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Posts Tagged ‘David DeJesus’

Yet again, Buchholz simply was not at his best.  The difference is that this start made his last start look like a perfect game.  That’s how bad it was.  This snapped a streak of six straight solid starts.  And trust me, it was a pretty hefty snap.

Buchholz couldn’t even get through the fifth inning.  He was pulled in the fifth after securing the inning’s first two outs because he allowed yet another run.  All told, he allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits.  He walked two.  He struck out five.  He threw a wild pitch and made an error on a pickoff attempt during the same at-bat in the fourth of which Coco Crisp of all people took advantage.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, sixty-two for strikes.  He threw twenty-seven pitches in an inning twice, once in the first when Oakland scored four runs and again in the fourth when Oakland scored another.  His offspeed pitches were a total mess, so naturally there was no way he would be able to work efficiently, and therefore there was also no way he would keep intact the rest the bullpen had been able to enjoy during the off day.

There are two ways these kinds of games can go.  Either the bullpen comes in and they do an absolutely stellar job, or they come in and they totally blow it.  It just so happens that the former occurred.  In fact, the bullpen pitched so well for so long that I think they should have just saved Buchholz the trouble and made the start instead.  Atchison secured the last out in the fifth plus the first two in the sixth.  Tommy Hottovy finished the sixth; he is the only lefty in the bullpen and replaces Hill, who will likely require Tommy John surgery and who therefore has already pitched in his last appearance of the season.  Jenks, despite a balk, pitched the seventh.  Bard received a hold for the eighth.  And Paps picked up the save in the ninth.

Now, of course, the question becomes how we won.  That’s a good story.

So we were down by four before Ellsbury stepped up to the plate.  He singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout by Gonzalez.  So basically he delivered a textbook leadoff hitter’s performance.  Youk doubled after that and scored on a single by Papi.  So we cut our deficit in half and just kept chipping away from there.  In the second, Cameron reached base on a throwing error and scored on a sac fly by Ellsbury.  In the third, Youk walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a single by Lowrie.

At that point, we had a one-run lead that Buchholz promptly surrendered to the A’s.  Nobody scored in the sixth.  From the beginning, we knew from the way Buchholz was pitching that it would be up to the lineup and the bullpen to win the game.  As I said, the bullpen certainly did its part.  It was the lineup’s turn.

Pedroia started the seventh by grounding out.  Then Gonzalez doubled, and Youk got hit, and Papi walked, and Lowrie advanced the runners on a flyout.  With the bases loaded, all Crawford had to do was put the ball in play for a hit.  The count was full, and that’s what he did.  He singled and brought in two runs.

That gave us a one-run lead, which obviously wasn’t safe.  Salty added insurance with a solo shot to lead off the eighth.  It was a slider that stayed down, and he just cleaned it out into the first few rows behind the bullpen in center.

So we won, 8-6.  Gonzalez went three for five, and Youk and Papi both went two for three.  Crawford should have had two hits on the day; he hit what looked every bit like a home run headed for the bullpen in the second inning only to have it be caught literally right at the wall by David DeJesus.  But baseball has a funny way of evening out; Ellsbury made a similar catch literally at the Monster in the fourth.

Last but most certainly not least, Dice-K will have Tommy John surgery next week.  His season is over.  He’ll miss a good portion of next season, after which his contract expires, so even though he’s determined to return to the rotation before then, it’s possible that he won’t and that he’s thrown his last pitch in a Boston uniform.  How possible that is at this point is unclear.  Either way, it’s been quite the ride, often mediocre and always interesting.  We can take several approaches to this.  It’s entirely likely that this surgery was a long time in coming and that having it will allow him to return to the dominance he’d exuded in Japan.  It’s also entirely factual that Dice-K, despite gems earlier in the season, really hadn’t been pitching well of late, so it’s not like this loss is going to affect the team’s performance much.  We’ll be using Aceves and/or Wake for that fifth start, and either of them or a combination of both of them can perform equally as well as, if not better than, Dice-K.  So as far as the team is concerned, we’re in a good situation.  As far as Dice-K is concerned, we obviously hope that the surgery goes well and that his recovery and rehab are quick, productive, and successful.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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Right back on track.  Well, as far as the starting pitching is concerned, not completely right back on track.  I don’t think we’re quite where we should be.  Our first three starters – or rather, now with the resurgence of Beckett, our first four – should be turning in seven-plus-inning performances day in and day out.  I wasn’t aware that Lester’s April badness was contagious, but I think it left him and went straight to Buchholz.  On the bright side, ten days and we’re in May, so we’ll see what happens.

Buchholz allowed one run on six hits; Crisp hit his very first pitch, a ninety-one mile-per-hour fastball, out of the park for a solo shot.  Epically not the way you want to start an outing.  He seemed to settle down after that but not by much.  He only struck out two, he walked four, and he was pulled after allowing a double, groundout, eight-pitch walk, and six-pitch walk in the sixth.  He hasn’t struck out more than three batters in any of his starts so far.

None of his pitches were as effective as we know they could have been.  They weren’t thrown for strikes as often, he wasn’t hitting his spots, and he had trouble finding the strike zone.  He threw a whopping twenty-four pitches in the fifth; he threw his lowest total, thirteen, in the first and fourth, and he threw seventeen in the sixth and 102 pitches total before Bard came in.

Bard, on the other hand, was incredibly stellar.  He got out of that inning and pitched the next while giving up only one hit.  A three-pitch strikeout and a popup got him out of Buchholz’s bases-loaded jam.  The following inning, he may have allowed a single, but he just cruised.  Masterful.  That appearance embodied everything you want from a reliever: power, precision, confidence, and most importantly, success.

Then Jenks came in for the eighth.  He began with a strikeout.  But then there was a walk and three consecutive singles, which added a run.  Then there was another strikeout, and Paps came in to end the inning with a third strikeout.  But his ninth wasn’t great either.  A single, a popup, a hit-by-pitch, an RBI single, and then finally, after all that, two popups to end the game.

So Bard rescued Buchholz, and Paps rescued Jenks.  Nobody rescued Paps but, thankfully, his appearance, courtesy of the offense, wasn’t a total mess.  Buchholz wasn’t at his best but kept us in it; the rest of the relievers completely failed.

Thankfully, it didn’t matter.  What a difference pairing good offense with really any sort of pitching makes.  We made up for Crisp’s homer in a hurry.  Youk led off the second with a single and who but Carl Crawford brought him home.  Youk then led off the fourth with a homer, the ideal conclusion to the ideal at-bat.  He took a ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam, the sixth pitch of the at-bat after working a full count, and pulled it behind the fence in left center field.  So I think we can say now that he’s back in rhythm.

And what kind of game would it be if we didn’t get some offensive production from Lowrie? Gonzalez led off the sixth with a single, and Lowrie took the first pitch he saw in that at-bat, a curveball, and sent it to the same exact location as Youk’s opposite-field rocket.  He read that curveball well all afternoon.  He’s read lefties well all season; all of his homers have come off southpaws.  Gio Gonzalez was pulled in the seventh in favor of reliever Jerry Blevins; the strikeout of Ellsbury with which he began his appearance was promptly avenged by Drew, who took the second pitch of his at-bat, an inside fastball, out of the yard in right for his first long ball of the season.

We won, 5-3.  Our first road win.  Ten hits, three of them for extra bases.  In fact, the only extra-base hits we collected were homers, and all but one of our RBI hits were homers.  We left four on base and went one for four with runners in scoring position.  Youk, Scutaro, and Lowrie all went two for four.  Lowrie should have had two more hits, but he was robbed by David DeJesus in right.  So aside from all of our pitchers with the exception of Bard, very nice.  Very nice indeed.  We’re done with the A’s and head south for the Angels.  Bring it.

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That’s exactly what we needed.  Not to mention the fact that that’s exactly what the bullpen needed.  A good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.  We haven’t seen one of those in a while.  But you can’t get more duel-esque than the game last night.  The final score was decided by one run in the most literal sense: it was 1-0.

In our favor.  Buchholz amazed once again.  He threw seven shutout innings, gave up only four hits, walked four, and struck out four, all with 108 pitches.  All four of his strikeouts were swinging, and Maier accounted for half of them.  He improves to seven and three with a 2.73 ERA.  At this rate, he’s a contender not only for a spot on the All-Star team but also for the Cy Young.  He threw his fastball and changeup well, as per usual, and added an effective slider to his repertoire.  His curveball still needs work.  He threw a minimum of eleven pitches and a maximum of twenty-four in an inning.  He had speed variation.  He had a tight release point, which we haven’t seen from our starters in our previous two games.  He had a consistent and even strike zone, using all parts of it.  When he did leave the zone, it was usually to the right of or below it.

I know I’ve said this before, but Buchholz just continues to impress, which makes it more and more true every fifth day: we’re seeing an ace grow right before our eyes.  Seriously.  Every time he starts, we’re watching the natural maturation of a pitcher with some of the best off-speed stuff in the league.  His confidence has soared.  You can see that he’s simplified and slowed down the game and he’s able to hit his spots.  He gets craftier and craftier with each start, which is the usual progression for an off-speed pitcher.  Point being, we’re never trading him, because if you think he’s good now, wait until he hits his prime.  Yeah.  The kid’s got stuff.  That’s all I’ve got to say, literally.  Every start he makes these days just speaks for itself.  If you just sit down and watch this kid, you’ll see it right away.

Of course, Buchholz was not without his jams, but he maintained his composure and focus and escaped from all of them unscathed.  Besides, they weren’t that bad as jams go.  The Royals had two on with nobody out in the third, but Buchholz induced a double play.  Beltre corralled a very hard-hit ball to make it happen.  Then Podsednik opened the sixth with a single and tried to steal second, but V-Mart showed that hard work pays off when he gunned him down, even with his contusion.  He barely made an adequate throw; it bounced, but Pedroia came up with it.  That caught-stealing was crucial; had it been successful, Podesdnik probably would’ve scored on DeJesus’s following double.

Our only run, and the game’s only run, was basically a product of a managerial decision.  For the third time this year, Tito gave Youk the day off and penciled in Lowell to start at first for only the second time in his career.  It made sense offensively; Youk is one for ten against Greinke, while Lowell is four for seven.

Beltre opened the second with a single, and Drew’s double moved both runners into scoring position.  Beltre scored on who but Mike Lowell’s fielder’s choice groundout to second base.

We only collected five hits in the game, only two of which were for extra bases (Drew’s double as well as Papi’s) but we still did our best to make Greinke work.  He fired 115 pitches while pitching one inning less than Buchholz.  We left ten on base, so we had our chances, most notably with the bases loaded and Drew at the plate with a full count, but Greinke came back with a fastball on his hands.  You also had Papi standing at the plate with a full count, but Greinke gave him that breaking ball of his, and he couldn’t lay off.  Fortunatley, Buchholz just proved to be better.

We had a brief scare in the eighth, when Bard came on in relief.  The tying run stood at third.  Aviles struck out on a slider.  Then DeJesus hit a ground ball up the middle.  But Pedroia flashed serious leather and saved the game by making a backhanded diving catch and firing to first in time.  A truly excellent play.  As Pedroia himself said, his job is only half hitting.  The other half is defense.  One of his distinguishing qualities as a player is that both are at such a high level.  He has only one error so far this year; his fielding percentage is .996.

Paps picked up his twelfth save with a one-two-three ninth, short but sweet with only twelve pitches.

Bad news on the Beckett front: his side session didn’t go so well.  His rehab has been slowed and his return date is now indefinite due to further pain in his lower back.  That’s obviously really bad news, but I’d much rather have him on the DL where he can recuperate for however long it takes than to have him in the rotation making terrible start after terrible start.  We saw enough of that from everybody in April.

So thanks to quality pitching and defense, the bullpen gets a breather and we get the well-deserved win.  Pitcher’s duels are fun to watch.  Like I said, we haven’t had many this season that are true duels between the starters, duking it out with power and finesse with one run deciding the fate of the whole thing.  And it’s especially fun when you’ve got a kid on the mound who’s rapidly distinguishing himself as one of the best.  We hope to split this afternoon when Lester takes on Chen for the final game of this series.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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