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Posts Tagged ‘National League’

We needed this win.  I don’t enjoy losing, and I especially don’t enjoy losing to the Yankees.  So when I saw us dominate yesterday, not only in terms of pitching but also in terms of hitting, I was very pleased indeed.  There’s nothing like an invigorating stint with a National League team to get your victory going.

Lester faced the minimum through three and gave up his first hit, a single, in the fourth.  He had a couple of baserunners in the fifth but held firm.

Salty led off the second with a single, Nava walked, and Drew singled to load the bases.  Just like that.  And of all of the reactions that Middlebrooks could have had to that situation at the plate, he hit a sac fly.  It scored one run, but come on.  When the bases are loaded with nobody out, there are so many other cooler, better, and more productive things to do than hit a sac fly.  It was better than nothing.  So was the balk that Lester ended up working, scoring yet another run.  That was pretty awesome.  And then Victorino singled in the inning’s third run before Pedroia flied out to end it.  So it wasn’t exactly a bases-clearing triple, and it wasn’t exactly flashy or what you’d expect with the bases loaded.  But by the end of the inning, we had the bases cleared.

We added insurance in the fifth; with two out, Nava singled and scored on a double by Drew.  Ellsbury singled to lead off the sixth, moved to second when Victorino got hit and third when Pedroia grounded into a double play, and scored on a wild pitch.  Even down to the wire, we hadn’t finished scoring; Pedroia tripled in the ninth and scored on a double by Salty.

In the end, Lester was just two outs shy of going the distance.  He dealt with two on in the sixth, one on in the seventh, and one on in the eighth.  After he induced a flyout to lead off the ninth, he gave up two consecutive singles and was replaced by Workman, who ended the game with two K’s.  But what a start! He was rewarded for his incredible effort with a well-deserved win; he pitched eight and one-third innings of shutout ball, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out three.  Meanwhile, our hit total was double that.  Against Lester the Giants’ batters never even had a chance.  Winning seven-zip was easy all the way through, and Lester looked like his old self again.

Getty Images

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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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Thankfully, Andrew Bailey is no longer our closer.  He is now some sort of setup man whose prominence in the bullpen has yet to be determined.  We completed a six-player trade with the Pirates in order to land Joel Hanrahan.  They’re getting Mark Melancon and three prospects (Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands), and in addition to Hanrahan we’re getting Brock Holt, an infielder.  Hanrahan is a righty whose ERA last season was 2.72; his WHIP was 1.27, and he recorded sixty-seven strikeouts and a total of thirty-six saves with four blown.  His lifetime strikeout rate per nine innings is about ten, and he’s been an All-Star more than once.  I am absolutely not happy about his walks, which is obviously a significant downside for a closer of all pitchers.  He’s also never pitched in Fenway ever, and he’s only been to Boston once.  So we’ve got a National League closer who walks and has never pitched in Boston.  Still, though, he’s obviously a significant improvement over the alternative.  Technically that doesn’t say much, but I have to believe that his stuff will shine through.

In other news, the Pats closed out the season with back-to-back wins over the Jaguars, 23-16, and Dolphins, twenty-eight-zip.  It’s playoff time! We’ve got a first-round bye, which should provide some extra rest.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Finally! Okay, now we’re in business.  I don’t want to necessarily say that the news is big news; I think a year or two ago it would have been really big news, but players age year to year, and last year’s phenom is this year’s solid, all-around acquisition who’s good but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor anymore.  But given our needs and our situation, I’d say Ben’s moves during and after the Winter Meetings were good and much-needed ones.  He’s putting together a stable team while maintaining a healthy amount of financial flexibility, and John Farrell is happy with the developments.  All in all, I’d say we’re definitely going in a great direction.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.  We’ve signed Mike Napoli to a three-year contract worth thirty-nine million dollars.  Don’t let last season’s aggregate stats fool you.  He batted .227 with twenty-four home runs and fifty-six RBIs with an on-base percentage of .343, but look at his numbers in his new home: .307 batting average, nine home runs, twenty RBIs, and a 1.14 OBP.  Admittedly, the sample size of seventy-five at-bats is small, but numbers aside, he’s known for pulling the ball, and his swing will thrive in Fenway.  As for defense, he’s a catcher by trade, but don’t expect to see him behind the plate.  He’ll probably end up at first.

Our next name is Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  It’s another three-year, thirty-nine-million-dollar deal.  Last year, he batted .255 with eleven homers, fifty-five RBIs, and a .321 OBP.  Don’t forget that he bats switch, though, and while he batted .229 as a leftie, he batted .320 as a rightie.  But he had vastly more at-bats from the left than the right, so again, the sample size must be considered.  Still, versatility has never been frowned upon in our organization.  As for defense, like Napoli, Victorino will not field in familiar territory.  All trade rumors concerning Ellsbury are patently false, and Victorino will not be playing center.  He’ll be playing right for sure.  And it’ll be a welcome relief.  Fenway’s right field can break any veteran, but Shane has the stuff to handle it.  He has three Gold Gloves and a center fielder’s speed and arm, and that combination in right, once he learns the fatal angles out there, will be formidable.  It’ll be nice breathing easy with a steady patrol out there.

It’s worth noting that Ben and John met in person with Josh Hamilton, but don’t get too excited.  We already have Ellsbury, and Hamilton wants either Texas or a long-term deal, neither of which we will provide.

And we signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million.  Granted, he has spent almost all of his time in the National League aside from a few handfuls of games last season, which he started for Texas.  But his ERA was 3.38 last season, and his WHIP was 1.20; not too shabby.  Just as important, if not more important, to why we were interested in him in the first place is the fact that, before last season, his last for seasons totaled at least two hundred innings, and last season he clocked 173 innings which isn’t too far behind.  That means three things: durability, durability, durability.  On the other hand, durability doesn’t mean much unless you’re good, and his brief stint in the American League didn’t go well at all, so I’m concerned as to how he’ll make out in the AL East, which, as we all know, is the toughest division there is, basically.  So I’d say we can approach this one with cautious expectations.  But at least we got some sort of starting pitcher, which is a step in the right direction.  We also added Koji Uehara, who signed a one-year deal.  In thirty-six innings last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP.  That means good late-inning work for us.

We finished the Zach Stewart trade by acquiring Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates and assigned him to the PawSox.  We also claimed Sandy Rosario from the A’s, and he has since been claimed by the Cubs.  Gary DiSarcina, formerly the Angels’ minor league field coordinator, is now the PawSox manager.

So we had gaps and voids, we identified them, and we set about filling them with solid, stable choices who will fit in both on the field and in the clubhouse.  We now have some powerful hitters and defenders in the lineup whose numbers admittedly were not great last year but who stand, given the right circumstances, to do great things, and we have some great additions to the clubhouse as well.  We also have a starter who’s spent hardly any time in the AL and whose time he did spend in the AL was nothing to write home about but who has considerable potential.  We still have a lot of work to do; we need more and better starting pitching, for one thing.  That’s a big one.  But slowly but surely we’re getting it done.  We don’t need to make the world’s biggest splash to put a team together that can go the distance.

In other news, the Pats beat the Dophins, 23-16, and the Texans, 42-14.

AP Photo

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Prince Fielder won the derby with twenty-eight total home runs, four of which were the longest hit by any batter.  He and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the only players to have won multiple derbies.  Robinson Cano failed to hit any, which I enjoyed.

The National League somehow managed to win its third straight All-Star Game by a most embarrassing and humiliating score of eight-zip.  How that was even possible, I have no idea.  The American League seriously needs to step it up.  Fortunately it wasn’t the biggest run difference in the history of the All-Star Game.  The American League earned that when it beat the National League, 12-0, in 1946 at Fenway, of course.

They scored five runs in the first thanks to a two-run home run, a bases-clearing triple hit with the bases loaded, and an RBI single.  You can thank Justin Verlander for those; each of the American League pitchers pitched only one inning, but clearly his inning was by far the worst, ironically enough.  Why couldn’t he pitch like that when we’ve had to face him? He’s the third pitcher to give up at least five runs in at most one inning and the first to do it since 1983.  The last time an inning like this happened was in 2004, that most illustrious year, when the AL lit up the NL for six runs in the first.

They scored another three runs in the fourth thanks to an RBI single and another two-run home run.  You can thank Matt Harrison for those.

The AL posted six hits to the NL’s ten, none of which were for extra bases.  The AL also went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.  Nobody had a multi-hit performance, but at least Papi didn’t go hitless; he went one for two.  The entire team worked only three walks.  Melky Cabrera won the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award, and Ron Washington is the second manager to lose two straight World Series as well as two straight All-Star Games at the same time with the same teams.

Lastly, let it be stated here that the 2012 All-Star Game should have been held in the only ballpark that should have been the only logical choice in the first place: America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park turned one hundred years old this year and deserved to celebrate by hosting the All-Star Game.  It’s been long enough since we last hosted one, and the fact that the ballpark is small shouldn’t have entered into it.  The team, the brass, the city, and the fans deserved it.  What’s done is done, but I’m just saying.

SBNation.com

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When I envisioned the start of Interleague play, I obviously envisioned us winning.  I mean, we’re an American League team.  We should be cleaning up with National League teams.  Except that the Phillies are the Phillies, and when a National League team has an American League closer that you yourself trained, it represents a special set of circumstances that’s mighty difficult.

Bard only lasted five innings; he gave up five runs on three hits, including a solo shot in the fifth, and he walked five and struck out three.  He threw ninety-four pitches.  He was wild and inefficient, and despite the fact that our pitchers collectively have pitched well in our last few games, with the exceptions of Lester and Beckett they haven’t pitched long.  If we continue like this, the bullpen may as well start every game and the starter may as well come out in relief.  Seriously.  Except that the bullpen didn’t really stem the flow yesterday; Albers pitched two shutout innings, but then Morales gave up a solo shot in the eighth.

Aviles hit a home run to put us on the board in the third.  It landed just a few feet inside the pole in left.  Our second run was plated by a sac fly in the fourth.  Ross hit a solo shot of his own in the sixth, also just inside the pole in left.  Not wanting to be left out of the action and finally delivering on his promise to go deep, Gonzalez let rip a solo shot in the eighth on a slider down and in, the second pitch of his at-bat.  This one ended up in right field; it was his third of the year, and I hope he turns it around and has many, many, many more.

And, to put a cap on the evening, Bobby V. was ejected in the ninth.  Byrd grounded out to short, and Bobby V. argued that Byrd should have been safe because the throw pulled Ty Wigginton off the mound.  First base umpire Gary Darling even lost his gum in the argument, which was a decidedly an undignified moment.  Honestly, if you slow it down and look at the play, you can see that Wigginton came off the bag.  It was close, I will admit, but if you look at it and examine it, he came off the bag.

And the fact that Jonathan Papelbon of all people got the save in the ninth did not help anything in the least.

So two hours and fifty minutes, two injuries (Salty had to get stitches on his left year after getting hit in the in the fifth,and Ross had to get x-rays after fouling a ball off his left food in the eighth), four runs, eight hits (two more than Philly), three home runs , six runs, and one Papelbon save later, we lost by two.  And that’s how we started Interleague play.  Losing at the hands of a closer who reminded us just how much we’re going to miss him.  I’m so frustrated, I don’t even know what else to say.

AP Photo

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Happy one hundredth birthday, Fenway Park! It really his America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, and for good reason.  No other ballpark is this old or – let’s face it – this totally awesome.  When you watch a game there, you really have this overwhelming sense of the history that’s gone down, and you wonder what the walls would say if they could talk.  That park saw everything.  For hundred years, most of them culminating in postseason disappointment so profoundly gut-wrenching that your first instinct would be to think that somebody had to have planned it that way, this park bore witness to the lives and times of the players who played, the managers who managed, and the fans who supported, day in and day out, no matter how good or bad it got.  Standing like a sentinel right in the middle of Boston, it has seen everything that’s happened, both in and out of baseball, in that city in the last hundred years.  Think about that for a minute.  If the walls could talk, what would they say? In addition to the regular lot, this park has seen Major League baseball players, minor league baseball players, National League baseball players, college baseball players, high school baseball players, football players, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, boxers, musicians, soldiers, fans from every walk of life, wins, losses, World Series, no-hitters, a five-hundred-foot home run, more than ten thousand home runs total, the tallest wall in any ballpark in the United States, the first foul ball screen ever used, the only in-play ladder in Major League Baseball, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last political speech, and so much more.

This park is alive with character.  Every part of the park has a story: the Green Monster that now stands in place of Duffy’s Cliff, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, the retired numbers, Willamsburg, the bullpens.  Everything.  It’s small, and the seats don’t have cushions, and you can’t order gourmet food behind home plate.  But seriously, who wants to go to a baseball game just to feel like you’re watching the game on television or at a restaurant? No, you want to feel the park and to live the experience.  We’ve got the best fans in all of sport, I’d say, and we’ve got the best venue to match.

If April 20, 1912 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park got married, then April 20, 2012 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park renewed their vows.  I can’t even bear the thought that several years ago we almost lost Fenway Park forever, and I can bear the thought even less that there weren’t more people interested in saving it.  It’s truly a gem of a ballpark, and it’s one of every Red Sox fan’s favorite places in the whole world.

But what would a family affair be without a little token drama? Apparently all living uniformed personnel were invited, but apparently Theo wasn’t invited until Thursday and declined to go.  Curt Schilling, who has made no secret of his criticism of Bobby V., declined an invitation due to a commitment to his business.  It was speculated that Tito wouldn’t be there, but after all he was.  It’s really a shame that all this drama has to get in the way of such a great day in the history of what’s brought all these diverse people together.  I know it’s corny, but why can’t we all just get along, just for one day? Obviously we weren’t there for any of the drama, so we can’t really know how bad or not-so-bad it was, but anyway it would have been nice to have these individuals, who’ve been so crucial to bringing about what is (“is,” and hopefully not “was”) arguably a golden age in our club’s history.

Anyway, here are the details.  There was an introduction that basically said that the constant throughout history is baseball, and the constant throughout baseball is Fenway, and the constant throughout us disparate fans is this team.  Then John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in playing “Fanfare for Fenway,” his new composition.  There was the national anthem.  There was the flyover, which always gets me.  Then there was a steady stream of past players in their uniforms; they all congregated in the parts of the field that they played.  Most of the who’s-who as well as the unknowns of Red Sox history was there, those that could barely walk and those who recently retired.  It was really just beautiful to see generations of players represented before generations of fans.  You could acutely feel that you were witnessing history not only by bearing witness to the occasion but also by remembering that each and every one of those players had borne witness to Red Sox Nation.  (Incidentally, the whole procession received continuous applause and a standing ovation.  Terry Francona’s applause and name-chanting was deafeningly thunderous, as it should have been.  Nomar, Pedro, Yaz, and Pesky also received substantial thunder.  And also Wake, Tek, Bobby Doerr, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Kevin Millar, and a host of others too numerous to name.) Then there was a toast with grape juice, supplied at every seat for every fan of every age, led by Pedro and Millar, which as you can imagine was highly, highly entertaining and completely brought you back to 2004.  It was literally the largest toast in one venue, as in a new world record.  But hey, that’s the strength of Red Sox Nation for you.

The first pitch was thrown from the row of seats behind the first base dugout by the mayor of Boston, just like it was one hundred years ago.  This year, Thomas Menino was joined by Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Fitzgerald, two descendants of 1912 Boston’s Mayor John Fitzgerald.

I have to say, the throwback uniforms were a real treat.  How fortuitous that the schedule allowed us to play the exact same team, too.  I have to admit, even though the score a hundred years ago was 7-6 in eleven innings, I was hoping for a big more of a thrashing, as close as a close game would have been to the original may have been.  Ultimately, a win to preserve the history would have been very much appreciated and appropriate.

Sadly, a win was not to be.  Buchholz allowed home run after home run after home run.  Now that he and Beckett have both allowed five home runs in one game this season, the 2012 club becomes one of only three teams in Major League history to carry two starters who have given up five home runs each in one game in one season.  (Incidentally, one of the other two was the 2009 club, and Buchholz and Beckett were both at fault then too.) He gave up six runs, five earned (you can thank Pedroia for dropping a routine popup, a rare sight indeed), on nine hits, five of which were home runs.  All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them led off innings.  He only allowed one other extra-base hit, a double.  He lasted six innings, walked two, and struck out two.

Buchholz used four pitches: a four-seam, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.  His four-seam got up to ninety-five miles per hour and was his most abundant and effective pitch; he threw it for strikes more than eighty percent of the time.  The others were thrown for strikes less than sixty percent of the time, which is unfortunate since the majority of his pitches category-wise were off-speeds.

Atchison pitched the seventh, Thomas and Tazawa teamed up for the eighth, and Tazawa pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second when Papi homered to the Green Monster.  The ball, a fastball, bounced off of the very top of the wall and was ruled a double before it came under review and was rightly overturned.  In the fifth, a pair of doubles by Ross and Aviles scored another run.  That was all we managed.  Don’t even think for  second that you weren’t thinking that the stage may have been set for something truly epic: a recreation of the original final score.  Our final score ended up being 6-2, but just imagine if we could have somehow scored four more runs to tie it, gone to the eleventh inning, and then scored one more run?

It seemed like every single one of our rallies was killed before it got started.  Aviles and Papi each had two hits for the only multi-hit performances of the day.  In addition to the home run and those two doubles, we hit two more, and that was it for extra bases.  Not one member of our lineup walked.  Repko made a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch.  I hope Bobby V. paid attention to the “We Want Tito” chant in the ninth; we have the lowest team ERA in the Majors and are now on a four-game losing streak overall and a four-game home losing streak for the first time since 2010 with a record of four and nine.

At any rate, one hundred years of Fenway Park have come and gone, so here’s to the next hundred.  Here’s to a happy birthday to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park, all that you’ve seen and all that you mean, we forever salute you!

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps, 2-1.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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