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Posts Tagged ‘Billy Butler’

Yet again, we lost.  Yet again, it was crushing.  Yet again, the whole thing could have been neatly avoided.

Lester lasted only five innings.  He gave up four runs on six hits, but only one of those runs was earned, if you can believe it.  He walked one and struck out three using a total of 108 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.

The Royals jumped out early; Lester began with a groundout and a strikeout but then allowed a walk that clearly should have been a strikeout as well as a single.  Byrd then made a fielding error that by itself allowed the three unearned runs: it caused Johnny Giavotella to reach, Jeff Francoeur to advance to third, Billy Butler to score, and then Francoeur and Giavotella to both score on a double by Brayan Pena.  Byrd dropped the ball, both literally and figuratively.  I’m serious.  That was the fielding error.  He just dropped it.  And Pena’s double was no less strange; it was in Ross’s glove, then as his momentum carried him back it got out of the glove and bounced against the wall, and then somehow got back into his glove without hitting the ground.  Words can not adequately express the frustration and humiliation that befell Red Sox Nation at the hands of Ross’s glove, or rather lack thereof.

Although our hitters didn’t make much of a splash in the first two innings, we answered Kansas City’s challenge in the third and tied it up.  Byrd, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his egregious mistake, began the inning with a single.  Sweeney then singled and, after Aviles flied out, Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Papi of all people then struck out of all things, but Gonzalez, continuing his journey out of his slump, smacked a bases-clearing double.  With one swing of the bat, the slate was clean once again.

We looked like we may have been poised to score more in the top of the fourth; Ross began it with a groundout, but then Salty doubled and Byrd got hit.  Two outs later, Kansas City was up at bat, and a double and sac bunt later, the winning run had scored.

So Lester wasn’t as mediocre as his line would make him out to be, although he obviously wasn’t throwing his best stuff since he needed more than a hundred pitches to get through only five innings.  Still, he did seem to settle down as the game went on.  He retired the side in the fifth and was replaced by Mortensen in the sixth, when Mortensen did the same.

The only other time we came close to threatening was in the top of the ninth, when Ross, then replaced by pinch-runner McDonald, singled and Salty walked.  Both advanced a base on Byrd’s sac fly, which Bobby V. thought should have been ruled differently because he said that Byrd was hit on the finger.  He wanted home plate umpire Jeff Nelson to ask the opinion of first base umpire Tim Tschida.  Nelson refused on the grounds that Tschida would have been too far away to have an opinion at all.  And then Bobby V. went off about it after the game because Sweeney and Aviles provided two quick outs, and you never know what would have happened had the inning not been over.

Aviles had the team’s only multi-hit game with two hits.  Gonzalez’s double and Salty’s double were the only extra-base hits we hit all night.  Our batters didn’t pick up Ross’s slack, so we lost, 4-3.  Yup.  Ross dropped the ball.  You know it’s getting out of hand when the only thing tempering your frustration is your retrospective lack of surprise.

Last but most certainly not least, the condolences of Red Sox Nation and I go out to the family of Carl Beane, the voice of Fenway Park since 2003, who passed away yesterday.  His last game was the seventeen-inning loss.  He loved this park and this team, and he and his voice will most certainly be missed.

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This is the best time of year, and with the Yankees series this weekend, it feels like it’s October already.  This could be it.  After last night’s win, we reduced our magic number to three.  We could clinch in Yankee Stadium and celebrate on New York soil, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is absolutely, positively, without a doubt something to smile about.

But let’s talk about last night first.  The final score was 10-3.  Buchholz was brilliant and was not responsible for any of those runs.  Six and two-thirds shutout innings pitched.  No walks.  Eight strikeouts.  If he didn’t allow five hits, he would’ve been on his way to a perfect game.  But even with the five hits, that outing was absolutely brilliant.  You can’t even get an outing like that out of some veterans, let alone some young upstart who had a horrible season last year.  But he’s on the rise.  All of his outings this year have been at least decent, and this was his sixth straight quality start.  He’ll be starting in October.  Just watch.

It was Ramirez who was responsible for the runs.  All three of them.  He recorded only two outs but gave up three runs on three hits, partly the courtesy of Billy Butler, who hit a two-run shot off him in the eighth.  In some ways, this is more concerning than if Buchholz had given up the runs, because this is a star of the bullpen we’re talking about.  We all know the importance of the bullpen in the postseason.  Now more than ever, they need to hold it together.  Especially Ramirez and Delcarmen, who haven’t been at their best lately.  Saito wasn’t great either; he pitched the rest of the game and allowed two hits and a walk.

Ellsbury went three for six with an RBI and two steals.  Pedroia went two for five with a double and an RBI.  Martinez went two for five with a walk.  Bay was hitless but walked.  Ortiz had a fantastic night, going three for five with a double, a walk, and three RBIs, one of which came on a leadoff homer in the fourth that he absolutely crushed.  Lowell hit and walked twice.  Kotchman and Gonzalez both went two for four with a double and a walk.  Gonzalez also stole.  Reddick walked twice.  So every single member of the starting lineup reached base at least once.

Needless to say, this was not Kansas City’s best work, but with five errors and two ejections, it was pretty entertaining.  Zack Greinke was ejected in the third for heckling home plate umpire Greg Gibson.  Then Anthony Lerew knocked Lowell’s helmet off in the fourth with a curveball, so Gibson warned Lerew and both benches.  Trey Hillman came out and had the liveliest exchange with an umpire that I’ve seen in a while, and he got tossed.  And the words continued even after that.  I’d say this particular crew was pretty sensitive.  I don’t think Lerew was trying to hit Lowell on purpose.  If you’re going to hit a batter on purpose, you do it with a fastball, not an off-speed pitch that’s notoriously difficult to control.

Congratulations to Terry Francona for recording his 561st win last night! With that win, he surpassed Mike Higgins to reach second place on the Red Sox all-time list, right behind Joe Cronin.  That’s heady company!

And so it begins.  Lester will take on Joba Champerlain in the Bronx tonight at 7:00PM.  There’s really nothing else to say, is there.  Except perhaps the always-appropriate, “Go Sox!” Let’s dominate.

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That’s better.  Much better.  See, this is how games with Kansas City are supposed to result.  What should have been a sweep will now be a series split if we’re lucky, but at least they can’t sweep us.  That would have been terrible.  Beckett pitched last night.  Luke Hochevar had no chance.

V-Mart caught Beckett for the second time, and I have to say it went pretty well.  Not the best, but it went well.  Beckett pitched six, gave up two runs on twelve hits, walked one, and struck out seven.  The twelve hits is what concerns me, and I think a number like that does reflect, at least a little bit, the catcher’s role in the game.  Somebody is calling those pitches.  The pitcher can shake him off, but not for every call, and I still don’t know if I’m one hundred percent sure that V-Mart’s bat is worth it.  Knowing Beckett, when he gets into playoff mode, there’s very little chance that we’ll actually need those few extra runs.

On the other hand, Beckett did only relinquish two runs, so who knows? Between now and the start of the playoffs, maybe they’ll really work it out.  Here’s the breakdown of the twelve hits.  Two were infield.  Six were grounders through holes.  One was a pop-up that dropped.  One was lined softly.  And two were really hard-hit: Yuniesky Betancourt’s triple and Billy Butler’s single in the fourth.  So we’re mostly talking about soft contacts that got lucky, and those decrease with time and experience.

With yesterday’s game, Beckett further passed the two-hundred-inning mark for the third time in four seasons.  This season alone, he’s pitched just over 207 innings, surpassing his personal best of 204 in 2006, his first year here.

Okajima, Wagner, and Papelbon were solid.  Between the three of them, three shutout innings with two walks and three strikesouts.  This was Paps’s first outing since September 18, and it looks like the extra rest was just what the doctor ordered.

And now, the 9 in the final score of 9-2.  It was absolutely fantastic; a complete and total onslaught of all that is the Kansas City Royals.  The best part? This wasn’t us one-upping them, or two-upping them, or three-upping them.  No.  This was dominance.  We seven-upped the Royals, sent a message, and exacted revenge for the first two losses, especially for that five-run first with our six-run fifth.  Maybe I’m getting a little carried away, but it was still really fun to watch.

Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Pedroia went two for three with two runs and an RBI, and he is having himself quite the September.  Since September 7, he’s batted .357 with four doubles, three home runs, ten runs, and seven RBIs to go with a .419 on-base percentage.  During that stretch, he’s also had a fourteen-game hitting streak and six multi-hit games.  He usually does well in September, batting .290 in the month in his career, so it looks like he’s right on schedule.  By the way, he’s fourth in the Majors and second in the American League in runs scored.  Bay batted in two and walked twice.  Big Papi went two for four with four (count ’em: four!) RBIs! Three of which came on an extremely Papi-esque swing for the fences that ended up putting the ball somewhere beyond the left center field fence.  Drew went two for three with two walks.  And Gonzalez went two for five with a double.

Wakefield will start Tuesday after extended rest.  Nick Green won’t come with us to the Bronx but will rather stay in Boston with a back issue.  Hunter Jones was called up.

One more in Kansas City, and then it’s off to the Bronx.  I’m really psyched for this weekend.  I think we can make some major progress here, and not just in terms of the division.  In terms of the playoffs.  If we play a strong series against the Yanks this weekend, we’ll be more confident in October and have more momentum.  Either way, should a Sox-Yanks ALCS matchup result, we’ll be ready.  But we have to get through tonight first.  It’ll be Buchholz at Anthony Lerew, so it should go well.

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If you look up the phrase “pitcher’s duel” in the dictionary, last night’s box score is next to the definition.  That was a duel if I’ve ever seen one.  The score was 0-0 through seven and a half innings.  Lester pitched beautifully.  He was eating the Royals for breakfast.  Batter up, batter down.  Everything was on.  Through eight, he allowed four hits but not one run.  Only two walks.  Eight strikeouts.  Seven were swinging.  One was looking.  Either way the Royals had nothing on him.  He threw 115 pitches and used his full mix: straight four-seam, changeup, cut fastball, slider, curveball.  You name it, he threw it.  For a strike.  This was not the Jon Lester who’s been struggling this year.  This was the Jon Lester who no-hit these folks a little over a year ago.  Easily his best outing of the year.  Easily.

We’ll go in order.  First was Jacoby Ellsbury’s ejection after being called out at home to end the fifth inning.  He swiped second base earlier and tried to score from third while Mark Kotsay was caught in a rundown.  Billy Butler threw home and home plate umpire and crew chief Derryl Cousins called him out.  Furious, he threw his helmet to the ground and was ejected for that.  Derryl Cousins then ejected him.  First of all, he was safe.  He was absolutely safe.  His left foot reached the bag before Miguel Olivo applied the tag.  He was perfectly safe.  Derryl Cousins was so wrong.  Tito came out to defend Ellsbury, of course, and had a very heated exchange with the erroneous umpire, and thankfully Tito was not ejected.  But yeah, Derryl Cousins was wrong.  That was Ellsbury’s first ejection, and if you ask me I agree with Francona; it should’ve been an equipment violation and one-hundred-dollar fine, not an ejection.

But we can’t even technically complain about that, because Ellsbury’s ejection brought Rocco Baldelli into the game.  It’s no secret that Rocco Baldelli has a better arm.  In the top of the seventh with nobody out, Mark Teahen stood at first, Jose Guillen stood at second, and Miguel Olivo stood at the plate.  Olivo launched a fly ball right at Rocco Baldelli, who hauled it in for the first out and then threw it for all he was worth to Dustin Pedroia, gunning down Teahen who was trying to make second.  A very unconventional double play, but a double play nonetheless, and perhaps one Ellsbury couldn’t have made.  Some fantastic baseball right there.

Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah, reigning American League Most Valuable Player, won it for us.  Rule number one of life: never, ever, under any circumstances, try to sneak a fastball by Dustin Pedroia.  Because it will end up bouncing off the wall and plating the game-winning run, which was scored by Bates.  That’s suicide.  That’s, “Actually, I’ll save you the trouble; I’ll just take the baseball and throw it at the Monster myself.”  Incredible.

Then came the ninth inning, and with the extremely close score of 1-0 on the line, Tito brought in Papelbon.  I know he’s been struggling a bit of late, but honestly who else would you go with.  Ramirez? Okajima? Masterson? You can’t not go with Papelbon.  Sometimes when a closer pitches with a big lead, their control and concentration wear down because it’s not the same high-pressure, adrenaline-rush situation.  But still, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we were holding onto our hats.  But Paps did not disappoint.  That also was easily, hands-down, his best outing of the year.  He threw eleven pitches: ten four-seams and a slider.  He went as high as 97 miles per hour and as low as 85.  And he got that job done.  Lock it up, throw it in the win column.  The final score stayed at 1-0, Lester got the win and improved to eight and six, Paps got his twenty-third save, and it was like watching the closer this  time last year or two years ago.  The man was on fire.

Bill Cosby visited the booth in the fourth, which was very entertaining as always and a pleasant surprise.  Lowell is right on schedule with his rehab and will be returning to the lineup soon.  And finally, with this win we are now back to being the sole possessors of a first-place lead.  It’s ony one game, but it’s better than a tie.  And we’ll build on it.  See that? I told you it was temporary.  We all knew it.  And soon we’ll be cruising into the much-needed All-Star break and come out nice and refreshed and ready to go in the second half.  Gil Meche at Smoltz tonight; maybe this’ll be that highly-touted start we’ve been waiting for since the signing.

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