Five things we learned in the Red Sox' 4-2 loss to the Twins, Wednesday Night...
GEORGE KOTTARAS MIGHT BE HAPPY IF HE WAITS A BIT BEFORE CATCHING DAISUKE MATSUZAKA AGAIN
It was apparent every time that Daisuke had runners on base that the Twins were going to take advantage and run. Especially was the case with Denard Span on.
"Yeah, but that's just part of the gig," Kottaras told reporters after the game. "After a game you should be exhausted. I'm going to leave it all on the field and do whatever I can to help the team win. We just didn't come out on top tonight."
Even with runners on, Matsuzaka continued to throw nasty sliders and splitters in the dirt that had Kottaras battling behind the plate. With Varitek catching Josh Beckett on Thursday afternoon in the Dome against the Twins, Red Sox manager Terry Francona wanted to give his 37-year-old captain the night off. And it’s not like Kottaras hasn’t caught Matsuzaka in spring training and in bullpen sessions. But when a pitcher you don’t know very well starts firing pitches 58 feet in the dirt with men on base, it’s an entirely different matter.
"I've caught him in simulated games and live [batting practice] and spring training," Kottaras told reporters before Wednesday’s game. "I kind of have a feel for his pitches. I was talking to 'Tek, how he likes to approach the situations, just give myself a little better idea of what to expect."
Making matters worse for Kottaras, Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson came on in relief and each threw a wild pitch, helping the Red Sox set the modern major league record for wild pitches in a game with six.
MATSUZAKA HAS TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HE WANTS TO BE
Everyone knows that he is the best pitcher in the history of the planet with the bases loaded. The right-hander continues to show glimpses of being the dominating strikeout pitcher capable of shutting down and even blowing away opposing batters. He struck out Michael Cuddyer three times, including on a nasty two-seam sinker in the fifth. But then he leaves a fat pitch up over the middle of the plate to the likes of Justin Morneau or Jason Kubel, and they tattoo it like batting practice. He leaves an 80 mph changeup right over the play to Brendan Harris who singled to left for his second hit in the fifth inning.
"In those situations where I needed to get ahead and get quick outs, I wasn't able to do that and I wasn't able to challenge the batters as quickly as I wanted to, and I think that led to a high pitch count today," Matsuzaka told reporters after the game.
Amazingly, Matsuzaka threw four wild pitches, matching a dubious Red Sox record last set in the Great Depression era by Milt Gaston on Sept. 14, 1929. Can Daisuke make up his mind when exactly to go after batters or will he continue to show the mind-numbing trend of nibbling? Wednesday was a classic example of a pitcher pitching just poorly enough to get the loss. He threw 102 pitches through five innings. No surprise there. And yes, that’s really no different than 2008 when he won 18 games, the most-ever by a Japanese-born pitcher. But there’s less margin of error with these Red Sox, something Matsuzaka would do well to consider when he starts nibbling.
THE RED SOX NEED TO FIND WAYS OF GENERATING OFFENSE
With David Ortiz racking up another 0-for-4 in the No. 6 hole, continuing his in-season hibernation, creativity is at a premium. Jacoby Ellsbury, who extended his hitting streak to 22 games, stole second in the fifth inning following his second hit of the night. Hindsight being what it is, had he swiped third, and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t make it with Dustin Pedroia up at the plate making a throw from Joe Mauer difficult, Ellsbury would have scored on a deep fly to center that Pedroia connected on the second out. Instead Ellsbury advanced to third and was stranded there when J.D. Drew flied out to center to end the inning. The argument for taking the bat out Ortiz’s hands is no longer there and with Ellsbury on the bases, there is a pressing need to jump- start the offense. Take out Ellsbury and Lowell, and the Red Sox were a collective 2-for-24 on the night.
THE BULLPEN IS THE STRENGTH OF THE TEAM (AT LEAST THE DEEPEST PART)
Jonathan Papelbon’s long ball issues of the last week aside, the team still has plenty of arms here and one of them good be a bargaining chip, including Manny Delcarmen, who was reportedly asked for by Washington, who were dangling Nick Johnson (which, according to WEEI.com's Alex Speier, was promptly shot down by the Red Sox). We bring this up because if and when the team’s brass decides to pull the trigger on a major trade, this is the area from which they could deal. Aside from a pair of wild pitches, one each from Delcarmen and Justin Masterson, the bullpen allowed one run on four hits in three innings on Wednesday. The Sox didn’t need to tap into Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima or Papelbon on this night.
JASON BAY CAN HIT A HONE RUN WITH THE BASES EMPTY
His long ball to left-center with one out in the sixth snapped a string of 11 home runs with at least one runner on base, one HR shy of the major league record. His last solo blast came on April 14 in Anaheim. Still, his 14 homers this season lead the Red Sox. Mike Lowell had two more hits and is tied with Jason Varitek for second on the team in homers with eight.