Wow! We won again! Against a different team! It’s good to be psyched about winning and playing well, but at the same time I guess it’s also kind of sad. Being as excited as I am about winning suggests that I haven’t really been exposed to it that often. Which, accounting for last season, is true. So that’s the sad part. Here’s to winning becoming so common this year that it’s no big deal and gets pretty boring.
Doubront made his 2013 debut in Toronto. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on nine hits while walking none and striking out six. He threw a grand total of ninety pitches. So somehow he managed to work around all those hits he allowed and keep the damage at a minimum. That’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that five of the nine hits he gave up were for extra bases: four doubles and one solo shot to lead off the fifth.
His four-seam and changeup were immensely successful. His changeup was especially potent, thrown for a strike three-quarters of the time. His two-seam was excellent, his curveball was decent, and he only threw maybe a handful of cutters, if that, but his cutter was on as well. He threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and at least thirteen in the fourth. He threw eight in the sixth before he was lifted; it took him those eight pitches to allow a double to lead off the inning before Uehara came in.
Uehara finished the sixth without incident. Tazawa pitched the seventh and gave up a solo shot of his own. Bailey and Hanrahan delivered two scoreless innings to end the game. So Doubront delivered a quality start but was awarded no decision, Tazawa received both a blown save and a win, and Hanrahan picked up the save.
The game was close. The performances of our pitchers, were decent but not exactly impressive, so the game was allowed to go back and forth, and for a while it looked like it could end either way. Actually, heading into the eighth, we were tied at four, so it really could have ended either way.
Two consecutive singles and a hit batsman in the second loaded the bases with one out, but we only squeezed one run out of that golden opportunity thanks to a single by Ellsbury; Nava grounded into a double play after that. We went down in order in the third and broke what at the time was a one-one tie in the fourth, when two consecutive Toronto errors but two men on base. Ciriaco came in to pinch-hit for Iglesias and singled in our second run of the game.
Pedroia led off the fifth with a single, setting the stage for Napoli. The first pitch of the at-bat was a slider in the dirt. Napoli then swung through a four-seam for a strike before practically lighting a ninety-three mile-per-hour two-seam on fire. The ball ended up decisively beyond the right field fence for a home run, his and the team’s first of the regular season! He swung through that beautifully, like he’d been used to hitting home runs on a daily basis. It was a beautiful and, needless to say, hopeful sight to see. We hope it’s the first of many, of course.
We had men on base during the two following innings but didn’t score. Finally, in the eighth, we scored the winning run that would put us on top for good. Ellsbury struck out, the Jays made a pitching change, and Gomes walked on five pitches. It was an eerie at-bat. All five pitches were almost the exact same speed, and all five were fastballs. Gomes took the first one for a strike, and the last four were all balls. And then Pedroia doubled and Napoli grounded out, which brought Gomes to the plate. So the great thing about Napoli was that he basically did it all. He brought the power, and he humbly plated a crucial run while getting out in the process.
I guess Middlebrooks got bored because he decided to hit a solo shot to lead off the ninth. That was our insurance run and the reason why the final score ended up being 6-4. He took a curveball for a ball before promptly depositing a big, fat fastball in left. And we all know that Middlebrooks has his fair share of power as well. There is something so neat about watching a small, scrawny guy take the skin off the ball, but there’s also something really gratifying about watching somebody huge pull out all the stops with his swing. It’s like knowing that that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
Unfortunately, there was a downside. I am very, very disappointed that we went two for nineteen with runners in scoring position. Winning should not disguise that fact. It is something that should be addressed so that it doesn’t happen again, because we can’t always count on opposing pitchers to make key mistakes that we exploit. And there will be times when we can’t even count on ourselves to exploit those mistakes. We haven’t even played five games yet this year, so I’m not going to start worrying now. But I’m just saying that I would rather not see it happen again.