Daily Noontime – April 26, 2012

Joel Ward's overtime strike on Wednesday lifted Washington past Boston in Game No. 7, 2-1! (Photo Credit: CBC.ca)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Ah… it’s Thursday, which means we’re one day closer to the end of the work week. However, this is a rather solemn day, as Bostonians mourn the loss of the Boston Bruins, so let’s try to brighten the mood with headlines and news!

* As stated above, the Boston Bruins quest toward a seventh Stanley Cup championship ended on Wednesday evening at the TD Garden when the Washington Capitals defeated them, 2-1 in overtime. Joel Ward scored the clincher at 2:57 in the extra session, which punched the Capitals ticket to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

* After the seventh game concluded – James Murphy of ESPNBoston provided a ‘to-do‘ list of things the Bruins need to focus on during the offseason. Also, ESPN’s Barry Melrose provided his ‘two-cents‘ on the Caps 22-year-old goaltender Braden Holtby.

* The Boston Red Sox earned their first regular season series sweep of the season on Wednesday, as they defeated the Minnesota Twins, 7-6. Clay Buchholz earned second win of the season, while Alfredo Aceves registered his fourth save. As for the Sox offense, Mike Aviles his his fourth home run of the season, while Dustin Pedroia recorded a double and triple.

* The Sox will look to extend their three-game winning streak on Thursday when they travel to Chicago to face the White Sox at 8:10pm –Felix Doubront opposes Philip Humber.

* Finally, the Boston Celtics will conclude their 66-game regular season slate on Thursday when they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the TD Garden for an 8PM tip-off.

Daily Noontime – April 24, 2012

Cody Ross smacked two long balls, which helped Boston snap their five-game losing streak in Monday! (Photo Credit: ESPN)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Tuesday, which means this week is slowly motoring along. And while we anxiously await Game No. 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday, let’s jumpstart the day with some news, notes and headlines.

Cody Ross hit two home runs, and Daniel Bard recorded his first win as a reliever, as Boston snapped their five-game skid and defeated the Minnesota Twins, 6-5.

* Against the Twins, Adrian Gonzalez recorded his 10th RBI, while Ross registered his 13th. Also, Alfredo Aceves earned his third save of the season.

* Boston and Minnesota will return to the diamond on Tuesday for an 8:10pm start — Josh Beckett opposes Nick Blackburn.

* The Boston Celtics will play their second to last regular season contests on Tuesday, too, as they welcome the Miami Heat to the TD Garden for an 8PM tip-off. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may not play against the Heat, as head coach Doc Rivers indicated during Monday’s practice that both players may one of the remaining contests.

Wes Welker apparently will be making a few appearances on various ESPN shows on Tuesday and will also be hosting a live online chat, too.

* Finally, the Boston Bruins seventh game of their quarterfinal series against Washington will begin at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

Boston Red Sox Recap: Game No. 4 vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Links)

Alfredo Aceves picked up his first save on Monday following a 1-2-3 ninth inning! (Photo Credit: Boston Herald)

By NoontimeSports.com 

For the first time this season, Boston won a baseball game, as they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2 on Monday.

Darnell McDonald and Cody Ross recorded the team’s final two runs, while Alfredo Aceves picked up his first save after a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Here are some links, stories and recaps from Boston’s first victory.

* ESPNBoston provided a rapid reaction following the conclusion of Monday’s contest, which highlighted various key moments.

* Gordon Edes crafted an interesting piece about David Ortiz, who contemplated stealing base against the Blue Jays pitching staff.

* Yahoo! Sports published an AP recap, which regales readers about the Sox ninth inning rally.

* The Globe and Mail explained how the Red Sox ruined the Blue Jays home opener.

* The Boston Globe breaks down Bobby Valentine‘s first win in a Red Sox uniform.

Ryan Sweeney was the focus on a WEEI game recap, as he was the one who initiated the ninth inning rally.

Daily Noontime – April 10, 2012

Boston's Darnell McDonald slides safely into home plate! (Photo Credit: Hartford Courant)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Tuesday, which means this particular week is motoring along. And while we anxiously await for another weekend, let’s get the day started with some headlines and news from Boston.

* The Boston Red Sox needed a ninth inning rally to pick up their first win of the 2012 season, as they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2. Darnell McDonald and Cody Ross scored the team’s third and fourth runs, while Alfredo Aceves picked up his first save after a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

* Boston will attempt to double their win total on Tuesday when Daniel Bard opposes Kyle Drabek at 7:07pm in Toronto.

* According to reports – Boston’s Kevin Youkilis is frustrated about his 12 plate appearances this season. The third baseman is currently 0-for-12 at the dish, and leads the team with five strikeouts, (Adrian Gonzalez also has five strikeouts, too).

* The Boston Celtics will look to earn a critical victory on Tuesday when they travel to Miami to face the Heat. The Green and White have 10 games remaining before the playoffs, and will certainly have their hands full during this final stretch.

* ESPNBoston confirmed on Monday that the Celtics were tabbed as the No. 6 team in basketball according to the recent ESPN rankings. Last week, the Celtics were slated at the No. 7 team, but recent victories bumped them up to their newest spot.

* Lastly, we’re two days away from the Boston Bruins first playoff contest against the Washington Capitals, which is scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 12 at 7:30pm.

The 2012 Boston Red Sox–An Obituary

By Andy Lindberg

The Boston Red Sox suck spectacularly.  A day after being shut out by Detroit 10-0, the Red Sox came back with a furious vengeance and scored 12 runs on April 8.

The only problem was Detroit scored 13.

Last year I distinctly remember saying April was too early to push the panic button.  The Red Sox would be ok.  For a while, the Red Sox were ok.  They were better than ok.  For about four months, the 2011 Red Sox were the best team in baseball until September, when they were the worst.

The 2012 Red Sox seem to have liked the 2011 September suckers.  Twice on Easter Sunday, 2012, the Red Sox bullpen gave up leads.  Alfredo Aceves could not record an out in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run lead, blowing the save with a Miguel Cabrera big fly.  After saying on Friday he felt the hook came too quickly, Mark Melancon, out to redeem himself, gave up a walk-off home run to Detroit catcher Alex Avila, who provided the hook for him so Bobby Valentine wouldn’t have to bother walking out to the mound.

How generous of you, Mr. Avila.

The Red Sox cannot win with pitching like this.  I’ve seen enough.  Boston fans have seen enough.  Stick a fork in them.  They’re done three games into the season.  The loss of Andrew Bailey has seemingly turned into the loss of this season.  Our former All-Star closer-in-waiting has become a starting pitcher in Daniel Bard.  In the chess game that is pitching matchups and bullpen pieces, the Red Sox have knocked over their king.  The Red Sox have yet again started the season by being swept by a good team, a team Boston desperately needed to beat.  The only bright spot in the pitching came in the Opener, when Jon Lester pitched seven innings of one-run ball, only to have the misfortune of being matched up against Justin Verlander.  When Boston came back and tied the game off of Jose Valverde in the ninth, Melancon came in during the bottom half of the same inning, allowed two base-runners, yielded the ball to Aceves, and saw Austin Jackson hit a walk-off single.

I’m as sick of writing about them as you are of reading about them.  This week Boston plays three games at Toronto and then come back to Fenway for four games against Tampa Bay, who just lit up the New York Yankees, sweeping the Bombers to start the year.

And on a side note, I hate saying this, but part of me hopes Bard gets lit up in his first two starts or so and runs to Valentine, begging Bobby V to insert him into the bullpen as Boston’s closer in Bailey’s absence.

The sharp swagger we’ve been used to seeing from the Red Sox pitching staff is gone, faded and sanded like the edges of ancient sea-glass on a beach.  Now all Sox fans can do is hope one day management wakes up and realizes the team is lost in these huge-market signings, and will once again stock up the farm system to the glorious system that produced so many All Stars earlier in the decade.  I love the Red Sox with every ounce of my being, but Sox fans are watching the beginnings of a massacre in Boston right now, and there’s still 159 more games to go…

Bailey Loss Hurts Red Sox

By Andy Lindberg

After all the effort Ben Cherrington spent re-vamping the Red Sox’s bullpen, one of the most critical members of the ‘pen has gone down with an injury, and may be out for as long as a few months if surgery is necessary.Image

Closer Andrew Bailey has not received good news regarding his injured thumb, according to sources.

Bailey, who will be 28 in May, has battled injuries before during his three-year career; however he has been extremely effective when healthy, posting 75 career saves, a 2.07 ERA and an excellent 206 ERA+ (above 100 is considered above average).  If Bailey is indeed out for an extended period, look to Alfredo Aceves and newcomer Mark Melancon to pick up the slack in the ninth inning.  The 26-year-old Melancon saved 20 games for Houston last year and came over in a trade for infielder Jed Lowrie.

Aside from the hurt it puts on Boston’s bullpen, it also throws pitchers with relative inexperience at closing into the fire.  The 2003 “closer by committee” approach did not work out well, and there’s no reason to think a closer shuffle would work again.  The Red Sox are coming off of the most disappointing year in recent memory and need to keep pace with the Rays and Yankees in the AL East.  Injuries killed Boston’s 2010 season and right now, the outlook in the bullpen is already strained.

Josh Beckett got good news on his hurting thumb and is still on track to pitch on Saturday in Detroit.

Rubin: Red Sox Pitching Was The Achilles’ Heel

Would you say, the Red Sox failed to win games because of their pitching?

By Dan Rubin 

It’s easy to point the finger at the 2011 Boston Red Sox by blaming the front office, the manager and his staff, or any one of the free agent busts they’ve signed over the past two years.

Detractors will be extremely quick to tell Red Sox fans they lost the season because of a clubhouse filled with overpriced babies, whining brats, and players who couldn’t get along. They’ll use that as fodder to lob at Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, and they’ll do it by saying, the Red Sox essentially became the New York Yankees.

Although, the real reason the Red Sox failed wasn’t because of a lack of output, yet instead – pitching.

Championships aren’t won without a lockdown bullpen and a good starting rotation. As Sox fans in the ‘90’s remember, it was easy to have a terrible season when you had one great starter and four mediocre arms.

The ‘02 Red Sox failed to qualify for the postseason even though they had two 20-game winners in Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe and the American League batting champion, Manny Ramirez. Boston failed to qualify for the playoffs that year because of their third, fourth and fifth starters, along with their bullpen that couldn’t close the door on any opponent.

The ‘04 Red Sox had multiple front-end starters, headlined by the aces of Martinez and Curt Schilling. Behind them, every starter won 10-games and pitched over 175 innings, while the bullpen shut the door at key times thanks to Mike Timlin and Alan Embree.  Only one Boston starter that year had a WHIP over 1.5 (Lowe). Also, Lowe, Tim Wakefield, and Bronson Arroyo gave the Sox a chance to win games too.

The ‘07 edition was even better, as their rotation included Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, (making his cameo appearance for being great by pitching a team-high 204 innings). Behind them, Wakefield and Schilling, as well as Julian Tavarez and Jon Lester. With the exception of Tavarez, no pitcher had a WHIP of 1.50 or higher on the ’07 squad. Also, the bullpen that year had a well-balanced attack of relievers, as every single pitcher practically finished with – 50+ innings pitched, 3.00-4.00 ERA, 2-3 wins, and a WHIP of 0.90-1.50.

The Red Sox of ’11 featured four starters down the stretch with WHIPs over 1.5 – John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard, and Kyle Weiland. Their bullpen had three relievers combine for more than 50 innings, while Alfredo Aceves recorded more innings pitched than both Miller and Bedard combined.  Jonathan Papelbon was forced to finish 54 games, appear in 63, and save only 31 – and he blew three saves. Also, at the end of the season, he became used too often because Dan Wheeler, Scott Atchison, and Felix Doubront couldn’t do what the team did in ’04 and ’07, which was win games.

So, now we hit the offseason. Francona appears all but gone, and the front office is left with a number of different questions. They’ll probably go out and sign some splashy free agent, which should make everyone feel great coming into spring training next year, but until they get those workhorse guys in their clubhouse, the current roster and new additions will most likely be looking up at Tampa Bay and New York again next September.

Red Sox Weekly Review

By Matt Noonan 

The Boston Red Sox enter a brand new week with a two-game losing skid, thanks, Seattle, I’m sure the local nine appreciates it!

However, despite their west coast struggles from this past weekend, which usually seem to occur in the month of August, yet again, Tim Wakefield watched another start end without his 200th career victory. Indeed, it’s heartbreaking news, however, will Wakefield eventually win and celebrate that special milestone? Of course, but obviously it won’t be against the Mariners, as the Sox wrapped up their season series with a 5-3 loss on Sunday.

Kevin Youkillis ended Sunday’s contest with his 17th home run, as well as his 78th RBI of the season, however, it wasn’t enough to spark the Sox offense.

Yet, despite the Sox struggles on Saturday and Sunday, they managed to win two-of-three games against the Minnesota Twins. Alfredo Aceves and Matt Albers each recorded wins on Monday and Tuesday, while Jonathan Papelbon collected two additional saves. Although on Wednesday, Jon Lester struggled and so did the offense, as Minnesota’s bats came alive to win the series finale, 5-2.

WEEK OUTLOOK: The Sox will return to Fenway Park on Tuesday for a day-night double header against the Tampa Bay Rays. They’ll wrap up the two-day series on Wednesday and then travel to Kansas City and Texas for an eight game road trip.

DIVISION UPDATE: The New York Yankees-Rays contest was postponed due to rain on Sunday, but, since the Red Sox ended their weekend series with two back-to-back losses, the Bronx Bombers currently remain a half a game behind Boston in the American League East division. Also, New York has a comfortable 8.5 game lead over Tampa Bay and Los Angles for the Wild Card, yet, despite the winner of the AL East, it’s pretty certain that both the Red Sox and Yankees will be playing baseball in October.

Boston Red Sox First Half Assessment

By Andy Lindberg

Offense: A.  It’s hard not to give Boston the high grade when they have finished the first half with a .278 team batting average, good for first in the majors.  The 107 home runs the Red Sox have hit are tied for third in the league behind the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers.  The Red Sox have scored the most runs (482) and have accumulated the most hits (872) in all of baseball.  Boston’s batters have also proven to be very patient while leading the majors with 345 walks on the season, which has contributed strongly to their league lead in on-base percentage at .354.  This mix of OBP and batting average has thrust the Red Sox into first place in the American League after a horrific April start.  Adrian Gonzalez, the major league leader in batting average (.354) has been astounding to watch at the plate and in the field.  His sweet swing is tailor made for Fenway Park, utilizing the Green Monster in which to deposit pitches that are over the outside part of the plate.  David Ortiz has been revitalized and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are now both batting over .280 (.284 and .285, respectively) after slow starts.  One wonders what the average could be if not for JD Drew’s .229 clip.  The numbers don’t lie, Boston is the premier offensive team in the Majors, and remains so without a productive or healthy Carl Crawford in the lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury (28 stolen bases) has set the table very well for the Red Sox while the platoon situation behind the plate with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek has been surprisingly effective for what the Red Sox desire of them.  There’s no way Boston misses the postseason if they continue the offensive output they have produced thus far.

Defense: A.  Shockingly, the Red Sox are tied for first place in the Major Leagues with six teams in terms of fielding percentage (.987).  The Red Sox are in a three-way tie for first in errors as well, with only 44; a statistic that is only matched by Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox.  For a team that hits the lights out, it is surprising to see a Red Sox team field so well when in recent years, they have not.  Between Varitek and Saltalamacchia there is one error.  Kevin Youkilis only has six at the hot corner and Adrian Gonzalez seems to be able to do it all with only two miscues on the season, good for a .997 fielding percentage.  Tops in the league deserves a top first half grade.

Pitching: B-.  What seemed to be the big strength heading into the season for the Red Sox could turn out to hurt them the most.  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are both on the 15-Day DL while John Lackey is as inconsistent as can be.  Josh Becketthad a knee scare, but he seems to be well while earning an All-Star berth.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely done in a Red Sox uniform.  All in all it could be worse, as Boston is 14th in baseball with a 3.92 ERA.  The Red Sox are 12th in strikeouts and are tied for fifth in batting average against at .239.  They are also eighth in the league in WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) with a 1.26 mark.  Boston is still having issues closing games.  While the blown saves from Jonathan Papelbon are not as glaring as they were in 2010 (Papelbon has only blown one save this year), he has a 3.93 ERA and has allowed 36 hits in 36.2 innings pitched, a poor statistic for a closing pitcher.  Rich Hill was lights out until suffering an injury that led to Tommy John surgery, and both Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been poor to this point as bullpen additions.  The surprises are Matt Albers (3-3, 2.55 ERA) and Alfredo Aceves (4-1, 3.41).  Aceves has been doubly valuable as Boston has been able to plant him in the starting rotation four times due to injuries to other starters.  Also as a replacement, Andrew Miller (3-0, 3.57) has been nothing short of outstanding in his four starts for Boston this year after being inserted into the Rotation for Buchholz and Lester.  Should Boston regain their pitching health and keep it, coupled with the offense we may be looking at a very serious contender for a World Series appearance.