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Posts Tagged ‘Clay Mortensen’

I loathe being on the losing end of lopsided slugfests.  They take long, and there’s no silver lining; the pitchers don’t pitch well, and the hitters don’t hit well.  They’re full of what coaches would call learning opportunities, and they’d be right.  Lopsided slugfests are full of examples of exactly what not to do.

Nava doubled in the first.  Napoli singled and Salty walked in the second.  Nava walked in the sixth.  Nava singled and Lavarnway, in for Papi, doubled in the eighth.

Our one moment of offensive glory occurred in the third.  Ellsbury singled, Nava walked, Pedroia single, Ellsbury tried to score but was thrown out at home, and finally, Papi homered.  If only Ellsbury had been patient.  It was the first pitch of the at-bat, a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  The ball ended up beyond the right field fence.  It was awesome.  It would have been even better had it been a grand slam, but we took what we could get.  Last night, we were in no position to be greedy.  It’s nice that a mistake was made and we were able to even score at all.  I can see why Ellsbury wanted to try to make it home; there was no way to know that Papi would have hit a home run.  Indeed, even if it had been a grand slam, if all else remained equal, then it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Meanwhile, our entire pitching staff was one enormously epic fail.  We would have needed to score an exorbitant amount of runs to compensate for the load of damage that they allowed.  But no pitcher should ever be so bad that he has to count on the hitters scoring that many runs.  It was so humiliating.

Dempster gave up a single in the first; it was all downhill from there.  He gave up a single and issued a walk in the second.  He got the inning’s first two outs and then gave up a double that was deflected by Pedroia; one run scored.  He got the first out of the third and then gave up a single and issued two consecutive walks to load the bases.  He gave up a single that scored two runs, issued another walk to re-load the bases, and got the inning’s second out via a force out that scored another run.

So that was Dempster’s outing.  Mortensen came out for the fourth.  He gave up a double, issued a popout, and gave up an RBI single.  He gave up another run thanks to a single-single combination in the fifth.  Thanks to two walks and a single, he loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth; Wilson came on and promptly gave up a single that scored one run.  Napoli dropped a popup in foul territory, and then Wilson gave up a two-run double, induced a popout, and gave up a two-run triple and a one-run single.

Breslow came on for the seventh and, thankfully, did not give up any runs.  Same for Tazawa in the eighth and Miller in the ninth.  So those last three were the only ones who didn’t let runs score on their watches.  We lost, 12-3.

In other news, the Rangers picked up their first win of the series, beating us, 4-3, in sudden death.

Boston Herald Staff/Matt Stone

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I suppose that it was bound to happen eventually.  I would have preferred that it didn’t.  If Lester wanted to keep winning forever, that would have been fine with me.  But I guess the fact that he lost his first start of the year makes him human or something.  I don’t know; I just feel like I didn’t really need him to lose to prove that.

With two out in the first, he gave up a single, a walk, and a three-run home run.  With two out in the second, he gave up three consecutive doubles that resulted in another two runs.  He was fine in the third and fourth, but he was back at it in the fifth.  His first batter of the inning reached on a throwing error by Middlebrooks and stole second.  Lester then issued a walk and benefitted from a subsequent double play.  But then he issued another walk, and a run scored on a single.  He had a one-two-three sixth.

All told, he allowed six runs, five earned, on seven hits while walking three and striking out two.  He threw 109 pitches.  So he was inefficient.  He got himself into too many jams.  He couldn’t close the deal and got himself in trouble too often.  He had no command, no control, and no knowledge of the strike zone when it counted.  Worst of all, his cut fastball was just lame.  That’s the best adjective I can think of.  It was just lame.  They didn’t move or dance or do any of the things that they’re supposed to do.

Truth be told, six runs isn’t a horrendous start.  We’ve had games where we’ve scored more than double that.  Unfortunately for Lester, yesterday’s game wasn’t one of them.

Drew walked and Salty went yard for two runs in the third.  Papi and Napoli worked back-to-back walks to lead off the seventh, and Middlebrooks hit a bases-clearing double.  And that was it for us.  Mortensen pitched the seventh, and Breslow pitched the eighth.

So the final score was 6-4.  Our winning streak stopped at five.  All because Jon Lester couldn’t get the third out way too many times.

Boston Globe Staff

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Confidence is the key.  Feeling confident and channeling that confidence into finding a groove is how to get out of a slump.  We’re not necessarily out of the woods yet, but we’re taking positive steps to get there.  We’ve had some nailbiter wins recently; it’s nice to to back to coming out on top and then staying on top.  It felt easy and effortless last night, like we started the season that way and never stopped.  Here’s to keeping that going.

Ellsbury singled on the game’s third; one out later, Pedroia walked, and Papi worked the count 2-2 thanks to two balls and two fouls.  He got a curveball he could hit, and he hit it.  He sent the ball beyond the fence in right center field for a three-run shot, just like that.

We went down in order in the second; Middlebrooks singled, but it didn’t matter thanks to Lavarnway’s double play.  Gomes walked in the third and scored on a single by Papi.  Middlebrooks’s walk was our only damage in the fourth.

Dempster gave up five runs on eight hits while walking six and striking out two over the course of four and two-thirds innings.  So, on average, he gave up more than one walk, one hit, and one run every inning.  That is not what I call a good start.

He issued two consecutive walks to lead off the second; both runners advanced on a groundout, and a force out was successfully converted at home.  But he gave up a single that scored his first run right after that.  He was able to pitch himself out of a bases-loaded situation in the third.  He gave up another run thanks to a double-single combination.

He ran into real trouble in the fifth.  He gave up a double that turned into a run two groundouts later.  He issued a walk that turned into a double thanks to a steal, and the runner scored on a single.  That first base-steal-single-run sequence then repeated itself.  And that was when Mortensen came in, gave up a single, and ended the inning.

Dempster was lucky that we scored three runs of our own in the top of the frame.  Gomes and Pedroia hit back-to-back doubles, scoring one run.  Papi grounded out, which moved Pedroia to third, and Napoli’s walk put runners at the corners.  Nava’s sac fly brought Pedroia home, Middlebrooks’s single moved Napoli to second, and he scored on a single by Lavarnway, who was thrown out at third.

So each team had scored three runs in the fifth inning alone.  Even if we hadn’t scored again for the rest of the game, and provided that the Twins didn’t either, we would have won.  Each team had scored in two other innings before the fifth; the Twins had scored two prior runs, but we had scored four, so we were already on top.  It stayed that way in the sixth; neither team scored, thanks in the bottom of the inning to the combined efforts of Mortensen and Breslow.

We blew the game wide open in the seventh.  Pedroia walked to lead it off, and after working the count 2-1, Papi had himself a multi-homer game! He hit the ball again beyond the fence in right center field, again with at least one man on base.  It was a fine piece of hitting.  And it was made even better when Nava went back-to-back.  The Twins made a pitching change that did no good; Nava hit a solo shot in the very next at-bat.  His ball also ended up beyond the fence in right center field.  I love back-to-back jacks; it’s so much fun reveling in the fact that, at first, you think it’s just a replay until you realize that we actually powered our way through.

So that was another four runs right there, and Breslow kept the lid on the Twins in the bottom of the inning.  We went down in order in the eighth, and Wilson did a fine job.  It looked like we might get yet another rally going in the ninth when Papi and Napoli worked back-to-back walks and Nava singled to load the bases with nobody out.  Middlebrooks struck out, and Papi did score on a sac fly by Lavarnway; I guess we weren’t finished quite yet.  The bottom of the inning was pretty uneventful.

So we ended up winning, 12-5.  It was a slugfest, all right, and we buried the Twins with our massive power.  Both teams had an almost equivalent number of hits and walks, but our hitters were better at taking advantage of our opportunities, and our pitchers were better at closing the deal; we’ve seen recently the effects that that can have first-hand.  That’s basically all there is to it.

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We played a great game on Wednesday.  It was a slugfest, no doubt about it.  It felt really good to swing and win so easily, and it was a nice reminder of how potent we are when we’re on our game.  Our slump has been awful, and slumps that bad can potentially end overnight, but more often than not, they take a little bit of time to get a groove going.  They certainly take a lot of nailbiters.  We were losing for most of last night’s contest.  Most of the game felt like many of our recent ones.  But we waited it out, and it paid off.  Basically, it’s all an issue of confidence.

We went down in order in the first, second, and third.  Victorino doubled and scored on a single by Papi in the fourth.  Middlebrooks walked in the fifth, Pedroia singled in the sixth, and Napoli walked to lead off the seventh. Before the first inning was even over, I could tell that it was going to be a long night for Doubront.  When the game was over and the final line was in, he’d walked six.  Six.  That’s a season high, but forget about that.  No pitcher should ever walk that many batters in a single game.  It’s like giving out free hits.

Anyway, Doubront allowed a single and two walks, loading the bases with two out.  Fortunately, he managed to end the inning with a strikeout.  But the rest of his outing was a real grind.  He threw a bad fastball in the second that was hit for a solo shot in the second.  He gave up a walk and a single in the third but again escaped the jam unscathed.  He had a one-two-three fourth, his best inning of the night, but walked two in the fifth, again escaping.  He walked the first batter he faced in the sixth on four pitches and was then replaced by Mortensen.

Mortensen induced a force out and issued two walks that loaded the bases.  Between the walks, Salty passed a ball.  And when Mortensen gave up a single, the runner who reached on the force out, scored.  He was lucky that he gave up just the one run.  Miller came on after that and gave up a single that scored another run.  So two runs scored in the inning; Doubront was credited with the first, and Mortensen was credited with the second.

Breslow came on for the seventh and made it look easy.  Both teams went down in order in the eighth.

And then there was one.  Inning, that is.  Pedroia and Papi walked back-to-back to lead off the ninth.  Drew struck out, and we were thinking that maybe we really were the same team we were before Wednesday’s game when we were losing left and right.  But then Nava walked to load the bases, and Middlebrooks did something awesome.  He was down 0-2 but the pitcher just couldn’t close the deal.  He took a one-hundred mile-per-hour fastball for a ball and then got a changeup.  He stayed patient and read it like a book.

He didn’t hit a grand slam.  He doubled to left, but it was enough.  It cleared the bases.  It was one swing.  It wasn’t a home run.  But it put us on top.  And then Salty walked and Ellsbury grounded out to end the inning.

Breslow gave up two singles in the bottom of the ninth, but he bounced back, knuckled down, and prevented further damage.

In the end, the night was ours.  4-3.  We had been down to our final strike.  Look who just won two in a row.

In other news, the Bruins started out on the right foot against the Rangers, picking up the first game, 3-2, in sudden death.

AP Photo

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It is an unfortunate sight indeed when a pitcher falls victim to the ugly specter of the one bad inning.  In the beginning, it looked as if Tampa Bay would be no stranger to this phenomenon.  In the end, however, they had the last laugh.  Their one bad inning was our one good inning; our one worse inning was their one better inning.

The game began on such a high note.  Ellsbury got hit by a pitch.  That, in and of itself, was obviously not the high note.  That was an unfortunate accident.  His getting on base was the high note.

Victorino then struck out, Pedroia singled, and then it was Papi’s turn.  He got two fastballs.  The first, a two-seam, he took for a ball.  The second, a four-seam, he sent beyond the right field fence.  It was a straight-shot rocket; if it had stayed in the park, it would have been one of those hard-hit line drives.  The ball couldn’t wait to get out of the park.  With that one swing, we scored three runs in the first inning alone.

It was the first and last time we scored.

We went down in order in the first, second, and third.  Drew doubled and Ellsbury walked in the fourth, giving us runners at the corners with two out, but all hope for a rally died out when Victorino flied out.  Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, and Drew and Ellsbury both walked in the seventh.  But we didn’t turn those opportunities into rallies.  We went down in order in the eighth and the ninth.

Tampa Bay’s experience was about the same.  The only difference was that they scored two more runs than we did.

The Rays went down in order in the first and second.  Lackey gave up a single, a double, and a walk to load the bases with two out but bore down to end the inning on a groundout.  Lackey’s poison of choice was the fourth inning.  He gave up two consecutive singles and an RBI double before recording the inning’s first out with a strikeout.  But he was right back at it with a two-run single followed by another single, a flyout, and a second two-run single.  The fourth ended almost exactly as the third had: with Ben Zobrist grounding out on an off-speed pitch at the end of a five-pitch at-bat.

I’ll say something else about that second two-run single.  Pedroia and Napoli both had their eyes on it, but Napoli had that ball.  At least, he should have had it.  He should have had it, the game should have tied at three, and we should have forced it into extras if necessary and eventually won.  The fact that Napoli missed that catch and let the ball drop is egregious.  Make no mistake, folks.  It happened because of the roof.  That white roof is a criminal backdrop against which to try to pick out and track a baseball.  It’s awful.  This is not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.  But it should not be an issue.  Players, not ballparks, play ballgames.  And I do not fault Pedroia’s decision not to touch it; if it rolled foul, it’s possible that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  He had no way to know that the ball would stay fair.  In the end, however, he made a good effort, but there was nothing that could have been done at that point.

One out and one double into the fifth, Miller relieved Lackey; the frame ended with a strikeout and a caught thief.  After he allowed a single to lead off the sixth, Mortensen came in and gave up a walk but nothing else.  Two flyouts into the seventh, Breslow came on and ended that inning, recorded the first two of the next, and gave up a double.  Wilson came in and ended the eighth.

The final score was 5-3.  We spent three and a half innings under the assumption that it was us who would be celebrating the deleterious effects of the one bad inning.  We could not have been more wrong.  This game was essentially a pitcher’s duel.  The question not only was who would crack first but also who would crack worse.  We scored first but lost.

In other news, in one of the most suspenseful nailbiters I’ve seen on the ice lately, we have emerged victorious! We vanquished the Leafs, 5-4, and are moving on to the Rangers! Both teams each scored a goal in the first period.  The Leafs took the lead by one in the second and scored two in the third, but we scored three to tie it up, and Toronto fell in sudden death.  Wow.  I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make quick work of the Rangers, that’s for sure.

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