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Posts Tagged ‘American League’

Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first.  We non-tendered Bailey and Kalish.  Also, congratulations to Lackey on a well-deserved Tony Conigliaro Award.  Not that that’s a small achievement, but it’s not disturbing and alarming like the big news of the week.

This week, we’ve had to deal with some significant departures.  This is going to be rough.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is our first departure.  He is now a Florida Marlin, having signed a deal for three years and twenty-one million dollars.  We acquired him as a veteran, and now he leaves as a veteran having helped us win the World Series.

Last year, Salty batted .273 with fourteen homers and sixty-five RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .994 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.88.  But as with all great catchers, he contributed innumerable qualities like leadership and work ethic and skill with calling games and managing pitchers.  Needless to say, the last three years, including October, would have looked very different without him, and he will certainly be missed.  Salty, we thank you, and we salute you.

We welcome AJ Pierzynski, who has signed a one-year deal pending a physical.  Last year, he batted .272 with seventeen homers and seventy RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .998 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.63.  He’s gritty, and he’ll fit in just fine.  We also welcome Edward Mujica, the righty reliever, who signed a two-year deal for $9.5 million.

Our other departure is different.  This isn’t someone we brought in who has now decided to leave for a three-year contract.  We say goodbye to someone we raised, who spent his entire career thus far with us, and who didn’t go to just any team.  Jacoby Ellsbury is now a New York Yankee.  It’s basically the same old story.  They lured him over there with the type of contract that only the New York Yankees could provide: seven years and $153 million.  So the Evil Empire offers these contracts like it’s made of money, since it basically is, and no other team can compete with that.  I mean, it’s not like we haven’t seen this before.  A star center fielder who bats leadoff and makes spectacular catches and helped us win the World Series and who is a Boston icon leaving for the dark side; where have I seen that before?

It’s just awful.  Our job is to raise players in the farm so they can stay here.  Out job is not to raise players in the farm so they can win a ring and then just leave and give their services to the highest bidder.  That was never what baseball was supposed to be about.  But that’s the reality in which we and the game find ourselves now.

It’s not our fault that we choose to be a responsible team that conducts itself in a responsible way.  A contract worth that many years and that much money does not allow for much flexibility, which is what you need if you’re going to win.  Think about our performance over the course of the past decade. Think about our performance over the course of the past year, about the acquisitions we made last offseason and where they led us in October.  We should feel good about our success and about the business model and strategies that got us there.  Hindering our flexibility by committing almost a whole decade’s worth of years and millions of dollars in three digits has not, historically, been one of those strategies.  That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. It means there’s something wrong with them.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate Ellsbury’s achievements in Boston.  He’s been hurt, but he has always powered through in true dirt-dog fashion, never shying away from making the tough plays no matter what mind kind of pain waited as a consequence.  In his career, he’s bagged .297 with sixty-five homers and 314 RBIs.  He has led the American League three times in steals.  And he made only three errors last year.  He helped us win not one but two World Series championships, making his presence  seen and felt in both.  I don’t think we’ll ever forget the way he patrolled Fenway’s center field with ease and made it look as easy as it really was for him to make catches that didn’t even seem to be humanly possible.

His seven years are up, and now he’s joined the darkness. Ellsbury, we thank you, and we salute you.  But we feel disappointed, insulted, and betrayed.

Fortunately, Napoli is coming back.  So there’s that sign of hope and optimism.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1, but beat the Penguins, 3-2, and the Leafs, 5-2.  The Pats just barely, and I mean that in every sense of the phrase, eked out a win against the Browns, 27-26.  It really went down to the wire.  Seriously.

Pro Sports Extra

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Congratulations to Papi for reeling in his sixth Silver Slugger, a very well-deserved award indeed! Pedroia has been named the AL Defensive Player of the Year, and John is up for AL Manager of the Year.

Other than that, it’s still really early in the offseason, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens as things start heating up.

In other news, the Pats walked all over the Steelers, 55-31.  The Bruins lost to the Stars, 3-2 in a shootout but went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, and the Leafs, 3-1.

Getty Images

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Oh, man.  Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.

We’ve done it again! I can’t believe it! I mean, I can believe it.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I can believe it, but it was absolutely awesome.  This time last year, we were getting ready for a long offseason.

This time this year, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to the World Series! Detroit is officially taken care of, and we are moving on to the world championship.  Oh, man.  It’s so great to be back.  And we’ll be playing the Cardinals.  Rematch? Yes, please.

This was yet another close one.  We were the first to score.  In the fifth.  With two out, Bogaerts doubled and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

Meanwhile, Buchholz wasn’t immaculate, but he was dominant.  It was great.  He maintained his command and control and just mowed right through.  Until the sixth.  He gave up a walk and a single, and then he was replaced by Morales.  His final line read five innings and two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.  Ordinarly, two runs would be a great result.  But we needed something even better.

Morales then gave up our lead.  He issued another walk to load the bases with nobody out, and then he gave up a single that scored two.  Workman couldn’t have come in at a better time; he induced a double play to end the inning.  The fielding on that play, by the way, was textbook.

Workman induced a flyout to lead off the seventh, but then he gave up two singles and loaded the bases when he made a fielding error.  Then it was Tazawa’s turn; he ended the inning on a groundout.

So the situation was really only stressful for the bottom of the sixth, when we didn’t score, and the top of the seventh, when we were waiting for another chance to score.  And we got it.  And we took advantage of it.  Majorly.

Gomes led it off with a double, Drew struck out, Bogaerts walked, Detroit made a pitching change, and Ellsbury reached on a force attempt thanks to a fielding error to load the bases.

And once again, I have to say, I don’t know.  I don’t know how it works.  It must be the air here.  I think it also had to do with the fact that we were back home.  Being home does that too.  And maybe also the fact that Bill Mueller threw out the first pitch.  And it just happened.  It’s like magic.  It’s the magic of good baseball players playing good baseball.  Or something.  I don’t know.  I really don’t.

Victorino stepped up to the plate.  He took a curveball for a strike and fouled off another one.  And then he got another one.  They were all the same pitch around the same speed.  But that third one, he read like a book.  Really.  He powered up big time and sent that ball all the way out toward the Monster.  Four runs on one swing.  It was absolutely epic.  Epic, epic, epic.  With that grand slam, we got ourselves a three-run lead.

Breslow pitched a one-two-three eighth, and Uehara owned the ninth as usual.  Cue mob.  Uehara basically summed it up.  5-2.

Alright.  It’s not over yet.  We’ve still got plenty of work to do.  I’ve been hungry, and I’m ready.  I like being American League Champions, but I’m ready for the Cards and the World Series.  Let’s go get it.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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That was not exactly the series start that I had in mind.  Not even remotely.  That was one of the closest games I’ve ever seen in October.  Uncomfortably close.  And, because we lost, crushingly close.  Seriously.  Our offense was completely silenced to an embarrassing, unacceptable, and baffling degree.

Lester delivered a great start.  Really, our whole pitching staff pulled it together and delivered the best start they could deliver under these conditions, namely, no run support whatsoever.  Lester pitched six and one-third innings and gave up six hits, one walk, and one run.  He struck out four.

He faced the minimum in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings.  He gave up two singles in the first and his one run in the sixth.  He induced a groundout to start it off and then issued a walk, hit a batter, recorded a force out, and then gave up an RBI single.  The runner had been able to move to third on the force out, so at least we got an out out of it.  I always say that if you have to give up a run, you may as well try your best to get something out of the situation as well.  He was lifted after he induced a lineout and hit a batter in the seventh.

Tazawa pitched the last two outs of the seventh, Breslow pitched the eighth, and Uehara pitched the ninth.

Meanwhile, and this is the really painful part, not only were we completely shut out, but we were also almost no-hit.  That’s right.  We managed only one hit all night.  That hit belonged to Nava.

We had two on in the first thanks to a wild pitch and a walk.  We walked twice in the second.  We went down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth.  We walked three times in the sixth and had the bases loaded with two out.  We went down in order in the seventh and eighth.  And Nava broke up the no-hitter in the ninth when he singled with one out.

If Bogaerts had come up with the right type of hit after that, we could have walked away winners.  All he managed was a popout on a full count.

Needless to say, when Nava recorded that hit, I was immensely relieved.  It’s bad enough to lose.  It’s worse to lose in the playoffs and even worse to lose the first game of the ALCS, especially if it’s at home, which is your prime opportunity to get wins in.  And it’s worse to provide no run support whatsoever, although we can at least feel good about the fact that our pitchers did a ridiculously awesome job of keeping us in the game the whole time.  I mean, it’s not easy to hold the opposition to only one run for an entire game.  Then again, it’s even harder to hold the opposition to no runs for an entire game, which is what Detroit managed to accomplish.

But let the record show that we were not no-hit.  No, we most definitely were not.  We didn’t get our hit until the ninth inning, but we got it in the end.  This was the first time a postseason no-hitter was destroyed in the ninth inning since 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers did it against the Yanks.  Unlike us, however, the Dodgers ended up winning that game.  Anyway, between the fact that we thwarted their bid and the fact that we ourselves held them to only one run, we can retain our dignity with our heads held high.  It should also be noted that it wasn’t just one pitcher working against us; the Tigers trotted out a good number.

We did walk six times.  But we went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.  With a final score like 1-0, it could have been anyone’s game.  Unfortunately, Lester happened to crack first.  It’s obviously true that it could have been possible for him not to crack first or not to crack at all.  But it’s hard to do much better than that.

AP Photo

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Congratulations to the American League! We have officially secured home field advantage! Now it’s up to us to make sure that we’re the ones taking advantage of it.  Ultimately it was a pitcher’s duel, and the AL pitchers were absolutely masterful.  They held the fort the whole way through.    Pedroia and Papi both went 0 for 2, unfortunately.  The final score was three-zip, and it felt pretty good to put the National League in its place.

As far as last night is concerned, we did not waste time.  Ellsbury smashed the Yanks’ second pitch of the game for a solo shot to right.  Napoli led off the second with a walk, and Gomes followed that with a two-run shot toward the Monster.

Meanwhile, Doubront went one-two-three until the fourth, when the Yanks first got on the board.  He issued a walk that was followed by two steals and then a run thanks to a throwing error by Salty.  Doubront gave up another run in the fifth thanks to a double-double combination.  Doubront was relieved by Tazawa one out into the seventh after what I would call a fantastic start.

Those were the only two runs the Yanks scored.  We, meanwhile, added some insurance in the seventh.  Gomes led it off with a double and then scored on a single by Iglesias.

Breslow pitched the eighth, Uehara pitched the ninth, and we won, 4-2! Beating the Yanks is a great way to start the second half.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Congratulations to Papi, Pedroia, and Buchholz, who are all going to the All-Star Game! Obviously they’ve earned it.  I know they’ll do what they can to help the American League bring it home this year.  And I hope that we’ll be the ones reaping the benefits in several months.  And I hope that we’ll pitch better than we did last night so we can get there.  Specifically, I hope the relief corps doesn’t make a habit of blowing four-run leads.

Ellsbury singled on the second pitch of the game and proceeded to lay out a textbook example of what manufacturing a run means.  Two outs later, he moved to second on a single by Papi and then stole third, thereby inducing a throwing error that allowed him to score.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the quintessential baserunner: smart, adaptive, quick-thinking, attentive, and of course as fast as it gets.  Nava singled to lead off the second and scored on a sac fly by Brock Holt.

Dempster tied the game at two in the second.  He gave up a solo shot to lead it off and then induced a flyout.  But then he gave up a single that he turned into a double by making a throwing error, and then let it turn into a run on another single.  He gave up another solo shot to lead off the third.

But fortunately we had an answer to that.  Make that a tying answer, a go-ahead answer, and an answer to spare.  Napoli walked to lead off the inning, Nava doubled, and Salty cleared the bases with a double.  Holt reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners, and Salty scored on a single by Iglesias.  With one out in the sixth, Ellsbury tripled and scored on a single by Pedroia.  And Pedroia led off the eighth with a single and scored on a double by Nava.

Heading into the ninth inning, the score was 7-3.  Dempster had given up just the three runs and was replaced by Miller a walk and a strikeout into the seventh.  Miller gave up a single and was replaced by Bailey, who actually induced a double play and managed to get through the eighth inning without incident.  Ironically, the trouble with the relief corps started only after Bailey was taken out.

Wilson was put on for the ninth.  He got the first out with a strikeout, gave up a single, got the second out with a flyout, gave up another single, and hit a batter to load the bases.  Uehara came on, and obviously what we needed in that situation was an out.  We would have done well with an out of any kind.  The bases were loaded, but there were already two out.  All we needed was one more.

Eventually, Uehara did strike out a batter to end the inning.  But not before he allowed multiple scoring plays.  He gave up two consecutive singles that scored a combined total of three runs.  Then Snyder made a throwing error on a force attempt, which let the tying run score.  So I guess technically if the damage had stopped with those two RBI singles, we still could have won the game within nine innings by one run.

We ended up playing eleven and didn’t have much of a fight to show for it.  We went down in order in the tenth with three strikeouts and the eleventh with two groundouts and a popout.  Breslow pitched a solid tenth, but after securing the first out in the eleventh, he gave up a single followed by a home run.  It was the first and last pitch of the at-bat, a bad slider.  So after all that baseball, which started late to begin with, the Angels won, 9-7.

Reuters Photo

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After our spectacular slugging performance on Tuesday, I was very glad to see that we had some runs left in store.  It certainly was an adjustment to go from seeing runs being scored with remarkable frequency and then see barely any runs score at all.  But quality always trumps quantity, meaning that if you play quality baseball, you should be able to win with any run total greater than zero.

Taking a hint from Buchholz, the American League’s Pitcher of the Month, Dempster turned in a fabulous start.  Six innings seems to be about his usual, I guess.  Still, he gave up only one run on four hits while walking four and striking out three.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches.  His third pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot; that was essentially his only mistake.

Miller and Tazawa pitched the seventh, but barely.  Miller gave up a single, bestowing a runner upon Tazawa.  Tazawa gave up two walks, loading the bases with only one out.  Thankfully, the inning ended with a strikeout.  Uehara pitched the eighth, and Hanrahan actually succeeded in converting the save in the ninth.  It was nice to see him actually doing his job correctly.

It was a pretty quiet game all around, I’d say.  The Jays were held to one run, and we were held to three.  We went down in order in the first but got on the board in the second.  Napoli doubled and scored on a single by Carp.  That double was Napoli’s twenty-second extra-base hit this year, a number that leads the Majors.  Middlebrooks had walked, and he scored on a sac fly by Drew.  We had great scoring opportunities in the third, fourth, and fifth, but we didn’t take advantage of them.  It’s worth mentioning that we walked four times in the fourth, but the Jays were saved embarrassment thanks to a double play and a groundout.  We scored the game’s final run in the sixth; Ross walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

Every game can’t be a slugfest.  Between yesterday and Tuesday, we showed that we can win with any lead, both big and small.  That skills is going to come in very handy.

AP Photo

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