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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Wheeler’

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.

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Finally, finally, finally, Buchholz has turned in a good outing.  He lasted six and a third innings and gave up four runs, three earned, on eight hits.  He walked three and struck out none.  Yes, his hit total was very high.  Yes, he was inefficient, throwing 111 pitches.  However, we must keep our eyes on the prize, and as is the case far too often in our current predicament, we’ve got to take what we can get, and we’ve got to like it.  For Buchholz, this may be one of his best starts this year, and we’ll just go from there.

Of course, part of what made his start so good was the ever-elusive run support that the offense decided to provide.  We didn’t waste any time, either.  The Tribe may have gotten on the board first with an RBI single in the first, but we answered with a lead in the bottom of the inning: a single, a walk, and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Middlebrooks, who doubled and brought in two runs.  We repeated that play in the second; Punto and Sweeney hit back-to-back singles to start it, and Pedroia brought them both home with a double.

Neither team scored until we were at it again in the fifth, which Nava opened with a walk and scored on a double by Ross.  Salty grounded out after that, but then Punto reached ona field’ers choice and Sweeney singled in Ross.  Dan Wheeler came into the game after that but was greeted by a sac fly by Pedroia, which scored another run.

We actually scored so many runs that Cleveland’s rally in the seventh didn’t even matter, which was definitely a sight for sore eyes.  Buchholz induced a groundout for the first out of the inning, but then he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk.  Hill inherited that and soundly disappointed us; he walked in a run, and then another, Buchholz’s lone unearned run, scored on a fielding error by Middlebrooks.  Hill was relieved by Miller, whose start to his appearance wasn’t much better: he allowed an RBI single before finally ending the inning with a groundout.

Morales and Padilla combined to get through the eighth, and Aceves came on for the ninth and almost ruined everything.  The first thing he did was walk a batter; he induced a lineout but allowed that base on balls to convert to a run on a single.  Then he allowed another single, but fortunately he settled down just enough to get the win.

So the final score was 7-5.  We barely hung onto that, which clearly should never be the case when you score seven runs. It just seems like the bullpen delivers a good performance when the starter is mediocre, and it delivers a mediocre when the starter is good.  And the offense just does its own thing by itself.  So the effect of all this is that it feels like we don’t lose like a team or win like a team; it feels like we either lose or win because this or that part of the team didn’t fulfill its role.  Yesterday wasn’t much different, but like I said, at least we held on.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Alomar is officially out.  Technically Lovullo is still in contention, but a second interview has yet to be scheduled, and that appears unlikely since Lamont is coming back for a second interview.  And of course we have Valentine to deal with.  Something of note is that Ben and the front office introduced Sveum to the brass.  Ben and the front office did not introduce Valentine to the brass.  The brass introduced Valentine to Ben and the front office.  Obviously that says something about who’s in the driver’s seat when it comes to Valentine.

Ben made some internal promotions, although obviously none to manager quite yet.  Mike Hazen, who’s run our farm system since 2006, is now Ben’s assistant GM.  Brian O’Halloran, a veteran of the organization, was promoted to Assistant VP of Baseball Operations last spring and is now the other assistant GM.  There were also several promotions in the departments of player personnel, Major League operations, player development, and scouting.

Ben also offered arbitration to Papi and Wheeler.

Justin Verlander stole Ellsbury’s MVP award.  Make no mistake.  Verlander may have the hardware, but Ellsbury was really the Most Valuable Player in every sense of the phrase.  He was absolutely brilliant.  I don’t care if the writers voted him in second place.  He finished the season with a .321 average, thirty-two home runs, 105 RBIs, fifty-two walks, thirty-nine steals, and a perfect fielding percentage of 1.  In fact, he hasn’t made an error since 2009.  That sounds like an MVP to me.  At least he was the top position player on the ballot.

Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association have signed a five-year deal.  It includes mandatory HGH testing, an even fifteen teams in both leagues by the 2013 season, more Wild Card teams and playoff rounds, expanded instant replay, and a worldwide draft by the 2014 season.  Everything seems good to me except the playoff and Wild Card expansions, which seem iffy.  The playoffs are already enormous, and the playoffs are supposed to mean something.  Do I wish that we made the playoffs every single year? Absolutely.  But I don’t want to increase our probability of losing and exhaustion if we do.  Plus, aren’t the playoffs supposed to mean something?

In other news, the Pats absolutely buried the Chiefs under their copious badness, 34-3.  It was a cakewalk.  The B’s had to eke out all of their wins this week.  We squeaked past the Habs, 1-0, and we bested the Sabres, 4-3, in a shootout.  The Red Wings snapped our winning streak at ten in a shootout, but we ended on a high note by besting the Jets.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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In the biggest news of the day, Wake did not secure his two hundredth win.  Like we didn’t see that coming after all of the attempt’s he’s had before last night ended in the same way.

Except that this one was different.  Wake only lasted five innings; he gave up five runs, four earned, on three hits.  He was a victim of a steal of home.  He gave up a two-run home run.  He walked three and struck out three.  He threw ninety-two pitches, forty-seven of which were strikes.  So he was clearly inefficient, and by no means was the knuckleball the best I’d ever seen it, but it was good enough that maybe, just maybe, with enough run support, he could hold on.

That is exactly what happened.  Ellsbury and Pedroia led off the game with singles.  Gonzalez was hit, and the bases were loaded for Papi with nobody out.  Papi struck out.  Youk was hit by a pitch to bring in one.  Crawford struck out.  And Scutaro singled in two; the inning ended with Youk out at third.  Before Wake even took the mound, he had a three-run lead, and you knew from the way Brandon Morrow was pitching that his command wasn’t there and that it was going to be a rough night for the Jays.

We were down by two entering the fourth inning, but we took care of that deficit in a hurry.  Crawford doubled, Scutaro walked, Reddick brought in one with a double, and Ellsbury brought in three with a homer.  It was the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball right down the middle at ninety-three miles per hour.  He used that textbook balance of his at the plate, read it, and cleaned it out to right center field into that first deck of seats.  Morrow was not happy.

Papi got in on the power action with a solo shot in the fifth on the second pitch of his at-bat, a fastball at ninety-two miles per hour to right field.  Almost exactly the same pitch at the same speed hit to the same location, except that Papi put a ton on his and the ball ended up in the second deck.

At that point the score was 8-5.  Morales replaced Wake in the sixth; Wheeler then came in in a two-on, one-out situation and handled the rest of the sixth as well as all of the seventh while allowing one run, which made the score 8-6.  After Wheeler allowed his run, Bard came in, at which point you pretty much figure that the game is over and Wake is finally going to get his two hundredth win.

I don’t think Bard ever received that memo.  Bard tanked again.  He began the eighth by hitting Brett Lawrie.  Then he gave up a single followed by a walk.  Just like us in the first, the Jays found themselves with the bases loaded and nobody out.  Bard quickly racked up two K’s, the first on only three pitches, but then proceeded to walk in two runs.  Not one.  Two.  One would have been bad enough; two is exceptionally humiliating.  What’s worse is that those two runs tied the game, and he wasn’t even done.  He gave up a bases-clearing double.  And then he posted a strikeout to end the inning.

I couldn’t believe it.  He totally imploded.  He completely lost control.  He gave up five runs that inning, a career high, and threw thirty-six pitches, the most since his debut in the Majors.  The score became 11-8.

The lineup did what it could to salvage the situation in the ninth.  Gonzalez led off with a solo shot to right on a splitter.  He put it in the lower deck.  Then Papi singled.  Then two outs.  Then Scutaro singled Papi in, and suddenly we only needed to score one more run and win it in extras.  Aviles had come in to pinch-run for Scutaro, and Reddick was at the plate.  And Aviles was caught stealing second base.  It was the first time an opposing runner was caught with Frank Francisco on the mound.  And we lost, 11-10.  This was the third time in Wake’s seven attempts to get his two hundredth win that he left with a lead, which the bullpen promptly ruined.  This one was crushing.  It was absolutely crushing.  Wake obviously took the blame for it, but make no mistake, my friends.  This one is on Bard.

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I knew there was a reason why I absolutely abhor playing Toronto in September.  The reason is that they always manage to have our number in September.  Yesterday they had our number in more ways than one.  If you think of how badly the game could have gone, it actually went a thousand times worse.

We lost, 1-0.  I’m not kidding.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  The Jays hit a walkoff in the eleventh inning.  It was a solo shot off Wheeler, who for some bizarre reason felt compelled to leave a fastball over the middle of the plate.  And that was that.  Were there earlier opportunities to score? Obviously.  Did we take advantage of them? Obviously not.  We left ten on base and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, almost the same as Toronto.  Reddick and Scutaro posted the game’s only multi-hit performances; each had two hits.  Of the team’s six hits, four were for extra bases, all of them doubles.

Let’s work backwards through the pitching staff; believe it or not, the loss wasn’t even the worst part of the game.  Paps pitched a scoreless inning, Bard pitched a scoreless one and two-thirds innings, Aceves pitched a scoreless three and two-thirds innings, and then there was Beckett.

Beckett, as you can see, was awesome.  He walked only one, struck out six, and gave up no runs on three hits.  But he only lasted three and two-thirds innings.  The reason why is the ultimate badness.

He’s injured.  With two out and a man on first, Beckett left the game with a right ankle issue.  He actually hobbled off the mound.  The strange part is that nothing happened.  A ball didn’t hit him, and he didn’t do anything during his delivery.  It just sort of occurred.  Was it precautionary to remove him from the game? It’s tough to say.  Giving a pitcher a few extra days off here and there and letting him take his time when he’s recovering from something is one thing; I don’t think Tito would actually remove a starter in the middle of a game unless it were serious unless he felt that, if he didn’t remove him, it would become serious.  Either way, if he’s seriously injured, this is bad news of the most towering proportions.

We are now in second place by two and a half games, the largest margin by which we’ve been in second since July 2.  But you have to hand it to the relief corps for a stellar effort in which everyone, especially Bard and Paps, were escaping jams left and right.  Honestly, I don’t even care.  I just want Beckett to get healthy.

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Bedard finally picked up his first win in a Boston uniform! It certainly took long enough.  His start was decent.  He gave up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out six in six innings.  He threw 101 pitches, fifty-nine for strikes.  His best pitches were his cutter, curveball, and changeup.  His fastball wasn’t so great.  He threw as many as twenty-five pitches (in the third) and as few as seven pitches (in the fourth) in a single inning.  He allowed his runs in the second and third; during the first three innings, the start looked like it might end in disaster.  It took him sixty-two pitches to get through them.  But he settled down after that.

Unfortunately, the bullpen did not.  Wheeler allowed three runs, and Morales allowed one.

Fortunately, the offense was there to save the day! Again it didn’t seem like it at first, but after the fourth inning, it was pretty clear.

In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to be a long night all around.  Not only was Bedard struggling, but the lineup was missing as many opportunities as it was creating.  We had the bases loaded in the first via walks.  Three walks loaded the bases with two out in the first, and Lowrie lined out to end the inning.  Reddick was standing on second with one out in the second inning; nothing happened.  Three singles brought in a run in the third, but we were still down by two and it was looking like it was going to be harder and harder to make that up.

Then the fourth inning literally changed everything.  The Rangers went down in order in the top of the frame in only seven pitches, and in the bottom of the frame our lineup turned the tables on them completely.

We put up an eight spot.  We sent thirteen batters to the plate in that inning to face a total of three different pitchers.  The Rangers had no chance.

It all started with a single by Reddick.  No big deal, right? Texas couldn’t have been more wrong.  Salty stepped up and hit a home run to the right of the bullpen on a cutter.  Salty is a big man; he swings with big power.  And he wasn’t even done.  Ironically enough, it was Ellsbury who provided the inning’s first out.  Then Pedroia singled, the Rangers made their first pitching change, Pedroia moved to second on a passed ball, Gonzalez was walked intentionally, Youk flied out, both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, Papi was walked intentionally, and Aviles came in to pinch-hit for Lowrie, who ended up leaving the game with a shoulder issue, and drove in one with a single.

And then it was Crawford’s turn.  And you didn’t know what Crawford was going to do.  He’s been performing better lately, but that’s small ball.  It’s been a slow but steady step in the right direction; all we were hoping for was a continuation of that.  Besides, he’d had stomach issues the night before.  If he drove in one run in that situation, we would have been happy.

Apparently, Crawford wanted more.  Apparently, Crawford wanted much more.  He took a fastball for a ball.  Then he got a changeup.  And somehow he looked like any other really good hitter.  He didn’t look like a hitter struggling to get his timing right and maintain some balance at the plate and regain an eye.  He looked like any other hitter when confronted with a changeup that misses.  He looked balanced and comfortable and punctual.  He did what absolutely none of us expected him to do.

He hit a grand slam.  I repeat: Carl Crawford hit a grand slam.  One swing.  Four runs.  Behind the bullpen.  Suddenly, the three runs that Bedard had allowed were a distant memory.

And we just kept right on going.  Reddick singled, Salty singled and stole a base for the first time in his career, and Ellsbury singled in Reddick.

We took a break and went down in order in the fifth.  But we came back in the sixth.  The bases were loaded for Pedroia, who cleared them in short order with a double.

That was it for us.  As I said, the Rangers did some damage against the bullpen, but it was nothing our heap of runs couldn’t dwarf.  The final score was 12-7.  Pedroia and Crawford both went two for five, Aviles went two for three, Reddick went four for four, Gonzalez turned two unassisted double plays in the first four innings of the game, we posted six extra-base hits and sixteen total, Morales picked off a runner to end the game.  No big deal.  We’re just an awesome, crushing force of comebacking resilience, that’s all.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Again with the ace having a bad night that any other pitcher would consider a good night.  Lester one-hit the Yankees while walking three and striking out six on seventy-three strikeouts.  What’s the badness? He allowed seven hits over five innings on 114 pitches.  That was it.  That was all there was to Lester’s outing.  His best pitches were his cut fastball and changeup.  His sinker and curveball were abysmal.  You might think that it would be difficult for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber to throw any pitch abysmally.  Trust me.  His sinker and even more so his curveball were abysmal.  And let’s not forget the fact that he actually needed fourty-four pitches in the first.  Fourty-four! To get through the first inning alone! That’s just absurd.  That’s almost half the number of pitches he should be throwing in the entire game!

You might also think that our lineup would be able to bury one run.  So the Yankees had an RBI double in the first.  So what? We’re the Yankees’ worst offensive nightmare.  Right?

Apparently not.  I think the lineup missed that memo.

I think Pedroia was feeling a little left out during the two-run shot festival that occurred on Wednesday, so he hit one on a cutter in the fourth to center.  It barely got out; it landed in the first row of seats just behind the wall.

At the time, that homer gave us a one-run lead.  Which, at the time, seemed like a five-run lead because it was clear that runs would be few and far between.  This explains the devastation when Aceves allowed two runs in the seventh, which earned him the loss in addition to his hold.  It all started with a fourteen-pitch walk.  That’s never a good way to start anything.  It was actually Bard who allowed, in practice, all three runs, only two of which were inherited.  Bard received a blown save.  Doubront and Wheeler finished the game.

So that home run was our only production of the night.  Pedroia also possessed the only multi-hit game and stolen base and one of only two extra-base hits.  The other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez, which he used to lead off the fourth and get on base before Pedroia’s homer.  We left seven on base and went two for six with runners in scoring position.  In total, we collected only six hits.  Our staff threw a combined total of 203 pitches.  All of which is to say that we lost, 4-2.

Comic relief included Youk teaching himself how to use a professional camera

The whole game can be summarized with a description of the bottom of the ninth inning.  After two walks and a single, the bases were loaded with two out for, of all batters, Gonzalez.  He hadn’t hit well in the game, so he was due.  Mariano Rivera gave him five straight cutters.  Ultimately he was called out on strikes.  There was a pitch that he thought was low.  Keeping in mind that he as one of the best eyes in the league and that he’s usually right about these things and that the pitch was low, he was called out on strikes.  Yup.

It was Lester opposite AJ Burnett, our lineup opposite theirs, with our home field advantage, and somehow we lost our first series of the season to the Yankees.  I don’t get it.  We have our last series with the Yanks at the end of the month.  It’s probable that that series will decide the division.  That’s all I’m saying.

Boston Globe Staff

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