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Thursday, July 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Red Sox Avoid 3-Game Sweep in Tampa Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Evan Turner Joins the Celtics' Island of Misfit Toys

While we continue to wait for the Celtics to do anything notable to save them from another Lottery-bound season, they continue to pile up mediocre to average players. Yesterday, reports surfaced that they signed free agent swingman Evan Turner by using part of their midlevel exception.

The No. 2 pick in 2010 (behind Washington's John Wall), Turner can't be labeled a bust-at least not yet-since he's put up decent numbers albeit on some mostly terrible squads. He played 3.5 seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to Indiana last season down the stretch where he mostly rode the bench for the Pacers. For his career, he's shot 43% from the floor, 33% on three-pointers and 77% from the free throw line. Haha great, another guy that can't shoot, just what the Celtics already have plenty of (Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey, etc).

In 2012-13 (his best season as a pro), Turner averaged 13.3 points per game with 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists with 0.9 steals per game. He's 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds so he's pretty solid for a small forward. He played 78 games his rookie season for Philly (14 starts), 65 the next year (20 starts), all 82 (started the whole way) in 2012-13 and 81 last season (56 starts but only 2 with Indiana) between the Sixers and Pacers. In the 2012 postseason, he averaged 11.2 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 0.9 steals per game as the Sixers fell to the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.

This is a typical low-risk, high reward move for the Celts, what they seem to specialize in these days since the ping pong balls never seem to bounce their way and big-name free agents don't want to spend the winter buried under snow in New England. Like many in the NBA, Turner doesn't have the best reputation (fighting Lance Stephenson in practice during the playoffs) but the hope here is that he'll reconnect with his old Ohio State buddy Jared Sullinger and things will improve in his career.

Of course, this could all be part of Danny Ainge's mysterious plan to gain as many assets as possible before unloading them for a true star. That's what we hope at least because otherwise, it looks like it'll be another forgettable season for the Green and White.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

So It Looks Like This Red Sox Season Will Be Much More Interesting Than We Thought

Listen, we all figured that the Red Sox were toast a long time ago so there's no need to lie and say any sane person that we know felt otherwise. Still, I'm happy to report that Boston (46-52 overall, 26-26 at home) is finally playing some good baseball in 2014 (it only took them nearly 100 games!) as they blanked Kansas City (48-49 overall, 26-24 away) 6-0 this afternoon at Fenway Park for the three-game sweep.

The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight games to climb within six games in the Wild Card and 7.5 in the AL East. Jon Lester (10-7) continued to consistently perform like one of the top pitchers in MLB: eight innings, four hits, eight strikeouts and two walks as he lowered his ERA to 2.50. The only reason he didn't stay in for the shutout was that he threw 115 pitches. At this point, he is a serious Cy Young contender and with each outstanding start, his already hefty price tag continues to go up. If only he had accepted Boston's joke offer (4 years, $70 in spring training)!

There aren't many things you can count on in life anymore or at least you realize that when you grow up, however Kansas City never ceases to fall apart in the middle/dog days of the season. Seriously, will they ever truly be relevant again on a national level? Young fireballer Yordano Ventura (7-8) was no match for Lester's brilliance as he allowed six earned runs on nine hits in only 4.1 innings.

The Red Sox took the lead in the first inning as Dustin Pedroia's fielder's choice scored Brock Holt (2 for 5). Daniel Nava's (2 for 3, walk) ground-rule double knocked in David Ross (2 runs, walk) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (2 for 3, 2 runs, walk) in the third inning. David Ross' two-run homer in the fourth went over the Monster, his sixth of the season, and it also drove in Shane Victorino (2 for 4, double). Boston added the final insurance run a few batters later as Nava plated Bradley Jr. with a sacrifice fly.

The next two weeks represent Boston's best chance to really get back into those respective races that I mentioned. You see, they have 13 games in a row against AL East opponents: they go to Toronto for four games then Tampa Bay for three. The Red Sox return home to face the Blue Jays three more times then they host the Yankees in three games right after the Trade Deadline (July 31).

Toronto (51-48 overall, 3rd in AL East) is only 4-6 in their last 10 games but they've won their last two (vs. hapless Texas) heading into this critical series vs. Boston. Other than no Lester, the Red Sox' pitching lines up pretty well against the Blue Jays who still don't have an ace or No. 2 if we're being honest. John Lackey (10-6) faces Drew Hutchison (6-8) on Monday night (7:07, NESN) followed by Jake Peavy (1-8) vs. J.A. Happ (7-5) on Tuesday (7:07, NESN). Clay Buchholz (5-5) takes on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (7-10) on Wednesday (7:07, NESN) then they wrap up on Thursday afternoon (12:37, NESN) with Rubby De La Rosa (3-2) facing fellow rookie Marcus Stroman (5-2).

I'm certainly not predicting it will happen but I'd like to note before the series begins that if Boston could sweep Toronto, they would be tied in the loss column. Something to keep in mind as the series progresses if the Red Sox win the first two or three games.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bruins Re-Sign Matt Bartkowski for Another Season

In pro sports, it's all about where you play. Meaning that a mediocre player on a good team often gets exposed while nobody notices the same player on a bad or average team. I bring this convoluted thought up because the Bruins avoided arbitration today and signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million.

We all know Bartkowski's strengths (moving the puck) and weaknesses (decision making) after a full season with Boston in 2013-14. In 64 games, he had zero goals, 18 assists and he was +22 with 30 penalty minutes and 91 shots on goal. In eight postseason games (he was a healthy scratch a few times), he had zero goals, one assist and was +2 with 10 penalty minutes and 12 shots on goal.

He'll never be a star but it's not hard to see Bartkowski having a long and respectable NHL career, he just turned 26 in June. He has decent size (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), he's durable and you know what you're getting from him. With Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid out with major injuries for much of last season, that gave Bartkowski an opportunity for consistent ice time with the B's and a ticket out of Providence.

With Seidenberg and McQuaid both expected back by training camp in September, Bartkowski could find himself back on the fringe of the roster. Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Seidenberg and McQuaid are all better than him. Still, much can change between now and the regular season starting in October: injuries, trades, playing poorly, etc.

There are many teams in the NHL that Bartkowski would be a top-4 defenseman for, the difference is that will hopefully never happen with the Bruins unless they are in a serious rebuilding mode. He provides quality depth and this contract is certainly affordable for them going forward.

UPDATE 7/16: If that Bartkowski news didn't get you fired up for this season, I know what will: the Bruins re-signed Jordan "I'm totally useless" Caron to a one-year deal worth $600,000. If I have to explain how dumb that decision is, stop reading this blog and log off forever, friend.

Red Sox End The Miserable First Portion of Their Season By Knocking Around the Astros

Time will tell if Boston (43-52 overall, 20-26 away) can gain any momentum in the second half (final 67 games) from taking four out of their last five contests heading into the All-Star break or it was just a result of playing the terrible White Sox and Astros (40-56 overall, 21-28) back-to-back? Houston's woes need no introduction as Clay Buchholz (complete game, 3 hits, 12 strikeouts, 0 walks; 1st Red Sox to strike out 12 w/no walks since Hideo Nomo in 2001) completely broke their sprit from the beginning en route to one of his best starts ever (obviously the no-hitter his rookie year trumps it).

The Red Sox cruised to an 11-0 victory at half-empty (if we're being generous) Minute Maid Park. It was the fifth career shutout for Buchholz and the 12 strikeouts set a new career-high.

With a few days off now, it was only right that Brock Holt (5 for 6 with 2 runs) had a career-day including a leadoff homer (his 3rd of the season) in front of his family (he's from Texas) and former college teammates at Rice. The immortal Brad Peacock (3-6) couldn't get three outs let alone two so he had the rare opportunity to be pulled after one out in the first for the Astros.

Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4), Daniel Nava (2 for 4 w/2 runs), Stephen Drew (2 for 4 w/run, walk) and Christian Vazquez (2 for 4 two RBIs and one run) all had multiple hits as well, Boston notched a season-high in runs and 16 hits as a team. Boston added two runs in the third on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts (remember him?). Houston allowed two runs on the same play in the fifth: an infield single by Vazquez scored one run then on a throwing error by All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.

Things started to get out of hand for the second time this weekend (in Boston's favor, they won two out of three) when the Red Sox pushed across two more runs in the seventh on Vazquez's sacrifice fly and a bases loaded walk by David Ortiz. Mike Carp had a pinch hit two-run triple because why not and the final run scored on Ortiz's groundout. Buchholz has looked way better recently since returning from the DL but I don't know how much you can take away from even a gem like that vs. Houston.

Not to plan the week ahead for you but the Home Run Derby is tomorrow night, the All-Star Game is on Tuesday and the 2014 ESPYs are on Wednesday hosted by Drake. MLB is off for the next four days so expect many lucky bastards to take exotic vacations. Boston returns with three games against Kansas City (48-46, 2nd in AL Central) next weekend at Fenway Park.

UPDATE 7/16: That bucket of crap A.J. Pierzynski was officially released today after nobody wanted to trade for him, shocking I know.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I Can't Believe That I'm Saying This But Did We Count Out the Red Sox Too Soon?

Let's be honest: it would take one hell of a turnaround for the Red Sox to push for a Wild Card spot let alone compete in the upside down AL East. Still, the last few days have been a revelation in terms of showing us that maybe there is a reason to tune in and hope for the improbable for the rest of 2014.

Boston (42-51 overall, 19-25 away) won their third straight game as they opened the final series before the All-Star break with an 8-3 win at Houston's (39-55 overall, 20-27 home) Minute Maid Park. The Red Sox had 12 hits and led 8-1 in the sixth inning en route to a very rare laugher (in a good way). They are within eight games of the second Wild Card spot and 9.5 behind first-place Baltimore.

Pitching in his home state, John Lackey (10-6) became the first Red Sox pitcher to reach double digit wins this season. His usual pinpoint control was off (3 strikeouts/5 walks) but he still lasted six innings and only allowed two earned runs on four hits.

For once, Boston built an early lead and proceeded to increase it over the next few innings just like a good team. Brock Holt (2 for 4, double, 2 runs, walk) had an RBI triple in the third and Dustin Pedroia followed with an RBI double for the 2-0 advantage. Rookie catcher Christian Vazquez had quite a memorable night: recording his first MLB hit, extra base hit and RBI. He added an RBI double in the fourth as the Red Sox went up 3-0 on the hapless Astros.

Enrique Hernandez's RBI single cut it to 3-1 in the fourth but Scott Feldman (4-6) couldn't keep it even that close as he was charged with seven earned runs on 11 hits in 5.1 innings. Vazquez notched a two-run double in the sixth and David Ortiz greeted lefty Darin Downs with a bases clearing double that put this in the win column for the Red Sox.

Chris Carter went over .200 and boosted his stats with a pair of garbage time solo homers in the sixth and eighth (his 18th and 19th of the season). Houston finished 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and they left 10 men on base. Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. each collected two singles and scored a run in the victory.

Assuming that he's not traded before first pitch (4:10, NESN)-a very real possibility-Jake Peavy (1-7) will take the mound tomorrow vs. Brett Oberholtzer (2-7). As you can tell by their records, this is unlikely to be a pitcher's duel but rather a battle of bullpens and a long game so stock up on some adult beverages to get through it comfortably.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Are You Not Entertained? Another Day, Another Walk-Off Win for the Red Sox

At this rate, we can only conclude that A.J. Pierzynski is the anti-Christ while Dan Shaughnessy puts together his newest classic: "The Curse of A.J." The Red Sox improved to 2-0 in the post-Pierzynski era (that has a nice ring to it) and both came in walk-off fashion vs. the White Sox' dogshit bullpen. This afternoon on a perfect summer day at Fenway Park, Boston (41-51 overall, 23-26 home) came away with a 4-3 win in 10 innings thanks to Mike Carp's RBI single that scored Daniel Nava.

In the home finale before the All-Star break, the Red Sox earned a split of the four-game series with the White Sox and built some momentum (what a concept!) heading into the last series of the unofficial first half: three games in Houston.

I'm not Jon Lester's agent, though I wish I was with the dump trucks of money soon coming his way, but this game served as a perfect example of why Boston would be crazy to let him go either in free agency or via trade. He's pitching as well as he ever has in the regular season. It went down as a no-decision but he was brilliant, going seven innings and allowing one earned run on seven hits with 12 strikeouts and no walks. His ERA is down to 2.65.

Boston had more runs than total hits (3), so how did they come out on top? Well Chicago was 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base, sound familiar? White Sox starter Jose Quintana (7 innings, 3 earned runs, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts, 2 walks) pitched well too but for the second game in a row, Chicago's pathetic relievers blew it.

Jose Abreu (2 for 4, walk, stolen base)-who is a lock to be AL Rookie of the Year now that Masahiro Tanaka is on the DL-made it 1-0 with an RBI double in the first that scored Adam Eaton (3 for 5). Quintana was working on a perfect game until the sixth when Boston tied it on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single and went ahead 3-1 on David Ortiz's two-run double off the Green Monster.

That looked to be enough for the Red Sox as Junichi Tazawa worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts. Koji Uehara couldn't nail down the save though as pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie took him deep for a two-run bomb wrapped around Pesky's Pole. Alexei Ramirez was 3 for 5 with a double, run and stolen base in the loss for Chicago.

No worries, Nava led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk then Mookie Betts sacrificed him over with a bunt. After Stephen Drew was intentionally walked, Carp (pinch hitting for David Ross) delivered with an opposite field single to left that scored Nava. Andrew Miller (3-5) had worked around a single and intentional walk to Abreu to survive the top of the frame.

I'm still not used to having the Astros (39-54 overall, 4th in AL West) in the AL (change is hard!) because I wanted to call this an interleague series. By looking at their record, you'd think Houston is awful and I suppose that yes they still are really bad. The difference is that now they have young stars like Dallas Kuechel and UConn's George Springer doing their thing in H-Town.

The two Texas starters on the Red Sox get outings in their home state-shoutout to Brandon Workman toiling away in Pawtucket!-as John Lackey (9-6) faces Scott Feldman (4-5) tomorrow night (8:10, NESN) in the series opener. Clay Buchholz (3-5) takes on Collin McHugh (4-8) on Saturday afternoon (4:10, NESN) then the jets will be lined up on the runway Sunday afternoon (2:10, NESN) when TBA opposes Houston's Jarred Cosart (9-6). After that, John Farrell, his coaching staff, Lester and Uehara will head to Minnesota for the Midsummer Classic while everyone else scatters around the country with four glorious days off in a row.

The Curse of A.J. Pierzynski is Broken, Red Sox Start a Fresh New Chapter

A funny thing happened to the Red Sox tonight on the way to another heartless loss: they actually pulled out an improbable comeback capped off by a walk-off single by Brock Holt to beat the White Sox 5-4 at Fenway Park. Chicago (44-48 overall, 20-27 away) had been up 4-0 in the eighth inning before Boston (40-51 overall, 22-26 home) scored three in the eighth then two in the ninth for their seventh walk-off win of the season.

With their ace Chris Sale (7.2 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts) on the mound, this was a game that the White Sox had no business losing. He left after throwing 107 pitches; relievers Jake Patricka and Javy Guerra (0-1) each gave up two earned runs to blow it after Chicago had won the first two games of the series. It sounds cheesy but wins have been so hard to come by lately that I almost forgot how sweet they can feel in situations like that.

Rubby De La Rosa (5 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts) made his first start for Boston since June 21 after he was called up to take Brandon Workman's place (while he went back to Pawtucket). Rookie catcher Christian Vazquez made his MLB debut and with Boston designating A.J. Pierzynski for assignment earlier in the day, this means that the highly touted youngster will be getting plenty of playing time to see what he can do.

Jose Abreu (2 for 4) hit a solo homer to center field, his 28th of the season (!), in the first inning. Conor Gillaspie (2 for 4 with double, 2 runs) followed with a solo shot of his own in the second for a 2-0 White Sox advantage. Chicago scored a run in the fourth on Mike Napoli's error and it was 4-0 in the seventh following an RBI double by Adam Eaton.

The Red Sox' rally started with something I've never seen before: an infield double by Mookie Betts (2 for 3 with 2 runs, double). Dustin Pedroia drove him in with a single then David Ortiz (2 for 4 with run) crushed an opposite field double off the wall in left center to cut it to 4-2. Jonny Gomes (2 for 3) made it 4-3 with an RBI double.

He batted ninth as part of Boston's five rookies in the lineup (their most since 1987) but Betts came through again in the ninth. He was hit by a pitch then scored the tying run on Daniel Nava's pinch hit double. That set the stage for Holt's first career walk-off hit and who better to provide it with how incredible he's been since he was called up (again).

It didn't seem like much at the time but this victory wouldn't have been possible without Craig Breslow (1-2-3 6th), Junichi Tazawa (scoreless 8th) and the newest All-Star Koji Uehara (5-2) who struck out the side in the ninth to set the tone.

In their last home game before the All-Star break, Jon Lester (9-7) faces Jose Quintana (5-7) tomorrow afternoon (4:05, NESN) as Boston tries to split the four-game series with Chicago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trader Danny is Finally Awake: Let The Summer of Trades Begin!

It is not exactly Kevin Love but at least we have signs that Celtics president Danny Ainge is still alive. Boston finally made some news (albeit not creating much of a splash) this quiet offseason as they were involved today with Brooklyn and Cleveland in a three-way trade that will be official tomorrow. By flipping a second-round pick to the Cavs, the Celts acquired shooting guard Marcus Thornton (from Brooklyn) and center Tyler Zeller (from Cleveland) along with a protected 2016 first-round pick that belonged to the Cavs.

Before you go out and buy a Thornton or Zeller Celtics jersey, be aware that hopefully there's a good chance that neither guy ever steps foot on the Garden parquet as a member of the C's. Kevin Love is still in Minnesota which means that all deals are still possible. That's why this means today's moves are all about getting more assets that Ainge can package to acquire Love or someone else better than their current team of nobodies.

If they are stuck here, Thornton has the better chance of making an impact. Last season, he averaged 8.3 points per game in 24.4 minutes per game on the Nets. In his five-year NBA career, the former second-round pick has averaged 13.4 points per game with 0.9 steals, 3 rebounds, 83% free throw, 36% 3-point shooting and 38% shooting from the field. Like almost everyone on the NBA, he can play. It's all about opportunity which is why he racked up huge numbers (21.3 points per game in 2010-11 and 18.7 points per game the following season) in hapless Sacramento. In many ways, he's like Jordan Crawford-a proven scorer that only does one thing.

I've never been a fan of Zeller or his two overrated brothers either in college or the NBA. I think they're all soft and stiffs. Somehow he was a first-round pick by Dallas in 2012 (17th overall) but surprise, surprise he has failed to live up to those expectations. He had 7.9 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game in 26.4 minutes per game his rookie season in Cleveland. Things got worse last season as he only started nine of 70 games and his numbers dropped to 5.7 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game.

Keep in mind that the Cavaliers will remain a joke if LeBron James doesn't end up returning there. If you're a Celtics fan, we have to be rooting for him to stay away from his hometown and former team since that would undoubtedly make Cleveland much worse and therefore give Boston's protected first-round pick way more value.

Monday, July 7, 2014

For Now, Jon Lester is the Only Red Sox Going to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

I think the best way to sum up Boston's miserable first half was revealed tonight as they only have one player-Jon Lester-headed to Minnesota next week for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. It is almost impossible to have it like that since the Red Sox are coming off a World Series title, in a big market with multiple superstars and don't forget that manager John Farrell is in charge of the American League.

Whatever his motivation-playing for a new beefy contract is the easy theory-Lester has been great from Opening Day: 9-7 in 18 starts, 122 innings, 122 strikeouts/29 walks, 1.15 WHIP, .242 BAA (batting average against) and 2.73 ERA.

There are always injury replacements since the game is still more than a week away (next Tuesday) so stay tuned on that front. Boston has one player who is regarded as the first alternate-Koji Uehara (4-2, 18 saves, 52 strikeouts/6 walks, 0.74 WHIP and 1.30 ERA)-as far as pitchers go. Him and Lester have been the only two guys on the Red Sox to maintain or even improve their performance level from 2013. It's easy to see him getting moved in the next few weeks should Boston continue to sink like a stone in the AL (they have the exact same record as the Mets and Padres).

Apparently David Ortiz (19 home runs, 55 RBIs, .261 AVG, .361 OBP, .494 SLG) turned down a chance to join the AL team in favor of Farrell taking younger DHs having better seasons (Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez and Edwin Encarnacion although he's hurt) than him. That makes for a nice story, oh look how unselfish Big Papi is being, but the truth is that he probably just wants an extra break after this rocky first half.

Dustin Pedroia (4 home runs, 32 RBIs, .284, .354 OBP, .387 SLG) has heated up lately but he hasn't played like himself for most of the first half. Therefore his spot isn't automatic every year since there are some good second baseman in the AL (Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve) and thankfully the fans realized this.

There isn't even a Red Sox in the running for the final spot in the AL, five players from other teams will do the honors. I'm guessing the home field advantage for the World Series won't play quite as big a role for this edition of Boston compared to last season. With four days off in a row next week, you have to believe that GM Ben Cherington begins to blow this awful team up. Otherwise, what are they doing here?

UPDATE 7/9: Red Sox designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment today (yes!) and called up Christian Vazquez who is making his MLB debut. Also, Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka went on the DL with an elbow injury so Uehara is going to the All-Star Game after all. That's cool and well deserved for him, especially since he's never been before.

Red Sox Fall a Season-High 10 Games Under .500, Drop Into AL East Basement

Like a car crash or late night porn on HBO, I have to admit that I can't help but intently watch the Red Sox even when their season becomes more and more over by the day. This afternoon, Boston (39-49 overall, 21-24 home) lost 7-6 to Baltimore (48-40 overall, 25-19 away) in 12 innings (5 hours and 5 minutes!) at Fenway Park. The Orioles clinched the series and went up nine games on the Red Sox who also find themselves in last place in the AL East after Tampa Bay won at Detroit.

How can the defending World Series champs that didn't lose anyone of real importance besides Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (and that's stretching it) get this bad seemingly overnight? The easiest explanation is that Boston's offense is terrible which is totally true. There are rare occasions like this though where they score enough runs but the pitching stinks. It sounds simple but they can never get those two facets going at the same time. Plus their defense is spotty and baserunning could be described as incredibly poor.

The O's built a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning before the Sox battled back to tie it in the home half of the frame. After four scoreless innings, J.J. Hardy (2 for 4, run, walk, 3 RBIs) knocked in David Lough-who had tripled-with the winning run. Brad Brach (4-0) cruised through three innings of relief to earn the win and closer Zach Britton worked around a single and struck out two for his 14th save of the season.

It's easy to dump on him since he's close to being washed up and had many clunkers this season but lately, Jake Peavy (6 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts) has been the victim of virtually no help from his teammates. On a good team, he could have some value particularly in the JV NL so look for him to get traded before the deadline (July 31).

Orioles youngster Kevin Gausman (5.1 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts) is still very raw but with his stuff, he has the potential to be a top of the line starter which is what Baltimore still lacks. The O's led 2-0 after an error on Xander Bogaerts (2 for 5, run, RBI) in the fourth and sacrifice fly by Caleb Joseph in the sixth inning.

David Ortiz (4 for 5 with double, walk, 2 RBIs) cut it to 2-1 with an RBI single in the sixth. Baltimore put up four runs in the seventh as Nelson Cruz (3 for 6, 2 runs, double) had an RBI single, Hardy's single scored two and Ryan Flaherty's (2 for 4, walk) RBI single made it 6-1 Orioles. All-Star Adam Jones was 2 for 5 with a run and walk in the win for Baltimore.

Surprisingly enough, David Ross' solo homer (his 5th of the season) got the rally started for Boston then Bogaerts, Daniel Nava, Ortiz and Napoli kept the line moving with RBI singles of their own. Dustin Pedroia can't get extra base hits anymore but his batting average is rapidly climbing (3 for 6) with all those singles. Jackie Bradley Jr. (2 for 4 with run, walk) might have put together his best game of the season as he made a spectacular diving catch at the wall then also threw out Manny Machado at home on another play (he would have been credited with a second assist if Ross could have held onto a throw).

Losses like this are brutal for many reasons, foremost on the list is that Boston burned six relievers so you know a few of them won't be available tomorrow namely Koji Uehara (2 scoreless innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout). Boston has two more series, seven games in total (4 at Fenway, 3 in Houston) before the All-Star break officially starts a week from tomorrow.

The White Sox (42-47, 4th in AL Central) visit with Clay Buchholz (3-4) facing rookie Scott Carroll (2-5) tomorrow night (7:10, NESN), Brandon Workman (1-2) gets John Danks (7-6) on Tuesday (7:10), most likely Rubby De La Rosa will be recalled to take on Chris Sale (8-1) Wednesday (7:10, NESN) then Jon Lester (9-7) meets Jose Quintana (5-7) on Thursday afternoon (4:05, NESN). Chicago is similarly blah but at least you can see Sale (who is up for the final AL All-Star spot) and slugger Jose Abreu who is tied for MLB lead with 27 home runs.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Four More Years of Waiting for Avery Bradley to Rehab His Various Injuries, Awesome

NBA free agency opened yesterday at midnight but the rebuilding Celtics didn't make any moves until this morning: they re-signed guard Avery Bradley to a four-year deal worth $32 million (a slight improvement from the $3.58 million he was going to make in 2014-15). As always with professional contracts, it's not my money or your money so really does it matter? Still, it is easy to question both the length and amount of money for a guy that has missed considerable time in all four of his NBA seasons.

Bradley is still very young (turning 24 in November) and he's coming off by far the best year of his career: 14.9 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 1.1 steals per game, 80% on free throws, 44% from the field and 40% on 3-pointers. Coming out of Texas after one year, he was a terrible shooter but I'll give him credit that he's really improved that along with his overall offensive game. He's been an excellent defender from day one.

The troubling number for him (and I would always argue that it's the most important) is games played: he played 31 in his rookie season (2010-11), 64 the next season, 50 in 2012-13 and 60 last season. Looking at all his various injuries is like playing a game of operation: both shoulders and ankles. The scary part is that with the physical way he plays, particularly on defense, I don't see how magically one day he'll stop picking up injuries at this alarming rate.

The other part about this and perhaps the most relevant to the bigger picture with the Celts is how does it affect Rajon Rondo? Boston drafted guards Marcus Smart and James Young last week then reportedly pursued Isaiah Thomas when free agency opened. Danny Ainge has talked about three or four guard lineups but honestly, what planet does he live on? Don't give us that crap. All indications are that Rondo is going to be traded which is the preferred route rather than simply letting him walk in free agency next summer.