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Posts Tagged ‘Cincinnati Reds’

We won yet again! And we did it facing two of our former pitchers: Justin Masterson and Dan Wheeler.  Each of them was credited with a half of our run total.  It’s always a pleasure to see old friends.  It’s also always a pleasure to remind them what a great place to play they left behind, no matter what the reason was for their leaving.  Unfortunately, given the way we’ve been playing, it was unclear whether we’d be able to accomplish that; just because we’ve had ourselves a small winning streak doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re at a point where we can win consistently as a team.  But we did it, and it was sweet.

Bard gave up one run on six hits over six innings.  He walked four and struck out two.   Despite his decent line, I can’t technically make a general statement that his start was awesome because it was easy to see that his fastball was off.  He threw ninety-seven pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes.  He went one-two-three in the first and fifth and faced at most two above the minimum in every other inning he pitched except the third.  He allowed his run in the third, when he loaded the bases with one out after giving up two walks and a single; then he walked in a run.  Needless to say, it was an ugly and total loss of command and control, and it’s a good thing he found the strike zone again afterwards.

By the time Hill came on to replace Bard in the seventh, we had scored six runs and we weren’t even done.  It turns out that that would only be half our run total at the end of the game.  We didn’t waste any time, either.  The first didn’t exactly begin too auspiciously, as Sweeney and Pedroia both grounded out, but then Papi walked, Gonzalez doubled, Middlebrooks singled in Papi, Nava doubled in Gonzalez, Ross got hit, and Salty singled in both Middlebrooks and Nava.  That’s six straight plays with two outs before recording the third, and half of those plays brought home runs.  And, both literally and figuratively, it was only the beginning.

We went down in order in the second, but then Middlebrooks smashed a solo shot on a fastball in, the second pitch of his at-bat, in the third.  It got out in a hurry and bounced right off the top of the ledge on the Monster.  We scored our sixth run in the sixth; Nava was hit by a pitch to start things off, stole second, and scored on a single by Salty.

At that point, we were leading, 6-1.  If the game wasn’t out of the Tribe’s reach at that point already, then we definitely blew it wide open in the seventh.  We scored six runs in the seventh alone.  That’s more runs than we’ve scored in several whole games this year.  Pedroia started the push with a double and scored on a single by Papi.  Then Gonzalez doubled, and Middlebrooks walked on a wild pitch, which sent Papi home.  Nava then doubled in both Gonzalez and Middlebrooks.  Ross grounded out, which advanced Nava to third, and he and Salty both scored on a homer by the latter on a slider.  The ball landed right on the covered seats in center field.  It was straight-up power.

And that was it.  Albers pitched the eighth, and Atchison pitched the ninth.  We won by a score of 12-1 and posted as many hits as runs, more than half of which, seven, were for extra bases.  Multi-hit performances were given by Middlebrooks, whose nine extra-base hits in his first ten games is the most in the Major Leagues since 2008, when Chris Dickerson of the Cincinnati Reds hit nine as well; Gonzalez and Nava, whose two hits each were both doubles; and Salty, who went three for four with five RBIs.  Add to that the staff’s solid outing, and Cleveland didn’t stand a chance.  Wow, that is great to say.

AP Photo
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Congratulations to Beltre for winning a Silver Slugger! He most definitely deserved it.  I wish I could say the same for Vlad Guerrero, who won it instead of Big Papi, which is ridiculous.  Guerrero hit .300 with twenty-nine homers, 115 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .496.  Sounds great.  Until you consider the fact that he only hit nine homers after the All-Star break and posted a measly OPS of .748.  Papi hit thirty-two homers and posted a slugging percentage of .529 and OPS of .899.  Notice that all of Papi’s numbers are higher than Vlad’s.  Theoretically, this should result in his fifth Silver Slugger at DH, but for some absurd and unknown reason, it didn’t.  He and Josh Beckett can commiserate this offseason, because that’s just not right.

Pedroia’s rehab is progressing ahead of schedule.  I’m not surprised by that.  I am relieved, not just for the team and for Red Sox Nation but also for Pedroia, who’s been itching to play for months now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stove is finally starting to heat up.  Finally.  We have confirmed official contact with Werth’s agent.  We are supposedly interested in Zack Greinke and Justin Duchsherer.  We have statements from Theo about his commitment to re-sign Beltre and V-Mart, with the obvious emphasis on V-Mart.  Meanwhile, Peter Gammons is convinced that Theo is going to move on without V-Mart because he says the Sox are sure Salty can handle the job.  I’m going to take Theo’s word on this instead.

Perhaps the ultimate free agent, or at least the one everyone’s talking about these days, is Cliff Lee.  Everyone thought Lee is going to be a Yankee for sure.  Nothing would please me less, but I don’t think that’s as likely as people think.  He’s thirty-two years old, and if New York decides to give him a Sabathia-like contract with heaps of money and, less intelligently, heaps of years, I will lose negative respect for their organization, because trust me, there isn’t any there to begin with now.  My next guess would be the Angels, but they’ve already set their sights on Carl Crawford, although that could change since the Giants proved that, yes, you can win with pitching.  (Which only confirms the fact that we’re going to win the World Series this year, by the way.  Just sayin’.) Detroit could be an option since they’ve made payroll room.  The most likely competitor for New York right now appears to be the Rangers, who are in hot pursuit, and offers could come in from the Phillies and Brewers as well.

The Mets won’t spend this offseason, the Cubs want youth, the Reds are in the process of offering Arroyo an extension, and I’m so sorry to say this, but I don’t think we’re going to be in the mix for this one.  A sizeable chunk of our payroll is currently devoted to our starting rotation, and on top of that we just don’t have the space for Lee right now.  So it makes sense to leave him alone.  Otherwise, we basically wouldn’t be able to do anything else.  Lee is absolutely awesome, so again, it hurts to say so, but we’re making the right move here.

An interesting question to ask is whether the acquisition of Lackey kept us from Lee.  I think the answer would have to be yes, but I think we’ll get more bang for our buck with Lackey than we would have with Lee.  Lackey is a competitive workhorse.  He absorbs innings like a sponge.  We need a guy like that in there, especially if we’ve got another guy on whom you can’t necessarily depend to go deep.  (That would be Dice-K.) Lackey complements that, and that way the bullpen knows it’s going to have a light night for each overtime it works.  Depending on how this season goes, I’d be ready to say we made the right decision.  That’s the key right there.  Lee is a competitive workhorse too, and he also absorbs innings like a sponge.  But he won’t be absorbing anyone’s innings like anything unless they’re ready to fork over substantial coin and years.  Provided that my predictions about Lackey returning to top form his sophomore season come true, Lackey is the better option because he’ll probably end up being cheaper than both.  I have a feeling that Lee’s next contract is going to be huge.  So Lackey gives us more flexibility that way.  Sure, Lee arguably would be better, but like I said, if Lackey is back to his stellar self as of now, the difference in quality won’t be that large; meanwhile, we spend less money and don’t have to commit the better part of an entire decade.

We traded Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for Andrew Miller.  The Jays just hired PawSox manager Torey Lovullo as their new first base coach.  Our minor league infield coordinator, Gary DiSarcina, is now the assistant to the Angels’ general manager.  DeMarlo Hale will interview with the Mets for their managerial position.  The disadvantage of having a top-flight staff is that everyone wants a piece.  Hopefully for us, this goes nowhere.

In a spectacular combination of divine intervention and rational thought, ESPN will not renew the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.  Oh, happy day.  Twenty-one years of suffering through commentary that was anything but insightful and unbiased is officially over.  Dan Shulman will replace Miller.  At this point, anything is an improvement.

In other news, the Bruins started the week with a victory over the Penguins, 7-4.  Seven goals in a single game.  Wow.  Then we just had to lose to the Habs, 3-1.  Yesterday’s game didn’t bode too well either; the Sens shut us out, 2-0.  Those were not the same Senators we shut out, 4-0.  That was a completely different team.  On behalf of Bruins fans everywhere, I’d like to extend condolences to the family of Pat Burns, who coached us in the late ’90s.  Last Sunday, the Pats delivered one of the absolute worst performances I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.  We lost, 34-14, to none other than the Cleveland Browns.  The Cleveland Browns! I was seeing Super Bowl glory, and then all of a sudden we lost by twenty points to the Cleveland Browns? To make matters worse, Stephen Gostkowski will probably be out for two games with a quad strain.  The only silver lining I can possibly muster in this situation is that the Pats have a tendency to bounce back from big losses in a big way.  Right on time for us to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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And just like that, with one swing of the bat, Big Papi’s home run drought is over.  Done.  Finished.  Concluded.  Terminated.  I’m so psyched, I could think of a hundred more synonyms for that but the point is the man hit his first home run of 2009! And this thing was huge.  Fifth inning.  Man on third.  Two men out.  Ortiz at the plate.  The count one and one.  Belt-high fastball over the middle.  The ball ended up in the center field camera well right by the 420 mark.  Over the pitcher! Over the outfield! Over the center field wall! It was out of the park by inches, but it was out.  And it’s no small feat to hit the ball that far, either.  The ball was out! It was so out it wasn’t even funny.  Red Sox Nation and David Ortiz exhaled as one.  I was watching that and I was doing the Carlton Fisk home run wave.  And let me tell you.  That was a classic Big Papi swing.  It was huge.  It was powerful.  It was precise.  And it was all over it.  I mean it was all he could do not to take the skin off the ball.  And what a welcome from the teammates and the fans afterwards.  He got a standing ovation, followed by a curtain call, followed by another standing ovation in the sixth.  And we’ve been with him every step of the way; there are many reasons why we’re called the Fenway Faithful, and this is definitely one of them.  Anyway he is one happy camper right now.  No doubt about that.  One very happy camper.  And I don’t even have to say anything about how crazy Fenway went after that.  It had all the trappings of a walkoff in October.  Gives you the chills.

But the key now will be to keep him on track.  He’s hit his first dinger of the year so we know he’s back, but he still has to be careful to go easy on himself.  He can’t expect that, just because he’s hit his first, he’s suddenly going to be slugging all over the place.  If that happens, nobody will be complaining, but he has to take it slow.  So it’s just as important now, perhaps even more important now, to keep the tension and pressure at a minimum.  That’s why I’m going to make the bold statement that the swing he took in the sixth, his next at-bat after the home run, was perhaps even more heartening than the home run itself.  He swung and missed on a changeup, but that wasn’t the point.  That swing retained all the elements of the classic Big Papi swing that propelled the ball out of the park: the power, the precision, the bat speed, the follow-through, the huge torque on the bat.  It was all there.  He was going after it like he wanted to bury it.  And that’s what you like to see from him.  That’s how you know he’s back.  Even if it was a swing and a miss.

And that home run of his was nearly worth three runs.  With one out, Ellsbury walked.  Then Pedroia smacked a double, and Ellsbury tried to score from first, but they gunned him down at the plate.  The throw hit Barajas perfectly, and he extended his arm to make the tag as Ellsbury went into the slide for home.  Pedroia took third on the throw.  Hey, it happens to the best of us, and Ellsbury was busy setting a record last night anyway.  He handled twelve fly balls, tying a Major League record for most putouts in a nine-inning game for a center fielder.  He shares the record with Earl Clark of the Boston Braves (May 10, 1929 against the Reds) and Lyman Bostock of the Minnesota Twins (May 25, 1977 against us).  But Ellsbury set a new franchise record for putouts by any outfielder in a game of any length.  That’s what I like about the kid; whether it’s at the plate or in the field or on the paths or all three, he gets it done somehow.

But the rest of the offense was awesome, too.  Fireworks.  Literally.  All but one of our runs were scored via the long ball.  Jack number one was a solo shot by Tek to lead off the third.  Jack number two was a solo shot by Tek to lead off the fifth.  So that’s two home runs in a single game for the captain.  It’s amazing what a different hitter he is this year than he was last year.  I mean in the seventh inning they intentionally walked him in favor of Lugo with the bases loaded.  That says a lot, about both guys.  Jack number three was that monster shot by Big Papi in the fifth.  Jack number four was a two-run, two-out homer by Jason Bay that completely cleared the Green Monster seats in the fifth.  Jack number five was a solo shot by Mikey Lowell in the fifth.  So four jacks in that one inning alone, two of which were back-to-back into or over the Monster.  It was ridiculous.  It was absolutely insane.  And it all started with that walk to Ellsbury.  You have to feel bad for Brett Cecil; it was only the kid’s third Major League start, and if I’m Toronto’s manager, I’m pulling him before Youk comes to bat.  He’s going to remember that fifth inning forever, and there’s no telling how much that messed with his psyche.  You just don’t do that.  That’s bad management right there.  So, yeah, you feel bad for the kid because of the five jacks, until you remember the five jacks.

And let’s not forget about the pitching.  Brad Penny was solid through two outs into the seventh inning.  Two runs (both coming in the seventh) on nine hits, a walk, and two strikeouts.  And let’s not forget all those flyouts.  Ninety-six pitches in total.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Dlecarmen, Okajima, and Saito were all perfect as usual.  Daniel Bard gave up a run in his Fenway Park debut.  And that was a great time for him to take the mound; a big lead takes pressure off a kid.  The final score was 8-3.  Penny picks up the win and improves to 4-1.

Last night, Tek and Lowell welcomed Boy, an eleven-year-old diehard Sox fan from Holland who’s suffering from a brain tumor.  Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boy flew from Holland to hang out with his two favorite players.  Lowell even gave him his bat, and Tek took him and his family on a personal tour of the batting cages.  What a great story.  Just another of the many reasons why it’s good to be a member of Red Sox Nation.  We do more than most if not all other Major League teams for our community.

So with that win we’ll at least win this series.  Toronto is hanging onto first place by the skin of its teeth, trying to preserve a one-and-a-half-game lead which hopefully after tonight will shrink to just a half-game lead.  We’ve been playing some of our best baseball against them, which is a good sign, because if they’re able to keep this up down the stretch, we’re going to have to deal with them on more than one occasion.  The Yanks are two and a half games back, and the Rays are six and a half games back.  The Orioles, of course, are at the bottom with a nine-and-a-half-game deficit.  So all is almost as it should be.  As soon as we take first place, then everything will be good to go.  Robert Ray at Lester, and this would be a great time for Lester to remember who he is.

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One more week of Spring Training and then it’s go time.  It’s going to be a good season for us.  I can feel it.  And this year our home opener is also our Opening Day.  Against the Rays.  It’s going to be epic.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.  We don’t have starters yet, but I venture to guess Josh Beckett will get the call.  We’ll see.  Anyway, a lot’s happened this past week.  First of all, on Monday Curt Schilling announced his retirement.  I read that and the first thing I experienced was relief.  I think he knew it was time for him to hang up his spikes, and I’m glad he retired with dignity.  The second thing I experienced was gratitude.  We owe him a lot.  He was one of the most dominant pitchers of our time, especially in the postseason, and we know that first-hand.  We continue to celebrate his achievements in October, and we’ll be forever thankful for what he did with our team in 2004 and 2007.  I don’t think we could’ve done it without him.  So here’s to you, Curt, for all your hard work and bloody socks and playoff gems.  Thanks from a city that’ll never forget, and we look forward to seeing you in the Hall of Fame!

Our pitching this season is looking pretty good.  Theo did a masterful job during the offseason.  In fact, it’s possible that our pitching staff is too deep.  We have five starting spots and the usual handful in the bullpen, so we might not have a regular place for everybody.  But that’s fine too; if someone gets hurt, we’ve got a man waiting in the wings.  Brad Penny made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday against the Tigers.  He pitched three innings; no hits, no runs, one walk, three K’s.  On Wednesday, Clay Buchholz pitched six innings against the Reds; one unearned run, only three hits, three K’s.  He even retired twelve batters in a row at one point.  I’m telling you, with every outing this spring he’s looking more and more like he did in ’07.  And let’s not forget that Masterson is still very much in the mix.  Last year he was primarily a reliever but, like I always say, that’s a waste because he’s starter material.  This season his fate seems to be closely tied to that of Penny.  If Penny isn’t ready to start, it’ll probably be Masterson who fills in.  So we know that we have one of the deepest staffs in the league.  We also know that we need another man in the rotation.  We’ll first need a fifth starter for the Angels game on April 12, and we have three pitchers who could conceivably fill that role well.  This should be interesting.

Dice-K returned to camp on Wednesday after having been named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic again.  So definitely congratulations to him.  And after his return, he got right back to throwing and didn’t miss a beat, which is a good sign.  What I’d like to see is him retaining his composure with runners in scoring position while improving his efficiency by cutting down on balls and walks.  As for the World Baseball Classic, it’s finally over.  The USA lost to Japan, 9-4, on Sunday, courtesy of Derek Jeter, whose fielding error cost us three runs.  Figures.  Anyway, Japan went on to win the finals.  And by the way, Jeter finished the night one for five.

Perhaps most uplifting, we’re getting healthy.  Dustin Pedroia played his second game since his left abdominal strain on Sunday and went two for three with a double.  Mikey Lowell hit his second home run of Spring Training in the first inning of that game, a powerful two-run shot.  Big Papi hit a double and scored a run on Lowell’s homer.  Even Chris Carter got in on the action, belting one out in the eighth.  Then on Monday, Youk played four innings in the field and had two at-bats, walking once.  Lowell was also in the lineup, marking his first set of consecutive games since his hip surgery.  In fact, he, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa homered consecutively.  It was beautiful.  Brought back memories of April 22, 2007, when we tied the Yankees at four the same way.  Of course, we went on to win that game, 7-6.  Dice-K started and got the win, and it was the third and final game of that series.  Our first sweep of the Yanks since the 1990s.  That was a great game.  Anyway, point being that Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, and Papi all looked smooth and comfortable, which is a great sign.  We just need JD Drew to find his rhythm and we’re in business.

The only downside to this health trend is that it includes Julio Lugo.  It’s been a little more than ten days since his knee surgery, so he’ll be returning to the lineup soon.  Not that I want him to stay injured.  I just want to see Lowrie start.  Or I want to see Lugo’s offense and defense undergo a drastic overhaul.  I don’t think we can afford to carry Lugo in the lineup, at least not for his speed, because we have Ellsbury.

Lastly, it seems that Mark Teixeira would like to be the “bad guy” in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.  That’s fine with me.  In fact, I say bring it.  The Yankees’ bad guys haven’t been doing a very good job.  Jeter hasn’t been making much of a dent in the scoreboard lately, A-Rod hasn’t been hitting in the clutch, and Johnny Damon’s average is dropping steadily.  Besides, we have more pitching than we know what to do with, and our lineup is coming together.  So I doubt that, in the long run, Mark Teixeira will prove to be much of a threat.  Besides, we have an offense of our own.  The Yankees may try to throw us a bad guy, but we come to the Yankees with a lineup full of bad guys.

So we’ve got a week left until the season starts.  I love this time of year.  The speculations, the predictions, the optimism, the clean slate, the opening of Fenway, the team’s return.  Eight more days until Opening Day, my friends.  Eight more days.  As always, it’s been a long winter, but the season is just around the corner.  And we’re ready.

In other news, the Bruins played two games this past week and won both.  We beat the Devils, 4-1, on Sunday and the Leafs, 7-5, yesterday.  So we enjoyed a nice break between those, and we’ll need the rest heading into the playoffs.  We have 104 points, third behind the Sharks’ 109 and the Red Wings’ 107.  We clinched our division.  We have eight games left in the season.  All we have to do is play steadily, conserve our energy, and go into the playoffs with some momentum.  This could be it.  I’ve said it all along, but seriously, this could be it.  This could be the year we win.

Deadspin

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That’s it.  I’ve had it.  I’ve completely had it with Buchholz.  I know he pitched a no-hitter last year in his second Major League start, but the man who pitched that no-no and the man who pitched last night aren’t the same.  He’s finally being sent to Portland to get it together.  I can’t believe that’s taken this long.  Every game he pitched was basically a guaranteed loss because no matter how much the offense turned it on Clay would do something to cancel it out.  It’s just sad.  It really is.  He got through 2.1 innings last night and gave up five runs on three hits with three walks and no K’s.  His ERA has swelled to 6.75.  This is not someone who should be trusted on the mound or who should have a roster spot come September, and if you ask me he shouldn’t have had a roster spot since the beginning of August.  Once you realize that you’ve got the team you want but you could use a little extra something in the pitching department, the starter with the worst record and the highest ERA has to be the first to go, and go fast.  I’m not in the habit of going through all the what-ifs, but I wonder what it would’ve been like if Buchholz could indeed command his fastball and pitch like he did last year.

But it wasn’t only his fault.  Aardsma, Lopez, and Timlin didn’t exactly limit the damage; the two relievers combined for a total of five runs allowed.  But while something like that is highly unusual for Lopez, who’s been a regular bullpen stud this year, it’s more expected than Aardsma, who hasn’t been the same since coming off the DL.  And that’s a shame, because up until that point he’d been so solid.  Timlin allowing a run is nothing new.  The only reliever who pitched his shift successfully last night was Hideki Okajima, who may I say has done an excellent job of turning himself around.  He’s quietly been on a good streak for a good while now, and it’s good to see him back in top form.  We could be back to ’07 after all.

RBIs for Youk, Ortiz, Lowrie, Bay, and Ellsbury.  Youk has been oustanding in clean-up, yesterday going two for five.  Bay hit a home run again, a beautiful two-out shot off Chris Waters.  And Ellsbury went two for five with a steal in the leadoff spot.  That’s where he was supposed to be for the majority of the season, and now that he’s finally hitting like a leadoff man it’s great to see him at the top of the order.  I hope he keeps it up because he’s definitely a threat.  And that’s even before he gets on the base paths.  Pedey hit himself to third with a triple in the first, and Crisp had himself a good outing, going two for four, and over the last handful of games he’s starting to come out of his shell offensively a little bit.

We lost, but so did the Rays.  I’m telling you, there is just no way the baseball gods aren’t Red Sox fans.  For the most part, we lose when the Rays lose.  Last night the Rays fell to the Angels, so we’re still 4.5 games back.  Can you believe that? What a break.  And this has been happening more or less throughout the whole season.  One thing’s for sure: the baseball gods are doing all they can to open it up for us, but it’s our responsibility to take it and run with it.

Meanwhile, Wakefield is close to making his return, Beckett’s thinking Tuesday for a start, and the Red Sox signed David Ross to a minor league contract after he was released by the Reds.  Finally, the best news of all: Julio Lugo suffered a setback in his workout! It’s horrible being happy that one of our guys is hurt, but the dude had it coming.  His speed was excellent, but one can’t live on speed alone, especially when one is making errors left and right and one’s replacement is firing on all cylinders.

AP Photo

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A lot of stuff going on in Boston baseball these days. We’re embarking on a schedule that isn’t as easy or pushover-y as the Yankees’ (we’ve got the Cards, the D-Backs, the Astros, and the Rays, while New York has the Reds, the Pirates, the Mets, and the Rangers). And then we play the Yankees. Dice-K is starting today and is undefeated thus far (8-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 55 strikeouts). Julio Lugo’s infuriating errors are starting to add up at an alarming rate (both errors in last night’s game were throwing errors and were his, giving him 16 on the season, making him responsible for almost a third of the team’s total errors). The Red Sox wore green jerseys to honor the NBA champion Boston Celtics (a very nice gesture, I thought). And we’re forced to say goodbye to Curt Schilling, a master of the playoffs and a key to our success in 2004. We all knew it would end sometime, but it’s sad that it must end like this. Here’s to the bloody sock. Here’s to the almost-no-hitter. Here’s to 216 career wins, a 3.46 career ERA, 436 stars, 569 games. Here’s to 83 complete games, 20 shutouts, 22 saves, and 3,116 strikeouts. Here’s to all the October contests you won, Curt, and all those you would have won; there surely would have been many more. We thank you. And we salute you.

As for last night, we put up a good fight. Unfortunately, so did the Cards. We ended up losing, 4-5, which is a shame because Wakefield gave a great start. Four runs on seven hits in seven innings pitched. Another long outing from the knuckleballer. I’m telling you, he’s pitching way better than I thought he would and certainly way better than his age would suggest. Surprisingly enough, Lugo collected two RBIs last night, one of which was himself on a solo home run he crushed over the Green Monster seats, his first home run of 2008. Lowell batted in a run as well, and the fourth Boston run was unearned. One of the Cards’ runs was also unearned, and this is what I mean when I say that Lugo’s errors are starting to add up. It’s infuriating when errors like that turn into runs for the opposition, especially when you lose by a one-run deficit. That run could have made all the difference. And on a day when the Yankees lose, winning is certainly the priority, not error-making. At this point, I say Alex Cora should start at short. He’s hitting in the .300s and he’s better defensively. Mostly, the damage yesterday was done by hitting into double plays and by a lack of home runs. But, as I said, we put up a good fight, scoring one run in the bottom of the ninth and matching the Cards’ ten hits with ten of our own. The difference appears to be that we made two errors to the Cards’ one. Lovely.

The difference also appears to be that Okajima allowed one run on three hits in his one inning pitched. The hit was a solo homer by Yadier Molina. Okie struck out two, walked none, and did not show signs of the phenomenal set-up man he was last year. It’s just sad.

Kevin Cash is currently hitting at .240. He’s had eighteen hits, scored four times, and batted in six runs in 75 at-bats over 28 games played. It doesn’t seem like much until you consider the fact that, earlier this season, he was batting in the .300s. And the fact that even his current numbers are a substantial offensive improvement over Doug Mirabelli’s. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having Belli on our team when he was here. He was excellent defensively and had a good arm that he rarely got credit for. But with all the injuries we’re having, we’ll need the extra punch wherever we can get it.

We’re still in first. And we’ll stay in first. The Red Sox have experience with situations in which we have the tougher schedule and the Yankees have the easier. We’ve made it out. And we will again. I say this all the time, but I’m a firm believer in it: we have the depth to get through an entire season in first place. A lesser team with our injuries would have fallen apart like that. There’s a reason why we haven’t and why it’s impossible for us to do so.

Curt Schilling

The Red Sox Times

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Now that that’s what I call a slugfest…and the party was on for two days straight, people. Yesterday with the ten innings and the outstanding performance by Wakefield, who threw not more than 80 pitches going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Pap, who’s converted 19 saves so far while allowing only three home runs, got the win while Craig Hansen converted his first career save. And what saved him? Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp going back-to-back with the long ball. The final score was 6-4 in favor of, you guessed it, the Boston Red Sox. Yes sir, we were getting it done in every aspect of the sport. Dice-K is injured? No problem; Wakefield pitches one of his best games. David Ortiz is out? No problem; Drew lights up the No. 3 spot. Papelbon on the hook with his third home run allowed? No problem; Hansen saves the day. The heavy-hitting bats a little quieter than usual? No problem; Youk, a Cincinnati native, and Crisp drill it out.

And as if that weren’t enough, these Boston Red Sox go on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds again this afternoon with a delightfully lopsided score of 9-0, taking the series and heading to Philadelphia on a high note. Josh Beckett, in his best start all season, pitched seven shutout innings, allowing six hits, walking two, and striking out six, thereby lowering his ERA to 3.87 in the span of just a couple of hours. Aardsma and, wouldn’t you know it, Timlin combined for two more shutout innings, between them issuing one walk and two strikeouts. (Ironically, the walk was Aardsma’s doing. Both strikeouts were all Timlin.) Julio Lugo made his usual error, this time on a throw, and Ellsbury stole his usual base…twice.

And now for the offense. Crisp enjoyed a two-run home run, and Ellsbury, Drew, and Pedroia each drilled solo homers. Pedroia batted in an additional run, and Crisp batted in an additional two. The Red Sox’s nine-run victory was also accompanied by an outhitting of the Reds, 12-6. By the time the game was over, the Reds had been the recipients of a very sound, solid, and slugging beating.

Road issues? Pshh. That’s what the Sox have said to the world with these last two games.

This, my friends, is what I call good baseball.

Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, 6/15/2008

AP Photo

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