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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Aviles’

Lester had another questionable start.  Sometimes he goes through these phases where he’s really incredibly amazing, and then sometimes he goes through these interruptions where he’s mediocre.  Yesterday’s start was a prime example of the latter.  He gave up four runs on ten hits while walking only one and striking out eight over the course of seven innings.  So that means that he knew how to find the strike zone, but the hitters kept figuring him out.  His inability to efficiently deal with the Tribe led him to throw a total of 124 pitches.

He recorded the game’s first two outs before giving up a single followed by a steal of second and an RBI double.  He issued a walk in the third, allowing the runner to advance on a groundout and giving up another RBI double.  He then gave up another single, followed by a brilliant throw home by Gomes to save a run and gain an out.  But then he hit a batter and gave up an RBI single.

Giving up three runs in a single inning is pretty disappointing, to which Lester himself can attest, seeing as he was visibly angry about it.  But I have to say that one of his best qualities on the field is his composure, which allowed him to bounce back during the second half of his start, rallying to make quite an effort to keep the lid on the Indians.

The sixth inning was by far his best: fifteen pitches, three up, three down, all via strikeouts.  The first two were looking on cutters; the last was swinging on a sinker.  He recorded the first out in the seventh, gave up two consecutive singles, and induced a lineup.  Second base was then stolen, and Lester issued a wild pitch that allowed Mike Aviles of all people to score.

Tazawa pitched an immaculate eighth, and Bailey pitched a decent ninth.

But none of that would have mattered had it not been for our absolutely crucial rally in the eighth.  Until the bottom of the eighth, we were trailing by one.  We scored our first run in the second with two out, when Iglesias singled, moved to second on a balk, and scored on a single by Ciriaco.  Nava led off the fourth with a walk and scored on a double by Iglesias; the Tribe’s fielding error was a nice touch.  With one out in the sixth, Iglesias singled, and then Ciriaco singled as well; it was a ground ball of sorts, but thanks to a throwing error, both Iglesias and Ciriaco ended up in scoring position.  Ellsbury walked intentionally to load the bases, and unfortunately the only scoring play we could muster was a sac fly by Gomes that brought Iglesias home.

At the time, that sac fly tied the game, but like I said, Lester gave up another run in the seventh.  All we needed to do was score two more runs and hold on for the win, but we ended up scoring one more than the entire run total we’d scored to that point in the game.

The bottom of the eighth began with an out.  Then Ciriaco doubled, and Ellsbury struck out.  Carp came in to pinch-hit for Gomes and doubled in Ciriaco to tie the game back up.  Pedroia’s back-to-back double gave us the go-ahead.  The ball bounced off the Monster, and we were on top.  Anything after that, provided that Bailey held the lead in the next half-inning, was icing on the cake.  Then Papi walked intentionally, Napoli walked unintentionally to load the bases, and Nava singled in both Pedroia and Papi.

We ended up winning, 7-4.  We totaled eleven hits, five of which were for extra bases.  All of them were doubles, and two of them belonged to Pedroia, who finished the game two for four with a walk.  Iglesias and Ciriaco each went three for four.  Nava, Papi, and Ellsbury each walked twice, the three of them therefore accounting for almost all of our eight total walks.  Ultimately, it was a great game; you always want to be in a position to win from the beginning, but it’s nice to know that you can’t count us out even when we’re not.

In other news, the Rangers are done.  Finished.  Knocked out.  That didn’t take long at all.  Yesterday the Bruins won, 3-1. Quick work indeed.

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We played the last game of our series on the road, and I’m looking forward to the team coming home.  They’re needed here.

We were the first to get on the board.  Napoli led off the second with a triple and scored on a single by Nava.  But then the Tribe tied the game at one in the bottom of the frame after Lester gave up a double that became a run on a groundout, ironically brought in by Mike Aviles.

We pulled back ahead in the fourth; Salty smacked a solo shot with two out in the fourth.  He took a curveball for a ball, then a swinging strike, then a ball.  Then he fouled off two two-seams and took another curveball for a ball.  Then he got all of a ninety-two mile-per-hour four-seam and sent it healthily over the right field fence.  It was awesome.  It was all power, all swing long.

We added insurance in the fifth.  With one out, Ellsbury doubled and scored on a single by Pedroia.  The Indians pulled within one run when Aviles doubled and scored on a groundout.  Neither team scored in the sixth.  And then we basically ended the game in the seventh.

Ellsbury led off the inning with a single.  That was when the Indians made a pitching change, which was one of the poorer decisions they made last night.  Victorino reached on a fielding error.  Pedroia flied out, which moved Ellsbury to third, and he scored on a single by Napoli.  Nava hit a sac fly that scored Victorino.  And Napoli scored on a single by Carp.

So as you can see, Lester had quite the fine night.  Seven innings, two runs, four hits, one walk, five K’s.  115 pitches, seventy-two of which were strikes.  Great cut fastball, and great off-speed pitches as well.  Lower strikeout total than usual, but outs are outs no matter how they’re recorded.  By the way, his ERA is still under two.  Miller came on in relief and gave up a walk and a single.  Coming in with two inherited runners, Uehara let one score thanks to a double.  And then Bailey picked up the save.

So the final score was 6-3, not 6-2.  Fortunately, that run didn’t matter, and we won anyway, completing the sweep.

In other news, the Sabres beat the Bruins, 3-2, in a shootout, so we still get a point.

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Farrell was officially named manager on Sunday.  Then, Bogar was fired and Torey Lovullo was hired as our new bench coach.

In terms of moves, nothing big has happened yet, obviously.  Mike Aviles was traded to Toronto for Farrell, so we are in shortstop limbo yet again.  Ben met with Shohei Otani, an eighteen-year-old Japanese phenom who, if acquired, will hopefully pan out exponentially better than Dice-K did.  And last but not least, the brass is negotiating a deal with Ross and with Papi.  The deal with Papi is probably going to be a long one, one that would most likely allow him to retire with us if he chooses to do so at that point.

In other news, the Pats beat the Jets in yet another close one, 29-26.

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On last night’s loss menu, we served up the gut-wrenching extra-innings blow.  Or rather that’s what we were served.

In the first, Cook gave up a run thanks to a walk-steal-groundout-groundout combination.  We tied it up that same inning when Pedroia doubled and scored on a single by Lavarnway.  Neither team scored in the second or third.  The O’s went ahead in the fourth when Cook’s third pitch of the inning was hit for a solo shot.  We put ourselves back on top that same inning when Aviles singled to lead off the bottom half and Danny Valencia hit a two-run shot on his second pitch, a curveball.  Not an easy pitch to homer on, so it was nice to see the kid have a keen eye.  Neither team scored in the fifth.  After securing the first out of the sixth on a strikeout, Cook gave up a single and a double and was then replaced by Hill.  Hill gave up a bases-clearing triple before securing the inning’s second out, at which point he was replaced by Mortensen.  Mortensen gave up a solo shot on his first pitch of the seventh.  Fortunately, we mounted a comeback effort in the bottom of the inning.  Podsednik doubled, Ciriaco walked, and Pedroia singled to load the bases with nobody out.  Unfortunately, we did just about the most pathetic thing you can do with the bases loaded and still score runs.  Ross and Lavarnway grounded out back-to-back, which brought in two runs.  At that point, we were within one, Breslow had pitched the top of the eighth, and we tied it up at six the bottom of the inning; with two out, Nava doubled and scored on a double by Podsednik.

Tazawa pitched the ninth, and we went down in order.  Bailey pitched the tenth, and we had men on first and second with two out but did nothing.  Melancon pitched the eleventh, and we went down in order.

And then the twelfth inning arrived.  Aceves came in.  He gave up a double on his second pitch, a fine indication of things to come.  He induced a flyout for the first out of the inning and then gave up another double, which put us down by one.  Then he got a strikeout and gave up an RBI single, which put us down by two.  Then Carpenter came in and gave up another RBI single, which put us down by three.  In the bottom of the twelfth Gomez’s single was the extent of our offensive production.

We lost, 9-6.  Of the eleven games we’ve played in extras this year, we’ve won only two.  Neither of those have come at home.

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Why couldn’t we have played this way against the Yankees? We did during that first game, our crowning achievement of the series.  And, as I said, it all went down hill from there.  I would have loved to have snuck at least one more win in there.  Then again, if we snuck in one more win every single time we wanted to sneak in one more win, we would not be in our current situation, which is fighting just to get out of the basement with the team we’re currently playing.

Dice-K got the nod and, not surprisingly at all, didn’t pitch well.  He gave up four runs on three hits while walking three and striking out five over five and one-third innings.  It was the third inning that did him in.  He began the inning by hitting a batter and walking another.  After getting a strikeout, he walked another batter.  And then two consecutive wild pitches resulted in two runs plus another walk, and a groundout brought in the final run of the inning.  So if you think about it, he allowed those three runs without allowing a single hit.  It’s the first time one of our pitchers has done that since the 1970s.

He began the sixth with a groundout and then allowed a triple.  Mortensen came on and allowed his inherited runner to score on a single.  During all of Dice-K’s other innings, though, he was basically solid.  He was great.  In fact, there were times when he looked dialed-in and on cruise control.  But we’ve seen this kind of thing before where his real downfall is not being able to sustain that across all of his innings equally, and you have the one or two or three or more bad innings that determine the fate of his start.

Fortunately, he was taken out before he could allow further damage.  And it turns out that, between the third and the sixth, we’d been doing some scoring ourselves.  Ross led off the fourth with a four-pitch walk, Gomez singled, Lavarnway fouled off a slow fastball for a strike, and then he received almost the exact same pitch in terms of type and speed.  But he got of it the second time around.  He launched it to left, and it exited the park with ease.  One swing.  Three runs.  Tie game.

Then we had the bases loaded with two out in the fifth, and Nava came up.  Obviously that situation your default hope is a grand slam, and if not a grand slam then at least some sort of extra-base hit.  Nava singled.  But it still brought in two more runs, which gave us a two-run lead at the time.  Which, by the way, would not have been possible without some fine baserunning by Aviles.  Aviles had singled and was the first runner to get on base.  He moved to second on a groundout by Ross before Gomez reached on a fielder’s choice.  Brett Lawrie thought he could tag Aviles for the out, but in a fine display of athleticism and acumen, Aviles neatly avoided the tag and slid back to the bag.  Nice.

Then, of course, they scored their run in the sixth, which reduced our lead to one, a lead that Tazawa preserved in the seventh.  But Padilla, who came on for the eighth, began the inning with a single-double combination that tied the game at five.

It turned out that that run would be the last that the Jays would score.  Carpenter replaced Padilla, and all was well in the rest of the eighth.  Not so for the Jays in the ninth.  Ellsbury led it off with a single, after which the Jays made a pitching change that was not helpful.  Aviles flied out, which probably provided some measure of false hope, but then Ross singled, Gomez smacked a bases-clearing triple, and Lavarnway brought him home on a sac fly.

Which means, of course, that for once, we won! The final score was 8-5.  It feels good to win and to win by a respectable margin at that.  So, as I said, Dice-K received a no-decision, Mortensen and Tazawa each got holds, Padilla got a blown save, Carpenter got the win, and Baily got the save for pitching the bottom of the ninth.  And let’s not forget Nava’s spectacular, Ellsbury-esque diving catch for the first out of the eighth! Adam Lind thought he was about to put his team ahead for good, but Nava read the ball all the way, stayed on it, ran exactly the right distance, dove exactly the right time, and hauled it in.  It was an inspired piece of fielding.  Between all of that and the fact that we won, it was a great game full of gems.

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Honestly, it doesn’t get much more infuriating than that.  I’m just going to jump right in because it’s really tough to deal with it all.

Cook pitched decently.  He only lasted five innings, and he gave up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and second, and gave up a double in the third.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth followed by a single and then a two-run home run.  Following  two quick outs, he gave up a single, and then a fielding error put another runner on, but the inning ended there.  He allowed a single in the fifth and a double to lead off the sixth, at which point he was replaced by Hill, who was replaced by Aceves after three batters.

Meanwhile, we reduced our deficit from three runs to two; in the bottom of the fourth, Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single by Loney.

Aceves came out for the seventh and gave up a single followed by a two-run home run of his own, which made the score 5-1.  Two outs later, he gave up a double and was replaced by Carpenter, who ended the inning.  In the bottom of the seventh, we made another dent in the score.  Ross began the inning by striking out, but then Salty and Nava hit back-to-back doubles.  The Yanks sent out their third pitcher of the inning, and then Salty scored on a groundout by Gomez and Nava scored on a double by Aviles.  5-3.

Carpenter handled the eighth without incident baseball-wise but with incident drama-wise; when Bobby V. came out to the mound and Aceves saw Carpenter coming in, he walked to the other side of the mound to avoid Bobby V. when he left the field.  In terms of the bottom of the inning, we failed to score.  But it was not without further drama.

Ross ended the inning on a called strike; the at-bat featured seven pitches, all but one of them sliders, and the count had been full.  Ross and everyone else who had a pair of decently functioning eyes could see that that last supposed strike was actually a ball because it was low, and he let home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez know it immediately. So Marquez rejected him; it was only the second rejection in Ross’s career.  Several minutes later, Bobby V., who had separated Ross and Marquez, went back out there to have a talk with him that obviously got heated pretty quickly and was ejected for the sixth time this year, which sets the record for the most single-season ejections by any manager we’ve ever had in our long, illustrious history.  And at some point even third base coach Jerry Royster was ejected for some reason, so bench coach Tim Bogar was managing and coaching third at the same time at the end of it all.  The whole situation was just absurd and could have been neatly avoided had Marquez just done his job and saw reality.

Anyway, Miller and Padilla teamed up to shut out the Yanks in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set for another possible walkoff.  Salty’s leadoff at-bat was exactly the kind of at-bat you hope for most in those situations.  The count was full and he got an eighty-three mile-per-hour slide as his sixth pitch.  He’s a big guy, and he unleashed his formidable power on it and sent it out of the park to right field for a solo shot that only he could have powered out of the park.  We were now one run away with nobody out, and between Salty having made it look so easy and our last-minute heroics of the previous night, we were daring to believe that we could potentially pull it off again.

But we didn’t.  Nava flied out, Gomez grounded out, and Aviles reached on a fielding error.  Ellsbury could have put the whole thing away right then and there.  But he grounded out instead.

So we lost, 5-4.  But no one can say we didn’t put up a fight.  Because we did, both literally and figuratively.  We manufactured our own runs and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps in the face of a deficit and dared to call a ball, a ball.  We just kept going at it all night long, but we came up just short in the end.  It’s just so infuriating.  I mean, I have to think that we’ve lost this way to plenty of other teams this year since clearly we’re in the business of losing every way to every other team this year, but to do it against the Yankees is particularly brutal.  We were almost there; we just needed one more run to tie it, and we could take care of them in extras.  And we couldn’t get it done.  It’s the story of our 2012 baseball lives.

On a more cheerful note, we have next year’s schedule, so assuming that we’re optimistic, it’s a reminder of something to look forward to.  The season starts for us on April 1 in the Bronx; we follow Opening Day with a day off and then conclude the three-game series.  We then head off to Toronto for three games, and then we head home for our home opener against Baltimore, which is followed by another day off.  We then finish our series with Baltimore and play the Rays before spending three games in Cleveland and going back home to face the Royals, A’s, and newly-AL Astros.  Then we have a day off and we go back to Toronto and then to Arlington, our first full series of May.  The Twins and Jays comprise another homestand, followed by a day off and another road trip against the Rays, Twins, and Other Sox.  Then back home we’ve got the Tribe and the Phillies, followed by a series at Philadelphia and then the Bronx, followed by a day off.  That takes us to June, our first full series of which is at home against the Rangers and then the Angels.  Then we head off to Toronto and Baltimore before another day off and coming home to face the Rays.  Then we head off to Detriot before another day off and another homestand featuring the Rockies, the Jays, a day off, and the Padres in July.  Then it’s off to the West Coast for the Angels, Mariners, and A’s before the All-Star break.  When play resumes, we host the Yanks and Rays before a trip to Baltimore and a day off.  The west then comes to us as we host the Mariners and D-Backs at home, which brings us to August.  We then travel to Houston and Kansas City before taking a day off and traveling to Toronto.  We host the Yanks at home after that, followed by a trip to San Francisco, a day off, a trip to Los Angeles for the Blue Sox, another day off, and then a homestand featuring the Orioles, Other Sox, and Tigers, which brings us to September.  We go to the Bronx after that, take a day off, go to Tampa Bay, and return home for the Yanks, a day off, the Orioles, the Jays, and another day off.  Then we go to Colorado for two games, take a day off, and go to Baltimore for the last series of the season.  So we’ve got at least three days off every month except one: May, our most packed month, when we only have one day off.  But it’s a good schedule.  It’s interesting that Interleague is sort of spread out this year instead of being clustered in June.  It’s often a tough schedule, and we have to play some worthy opponents, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to hold our own next year.

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Think about all the losses we’ve had to endure of the course of the season and especially lately.  Think about the losing streaks we’ve had and the absolutely abysmal month of August we’ve finished.  Think about how this entire year has turned out for us.  Think about the embarrassment and the humiliation and the pain and the devastation and the despair that have been our baseball lives since the end of Spring Training.

Aside from clinching a playoff spot at the expense of the Yankees, there is only one thing that’s sure to provide some degree of an antidote to all of that: preventing the Yankees from clinching a playoff spot.  And how do we do that? By beating them when we’re playing them and rooting hard for their other opponents to beat them when we’re not.  So it should be obvious why last night was so awesome.

Lester did not pitch well at all.  He gave up three runs on five hits, but he left after five and one-third innings.  Why? Because he struck out five and walked seven.  No starting pitcher should ever walk more batters than he strikes out, unless of course he doesn’t strike out anybody but he walks one or something like that.  The point is that he had no command.  He lost control of the strike zone and couldn’t find it, so he couldn’t seal the deal.  He kept getting behind hitters and throwing a lot of pitches and getting tired and generally not being effective.  Lester had already thrown 102 pitches at the time of his departure, and only fifty-five of those were strikes.  And it didn’t help that home plate umpire Chad Fairchild’s definition of the strike zone was not consistent.  So as you can see, he was really laboring  through his start, and it’s a wonder that the Yanks didn’t make him pay even more.

Lester’s first at-bat ended in a walk, which turned into a run one double and two ground-outs later.  He then walked two more batters before ending the inning.  Lester gave up a double and no walks in the second and fifth.  He gave up two walks to lead off the third and one walk to lead off the fourth.  He gave up a walk and a single to lead off the sixth; they were followed by a sac bunt and then a double that brought in two runs.

Tazawa then came on in relief and finished the sixth as well as the seventh.  Breslow pitched the eighth, and Bailey pitched the ninth.  As it turns out, Lester’s three runs were the only runs that the Yankees would score.

We had two runners on in the first and did nothing with either of them, and we went down in order in the second.  But Ciriaco doubled to lead off the third, moved to third on a groundout by Aviles, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.  Podsednik then popped out, and Ellsbury stole second base and scored on a single by Pedroia.  We went down in order in the fourth and fifth before Pedroia went deep in the sixth on a sinker.  It was the third pitch he saw in the at-bat; the first two were sliders around eighty-four miles per hour; the sinker was clocked at ninety-three, but he read it all he way.  So with a 2-0 count the ball sailed right out to the Green Monster where it belonged.  It was precise, it was powerful, and it was the tying run.

We had a fantastic opportunity to break the tie in the seventh.  Kalish singled, Ciriaco hit what was supposed to be a sac bunt but turned into a single thanks to a fielding error, Aviles struck out, and Ellsbury singled to load the bases for Nava.  But Nava grounded into a force out, and Pedroia popped out.  And we went down in order in the eighth.

Then came the ninth, the one inning during which, in these situations, you try to convince yourself that you won’t score because if you don’t your hopes will shoot way up.  Kalish popped out, and it seemed like the inning would proceed as usual: with us not scoring, which meant extras.

But then everything changed.  Ten pitches later, we won, 4-3.  Ciriaco, Aviles, and Ellsbury had hit three straight singles; Ciriaco had scored the winning run, and Ellsbury had batted him in.  It was a small-ball, manufactured walkoff.

So, in sum, we beat the Evil Empire in a walkoff at home.  It was awesome because it set the Yanks back in the standings, we got to celebrate at home right in front of them and thereby bask in our own glory while they lost, and lastly it just so happens that it was Ellsbury’s birthday yesterday, so he got to celebrate with a big win.  We also just really needed this because such happiness has been hard to come by baseball-wise this year.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we haven’t been this happy and psyched in way too long a time.  And I think the team’s been missing that feeling as well.  So we needed this win.  Especially against the Yanks.  We’ve been at our lowest point for a while now, and when we needed most to see that mob in our uniform forming at home plate, the team gave it to us.  And that is definitely something worth celebrating.

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