Nation Station: April can be a cruel month

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Nation Station: April can be a cruel month

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

The poet T. S. Eliot, despite dying in 1965, still aptly described the Sox first series of the season when he wrote, April is the cruelest month. Yes, the Sox were swept in the first series of their season, and we will see as the season progresses that series wins are a bigger goal than individual games, BUT really the only series loss that matters begins with the word postseason.

While there really was very little positive to speak about in this first series, lets remember that three games lost just means that the Sox have 159 games to recover. So, for those of you planning to jump off the bandwagon, lets remember there are 24 games left in April alone and by this time next week we might be saying, Texas who?

If we consider Daniel Bards Opening Day meltdown an anomaly, from my perspective, the most distressing performance thus far has been John Lackeys Saturday start because history is not as kind to him.

Here are the seven career starts in which Lackey has given up at least eight earned runs.

DateTeam
Opp.
Result

IP
H
R
ER
BB
SOHR
Pit
9.26.08LAATexL 1-12

2.212
10
10
2
1
2
73
4.2.11
Bos
Tex
L 5-12

3.2
10
9
9
2
3
2
86
8.5.03
LAA
Bos
L 9-10

4.0
9
9
9
2
1
2
86
4.19.10
Bos
TB
L 2-8

3.1
9
8
8
1
3
1
79
6.10.09
LAA
TB
L 5-9

5.0
11
9
8
2
2
2
98
6.10.06
LAA
Sea
L 6-12

4.2
9
8
8
3
1
1
93
5.30.04
LAA
Chi
L 2-11

3.0
9
8
8
2
1
1
81

You can see that two have been for Boston, two have been against Texas, and two have been in April.

How the Red Sox have fared in recent Aprils:

Year April Final record 2010 11-12 .478 89-73 .549 2009 14-8 .636 95-67 .586 2008 17-12 .586 95-67 .586 2007 16-8 .667 96-66 .593 2006 14-11 .560 86-76 .531 2005 12-11 .522 95-67 .586 2004 15-6 .714 98-64 .605 2003 18-9 .667 95-67 .586 2002 16-7 .696 93-69 .574 2001 16-9 .640 82-79 .509 Total 149-93 .616 924-695 .571

Unlike Lackey, some Sox players have no trouble with April. Take Kevin Youkilis, who does really well in April (lifetime hitting .313) and especially in May (lifetime hitting .335 with 29 homers). It could be that by the end of the summer, he gets tired from wiping too much sweat from his brow. Last April, Youk hit .270 but had an .831 OPS which is down from his lifetime .931 OPS. He had a monster 2009 April with a 1.203 OPS (OPS is On-base Slugging percentage Ted Williams holds the all-time single season record with a 1.287 OPS in 1941).

Or take the case of Adrian Gonzalez, who is a lifetime .290 April hitter, which is slightly better than his .285 lifetime average. In Gonzalezs first four Aprils, starting in 2004, he hit 11 homers (seven in 2007), but over the last three he slammed 20 homers and drove home 55 Padres while hitting .300. While A-Gon is hitting .385 he only has one double in the extra-base hit category. Then again he does have his second career stolen base.

Carl Crawford had gotten off to such a rocky start that Terry Francona dropped him to the seventh slot in the lineup. He went 2-for-4 Sunday but that simply brought his average up to .182 without a stolen base. Over the first five Aprils of Crawfords career, he only had one season over .270, but the last three Aprils have been better for him. Hes been 90-for-300 for an even .300 with 37 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

If we werent paying so much attention to the new guys, we would admit that our eyes are on David Ortiz this April. We have repeatedly heard about Big Papis poor starts but those are a relatively recent occurrence. In 248 April career games, Ortiz has hit .254 with 49 homers and 171 RBI. The problem is that he had 48 April homers through 2008. His average over the last three Aprils (March games included) is .191 (47-for-246). Then, when you add the six total homers (one over the last two years) and 37 RBI (16 over the last two years), his numbers are just ugly.

However, perhaps not having all the pressure on Ortiz has helped to get him off to one of his best starts in years. The Cookie Monster has a pair of homers (and would have had three had it not been caught in the upper level gusts of the ill-winds over the Rangers Ballpark). Ortiz is hitting a healthy .333.

I would be remiss to not mention Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Lester has been the pitching equivalent of Ortiz in April and in his first start, despite not getting a decision, the lefty did nothing to allay our fears. Lifetime, Lester in April is 3-6, with a 4.95 ERA and a WHIP of 1.495.

Clay Buchholz allowed nine homers all last season and he allowed four on Sunday. In nine prior April starts he allowed four homers and he allowed four on Sunday. In three prior starts against the Rangers he had allowed one homer and he allowed well, you get my point.

April is a long month and the long season consists of six months. T.S. Eliot be damned, lets take a deep breath and head to Cleveland.

Twice weekly during the baseball season, Bill Chuck of billy-ball.com will provide Nation Station, a statistically-based look at the Red Sox. Look for Nation Station each Monday and Thursday at noon.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

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Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win. 

First impressions: Big trouble for Red Sox bullpen

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First impressions: Big trouble for Red Sox bullpen

First impressions of the Red Sox' 10-9 loss in Toronto:
 
Rick Porcello was back in top form.

Despite the matchup at the Rogers Center being less than favorable for Porcello, and the righty not at his best of late, he held a streaking, dangerous offense at bay for 6 2/3 innings (four runs, seven hits) before the bullpen coughed up two leads. 

While Porcello hasn’t performed poorly of late, there’s no question he hasn’t been at his best -- so it’s good to see him have a consistent feel for his pitches.

The bullpen might be in trouble Sunday.

With Junichi Tazawa struggling, Craig Kimbrel throwing a season high 39 pitches and Matt Barnes pitching in both games this series, the bullpen won’t be at it’s best for the final game in Toronto. So, if there were ever a time for David Price to throw like a true ace, Sunday would be it.

Tommy Layne proves again that he’s not trustworthy.

With a four-run lead, and only needing to get two batters out, Layne couldn't get an out in the eighth, allowing two runs on two hits and starting something not even Kimbrel (who gave up leads in the eighth and ninth after being called on for a five-out save) could stop. The lefty specialist may have entered the game with an ERA below 3.00, but his results are inconsistent.
 
Umpire Mike DiMuro’s injury changed the tone of the game.

The home plate umpire took a hard foul ball off the center of the mask, delaying the game for several minutes and forcing Brian Gorman to call the game behind the plate.

And with that came an inconsistent strike zone. Both sides were frustrated by his inconsistency with his zone. Porcello had two pitches stopped due to late timeout calls. Marcus Stroman was almost allowed to quick pitch Hanley Ramirez twice in the same at-bat.

The crew got it right removing DiMuro from the game, but Gorman was bad in relief.
 
David Ortiz getting doubled up in the fourth inning can’t happen.

Darwin Barney showed some range, getting to Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s soft line drive up the middle, flipping the ball to second quickly after to get Ortiz. This comes a night after Hanley Ramirez got double up off a screaming line drive.

There’s a difference between the two though. Ramirez had no time to react. Ortiz had all the time in the world. Even though Papi’s speed hasn’t become enhanced in his old age -- unlike his power -- that was a rally-killing play he could’ve prevented.
 
Don’t sleep on Dustin Pedroia.

Between Ortiz’s farewell tour and the youth rising, Dustin Pedroia continues to perform well under the radar.

He went 2-for-4, lacing two doubles off Toronto’s ace, Marcus Stroman. Pedroia is hitting .309. He’s not the only player being overlooked, but he’s definitely received the least amount of attention in Boston’s power-packed lineup.