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Posts Tagged ‘Austin Jackson’

So, if last time out we saw the better Buchholz, then last night we must have seen the best Buchholz.  Only we didn’t see the best Buchholz, because Buchholz is even better than last night’s outing, which was already better than his previous outing.  Basically, what all this comes down to is that this is what we’ve been waiting for from him.

It wasn’t just the four hits or the seven strikeouts that confirmed it.  The fact that he only walked one and allowed zero runs by themselves don’t even tell the whole story.  It’s the fact that he allowed only four hits while walking only one and striking out seven over seven shutout innings while throwing 127 pitches, seventy-nine for strikes.  Obviously, he still has work to do in the efficiency department.

That pitch count of 127 is a new career high.  I’m surprised that Tito let Buchholz stay in the game for so many, but when you’re hot, you’re hot, and Buchholz was hot.  His first inning? One-two-three.  Two back-to-back swinging strikeouts on fastballs.  His second inning? One-two-three with a swinging strike on a cutter to end it.  He opened the third with a strikeout on three pitches (and later gave up his only walk).  He notched another K in the fourth, when he allowed his first hit.  He put up his last two strikeout in his last inning; the first was his only called strike, also on three pitches, also on a cutter.

But his last strikeout was by far the most epic.  After starting the inning by inducing a groundout from who but Victor Martinez, back for the first time since walking in the offseason (and may I say that the ovation was a very nice touch; naturally Red Sox Nation always does it right), he hit a batter and allowed a single.  Then the called strike.  Then he hit another batter to load the bases with two out.  Given his pitch count and the fact that he was clearly losing his sense of the strike zone, it was obvious that, for better or worse, this would be his last inning.  The question was whether he’d be able to get out of it.  Before Austin Jackson even got up there, Buchholz had already surpassed his career-high pitch count by one.  But Buchholz put his head down and took care of business.  First, a cutter for a called strike.  Then he took a changeup for a ball.  Then Buchholz threw a fastball in the dirt.  Then a cutter for a swinging strike.  What followed were five straight fastballs.  The first two were fouled off.  Then a ball.  Then a foul with a runner going.  And then finally, finally, a swinging strike.  Even after all those pitches, he threw that last one at ninety-four miles per hour.  First base umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled that Jackson went around on what otherwise would’ve been a ball, and that was it.  Fist pump.  Inning over.  Exit Buchholz just in time for a twenty-six-minute rain delay.  And yes, he did go around.

The fact that he threw that many pitches over that many innings showed us that he’s getting back on track.  He can get deep into ballgames and throw a lot of pitches.  You don’t want to see a lot of pitches thrown, but you want to know that he can throw them.  And he did.  Like it was the easiest thing in the world.

More than half of his four-seams as well as his two-seams were thrown for strikes.  Almost three quarters of his changeups were thrown for strikes.  Exactly three quarters of his cutters were thrown for strikes.  And eighty-two percent of his curveballs were thrown for strikes.  His stuff was absolutely filthy.  Even though his innings were efficient in terms of batter count, his lowest pitch count was thirteen in the second; he threw fourteen in the fifth.  His highest pitch count was twenty-six in the first.  Those first two strikeouts of his were incredibly long; the first one took eight pitches, and the second took seven.

In short, the start was easily his best of the year so far.  Hands down.  It was awesome.  But even though it had win written all over it, he never received a decision.

Nobody scored until the eighth inning.  It was wet, visibility was low, and nobody scored until the eighth inning.  Our first four innings at the plate were all one-two-three.  We didn’t send out more than the minimum until the fifth, when we sent out only one above.  The sixth was one-two-three, the seventh was again only four batters, and finally in the eighth we put up our only threat.

If you can’t hit the starter, just wait him out and then pounce on the reliever.  And if you can’t hit the reliever, just wait him out and then pounce on another reliever.  And that’s exactly what we did.  Ryan Perry came on for Phil Coke.  Lowrie grounded out and Cameron popped up.  Daniel Schlereth then replaced Perry, and then things got offensively interesting.  Crawford walked on a full count and Salty hit a double off the Monster.  With Crawford’s speed, that was all it took.  I can’t even believe they thought firing the ball back into the infield would keep him from scoring.  Fitting of course that, on the night when V-Mart returned to Fenway, his replacement drove in the winning run.  Ellsbury was hit by a pitch after that, but the Tigers made another pitching change and Pedroia grounded into a force out.

Thankfully, Bard had had an easy inning in the eighth.  Paps came on and promptly gave up a double to V-Mart, and suddenly that one run was looking pretty shaky.  But it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  A groundout and back-to-back K’s later, Paps picked up his eighth save and the game was over.  1-0, most definitely in our favor.

We are now nursing the longest winning streak we’ve had all year: five games.  Not too shabby.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that two of our starters are on the DL: Dice-K has a sprained ligament in his right elbow and will be out for at least a month, and Lackey has a regular right elbow strain that he wanted to pitch through but wasn’t allowed.  So Lackey will obviously get better soon.  Dice-K is a different story, but having him on the DL for a while may not necessarily be a bad thing.  Wheeler should be back on Friday, and Michael Bowden has joined the bullpen; whether that news is good or bad remains to be seen.  Back to the bright side, we have moved up in the standings and are now two and a half games out of first, good for a tie for second (with the Yankees, which I obviously don’t appreciate, but like I said, we’re moving up).  So clearly things are starting to improve.  The better Buchholz is becoming even better.  And the better Red Sox are becoming even better.  This is good.  This is very good.  We must continue in this direction.  Let’s win ourselves another series.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 6-5, thanks in large part to Tyler Seguin, who scored four points in the second period alone.  So now the series stands even at one apiece.  We got this.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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There are losses that are truly team losses, when the entire team fails collectively and contributes to a negative outcome.  There are also losses that are more individual, when you know exactly whose fault it is and can therefore lay the blame squarely where blame is due.

Last night was one of the latter losses.  It was all the bullpen’s fault.  It really was.  The starting pitching, backed by the defense, laid the groundwork for the win.  The offense put us in a position to get it.  But the bullpen squandered everyone’s efforts and lost the entire thing completely on four pitches.  It was disgusting on every level.

Lester pitched a solid, seven-inning outing.  He was slightly heavier on the runs than usual, allowing four on four hits.  His command wasn’t as, well, commanding as usual; he walked four, three in the first four innings.  But his strike zone was fine enough; he amassed ten K’s, at least of which he’s done for the second time this season and the ninth time in his career.  His fastball and changeup weren’t as effective as they usually are, but all his other pitches were gold.  He stayed almost completely away from above the strike zone, but he peppered the bottom half, both within and without the zone.  His horizontal and vertical movement was solid, and his release point was as tight as ever.  Basically, this was a tamer version of Buchholz’s outing on Friday.  But the defense backed him up in what was a show of what run prevention can actually do for you if you do it right.  A double was the Tigers’ only hit through five; Lester induced seven groundouts and five of his strikeouts in that time.  He finally ran into trouble in the sixth, when he allowed three runs, and needed twenty-five pitches to get out of it.  But he rallied to strike out the side in the seventh, throwing his fastest fastball of the night for the strike that ended the inning and the 117th pitch that ended his night.

In the bottom of the third, Beltre made a diving catch and fired to first in time to throw out Jackson, who’s fast.  And he still had time to check the runner at second.  Then in the bottom of the fourth, in an epic feat of concentration, Drew ran like the wind into foul territory to make a sliding catch at the right field wall.

The offense was solid as well.  Willis needed thirty-eight pitches to clear the first two frames; in the third, he finally cracked.  After two walks and two outs, Papi singled in a run.  Another walk loaded the bases for Drew, who doubled in two with a line drive that traveled at least four hundred feet to the center field wall.  Yeah, Comerica Park is huge.  Needless to say, Willis only lasted three and a third innings and in that time threw more balls than strikes.  If only we hadn’t stranded five baserunners in that time.

Papi singled in another run with two out in the fourth.  It would’ve been two, but Pedroia was thrown out at the plate.  Hall followed that play by going deep for two runs in the next frame, his second in two games.  That ball was very hard-hit; it ended up somewhere in the Detroit bullpen.

At that point, we were the proud owners of a 6-1 lead.  If you ask me, we should’ve scored more because we walked twelve times.  Youk alone walked five times.  Five.  We left a grand total of thirteen men on base by the time the night was over, though, so by math we squandered all our walks and then some.  Even worse, we stranded runners in scoring position in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth, when it ended up mattering most.  If we had only capitalized on those walks, we probably would’ve been the ones doing the victory dance right now.  Detroit was practically handing us the win on a silver platter; the bullpen apparently didn’t want it and handed it right back.

Okajima came on in the eighth and allowed a leadoff homer (on a pitch he left up), a walk, a single, and an RBI double that resulted in two runs scoring and his second blown save of the season.  Those two runs were the first earned runs he’s relinquished since allowing as many in his appearance against the Jays on April 26.  He finally finished the inning with a strikeout and a lineout.  Tito pretty much explicitly said he wished he could’ve gone to Bard instead.  But Bard pitched almost two innings on Friday.

Paps came on for the last out of the eighth and was solid, preserving the tie.  For two and a third innings, he limited the Tigers to one hit while striking out two and throwing twenty-six pitches.  His delivery was excellent.  A very strong outing.  Of course, that means that Tito will be reluctant to use him today, so we hope the offense and starting pitching can just get the job done on its own.

Delcarmen came on after that; he allowed a run and took the loss.  Schoenweis came on but failed to record an out.  Then Ramirez came on and that’s when we lost.

In the bottom of the twelfth, after two singles and a walk, the bases were loaded.  Ramirez struck out Avila and then faced Santiago.  Ramirez then proceeded to walk Santiago on four pitches.  Game over.  We lost because of a bases-loaded, walkoff walk.  That is the absolute worst way to lose.  The locations of the pitches weren’t even close.  It’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating, and it’s just sad.  It was painful to watch because you were willing Ramirez to throw a strike.  Did he? No.  Not even one.  It had to be a bases-loaded, walkoff walk on four pitches.  That was, without a doubt, one of the worst losses of the entire season.  And that says a lot because unfortunately there have been many.  I can’t believe it.  I really can’t.  I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.

I also can’t believe how solid Detroit’s bullpen is.  They’re the best in the American League.  I mean, that was us last year.  Cue the wistful thinking.

In short, the whole thing was a disaster.  The final score was 7-6.  Although we stranded runners, I technically can’t fault the offense for the outcome because six runs should be more than enough to win a ballgame.  If it were up to Lester, it would’ve been more than enough.  So it really was all the bullpen’s fault.  Especially Ramirez.  Seriously, who issues a four-pitch, bases-loaded, walkoff walk? Who does that? I don’t even want to think about it.  Hopefully Lackey will turn things around this afternoon.

AP Photo

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