Friday, June 6, 2008

Jacoby's Wrist

Terry Francona just shrugged and smiled a bit. What else could he do?
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"Just another boring night at the ballpark," he said.
On a night in which his team was involved in a brawl and Manny Ramírez and Kevin Youkilis had to be separated in the dugout, finding out that Jacoby Ellsbury is better than anticipated had to make the manager feel somewhat better.
The loss of Ellsbury, coupled with the loss of David Ortiz - that's top speed and top power - could have and would have been devastating to the Red Sox. But there's hope Ellsbury's right wrist injury might be day to day.
"Just talked to [team physician] Tom Gill," said Francona after the Red Sox defeated the Rays, 7-1. "You saw the play and probably saw it more than I did on replay. He will be examined in the morning. I think that they think that he's nothing more than day to day, which is great news. When we got out there to see him, it hurt. Saw how it looked. But I think we're very hopeful that's all it is [a strain]. He's pretty sore. And we'll go from there.
"Tom said, 'I don't know if he's going to be able to play [tonight].' I was glad to hear him just say that, if that's how he's thinking. That's good news."
The Sox were concerned enough to make a roster move after the game - rookie Chris Carter was sent to Pawtucket and the more defensively gifted Brandon Moss was called up. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is not of a mind to take chances on Kenny Lofton or Barry Bonds; he'd rather fill needs through the farm system.
Ellsbury made a tremendous diving catch in right-center in the fourth inning to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases, but he rolled over on his right wrist.
You could see his wrist bend and hit the grass with force. Before Ellsbury sat up, he removed his glove and writhed in pain, trying to flex his wrist. Trainer Paul Lessard attended to Ellsbury, who strolled off the field, the scene appearing ominous. Ellsbury, one of the most exciting young players in Red Sox history, moved from left field to center when Coco Crisp was ejected for his role in the brawl.
The Sox had to move J.D. Drew from right to center, and Kevin Youkilis, given the night off at first in favor of Sean Casey, entered to play right. Chris Carter, in his major league debut, went to left.
Ellsbury was diagnosed with a strained right wrist, and X-rays were negative. If that sounds familiar, it should. It's precisely what Ortiz was diagnosed with before an MRI showed a partial tear of the tendon sheath in his left wrist. The Red Sox will wait until this morning to see how Ellsbury's wrist feels. If it's sore and swollen, he'll probably have an MRI. If he says it feels better, then the Red Sox can breathe a major sigh of relief.
Ellsbury's role is extremely important now, when power is missing. The Sox must utilize their speed and manufacture runs.
Ellsbury has 28 stolen bases and has been caught three times. You could argue that two of the times he was caught, the umpire made the wrong call.
He's stolen bases on pitchouts and he's stolen third four times. It would be tough to lose the speed-power combo of Ellsbury and Ortiz and not see a downturn in runs. Beyond that, Ramírez appeared to tweak his hamstring while batting in the seventh. He walked, and after Mike Lowell flied to right, Ramírez was replaced by pinch runner Kevin Cash. And don't forget Crisp could receive a suspension for attacking pitcher James Shields in the brawl.
All of which makes Ellsbury's health more of a concern.
Ellsbury makes the offense tick. His presence on the bases creates RBI opportunities.
While the Red Sox have speed in Crisp and Julio Lugo, Ellsbury is more of a catalyst. He has become the true leadoff hitter in a lineup that has been void of one for some time.
If Ellsbury is out for an extended period, it will likely create an opportunity for Moss, who was bypassed this time for Carter, a DH who played well in left last night and had two hits in his major league debut.
With all the injuries, Epstein eventually might have to go outside the organization to fill the vacancies.
As for Ellsbury's defense? He might be the best outfielder in the American League. Why?
As a few scouts have mentioned, they don't believe there is a player as good at all three outfield positions. That's playing the angles at the corners, having the arm strength to make good cutoff throws and throws to the plate, and having the speed to cover every center field in the American League.
With Ortiz out and Ramírez DHing most of the time, the Ellsbury-Crisp-Drew outfield covers a lot of ground. Yes, the Sox won last night's game, but they lost big time.
Infighting, injuries, possible suspensions.
Fenway has seen better nights.

Three Rebels in First 100 Picks in MLB Draft

A trio of junior right-handed hurlers highlighted the first day of the 2008 MLB Draft as Lance Lynn, Cody Satterwhite and Scott Bittle were all drafted in the top 100 picks and the first two rounds of the First Year Player Draft on Thursday.Lynn, who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 39th overall pick in the supplemental first round, was the first Rebel selected in the 2008 MLB draft and joins former Rebel third baseman Chris Coghlan as recent players taken in within the first 40 picks of the MLB Draft. Coghlan was selected with the 36th pick by the Florida Marlins in the 2006 season.“Certainly we’re very excited for Lance Cody and Scott,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “They are three guys we really counted on this year. They are very deserving and I know they are honored and excited about the new opportunity in front of them. We are very proud of all three of them.”Lynn posted a 7-4 record in the 2008 season as the Friday starter for the Rebels and posted 110 strikeouts on the year, second most on the team. Lynn shattered the career strikeout record as the 110 strikeouts pushed him to 332 for his career and made him the only Rebel pitcher to record more than 300 strikeouts. The junior was also a preseason candidate for the Brooks Wallace Award and the Clemens AwardThe junior set the single-season strikeout record as a sophomore when he notched 146 strikeouts and posted an 8-5 record. A two-time All-SEC selection, Lynn posted a career record of 22-12 with the 22 wins tying for 5th on the career wins list at Ole Miss. “It’s an honor to be selected in the supplemental first round,” Lynn said. “I’m excited about the opportunity presented to me, and have had a wonderful three year career at Ole Miss. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.”Junior right-hander Cody Satterwhite was the second Rebel to hear his name called on Thursday as he went in the second round to the Detroit Tigers with the 67th pick of the Draft.Satterwhite started his career with a bang, breaking the freshman record for wins with 11 in 2006 and since moved into whatever role was needed by the Rebels as he served as both a closer and a starter for his three year career. For his three years, Satterwhite posted a career record of 18-11 and earned Freshman All-America and Freshman All-SEC honors in 2006. He followed that up with All-SEC Second Team honors his sophomore year. Satterwhite entered the 2008 season as a preseason candidate for the Brooks Wallace Award which honors the nation’s top collegiate baseball player.“I’m really excited because this is a great opportunity,” Satterwhite said. “It’s big to be taken in the top 100 and be considered one of the top 100 baseball players in the country this year. I’m ready to embark on a new beginning and work on getting to the majors.”Bittle became the third Rebel to go in the first two rounds on Thursday as the junior reliever was drafted by the New York Yankees with the 75th overall pick in the second round.Bittle took the Southeastern Conference by storm this season, leading the league in strikeouts with 118 in the season and finished with 130 following the NCAA Regional in Miami. The 130 strikeouts is third on the single season list. Bittle posted a 7-1 record and picked up 8 saves on the year, putting him seventh on the single season saves list. His 15 saves for his career is third all-time.Bittle was named an All-SEC Second Team selection as a reliever this year and was named as a finalist for the Stopper of the Year and a semi-finalist for the Clemens Award. “It’s a great honor to be selected by the New York Yankees,” Bittle said. “I grew up watching them and love the style of play and the tradition of being a Yankee. It’s a really great time for me and want to thank the Yankees for selecting me. I also want to thank Coach Bianco and the Ole Miss baseball family for giving me the opportunity to take this step.”

Looking to continue their recent momentum in the First-Year Player Draft, the Red Sox nabbed a most intriguing athlete in pitcher-shortstop Casey Kelly with the 30th overall pick on Thursday to close out the first round.
Kelly, an 18-year-old senior out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School, is a two-sport star who was recruited to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee. However, the Red Sox are obviously confident Kelly will choose playing professional baseball instead of following in the footsteps of National Football League superstar Peyton Manning.

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"We spent some time talking to the kid," said general manager Theo Epstein. "First of all, he's a great kid, from a great baseball family. You could hear the passion in his voice when he talks about baseball, and we wouldn't have taken him if we didn't feel in our hearts that he wanted to go out and play professional ball."
There is still a contract to be worked out. But all things being equal, Kelly sounded like a man who was ready to start a baseball career.
"It's definitely a tough decision," said Kelly. "I haven't talked to anybody at Tennessee yet. Out of respect to them, we'll just have to see how the summer goes and see how everything plays out with this."
Kelly was then asked if he saw his future in professional baseball or pro football.
"Right now, I'd have to say baseball," he said. "It's kind of up for grabs. I don't really know the answer to that yet. We'll see how the summer plays out."
Kelly's father, Pat, played in three Major League games for the Blue Jays in 1980 and is a veteran coach in professional baseball. He currently works in the Reds organization.
Making the pick even more interesting is that the Red Sox have the flexibility of using Kelly as a pitcher instead of a shortstop, the position at which he was officially drafted. Kelly starred in both positions in high school and is said to have a nice three-pitch mix.
"I have a two-seam fastball that moves a lot and sinks, and a curveball that's pretty good, and a changeup. I have three pitches," he said.
Jason McLeod, Boston's amateur scouting director, and Epstein both feel that the most likely projection for Kelly is as a pitcher.
"I think we've liked him a lot as a pitcher," McLeod said. "I think eventually that will be where he ends up, that would be my guess. But if we can get something done and get him out playing this summer, he certainly would have the opportunity to go out as a shortstop."
Though Kelly's commitment to Tennessee certainly added an element of risk to the pick, the Red Sox thought it was far outweighed by the possible reward.
"A lot of teams liked him as a shortstop, and there were rumors of teams that would pick him as a shortstop in the first round, and there were a handful of teams that liked him as a pitcher," Epstein said. "He's a unique animal. We have someone who's a potential first-round talent as a position player and as a pitcher and can go to Tennessee and play quarterback."
Red Sox's top five selections
Casey Kelly
Sarasota HS
Bryan Price
Rice U
Derrik Gibson
Seaford HS (Del.)
Stephen Fife
U of Utah
Kyle Weiland
U of Notre Dame
Complete Red Sox Draft results >
Because of his passion for playing shortstop and quarterback, Kelly didn't start pitching until his latter years of high school. But McLeod, who scouted him first-hand, saw plenty to like.
"Right now, he's exceptionally advanced for a high school kid," said McLeod. "It comes pretty easily to him. He's very natural on the mound. He has command of a low-90s fastball with movement. Very good breaking ball, hard curveball that he throws, and the changeup as well. He's a kid, obviously, with his football talent as well as his talent in the infield, doesn't spend a lot of time on the mound. But with the time he has spent [pitching], he's pretty advanced.
"He did what you'd want to see out of a high school pitcher -- size, arm action, delivery, worked on both sides of the plate. [He] could throw fastballs away that ran back over the corner, which you don't see a lot out of a high school kid. Hard breaking ball. It was a very good look."
As a position player, Kelly hit .473 in his senior year at Sarasota, adding in 14 doubles, one triple, five homers, 31 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he went 8-1 with a 1.16 ERA and two saves in 12 appearances. In 66 innings, he walked 12 and struck out 66.
The Sox didn't have to wait long before making their next selection. Thanks to losing Eric Gagne as a free agent to the Milwaukee Brewers, they were able to pick right-hander Bryan Price out of Rice University in the supplemental round (45th overall).
Price had an impressive junior year, going 3-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 appearances, which included one start.
The Red Sox see a lot of untapped talent in Price.
"Again, [he's] another kid who has the physical attributes we look for, with size and delivery and arm action," McLeod said. "As you do your research on him, you'll see he didn't have a lot of innings his first couple of years at Rice due to ineffectiveness when he did pitch. He only threw 17 innings his freshman and sophomore years. You can look at it two ways. For us, we kind of see that as meaning he wasn't abused, he has a fresh arm.
"Big arm, fastball up to 95 [mph], with good life down in the zone," continued McLeod. "Hard slider, and he's someone that's a little untapped for a college right-handed pitcher, which excites us. We think there's more upside left to him. And having the physical attributes that he does have, we're just really happy to get him into our player-development system and let our guys get their hands on him."
The Red Sox project Price as a starter.
"As far as starting and relieving, I prefer to start," said Price. "I feel like I can get into more of a rhythm when starting. I feel like I'm much more polished due to the fact that I'm not throwing day after day. I've got some days off where I can work on stuff in the bullpen and in between. I think I'm sharper as a starter."
As part of an MLB initiative, each of the 30 teams held a special Draft of surviving Negro League players, who represent every player who did not have an opportunity to play in the Major Leagues.
Boston's selection was pitcher Jim Colzie, who played for the Indianapolis Clowns and Atlanta Black Crackers for seven years and is best remembered for beating future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in 1947.
Here is a look at Boston's Day 1 selections in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft:
Supplemental round (No. 45): RHP Bryan Price, Rice UniversityPrice, 21, went 3-4 with two saves and a 3.65 ERA in 27 games (one start) as a junior at Rice University this season. He fanned 50 and walked 24 in 44 1/3 innings, an average of 10.2 K's per nine innings pitched. In 2007, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-hander went 0-0 with a save and a 7.84 ERA in eight games (one start). He fanned 12 and walked seven in 10 1/3 innings pitched, an average of 10.5 K's per nine innings. He was ranked the No. 47 overall prospect and the No. 25 pitcher in this year's Draft by Baseball America.
Round 2 (No. 77): SS Derrik Gibson, Seaford (Del.) High SchoolGibson, 18, was ranked the No. 199 overall prospect and the No. 92 position player in this year's Draft by Baseball America. He hit .633 with five doubles, five triples, five homers, 29 RBIs, 34 runs scored and 13 steals as a senior. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-handed hitter was named the 2008 Delaware High School Player of the Year as well as earning First-Team All-State honors at shortstop in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He was named the 2006-2007 Delaware Baseball Player of the Year after batting .491 with a home run, 19 RBIs and 15 steals while going 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 56 innings on the mound. He was recommended by Red Sox scout Chris Calciano.
Round 3 (No. 85): RHP Stephen Fife, University of UtahFife, 21, was ranked the No. 57 overall prospect and the No. 33 pitcher in this year's Draft by Baseball America. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound right-hander was 7-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts as a junior for the University of Utah in 2008. He struck out 78 and walked 29 over 92 innings. He threw two complete games, including one shutout. The Boise, Idaho, native led the Utes in wins (seven), starts (14), innings (92), strikeouts (78) and opponents' batting average against (.252). He went 6-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 17 games (six starts) as a sophomore in 2007. He posted a team-low .298 batting average against the finished second on the club with 53 Ks.
Round 3 (No. 108): RHP Kyle Weiland, University of Notre DameWeiland, 21, is the University of Notre Dame's all-time leader with 25 career saves. The Albuquerque, N.M., native posted a 2-2 record with seven saves and 5.04 ERA over a team-high 26 appearances as a junior for the Fighting Irish in 2008. He struck out 31 and walked 10 in 30 1/3 frames, an average of 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander went 1-2 with a save and a 2.38 ERA for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2007 and ranked third nationally with 16 saves as a freshman in 2006. He was recommended by Red Sox scout Chris Mears.
Round 4 (No. 142): OF Peter Hissey, Unionville (Pa.) High SchoolHissey, 18, hit .509 with 26 steals and a .672 on-base percentage as a senior for Unionville (Pa.) High School this year. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left-handed-hitting outfielder was ranked the No. 136 overall prospect and the No. 66 position player in this year's Draft by Baseball America.
Round 5 (No. 172): OF Ryan Westmoreland, Portsmouth (R.I.) High SchoolWestmoreland, 18, was ranked the No. 113 overall prospect and the No. 53 pitcher in this year's Draft by Baseball America. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder hit .486 with four homers, 31 RBIs, 37 runs scored and 17 steals for Portsmouth (R.I.) High School this season. He went 7-0 with a 0.45 ERA in seven games (six starts) and tossed a perfect game on April 30, fanning 19 of 21 batters faced. He also pitched a complete-game one-hit shutout and fanned 20 on April 3. In 2007, he was named the Rhode Island High School Baseball Player of the Year as well as the state's Schoolboy Athlete of the Year.
Round 6 (No. 202): C Ryan Lavarnway, Yale UniversityLavarnway, 20, led the Ivy League with 13 homers, 42 RBIs, 29 walks, a .824 slugging percentage and a .541 on-base percentage as a junior for Yale University. He led the Bulldogs with a .398 batting average. The Woodland Hills, Calif., native is Yale's all-time leader with 33 career home runs. He was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award and the Golden Spikes Award, as well as a candidate for the Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year Award. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-handed-hitting catcher was named Second Team All-Ivy and First-Team All-New England. As a sophomore in 2007, he led the NCAA with a .467 batting average and a .873 slugging percentage, both school records. He also set single-season Yale marks in homers (14), hits (70), doubles (17), RBIs (55) and total bases (131).

Center fielder Coco Crisp started a heated exchange between Boston and Tampa Bay on Wednesday by intentionally sliding hard into Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura.
On Thursday, Tampa Bay starter James Shields ended it with a pitch that grazed Crisp in his first at-bat. That ignited a benches-clearing fracas that led to the ejections of Crisp, Shields and Rays designated hitter Jonny Gomes from a game the Red Sox would go on to win, 7-1.
Despite the hot tempers, the Red Sox executed on the field just as they did during the first two wins in the series and completed the three-game sweep. The victory pushed Boston's division lead to 1 1/2 games.
"Anyone find a full moon tonight? Crazy stuff going on, just a crazy night at the park," first baseman Sean Casey said. "It happens sometimes."
"It was huge; now we're in first place," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "It was a big, big series win for us. We've just got to keep going. There are a lot of games left, and we've just got to keep doing our thing."
Emotions certainly were expressed throughout the contest, with Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis exchanging words in the dugout following the bottom of the fourth. The two were separated by teammates before Youkilis took his position on the field and Ramirez walked toward the back hallway of the dugout. Manager Terry Francona said that the exchange was the product of having "a lot of testosterone going."
Still, it was Ramirez who ignited the Boston offense early in the contest, belting his first home run at Fenway since April 19. He followed that three-run shot with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the fourth that brought in two more runs. He finished 2-for-3 with five RBIs.
"We had to have some timely hitting," catcher Jason Varitek said. "Manny hits a big three-run homer right away against a guy [Shields] who has been throwing the ball pretty well."
Ramirez's production gave starter Jon Lester more than enough support. Lester was touched up for just one run on eight scattered hits and recorded his first victory since his no-hitter on May 19.
Lester didn't walk a batter and struck out five, but he did hit two Rays in the outing. But in a game like Thursday's, exchanging hit batsmen was to be expected. Tampa Bay pitchers combined to hit three Red Sox batters, including Crisp, leading to the melee.
It was just one interesting dynamic that took place on an anything but ordinary night at Fenway.
Still, Lester remained poised throughout the stoppages in play and managed to stifle a difficult Rays lineup by mixing spots inside and outside the plate and regulating his offspeed pitches.
"It's a tough lineup, because they're so aggressive -- they swing the bat and they go after a lot of stuff," Lester said. "You try not to go away from your game plan and keep going after guys."
But the victory didn't come without a price. Already unable to perform roster moves with regular designated hitter David Ortiz on the disabled list and Ramirez taking over DH duties because of a hurting right hamstring, the Sox were already shorthanded in the outfield.
Crisp's ejection didn't help, and two innings later, Jacoby Ellsbury injured his right wrist making a diving catch. The Sox used three center fielders in the game -- Ellsbury replaced Crisp after his ejection, then J.D. Drew moved from right to center after Ellsbury exited -- and were forced to use first baseman Youkilis in right to finish the game. Youkilis had originally been given the night off to allow Casey to see playing time.
Ramirez, too, exited early, lifted for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning after an at-bat in which the hamstring appeared to bother him again. He walked during the plate appearance.
Crisp's replacement in the batting order -- recent Triple-A Pawtucket callup Chris Carter, who entered the game in the second in left field -- was the lone bright spot resulting from the outfield's proverbial game of musical chairs. In his Major League debut, Carter recorded two singles in his first two at-bats.
Carter was told by Francona after the contest that he'd be optioned back to the PawSox, making room for Brandon Moss to rejoin the team and fill a spot on Boston's radically changing outfield depth chart.
But that didn't take away from Carter's successful, yet unconventional, debut in the big leagues.
"All of a sudden, I was put in," Carter said. "I just had the adrenaline going. I was just thinking about beating the Rays. It was absolutely incredible. It was a rush."
Lost in all the distractions is what ultimately matters: Boston extended its division lead and will move on to face Seattle on Friday. Lester said that's the main objective, and it's something the team hasn't lost sight of.
"It feels good to go out there and, you know, we really don't worry about the standings," Lester said. "We just try and go out and win, and that's what we did tonight."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jason Varitek's head was down. So it was left to the batter, Cliff Floyd, to let him know that there might be trouble on the mound. Varitek hadn't noticed when Josh Beckett's right foot slipped on the mound while he was delivering a pitch in the sixth inning last night.
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Though it resulted in a gathering that included manager Terry Francona and assistant trainer Mike Reinold, it didn't result in an injury to the Red Sox ace.
Even though Beckett came out of the game after the inning, having thrown just 92 pitches, it was precautionary. He wouldn't be added to the list of injured Sox that features Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Ortiz, and he picked up the win in a 5-1 decision over the Rays in front of 37,474 at Fenway Park.
But Coco Crisp might be.
With his thumb wrapped and iced after the game, one in which the Sox pushed past the Rays and into first place in the American League East, Crisp demonstrated more anger than pain. So, too, did Rays manager Joe Maddon, with whom Crisp had a shouting match during an eighth-inning pitching change concerning a hard slide into Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura earlier in the inning.
It was all missed by Sox manager Terry Francona.
"I went down to go to the bathroom," said Francona after his team's 12th straight win at home. "Every time I leave [bench coach Brad Mills] in charge, he either puts [Kevin Youkilis] in right or something. Coco got his thumb jammed on the [play] before. I missed the rest of it. I was trying to get my zipper up. It wasn't going as fast as I wanted it to."
Crisp had injured the thumb - he called it a "mild sprain" and said there had been no X-rays - on a stolen base in the sixth, when he said shortstop Jason Bartlett put his knee in front of the bag. It was a move that caused Crisp to warn Bartlett he would "show him how I felt about it" if he got on base again.
That precipitated his hard slide on his stolen base try in the eighth, except he went into the other middle infielder, Iwamura. That slide was what angered Maddon.
"I stole second, Bartlett covered the bag, and he put his knee in front of the base where your hand or foot is supposed to go," Crisp said, though he indicated he thought Bartlett was a "good dude." "If your foot goes in there, there's not much chance for danger. Either way as an infielder, it's a little shady or a lot shady to do that. You cover the bag, swipe with the glove, because you can get somebody injured badly by doing that.
"If it continues, then it continues. I'm not going to be the one to initiate the next move."
By that time, the Sox were up by four runs, having scored four times off Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson. Three runs came in the third inning, when Crisp singled and later scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury single. Ellsbury then came home on a J.D. Drew ground-rule double, which was followed by an RBI single by Manny Ramírez. The fourth Boston run came when Crisp's sacrifice fly scored Youkilis in the fourth.
Beckett, meanwhile, allowed one run in six innings. Mud in his spikes caused the slip on the mound. With a steady drizzle throughout the game, both the dirt and outfield were damp.
"It was just one of those deals. It scares you more than anything," Beckett said. "A lot of bad things can happen when you do that. I think what happens is throughout the game, we've got two guys that have mud in their spikes pretty consistent all night. At a certain part of the game, you can't get the mud off your cleats anymore because [a mat used to help clean them] is completely filled with mud."
Beckett (6-4) allowed seven hits and no walks and struck out five.
"His location is getting better," said Varitek, who attributed Beckett's comparatively slow start this season to missing most of spring training because of a bad back. "He's able to get to his curveball, get to it instead of it taking two or three pitches. I think it's just a cleanness of his delivery of getting more comfortable out there."
Behind Beckett, the Red Sox did two things that need to happen for them to survive the absence of some of their big names. They hit and they pitched well in relief. With key hits from two candidates for the No. 3 spot in the order, Drew and Youkilis, and impressive outings from Manny Delcarmen, who struck out the side in the seventh, Hideki Okajima, and Craig Hansen, there were good signs.
"We have our big man down and they have their big man down," Crisp said, referring to Ortiz, and the Rays placing slugger Carlos Peña on the disabled list yesterday. "We both have to find somebody else to step up. When your big guys go down that you count on, it always has to be somebody else every different day. Hopefully, that will pick up the slack."

Plethora of Sporting Events Over the Next Fortnight

As my friend Sam Cashio exclaimed at prayer breakfast yesterday morning, “What a great time to be a sports fan!” And in fact he is right. It’s one of those special times when the sports calendar coalesces into a major climax of events; so many that you can hardly take them in.
It started last night, when the Detroit Red Wings finally conquered the Pittsburg Penguins to win the Stanley cup. The Penguins had beaten Detroit earlier in the week in a triple overtime affair that extended their series but only postponed the inevitable. After the game, Captain Nicklas Lidstrom had the privilege of being the first Detroit Red Wing to hoist the Stanley Cup. It also allowed him to lug the 35-pound trophy wherever he wanted. "It's heavy, but I don't mind it at all," Lidstrom said as he walked away from a news conference gripping the NHL's towering symbol of excellence. "It's a great problem to have." Indeed. Henrik Zetterberg also earned the right to tote a trophy, scoring the Cup-winning goal and adding an assist to lift Detroit to a 3-2 win Wednesday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins and seal the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Following a 21-year separation, pro basketball's pillars of power will revive their bitter rivalry starting tonight at TD Banknorth Garden (that’s just the GAHDEN for Boston fans) for Game 1 of a best-of-seven series drenched in nostalgia and stuffed with enough history to fill every playground hoop from Springfield to Southern California.
The famed franchises, who have combined to win 30 of 61 championships, are squaring off in the finals for the 11th time and first since 1987. These finals figure to deliver a needed jolt of excitement to the league, which began the 2007-08 season entangled in a gambling probe involving one of its referees and whose signature event has strained to recapture the sporting spotlight since the '80s, when Celtics vs. Lakers, Bird vs. Magic was a rite of spring.
Saturday afternoon, Big Brown attempts to be the first horse in 30 years to win thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown as the “Sport of Kings” reconvenes at the Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, New York for the running of the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont is the third race of the Triple Crown, after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Having won the Derby and Preakness, Big Brown heads into this year’s Belmont with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. In that time, ten horses have won the first two legs but fallen short in the “Test of a Champion.”
And if that’s not enough, just about the time that the Belmont stakes race caller announces, “They’re off!” the No. 7 national seed LSU Tigers will open play on against UC Irvine at Alex Box Stadium on ESPNU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. Two more wins and the Tigers will advance to their first College World Series since 2004. The best-of-three series will continue on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN), with the "if necessary" game scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday (ESPN2).
While the NBA championships continue to play out, Next weekend in LaJolla, California, Torry Pines golf course hosts the US Open. At the same time, the aforementioned College World Series will reconvene in Omaha, Kansas.
So for those of you who are still bummed out over the conclusion of the Hattiesburg Dixie Youth T-ball season, don’t despair. There will plenty of sports to watch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Four Run 6th Gives Red Sox Win Over Tampa

If there was any doubt about the Red Sox's ability to produce runs without injured slugger David Ortiz, they sure did a good job dispelling that notion Tuesday against the Rays.
This run-scoring juggernaut can generate production with or without Big Papi's power, and Boston demonstrated several ways of doing so in the team's return home after a 10-game road trip. The Red Sox scored four runs in the sixth inning to beat the American League East-leading Rays, 7-4, at Fenway Park.
"It's a matter of continuing to do what we do best," right fielder J.D. Drew said. "See the ball. Hit the ball. Grind out at-bats. We were able to do that, get some big hits in some key situations."
Drew was certainly the catalyst of the Red Sox's scoring arsenal. He went 2-for-3 on the night, crossing the plate twice and blasting a solo home run in the fourth inning that gave Boston a 3-2 lead.
Trailing, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox took advantage of Garza's sudden control issues. After Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch and Manny Ramirez reached on an error by shortstop Jason Bartlett, Drew's poise at the plate loaded the bases by drawing a walk. Catcher Jason Varitek then singled up the middle, bringing in the tying run and opening up a four-run inning, highlighted by Coco Crisp's tiebreaking two-run double.
"Everybody kind of contributed," Drew said. "Coco had a big hit with the ball off the wall that pushed across some runs and set us up nicely."
Tampa Bay took an early lead on Akinori Iwamura's leadoff home run in the top of the first, then tied the game in the fourth and came from behind to take the lead in the sixth.
Boston kept fighting back, doing it against a strong Garza -- who entered with a 4-1 record and a 3.78 ERA -- by mixing speed, power and timely hitting. Mike Lowell gave Boston its first lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second.
The offense helped Boston starter Justin Masterson pick up his second win on the year despite withstanding his most difficult outing. Masterson, called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take Daisuke Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation, allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. Considering he allowed a total of two runs in his first two outings against the Angels and Royals, it was the first time in Masterson's Major League career he was touched up in the midst of multiple-inning jams.
"He kept the damage minimal," Varitek said.
"It's a matter of continuing to do what we do best. See the ball. Hit the ball. Grind out at-bats. We were able to do that, get some big hits in some key situations."
-- J.D. Drew
Varitek said it was the first time Masterson had to deal with working out of an early deficit, and he did so with composure.
"He settled in. He made pitches and he's extremely poised," Varitek said. "Even after a two-run homer [by Carlos Pena], he went out there and made quality pitches. That's not an easy thing to do."
Masterson certainly got some help from his defense, especially from his right fielder. It was Drew, this time without the bat, that saved runs by running down two line drives near the warning track -- once in the fourth and again in the fifth -- that each potentially saved runs from crossing the plate.
"Things you can control are your defense," Drew said. "I've always prided myself on playing solid defense. It's just been situations where I've been able to make some nice plays, and it's magnified because it happened over a few games."
Manager Terry Francona said he thought Masterson's sinker didn't have as much sink in it as opposed to his first two starts, but he was pleased with the way his pitcher competed and was able to avoid giving up costly big innings.
"I said before the game, Masterson's pitching and we didn't give it a second thought, and I mean that as a compliment," Francona said. "He goes up and we expect him to give us a good ballgame, and he did that."
But the effort by Masterson and the Red Sox offense would have gone to waste without a strong performance by the relievers. Just one night after relinquishing an eighth-inning lead against Baltimore, Boston's bullpen was more than effective against the Rays.
After Javier Lopez allowed Evan Longoria and pinch-hitter Willy Aybar to reach in the eighth, Francona called upon Craig Hansen to get out of the jam. Hansen initiated two groundouts around a strikeout of Gabe Gross to preserve the 7-4 lead. Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 17th save with a perfect ninth.
"[Hansen] came in and pounded the strike zone with all of his pitches and was able to keep us in the ballgame," Papelbon said. "Our bullpen has been doing such a good job of that lately."
By preserving Masterson's lead generated by the offense's big bats, the Sox climbed to within a half-game of the division-leading Rays.
"Masterson pitched a great game," Hansen said. "We finished it off just right."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Super Regional Schedule Set

The eight super-regional hosts were announced today by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee.
A minimum of 45 hours of super-regional television will be provided by family of ESPN channels, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Consult local listings for specific games shown in each area of the country. As many as 15 national broadcast windows could appear on the three ESPN networks from June 6-9.
2008 marks only the fourth time (1999, 2001, and 2005) that all eight national seeds survived the regionals and advance to the super regionals since the bracket expanded in 1999. Also, Fresno State became only the second No. 4 seed to win a regional. The only other No. 4 seed to advance to the super regionals was Missouri in 2006, when the Tigers won the Pepperdine Regional.
The following four super regionals will be played Friday, June 6, Saturday, June 7, and Sunday, June 8 (if necessary). The national seed is indicated before the team name, while updated records through the regionals are in parenthesis.
-more-GAMES BEGIN FRIDAY, JUNE 6 – All Times are EasternNorth Carolina State (41-20) at No. 8 Georgia (39-22-1)Noon (ESPN), Noon (ESPN2), 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Wichita State (47-15) at No. 4 Florida State (52-11)2 p.m. (ESPN2), Noon (ESPN2), 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Arizona (41-17) at No. 1 Miami (Florida) (50-8)7 p.m. (ESPN), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Stanford (37-22-2) at No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (41-20)10:30 p.m. (ESPN2), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)The following four best-of-three super regionals will be played Saturday, June 7, Sunday, June 8, and Monday, June 9 (if necessary). GAMES BEGIN SATURDAY, JUNE 7 - All times are EasternCoastal Carolina (50-12) at No. 2 North Carolina (at Cary, N.C.) (49-12)Noon (ESPNU), 1 p.m. (ESPN), 12:30 p.m./7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)
Texas A&M (46-17) at No. 6 Rice (45-13)3 p.m. (ESPNU), 7 p.m. (ESPN2), 12:30 p.m./7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)
UC Irvine (41-16) at No. 7 LSU (46-16-1)6 p.m. (ESPNU), 4 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Fresno State (40-28) at No. 3 Arizona State (48-11)9 p.m. (ESPNU), 10 p.m. (ESPN2), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
The determination of the order of first-round games both Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, will be announced Monday, June 9. The ESPN family of networks and will release the MCWS game dates and times as soon as they are available.
The 62nd College World Series begins play Saturday, June 14, at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.

With careful observation it's easy to see that this is not last year's Red Sox team. Several key elements are either missing or inconsistent. The most obvious has been Big Papi. He has frequently been out of the line-up and when there has been mostly ineffectual. And now we learn that he will be out indefiNately with a torn wrist tendon. His side kick, Manny Ramirez has been on again off again, hitting his stride early in the season and then backing off when the 500 homer mark drew near. Kevin Youkalis has also struggled at the plate. Instead of his previous dogged patience with each at bat, he has been put in the role of power hitter which is not his greatest attribute. Strikeouts have risen.

But the biggest change is in the pitching staff. Last year, if a Red Sox team took a lead into the 7th, you could bank the win. The trio of Mike Timlin followed by Hideki Okajima and then Jonathan Papelbon to close were virtually invincible. But no longer so. Coming off of 2 stints on the DL, Timlin has been wild and unreliable and has relinquished his role to a committee of Javier Lopez, David Aardsma, Manny Del Carmen and Craig Hanson. Papelbon has been stellar but no longer invincible, having blown back to back saves earlier in the season. And Okajima is no longer as dependible as a set-up man as he was last season. As you'll read below, he blew a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning that the offense had scrapped hard to achieve.

The starting rotation is a shambles due to injuries. Tonight young Justin Masterson takes the mound against the league leading Rays in Boston's return to Fenway. With just two major league starts under his belt, Masterson is plaeed under a lot of pressure.

But you know, this is one of the joys of having a fovorite team to follow, especially if it has been as successful as the Sox, you can appreciate the evolution of a team. Last year's Red Sox were not the team of 2004, and this year's team is not last year's team.


The Red Sox were hoping to end a long road trip by handing the Orioles the four-game broom treatment. However, a meltdown by lefty setup man Hideki Okajima in the bottom of the eighth sent Boston home with a frustrating 6-3 defeat.
Okajima was entrusted with Tim Wakefield's 3-2 lead when he took the mound, but it disappeared amid a flurry of Orioles hits. After the O's struck three straight singles to load the bases with nobody out, Kevin Millar tied it on a sacrifice fly to deep right.
Adam Jones, the highly promising rookie, belted a two-out, three-run double to left to give the Orioles a three-run lead. Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury crashed into the wall in pursuit of the game-breaking hit, but he never came close.
Instead, the Red Sox literally hit a wall in their quest to break even on the 10-game road trip. After opening the long and winding journey by dropping five out of six in Oakland and Seattle, the Red Sox took three out of four in Baltimore to go 4-6.
In the grand scheme of things, the loss hurt far less than the injury to star slugger David Ortiz, who will be placed on the disabled list before Tuesday's game with a partially torn sheath in his left wrist.
The Red Sox will return to Fenway for a nine-game homestand, starting with three against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.
"We would have liked to have gone 5-5, but 4-6 isn't bad, considering how we played on the West Coast," said Wakefield.
But things went real bad, real fast for Okajima. Though the lefty had been having plenty of problems with inherited runners this season, he had generally been lights out when coming in with a clean slate. Not this time. His ERA soared from 0.72 to 2.10 in one forgettable inning.
"I felt good out there," Okajima said in a statement he left with interpreter Jeff Yamaguchi. "Nothing went right. Base hit, base hit, base hit. Just gave up a double to finish. What can I say? I'll change my mind-set and refresh myself and look forward to the next game. That's about it."
Jones got a pitch he liked and hammered it.
"He threw one right down the middle and I took it. It wasn't me that was under pressure, it was him," said Jones. "I was just patient with him. He threw a good pitch up and in, 2-1. I've been swinging at that pitch, but I just laid off of it and was patient."
Okajima's struggles spoiled a strong performance for Wakefield, who limited the Orioles to five hits and two runs over seven innings. He walked four and struck out three.
"I felt pretty good," said Wakefield. "Gave up a couple of cheap hits and they scored two runs, but other than that, I felt pretty good."
In the top of the eighth, the Sox went in front for the first time. Kevin Youkilis led off with a walk against Orioles reliever Jim Johnson. Manny Ramirez followed with a single to right. Mike Lowell delivered the clutch hit, an RBI single to right that snapped a 2-2 tie.
But thanks to Okajima's rough patch, the lead was gone in a hurry.
"It just looked like he got a lot of fastballs up and over the plate," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We feel so comfortable getting to him, and we will. On a night he couldn't get to his split, even his breaking ball, he just threw a lot of fastballs where he didn't want to. And he still almost got out of it. We'll hand it over to Oki, and then [Jonathan Papelbon] a lot of days, and come out of here smiling."
Wakefield breezed through the first three innings, but ran into some trouble in the fourth. Aubrey Huff belted an RBI double to right for the first run of the game. Millar, who came into the night hitting .476 against his former teammate Wakefield, slapped an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Jeremy Guthrie had a shutout going after five against a Boston lineup that was without Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia. With one out in the sixth, Ramirez put the Red Sox on the scoreboard by ripping an opposite-field homer to right -- his third in as many games -- to cut the Baltimore lead to 2-1.
With Ortiz on the shelf, Ramirez is looking primed to go on the type of power surge he was on the first few weeks of the season.
"That would be nice to see," Francona said. "He took some good swings. Took some swings without generating aggression, which is good to see."
The Red Sox continued the climb back in the seventh, and the bottom of the order served as the catalyst. Alex Cora drew a one-out walk and Kevin Cash drove him home with a double to right to tie the game at 2.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sox go for Sweep on Road

It's hard to believe the Red Sox were in a full-fledged funk when they arrived in town to meet the host Orioles just a few short days ago. But it's true. The Sox had lost five out of six on the West Coast and had a road slump that stretched back even further.
Suddenly, the Sox seemed cured. A win over Baltimore on Monday night would not only give Boston a four-game sweep to conclude the road trip, but also a 5-5 mark on the lengthy trek to the West Coast and back.
"It's a great opportunity, any chance you get to sweep a team," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's tough to sweep a two-game series. We've got to come out tomorrow and play good ball. We're facing a guy [Jeremy Guthrie] that's tough. He has great stuff. We'll come out and play as hard as we can."
One thing that will help their cause is to keep swinging the way they did Sunday. In that 9-4 victory, the Red Sox tied a season high with 16 hits.
"We're going to click," said left fielder Manny Ramirez. "Sometimes we'll be cold. That's part of the game."
The Red Sox will have manager Terry Francona back in the dugout on Monday. Francona gave way to bench coach Brad Mills in Sunday's win so that he could attend his daughter's high school graduation.
However, the return of Francona will coincide with the departure of star slugger David Ortiz, who will be back in Boston on Monday undergoing an MRI on his strained left wrist.
Ortiz and the Red Sox are hopeful it's not a serious injury.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will close out this road trip for Boston. In fact, this is Wakefield's third start of the trip. He lost the first two, though the latter outing certainly wasn't his fault. In that one, Wakefield pitched a complete game and lost, 1-0, to Erik Bedard.
Pitching matchupBOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (3-4, 4.70 ERA)With Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, Wakefield will be moved up one day to pitch the finale of this four-game series against the Orioles. Thanks to Thursday's day off, Wakefield is on regular rest. Wakefield has pitched well at Camden Yards over the years, going 7-5 with a 3.58 ERA in 22 appearances.
BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-6, 3.64 ERA)Guthrie lost another close game in his last outing and is currently mired in a string of hard luck. The right-hander has allowed three earned runs or less in nine of his 12 starts, but Baltimore has scored a total of eight runs in his six losses. Nine of Guthrie's 12 starts have been decided by two runs or less, but he's 2-4 with three no-decisions in those games.
Short hopsThe Red Sox have hit back-to-back homers five times this season. ... Clearly, the Red Sox like playing at Camden Yards. Not only do their fans pack the seats, but the Sox have won 19 of their last 26 games in Baltimore. ... The Red Sox are 14-19 on the road. ... Kevin Cash, who will make the start behind the plate with Wakefield pitching, is hitting .302 in 53 at-bats.

Number One Miami Upends Ole Miss

It began with the first pitch of the game, when speedy Miami leadoff hitter Blake Tekotte laid down a perfect bunt and outran the Ole Miss defense for an infield single.

Then it was Jemile Weeks - who ripped a double into an outfield gap, knocking in Tekotte. A few batters later, Ryan Jackson homered. Before the Rebels could regain their footing, they were mired in a three-run hole.
And really, it never got much better the rest of night as No. 1-ranked Miami blew past Ole Miss 11-2 to win the NCAA Coral Gables Regional championship on Sunday night at Mark Light Field.
"Their offense was unbelievable," said Ole Miss outfielder Logan Power. "We just didn't have an answer."
The loss ends the Rebels' season. It's the first time Ole Miss (39-26) hasn't advanced to the Super Regionals since 2004.
The loss to Miami was the second game of the day for Ole Miss, which beat Missouri 9-6 in an elimination game earlier in the afternoon. But after expending the energy to dispatch the Tigers in the hot south Florida sun, the Rebels were outclassed by a Miami (50-8) team that won its 24th regional tournament.
"I'm sure our guys were tired, but that wasn't the problem," said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. "It wasn't 11-2 today because of fatigue. It was 11-2 because they're very good."
Even after Ole Miss fell into the early three-run hole, the team showed some fight when Cody Overbeck hit a two-run homer to cut the Miami lead to 3-2.
But the Hurricanes' offense wasn't going to be denied. Miami scored once more in the second inning and three more times in the third, taking a 7-2 lead that proved to be more than enough to get past the Rebels.
Ole Miss starter Nathan Baker (3-6) gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings. Five Miami players had two hits.
"One of things I was doing was leaving my pitches up," Baker said, "and they were hitting it everywhere."
Ole Miss reliever Justin Cryer settled things down after the third, giving up just two runs in 5 2/3 innings. But the Rebels' offense could never get going against Miami's Eric Erickson (8-1), who didn't allow a run after Overbeck's first-inning homer.
The left-hander kept Ole Miss off balance, throwing seven innings and allowing just six hits and a walk. Power said Erickson - with his wide array of off-speed pitches, was the type of pitcher the team had struggled against all season.
"We needed a pitching performance," said Miami coach Jim Morris, who won his seventh regional in 15 years at Miami. "(Erickson) is a guy we needed to win this tournament, win the next one and the next one."
The next two tournaments Morris is referring to are the Super Regionals and then the College World Series. The Hurricanes have been one of the favorites to make it to Omaha, Neb., all season.
Ole Miss designated hitter Fuller Smith said it was easy to understand why after playing them.
"We wanted a shot at Miami," Smith said. "But they were just too good today."
Coming into this season, the Rebels were also considered one of the nation's elite teams. But they never lived up to the expectations, finishing eighth in the SEC and coming into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed in the four-team regional.
But Bianco said the team's late surge was something that made him proud. The Rebels won six of their last 10 games.
"It's been a crazy year for us," said Bianco, who cited an inability to handle expectations, injuries and a few individual poor seasons as reasons for the breakdown.
"But the reason I'm so proud is because three weeks ago, not too many people would think we'd be in a regional final playing the No. 1 team in the country," Bianco said. "Our guys continued to compete down the line and you just get to the point where you've got to beat (a good team) and we just didn't have an answer."

Game 6: LSU Defeats Southern Miss 11-4

BATON ROUGE -- LSU designated hitter Blake Dean broke open a close game with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning as the top-seeded Tigers went on to capture the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, 11-4, over Southern Miss before a crowd of 7,161 fans on Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (46-16-1) extended its winning streak to 23 games and shattered the Southeastern Conference record for single-season consecutive wins. South Carolina held the previous mark after winning the first 22 games of the 2000 season. Southern Miss ended its season with a 42-22 record.
The Tigers will take on UC Irvine in NCAA Super Regional play next weekend at Alex Box Stadium. The best-of-three series begins either Friday or Saturday for the right to advance to the College World Series. The Ant Eaters (41-16) won the NCAA Lincoln Regional on Sunday with an 8-0 blanking of Oral Roberts.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri dedicated Sunday’s regional championship to LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman, who was admitted to a Baton Rouge hospital Saturday after experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. Bertman is in good condition and is expected to be released from the hospital either Monday or Tuesday.
“We won that one for the ‘Skipper’ (Skip Bertman),” Mainieri said. “Obviously, my thoughts all day have been with Skip as he recovers from his heart attack yesterday. I hope this gave him a little bit of joy and maybe helps his recovery.
“I’m just so proud of my kids. They have responded to every challenge that has come their way. Somebody told me we broke the SEC record for consecutive games won. Obviously, this game had significance in a lot of ways but mostly because we won the regional championship now, and we get to advance to the next round. “
LSU claimed its 17th NCAA regional title on Sunday and first since 2004. The Tigers improved to 29-6 on championship day in NCAA postseason play, including a 20-2 mark in NCAA regional final rounds.
Dean extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his clutch triple and was named regional most valuable player for his efforts that saw him bat .455 (5-for-11) with three homers and nine RBI on the weekend. I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking of Blake Dean’s swing on that 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded,” Mainieri said. “That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added a two-run homer.
LSU sophomore right-hander Paul Bertuccini (2-0) entered in a jam in the fifth but struck out all five batters he faced during his 1.1 innings of work to register the win in relief. Bertuccini’s brilliant outing earned the sophomore all-tournament honors.
Junior left-hander Blake Martin started the contest, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss starter Brian Leach (2-4) was touched for six runs on six hits in five innings. Leach had the Tigers off balance early, but he exited in the sixth after LSU eventually plated six runs.
LSU built a 3-0 lead after two innings of play. After Leach retired the first two batters in the first, Dean worked a two-out walk. Catcher Micah Gibbs then delivered with his first hit of the regional when he drove a double into the left field corner to score Dean.
In the second, LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to nine games with a one-out single to centerfield. LeMahieu swiped second base and Landry belted his fifth homer of the season – a two-run shot – over the left field wall.
Leach was able to quiet the LSU bats over the next three frames without issuing a run. That opportunity allowed the Golden Eagles to climb back into the contest with a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Martin gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to third baseman Chris Matesich and was chased from the game an inning later when first baseman Trey Sutton picked up a two-out RBI single that scored right fielder Corey Stevens.
With the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bertuccini inherited a two-out jam but fanned left fielder Drew Carson to preserve the score. Bertuccini struck out the side in the sixth and fanned all four batters he faced before yielding to LSU ace right-hander Jared Bradford.
Bradford was given a seven-run cushion to work with when the Tigers struck for six runs in the bottom of the sixth. The first two batters of the inning reached allowing first baseman Matt Clark to drop an RBI double down the left field line.
USM reliever Collin Cargill was nearly out of the inning after Landry lined out to first for the second out, but third baseman Michael Hollander ripped a two-run single into centerfield to make it a 6-2 contest. Left fielder Jared Mitchell was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the hot-hitting Dean.
With 7,000-plus fans on their feet, Dean provided the clutch hit of the tournament when he deposited a triple into the right-field gap that cleared the bases and put the game out of reach, 9-2, in favor of LSU. Hollander drove in a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh with another single to centerfield.
Bradford allowed a run in the seventh and another in the ninth but the deficit proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ole Miss Ends Mizzou's Season

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The Mizzou baseball team saw its season come to an end, falling to Ole Miss, 9-6, at the NCAA Regional in Coral Gables, Fla. The Tigers end the 2008 season with a 39-21 record, reaching its six-straight NCAA Tournament.
After the two teams combined for just three hits and no runs in the first four innings of the game, the fifth inning saw eight runs scored on 10 hits.
Sophomore Greg Folgia led off the game by drawing a walk for Mizzou. Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich then retired the next 13 Tigers that stepped to the plate before senior Dan Pietroburgo singled in the fifth for MU's first hit of the day.
The Tigers tallied five hits in the fifth inning, including an RBI single from junior Kyle Mach, a run-scoring double from Folgia and a two-run single by junior Ryan Lollis. Lollis would leave the game in the fifth inning after injuring himself when he stole second base.
Ole Miss answered with four runs of its own in the bottom of the fifth to knot the game at four, getting five hits in the inning, including three doubles.
The game remained tied until Ole Miss third baseman Cody Overbeck singled in the bottom of the seventh inning to drive in Fuller Smith with the go-ahead run.
Mizzou (39-21) scored twice in its half of the eighth inning, to take its first lead of the day. Senior Jacob Priday singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Pietroburgo. After Pietroburgo was lifted for pinch runner Rex Meyr. Gray then reached safely on an infield single and Meyr scored all the way from second base to put the Tigers in front by a run.
However, Ole Miss (39-25) loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth and Logan Power hit a grand slam, his second of the year, to put the Rebels ahead for good. Junior Ian Berger started for the Tigers and after giving up a lead off single to Jordan Henry in the first inning, he retired the next six Ole Miss batters, including striking out four straight at one point. Berger pitched four-plus innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out four and walked one.
Junior Ryan Allen came on in relief of Berger in the fifth inning and struck out a career-best six in three innings of work, allowing just one run on three hits.

Ramirez Clubs 500th Dinger

Before Saturday night's game, Manny Ramirez was joking around with virtually everyone he encountered. So, presumably, he was only kidding when he said that home run No. 500 would be an inside-the-parker.
Make no mistake about it: When Ramirez became the 24th player in Major League history to reach that lofty milestone, it was no inside job.
Ramirez -- who, ironically enough, has worn No. 24 his entire career -- got every bit of an 82-mph, first-pitch offering from former teammate Chad Bradford and sent it soaring high and far into the Baltimore night. The 410-foot blast -- a solo job to right-center -- came with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, and it boosted Boston's lead to 5-3 in a game it went on to win, 6-3.
With one swing, the burden of trying to satisfy Red Sox Nation was lifted.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. I was happy to move on," said Ramirez. "It was great. I've been trying so hard the past three weeks just to get it done. It finally came, and I'm happy. I'm proud of myself and all the things that I accomplished. So now I can go and have fun."
As Ramirez was mobbed -- first by close friends David Ortiz and Julio Lugo, then by the rest of the bench -- his wife, Juliana, sat in the stands and cried.
"I cried," said Juliana Ramirez. "I was so happy. I can't wait to see him and give him a big hug. It was so exciting. It was like a weight lifted off our shoulders. He had all those expectations. It's amazing. I'm shocked. He's very confident. We knew it would happen, but there was all those expectations from everybody."
In the aftermath of the satisfying milestone, Ramirez admitted just how much pressure he had been feeling.

"Especially every time you'd get out of the hotel, everybody would say, 'Hey, when are you going to hit it?' I'm just happy that everything is done so now I can go be myself and have fun," he said.
Making the hit all the more impressive is that Bradford is not a home-run inducer. The side-winding righty hadn't allowed a homer to a right-handed batter since May 2006. Since the beginning of 2005, he had only allowed four home runs before Ramirez unloaded.
With a large group of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards for this weekend series, the historic homer elicited roars that felt like they were right out of Fenway Park. It was so loud after Ramirez made contact that it was hard to believe the majestic shot came on the road.
"That's why they call it Red Sox Nation," Ramirez said. "They follow us everywhere. Everywhere we go, we get big support."
Naturally, the home run was caught by a Red Sox fan, Damon Woo. A native of Nahant, Mass., Woo lives in Manhattan and was attending the game with his brother Jason. Woo was escorted into the Boston clubhouse and personally presented the baseball to Ramirez after the game.
The Ramirez watch had been on for some time. By clubbing six homers in the season's first 19 games, he was at 496 on April 19.
But the last four took some time. Ramirez belted No. 499 on Tuesday night in Seattle before going homer-less in his next two games.
"You really feel very happy for him," said infielder Alex Cora. "He acted like a little kid. He just hit it, and you could feel the relief he felt. From now on, I'm telling you, he might get into the place he was early in the season, where he becomes very, very dangerous."
The smash came one day after Ramirez's 36th birthday. It was his 16th career homer at Camden Yards and his 10th of the 2008 season.
"It was great," said Ortiz, who presented Ramirez with a bottle of champagne after the game. "We were all looking forward to seeing that happen. Finally, it's over with. That's a good thing. We were getting on him every day -- hard. We told him, 'You can finally go and eat, and nobody's going to ask you to hit the 500th.' "
Teammates past and present were both thrilled to witness Ramirez's accomplishment. Kevin Millar, who was extremely close to Ramirez during his three seasons in Boston, was playing first base when No. 500 sailed out of the park in what seemed like an instant.
"He's got a uniqueness about him that's easy to like," said Millar. "He's very soft-hearted, and I think fans see that side of him now, more so than they did early in his career. You never judge a book by its cover, but when you look at him, he looks like this angry, mean Brazilian rain-forest guy. But you take away the hair and the baggy uniform and watch this guy hit, and he's special. He's one of the most dangerous right-handed hitters of this generation or ever to play the game."
Thanks to the Red Sox winning the game, they could fully take in the moment.
"We kind of talked about hoping it would be a situation where we had the lead," said manager Terry Francona. "I thought the players' reaction to Manny was awesome. You could tell the affection everybody had for him. It was nice to see. It was a good swing, not that it matters. I probably got a bigger kick out of watching his teammates, just the way they reacted to him."
Ramirez takes enormous pride in the legacy he's built.
"I'm proud of myself," he said. "I worked so hard for this. Especially my family, I want to thank my family for my support. And my teammates, I think we owe them. Like David, Lugo, Cora, Mikey [Lowell], [Dustin] Pedroia. Every day we battle, and we push each other."
What happened to those grand designs of an inside-the-parker?
"I was trying, but I've got a bad wheel," quipped Ramirez. "I'm just happy it's over with. I'm proud to do it here. I'm just happy to be part of history."

LSU Over USM 13-4

Top-seeded LSU launched five home runs, including two from junior first baseman Matt Clark, as the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional championship round with their 22nd straight win, 13-4, over second-seeded Southern Miss on Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
A season-high actual attendance of 7,498 fans watched LSU improve to 45-16-1 on the season and tie the Southeastern Conference single-season record for consecutive victories. South Carolina won 22 straight games to open the 2000 season. “I thought tonight was a great ballgame by our team,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “This one felt a lot like the Friday night game against South Carolina way back when. I thought we played about the same caliber of game as we did that Friday night against South Carolina. Back then I said I thought that was our best game of the year, and I thought this one rivaled it.”
The Tigers will await the winner of an elimination game between Southern Miss and UNO. The Golden Eagles and Privateers play at 1 p.m., and the winner will take on LSU at 6 p.m. Sunday. Should the Tigers be defeated, a second game will be played at 1 p.m. Monday to decide who advances to super regional play. “We still need one more win this weekend to win this tournament and advance,” Mainieri said. “We will enjoy it until midnight and then when the clock strikes midnight and a new day begins our focus will shift to tomorrow and we will get ready to play.”
Junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.94) will take to the mound on Sunday in hopes of securing the 17th regional title in LSU program history.
Seven of LSU’s 13 runs Saturday came via a homer as the Tigers connected for their most blasts in a contest since hitting six homers against Duquesne on March 2. Clark finished with four RBI and moved into a tie with Gary Hymel (1991) for seventh place in LSU single-season homers with 25. His total represents the most homers by an LSU player since Brad Cresse had 30 in 2000.
Sophomore designated hitter Blake Dean extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI. LSU improved to 10-1 when both Dean and Clark homer in the same contest. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added three hits. LSU junior left-hander Ryan Verdugo (9-2) tossed five innings to record the win as he allowed four runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.
Southern Miss right-hander Todd McInnis (6-3) took the loss after surrendering five runs on five hits in four innings of work. McInnis walked two and struck out four before being lifted in the fifth inning.
LSU second baseman Ryan Schimpf brought in the game’s first run in the third on his RBI double-play groundout. LaMahieu, who opened the frame with a leadoff walk, scored to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Dean and Clark helped extend the lead to 5-0 as part of a four-run fourth inning. Dean homered for the fourth straight game and the sixth time in the past six contests when he connected with a 1-0 McInnis offering for a blast over the right field wall.
Three batters later and after a Helenihi walk, Clark unloaded for a two-out, two-run blast off “The Intimidator” billboard in right field. Landry closed the two-out rally with an RBI double down the right field line that plated LaMahieu, who reached on a sharp single to centerfield.
LSU took a 5-1 margin into the top of the fifth when Dean continued his postseason tear. This time the junior drove a timely, two-out double over the centerfielder’s head to the wall, which allowed Schimpf to come in and make it a 6-1 Tiger advantage.
Southern Miss finally got to Verdugo in the bottom of the frame with three runs to cut the deficit to 6-4. Third baseman Chris Matesich doubled to open the inning. Verdugo then walked catcher Keith Winstead, and right fielder Michael Ewing drove in Matesich with an RBI double. Verdugo was nearly out of the inning, but second baseman James Ewing ripped a two-run single to centerfield.
Clark continued his power surge and recorded his fifth multi-homer game when he sent a towering, two-run shot deep over the right field wall in the top of the sixth. The homer plated Helenihi and increased the LSU lead to 8-4. The Tigers added five runs over the final two innings to put the game out of reach. Senior third baseman Michael Hollander belted a two-run, opposite field home run as part of a four-run eighth. Schimpf added a two-run double, and pinch hitter Sean Ochinko closed the scoring barrage with a solo shot in the top of the ninth.
Junior right-hander Louis Coleman entered in the sixth for LSU and worked three effective innings as he limited the Golden Eagles to two hits. Coleman and freshman right-hander Anthony Ranaudo held Southern Miss scoreless over the final four frames to preserve the win.

Guerrero Powers Ole Miss Win

The Rebel bats broke the game open in the sixth inning, using eight hits and two Michael Guerrero home runs, to push 10 runs across the plate as Ole Miss (38-25) picked up a 14-1 win over Bethune-Cookman (36-22) in an elimination game at the NCAA Regional on Saturday.Guerrero paced the Rebel offense with a 2-for-5 performance that included three runs scored and five RBI.Jake Morgan (5-0) picked up the win in 0.2 innings of relief work as he came on to relive starter Drew Pomeranz in the fifth. Pomeranz worked 4.1 innings allowing one run on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts but was not eligible for the win as he did not work the full 5.0 innings.With his seven strikeouts, Pomeranz tied the freshman record for strikeouts with 81 on the season.Paul Gautier (6-3) suffered the loss for the Wildcats as he allowed six runs on six hits with two walks and a strikeout.“Bethune-Cookman did a tremendous job early on and Drew Pomeranz did a good job of battling,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “I was proud of the way we kept competing. You can see why Bethune-Cookman is so good and has been to so many regionals. I was glad we were able to hang in there when it was a close game.”Ole Miss scored in the first when Jordan Henry crossed the plate on a single to right center from Logan Power. Henry walked before moving to second on a sac bunt and then scored on the Power single to get the Rebels on the board. Bethune-Cookman then turned a double play to get out of the inning with Ole Miss up 1-0.The Wildcats tied things in the second with a single through the right side from Jose Ortiz that scored Drew Clark from third. Clark reached on a fielder’s choice on a sac bunt attempt that saw the Rebels erase the lead runner at third. Clark moved to second on a single from Brooks and then took third on a fielder’s choice grounder to short.Ole Miss moved back into the lead in the third inning when Henry again scored from second on a single through the right side from Fuller Smith.Guerrero then broke things open for the Rebels in the sixth with a three-run home run down the left field to crank up the Rebel offense. Ole Miss would go on to use eight hits, including two home runs from Guerrero, to push 10 runs across the plate and give the Rebels a 13-1 lead.Overbeck hit his 16th home run of the season in the eighth inning as Ole Miss took a 14-1 lead.Phillip Irwin would hold the Wildcats of down the stretch as the sophomore worked 4.1 innings and struck out a career-high nine batters and allowed only one hit.The Rebels will return to action Sunday at 11 a.m. CDT and will face the loser of Miami and Missouri in an elimination game.