While there's no official news out of the front office that much of the organization has changed, as the rumors suggest, Fenway Park did enjoy plenty of action today both on and off the field.
The trade speculation will get most of the headlines, but let's not overlook a good victory for the Red Sox. It shouldn't be news when the hometown team holds off a Royals surge and comes back to win, but the Red Sox put together a team effort tonight in a stretch that has sometimes lacked players fulfilling their roles.
One major bright spot tonight has to be David Ortiz. He had a single and a double, and he also gave morale a huge boost in coming back for the Sox. Boston was 13-22 without him, and his bat and bravado will be much appreciated now that he has returned.
Jon Lester also posted another strong outing, and it looks like he's over his bad start to the season for good. While his limp off the mound in the eighth inning was concerning, his rise to 8-10 bodes well going forward.
Pedro Ciriaco (2-for-4, 2 RBI) was also big for the Sox tonight.
These two teams will be back at it tomorrow night. Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-3, 3.23 ERA) and Josh Beckett (5-11, 5.23) were expected to start, but that's all in flux now. Scroll on down to see how it all unfolded today.
End 8th, Red Sox 4-3: Chances are that trade rumors will be rippling through this weekend. The Dodgers and Red Sox have some time to work out the details, although — for obvious reasons — now that names are being floated and guys are being pulled from lineups, they'll want to make the trade happen if it's for real.
One snag could be getting Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to agree to a deal.
In Boston, meanwhile, it's three outs until a W.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 4-3: Vicente Padilla, Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey did the trick, each retiring one batter to post a clean frame for the Red Sox.
There's no word yet on whether Jon Lester is injured, but we'll let you know when we know.
9:49 p.m.: And here comes Andrew Bailey. Still holding tight at 4-2, with two outs.
9:44 p.m.: Andrew Miller is in to pitch.
Jarrod Dyson, who is running in the place of Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler, has made it to third, with one out on the board.
Also, Jeff Francoeur just struck out for the second time in his 0-for-4 night. Let's just say clam chowder and Sam Adams are unlikely this evening.
9:32 p.m.: Vicente Padilla is headed into the game to take over for Jon Lester, who bounced back admirably to post a quality start just when Boston needed it most.
Lester allowed three earned runs on six hits. He threw 96 pitches, walked four and struck out six.
The bad news here is that this doesn't appear to be just a pitching change — Lester looked to be limping. He didn't need to be helped off the field, but he may have hurt something.
End 7th, Red Sox 4-3: Time for the Red Sox to lay on the hurt and finish this one off.
Pedro Ciriaco continues to earn a special place in Red Sox fans' hearts. He took advantage of the new Royals pitcher the first chance he got, swiping third in front of a suddenly spirited crowd.
The Red Sox couldn't pile on in the seventh, but they have the lead now for the first time since the third inning.
And, in your obligatory trade speculation news: We have a breakdown of who Rubby De La Rosa, Webster, Ivan DeJesus and Jerry Sands are, in case you're wondering.
9:17 p.m.: We've got a game, folks. A Mike Aviles single and Pedro Ciriaco double later, and the Royals are calling on a new reliever: Tim Collins (4-2, 3.17 ERA).
Chen gets another earned run credited to him.
Oh, and the Red Sox lead 4-2.
9:11 p.m.: With a walk of Mauro Gomez, Bruce Chen's night is over. The Royals are now calling on Kelvin Herrera (1-1, 2.53 ERA).
Chen only walked one batter tonight, and it was Gomez. Overall, the Royals started allowed eight hits and two earned runs on 98 pitches. He also struck out five.
Mid 7th, Royals 3-2: One more update on the trade rumors: Allen Webster, a right-handed pitcher said to be coveted by Theo Epstein in the Ryan Dempster dealings, may be in the mix if a deal goes through between the Red Sox and Dodgers.
At Fenway Park, Jon Lester has posted another clean frame. He's been fine for the last three innings. We likely won't see him for more beyond the eighth, if he comes out for that, but he appears to have regained his early-game form.
End 6th, Royals 3-2: That had all the makings of a big inning for the Red Sox, but Bruce Chen once again had the upper hand.
After Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, David Ortiz struck out on five pitches, Cody Ross flied out, and Ryan Lavarnway fouled out to first.
We're not getting a lot of deep counts out of the Red Sox batters tonight. Chen will be done soon enough, but Boston would do well to get some free passes to get guys back on the bases.
Mid 6th, Royals 3-2: Hiya, Jon Lester.
This Sox lefty isn't done just yet. He cleaned out Mike Moustakas and Brayan Pena before striking out Eric Hosmer to make that inning a breeze.
So much news today, and here's another nugget: This game is headed into the bottom of the sixth just one hour and 45 minutes after beginning. Come on — we wanted another 4 1/2 hour, 24-run game!
End 5th, Royals 3-2: Should we be talking about Bruce Chen? He's been great against the Red Sox since that first inning.
He's thrown 75 pitches and allowed just seven hits, and this inning, he struck out Scott Podsednik before retiring Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury on grounders.
Chen has quietly been slowing down the Sox offense, while the Royals have rattled Lester.
Mid 5th, Royals 3-2: Nick Punto is still in Boston, as far as we know. But before there was even a hint of all this trade stuff, I chatted with him in the clubhouse today — and by chatted, I mean literally chatted. I was going to dig for a real story, but the guy is a breeze to talk to. He fulfills the same everyman, easy-to-work-with demeanor you see on the field.
Punto and I talked about the different tools — as in equipment — he uses as a utilityman for the Sox, and it's a fitting metaphor for his time in Boston.
Punto has been quite the fill-in for the Red Sox this year, coming up big by being versatile as injuries ripped through different parts of the roster. He has a whole stash of equipment in his locker suited to the different roles the team has for him, from a variety of gloves to a dozen or so pairs of shoes (spikes, sneaks and so on).
Punto's go-to glove is a crusty piece of leather — the thing looks like you couldn't bend it if you tried. It's covered in dirt, leather-keeping oil and flat-out crud, and it's sort of stuck in the shape that you see on glove advertisements — half-open, ready to make a nice home for a clean, white baseball.
Punto also has an outfielder's glove and a first baseman's mitt, both with bigger webs due to those positions' demands.
As for his shoes, Punto has one of the more impressive racks in the Red Sox' clubhouse. While every player has shoes for every occasion, Punto has at least two pairs apiece for his various needs: cleats with metal spikes for game time, other cleats, "field" shoes (a better surface on the bottom to "save your feet" while working out in the grass before a game) and track shoes, for when he's working out on the weight room, on the treadmill or running stadium stairs at the park. (Yes, kids, major leaguers still run stairs.)
The most impressive part of Punto's collection was how tidy each pair of his shoes was. He said he doesn't pick them out for color or style, but some of them looked near-new, and that's because he takes the time to clean them. They're not covered in Fenway clay like they will be when he comes off the field.
Just a day in the life of a baseball player — but a player whose physical hardware may be a metaphor for how versatile he's been to a Sox team that needed him this year. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford may be the big names tonight, but Punto has a special place in many of the good results the Red Sox have found this season.
End 4th, Royals 3-2: Now, we are neither confirming nor denying trade rumors here at live blog central, but we do have some fans piecing together information for us. When they're taking down Adrian Gonzalez's life-size trading card outside the park and yanking his T-shirts from the fan store, some people will just draw their own conclusions.
As for the game, we have a 1-2-3 inning from Mauro Gomez, Mike Aviles and Ryan Lavarnway.
Mid 4th, Royals 3-2: Jon Lester has some pretty dominating numbers
against the Royals, the very team that took his no-hitter to the chin
just a few years ago. But he just does not seem to have the magic
against them tonight.
This inning got away from Lester. Nothing was too powerful, but death by 1,000 cuts is still a way to score a run.
Lester got Jeff Francoeur to strike out swinging, then walked Mike Moustakas. Brayan Pena ripped a single, then Lester walked Eric Hosmer to load the bases. Lester got a roller from Johnny Giavotella, but he couldn't cover first in time, and Giavotella cleared the bag, scoring a run. Lester fanned Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar to end the frame.
Lester has thrown 63 pitches through four innings, striking out five and walking three.
Clayton Mortensen is now warming up in the bullpen.
8:15 p.m.: And you thought tonight was just going to be a sleepy Red Sox-Royals game.
The Red Sox came into today as a mess, with a record just as bad their middling American League Central foes, the Royals. But what has happened during the day shows that this team cannot be counted out of any season. Whether a big trade goes off or not, it's less silly now to talk about a turnaround — and the fact that the Yankees have been watching their American League East lead disappear. (CC Sabathia returns tonight and so far is holding the Indians in a game the Yanks lead 1-0).
Turns out the Sox are also fighting for the rights to be Boston's premier sports team into the fall, no matter what the Patriots do down in sunny Florida tonight (follow our new NFL writer, Luke Hughes, and his live blog here). All it takes is a little trade speculation, and — poof — the team that has done New England proud year over year may need to fight for attention this fall.
End 3rd, 2-2: Jacoby Ellsbury can run like a jackrabbit. Unfortunately, sometimes jackrabbits get caught, too.
Ellsbury notched a nice single but was gunned down at second, and it's a darn shame, because David Ortiz validated the heavy Fenway Park cheering for a second time — this time with a double just to the right of the center-field triangle.
You have to wonder why Ellsbury was going for second in that situation. He is Ellsbury, and he is fast, but he was also on first with no outs. And Ortiz looks ready to crank tonight.
One note on Ortiz — he didn't look gimpy going into second, but he may have slowed up a tick before he needed to. The big concern for many is that his Achilles will nag him the rest of the year. The question appeared to be whether to come back with some discomfort or to just wait until the pain went away, and many have speculated that Ortiz is working through whatever is lingering rather than returning completely healthy.
Still, he's clubbing and running the bases, and that's the No. 1 thing the Red Sox need from him.
Mid 3rd, 2-2: As sharp as Jon Lester looked in those first two innings, in this one, he was just leaving the ball where the Royals could get to it.
Eric Hosmer started it off with a solo shot at the Green Monster. Johnny Giavotella reached on an error but was erased on a double play before an Alcides Escobar walk and Alex Gordon double tied up the game. Lester got Billy Butler on a groundout to escape the inning, but this one is back to even.
In further trade talk speculation, the word is that the Red Sox would get first baseman James Loney and three prospects from the Dodgers in a prospective deal. Exactly which prospects hasn't been confirmed yet, and a few stray rumors about this name or that are floating around.
Also, several outlets seem to be sharing the sentiment that any deal won't be happening tonight. The Red Sox and Dodgers have 48 hours to work something out, and with the caliber of players being moved around and the positions that will be in flux, you can bet the Boston brass is doing its homework on this one.
End 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: The bats are alive. The Red Sox can't push any runs across this time, but five hits over two innings is a good way to start.
Ryan Lavarnway got it going, popping a single. Mike Aviles grounded into a fielder's choice, but an error in the infield sent Aviles to second base. Scott Podsednik followed with a rip to left field, but Aviles had to hold at third.
Pedro Ciriaco's popup ended the inning, but the Sox have been pressing while Jon Lester has been holding. That's usually a recipe for success.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: Jon Lester is going strong.
That's Jeff Francoeur, Mike Moustakas and Brayan Pena going down easy to make it a quick second inning.
End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: Look at this fire from the Red Sox!
David Ortiz was welcomed back to Fenway Park with some of the biggest cheers I've heard all year, and he immediately made good on it. He came into this game with an 11-game hitting streak and continued it with a hard single to center with two men on base. He scored 'em both, giving the Sox the lead and a whole lot more on this crazy day.
(The DH spot was beyond abysmal with David Ortiz out, hitting .235 with no homers.)
Now, Bruce Chen is not your next Cy Young, but I think this first inning was a heck of a lot more about what the Red Sox were doing than what Chen let them do. This looks like a team ready to move.
Pedro Ciriaco continues as a spark for the Sox. He hit a leadoff single, and Jacoby Ellsbury beat out an infield grounder that just stayed inside the third base line. Dustin Pedroia moved them over on a grounder, then Ortiz let loose.
Who knows what the Red Sox roster will look like in the next few days, but if this is how the on-the-field team is going to look like going forward, the Fenway Faithful will likely take it standing up (and clapping).
Mid 1st, 0-0: Yes, we still have a game at Fenway Park, and the Kansas City Royals do not seem to be giving one hoot about all the Red Sox trade rumors.
Jon Lester gave up a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, but he ripped through the next three batters, including strikeouts of Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. He looks ready to cook tonight.
The trade rumors will be what everyone wants to talk about tonight, but a definitive performance by Jon Lester will do just as much to set the tone for what the Red Sox of tomorrow will look like.
7:13 p.m.: It's a late first pitch, but pretty timely considering the hubbub in these parts.
Here's the revised lineup, reflecting Gonzalez being pulled right before the game
Pedro Ciriaco 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Cody Ross RF
Ryan Lavarnway C
Mauro Gomez 1B
Mike Aviles SS
Scott Podsednik LF
Jon Lester P
7:05 p.m.: A couple of guys have been pulled from their respective major league lineups for tonight's game, and it can't be a coincidence.
In Boston, Adrian Gonzalez has been taken from the batting order. Word is that Gonzalez and Nick Punto were called from the dugout just a few minutes before game time. They, of course, are in the middle of a rumor of a giant trade that would send them, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers.
For Los Angeles, first baseman James Loney has been pulled from the lineup.
6:40 p.m.: We interrupt this waiver-wire special to say that the Fenway Faithful need to seriously bring it tonight so we can get some action from Jeff Francoeur on the food handout side.
Otherwise, it's a nice, cool evening for baseball — although it's a good bet few people will be thinking about the actual game tonight. Too much action on the trade front. Scroll down to see how it's unfolded.
One final nugget: Bobby Valentine's exact words when asked if Ben Cherington mentioned anything about Adrian Gonzalez or trades in their meeting today: "There was no mention — at all."
6 p.m.: Yikes.
Yes, waivers are a normal process. Yes, the Dodgers claiming Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett could have been perfunctory.
Or: The Dodgers are trying to swing a major trade!
Multiple sources are saying that the Dodgers are trying to scoop up Gonzalez and Beckett in a trade that could also include Carl Crawford and Nick Punto.
The Red Sox, of course, should be getting some serious players back, but if this trade rumor is true (and ends up being executed), it says a lot of things about the team and where it's at going forward. We'll wait for the dust to settle before giving too many thoughts on that, but let's agree that everyone's interest is again back on the Red Sox.
One thing remains true about this year's team: They just won't go away.
Oh, and I think I can retype this earlier quote from Bobby Valentine about what he thinks about all this: "You're not supposed to let this stuff out."
5:15 p.m.: So much waiver wire chatter!
Josh Beckett has also been claimed by the Dodgers, according to reports. While other trade talk has been seen as speculation, this is juicy considering the heavy criticism Beckett has received this season. The way that waivers work, Beckett could either be traded to the Dodgers or just be given (with his salary) to L.A. Or, the Red Sox could keep him, as would be the safe assumption — but this is far different than the Adrian Gonzalez situation, and one fans will likely be more interested in voicing their opinions in.
Bobby Valentine didn't sound pleased with the waiver talk today. He emphasized that tons of guys are put on waivers at this point in the year, and the only reason this is a big deal is because of the caliber of the names (he said "20 guys" have likely been claimed so far, with no one outside their teams hearing about them).
He sounded off about leaks, especially from the Red Sox clubhouse.
"I know we get blamed a lot in our clubhouse about who can keep a secret," he said. "… You're not supposed to let this stuff out, but someone is privy to this situation and let this one out."
When asked about how he would have received such news as a player, he said he would have been flattered "that someone wanted me."
Speaking of Gonzalez, he said, "How could someone not want to claim him?"
5:05 p.m.: Here's who's up for Kansas City:
Lorenzo Cain CF
Alcides Escobar SS
Alex Gordon LF
Billy Butler DH
Jeff Francoeur RF
Mike Moustakas 3B
Brayan Pena C
Eric Hosmer 1B
Johnny Giavotella 2B
Bruce Chen P
4:15 p.m.: And as soon as I say something, the lineup pops through. Looks like Gonzalez is not only in the batting order but also back at first base, and David Ortiz at last returns from his Achilles injury (and not a moment too soon — the Red Sox' DH spot has no home runs since he left). Here's your lineup:
Pedro Ciriaco 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross RF
Ryan Lavarnway C
Mike Aviles SS
Scott Podsednik LF
Jon Lester P
4 p.m.: For those who are curious why lineups and such are slow trickling out of Fenway, it's because today is fraught with waiver rumors.
You've likely already heard that the Dodgers claimed Adrian Gonzalez, but that doesn't mean anything is going to happen. Basically, the Red Sox can put someone on trade waivers to gauge interest, and although they could go crazy and make a deal if they wanted to, that type of thing is unlikely at this point. Gonzalez is in just his second year with the club, and although this year has been rocky for all of the Red Sox, an actual trade would take dozens of steps, involving a lot of scenarios the Red Sox haven't hinted at being interested in. Most signs point to Boston just putting Gonzalez on waivers in a procedural setting, although the words "trade" and "waivers" will get people pretty chatty. The club has the option to withdraw Gonzalez from waivers without any trade or further discussion.
Gonzalez said in the clubhouse this afternoon that he wasn't interested in talking about waiver-related matters.
The Red Sox have also placed Josh Beckett and, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury on trade waivers. Once again, this does not mean an interest in trading any of these players.
Expect rumors aplenty now that these players have been floated on waivers, with some teams poking around with interest.
8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox (59-66) put up a fight for the ages in Thursday night's marathon game, but the Angels had just enough more to finish off the sweep and make the recent stretch that much harder for Boston.
Boston's finest will get their chance to slug back Friday night, though, as the Red Sox welcome the Kansas City Royals (55-68) to town for four games. While a BBQ City-Beantown matchup may have some people licking their chops literally, the Sox are getting their first chance to salivate figuratively in weeks. Coming off nine straight games against some of the American League's best teams in the Orioles, Yankees and Angels, the Red Sox would do well to welcome the boys in blue to Boston with some firepower. And after getting so close last night, the Red Sox should be primed to do some damage over the weekend.
Jon Lester (7-10, 5.03 ERA) is a good bet to carry Boston, as he has turned his season around recently. After the 11 earned run meltdown that marked his worst start of the year on July 22, he's progressively gotten better. His last two outings — six innings, three hits, one earned run and 12 strikeouts against the Indians, and seven innings, five hits and one earned run against the Yankees — may be his best starts of the year. Fans and critics have been calling on him to put the Sox on his back this year, and seeing as he stopped a couple of Red Sox slides with his last two outings against Cleveland and New York, he's the best guy to have on the mound as this series begins.
Lester will face Bruce Chen (9-10, 5.45), who hasn't been horrible lately as much as he just hasn't done enough to let his team get to work. While Chen's strikeout numbers are strong this year (103 so far, set to surpass even his career-leading 133 with Baltimore in 2005), he's also allowing a lot more hits and earned runs than at any point in his career. He's given up 159 hits so far this year (second only to 2005's 187) and 85 earned runs (a career-high).
Only Scott Podsednik (4-for-12), Nick Punto (4-for-9) and Dustin Pedroia (4-for-7) have seen Chen more than a half-dozen times, but considering Chen's shakiness this season and the relative success some Sox batters have had against him, Boston fans can be optimistic as 7:05 approaches.
Perhaps the best news for the Red Sox, though, is that David Ortiz could be back in the lineup Friday. While the team has soldiered on as he recovers from his Achilles injury, the offense just hasn't been the same without his Green Monster-greeting swings.
Flip to NESN starting at 6 p.m. for your pregame coverage, and check back here during the game for news and analysis.