McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

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McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - It was a game, naturally, that seemed to have an endless number of turning points, and, correspondingly, innumerable opportunities to second-guess strategy.

If you could stay awake long enough to watch the Red Sox' maddening 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels Thursday morning, you could pick apart a dozen or so plays or sequences or moves.

We'll keep it to a three.

Twice, Terry Francona lifted middle-of-the-order hitters for pinch-runners.

In the eighth, after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a swinging bunt (which scored the first Boston run) and took second on reliever Fernando Rodney's throwing error, Francona lifted him for pinch-runner Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro got to third when Kevin Youkilis lined a hard single to left, but was stranded there when David Ortiz flied to center.

That left Scutaro, hitting .197 when the game began, hitting in the third spot in the order. His spot would comeup two more times when the Sox would have liked Gonzalez's bat there. But that's the tradeoff made for the short-term gain in speed on the basepaths.

Ironically, Scutaro made the biggest out of the game when he was cut down at the plate in the 12th trying to score from first on a Wall double from Kevin Youkilis with one out.

It took a perfect relay, but left fielder Vernon Wells to shortstop Erick Aybar to catcher Jeff Mathis did the trick.

"We were all on the top step of the dugout, thinking maybe we'd get to go home," said Francona. "It turns out we didn't."

Also, Francona chose to lift Ortiz for Darnell McDonald in the 10th after Ortiz worked a two-out walk.

McDonald would get stranded at home in that inning, then came up in the 12th after Scutaro was thrown out at home. He got an infield single, moving Youkilis to third, but Jed Lowrie grouding out to first for the final out of the inning.

Mike Cameron seemed to be overly aggressive in the ninth, though his manager absolved him of any blame after the game.

Cameron was on first and Jed Lowrie was on second with no outs when Jordan Walden tossed a wild pitch. As catcher Hank Conger scrambled to get the ball, Lowrie took off for third and Cameron for second.

Conger threw to third hoping to get Lowrie, but the ball got past third baseman Alberto Callaspo and struck third-base umpire John Hirchbeck on the foot, with the ball tricking to short.

That was enough for Lowrie to score. But Cameron, motoring from second, was thrown out sliding into the bag for the first out of the inning. And though it's
impossible to think that the inning would have unfolded the exact same way had Cameron eithe been safe or remained in scoring position at second, the out seemed more costly when Carl Crawford followed with a double to left-center.

"I thought their guy shortstop Erick Aybar made a pretty good play,'' said Francona. "He's running, full-speed, barehands it . . . when that ball goes by third, Cam's going. It's unfortunate because if it doesn't hit the umpire, it probably rolls into the corner.

"Again, it's unfortunate, but it's hard to blame Cam for running right there. The result was terrible. I don't second-guess what he was doing. Aybar ended up making a pretty good play.''

In the ninth, Hideki Okajima began his third inning of relief, having come into the game with one out in the seventh.

Appearing to tire, Okajima gave up back-to-back hits, putting runners on the corners.

Francona opted for Tim Wakefield from the bullpen when hard-throwing Daniel Bard might have been the more logical choice.

Wakefield walked Peter Bourjos to fill the bases, then allowed a sacrifice fly to Aybar.

Had Bard came in there, he might have been able to get Aybar on a strtkeout, keeping what was then an insurance run off the board.

Then again, knowing that Bobby Jenks (arm cramp) was unavailable, Francona knew he would have to use his relievers sparingly, holding Bard out until the 11th and, as it turned out, 12th inning, too.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'capable of more' vs. lefties

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'capable of more' vs. lefties

CHICAGO -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 4-1 loss to Chicago:

 

QUOTES:

"He's rarely in the middle of the plate. He pitches to the edge very effectively. He's got a number of different looks he can give you.'' - John Farrell on White Sox starter Jose Quintana.

"We have such a heavily righthand-hitting lineup, you would think that our guys would be able to handle the off-side pitching coming at them. . . We're capable of more.'' - Farrell on the Sox 0-3 record against lefty starters.

"He's done everything that we could have asked, to get deep into games and low run situations -- and not just this year. This goes back to when he was in the rotation last year.'' - Farrell on tough-luck loser Steven Wright.

"That's what I'm working for every time.'' - Carson Smith on his scoreless inning in his Red Sox debut.

"It is what it is. Keep working and try to be ready on whatever opportunities come. That's all I can say about that.'' - Chris Young, on the infrequency of lefty starters.

"A little frustrated with the walks. I gave them the second run with the walks. When I'm out there throwing 20 pitches an inning, it's hard to get into a rhythm.'' - Steven Wright.

 

NOTES

* The Red Sox have faced three lefty starters this season and are 0-3. They've managed two runs in 23 innings and hit just .108 (8-for-74) against them.

* When the opposition scores first, the Red Sox are 5-6 this season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to nine games with a sixth-inning single.

* Dating back to last season, Steven Wright hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in his last nine starts.

* Hanley Ramirez's homer in the fifth was his first since April 6, covering 96 at-bats.

 

STARS

1) Jose Quintana

Chicago's starter was brilliant, allowing a single run in eight innings on just four hits without issuing a walk.

2) Jose Abreu

The White Sox first baseman drove in three of the four White Sox runs with a first-inning triple and a two-run double in the eighth.

3) Steven Wright

Once again, the knuckballer got almost no run support and was stuck with the loss despite allowing just two runs in six innings.

 

First impressions: Wright again the victim of poor run support

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First impressions: Wright again the victim of poor run support

CHICAGO -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 4-1 loss to the White Sox.

 

Steven Wright has a 1.67 ERA, and somehow, has three losses.

Wright was again the victim of poor run support. He pitched six innings, allowed just two runs and yet was saddled with the loss, dropping him to 2-3.

In his three losses to date, here are the scores of the games when he left: 2-0, 2-1, 2-1.

Some poor command in the third cost Wright a bit. He walked the first two hitters of the inning, and after a groundout moved the runners over, issued an intentional walk to load the bases. A groundout then scored a run for the White Sox, who never threatened again.

In fact, after the intentional walk, Wright retired 11 of the next 12 hitters he faced.

 

Carson Smith pitched as expected.

Making his Red Sox debut after missing the first month with a forearm strain, Smith retired the White Sox in order and needed just nine pitches to get the three outs.

Smith's M.O. is that he has a heavy sinker and can make hitters swing-and-miss. He got two groundouts, then overpowered Austin Jackson with a mix of sinkers and sliders for an inning-ending strikeout.

 

The Red Sox fell to 0-3 against lefty starters.

Obviously, it's an extremely small sample size. And maybe it's because the Sox haven't had a lot of looks at lefties, having faced just two in their first 25 games before Tuesday night.

Then again, Chicago starter Jose Quintana has always been tough on the Red Sox. Even before limiting them to a single run over seven innings, Quintana was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in six previous starts.

Boston hit the ball hard three times. Once, Hanley Ramirez homered to right. Twice, White Sox outfielders took extra bases away from David Ortiz (Austin Jackson in the first) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (Adam Eaton in the third).

 

Junichi Tazawa has been excellent, but not Tuesday night.

Tazawa came into a 2-1 game in the eighth. The first four hitters to face him went: bunt single, walk, (wild pitch), two-run double, walk.

Granted, one of the hits was a bunt. But you can't afford to issue two walks and throw a wild pitch in a one-run game.

That outing came after nine straight scoreless outings, and had been scored upon in just one of his first 11 outings.

But Tazawa couldn't locate Tuesday and it cost him.