Top stats to know: Orioles at Red Sox

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox face off on Sunday Night Baseball at 7 PM ET in a matchup of veteran pitchers. Here are some of the stats our broadcast crew will be focusing on tonight.

Ubaldo Jimenez struggling
Jimenez has had his issues against the American League East teams, no more so than the Red Sox. He’s 1-3 with a 10.27 ERA in five starts against them (he’s also 1-4 with a 6.67 ERA against the New York Yankees).

The only active pitcher who has made at least five starts with a worse ERA against the Red Sox is Rick Porcello (10.42).

Jimenez closed 2013 with an AL-best 1.82 ERA after the All-Star Break, even with a fastball that has dropped nearly six mph over the last four seasons to its current 90.3 average.

Jimenez has got battered around a bit in his first three starts. Opponents are hitting .348 and slugging .576 against him and his ERA/WHIP combo currently stands at 7.31/2.06.

Peavy off to solid start
In contrast to Jimenez, Red Sox starter Jake Peavy has a 1.93 ERA and .179 opponents’ batting average through three starts. Hitters are 12 for 67 against him this season.
Jake Peavy
Peavy appears to have made two key adjustments to his approach over the last few years – throw more strikes early and increase the frequency with which he’s pitching batters inside.

Peavy’s first-pitch strike rate has climbed by year from 57.7 percent (2010) to 66.7 percent in 2013, though it’s dipped to 55.1 percent so far this season.

He’s 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts against the Orioles, with a 23 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio and no homers allowed in 20 innings.

Red Sox situational struggles
The Red Sox are currently hitting .223 with runners on base and .207 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 25th and 26th in the majors entering the day.

The hitters struggling the most are a couple of the younger ones- Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts are a combined 4 for 43.

Red Sox hitter to watch: Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia is hitting .250 this season, but has been better the last couple of days since getting a clean bill of health. He’s 5 for 17 with four walks and five runs scored in his last four games.

Opposing pitchers have taken to pounding Pedroia with fastballs until he proves he can hurt them this season. He’s seen a fastball or some variant 66 percent of the time this season, compared to 57 percent in 2013.

Orioles hitter to watch; Chris Davis
Chris Davis hit 53 home runs for the Orioles last season, but has only one in his first 16 games in 2014.
Chris Davis
The flaw in Davis’ game so far has been an inability to hit the pitch in the upper half of the strike zone.

Last season, Davis hit 15 home runs against pitches to that area. This season, he has only one hit against the 100 pitches he’s seen (he had 54 against 1,071 pitches in 2013).

O's defense key to contender status 

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
Adam JonesOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesAdam Jones' prowess in center field is paramount to Baltimore's success.
BOSTON -- There was no batting practice for the Boston Red Sox or Baltimore Orioles here Saturday morning, despite the warm sunshine that enveloped Fenway Park. The warning track around the entire field was filled with fans waiting to take photographs of Red Sox players who slowly rotated toward them.

Meanwhile, the Orioles players lounged in the shoebox-sized visitors clubhouse. Adam Jones picked at some breakfast and chatted about Jack Murphy Stadium, while Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop and others watched television.

This was a rare day when the Orioles would not go through their regular extensive defensive preparation with their infield work and with outfielders working on throwing to a particular spot. It's a practice which isn't always commonplace these days.

Like every other team in the AL East, the Orioles have their issues. Manny Machado is out, although he is making progress. Their starting rotation has been spotty. They've had a flu bug burrow into their ranks in recent days.

But day after day, this is a team that catches the ball. “That’s the key,” Jones said. “Don’t make mistakes.”

Shortstop J.J. Hardy is a Gold Glover, and so is Jones and catcher Matt Wieters. The Orioles acquired outfielder David Lough during the winter largely because they loved the defensive metrics attached to his play, and even as Ryan Flaherty struggled at the plate early this season, Buck Showalter has seen value in his work because of his steadiness in the field.

Going into Saturday’s game, the Orioles had -- remarkably -- made only three errors on the season, the fewest in the majors. They had allowed only two unearned runs. Somebody asked Showalter before Saturday’s game about the Orioles’ almost pristine error total, and Showalter jokingly gawked, in acknowledgment of a possible jinx situation, and asked the reporter where he would be during the game if Baltimore made an error, so he would know where to aim his death stare.

The Orioles made an error in the first inning: Schoop fumbled a grounder in the middle of a Boston rally, and a run scored. The rookie’s defensive skills are exceptional and he has played third base well by all accounts, but he has made three of the team’s four errors, and when Gold Glover Machado comes back, Schoop will play second base.

It was just a one-day hiccup in three weeks of the regular season. No matter the alignment, the defense will continue to be at the core of whatever the Orioles accomplish.

We’ve got the Orioles and Red Sox on "Sunday Night Baseball" on ESPN and WatchESPN, with a special 7 ET start time. Ubaldo Jimenez will be pitching for the Orioles, looking to be more aggressive with his mechanics. Machado played in his first extended spring game.

MLB's new investigation

Last week, a document retention memo was issued to all 30 teams by Major League Baseball, as it began its investigation of the article posted here April 9, and positioned itself to examine the history of communication of the hundreds of folks employed by the clubs: text messages, phone records, etc. Here's a look at the situation from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The investigation was prompted by a strongly worded statement from new union chief Tony Clark on April 11:

“I am angered that numerous, anonymous baseball executives have blatantly and intentionally violated our collective bargaining agreement by offering to ESPN comments about the free agent values of Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. These statements undermine the free agent rights of the players and depress their market value. Today, I have called upon the Commissioner’s Office to investigate immediately and thoroughly the sources of these statements and to take appropriate action to enforce our agreement.”

It’s the responsibility of Clark and MLB to protect the integrity of the collective bargaining agreement, of course. But if this is really about the CBA -- which binds club employees and agents from leaking details of negotiations to reporters, or passing on imaginary offers -- then presumably the union will also begin a corollary investigation of the communications of agents and their text messages, emails and phone records to track the interaction with specific reporters, and cross-reference those documents with subsequent reports.

When an agent informs a reporter that a player has drawn interest from a team or teams when in fact there is none, as part of an effort to artificially bolster the player’s market value, that’s a CBA violation. When a report comes out that a player has offers from X number of teams, where is that almost certainly coming from? Yes, the agent. And this has been happening for years and years, and Clark knows it.

When an agent leaks the terms of a deal before the full deal is completed, that’s a violation of the player’s rights under the CBA. But it happens all the time, and MLB and the union know it. Some of the particular reporter-agent quid pro quo relationships are so ingrained and such a consistent stream of seeming disinformation that they've become Baghdad Bob punch lines within the industry.

Similarly, if Major League Baseball is devoted to protecting the sanctity of the CBA, then it will investigate the cases of when club-operated websites have reported news of a contractual agreement -- before the completion of a physical exam, in some cases -- which is a blatant violation of the agreement.

But in all likelihood, the ongoing investigation of the April 9 piece will be an isolated exercise, because in fact this isn’t really about a CBA violation.

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Orioles-Red Sox Preview

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20


Jake Peavy faces Ubaldo Jimenez in the Red Sox's matchup with the Orioles on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Sox and Doubront show winning form

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
BOSTON -- It was a win emblematic of the Red Sox 2013 World Series championship season.

All the elements were there: a solid starting pitching performance, key situational hitting, the back end of the bullpen keeping it clean, and, oh, even a smattering of fiery emotion. As the Red Sox (8-10) got back within earshot of .500 with a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, there were signs of the winning baseball the team has struggled to put together through 18 games.

The same sentiment could be applied to Saturday’s starter, Felix Doubront.

[+] EnlargeDoubront
AP Photo/Michael DwyerAfter a rough first inning, Doubront set down the next 13 batters in order. I don't even know what happened, he said, "but I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much. Then, I calmed down."
After a 29-pitch first inning when Doubront again struggled with his command and spotted the Orioles a 1-0 lead, the left-hander didn’t let it snowball. Instead, Doubront responded in the affirmative, sitting down the next 13 in order.

Although he didn’t figure in the decision after the Orioles tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth, Doubront put forward just about his most consistent performance this year. He entered Saturday’s game with just eight strikeouts on the season and nearly matched his season total, fanning seven. Doubront pitched from ahead, walking two, while allowing five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“I don’t even know what happened,” he said of the first, “but I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much. Then, I calmed down and tried to throw strikes and get a quick inning, and I did.”

As with any pitcher, it comes back to control for Doubront -- and that applied to his complete arsenal on Saturday. His changeup bit, the sinker had down-and-away motion. It was all down in the zone.

And, he got ahead.

“One thing that we’ve become familiar with Felix is that it takes an inning or two for him to get in the rhythm of the game,” Farrell said. “He made a couple of pitches in that first inning to keep the inning just at one run, but after that he got into a very good rhythm.”

Even as things could have come unglued in the sixth, Doubront bit down. After surrendering a two-out double to Adam Jones and then hitting Chris Davis with a 2-0 pitch, an out call at first base on a Nelson Cruz grounder was reversed. The result was a run scored and the inning continued. Then, the bases were loaded on a Brock Holt error. But Doubront lived to see another inning by inducing a J.J. Hardy fly-out to end the frame.

“He’s still trying to graduate and not make as many mistakes,” catcher David Ross said. “I think he can, as you saw tonight, keep a team off balance. He gave up that last run, I’m sure he didn’t intend to hang that curveball to Jones, and then the inning kind of got away from him and giving up that run. But all in all, it was a pretty good day for Felix.”

Now, it’s about transferring momentum to the next start.

“Last time out in New York, it took him about four innings to get to that rhythm,” manager John Farrell said. “I think today he went out with a little bit more of a mindset of just attacking the strike zone rather than thinking about delivery or arm angle or arm slot -- just more executing pitches.”

Holt giving Red Sox a timely jolt

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
BOSTON -- Upon recalling Brock Holt on Friday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the infielder was brought in to help spark the bottom-third of his team’s lineup.

Make Holt 2-for-2 in that department.

Holt hit a go-ahead RBI triple in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. The clutch hit came a day after Holt went 2-for-4 with an RBI hitting out of the no. 9 spot in his season debut.

“You want to go out and play well any time you’re out there,” Holt said. “To get these first two ones under my belt and to have a little bit of success, hopefully [I can] just keep carrying it over game by game.”

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesHolt was fired up after scoring on a Jonathan Herrera safety squeeze in the seventh inning.
Following a Mike Carp walk delivered by Orioles starter Bud Norris to start the seventh, catcher David Ross came to the plate looking to bunt Carp over to second. After several pitches from Norris came high-and-tight to Ross while he attempted to bunt, the two exchanged words, prompting both benches to clear briefly.

Although Ross, who ended up striking out, downplayed the situation after the game, Holt said the moment helped to fire up the team.

“Bunting is not an easy thing to do, that’s why we’ve got nine guys on our team,” he said. “Guys are going to have to pick guys up every now and then.”

After both teams returned to their dugouts, Holt wasted no time in taking advantage, lining a 92-mph fastball from Norris toward the right-center field gap between Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Thinking triple out of the box, the 25-year-old took advantage of a Jones bobble to make it into third base standing.

“A big hit by Brock Holt, that was huge him coming through right there,” Ross said. “We need more timely hits. It was nice having a young guy coming and getting some big hits like that.”

With Holt now standing on third and one out in the inning, Farrell called for shortstop Jonathan Herrera to lay down a bunt against Orioles reliever Evan Meek. Meek, who hadn’t allowed any of his two inherited runners to score this season entering Saturday’s game, got Herrera to foul a bunt before he executed a safety squeeze to put the Red Sox up by two runs.

“As we’ve seen with Jonathan, very good bat handler, good bat control,” Farrell said. “Lays down, once again, a very good bunt.”

Farrell said that Herrera’s bunting ability was something the Red Sox had in mind when they acquired him in December.

“We were well aware of the type of offensive player he was,” Farrell said. “Switch-hitter, can do pretty much the same type of offensive approach from both sides of the plate. He’s a very good player that takes advantage of his skills.”

Farrell also spoke highly of Holt, who is now 3-for-7 with two RBIs in his two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. Holt was hitting .380 with eight extra-base hits in his first 12 games with the PawSox, and Farrell is happy to be getting similar production out of him at the major league level.

“What we’ve seen, I know it’s just two games, but he’s shown a little bit more authority with some ability to impact the baseball, particularly to the pull side,” Farrell said. “He does have that extra-base ability. He was doing it in Pawtucket and this continued here.

“He wasn’t going to come up to sit for us, we were going to play him, particularly against right-handed starters," Farrell said. "He’s continued on with what has earned his promotion and that’s been a very good offensive approach.”

Holt said he’ll continue to keep himself at an even keel moving forward.

“Baseball’s a funny game, you can be the hero one day and a goat the next,” he said. “You’ve just got to come in, don’t get too high, don’t get too low.”

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 4, Orioles 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19

BOSTON -- A quality start from Felix Doubront and a seventh-inning rally full of intrigue yielded the Red Sox a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles before a sellout crowd of 37,689 Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Here’s how it went down:

For Felix, a cat-like rebound: After a shaky start, Doubront found his groove in the middle innings.

Despite striking out the side in the first, Doubront labored through 29 pitches while the Orioles took a 1-0 lead on a Nelson Cruz RBI single to center, bounding past the dive of Red Sox shortstop Jonathan Herrera.

The lefty then went on to retire the next 13 Orioles, including shutting down the side in order in each of the next four innings, requiring just six pitches to retire the O’s in the fifth. Doubront also kept the K’s coming. After entering action with just eight on the season, Doubront finished the day with seven strikeouts.

Nick Markakis interrupted Doubront’s streak with a lead-off single to left in the sixth, but was immediately erased as Doubront started a 1-6-3 double play on a come-backer from Delmon Young.

Still, Doubront couldn’t quite navigate out of the inning untouched. After Adam Jones hit a two-out double and Chris Davis was hit by a 2-0 pitch, Cruz knocked in his second two-out RBI of the game on a grounder to third. Brock Holt, making his second straight start at the hot corner, made a strong throw from the hole that initially was ruled to be in time by crew chief Ted Barrett. However, after a 49-second review, it was ruled Cruz beat the throw to the bag and the Orioles had tied the score, 2-2.

Doubront was replaced by Junichi Tazawa with two outs in the seventh inning while taking a no-decision. He threw 106 pitches, 70 for strikes, while allowing five hits and two walks.

Tazawa, who worked a 1-2-3 eighth, was credited with the win (1-0), with Koji Uehara collecting his fourth save on the season, striking out the side after issuing a lead-off walk in the ninth.

Tempers flare, Sox rally: The Red Sox did push Norris from the game, however, after Holt’s one-out triple to the right field fence in seventh, scoring Mike Carp from first.

Holt’s second RBI in as many games since his recall from Triple-A Pawtucket came after a contentious sequence in the inning. Following Carp’s lead-off walk, Red Sox catcher David Ross tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Ross was apparently not amused with Norris’ inside pitches, taking steps toward the pitcher’s mound with the count standing at 3-1. After Orioles catcher Matt Weiters intervened, holding Ross at bay, both dugouts filtered onto the field before cooler heads prevailed.

Ross was unable to put down the sacrifice successfully, striking out before Holt’s triple.

Jonathan Herrera -- who made the start at shortstop, spelling Xander Bogaerts for the first time this season -- then laid down a safety squeeze that scored Holt for a 4-2 lead.

All “Buddy Buddy”: While Doubront turned in his second strong performance of the season against Baltimore, including his lone win on the season (which came April 3 at Camden Yards), the Red Sox were held largely in check by Orioles righty Bud Norris.

The Red Sox (8-10) knotted the score, 1-1, in the home half of the first, with Mike Napoli carving one off the edge of the bat down the line to third baseman Jonathan Schoop, who couldn’t corral the bleeder, allowing Dustin Pedroia to score from third on the error. David Ortiz then gave the Red Sox the lead, starting off the home half of the fourth with a line-drive home run inside Pesky’s Pole on a 3-2 offering.

Grady aces the corner: Grady Sizemore made his first start in right field as a member of the Red Sox and passed the initial test with flying colors.

He expertly played a slicing fly ball in the corner, just behind the foul pole, to retire Jones and the Baltimore side in the third. Then, with Davis leading off the fourth, Sizemore again battled a tricky, sinking line drive, making a shoestring catch.

A somewhat gloomy birthday: Saturday marked Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 24th birthday. However, the Red Sox center fielder struck out on his wishes at the plate, going 0-for-3, while grounding into a double play.

Pregame notes: Outfield shuffle continues

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
BOSTON -- While Daniel Nava’s prolonged slump to start the season continues, the Red Sox switch-hitter will not start Saturday’s matinee against the Baltimore Orioles as Red Sox manager John Farrell decided to give a look at Grady Sizemore patrolling the green near Pesky’s pole.

Farrell said there were several factors in assembling the ninth different outfield permutation seen this season, heading into game No. 18. Along with Nava’s sagging .143 average entering Saturday’s action, Farrell tries to ride a hot hand in Mike Carp, who’s 3-for-5 in his last two games and who had two RBIs in Friday night’s 8-4 loss. In center, Jackie Bradley Jr. will make his fourth straight start.

As Farrell searches for the winning combination in the outfield, he saw a glimmer of Nava’s old self when the outfielder belted a fifth-inning double Friday night.

“[That] was more his typical stroke,” Farrell said. “I think there’s been times when he’s pressed some. We’ve got to find a way to get him jump-started. He’s a big part of our offense, particularly left-handed.”

Meanwhile, Sizemore will make his first start in right, following a night off.

“I wouldn’t say it’s about taking different looks at him,” Farrell said of Sizemore. “Again, Mike Carp is swinging the bat well, Jackie has solidified defense in center field for us. With Grady, it’s a matter of pushing him over and using his range a little bit more than Mike Carp’s would be in right field.”

That right field spot could soon be occupied by its intended starter, Shane Victorino, who started the season on the disable list due to a hamstring injury. He will make a rehab start in right with three scheduled at-bats for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. Farrell said Victorino will also make starts with the PawSox on Monday and Tuesday before being reevaluated.

Victorino's return could shuffle Farrell’s outfield deck once again.

No matter what happens, the Red Sox would be benefitted by a return to form from Nava.

“He’s probably not as confident as we’ve seen him in the past,” Farrell said. “There’s a tendency, particularly from the left side of the plate, he’s lifted some pitches where typically in the past he’s had a good line-drive stroke.”

Making the turn: While shortstop Xander Bogaerts was given his first day of rest on the year, after making 17 straight starts to begin the season, Jonathan Herrera was given the start at short, batting eighth.

“After a couple of long ballgames, late travel, I felt like today was the first day down for him,” Farrell said. “He’s played every game. [It’s a] chance to get another left-handed bat in the lineup as well.”

Brock Holt will make his second straight start at third base, following his recall from Pawtucket before Friday night’s game.

Meanwhile, Farrell said Saturday was a “big day” in Will Middlebrooks’ rehab of a calf injury, which forced him to the disabled list on April 6.

“If he comes in today in good shape, then we’ll be looking at something Monday, Tuesday, possibly to get him out.”

Here's Saturday's Red Sox lineup:

1. Grady Sizemore, RF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Mike Carp, LF
6. David Ross, C
7. Brock Holt, 3B
8. Jonathan Herrera, SS
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Felix Doubront, LHP

Holt gets two hits, RBI in 2014 debut

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
BOSTON -- Brock Holt didn't even get in a game the first time he was called up to the Boston Red Sox earlier this season. He was involved in a little of everything the second time.

Holt was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a couple of nifty plays at third base in Boston's 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night in his 2014 debut with the Sox. He had been recalled earlier in the day after continuing his hot play at Triple-A Pawtucket but did not arrive at the park until a couple hours before first pitch.

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
AP Photo/Michael DwyerBrock Holt singles home a run in the fourth inning.
"We got back to Pawtucket about 3 this morning, so we had a late arrival to the field," said Holt, who hit .380 with eight extra-base hits in 12 games for the PawSox. "I didn't find out until about 2 [p.m.] when I was there, had to go to Pawtucket to pack my stuff and then come here. Got stuck in some traffic and made it here."

That was just part of a busy day.

The very first pitch of the game was smacked down the left-field line by Baltimore's Nick Markakis and landed on the line, or thereabouts. Holt, starting at third base, had one of the best angles on the play and let his opinion be known to help the Sox put forth a challenge.

"I was right there. I personally thought it was foul, but they went and took a look at it and still called it fair, so it must have got some chalk down there on the line. From my angle, I saw it hit dirt. I didn't see any chalk fly up. They took a second look at it, so it must have been fair."

An inning later, Holt's first at-bat came with the bases loaded. He struck out.

"That was a bummer, that first at-bat. Got to put the ball in play, get that guy in from third. Felt good to come through that second at-bat."

That second at-bat came in the fourth, a 10-pitch battle with Orioles starter Chris Tillman that resulted in an RBI single to center to plate Boston's first run.

"He did what we had hoped he would and that's give us a spark in the bottom third of that order," manager John Farrell said of Holt, who found himself in the midst of another replay controversy in the eighth.

Holt led off that frame with a slow roller to second base. He was ruled out at first but Farrell was quick to pounce on first-base umpire Mark Carlson, who got together with his colleagues for an umpires review.

The call was reversed, giving the Sox a little life as they tried to rally from what was then a three-run deficit.

"I feel like I was safe," Holt said. "I felt my foot hit the bag before I heard the ball hit glove, so I'm glad that John came out there and they reviewed that because that's a big play to get the leadoff guy on and get something going there."

All part of a busy day and night for Boston's latest addition.

"To be able to come up here and get the first line on my belt is a good feeling."

Lackey endures another frustrating night

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
BOSTON -- Although Yankee Stadium had plenty to do with it, the ugly line put forth by John Lackey last weekend in New York was rather stunning, with the Boston Red Sox right-hander giving up four home runs for the first time in his career.

On Friday night at Fenway Park, the final line was very similar -- six runs and 10 hits in 5⅓ innings of an 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles -- but the way it came together was very different. While the Yankees slugged Lackey into submission, the Orioles pecked away in a manner that had to be frustrating for the Red Sox.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey, Chris Davis
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJohn Lackey got hit hard for a second straight start Friday against the Orioles.
"I thought he had good stuff tonight," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He managed their lineup with a couple of walks instead of giving in, but they had a number of ground balls that found some holes. They were able to bunch some hits together."

The tone was set on the first pitch. Baltimore right fielder Nick Markakis lined it toward the corner in left and was awarded a double when the ball apparently fell on the line. Farrell challenged the ruling -- and lost -- and Markakis eventually scored on a two-out infield hit by Adam Jones.

Lackey did not have his best stuff. Not even close. But that sequence on a 50-50 call that went against Boston and a dribbler that brought in a run epitomized a frustrating evening. Lackey did not make excuses but felt that the Markakis situation made it difficult to get started on the right foot.

"Yeah. Definitely not ideal," Lackey said of the nearly three-minute review just one pitch into the game. "Especially them not getting it right. … It looks pretty foul to me."

Lackey, a model of consistency last season and solid through his first two starts in 2014, has given up at least six runs in consecutive outings for the first time since early in his fateful 2011 campaign. Two straight opponents have double-digit hit totals against him for the first time since he was with the Los Angeles Angels in 2009.

There were also four walks sprinkled into this one, but that, too, did not deviate too far from the game plan.

"They had a couple of walks but they were in spots that weren't that big a deal against guys I didn't really want to give in to. I felt OK with it," Lackey said.

Baltimore had two more infield hits and only one more that went for extra bases against Lackey.

"He was OK. They seemed like they got some hits. Balls found holes," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Just one of those nights."

Lackey will get a chance to redeem himself next week against the Yankees at home.

Rapid Reaction: Orioles 8, Red Sox 4

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

BOSTON -- John Lackey was one of the few sure things for the Boston Red Sox during their early struggles, but there is now a shred of uncertainty following another rocky performance for the right-hander in an 8-4 loss to Baltimore on Friday night.

Lackey, who served up four home runs in his prior start in New York, was reached for six runs on 10 hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings in this one. He has given up six runs in consecutive games for the first time since May 5 and 11, 2011, and has surrendered at least 10 hits in consecutive starts for the first time since June 10 and 15, 2009.

The big righty did not walk a batter in the loss to the Yankees and he kept the ball in the yard in this one, but that's about the only positives we can dig up. He'll try to rebound against the Yankees at home next week.

That was quick: A press box announcement always follows the first pitch of the game, detailing the exact time of the delivery and the weather conditions. Lackey's first offering came in at 7:11 p.m., according to the announcement, and it was laced into the left-field corner for a double by Nick Markakis. The second pitch wasn't released until about 7:15, as manager John Farrell challenged whether the ball was fair.

The review lasted 2 minutes, 56 seconds before the call stood. Farrell hasn't been getting much love from the replay system, and this was no different. Markakis eventually scored the game's first run and Lackey was forced to wait around for several minutes before delivering his second pitch.

Redemption: Farrell finally found some satisfaction with replay in the eighth, successfully getting a reversal on an out call at first on Brock Holt. It actually received one of the biggest cheers all night, after the review took just over a minute.

Bradley's bullet: Word has to be getting around the league as to how powerful Jackie Bradley Jr.'s arm is.

Bradley, who has one outfield assist this season, had a chance to show off in the third. With Markakis on second and nobody out, Delmon Young lifted a medium-depth fly to center that sent Bradley a few steps to his left. He camped under it and threw a perfect strike to third base that elicited an appreciative roar as Markakis bluffed and retreated.

If at first you don't succeed: Brock Holt's first at-bat of the season came with the bases loaded in the second and resulted in a strikeout. His second came with two on in the fourth and resulted in a base hit that scored Boston's first run. Holt battled Orioles starter Chris Tillman for 10 pitches before smacking one up the middle, part of a two-hit night for Holt in his 2014 debut with Boston.

Keep Carp? The battle for a roster spot when Shane Victorino returns might come down to Mike Carp and Daniel Nava. While Nava continues to struggle, Carp is making the most of his opportunities. He singled in his first at-bat and doubled in his second to make it four straight plate appearances reaching base (3-for-3, BB).

Carp's candidacy is hurt by the fact that his defense in the outfield is not stellar. The organization values that at this level, and while Nava is no Dwight Evans, he does provide some flexibility and is steadier overall with the glove.

Speaking of Victorino: He is scheduled to begin a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. The plan is for Victorino to play again Monday and Tuesday, after which he will be re-evaluated.

Up next: The Sox send Felix Doubront (1-2, 6.75 ERA) to the mound opposite Bud Norris (0-1, 3.75) in a 1:35 p.m. affair Saturday.

David Ortiz: Emotions will run high

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesFive days after last year's Boston Marathon bombings, the Red Sox returned to Fenway with David Ortiz taking the microphone on the field to deliver a stirring speech that offered a glimpse of how the city was handling the situation.

BOSTON -- Monday undoubtedly will be a day of mixed emotions for Boston.

With the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, the citywide shared triumph of nearly 36,000 runners will be competing against the haunting memory of last year's bombings, still fresh following Tuesday's one-year anniversary.

The Boston Red Sox will play their annual Patriots Day morning game, and they anticipate a charged atmosphere at Fenway Park.

"I think it's going to be very emotional," designated hitter David Ortiz said. "There's going to be happiness around, too, more than sadness because the way the city bounced back."

Ortiz and outfielder Jonny Gomes spoke Friday about the marathon before the Red Sox kicked off their four-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles. Despite the early wake-up time following a nationally televised contest Sunday night, Gomes and Ortiz remained focused on the importance of Monday's game.

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ICYMI: SweetSpot hits of the week

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
While driving home from work Thursday night, I was listening to the Rays' feed of the Yankees-Rays game when Derek Jeter made a "diving" play. The broadcasters chuckled at Jeter's lack of range and his natural succumbing to Father Time, saying something along the lines of "That's Jeter's range; however he can fall to his right and however he can fall to his left." An inning or so later, the maligned Yanks infield turned a triple play, so there you go. Without further ado, the best from around the SweetSpot Network, week 3:

Boston RedSox: FireBrand of the AL
A large cup of coffee: Jeff Polman catches up with former Red Sox starting pitcher Dana Kiecker. Who’s Dana Kiecker, you ask? He’s just the pitcher who followed Roger Clemens in the 1990 ALCS by starting Game 2. Follow on Twitter: @jpballnut.

Chicago Cubs: View From The Bleachers
Which pitchers have nasty stuff? If you missed the 10-strikeout performance put up on Wednesday afternoon by Masahiro Tanaka, it showed off his nasty stuff. Joe Aiello takes a look at what other pitchers have "nasty" stuff. Follow on Twitter: @vftb

Chicago White Sox: The Catbird Seat
The art of patience: Collin Whitchurch examines the White Sox offense's hot start as a product of a new organizational emphasis on plate discipline. Follow on Twitter: @cowhitchurch

Colorado Rockies: Rockies Zingers
What are the keys for pitching at Coors? and ¿Cuáles son la claves para lanzar en Coors Field? The debut of Sabermetrics in Spanish, Juan Pablo Zubillaga compares Rockies pitchers with non-Rockies pitchers and analyzes which metrics can indicate success for Rockies pitchers.

Milwaukee Brewers: Disciples of Uecker
The Brewers' line-driving frenzy: Jonathan Judge looks at the value and sustainability of the Brewers' high line-drive rate so far. Follow on Twitter: @bachlaw

New York Yankees: It's About The Money
How good could the 2015 infield really be? Matt Seybold wonders how the Yankees will go about filling the holes they will have in the 2015 infield. Follow on Twitter: @Sport_Hippeaux

How did the "pine tar" affect Pineda's performance? Michael Eder takes a look at what affects, if any, that mysterious blob of goo on Michael Pineda's hand had during his start against Boston. Follow on Twitter: @edermik

Philadelphia Phillies: Crashburn Alley
Phillies showing tremendous plate discipline: The Phillies are drawing plenty of walks, something they haven't done in a few years.

Some fun trivia on Cliff Lee's start against the Braves: Cliff Lee got the tough-luck loss on Wednesday but it made for some interesting trivia. Follow on Twitter: @CrashburnAlley

Tampa Bay Rays: The Process Report
Offense, Myers struggling: Jason Collette shows how 2014 looks a lot like 2011 in the early going for the Tampa Bay offense and why Wil Myers is struggling at the plate. Follow on Twitter: @processreport

Jason Rosenberg is the founder of It's About the Money, a proud charter member of the SweetSpot Network. IIATMS can be found on Twitter here and here as well as on Facebook.

Sox recall 3B Holt, DFA Roberts

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox designated infielder Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday and have recalled Brock Holt from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Holt, in Friday’s lineup batting ninth and playing third, is making his second trip to Boston this season, after having been called up April 6 for one game. Holt did not appear during his first stint, but manager John Farrell hopes that this time around he can provide an offensive spark for the club.

“We felt like we needed to try to create a little bit of a jump-start to the offense,” Farrell said. “We’ve come through a stretch of seven left-handed starters against us over the past 10 and we’re kind of reversing that right now, going against primarily right-handers.”

Holt, a left-handed hitter, has been off to a hot start for Pawtucket, collecting a team-high 19 hits in his first 50 at-bats on his way to a .380 batting average. Thirteen of his hits have come against right-handers, making him a valuable piece for the team; the Red Sox are lined up to face three right-handed starters during their four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

“He’s clearly earned the promotion here,” Farrell said. “When he was sent out, even after one day of being here with the big league club, I think he was initially disappointed, but he’s channeled that the right way, gone down and played very well on the left side of the infield.”

Roberts collected two hits in his 19 at-bats with the team, striking out seven times. Farrell said the team would like for him to remain in the organization following being placed on waivers.

“He had about a nine-day layoff from the end of spring training until he joined us here,” Farrell said. “We feel like he needs at-bats to get things going.”

Holt’s second stint with the club may also be for a short period of time because third baseman Will Middlebrooks (calf) is on track to start his rehab assignment sometime in the middle of next week. After dealing with the flu earlier this week, Middlebrooks was in the clubhouse Friday and has improved, according to Farrell.

Meanwhile, outfielder Shane Victorino (hamstring) is also with the club and is participating in a full team workout Friday. Victorino is expected to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

Uehara update: After pitching Thursday night for the first time since April 9, closer Koji Uehara is available if needed Friday night. Uehara, who missed a week battling shoulder stiffness, threw a scoreless ninth inning Thursday to notch his third save of the season.

Sizemore in left: For the first time in his nine-year career, outfielder Grady Sizemore will play left field at Fenway Park on Friday night. Farrell said that despite Sizemore's unfamiliarity with the Green Monster, the decision was made based on Daniel Nava’s ability to play right field at Fenway.

After making his first seven starts in center field, Sizemore will be making his sixth straight appearance in left this season.

Yankees faster than Red Sox

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
The New York Yankees used to be the champions of the long games. But no longer, the title now belongs to the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees are actually speeding up their games, making them, to borrow a phrase from a famous Yankee broadcaster, more manageable. The fine folks at FiveThirtyEight explain in more detail.

The New York Yankees haven’t dominated the majors since 2002, winning just one world championship over that period. But they’ve dominated MLB rankings for length of game. From 2002 to 2012, the Yankees’ average length of game was in the top four of the 30 major league teams each season, including five league-leading performances. Yet lately they’ve gotten faster: The average Yankees game has been shorter each year than the year before since 2009, culminating in last year’s 15th-place showing of three hours and five minutes — just half a minute longer than the league-average figure.

The slowest team in baseball is now — wait for it — the Boston Red Sox. New York’s archrivals have ranked in the top three in average game length each year since 2003. Last year, Boston’s fourth straight season as the slowest team in baseball, its average game took three hours and 15 minutes.

As much as we all like baseball, I don't think many will complain about the Yankees being a middle of the pack team in term of length of games.

A Sox rarity: Herrera's bases-loaded bunt

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
CHICAGO -- Your eyes did not deceive you Thursday night. That was a Red Sox manager, John Farrell, calling for a bases-loaded squeeze bunt in the ninth inning, and Red Sox pinch hitter Jonathan Herrera executing it perfectly for an insurance run in Boston’s 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.

You saw the Red Sox do something they have not done in 32 years, since Gary Allenson dropped a bases-loaded bunt single on Aug. 28, 1982 in the 10th inning of a walkoff win, according to research by Sox crack statman Jon Shestakofsky. The last time they sacrificed with the bases loaded was June 12, 1979 at Kansas City, when Butch Hobson reached on an error, and the day before Jerry Remy successfully sacrificed.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura had just instructed reliever Ronnie Belisario to issue an intentional walk to load the bases in the ninth, when Farrell sent the switch-hitting Herrera to bat for Ryan Roberts and inserted Grady Sizemore to run at third base for Mike Carp. Ventura countered by summoning left-hander Scott Downs to face Herrera, switching him to the right side.

Herrera is a better hitter left-handed, so that’s when Farrell said he made his decision to have Herrera bunt. It was a safety squeeze, meaning Sizemore waited to see that Herrera got his bunt down. Herrera pushed a beauty down the first-base line, so good that he beat it out for a base hit.

The Sox have not had a sacrifice bunt with the bases loaded in this century -- that much we know from certain, from a check of It remains to be determined whether they’ve had a bunt hit in those circumstances.

Herrera, the former Rockie who has 29 sacrifice bunts in his career, including four with the Red Sox, said he has bunted with the bases loaded before, although if he did so, it was not a sacrifice. None of his sacrifices have come with the bases loaded.

“It was the perfect time for me to try to get that RBI and help the team -- a big difference to be ahead by two runs,’’ Herrera said. “That was a really big opportunity for me to get the ball down.’’