Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Hall’

The exciting part of free agency is now finished.  I guess that’s what happens when you move up every single important offseason deadline.  Cliff Lee is officially off the market as well.  But he didn’t sign with the Rangers.  He didn’t even sign with the Yankees.  He signed with the Phillies.  They made a late bid on Monday night and he took it.  Five years and one hundred million dollars.

You read right.  The Yankees offered him seven years for 142 million, and he turned it down.  He turned down more years and more money to go back to Philly.  Both deals pay him roughly the same amount per season, but it’s a big decision to turn down that much security.  A reasonable and rational one in this case, in my opinion, since it means he’s not going to New York.  The man has scruples.

So, to review, we now have Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and the Yankees do not have Cliff Lee.  I repeat: the New York Yankees do not have Cliff Lee! Said another way, Cliff Lee just dropped the New York Yankees like nobody’s business and basically showed them that, no, not everything in life can be bought.  The shift in the balance of power in the AL East is now complete.  Order has been restored in the universe.  We are back on top, and there’s nothing New York can do about it.  As far as the Phillies are concerned, we’ll deal with them in Interleague and the World Series, if they get there.  Keep in mind that they’re beatable.  Their rotation is great, but so is ours.  The only problem is that there are lots of question marks attached to ours and less attached to theirs.  But if those question marks yield positive answers this season, we’ll be fine.  Especially when you consider the fact that our lineup is packed with lefties, so right-handed pitching stands no chance.  We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Meanwhile, life is great!

Life is so great that one of the hot debate topics in Red Sox Nation these days is who will lead off, Crawford or Ellsbury? Just think about that for a second.  This is a question that we were asking in our dreams not too long ago.  This is a question that managers of All-Star teams were asking themselves not too long ago.  And now this is a question that our manager gets to ask himself on a daily basis.  That’s how great life is.  Because, when you put this in perspective, you realize that choosing between Ellsbury and Crawford for the leadoff spot is not a problem.  Choosing between Hall and McDonald and Patterson and Cash and Nava for every single lineup spot, day in and day out, is a problem.  And in answer to that question, I think Ellsbury has to lead off.  Pedroia will bat second, and Crawford will bat third.  Tito is saying now that Ellsbury will probably lead off, Crawford will bat either second or third, and Pedroia will bat wherever Crawford doesn’t bat, but those three will take the first three spots.  Ultimately, though, I assume Tito will separate the two lefties with the righty to confound opposing pitching.

The Yankees ended up locking Russell Martin; they agreed to terms with him on a one-year deal.

On to the bullpen, which is the only part of our baseball lives that wasn’t so great.  We signed Lenny DiNardo to a one-year minor league split deal.  Welcome back.  I should mention that his best season to date occurred under the tutelage of one Curt Young.  We signed Matt Albers to a one-year deal.  We also signed Dan Wheeler to a one-year deal.  But the highlight of this week’s bullpen wheeling and dealing is undoubtedly Bobby Jenks, formerly the closer for the White Sox who was non-tendered.  Jenks has agreed to a two-year deal in principle.  He didn’t have a great season last year, so we probably won’t have to deal with any competition between him and Paps for the position of closer.  Paps didn’t have a great year last year either, but his bad year was better than Jenks’s bad year.  But Jenks is awesome – his fastball is red-hot, and he throws a lot of strikes – with him on board, our bullpen can go straight to the top again.

Jenks is four years younger than Paps, and he makes our bullpen one of the hardest-throwing in the Major Leagues.  But heat isn’t everything; it’ll give you a lot of strikeouts but doesn’t guarantee you the save.  Consider this, though: baseball operations has wanted some sort of variation in the late innings, because before this deal we had Bard and Paps, so hitters were guaranteed fastball after fastball after fastball.  Jenks is a fastball pitcher, so the change of pace could come from Paps.  Paps is obviously a power pitcher, but his splitter and slider, on which he worked really hard last year, are now excellent, yielding .190 and .171 opposing batting averages, respectively.  So Jenks could get him to rely less on his fastball and throw more of those.  Obviously, his fastball is still amazing, but this would make him more versatile.  And more battle-ready, since now he probably won’t see action besides the ninth or in consecutive games.  So Jenks might actually make Paps more effective.

That, in turn, could have significant ramifications for next year’s offseason, when Paps becomes a free agent.  If he mounts a stellar campaign this year, he’ll be in a position to demand a stellar amount of cash.  But Heath Bell will also be a free agent at that time, and it’s unclear how well Paps will be able to compete with him in the market.  So this deal with Jenks gives us a lot of options and a lot of leverage for negotiations.  Bell will probably steal the show, and Paps would be demoted to a backup interest for most teams.  And let’s not forget the possibility that we could just decide to make Jenks the set-up man and Bard the closer, something of which I am sure Paps is well aware.  Honestly, I hope that doesn’t happen.  I hope we retain Paps, and I suspect we will, but there’s no way to know.  The bottom line for now is this: Jenks, Bard, Paps.  Done.  Game over.

Last but not least, the player to be named later in the Gonzalez deal is Eric Patterson.  He had some big heroics in Fenway, and he’ll be missed.

Red Sox Nation sends its condolences to the family of Walt Dropo, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1950 with us, who passed away on Friday.  He beat out Whitey Ford for the award.  He was one of our greatest of that era.  And he will be missed.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres by a goal.  Ryder scored a power play goal to put us on top in the third period, but Drew Stafford put the finishing touches on a hat trick in the third as well, and Buffalo won out.  We also suffered a brutal loss to the Habs by a goal.  The final score was 3-4.  It was crushing.  And then we turned around and crushed the Caps.  Barely.  The final score was 3-2.  Thomas made twenty-five saves in the third period alone; if it weren’t for him, I’m not convinced we would have picked up the W, because that third period was awful.  And Tom Brady delivered a sound thrashing to Chicago’s pass defense, yielding a final score of 36-7.  It was excellent.

I’ll be taking a break for about a week.  I think it’s safe to say that most of the big name wheeling and dealing’s been done.  But you never know.  Theo will probably use this week to finalize the bullpen situation and take care of any other necessary business.  But at this point, I think we’re set!

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

We claimed outfielder Jordan Parraz off waivers from Kansas City.  That officially fills out our forty-man roster.  He’s going straight to Triple-A, where he’ll stay unless an injury hits.

And that’s as simple as this week’s news is going to get, so hold onto your hats.  We offered arbitration to Beltre, Felipe Lopez, and V-Mart.  They have until Tuesday to decline.

Beltre is going to decline.  That’s basically a fact.  He has a five-year offer from the A’s on the table, and Theo will not come close to that in terms of years, and that’s not even talking about the cash.  So we’re going to get two draft picks for him.  I was ready for this.  I knew Beltre wouldn’t return.  He was only here for one year, and he had too good a season.  Between those two facts, he was bound to test the market.  And his good season inflated his value.  I say “inflated” and not “increased” because, as I’ve said before, I think a big part of why his season was so good was Fenway Park.  He’s a terrific athlete at the plate and in the field, but if you take away Fenway Park, I doubt you’ll get the same production numbers from him.  And I think Theo also knew he wouldn’t return.  So this is an unfortunate but not surprising turn of events.

Lopez is a Type B free agent, so we’re going to get a sandwich-round draft pick if he signs with someone else.  If he accepts, he’d get a better salary than he would ever be able to get on the open market.  But if we cut him during Spring Training, he’s got nothing.  So he’s going to decline.  A wise move given his poor season last year.

V-Mart will not be returning to Boston.  He’s going to sign a four-year deal worth fifty million dollars with the Tigers.  So he got what he wanted: years with cash.  So the question becomes whether he would have been worth a better offer from us.  We offered him four years for forty-two million dollars.  There’s no question that that should have been enough, so the question then becomes whether we should have matched the Tigers.  A part of me does sort of wish that Theo just offered the extra eight million.  V-Mart is a hitting catcher who also plays first base, and he’s starter material in all three.  There is probably no other active player right now for whom that is true.  We already have a first baseman, but we need a hitter, and we need a catcher, and rare is the opportunity to consolidate the two into one player.  He’s improved his throwing, he’s gotten to know our staff really well, and we just spent all of last season grooming him to take on the starter’s role and be our catcher of the future.  This is not Mark Teixeira; we can revisit the Mark Teixeira episode when we start talking about Adrian Gonzalez.  We’ve kept our fair share of catchers in the starter’s role well beyond the point where they ceased to merit it.  And the reason why I brought up Mark Teixeira is that he’s an example of us in the past offering loads of cash and loads of years to a player who may or may not have been worth it.  (Again, that’s a separate issue, and I’m sure it’ll come up when we get to Adrian Gonzalez.) So given those two facts, it just seems like, if there were ever a time or a player that merited an extra eight million dollars, it would be right now and V-Mart.  There are only maybe three other catchers in the Majors who can hit like he can, and none of them are on the radar.  So we’re going to have to go with a catcher who’s solid behind the plate and compensate for the loss of production with another position.  That would explain our interest in Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and recently Justin Upton from the D-Backs.

However, from a sabermetrics standpoint, Theo’s decision makes sense.  We all know that Theo has that line, different for every player given our situation at the time, that he absolutely under any circumstances will not cross.  And I guess that was the line for V-Mart.  It’s easy to say that Theo should’ve just kicked in an extra eight million, but it’s possible that that would’ve set off some sort of bidding war, although very small in scale because this is the Tigers we’re talking about, and the Tigers would’ve gone above that, and we wouldn’t have matched that new offer anyway.  The Tigers’ situation is completely different than ours.  They finished the season at .500 exactly, and they’re looking for shining stars around which to construct a team that can compete.  But we need V-Mart more than they do because V-Mart won’t get them to the World Series.  He might get us to the World Series.  But he’s thirty-two years old, so he’s approaching that age, which we all know comes sooner for catchers than it does for other position players.  He’ll probably only be able to catch consistently for the first half of that contract.  And let’s not forget that there are draft picks involved, something that in the past has led to the likes of Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Lowrie, and Ellsbury.  So, as you can see, there are all sorts of variables involved that Theo obviously didn’t think merited that kind of money for those years, perhaps because the last one or two of them would see an obvious decrease in performance.

I always say that in Theo we must trust, so we’re going to have to wait and see.  He thinks of every angle.  He places a value on a player before negotiations and sticks to it.  He doesn’t like bidding wars, and honestly neither do I.  All I know is that Salty can not handle the starter’s role.  He just can’t.  That’s confirmed by the fact that we’re already looking for replacements, who could include Bengie Molina, Mike Napoli, and Chris Iannetta.  Ultimately, we need to put a good team on the field every year.  Not just this year and next year.  So if that ability would have been hindered by offering V-Mart extra money, we can’t have that.  As long as the catcher can catch and the hitters can hit, it doesn’t technically matter whether the catcher is the one hitting or the hitter is the one catching.

Speaking of catchers, we didn’t offer arbitration to Tek because we didn’t want to pay three million dollars to a Type B backup catcher.  If he signs with someone else, we won’t get draft picks.  But he won’t sign with someone else.  He’s coming back.

We didn’t offer arbitration to Hall, who wants to go somewhere with more playing time.  Speaking of versatility, there is arguably no player more versatile than Hall.  His average keeps him from starting regularly, but he has played almost every position for us this past year: second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field, even pitcher.  That, my friends, is a dirt dog answering the call of duty.

As always with arbitration, the week leaves us with lots of questions and almost no answers.  That’s the beauty of the offseason.  It’s a time when teams get the chance to overhaul, and you never know what you’re going to get.  Stay tuned.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Lightning, 1-3, but then beat the Panthers by the same score.  The Devils shut us out, and we’re playing the Thrashers this evening.  The Thrashers are hot right now, so this would be a great time for us to bounce back.  The Pats crushed the Lions, 45-24.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

The Giants won the World Series.  That in and of itself has absolutely nothing to do with us, other than two facts: we were one of only four teams to post a winning record against them this past season, and free agency has finally begun.

We declined options on Felipe Lopez and Bill Hall.  I like that move on Hall.  He proved to be an incredibly key asset this season with all the injuries, but it makes more sense to defer action on him until we get more of a sense of the direction we’ll be taking this winter.  We did exercise our option on Atchison.  I’m fine with that.  He’s not the best reliever in the world, but he is a reliever, and we need those.

Beltre declined his option.  That’s about the most surprising news I’ve heard in the last minute.  He’s actually not in as good of a spot as he thinks he is.  His value is up this offseason because of the awesome season he just had with us.  But one of the reasons why he had that awesome season with us is Fenway.  As soon as he signs with another team, he doesn’t play in Fenway, and his bat changes.  I’m not saying Fenway made him the great slugger he was this past year, but I’m saying it was certainly helpful.

V-Mart and Tek both filed.  V-Mart and Tek will, in all likelihood, both be back.

We picked up Papi’s option.  There’s an interesting story.  Papi spent this past week very publicly expressing a desire for an extension.  He didn’t want to return only for one year because all the speculation about the possibility of his decline would return.  I see where he’s coming from, and I believe him.  We probably will spend all of the first half of next season reading the exact same articles that say the exact same thing they said last year before, lo and behold, he returned to form and a good time was had by all.  So if I were him, I’d be tired of all that too.  At the same time, I respect Theo’s decision.  Theo has his own reasons for only wanting to lock Papi for a year, and he can’t abandon those reasons just because of the media’s obsessive tendencies.  Extensions were discussed, but the parties couldn’t agree.  Now that the option has been picked up, Papi isn’t upset about it.  He told Theo he’s cool with it, in those words.  And Theo basically said afterwards that they wouldn’t have picked up the option if Papi weren’t cool with it.  The man hasn’t been a free agent since 2002.  I don’t think he’s going to be a free agent any time soon.  He’ll have another monster year this year, and again, a good time will be had by all.

We picked up Brent Dlugach from Detroit for cash considerations or a player to be named later.  He’s basically a career minor league shortstop.  He gives us depth, and the transaction isn’t even finalized until April 15, so we get all of Spring Training to see how he does.

Meanwhile, Youk continues to be the picture of versatility and teamwork.  He said he doesn’t care where he plays – first base, third base, even shortstop – as long as the team’s needs are met and as long as he gets to stay in the infield.  I personally would love to see him just stay put at first.  He’s also excellent at third, but at first he’s a cut above everybody.

What could complicate that is the fact that the Padres are going to trade Adrian Gonzalez.  That is a verifiable fact.  And we are going to be interested.  That is another verifiable fact.  The problem is that Gonzalez wants a Teixeira-like contract: lots of money and lots of years.  The question is whether he’d be worth it, and that depends on how our offseason goes.

Finally, last but most definitely not least, we have our new pitching coach: Curt Young.  For all intents and purposes, Tito knew Farrell would be gone, so he and Farrell independently compiled their own lists of good fits.  Young was at the top of both lists, and I’m going to trust in whoever makes the top of two different lists like that.  Young leaves one sabermetrics-obsessed team for another.  He coached for the A’s for the last seven seasons but turned down their extension in favor of free agency to come here.  Last year, Oakland had the best ERA in the American League with 3.58.  During his seven years, Oakland has an AL-best ERA of 4.03 and an AL-best OPP AVG of .257.  They allowed an AL-low 1,062 home runs.  John Farrell will be sorely missed, and I really wish he’d stayed on with us because he’s basically the best, period, but if I had to pick someone to replace him, I’d agree with him and Tito.  There really isn’t much more to say.  Farrell left, we needed a pitching coach, and Young it is.  Welcome to Boston.

In other news, the Bruins had a record game this week.  We beat the Sabres, 5-2, on Wednesday in an epic contest.  But then we lost to the Caps and to the Blues in overtime, which shattered our status as undefeated on the road, which did set a new franchise record.  Thomas is undefeated in eight starts this season and is the first goalie in franchise history to be so.  We are seven, two, and one overall, second in the division behind the Habs whom we will surely soon surpass.  The Pats killed the Vikings, 28-18.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

Read Full Post »

The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

No need for introductions today.  The circumstances of the game say it all.  That and I can’t really describe verbally the sensation of being trampled that I am currently experiencing.  Needless to say, today’s headline is obviously the understatement of the century.

There was nothing more we could have asked of Dice-K.  The contrast between last night and his seven previous starts was so stark that I thought we were looking at a different pitcher entirely.  In his seven previous starts, he allowed at least four runs in each, the second-longest streak like that in the Major Leagues this season and the longest by one of our starters since 1943.  But last night Dice-K went in there and delivered just about the best start he could possibly have delivered.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, a walk, and seven strikeouts on 110 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.

Through seven, he faced the minimum plus one.  He made only one mistake: an 0-2 cutter that didn’t do much and ended up out of the park.  Other than that, he was spotless.  He used the first inning to establish a solid fastball, and he mixed in a formidable cutter and curveball after that.  He even added a very effective slider and changeup.  It was remarkable.  His release point was tight, and he went after hitters.  Very easily one of his top five outings this year.

So Dice-K did his job.  And the offense did its job as best it could.  Again, I feel  compelled to mention the staggering fact that this year alone we’ve had nineteen guys on the DL, nine of whom were former or current All-Stars.  V-Mart singled in Hall in the eighth.  That one run held until Dice-K’s mistake in the seventh gave the Yankees a one-run lead, and the despair was setting in.  Rivera came on for a four-out save.  We were down to the ninth with our last chance.  And that was when we proceeded to steal four bases, providing Rivera with a new career high.  Kalish and Hall both stole twice.  Granted, some of those were the result of fielder indifference, but still.

With one out, Kalish singled, stole second, and stole third.  They brought the infield in, and Hall hit one over everybody to score Kalish.  Then Hall stole second and third and scored on Lowell’s sac fly.  Just like that, we had ourselves another one-run lead.  And I’m thinking we got this.

But then Paps came on and was just as porous.  Two singles and a full-count walk loaded the bases, and a single tied it up and re-loaded the bases.  Yet another blown save.  His ERA over his previous six appearances was 14.21.  And home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was not helpful.  I’ve always said that if an umpire wants to influence the action of a game that much, he should suit up and play, but if he’s content with being an umpire, he should just umpire and that’s it.

When Okajima came out to handle the bottom of the tenth, it became very obvious that this game smacked of the taste of October.  It was windy, it was rainy, it was nailbitingly close, and the odds say that it will be our only taste of the thrill of the postseason this year.  One more loss or Yankees win and we are officially out.

Okajima made things go very quickly from bad to worse.  A single, a bunt, and an intentional walk loaded the bases.  Okajima walked in the walkoff run.  It wasn’t even remotely close.  It was utterly humiliating and severely painful.  I’m telling you, there is a wide variety of methods to win via the walkoff.  The bases-loaded walk is one of them.  And of all those methods, the bases-loaded walk is the absolute worst, hands down.  On top of that, consider the circumstances of this particular bases-loaded walk and basically you’ve hit the jackpot in the most negative sense.

It was one of the season’s longest nights, both literally and figuratively.  Dice-K isn’t the fastest pitcher in the world, but he actually did alright.  We finished ten innings in almost exactly four hours.  Hey, like I said, at least we got some October-style thrills and chills.  We can be proud of the fact that we completely owned the Yankees in the first two games of the series; winning a series in the Bronx is definitely something to celebrate.  We made Girardi scratch Dustin Moseley and go with Hughes because he was afraid of us.  And we can take pride in the fact that we’re still going to show up and play tomorrow.  We have only seven games left in the regular season and a long winter ahead.  Let’s soak it all in while we can.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

We beat the Yankees! That sounds so nice, I’m going to say it again: We beat the Yankees! One more time; say it with me, everybody: We beat the Yankees!

It was fantastic.  Our magic number may be at three, and our chances of making the playoffs may be slim, and our team may be sorely depleted due to injuries, and our bullpen may almost have cost us the game, but we just showed everybody that we still got it, that this is still a great team very capable of inflicting some serious damage.

We just knocked New York right out of first place, people.  Feels good.  That wasn’t the point or the general goal of the win, but it was a nice bonus.  A real nice bonus.

We looked great out there.  We looked like we were on the hunt for a win and we weren’t going to stop until we got it.  Although the pitching staff made that view a bit complicated to maintain.  Leading us out was Josh Beckett, who pitched like we’ve been wanting him to pitch all year.  He turned it on last night, even though his line doesn’t show it.  He pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out five.  Oh, and he allowed four home runs.  Terrible.  Pathetic.  It was the fourth time in his career that he allowed that many homers in a game and the first time since August 23 of last year when the Yankees just had to take him deep five times.  He left balls up, and that’s what happens when you leave balls up.  Badness.  I don’t even want to look at a line like that, especially the home run part, especially when you consider that two of them were back-to-back.  But the thing is that he cruised right up until the sixth inning.  Up to that point, he allowed only three runs, and if that had stood, his start would’ve been considered short but quality.  His fastball and changeup were fantastic, and he was able to effectively add a good curveball and cutter.  He kept his inning pitch counts low, even during the bad ones.  He varied speeds nicely.  He loaded the bottom-left corner of the zone and pretty much stayed away from the upper right, he located almost everything, he moved every pitch, and he looked great.  Then the seventh inning started and he looked like a pitcher who was exhausted and needed to come out.  I knew in the bottom of the six when he made those back-to-back mistakes that he wasn’t going to last much longer.  Ultimately, he did get the win for the first time against New York this season, but it was a real struggle toward the end.

The bullpen took its cues from Beckett, and those cues were not good.  Atchison allowed two runs.  Bard didn’t allow any runs, but Paps allowed another run en route to a save.  It was absolutely nerve-wracking.  I didn’t feel safe and secure until that last strikeout was complete.  Luckily, this time, the offense bailed the bullpen out.

It was by far the worst outing of Pettitte’s season, and it was his worst start against us since September ’03.  Lowrie set the tone.  Lowrie smashed a three-run jack in the second.  It was a laser.  Fastball outside on the first pitch.  Five of his seven homers have now come against southpaws.  It was awesome.  I’m telling you, I’m still not quite sure where his power comes from, but it’s there.  I don’t think that technically was one of the tools we were expecting him to fulfill, but he is fulfilling it.  That would be his only RBI hit, but he would finish the night four for four for the first time in his career with three runs scored as well.

In the fourth, McDonald doubled in two, and Scutaro singled in two, and that was when Pettitte was duly removed.  In the top of the fifth, we had a big scare.  Granderson hit a ground ball that took one of the most bizarre hopes I’ve ever seen and hit Lowell in the right temple.  Ouch.  He went down.  He got up with help from the trainers and stayed in the game only to be taken out an inning later.  But I give him a lot of credit for not going out right then and there.  What a dirt dog.  Speaking of which, he’ll be honored with a ceremony on October 2, the day before his last game, to commemorate his illustrious career and all he did for us here in Boston.  His whole family will be there, so it’ll be a great day for him.  He definitely deserves it.

In the fifth, Hall smacked his own three-run jack.  He golfed it into the bullpen.  He was sitting on something down and middle-in, and he most definitely got it.  I also especially enjoyed Beltre’s catch of that foul in the eighth, where he literally half-dove into the stands to get the out.

We didn’t score again after the fifth, but it was enough.  To be honest with you, I was kind of disappointed; we had worked up to a 10-1 lead before the Yankees started to rally and I wanted so much for it to stand.  I wanted this win to be a completely lopsided slugfest that reminded everybody who we are and what we can do.  In the end, though, the important thing is that we won, period.  We can not afford to be picky.  And we definitely can celebrate about that and the fact that we go into this afternoon’s contest with some momentum and with Lester.  So we’re in a great position.  Get psyched.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

Apparently, the O’s are one team to whom we can lose.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, but I can tell you that it’s not good.  Now that the Rays have somehow ascended, we need every bad team we can get.  Baltimore is one of them.  And I don’t understand how we could possibly have lost.  I mean, it’s Baltimore.  We have Baltimore’s number through and through.  We’ve pulled out nailbiters against the elite of the league and we can’t even beat Baltimore at home? That says something which, again, is not good.  The fact that they’re eleven and four in their last fifteen games and twelve and three in the opening games of their last fifteen series is not an excuse.  That should be us, and they should be the team we use en route to get there.  But no.  Instead, we’re one and three on the homestand so far, and we’ve played two teams significantly worse than us.  We’re four and three against Baltimore at home this year, which is pathetic.  Three home losses are the most since we lost three at home in 2007.  It has to end there.

Dice-K did not deliver a quality start.  There’s no way you can slice it to claim otherwise.  He lasted six and a third innings, he gave up four runs on six hits, he walked five, two of which would eventually result in runs, and he struck out four.  He threw 109 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  And with the pace he works at, you have to have a lot of patience to sit there and watch him take hours to deliver.  Even Buck Showalter was feeling it.

Dice-K’s fastball was good, his curveball was excellent, his slider and cutter were functional, and his changeup wasn’t that great.  He had movement, he had a good release, and he did throw a lot of strikes.  But his performance was mediocre at best.  He hasn’t beaten Baltimore since September 2, and in his three starts against them this year he’s one and two with a 7.56 ERA.  I didn’t really know there was such a thing as a Major League pitcher who couldn’t handle Baltimore.  To make matters even worse, it was Dice-K’s seventh straight start during which he allowed at least four earned runs, posting a record of one and three with a 6.91 ERA during those games.  That’s a new career high, by the way.  Or should I say a new career low.  But the icing on the cake is the fact that he’s allowed at least one run in the first inning of ten of his twenty-three starts this year.  Last night was no exception.  He needed twenty-two pitches to get through the first, and this time Houdini was absent.  He followed that with eight pitches in the second, but that efficiency wouldn’t last.

We took back that run in the bottom of the first on V-Mart’s RBI single.  We wouldn’t score again until the sixth, when Hall hit an RBI single after he showed off his arm by perfectly throwing out Roberts at the plate in the third.  And that was it for us.  We almost scored another run in the sixth; the inning ended in a double play.  Tek had struck out, and Hall lit out for second but was thrown out; meanwhile, Lowrie had lit out for the plate but was thrown out there.

We collected five hits to Baltimore’s eight, and we left six on base.  That means that we didn’t take advantage of the few opportunities we had.  Our entire team walked four times; Baltimore walked seven times.  And anyone who’s read “Moneyball” knows that it’s therefore not a coincidence that Baltimore was able to win.  You can thank Bowden for those three walks, and you can thank Bard for allowing two inherited runners to score even though he’d only allowed twelve of forty-one inherited runners to score all season heading into the game.  So that’s that.  V-Mart had a great night; he went three for four with a double, our only extra-base hit.  Other than that, we had Hall’s single and McDonald hit a single.  That’s just sad.  Lowrie was caught stealing and V-Mart made a throwing error when his pickoff attempt ended up somewhere in left field.

This is our last chance to win a series against Baltimore this season.  During their last visit to Boston, the Orioles won two consecutive games for the first time since doing it four straight times from 2004 to 2005.  I really don’t want that to happen here.  At the very least, I’d really like to go out with a bang.

Reuters Photo

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »