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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Rodriguez’

Let’s talk about A-Rod for a moment, shall we? And, you know, the fact that, somehow, the rules have allowed him to still play while he appeals a suspension for drugs, among other things.  It’s just ridiculous.  He’s appealing the suspension, and as a result he can still play.  Even though he was suspended.  Ridiculous.  Absolutely ridiculous.  He first came to bat when he led off the second, and Dempster was not about to fool around.  He threw four four-seam fastballs.  The first one was low, and the second and third were both inside.  So A-Rod had a 3-0 count when Dempster hit him in the back.  A-Rod took first, slowly I might add, and home plate umpire Brian O’Nora warned both teams.  When Joe Girardi realized that Dempster wasn’t getting ejected, he himself was after he threw his hat on the ground and made his displeasure known.  But the truth of the matter is that ballplayers the league over don’t understand why A-Rod is playing.  And fans the league over don’t understand why A-Rod is playing.  And it’s entirely possible that umpires the league over don’t understand why A-Rod is playing either.  All Dempster really did was let him know it.

Unfortunately for us, it kind of backfired.  Dempster then gave up a double, an RBI single, and a successful sac fly.  In the third, he gave up two consecutive singles, a lineout, and a groundout that scored one run.  But it was really the sixth inning that did us in for sure.  The Evil Empire scored four runs that inning, and without that inning, we would have won, all else being equal.  The inning began when who but A-Rod hit a solo shot.  After a groundout, Dempster gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases.  Britton came on and didn’t give up a grand slam.  But he did give up the next-worse thing: a bases-clearing triple.

Until the sixth inning, we were in the lead by three.  Ellsbury walked to lead off the first, Victorino singled, Pedroia flied out, and Papi walked to load the bases.  Then Ellsbury scored on a sac fly by Gomes and Victorino scored on a single by Salty.  We went down in order in the second, but Victorino doubled and scored on a groundout by Papi.  Salty doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on a sac fly by Drew, and Middlebrooks unloaded on the second pitch of his at-bat and sent it all the way beyond the right field fence.  It was huge.  And it was fast; that ball just rocketed out of the park.

Victorino grounded out to lead off the fifth, but then Pedroia singled, Papi doubled, Gomes popped out, and Salty walked intentionally.  And then we scored a run in what is probably one of the more embarrassing methods for an opposing pitcher.  Nava walked with the bases loaded.  It was awesome.

With one on and two out in the seventh, Workman was replaced by Morales, who gave up an RBI single.  Morales and Tazawa both pitched the eighth, and De La Rosa hit a batter to lead off the ninth, which later turned into a run on a single.

So we went from leading by three to losing by three; the final score was 9-6.

AP Photo

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First of all, let me just say that honoring Papi before the game for his four hundred career home runs was a very nice and well-deserved touch.

When I emphasized our need for a strong series, a game like last night’s was not exactly what I had in mind because we lost.  We are now eight and a half games out of first place, a new season high, or more accurately a new season low.  To be fair, it wasn’t one of those games where the Yanks just scored a mountain of runs and then we had to battle all the way back from scratch but failed to score those few extra we needed at the end.  Our hitters did not procrastinate.  We stayed right with them, neck-and-neck throughout the contest.  That was why the outcome was crushing.

Beckett did not have a good night by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s always funny how a bad night against any other team looks so much worse against the Evil Empire.  He only lasted five innings and gave up six runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out five.  He threw ninety pitches, forty-nine of which were strikes, so just over half or so.

It was not pretty.  He faced the entire starting nine in the first inning alone, and this is how it went: two straight singles, a hit batsman to load the bases, a five-pitch walk to walk in a run, an RBI single that scored two, a sac fly that scored one, another single, and another sac fly to score another one, and finally a groundout to end it.  It was painful, it was humiliating, it was horrific, and if it wasn’t a sign for things to come, I don’t know what was.

Fortunately, at least at the time, we actually succeeded in getting all of those runs back and tying the game at five before the first inning was even done.  It was amazing, and it gave us a reason to believe that we were still in this thing, because for most of the game we actually were.  Nava led off the first for us with a double, advanced to third on  wild pitch, and scored on a sac  fly by Kalish.  Then Papi singled, Ross reached on an error, Gonzalez doubled in Papi, and Salty hit a huge three-run shot on his second pitch that ended up in right several feet away from the foul pole.  I mean, that’s basically what happens if you throw a middle-in fastball to Salty.  It was his seventeenth of the year, a new career high.

We continued playing cat-and-mouse for pretty much the rest of the game, right up until the Yanks scored their two winning runs that we obviously did not answer.  Beckett gave up a triple followed by a groundout for another run in the top of the second; Nava got hit, Kalish singled, and Nava scored on a single by Papi in the bottom of the second.  Both teams went down in order in the third.  Neither team scored in the fourth, either.  The Yanks didn’t score in the top of the fifth, and we gave ourselves our first lead of the night in the bottom of the frame; Gonzalez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Gomez, which made the score 7-6.

Neither team scored in the sixth, which Albers pitched.  But it turned bad again in the seventh, when Miller came on.  He gave up a walk and a single followed by a strikeout.  Then Padilla came on and gave up a triple that scored two.  He followed that with a strikeout and then a double that scored one.  Atchison came on and then allowed his inherited runner to score on a single.  And the squandering of the one-run lead continues.

Ross homered to lead off the seventh on his third pitch, which ended up in the Monster seats.  Salty’s home run scored more runs, but Ross’s home run was a moon shot.  The ball went over the Monster.  Not in it.  Over it.  And it’s hard to hit a homer more moon shot-esque than that.  We put two men on over the course of the rest of the inning, but it didn’t amount to anything because Derek Jeter just had to convert what would have been a surefire hit into a force out, and then Punto struck out to end it.  Melancon pitched a solid eighth and ninth, during which we did not score.  And then we went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the Evil Empire won, 10-8.

Gomez went two for four, Gonzalez went three for five, and Papi went three for four.  Both teams posted fourteen hits each and converted four of their opportunities with runners in scoring position.  Beckett received a no-decision, Albers received a hold, Miller received both a hold and the loss, and Padilla received a blown save.  Defensive highlights included Punto gunning down A-Rod at home in the fifth for the second out.  It was an absolutely perfect block and tag.  What a textbook play.

The reason why this loss was so rough was not only because we lost to the Yankees, which is obviously a really big part of it.  It was also because we were right in that game until, well, until we weren’t anymore, until they scored those two runs that would go unanswered.  To have to witness the Yanks get five runs off of Beckett and then to watch as we got every single one of those runs back, three of them on one swing of the bat, before the first inning was even over was just truly awesome and amazing.  And then to watch us stay right there with them almost every step of the way, like I said, was a real testament to what we have in us and how great we can really be.  And, like I said, that was why the loss was so devastating.  It was because we could have won just as easily as we lost.

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Tek officially retired on Thursday; we all knew this was coming, so I’ve already written the tribute, although there are a few things I’d like to add.  First, after initially doing so, he has since come to regret autographing photos of the A-Rod fight because he doesn’t want to condone that kind of behavior, which speaks volumes about his sportsmanship, professionalism, and awareness of his status as a role model.  Second, Scott Boras reportedly did not allow other teams to make formal offers to Tek due to his knowledge of Tek’s allegiance to us; I’d expect that, for Boras, this must be some kind of first.  Third, here’s a neat article containing the comments of some of New England’s who’s-who of sports journalism when we first picked up Tek; boy, does it take you back.  Fourth, Tek was very thankful in his retirement announcement; he thanked everyone.  He thanked his coaches, teammates, and fans as well as the brass and his family.  Here’s a quote:

As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.  Once again, I just want to say thank you.

But he won’t be leaving the game completely; he’ll be taking up a position within the organization, which I think is an excellent move.  To be a good catcher, one must inherently possess the ability to maintain a working knowledge of all aspects of the game, not just his own position.  This plus the fact that he was a captain for seven of the fifteen seasons he played here make him an obvious choice for hire.

What’s funny is that a fan took a video during a clubhouse tour on Truck Day and saw that Tek’s nameplate had already been taken down.  Lucchino’s explanation for this was weak, and so the fan already knew what would happen.  What I liked best about this story is that the fan specifically didn’t post the video until after Tek made his decision.

Bobby V. has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on charter flights returning to Boston.  Tito then claimed that this was a PR move, which it isn’t since Bobby V. is known for having similarly banned beer in his previous managerial stints.  First of all, it’s very unlike Tito to get involved in drama.  Secondly, why are we still talking about this? Last season is last season; it’s done and over.  Can’t we just move on already?

Maybe that’s what Bobby V. was trying to do when he put down Derek Jeter and praised Tek for the A-Rod fight this week.  It certainly did draw attention.  Obviously I agree with what he said; it’s just a little unusual to hear it coming from a manager.  There’s a reason why there are fans and managers and why fans are usually not managers and managers are usually not fans.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the biggest Yankee-haters out there, but I still want a manager who focuses less on the TV cameras and more on the baseball.

In the interest of not discussing drama anymore, let’s move to the Spring Training schedule, which officially started yesterday when we played Northeastern and Boston College in a doubleheader.  Today, the Major League action begins with the start of a two-game series against the Twins.  We’ve got the O’s on Tuesday, the Jays on Wednesday, and the Cards on Thursday.  Then the Pirates and Rays, and we’re done for the week.

Here are some highlights from the results.  We swept the college doubleheader as well as the two games against the Twins with scores of 8-3 and 10-2.  Lester pitched two shutout innings against Northeastern.  Beckett pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two, struck out none, and was caught by Salty, yet another indicator of the end of an era.  In the 10-2 win, Buccholz pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two and hit one but struck out two and extricated himself from two sticky situations.  Of his thirty-six pitches, twenty were strikes.  He looks healthy and says he feels healthy.  Ryan Sweeney picked up and RBI, and Papi hit his first homer of Spring Training, a solo shot.

Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have agreed to expand the playoffs, effective this season.  Each league will not send not one but two Wild Card teams to the playoffs; the two teams will have to go at it in a single elimination game.  This is the first playoff expansion since 1994, and it creates the largest playoffs in the history of the Majors.  It’ll certainly boost ratings and nail-biting, that’s for sure.  It presents a double-edged sword.  If this system had been in place earlier, we would have made the playoffs in the last two years.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the playoffs because the bar is continually set lower by a policy of increased inclusivity, and there’s always the chance that that other team is going to beat you before you get anywhere.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Sens, Isles, and Rangers but beat the Devils and signed Marty Turco.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo/Chris Lee

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The small stuff first.  We signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal; it’s a solid signing.  He’s a scrappy player with a decent bat who’s great in the field.  He also seems to have a reputation for a good clubhouse character, which may be helpful at a time like this.  We signed Albers to a one-year deal, and we tendered Aceves, Bard, Morales, Aviles, Ellsbury, and Salty.  Rich Hill is now a free agent.  Jenks had back surgery.

Incidentally, the bid for Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish is rumored to be even greater than Dice-K’s bid.  He’s going to Texas.  Some say he’s better equipped to succeed here, but Dice-K has made me skeptical and bitter.

Bard is unofficially officially a starter.  I know that because we just traded Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Mark Melancon, a reliever who played for the Yanks in 2009 and 2010 but who closed for Houston last season.  Obviously, Lowrie is the one of those two with the higher profile.  He had phenomenal potential that was substantially hindered by injuries; there’s no escaping that fact.  The team had needs that Lowrie, as a result, was unable to fulfill; perhaps he will help the team best as trade bait.  But we won’t know that until Melancon has pitched well into the season for us.

Truth be told, I would argue that, although his stuff seems impressive enough, we don’t really know all that much about him in the context of the Major Leagues.  Last season was his third in the big show; he pitched 74.1 innings in seventy-one games, gave up five home runs, walked twenty-six batters, posted an ERA of 2.78, and struck out sixty-six.  His WHIP was 1.22.  Last year was the first season in which he posted a save at all, and he posted twenty of them.  And he’s twenty-six years old.  From all of this, we can learn that he’s young, he’s new, and he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to close regularly for a team like the Red Sox in a city like Boston in a league like the American League in a division like the AL East.  As I said, it seems like he’s got the raw goods, but at this stage, I do not feel comfortable with him being slotted as our regular closer right off the bat (pun not intended), hands-down, no questions asked.  Throw in the fact that he had major surgery on his right elbow early in his career, and there are definitely some doubts.

Then again, the surgery was a few years ago, and Paps at one time was also untested, and so is Bard as a closer.  They have absolutely electrifying fastballs; Melancon gets up to ninety-five miles per hour.  He also works with an effective cutter and curveball.  Brad Mills seems to think he can do it.  All I’m saying is that Melancon has some big shoes to fill in the biggest baseball town in the country.  Hold onto your hats, folks.  Hold onto your hats.

Bill James’s predictions for the coming season are in.  He has Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Papi all declining in batting average; Youk’s average is slated to markedly increase since he hopefully will be starting the year more healthily than the way he finished last year.  We can expect one additional home run from Papi this year; more importantly, James’s prediction shows that Papi’s power will perpetuate.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury are also slated to go yard more frequently.  Pedroia supposedly will be stealing about ten less bases, but the reason why he probably didn’t get a strong projection all around is because he was injured.  Provided that he isn’t injured, he’s going to rock it.  Look for Gonzalez to perform better than expected as well, since he’ll be entering his sophomore season with us and since he’s now sufficiently removed from his offseason shoulder surgery.

And lastly, literally, it looks like last season really was Tek’s last season with us.  Salty has found his footing, Ryan Lavarnway is coming up, and Kelly Shoppach is coming back.  Obviously it won’t technically be official until Tek signs with another team or retires, but it looks like the year of the goodbye will continue.

We acquired Tek from the Mariners in 1997 and probably didn’t even know at the time the extent of the impact he would make upon arriving.  His entire Major League career was played here.  His development as one of the best catchers in the game was completed here.  Honestly, I always thought he would retire here, and it’s a true shame that he isn’t.  True, his last several seasons saw a marked decline in both performance on the field and leadership influence off the field, but we’re looking at the whole picture here.

Since he’s spent his entire professional baseball life in Boston, we can speak in terms of career numbers.  He is a career .256 hitter with 193 home runs, 757 RBIs, 614 walks, and a .341 OBP.  But we never expected him to be a hitting catcher.  We expected him to be a catcher, period, and what a catcher he was.  He has played in 1,488 games and started 1,372 of them.  He has picked off 10,166 batters and caught 184 stealing.  His fielding percentage is .994; last year he made only four errors, and the year before that he made none.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.17.

And obviously some of his greatest contributions go well beyond even those stellar fielding numbers.  He was a true leader in every sense of the word both on and off the field, which is why he wore the “C” on his jersey, a rarity in baseball these days.  He knew the pitchers inside and out and could adapt on the fly in any situation, which is why he caught and called four no-hitters, a Major League record.  There is also something to be said for having such a veteran on the team, especially with a collaborative and positive personality like his, to ease transitions and be a moderating force in the clubhouse.  And, of course, no tribute to Tek would be complete without mentioning the contribution of the forever-to-be-remembered A-Rod fight on July 24, 2004.  It was a turning point in the season.  It was legendary and historic.  It was epic.

To his credit, he has a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, three All-Star selections, two World Series championships, and the respect and affinity of Red Sox Nation.  He was the quintessential team player, and I firmly believe that his character and quality as a player and teammate warrant consideration for employment within the Red Sox organization, hopefully as a coach.  We remember what you’ve accomplished here, and we won’t forget it.  You’ve seen us at our best and worst; it’s been a phenomenal ride.  We as Red Sox Nation salute you, Tek.  And you will most definitely be missed.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Kings, womped the Sens, and crushed the Flyers in a particularly impressive six-zip shutout.  We scored our first goal in the first minute of the game and four goals in the first period alone.  We’re nursing a four-game winning streak and are tied with the Flyers at the top of the conference.

I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks.  I expect winning signings when I get back.  Good, solid deals that will address the team’s needs.  It doesn’t have to be flashy; we’ve seen the detrimental effects of fixing what isn’t broken and being flashy for flashy’s sake around the league, and we’re not going to do that.  Just some good, solid deals and we’ll be fine.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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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.

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Last night’s game could not have been a more quintessential example of Sox-Yanks.  It was long (all told, the whole game lasted three hours and forty-one minutes and spanned two days), it was suspenseful (both pitchers were struggling so the teams were going back and forth), it was powerful (five home runs were hit between the two teams), and it was close (the final score was 7-5).

And it had a winner and a loser.  The Yankees lost.  (I can only imagine John Sterling having to announce that on the air.) We won.  We swept the Yankees, and for the first time this season, we are now at .500! Forty games in, we are twenty and twenty.  Finally! The key of course will be staying at .500 and getting significantly above .500, but one step at a time.

It turns out that all this realigning of the rotation was done specifically to ensure that our top three starters would take on New York.  But that wasn’t why we won last night.  It may have been Lester up against Freddy Garcia, but he sure didn’t pitch like it.  Lester struggled early.  He hit Derek Jeter, who scored on a single by Mark Teixeira in the first.  He allowed two home runs in the second for a total of three runs.  Clearly his cut fastball wasn’t cutting or doing much of anything.  When he threw only nine pitches in the third, his only one-two-three inning of the night, I thought it would be smooth sailing from there, but his turnaround wasn’t quite that complete.  He didn’t allow any more runs, but he did walk four over the course of his six innings.  He allowed those four runs on five hits and struck out seven.  Not his best night, but not his worst either.  If those two cut fastballs actually cut or did something, he would only have allowed one run.  Still, overall, his pitches weren’t quite as effective as they usually are.  In the sixth, he threw twenty-two pitches, only nine of which were strikes.  He’s won five consecutive decisions, but in his last two starts, he’s walked nine.

Aceves came on to pitch the seventh and allowed New York’s fifth run; Curtis Granderson walked and scored on a double by A-Rod that should have been caught by Crawford, who instead made his first error in a Boston uniform.  Bard came in after that for the eighth, Paps took care of the ninth for his second save in three days, and finally the game was over.

Our lineup kept pace through the first three innings.  The Yankees scored first in the first; we got that run back in the second.  Youk struck out but reached on a passed ball.  A single and a walk later, the bases were loaded for Lowrie; all he could manage was a sac fly to bring home Youk and tied the game at one.  Papi tried to put us ahead; Crawford reached on a fielder’s choice, and Papi tried to come home but was out at the plate.

The Yankees put up a three-spot in the second with home runs; we put up a three-spot in the third, and we needed only one homer.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a double.  Two batters later, Gonzalez walked on five pitches.  And then, with the count full, Youk blasted one into the seats in left.  I mean, come on.  It was a fastball right down the middle.  It was eighty-nine miles-per-hour, which is obviously slow for a fastball, but it was right down the middle, and I don’t think anybody should have been surprised at what happened to it.

We put ourselves ahead by one in the fifth.  With two out, Papi broke his bat hitting a solo shot to right field.  (I also appreciated his dance performance during Tito’s in-game interview.) But the way the game had been going, we knew a one-run lead wouldn’t be good enough.  In the seventh, Pedroia walked, stole second base, and scored when Youk seemingly grounded to third.  But the ball rolled – wait for it – between A-Rod’s legs and Pedroia came home.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.  Oh, how the tables are turned.

Then the Yankees got that one back in the bottom of the seventh, so we were back to a one-run lead.  Joba Chamberlain came on to pitch the eighth and got Crawford to ground out on his first pitch.  He had two strikes on Salty before throwing two balls.  With the count even at two, Chamberlain threw a slider that didn’t slide.  Salty was all over it.  He hit his first home run since August 2, 2009 and the first this year for our catchers.  He sent it to the first few rows of seats in right.  It was barely out.  In fact, it hit the top of the wall.  But it was still awesome.  And that was it for scoring last night.

To recap, we swept the Yankees.  In New York.  To get to .500.  We’ve won five of six games against the Yankees this year.  During this three-game set, their number three, four, and five hitters went six for thirty-four.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get to .500; in 2011, it’s taken us 40.  This past weekend was one of the best weekends in our entire 2011 baseball lives.

But we’ve still got work to do.  Onward and upward.  We start a seven-game homestand today when we take on the Orioles.  This is a perfect opportunity to actually do something with the momentum we’ve created.  We’re at .500.  We need to pass that.  We need to keep on winning.  It’s Dice-K today, but as a team, we should be able to do something with the Orioles.

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Things did not start out too well for either pitcher.  We threatened in the first; Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and Pedroia singled.  (Despite the fact that Ellsbury has taken some bumps and bruises lately, he’s still fine.) Then CC Sabathia put up three consecutive swinging strikes.  Similarly, Beckett allowed two consecutive singles before securing two swinging strikes and a groundout.

Both Sabathia and Beckett settled down after that; nobody scored until the fifth.  With the bases loaded, Ellsbury smacked a double that brought in two.  That was it until the seventh, when we put up a four-spot.  Cameron led off the inning with a walk and scored on a single by Tek.  Two batters later, Pedroia singled and Gonzalez walloped a massive three-run shot into the seats behind the bullpen in right field.  It was a high fastball, and he had that ball’s number right from the beginning.  It was a blast to watch, both literally and figuratively.  He assumed his stance earlier, so he had more space over the plate.  By doing so, he had more room on the inside, which mean that Sabathia couldn’t pitch inside, which he had been wont to do with lefties.  Gonzalez has now hit five home runs in four consecutive games.  His longest home run streak, which he two years ago today, is five.  Coincidence? I think not.  It was his ninth of the season and eighth this month.  Even with two out, that pitch never stood a chance.  He is just on fire.  Right now, I would say he’s probably the hitter to beat in all of Major League Baseball.  You would never have known it from his two at-bats before that, but he smoked that ball all the way.

And that was the final score right there.  6-0.  We win.  Ellsbury went two for four; Pedroia went three for four with a steal.  Joe Girardi was ejected, and Jorge Posada took a mental health day that may or may not have coincided with a bad back day yesterday.  He claimed it had nothing to do with the fact that he was dropped to the number nine spot.  Oh, the drama.

So obviously the other really awesome part of the game was that zero.  Beckett was phenomenal.  Six shutout innings.  Four hits, two walks, nine strikeouts.  (Incidentally, he also struck out nine during the complete game he pitched in the 2003 World Series, also against the Yankees.  Coincidence? I think not.) 105 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  He wasn’t able to use the two-seam as effectively as he wanted to, especially against lefties, but he worked a filthy changeup, and his cutter and four-seam were comparably unhittable.  He even threw in some nasty curveballs.  But that changeup and that cutter were just absolutely filthy.  He may have thrown twenty-one pitches in his first inning, but he threw only nine in his last.

As I said, he notched two K’s in the first, the last of which was a three-pitch strikeout of Robinson Cano put away with the changeup.  His second inning was one-two-three but he didn’t strike out anybody.  He notched two more swinging strikeouts in the third to open and end the inning, both ending with cutters.  The fourth was also one-two-three and featured back-to-back K’s, the first a swing and a miss on a cutter and the second a called strikeout on a cutter.  The fifth opened and ended with two five-pitch swinging strikeouts, the first on the curveball and the second on the changeup.  The sixth was one-two-three and began when A-Rod struck out on a cutter.  Beckett just mowed through the lineup.  He was dominant.  He was not somebody you wanted to mess with.  The Yankee lineup didn’t mess with him.  He got the win.  The only complaint anyone could possibly have with his outing is that he was slightly inefficient; had his work been more streamlined, he could have pitched at least another inning.  But in his two starts against New York this year, he has pitched fourteen shutout innings, given up only six hits, and struck out nineteen batters.  In general, he is currently nursing a shutout streak of eighteen and a third innings.  And his ERA is 1.75.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Albers pitched the seventh and eighth.  Hill pitched the ninth.  Done.

That was awesome.  It was just awesome.  We did everything the Yankees didn’t.  We manufactured runs.  We hit for power.  We also just out-pitched them completely.  So it’s pretty simple.  The worst we can do now is win the series.  But obviously what we really want to do is sweep.  The way the pitching matchups worked out, I’d say that’s a good possibility.

In other news, the Bruins dropped the first game of the series with the Lightning, 5-2.  Ouch.

Reuters Photo

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