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The Red Sox downed the Orioles 6-1 Sunday afternoon thanks to some offense from unexpected places.
Through the first fourth innings, it wasn't entirely clear that they'd get any offense at all. Despite facing the hapless Danny Duffy with his ERA of well over 5, the Sox managed all of three baserunners in the first four frames, with both Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro running into outs on the basepaths. It was a scary sight after the last two games had given Boston fans hope that their offense was back in order after its poor performance in recent weeks.
Jon Lester, however, wasn't letting Kansas City take advantage of the slow start, holding them hitless through the first three innings before a two-out blooper broke things up. While his peripherals on the day wouldn't end up being terribly impressive, he had to deal with a small zone all day, and an error by Jed Lowrie ultimately cost him 11 extra pitches, forcing him to work from a difficult position all game long.
The Sox would finally back him up in the fifth inning when Jason Varitek, of all people, picked up a two-out RBI triple--his first three-bagger in four years--to score Jed Lowrie from second. Again, in the sixth, an unusual source provided a big hit, as Darnell McDonald went deep to left to score another run. The seventh didn't prove much different, as Carl Crawford launched a long home run to right, making it 3-0.
Now with a lead, Jon Lester returned in the seventh, running into really the only big trouble the Royals offense would provide all day. Johnny Giavotella led off the frame with a triple, Salvador Perez walked, and one hit later the lead was down to 3-1 without an out in the inning.
Luckily, the Sox had Daniel Bard on call, and the fireman played his roll early, recording the next three outs in rapid fashion, not allowing either inherited runner to score. Not content with the close game, the Sox opened up for three more in the eighth, leading off the inning with three straight hits and capping things off with a double from Ryan Lavarnway that missed being gone by inches, bouncing off the top of the wall in left as the rookie continued his strong start with a 2-for-4 game. When all was said and done, the Sox had a 6-1 lead and, with another inning from Bard and a clean ninth from Dan Wheeler, a 3-1 series win to rest on heading into Texas.
Boston has a 3-0 lead over the Royals heading into the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday.
The Red Sox offense has come from some of the most unexpected places. First, in the fifth inning, it was Jason Varitek hitting his first triple in four years to bring Jed Lowrie home following a leadoff infield single. Then, in the sixth, it was Darnell McDonald making up for his earlier baserunning gaffe by going deep to left field. And to top it all off, Carl Crawford finally went deep again, launching a 416 foot shot to right field off reliever Aaron Crow to make it 3-0.
The offense comes in support of Jon Lester who has made it into the seventh against all odds with a one-hit shutout in place. His pitch count is certainly getting up there, but with the seventh inning suddenly a big question mark, the Sox could use one more frame from their star lefty.
Jon Lester has done his job against the Royals so far, though his pitch count is a bit inflated due to circumstances outside his control. In the second, it was a booted grounder by Jed Lowrie that left him throwing eleven extra pitches to pick up his final out. And in the third, it was a blown strike three call that eventually led to a walk. All-together, Lester has nearly 60 pitches on his arm through the first three.
Meanwhile, Boston’s lineup has done a good job of dashing the hopes of Sox fans who thought their offense might just be back. After a leadoff walk from Marco Scutaro in the first, the Sox have put just one man man on base. Not only that, but Scutaro even managed to get caught stealing, and it wasn’t even close, as the shortstop ended up in a run down to end the first even though the pitch went through.
This is Danny Duffy they’re facing—one of the worst pitchers in the MLB, and they’re making him look like Jon Lester’s equal. It’s not something that should be happening.
Another game against a lefty, another odd bunch of right-handed bats thrown together with whoever the Sox have left standing.
Sunday, that group will include Darnell McDonald batting second, Jed Lowrie hitting fifth, Ryan Lavarnway right behind him, and Josh Reddick in the ninth spot. Jason Varitek will also get the start in the day game following the night game. It will not include Jacoby Ellsbury, who remains out following his unfortunate encounter with a baseball Friday.
Of course, while the Sox only put up four runs Saturday, it would be unfair to say they fell back into their slump after their strong game Friday night. While many runners were left on base, that they even had those runners in the first place is evidence enough that the bat came to play. Ryan Lavarnway has had a strong couple of games after starting out 0-for-4, and while Adrian Gonzalez went hitless, he came very close indeed to launching a pair of bombs. Maybe he'll get those few extra feet today.
Boston Red Sox (76-49)
The Royals will return to the same lineup they had in the opening game of the series, with Giavotella at second and Perez behind the plate. Perhaps they'll have better luck against left-handed Lester than they did against Josh Beckett.
Kansas City Royals (52-75)
Pitching Matchup: Jon Lester (12-6, 3.22 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (3-7, 5.77 ERA)
Jon Lester, of course, has a rather long and impressive history against the Kansas City Royals--one which might have gotten a bit longer had his last game against them not come right after Lester returned from the disabled list. Held to just five innings in the outing, Lester nonetheless turned in a strong start, which he followed up with eight good innings in Chicago.
Had those been the only two starts before his last outing against Tampa, then there'd be no cause for concern. However, Lester did run into some serious control problems and was hurt for it against Minnesota and New York in between. A strong start tonight would certainly make it clear that Lester has put that bit of trouble behind him, and given that Andrew Miller was able to so shut them down despite his tendency for walks and, more generally, mediocrity, there seems a good chance that Lester will do just that.
Even if he can't, though, Danny Duffy is not the sort of starter that inspires much fear in the Red Sox. Or anyone else for that matter. A high ERA is largely substantiated by unimpressive peripherals, which are likely the result of Danny Duffy throwing a good few strikes because, when he goes outside the zone, he's rarely able to fool anyone. His lack of deception outside the zone doesn't change much when he goes inside, either, leading to a lot of contact, and a lot of runs when he's up against powerful teams like the Red Sox, who chased him in under four innings the last time they squared off.
The Red Sox fell to the Royals 9-4 after a terrible sixth inning turned the game completely on its head.
Through five-and-a-half innings, Tim Wakefield looked poised to pick up the 200th win of his career. The Red Sox had scored four runs for him, with Ryan Lavarnway reaching base three times in his third Major League game, scoring one run and driving in another. Wakefield had even been reasonably impressive, limiting the Royals to just one run, albeit on sixth hits.
Then came the three disaster pitches, one after another, to Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur, and Mike Moustakas. The results: three hits, five bases, and two runs. Before Terry Francona could so much as stand up in the dugout, the score was 4-3 and there was a man at second.
When Francona did make his way to the mound, he called on Matt Albers, whose carriage may have officially turned back into a pumpkin--pardon the reference--after tonight's outing. With his August-to-date being quite ugly, Albers needed a strong game, and instead provided just one out to go with a walk, two singles, and a ringing double off the wall. By the time he had left the game, the Sox had fallen behind 7-4.
It would only get worse as Franklin Morales entered to face Eric Hosmer, who had started all this trouble in the first place. Hosmer took Morales to the wall for a triple, and with two men on, the score reached 9-4. Though the Sox offense had managed its fair share of baserunners in the game, with the wind knocked out of them by the sixth, they could mount no more offense, leaving the Sox losers and the Yankees still in first place despite being blown out by the Twins.
Wakefield will have to wait at least another four days.
Tim Wakefield may never get his 200th win.
After entering the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead courtesy of a strong fourth inning rally and Ryan Lavarnway’s first RBI in the top of the inning, a combination of Wakefield, Albers, and Morales allowed the Royals to not only come all the way back, but take a commanding 9-4 lead.
Terry Francona was not particularly slow with the hook, as has been the Sox’ downfall in other Wakefield starts; this time Wakefield was just too fast about his implosion, giving up a single and a pair of doubles on three straight pitches.
With the score now 4-3, in came Matt Albers, and away went the game. After walking the first batter he faced, Albers allowed a game tying single, picked up a loud fly ball out, and then gave up three more runs on a single and a double. He left after being called on to intentionally walk Billy Butler, which didn’t prove particularly helpful given that Franklin Morales quickly allowed a triple to Eric Hosmer to make it 9-4.
Wakefield will have to wait still longer for his milestone win, and it’s looking like the Sox will have to wait a while longer to take back first place.
While neither pitcher has given up much to the opponent, neither one has been particularly dominant, either. Combining for just two strikeouts, there has been a reasonable amount of contact off of each. Paulino has also struggled with command, walking the leadoff batters in both the first and third innings.
In the first, that walk didn’t amount to anything. Not so in the third. After Ryan Lavarnway walked to start the frame, Darnell McDonald laid down a perfect bunt, and made it safely to first as third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn’t field it. With third vacated, Lavarnway made it all the way to the opposite corner, scoring when Marco Scutaro grounded into a double play. Adrian Gonzalez would end the inning with a very long fly ball to left-center that missed being a home run by all of a few feet.
After Tim Wakefield gave up a two-out RBI double to Billy Butler in the bottom of the third, the Sox have kept the offense rolling along in the fourth. A leadoff single from Dustin Pedroia has led to a run on Carl Crawford’s base hit, and after an infield single for Ryan Lavarnway, the Sox have the bases loaded with a chance for more.
Marco Scutaro will make his return to the Red Sox Saturday evening, making his first start at shortstop since August 13 having missed the last week with a sore back.
The rest of the lineup is still pretty ugly--especially since Jacoby Ellsbury will receive a day or two off after being drilled in the back in the later innings of Friday night's game. Darnell McDonald will take over in center field, with Josh Reddick playing in right. Jed Lowrie will also sit despite reaching base four times Friday, with Mike Aviles playing Kevin Youkilis' customary role at third.
Boston Red Sox (76-48)
You know things have gone bad for Carl Crawford when he's batting seventh in that lineup.
The Royals, undettered by having Andrew Miller nearly shut them out, will make only small changes to the bottom of their lineup.
Kansas City Royals (51-75)
Pitching Matchup: Tim Wakefield (6-5, 4.90 ERA, still shy of 200 career wins) vs. Felipe Paulino (1-9, 4.30 ERA)
At what point does the futility of Tim Wakefield's quest for his 200th win become comical? He's pitched four perfectly winnable games since picking up number 199 on a night when he allowed seven runs to score in under seven innings of work, and while the Sox have pulled out wins in two of them, they have rewarded him with not a single positive decision.
So, given how things work in Wakefield's world, maybe today he's got the best possible odds. A weird, unimpressive lineup behind him, a few guys who have hit him quite well in opposition, and a pretty good pitcher in opposition; it all spells disaster on a normal day, and so what could go wrong?
And don't let his record fool you, Felipe Paulino has been a pretty good pitcher this year. Utilizing an overpowering fastball, the 27-year-old righty has come into his own somewhat this year. His biggest weakness--lefties--would usually come into play against Boston, but if you look at that lineup, they're not nearly so threatening from that side of the plate without Ortiz and Ellsbury in the equation. For once, the Sox would probably rather face the lefty from last night rather than the righty they're up against tonight.
The Red Sox offense was back in form despite an unusual lineup Friday night, scoring seven runs against Jeff Francis and the Royals to back Andrew Miller's strong start.
It had been weeks since Miller made a start, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect some rust from the oft-wild lefty, but one way or another Miller made it work Friday. He sent the Royals down in order in the first, and worked around a double in the second. It wasn't until the third that the Royals pushed a run across off of him, and though Jacoby Ellsbury may have saved more with a terrific grab in right-center, he limited the damage to just the one.
The Red Sox had already shown that they could hit Francis in the first, loading the bases before Ryan Lavarnway grounded out to end the threat. They even had a moment of deja vu in the third, as Lavarnway again stepped to the plate with three men on and--while his contact was better this time--flew out to right, again stranding everyone. It wasn't until the middle innings that they ultimately broke through.
It started in the fourth with Carl Crawford leading off the frame with a double to right field, and continued when Darnell McDonald hit a long fly ball that dropped just past the outstretched glove of Melky Cabrera, allowing McDonald to scamper into third with an RBI triple. A sac fly from Ellsbury later, and the Sox took the lead.
They would build that lead one inning later. Jed Lowrie led off with a single, and then moved to second as Ryan Lavarnway finally picked up his first hit--a sharp ground ball to right field. One out later, and up stepped Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty had, like the rest of the team, been experiencing a quiet August, seeing his OPS drop more than 40 points. And, down 0-2, he didn't swing at the best of pitches--a low changeup--but somehow or another he got all of it, dropping nearly to one knee and taking Francis very deep to give the Sox a sizable 5-3 lead.
With Andrew Miller being pulled in the fifth, the rest of the game was largely a matter of mopping up. The Sox put up a couple more in the eighth thanks to a hit batsman (Ellsbury), a Mike Aviles double, and an error from Alcides Escobar, but they wouldn't need it. Alfredo Aceves entered when Miller left, and once again proved his worth to the Sox, recording eleven outs while allowing just one baserunner, picking up his second save of the season via the route less-traveled, and leaving the Sox on top 7-1.
Amazingly, Andrew Miller has finished up his night in line for a strong win, being pulled from the game after 5.1 innings of one-run ball. While it wasn’t the sort of outing that could acquit him of his previous difficulties, with only two walks and three hits it also wasn’t one of those tight-rope walks that he’s been known for when he’s not giving up five-or-more runs. He was pulled fairly early with only 83 pitches on his arm and after striking out Melky Cabrera, likely to let him leave on a good note. Alfredo Aceves came in and finished up the sixth in relief, requiring just eight pitches to do so.
Things didn’t go quite so well for Jeff Francis, and the trouble started quickly in the fourth, as Carl Crawford led off the frame with a double to right field. Saltalamacchia couldn’t bring him home, grounding out to shortstop, but Darnell McDonald his a long fly ball that dropped just beyond the reach of a diving Melky Cabrera, leaving him at third with Crawford long since having scored. One sacrifice fly from Jacoby Ellsbury later, and the Sox had a 2-1 lead.
The offense kept going in the fifth. Jed Lowrie led things off with a single, and moved to second as Ryan Lavarnway picked up his first Major League hit on a sharply-hit ground ball to right field. With one out and two men on, up stepped Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The 0-2 pitch from Francis was a low changeup, but Salty dropped down—almost to one knee-and took a big swing, lifting the ball high and deep to left, where it found the walkway well above and back of the bullpens to give the Sox a 5-1 lead.
The top of the Boston lineup has provided opportunities twice already tonight, but had very similar and unfortunate results both times. The first inning saw the Sox record two quick outs, but get on a short roll started by Adrian Gonzalez, who broke an 0-for-14 streak by hitting a ground ball past Billy Butler for a double.
The Royals elected not to test Dustin Pedroia's ability to hit left-handed hitting--probably a good idea--and gave him the intentional walk. While the Sox would pick up a hit with RISP, Jed Lowrie's flair into right was covered quickly by Jeff Francoeur, and with Adrian Gonzalez running, the Sox had to settle for loading the bases for Ryan Lavarnway. Unfortunately, the rookie could not get the job done, grounding out on the second pitch of the at bat to end the threat.
The third inning would prove nearly the same. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the frame with a single and, after a ground out from Mike Aviles and a questionable called strike three on Adrian Gonzalez, the Royals decided once again to give Dustin Pedroia the free pass. Again, the decision would pay off despite another hit from Jed Lowrie--this one almost caught by a leaping Alcides Escobar, who had the ball pop from the snowcone-like grip he snagged it with. Ryan Lavarnway gave it a better try this time, making solid contact, but his fly ball died before the track, falling harmlessly into Francoeur's glove.
The Royals had gone down in order in the first, and only managed the lone hit in the second, but of course Andrew Miller couldn't keep things scoreless forever. A leadoff double from Mike Moustakas turned into a run when, despite a terrific play from Jacoby Ellsbury to run the gapper down, he was brought in on a sac fly from Alex Gordon.
The Red Sox will send out perhaps the most...unique lineup of the year against the left-handed Jeff Francis Friday night.
Featuring only five regular starters (if you don't include Jed Lowrie), the Sox' starting nine tonight really drives home just how chaotic things are for Boston right now. While only Kevin Youkilis has been sent to the disabled list of late, the Sox are also down David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro. Add in the weirdness that emerges when lefties are on the mound and you get...this:
Boston Red Sox (75-48)
The biggest surprise might be Mike Aviles batting second, but the middle infielder has traditionally hit lefties pretty well, and has even managed to keep up his numbers in this down year he's having. It doesn't hurt that, since joining the Sox, Aviles has been hitting .300. Sure, most of those hits are singles, and he doesn't walk much, but it's something.
Dustin Pedroia will stick in the cleanup spot, which should be no surprise to anyone following the team this year, while lefty-killer Jed Lowrie bats fifth. Ryan Lavarnway has also shown the ability to absolutely destroy southpaws, so this could end up being a surprising Murderers' Row for Francis.
The Royals will make only one small change despite facing Andrew Miller instead of Josh Beckett, slotting Brayan Pena in at catcher, batting seventh.
Kansas City Royals (51-74)
Pitching Matchup: Andrew Miller (4-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (4-10, 5.01 ERA)
Red Sox fans may not have expected to ever see Andrew MIller make another start--in fact, they may have been rather hoping he wouldn't. But, for whatever reason, the Andrew Miller experiment continues tonight.
It's been nearly three weeks since Andrew Miller last made a start for the Red Sox, and two weeks since he had a long outing--his 71 pitches in 2.2 innings of work against the Indians are just short of being the very depressing stuff of legends. It's perhaps worth noting, though, that he left off on a reasonable note, throwing 5.2 innings of three-run ball, striking out eight men and, amazingly enough, walking just one. If it weren't for that appearance against Cleveland, Sox fans might have reason to be more interested than afraid.
Fortunately for Miller, the Royals are one of the least disciplined teams in the league, who swing at pitches outside the zone more than any AL team save the Angels and White Sox. That may help him avoid some of the walks that have so often plagued him.
For Jeff Francis, the problem is simple: how does he get righties out? He hasn't been able to so far this year, and the Red Sox have lined up quite a few guys capable of killing lefties. On the bright side, he should be able to do well against the lefties in the lineup given their pretty big personal splits, and quite frankly if we ignore the splits and look just at personnel, the Sox have some unimpressive guys and inexperienced players in their lineup tonight.
Pedroia went 3-4 on the evening, had 3 RBIs, stole a base and scored a run. Two of those RBIs occurred in the top of the third inning, when he broke open a tied game by scoring former Royal Mike Aviles and Jacoby Ellsbury to take a 3-1 lead. In the fifth, Pedroia singled to score Jed Lowrie to give the Red Sox the lead for good.
Beckett pitched seven innings Thursday night, throwing 110 pitches and getting 77 strikes. He had a 2.47 ERA on the night. Though he found himself in a few jams (including one in the bottom of the sixth that had many assuming his night was over), Beckett was able to get out of them. He also had offensive support from his teammates – something he had lacked in outings past.
Beckett did give up one home run on the night to left fielder Alex Gordon in the bottom of the third, who was a highlight for the Royals all over the field tonight.
Royals’ starting pitcher Luke Hochevar pitched six innings and 114 pitches, with a 4.93 ERA..
The Sox improve to 21-20 in series openers this season. The Royals and Sox meet three more times this weekend, with the two set to take the field again Friday night at 8:10 EST.
Beckett finished the sixth inning with 102 pitches and has 71 strikes on the night. Royals starter Luke Hochevar finished his night after the top of the sixth, having pitched 114 pitches, with 72 strikes.
The Boston Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the third inning, but the Kansas City Royals answered right back to knot up the score up 3-3 as the game enters the fourth inning.
A Dustin Pedroia hit to center field in the top of the third scored Mike Alives and Jacoby Ellsbury to give the Red Sox a 3-1 lead. But the Royals’ Alex Gordon homered in the bottom of the third to score two runs to even the game at 3 all.
In the first, the Royals got on the scoreboard on a Billy Butler sacrafice fly out to Jacoby Ellsbury that allowed Alex Gordon to score.
With Kevin Youkilis on the DL and David Ortiz in a walking boot, Ryan Lavarnway has been presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Lavarnway, who has been taring up the minor league and was called up in place of Youkilis, will make his major league debut against the Kansas City Royals at 8:10 p.m. EDT on Thursday night.
Here are the lineups for both teams for tonight's games.
Boston Red Sox (74-48)
Dustin Pedroia and the Boston Red Sox look to pick up the pace after scoring just five runs in their last three games as they open a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at 8:10 p.m. EDT (TV/Radio: NESN/WEEI).