EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 13, 2013

Ellsbury, Berry, Boston hoping for speedy series

By Christopher Smith
csmith@eagletribune.com

---- — BOSTON — Quintin Berry made Boston’s American League Championship Series roster — like he did its ALDS roster — in case a base needs to be stolen late in a game like Dave Roberts’ famous steal in 2004.

Berry has been successful in all 24 career regular-season stolen base attempts as a major leaguer, the fourth longest streak to begin a career in the expansion era (since 1961). The last longer streak to begin a career was by Red Sox teammate Jacoby Ellsbury (25 straight successful steals).

The Red Sox hope to use their speed in the ALCS against Detroit the same way they did against the Rays in the ALDS when they not only stole six bases (4 for Ellsbury, 1 for Berry, 1 for Shane Victorino) but also used their quickness to break up double plays and go first to third on singles.

Berry entered Game 1 last night 27 for 27 in stolen base attempts, including postseason.

“He’s smart,” Berry’s former teammate, Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson said. “Speed is one thing but I think he just has the base running intelligence, too. It’s not like he’s out there just running. Getting the chance to talk to him — the things he looks for when he’s stealing is crazy sometimes.

“One time he told me he was watching the pitcher’s breaths,” Jackson added. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s what you’re looking for? I’m over here looking at the knee or the first move.’ That’s why I think he’s really good on the base paths. The jumps that he gets are one thing, but the things he looks for to get that good jump is unbelievable. It’s crazy.”

And what about Ellsbury? He’s pretty good, too, huh? The Sox leadoff hitter entered Game 1 having been successful on nine of 10 stolen base attempts during his postseason career.

Ellsbury led all major leaguers with 52 stolen bases in 56 attempts this year. His 92.9 percent success rate was a career-best mark in a full season and the best stolen base percentage by any major leaguer with at least 50 stolen bases since 1951 when Major League Baseball started to track “caught stealing.”

“They (both) know how to steal,” Jackson said. “A lot of guys have speed. But being a smart base stealer, that’s something you’ve got to kind of learn.”

It has been argued that speed is more important in the postseason than the regular season.

“When you have speed and guys able to go first to third, that’s something that can change the game,” Jackson said. “Speed kills. You always hear that and that’s true.”

What’s J.D. doing?

Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew’s brother J.D. Drew had some clutch playoff hits while playing for Boston.

J.D. was 3 for 5 with a grand slam in Boston’s Game 6 ALCS victory over New York in 2007. He also stroked a walk-off RBI single to help the Red Sox win Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS.

“Obviously the grand slam — that gets talked about,” Stephen said. “Look back in ‘07 when I was playing with Arizona, I was in the playoffs so I didn’t get to watch all his (‘07 postseason) games. I did get to see the grand slam.”

Stephen’s Arizona club lost the 2007 NLCS to the Rockies.

“I called him (J.D.) right after we lost. I was like, ‘You guys better win.’ Because it was pretty aggravating, I didn’t get to play against him (in the World Series),” Stephen said.

What’s J.D. doing nowadays?

“He’s being a dad,” Stephen said. “He’s about to have another baby and he’s still back in Georgia.”

J.D. and his wife Sheigh Drew already know that they are having a boy. He’ll be their fourth child. And their baby boy is on the verge of coming into the world at any minute. Stephen said his nephew likely will be born this week.

Mr. Math

Boston Red Sox hitters will face Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer in Game 2. The Tigers right-hander was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 32 starts this season and likely will win this year’s AL Cy Young.

Scherzer is known for studying advanced metrics.

“He’s into stats and sabertmetrics and stuff like that so he’ll look at that information but won’t (pitch) solely on that information,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “You use that information as much as you can to help you but at the same time, sometimes in a game or a situation he’ll be the first one to tell you numbers go out the window. Sometimes it’s mano-e-mano, my stuff vs. your stuff.”

Scherzer studies advanced metrics before making a start. He and Avila then discuss the best way to attack a lineup according to Scherzer’s strengths and weaknesses.

Scherzer is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA (4 ER, 14 IP) against Boston this year. He allowed just two runs in his only Fenway Park start this year, a loss.

Umpire effect

Does today’s Red Sox Game 2 starter Clay Buchholz study the locations of where a certain umpire historically calls balls and strikes?

Nope, he never looks at umpires’ charts.

“That’s something that can change from game to game, just like the pitch that you feel the most comfortable throwing in one game, it changes for me every game,” Buchholz said. “If you try to mold around what the umpire is going to call and you don’t get the benefit of the doubt on a couple of pitches, that would be more frustrating than just taking the ball and throwing it to a location.”

Buchholz didn’t face the Tigers this year. He has a career 3.58 ERA against them in eight starts.

Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB