Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Bates’

When Josh Beckett toes the rubber, you pay attention.  When he pitches, he commands.  He dominates.  Every fifth day is a legitimate possibility of a no-hitter.  It’s just him, the ball, and the enemy in the batter’s box.  And his will to win.  Which usually prevails.  Deep down, the batter knows he has no chance.  Beckett ruins everything for him.  Beckett is 6-0 after a Sox loss.  He now has two shutouts on the year.  Last night he won the 100th game of his career.  A complete-game shutout of the Kansas City Royals.  Three hits.  No walks.  Seven strikeouts. Ninety-four pitches.  Take those three hits away and he’s got himself a perfect game.

Josh Beckett, Number 19: taking care of business since 2001.

This is the gentleman who prevented the New York Yankees from winning the World Series in 2003.  This is the gentleman who represented a sure-fire win in the postseason in 2007.  This is the gentleman who should’ve won the Cy Young that year as Major League Baseball’s only winner of twenty games.  And this is the gentleman who will pitch us deep into October.

Josh Beckett, ladies and gentlemen.

Obviously, he’ll take the win, improving to eleven and three, but the win had to come from somewhere.  The final score was 6-0, and four starters had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for four (he’s now had seven multi-hit games in his last nine games played, including three three-hitters), Youk went two for five, Baldelli went two for five, and Aaron Bates went three for five with a nifty grab at first in the top of the fifth.  RBIs courtesy of Youk, Papi, Tek, Baldelli, and Bates.  Ellsbury made his fortieth theft of the season, which is only half over.  Bay recorded five plate appearances without an official at-bat but reached base five times.  He walked three times in his first three appearances.  Each walk was four pitches.  In the fifth, he was hit by the first pitch of his at-bat.  In the eighth, he was hit by a pitch on a 2-0 count.  Basically he failed to see a strike all night.

Dustin Pedroia won’t be going to St. Louis.  He won’t be playing in the All-Star Game.  His wife, Kelli, was hospitalized on Monday after going into labor early so after talking about it with Tito he decided to stay home and be with her.  Family first for the kid.  Ultimately, good call.

So we have that win that we wanted, and we cruise into the All-Star break in a good place.  We’ve won our last three games.  Our lead over New York, who just got swept by the Angels, is now three games.  Our All-Star contingent is ready to roll out, and the team as a whole will get a good four-day rest which, if you ask me, we desperately need.  Just ask the bullpen.  After that, we visit Toronto (Clay Buchholz will be starting the first game on Friday) and Texas, then come back for another homestand.  We play Oakland at the end of the month, so Nomar will probably be back here.  Either way the schedule’s pretty good.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That was the start we’d all been waiting for.  It wasn’t as long as we’d hoped, but we’ll take it.  John Smoltz pitched beautifully.  Granted, that’s not hard to do against the Royals, but it’s a start.  After seeing some of his other starts up to this point, it’s most definitely a start.  Five innings, a run on four hits, a walk, seven strikeouts.  He cruised.  He was all over it.  Obviously he was a little inefficient if he threw ninety-seven pitches in only five innings, but a win is a win is a win, and we’ll start with the first win and go from there.

The final score was 15-9, and the other eight runs had nothing to do with John Smoltz.  He was gone by the time any of that took place.  Masterson  allowed the first five.  I don’t know what’s happened to the kid.  Maybe this switching back and forth between starter and reliever is taking its toll.  Maybe he’s too young for his current workload.  Maybe he just needs a day off.  I don’t know.  But somebody needs to do some evaluating before we find out halfway into the second half that there’s actually something wrong with him and he needs a stint on the DL.  Delcarmen wasn’t bad.  Okajima allowed another run and pitched to three batters while at last recording the final out of the sixth inning.  Bard allowed two runs, neither of which were earned; Aaron Bates had a missed catch.  Welcome to the big leagues.  Saito had a good ninth.  Finally it was over, with the win  still intact by a margin of six.  That’s six more than what it should’ve been, if you ask me, given who we were playing and who was on the mound, namely the best bullpen in the game versus not Zack Greinke.

But we get to be happy about the offense.  We definitely get to be happy about the offense.  Our hitting disappeared on the homestand, which was very unusual because Fenway is where we like to bat around.  Before our wins on Friday and yesterday, we were batting just .213.  That’s a collective .013 points above the Mendoza Line.  That’s awful.  But not so after Friday, and most definitely not so after last night.  We’ll just go down the line, because with fifteen runs we have a whole lot to cover.  Including four long balls.  We scored in every inning except the fifth and sixth, and in every inning in which we scored except the third, we scored multiple runs.  Oh, yeah.  We took care of business.

Drew hit an RBI double, scored a run, and walked.  Pedroia hit a double and a triple, batting one in in the process, and scoring once.  Youk had an absolutely monster night, going three for four with a walk, four RBIs, and four runs.  Youk accounted for two of the four long balls.  Two home runs on the night, numbers fifteen and sixteen on the year.  I’m telling you, when Youk gets hot, he gets hot.  Second inning, middle-middle fastball, and it landed in a parking lot on Lansdowne Street.  Cleared the wall completely to score himself and Pedroia.  Perfect.  Then the eighth inning and a solo blast hit very deeply into the far right of the Green Monster.  Incredible.  It was just incredible.  Ortiz got in on the action as well with a two-run shot of his own into the seats behind our bullpen.  A three and one fastball is not something you want to throw to Big Papi now that he’s found his stroke.  He would also score again and walk twice.  Bay doubled and scored but struck out three times.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the days when that does not happen.  The good news is that he’s in the process of getting out of his slump.  He’s had a few good days here, a few good days there, so he’s in that sort of gray area between hot and not.  He’ll get there.  He did steal second last night.  Ellsbury hit, walked, scored, stole, and batted one in.  Tek walked, scored three times, and accounted for the fourth long ball, which whipped around the Pesky Pole.  He’s already got thirteen on the year.  That ties his season total from last year.  Wow.  And to finish, Kotsay walked twice, Bates collected his first Major League RBI, and Green batted in two.

Every member of the lineup reached base at least once.  Not the starting lineup.  The lineup, period.  Everyone reached base.  All but two members of the lineup batted in at least one run.  All but one member of the lineup scored at least one run.  That’s a lot of runs.  Seriously.  A whole lot of runs.  But we needed that, just like we need this break.

And we extend our lead over the Yanks to two games in the process.  We’re playing .609 ball, which is still good for the best record in the American League, but we have a long way to go to catch the Dodgers for best record in the Majors.  Bruce Chen at Beckett, and all we have to do is win this one and cruise into the All-Star break on a high note.  Speaking of which, Youk has declined an invitation to the home run derby to spend more time with his son.  Bay already stated back in May that he wouldn’t be participating after he didn’t hit any in the 2005 derby.  But you know what, everyone has his reasons.  And Youk’s reason is definitely a good one.

We Did It…

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If you look up the phrase “pitcher’s duel” in the dictionary, last night’s box score is next to the definition.  That was a duel if I’ve ever seen one.  The score was 0-0 through seven and a half innings.  Lester pitched beautifully.  He was eating the Royals for breakfast.  Batter up, batter down.  Everything was on.  Through eight, he allowed four hits but not one run.  Only two walks.  Eight strikeouts.  Seven were swinging.  One was looking.  Either way the Royals had nothing on him.  He threw 115 pitches and used his full mix: straight four-seam, changeup, cut fastball, slider, curveball.  You name it, he threw it.  For a strike.  This was not the Jon Lester who’s been struggling this year.  This was the Jon Lester who no-hit these folks a little over a year ago.  Easily his best outing of the year.  Easily.

We’ll go in order.  First was Jacoby Ellsbury’s ejection after being called out at home to end the fifth inning.  He swiped second base earlier and tried to score from third while Mark Kotsay was caught in a rundown.  Billy Butler threw home and home plate umpire and crew chief Derryl Cousins called him out.  Furious, he threw his helmet to the ground and was ejected for that.  Derryl Cousins then ejected him.  First of all, he was safe.  He was absolutely safe.  His left foot reached the bag before Miguel Olivo applied the tag.  He was perfectly safe.  Derryl Cousins was so wrong.  Tito came out to defend Ellsbury, of course, and had a very heated exchange with the erroneous umpire, and thankfully Tito was not ejected.  But yeah, Derryl Cousins was wrong.  That was Ellsbury’s first ejection, and if you ask me I agree with Francona; it should’ve been an equipment violation and one-hundred-dollar fine, not an ejection.

But we can’t even technically complain about that, because Ellsbury’s ejection brought Rocco Baldelli into the game.  It’s no secret that Rocco Baldelli has a better arm.  In the top of the seventh with nobody out, Mark Teahen stood at first, Jose Guillen stood at second, and Miguel Olivo stood at the plate.  Olivo launched a fly ball right at Rocco Baldelli, who hauled it in for the first out and then threw it for all he was worth to Dustin Pedroia, gunning down Teahen who was trying to make second.  A very unconventional double play, but a double play nonetheless, and perhaps one Ellsbury couldn’t have made.  Some fantastic baseball right there.

Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah, reigning American League Most Valuable Player, won it for us.  Rule number one of life: never, ever, under any circumstances, try to sneak a fastball by Dustin Pedroia.  Because it will end up bouncing off the wall and plating the game-winning run, which was scored by Bates.  That’s suicide.  That’s, “Actually, I’ll save you the trouble; I’ll just take the baseball and throw it at the Monster myself.”  Incredible.

Then came the ninth inning, and with the extremely close score of 1-0 on the line, Tito brought in Papelbon.  I know he’s been struggling a bit of late, but honestly who else would you go with.  Ramirez? Okajima? Masterson? You can’t not go with Papelbon.  Sometimes when a closer pitches with a big lead, their control and concentration wear down because it’s not the same high-pressure, adrenaline-rush situation.  But still, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we were holding onto our hats.  But Paps did not disappoint.  That also was easily, hands-down, his best outing of the year.  He threw eleven pitches: ten four-seams and a slider.  He went as high as 97 miles per hour and as low as 85.  And he got that job done.  Lock it up, throw it in the win column.  The final score stayed at 1-0, Lester got the win and improved to eight and six, Paps got his twenty-third save, and it was like watching the closer this  time last year or two years ago.  The man was on fire.

Bill Cosby visited the booth in the fourth, which was very entertaining as always and a pleasant surprise.  Lowell is right on schedule with his rehab and will be returning to the lineup soon.  And finally, with this win we are now back to being the sole possessors of a first-place lead.  It’s ony one game, but it’s better than a tie.  And we’ll build on it.  See that? I told you it was temporary.  We all knew it.  And soon we’ll be cruising into the much-needed All-Star break and come out nice and refreshed and ready to go in the second half.  Gil Meche at Smoltz tonight; maybe this’ll be that highly-touted start we’ve been waiting for since the signing.

AP Photo

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When Beckett is on, you know it, and he stays on throughout the game.  When Beckett is off, you can usually pick up on the first pitch that something’s not quite right.  Last night he was on.  He was good, solid, not quite as efficient as usual, maybe.  6.2 innings, two runs on six hits, a ball, four strikeouts.  He threw 107 pitches, which usually would carry him into the seventh, and he struck out only four men, but he went deep and held the A’s and I’m happy.  Gave up a home run to Scott Hairston.  But nobody’s complaining.  He notched his tenth win, and just in time for the All-Star break.  Which we desperately need.  Nothing like a second-half second wind, when it’s all playoffs and trade deadline and cooling off with fall ball.

Okajima and Masterson got holds and Paps got a save.  Getting a good start on his road to five hundred.  Which I have full confidence he’ll achieve.  Mariano Rivera can close against anyone but us.  Pap can close against anyone, period, and he pitches for us.  He’ll make five hundred saves.  The only thing that might interfere with that is the potency of the lineup; if we have a season where the offense is constantly prolific and we frequently score a lot of runs, Paps’ll be out of luck.

The final score was 5-2.  Drew hit and scored.  Pedroia hit, walked, and batted one in.  He was out of the lineup on Monday because his wife’s pregnant and he went to be with her.  Youk failed to reach base entirely and made a fielding error.  Youk? Fielding error? Straight out of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” To this day, I can’t forget that one error that broke his errorless streak, and since then he hasn’t been able to start another that’s comparable.  To be fair, though, that streak was staged at first base.  He’s usually playing third these days.  So you have to credit his versatility and cut him a little slack.  After quietly slumping for quite a bit, Bay finally had a great night.  Two for three with a walk, two runs, an RBI, and two thefts.  He smacked that ball into the Green Monster to lead off the second.  Your All-Star vote leader, ladies and gentlemen.  Ortiz hit, scored, and walked.  Tek went two for four with two RBIs, continuing his surprisingly strong season.  We knew he was going to improve because we’d heard about all the adjustments he made during Spring Training, but I don’t know if any of us thought he’d be this good.  Ellsbury was perfect at the plate with a run and a theft of third.  Bates started first again and walked this time.  And that’s the entire spread.

Nomar was not in the lineup last night.  This doesn’t surprise me.  It’s just amazing what happened to his career after he left Boston.

Trevor Cahill at Wakefield, who can sit back, relax, and just have some fun tonight, now that the pressure to become an All-Star is off.  And when that announcement was made in Fenway, that was something.  But as Don Orsillo says, Red Sox Nation does it right.  Always have, always do, and always will.  That’s just our way.  The greatest team deserves the greatest fans, and we do what we can.  Cahill is a righty, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Tito decides to sit Bates in favor of Kotsay.  Our first-place lead is still only one game, and I’d really like to see that increase before the All-Star break.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I guess we’ll start with the badness first.  We were two-hit in a complete game shutout by Brett Anderson.  Who knew.  Our struggles against Oakland apparently followed us home.  It was just painful to watch.  And John Smoltz did not help in the least.  His record is now 0 and 2.  He pitched six, giving up five runs on ten hits with a walk and three K’s.  Very lack-luster, but he remains optimistic as usual, only last time it was easier to believe because you had to account for first-start nerves and whatnot.  I guess he was battling nerves last night too while making his Fenway debut, but I think it’s safe to say at least at this point that he’s not living up to his name.  Bard and Ramirez were solid, and Saito gave up what appears to be his usual run in the ninth.  When all was said and done, we were looking at a final score of 6-0.

No run spread, because we didn’t score any.  Bay hit and stole second.  Green hit.  Tek and Baldelli walked.  Lugo made a throwing error; surprise, surprise.  In his big-league debut, Aaron Bates struck out twice.  It just wasn’t a great day.  Bay did have an absolutely spectacular leaping catch at the wall in the eighth, and in the ninth Tek caught Mark Ellis stealing.

With the exception of Nomar’s return.  Red Sox Nation stood as one in a massive standing ovation.  A massive standign ovation.  I’m telling you, that was a blast from the past.  It was strange to see him do his batting ritual in an A’s uniform but good to welcome him back.  You started having all these memories of him lighting up pitchers, his work ethic, his solid defense, the security he brought to the shortstop position which contrasted sharply with the shortstops we had basically until Jed Lowrie came along.  We went from Renteria to Gonzalez to Lugo, whom we signed to a long-term contract hoping he’d be the answer.  Of course that never panned out.  But it wasn’t just that.  Nomar was an icon.  He was a unanimous Rookie of the Year and a perennial All-Star.  He was the closest this generation came to seeing a modern legend.  He was really that good.  He played 966 games for us, batting .323 with 1,281 hits, 690 RBIs, and 178 home runs.

Of course hindsight is twenty-twenty and it’s easy to forget the ugliness about his leaving.  And believe me, there was ugliness.  We can have selective memories if we want to, but at the end of the day we have  to recall why he’s no longer wearing Boston letters.  He says he wants to finish his career in Boston.  He says that when he put on that uniform about fifteen years ago, he wanted to start and end his career in it.  And we all know his career took a sour turn since he left.  He’s played for three different teams, just now coming back to the American League.  In 2006, he won the Comeback Player of the Year award with the Dogers, batting .303 with twenty home runs and ninety-three RBIs.  Aside from that, he’s batted .279 with eight home runs and thirty-nine RBIs while averaging only seventy-nine games a year.  he’s thirty-five years old and was just diagnosed with a chronic calf injury.  And lately he spends more and more time on the DL.  So between that and the terms on which he left, it’s unclear whether it would be good for him or the team if he came back.  After all, one of the reasons why he left was because he was no longer good for the team.  It’s a little bit like the Manny Ramirez trade: you remember the good times, but you’re glad he’s gone.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about what could’ve been had it been possible for him to stay.  He was no Ted Williams, because nobody will ever be Ted Williams except Ted Williams, but he reminded you of that type of player.  A modern legend.  Almost.  He did go two for four with an RBI, but so did everybody in the A’s lineup last night.  He was out at first after his first at-bat.  He’s a first baseman now, but last night he DHed.  Doesn’t always play in the field these days.  In fact, doesn’t always play, period.

Anyway, moving forward.  Josh Beckett will take on Dana Eveland tonight.  Dana Eveland is one and two with a 7.40 ERA.  Josh Beckett is…Josh Beckett.  Luckily, we were able to keep our one-game lead over the Yanks intact, but we need to increase it.  The final games before the All-Star break is a perfect time to do it.  Gain ground at the Yankees’ expense and solidify our supremacy in the American League.  And maybe take down the Dodgers in our spare time.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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