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Friday, August 31, 2012

Angels Sweep The Red Sox (Again) But Who Cares, College Football Has Begun!

This September for the Red Sox promises to be a blur of pain and forgettable results as Boston likely stumbles to its first losing record-under .500-since 1997 (78-84). 15 years!

They closed the book on the Angels tonight as Boston (62-70, 30-32 away) lost 5-2 to Los Angeles (69-62, 36-29 home) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The Angels swept this three-game series just like they did last week at Fenway, making them 6-0 against the Red Sox in 2012.

Zack Greinke (3-2) went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Kevin Jepsen earned his 11th save with a scoreless eighth inning and closer Ernesto Frieri struck out two in the ninth for his 16th save.

Jon Lester (8-11) pitched a complete game but that was only to save Boston's taxed bullpen. He allowed five earned runs on nine hits with two strikeouts and three walks.

Torii Hunter (3 for 4, 2 runs) seems to always kill the Red Sox while Albert Pujols (2 for 4, double, run, two RBIs) and Mark Trumbo (2 for 4, RBI) also left their mark.

Things have gotten so bad for Boston and their lineups are so weak that James Loney was the cleanup hitter this evening, haha really. I can't knock his production though since he went 3 for 4 with a solo homer (his 1st for the Red Sox) and two runs. Boston was ready to hop on their chartered plane since they only managed seven hits and Mike Aviles (2 hits, RBI) was the only other guy with multiple hits.

The Angels were 3 for 9 with runners in scoring position while the Red Sox were 0 for 6.

Pujols had a two-run double in the first as the theme of tough first innings continues to haunt the Red Sox pitchers even with the Texas Toughguy long gone. Aviles' sacrifice fly in the second cut it to 2-1 but Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo added RBI singles in the third for a 4-1 advantage.

A run scored on Mike Trout's double play in the fourth and Loney blasted his homer to right in the sixth.

Going 0 for California is a real possibility this weekend as Boston visits Oakland (73-57, 2nd AL West), who are one of the hottest teams in MLB and a legitimate playoff contender. The pitching matchups all favor the A's as well: Aaron Cook (3-7) opposes Brandon McCarthy (7-5; best Tweeter in MLB) tomorrow night (10:05 p.m., NESN), Felix Doubront (10-6) gets Brett Anderson (2-0) on Saturday night (9:05 p.m., NESN) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-3) faces Tommy Milone (11-9) on Sunday afternoon (4:05 p.m., NESN). Can you say, another sweep?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If The Angels Make The Playoffs, They Owe The Red Sox Big-Time

On the off chance that the Angels make the playoffs this season, they owe the Red Sox something special this winter. Maybe they could buy some of the thousands of unsold Fenway bricks that must be in every closet on Yawkey Way.

Zach Stewart (1-3) made his Red Sox (62-69, 30-31 away) debut and it was an awful one as Boston lost 10-3 to Los Angeles (68-62, 35-29 home) tonight at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The Angels improved to 5-0 against the Red Sox in 2012 as they sit 3.5 games behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot and 4.5 behind the A's who own the first Wild Card in the AL after tonight's action.

Stewart never really gave his team a chance since it was 9-1 in favor of Los Angeles by the third inning. In three miserable innings, he allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits with two strikeouts and two home runs allowed. The final insult was that he was shipped back to Pawtucket after the loss and Daniel Bard is expected to be activated (don't ask me why) for tomorrow night's game as a reliever.

C.J. Wilson (10-9) earned his first win in over two months (June 26) after he went six innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

The Angels had 14 hits and the Red Sox had 11 but they were all singles. Los Angeles was 6 for 16 with runners in scoring position while Boston's Spring Training type lineup was 1 for 10 in that situation.

Torii Hunter (3 for 4, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, run) led the Angels' attack while Kendry Morales (2 for 4, HR, double, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, walk), Erick Aybar (2 for 4, 2 doubles, 2 runs, RBI), Chris Iannetta (2 for 4, 2 RBIs, run) and Howie Kendrick (2 hits) all had multiple hits in the easy victory.

Mauro Gomez (3 for 4, run), Mike Aviles (2 for 4) and Scott Podsednik (2 for 4, run, RBI) provided most of the offense for Boston.

Alfredo Aceves clearly isn't the Red Sox closer anymore since he was sent in for mopup duty tonight in the seventh and eighth inning (33 pitches). He didn't allow any runs but this came on the heels of his blown save last night.

The Angels will complete their series sweep (3-0) and season sweep (6-0) tomorrow night (10:05 p.m., NESN) as Jon Lester (8-10) faces Zack Greinke (2-2).

UPDATE 8/30: Bard was officially added to the 25-man roster (not sure why they didn't' wait until Saturday, when the rosters expand to 40) and Stewart was sent back to Pawtucket.

Alfredo Aceves Is A Very Valuable Pitcher But He Is Not A Closer As He Proved Once Again

Things have a way of always turning out poorly on bad teams no matter what the sport. Alfredo Aceves returned from his three-game suspension tonight and wouldn't you know that he played a critical part of why Boston choked away a 5-4 lead in the ninth and lost 6-5 to the Angels in the series opener at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Aceves (2-9, 8 blown saves) got a 1-2-3 eighth but as anyone knows from watching the Red Sox (62-68, 30-30 away) this season, he struggles mightily when called upon for a save longer than an inning. Mike Trout (3 hits, 2 RBIs) tied it with an RBI single then Torii Hunter (run, walk) won it on a walkoff sacrifice fly.

Los Angeles (67-62, 34-29 home) actually trailed 5-2 in the sixth before Albert Pujols (29th of the season) cranked a solo homer and Howie Kendrick cut it to 5-4 with an RBI double.

Clay Buchholz (7 innings, 4 earned runs, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks) and Jered Weaver (7 innings, 5 runs, 4 earned, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk) pitched to a standstill but the Angels improved to 4-0 against the Red Sox this season-all in the span of a week.

The incomparable Trout (25th of the season) gave the Angels a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer to start the home half of the first. Mark Trumbo added a sacrifice fly for the 2-0 LA advantage.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (22nd of the season) cut it to 2-1 with a solo homer of his own in the second. Boston added three runs in the fourth on RBI singles from James Loney (3rd game in a row) and Salty. A run also crossed home plate on Ryan Kalish's double play.

Ryan Lavarnway's sacrifice fly in the sixth put the Red Sox in good position up 5-2. Bobby Valentine's hand was mostly forced since he didn't want to use Andrew Bailey (who pitched in 4 of the last 5 days) or Vicente Padilla. Although, for some reason he had Aceves warming up in the sixth. Clayton Mortensen was an option but he's never closed so I can't say I blame Valentine from staying away from him.

Kevin Jepsen (3-2) unknowingly earned the win with a scoreless ninth.

It was just another soul-crushing loss in a season full of them. Mortensen will be sent back to Pawtucket to make room for tomorrow night's (10:05 p.m., NESN) starter Zach Stewart (1-2), who makes his Red Sox debut vs. C.J. Wilson (9-9). He was the major piece that came over from the White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade.

I have to admit that even though they aren't good and they are playing out the string, I enjoy watching this cast of mostly spare parts and minor leaguers play rather than the overpaid underachievers that we were stuck with the last few seasons. Who knows, maybe a few of them will win jobs for next year (Pedro Ciriaco already has).

Monday, August 27, 2012

MLB Really Needs Relegation: The Royals Would Be First On The List To Go

It only makes sense that in a series complete with a monster salary dump/trade and brand new outlook for the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka closes it out with a gem in what has to be one of his last starts for Boston.

Boston (62-67, 32-38 home) beat Kansas City (56-71, 30-38 away) 5-1 this afternoon at Fenway Park to complete a 3-4 homestand. The Red Sox actually took three of four from the Royals, it would have been a sweep if they could have held a six-run lead in the seventh but I digress.

Dice-K (1-3) looked like a decent pitcher for a fleeting moment as he went seven innings, allowing one run (0 earned) on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. It marked his first victory since May 8, 2011 (vs. Minnesota) and believe it or not, it was over in 2 hours and 34 minutes. I love how MLB games go by so much faster when teams are facing long road trips afterwards, I wish they always played with that pace and urgency.

Alex Gordon (2 hits, double) provided Kansas City's only run with a sacrifice fly in the first that scored Jarrod Dyson. Johnny Giavotella also had two hits including a double but the Royals only managed seven hits against Matsuzaka, Clayton Mortensen, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Bailey.

Haha Boston went 3 for 4 with runners in scoring position while Kansas City was 0 for 7. Remind me again when the Royals are supposed to be good? I feel like I've read the same story for the last five years, oh this is the team that's going to be a winner. They have so much young talent! Yeah ok.

Hitting out of the third spot in the lineup, Jacoby Ellsbury cranked a solo homer (2nd of the season) in the first against Luke Hochevar (7-12). Cody Ross, who has done more than enough to earn an extension, had a two-run single in the third and a wall ball RBI double in the sixth. James Loney notched his second RBI single in as many days, also in the sixth to make it 5-1.

Boston hopped on a plane to visit the West Coast. They play three in Anaheim, three in Oakland and three in Seattle. The Angels and A's are in contention for a playoff spot while the Mariners have the exact same record as the Red Sox. Boston won't play at Fenway again until Friday, September 7 vs. Toronto (ie. 2 days before the Patriots-Titans season-opener).

There are going to be some late nights coming up for insomniac Red Sox fans like myself. Six of the nine games begin at 10:05 p.m. ET, one 9:05 p.m., one 4:05 p.m. and one 4:10 p.m.

The Angels (66-62, AL West) swept a three-game series in Boston last week. Let's see if the Red Sox can return the favor (haha doubtful). Tomorrow night in the series opener (10:05 p.m., NESN), Clay Buchholz (11-4) has a rematch with Jered Weaver (16-3), who soundly outperformed him the first time. Jon Lester (8-10) faces C.J. Wilson (9-9) on Wednesday night (10:05 p.m., NESN) in a battle of underachieving quality lefties. Then Aaron Cook (3-7) meets Zach Greinke (11-5) on Thursday night (10:05 p.m., NESN) in the finale.

UPDATE 8/28: Alfredo Aceves was activated tonight after his suspension, he took Franklin Morales' place on the roster. Morales went on the DL with a tired shoulder. Who knew that would happen to a guy when they've changed his role multiple times in the same season?

Patriots Extend Aaron Hernandez Through 2018, Leaving Defensive Coordinators Around The NFL Crying In Their Offices

Reports surfaced on Twitter, Sportscenter and online this morning that the Patriots had extended tight end Aaron Hernandez's contract through the 2018 season.

The contract is expected to be signed either today or tomorrow, with a maximum value of $40 million and a signing bonus of $12.5 million. I don't think anyone ever thought that New England would let the former University of Florida product go but it is always nice to see them get a deal done early (and possibly before the player gets even better, thus raising his value).

Fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski-the best in the NFL-got paid in June (6-year, $53 million extension) so it makes sense to lock up Hernandez. I think many rational Patriots fans (granted, that's a minority) realize that while Gronk will probably come back down to Earth a bit this season, after last year's All-Pro season and numerous records, that means Hernandez will improve on his 2011 marks (79 catches, 910 receiving yards, 7 touchdown catches).

What makes Hernandez so unique is that he's built more like a wide receiver and he has the moves of a slot receiver. Plus, the Patriots opened up the playbook last season and gave him a few carries (5 carries, 45 rushing yards in regular season; 8 carries, 92 rushing yards in playoffs) which makes him even more versatile.

Since the Bristol, CT native has seemingly cleaned his life up off the field (no weed, an issue with the Gators), the only real worry with Hernandez is his durability. He's missed two games apiece in his first two NFL seasons. Granted that isn't much but let's hope he can play a full season sooner rather than later. If that happens, the Patriots offense will become even more dangerous as teams have to account for Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez and Co.

Speaking of Welker, this deal does not bode well for his prospects of getting the long-term deal with New England that he rightly deserves. Like it or not, he's much older than Gronkowski and Hernandez so that is probably the top reason why the Pats won't sign off on a deal that ensures he can end his career as a Patriot (as it should be) thus allowing us all to live happily ever after.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

See You Later Guys On The Bottom Of The Patriots' Roster

The prospect of summer ending is always rough-no matter how old you are-when you live in New England with our unforgiving winters but on the other hand, watching the Patriots' latest regular season roster take shape under Bill Belichick is always similar to viewing a renowned piece of modern art.

With the 4 p.m. deadline coming tomorrow to get down to 75 players, three players' names were leaked as the Patriots trimmed three useless guys to get down to 82 this afternoon. Say goodbye (at least temporarily) to safety Josh Barrett, defensive lineman Gerard Warren and unofficial team mascot Ross Ventrone.

Barrett's limited action on the field last season was nothing short of a disaster. Add to that, he's always injured so he had no chance of making this team with Steve Gregory and rookie Tavon Wilson ahead of him. Warren was cut last year too but returned later in the season so I wouldn't be surprised if they bring the old man back once someone else inevitably goes down on the defensive line. Finally, Ventrone still has practice squad eligibility left (don't ask me how) so you can count on 1000 more transactions with him in 2012. I hope they haven't moved his cot out of one of the team's storage closets since I heard that's where he lives during the season.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I update this with the seven more unlucky guys that get cut. Don't expect any big names or seemingly important players to go. That'll happen after the last preseason game which is on Wednesday at the Giants. We are now less than two weeks away from the start of the 2012 regular season. I had my first (and by far most important) fantasy football draft earlier tonight so I can officially say that it is football season now, that's where my mind is headed.

UPDATE 8/27: Defensive lineman Tim Bulman (a BC High and BC product), wide receiver Donte' Stallworth and fullback Spencer Larsen have reportedly been released with injured tight end Jake Ballard placed on the reserve/PUP list.

The first surprise was that wide receiver Jabar Gaffney was released. Cornerback Will Allen, Larsen and Barrett were all placed on IR. Defensive lineman Myron Pryor was put on the reserve/PUP list. Rookie free agent offensive lineman Markus Zusevics was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. Finally, the team claimed wide receiver Kerry Taylor off waivers from the Vikings.

UPDATE 8/28: Ventrone cleared waivers so he's now on IR.

The More Pedros The Better, The Red Sox Seem To Have Good Luck With Them

If only the Red Sox could play the Royals like 40 times a season, then they might be a playoff time once again.

Boston (61-67, 31-38 home) beat Kansas City (56-70, 30-37 away) 8-6 this afternoon at Fenway Park. The Red Sox bounced back from their latest extra innings disaster (10-9 loss in 12 innings on Saturday Night) thanks to its two newest players: reliever Pedro Beato (1-0) who earned the cheap win in his first outing for Boston and James Loney who had an RBI single in his Red Sox debut.

With Alfredo Aceves serving his second game of a three-game suspension and Andrew Bailey getting the day off (after working three of four games), it was up to Mark Melancon to nail down the save. He allowed a single but struck out one in the ninth for his first save as a Red Sox.

It looks like David Ortiz could be shut down for the season tomorrow (and who could blame them/him?) but we still have Pedro Ciriaco (3 for 5, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, solo HR) who has shown no signs of slowing down. Like all teams, the Red Sox are enjoying Royals pitching. They had 14 more hits today including two each from Jacoby Ellsbury (run, RBI, stolen base), Dustin Pedroia (solo homer), Cody Ross (run, RBI, walk) and Mike Aviles (double, RBI).

Felix Doubront came off the DL and continued to pitch like a guy that doesn't have much left in the tank. His bad habit of high pitch counts keep happening. He went five innings (98 pitches), allowing four earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

The Fresh Prince of Kansas City Will Smith (4-6) didn't have it for the Royals. He went five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits with a strikeout and two walks.

The Royals had 11 hits, led by Alex Gordon (2 hits, stolen base), Salvador Perez (2 hits, run) and Tony Abreu (Bobby's little boy; 2 hits, 2 RBIs, run).

Ross had an RBI single in the first and Aviles added an RBI double in the second for a 2-0 Boston lead. Kansas City hung four on the board in the fourth thanks to Abreu's RBI single and a three-run homer by Lorenzo Cain (5th of the season).

Ciriaco homered over the Monster in the fifth (his second of the season) and Loney notched his RBI single. A run scored on Ellsbury's infield single in the sixth and Kansas City shot themselves in the foot in the seventh: a run scored on an error and another infield single-this time from Ciriaco.

Beato threw a scoreless sixth and seventh but he labored in the eighth since Boston's bullpen was almost all unavailable. He was responsible for the two runs that scored against Craig Breslow (he entered with bases loaded, 0 outs) on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly and Abreu's RBI single.

After what was shaping up to be a lost season for him individually, Pedroia has turned it on in August even while Boston's season has circled the drain. His solo homer (12th of the season) in the eighth gave Melancon some more breathing room which was a smart idea.

There is actually another game between these teams tomorrow afternoon (a makeup date) because really now, who doesn't want more Red Sox vs. Royals? Haha to top it off, it features the glorious return of Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3). He faces Luke Hochevar (7-11) starting at 1:35 p.m. as the Red Sox try to take three of four against the Royals.

The traffic should be a nightmare and I'll bet you can buy a front row seat for like $5 since most people will be at work while this terrible game occurs. After that, Boston hits the West Coast for nine games (three in Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle), they won't be back again at Fenway until Friday, September 7 vs. Toronto.

UPDATE 8/27: Ortiz was placed on the DL and Ryan Kalish was recalled from Pawtucket to take his place on the roster. With Dice-K activated, Beato was sent down to the PawSox.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Everyone Knows That A 6-Run Lead Is The Most Dangerous In MLB, Especially In The 7th Inning

I don't know what it is but the Red Sox really despise extra innings in 2012. They fell to 2-8 overall and 0-6 at home when it goes past nine innings with a 10-9 loss to the Royals tonight at Fenway Park in 12 innings.

Tony Abreu's RBI single off Junichi Tazawa (0-1) in the 12th was the game-winning hit. Francisley Bueno (1-0) got five outs for the win and Greg Holland had a 1-2-3 12th for his seventh save of the season.

Making this one extra rough was the fact that Boston (60-67, 30-38 home) led 9-3 in the seventh inning yet gave it all back to Kansas City (56-69, 30-36 away) in that frame. Did I mention that the Red Sox had 20 hits? Haha it was the first time since 1960 that they had at least nine runs and 20 or more hits but lost. That takes some serious skill.

Eight Red Sox had multiple hits, only pinch hitters Che-Hsuan Lin and Jose Iglesias failed to get a hit. Mauro Gomez led Boston, going 4 for 6 with his first MLB home run and three RBIs. Cody Ross was 3 for 5 with a run and RBI but he left after tweaking his knee trying to make a diving catch. Word is that him and David Ortiz (who sat out tonight) could be going on the DL tomorrow.

Scott Podsednik, Jacoby Ellsbury (2 runs, double, stolen base), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (run, RBI), Ryan Lavarnway (run, walk), Mike Aviles (3 RBIs) and Pedro Ciriaco (run, walk) all had two hits for Boston.

The Royals won because they were an absurd 8 for 13 with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox were a pedestrian (by comparison) 5 for 11 and they left 10 on base.

Kansas City has no power (one of the million reasons they always blow) but they still got it done this evening. Billy Butler was 3 for 6 with two RBIs, a double and run and Alex Gordon was 2 for 4 with four RBIs, two runs, a double and walk. Alcides Escobar (2 runs, walk), Eric Hosmer (run, double, walk) and Tony Abreu (RBI) each produced two hits for the Royals.

Aaron Cook allowed three runs in the first inning (on four straight hits to begin the game) but he settled down and went six innings. He allowed those three earned runs on seven hits with no strikeouts and one walk.

Former Orioles bum Jeremy Guthrie was lit up for seven runs (6 earned) on seven hits in 2.2 innings. Unfortunately, Boston's bullpen falling apart let him off the hook.

Gordon had a two-run double (he leads the AL in doubles with 41) and Butler added an RBI single for an extremely early 3-0 Royals advantage. Gomez hit a solo homer in the second inning then former Royals great Mike Aviles put Boston ahead with a three-run blast (his 13th of the season) in the second.

A run scored on Gomez's infield single in the third and Guthrie's error opened the door for a gift run on top of that. Salty had a sacrifice fly in the third then Ross and Gomez had RBI singles in the fourth. At 9-3, who knew that the Red Sox would A) blow the lead and B) not score in the next eight innings. Baseball is a funny game as every 100-year-old writer will wax poetic and tell you.

Andrew Miller (4 earned runs) and Mark Melancon (2 earned runs) teamed up to shit the bed in the seventh when Boston choked just like they did two nights earlier against the Angels. Haha remember that? Seems like ages ago. Gordon started it with a two-run single, Butler had an RBI double, Salvador Perez had an RBI single then Ross totally misplayed Mike Moustakas' fly ball into a two-run triple (sweet ruling there Fenway scorekeeper). That must have been when he got hurt as well, adding insult to injury as they say.

Felix Doubront (10-6) makes his first start since August 9 tomorrow afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN), it should be memorable too since he faces Big Willie Style himself Will Smith (4-5). I think it is sad that the actor/rapper has been forced to take on a third job as an anonymous pitcher for Kansas City but maybe he's studying for a new role? I promise to bring some quality Will Smith jokes tomorrow if I get caught in the trap of wasting time watching that terrible matchup.

UPDATE 8/26: Lin was sent down, James Loney was activated and reliever Pedro Beato (obtained in the Kelly Shoppach trade with the Mets) was called up.

The Red Sox Finally Start To Learn From Their Mistakes Over The Last Few Years

If only there was a way the Dodgers could take John Lackey and deploy Bobby Valentine as a clubhouse attendant-a job that's much more his speed these days. Still, getting rid of $262.5 million owed to Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto means that Boston is finally admitting that they needed a big change in terms of players.

James Loney is an average MLB first baseman and who knows if right-hand pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa or outfielder Jerry Sands will pan out for the Red Sox at the Major League level. That's besides the point and obviously, on paper in terms of talent the players that the Red Sox gave up are on a whole other level than the Dodgers.

No, this was a salary dump as the stubborn Red Sox owners and front office were able to get rid of the team's biggest pain in the ass-Beckett. Gonzalez is a fine player but he proved in his year and a half here that he's not East Coast material. He's not a leader and he seems like a guy that only really cares about his personal numbers. If the team wins or loses, well that doesn't matter as much. Bottom line, he's not a winner. He is one of the most skilled first basemen in MLB but that doesn't make him clutch or likable for that matter. He never understood that we care way too much about the Red Sox and we overanalyze everything. He's from California so I'm sure he'll be comfortable in LA. The fans (when they show up) just want to be seen there and have fun, that's all they care about.

As for Crawford, his signing even more than Gonzalez in that ill-fated week in December of 2010 never made much sense. The Red Sox already had a center fielder and leadoff hitter-Jacoby Ellsbury-that is a better all-around player than Crawford. He was wildly overpaid and clearly pressed from day one to try and justify it. Unlike Beckett who is an asshole or Gonzalez who is clueless, Crawford is a decent guy. He wanted fans to like him and with his salary and lack of production, that was probably never going to happen. After last season's nightmare, he couldn't stay healthy this season. I honestly hope he is healthy next season with the Dodgers so he can get back to the player he used to be with the Rays.

What is there left to say about the Texas Toughguy? He morphed into a super villain, the likes of which I can never recall on the Boston sports scene. He kept digging himself into a deeper hole with his terrible performances capped off by ridiculous comments to the media and general surliness. In the last year, he has dragged down many teammates around him, notably Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. By shipping him out of town and hopefully getting rid of Lackey this winter, there is hope that the Red Sox will start to get part of their soul back.

Maybe the failure of these big-ticket players, along with Daisuke Matsuzaka whose career in Boston is quickly winding down, will make the Red Sox change how they evaluate free agents going forward. It is one thing to have good numbers in Tampa Bay, Florida (now Miami) or San Diego. Those markets are nothing like Boston and the inherit pressures you get by playing here. Boston now has plenty of money to use the next few offseasons. This was a huge step in the right direction, by also moving on from Lackey and Dice-K while (please God) not bringing back Bobby Valentine, the fans will return. We can live with some rebuilding if the team suddenly is likable easy to cheer for again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Red Sox & Dodgers On Verge Of A Huge Trade; Boston Beats Kansas City 4-3

I know this sounds crazy but something actually overshadowed the excitement of a Red Sox-Royals game in late August when both can't even dream of the playoffs. Boston (60-66, 30-37 home) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win in the series opener at Fenway Park this evening against Kansas City (55-69, 29-36 away).

The big news of the night (and the season for that matter) was that the Dodgers and Red Sox were about to make a huge trade. Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto (haha) would be sent to Los Angeles in exchange for first baseman James Loney, pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and prospects Allen Webster (RHP), Ivan DeJesus Jr. (INF) and Jerry Sands (OF). The whole purpose of the move for Boston would be to not only get out from under some awful contracts but also to become younger and most importantly, change the toxic culture in that clubhouse. The deadline for the deal to be completed is Sunday (1:30 p.m. ET) so stay tuned since it looks almost certain to happen because Crawford and Beckett have supposedly said OK (they had no-trade clauses).

Jon Lester (8-10) went seven innings before leaving with a leg cramp. I bet he wanted to share one last beer (or ten) and some Popeye's with the Texas Toughguy before he left for good. Maybe they were able to catch a few songs by Tim McGraw at Gillette Stadium (hate myself for knowing he was there). He allowed three earned runs on six hits with six strikeouts and four walks.

Former Red Sox great Bruce Chen continued to amaze the world simply by the fact that he's still in MLB. He went six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and a walk.

My only takeaway from this win was that Andrew Bailey recorded his first career save for Boston after 1.1 scoreless innings. Alfredo Aceves is upset from losing his closer's job but he had to know it was only temporary until Bailey returned. This is why they traded for him last winter.

David Ortiz returned from the DL and immediately showed the Red Sox what they had been missing: he stroked a two-run single on the first pitch he saw in the first inning. He would later double.

Kansas City tied it in the third on an RBI double by Alex Gordon and solo homer by Eric Hosmer (12th of the season). A run scored on Johnny Giovatella's infield single in the fourth as the Royals went ahead 3-2.

No worries, we've got Pedro Ciriaco (2 hits, stolen base, run) who delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh. Shoutout to Worcester's Tim Collins, a sneaky great lefty reliever for the Royals. He's tiny (5-foot-6) but he throws nearly 100 mph and he struck out Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, run) and Ortiz to end the seventh.

Beckett (5-11) is scheduled to face Jeremy Guthrie (2-3) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), but if he actually shows up on the mound I will definitely cry and throw things at whatever TV or radio I'm listening to. Please let this trade go through!

UPDATE 8/25: Daniel Nava went back to the DL with a sprained wrist. To take his spot and the three guys that went to the Dodgers, the Red Sox called up shortstop Jose Iglesias, outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin and pitcher Junichi Tazawa. Felix Doubront was activated off the DL and he'll start on Sunday.

Oh and Alfredo Aceves was suspended three games (starting tonight) for spazzing out last night after being passed over for the save opportunity. Haha the circus is still in town on Yawkey Way.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Angels Beat Red Sox 14-13 In 10 Innings At Fenway That You Had To See To Believe

For a team that has found a way to fall flat on its face time and again over the past year, you have to admire the Red Sox for still trying out new and different ways of losing. In that sense, it never gets old.

Los Angeles (65-60, 32-31 away) swept three games in Boston (59-66, 29-37 home) thanks to a surreal 14-13 win tonight in 10 innings at Fenway Park.

I'm going to rattle off a bunch of stats I dug up on Twitter after this loss, mostly from Red Sox beat writers. For this memorable game, there were five lead changes, 10 innings, 27 runs, five home runs, 15 pitchers, 410 pitches & three blown saves in four hours and 34 minutes.

This was the second time this season that Boston lost when they scored 12 runs or more. That hadn't happened since 1970 (276-0) before 2012. The frontrunners from Boston are 24-33 in games decided by one or two runs, that includes 2-7 mark in extra innings and 0-5 at home.

The Red Sox have lost nine of their last 11 home games. When you look at their numbers, it's almost impossible to believe that they could possibly lose. They were 9 for 14 with runners in scoring position, they had 18 hits and two guys with four hits apiece yet they still lost.

The Angels had four guys with three hits and three guys with two hits. MVP of the universe Mike Trout was 3 for 6 with two runs, two RBIs, two stolen bases and a walk. Torii Hunter (who is still getting it done at 37) was 3 for 6 with two runs, two RBIs and a walk. Providence native Chris Iannetta continued his tear by going 3 for 6 with two RBIs and a run. Kendry Morales was 2 for 5 with solo homer, three runs, two RBIs and a walk. Vernon Wells doubled and homered for three RBIs and two runs. Howie Kendrick was 2 for 5 with run, RBI and walk.

Fittingly, Boston's catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the only players with plate appearances that didn't record a hit. Pedro Ciriaco was 4 for 6 with four runs and a double. Dustin Pedroia was 4 for 6 with five RBIs, 3 runs, a double and home run. Jacoby Ellsbury was 3 for 6 with a double, three RBIs, stolen base and a run. Cody Ross was 2 for 5 with two RBIs and solo home run. Scott Podsednik was 2 for 4 with two runs, an RBI and walk.

Starters Franklin Morales (2.2 innings, 6 runs, 2 earned, 6 hits) and C.J. Wilson (5 innings, 7 runs, 6 earned, 8 hits) were long gone by the time this was decided.

Boston actually built a 6-0 lead by the second inning but it only took Los Angeles one half inning to put eight on the board in response. Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI single in the first before Podsednik and Ellsbury did the same in the second. Pedroia crushed a three-run homer (11th of the season) to put the Red Sox in front by six.

Turns out that Morales and Clayton Mortensen (0 outs, 2 runs, 3 hits) couldn't hold that slim margin. Kendrick had an RBI single, Morales walked with the bases loaded, a run scored on Ciriaco's error, Wells walked with the bases loaded then Iannetta, Trout and Hunter all produced RBI singles.

Ross' RBI single in the fifth trimmed LA's lead to 8-7. Mike Aviles' solo homer (his 12th of the season) and Ellsbury's RBI double in the sixth let the Red Sox grab back the lead at 9-8. Trout tied it in the seventh with an RBI single. Ellsbury added an RBI single in the eighth and Pedroia's infield single plated another run after that.

Handed an 11-9 lead, Alfredo Aceves (2-8, 7th blown save) came through with about the worst ninth inning possible. He allowed three runs and if that wasn't bad enough, he was stuck back out there in the 10th and he gave up two more for good measure.

It all started with Wells' solo homer (8th of the season) that shouldn't have been a homer since it bounced off the line on the Monster and back into play. The problem was that nobody on the Red Sox seemed to notice or care so it wasn't reviewed. Hunter and Mark Trumbo's RBI singles gave Los Angeles a 12-11 advantage.

Cody Ross aka anti-Adrian Gonzalez (more on that later) tied it with a solo homer (his 19th of the season) in the ninth against Angels closer Ernesto Frieri (2-0, 2nd blown save).

Morales greeted Aceves with a solo homer (16th of the season) in the 10th and Wells' RBI double turned out to be a valuable insurance run (aren't they all?).

Pedroia and Ciriaco wouldn't let the Red Sox die as Dustin singled in Pedro. Of course, with a chance to be a hero Gonzalez failed miserably by striking out to end it-he represented the winning run.

I assume you have already stopped paying attention weeks or months ago (I am like a junkie, I can't quit it cold turkey on this car crash season) but by all means, don't watch one second this weekend as the Royals (55-68, 3rd in AL Central) come to Fenway. These two loser teams will play four utterly meaningless contests. The only thing to watch is if the Red Sox will finally give up their charade and admit the sellout streak is over since there is no way you could get a full house for any of these games even if all the tickets were free courtesy of Dr. Creepy.

Jon Lester (7-10) faces Bruce Chen (9-10) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Josh Beckett (5-11) gets former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie (5-12) on Saturday night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Aaron Cook (3-7) opposes the other Will Smith (4-5) on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) and Clay Buchholz (11-4) takes the ball on Monday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) against Luke Hochevar (7-11) in a series and homestand finale that potentially could be attended by six people.

Not making any predictions but keep in mind that Kansas City could have a better record than Boston if they sweep this series.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If Buchholz Pitches Like That, Red Sox Will Struggle To Win Any Games The Rest Of The Way

This season continues to punish Red Sox fans (assuming any of those still exist) as things only get worse both on and off the field for this hated ballclub.

Tonight, Jered Weaver (16-3) showed why he's one of the best pitchers in baseball as the Angels (64-60, 31-31 away) cruised to a 7-3 win against the Red Sox (59-65, 29-36 home) at Fenway Park.

Weaver went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz (11-4) transformed back into his crappy self from earlier this season as he allowed a career-high 12 hits in 5.1 innings with seven earned runs (which also tied a career-high), three strikeouts and a walk.

Los Angeles pounded out 15 hits and it was the guys at the bottom of the lineup getting it done: Providence native Chris Iannetta was 3 for 4 with a triple and RBI; Maicer Izturis was 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI; Howie Kendrick had a double, solo homer and two runs; Erick Aybar had two singles and scored twice.

Boston's futility was summed up by the fact that Scott Podsednick (3 for 5, stolen base) was the offensive star. Dustin Pedroia singled, scored a run and stole two bases.

Los Angeles scored twice in the third inning on Iannetta's RBI single and a run came home on Mike Trout's double play ball. Mark Trumbo and Izturis added RBI singles in the fourth as the Angels jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Ryan Lavarnway and Mike Aviles had back-to-back RBI doubles in the fourth but 4-2 was as close as the Red Sox could get. After hitting a double, Albert Pujols left in the fourth with tightness in his calf but it didn't appear serious. Kendrick's solo homer (his 7th of the season) in the sixth and Torii Hunter's two-run single gave Los Angeles an insurmountable 7-2 deficit for Boston.

Cody Ross' RBI double in the eighth accounted for the final run of the game.

To illustrate how hopeless the Red Sox have become, the Mariners (61-64) have passed them in the AL wild card standings-haha not that either have a prayer of coming within five games of those. Franklin Morales (3-4) battles fellow southpaw C.J. Wilson (9-9) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) in the series finale as the Angels go for the three-game sweep.

Typical Patriot Kyle Love Receives A 1-Year Extension Through 2013

I'm willing to bet that hardly anybody outside of serious Patriots fans, Mississippi State fans and his own family know who New England's defensive lineman Kyle Love is.

Soon enough, he could be more well known around the NFL and with any luck, it will be with the Pats. Today, Love received a contract extension through the 2013 season. That carries a maximum value of $3.09 million and also comes with a signing bonus of $500,000.

Those numbers might not sound like much but let's remember where Kyle Love came from: he was an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State so he's had to fight for everything he's received so far in Foxboro. After barely playing in nine games and having limited impact his rookie season, he really started to come on last season as he played in all 16 games then all three playoff games.

Combined in those 19 games, Love had 40 tackles (23 solo, 17 assists), three sacks and one fumble recovery. Since Albert Haynesworth never did anything before he was released, Love's emergence was valuable since they needed another guy that could play defensive tackle next to Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork.

His game is more centered around power but for a guy his size (6-foot-1, 315 pounds), Love has some quickness. Just look at the play he made on Monday night against the Eagles. He collapsed the pocket and forced Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick to hold the ball, allowing Love's teammate Jermaine Cunningham to crush Vick.

To get back to the Super Bowl and ultimately win one for the first time since 2005, New England's defense needs to continue its relative improvement from last season. Make no mistake, you probably haven't noticed him that much before but odds are if the defense is good then Love will have a significant role in that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Everything Is Cured When You Play The Red Sox

Los Angeles was plummeting down the AL West and wild card standings after going 3-7 on a 10-game homestand and losing their last four games in a row. However, they should change their tune in the next 10 days as they play Boston six times in that time frame.

The Angels (63-60, 30-31 away) didn't have the feel of a team in disarray tonight as they beat the Red Sox (59-64, 29-35 home) 5-3 in the series opener at Fenway Park.

Boston honored the late Johnny Pesky before the game and all the Red Sox wore his No. 6 while the grounds crew cut his number into the grass beyond the shortstop position. It was a classy gesture, likewise for the patches the Angels wore on their jerseys for him. Making the mood even more sad for NESN viewers, tonight was also the Jimmy Fund telethon so we were treated to an array of heartbreaking stories about cancer.

Aaron Cook (3-7) might have started his last game for the Red Sox since he continues to get hit hard. In five innings, he allowed five runs (four earned) on 11 hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Ervin Santana (7-10) would fit well in Boston's rotation since he's been brutal this season but he was fine this time around. He lasted 6.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

Boston was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position, Los Angeles was 3 for 6. More and more, I understand that is one of the most important statistics in baseball which usually determines who wins and who loses.

When you look at all the talent on the Angels, it's hard to believe they came in only two games above .500. Albert Pujols (2 hits, double) had an RBI single in the third, Erick Aybar had an RBI single in the fourth and Providence native (and URI track and field star) Chris Iannetta added a run on an infield single later in the frame as Los Angeles took a 3-0 lead.

Mark Trumbo (2 hits) crushed his 30th homer of the season in memorable fashion, 440-feet over the Green Monster for a two-run shot and a commanding 5-0 advantage. Rookie superstar and MVP favorite Mike Trout was 2 for 4 with a run and walk in his Fenway debut and first ever game against the Red Sox.

Boston finally got on the board in the sixth on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's (21st of the season) two-run homer that just got over the fence in right field. Scott Podsednick (2 hits, double) scored on Jordan Walden's wild pitch in the seventh.

The Angels are always known for their outstanding bullpens and this one looks like no exception. Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen both got two outs before closer Ernestro Frieri had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 15th save of the season.

I guarantee I won't say this more than once or twice the rest of this pointless season but you should tune in to tomorrow night's (7:10 p.m., NESN) Red Sox game. Clay Buchholz (11-3) opposes Jered Weaver (15-3) as two of the most talented pitchers in baseball square off. It has all the makings of a classic pitchers' duel but when it appears so obvious, it'll probably be the exact opposite.

Jonathan Fanene We Hardly Knew Ya

The Patriots were lucky enough to survive last night's preseason game against the Eagles without suffering any major injuries. Safety Patrick Chung left with a shoulder injury but it wasn't serious from what I've read in the aftermath.

New England made news this afternoon as they released three players: defensive end Jonathan Fanene, offensive lineman Kyle Hill and former UMass-Amherst kicker Chris Koepplin. Fanene is the surprising choice out of that group since the Pats signed him to a three-year, $9.85 million contract last offseason with a $3.85 million signing bonus.

Due to a knee injury, Fanene hadn't played in either preseason game so far with the Patriots and I didn't get down to any practices (he missed the last 13 sessions) so I can't say anything about his short time in Foxboro. When he was brought in, he seemed like a promising player but as Bill Belichick said today on a conference call, "it just didn't work out. Don't really think I have much more to add than that, it just didn't work out."

So yeah, what else is there to say? As for Hill and Koepplin, they had zero chance to make the 53-man roster so losing them means absolutely nothing.

New England traveled to Tampa Bay today and they'll practice with the Buccaneers tomorrow and Thursday before a preseason game on Friday night. There will be a million more roster moves in the next few weeks as the Patriots cut their roster down to 53 players and figure out who is on the practice squad ahead of their season opener Sunday, September 9 at Tennessee.

UPDATE 8/22: Hix cleared waivers so the Patriots put him on IR. They currently have 85 players on the roster after those moves and they'll need to get to 75 by Monday at 4 p.m.

Also, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer and tight end Daniel Fells were activated off the PUP list so they experienced their first practice today (against the Bucs).

The Celtics Have Hired A New Assistant Coach: Jay Larranaga, Son Of Jim

As far as I know, none of the Celtics' assistant coaches from last season have left but the best NBA reporter in the game-Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski-tweeted last night that Boston has hired Jay Larranaga as its newest assistant.

The name should be familiar since Jay's father is Jim Larranaga, formerly the head coach of George Mason (when they made the Final Four) and now at the University of Miami. Jay was the head coach of an NBA D-League team, the Erie Bayhawks, for the last two seasons. His record in those two years was 60-40 and they qualified for the playoffs both times.

Additionally, Jay was the head coach of the Ireland senior men's national team which he used to compete for back in the day. He played college basketball at Bowling Green then professionally in Europe.

Whatever his role, it'll be good to have a younger guy (he's 36) that in some cases is basically the same age as some of the Celtics (namely KG and Paul Pierce). Doc Rivers isn't old but his other assistants tend to be in their 50s or 60s, more youthful energy there is always a good thing. Who knows, Larranaga could become the next Lawrence Frank (Pistons head coach) or Tom Thibodeau (Bulls head coach); that is a Celtics assistant coach that transforms into a star in the coaching world and receives a chance to be an NBA head coach. Granted Frank was a retread after crashing out in New Jersey.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Even On Off-Days This Season, The Red Sox Must Have Some Sort Of Drama

The Red Sox aren't even playing a game tonight but they still can't keep themselves out of the news for all the wrong reasons.

Boston will finally let outfielder Carl Crawford get Tommy John surgery (to correct a chronic UCL tear in his left elbow) on Thursday, after hemming and hawing about it for way too long. The only reason I can surmise for why this didn't happen weeks ago is that the shameless owners and front office wanted to squeeze as much money as possible out of fans. They had to pretend that the playoffs were a real possibility. When they put Crawford on the shelf for 6-9 months, that is the proverbial white flag admitting what we've all known for months-this season is over.

Reports came out last weekend in New York that Crawford was going to have the surgery but the Red Sox denied it. Crawford has basically admitted he wasn't right, he didn't make his 2012 debut until July 16 due to wrist surgery over the winter and then he hurt his elbow while rehabbing in April. I actually feel bad for him since he seems like a honest player and he was never able to peform like himself to try and atone for his miserable first season in Boston.

The part that made this situation so frustrating was that Bobby Valentine said weeks ago that he needed special rest and couldn't make good throws from the outfield (hence taking him out late in close games). Yet Crawford appeared in last night's series finale in the Bronx. At some point, they should have cut their losses since waiting this long means he probably won't be ready for Opening Day 2013. Ironically, Crawford played pretty decent in 31 games: .282 batting average, .306 OBP, .479 SLG, 3 home runs, 19 RBIs, 23 runs, 10 doubles, 2 triples, 5 stolen bases.

If that wasn't enough, the Red Sox made another move that you could see coming for a long time: they fired manager Bobby Valentine's mortal enemy Bob McClure and promoted assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann to the head pitching coach position for the last 40 games. Haha I'm pretty sure no other team in MLB has an assistant pitching coach but that's beside the point.

The wheels have completely fallen off for Boston as they have lost 12 of their last 18 games to fall 13.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 7.5 games back of the Orioles for the second AL wild card spot.

As everybody knows, the main catalyst of this trainwreck baseball team has been their awful starting rotation, headlined by Jon Lester (7-10, 5.03 ERA) and Josh Beckett (5-11, 5.23 ERA) The Red Sox' team ERA is 4.30 which is 11th in the AL heading into tonight's games and the starters ERA is 4.82, 5th-worst in MLB. This will be the fourth pitching coach in three years for the Red Sox which speaks to the lack of order in the foundation of the franchise.

The scary part is that this move indicates that Bobby V gets his way in a small sense. McClure wasn't his guy and during the season, there were reports that they didn't even talk to one another (don't ask me how that's possible). Niemann was the only coach that Valentine was able to bring in this offseason so there has to be a sense of loyalty for that. McClure had been the pitching coach for six seasons in Kansas City and Niemann was with the Mets organization for 24 seasons. I don't think pitching coaches mean much but when you hire them from shitty clubs like that, it should be no surprise when stuff like this flares up.

The Red Sox (59-63) will interrupt their regularly scheduled soap opera to actually play a game tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) as the Los Angeles Angels (62-60) come to Fenway for three games. Aaron Cook (3-6) takes on Ervin Santana (6-10) in the opener. Stay tuned tomorrow to see what other useless coach gets fired and which player elects to shut it down for the rest of the season (looking at you David Ortiz).

UPDATE 8/21: Daniel Nava returned to Boston today and he'll DH in tonight's lineup vs. the Angels. He replaces Crawford on the Red Sox roster. Also, Vicente Padilla was activated from the DL which meant Danny Valenica was sent to Pawtucket to make room for him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

When Ichiro Suzuki Is Hitting Tape-Measure Bombs Against You, Might As Well Look For Another Profession

Chew on this: with 40 games left in their 2012 regular season, the Red Sox could go 40-0 and they still wouldn't win 100 games.

Boston (59-63, 30-29 away) went quietly in the night with a 4-1 loss to New York (72-49, 39-24 home) to wrap up a series loss (2-1) at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox fell to 4-8 against the Yankees this season. There are two more series between these woefully mismatched rivals: at Fenway in September and closing out the regular season in the Bronx the first few days of October.

Josh Beckett (5-11) couldn't contain one of MLB's best sluggers as Ichiro Suzuki took him deep for solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings. The Texas Toughguy had about his best outing possible: six innings, four earned runs, seven hits, six strikeouts, three walks and two home runs allowed but he still lost.

Even with Beckett's extended breaks between pitches, this one was over in 2 hours and 51 minutes which has to be the quickest Red Sox-Yankees contest in years. Boston ended their 10-game, 11-day road trip (longest of the season) at 4-6.

Hiroki Kuroda (12-8, 2.96 ERA), who was a free agent that the Red Sox easily could have signed last winter, proved to be yet another wrong choice they have made in the last year-plus. He shut down Boston for eight innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks.

Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 31st save of the season and second of the weekend.

Curtis Granderson had an RBI double in the first since Beckett automatically has to give up at least one run every first inning. Derek Jeter (3 for 4, 2 doubles, stolen base) scored on a wild pitch in the third inning for a 2-0 New York lead.

The Red Sox had five total hits in the game and it would have been a shutout if not for the heroics of Adrian Gonzalez (15th of the season), who continued to pad his stats with a worthless solo homer in the seventh.

Boston returns to Fenway for seven games after an off-day tomorrow. We should all be thankful that they give us time to concentrate on the utterly meaningless Patriots-Eagles preseason matchup. There is a weird scheduling quirk since the Red Sox haven't played the Angels all season but Los Angeles (62-60, 3rd AL West) is in Boston starting Tuesday then the Red Sox are in Anaheim next week.

Aaron Cook (3-6) faces Ervin Santana (6-10) on Tuesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN), Clay Buchholz (11-3) gets Jered Weaver (15-3) on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) in what could be a classic pitcher's duel and Franklin Morales (3-4) takes the hill against fellow lefty C.J. Wilson (9-9) in the finale on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN).

I'm just excited to see Mike Trout and see up close why the Angels have struggled so much lately when it looks like they put together a powerhouse team. They should benefit greatly from playing the Red Sox six times in 10 days.

After that, Boston takes on Kansas City in four mind-numbing games wrapped around this weekend.

Lester Starts To Figure It Out, Months Too Late In The 2012 Red Sox Season

For the first time since June 5-22 (when he had four in a row), Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester strung together back-to-back quality starts.

His solid outing this afternoon helped Boston (59-62, 30-28 away) beat New York (71-49, 38-24 home) 4-1 at Yankee Stadium. They have split the first two games of the series so tomorrow night's finale will decade who takes it.

Lester (7-10) lasted seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. It's amazing what happens when he executes, the Red Sox look like a completely different team. Now if only Josh Beckett wasn't one of the most useless athletes in professional sports, then they'd get somewhere.

Yankees killer Pedro Ciriaco went 4 for 4 with a double, run and stolen base. My favorite part of his great game is that he saw seven total pitches in four at bats. Why wait around? Somewhere Nomar Garciaparra nods his approval. Ciriaco is 14 for 28 lifetime vs. New York, the highest career average ever against the Yankees (minimum 25 plate appearances).

Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits, walk) hit a two-run homer (his 14th of the season) in the first inning against David Phelps (3-4) for an immediate 2-0 lead.

Curtis Granderson (double) homered (32nd of the season) for the second game in a row, this time a solo shot in the fourth which cut it to 2-1.

Nick Punto's RBI double in the fifth scored Ciriaco for a 3-1 Red Sox lead.

Phelps settled down and went 6.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Boston tacked on an insurance run (which they ended up not needing) in the ninth as Scott Podsednik scored on Cody Eppley's wild pitch.

Andrew Bailey got the first out in the eighth then the Yale batterymates (Craig Breslow to Ryan Lavarnway) induced a double play by Robinson Cano to end the eighth inning.

Alfredo Aceves had a scoreless ninth for his 25th save of the season, he allowed one hit but also struck out a batter.

Nick Swisher was 3 for 4 in the loss.

Beckett (5-10) opposes Hiroki Kuroda (11-8) tomorrow night (8:00 p.m., ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball). Boston is 4-7 against New York so far this season but they can win their second straight series in the Bronx (2 out of 3) by coming away with a victory tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

They Don't Call Them The Bronx Bombers For Nothing (Jumps Off Tobin Bridge)

The series opener at Yankee Stadium tonight followed the same script that's been well-established in 2012: New York hit plenty of homers (5, haha all solo) while Boston lost the game. The only plot twist was that it was over in 2:49 which is about two hours shorter than a normal Red Sox-Yankees marathon.

The Yankees (71-48, 38-23 home) beat the Red Sox (58-62, 29-28 away) 6-4 in a contest that never really felt in doubt even though Dustin Pedroia's three-run homer in the third (his 10th of the season) gave Boston an ill-fated 4-3 lead. So far, New York is 7-3 against Boston this season.

The Red Sox find themselves 13.5 games out of first place, the most since they were 14 games back on September 19, 2001. Something to keep in mind when they plummet below that tomorrow and we look for the next mind-numbing, soul-crushing statistic.

New York tied a franchise record for most players (10) with 10+ homers in a season, they also did that in 1998.

For whatever reason, Franklin Morales (3-4) gets rocked every time he faces the Yanks. Tonight, he allowed five earned runs on six hits in 5.1 innings with three strikeouts and a walk. He gave up the first four homers before reliever Clayton Mortensen served up the final one.

Nick Swisher (17th of the season) went deep in the first, Curtis Granderson (31st of the season) followed suit in the second inning and Russell Martin (13th of the season) went back-to-back to make it 3-0. The Yankees had nine hits, five of them were homers and they didn't have any other extra-base hits. I guess they love their home runs.

Boston got all four of their runs in the third as Pedro Ciriaco's ground out scored Mike Aviles (2 hits) then Pedroia hit a three-run homer on his 29th birthday.

Derek Jeter (10th of the season) tied it in the fifth with a solo homer then Jason Nix added an RBI single in the sixth and Swisher's second homer-in the seventh-gave New York a 6-4 advantage.

Phil Hughes (12-10) usually can't do anything against the Red Sox but even he gets it done against this sad-sack outfit these days. He went seven innings and allowed four runs (0 earned) on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk. The unearned runs were all the result of his throwing error, don't get me started on why that rule (pitchers not getting charged with runs on their own mistakes) doesn't make any sense.

David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth for his 17th save of the season and Rafael Soriano had a strikeout in a clean ninth for his 30th save of the season.

I'm psyched that I'm going to a wedding tomorrow afternoon/night so I'll probably miss all of the game (4:05 p.m., NESN) unless I get bored and check Twitter/my phone or it's on at the bar. Jon Lester (6-10) faces David Phelps (3-3) in the middle game of the three-game weekend set.

UPDATE 8/19: Felix Doubront was placed on the DL (retroactive to August 10) and infielder Mauro Gomez was recalled from Pawtucket to fill his roster spot in Boston.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Every Football Team Needs An Olympian With World-Class Speed To Return Kicks

Ever since Brandon Tate was released prior to last season, the Patriots kick return game has been awful. I'm not saying that will change overnight based on one player but you have to like their chances after they signed free agent Jeff Demps to a three-year deal tonight.

A running back at the University of Florida, Demps was undrafted in April since he wanted to concentrate on his track career. Otherwise he would have been a mid to late round draft pick. I'd say that was a smart decision since he qualified for the London Olympics and came home with a silver medal from the 4x100 relay team that finished second to Usain Bolt and Jamaica. When he decided, he wanted to return to football, he was quickly snatched up by New England before other teams could sign him (Jets missed out).

He was a true weapon for the Gators. Demps is only 5-foot-7 and 191 pounds so he obviously won't be an every down back in the NFL but he could be Darren Sproles. In his senior year on a rebuilding team, he rushed for 569 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games last season. In four years of college football, he put up 2470 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He had 31 rushes for more than 20 yards at Florida, most in the Southeastern Conference (by far college football's best/an NFL feeder system) since 2008.

Demps could be a project but when the Patriots main kick returners in 2011 were Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman, they can afford to think outside the box a little bit. Demps only returned two punts at Florida so Edelman's punt returning duties seem secure. Keep in mind, New England head coach Bill Belichick and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer (who recruited Demps) are tight and the Pats have greatly benefited from two Gators on their roster: tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Brandon Spikes; let's not talk about defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

Here is a sweet highlight package from Demps' college career. Note the kickoff return that starts at 2:35. With his breakaway speed and ability to make guys miss in the open field, I have no doubt that he could be an elite kick returner and unique weapon for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to utilize down the road.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

If Only Clay Buchholz Could Pitch Every Game For The Red Sox, Then They Might Be OK

Clay Buchholz has earned the right to be Boston's Opening Day starter in 2013 with his superb second half. It continued tonight in Baltimore as the Red Sox (58-61, 29-27 away) salvaged a game against the Orioles (64-54, 32-29 home) with a 6-3 win at Camden Yards.

Not only did Buchholz (11-3) help Boston avoid the three-game sweep but he maintained his run of six quality starts in a row. What's more, he hasn't been charged with a loss since July 14 which is remarkable considering how much the Red Sox have lost in that time frame. He actually allowed two runs in the first and one in the second but settled down to go eight innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Alfredo Aceves, Boston's lonely closer, struck out the side in the ninth for a 1-2-3 inning and his 24th save of the season.

After struggling so badly with runners in scoring position the previous two nights, the Red Sox improved (5 for 16) even if they still left way too many guys on base (10). Boston had 13 hits, five RBIs and four walks. Cody Ross went 3 for 5 with a double and RBI, Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 5 with a double, two runs and an RBI, Carl Crawford was 2 for 5 with two runs, a double and stolen base, Adrian Gonzalez was 2 for 4 with two runs, two RBIs and a double while Scott Podsednik was 2 for 4 with a double, RBI and run.

Adam Jones had a two-run double in the first for the Orioles and Mark Reynolds blasted a solo homer (his 12th of the season) in the second inning but other than that, Baltimore was shut down. They went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman (3 earned runs, 6 hits) couldn't get out of the fifth inning but reliever Luis Ayala (4-4) allowed three runs in the sixth which turned out to be the difference.

Podsednik got Boston on the board with an RBI single in the second which cut it to 2-1. Boston tied in the fifth as Crawford scored on a wild pitch by Tillman and Gonzalez knocked in Pedroia with a sacrifice fly.

Pedroia started the scoring in the sixth by reaching on an infield single while Podsednik crossed the plate. Then Gonzalez and Ross kept the line moving with RBI singles of their own.

Boston improved to 4-8 against Baltimore this season; they play six more times with a home series for each team in late September.

The Red Sox are 3-4 so far on their 10-game road trip and it wraps up this weekend in the Bronx with three against the Yankees (70-48, 1st AL East), who are the top team in the American League. Remember when Boston won two of three at Yankee Stadium in the end of July? That was a real turning point of the season huh, oh wait.

Franklin Morales (3-3) faces Phil Hughes (11-10) tomorrow night (7:05 p.m., NESN), Jon Lester (6-10) takes on David Phelps (3-3) on Saturday afternoon (4:05 p.m., NESN) then Josh Beckett (5-10) closes out what could be a very ugly series vs. Hiroki Kuroda (11-8) on Sunday night (8:00 p.m., ESPN).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Red Sox Piss Another Season Down The Drain, Misery Continues In Baltimore

Aaron Cook had a no-hitter entering the sixth inning and the Red Sox led the Orioles 2-0. As quick as you could say, no October baseball at Fenway, Baltimore scored five runs en route to a 5-3 win tonight at Camden Yards.

Boston (57-61, 28-27 away) latest slide all but guarantees that September will be completely meaningless. There is no chance this team will push for a playoff spot, at this point they are going to struggle to finish over .500 and in front of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Baltimore (64-53, 32-28 home) only had six hits but they made them count by going 4 for 13 with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position while they both left six men on base.

The uniquely terrible aspects to this loss for Boston included a throwing error by Cook that led to three runs plus the ejections of Adrian Gonzalez and Bobby Valentine. After Pedro Strop quick pitched Gonzo in the eighth then got him to ground out, the normally church mouse quiet first baseman sort of showed some emotion. Valentine came out to defend him/fire up his worthless team but you can see from the final score how that went.

Cook (3-6) went 5.1 innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on three hits with one strikeout and three walks.

Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (5-2) went six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Baltimore's bullpen locked it down, especially Strop who had a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts for his 20th hold and closer Jim Johnson who notched his 35th save with a clean ninth including a strikeout.

Jacoby Ellsbury's (2 hits) RBI double and Carl Crawford's sacrifice fly scored Nick Punto (2 runs) staked the Red Sox to a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning.

The Orioles sixth included an RBI single by Nate McLouth, Adam Jones grounded into a fielder's choice and Cook threw the ball away which allowed J.J. Hardy to score, Matt Wieters had an RBI double and Mark Reyonlds ended it with a two-run double.

All Boston could muster after Baltimore's big sixth inning was an RBI ground out by Crawford in the seventh.

Clay Buchholz (10-3) is all that stands in the way of a three-game sweep by the Orioles tomorrow night (7:05 p.m., NESN) as he takes on Chris Tillman (5-2). The only question is how will the Red Sox find a new and different way to lose?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Have Never Seen A Local Team Be Toxic In Every Conceivable Way Possible, Until Now

If you want to see a dysfunctional team, in every way possible, tune into a Red Sox game in 2012. Better yet, don't even watch but just read some of their assorted daily drama that is constantly stirred up by these malcontents, out of touch owners and wacky manager.

I have never cared less about a local squad (Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox) than this one. Things get more predictable by the day, it's like paint by numbers. Tonight, Josh Beckett (5-10) "pitched" and the Red Sox (57-60, 28-26 away) lost the series opener 7-1 to the Orioles (63-53, 31-28 home) at Camden Yards.

The end of the season can't come soon enough for this truly hateable team. The Texas Toughguy went 5.1 innings, allowing six earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts, two walks and two home runs allowed. After Matt Wieters reached on an infield single (scoring a run) and Chris Davis (2 hits, walk) had an RBI single in the sixth, Beckett was pulled from the game by Bobby Valentine. Would you believe Mark Melancon gave up a three-run bomb to Mark Reynolds (his second of the game) on the next pitch? Haha unbelievable, pass me a couple beers Lackey.

Not that it mattered anyway. Baltimore has the look of a playoff team this season despite the fact that their lineup isn't very good, their rotation is average at best and they play terrible defense (worst in the AL). Still, they make up for it by hitting homers, having a good bullpen and being clutch. What a concept!

Their de-facto ace Wei-Yin Chen (11-7) went six innings, allowing one earned run on nine hits with four strikeouts and a walk. Baltimore's bullpen kept the lead intact as Darren O'Day, JC Romero and Matt Lindstrom all threw scoreless frames. Too bad nobody in Baltimore has figured out yet that the O's are a team to get behind, I guess they are all busy on the corners like in The Wire.

The Red Sox actually outhit the Orioles 11-7 but they were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and they left 12 men on base. You couldn't be that ineffective if you tried, you have to give Boston credit for that. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia (double, triple, walk), Cody Ross (run, double) and Carl Crawford all had two hits in the loss.

Mighty Omar Quintanilla-Orioles No. 9 hitter-took Beckett deep in the third, a solo shot and his 3rd of the season. Crawford tied it with an RBI single in the fourth but Reynolds woke up with a solo homer in the fifth (his 10th of the season) and Baltimore was on their way.

All was not lost for the Red Sox though since Danny Valencia got his first hit for them while Andrew Bailey made his debut. The former A's closer walked Davis then struck out Reynolds to end the eighth. Too bad he couldn't have returned oh I don't know, a month ago. Oh well, like I said before, it doesn't matter.

Aaron Cook (3-5) takes the ball against Miguel Gonzalez (4-2) tomorrow night (7:05 p.m., NESN) in the middle game of this three-game series. At least I can stomach watching Cook play baseball, Beckett literally makes me sick.