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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Sweeney’

It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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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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Still nothing to write home about yet.  Arnie Beyeler, who’s been managing the PawSox, is our new first base coach.  Greg Colbrunn, formerly of the Evil Empire, is our new hitting coach.  Victor Rodriguez, our former minor league coordinator, is our new assistant hitting coach.

As far as players are concerned, we’ve non-tendered Ryan Sweeney, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison.  We traded Zach Stewart, who we got from the Other Sox for Kevin Youkilis, to the Pirates for a player to be named later.  Last but not least, although we claim that we’re still working on resigning Cody Ross, we worked out a two-year deal worth ten million dollars for Johnny Gomes pending a physical.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 59-24, and the Jets, 49-19.

http://cdn.buzznet.com/assets/users9/sector7g/anaheimstadium/red-sox-dugout--large-msg-113960937012-2.jpg

Buzznet

 

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That, my friends, was incredible.

In keeping with the recent close-game tradition, we were really biting our nails in this one.  It was close.  It was really close.  It was almost really close in the worst way.  Fortunately, we handled ourselves well.

We scored two runs in the second; Gonzalez singled, Ross struck out, Salty walked, Middlebrooks struck out, and Sweeney doubled in two.  But we really have to thank the pitchers for carrying us, because pitching, not hitting, is how you get through games in which you score only two runs in the second inning.

Doubront gave up nothing through six.  The Yanks finally got to him in the seventh when he made a mistake and gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning.  One single and one strikeout later, he was relieved by Albers.  Albers gave up a single and was relieved by Miller.  Miller pitched the rest of the seventh and then secured the first two outs of the eighth before allowing a double.  Then he was relieved by Aceves, who blew his save completely by giving up an RBI single that tied the game.

It was beyond infuriating.  Here we’d managed to take a one-run lead to the ninth, and the pitcher who blows the lead is the closer.  It’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that.  Actually, it’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that, ever.  And there he was, allowing RBI singles like somebody told him to do it.

Anyway, he got through the ninth and ended up pitching the tenth.  The offense fortunately bailed him and the entire team out.  In the top of the tenth, Salty walked, and Bobby V. and Beckett were both ejected by two different umpires for maintaining that Middlebrooks got hit.  The umpires thought he was faking it, but Middlebrooks was hit in the wrist, and you could clearly see afterwards that his wrist was bruised.  I mean, he was trying to bunt; it’s natural for his wrist to be in the line of fire.  If it wasn’t hit by the baseball, what was it hit with? I’d really like to know.  The irony is that home plate umpire Brian O’Nora went down with Middlebrooks on that pitch because he was hit by it as well.  So he should have known what it felt like.  To claim that all you have to do is listen for the sound of impact of the pitch on the batter is nothing short of absurd.

Anyway, Middlebrooks ended up singling after that and was out on a force out by Sweeney.  Ciriaco was the big hero yet again, delivering a single in the clutch that scored one run.  Just enough to get the W.

The final score was 3-2.  All told, Doubront gave up one run on four hits over six and one-third innings while walking five and striking out eight.  Aceves received both a blown save and the win.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury each had two hits, and Salty was the only member of the lineup who went hitless, although he did walk twice.

If you have to beat the Yanks, one of the best scenarios in which to do it is a late-inning situation on their soil.  That really gives them a taste of their own medicine.  It was beyond awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.

AP Photo

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Alright.  We may be way behind in the division standings.  We may be way behind in the Wild Card standings.  And we may even be behind .500.  But just like the Yanks are the absolute worst team in the world to lose to, they’re also the absolute best team in the world to beat.  Because when we beat the Yankees, there is a derivative satisfaction unparalleled by any other victory against any team ever, unless of course a particular game against another team is critically important in deciding our fate or something.  Other than that, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that beating the Yanks is one of our favorite things to do.  It’s really a ton of fun.

Especially when they help you do it.  Which they did.  It was awesome.  And lucky.  We scored a good amount of runs but spent too much time letting the Yankees get them back to have been able to have won without some help from them as well.  That’s the only thing I didn’t like about last night’s victory, even though the humiliation of having handed over the win to us was nice.

Last night, it wasn’t always clear that we were going to win.  First of all, it wasn’t even clear we were going to play; the game started two hours and four minutes late due to rain.  But when it did start, it started with us scoring three runs.  Not a bad way to start if you ask me.  After Ellsbury struck out, Ciriaco and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, and Gonzalez doubled in one, while Middlebrooks doubled in two more one out later.  Then we turned it over to Lester, who had a one-two-three first.  Not a bad start to his start, either.  Both teams went down in order until the bottom of the third, when Lester gave up a solo shot with two out.  But we answered in a big way in the fifth.  With two out, Ciriaco singled, and Pedroia walked.  And then Gonzalez completely unleashed on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, a slider.  It was going eighty-one miles per hour, but he saw it as clear as day all the way.  And he sent that ball all the way out to right center field.  And we doubled our run total with one swing of the bat, just like that.

Unfortunately, Lester let the Yanks answer back; he gave up a walk in the fifth followed by another home run.  Then he put two more runners on base and, after securing another out, secured the second out with a groundout that scored another run.

Neither team scored again until the bottom of the eighth; Albers had pitched the seventh, and Padilla came on as the setup man and allowed a single and then a home run with two out.  That tied the game at six, and clearly I was not happy.  We’d played solid ball and had a chance to beat them only to have a setup man erase our lead.  A setup man is not supposed to erase leads.  A setup man is supposed to preserve leads for the closer so we can win and get out of there.  Miller replaced Padilla after that.

Fortunately, the hitters bailed him out in the ninth.  After Sweeney flied out, Ellsbury walked and scored on a triple by Ciriaco, made possible by a bumbling Curtis Granderson who couldn’t field it.  If it had to be anyone on their team who messed up the play, I’m glad it was Granderson after Friday’s grand slam.  Ciriaco then scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  And Aceves picked up the save.

So Lester gave up four runs on four hits, two of them home runs, while walking two and striking out six.  He threw 101 pitches and didn’t get the win.  He was solid early and not late; mostly it was just a labor.  Albers got a hold, Padilla got a very well-deserved blown save, Miller got the win which is ironic because he pitched the least of all our staff who made appearances last night, and then, as I said, Aceves got the save.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Ciriaco and Gonzalez went three for five.  We posted eleven hits to their six, and the final score was 8-6.  And that’s a wrap.  Isn’t it sweet?

Getty Images

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Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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I’ll talk about the game first and what it means afterwards, because the situation is pretty dire and it would be easy to get ahead of myself in exploring the truly pathetic and unfortunate predicament in which we currently find ourselves.

Lester gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits over four and one-third innings.  He walked two, struck out six, and threw 101 pitches.  He gave up three runs in the first thanks to an RBI double and a force out, he gave up one in the second on a sac fly (this was the unearned run, because the runner was able to advance from second to third on a passed ball by Salty), and he gave up two in the fifth thanks to a triple and a single.

It was one of those games where it was just a chore to pitch.  Lester was really laboring, which explains his high pitch count relative to the number of innings he pitched; he threw twenty-nine pitches in the first, twenty in the second, thirteen in the third, nineteen in the fourth, and twenty in the fifth before he was pulled.  His cut fastball was good, but his sinker, changeup, and curveball were not great by any means, and he was really struggling, getting behind, and throwing a lot of pitches.  Even when he got himself ahead of hitters, there were too many occasions where he couldn’t seal the deal.  So the Yanks had the opportunity to see more of his stuff, plus he was getting tired earlier, plus he was putting men on base.  When a good pitcher has a bad day, that’s generally what it looks like.  We lost, but we’re lucky it wasn’t worse.  Slugfests are usually pretty embarrassing, so it’s better to lose with dignity than to lose without it.

Atchison replaced Lester after the RBI single in the seventh and pitched the rest of the inning plus the sixth without incident.  He made the first out of the seventh pretty quickly before then giving up a double followed by a home run, at which point he was replaced by Melancon, who pitched the rest of the inning plus the eighth.  Aceves pitched the ninth.

Unfortunately, we didn’t really put up too much of a fight.  We scored one run in the first on an error, went down in order in the second, and then scored another run in the third on a double by Papi.  We went down in order in the fourth, in four in the fifth, and in order in the sixth.  We opened the seventh with back-to-back walks on ten pitches, but we went down in order after that.  We scored our last run in the eighth on a double by Aviles.  We put two on in the ninth but didn’t do anything with it.

But that first-inning run deserves elaboration.  Not too much went well yesterday, but I will say that I did thoroughly enjoy Derek Jeter’s day in the field, which absolutely abysmal.  In all the Sox-Yanks games I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve seen a single fielding performance by Jeter as terrible as this one.  It was awesome.  With runners on first and second in the first and one out, Jeter had plenty of time and space to catch what was supposed to be a routine popup by Ross to end the inning.  And he just dropped it.  He dropped it.  It was amazing.  The ball was right there, and he dropped it.  I’ve never seen that before.  It was the most pathetic thing ever.  The crowd went wild, and for good reason.  It was definitely one of the highlights of the season.  And Ciriaco came right on home.  Sweet, sweet, sweet stuff.

And he wasn’t even done.  He completely botched what was supposed to be a routine ground ball as well as completely ruined a throw to first in the third, which accounted for two of the base runners we had in the third inning.

Thus, the final score was 7-3.  Punto went two for four, and Ciriaco had another great game with a three-for-four performance.  Defensive highlights, aside from the Yankees’ blatant examples of lack thereof, included Sweeney’s ridiculously outstsanding catch to end the fifth; the ball was hit to shallow center field, and Sweeney charged and dove front-first to haul it in.  We had half as many hits as they did, and those two doubles were our only extra-base hits.  We went two for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left twelve on base.  Despite the fact that the Yankees had fourteen hits to our seven, they went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left eleven on base, so from that perspective the team were evenly matched, and you can see that the Yankees also had plenty of opportunities of which they did not take advantage.  But they still won, so that observation doesn’t do much.

As for the bigger picture, we just lost three out of four games to the Evil Empire and we enter the All-Star break at .500.  We are tied for fourth (or last, again, depending on how you look at it), and we are nine and a half games out of first.  For his part, Lester enters the break with the lowest ERA he has ever had in any first half of any season in his career as well as the lowest strikeout total he has ever had in any first half of any season since 2008.  However, it is also true that we can expect the returns of Ellsbury and Buchholz to be imminent, and I imagine that Pedroia’s return can’t be too far off, either.  No matter what, no team in the Major Leagues needs a break more than we do.  We need to regroup, refocus, and just figure out how to win as a team and on a consistent basis.  We need to find our groove.  And when we find it, we need to stay in it and ride it to a good place.

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