Tag:Brandon Moss
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm

Red Sox Recap 5-13-08

The Red Sox were once again unable to hold an early lead, and unable to push across runs late. Some thoughts on the game:

Josh Beckett had a better start than the line score would indicate. Simply, the Orioles did a much better job hitting. Beckett’s fastball was consistently down in the zone and at its usual 94-96 MPH range. His curveball was breaking sharply and his changeup was used sparingly but there did not seem to be much wrong with it. His delivery was fine, but the Orioles just out-hit him. It is very difficult for a lineup, especially a young lineup like theirs, to overcome a deficit against a great starting pitcher. The Sox went up but three runs in the first, and Beckett had retired the Orioles in order in the first inning, but they did not panic and were patient and were able to bang out some hits and put runs up early. Similarly, the game should not have been as close as it was. Jeremy Guthrie continues to be a nemesis of the Sox (everyone remembers the eight-plus shut-out inning performance last Mother’s Day), but the Orioles committed two errors behind him in the first inning which helped the Sox build a three run lead. The Sox should not be concerned by Beckett’s performance, because sometimes good just is not good enough.

The Red Sox are really suffering from injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury has been held out of the starting lineup for the past few games because of a knee injury, but he was forced to play in right field tonight when J.D. Drew had a nasty landing while attempting a sliding catch. Drew’s wrist completely rolled over, and the Sox reported that he the diagnosis was a sprained wrist. Coco Crisp had to leave the game later because of a stomach flu, and Brad Mills was forced to move Ellsbury over to center field and move Kevin Youkilis to right field. Youkilis was placed in the outfield because the Sox first string emergency outfielder, Julio Lugo, is still suffering from the effects of a slight concussion. Lugo was used in the outfield in 2006 with the Rays and with the Dodgers. Brandon Moss is still on the disabled list because of an appendectomy, so needless to say, the Sox are very thin all of the way around. If Drew has to go on the disabled list, and he may, considering the grim look that trainer Paul Lessard had when he first examined him, and given the fact that Drew is notorious for not playing through pain, then the Sox wil likely have to go to the minor leagues for outfield help, as they would only have one healthy outfielder in Manny Ramirez, and two questionable ones in Ellsbury and Crisp. To add to the swelling list of injured players, the likely replacement for any injured outfielder would be Bobby Kielty, but he was also just added to the disabled list. Moss is scheduled come off of the disabled list soon, so they could wait and hope nothing disastrous happens. Given the Sox long list of injuries and illnesses this season, it is a credit to their depth and overall team strength that they are still in first place.

The Sox offense is doing excellent this year, and their league-leading numbers are proof. However, the Sox are having difficulty of late hitting in pressure situations: late in the game, and with runners on base. The Sox opened the year with timely hitting and created an aura that they felt like they were never out of a game, and that confidence from the offense was carrying over into the other aspects of the team. Of late thought, it has been a different story. The Sox are not having the same explosiveness once the late innings come around. The difference between the Sox and the Orioles tonight was the Orioles’ ability to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. A microcosm of the Sox recent struggles occurred when Ramirez came up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ramirez had a long battle at the plate, before grounding weakly to the pitcher, who was able to start the 1-2-3 double play. When Mike Lowell stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and two out, he lifted a soft fly ball to the left fielder. The Sox managed a run late in the seventh, but the game tonight was eerily similar to the night before in against the Twins. In both nights, the Sox were able to put up some numbers early in the first inning, but were not able to salvage a mediocre start.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s series finale against the Orioles. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 11, 2008 11:52 pm

Red Sox Recap and 1st Quarter Report Card

As promised, here is the Red Sox first quarter report card for this season after 40 games.

Starting Pitching: A-
The Red Sox starting pitching has been better than anticipated, with the younger pitchers delivering better performances than was predicted. Josh Beckett missed a few starts, but has rounded into All-Star form and seems poised for another run for the Cy Young Award. Daisuke Matsuzaka has made a lot of improvements from his first year in the majors and has jumped out to a 6-0, but, leading the league in walks, he has still been shaky at times. But together, they look to be as dominant as any 1-2 punch in the A.L. Tim Wakefield has had a typical season thus far, and at 41 years old, that is all the Red Sox had hoped for. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have both flashed the signs that they are ready to be front end of the rotation starters, but also showed that they are in their first full season in the majors. There is no question about their stuff, but if the Sox want to go deep into the playoffs, they need more consistency from the back end of the rotation.

Relief Pitching: C
And this may be generous. The Sox have had very few arms in the bullpen where they feel secure that they can hold the lead. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon have been very good for most of the season, although they are likely being overused due to the lack of any other relievers stepping up and getting outs. Manny Delcarmen was supposed to help with the late innings, but he has struggled heavily and has fallen from Terry Francona’s repertoire for tight contests. David Aardsma has been a pleasant surprise, but has struggled with his command. Javier Lopez has also performed well, albeit in very limited duty as a primarily left-handed specialist. A rotation of Craig Hansen and Bryan Corey (who the Sox traded to the Padres today) has shown that neither was ready for major league duty to this point. Mike Timlin started the year on the disabled list and has shown that he has in fact pitched in more games in the history of the major league with the expectation of about a dozen players. Julian Tavarez has been used very sparingly in long relief and has struggled because of his lack of work. The starters have produced a good number of seven inning starts, but that will not always be the case. Someone needs to fill in the middle innings and pitch when Okajima and Papelbon cannot, and those pitchers have not yet distinguished themselves.

Offense: A
The Red Sox have had the best offense in the majors through the first quarter of the season. Their team batting average is above .290 and they have a very good balance of power, run production and speed. Jacoby Ellsbury is doing everything that a leadoff hitter must do, which is get on base and score runs, and Dustin Pedroia leads the league in hits. David Ortiz was the only player to start slow, but he has gotten his swing back. Manny Ramirez should have been the player of the month, and Kevin Youkilis capped the first quarter by having a ridiculous week that vaulted him into the top ten in virtually every offensive category. J.D. Drew has played better so far, and Mike Lowell has come back well from the disabled list. Jason Varitek is, as he should be, focusing on the pitching staff, and the Sox have never looked for much production from him anyway. Julio Lugo has played better at times, but still continues to undercut expectations. If Ellsbury and Pedroia can continue to set the table, the Sox will have an excellent year offensively.

Bench: A
The bench players have been one of the strengths of the team this year. Coco Crisp has been sharing time with Ellsbury in center, and has played with good intensity and has hit over .300. Sean Casey filled in exceptionally when Lowell was on the disabled list, and his replacement, Jed Lowrie, also showed that he was capable of playing on the major league level. Brandon Moss did nothing wrong during his time, and should be able looking for another call-up before the year is over. Even Kevin Cash has performed very well, both in his first year handling Wakefield’s knuckleball, but also at the plate, batting near .400. It is a very comforting luxury for Francona to be able to look to his bench whenever he needs and still feel confident, and also in the young call-ups in the chance of injuries.

Defense: B+
The Sox defense has been good, expect for one man, and that would be Julio Lugo. The Sox have 21 errors, and Lugo has 11 of them. He just seems very reluctant fielding grounders. Most of Lugo’s errors before this season were due to his throws over to first, but this year’s errors have been fielding balls hit to him. Other than Lugo, the rest of the infield’s defense has been good, and Youkilis has been perfect as usual. In the outfield, there have been few mistakes. Ellsbury and Crisp provide Gold-Glove caliber defense and the ability to cover a lot of ground. Drew plays right field well, and Ramirez’s defense in left is sometimes convoluted but for the most part satisfactory. Without Lugo’s errors, the Sox would have a much more respectable overall fielding percentage near the league lead.

Overall: A-
They do have the best record in the A.L., and are likely the best team in the majors right now. They get a minus next to that A because the Diamondbacks have a better record, and because their relievers have struggled so much. They have good enough offense and starting pitching to get them through a seven game playoff series right now, but that could change come October. If they can add another reliever at the trading deadline, it would go great lengths to help the Sox out, but we saw that backfire last year. Considering the injuries, the illnesses and beginning the year in Japan, the Sox are sitting in a pretty good spot right now.

I am putting this report card on my blog, which I do with every recap, and you can access at the last link at the bottom of the recap. Feel free to respond to this report card here, or go to my blog.

Concerning tonight’s game, the Sox received their worst start of the year. Tim Wakefield did not make it out of the third inning. While he normally does well in indoor stadiums, he struggled mightly in the Metrodome. His knuckleballs were frequently left up in the zone, and the control of his fastball was off all night. Wakefield threw an astonishing amount of fastballs, or as Joe Morgan aptly called them “straightballs” because, at 74 MPH, they are hardly blistering. One of the home runs he gave up was on one such fastball that was nicely grooved, belt high. But, Wakefield looked like he was laboring from the first inning, and in this case, the knuckleball just did not flutter in the Sox favor.

Look for this recap following the series finale against the Twins as the Sox go for the split. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link to my blog.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 10, 2008 12:06 am

Red Sox Recap 5-9-08

The Red Sox had rallied back only to suffer their second ninth inning walk off defeat in three days. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester had a decent start, going five plus while yielding five runs, three earned, and only walking one. He threw an astonishing 57 pitches through the first two innings, and needed only 41 to record the next ten outs. Lester’s struggles have been oddly inconsistent this year. Last year, we saw a pitcher, much like Daisuke Matsuzaka, look great over the first three innings, and then completely fall apart when the hitters came around again. However, when Lester has struggled this year, some games he will have trouble in the first few innings, and others will be more like last year. It may seem troublesome, but the fact that he is not having the same problem hurt him on every start shows some level of improvement. However, he still has not figured out how to retire hitters effectively. He has taken good steps to attack hitters and force them into pitchers’ counts, and has limited the walks, but he has not developed enough confidence in his pitches to attack them with two strikes. Opposing hitters are staying around too long and running the count up. Lester’s bane will continue to be his ineffectiveness with his pitches until he can decide what his “out” pitch, or pitches, are and until then, we will be tantalized by the starts where he does seem to put the whole package together.

No Red Sox fans are allowed to panic because of Jonathan Papelbon’s two blown saves in the past three days. All great closers have one or two weeks during the season where they seem to have lost it (it happens regularly to Mariano Rivera around mid-August), but he will regain his form. One thing that can be cause for alarm is that because the Sox have had few blowout wins this season, and most of their 23 wins have come on the strength of out-bashing the other team or out-finessing the other team with great starting pitching, there have been a lot of save opportunities. After seeing Papelbon falter at the end of the 2006 season, the Sox made it one of their priorities to make sure he was healthy at the end of the 2007 season. Theo Epstein stressed that Papelbon would rarely be used on more than two consecutive days and will always have a day off after throwing more than one inning, or when he has a pitch count that reflects that he had to labor (usually upwards of 20-25). This season, he has appeared in 17 of the Sox 38 games: exactly half. He pitched in 59 games in both of his first two seasons as closer, and it is ludicrous to think that he would continue pitching at this rate because at this pace, he would finish the year with 81 appearances. However, it may be that he is working a bit too much. He has simply been called on more because of the tightness of the games this year and the struggles by much of the other relievers. Look for Terry Francona to ease off Papelbon a bit, and maybe give him the next two games off, so that he can rest his arm and get what little, if any, confidence he has lost.

Sean Casey and Alex Cora both were scheduled to play in their last rehab game with Pawtucket tonight, and come off of the disabled list this weekend. But due to bad weather on the east coast, the game was canceled. Since this series with the Twins goes for four games and wraps up on Monday, the Sox could decide to get them in another game this weekend in Pawtucket, and fly them out to Minnesota to arrive on Sunday, or wait and have them meet up with the Sox when they travel to Baltimore on Tuesday for a two game series. The weather does not look like it will improve Saturday, but it is unlikely that the Sox will bring both of them to Minnesota after such a short rehab. When they do return, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie will almost certainly be sent back to triple-A.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 5, 2008 11:53 pm

Red Sox Recap 5-5-08

The Red Sox won the series opener against the Tigers on the heels of timely hitting and an up-and-down pitching effort.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had one of the most bizarre pitching lines of the season. He only allowed one run on two hits, but his pitch count soared to 109 because of the eight walks he allowed. Usually when a pitcher’s command is as off as his was tonight, the pitcher generally pays for his mistakes. But he got help from his defense and was able to limit the damage as only one of the batters he walked came around to score. It goes without saying that Matsuzaka had very little in the tank for tonight’s game, but it has to be encouraging that he only gave up one run while being so wild. It shows that when his pitches do find their way over the plate, opposing hitters have a tough time making good contact. Matsuzaka has been wild this season, and now leads the A.L. in walks (Jon Lester is tied for second), but there was very clearly something wrong with him. This was the first night since he has been with the Sox that he looked visibly upset on the mound. He was not getting squeezed by the home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, but he was very frustrated with himself, being unable to throw strikes consistently. He was stellar in his last start, although he had skipped the start previous to that because of flu-like symptoms, but whether there was something wrong with him tonight, or because of something he did during the week, tonight was almost brutal to watch.

With Brandon Moss headed to the disabled list because of an appendectomy, the Sox recalled reliever Craig Hansen from triple-A Pawtucket. This is Hansen’s second stint with the Sox this season, as he pitched in the April 23 game against the Angels. Hansen’s health problems and subsequent struggles with the Sox have been well publicized, but he is trying to prove that he has come a long way and that he deserves a permanent spot on the 25 man roster. With the recent struggles of the bullpen, Hansen may in fact be playing for a spot. However, he gave up two runs today in 1 and two thirds innings pitched, which did little to help his cause. But it seems highly questionable the way the Sox have chose to use Hansen in the brief stints he has had with the big league club. Even going back to 2006 (he did not pitch in Boston in 2007), the Sox seemed intent on using him for multiple innings, as they have done for both of his appearances this year. This is similar treatment for what they tried with Manny Delcarmen at the beginning of his appearances last year. He struggled in that role, but performed better when he was coming in at the start of an inning, and pitching just the one inning. It seems that Hansen is a very similar pitcher to Delcarmen, and it is puzzling why they are sending him back out to pitch multiple innings. He recorded the first 1-2-3 inning of the day for Sox pitchers in the sixth, but gave up two runs when they sent him back out for the seventh. With Hansen’s addition, the Sox now have 13 pitchers, and given the deep starts that the Sox starters have been providing, the Sox middle relief is pretty well rested (Julian Tavarez has not pitched since April 24, a span of 11 games). There was no need for the Sox to bring him out to pitch the seventh as his future with the club will be as a one inning set-up man and substitute closer, neither of which will require him to pitch for more than one inning. With Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon both pitching now in consecqutive games, they will likely be unavailable for tomorrow’s game, meaning that the team will have to fill in without them if they have the lead late. With Hansen having thrown 29 pitches, he will also likely be unavailable. Hansen is still a good young prospect, but the Sox have got to use him correctly.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game against the Tigers as the Sox go for five straight wins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 3, 2008 10:54 pm

Red Sox Recap 5-3-08

The Sox got their second consecutive eight innings performance from their starter and an impressive offense attack. Some thoughts on the game:

Josh Beckett had a very good start tonight, allowing four runs in eight innings. He struggled a bit in the early innings, having some command issues and yielding a two run home run in the second. But, after yielding another run in the fourth, he seemed to gain better control of his fastball and settled down. He threw only 100 pitches over the eight innings, and was trying to mix more changeups in along with his fastball and curveball. Very few pitchers can get by on just two pitches, and as good as Beckett is, he does need a third pitch, even if he uses it rarely. A power pitcher like Beckett would likely try to feature a two-seam sinking fastball as a third pitch to use to mix up hitters and try to get a groundball in tight situations. His third pitch, though, is the changeup. However, for a pitcher who throws 95-97 MPH on his straight fastball and drops his curveball in at 77-79 MPH, Beckett’s changeup should come across the plate in the low 80s, but Beckett’s whistles past at 90-91. He does seem to have good control over it, and he always keeps it down, but he has to be very careful with this pitch. Because it is coming in as fast as most people’s fastball, it probably looks more like a fastball than a changeup. If hitters are late on his fastball, they may be able to time his changeup well. He has to keep that pitch down if he wants it to be effective, but it still may not be the best third pitch option for Beckett. For the record, though, all of the four runs Beckett gave up came off of his fastball.

It was mentioned in the recap yesterday that the lineup would hit their stride again when Jacoby Ellsbury came back, and, at least for two games, they have. (The Sox improved to 13-2 when Ellsbury scores a run). This is not to do any patting on the back, but it was brought up in an interview with Terry Francona that he was not entirely happy with his rookie outfielder. Francona is the stereotypical “players”-manager, and will likely never call a player out in public and likes to care of those kind of situations in-house, as he should. But he did express some discontent about the way that some of the players on the Sox were treating injuries, though he was explicit that he was not singling out Ellsbury. However, his comments included him saying that there “is a fine line” between players who are injured and who can play, and that “We can’t wait for guys to be 100 percent.” Perhaps the most accusatory words from Francona was when he described that minor league managers and staff are more protective of players and their injuries and when they experience pain. He went on to say that he thought Ellsbury would be able to play back on Tuesday, but when it became evident that he could not, the manager was surprised that Ellsbury did not come by on the off-day on Monday to receive treatment. Francona said that it gave his staff a chance to talk to Ellsbury about how to handle these kind of situations. But also in Francona’s words there was likely a reference to J.D. Drew, who had missed the past few games because of a quadriceps injury. Drew has been notorious about refusing to play when hurt, but Francona also went out of his way to mention that Coco Crisp had been hampered by a sore knee, although he went out and has been playing in place of Ellsbury, and that Crisp is a good example of a player who is willing to play through pain. It is likely that Ellsbury’s problem was more of a misunderstanding, but Drew’s issues come as little surprise.

Speaking of injured players, there have been several updates over the past few days. Bartolo Colon is going to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Monday. The Sox seem to feel that Colon, who has been traveling with the Sox, has not lost much because he would be in triple-A Pawtucket if it were not for paperwork issues. May 1 has come and gone, and Colon has not decided to leave the Sox and declare free agency, as the out clause in his contract says he can. The Sox signed Colon because they did not plan on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitching as well as they have this season. As both have performed well, Colon will have to either wait for someone to get injured, or really hit a wall. Of the 309 games that Colon has pitched in the majors, 306 were starts, so he has no value as a reliever. If he continues to pitch well at Pawtucket, and no Red Sox starter needs replacement by mid-June, it is unlikely that Colon will stay at Pawtucket.

On other injured news, Brandon Moss underwent emergency surgery tonight to have his appendix removed. He will likely be out at least until the beginning of next week. Curt Schilling was also reported to be close to begin a throwing program, being able to start within the next 10 days. Even though it is true that no team can have enough starting pitching, the way that the Sox starters’ are going, there really is no room for either Schilling or Colon. It would be nice to have an option like Schilling, and Colon for that matter, if one of the starters gets hurt, but if they do not, it would be a bad descision to take out one of the young starters simply because Schilling is healthy. Schilling will not be as effective as Buchholz and Lester have been this season thus far.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to return to the Rays the favor of being swept. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 28, 2008 6:42 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2008 6:44 pm

Red Sox Recap 4-26-08

The Red Sox lost to their fourth straight game and second in a row to the Rays. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz pitched an absolutely great game. This is the type of start that the Sox dream of from their number five starter. Many people will say that the Sox were looking to get too much out of him by sending him out for the eighth inning, but Buchholz was getting stronger as the night was going on. He made the one bad pitch, the hanging breaking ball to Akinori Iwamura, which accounted for all of the runs that the Rays got. The biggest problem that Buchholz was having up until tonight was his struggles with opposing hitters during their second trip to the plate. Tonight, he handled the Rays much better, changing his speeds and going after hitters the second and third time around completely different than he did earlier. He got into no clear rhythm as the night went on in terms of the way he was attacking hitters, and because all three of his pitches were working, the Rays were simply guessing. Iwamura guessed off-speed during his at-bat in the eight and happened to guess right. Terry Francona was right to send Buchholz back out, as he was breezing through the later innings, and he has pitched better against left-handed batters this year than he has righties anyway. The Sox will be exceptionally pleased with the way he mixed up his pitches and kept the Rays off-balance. Buchholz had only given up one hit through eight innings, and even with the home run, has now given up only two runs to go along with 15 strikeouts over his last two outings, which span 14 innings.

The reason the Sox lost had little to do with Buchholz and Iwamura’s home run. The Sox only managed one run, and have to be concerned with the lack of offensive production. Of the Sox’s five hits tonight, all five were singles, and only one of them left the infield. Because injuries and illnesses have forced the Sox to do quite a bit of shuffling in their lineup, the Sox need to show soon that they can score runs on the road. A problem for the Sox this season has been their lack of offensive production playing away from Fenway Park. This is not unnatural, but four runs over the first two games, especially at a venue like Tropicana Field where they have had good success driving in runs in recent years, is by no means fruitful. The Rays do have a few of the best statistics in the A.L. for their relief pitching, but the Sox will be facing much tougher bullpens as the season plays out.

Speaking of injuries and illnesses, add Sean Casey to that list. Casey injured himself as he was rounding third and scoring a run in yesterday’s game. To replace Casey, the Sox recalled Brandon Moss from triple-A Pawtucket. Because of the surplus of outfielders that the Sox have enjoyed recently, Moss started doing work and taking lessons at first base during this spring training. Still, Moss’s recall may seem slightly puzzling. Mike Lowell is on a rehab assignment, and played in the field for the first time today as the Pawtucket Red Sox took on Buffalo. He is expected to be ready to rejoin the team shortly, which will add another infielder to the Sox bench as Jed Lowrie can return to being a back up rather than a starter. But the Sox have a player at Pawtucket named Chris Carter, who was acquired as the player-to-be-named-later in the deal that sent Wily Mo Pena to the Washington Nationals last season. Carter had very impressive numbers for triple-A Tucson (in the Diamondbacks system) and in his brief stay in Pawtucket last year. Although he seems to be a natural designated hitter, the Sox have placed him at first base since it seems unlikely that the Sox will have an opening at DH for some time. He could have been a likely call-up to replace Casey. Another option would be to go with another pitcher, like the recently demoted Craig Hansen. Hansen is by no means a lights out reliever, but he can pitch for more than one inning at a time and could help out the bullpen, which is looking strained at this point in the season. Though, if the Sox continue to get eight solid innings from the number five starter, that may become moot.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to avoid a sweep and stop this loosing streak. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 25, 2008 10:48 am

Red Sox Recap 4-24-08

The Sox lost their second straight to the Angels despite a solid start by Justin Masterson. Some thoughts on the day:

With Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka scratched from their starts this week, the Sox had to again dig into the minor leagues for a starter. Justin Masterson made his major league debut, and surrendered only one run in six solid innings. Masterson is the very highly regarded pitching prospect who was at double-A Portland where he had dazzled with a 0.95 ERA. He was thrown around in trade talks as part of  package for Johan Santana in this past off-season. He is an imposing force on the mound, at 6-6 and 250 pounds, and has been compared to Derek Lowe because of the great movement on his sinking fastball. However, Masterson has better secondary pitches than Lowe, with a change-up that breaks down and away from left-handed batters, and a hard breaking slider. Although some people may not be that impressed with his performance at the double-A level, the recent trend in minor league organizations is to leave the most talented prospects at double-A, while triple-A is where the border-line and more experienced players go (the Sox equivalents of Brandon Moss, Bobby Kielty, Craig Hansen, Jed Lowrie, etc.) Masterson is projected to compete for a starting job once some of the older starters in the Sox rotation retire, and based on what he showed today, the Sox may have a future 20 game winner.

In the early part of the season, when the offense is in full swing and firing on all cylinders, and even though injuries have affected their starting pitcher, the Sox seem to be getting what they expected from their rotation. The trouble spot for the team so far has been the middle relief and the bridge from the starter to Jonathan Papelbon. We saw the entire corp of pitchers who are going to be looked on to fill that role absolutely collapse. Javier Lopez failed to get out his two batters, and Manny Delcarmen also did not record an out, and Okajima got them out of the inning but not before allowing three inherited runners to score. David Aardsma also surrendered a run later in the game, while Julian Tavarez also let a run score, albiet un-earned. As fans, we hold relievers to a higher standard than we do starting pitchers. If one of our starting gives up three runs in six innings pitched, we consider that a very effective start, and certainly enough to give the team a chance to win. But that is one run allowed every two innings, and would be an ERA of 4.50. Relievers enter the game when it counts the most, and even if they do have a good ERA, when they give up runs, the runs prove to be very critical. The Sox can get by with two youngsters in rotation, but they need their middle relievers to step up and deliever some good quality innings. Masterson should have gotten a win today, and in the same sense that come-from-behind wins do a lot to boost morale for a ballclub, games in which the bullpen lost the lead after a solid outing from the starting will do just as much to hurt a club's outlook.

Look for this recap following tomorrow's game as the Sox travel to Tampa Bay to open the weekend series. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 21, 2008 8:15 pm

Red Sox Recap 4-21-08

The Red Sox completed the impressive four game sweep of the Rangers, capping it off with another Patriots Day win. Some thoughts on the game:

It is very easy to “Monday-morning-quarterback” the decision of the Sox to trade away Kason Gabbard and David Murphy for closer Eric Gagne last year as Gagne did nothing to help the Sox case. But, as the Sox won the World Series, the taste does not feel quite as bitter. But the move was very questionable at the time. Many thought that it was a steal: the Sox had a surplus of young starters (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, etc.) and a logjam at the outfield position, also full of prospects (Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss, etc.). Also, Gagne was 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and had converted 16 out of 17 save opportunities. But, had Gagne simply done as well in Boston as he had in Texas, he would still have been in a set-up role. Even with the fact that he ablsolutely imploded seemingly every time he was on the mound, going 0-3 in save chances and giving up 14 runs in just over 18 innings, he was still rewarded with a contract by the Brewers that is paying him $10 million this season. So, had he continued to hjave an ERA in the low 2.00s, he would have probably fetched somewhere around the $12 million mark in this past off-season. There was no way that the Sox would have paid Gagne that kind of money, which means that regardless of how Gagne ended up pitching with the Sox, he was going to be a three-month rental. There is no way that Gagne, even if he had pitched lights out in those 18 innings, he was not worth what the Sox gave up for him. Giving up Murphy is one thing, because there really was no place for him on the Boston roster in the forseable future, and both Ellsbury and Moss are better prospects than him, but there is no such thing as having a “surplus” of young starters, especially of the left-handed kind. Gabbard went 4-0 for the Sox last year, and was impressive in the few outing that he worked. He would have likely been the Sox fifth starter, in favor of Buchholz, because he had more experience. It was the kind of deal where there was no way that Gagne could have pitched well enough to prove his worth so that, in a few years, we will not be saying that the trade was a bad move. Gagne, Terry Francona, and Theo Epstein all walked into a strange position.

Clay Buchholz has followed the recent suit of Red Sox starters in providing a very good performance, scattering five hits over six innings without allowing a run. Buchholz continued his very good success at Fenway: he has now given up just three runs in 27 innings pitched in career within the friendly confines. He was able to throw his fastball to get ahead, and used his change-up to get hitters to chase in the early innings. But what was the most encouraging thing for Buchholz was that, during the Rangers’ second at-bats, Buchholz started mixing in his curveball more, which gave the Rangers something else to look for. The biggest thing that Buchholz has had struggles with was his inability to get hitters out during their second trip up to the plate. His game plan worked very effectively today in what was his best start of the season. Buchholz was also able to increase the effectiveness of his pitches. He was over 40 pitches through the first two innings, and he looked on the way to another 110 pitches to barely get through five innings, but he was able to stretch his pitches out over the last four innings, as he finished with 61 pitches over the last four innings.

It is official: David Ortiz has come out of his slump. Over the four game series, Ortiz went 7-16 with a home run, 11 RBI, two walks and four runs scored, and he has raised his average 90 points from .070 on April 11. Ortiz is driving the ball with power to the opposite field, as both of his doubles were today, and is connecting with runners on base. As dominant hitters get older, it takes longer for them to hit their stride. Ortiz will continue to heat up as the weather gets warmer and he continues to adjust to opposing pitchers. There is no reason to think that Ortiz will not finish the season with a .300 batting average.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Angels come to Fenway for a three game series. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com