Posts Tagged ‘David Price’

We have the weather to thank for the extra day off.  Back in action, it seems that the extra rest did us good.  Because we ended up on the pleasant end of a pitcher’s duel thanks to some timely production.

It was a real nailbiter.  Lester was being matched pitch for pitch.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits, one walk, and five K’s.  His ERA, if you can believe it, is below 1.50.  Small sample size or no small sample size, that is ridiculous.  And don’t even get me started on his cut fastball.  Or his efficiency.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes and most of which, strikes or not, were awesome.  Lester was a master.  Especially when he put on quite the show with four one-two-three innings.  It was like he and the ball were in constant communication, and the ball was doing exactly what he wanted it to do.  Tampa Bay wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for David Price holding his own in the meantime.

The suspense was awful.  This was a classic pitcher’s ballgame.  It was one of those games that was just a really good, old-fashioned baseball game.  Of course, it’s easy to say that when you’re the ones winning.  Anyway, then it came down to the relief corps.  And both relief corps were so effective that the game went into extras.  Bailey took care of the eighth.  Hanrahan got put in for the ninth but was taken out after having failed to record an out because he recorded two walks instead.  Uehara ended the inning instead; three up, three down, and into extras.  I have to say, the relievers were in top form.  Being able to count on your relievers as you count on your starter is not a luxury that most, or even many, teams can afford.  We managed to put it together, and it comes in extremely handy precisely in situations like this, when the whole game is basically a contest to see whose pitchers blink first and whose hitters will be astute enough to catch it when it happens.

Tazawa pitched the tenth and picked up the win.  The tenth was essentially when the game was won because it had been tied at one until that point.  Lester was the first to allow a run; he gave up a single to open the third, and the single turned into a run when he allowed a double.  It was the only extra-base hit that Lester allowed.  (The only other extra-base hit that the Rays got was another double off of Tazawa.)

We didn’t catch up until the fifth; two outs into it, David Ross worked the count full.  Three of the first six pitches of the at-bat were balls, and three were fouled off.  The seventh pitch was an eighty-five mile-per-hour changeup that he crushed beyond the Monster.  It was quite the clutch solo shot; without it, who knows whether we would have won? Perhaps we’d still be playing; maybe out biggest achievement would have been to eventually tie it at one later in the game.

And then there were ten.  Innings, that is.  Salty came in to pinch-hit for Ross and, ironically, struck out.  But then Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a throwing error.  Okay, so maybe we had some help from the Rays as well.  Because without that throwing error, Ellsbury would not have been on third.  And he would not have been able to score on Victorino’s single, despite the obvious shift, during the very next at-bat.  Game over.  2-1.  We win.  Our first walkoff of the year, and it feels good.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Canes, 4-2.

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Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  To say that last night was awesome would be the understatement of the century.

What a thrill! Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ladies and gentlemen! We haven’t seen a walkoff in a really long time; it was our first walkoff win this year and only our tenth comeback win of the year.  It was Salty’s first walkoff homer, and it was just what we needed to lift our spirits.  I hope the spirit-lift lasts, but in the meantime, we can bask in our own glory.  Because it was awesome in every way.

Just because Salty hit a walkoff doesn’t mean that our pitching staff didn’t pull its weight.  Beckett delivered a very, very quality start.  He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings while walking none and striking out five.  He threw ninety-one pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  Good command, good control, good variation of speeds, good heat, good, good, good.  He was masterful.  He looked like the ace we always expect him to be.  It was fantastic.

Even though his line was better in every other respect than that of David Price, Beckett did give up one more run than Price did, and that’s what put us in the position of needing a walkoff.  But what kept us in that position were shutout innings from Miller and Hill.  Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, Beckett didn’t get the win; Hill got it.  But you could argue that both deserved it because without quality appearances from both the starter and the bullpen, the team would have lost, which we know from way too much experience this year.

Meanwhile, the offense did a whole lot of nothing until the sixth inning, but we were actually the first to get on the board.  We didn’t even put up much of a fight in those innings either.  In the sixth, Pedroia walked, Papi singled, Youk lined out, and Pedroia tried to score on a single by Gonzalez but was thrown out at the plate.  Middlebrooks then singled in Papi for our first run.  Then, in the top of the seventh, our one-run lead was promptly erased.  Beckett gave up two consecutive singles to start it off, and then two runs scored via a sac fly followed by another single.

Obviously we know that both teams kept quiet until the bottom of the ninth with one out.  The stage was set.  A new pitcher, Fernando Rodney, came on.  Nava walked on eight pitches, and then Punto came in to hit for Shoppach.  He hit a sac fly, moving Nava to second.  (It was fitting, by the way, that Nava was about to score the tying run since it was partially Nava’s fault that the Rays were one run ahead of us; he threw to the plate on the sac fly that tied the game, which ended up moving the runner still on base to second, which then enabled another run to score.) Little did Punto know that that would not be necessary.

It was Byrd’s turn to bat, but Bobby V. had other plans.  He put Salty in.

And Salty took a ninety-seven mile-per-hour fastball for a strike and then smacked a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, the second pitch of the at-bat, out of the park.  It didn’t even land in the bullpen.  It landed beyond the bullpen.

The crowd was deafening.  The ball was lofting.  The record is back at .500.  The final score was 3-2.

Clearly Carlton Fisk’s presence during the pregame ceremony was inspirational.  It was one of those things where you were least expecting it because you knew that you needed it most.  And all of a sudden you knew that you had it.  A home run to put us over the top, to slam the door on the game without the Rays having a chance to answer back.  As soon as you heard the bat and the ball make contact, you knew that it was going out.  And it did.  And the team mobbed Salty at the plate, which the team apparently calls “the shredder,” because it was he, after all, who brought the pepper.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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This series did not end well.  I mean, we lost it.  Good thing we get to go visit the Royals now, because we need to make up for that.  You never know how big of a deal two wins can turn out to be.  You do know how big of a deal one month can be, and we haven’t exactly been rocking and rolling in August.  We’re only eight and eight so far this month; we’ve scored at most five runs in twelve of those games and at most three runs in nine of them.  And for the first time in club history, we’ve collected at most three hits in three consecutive home games.

I would say Lackey was fine.  He gave up four runs, three of which were earned (you can thank McDonald for that one), on six hits, two of which were solo shots.  He walked three and struck out seven: two on a cutter, three on a slider, and two on a fastball.  He threw 125 pitches, his highest count since 2009, seventy-five of which were strikes.  Good changeup, slider, curveball, and cutter.  His fastball was just okay.  After he gave up his fourth and final run with two out in the seventh, Tito pulled him in favor of Aceves, who finished out the inning and took care of the eighth.  Wheeler pitched the ninth.

Hey, with Lackey, it’s location, location, location.  As I’ve said before, if you’re primarily an off-speed pitcher, you can’t just sneak a mistake by a batter and hope that he doesn’t notice.  You either hit your spot or you don’t.  If you don’t, you’re toast.  In this particular game, Lackey wasn’t wholly toast.  The lineup was toast, which was why we lost.

We got shut out, so which is why this discussion is going to be brief.  We had all of five opportunities with runners in scoring position and left a grand total of six on base.  We collected all of three hits: a single each for Pedroia, Major Leage Baseball’s Player of the Month, and Youk, and a triple for Ellsbury, our only extra-base hit and our only runner past second base.

The final score was 4-0.  It was miserable.  Seriously? I mean, I get that David Price was having a good day and all, but an offense as potent as ours couldn’t even brine one run across the plate? Ellsbury leads off the sixth with a triple, and Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Youk, three of the lineup’s most devastating hitters, go to bat that inning, and they just go down in order? To make matters even worse, Papi has bursitis in his right heel, and he hopes to miss only a week.  He hopes.  Tito maintains that it’s not serious and that he’s not headed to the DL, so we’re hoping too I guess.  I still just can’t believe we were shut out.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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That was rough.  Lester pitched beautifully.  Well, I should qualify that.  He pitched a full seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts.  It’s not that that’s a bad outing.  It’s a good outing.  For most pitchers, that would be a great outing.  It’s just that we’re used to seeing even better from Lester.  Like no runs on three hits with no walks and ten strikeouts over eight innings.  For him, that’s good, but it doesn’t seem customary because, last night, it wasn’t good enough.

He threw 109 pitches, sixty-seven for strikes.  He threw really great cut fastballs for strikes, and he worked them up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His other pitches weren’t working as well.  He varied his speed; he mixed in some changeups, curveballs, and sinkers, but they weren’t thrown for strikes as often.

He threw fifteen pitches in the first inning.  He threw his highest total, twenty-two, in the third inning.  He had absolutely nothing to worry about until the fifth inning, when he got into trouble that he failed to escape.  It started with a groundout.  But then he gave up three straight singles to the bottom third of the order.  One run scored on a fielder’s choice, and two more scored on another single by – you guessed it – Johnny Damon of all people.  The inning finally ended with a groundout.  It took him twenty pitches to give up those three runs.

And then he just went right back to cruising like nothing happened, which is really the best way to go about it.  You don’t want to have a bad inning and then have another bad inning just because you had a bad inning.  He pitched two more innings before he was lifted, and they were pretty routine.  Maybe a single here, a walk there, a steal attempt there, and that goes back to the fact that, with Lester, we’re just used to not seeing any of that, so if any of it is there at all, we think it’s a sign of a bad outing.  For him it might be, but comparatively speaking it wasn’t so bad.  He fired seven pitches, five of them strikes, during his final inning.

So the one bad inning, as we’ve seen all too often, again rears its ugly head.  But we’re still talking about only three runs.  The bullpen held it together; the Rays didn’t score after that.  Bard pitched a solid, scoreless eighth, and Jenks pitched a solid, scoreless ninth.  So it’s a tribute to Lester that we consider that a bad inning, but our offense should have been able to handle it.  So the real unfortunate part is not that Lester gave up three runs.  It’s that we couldn’t score at least four.

McDonald picked up his first homer of the season in the third, a solo shot to lead off the inning.  It was the second pitch of the at-bat.  He received an eighty mile-per-hour changeup first but swung and missed.  Then he got a seventy-five mile-per-hour curveball, David Price’s first of the game, and was all over it.  He sent that into the Monster seats, and that actually gave us a one-run, short-lived lead.  After doubling to lead off the sixth, Pedroia came around to score on a double by Lowrie, who posted the lineup’s only multi-hit game.  He went two for four with two doubles.

The bottom of the ninth was our last chance.  Ellsbury pinch-hit for Cameron but struck out swinging on three pitches.  Drew pinch-hit for Tek but struck out swinging on six pitches.  Papi pinch-hit for McDonald but flied out to right on two pitches.  You know, Papi has hit at least one triple every season since 2000; he’s the only American League batter to do so for twelve straight seasons.  He actually legs out quite a few of them.  It sounds funny, but he’s capable of hustling and he does when he needs to.  So when he flied out to right, I was hoping that it would be in there for a triple.  He has one already; why not make it two on the year? And that ball just sailed right into that glove.  Game over.

To clarify, Papi was pinch-hitting because originally he was penciled out of the lineup since Tito wanted to increase the number of righties in the order against the southpaw.  Lowrie played third base, and Youk, for the first time in his career, started a game as the designated hitter.  He singled.  He struck out.  He didn’t do much else.

Congratulations to Crawford, who received both a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger award before the game for his work last season.  And then he got picked off in the first? Price made this quick move of his to first and caught Crawford several steps off the bag just standing there.  And Ben Zobrist makes that catch in right field in the fifth? That ball came off Tek’s bat and he was headed for extra bases for sure had it not been for that catch.

We lost, 3-2, and that’s the second straight pitcher’s duel that Lester has lost by one run.  We left six on base and went one for seven with runners in scoring position.  At least we didn’t have that many runners in scoring position, so we didn’t strand a whole heap of runners.  And that’s what I call a dysfunctional statement.  We should never have to find ourselves in a position where we’re glad we didn’t have that many runners in scoring position just so that we wouldn’t have to deal with squandering those opportunities.  But that’s because we only totaled five hits.  On the bright side, four of those five were for extra bases.  At least we scored a couple of runs, so it’s not like last time when Lester lost, 1-0, because we couldn’t plate a single man.  But it’s still a loss we shouldn’t have had to take.  Three pinch-hitters in the ninth, and we couldn’t get it done.

Well, Lackey is pitching tomorrow in the last game of the series.  We just have to keep moving right along.  Eventually, things will just click.  Until then, hold onto your hats.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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After Lester’s shellacking, I said that we could all look forward to his next start, when he would surely be so dominant and so in control of everything that that egregious excuse of an outing would be a mere blip on the radar.  Lester most certainly delivered, confirming that in a do-or-die situation, he’s the one you want with the ball.  Or Buchholz.  But you know what I mean.

It was awesome.  Lester manhandled the Rays.  He had their number all the way through.  He tossed seven innings, gave up no earned runs on only two hits, walked five, and struck out ten.  He no-hit the Rays through the first three.  You can thank Scutaro and his throwing error for the unearned run.  Overall, the outing was spectacular and I will most definitely take it, but what was interesting was his walk total.  He threw 106 pitches, but his strike rate was just above fifty percent.  That’s pretty low.  But his pitch, strikeout, and hit count would all indicate efficiency.  So he had some bumps along the way, but he adapted perfectly and used what was working.  He worked his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour and made it cut like none other.  His offspeeds weren’t there as much.  But you could tell from the first pitch he threw that he wasn’t about to let this one get away.  This was the first of a series of three with the Rays, and he wasn’t about to disappoint.  Adaptability is the mark of a great mature pitcher.  Lester has come a long way and the best part is that he’s still going.  Shellacking? What shellacking?

But last night was really a two-man show, the other being Lester’s batterymate.  V-Mart provided two-thirds of our offense.  He blasted a solo shot to left in the first and again in the seventh.  Both were rockets.  Both were deep.  Both were off Price.  Both were on fastballs up.  Thus, he continues to own Price specifically and southpaws generally.

V-Mart was as stellar behind the plate as he was at the plate.  In the sixth, Bartlett hit a base hit into center field.  Upton started from second and rounded third.  McDonald fired home.  And V-Mart positioned himself exactly right and was waiting for Upton with the ball.  Out at the plate.  That was huge.  It was McDonald’s seventh assist of the season.  Honestly, there was no way Upton was going to score.  He hesitated before he took off and wasn’t prepared for the wave home.  I don’t even know why they decided to send him home with nobody out.  That was an error.  Whatever.  More goodness for us.  It was a perfect play.  If you look up “plate-blocking” in the dictionary, you will see a freeze-frame of this play.

The blasts bookended Lowrie’s RBI single in the fourth.  And Lester’s characteristically strong outing was punctuated by equally strong performances by Bard in the eighth for the hold and Paps in the ninth for the save.  Paps gave us a scare, as unfortunately he occasionally does; the Rays had two on with two out.  But it was all good.  Jaso struck out looking, and we won, 3-1.

So the battery got it done.  Lester handled the Rays, and V-Mart handled both Lester and the Rays.  It was fantastic.  It was the absolute right way to start off this series.  With this win we are now four and a half games behind the Rays and Yanks.  That’s the closest we’ve been to first since July 7.  It doesn’t sound like much, but at least it’s something.  One step at a time.  We’ve won seven of our last ten, and we need to build on that.  It won’t be easy; Pedroia is probably done for the season because he’ll probably need surgery, which means that we’ll have to proceed with about half our starting lineup out for the season.  On the bright side, the bench has plenty of experience covering for him because he’s been out for so long.  We have already shown that w can win as we are.  I’m telling you, if there’s any team that could pull that off, it’s this one.  Nobody has a deeper or more experienced bench that’s been playing ball as good as starters out there than we do.  I wouldn’t count us out.  We have a long way to go, but we can get there.  Buchholz will take on Garza tonight.  This is going to be great.  Buchholz will so have it.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I’m not entirely sure that last night’s loss was entirely the fault of our depleted lineup.  We faced David Price.  Facing David Price is no walk in the park, even when your lineup is healthy and even if the park were real.  (I really don’t like the Trop.  It has a roof and they play on turf.  It’s totally unnatural, both literally and figuratively.) So we can take heart in that fact.  What we can’t take heart in is the fact that it was still a loss, the last of three, meaning they yanked their plastic grass from right under our feet and swept us out.

But we didn’t go out without a fight.  Our first run scored in the sixth when Patterson came home on Papi’s double off the wall.  An inning later, Cameron hit a home run out to left field.  And finally, Garza came in for the ninth and it looked like we just might win after all.  Nava led off the ninth with a triple and scored on Cameron’s sac fly.  Then, with two outs, McDonald put together a massive at-bat that totaled eleven pitches before he scored Drew with a double to bring us within two.  The lineup showed promise, with Papi followed by Youk scheduled to come up.  Papi walked.  But Youk, with a 1-0 count, lined out to center field.  I hate to say it, but he’s really not helping his own cause in the Final Vote with all these unfortunate at-bats.

McDonald and Cameron both had stellar nights; McDonald went three for five, and Cameron went three for three.  Cash’s leave of absence showed in his passed ball.

The final score was 6-4.  Our bullpen did its best to keep us in it, but six runs is a decent amount of runs to be expected to overcome.  All six runs were given up by Wakefield.  Traditionally he’s been dominant against the Rays, but watching him last night, you’d never know it.  He gave up all six on four hits with six walks and three strikeouts in only five and two-thirds innings.  He threw 115 pitches.  He handled the first three innings, but then Longoria hit a solo shot in the fourth and everything more or less went downhill from there.  He went on to issue two free passes and a wild pitch.  He threw nine pitches in the third but twenty-seven pitches in the fourth.  His knuckleball was absolutely not as effective as it could have been; he only threw it for strikes fifty-three percent of the time, and when you’re talking about your dominant pitch by far, that’s not that great.  And when his knuckleball is less effective, his fastball is less effective because the effectiveness of his fastball is rooted in the fact that, when the knuckleball is on, you never see the fastball coming and therefore can’t hit it.  He only threw about three curveballs, but they were awful.  His strike zone was an absolute mess.  There was a random pocket in it to which he didn’t throw much of anything, and he threw all sorts of nonsense around the upper-left corner of the zone.  Both his horizontal movement and his vertical movement forced his pitches a little out there.  Tito described his movement as violent, which was completely true.  He did pick off Brignac to end the fourth, which was neat, because he doesn’t have too many successful pickoffs, being that it’s so easy to steal against him because he holds the ball for so long.  So that was good.  But on a night when we really needed his best stuff, he just didn’t have it.  He walked way too many.

The bullpen handled the rest of the game admirably, especially since he left so early.  Richardson allowed his inherited runner to score, but Ramirez, Paps, and Manuel were lights-out for the rest of the game.

But the bullpen’s solid performance and Garza’s weak one were too little, too late to salvage the contest.  Not that we haven’t come back from greater deficits in more significant situations than this, because I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I assure you that we most definitely have, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards last night.  What can I say? You lose, and then you move on.  Hopefully to a win.

We now bring our losing streak to four games, and we are four and a half games out of first place, two and a half behind the Rays.  We have an off day today and a three-game set with the Jays starting tomorrow, followed by the break.  Potentially, we could at least lock second place before the break, but the best we can do with first is be half a game out.  We were so close! Fortunately, there’s an entire second half of the season to be played.  But we’ll get there eventually.  First it’s Lester at Romero.  We need this one.  When you’re in the middle of a losing streak, you need every one you can get.

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This whole injury thing is just getting ridiculous.  We’re seriously dropping like flies.  This is definitely one way to test the mettle of your team and to find out who your core players really are whom you can’t do without.  But I’d just as soon find out some other way and not be in this position.

Youk is the latest to fall.  Ironically, he also may be All-Star-bound.  Halfway through the Final Vote, he’s in the lead with some support from Senator John Kerry.  Anyway, he left in the top of the fourth with a right ankle issue.  Thankfully, it’s minor, and he expects to play tonight.

This is extraordinarily good news, because Youk being out was a complete managerial nightmare.  It completely destroyed the effectiveness of the configuration of our lineup.  Niuman Romero was called in to replace him and had had only fourteen at-bats in his entire career.  Which meant that there was absolutely no reason for Rays pitchers to pitch to Papi, who was intentionally walked in all of his last three plate appearances.  (He is officially participating in his first Home Run Derby this year, so he’ll have plenty of chances to make up for it, but still.) Including the second-to-last at-bat of the game.

In the fourth, Nava hit an RBI single; Drew had taken advantage of Longoria’s two-base throwing error and moved into scoring position.  In the eighth, Patterson hit an RBI triple to bring us within a run.  Up stepped Papi.  He was given a free pass, and Tito put in Cameron to run, and he would be running, just in case we converted our slim chance of tying or taking the lead with Romero at the plate.  That did not happen.  Romero grounded to second.  Game over.

We basically just got beat by our own lineup.

It’s easy to unleash a world of fury at Romero, but technically it wasn’t his fault that Youk had to come out and he was the only one left.  We seriously just completely depleted our bench and didn’t have any other choice.  Tito did his best with what he had, but it’s tough to manage well or manage at all when you literally have no players to manage.

Through all of that ugliness, Doubront shone in his second Major League start.  He was saddled with the loss, but he still shone.  The final score was 3-2; he gave up two runs on five hits over five and two-thirds; he walked four and struck out three.  He threw 101 pitches.  He relied very heavily on his fastball, followed by his changeup, with some curveballs thrown in.  His changeup was his most effective pitch; he only threw his fastball for strikes about half the time.  As far as pitch counts per inning are concerned, he followed his game low with his game high: nine in the fifth and twenty-four in the sixth before he was removed.  In fact, he allowed one of his five hits and three of his four walks in that inning alone.  Fortunately, we picked off Longoria at third for the third out.  (The second out was pretty sweet too; Hall made this diving catch, pivoted with his knee on the ground, and threw to first in time.  It was awesome.) His strike zone was evenly distributed, as was the border where all his balls ended up, including some very wild ones up.  You could see that it was hard for him at times to control his movement.  But, overall, not bad for someone’s second start in the Big Show.

Atchison pitched very well.  Okajima allowed a solo home run in his first relief outing in a week.  His back looked fine, but he left a splitter up and what he got was the winning run.  Manuel recorded the final out.

We just lost the first two games of the series, giving us a three-game losing streak overall.  We need to step it up and win tonight.  Otherwise, we’re looking at another steep climb out of third place.  We’re one and a half games out of second.  We can’t let it get any bigger than that.  We also need to stop hurting ourselves, literally.  Papi even said he’s never seen an injury report like this one before, where nine players who see action on a regular basis are on the DL.  That’s absurd.  That’s almost comical; you want to laugh until you actually realize what that means.  It means we’re fighting the steepest uphill battle in the Majors, but if we can do it, it also means we’ll pretty much have the most experienced bench in the Majors as well.  One step at a time.  That’s how we’ll get through this.  One step at a time.  Starting tonight, when Wake takes on David Price.  Let’s not get swept.

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