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Posts Tagged ‘Cesar Izturis’

So the Orioles fired Dave Trembley, hired Juan Samuel for the interim, and asked us to welcome him last night in his first game as skipper of this sorely misguided team.  We gave him a welcome, alright.  A nice slugfest blowout of a welcome.  Note to all other Major League Baseball teams: don’t play us if you want to ensure that a debut goes well, because if you play us, it won’t.

The story of last night’s theatrics starts and ends with Buchholz, literally.  He pitched a complete game (third in his career) shutout (second in his career) and got the win, giving up five hits and only one walk while striking out two.  That was his career-high eighth win and the ninth in his winning streak on the road.  It’s the first time in his career that he’s won five straight.  That’s the second-longest streak in the history of the franchise, right behind Clemens’s twelve from September 20, 1987 through July 4, 1988.  He joins heady company; only four pitchers in the history of the franchise have won at least eight consecutive starts on the road: Buchholz, Clemens, Lefty Grove, and Babe Ruth, and Buchholz and Clemens are tied for second.  For now.

His ERA is now 2.39.  His ERA during his eight road wins is 1.22.  That’s ridiculous.  I can’t believe that.  It just keeps getting lower and lower.  I know I’ve said this before, but that’s a closer’s ERA.  This kid just continues to amaze.  He’s so confident.  He’s so dominant.  He throws any pitch in any count.  It’s remarkable.  Watching that game made me think back to his no-hitter, also against the Orioles.  You know you were thinking about it too.  Maybe he just has this team’s number.  Or maybe he’s just that good.  I have a feeling it’s a good mixture of both.

He was extremely stingy, throwing only 101 pitches.  A big part of that was his use of the double play (last night we turned two), his incredibly low walk total, and his profuse use of the first-pitch strike.  Last night, Buchholz recorded eight first-pitch outs.  After Izturis singled in the third, he retired twelve consecutive batters.

His changeup was absolutely nasty.  Really, all of his pitches were thrown well; his slider and fastball were spectacular, while his curveball continues to improve.  He needed a game high of nineteen pitches to clear the first.  He needed a game low of only six pitches to clear both the fourth and sixth.  Six pitches.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a pitcher complete a frame with only six pitches.  That’s absurd.

He threw 66 strikes, and his strike zone was beautiful.  He threw to all parts of it.  If he threw a ball, chances were it was to the left or at the upper left corner, but there really weren’t many of those.  Speed variation? Check.  Tossed salad? Check.  Movement? Check.

Wow factor? Check.  Absolutely.

The final score was 11-0, and as Buchholz said, having a lead that huge gives a pitcher the opportunity to pound the zone, be aggressive and creative, and experiment to get batters out.  So the offense most certainly did its part.

Tillman started the game by loading the bases with nobody out by giving up a single to Scutaro and walking Pedroia and Papi back-to-back.  Scutaro scored on a groundout by V-Mart, and with two outs Drew doubled in two.  Hermida led off the second with a double, moved ahead on a single by Hall, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Thus, Samuel made his first call to the bullpen as the manager of a Major League Baseball team; he removed his starter after he gave up four runs in less than two innings.  Welcome to the big show.

We were just getting started.  Cue the long balls; we had three of them.  In the fourth, Hall struck out by reached on a passed ball, Scutaro singled, and with two out Youk went yard high and long to send everyone home for the eleventh time this year.  He buried a 1-0 fastball up into the seats out in left field.  Not wanting to feel left out, Beltre did the same with nobody on base an inning later on a breaking ball.  Complete with that really compact swing of his where he puts his whole back into it such that he ends up kneeling on his back leg during the follow-through.  Not wanting to feel left out either, Scutaro did the same to lead off the eighth on an inside hanging breaking ball.  In the ninth, Beltre doubled in V-Mart, and then Drew scored on McDonald’s groundout.

Pedroia went two for four.  Beltre, Drew, and Youk went two for five.  V-Mart went three for four.  Scutaro went three for six.  We recorded sixteen hits.  We scored five of our runs with two outs.  In short, we delivered a good, old-fashioned Boston beatdown.  We had a brief scare when Hermida collided with Beltre on Markakis’s popup (thankfully, Scutaro pulled out of the chase early), but they’re okay.  Hermida left with a left forearm contusion, and Beltre has a bruised left knee, but that’s all.  Thankfully.  The last thing we need is yet another outfielder on the DL as a result of a collision.

Tonight’s the second game of the series; Lester will take on Guthrie to secure at least the series win.  I’m looking forward to this.  Hopefully, Lester will turn in a performance just as dominant but from the other side of the mound.  We’re currently four and a half games out of first and continue to surge.  Life is good.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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And there we have our answer.  Last night’s win establishes us as unfazed.  Of course, it helps when the team you’re playing is Baltimore and you could pretty much beat them with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back, but a win is a win and I’ll take whatever win I can get.  And there’s no denying what playing such a team does for your confidence.  Trust me.  We needed this one to bounce back from that loss to Texas which, like I said, could easily have slid us back into our route to nowhere.

Lester’s outing was good but short.  He was one out shy of six innings but threw 113 pitches, so he’s obviously still struggling.  But he allowed only four hits, so his struggle last night had more to do with command of the strike zone and less to do with hittability.  Sure enough, he pretty much stayed completely away from the top fourth of the zone and threw his fair share of balls, walking four.  But that’s definitely a step up for him; he’s obviously improving.  He allowed no runs and seven K’s.  That’s definitely a start.  Most of his pitches were good, but his slider and changeup weren’t very effective, and his sinker could’ve been a bit sharper.  Tito took the ball when Nolan Reimold walked to load the bases.

Something we haven’t seen during the recent skid reared its ugly head last night: a bullpen implosion.  This one was pretty minor, and the bullpen’s been tired lately, but still.  Bard got out of the bases-loaded jam but allowed a two-run shot.  How does someone even hit a ninety-five mile-per-hour fastball? Anyway, if it weren’t for that outstanding play by Beltre earlier in the inning where he barehanded Izturis’s swinging bunt and fired to first in time from his knees.  And that, my friends, is why Adrian Beltre is our third baseman.  Okajima got a hold and allowed one run.  Delcarmen got both the win and a blown save; the O’s tied it on his watch.  Paps worked through two walks and got some help from Hall’s assist in throwing Markakis out at second to lock up his fourth save.

Beltre ended up being the man of the hour.  But before we even got there, Big Papi hit his first home run of 2010 in the second inning.  Right into the Monster seats in good old Papi-esque fashion, with special thanks to the K Men for their bow of tribute.  That was as classic a David Ortiz home run swing as I’ve ever seen.  He was all over that ball.  When Ortiz is about to hit a home run, you just know it.  The ball has no chance, and it’s out.  In this case, way out.  Opposite field.  Great stuff.  Looks like the extra batting practice has paid off.  Besides, he had a lot to prove.  Being pinch-hit for with the game on the line is pretty humiliating for a guy who makes his living swinging for the fences.  I mean, that hasn’t happened since 2003.  But he knew he was being benched for a reason.  This home run confirms that there won’t be a long drought like last year’s, and it ended an eight-game streak of letting our opponents score first.

In the third, Drew sacrificed Hermida home.  In the fifth, Beltre scored on Reddick’s double-play ball.  And now we have the eighth inning.  You gotta love these late-game heroics.  (Although locking a lead early and keeping it is nice, too.) The O’s tied it in the top of the inning.  With two outs and the bases loaded, Beltre drew a walk.  That ended up being the winning run.  4-3.  A bases-loaded walk.  For the opposing pitcher, that is the absolute worst way to lose a ballgame.  Especially when you consider the fact that this isn’t a guy known for patience at the plate.  That was only his third walk this year, the second coming earlier last night as well, but it was the fifth that Orioles pitching had allowed in the last inning and two-thirds.  We have officially now won three of our last four by one run.  But that’s way better than being two and fifteen and in the dregs of the AL East.

Ortiz’s home run was our only hit for extra bases.  Scutaro went two for four and had the only multi-hit game in the lineup, although V-Mart walked twice.  Thankfully, there were no errors.

Thus, we continue to chip away at our early deficit in the standings.  Our record is now seven and ten, five games out of Tampa Bay in first (New York is half a game out).  Tonight, Lackey seeks to redeem himself from his previous outing, which was horrendous.  Let’s see if we can win two series in a row! That would do a lot in cementing us out of our skid.  Plus, we need the win.  Plus, we’re Boston, so we should win anyway.

We lost, 4-1, to the Sabres in Buffalo last night.  Next game is on Monday.  If we keep playing like we have been, I think we can win this series.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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