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Posts Tagged ‘Bronx’

Last night was another “wow” contest.  That’s two in a row! Can you believe it? We are now officially on a three-game winning streak, and even though the season is winding down, we’re starting to climb back up. We’re now seven games out of first place.  Hey, it’s an improvement over nine.  All I’m saying is that you never know.

If the standings situation is a long shot, we made a statement to the contrary last night via the long ball.  We won, 9-6, so it wasn’t a true slugfest because the score wasn’t that lopsided, but scoring nine runs in a single game is a big deal for us.  We’ve struggled throughout the season to string hits as well as wins together; last night we did both.

It all started in the second when Lowrie clobbered a home run to left with Papi on base.  It was a changeup inside on a 2-1 count to make up for Beltre being thrown out at the plate.  The ball left the field in a hurry.  But Lowrie was just getting warmed up.  You look at the kid and power isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but this season he just added the art and science of home-run hitting to his arsenal of talent.

V-Mart hit an RBI single in the third, and Lowrie hit a solo shot to the same place in the third, but this time it was a fastball down the middle in a pitcher’s count.  This was his first multi-homer game ever.  I’m telling you, I don’t really know where that power comes from, but if you got it, rock it.

We didn’t score again until the eighth, but when we did, it was huge.  Big Papi, ladies and gentlemen! It was a far cry from the sixth, when he snapped his bat over his knee because he turned a prime pitch into a weak popup.  With two out and two on, he absolutely avenged himself on a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball to the point where you knew the ball was out just by the sound of the ball-bat contact.  Ichiro just watched it.  That was his thirtieth home run of the year, making 2010 his sixth thirty-homer season with us, his first since 2007, tying him with Manny Ramirez on the franchise all-time list.  Ted Williams obviously leads with eight thirty-plus seasons.  It was ridiculous.  It was almost like the ball left the park of its own free will.

In the ninth, we added two for insurance; Patterson scored on a fielder’s choice and Reddick hit an RBI single.  Figgins hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, but it did not matter.  We had it locked.

V-Mart, Papi, and Lowrie all went two for four; Beltre went three for four.  Patterson and Kalish each stole bases.  And this was the first time since June 30 that our starting lineup included our captain.  Tek went 0 for 3 with a walk, but he threw out Figgins twice.  It’s so good to have him back.  And I don’t think it’s necessarily a coincidence that the team has been playing well of light right when the captain has returned.

When I saw we had it locked, I’m referring exclusively to the offense.  Dice-K most definitely did not have anything locked.  He left the game so unlocked, he practically invited a theft of the win.  Luckily, the offense provided ample insurance just in case, but it’s like I always say: that kind of thing should not be necessary.  If the offense scores a lot of runs, the game should end with a lopsided score because a good starting pitcher should always be able to win a game with three runs or less.  Dice-K didn’t do that.  He lasted six innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, walked four, and struck out three.  He helped Seattle snap their streak of scoring at most three runs in their last sixteen home games.  He gave up at least four earned runs for the sixth consecutive start.  He threw 105 pitches.  He relied on a great cutter, curveball, and fastball.  He mixed in a decent changeup and slider.  He ran into all kinds of trouble in half of his innings.  His best inning by far was the fourth, during which he only fired nine pitches.  But then he went right back and allowed two runs an inning later.  His release point was tight and his strike zone was packed, but he couldn’t hold the lead.

The bullpen also was not helpful.  Tito replaced Dice-K in the seventh with Okajima with Bowden with Hill, and you only stopped hanging onto the edge of your seat when Bard came on.  Hill got the win, Bard got a hold, and Paps gave us a scare when he allowed that run in the ninth but finally the game was over and we walked off with the W intact.  But this is what I mean.  None of that should have been necessary.  There should be absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to be concerned when your team scores nine runs.  That should be a blowout, and if it’s not, the pitchers need a talking-to.

Drew will probably be back on Wednesday.

We got the win.  We inched up in the standings.  We believe.  And we look forward to the future.  Like tonight, when Buchholz is undoubtedly going to unleash a world of dominance for the sweep.  And like next year.  Next year’s schedule is out! We’re starting the season on April 1, unfortunately with a six-game road trip.  But the home opener is on a Friday, April 8, against the Yanks, followed by Tampa Bay, so that should be a blast.  We’ve got three days off in April before heading into a grueling May, which is mostly at home but with only one day off.  June will include our second trip to the Bronx with five days off as well as some good Interleague action; the Brewers and Padres will come to town, and we’ll visit the Pirates and Phillies.  We finish Interleague in Houston in July before a homestand leads us into the All-Star break, the game being in Phoenix this year.  We start things up again with a road trip followed by an easy homestand against Seattle and Kansas City.  In August, the Yankees will come to town twice and Tampa Bay once.  In September, we’ll face Tampa Bay away and at home, we’ll go to New York one more time, and we’ll finish the season on the road in Baltimore, the last game on September 28.  So some easy, some not so easy, but all in all it looks like a really good schedule.  We’ll see a lot of action in the AL East, so we’ll have chances to make dents directly.  We definitely have something to look forward to here.  In 2006, half the team fell apart, we didn’t even make the playoffs, we suffered through a winter during which everyone wondered when we’d next win the World Series, and lo and behold the very next year we were the best team in baseball.  So you have to figure that if the injuries this year were even worse than in 2006, next year we’ll be even stronger than we were in 2007.

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Last night’s game was as fun as it was immensely satisfying as it was incredibly necessary.  Ladies and gentlemen, we trounced the Evil Empire in the first game of four! In the Bronx! So many things to feel great about in that game.  Man, that game was good.  I love watching us win, but I especially love watching us beat the Yankees, especially when it helps us in the standings.

And one of the best parts of the game was that part of it was us beating the Yanks, and part of it was the Yanks beating themselves, which is also obviously always fun to watch.

Buchholz wasn’t as dominant as he could have been, but he was just dominant enough.  He pitched seven and a third innings.  He gave up three runs on nine hits.  He didn’t walk anybody and didn’t even throw three balls to a single batter until the seventh.  And he struck out four.  He gave up a home run and the lead to Teixeira in the first, which was decidedly unpleasant, but he settled down after that.  Don’t let the high hit total fool you; he was efficient, getting through his entire start with only ninety-seven pitches, sixty-five of which were strikes.  He threw at most eighteen and at least eight in each of his full innings.

Most of those pitches were fastballs, which were excellent, but his outstanding pitches were his changeup and slider.  Seven of his strikes were swinging.  Three of his strikeouts were swinging.  His first striking of the night was a swinging strikeout to end the fourth; his second was a swinging strikeout to start the fifth.  He essentially did not use the top quarter of the strike zone, and he concentrated mostly on the left three-quarters of it.  His movement was excellent.

He got the win, passing Lester for the team lead, and lowered his ERA to 2.66.  And what a time for him personally to get the big win; last night was his first start since his wife gave birth to their daughter earlier in the week.  Congratulations to the Buchholz family!

Buchholz left in the eighth after giving up a double, but Bard came in and shut them down with a lot of help from Ellsbury, who dove face-first to the ground, right on his left ribs, to turn a potential RBI hit into a flyout.  Bard picked up a hold.  Paps did the same in the ninth and picked up the save after a twelve-pitch at-bat to Jeter that ended with a walk on a pitch that should’ve been a called third strike.  It was absolutely a strike.  In the end it didn’t matter because Paps got Swisher to fly out, but I’m just saying.  It was a strike.

That’s only half the good news, the other half of course being the offense.  We won the game, 6-3, and here’s how.

With two out on a full count in the first, Papi let rip a rocket home run behind the center field fence.  The irony is that it was a fastball low and down the middle, and it was the only pitch Vazquez threw in that at-bat that was actually a strike.  The other two were borderline but technically balls.  And you know when that happens that you and the home plate umpire are looking at a long night.  But if you ask me, that’s the way I’d want to start any series with the Yanks: a Big Papi long ball.

Then in the second, we broke the tie with the help of the Yankees themselves.  That whole half-inning was a big embarrassment for New York.  So let’s talk about it.  Beltre led off with a double.  After Drew’s out, Lowell hit a popup about halfway to first base.  Cervelli and Vazquez both gave chase; Cervelli called for it while the two of them were basically right on top of each other and then dropped it, which isn’t surprising since he actually closed his eyes right before the ball reached his glove.  So Lowell was safe at first and Beltre was safe at third.  Kalish struck out, and Lowrie walked on nine pitches to load the bases.  Then Vazquez walked in a run.  Ouch.  Then he proceeded to give up a double to Scutaro, with the bases still loaded, that scored two and atoned for his throwing error.

The Yanks got one back in the fifth, but it wouldn’t matter for long because in the sixth, Ryan Kalish hit his first Major League home run! After striking out twice on a grand total of six pitches, he smacked that low fastball into the bullpen for two runs.  It was beautiful.  He’s going to remember that forever.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the ballgame.  We beat the Yankees.  Let me say that again: we beat the Yankees!

We add yet again to the disabled list; Okajima is out with a strained right hamstring.  Good.  I’d rather have a reliever be out than be in a game and lose it for us.  Speaking of the disabled list, Theo gave Carlos Delgado a workout before last night’s game.  I’m not sure Theo will acquire him; he was a great hitter before his hip issues overtook him, so we’d basically be acquiring a younger version of Mike Lowell, and not even because Mike Lowell seems to be doing fine so far.  Delgado would need time in the minors before he’d be able to help us out, and by the time he’d be ready, Lowell would probably have worked himself into some sort of groove.  So I’m not sure Delgado would be the best answer.

So the Yankees obviously lost, but so did the Rays, which means we’re now five games back, the fewest since the All-Star break.  Hopefully we’ll keep it going and beat the Yankees again tonight.  We need the win for the standings, but we also need the win because it’s just fun to beat the Yankees.  It’s really fun.  It’s awesome.  So let’s do it.  Sabathia is currently undefeated at home; Lackey changes that tonight.

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Last night’s loss was a change of pace for several reasons.  Firstly, we were playing the Yankees, so it was more must-win than usual and more painful when we didn’t win.  Secondly, it wasn’t the result of just one failure; both the starter and the bullpen failed in this one.  But it was painful.  Yes sir, it was painful.  It was just like Opening Day but with the opposite outcome; for a while, we even enjoyed the same score of 9-7.  The final ended up being 9-11 in New York’s favor.  The best we can do now is split the series.  Not exactly what I had in mind for our first foray into the Bronx this year.

The minute I saw Dice-K’s name next to yesterday’s date on the sortable schedule, I knew the game could go in one of two directions: really, really good or really, really bad.  Obviously, it ended up being the latter.  He walked three, struck out three, and gave up seven runs on nine hits over an out shy of five innings.  Five of those runs occurred in the first inning alone.  What is with that? Why is it that, every time he steps on the mound, you can pretty much be certain that there’s going to be one inning that will destroy the whole thing? I mean, this happens pretty much without fail.  Even during his last start, which was outstanding, he had that one inning where he struggled more than he did in any other; it just didn’t end up mattering because nobody scored.  Dice-K didn’t allow any long balls yesterday, which was a plus, but that means that New York was reading him well, which is most definitely a minus.  He needs to stop having these bad innings; it destroys him before he even steps on the field.

Dice-K fired 106 pitches, so his efficiency was virtually nonexistent.  All of his pitches were of mediocre quality.  He threw at least thirteen pitches in each of his innings; he threw thirty-two in the first and sixteen in the fifth before leaving.  He stayed away from above and to the right of the zone, but the bottom and left of the zone may have actually been in the zone for all Dice-K cared, since he threw so often off the plate there.  Within the zone, he pretty much avoided the upper right corner.  His control seemed to improve as the game went on, but like I said, that doesn’t really matter if it only happens after you permit a world of damage to unfold.  A starting pitcher can’t depend on the offense to clean up after him.  He’s the one who needs to lay the groundwork for the offense not to swing away in vain.

After getting up to warm three times, Wake finally came on and pitched well.  Bard got a hold after that.  And at that point we were up, 9-7.

In the second, Beltre singled in Youk.  In the fourth, Papi went very deep to right field on a cut fastball that didn’t cut and stayed middle-in.  In the fifth, Drew brought us within a run as he clobbered a three-run homer to right field with what I consider to be a textbook home run swing.  He had the arm extension, he had both hands firmly on the bat on contact, he had the high follow-through.  It was excellent.  In the sixth, V-Mart homered to left, snapping nineteen at-bats without one.  It was an inside fastball that he sent out on a hard line.  Tito had him batting fifth last night, and it most certainly paid off, because after Youk homered in the eighth on a breaking ball that didn’t break to give us a lead for the first time that night, V-Mart homered again, this time to right-center field.

Theoretically, eight runs on five homers should indicate a win.  In fact, going into the bottom of the ninth inning, eight runs on five homers plus one on small ball was very much indicating a win.  Then Papelbon came on and blew it.

In a display highly reminiscent of his infamous postseason performance last October, he received the loss as well as a blown save.  Gardner doubled.  Teixeira flew out.  A-Rod hit a two-run homer.  With two out, Thames committed the final damage: he hit a fastball, the first pitch of his at-bat, out for two runs.  Four runs in the bottom of the ninth.  And that was the end of that.

Scutaro, Drew, and Youk all went two for five.  Youk was almost hit by a pitch again, which I wasn’t very happy about.  Papi and V-Mart both went two for four.  Pedroia doubled and made a great throw to the plate in the first after McDonald bobbled the ball to get Cano out.  We only left four on base, so we used our opportunities.  The offense did its part last night.

We have now lost eight consecutive games in the Bronx, going all the way back to August 6, 2009.  Paps converted twenty-two, regular-season consecutive save opportunities before blowing this one, his first since July 28, 2009.  Paps had virtually no movement on his fastballs.  They just kind of hung there.  And when you hang your fastballs, you better believe they won’t stay anywhere near the park for very long.  Mistakes.  Awful mistakes.  Elementary mistakes.  That resulted in a walkoff loss to the Yankees.  Yet another one I don’t even want to think about.

Yup.  You can put this one in the pile with all the other excruciating losses we’ve suffered this season.  We clawed our way out of being down 5-0 and then 6-1, only to have our closer, who’s supposed to be our rock, lose it all for us.  We handed him the lead and were poised for the win; all he had to do was pitch a clean inning.  One clean inning.  Instead, we’re now nineteen and twenty and below .500 after thirty-nine games for the first time since 1997.  We’re now eight and a half games out of first place.  At this point, Pedroia’s optimism is all we’ve got to go on.  I also firmly believe that we’ll turn things around.  We’re too good to play like this for much longer.  So I don’t think that’s much of a concern.  What does concern me is that, after we turn things around and after we make the playoffs, we’ll have to face the very teams against which we haven’t been playing well.  That concerns me.  But let’s get to the playoffs first.  Actually, let’s just win tonight’s game first.  Beckett is starting.  Hopefully the extra rest has done him some good.  I guess we’ll find out.

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We followed Saturday night’s loss with a similar one yesterday afternoon, except that yesterday afternoon’s loss wasn’t the bullpen’s fault.  It was the starter’s fault.

The scary part is that this is very reminiscent of the losing streak we had at the beginning of the season.  We were starting to actually play well up to this point.  We moved within five and a half games of first place, and we were coming on strong.  Only to suffer losses like this, where one aspect of the team is on while the others are off.  You’ll lose ballgames every time you play an incomplete style of game.  It would be a different story had the opposing pitcher been dominant or our starting pitcher turn in a good performance.  But these were failures of a nature that makes it hard to determine whether we would in fact have come out on top.  I suspect we would have, especially on Saturday, as I said.

Lackey takes the loss and all the blame that that entails in this one.  Baseball theoretically shouldn’t be discussed in terms of faults and blame, but every once in a while you know who’s responsible, and that makes a difference in how you interpret the loss.  Had Lackey been as dominant as we’ve seen him be, our lack of offense either would’ve resulted in a loss anyway, which would’ve been more respectable and healthy for the team as a whole because we would’ve been playing our whole game but got beat by a team that happened to be better at that particular moment, or our lack of offense wouldn’t have mattered.  Maybe Lackey would’ve allowed no runs, or maybe he would’ve allowed one and we would’ve gone into extras.  It’s hard to say.  But it’s not hard to say with the performance he actually gave yesterday.

The final score was 5-1 in favor of Detroit, and all of those runs were given up by Lackey, who stayed in the game for seven innings because our bullpen was entirely shot.  He gave up five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and four walks.  All four walks occurred in the first two innings, and the third was the result of a twelve-pitch at-bat that loaded the bases.  Then a minor leaguer making his Major League debut broke his bat on a dribbler that he beat out because Lackey missed the bag with his foot.  The fourth walk was yet another bases-loaded walk awarded to Johnny Damon, of all people, but if you ask me that was yet another umpiring mistake.  Lackey, Tek, and Tito agree with me; Tito spent two whole minutes “discussing it” with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale.  (Tek also made a very strong throw and caught Damon stealing second.  It was great.) The final blow was a two-run shot in the fourth on a curveball that didn’t curve.

I’ll say this for him: eight of the nine hits he allowed were soft singles, so it wasn’t like Detroit truly had his number all the way.  But sometimes those are hard to deal with as well; you need to be in exactly the right position defensively to convert those into outs.  Boesch snuck one by Youk somehow.  Then, Scutaro flashed leather in the third when he dove for Inge’s ball; he fired well to first but wasn’t in time.  So those can be tricky.

He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, which weren’t outstandingly effective.  His two-seam was, but he only threw eight of them.  He needed only eight pitches to finish off the sixth, but fired at least thirteen in every other frame, using at most thirty-eight in the second.  He varied speeds well and kept his release point together, and his strike zone was more concise than Barksdale would have you believe; it just included some extra area on each side.  It was at least heartening that not many of his balls were way off the plate, but there were pitches thrown outside the zone on all sides.  Eventually he did recover some semblance of command, retiring ten of his last twelve batters.  But not before we were firmly in a position to lose.

That also has to do with the fact that somehow Galaraga was on.  We collected seven hits on the day but left ten men on base.  Again with the squandering of opportunities.  Van Every doubled to lead off the third; Hermida doubled him home two batters later.  That was our only run.  We loaded the bases in the seventh, but Drew struck out, which has been a theme over the course of the past few games of which I’m really not a fan.  Youk went two for four, and McDonald went two for two.  I venture to guess that it didn’t help that Beltre, V-Mart, and Pedroia all had the day off, Pedroia for the first time this year.  Pedroia may have had a sore knee and should be back in the lineup tonight.  Hall took his place at second, which was interesting to say the least.

Schoeneweis pitched a quality eighth.

Ellsbury begins rehabbing in the minors today, which means he’s on the final stretch back to the Majors.

So that’s that.  We’re going to the Bronx tonight without momentum.  And to make matters even more uncertain, Dice-K is starting.

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Last night’s game was full of wow.  It was full of pop.  Literally and figuratively.  The Tigers were hot heading in, but we know how to put an opposing team in its place.  And by we, I of course mean the one and only Big Papi.

It was awesome.  We had Scherzer’s number the whole time.  Scutaro led off the game with a single and Pedroia clobbered a ball on a full count over the left-field wall.  His eighth long ball of the season on a fastball middle-in.  Obviously.  Boesch clearly did not see that coming.  Then, V-Mart grounded out, Youk worked around two strikes to get a base on balls, Drew singled to the opposite field, and Papi stepped up to the plate and just unloaded on an unsuspecting 3-1 fastball down and in.  That’s the longest home run Jerry Remy has ever seen in Comerica Park.  That’s the longest home run I have ever seen in Comerica Park.  That ball sailed 450 feet to land in a part of the park where few balls have ever been hit.  Thus, we exited the top of the first after forty-one pitches with a five-zip lead.

But Papi wouldn’t be done yet.  He unloaded for a solo shot to lead off the fourth, his sixth of the season.  That one was just a straight line, also to right field, also on an inside fastball, four hundred feet of pure power.  Between those two swings, he covered a distance of 850 feet.  Last night was the thirty-sixth multi-homer game of his career, the thirty-fourth of his career in Boston.  To put that in perspective, he’s now third on our all-time list, behind Ted Williams with thirty-seven and Jim Rice with thirty-five.  That’s some heady company right there.

To review: Papi entered the month batting .143 with one home run.  He’s since had four multi-hit games; many well-timed, efficient, extended driving swings against righties; and a batting average now up to .213.  Wow.  Seriously.  You want pop.  That’s some serious pop right there.  Not to mention some serious “How do you like me now” for his critics.  That’s what the great David Ortiz getting locked in looks like.

Not wanting to spoil the party, Hall hit a solo shot of his own in the top of the ninth, his second pinch-hit homer of the season.

Of course, we can’t forget our pitchers.  Buchholz delivered a half-shaky, half-solid, and slightly short performance.  He pitched six innings plus one out, gave up a run on three hits, walked five (two of which occurred in the seventh before Bard relieved him), and struck out three.  After firing 111 pitches, he got the win.  But it didn’t look that way at first.  He needed twenty-eight pitches to clear the first inning, finally retiring Inge with two on and two out, but not before Boesch recorded an RBI.  His changeup was excellent, but his fastball, slider, and curveball weren’t as sharp as they usually are.  His command was nowhere to be found; his strike zone was all over the place.  He threw behind Sizemore, almost hit Laird four pitches later, and walked Santiago with two out in the second.  By the third inning, he was back to being an off-speed master, recording nine outs in a row from the end of the third.

Bard’s first pitch hit Santiago to load the bases.  Luckily, he followed that with a strikeout and a groundout.  Okajima pitched well.  Overall, our pitching held its own; it was only the second game during which the Tigers didn’t record at least one extra-based hit.

Congratulations to Dice-K, the Amica Pitcher of the Week for his stellar start.

Last night’s game was excellent, a final score of 7-2, with all seven of our runs coming via the long ball.  We cooled off a hot opponent and utilized all facets of our game.  But last night’s game marks the embarkation on one of our most grueling stretch of games this season.  Barring last night’s performance, the Tigers are hot, having just beat New York in three of four games and boasting a record of twelve and five at home.  Next, it’s New York in the Bronx; enough said.  After that, we go home to face the Twins for two; their record is twenty-two and thirteen.  Following that, we’re off to Philly for some Interleague play against the twice-defending National League championship.  Lastly, we play the league-leading Rays for three.  Three of these five teams lead their divisions, and we have to play all of them without a day off.

Make no mistake; this schedule is a necessary evil that we need to grin and bear.  It’s going to be tough to get through, but we’ll be all the better for it when it’s over.  It’ll separate the men from the boys; it’ll determine who plays under which circumstances and who doesn’t; it’ll establish who’s hot and who’s not; it’ll reaffirm who we can depend on in certain situations and who we can’t.  We’re certainly heading into it the right way between last night’s win and the recent lack of focus on us from the media, who’ve been busy with the B’s and C’s.  Of course, that’s about to change, especially when we get to the Bronx, but I think it’s been a good respite from the media during which we’ve been able to relax and play good ball.

All of which is to say that Lester is starting opposite Dontrelle Willis tonight and I sure hope Lester brings it.

Well, that’s it.  The end of the line.  The season is over.  4-3, Flyers.  Depending on how you look at it, it didn’t end well.  If you look at the playoffs overall, we technically have nothing whatsoever to complain about.  We played better during these spring games than we did all season long, and if the regular season was any indication of our future performance, we should never have made it as far as we did.  But we did.  So that’s the silver lining.  The really, really ugly part is the short-term.  Last night’s game was one of the sloppiest goalie performances I’ve ever seen.  Not only was it eerily reminiscent of last year’s Game Seven collapse to the Canes, but we dropped two three-nothing leads: one in the series and one in the game itself.  The Flyers are now the third team in league history to come back from that series hole.  As if it couldn’t possibly be worse, the game winner was scored when the Flyers were on a power play due to too many men, which was the same penalty that cost us a man when we lost the Stanley Cup in 1979.  I hate to say this, but over the past few years the Bruins have reminded me of the Red Sox, pre-2004: awful in some years, brilliant in other years, always finding a way to make it to the playoffs, always looking like they’ll actually take it all this year, always falling just short.  To say that last night’s game was disappointing would be to make a huge understatement.  I guess there’s nothing we can do now but look forward to next year.  That’s what gets us through it.  So here’s to going all the way next season.  I mean, we gotta believe, right?

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After last night’s complete turn of the tables, I have only one thing to ask: can I get an order of “Hah!” with a side of “What now!” and some “That’s right!” for dessert?

Ladies and gentlemen, 9-3 is your official final score.  In our favor.  I repeat: in our favor.  We scored three times as many runs as they did on three more hits than they had.  In other words, we were just better.  Period.

Lester got the well-deserved win and essentially confirmed my hypothesis that, as goes the pitching, so go the Red Sox.  His performance was absolutely excellent and resembled what, in the offseason, we all expected to see from each of our starters come April.  Two runs on four hits over seven innings with two walks and seven K’s for his fourth consecutive quality start.  In those past four starts, Lester is undefeated with a 0.98 ERA with thirty K’s in almost as many innings.  Those two runs were a result of two solo shots in the fourth inning to the Monster.  His cut fastball was as good as I’ve ever seen it.  His sinker, slider, and changeup were all good to go, but his curveball still needs work.  He had fantastic movement on all of his pitches.  I mean, it’s tough to beat a pitcher whose fastballs are faster the more they move.  He only needed eight pitches each to end his first two innings and eleven to end his last.  He essentially didn’t throw any pitches down out of the zone, and he stayed away from above and to the right of it, obviously concentrating on the left half.  He threw only 102 pitches and continues to get that pitch count down.  That was a fantastic start.  It set the tone for the rest of the game.

Delcarmen’s struggles have returned; he allowed a run on three hits and two walks.  Wake was solid for an inning; no hits or walks with one strikeout.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: a complete and total recap of the indescribably satisfying scoring of the nine runs.

We started the game with an unearned run in the second; with two out, Hermida scored on Thames’s fielding error.  Youk said that that was essentially a double in his book; Hermida’s offensive theatrics were yet to come.

We scored five times in the third.  Youk walked to load the bases, and Drew sacrificed Scutaro home.  Papi hit a ground-rule double to bring in Pedroia.  Beltre doubled in Papi and Youk.  And Hermida singled in Beltre.  Youk doubled in Pedroia in the fourth by landing the ball in the left-field corner.  And Hermida smashed a two-run home run into our bullpen in the fifth to give Burnett a little something extra to remember.  So I would have liked to see how happy New York would have been with a rain delay after this game got on record.  Although, as we know, it wouldn’t have mattered because we would have won anyway.  Nine runs.  We were outscored, 24-6, in the first two games of this series, but to New York I say, “How do you like us now?”

Drew went two for three, and Beltre and Hermida both went two for four.  We left only six on base, so score one, or rather score nine, for converting opportunities.  Scutaro made a nice play in the field, stealing a base hit from Cervelli.

Thus, the struggles of AJ Burnett at Fenway continue.  Before last night, Burnett was undefeated with an ERA less than 2.00.  After last night, well, let’s just say that things are a little different.  He was fine starting here in a Jays uniform, but with those pinstripes on he’s never won at Fenway and has an ERA over 12.00.  That’s what he gets for becoming a Yankee.  Before the game, you could tell that he was tense, the bad kind of tense, and tense pitchers with tense arms don’t deliver.  I’m so glad that all of our pitchers are the exact opposite: they feed off the pressure of rivalry showdowns.

By the way, Girardi was ejected in the fourth for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire.  He should really know better.

Congratulations to Tito for passing Bill Carrigan to stand alone in third place on the list of most games managed in franchise history with one thousand and four.

In short, that was an absolutely excellent game.  Absolutely excellent.  We needed that win.  We needed it for the standings, we needed it for momentum, and we needed it for morale.  We weren’t about to go out like we did in the first two.  No, sir.  That is not how we play in Boston.  We sure gave New York something to think about.  And we gave ourselves something to celebrate.  It was awesome.  It was just…awesome.  Looking ahead, the Jays are coming to town tonight.  We’re two and a half games behind them, so a sweep would move us up to third place.  It all starts tonight with Lackey.  And on May 17, the rivalry makes another showdown, this one a two-game set in the Bronx.  Hopefully that series will be better.  I’d love to sweep them at home.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Okay.  That didn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s putting it lightly.  We knew it had to happen sometime, but it would’ve been fine by me if it didn’t happen for an incredibly long time.  The New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series.  Wow, that was excruciatingly painful to say.  So basically the Angels wounded us and the Yankees finished us off.  Of all the bad things that could possibly have happened to Red Sox Nation this year, it had to be New York coming out on top at the end of the decade.  Suffice it to say that the region of New England and the city of Philadelphia are brothers in grief, but as I said, the region of New England isn’t very happy.  To be fair, the Phillies gave it their all and put up a good fight, forcing a Game Six and whatnot.  But to be completely honest with you, I’m still furious and bitter about the whole thing.  Words can not describe the anger and frustration I experienced.  I’m sure you can relate.  And don’t even get me started on what it felt like to see pictures of the victory parade.  Viscerally painful.

What does this mean for Red Sox Nation? Does it mean we’re back where we started? No.  Absolutely not.  The curse is long gone.  (Speaking of curses, so much for that valiant attempt to hex the new Yankee Stadium with that Ortiz jersey.) So we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So what does it mean? Well, quite frankly, it means we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It doesn’t mean we have something to prove because 2004 and 2007 have already taken care of that.  In its simplest terms, it literally means we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Alex Speier of WEEI ranked the World Series winners of the decade.  He put the 2004 Red Sox at third, the 2007 Red Sox at second, and the 2009 Yankees first.  This is something I’m having a very hard time believing.  The Yankees didn’t win the World Series.  They bought it.  Just like they bought their previous twenty-six World Series wins.  The Phillies were beaten, more than anything else, by the Yankees organization’s abnormally huge wallet.  Their 2009 payroll was $209 million.  That’s a full fifty percent more than the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mets, who were all more or less tied for second this past season.  (So to all the Yankee fans out there who favor the you’re-one-to-talk line, don’t even try it.)

To that end, in response to “Remember Who You Are,” Jeremy pointed out:

CC Sabathia made $3906 per pitch this season.  AJ Burnett made $4391 per pitch.  Mariano Rivera made $12,500 per pitch. I think I’m going to be sick.

Believe me, we share that sentiment.  Those figures are absolutely grotesque.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disgustingly exorbitant in my baseball life.  This is what ruins the sport.  This is what alienates and disillusions.  It’s just sad and pathetic that New York has to go out and poach their talent in fiscally irresponsible ways.  Signing a pitcher for seven years for that amount of money is completely irresponsible.  The dude could snap his arm tomorrow and never be the same again.  Why would anyone ever sink that much capital into a less-than-stable investment? Similarly, why do you sign a pitcher for five years who’s known to make multiple trips to the DL? I don’t understand what they were thinking.  Burnett is a huge medical liability, not to mention the fact that his consistency isn’t worth his currently salary at all.  One of the reasons they locked Burnett was probably to keep him away from us, and that should never be the basis of any decision, but that’s just what they do.  As far as Mariano is concerned, he is especially not worth it.  For a team so worried about their archrival (remember when they acquired Mike Meyers for the explicit and sole purpose of pitching to David Ortiz?), they’re placing a premium on a closer whose only Achilles’ heel is that same team.  And to pay him that much at his age when other closers just as good and younger are making less should signal the lack of sensibility in their approach to the market.  That organization just does not make sense.  At all.  It’s stupefying.  Every time I read something about Brian Cashman and any Steinbrenner, I feel my powers of common sense drain out.

By the way, Bronx leaders are considering naming the soon-to-be-constructed the East 153rd Street bridge after Derek Jeter.  I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.  We have the Ted Williams Tunnel because Ted William was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a soldier in combat for the United States in two major wars during the prime of his baseball career, and an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund.  He was a local, regional, and national hero.  Derek Jeter is a shortstop.  There is a huge difference.

Now that the Yankees have, you know, won and all, I think we need to move forward constructively.  An instrumental part of that will be making peace with Jonathan Papelbon.  He may have disappointed us, and he may have humiliated us, and he may have been as porous in his pitching as a slice of Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day he’s still our closer.  And let’s face it: there’s nothing more dangerous than a closer with something to prove.  And I’d say that’s doubly true in Papelbon’s case.  Putting his last appearance aside, he’s a beast.  He’s one of the biggest competitors on the team.  Essentially, he was born to close.  He’s got the power, he’s got the movement, and he’s got the crazy attitude to get the job done.  In the past, when Papelbon got hungry, he went out and he sealed the deal.  And I fully expect him to be back to form this coming season.

Speaking of big competitors, here’s a story that’s been downplayed in light of other impending free agency filings: this coming season is a contract year for Beckett.  After that, he’ll be eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his career.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect him to walk away.  Free agency for this year has already begun; notable filings include John Lackey, Matt Holliday, and (you guessed it) Jason Bay.  Other filings included Carlos Delgado, Marlon Byrd, and Adrian Beltre.

Make no mistake: the stove is about to get hot for Theo Epstein.  In fact, he’s already started his move-making.  We acquired right fielder Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for southpaws Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.  This could obviously have implications for Rocco Baldelli’s future with us.

We still need a bench coach.  Tito wants to replace from within.  I know technically you’re supposed to take a few years off to transition from player to coach, but Jason Varitek wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So that’s where we’re at.  We have double the pain to conquer now: the experience of an extremely brief October and the surge of the Evil Empire.  Obviously, we’ll get through it.  We always do.  I’m just saying I wish I didn’t have to have this to get through.  It would’ve been so infinitely better if we won the World Series.  And that’s exactly what 2010 is for.

The Bruins aren’t exactly helping our cause.  We were shut out by the Rangers and Devils earlier this week, and being shut out twice in a row isn’t easy.  So that’s bad.  To make matters worse, we lost to the Habs in overtime.  But we ended the week on a high note when we defeated the division-leading Sabres, 4-2.  The problem is that we don’t have a goal-scorer because he’s off playing for the Leafs now.   That’s a problem.  Someone’s going to have to step up and start putting pucks in nets if we’re going to get anywhere this year.

 

Center Field

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