What a rout! Where were all these runs on Friday? If we took half our runs from yesterday and moved them to Friday, we still would have won both games.
Lester totally cruised. Yeah, he’s fine. Eight innings, two runs on four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts. Ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes. Those two runs he allowed were the result of two solo shots, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, both with one out in each inning, both to left center field. The first on a fastball, the second on a changeup. So basically what that means is he made two mistakes during his entire outing.
He faced the minimum in five of his eight innings. In the second, he gave up a double; in the seventh, he gave up his first homer and his lone walk; in the eighth, he gave up his second homer. That was it. That was the extent to which he encountered any jams whatsoever. As you can see, at no point was he made to feel truly threatened that a rally might be coming if he made a mistake. (A huge part of why that was true was our run production, which we’ll obviously get to.)
Let’s take a look at his strikeouts. Anytime a pitcher posts a high strikeout total in one of his outings, it’s fun to break them down because it gives you a sense of the dominance he displayed.
Lester struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches, ending in a curveball. He struck out the second batter he faced using a fastball that the batter didn’t even attempt to hit. In the second, again four pitches ending in a curveball. In the third, fastball, fastball, cutter; done. In the fourth, sinker, cutter, fastball; done. In the fifth, one ending in a cutter and the other in a fastball. In the seventh, cutter, curveball, fastball; done. That makes the sixth and eighth the only innings during which he did not record a strikeout, but he averaged one strikeout per inning.
Let’s talk about his pitches. Quite simply, they were nasty. He threw an unhittable cut fastball and a punishing sinker. His only pitches that weren’t stellar were his curveball and changeup, but he didn’t throw many of them overall so his line didn’t reflect that. Twice, during the third and fourth, he finished innings with seven pitches alone. He threw at most eighteen pitches; that was in the seventh. Let me just repeat this because it’s remarkable: he finished eight full innings having thrown less than one hundred pitches. He executed and located literally almost all of them in all counts against all batters in all parts of the zone. And as Lester said himself, Salty did a great job of maintaining a potent and deceptive mix. If the only thing wrong with him last night was that he made two mistakes on some cut fastballs and his curveball and changeup weren’t up to their usual snuff, I’d say he pitched a downright gem.
He got the win, and Wheeler pitched a scoreless ninth in an epically non-save situation, being that we won, 10-2 and all.
It’s hard to believe from looking at that score that the game was actually locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth inning. That means that we spent almost half the game going up and going down pathetically like we did on Friday, and you were thinking there’s no way this could possibly be happening to a lineup like this two nights in a row. Maybe you were thinking that in April, but not now. And you’d be absolutely right.
We put up a four-spot in the fifth just to get loose, because trust me, there was much more to come. Crawford singled to lead off the inning; he stole second and scored on a double by Salty. Reddick singled and moved Salty to third, and he scored on a sac fly by Scutaro. Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a sac fly by Pedroia that scored Reddick. Gonzalez took an intentional walk, and Youk singled in Ellsbury. Papi grounded out to end the inning. That entire inning was a textbook example of what it means to manufacture runs. The team to that point was not producing, which is unusual on a night when Lester pitches because Lester has the most run support of any other pitcher on our whole staff. So you force opportunities and do whatever it takes to get runners across the plate. And that’s what we did.
Our next threat came in the seventh, but we did nothing with it. We made up for it in the eighth. We scored only one run that inning, but it was a remarkable run. With two out and a full count, Reddick walked. He saw five fastballs before a changeup sent him to first base. Scutaro singled, and Reddick actually scored all the way from first. Nobody made an error; it was an earned run. The reason why he was able to score was because Alex Rios decided to stroll over to Scutaro’s ball in right. That’s what it looked like. He just took his own sweet time about getting to that ball. By the time he realized that his lackadaisical attitude had prompted Tim Bogar to send Reddick home, he fired to the infield but the throw was cut off by Gordon Beckham, who bobbled it anyway. That would never happen in Boston. I can’t even believe you’d see that anywhere in the Major Leagues. Well, that’s what they get for not hustling in the field.
At that point, we were up by three but still refused to back down. We put up a five spot in the ninth. Pedroia singled to lead off the inning, and Gonzalez homered on a fastball. The count was 2-1, and the shot was hard and fast to right field. Whenever Gonzalez hits anything, he just makes it look so easy. Then Youk went back-to-back on his ninth pitch in a full count. It was also a fastball, but he shot it high to left. It was massive. Papi flied out for the first out of the inning. Crawford singled and scored on a double by Salty. Reddick popped out. Scutaro then singled; Beckham dove for it, but it bounced off his glove into center field, so Salty scored. Then Ellsbury struck out. The end.
This is how a team should play every day. A team should always manufacture runs and maximize chances because you never know what the rest of the game has in store. In this case, we scored so many runs and our pitcher overwhelmed the lineup to such an extent that it didn’t matter how many defensive plays Brent Morel had up his sleeve. It was awesome.
In other news, as expected, Theo did not try to fix what isn’t broken just because of the trade deadline. We traded Navarro for Mike Aviles of the Royals; he’ll be an experienced bench player. Theo was also going to trade Lars Anderson for Rich Harden of the A’s, who would obviously add depth to a rotation with sometimes questionable health and ability. It would be tough to part with Anderson, but since acquiring Gonzalez and signing him to a long contract that he seems amply able to earn, it didn’t seem like we had much room for him anytime soon. But the deal ended up falling through, apparently because we were unsatisfied with Harden’s medical records and were not certain he could be depended on to get through the rest of the season healthy. And if that’s true, that makes a lot of sense, considering the reason why we’d want to add a starter to our roster is because the health of our rotation is sometimes in question. All around, I’d congratulate Theo on a trade deadline well, or rather not, spent.