Wow. Every time I think that we couldn’t be off to a start even more opposite than what I originally thought our start would be, it becomes even more opposite. We just got swept by the Texas Rangers. We haven’t been swept in our opening series since 1996, when we were swept by – you guessed it – the Texas Rangers. Great. Just great.
Everything we did, they did better. They outpitched us. They outscored us, 26-11. They outslugged us with eleven home runs to our three. It was the first time we’ve given up that many homers in a three-game opening series; the data supporting that statement only goes back to 1919, so it’s possible that, in the home run department, this was our worst start to a season ever. Specifically in yesterday’s game, they outscored us, 5-1. Everyone always says that the Rangers’ ballpark is a hitter’s ballpark. From our perspective, I didn’t see it. And I don’t even want to discuss the hugeness of Brian Runge’s strike zone.
Buchholz was the latest ace to fail. Four runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six and a third innings. He gave up four home runs. That’s almost half his grand total for all of last season, which was nine. As with Lackey, he was one home run shy of tying a career-high five given up to the Jays on September 29, 2009. And guess what. Kinsler hit one. On a fastball that failed to locate. Oh, yeah, like I didn’t see that one coming.
The only other hit he gave up was a single, so aside from the four homers, which represent four pitching mistakes, his outing actually wasn’t that bad. To begin with, the pitch that David Murphy hit out wasn’t really all that bad of a pitch. His highest inning pitch count was eighteen; his next-highest was sixteen, and below that fifteen. The rest of his innings were reasonable, and he didn’t really find himself in any jams to speak of. He threw eighty-six pitches, fifty-six for strikes and eight for swinging strikes. He threw some curveballs and changeups but mostly about as many sliders as fastballs, and both were thrown well for strikes. But that’s never the issue. You could have a pitcher who throws ninety-nine of a hundred pitches for strikes, but if that hundredth pitch ends up in the stands, it could cost you the ballgame. And there were way too many such pitches this afternoon. Buchholz may have had the best outing of our three so far, but by our usual standards, I hope it’s one of the worst we’ll see from him all year. Location, location, location. Yesterday, comparatively speaking, he had none of it. At one point, he just completely lost track of the strike zone. It wasn’t pretty. Although I quite enjoyed his two pickoffs as well as both of our double plays, which were stunning displays of defensive coordination. Even Pedroia’s attempted tag of Hamilton when he stole second. I couldn’t believe he was safe.
Reyes delivered two outs. Paps pitched the eighth; he gave up a run on two hits but struck out three. So the pitcher we were worried about, again comparatively speaking, did fine, and all the pitchers we weren’t worried about were horrible.
Unfortunately, bad pitching did not overshadow a strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, being that he went 0 for 4 and struck out three times. We notched a grand total of five hits in the game, all of them singles. Papi and Crawford both went two for four, Crawford being credited with our lone RBI. I was so relieved to finally see him get his first hit in a Red Sox uniform. We’d had to drop him to seventh because he was trying too hard. Hopefully now he’ll relax and find his groove.
When he stroked that single and drove in that run, it brought us within two runs. McDonald walked after that to load the bases. There were two outs. Ellsbury was at the plate. And all three of his swings were misses, the last on an eighty-eight mile-per-hour cutter. Nothing about that at-bat was relaxed. And that was as close as we would get to a win.
I was half-wrong about Tek coming in, by the way. Obviously Salty remained in. Tito wanted to start Tek but decided to let Salty finish the series in the hopes of allowing him to settle in offensively; he spoke to Tek about it, and Tek was fine with it. Salty did not, in fact, settle in offensively.
We have a much-needed day off today before we play Cleveland on Tuesday, when Beckett will debut, followed by Dice-K. We have full reason to expect both Beckett and Dice-K to deliver truly solid outings for several reasons: we want to win, we need to win, and it would add to the general theme of irony since our original expectations for them, compared to the other three starters, were kind of low. More importantly, though, we want to win and we need to win. So let’s just win.