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Posts Tagged ‘Joel Hanrahan’

It’s never good to lose, and it’s especially crushing when you lose via the walkoff because that means you couldn’t score sufficiently or in time to prevent it or that your relief corps made a big mistake.  Either way, it tends to leave you with this sense that it was totally and completely preventable and that it was all your fault that it happened.  So losing a walkoff against the Rangers was awful, but winning a walkoff against the Twins felt about right.

Buchholz’s start was terrible compared to his usual work, which says a lot about his usual work.  He gave up four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out nine in six innings.  Was it a quality start? No.  He would have had to allow one less run for that.  But his strikeout count was high.  He just labored; he had to throw a lot of pitches to get the job done, and you could see that the job wasn’t easy.

He recorded the game’s first out using only two pitches, but he then gave up two consecutive doubles and a single that he deflected, which scored two runs all together.  He gave up two straight walks before ending the inning with two strikeouts.  That first inning was his worst so far this year; he threw thirty-six pitches to eight batters.  The rest of the game wasn’t really that bad, but that first inning didn’t set a great tone.

Buchholz had one-two-three innings in the second and third.  He opened the fourth with a strikeout but then gave up two consecutive doubles that resulted in a run.  He ended the inning with two strikeouts.  He gave up a double, a single, and a successful sac fly before recording the first out of the fifth.  And he had a one-two-three inning in the sixth.

So there were great innings when he looked like his usual self, and then there were mediocre innings in which he looked like a mediocre version of himself.  Overall, however, it wasn’t a terrible start.  It just wasn’t what we’re used to seeing from him this year.  Hey, if this is as bad as it gets, that’s not bad at all.  Besides, we should have been able to overcome four runs easily.

In the end, we did.  But it wasn’t easy.  We pulled ahead by scoring one run in each of the fourth through eighth innings.  Victorino uncorked a massive swing on the sixth pitch of the fourth; it was a slider on a full count, and it ended up past the right field fence.  I think he’s back.  Nava doubled and scored on a single by Drew in the fifth.  Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth; Victorino moved to third when Papi hit into a double play and scored on a single by Napoli.  Middlebrooks grounded out to lead off the seventh, but Drew joined the day’s power club.  He got a curveball followed by a steady diet of fastballs; he worked the count 3-1 before he got a fastball he really liked and sent that one beyond the right field fence as well.

And then it was Pedroia’s turn.  He led off the eighth and fought quite the battle to stay alive.  His at-bat involved a total of ten pitches.  He took three for balls, fouled off six, and homered on a particularly nice changeup.  It was the perfect time to end a dry spell that reached almost two hundred games.  Nice for Pedroia, I mean.  Not so nice for the Twins, since at the time that represented the winning run.  Wilson and Miller had combined to pitch the seventh; Miller inherited runners but fortunately kept them on the bases.  Breslow had a one-two-three inning in the eighth.  And then Pedroia happened.  Like I always say, it’s so much fun to watch him unleash on a ball.  He’s a small guy, but he’s got a lot of power.  It was only a one-run lead, but things were looking good.

And then Hanrahan took the mound for the ninth, and things were not looking so good.  He induced a flyout on four pitches to start things off.  But I think he got his memos mixed up, because he let an opposing hitter join the day’s power club too.  The count was full; after throwing five consecutive fastballs, he threw a sixth, and it was bad, and it was hit well.  And the game was tied at five.  We didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, so we had to play extras.  All because Hanrahan made a big mistake.  He is so fortunate that all that run did was tie the game and even more fortunate that we ended up winning.  Otherwise it would have been plausible to say that the process of losing the game had started with him and that home run.  He did the exact thing that no pitcher, let alone a closer, is supposed to do.  Needless to say, after Hanrahan notched a strikeout and then issued a walk, he was replaced by Mortensen, who vindicated himself pretty thoroughly.  (It turned out that Hanrahan would leave the game with a strained right forearm.)

Neither team scored in the tenth, and the Twins didn’t score in the top of the eleventh.  But they did make a pitching change.  Napoli and Nava were each out on three pitches to start it off.  But then the tide turned.  Salty singled right toward the mound; he kept his head down, ran hard, and beat it out, an especially challenging feat when you consider the fact that he’d been behind the plate for eleven innings already.  Middlebrooks singled to left.  And then Drew took a slider for a strike.  Then he got a good-looking fastball and laid into it.  It was a double, and it was enough to bring Salty home.

We won via the walkoff, 6-5.  Drew was obviously the man of the hour with a four-for-five performance at the plate and of course his vital two extra-base hits.  And we’re back on top with the best record in the Majors.

In other news, the B’s beat the Leafs, 5-2.  So far, we lead the series, 2-1.

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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.

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We have the weather to thank for the extra day off.  Back in action, it seems that the extra rest did us good.  Because we ended up on the pleasant end of a pitcher’s duel thanks to some timely production.

It was a real nailbiter.  Lester was being matched pitch for pitch.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits, one walk, and five K’s.  His ERA, if you can believe it, is below 1.50.  Small sample size or no small sample size, that is ridiculous.  And don’t even get me started on his cut fastball.  Or his efficiency.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes and most of which, strikes or not, were awesome.  Lester was a master.  Especially when he put on quite the show with four one-two-three innings.  It was like he and the ball were in constant communication, and the ball was doing exactly what he wanted it to do.  Tampa Bay wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for David Price holding his own in the meantime.

The suspense was awful.  This was a classic pitcher’s ballgame.  It was one of those games that was just a really good, old-fashioned baseball game.  Of course, it’s easy to say that when you’re the ones winning.  Anyway, then it came down to the relief corps.  And both relief corps were so effective that the game went into extras.  Bailey took care of the eighth.  Hanrahan got put in for the ninth but was taken out after having failed to record an out because he recorded two walks instead.  Uehara ended the inning instead; three up, three down, and into extras.  I have to say, the relievers were in top form.  Being able to count on your relievers as you count on your starter is not a luxury that most, or even many, teams can afford.  We managed to put it together, and it comes in extremely handy precisely in situations like this, when the whole game is basically a contest to see whose pitchers blink first and whose hitters will be astute enough to catch it when it happens.

Tazawa pitched the tenth and picked up the win.  The tenth was essentially when the game was won because it had been tied at one until that point.  Lester was the first to allow a run; he gave up a single to open the third, and the single turned into a run when he allowed a double.  It was the only extra-base hit that Lester allowed.  (The only other extra-base hit that the Rays got was another double off of Tazawa.)

We didn’t catch up until the fifth; two outs into it, David Ross worked the count full.  Three of the first six pitches of the at-bat were balls, and three were fouled off.  The seventh pitch was an eighty-five mile-per-hour changeup that he crushed beyond the Monster.  It was quite the clutch solo shot; without it, who knows whether we would have won? Perhaps we’d still be playing; maybe out biggest achievement would have been to eventually tie it at one later in the game.

And then there were ten.  Innings, that is.  Salty came in to pinch-hit for Ross and, ironically, struck out.  But then Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a throwing error.  Okay, so maybe we had some help from the Rays as well.  Because without that throwing error, Ellsbury would not have been on third.  And he would not have been able to score on Victorino’s single, despite the obvious shift, during the very next at-bat.  Game over.  2-1.  We win.  Our first walkoff of the year, and it feels good.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Canes, 4-2.

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Day two of baseball at home, and it did not go well.  I guess the forty-three-minute rain delay should have tipped us off.  Our hitters did alright; we can’t crush it every night, but five runs should be ample for a win.  This time, both literally and figuratively, it was the pitching staff that dropped the ball.

We went down in order in the first and almost did the same in the second.  With two out, Nava worked a four-pitch walk and scored on a double by Salty.  Bradley walked to lead off the third and scored on a triple by Ellsbury, who scored on a sac fly by Victorino.  Salty doubled again in the forth, but we didn’t score.  We went down in order in the fifth, and then we brought the power in the sixth.

The Orioles made a pitching change for the sixth.  Napoli and Middlebrooks both struck out swinging to start it off.  And then homered on the third pitch to the opposite field.  He sent it beyond the Monster.  He took a curveball for a ball, fouled off a cutter, and unleashed on a ninety-six mile-per-hour four-seam.  Then, it was double-take time.  Salty came up.  Four pitches.  A curveball for a called strike, and then four straight four-seams.  A ball, a swinging strike, and then a massive swing for a jack to right.  Boom.

And that was it.  We went down in order in the seventh, eighth, and ninth.  Baltimore’s relief corps was everything that ours wasn’t.

Let me point out that Dempster was not the problem.  His start lasted only five innings.  If he’d pitched longer, the relievers wouldn’t have had to come out so soon.  But it wasn’t even the entire corps’s fault.  And when a starter’s time is up, his time is up.  Dempster had thrown ninety-three pitches when he was pulled out.  He had allowed three hits and three runs, only one of them earned; Victorino and Bradley both committed fielding errors.  The one earned run was the result of a solo shot that opened the fourth.  So, technically, he only made one mistake, and he was solid overall.  He only issued two walks and racked up seven strikeouts.

Uehara, Tazawa, and Bailey each pitched a shutout frame.  But then Hanrahan happened.  Allow me to paint the picture.  Heading into the ninth, we were up by two.  This was a prime save opportunity.  Circumstances like this were designed specifically for closers because that’s what they do: they close the deal.  So Hanrahan goes out there.  His first three pitches are fouled off.  Then he throws a ball and then another pitch that was fouled off.  And then he gives up a solo shot.  If that had been it, we still would have won.  And it looked like that would be the case; Hanrahan picked up a strikeout and induced a popout.  And then he gave up a single that led to a steal of second.  And then he issued two back-to-back walks.  At that point, he could have buckled down and gotten his next batter out to end the game with the victory intact.

That did not occur.  Instead, he threw a wild pitch that brought the tying run home.  And then his next batter came up.  And Hanrahan threw a ball.  And then Hanrahan threw a mistake that resulted in a three-run home run that put Baltimore on top permanently.  That was when Miller came in and got the strikeout that ended the inning.

Hanrahan, quite simply, did not do his job.  He was supposed to sustain the win.  He was supposed to prevent damage.  He was supposed to come in, have a one-two-three inning, and get out.  And instead, he ended up with a well-deserved blown save and a well-deserved loss.  Because he blew it and lost it for us.  If it weren’t for Hanrahan’s terrible performance, we would have already been winners of the series.  The final score was 8-5.  And to top it all off, this was our first non-sold-out game since May 14, 2003.  Well, the brass warned us that the end of the streak was imminent.  Here’s to setting a new record and beating our old one.

In other news, the B’s beat the Devils, 5-4.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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I have to admit that I was hoping for another crush.  It’s always fun to wipe the field with the opposition during the home opener.  But that didn’t happen yesterday.  It was a pitcher’s duel for most of it, but fortunately, with a little help from some timely production, Buchholz held his own.  We still walked away with the win, and it was still a great day.  There’s always something that feels so right when the home opener rolls around.  It’s like the whole ballpark wakes up after a long, cold hiatus.  Baseball is finally back in Boston!

Buchholz had himself yet another masterful start.  Like Lester, Buchholz also pitched a full seven shutout innings.  And he only allowed three hits, all singles.  He walked four and struck out eight.  His fastball and curveball were truly fantastic, and his cutter and changeup added some variety.  He kept the hitters guessing throughout his start; you could tell that they were never able to get too comfortable.

His fifth pitch of the game was hit for a single.  And he began the second inning by issuing a four-pitch walk but ended it with two four-pitch strikeouts.  He gave up two singles in the third but bookended those with called strikeouts.  He had a one-two-three third despite a seven-pitch walk.  He issued a strikeout and a walk in the sixth, and had a one-two-three seventh that ended with a called K.  He opened the seventh with a nine-pitch walk but racked up two strikeouts that inning.

He could have been more efficient; some of his walks and other at-bats really dragged on.  He threw 113 pitches; the third and seventh, during which he threw twenty-four and twenty-three pitches, respectively, were particularly arduous.  But his other innings were reasonable, and all in all I’d say that there is more to smile about than criticize.  From a pitching standpoint, we had a great home opener.  Bailey received a hold for his impeccable eighth.  Even Hanrahan, who gave up a solo shot in the ninth, picked up a save.  Allowing runs in the ninth inning is obviously a red flag, since his entire job basically consists of preventing that from happening.  We got lucky this time because we had enough of a lead to absorb it, but naturally there will be occasions when that isn’t the case and we won’t be able to offset late damage.  So it’s important that he not be as porous as this very often, or at all.

Anyway, as I said, the game was a pitcher’s duel, and through six and a half, it was anyone’s guess who would score first.  We went down one-two-three in the first, and Nava’s five-pitch walk was our only highlight of the second.  The third was particularly painful to watch; three went up and three went down, all on flyouts and after only eight pitches.

It looked like we might score in the fourth, which Victorino led off with a single.  But he was caught stealing.  Pedroia kept our hopes alive with a walk, but Napoli grounded into a double play to end the frame.  Nava singled in the fifth, but to no avail.  We went down one-two-three again in the sixth.

The whole game was decided in the seventh.  Pedroia led it off with a single on the third pitch of the frame.  Napoli followed that with a double.  Middlebrooks then struck out, and then it was Nava’s turn.  He received three four-seam fastballs, all within about one or two miles per hour of each other.  He took the first one for a ball.  He fouled off the second.  And the third ended up beyond the Monster for a homer! Specifically, the ball ended up in a garbage receptacle on Lansdowne Street, ironically enough.  It was Nava’s second homer in two days and our ninth straight home opener win.  Not even the shadows made a difference in the end.  One swing.  Three runs.  3-1.  Game over.  Welcome back.

In other news, the Bruins crushed the Canes, 6-2.

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Wow! We won again! Against a different team! It’s good to be psyched about winning and playing well, but at the same time I guess it’s also kind of sad.  Being as excited as I am about winning suggests that I haven’t really been exposed to it that often.  Which, accounting for last season, is true.  So that’s the sad part.  Here’s to winning becoming so common this year that it’s no big deal and gets pretty boring.

Doubront made his 2013 debut in Toronto.  He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on nine hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw a grand total of ninety pitches.  So somehow he managed to work around all those hits he allowed and keep the damage at a minimum.  That’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that five of the nine hits he gave up were for extra bases: four doubles and one solo shot to lead off the fifth.

His four-seam and changeup were immensely successful.  His changeup was especially potent, thrown for a strike three-quarters of the time.  His two-seam was excellent, his curveball was decent, and he only threw maybe a handful of cutters, if that, but his cutter was on as well.  He threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and at least thirteen in the fourth.  He threw eight in the sixth before he was lifted; it took him those eight pitches to allow a double to lead off the inning before Uehara came in.

Uehara finished the sixth without incident.  Tazawa pitched the seventh and gave up a solo shot of his own.  Bailey and Hanrahan delivered two scoreless innings to end the game.  So Doubront delivered a quality start but was awarded no decision, Tazawa received both a blown save and a win, and Hanrahan picked up the save.

The game was close.  The performances of our pitchers, were decent but not exactly impressive, so the game was allowed to go back and forth, and for a while it looked like it could end either way.  Actually, heading into the eighth, we were tied at four, so it really could have ended either way.

Two consecutive singles and a hit batsman in the second loaded the bases with one out, but we only squeezed one run out of that golden opportunity thanks to a single by Ellsbury; Nava grounded into a double play after that.  We went down in order in the third and broke what at the time was a one-one tie in the fourth, when two consecutive Toronto errors but two men on base.  Ciriaco came in to pinch-hit for Iglesias and singled in our second run of the game.

Pedroia led off the fifth with a single, setting the stage for Napoli.  The first pitch of the at-bat was a slider in the dirt.  Napoli then swung through a four-seam for a strike before practically lighting a ninety-three mile-per-hour two-seam on fire.  The ball ended up decisively beyond the right field fence for a home run, his and the team’s first of the regular season! He swung through that beautifully, like he’d been used to hitting home runs on a daily basis.  It was a beautiful and, needless to say, hopeful sight to see.  We hope it’s the first of many, of course.

We had men on base during the two following innings but didn’t score.  Finally, in the eighth, we scored the winning run that would put us on top for good.  Ellsbury struck out, the Jays made a pitching change, and Gomes walked on five pitches.  It was an eerie at-bat.  All five pitches were almost the exact same speed, and all five were fastballs. Gomes took the first one for a strike, and the last four were all balls.  And then Pedroia doubled and Napoli grounded out, which brought Gomes to the plate.  So the great thing about Napoli was that he basically did it all.  He brought the power, and he humbly plated a crucial run while getting out in the process.

I guess Middlebrooks got bored because he decided to hit a solo shot to lead off the ninth.  That was our insurance run and the reason why the final score ended up being 6-4.  He took a curveball for a ball before promptly depositing a big, fat fastball in left.  And we all know that Middlebrooks has his fair share of power as well.  There is something so neat about watching a small, scrawny guy take the skin off the ball, but there’s also something really gratifying about watching somebody huge pull out all the stops with his swing.  It’s like knowing that that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately, there was a downside.  I am very, very disappointed that we went two for nineteen with runners in scoring position.  Winning should not disguise that fact.  It is something that should be addressed so that it doesn’t happen again, because we can’t always count on opposing pitchers to make key mistakes that we exploit.  And there will be times when we can’t even count on ourselves to exploit those mistakes.  We haven’t even played five games yet this year, so I’m not going to start worrying now.  But I’m just saying that I would rather not see it happen again.

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On day three of the regular season, we picked up right where we left off.  I know it’s only been two games, but what a great start we’re off to! And against the Yankees in New York, no less! There’s definitely something palpably different about this time.  You can feel it and see it when the game starts.  It’s so nice to remember what it feels like to look forward to something.

Buchholz was on the mound and delivered everything he had.  It was a truly masterful start, in some ways even better than Lester’s.  Buchholz pitched a full seven innings and gave up one run on six hits while walking two and striking out four.  The one run was the result of a solo shot hit in the third on the first pitch of the at-bat, obviously a big mistake of a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  Fortunately, that was Buchholz’s only major mistake.

Other than that, it was mostly smooth sailing.  Three of his seven innings were one-two-three; all but one of the others saw four batters come up.  He faced five in the seventh.  And he rolled out the full extent of his arsenal.  Both fastballs made an appearance, his fastest reaching ninety-four miles per hour.  Naturally, he included plenty of off-speeds: changeups, curveballs, cutters, and splitters.  His splitter and four-seam, the favorite pitch of the night, were particularly effective.  As far as inning pitch counts are concerned, he ranged from only seven in the second to twenty in the seventh and everything in between for a grand total of ninety-four.

Unfortunately, the relief corps was not as solid.  Miller and Aceves combined to pitch the eighth but gave up three runs.  Aceves inherited a runner and put one of his own on base before allowing a home run.  Hanrahan then pitched the ninth and picked up his first save of the season and of his time with us.

The offense was getting pretty busy in the meantime.  Yesterday’s lineup had Ellsbury leading off, Nava batting second, Pedroia batting third, Napoli batting cleanup, Salty batting fifth, Middlebrooks sixth, Victorino seventh, Bradley eighth, and Iglesias ninth.  Some changes, some constants.

Of the nine innings we played, we scored in four.  In the first, Salty singled with two out and two on to bring our first run in.  A single, a hit batsman, and a walk on four pitches by Ellsbury loaded the bases with one out in the second; when Nava got it, Bradley scored.  Salty singled in the third, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Victorino, who stole second base and scored on a single by Bradley, who moved to third on a double by Iglesias.  Both of them scored on a single by Ellsbury to complete a four-run third.  We went down in order in the fourth and fifth and scored our final run in the sixth; Iglesias led it off with a single and was out in a force out by Ellsbury, who moved to third on a double by Nava and scored on a groundout by Pedroia.

Just to give you an idea of how monumental this 7-4 win was, consider the fact that we haven’t opened any season since 1999 with back-to-back wins.  We are officially on our way!

In other news, the Bruins beat the Sens, 4-3.

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