May 8, 2011: Red Sox 9, Twins 5

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May 8, 2011: Red Sox 9, Twins 5

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked before Sundays game what he might be able to expect from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was a legitimate question. Matsuzaka left his last start just one batter into the fifth inning with elbow tightness. He had also pitched the 13th and final inning of the marathon game against the Angels that began Wednesday night and ended early Thursday morning, taking the loss.

But given Matsuzakas track record of confounding inconsistency over his five seasons with the Sox, Francona jokingly replied that he hasnt known what to expect from the Japanese right-hander since his arrival in Boston.

Based on his first inning giving up three runs on three hits and walk throwing 34 pitches it appeared the ineffective Matsuzaka was on the mound. But he settled down after that, going six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts and a home run, throwing 102 pitches, 62 for strikes.

It wasnt a quality start, but it was enough to hold the Twins off while the Sox offense got in gear.

Matsuzaka earned the win, improving to 3-3, with a 4.64 ERA, as the Sox beat the Twins, 9-5.

Twins starter Carl Pavano had the opposite fortune to Matsuzakas. He cruised through the first inning only to sputter as the game went on. He went five innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits and walk, with no strikeouts, one home run, and one wild pitch.

Every member of the Red Sox offense (not including Jose Iglesias, making his major league debut as a defensive replacement for Jed Lowrie at shortstop in the ninth inning) had at least one run scored, one RBI, or one hit. Kevin Youkilis matched his career high with four runs scored.

The nine runs the Sox scored matched a season high, the fourth time theyve done so.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Adrian Gonzalez
On his 29th birthday, Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. That includes his fourth home run, a solo shot going the opposite way to left field in the fifth inning. He leads the team with 24 RBI, while raising his average to .314.

Regardless of the fact that its my birthday, to get three hits and get a W is more important, he said.

In addition to his opposite-field home run, Gonzalez singled up the middle in the third and singled to left in the seventh. After a slow start to the season, Gonzalez said his swing is getting to where he wants it to be. He has three home runs on the homestand.

Its got nothing to do with the park, he said. Its got to do with my swing. My swings getting better and Im trying to stay behind balls and drive through them.

You start backing it up, trusting it more. Its one of those things that I dont usually do it too much in April and once the season goes on I do it more and more.

Ive gone through bad Aprils and good Aprils. Its all the same.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury went 3-for-5, extending his major-league best hitting streak to 17 games. He had a double, two singles, a run scored, and his 10th stolen base of the season. The three hits match his season high, for the third time. Since taking over the lead-off spot on April 22 he has raised his average from .186 to .295.

I think hes always been a good lead-off hitter, said Kevin Youkilis, who matched a career high with four runs scored. Its just everything gets put out there that hes doing bad because its within 50 at-bats. But theres 600 and some at-bats a season. So the next 50 at-bats have been great. Hes doing great. When he gets on base he causes havoc on the bases. Thats good.
THE GOAT: Carl Pavano
Staked to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Pavano could not hold onto it. He appeared to be in control, cruising through the first inning on 11 pitches, nine strikes (compared to the 34 Matsuzaka threw in the inning), setting down Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez in order. But the Sox got a run back from Pavano in the second, four more in the third, and another in the fifth.

Pavano went five innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits and walk, with no strikeouts, one home run, and one wild pitch. His record fell to 2-4, while his ERA jumped nearly a run, from 5.84 to 6.64.

THE TURNING POINT
Trailing 3-1 going into the third inning, the Sox sent nine batters to the plate, forcing Pavano to throw 36 pitches, including eight to Jed Lowrie, the last batter of the inning. The Sox scored four runs -- taking a lead they would not give up on five hits, a walk, and an error.

Carl Crawford led off with his first triple of the season, scoring on Jason Variteks groundout to first. Ellsbury singled, Pedroia walked, Gonzalez singled, scoring Ellsbury. Kevin Youkilis grounded into a fielders choice, scoring Pedroia. David Ortiz singled. J.D. Drew singled, scoring Youkilis.

Lowrie flew out to center, but the eight pitches he saw were the most in the inning, driving Pavanos pitch count up, hastening his exit.
STAT OF THE DAY: 368
The Sox entered the game hitting a combined .250, sixth in the American League. But against Pavano and a trio of Minnesota relievers Alex Burnett, Jose Mijares, and Joe Nathan they were a combined 14-for-38 (.368), raising their team average to .254, with nine runs scored, three doubles, a triple, a home run, and eight RBI. The nine runs scored matched a season high.

Every member of the Red Sox offense (not including Jose Iglesias, making his major league debut as a defensive replacement for Jed Lowrie at shortstop in the ninth inning) had at least one run scored, one RBI, or one hit. Kevin Youkilis matched his career high with four runs scored.

It was good, Youkilis said of the offense. Guys swung the bats well. We were down early but we never gave up. Scratched our way back. DiceK settled back in and threw the ball well and our bullpen came in and threw the ball well and got out of a couple of things here and there. All around it was a good performance, offensively and defensively.

QUOTE OF NOTE
I was happy. I was super-happy. And its funny because Scutaro hid my glove right before I went out. So I couldnt find it. I finally found it and was able to get out there a little late but I was obviously very happy. Yes, I was nervous, especially because I couldnt find my glove and I had to get out there.

-- Shortstop Jose Iglesias, through Eddie Romero, the teams assistant director of Latin American operations, on his emotions going out to the field for his major-league debut in the ninth inning

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.