Dice-K falls to 0-3 on the season, sets record for wild pitches

The 2009 season has not been kind so far to Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who dropped to 0-3 on the season after setting a record for wild pitches in a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Wednesday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and the rest of the Red Sox righties tied a modern-day record with six wild pitches while Twins starter Kevin Slowey was the picture of control in Minnesota’s 4-2 victory over Boston.

Matsuzaka (0-3) tied a franchise record set 80 years ago with four wild pitches, while relievers Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson also sent Kottaras scrambling. It was just the fifth time since 1900 that a team threw six wild pitches in a game.

Boston’s slumping slugger, David Ortiz, batted sixth again and continued to look slow with the stick. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, the last an 89 mph fastball that Slowey left up and over the middle of the plate.

It’s amazing how some of the key components that helped Boston win a World Series just two seasons ago can’t get it together this year. (Or are serving a 50-game suspension for another team.)

Big Papi is hitting a flabbergasting .193 with just one home run and 18 RBI, Dice-K is currently 0-3 with an eye-popping 8.82 ERA and 2.33 WHIP, and Jason Varitek is only hitting…okay well, Jason Varitek could never hit.

The good thing is that Kevin Youkilis is hitting almost .380 this year, Dustin Pedroia hasn’t cooled off since winning the AL MVP Award last season and Jason Bay is currently playing out of his mind. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if guys like Dice-K and Big Papi can turn it around at some point this year. You have to wonder if Big Papi is still hurt or if not having Manny in the lineup is killing his production. (Or as some people speculate, whether or not he’s still on the juice.)

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Carl Crawford steals six bases

Rays’ outfielder Carl Crawford was a one-man wrecking crew in Tampa’s 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Sunday, going 4 for 4 with two runs scored an RBI and oh yeah, six stolen bases. Crawford tied a modern MLB record and joined Eric Young, Otis Nixon and Eddie Collins as the only players in baseball history to ever steal six bases.

Everybody in the building seemed to know what was going on. That is, except Crawford, who was aware of how many steals he had but had no clue that just three other players had accomplished the same since 1900.

“I found that out late. I wish I had known during the game,” said Crawford, who got No. 6 in the eighth inning of the Rays’ 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

“I probably would have broken it if I knew. I’d have definitely tried,” he added. “I didn’t even try. I don’t know if that will ever happen again.”

“He’s good,” catcher Jason Varitek agreed, “and he’s got the speed to go along with it.”

If you watched the game or saw the highlights, you would know that Varitek never even had a chance to gun down Crawford on any of his steal attempts. Brad Penny didn’t do a good enough job holding him on and even when Varitek did get off a throw it was either nowhere near the bag (see his first attempt) or dead on, but seconds behind Crawford’s slide. Crawford’s day was truly an impressive feat.

And I know I’m just throwing salt in the wounds of BoSox fans, but how bad is Julio Lugo? He can’t make even the most routine plays at short and he’s brutal offensively. Outside of speed and a veteran presence in the clubhouse, he brings little to the table, yet is eating $9 million in salary this season.

2009 MLB Preview: #2 Boston Red Sox

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Offseason Movement: The Red Sox made a slew of moves this offseason, including signing free agent starters John Smoltz and Brad Penny, as well as adding outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Brad Wilkerson. Boston also added pitchers Takashi Saito, Junichi Tazawa, Billy Traber, Ramon Ramirez, Miguel Gonzalez and Randor Bierd.

Top Prospect: Lars Anderson, 1B
Anderson was considered a top talent in 2006, but slipped to the 18th round of the 2006 MLB Draft because teams were worried about whether or not they could sign him. The lefty first basemen can hit for average and power, and has an excellent feel for the strike zone. He was named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year for the Red Sox in 2008 after clubbing 18 home runs and driving in 80 runs while hitting over .300. After spending most of the year in Single-A, Anderson has a while to go before he makes his MLB debut – especially considering the Red Sox are never out of contention these days. But he’ll be a name to keep an eye on down the road.

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Hot Stove League: Mets Appear to Covet Everyone

The New York Mets covet _________. Those words have been uttered in every Hot Stove rumor out there, because they are more than just rumors. The Mets, who had a second straight free fall from first place in 2008, are apparently looking to fix more than their horrendous bullpen as they move into Citi Field in 2009. In no particular order, here are the players GM Omar Minaya has been talking to or about: Manny Ramirez, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, Huston Street, Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Orlando Hudson, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia (a reported shoulder injury may stall that one), Raul Ibanez, Kevin Millwood, Jermaine Dye, Rafael Furcal, Juan Cruz, Derek Lowe, Edwin Jackson, Juan Rivera and Javier Vazquez. The only one right now that appears close to reality is Furcal, as reports have filtered in that the Mets are offering a nice incentive-based deal. And Wood, who was not offered a contract by Arizona as expected, is at the bottom of the Mets’ wish list due to his injury history. Meanwhile, the Mets also do not think they can pay what Oliver Perez’ agent is asking, and there is a possibility the animated lefty could be headed to division rival Atlanta.

Jake Peavy’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Hot Stove League has continued, but now there is talk that the Cubs might make a move, along with a third team. That’s because the Cubs do not have the pitching prospect that Padres’ GM Kevin Towers is asking for.

Jason Varitek is not likely to accept salary arbitration by the Red Sox and could be headed somewhere else, possibly Detroit. Meanwhile, every team under the sun has been offering mediocre catchers to the Sox.

Andy Pettitte, who was rumored to be talking to former manager Joe Torre about pitching for the Dodgers, is talking now like he wants to stay in New York and play in the Yankees’ new stadium. Speaking of the Dodgers, they are also talking to free agents Trevor Hoffman and Randy Johnson, both on the far side of 40 years old, but both still effective.

While Aaron Heilman was as much of a disaster as a pitcher can be in New York, why is it that both the Rays and Rockies are looking to trade for him? The guy has good movement on his pitches, but proved last season that he can’t get anyone out, especially with a game on the line.

With rumors flying around (and let’s face it, they are true) that Lebron James will be traded to the Knicks or leave Cleveland as a free agent in a couple of years, there has been talk that James’ buddy CC Sabathia may take the Yanks’ offer a bit more seriously if that all happens. Hmmmm.

Rays to Red Sox: ‘Welcome back to earth’

As Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe notes, the Tampa Bay Rays have brought the Boston Red Sox and their fans crashing back to earth after crushing the BoSox 9-1 to take a 2-1 ALCS lead.

Tampa Bay RaysWe were kings of the world, universally hated by sports fans across the land. Life was a nonstop sequence of banner hoistings and ring celebrations. We grew arrogant, cocky, entitled.

And the Red Sox, winners of two of the last four World Series and favorites to repeat in the fall of 2008, find themselves trailing the once-laughable Tampa Bay Rays, two games to one, in the American League Championship Series. The Rays, deemed not ready for prime time playoffs by David Ortiz just a couple of days ago, routed the indomitable Jon Lester, 9-1, at Fenway Park yesterday. Who’s the scaredy cat now?

This is not to overreact to the Red Sox’ plight. The Sox last year trailed the Indians, 3-1, in the ALCS, then roared back to win the next three and sweep the Rockies in the World Series.

But yesterday’s lopsided loss to the Rays stunned a Nation still reeling from the Patriots’ Sunday night debacle in San Diego. Suddenly Big Papi is Big Popup. Boy Wonder Jacoby Ellsbury is 0 for his last 20 and has fans begging for Coco Crisp. Josh Beckett, Mr. October of this century, is serving more meatballs than Bertucci’s. Jason Varitek looks as though he might calcify in mid-swing. Terry Francona has forfeited his hardball Mensa membership and is hearing words he never heard in the Bible.

Upton’s blow was one of two homers in the third, and the Rays weren’t done hitting tape-measure shots. Boston fans hadn’t seen this many long bombs since Sunday night every time Philip Rivers looked in the direction of Deltha O’Neal. Tampa tattooed the Sox for four homers in Game 3, giving Joe Maddon’s Way Back Warriors seven home runs and 18 runs in two games. Ouch.

As Shaughnessy points out, the Red Sox have been down before and battled back. But it’s hard not to chuckle a bit when the big bad “Red Sox Nation” get their asses handed to them at Fenway when a club making its first postseason appearance in the history of their franchise. Still, this series is far from over and Lester had been fantastic before Game 3. I wouldn’t bet against the Sox making the series even in Game 4.

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