Rare these days is the joy, wonder, set of unique challenges, and exhaustion that is the doubleheader. It’s awesome. It basically erases all the rest the team got during our off day on Monday, but it’s awesome.
We won the opener. James Shields may have pitched a complete game, but Lester pitched the better game. The final score was 3-1; the differences in those pitchers’ lines were those two runs and two more strikeouts for Lester. But it was enough. Lester gave up one run on three hits while walking one and striking out eight. He threw 113 pitches (one less than Shields, which made him less efficient), sixty-five of which were strikes (fifteen less than Shields). Nasty cut fastball, devastating changeup, excellent sinker, and decent curveball. So the point is that, from the perspective of the lines, the two pitchers were evenly matched; it was the lineups that were not. What the line doesn’t tell you is that Lester threw seventy-nine pitches through his first four innings, which was crucial due to the fact that the team had to work overtime yesterday. He made up for it in the fifth: in and out with only six pitches.
Lester allowed a double on his fifth pitch of the game; the runner scored on a groundout. We, on the other hand, did a little bit more at the plate.
I emphasize “a little bit more.” We basically won that game on one swing of the bat. Reddick and Aviles both singled in the third, and Ellsbury put up our half of the final score with a home run on a changeup in a 1-1 count. The ball ended up somewhere behind the bullpen. Shields had been throwing a lot of changeups, so it was only a matter of time before someone figured it out and made him pay. This one was down and over the middle.
And that was pretty much it. Neither team put together an opportunity to speak of after that. Bard. Paps, who can thank Pedroia for a spectacular leaping catch on outfield grass for the third out. Done. The Rays may have had five opportunities with runners in scoring position to our one, but all that matters is that we capitalized on that one, and they didn’t capitalize on any.
Despite a gem of a highlight, we lost the nightcap. Bedard pitched well; he’s improving on all fronts with each start, which is obviously excellent. He gave up three runs, only one of which was earned. You can thank Lowrie for that. Lowrie was in for Youk last night.
Bedard gave up seven hits while walking none and striking out six. He gave up a solo shot in the fifth; it was a fastball, the first pitch of the at-bat with two outs in the inning. He threw 102 pitches, seventy-two of which were strikes. He was working with some fantastic stuff; his fastballs, changeup, curveball, and cutter (of which he threw less than a handful, and that’s being generous) were all really great. He threw thirty-six pitches in the second, when he allowed his two unearned runs, but like Lester, he made up for it with an incredibly skimpy inning: only seven pitches in the fourth.
Tek led off the third with a Pesky-style dinger on a fastball. Ellsbury did almost the exact same thing in the sixth: same pitch (two-seam), same count (1-0), and same spot (leading off the inning), but into the bullpen.
The bad part was that that was all we did offensively, which was terrible because the bullpen imploded in the eighth. Albers allowed a single, a force out, another single, and an RBI single. Then Morales came in. Then Ben Zobrist stole third, and then he stole home. Meanwhile, BJ Upton stole second base, and another single brought him home. It was horribly ugly. Then Wheeler pitched a scoreless inning and we lost, 6-2.
However, as I said, there was one silver lining to the nightcap: we made our first triple play since July 8, 1994 (unassisted by John Valentin against the Mariners, in case you were wondering) and our eleventh since 1954! Man, it was awesome. It was the top of the fourth. There were no outs with runners on first and second. Sean Rodriguez stood at the plate with a 1-0 count. Bedard dealt a curveball. Rodriguez hit the ball practically into Lowrie’s glove. He touched third on one step and fired to Pedroia for the out at second, who fired to Gonzalez for the out at first. Five-four-three. Acumen, precision, speed. Inning over. I guess Lowrie just really, really, really wanted to make up for that error. It was epic.
So we went one and one on the day. We turned a triple play. We lost, which obviously isn’t good. But come on. A triple play! Epic.