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Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Pena’

That’s the game that we were all hoping we’d play.  Fenway was a sight for sore eyes; something about the players being introduced at the home opener just makes you feel refreshed and ready, and after the start to the season we’ve had, we needed that.  And the final score was a sight for sore eyes, too.  12-2.  Now that’s what I call taking care of business on your first day home.  Ladies and gentlemen, here’s hoping that yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives!

First things first.  The opening ceremonies were as fitting and fantastically done as ever.  Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek threw the first pitch, as they should have.  It was so great to see them back there received with the standing ovation that they clearly deserved.  Dwight Evans caught Wakefield’s pitch, and Jim Rice caught Varitek’s, which was especially fitting since Rice was our captain before Varitek played.  Needless to say, the pitches were thrown quite well (I was hoping Wakefield would deliver a knuckleball, but apparently Evans warned him against that beforehand), and there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards.  All in all, it was a supremely feel-good event.  In the bottom of the second, Wakefield and Varitek joined the NESN booth for the first time ever; apparently they’d never been to that part of the park before.  Wakefield was right when he said that it was a special day that the two of them shared together; opening the hundredth season of baseball at Fenway was a task that was absolutely fitting for them to complete.  And we’ll see them again this year; during the season each of them will be honored with their own day.  We certainly haven’t seen the last of Varitek, who will probably re-join the organization in some sort of professional capacity.  Their comments on the start to the season we’ve had were interesting to hear, and ultimately it was just a pleasure to have them back.  It really was.

Beckett pitched like an ace.  These are now back-to-back gems by our two best starters; it’s a good sign, and it’s some solid momentum that we can build from.  Beckett pitched eight innings and gave up only one run on five hits, two of which were doubles, and that was it for extra bases.  He walked one and struck out one, the eleventh time in his career that he posted only one strikeout but the first time in his career that he posted a win with only one strikeout.  That one strikeout came against Carlos Pena with one out in the eighth; it took him six pitches, and the clincher was a curveball going seventy-four miles per hour that resulted in a missed swing.  Beckett threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-one of which were strikes, so he was right on pace.

He brought his fastball up to ninety-two miles per hour, and they were good, but the real stars of his arsenal were the cutter and the changeup.  Almost all of his cutters were thrown for strikes, and a little less than half of all of his pitches were changeups, which he threw for strikes almost two-thirds of the time.  Other than that, he also introduced a curveball that was pretty good.  So he pitched like an ace, but not necessarily like the ace we’ve seen him be in most of his gem starts.  This was less about dominating and overpowering the hitters and more about getting around them with craftiness and finesse.  It was a side of Beckett that we rarely get to see, but nevertheless it was obviously an effective side of Beckett and one that speaks to his overall skill and versatility as a pitcher.

Regarding efficiency, as I said, he was pretty much on the ball.  He wasn’t remarkably efficient, but he wasn’t inefficient, either.  Around a hundred pitches is where you should be by the time the ninth inning starts, and there are plenty of pitching staffs out there whose aces are lucky if they can make it to the sixth or seventh around a hundred pitches.  He threw at most seventeen pitches in one inning, and he did that twice, once in the first and again in the fourth.  He threw sixteen in the second and thirteen in the eighth.  Other than that, he threw nine in the sixth, eight in the third, and seven in the fifth and seventh.

Beckett allowed his lone run in the second pretty quickly; the inning started with a single, and the next hit was one of the two doubles he gave up, which scored Ben Zobrist.  But then he ended the inning with three straight groundouts, and under his watch, it was the end of the scoring for the Tampa Bay Rays.  (Incidentally, Zobrist also scored Beckett’s only walk, in addition to his only run.) Three of his innings were one-two-three: the third, the fifth, and the eighth.

Meanwhile, the game did not begin auspiciously for our offense, as we went down in order in the first.  We put two on base in the second, but three straight outs erased that threat.  We first got on board in the third: Shoppach got hit, Ellsbury doubled, and Pedroia walked on five pitches to load the bases.  Then we put up three straight scoring plays: Gonzalez singled, Youk hit a sac fly, and Papi singled.  It was small ball, but it was effective small ball.  McDonald re-loaded the bases by also walking on five pitches, but Ross ended the inning by grounding into a double play.  Still, that was three runs right there.

We added one in the fourth; Aviles began the inning by grounding out, but then Shoppach doubled and scored on a single by Ellsbury.  (Speaking of the fourth, Ross made a fantastic diving catch to prevent a base hit and secure the first out in the top of the inning.) We went down in order in the fifth again, and we had two baserunners again erased in the sixth and one erased in the seventh.

Now, at that point, the score was 4-1, and with the way Beckett was pitching, that lead alone would have held up fine.  Honestly, if that had remained the score, Bobby V. would have let Beckett stay in there and finish it up.  He’s a beast against the Rays; he’s got four wins and is undefeated in six starts with a 0.84 ERA going back to September 12, 2009.  As it turned out, Melancon came out to pitch the ninth.  He faced four batters.  Three of them represented outs, but between the first and second one was a solo shot to right on a 2-1 fastball.  Those two runs were the only runs that the Rays would have scored.  In plenty of other scenarios, which unfortunately we have seen first-hand this year, that may have cost us the game.  Fortunately, Melancon made that one isolated mistake and recovered.  So if we had only scored four runs, in this particular game we would’ve been fine.

But we didn’t only score four runs.  We exploded majorly in the eighth.  It was fantastic.  It was like a whole new team up there.  Almost every batter in that inning contributed to the run total in one way or another, and it was just a string of well-orchestrated scoring plays.  It really looked and felt like the team was playing like a team.

It all began with a pitching change; Joel Peralta replaced Wade Davis.  What a cold, cold greeting we gave him.  McDonald opened the inning with a very patient at-bat that concluded with a double.  Then Ross walked, and McDonald moved to third on a wild pitch.  Then Aviles walked to load the bases.  Then Shoppach doubled and scored two.  Then Sweeney singled and scored two.  Then Pedroia and Gonzalez singled back-to-back to reload the bases.  Then Youk singled and scored two.  Then Papi doubled and scored one.  Then McDonald got hit to reload the bases.  Then Ross hit a sac fly that scored one.  Then Aviles singled to reload the bases.  And then Shoppach and Sweeney provided the last two outs.  So, before Ross hit his sac fly, we sent ten men to the plate with nobody out in the inning, and our first out of the inning was still a scoring play.  We scored eight runs in the eighth inning alone.

We posted sixteen hits to their six.  We posted five extra-base hits to their three, even though ours were all doubles and they had a homer.  We left ten on base to their five, but – are you ready for this? – we went ten for seventeen with runners in scoring position to their 0 for 5.  Ten for seventeen.

Youk and Papi both went two for four, the latter with a double, and Gonzalez went two for three.  But the man of the hour, who went three for four with two doubles, was Kelly Shoppach.  Not bad for a catcher.  Not bad at all.  All told, we had five multi-hit games.

There was only one downside to the game, and unfortunately it was extremely significant.  Ellsbury went two for three but left in the bottom of the fourth with an injured right shoulder.  Right after his RBI single that inning, Pedroia grounded into a double play to end it, and Reid Brignac landed on the shoulder at second base after he threw to first.  Hard.  It looked bad; he grabbed it and stood up with some difficulty.  He walked off the field holding his arm pretty delicately.  Make no mistake, folks: this is a complete and total disaster in every conceivable way.  The incident quieted Fenway pretty quickly, and rightly so.  He was examined after the game, but there is no definite word yet on his condition; you can be sure, though, that he’ll be temporarily replaced for at least five or six weeks.

So the team does indeed start to celebrate Fenway’s one hundredth birthday with a win! It was a win for Fenway, a win for Red Sox Nation, and a win for the team, and we all badly needed it.  And so we should feel happy about that.  But we should also be aware of the fact that we hope we didn’t just trade in a win in the short term for a win in the long term; in other words, we hope that Ellsbury isn’t injured for the long term as a result of what occurred in this game.  Seriously.  This is an extremely, extremely big deal.

In other news, the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins have officially begin, and on a high note at that.  We beat the Caps, 1-0! As I said, I’m really thinking repeat.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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That was just crushing.  It had all the markings of a devastating loss: good performances from everyone that weren’t enough, a lead we maintained for a good while before dropping it, a walkoff in extras, and an outcome that was the direct result not from any one major mistake but from several small and insignificant mistakes that on any other day would have been small and insignificant.  That’s pretty much the best recipe for a real disappointment that you’re ever going to get.  And if you needed a picture to go with that recipe, you’d make a freeze frame of Johnson’s home run to go with it.

Pitching-wise, Buchholz delivered.  As far as the Rays were concerned, he was still zoned.  The Rays had absolutely nothing against him.  He tossed seven frames plus one out, gave up one earned run on four hits, walked two, and struck out five.  He allowed a solo shot to Upton in the eighth that chased him, but even that wasn’t technically his fault.  Buchholz threw a curveball, a pitch Upton hadn’t seen all night.  It’s not like we’re talking fastball down the middle.  Buchholz threw 110 pitches, sixty-seven for strikes.  He worked his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour.  His curveball was real sharp.  But his changeup and slider weren’t that great.  Nevertheless, he pitched very well, no-hitting the Rays into the fourth and aggressively challenging them.  In fact, he has Kalish to thank for that because Kalish made one of those plays you associate with the preservation of a no-hitter.  With a runner on first and one out, Upton hit what looked like an RBI triple but ended up being a fly ball when Kalish made an absolutely phenomenal diving catch, complete with somersault.  That is making highlight reels for the next year.  That was incredible.

The real problem was the unearned run he gave up in the seventh.  Buchholz attempted a pickoff, but the throw somehow ended up in our bullpen, allowing Pena to move from first to third.  Pena wasn’t even a threat to steal there.  And as if the situation couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse, Joyce followed that with a foul ball to right.  Drew lit out for the Rays’ bullpen to “catch” it.  He said after the game that he had absolutely no intention whatsoever of catching it; he was just going to let it drop, which is what you’re supposed to do with a runner ninety feet away with less than two outs and the game on the line, because if the ball is caught, it becomes a sac fly and a run scores.  So according to Drew, he was fully committed to not catching that ball.  And it seemed like the ball itself was going to help him out because it was shaping up to be a very difficult play, had he wanted to make it.  But somehow he ended up in position, casually stuck out his glove, and the ball landed in it.  And after he caught it, he was in one of the worst possible throwing positions in which you can find yourself in the outfield, and that’s how we were tied at one.  Seriously, I don’t really know what to make of it.  It was all very bizarre.  I mean, why would you purposefully catch that? It kind of looked like he didn’t expect to find the ball in his glove, but we have no way to know for sure.  But we do know that it ended Buchholz’s twenty-six-inning shutout streak.

Meanwhile, Beltre had hit a sac fly in the fourth to give Buchholz a one-run lead.  V-Mart’s solo shot in the eighth had given him another one-run lead.  That home run was huge, and I was exceedingly pleased to hear Red Sox Nation, Florida Chapter giving some hearty vocal representation.  It’s awesome to flood parks on the road.  Feels like home.  It was a fastball at the letters that he hooked out.  It was a very solid swing.  So he can do it all from both sides of the plate.

Doubront and Bard pitched perfectly.  It was Atchison who allowed the final blow.  To be completely honest with you, when he walked on the mound, I didn’t have a good feeling about it at all.  Johnson hit a home run on a fastball down the middle that was supposed to be inside.  And we had to watch something we all despise: a walkoff celebration at our expense against a division rival.  It was terrible.  I started having flashbacks of September 2008 when we were at home in a similar but better situation, fighting for October with the game on the line, and it was Johnson who took Paps deep for a walkoff.  And it’s just as horrible now, in fact probably more so, than it was then.  The final score was 3-2, most definitely not in our favor.

This win would have been tremendous.  We would have shortened our deficit to three and a half games.  But no.  Now we’re back to five and a half games.  It’s like our win on Friday didn’t even happen.  Lackey gets the ball tonight and we must win.  That is non-negotiable.  We don’t have a choice.  We’re fighting a war to get into the playoffs, and every game is like a battle.  We can’t afford to lose this battle because we don’t want to lose the war.  So let’s not lose.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That game was terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  Dice-K takes the rap for this one.  What else is new.

Did I say yesterday that a rematch was coming? We got a rematch, all right.  Dice-K and Garza were equally disgraceful.

Dice-K gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over five innings with four walks and four K’s.  Garza gave up four runs on seven hits over three innings with two walks and one K.  The sad thing here is that our pitching staff couldn’t hold the lead.

Okay.  One thing at a time.  Analysis now, frustration later.

Back to Dice-K.  He fired 113 pitches in those five innings.  Obviously his outing left much to be desired.  It was a microcosmic display of his usual inconsistency; he struggled in the beginning, was solid in the middle, and lost it at the end.  He threw thirty pitches in the first, managing somehow to escape with only one run, and his game low of eight in the second.  His cutter and fastball were quite good, but his other pitches were not good at all.  His release point was beautiful and strike zone was even; unfortunately, so was the area around the strike zone, which he peppered with balls.  His vertical movement was just right; his horizontal movement was way off the charts.  And now for the final blow.

The Rays had runners at first and second with nobody out in the sixth inning.  Bartlett tried to move them over with a sac bunt, which is fine with us because it means an out.  But guess what.  Dice-K didn’t record the out.  He couldn’t hear Cash and Beltre’s shouts of “One!” for first base and went for a play at third.  He didn’t even notice that Beltre wasn’t in position because he was also pursuing the bunted ball.  So the bag was completely uncovered, and once this finally dawned on Dice-K, he just stood there holding the ball, and the base were loaded.

I mean, really? Who does that? How do you not go to first for the out? Even if Beltre were in position, there’s no guarantee that the play would’ve been made.  The out at first is always a guarantee.  I have absolutely no idea what he was thinking, and I’m actually not sure I want to know.  I don’t even want to know if he was thinking.

Then the Rays tied it.  Obviously.  I am furious right now.  Dice-K got off with a no decision, but if you ask me he should’ve been saddled with the loss for that play alone.

Richardson recorded the first two outs of the sixth, and then Ramirez gave up the Rays’ winning run, a sac fly by who but Bartlett, and took the loss.  But not before another defensive snafu took place.  Pena hit into your average double play, but the shift left second uncovered because Scutaro and Hall both broke for the ball.  But I’m not going to blame Scutaro for leaving second on this one because, due to the shift, he had no reason to expect Hall to come up with it.  So that’s how you handle it: you cover all your bases, even if sometimes that means you leave one uncovered.

Bard took care of the last inning.

The final score was 6-5.  Honestly, in the beginning it looked like we were stealing the show.  Garza threw eighty-four pitches in his three innings.  We scored four runs in the third and one in the fourth.  It was awesome (while it lasted, of course).

Patterson hit his seventh career home run to right field to start the rally in the third.  He was working with a two-out, full-count breaking ball and his swing was perfect.  It’s almost like he needed that swing to remind himself he can do it, because after that his confidence, and that of the team, went through the roof.

That home run was the first of six straight batters reaching base.  Youk hit an RBI triple, and Beltre and Hall each hit RBI singles.  Youk did his best to redeem his teammates by gunning down Bartlett at the plate in the sixth.  Then Garza left, and Patterson welcomed Sonnanstine to the game with yet another long ball in the fourth, also to right.  Apparently, he likes balls down in the zone.  Who knew?

Then, in the top of the ninth, with two out and two strikes on him, Papi broke his bat hitting a single.  Youk worked the count full, and I couldn’t help thinking that if he put us on top in this game, he’d win that Final Vote for sure.  But he flied out to center, and that was the end of it.

We have the final verdict, and it’s not a good one: Buchholz is officially on the fifteen-day DL, retroactive to June 27, with a left hamstring strain.  Which means he’ll miss his first All-Star Game, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a real shame.  He really deserved this one.  He carried this starting rotation at a time when none of his colleagues even remembered how to throw strikes at all.  That’s a lot to ask of a young kid, but he stepped up, and that says a lot about him, both on and off the field.  Some better news on the same vein is that if Papi is asked to participate in the Home Run Derby, he’ll accept.  Finally.  I’d be psyched to watch that guy smack ball after ball out of the park.

Unfortunately, now back to bad news.  That loss put us back in third by half a game.  Obviously that’s not the end of the world; we’ve battled back from so much worse that theoretically this should seem excellent.  Besides, it’s only half a game; we could erase that deficit and be back in second place tonight.  Which brings me to the fact that Doubront is starting only his second Major League game instead of Buchholz.  I believe he can do it.  I believe he can win.  I also believe that we need this win, so let’s go get it.

AP Photo

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I tried to be patient.  I tried to make justifications.  I tried to be fair and objective and understanding about the fact that the start to our season was sub-par.  I think the time for that kind of gamesmanship is passing.  We’re now four and seven and four games out of first.  The Yankees are tied with the Rays for first with the Jays a game and a half out.  Now that the standings look eerily normal, I think that now we’ve reached the point where we can start expressing dissatisfaction with the team’s overall performance.  Keeping in mind that the season is barely two weeks old, of course.

The suspended game was resolved quickly.  Within sixty-eight minutes, the Rays walked off with the W.  Burrell hit his first homer of the season, which also scored Longoria in the twelfth.  Those are the first two earned runs allowed by Delcarmen so far this year; he’ll take the loss.  Even worse was that we loaded the bases in the eleventh with no out and failed to deliver.  Drew was thrown out at the plate (I’m seeing a theme and I don’t like it), and Beltre grounded into a double play (again).  So that was the end of that.

As far as the game originally scheduled for yesterday, we lost that one too.  6-5, and it wasn’t pretty.  Buchholz allowed no earned runs on three hits with four walks and seven K’s over five innings.  Decent.  Except for the first, anyway.  The first pitch of the game was a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball called for a strike, but he wouldn’t finish the inning until he pitched for twenty-six more minutes and threw forty-two more pitches.  He apparently lost concentration but quickly regained it; his next four innings were scoreless.  But guess what? Four unearned runs were plated on his watch.  The Rays picked up two (one earned) from Atchison; Ramirez turned in a solid two innings and that was the ballgame.

So, to review: that was four unearned runs.  Four.  And all of them were on Cameron’s fielding error.  Pena flied to center, but the ball bounced off Cameron’s glove.  Between his and Scutaro, I’m starting to wonder when our immaculate defense intends to show up.

We did our best to make it interesting.  Three home runs, all into the Monster seats.  Scutaro hit his first home run of the year and in a Boston uniform in the fifth.  Two innings later, he scored another run when Pedroia the Destroyah smashed one.  He now has more homers in April than any other Red Sox second baseman in club history.  Then Youk hit one of his own with V-Mart on, cutting the deficit to one.  (And I would like to point out that all of those runs were earned, thank you very much.) But alas, the win was not to be.  What a total waste of epic offense.  All those balls to the same area.  That’s one significant manifestation of the power in this lineup.

Now they’re targeting Ellsbury’s return for the middle of this week.  Congratulations to Jonathan Papelbon, who wasn’t on hand at Fenway for the continuation of Friday’s contest because he welcomed his second child.

So that’s it.  Two losses in one day, and we didn’t even have to get swept in a doubleheader to do it.  Unbelievable.  What we have here is the classic case of missed opportunities.  We put runners on bases and fail to plate them.  We need to start hitting with runners in scoring position.  It’s strange that we haven’t been because clearly we’re pretty homer-happy, and you would think that a lineup that can hit home runs would be perfectly capable of hitting line drives as well.  Apparently not.  This needs to change.  Garza at Lester this afternoon, and I would very much like to avoid getting swept.

The Bruins won, 5-3, and looked solid doing it.  Next game is tomorrow.  This series has the potential to turn out better than I thought.

Brad Mangin

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Smile, Red Sox Nation; it’s officially September! And there are a whole lot of reasons to love September baseball.  First of all, it’s cooler.  August in Boston is oppressively hot, and the fall brings a second wind for the fans but also the players.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you’re not drenched in sweat and struggling to breathe the humid and muggy air.  Secondly, it’s exciting.  Every game this month takes on a whole new meaning, and that meaning can bring the best or the worst out of a ballclub.  After such a long season, the rejuvenation that September brings makes a player want to put his entire skill set on display.  Especially because it’s so close to the offseason, when free agents are courted and extension contracts are signed.  And last but not least, it’s only a month away from October! September helps to decide who gets there and who doesn’t, who’s likely to go deep and who isn’t, who’s in the best position and who isn’t.  During the month of September, fans of teams across the country watch their rivals in the standings as much as they watch their own clubs.  And for us, that includes the Rangers and the Yankees, with whom we have a series at the end of the month that could either make or break the division for us.

So, in light of all that, it’s important to begin September on the right foot.  Which is exactly what we did last night.  Against the Rays.  In the Trop.  Which makes it even better.

We’ll start with pitching.  Look at a box score of last night’s game.  Look down at the pitching.  It’s so comical that I actually laughed out loud.  They used eight pitchers to our four! That’s just absurd.  But I digress.  Lester was nothing short of brilliant.  Two runs on seven hits over six innings with two walks and nine strikeouts.  (He was pulled after six because he’s had a sore groin recently and Tito was being cautious.  Good move.) I really like the fact that he’s consistently recording around ten K’s per game now.  In fact, he has now surpassed Bruce Hurst’s record, set in 1987, for most strikeouts by a southpaw in a single season.  Hurst had 190; Lester now has 196, and the season isn’t even over.  He gave up a home run to Carlos Pena to lead off the fourth, but it happens.

Wagner was again spectacular.  It may be early to tell yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s clear to me that Billy Wagner is most definitely not Eric Gagne.  So far, he’s faced seven batters and retired six, five with strikeouts.  (Meanwhile, the Mets’ disabled list is worth a little under $90 million.) Okajima, not so much.  He pitched to five batters in the eighth inning without recording a single out while instead allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.  Not very 2007 of him, if you ask me.  Paps earned his thirty-third save, a two-inning, twenty-eight-pitch effort (twenty of those were strikes, by the way) which included escaping a bases-loaded situation.  I knew in the long run he’d give us nothing to worry about.  Paps always buckles down.  Yet another reason to love September baseball.

As for the other main attraction, the offense, we were all over it.  The final score was 8-4, so we scored runs and more to spare.  We scored a run in every inning except the first, third, and seventh, and we scored three runs in the fourth.  Ellsbury went two for six with a triple, two RBIs, and one of his best plays of the season.  In the top of the eighth with the bases loaded, Ellsbury snagged a hard-hit fly on the slide and fired into the infield.  No runs scored.  That’s what I call a play of the game.  V-Mart went two for four.  Lowell went two for three with a double, an RBI, and a throw across the diamond to end the first that would make you wonder whether there really was something wrong with his hip.  Every member of the lineup reached base.  Even Pedroia, who failed to record a hit, walked twice.  Gonzalez made a throwing error, but I’ll take our one error over Tampa Bay’s three any day.

Three home runs last night: Drew, Bay, and Youk.  The usual suspects.  Fourth inning, 1-0 count, man on second, and Drew buries a ball about a third of the way up the right field stands.  Fifth inning, 1-2 count, nobody on, and I thought Bay was trying to remove the cover from the ball.  That was a very loud crack of the bat, and the ball went around the left field pole for the home run.  Eighth inning, 1-1 count, nobody on, and Youk gets it out of left field by inches.  That, my friends, is power.

One more reason to love September: callups.  We’ve added five to our roster: outfielder Joey Gathright, George Kottaras, infielder Chris Woodward, Junichi Tazawa, and outfielder Brian Anderson.  Expect Jed Lowrie and Dice-K’s to also join the roster within the coming days.

Jerry Remy will provide color commentary only for home games for the rest of this season.  Another cautious and good move.  It seems that A-Rod has actually altered his batting stance to imitate that of Albert Pujols.  He thinks this is going to turn him into a clutch hitter.  I’m serious.  Apparently, a ballplayer’s psyche and natural style has nothing whatsoever to do with it; the entire skill is solely dependent on the stance.  Yeah, right.

It’s Beckett at Matt Garza tonight.  We should watch for his command in the lower half of the strike zone, as I said, but I hope that this outing will be the start of a string of good ones that lasts through the end of October.  And speaking of October (or should I say Soxtober), you can’t imagine how psyched I am.  Seriously.  It’s the second season, and it’s just around the corner!

On a football note, we say goodbye and good luck to Tedy Bruschi, who announced his retirement on Monday.  He spent thirteen seasons with the Patriots during the team’s most successful era, and he was integral to molding the team into the powerhouse it is today.  Bruschi had strength, but he also had heart, and it was the mixture of both of these that made him, as Bill Belichick said, the “perfect player.” Belichick actually got emotional while making his statement, and as much as he’s usually a rock, that’s something I believe because, yes, Tedy Bruschi was that important to the Patriots.  He was a professional.  He was such a mainstay on defense.  He was talented, and not only because he helped lead New England to three Super Bowl championships.  And because of all of that, he will be missed.  So goodbye, Tedy Bruschi, and good luck.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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I really don’t like being right in these situations.  Remember that I said that the first game of our series with the Rays is important because it sets the tone for the series? Remember that I said that the bullpen was shot? Remember that I said that, as a result, Brad Penny would have to stay at his sharpest while going his deepest? Yeah.  About that.  That did not happen.  We lost, 4-6, and I can assure you that Brad Penny’s performance was riveting.

Rivetingly awful.  He nailed the deep part down; he pitched six innings, which I believe is the most he’s ever pitched this season.  But we sort of saw that coming because of the bullpen situation.  Terry Francona wasn’t taking him out before the fifth inning no matter what, and if he can get a sixth inning out of him, awesome, even if it meant losing.  So that wasn’t the problem.  It was the five runs on six hits with three home runs that was the problem.  (He walked two and struck out five, by the way.) Carlos Pena took him deep in the second for two runs, Carl Crawford did the same in the third, and Pat Burrell hit a solo shot in the sixth.  There were actually four home runs given up by Red Sox pitching; Manny Delcarmen let Jason Bartlett go deep in the seventh.  That means that every single run the Rays scored was plated via the long ball.  That, my friends, is just a disgrace.  Okajima was pretty good in the eighth, though.  But anyway, that was a disgrace.  It was very ugly, very painful, and very unlucky; the Yankees won so now we’re back to two and a half games out.  And again, it was one of those wrecks that Tito had no way to stop.  The bullpen needed a night off and he had to give it to them if he wanted them to be fresh for the Yankees.

To make matters worse, we failed to do anything with runners in scoring position, even though we scored four runs and matched the Rays’ seven hits.  Bay hit a solo shot in the fourth, his first since July 7, and let me tell you: he swung the bat with a vengeance.  That ball had no chance of staying in.  And Victor Martinez went two for four with a homer to lead off the sixth.  Another extremely hard-hit ball.  The other two runs were plated by Lowrie and Youk.  Lowrie made a fantastic defensive play in the first, throwing Bartlett out at first base from shallow left field.

Paul Byrd signed a minor league contract.  That’s pretty much all the news there.

Bay aggravated his right hamstring, so he’ll probably sit out tonight.  Bummer.  I was really looking forward to him proverbially slaughtering some Yankees.  Victor Martinez, who’s never been involved in Sox-Yanks before, is in for a treat.  Or rather, he will be when the rivalry returns to Fenway Park.  We’re in New York this time around, so it’ll be a lot less nice, but either way I think he’ll do well.  Anyone who enjoys playing in Boston so much will get the hang of it quickly.  We’re throwing John Smoltz, so the lineup’s going to have to be ready to dig us out of any holes that will probably result from his work on the mound.  The Yankees are throwing Chamberlain, who’s seven and two with a 3.58 ERA.  He doesn’t scare me so much that it concerns me about being in the predicament of having to put more pressure on the offense to back up Smoltz’s probably spotty performance.  Whatever.  I’m psyched.  We’re currently undefeated against New York; let’s keep it going!

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We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

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