Posts Tagged ‘AJ Burnett’

Again with the ace having a bad night that any other pitcher would consider a good night.  Lester one-hit the Yankees while walking three and striking out six on seventy-three strikeouts.  What’s the badness? He allowed seven hits over five innings on 114 pitches.  That was it.  That was all there was to Lester’s outing.  His best pitches were his cut fastball and changeup.  His sinker and curveball were abysmal.  You might think that it would be difficult for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber to throw any pitch abysmally.  Trust me.  His sinker and even more so his curveball were abysmal.  And let’s not forget the fact that he actually needed fourty-four pitches in the first.  Fourty-four! To get through the first inning alone! That’s just absurd.  That’s almost half the number of pitches he should be throwing in the entire game!

You might also think that our lineup would be able to bury one run.  So the Yankees had an RBI double in the first.  So what? We’re the Yankees’ worst offensive nightmare.  Right?

Apparently not.  I think the lineup missed that memo.

I think Pedroia was feeling a little left out during the two-run shot festival that occurred on Wednesday, so he hit one on a cutter in the fourth to center.  It barely got out; it landed in the first row of seats just behind the wall.

At the time, that homer gave us a one-run lead.  Which, at the time, seemed like a five-run lead because it was clear that runs would be few and far between.  This explains the devastation when Aceves allowed two runs in the seventh, which earned him the loss in addition to his hold.  It all started with a fourteen-pitch walk.  That’s never a good way to start anything.  It was actually Bard who allowed, in practice, all three runs, only two of which were inherited.  Bard received a blown save.  Doubront and Wheeler finished the game.

So that home run was our only production of the night.  Pedroia also possessed the only multi-hit game and stolen base and one of only two extra-base hits.  The other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez, which he used to lead off the fourth and get on base before Pedroia’s homer.  We left seven on base and went two for six with runners in scoring position.  In total, we collected only six hits.  Our staff threw a combined total of 203 pitches.  All of which is to say that we lost, 4-2.

Comic relief included Youk teaching himself how to use a professional camera

The whole game can be summarized with a description of the bottom of the ninth inning.  After two walks and a single, the bases were loaded with two out for, of all batters, Gonzalez.  He hadn’t hit well in the game, so he was due.  Mariano Rivera gave him five straight cutters.  Ultimately he was called out on strikes.  There was a pitch that he thought was low.  Keeping in mind that he as one of the best eyes in the league and that he’s usually right about these things and that the pitch was low, he was called out on strikes.  Yup.

It was Lester opposite AJ Burnett, our lineup opposite theirs, with our home field advantage, and somehow we lost our first series of the season to the Yankees.  I don’t get it.  We have our last series with the Yanks at the end of the month.  It’s probable that that series will decide the division.  That’s all I’m saying.

Boston Globe Staff

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Last night wasn’t Wake’s finest hour.  Collectively, though, it was a pretty fine hour for the team as a whole.  Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the one and only possessor of first place in the AL East division.  We beat the Yankees again, so the worst we can do now is win the series.  The best we can do, of course, is sweep.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Last night had plenty to recap.

As I said, Wake wasn’t feeling it.  He gave up five runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-six for strikes.  He made his exit in the sixth, leaving behind one out and two on.  Aceves came on and loaded the bases.  Then he allowed an inherited runner to score.  At that point we had a three-run lead that was looking pretty shaky.  It took him six pitches, but Aceves finally got Derek Jeter to ground into a double play to end the inning.  Crisis averted.  He later gave up a run of his own in the bottom of the ninth.  Wake picked up the win, and Aceves picked up a three-and-two-thirds-inning save.  The final score was 11-6.  We are seven and one against the Yanks this year, we’ve won all of our last six contests against them, and we’ve won five of those six on enemy soil.  Not bad for a team that started out in last place.  And those two, Wake and Aceves, are model team players, given the way they’ve pitched in when Lackey and Dice-K were on the DL.  So the whole game was just a great one to watch.

The game started out innocently enough.  Ellsbury singled and scored when Gonzalez grounded out.  Youk walked after that.  And that’s right around the time when you start thinking about how totally awesome it would be if Papi hit a home run.  So that’s what he did.  He launched a two-run shot into right center field.  Papi had been fed a steady diet of pitches away to that point.  But then he got a great one right down the middle.  Why pitchers think they can throw fastballs down the middle right by us is beyond me.  He didn’t flip his bat this time, but trust me, he was thinking it, and he was thinking it loudly.

The game only got better from there.

Scutaro singled to open the second inning, stole second base, moved to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sac fly by Drew.  After AJ Burnett loaded the bases with an intentional walk in the fourth, Tek hit into the force out as planned, but a run still scored.  Ellsbury doubled in another after that, and Pedroia singled in another.  His hit just barely cleared Jeter’s glove.

Wake gave up a homer to A-Rod in the fourth, and they added three more runs in the fifth.  We got one of them back in the sixth; three walks were issued in the bottom of the sixth alone, and one of them scored a run.  Seriously, there are few things more humiliating than a pitcher walking in a run.

The Yankees added another run in the sixth.  And then nobody scored anymore until the ninth.  Going into the inning, the Yankees were down by only three, and that just didn’t seem like enough to hold them.  I think Crawford and Drew heard it too because they both hit home runs in that frame.  Crawford went first with a solo blast on a changeup down and in.  Scutaro doubled after that, so it was even better when who but JD Drew smashed a towering plast into the bullpen.  It was a good thing, too; Aceves would allow his run in the bottom of the inning, which would trim our lead.  But only by one.

We still won by five.  We’re still on the verge of increasing our first-place lead to two games.  And we scored eleven runs against the Yankees.  Life is most excellent.

In other news, the Stanley Cup finals is now even at two apiece.  The Bruins shutout the Canucks last night, four-zip.  Tim Thomas made thirty-eight saves en route.

AP Photo

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The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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There are a couple of reasons why our loss yesterday technically isn’t the end of the world.  The first is that we won the first game, so we’re no better off than we were heading into the series, which is good considering it could be worse. The second is that the Rays also lost, so there’s that.

Either way, we still lost to the Evil Empire in the Bronx when we needed to win.  And I loathed that experience just as much as I enjoyed winning on Friday.

Lackey was not helpful.  His scouting report always says he’s a big-game pitcher, and Tito always says that on a day he starts we’ll still be in the game in the seventh inning because of him.  Technically we were because we were only down by three, but in my book a big-game pitcher and one who keeps you in the game in the seventh inning when you’re the Red Sox and playing the Yankees in the Bronx will either have you with a lead, a tie, or a one-run deficit if that’s true.  We had each of those over the course of the game and Lackey couldn’t hold on to any of them.

He gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings.  He walked three, struck out seven, and took the loss.  He threw 116 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  He started the second by giving up a walk and eventually the lead by allowing the bottom half of the order to tie it.  He allowed four consecutive two-out hits in the fifth that broke the tie for good, throwing a total of thirty-one pitches in the inning.  And may I say that Drew was not helpful either; Cano’s bloop hit fell right in front of him, and I can only assume the sun prevented him from seeing it properly because there’s otherwise no excuse for why he didn’t catch that ball.  There was also the throwing error by V-Mart in the sixth that was aimed for Scutaro to prevent the steal of second, but it bounced off Scutaro’s glove and ended up in the outfield, allowing the lead runner to advance to third and eventually to home plate.

In the beginning of the game, Lackey threw his fastball more often, but eventually he abandoned that plan because his fastball wasn’t that great.  His curveball was his stellar pitch, followed by his changeup and slider.  Not coincidentally, his next-most abundant pitch, his cutter, was mediocre.  He mixed his pitches well and put good movement on them.

But he let the game slip through his fingers.  When we play the Yankees, everything has to be working: run prevention as well as run production.  Yesterday, we basically had neither.

The game began with such promise.  We were the first to get on the board when V-Mart hit a solo shot in the second to left, right after FOX’s commentators finished expounding on the fact that V-Mart has lit up lefties this season.  The count was 3-1, so he was sitting on an inside fastball, and that’s exactly what he got.  It was V-Mart’s first homer in sixty-seven at-bats and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Then Beltre extended his hitting streak to thirteen games with a double and scored Lowell’s subsequent double.

And that was it for us for the rest of the game.  We lost it, 2-5.  Sabathia’s velocity was noticeably low, but of course the problem is that when that happens to him, he just switches to finesse.  If we won, we could have been four games out of first and three and a half out of the Wild Card.  But we didn’t.  We lost.

And I’ll tell you another thing.  Jerry Layne’s strike zone was way too wide.  Papi showed a lot of composure out there, because some of those supposed strikes were miles off the plate.  And that bothers me.  An umpire is supposed to be invisible, and the action of the game is supposed to unfold in front of him.  Jerry Layne was very visible, and instead the action was unfolding around him.  That’s not good.  If he wants to impact the action that much, he should put on a uniform and play, in which case I doubt he’d be very happy with his own strike zone.

I should mention that Delcarmen and Doubront were both excellent in relief.  I should also mention that we did in fact acquire Delgado.  As predicted, we signed him to minor league deal, which he can waive if we don’t put him on the Major League roster by September 1.  And last but not least, Ellsbury wasn’t in the lineup today because it was a scheduled day off against a lefty, not because his diving catch on Friday injured him again.  Kalish sat for the same reason.

But like I said, it could be so much worse, so we should at least be thankful we won the first game, but it just feels like a waste.  The day was scripted for a win.  The Rays lost, we won the night before, we had a big-game pitcher on the mound who would take us into the seventh inning, V-Mart hits a home run, Lowell bats one in, and then it just stopped.  I can’t adequately express my frustration.  I mean, it seriously just stopped.  Sabathia locked, Lackey unlocked, and that was the end of it.

We’re throwing Beckett against Burnett tonight.  We need to get this one.

AP Photo

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After last night’s complete turn of the tables, I have only one thing to ask: can I get an order of “Hah!” with a side of “What now!” and some “That’s right!” for dessert?

Ladies and gentlemen, 9-3 is your official final score.  In our favor.  I repeat: in our favor.  We scored three times as many runs as they did on three more hits than they had.  In other words, we were just better.  Period.

Lester got the well-deserved win and essentially confirmed my hypothesis that, as goes the pitching, so go the Red Sox.  His performance was absolutely excellent and resembled what, in the offseason, we all expected to see from each of our starters come April.  Two runs on four hits over seven innings with two walks and seven K’s for his fourth consecutive quality start.  In those past four starts, Lester is undefeated with a 0.98 ERA with thirty K’s in almost as many innings.  Those two runs were a result of two solo shots in the fourth inning to the Monster.  His cut fastball was as good as I’ve ever seen it.  His sinker, slider, and changeup were all good to go, but his curveball still needs work.  He had fantastic movement on all of his pitches.  I mean, it’s tough to beat a pitcher whose fastballs are faster the more they move.  He only needed eight pitches each to end his first two innings and eleven to end his last.  He essentially didn’t throw any pitches down out of the zone, and he stayed away from above and to the right of it, obviously concentrating on the left half.  He threw only 102 pitches and continues to get that pitch count down.  That was a fantastic start.  It set the tone for the rest of the game.

Delcarmen’s struggles have returned; he allowed a run on three hits and two walks.  Wake was solid for an inning; no hits or walks with one strikeout.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: a complete and total recap of the indescribably satisfying scoring of the nine runs.

We started the game with an unearned run in the second; with two out, Hermida scored on Thames’s fielding error.  Youk said that that was essentially a double in his book; Hermida’s offensive theatrics were yet to come.

We scored five times in the third.  Youk walked to load the bases, and Drew sacrificed Scutaro home.  Papi hit a ground-rule double to bring in Pedroia.  Beltre doubled in Papi and Youk.  And Hermida singled in Beltre.  Youk doubled in Pedroia in the fourth by landing the ball in the left-field corner.  And Hermida smashed a two-run home run into our bullpen in the fifth to give Burnett a little something extra to remember.  So I would have liked to see how happy New York would have been with a rain delay after this game got on record.  Although, as we know, it wouldn’t have mattered because we would have won anyway.  Nine runs.  We were outscored, 24-6, in the first two games of this series, but to New York I say, “How do you like us now?”

Drew went two for three, and Beltre and Hermida both went two for four.  We left only six on base, so score one, or rather score nine, for converting opportunities.  Scutaro made a nice play in the field, stealing a base hit from Cervelli.

Thus, the struggles of AJ Burnett at Fenway continue.  Before last night, Burnett was undefeated with an ERA less than 2.00.  After last night, well, let’s just say that things are a little different.  He was fine starting here in a Jays uniform, but with those pinstripes on he’s never won at Fenway and has an ERA over 12.00.  That’s what he gets for becoming a Yankee.  Before the game, you could tell that he was tense, the bad kind of tense, and tense pitchers with tense arms don’t deliver.  I’m so glad that all of our pitchers are the exact opposite: they feed off the pressure of rivalry showdowns.

By the way, Girardi was ejected in the fourth for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire.  He should really know better.

Congratulations to Tito for passing Bill Carrigan to stand alone in third place on the list of most games managed in franchise history with one thousand and four.

In short, that was an absolutely excellent game.  Absolutely excellent.  We needed that win.  We needed it for the standings, we needed it for momentum, and we needed it for morale.  We weren’t about to go out like we did in the first two.  No, sir.  That is not how we play in Boston.  We sure gave New York something to think about.  And we gave ourselves something to celebrate.  It was awesome.  It was just…awesome.  Looking ahead, the Jays are coming to town tonight.  We’re two and a half games behind them, so a sweep would move us up to third place.  It all starts tonight with Lackey.  And on May 17, the rivalry makes another showdown, this one a two-game set in the Bronx.  Hopefully that series will be better.  I’d love to sweep them at home.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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