Nation STATion: Homes away from home

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Nation STATion: Homes away from home

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

First, let me get this out of the way: even first-place teams lose games. Red Sox Nation has gotten so used to Ws that its important to remember that there are pitchers like Justin Verlander out there ready to shut down even the hottest hitting team.
FYI Sox shutouts:The Sox have been shut out five times this season. Last year they were shut out four times, the fewest blankings in the majors. In 2009, 2008, and 2007, they were shut out seven times each year, and in 2006, they were held scoreless eight times.

There is lots of digital ink being used today about David Ortizs big pinch-homer that won Game 1 of the day-nighter yesterday in Detroit. As we have discussed here at the STATion previously, this was Big Papis first Sox pinch-homer since his very first Sox homer on April 27, 2003 in the 14th inning.

BTW Who did Papi pinch-hit for?Feel free to ask your friends if they know whom Ortiz pinch-hit for that afternoon. Then you can feel smart by informing them that it was Jeremy Giambi.
FYI Sox pinch-hit homers:As you already know, the Sox had two pinch-hit homers last season off the bats of Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall. They didnt have any in 2009, but in 2008 they had a pair from pinch-hitting catchers, Kevin Cash and Jason Varitek. And they didnt have any in 2007 or 2006, but another pinch-hitting catcher, Doug Mirabelli, hit one in 2005.

What I found most interesting about the Ortiz homer however was its location, and I dont mean right-centerfield. Papi loves Comerica Park. In 151 at bats there Ortiz has 16 homers. The same number he has hit at US Cellular in Chicago and Texas Arlington Stadium, but in about 35 fewer at bats than each location. And on top of that hes hitting around .290 at Comerica.

So, it got me thinking (always something dangerous) as to what are some of the other favorite ballparks for Sox hitters, in essence, homes away from home.

While Jacoby Ellsbury has a .405 average at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, I would go with Baltimores Camden Yards as his favorite alternative hitting venue. He has a .402 lifetime average there with three homers and a dozen RBI, but outside of Fenway, its his favorite ballpark to steal bases; hes 18 of 19 in steal attempts there.

In my mind Dustin Pedroia, likes to play everywhere, anywhere, and at any time. When I look at these numbers, I leave out the aberration of interleague play, which in my mind dilutes stats, the season, and quality of play (but thats a rant for another day). I do have to point out that Pedey is 9-for-14 (.643) at Minute Maid Field in Houston and 6-for-12 (.500), with three homers, at Coors Field in Colorado. So, because the 6-for-12 sample at Target Field in Minnesota is so small, Im going with Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City as Pedroias top road ballpark. He is 21-44 and thats good for a .477 average.

FYI Adrian Gonzalez in the NLWe are skipping A-Gone as we go through the batting order simply because he is too new to the AL, but I can tell you that he will miss Miller Park in Milwaukee where he hit .425 with seven homers and 19 RBI and had a 1.302 OPS.

Kevin Youkilis prefers home cooking. Youk is a lifetime .306 hitter at Fenway and a .280 hitter on the road. But there are two road parks Kevvie particularly likes: Seattles Safeco Field where he has hit .338 and Camden Yards where he is a .330 hitter with nine homers and 35 RBI (and 35 walks).

Its hard to tell whether J.D. Drew enjoys playing anywhere (yes, I know I read your mind), but the AL ballpark (remember that he has spent nine years in the NL) he has had the most success is Camden Yards where he has hit .342 with eight homers and 23 RBI, with a 1.088 OPS.

Carl Crawford has also had good games at Safeco Field, where he has hit .360. But I think his favorite road stop is Chicagos US Cellular where he has hit .356 and has four homers and nine RBI, plus he is 15-for-18 in steal attempts there.

Jed Lowrie is still experiencing his first extended regular play in the bigs, so its too early know where else he enjoys success, I just think hes happy to be on the field.
BTW Marco ScutaroMarco has done well at Camden Yards where he has hit .324 with three homers and 12 RBI.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is like Lowrie in that he is new to playing regularly, so I thought I would point out that the Captain, Jason Varitek, has always hit well in Cleveland. At the Jake, or for those of who prefer Progressive Field, Tek has hit .293 with seven homers and 18 RBI.

So thats a quick (okay, its quick for me) look at Sox batters away from the Fens and on another day well look at how Boston pitchers fare on other hills.

BTW Send a salami to your boy in the armyFinally, dont just wait for Memorial Day to think about those in uniform who are also away from their homes doing things we cant describe in numbers. Theres a great delicatessen in New York (where else?) called Katzs Deli. Since its founding in 1888, it has sold tons of corned beef, hot dogs and pastrami. During WW II they posted a sign that encouraged parents of GIs to send a salami to your boy in the army.To this day, they maintain special international shipping only for U.S. military addresses. So if you want to send a gift package to the troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, simply call 1-800-4HOTDOG to make the arrangements.

Or, if your favorite soldier is watching his or her cholesterol, just send a copy of Nation STATion, I know it would make all of us at CSNNE.com feel honored.

Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

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Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

CHICAGO — It’s a start, literally and figuratively.

David Price showed some great velocity in his 2017 Red Sox debut Monday afternoon, hitting 97 mph — heat he didn’t have last year. At times, the pitcher the Sox badly need to return to form flashed high-level effectiveness as well.

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What everyone expected would be off in Price's first start back, his command, was indeed shaky, considering he allowed more runs (three) than hits (two) in a no-decision as the White Sox won, 5-4. But Price wasn’t expected to be in tip-top form, and he did a decent job overall.

"It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Price said, accurately. “I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball and I think things will take off for me."

The lefty’s five-inning performance against the White Sox came almost exactly three months after he first felt elbow soreness during spring training. He exited with the Red Sox ahead 4-3, and all of the runs he allowed came on a home run from Melky Cabrera in the third inning. 

Price lost the chance at a win when Chicago scored twice off Matt Barnes in the seventh. He might have been a little ahead of himself after the game when he declared himself back, but, in a literal sense, Price indeed has returned.

“After the fifth, I still felt strong. I felt strong in the fifth,” Price said. “After that inning, I still felt really good. I didn’t feel like my stuff changed all that much throughout the game. I’m back.”

After the game, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell both came over to congratulate Price on his effort.

“It felt good, just to be out there with my teammates, my brothers,” Price said. “That’s why you play the game — to have that feeling. There’s nothing else that gives you that, golf or whatever else you do to compete. You can’t replicate the feeling you have out there in a big-league game so I felt good.”

Cabrera’s shot to left put the White Sox ahead 3-1 at the time. Price walked only two batters on the day — but they happened to be the two hitters in front of Cabrera.

The walk started with the No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel. Tim Anderson, who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the day, got a free pass as well.

But besides the Cabrera homer on a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in, the only other hit Price allowed was a shallow bloop single to center field.

Price finished with four strikeouts, including the first batter he faced on the day, Anderson.

His command issues were nonetheless clear. Price hit two batters to begin his final frame, setting up a fine play for Deven Marrero to record a force out at second before Xander Bogaerts started an inning-ending double play with a fantastic dive, bailing Price out of the first-and-third jam with one out.

With 88 pitches and 58 strikes, Price was more efficient than he was in two rehab outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he didn’t get rocked. 

But he also wasn’t as efficient as the Red Sox will need him to be.

Price was pitching in a calm, pleasant environment (clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, low humidity) that might actually have been more comfortable than the colder clime Price faced in Pawtucket -- where both the fans and temperatures were chilly.

The Red Sox were aggressive bringing Price back so quickly, and set themselves up for a second guess if something went wrong. But Price preserved the second of two leads his offense gave him and didn’t let the game get out of hand.

“Health-wise, my two rehab outings, the amount of pitches I threw in a short amount of time,  you can’t do that and then bounce back in the way that I did after both rehab games and not be healthy,” Price said. “There’s no doubt in my mind where I stand right now health-wise. It was good to go out there and feel as good as I did.”

After the Cabrera homer put the White Sox up two, the Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the fourth to tie at 3-3.

The argument that Price did better than anyone else would have in his place is a fair one, considering John Farrell and co. slated Price to pitch Monday before they watched Brian Johnson’s complete-game shutout.

The bigger question was always about what was best for Price’s future, and Monday looks like something he can build on. He may have benefited from the adrenaline of being back in the majors.

“I don't think I throw a single pitch at 99 percent. Everything's 100 percent,” Price said. “I haven't gotten to that point in my career yet where I taper off of certain pitches. My health is not in my mind. I feel healthy. Just go out there and get better.”

Price was even diving for foul balls.

“I think if my elbow was completely blown I'd still dive for that ball,” Price said of a play he couldn't come up with as he lunged near the third-base line. “That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and [Chris] Sale were talking about it probably two weeks ago. It's a play you want to be able to have an opportunity to make. I think it hit the tip of my glove and rolled all the way down my body.”

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

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For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.