Posts Tagged ‘Brett Anderson’

At just under three hours, yesterday’s game was almost half the length as Saturday’s.  So it took us about half the time to get the same result: a win.  I’ll take a win any day no matter how long it takes; I’m just saying there’s a big difference between five hours and fifteen minutes and two hours and fifty minutes, and I’m glad the team didn’t have to work too long following that epic struggle.

Lackey made his first start since going on the DL.  He wasn’t terribly efficient, but I’ll be chalking that up to him having not pitched since May 11.  He threw ninety-three pitches in five and two-thirds innings.  He gave up three runs on three hits, including a solo shot to lead off the third inning, and he walked two and struck out two.  None of his pitches really screamed put-away with the exceptions of his slider and cutter, and he hit three batters which is a sure-fire sign of the absence of command, but he got by just fine.  All in all, I’d call it a heartening performance.

With a southpaw on the mound for Oakland, you can see why I may have been bracing myself for another long night.  It was unclear how well Lackey could be expected to pitch and how well our offense could be expected to perform.  Ironically enough, it was the left-handed hitters who basically carried the team.  With nobody out in the second inning, Crawford unleashed on his very first pitch of the game, an eighty-mile-per-hour slider, and sent it into the bullpen in a hurry.  It was just a straight shot from home plate.  Brett Anderson wanted it away.  Man, did he miss.

Not to be outdone by his teammate’s performance, with two out and one on Gonzalez took the second pitch of his at-bat, this one a two-seam, and crushed it into the Monster seats.  An opposite field home run by a lefty off a lefty.

Pedroia singled in our last run of the day in the sixth.

So it was pretty straight-forward.  We turned in twice as many hits as they did.  The lefties powered it up, with a little help and heavy-hitting from the righties.  Gonzalez leads the Majors in RBIs and with his next RBI he will officially equal half his season total last year in a span, and it’s only been fifty-nine games.  Pedroia went two for three, and Salty and Papi both went three for four.  Salty hit his first triple of the season and the second of his career, and Papi thereby extended his hitting streak to ten games and collected three hits off of a southpaw for the ninth time in his career.  The bullpen turned in another stellar outing, holding the A’s scoreless for the rest of the game.  The final score was 6-3.  We swept the series, scoring twenty-three runs.  We’re one game out of first and three games ahead of Tampa Bay in third.  We’ll have a chance to seize first place for ourselves starting on Tuesday when we go to New York.  We have an off day tomorrow to take a break and get our heads in the game.  Right about now, I’d say life is pretty good.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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We lost, but not because Lackey didn’t do his job.  Lackey did his job.  He may have done his job for only six innings, but he still did his job.  It’s just that Brett Anderson did his job better.

Lackey threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes.  He threw his usual potent mix of cutters, curveballs, and four-seams, going up to ninety-four miles per hour, with some two-seams, sliders, and changeups mixed in.  He varied his speeds, but there were times, particularly around his twentieth pitch in the second and around his sixtieth pitch in the fifth when he could have done better in that department.  He threw at most twenty pitches in a single inning twice, once in the second and once in the fifth.  The fourth was probably his quickest and easiest inning.  He aggressively pounded the strike zone and got results.  He gave up one run on four hits, walked one, and struck out three.  Coco Crisp and his hair led off the bottom of the first with a single, stole second, and advanced to third and finally home on back-to-back groundouts.  Due to our rainout, he was pitching on ten days’ rest and wanted very badly to continue into the next inning.  I think he could have; he threw only eleven pitches in the sixth, and that inning featured a groudout, a single, a popup, and a lineout.  He probably could have kept going.

The score remained at 1-0 after Dan Wheeler pitched the seventh and allowed a leadoff double in the eighth, after which he was lifted in favor of Hideki Okajima, who supposedly improved his command enough to return to the roster.  One steal and one lineout later, Okajima allowed his inherited runner to score.  One strikeout and one walk later, he allowed a runner of his own to score.  He was lifted in favor of Aceves, who allowed his inherited runner to score.  That was it.  Those five runs were the only runs the A’s would score before the game’s end.

That’s five more than we scored.  We didn’t score any.  Not one.  We collected a grand total of five hits, we left five men on base, and we went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position.  Nobody hit for extra bases.  Gonzalez posted our only multi-hit game when he went two for four, and Pedroia walked twice.  Nobody else reached base more than once.  Youk made a throwing error, Salty had a passed ball.

But I’m not entirely convinced that it was our fault that we lost this one.  The entire game was full of bad breaks, some infuriating and some heartbreaking but all just terrible.

Let’s start with the top of the fourth.  Pedroia led off the inning with a walk.  He was caught trying to steal second.  Second base umpire Andy Fletcher claimed it was a pickoff, but both Pedroia and Francona and I believe the rest of Red Sox Nation all agree that it was a balk.  Anderson clearly balked.  He clearly balked.  How the umpires didn’t see it, I have no idea.  I don’t know which baseball game they were watching, but in the one the rest of us were watching, Anderson just completely changed directions.  First, he obviously looked like he was going to throw home.  Then, he suddenly looked like he was going to throw to first.  Just look at his front foot.  It was pointed home.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a balk.  And when a balk occurs, everyone advances one base.  Even the Oakland A’s broadcasters agree that the call was epically wrong.  Dustin Pedroia was safe.  It was totally a balk.  He would have been on second with nobody out; it’s reasonable to assume that that could have cost us a run right there.  So Tito came out to defend Pedroia, which is of course against the rules because you can’t argue balks.  Not to mention the fact that it was extremely unhelpful to have Tito ejected now of all times, when we couldn’t even buy ourselves a win.

And if you thought that was bad, how about the top of the eighth? Papi led off the inning with a single, our first hit since the first inning, and Ellsbury came in to pinch-run.  At that point, we were only down by one run.  Cameron struck out swinging, and Ellsbury was caught stealing second base.  Second base umpire Andy Fletcher took his sweet time making a ruling on Ellsbury’s steal attempt and then never specified why he was out.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, from both teams to both broadcasters to even the official scorer of the game, thought Ellsbury was out due to batter interference.  Crew chief Tim Welke then told reporters after the game that Ellsbury was out because the throw was on time.  So if he really was called out because of the throw, then that call is utterly incorrect.  Ellsbury beat the tag by a mile.  Any replay will show you that there was no way he could possibly have been out because of the tag.  Cameron struck out swinging; he checked his swing, but the umps ruled that he went around.  He started walking to his right, which obscured the catcher’s view of second base.  The catcher fired to second base.  The throw was well-placed, but it was late.  So if Ellsbury had to be out at second for any reason, batter interference would have been the right call.  After everyone put that down and it still stood hours after the game, for the crew chief to just announce that, no, it was because the throw was on time is just absurd.  Seriously, who does that.

The end of that inning didn’t fare much better.  Crawford beat out a ground ball, Salty singled, and then McDonald struck out on three pitches.

So that’s that.  We hardly had any hits.  We didn’t score any runs.  What we would have done if the umpires didn’t completely mess up everything, we’ll never know.  All I’m saying is that that was a balk, and if Ellsbury was out, it was because of batter interference.  Plain and simple.  There is nothing more to say.

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Apparently, last night was Dice-K’s attempt at redemption from his altogether disgusting performance against the Royals.  Hey, those are his words, not mine, but I’m sure not going to disagree with him.  He was horrible against the Royals.  Which makes his performance last night all the more interesting.  If he can turn himself around between starts, why can’t he just turn himself around definitively once and for all and stay the course?

As per usual, he had his bad inning.  He allowed three runs in the first.  But after that he was lights out.  It was remarkable.  His final line was three runs on ten hits with no walks and seven K’s over six and two-thirds innings pitched.  So, to review, he just decided that he did enough walking against the Royals and simply didn’t walk anyone against the A’s.  He threw 109 pitches.  Eighty-four of them were strikes.

Maybe Dice-K needed to go through that walkfest to reach a turning point.  His quality was never at issue – the relievers call him the Magic Man because he’s got stuff but you never know when you’ll see it – it’s his command that’s at issue.  He said afterwards that he realized that, instead of beating around the bush and ending up with so many walks, he may as well pound the zone and pitch aggressively, and if they hit it, they hit it.  A hit and a walk are no different if it means a guy is standing on first base and especially if it means a guy is standing on first base too often for comfort.  So that’s what he did.  He pounded the zone and pitched aggressively.  And it paid off.  Finally.  He had this problem last year too; he’d try to pitch around batters and get himself in all kinds of jams.  His old Houdini act.  Then, when he’d have to pitch aggressively, he would, and the opposition wouldn’t be able to do anything.  So, as last night showed, he should just pitch aggressively from the start.

The strike percentages of his fastball and cutter were ridiculously high.  As were those for every single other pitch he threw: curveball, slider, and changeup.  Not coincidentally, his strike zone was packed.  He used all but the bottom left corner of it profusely.  His movement was sharp but not wild.  He used a game-high twenty-three pitches for the first and seventh, before he was taken out.  But in between, he used at most eighteen (in the second, so he probably hadn’t fully settled down yet) and at least nine (in the third, so you can see how striking, pun intended, the turn around was).

All of which is to say that I’m not of the opinion that Dice-K can just right himself permanently over night such that he’ll be super-consistent and we’ll never have to worry about him again.  But I am saying that now we know of a solution to the problem: he needs to be less concerned with keeping his hit total down, because if he pitches too carefully as a result, he’ll end up with too many walks.  If he pitches aggressively, he’ll end up with fewer hits than he would walks if he pitched carefully.  Now that he’s convinced himself that by putting himself through the two extremes, he can look at his history here and see that that’s a very good and very viable option.  We all know he’s always been reluctant to pound the zone, but he’s seen now that it’s better than not pounding it, so hopefully he’ll just do it more often.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.  He gave up ten hits, like I said, some with two out.  But I’ll take hits over both hits and walks any day.  So will Terry Francona, who explained that the first inning was a product of throwing too many strikes.  Dice-K was being a bit too aggressive, pounding the zone a bit too much, so they read him and jumped on him.  His broader problem is that he’s not the best at orchestrating a mix of aggressive pitching and careful pitching that adapts to the game’s needs.  We usually see him pick one or the other; he either pitches aggressively for the entire game or he pitches carefully for the entire game.  But a successful starter is flexible and adaptable, just like Dice-K was during his no-no bid.  The reason why he’s such a conundrum is that he has it in him; it just doesn’t always come out right.

What can we expect from Dice-K next time? It’s very hard to say.  I hope that he will in fact get himself on a solid road to consistency, but we don’t know for sure.  If things continue the way they’ve been going, he’s scheduled to bomb his next start, because it’s been alternating good and bad, and the better one performance, the worse the next.  So we’ll just have to wait and see.

The final score was 6-4.  Bard got a hold in the remainder of the seventh, but Paps allowed a solo shot in the ninth.  So that’s how they got to four.  How we got to six has a lot to do with David Ortiz.

In the first, Papi double to left and put runners in scoring position with nobody out, and Youk singled in two.  In the fifth, Papi launched a two-run homer that found the right field stands in a hurry; he’s the American League Player of the Week, and deservedly so.  In the seventh, Pedroia doubled in Scutaro; that’s his second hit in two games.  In the eighth, Scutaro singled in Hall and has quietly become a solid leadoff hitter.

Congratulations to Jon Lester, the American League Pitcher of the Week.  Lester and Papi are the first pair of teammates to win both of those honors in the same week since Joe Mauer and Johan Santana did it for the Twins in June 2006.

We shut down Beckett for ten days.  As far as Cameron is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with him, and he could be back as early as this weekend.

Since April 20, we have the best record in the American League: twenty-seven and fourteen.  And by the way, we’re in third place.  Not fourth.  Third.  Half a game ahead of Toronto.  But it’s like I’ve been saying all along: one game at a time.  Next up, Anderson at Wakefield.  Let’s keep rolling.

AP Photo

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The only pitcher who did not give up a run on his watch was Bard.  Excluding Buchholz, the other five were abysmal.  You read right.  It took us seven pitchers to lose by one run, but again, Buchholz really had nothing to do with it.  He pitched five and two-thirds, but he never goes deep into games anyway.  He gave up two runs on nine hits with two walks and five strikeouts.  That’s an out shy of a quality start.  So he did a good job.  He wasn’t the problem.

The offense wasn’t the problem either; we lost, 9-8.  No home runs but you don’t need one when you score eight runs.  Ellsbury went two for six with a run, an RBI, and a steal.  Pedroia hit, scored, and is batting around .400 in his last eighteen games or so.  Youk went three for five, including a two-RBI double.  Huge night.  He’s back.  Ortiz and Bay both collected RBIs.  Drew went three for five, including two doubles, with an RBI and two runs, also a huge night.  Lowell went two for two with an RBI double.  Even Kottaras went two for three with a run and two walks.

Point being that this one falls squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen.  Buchholz delivered a quality start (minus the out, but still).  The offense lit up Oakland pitching.  What more could the bullpen want? At that point, you send in your relievers trusting they’ll keep the lead intact.  You have no reason to expect something like what happened last night.

We were cruising.  The five-run third was awesome.  Ramirez came in after five and a third and recorded three outs but gave up a run.  Okajima came in for two outs but threw twenty-nine pitches and gave up a run.  Bard pitched two outs and managed to emerge unscathed.  But it didn’t stop there.  Jonathan Papelbon, in his third blown save of the year, recorded three outs, gave up three runs, and was just generally very sloppy.  That was the first time he’d ever blown a three-run lead.  Ever.  To his credit, he only threw twenty-one pitches; it could’ve been easily much more.  And to be fair only two of those runs were earned; thank you, Nick Green, with the two throwing errors.  But wait; there’s more.  Delcarmen pitched an out shy of two innings, gave up two runs, and took the loss, but only after Takashi Saito allowed Adam Kennedy to hit an RBI single.  We scored a run in the bottom of the frame but couldn’t come up with another.  It was awful.  Like watching a wreck in progress.  And the saddest part is that this was one of those things that Tito just couldn’t fix.  He emptied the bullpen; there was nobody else left to send out.  So what could he do? Send out Masterson and have nobody available for tomorrow? He tried everything and pitched everyone he could.  Even the best bullpen in the Majors isn’t bottomless, and he ran out of pitchers.  There was nothing to be done except sit back, try to relax, and take the loss.  Which luckily coincided with a Yankees loss.  We’ve been lucky that way.

But there’s no guarantee that we’ll be lucky like that forever.  The best way to ensure contention and even a division lead is not to win.  It’s to win consistently.  With few pitchers, to keep the bullpen healthy and rested.  Otherwise, you get yourself into all kinds of difficult situations.  Take tonight, for example.  It’s Brett Anderson at Brad Penny.  Because the bullpen was spent last night, Brad Penny will have to go deep tonight, whether he gives up a slew of runs to get there or not, because the bullpen needs a day off.  But we know that Penny can’t pitch past the sixth, so it’ll be interesting to see how Tito approaches it.  Does he put in three relievers to lessen the workload of each, or does he put Masterson in to pitch all three? Again, I’m not a fan of the latter because it would be keeping him in a state of limbo between reliever and starter.  It’s a tough call.  We’ll see what happens.

We traded Mark Kotsay to the White Sox for Brett Anderson.

Last but definitely not least, yesterday we held the ceremony to retire Jim Rice’s No. 14.  It now hangs on the right field roof deck between Ted Williams’s No. 9 and Carlton Fisk’s No. 27.  Johnny Pesky, his mentor whom he calls his personal hitting coach, unveiled it.  Heady company, but Rice deserves it.  And the 2009 team presented him with a signed replica of the mounted number.  And he thanked us, the greatest fans in baseball.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say you’re welcome, the pleasure is ours.  Rice spent his entire, sixteen-year career in a Boston uniform.  He ended his career with a .298 batting average with 382 home runs and 1,451 runs batted in.  He was an eight-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, and the 1978 American League MVP.  Here’s to you, Jim.  We knew you’d get it.


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I guess we’ll start with the badness first.  We were two-hit in a complete game shutout by Brett Anderson.  Who knew.  Our struggles against Oakland apparently followed us home.  It was just painful to watch.  And John Smoltz did not help in the least.  His record is now 0 and 2.  He pitched six, giving up five runs on ten hits with a walk and three K’s.  Very lack-luster, but he remains optimistic as usual, only last time it was easier to believe because you had to account for first-start nerves and whatnot.  I guess he was battling nerves last night too while making his Fenway debut, but I think it’s safe to say at least at this point that he’s not living up to his name.  Bard and Ramirez were solid, and Saito gave up what appears to be his usual run in the ninth.  When all was said and done, we were looking at a final score of 6-0.

No run spread, because we didn’t score any.  Bay hit and stole second.  Green hit.  Tek and Baldelli walked.  Lugo made a throwing error; surprise, surprise.  In his big-league debut, Aaron Bates struck out twice.  It just wasn’t a great day.  Bay did have an absolutely spectacular leaping catch at the wall in the eighth, and in the ninth Tek caught Mark Ellis stealing.

With the exception of Nomar’s return.  Red Sox Nation stood as one in a massive standing ovation.  A massive standign ovation.  I’m telling you, that was a blast from the past.  It was strange to see him do his batting ritual in an A’s uniform but good to welcome him back.  You started having all these memories of him lighting up pitchers, his work ethic, his solid defense, the security he brought to the shortstop position which contrasted sharply with the shortstops we had basically until Jed Lowrie came along.  We went from Renteria to Gonzalez to Lugo, whom we signed to a long-term contract hoping he’d be the answer.  Of course that never panned out.  But it wasn’t just that.  Nomar was an icon.  He was a unanimous Rookie of the Year and a perennial All-Star.  He was the closest this generation came to seeing a modern legend.  He was really that good.  He played 966 games for us, batting .323 with 1,281 hits, 690 RBIs, and 178 home runs.

Of course hindsight is twenty-twenty and it’s easy to forget the ugliness about his leaving.  And believe me, there was ugliness.  We can have selective memories if we want to, but at the end of the day we have  to recall why he’s no longer wearing Boston letters.  He says he wants to finish his career in Boston.  He says that when he put on that uniform about fifteen years ago, he wanted to start and end his career in it.  And we all know his career took a sour turn since he left.  He’s played for three different teams, just now coming back to the American League.  In 2006, he won the Comeback Player of the Year award with the Dogers, batting .303 with twenty home runs and ninety-three RBIs.  Aside from that, he’s batted .279 with eight home runs and thirty-nine RBIs while averaging only seventy-nine games a year.  he’s thirty-five years old and was just diagnosed with a chronic calf injury.  And lately he spends more and more time on the DL.  So between that and the terms on which he left, it’s unclear whether it would be good for him or the team if he came back.  After all, one of the reasons why he left was because he was no longer good for the team.  It’s a little bit like the Manny Ramirez trade: you remember the good times, but you’re glad he’s gone.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about what could’ve been had it been possible for him to stay.  He was no Ted Williams, because nobody will ever be Ted Williams except Ted Williams, but he reminded you of that type of player.  A modern legend.  Almost.  He did go two for four with an RBI, but so did everybody in the A’s lineup last night.  He was out at first after his first at-bat.  He’s a first baseman now, but last night he DHed.  Doesn’t always play in the field these days.  In fact, doesn’t always play, period.

Anyway, moving forward.  Josh Beckett will take on Dana Eveland tonight.  Dana Eveland is one and two with a 7.40 ERA.  Josh Beckett is…Josh Beckett.  Luckily, we were able to keep our one-game lead over the Yanks intact, but we need to increase it.  The final games before the All-Star break is a perfect time to do it.  Gain ground at the Yankees’ expense and solidify our supremacy in the American League.  And maybe take down the Dodgers in our spare time.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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I’m not going to say “Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong,” because we all know what happens when people say that.  But it’s coming close.  This is probably the worst way we could start off the season.  We’re two and six and four games out of first place.  Seriously.  This time last year I’m pretty sure we were at least above .500.  I know in 2007 we were absolutely above .500.  As we were in 2006 and 2005 and 2004 and 2003.  See a pattern here?

But wait; it gets worse.  Dice-K was pulled after allowing five runs in the first inning.  Five runs on five hits with two walks.  No strikeouts or anything like that.  And he was pulled after the first inning.  Of all the mistakes he could’ve made, of all the pitcher-related issues he could’ve had, the one thing you do not want your starter to do is be pulled after the first inning.  Because then you’re looking at a long, long night for the bullpen which’ll pretty much knock it out for half a week.  But check out what he was pulled for: arm fatigue.  That has World Baseball Classic written all over it.  There’s a reason why he hasn’t won either of his starts and why both of those losses involved giving up quite a few runs.  He’s tired because he basically just returned from playing a sort of miniature baseball season.  We wanted him to get playing time to brush the dust off in the spring, but we weren’t talking about an all-out pitching marathon.  I don’t know what the best strategy would be to get him back into his groove.  I want to say just sit him for a while, give him an extended rest, but we need him in there.  Either way, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are furious with Bud Selig right now.  The World Baseball Classic is not something our ballplayers can let interfere with their performance during the regular season.

So Dice-K was pulled after the first inning and Tito pretty much emptied the ‘pen.  I can’t blame him.  We needed that win.  We didn’t get it, but that’s a different story.  Masterson pitched four innings, Delcarmen pitched 1.2 innings, Ramirez pitched 1.1 innings, Okajima pitched two innings with a walk and a couple of strikeouts for once, Papelbon pitched an inning, and Lopez pitched 0.2 innings, during which he gave up a hit, walked three, and allowed the winning run.  By the way, the game lasted twelve innings.  So Papelbon actually pitched the eleventh.  On the bright side, his inning was perfect.  Matter of fact, so was everybody’s.  Masterson and Delcarmen each allowed a few hits, but other than that the bullpen really held this one together nicely.  If I were Dice-K I’d be giving them an enormous round of applause followed by a very sincere apology.  I mean the bullpen was called on to do something major: pitch at least the length of a full baseball game.  And they did it, up to a point, but still.  Does it surprise me that Lopez was the one who ended it? Sadly, no.  But Tito was running out of options, and sooner or later someone has to give.  Why it had to be us has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not surprise it was Lopez who ended it.  At least we know our bullpen is as deep as it looks.

We started the game off on the right foot, scoring three in our half of the first.  We then scored two in the fifth to tie it.  Youk went two for five with a walk and an RBI.  Pedroia went two for six.  And who but JD Drew went three for six with an RBI.  Drew coming around is a big key for this lineup.  When Ortiz was out with his wrist injury last year, we saw Drew heat up, but we also saw that act as a catalyst for the rest of the lineup.  When you get some extra production from one of your middle-of-the-order guys, it can do wonders for the rest.  And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get the run support for whoever’s on the mound.  Bay was perfect at the plate with an RBI, and Lowell went two for six with two RBIs.  We went four for ten with runners in scoring position last night.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  I’d say that was one of our best-played ballgames of the year.  Which makes it all the more frustrating that they edged us, 6-5, in extra innings.  Ellsbury stole, and Drew made a throwing error.

In other news, Josh Beckett was suspended for six games for throwing the ball at Bobby Abreu’s head.  If I said it once in defense of Beckett, I said it a thousand times: he did not throw the ball at Bobby Abreu’s head.  He was not going to stop himself in the middle of his delivery and risk injury, so he let fly without exercising much control and the ball slipped out of his hand at a weird angle.  And for that he’s suspended for six games? Just because the Angels have four men out doesn’t mean they have to fish for reasons to exact revenge on us.  Just because their four men were in the wrong doesn’t automatically translate to Beckett being wrong, too.  The umpires had it right when they left us alone.  And what’s worse is that it’s Beckett.  If there’s any pitcher we can’t afford to lose for six games, it’s Beckett.  Great.  Also, Lowrie’s having his wrist examined today by a specialist.  Hopefully this time off is just what the doctor ordered as far as his slump is concerned.

It’s Wakefield at Anderson this afternoon.  We’re counting on Wakefield at this point to deliver us out of this decidedly non-Red-Sox-like losing streak we’ve got going.  We haven’t been in the position of counting on Wakefield for a long time.  Usually we save that for October.  But it’s April, and I don’t want to say we’re desperate, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to be desperate so early in the season (unless you’re the Yankees with no bullpen so you put an outfielder on the mound who pitches better than your starter), but the phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” comes to mind.

Sitting Still

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