Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Darnell McDonald’

That’s just eerie.  That is just incredibly eerie.  I mean, what are the chances? Seriously, what are the chances that we would not only win our fifth straight game but win it by the exact same final score that we won the night before? That’s incredible.  I said, “Here’s to crushing again tomorrow!” I didn’t think we’d actually do it in pretty much the exact same way.  And we did it in the brutal cold; it was so cold that several members of the team actually felt compelled to wear ski masks!

That’s not to say I won’t take it.  I will most certainly take it.

Bard pitched an absolutely fantastic game.  He went a full seven innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits while walking only one and striking out six.  He did give up a solo shot in the fifth with two out.  The other earned run was scored in the first, when his only walk haunted him by scoring on a double.  The unearned run was the result of a throwing error by Youk in the third, which put a runner on first.  One out later, McDonald slid to catch a ball but missed, and the ball went off his glove.  Anyway, that runner ended up scoring on a passed ball by Shoppach.  So any way you look at it, that particular inning wasn’t necessarily the defense’s finest hour.

Anyway, he also threw only ninety-six pitches and three types total: the fastball, the changeup, and the slider as usual.  He threw all three of them for strikes at least sixty percent of the time.  He threw at most twenty-two pitches in a single inning, the third, and he needed only five to get through the sixth: two consecutive two-pitch groundouts and a one-pitch popout.  That’s what I call efficiency.

So Bard was able to secure two wins in a single week, the first in relief and the second the first win as a starter of his career.

By the time Bard handed Albers the ball, the Other Sox had long scored all the runs they were going to score, and we had blown the game open.

After going down in order in the first, Youk opened the second with a walk, and then Papi unloaded on a changeup that stayed down and in and sent it to the right field seats.  You could tell from the bat-ball impact that it was going out.

That was it until the sixth, when we scored five runs through one turn of the order.  It was awesome.  Pedroia actually started it on a not-so-auspicious note by flying out.  But then Gonzalez and Youk worked back-to-back walks, Papi singled, Ross singled in Gonzalez, Shoppach struck out, McDonald cleared the bases with a double, and Byrd singled in McDonald.  Five runs.  Boom.

We were one shy of going through antoher turn of the order in the very next inning, when Pedroia and Gonzalez hit back-to-back singles, Youk and Papi provided two outs, and then Ross singled in Pedroia and Shoppach, perhaps to make up for his passed ball, singled in Gonzalez.

And finally, the finishing touch was a solo shot by McDonald in the ninth on a fastball to center field.

Thus, the final score, which I still can’t believe, was 10-3.  Of our thirteen hits, only three were extra-base hits: the double by McDonald and the two home runs.  Pedroia, Papi, McDonald, and Byrd each collected two hits.

So, just to recap, the final score was the same as Thursday’s.  As on Thursday, this game featured back-to-back walks.  As on Thursday, we also went down in order in the fourth.  Unlike Thursday, we went down in order in the first and fifth, more members of the starting lineup posted multi-hit games, and less hits were for extra bases.  So we had the score of the slugfest and quality starting pitching, but we won in pretty different ways.  Thursday was mostly about power; yesterday was very much about small ball and capitalizing on opportunities.

So here’s to crushing again tomorrow! Hey, it worked on yesterday!

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

See, this is good.  This is what we should be doing.  That’s what I call building on momentum.  We won, and then we won again.  So it can’t really be so impossible to win multiple times in a row, can it? I mean, that was awesome.  It was a slugfest, and we left Minnesota in the dust.  The team made it look so easy, like we’ve been playing that way all season so far.  This better not be the latest episode in our grand motif of inconsistency.

For now, at least, we can celebrate this one.  The final score was 11-2.  We posted eighteen hits to their six; eight of our eighteen hits were for extra bases.  Two of those were home runs, and six of them were doubles.  And we went six for sixteen with runners in scoring position.

Aviles started things off in the first with a double with two strikes; not a bad way to battle back and start the game.  Then Sweeney singled him in.  After Pedroia grounded out, Gonzalez and Papi hit back-to-back singles which resulted in another run.  Then Youk singled, making that three in a row, and Gonzalez scored on Ross’s groundout.

Beckett didn’t seem like he was going to uphold his end of the bargain; he loaded the bases in a hurry in the bottom of the first while securing only one run.  Then he proceeded to walk in a run on ten pitches to Joe Mauer.  That’s three consecutive bases on balls.  I have to tell you, at that moment I got really scared that it was going to be a repeat of our performance against the Yankees when we dropped our eight run lead, except this time the blame would fall squarely on Beckett.  Beckett’s exchange with home plate umpire Adrian Johnson probably didn’t help the situation at all.  There were angry stares, and then Beckett said words, and then Johnson said words, and then Bobby V. had to intervene.  It clearly could have been a lot worse.

Fortunately, that fear turned out to be moot.  Beckett’s very next inning was one-two-three, and we went back to scoring; Gonzalez led off the third with a walk, and then Papi tore a homer to right on a cutter.  It was so fierce that Jerry Remy said that he couldn’t even see the ball when he was going out.  Papi knew it as soon as the ball connected with the bat that there was no way it was staying inside the park.

Beckett got into a bit of a jam in the third when he had runners on second and third with one out, but he secured a lineout followed by a flyout to end it made possible by a very Ellsbury-esque diving and sliding catch by Byrd.  Not a bad way to begin his time in Boston, especially since he started out on the play with the absolute wrong read on the ball.

Aviles led off the fourth with a solo shot to left on a full-count fastball right down the pipe that he just crushed.  It was a fair ball by inches, literally.  Then Sweeney doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.

Beckett had a one-two-three fourth.  Byrd led off the bottom of the inning with a single.  Shoppach struck out swinging, and then Aviles hit an RBI double.  Then Sweeney struck out swinging, and Pedroia and Gonzalez hit back-to-back RBI doubles.

Beckett allowed his last run of the night in the fifth on a pair of doubles.  Both teams went down in order in the next two innings.  Then, in the eighth, a single and two five-pitch walks loaded the bases for McDonald, who score two by grounding into a force out.

So that was basically it.  Papi, Youk, Byrd, and Sweeney each had two hits, one of which for Sweeney was a double.  Papi’s twenty-eight hits so far this month are the most in the ball club since Joe Cronin hit thirty in April 1937.  Aviles went four for five with two doubles and a home run – those four hits being a new career high – and Gonzalez was a perfect three for three at the plate with one double.  Beckett pitched up the win and allowed only two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out five in six innings.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches; his best pitches for strikes were his changeup, cutter, and four-seam, and he also threw in a few two-seams and curveballs.  He threw thirty-seven pitches in the first inning, which is a higher inning total than even Dice-K would throw (I’ve used that comparison a lot, but firstly, if I shouldn’t use this comparison then he should pitch better, and secondly, thirty-seven pitches is really exorbitant), but he obviously settled down considerably after that first inning.  Indeed, his first inning was essentially his one bad inning, but as we know he escaped with the minimal damage of only one run.  Atchison pitched in the seventh and eighth, and Albers pitched the ninth.

Well, I’m obviously thrilled with the win, but I wonder if it’ll actually take us somewhere this time.  What are the chances we play like that again today?

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

The story that I am about to tell has been all too familiar to us this season so far.  It’s a story that’s a recipe for disaster going forward; indeed, it’s already been a recipe of disaster every single time it’s taken place.  It’s an ugly and unfortunate story, and technically it’s a story that could have been avoided (but that’s another story).  Right now, on this team, it’s the worst story of all.

It’s the story of the bullpen.

Everything started out so nicely.  Doubront allowed one run on four hits while walking three and striking out seven.  That one run was the product of a solo shot with two out in the sixth.  His only one-two-three inning was the fourth, during which he threw fifteen pitches, but his game low was eleven in the third; at the other extreme, he threw twenty-two in the second and twenty-one in the fifth.  All in all, a very solid start indeed and one that was half of why we were in the game after he left.

The other half was the offense, which made itself busy by scoring nine runs before the Evil Empire scored any: two in the first, three in the second, two in the third, and two more in the fifth.

In the first, Gonzalez and Papi both hit RBI doubles.  In the second, Aviles and Pedroia both hit RBI singles, and Sweeney hit a sac fly.  In the third, McDonald hit a sac fly with the bases loaded, and Aviles hit an RBI single.  In the fifth, Salty opened with a double after which Ross homered to center field.  It was a wallop of a swing on the second pitch of the at-bat, a slider clocked at eighty-seven miles per hour.  It sailed straight out.

Those were the only runs we scored in the entire game.  Even after Doubront allowed the home run, we were up by eight.  I don’t know about you, but I was looking forward to that drubbing going on record in order to even our record against the Yanks this year and to deliver some sort of thrashing before they left Boston.  I was hoping that it was going to be the first step in a series win and a compensatory measure for the loss we had to accept on Fenway’s hundredth birthday.

And then the bullpen entered the picture, and it ruined everything in the worst way.

It began almost immediately; the seventh inning saw three different pitchers alone.  Padilla was first; he managed to secure the first out with a strikeout on four pitches.  Then there were two consecutive singles and a four-pitch walk followed by that insult of insults: a grand slam, which was exactly what we needed on Friday to tie it.  To add further insult to that insults of insults, it was hit on the first and only pitch of the at-bat.  It was a thoroughly horrible experience to have to witness it.  Now, you would think that at that point Bobby V. would change pitchers; more likely, after the bases were loaded you were probably thinking that he should change pitchers.  Only after Padilla allowed a double after that did Bobby V. change pitchers.

He went to Albers.  Aviles put runners at the corners thanks to a fielding error, and then Albers allowed another home run.  Then he was replaced by Morales, who allowed a single followed by two quick outs, including a strikeout on three pitches.

The eighth saw four different pitchers.  Morales stayed on the mound long enough to allow a single before he was replaced by Aceves.  Aceves allowed an eight-pitch walk and an RBI double followed by an intentional and an unintentional walk.  Then there was another RBI double and another intentional walk, at which point Aceves was relieved by Thomas.  Thomas induced a double play but then allowed another RBI double followed by a single, at which point he was replaced by Tazawa, who allowed an RBI single and then the final out of the inning.

We went down in the eighth, the Yanks went down in the ninth, and in the bottom of the ninth we hit two singles and that was it.

So just to recap: the Yanks scored fifteen runs.  One in the sixth, and seven each in the seventh and eighth.  Not seven total over two innings, which would have been bad enough.  Seven each.  As in, they scored seven runs twice in two separate innings, during which our bullpen faced a combined twenty-three batters, in the same game.  It was actually sickening to watch it.  Sickening.  It was so egregiously bad that I just don’t know what to think anymore.  Something obviously has to be done; it’s not like we can afford to have a bullpen that keeps doing this.

It’s humiliating and embarrassing and gut-wrenching and completely pathetic to hold an eight-run lead and then lose it over the course of essentially two innings.  But did we really have to go through that at the hands of the Yankees? Of all teams, why did it have to be the Yankees?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the bullpen fail so epically and totally.  I mean, it was a whole failure in every sense of that phrase.  The bullpen left absolutely no stone unturned in ensuring that Red Sox Nation was privy to one of the worst losses we’ve ever had the displeasure to see in a very long time, and that includes all of the other badness that’s happen to us this season so far.

Aviles, Pedroia, and Ross all went two for five; Papi was perfect at the plate with a four-for-four performance.  We posted seventeen hits, seven of which were for extra bases, all but one of which was a home run.  So even if the Yankees had scored seven runs in only one of those innings and not the other, we would have managed to win by one.  But no.  Our bullpen had to let the Yankees take batting practice.  And our closer, in case you were wondering, didn’t even record a single out for the third time this year.  The final score was 15-9.

By the way, we traded Michael Bowden and a player to be named later to the Cubs for Marlon Byrd, being that most of our outfield is on the DL and whatnot.  And Youk left the game in the fourth with a left quad contusion.

In other news, the Caps beat us again, 4-3.  There is no room for mistakes anymore.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

That’s the game that we were all hoping we’d play.  Fenway was a sight for sore eyes; something about the players being introduced at the home opener just makes you feel refreshed and ready, and after the start to the season we’ve had, we needed that.  And the final score was a sight for sore eyes, too.  12-2.  Now that’s what I call taking care of business on your first day home.  Ladies and gentlemen, here’s hoping that yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives!

First things first.  The opening ceremonies were as fitting and fantastically done as ever.  Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek threw the first pitch, as they should have.  It was so great to see them back there received with the standing ovation that they clearly deserved.  Dwight Evans caught Wakefield’s pitch, and Jim Rice caught Varitek’s, which was especially fitting since Rice was our captain before Varitek played.  Needless to say, the pitches were thrown quite well (I was hoping Wakefield would deliver a knuckleball, but apparently Evans warned him against that beforehand), and there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards.  All in all, it was a supremely feel-good event.  In the bottom of the second, Wakefield and Varitek joined the NESN booth for the first time ever; apparently they’d never been to that part of the park before.  Wakefield was right when he said that it was a special day that the two of them shared together; opening the hundredth season of baseball at Fenway was a task that was absolutely fitting for them to complete.  And we’ll see them again this year; during the season each of them will be honored with their own day.  We certainly haven’t seen the last of Varitek, who will probably re-join the organization in some sort of professional capacity.  Their comments on the start to the season we’ve had were interesting to hear, and ultimately it was just a pleasure to have them back.  It really was.

Beckett pitched like an ace.  These are now back-to-back gems by our two best starters; it’s a good sign, and it’s some solid momentum that we can build from.  Beckett pitched eight innings and gave up only one run on five hits, two of which were doubles, and that was it for extra bases.  He walked one and struck out one, the eleventh time in his career that he posted only one strikeout but the first time in his career that he posted a win with only one strikeout.  That one strikeout came against Carlos Pena with one out in the eighth; it took him six pitches, and the clincher was a curveball going seventy-four miles per hour that resulted in a missed swing.  Beckett threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-one of which were strikes, so he was right on pace.

He brought his fastball up to ninety-two miles per hour, and they were good, but the real stars of his arsenal were the cutter and the changeup.  Almost all of his cutters were thrown for strikes, and a little less than half of all of his pitches were changeups, which he threw for strikes almost two-thirds of the time.  Other than that, he also introduced a curveball that was pretty good.  So he pitched like an ace, but not necessarily like the ace we’ve seen him be in most of his gem starts.  This was less about dominating and overpowering the hitters and more about getting around them with craftiness and finesse.  It was a side of Beckett that we rarely get to see, but nevertheless it was obviously an effective side of Beckett and one that speaks to his overall skill and versatility as a pitcher.

Regarding efficiency, as I said, he was pretty much on the ball.  He wasn’t remarkably efficient, but he wasn’t inefficient, either.  Around a hundred pitches is where you should be by the time the ninth inning starts, and there are plenty of pitching staffs out there whose aces are lucky if they can make it to the sixth or seventh around a hundred pitches.  He threw at most seventeen pitches in one inning, and he did that twice, once in the first and again in the fourth.  He threw sixteen in the second and thirteen in the eighth.  Other than that, he threw nine in the sixth, eight in the third, and seven in the fifth and seventh.

Beckett allowed his lone run in the second pretty quickly; the inning started with a single, and the next hit was one of the two doubles he gave up, which scored Ben Zobrist.  But then he ended the inning with three straight groundouts, and under his watch, it was the end of the scoring for the Tampa Bay Rays.  (Incidentally, Zobrist also scored Beckett’s only walk, in addition to his only run.) Three of his innings were one-two-three: the third, the fifth, and the eighth.

Meanwhile, the game did not begin auspiciously for our offense, as we went down in order in the first.  We put two on base in the second, but three straight outs erased that threat.  We first got on board in the third: Shoppach got hit, Ellsbury doubled, and Pedroia walked on five pitches to load the bases.  Then we put up three straight scoring plays: Gonzalez singled, Youk hit a sac fly, and Papi singled.  It was small ball, but it was effective small ball.  McDonald re-loaded the bases by also walking on five pitches, but Ross ended the inning by grounding into a double play.  Still, that was three runs right there.

We added one in the fourth; Aviles began the inning by grounding out, but then Shoppach doubled and scored on a single by Ellsbury.  (Speaking of the fourth, Ross made a fantastic diving catch to prevent a base hit and secure the first out in the top of the inning.) We went down in order in the fifth again, and we had two baserunners again erased in the sixth and one erased in the seventh.

Now, at that point, the score was 4-1, and with the way Beckett was pitching, that lead alone would have held up fine.  Honestly, if that had remained the score, Bobby V. would have let Beckett stay in there and finish it up.  He’s a beast against the Rays; he’s got four wins and is undefeated in six starts with a 0.84 ERA going back to September 12, 2009.  As it turned out, Melancon came out to pitch the ninth.  He faced four batters.  Three of them represented outs, but between the first and second one was a solo shot to right on a 2-1 fastball.  Those two runs were the only runs that the Rays would have scored.  In plenty of other scenarios, which unfortunately we have seen first-hand this year, that may have cost us the game.  Fortunately, Melancon made that one isolated mistake and recovered.  So if we had only scored four runs, in this particular game we would’ve been fine.

But we didn’t only score four runs.  We exploded majorly in the eighth.  It was fantastic.  It was like a whole new team up there.  Almost every batter in that inning contributed to the run total in one way or another, and it was just a string of well-orchestrated scoring plays.  It really looked and felt like the team was playing like a team.

It all began with a pitching change; Joel Peralta replaced Wade Davis.  What a cold, cold greeting we gave him.  McDonald opened the inning with a very patient at-bat that concluded with a double.  Then Ross walked, and McDonald moved to third on a wild pitch.  Then Aviles walked to load the bases.  Then Shoppach doubled and scored two.  Then Sweeney singled and scored two.  Then Pedroia and Gonzalez singled back-to-back to reload the bases.  Then Youk singled and scored two.  Then Papi doubled and scored one.  Then McDonald got hit to reload the bases.  Then Ross hit a sac fly that scored one.  Then Aviles singled to reload the bases.  And then Shoppach and Sweeney provided the last two outs.  So, before Ross hit his sac fly, we sent ten men to the plate with nobody out in the inning, and our first out of the inning was still a scoring play.  We scored eight runs in the eighth inning alone.

We posted sixteen hits to their six.  We posted five extra-base hits to their three, even though ours were all doubles and they had a homer.  We left ten on base to their five, but – are you ready for this? – we went ten for seventeen with runners in scoring position to their 0 for 5.  Ten for seventeen.

Youk and Papi both went two for four, the latter with a double, and Gonzalez went two for three.  But the man of the hour, who went three for four with two doubles, was Kelly Shoppach.  Not bad for a catcher.  Not bad at all.  All told, we had five multi-hit games.

There was only one downside to the game, and unfortunately it was extremely significant.  Ellsbury went two for three but left in the bottom of the fourth with an injured right shoulder.  Right after his RBI single that inning, Pedroia grounded into a double play to end it, and Reid Brignac landed on the shoulder at second base after he threw to first.  Hard.  It looked bad; he grabbed it and stood up with some difficulty.  He walked off the field holding his arm pretty delicately.  Make no mistake, folks: this is a complete and total disaster in every conceivable way.  The incident quieted Fenway pretty quickly, and rightly so.  He was examined after the game, but there is no definite word yet on his condition; you can be sure, though, that he’ll be temporarily replaced for at least five or six weeks.

So the team does indeed start to celebrate Fenway’s one hundredth birthday with a win! It was a win for Fenway, a win for Red Sox Nation, and a win for the team, and we all badly needed it.  And so we should feel happy about that.  But we should also be aware of the fact that we hope we didn’t just trade in a win in the short term for a win in the long term; in other words, we hope that Ellsbury isn’t injured for the long term as a result of what occurred in this game.  Seriously.  This is an extremely, extremely big deal.

In other news, the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins have officially begin, and on a high note at that.  We beat the Caps, 1-0! As I said, I’m really thinking repeat.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

Yes! Finally! Finally, finally, finally! Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially secured our first win of the season! We are now the proud owners of a one and three record! Well, not exactly the proud owners, but the point is at least we’ve got our first W under our belt.  That was huge and much-needed.  And it was in large part on the back of Doubront, not even on the backs of our aces, that we secured it.

Even if he was epically inefficient.  He needed 101 pitches to get through five innings; only sixty-two of those were strikes.  That’s only a little more than half.  Still, he was effective.  He allowed two runs on four hits while walking three and striking out six, a career high.  Did his performance inspire confident? No.  Was it a win about which you could feel really good and say, “Those are the Red Sox we’ve been waiting for”? Absolutely not.  But as far as the standings are concerned, a win is a win, and that’s what we’re going for.  And we’ll take as many small steps as we have to in order to get ourselves on the right track.  Besides, let’s not forget that, with all of its faults, Doubront’s start still had way fewer faults than those of his colleagues.  I mean, only one of the hits he gave up was an extra-base hit.

In terms of specifics, he threw mostly fastballs, about three-quarters of which were strikes.  He added a nasty changeup and curveball.  His pitch count per inning was remarkably evenly distributed, which is not something we’ve seen in the other states.  So even though he was inefficient and worked way too hard, at least he was consistent, and I suspect that that consistency, with the pace at which he worked and with the number of pitches he threw, allowed him to put his nose to the grindstone and get the job done.  He threw eighteen pitches in the first, nineteen in the second, twenty-two in the third, and twenty-one each in the fourth and fifth.  Good variation of speeds and tight release point.  All in all, even putting the win aside, this was the best start we’ve seen so far.

Unfortunately for Doubront, though, he didn’t figure in the decision.  He allowed both of his runs in the third: a strikeout, a triple for that one extra-base hit, a four-pitch walk, an RBI fielder’s choice, a flyout, an RBI single, and then a groundout.

He was replaced by Atchison, who got the win after a performance perhaps just as crucial to it as Doubront’s, in the sixth.  In the top of the sixth, which Ellsbury led off with a groundout, Pedroia hit his first home run of 2012! It was a solo shot on a 2-1 on his favorite pitch, a high inside fastball, which was supposed to be away.  It sailed right into the deck of seats in left center; it was just a hard-hit rocket out of the park, and as he always does when he goes deep, he put every bit of himself into that swing.  He’d even predicted that same afternoon that he was going to hit something out of the park.  But even with that run, at the time we were down, 2-1.

For the first time this season, the bullpen as a whole delivered.  Atchison pitched three absolutely stellar shutout innings, two of which were one-two-three; I mean, he threw thirty-one pitches for all three.  That’s a starter’s efficiency.  He kept us in the game and got us to the top of the ninth, when we staged our big comeback.  Honestly, the way the last three games had gone, as the game started going on and on and on and we weren’t getting men on base or scoring any runs, I kept the faith but I have to say I was steeling my nerves for the entirely possible.

And then, the ninth inning.  The last stand.  The end of the road.  The final countdown.  It wasn’t big in runs scored, but it was absolutely huge in terms of everything else.  Again, it was Pedroia who got things going; he led off with a double and scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  Then Youk struck out, and Papi and Ross worked back-to-back walks.  McDonald came in to pinch-run for Papi and scored on a single by Sweeney.  Ross then scored on a wild pitch.  It was so simple.  It was small ball and manufactured runs, but when you looked at the scoreboard, suddenly we were on top with a two-run lead!

And what do you know? Aceves came out to pitch the bottom of the ninth and actually looked like a closer.  The inning was one-two-three.  He needed only fifteen pitches to do it, eleven of which were strikes.  He guarded the lead with his baseball life and was rewarded with his first save of the year.

Overall, it was a modest performance.  I would say it was too modest.  Like I said, we got the win, and the standings don’t care what you did to do it, but obviously I would have felt better with a longer, more efficient start and with a more active offense.  We went one for four with runners in scoring position and left five on base.  Three of our seven hits, so about half, were for extra bases: two doubles and of course Pedroia’s homer.  Pedroia and Sweeney both went two for four.  Humor included Papi’s attempted steal of second in the seventh.  Actually, joking aside, it was a solid move; the first baseman was playing behind him, and he really did almost make it.  The final score was 4-2.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

And the ugly opening disappointment continues.  Lester is our only pitcher who’s had a respectable start so far, and even that resulted in a loss.  This is a terrible start to the season.  Terrible, terrible, terrible.  We just got swept by the Tigers.

Unlike Beckett, Buchholz didn’t give up any home runs.  In fact, he only gave up two extra-base hits, and both of them were doubles.  But he still managed to give as many runs total in less baseball time.  He only lasted four innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out two.  That means that, yesterday, he was a bad pitcher.  He may have been good during Spring Training, and he may, we hope, be better going forward, but yesterday, he was just a bad pitcher.  Because a good pitcher doesn’t let his opposition play so much small ball that they score seven runs on eight hits in four innings.

In total, he threw seventy-eight pitches, fifty of which were strikes.  It took him thirty-one pitches to get through the first inning alone; that’s worse than some of the inning totals I remember Dice-K putting up, even on his bad days.  Not coincidentally, he allowed four runs that inning.  He then threw seventeen pitches in the second and gave up one run, twenty-one in the third and gave up no runs, and only nine in the fourth, unquestionably his best inning, even though he gave up two more runs.  He threw mostly four-seams, which topped out at ninety-four miles per hour, with some nice cutters, curveballs, and changeups mixed in; he added some two-seams also, but they weren’t great.  Nice variation of speeds, and tight release point.  Command, control, efficiency, and effectiveness, not so much.

Thankfully, Padilla pitched four absolutely crucial and stellar shutout innings of relief after that, and the offense even came alive.  How ‘bout that.  By the time we entered the bottom of the ninth, if you can believe it, we were actually the proud owners of a three-run lead!

In the second, Aviles doubled in Papi, who led off the inning with a single, and McDonald, who walked after that.  In the third, Papi doubled in Gonzalez, who led off the inning with a single.  Then McDonald struck out and Sweeney singled.  Aviles singled in Papi, Shoppach got hit, Punto sacrificed Sweeney in, Aviles scored on a balk, and Shoppach scored on a single by Ellsbury.

We didn’t score again until the sixth, which Ellsbury led off with a double.  And then Pedroia flew out and moved Ellsbury to third.  But it didn’t end up mattering which base Ellsbury was at because Gonzalez went deep.  That’s right.  Adrian Gonzalez hit his first home run of 2012, and it was a big one, too.  It broke the tie of seven and sailed into the back of the seats in right field on the first pitch of the at-bat, a sinker inside that was supposed to be outside and that clocking in at ninety miles per hour.  Well, that’s just what happens when you pitch to Gonzalez and miss your location.  And you could totally tell that he was itching for the use of his power stroke.  It was absolutely fantastic.  It was what we’d been waiting to see from him all spring, and it’s what we hope to continue to see from him all season long.

In the top of the ninth, we put what we thought was the icing on the cake; McDonald and Ross hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, and Punto singled in McDonald.  So, at the time, the score was 10-7 in our favor, and it looked very much like we were going to finally acquire our first win of the season.

But I don’t think the rest of the bullpen received the win memo; maybe it got lost in the tunnel or the clubhouse or something, but it looked a lot to me like they received some sort of memo before the season started that it’s actually their job to ensure that we lose or something.

Aceves replaced Padilla and allowed two straight singles followed by a resultantly three-run home run by Miguel Cabrera on the first pitch of the at-bat.  It was like Aceves couldn’t wait to give it up.  Needless to say, it tied the game, and it was crushing.

Then Morales came in and secured three straight outs and pitched a scoreless tenth; honestly, his performance kind of made me question why he didn’t just stay in the game.

In the top of the eleventh, we mounted what I thought was going to be our comeback.  Ross walked on seven pitches to start it off, Aviles singled, Salty struck out, and Punto singled in Ross.  Ellsbury struck out, and Pedroia singled in Aviles.  That plus a quality relief performance in the bottom of the inning, and we would have our first win of 2012.

Again, I really don’t think the bullpen was told that we were trying to win.  Padilla and Morales somehow figured it out, but his replacement, Melancon, sure didn’t.  After securing a groundout, he allowed two straight singles followed by a sac fly that brought in one and then a home run that brought in two.  Game over.  We lost, 13-12.  We are 0 and 3 on the year.

Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez all went two for six.  Punto and Papi both went three for six, and Aviles went three for five.  Five of our hits were for extra-bases, four of them doubles and one of them Gonzalez’s homer.  We left thirteen on base and went eight for twenty-one with runners in scoring position.  Pedroia made a beautiful play in the eighth where he did his classic move of diving to the ground to make a catch and prevent a base hit and then springing up to throw to first for the out.

Aceves and Melancon were both awarded blown saves, with Melancon rightly taking the loss.

I don’t understand this.  I really don’t.  We had the lead in hand.  Even with Buchholz’s terrible performance, we had the lead in hand.  We were about to win, and the bullpen, both literally and figuratively, totally dropped the ball.  I mean, how on earth does a team score twelve runs and not win? Yet again, so much for Bobby V. stocking the roster with pitchers.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

Congratulations, folks! We are officially underway! The Opening Day game has come and gone, which means that the regular season has officially started, and we’ve watched our first nine innings of consequential baseball in too long a time.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives.

Which is why it’s too bad that we lost.  I am in no way about to join any doomsayers that are out there who are already making pronouncements based on one loss to start the season.  It’s the first game; there was plenty of good in addition to the bad.  Honestly, like I said, I’m just glad to have been able to watch baseball again.  It feels good.

Two very interesting things occurred.  The first was that Tito was on the air for ESPN at the time.  He said something very noteworthy.  He said that, had the extra playoff berth been added last season, we probably would have made it in, and it probably would have changed everything, even if those who affected and were effected by the changes claim that said changes were not the result of the collapse.  The second was that, when Justin Verlander pitched to Ellsbury in the top of the first, it was the first time that a pitcher who’d just won the MVP Award started the season by pitching to the runner-up.

Okay, down to business.  Let’s talk about Lester.  Lester pitched really well.  He gave up only one run on six hits over seven full innings.  He walked three and struck out four.  Sixty-three of his 107 pitches were strikes.  I would have preferred less hits, less walks, and less pitches, which would have come naturally with the first two.  Still, he held his own against Verlander and kept us very, very much in the game, so he did his job.  He threw plenty of signature cut fastballs as well as curveballs, sinkers, and changeups mixed in to good effect.  He got his fastball up to ninety-three miles per hour.  Also of note is that he got through the first inning with only five pitches but needed a game-high twenty-three to get through the third.  His release point was nice and tight, and he varied his speeds.  Despite all of that, the final score was 3-2, but it totally wasn’t his fault.  At all.

Both of our runs were scored in the top of the ninth, which means two things: firstly, we couldn’t crack Verlander, and secondly, we were resilient and took advantage of a pitcher we could crack by getting ourselves on the road toward a comeback.  Pedroia opened the inning with a double, and Gonzalez followed that with a single.  With nobody out and runners at the corners, all Papi could come up with was a sac fly that brought Pedroia home.  At least it was something; it was better than nothing, which is what he gave us when Pedroia and Gonzalez both stood on base with two out in the sixth.  Anyway, then Youk struck out.  Then Sweeney tripled in McDonald, who came on to pinch-run for Gonzalez.  If only more men had been on base.

Now, at the time, those two runs had tied the game.  There had been an RBI double in the seventh on Lester’s watch and then a sac fly in the eighth on Padilla’s watch, before Morales pitched the rest of the inning.  So the first run of the entire game was scored in the seventh inning.  That forced Detroit to come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and it forced us to get a taste of what life may or may not be like with our current closing situation, or lack thereof.

Melancon came out to start the inning.  He induced a flyout but then gave up two back-to-back singles at which point he was replaced by Aceves.  You may have been thinking at the time that Aceves should have simply started the inning and finished it, but if his ensuing performance had been any indication, it probably wouldn’t have been much better.  Aceves proceeded to hit a batter to load the bases and then let the winning run cross the plate by giving up an RBI single on a full count that scooted just out of the reach of Punto, who’d come in to play third.  Game over instantly.  So it was the relief corps that lost it for us.  So much for Bobby V.’s strategy of loading the Opening Day roster with pitching.

It’s not like the rest of the offense was very helpful, either, but that tends to be what happens when Verlander starts.  The only multi-hit game of the day belonged to Sweeney, and the team collectively managed only two extra-base hits and nine total bases.  We left five on base and went two for seven with runners in scoring position.

Melancon took the loss since the winning run was assigned to him, and Lester was stuck with a no-decision, which is better than being stuck with the loss since he really did such a good job for his first start of 2012.

It was just a big disappointment.  You start the season hoping to put your absolute best foot forward, especially after the events of the end of last season and this offseason.  We don’t want to move backward; we want to move forward.  It was only the first game of the season, so it’s important not to sweat it, but I still would have liked to start things off with a win.  But at least we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that Lester was in top form, that we only lost by one run in a game started by Verlander, and that we made it to the first game of the season.  Even if that first game was pretty crushing in the end.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sens, 3-1.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »