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Posts Tagged ‘Darnell McDonald’

Whoever was concerned that it took us thirteen innings just to lose a ballgame need fear no more.  Yesterday, the team showed us that it does not, in fact, need thirteen innings just to lose a ballgame.

The team needs seventeen.

You read right.  We played a seventeen-inning game yesterday that we eventually lost.  Think about that.  That’s basically like playing two baseball games in a row, like a doubleheader without a break in between, except that it’s only one game that you’re trying to hang on to by the skin of your teeth.  The whole thing lasted six hours and seven minutes.  It was the longest game we played since 2006.

So it was demoralizing enough that we couldn’t get the job done ourselves, that both our starter and our offense delivered performances sufficiently mediocre so as to put us in a situation that the game wasn’t won by the time nine innings ended.  And it was bad enough that we had to play extra innings at all, just two days after playing another extra-inning game, a game that we lost.  And perhaps it was even bad enough that the number of extra innings we had to play was truly astronomical to the point where, as I said, it amounted to a whole other ballgame in and of itself.  But on top of all of that, as if all of that weren’t bad enough, we had to go and lose it.

We just lost a seventeen-inning ballgame.  If we had any morale going into it, and honestly it didn’t really seem like there was much there to begin with, you can pretty much rest assured that we don’t have any anymore.

Just to put the outcome in perspective, it really is true that, if you’re going to identify a point at which the game was definitively lost, it isn’t really fair to say that the reliever that allowed the winning run lost it for us.  Because the reliever who allowed the winning run, and who therefore took the loss, was not a reliever.  It was Darnell McDonald.  If you’re going to play a seventeen-inning game, you’re going to run out of pitchers no matter who your manager is.  And at that point, Bobby V. was just looking for an arm to send out there regardless of who it belonged to.  There was nothing he could do.

As a result, acknowledgement must be given to the team’s ability to last that long.  I can’t believe we just played a seventeen-inning game; that’s beyond ridiculous.  I didn’t think I’d see something like that.  It was a marathon in every sense of the word.  Everyone was tired and exhausted beyond all capacity to deliver, and yet somehow we hung in there for one more inning, and the next inning, and then the next and the next and the next until something had to give, and that something was the roster of our bullpen.  That is to say, the bullpen itself was not at fault.  Rather, the bullpen was the only aspect of the team yesterday that shone; it and it alone was responsible for preserving the tie as long as it did.  It wasn’t its fault that, by the time its roster was exhausted, the offense still hadn’t done anything to win the game.

Now down to the technicalities of it.  As I said, if the point of loss is to be identified, it should be identified as the early goings, in which Buchholz yet again provided a sub-par showing.  He only lasted three and two-thirds innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, three of which were home runs, while walking four and striking out four.  In those innings alone, he somehow managed to throw eight-one pitches, forty-six of which were strikes.

Buchholz allowed a solo shot on the first, hit by the second batter he faced, JJ Hardy, on the fifth pitch he fired in total to start the game.  He had a seamless second featuring one walk and three strikeouts, which provided a teasingly good reason to believe that perhaps he was going to settle down.  But he returned to his disappointing self in the third, when he gave up another solo shot to Hardy.  He then gave up a three-run home run in the fourth and was taken out after he allowed two straight singles after that.  He is the first pitcher since Red Ruffing did it in 1925 to give up at least five earned runs in six straight starts.

The offense woke up in the bottom of the fourth, when Aviles doubled and scored on a single by Sweeney.  At that point we had only to score three more runs to tie it.  Instead, in the bottom of the fifth, we scored four.  Papi singled.  Ross singled.  Salty walked.  And then Middlebrooks, the call-up in response to Youk’s ailing back, absolutely smashed the first pitch he received in that at-bat.  It was a curveball.  It sailed over the Green Monster seats.  Not into the Green Monster seats.  Over the Green Monster seats, into Lansdowne Street.  Now that’s power.  Not only did Middlebrooks hit his first Major League home run, but he hit his first career grand slam.

At the time, it was exactly what we needed.  Not only did it give us a tie, but it also was a major shot in the arm regarding that oh-so-elusive morale we’ve been trying to find ever since the season started.  I mean, not only was it a kid’s first home run, but it was a grand slam! It seemed like the perfect thing to rejuvenate us.

Buchholz had been replaced by Miller, who finished the fourth and pitched a one-two-three, all-strikeout fifth.  Miller was replaced by Albers, who pitched the sixth and seventh.  Albers was replaced by Padilla, who allowed an RBI double in the eighth, which gave Baltimore a one-run lead.  We tied it back up that very same inning when Papi led it off with a double and scored on a sac fly by Salty.  It was the last run we’d score all night, and the game remained tied at six for eight more innings.

Padilla was replaced by Aceves, who pitched the ninth and tenth.  After allowing a single to start the eleventh, Aceves was replaced by Morales, who finished the eleventh and pitched the twelfth.  After allowing a single to start the thirteenth, Morales was replaced by Hill, who finished the thirteenth and pitched the fourteenth.  After allowing a walk to start the fifteenth, Hill was replaced by Atchison, who finished the fifteenth and pitched the sixteenth.

McDonald came on for the seventeenth and opened it with a walk to Wilson Betemit that was promptly erased when Salty caught him stealing second base.  But he then allowed a double and a walk followed by a home run of his own.

There were a few chances along the way for us to put it away that we didn’t convert.  With one out in the ninth, Aviles singled and tried to steal second, but the scenario couldn’t have played out any worse: Aviles was caught stealing right after Sweeney struck out.  Our best chance to put ourselves out of our misery was probably the sixteenth; with two out, Byrd reached on a fielding error and tried to score on a double by Aviles but was thrown out at home for what was an incredibly crushing moment, full of such promise one minute and the next minute evocative of what was to come the next inning.

Sweeney opened the bottom of the seventeenth with a single, and Pedroia followed with a walk.  So it was not inconceivable that we could have rallied.  Except for the fact that Gonzalez struck out and McDonald grounded into a double play.

So there you have it.  We played seventeen innings and hit sixteen hits, five of which were for extra bases.  We put up four multi-hit performances; Middlebrooks and Papi had two hits each, while Aviles had three and Sweeney had four.  Three members of the starting lineup, Aviles, Sweeney, and Gonzalez, had a game high of eight at-bats each.  We went two for nine with runners in scoring position.  We were caught stealing twice, turned six double plays, and made three errors (Salty made two of them, a fielding and a throwing error, and Middlebrooks made a throwing error).  We trotted out nine different pitchers, one of whom is not even a pitcher.  (To be fair, Baltimore’s winning pitcher was Chris Davis, who spiked Aaron Cook and who is not a pitcher either.)  For the first time ever, we had a cleanup hitter go 0 for 8 (in case you can’t guess, it was Gonzalez, who apparently offered Bobby V. to pitch if necessary). We lost, 9-6, and were swept by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams for the first time since 1994.  We finished our homestand with a record of one and five.

The most important thing that Doubront can possibly do today in Kansas City is eat up innings so that the bullpen doesn’t have to come out.  Considering that he has yet to pitch through the seventh inning in eight career starts, the bullpen is hoping he’ll step up and deliver.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew Lee

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I know it’s the A’s, but I am so relieved that we didn’t let that one loss get us down.  As well as we played before that loss, and even though that loss technically wasn’t our fault because objectively speaking Gavin Floyd did pitch a great game, I still wanted to see that we could make it last, maybe not as an infinite winning streak, but as a way of being.  A way of being that ingrained itself in the team’s mentality, and a way of being that would be sustainable throughout the season.

That’s a lot to put on this one win against the A’s, but then again, if we didn’t win, we’d be that much farther away from achieving it.  You have to start somewhere, and this game during this stretch seems as good as any.

Buchholz didn’t end up having the most quality of starts, although it certainly started out that way.  He gave up six runs on seven hits while walking five in six and two-thirds innings, but five of those runs were allowed in those two-thirds of an inning in the seventh.

He gave up an RBI single in the second.  He retired the side in the third, fourth, and sixth.  And then he totally fell apart in the seventh.  He opened it by giving up a single, followed by a walk, followed by a lineout and then a force out, followed by another walk.  Then Coco Crisp of all people singled in two.  Then Josh Reddick of all people hit a three-run home run.  Reddick goes deep, and Bailey is on the DL.  Yeah.  That worked out real well.

Buchholz threw ninety-nine pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes.  His best pitch was his curveball, and he also used a very, very effective fastball, changeup, and cutter.  So he was absolutely fantastic until the seventh, when he threw twenty-seven pitches before he left.  Before that, he was very efficient and consistent; he needed a pre-seventh inning high of eighteen pitches in the fifth and a low of only six pitches in the third.  He needed only nine in the sixth, so he was great right down to the wire before he just snapped.

I’m telling you, if there’s one thing he’s been consistent about so far this year, it’s his inconsistency.  What will it take for him to get on the right track? If not for that seventh inning, this would have been his best start of the season, hands down.  He was pretty explicit in expressing his frustration that inning, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that so were we.

Very fortunately for Buchholz, the offense was able to set the table so well that the five runs were scored after we finished scoring all our runs, and it still made absolutely no difference in who won and who lost.

Papi got us on the board in the second by leading it off with a solo shot into the bullpen on a full-count fastball.  That baseball never stood a chance.  After Shoppach struck out, McDonald doubled and scored on a single by Byrd, who scored one out later on a single by Aviles, who moved to second on a single by Pedroia and scored when Gonzalez reached on a throwing error.

The very next inning started the same as the first, with Papi setting up the scoring.  He worked a walk and set the stage for McDonald’s homer to the center-field part of the Monster one out later on the first pitch of his at-bat.  The only question was whether it would require review, since it hit right at the top of the wall.  But that clearly was out.  The A’s didn’t even ask for a review.

We went down in order in the fourth, but Papi more than made up for that by yet again initiating the scoring with yet another solo shot, this one into the bullpen again, also on a fastball.  Reddick actually chased this one down so much that he flipped right over the bullpen wall.  I don’t even remember the last time I’d seen a ballplayer make a move like that.  It was hilarious.  The ball grazed his glove, and then he just flipped right over that wall.  One out later, McDonald singled and scored on a double by Byrd.  Then Punto walked on five pitches, and Aviles brought in two more with a massive three-run shot on a changeup middle in into the first row of the Monster seats.  It was indeed massive.

We went down in order in the sixth and seventh; Pedroia doubled and Gonzalez walked intentionally in the eighth, but like I said, the final score held at 11-6.  Which means that Tazawa, Padilla who received a hold, Atchison, Morales who received a hold, and Aceves all did their jobs and combined to pitch the rest of the game in shutout fashion.

Both teams ended up having posted eleven hits, but where two of Oakland’s were for extra bases, seven of ours were for extra bases, four of them home runs, all of which came against southpaws.  We went three for eight with runners in scoring position.  Aviles, Pedroia, Papi, and Byrd each collected two hits, while McDonald went three for four.

Let’s step back and look at Papi for a second.  Both of his hits were home runs last night, which makes thirty-six multi-homer games in his career.  And he has set the team record for hits in April, giving him an average this month of .405, which must be close to the, it not simply the, best in the American League.

Still, it was a really good team effort.  Everyone chipped in for this one, even the bullpen.  Only one member of the starting lineup failed to reach base: Ross.  But overall the team as a group pulled it together, which is exactly what you like to see after a tough loss.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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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

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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?

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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.

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