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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sorry St. Louis, Joe Kelly Is Here To Haunt Your Dreams Forever

I have to admit that Joe Kelly's Red Sox debut intrigued me enough to tune in, not that there were many other viewing options besides the MLS All-Star Game vs. Bayern Munich. I'm glad I did too as Boston (50-63 overall, 23-32 away) picked up a 2-1 win over St. Louis (60-52 overall, 32-25 home) in a 2004/2013 World Series rematch at Busch Stadium.

After a lengthy rain delay (over an hour) before it started and facing his former team, Kelly was nails (7 innings, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 2 strikeouts, 4 walks) which really showed me something. Let's just hope this isn't the highpoint of his time with the Red Sox.

Matt Adams (2 for 4) gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single. Kelly's buddy Shelby Miller (7 innings, 1 earned run, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk) basically matched him pitch for pitch. Another good sign in this poop sandwich of a season is that Xander Bogaerts provided both runs for Boston. His RBI double in the fourth tied it at one then he knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly off closer Trevor Rosenthal (1-6) in the ninth.

The Red Sox had eight hits as a team (three more than the Cardinals) but only Mike Napoli notched two (both doubles). Junichi Tazawa (2-3) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with one strikeout to earn the win. Koji Uehara worked around two singles in the ninth for his 23rd save of the season.

St. Louis won 3-2 on Monday so they'll both shoot for the series victory tomorrow night (7:15, NESN) as Brandon Workman (1-4) faces Adam Wainwright (13-6) in what is about as lopsided a matchup on paper that you could possibly find these days in MLB. Haha good luck Brandon or maybe I should say overmatched Red Sox hitters. For what it's worth (nothing), David Ortiz should be ready since he only pinch hit tonight and that was a four-pitch intentional walk.

UPDATE 8/7: Newly acquired Kelly Johnson was activated from the DL and Mookie Betts was sent back to Pawtucket (who are actually in a playoff race).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Anthony Ranudo Earns Win in MLB Debut, New Look Red Sox Beat Yankees 4-3

Even with Yoenis Cespedes on the bench (his flight from Oakland arrived late this afternoon in Boston), I have to say that I looked forward to tonight's Red Sox (49-60 overall, 27-29 home) game as much as any others that I can remember from this very forgettable season. Seeing a team that was basically half Pawtucket Red Sox beat the Yankees (55-53 overall, 30-27 away) 4-3 at Fenway Park was pretty gratifying. Anthony Ranaudo (1-0) made his MLB debut and it was a good one: 6 innings, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 strikeouts, 4 walks.

Former Red Sox Chris Capuano (1-2) got the start for New York and he continued to prove that he's nothing special at this stage in his overachieving career. They will probably lose a bunch of games from here on out but I'll give the Red Sox credit for addressing many (who needs pitching?) problems facing the team. You hear all the clich├ęs but it really was cool to see new faces like Allen Craig (1st hit for Boston-a double) blend with youngsters such as Mookie Betts and Will Middlebrooks who are trying to win everyday jobs for next season.

Brock Holt tripled and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4 w/run) drove him in with an RBI double in the third inning. David Ortiz knocked in Pedroia with an RBI single for a 2-0. Carlos Beltran cut New York's deficit in half with a solo homer in the fourth inning-his 13th of the season. Middlebrooks doubled in the fourth
and David Ross delivered an RBI single that ended with him limping off the field. Clearly his foot is in rough shape so he should be out for a while (DL?).

Beltran came through again with an RBI double in the sixth that scored another former Red Sox-Jacoby Ellsbury. Dustin Pedroia's RBI single in the 7th turned out to be the insurance that Boston needed as Derek Jeter hit a solo homer over the Monster in the eighth.

Another PawSox Tommy Layne pitched a 1-2-3 7th and Junichi Tazawa surrendered the homer to Jeter before Koji Uehara locked it down with a 1-2-3 9th (1 strikeout/13 total pitches) for his 22nd save of the season.

It's another wretched (at least on paper) pitching matchup tomorrow afternoon (4:05, NESN): Allen Webster (1-0) vs. Shane Greene (3-10). Did I mention that it's supposed to rain all day? So yeah, might want to skip out on the tickets that you know your friends, family and co-workers will be trying to dump on you.

UPDATE 8/2: The Red Sox sent Ranaudo back to Pawtucket (womp womp) and added Joe Kelly to the active roster. Additionally, Ross went on the DL and the Red Sox called up catcher Dan Butler from the PawSox. Finally, Yoenis Cespedes is in the lineup this afternoon and playing left field in his Red Sox debut.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our Regional Nightmare is Over: Lackey Headed to St. Louis, Craig & Kelly Coming to Boston

He bounced back in a big way last season and helped the Red Sox win a World Series title but even then, it was always difficult to pretend to cheer for that jerk John Lackey. The good news for Boston fans is that now that awkward situation is behind us since he was traded to St. Louis (56-50) along with minor league pitcher Corey Littrell and cash considerations for outfielder Allen Craig and right-handed starter Joe Kelly.

Lackey is 11-7 with 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 21 starts this season. At age 35 (36 in October) and coming off a major elbow injury, it's a miracle that he has returned to this level. His team option for next year is only $500,000 which shows how little faith the Red Sox had that he could ever be himself again.

Like Yoenis Cespedes, acquired earlier today from Oakland, Craig was an All-Star last season. The difference is that this year, he's gone off a cliff coming back from a foot injury (remember that from the World Series?). This season he's hitting .237/.291/.346 with seven homers, 44 RBIs, 17 doubles and 34 runs in 97 games. Last season, he hit .315/.373/.457 with 13 homers, 97 RBIs, 29 doubles and 71 runs in 134 games. Granted it was a smaller sample size but last season's breakout wasn't that crazy since he was good in 2011 and 2012. At age 30, he's a good guy to take a chance on.

Kelly is 26 and this is only his third full season in MLB. He's also been banged up, dealing with a hamstring injury hence why he's only made seven starts in 2014. He's 2-2 with 4.37 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He was solid last season, 10-5 in 37 games (15 starts) with 2.69 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 79 strikeouts/44 walks in 124 innings. Since the Red Sox' pitching rotation is now wide open, Clay Buchholz is the only holdover from Opening Day, Kelly should have a great chance to earn a spot for at least the next few years.

UPDATE 7/31: Looks like the Red Sox are done for the day after they shipped Andrew Miller (3-5, 2.34 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 69 strikeouts/13 walks in 50 appearances) to Baltimore for Double-A pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (their No. 3 prospect). Miller is having a career year but he'll never be better than this; get ready to see him facing David Ortiz a million times a season.

Showing that they have a good sense of humor, the Red Sox traded one bucket of crap-Stephen Drew-to the Yankees at the last minute before the deadline for a bucket of shit-second baseman Kelly Johnson. That means that Xander Bogaerts will get to move back to shortstop (where he should have been all season) and Will Middlebrooks will return from purgatory aka Pawtucket. The ironic part is that New York comes to Fenway for a three-game series starting tomorrow night. At least there is a reason to watch the rest of the season with all these new guys on the Red Sox.

Blockbuster Trade Alert: Red Sox Send Lester & Gomes to Oakland for Cespedes

It is crazy that it came to this: somehow the Red Sox' front office screwed up things so badly by offering Jon Lester the laughable sum of four years and $70 million in spring training that now he's being shipped to Oakland along with Jonny Gomes for star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance draft pick.

Lester made all the right moves by putting off contract talk during the season and turning in the best year of his career (10-7, 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 149 strikeouts) while Boston continued to bumble their way through an awful season (48-60). The more time that went by as the Red Sox plummeted and nothing productive seemed to come on Lester's contract front, this was inevitable.

The fact that the Red Sox got Cespedes (.256 batting average, 17 homers, 67 RBIs, .303 OBP, .464 SLG and 12 outfield assists) in return is a nice haul. My head always starts spinning when we start talking about baseball prospects since the reality of the matter is that most of them never turn into anything above average. In the third year of his MLB career after coming over from Cuba, Cespedes is in the peak of his career at age 28 (29 in October, ok sure).

His best season was his rookie year in 2012: .292, 23 homers, 82 RBIs, .356 OBP, .505 SLG, 16 stolen bases and 3.4 WAR). He's a free agent after 2015 so now the question is what Boston will do with him since owner John Henry has publicly stated his disdain for handing out large contracts to players that are 30+. The only thing that worries me about him is his durability; I've noticed this from fantasy baseball (stay with me) but he gets a million little nagging injuries causing him to play 129 games in 2012 and 135 last season. He's only missed six so far for Oakland this season.

Lester said last weekend (after his final Red Sox start) that he'd re-sign here if he was traded but if you believe that, you are one gullible human being. I don't understand how the Red Sox could dust themselves off and suddenly give him a much better deal this winter when he's a free agent since basically half of MLB will be bidding for his services.

Seeing Lester on another team will certainly be strange, the Red Sox are the only professional team that's he ever known after getting called up in 2006. I wouldn't say this about many guys but he truly grew up here in the spotlight: beating Lymphoma and pitching the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2007 and 2013 (getting the clinching win both times). With a career record of 110-63 with 3.64 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 1386 strikeouts, he had become one of the top pitchers (lefty or righty) in MLB. You can make a good case for him being the best playoff pitcher in the game at the moment. He's 6-4 with 2.11 ERA and 1.04 WHIP including 4-1 last fall (2 wins vs. St. Louis) with 1.56 ERA and 0.95 WHIP that earned him the World Series MVP.

There are 54 pointless games left in this miserable season for the Red Sox but at least we can take heart in the fact that Lester being on the A's (66-41)-the top team in MLB-makes the postseason that much more interesting. As for Gomes (.234, 6 homers, 32 RBIs, .329 OBP, .354 SLG), Boston got what they could out of him last season but his tough guy/Captain America routine looked even more silly in 2014 when the team sucked and he played like the worst left fielder in baseball history (somewhere Wily Mo Pena smiles). He hadn't reached the level of that stiff Felix Doubront, who was traded to the Cubs yesterday for the mysterious player to be named later (or a tin of dip and a jock strap?), but I doubt anyone will miss Gomes let alone notice that he's gone.

For the next 3.5 hours, we wait to see if Boston makes some more moves. It sounds like John Lackey (Cardinals or Dodgers) and Andrew Miller (Braves or Dodgers) are also on the next flights out of Logan. Might as well make as many prudent trades that they can to reload for 2015 and beyond.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Red Sox Avoid 3-Game Sweep in Tampa Bay

You knew that at some point, the Red Sox (48-57 overall, 22-31 away) would stumble into another win maybe even before July ended. What perfect timing today as Boston beat Tampa Bay (51-54 overall, 24-20 home) 3-2 this afternoon at Tropicana Field in the series finale. The victory snapped Tampa Bay's 9-game win streak and their own five-game skid.

Allen Webster (1-0) made his 2014 Red Sox debut: 5.1 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 4 strikeouts and 5 walks. His location was off all game but Boston's bullpen bailed him out thanks to the work of Edward Mujica (2 outs), Andrew Miller (scoreless 7th), Junichi Tazawa (scoreless 8th w/2 Ks) and Koji Uehara (scoreless in 9th inning and he struck out of the side for his 21st save).

Tampa Bay's Chris Archer (6-6) was ok except for one big mistake: David Ortiz crushed a three-run bomb of him in the third inning for a 3-0 Red Sox advantage. It seems like every time Ortiz gets a hit, RBI or especially home run these days it's a new record and this was no different: it was his 25th homer of the season. I'm not going to delve too deeply in it since I think it's a moronic argument but I have to acknowledge that after the game, Archer was complaining about Ortiz flipping his bat after the homer. Here's a thought: make a better pitch. I'm so sick of the Rays and how much whining they do which is saying something for a baseball team.

Desmond Jennings hit a two-run double in the home half of the third but that would be the final time that either team scored a run. They combined for only 11 hits but Daniel Nava (2 for 4, walk, run) and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 3, walk, run, stolen base) both had good days at the plate. Oddly enough, the Red Sox won the first game of their just completed road trip and the last; it was those five games in between that proved to be so elusive.

Toronto won three of four vs. Boston to start the trip and now the Blue Jays (56-50 overall, 2nd in AL East) come to Fenway Park for three games (the final series before the trade deadline on Thursday). It's an interesting stretch as Boston then hosts the Yankees for three games and travels to St. Louis and Anaheim (I refuse to say LA)-both serious playoff contenders-for three games apiece.

Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) it is Clay Buchholz (5-6) vs. R.A. Dickey (8-10), followed by Rubby De La Rosa (3-3) vs. Marcus Stroman (6-2) on Tuesday (7:10, NESN) and Jon Lester (10-7) vs. Mark Buehrle (10-7) on Wednesday (7:10, NESN). Those first two matchups occurred last week and Toronto won in each instance. Odds are that there will be at least one trade involving the Red Sox in the next few days as they continue to shuffle the deck. Reports have surfaced that they're looking at Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp which I'm all on board with. It's a weird position to be in as Boston tries to play spoiler against Toronto and to a lesser extent New York (since I don't think they can sustain a playoff push).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let The Red Sox Fire Sale Begin, Enjoy Your Duckboat Jake Peavy!

We've known for weeks, maybe months, that the 2014 Red Sox were circling the drain and there would be no postseason baseball this fall for the defending World Series champs. Their recent four-game slide has sent Boston (47-56 overall) back to the basement in the AL East-10.5 games behind first place Baltimore and seven games back in the Wild Card. The non-waiver trade deadline is looming on Thursday so the Red Sox finally made a move as they flipped veteran starting pitcher Jake Peavy to the Giants for minor league pitchers righty Heath Hembree and lefty Edwin Escobar.

He's had some bad luck and no run support for months (2 runs or fewer in his last 8 starts) but the fact is that in 20 starts this season, Peavy is 1-9 with 4.72 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. At 33, he looks pretty washed up but the funny thing is that he could look like a different guy when he gets to the friendly confines of AT&T Park along with the weak West (3 teams at least 10 games under .500) in the JV National League. Plus he has 7.5 years of experience with San Diego so that should count for something.

Peavy will make his Giants (57-46) debut tomorrow night on Sunday Night Baseball (8:07, ESPN) at home vs. Dodgers. Being on a good team in a pennant race should also give him a boost for a few months, similar to what happened basically a year ago when he came over from the White Sox to the Red Sox.

With Brandon Workman waiting in the wings in Pawtucket, Boston probably won't miss anything Peavy could bring anymore on the field. However, not to sound too cheesy here but he seemed like a great dude that everybody loved. This is the same guy that bought a Duck Boat after the World Series win, he immediately embraced his new team and what it meant to play in such a special environment. Those things that you can't measure in endless baseball stats is what the Red Sox and their fans will miss most about Jake Peavy, he is the rare baseball player that isn't a dink.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Day for BU: Former Terriers Star Sacco Named B's Assistant Coach & Warsofsky Signs 1-Year Deal

There was a time in the not so distant past that Boston University was one of the premier men's college hockey programs in the nation. That has changed with the retirement of legendary head coach Jack Parker. Today, the Bruins kept BU alumni and fans in New England happy as they named former Terriers star (and Medford MA native) Joe Sacco assistant coach and signed defenseman David Warsofsky (another BU product, from Marshfield MA) to a one-year/two-way contract worth $600,000.

Last season, Sacco was sentenced to a year in NHL purgatory as he was an assistant for the pitiful Sabres. It was the crappy way he had to bounce back after being fired from the Avalanche where he served as head coach from 2009-2013. For Colorado, his overall record was 130-134-40 and he won the Jack Adams Award (best coach) in 2010 after leading the Avs to the postseason. He takes over for longtime assistant Geoff Ward who left the B's to take a head coaching job in Germany, um ok? In 13 seasons in the NHL and on five teams (Leafs, Ducks, Islanders, Capitals and Penguins), Sacco amassed 94 goals and 119 assists.

I mentioned Warsofsky not just because he's a local guy but since he seems to have a good opportunity to stick in Boston next season. In six games with the B's last season, he had a goal and an assist. With Providence, he put up six goals and 26 assists. He's basically Torey Krug Lite: 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, good skater and left-handed shot who excels at moving the puck particularly on the power play. At age 24 and with 190 games in the AHL under his belt, this appears to be a big chance for Warsofsky to take the next step in his career.