Red Sox Pre Pre-season notes

Its that time of year again.. The holidays are over, family went back to where they belong and you the die hard sox fan can start counting the days till the pitchers and catchers show up at fort myers.. (31 days to be exact). Soon there after on Febuary 18th Big papi, pedroia, and the rest of the SAWX begin to fall into where they belong for the next 2 months or so.  Although Jackie Bradley Jr is already there as you read this.. The 24 year old center fielder who played in 37 games last year and hit only .189 in the 2013 season has some big shoes to fill if he plans on winning the job in center field for the upcoming season.. What we know at this point is that the right side of the infield is locked up with the likes of napoli and the ever solid and durable pedrioa at 1st and 2nd base respectively. The left side is not as easy, we all saw what Bogaerts was capable of last year and boy was it nice to see such a young kid be so prepared and un-nerved.  Middlebrooks who never really seemed to get going was bit of a disappointment and spent a good time in pawtucket as opposed to holding his own in the middle of the order.  Something we all thought we would see on a regular basis.  Most would think that Bogaerts will start at short and MIddlebrooks at 3rd and if everything fell into place that would make life so much easier for John Farrell who is in his 2nd year as manger of the sox and a year after winning the World Series.  I on the other hand don’t think its going to be that easy.  There is still a chance that Drew could re-sign with sox.  Leaving Will and Xander to compete for the job this spring.  Or past reports have said xander got bored to easily in triple – A leaving him to bounce back and forth to spell drew (if re-signed) and middlebrooks.  Who knows sox could be up by 11 at home in the 7th and the kid could be tossed out to left field.  Especially after there had already been talks about him playing out there in the past.  Either way it doesn’t hurt to have the problem they have right now.. Some teams don’t even have guys on there radar for some spots on their roster. What we do know is the pitching is going to be just as strong if not stronger than last year. All assuming  Buchholz stays healthy.  I would like to the think the starting rotation would figure to be Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy, Dempster, with Doubront filling in as a spot starter and another lefty arm out of the Bullpen..  Stay tuned in for OF and bullpen talk with random updates throughout the week, and be sure to follow Titletown sports on twitter @titletownsp0rts for all your update happenings in Beantown..

Roger Cyr

Red Sox Contributor to Titletown Sports

Pick ‘Em! Sox Pull Even In Series With Gomes Blast

Kolten Wong was leaning just a tad too far to the right, intentions unknown, when Koji Uehara threw over to Mike Napoli at first. The throw was low – which is perfect for any pick-off attempt – and was dug out by Napoli, and the sliding Wong was toast at first base as Koji and Company celebrated a game four victory on the unlikeliest of plays. To make matters worse, the St. Louis Cardinals had Carlos Beltran at the plate, arguably this generations most feared postseason hitter who was representing the tying run. Wong was caught, however, and the Red Sox came away with the 4-2 victory.

As had been the story since the American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox were looking anemic at the plate against a young power pitcher in Lance Lynn. The game was knotted at one-all with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz on base in the sixth. With two out, Jonny Gomes picked the perfect moment for his first hit of the World Series, as he crushed a 2-2 offering over the left field fence for the game-winning home run. Gomes had been 0-9 leading up to the at-bat, and was only inserted into the lineup at the last minute when Shane Victorino had to be pulled from the lineup due to back stiffness.

“During batting practice, when I met with Shane today, he said, ‘Yeah, put me in there. I’ll find a way to get ready to start the game,’ ” Farrell said. “As we went through the other work, it became obvious he wasn’t capable. And you know what? It turns out that his replacement is the difference in this one tonight.”

Much was made going into the game about the health of Clay Buchholz, whose velocity was noticeably lacking as he hovered at 88-90 MPH all night – picking his spots carefully against a very dangerous Cardinals lineup. Buchholz was off, but the Cardinals missed a lot of pitches up in the zone and the right-hander benefited from that. He would only pitch four innings, but he allowed just an unearned run as he gave the Sox was essentially amounted to an outstanding long-relief performance.

The Cardinals took the lead in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, second baseman Matt Carpenter singled to center that Jacoby Ellsbury bobbled, allowing Carpenter to reach scoring position as the ball trickled away from Ellsbury. Carlos Beltran singled Carpenter home two pitches later as Busch Stadium roared to life. It would be all St. Louis could muster against Clay, however, and the only lead they would know.

The Sox got on the board in the fifth – but like the Cards, they too would be frustrated by their inability to get more across the plate. Lynn had been gassing the Sox up until then, facing the minimum through four shutout innings. David Ortiz led off the fifth with a double, and Lynn proceeded to walk Gomes and Xander Bogaerts to load the bases with nobody out. Scuffling shortstop Stephen Drew came through with a sac fly as Ortiz barely beat the throw home by Matt Holliday to knot the score at 1-1. It would be all the Sox could muster as catcher David Ross struck out, and Mike Carp (pinch hitting for Buchholz) grounded out to end the threat.

Felix Doubront gave John Farrell 2 2/3 innings of solid relief to pitch the Sox into the seventh inning with the lead. After surrendering a two-out double to pinch-hitter Shane Robinson, Farrell called on struggling lefty Craig Breslow. His tough series continued, however as he allowed an RBI single to second baseman Matt Carpenter to score the inherited runner. He was finally lifted after walking Carlos Beltran on four pitches – finishing with a line of 0IP, 1H, 1BB.

The trio of Junichi Tazawa, John Lackey, and Koji Uehara made things interesting – as they were faced with the tying runner on base or at the plate in each of the final three innings. Tazawa cleaned up Breslow’s mess by throwing just two pitches and inducing Matt Holliday to ground out to end the seventh inning. Lackey – pitching on his side day – allowed a baserunner in the eighth after an errant throw by Bogaerts, and a wild pitch to get Yadier Molina to third. A Jon Jay infield pop-out and a ground out by David Freese ended the threat, however.

Lost in the game was the inability for injured Allen Craig to leg out a sure-thing double in the ninth inning. Craig has been limited in his NL stadium to pinch-hitting duty as he nurses a foot injury suffered in September. When Craig scalded a Uehara 1-1 offering to right and over Daniel Nava’s head, it looked like an easy two-bagger, but the hobbled star was limited to a long single as he was clearly in a lot of pain.

Kolten Wong pinch-ran for Craig, and the rest is history, quite literally as it was the first World Series game (or postseason game as far as any records show) to be decided on a pick-off throw. Sunday’s wacky ending came on the heels of Game three, which was the first Series game to be decided on an interference call, as Will Middlebrooks’ dive to come up with a Jarrod Saltalamacchia errant throw seemed (at least to the men in blue) to impede Craig’s path to home plate.

Mike Napoli celebrates over a dejected Kolten Wong after the latter was caught off first to end game four of the Series.

Mike Napoli celebrates over a dejected Kolten Wong after the latter was caught off first to end game four of the Series.

Game six will be Monday night, and the final home game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. The aces will battle again, with Jon Lester looking for his second victory after besting Adam Wainwright in game one. With the crazy endings of late, look for this one to end on a balk. Or a hidden ball trick. We’re far into this thing now to let it end on a traditional strikeout. Yawn.

“What’s going on inside here is pretty special, magical,” Gomes said following yet another heart-pounding game.

Inside the Game

-Jacoby Ellsbury committed just three errors in 134 games during the season, but committed his second in as many nights in the World Series – his latest costing Clay Buchholz an unearned run.

-David Ortiz went 3-3, and is now batting a paltry .727 (8-11) in the series.

-Before Gomes’ game-winning (and perhaps series-saving) home run, David Ortiz gathered his teammates around for a spirited looking pep-talk to spark his team. So what did he say to liven up the Sox bats? “I think we’re gonna leave that one in-house,” said hero Gomes.

-The game four win ensured the Red Sox will return home to decide the World Series. It will be the first World Series clinching opportunity at Fenway Park since October 22, 1975 in game seven against the Cincinnati Reds – a game the Sox led 3-0 going into the sixth inning, but ultimately lost 4-3.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

Sox Rout Sloppy Cards, 8-1, Take Game One of World Series

It seemed everything was going the Red Sox way Wednesday night when game one of the World Series kicked off. A usually sure-handed defensive team in the St. Louis Cardinals committed three errors, and an infield pop-up landed between Cards pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. In the end, the sloppy plays cost the Cardinals big time as the Sox ran away with game one, 8-1.

Also pivotal was an umpire conference that reversed an out call and gave the Red Sox a bases loaded opportunity. In the first inning, with the Red Sox threatening with runners on first and second and one out, Wainwright induced David Ortiz to ground a sure-thing double-play ball to second. Matt Carpenter scooped it and made the toss to shortstop Pete Kozma, who completely missed the ball as it scraped his glove and fell to the ground.

Shortstop Pete Kozma can't make the grab, and Dustin Pedroia slides in safe (after an overturned call), setting up Mike Napoli's big hit.

Shortstop Pete Kozma can’t make the grab, and Dustin Pedroia slides in safe (after an overturned call), setting up Mike Napoli’s big hit.

Second base umpire Dana Demuth was paying attention to Kozma’s feet and assumed the ball came out in transfer, and he called Dustin Pedroia out at second, prompting an immediate argument from John Farrell. Upon huddling together, the umpires reversed the call, which gave St. Louis no outs on the play, and brought up Mike Napoli, who immediately cashed in on the chance with a bases clearing double.

Though the call was correct, it was hard to grasp the call being overturned for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

“It’s a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. Now, I get that they’re trying to get the right call, I get that. Tough one to swallow,” Matheny said after the game.

David Ortiz slides into home safe on Napoli's bases-clearing double that propelled the Sox to an 8-1 rout.

David Ortiz slides into home safe on Napoli’s bases-clearing double that propelled the Sox to an 8-1 rout.

Wainwright and Molina stared blankly at each other in the second inning when Stephen Drew’s infield fly landed between the two of them. After David Ross singled, Kozma committed yet another costly error when a Shane Victorino chopper glanced off his glove in the hole between short and third. With the bases loaded, Pedroia capitalized with an RBI single. The Cardinals got a defensive make-up play when Ortiz scorched a ball to deep right towards the bullpen. Reminiscent of his grand slam in game two of the ALCS – in which Torii Hunter smashed into the wall unable to make the catch – Carlos Beltran slammed into the wall, but made the grab as Ross tagged and scored Boston’s fifth run. Beltran would leave the next inning and was brought to Mass. General with bruised ribs.

“At least I got an RBI and we were up four and got the momentum,” Ortiz said of Beltran’s robbery.

On the other side, Jon Lester was in top form as he stifled the Cardinals lineup all night. Lester’s biggest challenge was in the fourth inning, when St. Louis was able to load the bases with one out. Third baseman David Freese grounded back to Lester, who started the ever-rare 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning, which prompted the famous Jackson 5 song to bellow from Fenway’s sound system.

A throwing error by Freese in the seventh inning with two outs again gave the Sox extra outs to work with. With Pedroia on, David Ortiz wouldn’t be denied a second time as he launched a ball into the rightfield bullpen, this time ensuring it was far enough to hit the roof of the benches.  The homer was the fourth for Ortiz of the postseason .

Lester retired the first two batters of the eighth inning before being pulled infavor of Junichi Tazawa. As Lester departed, Fenway exploded in applause for the ace lefties outstanding effort of 7 2/3, 5H, 0R, 1BB, 8K.

The only damage the Cardinals could inflict came in the ninth inning against Ryan Dempster when Matt Holliday connected on a 1-2 pitch to deep left for a solo home run. It was too little, much too late for St. Louis as Dempster got first baseman Matt Adams to strike out to end the game.

With the Red Sox three wins shy of their third World Series title in ten years, John Lackey will look to get a pivotal game two victory over Cards rookie sensation Michael Wacha (insert your own Fozzie Bear or Pac-Man joke here).

Inside the Game

-WIth the fast 3-0 lead, the Red Sox have not trailed against the Cardinals in World Series play since losing game seven of the 1967 World Series.

-David Ortiz now has 11 World Series RBI in nine career games.

-Obviously comfortable on the big stage, Jon Lester has now pitched 13 1/3 scoreless innings in World Series play.

-The Red Sox ran their playoff record to 8-0 when Jonny Gomes starts in left field.

-The Red Sox now have a nine game World Series winning streak, tied with the Cincinnati Reds who spread those over their 1975, ’76 and ’90 Titles. The Sox trail the Yankees franchise, which has the top three streaks at 14, 12 and 10.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

Lester, Bullpen Grind Out Win; Now One Win From World Series

Well they’re not going to make it easy, that’s for sure. The Boston Red Sox used timely hitting by Mike Napoli and another outstanding effort by the bullpen to nip the Detroit Tigers 4-3, and take a 3-2 series lead.

“Me personally, I was just trying to get something up in the zone and see pitches like I always do,” said Napoli about his home run, “and I was able to get something up.”

Mike Napoli started the scoring for the Red Sox when he scorched a 3-1 offering by Anibal Sanchez over the centerfield wall and into the hedges to kick off what would be a three-run inning for Boston. The homer started a nice night for Napoli, who collected three hits and scored two of Boston’s four runs, falling a triple shy of the cycle (though with Napoli, you would have better odds of the Jacksonville Jaguars beating the Denver Broncos than him legging out a three-bagger).

Mike Napoli got a pitch up, and delivered it 450 feet to center for his second homer of the ALCS. Napoli is hitting .375 in the series with two crucial home runs.

Mike Napoli got a pitch up, and delivered it 450 feet to center for his second homer of the ALCS. Napoli is hitting .375 in the series with two crucial home runs.

Unable to do anything against Sanchez in game one, in which the former Sox farmhand no-hit the Sox through six brilliant innings, the Sox were finally able to make good contact on Thursday. Sanchez finished allowing nine hits and four runs (three earned).

Sox starter Jon Lester wasn’t sharp, but kept the Tigers at bay with 5  1/3 while allowing just two runs, but had to labor around seven hits and three walks. Lester made a tremendous play in the bottom of the fifth. Following a leadoff single by Autin Jackson, Jose Iglesias pushed a bunt to the right side, sending Jackson to second. Lester ran the ball down, but bobbled with it as the speedy Iglesias pushed towards second. Lester was able to scoop the ball in his glove, and shovel the ball to Mike Napoli, to just get the out at first.

After a Torii Hunter foul-out, Miguel Cabrera was able to drive in Jackson with a two-out single. Prince Fielder was unable to contribute, and ended the inning on an easy grounder to Dustin Pedroia.

Sanchez was rattled in the third similarly to Jake Peavy in game four the previous night. Following the homer, Jonny Gomes reached on a Miguel Cabrera error. Two batters later, rookie Xander Bogaerts – making his first postseason start – doubled to put two in scoring position with one out. Catcher David Ross drove Gomes in with a double, but Bogaerts confusing baserunning only allowed him to reach third, though he came home two pitches later on a Jacoby Ellsbury infield single.

The Red Sox picked up their fourth and final run in the third. Mike Napoli led off with a ground-rule double, and made it to third on Jonny Gomes’ ground-out. With Stephen Drew at the plate, Sanchez uncorked a wild-pitch that allowed Napoli to score, before inducing Drew to ground out.

Detroit picked away again in the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Following a leadoff walk to Victor Martinez and a single by second baseman Omar Infante wrapped around a strikeout of Jhonny Peralta, Jon Lester was lifted in favor of Junichi Tazawa. Catcher Brayan Pena was able to drive Martinez home with a single, but Jackson grounded into a rally-killing double play to end the inning.

Tazawa came back for the seventh and surrendered back-to-back singles to Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Tazawa was again able to best MVP Miguel Cabrera as he grounded into a double play; though the run scored to make it a 4-3 nail-biter, it was a trade any team would have taken. Fielder followed with the inning-ending grounder off Craig Breslow.

Koji Uehara came on with one out in the eighth and was brilliant in recording a taxing five-out save. In all, the Sox bullpen retired the final eight batters of the game.

The Red Sox return home with a 3-2 series advantage, and two shots at Fenway to clinch the American League pennant for the first time since 2007. Clay Buchholz, who was rocked in his game two start, will look to rebound against Max Scherzer, whose brilliant game two (7 IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 13K) was wasted on the Sox amazing comeback.

Inside the Game

-Always a rally-killer, the Detroit Tigers have grounded into eight double-plays during the ALCS – a large factor in why they are out-hitting and out-pitching Boston, and yet trail 3-2.

-The Red Sox struck out fewer than 10 times for the first time since game three of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

-Xander Bogaerts became the youngest Red Sox player to start a postseason game. The previous holder of that distinction was one George Herman Ruth, who was the starting pitcher in game two of the 1916 World Series.

-Stephen Drew was 0-4 with two strikeouts, and is now just 1-17 with 8 Ks in the series against Detroit.

-Tigers catcher Alex Avila left the game after the second after a collision at home plate against counterpart David Ross. Ross tried to come home on a Shane Victorino grounder. Avila held onto the ball, but appeared shaken following the play. He is a game time decision for game six.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports



Peavy Gets Rocked, Tigers Get Even In ALCS

The Red Sox had the Tigers on the ropes. With a temperamental pitcher on the mound, and a seemingly desperate lineup shuffle by Tigers skipper Jim “Don’t call me Joe” Leyland, the Sox looked poised to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Then came a bases loaded walk, then a bobble that would have been a double-play, and like that the Tigers stung with a 7-3 rout that pulled the American League Championship Series even at two all.

Unlike the previous three games, the Sox threatened early against Doug Fister, as Dustin Pedroia didn’t hang around long to put a one in the hit column, dumping a two out single to right with two down in the first. David Ortiz was unable to do anything, and Boston had to be content with just ending a no-hitter while there was still some twilight in the sky.

Jake Peavy looked good in retiring the side in order in the first, but was absolutely unglued in the second. After a single and two straight walks, the Tigers had the bases juiced with no outs. One out later, Austin Jackson came up as the eighth man in the lineup, being bumped from his leadoff perch following a 3-33 slump (with 18 strikeouts that would fit in well in the Red Sox lineup) from his usual leadoff perch. So naturally, the control-conscious Peavy walked Jackson on four straight to force in a run, and begin a nasty chain of events that resulted in a 5-0 Tigers lead by the time the second came to a halt.

“It felt good to contribute to a win,” Jackson said, unconcerned about his drop in the lineup. “Just get a chance to go out there and not put so much pressure on yourself, just have fun.”

It was a frustrating night for the Red Sox batters, as they were finally able to make contact against Detroit, ending with 12 hits, including five for extra bases. However, only two hits came with men in scoring position, and the 5-0 early hole spelled doom for a team that was able to eek out two straight wins following brilliant efforts by the Tigers top two hurlers in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

A Mike Napoli leadoff double in the second went for naught as Daniel Nava grounded to second, Jarrod Saltalamacchia fouled out, and the badly slumping Stephen Drew struck out looking. The inability to capitalize cost the Sox a chance to take the first lead of the game, setting up the disastrous bottom half that followed.

Tigers DH Victor Martinez led off the second with a single, followed by a four-pitch walk to Jhonny Peralta – who has arguably been the most consistent threat for Jim Leyland this postseason. Peavy looked ready to rebound, as he set up catcher Alex Avila at 1-2. Avila was able to work the count full, and earned an eight pitch walk for his efforts to load the bases for Omar Infante. Infante lineda 1-1 pitch to center that Jacoby Ellsbury made a brilliant catch on, preventing Martinez from scoring and bringing up the strikeout prone Austin Jackson.

You know the rest, Peavy looked unraveled as he delivered not only a rare third walk in an inning, but for the second time delivered one on four straight out of the zone as Martinez crossed the plate. Old friend Jose Iglesias then came up and smoked the first pitch he saw to second for what seemed an easy double-play to the sure-handed Pedroia. Pedroia couldn’t handle the bounce cleanly, and had to settle for just a force play at second as Peralta scored for a 2-0 Tigers advantage.

Following the botched play, Torii Hunter took full advantage by lacing a double down the left field line to score Avila and Iglesias, and Comerica Park reached decibel levels too high to chart. Struggling MVP-favorite Miguel Cabrera got in on the action with an RBI single that would be the last damage of the inning, but it was more than enough.

Peavy was pulled in the fourth following an Austin Jackson RBI hit that brought home Infante who had led off with a ground-rule double. Brandon Workman relieved Peavy, and allowed an RBI single to Cabrera to finish Peavy’s awful line at 3+ IP, 5H, 7ER, 3BB, 1K. The Tigers caught the Red Sox napping a bit as Cabrera stole second base, though nothing came of the surprising steal (Just 39 in his career including postseason play).

Austin Jackson had reason to be pumped, as his drop in the order resulted in a 2-2, 2BB, 2 RBI night.

Austin Jackson had reason to be pumped, as his drop in the order resulted in a 2-2, 2BB, 2 RBI night.

The Red Sox finally broke through in the sixth when Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia amassed three straight singles with one out in the inning, Salty’s driving home Napoli to make it 7-1. The Sox could have done more damage, but Drew struck out again and pinch-hitter Mike Carp grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.

The Sox relief efforts were again solid, as the combination of Workman, Ryan Dempster, Franklin Morales and Felix Doubront gave up nothing to Detroit over a combined five innings.

Ellsbury went 4-5 in the game, finishing a homer shy of the cycle. He came around to score in the seventh when he led off with a single off lefty reliever Phil Coke. Shane Victorino doubled him home, but again no more damage could be inflicted as another runner was stranded in scoring position.

Xander Bogaerts relieved Will Midlebrooks at third and came through in his only at-bat in the ninth, leading off with a deep double to right that nearly left the yard. Bogaerts came home on Ellsbury’s fourth hit – a triple – to bring the Sox to within four runs at 7-3. Closer Joaquin Benoit got Victorino and Pedroia on back-to-back strikeouts, and exacted his revenge on David Ortiz (who had hit the game-tying grand slam in game two off Benoit) with a fly-out to end the game.

The Sox and Tigers get back to it Thursday night in a rematch of game one, with Jon Lester opposing Anibal Sanchez, who allowed no hits through six innings in game one while amassing 12 strikeouts.

Asked later if he would consider a similar lineup shakeup for his team, Sox manager John Farrell was non-committal.

“The one thing that we’ve maintained is a constant approach with the lineup and not creating further uncertainty,” Farrell said. “I think our guys have responded well to that.”

Maybe so John, but at this point, it’s hard to argue for starting Drew and Middlebrooks while not replacing one of them with Xander Bogaerts.

Inside the Game

-Dating to game four of the ALDS, the Red Sox have now struck out 10 or more times in five straight games.

-Tigers starter Doug Fister allowed just one earned run, the fifth straight game a Tigers starter allowed one run or fewer.

-Usually difficult to strike out Dustin Pedroia, he has now fanned eight times in eight postseason games.

-The Red Sox went just 2-16 with RISP.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

Lackey Outduels Verlander, 1-0, as Sox Go Up 2-1 in ALCS

In a postseason dominated by pitching, Tuesdays matchup between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox stuck with the script, as Boston came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a solo home run by Mike Napoli – and more importantly, thanks to the brilliant 6 2/3 innings by John Lackey.

Going into game three, all the national focus seemed to be on Tigers ace Justin Verlander, though by the end, John Lackey certainly made his presence felt throughout Detroit as a worthy match-up for the dominant MVP.

Mike Napoli launched the winning home run in the seventh in support of John Lackey, ending a terrible stretch, as he started the ALCS 0-6 with six strikeouts and a walk as he strode to the plate.

This one started like any other game, with a Tigers ace thoroughly dominating a seemingly helpless Red Sox lineup, and once again it took multiple innings for Boston to break through the hits column when Jonny Gomes finally delivered an infield hit in the fifth that shortstop Jhonny Peralta was just a bit slow to get to – the throw bouncing out of the glove of Prince Fielder at first that may have been called an error in other instances.

John Lackey had flawless control all game long, and seemed to get stronger after a 17 minute delay after the lights went out at Comerica Park. A symbol of the Red Sox redemption all year long, Lackey was not intimidated by the daunting lineup of the Tigers, as he threw 18 of 20 curveballs for strikes, and threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 24 batters faced. Following a Prince Fielder single in the first that put runners on the corners with two outs, Lackey retired the next 10 Tigers in a row before a Peralta leadoff double in the fifth.

As good as Lackey was, the Red Sox faced the age-old problem of coming up with runs for the big Texan, though one could hardly fault the lineup that was facing a man who had not allowed a run in 15 innings of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, and no runs dating back to a September 18th start in the regular season.

After walking David Ortiz to lead off the second inning, Verlander went into his MVP mode and struck out the next six batters in a row to tie a postseason record for consecutive strikeouts. To the six batters, the only one Verlander did not throw a first-pitch strike to was Jacoby Ellsbury to finish off the third inning, following ball one with three straight to get Ells looking.

Detroit was able to threaten a couple times in the game, but missed opportunities against a determined John Lackey. Torii Hunter and Fielder singled in the first to set up an RBI situation for the Tigers most dangerous hitter since the All-Star break, Victor Martinez. With runners at the corners, Martinez worked the count full before flying out to center to end the threat.

Catcher Alex Avila grounded out in the fifth following Peralta’s double in the fifth, sending the shortstop to third with one out. Lackey then ran a count full against Omar Infante before inducing a swing and miss for the second out of the inning. Left-fielder Andy Dirks then swung at the first pitch he saw, grounding out easily to Dustin Pedroia at second to end yet another golden chance for the Tigers frustrated lineup.

Following his first two at-bats (both swinging strikeouts), Mike Napoli initiated some superstitious behaviors to try and swing his terrible momentum the other way. Before coming out of the dugout, Napoli changed his red sock-showing look as he lowered his pant legs, and before walking to the plate, he gathered beard magic on his bat by rubbing it on Jonny Gomes’ facial growth. The bearded magic came through, as Mike Napoli grooved a 3-2 fastball to left-center and into the bullpen for his first hit of the ALCS, and what proved to be the game winning homer.

Jonny Gomes reaches out for the congratulatory beard-pull following Napoli's game-winning home run in the seventh.

Jonny Gomes reaches out for the congratulatory beard-pull following Napoli’s game-winning home run in the seventh.

The Sox bullpen played a major role yet again for John Farrell, who hasn’t been afraid to show trust in his group of relievers. With two down and a Martinez on in the seventh, Farrell pulled John Lackey – much to Lackey’s chagrin, as he pleaded with his skipper to finish the seventh. Craig Breslow made things interesting as he walked the lefty Alex Avila to put the tying run in scoring position, as a visibly nervous Lackey looked on from the dugout. Breslow came through, inducing a fielder’s choice off the bat of Omar Infante as more runners were again stranded by the Tigers.

More drama was written in the eighth after; Breslow blew away Jose Iglesias on three straight pitches before walking the badly slumping Austin Jackson. Set-up man Junichi Tazawa entered and coughed up a single to Torii Hunter to put runners at the corners for likely MVP Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera looked uncomfortable against Tazawa, and uncharacteristically swung and missed three times (wrapped around one ball) to strike out. Farrell then called on closer Koji Uehara, much to the relief of a million Red Sox fans – who proceeded to own Fielder on three straight strikes to end another chance for Detroit.

Jim Leyland used three relievers to retire three Sox batters in the ninth, as Verlander’s day concluded with eight brilliant innings. Verlander surrendered just four hits, the only extra-base one being that of Napoli’s home run. The Sox showed yet again a propensity to whiff, as Tigers pitchers racked up 11 more, but were outdone for the first time in the series, as Sox hurlers claimed 12 Tigers by way of the K.

Uehara’s only damage was a leadoff single in the ninth by Victor Martinez. Martinez was pinch-ran for by Hernan Perez. Uehara got a huge double-play off the bat of Jhonny Peralta, before silencing the Tigers for good with a swinging strikeout by Alex Avila.

Jake Peavy will look to give the Sox a commanding 3-1 lead Wednesday night against Doug Fister. If anything, the alarming strikeout numbers for the Red Sox should halt, as Fister had by far the lowest K/9 (6.9) of the four Tigers starters.

Inside The Game

– In a pitching rich series, the Tigers and Red Sox are batting a combined .182 (35-192)

-Mike Napoli’s first career at-bat also came at Comerica Park against Justin Verlander. Naturally, he took Verlander deep then, too. That may now be his second favorite homer off Verlander.

-In 23 postseason innings, Justin Verlander has allowed just 10 hits and three walks to go along with 31 strikeouts, though he is just 1-1 to show for it as the offense has scored just three runs for him. (all three came in a game 5 ALDS win, as the Tigers lost 1-0 for the second time this postseason).

-John Lackey reached a postseason career-high eight strikeouts.

-Boston and Detroit combined to go 0-11 with runners in scoring position. Seven of those belonged to the Tigers.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

Amazing! Ortiz, Salty Provide Stunning Comeback as Sox Tie ALCS.

While most of the Boston Red Sox are content playing baseball and growing beards, it seems David Ortiz is still intent on writing television drama to rival Breaking Bad. In a game that started for a second night in a row with 5+ hitless innings, it seemed an impossible task to charge back from a 5-0 deficit, and then Papi happened…again. Ortiz connected on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Joaquin Benoit with two outs and the bases loaded to tie the game and send Fenway Park into pandemonium. An inning later, a base hit by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought home Jonny Gomes to cap a 6-5 win, and a thrilling comeback by the Boston Red Sox over the Detroit Tigers.

David Ortiz tracks the flight of his line-drive home run - a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning.

David Ortiz tracks the flight of his line-drive home run – a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning.

By the end of the game, it seemed a distant memory of how dismal the game began for the Sox – like a dream you had and can’t quite remember the next morning. The truth is, the Detroit Tigers had the proverbial foot on the throats of Boston, ready to deliver a crushing blow to take a 2-0 ALCS lead back home to Detroit to face the daunting Justin Verlander. The Tigers launched to a 5-0 lead off of Sox starter Clay Buchholz (5 2/3, 8H, 5ER, 0BB, 6K), using the long-ball to propel an offense that had looked anemic leading up to the postseason.

Detroit grabbed the game’s first run in the second inning by collecting three hits off of Buchholz. With one out, and runners at the corners, Tigers catcher Alex Avila lined a single up the middle to bring home former Sox Victor Martinez. The Red Sox wiggled out of more damage when second baseman Omar Infante grounded a double play to short to end the inning.

1-0 may have been 100-0 as Tigers ace and likely AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was throwing bb’s to Boston batters. Scherzer twice retired seven straight batters, and collected 13 strikeouts in seven masterful innings. A night after being no-hit through 8 1/3 innings and collecting a club record 17 strikeouts in a nine inning postseason game, the Red Sox seemed to pick up where they had left off – being too selective and falling behind in counts to pitchers who just aren’t prone to mistakes. By the time Scherzer mercifully left the game, Detroit pitchers had faced 60 Red Sox batters, and struck out exactly half of them at 30.

The Tigers collected even more damage in the sixth. The hobbling, but still great Miguel Cabrera launched a 1-0 offering to the light-tower in left for his second homer of the postseason. Back-to-back doubles by Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez made it 3-0 Tigers before Alex Avila went yard two batters later to prompt silence (and some boos towards Buchholz) from the Fenway crowd. Little did anyone know, Avila would be the final Tiger to cross the plate, and that 5-0 lead in the end wouldn’t be enough for a 2-0 series lead.

In the bottom of the sixth and with two down in the inning, Shane Victorino finally broke through with a single to left, which was followed by a Dustin Pedroia high, Green Monster double that brought Victorino racing around for the Sox first run since game four of the Division Series against the Rays. David Ortiz would strike out to end the frame, and while 5-1 still felt like a mountain to climb, Pedroia was as fired up as can be, and may have ignited the miracle at Fenway.

After striking out two more in a breezy 1-2-3 seventh by Scherzer, many were surprised that Tigers skipper Jim Leyland went to his shaky bullpen with the Cy Young hopeful at 108 pitches (not an overly taxing workload come playoff time).

“Scherzer was terrific. He was spent,” Leyland said. “Last night our bullpen was flawless, and tonight it just wasn’t quite as good.”

That’s when the wheels fell off for the Tigers. Exiled closer Jose Veras was the first out of the pen, and gave up a Will Middlebrooks double with one out. Then came lefty Drew Smyly to face Jacoby Ellsbury, who battled back from 1-2 to work the walk. Out came Leyland again (do you see the trust issues with his bullpen yet?) to call on Al Alburquerque, who got Victorino to strike out on a 2-2 pitch.

At that point, it looked as though Boston had fought, but would ultimately again play victim to their own over-selectivity. That’s when Pedroia again played catalyst as he dumped a single into right – with the slow-footed Middlebrooks on the bases, third base coach Brian Butterfield took no chances in taking the bat out of Ortiz’s hands, and wisely held Midlebrooks, which loaded the bases.

Leyland appeared yet again to call on Joaquin Benoit to try and stop the bleeding, knowing Ortiz’s numbers historically against the righty were rather pedestrian, and Ortiz had never taken him deep. “had” never is key, as Ortiz grooved the first-pitch fastball to right that Torii Hunter had a bead on. Hunter very nearly made a historic catch, but instead hit the bullpen wall hard and got flipped over in an image that will live in Boston baseball lore – coming up empty on the game-tying grand slam.

In an iconic image, Torii Hunter flips over trying to catch Papi's grand-slam in the eighth as bullpen officer Steve Horgan looks on in a triumphant pose.

In an iconic image, Torii Hunter flips over trying to catch Papi’s grand-slam in the eighth as bullpen officer Steve Horgan looks on in a triumphant elation.

“I jumped up. I thought I had a bead on it,” said Hunter, “Next thing, I know I’m falling over the fence.”

Lost in this game will probably be the outstanding work put in by John Farrell’s bullpen, which was seen as a weakness going into the Division Series. Brandon Workman and Felix Dubront turned in 2 1/3 hitless innings before closer Koji Uehara blew the doors off Detroit with a perfect ninth inning, throwing eight of nine pitches for strikes.

The tremendous bullpen effort kept the game in hand to set up the ninth inning heroics. Rick Porcello, relegated to the bullpen as the odd-man out of the Tigers starting staff, gave up a leadoff infield single to Jonny Gomes. Former Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias backhanded the grounder deep in the hole towards the third base side, and threw wildly to try and get the lead-footed Gomes, who slid head-first, beating the throw to first base that sailed to the camera-well near the Sox dugout, awarding Gomes second base on the errant throw. Porcello came unglued, as his fourth pitch to Jarrod Saltalamacchia bounced away from Alex Avila as Gomes scampered to third. Salty responded to the moment that was calling, as he stung a single through the left side as Gomes excitedly crossed home as Salty’s teammates chased him down to mob him after the walk-off win.

The Red Sox appear to be in the driver’s seat following the emotional win, but with Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the hill on Tuesday, Boston will have to do a better job at not getting behind in counts, and keep the pressure on the Tigers. John Lackey will face Verlander on Tuesday afternoon as the Tigers and Red Sox will each look to take a 2-1 series lead.

Inside the Game

-Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s walk-off hit was the first for a Red Sox catcher since Carlton Fisk took Pat Darcy deep in game six of the 1975 World Series (some of you might know that one).

-Four different Detroit pitchers were charged with each run from David Ortiz’s grand slam.

-For the third straight game, a Tigers pitcher took a no-hitter into the sixth inning or later (Verlander in game 5 of the ALDS vs. the Oakland Athletics, Anibal Sanchez in game 1 of ALCS). The feat had never been accomplished in back-to-back postseason games, let alone three in a row.

-Dave Roberts – whose stolen base in game four of the 2004 ALCS was pivotal in sparking the Red Sox comeback and first World Series victory since 1918 – threw out Sunday’s first-pitch…he may be invited back at some point.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

Red Sox ALCS Bound, Beat Rays 3-1

Give Rays manager Joe Maddon plenty of credit, he was a plumber trying to fix a leak on a sinking ship, and he used every tool he had in his arsenal to try to patch it up – and it almost worked. Quite literally, Maddon went to the hill eight times to use nine pitchers to try and tie the Division Series and send it back to Boston for a decisive game five, but in the end, the ship sank and the Boston Red Sox took game four, 3-1, and are heading to their first American League Championship Series since losing to Maddon’s Ray’s in 2008.

“It’s great, but we’ve still got one more to get where we want to be,” Shane Victorino said after the victory. “We’re going to get a few days off to rest and see what happens in the other division series, and we’ll go from there.”

Tampa Bay scored first in a tightly contested chess match between managers Maddon and John Farrell, getting to Red Sox starter Jake Peavy in the sixth inning for a 1-0 lead. Peavy ended up going 5 2/3 of outstanding baseball in keeping the Rays silent, and more importantly keeping the Sox within striking distance to later capture the lead. Peavy allowed just five hits without allowing a walk and striking out three.

Heading into the sixth, Peavy was on cruise control, having allowed just three hits, while his defense helped him by turning a pair of double-plays. Yunel Escobar led off the sixth with a ringing double that nearly left the park, and moved to third on a Jose Lobaton grounder. David DeJesus singled Escobar home for the 1-0 lead as the Trop was rocking. Peavy retired Wil Myers before Farrell gave him the hook in favor of Craig Breslow, a move that immediately paid dividends as Breslow struck out Sox killer James Loney on three pitches.

With one out in the seventh and Rays lefty Jake McGee on the mound, Farrell pinch-hit Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew – apparently going back on his decision from the night before to leave the struggling Drew in in the same situation. Bogaerts showed poise beyond his years and worked a 1-2 count into a walk. After Will Middlebrooks struck out on eight pitches, Maddon again wore a path to the mound to call on right-hander Joel Peralta to face Jacoby Ellsbury, who singled Bogaerts to third.

After some initial reluctance to use Bogaerts in crucial situations, Farrell’s sudden trust of the 21 year-old paid off as he ended up walking twice and scoring both times, showing the kind of plate discipline of a 10-year veteran.

“Well, I reserve the right to change my mind,” Farrell said of his change of heart. “And given some of the struggles that Stephen has had, you know, we had talked about this leading into the series, and I felt like at the moment as tough as left‑handers have been on Stephen, I felt like we had to try something different. And for a young guy that’s been sitting for quite a while, obviously, [Bogaerts] showed tremendous poise and almost ice in his veins.”

Still clinging to a 1-0 lead, the wheels fell off for the Rays and the speed on the bases clearly got in Peralta’s head; with Ellsbury taking off for second, Peralta uncorked a wild pitch that brought home Bogaerts. Shane Victorino followed with a slow grounder to short, and beat the throw from Escobar to first as Ellsbury came in to give Boston its first lead of the night, 2-1.

The Sox bullpen defied the experts who claimed it as the Sox Achilles Heel by twirling 3 1/3 one-hit innings in a brilliant outing. Breslow mowed down the heart of the Rays order in the seventh, striking out the side (all swinging strikes), including leadoff batter, and Rays top slugger, Evan Longoria.

Koji Uehara got the final four outs, following 1/3 inning by Junichi Tazawa, striking out Longoria swinging to end the game, and the series as catcher David Ross threw his arms around him in celebration. Uehara showed the short-term memory needed to be a closer in a tense playoff atmosphere, showing some dominant stuff just one night after surrendering a walk-off homer to Jose Lobaton that landed in the Rays tank in right-center.

How sweet it is: The Red Sox head to the ALCS for the first time in five years!

How sweet it is: The Red Sox head to the ALCS for the first time in five years!

“They didn’t make any mistakes. You could see their grit,” Maddon said. “They’ve got a bunch of gamers over there. … On the other side, I think our guys were equally as tough. We have had a hard time hitting their pitching staff.”

The game started in rather ominous fashion after the Sox continued to squander opportunities as they did in game three. Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson retired the side in order in the first before surrendering walks to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to lead off the second, prompting Maddon to kick up some bullpen action. After a Daniel Nava single loaded the bases, Joe showed he meant business by hoisting Hellickson in favor of 18-year veteran Jamey Wright. Wright swung much needed momentum to the Rays as he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia looking. Stephen Drew then hit a ball as hard as one can, but the liner was snared by James Loney at first, then committed a very heads up play when he saw he could not beat Nava back to the bag without anyone covering, deciding instead to throw to second to double off Napoli and end the threat.

“The way it was working at the beginning there, I could see it was just not going to work and we had to do something differently,” Maddon said of his quick hook of starter Hellickson.

The game was very pitcher-friendly as just one extra-base hit was accumulated – the double by Yunel Escobar – and a total of 20 strikeouts were racked up. In impressive fashion, Sox pitchers tossed 9 frames, and 122 pitches, without walking anybody, this against a Rays lineup that walked more times than anybody in the AL.

The Red Sox tacked on insurance in the ninth against closer Fernando Rodney to push the lead to 3-1. Bogaerts led off with his second walk, and later moved to second on a wild-pitch. Jacoby Ellsbury walked, and Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch (his fourth of the series and second of the game) to load the bases for Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia was able to produce a sac fly to bring in Bogaerts with the insurance run, although the Red Sox were unable to inflict any more damage.

The Boston Red Sox will await the winner of the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers winner-take-all game five at Oakland on Thursday. The winner will then fly to Boston to face the Sox at Fenway Park in game one of the ALCS.

Inside The Game

-Dustin Pedroia hit just .235 in the ALDS, but was able to produce productive outs in notching five RBI (tops on the Red Sox)

-Jacoby Ellsbury continued to pad his resume in the face of free-agency, going 1-4 with his fourth stolen base in the four game series.

-Including his postseason, Shane Victorino has now been hit 22 times this season, including 18 times since the All-Star Break. As painful as it’s been, it has proven to be a valuable on-base tactic for the Flyin’ Hawaiian

-In 11 innings, the Sox bullpen walked just two batters to go with 12 strikeouts!

Jay Coorey – MLB Senior Contributor – Title Town Sports

Missed Opportunities, Dramatic Homers Halt Sox

Despite going up 3-0, and some early dominance by Clay Buchholz, the Boston Red Sox failed in their attempt to reach the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2008, as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Rays in a tight contest Monday night at Tropicana Field.

The Rays benefited from huge two-out home runs by Evan Longoria, and later by Jose Lobaton to climb out of a 0-2 series hole and breathe new life into a quickly fading season. Also aiding in the comeback were fielding gaffes and some questionable moves by Sox manager John Farrell that ultimately spelled defeat.

What Went Wrong:

– Bottom 5th: Evan Longoria steps up as tying runner with two on and two out. John Farrell elects to pitch to Longoria (1-6 in the ALDS to that point). Longoria proceeds to line a 0-1 Buchholz offering to left for the game tying home run.

-Top of 8th: After Ortiz led off with a walk, pinch runner Quintin Berry stole 2nd, and pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes was walked after a Mike Napoli ground-out. With the go-ahead and insurance runners aboard and two outs (Saltalamacchia struck out swinging), Farrell elects to keep Stephen Drew in the lineup to face Rays lefty Jake McGee. Drew, who batted .196 vs. left-handers proceeded to foul out weakly to third. This move completely contradicted earlier sentiment from Farrell stating he could see Xander Bogaerts pinch-hitting for Drew in big situations in the post-season.

-Bottom of 8th: Brandon Workman inherits two baserunners with one down from Franklin Morales ( 1/3, 1H, 1BB, 1ER). Workman induces a ground ball up the middle by Yunel Escobar that Drew ranges to gather, but Dustin Pedroia – who was likewise going for the ball diving – collides with Drew, preventing the shortstop from making what would have been a double-play at best, and a second out at worst. Instead, the bases are loaded with just one out for post-season maestro Delmon Young.

-Bottom of 8th: Young grounds a ball to first baseman Mike Napoli, whose hesitation to throw home is just enough to cost the Sox as Sam Fuld crosses with the go-ahead run. Napoli touched first for the sure out, and may not have been able to get Fuld forced anyways, but in that situation – the gamble may have been a worthy try since it was a force play at the plate.

In one of many late gaffes, Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia collide, and everyone is safe for the Rays - setting up the go-ahead ground-out by Delmon Young.

In one of many late gaffes, Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia collide, and everyone is safe for the Rays – setting up the go-ahead ground-out by Delmon Young.

The Boston Red Sox were able to tie the game off Rays closer Fernando Rodney once Dustin Pedroia grounded to short to bring home pinch-runner Bogaerts. The small-ball paid off for Boston, but the elation would be short-lived as the Rays used the long-ball again to put the nail in the coffin. Koji Uehara got two quick outs in his usual fashion before light-hitting Jose Lobaton launched an 0-1 delivery to deep center for the walk-off blast, staving off elimination for the Tampa Bay Rays and perhaps shifting momentum in a big way.

Game four will be Tuesday night at 8:07 as Jake Peavy makes his Red Sox postseason debut against the Rays Jeremy Hellickson.

Sox One Win Away From Best Record After Blasting Orioles, 12-3

With the season winding down, the Boston Red Sox show no signs of taking it easy on anybody. Friday night at Camden Yards proved to be yet another stop on the Sox most recent tour of mashing, piling it on the recently eliminated Baltimore Orioles, 12-3.  Boston collected 16 hits and three home runs en route to winning game number 97, the highest total since winning 98 in 2004. Something happened that season.

Orioles righty Scott Feldman dropped to 5-6 with Baltimore (12-12 overall), as Boston wasted no time in getting to him. The Sox collected three extra-base hits in the opening inning and came away with a 5-0 lead that would satisfy a solid performance by starter Clay Buccholz (12-1).  Daniel Nava launched his 12th home run of the season in the inning – a three-run shot – that sent the Red Sox on their way.

With Buchholz dealing, the Red Sox picked up three more runs in the third to push the game into blow-out mode at 8-0.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia launched what looked like a three-run homer that bounced off the right field bullpen wall, but was overturned on video review into an RBI double. A consolation prize for the Sox backstop would be in passing Carlton Fisk for the most doubles by a Red Sox catcher with 40. Stephen Drew followed later with a two-run single, ending the inning in a run-down.

The Orioles would get as close as 8-3 with a pair of long balls off Clay Buchholz. In the third, Adam Jones launched a 1-1 offering to center for his 33rd shot of the year, followed up by Chris Davis’ solo homer in the sixth inning, extending his franchise record with 53 home runs.

A nice moment for David Ortiz came in the eighth inning when he collected those three runs back with a three-run homer to the opposite field. For Papi, it was his 30th home run of the season, that gave him seven career seasons of 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. The only other Sox player with that many was a nice, scrappy hitter by the name of Theodore Samuel Williams. Heard of him?

Ortiz's homer not only tied Williams for most 30 hr, 100 RBI seasons, but tied him on the all-time list with Orioles great Cal Ripken with 431.

Ortiz’s homer not only tied Williams for most 30 hr, 100 RBI seasons, but tied him on the all-time list with Orioles great Cal Ripken with 431.

Following another solo homer by Jonny Gomes (3-4, 3 R), and a tidy mop-up job by Koji Uehara, the Sox left with victory 97 and a great shot to seal the AL’s best record. Jon Lester will go for win 16 Saturday night against Wei-Yin Chen and an Orioles team that faded fast down the stretch.


Clay Buchholz – 7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB 4 K (Finishes year 12-1, 1.74 ERA)

Stephen Drew – 2-4, 3 RBI, Triple

Daniel Nava – 2-5 HR 3 RBI 2R

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports