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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The White Sox are So Bad That Even Ryan Dempster Can Beat Them

Tonight was one of those blah games that the Red Sox just have to grind through to ultimately get where they want to go: October. Boston (80-56 overall, 43-24 home) beat the White Sox (56-77 overall, 24-43 away) 4-3 in the series opener at Fenway Park and it turned out to be pretty important after the fact since the Rays fell 4-3 at the A's. That gives Boston a 3.5 game lead over Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East.

Ryan Dempster (7-9) returned from his suspension and extended break between outings. He benefitted from a 4-0 lead built up by the fourth inning as the Red Sox hung on for the win thanks to a four-out save (his 15th overall) for Koji Uehara. Before the roof started to somewhat cave in on him, Dempster went 6.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

Junichi Tazawa pitched a scoreless inning, Franklin Morales retired the lone batter he faced then manager John Farrell went to Uehara earlier than normal but it paid off.

Mike Napoli earned a bases loaded walk in the third inning to get Boston on the board then Shane Victorino (2 hits, 2 runs, walk, stolen base) had an RBI single and David Ortiz added a two-run base hit in the fourth. Ortiz's was extra important since it snapped his 0-for-23 drought (tied for the longest in his Red Sox career).

Dayan Viciedo drove in Chicago's first run with an RBI single in the fifth then Avisail Garcia hit a solo homer in the seventh and Alejandro De Aza cut it to 4-3 with an RBI triple in the same frame.

It's hard to get much juice out of a Red Sox-White Sox game this season but Jake Peavy (10-5) should make it a little more interesting tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) as he faces his former team and teammate John Danks (4-10). Keep in mind ex-White Sox reliever Matt Thornton was just activated for Boston and I'm sure he'll face them too at some point this weekend.

Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells Getting Cut = Good News About Rob Gronkowski

Tomorrow is the official deadline (4 p.m.) for all NFL teams to whittle their rosters down to 53 guys for the start of the 2013 regular season which is tricky business when they had 75 for the last preseason game on Thursday. The Patriots got a head start (of course) by dumping 10 players this afternoon, the most notable being tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard. Everyone else were no-names that had not a shot to make it, sorry.

Most bozo fans and newscasters are focused on Tim Tebow (spoiler alert: I don't think he'll be cut) but today's moves tell me that New England believes Rob Gronkowski will be back sooner than Pats beat writers have led us to believe (PUP list or bust!). I still don't think he'll be out there for the season opener a week from Sunday in his hometown-Buffalo-but that's ok. What's more important is making sure that he'll be healthy at the end of the season, something which hasn't happened the last two years.

It also indicates that rookie Zach Sudfeld could be the starter in Week 1 (fantasy alert!) while Michael Hoomanawanui will still hang around even though nobody has ever really elaborated on what he does well other than fill a jersey with his absurd name. Stay tuned tomorrow for when things really start to get interesting, you can always expect a big name or unexpected cut or two. Adrian Wilson?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli Extended 4 More Years, Through 2017-2018

It was talked about plenty of times last season as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years but it's worth saying again: the B's have become one of the model franchises in the NHL after many dark years earlier this decade. Today, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli received a four-year contract extension through 2017-2018 (he had one more year left on his current deal).

When Boston repeatedly folded in the playoffs, it was easy to make fun of Chiarelli and his well-established penchant to hand out contracts to mediocre players left and right. Now, the story is completely different. He's proven to be a winner and the Bruins have made the playoffs the last six seasons in a row including at least one series win in four of the last five years.

During the regular season, Chiarelli's roster has gone 291-187-62 (.596 winning percentage) with five 90-point seasons and three 100-point seasons. Boston has made the postseason in six of his seven seasons on the job and they've gone 50-35 during that span. In 2011, he became only the third Bruins GM to win a Cup joining legends Art Ross (1929, 1939, 1941) and Milt Schmidt (1970 and 1972).

A product of Harvard University and established player on the Crimson's hockey team, Chiarelli is a very smart guy that even has a law degree. If you're a Bruins fan, you have to like the position that the team is in going into the 2013-2014 regular season (which starts October 3). There is stability on the ice with Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Co. while Claude Julien has become one of the top head coaches in the NHL and the same could be said for Chiarelli and president Cam Neely.

Red Sox Keep Finding Ways To Win & Quiet The Few Remaining Naysayers

Everyone enjoys winning and the Red Sox have done plenty of that this season but one of the things that has made them so extra enjoyable to watch is that it feels like they're competitive in every single game. Indeed, the Orioles (70-61 overall, 32-32 away) led 3-1 in the seventh inning tonight at Fenway Park but choked that two-run lead away as Boston (79-55 overall, 42-23 home) won their fourth straight contest by a score of 4-3.

There were plenty of heroes for the Red Sox' cause: pinch hitter Mike Carp drove in the winning run-Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, run, walk, 2 stolen bases) with a bloop RBI single to left field. Craig Breslow (4-2) sneaked away with the win after getting the last two outs in the eighth and Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout for his 14th save of the season.

Early on it was the Chris Davis and Manny Machado show. Davis had an RBI double in the first and he clocked his MLB-best 47th homer in the sixth for a 3-1 O's lead. Machado (2 hits, 2 runs) had a solo homer of his own in the third inning. Boston hung around as Shane Victorino got them on the board with an RBI single in the third and Dustin Pedroia (2 walks) came through with a clutch two-run single in the seventh.

Stephen Drew doubled, walked twice and scored two runs while Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 2 for 4 with a double and run. The Red Sox chased Bud Norris after 5.1 innings, he had only allowed one earned run on five hits but his pitch count was 105. John Lackey lasted two innings more and threw 13 less pitches. It wasn't his best performance but as always, he gave them innings and didn't walk anybody (1 walk).

Boston will try to sweep the series tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) and throw a serious wrench into any plans Baltimore had of making the playoffs for the second year in a row. Jon Lester (12-7) meets Chris Tillman (14-4).

Happy Trails To Something Called Ras-I Dowling

I couldn't tell you the first thing about Ras-I Dowling's skills on a football field. The Patriots released their 2011 2nd round pick (33rd overall) today which came as no surprise since the mysterious cornerback has suited up in just nine games over two seasons. In fact, both years ended on injured reserve for him making Julian Edelman look like an iron man in comparison.

I normally don't bother to write a blog post about a guy with 10 career tackles (0 interceptions) and one pass deflection but Dowling is a fine example of the crapshoot that is the NFL Draft. He was a second-team All-American at Virginia and the first player chosen in the second round so basically a first-round talent. The knock on him was that he often got injured so lo and behold, that scouting report proved to be prophetic.

Just for fun, I thought you'd like to know that Niners superstar quarterback Colin Kaepernick was taken three spots after Dowling. Then Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb were selected later in the second round. So yeah, needless to say the Pats would like that pick back but unfortunately that's not how it works in real life.

The entire NFL has their final preseason game (yes!) tomorrow night as the Patriots host the Giants in a contest that I couldn't give a rat's ass about. What I'm focused on is Saturday at 4 p.m. when New England will name its 53-man roster heading into the opener at Buffalo on September 8. Meaningful football is in the air, can you smell it? In fact, college football kicks off tomorrow night giving us a tasty appetizer before the NFL starts a week later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red Sox Return Home Just In Time To Throw Orioles A Beating Like You Read About

Shane Victorino's career-high seven RBIs (2 HRs-his 10th and 11th of the season, 2B, 4 runs, BB) pushed Boston (78-55 overall, 41-23 home) to an easy 13-2 blowout win tonight at Fenway Park over Baltimore (70-60 overall, 32-31 away) in the series opener and start of a critical nine-game homestand. The good vibes continued after the game as the Rays choked away a 5-1 lead to the Angels, losing 6-5. That gave the Red Sox a 2.5 game lead in the AL East (their highest in two weeks).

They had a day off in between but Boston picked up right where they left off on Sunday night-the 8-1 stomping of the Dodgers. Victorino wasn't the only Red Sox to go nuts at the plate as Jacoby Ellsbury was 3 for 5 with three runs and a double while Dustin Pedroia went 3 for 5 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run.

Porn stars take note: the Mike Napoli of this past April has returned, he smacked his 17th homer of the season. Pedroia and Jonny Gomes had two-run doubles and Will Middlebrooks was 2 for 4 with two runs. It's easy to overlook because of the lopsided final score but Felix Doubront (10-6) had his second quality start in a row: 6.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts and 1 walk.

David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the first inning gave Boston a 1-0 lead but Baltimore actually scored twice in the third (on a bases loaded walk and sacrifice fly) to take a 2-1 lead. However, the Red Sox exploded for 10 runs over the next three innings to put this way out of reach. The Orioles only managed four hits on the night.

The second and final night of the Jimmy Fund telethon (donate!) wraps up tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) with John Lackey (8-11) taking on Bud Norris (9-10).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Red Sox Prove That The Dodgers Are Overrated (When Kershaw and Greinke aren't pitching)

Before this trip started, I recognized that the Red Sox were lucky to miss both Matt Cain and Ryan Bumgartner in San Francisco then Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke in Los Angeles. Boston (77-55 overall, 37-32 away) took advantage of their favorable schedule by going 4-2 on their West Coast swing. They ended their stay at Dodger Stadium with a 8-1 stomping of the Dodgers (76-54 overall, 38-27 home) on Sunday Night Baseball. LA hadn't lost a series in over two months and came in as the hottest team in MLB.

Jake Peavy (10-5) was the story since he improved to 14-2 lifetime against the Dodgers with his 16th career complete game: 3 hits, 5 strikeouts and 1 walk. His only blemish was a solo homer/bomb to former Red Sox great Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth.

Boston's pitching was top notch all series, allowing five total runs to a legit National League lineup (normally an oxymoron) and finally their bats came alive this evening. The Red Sox had 12 hits including three homers and four doubles.

Possibly dating a porn star seems to have reinvigorated (see what I did there?) Mike Napoli's 2013 season. He bookmarked the win for Boston with an RBI double in the first and a two-run homer (his 16th) in the ninth. In between those, Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, double, run) notched a sacrifice fly in the third, Xander Bogaerts (2 hits) recorded his first MLB RBI with a run-scoring double in the fifth then Jarrod Saltalamacchia (two-run homer; his 11th of the season) and Shane Victorino (solo homer; 9th of the season) brought the power in the sixth and seventh innings respectively.

They only went 9-10 but the Red Sox survived a brutal stretch where they played 16 of their last 19 games on the road. Boston originally left town one game up in the AL East on Tampa Bay and ironically enough, they return in the exact same position. Their reward is that their next nine games: 3 vs. Baltimore (70-59 overall, 3rd in AL East), 3 vs. White Sox and 3 vs. Tigers are all at Fenway Park. In fact, they won't play another road game until September 5 (the same night the NFL regular season begins) and don't look now but there are only 30 games left in the regular season.

After tomorrow's much-needed off day in Boston, on Tuesday (7:10, NESN) Felix Doubront (9-6) takes on Wei-Yin Chen (7-6). Wednesday (7:10, NESN) finds John Lackey (8-11) vs. Bud Norris (9-10) with the series finale on Thursday (7:10, NESN): Jon Lester (12-7) against Chris Tillman (14-4).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

At This Point, Barry Zito Is Straight Up Stealing Money From the Giants

The Giants have already mailed it in for 2013 and the Red Sox were able to take advantage of that clear fact this afternoon with a 12-1 pounding at AT&T Park in their interleague series finale. Boston (75-54 overall, 35-31 away) had the pleasure of teeing off on piñata Barry Zito (4-9): 3.2 innings, 6 earned runs, 7 hits. San Francisco (56-70 overall, 32-33 home) lost two of three in the series and they remain in last place in the weak NL West.

The Red Sox also received some help (finally) from the Orioles as they beat the Rays 4-2, giving Boston a one-game lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay. By pounding out 12 hits (6 for extra bases), they were able to go into tomorrow's off day with some smiles. Felix Doubront (9-6) was excellent, he went eight innings and allowed one run on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Three players on Boston had multiple hits led by Jacoby Ellsbury (3 for 4 with 2 runs, double and MLB-leading 46th steal), Shane Victorino (3 for 5 with run, double and RBI) and Dustin Pedroia (2 doubles, 2 runs and RBI). As they have usually done this season after a humbling loss, the Red Sox bounced back immediately with an important victory.

Will Middlebrooks (2 runs, walk) started the barrage with a two-run homer in the second, his 11th of the season. Light-hitting Joaquin Arias (2 hits) provided the Giants' only run with a solo shot in the second. Pedroia had an RBI double in the third and Jonny Gomes notched a two-run single.

San Francisco had totally checked out by the time they let Victorino's harmless fly ball drop in for an RBI double in the fourth. The only bad news of the day for Boston is that David Ortiz left in the fifth inning with lower back tightness. Yikes, hopefully he'll be alright for this weekend in Los Angeles. The Red Sox poured it on in the seventh with five runs on a two-run single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew's three-run blast (his 10th of the season). The Giants gave Boston one more parting gift-an error in the eighth that plated their final run.

This weekend's series against the Dodgers (74-52, 1st in NL West) will be really hyped and for once, I'll say that it totally should be. Since their poor start, the Dodgers have been on fire and they feature rookie Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig-possibly the most exciting player in MLB this season. Oh and who could forget former Red Sox greats Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto (RIP Josh Beckett) who were traded to LA basically at this time last year.

Boston is lucky to miss both Clayton Kershaw (who pitches tomorrow vs. Miami) and Zach Greinke (who pitched today). Instead, it'll be John Lackey (8-10) vs. Ricky Nolasco (9-9) on Friday (10:10, NESN), followed by Jon Lester (11-7) vs. Hyun Jin Ryu (12-4) on Saturday afternoon (4:05, FOX) and culminating with Jake Peavy (9-5) against Springfield Mass native Chris Capuano (4-6) on Sunday night (8:05, ESPN).

Boston should have swept San Francisco but I'd take two out of three at Dodger Stadium in a heartbeat. This truly could represent a World Series preview for this fall and promises to be one of the best series of the regular season.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Red Sox Lose On Soul-Crushing Walk-Off Walk, Haha

There is no other way to say it: the Red Sox pissed away a game tonight against the lifeless Giants and as a result of San Francisco's (56-69 overall, 32-32 home) 3-2 win at AT&T Park over Boston (74-54 overall, 34-31 away), the Red Sox find themselves tied with the Rays (7-4 winners vs. Orioles) for first place in the AL East.

It doesn't get much more frustrating than losing on a walk-off walk. Throw in the added bonus that poor Brayan Villareal entered his first game as a Red Sox and proceeded to walk Marco Scutaro on four pitches. We'll never understand why Boston manager John Farrell went with a new player (who has major control issues) when the bases were loaded but there were two outs and closer Koji Uehara was available (and has pitched once in a week).

The opportunities that the Red Sox left on the table were best illustrated by uber prospect Xander Bogaerts (batting seventh and playing shortstop in his first MLB game): in the first, he came up with the bases loaded but grounded out. In the third, he had runners on second and third with two outs but once again he grounded out to end the threat.

Boston got a run in the first on Mike Carp's sacrifice fly and a run in the third on Shane Victorino's solo homer but they should have had way more against Ryan Voegelsong (7 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts) who seemed to have nothing when the game started. David Ortiz and Mike Napoli both found themselves on the bench, meaning that Boston's lineup predictably lacked much pop (Victorino's homer notwithstanding).

Jake Peavy (5.2 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts) was pitching well but Farrell decided to yank him after 92 pitches. Um? Joaquin Arias had driven in San Francisco's first run with an RBI triple in the fifth.

Six of the Giants' eight hits were by Brandon Belt (3 hits; double, triple) and something called Roger Kieschnick. Craig Breslow got four outs on seven pitches but Junichi Tazawa gave up the tying run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey.

We can blame Villareal but he was put into that impossible situation by Farrell and more importantly, Franklin Morales (who still has no idea where his pitches are going).

A bright spot in the loss and these past few weeks has been Will Middlebrooks (2 for 4) who appears to gain confidence with each passing game.

There is day baseball tomorrow (3:45, NESN) for the series finale as Felix Doubront (8-6) faces Barry Zito (4-8), who was summoned from the bullpen. Boston desperately needs another victory (and series win) before their off day on Thursday and a much-hyped series with the Dodgers this weekend.

Apparently Dana "Bing, Bang, Boom" Barros Wasn't Available

I can appreciate the fact that the Celtics are doing everything they can to distract their fans from the impending doom of the 2013-14 season. Tonight, their latest newsworthy item is they have added former C's legend (at least according to broadcaster/crazy old man Tommy Heinsohn) Walter McCarty to be an assistant coach under new head coach Brad Stevens.

We can't chalk this up as totally a PR move since Walta does have some coaching experience: at Louisville (2007-08) with Rick Pitino (his head coach at Kentucky) and the Pacers (2010-11). He reportedly beat out another fan favorite-James Posey-for this last coveted spot on the bench. The funny part about McCarty being hired is that he's three years older (39) than Stevens. The other assistants are Ron Adams (longtime NBA assistant), Micah Shrewsberry (Stevens' assistant at Butler) along with Jay Larranaga and Jamie Young (holdovers from Doc Rivers' staff).

In a weird way, it'll be nice to see a familiar face in all those huddles while the Celts are getting pummeled by teams across the NBA. Walter stayed close with the franchise, he was often spotted sitting in a courtside seat the last few seasons so he should have some good ideas about the current roster. If nothing else, this will allow us to dig out all those old Walta jerseys and t-shirt jerseys with his name on them and pretend that they have value again, that is assuming that they ever did in the first place.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ryan Dempster's Biggest Contribution To The Red Sox Results In A 5-Game Suspension

I chose not to write about Sunday night's Red Sox-Yankees game because I was already sick of what I knew would be the stupid angle that everyone would focus on: Ryan Dempster hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the second inning of New York's eventual 9-6 series finale victory. The circus surrounding A-Rod and PEDs bores the hell out of me and since the Red Sox choked to drop the series, I didn't feel like rehashing that shitty loss (editor in chief's discretion!).

Today, as expected MLB suspended Dempster but it was only for five games. Given that Boston has off days on Thursday and next Monday, he might not even miss a turn in the rotation although truth be told he doesn't really deserve to be there anymore (6-9, 4.77 ERA) in the first place. He was also fined $2500 while Yankees manager Joe Girardi was hit with a fine of $5000 for his excellent hissy fit after the plunking that resulted in his ejection. Keep in mind that Dempster can always appeal this and we all know that usually works out in the player's favor (ask A-Rod who is currently waiting out his basically lifetime ban).

What does this all mean? Nothing really, MLB has created this whole mess by overlooking steroids and PEDs for years but then deciding to be heroes after the fact and trying to "clean up the game." Please, by this point nobody really cares what players did or didn't use. Some people claimed in the aftermath of this much-needed drama in the stale Red Sox-Yankees rivalry that they actually began to feel sorry for A-Rod. Haha seriously? That bozo makes LeBron James look like a humble, self-aware model of humility.

Red Sox honks also would like us to believe that this proves Dempster has the team's back. Still, this might have been a personal beef between him and A-Rod so who knows? Plus PS, he has been awful all season so this one small action won't make me love him. Win games in August and September when Boston really needs them, then I will care more about Dempster. If Clay Buchholz ever returns this season (something which seems more improbable with each passing day), Dempster would rightfully be shifted to the bullpen.

Nothing to see here folks, time to move on from this entertaining but albeit mostly meaningless act.

Jon Lester Looks Like An Ace Again: In A Pitcher's Park Against a Crappy Lineup

After losing three series in a row and going 3-7 in their last 10 games, not to mention holding on by the skin of their teeth (1 game lead on Tampa Bay) to first place in the AL East, tonight the Red Sox desperately needed a win. Jon Lester (11-7) delivered the goods with his best performance of the season (8.1 shutout innings, 6 hits, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks) as Boston (74-53 overall, 34-30 away) began a six-game road trip with a 7-0 pasting of the Giants (55-69 overall, 31-32 home) at AT&T Park. The Rays opened their pivotal series in Baltimore with a 4-3 win to remain one game back of the Red Sox.

The ghost of Tim Lincecum (6-13) stopped by for a little while (5 innings, 5 earned runs, 9 hits, 104 pitches) but he turned out to be an imposter with short hair and nothing but junk pitches in his arsenal. For whatever reason, he's not fooling anyone these days and Boston made him pay rather quickly for being no better than average. The Red Sox plated three runs in the second inning on Will Middlebrooks' sacrifice fly, Daniel Nava (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI, walk) scored on a wild pitch and Shane Victorino (3 hits) drove in Stephen Drew (2 hits) with an RBI single.

Drew added an RBI double in the fifth then Jacoby Ellsbury scored on another wild pitch (this time by reliever Guillermo Moscoso) in the sixth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's (2 hits, 2 runs, walk) RBI double in the ninth and Nava's RBI single served to pad their stats. The Red Sox ended up with twice as many hits (12-6) as the Giants, who it's safe to say won't be winning their third World Series title in four seasons this fall.

John Farrell wanted Lester to get the complete game but he was lifted after allowing back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth and throwing 115 pitches. Brandon Workman came on to strike out the last two San Francisco batters to secure the shutout.

Tomorrow night (10:15, NESN) Jake Peavy (9-5) faces Ryan Vogelsong (2-4); Xander Bogaerts was called up today along with David Ross and both are expected to be in the lineup for the middle game. That would be the MLB debut for Boston's top positional prospect who has been tearing it up all summer at Portland (Double-A) and Pawtucket (Triple-A).

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Needs Timely Hits? Not The Red Sox In Another Frustrating Loss, 2-1 to Blue Jays

For most of the season, the Red Sox' patchwork lineup has been better than the sum of its not that impressive parts. However, that wasn't the case tonight in Toronto (56-65 overall, 31-32 home) as Boston (72-51 overall, 33-30 away) fell 2-1 to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Red Sox lost the series (2-1) and as a result went 4-6 on this bumpy road trip through Houston, Kansas City and ending in Toronto. They head back to Fenway for the weekend before going away for six more games.

You might never see another game where a team has 11 hits and three walks yet they only score one run. Boston went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and they left an alarming 12 men on base. Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5, Daniel Nava was 3 for 4 with two doubles and a run while Ryan Lavarnway went 2 for 4. Nobody on the Red Sox could get a key hit when it mattered though and Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 22nd save of the season.

For the second time in three starts, Jake Peavy (9-5) pitched very well for Boston: 6+ innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts and 0 walks. On the other side, Mark Buehrle (9-7) wasn't fooling anyone but he kept getting out of trouble. In seven innings, he allowed 10 hits but only one earned run with four strikeouts and two walks.

Darren Oliver allowed a two-out double to Nava in the eighth then he walked Will Middlebrooks (not an easy thing to do) but he recovered by striking out Ellsbury to end Boston's last great threat.

Ellsbury drove in the only run for the Red Sox, a fielder's choice in the fourth inning, but even that illustrated their struggles all night: it happened with one out and runners on first and third.

Brett Lawrie tied it for Toronto in the seventh with an RBI single and Mark DeRosa's sacrifice fly turned out to be the difference. Boston was 9-5 vs. Toronto after Tuesday's 11-inning win but following back-to-back crushing losses, they settled for 9-7 vs. Blue Jays with three left at Fenway September 20-22.

With Boston's loss and Tampa Bay's win, the Rays pulled to within two games in the AL East. More troubling is the fact that they are now tied in the loss column so the Red Sox have played four more games than never-say-die Tampa Bay.

Alex Rodriguez's Circus featuring the Yankees (62-58 overall, 4th in AL East) pays a visit to Fenway for three games beginning with tomorrow night's matchup of Felix Doubront (8-5) vs. Andy Pettitte (7-9). The rivalry isn't what it once was but don't tell that to the network executives since they gave it the usual primetime treatment: John Lackey (7-10) faces Hiroki Kuroda (11-7) on Saturday afternoon (4:10, Fox) then Ryan Dempster (6-8) takes on C.C. Sabathia (10-10) in Sunday Night Baseball (8, ESPN).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mercifully, Our Regional Nightmare is Over: Fab Melo Traded to Memphis

Look it up, I was never a Fab Melo fan dating back to his brief time at Syracuse so you can imagine my frustration when the Celtics drafted him in the first round (22nd overall) in 2011. I predicted he'd never have an impact in Boston and despite being a beast in the D-League (hold your laughter), Melo couldn't find a place on an NBA team that basically played without a true center for two years. What does that tell you how they viewed him? As far as I'm concerned, his most memorable pro moment so far is bumping his head in a hotel which gave him a concussion.

Today, he was traded for another bust from Syracuse-forward Donte Greene-that was on the Grizzlies last season but never actually played a game. He was a first round pick (28th overall) by Sacramento where he toiled for four seasons, averaging a forgettable 6.1 points per game. This was a chance for Boston to trim salary and get under the luxury tax line next season assuming that they waive him before the regular season starts in October. Also, it's another step in the rebuilding process as they admitted (with this move) that drafting Melo was a mistake from the start.

Oh well, at least now we don't have to watch that big goof painfully try to play basketball. So we've got that going for us.

Happy Trails To Michael Jenkins, We Hardly Knew Ya

Odds are that nobody thought Michael Jenkins was going to make the Patriots 53-man roster (which will be decided on August 31) heading into the 2013 NFL regular season or at least he wouldn't have much of an impact if he did. New England took any intrigue (haha yeah right) out of the equation by releasing the 10-year veteran wide receiver this afternoon.

If they are healthy, I feel like the five receivers (assuming they carry that many on their active roster) heading into the September 8 opener at Buffalo will be Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce and KenBrell Thompkins. Of course, they could always pick up another veteran that gets cut by another team before Week 1. In fact, I hope they do that since looking at that aforementioned list, you have to wonder how they'll do when the games get real.

In other Pats news, after giving heart attacks to Pats fans around the world yesterday afternoon, Tom Brady appears to be fine (albeit with a new brace on his left knee) at their walk-through for tomorrow's second preseason game (vs. Tampa Bay). Exhale.

Napoli Returns From The Abyss With Clutch 2-Run HR But Red Sox Still Fall 4-3 in 10

Moral victories are for losers but I feel like if the Red Sox are going to go anywhere the rest of this season, they can take something (Mike Napoli not striking out in a key spot) from tonight's 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Boston (72-50 overall, 33-29 road) couldn't win its second extra innings game in as many nights but Toronto (55-65 overall, 30-32 home) made it way tougher on themselves than it had to be.

The Red Sox were down to their last out in the ninth but Napoli cranked a two-run opposite field home run, his 15th of the season, against Brett Cecil. The Blue Jays bounced back by scoring the winning run in the 10th on Brett Lawrie's infield single which plated Rajai Davis (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 doubles).

Scrub Esmil Rogers completely flummoxed Boston for six innings: one earned run on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk. Jon Lester was decent-6.1 innings, three runs (two earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and two walks-aside from his two errors (one which cost him a run).

In honor of the Little League World Series which begins tomorrow in Williamsport, PA, Boston handed Davis a Little League style home run in the third. His infield single went off Lester's leg then the pitcher made a throwing error to first and after heading for third, Davis' blazing speed forced another error-this time by right fielder Shane Victorino-that allowed the New London, CT native to score.

Mark DeRosa made it 2-0 Toronto in the fourth with a bloop RBI double. David Ortiz got the Red Sox back into it with a solo homer to right center, his 23rd of the season, in the sixth inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had two doubles but Boston wasn't able to push another run across until the ninth when Jonny Gomes walked and his buddy Napoli finally showed some of his elusive power.

Edwin Encarnacion had a pair of doubles, scored two runs, walked and stole a base for the Blue Jays.

In tomorrow night's (7:07, NESN) series finale, it is a battle of former White Sox: Jake Peavy (9-4) vs. Mark Buehrle (8-7). Both teams are looking for the series win after splitting the first two contests. Plus, Boston tries to go .500 (5-5) on this lengthy road trip through three cities (Houston, Kansas City and Toronto) that are really spread out.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's Safe To Say The Red Sox Did Not Enjoy Their Time in Kansas City

The Pittsburgh Pirates are rightfully earning most of the praise and attention across MLB this season as the team that has totally turned it around after years of losing. However in the American League, Kansas City is starting to become a great story as well. With the Royals' (61-54 overall, 32-26 home) 5-4 win this afternoon over the Red Sox (71-49 overall, 32-28 home) at Kauffman Stadium, they took this weekend's series (3-1) and the season series (5-2).

The good news for Boston is that Tampa Bay has finally slumped a bit, losing their last five games including a sweep from the Dodgers this weekend. Strictly because of that, the Red Sox remain three games up on them for first place in the AL East.

James Shields (7-8) is still a good pitcher and he is certainly familiar with some of the Red Sox hitters from his time with the Rays. Shields went seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks. John Lackey (7-10) did not have his best stuff by any means but he gutted it out for seven innings: four earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Boston got on the board first as Shane Victorino (double, stolen base) came around on Salvador Perez's throwing error in the first inning. Alex Gordon (3 hits) tied it with an RBI single in the home half of the first. Then Jarrod Dyson and David Lough (who?) added RBI singles in the second and Gordon smacked his 13th homer of the season-a solo shot in the third for a 4-1 Royals lead.

For whatever reason, it felt like the Red Sox were down by way more than three runs which is why Ryan Lavarnway's (2 hits) two-run single in the sixth woke everybody up. Kansas City's bullpen was equal to the task though with a scoreless eighth by Tim Collins and Aaron Crow while All-Star closer Greg Holland had a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his 32nd save of the season (2nd of the series).

Red hot Stephen Drew (seriously) was 2 for 4 with a double and run for Boston in the loss. This has been a bumpy road trip so far for the Red Sox (3-4) but they have a chance to go home on a positive note after three games in Toronto (54-63, 5th in AL East) starting on Tuesday (7:07, NESN) with Ryan Dempster (6-8) vs. rookie Todd Redmond (1-1). The other two pitching matchups favor Boston at the Rogers Centre: Jon Lester (10-7) vs. Josh Johnson (2-8) on Wednesday (7:07, NESN) and Jake Peavy (9-4) takes on Mark Buehrle (8-7) on Thursday (7:07, NESN).

They haven't been off since July 25 (rainout vs. Rays) so tomorrow will give Boston a chance to relax for the first time in a while.

Middlebrooks Returns To The Red Sox & They Finally Beat the Royals Again

It only took five tries but the Red Sox (71-48 overall, 32-27 away) managed to beat the Royals (60-54 overall, 31-26 home) again, 5-3 this evening at Kauffman Stadium to snap a four-game losing streak (two games in this series). The three easy to use storylines coming out of this win for Boston was Will Middlebrooks' (2 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) triumphant return from purgatory I mean Pawtucket RI, Jacoby Ellsbury's (4 hits, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, stolen base) great night at the plate and five scoreless innings by the Red Sox bullpen (4 pitchers).

Compared to last night, this was a pitcher's duel except for the fact that Felix Doubront only lasted 4+ innings (not long enough for the win) while Jeremy Guthrie went six innings but allowed five earned runs on 10 hits. Brandon Workman (3-1) got four outs in relief (including three strikeouts), Craig Breslow retired the two men he faced to end the sixth, Junichi Tazawa (19th hold) struck out two in two scoreless innings and Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 ninth (on 12 pitches!) for his 12th save of the season.

After no runs in the first three innings, the Red Sox looked like they were about to pull away when they scored four times in the fourth (it was meant to be!). Stephen Drew had an RBI double, two runs scored on Middlebrooks' bloop single down the right field line and Ellsbury notched his first of two RBI doubles.

Kudos to the Royals for fighting back right away and nearly tying it in the fifth. Eric Hosmer (2 hits) started the pseudo-rally with an RBI double, Billy Butler (3 hits, 2 doubles) continued to own the Red Sox (he's 7 for 12 in the series) with an RBI double and old man Miguel Tejada greeted Workman with an RBI single.

With Boston's bullpen on lockdown mode after that one inherited run scored in the fifth, Ellsbury added another RBI double in the sixth which scored Middlebrooks. Mike Carp was 2 for 3 with a run and walk in the victory.

Thanks to Tampa Bay and Baltimore's losses today, the Red Sox improved to three games and five games respectively ahead of their biggest competition this season in the AL. Haha with their loss the Yankees fell 11 games behind the Red Sox which is fantastic if you think about it. Tomorrow's game (2:10, NESN) is so important to both teams psychologically because the Royals have been on fire and they could win the series (3-1) while the Red Sox are looking to get out of town with a hard-earned split. John Lackey (7-9) faces former Rays star James Shields (6-8) in what should be a close contest.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Red Sox Blow 3 Different Leads, Lose 9-6 To Royals

After witnessing the very good side of Jake Peavy last Saturday in his Red Sox debut, tonight we were treated to the mediocre version of the former 2009 NL Cy Young winner that has been kicking around MLB the last few years (except for last year's contract drive). Already in two nights, the Royals (60-53 overall, 31-25 home) have proven that they can win with pitching (5-1 last night) or hitting-the example being tonight's 9-6 win over the Red Sox (70-48 overall, 31-27 away) at Kauffman Stadium.

There is a reason that Kansas City is 4-1 against Boston this season including four straight victories, they are a good ballclub. What they lack in great pitching, they seem to make up for in clutch hitting and timely plays. In a way they are a poor man's version of the Orioles from last season. With this win, the Royals pulled within 4.5 games of the Wild Card and only a half game behind the Indians.

Peavy was never right in this contest, he went only 5+ innings, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits with one walk and no strikeouts. Royals starter Ervin Santana was actually worse since he lasted 3.2 innings and also gave up six earned runs. Boston's bullpen completely melted down in the sixth inning as Peavy, Drizzy Drake Britton and Pedro "Not Martinez" Beato combined to allow six runs.

Boston had been up 6-3 after Mike Napoli's (2 hits, walk, run) three-run double in the fourth. Kansas City responded with an RBI single by Alcides Escobar (2 hits, 2 runs), a sacrifice fly by David Lough, two-run single by Eric Hosmer (3 hits, run), RBI double by Billy Butler (3 hits, run) and RBI single by Justin Maxwell.

Fireballer Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless seventh, Worcester's Tim Collins walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth but managed to get out of the frame unscathed and closer Greg Holland recorded his 31st save with a 1-2-3 ninth on 11 pitches (2 strikeouts).

In the early going, both teams traded runs. Daniel Nava opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first and the Red Sox had been 46-9 coming into tonight when they scored first. Maxwell homered in the second to tie it and Lough's RBI single put Kansas City up 2-1. David Ortiz (2 hits, 2 runs) tied it in the third with a solo homer to right, his 22nd of the season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 hits) put Boston back in front with an RBI double that made it 3-2. Alex Gordon tied it with a solo homer in the home half of the third.

More than anything tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) besides a win (duh!), the Red Sox desperately need a good start from Felix Doubront (8-5) against Jeremy Guthrie (12-7). Boston caught a huge break after this humbling loss as the Rays choked away a 6-0 lead and 6-3 advantage in the ninth for a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers. Tampa Bay has lost three in a row so they are stuck two games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. Baltimore won its third game in a row(5-2 over the Giants in 10 innings), trimming their deficit to 4.5 games back of Boston.

UPDATE 8/10: Brandon Snyder went on the DL with a fake elbow injury and Will Middlebrooks makes his triumphant (we hope) return from Pawtucket. Middlebrooks is in the lineup tonight, batting ninth and playing third base. Also, Franklin Morales was recalled with Pedro Beato being sent down to Pawtucket.

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's Never A Good Sign When A Scrub Like Bruce Chen Shuts You Down

The Red Sox have made it a habit this season of coming from behind to win games. That has been thrilling for sure but it's not exactly how you want to play every night: finding yourself down by multiple runs and being forced to battle back. Tonight in the series opener at Kaufmann Stadium-home of the multi-colored water fountains-the Royals (59-53 overall, 30-25 home) topped the Red Sox (70-47 overall, 31-26 away) 5-1.

Kansas City only scored in two innings: the first and eighth but that was more than enough to beat Boston when the Red Sox chose to sit red-hot David Ortiz. Perhaps the most telling sign of their struggle at the plate was the fact that Bruce Chen (5-0), one of the only MLB pitchers that I think I could honestly get a hit off of, was dealing like you read about: 7.2 scoreless innings, five hits, two strikeouts and a walk.

This was not vintage Jon Lester (10-7) either, like when he no-hit the Royals back in 2008. Nope, this was the guy that throws way too many pitches (121) and gave up three runs right off the bat. Alex Gordon hit a sacrifice fly and Mike Moustakas (2 hits) drove in two with an RBI single. I'll give him credit for lasting seven innings (3 runs, 1 earned, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) but last time I checked this isn't Little League so he won't be receiving a trophy of any kind.

Chen made that hold up as Boston only managed seven hits, two each for Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew. Rubby De La Rosa looked great on Tuesday in Houston but predictably against a real MLB team, he struggled big time. Any chances of a Red Sox rally were put to bed as he served up solo homers to Billy Butler and Justin Maxwell.

The only embarrassment that Boston saved themselves from was avoiding a shutout. Jonny Gomes (who batted fourth) doubled with one out in the ninth and Drew (who batted fifth) knocked him in with an RBI single. No worries though as Mike Napoli (dropped down to 6th) proceeded to ground into a double play to end it. He continues to be mired in a soul-crushing slump.

Jake Peavy (9-4) will try to get his new team back on the right track tomorrow night (8:10, NESN) as he takes on Ervin Santana (8-6). Expect Ortiz to be back in the lineup and he'll probably produce too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Red Sox Must Be Sad That They'll No Longer Face The Astros This Season

Admit it, you knew somehow the Red Sox were going to pull out tonight's game. Given Boston's (70-46 overall, 31-25 away) propensity for rallying (18 wins in their last at bat) this season, it came as no surprise when they came back for the second night in a row to beat the hopeless Astros (37-76 overall, 19-39 home) 7-5 at Minute Maid Park.

The win gave Boston the series (2-1) as they finished 6-1 against Houston in 2013-Welcome to the AL! The Red Sox trailed 5-4 in the ninth but former Sea Dogs/PawSox pitcher Josh Fields (who got the save on Monday) couldn't get his new job done. After a single by Mike Carp and walk for Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew (2 hits, walk) was the hero for the second time in a week with a three-run homer (his 9th of the season) to right field.

Junichi Tazawa (5-3) earned the win with two excellent innings of relief (0 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts) and Koji Uehara worked around a single in the ninth to strike out the side for his 11th save of the season.

Oh by the way, the Red Sox have now passed last season's pathetic win total so let's never speak of it (especially Bobby Valentine) again. The good news kept pouring in as the Rays even lost to the Diamondbacks meaning that Boston grabbed a 2.5 game lead on Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East.

Boston actually led 2-0 after a ground out by Brock Holt in the second and a run scored on Carp's double play ball in the third. Ryan Dempster (5 earned runs, 7 hits) wasn't able to take advantage of the lead though as he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Robbie Grossman (double, run) to tie it at two in the third.

The Astros scored three more runs in the sixth on Jose Altuve's RBI single, Jason Castro's (2 hits, run) RBI double and a sacrifice fly by Marc Krauss. I admit that I totally thought Gomes (3 walks, 3 runs) was a worthless pickup when the Red Sox signed him over the winter but I'm happy to say boy was I ever wrong. Mr. Clutch came up with yet another big hit-a two-run homer to left in the seventh (his 10th of the season) that jumpstarted his slumbering teammates.

Both teams had guys ejected as Shane Victorino was tossed for arguing from the dugout in the seventh then Astros manager Bo Porter (Bo Knows Baseball!) became the first member of his team to be thrown out all season (how's that possible?) when he took exception to a bad call (should have been a foul tip) that went against Houston in the ninth.

For the second game in a row, David Ortiz had four hits and they were all singles. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 2 for 4 with a double and walk in the win. Brett Wallace was 2 for 4 in the loss.

This was just the start of Boston's 10-game road trip. From here, they don't get a day off as they proceed directly to Kansas City where they have four games with the much improved Royals (58-53 overall, 3rd in AL Central) beginning tomorrow night (8:10, NESN) with Jon Lester (10-6) facing the immortal Bruce Chen (4-0). On Friday (8:10, NESN), Jake Peavy (9-4) makes his first start on the road for his new club and he takes on Ervin Santana (8-6). On Saturday, Felix Doubront (8-5) meets former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie (12-7) who the Red Sox have always owned. Then assuming his ankle doesn't blow up too much, John Lackey (7-9) takes the mound on Sunday afternoon (2:10, NESN) vs. former Rays standout James Shields (6-8).

Not that I don't enjoy predictable results against the worst team in MLB (Houston) but this weekend should be way more entertaining since we might actually see some good baseball, unlike the slop at Minute Maid Park the last few nights. The Royals are an MLB-best 16-4 since the All-Star break and they finally appear to be making strides after countless years of losing.

UPDATE 8/8: Daniel Nava was reinstated from the paternity list and Steven Wright was sent back to Pawtucket.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Red Sox Win Softball Game vs. Astros, 15-10

After losing 2-0 to MLB's worst team last night then falling behind 5-0 in the second inning tonight at Minute Maid Park, something was seriously wrong with the Red Sox. Luckily they woke up in time to beat the Astros 15-10 in a game that more closely resembled a beer league softball game than professional baseball.

Boston (69-46 overall, 30-25 away) has now equaled its win total from 2012 and I'm going to bet that they'll surpass it this season with 47 more chances to top it. With Tampa Bay's loss, they also moved 1.5 games ahead of the Rays for first place in the AL East. Steven Wright's first career MLB start was a disaster thanks to four passed balls by Ryan Lavarnway and a wild pitch equaled three runs for Houston (37-75 overall, 19-38 home) in the first inning.

The top of the Red Sox lineup was lethal: Jacoby Ellsbury (2 for 4 with 2 HRs, 4 runs, 3 RBIs and 2 walks), Shane Victorino (3 for 5 with double, 4 runs and walk), Dustin Pedroia (2 for 5 with double, 2 RBIs and run) and David Ortiz (4 for 4 with 2 RBIs, 2 runs and walk) were all unstoppable.

It would take forever to recap this game that took 3:54 (and it felt like twice that amount of time). Boston scored five runs in both the fifth and sixth to take the lead for good. Ellsbury's homers were his sixth and seventh of the season and Jonny Gomes (4 RBIs) had a pinch-hit three-run bomb (his fourth pinch hit homer of the season).

Brandon Workman (2-1) got the win in relief despite allowing six earned runs, yep it was that kind of endless night. Robbie Grossman (3 RBIs, 2 runs and walk) had a two-run homer for the Astros with Brett Wallace and Jake Elmore (2 runs) adding solo shots in the soul-crushing loss (in a season full of them).

Rubby De La Rosa made his Red Sox debut in the ninth and looked pretty damn good throwing heat; he had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts which in this marathon felt like a perfect game.

Ryan Dempster (6-8) faces rookie Jarred Cosart (1-0) in the series finale tomorrow night (8:10, NESN). Given how unpredictable these first two games have been, I honestly have no idea what to expect in that one. Boston is 5-1 against Houston this season and they'll try to end the season series 6-1.

UPDATE 8/7: Matt Thornton was put on the DL today with a right oblique strain so Pedro Beato was recalled from Pawtucket.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Who's Ready To Lose A Bunch of Games? Celtics Unveil Their 2013-14 Schedule

It's a strange feeling when you look at the Celtics' 2013-14 schedule which just came out today. Naturally you want to get excited about certain games and matchups but then you remember that in order for the C's to return to relevance (only 6 national TV games this season), they need to pile up losses like the Bobcats. Sorry Brad Stevens, you know that I love you.

Perhaps nothing says more about where Boston is viewed to be now in the NBA spectrum than their opening two games: October 30 at Toronto and November 1 vs. Milwaukee. Could you get two more bland contests than that? Everyone wants to know when the C's will play the Nets (with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce) and Clippers (with Doc Rivers coaching) and the NBA made the curious decision to have the first meetings on back-to-back nights: December 10 in Brooklyn and the next night in Boston (vs. LA) which kicks off a five-game homestand.

Other games of note include what is sure to be a serious beating handed to them by the two-time defending champs-the Heat-on November 9 in Miami and the first game against the Knicks is December 8 in NYC. Boston doesn't get to play on Christmas this season (which probably isn't a bad thing) but they do host the Hawks on New Year's Eve afternoon!

The Celtics open 2014 in Chicago on January 2 as six of their first seven games are on the road. In that stretch, they go to Oklahoma City (January 5) to face Jeff Green's old team (reaching for straws here)-the start of a five-game trip-then visit Doc in LA on January 8. Celtics-Lakers Volume 1 is January 17 at TD Garden, I wonder if Kobe Bryant will be playing?

One of the only must-see games of the season comes on January 26 as the Nets make their first trip to the Garden. Expect an epic amount of ballwashing for KG and Pierce, not that they don't deserve it. Celtics-Spurs happens on November 20 in San Antonio and February 12 in Boston. March ends with home-and-homes against the Raptors and Bulls.

The regular season ends on April 16 as the Celts will host the Wizards in a game that I feel confident in saying should mean very little for either squad besides maybe posturing for the 2014 NBA Draft lottery.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Shane Victorino Named American League Player of the Week

If you've been paying attention this season (and who hasn't by this point?), you've noticed that the Red Sox are definitely a different team (in a positive manner) with Shane Victorino in the lineup. The numbers bare it out too, Boston is 47-28 when he has started in 2013. Today, the outfielder was deservedly named American League Player of the Week.

Being that it is his first season in the AL, not surprisingly this is the first time he's picked up this award. Last week the Red Sox were 5-2 (all at Fenway Park) and Victorino more than played his part: he was 12 for 30 (.400) with three doubles, two home runs, six RBIs and seven runs. In five of those seven games, he had multiple hits including three vs. Seattle on Tuesday (8-2 Red Sox win) and 2 for 5 with a solo homer, three RBIs and two runs in Boston's wild 8-7 comeback win vs. Mariners on Thursday. Plus, he's played Gold Glove caliber (he has three of them FYI) defense the whole way.

It's silly to expect this type of production at the plate from Victorino the rest of the season since who knows how many games the 32-year-old (with a 50-year-old's body) will hold up for? He plays such an energetic and physical style that it's no wonder he picks up a bunch of nagging injuries, mostly from running into outfield walls (witness yesterday when he dove into the grandstand).

For the season in 80 games, he's hit .290/.337/.423 with 49 runs, 89 hits, 16 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 34 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. His presence in the lineup makes Boston that much more dangerous since he's a natural No. 2 hitter behind Jacoby Ellsbury (who is a great leadoff hitter) and in front of Dustin Pedroia who isn't your prototypical No. 3 hitter but has done the job well enough. In Sunday's 4-0 win over Arizona, Ellsbury, Victorino and Pedroia did most of the damage for the Red Sox. That shows what they're capable of when they are all healthy and swinging the bat like they have for many seasons before this one.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

If Buchholz Ever Decides To Return This Season, The Red Sox Would Have Some Kind of Rotation

They are doing it in many different ways and the bottom line is that the Red Sox continue to stack up victories and series wins in 2013, a far cry from 2012 (only 1 win away from last year's pathetic total). Boston (68-45 overall, 39-21 home) moved to a season-high 23 games over .500 with a 4-0 shutout of the Diamondbacks (56-55 overall, 26-31 away) this afternoon at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox have the most wins in MLB, one more than the Braves and Pirates, and they won the series (2-1) while wrapping up a memorable homestand (5-2 with a pair of walk-off wins and Jake Peavy's debut being the main highlights besides today). They also lead MLB with 23 series wins.

There was a time when Felix Doubront (8-5) could be counted on for short outings and high pitch counts. This latest quality start marked 15 straight outings where he's given up three runs or less, not bad right? He went seven solid innings, allowing five hits with five strikeouts. My two favorite numbers for him: 95 pitches and zero walks.

Rookie Drake Britton still hasn't allowed a run in MLB, he pitched a scoreless eighth and Koji Uehara had a scoreless ninth (don't ask me why he appeared with a four-run lead). Matt Thornton left with an oblique injury, he was the first guy out of Boston's bullpen.

Brandon McCarthy (2-5) kept Boston off the scoreboard for four innings but Jacoby Ellsbury changed that with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Dustin Pedroia added an RBI double two batters later.

The Red Sox added two more runs in the sixth which was more than enough. Ellsbury and Shane Victorino (2 hits) each had RBI singles. I'd say that the top of the lineup got it done today for Boston. Ellsbury owed his RBI to Arizona right fielder Gerardo Parra who lost his easy fly ball in the sun, this came after a first inning error by Parra.

Cody Ross and Martin Prado each had a pair of singles for the Diamondbacks in the loss.

Boston will play 16 of its next 19 games on the road. There next 10 contests are all away from Fenway (longest road trip of the season), starting with three in Houston (36-74, 5th in NL West)-MLB's worst team-beginning tomorrow night (8:10, NESN) with Texas native John Lackey (7-8) vs. rookie Brett Oberholtzer (1-0). Knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-0) makes his first career MLB start on Tuesday (8:10, NESN) vs. Jordan Lyles (4-5). Ryan Dempster (6-8) closes it out at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday (8:10, NESN) against another rookie-Jarred Cosart (1-0). The Red Sox swept a four-game series with the Astros April 25-28 at Fenway.

That's followed by four against the red-hot Royals (seriously) in Kansas City and three in Toronto against the hapless Blue Jays. Boston's next game at Fenway isn't until August 16 vs. Yankees.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Jake Peavy Makes Quite The Positive Impression In His Red Sox Debut

The natural fanboy/honk reaction to Jake Peavy's excellent start tonight is to think "see, that's why the Red Sox traded for him!" Clearly I'm excited that he looked really good but let's pump the brakes before we start anointing him as the starter for Game 1 of the World Series this October.

Boston (67-45 overall, 38-21 home) beat Arizona (56-54 overall, 26-30 away) 5-2 at Fenway Park as Peavy (9-4) was able to outduel young Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin (12-3). It was 1-1 in the seventh until Jacoby Ellsbury (40th stolen base) drove in Stephen Drew (2 hits) with an RBI single and Shane Victorino (2 hits) scored Brock Holt with a sacrifice fly.

Aaron Hill (2 hits) cut it to 3-2 in the eighth with an RBI single but Junichi Tazawa was able to get out of an inherited bases loaded and no outs jam by only allowing one run. Jonny Gomes-who is making a late run at a Gold Glove (haha)-threw out Cliff Pennington at home to keep the Red Sox ahead by a run. That was Tazawa's 18th hold of the season.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia added two important insurance runs with a two-run homer to center, his 10th of the season, in the home half of the eighth. From there, Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save of the season. Uehara walked a batter (his ninth of the season) but I guess he's excused since he has 70 strikeouts and a 1.43 ERA.

Let's be real, Peavy is not an ace anymore but maybe he can catch lightning in a bottle (cliché alert) for a few months and get the Red Sox deep into the playoffs. Who is Clay Buchholz? The native of Alabama (Roll Tide!) went seven plus strong innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

Corbin matched him most of the way, he went six innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks. As a lefty, his stuff is nasty so there is a reason he looks destined to win many awards this season and in his entire MLB career.

Paul Goldschmidt has enjoyed his weekend at Fenway, he cranked his second homer in as many nights. This time it was to straightaway center, for a 1-0 Arizona lead in the fourth. Victorino answered with a rocket that just found its way into the first row of the Monster seats, his seventh homer of the season, in the fifth inning to tie it at one.

Diamondbacks catcher Wil Nieves was 2 for 3 with a run in the loss.

Both teams go for the series victory tomorrow afternoon (1:35) as Felix Doubront (7-5) takes on Brandon McCarthy (2-4), who is coming off the DL.

UPDATE 8/4: Daniel Nava will go on the paternity list for the Astros series and Brandon Workman will replace him on the active roster.

John Henry Buys the Boston Globe: Goodbye Quality Sports Journalism

I love the Boston Globe, I read it every day and have done that for as long as I can remember. I also love the Boston Red Sox, ditto my devotion to them. These two things have been awkwardly connected before when the New York Times Co. (which runs the Globe) owned a part of the Red Sox for 10 years but now this is ridiculous: John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, has bought the Globe for $70 million (a slight drop from its value of $1.1 billion in 1993).

I'm somewhat conflicted since I want the Globe to thrive-a nearly impossible task for a newspaper in this day and age-but I guarantee that the product will suffer with Henry in charge. They'll say all the right stuff but who can tell me that the Globe will take the right approach when dealing with the Red Sox from this day forward? How will it be any different from Even if it seems the same, there promises to be a seed of doubt in everyone's objective minds.

All I ask is that Henry doesn't treat the Globe like a PR firm for the Red Sox (that's NESN's job, zing) and he lets newspaper experts run the business while he hangs out on his yacht with his trophy wife and picks out what other expensive thing to add to his one of a kind collection (Red Sox, Liverpool & Boston Globe).

Cody Ross Pummels The Red Sox In His Inaugural Return to Fenway Park

I know that we all passed around an industrial size bottle of bleach after last season ended for the Red Sox-thereby erasing most of that nightmare. However, one of my only positive and lasting memories from the miserable 2012 campaign was Cody Ross. Tonight, in his first game back at Fenway Park with the Diamondbacks he went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a solo homer, two runs and three RBIs as Arizona (56-53 overall, 26-29 away) beat Boston (66-45 overall, 37-21 home) 7-6.

Believe it or not, the Red Sox had a great chance at notching their third consecutive walk-off win as Stephen Drew (2 hits, 3 RBIs) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, triple, run) were on first and second with one out but Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler got Shane Victorino to fly out and Dustin Pedroia grounded out to end the threat and game.

Boston lost because Jon Lester (4.1 innings, 6 earned runs, 11 hits) went back to his dark place after two great outings in a row. The best player in MLB that you've never heard of-Paul Goldschmidt-gave Arizona a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the first. David Ortiz answered with a two-run homer of his own during Boston's first at bat, his 21st of the season came off Diamondbacks starter Randall Delgado (4-3).

The Red Sox took a 4-2 lead in the next inning on a pair of sacrifice flies by Drew and Brock Holt. Lester coughed it up as Ross cut it to 4-3 with an RBI single in the third then Arizona scored three times in the fifth to chase the big lefty. Martin Prado (2 doubles, 2 runs) and Ross had RBI doubles while Jason Kubel (2 hits) ended Lester's night with a run-scoring single.

I can't explain it but Drew has been on a tear the last few weeks (for him) and he came through with a two-run homer, his 8th of the season, to tie it in the sixth. Fittingly, Ross had the last laugh though with a solo homer off Pedro Beato in the seventh.

Arizona had 16 hits, six guys had multiple hits including former Blue Jays star Aaron Hill (2 for 5 with double, 2 runs). Mike Napoli was 2 for 5 with a run in the loss but Boston was held to nine hits.

Scoring figures to be way down tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) as NL rookie of the year/Cy Young candidate Patrick Corbin (12-2) takes on Jake Peavy (8-4) in his Red Sox debut.

UPDATE 8/3: Red Sox recalled reliever Rubby De La Rosa and sent Pedro Beato back to Pawtucket.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Game, Another Walk-Off Win (No. 11 of the season) for the Red Sox

As far as I know, tonight's incredible comeback win by the Red Sox occurred but for the life of me, I couldn't find a picture of it hence why I had to use a picture from Jake Peavy's press conference earlier in the day. Sorry! Boston (66-44 overall-season-high 22 games over .500, 37-20 home) was down 7-1 in the eighth and 7-2 in the ninth before mounting one of the craziest rallies you'll ever see in MLB. Daniel Nava (2 hits, double, run, walk) ended it with a walk-off single as the Red Sox beat the hapless Mariners (50-58 overall, 21-30 away) 8-7 at Fenway Park for a three-game sweep.

It was the 11th walk-off victory of the season for Boston which leads MLB (2 off their team record set way back in 1940) and is their most since 1978. Did I mention that they also have the most wins in MLB since the Pirates lost? I dare say that this is the most likable Red Sox team since 2004, care to disagree after they won in 15 innings and did this less than 24 hours apart?

For so many reasons, this will go down as one of the best wins of the season. Seattle had no business losing this game since Felix Hernandez (7 innings, 1 earned run, 6 hits, 8 strikeouts, 2 walks) shut Boston down and Ryan Dempster (6 innings, 7 earned runs, 9 hits, 6 strikeouts, 5 walks) got shelled. Things got so bad for Dempster-why did they sign him again?-that he gave up a grand slam to scrub backup catcher Henry Blanco in the fifth for a 7-1 Mariners lead.

Kyle Seager's (2 hits, 2 runs, walk, stolen base) bunt single scored a run in the first and Justin Smoak (2 hits, run, walk) drove in another with an RBI single in the third. Boston got a run in the home half of the third on David Ortiz's sacrifice fly but nobody could have predicted what happened in the eighth and ninth. Kendry Morales' (4 hits, run) RBI single preceded Blanco's grand slam over the Monster.

Victorino's solo homer in the eighth was his sixth of the season, cutting it to 7-2. The Mariners couldn't have choked worse in the ninth: it started with closer Tom Wilhelmsen (4 earned runs) failing to get anyone out (closers are useless in non-save situations) and extended to interim manager Robbie Thompson (Eric Wedge had a minor stroke last week) bringing in the wrong reliever (Oliver Perez).

Brock Holt started the comeback with an RBI double in the ninth and Victorino greeted Perez with a two-run single. Dustin Pedroia brought the Red Sox within one thanks to an RBI single and Jonny Gomes (who made a diving catch earlier then had an outfield assist in the same inning) tied it with an RBI single of his own. By the time Nava came up with the bases loaded and one out, you knew it was over.

Steven Wright (2-0) earned the improbable win with three scoreless innings of relief. The knuckleballer only allowed two hits and struck out two on the same day that he was recalled. It's been that kind of season for Boston, everyone is positively contributing. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 with two runs, a double and walk. Even Ryan Lavarnway was 2 for 4 with a run.

Boston gets another taste of interleague play with Arizona (55-53 overall, 2nd in NL West) coming to Fenway for three games this weekend. Say hi to the cheerful Cody Ross for me! Jon Lester (10-6) faces Randall Delgado (3-3) tomorrow night (7:10, NESN), Peavy makes his Red Sox debut on Saturday night (7:10, NESN) vs. rookie sensation Patrick Corbin (12-2) and Felix Doubront (7-5) wraps it up Sunday afternoon (1:35, NESN) vs. Brandon McCarthy (2-4).