Final, Angels Win 5-2: Remember all those years past, beginning in 2004, when the Red Sox just dominated the Angels, both during the regular season and the playoffs? Coming into play this year, the Angels hadn’t won a home game against Boston since 2009.
Well those times are long gone, as the Sox drop their sixth consecutive game over a week to the Halos, and wind up being swept in the season series. It’s a huge boon for the Angels, who get a boost to their playoff push heading into the final month of the season, but it just adds to a season’s worth of frustrations for the Sox — and for Jon Lester.
With the win, the Angels run their record to 69-62, while the Red Sox fall eight games below .500 to 62-70. Zack Greinke (12-5) gets the win, Lester (8-11) gets saddled with the loss and Ernesto Frieri picks up his 16th save of the season.
Well, that’s it for this edition of your Red Sox Live Blog. This live blogger will have a day off, but is leaving you in the very capable hands of coworker (and new NESN.com NFL writer) Luke Hughes for another go-round Friday, as the Red Sox head about 400 miles north to open a three-game series against the wild-card leading Oakland Athletics. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN for Red Sox First Pitch beginning at 9 p.m, or just stick right here with NESN.com for all your pregame needs.
And, as always, you can follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB.
End 8th, Angels 5-2: Color this live blogger shocked that the Red Sox sent Lester back out to the hill for the eighth inning. Obviously it worked out well, but we’re genuinely curious what the logic behind that decision was. Hopefully Bobby Valentine will address it after the game.
After using Alfredo Aceves as something of a sacrificial lamb the last two nights — and coming off the afternoon contest on Monday — at this point the Sox’ ‘pen should be very well rested, so, again, we’re just really curious what Valentine was thinking with that one.
Either way, nice job by Lester to continue to bounce back from a rough start. He may well end up with credit for a complete game.
Mid 8th, Angels 5-2: That’s a bit of bad luck for the Red Sox, as Ross hits one right on the screws and ends up lining out to Vernon Wells with two on.
Actually, that’s a pretty good example of what we’ve been talking about all night in terms of pitch location. Kevin Jepsen throws very, very hard, and his fastball has a bit of tail to it. However, that one to Ross was right down the middle of the plate, and the Red Sox right fielder didn’t miss it at all.
It doesn’t matter how hard you throw. If you can’t hit the corners, big league hitters will get you.
End 7th, Angels 5-2: At 110 pitches on the night, it’s a safe assumption that Lester is done for the day.
For the left-hander, it’s another tough start by which to judge his progression. Over the last three inning Lester looked a much-improved pitcher, retiring 11 of the last 13 Angels he faced. However, the overall numbers just aren’t very good, giving up five earned runs on the night.
It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde season for Lester, and that trend has showed itself limited to just this one game, as well. Which Lester shows up next time out? Well that’s the million-dollar question.
Mid 7th, Angels 5-2: One would have to imagine his night is done, at 107 pitches, but what a game for Zack Greinke. That looked like the pitcher the Angels traded for to boost their playoff push, as opposed to the edition they saw over his first five starts.
Now, over his last two outings, Greinke has allowed just three earned runs in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Continuing that kind of trend would go a long way to earning some extra change in the offseason, as the right-hander would probably convince a lot of doubters about his mental makeup by pitching well down the stretch for a team in playoff contention.
End 6th, Angels 5-2: All in all, Lester has settled down a bit since some early trouble, getting eight of the last nine hitters he’s faced — the Iannetta walk the only blemish.
In fact, at 96 pitches, Lester may have one more inning left in him, especially given the fact that he looks to be in a bit of a groove at this point.
Mid 6th, Angels 5-2: There’s probably only one way that James Loney plays himself into the Red Sox long-term plans at first base: hit, and hit a lot.
There is, of course, a hole at first heading into next year, and Loney is almost certainly under some consideration to fill that role depending on the other options that present themselves. However, if Loney hits like he did his first two seasons in the majors — when he posted OPS numbers above .900 each time — then he could force himself into a role next year. However, if he hits more like he has in the years since — he’s never had an OPS above .772 since 2008 — then Loney’s stay in Boston may be a brief one.
End 5th, Angels 5-1: It’s very simple. Lester stays out of the middle of the plate and gets a 1-2-3 inning. Granted, it isn’t all that difficult to get Aybar to chase pitches off the plate, but the left-hander’s command looked much better in a bounce-back inning.
Mid 5th, Angels 5-1: Zack Greinke is certainly going to be one of the players that the Red Sox will consider adding via free agency at the end of this season, but allow this live blogger to offer an opinion.
There are several reasons, really, the Sox out to stay away from the former AL Cy Young winner. The first is a tired subject, but for a player which has suffered known anxiety issues — which were bad enough to make him consider quitting baseball — it probably wouldn’t be the best fit to put him in one of sports’ most brutal markets in terms of media coverage.
The other reasons for avoiding Greinke are less speculative. The right-hander is going to be in high demand with the dearth of free agent pitching options this offseason, so he’ll end up commanding a pretty good salary. More to the point, his contract will almost certainly far outweigh his value, as Greinke has really only been so-so in Milwaukee, and his troubles in coming back over to the American League — this night notwithstanding — have to be troubling.
End 4th, Angels 5-1: See the location of that pitch Torii Hunter banged into left field?
That’s the difference between a dominant Jon Lester and a very, very hittable one. It’s a tired refrain in talking about baseball at any level, but in so many ways the sport just comes down to pitch location, and Lester is showing that it doesn’t matter how good your stuff is. If you can’t spot it, big league hitters will hit it hard.
The question is, why isn’t Lester’s location better and more like his vintage self? Well, that probably comes back to mechanics, but we’ve discussed that one, too.
Mid 4th, Angels 4-1: The Red Sox are allowing something to happen they absolutely did not want while facing a deficit: let Zack Greinke get into a rhythm.
Greinke and Haren have similar repertoires, as we mentioned earlier, but very different pitching styles. While Haren will throw any pitch at any time and spends a lot of effort studying scouting reports of himself to keep hitters off balance, Greinke’s approach is much more straightforward. He’ll largely base everything else off of his two and four-seam fastballs, which is why establishing a rhythm is so important for the former Cy Young winner.
The Red Sox sure hope they can break that pace.
End 3rd, Angels 4-1: After pitching so well his last three times out, it’s a little disappointing to see Lester take a step backwards so far tonight. Basically, it just doesn’t look like the left-hander has the good movement on his cutter, as he’s been heavily relying on the curveball to keep hitters on balance. To that end he’s done well, throwing several great breaking balls during the third inning, but Lester just isn’t hitting his spots with the fastball, leaving the ball up and over the plate.
Also, it looks like Lester’s stride is a bit off. He’s always thrown across his body a little bit, but with the dropped arm slot that motion is now a bit more obvious.
Mid 3rd, Angels 2-1: That was certainly an adventure of an inning for Wells, who can’t quite run down Pedroia’s long double, and then nearly loses Loney’s liner in the lights before recovering at the very last moment.
They say the moment when you lose a ball in the lights or in the sun is one of the scariest, sinking feelings one will ever experience. Usually you don’t see such plays in night games, however, as the ball has to be traveling on a very specific trajectory to stay in the lights long enough to cause visual problems for outfielders.
End 2nd, Angels 2-1: So there’s a nice bounce-back inning for Lester, who yields three hard-hit balls but all right at people.
So let’s talk about the future of the Red Sox. With the Josh Beckett trade, it feels like it puts a lot of extra pressure on Lester to perform. He’s the staff’s ace now — Clay Buchholz notwithstanding — so presumably the Sox’ management feels that Lester has his issues solved going forward. That seems like a bit of a gamble, but given Lester’s relative youth at 28-years-old, it’s probably the smart gamble.
Mid 2nd, Angels 2-1: What you saw in that last half inning is atypical of Zack Greinke but one of the major reasons he’s struggled so much with the Angels.
Over the last couple seasons Greinke’s walk rate has increased a considerable amount, and coming into this game he’s issues 15 free passes in 39 innings of work — not horrible, but not Greinke’s game.
An increased walk rate is sometimes an indicator of diminishing stuff as a pitcher tries to be more fine with their location, so it’s something to consider when the Red Sox take a look at free agents this upcoming winter. There are psychological questions about someone like Greinke playing in a market like Boston, but he may also not quite be the pitcher he used to be.
End 1st, Angels 2-0: Is that just running into a hot lineup, or Lester’s first-inning issues resurfacing? We’ll see.
Aside from that, so, that to expect tonight from Zack Greinke. With his past experience in the American League, the right-hander shouldn’t be much of a mystery to the Red Sox’ hitters. Insofar as Greinke is a known quantity to anyone.
Greinke’s great advantage is his vast array of pitches. In that respect he’s pretty similar to the Angels’ Dan Haren, except that he’s a little less cerebral of a pitcher but has better stuff. The 28-year-old features six pitches: two and four-seam fastballs, a slider, curveball, cutter and a changeup. His fastball and slider are probably his best pitches, as the fastball is in the low to mid-90s with movement, and the slider has sharp, biting break.
Mid 1st, 0-0: We’ll discuss Zack Greinke a little later, but for now let’s talk Jon Lester.
It’s not saying anything original to mention that Jon Lester has had a severely up-and-down season, which just happens to be currently trending upwards over his last three starts. But what’s the difference between vitage Lester and the hittable Lester?
Well, the left-hander’s mechanics do look a little bit different than when he was at his unhittable-cutter best. Specifically, his elbow has dropped and his arm slot is a little lower, meaning he’s not getting the same imposing over-the-top motion he’s showed in the past — a motion which has made him so effective against left-handed hitters.
Still, Lester’s location has been a lot better recently, which is why he’s been so much more effective. If he keeps the ball down, he’ll be tough to hit, regardless of his arm slot.
10:08 p.m.: We have first pitch! And, for those wondering, the gametime temperature in Anaheim is 80 degrees with an uncharacteristic 54 percent humidity and winds from the southwest at 4 miles per hour.
9:35 p.m.: This live blogger has just returned from the bookstore, where he purchased David Halberstam’s nonfiction work “The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship.”
Having previously read Halberstam’s “October 1964,” the author is one of the best living chroniclers of sports history, and this one focuses on the relationship between Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky. Obviously, it’s particularly pertinent with Pesky’s recent passing, and it was something with Peter Gammons specifically recommended reading.
This live blogger looks forward to getting into the book, and if you’re interested in doing so, as well, you can order it from Amazon.com by following this link.
9 p.m.: Lately on NESN.com we’ve been talking about prospects, up-and-comers and generally giving some of the unestablished players a chance to play and determine their value for 2013 and beyond.
However, Thursday’s lineup feels more like the Red Sox are trying to put their best foot forward, playing a number of veterans including Scott Podsednik, James Loney and Mike Aviles. That means guys like Mauro Gomez, Ryan Kalish and Jose Iglesias ride the pine — at least to start the game.
For the Angels, they’ll be missing the impressive second hand offense of Kendrys Morales. With Albert Pujols still nursing a calf injury sustained last week and forced into DH duty, Morales likely sits with the Angels not wanting to play him in the field too many consecutive days after missing most of the last two seasons with a broken ankle.
Check out the lineups for both teams below:
Scott Podsednik, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
James Loney, 1B
Cody Ross, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Mike Aviles, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jon Lester, LHP
Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erik Aybar, SS
Caesar Izturis, 3B
Vernon Wells, LF
Chris Iannetta, C
Zack Greinke, RHP
8 a.m. ET: Heartbreaking walkoff or blowout? Pick your poison.
Those are the two types of losses the Boston Red Sox (62-69) have experienced in the first two games of their West Coast swing, losing 6-5 and 10-3 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (68-62). Hoping to play a spoiler to the Angels’ playoff hopes, the Red Sox have instead buyoed L.A., a team that once looked to be in serious trouble of falling too far behind the wild card pack.
However, to salvage one win from the three-game set, the Sox turn to the resurgent Jon Lester (8-10, 4.98), who describing as Jekyll and Hyde in 2012 would be a gross understatement. Over his last three starts, for instance, the left-hander has gone 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA and an impressive .197 opponents’ batting average. In Lester’s previous six starts, however, the 28-year-old went 0-5 with a 8.73 ERA, yielding a .321 average.
Opposing Lester will be someone who many Red Sox fans likely hope ends up pitching half his games in Fenway next season — soon-to-be free agent Zack Greinke (11-5, 3.87). Picked up from Milwaukee at the non-waiver trading deadline, the right-hander was supposed to be the piece that pushed the Angels over the top in their playoff run, but Greinke has gone a disappointing 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA in six starts with the Angels. In his last outing, however, Greinke went 7 2/3 innings against the Tigers, the only offense against him limited to a single Miguel Cabrera home run.
First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET, so we hope you’re ready for yet another late one as the Red Sox enjoy some California sun. Be sure to tune into NESN beginning at 9 p.m. for Red Sox First Pitch, or just stick right here with NESN.com — our Red Sox Live Blog will have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, “all the stats and stories” in the hours leading up to Greinke’s first toss of the night.
And, as always, follow this live blogger at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB.