2011 Season Log

April

Bard falls hard. Jon Lester did not have command of this game, falling behind 4-5 to the Texas Rangers for the season opener in Arlington, Texas. He left in the 6th inning, but the bullpen held the line into the 8th, when Big Papi crushed a homer deep into left center field to tie it up. Josh Bard came on, replacing Dan Wheeler with 2 on and 1 out, and we felt confident that this would be a nail-biter to the end. The nail biting did not last long, however, when pinch hitter David Murphy doubled to start a fusillade that gave Texas a 4 run lead with 2 out before Tim Wakefield came on to stop the bleeding. Texas starter C. J. Wilson did not exactly cover himself with glory either, surrendering 4 runs in 5 2/3rds innings for a no decision. The win went to reliever Darren Oliver, who gave up the Papi blast, but was the pitcher of record as the Rangers teed off against Bard.

April 1, 2011 at Texas: Texas Rangers 9, Boston Red Sox 5; WP: Oliver, LP Bard. Red Sox record: 0-1; Game 1/161

Lackey lacks command. John Lackey picked up where he left off last season, getting in trouble too much, leaving the ball up in the zone, and ultimately, getting hammered. He lasted just 3 2/3rds innings, giving up 9 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks (one intentional), including a solo blast by Ian Kinsler in the first (his second in as many games) and a grand slam by our old friend, Adrian Beltre, in the 4th. The bullpen provided no relief, as Dan Wheeler and Tim Wakefield also gave up dingers. On the positive side, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Adrian Gonzalez continued to produce at the plate, including homers by Papi and Ellsbury. Bobby Jenks looked good in 1 inning of relief. In the end, the Red Sox slinked off the field with a 12-5 loss. Texas Starter Colby Lewis gave up 3 runs in 6 innings for the win.

April 2, 2011 at Texas: Texas Rangers 12, Boston Red Sox 5; WP Lewis, LP Lackey. Red Sox record: 0-2; Game 2/160

Solo shots down Clay. Clay Buchholz had a decent start to this one, but gave up a bizarre succession of 4 solo home runs over the 6 1/3rd innings he pitched. In addition to dingers by David Murphy, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler popped his third solo blast in as many games. Texas starter Matt Harrison had the Red Sox baffled through most of his 7 innings. Boston did manage a rally in the 7th, but got just one run out of it when Kevin Youkalis was driven in by Carl Crawford, who finally got his first hit in a Red Sox uniform. Jonathan Papelbon surrendered the 5th run in the 8th after allowing a double to Andres Blanco and drilling Kinsler (was it retribution? Unlikely.); Blanco scored on a Michael Young double. After that, Pap settled down started pitching like a closer. On the bright side, Dennys Reyes has proven a valuable addition to the bullpen, having given up just 2 hits and no runs in three successive games of spot relief. Now, the Red Sox get a day off to consider how they can get into the season, and Red Sox fans have a day to fret and fume (and boy, will they!).

April 3, 2011 at Texas: Texas Rangers 5, Boston Red Sox 1; WP Harrison, LP Buchholz. Red Sox record: 0-3; Game 3/159

Cleveland chill keeps Sox cold. Josh Beckett gave up 3 runs in 5 innings, and never really seemed all that confident of his pitches, though he did well enough to keep his team in the game. The bullpen (Matt Albers, Bobby Jenks, and Daniel Bard) was very effective, allowing no further scores. That should have been enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win this one, but their bats were ice cold, as the produced a smattering of hits across the 9 innings, with JD Drew’s double the only Boston extra base hit. He moved David Ortiz (who had walked) to third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia subsequently drove Papi in for the only Boston run. The Indians scored 2 runs in the 4th inning (including one by our old friend Orlando Cabrera) and 1 in the 5th. Josh Tomlin went 7 innings for the win, and Chris Perez got the save. Beckett took the loss. The attendance was a paltry 9,025, as Indians fans clearly didn’t consider their club worth braving the chilly temperatures. The Red Sox have now dropped their first 4 games for the first time since 1996 (they actually dropped their first 5 that year), and fans are getting restless.

April 5, 2011 at Cleveland: Cleveland Indians 3, Boston Red Sox 1; WP Tomlin, LP Beckett, S Perez. Red Sox record: 0-4; Game 4/158

Indians X Reyes Vision. Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up 3 runs and the Red Sox scored 4 runs against the Cleveland Indians. So what happened? Dennys Reyes, who hit two batters in a row, then walked a third to load the bases in the 6th. On came Dan Wheeler, who got a line drive off Michael Brantley, and that should have been good for 2 out, but a mental error by Jason Varitek at the plate resulted in 2 on with just 1 out, and a homer by Asdrubal Cabrera made this a 6-2 game. Although a 2 run homer by Adrian Gonzalez in the following inning made this one close, runs in the 7th and 8th ensured the Indians of a fairly comfortable 8-4 win over the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field in Cleveland. If the Red Sox lose again, we will have to dust off the history books to find a season opening losing streak as bad as this one. Rafael Perez took the win for Cleveland; Dice-K was the loser for Boston.

April 6, 2011 at Cleveland: Cleveland Indians 8, Boston Red Sox 4; WP Perez, LP Matsuzaka. Red Sox record: 0-5; Game 5/157

Indians’ small ball meets Red Sox’ small brains. Jon Lester pitched a gem of a game, giving up 3 hits through 7 shutout innings. Unfortunately, a combination of base running and fielding mistakes sunk the Red Sox in this pitchers’ duel. Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona also shut out Boston on 2 hits through 7, and the Indians’ bullpen took it from there. In the bottom of the 8th, the Indians’ Adam Everett walked, then stole 2nd base when Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw sailed high over the head of Dustin Pedroia, and took 3rd on an Orlando Cabrera sacrifice bunt (why does he keep coming up in situations like this?). Everett scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze play with Asdrubal Cabrera bunting for the game’s only run. The Red Sox had a chance to rescue the game in the 9th when JD Drew had an infield single with 2 out and Darnell McDonald on base (he was running for David Ortiz, who walked), but McDonald overran 2nd base, and was tagged out to end the game. The Red Sox have now posted their worst start since 1945. Nice way to head into the home opener.

April 7, 2011 at Cleveland: Cleveland Indians 1, Boston Red Sox 0; WP Rafael Perez, LP Bard, S Chris Perez. Red Sox record: 0-6; Game 6/156

Dustin busts the slump. Dustin Pedroia had 3 hits, including a home run, to drive in 3 runs and power the Red Sox to a 9-6 victory over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. John Lackey started the game, and struggled mightily (including doubles by Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, a triple by Gardner, and a homer by Alex Rodriguez), giving up 6 runs in 5 innings, but that was good enough for the win as the Red Sox hitters started playing the way the experts expected, with contributions throughout the lineup. Every player contributed at least 1 run, hit, or RBI, except for Carl Crawford, who is still finding his way with this new team. Former Yankee Alfredo Aceves took over in the sixth to calm things down, and the combination of Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Yanks from there.

New York starter Phil Hughes gave up a solo blast to Pedroia in the first, but got hit by the Red Sox bus in the 2nd, surrendering 5 runs to a relentless assault that included RBI hits by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz. Bartolo Colon came on in the 3rd, and was holding the line until the 5th, when a walk and throwing error enabled Salty to drive in another run with a double. After giving up a single to A-Gon, and whiffing Youk, he was lifted for Boone Logan in the 7th, and Boone allowed a Papi double; A-Gon and Papi were driven in by a JD Drew single. Lackey got the win, Colon took the loss, and Pap got the save.

April 8, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, New York Yankees 6; WP Lackey, LP Colon, S Papelbon. Red Sox record: 1-6; Game 7/155

Not Clay’s Day. Clay Buchholz continued to struggle for the Red Sox, giving up 5 runs over just 3 2/3rds innings as Boston fell to the New York Yankees, 9-4 on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. Buchholz surrendered 2 runs in the 2nd, and 3 more in the 4th on a Russell Martin home run. The Red Sox staged a furious comeback in the 4th inning as JD Drew scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury fielder’s choice, and Dustin Pedroia drove in 2 more runs with a double, to make the score 5-4. But Felix Dubront, who had quieted things in the 4th, gave up a 2 run homer to Curtis Granderson in the 5th, and that was pretty much all she wrote. Robinson Cano had a solo homer off Alfredo Aceves in the 6th, and Martin had his second of the game in the 7th. Buchholz took the loss, and David Robertson, who relieved Ivan Nova in the 5th, got the win. Tim Wakefield pitched the last 2 innings with no further Yankee scoring, but by then the damage had been done.

April 9, 2011 at Fenway Park: New York Yankees 9, Boston Red Sox 4; WP Robinson, LP Buchholz. Red Sox record, 1-7; Game 8/154

Beckett rights the ship. Josh Beckett turned in 8 scoreless innings, putting in the kind of performance of which we knew he was capable, to shut down the Bronx Bombers as the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 4-0 at Fenway Park. Josh gave up just 2 hits in this masterpiece. Red Sox hitters delivered throughout the lineup, with the notable exception of Carl Crawford. CC Sabathia started for the Yankees, and gave up 1 run in 5 2/3rds innings (Mike Cameron drove in Dustin Pedroia), but took the loss. Joba Chamberlain took over in the 6th, and gave up doubles to Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz, for 3 more runs through the 8th inning. Papelbon finished the game in the 9th, with 3 up and 3 down, and 2 strikeouts. Although questions remain regarding Carl Crawford, and the Red Sox left a stunning 11 men on base in this game, the win represents a series victory over the Yankees and may suggest that the negativity of the first week of the season is now behind the team.

April 10, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, New York Yankees 0; WP Beckett, LP Sabathia. Red Sox record, 2-7, Game 9/153

Hot bats, cold dice. The Rays had the hot bats, and the Red Sox had an ice cold Daisuke Matsuzaka, who may have had the worst start of his career, pitching just 2 innings and giving up 7 runs on 8 hits, as Tampa Bay went on to crush Boston, 16-5 at Fenway Park. After Sam Fuld flied out in the first, it was all Rays, starting with a solo home run by our old friend, Johnny Damon. Dice-K managed to escape the first inning with just that run, but gave up 6 in the 2nd, and seemed to be sending most of his fastballs right down the middle of the strike zone. Every starting member of the Tampa Bay lineup had a hit except Dan Johnson. Tim Wakefield came on in the 3rd, and calmed things down for a little while, but the supercharged Rays kept on scoring, and not allowing the Red Sox even a hint of getting back into this game.

New England native Sam Fuld (from New Hampshire) of the Rays had a shot a hitting for the cycle, having a double, a home run, and a triple, but when he got another hit in the 9th, he ran hard and made it a double. In fact, the 9th inning was ridiculous, making a miserable game for Boston infinitely more embarrassing, as Tampa picked up 4 runs altogether, just for good measure. Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher, Jeremy Hellikson, was by no means overwhelming, but then, he didn’t need to be, going 5 1/3rd innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits for the win. One small consolation: Jacoby Ellsbury had a solo home run in the 8th, and went 2 for 4 in the game.

April 11, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 16, Boston Red Sox 5; WP Hellickson, LP Matsuzaka. Red Sox record, 2-8, Game 10/152

Price’s ice chills Sox bats. Tampa Bay’s David Price kept the Red Sox down, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits over 7 2/3rds innings, and Boston’s Jon Lester kept pace, except for Johnny Damon’s 2 RBI single in the 5th. The result: The Rays topped Boston 3-2. With a left-hander on the mound, Terry Francona used Jed Lowrie at 3rd. put Mike Cameron in center, shifting Carl Crawford to left in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, had Darnell McDonald in place of JD Drew in right, and put Kevin Youkalis at DH in place of Big Papi to load the lineup with right-handers. It didn’t help much. McDonald did have a solo home run, but the only other Red Sox run came when Dustin Pedroia doubled in the 6th, and Lowrie drove him in with another double. The Red Sox had opportunities in the 8th and 9th (against closer Kyle Farnsworth) but were unable to capitalize.

April 12, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 3, Boston Red Sox 2; WP Price, LP Lester, S Farnsworth. Red Sox record 2-9, Game 11/151

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. The Red Sox did not get a chance to turn the ship around, as rain washed out their third contest with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, April 13th. The game will have to be rescheduled for later in the year. On a positive note, this gives manager Terry Francona an opportunity to juggle his starting rotation, if he thinks it will help.

April 13, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox is rained out.

Bobby Jenks: designated disaster. It seems with each loss, it fall upon a different player to blow the game. This time the lot fell on the usually lights-out reliever Bobby Jenks, who came into the 7th inning with the score tied at 3 and gave up 4 runs on 4 hits and a walk, leaving after getting just one man out. The Red Sox tried to come back, but fell one run short, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-6. Clay Buchholz started the game, and while never looking terribly secure, managed to work his way through 5 innings of work, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and 5 walks which, while pretty bad, actually represents a big improvement over his previous starts this season. The game had started out pretty well, with Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkalis hammering homers in the 3rd inning off Toronto starter Brett Cecil to generate a  3-0 lead. But the Jays came back in the 5th when Buchholz walked 2 and gave up a triple to Corey Patterson. When Buchholz got in trouble again in the 6th, Alfredo Aceves replaced him and allowed a runner Buchholz had walked (Adam Lind) to score on a Travis Snider double, resulting in the 3-3 tie. The Red Sox rallied in the 8th when Youk and David Ortiz walked, Jed Lowrie (batting for Jarrod Saltalamacchia) singled in Youk, and Marco Scutaro doubled, scoring Lowrie and Papi. But it wasn’t enough, and Toronto closer Jon Rauch came on in the 9th to slam the door shut.

April 15, 2011 at Fenway Park: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Boston Red Sox 6; WP Cecil, LP Jenks, S Rauch. Red Sox record 2-10, Game 12/150

Red Sox rip Reyes. The Boston Red Sox looked more like the team we thought they would be in this one, knocking Jo-Jo Reyes out of the game after just 3 innings, with 4 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks against the Toronto Blue Jays, and went on to win, 4-1. The Toronto bullpen held the line after that, but the damage was done. Jed Lowrie, who started in place of Marco Scutaro at shortstop, had a great game at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a home run. David Ortiz was batting ahead of Mike Cameron, so the Jays pitchers figured they could pitch around him and walked him three times. Big mistake as Mike Cameron went 2 for 4. Also, Youk doubled, and Jacoby Ellsbury singled and walked twice. Josh Beckett started for the Sox, and delivered a classic performance, going 7 innings and giving up just 1 run on 3 hits for the win. Daniel Bard cruised in the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon dominated in the 9th for the save.

April 16, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, Toronto Blue Jays 1; WP Beckett, LP Reyes, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 3-10, Game 13/149. Box score

Lester slays Jays. Jon Lester delivered another quality start, and this time the Red Sox hitters responded with solid performances at the plate. Toronto starter Jesse Litsch was tough at the start, but soon gave way to the Sox onslaught. Jarrod Saltalamacchia got things started with a seeing-eye single that drove in a run, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a 3 run blast as Boston beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-1. All in all, the Sox delivered 8 hits, including a double by Adrian Gonzalez. Only Carl Crawford and Pedroia Ellsbury failed to get hits, but Pedroia provided plenty of support with his glove, including executing a line drive double play. Although Felix Doubront was a bit shaky in relief, the bullpen came through overall, posting zeros on the scoreboard for the last 4 innings. Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, and Dan Wheeler looked especially sharp.

April 17, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 8, Toronto Blue Jays 1; WP Lester, LP Litsch. Red Sox record 4-10, Game 14/148. Box score

Dice-K rolls Jays. Daisuke Matsuzaka demonstrated why he is still a pitcher to be reckoned with, dominating the Toronto Blue Jays for 7 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and propelling the Red Sox to a lopsided 9-1 victory. The Red Sox jumped all over Toronto starter Ricky Romero early, with  a JD Drew triple in the bottom of the 1st, followed by walks by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, to set up a 2 RBI single by Jed Lowrie. In the 3rd inning, Youk doubled and Big Papi drove him in with a sharp single. In the 5th, a Papi walk was followed by a Pedey home run. That drove Romero from the game, but the hits just kept coming.  All in all, the Sox got 9 runs on 13 hits, including homers by Youk and Jacoby Ellsbury, and doubles by Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. In fact, every Boston hitter who came to the plate got a hit except Jason Varitek, but he did walk once. Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect 8th for Boston, and the only blemish came on a Yunel Escobar home run off Tim Wakefield in the 9th. The Boston Red Sox are now certainly looking like the team we expected to see from the start, and are beginning their slow ascent up the American League Eastern Division standings.

April 18, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, Toronto Blue Jays 1; WP Matsuzaka, LP Romero. Red Sox record 5-10, Game 15/147. Box score

A’s snap Sox streak. Here’s the good news: John Lackey found his form, going 7 full innings, giving up just 1 run on 4 hits. The bad news: his opposite number, lefty Brett Anderson, was totally on top of his game, shutting out Boston over 8 innings, enabling the A’s to beat the Red Sox, 5-0, in Oakland. The winning run came in the first inning when our old friend Coco Crisp singled, then stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and scored on another ground ball out. Other than that, Lackey was everything Sox fans could have hoped for, but nonetheless, he took the loss. The game remained close into the 8th inning, when Dan Wheeler gave up a double to Cliff Pennington and was replaced by Hideki Okajima. Oki struggled, giving up a sharply hit single to Daric Barton that scored Pennington, then a walk, then a double to our old foe Hideki Matsui that scored 2 more runs. Alfredo Aceves then came on and surrendered a single to Kurt Sweeney that scored another run. The Sox had a chance to do something in the 9th when Dustin Pedroia walked and Adrian Gonzalez singled, but Kevin Youkalis and Jacoby Ellsbury both flied out, ending the game. An interesting situation came in the 8th, when it was still a 1-0 game; Jacoby Ellsbury was at 1st, running for David Ortiz (he had singled), and Mike Cameron was at the plate. Cameron struck out as Ellsbury broke for 2nd, but stepped in front of the catcher. Ellsbury was called out because of Cameron’s interference (thus resulting in a double play), which may have killed a rally opportunity.

April 19, 2011 at Oakland: Oakland A’s 5, Boston Red Sox 0; WP Anderson, LP Lackey. Red Sox record 5-11, Game 16/146. Box score

Clay slays A’s. Clay Buchholz returned to form in this one, giving up 1 run in 5 1/3rd innings, and Red Sox bats provided more than enough support, including home runs by Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie (who went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI), and JD Drew, as the Boston Red Sox beat Oakland in Oakland, 5-3. Buchholz looked much better than in his previous outings this year, but seemed to tire in the 6th, allowing a double to Ryan Sweeney and a couple of walks, which prompted Terry Francona to call in fireballer Daniel Bard. Bard responded by concluding the 6th, and pitching a shutout 7th (allowing a single to Hideki Matsui). Our old friend Coco Crisp drove much of the Oakland attack, going 2 for 5, including a leadoff home run in the first, and a double in the 8th that drove in a run. Mark Ellis also doubled off Buchholz. Oakland’s other lefty starter (LHP Brett Anderson had started the previous day), Gio Gonzalez, looked pretty strong through 5 innings, but lost it in the 6th with Adrian Gonzalez’s single and Lowrie’s dinger. Bobby Jenks was a bit shakey, giving up a walk and three straight singles, but Jonathan Papelbon shut down the A’s in the 8th, and got through the 9th for the save, despite hitting a batter and giving up 2 singles for an Oakland run.

April 20, 2011 at Oakland: Boston Red Sox 5, Oakland A’s 3; WP Buchholz, LP Gonzalez, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 6-11, Game 17/145. Box score

Red Sox outlast, outluck Angels. In an odd game that saw a number of questionable calls, including Dustin Pedroia’s safe call after dancing well outside the baseline to avoid a tag, and a strike zone that expanded and shrank like an accordion, Boston managed a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 4-2, in 11 innings. Josh Beckett had an outstanding start, pitching six no-hit innings before giving up a 2 run homer to Torii Hunter in the 7th. Hunter’s dinger tied the score as Jacoby Ellsbury had hit a line drive single in the 6th to drive in 2 runs. The Red Sox had plenty of opportunities to avoid extra frames, as they left 15 runners on base, and went 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position. Pedey and Adrian Gonzalez had good nights at the plate, going 3 for 4 and 2 for 5, respectively; A-Gon and David Ortiz both doubled in the game. A-Gon’s two-bagger drove in the winning run in the 11th, which was followed by Pedey’s insurance score on a Jed Lowrie sac fly. Beckett went 8 full innings, with Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks (who got the win), and Jonathan Papelbon holding the line from there. Pap got the save. The Angels’ starter, Tyler Chatwood, pitched as well as he had to, going 6 innings for a no decision. Reliever Rich Thompson had the Sox baffled in the 9th and 10th, but seemed to be losing his edge in the 11th as the game unraveled. He took the loss.

With this win, the Boston Red Sox are now in the same position that the 2005 New York Yankees were in at this point in that season. Those Yankees were also in last place in the AL East with a 7-11 record. They went on to win the division with a record of 95-67. Just sayin’.

April 21, 2011 at Anaheim: Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2 (11 innings); WP Jenks, LP Thompson, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 7-11, Game 18/144. Box score

Boston’s California cruise becomes a Salty adventure. Jon Lester cruised through 6 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just 4 hits and 2 walks, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s adventures in the 8th made this game closer than it should have been, as Boston beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 4-3.  After Matt Albers gave up a run in the 7th, it was Bobby Jenks’s turn. He had some control issues initially, giving up a double to Howard Kendrick and a hit to Bobby Abreu (scoring Kendrick), who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Then came the adventure, as Salty flat out missed a low pitch and scrambled around looking for the ball while Abreu came all the way around from 2nd to score. In fact, Salty had 3 passed balls in the game. On the plus side, Salty also started the Red Sox rally in the 3rd with a double to center, subsequently scoring on an Ellsbury double. The Sox tacked 2 more runs on in the 4th, when JD Drew doubled with one on, and an error in center by Peter Bourjas off the bat of Carl Crawford (who had another miserable game at the plate, going 0 for 4) scored Drew and Jed Lowrie. Lowrie doubled in the 6th and reached 3rd on an error (or so the official scoring goes; really, it was a triple to anyone looking closely at the play) and scored on a Drew single. All the Boston runs were charged to Angels’ starter Dan Haren, who took the loss. With the score that close, Jonathan Papelbon had to come on in the 9th for a rare back-to-back appearance to get the save.

April 22, 2011 at Anaheim: Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3; WP Lester, LP Haren, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 8-11, Game 19/143. Box score

Reloaded Dice. When Jason Varitek is catching, it seems that Daisuke Matsuzaka is unbeatable. He pitched 8 shutout innings with just one hit, as the Red Sox went on to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 5-0. Carl Crawford finally started hitting the way he did with the Rays. In the 2nd inning, he had an RBI single, driving in Jed Lowrie (who doubled), and he doubled in the 6th, and scored on a Jason Varitek double (Varitek’s first RBI since last June). Lowrie went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Jacoby Ellsbury also had a great game, singling in the 3d and scoring on an Adrian Gonzalez single, and singling again in the 5th and scoring on a Youk home run. The Angels’ Ervin Santana went 7 innings, giving up all 5 Red Sox runs for the loss. Alberto Callaspo had the only Angel hit, in the 2nd inning. Daniel Bard finished out, pitching a shutout 9th inning in a non-save situation. Forget the first 2 weeks of the season. The Red Sox are now officially playing like a championship team.

April 23, 2011 at Anaheim: Boston Red Sox 5, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 0; WP Matsuzaka, LP Santana. Red Sox record 9-11, Game 20/142 Box score

We’ll take those brooms; now the Sox are doing the sweeping. Red Sox fans might have wondered if they were really watching John Lackey, or a resurrected Cy Young, as the Boston starter pitched 8 masterful shutout innings, scattering 6 hits and striking out 6; behind Lackey the Sox completed a 4 game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, winning 7-0. There was good news at the plate for Sox fans as well, with Carl Crawford hitting his first home run in a Red Sox uniform and going 2 for 4 on the day. Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez doubled in the winning effort. The assault started early, as the Ellsbury and Gonzalez doubles off Angel starter Matt Palmer, coupled with a walk by Kevin Youkilis and a single by David Ortiz generated 2 runs, and Youk scored on a Mike Cameron fielder’s choice. That was more than Lackey needed, as he controlled the game from there. Boston hitters tacked on 4 more runs in the late innings, and Dan Wheeler closed out the game without incident. Although he went 0 for 4 at the dish, Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught a competent game, muting for now the calls for a change at that position. This is the second road sweep in a row for Boston, having swept the prior series of 2 games against Oakland.

April 24, 2011 at Anaheim: Boston Red Sox 7, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 0; WP Lackey, LP Palmer. Red Sox record 10-11, Game 21/141 Box score

Birds’ Britton busts Boston’s bandwagon. Zach Britton cooled off Red Sox bats, going 6 innings and giving up just one run on 5 hits and 2 walks as the Orioles won, 4-1, halting Boston’s winning streak at 5. Baltimore’s bullpen came through as well, as Jim Johnson pitched 2 shutout innings, yielding just 1 hit, and Kevin Gregg closed out with a perfect 9th for the save. Clay Buchholz never had a meltdown inning, but was far from dominant, giving up singles and walks in bunches to yield single runs in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th innings, as he went 6 2/3rds innings, giving up 4 runs on 12 hits and 2 walks. Baltimore’s Mark Reynolds and Luke Scott doubled off him. The only Boston run came when Dustin Pedroia singled in the 4th, advanced to 2nd on a fielder’s choice, stole 3rd, and scored on a Kevin Youkilis sacrifice fly. Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez doubled in the game, to no avail.

April 26, 2011 at Baltimore: Baltimore Orioles 4, Boston Red Sox 1; WP Britton, LP Buchholz, S Gregg. Red Sox record 10-12, Game 22/140 Box score

Boston bailout of Beckett bombs. Josh Beckett did not have his best game, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits including a Derrek Lee double, a double and homer by Adam Jones, and a homer by Luke Scott. But, the Red Sox rallied in the 8th, scoring 4 runs to tie the game thanks to a key RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez and a 2 run homer by Kevin Youkilis. It proved to be not quite enough, however, as Daniel Bard came on in the bottom of the 8th and gave up back-to-back singles to Nick Markakis and Lee; and even though Markakis was thrown out at home, Vladimir Guerrero singled to drive in Lee with what proved to be the winning run as the Orioles beat Boston, 5-4. Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie contributed 6 shutout innings, giving up 7 runs, but got the no-decision. In the classic unfairness that is baseball scoring, Koji Uehara surrendered  those 4 8th inning runs, but got the win. Kevin Gregg closed out the 9th for the save. The Red Sox have now proved that they can beat the best and lose to the worst. What does this mean?

April 27, 2011 at Baltimore: Baltimore Orioles 5, Boston Red Sox 4; WP Uehara, LP Bard, S Gregg. Red Sox record 10-13, Game 23/139 Box score

Bosox blast Birds’ bullpen. Red Sox starter Jon Lester and Orioles starter Brad Bergesen each gave up 2 runs; Bergesen over 6 innings, and Lester over 8. Then Baltimore’s bullpen took over in the 7th with Jim Johnson, and that’s when the fireworks started. Before it was over, the Red Sox had scored 4 runs on 5 hits off Johnson, Michael Gonzalez, and Jason Berken, as they went on to win, 6-2. Josh Rupe also gave up 2 hits as he stopped  them in the 9th, but it was too late as Jonathan Papelbon had a perfect inning to shut the Birds down. Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford all doubled in the game. Ellsbury and Gonzalez each went 3 for 5; Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each had a 2 for 5 night. The Baltimore runs came on a Derrek Lee RBI single in the 1st and a Vladimir Guerrero solo homer in the 6th. Lester took the win, and Johnson the loss.

April 28, 2011 at Baltimore: Boston Red Sox 6, Baltimore Orioles 2; WP Lester, LP Johson. Red Sox record 11-13, Game 24/138 Box score

Red Sox run aground as Mariners sail to victory. Boston’s batter began the game by beating up on Seattle starter Jason Vargas in the first 4 innings, including 2 solo home runs by Mike Cameron. Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up 2 runs in the first inning (on a 2 RBI single by Justin Smoak), but then seemed to settled down after that. In the 5th, however, he was pulled from the game when he showed muscle stiffness in his pitching arm, and the Mariners took advantage. They started by scoring a run in the 5th on a single by Chone Figgins off Matt Albers, moving Ichiro Suzuki, who had singled off Dice-K, into scoring position; he subsequently scored on a fielder’s choice for a run charged to Dice-K. Bobby Jenks came on in the 7th, surrendering a single to Ichiro and doubles to Figgins and Jack Cust as the Mariners came away with 2 more runs to take the lead. After his initial few innings of shakiness, Vargas settled down to stifle the Sox, and the job was finished by Jamey Wright in the 8th and Brandon League in the 9th, as the Mariners beat the Red Sox, 5-4.  Jenks took both the blown save and the loss.

April 29, 2011 at Fenway Park: Seattle Mariners 5, Boston Red Sox 4; WP Vargas, LP Jenks. Red Sox record 11-14, Game 15/137 Box score

Red Sox leave victory on base. John  Lackey pitched well enough to expect at least a no decision, but despite hits galore, the Red Sox left so many men on base that Lackey ended up the loser as Boston fell to the Seattle Mariners, 2-0.  The two runs came on a Milton Bradley RBI double in the 3rd, and a Jack Cust sacrifice fly in the 6th. Lackey pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits, but took the loss. Seattle’s Doug Fister went 5 2/3rds innings for the win, backed up by Aaron Laffey’s solid 2 1/3rd innings, and Brandon League’s close for the save. The Red Sox saw Jacoby Ellsbury, JD Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Kevin Youkilis double, and several other hits, but no one crossed the plate. In fact, Boston went 0 for 11 with RISP, and left 11 runners on base in the game. This has become a plague for the Red Sox. Somehow, they need to relearn how to rally, or this could be a long, depressing season.

April 30, 2011 at Fenway Park: Seattle Mariners 2, Boston Red Sox 0; WP Fister, LP Lackey, S League. Red Sox record 11-15, Game 26/136 Box score

May

A good Wake spoiled, but Carl comes to the rescue. Tim Wakefield pitched five very fine shutout innings against the Mariners, and left in the 6th with 2 out and 1 on. Bobby Jenks came on, gave up a single to Miguel Olivo, followed by 3 straight walks which forced in 2 runs and tied the game. That’s the way things stood until the bottom of the 9th, when Ichiro Suzuki lost a Jed Lowrie fly ball in the sun, allowing it to ricochet off his foot into the right field corner for a triple. Carl Crawford then became the hero of the day, driving Lowrie in with a solid single for the walk-off win over Seattle, 3-2. Jonathan Papelbon, who came on in the 9th to hold the Mariners off, took the win, and Jamey Wright, who did likewise for Seattle, got the loss. The other Red Sox scoring came in the 3rd, when a Big Papi double off Seattle’s ace starter, Felix Hernandez, drove in Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, both of whom had singled. The Crawford walk-off RBI came as a huge relief, as Carl had struck out twice in the game, and has been struggling at the plate. Despite shaving off his hillbilly chin bush, Jenks continues to worry Sox fans; his velocity was up today, but his control was down.

May 1, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3, Seattle Mariners 2; WP Papelbon, LP Wright. Red Sox record 12-15, Game 27/135 Box score

Pedey wears out Weaver, Clay has his way. Angels starter Jered Weaver was tough as always, and after ceding a run on a pair of hits in the 1st, he held off the Red Sox until the 5th inning, when, after Crawford doubled and Varitek walked, he faced Dustin Pedroia with 2 on and 2 out. Dustin just plain wore him down in a 9 minute at bat that involved 13 pitches, 9 of which he fouled off, before hitting a scorching single up the middle to score 2 and take the lead.  Weaver pitched another inning, despite going well over 100 pitches in the 5th. When the bullpen took over in the 7th, the real fireworks started as Boston scored 6, powered by Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Youkilis doubles, and a towering homer by Big Papi. After a few late inning Angel scores, the result was a solid Boston win, 9-5, over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Clay Buchholz put in a solid performance, going 6 2/3rds innings and giving up 2 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. It was a great night for Ellsbury, Ortiz, Crawford, and Youk, all of whom went 2 for 4, and all had extra base hits. The most remarkable play of the game came in the 6th inning when Alberto Callaspo came to the plate with Torii Hunter, who had doubled, standing at 2nd. Callaspo hit the ball sharply to Adrian Gonzalez at 1st, who stunned the crowd by firing the ball to Youk at 3rd for the tag out of Hunter, thus keeping a runner out of scoring position. It was a tough play, rarely seen, but he did it with great confidence. Confidence seemed to be the word of the day for the Red Sox, who performed well across the board. Prior to the game there was a solemn memorial to the victims of 9/11 on this day when we received the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US forces.

May 2, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5; WP Buchholz, LP Weaver. Red Sox record 13-15, Game 28/134 Box score

Boston blasts Angels’ ace. Los Angeles / Anaheim starter Dan Haren is one of the best pitchers in the American League, and he showed it in the first 5 innings,  but then in the 6th, Red Sox batters started to jump on his pitches, while Jon Lester kept the Angels at bay. The result: the Red Sox went on to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 7.3. Boston hitters seemed to be getting familiar with Haren’s pitches in the 6th, as Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez double. Jed Lowrie then drove in A-Gon with a single. In the next inning, Salty drove in Carl Crawford (who had singled).  An A-Gon homer in the 8th drove Haren from the game, and reliever Hisanori Takahashi was driven from the game by a Big Papi dinger. Marco Scutaro crushed one as well in the 8th. Jon Lester was solid through 7 innings, his only mistake coming in the 2nd with a hanger that Mark Trumbo launched into the Monster seats. Jonathan Papelbon finished the game in a non-save situation, causally firing fastballs that the Angels were turning into line drives, scoring a couple of runs on a ground rule double by Erick Aybar and a sac fly by Mark Trumbo, but then he settled down, and shut them down for the win.

May 3, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 7, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3. WP Lester, LP Haren. Red Sox record 14-15, Game 29/133 Box score

Rain douses Santana’s black magic; Red Sox lose in a desperate throw of the Dice. The Red Sox and Angels were locked in a pitchers’ duel through 4 innings: Ervin Santana was no-hitting Boston, and Josh Beckett had a one hitter, when rain shut it all down with one out in the top of the 5th. After a 2:35 rain delay, Angel relievers did a creditable job, holding the Red Sox to just 1 run while  the Halos notched 3. A furious comeback rally by Boston in the 9th, capped by a Carl Crawford double and Jacoby Ellsbury RBI single tied it at 3, bringing on extra innings in this already incredibly late game. Finally, in the 13th, Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first ever relief appearance, and gave up a 2 RBI single to Bobby Abreu to lose the game, 5-3 at 2:38 AM Thursday morning.

When play had resumed in the 5th, Matt Albers continued to hold off Los Angeles / Anaheim for the rest of the 5th and the 6th, but Boston hitters could do nothing against the Angel bullpen until the 8th, when Jason Varitek doubled and Adrian Gonzalez drove him in. The Sox still trailed at that point because Dan Wheeler had given up a 2 run blast to Vernon Wells in the 7th. After tying the game in 9th, the Angels used Trevor Bell in relief in the 10th, but the Red Sox scrounged for any pitchers they could find to cover the extra innings. The Sox had a chance to win in the 12th, when Kevin Youkilis blasted a double high off the Green Monster, but Marco Scutaro, attempting to score from first, was gunned down at the plate on a perfect relay. This marks only the second time the Angels have beaten the Red Sox during the regular season in the past 17 meetings. They get to try again less than 11 hours after this one was over.

May 4, 2011 at Fenway Park: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5, Boston Red Sox 3 (13 innings). WP Bell, LP Matsuzaka. Red Sox record 14-16; Game 30/132 Box score

Lackey lacks command; Halos hammer sluggish Sox. John Lackey looked like he was serving up batting practice; his pitches were out over the plate and the Angels slammed them, with 10 hits for 8 runs over just 4 innings. The Red Sox could do little at the dish by contrast, managing just 7 hits against pitching that was less than overwhelming as they lost to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 11-0.  The Red Sox looked sluggish both at the plate and in the field, with several awkward plays that were almost errors, including a collision at 2nd that nearly sent Youk to the DL. One could attribute this to the fact that the prior game ended at 2:38 AM this morning, but that didn’t seem to affect the Angels, who looked sharp at the plate, collecting 18 hits including 3 doubles (Alberto Callaspo, Peter Bourjos, and Bobby Abreu) and in the field, outrunning long flies, snagging line drives, and turning 4 double plays. Perhaps they were still on West Coast Time. This game saw the return of our old friend Scott Atchison, called up from AAA when Bobby Jenks went on the DL, and he served up the other 3 runs. Angels starter Joel Pineiro pitched competently, going 5 2/3rds innings for the win. The official attendance was 37,013, but there were a lot of empty seats, probably because of the late game last night / this morning.

The Boston Dirt Dogs got it right: this one was truly Stinko de Mayo.

May 5, 2011 at Fenway Park: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 11, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Pineiro, LP Lackey. Red Sox record 14-17; Game 31/131 Box score

Land o’ Lakes shakes Wake; Baker baffles Boston. The Twins’ Scott Baker gave up solo home runs to JD Drew and Adrian Gonzalez, and that was all the good news for the Red Sox in this one. Minnesota hammered Tim Wakefield (who was filling in for Daisuke Matsuzaka after Dice-K pitched relief 2 days earlier) for 8 runs (one of which was allowed by Alfredo Aceves, who took over in the 5th) on 9 hits and 4 walks as the Twins beat the Red Sox, 9-2. The Twins, who have not been a strong hitting team this year, picked up 12 hits, including a Trevor Plouffe dinger and a Danny Valencia double. As for the Red Sox, apart from the 2 homers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia contributed a double, and there were five other hits scattered through the game. A weird moment came in the 2nd, when Wake seemed to have Denard Span picked off first, but home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk. Terry Francona stormed out of the dugout and was immediately ejected. Seeking an explanation, he moved toward Hernandez but was physically blocked by 3rd base umpire Joe West and almost got in a tussle before stalking off to the showers. DeMarlo Hale managed the club for the rest of the game. It should be noted that Aceves did a decent job in finishing out the game, so the rest of the bullpen could take the day off.

This was the second game in a row that the Red Sox lost ugly, but also the second that could be considered a casualty of that excruciatingly long game against the Angels that cost the Sox the services of Dice-K in this one. Nonetheless, it still seems like there is energy missing from this club.

May 6, 2011 at Fenway Park: Minnesota Twins 9, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Baker, LP Wakefield. Red Sox record 14-18; Game 32/130 Box score

The storm clouds parted, and the Red Sox were themselves again. It was as if the baseball gods decided to hold up the game for a while as they deliberated on whether or not to stop harassing the Red Sox with mishaps. Seeing Clay Buchholz practice pitching during the rain delay seemed to convince them. When play resumed in the 3rd inning of a tight 1-0 game, tough pitching, sparkling fielding, and timely hitting enabled Boston to beat the Twins, 4-0.

Buchholz came back after a 2:07 rain delay still on top of his game, though Terry only let him go 5 innings. Clay shut out Minnesota on 2 hits and 1 walk, and had 6 strikeouts. The bullpen (Rich Hill, Matt Albers, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon) kept the Twins off the scoreboard with only Albers yielding a hit. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez both doubled, and every starter had a hit except Mike Cameron. Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford, and Marco Scutaro all had 2 hits. In the 3rd,Youk hit a scorching line drive against the Monster that was a single at Fenway but would have been a home run in any other park; he drove in Gonzalez. Carl Crawford looked especially good, taking difficult outside pitches to the opposite field as he went 2 for 4 on the day. Youk also went 2 for 4, and Scutaro went 2 for 3.

There were some fine fielding moments, too. In the 2nd inning, Minnesota’s Rene Rivera hit a sharp ground ball that Scutaro just got a glove on; he flipped the ball from his glove to Pedey at 2nd, who had to completely stretch out to catch it and keep his foot on the bag. In the 5th, Luke Hughes hit a lightning bolt liner that was caught, amazingly, by Lowrie, who doubled off Rene Rivera at first. In the sixth, Adrian Gonzalez snagged a sharply hit ground ball off the bat of Justin Morneau, fired it to Scutaro at 2nd, who then relayed to Rich Hill covering first for the double play.

Minnesota starter Brian Duensing did not survive the delay, and the Twins bullpen took over in the 3rd. Duensing took the loss.

May 7, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, Minnesota Twins 0. WP Buchholz, LP Duensing. Red Sox record 15-18; Game 33/129

Pink bats pound Pavano; Dice-K tames Twins. Swinging pink bats in honor of MLB’s annual Mother’s Day Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, the Red Sox pounded Minnesota starter Carl Pavano with 10 hits over 5 innings, including a double by Kevin Youkilis, a triple by Carl Crawford, and a home run by Adrian Gonzalez, as Boston went on to beat the Twins, 9-5 at Fenway Park.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had a rough 1st inning, giving up 3 hits and a walk for 3 runs. After that, he settled down to pitch through the 6th; the only other scored run off Dice-K was a solo homer by Danny Valencia in the 4th. Meanwhile, the Red Sox picked up 2 more runs on a double by Jed Lowrie that scored A-Gon and Youk. Matt Albers pitched 2 full innings for Boston, giving up a run on a ground rule double to Trevor Plouffe, who was driven in by a Jason Kubel single. Apart from that, Albers was solid, giving the rest of the bullpen a rest. Daniel Bard closed out the game by retiring the last three Twins in order.

Everyone in the Red Sox starting lineup had a hit except Jason Varitek; Ellsbury and A-Gon each went 3 for 5, while Youk and David Ortiz each went 2 for 4. All in all, a great day for Boston at the plate, especially considering that there was a fairly strong wind blowing in. The Sox were aided by sloppy play on the part of the Twins, who collected 3 errors in the field.

If they Sox can keep this momentum going for one more win tomorrow in their final game against Minnesota, they will be just 1 win away from reaching the .500 mark, which would be a good psychological boost as they go on the road to Toronto and then New York.

May 8, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, Minnesota Twins 5. WP Matsuzaka, LP Pavano. Red Sox record 16-18; Game 34/128

Carl the Conqueror. The Red Sox and Twins battled through a pitchers’ duel that was extended into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Jed Lowrie drew a walk off Minnesota’s Jim Hoey, and Jose Iglesias came in to pinch run for him. Carl Crawford responded to the opportunity with a clutch double that allowed Iglesias to score all the way from first for a walk-off 2-1 Boston victory. Boston had plenty of hits in this one: JD Drew, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Varitek all had doubles as well as Crawford, and the Sox had 9 hits overall, but struggled to string them together into runs. Fortunately, the Twins, who had 10 hits, had a similar problem. Josh Beckett had a great game, going 7 shutout innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 walk. Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn was also strong, with his only tough inning coming in the 5th, when he gave up the double to Tek, who was driven in by Adrian Gonzalez. Alfredo Aceves gave up the only Twins run in the 8th when Jason Kubel singled to drive in Denard Span. Hideki Okajima was solid, giving Sox fans that he is back… he gave up 2 hits and no runs in the 10th and 11th.

This was a tough game, but Red Sox fans can take heart that the team hung in there, and the bullpen really came through.

May 9, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 2, Minnesota Twins 1 (11 innings). WP Okajima, LP Hoey. Red Sox record 17-18 (35/127)

Chasing a rainbow in Toronto. Jon Lester had a rough 1st inning against the Blue Jays, and the Red Sox never quite recovered. Like chasing a rainbow, each time they felt about to overtake the Jays, Toronto moved just beyond their reach. They did extend to 10 innings, but Boston lost to Toronto, 7-6.

Lester gave up 3 walks and a single (to Corey Patterson) in the 1st; with the third walk forcing in a run. The Jays then scored twice on separate fielder’s choices. The Sox scored in the 2nd, the 4th, and the 5th (twice) to briefly take the lead, but each time they gained ground or  took the lead, the Jays scored another run. When Daniel Bard gave up a solo blast to David Cooper, it looked like it was all over. But, Adrian Gonzalez returned the favor in the 9th, and so on we went.  Finally, Rajai Davis singled off reliever Matt Albers, and was driven in by Cooper with a sac fly to end the game.

The Red Sox had a spectacular number of hits. The 9th inning homer by A-Gon was his 2nd of the game, and Big Papi crushed one in the 4th off starter Kyle Drabek. Papi and Jed Lowrie also doubled in the game. All in all, the Red Sox had 16 hits in the game, but were a sorry 5 for 14 with RISP.  It seems this team has all the skills, and the players are using them. Now, they need to get in synch.

Toronto’s Carlos Villanueva, who came on in the 10th, took the win; Albers absorbed the loss.

May 10, 2011 in Toronto: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Boston Red Sox 6, (10 innings). WP Villanueva, LP Albers. Red Sox record 17-19 (36/126)

Lackey lacks endurance; no relief from battered Boston bullpen. After two extra inning games that used pretty much the whole bullpen, Terry Francona really needed 7 innings out of John Lackey. He didn’t get them. Lackey struggled through most of the game, gave up plenty of walks, and fell apart in the 7th inning as Boston lost its 2nd straight to Toronto, 9-3.

Lackey gave up 9 runs on 9 hits with 5 walks over 6 2/3rds innings, including a homer and a double to John McDonald. He seemed to barely hold things together, trailing the Blue Jays by a 4-3 score going into the 7th, when the wheels came off the wagon. After giving up a walk and a single (to Jose Bautista) and another walk to load the bases, he forced in a run with a walk to David Cooper. Then McDonald’s double drove in 2 more runs, to make the score 7-3. Tim Wakefield came in and gave up a double to Rajai Davis, driving in the other 2 runners that Lackey was responsible for, resulting in the 9 run total for the Jays.

Toronto starter Jesse Litsch was fairly effective at frustrating the Red Sox, though Adrian Gonzalez (who went 2-for-4) doubled and homered, and David Ortiz contributed another dinger. To be fair to Lackey, he was kept in the game even though he had gone way over his normal pitch count, and left having thrown a season high 118 pitches before he was relieved.

In a post-game interview, Francona suggested that Lackey has gotten away from his fastball (it had helped make him an intimidating hurler with the Angels), and that perhaps he needs to bring more heat and depend a little less on his breaking ball. It should also be said that although the team is fundamentally sound, despite its struggles, it really needs a good long relief man. They have tried various guys in that role, but so far no one has proved reliable.

The good news is that the hitting is coming around; the whole lineup is starting to perform as expected, and the pitching staff should be good and rested for the start of the Yankees series on Friday.

May 11, 2011 in Toronto: Toronto Blue Jays 9, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Litsch, LP Lackey. Red Sox record 17-20 (37/125)

Buchholz buckles Bronx Bombers. Clay Buchholz was solid for 7 innings, and when he made mistakes, he regained composure and carried on. Home runs by Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis helped power the Red Sox to a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees at the Stadium.

Bartolo Colon and Buchholz battled through 3 innings before A-Gon’s homer broke the ice in the 4th. After that, Colon gave up a couple of walks, setting up a scoring opportunity for the Sox on a fielder’s choice by Carl Crawford that made the score 2-0. Russell Martin’s 2 run homer in the 5th tied the score, but to his credit, Buchholz did not lose his cool.

After Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in the 7th, Joba Chamberlain relieved Colon, and gave up 3 more runs to Boston, which created a seemingly unassailable 5-2 lead. Daniel Bard had a moment of weakness in the 8th, giving up a triple to Curtis Granderson, then throwing a wild pitch to Alex Rodriguez that allowed Granderson to score, but then, after walking A-Rod and hitting Robinson Cano with a pitch, he settled down to get Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada out and end the threat.

More anxiety came in the 9th when Jonathan Papelbon gave up a 2 out single to Derek Jeter, and allowed him to advance and score on a Granderson single. Pap did finish, however, to get the save.

This game was marked by sparkling play in the field on both sides, with fine plays by A-Gon and Pedroia. All in all, it was a solid win.

May 13, 2011 in New York: Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 4. WP Buchholz, LP Colon, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 18-20 (38/124)

Beckett, bullpen blank Bombers in the Bronx. Sox sluggers slam Sabathia. Josh Beckett shut out the New York Yankees through 6, with Matt Albers (2 innings) and Rich Hill finishing the whitewash at Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia had kept the Red Sox off the scoreboard until the 5th, when Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford singled, and Jacoby Ellsbury drove them home with a double. That proved more than enough as Boston beat New York, 6-0.

The 7th proved to be the big scoring inning for Boston. With the score 2-0, Boston, Mike Cameron walked, took 2nd on a wild pitch, then scored on a Jason Varitek single. Dustin Pedroia also singled in the inning, followed immediately by an Adrian Gonzalez 3 run homer to take this one out of reach. It should be noted that after Tek singled, Yankee manager Joe Girardi was so incensed that the pitch prior to the one he hit had been called a ball by home plate umpire Mike Winters, that he just kept ragging on him, until Winters tossed him from the game. The game also featured some great fielding by the Red Sox, including an almost impossible snag by Kevin Youkilis in the 6th of a very sharply hit ground ball off the bat of Russell Martin; Youk fired a bullet to A-Gon for the out.

There was a noticeable lack of energy at the Stadium on this night. It’s not yet clear if this is because Yankees fans have lost some of their intensity for the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, or if they have simply lost some enthusiasm for their team generally.

May 14, 2011 in New York: Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 0. WP Beckett, LP Sabathia. Red Sox record 19-20 (39/123)

How “sweep” it is! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Jon Lester struggled in the first 2 innings, but Red Sox hitters had his back. Sweet. Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz hit key home runs to tie the game, and put Boston ahead. Sweet. Jarrod Saltalalmacchia went 2-for-4 with a homer. Very sweet. Jonathan Papelbon had a flawless 9th to close out. It all let to a 7-5 victory, and a clean sweep of the Yankees at the Stadium.

After the 1st inning, Red Sox hitters never let New York starter Freddy Garcia settle into a comfortable groove, but harassed him constantly. In addition to the Youk and Papi dingers, Papi and Jacoby Ellsbury doubled off  Garcia as well. On the other side, Yankee DH Andruw Jones and Curtis Granderson homered off Lester in the 2nd inning. The only other extra base hit for the Bombers came in the 7th, when Alex Gonzalez doubled, and Granderson scored after Carl Crawford bobbled the ball in left.

Alfredo Aceves, who came in for Lester in the 7th, looked unsteady, and Terry Francona felt he had to bring in Daniel Bard early after the Granderson run with the score so tight. Aceves is one of those pitchers that Tito has been hoping to develop into a middle reliever, since that is the biggest weakness the Red Sox  have right now. Matt Albers has been showing promise in that role, but the Sox really need strength in the pen.

The Red Sox have finally made .500, an important psychological milestone after the miserable April they had. Things are trending in the right direction at last.

Meanwhile, all the drama surrounding Jorge Posada’s decision to take himself out of yesterday’s game has died down with his public apology, and when he came up to pinch hit in the 8th, he got a standing ovation. On another note, this series is evidence of why the Yankees will not win the American League pennant this year unless they fix their own pitching situation. Their starting rotation is unsteady, and  Joe Girardi has compensated by making his 25 man roster pitcher heavy (there are 13 pitchers). This means precious few spots for pinch hitters and defensive replacements on the bench. Red Sox fans should  not be complacent in this regard, however, as Brian Cashman has shown great skill at making mid-season adjustments in the past.

May 15, 2011 in New York: Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 5. WP Lester, LP Garcia, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 20-20 (40/122) Box score

The Comeback Kid. Adrian Gonzalez capped a terrific 3-for-5 night at the plate with a 2 RBI double in the bottom of the night that won this game for the Red Sox over the Baltimore Orioles, 8-7. Daisuke Matuzaka had a slightly more terrifying than usual start, giving up 5 runs over 5 1/3 innings, and leaving it to Scott Atchison to clean up his mess. Atchison gave up a run of his own to a Vladimir Guerrero RBI double to present Boston with a fairly steep hill to climb.

Then came the 6th inning. Singles by JD Drew, Jason Varitek, and A-Gon, and doubles from Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis combined with some pretty (I am sorry to say) incompetent Oriole fielding, including 2 errors and at least a couple of cases of poor judgment by Oriole fielders, to result in a 5 run inning for Boston. Alfredo Aceves took over for Atchison in thed 7th, and apart from the solo dinger to Mark Reynolds, he managed to hold  things together right through the 9th for a well deserved win.

Victory came in the bottom of the 9th when Baltimore reliever Kevin Gregg walked Jacoby Ellsbury, who stole 2nd. Dustin Pedroia then walked, and A-Gon sent them home with a mighty blast. The Red Sox now have a winning record! Woo-hoo!

Perhaps Terry Francona feels he has found his middle reliever in Aceves, though I still think Matt Albers is another contender for the job.

May 16, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 7. WP Aceves, LP Gregg. Red Sox record 21-20 (41/121)

May 17 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles; postponed due to rain.

Clay, Coke cancel; Red Sox find their way in the fog. It was a tight pitchers’ duel between Clay Buchholz and Phil Coke on a drizzly, foggy evening that saw a 20 minute rain delay, but ended in a Red Sox victory over the Detroit Tigers, 1-0. Neither starter allowed a run in 7 innings, and so it came  down to the bullpens. Daniel Bard continued the shutout for Boston, but Daniel Schlereth was the guy who blinked, as he walked Carl Crawford, and distracted by Crawford’s lead, served up a pitch over the plate that Jarrod Saltalamacchia smacked for a RBI double that drove in the winning run. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 9th to earn the save.

The Red Sox are now gradually working their way up this very tight AL East, winning the  high scoring affairs as well as the squeakers. Let’s see if they can maintain  that momentum.

May 18, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 1): Boston Red Sox 1, Detroit Tigers 0. WP Bard, LP Schlereth, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 22-20 (42/120) Box score

Crawford carries the day. After Kevin Youkilis walked, David Ortiz singled and was replaced by pinch runner Darnell McDonald, and JD Drew got an intentional pass, Carl Crawford came up in the bottom of the 9th with a tied score, the bases loaded and 1 out, and did what he has done for most of his career; what Theo Epstein went after him for. He singled deep to left center, driving in Youk with the game winning run, as the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 4-3.

The game started out very well. Josh Beckett was on top of his game, winning the battle with Detroit starter Justin Verlander and giving up just 1 run in 6 innings, before the bullpen took over. The Sox led 3-1 (thanks to a sac fly by Drew in the 2nd, and solo homers by Drew in the 4th and Big Papi in the 7th), when Daniel Bard came on in the 8th. Sadly, Bard had another of his puzzling flame-outs, as a few too many of his fastballs found the fat part of the plate, and in two cases found their way out of the ballpark, one off the bat of Brennan Boesch, and the other from Miguel Cabrera, to tie the score and blow the save.

After a scoreless bottom of the 8th, Terry Francona made the gutsy call to bring in Jonathan Papelbon in a tie (3-3) to pitch in the 9th rather than wait for a lead to materialize. His gamble paid off when Crawford smacked his game winning RBI hit off reliever Al Alburquerque.

This is beginning to look real now, folks.

May 18, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 2): Boston Red Sox 4, Detroit Tigers 3. WP Papelbon, LP Aburquerque. Red Sox record 23-20 (41/120) Box score

Red Sox runaway freight train crushes Cubs. Finally getting it all together after a brutal start to this season, the Sox had a full head of steam up, and a 6 game winning streak, when the Chicago Cubs were unfortunate enough to get in their way. The result was a 15-5 shellacking of the Chicagoes. Jon Lester was not at his best, giving up 5 runs in his 6 innings of work, powered by doubles from Darwin Barney and Reed Johnson, but it hardly mattered. The heavy swings of Red Sox bats, including doubles by Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia drove Chicago starter Doug Davis from the game in the 4th inning. Youk and Papi ended up with 2 doubles in the game, and Jacoby Ellsbury also hammered one. Youk and Jarrod Saltalamacchia also homered. In fact, every starter except Carl Crawford produced at least one hit.

To rest Lester, and since he was struggling anyway, Terry Francona called upon Scott Atchison in the 7th. Atchison was impressively strong, pitching 3 shutout innings to finish the game for his first career save.

With this win, the Red Sox passed the still struggling New York Yankees to take 2nd place in the AL East. The Red Sox are now 13-5 in May. if they continue at this pace, and the other AL East teams continue playing as they have been, they should have a solid lead in the division by the end of the month. That could be challenging though. With both John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL; Tito is hoping that Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield can fill those 2 gaps in the starting rotation.

May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 15, Chicago Cubs 5 (interleague). WP Lester, LP Davis, S Atchison. Red Sox record 24-20 (42/120) Box score

Cubs klobber Keystone Kops. The Boston Red Sox must have been confused by the “throwback” uniforms; they played like Keystone Kops, especially in the 8 run 8th inning, as terrible fielding and 3 errors helped the Chicago Cubs top the Red Sox, 9-3. The most odd moment came after Darwin Barney hit a sac fly that scored Alfonso Soriano. The throw came to Jason Varitek, who saw Jeff Baker caught off base. He threw to 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis, but Youk muffed the catch, and Baker scored.

The messy 8th obscured the fact that overall, this game was a good one for Red Sox pitching, despite the score. Alfredo Aceves, in his first major leagues start, got the Sox through 5 innings, leaving with a 2-1 lead. Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill combined to hold the line until the 8th, when everything fell apart. David Ortiz hit his 300th homer in a Red Sox uniform.

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano did a creditable job, giving up 3 runs in 7 hits over 5 2/3rds innings, but Sean Marshall, who took over just before the fireworks started, got the win. Matt Albers, who was the victim of the 8th inning mess, took the blown save and loss.

May 21, 2011 at Fenway Park: Chicago Cubs 9, Boston Red Sox 3 (interleague). WP Marshall, LP Albers. Red Sox record 24-21 (43/119) Box score

Cubs knuckle under. Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball baffled the Chicago hitters for 6 innings, before he finally gave up a pair of doubles (to Starlin Castro and Jeff Baker) to allow a run with 2 out in the 7th, and left to a standing ovation. The Red Sox peppered the Cubs with hits all night to win, 5-1.

Cubs starter James Russell seemed to have things under control until the 4th, when a pair of singles ( by Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz) and a walk (to Kevin Youkilis) loaded the bases, and the Red Sox scored on two consecutive sacrifice flies (by Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron). Russell’s night ended after Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a solo homer in the 5th. When all was said and done, Boston had 12 hits, including doubles by A-Gon and Papi (each of whom went 2-for-4) and a triple by Youk, in addition to Salty’s dinger.

The game was solid for the Red Sox all the way around. Consistent hitting applied constant pressure to the Cubs fielders, and Wake’s pitching was masterful. Daniel Bard provided 4 much needed outs in the end of the 7th and the 8th. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a double to Aramis Ramirez, but otherwise closed out the game with no real damage done.

This also marked the Run for Home Base, a 9K fund raising run to collect money for a program sponsored by the Red Sox and Massachusetts General Hospital to provide much needed care to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Before the game, a number of vets were honored with rousing applause as they marched to the field. During the game, more groups of veterans were honored between innings. It was a moving tribute to those who put on the uniform to protect the rest of us, reminding us that “no greater love hath a man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

May 22, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 5, Chicago Cubs 1 (interleague). WP Wakefield, LP Russell. Red Sox record 25-21 (44/118) Box score

Bard’s breakdown blows Clay’s day. Clay Buchholz was cruising into the 8th inning, when he got into a bit of trouble, leading 2-1. So Daniel Bard took over with 1 on and 1 out. He proceeded to surrender a deep single to Michael Brantley that scored Adam Everett, who pinch ran for Jack Hannahan. 2 pitches later, Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to score Brantley, and the Indians went on to beat the Red Sox, 3-2.

The loss obscured the excellent start of Buchholz, who went 7 1/3rd innings and gave up 2 runs (1 on his own, the other that he’d left on when he was relieved) on 4 hits. It also obscured another good day at the plate for Carl Crawford, who went 2-for-4 with a solo home run. Clay, who took the loss, may have been a little off his game, having pitched 4 solid innings in interleague action against the Chicago Cubs the previous day.

Our old friend Justin Masterson started for the Indians, and put in 7 2/3rds solid innings for the no decision. Joe Smith, who replaced Justin in the 8th, took the win, and Chris Perez, who closed out, got the save. On a troubling note, Dustin Pedroia turned his left foot over (the same foot he had surgery on) while rounding 2nd on a sharply hit single by Adrian Gonzalez, and had to leave the game. Red Sox fans must hold their breath and hope this will not land Pedey back on the DL.

May 23, 2011 at Cleveland: Cleveland Indians 3, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Smith, LP Bard, S Perez. Red Sox record 25-22 (45/117) Box score

Beckett, Boston bats clip Cleveland. The Red Sox bounced back from a disappointing loss yesterday, with Josh Beckett delivering 6 2/3rds innings while surrendering just 1 run on 5 hits and 3 walks. Key hits by Boston hitters, including a 2 run homer by Jason Varitek helped lift the Red Sox over the Indians, 4-2.

Tek had a great night all around, throwing out two attempted steals, and going 2-for-3 at the plate including his big dinger. David Ortiz went 2-for-4, both doubles, and Adrian Gonzalez also contributed a double, all off Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona. Drew Sutton filled in at 2nd base for Dustin Pedroia, who was still out with a sore ankle. The Red Sox said that Pedey is not injured, but was simply taking a planned day off. He is expected to be in the lineup for the finale of this series Wednesday afternoon. Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in Japan while mulling Tommy John surgery on his ailing elbow, and continues to be a source of concern, but Sox relievers seem to be filling in nicely so far.

Carmona did not pitch badly, but the Red Sox capitalized on every mistake, getting runners on base and, happily, plating many of them. On the Boston mound, Rich Hill bailed Beckett out of a jam in the 7th, and pitched a fairly clean 8th, giving up only a base on balls. Jonathan Papelbon surrendered a solo homer to Travis Buck that gave Sox fans some cause for consternation, but then settled down and closed out the game for his 9th save on the season.

Tomorrow’s noon start offers the Red Sox an opportunity to take this series from the Indians, and erase bad memories from April. The team seems to be building some dependable momentum, and assuming the pitching situation does not become a problem, the Sox’ stock should rise.

May 24, 2011 at Cleveland: Boston Red Sox 4, Cleveland Indians 2. WP Beckett, LP Carmona, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 26-22 (46/116) Box score

Boston bats blast Cleveland into the Cuyahoga. Carl Crawford went 4-for-4 with a home run and 2 doubles to help drive the Red Sox to a 14-2 win over the Indians. Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia also homered in this game, and Drew Sutton, Mike Cameron, and Jacoby Ellsbury also doubled. Everyone in the Red Sox lineup had at least two hits except Jed Lowrie, who went 0-for-5. Pedey showed that even if his ankle is still sore, he’s ready to resume the Laser Show. Jon Lester had a great start, going 6 shutout innings while giving up just 3 hits and one walk while striking out 7.

Indians starter Mitch Talbot took the brunt of the blows, giving up 8 runs and 2 walks in his 3 innings of work. Frank Hermann, who succeeded him for 2 /3rd innings did little better, surrendering 6 runs on 6 hits with a walk. By contrast, Boston’s Dan Wheeler and Scott Atchison were perfect in the 7th and 9th innings, respectively. The 2 runs for the Indians came in the 8th, off of Franklin Morales, who was just acquired from the Colorado Rockies for future considerations to replace Hideki Okajima in the bullpen (Oki has been optioned to Pawtucket).

In other news, John Lackey is expected to be back in the rotation on June 5, according to a NBC Sports report. If he comes back healthy and productive, it will be key to the team’s maintaining its present winning momentum.

May 25, 2011 at Cleveland: Boston Red Sox 14, Cleveland Indians 2. WP Lester, LP Talbot. Red Sox record 27-22 (47/115) Box score

Red Sox drown Detroit in a deluge of hits. There is no “mercy rule” in Major League Baseball, so Mother Nature intervened to do the job, with rain that began falling lightly in the 5th inning, intensified in the 6th, and became soaking by the 7th. The game was finally stopped in the middle of the 8th, as Boston had a 13 run lead. The Tigers looked like they just wanted to get out of there, and the umpires eventually concurred, giving Boston a 14-1 win in 7.5 innings. Alfredo Aceves had another creditable start, giving up just 1 run in 6 innings on 5 hits and 2 walks. Matt Albers had a perfect 7th, and that’s all she wrote.

Detroit starter Matt Scherzer was fooling no one today, lasting just 2+ innings. Between the 2nd and 3rd, he surrendered 7 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, including a double by Drew Sutton (who was filling in for Jed Lowrie at short), a triple by Carl Crawford, and a home run by Jacoby Ellsbury. A succession of Tiger pitchers endured a similar fate. Crawford went 4-for-5 on the day, David Ortiz went 2-for-3 with a double and 2 walks, and Josh Reddick (recently recalled from Pawtucket and covering for JD Drew, who had a strained hamstring) went 3-for-5.

The Red Sox are 11 for their last 13 now, and at this rate, they should get to first and just keep on going.

May 26, 2011 at Detroit: Boston Red Sox 14, Detroit Tigers 1. WP Aceves, LP Scherzer. Red Sox record 28-22 (50/112) Box score

Red Sox pound Porcello, leave Tigers in their Wake. The first run, in the first inning, was a small-ball run by Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox picked up 5 more in the 3rd, and there was nothing small about those runs. Ellsbury homered, Dustin Pedroia walked, Adrian Gonzalez singled, Kevin Youkilis doubled, and Carl Crawford homered off Detroit starter Rick Porcello. Tim Wakefield gave up 2 runs in the first 2 innings, one when Miguel Cabrera singled to drive in Austin Jackson, and the other on a solo home run by Jhonny Peralta. That was it for Wakefield through the 7th, as Boston went on to win, 6-3, over the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit’s Charlie Furbush (of South Portland, Maine) contributed 5 scoreless innings, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize, as they could not work their way around Wakefield’s knuckleball. Daniel Bard was devastating in the 8th, but Jonathan Papelbon gave up a single and a double to surrender another run before settling down to end the game. Once again, Josh Reddick was in right field for the injured JD Drew, and had a hit in 3 at bats.

This game puts the Red Sox over .500 on the road for the first time this season, and with that, the miserable start of the year may finally be behind the Olde Towne Team, once and for all.

May 27, 2011 at Detroit: Boston Red Sox 6, Detroit Tigers 3. WP Wakefield, LP Porcello. Red Sox record 29-22 (51/111) Box score

May 28, 2011 at Detroit: Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers game postponed due to rain.

Papi’s pop wins it once again. As in many games past, David Ortiz once again settled a tie game in the 9th with a mighty swing of his bat, as the Boston Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers, 4-3. Red Sox hitters jumped all over Detroit starter Andrew Oliver in the 1st inning, and it looked like this would be another fireworks display. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, stole third, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez sac fly. Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch as Oliver was showing some distinct wildness, but settled down with 2 on and 1 out, and pitched out of the jam. Mike Cameron and Dustin Pedroia each had solo homers; Cameron in the 2nd, and Pedey in the 3rd, to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

Clay Buchholz cruised through 5 innings (with the exception of a solo homer by Andy Dirks in the 4th), but started to show some control issues and lost a bit of velocity in his fastball in the 6th. As a result, he gave up a solo dinger to Brennan Boesch, a double to Miguel Cabrera, and a RBI single to Jhonny Peralta to tie the game at 3. Matt Albers took over from there, and stabilized things through the 8th. After Papi’s dinger off Tigers reliever Jose Valverde, Jonathan Papelbon came on in the 9th for a clean finish, and his 10th save.

This was Boston’s 5th consecutive win. It increases the Red Sox lead in the AL East to 2 games over the Yankees and the Rays, though both teams are in action today. They can hold this lead, however, if they win the nightcap. Standings mean little at this point in the season, but momentum always matters, and these past three weeks seem to have cleaned out their pipes and lifted the Red Sox to where they ought to be, given their talent and depth.

May 29, 2011 at Detroit (game 1): Boston Red Sox 4, Detroit Tigers 3. WP Albers, LP Valverde, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 30-22 (52/110) Box score

Beckett bows before victorious Verlander. Josh Beckett struggled in the 1st inning, giving up 2 runs on a walk, a Brennan Boesch double, and a Miguel Cabrera RBI single, and that was enough to sink the Red Sox, who lost to the Detroit Tigers, 3-0. Justin Verlander was spectacular through 7 innings, exiting only in the 8th with 2 out after walking Dustin Pedroia and giving up a single to JD Drew. Joaquin Benoit got the last out in that inning, and Jose Valverde closed out the game for his 12th save.

Beckett recovered from his 1st inning fiasco to pitch 5 scoreless innings, but it did him no good. Rich Hill came on in the 7th, for 2 more, and Scott Atchison surrendered the 3rd Tiger run on a Miguel Cabrera RBI double. The Red Sox were helpless at the plate against Verlander, who masterfully mixed his breaking balls with 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs. His pitches hit 99 MPH at points. Jason Varitek registered the only extra base hit with a double in the 6th. JD Drew went 2-for-3 and the only other Red Sox player with a hit was Jacoby Ellsbury.

Despite losing, the Red Sox remain a game in front of the Yankees (who beat the Mariners 7-1) and 1.5 ahead of the Rays (who beat the Indians 7-0). Not that it matters. The Red Sox won the Tigers series, and that’s what counts. They now fly home to face the White Sox in Fenway Park.

May 29, 2011 at Detroit (game 2): Detroit Tigers 3, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Verlander, LP Beckett, S Valverde. Red Sox record 30-23 (53/109) Box score

Lester’s bester, Peavy peeves Red Sox. Jake Peavy wasn’t perfect by any means, but good enough to hold off the Boston Red Sox as Jon Lester struggled to find the strike zone, putting a lot of men on base and throwing a lot of pitches before giving up the big one in the 6th inning. And so, the Chicago White Sox beat Boston, 7-3. Lester’s moment of truth came in the 6th when after giving up singles to Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, he walked Juan Pierre to load the bases with 2 out. At this point, he had thrown 126 pitches, and one could have expected Terry Francona to replace him, but Tito chose to leave him in to get one more out. One Tweeter wondered, “Is Francona channeling Grady Little?” He might as well as, because Alexei Ramirez doubled to drive in 3 runs and break this game open for Chicago. Dan Wheeler came on and gave up a single to Carlos Quentin for the 7th and final White Sox run.

In the early innings, Jake Peavy was far from perfect, surrendering a solo home run to Adrian Gonzalez, the in the 3rd, hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia, giving up a double to Jacoby Ellsbury, then letting Dustin Pedroia drive them both in with a RBI single. He kept the Red Sox off the board after that though, and was very effective until he was replaced in the 8th inning by Jesse Caine. Lefty Matt Thornton came in with 2 out in the 8th to face David Ortiz and Carl Crawford, and finished out the game.

Jon Lester was missing badly with his slider, depending too much on the cut fastball, and missing the edges of the strike zone. This is not a fatal problem; he just needs to work on his precision. The Red Sox hit a lot of Peavy’s pitches, but many of them were hard line drives that were caught for outs because they were placed in the wrong places.

May 30, 2011 at Fenway Park: Chicago White Sox 7, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Peavy, LP Lester. Red Sox record 30-24 (54/108) Box score

Humber humbles Red Sox; Aceves no ace tonight. Until the 8th inning, White Sox starter Philip Humber had Boston hitters baffled, having given up just 1 run on 2 hits, one of which was a solo home run by Jason Varitek in the 3rd. Meanwhile, Alfredo Aceves was fooling none of Chicago’s hitters, who touched him for 8 runs (6 earned, 2 had been put on base by Aceves, but scored on Scott Atchison) on 8 hits, including doubles by Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski, as the White Sox went on to beat the Red Sox, 10-7. Atchison gave up the other 2 runs in the 6th.

The Red Sox staged a stunning rally in the 8th and 9th innings, scoring 6 runs on 6 hits including doubles by Josh Reddick (who had replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in the 7th) and Drew Sutton (who replaced Dustin Pedroia, also in the 7th), and a homer by David Oritz. They drove Humber from the game with 2 out, 2 on, and 1 run across in the 8th. The 2 on would eventually score, giving Humber 4 earned runs, though he still won the game. Boston hitters then burned through 3 more Chicago pitchers before it was all over. In the end, they could not climb out of the hole they were in, but at least made the score respectable. In fact, they had scored enough runs to create a save situation for the last reliever, Chris Sales.

Fans trouping out of Fenway Park in the 7th could not have imagined such a turnaround. Even though the Red Sox did not win, it just goes to show that in baseball, the final outcome is always in doubt until the end.

May 31, 2011 at Fenway Park: Chicago White Sox 10, Boston Red Sox 7. WP Humber, LP Aceves, S Sales. Red Sox record 30-25 (55/107) Box score

June

Windy City whacks Wakefield, whips BoSox to sweep. The White Sox battered Wakefield, Matt Alberes, and Jonathan Papelbon en route to a 7-4 beat-down of the Boston Red Sox.

Tim Wakefield was looking good for the first 3 innings, his dancing knuckler frustrating Chicago hitters. Then in the 4th, the wind picked up, and he began to lose control. After giving up a line drive single to Alexei Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was unable to control a wobbling knuckleball, allowing Ramirez to reach 2nd. Then he hit Paul Konerko. Struggling to control the ball, he flattened it out a bit too much for Brent Lillibridge, who hammered a double to left, driving in Ramirez. And that was just the beginning. Before he left and the end of 6, Wake had surrendered 4 runs on 7 hits including (in addition to the Lillibridge 2 bagger) doubles to Carlos Quentin and Omar Vizquez, and a homer to Lillibridge.

The Red Sox scored 3 runs in the 2nd on doubles by David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie, and hits by Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Big Papi tied the game in the 6th with a massive opposite field shot into the Monster seats. It was all White Sox after that, however, as Matt Albers surrendered the lead in the 7th on a succession of singles to Ramirez, Quentin, and Konerko. That run enabled White Sox starter Galvin Floyd to take the win. Pap came on in the top of the 9th to try to hold the lead to 1 (5-4), but instead surrendered a 2 run shot to Konerko to put the game out of reach. Chicago’s Sergio Santos put down the Red Sox in the 9th for the save.

A moment of controversy arose in the 5th, when Wake pitched out to Salty, who threw to Pedey, catching Juan Pierre in a rundown off 1st. After some back and forth between Pedey, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jed Lowrie, Pedey seemed quite clearly to tag Pierre as he ran by, but the umpire called him safe. Had he been called out, 2 subsequent Chicago runs would not have scored.

The Red Sox look tired. Peter Gammons said they “played against the White Sox as if they were just snoozing.” This has been a brutal sequence of games. The Red Sox have lost 4 in a row. They really need this next day off.

June 1, 2011 at Fenway Park: Chicago White Sox 7, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Floyd, LP Albers, S Santos. Red Sox record 30-26 (56/106) Box score

A’s clobber Clay, but Boston bats overcome Oakland. Clay Buchholz did not have his best day, but the Red Sox were feeling pretty confident at the plate. Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz doubled, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a solo home run as the Red Sox went on to beat the A’s, 8-6.

Clay was touched for 4 runs in the very first inning on a long series of singles. He seemed to pull himself together after that, but did surrender runs in the 4th (when Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, took 2nd on a Buchholz throwing error, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, then scored on a fielder’s choice by our old friend, Coco Crisp) and the 5th (Josh Willingham doubled and scored on a Daric Barton single).

Youk had the best night, going 2-for-3 with a walk, and A-Gon was 3-for-5. Most of the hits were off Oakland starter Josh Outman, but the lead went back and forth a couple of times, so it was A’s reliever Joey Devine who took the loss, leaving with the bases loaded and 2 out in the 7th, only to have Brian Fuentes give up a 2 RBI single to Carl Crawford; Fuentes got a blown save for his efforts. Bobby Jenks, who came in to hold the line in the 7th, got the win. Daniel Bard contributed a scoreless 8th for Boston, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out for the save.

June 3, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 8, Oakland Athletics 6. WP Jenks, LP Devine, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 31-26 (57/105) Box score

Red Sox outlast A’s. Sometimes, you just take the win and walk away. This was one of those times; after errors, mental errors, a blown 4 run lead in the 9th, two ejections, and 14 innings, Boston beat Oakland, 9-8.

There was nothing to learn here. This game was messy on just about every level. Josh Beckett was fairly effective, getting in and out of trouble through the first 5 innings. Then in the 6th, he seemed to lose his control, hitting David DeJesus, then walking Ryan Sweeney with 1 out. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up, so that Josh Willingham could drive them in with a single. Beckett managed to get out the inning without further damage, but returned in the 7th, and promptly gave up walk and a single. Enter Matt Albers, who gave up another single and a sac fly to our old friend, Coco Crisp. Enter newly promoted Tommy Hottovy, who finished the inning.

The Red Sox were still feeling comfortable at this point. Adrian Gonzalez had hit a solo homer in the 1st, and Carl Crawford (who had singled) scored on a JD Drew line drive in the 5th. In the 6th, the Sox exploded for 4 hits including singles by Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Carl Crawford, and a double by Kevin Youkilis. They had scored 3 runs in the inning, and now led 5-2. After the 7th, it was still 5-3. The Red Sox added additional insurance in the 8th, with a single by A-Gon, and doubles by David Ortiz and Carl Crawford, scoring 2 more runs to make the score 7-3. With Jonathan Papelbon coming on in the 9th, Boston had it made in the shade. Right?

Ha! Pap did strike out Landon Powell, but gave up a single to Mark Ellis and walked Daric Barton. Then with 2 on and 1 out, Coco Crisp hit a weak grounder to Pedey that, I am sorry to say, he totally booted, allowing Ellis to score on what should have been an easy double play. Then Conor Jackson hit a sharp liner down the3rd base line that scored Crisp, and suddenly the score was TIED. Jason Varitek blew up, feeling that the hit happened because umpire Tony Randazzo had so restricted the strike zone that it was impossible for Pap to hit his corners. Tek was ejected, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia took over as catcher. Then, after Pap saw his first pitch to Ryan Sweeney was called a strike, when an identical pitich (in Pap’s view) to the previous batter was a ball. He muttered something about it, Randazzo heard it and started to march toward the mound, words were exchanged, and Pap was gone.

Bobby Jenks came in and managed to get out of the inning, and we were off to extra frames. Jenks also pitched the 10th without incident. Then in the 11th, Alfredo Aceves (who is the leading candidate to become the Red Sox’ key middle reliever) gave walked Cliff Pennington, and gave up a double Jackson and a sac fly to Sweeney to give the A’s the lead. Fortunately, in the bottom of the inning Salty and Ellsbury had back-to-back doubles off A’s reliever Andrew Bailey to re-tie the game, and on we went.

Finally, in the 14th, Carl Crawford doubled off Guillermo Moscoso, who then intentionally walked Crawford. JD Drew then drove Crawford in with the winning run, and this game was, mercifully, at an end.

For those bewildered by the ejections of Papelbon and Varitek, I would just point out that it really doesn’t matter if an umpire calls pitches based on a distorted strike zone, as long as the calls are consistent. But when the strike zone seems to change, the pitcher doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps a review of how this game was called would be appropriate. It is also to note that no Red Sox players had been ejected up to this point in the season, and Papelbon had never been ejected in his career since Little League. Something to think about.

June 4, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, Oakland Athletics 8 (14 innings). WP Aceves, LP Moscoso. Red Sox record 32-26 (58/104) Box score

Big Boston bats batter Anderson, A’s. The Red Sox jumped on Oakland starter early, scoring 3 in the 2nd inning when David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie singled and were driven in by a Carl Crawford home run, and Boston beat Oakland, 6-3.

It was a decent, if somewhat brief, start for John Lackey as he marked his return to the Red Sox rotation by going 5 2/3rds innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits (including a solo homer by Kevin Kouzmanoff) and 2 walks (the 3rd run was scored by Conor Jackson when he was driven in by a Daric Barton double off Lackey’s relief, Matt Albers). Despite the 14 inning game yesterday, Terry Fancona was able to use plenty of bullpen, as Albers, Tommy Hottovy, Dan Wheeler, and Brad Ziegler saw action, and Daniel Bard, despite having pitched yesterday, closed out for the save.

In addition to Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez also homered, Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi doubled, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia tripled. The Red Sox racked up 12 hits altogether in this solid win.

Plenty of hitters got bruised by pitches in this game; Crawford was struck hard on his upper arm, which drew a dual warning from home plate umpire Larry Vanover. Despite this, incidental plunks by Lackey of David DeJesus, Kurt Suzuki, and Jackson drew no ejection.

The Red Sox now prepare for a road trip in which they play their top competitors in the division, facing the Yankees at the Stadium June 7-9, then the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre over the weekend, and the Rays at Tropicana Field on June 14-16.

Tomorrow is a day off; a chance for the Red Sox, and their fans, to rest up. Fasten your seat belts, my friends, this could be a bumpy ride.

June 5, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 6, Oakland Athletics 3. WP Lackey, LP Anderson, S Bard. Red Sox record 33-26 (59/103) Box score

Papi pops Bombers’ bubble. If the Yankees thought they would roll over the Red Sox in this series, they were soon disabused of that notion, as Boston scored early and often, capped with a 2 run homer by David Ortiz (for the eventual game-winner) as the Red Sox went on to beat New York, 6-4.

The Red Sox jumped all over Yankee starter Freddy Garcia from the very start; Jacoby Ellsbury got things started with a lead-off homer run. Then, after a walk to Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez tripled to driven in Pedey, and subsequently scored on a sac fly by Kevin Youkilis. Dustin Pedroia also had an RBI double in the 2nd inning.

The Yankees scored 3 runs on Red Sox starter Jon Lester on a single by Robinson Cano in the 1st, and a 2 RBI double by Nick Swisher in the 5th. Jonathan Papelbon got the save, but as usual, it couldn’t be a routine 1-2-3 9th. After walking Brett Gardner (who advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference), he allowed a sharp single to Jorge Posada that drove in Gardner.

June 7, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 4. WP Lester, LP Garcia, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 34-26 (60/102) Box score

Boston bats blast Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox started fast at the plate in this one, and just kept on going. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single off New York starter AJ Burnett, then stole 2nd and took 3rd on a bad throw by Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli. He scored on an Adrian Gonzalez grounder. Then, after Kevin Youkilis walked, David Ortiz crushed a homer to right center to notch a 3 run total for Boston in the 1st inning. When it was all over, the Red Sox had an impressive 11-6 win over the Yankees.

Tim Wakefield started for Boston, and his dancing knuckler was doing the job for the most part over 4 innings (except for an Alex Rodriguez solo homer in the 4th), but the breezes (or something) changed in the 5th, because Wake threw a wild pitch and gave up a single to Cervelli and a double to Derek Jeter. Alfredo Aceves took over after 1 out in the 6th to settle things down, but the Red Sox hitters were far from settled, as Carl Crawford homered, Marco Scutaro doubled, and JD Drew homered, all in the 9th off of Lance Pendleton.

All in all, the Red Sox went 11-for-36 with 3 homers and 2 doubles. The Red Sox now have a commanding lead in the season series with the Yankees, and have sole possession of 1st place in the AL East.

June 8, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: Boston Red Sox 11, New York Yankees 6. WP Wakefield, LP Burnett. Red Sox record 35-26 (61/101) Box score

Sox savor second straight sweep in the Bronx. New York’s CC Sabathia started out strong, but everything unraveled for him in the 7th as the Red Sox scored 7 runs en route to their third straight butt-whipping of the Yankees, 8-3. The Yanks jumped on Josh Beckett in the first with a 2 run homer by Curtis Granderson, but were able to do nothing after that until a 3 hit 9th (off Dan Wheeler) notched one more for the Bombers.

After Josh Beckett hit Alex Rodriguez and Granderson with errant inside breaking balls, the Yankees felt they had to retaliate, so Sabathia plunked David Ortiz on the thigh. It was the first time Papi had been hit by a pitch this year, and he did not like it one bit. He led off the 7th, expressing his displeasure by lacing a liner to left, scoring on Jed Lowrie’s triple. Mike Cameron drove in Lowrie with a double, and then the floodgates really opened. Before it was over, Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis all singled, and Papi came back with a towering double that bounced low off the wall in center. All but Youk and Papi got their hits off Sabathia, who was charged with 6 runs, all earned. The last one went to reliever David Robertson. The Sox tacked on one more run in the 9th when Marco Scutaro and A-Gon hit back-to-back doubles off Jeff Marquez.

This is the first time the Yankees have been swept twice at home by the same team since 1990. I know some have been wondering if the Red Sox would be ready for New York with some of the issues they have faced lately. I think we have our answer.

June 9, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: Boston Red Sox 8, New York Yankees 3. WP Beckett, LP Sabathia. Red Sox record 36-26 (62/100) Box score

Clay’s ways daze Jays. With the exception of a run by Corey Patterson, who singled in the 4th and scored on a Juan Rivera sacrifice fly, Clay Buchholz dominated the Toronto Blue Jays through 7 innings as the Red Sox went on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-1.

Boston batters, on the other hand, battered Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes, with a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and a triple by Carl Crawford. All in all, the Red Sox went 11-for-38. Ellsbury was 3-for-5, Dustin Pedroia was 3-for-4, and Adrian Gonzalez was 2-for-4, including a double off reliever Shawn Camp. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game, although it was not a save situation.

Although there is a lot of season left (we are not yet to the All Star break), the Red Sox seem to be settling into the position that most expert observers had predicted from the beginning: 1st place in the AL East.

June 10, 2011 at Toronto: Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 1. WP Buchholz, LP Reyes. Red Sox record 37-26 (63/99) Box score

Red Sox rockets rock the Rogers. At this rate, Boston’s bats may need to be classified as weapons of mass destruction. The Red Sox hammered Blue Jays pitching for 18 hits in 44 at bats, including 2 doubles and 2 home runs as they went on to win, 16-4.

Toronto starter seemed fairly effective over the first 2 innings, but was clearly missing his spots, as evidenced by the many times catcher Jose Molina had to move his mitt to catch pitches. The Red Sox caught up with Morrow’s mistakes the second time through the order, picking up 4 runs in the 3rd, and they just kept on going from there.

John Lackey kept a lid on Toronto for the most part, but mistakes led to a 2 RBI double in the 4th by Rajai Davis, and a 2 run homer for Edwin Encarnacion in the 6th. It hardly mattered, however, as the Red Sox seemd to be scoring at will.

Every member of the Red Sox starting lineup had a hit in this game except Jed Lowrie. Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 with a double, Marco Scutaro went 4-for-6, and David Ortiz and Jason Varitek each went 2-for-3 with a home run. Adrian Gonzalez had a double. The team went a respectable 7-for-17 with runners in scoring position. The bullpen closed out the game, as Dan Wheeler, Tommy Hottovy, and Michael Bowden each pitched a scoreless inning.

Toronto, on the other hand, ran through 5 relievers from the 5th inning through the 8th, attempting to stop the bleeding. With the game clearly out of hand, Blue Jays manager (and our old friend) John Farrell turned to a position player, second baseman Mike McCoy, to take over in the 9th and spare the remainder of the pitching staff. McCoy did a creditable job, retiring the side in order.

The Red Sox have now won 8 straight games, tying (for now) the Phillies for best record in Major League Baseball. (Note: the Phillies are playing the Cubs at the time of this writing, so this could change.) The Sox also have the best road record in MLB (19-13).

June 11, 2011 at Toronto: Boston Red Sox 16, Toronto Blue Jays 4. WP Lackey, LP Morrow. Red Sox record 38-26 (64/98) Box score

The beatings continue, and morale has improved. Toronto starter Kyle Drabek was today’s lamb to the slaughter; the Red Sox pounded him with 7 hits, including a double and three home runs, as they went on to beat the Blue Jays, 14-1. Almost unnoticed was the fact that Jon Lester had a perfect game going for 3 2/3rd innings. He went on to finish with just 2 hits over 8 innings, including Jose Bautista’s solo homer that scored Toronto’s only run.

This was another embarrassingly one-sided game for the Red Sox. Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz each homered and doubled in the game. Dustin Pedroia also homered. Marco Scutaro and Drew Sutton had late inning doubles. Youk went 3-for-4 and Ellsbury went 3-for-5. In fact, the only one in the Red Sox starting lineup who failed to get a hit was JD Drew, who went 0-for-5 and struck out 4 times.

There were impressive feats in the field as well, with both Ellsbury and Carl Crawford running down fly balls and making tough catches, and Pedey showing no signs of his pain as he got several close put-outs throwing to first base.

This was the 9th win in a row for the Red Sox, who have now swept the past three opponents they faced, including two on the road. They are heading down to Tampa Bay to deal with the Rays in at Tropicana Field, a venue that has not been kind to them in the past. But after a much needed day of rest tomorrow, the Red Sox and their fans have reason to feel optimistic about that series as well.

June 12, 2011 at Toronto: Boston Red Sox 14, Toronto Blue Jays 1. WP Lester, LP Drabek. Red Sox record 39-26 (65/97) Box score

Sox drop one at the Trop. It had to happen. After reeling off 9 straight victories, the Red Sox ran into a determined James Shields, who shut them down to beat Boston for the Rays, 4-0. Shields had a complete game shutout, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Boston hitter to have a decent night, going 3-for-4. Jacoby Ellsbury and JD Drew each had a hit. That was it.

Tim Wakefield, whose knuckleball tends not to dance so much in the climate controlled air of Tropicana Field, did all he could to keep the Rays off the basepaths, but gave up 2 runs on 4 hits, one of which was a double to our former friend Johnny Damon; the other was a Justin Ruggiano home run. He also walked 5, threw an ill-timed wild pitch that enabled a score, and was hard enough for Jarrod Saltalamacchia to catch that Salty had 2 passed balls. That stuff goes with the territory when you have a knuckleballer on the mound; you just need a little luck to get past it, and the Red Sox saw their luck run out tonight. Scoring a few runs would also help.

This was Carl Crawford’s first game at Tropicana Field since leaving the Rays to join the Red Sox. He was met with a mix of cheers and boos, and took more than the usual load of heckling (he said) while in the outfield. Unfortunately, he was unable to answer back with his bat, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the game.

Tommy Hottovy came on in the 8th, and quickly gave up a double to Matt Joyce, hit Evan Longoria, and allowed Casey Kotchman to drive in Joyce. Hottovy is still finding his way, and requires some patience. Alfredo Aceves gave up the last run when John Jaso drove in Longoria.

Historically, the Red Sox have always struggled at the Trop, so we should have expected this series to be no different. Nonetheless, with Josh Beckett on the mound tomorrow, and someone other than Shields pitching for Tampa Bay, the Red Sox have a decent chance at launching another winning streak.

June 14, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay Rays, 4, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Shields, LP Wakefield. Red Sox record 39-27 (66/96) Box score

Josh’s gem reduces Rays. Josh Beckett tossed a 1 hit complete game shutout, and Kevin Youkilis’s 3 run homer provided everything the Red Sox would need to beat Tampa Bay, 3-0. It was a tight pitchers’ duel between Beckett and the Rays’ starter, Jeremy Hellickson, as both cruised through 6 innings, each having surrendered just one hit. Then in the top of the 7th, Dustin Pedroia got things started with a triple, and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon played the percentages by intentionally walking Adrian Gonzalez. This move did not work out so well, as Youk brought them in with his big blast for the only runs of the game.

Although it didn’t amount to a score, Carl Crawford finally got his first hit as a visitor to Tropicana Field. Now that he’s gotten that out of the way, perhaps he can contribute to a big game tomorrow, when Clay Buchholz goes up against David Price. Should be another tough game. It will probably get considerably more attention in Boston than did this one, since the fans were more than a little distracted by the Bruins’ drive for the Stanley Cup in their 7th game against Vancouver.

June 15, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Rays 0. WP Beckett, LP Hellickson. Red Sox record 40-27 (67/95) Box score

Clay slays Rays with a little help from his friends. Clay Buchholz looked very sharp through 5 innings, but left with “lower back stiffness”; let’s hope it’s not serious. Adrian Gonzalez had a great night at the plate, leading the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was a day off for Jacoby Ellsbury, so Terry Francona brought in Darnell McDonald to face Rays starter David Price, and the move paid off as McDonald drove in one run and scored another. A-Gon was the hitting star for Boston, with a 2-for-3 night that included a double early in the game and a solo home run late (he also walked twice). Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dustin Pedroia also doubled off Price.

The game got off to a kind of weird start as, with 2 on and one out, David Price drilled Kevin Youkilis in apparent retaliation for Youk’s having stepped on Casey Kotchman’s heel last night (which was obviously unintentional). Home plate umpire Gary Darling immediately issued warnings to both benches. There were no further incidents. Also, in the bottom of the 1st, Marco Scutaro came in to replace Jed Lowrie, who is still suffering from pain in his shoulder. NECN reporter Sean McAdam indicated that Lowrie may be headed for the disabled list.

It was important to the Red Sox to win that series against the Rays at the Trop; they needed to show they could win anywhere, and Terry Francona appeared willing to do whatever it took to get that result. The Yankees have kept pace, beating the Rangers in 12 innings at the Stadium. Now the Red Sox return home to an interleague series with the Milwaukee Brewers; John Lackey will be up against Shaun Marcum.

June 16, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Rays 2. WP Buchholz, LP Price, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 41-27 (68/94) Box score

Red Sox blow the suds off the Brew Crew. John Lackey was lackluster, but Boston’s bats more than made up for that, blasting Milwaukee pitching for 14 hits, including 3 doubles and 2 home runs as the Red Sox went on to beat the Brewers, 10-4. Brewer starter Shaun Marcum left the game after just 1 inning having given up 2 runs on 4 hits, including a solo home run by Jacoby Ellsbury and a double by David Ortiz. His successor, Marco Estrada, gave up another 4 runs on 4 hits, including a solo home run and a double by Adrian Gonzalez, and ended up taking the loss. Lackey pitched 8 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits, mostly in the first and third innings, but that was good enough to get the win.

This was another excellent night for A-Gon, whose double and homer figured into a 3-for-4 performance at the plate. Drew Sutton and Jason Varitek also doubled in the game.

Some issues of concern: Jed Lowrie (shoulder) has been put on the 15 day disabled list and Clay Buchholz (back) may soon follow. Marco Scutaro will play shortstop for the duration, and Andrew Miller, the phenomenal lefty from UNC is expected to be called up from Pawtucket, and may fill a gap in the rotation, though exactly how that will be done remains to be seen. Miller has a clause in his contract that says that if the Red Sox don’t call him to the big club soon, he can become a free agent, and the common wisdom is that he will now get his shot in the big leagues.

In this game, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford both left early; Youk due to a stomach illness, and Crawford due to a strained left hamstring. Sutton and Darnell McDonald filled in for them, respectively. Youk should be back on Saturday, but there is no word yet on Crawford’s status. Jonathan Papelbon began serving his 2 game suspension for “inappropriate actions” associated with his objections to calls by home plate umpire Tony Randazzao during the Red Sox game against Oakland on June 4th (after blowing a 4 run lead in the 9th).

June 17, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 10, Milwaukee Brewers 4 (interleague). WP Lackey, LP Estrada. Red Sox record 42-27 (69/93) Box score

Wolf huffs and puffs and blows Fenway down. With the exception of a soft 2nd inning, Brewers starter Randy Wolf had control of this one, as the Red Sox went on to lose to Milwaukee, 4-2. Jon Lester got in trouble from the very start, and had control issues for the first 3 innings, giving up back-to-back solo homers to Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart in the 1st, then another to George Kattaras in the 3rd. That was followed by 2 quick walks, and a single to Casey McGehey that scored another run. After that, Lester settled down, but the damage was done.

The Sox jumped on Wolf early, when Kevin Youkilis doubled in the 2nd inning, David Oriz walked, and both scored on singles by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Cameron. That would be it for Red Sox scoring; Kameron Loe came on in the 8th and shut the Sox out despite an error by Prince Fielder, who flat out dropped a put-out toss at first from shortstop Yunieski Betancourt. John Axford came on in the 9th to close it out for the Brewers and pick up the save.

It was a bit of a lack luster performance by the Red Sox at the plate. The lefty-heavy lineup can usually handle left-handed starters, but Wolf was apparently too much for them. It didn’t hurt Wolf that home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi seemed to be calling an extraordinarily wide strike zone. The good news is that Youk and Marco Scutaro each went 2-for-4 for the night. That’s it for the good news. On to the rubber match on Sunday.

June 18, 2011 at Fenway Park: Milwaukee Brewers 4, Boston Red Sox 2 (interleague). WP Wolf, LP Lester, S Axford. Red Sox record 43-27 (70/92) Box score

Welcome to Fenway Park, Lord Stanley! Today was Boston Bruins Day at Fenway Park, as the newly minted NHL champs paraded around the ballpark before the game and showed off their hardware, including the vaunted Stanley Cup. The Red Sox then signaled their intention to join the Bruins in this year’s winners’ circle by savaging Milwaukee Brewers pitching for a 12-3 victory.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo was just getting his ERA under control when he came to Boston, and saw it pop up again. (He gave up 8 runs, but only 3 were earned due to an error early in the inning when he dropped a throw while covering 1st on a routine ground ball.) Gallardo lasted just 3 innings before handing off to Sergio Mitre, who pitched 3 innings and surrendered another 3 runs. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit in this one. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Marco Scutaro homered. Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Josh Reddick (who was in left for the injured Carl Crawford), and Pedey had doubles. Dustin’s double came in the 8th, and he left the game at that point, as Terry Francona sent in Drew Sutton to pinch run for him; obviously Tito was hoping not to irritate Dustin’s sore foot unnecessarily. Pedey also had the best day at the plate, going 3-for-4 including the dinger and 2 bagger.

Tim Wakefield had excellent weather for his knuckleball, and with the exception of a few pitches that didn’t dance as much as hoped (Casey McGehee doubled in the 2nd, and Nyjer drove in the two of them with a home run; Prince Fielder added a homer in the 7th), leading to 3 runs, Tim looked strong through his 8 innings of work. Dan Wheeler closed out in a non-save situation.

We learned today that, as feared, Clay Buchholz is indeed going to the 15-day DL, and Andrew Miller has been called up to replace him in the rotation. So, let’s see what this young phenom can do.

June 19, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 12, Milwaukee Brewers 3 (interleague). WP Wakefield, LP Gallardo. Red Sox record 44-27 (71/91) Box score

No pardon for the Padres. It was a close battle until San Diego reliever Cory Luebke seemed to tire in the 7th, giving up an RBI double to Adrian Gonzalez, loading the bases, then hitting Marco Scutaro to force in a run, and everything fell apart for the Padres. In the end, the Red Sox scored 10 runs in the 7th, and won the game, 14-5.

San Diego starter Wade LeBlanc was fairly solid through 3 innings, giving up single runs in the 1st and 3rd innings, but when he got into trouble in the 4th, on came Cory Luebke with the bases loaded; he finished the inning with just one run crossing the plate. All the trouble came in the 7th. After hitting A-Gon, he hit Jason Varitek to force in another run, and was replaced by Evan Scribner. Then the floodgates opened. When all was said and done, Dustin Pedroia, A-Gon (3-for-4), and Youk doubled. David Ortiz went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. The team was 14-for-36 at the plate.

The anticipated start of Andrew Miller was impressive for the first 5 innings. The first hit he surrendered that reached the outfield was a Jesus Guzman triple in the 4th, which he pitched around to result in no damage. In the 6th, he seemed to tire, giving up a single and a walk, and then an Orlando Hudson 3 run homer. After subsequently giving up a double to Anthony Rizzo, he yielded to Matt Albers, and settled for a no-decision. The Padres scored a couple of runs in the late innings, to account for the score.

Despite sputtering out in the 6th, Miller shows a lot of potential, and knowledgeable observers are high on this young pitcher. Also on the subject of pitching, Josh Beckett is apparently sick and will be unable to make his scheduled start tomorrow (Tuesday), and Alfredo Aceves will take his place.

June 20, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 14, San Diego Padres, 5 (interleague). WP Albers, LP Luebke. Red Sox record 45-27 (72/90) Box score

Sox just can’t get it together. Boston had the hits, but couldn’t put them together, going 13-for-37 as a team, but losing to San Diego 5-4. Each time the Red Sox seemed to have a chance for a big inning, they found themselves done, either by a pair of pop-ups, or a by double plays. Unlike last night, the Padres pitchers were fairly confident in this one, giving up only single runs and posting plenty of zeroes. Padres’ starter Mat Latos pitched 5 quality innings before getting in trouble in the 6th, but it was reliever Chad Qualls who picked up the win.

Red Sox starter Alfredo Aceves (who started due to Josh Beckett’s illness) struggled with control in the early innings; it seemed entirely absent for a while in the 2nd, when he walked 5 straight batters to force in 2 runs. In the third innings, there were hits rather than walks, as Anthony Rizzo and Nick Hundley doubled, and Cameron Maybin also got a hit. The net result was 2 more runs for the Padres. The Red Sox tied the game in the 6th inning with hits by Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Adrian Gonzalez, but the tie was short-lived as reliever Dan Wheeler gave up a hit to Chase Headley, a ground-rule double to Jesus Guzman, and then a fielder’s choice that scored Headley with a game untying run.

The Red Sox were pretty good in the hitting department, though not in the scoring department. Kevin Youkilis led the team with a 4-for-5 night including a double. Josh Reddick had a double and a triple. A strange moment came in the 5th inning when David Ortiz (who reached on a fielder’s choice) started to run for 2nd, stopped, then went on and stole the base. Since the middle infielders were out of position, it was an easy steal, but the hesitation in the middle made it seem kind of silly.

Jonathan Papelbon had a clean 9th inning, but it didn’t matter as Padres closer Heath Bell put the last 3 Red Sox down in order for the save.

June 21, 2011 at Fenway Park: San Diego Padres 5, Boston Red Sox 4 (interleague). WP Qualls, LP Wheeler, S Bell. Red Sox record 45-28 (73/89) Box score

Slip, sliding away. After an initial rain delay, and with the rain coming down hard again in the 4th, John Lackey seemed to lose his grip on the ball, and his wildness cost the Red Sox 3 runs. The Padres went on to win, 5-1 in a rain-shortened 7.5 inning game.

Lackey surrendered a game opening home run to Will Venable, but then seemed to settle down until the rain-soaked 4th. He walked one batter, hit another, then gave up an infield bunt hit. With the bases loaded, he then proceeded to walk in 2 runs, then throw a wild pitch (that soared into the backstop) for a 3rd. The hitter, Chase Headley, then singled to drive in the 4th run of the inning.

For some reason, the San Diego pitchers did not seem to have much of a problem (despite the fact that it rarely rains like this in San Diego). Although they gave up 10 hits, the only run the Red Sox could manage came in the 5th, when Jacoby Ellsbury walked (just after Mike Cameron, who had singled, got picked off first), moved to second on Dustin Pedroia’s walk, and was driven in by Adrian Gonzalez, who singled. Although the Red Sox had 10 hits in the game, this was the only run they could manage.

The game was delayed in the 4th, and again in the 8th, but that point it seemed pointless to continue, and so the umpires called it, and the game was washed away from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have the day off tomorrow, then begin a long interleague road trip in which the ongoing question will be, how can we keep Big Papi in the lineup?

June 22, 2011 at Fenway Park: San Diego Padres 5, Boston Red Sox 1 (interleague). WP Richard, LP Lackey. Red Sox record 44-30 (74/88) Box score

Boston bats miss Pittsburgh connection. OK, you come up with a better explanation. The Red Sox went 9-for-33 for just 1 run as they fell 3-1 to the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Jon Lester had one rough inning in the 3rd, in which he gave up a single to Ronny Ceneno, a double to Michael McKenry, walked the pitcher (yes, this is a National League park), and another single to Jose Tabata that scored Cedeno. Then a double play scored what would prove the decisive run. And that was it.

The Pirates scored another run when our old former opponent Lyle Overbay (late of the Toronto Blue Jays) singled for an RBI, but it hardly mattered. The Red Sox had plenty of opportunities, but failed to capitalize. The only Boston run came when Kevin Youkilis grounded into a fielder’s choice in the 1st inning that scored Jacoby Ellsbury (who walked).

Lately, the Red Sox have made a habit of beating, no, destroying, really good opponents, and then barely beating or losing to mediocre opposition. They just lost a series against the San Diego Padres, and the Pirates series is not off to a good start. Let’s hope the pattern does not continue.

In fairness, Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm look solid in this game, and their closer Joel Hanrahan was very effective.

June 24, 2011 at Pittsburgh Pirates : Pittsburgh Pirates 3, Boston Red Sox 1 (interleague). WP Maholm, LP Lester S Hanrahan. Red Sox record 44-31 (75/87) Box score

Red Sox interleague malaise continues. The Red Sox are now 3-5 in interleague play, the first time they have ever compiled a losing interleague record since interleague play began. Tim Wakefield had a major meltdown in the 4th inning, and another score in the 5th ensured that the Pittsburgh Pirates would enjoy a 6-4 win over Boston.

The game started out in a promising manner, as Dustin Pedroia walked, stole 2nd, and scored on a fielder’s choice in the 1st inning, then Adrian Gonzalez crushed a solo home run to center field in the 3rd. Tim Wakefield’s dancing knuckler seemed to have the Pirates baffled. Until the 4th.

In the 4th inning, Tim’s knuckleball flattened out, and Andrew McCutchen singled, Neil Walker walked, and our old Blue Jays nemesis Lyle Overbay brought them home with 3 run homer. Ronny Cedeno followed immediately with a double, and he scored on a single by Jeff Karstens, the pitcher. Yup. The pitcher. This was his first RBI. Ever.

The Red Sox gave themselves a chance to win in the 7th with a pair of solo homers by Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury, to pull within a run of a tie. That opportunity was crushed when reliever Matt Albers gave up a solo homer to Garrett Jones in the bottom of the same inning, and that is ultimately how it ended.

A moment of hope came in the 9th when Xavier Paul was unable to handle Dustin Pedrioa’s fly to deep right field, and Pedey ended up with a double, but A-Gon, sadly struck out.

The Red Sox are clearly out of their rhythm here, and may struggle a bit with the rest of this interleague road trip, but fans need to keep heart. This too shall pass.

June 25, 2011 at Pittsburgh Pirates : Pittsburgh Pirates 6, Boston Red Sox 4 (interleague). WP Karstens, LP Wakefield S Hanrahan. Red Sox record 44-32 (76/86) Box score

Thanks for all the second chances. There was great pitching. There were sparkling plays in the field. And there were errors. Lots of errors. Each side capitalized, but in the end, the Pirates had more miscues, and the Red Sox got more runs to win, 4-2.

This was Andrew Miller’s second start, and he put in a fine 6 innings to give up 5 hits for 2 runs, but just one was earned. James McDonald (Darnell’s cousin) started for Pittsburgh, and posted similar numbers: 5 hits for 2 runs, none earned. You’re getting the idea. Boston had 2 errors in the game, and Pittsburgh had 4. Not an instructional video, as they say.

The Red Sox hitting slump continues, but thanks to Pirate blunders, they got this one. In the 4th, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and scored when Pittsburgh Andrew McCutchen wildly caught a fly ball from Josh Reddick and then threw wildly back in, allowing Salty to score from 2nd. In the 6th, Darnell McDonald reached on a throwing error by his cousin, allowing Kevin Youkilis (who had led off the inning with a walk) to advance to 3rd and score on a sac fly by Reddick. In the 7th, Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz walked, and Jacoby Ellsbury laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move them over. Reliever Daniel Moskos did not react perfectly, however, fumbling the ball and allowing Ellsbury to reach safely, loading the bases. After that, a Pedey ground out and sac fly by Youk scored 2 more runs. Take ’em any way you can get ’em.

Red Sox fielding was also less than textbook. In the 4th, Miller hit Neil Walker. Then Matt Diaz reached when Marco Scutaro was unable to handle a bounding ball. Walker subsequently scored on a sac fly by Ronny Cedeno. The last run by the Pirates was at least respectable, sort of. It started when Miller walked his opposite number, James McDonald, who scored after 3 successive singles.

This was not a dominant win by any means, and Red Sox struggles at the plate continue. Nonetheless, it’s certainly better for them to go to Philadelphia, to meet the top team in the National League, with a win rather than after suffering a sweep. JD Drew suffered a freak eye injury when he knocked a ball into his left eye during batting practice, and by the 2nd inning, the swelling was to great for him to continue. Josh Reddick has been impressing people since coming up from Pawtucket, so if Drew is unavailable on Tuesday, Reddick may prove a more than welcome substitution.

June 26, 2011 at Pittsburgh Pirates : Boston Red Sox 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 2 (interleague). WP Miller, LP Woods S Papelbon Red Sox record 45-32 (77/85) Box score

Red Sox fall off a Cliff. When you are in a hitting slump, either individually or as a team, the very last pitcher you want to face is Cliff Lee. Boston’s woes at the plate got worse in Philadelphia as Lee extended his scoreless inning streak to 32 by blanking the Red Sox, 5-0. To make matters worse, Lee helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly in the 5th.

Josh Beckett was not at his best, but he wasn’t bad, either. A mistake in the 2nd inning resulted in a 2 run homer by Dominic Brown for more than the Phillies needed to win. Josh seemed to be tiring after 5 innings; his breaking ball wasn’t breaking so much, and his fastball was catching too much of the plate. As a result, Shane Victorino caught one of his fastballs for a 2 run shot in the 6th.

What can you do if you are the Red Sox in this situation? There’s nothing to do other than tip your cap, put it behind you, and get ready to go again. The Red Sox are a great team. Cliff Lee is a great pitcher. That’s what the game is all about.

June 28, 2011 at Philadelphia: Philadelphia Phillies 5, Boston Red Sox 0 (interleague). WP Lee, LP Beckett. Red Sox record 45-33 (78/84) Box score

Philly cheese takes out Boston bats. As the Eck might say, Philadelphia starter Vance Worley had good “cheese” (a lively fastball), and the Red Sox just could not catch up to it. John Lackey kept them in it to the end, but Boston lost this one, 2-1.

Raul Ibanez provided all the offense the Phillies would need. Lackey gave up a RBI double to Ibanez in the 2nd, and a solo homer to him in the 7th, and that was that. The only Red Sox run, ironically, came when Josh Reddick singled, and was driven home by, yes, Lackey, who pitched 7 2/3rds innings, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits with just one walk. Worley went 7 innings, surrendering just the 1 run on 5 hits, while walking 2.

In addition to Ibanez, Shane Victorino had a double in the game, and Chase Utley tripled. The only extra base hit for the Red Sox was Lackey’s double.

June 29, 2011 at Philadelphia: Philadelphia Phillies 2, Boston Red Sox 1 (interleague). WP Worley, LP Lackey S Bastardo. Red Sox record 45-34 (79/83) Box score

Lester stops Sox slide. Jon Lester pitched a masterful game, giving up just 2 hits over 7 scoreless innings as the Red Sox went on to beat the Phillies, 5-2. The Red Sox finally woke up at the plate, powered by two Jason Varitek home runs, and another by Dustin Pedroia. Josh Reddick also tripled. All in all, the team went 5-for-13, and were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, for some unusually efficient run production.

Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels did not pitch badly, but was forced to leave due to an injury to his hand. Reliever David Herndon never fully settled in before the fireworks started. Bobby Jenks made the game more interesting than it should have been, giving up 2 runs in the 9th to create a save situation for Jonathan Papelbon, who closed things out without further incident. Jenks never looked comfortable; he gave up a single to Placido Polanco and a homer to Ryan Howard. His control was clearly not there as he then walked Shane Victorino on 5 pitches.

With any luck, the momentum of this win will carry over to the Houston series.

June 30, 2011 at Philadelphia: Boston Red Sox 5, Philadelphia Phillies 2 (interleague). WP Lester, LP Herndon S Papelbon. Red Sox record 46-34 (80/82) Box score

July

Wake is whacked, but Sox sock ‘Stros. On a warm, humid night, Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball was pretty easy for Astros hitters to track, and they touched him for 5 runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3rd innings, including doubles by Clint Barmes and Hunter Pence. But if you look up “big inning” in the baseball dictionary, you will find the top of the 7th in this one, as the Red Sox scored 6 innings to take lead and go on to win, 7-5.

Marco Scutaro got the scoring started as the leadoff man in the 1st (Jacoby Ellsbury was out sick) with a solo shot to left. The real action came in the 7th. The fun started when JD Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled, and Josh Reddick drove in Drew with a double. At that point, starter Bud Norris (who had driven in one of the Houston runs with a single in the 6th) was relieved by Sergio Escalona. Drew Sutton then drove in Salty, and a shaken Escalona hit Darnell McDonald with a pitch to load the bases. On came Wilton Lopez, who punched out Marco Scutaro, but then gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia and a double to Adrian Gonzalez for 4 more run.

Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, and Daniel Bard all contributed to keep Houston off the scoreboard, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game for his 16th save. Andrew Miller is slated to go on Saturday. Let’s hope his strong performances continue.

July 1, 2011 at Houston: Boston Red Sox 7, Houston Astros 5 (interleague). WP Wheeler, LP Escalona S Papelbon. Red Sox record 47-34 (81/81) Box score

Houston, you have a problem. Although both the Red Sox (13-for-37) and the Astros (10-for-33) did pretty well at the plate, Boston put their hits together to make runs; Houston, not so much. Red Sox win, 10-4.

It was another decent start for Andrew Miller, who gave up 2 runs on 7 hits, walking 2 in 6 innings for the win. Both Miller and Houston starter JA Happ (and their successive relievers) struggled with home plate umpire Cory Blaser’s exceedingly narrow strike zone (about an inch over the plate on the left side was a ball in his view), and that ultimately benefitted hitters on both teams.

The Sox got the scoring started early with a walk and a series of singles that plated a run and left the bases loaded for David Ortiz, who walked to force in another run. A third run came on a double play. The Sox picked up runs in the 5th (back-to-back doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia) and 7th a (solo homer by pinch hitter Yamaico Navarro), but their big inning was the 8th. After Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and Josh Reddick loaded the bases with successive singles, and A-Gon scored on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia sacrifice fly, Darnell McDonald homered for 3 more to break the game open. The last run came when A-Gon doubled in the 9th with 2 out, and scored on a Youk single (Youk subsequently left the game after re-aggravating his sore left foot).

The Astros runs came when Michael Bourn tripled in the 1st and was driven in by an Angel Sanchez single, and Hunter Pence hit a solo blast in the 6th. In the 7th, with 2 out, Jeff Keppinger and Bourn singled, and Matt Downs walked. On came Daniel Bard, who walked Pence to force in a run. Bourn singled in the 9th and was driven in by a Matt Downs single off Dan Wheeler.

Given the pitching challenges, yesterday’s fielding blunders, and today’s failure to score, Houston’s manager, and our old friend, former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills has his work cut out for him this year.

Big Papi started the game at first base, with A-Gon playing in right field, but Josh Reddick came into the game in the 6th in a move to replace Ortiz and took Papi’s spot in the batting order, playing in left as Darnell McDonald shifted from left field to right and A-Gon went to first base. The Red Sox hitting attack was very efficient, converting in 6 out of 12 times with runners in scoring position. The Sox hope to close out interleague play on a positive note versus Houston tomorrow afternoon with Josh Beckett on the mound.

July 2, 2011 at Houston: Boston Red Sox 10, Houston Astros 4 (interleague). WP Miller, LP Happ. Red Sox record 48-34 (82/80) Box score

Beckett’s bag of tricks grounds Astros. Although he seemed to have some control issues in the later innings, his mix of fastballs and breaking balls baffled Houston batters as the Red Sox went on to beat the Astros, 2-1. Josh Beckett’s fastball has seldom looked better, and his breaking stuff was truly nasty, sending Houston hitters into flailing contortions. He collected 11 strikeouts over 8 innings, giving up 1 run on 5 hits. The Astros pitchers were pretty effective as well. Starter Jordan Lyles surrendered 1 run on 3 hits over 5 hits, before he was lifted for a pinch hitter (National League rules) in the bottom of the 5th. The 1 run came when Jason Varitek, batting with the bases loaded and 1 out, reached as the Astros’ first baseman, Brett Wallace, attempted to throw out Kevin Youkilis at the plate, but his throw sailed high, allowing Youk to score safely. Well, maybe not so safely, as Astros catcher Carlos Corporan landed with his spikes on Youk’s right ankle. Let’s hope there are no ramifications from that play.

The game winning run came in the 9th. Astros reliever Mark Melancon started out well, inducing Tek to ground out, then after walking Drew Sutton (pinch hitting for Josh Beckett), he allowed a single by Jacoby Ellsbury but got Dustin Pedroia to hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Ellsbury. Then, with runners at the corners and 2 out, they chose to intentionally walk left-handed Adrian Gonzalez in order to pitch to the right handed Youk. Melancon proceeded to walk Youk, forcing in what would prove to be the winning run. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the bottom of the 9th, and closed out the game for his 17th save.

Interleague play is now over for the year. Woo-hoo! On to the Blue Jays, to the friendly confines of Fenway, and to a last attempt to catch the Yankees before the All Star break.

July 3, 2011 at Houston: Boston Red Sox 2, Houston Astros 1 (interleague). WP Beckett, LP Melancon, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 49-34 (83/79) Box score

Jays lash Lackey; Red Sox rally falls short. John Lackey may have had his worst start of the year, enabling the Blue Jays to launch more fireworks than were on the Esplanade for this Independence Day. Boston attempted a comeback, but could not quite overcome the deficit, losing to Toronto, 9-7. Toronto starter Brandon Morrow kept the Sox off the board until the 5th, and was good enough to come away with the win. Their closer, Frank Fancisco, gave up a lead-off single to Jacoby Ellsbury, but then shut the Sox down for the save.

Lackey was unable to last the 3rd, inning, giving up 7 runs on 9 hits before he was relieved by Dan Wheeler with just 1 out. Lackey was throwing hard, but with little movement. Batters were either swinging and missing, or making solid contact. Lackey gave up doubles to Travis Snider (2, actually, and he got a third off Aceves) and Rajai Davis, and a homer to Aaron Hill. Even most of the outs were well hit fly balls. The first run was not entirely Lackey’s fault; after Davis hit his double, he stole 2nd, and on a tough throw (high) that Kevin Youkilis missed, he scampered home to score on Youk’s error. The rest of the runs came in the 3rd, and were the result of a solid hammering of Lackey’s pitches. Alfredo Aceves gave up 2 runs, but only one was earned. The unearned run came in the 7th, when Adam Lind walked and then scored on a 2 base error by Yamaico Navarro, who just plain missed a line drive down the third base line by Edwin Encarnacion. The earned run came in the 8th when John McDonald singled, and scored off Davis’s 3rd double of the game (his first off Aceves).

The Red Sox rally came in 2 stages. The first was in the 5th inning, when JD Drew singled, Marco Scutaro walked, and Jacoby Ellsbury drove them in with a bases clearing triple. He then scored on a passed ball as Dustin Pedroia walked. Adrian Gonzalez drove Pedey in with a double. The second stage was in the 8th, when Yamaico Navarro singled, and David Ortiz had a ground rule double. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove them both in with a triple, then scored himself on a Drew sacrifice fly.

Navarro was in the game in place of Youk, who was hit by a pitch so hard on the left shoulder blade in the 4th that he had to be taken out of the game.

The game featured some patriotic pregame festivities, appropriate for the 4th, that put the crowd in a good mood, including the surprise arrival of a naval officer who surprised her family with an unexpected return before the Fenway crowd. Good thing too, because the game itself left a sour taste for the Fenway faithful.

It now seems clear that something must be done about Lackey. Some days he has decent starts, other days he is just awful. The trade deadline is approaching. Perhaps it’s time to make a move.

July 4, 2011 at Fenway Park: Toronto Blue Jays 9, Boston Red Sox 7. WP Morrow, LP Lackey, S Francisco. Red Sox record 49-35 (84/78) Box score

Tek’s block saves Pap’s save. A great team pitching effort by Jon Lester and the bullpen was almost ruined when Jonathan Papelbon gave up a series of hits, including a 2 run homer by Jose Bautista in the 9th. But disaster was averted when, with a 3-2 score, 2 out and Edwin Encarnacion on 2nd, John McDonald hit the ball to the left field wall, and Darnell McDonald came up with a perfect throw to the plate as Toronto’s McDonald was attempting to score from 2nd. Jason Varitek blocked the plate completely and applied the tag to end the game. Boston won, 3-2.

Jon Lester was on his way to what could have been one of the best starts of his career when he had to leave the game after the 4th inning with a left lat strain. Matt Albers came in and provided two clutch innings of stellar relief, followed by Franklin Morales, who was also superb. Daniel Bard got into and out of trouble in the 8th, and as we rolled on to the 9th, the Red Sox were leading, 3-0. On comes Mr. “Shipping Up to Boston”. Corey Patterson singled and scored on Bautista’s home run. Encarnacion singled and JP Arencibia walked to set up the dramatic play at the plate on McDonald’s hit.

On the Boston side, David Ortiz and Tek both doubled in the 2nd; Papi scored on Tek’s hit and Tek was driven in by a JD Drew single. Dustin Pedroia hit a solo homer that proved to be the game winner in the 3rd. Apart from that, Toronto’s starter, Brett Cecil, did a creditable job, going the distance for the loss.

Dustin Pedroia hit in the cleanup spot because Kevin Youkilis is still out, recovering from that fastball to the shoulder blade in yesterday’s game (Yamaico Navarro played 3rd tonight, and turned in some fine plays). This is a great team, no question, but we tremble at how many injuries and strains they have sustained. Who knows what impact all this pain will have coming down the stretch.

July 5, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3, Toronto Blue Jays 2. WP Albers, LP Cecil, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 50-35 (85/79) Box score

Jacoby’s jack, deluge of doubles topple Toronto. Jacoby Ellsbury had a solo home run and 2 doubles, Kevin Youkilis also had a solo homer and 2 doubles, and JD Drew and Yamaico Navarro each also doubled, as the Red Sox pounded Blue Jays pitching to win, 6-4. Toronto starter Ricky Romero was touched for all 6 runs, surrendering 9 hits and 3 walks en route to the loss.

Tim Wakefield went deep for the Sox; his knuckler danced well enough to hold back Jays hitters and keep the bullpen rested. The runs off Wake came in the 1st and 3rd innings. In the 1st, Yunel Escobar doubled and Jose Bautista drove him in. In the 3rd, Rajai Davis and Escobar singled, Davis scored on a Bautista sac fly, and Escobar was driven in by Adam Lind, who singled.

Daniel Bard came in for the 8th, but after he notched 2 outs, a 45 minute rain delay left him too rusty to continue, so Dan Wheeler finished the inning. In the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon hit JP Arencibia with a pitch (Arencibia subsequently took 2nd on defensive indifference) and gave up a hit to Escobar to drive in Arencibia for a late run, but Pap held on for his 19th save.

The big inning was the 4th, when JD Drew doubled, and Darnell McDonald drove him in with a single. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then singled, and Navarro drove in McDonald with his double. Ellsbury then doubled to drive in Salty and Navarro.

There is a lot of consternation about the state of the Red Sox rotation right now, especially after Jon Lester came out of the prior game with a left lat strain. The status of Clay Buchholz is uncertain. Dice-K is out for the duration. We are all worried about Lackey. But there is a bright spot here. Tim Wakefield has really come through in the clutch. Red Sox fans should remember that if the team wins the pennant.

July 6, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 4. WP Wakefield, LP Romero, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 51-35 (86/76) Box score

Boston bombardment blasts Baltimore. When the Red Sox are hitting well, it’s sometimes easier to say who didn’t get a hit than who did. In this case, it is easier to say who didn’t get a home run than who did. Every member of the starting lineup except Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro, and JD Drew homered, as the Red Sox annihilated the Orioles, 10-4. The Red Sox went 13-for-36 at the plate, with 6 home runs and 2 doubles.

Dustin Pedroia had a 3 run dinger, and Jacoby’s four-bagger scored 2 runs, while Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Josh Reddick, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all had solo homers. Big Papi also had a double in the game, as did Youk. Every member of the starting lineup had a hit except Drew, though he got an RBI on a fielder’s choice.

Andrew Miller looked shaky in the 1st inning, giving up 2 runs when J Hardy and Nick Markakis each singled; Miller scored on an Adam Jones single, and Markakis scored when Vlad Guerrero bounced into a double play. Miller surrendered a third run when Mark Reynolds singled in the 4th, moved to 2nd as Nolan Reimold singled, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Robert Andino, then scored on a Hardy sac fly. All in all, Miller went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks.

Alfredo Aceves took over in the 6th and pitched two lights-out innings, Scott Atchison gave up a 4th run in the 8th (Guerrero doubled, advanced to 3rd and then scored on 2 consecutive fielder’s choices). Bobby Jenks gave up a single in the 9th, but otherwise closed out without incident.

Baltimore Jake Arrieta was knocked around a fair amount until he was lifted in the 5th, but relievers Jason Berken and Pedro Viola did not fare much better. It was a spectacular hitting performance for the Red Sox, but the Oriole pitching performance should give the Baltimore front office pause.

Andrew Miller looked good tonight, but threw a lot of pitches (97 in just 5 innings). Baltimore has a tough lineup, but there are tougher. His performance was encouraging, but we need to see him continue to progress, since the rotation is pretty weak right now.

At least “order is restored” for now, as the Yankees lost to Tampa Bay tonight, giving the Sox a half game lead in the AL East. But August looms. Enjoy these last few games before the All Star break. The tough part comes next.

July 7, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 4. WP Miller, LP Arrieta. Red Sox record 52-35 (87/75) Box score

Papi’s pop paces Baltimore’s battering. David Ortiz’s home run put an exclamation point on a beat-down of the Orioles in the 1st inning, and his angry response to a Kevin Gregg taunt led to a brawl of another kind in the 8th. Nonetheless, the Red Sox demolished the Orioles, 10-3.

Josh Beckett had a good start, and piched 4 scoreless innings before giving up a solo blast to Derrek Lee in the top of the 5th. Afterward, he seemed to strain his knee after slipping on the mound (there was a light rain falling at the time). He hung in there, giving up a single to Nick Markakis that scored Felix Pie (who had walked), and another to Adam Jones that scored Robert Andino (who also had walked). After striking out Vlad Guerrero to end the inning, Beckett left the game. We have to hope that there is nothing seriously wrong with his knee.

Buck Showalter, a man with a solid and honorable record in major league baseball, must have the patience of Job to continue to manage the woeful Baltimore Orioles, as they stumble and bumble through this 2011 season. The Orioles had just 1 error, but a number of fielding mistakes in judgment, and their starter, Zach Britton, was unable to get out of the 1st inning, giving up 8 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks to leave with just 2 out in the opening frame.

For Boston, the scoring fireworks came mainly in the 1st, when Dustin Pedroia singled, Adrian Gonzalez walked, Kevin Youkilis singled to drive in Pedey, and Big Papi launched a bomb to right center field to make it 4-0. Then Jason Varitek walked, Marco Scutaro singled, and Darnell McDonald drove them both in with a double. Jacoby Ellsbury later drove in McDonald with a single, and subsequently scored on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. The other Sox runs came when Pedey homered in the 6th, and Josh Reddick tripled in the 8th to drive in Pedey (who had walked).

Baltimore’ reliever, Gregg, must have gotten frustrated at that point, because he seemed to be throwing at David Ortiz, forcing him twice to leap out of the box to avoid being hit in the thigh with a pitch. After the second pitch that was deeply inside, Papi started to charge the mound, but was restrained. When Papi popped out on the next pitch, Gregg taunted him, gesturing to him that he should run to 1st, which prompted home plate umpre Mike Estabrook to toss him from the game. This was not enough for Papi, however, who immediately charged the mound, and they started swinging, but not connecting, at each other. After both benches and bullpens cleared, it took a while for umpires to sort it all out. In the end, in addition to Gregg, a couple of other players on each side were ejected, including Papi, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson. Oddly, Josh Reddick, who was on 3rd at the time, was called out for vacating his base. Since that was the 3rd out, it ended the inning.

Matt Albers, Dan Wheeler, and Scott Atchison finished the game for Josh, without incident. Coming as it does, with Clay Buchholz still out, and Jon Lester out with a strained lat, the hyper-extended knee of Josh Beckett brings us some reason for concern, but not to panic, yet.

July 8, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 3. WP Beckett, LP Britton. Red Sox record 53-35 (88/74) Box score

Sox sock Simon; Lackey obliterates Orioles. John Lackey pitched 6 2/3rds shutout innings, as the Red Sox finally got to Baltimore starter Alfredo Simon in the 5th to beat the Orioles, 4-0. The Orioles may have their issues in the field and in the bullpen, but their hitting is well respected. Nonetheless, John Lackey was able to shut them down entirely, until he got into a bit of trouble in the 7th.

For the Red Sox, the action got started in the 5th, when Jacoby Ellsbury tripled, but was thrown out at home on a Dustin Pedroia fielder’s choice. Then, Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked, Kevin Youkilis doubled and Pedey scored, and after David Oritz was intentionally walked, Josh Reddick doubled to drive in A-Gon and Youk. In the 7th, Pedey doubled and was driven in by a Youk double.

After Lackey hit Derrek Lee with a pitch, even though he punched out mark Reynolds for the 2nd out of the 7th, Terry Francona made the move to bring in Daniel Bard, who got through the 8th with no damage. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the 9th to finish the shutout.

John Lackey’s style has always been one of hard throwing, with a great fastball and well placed pitches on the corners. When he is on his game, he is the unhittable guy we remember from the Angels. I have to believe that when he loses, it is because his head is not altogether in the game. His wife is battling cancer, and this may play into what’s going on with him. Tonight, he was the old Lackey, and we can be glad for that. Let’s see if he can keep it up. Don’t get me wrong…. If he needs to take a year off to deal with personal issues, I am totally behind that. Otherwise, his head needs to be completely in the game. Only Lackey can make that call.

July 9, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 0. WP Lackey, LP Simon. Red Sox record 54-35 (89/73) Box score

Sox sluggers compensate for Weiland’s wildness. Kyle Weiland’s major league debut was less than stellar, unfortunately; he gave up 6 runs in the 2nd inning, lasting just 4+ innings, but Red Sox hitters overcame the deficit to beat the Orioles, 8-6. The game was marked by solid Red Sox hitting, and marred by hit batsmen and ejections on both sides.

Boston started the scoring right away in the 1st, with singles by Jacoby Ellsbury (replaced by Dustin Pedroia in a fielder’s choice) and Kevin Youkilis, separated by an Adrian Gonzalez walk. David Ortiz singled to driven in Pedey, and Josh Reddick’s sacrifice fly plated A-Gon with the 2nd run. Weilland had a clean 1st, but struggled in the 2nd, giving up a 2 run homer to Derrik Lee, a ground rule double to Mark Reynolds, and a long string of singles that seemed endless.

Weiland’s struggles continued in the 3rd. After striking out Derrek Lee, he hit Mark Reynolds. Alfredo Aceves began warming in the pen, and might have come in quickly, had not Nolan Reimold grounded into a double play. Another thing that saved Weiland was the Red Sox 2nd, in which Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia hammered solo home runs. After Adrian Gonzalez doubled, Kevin Youkilis hit another home run, reducing to tie the score, and knock Baltimore starter Mitch Atkins out of the game.

Atkins’ replacement got into trouble of his own in the 4th, giving up a double to Dustin Pedroia, a sngle to A-Gon, then hitting Youk, which resulted in a warning to both benches. Then with the bases loaded, he walked Big Papi to force in the go-ahead run for Boston. In the top of the 5th, Kyle Weiland hit Vladimir Guerrero, resulting in ejections for both him and manager Terry Francona. After that, Aceves came in and things settled down. In the 6th, Baltimore reliever Michael Gonzalez attempted retaliation by throwing at Big Papi, but Papi lurched forward and the ball went behind him. Home plate umpire Marty Foster immediately ejected Gonzalez and Oriole manager Buck Showalter.

The last score of the game came after Jason Varitek, who had doubled and moved to 3rd on a JD Drew single, was caught off base when Marco Scutaro hit a hard grounder to Baltimore 3rd baseman Robert Andino, leaving 2 on with 2 out. Jacoby Ellsbury then singled to drive in Drew with the final run.

After a solid 3 inning performance by Aceves, Josh Bard glided through the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon finished off the 9th without too much drama.

The application of the rule to suppress hit batsmen seemed excessively aggressive, but this is becoming common in the major leagues. Perhaps it is time for MLB to review the rule and its associated policy.

This marks the last game before the All Star break. It was messy, but satisfying, and left the Red Sox in first place in the AL East, just as some of us had expected.

July 10, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 6. WP Aceves, LP Guthrie, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 55-35 (90/72) Box score

All Star Break.

Not yet Miller’s time. Andrew Miller has had some lucky outings since his most recent elevation to the big leagues, giving up a bunch of hits and runs, but coming up with a win each time. This was not one of them. Miller surrendered 7 runs on 5 hits and a startling 5 walks, as the Red Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-6 at Tropicana Field.

Miller’s troubles started right away, when he walked 2 consecutive batters in the 1st inning, then gave up a single to BJ Upton to bring in a run. In the 2nd, after Miller gave up a single to Kelly Shoppach and walked Elliot Johnson. Sam Fuld reached on a sacrifice bunt that went as a fielder’s choice, but got no one out. After Johnny Damon grounded into a fielder’s choice at home, Ben Zobrist took Miller out of the yard with a grand slam. In the 3rd, after walking a batter and giving up 2 more hits that scored the 6th run with 2 out, Miller walked Damon to load the bases, and he was done. Alfredo Aceves came on in relief and walked Zobrist for the 7th run charged to Miller. The last 2 runs for the Rays came in the 5th, when Dan Wheeler gave up a single to Upton, and a 2 run homer to Casey Kotchman.

The Red Sox battled back, but the deficit was just too great. Rays starter David Price was effective as usual, but did give up 3 solo homers, to Darnell McDonald in the 2nd, Jacoby Ellsbury in the 3rd, and Dustin Pedroia in the 6th. After Joel Peralta replaced Price, he walked Yamaico Navarro, and gave up a 2 run shot to Marco Scutaro. In the 8th, with Juan Cruz pitching, Pedey doubled and was driven in by a Kevin Youkilis single. Kyle Farnsworth shut things down after that for a 4 out save, his 18th.

Dustin Pedroia had the best day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a home run and a double. Youk went 2-for-4, and struck out twice.

This was Miller’s first appearance against a really top flight team. He had 3 interleague starts: San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Houston, and one AL start, against the Orioles. We have to hope that he settles down and shows us more than what he had today, because we still have some serious holes in the rotation, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester still out of commission. Fortunately, the Red Sox did not give ground today because the Yankees also lost.

July 15, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay Rays 9, Boston Red Sox 6. WP Price, LP Miller, S Farnsworth. Red Sox record 55-36 (91/71) Box score

Sox shock Shields. Tampa Bay starter James Shields had a typical first inning, giving up a single to Jacoby Ellsbury and hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch (what a shock) but otherwise escaping without damage. That was the only simple inning he would see, as the Red Sox touched Shields for 6 runs to go on to a 9-5 win over the Rays.

John Lackey’s first was not so smooth. After Johnny Damon reached on an error, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman singled, enabling Damon to score. Matt Joyce drove in Zobrist with a single, and BJ Upton’s hit scored Evan Longoria for the 3rd Rays run. Pretty disappointing, except that this would be Tampa Bay’s only runs until a Matt Joyce solo homer in the 5th, and Kotchman’s run, scored after he tripled and was driven in by an Evan Longoria hit in the 9th off Jonathan Papelbon.

Red Sox scoring started with a Josh Reddick homer in the 2nd off Shields, which also scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who had walked). In the 3rd, Adrian Gonzalez walked, Youk singled, and they both scored on a David Ortiz double. Big Papi then scored off JD Drew’s double. Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the 4th. In the 7th, Dustin Pedroia homered off Juan Cruz. In the 9th, after Marco Scutaro singled, Ellsbury reached on catcher interference, and Pedey singled to load the bases. Then, Adam Russell walked Kevin Youkilils to force in a run. Papi then grounded into a fielder’s choice, which scored Ellsbury with the 9th run.

In this game, John Lackey showed both sides of his pitching personality. In the first, his lack of control, suggesting a lack of concentration, led to 3 quick runs. As he settled down, the other John Lackey emerged, and although there was a rocky bases loaded situation, he managed for 4 innings to stay out of trouble. When Johnny Damon reached in the 6th with 2 out, Terry Francona relieved him with Randy Williams, and boy, he did not like it. But it was probably just the right moment. Until the current struggle with injuries is over in the pitching staff, careful management of pitchers will be key to the Red Sox ability to retain first place. If this game is any indication, Francona will give the club its best shot at weathering the current DL storm.

July 16, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Boston Red Sox 9, Tampa Bay Rays 5. WP Lackey, LP Shields, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 56-36 (92/70) Box score

Sox survive pitching marathon. Most of Red Sox Nation had gone to bed before this 16 inning struggle was finally decided. The game started late (at 8 PM ET) for the sake of ESPN, and went 15 innings before there was finally a score, which proved the final, as Boston beat Tampa Bay, 1-0.

Josh Beckett was superb in this one, pitching 8 scoreless innings while giving up just one hit with 6 strikeouts and no walks. There was a lot of contact, including a few heart-stopping long fly balls, but Boston fielding, including yeoman’s work by centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury; Dustin Pedroia provided a few Web Gem worthy plays at second base. The bullpen also came through; Josh Bard, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves (who pitched the 15th and got the win) and Jonathan Papelbon all combined to deny the Rays a run.

Rays starter Jeff Niemann was also effective in holding off the Red Sox, pitching 8 innings and giving up no runs on 2 hits, with 2 walks and 10 strikeouts. Rays manager made strategic use of his entire bullpen, matching lefties and righties, at least until he was ejected in the top of the 11th by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild for making comments to his players that Fairchild interpreted as criticism of his ability to call balls and strikes. Bench coach Dave Martinez took over until he was ejected at the end of the inning for complaining that Marco Scutaro had thrown his bat after fouling out.

The lone run came via small ball. After Josh Reddick singled in the 16thoff Adam Russell, Jason Varitek moved him over with sacrifice bunt. Scutaro then singled to move Reddick to 3rd, and Josh scored on a Dustin Pedroia single. Pap closed out for his 21st save.

The Rays have been the toughest opponent for the Red Sox, not just this year, but over many years; even when Tampa Bay wasn’t a serious contender for the postseason. Boston was lucky to survive this one, and we can expect every game against them to be a titanic struggle this season. At least the Sox get a bit of a break now; they go on to Baltimore.

July 17, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Boston Red Sox 1, Tampa Bay Rays 0. WP Aceves, LP Russell, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 57-36 (93/69) Box score

Wakefield wanes in 5th, but Boston bats blast Baltimore. After a shaky start, Tim Wakefield looked pretty solid until the 5th inning, when his knuckleball stopped dancing, and the Orioles started boogying. The Red Sox came back in the 8th, however, with a terrific assault, and went on to beat the O’s, 15-10.

Tim Wakefield had trouble in the 1st, giving up a pair of singles, then a 2 RBI triple to Derrek Lee, and it looked like we were in for a tough night. After that, however, things settled down. Then came the 5th. Did the wind change direction? Did the humidity change? Who knows what can disturb the deceptiveness of a knuckleball? What we know is that J Hardy homered to drive in himself and Felix Pie, who had struck out, but reached on a passed ball (not an uncommon event with Wakefield on the mound). Then came a quick pair of singles and a walk to load the bases, setting things up for Nolan Reimand, who doubled to drive in 2 more runs. That was it for Wakefield, as Dan Wheeler took over from there with 2 outs in the 5th. That would be all the Baltimore scoring until the 9th.

On the Boston side, things got started in the 3rd, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a solo blast, and a succession of 4 straight singles by Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez led to 2 more runs. In the 4th, after Carl Crawford and Salty singled, Marco Scutaro reached on a fielding blunder by Derrek Lee at first, which allowed Crawford to score. Ellsbury then drove in Salty with a sac fly. Josh Reddick added the 6th run with a solo blast in the 5th. After the Orioles outburst in the bottom of that inning, the Red Sox found themselves trailing 7-6 until Pedey tied it up in the 7th, singling and then scoring on a single by Kevin Youkilis.

The Boston fireworks came in the 8th. Darnell McDonald, pinch hitting for JD Drew against the left-handed Michael Gonzalez, walked. Scutaro singled and Ellsbury walked to load the bases. Then the right-handed Mark Worrell came in to face Pedroia, who promptly doubled, driving in McDonald and Scutaro. A-Gon got an intentional pass, to reload the bases for Youk, who singled to score Jacoby and Pedey, leaving runners at the corners and 1 out. On came Chris Jacubauskas. He walked Reddick to reload the bases. Carl Crawford, who is definitely finding his form again after a stint on the DL, singled again to drive in A-Gon. Darnell McDonald completed the assault with a bases-clearing 3 RBI double.

The Orioles attempted a comeback in the 8th after Randy Williams replaced Wheeler on the mound. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk; the O’s were also aided by a Salty passed ball and a Williams wild pitch. Franklin Morales came on with a 5 run lead in the 9th to close out.

Everything Orioles manager Buck Showalter did in the 8th with pitching choices, intentional walks, and so on, were strictly by the book, and supposedly work out on average. But these Red Sox are well above average, and they punish by-the-book tactics. Showalter and his boys can piss and moan about the Red Sox payroll all they like, but these Boston boys know how to win.

July 18, 2011 at Baltimore: Boston Red Sox 15, Baltimore Orioles 10. WP Wheeler, LP Gonzalez. Red Sox record 58-36 (94/68) Box score

Sox sluggers stalled in Chesapeake collapse. Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough over 7 innings to win; his main mistake resulting in a 2 run homer by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Orioles touched Boston starter Kyle Weilland for 3 runs; enough to beat the Red Sox by a final score of 6-2.

Weilland did much better than his last outing, when he was shelled, but the inability of Boston batters to put hits together into runs left him with the loss nonetheless. He gave up a pair of singles in the 2nd, followed by an RBI double from Mark Reynolds and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Nolan Reimold. The other run came in the 3rd, when a pinball single by Matt Wieters with 2 on and 2 out scored Nick Markakis.

Alfredo Aceves, who has been seeing an awful lot of duty lately, was not at his best, giving up back-to-back home runs in the 8th to Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds; Lee’s dinger came with a man on base.

The Sox had 8 hits off Guthrie over 7 innings, but could not manage more than 2 runs. Jim Johnson pitched 2 perfect innings to close out for his first save.

Sox fans will have to expect unevenness in the team’s performance as long as Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are both out of commission. Let’s hope they are back soon.

July 19, 2011 at Baltimore: Baltimore Orioles 6, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Guthrie, LP Weiland, S Johnson. Red Sox record 58-37 (95/67) Box score

Miller grinds Oriole grist; Boston bullpen blanks Baltimore. Andrew Miller recovered from his rough start against Tampa Bay on the 15th to hold the Orioles scoreless through 5 2/3rds innings, actually pitching 4 innings of no-hit ball. Red Sox hitters were able to touch Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta for 3 runs, including 2 homers by Jacoby Ellsbury, as Boston went on to beat the O’s, 4-0.

Miller looked strong and confident, though he did go deep into counts, gave up 6 walks in under 6 innings, and left after throwing 103 pitches, 60 for strikes. As for Baltimore pitching, in addition to the 2 solo jacks to Ellsbury, Arrieta allowed Josh Reddick to single, and move to third on a Carl Crawford double. Jason Varitek drove Josh in with a fielder’s choice to first. The 4th Red Sox run came in the 8th when Oriole reliever Mark Hendrickson gave up a single to Adrian Gonzalez and a ground-rule double to Kevin Youkilis. After walking Reddick to load the bases, he proceeded to walk Carl Crawford to force in a run. Mark Worrell replaced Hendrickson, and the Sox were unable to capitalize further on a no out bases-loaded situation.

After Miller left, Matt Albers pitched 2 1/3rd innings, Daniel Bard pitched the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out in a non-save situation; none of them allowed a hit.

The Red Sox close out this brief road trip with a 4-2 result, which is pretty good considering the rough shape the pitching staff is in. They return to the friendly confines of Fenway Park on Friday, after a much needed day off, to face the Seattle Mariners.

July 20, 2011 at Baltimore: Boston Red Sox 4. Baltimore Orioles 0. WP Miller, LP Arrieta. Red Sox record 59-37 (96/66) Box score

Sox hitters hammer Hernandez. John Lackey showed the talent that made him a star at Anaheim, giving up just 1 run on 8 hits over 7 innings, while the Red Sox touched Felix Hernandez for 6 runs on 11 hits, as Boston beat Seattle, 7-4.

The Mariners scored first, with Ichiro Suzuki singling and stealing 2nd and 3rd base in rapid succession, then scoring on a single by Dustin Ackely. That would be it for Seattle until the 8th, when Franklin Morales came in to relieve Lackey, and gave up a double to Miguel Olivo, walked Adam Kennedy, then yielded a 3 run homer to Mike Carp.

The Red Sox responded quickly to the Mariners’ run in the first, as Dustin Pedroia singled, advanced to 2nd on a fielder’s choice, took 3rd on a passed ball by Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo, then scored on a Kevin Youkilis single. In the 3rd, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo homer to right, his 16th four-bagger of the season. The 7th was the big Red Sox inning, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury singling, then Dustin Pedroia walking to load the bases for Adrian Gonzalez, who drove in Salty and Ellsbury with a sharp single to center. Youk then drove in Pedey and A-Gon and David Ortiz drove in Youk for a total of 5 runs.

After the Morales meltdown, Daniel Bard came in to finish the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon had a clean 9th for his 22nd save.

Meanwhile, our old friend Johnny Damon was speculating as to what hat he should wear for induction into the Hall of Fame. Of course, it’s a bit premature, since he is still an active player. He suggested that although he had 4 eventful years with both the Red Sox and the Yankees, he played the most season with the Kansas City Royals, so perhaps he should wear that cap. What?? Give me a break. Did he suddenly become a diplomat, or is he simply tone-deaf? He should be remembered for making a losing franchise a little less mediocre? IF you get elected (and I mean IF) you will wear whatever cap they tell you to wear, and you will like it, Mr. Hired Gun.

July 21, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 7. Seattle Mariners 4. WP Lackey, LP Hernandez, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 60-37 (97/65) Box score

Beavan baffles Boston, but Sox survive Seattle. Blake Beavan had a stellar start for the Mariners, going 6 2/3rds innings and holding the Red Sox to 9 hits on 3 runs, 2 of which were scored after he left the game by players he had left on base. Boston went on to beat Seattle, 3-1. Josh Beckett had another outstanding start, surrendering 1 run on 7 hits with 7 strikeouts over 7 innings. The only run he allowed was a 7th inning solo shot by Mike Carp.

Red Sox scoring was all in the 7th. It started when Jason Varitek singled with 2 out, and Marco Scutaro hit a ground-rule double into the right field corner. In truth, it probably should have been called fan interference, as a man in the stands reached over the barrier and snatched the live ball while it was in the field of play. Because the umpires did not realize what he had done, they stopped Tek at 3rd; otherwise he would have scored for sure. The fan was expelled, but that did not put a run on the board. Fortunately, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to drive in Tek and Scutaro, and that was it for Beavan. Reliever David Pauley did not last long; he was lifted after giving up a single to Dustin Pedroia that moved Ellsbury to 3rd. Aaron Laffey then entered the game, and Pedey promptly stole 2nd. Laffey then threw a wild pitch that enabled Ellsbury to score the 3rd run. All 3 runs were charged to Beavan, who took the loss.

Daniel Bard had a shakey 8th, loading the bases with no outs on a single, a walk, and an Adam Kennedy sacrifice bunt that Bard threw to 3rd, but with Kevin Youkilis unable to tag the bag, apparently (the replay showed a different story). He then induced a fly out from Carp, punched out Jack Cust, and got Franklin Gutierrez to ground out. In the 9th, Jonathan gave up a single to Miguel Olivo, but got the next 3 batters out in order to close out for his 23rd save.

Congratulations to Terry Francona for his 1,000th career victory as a manager. The Red Sox now have a 3 game lead over New York in the AL East.

Folks, it is really important not to interfere with balls in play. You can potentially prevent the Red Sox from scoring runs, and you will be ejected from the ballpark. Stay back, and wait for the ball to come to you.

July 23, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3. Seattle Mariners 1. WP Beckett, LP Beavan, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 61-37 (98/64) Box score

Mariners whack Wakefield, but Sox sweep Seattle. Tim Wakefield had a rough day, but it didn’t matter much as the Red Sox hammered Seattle Michael Pineda for 5 runs in the first inning, including doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, and a 2 run homer by Kevin Youkilis, as Boston went on to hand Seattle its 15th straight loss, 12-8. Aaron Laffey, who relieved Pineda in the 5th, didn’t fare much better. He took over with 2 on and 1 out, giving up singles to David Ortiz and Carl Crawford to score 2 runs charged to Pineda, then a double to Josh Reddick and single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia for 3 more.

The air was warm, dry, and still for Tim Wakefield, and so his knuckleball was not dancing much. Seattle hitters were seeing it pretty well, and were making contact in pretty much every inning. Mariner runs included Brendan Ryan, who was hit by a Wakefield knuckler (at least it didn’t hurt) and scored with Miguel Olivo on Olivo’s pop over the Monster. In the 5th, Wake walked Franklin Guitierrez, gave up a single to Ichiro Suzuki (Ichiro was caught off the bag between 1st and 2nd in a beautiful fake to 3rd and quick throw to 1st by Wake), then Guitierrez scored a Brendan Ryan double. Tim’s day came to an end when, after giving up 3 straight singles to Jack Cust, Guitierrez, and Ichiro, Brendan Ryan hit his 2nd grand slam of the season over the Monster. The final Seattle run came in the 9th when reliever Alfredo Aceves allowed Guitierrez to single, and Dustin Ackley drove him in with a double to left.

The remaining Red Sox runs came in the 6th, when Dustin Pedroia doubled off reliever Jamey Wright, and was driven in by an Adrian Gonzalez single, and in the 7th off Josh Lueke, when Josh Reddick and Salty singled, and Reddick scored on an Ellsbury single.

Mariner manager Eric Wedge had shaved off his walrus-like mustache prior to the game, hoping that might bring a change of fortune, but to no avail as the Seattle club remains in free fall after being swept in Boston. Now, the Red Sox move on to face the woeful Kansas City Royals at Fenway.

Despite being hammered in the game, Tim Wakefield takes some consolation in having achieved his 2,000th strikeout in a Red Sox uniform, which puts him in pretty elite company, surpassed only by Roger Clemens. Wakefield’s 2,106 total career strikeouts puts him 57th in the all time list.

July 24, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 12. Seattle Mariners 8. WP Wakefield, LP Pineda. Red Sox record 62-37 (99/63) Box score

Sox sluggers slump; Royals roll Boston in 14. Jon Lester looked good until he tired in the 6th inning, but Kansas City’s pitching was tougher, allowing just 1 run over 14 innings as the Royals beat the Red Sox, 3-1. Kyle Davies was challenging Boston hitters throughout, throwing first pitch fastballs high in the strike zone, mixing in well placed sliders and changeups, and generally keeping the Sox off-balance. In fact, the Royals bullpen seemed to be pitching from the same playbook, as they all approached the Red Sox in a similar fashion with fastballs up and in and sliders and curveballs down and in to left-handed hitters, and away to righties. The only Boston run came in the 2nd, when David Ortiz walked, and Carl Crawford traded places with him on a fielder’s choice, then stole 2nd. Crawford scored off a Josh Reddick double.

Coming off an extended stay on the disabled list, Jon Lester looked a little shaky in the first couple of innings, giving up singles here and there as he seemed to have trouble finding the corners of the strike zone. By the 3rd, however, his command was back, and for three innings he was the master of control, throwing his fastball with pinpoint precision to all quadrants of the strike zone. By the 6th, he had clearly tired, giving up a single to our old friend Melky Cabrera, who scored on a Billy Butler double to left, then walking Eric Hosmer. Matt Albers came in, and was solid through the 8th. Bard pitched a typical 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon had a perfect 9th (Terry Francona was obviously hoping for a score at the bottom of the inning, but alas…). Franklin Morales, Dan Wheeler, and Randy Williams took us through the 13th without a Royals run.

The Red Sox had their chances, most notably in the 12th, when Josh Reddick singled and moved to 3rd on a bad throw by KC reliever Lous Coleman in trying to pick him off. Then Francona called for a rare squeeze play, but batter Marco Scutaro missed the sign, and Reddick was thrown out at home. The Sox also had 2 on with 1 out in the 13th, but failed to score. In the top of the 14th, Eric Hosmer doubled off Williams and moved to 3rd on a Jeff Francoeur single. John Lackey who had volunteered to enter the game, as the bullpen was fully depleted, and was warmed up and ready in the bullpen, but Francona stuck with Williams. Mike Aviles then sacrifice bunted Hosmer home for the go-ahead run. Brayan Pena singled, moving Francoeur to 3rd, and Francoeur scored on an Alcides sac fly, for an insurance run to make the final, 3-1. The Royals’ Joakim Soria closed out for his 18th save.

A note of some concern: Kevin Youkilis, while attempting to beat out a ground ball in the 6th inning, caught his right big toe on the first base bag and appeared to turn his ankle. It was sore enough that he left the game in the 8th inning (he was replaced by Yamaico Navarro). It could be nothing, but this is something to watch. On the positive side, Jarrod Saltalamacchia demonstrated that he has really improved as a catcher. Against an aggressively running Royals team, he threw out 2 and 2nd, and also nailed Butler when he tried to take 3rd as Cabrera scored in the 6th.

July 25, 2011 at Fenway Park: Kansas City Royals 3, Boston Red Sox 1 (14 innings). WP Coleman, LP Williams, S Soria. Red Sox record 62-38 (100/62) Box score

Miller pitches grist, but Boston outslugs Royals. Andrew Miller may still need some refinement, as he gave up 9 runs on 7 hits with 2 walks over just 3 2/3rds innings, but Red Sox hitting and Royals miscues combined to neutralize that rough start, as Boston beat Kansas City, 13-9. It was clear to see one reason why Kansas City has the worst record in the American League, as the 2 fielding errors recorded mixed with numerous mental errors, both in the field and on the basepaths, to undermine the Royals’ chances to win.

Kevin Youkilis did not play in this game, sitting out what is now called a strained hamstring, and Yamaiko Navarro covered his position at 3rd base. Adjusting to the left Royals starter (Danny Duffy) Terry Francona also had Darnell McDonald in center field in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, and put him in the leadoff spot, followed by Marco Scutaro. The unorthodox lineup paid off, however, generating 11 hits on 36 at-bats, with 9 walks. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was supposed to have the day off, came into the game in the 5th inning to face righty Nathan Adcock in place of Yamaico Navarro, and Drew Sutton later replaced Darnell McDonald in the lineup, but Navarro (at 3rd in the field).

Andrew Miller had another tough start, and was unable to master the KC hitters. Trouble came right away in the 1st, as Melky Cabrera and Billy Butler had back-to-back singles, and then were driven in by Eric Hosmer’s double and Jeff Francoeur’s sacrifice fly. In the very next inning, Mike Aviles singled and Matt Treanor walked, and both scored on a Billy Butler ground-rule double. In the 4th, Alex Gordon hit a 2 run homer, and Billy Butler hit a solo shot. One batter later, Miller was done. That was it for Kansas City until the 9th, when Mike Moustakas hit a single off Franklin Morales with 2 (Eric Hosmer, who singled, and Jeff Francoeur, who walked) aboard, scoring one and setting up the other to score off a Matt Treanor single.

The Red Sox matched Kansas City scoring right down the line, then pulled ahead in the late innings. In the first, Darnell McDonald walked, stole 2nd, and moved to 3rd on a wild pitch by Duffy. He scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly. Then Dustin Pedroia tripled and scored on a David Oritz double. In the 3rd, Marco Sutaro doubled, A-Gon walked, and Scoot scored on a double by Pedey. Big Papi then doubled to score A-Gon and Pedey. In the 4th, A-Gon and Pedey singled, and Papi walked to load the bases, When Adcock walked Carl Crawford, he forced in yet another run. In the 5th, Josh Reddick and Ellsbury singled, and Drew Sutton hit a sacrifice bunt, but 2nd baseman Mike Aviles missed the ball, and in the confusion Josh Reddick and Ellsbury scored. Sutton made it all the way to 3rd, and was driven in by an A-Gon single. Then, Pedey and Papi singled, resulting in 2 more runs (Scoot and A-Gon) while Pedey stopped at 3rd. He subsequently scored on a sac fly by Reddick. In the 7th, Jason Varitek hit a solo homer.

Clay Buchholz’s return can’t come soon enough, although it is said that he won’t be available until late August.

July 26, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 13, Kansas City Royals 9. WP Aceves, LP Adcock. Red Sox record 63-38 (101/61) Box score

Lackey is lackluster, but Sox clobber KC. John Lackey was roughed up in the first inning, but settled down to pitch 3 scoreless innings after that, giving up 1 run in the 5th, and leaving with 113 pitches in the 6th with 2 out and 2 on. It hardly mattered as Red Sox hitters hammered Royals pitching, going 16-for-36 and scoring 12 runs, to win 12-5. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia had solo home runs, and David Ortiz hit a grand slam. Darnell McDonald and Ellsbury doubled.

The Royals jumped all over Lackey right from the start. Alex Gordon led off the game with a double, and Melky Cabrera joined him on the basepaths when he reached on a rare muff by Kevin Youkilis handling his grounder to third. They were driven in by Eric Hosmer’s homer. When Alex Gordon doubled in the 2nd with 1 out, it looked like we were heading for another rough inning, but after a Melky Cabrera fielder’s choice erased Gordon and Billy Butler singled, Eric Hosmer flied out, ending the threat. Lackey then had 1-2-3 innings in the 3rd and 4th, but seemed to start to tire in the 5th. He gave up a solo homer to Butler with 1 out. He struck out Hosmer, then gave up a double to Jeff Francoeur and walked Mike Moustakas. Brayan Pena singled to load the bases, but Lackey managed to get Chris Getz to pop out, to get out of the jam. With his pitch count well over the nominal 100 in the 6th, he gave up a double to Cabrera and a single to Butler with 2 out, and that was the end of his night. Randy Williams induced Hosmer to ground out to end the inning. The only other Royals run came in the 8th. After Williams gave up a double and single to Gordon and Cabrera, Dan Wheeler came in and allowed Hosmer to single, driving in Gordon.

The Red Sox answered the Royals’ 3 run 1st with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back solo homers by Ellsbury and Pedey off KC starter Bruce Chen. In the 2nd, Marco Scutaro walked, McDonald and Yamaico Navarro singled, to set up a bases loaded, nobody out situation for Ellsbury. He walked, forcing in a run. Pedey then hit a sac fly to score McDonald, and Adrian Gonzalez grounded out, scoring Navarro.

In the 4th, McDonald doubled and scored on a Navarro single. Ellsbury hit into a fielder’s choice, erasing Navarro. Then Pedey hit a ball high off the wall, and stumbled between 1st and 2nd. The Royals noticed, and the throw came in to 2nd. Ellsbury was rounding 3rd, so he started in toward home, but KC second baseman Chris Getz threw to Mike Moustakas at 3rd, trapping Ellsbury between 3rd and home. He tried to slide back to 3rd, but was tagged out. Pedey remained at 1st. A-Gon and Youk then singled to load the bases for Big Papi, who hit a grand slam for his 20th home run of the season. It was his 10th career grand slam, 9 of which were in a Red Sox uniform.

In the 6th, Nathan Adcock gave up a double to Ellsbury and back-to-back singles to Pedey and A-Gon as Ellsbury scored Boston’s 11th run. In the 8th, Ellsbury singled, and took 2nd on a throw by shortstop Mike Aviles that sailed into the Boston dugout. He advanced to 3rd on Pedroia ground out, and scored on A-Gon’s single, for Boston’s 12th run.

Dustin Pedroia has now hit in 24 straight games, and the streak shows no signs of weakening. Given that Dustin is playing with some pain from last year’s injury to his left foot, his performance is nothing less than inspirational.

July 27, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 12, Kansas City Royals 5. WP Lackey, LP Chen. Red Sox record 64-38 (102/60) Box score

Pedey’s streak alive at 25, but Royals split with Sox. In his last at-bat of the game, Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a solo home run, but in general, Boston bats were ineffective as Kansas City beat Boston, 4-3. Royals starter Luke Hochevar looked strong and confident, mixing up his pitches and keeping Red Sox hitters off balance. Except for Pedey’s blast, the scoring off Hochevar was limited to the 3rd inning; Jason Varitek led off with a single and Yamaico Navarro doubled to give Jacoby Ellsbury men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Ellsbury responded with a 2 RBI single, and it looked like we were on our way, but alas, that would be all the scoring until Pedey’s homer off reliever Greg Holland. Carl Crawford, pinch hitting for Tek in the 9th with 1 on, had a shot at a walk-off homer, crushing the ball off Royals closer Joakim Soria to the deep corner of right field, but the ball dropped right down, into the glove of Jeff Francoeur.

Josh Beckett cruised through the first 3 innings, and it looked like this could be a really low-scoring pitcher’s duel. Then came the 4th inning, when Beckett seemed to lose his control for a while. He walked Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier in succession, then surrendered a home run to Billy Butler on a ball that was low and away, but which Butler picked up and sent to the deepest part of the park. Then after Eric Hosmer popped out, Jeff Francoeur reached when his lazy fly ball to left field slipped harmlessly through Drew Sutton’s glove for a 2 base error. Mike Moustakas followed up with a legitimate double, a line drive into the right field corner, plating Francoeur with the 4th Kansas City run. After that, Beckett seemed to recover himself, and pitched shutout innings through the 7th, but the damage was already done. Franklin Morales pitched the 8th, and Matt Albers handled the 9th, both without incident (Chris Getz singled, but was thrown out by Tek on pitch out, Alcides Escobar singled and did steal 2nd, but was unable to score).

Every once in a while, no matter who you are playing, you encounter an inspired pitcher who shuts you down. That’s baseball; that’s why they play the games. Now they go to Chicago to face the slumping White Sox, with Tim Wakefield in line for his 200th career win.

Despite today’s game, I continue to hold that the Red Sox do not need to make any major moves before the waiver-free trade deadline. Apparently, Tom Caron agrees.

July 28, 2011 at Fenway Park: Kansas City Royals 4, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Hochevar, LP Beckett, S Soria. Red Sox record 64-39 (103/59) Box score

Floyd flummoxes Sox sluggers; Boston can’t win in the Windy City. Gavin Floyd was hitting his spots, and the Red Sox could not pick up his pitches. Simple as that. With the exception of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s solo home run, Floyd held Boston scoreless, as the Red lost to the White variety of hose, 3-1. The other two hits for Boston were a Drew Sutton single to center in the 3rd, and an infield single by Marco Scutaro.

The air was moderately warm and dry, with a constant light breeze; perfect conditions for Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. Wake took advantage, going 7 innings and giving up 3 runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. Under normal circumstances, that should have been good enough for a win. 2 of the runs came on a 2 RBI homer by AJ Pierzynski in the 7th. The other was a “small ball” run; Juan Pierre, after going 0-for-2, got on base with a bunt single, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Omar Vizquel, took 3rd on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly by Paul Konerko.

Not only did the Red Sox lose, but it was a bad night for personal records. Dustin Pedroia’s consecutive game hitting streak came to an end at 25, and Wake will have to wait until his next start for a chance at his 200th career win.

So far, the Red Sox just can’t seem to beat their White counterparts; this is their fourth consecutive loss to the White Sox without a victory. They have two more chances.

On the positive side, it looks like Adrian Gonzalez will be back in the lineup tomorrow. Terry Francona confirmed after the game that Gonzalez was feeling better, and should be ready to go for game 2 against Chicago.

July 29, 2011 at Chicago White Sox: Chicago White Sox 3, Boston Red Sox 1. WP Floyd, LP Wakefield, S Santos. Red Sox record 64-40 (104/58) Box score

Boston bats humble Humber. Jon Lester looked strong through 6 innings, but though he was well below his pitch count, he seemed to weaken in the 7th and 8th, but not enough that it mattered, as the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 10-2. Philip Humber was solid, almost unhittable for Boston batters through 4 innings, and it looked like this was going to be another one of those inscrutable Red Sox losses in Chicago, when Boston blew it open in the 5th.

Carl Crawford led off with a solid single to right, then stole 2nd, and reached 3rd when AJ Pierzynski’s throw sailed past shortstop Alexei Ramirez as he seemed to slip, or lean the wrong way, as the throw came to him, allowing it to sail into center field and Crawford to reach 3rd. Crawford then scored on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double. Salty advanced to 3rd on Josh Reddick’s single, and scroed on a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro. Reddick reached 3rd on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ellsbury then stole 2nd. Reddick scored on Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly, and after Humber intentionally waked Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis drove in Ellsbury with a single.

Lester looked pretty solid until the 7th, when his control seemed just a little off. The only damage in that inning was a solo homer by Paul Konerko. In the 8th, Gordon Beckham also had a solo home run. Red Sox fans can take heart that after such a long layoff, Jon Lester pitched 8 innings and gave up just 2 runs, both on solo homers.

In the 9th, Boston added a bunch of insurance to eliminate any need for Josh Bard or Jonathan Papelbon to come into the game. A-Gon hit a 2 run homer, driving in Pedey (who singled), then Youk hit a solo home run. Crawford singled, and was driven in by a Salty double; Salty scored when Marco Scutaro singled to center, and Alex Rios was a bit casual in fielding the ball.

This gets a big monkey off the Red Sox backs, winning against the White Sox for the first time this year after 4 straight losses, 7 including 2010, and going 1-for-11 over 2010-2011. Now, to win tomorrow and have their first series victory over the White Sox in 2 years.

On the trade front, the Red Sox acquired 3rd baseman Mike Aviles from the Kansas City Royals for Yamaico Navarro and pitcher Kendal Volz (who?), and they also got RHP Rich Harden from the Oakland A’s for AAA star Lars Anderson. Harden has a history of injury issues, so we shall see, but if he works out (pending his physical) he should help with the rotation issue, given the uncertainty surrounding Clay Buchholz right now.

July 30, 2011 at Chicago White Sox: Boston Red Sox 10, Chicago White Sox 2. WP Lester, LP Humber. Red Sox record 65-40 (105/57) Box score

Red Sox rescue series. After trailing for several innings, the Red Sox came back in the 7th to score 2 runs, and an insurance run in the 9th, to beat the White Sox 5-3 and win this series in Chicago. The front of the lineup acquitted itself well, as Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez each had 2 hits.

Andrew Miller had another difficult start. Though he held the White Sox to 3 runs, he threw 106 pitches (73 for strikes), and gave up 10 hits and a walk while striking out 8 over just 5 2/3rds innings. Chicago scored a run in each of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings. In the 2nd, Tyler Flowers singled off Miller and scored on a Brent Morel double. In the 3rd, Carlos Quentin and Adam Dunn singled, and Alex Rios drove Quentin in with another single. In the 4th, Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel had consecutive singles and move over a base on Brent Lillibridge’s sacrifice bunt. Then Beckham scored on a single by Alexei Ramirez. In the 6th, as Miller went over his 100 pitches with 2 out, he allowed a single to Juan Pierre, and in came Alfredo Aceves.

The White Sox starter, Mark Buerhle, was fast and efficient as usual, though a mistake in the 2nd allowed Jason Varitek to smash a 2 run homer to left center (Darnell McDonald had walked). Still, he was in line for the win when he handed the ball over to Jesse Crain in the 7th inning with a 3-2 White Sox lead. After getting Tek to line out, Crain allowed back-to-back singles to Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury, and both advanced when catcher Tyler Flowers mishandled a pitch. Pedey then laced a solid line drive into center to score both Scutaro and Ellsbury, and Boston took the lead, 4-3. The Red Sox picked up an insurance run in the 9th, despite a flurry of defensive changes, when Jacoby Ellsbury singled off reliever Jason Dunn and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez double.

Because Aceves was the pitcher of record when Boston took the lead in the 7th, he got the win, though he actually made just 3 outs, while Daniel Bard, who took over with 2 out in the 7th, made 4. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 9th with 3 straight strikeouts for his 24th save of the season. Crain took the loss for Chicago.

In the dugout was Boston’s newest acquisition, infielder Mike Aviles, acquired from the Kansas City Royals on Saturday for Yamaico Navarro and AAA pitching prospect Kendal Volz. Aviles was acquired to back up Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia in case either were to go on the DL, given Jed Lowrie’s propensity for injury. During the game, the news broke that in the wake of the failed Rich Harden deal, Boston acquired the services of LHP Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners as a hedge against the possibility of a long convalescence for Clay Buchholz.

Bedard has spent a fair amount of time on the disabled list himself, but overall this season, he has been very effective, when he is healthy. We need to hope he remains healthy. We also need to hope that he can adjust to life back in the AL East (he played for Baltimore briefly in 2002, and from 2004 to 2007, and was a thorn in the Red Sox’ side during that time). There is some information that he may have a hard time playing under the pressure of a major market pennant contending team. Well, life is a series of adjustments, but not everyone can take the pressure. Just ask Edgar Renteria.

July 31, 2011 at Chicago White Sox: Boston Red Sox 5, Chicago White Sox 3. WP Aceves, LP Crain, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 66-40 (106/56) Box score

August

Cabrera, Kipnis clobber Sox. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis both went 3-for-5, with Cabrera hitting 2 homers and Kipnis offering a double and home run as the Indians hammered the Red Sox, 9-6. What would have been a good day hitting for Boston was turned into a loss as John Lackey had a rough 3rd and the bullpen was no help thereafter.

Lackey was in control during the first 2 innings, but allowed a 2 out single to Ezequiel Carrera and an RBI double to Michael Brantley to get the Cleveland scoring started in the 3rd. In the 4th, Cabrera singled off Lackey, moved to 3rd on a Carlos Santana hit, and scored on a fielder’s choice. The real trouble came in the 6th; the Red Sox entered the inning with a tenuous 3-2 lead, but that was soon to change. Kipnis doubled with 1 out, and Cabrera hit a 2 run homer, immediately followed by another homer by Travis Hafner. It all happened so fast there was no time to get someone up in the bullpen. Lackey then struck out Santana and Fukudome to end the inning.

When the 7th inning opened, Franklin Morales was ready in the pen, and Lackey was clearly on a short leash, though with the score now tied (the Red Sox had scored 2 in the bottom of the 6), Terry Francona apparently wanted to give Lackey a chance to win the game. He got the first 2 batters to fly out, but then Ezequiel Carrera singled; all the balls hit that inning looked pretty solid. Out he came, and Morales got the last batter to strike out, ending the inning.

In the 8th, Daniel Bard came in. The usually reliable flamethrowing setup man was finding entirely too much of the strike zone, and the Indians were crushing the ball. Kipnis singled, and Cabrera drove him in with his second homer of the game (the ball had clipped the top of the right field fence near the foul pole, and the play had to be reviewed before the home run could be called). Then, after walking Santana, he gave up a single to Kukudome and a double to Matt LaPorta that scored Santana. Those three runs effectively put the game out of reach, but that was not all. With Matt Albers on the mound in the 9th, Kipnis hit a solo homer to put the cherry on top for Cleveland.

Not that Indians starter Josh Tomlin was any mystery to Red Sox hitters. In the 2nd, he gave up a ground-rule double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Josh Reddick singled, and Marco Scutaro drove in Salty for the first Boston run. In the 3rd, Adrian Gonzalez singled and scored on a triple by Kevin Youkilis, who tried to take advantage of a bobble by center fielder Ezequiel Carrera, and headed for home, but was thrown out by a mile at the plate. It was too bad, because Carl Crawford homered, and had Youk stayed on 3rd, he would have scored with Crawford. In the 6th, after the Indians did their scoring, the Sox replied as Crawford doubled and Salty hit a 2 run shot to tie the score at 5. That was the end of the good news until the 9th, when newly acquired Mike Aviles got his first hit in a Red Sox uniform, and advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference. Aviles then scored when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a weird looping fly ball that dropped between the 3rd baseman and left fielder and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double.

Once again, we see that every time Lackey pitches, it’s a crap shoot, and tonight we lost. There was more bad news, as it was learned that Clay Buchholz has a stress fracture in his lower back, and could very well miss the rest of the season, and perhaps the post-season. This is going to make for some tough strategizing in the months to come.

August 1, 2011 at Fenway Park: Cleveland Indians 9, Boston Red Sox 6. WP Perez, LP Bard. Red Sox record 66-41 (107/55) Box score

Ellsbury breaks the logjam. Josh Beckett and David Huff, along with the Boston and Cleveland bullpens, were locked in a collective pitchers’ duel that sent the game into the 9th inning tied, 2-2. Jacoby Ellsbury broke that tie with a clutch game-winning RBI single to propel the Red Sox to a 3-2 win over the Indians.

Josh Beckett was his usual self, with mistakes that led to solo by home runs by Jason Kipnis in the 1st, and Lonnie Chisenhall in the 4th. Meanwhile, David Huff suffered from both his own and his team’s blunders. In the 2nd, he walked David Ortiz, Carl Crawford reached on an error, Mike Aviles singled to load the bases, and Huff threw a wild pitch in striking out Jason Varitek, which allowed Ortiz to score.

Rafael Perez replaced Huff in the 6th, and promptly served up a solo home run to Kevin Youkilis. That’s how things stood, tied 2-2, until the 9th. Franklin Morales, who pitched yesterday in a losing cause, offered a solid 7th, Daniel Bard returned to his usual form in dispatching the Indians in the 8th, and Terry Francona took the unusual step of putting closer Jonathan Papelbon into a tie game to hold off the Indians in the 9th.

His gamble paid off, as Jason Varitek singled off Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia came in to pinch run for Tek. Josh Reddick it a bloop single to right center that enabled Salty to advance only to 2nd, but when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a sharp line drive single to center, Salty was able to round 3rd and score, avoiding the sweep tag of Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana to win the game.

August 2, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3, Cleveland Indians 2. WP Papelbon, LP Pestano. Red Sox record 67-41 (108/54) Box score

Jacoby’s jack topples Tribe; for the 2nd consecutive night, Ellsbury is the walk-off hero. It was another low-scoring affair, as Tim Wakefield’s dancing knuckler kept the Indians in knots, and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco held the Sox to 2 runs through 7. It all came down to the bottom of the 9th with the score tied when Jacoby Ellsbury’s solo blast delivered a 4-3 win.

Tim Wakefield held the Cleveland Indians scoreless through the first 3 innings, but had trouble in the 4th, as Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a home run, Asdrubal singled, and then scored on a Travis Hafner double. Then in the 7th, with the Red Sox leading 3-2, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled off the Monster and advanced on a wild pitch from Wakefield. He scored when Ezequiel Carrera hit a ground-rule double to right, tying the game at 3.

The Red Sox jumped all over Carlos Carrasco from the start. With 2 out in the 1st, Adrian Gonzalez singled and Kevin Youkilis doubled, setting up a 2nd and 3rd with 2 out situation for David Ortiz. Big Papi hit a sharp single to left that Austin Kearns mishandled, allowing A-Gon and Youk to score. In the 4th, Papi walked and Carl Crawford doubled. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, the Indians intentionally walked Josh Reddick. Marco Scutaro grounded into a fielder’s choice that allowed Papi to score the 3rd Red Sox run. After the Indians scored in the 7th, the score was tied until Ellsbury untied it in the 9th. Randy Williams pitched a solid 1 1/3rd innings, and once again, Terry Francona went to Jonathan Papelbon to pitch the 9th with the score tied. And, once again, the gamble paid off.

Once again, this game demostrates the value of Tim Wakefield. He is the reason our boys are still in this chase. Consider this: Dice-K is out (whatever you thought of him, when he was pitching well he was a decent starter), Buchholz is out until at least the post-season, and Lackey is struggling. Quite simply, without Wake, we would be done.

August 3, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, Cleveland Indians 3. WP Papelbon, LP Smith. Red Sox record 68-41 (109/53) Box score

Masterson masters his old club; bullpen blows it for Boston. Justin Masterson was always a promising pitcher for Boston, and he has certainly blossomed with Cleveland. He held the Red Sox to 3 runs on 5 hits and 9 strikeouts over 6 innings, as the Indians beat the Red Sox, 7-3. Erik Bedard was not bad for his first start for Boston, given his prior injury situation, giving up 3 runs over 5 innings, but the bullpen failed to hold the line.

Two of the Red Sox runs came in the 1st inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez double. A-Gon then scored on a sharp line drive single to right by David Ortiz. The other run came when Josh Reddick hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th.

The 2nd and 3rd innings were the problematic ones for Bedard. In the 2nd, he gave up 3 consecutive singles to Carlos Santana, Kosuke Fukudome, and Matt LaPorte, resulting in a run scored and Fukudome at 3rd. He then scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Austin Kearns. In the 3rd, Jason Kipnis singled, then Asdrubal Cabrera hit into a force play that erased Kipnis. Travis Hafner singled, moving Cabrera to 3rd. Cabrera then scored on a Santana single.

This might have become another down-to-the-wire game like the prior 2 in this series, but Franklin Morales had a tough night. After giving up a double to Hafner in the 6th, he served up a home run to Santana for 2 more runs, giving Cleveland the lead, 5-3. In the 7th, with 2 out and nobody on, Andrew Miller surrendered a single to Cabrera, who scored on Hafner’s double. 6-3. Miller was still in the game in the 9th, when he walked Cabrera and Santana. Cabrera stole 2nd and 3rd in succession, then scored on Fukudome’s double to make the final 7-3, as the Red Sox went quietly in the bottom of the 9th in three straight fly-outs.

This is obviously not a great way to move on to the weekend series against the Yankees. On a positive note, Terry Francona’s move, putting Bedard in tonight, means that he will be able to use Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Josh Beckett against the Bronx Bombers. Let’s hope it’s the “good” Lackey this time.

August 4, 2011 at Fenway Park: Cleveland Indians 7, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Masterson, LP Morales. Red Sox record 68-42 (110/52) Box score

Bartolo, bullpen baffle Boston; Yanks overcome Lester factor. Jon Lester has been unusually successful against the New York Yankees (10-3 career vs. Yankees before tonight) but his control faltered, and the excellent Yankee lineup took full advantage, shoving the Red Sox out of first place in the AL East with a 3-2 win. Bartolo Colon was both efficient and effective, with just a few mistakes, for which he paid. The Yankee bullpen took things the rest of the way, and our old nemesis, Mariano Rivera, closed out for his 29th save of the season.

Lester started out strong and saw a 2-0 score develop in his favor, but as the game progressed he passed in and out of trouble up to the 6th inning, when he got more trouble than he could handle. After walking Eduardo Nunez, he gave up a single to Derek Jeter to create a 2 on, nobody out situation for Curtis Granderson, who singled to drive in Nunez. Mark Teixera then walked to load the bases. Terry Francona, obviously, became concerned, and got Matt Albers up in the bullpen while sending pitching coach Curt Young out to stall for time. Whatever Young told Lester seemed to work, because Lester quickly induced Robinson Cano to ground into a double play, though Jeter scored in the process, to tie the score at 2. That’s when the magic ended, as Nick Swisher hit a ground rule double on a ball down the left field line that bounced into the stands, scoring Granderson with the go-ahead run. Matt Albers and Randy Williams held the line after that, but to no avail.

Red Sox hitters were able to do nothing against Colon until the 3rd inning, when Josh Reddick singled and scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury double. In the 4th, David Ortiz homered, to create a 2-0 lead. Once the lead was relinquished, however, New York’s bullpen (Boone Logan, Cory Wade, Rafael Soriano, David Roberston, and Rivera) clamped down to prevent any further Red Sox scoring.

The Yankees now have sole possession of first place in the AL East, but we have 2 games to go in this series. Red Sox fans should hope that Joe Girardi’s extravagant use of his bullpen will eventually weaken the ability of that pitching staff to control Boston batters. We should also hope that John Lackey has the game of his life in game 2 of this series.

August 5, 2011 at Fenway Park: New York Yankees 3, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Logan, LP Lester. Red Sox record 68-43 (111/51) Box score

Jacoby’s jack buoys Boston; Sox swamp Sabathia. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 4th inning 3 run homer was the highlight of a hitting onslaught as the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees, 10-4. John Lackey drifted in and out of trouble, but gave up 3 runs on 6 hits over 6 innings while striking out 5 and walking just 2; a creditable start to earn the win.

CC Sabathia was unnervingly efficient over the first 2 innings, suggesting that this was going to be another close, and possibly very frustrating game with the Yankees. In the 3rd inning, he seemed to crack just a bit, as Carl Crawford doubled, and he walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia (with first base open), then both advanced on a very well executed sacrifice bunt by Marco Scutaro. Ellsbury then drove in Crawford with a sac fly, and Dustin Pedroia drove in Salty with a double.

In the 4th, Kevin Youkilis doubled and Mike Aviles singled, setting up a first and third with 1 out for Crawford, who responded with a single to drive in Youk and send Aviles to 2nd. Marco Scutaro then singled to drive in Aviles, and Ellsbury hit his 3 run shot to right. The final Red Sox runs came in the 8th, when reliever Hector Noesi walked Josh Reddick, Crawford singled, and Salty walked to load the bases. Then, with 1 out, Ellsbury singled to drivein Reddick and Crawford, and Pedroia’s sacrifice fly scored Salty.

Lackey was never comfortable, going deep into counts and allowing runners on base from the 2nd inning onward. In the 4th (with the score 2-0), he gave up a lead-off single to Curtis Granderson (who stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on an errant throw to 2nd by Salty), walked Mark Teixeira, and hit Robinson Cano to load the bases. The situation looked bleak, but Nick Swisher hit into a double play that scored a run. Sadly after that, Eric Chavez singled to drive in Teixeira and tie the score at 2.

In the very next inning, after giving up a hit to Francisco Cervelli, Lackey hit Brett Gardner, and the gave up a single to Derek Jeeter that enabled Cervelli to plate a run that made the score 7-3, Boston. After that, Lackey seemed to bear down, and got the next three batters in order, two (Granderson and Teixeira) by strikeout. Because he went deep into counts and put a bunch of runners on base, he had already run over 100 pitches by the 6th inning, but because of the big lead, Terry Francona let him pitch through that inning to save the bullpen, and apart from a single to Swisher, Lackey glided through the inning without a problem.

Alfredo Aceves pitched a clean 7th inning, and Bard, after an initial mistake to Teixeira that allowed a solo home run to Teixeira, got through the 8th without incident. Since the Red Sox scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to make the game a non-save situation, Jonathan Papelbon, who had warmed just in case, sat down, and Dan Wheeler finished the game without serious incident.

The Red Sox are now, once again, tied with the Yankees, for the AL East. It’s up to Josh Beckett to help take possession of 1st place.

On a personal note, fenway41 was in the house for this game, selling 50-50 raffle tickets for the Red Sox Foundation. It’s a decent raffle, and a worthy cause, so if you see folks in orange aprons, part with 5 bucks and watch the scoreboard in the 7th inning; you could be a winner.

August 6, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 10, New York Yankees 4. WP Lackey, LP Sabathia. Red Sox record 69-43 (112/50) Box score

Red Sox rip Rivera; Reddick’s walk-off single sinks Yanks in 10th. Josh Beckett pitched a gem against the Bronx Bombers, but this game went to the 10th inning before a single by Josh Reddick would score Darnell McDonald (running for David Ortiz) to win it, 3-2.

Freddy Garcia had a decent start, but was pulled after 5 innings of work for New York. In the 2nd inning, he walked Kevin Youkilis and gave up singles to David Ortiz and Carl Crawford. Josh Reddick and Jason Varitek were unable to take advantage of the bases-loaded situation, but Marco Scutaro hit a single that scored Youk for the first Red Sox run of the game.

Josh Beckett gave up his only run in the 5th on a solo home run to Eduardo Nunez. In the 7th, reliever Matt Albers served up a dinger to Brett Gardner, giving the Yanks a 2-1 lead.

When Mariano Rivera came on in the 9th, it looked like the Yanks would win and retake the AL East lead, but Marco Scutaro doubled, and advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by Jacoby Ellsbury. Dustin Pedroia’s clutch sacrifice fly tied the game, and we went to extra frames. Amazingly, Joe Girardi abandoned his rotation, inserting his scheduled Tuesday starter Phil Hughes into the game in the 10th to prevent a Red Sox win. It didn’t work. With 1 out, Big Papi hit a ground-rule double, and was replaced by pinch runner Darnell McDonald. After intentionally passing Carl Crawford, Hughes faced Josh Reddick, and we wondered if Reddick could come through in this 2 on, 1 out situation. We didn’t have to wait long. Reddick jumped on the first pitch, lining it to left for a single that scored McDonald with the winning run.

This win, which puts the Red Sox in first place in the AL East, is made all the sweeter by how obviously Girardi wanted it. His moves through this series, breaking normal practice, suggested something bordering on desperation, while Terry Francona’s managing was consistent with his normal pattern. This is an encouraging sign.

August 7, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 2 (10 innings). WP Bard, LP Hughes. Red Sox record 70-43 (113/49) Box score

Papi’s power propels Sox to victory; Boston hitters on Target. The Red Sox are finding Target Field a much more pleasant place to play than the old Metrodome was. David Ortiz went 4-for-5 including a double and homer to drive them to an 8-6 win over the Twins.

Tim Wakefield had a fair game, and though he gave up 5 runs, was in line for a 6-5 win after the Red Sox scored in the top of the 8th. The win would have been his 200th. But Alfredo Aceves gave up a run to result in a tie in the 8th, and ended up with the win.

Wakefield’s hardest inning was the 2nd, when Michael Cuddyer doubled, and scroed on Jason Kubel’s single (in part due to an error in handling the throw home from Josh Reddick). Then, Jim Thome doubled to score Kubel. Thome reached 3rd on a fielder’s choice by Danny Valencia, and scored on a passed ball by Salty. In the 4th, Kubel hit a solo homer off Wake. In the next inning, Tervor Plouffe had a 2 out single and scored on Joe Mauer’s double to give the Twins their 5th run.

Minnesota’s Scott Baker went 6 innings, giving up 5 runs. In the 2nd inning, David Ortiz singled, and advanced to 2nd when Jed Lowrie singled with 2 out. Then, Marco Scutaro got Boston’s third single in a row, scoring Papi. Jed Lowrie tried to reach 3rd, but was thrown out to end the inning.

In the 6th, trailing 5-1, Carl Crawford tripled, and scored on a sac fly by Adrian Gonzalez. Then Dustin Pedroia singled, and Big Papi hit his 22nd home run of the season, to make the score 5-4, Minnesota. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with a solo blast to tie the score at 5. In the 8th, two relievers laters, Papi doubled off Glen Perkins, and reached 3rd on Salty’s soft ground out. Mike Aviles, pinch hitting for Josh Reddick, then grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Ortiz when the Joe Mauer mishandled the throw from shortstop Matt Tolbert. That made the score 6-5, Boston, and Wake could have won at this point.

Alfredo Aceves relieved Tim, and promptly gave up a ground-rule double (that had some fan interference involved) to Tervor Plouffe, who scored on Jason Kubel’s single to tie the score at 6 and take Wake out of the decision. In the 9th, Adrian Gonzalez and Pedey singled back-to-back; cue Papi with the clutch 2 out single to score Darnell McDonald (running for A-Gon) and send Pedey to 3rd. Pedroia then scored on Salty’s double to ice the win. Pap pitched in the bottom of the 9th, and was lights-out to sink the Twins and earn his 25th save.

This game marked the return of the injury-prone Jed Lowrie, who was determined to make a mark and did get a key hit in 4 at-bats, but also blew a play in the field. Marco Scutaro had a terrific game both in the field and at the plate (he was 3-for-4), but this game belongs to David Ortiz, who was a triple short of the cycle, going 4-for-5 with a double and home run, and notching 3 RBI. Given that these guys had to catch a plane after last night’s grueling game with the Yankees, and immediately show up ready to play in Minneapolis, this was a great win for all involved, despite the 2 errors (one on Salty as noted, one on Lowrie, when he failed to handle a Jim Thome liner in the 4th).

August 8, 2011 at Minnesota Twins: Boston Red Sox 8, Minnesota Twins 6. WP Aceves, LP Perkins, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 71-43 (114/48) Box score

Bedard is generally on Target; timely hits topple Twins. Although he did not get the decision, Erik Bedard looked good after the first inning at Target Field. The Twins were scrapping the whole way, but in the end it was Boston that eked out the winning run as the Red Sox beat Minnesota, 4-3.

Bedard had a very rough first inning, but settled down after that. In the 1st, and walked Ben Revere, gave up a single to Joe Mauer to set up a 1st and 3rd situation for Michael Cuddyer, who responded with a sac fly to score the Twins’ first run. Then Bedard walked Jason Kubel and Jim Thome to load the bases. After punching out Danny Valencia, he walked Delmon Young to force in the 2nd Twins tally. That was it for Bedard, and he left after 5 innings with a 3-2 lead, in line for the win. The other Minnesota run came off reliever Matt Albers. He gave up a single to Danny Valencia, and then with 2 out and 1 on, allowed a double to Tsuyoshi Nishioka that scored Valencia.

The Sox faced Francisco Liriano, who kept them off the scoreboard until the 5th inning, when Liriano walked Jason Varitek, and Darnell McDonald hit a 2 run homer. In the 6th, Liriano gave up back-to-back walks to Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford. Then, Jason Varitek singled, driving in Lowrie to put the Sox up 3-2. After the Twins tied the game in the bottom of the inning, Matt Capps replaced Liriano and got one out but walked Dustin Pedroia, gave up a double to Adrian Gonzalez, and walked Youk. On came lefty Phil Dumatrait, who delivered a breaking ball that David Ortiz chopped softly to the first base side of the mound. The ball drifted into no man’s land between the pitcher and first baseman. Dumatrait tried to field it, but could not find the handle, and Pedey scored as Papi reached safely on what would be scored an infield hit.

Franklin Morales pitched the 7th inning, but Terry Francona pulled him with a walk and 2 out, even though lefty Jim Thome was coming up. He brought in Daniel Bard, who got Thome to ground out, and had a clean 8th inning. Pap closed out solidly in the 9th, for his 26th save.

The Yankees lost to the Angels tonight, so the Sox have a 2 ½ game lead. Yup, time to pay attention to that stuff.

August 9, 2011 at Minnesota Twins: Boston Red Sox 4, Minnesota Twins 3. WP Albers, LP Capps, S Papelbon. Red Sox record 72-43 (115/47) Box score

Twins lineup is Lester bester. Jon Lester struggled initially, giving up a run in the 1st, but seemed to settle down until the 8th, when the hits started coming fast and furious as Minnesota beat Boston, 5-2. Minnesota starter Tim Blackburn gave up just 1 run over 6 innings and left with the lead, but had to settle for a no-decision, as Glen Perkins gave up the tying run, but got the win after the Twins regained the lead in the 8th.

Lester’s troubles started right away, when he walked Joe Mauer with 2 out in the 1st, then gave up back-to-back singles to Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome to plate Mauer with the first Twins run. After that, he cruised until the 6th, when he walked Ben Revere, who scored on a field ruling after a batted ball by Joe Mauer was interfered with by a fan. Mauer took 2nd on the play, which is recorded as a ground-rule double.

The real fireworks came in the 8th with the scored tied at 2, when Lester walked Mauer to lead off the inning, then after a ground out, gave up a double to Jim Thome that scored Mauer to give Minnesota the lead. Terry Francona then pulled Lester and inserted Alfredo Aceves, and things went from bad to much worse. With Jason Repko pinch running for Thome, Danny Valencia doubled, and Repko scored. Then Aceves intentionally walked Delmon Young with 1 out to set up a force play at 3rd, and put the double play in order. Matt Tolbert then singled to load the bases, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled to center, scoring Valencia. Young also tried to score, but was out on a throw from Jacoby Ellsbury to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The inning ended with the final score, 5-3.

Red Sox hitters had their moments, but although they had 8 hits in the game, they could not manage more than 2 runs, one on a solo homer. Up to the 7th inning, the Sox had a base runner in every inning but the 2nd, but failed to score. In the 7th, Mike Aviles walked with 2 out, then Ellsbury reached on an odd muff by second baseman Trevor Plouffe, who looked like he was more concerned with which base to throw the ball rather than fielding the ball itself. Marco Scutaro then singled, scoring Aviles. In the 8th, David Ortiz hit a solo home run.

After this disappointing loss, the Red Sox had to hustle off to the plane that would take them to Seattle, where they get a day off before playing on Friday.

August 10, 2011 at Minnesota Twins: Minnesota Twins 5, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Perkins, LP Lester, S Nathan. Red Sox record 72-44 (116/46) Box score

Sox storm shipwrecks Mariners. Seattle led this game until the 6th, picking away at Lackey’s miscues, but a storm of hits from Boston batters swamped them, as the Red Sox went on to win, 6-4. Every member of the Boston lineup had at least one hit, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez contributed doubles, and David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Reddick homered.

This was another one of those games that make Red Sox fans dread John Lackey starts. He seemed to be struggling with his control in the first 2 innings, but gradually got things under control in the middle innings. In the 1st, he gave up a lead-off double to Ichiro Suzuki, followed by a Franklin Gutierrez single that moved Ichiro to 3rd. After Gutierrez stole 2nd, Lackey walked Dustin Ackley, and the bases were loaded for Mike Carp with nobody out. Carp responded with a 2 RBI single, and we wree off. After a couple of scary long fly outs, Lackey got Miguel Olivo swinging on a bad pitch.

The 2nd started out much like the 1st, with a pair of singles issued to Luis Rodriguez and Trayvon Robinson. With 1 out, a Lackey wild pitch (should have been a passed ball, really… it went right between Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s legs) moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and so he walked Gutierrez to load ’em up for Dustin Ackley. Ackley drove in Gutierrez with a single. In the 4th, Gutierrez singled, and with 2 out, Carp doubled to drive in the 4th Seattle run. After that, and another wild pitch (just like the other one… should have been a passed ball), Lackey seemed to buckle down, retiring the next 7 hitters in a row, taking him to the 7th inning looking strong but over that magical 100 pitch count. When Ackley led off the 7th with a single, Lackey’s night came to an end; cue Franklin Morales. With one Lackey runner on base, Morales started out looking just as shaky as Lackey had in the 1st, giving up a single to Carp, who moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Seager. After striking out Adam Kennedy for the 2nd out, Morales’ night was done, and Daniel Bard came on to finish the inning.

For the Red Sox, the scoring started in the 2nd inning when Big Papi crushed a solo home run to center off Seattle starter Blake Bleavan. Then, Carl Crawford singled and stole 2nd base. Salty then singled on a sharp ground ball that took a nasty hop and hit Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak right in the eye socket and nose bridge. He had to come out of the game, and was replaced by Kyle Seager. The initial diagnosis on Smoak is a broken nose, which is a shame for him because he just got back after missing 7 games with a strained thumb, but it could be worse; A CT scan will help determine if a concussion is also involved. With Crawford now on 3rd, Mike Aviles hit a sac fly to drive in the 2nd Boston run.

The Red Sox entered the 5th trailing 4-2, when Jed Lowrie smacked a line drive home run, his first of the year from the left side of the plate, to right to put Boston within a run. In the very next inning, Salty singled and Josh Reddick absolutely crushed the ball; sending a monster 2 run dinger to right so hard that it hit the glass that encases a restaurant out there, well above the seats, and suddenly, the Sox had the lead 5-4, putting Lackey in line for the win. In the next inning, A-Gon doubled, and moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by Dustin Pedroia. Papi’s single drove in A-Gon with an insurance run.

After finishing the 2nd, Bard pitched a scoreless 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon looked strong and confident in putting the Mariners down in the 9th for his 27th save. Beavan gave up all 6 Boston runs to take the loss.

This was an excellent win, coming when it does on a key road trip, but Red Sox fans have to hope that Boston hitters continue to do very well at the plate to compensate for the shakiness of some starters. Still, it’s comforting to know that those bats are such a huge factor. The Yankees lost to the Rays, by the way, putting the Sox up by 2 in the AL East.

August 12, 2011 at Seattle Mariners: Boston Red Sox 6, Seattle Mariners 4. WP Lackey (11-8), LP Beavan (3-3), S Papelbon (27). Red Sox record 73-44 (117/45) Box score

Beckett’s beginning bombs as Sox sink into the Sound. Josh Beckett had 4 innings of well-pitched, shutout ball. That’s the good news. Sadly, they came after the 1st inning, when his very first pitch found the center field stands off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki to ignite a 5 run flurry for the Mariners that the Red Sox could not overcome. Seattle went on to beat Boston, 5-4.

Everything went wrong for Beckett in the 1st inning. His fastballs were catching too much of the plate, and his breaking balls weren’t breaking. The first four batters he faced hit safely. After Ichiro’s solo blast, Franklin Gutierrez singled, Dustin Ackley doubled and Mike Carp drove them both in a single. Carp then scored on Casper Wells’ 2 run shot. That was all the scoring the Mariners would need in this one.

The Sox made numerous attempts to come back, hitting safely in almost every inning, but unable to put the runs together. One notable moment came at the end of the top of the 4th, when Jacoby Ellsbury crashed into our old friend Josh Bard attempting to score on Dustin Pedroia’s fly ball. The throw beat Pedey to the catcher, and plate umpire Mark Ripperger initially called Ellsbury safe. He reversed himself when he saw that Bard had held onto the ball. This brought out Terry Francona, who first discussed, then argued, and finally went ballistic on Ripperger, earning the heave-ho. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale assumed manager duties from that point on.

Mariners starter Felix Hernandez was as good has he needed to be, with his one breakdown coming in the 6th. Marco Scutaro started things off with a triple, then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2 run shot. Adrian Gonzalez singled, and scored on another 2 run dinger, this one by Pedroia. Although David Ortiz and Mike Aviles also singled in the inning, they were unable to score, leaving things 5-4, Seattle. The Sox continued to get hits in the remaining innings, but could not put together another run. Seattle closer Brandon League closed out easily for his 28th save.

This game featured two of our old friends from 2006: Wily Mo Pena, who had played first for Boston and was the DH for Seattle in this game, and Josh Bard, who backed up Jason Varitek that year and was the Mariners’ starting catcher tonight. Neither got a hit in this game.

The Yankees trounced the Rays at Yankee Stadium, 9-2, to move within a game of the Sox. Time to step it up.

August 13, 2011 at Seattle Mariners: Seattle Mariners 5, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Hernandez (11-10), LP Beckett (9-5), S League (28). Red Sox record 73-45 (118/44) Box score

Sox lost at sea in Seattle. The Red Sox looked like they have lost considerable energy at the plate, as Seattle starter Charlie Furbush held them to 1 run on 4 hits over 7 innings while striking out 6 en route to a 5-3 Mariners victory over Boston. Tim Wakefield had his usually bewildering knuckleball, but the Mariners seemed to have him figured out in the 3rd, then tacked on a run in each of the 5th and 6th innings.

Wakefield coasted into the 3rd inning with the game still scoreless, and walked Casper Wells. Wells broke for 2nd, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was well off the mark, bouncing in front of Dustin Pedroia and skipping into center field as Wells scampered to 3rd on the error. Then Jack Wilson drove Wells in with a single, and Kyle Seager followed with another single to set up runners at 1st and 2nd. Ichiro Suzuki chopped the ball to 2nd, but Jed Lowrie, attempting to execute a double play, swiped at the bag and threw late to 1st. 2nd base umpire Ed Hickox ruled that Lowrie had missed the bag, and so Ichiro and Seager were both safe, and Lowrie was charged with an error. Terry Francona came out to argue the case vigorously, but perhaps not wishing to be ejected twice in two days, he didn’t press the matter too hard. Franklin Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly drove in Wilson for the 2nd Seattle run. Wakefield then walked Dustin Ackley to reload the bases for Mike Carp, who singled to drive in Seager.

In the 5th, Wakefield gave up 3 consecutive singles to Ichiro, Gutierrez, and Dustin Ackely resulting in another run. The final Mariners run came on a solo home run by Casper Wells in the 6th.

Boston went 6-for-31 for the game, as Furbush kept them off balance for 7 innings, Jeff Gray dealt with them in the 8th, and Brandon League closed out for his 29th save. The first Boston run came in the 4th, when Adrian Gonzalez singled, Kevin Youkilis walked, and David Ortiz singled to short center to load up the bases for Jed Lowrie with 1 out. Lowrie hit a sac fly, scoring Gonzalez.

In the 8th, the Sox attempted a comeback against Gray. Pedey singled, and with 2 out and 1 on, Youk hit his 17th home run of the season, to make the score 5-3, but that is where it remained to the end. Tim Wakefield pitched a complete game, clearly hoping to the end that the Sox could rally and deliver him the 200th career win that he is, once again, denied.

The Yankees were rained out in New York, so they could not claim a share of the AL East lead today… the Red Sox are clinging to a half game lead. They will really have to step it up against the Tampa Bay Rays if they want to maintain their lead.

August 14, 2011 at Seattle Mariners: Seattle Mariners 5, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Furbush (3-4), LP Wakefield (6-5), S League (29). Red Sox record 73-46 (119/43) Box score

Lester catches Rays; Sox deflect Shields. With the exception of some first inning shakiness that resulted in a run, Jon Lester was effective in stalling the Tampa Bay Rays, while Rays’ starter James Shields slipped up just enough to give the Red Sox more than enough runs to win as Boston beat Tampa Bay, 3-1. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 3 run jack did the job, handing Lester his 12th victory of the season.

Jon Lester had some issues in the 1st, giving up a lead-off double to Desmond Jennings, who stole 3rd as Sam Fuld was striking out, then scored on an Evan Longoria ground out. Lester cruised the rest of the way, helped from time to time by some spectacular fielding, including a running catch by Ellsbury and a flying lay-out line drive grab by Dustin Pedroia.

James Shields was dominant as usual, with his only real slip-up coming in the 3rd inning, but it really cost him. Josh Reddick led off with a single, and after Jed Lowrie struck out, Mike Aviles singled as well, to put 2 on with 1 out for Ellsbury. A changeup over the middle of the plate was a sitting duck for Jacoby’s bat, and it soon found the right field seats behind the visitors’ bullpen. Shields settled down after that, and pitched a complete game, but Boston pitching would not let his hitters back in the game.

Lester pitched 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 8 and walking 1. Josh Bard pitched a perfect 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out with authority to notch his 28th save.

David Ortiz sat out the game due to some undisclosed illness, but there were hints that he might be available in the nightcap.

August 16, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Rays 1. WP Lester (12-6), LP Shields (11-10), S Papelbon (28). Red Sox record 74-46 (120/42) Box score

Niemann the complete Sox master. Jeff Niemann pitched a complete game for Tampa Bay; the only runs he gave up were solo blasts by Jason Varitek in the 3rd and Jacoby Ellsbury in the 6th as the Rays went on to beat the Red Sox, 6-2. Erik Bedard turned in a fine start, giving up 3 runs over 6 innings, but got little run support as the Sox could not figure out Niemann.

Kevin Youkilis, who is still nursing a tight back, sat out this game after playing the day game, and Jed Lowrie took his place at 3rd base. This game would prove memorable for Lowrie for both good and bad reasons. On the plus side, he started a triple play in the 4th: with 2 on and nobody out, he caught a ground ball off the bat of Sean Rodriguez, touched 3rd, then threw to Dustin Pedroia at 2nd, who relayed to Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning in one play. On the minus side, he was part of a couple of badly muffed plays. He collected one official error, which came in the 2nd when Sean Rodriguez hit a ground ball to Jed, who had Ben Zobrist dead to rights at the plate, but threw poorly, bouncing the ball in the dirt so that Tek was unable to block the plate and catch the ball cleanly (Zobrist scored). The other messed up play really deserves shared blame. In the 8th, with 1 out and Zobrist and BJ Upton on base, Zobrist stole 3rd. Soon after, relief pitcher Franklin Morales caught BJ Upton off 1st base, and threw to Adrian Gonzalez, who saw Zobrist heading for home. He should have thrown home, but instead he threw to Lowrie, who tried to fire it to Varitek, but hit Zobrist in the back instead, allowing him to score. Upton took 2nd, and they got credit for a double steal, but it was really a messed up fielding play by the Red Sox.

Erik Bedard put in a good game, and deserved a better fate. He had a clean 1st inning. In the 2nd, after Zobrist scored on the error, Matt Joyce drove in the 2nd run with a fielder’s choice ground ball. In the 5th, Desmond Jennings hit a solo home run. That was it as far as runs Bedard surrendered.

Moving into the 8th, the Sox were down 3-2, with Matt Albers pitching. Johnny Damon singled, Evan Longoria hit into a force play that erased Damon, and Zobrist singled. Then BJ Upton drove in Longoria with another single, and Morales replaced Albers. Then came the “double steal” situation described above. After that, our old friend Casey Kotchman (2009 Red Sox) drove in Upton for the 6th Rays run.

This was a game that the Red Sox and their fans will want to forget, except, of course, for the triple play and another astonishing fielding play by Dustin Pedroia, who laid out to catch a seemingly uncatchable line drive, retiring Desmond Jennings, ending the inning, and preventing a run.

The Sox can still win the series with a win tomorrow, but they will need to show more at the plate. John Lackey will pitch opposite the estimable David Price. Should be a tough one, made tougher since David Ortiz is likely to be out again, nursing bursitis in his right heel.

August 16, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 6, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Niemann (8-4), LP Bedard (4-8). Red Sox record 74-47 (121/41) Box score

A pearl of great Price. David Price pitched a gem of a game, notching 8 shutout innings with just 3 hits and 6 strikeouts, as the Rays went on to blank the Red Sox, 4-0. John Lackey was his usual worrisome self, getting himself into and out of trouble a number of times, but the long ball killed him, with home runs for BJ Upton and Evan Longoria, and doubles for our old friend Johnny Damon and Upton.

The first run was unremarkable; Damon singled in the 1st inning, advanced to 2nd when Longoria walked, and scored on Ben Zobrist ground out. In the 4th, BJ Upton hit a solo homer, making the score 2-0. In the 5th, it was Longoria’s turn. 3-0. In the 7th, Lackey hit Kelly Shopack, who reached 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and scored when Ben Zobrist doubled, to make the final. Alfredo Aceves and Dan Wheeler held the line after that, but there would be no comeback for Boston.

It was not a disaster for Lackey, and under normal circumstances, Boston’s bats should have coped with the 4 runs he gave up, but these were not normal circumstances. Price had the Red Sox baffled through most of the game. The Sox lost one decent opportunity when Jacoby Ellsbury tripled, but then was caught off base when Adrian Gonzalez bounced the ball weakly to the pitcher. He delayed the tag long enough to allow Gonzalez to reach 2nd, but there’s an important difference between having a runner at 3rd with 2 out, and having a runner and 2nd with 2 out. That was the Red Sox’ best scoring opportunity of the game. Kyle Farnsworth closed out cleanly in a non-save situation.

Kevin Youkilis was in the game, after sitting out last night’s loss, but managed just a single. Dustin Pedroia had the other hit. David Ortiz sat out the game with his bursitis issue, so Gonzalez was the DH, Youk was at 1st, and Jed Lowrie took 3rd. With the lefty Price pitching, Terry Francona had Darnell McDonald in right field instead of Josh Reddick.

Carl Crawford went 0-fer for the this Rays series. He denies it has anything to do with his old team; says he’s just in a little slump, but one wonders.

August 17, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Price (11-10), LP Lackey (11-9). Red Sox record 74-48 (122/40) Box score

Beckett toils, topples Royals. The Royals put up quite a fight, but Josh Beckett prevailed, getting just enough run support to overcome the second-worst team in the American League as the Red Sox beat Kansas City, 4-3. For some reason, the Sox have had trouble scoring when they have Beckett pitching. This time, timely hitting and aggressive base running produced just enough runs for the win.

Indicative of the Red Sox’ aggressive base running in this game, they stole 4 bases (Dustin Pedroia had 1, Carl Crawford 2 in succession, and Jacoby Ellsbury 1), though none of those plays ultimately resulted in runs. After Carl Crawford stole 2 in the 4th, he was thrown out trying to score on a shallow fly ball, and Dustin Pedroia was out trying to stretch a single into a double in the 5th (but he did drive in Jed Lowrie, who had previously doubled and scored from 2nd). So, they were trying to force the issue, and sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t.

Kansas City’s starter, Luke Hochevar, had a pretty decent game, managing to scatter the Sox’ 8 runs across 6 innings, giving up 4 runs against a hard hitting team. In addition to the 4th inning score, Boston got a run in the 2nd when Josh Reddick doubled and scored a Jason Varitek single. In the 3rd, Mike Aviles singled, Ellsbury walked, and Pedey drove them both in with a sharp single to center. The Sox went ahead for good in the 5th when Lowrie doubled and Pedey drove him in.

Beckett had a rough start once again, giving up a double to the first batter he faced, Alex Gordon. Gordon subsequently advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sac fly, as the Royals opted to go for the early lead with small ball. For the first 3 innings, Beckett seemed to be having more of the kind of trouble he had against the Mariners, leaving the ball up in the zone. In the 3rd, After a scary long fly ball by Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar singled and scored on Alex Gordon’s 2 run homer. Beckett helped himself, snagging a high hop off the bat of Melky Cabrera for an easy out. After Billy Butler singled, Beckett threw a wild pitch that enabled Butler to advance, but Eric Hosmer flied out, ending the threat.

After that, Beckett seemed to settle down, and showed much more command of the strike zone. He ultimately went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts (all after the 3rd inning) and one home run. Daniel Bard glided through the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon was as scary as I have ever seen him, overwhelming the 3 batters he faced and retiring them in order, 2 as strikeouts, for his 29th save.

The Sox are really struggling, caught in the doldrums of the usual August slump. Let’s hope this win helps turn things around, and the hitting and pitching become sharper from here on out. With David Ortiz (bursitis in his foot) and Kevin Youkilis (strained back) both on the DL, the other guys wll have to step it up.

August 18, 2011 at Kansas City: Boston Red Sox 4, Kansas City Royals 3. WP Beckett (10-5), LP Hochevar (8-10), S Papelbon (29). Red Sox record 75-48 (123/39) Box score

Miller grinds Royals; Salty salts away the win. Andrew Miller went 5 1/3rd innings giving up 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 3 and walking 2, and Aceves finished the job. It looked like another struggle at the plate, as the Sox produced no runs until the 4th inning, when they put 2 on the board to take a 2-1 lead, and then Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a 3 run homer in the 5th to put it out of reach. Final score, 7-1 Boston over Kansas City.

Miller gave up just 1 run, which came in the 3rd inning when Mike Moustakas doubled and reached 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by Alcices Escobar. He scored on a sac fly by Alex Gordon. That was the only run the Red Sox would surrender all night. Miller made it to the 6th, exiting after walking Alex Gordon, who stole 2nd as Melky Cabrera struck out. On came Alfredo Aceves, who took the Sox the rest of the way for his second save.

The Red Sox started their scoring off Kansas City starter Jeff Francis, in the 4th when Carl Crawford doubled, and scored on a triple by Darnell McDonald. Jacoby Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly then drove in McDonald for the 2nd Boston run. In the 5th, Jed Lowrie singled, followed by Ryan Lavarnway (taking the DH role for the injured David Ortiz), who got his first major league hit. Then with 1 out, Salty drove them both home with his 3 run bomb. In the 8th, with Everett Teaford pitching in relief for Kansas City, Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch right in the right shoulder blade, but stayed in the game, and advanced to 3rd on Mike Aviles’ double. Adrian Gonzales drove Ellsbury in with a sacrifice fly, and Aviles scored when Dustin Pedroia reached on an error.

This was a solid win, and it was good to see Lavarnway get is first major league hit behind him. We may need a few more from him until Big Papi returns. Also, Adrian Gonzalez snapped his hitless streak, going 3-for-4. Perhaps this is a sign of good things to come.

August 19, 2011 at Kansas City: Boston Red Sox 7, Kansas City Royals 1. WP Miller (5-1), LP Francis (4-14), Aceves (2). Red Sox record 76-48 (124/38) Box score

Royal flush. Tim Wakefield was cruising until the bottom of the 6th inning. The Red Sox had a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the inning, and came out with a 9-4 deficit, as the Royals slammed Boston. Tim’s pitches seemed to flatten out as the game wore on, and in the 6th, he let a couple of runners on base with 2 out, and ceded the mound to Matt Albers, who served up hit after hit to Kansas City.

Kansas City starter Felipe Paulino held off Boston pretty well until the 3rd, when Ryan Lavarnway walked and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Then Darnell McDonald bunted to move the runner to 3rd, but reached himself when 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas fielded the ball but could to nothing with it. Marco Scutaro then grounded into a double play, but Larvarnway scored to put the Sox up, 1-0. With the score tied 1-1 in the 4th, Paulino gave up singles to Dustin Pedroia and Josh Reddick, then a 1 out single to Carl Crawford that plated Pedey and left Reddick at 3rd. Reddick scored on a sac fly by Darnell McDonald. The last Red Sox run came in the 6th, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and scored on Lavarnway’s single.

Wakefield’s knuckler was not as effective as usual; in the 3rd, Alcides Escobar singled and scored on a Billy Butler double. Real trouble came in the 6th. After sriking out Butler, Wakefield gave up a single to Eric Hosmer and a double to Jeff Francoeur, scoring Hosmer. Mike Moustakas then doubled to plate Francoeur, The score was 4-3 Boston, and Tim’s night was done. On came Matt Albers, who walked Salvador Perez to set up the force at 3rd. Then Chris Getz singled, and Moustakas scored, leaving Perez at 2nd with a tie score. Alex Gordon drove in Perez and Getz with a double, and Melky Cabrera drove in Gordon with a single. Seeking to limit the damage, Terry Francona called for Franklin Morales after intentionally walking Butler. Things did not improve, however, as Morales served up a triple to Hosmer that drove in Cabrera and Butler, to make the score 9-4. Morales had a clean 7th, and Dan Wheeler took over in the 8th, but it was all over by then.

For the Royals, Blake Wood took over in the 7th, and Tim Collins pitched the 8th until he allowed a Crawford single, and was replaced by Greg Holland, who took things the rest of the way.

Tim had a decent shot at his 200th win tonight, and might have gotten it had Albers been sharper. Still, baseball is a complicated game, and one can’t put too much of an onus on one player for the game’s outcome. It was a good night for Kansas City. Fortunately, the Yankees lost to the Twins, so the Sox did not lose any more ground. Tomorrow afternoon, they get a chance to avoid embarrassment by winning the series, with Jon Lester on the mound.

David Ortiz was not placed on the DL for his bursitis, and may return sometime this coming week. Kevin Youkilis is on the 15 day DL, so the Sox will need just a little more from their pitching staff for the next couple of weeks.

August 20, 2011 at Kansas City: Kansas City Royals 9, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Paulino (2-9), LP Albers (4-4). Red Sox record 76-49 (125/37) Box score

Darnell is up to date in Kansas City; Lester roils Royals. Despite home plate umpire Jim Reynolds’ microscopic strike zone, Jon Lester held KC to 1 run on 3 hits with 3 strikeouts and 4 walks. Darnell McDonald lit it up, going 3-for-5, including a solo home run, as the Red Sox dispatched the Royals, 6-1.

Jon Lester cruised until the 7th inning, when, with a 3-0 lead, he gave up a triple to Johnny Giavotella and walked Salvador Perez. After Mike Moustakas drove in Giavotella with a single, Lester exited the game, having thrown 113 pitches. Lester averages 2.3 walks per game, and one might wonder if Reynolds’ restrictive strike zone resulted in more walks, and more pitches, that kept Lester from making it through the 7th. Daniel Bard came on with the unusual assignment (for him) of getting 6 outs (since we knew he would be expected to carry the team through the 8th), and he succeeded with aplomb. Dan Wheeler closed out; what a relief to see the Red Sox winning in a non-save situation.

The Royals cycled through their pitching staff, trying to stifle Red Sox bats, to no avail. KC starter Danny Duffy looked pretty good in the early innings, but after surrendering a single to Jed Lowrie in the 5th, he gave up a 2 out triple to Jason Varitek. Lowrie scored easily, as Tek was huffing and puffing around the bases to 3rd. Darnell produced his solo blast in the top of the next inning, Carl Crawford did likewise in the 7th off reliever Aaron Crow, and it looked like all the scoring would be on a series of bombs. Not so in the 8th, though. With Louis Coleman now on the mound in place of Crow, Marco Scutaro doubled (recovering the hitting form we hadn’t seen since returning from his layoff last night), Darnell McDonald singled to set up runners at the corners with nobody out for Adrian Gonzalez. A-Gon, who seems to have found his swing again in this series hit a sharp single that scored Scutaro and moved Darnell to 3rd. McDonald scored on a Jed Lowrie sac fly, and Ryan Lavarnway, still filling in for David Ortiz, hit a double off the top of the wall to drive in Gonzalez, completing the beating in the 8th.

Jacoby Ellsbury sat out his second game in a row after being hit by a fastball in the left shoulder blade in Friday’s game. The Red Sox are taking his status a day at a time. Of course, Big Papi and Kevin Youkilis are still out, so it was great to see A-Gon, Scutaro, McDonald, and Crawford producing as they did today. Lavarnway is also adding some much-needed punch, and went 2-for-4 today. The Sox will need a big effort from them as they now move on to Arlington, Texas to face the Rangers.

August 21, 2011 at Kansas City: Boston Red Sox 6, Kansas City Royals 1. WP Lester (13-6), LP Duffy (3-8). Red Sox record 77-49 (126/36) Box score

Shooting blanks in Texas. CJ Wilson had Red Sox hitters baffled for 6 2/3rd innings until he got into a little trouble in the 7th, and the Rangers bullpen took it the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Erik Bedard was pretty solid until the 6th inning, when a 3 run bomb by Texas DH Mike Napoli delivered a crippling blow as the Rangers beat the Red Sox, 4-0.

The Sox scattered singles through the game, but were unable to put them together into runs. Marco Scutaro, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Josh Reddick were all oh-fers in the game. The others (Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, and Carl Crawford) got one hit each at different points in the game.

Bedard’s first bump in the road came on a blown call by first base umpire Doug Eddings in the 3rd inning. With one out, Craig Gentry walked, then Ian Kinsler hit a looping fly ball that Josh Reddick caught at the ground (but not on the ground), and threw quickly to 1st to double off the runner. That should have been the end of the inning, but Eddings, who ran out to right to make the call, ruled the catch a trap, so Kinsler had a single and Gentry was safe at 2nd. The replay clearly showed the catch to be clean, but Eddings stood his ground as Reddick exploded and Terry Francona fretted and fumed. It cost the Sox, because in the next play, Elvis Andrus drove in Gentry with a single to left.

Still, Bedard was doing pretty well, pitching in a 1-0 game until the 6th, when he gave up back-to-back singles with 1 out to Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. After striking out Nelson Cruz, he had a 1-2 count on Napoli, and it looked like he might get out of the inning, which was certainly to be his last (he was over 100 pitches). After a careful discussion with Salty, he decided to throw a high fastball which he expected, no doubt, that Napoli would either swing at and pop up or foul off, or miss, or that Napoli would take for a ball. Napoli chose option D, a line drive home run to left center, making the score 4-0, the ultimate final. Bedard finished the inning, and Matt Albers and Franklin Morales finished the game for Boston, but Red Sox hitters were unable to get anywhere against the Rangers.

Erik Bedard looked good in this game, which is no consolation in a loss. With good run support in the future, Bedard should be a solid member of the pitching rotation. He made one mistake, and sometimes that’s all it takes. The truth is, the way the Sox were hitting, even without the Napoli homer, the Rangers would have probably won, 1-0. And so, Red Sox woes in Arlington continue. This year, they are 0-4 there. They were 4-6 against Texas last year, 1-2 at Texas. In 2009, they were 2-7 against the Rangers. Their last winning record vs. Texas was in 2008, when they went 9-1.

John Lackey faces the Rangers tomorrow. Let’s hope the Sox give him some runs to work with.

August 22, 2011 at Arlington, Texas: Texas Rangers 4, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Wilson (13-5), LP Bedard (4-9). Red Sox record 77-50 (127/35) Box score

Going, going, A-Gon! Swinging Sox slam Rangers. Adrian Gonzalez paced a pumped Red Sox lineup with 2 home runs as the Red Sox buried Texas, 11-5. John Lackey had a rough 3rd inning, but overall was good enough to win, going 6 2/3rd innings, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts.

Lackey’s difficult 3rd started with 3 consecutive singles by Yorvit Torrealba, Endy Chavez, and Ian Kinsler to load the bases. Then he walked Elvis Andrus, to force in a run with still nobody out. A pair of sac flies by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young enabled Chavez and Kinsler to score with the 3rd Texas run, but then Nelson Cruz grounded out to end the threat.

In the 5th, Lackey surrendered a solo home run to Josh Hamilton. After giving up a leadoff single to Endy Chavez in the 7th, although he got the next 2 out, Lackey’s game ended at that point with 106 pitches, and ahead 7-4. Franklin Morales replaced him and finished the 7th . Alfredo Aceves had a clean 8th, and Dan Wheeler came in for the 9th, giving up a solo bomb to Ian Kinsler, but he had a ton of runs behind him, so it didn’t really matter.

If this wasn’t the worst nightmare come true for Texas starter Colby Lewis, it must have come close. The very first batter he faced, Jacoby Ellsbury, singled, stole 2nd, then moved to 3rd on Marco Scutaro’s sacrifice bunt. He could have saved the energy, because Adrian Gonzalez crushed a home run into the upper deck in right field to score 2. Next inning, and again the leadoff hitter (Jed Lowrie) singled, as did the next batter, Carl Crawford. With 1 out, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled to drive in Lowrie, leaving Crawford at 3rd. After Lewis walked Ellsbury intentionally to load the bases, Scutaro’s sacrifice fly drove in Crawford with the 4th Boston run. In the 4th, A-Gon homered again, for the 5th run. In the 7th, Darren Oiver came on in relief of Lewis, who left with a 7-4 deficit.

If Lewis, in line for the loss, hoped for a no-decision, he hoped in vain. Instead of a Rangers comeback, he saw collapse. In the 8th, Ryan Larvarnway (DH in place of David Ortiz) singled with 1 out, Salty doubled, and after Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out, Mark Lowe replaced Oliver. Lowe would fare no better: Scutaro doubled to drive in Lavarnway and Salty. With 1st base open, Oliver intentionally walked A-Gon to set up a force at any base. Then Pedroia also doubled, driving in Scutaro and A-Gon. That 4 run inning pretty much sealed the deal.

It was great to see Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup, and producing. It is also encouraging to hear that Clay Buchholz is making progress and may be back in September. Now if we can just get Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz back in the lineup by the end of the month, Santa won’t have to bring us any presents in December.

August 23, 2011 at Arlington, Texas: Boston Red Sox 11, Texas Rangers 5. WP Lackey (12-9), LP Lewis (11-9). Red Sox record 78-50 (128/34) Box score

Boston T party. “T” could stand for Texas, or it could stand for tee, as in teeball, or in this case, both, as the Red Sox hammered the Rangers as if they were playing teeball. Josh Beckett had the Rangers hitters well baffled, but unusually, he also got excellent run support as the Red Sox compiled 16 hits, including 3 home runs and 3 doubles, to trounce Texas, 13-2 in Arlington. One of those doubles was by David Ortiz, who celebrated his return to the lineup with a 2-for-5 night. Jacoby Ellsbury was the big story, however, going 3-for-5 including a 2 RBI homer.

Josh Beckett went 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts for his 15th win. After walking a couple of batters in the 1st inning, Beckett settled down and glided through the 2nd and 3rd before serving up a solo home run to Mike Napoli after a long and tough at-bat in the 4th. After that, the Rangers started to make more serious contact with his pitches, but he managed to get through the 6th inning without giving up any more runs. Franklin Morales came in to relieve Beckett in the 7th, and Matt Albers took over in the 8th, giving up another solo blast to Napoli. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 9th in a non-save situation, just to get in a little work.

It was another story for Texas starter Matt Harrison. He had barely settled in when leadoff hitter Ellsbury singled, then Adrian Gonzalez got a 1 out single moving Ellsbury to 2nd, Dustin Pedroia drove in Jacoby with another single, and A-Gon scored on Big Papi’s hit. Pedey and Papi then scored on a double by Carl Crawford. In the 2nd, Ellsbury singled again, and scored on Pedey’s second hit of the night. Darnell McDonald singled in the 4th, and scored on Marco Scutaro’s double. Papi doubled in the 5th, moved to 3rd on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on Carl Crawford’s sac fly. Ron Washington decided to spare Harrison further humiliation, and brought in Yoshinori Taleyama to take further abuse in the 6th, and he did. The first hitter he faced, McDonald, singled, and scored on Ellsbury’s home run to right. Darren O’Day took over in the 7th, and gave up a single to Jed Lowrie and a 2 run shot to Crawford. In the 8th, he walked Scutaro, who scored on A-Gon’s 21st home run of the season.

It’s great to see the Red Sox lineup fully restored; now we need Kevin Youkilis to complete the picture. Terry Francona is confident that Youk will be able to return in the first week of September, according to ESPN’s Joe McDonald. On the negative side, Clay Buchholz’s lower back stress fracture makes his return this year possible, but very uncertain.

August 24, 2011 at Arlington, Texas: Boston Red Sox 13, Texas Rangers 2. WP Beckett (11-5), LP Harrison (10-9). Red Sox record 79-50 (129/33) Box score

The bloom is off the yellow rose of Texas. Red Sox fans are not afraid of the Rangers anymore. Boston scored all its runs on home runs, and Andrew Miller had another solid game, as the Red Sox slammed the Rangers, 6-0 in Arlington, Texas. Adrian Gonzalez had 2 dingers, while David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia contributed one each.

This was clearly the best start for Andrew Miller. He had 6 strikeouts, and walked 2, while giving up just 3 hits in 6 1/3rd shutout innings. Alfredo Aceves finished the 7th cleanly, and had an uneventful 8th. Dan Wheeler closed out in a non-save situation.

For Texas starter Alex Ogando, it was a less happy situation. His troubles started with a solo bomb by Alex Gonzalez in the 1st inning. In the 2nd, David Ortiz led off with another homer. In the 3rd, Jed Lowrie singled, and A-Gon had his second dinger, a 2 run shot. In the 4th, Carl Crawford singled and scored on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s 2 run blast.

The Red Sox had a terrible start of the season at Texas, and Sox fans have feared that Boston would be pounded by Texas if they meet in the postseason. We now know that the Red Sox can hold their own against the Rangers. We also can feel a little more confident in Andrew Miller after this game.

August 25, 2011 at Arlington, Texas: Boston Red Sox 6, Texas Rangers 0. WP Miller (6-1), LP Ogando (12-6). Red Sox record 80-50 (130/32) Box score

An early hurricane at Fenway. Not waiting for Irene to strike, Fenway Park became a disaster area, as Oakland jumped all over Tim Wakefield’s flat knuckler to hammer him with 8 runs (4 earned, due to a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia that allowed Jemile Weeks to reach after striking out with 2 outs in the inning). Every Boston pitcher who came to the mound got to participate in this catastrophe, as the A’s pounded Boston 15-5 at Fenway Park.

Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez was no mystery to Boston hitters, though he hardly had to worry given the barrage his teammates were launching. In the 1st inning, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez single. In the 4th, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz hit back-to-back solo home runs. In the 5th, Ellsbury tripled and scored on a ground out by Marco Scutaro. In the 9th, with Jerry Blevins pitching, Scutaro and Pedey singled and both scored on a double by Josh Reddick.

Now for the bad news. if there was any notion that Tim Wakefield might get his 200th win tonight, it was dispelled early. In the 2nd inning, Brandon Allen doubled, and scored on a David DeJesus single. DeJesus took 2nd on a Wakefield wild pitch, and advanced to 3rd when Kurt Suzuki grounded out. He scored on a Cliff Pennington single. That was just for starters. The real fireworks came in the 4th. Wake walked Suzuki, who then scored on a Scott Sizemore home run. With 2 out, Jemile Weeks reached on a dropped third strike by Salty. Wake then walked our old friend Coco Crisp, and gave up a double to our old nemesis Hidekei Matsui, scoring Weeks and Crisp. Josh Willingham then capped off the inning with a 2 run shot. With the score 8-2 at this point, Sox fans could not imagine that things could get worse. But wait! There’s more!

Scott Atchison took over in the 5th, and had 2 unremarkable innings. Then in the 7th, with 2 out, Suzuki singled and reached 2nd on a wild pitch by Atchison. Cliff Pennington then doubled, scoring Suzuki. In the 8th, Matt Albers took over. Weeks immediately doubled and reached 3rd on a Matsui ground out. Albers then walked Willingham, and gave up a double to Brandon Allen that scored Weeks and moved Willingham to 3rd. Then DeJesus doubled to drive in Willingham and Allen. DeJesus then scored on Suzuki’s single. 13-4, Oakland. Please, make it stop, you say? The situation had gotten so bad that Terry Francona did not want to waste any more bullpen arms, so he enlisted position player Darnell McDonald to pitch the 9th. Darnell walked Sizemore and Weeks, both of whom scored on a double by Willingham.

Just forget this game. Really.

August 26, 2011 at Fenway Park: Oakland Athletics 15, Boston Red Sox 5. WP Gonzalez (11-11), LP Wakefield (6-6). Red Sox record 80-51 (131/31) Box score

Soggy slugfest. Can’t let a little heavy rain get in the way of a good beat-down. Despite a bout of heavy rain, the Red Sox managed to get in a full innings of power baseball, with the lineup going 13-for-34 including doubles by Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz, and a home run by Jason Varitek, as Boston hammered the A’s, 9-3.

Jon Lester had a solid outing, pitching 6 innings and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4. His first run came at the start of the 2nd inning, when he threw a cut fastball to Brandon Allen that caught a bit too much of the plate, and ended up in the Monster seats. In the 2nd, Scott Sizemore reached first base on a fielding error by Scutaro, and was put out on a fielder’s choice that leaft Jemile Weeks on base. Weeks then stole 2nd, and Lester walked Cliff Pennington, setting up a force at 3rd. Weeks then stole 3rd, and scored on a sac fly by Coco Crisp. The only other Oakland run came in the 9th with Michael Bowden pitching, when Kurt Suzuki doubled, Scott Sizemore walked, and Weeks singled to load the bases for Pennington, who singled in Suzuki.

Athletic starter Guillermo Moscoso had a rougher start. Scutaro doubled in the 1st, advanced to 3rd on a ground-out, and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s single. Pedey was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. In the 2nd, Josh Reddick walked, and scored on Tek’s 2 run blast. Mike Aviles singled and scored on a double by Jacoby Ellsbury. In the 3rd, A-Gon doubled, Pedey walked, and both scored on Big Papi’s double. Ortiz reached 3rd on a throwing error, and scored on a Carl Crawford sac fly. In the 4th, Aviles bunted his way on, then stole 2nd, and scored on a single by Scutaro. In the 5th, Papi doubled, then tagged up and got to 3rd on a Reddick fly out. He scored on a sharp single by Jason Varitek.

The game suffered significant rain delays in the 7th and 8th innings, but they did manage to finish. This is good, because the schedule is so tight that makeup dates will be very hard to find.

August 27, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 1): Boston Red Sox 9, Oakland Athletics 3. WP Lester (14-6), LP Moscoso (6-8). Red Sox record 81-51 (132/30) Box score

Runs between the raindrops. The Red Sox and A’s got their second game in by playing during breaks in the rain, and managed 4 innings before an hour rain delay, and 4 ½ after. Erik Bedard pitched well before the break, and Alfredo Aceves picked up afterward, as a Big Papi home run helped pace the Red Sox to a 4-0 victory over Oakland at Fenway Park.

Bedard had the makings of a fine start before the rain forced an interruption, pitching 4 shutout innings with just 2 hits while walking 4 and striking out 5. Because Bedard did not go 5 innings, the win went to Aceves, who pitched 3 innings, giving up no hits or runs while walking 1 and striking out 3. Daniel Bard took care of the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out in a non-save situation.

Oakland started their struggling rookie, Graham Godfrey, who was called up from Triple-A on June 10th but has only appeared in 4 major league games this year, including this one. Godfrey was in for a rougher ride than the hurricane was likely to produce in Boston. He had a clean 1st inning, but in the 2nd, Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, and scored on David Ortiz’s two run shot that cleared the Monster for his 27th home run of the year. In the 4th, Pedey, Papi, and Jed Lowrie singled in succession to load the bases. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in the 3rd Boston run when Pedroia scored on his ground out.

The rain delay brought an end to Godfrey’s night as Josh Outman took over when play resumed. In the 6th, Jed Lowrie reached base on a 2 base error by Scott Sizemore that left Lowrie at 2nd. He scored on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia that probably should have been an error on Brandon Allen, who mishandled his pop-up.

Now the Red Sox and their fans can hunker down and ride out the hurricane, glowing in the 2 victories of this day.

August 27, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 2): Boston Red Sox 4, Oakland Athletics 0. WP Aceves (9-1), LP Godfrey (1-2). Red Sox record 82-51 (133/29) Box score

Si, Si, CC. New York’s CC Sabathia had less than perfect control at times (he hit Jacoby Ellsbury and got wild a couple of times) but with the exception of the 4th inning, when he served up a couple of tee-off balls, he kept the Red Sox under control, striking out 10, en route to a 5-2 Yankees win over Boston. John Lackey was his usual self, getting in and out of trouble regularly, and required a level of run support that Red Sox hitters could just not provide on this night.

Lackey’s troubles stared in the 2nd, when he walked Robinson Cano and gave up 2 consecutive singles to Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez that allowed Cano to score. In the 4th, he walked Curtis Granderson, who scored on Cano’s double. Then he walked Swisher, who scored on a Chavez single. In the 5th, Francisco Cervelli crushed a fastball that found too much of the plate into the Monster seats. In the 7th, with the Red Sox trailing 4-2 and nobody out, Lackey drilled Cervelli and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild went ballistic all over 3rd base umpire Wark Wegner, presumably insisting that this was retaliation both for Sabathia’s plunking of Ellsbury, and for Cervelli’s homer. He must have applied a few ill-chosen words, because Wegner gave him the heave-ho. If it was intentional, it was a stupid move, because a wild pitch enabled Cervelli to move to 2nd, Brett Gardner’s bunt single moved him to 3rd, and he scored on a double play off Derek Jeter’s bat. Lackey’s performance was average for him, but many times the Sox provided enough runs to earn him a W. Not this time.

Sabathia was a bit shaky at times (for him) but very effective for the most part. His only real issue came in the 4th, when he allowed a solo jack to Carl Crawford, and then 2 consecutive singles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald. Marco Scutaro then doubled to drive both home with the only Red Sox runs of the game. Rafael Soriano took care of the 8th for the Yanks, and Mariano Rivera closed out for his 35th save of the season, though not without controversy. David Ortiz led off the inning with a double, and later, with 2 out, Rivera was ruled to have hit Salty. Yankee manager Joe Girardi went apoplectic at this point, and after expressing his opinion in a few not-terribly-well-chosen words, he too was shown the exit by Wegner.

August 30, 2011 at Fenway Park: New York Yankees 5, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Sabathia (18-7), LP Lackey (12-10) S Rivera. Red Sox record 82-52 (134/28) Box score

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies, three ringy-dingies. (Apologies to Lily Tomlin) Home runs by David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Varitek helped end hopes that the Yanks would realize a big gain in this series. Solid hitting and the sound pitching of Josh Beckett (except in the 6th inning) enable the Red Sox to overpower Phil Hughes and the Yankees, 9-5.

Hughes was not dominant in this game; giving up at least one hit in each inning of work except the 4th. In the 3rd, Marco Scutaro singled and advanced to 3rd on Ellsbury’s double. He scored on a Dustin Pedroia ground out. Ellsbury scored on a single by Jed Lowrie. In the 5th, Adrian Gonzalez singled and scored on the 28th home run of the year for Big Papi. After walking Josh Reddick in the 6th, and giving up a RBI double to Tek, Hughes was done for the night and Boone Logan took over. Logan did not do much better, however, giving up a homer to Ellsbury that also scored Varitek. With Luis Ayala pitching in the 8th, Josh Reddick doubled and Tek hammered his 10th jack of the year, a 2 run dinger. Overall, a great night at the plate for Boston as everyone in the lineup had at least one hit. The Sox went 12-for-35, with 3 homers and 4 doubles.

Beckett seemed to be in good form, though he had a hiccup in the 3rd, giving up a double to Eduardo Nunez, who scored on a single by Derek Jeter. He came unraveled quickly in the 6th, however, drilling Mark Teixera, who scored on a Robinson Cano double after advancing to 2nd on a wild pitch. Then, Beckett walked Nick Swisher and gave up a double to Eric Chavez. Josh Reddick misplayed the ball, allowing it to bounce around in the right field corner. Swisher scored and Chavez reached 3rd on the error. Despite all this, Terry Francona kept Josh in the game, and he rewarded the decision with a clean 7th inning. Daniel Bard breezed through the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out in a non-save situation.

August 31, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 9, New York Yankees 5. WP Beckett (12-5), LP Hughes (4-5). Red Sox record 83-52 (135/27) Box score

September

Rubbered out. The Yankees won the rubber match of this 3 game series against the Red Sox at Fenway with a 4-2 win. Jon Lester was not exactly dominant, but managed to avoid much trouble after the 1st inning. His high pitch count forced Alfredo Aceves to come into the game for the 6th, and by the 7th the Yanks seemed to have him figured out, as he took the loss.

New York’s AJ Burnett has been erratic lately, and Sox fans were hoping that would continue on this night. They were disappointed, however, as Burnett seemed to maintain control of this game, with the exception of a blip in the 4th. In that inning, Adrian Gonzalez led off with a ground-rule double to right and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s 18th home run of the year. Burnett got into some trouble in the 5th and 6th (when he was replaced by Boone Logan), but gave up no runs. Logan, Cory Wade, Rafael Soriano, and David Robertson held the Sox at bay through the 8th, and yes, Mariano Riviera closed out for his 36th save of the year. Because Wade was the pitcher of record when the Yanks took the lead in the 7th, he was credited with the win.

Jon Lester struggled through the 1st inning, going deep into counts. The Yankees exacerbated his problems by fouling off a lot of his pitches. As a result, he finished the inning with a pitch count of 43, telling any observer that Lester would be making an early exit from this game. In the 1st, with 1 out he gave up back-to-back singles to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, and a double to Robinson Cano, which drove in Granderson with the game’s first run. After striking out Swisher, he walked Andruw Jones to load the bases, but avoided further damage by punching out the newly promoted Jesus Montero, in at DH in place of Jorge Posada (Montero had just come up from Triple-A as part of the expanded roster).

Lester allowed a man on base in each successive inning, and by the end of the 5th (the legal minimum for getting game credit), he was well over his limit with 114 pitches, and was done with a 2-1 lead, and in line for the win. The usually reliable Alfredo Aceves took over in the 6th, and immediately got into all kinds of trouble, allowing a couple of singles (mitigated by a double play), walking Granderson and hitting Teixeira to load the bases, but then got Cano to ground out, ending the threat. In the 7th, however, his luck ran out. After walking Jones, he hit Montero, which was enough for Terry Francona, who called Daniel Bard in early to clean up the mess. No such luck; Bard immediately gave up a 2 run double to Russell Martin, and a single to Eric Chavez (pinch hitting for Eduardo Nunez) that scored Martin. The first 2 runs were charged to Aceves, who took the loss. Felix Dubront and Dan Wheeler covered the 8th and 9th, preventing further damage, but the Red Sox could not come back.

The Red Sox emerged from this series still leading by a half game, but with their advantage in the all-important loss column eliminated. At least we know they have already won the season series, having won 11 out of 18 games scheduled. So, if they finish tied for the AL East, the Sox will win it by virtue of the season series tie-breaker. This matters, because the AL East winner will most likely play the Tigers in the 5 game ALDS, with a home field advantage through the AL playoffs, while the loser (the wild card winner) will face the very tough Texas Rangers, and have no home field advantage.

September 1, 2011 at Fenway Park: New York Yankees 4, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Wade (3-0), LP Aceves (9-2) S Rivera. Red Sox record 83-53 (136/26) Box score

Holland tunnels, Miller times out. This game was pretty much over in the 2nd inning. Andrew Miller has been hot and cold since joining the Red Sox roster, and in this game, he was an iceberg. Unable to get past 1 out in the 2nd inning, he surrendered 6 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks. Derek Holland of the Rangers, by contrast, held the Red Sox scoreless over 7 innings, giving up just 2 hits as the Rangers humiliated Boston, 10-0.

Miller was in trouble right out of the gate. He walked the first 2 batters he faced (Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus), and allowed them to advance on an obvious and clumsy balk. Then after whiffing Josh Hamilton, he gave up a single to Michael Young that scored Kinsler. Andrus then scored on a sac fly by our old friend, Adrian Beltre. Things were off to a rocky start. They got much worse in the 2nd. After Miller gave up back-to-back singles to Yorvit Torrealba and our old friend David Murphy (2006, half of 2007), Craig Gentry moved them over with a sacrifice bunt, and Ian Kinsler drove them in with his 24th home run of the season. After walking Elvis Andrus, he allowed a single to Josh Hamilton, and walked Michael Young to load the bases. That was enough for Terry Francona, who brought in Michael Bowden. Bowden got Beltre out on a fly ball, but walked Mike Napoli to force in another run (charged to Miller), and the inning ended with a 6-0 score.

In the 4th, Elvis Andrus singled and stole 2nd. He scored on an Adrian Beltre ground out. Matt Albers came on in the 5th, but things did not improve. Murphy homered, Craig Gentry singled, and Elvis Andrus hit a 2 run jack. Tim Wakefield managed to calm things down in the late innings, but it was way too late by then.

Despite Kevin Youkilis’ return to the lineup, the Red Sox were quite throughout the game. Holland had is way with them for 7 innings, and Merkin Valdez and Michael Gonzalez finished off the Boston hitters in the 8th and 9th innings with no trouble.

In case anyone is still wondering after this game, the likely rotation for the rest of the season would seem to be Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Bedard, and Wakefield. Miller may need some more Triple-A time. If he wants to sulk, or try for another contract elsewhere, good luck to him after the miserable year he has had in the bigs.

September 2, 2011 at Fenway Park: Texas Rangers 10, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Holland (13-5), LP Miller (6-2). Red Sox record 83-54 (137/25) Box score

Ranger wreck. Erik Bedard earned his first win in a Red Sox uniform thanks in part to the dramatics of Boston hitters, who exploded in the 4th for 8 runs en route to a 12-7 victory over Texas. Despite the disappointing performance of reliever Dan Wheeler, the Sox provided convincing payback after Friday’s big loss.

Hot-and-cold Texas starter Colby Lewis was cold as ice (in a bad way) on this night. He walked the bases loaded in the 1st inning, but escaped without damage. He gave up some hard hit balls in the 2nd, including a ground-rule double by Josh Reddick that bounced into the stands, but again was unscathed. In the 3rd, he was not quite so lucky. Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz singled, and A-Gon scored on a Jed Lowrie hit. The big inning was the 4th, however. Josh Reddick led off with a single. Then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia crushed his 14th round-tripper into the right field seats. After Dustin Pedroia singled with 1 out, Ron Washington ended Lewis’ night, and called upon Yoshinori Tateyama to deal with the mess. The result was much, much more mess.

After Pedey reached 2nd on a passed ball by Yorvit Torrealba, the Rangers decided to intentionally walk Adrian Gonzalez to set up a force at any base. Then, with 2 out, a wild pitch to David Ortiz allowed Pedey to reach 3rd, and A-Gon 2nd, so they also intentionally walked Ortiz, loading the bases. Mike Aviles then pinch hit for Jed Lowrie, and singled to drive in Pedroia, and leave the bases still loaded. At that point, Carl Crawford hit a grand slam, to blow the game wide open. That was it for Tateyama; on came Merkin Valdez with a simple mission. The situation was 2 out, bases empty. Just get the third out. Instead, Reddick and Salty singled back-to-back (Reddick reached 3rd) and Salty stole (!) 2nd base. Jacoby Ellsbury then singled to drive in the 8th run of the inning, and 9th of the game for Boston. In the 6th, with Mark Hamburger pitching, Crawford doubled, Reddick singled, and Ellsbury walked to load the bases. Then Pedey hit a bases-clearing double for 3 more runs.

Erik Bedard had a fairly solid start. In the 1st, he gave up back-to-back singles to Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton with 1 out, but escaped damage when Michael Young hit a line drive into the glove of Gonzalez, who doubled off Hamilton at first base. In the 2nd, our old friend Adrian Beltre walked, then reached 2nd on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a single by David Murphy. In the 3rd, Bedard walked Ian Kinsler and Andrus in succession, and later, with 1 out, allowed a Michael Young single that cored Kinsler. Beltre then grounded out, driving in Andrus. Bedard got in and out of a little trouble from there on, but left after 6 innings with a 12-3 lead. On came Dan Wheeler, who had a clean 7th, but in the 8th, uh-oh. Elvis Andrus doubled and scored on a single by Josh Hamilton. Michael Young then singled. Hamilton scored on a Beltre single that moved Young to 3rd. Mike Napoli’s sac fly then scored Young. After striking out Matt Treanor for the second out, Wheeler was done. Franklin Morales then came in, and induced a pop-out by David Murphy. In the 9th, Morales gave up a solo homer to Esteban German, and got Kinsler and Andrus out in succession. After Hamilton singled, he was picked off first base when he seemed to lose track of the situation and was caught too far off base.

September 3, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 12, Texas Rangers 7. WP Bedard (5-9), LP Lewis (11-10). Red Sox record 84-54 (138/25) Box score

A Texas barbeque at Fenway. On a warm, steamy day, with a temperature inversion that made the air hard to breathe at times, the Red Sox seemed wilted, but the Rangers felt right at home. The breeze picked up by the 6th inning, and so did Texas, scoring 7 runs en route to a brutal 11-4 drubbing of the Boston Red Sox.

Texas starter Matt Harrison has struggled lately, and was skipped his last time through the Rangers rotation, but got the call today, and answered it well. He fairly cruised through the first 6 innings, scattering hits and walks, but nothing that resulted in runs. In the 7th, Carl Crawford hit a 1 out single, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a ball that bounced off the left field foul line into the stands for a ground rule double, and Marco Scutaro drove them both in with a single to center. Although he got out of the inning without further incident, Harrison was done after the 7th, leaving with a commanding lead. Michael Gonzalez took over for Harrison in the 8th, walking Adrian Gonzalez, and giving up a double to Kevin Youkilis to set up men on second and third with nobody out for David Ortiz. Big Papi responded with a Baltimore chop to 2nd that second baseman Ian Kinsler could do nothing with; A-Gon scored, and Youk moved to third. Then Darnell McDonald (who took over in right field after Connor Jackson injured his knee in a horrifyingly ugly crash into the bullpen barrier while chasing a fly ball) hit a sac fly to drivein Youk with the 4th and final Red Sox run.

For John Lackey, it was another story. For the first 5 innings, it was a typical Lackey game; getting in and out of trouble, allowing a run here and there, but staying fairly competitive. In the 2nd, our old friend David Murphy tripled and scored on a single by Mike Napoli. In the 3rd, Endy Chavez doubled and scored on a triple by Ian Kinsler (when Connor Jackson crashed into the bullpen barrier). Then came the 6th. The horror started with a series of singles by Michael Young, our old friend Adrian Beltre, and Murphy, that resulted in one run, with runners at first and third and no one out. A wild pitch enabled Murphy to move to 2nd, so Lackey pitched around Napoli and walked him to load the bases. That was it for Lackey. Felix Dubront then took over, and made his best case for why he should be playing golf in October instead of baseball. Immediately, Dubront gave up a single to Mitch Moreland that scored a run and reloaded the bases. Dubront then walked Esteban German to force in another run. Kinsler’s sac fly enabled Napoli to score the 4th run of the inning, all charged to Lackey. Dubront then walked Elvis Andrus to reload the bases yet again, and surrendered a triple to Josh Hamilton that cleared them, scoring 3 more runs for 7 run Texas inning. Matt Albers pitched the 7th, giving up 3 consecutive singles with 1 out, but escaped without damage. Michael Bowden cruised through the 8th, but gave up 2 solo blasts in the 9th (to Napoli and Kinsler) just to cap off this dreadful day.

This game, as much as any, illustrates the desperate need of the Red Sox for the services of Clay Buchholz. Lackey’s uncertain performance can be covered with the relief services of Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield in a 5 game series (the ALDS) but in a 7 game series you need 4 strong starters, and Lackey looks like more of a risk than Erik Bedard these days. It wouldn’t be bad at all if Buchholz were available, but he is out with a stress fracture in his lower back, and even though he was green lighted for baseball activity a week ago and has been playing catch, it is very unclear as to whether he will be able to participate in the postseason.

A positive note: it looks like Connor Jackson’s crash in today’s game resulted in no serious injury, so he will remain on the active roster.

September 4, 2011 at Fenway Park: Texas Rangers 11, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Harrison (11-9), LP Lackey (12-11). Red Sox record 84-55 (139/23) Box score

No visible means of support. It’s pretty tough to win when your team can’t score runs. Overall, it was an excellent performance by the Red Sox pitching staff, especially considering that Josh Beckett had to leave the game in the 4th inning with a sprained ankle. But if your boys can’t get across the plate, it’s only a matter of time before the other team will. In this case, it took 11 innings, as Boston lost to Toronto, 1-0.

Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez was not especially overpowering, but he made the pitches he needed to make, and managed to turn in 6 innings, giving up 4 hits but no runs while striking out 4 and walking just 1. His biggest jam came in the 3rd inning, when Marco Scutaro singled and Jacoby Ellsbury doubled with 2 out. Dustin Pedroia could practically taste the RBI, when he went for a fastball down, and grounded out to end the threat.

There was a strange play in the 5th, when Scutaro doubled with 1 out, and Ellsbury hit a hard grounder right at the pitcher Alvarez. Scutaro was off with contact and Alvarez caught him midway between 2nd and 3rd. Ellsbury apparently thought Scutaro could give him enough time to reach 2nd, so he kept running, but Alvarez threw the ball to the 3rd baseman Lawrie, who tagged Scutaro and then fired it to the shortstop, Mike McCoy covering 2nd, who tagged Ellsbury for the final out of the inning.

The Sox had another threat going in the 7th against Carlos Villanueva when Kevin Youkilis walked and, with 1 out, Josh Reddick singled to create a 2 on 1 out situation for Jason Varitek. It was a no go, however, as Tek and Scutaro grounded out in succession to end the inning. In the 8th, Adrian Gonzalez doubled with 2 out, prompting the Jays to walk David Ortiz intentionally to set up the force play, which proved unnecessary as Youk fanned for the 3rd out.

Josh Beckett looked outstanding in this game. He had firm control of all his pitches and was making Toronto hitters look impotent. In the 4th inning, however, with 2 out and Edwin Encarnacion on first with an infield single, Beckett was pitching to Brett Lawrie when he limped awkwardly after delivering a fastball. He ended up leaving the game with a sprained ankle, and Alfredo Aceves took over. There’s no word yet on how serious Beckett’s injury might be.

Aceves ended up walking Lawrie, but induced a fly out from Jose Molina to end the inning. Aceves cruised until the 8th inning, when his control seemed to be flagging. He walked Mike McCoy with 1 out, then hit Eric Thames. That was it for Terry Francona, who turned to Daniel Bard to take things from there. Bard pitched the rest of the 8th, and the 9th inning without incident. On came Jonathan Papelbon in the 10th, who gave up a single to Jose Molina, then with 1 out walked Mark Teahen. After striking out Thames, he walked Jose Bautista to load the bases, and Red Sox Nation took its collective breath. But then, Pap fanned Adam Lind on 3 pitches to end the threat.

After Red Sox batters did nothing useful in the top of the 11th, Francona looked to Dan Wheeler to keep the game going. Wheeler, being a contact pitcher, induced 3 fly balls. The first 2 resulted in outs. The third, however, was a blast by Brett Lawrie that ended the game.

Josh Beckett’s ankle is now the focus of intense interest. He indicated that he had actually fallen during his warmup in the bullpen, but didn’t notice the problem until that point in the 4th inning. He is now headed back to Boston for a medical examination to determine if the injury is serious. This comes at a really bad time, considering Erik Bedard’s still uncertain situation regarding his knee. The Sox have fallen to 2.5 games behind New York with this loss and the Yank’s win over Baltimore, but that seems of secondary importance now. Boston needs all remaining pitchers to be healthy to have any shot at the World Series.

September 5, 2011 at Toronto: Toronto Blue Jays 1, Boston Red Sox 0. WP Camp (11-9), LP Wheeler (12-11). Red Sox record 84-56 (140/22) Box score

Doubles and nothing. The Boston Red Sox hit 9 doubles and 2 home runs while allowing no Toronto runs as they crushed the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, 14-0. Marco Scutaro led the double derby with 3, and Jon Lester’s 7 innings of 3 hit shutout baseball with 11 strikeouts and just one walk seemed to be overkill, but much appreciated as we look to playoff time.

Jon Lester was dominant and confident, mowing down Jays hitters with power and efficiency. Kyle Weiland, recently promoted from Pawtucket, had turned in mediocre performances in 2 games in July, but looked solid in this game, putting down a demoralized Blue Jays team without allowing a shot at a rally.

Luis Perez started for Toronto, and was shelled so severely that he could not finish the 3rd inning, leaving after giving up 8 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks with 1 strikeout over 2 2/3rd innings. A succession of Jays pitchers could do little better until the 9th, when the Red Sox seemed to have decided that their job was done.

The Red Sox began punishing the Jays right away, as Jacoby Ellsbury led off the 1st with a double to left. With 1 out, Adrian Gonzalez drove in Ellsbury with a fluky double that floated up and landed where no one could reach it in time. Then Kevin Youkilis walked and David Ortiz hit a sharp single that scored Gonzalez. Marco Scutaro drove in Youk with a single, and Carl Crawford doubled to drive in Big Papi. The 1st inning ended with the Red Sox leading, 4-0.

Ellsbury led off the 2nd with a walk, and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch by Perez. He reached 3rd on a ground out by Dustin Pedroia. A-Gon then singled to drive Ellsbury home with the 5th Boston run. Youk doubled, scoring Gonzalez. Kevin tried to stretch the hit to a triple, but was tagged between 2nd and 3rd after Adrian had scored.

In the 3rd, Marco Scutaro hit his first of 3 doubles in the game, and scored when Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit is 15th home run of the season. Rommie Lewis replaced Perez at that point. In the 4th, Kevin Youkilis singled and scored on a double by Big Papi. Scutaro then hit his 2nd double of the game, driving in Ortiz. Later, with 2 out, Darnell McDonald singled to drive in Scutaro. In the 5th, Dustin McGowan took over for Rommie Lewis. A-Gon singled, Papi doubled to set up 2nd and 3rd with 1 out for Marco Scutaro, who hit his 3rd double of the game, scoring Gonzalez and Ortiz. In the 8th, Josh Reddick (who came in for Jacoby Ellsbury in the 6th) hit a solo home run, to cap off the night.

There was more good news: Dr. Gill reported that Josh Beckett had sprained his ankle; many had worried that his injury was more serious. Josh will probably be available very soon, possibly as early as next week.

September 6, 2011 at Toronto: Boston Red Sox 14, Toronto Blue Jays 0. WP Lester (15-6), LP Perez (3-3). Red Sox record 85-56 (141/21) Box score

Bard’s tempest. After 7 starts, Tim Wakefield is still waiting for his 200th win. This time, it really looked like he would get it. Tim left the game after 5 innings with an 8-5 lead. The Jays picked up a run off Dan Wheeler in the 7th, but a 2 run lead should have been no problem for premier set-up man Daniel Bard to protect, right? Well, not tonight. Bard’s velocity and control were both off. The result was an 8th inning meltdown that led to an 11-10 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.

The game started out as a nightmare for Toronto starter Brandon Morrow. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the 1st inning with a single, and Dustin Pedroia followed suit. Morrow then hit Adrian Gonzalez (just barely, really) and loaded the bases. After David Ortiz struck out, Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch (what a surprise) to force in a run. Then with 2 out, Marco Scutaro singled to center, scoring Pedey and A-Gon. Youk was tagged out sliding into 3rd to end the inning.

In the 4th, Carl Crawford doubled, Scutaro walked, and Josh Reddick doubled to drive in Crawford. With 2 out, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a 3 run dinger to give Wake a lead that would last until an inning after he left the game. In the 5th, Big Papi hit a monster smash with no on one for his 29th home run of the season. That pretty much did it for Morrow, and when the next batter, Youk, singled, Carlos Villanueva came in to pitch for the Jays from that point on.

It was a strange game for Tim Wakefield. Despite a forecast of rain, the Blue Jays chose to leave the Rogers Centre roof open, so it rained a bit from time to time during the game. It may have also set up strange swirling wind patterns that had a maddening effect on Wake’s knuckler, which was dancing all over the place, so wildly that he hit 2 batters and walked 3 over 5 innings, and kept resorting to curve balls and changeups to get the ball near the strike zone when he had to. It was so bad that at one point Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a passed ball on a called strike.

In the 1st inning, Wake walked Yunel Escobar to get things started. After Eric Thames grounded out, Wake threw a wild pitch to Jose Bautista that allowed Escobar to reach 2nd. Tim then walked Bautista. Next came Salty’s passed ball, allowing the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd. Edwin Encarnacion then hit a sac fly that scored Thames. In the 3rd, Wake hit Thames, who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Thames then scored on a ground-rule double by Bautista. Later in the inning, with 2 out, Wake walked Brett Lawrie and Bautista stole 3rd. Then, taking advantage of Tim’s extremely slow delivery, Lawrie and Bautista executed a double steal: Lawrie took off for 2nd and when Salty threw the ball there, Bautista raced home as the return throw was off the mark, enabling him to score. Tim’s last inning was the 5th. He looked like he was going to get in trouble when, with 1 out, he hit Jose Bautista for his 2nd hit batsman of the game, but with 2 out, Bautista was caught stealing 2nd, ending the threat.

Franklin Morales came on in the 6th, and gave up a 1 out single to Lawrie, then hit Adam Loewen. Terry Francona reacted quickly, calling for Dan Wheeler, who got the next 2 outs without incident. In the 7th, Escobar doubled and scored on a single by Encarnacion. On came Daniel Bard, who ended the inning. When the 8th rolled around, we saw a different Daniel Bard than we are used to. He started the inning by hitting Brett Lawrie. Then, Loewen singled, and JP Arencibia walked to load the bases. After striking out 2, Bard walked Thames to force in a run, making the score 8-7. Chris Woodward pinch ran for Arencibia. Bard then walked Bautista to tie the game at 8, and he was done. On came Matt Albers, who gave up a bases clearing double to Encarnacion. 11-8. All three runs were charged to Bard, who took the loss.

The Sox tried to come back in the 9th. With Frank Francisco on the mound for Toronto, A-Gon hit a towering solo shot. Papi then singled, and after 2 outs, Scutaro drove Ortiz home with a single. Terry sent in Mike Aviles to pinch run for Scutaro, and Aviles then committed one of the more baffling blunders we have seen. On a 1-2 count to Josh Reddick, Aviles broke for 2nd. He did not have an especially good jump, and was tagged out easily to end the game. What was going through his mind, no one knows.

Bullpen failures are making Sox fans feel extremely insecure. Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers, and and Felix Dubront have been disappointing lately, to say the least. Bard’s outing was especially worrying, since his deliver seemed odd. We have to hope this is not due to some injury that he is trying to ignore or shake off.

September 7, 2011 at Toronto: Toronto Blue Jays 11, Boston Red Sox 10. WP Camp (3-3), LP Bard (2-5) S Francisco (13). Red Sox record 85-57 (142/20) Box score

Miller’s tale. The Red Sox exploded in the late innings to score 4 runs, which would have made any ordinary game close, but not this one, because Andrew Miller had already given up 5 runs in the first 3 innings. The Blue Jays picked up a couple of late inning runs to salt this one away, 7-4 at the Rogers Centre.

Andrew Miller gave up a lead-off double to Yunel Escobar in the 1st inning, but survived that one unscathed. In the 2nd, he was not so lucky. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to Kelly Johnson, Brett Lawrie, and David Cooper, resulting in a run by Johnson. Then, JP Arencibia hit a 3 run shot to make the score 4-0. In the 3rd, he surrendered a solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion. He made it through the 5th with no further damage, but that was enough.

Toronto’s Ricky Romero kept the Sox off the scoreboard until the 7th, when he walked Jason Varitek with 1 out. With 1 out, Darnell McDonald singled and Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to drive in Tek with the first Red Sox run of the night. After that, Case Janssen came in to relieve Romero, and surrendered a single to Marco Scutaro that scored McDonald and Ellsbury, making the score 5-3.

Eric Thames hit a solo homer off Michael Bowden in the 7th, and in the 8th, Felix Doubront gave up back-to-back doubles to Brett Lawrie and David Cooper, to push the Jays’ lead to 7-3.

The Sox mounted a comeback attempt in the 9th with Frank Francisco on the mound. Tek hit a solo blast the cut the lead to 7-4. Ellsbury reached on an error with 2 out, and Marco Scutaro singled, but that was as far as they got as Dustin Pedroia went down swinging.

The Red Sox now travel to Tampa Bay to face the Rays. With the Red Sox dropping 3 out of 4 to the Jays, and the Yankees have lost 2 in a row to the lowly Orioles, and suddenly, the Rays think they have a shot at the postseason. The fact that John Lackey is schedule to face them in the first game, and that Josh Beckett will miss his turn due to a sprained ankle does nothing to diminish their hopes.

As the Sox are waiting (and hoping) for their top pitchers to return to duty, they need to focus on winning any way they can in the mean time. No one can assume that the playoffs are in the bag. If we are feeling crazy optimistic, perhaps we can look forward to seeing Clay Buchholz start in the playoffs.

September 8, 2011 at Toronto: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Romero (3-3), LP Miller (6-3). Red Sox record 85-58 (143/19) Box score

Oh, Lackey day! The Red Sox needed a big game from John Lackey, getting to the 6th or 7th inning. They didn’t get it. John Lackey gave up 7 runs in just 3 innings, and Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis had a 2 run complete game as the Rays beat Boston, 7-2.

With an ERA over 6 and a WHIP over 1.5, this is the worst season of John Lackey’s career, and we saw clear evidence of why that is in this game. After a clean 1st inning, Lackey allowed a single to the lead-off hitter, Ben Zobrist in the 2nd, and Johnny Damon exchanged places with Zobrist in a ground out. With 2 out, Damon stole 2nd, and Casey Kotchman walked. Then John Jaso homered off an ill-chosen cut fastball to give the Rays 3 quick runs. In the 3rd, with 2 out, Evan Longoria singled and Ben Zobrist walked. Then Damon drove in Longoria with a single, which should have been an out to end the inning. He hit a sharp ground ball down the first base line that Adrian Gonzalez caught, but Lackey was slow to cover first base, and was unable to tag out Damon on the play. Matt Joyce hit another single to score Zobrist. Lackey walked Casey Kotchman, and it looked like we were in for a long night, but John Jaso’s line drive deflected off Lackey’s calf, and though he would be pulled for the injury, he recovered well enough to throw out Jaso and end the inning.

Scott Atchison took over in the 4th, and was solid for 2 innings. In the 6th, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Jaso and Reid Brignac to score a run for the Rays, and with 2 out, another double to Longoria for the Rays’ 7th and final run of the night. Felix Dubrount took over from there, and pitched through the 7th. Franklin Morales took things from there.

Wade Davis of the Rays, on the other hand, had a fine game. He cruised until the 6th, when Josh Reddick led off with a single, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled, and Jacoby Ellsbury singled to drive in Reddick. Salty scored on a sac fly by Marco Scutaro. Davis recovered himself, and finished the game without further incident. This was his second career complete game.

Kevin Youkilis missed the game due to an ongoing hip issue, and is getting a MRI to determine what should be done from here. Erik Bedard has been out with a lat strain and sore knees, but could return before the end of the season. Red Sox fans need to hope that Youk and Eric Bedard return to the club soon, as well as Clay Buchholz. Youk is needed to provide much needed pop in the lineup, and Bedard is needed for the rotation. In fact, if Bedard and Clay Buchholz both return, the playoff 4 man rotation could become Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Bedard, especially given Lackey’s performances of late.

September 9, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay Rays 7, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Davis (10-8), LP Lackey (12-12). Red Sox record 85-59 (144/18) Box score

Hearing footsteps. In the past week, the Rays’ hopes of winning the AL wildcard have been transformed from a Quixotic dream to real possibility. With the 3 B’s (Beckett, Bedard, and Buchholz) all currently unavailable, Terry Francona has had to rely on less experienced and less consistent pitchers to fill in the gaps in the rotation. Given that, and the recent collapse of John Lackey, the Rays have managed to move within striking distance of the Red Sox in the wildcard race. In this game, it was Kyle Weiland’s turn to be sacrificed on the altar of necessity, and though he did a fairly creditable job, the Sox could not build a solid lead and ultimately lost to Tampa Bay, 6-5.

It looked like the Sox might take this one; they were playing even most of the way and had several opportunities upon which they could not capitalize. Jeremy Helickson started for Tampa Bay, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits over 6 innings. After spotting the Rays a run in the 1st, the Sox came back to tie the game in the 2nd, when David Ortiz led off with a walk, Josh Reddick singled, and Papi scored on a ground out by Jed Lowrie.

In the 5th, trailing 3-1, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’ 25th home run of the year, to tie it up again. The Sox lost the lead again, however, and were trailing 5-3 going into the 9th with Rays’ closer Kyle Farnsworth, who had given up just 3 homers all year, on the mound. In an outing he would just as soon forget, however, he surrendered back-to-back solo dingers to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ellsbury to tie the game yet again. After Dustin Pedroia doubled and A-Gon walked, he was done. So, with 2 on and 1 out, the Sox had a chance to take the lead for the first time. It was not to be, however, as Cesar Ramos induced Big Papi to ground into a double play.

For Weiland, his 4th major league start was a constant struggle, as he surrendered 1 run in each of the first 3 innings. In the 1st, he walked the leadoff man, Desmond Jennings. Then BJ Upton singled. With still no one out, Weiland then walked Evan Longoria to load the bases. Ben Zobrist hit into a fielder’s choice, erasing Longoria, but allowing Jennings to score. To his credit, with runners on first and third and 1 out, Weiland collected himself, striking out Johnny Damon and inducing a fly out from Matt Joyce. The 2nd inning was a similar story. Casey Kotchman led off with a single, and John Jaso replaced him with a fielder’s choice. Sean Rodriguez singled, and with 1 out and 2 on, Desmond Jennings grounded out, driving in Jason with the 2nd run. In the 3rd, the leadoff man reached once again as Longoria and Zobrist had back-to-back singles. With 1 out, Weiland plunked Joyce to load the bases and then gave up a sac fly to Kotchman that scored Longoria. In the 4th, Weiland gave up a double and walk with 2 out, but no runs scored, and his night was ended. Because the Sox tied the game in the top of the 5th, he was off the hook for this game.

Alfredo Aceves replaced Weiland. In the 5th, with 2 out, he tried to sneak a first pitch fastaball past Kotchman; that ball found the seats in right field for the Rays’ 4th run. In the 6th, he hit Rodriguez and gave up a single to Jennings, setting up a first and third with 1 out situation for Longoria, who responded with a sacrifice fly that scored Rodriguez.

After the Red Sox tied the game in the top of the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon came on to hold the line in the bottom of the inning, which he did not only in that inning, but also in the 10th, since the Sox had failed to score. Red Sox batters were unable to get anywhere against Brandon Gomes, who had replaced Ramos, so we went to the bottom of the 11th still tied. Daniel Bard came on, displaying some of the same trouble we had seen in him recently. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a triple, and after Upton grounded out weakly, it was up to Longoria, who became the Tampa Bay hero by driving the ball to center, enabling Jennings to score the winning run.

This is where the merchants of gloom come along and tell you that the sky is falling; the Sox are in a historic collapse from which they cannot recover. Well, I can’t accept that. I believe that Beckett will return strong, and that the Sox will manage to keep ahead of the Rays just enough over the 17 remaining games to just make the postseason. Then, we have to hope that Bedard and Buchholz will both be available at least by ALCS time.

September 10, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay Rays 6, Boston Red Sox 5 (11 innings). WP Gomes (10-8), LP Bard (12-12). Red Sox record 85-60 (145/17) Box score

Free falling. Red Sox Nation, fairly or unfairly, looked to Jon Lester to stop the recent slide. Although he vehemently denies it, the pressure of that expectation may have lurked, in a subtle way, in the back of his mind. It certainly seemed that way, as he seemed to have difficulty keeping the ball down in the zone, and as a result, the Rays teed off, especially in the early innings. Tampa Bay ultimately slammed the Red Sox, 9-1.

For Lester, the game started miserably right off the bat (excuse the pun) as Desmond Jennings hit a lead-off single, and BJ Upton followed suit. Lester then walked Evan Longoria to load the bases, and Ben Zobrist drove in both Jennings and Upton for the game’s first runs, with a single. Later, with 1 out, Sean Rodriguez hit a sac fly to plate Longoria with the 3rd Tampa Bay run. Lester also gave up a single and a walk in the 2nd, but managed to avoid any runs. In the 3rd, Johnny Damon tripled and scored on a double by Rodriguez. BJ Upton doubled in the 4th but failed to score. By the end of the 4th, Lester had thrown 111 pitches (only 68 for strikes) and was done, having given up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, while collecting only 2 strikeouts.

The backbreaker came in the 5th, with Michael Bowden on the mound. With 1 out, he walked Casey Kotchman, and allowed a single to Jose Lobaton, then after striking out Brandon Guyer, threw a wild pitch that moved Lobaton to 3rd and walked Jennings to load the bases for BJ Upton. He looked very shaky throughout, so Terry Francona called upon Matt Albers to get the third out. That didn’t quite work. Upton hit a grand slam, his 20th home run of the season, to crush Red Sox hopes of a comeback. The last Rays run came in the 7th, when, with Felix Dubront pitching, Upton hit a 1 out single and Longoria walked. Then Zobrist hit into a force play to drive Upton home with the 9th Tampa Bay run of the game.

The Rays starter, James Shields, was fairly dominant, but not entirely unhittable, in this game. Josh Reddick and Carl Crawford hit back-to-back singles in the 2nd, and it looked like a rally was forming, but Jason Varitek hit into a double play to kill that possibility. In the 3rd, Marco Scutaro hit a solo bomb to put the Sox on the board, and Mike Aviles singled. Jacoby Ellsbury walked and then, with 1 out, so did Adrian Gonzalez, to set up a bases loaded 1 out situation for David Ortiz. He tried mightily to drive the ball, but managed only a fly out to shallow left that was too close for Aviles to attempt to score. Josh Reddick then popped out to end that chance.

In the 5th, Mike Aviles singled, but was picked off first base when Shields caught him leaning a little too far. Ellsbury then singled, but nothing came of the inning. Imagine how it might have been different if Dustin Pedroia had come up with 2 on and no out instead of 1 on and 1 out.

Overall, the Sox had 7 hits including the Scutaro homer off Shields, and 3 walked, but they were unable to convert any but the dinger into runs. Shields tried to finish, but got into a little trouble in the 9th, and exited with 8 1/3rd innings of work. Dane De La Rosa finished off the Sox to complete the Tampa Bay sweep.

Red Sox fans of a certain age are now recalling spectacular collapses from seasons past. Of course, the one that looms large in memory is the epic ’78 collapse that ended with that grim special 163rd tie-breaking game against the Yankees. As Jim Rice pointed out in the postgame show on NESN, it’s not just about the pitching. The hitting, running, and fielding fundamentals all seem a bit lax. Adrian Gonzalez agrees. Now is the time to get it together. It’s gut-check time.

September 11, 2011 at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay Rays 9, Boston Red Sox 1. WP Shields (15-10), LP Lester (15-7). Red Sox record 85-61 (146/16) Box score

Two hundred. In his 8th attempt, Tim Wakefield finally reached his 200th win. Not that the Toronto Blue Jays made it easy; they jumped all over him for 5 runs on 6 hits in 6 innings, but Red Sox hitters were not about to let this opportunity pass by. In fact, they not only ensured Tim’s win, but perhaps vented some frustration over their recent losing streak as they demolished Toronto, 18-6.

Tim had a fairly uneventful 1st inning, despite hitting Eric Thames. In the 2nd, things got rough. David Cooper led off with a double, and Brett Lawrie followed with a single. Both scored on JP Arencibia’s 3 run jack. In the 3rd, Thames singled, and advanced to 2nd on a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He then scored on a 2 run homer by Jose Bautista. That was it for Wakefield as he left after 6 innings with a 6-5 lead, that grew to 10-5 in the bottom of the inning. The other Jays run came in the 9th with Junichi Tazawa on the mound. Eric Thames doubled, and scored on David Cooper’s double.

This game was pretty much a total nightmare for Blue Jays pitching. All but the last of the 6 pitchers that John Farrell used gave up at least one run, and a few much more than that. The pain for starter Brandon Morrow started in the1st inning, when Dustin Pedroia doubled with 1 out, and Adrian Gonzalez walked. Jed Lowrie replaced David Ortiz at DH for what later turned out to be back spasms, and struck out, but Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch, and Josh Reddick reached when his grounder to 1st was misplayed by Jays first baseman David Cooper for a 2 base error that allowed Pedey and A-Gon to score. In the 2nd inning, Marco Scutaro singled, and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. He scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Ellsbury advanced to 3rd on a balk, and scored on a sac fly by Pedroia. In the 4th, Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedey hit back-to-back solo homers. In the 6th, after Wake was basically done with a 1 run lead, Sox hitters decided that lead was just not good enough. Carl Crawford doubled and reached 3rd on a Scutaro sacrifice bunt.

That was it for Morrow, as Luis Perez replaced him as the Jays pitcher. Crawford then scored on a single by Salty. Ellsbury singled, and Pedey hit a 3 run bomb (his 2nd home run of the game, and 20th of the season) to make the score 10-5. In the 7th, Carl Crawford singled and scored on a Scutaro double. Brad Mills (not the manager, but the recently promoted Blue Jays pitcher) came on in the 9th, walked Ellsbury, gave up a double to Pedroia, and a single to A-Gon that scored Ellsbury. That was it for Mills, as Danny Farquhar took over. Connor Jackson’s sac fly scored Pedey. Then Mike Aviles singled and Crawford walked to load the bases. Farquhar then walked Scutaro to force in another run. Salty then doubled to drive in 3 more runs. Salty then scored on Ellsbury’s single.

As satisfying as this win was, we need to accept that the AL East is probably lost, and the Sox will need to put in their best effort just to get the wild card spot, given the pitching situation. The Ortiz situation is also potential cause for concern.

September 13, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 18, Toronto Blue Jays 6. WP Wakefield (7-6), LP Morrow (9-11). Red Sox record 86-61 (147/15) Box score

Bard ends not at all well. Well, you can’t blame this one on John Lackey. The troubled Red Sox started gave up just 2 runs over 5 1/3rd innings, and left the game with a solid 4-2 lead. Daniel Bard continued his recent struggles, giving up 3 runs in the 8th inning, as the Red Sox gave up a game they should have won, 5-4.

Toronto starter Ricky Romero looked solid at first, but Red Sox hitters soon got to him. After spotting the Blue Jays 2 runs in the 1st , the Sox went to work in the 2nd. After back-to-back singles by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, Pedey moved to 3rd on a throwing error by Jays’ center fielder Adam Loewen. Then, Ryan Lavarnway (the DH in place of David Ortiz) hit into what could have been a double play, but Toronto 3rd baseman Brett Lawrie booted the ball for the 2nd Toronto error of the inning, allowing Lavarnway to reach and Pedroia to score. Then Jason Varitek grounded into a fielder’s choice that plated Youkilis with the 2nd run. In the 3rd, Jacoby Ellsbury continued his spectacular late season extra base hitting assault with a triple to right. He scored on a sac fly by Marco Scutaro. Adrian Gonzalez capped off the Red Sox scoring with a solo home run in the 6th.

John Lackey had his share of trouble in this game, but managed to get out of most of it unscathed. The only real damage came in the very first inning, when Eric Thames singled with 1 out, and Lackey walked Eric Bautista. With 2 out, Edwin Encarnacion singled to drive in Thames, and Kelly Johnson’s single scored Bautista. Lackey gave up a hit in almost every inning he pitched, and in the 6th, he hit the leadoff man, Brett Lawrie. Lawrie then stole 2nd and reached 3rd on a throwing error by Tek. Although Lackey induced a fly out from JP Arencibia, he was replaced by Franklin Morales at that point. Adam Loewen then hit into a fielder’s choice in which the play went home to tag out Lawrie attempting to score. Morales then picked off Loewen for the final out of the inning. Alfredo Aceves pitched an uneventful 7th, and then came Bard for the 8th.

Bard walked the first 2 hitters (Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson). Both advanced on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Mark Teahen that Bard misplayed, resulting in a bases loaded situation on the error. JP Arencibia hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Encarnacion and advanced the other runners. Then, Adam Loewen singled, scoring Johnson and Teahen. Suddenly, a 4-2 lead became a 5-4 deficit. Mike McCoy then hit into a double play, but the damage was done. Frank Francisco closed out the game for Toronto to earn his 15th save.

With Eric Bedard and Clay Buchholz still out, and injury concerns hovering over Kevin Youkilis, you would think that Sox fans have enough to worry about. This game should have been a feel good win, giving us reason to believe in Lackey again. Instead, we have another concern as Daniel Bard has blow a third game in as many appearances. His fastball is not hitting its usual 99-100 MPH level, and his control is off, leading one to wonder: is there something he’s not telling us? Muscle fatigue in the upper arm or shoulder, perhaps?

September 14, 2011 at Fenway Park: Toronto Blue Jays 5, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Romero (15-10), LP Bard (2-8), S Francisco (15). Red Sox record 86-62 (148/14) Box score

Ray guns. Once again, Kyle Weiland was called upon to step into Boston’s depleted starting rotation, and once again, he got hammered. The Rays stayed his execution until the 3rd, inning, when he was knocked out of the box by 4 runs as Tampa Bay went on to cream the Red Sox, 9-2.

Weiland started out well, pitching 1-2-3 innings in both the 1st and 2nd. In the 3rd, it was another story. With 1 out, John Jaso doubled. With 2 out, Weiland walked Desmond Jennings. BJ Upton singled, scoring Jason and sending Jennings to 3rd. Evan Longoria then capped off the inning with a 3 run shot. Although Carl Crawford popped out to end the inning, Johnny Damon walked to lead off the 4th, and that was it for Weiland. Trevor Miller and Scott Atchison kept the Rays from scoring in the 4th and 5th innings, but when Franklin Morales came in for the 6th, there was more trouble.

Ben Zobrist led off with a single, and although Morales picked off Zobrist at 1st, he also hit Johnny Damon. Casey Kotchman subsequently hit a 2 run blast to raise the Rays’ run total to 6. In the 7th, Matt Albers continued his struggles, walking the leadoff man, then giving up a 2 run dinger to BJ Upton to make the Rays’ total 8 runs. Albers then walked Zobrist, and Damon singled. Casey Kotchman’s single drove in Zobrist for the 9th Tampa Bay run.

Jeremy Hellickson had a fairly smooth start for Tampa Bay, with his only difficulty coming in the 3rd. He walked the leadoff man, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Marco Scutaro singled. With 1 out, he walked Dustin Pedroia to load the bases for Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez hit into a force play that scored Salty with the Red Sox’ first run. The other Boston run came in the 9th, with Alexander Torres pitching and the game effectively out of reach. Terry Francona had made a bunch substitutions from the 40 many roster. Joey Gathright walked with 1 out, and Jose Iglesias singled with 2 out. Then, Darnell McDonald singled to drive in Gathright with the 2nd Boston run.

Not much to say about this one. Depleted pitching roster. Fans must wait and hope that after this long, arduous season, the Rays don’t overtake Boston at last.

September 15, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 9, Boston Red Sox 2. WP Hellickson (13-10), LP Weiland (0-2). Red Sox record 86-63 (149/13) Box score

Firmer footing. Josh Beckett seems to have recovered from his sprained ankle well enough to pitch effectively against the Tampa Bay Rays. Everything worked as it should, for a change, as the Red Sox beat the Rays 4-3.

Beckett started out uncertainly, giving up a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings in the 1st inning, followed by a 2 run shot for Evan Longoria. In the 3rd, Jennings had a leadoff single yet again, and scored on a Longoria hit. Apart from these difficulties, Beckett surrendered more hits than usual, but held the Rays off quite well. He finished after 6 innings, having given up 7 hits but just one walk and striking out 7.

Meanwhile, the usually effective James Shields had his troubles with Boston hitters. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the 1st with a double, and scored on a long single by Dustin Pedroia. Pedey moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by David Ortiz. The Sox had a good opportunity in the 2nd when Shields walked the first two hitters, Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek, but it was largely ruined when Mike Aviles blew a sacrifice bunt attempt, resulting in a double play. In the 3rd, Pedey singled again, and scored on a Big Papi double. Mike Aviles made amends for his blown bunt in the 4th with a 2 out solo home run.

After Beckett left the game, Alfredo Aceves pitched a clean 7th, and Daniel Bard looked better than he has in a while, walking one while striking out the side in the 8th. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a single to BJ Upton, but retired the side on strikeouts as well, for his 30th save of the season.

Mike Aviles was in this game for Kevin Youkilis, whose injuries, including hip bursitis and a hernia, will require surgery after the season. Aviles plays a creditable 3rd base, and did contribute a homer in this game, but Youk’s bat will be missed nonetheless.

September 16, 2011 at Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Rays 3. WP Beckett (13-5), LP Shields (15-11), S Papelbon (30). Red Sox record 87-63 (150/12) Box score

Sliding toward trouble. The good news is that Jon Lester pitched decently, and Rays starter Jeff Niemann was chased from the game early. The bad news is that the Red Sox lost anyway, 4-3.

Lester got into trouble early, walking the leadoff man. He got the next two batters out, however, so there was a hope of getting out without giving up a score. That hope was crushed when Ben Zobrist sent his 16th home run into the Monster seats, to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead. In the 3rd, Desmond Jennings doubled with 1 out, and reached 3rd on a ground out by BJ Upton. Then, with 2 out, Evan Longoria worked a full count. Lester threw a wild pitch to plate Jennings with the 3rd Rays run. In the 5th, Brandon Guyer led off with a single. Then, with 2 out, Upton and Longoria hit back-to-back singles to drive in Guyer with the 4th run for Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox did not score early, but did work deep counts to drive up Niemann’s pitch count. In the 3rd, Carl Crawford singled and scored on a double by Mike Aviles. Marco Scutaro bunted Aviles to 3rd, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly drove him home with the 2nd Boston run.

In the 7th, trailing 4-2 with Matt Moore now pitching, Crawford singled to lead off the inning, and Aviles followed suit. Scutaro’s sacrifice bunt moved them to 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Ellsbury then hit into a force play that scored Crawford, to make it a 1 run game, but that’s how things remained to the end.

The Red Sox are now in a pivotal position, with a 3 game lead in the Wild Card race and 11 games to go. If they win tomorrow (with Tim Wakefield on the mound), they can probably get away with .500 ball and still make the postseason. If they lose, they will need to find a way to play winning baseball the rest of the way, or end up watching the playoffs on TV.

September 17, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Niemann (11-7), LP Lester (15-8), S Peralta (4). Red Sox record 87-64 (151/11) Box score

Rays’ hopes a-Wake. Tim Wakefield’s knuckler was simply not effective against Tampa Bay hitters, and a less than perfect David Price was good enough to contain the Sox. Result: Tampa Bay avoided a split and took the series with an 8-5 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Wakefield’s troubles started early, as Casey Kotchman reached 1st on a 3rd strike passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Kotchman then took 2nd on yet another passed ball, and scored when Johnny Damon doubled to center. Later, with 1 out, Matt Joyce singled to drive in Damon. Wakefield then hit Sean Rodriguez. With 2 out, Desmond Jennings singled to drive in Joyce with the 3rd Tampa Bay run. In the 4th, Matt Joyce hit a 1 out double, advanced on yet another passed ball, and scored on a Rodriguez sac fly. In the 5th, Desmond Jennings led off with a single. He stole 2nd base, and took 3rd on a wild pitch, then scored on another Salty passed ball. Evan Longoria singled with 1 out, then Wake walked Kotchman, who subsequently scored on a 2 base throwing error by Mike Aviles that allowed the batter, Ben Zobrist, to reach 2nd. Wake was done after 5 innings, with 6 runs on 6 hits and 5 strikeouts. It was small consolation that only 2 of the runs were earned. Scott Atchison pitched a smooth 6th, and Andrew Miller came on for the 7th.

With Miller pitching, Longoria led off the 7th with a walk. With 2 out, Zobrist also walked, and stole 2nd. Joyce then singled to drive in Longoria and Zobrist.

Price held Boston hitters at bay until the 4th inning. Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a single, and David Ortiz walked. With 1 out, Darnell McDonald drove in both Pedey and Papi with a double. In the 7th, with Baltimore leading 8-2 and Jake McGee pitching, Marco Scutaro hit a 2 out single. Cesar Ramos then came on to face Jacoby Ellsbury, who singled. Mike Aviles the homered to make the score 8-5, which was the final.

Red Sox fans are asking, “is it time to push the panic button?” Perhaps, but what would be the point? Hang in there.

September 18, 2011 at Fenway Park: Tampa Bay Rays 8, Boston Red Sox 5. WP McGee (3-1), LP Wakefield (7-7), S Peralta (5). Red Sox record 87-65 (152/10) Box score

Angry birds. The Baltimore Orioles made it clear that they would not be a smooth highway for the Red Sox to use in gliding into a wild card spot. They blasted Kyle Weiland for 6 runs on 5 hits over 4 2/3rd innings, as they beat the Red Sox, 6-5.

Oriole starter Jeremy Guthrie got off to a good start, giving up a solo home run to Darnell McDonald in the 3rd and a triple to Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the 4th that scored David Ortiz (who had singled). In the 5th, Marco Scutaro walked with 2 out, Adrian Gonzalez drove him in with a double, and then scored himself on a triple by Dustin Pedroia. Guthrie was done after 6, with 4 runs on 10 hits and 3 strikeouts. The Red Sox picked up one other run in the 7th off Troy Patton when Scutaro doubled and scored on a single by Adrian Gonzalez.

Weiland looked pretty impressive in the first 2 innings, but after that, not so much. In the 3rd, Nolan Reimold got a 2 out single and advanced to 3rd when Josh Bell reached on a 2 base error by Darnell McDonald. Matt Angle then doubled to drive in Reimold and Bell. In the 4th, Matt Wieters led off with a walk and was erased by a fielder’s choice that left Chris Davis at 1st. Davis then scored on Robert Andino’s home run, and Nolal Reimold followed with another dinger. In the 5th, J Hardy led off with a homer, and after Weiland walked Matt Wieters with 2 out, he was done.

Jim Johnson closed out the game for the O’s, to pick up his 7th save.

Sox fans have to hope that with Erik Bedard returning this week, there will be some improvement. Clearly, Boston has been battered with the crippled starting rotation they have had in the past 2 months.

September 19, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 1): Baltimore Orioles 6, Boston Red Sox 5. WP Guthrie (19-3), LP Weiland (0-3), S Johnson (7). Red Sox record 87-66 (153/9) Box score

Stuffed birds. The Red Sox vented their frustration over their recent struggles by clobbering 20 hits in 43 at bats (with 8 walks) including doubles by David Ortiz, Marco Scutaro, and Jacoby Ellsbury, and home runs by Jed Lowrie, Ellsbury, and Conner Jackson. John Lackey had another terrible start, giving up 8 runs in just 4 1/3rd innings, but it hardly mattered as the Red Sox crushed the Orioles, 18-9.

Baltimore’s Matusz had a nightmare start. Having been spotted a 3 run lead, he gave up a leadoff single to Ellsbury, and a 1 out single to Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia drove in Ellsbury with a fielder’s choice that erased A-Gon and left Pedey at 1st. Big Papi then doubled and Jed Lowrie homered, and Matusz was now staring at a 4-3 deficit. It would get worse. Much worse.

In the 2nd, Matusz walked the leadoff man, Jason Varitek. Darnell McDonald then singled. With 1 out, Marco Scutaro doubled to drive in Varitek. McDonald was thrown out trying to score from 1st. After intentionally walking Adrian Gonzalez, Matusz was done. Chris Jakubauskas entered the game and immediately gave up a single to Pedey that scored Scutaro. In the 3rd, Jed Lowrie led off with a walk, then stole 2nd. With 2 out, McDonald singled to drive in Lowrie. McDonald reached 2nd on a throwing error by shortstop JJ Hardy. Then Ellsbury doubled to score McDonald, and Scutaro singled to drive in Ellsbury. A-Gon singled to end Jakubauskas’s night, and Jason Berken took over. Pedey singled to score Scutaro, and Papi singled to drive in Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, John Lackey was having another bad day. He allowed the very first Oriole hitter, Matt Angle, to single, then walked Hardy. Nick Markakis singled to score Angle and move Hardy to 3rd. Hardy then scored on a sac fly by Vladimir Guerrero. Chris Davis singled to score Markakis, and Davis reached 2nd when Jason Varitek failed to handled the throw home. In the 3rd, Vladdy struck out with 2 out, but reached on a wild pitch by Lackey. Davis singled, moving Vlad to 3rd. Lackey then walked Robert Andino to load the bases with 2 out. Nolan Reimold then singled to score Guerrero and Davis. In the 4th, Angle had a 1 out single, and Markakis’s 2 out triple drove him in. As we moved to the 5th, Terry Francona knew that Lackey was obviously having a rough time, but considered the score, 11-6, and decided to chance leaving him in. Who knows? Perhaps he can make it through the 5th. Not quite.

Davis led off the 5th with a double, and Robert Andino singled and stole 2nd (Davis was now at 3rd). Reimold hit a sacrifice fly to score Davis, and Ryan Adams singled to drive in Andino. Suddenly a safe 11-6 lead had become a not so safe 11-8 lead. With 1 out in the 5th, and 2 runs across, Lackey was done. Scott Atchison induced a double play ball from Craig Tatum to end the inning.

In the 6th, with 2 out and Franklin Morales pitching, Nick Markakis walked and scored on a double by Guerrero to cut the Red Sox lead to 2, and Sox fans had that sinking feeling. Nope. Not gonna sink this time.

Ellsbury led off the 7th with a clean inside-the-park home run, signaling that this game was not going to slip away. Scutaro, A-Gon, and Pedey singled in succession to score another run. Lars Anderson came in to pinch run for Gonzalez. The O’s brought in Clay Rapada, who walked Ortiz to load the bases. Then Brad Bergesen faced Jed Lowrie, who singled to drive in Anderson, reloading the bases for Conor Jackson. Jackson rose to the occasion, hitting a grand slam, to cap off the evening’s scoring.

We sometimes forget that the Red Sox have the most potent lineup in baseball. If only the pitching could settle down, this team would be awesome. This is tough with Clay Buchholz still out and Lackey struggling as he has been.

September 19, 2011 at Fenway Park (game 2): Boston Red Sox 18, Baltimore Orioles 9. WP Atchison (1-0), LP Matusz (1-8). Red Sox record 88-66 (154/8) Box score

Failure to close. Erik Bedard looked strong, but was clearly not completely back, as he was unable to sustain a lead in this game. Nonetheless, the Red Sox had a lead going into the 8th inning, when Jonathan Papelbon was called upon for a rare 2 inning save. He did not even make it out of the 8th, as the Red Sox lost a tough one to the Orioles, 7-5.

Bedard was solid until the 3rd, when he came unraveled very quickly. With 1 out, Robert Andino singled. Then, with 2 out, Nick Markakis doubled to drive in Andino. Vlad Guerrero reached on an error in right field by Josh Reddick that allowed Markakis to score. Bedard then walked Matt Wieters and Adam Jones in succession to load the bases. Mark Reynolds hit a sharp single to left that scored 2 runs and ended Bedard’s night.

For Baltimore’s Rick VandenHurk, the night was even worse. With 1 out in the 1st, Dustin Pedroia hit a ground-rule double and scored on a double by Adrian Gonzalez. In the 3rd, Pedey led off with a double, and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s 27th home run of the year. In the 4th, Marco Scutaro led off with a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles singled back-to-back to score Scutaro. That was enough for Buck Showalter, who called in Jo-Jo Reyes to replace VandenHurk. Ellsbury singled off Reyes, and with 2 out, A-Gon hit into a force play, erasing Salty at home. Matt Wieters then threw to 1st attempting a double play, but Mark Reynolds misplayed the ball, allowing Gonzalez to reach and Aviles to score.

At this point, the Red Sox had a 5-4 lead, and Scott Atchison, as the pitcher of record, was in line for the win. So it stood in the 8th inning, when Daniel Bard, who had come into the game in the 7th, attempted to complete a 2 inning appearance. But he gave up a lead off single to Wieters and with 1 out, another single to Mark Reynolds. Sensing that things were slipping out of control, Terry Francona called upon his closer, Jonathan Papelbon, to take the game home. Pap started out well, blowing away Chris Davis, but then allowed a single to Noland Reimold to load the bases. Robert Andino then doubled to drive in 3 runs, and Pap was staring at his 2nd blown save. Felix Doubront came in and pitched a somewhat scary 9th inning, though he gave up no runs. Neither, however, did Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who collected his 8th save.

What can be said about this? We can only hope things get better.

September 20, 2011 at Fenway Park: Baltimore Orioles 7, Boston Red Sox 5. WP Eyre (2-1), LP Bard (2-9) S Johnson (8). Red Sox record 88-67 (155/7) Box score

Fenway finale falls flat. With all the problems in the Red Sox rotation, fans need to feel that a Beckett start is a guaranteed win. Not this time. Josh was solid until the 7th, when he gave up 2 runs, and continued into the 8th. Despite not having gone over the 100 pitch count figure, Beckett was clearly done after his 7th inning struggles, but Terry thought perhaps he could get one more inning from him. The result: the last regular season game at Fenway Park was a 6-4 loss to the Orioles.

Sox hitters had a pretty good game against Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter, getting 4 runs on 9 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts over 6 2/3rd innings. The scoring started for Boston in the 3rd, when Carl Crawford tripled and scored on Jason Varitek’s ground out. In the 5th, Mike Aviles, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz had 3 consecutive singles that resulted in a run. In the 4th, A-Gon singled, and Dustin Pedroia doubled. When Carl Crawford doubled, both Gonzalez and Pedey scored.

Beckett looked very strong early. He made a mistake in the 2nd that allowed Mark Reynolds to hit a solo home run to left. In the 6th, Robert Andino had a 1 out single, and scored after stealing 2nd, when JJ Hardy drove him home with a single to center. Beckett seemed to be losing his grip in the 7th, when he gave up a single to Matt Wieters and Mark Reyolds homered to tie the score at 4.

Terry Francona seemed to think Beckett had something left, because he left him in for the 8th. Yes, he was under the 100 pitch count, but he clearly looked like he had lost control in the 7th. In the 8th, JJ Hardy singled with 1 out, and Nick Markakis doubled. With that, Beckett exited the game, and it was up to Alfredo Aceves. He gave up a single to the always dangerous Vladimir Guerrero, resulting in 2 runs for a 6-4 Baltimore lead.

Carl Crawford had a shot at the cycle, having hit a triple, double, and single. That ended in the 9th, when he grounded out in his last at-bat. This may have been a metaphor for the season. Now we look to the Evil Empire to frustrate Tampa Bay, for the time being. But even if they do, the Sox must have a decent series against the Yankees to reach the postseason. Scared yet?

September 21, 2011 at Fenway Park: Baltimore Orioles 6, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Rapada (2-0), LP Beckett (13-6) S Johnson (9). Red Sox record 88-68 (156/6) Box score

September 23, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees postponed due to rain.

Searching for a hero. The two pitchers that were supposed to be the stoppers, the near-certain winners for the Red Sox, have both failed in that role recently. Josh Beckett lost to the Orioles last Wednesday 6-4, and now Jon Lester got shelled in the 2nd inning for 6 runs en route to a humiliating 9-1 loss at the hands of the despised New York Yankees.

Lester’s agony began when Robinson Cano got a 1 out single in the 2nd. Lester then walked Nick Swisher and gave up a pair of singles to Andruw Jones and Jesus Montero (recently promoted from Triple-A and playing DH in place of Jorge Posada), for a quick Yankee run. That was just for starters. Russell Martin hit a short fly ball that many felt Carl Crawford should have caught, but didn’t, resulting in 2 more runs. Then came the icing on the cake when Derek Jeter crushed a 3 run shot into the right center field stands.

Lester seemed to gather himself after this, whiffing Curtis Granderson and punching out Mark Teixeira in succession. In the next inning, however, with 2 out, trouble came again when Swisher and Jones singled back-to-back, and that pesky Montero drove both in with a sharp double to center. That was it for Lester, and for the Sox as well. The Yanks posted one more run in the 6th when Junichi Tazawa served up a solo blast to Montero, who had a monster game altogether, going 3-for-4 with a double and a home run.

The Sox managed to avoid the humiliation of a goose egg when Conor Jackson singled off Yankee reliever Raul Valdes, and scored on a double by Crawford.

It should be recognized that this is not just a pitching problem, this is a team-wide malaise. The fielding was sloppy, the hitting was uneven, and the Red Sox just did not seem to have their heads in this game. This isn’t about Lester, or Beckett. It’s not about Buchholz’s injury, or even Lackey’s spectacularly bad performance this year. It’s about the whole team. It’s about will. This could be the worst Red Sox collapse since 1978, or it could be like Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

Can this team come together? Will they individually stumble and choke and let this once promising season slide into oblivion, or will they take a stand, and fight? If not, they will all be heading for the links after Wednesday, and we will all have to find other teams to pull for in the postseason.

September 24, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: New York Yankees 9, Boston Red Sox 1. WP Garcia (12-8), LP Lester (15-9). Red Sox record 88-69 (157/5) Box score

That sinking feeling. On August 23, 1974, the Boston Red Sox led the AL East by 7 games. One month later, they were in 3rd place, 5 games behind the leader. They ended up finishing in 3rd, 7 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. On August 20, 1978, the Red Sox led the AL East by 8.5 games, and they ended up tied with the New York Yankees. We all know what happened next. On August 27th of this year, the Sox led the AL East by 2 games, and had a lead of over 9 games in the Wild Card. As of September 25, the AL East has gone to the Yankees, and the Sox have a mere half game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card. We have seen this before, but thought that things would be different in the John Henry era. Well, teams can still slide when enough adversity piles up against them. The Red Sox seemed barely present, except for Jacoby Ellsbury, in this game, as the Yankees beat Boston fairly easily, 6-2.

Tim Wakefield struggled in this game, not just to get hitters out, but to get the ball into his catcher’s mitt. A passed ball, an error on Jarrod Saltalamacchia handling a pitch, a wild pitch, and a fielding error by Carl Crawford combined to help the Yankees win this one.

Wake’s problems begain immediately, when Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter started the game with back-to-back bunt singles. In between, Gardner stole 2nd, and after his single, Jeter stole 2nd and Gardner scored when Salty mishandled a pitch from Wakefield. With 1 out, a passed ball allowed Jeter to move to 3rd, and he scored on a wild pitch. In the 3rd, Wakefield walked Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada hit a 2 run dinger. Jeter and Rodriguez hit back-to-back singles with no one out in the 5th (Jeter reached 2nd on a muffed catch by Crawford), and Jeter scored on the second single.

That was it for Tim, as Matt Albers calmed things down initially, but then allowed a single to Brandon Laird, who scored on Derek Jeter’s ground-rule double. Scott Atchison, the unsung workhorse of the pen, finished the 6th and provided a solid 7th, but had to leave at the start of the 8th with an apparent groin injury. Andrew Miller finished the game.

Yankees starter AJ Burnett was very effective in keeping the Red Sox off the basepaths. He gave up 2 runs on 5 hits, with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks. The only Red Sox scoring came off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit 2 solo home runs, one in the 4th and one in the 6th. That was it, and it may be it. Burnett wanted a complete game, but when he appeared to tire in the 8th, Joe Girardi called for David Robertson to finish the last 1 1/3rd innings.

If the Sox continue to play like this, I am expecting to root for the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium: New York Yankees 6, Boston Red Sox 4. WP Burnett (11-11), LP Wakefield (7-8). Red Sox record 88-70 (158/4) Box score

A glimmer of hope. The Boston Red Sox must have dug down deep to find the motivation to fight through this marathon of a game. They were tight and focused. Even John Lackey pitched well, and Jacoby Ellsbury came through in the end with a massive 3-run jack, as the Sox preserved a thin 1 game lead in the Wild Card race by beating the Yankees, 7-4 in 14 innings.

Lackey looked very unsteady in the 1st inning, and it looked as if this might be another one of his disasters. But to his credit, he got it together and pitched well for 5 innings afterward, only to get pulled after running into trouble in the 7th.

In the 1st inning, Lackey walked Curtis Granderson with 1 out, then gave up a single to Robinson Cano. When Mark Teixeira doubled on a ball that just barely missed clearing the center field fence, Granderson and Cano both scored. The throw came in to Jason Varitek, who quickly fired to Jed Lowrie at 3rd, as Teixeira was barreling in. A good throw would have gotten him, but the ball soared over Lowrie’s head into left field, allowing Teixeira to score on the error.

Those were the only runs Lackey gave up until the 7th. The Sox had scored 4 in the meantime, and so were nursing a 1 run lead. Eric Chavez led off the inning with a single. That was enough for Terry Francona, who brought in Alfredo Aceves to replace Lackey. At the same time, Brett Gardner came in to pinch run for Chavez, and promptly stole 2nd. Jesus Montero then grounded out, but Gardner reached 3rd, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Dickerson to tie the game at 4. Little did anyone know at the time that the score would remain that way for the next 6 innings.

Ivan Nova looked sharp for New York, but the Sox took advantage of every mistake. Dustin Pedroia made a point of hustling, even running a little recklessly, to inject some life into the Red Sox attack. The Sox were kept out of scoring position until the 5th, when Jed Lowrie tripled with 1 out and scored on a single by JD Drew. In the 6th, Carl Crawford and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles (Pedey was probably out, but got the call at 1st with a head-first slide). With 2 out, Adrian Gonzalez hit into a force play that scored Crawford. In the 7th, Lowrie doubled, and Mike Aviles came into the game to pinch run for him (and later, take over at 3rd base). Aviles advanced to 3rd on a JD Drew ground out, and scored on a double by Marco Scutaro. Then Jason Varitek drove in Scutaro with a single to put the Sox on top, 4-3, and ending Nova’s night. Of course, the lead was short-lived as the Yanks tied it up in the bottom of the inning.

Both clubs trotted out a long succession of relievers. For the Red Sox, Daniel Bard replaced Aceves in the 8th with 2 out, and Jonathan Papelbon replaced Bard in the 9th with 2 out and 2 on. Pap lasted an amazing 2 1/3rd innings of solid pitching. Frankin Morales came on in the 12th. For the Yankees, it was Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, Mariano Rivera, Raul Valdes, Corey Wade, Aaron Laffey, and Scott Proctor who was pitching in the 14th.

In that inning, Darnell McDonald singled with 1 out and Scutaro walked. Then, with 2 out, Jacoby Ellsbury crushed his 31st home run over the right center field fence to put a 3-spot on the board and put this one away. Felix Doubront finished out the game for Boston to gain his first save.

Now, the Red Sox face 3 games against the Baltimore Orioles, who would just love to spoil Boston’s season. At the same time, the Yankees close out the season against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanks are still motivated to win as they are in a race for home field advantage in the ALCS. A sweep of the O’s would be nice, but not necessary. 2 out of 3 should be good enough, because the Yankees are likely to win at least 1 game against the Rays. The Sox will need to win at least one game with almost no bullpen, as they used practically all their relievers in this one. Perhaps this game will give the Sox the lift they need not only to hold onto the Wild Card, but to propel them into a winning attitude for the postseason.

September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium (game 2): Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 4. WP Morales (1-2), LP Proctor (2-5) S Doubront (1). Red Sox record 89-70 (159/3) Box score

The men who fell to Earth. The Red Sox needed a win against the Baltimore Orioles, one of the worst teams in the American League, to keep a 1 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, who were playing the Yankees, one of the best teams in the American League. They did not get it, but the Rays did. Josh Beckett faltered in the 6th inning, and the Red Sox lost to Baltimore, 6-3.

Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter is not in the top tier of American League pitchers, but he was good enough to contain Red Sox hitters. In the 2nd inning, JD Drew singled, and scored on a double by Jacoby Ellsbury. In the 4th, Jed Lowrie hit a solo home run. That was it. Hunter was finished after 5 innings, but Troy Patton continued to contain the Sox, as did Willie Eyre and Clay Rapadia. In the 9th, Orioles closer Jim Johnson came on, hit Jacoby Ellsbury, and allowed Ellsbury to advance to 2nd on a balk. Ellsbury reached 3rd on Carl Crawford’s ground out, and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s single.

Josh Beckett was fairly solid for the first 5 innings. He did give up a solo homer to Matt Wieters in the 2nd. In the 5th, Adam Jones singled, advanced to 2nd when Beckett walked Mark Reynolds, and scored on a single by Chris Davis.

In the 6th, all Hell broke loose. Vlad Guerrero led off with a single. With 2 out, Mark Reynolds walked, and Chris Davis doubled to drive in Guerrero. Then Robert Andino hit an inside-the-park home run when Ellsbury crashed into the wall with the ball in his glove, and it popped out. That put the game out of reach.

The Red Sox are now tied with the Rays for the Wild Card. They need to win at least 1 of the remaining 2 to have a hope for the off-season, and hope that the Rays will split the remaining 2 with the Yanks. Anything less for the Sox or more for the Rays will put the Rays into the postseason, and the Red Sox onto the golf course. Even if the both teams split, we will need a special playoff game to break the tie.

Are the Sox just too beaten up, tired, and worn out to compete? Gut-check time, Sox fans.

September 26, 2011 at Baltimore: Baltimore Orioles 6, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Patton (2-1), LP Beckett (13-7). Red Sox record 89-71 (160/2) Box score

Stay of execution. The Red Sox avoided elimination by narrowly beating the team with the 3rd worst record in the American League: the Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the Yankees, who have secured home field advantage through the playoffs, are no longer trying, so the Rays won, and will probably win tomorrow. Erik Bedard managed 3 innings, and the exhausted bullpen barely held on, as home runs from Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Lavarnway, and Marco Scutaro helped pace the Sox to victory, 8-7.

Bedard had a rough 1st, but was fairly solid until the 4th, when everything came apart for him. In the 1st, he walked Nick Markakis with 2 out, and Vladimir Guerrero drove Nick in with a double to center. Adam Jones doubled in the 2nd but was caught stealing. Vlad led off the 4th with a single and scored on Matt Wieters’ 22nd home run of the year. After walking Mark Reynolds and giving up a single to Chris Davis, Bedard was done for the night.

Baltimore’s Zach Britton had a rough start. In the 3rd, Marco Scutaro hit a 2 out double, and Ellsbury drove him in with his 32nd home run of the season. In the 4th, David Ortiz led off with a single, and Adrian Gonzalez singled with 1 out. Ryan Lavarnway, in at catcher since both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek are hurtin, smacked a 3 run shot. Britton was done in the 5th with 1 out after 2 consecutive walks (to Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi). The score at the time was 5-3, Boston.

Jason Berken took over for Baltimore, and got out of the 5th unscathed. In the 6th, Carl Crawford tripled with 1 out, and Scutaro hit a 2 run bomb. Berken was done, and Zach Phillips came in. In the 8th, Ryan Lavarnway hit his solo shot.

After Bedard left in the 4th, Alfredo Aceves took over. It was fairly smooth sailing until the 6th, when Adam Jones hit a solo shot. In the 8th, Daniel Bard replaced Aceves, and had another troubling outing. Matt Wieters led off with a single, but Bard got the next 2 out. Then, Chris Davis singled to drive in Wieters and Nolan Reimold tripled to drive in Davis. The O’s were creeping closer; it was now 8-6. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 9th, but not without difficulty. JJ Hardy singled, and Guerrero singled with 1 out. With runners at 1st and 3rd, Matt Wieters grounded out, scoring Hardy to make the score 8-7. That’s where it stayed, as Jones grounded out to end the game.

The Rays will almost certainly win tomorrow since the Yankees are tuning for the playoffs. This means that the Red Sox must win, or their season is over. If both teams win, there will be an extra game between the two on Thursday to determine the Wild Card. The team is exhausted. The pitching staff is blown. If the Red Sox win, it will be due to sheer will.

September 27, 2011 at Baltimore: Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 7. WP Aceves (10-2), LP Britton (11-11) S Papelbon (31). Red Sox record 90-71 (161/1) Box score

Closing time. The Red Sox ended their season as they started it, by playing at a level that was profoundly below their ability. With the Yankees and Rays locked in a 12 inning duel, the Red Sox had a 1 run lead in the 9th and an opportunity to at least force a tiebreaker game with Tampa Bay if they could just hold on. But, it was not in the cards. Jonathan Papelbon was dominant in dismissing the first two batters, but then gave up a succession of hits that gave the game to the Orioles, 4-3. Just minutes later, Evan Longoria hit a homerun for Tampa Bay that put the Rays in the postseason, and ended the year for Boston.

Jon Lester started the game on just 3 days’ rest, but managed to give up just 2 runs and end his night with the lead. The only inning in which he gave up runs was the 3rd. He walked the leadoff hitter, Chris Davis, and gave up a 2 out homer to JJ Hardy. It looked like he was in trouble in the 6th when he walked the first two hitters, JJ Hardy and Nick Markakis, but Vladimir Guerrero hit into a double play, and after Matt Wieters walked, Lester got Adam Jones to whiff, ending the inning. Alfredo Aceves took over in the 7th, and Daniel Bard had a flawless 8th.

The Red Sox went 11-for-35, but sprayed those hits around the game, and only put together three single runs in separate innings. In the 3rd, Mike Aviles walked, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and Dustin Pedroia singled to drive in Aviles. In the 4th, Marco Scutaro got a 1 out double and advanced to 3rd on a Carl Crawford ground out. With Aviles at bat, Scutaro danced up and down to rattle Orioles starter Alfredo Simon. Simon balked with just enough of a twitch to award home plate to Scutaro for the 2nd Red Sox run. In the 5th, Pedey hit a solo dinger for the 3rd run. After David Ortiz singled, Simon’s night was over, and Troy Patton took over. After walking Pedey and giving up a single to Papi (who was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double), Patton intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez to set up a 1st and 3rd situation, then yielded to Willie Eyre with 2 out, who got Ryan Lavarnway to ground out, ending one of a number of Red Sox threats in this game.

Pedro Strop pitched the 8th, and closer Jim Johnson came on in the 9th even though the score was still tied. In that inning, Ellsbury reached when Mark Reynolds bobbled a throw to first, and promptly stole 2nd. Pedroia then singled. After inducing fielder’s choice from Ortiz that erased Pedey, Johnson intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Gathright came on to pinch run for Papi. Another golden opportunity. Bases loaded, 1 out. Lavarnway then grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Papelbon came on in the 9th, and dominated the first 2 hitters, blowing them away with swinging strikeouts. Then the trouble started. Chris Davis hammered a fastball down the middle into right field for a double, and Kyle Hudson came on to pinch run for him. Nolan Reimold hit another ball in the middle of the zone off the top of the right center field fence for a ground-rule double that scored Hudson to tie the game. Finally, Robert Andino hit a dying fly ball that Carl Crawford dove for, had in his glove, but could not control. Reimold scored, and that was that.

This team was considered by most baseball experts to be one of the 2 or 3 best teams in baseball, and was widely projected to go all the way. Indeed, despite their truly awful April, they came on strong in April, May, June, and July to prove the experts right. Even though injuries, especially to the starting rotation, and a seeming loss of energy seemed to cause them to lose momentum, they were still leading the AL East by a couple of games in mid-August, and the Wild Card by about 9 games or so.

Did they lose their focus? Did they have phenomenal bad luck? Was their conditioning suspect, leading to all those minor muscular injuries that put key guys on the 15 day DL? Did they simply lack a team personality necessary to carry them through?

There is already a lot of speculation as to what will happen during the offseason. Some think the medical staff should be reviewed. Some think the outfield should be rearranged, perhaps moving Crawford to right (where he played when he was with the Rays). Some think more drastic measures are necessary.

In my view, every detail of this organization should be revisited from the scouting, to the coaching, to the players. Perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong or missing in the way players are handled, prepared, and motivated. Players are not machines, and they don’t just play for money. They play for the fans, sure, but they also must play for each other. I wonder if they had enough esprit de corps to do that.

No one’s job is safe at this point. Not players, coaches, trainers, or the manager. Something is very wrong when a team with this much talent simply flushes its season in the last month. Heads will roll.

September 28, 2011 at Baltimore: Baltimore Orioles 4, Boston Red Sox 3. WP Johnson (6-5), LP Papelbon (4-1). Red Sox record 90-72 (162/0) Box score

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