Posts Tagged ‘Alex Gonzalez’

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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The way I would describe last night’s start by Dice-K can be summarized in one phrase: that’s more like it.

In last night’s start he showed glimmers of why we signed him in the first place and why he was so effective in 2007.  In last night’s start he dominated like he was an ace who’d been around the league long enough to know exactly how to handle these Jays.  In last night’s start he gave Red Sox Nation a reason to hope that maybe signing him, sticking with him in the long haul, and having faith he’ll come around wouldn’t have been in vain.

He pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and allowed only three hits.  No walks whatsoever for the second time in his career.  Nine strikeouts, only one of which was not on a fastball (Snider struck out on an eighty-one mile-per-hour changeup), and only two of which were looking.  He faced twenty-four batters and also induced ten flyouts and two groundouts.  107 pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  That’s a very high rate.  That’s one of the highest such rates we’ve seen all season.  He got the win, and very deservedly so.  He started the game striking out Lewis on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  I mean, this Dice-K was completely different than the Dice-K we’d been seeing until this point, and it just confirms that he was in fact on the trajectory of improvement we all thought he was on.  In one night, he lowered his ERA from 9.90 to 6.35.

His four-seam was excellent.  He only topped out at ninety-three miles per hour, but he threw about seventy percent of them for strikes.  Which was good because that was his dominant pitch; he threw about sixty-eight of them.  The reason his four-seam was so effective was that it has fantastic vertical movement on it.  His fastest pitches don’t do much horizontally, but vertically they’re real sharp.  Like off the charts sharp.  His two-seam, cutter, curveball, and slider were excellent; his changeup still needs work.  And if you ask me, even if his fastball does move, I still think he should mix his pitches more effectively.  This outing was a good first step, but he won’t last the season if his pitch mix looks like that.  A pitcher can’t live on fastballs alone.  There are those who would argue that a fastball is only as good as the pitches thrown before and after it.  So I think it would greatly behoove him and therefore us if he’d work on that.

His lowest per-inning pitch count was eleven, which he threw twice.  He threw between sixteen and twenty pitches in each of the remaining five innings, with twenty being his highest count in the third and nineteen being his highest in the sixth.  So he ran into some trouble there, but of course every pitcher who’s on gets into at least one jam.  That’s a trend we’ve seen with him; in each of his last two starts, he’s had one disastrous inning.  In last night’s start, it could be that that disastrous inning was just much more controlled and contained.  Although ideally he wouldn’t have any disastrous innings at all.

Of course it helps when you have good relief.  Ramirez pitched around a hit and a walk to finish an inning, and Okajima followed that with a perfect inning.

And it also helps when you have good offense.  Unlike Dice-K, Eveland only lasted a little more than four frames.

Scutaro led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Pedroia’s double, scoring on Drew’s groundout.  Pedroia scored on Youk’s sac fly.  Tek unloaded for a home run in the second; a 2—0 fastball that completely cleared the Monster and Lansdowne Street.  Dude got power.  That would be his sixth of the season, fifth from the right side, in forty at-bats.  To put that in perspective, he didn’t hit his sixth home run last hear until at-bat number 125.  He led off the fourth with a single; his bat broke, which confused Bautista, so the ball rolled between his legs, which we don’t have to worry about because it was the opposing team.  Hall followed that with a popup to shallow left-center that dropped between Lewis, Gonzalez, and Wells and has quietly been getting some hits in lately.  Then, Tek scored again on McDonald’s double in the fourth.  So, not the Jays’ best inning in the field.  Drew led off the fifth with a bunt.  Youk walked.  Eveland left with a ball on Lowell; Camp entered and walked him to load the bases.  Drew scored on a wild pitch and Youk scored when Hall grounded into a fielder’s choice.  We recorded twice as many hits and six times as many runs as they did.

By the way, Youk was hit by a pitch in the third for the sixty-third time in his career.  He’s one HBP shy of tying Jim Rice for second place on the franchise all-time list.

Pedroia and Drew both went two for four.  Drew stole second and appears to be in good health.  Tek went two for three, continuing to impress.  Can’t say I didn’t see that coming; in the beginning of the season I said that Tek’s Renaissance would last because extra rest would draw it out.  I hope that’s what we’re seeing here.  And finally, last but not least, 6-1 says we won.

A quick update on our absent outfielders: Cameron is doing a rehab stint with the PawSox, and Ellsbury took batting practice and did baserunning drills yesterday, so that’s a very good sign that he’ll be back in action soon.  Seriously this time.

So that was a good game all around.  I just hope that Dice-K builds on it.  His number one problem has been inconsistency, so this start was a good first step, but it’ll be really important to observe his performance in his next start to see if this is the establishment of a new norm or just one more piece of evidence of his irregular performance.  Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime Wakefield will try for the sweep against Marcum tonight.


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What did I tell you? I said that Clay Buchholz is currently an ace in the hole.  Last night, he proved me right.  I hate to say, “I told you so,” but not when being right means we win.

We won by a final score of 2-1.  So we continue to rack up the close wins; that’s our sixth consecutive one-run game.  But it takes a pitcher with some skills to preserve a win like that.  (Apparently, it takes a pitcher with some skills to pitch at all, but that’s not the point.)

Clay Buchholz fulfilled a big responsibility last night, despite his age and despite his usual MO.  He did two very, equally important things: he gave the bullpen a rest to recharge and he won us the ballgame.  And I can say that absolutely because it was a pitcher’s duel, not a slugfest.  And Buchholz won out, besting Shaun Marcum to carry home the W.  Buchholz pitched eight innings.  Eight.  He threw 117 pitches, eighty of them strikes.  One run on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, three swinging and one looking.  He now has an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.30.  This was undoubtedly his best outing of the season, and one of the best of his career.  No, seriously.  His next-closest pitch count was 115, which he threw on September 1, 2007 during his no-no.  Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the return of the kid who threw the no-no.  If there was an off-speed pitch that can be thrown in baseball, he threw it effectively.  Maybe a handful of his breaking balls stayed up with righties at the plate, but that’s really the only complaint.  A singe and double in the first resulted in the Jays’ lone run, but that was it.  His two-seam and changeup were stellar.  His command was fantastic.  He worked calmly and efficiently and alertly; how about that line drive right into his glove in the second? He got the job done better than any of our starters this season.  I think that was our best outing from a starter so far, period.

Ramirez followed that spectacular performance with one of his own.  A clean, one-inning, eleven-pitch save.  Finally.

We manufactured our two runs ourselves; for the offense, this was really a grind-it-out type of contest.  In the first, we tied it when Ortiz worked a two-out walk, and he came around to score via singles by Beltre and Hermida.  Lowell worked a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  My, that’s embarrassing.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to lose a ballgame.  Trust me, I know.  Eric Gagne was an expert at it.

In the eighth, Wells singled and reached second on Beltre’s throwing error.  He clutched at the ball twice before firing wide to first.  That could have been it.  But naturally Buchholz caught Overbay looking at a four-seam and got Gonzalez to fly out on an off-speed.

We have good news: Ryan Westmoreland was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Saturday.  He’ll continue rehabbing as an outpatient.  He’s doing well, which is a relief.  Hang in there, buddy.  Embree is coming up to the bullpen from the minors today.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I was expecting that type of outing left and right from Beckett or Lester or Lackey, but we haven’t gotten that at all, which is why the bullpen’s been fried this week.  We needed someone to get in there and give them a rest.  Buchholz did that and more because, not only did he secure the win, but he secured the win without much input from the offense.  (That had more to do with Marcum being on than the offense being off.) Our other starters need to take a page from Buchholz’s book after that outing.  That was absolutely fantastic.  He just blew everyone out of the water.  I don’t really know what else to say.  That was a rock-solid performance.  Rock-solid.  I mean, way to go, kid! Lester is starting tonight.  I have a feeling that there’ll be quite the contrast between the two outings, but that’s one thing about which I hope I can’t say, “I told you so.”

Reuters Photo

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Well.  That was a win.  Barely.  With the emphasis on the “barely.” Of course, I’ll take the win, but that’s not the way I want to do it.  I don’t think this can continue for very long.

We just managed to hold on for the W, beating the Jays, 13-12.  We used seven pitchers over nine innings.  Starting with Beckett.  Who was awful.  He had to leave after three innings.  He gave up eight runs on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts.  A three-run home run.  Six runs in the third and two in the fourth without recording an out.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  It was just disgusting.  I actually felt mildly insulted that I was expected to watch his outing and believe that that was actually Josh Beckett pitching up there.  Of course, it was really Josh Beckett, which makes the whole thing substantially worse.  I mean, where did that come from? As far as I know, unlike Lester he hasn’t been known throughout his career as having bad Aprils.  But I think that this is a recent trend.  Last April, he tossed 530 pitches over 28.2 innings and gave up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out thirty-one, and walked sixteen with a .303 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of two and two, and a team record of three and two in his starts.  He went fifteen and four with a 3.33 ERA the rest of the season.  This April, he’s tossed 502 pitches over 28.2 innings and given up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out twenty, and walked thirteen with a .316 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of 1-0, and a team record of four and one in his starts.  So luckily, April is over in a few days.  It actually hurt to watch those three innings.

The bullpen failed to stop the bleeding.  Atchison and Schoeneweis each allowed a run.  (Beckett walked two in the fourth before leaving; Schoeneweis let Alex Gonzalez hit the triple that brought them home.  Yeah.  Remember him?) Okajima allowed two and is currently the Beckett of the bullpen.  Bard got a hold and Paps got a save; they and Manny Delcarmen were our only saving graces.  The three of them combined for four hitless, scoreless innings.  Delcarmen retired all the Jays he faced.  I hope Beckett and the rest of the bullpen thanked them profusely afterwards for bailing them out.  Again.  Somehow, Schoeneweis got the win even though he allowed hits for the two lefties he faced.

The whole ugly affair lasted four hours and thirteen minutes.  Ugh.

So it was Delcarmen, Bard, and Paps who made it possible for the offense to carry us through.  Drew singled in Scutaro in the first.  (Then, Youk was thrown out at home.) Tek singled and Beltre doubled in the third, each plating two.  Scutaro scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, followed by another two-RBI single by Tek.  Youk singled in Pedroia in the fifth.  In the sixth, McDonald doubled and Scutaro singled, each plating a run, and Pedroia doubled in two.  The starting lineup had five multi-hit games; all five were three-hitters.  Scutaro, Beltre, and Tek (yes, Jason Varitek) all went three for five, Pedroia went three for six, and Youk went three for four.  Pedroia stole himself two bases.

So, to emphasize: Jason Varitek has been tearing it up.  He has the best slugging percentage of any American League catcher, is currently batting .357, and has gone seven for twenty against righties.  I mean, what? Hey, if you’re hot, you’re hot, so I say leave him in.

Dice-K threw a simulated game in sixty-nine pitches.  He’s starting on Saturday.  Maybe that’s what this club needs to get the rotation going.

So, yes, that was pretty ugly.  We won, but it was ugly.  We’re still digging ourselves out of our hole in the standings, so we still technically can’t complain, but trust me, after we climb out we’ll have a lot to say about the starters’ performance this month.  So far, our aces in practice this month have been Wake and Buchholz.  Not Lester.  Not Beckett.  Not even Lackey.  Wake and Buchholz.  That says something.  The rotation needs to take care of itself.  It’s allowed 137 hits and seventy-eight runs, more than any group in baseball and the American League, respectively.  Although we can be extremely happy about the offensive production and hitting with runners in scoring position that we’ve seen recently.  Tonight Buchholz takes on Shaun Marcum.  Let’s try to have the starting pitching and the offense on at the same time.

In other news, the Bruins advance to the next round of the playoffs! Krejci racked up three points in our 4-3 defeat of the Sabres last night.  I’m telling you, I saw better hockey from the B’s this series than I’d seen all season long.

Icon SMI

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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