Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: August 5, 2009 12:40 pm
The moves that the Boston Red Sox made at last Friday’s trading deadline gives them flexibility to choose from an array of line-ups each night. As they are preparing for a four-game showdown with the New York Yankees this weekend, the playoff run is very clearly upon them.
Victor Martinez is listed on the Red Sox roster as a catcher, although he played at only five more games behind the plate than at first for the Cleveland Indians before being traded. Pitchers often have difficulty adjusting to a new battery-mate after a trade, but a catcher has to learn an entire pitching staff’s strengths and weaknesses, a daunting task this late in the season.
That said, it is clear that the Sox’ best offensive line-up has Martinez at catcher, Kevin Youkilis at first base and Mike Lowell at third. In two of his three games with the Sox, however, Martinez has started at first, with Youkilis moving over to third, Jason Varitek doing the catching and Lowell playing left bench.
Varitek is the premier signal-caller in baseball. I say that without reserve, but not in reference to his hitting ability, or defensive signals, and certainly not his throwing arm. But rather that Varitek handles an entire pitching staff better than any other catcher in baseball, and calls a game with similar success.
Defensively, a catcher-first-third combination of Martinez-Youkilis-Lowell is roughly par with an assemblage of Varitek-Martinez-Youkilis. Varitek is no longer a Gold Glove catcher, and Lowell’s mobility and range is significantly reduced due to his off-season hip surgery.
Offensively, there is no debate that Martinez sports better numbers that Varitek. Martinez is an elite hitter at the position of catcher, and has hit in third in the Sox line-up.
The problem is that with Varitek tabbed as the team’s number one catcher, and any team wants their best starting line-up on the field in the playoffs, Varitek gets the starts during a playoff series. But that forces Youkilis over to third, which keeps Lowell out of the line-up.
Sox fans need no reminder that Lowell was the 2007 World Series MVP. But with his stint on the disabled list and constant talk of his off-season hip surgery, it may come as a bit of a surprise that Lowell is fourth on the team in batting average with an even .300. He has 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 80 games this season.
That is a pretty solid bat to sit, especially for someone who has shown a lot of success in the playoffs (He racked up 15 RBI during the ’07 playoffs). Varitek, meanwhile, is headed toward another season batting average in the .220s.
Manager Terry Francona thus far has done a great job in managing the Sox’ line-up so that he rotates players in and out so that players with nagging injuries, like Varitek and Lowell, get the rest they need. In the playoffs, Lowell’s bat has to be in the line-up in place of Varitek at least half the time.
The implication that has for the Sox now is that Martinez needs to start catching the Sox front line starters, particularly Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Beckett and Lester would undoubtedly go 1-2 in a playoff series. To avoid having Lowell’s bat on the bench for two games in a row, Martinez needs to be familiar enough to handle them in a playoff series.
Many teams that have productive hitting catchers, like the Indians (before the trade) and the Yankees, often use their regular catchers at another position. That sometimes leaves the team vulnerable because it becomes more difficult to pinch hit or run for that player.
If the Sox open a playoff series with Martinez as their everyday catcher, and Varitek on the bench, it gives them their best shot at winning the series. I do not underestimate Varitek’s value to the pitching staff, but for a very experienced staff like the Red Sox, Beckett and Lester can be relied on to handle their start.
What Beckett and Lester cannot do, and nor can Varitek apparently, is hit their weight. The Sox traded for a productive hitter because they were struggling offensively. Varitek and pitching coach John Farrell can micromanage their starters from the dugout and not loose much from their pitching staff.
Lastly, I do not mean to keep Varitek out of the line-up completely. When Varitek does start, it gives the Sox two excellent pinch hitters in Lowell and Casey Kotchman. But the Sox are disadvantaging their team to have Varitek catch consecutive games at the expense of a much better offensive player like Martinez or Lowell.
Posted on: July 31, 2009 5:11 pm
The Boston Red Sox were one of the busier teams leading into today’s 4pm trading deadline.
The major deal was the Sox acquiring Cleveland Indians All-Star catcher Victor Martinez, and the minor deal was swapping first basemen to get Casey Kotchman from the Atlanta Braves.
Martinez is the biggest offensive pickup of the 2009 trading deadline. Martinez had a injury plagued 2008 season that lead to mediocre numbers, but he has picked it up again in 2009 and reestablished himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
A switch-hitter, he gives the Sox excellent versatility in the line-up and on the field. While not official, it is expected that he will play predominantly at catcher and designated hitter. He is a better left-handed hitter, and that will allow the Sox to rotate Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek in the line-up against lefties.
The Sox gave up RHP Justin Masterson, who had been splitting the year in the bullpen and rotation, and minor league pitchers Nick Hadagone and Bryan Price.
Masterson was a solid cog of the Red Sox team, but often found himself as the odd man out. The Indians will probably utilize him as a starter, which is where most scouts see him headed, but the Sox were never in the position to give him a chance to develop in that respect.
Hadagone was the biggest chip the Sox gave up. A left-hander in class-A Greenville, Hadagone underwent Timmy John surgery and recently returned from the disabled list and was very impressive. Price is a right-handed pitcher also in Greenville.
The other trade, while it possesses less excitement, was much more peculiar. The Sox obtained Kotchman, traded as the major component of the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to the Angels, for recently acquired Adam LaRoche.
It is odd not because LaRoche only spent a few days with the Sox, or that the Sox traded him because of the surplus of first basemen the Sox possess after getting Martinez. It is strange that the Sox would trade him, an everyday player, for another left-handed first basemen used to playing everyday.
Terry Francona is going to have to do an incredible job of juggling the line-up to make sure everyone gets enough at-bats to be happy. Kevin Youkilis has to play everyday, an one would expect that Martinez is also going to be in the line-up everyday.
This means that somehow Francona has to rotate them so that Varitek, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz get playing time. Lowell’s time figures to be cut the most, as Youkilis will likely play most of him games at third base for the rest of the season.
Given Martinez’s poorer numbers against lefties, and Lowell and Varitek’s success, they will be playing against left-handers. But while Varitek has been described as a walking ice-pack and Lowell is coming off of hip surgery, they can’t be thrilled at the prospect of their playing time being reduced.
Kotchman has likely drawn the shortest straw. His playing time will be significantly reduced as virtually every other player in this rotation can play multiple positions, where Kotchman is relegated to first only.
Back up catcher George Kotteras will return to triple-A Pawtucket. He is the personal catcher for knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield, who is on the disabled list. He won’t be activated for a few weeks, at which time the Sox will have to decide who should catch him.
To replace Masterson, the Sox have several immediate choices to pick from. Southpaw Javier Lopez was optioned down at the beginning of the season because of terrible struggles, but he has turned his season down in the minors. The Pawtucket Red Sox’ closer Fernando Cabrera is mowing down hitters with an ERA under two while being perfect in save chances. Lefty Hunter Jones and righty Michael Bowden have already pitched out of the bullpen this season for the Sox, and they also have Japanese prospect Junichi Tazawa.
Until Wakefield comes back from the DL, one of those triple-A relievers figures to replace the gap in the bullpen.
Heading into tonight’s game against Baltimore, the Sox are a significantly upgraded team both offensively and defensively. The only problem will be getting a group of good players fair playing time, which any manager will tell you is a good problem to have.
Tags: Adam LaRoche, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Bryan Price, Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians, David Ortiz, Fernando Cabrera, George Kotteras, Greenville, Hunter Jones, Jason Varitek, Javier Lopez, Junichi Tazawa, Justin Masterson, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Teixeira, Michael Bowden, Mike Lowell, Nick Hadagone, Pawtucket Red Sox, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield, Victor Martinez
Posted on: January 26, 2009 10:26 pm
Three-time All-Star first baseman Sean Casey is expected to formally announce his retirement this week. He will begin work as television analyst for MLB Network sometime before Spring Training opens.
Casey played 12 seasons in the big leagues, and while beginning his career in Cleveland and finishing in Boston, he will be best remembered for his time with the Cincinnati Reds, where he earned his three All-Star appearances.
During his tenure with the Reds, he developed the nickname of "The Mayor" because of his habit of striking a conversation with everyone on and off the field. Casey was widely known as one of the most approachable and friendly athletes in the game.
Off the field, the list of charitable programs in which he is an active member is extensive. Big Brother, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and various Christian-based groups all benefit from Casey's time and star power.
Meanwhile, Casey was also a very good left-handed hitter, compiling a .302 lifetime career batting average, which up until his retirement, ranked him 16th on the active list of qualifying hitters.
He was, for 12 seasons, everything that a professional athlete should aspire to be.
But while baseball looses one of its best, it is likely that they also lost yet another player who used what are today banned substances to elevate the level of his play.
The current Major League Baseball drug policy that was enacted before the 2005 season by Commissioner Bud Selig following the BALCO scandal amended the previous policy to include a much stricter section for performance enhancing drugs. The testing and the punishments became much more rigorous.
Before the 2005 season, a player who tested positive for an illegal performance enhancing substance was given treatment, not suspended, and not even named. Previous to 2002, there was no testing for performance enhancing drugs.
Yes, Casey exhibits model professionalism. It was reported during his tenure with the Red Sox that he could walk from the parking lot to the clubhouse and remember the name of every attendant and employee that he saw on a regular basis.
In 2004, at the age 29, and in the very middle of a hitter's prime, Casey slugged 24 home runs and drove in 99 RBIs, tying a career high. But despite playing in 137, 112, 143 games over the 2005-2007 seasons, respectively, Casey only managed 21 home runs. Casey went homer-less in 69 games with the Red Sox in the 2008 season.
Coincidence? No. Casey was in the prime years of his career, when all good hitters experience a surge in their offensive statistics. Yet, while Casey's batting average (.312, .272, .296, .322) over the last four years of his career remained exactly around his career average of .302, his power numbers drastically declined. And since when has 33 been an age ripe enough to retire?
Maybe it is anomalous. Perhaps he is clean. The fact remains that even if fans have speculated whether or not Casey used PEDs, he was a stand-up character for his entire career. If Casey is ever mentioned in some former senator's report years from now, people will forever have a good memory of him because he was the exact opposite of those most hated by baseball fans (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, etc.)
Any ball club would welcome the Mayor. He was loved during his time in Boston. That he may have been involved with the steroid scandal says a great deal about the era that baseball has gone through.
Posted on: April 15, 2008 11:02 pm
For the second straight night, the Sox got a ninth inning home run to break a tie, this time it is Jason Varitek providing the dramatics against Jensen Lewis. Varitek hit his third career pinch hit home run, as Kevin Cash had started the game to catch Tim Wakefield. Varitek is probably the Sox best pinch hitter, with a near .300 lifetime batting average with almost 100 at-bats. Even with some of the offense sputtering at this early point in the year, the Sox have hit in the clutch, late in the game and with runners in scoring position. And similar to last night, not to take anything away from Varitek’s achievements, but Cleveland has a serious issue to resolve in their bullpen. It seems that Rafael Betancourt is the best choice to fill the closer hole for the short term, but the Indians must decide whether he can hold onto the position for the long haul, because it is nearly impossible for a team to win series in the playoffs with a closer-by-committee.
Jed Lowrie made his major league debut for the Sox, and drove in the first three runs that the Sox scored. Lowrie is a switch-hitting infielder who was rated as the top middle infielder in the Sox farm system at the beginning of this year. It speaks to his versatility that his first game in the big leagues is not at one of the middle infield positions, but at third base. He is solid on the defensive side of the ball, but he may have some issues at the plate that he needs to sort out. He has a slightly upper cut swing that especially shows on high pitches, which can lead to a lot of strikeouts. Understandably a little anxious at the plate, he simply needs to cut down on swinging at close pitches when he is ahead in the count, and try to flatten out his swings on high pitches and he could be a very productive utility infielder. And if Julio Lugo does not pan out, and it does not seem like it will, as he grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded even though he had three singles earlier, he could be a replacement for Lugo at short, or even Mike Lowell at third.
It is almost always difficult to evaluate a start by Tim Wakefield, because even when his knuckleball is dancing and hitters are swinging and missing, he may be walking a lot of hitters and having to hit with the bases loaded. It seems like the quality of his starts tend to be based on the amount of run support the Sox put up behind him. Since they did not score a lot when he was in the game, some may not be impressed with the production of the 41 year old veteran to this point in the season. But, Wakefield seems to be on top of his game and is responding very well to a new battery-mate. All the Sox can hope for from Wakefield is starts where he keeps the knuckleball down and does not make mistakes by giving hitters something easy to hit, which he did tonight.
The Sox bullpen came through well tonight, as Hideki Okajima picked up the save with Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable. David Aardsma is proving that it was a good decision to keep him on the roster, recording some key outs over the past two games, getting out of a tough situation in the eighth. Seeing how the Cleveland bullpen handled the two games, it showed just how important it is to have a bullpen with the confidence to close out the game. Not only does it help add up wins, but it keeps player morale up. Fans and players alike do not have to start biting their nails as soon as the team brings in that night’s ninth inning guy. Be it either Papelbon or Okajima, the Sox do not have to worry about that issue.
Posted on: April 14, 2008 11:16 pm
Jon Lester’s night began very promising, having not allowed a hit through the first three innings. However, when he did begin to give up hits, he started to pay for the walks he gave up. Although this is now his third season in the big leagues, it is first to start the season with the major league club. Lester still shows a lot of issues prevalent among young starters, but it is almost getting to the point that Lester should be beyond these issues. He did hold the Indians hitless over the first three innings, so he clearly has the stuff to compete. But, Lester has always shown issues on the mound once he has gone through the line-up once. He seems to get extremely timid on the mound, and starts to labor by throwing too many pitches off of the plate and trying to get hitters to bite on balls that are out of the strike zone. This is a situation where Jason Varitek needs to take some time aside and rework Lester’s game plan. Lester needs to focus back on the basics: first pitch strikes and changing speeds during the second time through the lineup. Otherwise Lester’s fastball, while effective and has good movement, is not enough on its own, and he will continue to aim rather than pitch.
Since Lester’s struggles will provide the Sox with big problems, let’s take sometime to analyze a few more of his trouble spots. Lester has shown a strange reluctance while facing left-handed hitters, which is saying something considering his reputation for nit-picking against most hitters. He rarely throws inside against any lefties. If it is Travis Hafner, it is understandable, but he has to pound his fastball inside against left-handed batters and then go away with his cut-fastball, probably his best pitch. But, he is in the habit of throwing straight fastballs on the outside corner, which lefties rarely chase, especially with less than two strikes. Here’s where the issue of changing speed comes into play, and seeing as Lester’s change-up is at 87 MPH, when his straight fastball might touch 93 on occasion, there are clear issues here, and Lester needs a greater disparage of speed between the pitches.
Not meaning to overlook the most exciting part of the game, the Sox picked up a very impressive come from behind win. Manny Ramirez is clearly locked in at this early point in the season, which we have not been saying about David Ortiz, who picked up two hits, though of much lesser fanfare. For others who have been struggling, Mike Timlin worked an inning of effective relief, and was credited with the win when the Sox came back in the ninth. The performance, in which Timlin did not surrender a hit and recorded a strikeout, lowers his ERA from an absurd 81.00 to a still ghastly 20.25. But, all jesting aside, Timlin needs to have performances like this, because this will be his primary job: keep closes games close. If Timlin implodes like he had done in his only two appearances this year, the Sox may not have come back. Also good notes from the bullpen, the performance of Julian Tavarez should not be overlooked. He came in with the bases loaded and got two strikeouts, and wound up with four in total in two and two-thirds innings. There is a reason that the Sox resigned Tavarez this past off-season, and it was for Tavarez to be able to warm up quickly, come in, stop the damage, and eat up good innings. Needless to say, he is a very valuable player on the team, and the Sox made the right decision to hold onto him.
Watching the Sox come back against Indians closer Joe Borowski, and then Jonathan Papelbon close the game out for the Sox, simply made fans scratch their heads. No disrespect to Borowski, who led the A.L. in saves last year, but he is a junk ball pitcher, at best. The fastball he threw to Ramirez was clocked at a less than mediocre 82 MPH. Some pitchers can be effective without an overpowering fastball (Greg Maddux is going to win over 350 games as such), but a closer can not hope to use off-speed pitches to step up a fastball in the low 80s. Then, in stark contrast, Papelbon absolutely overmatched the Indians in the ninth, save a good swing by Hafner. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera had no hope to even make contact with Papelbon’s fastball. It is also worth pointing out that because of the reputation of Papelbon’s stuff, he does not have to throw his splitter and yet hitters still have to anticipate it, which is why even above average hitters are always late on his fastball. If Borowski is going to continue to be relied on, the Indians may find themselves in trouble in September.
Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox rap up this short trip to Cleveland. (To view previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: April 14, 2008 12:19 am
Edited on: April 14, 2008 12:22 am
Daisuke Matsuzaka reverted to the 2007 version that we knew of, as opposed to the much improved version we had seen in the last two starts. Matsuzaka had been pitching very effectively, spotting his off-speed pitches and being aggressive with his fastball. However, tonight, we saw much of what agonized Sox fans last year, a pitcher with explosive stuff, but instead of going after hitters, he nit-picked on the corners and tried to get hitters to help him out. The Yankees, however, are just as patient as the Sox, and that led to six walks given up by Matsuzaka, which ran his pitch count to 116 through five innings. He had a significantly higher ERA at home last year, and also posted an ERA over 6 against the Yankees last year, which are two areas that he has to pick up. He can pitch shutout ball away from Fenway for the entire season, but if he can get it done at home and against the Yankees, he is in for some rough times in Boston.
Mike Timlin made another appearance tonight, and had another disaster. Much in the way that Manny Delcarmen had his troubles against Frank Thomas in the Toronto series, Timlin has now surrendered both home runs that Jason Giambi has hit this season. He gave up three hits and did not record any outs, and was saved by Javier Lopez from giving up any more runs as Lopez induced Johnny Damon to ground into a double play. He has now given up three runs, including the two homers to Giambi, while only recording one out, which results in an astronomical 81.00 ERA. Conventional wisdom would say that he was rushed back too quickly, having only made two appearances during a rehab assignment in Pawtucket. But, it may be that, at 42 and one of only thirteen pitchers with over 1,000 appearances in the history of major league baseball, he just does not have much left in the tank. Eventually, if his woes continue, he may be headed back to the disabled list.
Speaking of the bullpen, Lopez pitched the most effective, and his most important inning, of the short season thus far. This was exactly the reason why Lopez was held while the Sox had to go through roster issues. Lopez, criticized because although he is on the team as a lefty specialist, the numbers have shown him to be more effective against righties, will always play an important role against the Yankees. The Yankees employ five lefties and two switch hitters, and Lopez was brought in to retire Johnny Damon, who grounded into a double play, and Robinson Cano. Lopez is the classic example of a pitcher who will always have a job in the big leagues simple because he is a left-handed pitcher who has a deceptive delivery. But, if he does what he did tonight, there will be no complaints from the Sox. It is also very encouraging that on a night, as expected, where Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima are unavailable, the rest of the bullpen can at least hold on and get the important outs. Other than Timlin, Delcarmen, who finished the game, along with performances by Lopez and David Aardsma, all had great outings, and at this point of the season, that will be a big advantage over other teams, like the Yankees and Tigers, as we have seen.
As was anticipated, David Ortiz was given the night off, albeit the rubber game of the first series of the season against the rival Yankees. The Sox next scheduled day off is not until April 28, which, beginning on April 8, would have been a stretch of 20 straight games. Manny Ramirez was in the lineup as the designated hitter, and with the still hot J.D. Drew was moved up to the number three spot, Jacoby Ellsbury replaced Ramirez in left and picked up a hit and an RBI. There is no question that the Sox looked much more consistent on offense tonight because there was finally some consistency at the top of the lineup. Since coming back from Japan, the Sox have won back-to-back games twice this season, and Ellsbury has started all of those games. It may not be that Ellsbury is that much better than Coco Crisp, who has a higher batting average this year than Ellsbury, but it is clear that the offense will respond more when the lead-off man can start getting into a routine.
Tags: Cleveland Indians, Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, Hideki Okajima, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Giambi, Javier Lopez, Johnny Damon, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Manny Ramirez, Mike Timlin, New York Yankees, Pawtucket Red Sox, Red Sox, Robinson Cano, Toronto Blue Jays