First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31

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First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Tuesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThat Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

VILLAIN BORN, RIVALRY RENEWED: So as it turns out, all it took to light a spark under the somnolent Red Sox-Yankee tong war was some exuberant handclapping.

That was how Francisco Cervelli celebrated upon completing his rounding of the bases after a fifth-inning moonshot over the Monster Seats. John Lackey took exception to it, and off we went. Lackey drilled Cervelli in the back with the first pitch of Cervelli's next at-bat, words were exchanged, benches were cleared, and, says John Tomase of the Boston Herald, it brought back memories of the old days. It wasn't quite Fisk-Munson, Nettles-Lee, Varitek-Rodriguez or Zimmer-Martinez (or, if you really want to go back, Martin-Piersall or Cronin-Powell), but it was more emotion than we've seen from these two teams in a while.

CC Sabathia was a little upset (ESPN New York), Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild (who has his own history of beanball battles with the Red Sox) was ejected, and all in all it was pretty entertaining. Much more entertaining than the four-hour bore-a-thon of a game, which ended with the Red Sox -- who, as Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe notes incredulously, managed to parlay 13 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen into two whole runs -- stranding 16 runners and losing, 5-2 (csnne.com), cutting their A.L. East lead over New York to one-half game.

It's hard to get worked up over the series -- though Joe Girardi seems to think it's important (cbssports.com) -- for a number of reasons. First, both teams are all but guaranteed to make the postseason. Second, both the pitching matchups for the next two nights and the schedule the rest of the way favor the Red Sox, so one loss to New York isn't going to send the region into a pre-2004 tizzy. But baseball's always more fun when there's a little edge to Red Sox-Yankees, and now we seem to have it back.

For a night, anyway.

KING ME: Baseball, tiddlywinks, checkers . . . no matter the competition, Larry Lucchino wants to beat the Yankees. (mlb.com)

I YAM WHAT I YAM: Cervelli, who swore up and down he wasn't trying to show anybody up, had a simple explanation for his outburst: "That's Cervelli." (weei.com)

DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE TO LIKE IT: And Lackey, who swore up and down he didn't hit Cervelli on purpose, said he thought the handclaps were "a little excessive, honestly". (csnne.com)

MR. BIG: He'd gone 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox in his first four appearances against them this year, so anything would seem good by comparison. Thus, Sabathia's six-inning, 128-pitch grind was described by Mike Lupica of the Daily News as "tremendous, even though all his numbers weren't". ESPN's David Schoenfield doesn't think that 0-4, 7.20 means much of anything (too small a sample size) and wasn't willing to go as far as Lupica, but agrees that good pitchers know how to get outs when they need them "and Sabathia got them on this night".

WAKE UP: Peter Abraham swims against the tide of Red Sox Nation by disagreeing with the notion that Tim Wakefield should be lifted from the rotation. (Boston Globe) The Sox may have taken the first step in that direction, though, when they skipped over his start this weekend against Texas.

COMEBACK KIDS: J.D. Drew went 3-for-3 and Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 in a rehab game with the PawSox in Rochester (Providence Journal), and both should return to the Red Sox' lineup by the end of the week.

COMEBACK KID: Clay Buchholz, meanwhile, started his long road to recovery with 25 throws from 60 feet. (csnne.com) In other words, don't expect to see him for a while . . . if at all this season.

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: Looks like Andy MacPhail, who was hired in 2007 to turn around the Orioles, is about to admit defeat and walk away. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com) His departure, along with the Cubs' opening, could start an interesting game of GM musical chairs this offseason . . . Joe Maddon says the Rays have to "will" themselves to win when the opposing pitcher is on his game, but the will wasn't strong enough in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers (St. Petersburg Times) . . . Somebody claimed B.J. Upton on waivers last week (Tampa Tribune), but Maddon says it was a "procedural" thing and Tampa Bay had no intention of trading him.

TOUGH CHOICE: Today is the deadline for teams to add players to their roster and have them eligible for the postseason. The Rangers -- a potential playoff opponent for the Red Sox -- admit they have interest in the Cardinals' Lance Berkman (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), who would make an already formidable lineup even tougher. But if the Cards hope to trade Berkman and then bring him back as a free agent over the winter, Berkman says forget it; once he's gone, he's gone. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) And that may make the Cards, who'd like to retain him, less willing to make the deal.

BEATING THE HEAT: Red Sox nemesis C.J. Wilson has found a way to stay cool in the kiln-like Texas atmosphere. (ESPN Dallas)

OLD FRIENDS: It was a tough night for Bronson Arroyo (Rotoworld) . . . Hanley Ramirez' comeback is on hold after he felt discomfort in his left shoulder during a rehab game. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

THINK THEY WOULDN'T NOTICE? If you're making 80,000 a year, like this former Giants' employee, you probably don't want to embezzle 1,513,836.28 from the club because it might raise a red flag when you try to get a loan from a bank to buy a house. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

AND FINALLY . . . In true, "Why in my day" fashion, 80-year-old Moose Skowron proposes an old-fashioned solution to a new-fangled problem. (Chicago Tribune)

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels ofAnaheim

Quotes:

"I tried to get two (outs) before I got one. That can't happen." - Hanley Ramirez on his throwing error which cost the Red Sox the game.

"Executing pitches - that's the name of the game." - David Price on improvement he showed from his last start.

"Fourth time through the order, middle of the lineup. . . Price had done his job. In a one-run game, we felt it was best to start a clean inning with a reliever." - John Farrell after lifting David Price after eight innings and 108 pitches.

Notes:

* Reliever Brad Ziegler was charged with the loss for the second straight game.

* Each of the last seven Red Sox losses has been by one or two runs.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 31 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox four-game losing streak is their longest of the season.

* The Sox are now 9-23 in their last 32 meetings with the Angels.

* David Price did not allow a run for the second time this season.

Stars:

1) David Price

After a stretch of shaky outings, Price did his job with eight scoreless innings, getting 14 outs on groundouts while walking just one.

2) Jered Weaver

At times, the radar gun made Weaver's pitches look like softball offerings. But mixing junk, he held the Sox to a single run over 5 1/3 innings

3) Mookie Betts

He had just one hit - single in the eighth - but his sacrifice fly in the third produced the only run of the night.

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

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First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1) David Price pitched in the truest sense

Price wasn't necessarily overpowering with only six strikeouts in eight innings, but he succeeded in keeping the ball down in the zone, resulting in a ton of groundouts.

In eight innings, the Angels produced just two flouts to the outfield, both of them routine.

Otherwise, Price deftly mixed his changeup, slider and two-seamer to produce ground balls. His location was more precise and he induced weak contact in at-bat after at-bat.

 

2) The danger of a closer like Brad Ziegler was on display

The throwing error by Hanley Ramirez resulted in two runs scoring but Ziegler allowed three base hits to set the stage.

Ziegler doesn't get a lot of swing-and-miss with his sinker; what he gets is a lot of balls put in play. When things are going well, that results in groundouts; when they're not, it means baserunners and strange things happening.

As inconsistent as Craig Kimbrel has been in some non-save situations, he at least has the ability to record strikeouts and keep balls out of play.  That's not the case with Zieger, as the Red Sox learned the hard way in Anaheim Thursday night.

3) The Red Sox wisely took advantage of Jered Weaver on the bases

Weaver's high leg kick and reliance on off-speed pitches make for a slow delivery time to the plate. Dustin Pedroia would have easily stole second in the first but made the mistake of going into his slide too far ahead of the bag, and though initially ruled safe, was deemed out after a replay challenge.

In the sixth, Xander Bogaerts, was more successful in his stolen base. Neither steal led to a run, but the Sox did put some additional pressure on Weaver