We barely squeaked by in this one. Still, we completed the sweep, and we, the team, and our record can all certainly feel mighty good about that. Also, pretty much the entire bullpen was rolled out to secure the victory; we’ll get to their performance later.
Buchholz didn’t pitch that well, even though he got the W. He allowed five runs on ten hits in five and one-third innings while walking three and striking out two. He threw four pitches; most of them were four-seams, but he threw a substantial number of curveballs and cutters. He threw only a handful of changeups; he himself admitted to lacking confidence in that particular pitch. In total, it came to 107 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes. It was obviously not his best work in the least. But thanks to the offense and the bullpen, it was enough.
Ironically, he faced the minimum in the fifth, the inning right before most of his problems started. See, he had allowed only one run previously; the other four were inherited runners that Atchison, Thomas, and Albers allowed to score. You read right. There were four pitches in that inning alone. What is it with the starters and their bad innings lately?
The inning began with a strikeout that was followed by two consecutive singles, an RBI double, and a walk. Then Atchison came on and allowed a two-RBI single. Then Thomas came on and allowed an RBI double and hit a batter. Then Albers came on and allowed an RBI single. And then, and only then, did he manage to induce a double play to end it. Padilla then pitched the seventh, Morales pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth. Albers, Padilla, and Morales received holds, with Aceves obviously receiving the save.
So here’s the problem, and it’s a problem I’ve often spoken of in the past. You can’t afford to take the attitude that, since this one time they only allowed the maximum number of runs that they could possibly allow and still keep a lead intact, the bullpen was successful. The bullpen was not successful. Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is not success. Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is failure. We were fortunate that we scored one more run than they did in the end, but what if we didn’t? It’s not like the bullpen made a conscious decision to not allow one more run. If the offense hadn’t scored seven runs, we may have lost. It doesn’t matter if runs scored by inherited runners are charged to the starter; when a reliever inherits a bases-loaded situation, damage should not be expected, and we should not have to be surprised if the reliever is indeed lights-out. I’m just saying.
Anyway, the offense didn’t waste much time getting on the board. Papi opened the second with a walk, and then Youk singled, Salty struck out, Ross hit an RBI single, Byrd lined out, and Aviles smacked a three-run shot to left on a slider, the second pitch of the at-bat. With that one swing, we had a four-run lead. He crushed that ball. He is absolutely on fire.
The very next inning, Salty hit a two-RBI single. Pedroia led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a single by Gonzalez. We went down in order in the last four innings of the game. Fortunately, we’d already scored all the runs we’d need.
The final score was 7-6, and we posted ten hits. Only three of those were for extra bases, and two of them, a double and a triple, were hit by Pedroia, who went three for four and was one homer shy of the cycle. That was our only multi-hit performance. So we were fortunate that, last night, it was enough. Although the absolute last thing that we needed was Ross leaving in the sixth due to soreness in his left knee. He better not be out for long.
In other news, the season, the playoffs, and the aspirations of the Bruins were officially ended by a positively heart-wrenching Game Seven. We lost, 2-1, in sudden death overtime at 2:57. Tyler Seguin scored our only goal, and Tim Thomas made twenty-six saves. For the first time in the history of the playoffs of the National Hockey League, an entire seven-game series was ecided by one goal. The three Game Sevens that we played in order to win the Stanley Cup last year was a record; since I was hoping for a repeat, I was hoping that this Game Seven would prove to be just as joyous as the others. Clearly I was sorely and sadly mistaken. Well, it’s been both frustrating and fun. It’s a painful, painful way to go out, but as we’re used to saying in Boston, there’s always next year.