Boston bangs out 12 hits while five Red Sox pitchers limit Houston to four hits, all singles.They get a well-deserved day off before starting the season Friday in Texas, in case you hadn't heard.
Look for more coverage on Thursday as we lead up to the Jon Lester-C.J. Wilson matchup in Arlington, and the live blog will be alive and well early that day. Thanks to all of you who followed along tonight.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 10-0: Nice moment for 24-year-old catcher Daniel Butler, who crushes a two-run shot onto the tracks in left.
Butler hit .310 with a very good walk rate last year, mostly at low- and high-Class A stops.
Red Sox catchers are now 4-for-5 with four RBIs.
Blake Maxwell is on to finish this one off.
Sorry Erik. You can handle the next one, OK pal? Didn't mean to ruin your night. I have no clue what I'm blogging about here.
End 8th, Red Sox 8-0: Five pitches for Jonathan Papelbon and the inning is over.
That leaves Bobby Jenks, Jason Rice or Blake Maxwell for the ninth. Expect one of the minor leaguers.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 8-0: If anyone hits the ball on that Jordan's sign (the size of a beach ball 440 feet from home plate, and only on select dates) I'll deliver the furniture myself. Ain't happening.
Jonathan Papelbon is on to pitch the eighth. He hasn't faced big league hitters all that much of late, so there is some importance to this outing.
End 7th, Red Sox 8-0: The bulk of the five runs Daniel Bard allowed this spring came in one rocky outing very early on when he was just getting in some work.
Other than that, Bard has been his usual self. He struck out Hunter Pence and Bill Hall in a scoreless seventh. Red Sox pitching has been dominant tonight, regardless of the opponent.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 8-0: Pretty impressive stuff by Wilton Lopez there in the seventh. He strikes out Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury to finish off the frame.
Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks are all on the schedule for this one, but Jenks had a tooth pulled back in Florida and may get the night off.
End 6th, Red Sox 8-0: The highlight of the sixth inning is the fan who did a faceplant on the dirt down the third-base line trying to get a foul ball.
Also, Dennys Reyes tossed a scoreless frame. It's a debate as to which result is more important to our viewers.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 8-0: We see Josh Beckett with his coat on disappear into the tunnel so that's it for him. About as good as can be for the right-hander as he gets set to face Cleveland next Tuesday.
Dennys Reyes is your new pitcher.
End 5th, Red Sox 8-0: I still have the touch. Moments after mentioning that Josh Beckett had yet to allow a hit, he does, although it is only an infield job.
He still faces the minimum in the inning after a line-drive double play.
Solid work by Beckett, who could be done at any time, although he doesn't pitch again until Tuesday so he may want one or two more batters.
Speaking of next Tuesday, we should all start checking out the extended weather forecast for Cleveland. It could be dicey when the Sox stroll into town for a three-game series as there is rain and cold on the docket as of now.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 8-0: Just to stay consistent with our stat updates, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now 9-for-12 in his last four games after a single to begin the fifth.
Salty said after a 3-for-3 effort at Florida the other day that he felt as good as he ever had. Seems to be showing in the results. The young backstop is now batting .417.
Jacoby Ellsbury added his third hit of the night in the fifth and is up to .361 himself.
End 4th, Red Sox 8-0: OK, I'm just going to say it because you know he won't get the chance to finish it anyway — Josh Beckett has yet to allow a hit.
In fact, he may even end his night with a goose egg in that column. Beckett is at 45 pitches after a crisp fourth. His only discretion was a hit batter in the first.
Eleven straight outs since then.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 8-0: Every Red Sox hitter has at least a walk, hit, run scored or RBI other than Kevin Youkilis, who continues his spring training struggles.
Youkilis is 0-for-3 after a strikeout with the bases loaded in the fourth. He is now hitting .179 (10-for-56) with 15 strikeouts this spring.
The K came with no outs and the bases loaded after Javier Valdez relieved Nelson Figueroa. Valdez then struck out David Ortiz and got J.D. Drew to pop to second.
If the Astros make an unlikely pennant push, that escape job by Valdez will be the springboard.
9:10 p.m.: Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now 8-for-11 with three doubles and a home run in his last four games after a single to start the rally in the fourth.
Salty is a switch-hitting catcher with power. The line on his offensive game has been that if that potential doesn't come right away, but he manages the staff, everyone will be happy. If he swings the bat the way he is right now during the regular season, everyone will be overjoyed.
His hit was the first of five (with a walk thrown in) to begin the fourth, chasing Nelson Figueroa. The bases are loaded with no outs.
That's what this lineup will do all year. When facing guys like Nelson Figueroa, crooked numbers will come often. The Red Sox will feast on mediocre arms.
Pitching change at Minute Maid.
End 3rd, Red Sox 5-0: The same people that rant and rave over Josh Beckett's rough outings this spring will say that because he's facing the Astros it doesn't matter how good he looks tonight.
Can't have it both ways.
Beckett looks extremely strong right now. He is through three innings in just 34 pitches, finishing the third with his third strikeout on a rising fastball that blew away Michael Bourn.
Matt, that was a joke. I'll tone down the sarcasm next time.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 5-0: Either Nelson Figueroa has settled down or this Red Sox lineup needs to be shuffled. Just won't work like this.
Actually, Terry Francona told reporters before the game that he would announce his Opening Day lineup on Thursday but that he felt pretty comfortable with tonight's order.
The fact that lefty C.J. Wilson is on the mound for Texas in the opener could give Francona some pause in putting J.D. Drew in the lineup. Or, if he does go with Drew, it's doubtful he will be paired with David Ortiz, who is expected to be in there.
End 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: Dustin Pedroia has a Gold Glove to his credit and is generally considered a very good defender, but I'm not sure he gets enough credit.
Last year, Pedroia literally made every single play he had a chance to make, even if that chance was tiny. And he almost never makes a mistake.
Pedroia made a sliding stop and a throw from his rear to get the first out of the second. Josh Beckett then followed it up with two straight strikeouts in a nifty nine-pitch inning.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: The regulars figured to get two or three at-bats in this one. Because Boston sent 10 men to the plate in the first, many of them already have a pair of appearances.
Maybe Terry Francona will allow them to get one more hack up there. In addition to the established 25-man roster, the Red Sox have sent five others, including infielders Drew Sutton and Nate Spears and catcher Dan Butler.
Boston goes 1-2-3 in the second.
We have word that Alfredo Aceves threw five perfect innings and struck out nine in a minor league start today. He will open the year in the Pawtucket rotation and could be a major factor down the road if an injury hits. That's not a very big "if," as you all know.
End 1st, Red Sox 5-0: Josh Beckett hit the last batter he faced in his prior start and got the second man he faced in this one, former Red Sox infielder Angel Sanchez. Two out of three hitters caught with a fastball that tailed up and in.
Beckett was bailed out when the next man he faced, Hunter Pence, was robbed of an extra-base hit by a leaping J.D. Drew in right.
Also a nice stop by Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a breaking ball in the dirt that kept Sanchez at first.
Beckett hit 95 on the gun. He needed 16 pitches to retire the side.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 5-0: Well, the 'A' lineup made an instant impact in the first inning, even though some of the balls weren't hit that hard and Nelson Figueroa helped out plenty with his inability to throw strikes.
Still, they don't need to knock the cover off the ball every time through as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is doing his thing. He really is the key and if he is getting on with regularity, the runs will follow.
Ellsbury reached on an infield hit, stole second base and scored when Houston native Carl Crawford lined a base hit to center.
Adrian Gonzalez added a bloop RBI single to score Dustin Pedroia, who had walked. David Ortiz walked to load the bases with one out and J.D. Drew pushed in the third run with another walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then grounded a two-run single into center.
Second base umpire Stephen Barga had a missed call on a potential inning-ending double play, which gave Ellsbury a second at-bat in the inning. This time he was gone quickly.
Ugly inning for the Astros, but exactly what Red Sox fans hope to see often in 2011.
7:30 p.m.: These games between Fort Myers and the regular season sometimes look a bit odd on the schedule, but they serve a really good purpose.
The players get a chance to get into a big league environment once before the real thing begins. They've been there before, but it doesn't hurt to just have that feeling of playing in front of 40,000 or so once before all the bells and whistles (and don't forget pomp and circumstance!) of Opening Day.
The fact that the Red Sox can also get their feet wet in the Lone Star State cannot hurt. With a day off Thursday to give Daisuke Matsuzaka a quick session on the mound and a casual workout for the rest of the crew, it sets up very well for Boston.
In our weekly mailbag we had multiple questions surrounding Josh Beckett. Some readers were concerned with his 0-4, 6.64 ERA spring training results. Beckett has been knocked around a bit from time to time, but that will happen in spring. Pitchers almost never pitch to a plan in the month of March. There are no pregame sessions with the catcher and pitching coach to analyze how to pitch the opponents' cleanup hitter. It's simply a matter of throwing what needs to be thrown to either work on a pitch or to work on situational pitching.
Beckett has 16 strikeouts against four walks, the numbers that really should matter. He has shown some good bite on some off-speed stuff and his fastball has looked pretty good at times. A few of those heaters, the two-seamers mostly, have caught a bit too much of the plate, which has led to the hard hits.
Also, he's healthy. That cannot be taken lightly.
6:34 p.m.: A programming note for those of you just dying for all of this to get going, NESN Gameday Live will begin at 7:00 p.m.
It will include an edition of the Remy Awards, as good a reason to tune in as any.
6:03 p.m.: Just to build upon the preseason predictions note from earlier (see below), I looked back at ESPN's experts picks every year since 2005.
The Red Sox received 73.3 percent of the votes (33-of-45) in this year's selection process. From 2005-10, no team finished with more than 36.8 percent of the votes. That came in 2006, when 7-of-19 analysts pegged Oakland to win it all.
Last year it was the Phillies who garnered 10-of-36 (27.8) percent to narrowly edge the Yankees. The Sox led the way with one-third of the votes in 2009.
Not that ESPN is the end-all, be-all (we know the NESN.com Red Sox Live Blog has that status), but there is a pretty good collection of writers and former players/coaches on those lists. Anyway, all it does is reinforce the fact that much is expected of this bunch from Boston, perhaps even more than we even expected.
4:40 p.m.: And here is that lineup, courtesy of our own Heidi Watney:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Marco Scutaro, SS
Get used to seeing that order during the regular season.
4:25 p.m.: While we await the lineups at Minute Maid Park, it's interesting to see, one by one, the preseason predictions come across the wire.
Just to illustrate the massive expectations that will be heaped upon this Red Sox unit, consider that 33 out of 45 ESPN baseball writers/analysts predicted Boston would win the World Series, an astronomical rate if you follow these things on a yearly basis.
Only three of the 12 who had someone other than the Sox winning it all at least had Boston in the World Series. That means that 42 of 45 experts have the Red Sox winning the AL. Wow.
We should note that one of the three who had Boston falling short of winning he pennant, Jim Caple, was the only one on the list to predict that the San Francisco Giants would win it all in 2010. Just sayin.
As for the New York Yankees? Nobody has NY winning the World Series. Only one, Tristan Cockcroft, has the Yanks even in the Fall Classic.
Back in a bit as we lead up to the last game of the spring training slate.
8:41 a.m.: The Red Sox wrap up their spring training slate Wednesday night when they pay a visit to the Houston Astros.
Josh Beckett will get the start in his last tune-up of the spring. Beckett, who is slated to start the team's fourth game of the regular season, is 0-4 with a 6.64 ERA in five Grapefruit League outings.
Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Dennys Reyes are all scheduled to follow Beckett out of the bullpen.
Boston closed down City of Palms Park on Tuesday in somewhat non-dramatic fashion, tying Tampa Bay 1-1. That gives the Sox a 13-19-2 record this spring. They've lost as many as 20 spring training games just three times since 1973.
Nelson Figueroa is on the mound for Houston. First pitch is 8:05 p.m.