One thing that people underestimated when looking at the Red Sox schedule was not so much the teams they were kicking their 2009 season off, but the type of teams Terry Francona's bunch were starting with.
Tampa Bay and the Angels are going to put the pedal to the metal from the get-go in April, not for an instance even pretending to ease into the season. The latest lesson in this regard for the Red Sox -- a 6-3 loss to Los Angeles at Angel Stadium in which LA kept the pressure on the Sox (four steals) all night.
While the Red Sox' loss Friday night will be first and foremost remembered for the tribute to former Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart -- who was tragically killed in a car accident early Thursday morning -- there were some other things on the field to take out of the Sox' fourth game of the season.
Tim Wakefield was good enough after almost being really bad.
Wakefield, who had somewhat of an uneven spring training, suffered through a three-run second inning. During the frame the knuckleballer consistently found his trademark offering settling in above the hitters' belt, which will usually -- and did -- lead to trouble for the Sox starter.
But Wakefield managed to right the ship, cruising through the third and fourth. But what was perhaps the most encouraging moment for the veteran came in the fifth after he loaded the bases with nobody out. But a fly out, pop up, and line-out finished off the Angels threat. It was the second time the Sox hurler got out of a bases-loaded jam.
Wakefield would finish his six innings giving up three runs on six hits, although he did walk five. He threw 99 pitches.
KOTTARAS PASSES FIRST TEST
George Kottaras caught his first official TIm Wakefield game and came away unscathed. The rookie catcher not only didn't allow a passed ball, but managed to notch one of the Red Sox' seven hits.
In case you forgot, after Josh Bard's successful spring training catching Wakefield in 2006 the catcher succumbed to three passed balls in his first regular season test.
Kottaras seems to have taken catching instructor Gary Tuck's lessons to heart, keeping a flexible glove hand, positioning his body to be slightly pointing toward the second baseman, letting the ball come to him and not worrying about framing strikes.
A NIGHT TO FORGET FOR MASTERSON
For the first time in his major league career Justin Masterson gave up as many as three runs as a reliever, allowing a three-spot to the Angels in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach for the Sox.
Masterson clearly didn't have his good sinker going, and the change-up he was planning on using to neutralize left-handers this season wasn't ready for prime-time. One instance of the reliever's change coming back to bite him was against lefty Kendry Morales, who launched a double high off the right-field wall.
Coming into the series in Anaheim he had only faced one left-hander in the Tampa Bay series, notching a strikeout. Last season Masterson not only allowed lefties to hit 42 points higher than righties (.238-.196), but allowed a .422 slugging percentage to left-handers.
Masterson chose to go away from the change when he went to the bullpen last season, choosing to bury sliders in on the hands of the hitters. But after a spring training of working on the pitch, he was confident it could be his answer against left-handers. Not Friday night, however.
ONE OREGONIAN RIGHTS THE SHIP
With his agent, Scott Boras, staring from behind the backstop, Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury took a few steps in the right direction, collecting to hits which -- not so coincidentally -- led to two runs.
Ellsbury also stole a base, which turned into a spot at third after Angels' catcher Jeff Mathis air-mailed the throw. It was one of two Red Sox steals on the night, which Dustin Pedroia getting his first of the season after totaling 20 a year ago.
Kevin Youkilis was the only other Sox player to come away with a multiple-hit day, earning a pair to boost his average to .625.
The other born and bred Oregonian in the Sox' lineup, Jed Lowrie, continued to struggle, going 0 for 4 to let his average slide to .067 after 15 at-bats. It isn't a good sign for those hoping Lowrie would show improvement from the left side, where he hit more than 100 points lower than as a righty in '08 (although much of that was due to an injured wrist).
Thus far Lowrie had made just two plate appearances in which he hit from the right side. That might be increasing Saturday as the Angels plan on starting left-hander Joe Saunders, who Lowrie is 2 for 8 against.
REX HUDLER IS ... WELL, DIFFERENT
With NESN analyst Jerry Remy out of action due to illness for the first two games of the three-game series in Anaheim, the network filled in the gaps with various contributors, including Angels' color analyst Rex Hudler.
Speaking in a tone not heard in these parts since Spicoli hit the screen in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', bursting into Mr. Hand's classroom, Hudler spent most of his air-time waxing poetic about his own career path (which, as he pointed out, ended with the Terry Francona-led Phillies).
He was, if nothing else, strangely entertaining. One memorable story was the one he managed to blurt out regarding Curt Schilling and Ricky Bottalico getting into a fight on a Phillies' team plane. Strange times, indeed.