Posts Tagged ‘Chris Smith’

When I thought about how we’d start our last series of the- regular season, last night wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.  It was a slaughter, and not in our favor.  In fact, last night’s score was the same score of Game  of the ALCS.  Maybe it’s a sign of better things to come.  But until I see otherwise I’m rather inclined to think that it’s a sign that we were destroyed.  True, October is the second season and it’s largely based on fate and the opinions of the baseball gods, but losing to the Yankees 19-8 at home at this stage in the game is a little embarrassing.

David Pauley made the start after Dice-K was scratched due to a threat of rain, and the deluge began in more ways than one.  Pauley  pitched only 2.2 innings but in that time allowed seven runs on six hits (he gave up a two-run shot to who but Johnny Damon in the second inning.  Ugh.) Exit Pauley, enter Aardsma, who did nothing to limit the damage and instead allowed five runs on three hits over 0.2 innings pitched (Cody Ransom hit one deep in the fourth).  Then Timlin came on and allowed his usual run, another homer by Ransom in teh fifth.  Chris Smith came on and allowed three runs on three hits.  And Hansack came on and allowed five runs on three hits.  So basically what this means is that three of our five pitchers allowed home runs, and Timlin of all people was the pitcher with the lowest total of runs allowed.  Is it just me, or do things like this usually happen to the Yankees and not to us?

We scored less than half the runs New York scored.  That’s a little disturbing.  On the upside, we only recorded seven less hits than they did.  Three RBIs for Jonathan Van Every, so a huge night for him.  Two RBIs for Youkilis on a two-run shot in the first.  One RBI for Lowrie, one RBI for Gil Velazquez, and a completely unreal night for Jacoby Ellsbury.  Listen to this.  Jacoby Ellsbury, the fastest man in baseball, finished the night four for five with two runs, an RBI, and his fiftieth steal of the season.  He’s batting .280.  Now that is what I call a lead-off man.

Sean Casey made a fielding error.  There’s something you don’t see too often.

This loss forces us to accept the Wild Card.  We just handed the Rays the division on a silver platter.  The only upside I can think of to all of this is that we didn’t pull what New York tried to pull last year.  We didn’t kill ourselves for the division and tire ourselves out before the playoffs.  Maybe we did hand the Rays the division because we had our reasons.  It’s better to go into the playoffs well-rested and with the Wild Card than to go into the playoffs in first place and falling over from exhaustion.  In 2004, the Yankees hung on to the division by the skin of their teeth and look where that got them.  Same with the Rays.  So come to think of it it’s not that bad.  It’s bad, but it could be worse.  And even better, we’re guaranteed to face the Angels in the ALDS, and history says we rock that.  So yes, it’s definitely nerve-wracking, but I’m going to look forward to the Division Series and see what happens.  I believe we’ll clean up in the ALDS, and I believe we’ll go all the way.

In other news, Lowell’s injury is causing him problems and his status is uncertain.  Tests on Drew’s back have been showing improvements.

Tonight it’s Ponson at Dice-K.  That’s something else to look forward too.  Besides, we can celebrate.  Ladies and gentlemen, October is around the corner!

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We’re losing ground here.  And losing ground means losing momentum, losing momentum means losing an advantage in the postseason, losing an advantage in the postseason means increased difficulty in achieving October glory.  Our record at the Trop this season is 1-8.  Even if we tie with the Rays for first place, they’ll win it by the season series.  Tim Wakefield, who’s historically owned the Trop and who was once 9-0 there, got the loss.  His ERA at the Trop is still under 3.00, but you’d never know it from the way he pitched last night.  And the pitching hurt us in more ways than one.

Wakefield pitched 2.1 innings, allowed six runs on six hits, three home runs, no walks, and two strikes.  Maybe we should have a second starter, or maybe a long reliever, specifically for days on which Wakefield and Byrd pitch.  This way, we have someone who can take care of the middle innings until late in the game, and we won’t have to use the bullpen.  So we’re guaranteed solid early and middle relief, and the bullpen is rested for the next game.

After Wakefield left, Hansack allowed two runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout.  Exit Hansack, enter Lopez, who forgot how consistent and solid he is and pitched to three batters in the third inning without recording an out.  He left, and Aardsma came in and didn’t allow a run, which is a welcome sight because lately he hasn’t been what he used to be before he went on the DL.  He had all the makings of a fixture in our bullpen, and he could still pull it together, but watching him now it’s just not the same.  Delcarmen pitched two solid innings, and he’s someone who’s been pulling it together.  He’s much more consistent now, and he’s really fixed the problems he had in the first half of the season.  Okajima pitched a perfect inning.  But Pauley allowed two runs on three hits before Smith finished things off.  We used eight pitchers last night, and all but three were perfect.  But three was enough.  The Rays won, 10-3, and out-hit us, 12-6.

We made two errors.  Both were attributed to pitchers.  Hansack made a pickoff error (he tried to pick off Willy Aybar at second but the throw went past Pedroia, so Aybar advanced to third), and Lopez made a fielding error.  And in the fourth inning, three players were going after an infield pop-up.  Aardsma had the best chance of catching it, but instead it fell.  It’s very unusual to see all of these errors and mistakes by pitchers in a single game.  All in all, it as very ugly.  I felt like I was watching a blooper reel.

The offense was a one-man show.  Big Papi batted in all three of our runs with a two-run home run in the first and a solo home run in the fourth.  He finished the night two for two.  Ellsbury also went two for two.  Pedroia went one for four, Youkilis went one for three with a walk, Cash walked, and nobody else got on base.  Very ugly.

There were some great displays of leather though.  In the third Pedroia dove into shallow right field to snag a line drive.  In the fourth Youkilis made a spectacular sliding catch on a foul ball.  Unfortunately the ball hit a catwalk before it fell foul so it didn’t matter.  That’s something to keep in mind.  It looks like the Rays will make a postseason appearance.  But their stadium has a roof, and it’s got lots of these catwalks and all sorts of irregularities so that when balls bounce off them they do strange things.  No doubt it’ll be very controversial in October.

Here’s something I really didn’t like.  Coco Crisp was booed by the crowd last night because of that brawl in Fenway.  I mean, come on.  We showed a lot of maturity when the Rays visited us.  Even Jonathan Papelbon, for all his tough talk about unfinished business, handled himself well.  It was the first time that happened in this series, and if you ask me it was a little low.

In other news the Yankees won last night, but it was Brian Bruney who got the win and not Phil Hughes, the starter.  We can be happy about that, because when Phil Hughes first came up he was highly touted as this young upstart who’d make batters shake in their spikes.  But they rushed him through development and he came up and soon he started showing weaknesses.  Then there was that stint on the DL, and that was it.  He was never the same.  The Red Sox have revealed the schedule for next season, and it looks like our first game will be our home opener, and guess who we’re playing? The Rays.  So that’ll add some fuel to the fire, no doubt.

We’ve got the day off today, so it’ll give us a chance to recuperate from last night’s ridiculous displays.  But our schedule doesn’t get any easier, because going to Toronto on Friday.  So we’ve got our work cut out for us.  Still doable, but very difficult.

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Sometimes you have to lay down the law.  Sometimes you have to go up there and bring everything you’ve got.  Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and realize where you were supposed to be all along.  Sometimes you have to destroy every ounce of confidence the opposition had.

Last night was definitely one of those times.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially tied for first place! And we did it on their turf! How about that? Say hello to the long-anticipated Rays fade.  Their time has come; our time is now.  All we have to do is take it.

It was a slugfest.  I felt like I was watching last year’s Rays.  You know, the ones with absolutely no pitching to speak of that only existed to give other teams a boost in the standings? The final score was 13-5.  I kid you not.  With all our road issues this year, and with all our troubles against the Rays, we won, and we won big.  Until last night we hadn’t won a single game in the Trop this year.  It was fantastic.  Definitely one of the highlights of the season.  A good, old-fashioned Boston beat-down.

Dice-K went his usual five innings, but they were a good five innings.  One run on three hits with two walks and seven K’s.  The run was a product of his only mistake to Iwamura in the third, who hit a solo shot out.  Other than that, Dice-K was gold.  It did take 101 pitches for him to reach that point, but who’s complaining? If that’s what it takes for him to protect a lead and if the relief can hold on to it, who are we to judge? And the relief, for the most part, did hold on to it.  Only Chris Smith wasn’t perfect; in two innings he allowed four runs on four hits, two of which were home runs.  But Timlin and Pauley held the fort through the eighth and ninth.  And that, my friends, was the ballgame.

But wait; it gets better.  The offense excelled like nobody’s business.  Scott Kazmir made his exit after three innings.  The spread was four RBIs for Ortiz, three for Youk, two for Tek, and one each for Lowell, Bay, Pedroia, and Ellsbury.  But it should be mentioned here that the way most of these runs were batted in was the long ball.  We hit six (count ’em: six!) home runs in that game.  Six.  That’s unbelievable.  Ortiz went two for four with a three-run shot.  Youk went two for four with a two-run shot.  Tek hit a two-run shot.  Lowell hit a solo shot.  Bay hit a solo shot.  And Ellsbury went two for five with a solo shot.  No outs, one out, two outs, it didn’t matter what the situation was.  If there was a baseball it was out of the park.  I felt like I was drowning in offensive production.

Rare moments of ineptitude featured Ellsbury recording a CS and getting picked off.  Yes, in the same game.  No, seriously.  I know; it threw me for a loop, too.

So all in all we flexed our offensive muscles, we embarrassed a division rival on their home turf, we tied for first place, and we let our A team take a load off in the second half and get ready for tomorrow while the B team enjoyed some playing time with a sizeable lead.  It was a great game and lots of fun to watch.

In other news, Mikey Lowell’s hip is more seriously injured than we thought.  Turns out he’s got a partially torn labrum in his right hip and he’s been playing in pain for two months.  But he says he’s staying in there anyway.  That, my friends, is a dirt dog.  The Brewers fired Ned Yost and hired Dale Sveum as manager.  Yesterday was Mike Timlin’s 1050th appearance, which breaks Kent Tekulve’s record for most appearances by a right-handed reliever.  And unlike his 1000th appearance, I am happy to report that this one actually went well.

The fate of this glorious opportunity falls in the capable hands of Josh Beckett, who’ll be starting tonight opposite Andy Sonnanstine.  I’m so psyched.  Folks, this could be it.

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Every once in a while, playing extra innings is good.  It reminds you why you fight so hard during the average nine-inning contest, and it puts the bullpen to work, so everyone gets some work in and you see what you’re working with.  And last night’s game was a great game for us.  It wasn’t like some ridiculous pitcher’s mistake forced us into extras and then we lost.  We went into extras for all the right reasons, and that’s good for the team every once in a while.  It strengthens the resolve to complete the mission.  As for the loss part, as soon as Mike Timlin stepped on the mound we all knew it was coming.  Why Tito didn’t just go with Chris Smith from the get-go instead of having him warm in the ‘pen behind Timlin is something I’ll never know.

A long game means a lot to talk about.  Let’s start with Beckett, who’s so back it’s not even funny.  I’m serious.  It’s gotten back to that point where you watch the game, you see that No. 19,  and you know you’re in good hands and you can lock it up as a win.  I can say that despite last night because even though we lost last night he did his job, and he did it well.  He’s been on a short leash lately with his pitch count because of his stint on the DL, which I think is smart, but even pitching six innings, which is a bit of a short outing for Beckett, he pitched his usual.  One run on six hits, walking two and fanning seven.  He got off to a great start, using five pitches in a one-two-three first inning, and he didn’t even give up his first walk until the fifth.

I can safely say that, just as I was never more disappointed in Pap than on Tuesday night, I’ve never been more proud of the bullpen than I was last night.  Last night’s relief was nothing short of spectacular.  Every reliever, with the exception of Mike Timlin who lost it a long time ago, brought his A-game.  Okajima pitched a perfect inning, and it’s safe to say he’s back.  Masterson pitched two innings and got himself out of a real situation, one out with bases loaded, and he got the two outs he needed, no problem.  It was just awesome.  Delcarmen pitched two perfect innings, and it was nice to see him do that, given the consistency problems that he had in the first half of the season and part of the second.  And Lopez; what to say about Lopez? He’s been our greatest this year.  He’s had everything: consistency, confusing delivery, good command, and the ability to continually throw strikes.  And his 2.1 innings were perfect.  Enter Mike Timlin, who gave up a three-run shot to Carlos Pena in the top of the fourteenth.  He picked up the loss.  What a surprise.  And as it turned out a Rays fan caught the ball.  How about that? A Rays fan in Fenway Park.  Now I’ve seen it all.

Pedroia batted in our first run in the third to tie the game, and Youkilis batted in our second in the bottom of the fourteenth.  We lost, 2-4, but we didn’t go down easily.  In the late innings we had our chances to score, which unfortunately we couldn’t convert, so it wasn’t only Timlin’s fault.  And even in our half of the fourteenth inning we had the bases loaded and we were ready to strike, but as they say the rest is history.  Even with all that playing time, only two members of the lineup had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for four with a walk, and Lowrie went two for five with a walk.  Pedroia’s like nitro-glycerin; if you’re the opposition, you don’t want to be around when that kind of power is unleashed.  Watching him uncork that swing of his is beautiful baseball.  And he can do some running, too; in the third, Ortiz popped foul but Pedroia already went from second to the plate, so he just cut across the grass to get back to second.  Other highlights include Ellsbury’s spectacular diving catch in center field, and this was it, I mean I saw that ball and thought there was no play.  The kid’s a miracle worker out there.  And I think it should be mentioned that he was blatantly safe at first in the ninth inning.  If the umpires made the right call, the bases would’ve been loaded, and there probably would’ve been a walk off.  Just saying.  Ortiz actually hit a sac bunt in the twelfth inning for the first time since April 14, 2001; I kid you not.  Bay was held hitless, snapping a five-game hitting streak and a three-game home run streak.  And as for Lowell, he was the victim of what I perceived as blatant unfairness.  Lowell pops foul down the third base line, Dan Johnson goes into the slide to catch it, a fan reaches over and catches it instead, and the umpires call fan interference.  As if Johnson would’ve been able to make that play; Lowell clearly was not out.  Varitek was successful in a hit-and-run, and I loved watching that because I remember a few weeks ago when if you put Tek in a hit-and-run the runner would be out.  Cash came in in the later innings and showed off his arm; he gunned down Bartlett at second when Iwamura failed to make contact on his own hit-and-run.  Finally, Chris Carter came through with a pinch-hit single.  He’s now three for four in the majors, with all three of those hits coming against Tampa Bay.

In other news, Raymond Bourke was in the crowd last night, the Angels clinched the AL West last night (we all knew that was coming, too), and Pap showed a lot of maturity during this series.  After the Crisp-Bartlett brawl, he dished out a lot of talk of unfinished business, but he handled himself, which I think was wise because we need him to be available, not suspended, this time of year.

So, as for the series of the whole, we weren’t swept which is good, we’re only 2.5 games out which is good, and we have the day off today which is great.  And Jerry Remy made a good point: Tuesday’s loss was a bigger win for the Rays than it was a loss for us.  We can bounce back from that and from this series.  Look at our season; we’ve been doing nothing but.  The injuries, the trades, it’s all required a superhuman amount of resilience, but we’ve been able to weather it and actually be the better for it.  Toronto lost last night to the White Sox which takes some of the wind out of their sails, because up until that point they’d been enjoying a September surge.  Their pitching is largely responsible for that surge so we’ll have to hit all our spots when we start things off with them tomorrow.  Even though I would’ve loved nothing more than to sweep the Rays and show them who’s boss, there will be plenty of time for that in October.  We’re going to have a good run.

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Ladies and gentlemen, victory is within sight.  After last night’s 7-2 trouncing of the Rangers, we are only 1.5 games behind the Rays, who we play tonight, tomorrow night, and Wednesday night.  Needless to say, this is big.  This is huge.  This could be when we decide what our postseason will be like.

Paul Byrd pitched about six shutout innings and gave up only three hits and three walks while striking out four, and he committed an error on a pickoff attempt.  The two Texas runs were given up by Delcarmen, who allowed a solo homer, and Smith.  Lopez was perfect, and Papelbon allowed two hits during his shift.  I know the concerns: what if it had been a closer game, what if those two runs had been the end of us, and all those what-ifs.  But the fact is it wasn’t and they weren’t.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed it lately, but we haven’t been playing as many close games as we did early in the season, and these days when we do it’s less likely that the bullpen will blow it.  As for Papelbon, he just needs to get his work in.

RBIs for Cora, Crisp, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Bay.  Crisp went two for three and stole second, and it’s like he’s a whole new man.  Bay went two for five with a solo home run in the seventh.  Big Papi batted in two runs on a fifth-inning two-run shot, his first since August 14, and finished the night going two for five and feeling some clicking in his wrist.  He says the wrist problems have altered his swing but that he feels no pain.  What a relief.  Especially when you consider that, even without hitting home runs, he’s hitting .330 over his last 25 games.

As for tonight, we’re definitely pitching someone we trust.  It’ll be Jon Lester opposite Edwin Jackson.  Lester is 13-5 with a 3.37 ERA.  Edwin Jackson is 11-9 with a 4.07 ERA.  The Rays won’t be easy to beat, because we’ve shown in recent years that we have trouble facing first-place clubs, but at least from the pitching perspective we have the upper hand.  We’ll all be holding our breath for this one.

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Unfortunately, this one didn’t exactly go in our favor.  Still, the final score was 15-8, and we didn’t go down easily.  The Rangers had only three more hits than us and left one more man on base.  Basically that means that we didn’t do as well with runners in scoring position, but I’d rather not do well with runners in scoring position than not do well with no runners in scoring position.  At least we had our opportunities, and we did make use of many of them.  And at least the Rays lost, so we’re still only 2.5 games back, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re comin’ to get ’em.

Wakefield only lasted 1.2 innings.  In that span he managed to give up seven runs on four hits with four walks and no strikeouts.  Smith pitched the next two innings but didn’t really limit the damage; he gave up a two-run shot to Nelson Cruz.  Lopez was the only perfect reliever but left after pitching 0.1 inning for Mike Timlin, who gave up his usual four runs on five hits, and David Pauley pitched the last two, giving up two runs on five hits and striking out four.

RBIs for Bailey, Lowrie, and Casey, who’s back in it off the DL.  Kotsay had two.  Youkilis had three; he hit a monstrous three-run blast in the third inning with one out.  It really was a valiant effort; we scored four runs in our half of the ninth.  Only three members of the starting lineup had multi-hit games; Lowell went two for four and Lowrie and Crisp both went two for three.  In some weird and twisted phenomenon of nature, Dustin Pedroia was held hitless but still managed to get on base with a walk.  You can’t help but marvel at the kid.  Even when you keep him off base, you can’t really keep him off base.

In other news, David Aardsma and JD Drew should be making their returns pretty soon.  I’m telling you, everyone’s coming off the DL at the right time, and everyone’s coming off renewed, refreshed, and ready to fight.  And that’s what we need this time of year.  And as we’ve seen Sean Casey and Kevin Youkilis are back in it too and doing their usual damage.  Youk’s back is better now and his personal issues are all cleared up, so that’s good to see.  It’s amazing how it’s all coming together at just the right time.  The Rays aren’t at their best right now, and that’s a mistake first-place clubs make, especially those that’re inexperienced.  All it takes is a few losses here, a few losses there, and what do you know, they’re knocked off the top, which is where they shouldn’t have been all along.  I mean, who would’ve thought? But that’s how it is, and we’re definitely coming.  Count on that.

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Now that is what I call a blowout.  Firing on all cylinders.  Demolishing the competition right out of the gate.  Basically the 2007 season crunched into nine innings.  Even though we were missing some key guys, including Kevin Youkilis who winced during warm-up sprints and wasn’t in the lineup due to back spasms, we still pulled it off, and with flying colors.  That has to be reassuring for a team that’s been as injury-ridden as ours: look at how formidable we are even when we’re not 100%, and imagine how formidable we are when we are 100%.  If I were the opposition I’d be afraid.  I’d be very afraid.

Lester got the win, pitching five and giving up a run on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts.  He’s never lost to the Orioles in his career, and he improves to an impressive 13-5.  In the early innings he actually cranked his fastball up to 96, 97 mph.  Manny Delcarmen and Chris Smith were in top form for the sixth and seventh, and despite allowing a run in the ninth David Pauley did a decent job.  You know you’re in good shape when the relief is strong.  That means your starters are going deep and that you’ve had a good amount of big leads.

And now for the offense.  One RBI each for Kotsay, Ellsbury, and Van Every, the first Major League RBI of his career.  Kotsay went two for four, and Ellsbury stole his 44th base of the season.  Two RBIs for Lowrie, who was pretty busy at third base.  It’s so nice to watch him work the leather over there; it’s pretty refreshing to see a baseball headed to that part of the diamond and know that someone’s going to be there to make the play almost every time.  Four RBIs for Ortiz, who didn’t strike out all night.  He went three for three with a walk and two runs.  Now that is good old-fashioned Papi-style baseball.  Crisp went three for five with a steal, and Varitek went two for four with good blockage of the plate to get Hernandez out at home.  The bottom half of the lineup is really stepping up, and I think that’s part of why the top half of the lineup is doing so well.  It eases the pressure.

Last but certainly not least, five (count ’em: five!) runs batted in for that fixture at second base, that shoe-in for Most Valuable Player, Dustin Pedroia.  The man went three for five with a run.  One of those hits was a monstrous home run he absolutely crushed out of the park in the fourth with one man out and two men on base.  Did not strike out once all night.  Not once.  His batting average is now .330.  After a whole season of ups and downs, varying lineups, issues on the road, and so many other details, Pedroia is batting .330 in September.  That average is so high you’d look at it and write it off as some rookie who just got called up and started to hit.  And don’t even get me started on how good the man is in the field.  He’s got MVP written all of him.

So all in all that makes for a four-run third, a six-run fourth, a one-run fifth, a two-run seventh, and a one-run eighth.  Not bad for a blowout.  Not bad at all.

In another strange turn of events, we were all rooting for the Yanks last night and it paid off.  The Rays lost by five runs, decreasing their lead over us to four games.  I see no room for error on the Rays’ part, because if they give us an inch we’ll walk all over them.  Needless to say, the upcoming series with them at Fenway is going to be crucial.

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