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Posts Tagged ‘Bartolo Colon’

It’s bad enough to allow your opposition to score runs.  It’s bad enough to allow your opposition to score a lot of runs.  It’s even worse to allow your opposition to score a lot of runs while you yourself score absolutely no runs.  But one of the worst scenarios is when you allow your opposition to score a lot of runs while you yourself score absolutely no runs because the opposing pitcher is someone who used to pitch for you and is somehow having a great day.

There are various teams in the majors that tend to absorb our players when we allow them to walk or when we trade them away.  Oakland has apparently become one of those teams.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Green Sox.

Bartolo Colon held us to zero runs.  Meanwhile, Aceves lasted less than four innings; he recorded the first run in the fourth and was taken out in favor of Steven Wright, but both should share in the blame. Aceves had a one-two-three first.  It was his first good inning.  He gave up a single and a walk in the second but didn’t give up any runs.  It was his last good inning.  Then he imploded.

Aceves issued a four-pitch walk to open the third.  He gave up a single to Coco Crisp and another walk to load the bases.  He then walked in the first run of the game; it would be the first of six that inning alone.  Yes, walking in a run was embarrassing but, in the grand scheme of how the game turned out, not nearly as embarrassing as how it would end.  Aceves finally recorded the inning’s first out but then gave up a single that scored two.  Then he balked, which put two runners in scoring position; a sac fly scored one, and a single by Josh Reddick scored the other and put him at second thanks to a throwing error by Aceves himself.  Then he balked again, which moved Reddick to third, and he scored on a throwing error.  The inning finally ended with a groundout.

Crisp grounded out to open the fourth, and then Aceves went right back to it.  He gave up a double and then a home run.  Then Jed Lowrie singled, and Wright came in, ending the inning on a double play.

Wright didn’t let any of his inherited runners score.  He just put his own runners on base and let them score.  He gave up a single to lead off the fifth, struck out Reddick, and issued two consecutive walks.  He then gave up a double to Crisp, which scored two, followed by a single, which scored two.  Then there was a passed ball, a fielder’s choice, and finally a flyout.

Wright issued two consecutive walks yet again to begin the sixth.  He gave up a double to Reddick that scored one and then send the A’s down in order.  Wright gave up two singles in the seventh but didn’t allow any runs.

And that’s as far as we got.  Rain prevented the playing of the game’s last two innings.  I at least would have wanted to see the contest through, but perhaps we’ll be able to draw on the extra rest to win a sorely needed contest at some point.  Baseball works in mysterious ways sometimes, but the outcome of this one, at least, was decisive.  We lost, thirteen-zip.  We had three hits and only one walk; we were 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position and left four on base.  Pedroia, Salty, and Gomes were the ones who singled; nobody hit anything for extra bases.  Ellsbury was the one who walked.  Aceves took the loss.

In other news, the Flyers beat the Bruins, 5-2.

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The one bad inning rears its ugly head yet again.  Take away that sixth inning, and we clearly win.  The truth is, though, that that sixth inning wasn’t even that bad.  Three runs? We should be able to score twice that in our sleep.  We were up against Bartolo Colon, who wasn’t having the best outing of his life, either.  So you can look at it in one of two ways: either Lester shouldn’t have allowed those run at all or we should have been able to score more, especially off the bullpen since Colon left early.  The reality, as usual, is a mixture of both.

Lester cruised through five.  The first inning was his second-most efficient at eleven pitches; he posted two K’s in that inning.  The second inning was his second-least efficient at twenty-three pitches; he allowed two baserunners, one single and one four-pitch walk.  He opened and closed it with strikeouts, the first on three pitches.  He faced the minimum in the third, his most efficient inning at ten pitches.  He faced the minimum with two strikeouts again in the fourth.  He allowed a walk but faced the minimum again in the fifth, thanks to a double play.

And then the sixth.  It started with an eight pitch walk.  You never, ever want to begin an inning by allowing a runner on base.  It doesn’t matter how the runner gets there.  You just do not want to pitch the rest of the inning with a runner on base.  What if you make a mistake? Lester was about to find out.

He allowed two consecutive singles after that, which resulted in the first run.  It could have stopped there.  But Lester issued another walk, which loaded the bases.  A double play put two outs on the board but scored another run.  A double then allowed the third run before a groundout ended it.  He threw thirty-five pitches in that inning.  And that was the last we saw of Lester last night.

All told, he allowed three runs on six hits over five innings while walking four and striking out seven.  He threw 108 pitches, sixty-four for strikes.  What you notice first is obviously the high walk total, and the Yankees eventually made him pay.  What you also notice is that his cut fastball was by no means at its best last night.  He threw it well most of the time, but it didn’t have that nastiness to it that it usually does.  When you watched it, you just didn’t get the same lights-out feeling you get when you watch it on an on night.  His curveball and sinker didn’t help much either, and he hardly threw any changeups for strikes.  And whatever problems were plaguing him last night didn’t manifest themselves until the sixth, when he just lost everything.  He took the loss.

What the bullpen lacked on Thursday, they made up for on Friday.  Because we lost, they don’t have anything to show for it.  But it was a masterful display of collective control and dominance.  Albers, Williams, Aceves.  Three scoreless innings.

The final score was 3-2.  In the second, Reddick singled, and Scutaro grounded into a force out and scored on a double by Ellsbury.  Papi hit a solo shot in the fourth.  I guess that hug he got from Steven Tyler before the game paid off.  It was a six-pitch at-bat, and all six pitches were fastballs, only one of which was a two-seam.  The count was 1-2, and he sent the ball over the bullpen into right field.  That was not a good at-bat for Papi.  His first pitch was a called strike, then the ball, and then he just fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch.  He did not look happy.  So he packed a whole lot of angry into that swing.

The fifth inning was just terrible.  With two out and the bases loaded, the Yankees made a pitching change and Gonzalez stepped up to the plate.  For the Yankees, that’s supposed to be a recipe for disaster.  You have a new reliever stepping into a pressure cooker and facing a hitter you just epically do not ever want to face in that situation because he’ll make you pay for any mistake you make, no matter how small you think it is.  At all costs, he will get at least one runner across the plate.  If Gonzalez had plated one, then given what happened in the sixth the game would have been tied, and we would have sorted it out in the late or extra innings.  (Of course you never know because even something small changes the game completely, but you know what I mean.) But he struck out.  He struck out swinging on three pitches.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was awful.

After that, Crawford doubled in the sixth and Papi singled in the ninth, but that was it for us.

Reddick and Crawford both went two for four; Crawford also had that spectacular diving catch in left that ended the third.  Salty caught two thieves and has improved dramatically on that front.

We are eight and two against the Yankees this year but are now in second place for the first time since July 6.  We can solve that problem today and tomorrow.  Lackey takes on Sabathia this afternoon.  Hold onto your hats.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Turns out it wasn’t too much to ask after all.

Home.  Home is where the heart is.  Home is also where the wins are.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

The Opening Ceremonies, as always, were very well done.  From the team introductions to the national anthem to the F16 flyover to paying respects to Lou Gorman to watching Yaz throw out the first pitch, it really gave you a sense of how far our storied team has come, and it reminded you of why we love this game and this team in the first place.  It really did feel like we started the season yesterday and every game we played before that was still part of Spring Training.  By the way, we have won every game before which Yaz has thrown out the first pitch.  So maybe that’s something to keep in mind if we have another losing streak.  Either way, before the game even started, you could smell the win in the air.

We completed the Year X Improvements project this winter.  Offseason additions to the park include expanded concessions and souvenir options, three Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision high definition LED screens, more concourse TVS, a new ticket booth at Gate D, and general repairs in the seating area.  All of the construction and repairs were green, using recycled materials and such.  The bad news? One of the LED screens, which is absolutely huge, replaced the John Hancock jumbotron in center field.  That jumbotron may have been old, but that’s where multiple generations of Red Sox fans looked when they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  That jumbotron projected a world of badness and a world of greatness.  I guess the only solution is to inaugurate the new one with a World Series win.  I have to say that everything looks fantastic.  Major improvements have been made during the offseason for the last ten years, and yet every year it looks like nothing has changed at all.  They’ve done a brilliant job working with the park and integrating everything.  It looks awesome.

We entered the game after having made some changes.  Matt Albers is on the fifteen-day DL with a strained right lat muscle, so we recalled Alfredo Aceves.  We also designated Reyes for assignment and activated Felix Doubront.  We batted Crawford in leadoff, moved everyone up, and inserted Ellsbury into the eighth spot in the lineup.

So then the game starts.  Lackey’s first pitch was a strike to Brett Gardner in an at-bat that quickly turned into a leadoff walk.  And you could just tell that he wasn’t on.  Sure enough, with two out in the first, A-Rod walked, and when Cano doubled to center field, two runs were in.  The Evil Empire would score a run in each of the next four innings until Lackey was removed.  He failed to hold a single lead.

So he pitched five innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out two.  He gave up a home run to A-Rod of all people.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, the former being more effective than the latter.  He threw all of his off-speed pitches for strikes at least fifty percent of the time.  His cut fastball was particularly nasty, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  But his straight-up fastballs were not effective.  Luckily, he got in on their hands and pitched inside, and he kept his per-inning pitch counts low, going up to twenty-two in the first and again in the fourth at the highest.  His last inning was also his best; he threw twelve pitches, eight for strikes.

Pedroia, as he is wont to do, got the entire team going.  He smacked a huge solo shot into the first two rows of the Monster about ten feet to the right of the Fisk pole in the first inning, cutting our deficit in half.  It was a curveball that didn’t curve.  He literally swung that bat with his entire body.  He did whatever it took to get that ball out, and Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one.  After a losing streak like ours to begin the season, the longer you go without some sort of definitive offensive display, the harder it is to get one going.  I knew going into this game that if we didn’t do something, anything, early, it would be that much more difficult to do it in the later innings.  That home run was exactly what we needed.

After the Yankees tied it back up, we let loose with our best and biggest inning of the season to date.  Five runs in the second.  We tied our highest run total for an entire game so far in that single frame.  I was so unused to seeing hits being strung together, I almost felt like I was witnessing some sort of mythical feat.  Scutaro grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored one run.  Pedroia singled in two more and moved to second on a fielding error.  Gonzalez singled him in.  And Papi singled him in.  What you just witnessed was our first run manufacture of 2011.  And that, my friends, was the end of Phil Hughes.

Bartolo Colon came on after that and shut us down until the seventh.  By that time, the Yankees had tied the game.  And who should come through but Salty, who doubled in Youk after Papi failed to be called out thanks to another fielding error, and that established a lead that would stand permanently.

After that, Girardi lifted Colon in favor of Boone Logan because Papi and Drew, back-to-back lefties, were coming up.  In a fine display of hitting and reassurance that our lefty-heavy lineup can’t be shut down by a simple call to the bullpen, it made absolutely no difference.  They both came through.  Drew ended up singling in Gonzalez and Papi.

Where Lackey failed, the bullpen didn’t.  Our relievers shut down the Yanks for the last four innings.  We had one effective shutout frame each, each worth a hold, from Aceves, Jenks, and even Bard.  Bard and Paps each threw eleven pitches, eight for strikes.  Paps registered his first save of the season in the ninth.  They mowed them down like grass, overgrown and overblown.

In total, we amassed twelve hits.  Double digits.  Five members of our lineup had multi-hit games; Salty, Drew, and Papi each went two for four while Gonzalez went two for five and Pedroia, the man of the hour, went three for five.  We left six on base and went six for ten with runners in scoring position, which means that we put runners in scoring position and then brought them home.  The best part? We scored nine runs.  Nine to their six.  That’s what it feels like to have the offense back the pitcher.  That’s what it feels like to score a sufficient amount of runs in order to deal with it if the pitcher has an off day.  Cue “Dirty Water.” Ladies and gentlemen, we are now one and six!

This was our hundredth home opener, and we have now won seven straight.  With the frustrating exception of Lackey, we were absolutely brilliant in every way.  The hitters were hitting.  The fielders were fielding.  (With the second frustrating exception being Crawford, who at one point looked just sad when he couldn’t have been in a worse position to play a ball off the Monster.  I can understand that; it’s his first season, and he has to get used to it.  It’s not an easy left field to play.  It’s just that historically, even as an opponent on a visiting team, he’s always played the wall well.  I was surprised.) And the relievers were relieving.  Hopefully tomorrow the starter will be starting.

Make no mistake, folks: you just witnessed one of the most satisfying wins we’re going to have this year.  I repeat: yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

One other thing.  Manny Ramirez announced his retirement today.  It came after he was told of “an issue” that came up under Major League Baseball’s drug policy.  This is not difficult to figure out.  He tested positive four years after testing went into effect, was suspended for fifty games, cleaned up, came back, and comparatively speaking he pretty much failed as a hitter.  Lately he’s been reduced to being happy with singles.  We’re talking a drop in average as well as on-base percentage of upwards of a hundred points.  Recently, he failed another drug test; the suspension for a second transgression doubles, so it would be a hundred games, which is two-thirds of a season.  Not wanting to deal with that suspension, he retired instead.  That’s why it’s always good when a baseball player knows when it’s time to call it quits in every sense.  He did wonderful things when he was here in Boston, but we were on the receiving end of some pretty bad ugliness from him as well.  He was often funny but never easy.  It’s just sad that rather than recognizing when his time was up, he felt so compelled to follow such a course of action.  When Curt Schilling started to age, he prolonged his career by converting power to finesse in an incredible show of integrity, strength, and discipline.  Manny Ramirez was known throughout baseball for his intense work ethic but inconsistent-at-best personality.  Since he first failed four years after testing went into effect, and during those years he still posted numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame, he probably eventually saw the beginnings of a decline due to age and wanted to try to avoid it the bad way.  He thought he could play the game by his own rules but got caught when those rules were at odds with everyone else’s.  For now that’s all we know, and we’ll just have to wait and see what else happens.  Thanks for good memories, good times, and good laughs, Manny.  We’ll remember you as you were.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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And there you have the cushion! Incredible! We’re getting everything we need right now.  That’s good.  We’re playing .600 ball.  That’s first in the American League and tied with Milwaukee for second in the Major Leagues.  (The Dodgers are playing .674 ball.) It may seem like it’s early in the year, and it is, but it’s still a crucial time.  The month and a half leading up to the All-Star break is very important because it sets the tone for the second half of the season.  And right now we’re doing a lot of good tone-setting.  The Jays lost their seventh straight yesterday, so they’re in third with New York in second by one game.  But I’m not worried.  They may be on a hot streak, but New York isn’t going anywhere.  They always do this; they have a bad season with a few hot streaks just to scare you.  Then they’ll have a great September and ruin a bunch of teams’ playoff hopes and either not get to the playoffs or get to the playoffs and peter out in the first round.

Anyway, Brad Penny pitched a great game.  Quality start after quality start.  I like it.  And what we didn’t know is that he was battling indigestion before, during, and after battling the Twins.  Apparently he was throwing up between innings in the bathroom.  That right there is a warrior.  That’s something you don’t see too often.  And through it all he pitched five and a third, gave up three runs on six hits, no walks, seven strikeouts.  That’s about his usual; five or six innings and three runs.  He threw about seventy percent strikes.  His OPP AVG with runners in scoring position is below .200.  And he continues to improve.  The bottom line is that if the Twins couldn’t get to him in those conditions, they weren’t going to get to him at all.  Ramirez and Okajima each collected holds, and Paps got the save after almost blowing it.  Joe Mauer pinch-hit for Mike Redmond in the bottom of the ninth and hit a two-run shot.  The final score was 6-5.  Honestly I’d love to be furious with Paps right now and I am but the thing is it never lasts.  You can’t be furious when you know well and good you’ll never find a better closer in all of Major League Baseball.

We again out-hit our opponents, 16-8.  Ellsbury went two for five and scored, extending his hitting streak to twenty games.  That’s a career high, and he’s batting around .330 during that streak.  He was picked off first and caught stealing second, and it was ugly.  The Twins had him beat bad in the third inning.  The ball was waiting for him.  Very unusual.  Pedroia the Destroyah went three for five and scored twice and has a hitting streak of his own for eight games, during which he’s batting over .400.  He’s batted around .500 over his last four games alone.  That’s a hot hitter.  Youk and Bay each went two for five with a run and two RBIs.  Bay continued his dominance with runners in scoring position and is currently batting something like .340 in that situation.  Based on the way Bay’s been playing, we have two priorities this season: first, win the World Series, and second, lock up Jason Bay for the long term, because he’s establishing himself as one of the best in the game and with today’s market it’s almost impossible to find someone that good for that price.  Lowell went four for five with an RBI.  Baldelli made an error but went two for four.  Bailey took Dickey deep in the eighth for a very powerfully hit solo home run.  So what all of this means is that the first six starting spots in the lineup had multi-hit games.  It was fantastic.  Basically, it was watching one of the best teams in the American League figure out that there’s one of the best, and then there’s the best.  And when you play the best, you probably won’t win.  Hey, it happens.  We’ve now got six straight wins over the Twins and three more games to go in the series.

Jed Lowrie teed off before the game yesterday.  He took fifteen swings from each side of the plate and said he felt better hitting from the right than from the left.  His rehab is still on schedule, and they’re not going to rush.  He should be back in a few weeks.  Clay Buchholz is 3-0 with Pawtucket and almost had himself a perfect game last night.  He took it into the ninth inning but then gave up a leadoff single.  But he retained his composure.  That says a lot, because as soon as a bid like that is broken up, the pitcher can unravel very easily and very quickly, and for a young pitcher to stay with it says something.  So it ended up being a one-hit shutout, and it was the first one-hitter Pawtucket’s had since Bartolo Colon’s combined outing on April 3, 2008.

It’ll be Lester at Nick Blackburn tonight.  Hopefully Lester will build on that outstanding start against the Jays.  That was the first classic Lester start we’ve seen so far, and I’d love to see more.  The kid is good.  There’s a reason why he, and not Santana, wears our letters.  (Of course the irony is that Santana was with Minnesota, and they were after either Lester or Ellsbury.  That wasn’t going to happen.) And as soon as he remembers for good what that reason is, it won’t be pleasant for the opposition.

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Make no mistake: Theo Epstein, our resident baseball genius, knows exactly what he’s doing.  And this nice little shopping spree the front office has quietly been accomplishing is pretty impressive.  We re-signed Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal, and we acquired Takashi Saito and John Smoltz.  I’ll say something about John Smoltz.  The man is old, but the man’s still got it.  We also have ourselves a fourth outfielder: Rocco Baldelli.  Grew up a Sox fan in Rhode Island, and now he’s living the dream.  As for his health issues, extensive tests were conducted before the signing, and his contract is reasonable: a five hundred grand base plus performance incentives, so we’ve got it covered.  One other thing: he’s wearing Number 5.  Nobody’s worn Number 5 in Boston since July 31, 2004, when Nomar left.  So that’ll take some getting used to.

All of these deals were bargains, but they were bargains for a reason.  Baldelli wasn’t the only one with health issues; Saito and Smoltz both had significant injuries in ’08.  But both are also in better shape than Bartolo Colon, so I think they’ll recover nicely in Boston.  One thing’s for sure: our rotation will be deep.  Way deep.  And I have to say, I like Theo’s style: making due with the situation, shopping for bargains and unlikely successes, finding bargains here and there, ending up with a World Series ring.  It works well.

So I think we’re good with pitchers.  The rotation is covered.  What we need now is a slugger.  Which brings us back to the story of who but Mark Texeira.  It just keeps getting better and better.  Apparently he received similar offers from the Red Sox and Yankees but picked New York because his wife told him to:

I said to Leigh, we were sitting at dinner, ‘Everything’s equal. Where would you want to play?’ Finally, she broke down and said, “I want you to be a Yankee.” That’s what did it for me.

There are a couple of things wrong here.  First of all, Tex’s wife isn’t the one playing, so she shouldn’t be the only one calling the shots here.  Second of all, her reasons for wanting to go to New York apparently involved family.  She actually thinks New York City is a good place to move a family.  I can’t comprehend that.  I mean, I’m in Yankee country, so I’ve seen the city.  It’s not pretty.  Boston, on the other hand, is a completely different story.  New York City? Come on.  If I weren’t in shock at the audacity of this woman, I’d be laughing out loud.  DJ Gallo explained it best in ESPN’s Page 2; that was just what Teixeira said, but this was what Teixeira meant:

Yeah, once the Yankees offered me $180 million, I was more than happy to go along with my wife’s wishes. Just yesterday, she said, “Mark, I want you to take the trash out.” And I will, just as soon as she pays me $180 million.

But then Peter Gammons brought up an interesting point.  Looking back on it, there could only have been one reason why Leigh Teixeira wouldn’t want to move to Boston.  One reason only.  And this reason is so profound, so legitimate, and so significant that it and it alone was the only thing that could’ve made her husband put on pinstripes: the shops on Newbury Street were clearly unsatisfactory.

Hideki Okajima visited St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo, where he spent time with kids suffering from cancer and other illnesses.  On Monday, Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons spent time with kids at the Home for Little Wanderers in Boston, and they played at yesterday’s Hot Stove/Cool Music for the Foundation to be Named Later.  I say this all the time but it’s true: stuff like that just make you proud.

Hall of Fame results come out tomorrow, and this is Jim Rice’s last chance.  So we’ll see what happens.  Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah is the cover athlete for Sony’s “MLB ’09: The Show.” As he should be.  This is ’07’s Rookie of the Year and ’08’s second base Gold Glove and Most Valuable Player.  This is also the guy who, at yesterday’s Hot Stove/Cool Music baseball roundtable, responded to Rays outfielder Fernando Perez’s statement of how it felt to beat us with “Don’t get used to it.” Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah is the man.

Finally, a 139-year-old baseball card was found in California.  It’s a picture of the “Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnatti, the first professional baseball team.  It’s one of the first baseball cards ever made.  At least some things in the sport are still sacred, even if Scott Boras and his shamelessness aren’t.

In other news, the Bruins’ last two games ended in decisive victories: a 6-4 win over the Sens and a 5-1 domination of the Canes.  We’re 8-2-0 in our last  ten with 66 points, one point shy of the League-leading Sharks.  But there’s something bigger going on here.  I keep saying that I think the Bruins will finally bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston.  But let’s think about that for a second.  We’re about a week and a half into January with approximately three months left to play.  And we’re still pretty much at the top of the National Hockey League.  This is more or less how it’s been since the season started.  Let’s not forget that the last time Boston saw the Stanley Cup was in 1972.  Between then and now we’ve just been dreaming about it.  But looking at the numbers again and taking it all in, it started to occur to me that this might actually be real.  We could be in the process of witnessing a championship season.  Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

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In response to yesterday’s post, Saul commented:

The thing about Teixeira, though, is that he’s not a great fielder, which is why he’s been stuck at first. He’s by no means bad, but he doesn’t have the range you need for a third baseman. I think your best bet, if you sign him, is to keep Youk at third while Lowell works his way back – although that doesn’t make sense for one reason: to do either what you suggest or what I suggest, you’re going to have bench either Youk or Teixeira with some regularity, unless you make Youk a shortstop or something, which i don’t see. And you can’t sit either of those guys, not even for Lowell’s D. So if you sign Tex, as I see it, you basically tell Lowell that you’re done with him, because he just doesn’t fit on a roster with Youk and Tex in front of him.

He’s right, and it presents an interesting dilemma.  I think it’s safe to say that Theo will be looking into the possibility of landing Teixeira.  Who wouldn’t? In 2008, he batted .308 with 33 home runs, 121 RBIs, a .410 OBP, and a .552 slugging percentage.  And as a first baseman, he’s a great fielder, posting a .997 fielding percentage for this past season.  Now, this is where we run into trouble.  Teixeira’s only Major League experience at third base was fifteen games in 2003, and for those fifteen games he posted a fielding percentage of .811.  Granted, that’s only fifteen games, and perhaps if he’d played more that statistic would’ve been able to rise, but you also have to consider that maybe there was a reason why he didn’t play more.  When Saul says that you need range to cover third base, he’s absolutely correct.  It’s a very demanding position, and it’s one that requires a lot of dexterity.  Which is what led me in the first place to thinking about what would happen if we signed Teixeira.  Mikey Lowell’s injury turned out to be more serious than anyone thought.  It was so serious that he was taken off the ALCS roster so that he could have surgery.  That’s all well and good until you consider that he’s 34 years old, so even after the surgery there’s no guarantee he’ll be comparable to what he was in 2007.  And if we intend to keep Varitek, we’ll need all the offense we can get.

So we’re going to need someone who can be counted on to start regularly at third and who has quality offense and defense.  For most of this past season that was Youk with Casey and then Kotsay at first.  So, if we consider Saul’s suggestion of signing Teixeira and putting him at first, we commit to putting Youk at third permanently.  But where does that leave Lowell? Contractually, we have him through 2010, but if we’re successful in signing Teixeira what will that mean for Lowell? It’s a question with no easy answer.  But here’s what I’m thinking.

We’re not the Yankees.  We don’t kick one of our own to the curb on a whim, we don’t consider players to be interchangeable, we don’t staff our team with new superstars every season, and we don’t do anything unless it’s for the long-term good of the club as a whole.  Lowell has already done more than he was ever expected to do; after all, the only reason why he ended up with us was Josh Beckett.  The Marlins refused to trade us Josh Beckett unless they could use that deal to unload Lowell.  Turns out they had no idea who they were parting with; Lowell, of course, turned out to be the 2007 World Series MVP.  But here’s the thing.  He’s aging, he’s injured, and he only has two years left in his contract.  It’s unlikely that we’ll re-sign him after those two years are up, but by that time Teixeira will already be in the middle of another contract.  However, if we sign Teixeira now, he can find a place for himself on the team, the new clubhouse chemistry will have a chance to form, and he’d be able to stay with us for many season to come.

Mikey Lowell is one of my favorite players on the team, no question.  His attitude is great, on and off the field.  He’s one hundred percent Boston dirt dog.  His offense is great, and his defense is outstanding.  But if I had to put myself in Theo’s shoes, if the opportunity to sign Teixeira arose I’d take it, and as difficult as it would be (and it would be extraordinarily difficult), I think ultimately I’d have to let Lowell find a home on a team where he’d be able to share playing time with an up-and-coming third baseman.  That would give him the extra rest he’d need while letting him remain in that primary starter role.

In other news, Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Bartolo Colon, and David Ross have filed.  Of those four, Sean Casey and Alex Cora are obviously the top priorities, and I’d say re-signing them would be a good idea.  The Pats couldn’t hold up against the Colts and lost last night, 18-15.  Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal; oh, the irony.  On Saturday, the Bruins blew the Dallas Stars out of the water with a final score of 5-1.  They’ll play again at home against the Leafs on Thursday.

Moving Portrait

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Again, I’d be very surprised if Tampa Bay just handed us the division.  I think it’s clear now that they’re not going down easily, so we’ll just have to chip away and chip away until we get there.  And that’s something that’s easy to do, because in recent weeks they’ve been nowhere near as solid as they were in the beginning of the season.  The Rays fade is here.  It’s small, but it’s hear.  There are definite weaknesses in their play, and the more the league figures that out, the more the Rays will have to do some adjusting, and the less likely they’ll be to make a real run for it.  I don’t think they have the experience to make all the adjustments that need to be made this time of year.

With last night’s win, we’re half a game closer to the division! It was close.  The final score was 4-3, and it was that one run scored by Jay Bay in the eighth that made the difference.  None other than Jason Varitek batted him in.  That’s nice to see.  In the beginning of the season Tek was a guaranteed out.  Now there’s a decent chance he’ll either walk or hit is way on.  Youk went two for four with a walk and batted one in after the umpire ruled that that swing in the fifth was checked.  And Casey batted two in on a double to complete the fifth-inning rally.  He’s now 15 for 29 in his career against Burnett.  Hopefully this is a sign that his bat’s heating up, because we’ll need those line drives.  Lowrie also had a god night, going two for three.  Pedroia was held hitless but still managed to get on base anyway by drawing a walk and then scored a run.  Let it be stated here that Dustin Pedroia, even though he’s cooled off a bit lately, should still win MVP.  His defense at second base is unparalleled in the league and probably ever.  His offensive production this season has been record-breaking.  I mean look at his stats as a clean-up hitter.  In that spot alone he batted .647 and slugged 1.176 with a .684 OBP.  He went 11 for 17 with two walks, five runs, six RBIs, three doubles, and two home runs.  And that’s all just from the No. 4 spot.  And even when he’s not hitting it’s almost impossible to keep him off the base paths.  Sound like an MVP to me.

In another two moments of ineptitude, Jacoby Ellsbury again was caught stealing and picked off in the same night.  Wow.  Twice in the same week.  Very rare.

Byrd pitched six, gave up three runs on six hits and a walk and struck out two.  No home runs allowed.  And he actually credits Red Sox Nation for helping him out.  He read Sons of Sam Horn and letters written by fans and discovered that he was tipping off his pitches to batters.  So he had a talk with John Farrell and he fixed it.  And the relief was perfect across the board, combining to pitch three shutout innings.  Lopez to Delcarmen to Okajima to Pap.  Perfect.  Delcarmen got the win, and Pap got the save.  Pap allowed only one hit in the ninth, so he’s coming around, even though he did commit that throwing error.

In other news, Drew doesn’t look like he’ll be back within the next few games.  After taking his swings his back acted up again, and you could actually read the frustration on his face.  This is a new Drew, ladies and gentlemen.  When he was playing in the National League you would never have seen this kind of need to play.  He is most definitely a dirt dog.  Mikey Lowell’s been sidelined to rest his hip before October.  I think that’s smart.  It flared up after an unbalanced throw he made on Tuesday, and the pain was just too much.  He probably won’t be back until our final homestand.  But the important thing is that he’s health for the postseason, and if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes.  Bartolo Colon was put on the suspended list yesterday.  He had a great start, but then he pretended to be David Ortiz with that powerful cut of a swing in Interleague and that was it for him.  It was DL, DL, and more DL for the rest of the season.  And it’s doubtful he would’ve made much of an impact in October anyway.

And now, the big finale: clinching! We could guarantee a playoff berth as early as tonight if we win, the Yankees lose, and either the Twins or other Sox lose.  Hey, it could happen.  The Yankees at this point are battling for third place with the Jays, the Twins are playing the Rays, and the other Sox are playing the Royals.  So it’s possible we could wrap it up this afternoon.  Of course even if we do the season is far from over.  There’s still the division that we need to win.  But we’re getting there.  We’re definitely getting there.

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