Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Bard’

Doubront started out so well, but oh, how the mighty have fallen.  For almost all of the first half of the season, he was the ace on our staff, and given the Spring Training pitching roster, nobody would have predicted that.  And yet it was true.

Unfortunately, not so anymore.  Almost overnight, it seems, he started struggling.  At first it was easy to claim that he’d had a bad day and then that he was in a slump.  But being in a slump that lasts for several months and that you can’t get out of is a completely different story.  And that’s what we’ve got on our hands now, plain and simple.

Doubront gave up five runs on six hits over four innings.  He walked two, struck out four, threw eighty-four pitches, and took the loss.  His third pitch of the game was hit for a double, which turned into a run on a sac fly.  He then allowed a solo shot in the third and a two-run home run in the fourth.  He was replaced by Mortensen after his second pitch of the sixth inning was hit for a triple.

Mortensen then allowed his inherited runner to score on a single.  He had a beautiful if laborious sixth inning, during which he struck out all three of the batters he faced on a total of twenty pitches.  Carpenter pitched the seventh, and Hill pitched the eighth.  Bard appeared to pitch the ninth.  Both literally and figuratively.  As in, he made an appearance baseball-wise, and he made the appearance of pitching.  The appearance, and not the act, because he didn’t pitch well.  The field made a fantastic play to get an out at home, but with a runner already on base, he turned around and allowed a two-run home run the very next at-bat.

The offense eventually got around to fighting back.  We didn’t score until the fifth, so by the time we got on the board we were already down by five.  With one out, Kalish and Podsednik hit back-to-back singles, and Kalish scored on a groundout by Pedroia.  Pretty nondescript.  Ciriaco walked with one out in the seventh, stole second base, and scored on a bloop single by Gomez.  Also nondescript.  Pedroia, leading off the fifth, hit a 3-1 fastball clocked at ninety-five miles per hour out toward the Monster for a solo shot.  That was less nondescript.  It’s so much fun to watch him hit home runs and to uncork that massive swing that he seems to unleash out of nowhere.  With one out in the ninth, Aviles walked; one out later, he and Gomez were both coming home on Gomez’s two-run shot, also hit out toward the Monster, also powerful, also on his fifth pitch.  His count was 2-2, and his pitch was a seventy-seven mile-per-hour curveball.

So that makes the final score 7-5.  The sad thing is that this is a team that’s been underperforming just like we’ve been; we’re actually tied for last place with the Jays.  And we still lost by two.  So much for a fresh start at home.

The Boston Globe

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We lost again.  What else is new? Considering our season, what an appropriate way to usher in September.

Doubront only lasted three innings; he gave up five runs on six hits while walking two and striking out six.  His fourth pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot by Coco Crisp.  He got through the second inning alright but tanked in the third.  He gave up a single to Crisp and then a double, but Crisp was successfully thrown out at the plate, which was an awesome play to watch.  Then Doubront struck out Josh Reddick, but then he gave up an RBI single that may as well have been a triple because it was followed by two steals, and then he gave up a walk, and then he gave up a double that scored two and a single that scored one.

So Aceves came on for the fourth, fifth (when he gave up an RBI single), and sixth.  A note about Aceves: he and Pedroia had an argument in the dugout in the bottom of the fourth because Aceves got in Salty’s way of catching a popup and then dropped it and then made a bunch of pickoff attempts to second base, the last of which came when Pedroia wasn’t ready.  Third base coach Jerry Royster separated them.  Now, I wasn’t there, but I know that it’s nothing to be too shocked about.  The team is losing, the team is frustrated, and the team spends a lot of time together in the clubhouse.  Things like this are normal; it’s just surprising to outsiders because usually it happens behind closed doors.

Anyway, Bard gave up a solo shot on the fourth pitch of his appearance in the seventh.  Hill and Bailey combined to pitch the eighth.

Meanwhile, we were the victims of a bid for a perfect game through four.  Salty managed to finally eke out a single in the fifth.  It was a bunt single and the A’s fans were not happy, but you know what? That’s baseball.  Literally.  As in, players are trying to get on base.  And if the situation were reversed, we would be the unhappy ones and they would be saying that to us.

Then Lavarnway led off the sixth with a single but was out at second thanks to a force out by Ciriaco, who moved to second on a groundout by Ellsbury and scored on a single by Pedroia.  It was reasonable to hope that AJ Griffin would then unravel as so many do after losing perfect or no-no bids, but unfortunately he didn’t.  We went down in order in the seventh, Griffin’s last inning of th game, and in the eighth.  Ellsbury singled in the ninth but we went down in order after that.

Boston Globe Staff

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Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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Naturally, it was going to be Bard who kept us from sweeping.  Bard was absolutely horrible.  It was a miracle that he didn’t give up even more runs in an even shorter period of time.  I’m telling you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a starting pitcher look that lost and with that extensive a lack of command or control.  He couldn’t find the strike zone even if we paid him to.  Oh, wait.  We do pay him to, and he still couldn’t do it.

He only lasted one and two-thirds innings, so obviously Bobby V. shouldn’t even have bothered to start him; he should have just rolled out the bullpen for the whole thing, since that’s basically what he ended up doing.  He allowed five runs on just one hit.  That was the game right there.  The Jays didn’t score any more runs, just those five.  He also walked six and struck out two.  He threw fifty-five pitches.

If you thought that all but one of those runs could be accounted for by a grand slam, you’d be wrong.  Bard wishes he gave up a grand slam.  Instead, he walked the first two batters he faced on five pitches each and then allowed a home run on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.  He then walked another batter, this one on four pitches, and somehow then induced a double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The second inning was more of the same.  He walked a batter on four pitches and the next one on six pitches.  Then, he somehow, by some miracle, posted two three-pitch strikeouts.  But then he hit a batter, walked in another run on six pitches, and then hit another batter, which brought in another run.

And that was when he was removed.  Because there’s a difference between having a bad day because you’re allowing lots of hits and having a bad day because you’re not even making the opposing batters hit the ball at all; you’re just delivering free passes to them on a silver platter.  We’ve seen plenty of pitchers this season have plenty of bad days because they’ve given up plenty of hits and home runs, but I don’t think we’ve seen a start quite like this.  I can’t even say that the Jays took batting practice off of Bard because he didn’t give them anything to swing at.  He just let them get on base.  That wasn’t even baseball; that, both literally and figuratively, was a walk in the park.

Morales finished the second inning as well as the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.  Atchison pitched the seventh, and Hill pitched the eighth.

So while the Jays were having their nice walk in the park, we were doing a whole lot of nothing.  Just like Bard, but at the plate also.  Like the Jays, we ended the game with six hits, but unlike the Jays, we also ended the game with only one run.  And that was courtesy of Shoppach, who hit a nice opposite-field solo shot with two out in the fifth.  It landed behind the fence in right center field.  It was a fastball, the third pitch of the at-bat.  Our only other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez.  Aviles had our only multi-hit performance; he went two for four.  By the way, the whole team drew a grand total of one walk.  Nava was the one who worked it, and in case you were curious, he didn’t hit anything all night.

So the relief corps deserves an absolutely incredibly hard-earned and well-deserved bat on the back and round of applause for their effective, hard work, which perhaps would have won us the ballgame if it provided the ballgame’s only pitching, but all in all it was a brutally embarrassing and humiliating game by all accounts.

I’ll give you one last anecdote to drive home how truly horrific to the point of otherworldly this game was.  Youk got hit in the sixth.  The pitch hit him in his left shoulder and then appeared to ricochet slightly off his helmet.  Youk pointed to his belt to show where the pitch should have been located.  But neither Youk nor Drew Hutchinson even made a move, and neither bench emptied.  Because the benches probably understood what Hutchinson should have understood before he hit Youk.  Now, I’m not saying that Hutchinson did it on purpose.  I’m not even saying that Hutchinson tried to do it on purpose.  But I am saying that Hutchinson very possibly did it on purpose and that, if indeed Hutchinson did it on purpose, it was almost certainly as a retaliatory measure.  But first of all he should have hit lower because you never want to aim a baseball anywhere near someone’s head, and secondly, he should have realized that it was completely unnecessary because Bard wasn’t hitting the Jays on purpose.  Bard, in fact, was just that bad.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially a winning team! For the first time ever in the year 2012, the Boston Red Sox possess a winning record! We are 25-24, and our winning percentage stands at .510! True we are fifth place in a five-team division, but the first thing we had to do was get over that hump.  Now we can concentrate on staying over it and widening that gap between wins and losses.  Anyway, we finally did it! It certainly took us long enough, that’s for sure; this is the longest it’s taken us since 1996.

Yesterday, Bard only lasted five and one-third innings.  I’m telling you, if he’s serious about being a starter, the very first thing he’s going to have to do is get over that five-inning hump.  Who ever heard of an elite starter who can’t get past five innings consistently? Maybe he doesn’t want to be an elite starter; maybe he just wants to be a starter.  But if he has no interest in trying to be an elite starter, I’m pretty sure we have no interest in him starting.

That’s not to say that his outing wasn’t a solid outing.  It was a solid outing.  It was just a short solid outing.  Bard picked up the win, walked two, and struck out four; it was his only appearance this month during which he struck out more than he walked.  He gave up two runs on five hits, but both of those runs were the result of home runs, the first with one out in the fifth and the second to lead off the sixth.  Bard got the first out in the sixth and then was relieved by Hill, who got the second out and walked a batter.  Hill was then relieved by Atchison, who allowed a single and finally ended the inning.

Miller pitched the seventh and allowed a double followed by an RBI single, and then Padilla ended the inning and pitched the eighth as well.  Aceves got the save in the ninth.

Fortunately, the offense kept just busy enough.  We struck first; Papi led off the second with a double, moved to third on a single by Salty, and scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Aviles.  Youk singled to lead off the fourth; one out later, Aviles and Podsednik hit back-to-back singles to load the bases.  Punto lined out, but then Nava crushed a bases-clearing double, and he crushed it on a fastball clocked at one hundred miles per hour.  All but one of the pitches he saw in that at-bat were fastballs, and all of those fastballs were either ninety-eight, ninety-nine, or one hundred miles per hour.  (The only exception was one curveball clocked at eighty.)

We kept it going in the fifth, which Gonzalez led off with a single and scored on a double by Papi.  We broke the trend of leading off productive innings with productive plays in the seventh, which Gonzalez began by grounding out, only to be followed by a solo shot by Papi into the first row of the Monster seats.  Just like Jerry Remy said, he has really come into his own this year with using left field.  And he hit that off of a lefty to boot.

So the final score was 6-3.  Five of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  Podsednik went two for four, and Papi had a monster night.  He went three for four, and all three of his hits were for extra bases: two doubles and the homer.  Sweeney flashed some leather, pulling off a tricky sliding catch in the second and a running catch in the third.  We even made it through a rain delay, actually one of the shortest I’ve seen in a long time at thirty-eight minutes.  Look at us, all winning and whatnot!

A word on Pedroia: it turns out that he tore the adductor muscle in his right thumb.  They’re going to try to put a brace on it and hope that he can play through it, since the alternative is spending a month on the DL.  I just hope they don’t make a mistake.  I obviously want him to play, but I also want him to be healthy and help this team win for a long, long time.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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We are finally back at .500.  It certainly took us long enough.  When a team reaches any sort of milestone, the typical questions is always, “How does it feel?” For this one, the answer is easy.  It feels really, really long overdue.  I mean, come on.  It’s just .500.  All that means is that you’ve won as many games as you’ve lost.  It’s almost two months into the year and we have yet to win more games than we’ve lost.  That says something about our team.  And what it says isn’t good.

Still, reaching .500 is better than not reaching .500, so the fact that it’s pathetic that it took us so long to get here again shouldn’t technically detract from our celebrating it.

Bard was on the mound and delivered a mediocrely decent start.  He lasted five and one-third innings and gave up two runs on five hits while walking four and striking out two.  He gave up his first run in the first, when he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk separated only by a flyout; he was luck to escape that situation with only one run scored on a sac fly.  And then he gave up a home run to start the second inning.

But something really has to be done about his efficiency if he’s going to remain a starter, because he can’t go on pitching for just five innings.  It means that the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day, it means that it erodes his durability in the long run, and it means that the opposing team gets to see more of his stuff.  He threw ninety pitches in his five-plus innings.  Of particular embarrassment were his two back-to-back walks in the fourth, which illustrates another obvious problem with pitching inefficiently: it puts runners on base, which you really don’t need when you’re trying to win a ballgame.  How he managed to conclude his start with only two runs allowed is amazing.

Fortunately, those two runs didn’t get us down in either the short term or the long term.  We loaded the basis ourselves in the top of the fourth in the same way: two singles and a walk.  And we scored our run in that situation the same way they score theirs: on a play that resulted in an out.  In our case, since we didn’t previously have any outs that inning, Youk scored on a double play by Podsednik, who started for the first time since 2010.  We then scored again in the third to tie the game at two; Pedroia singled, and Youk walked two outs later.  Then Middlebrooks doubled in Pedroia, and Youk was out at the plate to end the inning.

Neither team scored again until the sixth, when Nava launched a solo shot to right with two out.  It was a slider down and in, and he was all over it.  He had that ball’s number; you could tell by the speed with which it left the park.  It gave us our first, and fortunately not our last, lead of the night.  Then Podsednik singled, and then Shoppach launched a long ball of his own, this one to left.  It was one of those line-drive home runs, also getting out of the park in a hurry.

So at that point, we were up by three.  Bard began the sixth with a five-pitch strikeout and was then replaced by Miller.  Ironically enough, it was Miller who melted down after that, not Bard.  Miller got a strikeout but then walked a batter and gave up a home run, which shrunk our lead to one.  Hill came on in the seventh and got the first two outs, and Padilla got the third.

After Nava flied out to begin the eighth, Podsednik went yard to right center field on an inside slider, the second pitch of the at-bat.  This one was a little more lofty; it took a little more time to get out, but a home run is a home run, and when the ball goes out, the ball goes out.  And it’s a good thing, too, because the Orioles weren’t finished.  Padilla allowed a walk and a double to begin the eighth before recording the first out via strikeout, and then he allowed one run via a sac fly.  But he’s lucky that it wasn’t more than one run, and he can thank Lin for that.  It looked like it was going to land right in the gap between Gonzalez and Lin, right in right center field.  Lin ran to that territory, dove, and caught it.  It was a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch, and we can only assume that it save the game.  That catch at least saved the game from being tied; if the game were tied, who knows what would have happened?

Needless to say, Bobby V. put Aceves in after that.  Aceves finished the eighth and took care of the ninth, and we won, 6-5.  Five of our batters had multi-hit performances, all of them two hits each.  We posted one less than twice as many hits as Baltimore with thirteen, and yet we only won by one run.  That may have had something to do with the fact that we were only one for seven with runners in scoring position.  Still, we had four extra-base hits, three of which were long balls, ironically enough all hit by the bottom third of the order; the bottom third of the order hasn’t hit three home runs since 2003.  But as long as we got the W, and as long as we’re at least at .500, we can feel great.

AP Photo

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When I envisioned the start of Interleague play, I obviously envisioned us winning.  I mean, we’re an American League team.  We should be cleaning up with National League teams.  Except that the Phillies are the Phillies, and when a National League team has an American League closer that you yourself trained, it represents a special set of circumstances that’s mighty difficult.

Bard only lasted five innings; he gave up five runs on three hits, including a solo shot in the fifth, and he walked five and struck out three.  He threw ninety-four pitches.  He was wild and inefficient, and despite the fact that our pitchers collectively have pitched well in our last few games, with the exceptions of Lester and Beckett they haven’t pitched long.  If we continue like this, the bullpen may as well start every game and the starter may as well come out in relief.  Seriously.  Except that the bullpen didn’t really stem the flow yesterday; Albers pitched two shutout innings, but then Morales gave up a solo shot in the eighth.

Aviles hit a home run to put us on the board in the third.  It landed just a few feet inside the pole in left.  Our second run was plated by a sac fly in the fourth.  Ross hit a solo shot of his own in the sixth, also just inside the pole in left.  Not wanting to be left out of the action and finally delivering on his promise to go deep, Gonzalez let rip a solo shot in the eighth on a slider down and in, the second pitch of his at-bat.  This one ended up in right field; it was his third of the year, and I hope he turns it around and has many, many, many more.

And, to put a cap on the evening, Bobby V. was ejected in the ninth.  Byrd grounded out to short, and Bobby V. argued that Byrd should have been safe because the throw pulled Ty Wigginton off the mound.  First base umpire Gary Darling even lost his gum in the argument, which was a decidedly an undignified moment.  Honestly, if you slow it down and look at the play, you can see that Wigginton came off the bag.  It was close, I will admit, but if you look at it and examine it, he came off the bag.

And the fact that Jonathan Papelbon of all people got the save in the ninth did not help anything in the least.

So two hours and fifty minutes, two injuries (Salty had to get stitches on his left year after getting hit in the in the fifth,and Ross had to get x-rays after fouling a ball off his left food in the eighth), four runs, eight hits (two more than Philly), three home runs , six runs, and one Papelbon save later, we lost by two.  And that’s how we started Interleague play.  Losing at the hands of a closer who reminded us just how much we’re going to miss him.  I’m so frustrated, I don’t even know what else to say.

AP Photo

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