Red Sox fall to Athletics in Game Two in Japan


Oakland’s Rich Harden’s nine strike outs help push the Athletics past the Red Sox

(Tokyo, Japan) – The Red Sox continued where they left off last year in yesterday’s 6-5 comeback win capped off by Manny Ramirez’s two doubles and four runs batted in. Today, they looked to start the season 2-0 against the Athletics before moving the opening series back to Oakland but Athletics starting pitcher, Rich Harden, would have none of it. Harden completed six innings allowing one run on three hits while striking out nine Red Sox batters and walking just two in Oakland’s 5-1 victory.

It took the Red Sox four innings until they got their first hit off Harden. Up until the fourth inning, Harden had thrown three complete innings without relinquishing a hit to a Sox batter. He walked two batters in that time period but no hit. Third baseman Mike Lowell was the first Sox batter to put the bat on the ball with a single to left. But the Sox could not do anything when Brandon Moss became Harden’s seventh strike out victim and catcher Jason Varitek grounded out to first baseman Daric Barton.

The Red Sox had their best chance to get to Harden in the top of the third when shortstop Julio Lugo walked with one out and first baseman Kevin Youkilis walked after Pedroia flied out to center. But Harden got out of the inning unscathed getting David Ortiz to hit a pop-foul fly down the third baseline that third baseman Jack Hannahan made a terrific catch on.

In his first outing of the year, Jon Lester pitched just four innings before being replaced by right hander David Aardsma. Through four innings, Lester allowed four runs on five hits while striking out four and walking three. Lester found himself in trouble in the third, walking the lead-off man, Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis, a bloop hit by designated hitter Mike Sweeney then followed by a three run homerun by left fielder Emil Brown. Brown’s first homerun of the season put Oakland up 4-0. But Lester would settle down in his last inning of work by mowing down the Athletics, one, two three, before being replaced in the fifth by Aardsma.

After relieving Lester in the fifth inning the Red Sox relievers held Oakland batters to just two hits while striking out three. Right hander David Aardsma, who came in immediately after Lester, would pitch 1 2/3 innings while striking out three, including back-to-back strike outs of Bobby Crosby and Hannahan, before rendering his first hit to catcher Kurt Suzuki. After Suzuki’s double to deep center, manager Terry Francona pulled him in favor of the left hander Javier Lopez. In Lopez’s second relief appearance of the season, he walked the first batter, pinch hitter Jack Cust, he faced but settled down getting Travis Buck to line out to left for the last out of the inning.

The Red Sox return to regular season action on April 1st when they will travel to McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, Ca. to play two more games with the Athletics. Before then, the Sox will play three exhibition games against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 28-30.


WIN: Rich Harden (1-0)

LOSS: Jon Lester (0-1)


Game Notes:

Julio Lugo had the Red Sox first stolen base of the 2008 season in the top of the third inning with one out and Kevin Youkilis at the plate.

Manny Ramirez had the lone Boston run with his 491st career homerun with two outs in the top of the sixth. It was Ramirez’s first homerun on the season.

Starting in his first game of the 2008 season, Coco Crisp went 1-3 with a double and two strike outs.

Reliever Bryan Corey rendered the first run from a reliever in the bottom of the eighth on a base hit to center by centerfield Jeff Fiorentino, who came in as a defensive replacement in the seventh, to drive in Suzuki who had doubled.

Top 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Rich Harden, OAKLAND --- 6.0IP, 1ER, 3H, 9K, 3BB
  1. Emil Brown, OAKLAND --- 1-4 HR, 3 RBIs

  1. Manny Ramirez, BOSTON --- 1-4 HR, RBI – 491st HR of his career

Opening Day in Japan

Rookie Brandon "Randy" Moss, not Jacoby Ellsbury, propels Red Sox to Extra Innings Win

(Tokyo, Japan) – Even with a 6:00am start, Red Sox faithful were still able to see their team come back from a 4-3 deficit to the Oakland Athletics, 6-5, on March 25, 2008. Fans watched on televisions in the Boston area on a Tuesday morning to see rookie Brandon Moss’s first homerun of his major league career, to tie the game at four in the bottom of the nine.

Moss’s homerun gave Manny Ramirez the opportunity to put the Red Sox on top for the second time in the game. Ramirez took a 1-2 pitch from Oakland closer Huston Street to deep right field, just over the head of outfielder Jeff Fiorentino to score Julio Lugo and David Ortiz. Ramirez came through earlier in the sixth inning to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead after Ortiz popped out to third. But Oakland would rebound with a two run homerun of their own by Jack Hannahan in the bottom to score shortstop Bobby Crosby.

Ramirez’s extra innings base clearing double, paved the way for closer Jonathan Papelbon to make his 2008 season debut in the bottom of tenth. Papelbon’s first outing was not without anxiety. After walking Oakland first baseman Daric Barton to leadoff the tenth, Papelbon struck out designated hitter Jack Cust but allowed an RBI double to right center by left fielder Emil Brown to score Barton. Brown was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple for the second out. Crosby and Hannahan followed with two base hits of their own but Papelbon had none of it and got catcher Kurt Suzuki ground out to Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.

Earlier in the game the second basemen had the first hits of the season with Dustin Pedroia leading off the game with a single up the middle off of Joe Blanton; while Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis took Daisuke Matsuzaka deep to left-center in the bottom of the first.

Pitching on his home turf to start the season, Matsuzaka got off to a shaky started walking four batters in the first two innings including walking the bases loaded twice. But he was able to get out of it both times with Crosby grounding back to Matsuzaka and striking out Hannahan in the bottom of the first and Cust in the second. The Red Sox right hander settled down in the third, to pitch five innings with six strike outs while walking just five and allowing two hits and two earned runs but he would not get the decision.

As soon as Matsuzaka settled down after a tumultuous first two innings, it allowed the Red Sox offense to go to work in the top of the sixth inning. Pedroia led off the inning with a double to deep right field, which Oakland rightfielder Travis Buck misplayed. Youkilis followed with a walk to bring David Ortiz to plate with no outs and two men on. Ortiz hit a foul fly to Hannahan for the first out of the inning but Manny Ramirez made up for his Dominican brother’s failure. Ramirez doubled down the left field line to score both Pedroia and Youkilis to tie the game.

The Red Sox next play tomorrow against the Oakland Athletics at 6:05am at the Tokyo Dome where they try to make it 2-0 against the Athletics with Sox lefty Jon Lester facing A’s right hander Rich Harden.

Game Notes:

J.D. Drew was scratched before the game with tightness in his lower back so the young Moss got the Opening Day Start in right field for the defending champion Boston Red Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury got the start in centerfield over incumbent Coco Crisp only to go 1-for-3, with a single to left field in the seventh and striking out looking in his first at-bat of the season. Crisp has still be hampered by the nagging groin injury which is one of the mitigating factors why Ellsbury started the day in centerfield. There is the possibility of Crisp starting tomorrow’s game against Oakland’s right hander Rich Harden.

There were a total of two double plays in today’s game with the Red Sox grounding into both of them. Two guesses who those players were? You guessed it. Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo.



WIN: Hideki Okajima (1-0)
LOSS: Huston Street (0-1)
SAVE: Jonathan Papelbon (1)

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Manny Ramirez, BOSTON 2-5 4 RBIs
  2. Brandon Moss, BOSTON 2-5 HR
  3. Jack Hannahan, OAKLAND 2-4 2 RBIs

Updates from Opening Day

Top of the third

Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury strikes out looking in his first at-bat of his first full season in the major leagues. Shortstop Julio Lugo singles up to left center. Lugo at first with Pedroia stepping to the plate for his second at-bat. Pedroia hits a long fly ball back to the base of the warning track and is hauled in by Oakland centerfielder Ryan Sweeney. Youkilis hits an infield single down the third base line, Jack Hannahan made a good play to keep it only at a single for Youkilis. Lugo moves up to second. Ortiz grounds out to second baseman Mark Ellis to end the inning. After two and half it’s Oakland 2 Red Sox 0, one hit and two left on base for the Red Sox.

Bottom of the third

First pitch swing, Emil Brown pops up to Youkilis. Looks like Matsuzaka has settled down getting Crosby to hit a come-backer to the mound for the easy second out. Matsuzaka walks his fifth batter of the game in Jack Hannahan. Suzuki lines out to shortstop. After two and half it’s Oakland 2 Red Sox 0, no hits and one left on base for the A’s.

Bottom of the second in Japan

Top of the second

Reigning World Series MVP, Mike Lowell hits a line drive into the centerfield for a single. Brandon Moss, replacing J.D. Drew in the line up with a lower back injury, gets the start in right field. Moss quickly down in the count to Joe Blanton. Moss hits a chopper to short, Crosby to second for the fielder’s choice to record the out on Lowell, Moss safe at first. The Red Sox Captain gets his first at-bat of the 2008 campaign as he steps to the plate and grounds into a Taylor-Made double play shortstop to second to first. At the end of one and a half, it’s Oakland 2 Red Sox 0, one hit and one left on base for the Red Sox.

Bottom of the second

Facing the bottom of the Athletic line, catcher Kurt Suzuki jumps on the first pitch from the Red Sox right hander and drops a bloop single into centerfield. Matsuzaka gets right fielder Ryan Sweeney to hit a long pop fly to Moss in right field for the first out, Suzuki stays at first. Full count to the lead off hitter, Buck, with one out and Suzuki at first going on the pitch, Buck swings and misses at the high fastball for the second out of the inning, Suzuki safe at second with his first stolen base of the season. Ellis comes to the plate for the second time after hitting a homerun in his first at bat, falls down in the count 0-2 to Matsuzaka but works the count to 3-2. Matsuzaka appears to be laboring early on in the game. After getting a head in the count early, Matsuzaka loses Ellis to a walk. Suzuki still at second, Ellis at first. Barton ahead in the count 3-1 against Matsuzaka. In five pitches, Matsuzaka walks the bases loaded, Suzuki moves up to third and Ellis to second as Cust steps to the plate for his second at bat. In two innings, before facing Cust, Matsuzaka had 55 pitches with 30 in the first inning but gets a head of Cust 0-2. Julian Tavarez is warming in the Red Sox bullpen, underneath the stands. Matsuzaka gets Cust to strike out looking, stranding three Athletics on base. After two, it’s Oakland 2, Red Sox 0, one and three left for the Athletics.

First and a half innings Update

Top of the first

Leadoff hitter, Dustin Pedroia hit a slow dribbling single up the middle just out of the dive of Bobby Crosby. Kevin Youkilis hit a fielder’s choice to third base, third to first, Pedroia up to second. On the first pitch, David pops out to third, Pedroia stays at second. In his first at bat of the 2008 season, Manny Ramirez hit a long foul ball to right fielder Travis Buck to record the final out of the inning. At the end of a half, Red Sox 0 Oakland coming to bat, one hit and one left on base for the Red Sox.

Bottom of the First

Mark Ellis first homerun of the 2008 season on a 1-0 count from Daisuke Matsuzaka

Matsuzaka got off to a good start getting right fielder Travis Buck to ground out to Dustin Pedroia at second but then allowed a homerun by second baseman Mark Ellis. Walked Daric Barton and hit Jack Cust in the foot putting runners on first and second. Matsuzaka then threw a wild pitch off the glove of Jason Varitek allowing the runners to move up. Walks the bases loaded by walking Emil Brown. Bobby Crosby hit a chopper up the third base line, Matsuzaka field it and threw out Crosby at first going away from the play but Barton crosses the plate on the fielder’s choice, Brown moves up to second and Cust to third. Minimazing the damaging, Matsuzaka strikes out Oakland third baseman Jack Hannahan. At the end of one, it’s Oakland 2 Red Sox 0, one hit and two left on base.

Top of the second

Reigning World Series MVP, Mike Lowell hits a line drive into the centerfield for a single. Brandon Moss, replacing J.D. Drew in the line up with a lower back injury, gets the start in right field. Moss quickly down in the count to Joe Blanton. Moss hits a chopper to short, Crosby to second for the fielder’s choice to record the out on Lowell, Moss safe at first. The Red Sox Captain gets his first at-bat of the 2008 campaign as he steps to the plate and grounds into a Taylor-Made double play shortstop to second to first. At the end of one and a half, it’s Oakland 2 Red Sox 0, one hit and one left on base for the Red Sox.

2008 MLB Catchers to Watch

The catcher position in baseball is the most physically and mentally demanding position and quite similar to the quarterback position in football. Like a quarterback, it takes a special player to be able to play the position. The years of the power hitting catchers are fading are being replaced with smart, defense-minded catchers who work well with the pitchers. This season there are five catchers to watch out for.

Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
In only his third year at the Major League level, the Dodgers Canadian-born catcher has found himself as a leader in the Dodgers clubhouse and on the field. Martin, the soft-spoken catcher, climbed his way up the line up in 2007 hitting .293 with 19 homeruns and 87 RBIs while taking care of the Dodgers pitching staff. Martin is following in the footsteps of other great catchers who wore Dodger blue such as Roy Campanella, Mike Scioscia, Mike Piazza and Paul LoDuca.

It is difficult for a young player to come into a Major League ball club and assert himself especially if that young player is a catcher. But when Martin was assured by Dodger management in Spring Training of 2007 the job was his, he stepped and became more assertive with the pitching staff. Rarely did a Dodger pitcher shake him off last year. Former Dodger manager Grady Little stated that Martin reminded him of Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek while pitcher Derek Lowe agreed.

He is one player the Dodgers can not afford to lose in their fight for the National League West division with San Diego, Arizona and Colorado. Martin is a throwback to the days when catchers not only played the position well and managed the pitching staff but also hit in the three, four or five slot in the line-up. Look for him to get better in 2008, hitting around .300 with 15-20 homeruns with 90-100 runs batted in.

Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians
Originally signed by Cleveland as a shortstop, Martinez converted to catcher in the Indians minor league system and became one of the top tier catchers in baseball. He is coming off a career year in 2007 where he helped lead the Indians to the top of the American League Central with a .301 average and 25 homeruns and 114 RBIs. He is a two time All-Star (2004 and 2007) mostly because of what he does at the plate but one can not forget what he brings to the Indian pitching staff.

He does not have to say much but Indian pitchers feel confident and comfortable when Martinez is behind the plate. The 2007 Cy Young Award winner, C.C. Sabathia, credits Martinez for winning the award. Sabathia told a Toledo, Ohio newspaper “he knows every hitter in the league better than any of us pitchers do. I can’t tell you how much he helps me in every way.”

Like Martin, Martinez’s 2008 outlook is bright. His homerun and RBI totals will probably not exceed 25 and 120 respectively but one could reasonable expect him to hit .300 again with 20 homeruns and 100 RBIs.

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
After a career year in 2006, hitting .347 with 13 homeruns, 84 RBIs and a .936 OPS, the Minnesota Twins gave the American League Batting Champ a new multi-million dollar contract. But the 2007 season was not as kind to Mauer as 2006. He spent the majority of the month of May last season with a strained quadriceps but still managed to hit a respectable .293 with 60 RBIs and a .808 OPS. His power numbers dropped drastically from the previous year but one could argue his leg injury early in the season contributed to the drastic decrease.

Mauer always had been in a position of leadership since high school when he was the quarterback of the football as well as being the catcher for the baseball team. As a quarterback he was the “National High School Quarterback of the Year” in 2000 and turning down a football scholarship offer at Florida State. Two of his high school football teammates have noted that he would have been a first round pick in the NFL Draft if he choose the football route. Being in a position where he must lead a team does not faze the young catcher because he has been there before and succeeded.

The Twins recognized his leadership and ability to keep opposing base runners in check when they decided to trade catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants during the 2003 off-season. Mauer is a lanky 6’5,” 230 pound catcher that sparked criticism that he is too tall and not big enough to be a catcher. But it is his height that allows him to keep the opposing runners from running on him. In his career, Mauer only allowed 99 base runners to swipe a bag while throwing out 43% of would-be base stealers.

Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
The Braves have a tough young catcher who has proven he belongs in Major League Baseball. McCann was originally called up to the big league to replace injured catchers Johnny Estrada and his back-up during the 2006 campaign. Appearing in 130 games that season, the young 22-year-old made the most of it and hit .333 with 24 homeruns, 93 RBIs and a .960 OPS. With an outstanding first year in the major leagues, McCann’s production dipped a bit during his sophomore season. Last year, he barely hit .270 with 18 homeruns, 92 RBIs and an OPS of .772 in 139 games.

With the trade of Jarrod Saltalamacchia last year, the Braves ensured their future catcher would be McCann. If he can play anywhere between 140-150 games this season, there is no reason to doubt he will hit 20 homeruns and drive in over 100 RBIs during the 2008 season.

Last season his defense was suspect, throwing out just 19 of 89 would-be base stealers, but he came into Spring Training this year with the goal to improve that number. But Atlanta pitchers can not complain when McCann is calling the game. They feel very comfortable throwing to him, which is important for a pitcher-catcher battery to have, says Braves’ coach.

Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox
He is not a young catcher but he brings a veteran presence to the Red Sox behind the plate for the young guys. Varitek will not produce the same type of numbers that Martin, Martinez or Mauer will put up but if you ask Curt Schilling or Josh Beckett he can call a game with the best of them. He studies tapes of batters with other pitchers during the day and rarely do pitchers shake him off. Schilling once stated that he could not remember shaking Varitek off once during a season.

Even though he has an American League Silver Slugger award, Varitek’s bat is slowing down due to age but the Red Sox will not have it any other way. He brings too much to the pitching staff and behind the plate. The younger pitchers on the staff (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon) feel very comfortable with him calling the pitches behind the plate. The same year he won the Silver Slugger Award, he took home the Gold Glove as a catcher.

Varitek is a career .267 hitter who will hit between 10 and 20 homeruns and drive in 60-80 base runners. Look for him to hit around his average this year with 15 homeruns while driving in 60 base runners.

Keep an eye out for:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Texas Rangers
Even though it looks like Gerald Laird will win the starting job for the Rangers, it will not be long before Saltalamacchia is back in the big leagues for good. Look for the young catcher to be brought up to the big club late in the year after playing most of the 2008 season in Triple A.

Ellsbury not in Williams's League

To say that Jacoby Ellsbury will be as good as Ted Williams is absurd. The only thing the two of them have in common is they both bat left handed.

Williams hit 521 homeruns and recorded 2,654 hits in just 19 seasons. He lost three consecutive seasons to serving in the United States Marine Corps in World War II, three seasons where he could have compiled over another 80 homeruns on 420 hits. In 1952, Williams was called back to active duty during the Korean War in May of 1952. He played in just six games in 1952 and when he returned in the second half of the 1953 season he played in only 37 games. The Splendid Splinter missed out on fives seasons where he could have had 700 more hits with 135 more homeruns.

To tell me that Ellsbury is going to have 185 hits with 30 homeruns in his first full year in the majors, you are ridiculous. Ellsbury does not resemble Williams. Saying the young 24-year-old resembles the Greatest Hitter Whoever Lived is like saying Johnny Damon resembles Williams. Damon is the closest current major leaguer that Ellsbury can be compared to.

When Damon came into the league, he was fast, doubles and triples hitter who would hit the homerun ball on occasion, the same as Ellsbury. Since he can score from second base on a wild pitch, it puts him in a category above and beyond Damon. Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey and Gary Sheffield are the only current ballplayers who are close to Williams’s territory.

The only person Ellsbury has to potential to being like is Griffey but the Sox rook is not built to hit homeruns like Griffey. Griffey still had the swing and power to hit the long ball. Ellsbury has not hit more than four homeruns since he has been a professional. The last time he hit seven homeruns in a season was in his freshman year at Oregon State.

Just like there will never be another Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle or Nolan Ryan; there will never be another Ted Williams. They are called the great ones for a reason. If you put everyone on the same pedestal then being great has no meaning anymore.