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Sounds of the game: Red Sox revenge

08.22.09 at 10:25 pm ET
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There’s a couple of ways to look at what’s taken place in the first two games of this weekend’s series between the Red Sox and Yankees.

The Yankees pounded out 23 hits and 20 runs and earned the all-important first win. Or you could say the Red Sox have outscored the Yankees, 25-21, in the two games, winning 14-1 on Saturday.

Here’s the audio take from the participants following Saturday’s game.

Dustin Pedroia said the first two games just goes to show baseball is a crazy game.

Pedroia said it’s too late in the season for a ‘message’ game.

Pedroia said the Red Sox are swinging the bats well now.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi said his starter A.J. Burnett just didn’t have a good game.

Girardi said the world saw a human side to Burnett out on the mound.

Burnett said he was too indecisive on Saturday.

Read More: a.j. burnett, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, Yankees

Remembering Greg Montalbano

08.22.09 at 9:57 pm ET
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There’s no better way Kevin Youkilis could have paid tribute to his former minor league teammate and friend Greg Montalbano, who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday at the age of 31.

Youkilis played with the 1999 fifth round pick of the Red Sox as the two played in the organization in the early part of this decade.

On Saturday, Youkilis — who had written the initials GM on his cap — matched a career high by driving in six runs and homering twice in a 14-1 rout of the Yankees at Fenway. And he was thinking of the left-handed pitcher immediately following his first homer in the second inning off A.J. Burnett.

“When I pointed to the sky to him when I went to the dugout, that was for him,” Youkilis said. “That’s one of those things. There are some crazy things that have happened in my life where you always feel there’s somebody out there pushing balls out and doing great things for you.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, Yankees Greg Montalbano,

Red Sox Relievers Puzzled About Wagner Claim

08.22.09 at 5:34 pm ET
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The middle of August is far different than the days leading up to the July 31 deadline for trades not requiring waivers. At the end of last month, Red Sox players could not help but hear about potential deals that their club was contemplating. Three weeks later, that is not the case.

And so, prior to Saturday’s game, a few members of the bullpen expressed surprise to learn that the Red Sox had claimed Mets reliever Billy Wagner on waivers.

In itself, of course, the waiver claim doesn’t necessarily mean anything. By Tuesday at 1 p.m., the Mets can decide whether to grant the claim and relinquish Wagner to the Sox, whether they might work out a trade for Wagner with the Sox, or whether they will pull the left-hander back off of waivers and keep him. Even so, Sox relievers seemed a bit confused by the possibility that Wagner might join them.

“What has he done?” wondered Jonathan Papelbon. “Has he pitched this year?”

Indeed, on Thursday, Wagner made his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September. The former Mets closer looked great, topping out at 96 mph while striking out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect inning.

Wagner’s resume, of course, is that of one of the best closers ever. He has 385 career saves, a 2.40 ERA, and has struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings in his career. Even so, what he might be able to deliver going forward remains something of an open question given the fact that he is returning from a surgery that often requires some months before consistency returns.

“Is he ready to pitch or is he not? You know what I mean?” asked Papelbon. “I think our bullpen is good where we’€™re at right now. Don’€™t get me wrong. But I guess you could always make it better. It’€™s kind of like the Gagne thing, I guess.”

Ah, the Gagne thing. In 2007, the Sox had the best bullpen ERA in the majors thanks to the dominant work of Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen (among others). But the Sox worried about the toll of the season on Okajima especially (the Japanese lefty, in his rookie year, had to be shut down for a stretch due to fatigue), and so the Sox traded for Eric Gagne at the July 31 deadline.

At the time, in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2005, he was 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 saves. Gagne came with tremendous credentials, a former Cy Young winner who converted a record 84 straight save opportunities earlier in his career with Los Angeles. Yet stripped of the title of Rangers closer and made a set-up man for Papelbon in Boston, he fell on his face. Gagne had a 6.75 ERA in 20 appearances for the Sox, and was never effective.

His arrival was unsettling for Gagne and, to a degree, the rest of the Sox bullpen in ’07. Some of the members of the bullpen seemed leery that a move for Wagner might have a similar effect now, on a bullpen that ranks third in the A.L. with a 3.67 ERA. While an additional arm could well benefit the club, especially by redistributing the late-innings workload in a fashion that would keep everyone fresher for the stretch. Even so, the members of the Boston bullpen have seen before that theory and practice are not always aligned.

“We loved Gagne coming over here, just the stuff that he had, but it was an awkward situation this late in the season,” said Delcarmen. “I think our bullpen is fine right now.

“It is what it is. If (Wagner) comes and helps us win, that’€™s what we want. But sometimes, shaking things up this late might work out different. We’€™ll see what happens.”

Read More: billy wagner, eric gagne, Jonathan Papelbon, Mets

Wakefield looking to return to form

08.22.09 at 4:23 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield is just about as happy to be coming back to the Red Sox rotation next Wednesday as Terry Francona is to be having him there.

‘€œI’€™m excited,” Wakefield said before Saturday’s game against the Yankees. “My strength felt a lot better last night than it did my previous start and I’€™m ready to get back at it.’€

Wakefield pitched 5 2/3 innings for Triple A Pawtucket Friday night, giving up one run on two hits as he finished his rehab on his lower back strain and calf injuries.

‘€œTime, this hasn’€™t been an injury you could get a shot for or take medicine for and it’€™s going to get quicker for and it’€™s going to get better quicker,” Wakefield said. “It was just a matter of the body healing itself and getting my strength was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome.’€

Wakefield will be pitching against the Chicago White Sox on a day that would normally be Brad Penny’s start while Penny was told by skipper Terry Francona to “hold tight” while the rotation shakes itself out this weekend.

‘€œWake is gonna start on Wednesday. We talked to Wake this morning. We wanted to make sure he had no repercussions from last night, which I think is kind of common sense. Talked to R.J. a little bit, talked to Theo and John Farrell. So that’€™s ready to go. That keeps him in line. Just talked to Penny a little bit, and I understand their preparation is important. Day One, Day Two. I told him he’€™s got to kind of hang tight a little bit. We’€™ll get through today. And then we’€™ll tell him where we go from there.’€

‘€œI don’€™t know if I could have done any better than anybody else,” Wakefield said. “You always question that. It is what it is. I’€™m glad to be back and hopefully I can contribute as much as I did in the first half.’€

Francona is hopeful that when Wakefield returns, he’ll be healthy enough to help the team when they need him the most.

‘€œWe want him to be able to help us win,” the manager said. “I think we felt like arm-wise, he was probably better then he’€™d been because he had a little bit of a rest. And it was fun to watch him pitch. You kind of think, boy, he could sure help us. At the same time, if he can’€™t cover his position, and you’€™re putting him at risk of hurting himself, first of all, it’€™s not fair. And it’€™s hard to win a game.

“I think he really improved enough in yesterday’€™s outing. And again, there should be some improvement before he pitches again that everybody thinks he can pitch and win and that would be the idea. Again, I don’€™t think he’€™s going to win a track meet. I I don’€™t think he was before. But he can cover his position and he’€™s a really good pitcher, so I think we’€™re OK.’€

Read More: Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, Yankees,

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 8/22

08.22.09 at 1:39 pm ET
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Red Sox Nation’€™s biggest fear coming into this weekend’€™s series against the Yankees was that it would simply become an extension of their previous series in the Bronx ‘€“ the one in which the Sox were swept in four games and essentially conceded the AL East to the Yankees.

Friday night didn’€™t much allay that fear.

Following a good old-fashioned whooping at the hands of New York, the Sox will look to recover Saturday as they send rookie Junichi Tazawa to the mound against A.J. Burnett.

In his first two major league starts, the 23-year-old Japanese pitcher has gone 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, issuing five walks and striking out six. In each start, however, Tazawa only lasted for a minimal five innings.

Tazawa’€™s first game in the majors came only a few weeks ago on August 7 in the Bronx. The Sox and Yanks were both scoreless after nine innings, and after depleting almost the entire bullpen, Boston Manager Terry Francona called upon Tazawa to pitch in the 14th. Ultimately, the rookie let up the go-ahead two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the fifteenth, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today he’€™ll look to exact revenge against a Yankees lineup that isn’€™t too familiar with his pitching style.

His counterpart, A.J. Burnett, was actually the starting pitcher the night Tazawa blew the game at Yankee Stadium. Burnett pitched 7.2 scoreless innings that night, walking six and striking out six en route to allowing only one Red Sox hit all night. The 32-year-old Yankees pitcher has enjoyed a modestly successful season this year, going 10-6 with a 3.65 ERA and 135 strikeouts.

But in three starts against Boston in 2009, Burnett has struggled overall, going 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA and 14 walks. Look for David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia ‘€“ who each have two career homers against Burnett ‘€“ to try to take him deep today as the Sox attempt a rally in the AL East standings.

RED SOX VS. BURNETT

David Ortiz (31 career plate appearances against Burnett): .233 average/ .258 OBP/ .533 slugging, 2 homers, walk, 11 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (31): .261/ .452/ .522, 2 homers, 8 walks, 2 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (29): .250/ .379/ .250, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (28): .261/ .393/ .348, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (24): .238/ .333/ .476, homer, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (23): .200/ .304/ .250, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (22): .300/ .333/ .450, homer, walk, 4 strikeouts

Jason Bay (20): .333/ .400/ .556, homer, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (20): .200/ .400/ .267, 4 walks, strikeout

Rocco Baldelli (13): 2-for-13, 4 strikeouts

Nick Green (12): 3-for-11, walk, 2 strikeouts

Casey Kotchman (11): 3-for-11, 2 strikeouts

Alex Gonzalez (4): 0-for-4, strikeout

YANKEES VS. TAZAWA

Melky Cabrera (1 career plate appearance against Tazawa): 0-for-1, strikeout

Robinson Cano (1): 1-for-1

Johnny Damon (1): 0-for-1

Eric Hinske (1): 0-for-1

Derek Jeter (1): 1-for-1

Hideki Matsui (1): 0-for-1

Jorge Posada (1): 1-for-1

Alex Rodriguez (1): 1-for-1, homer

Mark Teixeira (1): 0-for-1, strikeout

Read More: a.j. burnett, Match-Ups, Tazawa, Yankees

Sounds of the game: The real Bronx Bombers

08.22.09 at 11:20 am ET
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Call it proving a point. Call it revenge for the start of the season or just call it adding on because they weren’t real confident in their bullpen but the New York Yankees kept adding on Friday night as they made it five in a row over the Red Sox with a 20-11 win in the highest scoring game ever between the two storied teams.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said it was just a bad night for Penny.

Francona said he didn’t want to stick with Michael Bowden any longer than he did.

Brad Penny said they hit everything they offered up.

David Ortiz said the team just needs to turn the page.

Ortiz said getting angry won’t help matters any.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees just swung the bats incredibly well.

Girardi on winning five straight against the Red Sox.

Derek Jeter on winning the first game the way they did at Fenway.

Jeter said the Yankees had good at-bats up and down the lineup.

Read More: David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Red Sox, Yankees

Wakefield’s post-start comments

08.21.09 at 10:15 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield spoke to the media after earning the win in a game that snapped Pawtucket’s losing streak at 10 games. Wakefield threw 81 pitches (56) strikes, over five and two-thirds innings. The lone blemish in his start was a second-inning solo shot allowed to Rochester DH Justin Huber. Wakefield allowed only one other hit, walked one, hit a batter, and struck out four.

On what lies ahead:

I’ll have to consult with Tito and John Farrell tomorrow and see what happens.I think they know that that’s my case [to return to Boston without any futher rehab].

On coming back to a team that is preforming dramatically worse than it was when he last pitched:

Hopefully I can pick up where I left off. I’m not going to add any more pressure to myself, but I want to make sure that I’m capable of doing that and getting into the sixth inning. I felt like I could have gone seven [tonight], but doing that here tonight proved to me that my stamina’s back and I’m ready to go. I felt great physically. Compared to last week, I think my strength has increased a tremendous amount from last week to tonight. I was able to still throw some more pitches, to cover first base. There’s still a little limp there, but nothing’s really bothering me to pitch.

On his control:

I did [have control over everything]. One thing I’ve really been working on is, wehen you don’t throw for a couple of weeks, the feel kind of leaves, and I was able to throw a couple of sides in between then and now and I feel very comfortable that I can pitch in the big leagues again.

On not covering first in time on the play in which Bates bobbled a grounder:

I just think it’s the way my leg is feeling right now. I kind of slowed up a little bit because I didn’t think there was going to be a play, and then there ended up being one and he ended up beating me to the bag, but I think I proved to myself that I can field my position prettty well, and again, physically I feel great.

On whether he was following the Sox/Yankees in between innings:

No, I was concentrating on what I had to do tonight, and obviously after [my start] I’ve been seeing what’s going on, and hopefully I can get back and help them win some games.

On playing against Stan Cliburn, current Rochester Red Wings manager and former manager of Wakefield while he still played first base in 1988:

It was pretty cool. I got to say hello to him today. I went over there to his office and sat down and talked to him for a while. I see him every spring training, and it’s nice to reminisce of twenty-something years ago when he was managing me in Watertown, New York.

On embracing the rehab stint:

I embrace it as much as I can, but I know it’s serious work. I’m not down here just goofing off and stuff. It’s very serious, it’s my job and I take it very seriously to try to get better and try to get back up to Boston and help them win.

On the embarrassing swing by Steven Tolleson that resulted in the game’s first strikeout:

Obviously that’s a good barometer, whether or not guys are making pretty decent contact. The only decent contact, obviously, was the homer, and it was just a misfire on my part, but after that I was able to settle in and continue to pitch.
On being locked in early on:

Yeah, I felt good, warming up to the bullpen it was just a matter of getting a little bit of a jitter out of me and getting settled in.

Read More: Tim Wakefield,

Wakefield makes second Pawtucket start

08.21.09 at 7:02 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET– Tim Wakefield, rehabbing from a back injury that landed him on the DL in July, is set to take the mound in his second rehab start with the PawSox tonight at McCoy Stadium. George Kottaras, also rehabbing, will catch the knuckleballer in a game in which Wakefield is not expected to surpass the 80-inning mark. Follow along on the Full Count blog for inning-by-inning analysis.

1-2-3 FIRST INNING

Wakefield threw nine pitches, seven of which were strikes in a 1-2-3 first inning. Rochester second baseman Steven Tolleson struck out on what may have been the slowest swing in the history of the game, much to the delight of the Pawtucket crowd. Leadoff man Matt Tolbert was the only hitter to make solid contact of the knuckleballer, as he smacked Wakefield’s second offering right at Pawtucket centerfielder Bubba Bell. Catcher Jose Morales grounded to short. With any luck the McCoy display will begin to show the All-Star’s speed so a better idea can be had of what the 43-year-old is offering velocity-wise.

ROCHESTER DH GOES YARD

Red Wings designated hitter Justin Huber sent a 66-mile an hour offering over everything in left field, giving Rochester a 1-0 lead in the second. Wakefield came back to retire Danny Valencia, David Winfree and Trevor Plouffe in order. The veteran threw only two balls in the inning, leaving him at 22 pitches and 18 strikes on the night.

RED WINGS GET ANOTHER HIT, BUT EFFICIENCY RULES FOR WAKEFIELD

Wakefield has thrown only 35 pitches through three innings. Though Brock Peterson was able to get the Red Wings’ second hit, he did so on a play that wouldn’t have harmed the Sox starter in the majors. Pawtucket third baseman Angel Chavez misplayed the ball hit by Peterson along the third base line, though the play was ruled a hit. Wakefield retired the other three hitters he faced in the inning via a groundout and two flyouts.

51 PITCHES THROUGH FOUR

Wakefield gave up his first walk of the game to Justin Huber (who homered off him in the second), but, like he has in previous innings, worked past a baserunner for another efficient frame. He also picked up his third strikout of the game when he caught Morales browsing to begin the inning. No. 49 has thrown only 51 pitches, 38 of which have been strikes. Meanwhile, his battery mate Kottaras is 1-1 with a walk.

STEALING OFF A KNUCKLEBALLER IS LIKE TAKING CANDY FROM A BABY

Defense once again proved to hurt Wakefield in this game. An error by first baseman Aaron Bates on a ground ball led to Dustin Martin reaching with one out in the fifth. After Peterson flied to second base, Martin stole second on a play that probably wasn’t as close as the crowd and PawSox manager Ron Johnson made it out to be. In the end, Tolbert flied to left to end a 16-pitch inning. Wakefield now stands at 67 pitches, 47 strikes, two hits, a home run, a walk, and three strikeouts. After Josh Reddick tied the game at one with an RBI single, Jeff Bailey has done the same to Wakefield a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Wakefield is coming back out to at least start the sixth inning.

WAKEFIELD PULLED WITH TWO DOWN IN THE SIXTH

Tolleson flied to right in a four-pitch at-bat, giving Wakefield around nine pitches to get through the inning. However, after it took him eight pitches to strike out Morales for a second time, Wakefield beaned Huber and was pulled by Johnson. In all, Wakefield allowed two hits, one of which was a homer, over 5 2/3 while walking one, hitting one, and striking out four. 56 of Wakefield’s 81  pitches went for strikes.

Read More: Tim Wakefield,

Responding to Rice

08.21.09 at 6:36 pm ET
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Joe Girardi chose not to publicly comment on Jim Rice’s opinion that today’s stars like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez aren’t taking care of the game that has taken care of them.

“You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod, you see [Derek] Jeter … guys that I played against and with, these guys you’re talking about cannot compare,” Rice told the Associated Press at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.

“You have these baggy uniforms, you have the dreadlocks, that’s not part of the game,” Rice added. “It was a clean game, and now they’re setting a bad example for the young guys. What you see right now is more individuals, it’s not a team. Now you have guys coming in, they pick the days they want to play, they make big money. The first thing they see are dollar bills.”

But in a classic case of reading between the lines, Girardi’s non-comment actually spoke volumes.

“I don’t really want to get into it just because I don’t think it’s our position to judge others and what other people’s comments are so I’m just going to leave it at that,” Girardi saidRead the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-ups, 8/21

08.21.09 at 1:03 pm ET
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Witnout using the s-word, Boston fans need no reminder that the Sox went into the their last series with the Yankees 8-0 against their chief rivals and came out of it 8-4. Currently 6.5 games behind New York in the AL East, the Sox will need to make a statement this weekend if they plan on eventually regaining the division lead.

YANKEES VS. BRAD PENNY

Though many are concerned with the fact that the Sox are trotting out both Penny and Junichi Tazawa in a series of such importance, it is worth noting that Penny turned in his best performance of the season against the Yankees on June 11 at Fenway. In the start, Penny threw six scoreless innings and struck out five against CC Sabathia in a 4-3 Sox win.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. Penny is 0-3 with a 7.54 ERA in his last four starts and has given up 6 homers in that span. Especially considering the fact that the wild-card nemeses Rangers and Rays are squaring off this weekend, a win from Penny would prove even more beneficial.

Mark Teixeira (9 career plate appearances vs. Penny): 0-for-9, 3 SO
Johnny Damon (6): 0-for-5, BB, SO
Jerry Hairston (6): 1-for-6, SO
Derek Jeter (6): 3-for-6, SO
Alex Rodriguez (6): 0-for-4, BB, SO, HBP
Jose Molina (5): 1-for-5, homer, SO
Robinson Cano (3): 1-for-3
Hideki Matsui (3): 1-for-2, BB, SO
Nick Swisher (3): 1-for-3, SO
Melky Cabrera (2): 1-for-2, SO
Jorge Posada (2): –, RBI, BB

RED SOX VS. ANDY PETTITTE

When the Sox faced Pettitte on August 9 in New York, the left-hander looked like the man that tortured them prior to leaving for Houston following the 2003 season. Pettitte kept the Sox off the board for seven strong innings, allowing only five hits in the 5-2 Yankees victory. In his career against the Sox, the Baton Rouge-native has gone 16-9 with a 3.63 ERA in a season’s worth of innings (203.1).

Pettitte has been less of an innings-eater since going at least seven in his first three starts of the season (2-0). Since April 21, the lefty has lasted seven in only five of his 21 starts. This isn’t to say he hasn’t been a rock in Joe Girardi‘s rotation, however, as he has posted an ERA of 4.09 and seeks his 10th win of the season tonight.

Jason Varitek (64): .309 average / .391 on-base / .473 slugging, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 8 BB, 16 SO
David Ortiz (52): .370 / .404 / .565, homer, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 11 SO
J.D. Drew (33): .375 / .394 / .750, 3 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 12 SO
Kevin Youkilis (33): .360 / .515 / .600, homer, RBI, 7 BB, 5 SO, HBP
Dustin Pedroia (32): .188 / .188 / .219, 5 RBI, SO
Jason Bay (31): .44 / .516 / .630, homer, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 8 SO
Mike Lowell (30): .333 / .433 / .375, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 2 SO
Victor Martinez (15): .231 / .333 / .231, 2 BB, SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (14): .417 / .462 / .500, 4 RBI, BB, 2 SO
Nick Green (6): 3-for-6, SO
Brian Anderson (3): 0-for-2, BB
Alex Gonzalez (3): 1-for-3
Casey Kotchman (2): 1-for-2, double, 2 RBI, SO

Read More: Andy Pettitte, Brad Penny, Yankees,
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