And the ugly opening disappointment continues. Lester is our only pitcher who’s had a respectable start so far, and even that resulted in a loss. This is a terrible start to the season. Terrible, terrible, terrible. We just got swept by the Tigers.
Unlike Beckett, Buchholz didn’t give up any home runs. In fact, he only gave up two extra-base hits, and both of them were doubles. But he still managed to give as many runs total in less baseball time. He only lasted four innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out two. That means that, yesterday, he was a bad pitcher. He may have been good during Spring Training, and he may, we hope, be better going forward, but yesterday, he was just a bad pitcher. Because a good pitcher doesn’t let his opposition play so much small ball that they score seven runs on eight hits in four innings.
In total, he threw seventy-eight pitches, fifty of which were strikes. It took him thirty-one pitches to get through the first inning alone; that’s worse than some of the inning totals I remember Dice-K putting up, even on his bad days. Not coincidentally, he allowed four runs that inning. He then threw seventeen pitches in the second and gave up one run, twenty-one in the third and gave up no runs, and only nine in the fourth, unquestionably his best inning, even though he gave up two more runs. He threw mostly four-seams, which topped out at ninety-four miles per hour, with some nice cutters, curveballs, and changeups mixed in; he added some two-seams also, but they weren’t great. Nice variation of speeds, and tight release point. Command, control, efficiency, and effectiveness, not so much.
Thankfully, Padilla pitched four absolutely crucial and stellar shutout innings of relief after that, and the offense even came alive. How ‘bout that. By the time we entered the bottom of the ninth, if you can believe it, we were actually the proud owners of a three-run lead!
In the second, Aviles doubled in Papi, who led off the inning with a single, and McDonald, who walked after that. In the third, Papi doubled in Gonzalez, who led off the inning with a single. Then McDonald struck out and Sweeney singled. Aviles singled in Papi, Shoppach got hit, Punto sacrificed Sweeney in, Aviles scored on a balk, and Shoppach scored on a single by Ellsbury.
We didn’t score again until the sixth, which Ellsbury led off with a double. And then Pedroia flew out and moved Ellsbury to third. But it didn’t end up mattering which base Ellsbury was at because Gonzalez went deep. That’s right. Adrian Gonzalez hit his first home run of 2012, and it was a big one, too. It broke the tie of seven and sailed into the back of the seats in right field on the first pitch of the at-bat, a sinker inside that was supposed to be outside and that clocking in at ninety miles per hour. Well, that’s just what happens when you pitch to Gonzalez and miss your location. And you could totally tell that he was itching for the use of his power stroke. It was absolutely fantastic. It was what we’d been waiting to see from him all spring, and it’s what we hope to continue to see from him all season long.
In the top of the ninth, we put what we thought was the icing on the cake; McDonald and Ross hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, and Punto singled in McDonald. So, at the time, the score was 10-7 in our favor, and it looked very much like we were going to finally acquire our first win of the season.
But I don’t think the rest of the bullpen received the win memo; maybe it got lost in the tunnel or the clubhouse or something, but it looked a lot to me like they received some sort of memo before the season started that it’s actually their job to ensure that we lose or something.
Aceves replaced Padilla and allowed two straight singles followed by a resultantly three-run home run by Miguel Cabrera on the first pitch of the at-bat. It was like Aceves couldn’t wait to give it up. Needless to say, it tied the game, and it was crushing.
Then Morales came in and secured three straight outs and pitched a scoreless tenth; honestly, his performance kind of made me question why he didn’t just stay in the game.
In the top of the eleventh, we mounted what I thought was going to be our comeback. Ross walked on seven pitches to start it off, Aviles singled, Salty struck out, and Punto singled in Ross. Ellsbury struck out, and Pedroia singled in Aviles. That plus a quality relief performance in the bottom of the inning, and we would have our first win of 2012.
Again, I really don’t think the bullpen was told that we were trying to win. Padilla and Morales somehow figured it out, but his replacement, Melancon, sure didn’t. After securing a groundout, he allowed two straight singles followed by a sac fly that brought in one and then a home run that brought in two. Game over. We lost, 13-12. We are 0 and 3 on the year.
Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez all went two for six. Punto and Papi both went three for six, and Aviles went three for five. Five of our hits were for extra-bases, four of them doubles and one of them Gonzalez’s homer. We left thirteen on base and went eight for twenty-one with runners in scoring position. Pedroia made a beautiful play in the eighth where he did his classic move of diving to the ground to make a catch and prevent a base hit and then springing up to throw to first for the out.
Aceves and Melancon were both awarded blown saves, with Melancon rightly taking the loss.
I don’t understand this. I really don’t. We had the lead in hand. Even with Buchholz’s terrible performance, we had the lead in hand. We were about to win, and the bullpen, both literally and figuratively, totally dropped the ball. I mean, how on earth does a team score twelve runs and not win? Yet again, so much for Bobby V. stocking the roster with pitchers.