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Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Santana’

I think 1-0 is both the best and worst score to lose by.  It’s the best because you know you were pretty much equal with the other team. Clearly, if only for that one game, you played a worthy opponent, and only for that one game, you may have failed to come out on top, but just barely.  Of course, it’s the worst score to lose by for exactly the same reason.  You played an opponent that proved to be your equal, so why couldn’t you be the team eking out the win? Why couldn’t you just go that extra mile? In situations like these, one run seems as insurmountable as ten.  But a loss is a loss.  And right now we have six of them.  And no wins.  For the first time since 1945 and the fourth time in our illustrious and often painful history.

I watched Lester pitch this afternoon, and I saw absolutely no trace of April badness or of any residual badness from his previous start.  I saw the Lester we wanted to see last week.  I saw a Lester who was effectively mixing four diverse pitches and varying speeds.  I saw a Lester who was dominating opposing batters with an extremely effective cut fastball.  He obviously threw his cut fastball way more than any other pitch, but he threw it for strikes somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy percent of the time.  He located it.  He locked in on the strike zone with that special blend of power and finesse that every cut fastball pitcher needs to succeed.  He got it up to ninety-three miles per hour.  He threw in some nasty curveballs, changeups, and sinkers too.  He kept his per-inning pitch counts reasonable, at most throwing twenty-five in the fourth.  His only jam occurred in the third with one out, and he sailed right out of it in eighteen pitches.  Shelley Duncan led off the seventh with a double, and Salty saved Lester from trouble with a spectacular display of defensive acumen when he dove to snare a backwards popup by Austin Kearns that was substantially obscured.  It was absolutely excellent.  Two groundouts later, Lester was out of his last inning after firing just ten pitches.  So, yes, Salty did start, and he called that game.  Between our lousy game with Tek behind the plate on Wednesday and the gem of a start that Salty called yesterday, I think it’s safe to say that the argument for Salty’s lack of pitching ability, at least with the evidence we have so far, is shaky at best.

How about Salty throwing out Carlos Santana in an attempted steal in the fourth? Beautiful.  Everything was timed perfectly.  The throw took a bounce, but Pedroia dug it out with plenty of time.  Salty’s going to be just fine.  We also caught a glimpse of Gonzalez’s defensive prowess when he dove for a ball and threw to first from his knees for the first out of that inning.

Lester’s complete line is as follows: seven innings of three-hit shutout ball with three walks and nine strikeouts after throwing 109 pitches, sixty-six for strikes.  Each one of those nine strikeouts was a sight for sore eyes.  Six swinging, three looking, a pair of back-to-back K’s in the first.  He did everything in his power and used everything in his arsenal to put us in a position to win.  You can’t really get much closer to such a position than that.

The problem was that Fausto Carmona had had a similar start.  Of course, he had to pick today to give us all flashbacks to the first half of the 2007 ALCS.  We only stroked two hits during the first seven innings, both singles, one each for Ellsbury and Scutaro.  The infuriating part was that Ellsbury was called out in the third as he was sliding to second after Crawford grounded to first.  The throw to second took Orlando Cabrera way off the bag.  The umpire called Ellsbury out on the grounds that the tag was applied before Ellsbury slid into second, but if you look at the play, you can clearly see that his foot was at the bag way before the tag was applied.  Way before.  That’s obscene and ridiculous.  The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the eighth.  And it’s in these situations where you learn the value of a truly good reliever.  By truly good reliever, I mean a reliever who does his job: a reliever who doesn’t allow any runs.  It’s all well and good to have a reliever come in and allow one or two runs when you’ve got a lead that can handle that.  When you don’t and the game is truly on the line, there is no room for a single mistake.

Daniel Bard made that single mistake.  He walked Adam Everett.  No big deal, right? He stole second and moved to third on a sac bunt by who but Orlando Cabrera.  As long as he stayed at third, it still wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But that’s the trouble with third base when the opposition is on it: it’s only ninety feet away.  Asdrubal Cabrera laid down a squeeze bunt on a 2-1 count, and the only play Youk had was at first.  So he fired and got the out.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the third out.

We looked like we might have had something going in the ninth.  With two out in the inning, Papi worked a walk, and McDonald came in to pinch-run.  Drew singled off the closer, and the ball ended up at third.  Meanwhile, McDonald was rounding second, and he slipped.  He was tagged out while trying to scramble back to the bag.  That was the final out.  If Ellsbury and McDonald had both been safe, the Indians could have scored their run and we still would have won.

Scutaro ended up finishing the afternoon two for two.  We left seven on base and went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.  We collected four hits to Cleveland’s three, but they’re the ones with the extra run, and as far as the books are concerned, that’s all that matters.  Bard gets the loss, which is a tremendously refreshing and gratifying display of justice.  He earned every bit of that loss.  As they say, walks will haunt.

Because Lester was so outstanding, I can’t stand the fact that Bard had to blow it with a walk.  A walk of all things.  To lose 1-0 as a result of a walk is absolutely devastating.  All-around it was the best game we’ve had so far, pitching-wise for obvious reasons and hitting-wise because we didn’t blow that many opportunities.  We just didn’t get that many opportunities in the first place, so the bad part was that we didn’t make the most of the few opportunities we did have.  So thank you, Daniel Bard, for starting 2011 with ridiculous failures of appearances.  Unbelievable.  I have nothing more to say about it.

I can’t think of a better time to go home.  We play the first of eighty-one games at Fenway tomorrow against the Yankees.  This is what we’ve been waiting for.  I would say that this would be a good time for our first win.  I want to sweep this series.  I want tomorrow to be the first day of my 2011 baseball life, and I want it to be a memorable one in a positive way.  I want the Yankees to know who they’re dealing with, and I want to sit back, relax, and watch the final out with a sense of immense satisfaction.  Lackey is pitching.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have our must-win! Of course tonight is also a must-win, but one game at a time. Last night’s game was certainly eventful, so let’s get to it.

First of all, let me just say that it was great.  That was just a fun game to watch.  It was certainly eventful.

Beckett owned.  He absolutely just owned the Cleveland Indians right from the start.  This is the Josh Beckett we’ve been waiting for.  I knew all that time on the DL would be worth it if only we could wait it out.  And we did.  And we got our ace back.  He tossed a full eight innings for the first time this year.  He gave up only one run on only three hits; he made a mistake on a sinker with the count 2-0 that resulted in a home run.  Ironically, it was hit by Marson who was called up to replace Santana after his collision with Kalish.  He walked nobody.  He struck out eight.  He threw 103 pitches.

So he was efficient, he was effective, and he was aggressive.  LaPorta singled in the fourth, and in revenge he retired his last fourteen batters.  Who does that? It’s like he just decided he was annoyed that Cleveland picked up a single, so he turned it on even more.  That right there is Josh Beckett.  He had that fastball firing on all cylinders, and the fact that his two-seam is so good makes him formidable against lefties too.  His cutter was excellent.  His curveball was good.  His changeup didn’t start out so great, but it improved throughout the game.  He threw at most sixteen pitches in one inning twice: once in the first and once in the eighth.  In the seventh, he only threw nine pitches.  And his strike zone was beautiful.  He had a pitcher’s usual sprinkling of balls off to the sides, but I’m telling you it was packed.  Sixty-four of his pitches were strikes, nine of which were looking.

He picked up a very well-deserved win.  It’s unclear whether Tito would have brought him back out to pitch the ninth.  I don’t think so. Either way, it’s a moot point.

Beckett hit both Duncan and Choo, Duncan in the first on the arm and Choo in the third on the knee.  Then Germano retaliated and hit Papi in the seventh; Lewis joined in and hit Beltre in the eighth.  Then Beltre started walking to the mound; Marson and the umpire stopped him.  Then the benches cleared.  Then Beckett had words with Duncan, Tito had words with the umpires, and John Farrell and then Tito had words with the Indians third base coach.  There was pushing and shoving, but no punches were thrown.  As bench-clearings go, that one was pretty tame.  Lewis and Beckett was ejected.  I’m telling you, Beckett was really steamed.  Choo has good numbers against Beckett; I think after he hit Duncan, they all thought he hit Choo on purpose.  But I don’t think so.  Beckett is not and has never been that kind of player.  Beckett doesn’t usually give direct responses to these things, but V-Mart confirmed that they were just trying to pitch inside, and Beckett simply pitched too inside.  And I believe that because V-Mart was set up inside both times.  It wasn’t like V-Mart called for something and had one setup and Beckett completely disregarded it and went out of his way to hit someone on purpose.  No; he was pitching inside, the ball got away, and that was it.

Meanwhile, on the first pitch of his first at-bat off the DL, Lowell had hit a two-run homer in the second into the Monster seats.  This was his first game since June 14 and his first home run since June 11.  And he set that ball on fire.  But he wasn’t finished.  Just so that nobody could say he can hit but not field, he started at first and in the fifth made a diving catch and then dove the other way to the bag for the out.  That right there is what makes the Lowell situation complicated.  He’s got a lot left in him.  He can still hit, and apparently he can still field.  Of course, we already have a DH who’s finally back to form.  But Lowell can still hit.  That pretty much proves it.  For Lowell, that was a fantastic moment.

Hall padded the lead with a homer in the fourth, also into the Monster seat.  That was it for both sides; the final score was 3-1; Paps saved it.

Youk, by the way, is officially on the disabled list now.  That means we have fourteen guys on the disabled list.  Fourteen! That’s absurd! That’s an entire starting lineup plus a few on the bench! We’ll power through it.  That’s what we’ve been doing.  We have a healthy staff, and with a little help from the B team, we’ll be alright.  Speaking of which, Ellsbury will be activated today.  So there’s that.

Okay.  So.  As I said, now that we picked up last night’s must-win, it’s time to pick up tonight’s must-win.  This one features a matchup between Lester and Masterson, so you know it’s going to be interesting.  Hopefully Lester will be his old self again tonight.  We need to get rolling because we all know where we’re going this weekend.  We need to head down there with some momentum.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Seriously, we just need to take the whole rest of the season one game at a time.  Starting with tonight.  Just like we did last night.  Win this one, think about Thursday night.  Here we go.

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Last night was just bad.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.

Let’s start with Lackey.  After those first three starts after the break, I was convinced this one was going to be even better.  It certainly started out that way; Lackey fanned six of his first eleven batters.  But things quickly unraveled starting in the fourth, his worst inning for pitch count with twenty-six.  He had two outs with nobody on base, and the entire game just got away from him with a single, another single, and an RBI double.  Thankfully Kalish ended it with an excellent and pinpoint throw to the plate.

After that, Lackey was terrible.  He lacked almost everything a dominant pitcher should have.  He was inefficient; he threw 107 pitches during his five and one-third innings.  He was not effective; he gave up six runs on nine hits while walking five.  He was mediocre: his best pitches were his slider and cutter, while his curveball, changeup, and fastball left much to be desired.  He did get his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour, and he did strike out seven, but that’s not really helpful after presenting your team with a deficit that large.  By the time he came out of the game, he had allowed three runs to score in the sixth while recording only one out.

The relief corps was excellent.  Delcarmen, Richardson, Wakefield, and Bard pitched the rest of the game.  While Lackey was busy taking the loss, the four relievers were busy showing the world why it wasn’t technically all that necessary for Theo to go all out at the deadline for another reliever.

So that’s one high point.  That was the only high point.

Papi scored on Beltre’s sac fly in the second.  That was it for us until the seventh inning.  Again with the missed opportunities.  Scutaro was gunned down at the plate.  We had runners at the corners with nobody out in the fifth and failed to do something with it.

And of course there was the third, when Youk left the game.  He had jammed his right thumb in the first while lining to short and tried to play through it but ultimately couldn’t.  V-Mart moved to first, Cash moved behind the plate, and Red Sox Nation moved their hands to their mouths in complete and total disbelief.  I mean, seriously? Is this for real? We had a ton of very significant injuries, we were just starting to get healthy again, and now this happens? And to make matters worse, Cameron is back on the DL with abdominal issues.  Technically we should be happy about that.  He’s been playing the past few months in pain.  Not days.  Not weeks.  Months.  Nobody knows his status for the rest of the season.  So we recalled Nava.  But all of this begs the question of Ellsbury, who’s played in four minor league games and in his most recent one made an extremely difficult jumping catch over the fence in classic Ellsbury style.  Nobody but Ellsbury knows what he’s feeling, but if Cameron can see Major League action for months with a muscle tear, and Youk can stay in the game until the pain becomes unbearable, and V-Mart can return to action the split-second he’s feeling fine, I would expect Ellsbury to return to action very soon if he’s making catches like that.  Of course, a rib issue is more serious than other issues, but we need him.  We really need him.

Then in the seventh, Beltre homered into the Monster seats on an offspeed.  And then I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we all had a comeback on our minds.  We were losing, we entered the last third of the ballgame, and given our performance in recent games, we had every reason to expect something to happen.  Something did happen, but not what we had in mind.  Nava pinch-hit for Patterson and hit a single, so Kalish was waved around.  Santana was waiting with the ball.  They collided; Kalish was out, and so was Santana with an injury.  But the hit was completely clean.  Kalish was pretty shaken by it, as a rookie is wont to be.  Also, that was a bad decision on Bogar’s part.  We have one out in the inning and we’re losing by four runs, and he sends the runner on that hit? Not a good idea at all.

Still, Beltre raised our hopes even further with two out in the eighth, with his three-run blast, also into the Monster seats, also on an offspeed: a hanging slider.

Then it’s a one-run game heading into the ninth.  It’s crazy.  And now we’re really thinking we’re going to do something here.  We’re going to lock this up.  We’re going to start the series off right.  We’re going to show this team who’s boss.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s going to be the third walkoff in a row.  Isn’t it?

No.

Kalish went three for three, Papi went two for four, and Scutaro went two for five.  But Beltre alone batted in all of our runs, scoring two of them himself.  He finished the night two for three.  For one night, Adrian Beltre played Yaz carrying the entire team on his shoulders.  And we all know what happened in 1967: we were almost there, but we lost to the Cards in seven games in the World Series.  Similarly, last night we were almost able to overtake the Indians, but in the end we couldn’t do it.

We’re six and a half games behind the Rays and the Yankees, who are now tied for first.  There’s really not much to say.  We need wins.  We need them in abundance.  And we need them now.  Seriously.  Every game from this point on is a must-win.  Beckett takes the hill tonight opposite David Huff.  It must start tonight.  We must win.  Tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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