Postgame, Indians 8-4: Just to tie up some loose ends, Jason Varitek told reporters he was shielded by the runner on the play in the sixth but still should've made the tag.
And Kevin Youkilis said he did intentionally drop the liner in order to get the force possibilities.
Not that it matters much now. The Red Sox have a 10-game homestand on the horizon with all the games against AL East rivals and the first three against the Yankees. They would hate to enter that stretch 0-6, obviously, and it will be up to Jon Lester to try to prevent that.
Here are a few parting words from Terry Francona:
"There's not a lot to be pleased about right now, with anybody, myself included. We haven't won a game yet. If they're having a party in the clubhouse something's going wrong. Again, we gotta show up in about 10 hours and Lester has to go out there get rolling. Nobody's gonna feel sorry for us. If we start feeling sorry for ourselves, then we're in trouble."
With that we turn our attention to Thursday. Lester will oppose Fausto Carmona in a 12:05 p.m. contest that will have a lot to do with the team's frame of mind when it opens play at Fenway Park on Friday.
Final, Indians 8-4: Hard to believe the incredibly different circumstances under which Jon Lester made his first start and those under which he will make his second.
Lester will go tomorrow afternoon in an effort to help the Red Sox end what has become more than just an early hiccup.
This one had an incredible number of frustrating scenarios for Boston, from the wasted scoring chances to the Jason Varitek mental lapse to an awful outing by Dennys Reyes that set up the ugly sixth.
We'll see what Terry Francona has to say about things and get right back to you.
End 8th, Indians 8-4: That makes 14 home runs by Red Sox opponents in 40 innings, better than one every three, after Matt LaPorta hammers a Tim Wakefield offering over the wall in left.
If a miracle comeback occurs, it will involve the trio of Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, who are a combined 8-for-52 (.154) so far. They're due up to begin the ninth.
Mid 8th, Indians 7-4: The Cleveland bullpen has been solid in the first two games of the series.
Tony Sipp, who needed just seven pitches to get through the eighth inning last night, uses 15 this time but has the same result, a 1-2-3 frame.
Three outs from having a few more people press the panic button.
End 7th, Indians 7-4: Tim Wakefield has an extremely quick seventh, and the Red Sox at least have some life entering the final two frames.
That's the first time Wakefield has thrown to Jason Varitek since 2008.
Mid 7th, Indians 7-4: I'll probably remind all y'all later on, but an 0-5 start will match the worst since 1945, when the Sox opened 0-8.
That's like what, four wars ago? And it's safe to say that the teams in 1966 and 1996, the last two times Boston was 0-5, were not receiving many 100-win predictions.
That said, this one isn't over quite yet after Adrian Gonzalez gets his first home run of the year, a two-run shot on the 12th pitch he saw of the at-bat.
Tim Wakefield is out for his third appearance of the year.
End 6th, Indians 7-2: If you saw it, you probably don't want to read my explanation, so just skip this entry.
For those of you who missed it, the Indians loaded the bases on Dennys Reyes with two hit batters and a walk. A liner by Michael Brantley to Kevin Youkilis was dropped, but Youkilis stepped on third for a force and then came home.
It was a tag play at the plate but Jason Varitek through it was still a force. He just let the runner cruise home while thinking he had an out. Should've been a DP, and a big one, but the run counted to make it 4-2.
As if the baseball gods decided to rub salt into the Sox wounds, Asdrubal Cabrera rocketed a three-run homer off Dan Wheeler to break it open. It's getting ugly, folks.
9:33 p.m.: The Indians have the bases loaded an no outs in the sixth after Dennys Reyes hits two straight batters and then walks another on four pitches.
Reyes walked Josh Hamilton on four pitches in his first outing of the year. He has been rather shaky, even though he did get some outs later in that Texas series.
Anyway, pitching change for Boston. Cleveland has the top of the order coming up.
Reyes threw one strike, 11 balls. Wonder how long he'll be around.
Mid 6th, Indians 3-2: The Red Sox are going to start running out of outs soon, and then we can really begin to analyze just how historically bad this start is.
Of course, it's just a one-run game, but you can kinda smell 0-5, can't you?
Marco Scutaro struck out looking to end the sixth and he is struggling big time. He had an RBI single in this one, but it was just a weak chopper over the mound. After the K, Scutaro is 1-for-14.
Thought Daisuke Matsuzaka would get another batter or two or three, but Dennys Reyes is in the game. It is the fourth appearance already for Reyes.
End 5th, Indians 3-2: With the way this one started, it's almost incredible that we can sit here and make a case that Daisuke Matsuzaka's start is one of the better ones on the young season for the Red Sox.
I guess that speaks more to how poor the pitching has been, but it's also a nod to the way in which Matsuzaka has recovered.
He gave up a pair of two-out singles — Cleveland's first hits since the second inning — in the fifth, but escaped on his 95th pitch of the night. Matsuzaka should get a chance to work through the sixth as well, which is saying something.
Mid 5th, Indians 3-2: Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz have both stranded four runners, and it's all come in the last three innings. Just killing themselves with wasted chances tonight.
8:57 p.m.: Chad Durbin, who was rumored to be a Red Sox target this offseason, does his job by striking out Kevin Youkilis with runners on the corners in the fifth. It's the second out, and a huge one.
Another pitching change.
8:53 p.m.: Carl Crawford has a hit, a walk, two stolen bases and a great catch in left field. His first real "game-changer" kinda game.
He is on third and Adrian Gonzalez is on first with just one out in the fifth. Pitching change for the Indians.
End 4th, Indians 3-2: If the Red Sox end up winning this one, the key play may end up being the double play that Shin-Soo Choo hit into in the second inning.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was showing absolutely nothing at that point. He had given up three runs and Choo, who had homered off him in the first, was up with two men on.
By getting Choo to turn one over, Matsuzaka escaped that jam with minimal damage. Since then he has allowed just one base runner, a two-out walk in the fourth that didn't turn into anything.
Mid 4th, Indians 3-2: Seven strikeouts against just one walk for Mitch Talbot, who gets Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury to end the fourth.
This will be a battle of the bullpens in no time due to the pitch counts. Terry Francona has yet to be able to use his in the way he wants to. If the Sox can rally at some point in the middle innings he would finally be able to.
End 3rd, Indians 3-2: A much better inning from a Red Sox perspective, as Daisuke Matsuzaka gets a pair of strikeouts and then sees Carl Crawford make a difficult leaping catch on a drive that was ticketed for the wall in left.
Matsuzaka's pitch count is at 54, which isn't good for three innings. But considering where it was headed, the Sox will take it. They would love to get six out of him tonight. Only Clay Buchholz has lasted that long among Boston starters.
By the way, the Yankees were rained out tonight. Their probables for the series in Fenway are, in order, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia. The Sox will have John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett.
Mid 3rd, Indians 3-2: When you're fighting tooth and nail to just pick up a win and one of the main issues is an inability to score runs, you have to convert opportunities like the one the Red Sox had in the third.
Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch and Adrian Gonzalez sent a screaming line drive off the left-field wall to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
They never moved, watching Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew strike out looking sandwiched around a David Ortiz flare to second. Not good.
End 2nd, Indians 3-2: A double play saves Daisuke Matsuzaka from another extremely long inning, but he still threw 16 pitches and gavve up another run.
A walk and two singles did the damage for Cleveland, which has consistently put forth quality at-bats in this series. Give them credit for that, even if the Red Sox pitching is doing its part to help out.
Mid 2nd, 2-2: You figure it would take a bunch of little things to get this booming offense going.
A check-swing single, an infield single, a fielder's choice RBI — they were all part of a two-run rally by the Red Sox in the second that ties this thing up.
David Ortiz had the one solid hit, a one-out single to center to start it all off. J.D. Drew followed with an excuse-me base hit to left and Jason Varitek walked to load the bases.
Marco Scutaro, who entered the game 0-for-11, chopped one over the mound that was far too high/slow for third baseman Jack Hannahan to have any play. A run scored there and another came in when Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to first.
There are several issues for the Red Sox right now, but what would concern me most if I was Terry Francona was how much he has had to use his bullpen early on.
He has managed to spread it out best he can and nobody is getting too overworked too early, but to have to fill four innings a game with relievers is a taxing task for the manager.
As a whole, the bullpen's been pretty solid. But the Sox are in a stretch in which they play 19 games in 20 days. Just getting someone through seven innings at some point will do wonders. The way Daisuke Matsuzaka started this one, that is extremely unlikely tonight.
End 1st, Indians 2-0: Shin-Soo Choo was 1-for-16 with eight strikeouts entering this one, but he was facing a Red Sox pitcher, so the odds of going deep greatly increased.
Those odds went through the roof when Daisuke Matsuzaka grooved a 90 mph fastball right down the avenue. Choo didn't miss it, hammering a blast into the seats in right-center field. It scored two as Michael Brantley had singled to lead things off.
That's the first home run off Boston pitching in this series, but the 12th in 32 frames this year. Choo had a solo homer off Matsuzaka last year that accounted for the lone run for Cleveland off the righty in 16 total innings.
Matsuzaka then lost a lengthy battle with Travis Hafner before walking him. He went to 3-2 on Orlando Cabrera before hitting him with a pitch and then was at 2-0 to Travis Buck before finally getting out of it on a fly to left. Matsuzaka finished with 28 pitches, only 12 for strikes.
That is a horrendous ratio, especially when you consider that one of the strikes was hit into the stratosphere.
Mid 1st, 0-0: If you are Carl Crawford, you'll take what you get and he has to be pleased with his third hit as a member of the Red Sox, even if he needed a carom off the pitcher's glove.
That came after Jacoby Ellsbury struck out on a changeup and before Dustin Pedroia went down on a slider.
Crawford then managed an easy swipe of second base, his first theft with Boston, before Mitch Talbot fanned Adrian Gonzalez, also on an off-speed pitch.
So you have a positive in the form of Crawford's effort, and three negatives. That leads to another scoreless inning for the floundering offense.
6:32 p.m.: Word is that the tarp is off the field in Cleveland and the game should be played without interruption, much to the delight of the 38 fans that figure to show.
That means Mitch Talbot will be throwing the first pitch in about 30 minutes.
We are still waiting for this Red Sox lineup to break out. Although the sample size is small, the crew that's in there tonight has done some damage vs. Talbot.
The lineup put forth by Terry Francona is a combined 9-for-22 (.409) with two home runs, two doubles and four walks against Talbot.
Also, as one astute reader has pointed out, the game is on NESNplus, so that should get this group going.
For those of you still looking for your NESNplus channel, here is a guide for all areas and all cable packages.
5:50 p.m.: All kinds of off-the-field news popping up related to the Red Sox, their ownership group and their home park.
You may have heard that one of the nation's most notorious Yankees fans, LeBron James, has partnered up with Fenway Sports Management. Click the link to learn more.
Very possible we will see James at Fenway Park at one time or another. When he gets there he can take in the new improvements.
He might also get a chance to order a vodka tonic.
If James is in town over the winter, he could see some more hockey at Fenway Park.
One thing James likely won't see anymore, no matter where he goes sporting his interlocking N-Y is former Red Sox reliever Craig Hansen, who was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
5:12 p.m.: Get your stretching in now. You'll need it to man the remote tonight.
The Red Sox will be televised on NESNplus at 7 p.m., with pregame starting at 5:30 p.m. on NESN.
That will run for an hour until 6:30, when the Bruins pregame begins. At 7 p.m., the B's are on NESN.
Did that make sense? Probably many ways I could've phrased it to make it clearer. Essentially, Sox fans watch NESN from 5:30-6:30, have a snack and then watch NESNplus from 7 until whenever.
Bruins fans tune to NESN at 6:30 and enjoy the night remote control free. Have your snack at 6 and you'll be all set.
4:40 p.m.: Courtesy of baseball-reference.com, check out this picture taken from a bagel shop in Brookline, and note the spelling of Kevin Youkilis. He's so murderous.
4:25 p.m.: The Daisuke Matsuzaka-Jason Varitek bond has been established. The righty has often had better results throwing to the captain.
For his career, Matsuzaka's ERA with Varitek catching is 4.01, compared to his overall mark of 4.18.
Much of the difference is a result of what Matsuzaka did with Victor Martinez catching him. His ERA in those games last year (11 starts) was 5.90, and the two had an odd postgame after a particularly rough start in New York in which they seemed to express that they were not on the right page, but only to the media.
Varitek was one of three factors in Matsuzaka looking very good in the second half of the spring. Another factor involved the altered routine between starts, which seemed to spark something in Matsuzaka. But the most notable change in my view was his increased aggressiveness. He was working quick and throwing his fastball like he meant it, which as we all know is when Matsuzaka is at his best. If he can carry that approach into the regular season he will have a shot at a much better year.
Sure, you never know with Matsuzaka, but he seemed to respond to Curt Young in March and was, for all intents and purposes, the best starter on the staff from about mid-March on.
Matsuzaka has enjoyed all kinds of success against the Indians. Including his win in the clinching game of the 2007 ALCS vs. Cleveland, he is 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA when facing the Tribe. Last year, Matsuzaka allowed just one run on nine hits in 16 innings vs. Cleveland.
Naturally, the Indians lineup for Wednesday night does not boast very good numbers vs. the Red Sox right-hander. The following group has a collective .212 (11-for-52) average in their encounters:
Michael Brantley, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Carlos Santana, C
Travis Hafner, DH
Orlando Cabrera, 2B
Travis Buck, LF
Matt LaPorta, 1B
Jack Hannahan, 3B
3:51 p.m.: As expected (wasn't that the case yesterday, too?), Jason Varitek is in there to catch Daisuke Matsuzaka. It'll be Varitek's first start of the season. He caught the end of the game Tuesday night off the bench.
Matsuzaka had his spring turnaround once Varitek got behind the plate, although that was only one factor. Still, you may see the two paired quite a bit this year, even though Matsuzaka said this spring that he really enjoyed throwing to Saltalamacchia, who reminds him of some of the Japanese backstops he threw to coming up as a young hurler.
Here is the complete Red Sox lineup. Back in a jiffy with some more pregame thoughts:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Marco Scutaro, SS
1:46 p.m.: There is an outside chance that the Red Sox won't even get a chance for that first win tonight. Rain has been falling off and on in Cleveland and the forecast is for the wet stuff to remain in the area into the evening.
However, it is not a serious threat and there should be enough of a window to get the game in just fine. Still, it will not be ideal conditions. Welcome to April baseball.
We should have the lineups for you in a bit.
8 a.m.: The Red Sox rotation is 0-4 with a 9.30 ERA so far in 2011. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the No. 5 starter, will try to end the slump when he makes his season debut Wednesday night against the Cleveland Indians.
Matsuzaka, who is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in his career vs. Cleveland, will be trying to pick up a Red Sox team which, at 0-4, is one loss away from matching its worst start since 1945. The 1996 team dropped its first five games. The '45 squad opened 0-8 while Ted Williams and other stars were off fighting a war.
Jason Varitek is expected to get his first start behind the plate for Boston.
The Red Sox suffered a 3-1 loss in the series opener Tuesday. The offense managed just four hits and has only two runs in its last 20 innings.
First pitch is 7:05 p.m.
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