Red Sox-Phils: Prelude to October?

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Red Sox-Phils: Prelude to October?

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's difficult to assign too much significance to spring training games, with their casual atmosphere, patchwork lineups and wholesale mid-game substitutions.

But that didn't stop some from viewing Thursday's Phillies-Red Sox Grapefruit League meeting as a potential sneak preview of the 2011 World Series.

Those people, apparently, didn't get the memo to Terry Francona.

"Who are we playing today?'' Francona asked reporters gathered for his morning media briefing.

It could be that Francona was having some fun with the hype. Or his ignorance could have been genuine.

Either way, it didn't take away from the pregame talk. The Phillies were good enough to get to the NLCS and though they fell shy of reaching their third straight World Series (they won in 2008, and lost to the Yankees in 2009), adding lefty ace Cliff Lee in the off-season has made them the prohibitive favorites in the National League.

Similarly, the Red Sox' offseason acquisition spree has positioned them as the American League team to beat.

As might be expected for a team traveling 2 12 hours on a bus, the Phils didn't field their 'A' team against the Red Sox. In fact, of the players who made the trek, only outfielders Ben Francisco and Shane Victorino will be in Philadelphia's Opening Day lineup.

Still, this wasn't about March. This was about thinking ahead to October and what could be. And while neither team was silly enough to proclaim itself likely pennant winners, the Sox and Phils weren't shy about praising one another.

"We might see this matchup in the World Series," agreed Phils manager Charlie Manuel. "But at the same time, it's like anything else: you've got to go out there and play. Expectations are high and I'm sure that's good. I look at it as good.

"I like to think that, after the last four or five years, expectations on our guys are kind of what they put on themselves. The World Series is where we want to go. I know Terry Francona - I was his hitting coach at one time. And I know that's where he wants to go. Basically, I imagine our thinking is kind of alike.

"It's actually what the players think and what they expect of each other and the team. High expectations from the media and the fans is absolutely great. But you still have to go out there and play and you've got to play the best baseball."

Phils general manager Ruben Amaro went a step further.

"Boston is the best club in baseball I think,'' he said. "Their combination of speed, power, pitching and bullpen -- they're a hell of a ballclub. They don't have a lot of holes."

In adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox might have given themselves the best lineup in either league. Meanwhile, the Phils added Lee to a rotation which already boasted Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, forming the game's most talented collection of starters.

Francona was ecstatic when Lee chose the Phillies over other suitors. Then again, he had his own team's interest in mind.

"I was glad, but I think everybody kind of thought it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to go to the Yankees,'' Francona said. "And if he didn't go to the Yankees, he was going to Texas. They're both in our league and one's in our division, so I was really glad. Facing Cliff once in interleague's a lot better than facing him four or five times a season."

The Sox and Phils have met in interleague play every year but one since 2003 and will play a three-game set this season in Philadelphia in the final week of June.

That meeting itself is almost four months away. But on a beautiful March morning, if you tried hard, you could almost see all the way to October.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

CHICAGO -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox:

 

QUOTES

"I think the most encouraging thing was after a couple of hard-hit balls early on, he was still in attack mode.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"The biggest thing centers around his fastball. First inning, he might have been up a little bit. But after that, he was down in the zone and the curveball was a good compliment to that.'' - Farrell.

"Man, I tell you what -- he does it in such big moments.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz.

"If you could paint a picture, I think tonight would be just about what everybody would want to do.'' - Buchholz on his outing.

"I think everybody would be lying if they said they didn't see your numbers; you see them every day. (Being) 0-3 with a six-something (ERA) is obviously not where you want to be.'' - Buchholz.

"Hopefully, this is the start of something good coming out of him.'' - Ortiz on Buchholz.

"You feel like the luckiest man on planet earth - finally hitting the ball where no one's at!'' - Ortiz on beating the shift with a single through the shortstop hole in the seventh

 

NOTES

* When the Red Sox homer, they're 11-6.

* Clay Buchholz's win was his first since last July 10.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

* Mookie Betts has scored at least one run in 10 of his last 14 games.

* David Ortiz is now one homer from tying Carl Yastrzemski for second-most homers in franchise history at 452.

* Ortiz tied Gary Sheffield for 25th place all-time in homers with 509.

 

STARS

1) Clay Buchholz

After five straight poor outings, Buchholz turned in a gem, giving up two runs in the first, then nothing else for the next six innings.

2) David Ortiz

As he so often does, Ortiz delivered when the Red Sox needed him most, clocking a two-run homer in the fifth to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.

3) Jose Abreu

The White Sox slugger belted a two-run homer in the first to give him five RBI in the two games in this series.