Posts Tagged ‘Clay Mortensen’

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.

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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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We really are in the middle of quite the slump.  This team looks completely different from the one that had the best record in the Majors.  Our record is now 22-16; if we continue at our current rate, we’ll have to start winning just to stay at .500, and we all remember what that feels like.  We got swept by the Rangers; at least, at the time, we felt like the Rangers were a good match.  But Minnesota’s pitching staff has one of the lowest strikeout counts in the Majors, and Toronto’s pitchers are mediocre at best and their hitters swing at almost anything.  We are losing games we should not be losing.  Not that there’s ever a game that we should lose, but still.  Speaking of the Jays specifically, it would have been very nice to escape the series without allowing them to hit a slew of home runs.  Sure, we hadn’t been able to win by doing that, but at least we, for the most part, eliminated their chief mode of attack.

Dempster was not so fortunate.  He didn’t keep the ball down.  His heat is more lukewarm than anything else, so you can see why location would have been the key to a successful performance on his part.  He lasted only five innings and gave up six runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  And he allowed three home runs.

It started in the second.  He gave up a single, a double, and a three-run home run with two out.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the third, and he issued a walk and then allowed a two-run home run in the fourth.  It would have been worse had Victorino gotten hurt trying to haul the ball in for an out.  He tried to catch it right at the bullpen fence but fell flat-out; he left the game in the seventh with some stiffness.  Dempster gave up another solo shot in the fifth.  On a splitter.  If Dempster is anything, he’s a splitter pitcher, so the fact that he missed his spot with a splitter says something.  Dempster, overall, has been pitching very well, at least for him.  But, yes, all of his runs scored via the long ball, which is exactly how the Jays like it.

Miller came on for the sixth and gave up a solo shot on his third pitch.  After recording the inning’s first out, he gave up a single, issued a walk, and was replaced by Mortensen.  Mortensen gave up a successful sac fly followed by a two-run home run.  He had a one-two-three seventh, and Breslow had a one-two-three eighth, making him our only pitcher to not allow any runs in the game.  Jose De La Torre came in for the ninth and gave up a double, a walk, an RBI single, and an RBI double play.

All in all, that’s twelve runs.  By the time we got on the board in the fourth, we were already down by five.  Napoli answered the Jays’ power with his own, smashing a solo shot on the second pitch of his leadoff at-bat in the fourth.  And he hit it to one of the deepest parts of the park.  It was a nice piece of hitting; if only such a phenomenon were more common for us.

We didn’t score again until the sixth, when Pedroia singled and scored on a sac fly by Nava.  We went down in order in the seventh, and then Ciriaco hit a home run.  It was also a solo shot, and he also led off an inning.  It was the second pitch of his at-bat, also a fastball.  But he hit his beyond the Monster.  Either way, it was still also a nice piece of hitting that we also could have used more of.

Then Pedroia flied out, and Napoli singled, Nava walked, and Gomes got hit.  Just like that, the bases were loaded.  It was Salty’s turn to bat, but a force out was all he could muster; Napoli scored our last run of the game.  Napoli went three for four; the only other person to have a multi-hit game was Pedroia, who went two for five.  Napoli alone scored half of our runs.

So the Jays finally got what they wanted: a win via the long ball.  Dempster, a single pitcher, accounted for half the runs they scored, while the relief corps divided the other half among themselves.  The final score was 12-4; we scored less than half the number of runs that Toronto scored.  We left eight on base and were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, so our dismal streak of being completely ineffective in situations when we need effectiveness most continues.  Dempster took the loss, but it was a team effort.

In other news, the Bruins got shut out by the Leafs, two-zip.  So it all comes down to tonight.

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It’s never good to lose, and it’s especially crushing when you lose via the walkoff because that means you couldn’t score sufficiently or in time to prevent it or that your relief corps made a big mistake.  Either way, it tends to leave you with this sense that it was totally and completely preventable and that it was all your fault that it happened.  So losing a walkoff against the Rangers was awful, but winning a walkoff against the Twins felt about right.

Buchholz’s start was terrible compared to his usual work, which says a lot about his usual work.  He gave up four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out nine in six innings.  Was it a quality start? No.  He would have had to allow one less run for that.  But his strikeout count was high.  He just labored; he had to throw a lot of pitches to get the job done, and you could see that the job wasn’t easy.

He recorded the game’s first out using only two pitches, but he then gave up two consecutive doubles and a single that he deflected, which scored two runs all together.  He gave up two straight walks before ending the inning with two strikeouts.  That first inning was his worst so far this year; he threw thirty-six pitches to eight batters.  The rest of the game wasn’t really that bad, but that first inning didn’t set a great tone.

Buchholz had one-two-three innings in the second and third.  He opened the fourth with a strikeout but then gave up two consecutive doubles that resulted in a run.  He ended the inning with two strikeouts.  He gave up a double, a single, and a successful sac fly before recording the first out of the fifth.  And he had a one-two-three inning in the sixth.

So there were great innings when he looked like his usual self, and then there were mediocre innings in which he looked like a mediocre version of himself.  Overall, however, it wasn’t a terrible start.  It just wasn’t what we’re used to seeing from him this year.  Hey, if this is as bad as it gets, that’s not bad at all.  Besides, we should have been able to overcome four runs easily.

In the end, we did.  But it wasn’t easy.  We pulled ahead by scoring one run in each of the fourth through eighth innings.  Victorino uncorked a massive swing on the sixth pitch of the fourth; it was a slider on a full count, and it ended up past the right field fence.  I think he’s back.  Nava doubled and scored on a single by Drew in the fifth.  Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth; Victorino moved to third when Papi hit into a double play and scored on a single by Napoli.  Middlebrooks grounded out to lead off the seventh, but Drew joined the day’s power club.  He got a curveball followed by a steady diet of fastballs; he worked the count 3-1 before he got a fastball he really liked and sent that one beyond the right field fence as well.

And then it was Pedroia’s turn.  He led off the eighth and fought quite the battle to stay alive.  His at-bat involved a total of ten pitches.  He took three for balls, fouled off six, and homered on a particularly nice changeup.  It was the perfect time to end a dry spell that reached almost two hundred games.  Nice for Pedroia, I mean.  Not so nice for the Twins, since at the time that represented the winning run.  Wilson and Miller had combined to pitch the seventh; Miller inherited runners but fortunately kept them on the bases.  Breslow had a one-two-three inning in the eighth.  And then Pedroia happened.  Like I always say, it’s so much fun to watch him unleash on a ball.  He’s a small guy, but he’s got a lot of power.  It was only a one-run lead, but things were looking good.

And then Hanrahan took the mound for the ninth, and things were not looking so good.  He induced a flyout on four pitches to start things off.  But I think he got his memos mixed up, because he let an opposing hitter join the day’s power club too.  The count was full; after throwing five consecutive fastballs, he threw a sixth, and it was bad, and it was hit well.  And the game was tied at five.  We didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, so we had to play extras.  All because Hanrahan made a big mistake.  He is so fortunate that all that run did was tie the game and even more fortunate that we ended up winning.  Otherwise it would have been plausible to say that the process of losing the game had started with him and that home run.  He did the exact thing that no pitcher, let alone a closer, is supposed to do.  Needless to say, after Hanrahan notched a strikeout and then issued a walk, he was replaced by Mortensen, who vindicated himself pretty thoroughly.  (It turned out that Hanrahan would leave the game with a strained right forearm.)

Neither team scored in the tenth, and the Twins didn’t score in the top of the eleventh.  But they did make a pitching change.  Napoli and Nava were each out on three pitches to start it off.  But then the tide turned.  Salty singled right toward the mound; he kept his head down, ran hard, and beat it out, an especially challenging feat when you consider the fact that he’d been behind the plate for eleven innings already.  Middlebrooks singled to left.  And then Drew took a slider for a strike.  Then he got a good-looking fastball and laid into it.  It was a double, and it was enough to bring Salty home.

We won via the walkoff, 6-5.  Drew was obviously the man of the hour with a four-for-five performance at the plate and of course his vital two extra-base hits.  And we’re back on top with the best record in the Majors.

In other news, the B’s beat the Leafs, 5-2.  So far, we lead the series, 2-1.

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You know, it actually got to the point where I kind of forgot what it felt like.  I forgot what it felt like to be completely shut down by another team over the course of multiple games played on multiple days.  It’s like when we all forgot what sweeping other teams felt like when we were mired in the abysmal dross that was last season.  Now I remember.  Getting swept is not fun.

This time, it was Lester who didn’t deliver.  Actually, to be fair, he did deliver.  He gave a quality start.  He gave up three runs on five hits over six innings.  He walked three and struck out seven; needless to say, his cut fastball wasn’t as formidable as usual.  It didn’t have the same nasty bite on it that it usually does when he’s really on.  He had a spectacular first and second during which he sent the Rangers down in order.  Even his third inning, during which he gave up a solo shot, was otherwise great.  He made a mistake on a cutter, and the batter figured it out, but other than that, he was spotless.

He gave up a double and a walk in the fourth.  He gave up a walk and a single in the fifth.  And he gave up a single and a home run in the sixth, this one on a sinker.  So as you can see, it became increasingly laborious for him as the game went on.  He ended up throwing 115 pitches, seventy of which were strikes.  It was just one of those days.  His starts usually comprise less than three walks, less than six hits, less than three runs, more than seven strikeouts, and more than six innings.  Not yesterday.  Lester’s ERA is now 3.30.

But seriously, it wasn’t that bad.  It wasn’t even bad at all.  Lester gave up three runs.  If that had been the extent of the damage that the Rangers had been able to inflict, then the game could have potentially had a very different outcome.  Even if the Rangers scored more, the game still could have had a different outcome if we had been able to score more than we did.

By the time the Rangers scored their first run in the third, we were already up by three.  So by all accounts, it seemed like we could have at least ended the series with the dignity of not having been swept right out of Arlington.  With two out, Pedroia singled, and Papi unleashed on a 3-1 fastball.  The ball ended up beyond the right field fence, and we ended up with two runs just like that.  His hitting streak is now at twenty-five.

In the very next frame, after Carp struck out, Ross hit his second pitch of the game for a solo shot.  Both pitches were sliders around the same speed.  He took the first one for a ball; he sent the second one beyond the left field foul pole.  It was awesome.  You had the veteran slugger slugging, and you had the comebacker slugging as well.  Better still, you had the comebacker becoming the fourth player in the history of Rangers Ballpark to smash one into the club tier.  Things had looked good.

After we went down in order in the third and the Rangers scored their first run, things still looked good.  Neither team scored in the fourth or fifth.  We went down in order in the top of the sixth; for the most part, the two pitchers were involved in a duel of sorts.  Both ended up giving up three runs; Lester’s two-run home run tied the game at three.  And that’s the way it stayed through the seventh, which Uehara pitched.  It’s the way it stayed through the eighth, despite the fact that we walked twice and that it took the services of both Tazawa and Miller to get through the bottom of the frame.  And that’s the way it stayed through the top of the ninth, when Ross walked, Drew singled, and one out quickly turned into three.

But that is not the way it stayed through the bottom of the ninth.  Mortensen came out and was all business.  He struck out his first two batters and looked solid.  Then he gave up a single and issued a wild pitch, which is something that can happen when a sinkerballer sinks too low.  In and of itself, that wouldn’t have done anything to shake the tie.  Mortensen then intentionally walked Lance Berkman.  Still, the tie was intact.  It was the single he gave up to Adrian Beltre of all people that did us in.  He threw five straight sliders to Beltre; when he singled, the count was 1-2.

The final score was 4-3.  It was the first time we got swept this year, and we now have to share the best record in the Majors with the team that swept us.

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When was the last time that we scored literally no runs? I remember scoring a lot of runs.  I remember scoring a handful of runs.  I even remember scoring almost no runs, a scenario with which we have both won and lost.  But I find myself now in the fortunate position of being unable to recall exactly when we lost and scored zero runs.  It was a bad case of extremes.  Our pitcher’s horrendous day happened to coincide with their pitcher’s great day.  What are the odds?

Doubront had a great first inning; he gave up a single but then recorded three straight outs to end the frame.  After recording the first two outs in the second, he gave up a double and two singles that resulted in only one run that inning.  He gave up three singles in the third but didn’t allow any runs.  All in all, his first three innings were perfectly respectable.  There were signs of trouble; he allowed too many hits than he should have and was fortunate to escape relatively unscathed.  But it all unraveled in the fourth.

Doubront induced a popout and then gave up a single.  He got a strikeout and then gave up two consecutive singles, a walk, a double, and another single.  All told, five runs scored.  That last single was technically given up by Wilson, but the runner who scored was inherited, so there you go.  Wilson, taking his cue from Doubront, gave up two singles and a double in the fifth that plated the game’s final run.  The sixth proceeded without incident, as did the first half of the seventh.  Mortensen pitched the rest of the seventh as well as the eighth.

Doubront’s three-and-two-thirds innings constituted the absolute worst start of his career.  That’s a fact.  He walked one, struck out two, and gave up six runs on twelve hits.  We have seen him, start in and start out, maneuver himself into and out of jams repeatedly.  At some point, some lineup was bound to figure out a way to capitalize on those jams.  It happened yesterday.

Our performance at the plate was nothing short of disgraceful.  We went down in order in the first.  Papi singled to lead off the second.  We went down in order again in the third and fourth, the latter despite Victorino’s single thanks to a double play.  The same occurred in the fifth when Middlebrooks walked and the inning still ended after three came up.  Ciriaco and Ellsbury hit back-to-back singled in the sixth, but nothing materialized.  Gomes singled in the seventh, Ellsbury singled in the eighth, and we went down in order in the ninth; Derek Lowe of all people closed it out.

And that’s how we managed six hits, one walk (belonging to Gomes), and only two runners in scoring position all game long.  The final score was seven-zip, most definitely not in our favor.

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