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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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