For the first time since June 8, Boston sits behind New York in the American League East standings and stands to be swept for the first time in 2009. Is this too much pressure for Clay Buchholz to handle, as he makes his second big league start of 2009, or will the young gun pull Boston out of its four-game slump and send the Sox into Thursday’s off day on the upswing?
When and Where
8:05 p.m., July 22, 2009
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington, Tex.
Red Sox (55-38, 2nd place in AL East)
Rangers (51-41, 2nd place in AL West)
The Red Sox went into the All-Star break as one of the best teams in baseball. Ever since, they’ve started the second half the same exact way they began the first half: with one convincing win followed by a string of worrisome losses. Boston’s offense has managed just 12 runs in five games since returning to action, and after losing a series to Toronto, it stands to be embarrassed by Texas unless Buchholz can step in and run interference.
This isn’t about the Yankees and the Rays breathing down Boston’s proverbial neck; this is about Boston figuring out how to score some runs to support its solid pitching staff, which has received alarmingly little run support. Unless general manager Theo Epstein makes a blockbuster trade before 8:05 on Wednesday, the Red Sox need to find an answer, fast.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||Ian Kinsler, 2B|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||Michael Young, 3B|
|Kevin Youkilis, 3B||Josh Hamilton, CF|
|David Ortiz, DH||Marlon Byrd, RF|
|Jason Bay, LF||Hank Blalock, 1B|
|J.D. Drew, RF||Nelson Cruz, DH|
|Mark Kotsay, 1B||David Murphy, LF|
|Jason Varitek, C||Taylor Teagarden, C|
|Nick Green, SS||Elvis Andrus, SS|
Clay Buchholz (1-0, 1.59) vs. Vicente Padilla (7-5, 4.67)
In an interesting turn of events, All-Star Tim Wakefield was placed on the disabled list late Tuesday afternoon with a lower back strain, and Buchholz – whose future was uncertain after his impressive 2009 debut on Friday – was recalled to take his place.
Manager Terry Francona said Wakefield, 43, suffered the strain during a side session on Saturday, clearing the way for Buchholz’s road back to the majors. Pundits claimed the Red Sox used the 24-year-old as a spot starter against Toronto last Friday because they wanted to “audition” him in front of major league executives and scouts, but now, unexpectedly, he’ll get a chance to keep pitching in Boston. The timing couldn’t be any better, as Buchholz will be throwing on regular four days rest.
Last time out, he allowed four hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings in a 4-1 win in Toronto on Friday.
He will take on Texas’ Padilla, whose last outing wasn’t quite as impressive as Buchholz’s. He allowed five runs in seven innings against Minnesota, using 61 pitches to get through the first three innings. He hasn’t had alarming success at Rangers Ballpark – in nine home starts, he is 3-4 with a 6.00 ERA – but he has proven to be somewhat durable, pitching at least six innings in 10 of 13 starts this season.
As a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox for the first half of 2009, Buchholz went 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA.
Jed Lowrie, who made his 2009 debut on Saturday after missing the first half of the season with a wrist injury, is 3-for-31 (.097) this season.
After winning 11 of 15 matchups against Texas since July 2, 2007, Boston has lost four of the last five matchups and five of the last seven.
Josh Beckett ranks 21st on Texas-born pitchers' all-time wins list with 100 career victories.
On Monday night, Jacoby Ellsbury earned his 100th career stolen base. He is the first Red Sox in history to accomplish the feat in his first three major league seasons.
Kevin Youkilis has hit safely in each of his last seven games.
Hideki Okajima is tied for the lead in the AL with 19 holds. With one more, he will join Mike Timlin as the only Red Sox pitcher to earn at least 20 holds three times.
Opponents are batting a whopping .338 against Padilla over his nine starts at Rangers Ballpark.
In six career starts against Boston, Padilla is 2-3 with a 4.84 ERA.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, former Red Sox David Murphy was batting .412 in 12 games in July to raise his average from .259 to a season-high .284.
Murphy and Michael Young have participated in each of Texas’ last two three-home run innings, including Tuesday’s sixth inning barrage against John Smoltz.
On Monday night, Young notched his seventh three-game hit of 2009, which ties him for the most in the AL.
The Rangers are tied with New York for the AL lead in home runs (139).
Black and Blue
On Tuesday, right-handed pitcher Tim Wakefield was placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to July 18) with a lower back strain.
Jeff Bailey was placed on the DL with a high ankle sprain on July 6. He could return to the Red Sox as early as Tuesday.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is currently on the DL with weakness in his right pitching shoulder.
Right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was placed on the 60-day DL July 8, began his rehab process for a stress fracture in his shoulder.
This Date in Red Sox History
In Detroit’s 6-0 shutout of Boston, Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb steals second, third and home in the seventh inning against Red Sox pitcher Harry Wolter on July 22, 1909.
"You go through spurts where you hit the ball right at people, you hit the ball hard, and you don't get any credit. We're not getting those at-bats where we get a couple guys on and then get a good at-bat, hit a gapper or hit it out of the park. Obviously it's showing … But it's a long year."
— Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the team's offensive struggles
Boston placed Tim Wakefield on the DL and called up Clay Buchholz.
The Red Sox fell out of first place for the first time since June.
Buchholz is excited about his quick return to Boston's rotation.
John Henry swings at Yankees Universe.
The home run fun is nowhere to be found for Andruw Jones.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in the spotlight.
Tommy Hunter outwits the Red Sox.
New York takes over first place in the AL East.
Tampa Bay's ninth-inning comeback is good for a win over Chicago.
Jayson Werth helps the Phillies walk off with their 10th straight win.
Are the Red Sox slumping in the second half, or were they just facing easier teams toward the end of the first half? It’s tough to tell, but one thing is for sure: This is not an issue with pitching. (In other words: Theo doesn't need to trade for Roy Halladay.) This is an offensive issue – and if Boston can’t find a long-term solution that works, plus a long-term batting order that works, Epstein & Co. better start patrolling the rest of the league for a big bat that can help lead Boston back to salvation.