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Friday, May 29, 2015

Finally, A Reason To Watch the Red Sox This Season (Well At Least Every 5th Game)


Hey gang, remember the Red Sox? They had a nice run for a while, huh? What ever happened to them? Oh that's right, they are headed on a course straight for their third last-place finish in the last four seasons. That is until tonight when rookie lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez proved to be something of a revelation in his MLB debut. The former Oriole (obtained in the Andrew Miller trade last season) and highly touted prospect went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks as Boston (22-26 overall, 12-14 away) won the series opener 5-1 over Texas (23-25 overall, 6-14 home) at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Obviously one starting pitcher in baseball can't make that much of a difference on a bad team but at least this gives us a reason to watch again (when he's on the hill). The reason I hadn't written about the Red Sox in weeks is that just like last year, not only are they terrible but they are also boring which is a deadly combination for an MLB team. I don't know about you but I'd like to have something to watch this summer when there is literally nothing else going on in the sports universe. That's where you come in, Red Sox.

Maybe this will be the high point of Rodriguez's career; at least we saw that he has this type of ability against a quality lineup. The same can't be said for the rest of Boston's sorry rotation. The plan before his gem was to send him back to Pawtucket but there is no chance that will happen. The immortal Nick Martinez (4-1) held the Red Sox in check until the fifth when Mookie Betts (3 for 5, triple) drove in Blake Swihart (2 for 4, run) with an RBI single.

Hanley Ramirez hit his first home run of May (his first in 85 at bats), a solo shot to left center in the sixth for a 2-0 Red Sox advantage. Martinez (7 innings, 2 earned runs, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) would fit in well on the Red Sox since he pitched really well but his offense let him down to say the least. Boston got three more insurance runs in the eighth on a gift two-run single for Swihart that was misplayed by Texas second baseman Adam Rosales. Boston's final run came from an infield single by Rusney Castillo that scored the newest member of the team-outfielder Carlos Peguero.

The Rangers' lone run came in the ninth on an RBI single by Josh Hamilton (2 for 4, double) who was playing his first game back in Texas after being reacquired from the Angels. It'll be interesting to see how Rodriguez fares in his second start and so on. Now MLB teams will have more tape on him so he won't be such a mystery. Dustin Pedroia has been batting leadoff lately for Boston and it seems to be working, he was 3 for 5 this evening. Xander Bogaerts got hit on the left forearm with a pitch in the fourth inning and had to leave but his injury was termed a "forearm contusion" which doesn't sound too serious.

Steven Wright (2-1) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-6) tomorrow night (8:05, NESN) in the second game of a four-game set.






Sunday, May 10, 2015

Red Sox Avoid The Sweep in Toronto, Thanks to Napoli and Sandoval's Blasts


With their pathetic downward spiral to last-place in the AL East over these last few weeks, the Red Sox had basically become unwatchable. I only saw bits and pieces of the carnage, because who could devote three plus hours to that trainwreck every day/night in early May? At least Boston (14-17 overall, 7-8 away) salvaged something from the trip to Canada with a 6-3 win this afternoon on Mother's Day at Rogers Centre vs. Blue Jays (16-16 overall, 9-7 home).

Clay Buchholz (2-4) actually pitched pretty decently by his very low standards (6.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks) while Mike Napoli hit a three-run bomb and Pablo Sandoval (double, 2 runs) added a two-run shot of his own. Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth with one strikeout for his sixth save of the season and 100th of his career (combined between MLB and Japan).

It sounds pretty simple but the Red Sox have excelled when they have scored first this season (they are now 9-2). That's why today's start was basically perfect: Mookie Betts tripled to lead off the game and Dustin Pedroia knocked him in with a groundout. Later that inning, Napoli launched his third homer of the season to center. Haha if only Boston could play R.A. Dickey (6 innings, 6 earned runs, 7 hits, 0 strikeouts, 3 walks) more often, then they would be getting somewhere.

Sporting a new gross haircut (hard to believe, I know), Buchholz actually held that four-run lead for over three innings which was a cause for celebration. Framingham native Chris Colabello (3 for 4) continued his hot streak with an RBI single in the fourth which cut it to 4-1. Sandoval's two-run home run to right center in the fifth was also his third of the season.

The Blue Jays got a run in the fifth on Josh Donaldson's RBI double and their final run came in the seventh on a groundout. After getting outscored 7-0 on Friday night and 7-1 on Saturday afternoon, it was nice to see the Red Sox show a slight pulse. Buchholz pitched long enough that new pitching coach Carl Willis (in his first day on the job) only had to see Junichi Tazawa (1.2 scoreless innings) bridge the gap to Uehara. No need to use any of their far less reliable relievers.

In their first West Coast action of the season, Boston headed for Oakland (12-21 overall, 5th in AL West) where they will play three games against the reeling A's. Then it's off to Seattle (14-17 overall, 3rd in AL West) for four games. They don't return to Fenway Park until a week from Tuesday against Texas. Haha who knows what kind of shape the hometown team will be in by then?

In the series opener tomorrow night (10:05) it is Rick Porcello (3-2) vs. former Rays great Scott Kazmir (2-1). Justin Masterson (2-1) faces Drew Pomeranz (1-3) on Tuesday night (10:05. NESN) before things wrap up on Wednesday afternoon (3:35, NESN) with Wade Miley (1-3) taking on Sonny Gray (4-0). If the Red Sox have any hope of becoming a good team in 2015, they need to take at least two out of three vs. the awful A's.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Boston Sports Fans Turn Their Lonely Eyes to Red Sox & Betts Delivers His 1st Career Walk-Off Hit


The Celtics are done for the season after getting swept by the Cavaliers yesterday and the Bruins have been long gone for weeks so now, locally all we have left until August (when Patriots training camp and preseason begins) is the Red Sox. That is unless you count the Revolution (MLS), Cannons (MLL) and/or Breakers (women's professional soccer) which I'm pretty sure that you do not.

Boston (11-9 overall, 5-3 home) took advantage of this added attention with a thrilling 6-5 win at Fenway Park on Monday night vs. Toronto (9-11 overall, 4-6 away) to open a nine-game homestand vs. AL East foes (Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays). Mookie Betts (3 for 4 with 2 runs, 2B & BB) came through with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth that scored Xander Bogaerts. It was particularly memorable for the rookie since it was his first walk-off hit in MLB.

It was a weird game from the start, as it was supposed to start at 6:10 p.m. (a nice new feature on weekdays in chilly April) but was delayed 33 minutes by rain. Then Toronto scored three runs in the first off Joe Kelly (6 innings, 5 earned runs, 5 hits, career-high 10 strikeouts, 3 walks) on an RBI single by Devon Travis (2 runs) and two-run double by Russell Martin.

Boston chipped away at the lead (and Aaron Sanchez) beginning with a two-run single by Pablo Sandoval in the bottom of the first. The Blue Jays built their lead back up to three with Travis' solo homer in the third and an RBI single by Kevin Pillar in the fourth. Sandoval hadn't hit a home run in a Red Sox uniform before yesterday's blowout loss in Baltimore but he made it two in two games with a line drive that got over the fence in right in the fourth, cutting it to 5-3.

Betts scored in the fifth after Sanchez made a throwing error, something which has been happening non-stop to the benefit of Boston so far this season. Other than everyone overrating the Blue Jays seemingly for the past decade, another staple of playing MLB's lone Canadian club is that their bullpen is always a complete joke. The Red Sox tied it in the eighth on Hanley Ramirez's sacrifice fly that scored Betts.

So far, Boston's pitching rotation has been even worse than we could have imagined. They are going nowhere with this sorry group of starters but on the other hand, their lineup is lethal and should keep them in most games. Oh and the bullpen is a mess too although Alexi Ogando pitched two scoreless innings of relief and Koji Uehara (2-1) had a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts (two nights after looking like toast when he gave up a walk-off homer to the Orioles).

The best thing you can say about this flawed squad is that they are certainly interesting so much like a car crash, we probably won't be able to turn away from these crazy games. Haha when you can't pitch and give up runs like a beer league softball team, who doesn't want to tune in to that? Maybe spring will appear as well, haha who knows? Tomorrow night (6:10, NESN) Clay Buchholz (1-2) faces Drew Hutchison (2-0). That has 10-8 written all over it, bring your glove if you are going to the game, you might catch a home run.





Monday, April 20, 2015

NBA Playoffs Reality Check: It Will Be a Miracle if the Celtics Win a Single Game vs. Cavaliers


I am not a delusional person so I never thought for a second that the Celtics could actually beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series, let alone win a few games and make it somewhat competitive. The first-round playoff series opened this afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena and Boston actually played about as well as they could (on the road at least) but still lost 113-100 to Cleveland. Haha would you believe that Vegas had the Celts as a 12-point underdog? How do those gambling magicians do it?

Anyways, Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points in his playoff debut, LeBron James had 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals while Kevin Love put up 19 points and 12 rebounds in his first taste of the NBA playoffs. Forget the Celtics for a second, what other team in the Eastern Conference can beat this collection of All-Stars? For most of the regular season, I openly rooted against the C's because making the playoffs seemed so pointless to their mission of acquiring talent and assets. Near the end, I changed my mind since truly tanking was impossible and this group is extremely likable under one of the best head coaches-Brad Stevens-in basketball.

The sad reality of the NBA playoffs (and one of the many reasons that the NHL playoffs are better) is that upsets are few and far between, especially with top seeds and championship contenders. Anyone with half a brain realizes that Boston has essentially no chance to win this series. All we want is some relatively close games and maybe a win at the Garden, that'd be nice and something to build on for next season. Plus, with no Bruins playoff games this spring, we are just trying to delay what looks to be a mediocre Red Sox campaign.

Talent usually wins out in the NBA and even though the Celtics had six guys score in double-figures, led by Isaiah Thomas' 22 points, 10 assists and five rebounds off the bench, they predictably had no answer for the Cavs' big three. Evan Turner had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists but he struggled with his shot (4 of 12 from the field). Brandon Bass and Marcus Smart were both pretty quiet, each guy was held to 10 points. Boston's bench kept them in it for a while as Kelly Olynyk scored 12 points and Jae Crowder added 10 points and five rebounds.

The Celtics couldn't have asked for a better start as they led 31-27 after the first quarter and 37-29 early in the second which was their biggest advantage of the game. Cleveland finally woke up from there and led by eight points at halftime (62-54) thanks to Irving's buzzer beating 3-pointer. The Cavaliers continued to steamroll the Celtics in the third quarter, opening up a 20-point lead (82-62) but Boston countered with a 14-0 run. Cleveland was up 91-76 heading into the fourth after another buzzer-beater 3-pointer, this time by J.R. Smith.

When you are so overmatched physically, I honestly don't know what Brad Stevens can tell his guys with a straight face. They won't suddenly wake up bigger, stronger or faster. I'm guessing that he points out how the Cavaliers made five more 3-pointers (13-8), eight more free throws (26-18) and grabbed 12 more rebounds (46-34) including eight on the offensive glass (15-7) in Game 1. I have a feeling that Game 2 on Tuesday (7, CSN) could be ugly much sooner if Cleveland decides to show up from the opening tip-off.




Saturday, April 18, 2015

Red Sox Beat Orioles 3-2 on Walk-off Bloop Hit by Xander Bogaerts


Built like a Beer League softball team with a powerful lineup and nothing close to a No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher, Boston's flaws are painfully obvious but few would complain about the results from the first 10 games of the 2015 season.

The Red Sox (7-3 overall, 3-1 home) beat the Orioles (5-5 overall, 2-2 away) 3-2 tonight at Fenway Park in the 1st of 19 meetings this season. Xander Bogaerts' bloop single scored Mike Napoli for the walk-off win. The hit itself was nothing to write home about but Napoli's baserunning was impressive as he broke for the plate from second right away.

It was a strange game since Ubaldo Jimenez (3.2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks) was ejected in the fourth inning after he drilled Pablo Sandoval in the back with a fastball. This was retaliation for Sandoval's hard slide on Baltimore second baseman Jonathan Schoop earlier in the contest. Since Sandoval was in the baseline, I didn't see the problem with it. Jimenez's mistake was hitting him so high (near his head), if it had been on his side or ample backside, nobody would have cared. Oh baseball.

Joe Kelly had a decent start for the Red Sox (5.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks) but he was done too early with a crazy pitch count (118) that was shades of Dice-K in his painfully mediocre prime. The teams combined for eight pitchers (four apiece) which was nearly as many hits as they produced (9), that's why the game took so long (3:13) without much action.

Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when a run scored despite the fact that Chris Davis grounded into a double play. The Orioles made it 2-0 the following inning when catcher Caleb Joseph homered to right (barely out of the reach of Shane Victorino). His first homer of the season was trumped by Ryan Hanigan's two-run blast over the Monster in the home half of the frame. It was the Andover, MA native's first bomb as a Red Sox which had to be a special feeling.

Edward Mujica was first out of Boston's bullpen and he got four outs. Junichi Tazawa pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts and Koji Uehara (1-0) was credited with the win after striking out two batters of his own in a 1-2-3 ninth (10 pitches!).

Literally anything could happen tomorrow afternoon (4:05, NESN) as Clay Buchholz (1-1) faces Chris Tillman (1-1) in a battle of "aces" who are nothing of the sort.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Red Sox Experience a Perfect 2015 Home Opener vs. Nationals Including a 9-4 Win


Even the most negative Red Sox fan (which are few and far between these days) would have a hard time complaining about anything that transpired on Monday afternoon at Fenway Park. Boston (5-2 overall) pounded Washington (2-5 overall, 1-3 away) 9-4 in the 2015 home opener that featured a moving pregame ceremony with my man Pete Frates and Jane Richards among others. Oh and did I mention that it was 70 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the blue sky? The fact that it was my first ever home opener made it extra special too, if I'm smart I should probably never attend another one since I doubt that this one can be topped.

Once the game started, Red Sox rookie center field and leadoff hitter Mookie Betts was the unquestioned star. He robbed Bryce Harper of a possible two-run homer in the first inning, roped a three-run homer (2nd of the season) over the Monster in the second (for a 4-0 Boston lead) and also stole two bases on one play then added an infield single that opened it up to 7-0. Rick Porcello (1-0) picked up his first career win for Boston with an eight-inning effort: four runs (three earned), on four hits with six strikeouts and a walk.

The Nationals have gotten plenty of hype but so far in the very early going of this season, I couldn't tell you why. For some reason, they played like they didn't want to be there. They dropped two pop-ups that would make average Little Leaguers weep. Jordan Zimmermann (1-1) was charged with eight runs (seven earned) in 2.1 disastrous innings. The only real offense that they could mount was a solo homer by Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth inning and Danny Espinosa's homer to right center.

As most expected, the Red Sox lineup looks dangerous and versatile. David Ortiz was 2 for 4 with solo homer and RBI single and Pablo Sandoval was 2 for 4 with a run. Xander Bogaerts continued to be on fire, going 2 for 3 with two runs, RBI and a walk. Finally, Sandy Leon was 3 for 4 with run and RBI against his former club that traded him to Boston a few weeks ago in Spring Training.

It wouldn't be part of the full Hanley Ramirez experience if we didn't worry about an injury barely a week into the regular season. He left in the sixth inning after fouling a ball right off his foot, ouch! We can only hope that it's not too serious since he's been known to miss weeks for numerous injuries in the past few years.

Tomorrow night's game is a weird start time (6:10, NESN) and it features Justin Masterson (1-0) making his return to Fenway vs. Stephen Strasburg (0-1) who hasn't looked right for years.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Red Sox Outlast Yankees 6-5 in 19 Innings/Longest Game in Team History (6:49)


My brain is completely fried, all thanks to the Red Sox-Yankees 19-inning marathon tonight at Yankee Stadium. Thankfully, Boston (3-1 overall, 3-1 away) came out on top 6-5 after blowing three one-run leads in the ninth, 16th and 18th innings. New York (1-3 overall, 1-3 home) could be the worst team in the AL East so this would have been a terrible loss for the Red Sox. I doubt there has ever been many crazier fourth games of the regular season in MLB history since this also featured a needless 16-minute delay in the 12th when some lights went out.

Steven Wright (1-0) pitched the equivalent of a short start: five innings, two earned runs on six hits with one strikeout and three walks. He blew it in the 16th as Mark Teixeira tied it at four with a towering home run to left field (his second of the season) and in the 18th on Carlos Beltran's RBI double. Rookie Mookie Betts provided the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 19th that scored Xander Bogaerts (4 for 8 with walk, stolen base).

Wade Miley's Red Sox debut was a good one, well at least until the sixth inning when he allowed an RBI single to Alex Rodriguez (yes, that loser) and sacrifice fly by Brian McCann which cut it to 3-2 Boston. Miley went 5.2 innings, allowing the two earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He works exceptionally quick and he's a lefty that doesn't throw hard with a beard, so I'll call him Mark Buehrle lite.

Seven Red Sox relievers appeared between Miley and Wright. Some highlights: Robbie Ross got the last two outs in the sixth, Alexi Ogando had a 1-2-3 seventh, Junichi Tazawa pitched a scoreless eighth, Anthony Varvaro got four outs in his Red Sox debut, Tommy Layne recorded five outs (including three strikeouts) and Craig Breslow had two clean innings.

Pablo Sandoval hadn't done much in the three-game opening series at Philadelphia so it was nice to see him come through with a 4-for-9 night with RBI singles in the first and 18th. Daniel Nava's two-run single in the sixth gave Boston that short-lived 3-0 cushion. Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi (formerly of the Marlins) seems like your classic guy that throws hard but doesn't really know how to pitch. He was charged with three earned runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings of work.

Hanley Ramirez was 3-for-9 at the plate which was good but he made a poor read on a play in left field (get used to that) and also got gunned down at third by a mile following Sandoval's clutch single in the 18th. You just know that he is going to be super frustrating to watch every day.

The Edward Mujica as closer joke went as expected in 2015 with Chase Headley hitting a bomb off him in the ninth that sent it to extra innings. It sounds like Koji Uehara could be back by Monday for Opening Day at Fenway and not a moment too soon even though this was Mujica's first save chance of the young season.

Perhaps the craziest part of this whole silly event is that the game on Saturday happens to be in the afternoon (1:05, NESN) so sleep fast fellas! Joe Kelly opposes Adam Warren which doesn't inspire any thoughts of a pitcher's duel or anything of the sort but another four-hour plus contest.