Daily Noontime – May 29, 2012

Miami’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron stole the show in Game No. 1, as the Heat defeated the Boston Celtics, 93-79! (Photo Credit: WBUR.org)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Tuesday to everyone, and welcome into this Tuesday edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s kickstart the four-day work week with some headlines and news from the city of Boston, and state of Massachusetts.

* Miami held Boston to 15 points in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth, as the Heat defeated the Celtics in Game No. 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 93-79. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 54 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and five blocks, while Kevin Garnett paced the Celtics with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

* Miami and Boston will return to the hardwood on Wednesday for Game No. 2 at 8:30pm. With Monday’s win, the Heat currently lead the series, 1-0.

* After Monday’s contest concluded — Ray Allen told the media that he’s battling with his inner self to work hard and overcome the bone spurs in his ankle. He told WEEI’s Paul Flannery, “There’s nothing really to talk about. It’s like a battle within myself that I have to try and win. You always talk, if it was the playoffs would you play? It’s the playoffs.”

* The Boston Red Sox concluded their Memorial Day Weekend with a 7-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. Felix Doubront earned his fifth win of the season on the bump, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia finished the contest 2-4 with two runs, a home run and an RBI.

* Boston is now 24-24, and will attempt to earn their 25th win of the season and 12th at home on Tuesday against Detroit — Daniel Bard opposes Justin Verlander — first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* Prior to Monday’s contests — the Red Sox continued their 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park by recognizing Trot Nixon. The original dirt dog sported his No. 7 home white jersey, and tossed the out the ceremonial first pitch.

Daily Noontime – May 21, 2012

Mike Aviles cranked his eighth home run of the season on Sunday, as Boston defeated Philadelphia, 5-1! (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Monday, which means a brand new week has officially started! Let’s get things rolling with some news and headlines from the city of Boston, and state of Massachusetts.

* The Boston Red Sox concluded their weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 5-1 victory. Boston defeated Philadelphia two out of three times, and are now 20-21 overall.

* Against Cliff Lee on Sunday, Boston’s bats recorded five runs on nine hits. Mike Aviles cranked his eighth home run of the season, and also recorded his 27th RBI. Jarrod Saltalamacchia finished the day 1 for 4, and hit a home run and drove in three runs.

* Boston will continue its current road trip on Monday when they travel to Baltimore to face the Orioles at 7:05PM — Clay Buchholz faces Tommy Hunter on the bump.

* According to the Boston Globe — if the Sox record a sweep against the Orioles, they’d be able to “tighten things up” in the American League East. Also, don’t expect Daisuke Matsuzaka to return to the rotation anytime soon, as the right-hander is currently dealing with “pain in his right trapezius muscle.”

* The Boston Celtics will return to the TD Garden on Monday for Game No. 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. The series is tied, 2-2, and Boston has only won one game at home this series, and one in Philadelphia.

* The Celtics squandered a golden opportunity to earn a two-game cushion on Friday, and know that this particular match is critical, especially after an “idle weekend.”

Daily Noontime – May 14, 2012

Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded one home run and 5 RBIs on Sunday, as Boston extended its current winning streak to three-games! (Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Monday, which means a new week has officially begun! Let’s get it started with some news and headlines from the city of Boston!

* The Boston Red Sox won their third consecutive game on Sunday, as the local nine pounded the Cleveland Indians, 12-1. Daniel Bard picked up his third win of the season, as he pitched six innings, allowed one earned run, and fanned two batters, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded one home run and 5 RBIs.

* Boston has now won 15 games, and will look to earn their eighth win at Fenway Park on Monday when they host the Seattle Mariners — Jon Lester opposes Jason Vargas — first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* According to various reports — Daisuke Matsuzaka will make two more rehab starts with the PawSox before returning to Boston. The right-hander made his most recent start on Saturday, and lasted 5.1 innings and allowed seven hits, five runs, but fanned five batters.

* The Boston Celtics will look to earn their second Eastern Conference semi-final victory on Monday when they return to the hardwood at the TD Garden. Boston defeated Philadelphia, 92-91 on Saturday, and were given the day off on Sunday.

* Finally, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently interviewed by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who wrote in his weekly, “Monday Morning Quarterback” an excerpt about his first start against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 30, 2001.

Five things to look for during the upcoming Red Sox season.

By Andy Lindberg 

Mr. Matt Noonan kindly asked me this weekend if I would write a top-10 list for the Boston Red Sox from the 2011 season; a top-10 list, which would highlight the good things from the 2011 season.  After informing Mr. Noonan that was impossible because there was no way there are 10 good things to take away from last season, he simply requested a top-5 things to look forward to this upcoming 2012 campaign.  In no particular order, here they are.

1. Will Carl Crawford recover?

To say Carl Crawford had a poor season in 2011 would be the definition of an understatement.  In 130 games for Boston, Crawford hit a career-low .255, had a career-low on-base percentage of .289, and stole a measly 18 bases.  For the Red Sox to be successful next year, Crawford has to turn into the solid #3 hitter the Red Sox envisioned he would be.  Crawford needs to get on base and score runs.  The upcoming season will be the one that labels Crawford a bust or a solid investment.

2.  Who will catch?

Jarrod Saltalamacchia did more than I expected of him, playing in 103 games and cracking 16 home runs while driving in 56.  Jason Varitek rounded out the catching platoon over the course of the season.  With Varitek seemingly out of the picture as a player in Boston, the emergence of young Ryan Lavarnway (who was the one player during the final Baltimore series who actually played like he didn’t want to go home) has created a catching controversy.  The Red Sox also went out and signed Kelly Shoppach to a short-term contract.  I anticipate Lavarnway will start the year at Pawtucket while Saltalamacchia and Shoppach platoon for Boston, but Spring Training may dictate otherwise.

3.  How will Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves perform as starters?

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz are the only two certainties in the pitching rotation for the upcoming season.  Buchholz is coming off of a lost season due to stress fractures in his back.  John Lackey is lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Daisuke Matsuzaka will be out until at least the All-Star break having undergone the same surgery earlier in the 2011 season.  Alfredo Aceves was arguably the best pickup of the year for the Red Sox and provided quality depth and spot-starting ability.  Daniel Bard not only has an electric fastball, but his slider is devastating to opposing batters and his changeup is coming along as well.  If Boston is rebuilding, Bard’s transition will hopefully provide the Red Sox an outstanding starting pitcher for the 2013 season.

4.  How will Jacoby Ellsbury follow up 2011?

If the Red Sox had made the playoffs, Jacoby Ellsbury would have won American League MVP honors.  Ellsbury hit .321, slugged .552, hit 32 home runs with 105 RBI, stole 39 bases, and amassed 212 hits while leading the league with 364 total bases from the leadoff spot in the lineup.  Ellsbury bounced back after a lost season in 2010 and his production at the top of the lineup in 2012 is imperative for Boston’s success.

5.  Will David Ortiz reach 400 career home runs?

Ortiz may not match his excellent production from 2011, but he currently sits at 378 career homers, only 22 away from 400 all time, a number that would greatly increase his long-shot chances at the Hall of Fame as a designated hitter.  For some perspective, recently elected Hall of Famer Jim rice hit 382 homers with 1,451 RBI in 16 years with Boston.  Ortiz was signed to a two-year contract with Boston and his RBI total is 1,266 and he has 1,760 hits.  It is possible for Ortiz to eclipse Rice’s RBI and home run totals and it is also possible for Ortiz to reach 2,000 career hits.  If he does so, he will go from close but no cigar Hall of Fame chances to possible Hall of Famer.  The DH position, however, severely hurts Ortiz’s chances.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

The Sox seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday, June 4 with a ninth inning debacle that saw the Oakland Athletics score four runs to tie the game.  The A’s took the lead in the 11th only to see Boston claw back with two outs in the bottom of the frame when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled in Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the tying run.

In the 14th inning came J.D. Drew, whose previous four at-bats saw him swing for the Golden Sombrero. Drew hit an 0-1 pitch sharply into right-center to score Carl Crawford from second and the game was won.

Saturday’s game was pretty much the week from Boston. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and in other games were forced to claw out of a hole in an effort to put up a W in the AL East standings.

Boston went [3-3] for the week, first getting swept by the White Sox, and then sweeping the Athletics. The offense looked terrific overall, but the pitching was suspect, especially from the bullpen. If it’s not a save situation, I would seriously reconsider putting Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. While he thrives in tight game scenarios, non-save situations actually seem to give him trouble.

This week saw the Red Sox lose Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, both until late next year. In Matsuzaka’s case, maybe never again. One would be safe in assuming Matsuzaka never pitches in a Boston uniform again given the rehab he will go through. Not to mention by July of next season, the Red Sox will have a set rotation because they have to compete. Don’t be shocked if Boston makes a few moves for a capable #3-4-type starting pitcher in the near future.

This week also saw preliminary All-Star votes come out. Don’t even get me started on how stupid fans are because they should NOT be allowed to vote for All-Stars, plain and simple. There’s no reason Mark Teixeira should be leading over Adrian Gonzalez. There’s no reason Russell Martin should be leading over Alex Avila and there’s no reason Alex Rodriguez should be leading over Alberto Callaspo or even Adrian Beltre.

If you even TRY and tell me Derek Jeter should be leading over Asdrubal Cabrera at this point, I will mentally smack you in the face. The only Yankee who should be leading at his position is Robinson Cano, because the AL second base field isn’t as great as it has been in prior years. Cano to this point is the most well rounded second baseman statistically.

Now, I do not vote for All-Stars until voting is nearing its end to give the players time to accumulate more stats. However the stats right now once again show dozens of players getting the shaft. But I digress. Expect a podcast on this subject later this week.

Coming up Tuesday night, the Red Sox for once play against the Yankees during the week. History has shown Boston own the Yankees in the first seven to eight games played against them, so look for the Yankees to throw down now.

On Friday the Sox stay on the road against Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays, who have played the Sox tough in Toronto this season, but overall, it’s going to be a hard week for the local nine.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

I doubt this past week could have been any soggier in fair New England. For the Red Sox, they escaped the weather woes with only one rainout, which was Tuesday’s game against Baltimore.

Within the dreary doldrums of the foggy, misty Fenway Park, the Red Sox compiled a weekly record of [5-1] to briefly take hold of first place in the division, only to now reside a half a game back of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, a feat many viewed as ludicrous merely two weeks ago.

On Monday night against Baltimore, the night began in less than stellar fashion with Daisuke Matsuzaka getting drilled in the chest on a liner up the middle on the very first pitch of the ballgame by Oriole second baseman Brian Roberts. From there, Matsuzaka never recovered, giving up five earned runs in 4.1 innings while walking seven batters. Shortly thereafter, Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-Day DL.

Down 6-0, the Red Sox stormed back with five runs in the sixth inning to pull within one. In the bottom of the ninth, down 7-6, Boston sent Adrian Gonzalez to the plate with two men on. Tired of Carl Crawford getting all the attention for walk-off hits, Gonzalez added one of his own, ripping an offering from Kevin Gregg off of the Green Monster, and plating both runners for the win.

From there, the Sox could virtually do no wrong. After the rainout, the Red Sox swept up the Detroit Tigers, winning the first game 1-0 behind a Jarrod Saltalamacchia eighth inning double.

The second game saw Boston take a 3-1 lead over Detroit’s ace Justin Verlander, only to see Daniel Bard give it right back on back-to-back bombs. Not feeling the fact that he didn’t get the Monday walk off, Carl Crawford enjoyed his third game-winning hit of the year, a bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to dead center field to win it.

The weekend set saw Boston face-off against the Chicago Cubs for only the second time since 1918 and for the first time in Boston since that date.

The first game went to Boston in a 15-5 dismantling of the Cubbies, despite another start in which Boston’s Jon Lester struggled. Game two went to the Cubs when Boston’s bullpen melted down in the eighth inning. With Boston holding tight to a 3-1 lead, poor defense and shaky pitching by Matt Albers led to eight Chicago runs.  However, in game three, Tim Wakefield thought it was 1995 again and completely shut down Chicago for a 5-1 win. Wakefield is now six wins away from 200 career wins.

It seems as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia is beginning to enjoy showing off what he can provide, as on Sunday he hit his third home run in his last four games. Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez are as hot as they come right now and David Ortiz hit his 300th homer in a Boston uniform.

I was initially concerned when John Lackey and Matsuzaka went on the DL only because I thought it would tax Boston’s bullpen too much. Alfredo Aceves pitched very well on Saturday, but unfortunately, the bullpen did break down like I expected. This could be an issue going forward in terms of that fifth spot in the rotation. Starter by committee is not the best way to go.

Coming up this week Boston travels to Cleveland, a squad that sports the best record in baseball. After that, beginning on Thursday, Boston travels to Detroit to finish the week with a four game trip. Boston seems to be hitting its stride, winning eight of their last nine games, and they will need to pitch far better out of the bullpen to keep the pace with both Tampa Bay and New York.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

Sunday was “Sweepday” in Boston.  The C’s threw down on the Knicks, (although it was far from pretty) and the Red Sox took it to the Angels (a very pretty series).  With a game every day this past week, the Red Sox went [6-1] in grand fashion.  The starting pitching was spectacular, especially from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed no runs on one hit in seven innings to the Blue Jays on Monday and no runs on one hit in eight innings against the Angles on Saturday.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s not one run allowed on two hits in 15 innings pitched by Matsuzaka this past week.  He was effective, kept his breaking ball low in the zone and threw several of his pitches with confidence, allowing him to spot his fastball more often and throw a wider array of pitches deeper into the count.  The lone blemish of the week was the first game at Oakland, but John Lackey pitched very well, only giving up one run in six innings.  Lackey pitched even better against his old team today in Anaheim, going eight innings without allowing a run.

Carl Crawford has picked it up this week as well, knocking his first home run of the season today.  The pitching and the hitting are both coming together at the same time, and in the most obvious and obnoxious statement of all time, the rest of the league should be on notice.

There’s not much more detail I can get into about the wins this week, as the Red Sox played well-rounded baseball in nearly every game, not to mention Jonathan Papelbon was outstanding, pitching in three consecutive games and earning a save in each.  Kevin Youkilis has encouraged me as well, going to the opposite field for power for two of his home runs on the season, including Saturday at Anaheim.

What does still irk me, however, is the catching situation.  I do not think it is any coincidence that Jason Varitek being behind the plate for Josh Beckett and Matsuzaka has seen both hurlers off to a run of extraordinary pitching.  The staff is quite comfortable with the captain catching.  Since both catchers on Boston’s roster aren’t hitting at all, there’s no controversy over who gets playing time.  At this point, anything they provide at the dish is a bonus.  But a team cannot win with a vacant hole in the lineup and Varitek in all likelihood cannot remain in tip-top condition starting consistently.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia has to show he can perform and be disciplined at the plate.  To this point in the season Saltalamacchia has struck out 13 times while walking only three times.  This is from a player whose plate discipline was highly touted.

In 2007 Terry Francona stuck with Dustin Pedroia, who was hitting below .200 at the time and the faith paid off.  Boston can only hope history repeats itself with Saltalamacchia, as catching depth across the league is minimal.