Bedard really could be the reason why Lackey is pitching so well lately. Lackey lives to compete, and the sudden insertion of a direct competitor is probably what he lives for. That’s not an excuse for his previously poor performance; he shouldn’t need that to pitch well because pitching for his team should be enough to get him going. But at this point it’s important that Lackey find his footing regardless of the reason why.
Bedard hurled another quality start. Inefficient but quality. Two runs on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings. Ninety pitches, fifty-one for strikes. The key to his success, by his own admission and by common sense, will be to get ahead of hitters and keep the counts down, clearly not something he was doing when he issued almost one walk per inning. But he kept the team in it for more than half the game. It’s just frustrating that now the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day.
The heartening thing about that is that, for this start at least, it’s somewhat misleading. He got his one bad inning over with in the first and was dominant from there. But that one bad inning was one epically bad inning. He allowed all of his runs as well as all of his walks and threw thirty-six pitches in the first inning alone. Only sixteen of those were strikes. We’ve seen Dice-K throw a ton of pitches in an inning before; thirty-six is an astronomical number of pitches to throw in a single frame. It was terrible. No command, no control, no location, no precision. So, really, it was the first inning that by all accounts gave anyone anything negative to say about the entire outing. And you could even make an argument that home plate umpire Tim McClelland, who’s widely recognized as one of the best umpires around, was partially responsible because, for whatever reason, he just had a bad day back there. He made some severely questionable calls. So by all accounts that was one glaringly negative first inning. There are two bright sides to it: it’s a wonder he escaped from that inning with only two runs allowed and not more, and he was fully able to bounce back completely.
The highlights of his repertoire were his four-seam and changeup, which would explain his inefficiency; he threw mostly curveballs and two-seams, which were not the highlights of his repertoire, to say the least.
After that first inning, he shut the Twins down. Did he get the win? No. Why? The middle relief.
The bases were loaded with two out in the first for Lowrie, who did nothing with that opportunity. We didn’t have another serious opportunity to get on the board until the sixth, so McDonald created his own in the fifth. Tek walked to lead off the inning, and McDonald went yard on a hanging slider to the second deck in left. It was an enormously powerful shot. Fancisco Liriano wants that one back. Hey, don’t call it Target Field unless you want us to treat it like one.
Lowrie and Crawford worked back-to-back walks in the sixth; Lowrie scored on a single by Tek, but Crawford was gunned down at third.
As you can see, we had a one-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth, which meant that it was Bedard’s game to win. He received a no-decision because Albers gave up a game-tying RBI double. Tek took the blame for it; he insisted he made a bad call. Either way, Bedard did not earn the W.
But for the second straight night, a reliever received a blown save and the win. We loaded the bases for Papi in the seventh; he singled one in, and that was enough. A hold for Morales, a hold for Bard, a save for Paps, and a 4-3, grind-it-out win for the team. Two hits each for Gonzalez and McDonald, plus the usual leather-flashing by Youk and Pedroia.
Honestly, if you saw Papi step up to the plate with the bases loaded, are you really thinking single? I don’t know about you, but my mind was on the possibility of a grand slam. I would have been thankful for anything, but you know, something for extra bases. Instead, there was absolutely no power whatsoever. It wasn’t even a rocket of a single into the outfield. It was just a dribbler that Phil Dumatrait couldn’t get his hands on – literally, because he slipped and fell when he tried to field it – but even if he could, Pedroia still would have scored. A win is a win, and it takes all kinds of wins. When your team becomes an expert in the art of science and winning, you know you’re going somewhere.