April 1, 2008 Red Sox @ Oakland Preview

WHERE: McAfee Coliseum; Oakland, California
: April 1, 2008
: 10:05pm EST
WRKO 680/WROL 950

Starting Pitchers:
Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-0, 3.60ERA, 1.40 WHIP) v. Joe Blanton (0-0, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

Probable Starters:

  1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B R/R .250
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 1B R/R .143
  3. David Ortiz, DH L/L .000
  4. Manny Ramirez, LF R/R .333
  5. Mike Lowell, 3B R/R .375
  6. Jason Varitek, C S /R .000
  7. Jacoby Ellsbury, RF L/L .250
  8. Coco Crisp, CF S/R .333
  9. Julio Lugo, SS R/R .500
  1. Travis Buck, RF L/R .000
  2. Mark Ellis, 2B R/R .143
  3. Daric Barton, 1B L/R .000
  4. Jack Cust, DH L/R .000
  5. Emil Brown, LF R/R .250
  6. Bobby Crosby, SS R/R .333
  7. Jack Hannahan, 3B L/R .375
  8. Kurt Suzuki, C R/R .375
  9. Ryan Sweeney, CF L/L .000

RED SOX: 1-1 2nd in AL East
1-1 2nd in the AL West

RED SOX-ATHLETICS ALL-TIME RECORD: Red Sox lead the series 1,030-842

March 25, 2008 Red Sox won 6-5
March 26, 2008 Athletics won 4-1

When the Red Sox and Athletics last met in Tokyo, Japan to kick start the 2008 season, Daisuke Matsuzaka completed five innings but early in the game it did not look as if he would get through three. In the bottom of the first, Matsuzaka struggled for control against Oakland hitters. After getting rightfielder, Travis Buck to ground out to second, he missed location on a 1-0 pitch to Mark Ellis, who took Matszuaka deep to leftfield to put the Athletics up 1-0. He would go on to walk the bases loaded on six pitches with a one out walk to leftfielder Emil Brown, after walking Daric Barton and hitting Jack Cust earlier in the inning. Fortunately Bobby Crosby to hit a weak dribbler down the third baseline for the second out of the second out of the inning – Matsuzaka to Youkilis – but not before Barton crossed the plate to score Oakland’s second run of the game. He was able to “minimize the damage” by striking out Jack Hannahan swinging but not before throwing 30 pitches in the inning.

With the exception of Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki’s base hit up the middle it appeared as if the second inning would be much better than the first. But things are not always as they appear to be. After getting Ryan Sweeney to fly out to rightfield on three pitches, Matsuzaka faced a difficult at bat against lead-off hitter Buck. Even though Buck would go on to strike out, he did make Matsuzaka throw more (eight) pitches than he wanted to. He would go on to walk Ellis and Barton to load the bases but managed to get out of the inning by striking out Cust looking for the final out.

After throwing 60 pitches in the first two innings, Matsuzaka was on pace to not complete more than three innings but he settled down in the third and pitched effectively until he was pulled after the fifth. Although, from one game it appears as if he is the same inconsistent pitcher he was at the end of last year, one has to “focus on the positive.” Matsuzaka settled down after two rocky innings – that included walking five Athletics – to complete five innings and strike out six Oakland hitters while allowing just two runs on two hits.

Joe Blanton was pitching well and looked as if he was going to get his first win of the young season but he ran into trouble in the top of the sixth inning. After Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a double to rightfield, Blanton walked Kevin Youkilis but was able to get David Ortiz to pop out to third. Earlier in the game, the Red Sox left four men on base including leaving Pedroia stranded at second in the first inning so it appeared Blanton might get out of the inning unscathed. But with Ortiz slumping Manny Ramirez hit a scorching line drive down the left field line that rolled all the way to the wall plating both Pedroia and Youkilis. When the damage was done the Red Sox not only forced Blanton out of the game (to be replaced by Alan Embree) but found themselves with their first lead of the game.

The lead was short lived when third baseman Jack Hannahan hit a two-run homerun to right. That was all the scoring that would happen until the top of the ninth when rookie Brandon Moss hit his first major league homerun with a solo shot to right to tie the game at four against Athletic closer Huston Street. Ramirez would come up with the game winning double in extra frames to give the Sox the 6-5 victory.

The next night, Jon Lester was out-pitched by Oakland starter Rich Harden but again with Lester’s performance you have to “identify the negative and focus on the positive.” Although Lester allowed four runs on five hits in only four innings, he also was able to accumulate four strike outs. He had a Jekyll & Hyde first start of the 2008 season that did not look much different from the Lester of 2007. Even though he showed signs of inconsistency, he was able to settle down after tough second and third innings by getting his only one, two, three inning of his outing in the fourth. Something positive you can take out of his outing.

What Lester has lacked since he has been in the major leagues has been consistency. If he can gain any sort of consistency, he will become a 12-15 game winner year-in and year-out. But that is a big if. Striving for consistency is extremely difficult, in any sport, just as the New England Patriots.

But the Red Sox could not get anything going against Harden. Harden was just on top of his game when the Sox last faced him. The lone Boston run came from Manny Ramirez’s first homerun of the season. Speaking of Manny, he only needs nine more homeruns to get to the 500 homerun mark which, at this pace, will come during the Yankees series on April 11-13. (Also known as Masters weekend.)

Tonight's match up between Matsuzaka and the Athletics worries me. Oakland is a notoriously patient ball club at the plate. Last week, first baseman Daric Barton walked three times against Matsuzaka and he is Oakland's number three hitter. You do not necessarily see too many three hitters taking a lot of walks. The spot in the order is for the swingers and hitters. Matsuzaka needs to be consistant tonight and when ahead in the count go off-speed stuff to get the out because Oakland hitters are not going to get themselves out (unless they are running the bases). If Matsuzaka's not consistant it is going to be a long night for Red Sox fans and he will need to start praying the Sox offense can come through and ride them to a victory.

Things to look for tonight:

  • Keep an eye out for Matsuzaka's pitch count. He can be streaky somes. If he starts to nibble to get out Oakland hitters, it is going to drive up his pitch count and send him to an early shower.
  • David Ortiz's first hit of the season. Ortiz is 0-for-7 with two walks and one strike out.
  • Red Sox offense. Combined Sox hitters are 16-for-69 (.232) with a .293 on-base percentage, a .377 slugging percentage and scoring just seven runs. The A's have outscored the Red Sox 10-7 in the first two games over in the Far East. It would not surprise me if the Sox offense breaks out tonight against Blanton. In the first game, Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and Brandon Moss got to Blanton with two outs in the sixth.
My opinion:
I'm not worried about the Sox offense because the top five hitters of the Sox line up (Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell) combined to hit .375 against Blanton in their careers. (24-94 .375BA, 2 DB, 9 BB, 5 Ks, 10 RBIs) Ramirez is the the best hitter of the five (9-15) against the Oakland right hander while Pedroia is behind him (3-8). They will score more than four runs tonight. The only thing from tonight's game that worries me is Matsuzaka. Is he going to be consistant and not get to fancy on the mound against the Athletics? Hopefully he can be the same pitcher we saw from the third inning to the fifth inning last week. The Sox offense will carry Matsuzaka to his first win. So yes, Daisuke will make it through five innings maybe six but no more than six. RED SOX 8 ATHLETICS 5


J.D. Drew - Day-to-Day (back)
Mike Timlin – 15-day DL, March 20 (laceration on ring finger)
Josh Beckett – 15-day DL, March 19 (back)
Curt Schilling – 60-day DL, March 13 (right biceps degeneration)


Latest Transactions:

March 31 – Signed pitcher Teromasa Matsuo from Japan

March 28 – Mike Timlin, placed on 15-day D.L. retroactive to March 20 with a laceration on his right ring finger

March 26 – Optioned Brandon Moss back to Pawtucket

March 25 – Placed pitcher Josh Beckett on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 19 with back spasms; purchased contract of catcher Kevin Cash from Pawtucket of the International League; optioned catcher Dusty Brown to Pawtucket


AL East Standings

Wins Losses GB Pct.
Tampa Bay Rays 1 0 -- 1.000
Boston Red Sox 1 1 0.5 0.500
New York Yankees 0 0 0.5 0.000
Toronto Blue Jays 0 0 0.5 0.000
Baltimore Orioles 0 1 1.0 0.000

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