Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Braden’

The good news is basically yesterday’s entire game: Beckett delivered his fourth straight quality start, the offense produced, the bullpen held down the fort, we left Oakland with some dignity, and the Yanks were swept by the Rangers, providing high satisfaction on all fronts and moving us up a game in the standings.  The bad news is that it seems like spitting in the ocean and seeing if the tide goes up.  But if we’ve learned anything from this team over the years, it’s that you must keep the faith at all costs, no matter how dire the straits we seem to be in.  So let’s just keep the faith and just see what happens.

Like the entire rest of his season, Beckett may have gotten the win but it wasn’t pretty.  He only lasted six innings, allowed three runs on five hits, walked five, and struck out seven.  Thankfully, he didn’t give up any home runs, and he kept his pitch count reasonable at 109.  There was obviously some inefficiency there since one would expect a pitcher like Beckett to go through at least another inning with that pitch count, but it’s a quality start and a win so I’ll take it.  He mixed his pitches well.  Both his two-seam and four-seam were on, and in the event that they weren’t, he used his cutter and curveball.  His changeup was mediocre, but he only threw about seven of those anyway.  So he really tested the hitters with his whole repertoire.  The fastball is obviously Beckett’s go-to, Plan A pitch, but having one or two Plan B pitches can be a very powerful thing, especially if you’re a power pitcher.  He got into trouble in the third, using thirty-three pitches and walking four consecutive batters.  The last one resulted in a walk.  That’s the worst run a pitcher can allow, especially in this situation because the whole progression leading up to it consisted of walks.  It was entirely the pitcher’s fault.  That’s always awful.  It was the first time in his career that Beckett has walked four consecutive batters, and it’s the second time he’s ever walked them all in a single inning.  The first time was in 2004 when he walked five Phillies in a frame.  Ouch.  Fortunately, he escaped the situation with only the one run allowed.  So aside from that ugly episode, he only walked one other batter.  All in all I’d say that was a great outing.  And it seems to be the continuation of a trend that points in the right direction, so there’s that too.

Meanwhile, the offense provided the ever-necessary support.  One bad inning for the A’s was all it took for us to lock it up.  We tagged them for four in the sixth.  It was beautiful.  With two our and nobody on base, Beltre doubled off the wall, Papi turned a checked swing into a single, and Lowell walked to load the bases.  Then Drew doubled in two to chase Braden, and Kalish singled in two to welcome Rodriguez.  It was a short but sweet at-bat.  Kalish took a 100 mile-per-hour ball, got a feel for Rodriguez’s style, and landed his next pitch, also 100 miles per hour, in left field.  And just like that, we completely erased their three-run lead.  Never happened.  What three-run lead? Drew singled in another in the eighth just to get our point across.  Drew finished a perfect three for three.  Beltre and Papi both went two for four.

The bullpen preserved the rally.  Atchison, the relief rock in the second half, fired two perfect frames and handed the ball to Paps, who became living proof of extra rest when, after not seeing action for a whole week, struck out the side.

So the final score was 5-3.  That’s not exactly a good-looking final score, but it’s a final score that resulted in a win, and a win is a win, so there’s no arguing with that.  We’ll take a win anywhere and any way we can get it.  We did more good things than bad, so we can feel good about that.  At least we avoided the sweep and we’re done with Oakland.  Next stop will be Seattle, and hopefully we’ll do some serious damage there.  I usually say something about the standings here, but I’m not going to this time.  If we’re all going to get through this, we need to focus on just one game at a time, and that’s it.

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That wasn’t a ballgame; that was a circus.  I know what a ballgame looks like, and last night wasn’t it.  It was so bad, it got to the point of being almost funny.  Except for the fact that, by the time we got around to playing real ball, it was the tenth inning, it was too little too late, and we lost.

We scored four runs in the first two innings.  In the first, Scutaro scored on Youk’s double for our first run.  Papi tried to do the same but was thrown out at the plate.

In the second, with one out, Hall singled into right field, and Gross fired the ball home to keep Cameron from scoring.  But Hall rounded first base by a mile, and Suzuki wanted to throw him out, but the throw ended up in right field because Barton and Ellis had no idea who should catch it.  So, in the end, Cameron scored his run, and Hall was safe at second base.  Then Davis tried diving for Scutaro’s bloop single, which ended up being ruled a double, and a stand-up at that, because he failed miserably; Hall scored on the play.  Then Scutaro came around on McDonald’s double.

We continued hammering away at Braden in the fifth, loading the bases with two out, but Hall grounded out.  So we loaded the basis in the sixth with only one out, but Papi struck out and Beltre grounded out.

Those were huge opportunities.  I think we lost the game in those innings.  We wouldn’t score another run last night, and in baseball you never know which run will be the winning run so you have to score when you can.  It turned out that the game was decided by only one run.  So if we made good on those bases-loaded situations, it’s not unreasonable to say that we would’ve won.

Meanwhile, the A’s had tied it up in the third with four runs, only three of which were earned.  (Cust had moved to third on Cash’s passed ball before scoring.) He gave up only three hits during his six innings of work, walking two, striking out five, and tossing 115 pitches.  His knuckleball was perfectly fine.  It was dancing, it was in the zone, for the most part.  He just got roughed up.  We’ve seen one-inning badness from him before.  His pitch counts per inning were mostly around twenty; his pitch count in that third inning was thirty-four.  It was a double, a walk, a hit-by-pich, a double, and a sac fly.  Some of that, namely the walk and the hit-by-pitch, are just part of the nature of the knuckleball; with a pitch so unpredictable and difficult to control, those things happen sometimes, and it’s a tribute to Wake’s skill that he only walked two.  So he definitely got his work in, even if our offense didn’t.

After that, the relief corps held the fort perfectly.  Needless to say, we’re going to need a quality start from Buchholz tonight because we used six relievers: Delcarmen, Okajima, Bard, Ramirez, Richardson, and Bowden.  The first three cruised.  In fact, after that third inning, Wake and the bullpen combined to retire the next fifteen batters they faced.  But now we come to the other part of the story.  The circus part.  The morbidly comical tenth inning part.

The tenth inning started with Ramirez, who was somehow called for a balk that put Barton in scoring position.  That was ridiculous.  He didn’t balk.  He just didn’t.  And to be honest with you I’m getting exasperated with all these bad calls.  Richardson got an out after that.  But then Bowden, who just got called up, was thrown into the mix with the game on the line and left a pitch up.  It was a four-seam.  The at-bat lasted for five pitches; the first three were four-seams, followed by a curveball, followed by the mistake.  Kouzmanoff jumped on it for a single, scoring Barton for a walkoff.  Ramirez ended up taking the loss.

And finally, last but not least, the ejections.  Crisp was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.  He swung and missed, he actually walked away from the plate, and then he actually walked all the way back and started it up.  John Farrell was ejected for arguing that Rosales didn’t check his swing and did indeed strike out.  How the umpire missed that, I have absolutely no idea.  His bat was so far in front of the plate, it looked like he was swinging for the fences.  Then Tito came out, and he wasn’t happy either.  Thankfully he didn’t get ejected, but still.  If he strikes out, the game is still tied.

In other news, the brass wants to upgrade the video screens in Fenway and bring int a new jumbotron.  As in, high definition.  The plans have to pass the Boston Landmarks Commission first, though.  I’m just thankful that our brass isn’t interested in something like the Dallas Cowboys monstrosity.  After all, we go to Fenway to watch a ballgame live, not to watch it on TV.

So that’s it.  That’s the whole story.  Every mistake that can be made in a ballgame – defensive, offensive, pitching, fielding, arguing – was indeed made.  All told, we left twelve on base, half of which were left in scoring position with two outs.  We had twice as many hits as Oakland did, but baseball games aren’t won by hits; they’re won by runs, which makes that our ninth loss in thirteen games.  Like I said, we need Buchholz to step up big tonight.  Actually, I’m pretty psyched.  We’re starting to get healthy.

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I was thinking about which Dice-K we were going to get last night.  I was thinking we’d get the mediocre Dice-K.  I was hoping we’d get the really good Dice-K.  But I’m not sure anyone thought we’d get the outstanding Dice-K.

Which is a shame if you think about the fact that he’s actually been good for his last six starts.  In his first four starts, he was lucky if his season ERA approached five.  In his last six, his season ERA has been under five.  Actually, it’s been four and change, but with Dice-K you can’t afford to be picky, especially since if you look at those six starts alone, his ERA is 2.95.  Who knew? He’s pitched at least five innings, given up five or less runs, and walked four or less in all six.  So perhaps a corner has indeed been turned.  It wasn’t the dramatic corner-turning we were looking for, as if he’d have a stretch of really bad outings and then suddenly be the next Cy Young, but I think we wouldn’t have seen that from any pitcher anyway.  I think he’s getting the hang of it, slowly but surely.

Which brings us to last night.  Last night he rocked.  He didn’t get rocked.  He just rocked.  He gave up only one run on only two hits, one of which was a solo shot on an offspeed he failed to locate, in six and two-thirds innings.  He walked two.  He struck out six.  And he did all of it with just eighty-nine pitches.  He was fantastic.  He held the entire game in his hands.  He planned it out perfectly.  He controlled each and every one of his pitches; he threw all of them for strikes at least half the time and often as the first pitch of an at-bat.  The first pitch of nineteen of his twenty-four total at-bats was a strike.  Specifically, his cutter and four-seam seemed unhittable, and he was able to use the latter for strikes on both sides of the plate.  He threw eighteen pitches in the seventh, allowing a walk and a double with two outs before he was removed, but he threw as few as nine the inning before, and he tossed four one-two-three innings.  His zone was littered with strikes.

Even better, Dice-K knows what’s up.  He wanted to at least finish the seventh, but knows and understands why he had to be pulled.  He knows he’s inconsistent, but he wants to become that guy we trust to finish the job.  And if you’re self-aware, you’re halfway there.

The inning after Dice-K gave up the homer, we got the run back and then some. Papi hit a sac fly that allowed Patterson, who was already on third with a triple, to score, and Beltre smashed one deep over the left-center field fence.  This was basically revenge for the homer Dice-K gave up.  It was a high changeup, an offspeed that missed its mark.  Those just don’t stay in the park when you ave a guy with power on the receiving end.  He finished three for four.  His hamstring is clearly still bothering him, but as Tito said, if he hits home runs, it doesn’t matter, because all you do after that swing is take a nice leisurely stroll around the bases.

The winning combination of Bard and Paps held the fort and collected a hold and a save, respectively.  Bard came in with two runners in scoring position and induced a popout to third and now has an ERA under two.  His last twelve appearances are roughly the equivalent of one and a third whole games during which he shut out opponents, struck out twelve, walked two, and gave up five hits.  That’s better than most teams’ starters.  Paps was his usual lights-out self.  His past seven appearances are roughly the equivalent of a deep quality shutout start.

Honestly, if you told me Dice-K would only need two runs to get a win, I would have believed you, but I would’ve liked to see it for myself just to know exactly how he did it, which pitches he used, and how efficient and commanding he really was.  And trust me, he was.  He had that game all sewn up.  The Yankees didn’t play yesterday and the Rays also won, so there’s no noticeable movement in the standings.  Yet.  Give it time.  Tonight Wakefield takes on Braden, which should be an interesting matchup.

And finally, a word on George Steinbrenner.  George Steinbrenner passed away before the All-Star Game.  Condolences to his loved ones, of course.  But I won’t lie.  I never liked him or his team, and I never will.  The reality is that passing away just makes you human, not a saint.  The end of your life doesn’t change your legacy.  No doubt the Jimmy Fund appreciates his gracious donation via our annual Radio Telethon.  However, George Steinbrenner’s legacy is one of ruthlessness, destruction of loyalty in the game, and an obsession with only winning.  So, as I said, condolences to his loved ones.  As always, the Big Show must go on.

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Already I like Jason Bay. I know it’s too early to make that claim, but from what I’ve seen I like his attitude and I like the fact that within hours of his arrival in Boston he’s immediately started to help the team. As for his adjustment to the American League, it’s off to a great start. He’s even learned to take his helmet off when entering the dugout after scoring a run, because if you don’t do that you’ll get pounded. Hard. He had another great night yesterday, going one for four with a walk. The “one” was a three-run shot he smoked off Eveland in the first, following the two-run shot by Youk. Together, those two swings gave us the first five of our twelve runs. We buried the A’s, 12-2, and it was good to see the offense finally waking up because thus far this homestand had been seriously lacking in that department. So in total that’s four RBIs for Youk (who hit another home run in the eighth), three each for Bay and Lowrie (who’s been on fire lately), and one each for Crisp and Varitek (who went two for three and seems to be coming out of his slump).

Mikey Lowell also had a great night, going two for four and scoring twice. But that isn’t even the best part. He was busy in the field all night, making every kind of catch he could possibly make: reaching catches, backhand catches, you name it. He really put that sore hip to the test, and it came through, which is a great sign.

Lester allowed a two-run homer in the first and that was it for the A’s. He pitched seven innings and gave up seven hits while issuing a walk and five strikeouts. Masterson finally had himself another good relief outing, and Smith, who was called up to take Craig Hansen’s place, took care of the ninth while lowering his ERA to 2.45. I’m telling you, if Chris Smith is Hansen’s replacement, we’re in good shape; Smith doesn’t give you something to be scared about, while inconsistency was Hansen’s middle name. So Lester improves to 10-3, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it was a good thing Theo and Tito saw what the minor league coaches saw and decided not to trade him for Santana.

Dallas Braden at Dice-K this afternoon. I’m psyched.

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