to watch a rare baserunner show up and then immediately be erased like that.
The Rangers got to keep their baserunner—Nelson Cruz reached on a swinging bunt to third—but didn’t fair much better for the rest of the frame, as Bedard escaped on just twelve tosses.
The pitchers’ duel is clearly underway, and if it hadn’t been for Doug Eddings, it’d be a scoreless one at that.
Erik Bedard cannot catch a break.
After Darnell McDonald’s one-pitch out in the top of the inning helped C.J. Wilson get his pitch count under control some, Bedard came out to pitch to the bottom of the lineup, and as has been happening lately, got the short end of the stick in every way.
The second batter he faced, Craig Gentry, drew a walk despite having the final pitch clearly pass through the strike zone. That’s reasonable, though, since it’s been a small zone so far. The problem came in the next at bat, when Ian Kinsler laced a sinking liner to right field. Josh Reddick came in, bent over, and clearly picked the ball off his shoetops in the air. First base umpire Doug Eddings must have been seeing things, however, as he called a trapped ball, setting up runners on first and second with one out. Three pitches later, and a single up the middle from Elvis Andrus allowed a run to score that never should have had a chance.
Andrus would gift the out back when he was caught inexplicably straying off of first after a pitch, but the damage had been done.
Erik Bedard worked around a leadoff single to escape the second inning with a scoreless tie still in place.
The Sox once again taxed C.J. Wilson in the second, though this time it came without the benefit of any baserunners, instead being largely the result of the 14 pitches he needed to get Carl Crawford and Ryan Lavarnway out. With 40 pitches on his arm through just two innings, Wilson needs to get some quick outs if he plans to pitch deep into this game.
The bottom half of the inning saw the Rangers pick up their first hit on a leadoff single from Michael Young, and almost had their second baserunner when Mike Napoli claimed to have been hit by a pitch on the hand. Paul Nauert was having none of it, though, sticking to his belief that the ball hit the knob of the bat, and denying Napoli his base. While Bedard’s pitch count rose to the mid-30s, he would strike out Napoli and get Mitch Moreland out to end the frame.
The Red Sox managed to build up C.J. Wilson's pitch count some with a little help from the small zone of home plate umpire Paul Nauert. Marco Scutaro worked a long at bat to start the inning before flying out, and after a two-out single from Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia drew a five pitch walk to extend the inning before Jed Lowrie grounded out weakly to third.
After Wilson shared some words with the ump while heading back to the dugout, the Rangers stepped up to bat. Erik Bedard did not have nearly so much difficulty getting out of the inning, using just 14 pitches to retire the Rangers in order.
The Sox will have the bottom of the order up in the second, starting with Ryan Lavarnway.
The Red Sox will field a patchwork lineup for at least one more day as they wait for their injured players to mend.
The first man to come back will likely be Jacoby Ellsbury, who's expected to play Tuesday after missing three games following a nasty hit by pitch against the Royals. For tonight, though, it will be Darnell McDonald once again filling in for the young All-Star in center field--though given the lefty on the mound, it's arguably Josh Reddick who's doing the filling in.
Up next will be David Ortiz, who has started taking batting practice again, though he is still in the walking boot at least for now. Ryan Lavarnway will continue to fill in as the designated hitter after picking up five hits and two walks in the last three games.
Kevin Youkilis is still a bit further off, but there's good news in some of the longer-term injuries, too. Clay Buchholz expects to throw again soon, though he's yet to be cleared by doctors. J.D. Drew is also finally set to begin a rehab schedule, and is expected to return when rosters expand in September.
For now, though, it's Darnell, Lavarnway, Lowrie, and the rest.
Boston Red Sox (77-49)
Texas will field a typically formidable bunch--the sort which will likely make Sox fans remember fondly what they're used to having.
Texas Rangers (73-55)
Pitching Matchup: Erik Bedard (4-8, 3.44 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (12-5, 3.20 ERA)
Tim Wakefield is not the only one struggling to find wins--Erik Bedard has gone without in his first month with the club, too. And, much like Wakefield, it's not really his fault. A holder of a 3.38 ERA in his three starts with the team, Bedard has only had trouble finding supporting runs--they've scored all of nine for him--a decent strike zone, and some solid defense. This will be his toughest test to date, but with his fastball velocity and curveball control being what they've been of late, he should stand a decent shot.
C.J. Wilson has made it clear that he's a keeper after transitioning to a starting role last year last year. If the league had made any progress towards figuring him out in 2010, then his increased reliance on an impressive curveball has made up for it. His ground ball rates keep him from getting into too much trouble in Arlington, though with the Sox lacking some big bats, that might not be much of an issue tonight anyways. Neither Bedard nor Wilson really stand out as the best of the best, but we could be in for a pitchers' duel tonight.
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