Tuesday, June 30, 2009


It's almost a sure thing if you go to a Sox/O's series in Baltimore, that you'll see the Sox win. And if you want to boost the odds, go when Jon Lester is pitching.

Lester improved to 3-1 in June with a 1.80 ERA, combining for a shutout with Delcarmen, Okajima, Ramirez, and Papelbon. He struck out 8, but managed his pitch count brilliantly, going deeper into the game than he's gone since June 12th, which I think was the last time I saw the sun.

JD Drew was a double shy of the cycle. He hit in the leadoff spot and did a very good job.

Mike Lowell missed another game. He's up in Boston getting lubricant injected into his hip. A DL stint is possible.

Jonathan Papelbon registered his 19th Save. It was one of those BS Saves. He got 1 out with 2 men on base, so since the tying run was on deck, it's a Save.

John Smoltz makes his second start in a Red Sox uniform. I think he'll be a lot calmer, and will build on those last few innings he threw in Atlanta. He's also facing 3-2 Rich Hill and his 6.03 ERA, which helps.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Nick Wass

Sunday, June 28, 2009


After winning 1-0 Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox found themselves on the opposite end of a 1 run scoreline. Brad Penny was as solid as Brad Penny can be, going 6, allowing 2 homers, but both were solo shots.

The Red Sox lineup was silenced by Tommy Hanson, which actually isn't something to be too ashamed of. The 22 year old righty is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA. He's no slouch.

And when it comes to 1 run games, you win some, you lose some. As inane as that cliche is, it's true here.

The Sox continue their road trip with a stop in Baltimore. Weren't we just there? Jon Lester faces Jason Berken, who is 1-4 with a 6.32 ERA. Getting shutout by him would be something to be ashamed of.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Gregory Smith


It wasn't easy, but Tim Wakefield got win #10 yesterday afternoon, thanks to 6 shutout innings, and some shaky bullpen work that bent but did not break.

Jonathan Papelbon confuses me. He's 18 of 19 in save opportunities, but he was very close to blowing it yesterday. He missed by a good 3 or 4 inches with a pitch to McCann, and if Turner Field weren't such a big yard, that game is tied.

It's hard to argue with 18 saves, and a tidy 1.91 ERA. But a 1.36 WHIP isn't what we're used to with Papelbon. Nor are the 16 walks he's allowed (he walked only 8 last year). Is he getting lucky by escaping all these jams, or is he simply bearing down when it matters most? It's hard to tell through only 33 innings.

Anyway, the Sox have now won 8 series in a row, and go for the sweep this afternoon. Brad Penny faces Tommy Hanson.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/John Bazemore

Saturday, June 27, 2009


The Bruins entered the 2009 NHL Draft in an awkward position. There's little that they really need except for depth. And their minor league system is already full of potential 3rd line forwards and 5th defensemen. But they do carry a bit too much money on their ledgers for the shrinking salary cap.


The Bruins did not trade up in the 1st round, but they did find a guy who seems to fit the Bruins' mold, or at least could. Caron is 6' 2" and around 200 pounds. He scored 26 times in 56 games last season. He'll turn 19 in November, so he has time to develop. He's not a stud, and he's not NHL ready. He's actually a bit of a project. One knock on him is that he has an attitude problem, and he thinks he's tougher than he truly is. But these wrinkles can be easily ironed out in the Bruins' system. Either that, or he'll be thrown out with the trash.


One thing that was exposed in the postseason was a lack of depth at defense. To be fair, Matt Hunwick and Andrew Ference went down with injuries. But you can never have enough depth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially on the blue line. At 6 feet and 185 pounds, he doesn't bring much size to the position, but he makes up for it in skating and speed. He is an asset on the power play. He just turned 18 in March, so he has time to bulk up, and learn to use that speed intelligently.


This guy's a Boston Bruin. He only has 30 goals in 4 seasons up in the Ontario junior league, but he has 502 penalty minutes. He turns 20 this summer, is 6' 3" and 203 pounds. But the Bruins don't carry pure fighters who do nothing but mix it up with their fists. Just look at Lucic, Chara and Bitz, who can brawl with the best of them, but can also skate and perform in all three zones. So while Macdermid might entertain fans in Providence, he'll have to work on all elements of his game before getting a chance in Boston.


Randell's a scrapper who can check, can fight, and occasionally pick up "junk" goals when he gets near the net. His skating is suspect, and the Bruins have recently become obsessed with quality skating. If he can improve that part of his game, he has potential to be a 4th liner. But without improved skating, he'll struggle to reach Boston.

The Bruins ended their draft with the son of the Florida Panthers' assistant GM. Sexton will play at Clarkson in the ECAC, so fans in New England can get a sneak peak when he plays at Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth.

So that's the draft. Nothing too thrilling. A few guys who might become solid contributors in the NHL, but could also become journeyman AHLers. Almost every one of these guys has one major aspect of their game to work on, but I think one or two will eventually become staples for the B's down the road.

Boston.com's Bruins Blog


Josh Beckett continued his streak of shutout innings with 7 innings of scoreless work, and 6 strikeouts. He wasn't at his absolute best, but he was more than good enough to earn his 9th win. He's 7-1 since the start of May.

In the last three weeks David Ortiz has his 7 HR, with 14 RBI, and a .333 average. What makes me happy is that he's turning on balls and pulling them to right field. His solo shot Friday night was a blast in a park that's unfriendly to HR hitters. And it was off a solid pitcher who was having a very good night.

Ortiz's hot streak has come at a perfect time, because Mike Lowell might be missing some time. Youkilis was at 3rd last night, and Lowell is likely to skip the remainder of the Atlanta series. He might even come up to Boston to get an injection of lubricant for stiffness in his hips.

Man of the Game:
Josh Beckett - 7 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 6 K

Tim Wakefield gets a chance to make his All-Star case on a national stage this afternoon. He faces Javier Vazquez.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/John Amis

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


In case anyone was wondering "How can a team be below .300?" The Nationals provided all the answers last night. It's a team game, and even though John Lannan had a solid start, enough of the Nationals are bad enough to drag down the whole ship.

Tavarez, Villone, Wells, Colome, and Hanrahan combined for 2.2 innings and 8 runs. The game turned from a nice 4-3 struggle to a 10-3 laugher in a matter of minutes.

Jason Bay might just be the American League's MVP. He was 4 for 6 with 3 RBI, 4 runs scored. We're not even halfway through the season and he has 69 RBI and 19 HR. He's on pace for 160 RBI and 44 HRs. Those are Manny Ramirez type numbers, but as Terry Francona said on WEEI this afternoon "[Bay's] a great teammate."

Bay is the Man of the Game with his 4 for 6, 3 RBI night.

Jon Lester faces 1-2 Craig Stammen tonight.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Tim Thomas added another trophy to an already impressive case, winning the Vezina last week. He becomes the first Bruin to claim that hardware since Pete Peeters in 1983, and the first American since Jim Carey in ‘96.

But Tim Thomas’ trophy case isn’t impressive just because of the number of awards he’s won. It’s more the variety, and the difficulty in pronunciation. ECAC All-Star is easy enough on the tongue, but what the heck is the Urpo Ylönen trophy?

Tim Thomas’ road to the NHL veered far off the beaten path. Strangely enough, for the first time in his career the Vezina winner goes into next season as the clear cut #1 goalie. He’s played in minor leagues, defunct leagues, foreign leagues. He knows Scandinavia better than Erik the Red. And he’s always seemed to have an obstacle in his way. But all that apparently did was make him better and better.

Some of the cities Thomas has played in: Canton, NY; Hanover, NH; Birmingham, AL; Helsinki, Finland; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Cincinnati, OH; Stockholm, Sweden; Providence, RI; Hartford, CT; Worcester, MA; Gothenburg, Sweden; Kalamazoo, MI; Houston, TX; Hamilton, Ontario; Hamilton, NY; Turku, Finland; Orlando, FL; Salt Lake City, UT; Long Beach, CA; Kansas City, MO; Karlstad, Sweden; Portland, ME; Hämeenlinna, Finland; and that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

After playing high school hockey in his native Michigan and being relatively unrecruited, Thomas started all 4 years for the Vermont Catamounts. He earned several conference and national honors, was drafted as a sophomore by the Nordiques, and led Vermont to its first Frozen Four in program history. Thomas still holds school records for most career saves (3,950), most career wins (81), most career minutes (8,286), and most saves in a season (1,079).

After college, Thomas was still on the beaten path, but not for long. He played in 6 games for the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL, then just 1 game for the Houston Aeros of the now defunct IHL. He then quite literally went off the map, all the way to Helsinki, playing for HIFK in the Finnish SM-liiga. In 18 games for HIFK, he registered an astounding 1.62 GAA and .947 SV%. His team won the Kanada-malja, the Finnish championship. Thomas was also awarded the Urpo Ylönen , Finland’s version of the Vezina. He’s the only American to win that award.

It must have seemed like just a one year thing to Thomas. He put up impressive numbers in a decent league. They were certainly impressive enough for the Edmonton Oilers, who signed him after his Finnish campaign. Thomas was sent to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, where he struggled for 15 games before once again going to HIFK in Finland. His numbers were still solid (2.23 GAA), and his team made it to the Kanada-Meljer finals once more, losing to TPS.

He gave North American hockey another try. And once again, he failed to impress. In 36 games for the Detroit Vipers (another IHL team), he had a 3.56 GAA and .892 SV%. Not bad enough to totally give up on him, but not good enough to merit promotion.

Once again, he went back to Europe, this time to Sweden and their Elitserien, playing for another alphabet soup team: AIK. He played well, eventually becoming a fan favorite, thanks in part to helping AIK make the playoffs.

It must have seemed as though the NHL would never knock on his proverbial door. He was drafted in 1994, graduated from Vermont in ‘97. It was now 2001, and the only leagues he’d succeeded in were in the East European Time Zone. He must have known that in General Manager’s offices across the NHL, when the name “Tim Thomas” came up, it was quickly dismissed as a guy who couldn’t cut it against potential NHL players. A guy who could thrive in the wide open spaces of European hockey, but perhaps struggled to see the puck in the tightly packed checking game of North America.

For the first time in his career, he didn’t go back to North America to play. He stayed in Scandanavia, shifting back to Finland, which must have started to seem more and more like home. He joined a team called Kärpät. He’d been signed by the Bruins, most likely because he’d be a cheap replacement in net. The Bruins’ business and hockey philosophy at the time was to buy low, sell high, with an emphasis on selling. Thomas was certainly low, and other Bruin goalies were about to be sold high.

He returned to America in 2002, playing for the Providence Bruins. In his circuitous and crazy career, he’d often return to cities he’d once played in, but now for different teams. In college, he played in Providence against Brown. He’d return to Connecticut, New Hampshire, Central New York, all as a Providence Bruin. For Vermont, he went to the Frozen Four in Cincinnati. He’d play there again as a Detroit Viper.

In 2002-03, Thomas was down deep on the Boston Bruins’ depth chart. Steve Shields, John Grahame, and Jeff Hackett took most of the net-time for the B’s. And in Providence, Thomas had to compete with Andrew Raycroft. But the buy-low, sell-high Bruins mentality went into action. John Grahame was too talented to stay, so was traded to the Lightning. And despite the number of names the Bruins had on their depth-chart, none of them fully satisfied the needs of the position. So Thomas got his first breath of NHL hockey, 4 games, 3 wins, 3.00 GAA, and a .907 SV%.

Thomas didn’t get any such opportunity in 2003-04. Andrew Raycroft was brilliant, winning the vacant #1 goalie’s spot. He was backed up by veteran Felix Potvin, and with the Bruins’ rolling to a 41-19-15-7 record, there was no need to give Thomas a shot at the NHL.

But Thomas finally had the chance to be THE man in Providence. He had a .941 SV% and 1.84 GAA for a mediocre team. He’d finally figured out North American hockey. And that’s when the Lockout happened so he went back to Europe to play.

By now, he was elite. It’s just that nobody outside of Helsinki or Rhode Island really knew it. A 1.58 GAA and .946 SV% for Jokerit in Finland won him the Kultainen kypärä (best player, voted by players), and Lasse Oksanen (best player) trophies. He set a league record for shutouts with 15. He led Jokerit to the finals.

In hindsight, we can see that by 2004-05, he was ready for the NHL. But back then, watching him excel in Finland was expected. His problems had been in North America. He also had a reputation for losing his cool. If he allowed two quick goals, for instance, he’d meltdown and let in three or four more with ease. He had a notorious temper. Perhaps he still does.

He seemed destined to be an NHL backup. The Bruins put 21 year old Hannu Toivonen ahead of Thomas on their depth chart, and once again, Timmy was relegated to the AHL.

He’d almost joined Jokerit for another season, and it was fortuitous that he did not. Contract problems with Raycroft, and an injury to Toivonen gave Thomas the #1 spot. He registered a respectable 2.77 GAA in 38 games. But next season, he was still behind Toivonen on the depth chart. The Bruins trusted a kid with only 24 games experience in Finland’s top league more than Thomas, who had 118 games in that league.

The Bruins may not have trusted Thomas, but he trusted himself. Thomas let his on-ice performance speak for him. As Toivonen struggled, Thomas was solid. He won the starting job, and played in 66 games. It was 2007, 10 years after graduating college.

But he’d have to compete for the starting job again in 2007-08. The Bruins had such little faith in him, they traded for veteran Manny Fernandez. Fernandez managed only 4 starts before succumbing to a season ending knee injury. Thomas took over the #1 spot, but was occasionally spelled for long stretches by Alex Auld, who played in 23 games.

Coming into 2008-09, the Bruins still didn’t have complete faith in Thomas. He was to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Another young Finn, Tuukka Rask, was impressing in Providence, and was perhaps a cheap alternative to re-signing Thomas. There was also Manny Fernandez, earning $4+ million to be a backup must not have sat well with Bruins management. One again, Thomas had to win the starter’s job. And he did.

In his first 15 games of the season, Thomas recorded a pair of shutouts, 9 wins, only allowed 29 goals, and saved .940 of the shots he faced. The contest for the starter’s job didn’t last long. And the rest, as they say, is history. Best GAA, best SV%, Vezina Trophy, his second All-Star Game win (he hadn’t even been on the ballot), and finally, he knows for a fact that he’ll be the starting goalie in the 2009-10 season.

Hopefully this comfort doesn‘t breed complacency. After all, his career is littered with unknown futures leading to future successes. But this doesn’t strike me as a guy who is capable of complacency.

Monday, June 22, 2009


In a not so shocking move, the Sox have placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list. With John Smoltz starting Thursday night in Washington, and Matsuzaka's horrendous starts mounting, the move makes sense. But now we find out that an MRI revealed shoulder weakness. The same kind of shoulder weakness that put Matsuzaka on the DL in April.

As Francona put it: "This is not going to be a two-week DL." And it seems as though the Sox will wait until they can gauge improvement in that shoulder, before even considering activating him.

Francona and the Sox have also been blaming the World Baseball Classic, which is likely to blame for at least part of Matsuzaka's shoulder woes. At the very least, the Sox weren't able to implement their own spring routines.

And frankly, do you think Tatsunori Hara (managed Japan in WBC) gave a rat's ass about how Daisuke's arm would be doing in June and July?

It's also possible that the sudden change in Daisuke's pitching routines from Japan to the US has caused some problems. A return to Japanese habits in the WBC could only exacerbate such an issue.

I, for one, think that the WBC added fuel to a small fire, turning it into an inferno. There's always been a lot of talk about Daisuke's routines in Japan, and how he'd adjust to pitching in The States. Most seemed to think that throwing as much as he did in Japan would cost him years off his career.

I'm in the opposite camp. i think reducing his throwing is part of what's causing these recent shoulder troubles. It's not the common-sense viewpoint, and it certainly isn't what baseball people think about throwing. Muscles become accustomed to workloads. If those workloads are QUICKLY reduced or increased, the muscle will suffer. A professional weight-lifter will lose muscle mass if he cuts down on his workouts. He will also injure himself if he tries doubling his bench press.

Daisuke's in an adjustment period. The WBC was a relapse into some strange pitching routines. And I doubt any Red Sox pitcher will participate in the next one.



Nick Green deserves an honorable mention in the category of Red Sox Contributions for the 2009 Season. The reason the Sox are in first is pitching, along with Jason Bay's hitting, and things like that. But Nick Green has quietly hit .293 with a .345 OBP. And Sunday afternoon, he was on center stage, hitting a walk-off shot to right, and giving the Sox their 4th consecutive series win.

An extremely encouraging sight was David Ortiz's bomb to left center in the 1st. He's hitting .292 in June. But more importantly, he's slugging .604 with an OBP of .393. Those are the kinds of numbers we're used to seeing from David Ortiz.

Is this just a fluke sort of thing with Ortiz? Is his slump merely slumping, waiting to eventually return back to normal? Is this a bear market rally? I don't think it is. But I do doubt that he'll continue with the .600 SLG and .390 OBP numbers.

The Sox have Monday off, then play the lowly Nationals in DC. How bad are the Nats? They're 7 games behind Cleveland for 29th place in Major League Baseball. They're 21 games behind the Red Sox. They're the only team in baseball with a winning percentage below .300. They could win 1 game in this 3 game series, and their winning percentage would go up.

Brad Penny faces John Lannan Tuesday night.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Sunday, June 21, 2009


After struggling in his last outing, Josh Beckett returned to the form we've seen from him since the start of May. He struck out 7 Braves on the way to his first complete game shutout with the Red Sox.

Beckett earned his 8th win, and his ERA is down to 3.74. It was at 6.75 on May 1st. And since May 1st, he's 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA.

The performance was a welcome relief after Daisuke's disaster Friday night.

The Sox send Tim Wakefield out this afternoon. He faces Jair Jurrjens, who's 5-5 with a 2.89 ERA, and has too many J's in his name.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Daisuke threw the idea of a 6 man rotation out the window (he was aiming for the door) last night, as he had another brutal outing. In 4 innings, he allowed 8 hits, walked 4, and let in 6 runs.

He falls to 1-5 on the season, with a bloated 8.23 ERA, and an atrocious WHIP of 2.20. He hasn't reached 6 innings in any of his starts.

Opponents are hitting .378 against him, and slugging .647. And what's even more disheartening is that even when he has his A-Game, he's a 5 inning pitcher.

Judging by his disappointed post-game demeanor, I think he might accept an assignment to AAA. He has a clause in his contract requiring consent to being demoted, but I can't see what else he or the Sox can do. It takes him 45 minutes to warm-up, so a bullpen stint is out of the question. Besides, how is being a long-reliever, pitching inconsistently for 3 innings in mop-up situations, going to help him out?

We should remember that this guy went from Japan straight to Major League Baseball. There was no AAA stint, no halfway house for him. And although he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA last year, it was the strangest 18-3 in baseball history. He's the record holder for fewest innings pitched for an 18 game winner.

The Sox offense also needs to get back on the ball. 3 hits in 2 games is awful.

Man of the Game:
Garret Anderson - 3 for 3, 4 RBI

Matsuzaka: 0.8
Ortiz: 0.2

Derek Lowe faces Josh Beckett tonight.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Friday, June 19, 2009


Two things gave you an edge in last night's NHL Awards ceremony: being Russian or being a Bruin. Every Bruin nominated for an award won it. Tim Thomas won the Vezina (best goalie), Zdeno Chara won the Norris (best defenseman), and Claude Julien won the Jack Adams (best coach).

Tim Thomas was simply unbelievable for the Bruins. He led the NHL with a 2.10 GAA, and .933 SV%. In the postseason, he had a playoff best 1.85 GAA in his 11 games, which came with a .935 SV%.

Timmy's the first Bruin to win the Vezina since 1983 (Pete Peeters), and the first American to win it since 1996 (Jim Carey). It's only the 8th time the trophy has been given to a Bruin.

Zdeno Chara is simply the big brother on the Bruins. Mess with anyone in black and gold, and you'll eventually have to answer to Chara. He was +23, tied for 7th best among defenseman. His 19 goals were 4th amongst defensemen, he was 6th in ice time. He used his impressive wingspan to literally decrease the amount of free ice opponents could use. He was both intimidating and irritating. Whenever he was on the ice, he changed the dimensions of the game.

Chara's the first Bruin to win the Norris since 1994 (Raymond Bourque). Since the award was first given in 1954, a Bruin has won it 14 times (Orr had 8, Bourque had 5). Chara is the first Slovakian to win the Norris.

Claude Julien took a team of kids and turned them into contenders. Who knows what would've happened had key players like Kessel, Krejci, Kobasew, and Ference remained healthy. But this team wasn't much different from the 8th seeded, below .500 Bruins that exited in the 1st round of the 2008 playoffs. So this award is really given for two years of coaching.

Claude's the first Bruins coach to win the award since Pat Burns in 1998. This is only the 3rd time a Bruins coach has won the Jack Adams.

It also should be noted that Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez share the William M. Jennings Trophy for playing goalie 25+ times for the team that allowed the fewest goals.

Photo Credit:
Ryan Remiorz/Associated Press

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


With players on this team who have names like Penny, Bay, and Green; the plays on word truly are endless.

The Red Sox celebrated their 500th consecutive home sellout with a nice 6-1 defeat over the Florida Marlins. Brad Penny went 5 innings for the win, and Dustin Pedroia had 3 hits and 3 RBI.

Penny's start was one of the most fortunate outings I've seen a Red Sox starter have. Allowing 3 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings is almost Matsuzakan. And a pair of hard hit shots belted Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu in the 5th luckily found Red Sox gloves.

I'm honestly not too impressed with Penny, and think he'll be the odd man out when it comes time to decide on 5 starters.

How cool was it that the Sox got their 500th sellout in a row on the 49th anniversary of Ted Williams' 500th homerun?

The Man of the Game:
Dustin Pedroia - 3 for 5, double, 3 RBI

The Sox go for the sweep Thursday night. Jon Lester faces Ricky Nolasco, who is 2-6 with a 7.62 ERA.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola


I'm just watching the Red Sox game, and they're talking about Holds, which are statistics for middle-relief pitchers. But Don Orsillo got the definition wrong. Holds are rewarded to relief pitchers who enter a game in a save situation, record at least one out, all without surrendering the lead.

So if it's a 4-1 game in the 7th, and Hideki Okajima gets 2 outs, keeping it a 4-1 game, he'll get a Hold.

So it's a Save, just without finishing the game.


Is Tim Wakefield an All-Star? He certainly helped his case in that argument last night with win #9 of the season. It wasn't Ace-like - 6 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts - but he's gotten the job done this season. He's probably been the most consistent pitcher in the Red Sox' rotation, and I for one would like to see his efforts rewarded with an All-Star selection.

David Ortiz had another great night. He pulled a shot over the bullpen in the 4th. Later in the same inning he hit a 2 run single. He's got 4 homeruns and 10 RBI in June and we're only halfway through the month. He had 1 HR and 18 RBI in April and May combined.

Brad Penny faces Andrew Miller tonight. It will be the 500th straight sellout at Fenway Park, which is quite an achievement by the fans of Boston, as well as a testament to the quality of the on-field product we've seen here the past few seasons.


Photo Credits:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Things were looking pretty good thru 4 innings. The Sox were up 4-1, Beckett was dealing. Then it all went to hell. Beckett gave up 4 runs and the lead in the 5th. But he himself tied things up again with a homer in the top of the 6th. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to settle down, and he and the pen let up 6 runs in the 7th.

It was an unfortunate way to end what has been a tremendous stretch of baseball. Facing four straight 1st place teams, the Sox went 9-3. It doesn't get better than that. And despite this afternoon's woes, there's still plenty about this team to be impressed with.

Man of the Game:
Jimmy Rollins

Beckett: 0.7
Bard: 0.3

The Sox have a day off before the Marlins come to town. Tim Wakefield faces Chris Volstad Tuesday night.

John Smoltz will pitch on Thursday. But whether he'll pitch in Boston against the Marlins or in Pawtucket against the Charlotte Knights.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

Friday, June 12, 2009


The Sox are looking insanely good these days. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been unstoppable. Ortiz is hitting. Drew is hitting. And the bullpen is deeper than Salvador Dali preaching on acid.

Lester struck out 11 in 7 innings of work. He was robbed of his 6th win, but I don't think he minds much. In his last three starts, he's tossed 22 innings, and allowed only 3 earned (1.23 ERA).

Razor Ramon Ramirez did allow that atomic shot off Ryan Howard's bat. But Howard's victimized 18 other pitchers this season, so nothing to be ashamed of there. Ramirez did settle down and keep it a 2-2 game.

Then the depth of the Sox pen became apparent. Remember, this was a night off for Papelbon, and the Sox pen still came through. Masterson for 7 outs, Saito for 2, then Bard for the last 3. Bard struck out the side in the 13th for his first Major League save.

This is the 4th straight series the Sox have had against a division leading team (at the start of the series). So far in that stretch, Boston is 8-2. Very impressive stuff.

Saturday night Daisuke faces my favorite player in the universe: Antonio BASTARDO! But seriously, Bastardo is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Red Sox were not supposed to win this game. Brad Penny against CC Sabathia? Yet Brad Penny outdueled Sabathia with 6 shutout innings. Then Delcarmen craps the bed and the Yankees lead 3-1. So game over, right? Wrong. A magnificent 8th inning rally flipped a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

Dustin Pedroia's at-bat in the 8th was monstrous. Not only did he work a walk, but he did it by making Sabathia throw 10 pitches, ensuring that JD Drew would be the last batter he faced.

David Ortiz's homerun in the 2nd was the most encouraging of his 4. He hit it over the Monster, and hit it off a tough lefty who was on his A-Game. Without a doubt his most impressive homer of the season. His 2 for 3 night launched his average over the .200 mark for the first time since May 23.

Brad Penny may have saved his spot in the rotation. Or perhaps he's raised his pricetag on the trade market. If all the Sox get for him is some minor league short-stop, I'll be very disappointed.

This was a stolen victory, plain and simple. Some excellent defensive plays, taking full advantage of a shoddy bullpen, and a late inning comeback. Good teams steal wins like this one, and over the course of a 162 game season, they add up.

Man of the Game:
Brad Penny - 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Another big series starts Friday night as the Sox travel to Philadelphia. The defending champs are leading the NL East by 4 games this season. Jon Lester faces Joe Blanton.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer


The Red Sox are 7-0 against the Yankees this season. Which is probably a partial product of playing them 5 times in Fenway (where the Sox have the 2nd best home record in baseball) and only twice in Yankee Stadium (the Sox have the 12th best road record in baseball).

But 7-0 is 7-0 is 7-0.

Chien-Ming Wang is atrocious this season. His 2.2 inning, 4 run outing actually lowered his ERA to 14.34. As a starter, he has a 21.60 ERA, and opponents are hitting .507 off him.

Hideki Okajima saved this game. Ramon Ramirez was struggling, but Francona utilized the depth he has in the bullpen. Which is yet another reason why a 6 man rotation is moronic. The Sox have a deep bullpen, why strain it when guys like Wakefield, Smoltz, Penny, and Matsuzaka are 5 to 6 inning pitchers at best?

Wakefield was solid, and he improved to 8-3 on the year. But let's not get too hard about it. 6 innings and 3 earned runs is nice, and that's it.

David Ortiz's hit streak was snapped at 7 games. It had been perhaps the most intensely followed 7 game hit streak in Boston baseball history. He was 0 for 2 with a pair of walks. The Ortiz Optimists will point to his 410 foot flyball out to centerfield as another sign of his impending comeback. The Papi Pessimists (like myself) will observe that when he hits the ball hard, he's hitting it to center. He's not pulling it to right.

The Sox go for the sweep tonight, but it's a bit of a mismatch. Sabathia faces Penny. And Penny might be pitching to stay in a Red Sox uniform, because Smoltz is making his final rehab start tonight in Syracuse.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Not to sound too pessimistic, but it's a very good thing the Sox beat the Yankees in the sole pitching matchup of the series that favors Boston. Wakefield vs. Wang is a bit of a toss-up tonight, but I can just see a classic Wakefield vs. New York performance of 4 innings and 6 earned runs. Then Penny vs. Sabathia tomorrow night is an obvious mismatch.

Josh Beckett is on a killer hot streak. To Lou Merloni and the other idiots who're clamoring for a 6 man rotation, do you really want to mess with a guy pitching this well just so Brad Penny can get a few extra innings in before he's traded? 1 earned run allowed in Beckett's last 31 innings. That's a 0.29 ERA folks. 7 Quality Starts in a row, and he's 5-0 since the start of May.

David Ortiz was 1 for 4 with a homerun. Once again, I'm going to be annoyingly pessimistic. Ortiz's homer came off a pitcher having a lousy night. 5 hits, 5 walks for AJ Burnett in 2.2 innings. And as good as it was to see him hit a 450 footer to dead center, to me, that still means he's being late on the ball.

When David Ortiz is on his A Game, the homeruns are bombs over the Monster, and screeching line drives over the bullpen in right. I'm not criticizing him for hitting a homerun, but let's not get all excited about him hitting the ball straight instead of pulling it.

That being said, Ortiz is still a Yankee killer. He's hitting .304 against them with a .988 OPS. 7 of his 24 RBI have come off the Yanks, as have 5 of his 18 extra basehits.

Overall, he's 8 for his last 29 (.276). A few days ago, I declared that he needed to hit .250+ for a stretch of 5 games, and he's doing that. By doing so, he's continuing to earn his spot in the lineup.

The Man of the Game:
Nick Green - 2/4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R

Wakefield vs. Wang tonight.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Nothing but good news from Fenway Park last night. Jon Lester was simply dazzling. He started the game with 6.1 perfect innings, and finished with a complete game 2 hitter. He struck out 11 batters, 10 in the first 6 innings. And this Rangers lineup is hardly a bunch of pushovers and easy outs.

Even more good news: David Ortiz was 2 for 3 with a homerun. He actually has a 5 game hit streak going, and he's batting .285 in that stretch. It's hardly time to declare him out of his funk, but perhaps like the economy, he's getting worse at a better rate.

That being said, Ortiz's 2 homeruns this year both came against poor pitching in blowout victories.

Daisuke pitches this afternoon against the Padilla Flotilla.

The Red Sox passed the Yankees for 1st place as New York lost to Tampa Bay.

Man of the Game:
Jon Lester - 9 IP, CG, 2 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 ER


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Lackluster defense, mediocre pitching, and no timely hits. Did the Red Sox forget they were finally playing at home again?

The Sox were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Julio Lugo will take a lot of crap for his defense, but Brad Penny was the one who gave up the homerun ball, not Lugo. And I'm far from a Lugo fan, I'm not defending him, I'm just clarifying that Brad Penny gave up the homer.

Julio Lugo does suck though. The signing of JD Drew has never been popular amongst Sox fans, but at least Drew plays solid defense (when he plays at all), and can go on hot streaks. Lugo's never impressed me at the plate or on the field.

I can't wait for Jed Lowrie to get healthy so we have a .200 hitting, dependable short-stop. Speaking of Lowrie, he's ready enough to take batting practice.

John Smoltz is also making a rehab start for AAA Pawtucket today.

Man of the Game:
Kevin Millwood - 7 IP, 0 ER

Brad Penny: 0.6
Julio Lugo: 0.2
Mike Lowell: 0.2

Tonight at 7, Jon Lester looks to get a good start against a team that doesn't come from Ontario. He faces converted reliever Derek Holland.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Technically, their first sweep of a 3 game road series. They swept the Yankees in a 4 game series in the Bronx a few weeks ago.

Wakefield was solid, and did a great job of getting ahead in the count. Francona pulled him in the 7th after only throwing 81 pitches, but I think with this bullpen, and with the speed Wakefield can collapse, you've got to take him out once you see a few well struck balls. Even if they're foul, or outs.

Dontrelle Willis is horrible. He's why I hate when the cover of Sports Illustrated has some 16 year old prospect touted as baseball's LeBron James. In baseball, once you lose your edge, you're toast. And some extremely talented players never get their edge at all.

Jason Bay has an argument to be the MVP of the season 1/3 of the way thru. He hit a 2 run double in the 3rd, and now has 53 RBI to lead the team, and have the 2nd most in baseball.

The Man of the Game:
Tim Wakefield - 6.2 IP, 3 runs, 0 walks

The Sox are back at home Friday night, hosting the Rangers. Brad Penny takes on Kevin Millwood.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Josh Beckett is on fire. And Red Sox pitchers have continued to demonstrate why a 6 man rotation is moronic. Daisuke with his consistent strain on the bullpen, and now Beckett. Do you really want to reduce this guy's starts just as he's heating up?

7.2 innings pitched, 2 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts, 0 earned runs, and a no-hitter taken into the 8th. In his last 22.2 innings, he's allowed 1 earned run. He's had 6 straight Quality Starts, and he's 4-0 since the start of May.

JD Drew's starting to look good. June is his month, and he was 2 for 3 with a homer. It was also nice seeing Ortiz get an RBI double in the 8th. Then again, everyone was hitting the ball in the 8th inning.

The Sox look for their first 3 game road sweep of the season Thursday afternoon at 1. Wakefield faces Dontrelle Willis.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Duane Burleson


The Bruins answered one of their two biggest off-season questions by extending David Krejci's contract for 3 more years. The deal is said to be worth a bit more than $11 million in total, which means the 23 year old will only be hitting the cap for $3.75 million a year.

This is a steal. Krejci had 22 goals, and 51 assists in 08-09, along with the best +/- in the NHL (+37). He has nothing but upside, and reminds me of Marc Savard, only with more shooting ability.

Now the next question is Phil Kessel. There are rumors of Kessel being traded for the 3rd overall pick. There are also rumors of Savard being traded. If Savard goes, then keeping Kessel is a piece of cake, and you promote Krejci to the top line.

I don't think I've ever been this excited in June for an upcoming Bruins season.



Despite allowing 9 hits and 3 walks, Red Sox pitchers held the Tigers to 1 run. Daisuke was greatly assisted by 3 double plays turned behind him. And after struggling at the start of the 9th inning, Papelbon bore down and struck out the side.

Daisuke's performance is a great example of why a 6 man rotation would be devastating. Losing a bullpen pitcher would mean one less arm to absorb the 4 innings of work Daisuke gives to the bullpen, even when he pitches well.

But I'll say this in Daisuke's favor. He allowed 6 hits in 5 innings. But they were all singles. He gets slightly burnt, but he doesn't burst into flames.

David Ortiz has one more week until he has to leave the lineup for an extended period. I'm sorry, but getting a looping line drive single doesn't encourage me. He needs to hit .250+ for a 5 game stretch. That's not asking too much, is it?

Jason Bay blasted his 16th homerun of the season, and it propelled the Sox to victory. He has 51 RBI now. That's 7 more homers than Manny Ramirez, and 31 more runs batted in. Manny's been stuck on 6 HRs, and 20 RBIs for awhile now. Don't know what's up with that.

Man of the Game:
Jason Bay. Only one hit, but it was a big one.

Josh Beckett takes the hill tonight, looking to continue his hot streak.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Monday, June 01, 2009


It's been an idea floating on sports radio and on blogs. With John Smoltz two rehab starts away, and also with Clay Buchholz flirting with perfect games in AAA Pawtucket, could/should the Sox go with a 6 man rotation?

The answer is No! Nein! Nr! Non! Αριθ! いいえ! Não! Нет!

People who support this notion point to a stretch of games this summer. 19 games in 20 days. But this, to me, would be the worst time to shift to a 6 man rotation. It's true that starters would get additional rest, with older guys like Wakefield and Penny benefiting the most. But using up a roster spot for a starter will take one away from the bullpen. And during this 19 game/20 day stretch, the bullpen will need the most relief (pardon the pun).

A 6 man rotation with Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, and Smoltz will murder a shortened bullpen. Lester has always had trouble pitching more than 6 innings. Matsuzaka passes 100 pitches in the 4th inning. Penny gives 6 innings AT MOST, and Wakefield usually gets figured out by the 5th or 6th. Then there's Smoltz, who should hardly be counted on do go much deeper than 5 innings coming off the DL at his age.

Supporters of this idea also point to the insurance and risk management aspects of keeping 6 starters. If you keep Penny for a few weeks after activating Smoltz, for instance, you protect yourself in case Smoltz doesn't work out.

And that's nice. You can also bring up Buchholz, and if he struggles like he did in '08, you aren't stuck with him.

But at some point, a decision has to be made. It's sort of like football teams that rotate their quarterbacks. If you have 2 QBs, you really have 0 QBs. And if you have 6 starting pitchers, you really don't have 5 good ones.

Daisuke Matsuzaka can't be demoted to AAA, but he can be placed on the DL. And if he continues to struggle, another stint for arm fatigue won't be too heavily scrutinized.

There's also no pressing need to bring up Buchholz ASAP. In fact, a little Lou Merloni style "stuck in Pawtucket" frustration might be a good test of his ability to handle adversity.

And I wouldn't mind trading Buchholz for a big bat like Victor Martinez. Clay's value will never be higher.

There's also Wakefield. He's been roughed up a bit his last two times out. If he continues to struggle, he can be shifted to the bullpen. And I actually think he'd be a decent bullpen guy (again), with his knuckleball contrasting so much with hard throwers like Beckett and Papelbon.

My point is, that all the benefits of a 6 man rotation can be attained via alternative methods. A DL stint for a struggling starter, or a bullpen trip for Wakefield, and so on. But the costs of a 6 man rotation - shallow bullpen, and taking starts away from hot starters like Beckett (and now Lester) - are steep enough to want to stay with 5 starters.

I'm fine with adding Smoltz to the roster for his first start, without removing another starting pitcher. But more than one cycle with a 6 man rotation is one of the dumbest things the Red Sox could do.


I sure hope so. At the very least, his start Sunday afternoon was encouraging. He struck out a season high 12 batters, and cruised through 6 innings. The inning count was low, but with the Red Sox' bullpen, it isn't as big of a concern as it would have been last year. He only allowed 3 soft hits and 3 walks.

Lester needs to put together a few good starts, and this was a major step forward in doing so.

The offense also exploded as Francona juggled the batting order a bit. But I think facing Ricky Romero had more to do with the Red Sox' 8 runs than the lineup. 6 of the 8 Sox runs came with 2 outs, the big hit being Dustin Pedroia's 3 run shot with 2 outs in the 4th. That blast turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead.

Every Sox batter registered a hit, except Varitek, who walked 3 times.

Man of the Game:
Jon Lester - 6 IP, 12 K, 3 H, 1 ER

The Sox have a tough task this week, taking on the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, who are 15-7 at home. Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Rick Porcello Tuesday night.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese