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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Jones’

When Wakefield starts, it’s so predictably unpredictable.  It’s the same story where you know you’ll either get the good Wakefield or the bad Wakefield; there generally isn’t anything in between.  And if you get the good Wakefield, the offense would have to majorly mess up to not with the game.  But if you get the bad Wakefield, it’s one big uphill battle to snare the win.

Last night we didn’t really get the bad Wakefield, but you’d never know that from a glance at his line.  The knuckleball works in mysterious ways, and when it’s not on, there’s not much you can do to right the ship, especially since the only time you ever really see a knuckleball is when you have a pitcher with no other pitches except the knuckleball (and those that it facilitates, like the occasional fastball you can barely sneak in).  But Wakefield’s knuckleball wasn’t bad last night.  In fact, he threw it for a strike about sixty percent of the time.  True, he was inefficient and let himself get too deep into counts and gave up a lot of hits, but to say that Wakefield had an off night would not technically be true.

In four and two-thirds innings, Wake walked two and struck out three.  He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes.  Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  He allowed seven runs on nine hits, but only three of those seven runs were earned.

Two singles followed by a triple accounted for two runs in the first, two home runs accounted for three in the fifth, and a double accounted for two more in the fifth.  Wake was lifted after that, and Wheeler came in.

The four unearned runs, it turns out, were all Salty’s fault because he passed a ball.  Actually he passed two balls last night, but all four of the runs were attributed to his first one, where Felix Pie struck out but reached.  Salty is a catcher.  He’s not supposed to pass balls ever.  four runs is more than some times score in an entire game.  Actually, that’s more than we’ve scored in an entire game during some of our rough stretches.  And because of that, the offense had more than its fair share of work to do to come back.

At first, things didn’t look good.  Our first six hitters were sent down until Salty actually homered to lead off the third; I guess in some way he knew he would do something bad and wanted to start redeeming himself early.  It was a sinking fastball he read like an open book, and the ball ended up in the bullpen.  Actually, Adam Jones almost fell into the bullpen when he tried to chase it down.   It should have been back-to-back jacks with Drew, but thanks to Jones’s catch, alas.  I guess he was determined to make one of those plays last night.

It was all good though because our next four hitters made constructive contact.  Scutaro and Ellsbury both singled, and then two more singles by Pedroia, who extended his hitting streak to sixteen games and has now reached base safely in his last twenty-eight games, and Gonzalez brought in two more runs.

Two singles began the fourth.  The first of those was hit by none other than Carl Crawford, who made his long-anticipated return to the lineup.  Not bad; start small, then build up.  But he’s got a long way to go in order to make up for lost time and subpar performance.  Scutaro eventually reached on a fielding error – Derrek Lee let a ball that would have been a sure-fire double play roll right between his legs, so I guess between his error and Salty’s error, everyone got their just desserts – which allowed Crawford to score.  Then Ellsbury brought in another with a sac fly.  (Incidentally, Ellsbury was serving as the DH because Papi began serving his suspension, which was reduced to three games from four.)

Reddick hit a solo shot in the fifth off the right field foul pole.  It was a breaking ball down and in, which is right where Reddick likes it.  Of the seven home runs he’s hit in his career, five have been hit against the Orioles.  We should call him up for Baltimore games more often.

With two on in the seventh, Youk singled in another run to tie the game.  And so we just manufactured some runs, made good swings, and took production where we could get it.  But none of it really looked like enough until the eighth, when we blew the game wide, wide open.

Salty grounded out to start things off; innocent enough.  But then Michael Gonzalez lost all control.  He walked McDonald, who’d come in for Drew.  Scutaro singled.  He walked Ellsbury.  And he was replaced by Mark Worrell, who after not seeing Major League action for three years was greeted by Pedroia with a two-run double that hit the right field fence and broke what had become a tie at seven apiece.  Gonzalez was, of course, intentionally walked after that.  And Youk brought in two more runs with a single.  Then the Orioles made another pitching change.  Reddick walked, and Crawford singled in Gonzalez.  Salty struck out for the second out of the inning before McDonald, batting for the second time in that frame, cleared the bases completely with a double.

Eight runs in the eighth inning and three straight swinging strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth by Morales say we won, 15-10.  Wheeler picked up the win.  I would have preferred 15-0 or something similarly lopsided, but I’ll take the win any day.  Randy Williams got some work in.  Scutaro, Salty, Youk, Pedroia, and even Crawford went two for five; Ellsbury went three for four.  Any day when we play Baltimore is a great day for baseball.  If we win today, we win the series.

Reuters Photo
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Well.  That was terrible.  That was absolutely, positively terrible.  That was filthy in the worst way.  Sloppy.  Pathetic.  I can’t believe that just happened.  Seriously.  I saw it with my own eyes and I was still kind of hoping that it was all just a mirage and the real score was 9-1 us, not 1-9 them.  Nope.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation, including Ken Burns who was on hand to witness the badness live, that this is incredibly not good.  Understatement of the century right there.

The only good thing that happened last night was Clay Buchholz.  When Clay Buchholz happens, the other team has no chance.  And usually you walk away with a win.  Usually you don’t walk away with the exact opposite: a blowout loss.  But that wasn’t his fault.  Buchholz did his job.  Buchholz pitched six innings, allowed no earned runs on four hits, walked three, and struck out five.  He fired 112 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  His ERA is now down to 2.39.  He was comfortable with every pitch in his arsenal and used them all, even though his changeup seems to be the weakest in the repertoire.  So technically that wasn’t even his best work because he was inefficient, his walk total was up, and his strike total was down.  But like I always say, if that’s his bad day, his good day is impeccable.  And his performance was way better than literally anybody else’s.

Buchholz did allow one unearned run, and you can thank Scutaro for that.  In the sixth inning, just when all seemed well and Buchholz was en route to what looked very much like his seventeenth win, Scutaro backtracked for a popup, reached back to catch it, and didn’t.  The ball dropped and Jones scored all the way from first.  That was a cardinal mistake.  Why would you ever try to catch a popup like that? It’s a popup; you have time to track it and solidly plant yourself under it.  There’s no reason to sort of dance back to it and reach over your shoulder to get it.  Clearly, that’s when mistakes are made.  I can not believe he did that.  And that was just the tip of the iceberg.  We were about to go from Buchholz’s potential seventeenth win with Bard and Paps coming up to, well, nothing.

Buchholz did not come back out for the seventh for some unknown and unfathomable reason.  If Buchholz comes back out for the seventh, he finishes the seventh and hands off to Bard who hands off to Paps.  One, two, three.  Done.  No.

Atchison came on and managed to record the first out of the inning but left after giving up a three-run home run to Wigginton on a pitch that was up and away.  He took the loss, and rightly so.  Atchison’s ERA over his last three appearances was 0.75.  An ERA less than one for a reliever.  Imagine that.  Not so anymore.

Okajima was solid.  Fox allowed a run but honestly in the grand scheme of things that was the least of our problems.  Our next real problem was Papelbon, who loathes blown saves as much as the next closer, but you have to admit that when he blows a save, he blows it with as much force as he makes saves.  He allowed four runs.  Four.  He hadn’t pitched in a week, entered the game when we were down by four, and allowed four more.  The Orioles swung the bats early in the count.  Once he actually started buckling down, the damage had already been done.  It just happened so quickly.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Lowrie scored on Nava’s single.  That was it.  Nobody posted a multi-hit game.  Three of our eight hits were doubles, and that was it for extra bases.  Three of our most potent hitters went hitless.  The middle of the order was noticeably quiet.

We are nine games behind the Yankees and six and a half games behind the Rays in the Wild Card standings.  We have eleven games left to play, and our magic number is three.  Three.  It’s really painful to say this, but we are now officially on the brink.  We were cruising and set to go through six, and then those last three innings just exploded.  Well, let’s carry on.  We face the Orioles tonight for the last time this season.  It’s Lackey on the mound.  Then we’re going to New York.  Let’s just win this one.  Let’s just play it well and win this one.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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We almost completed the sweep.  Almost! The entire game was a manifestation of suspense.  The two teams went back and forth, trading runs and keeping pace until finally we had to resort to extra innings and the concluding badness.

We stranded eleven baserunners; the Orioles stranded thirteen.  But we notched eight hits while they notched nine, resulting in three runs for us and four runs for them.  The difference-maker occurred in the bottom of the eleventh.  Markakis hit a walkoff single.  It was terrible.  We are now one and seven in extra-inning games.  In theory, you want to win in regulation and not have to go there, but all I’m saying is that if you have to go there, I’d like to win there too.

Here’s how we got there.  We scored two in the top of the second when V-Mart hit a home run on a high fastball 378 feet into the seats in left center field.  So when I say hit, I mean really hit.  You could tell immediately that it was going out.  Between V-Mart and Tek, our catchers have fifteen long balls, the most in the American League.

The Orioles took back those two runs in the bottom of the inning with small ball.

We showed some promise in the sixth.  With Pedroia on first and nobody out, Papi appeared to sneak a line drive down the first base line.  But it was on its way to foul territory and bounced off Wigginton’s glove, which was in fair territory, so it was ruled foul.  Then Papi struck out.  But we had our revenge; Matusz loaded the bases with two consecutive walks before leaving the game.  Too bad we couldn’t make him pay.

They gained another in the eighth, and you can thank Delcarmen for that.  He lost control because he had a tight lower back.  Although you can thank Jones for an out; he attempted a sac bunt, but it was hit too hard and right back to Delcarmen, who barehanded it on two hops and fired to second.  Ramirez came in and ended the inning with two flyouts, the second of which culminated in a fantastic long-distance running basket catch by Cameron.  We answered in the ninth and forced extras; Cameron singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on McDonald’s sac bunt and third on Scutaro’s single.  Cameron scored on Pedroia’s sac fly, hit to the deepest, most distant part of the entire park.  If that ball had been hit any farther, it would’ve been out.  Meanwhile, Scutaro stood at second for Papi, who launched one that ended up being a fly to right that ended the inning.

Scutaro and, especially rare, Pedroia of all people each made an error.  Pedroia also stole second base for his fourth theft this year.  V-Mart provided the only multi-hit game, going two for three with a walk.  Cameron returned to the lineup to start in center field but won’t be playing every day.  Beltre was back in the lineup.  Hermida was not back in the lineup but was available if necessary.

Papelbon pitched an inning of relief, firing twenty-one pitches, twelve of which were strikes.  Then Okajima came on and pitched an inning and, when he came back out for his next one, the final damage occurred.  A walk, a sac bunt, and the walkoff single.  And that was that.  What’s sad is that the walkoff single was hit by a batter who, until that point, had been 0 for 14.  It wasn’t a terribly bad pitch; Markakis just softly tapped it in there.  It was terrible.  He picked up the loss, and most deservedly so.  Of all the batters, of all the teams, and of all the times.  Really? We were so close to sweeping! And it’s Baltimore; it’s not like sweeping should be that difficult!

By the way, apparently the Orioles know how to win in extras; they’ve won five of their seven extra-inning games.  Who knew? Their problem, obviously, is that they’re so bad that they usually don’t see extras.  They just lose in regulation.

Last but not least, John Lackey’s performance.  We as a workhorse all right, as promised.  He fired 124 pitches in seven innings.  That’s a lot of pitches, so, yeah, we can talk about inefficiency.  Only seventy of them were strikes.  His curveball was his best pitch for strikes, followed by his cutter and then his four-seam, not coincidentally the pitches he threw most often.  His slider was decent.  His two-seam and changeup were just bad.  He needed a minimum of nine pitches to clear the fourth and a maximum of twenty-nine pitches to clear the second.  That’s a lot, especially for an early inning.  Strike zone was very concentrated on the left, with a fair share of balls thrown outside it on that side.  It is therefore not surprising that he only struck out two batters.  His speed variation was good but could’ve been better.  His movement was good.  He gave up two runs and three walks.

If he can handle the high pitch count, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  I’m concerned that, as the season progresses, he’ll get tired, and then there is the other obvious concern that, if he doesn’t go deep into ballgames, the bullpen will have to step in earlier than usual, which will make them tired.  To make matters worse, Dice-K is starting tonight, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what to expect from him.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  We can at least take heart that we’re playing the Indians, who may not be as bad as Baltimore, but they’re still pretty bad.

Reuters Photo

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I wasn’t expecting that.  Like many of us, I’m not really sure what I was expecting from Dice-K, but I know I wasn’t expecting that.  And I hope that that was just a function of him finally returning to Major League batters and not a function of him repeating last season.

In short, he gave up six earned runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out four over four and two-thirds innings.  He also gave up two dingers, both to left field.  And he threw ninety-five pitches.  So, overall, was he efficient? No.  Did he have command? No.  Was he working the strike zone? No.  Did he mix his pitches effectively? Not really; he threw about forty fastballs and didn’t come close to that total with any of his other pitches.  And his fastball wasn’t even that exceptional, which would in part explain the loss.  It had some movement on it, but if you don’t mix it with other things, batters will read it.  I thought one of the things he was supposed to work on was diversity of pitches.  His cutter was about as effective as his fastball, but his changeup was really good and his slider was fantastic.  His two-seam and curveball didn’t do much.  But I think he could’ve used his slider and changeup more.  And he threw a good amount of pitches to the upper left and lower right corners of the zone.  His fastest pitches were those with moderate horizontal and vertical movement on them; he topped out at ninety-four, which was good to see.  But without efficiency, command, and an effective mix of pitches, it’s no wonder that he was removed from the game after putting us in a hole.  He took the loss.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  It was actually really good for a while.  An RBI single in the first was the only hit he allowed through four.  He was cruising and looking sharp.  Then the fifth inning hit and it went downhill from there.  Dice-K allowed six of his seven runs in that inning alone.  At one point, he was one strike away from ending the inning but couldn’t close the deal.  Despite our three-run lead through four, I might add.  He also made a throwing error, just to make sure we got the point.

Wake came on in relief and was just as bad.  Five runs (four of them in the sixth) on five hits in two and a third innings.  No walks, one strikeout, and three dingers.  Three! Two to right field, one to left.  He threw thirty-three pitches, all but two of which were knuckleballs (the other two were curveballs).  See, I would’ve thought that his status as a knuckleballer would put him a cut above the rest in the bullpen.  He doesn’t have the versatility that normally characterizes a starting pitcher, but any opposing batter who goes from a regular starter to a knuckleball reliever is going to have a tough time.  Not so last night.  No efficiency, no command, and obviously no mix of pitches, which is in some degree necessary for a relief outing.

Both of their outings were made bad by a homer by Wigginton.

Delcarmen fired a perfect inning.  He’s done well so far this season.

The final score was 9-12, so we slugged and slugged big but it wasn’t enough.  Anyway, we have some good news there.  Big Papi homered twice.  Both were solo shots to right field.  The first in the second inning barely cleared the Orioles dugout and got us on the board.  The second in the eighth barely stayed in the park itself.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure whether it did stay in the park.  It was an enormously powerful Papi-esque swing that he uncorked on that ball.  Take heed, all those who’ve said that Papi is done.  That last swing was for you.

Van Every got in on the action with a homer in the third of a knee-high fastball down the middle; his first hit in a Boston uniform this season put us on top by one.  He started because Hermida has a sore left quad.  And he robbed Jones of a base hit with a spectacular diving catch in left center in the bottom of the inning.

In the fourth, two doubles, one by Drew and one by Beltre, produced two more runs.  In the seventh, V-Mart singled one in, and Youk homered with V-Mart on base.  It was quite the blast.  He hit that ball hard; it only took a few seconds to find the right field seats.  So we held our own; we traded home run on fastball for home run on fastball with the Orioles, but like I said, it wasn’t enough.  Although I’m happy to see that Papi’s still hitting ‘em out and Drew’s still hitting, period.  Scutaro also had a good night, going two for four with a double.

It’s back to a losing streak now.  We’ve dropped our last two and are now eleven and thirteen.  So much for vaulting over .500 anytime soon.  And by the way, half the Orioles’ wins have been at our expense.  Half of them.  That’s just pathetic.  It’s pathetic for them, which makes it even more pathetic for us.  We’re only a month into the season, but that’s more time than you think.  A sixth of the season is now over, and you never know which games will matter in the end, so we need to start clawing our way to the top of the standings now before we wake up one morning and see that it’s too late.  Beckett at Millwood tonight, and we need to see some redemption from him.

How about those Bruins? A sudden-death win to start the series right against the Flyers, 5-4! Next game tomorrow, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

SI.com

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Last night’s game wasn’t disappointing only because we lost.  Of course, a loss will be disappointing.  But this particular loss carried added weight in light of the skid that was our month of April because everything that we’d been doing wrong during our losing streak, we did last night.  It was a total regression.

John Lackey’s outing was one of only a few bright spots.  He pitched seven innings, gave up two earned runs on six hits, walked three, and struck out six on 120 pitches.  I’m still waiting for that pitch count to go down.  I think that’s the highest pitch count we’ve had so far this season.  He topped out at only ninety-two miles per hour.  Both of his fastballs as well as his changeup weren’t very effective.  Luckily, the majority of his pitches were sliders, cutters, and curves, which were excellent.  He threw a lot of pitches down and in, but his command was decent.  Overall, with the exception of the fact that the Orioles started the game with three straight hits which gave them a two-run lead after the first, I’d say that that was a glimpse of what we’d been looking for from him all along.  All he has to do is get that pitch count down, and he’ll be all set.

I can not in good faith say that about the rest of the team.  The rest of the team was too busy embodying our losing streak last night to warrant such an overall compliment.   Last night was our chance to rise over .500 for the first time since Opening Day.  That did not happen.  Thus, I hate to say this, but it’s only fitting that we end this month with this particular kind of loss.

Bard blew the save when Tejada homered to tie it; a 1-0 pitch over the middle.  Ramirez took the loss.  He gave up a double to Jones, and Okajima came on after they intentionally walked Markakis.  He struck out Wieters.  Maybe there was something to be said for his three days of rest, even if it was only one out.  After all, what is a good relief outing but the ability to string together a slew of single outs? Delcarmen came on, and Tejada hit is 1-2 breaking ball, which he left up over the plate, up the middle for a two-out, walkoff single.

The final score was 4-5; we lost in ten.

Drew homered twice, once in the second on something down the middle over the wall in left center and once on a high fastball in the eighth all the way through center field.  Cue the end of Drew’s April blues, which would be another bright spot.  I mean, those were good swings.  That first one was kind of an adaptive swing; he went with the pitch instead of trying to pull it, like he usually does.  Pedroia hit a rare opposite-field jack of his own that barely cleared the wall in right in the sixth, his sixth of the season.  The only run of ours that did not come via the long ball was also courtesy of Pedroia, who singled in McDonald in the seventh.  So, just like during our losing streak, we didn’t convert opportunities.  All three of those homers were solo shots.  We drew ten walks but ended up having left eleven on base.

Which brings us to point of failure number two: we were sloppy in the field.  And by “we,” I of course mean Adrian Beltre who, ironically enough, was acquired for his supposed defensive ability.  We’ve seen this all month.  Actually, it started with McDonald in the third; he bobbled a single by Tejada.  Then, Lackey walked Scott.  Then, Wigginton hit a grounder that Beltre should’ve fielded cleanly, but he threw too low and it resulted in an unearned run.  Beltre needs to thank Atkins for ending it; the bases were loaded, but Atkins hit into a double play that got Lackey out of that jam.  There was also the matter of the killed rally in the seventh; Beltre supposedly interfered on Hermida’s grounder.  A review of the footage will tell you that he had the bag; no doubt about that.  But his left hand caught Wigginton’s foot, which caused him to throw in the dirt.  However, it was clear that the double play would’ve have happened anyway.  And this yet again fuels the fire of debate over instant replay.  He was also caught stealing, by the way.

Nomar will be honored at Fenway with a pre-game ceremony on Wednesday, on Cinco de Mayo.  Perfect! And cue the well-deserved massive standing ovation.

We’re now six games out.  Considering that, before last night, we’d lost three of our four extra-inning contests, we theoretically should’ve seen this coming.  On the bright side, April is now officially over, and we can move on.  Again, we hope.  I think May will bring better things, starting of course with Dice-K.  The moment we’ve all been waiting for has now arrived.  Dice-K will start tonight in Fenway South.  But don’t necessarily expect him to go too deep because, like I said, they’ll probably want to bring him back slowly but surely.  Thankfully, his first start is coming against Baltimore, which should help ease him back into it.  After last night’s despairing loss, a win from Dice-K would be just the ticket.

Getty Images

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Putting aside the results of the game for a moment, let’s talk about Clay Buchholz’s performance yesterday, shall we? He pitched four innings plus three batters and in that time managed to give up seven runs on nine hits, two of them long balls.  Ty Wigginton hit a two-runner in the third, and Adam Jones hit a solo shot to lead off the fifth.  He gave up five hits in the third inning alone.  Buchholz walked four and struck out three.  And he did all of it very efficiently, using only seventy-six pitches.

If I had to identify a cause for this monstrously horrible outing, I’d say it was the Friday trade deadline.  Buchholz’s name was being tossed around every which way, be it in talks for Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, or Adrien Gonzalez.  He couldn’t sleep on Thursday night because of anxiety.  After reporting to the clubhouse on Friday, he just watched as his name was associated with every conceivable deadline deal on TV.  Every time Tito walked toward him, Buchholz looked at him like he was about to find out he’d been shipped off.  And that would’ve hurt bad in his case, after he threw a no-no with us and then spent a year and a half or so being a good soldier in the minors when he would’ve been a starter anywhere else.  So it took a toll.  By Sunday, he was pretty much out for the count as far as focus was concerned.  He didn’t say the stress of the past week was why he had the outing he had, but he did say he wasn’t focused.  We all know this isn’t an excuse for a Major League starting pitcher to pitch poorly, especially that poorly, and that’s where we learn something about Clay Buchholz.  He’s still very young and immature and has a long way to go before working out all the kinks and becoming an ace.  A mature pitcher who’s been playing at this level for a long time is used to all the trade deadline shenanigans.  Buchholz needs to learn how to deal with it as well.  So we learned something about him to keep in mind going forward.

The bullpen didn’t help much.  Delcarmen allowed two runs and Ramirez allowed one.  Saito was fine.

Also something to keep in mind about last night’s game was that we won.  Delcarmen got it.  The final score was 18-10, and that’s a slugfest if I’ve ever seen one.  Rare to have a two-way slugfest too, and you wish you didn’t have that, but every once in a long while it’s entertaining.  Maybe that’s just the win talking.  Either way, the lineup did some pretty spectacular stuff, like scoring almost half our runs in a single frame (seven runs in the fourth; how ’bout that).  Ellsbury went two for five with two walks and scored four runs.  Pedroia the Destroyah went three for five with a walk and also scored four runs.  Martinez went five for six, batted in four runs, and scored once.  And it was only his second day in a Red Sox uniform.  So I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve.  Youk went three for four with two walks, two RBIs, and two runs.  Ortiz went hit less but walked and was awarded an RBI.  Drew hit a bases-loaded double to plate three but had to leave with a strained left groin, which tightened after he had to score on Lowell’s single.  Baldelli came in and went two for five with an RBI and two runs.  He led off the ninth with a home run.  Lowell went three for five with three RBIs and a run.  Josh Reddick went two for six with two RBIs and two runs.  He led off the third with a home run.  Lowrie went two for five with a walk, an RBI, and a run.

We went eleven for twenty-three with runners in scoring position.  That’s a .478 average.  I felt like I was drowning in offensive production.  Seriously.  There were just so many runs.  People were being batted in faster than they could cross the plate.  The moral of the story here is that, as bad as it was to be a Boston pitcher yesterday afternoon, it would have been much, much worse to be an O’s pitcher.  About eight runs worse.  That’s a lot worse.

We’re still half a game out.  Someone needs to go over there and teach the Yankees how to lose when we win because this is just getting ridiculous.  Whatever.  We’ll do it on Tuesday after the off day today.  Rivalry Week coming up, with the Rays first and followed by the Yankees.  Perfect timing.  We’ll get to first with some help from Tampa Bay and seal it with some help from New York.  I love it.

AP Photo

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We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

AP Photo

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