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Posts Tagged ‘Anaheim Ducks’

That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

Getty Images

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Beckett’s outing was okay.  Not bad, not great.  He allowed two runs in the first and two in the second before settling down to pitch three shutout frames.  He allowed seven hits over those five innings with three walks and five strikeouts, and he threw 98 pitches.  So his runs, hits, and walks were up while his strikeout count was down and his pitch count showed inefficiency.  But I still don’t worry about him.  This whole situation with these last few games is very strange.  We win the Wild Card on someone else’s loss, we give the starters all sorts of rest, and we wait.  I feel like that has to take some sort of toll on the psyche of a competitive workhorse like Beckett.  Not to mention the fact that his timing was out of whack because of the extended rest.  But putting that aside, the reason why I’m thrilled with his performance is his health.  The fact that he settled down and got through it means he’ll be in good shape by the time postseason play begins.

Byrd allowed two runs on three hits in the next three innings, which is why he’s not on the postseason roster.  Richardson did fine.

Aside from Beckett, pitching is so not the point here, though.  The offense is the point, and with a final score of 11-6, there was a lot of it.  But before we talk about that, some words on the lineup.  This is one of the most interesting and creative lineups I’ve seen this season.  Pedroia led off, followed by Bay, followed by V-Mart and Youk, and then Ortiz, Lowrie, Kotchman, Anderson, and Gathright.  Ellsbury got the day off, Lowell has a sore right thumb, and Drew has a left shoulder issue.

So, without further ado.  With a full count, Pedroia led off the ballgame with a home run.  High inside fastball, meet the head of the bat, and the ball clears the Monster completely.  And then came the monumental second inning.

When I say monumental, I mean monumental.  There’s really no other way to describe scoring seven runs in a single frame in the manner in which we scored them.  It all started when Anderson singled in Ortiz, which moved Kotchman to second and Lowrie to third.  Aaron Laffey balked, so Lowrie scored, Anderson moved to second, and Kotchman moved to third.  Pedroia was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Then Bay singled in Kotchman, and everyone moved up to load the bases again.

Then Victor Martinez stepped into the batter’s box.  He worked a three and one count, perfect for hitting.  He hit a ball over center field that looked like it might have just enough to get it out.  And it did.  Into the bullpen.  Four runs with one swing of the bat, and all of a sudden we were leading 8-4 on the back of Victor Martinez’s first-ever Major League career grand slam! Against his former team! And all because Andy Marte couldn’t catch that popup in front of our dugout.  That’s what I call making him pay.

Anderson hit a towering home run to Lansdowne Street in the third to score himself and Kotchman, and Dusty Brown hit a home run of his own in the bottom of the eighth to tack on the final run.  Almost cleared the Monster.  The ball made it into the last row and was barely contained inside the park.  Not bad for a first career long ball.

Gonzalez’s x-rays came back negative.  Baldelli will have an MRI tomorrow.  John Farrell officially requested to be removed from consideration for Cleveland’s managerial position.  Speaking of open managerial positions, JP Ricciardi was fired yesterday.  And Manny Delcarmen, after enduring a car accident yesterday, is fine.  He was driving in the left lane and the driver in the middle lost control and swerved into Delcarmen’s car, which veered to the left and hit the wall.  He was taken to Mass General, but other than a sore back, he’s good to go.

Well, the end is in sight.  This afternoon, we play our last game of the regular season.  I have to say, it’s been one interesting run.  Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of ins and outs and heres and theres, but we’ve come to a good place, I think.  Buchholz gets the nod against Tomo Ohka, so this’ll be his final tune-up before the playoffs.  But I still can’t believe the regular season is already over.  It seems like Opening Day was rained out just yesterday, doesn’t it? Time flies when you’re having fun though, and the fun continues even after we put this one away.

In other news, the Bruins played an absolutely fantastic game last night.  Last night’s game was everything we wanted Opening Night to be and more.  The final score was 7-2, and it was most definitely a team effort.  It was the first time we had seven different goal scorers since the lockout.  And there were plenty of fights to go around as well.  An all-around well-played game.  Lots of tape-to-tape passing (Patrice Bergeron’s picture is next to the definition of “stick position” in the hockey dictionary), obviously lots of scoring (two of the goals were netted just seconds apart) and fighting (Sean Thornton threw at least ten punches before the referees got involved), and of course lots of saving (I have come to the conclusion that Tim Thomas is an acrobat).  We play next on Thursday in Anaheim.

AP Photo

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Spring Training is boring.  There, I said it.  I mean look, half the team is playing in the World Baseball Classic, there are no more transactions to be made, and the Spring Training games are, you know, Spring Training games: the starters come in, do their thing for an inning or two, and then leave to make way for the prospects.  So as long as we see that everyone on the team is getting some playing time, and everyone’s healthy, and the prospects are developing nicely, there’s really not much else going on this time of year.  Except getting stoked for the season of course, but that’s still a few weeks away.  After a long winter, the wait is agonizing.

Some injuries, as usual.  Brad Penny had to halt his last bullpen session but Masterson’s got it covered.  Drew flew back to Boston to get an injection around his spine to relieve some back discomfort.  That’s a little more concerning, but nothing we can’t handle.  When we signed him we knew he was going to spend his fair share of time on the DL, so we’re equipped to take that into account and handle it.  And after his stint he’ll be fine.  We know that because in the days leading up to the injection he lit up batting practice.  So is it possible that there’s something wrong with him? Absolutely.  Will it really affect us that badly? Absolutely not.  Mikey Lowell’s recovery is progressing very nicely; he’s scheduled to DH on Tuesday against the Orioles.  It’ll be his first game since Game 3 of the ALDS.  Speaking of Mikey Lowell, some notes on the future: I see Youk moving to third to make room for Lars Anderson at first.  (Lars Anderson, by the way, is slated to be the first home-grown power hitter we’ve had in a while.)

The A’s will be finalizing a one-year deal with Nomar soon, which will come right after the team signed Orlando Cabrera.  I’m telling you, Nomar and O-Cabs can’t seem to get away from each other when it comes to trades.  And guess who finally found employment? Manny Ramirez.  The Dodgers signed him to a two-year, $45 million contract with a no-trade clause and the right of Ramirez to void the contract after the first year if he thinks he can make more with another team.  Finally.  After four months of Scott Boras not understanding that he has absolutely no leverage in trying to unload this man, the man finally finds a deal with the Dodgers after apparently “suffering” in Boston.  You know what? Manny Ramirez and Los Angeles deserve each other.  And that, my friends, is the end of it.

More on the A-Rod front.  Why am I not surprised.  He wishes Jose Reyes were leading off for the Yankees.  Apparently he forgot that the Yankees already have a shortstop and that this shortstop is supposedly his best friend.  Classic A-Rod.  Oh yeah, and he’s having hip surgery tomorrow and should miss six to nine weeks of the season with more serious surgery to follow after the season is over.  In the interest of being a good sport, I’ll say it’s always unfortunate when a ballplayer gets injured.  Other than that, no comment.

Finally, some words of praise from the A’s and also said Skankees.  We’ve all read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and if you haven’t I strongly and highly recommend it; it’s really an outstanding book.  Anyway, here’s what A’s GM Billy Beane has to say about our front office:

One of the reasons the Red Sox have gained on the Yankees is because the foundation of their organization is run like a very successful small market, yet they have the ability to retain their premium players in their prime.  When a club does that, it knocks the wind out of not just their rivals, but also small-market competitors.

See? It’s not just Red Sox Nation; everyone else around baseball is also aware of the fact that Theo Epstein is a genius.  Even Brian Cashman:

The Red Sox are incredibly bright.  They have the best of both worlds…When you look at Boston, there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to win.  The fact of the matter is you arguably have the brightest front office with lots of resources and an ownership group that supports it.

Welcome to my world.

In other news, the Bruins traded Petteri Nokelainen to the Ducks for Steve Montador.  Two losses and a win since last weekend, one of those losses unfortunately coming at the hands of the Flyers.  Great.  Just great.  The playoffs are right around the corner, and now is not the time to fall apart.  On the upside we’re on top of the League again, one point ahead of the Sharks, who are now tied for first in the Western Conference with the Red Wings.  I’m not worried.  We’ll get it done in the end.

AP Photo

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Spring Training officially began on Wednesday.  We’ll play eighteen home games in the Grapefruit League this year, and as always Red Sox Nation makes a good showing in Fort Myers; we’ve sold out every game at City of Palms Park since March 16, 2003.  After a season ends the start of Spring Training is one of the greatest days of the year because it means baseball season is just around the corner.  On Wednesday I watched baseball for the first time since October and it felt awesome.  It felt great.  I’m so psyched for the regular season.  But as a spectator I’m not so sure I’m a fan of Spring Training.  It’s impossible to take these games seriously because the starters never stay in.  So it’s not a good gauge of the team’s performance down the stretch.  Not to mention the fact that you’re always worrying about injuries; look at what happened to Josh Beckett last year.  He threw his back out in Spring Training and it completely threw off his season.  Still, it’s a good opportunity for the team to warm up, get the kinks out, and scout the competition, and we get to see glimpses of how the guys are doing.  So it depends on how you look at it, I guess.  If you look at Spring Training as an indication of how the team will do during the season, it’s definitely lacking.  But if you look at Spring Training as an opportunity to get back in the groove, it’s not bad.

Wakefield got rocked by the Twins, but Bard handled him really well, so that was a relief.  Beckett pitched two perfect innings and struck out two against Boston College on Wednesday.  Yes, it was only a college team, but pitching is pitching, and Beckett’s form looked pretty sweet.  And what an experience that must’ve been for BC.  I’m telling you, that’s the thrill of a lifetime for those boys.  I mean what an opportunity for the team.  Buchholz made two starts and luckily he’s looking pretty good.  He pitched two innings on Saturday night, allowing only one hit and striking out one against the Reds.  He got the win in our first Spring Training victory against Major League opposition.  Doesn’t seem like much for Buchholz, but if you consider the fact that this time last year he was 1-3 with a 10.03 ERA.  At that time he owned a spot in the rotation.  Now he’ll have to earn it.  Sure, it’s only two innings, but with the way he pitched last season it’s better than nothing.

Rehab’s going well for everyone.  Mikey Lowell should be playing by the middle of the month, Mark Kotsay should be swinging a bat by the time we break camp, pitcher Miguel Gonzalez will visit an arm specialist for his elbow, and Jeff Bailey is good to go after fouling a pitch off his foot.

Dice-K isn’t camping with us because he’s prepping with Japan for the World Baseball Classic.  He struggled through about two innings of a warmup game in Osaka against Australia.  Japan eventually won it, but it wasn’t pleasant to see the Dice-K of ’07 instead of the Dice-K of ’08.  He gave up two runs on five hits and struck out three which, over two innings, isn’t as great as it could be.  But hey, that’s what warmups are for.  No use getting nervous over a contest in March; the only way to go is up.  There’s nothing left to do but improve, and he has the whole month to get it back.

Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, Boston is sending six: Dice-K for Japan, Jason Bay for Canada, Big Papi for the Dominican Republic, Dustin Pedroia and Youk for the US, and Javier Lopez for Puerto Rico.  The World Baseball Classic does interfere with Spring Training, but baseball is baseball.  As long as they play, they’ll be in good shape.  I’m not concerned.  Papelbon won’t be playing in the Classic this year.  Smart move.

News from Curt Schilling.  What else is new.  You’ll never believe this.  Remember how he said last offseason that he wanted to pitch with us for one more year and then retire? Yeah.  No.  Looks like he’s changed his mind.  He’d like to pitch for the Cubs this season.  That came totally out of left field (no pun intended).  The Cubs? The dude likes to break curses, I guess.  He won’t be hurting anybody in Chicago, that’s for sure.  I mean he’s a fantastic pitcher, but I don’t know how much he has left.  He’s aged, and he continues to age.  And we wouldn’t want his pitching to get in the way of his new hobby: expressing all of his…opinions.  It’s been interesting listening to his views on the proceedings during the offseason, that’s for sure.

In other news, Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing won the Daytona 500! Mike Dee, our chief operating officer and the president of Fenway Sports Group, partnered with NASCAR owner Jack Roush to form the five-car team in 2007.  And as you can see John Henry and Mike Dee have a penchant for championships.  Let’s hope it continues.  I have a good feeling about 2009.  The Patriots gambled by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a draft pick.  That means the team is confident that Tom Brady will return, which is awesome news, but if Brady gets injured again we’re toast.  The Bruins are still fighting for supremacy over the league.  We’re tied with the Sharks right now with 93 points, and the Capitals, the team closest to us in the Eastern Conference, only have 85.  The Canadiens only have 75.  We have 93 points, and the Habs have 75.  Us, 93; Habs, 75.  Nuff ced.  Anyway, we routed the Panthers on Tuesday, 6-1, and shut out the Ducks on Thursday, 6-0.  So our offense is good.  We just need to stay with it.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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