April 09, 2008

Red Sox vs Tigers (4/8-4/10)

Game 1: Maybe receiving their World Series rings lit a fire under the Boston Red Sox. It appeared that way throughout Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Daisuke Matsuzaka got the ball for the Red Sox and was brilliant again for the 2nd straight time. As a result, Matsuzaka was able to move to 2-0 on the season. His line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 0 ER, 7 K.

The Red Sox got offensive support from Kevin Youkilis (3/3, 2 RBI), as well as Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo who collected two hits each. J.D. Drew also had an RBI single as he continued to play well.

Manny Delcarmen pitched 1.1 scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts and Hideki Okajima pitched 1 scoreless inning with 2 strikeouts to end the game for the Red Sox who moved to 4-4 with the 5-0 victory over Detroit. Shockingly, the Tigers are now 0-7 on the season.

Red Sox vs Blue Jays (4/4-4/6)

Game 1: The first five innings of Friday night’s game started out as a pitchers duel between Tim Wakefield and Shaun Marcum. Unfortunately for Boston, the Jays got to Wakefield for 3 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning. The Red Sox quickly answered in the top of the 7th with a 3-run homerun by J.D. Drew. It’s early in the season, but it appears that 2008 is going to be different for Drew.

To start the bottom of the 7th, Francona decided to go with David Aardsma who allowed a leadoff walk. Aardsma was promptly removed in favor of Javier Lopez who allowed a hit. Finally, Francona went to the man with whom he should have started the inning, Manny Delcarmen. Delcarmen was able to record the first two outs of the inning with no damage before Frank Thomas came up to the plate and ripped a double to left.

The Blue Jays tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th and Brian Tallet and Jeremy Accardo tossed scoreless frames to give the Blue Jays the win and drop the Red Sox to 3-2.

Game 2: Saturday afternoon’s game was an ugly showing for the Boston Red Sox despite a decent outing by top prospect Clay Buchholz. The final line wasn’t pretty for Buchholz, but it didn’t accurately tell the story of how he pitched. He finished with 5 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, and 7 Ks.
When Buchholz left the game after 5 innings, the Red Sox were still in the game as they trailed 4-2, much of the damage resulting from a fielding error by Casey. The Red Sox bullpen, however, offered no relief. Kyle Snyder allowed 2 runs in 1/3 inning. Brian Corey followed with an even worse performance as he allowed 4 runs in 1/3 inning. At the completion of the 6th inning, the Jays led 10-2. They cruised to victory as the Red Sox dropped their 2nd straight game.

One bright spot: Julian Tavarez pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in relief and looked very good.

The Red Sox look to correct their poor fortunes in Sunday’s game as Josh Beckett returns to face Roy Halladay in the finale.

Game 3: Sunday’s game was in many ways uglier than Saturday’s in the eyes of Red Sox fans. The team made 4 errors, 3 by Julio Lugo. Many of these errors came on routine plays and led to scoring innings for the Blue Jays. Not only that, but the errors played a big role by unnecessarily driving Josh Beckett’s pitch count up.

In the third inning, the Red Sox took an early 1-0 lead on Jacoby Ellsbury’s first homerun of the season. The Jays answered in the bottom of the 4th with a 2-run homer by Vernon Wells before Jason Varitek tied things up with a solo homer in the top of the 5th. Unfortunately, the Red Sox completely came unraveled in the bottom half of that inning. Beckett recorded 2 outs before allowing a cheap, broken-bat single to Aaron Hill and walking the following two batters. Frank Thomas was coming to the plate and Beckett was removed for Manny Delcarmen who had been beaten by Thomas on Thursday night. The pitch that Thomas hit on Friday night was a Delcarmen changeup. As a result, Thomas was well aware that the fastball was on its way and he was sitting dead red. Thomas crushed Delcarmen’s first pitch, a fastball that was right in his wheelhouse, for a grand slam to give Toronto a 6-2 lead.

The Jays added to that lead in the following inning with a double by Aaron Hill. The Sox attempted to battle back with a solo homerun by J.D. Drew in the 7th and an RBI single by Ortiz in the 8th. The Red Sox actually ended up bringing the tying run to the plate against Jeremy Accardo and the Jays. Unfortunately, the tying run was Julio Lugo who had done everything in his power to cost the Red Sox the game early on. Fittingly, Lugo flied out weakly to center to end the game and drop the Red Sox to 3-4.

April 02, 2008

Red Sox vs Athletics (4/1-4/2)

Game 1: Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in one of his best starts in the Major Leagues on Tuesday night in Oakland. Dice-K was dealing all night long and did not issue a single walk to the A’s. Matsuzaka was efficient, throwing 96 pitches and plowing through 6.2 innings before being removed. The final line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 9 K. The brilliant outing gives Matsuzaka 11.2 IP and only 4 hits allowed in the young season.

The A’s only run, came from a Jack Cust solo homerun in the early going, but Matsuzaka settled down after that before handing the ball to Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon to finish the game. Okajima struggled to throw strikes, but pitched a scoreless inning. Papelbon was his normal untouchable self as he picked up a four out save and struck out the side in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Red Sox trailed 1-0 until the 5th inning when Jacoby Ellsbury looped an RBI-single into right field. The Sox took the lead in the 6th when the struggling Jason Varitek ripped a 2-run homerun to right. The umpires, however, ruled that it was only a double. The Red Sox still scored a run in the inning. This run turned out to be the game winner.

Aside from Jason Varitek (2/4) and Kevin Youkilis (3/4) there weren’t many bright spots for the Red Sox offense. David Ortiz went 0/4 and is now 0/11 on the season. Look for him to pick it up shortly.

The Red Sox move to 2-1 with the win.

March 26, 2008

Red Sox vs Athletics in Tokyo (3/25-3/26)

Game 1: The start of the 2008 season wasn't too promising for the Red Sox in the earlygoing of their first game. Daisuke Matsuzaka was struggling to locate his pitches in his native land and he gave up two first inning runs to put the Sox in an early hole. Matsuzaka's 2nd inning was pretty shaky as well, but fortunately he kept the A's off the scoreboard and settled down in the following innings. He ended up going 5 innings, allowing 2 hits, 2 runs, and 5 walks while striking out 6.

The Red Sox struggled to get to Joe Blanton as his first 5 innings were smooth sailing. The Red Sox finally jumped on him in the 6th inning for three runs and chased him from the game. The big blow in that inning came from Manny Ramirez who hit a 2-run double to put the Sox ahead.

In the following inning Kyle Snyder surrendered a 2-run homerun to the might Jack Hannahan. The decision to put Snyder into a game with a one-run lead was questionable to begin with and Snyder proved the doubters correct.

The outcome appeared bleak for the Sox as they failed to score as the game carried into the 9th inning. It was very disappointing as a Sox fan for their hitters to fail to tee off on the likes of Alan Embree and Keith Foulke.

Huston Street entered to pitch the 9th for the A's after the Red Sox got some solid bullpen work from Javier Lopez and Bryan Corey (who in my opinion deserves a spot in the bullpen). Street started off the inning by retiring Mike Lowell on a routine flyball to centerfield. Brandon Moss then came to the rescue for the Red Sox as he cranked his first career homerun to tie the game at four. The blast likely came as a shock to Sox fans who probably expected JD Drew to start in the opener. Drew was scratched due to a tight lower back.

The game would go into extra innings after the Red Sox got a solid contribution from Hideki Okajima to get them into extra innings. The performance opened up a 2-run 10th for the Red Sox in which they scored on another 2-RBI double from Ramirez after Ortiz was intentionally walked. Something tells me that this is going to be a huge year for Ramirez who is in a contract year and racked up 4 RBIs in the opener.

Jonathan Papelbon came in to pitch the bottom of the 10th and gave the Red Sox fans a nice scare. Papelbon was likely saved by a baserunning gaffe made by Emil Brown who attempted to take 3rd base on an RBI double. The ball was cutoff and the Red Sox got Brown in a run down. The following two Athletics hitters singled as Papelbon was apparently struggling. Red Sox fans feared for the worst before Papelbon finished off the A's by getting Kurt Suzuki to ground out to Kevin Youkilis.

The win gave the Red Sox a 1-0 record and put them in first place. Picking things up from where they left off apparently.

Game 2: The second game of the young season didn't go as smoothly for the Red Sox as their bats went cold against a healthy and brilliant Rich Harden. Harden pitched 6 innings, gave up a solo homerun to Manny Ramirez, and struck out nine Red Sox hitters.

Jon Lester struggled for the Sox as he only made it through 4 innings. He allowed 4 runs and walked 3. The big blow came from yesterday's goat, Emil Brown. Brown hit a 3-run bomb on a cutter right over the heart of the plate. The homerun gave the A's a 4-0 lead.

David Aardsma, Bryan Corey, and Manny Delcarmen pitched in relief for the Sox.

The loss drops the Red Sox to 1-1. They will now play three exhibition games on the west coast before continuing the regular season on April 1st in Oakland.

February 27, 2008

Offseason Recap

It appears that the Boston Red Sox are perfectly fine with standing pat. They won the World Series in 2007 and believe that no major changes need to be made in order to repeat in 2008. While no major moves were made, the Red Sox made a few low-impact transactions this offseason:

1. Signed Bartolo Colon as a Free Agent: After the injury to Curt Schilling, the Red Sox are looking for some starting pitching depth. They decided to do this by adding Bartolo Colon. Colon won the Cy Young in 2005 with the Angels but has struggled through two injury-riddled seasons since winning the award. He reported to Red Sox camp approximately 20 pounds overweight and the Red Sox hope that he can drop some weight, get in shape, and make a positive contribution to their title defense. Colon will make slightly over $1 million if he makes the Red Sox, but he can make up to $7 million this season (if he makes the team out of camp and starts 30 or more games).

2. Traded for David Aardsma for Willy Mota and Miguel Socolovich: Despite the fact that the bullpen was a considerable strength last year, the Red Sox looked to add some depth this offseason. They did so by acquiring David Aardsma from the White Sox and they are hoping that he can continue his success from early last season. Aardsma started the season 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 innings with the White Sox before struggling through the rest of the season.

3. Signed Sean Casey as a Free Agent: An interesting signing for the Red Sox, Casey should be a strong presence in the clubhouse and is known as one of the nicest players in the Major Leagues. Casey has a career batting average of over .300 and will backup Kevin Youkilis at 1st base.

The Red Sox will open their season on March 25th against the Oakland Athletics in Japan.

November 24, 2007

Schilling and Lowell to Return

It didn't appear likely a few days before the signing, but Curt Schilling will be returning to the Red Sox in 2008 for one more season as the Red Sox signed him to a 1-year deal with incentives. I felt this was a great move by the Red Sox as it puts them in good position to repeat in 2008. It was a good deal for the money and even though Schilling is not the ace he used to be, he will give the Red Sox some strength in the middle of the rotation for 2008. It will be interesting to see who will earn the #4 and #5 spots. The competition will likely between Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.

It also didn't appear very likely that Lowell would be back with the Red Sox once the offers from other teams started rolling in. However, Lowell decided to remain where he was comfortable: playing 3B for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox got what could be considered a bargain with the signing (Lowell accepted 3 years/$37.5 million). The Lowell signing ensures that the Red Sox will have all of the major pieces back for 2008 (Coco Crisp might still be traded, but it appears that the Red Sox are better off with Jacoby Ellsbury in CF).

World Series Game 4: Red Sox vs. Rockies

Ironically, it was Jon Lester that could send Red Sox Nation into euphoria in 2007. Lester would have been considered an unlikely hero at the start of the season due to struggles with cancer; however, Lester proved his worth as a Major Leaguer in Game 4.

Lester pitched 5.2 brilliant scoreless innings. He allowed only 3 hits while striking out 3 and walking 3 and left with a 2-0 lead thanks to RBI singles by David Ortiz and Jason Varitek. In the 7th inning, the Red Sox picked up another run from a Mike Lowell solo homerun to make it 3-0 Boston.

The Rockies would battle back in the bottom of the 7th with a solo homerun by Brad Hawpe off of Hideki Okajima before the Sox answered in the top of the 8th with a solo homerun by Bobby Kielty, another unlikely hero.

In the 8th inning, the Rockies gave their fans some hope when Garret Atkins smashed a 2-run homer into the Coors field seats to cut the Red Sox lead to 1. Unfortunately for the Rockies, the Red Sox have Jonathan Papelbon who shut the door on the 8th inning and retired the side in order in the 9th to give the Red Sox their 2nd World Championship in 4 years. The save by Papelbon also made the solo homer by Kielty extremely significant, as it turned out to be the run that clinched the title.

World Series Game 3: Red Sox vs. Rockies

Daisuke Matsuzaka would start Game 3 for the Red Sox and try to give them a 3-0 series lead. He pitched 5.1 strong innings, only allowing the Rockies to put 2 runs on the board.

Despite a short outing, Matsuzaka was able to pick up the win as the Red Sox offense crushed Josh Fogg for 10 hits and 6 runs in 2.2 innings which gave the Red Sox a 6-0 lead.

The Rockies would end up scoring 2 runs in the 6th and 3 runs in the 7th before the Red Sox put the game away. In the 8th inning, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia had RBI doubles to extend the lead to 9-5. Ellsbury and Pedroia were a collective 7/10 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBIs. Boston collected another run in the 9th on a sacrifice fly by Jason Varitek.

Jonathan Papelbon was able to pick up the save because he came in to finish the 8th inning with runners on base.

October 25, 2007

World Series Game 2: Red Sox vs Rockies

Curt Schilling continued his postseason brilliance in Game 2 against the Colorado Rockies. Schilling allowed 1 run in the first inning that he pitched but that would be the only run that the Rockies could score on the night. Schilling finished with 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, and 4 Ks.

The Rockies took an early 1-0 lead that lasted until the 4th inning when Jason Varitek hit a game-tying sacrifice fly off of Ubaldo Jimenez. The Red Sox would score again in the 5th inning on an RBI double by Mike Lowell, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.

Schilling left the game in the 6th inning as Hideki Okajima took over to pitch 2.1 perfect innings. Okajima struck out 4 during that span. Jonathan Papelbon came on to pitch the 9th and allowed the tying run on base before retiring the side by striking out 2 Rockies.

The Red Sox won by the score of 2-1 and took a 2-0 series lead with the series headed to Colorado.

October 24, 2007

World Series Game 1: Red Sox vs Rockies

Josh Beckett is continuing to make a case for himself as the best postseason pitcher of all time at only 27 years of age. Beckett won his 4th game of the postseason and kept his ERA below a phenominal 1.20.

While Beckett dominated, the Red Sox were breaking offensive records. They scored the most runs ever in a Game 1 of a World Series and they set the record for the most doubles hit in a World Series game. The scoring started when Dustin Pedroia led off the game with a homerun and from there, the Red Sox couldn't be stopped.

Every starter, with exception to Jacoby Ellsbury, collected a hit. Ortiz, Ramirez, Varitek, Drew, and Pedroia collected 2 RBIs apiece.

Beckett finished with 7 innings pitcher, 1 earned run, and 9 strikeouts to move to 4-0 in the 2007 postseason. Jeff Francis started the game for the Rockies and got lit up for 6 runs in 4 innings of work. The Red Sox put 7 more runs across against Franklin Morales, who was the first out of the bullpen to relieve Francis. Mike Timlin and Eric Gagne pitched perfect innings of relief in the 8th and 9th inning respectively.

The Red Sox lead the series 1-0, and look to take a 2-0 series lead on Thursday night with Curt Schilling on the hill. He will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies.

October 22, 2007

World Series Preview: Red Sox vs Rockies

Unfortunately I do not have enough time to create an entire preview for the World Series, however, a basic prediction can be found below.

The Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies will play in the 2007 World Series. Interestingly enough, each team likely possessed the Rookie of the Year in their respective league. It appears that Troy Tulowitzki will win it for Colorado (the only other rookie that has a chance is Ryan Braun of the Brewers). It also appears very likely that Dustin Pedroia has the honor locked up in the American League.

If there is an offense in the National League that can compete with the top offenses of the American league, it is the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have a number of great hitters including Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Garret Atkins, Matt Holiday, and Todd Helton. Kazuo Matsui and Yorvit Torrealba have also contributed in the playoff charge. I would call the offenses equal or maybe even give Colorado a slight edge in that department.

Even if Colorado has better hitting, Boston's starting pitchers are very talented and battle tested. Curt Schilling has been one of the best postseason pitchers of all time and Josh Beckett is quickly making a case to be labeled with that title as well. Daisuke Matsuzaka should prove to be a decent #3 in the series and will not have to face a DH. He will, however, have to deal with the thin air of Colorado in Game 3. It appears that Jon Lester will start Game 4 after Tim Wakefield was left off of the ALCS roster. The Rockies will counter with ace Jeff Francis, followed by Ubaldo Jimenez. Josh Fogg and Franklin Morales will pitch Games 3 and 4 respectively. Boston has the clear edge in starting pitching.

Boston's bullpen, in my opinion, also trumps that of Colorado. Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes have been very good for the Rockies but keep in mind that they are pitching in a weaker league. Jonathan Papelbon has been able to stump some of the American League's top offenses as have Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and Mike Timlin. One last quick note about the bullpen: I believe that the Red Sox made a mistake by choosing Kyle Snyder over Julian Tavarez on the World Series roster. Tavarez has more postseason experience than Kyle Snyder who struggled down the stretch. I give the bullpen edge to the Red Sox.

Despite a good sized edge in the pitching department, the Rockies do have one big thing going for them: Momentum. The team has practically lost one game within the past month and has cruised through the playoffs (going 7-0, 8-0 if you count the play-in game). Both teams play very good team defense.

Prediction: Boston in 5 games, maybe 6. I hate to bet against a team as hot as the Rockies have been but they have been playing against National League competition and have been off for 8 days. Plus, I have faith in my team. Go Red Sox!

ALCS Game 7: Red Sox vs Indians

How fitting that Daisuke Matsuzaka would get the chance to send the Red Sox to the World Series by winning Game 7 of the ALCS. On the same token, failure would further raise questions about the acquisition. However, either way I believe that Daisuke Matsuzaka was a good acquisition for the Red Sox this year and I feel that he'll only get better as he adjusts to pitching in the American League.

Matsuzaka started off strong by putting up zeroes through his first 3 innings. At the same time, the Red Sox were scoring runs in each of those innings. After those frames had been completed, the Red Sox were up 3-0, but it oddly felt like they were tied or even losing the game due to the fact that they could have easily had a few more runs than that with some clutch hitting. Unfortunately, the double play was in full effect once again on Sunday night for the Red Sox hitters. It also appeared that Francona dropped the ball on a couple of baserunning decisions in the early going, both of which resulted in the Red Sox grounding into a double play.

Matsuzaka labored through the 4th and 5th inning and probably should have been taken out before finished the 5th, but Francona left him in and it paid off. Matsuzaka finished with 5 IP, 2 ER, and 3 Ks.

The score remained 3-2 until the 7th inning. The Indians threatened in the top of the 7th, but were unable to come up with any runs. The Indians had runners on 1st and 3rd after Julio Lugo mishandled a popup by Kenny Lofton and Franklin Gutierrez lined a single off of the 3rd base bag. Inexplicably, Lofton didn't score on the play and it kept the Red Sox up by a run. The play turned out to be huge as the next batter (Casey Blake) grounded into an inning ending double play.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Red Sox extended their lead when Dustin Pedroia cranked a 2-run shot over the Green Monster off of the previously unhittable Rafael Betancourt. The homer gave the Red Sox a 5-2 advantage.

In the 8th, it appeared that it would make sense to bring Mike Timlin into the game until a baserunner reached, at which point Papelbon should have entered. Instead, Francona brought out Hideki Okajima despite the fact that he had already pitched 2 innings. Okajima allowed a leadoff walk followed by a single to Asdrubal Cabrera. Now it was time for Papelbon to come in and attempt to shut the door with the tying run at the plate. Papelbon struck out Travis Hafner and then forced Victor Martinez into a fielder's choice ground out. Runners were on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs for Ryan Garko. Garko took a nice swing on a Papelbon offering and as Garko left the box it appeared that he felt that the ball had a chance to clear the fence and tie the game. Luckily, Jacoby Ellsbury ranged over in centerfield and caught the ball in front of the warning track to end the treat.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Red Sox really poured it on. They scored 7 more runs capped off by a bases clearing double off the wall by Dustin Pedroia followed by 2 -run homer by Kevin Youkilis.

Papelbon came out to pitch the 9th inning and allowed a leadoff hit before retiring the rest of the side in order and sending the Red Sox to the World Series.

The final score was 11-2 and it gave the Red Sox a 4-3 series win. The Red Sox outscored Cleveland by an astounding 30-5 in the final 3 games of the series. Josh Beckett won series MVP, but there were many key contributors including JD Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz (in the first few games of the series).

The team will now face the Rockies in the World Series. Game 1 will take place at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. The Red Sox have homefield advantage because the American League won the All-Star Game again this year.

ALCS Game 6: Red Sox vs Indians

Going into Game 5, the Red Sox had to win 3 straight games against the Indians and from the outset I believed that the toughest game to win would be Game 6 with Curt Schilling going up against Fausto Carmona.

Despite Schilling's reputation as a big game pitcher, he struggled in his first start of the series so there were some doubts. Luckily, fear motivates Schilling and he sure pitched like it. It also helped that JD Drew came up with his biggest hit in a Red Sox uniform in the first inning. After failing to score in two chances with the bases loaded and no outs, JD Drew came to the plate for the Red Sox and it appeared that the team might squander another chance for a big inning. Luckily, JD Drew put an end to those chances when he absolutely crushed an offering from Fausto Carmona into the centerfield seats for a grand slam.

The hit gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. Schilling then worked in and out of trouble in the next couple of innings but only allowed 1 run. It appeared that the Red Sox would need more than 4 runs to win it, so it was a huge relif when they broke it open in the bottom of the 3rd with a 6 run inning. JD Drew collected his 5th RBI in that inning. Ellsbury, Lugo, and Youkilis also collected RBIs in the frame. The Red Sox ended the 3rd inning with a 10-1 advantage and the game ended 12-2 in favor of the Red Sox.

Schilling ended up pitching 7 innings and allowing 2 runs. Javier Lopez and Eric Gagne pitched perfect innings in relief.

The win on Saturday night ties the series at 3 games apiece and sets up a winner-takes-all Game 7 from Boston on Sunday night. Daisuke Matsuzaka will square off against Jake Westbrook in the pivotal game.

ALCS Game 5: Red Sox vs Indians

The Red Sox needed a big performance out of Josh Beckett to keep their season alive on Thursday night and that is exactly what he gave them. Beckett gave up a cheap run in the 1st inning but cruised from there and finished with 8 innings pitched. Beckett allowed 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and struck out 11.

Meanwhile for the Indians CC Sabathia struggled again and gave up 4 runs in 6 innings. Kevin Youkilis started the scoring for Boston with a solo homerun off of Sabathia in the 1st inning. Youkilis would finish with 3 RBIs. David Ortiz collected 2 RBIs of his own as the Red Sox broke it open in the late innings.

The final score had Boston on top 7-1, but the game was much closer than the final score indicated. The win leaves Boston still down 3-2 in the series, but keeps their season alive for another night.

October 18, 2007

ALCS Game 4: Red Sox vs Indians

Going into Game 4, the Red Sox desperately needed a win. Not only to tie up the series, but to guarantee a return to Fenway Park before the end of the series.

Tim Wakefield got the call for the Red Sox and Paul Byrd took the mound for the innings. Both veterans pitched extremely well without a blemish until the bottom of the 5th inning. Wakefield led off the inning by allowing a solo homerun to Casey Blake to put the Indians ahead 1-0. The Indians then added a couple of baserunners, in the process, Wakefield was able to record the 1st out of the inning. Asdrubal Cabrera was coming to the plate for the Indians and he popped a ball to 1st base in foul territory. The wind played with the ball, Youkilis lost it, and the ball dropped in giving Cabrera another chance. On his second chance, Cabrera smacked a ball right back at Tim Wakefield who stuck out his glove and almost made the plate. Had Wakefield made the play, it is likely that an inning ending double play would have occurred and the inning would be over with the Indians only plating 1 run. The other unfortunate fact: If Wakefield let the ball go through, it appeared that Dustin Pedroia was ready to turn an easy double play to end the inning. Unfortunately for Boston, the ball trickled off of Wakefield's glove and a run scored. By the time the inning was over, it was 7-0 Cleveland and the game was all but over.

The Red Sox answered quickly with back-to-back-to-back homeruns, but it was too little, too late. The 3 homeruns ended up being the only runs that the Red Sox would score in the game as they lost Game 4 by the score of 7-3.

Cleveland takes a commanding 3-1 series lead with one more game remaining at Jacobs Field. Josh Beckett will take the hill for the Red Sox and try to salvage their season against CC Sabathia. If Beckett can come away victorious, the Red Sox will have a shot as the series returns to Fenway Park for the final two games (if necessary). Here's hoping that Beckett can save the Red Sox season. Anything less than a World Series Title this year would be no less than a major disappointment for the Red Sox and their fans.

ALCS Game 3: Red Sox vs Indians

With the series tied at one game apiece, it was clear that Game 3 was to be pivotal in determining the final outcome of the ALCS.

With that in mind, the Red Sox needed a shut down performance from Daisuke Matsuzaka or a good offensive performance against Jake Westbrook. Unfortunately, they got neither of the two. Matsuzaka didn't pitch terribly, but he was far from shutting the Indians down. The scoring began in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Matsuzaka had recorded 2 outs and the Indians had a man on base with Kenny Lofton at the plate. Lofton got the fastball that he wanted and took the Red Sox rookie deep to put the Indians up 2-0.

The Indians padded that lead in the bottom of the 5th inning after Matsuzaka and the Red Sox narrowly missed getting out of the inning with a nifty double play thanks to Dustin Pedroia. Unfortunately, Pedroia's strong throw was beaten to the bag by hundredths of a second. The Indians scored a run on that play after already scoring a run earlier in the inning to make it 4-0.

The Red Sox showed signs of life in the top of the 7th inning when Jason Varitek clubbed a 2-run homerun off of Jake Westbrook. Following the homerun, Westbrook's night was finished with 6.2 innings pitched and 2 runs against.

The Indians bullpen, which has been very strong this postseason, finished off the Red Sox. Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt, and Joe Borowski finished the job and put the Indians up 2-1 in the series with 2 games remaining at Jacobs Field.

ALCS Game 2: Red Sox vs Indians

Neither Curt Schilling or Fausto Carmona was nearly as good as expected. Schilling went 4.2 innings and allowed 5 runs, while Fausto Carmona allowed 4 runs in 4 innings of work.

Manny Delcarmen took over for Schilling and finished the 5th inning and in the bottom half the Red Sox scored 3 runs to take the lead. Runs were scored off of a 2-run homerun by Manny Ramirez and a solo shot by Mike Lowell after David Ortiz hustled out an fielders choice to keep the inning alive.

With a 6-5 lead and the Red Sox bullpen in control of things, it appeared that the Red Sox werein good shape. Unfortunately, Manny Delcarmen quickly coughed up the lead and allowed the Indians to tie the game at 6. The score remained deadlocked until the top of the 11th inning.

It should be noted that the Red Sox had a real chance to win in the bottom of the 9th (Ellsbury on 2nd with 2 outs). Youkilis lined out hard to Grady Sizemore to end that inning. When the ball made contact with the bat of Youkilis, it appeared that the Red Sox might be taking a 2-0 series lead. It was not to be. Grady Sizemore made a sliding catch to preserve the tie. In the bottom of the 10th, the Red Sox again failed to capitalize. This time, their 3, 4, and 5 hitters were due up against Tom Mastny.

After those failures, the top of the 11th began and it turned out to be big trouble for the Red Sox. Eric Gagne started the inning with a strikeout before allowing two consecutive batters to reach base. Gagne was replaced by Javier Lopez who would face the lefthanded Trot Nixon. It appeared to be a very smart move as I'm sure all Red Sox remember how bad Nixon was against lefthanded pitching. Unfortunately, Nixon found a pitch he liked and deposited it into the outfield for the go-ahead RBI. The Red Sox would still have a chance in the bottom half if they could keep it close but the Indians blew it wide open against Lopez and Jon Lester. By the time the top of the 11th was over, it was 13-6 Indians and the game ended that way.

The victory was much needed for Cleveland and it ties the series up at 1 game apiece. The series will move to Jacobs Field for the next 3 games.

October 13, 2007

ALCS Game 1: Red Sox vs Indians

Josh Beckett turned in another solid postseason performance for the Boston Red Sox on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians. The performance was not as brilliant as his first start of the postseason, but it didn't need to be.

Beckett through 80 pitches through 6 innings and gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits. Beckett struck out 7 and walked none. Beckett has now thrown 15 innings this postseason, allowing 2 runs, striking out 15, and walking none. As the numbers show, he's been incredible. The efficient and short night came as a result of a large Boston lead and opens up the possibility for Beckett to start Game 4 if the Red Sox are in a hole. If not, he'll likely start Game 5 as was planned by the team.

CC Sabathia, while great in the regular season, has looked awful in his 2 postseason starts and its starting to appear as if he's having trouble battling some nerves. After struggling against the Yankees in the ALDS, Sabathia gave up 8 earned runs to the Red Sox and walked 5 over the course of 4.1 innings.

The Indians struck first against Beckett thanks to a homerun by Travis Hafner, but the Red Sox quickly answered in the bottom half of the 1st inning before bailing Sabathia out of trouble with a double play. Beckett and Sabathia both tossed scoreless frames in the 2nd inning, but it was the 3rd inning when the Red Sox began to break out.

Manny Ramirez started things off with a bases loaded walk. Mike Lowell followed with a 2-RBI ground-rule double. Jason Varitek added another run with an RBI groundout to make it 5-1 Boston.

Sabathia settled down again in the 4th before allowing 3 more runs to score in the 5th, ending his night. From there, the Red Sox just coasted to victory. Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless inning of relief, Javier Lopez allowed 1 run in the 8th inning, and Eric Gagne pitched a scoreless, but shaky 9th inning. Gagne struggled with the control but was hitting 94 MPH on the gun and struck out the side to end the ballgame.

Every Boston started recorded at least one hit while David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined to reach base 10 times for the Red Sox. Mike Lowell and Manny Ramirez had 3 RBIs apiece. Jason Varitek and Bobby Kielty contributed 2 more each in the rout.

The Red Sox were also to wear out the Indians bullpen a little bit as a result of the early exit by Sabathia. Jensen Lewis, Aaron Fultz, Tom Mastny, and Joe Borowski all pitched for the Indians in the loss. The Indians managed to salvage Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt, their two top relievers.

The win gives Boston a 1-0 series lead in the best of 7 series.

October 12, 2007

ALCS Preview: Red Sox vs Indians

The Red Sox advanced to the ALCS by handling the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 3 games. Boston outscored Anaheim by an impressive 19-4 margin in that series and were lead by great pitching performances by Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.

The Indians move on as a result of taking down the New York Yankees in 4 games despite a below par performance by CC Sabathia in Game 1. The Indians were able to win Sabathia's start and they took Game 2 after Fausto Carmona tossed a gem. The Yankees battled back in Game 3, but Paul Byrd and the Indians were too much in Game 4.

Now, the two winners will square off and fight for the right to advance to the 2007 World Series to play the winner of Colorado/Arizona. Boston took the season series against Cleveland, but then again so did the New York Yankees. This should be a good one, but who has the edge to move on?

Offense: The questions revolving around Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz have been answered as both look like they are in top form after great performances in the ALDS against the Angels. Youkilis appears to be getting back to 100% as well (he hit a homerun of his own in Game 1 to start things for the Red Sox).

The Indians have a great core of offensive players as well including Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Kenny Lofton, and Ryan Garko.

In the regular season, the Red Sox were 3rd in runs scored. The Indians finished 6th in that department. Boston also has a slight edge on the bases as they were in the middle of the pack in stolen bases. By comparison, the Indians finished near the bottom.

One thing that could be in the Indians favor: They hit more homeruns in the regular season and arguably have a better 1-2 pitching punch.

We'll give Boston the edge in the offense department.

Starting Pitching: The Red Sox finished 1st in the American League in team ERA, while the Indians finished 3rd. The fact of the matter, however, is that CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona will likely get the ball at least two times apiece and their ERAs were lower than that of Boston's #1 and #2 starters (Beckett and Schilling).

Sabathia was very shaky in his start against the Yankees, but Fausto Carmona was lights out as usual. Meanwhile, Curt Schilling's postseason resume suggests that he may be one of the best postseason pitchers of all time. Josh Beckett is also quickly establishing himself as a big game pitcher as well. Beckett has 3 career postseason shutouts at 27 years ofage.

Jake Westbrook will start Game 3 for the Indians and will face Daisuke Matsuzaka. In Game 4, it appears that Tim Wakefield will make the start against Paul Byrd. The Red Sox need to beat Westbrook and Byrd to give themselves a good chance at moving on to the World Series.

This is very close, Cleveland's 1-2 punch had better numbers in the regular season but Boston's top two starters are proven commodities in the postseason. I'm going to say that starting pitching is even only because of a lack of postseason experience for Carmona and Sabathia.

Bullpen: Boston also has a slight edge in the bullpen; however, with the emergence of Rafael Perez and the continued dominance of Rafael Betancourt, that gap could be closing. The big difference lies in the closer. The Red Sox have Jonathan Papelbon (DHL Delivery Man of the Year) closing out their games, while the Indians have an often shaky Joe Borowski doing the job for them. It will be interesting to see if any of the games are decided by blown saves.

Other Factors: Boston has been very good defensively all year long. Cleveland hasn't been bad, but the Red Sox have undoubtedly been better in that department.

Terry Francona continues to push all of the right buttons in the postseason. He seems to turn into a different type of manager once October rolls around. He managed the bullpen in Game 2 of the ALDS brilliantly and it was a huge factor in the team's victory. Francona also used Jacoby Ellsbury very well off the bench in the ALDS.

Hideki Okajima answered some of the concerns about his arm, but Eric Gagne only drew 1 inning in the ALDS and gave up an earned run. The question of how effective he can be is still in the air. Luckily for the Red Sox, Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin have pitched well all year long and are capable of picking up the slack if Gagne can't. In fact, I think Francona might look to Delcarmen before looking to Gagne in this series, as he did in the ALCS.

Prediction: Red Sox in 7 games. They have the homefield advantage and the postseason experience. They also appear to have a plan against Sabathia as it appears that the only lefthanded starter in Sabathia's game will be David Ortiz. Bobby Kielty will play in place of JD Drew because of past history against Sabathia and the fact that Sabathia absolutely devours lefthanded hitters.

October 07, 2007

ALDS Game 3: Red Sox vs Angels

Curt Schilling may not have been outwardly upset by the fact that he was starting Game 3 instead of Game 2, but he sure pitched like that was the case on Sunday afternoon.

Schilling pitched 7 shutout innings. His control was impeccable throughout the performance as he allowed 6 hits, 1 walk, and struck out 4. Schilling left with a 2-0 lead after finishing the 7th inning. The Red Sox runs coming from back-to-back solo homeruns by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Unbelievably, it was the first time the duo went back-to-back in 2007.

In the top of the 8th inning, the Red Sox really broke it open and sealed their fate as participants in the 2007 American League Championship Series. Collecting big hits in the inning were Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and Coco Crisp. By the time the 8th inning was over, the Red Sox had scored 7 runs to take a 9-0 lead.

Hideki Okajima and Eric Gagne finished off the 8th and 9th innings for the Red Sox who will now wait to see who they face in the ALCS. It will either be the Indians or the Yankees and currently the Indians hold a 2-0 series lead.

Game 1 of the ALCS will take place on Friday night.

ALDS Game 2: Red Sox vs Angels

Daisuke Matsuzaka didn't fare as well as Red Sox fans had hoped in his first career postseason start in the Major Leagues. Matsuzaka only lasted 4.2 innings, giving up 3 runs and leaving with a deficit. He struggled with his control throughout.

When Matsuzaka left with a deficit, it felt as if the Red Sox were on the ropes as they had been struggling to put together anything against Escobar since the early going (The Red Sox took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a 1st inning 2-rbi single by JD Drew; but the lead was relinquished by Matsuzaka in the top of the 2nd).

The Angels held onto the lead until the bottom of the 5th inning when Mike Lowell hit a game-tying sacrifice fly. The run may never have scored if not for a young fan in the first row who broke up a foul out to the catcher earlier in the inning.

The score remained tied as Shields and Speier pitched well for the Angels and Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched well for the Red Sox. The Red Sox pen may very well have been the story as they picked up Matsuzaka and kept the Red Sox in the game.

Entering the bottom of the 9th, the game was still tied. Julio Lugo led off the inning with basehit before being moved over to 2nd base by Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis struck out swinging to give the Angels 2 outs in the inning. With David Ortiz coming to the plate and 1st base open, the Angels opted to intentionally walk him. A decision they most likely regret at this point.

Manny Ramirez followed the Ortiz walk and took ball 1 from Angels closer, Frankie Rodriguez. On the ensuing pitch, Manny Ramirez took a gorgeous swing on a Rodriguez offering. Once the bat connected with the ball, the Fenway crowd knew that the game was over.

The homerun was the 1st walkoff with the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez. The 447 foot shot was the 3rd longest of the year at Fenway Park and it gave the Red Sox a 6-3 win and a 2-0 series lead.

October 03, 2007

ALDS Game 1: Red Sox vs Angels

Josh Beckett turned in a masterful performance in Game 1, leading the Red Sox to victory. It was arguably one of his best performances of the season as he went 9 innings, allowed only 4 hits, and struck out 8. Beckett was also very efficient, throwing only 108 pitches.

Meanwhile, John Lackey's well-documented struggles at Fenway Park continued early in the game. Kevin Youkilis started things off for the Red Sox with a solo homerun in the 1st inning. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez followed with hits, but the Red Sox were unable to put any more runs across. Lackey held the Red Sox scoreless in the 2nd inning as well, but David Ortiz connected on a 2-run homerun in the 3rd. Manny Ramirez followed it with a single and ended up scoring to make it 4-0 Red Sox.

After the 3rd inning, the Red Sox were only able to collect one more hit (a single off of Lackey's glove by JD Drew), but they didn't need any more offense as Beckett cruised to a Game 1 victory.

Defensive replacement Jacoby Ellsbury made a very nice play in Left Field in the 9th inning. Ellsbury had taken over for Manny Ramirez.

The win gives the Red Sox a 1-0 series lead.

October 01, 2007

ALDS Preview: Red Sox vs Angels

The Red Sox and the Angels will begin their American League Division Series on Wednesday night at 6:30 PM from Fenway Park. Two Cy Young candidates will take to the hill for their respective teams. Josh Beckett will go for Boston and he will be opposed by the ace of the Angels staff, John Lackey. Lackey, however, has struggled against Boston throughout his career. This is especially true when he pitches at Fenway Park where he has a 7.98 career ERA. How Lackey pitches will be a major factor in this series.

The Red Sox and the Angels were the two best teams in baseball for a majority of the 2007 season, so who has the edge? Here's the breakdown.

The Red Sox and the Angels have two very different styles of offense. The Red Sox can score runs in bunches, while the Angels like to use their speed on the basepaths and play small ball. On the whole, the Red Sox offense is more dynamic. They are now among the league leaders in stolen bases, collecting 96 on the year. The Angels stole a total of 139. The Red Sox knocked in 867 runs this season, compared to 822 for Anaheim. Boston also outhomered Anaheim by a fair amount.

Another major issue in the series will be the health of some of the Angels key hitters and the health of Manny Ramirez. Ramirez looked fine in his return from injury, but he still hasn't played a full game since returning. It appears that Manny is able to play a full game without issue and that Terry Francona was simply being careful with one of his key sluggers. Gary Matthews, on the other hand, is a player who can make an impact with his speed. Unfortunately for Anaheim, Matthews has battled with serious knee and ankle issues of late. Vladimir Guerrero is another player of concern. Guerrero has been recently relegated to the DH role as a result of a triceps/forearm injury.

Keep an eye on JD Drew this series. He's been hot throughout September, playing some of his best baseball of the season. Drew also clubbed a 3-run homer on Saturday which allowed the Red Sox to clinch the best record in the American League. With the fans behind him, JD Drew might have his confidence back at the right time. David Ortiz has also been hot of late, hitting over .400 in September. He also appears to have his power stroke back and claims to be feeling better after he took a cortisone shot for his balky knee.

Boston clearly has the edge in the offensive game, but the Angels do have a highly capable offense. If Vladimir Guerrero is hot, the Red Sox will have no qualms about pitching around him with Garret Anderson as his only protection.

Starting Pitching: John Lackey and Josh Beckett will square off in Game 1 (and Game 4 if necessary). Lackey has historically struggled against the Red Sox, especially in Fenway Park and nobody can be quite sure of the reason. Despite his 7.98 lifetime ERA in Fenway Park, I believe that John Lackey will pitch well in his start(s). The only question is, will he be able to outpitch Josh Beckett?

Beckett is coming off of a lackluster start against the Twins, but he should be able to bounce back in the postseason where he thrived during the Marlins championship run.

Kelvim Escobar and Daisuke Matsuzaka will oppose each other in Game 2 (and Game 5 if necessary). The season numbers favor Escobar, however, Matsuzaka has been pitching better lately. Dice-K has no previous playoff experience, but he has pitched and excelled in some big games. Just remember back to the World Baseball Classic of 2006 of which he was the MVP. His strong performances for Japan allowed them to become the first champion of the tournament.

Curt Schilling will face Jared Weaver in Game 3 from Anaheim. Historically, Schilling has been a great pitcher in the postseason and he should have a little bit of gas left in the tank for some additional playoff magic.

The Red Sox season starting pitching ERA was lower than that of the Angels, however, 4th and 5th starters are included in that equation and we won't be seeing any of them in this series.

The Red Sox have the slight advantage here.

Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez have been studs for their respective teams all season long. It will likely be the middle relief that plays a large role in this series.

The Red Sox have some questions in that department as Hideki Okajima has recently battled a tired arm and Eric Gagne has struggled since his acquisition. The good news: Gagne has been much better recently, using his changeup and curveball while Hideki Okajima pitched decently in his 2 appearances after returning from tired arm.

The Red Sox should be seeing alot of Justin Speier, Scot Shields, and Darren Oliver (David Ortiz will be anyway). Speier, as expected, has been very good all season long. Scot Shields, on the other hand, has struggled mightily of recent. Shields has a 3.86 ERA on the season, a number that has risen steadily during the second half of the season.

David Ortiz is 2/9 lifetime against Darren Oliver, but something tells me he'll get the best of Oliver at some point during this series.

Also pitching out of the bullpen will be Mike Timlin who has regained my respect with a strong comeback season. Manny Delcarmen should also get some action in the series. Javier Lopez will be the lefty specialist.

Tim Wakefield and Julian Tavarez were left off the playoff roster. Wakefield due to a sore back; Tavarez probably due to subpar performance.

It appears that the bullpens are about even, only because of the uncertainties around Eric Gagne and Hideki Okajima. If those two are on the top of their game, Boston's bullpen has the strong advantage.

Other Factors: The Red Sox have been very tough at Fenway Park this season and will get to play 3 games there if the series goes the distance. The Red Sox went 51-30 at home this season, while the Angels went 40-41 on the road. The Angels had the best home record, but will only get to play a maximum of two games there.

Terry Francona's bullpen management could also play a part in this series. It will be interesting to see how much he trusts Eric Gagne and Hideki Okajima and in what situations he is willing to use them in.

Jacoby Ellsbury will likely be coming off the bench for the majority of the games. He will give the Red Sox a good speed option off the bench for the late innings. He may also prove to be a very good late inning defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez if the Sox have the lead.

Prediction: The Red Sox mixture of starting pitching and offense will prove to be too much for the Angels. Boston wins the series in 5 games.

Twins vs Red Sox (9/27-9/31)

Game 1: Boof Bonser somehow managed to outduel Josh Beckett on Thursday night due to a rough start by Beckett.

Beckett allowed 10 hits and 5 runs in his last start of the regular season. The Red Sox hung tough and scored 3 runs against Bonser, but it wasn't enough.

The Red Sox lost 5-4 despite offensive contributions from David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and JD Drew. They almost came back against Joe Nathan in the 9th, but were unable to come through with 1 out and the tying run on 3rd base.

Bryan Corey, Hideki Okajima, and Manny Delcarmen all turned in solid work out of the bullpen.

Game 2: Going into Friday's game, the Red Sox needed a win and a Yankees loss to clinch the American League East. Daisuke Matsuzaka helped them complete the first of their needs with an 8 inning, 2 ER gem in his final start of the season.

David Ortiz and Mike Lowell were able to provide the needed run support to turn Matsuzaka's gem into a victory. Jonathan Papelbon closed the door in the 9th inning for his 37th save.

It appeared that the Yankees would stay alive in the AL East race for one more day as they took a 9-6 lead into the 9th inning against Baltimore. The lead vanished as Mariano Rivera gave up 3 runs in the 9th to force the game into extra inning. In extra innings, the orioles were able to finish off the Yankees with a bunt single by Melvin Mora to win the game. These events set off a celebration by the Red Sox and their fans at Fenway Park.

The Yankees will still make the playoffs as the American League Wildcard team.

Game 3: A day after the Red Sox clinched the AL East, they were able to clinch the best record in the AL and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Behind a solid 7 innings by Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox were able to hang in the game long enough for JD Drew to hit a go-ahead 3-run homerin the bottom of the 7th inning. The shot gave the Red Sox a 6-4 lead that Javier Lopez and Hideki Okajima were able to hold on to.

Game 4: The Red Sox lost their season finale on Sunday as they gave alot of players the entire day off or a portion of it.

Julian Tavarez got the start for the Red Sox and allowed 3 runs in 3 innings. Jon Lester pitched 2 scoreless innings out of the pen. Mike Timlin, Manny Delcarmen, and Eric Gagne pitched perfect innings as well.

The Red Sox finish the regular season with a league best 96-66 mark, 2 games ahead of the New York Yankees.

On Deck: The Red Sox will begin their American League Division Series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday at 6:30 PM. Josh Beckett will face John Lackey in the opener from Fenway Park.

September 25, 2007

Athletics vs Red Sox (9/25-9/26)

Game 1: Curt Schilling pitched 6 strong innings on Tuesday night against the Athletics. He allowed 6 hits, 1 run, and struck out 6.

The only run scored on Schilling was a homerun in the 1st inning by Daric Barton which gave the A's an early lead. Gaudin gave the run back in the bottom of the 1st and the game stayed tied until the 4th inning when Gaudin lost his control. The Red Sox drew 4 consecutive walks off of Gaudin and ended up plating 2 runs in the 4th inning.

The Red Sox were able to tack on some insurance runs in the 7th and 8th innings. David Ortiz hit a 2-run homer in the 8th to make it a 7-1 Red Sox lead.

Papelbon, who threw one pitch in the 8th inning to bail Eric Gagne out of a jam was removed in favor of Bryan Corey. Corey allowed 3 consecutive hits to start the inning but he got the next batter to fly out to JD Drew. The game ended when Shannon Stewart hit a bloop to Dustin Pedroia with 1 out. Pedroia snagged it and threw it to 2nd for a double play.

The Yankees game is currently tied in the 8th inning. A Yankees win means that the Red Sox remain 2 games ahead, a Yankee loss moves the Red Sox to 3 games ahead. The magic number to clinch the division is now 4 and could be down to 3 before the night is over.

Game 2: Jon Lester turned in some very odd results in his final start of the regular season. Lester was masterful, striking out 9. Unfortunately, Lester allowed the A's to score 4 times in his 4.1 innings of work.

The Red Sox offense, however, was up to the challenge. Mike Lowell collected 3 hits and 5 RBIs. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez also had 3 hits apiece. Kevin Youkilis went 1/3 in his 2nd game back from injury.

Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin, Eric Gagne, and Julian Tavarez finished the last 4.2 innings of the game for the Red Sox. Tavarez was the only one of them to allow a run.

On Deck: The Red Sox will begin a 4-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Josh Beckett will face Boof Bonser in the opener.

Devil Rays vs Red Sox (9/21-9/23)

Game 1: Josh Beckett collected his 20th win on Friday night and at the same time, he stopped the bleeding for the Boston Red Sox.

Beckett pitched 6 innings, allowing one run and striking out eight. The Red Sox offense was also able to give Beckett some support. David Ortiz led the charge with a homerun and 4 RBIs. Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and Jacoby Ellsbury also made strong contributions in the 8-1 victory.

Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, and Eric Gagne combined for a scoreless 7th, 8th, and 9th to finish it off for Beckett and the Red Sox.

The Yankees also lost on Friday night which gave the Red Sox a 2.5 game lead.

Game 2: All the Red Sox needed to clinch the playoffs on Saturday night was a victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Daisuke Matsuzaka drew the start and looked decent. He left having only allowed two runs in 6.2 innings, unfortunately he left some runners on base and Javier Lopez allowed them to score when he gave up a homerun to Carlos Pena.

The Devil Rays took a 6-5 lead and took it to the 9th inning before Al Reyes entered the ballgame. Reyes had already blown two saves against the Red Sox this season. Jason Varitek started off the inning with a game-tying solo homerun. A couple of batters later, the Red Sox would ensure themselves a trip to the playoffs when Julio Lugo blasted a 2-run homer off of Reyes.

Papelbon entered the game in the bottom of the 9th and retired the Devil Rays in order on 12 pitches. The win kept the Red Sox 2.5 games ahead of the Yankees who beat Toronto in extra innings.

Game 3: Tim Wakefield's recent struggles continued against a team he normally dominates. Wakefield allowed 4 runs in 5 innings against the Devil Rays.

The Red Sox battled back with 3 runs in top of the 6th inning, but Tavarez allowed the Devil Rays to take a 5-3 lead when he allowed them to put across a run.

The Red Sox collected another run in the 8th when Alex Cora hit a rare homerun. Unfortunately for Boston, nobody was on base. For Al Reyes, Sunday was a better day than Saturday as he was able to retire the Red Sox in the 9th inning and seal the deal for the Devil Rays.

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays again on Sunday which dropped the Red Sox lead to 1.5 games, however, on Monday afternoon the Yankees lost 4-1 to the Blue Jays. The Red Sox will go into Tuesday with a 2 game lead in the AL East.

On Deck: The Red Sox will begin a 2-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night. Curt Schilling and Chad Gaudin will square off in the opener from Fenway Park.