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Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey Devils’

It was very, very clear that the team did not get my memo.  I specifically said that we need to play better baseball, baseball that was more appropriate and commensurate to the stage on which we currently find ourselves, namely the World Series.  That means that we need to be at our absolute very best, and it was quite obvious from last night’s performance that we simply weren’t.

Let’s start with Peavy.  His outing was great but short.  He gave up two runs on six hits while walking one and striking out four.  He threw sixty-four pitches.  And he only pitched four innings.

His first inning was his worst.  He gave up a single, a sac bunt, an RBI single, another single, and another RBI single.  Then he ended the inning on two quick outs, went one-two-three in the second and third, and pitched cleanly out of a nobody-out bases-loaded situation in the fourth.

Doubront relieved him, pitching around his own jam in the fifth and going one-two-three in the sixth.  Breslow took over in the seventh and continues to have issues.  I shouldn’t have to say that this is epically the wrong time for issues of any kind.

He gave up a single, hit a batter, and was relieved by Tazawa.  Although Tazawa should not have given up a double, it’s also true that he shouldn’t have had to inherit runners either, both of which scored.  The inning ended four batters later.

Workman pitched around two baserunners in the eighth, and then we lost the game in the ninth.

In order to understand the similarity in disappointment and frustration between Game Three and Game Two, we obviously have to talk about the offense.  While we only sent up the minimum through three, we showed signs of life in the fourth, when Ellsbury singled and Papi walked.  We finally scored in the fifth.  Bogaerts led it off with a triple and scored on a force out by Carp to reduce the deficit to one.

Victorino led off the sixth with a walk and scored on a single by Nava to tie the game at two.  After the Cards’ two run double in the seventh, the score was 4-2, and I was really hoping that we weren’t about to lose by the same score we used to lose Game Two.

Fortunately, we managed to tie the game at four in the eighth.  Ellsbury singled, Victorino got hit, Pedroia grounded out and moved both runners into scoring position, and Papi walked intentionally to load the bases.  Nava grounded into a force out to score Ellsbury, and Bogaerts singled to score Victorino.  That was very small ball in a bases-loaded situation; that wasn’t exactly the blow-this-game-wide-open scoring play that I was hoping for.  But it allowed us to pull even, and we took what we could get.

That brings us back to the ninth.  We went down in order in the top of the inning and were hoping to force the game into extras.  Workman recorded the first out of the inning and gave up a single, and Uehara came in.  Uehara, as we all know, has been exceptional in the closer’s role.  Exceptional.  So it was not unreasonable to expect him to take us into extras, where we’d figure out a way to win, big hits or no big hits.

He gave up a double.  By itself, a double is no big deal.  And giving up a double in that situation, since there was only one other baserunner, was not, by itself, a problem.

It became a problem because Middlebrooks committed interference at third.  Uehara’s next batter had reached on a fielder’s choice.  The first runner was successfully thrown out at home, thanks to one of Pedroia’s signature diving catches.  Salty then threw the ball to third because he saw the runner trying to get back there.  But it was a bad throw, and in Middlebrooks fell down trying to make the catch.  He didn’t end up making the catch, but apparently he did end up impeding the runner’s path home.  So Middlebrooks got caught up with the baserunner, and soon he was just running toward home.  Fortunately, it looked like it wouldn’t matter because Nava made an excellent throw home.  But third base umpire Jim Joyce ruled Middlebrooks’s actions an obstruction.  And we lost, 5-4.

It’s always possible that that call was debatable.  In my opinion, umpires have to be very, very careful not to affect what is supposed to be a game’s natural outcome.  And while there are rules on the books that explain and determine what is and is not obstruction, one also has to consider the fact that it’s also possible that Middlebrooks did the only thing he could do given the circumstances.  Salty threw the ball; it wasn’t a great throw, but Middbelrooks still had to catch it.  And he did the only way he could do; he can’t be expected to simply not try to catch a ball, and there was no way out of that situation.  The whole thing was a complete mess.  I don’t recall having seen a play so messy and confusing, especially not during a postseason or a World Series.  I was too devastated after I understood that it had cost us the game to register what had happened, but after I saw it on replay a few times I was able to add some fury and outrage to that devastation.  Losing because it’s blatantly all your fault is a really hard thing to accept.  Losing based on a called play that can be questioned, especially during the World Series, is undeniably infuriating.  Of course, Joyce explained later that rules are rules, whether or not there was no alternative for Middlebrooks.  But to have the entire game decided on a play like that is just really, really hard for me to get on board with.

It’s bad enough that we lost.  It’s even worse that we lost during the World Series, on a walkoff on the road no less, and worse still that this has created a 2-1 series deficit.  But I also am really uncomfortable with the fact that we lost our second home game and have now lost our first away game.  We’re supposed to be the team that doesn’t let things like that get to us.  We’re supposed to be the team that can reestablish our momentum anywhere and carry it with us anywhere at any time.  I don’t care that now we’re stuck on the road.  We have no choice but to pick up, and fast, in St. Louis.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils, 4-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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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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Yesterday we took in the Boston debut of Ryan Dempster.  The difference between him and, say, Lester or Buchholz was unfortunately conspicuous.  He just doesn’t have the same degree of skill, versatility, and adaptability that they possess.  And as a result of that and of a subpar hitting performance (I would say mostly of a subpar hitting performance since we should have been able to score enough runs to cover those that Dempster gave up), we suffered our first loss of the season.  Unfortunately, we knew it had to happen sometime.  I wish it didn’t happen against the Yanks, least of all in New York, but at least we won the series!

Dempster tossed five innings and gave up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out eight.  We should have been able to figure out that things wouldn’t go exceptionally well for him when he walked his first batter of the year.  But two groundouts later, he got out of the inning one-two-three.  Dempster opened the second by giving up a single.  Following two quick strikeouts on a total of seven pitches, he gave up a double followed by a single that brought in his first run.  He then led off the third with a big mistake of an eighty-seven mile-per-hour fastball, which was hit out for a solo shot.  Fortunately, that was it.  He threw a grand total of 101 pitches and will obviously have to seriously work on his efficiency if he intends to stay on the mound for more than a little over half a game.

His limited arsenal is also a pain point that will probably be more concerning as the season goes on.  He threw only four pitches yesterday: both fastballs, a slider, and a splitter.  His fastest fastball was ninety-one miles per hour, and while his average slider speed was eighty-four and his average splitter speed was eighty.  A variation in pitches but also a wider range between his lowest and highest speeds would really help him confuse the hitters, increase his strikeout count, and decrease his walk count, which should also help with efficiency.

His lowest pitch count per inning was thirteen in the fifth; his highest was twenty-nine in the fourth, and he threw around twenty in each of the rest.  His release point was actually really consistent, but I still say that he’s going to have to work on his arsenal, at least refining the pitches he does through, and by extension his efficiency.

Tazawa pitched the sixth, and Mortensen pitched the seventh and eighth, giving up a solo shot of his own to his first batter as well.

As busy as our hitters were during the previous two games, we were silent for way too much of this one.  Try the first six innings.  Yeah.  We didn’t cross the plate until the seventh.  It was awful.  We didn’t even have that many opportunities.  We had two on in the first thanks to two singles by Victorino and Napoli, but Victorino was thrown out at home when he tried to score on a wild pitch.  We went down in order in the second despite a single by Middlebrooks thanks to a double play.  Basically the same thing happened in the third.  Pedroia walked in the fourth on five pitches but it was a brief inning due to quick outs for the other three batters who came up.  We went down in order in the fifth.  Iglesias led off the sixth with a single but we went down in order after that.

Finally, with two out in the seventh, Middlebrooks singled and scored on a double by Bradley.  If only we could have made it into a rally; at the time, that run shrunk the deficit to two, and even though we were in the last third of the game, two runs is by no means an insurmountable lead.  But Ross flew out to end it.  At first, I thought it might actually be out.  But it was just short and hauled in right at the wall.  Then, of course, Mortensen gave up the insurance run, we went down in order in the eighth, and all we could muster in the ninth was a run on a groundout.  Pedroia had walked on seven pitches to start the frame, and then Napoli flew out, and Gomes doubled, eliminating the double play option with two on.  Pedroia came home when Middlebrooks grounded out, and the deficit was back down to two.  And then Bradley came to the plate.  He could have tied it with a home run.  Instead, he was called out on strike three, and we lost, 4-2.

In other news, the B’s narrowly bested the Devils, one-zip.

AP Photo

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

Boston Globe Staff

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It seems like everyone’s focus this spring is on the question of who will be our fifth starter.  Obviously that’s a worthy focus because the identity of the fifth starter is important, and I think it says a lot about who’s managing this team that we don’t even have a sliver of a clue as to who it would be.  But we should also keep in mind that there are other things to watch for, like making sure that Papi and Youk get on a roll early, that Ellsbury’s season last year was the norm rather than the exception, that the catchers are handling the staff properly, and that the starters whose identities we do know are healthy and effective.

We beat the Orioles on Tuesday, 5-4.  Bard made his first start of spring and was awarded a no-decision.  He pitched two scoreless innings.  Aceves also fired two innings, striking out two and walking none.

Our game against the Jays on Wednesday ended in a tie at three.  Lester stayed behind and pitched two and two-thirds innings in a B game against the Twins; he walked two, struck out one, and gave up a hit.

The Cards bested us, 9-3, on Thursday.  Beckett pitched three scoreless innings; he walked none, struck out none, and allowed two hits, a single and a double.  Jose Iglesias whacked a triple with the bases loaded and looks more like a starter with every passing game.

Buchholz took Friday’s 7-4 loss to the Pirates.  He gave up two runs on three hits, struck out one, and walked none.  He threw some really beautiful changeups.  Papi hit his second homer of spring on a 2-1 count.

We shut out the Rays, five-zip, on Saturday.  Bard delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out one, walked two, and gave up two hits.  Thirty of his forty-nine pitches were strikes.  He relied heavily on his changeup.  It was his first three-inning stint in a single game since 2007, then a starting pitcher in the minors.  Supposedly, though, it technically hasn’t officially been decided that he’ll be starting; I guess they want to ensure that his stamina and arsenal are sufficient.  Aceves also delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out two, walked none, and gave up two hits.  Salty coaxed a walk with the bases loaded in the first, BJ Upton’s error on Iglesias’s fly ball brought in another two runs, and Youk smacked an RBI double.

McClure says that Dice-K looks great.  I just want to see if he pitches great.

Even after Papelbon is traded, it seems we can’t escape the drama that naturally seems to emanate from his person.  He claims that Red Sox Nation is more hysterical, while Phillies fans are more knowledgeable about the game because the Phillies are in the National League.  That’s ridiculous.  First of all, it’s possible to be hysterical and knowledgeable at the same time; just because we love our guys, a fact from which he was all too happy to benefit when it suited him just fine, doesn’t mean we also don’t know what we’re talking about.  We do indeed most definitely know exactly what we’re talking about.  And the fact that the Phillies are in the National League means absolutely nothing and is completely irrelevant.  I’m just saying.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Caps but beat the Leafs and Sabres.  We have eighty-three points so far this season, two above the Sens in our division and tied with the Devils if, as division leaders, we were not automatically seeded second.

AP Photo

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