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Posts Tagged ‘Angel Stadium’

There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  But if the horse is really, really thirsty, you don’t have to make him drink.  He just drinks.

It’s the same with a baseball team.  You can give a team a scoring opportunity, but you can’t make the team score.  Either the team scores or it doesn’t score.  But if the team hasn’t scored in a long enough while, chances are they’re going to score because they’re thirsty for runs and wins.

Yesterday, we were mighty thirsty.  There was so much goodness packed into those awesome nine innings that I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s start with pitching.  Josh Beckett picked up his first win since April 10, only his second of the season.  But you have to start somewhere.  He tossed a full seven solid frames.  Three runs on five hits, one walk, five K’s, 112 pitches, sixty-nine strikes.  Had some trouble that wasn’t his fault: Hermida’s failure to make a difficult but doable play in left, and Hall turning a popup into a double because he lost the ball in the sun.  But other than that, Beckett was his old self again.  That fastball was smoking by hitters, he regained all of his intensity, and really he just made you excited about the race down the stretch.

And that’s not even the best part.  The offense was the best part.

The final score was 7-3.  We scored all of our runs on four long balls: two in the second, one in the seventh, and one in the eighth.

Beltre started things off with his seventeenth homer of the season, burying a two-seam that was supposed to be away but stayed inside in the first few rows of the left field bleachers.  Hermida’s out provided a brief interlude before Hall stepped up and smashed a Pesky-style home run around the left field foul pole, actually cracking his bat in the process.

Then the Angels rallied for a tie that held through the first half of the fifth.  Then they took the lead by one.  Then in the seventh, Youk re-tied it with a fastball that was supposed to be inside but hung over the middle.  That’s a deadly mistake every time.

So the game stayed tied until the very next inning, and this is really the grand finale right here.  And the man of the hour is Marco Scutaro.

Actually the man of the series is Marco Scutaro.  He batted .500 over these last three games, walked twice, scored four runs, and batted in four runs.  Both of those walks and all four of those RBIs came yesterday, the RBIs all on one swing.  Alright.  Here we go.

Before stepping up to the plate in the eighth inning, Scutaro had already been on base four times that day, twice via hits and twice via walks.  He’d struck out once.  Hermida and Hall led off the inning with back-to-back walks.  Patterson went for a sac bunt that was located flawlessly and ended up beating the throw to first.  So the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Which didn’t necessarily mean anything, because how many times had we had scoring opportunities like this, with multiple runners in scoring position and even the bases loaded with no outs or one out or even two outs and failed to do anything with it? It’s not even like this game was that different; we stranded nine baserunners through the first seven frames.  And it wasn’t like Papi or Youk or Beltre or some other guy with massive power that was coming to the plate.  It was Scutaro, who’s the guy who rolls out the carpet for the power guys.  But things had been a little different since we arrived in Angel Stadium, and we were about to give ourselves a right proper send off.

Scutaro fell behind in the count, 0-2.  After taking a ball, he took the sixth pitch of his at-bat, a changeup, and sent it into left field also in Pesky fashion.  That would be the second grand slam of his career.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be the end of the game.  That was awesome.  I couldn’t believe it.  You know a guy like Scutaro has it in him, but you never know when you’ll see it or if you’ll see it.  And he just uncorked a whole world of power on that ball.  That was amazing.  So awesome.  Seriously.  So unbelievably awesome.  A grand slam!

Bard and Paps had the day off, and the Angels had runners on first and second with two out against Delcarmen in the eighth, but Hall quickly took care of that with a tremendous flash of leather.  It was a bloop that was on the outfield grass, too close to the infield for Patterson and supposedly out of Hall’s reach.  Not so.  He jumped, caught it, and fell.  That was a huge out.  Ramirez held down the ninth.

V-Mart went two for five.  He wasn’t even supposed to play.  He literally just talked his way into it.  He told Tito he really really wanted to play after Tuedsay’s game.  He told him again yesterday morning.  Drew was out, so Tito agreed.  And he went two for five.  How ‘bout that.  By the way, Drew’s hamstring issue isn’t serious.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

Let’s look back over the road trip, shall we? Our first stop was Oakland, where we lost the series.  Then we went to Seattle, where we split.  And now, we just swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  A sweep.  How sweep it is.  We finished the road trip six and four, which isn’t amazing but it’s absolutely decent and I’ll take it.  That sweep was a whole lot of goodness.  That was just what the doctor ordered.  Time to go home and do something with this momentum.  We’ve got a set with the Tigers, who’ve had injury problems themselves, so this might actually be a good matchup.

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That was great.  That was just a great ballgame.  For several reasons.  First of all, it was a win.  Secondly, it was a second win in a row, meaning that we are now officially on a winning streak.  Thirdly, it was our second win in a row on the road, which hasn’t always been easy for us, especially this year.  Fourthly, those two consecutive road wins were the first two games of a series of three, which means that Beckett will be going for the sweep tonight! Fifthly, it came against the Angels, which confirms that, no, they don’t actually have our number.

It was fun to actually go to Angel Stadium and not have to be on the receiving end of Lackey’s first-pitch strike.  He pitched for the Angels for eight seasons, and it’s his first time pitching there as a visitor.  He threw a lot of those.  He pitched seven innings plus one out, gave up two runs on seven hits, walked one, and struck out four with 124 pitches, about eighty of which were strikes.  He threw a lot of cutters, curveballs, and sliders with some very effective fastballs thrown in.  He got his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour.  His strike zone was jam-packed except for the upper right corner, and his movement was extreme.  Extreme enough to baffle hitters but not extreme enough to walk everybody.  He got himself into some trouble in the third but allowed only one run’s worth of damage on twenty-eight pitches.  But it was smooth sailing before and after that, and he only got better as the game went on.  In fact, he’s only gotten batter as the season’s gone on.  His ERA is down to 4.26 now, and it’s 1.61 for his three starts since the All-Star break.

I actually think the boos motivated him.  He’s that kind of pitcher.  He wants to go out there and quiet his critics, just like Schilling.  As he said, the scoreboard says it all.  And it certainly did.

It’s not like we won by an especially wide margin, but at this point I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we’ll take what we can get and we’ll like it.

We did absolutely nothing until the seventh inning, and with two outs at that.  We didn’t even get a leadoff man on base until the fifth, when McDonald led off the inning with a double.  He moved to third on a sac fly by Scutaro, but Lowrie popped up and Youk grounded out to end it.  So the seventh inning is a little late for my tastes, but if we picked up a win, I shouldn’t complain.  Again, it all started with McDonald, who was only in the game because Drew was out (and will also be out tonight) with a sore left hamstring.  He walked.  How many times have we seen one walk make the difference? Too many to count.

McDonald moved to third on Scutaro’s single, and both came home on Lowrie’s double, which was a rocket to left field.  He smashed it.  That gave us a one-run lead that Beltre padded in the eighth with a double to left-center field that scored a hard-hustling Papi all the way from first base.  And Papi can hustle.  You don’t see it often, but he can do it, and he does when it’s necessary.  Although according to him it’s a walk in the park:

I’m an athlete, man.  I’m a speed killer, whenever I feel like it.

Does Jacoby have in-house  competition for the title of speed demon? Not in the least.  But all jokes aside, Papi shows real heart in his hustle.  It’s obviously not easy for him, but he does it anyway.  That’s what being a dirt dog is all about.

And no conversation about dirt dogs would be complete without some mention of Dustin Pedroia.  Unfortunately, this particular mention will not be a good one.  He was informed yesterday by an orthopedist that he won’t be able to return as soon as he thought.  Pedroia just assumed he’d come back as soon as the pain became tolerable and play through any discomfort.  But if he does that, the bone might break, and then we’re talking major surgery and future ramifications.  So he can’t come back until he feels absolutely no pain whatsoever under any circumstances.  Yeah, I’d say that’s bad news.  But like I said with V-Mart, I’d rather wait than have him come back prematurely and destroy his future.  He’s way too valuable for that to happen.

The final score was 4-2, and our last run was scored in the ninth.  Papi singled, which moved Scutaro to third, and he came around on Hendrick’s error.  It was pretty bad.  For them, not for us.  The ball bounced off Napoli’s glove and into right field, so Hendrick threw it to Fuentes who was late covering first but the throw sailed away completely, and by the time Mathis got to it, Scutaro had already crossed the plate.  Scutaro was really busy last night.  In addition to all his run-scoring, he threw out Rivera at the plate in the third.

I think the best thing right now is to not look at the standings.  Just ignore them completely.  Because quite frankly to say they’re not pretty is one seriously unfortunate understatement.  What we have to do instead is take it one game at a time, just keep chipping away and eventually we’ll get there.  We have to make like it’s April.  But, you know, obviously with more urgency, being that August is only a few days away.

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How do we know which Wakefield is the real Wakefield? The Wakefield who, up until yesterday, was pretty much lights out, looking younger with every pitch, giving the opposition a run for its money, keeping his ERA under 3.00? Or the Wakefield of yesterday, who pitched a little under five innings and in that time gave up seven runs on eleven hits with three walks and two strikes to put his ERA over 4.00? Did he have a really good start to the season only to have it come to an end in usual-Wakefield fashion? Or is last night the anomaly and he’s seriously going to pitch that well all season long? It’s hard to tell.  Wakefield is one of the most unpredictable pitchers in the short term that I’ve ever seen.  Start to start, you don’t know if he’ll make a bid for a no-hitter or if he’ll hand the other team a slugfest on a silver platter.  So the only thing we can do is wait it out and see what happens.  Usually, when we look back on the season, we see that overall Wakefield gives us quality innings when we need them and usually puts us in some sort of position to win.  And that’s what he’s here for.  But the better that position we’re in, the more likely we are to win, so we have a reason to be miffed when he allows seven runs.

Hunter Jones, by the way, allowed the eighth.  He only finished up the eighth inning.  Then who but Daniel Bard made his Major League debut and pitched the sixth and seventh, and Angel Stadium is not an easy place to debut.  A hit, a walk, and a strike.  No runs.  He’s twenty-three years old.  He was our minor league pitcher of the year last year.  He has a slider and a changeup.  And he has an unhittable fastball.  Unhittable.  Literally.  The kid comfortably throws between 94 and 98 miles per hour but can throw 100 on a great day.  He struck out his first Major League batter on three straight fastballs, the last of which was 98.  This, my friends, is our future.  And let me tell you: our future is bright.  Daniel Bard, ladies and gentlemen.  Saito pitched a good eighth inning.

We lost the game, 8-4.  Wakefield took the loss.  We had an early four-run lead.  Jason Bay hit his tenth homer of the year with a man on and two out in the first inning.  He smoked that ball all the way into the right field stands.  It’s beautiful to watch him hit home runs.  He’s got such a sure swing, he’s discriminating at the plate, which we know because he draws all those walks (with twenty-eight, he’s second in the Majors behind Marco Scutaro’s thirty-one), and that’s a great combination.  So you know that when he launches one, he launches one, and chances are it’ll be out.  Bay is also second in the Majors in RBIs with thirty-seven, seventh in the Majors in home runs, and fifth in runs scored (Pedroia is eighth).  He has a batting average of .319 and an OPS of 1.120.  That’s ridiculous.  I mean that’s a monstrous start to the season.  I talk about MVPs all the time; if he keeps this up, he will most definitely be the AL MVP.  I mean, just look at those numbers! And it’s not just the offense.  He has a fielding percentage of one.  One.  No errors, even with the Green Monster in left field, and we all know how difficult it is to play it.  He has a range factor of 2.23, which isn’t bad, and a zone rating of 11.459.  Basically, if he continues at this rate, he’ll be locking up all sorts of awards and personal bests.  Can’t wait.

Ellsbury and Green also batted in RBIs.  Ellsbury was caught stealing.  And unfortunately that was it.  We were held to just five hits.  We were one for three with runners in scoring position.  So not only did we not bat around in that situation, but we hardly ever had that situation to bat around in.  Drew, Lowell, and Lugo failed to reach base at all last night.

So yeah.  Not necessarily our best work.  Not in the least.  But it could’ve been much worse, and there were high points.  But we lost.  We’re still a game behind Toronto, and you would think that by now Toronto would sink back into oblivion with us taking over.  Apparently neither they nor us got that memo.  But it’ll happen soon enough.  We have Penny at Santana tonight, and we’re looking for another good start from him so we can take the series.  Taking this series would be awesome, mostly because of the problems we had against the Angels last year.  But it’s a new season and in many ways we’re a better team.  It’s time to act like it.

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