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Posts Tagged ‘Denard Span’

Simply put, a knuckleball pitcher either has it or doesn’t have it.  Yesterday, Wake didn’t have it.

That’s a pretty simple statement, but when you lose to the Twins for the first time at Fenway since 2007, what can you say? For the second straight night, we basically had nothing.

He took the loss.  He allowed eight runs, six earned, on nine hits.  Wake walked four and struck out only one.  He gave up a solo home run in the first inning.

The second inning was quite the interesting one.  Michael Cuddyer led off with a walk, Danny Valencia singled, and Ben Revere singled to load the bases.  Then Drew Butera flew out and Alexi Casilla struck out swinging.  Right when it looked like we were about to get out of the inning, Denard Span singled in two runs.  Then home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk on Wake that allowed another run to score.  He called the balk because he thought that Wake didn’t finish his move to third; he stepped toward third in order to fake a throw but threw to first instead; in that situation, you would have to actually make the fake throw to third and have the third baseman fire to first.  Wake, meanwhile, thought that it was just a routine pickoff at first.  Tito came out to argue the call; naturally he was ejected.  Then third base umpire Joe West intervened, and then Tito got really angry.  Joe West will probably get in trouble for putting his hands on Tito.  Good, because first of all he put his hands on Tito, and secondly that balk scored a run and started what would end up being a three-run rally.

Wake was pulled after giving up two runs on a double in the fifth after having recorded one out.

He was replaced by Aceves, who replaced Atchison, who was sent down.  Upon entering the inning, Aceves allowed both of his inherited runners to score on a fielding error by Lowrie, the first of two errors he’d make on the day.  He also allowed a runner of his own to score.  At least he got through the rest of the game.  By the time the sixth inning rolled around, the two teams had already posted the final score: 9-2.

Our two runs were scored via the solo shot.  First it was Drew in the second inning with one out.  He’d been fed a steady diet of sinkers in that at-bat and worked the count full; he took the first one for a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a shot behind the Pesky Pole.  Then it was Gonzalez in the fourth inning with none out.  He took a sinker for a ball and fouled off another before sending a slider into the Monster seats.  Together, those two home runs brought us within two.  We were right in it.  And then we gave all the momentum back to the Twins, and they put up a four-spot in the fifth and one more in the sixth for good measure.

Ellsbury went two for four; that was it for multi-hit games.  We collected seven hits, left four on base, and went 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

I can not believe the Twins used us to break their winning streak.  That’s really bad.  I mean, when I said we need to play better, I was serious.  We need to play better.  Immediately.  We need to win this series, and we should be able to do it.  With Jenks on the DL with a right bicep cramp that apparently started a week ago (figures), our relievers can actually be expected to get the job done.  And Dice-K, whose elbow has been okayed, will start on Sunday.  (Beckett will pitch on Monday to allow Lester to pitch Tuesday on extra rest.) Our starter needs to deliver.  Our offense needs to deliver.  And our defense needs to deliver.  Seriously.  We can’t keep playing like this.

In other news, the Bruins have made quick work of the Flyers.  We won last night, 5-1! A sweep! We scored once in the first and four more in the third.  Milan Lucic scored twice.  On to the Lightning.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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We won.  Plain and simple.  The final score was 3-2, and we can thank Buchholz, Papi, and Hall for that.

Clay Buchholz pitched a wicked outing last night.  He is the future of this staff.  He’s morphing into an ace right before our eyes.  It’s fantastic.  He pitched over eight innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and only one free pass while striking out seven.  Morneau and Cuddyer were back-to-back strikeouts, Cuddyer swinging on a changeup.  Hudson froze on the inside corner, as did Morneau on an inside fastball before getting heated with the umpire.  Thome struck out swinging on a ball that was down for the first out of the inning, and Kubel watched a slider go by for Buchholz’s second set of back-to-backs.  Thome also watched a slider for Buchholz’s seventh K, three shy of his season-high of ten against the Rangers.  And he needed only 104 pitches to do it.  He would’ve pitched a complete game, his first since his no-no, but Tito lifted him after he allowed a leadoff infield hit to Span.  I support that decision; the game was close, and you don’t want to take chances with victory in sight.

Every single one of his pitches except his curveball was effective.  And I mean really effective.  All of them were moving just the right way.  That in itself shows a lot of maturity; he usually throws more curveballs but saw that they weren’t working, so he threw more sliders instead.  That’s adaptability, and it something you don’t always see in the veterans.  Buchholz is a pitcher to marvel at when he’s on; it takes a special kind of kid to be that good at throwing mainly off-speeds.  There are veterans who can’t even do that.  He concentrated on the left portion of the strike zone.  The few balls he did throw were above but mostly below the zone, probably off-speeds that curved down a little too much.  He varied his speeds really nicely, throwing his fastball for gas at ninety-five miles per hour, and kept the batters guessing, as evidenced by the fact that, of all the strikes he threw, only seven were swinging.  An expertly mixed salad, as Eck would say.  He needed a game-low of nine pitches to clear the seventh and a game-high of seventeen-to clear the fourth.  He threw a majority of strikes in all of his innings.  The interesting thing is that his release point isn’t as tight as others we’ve seen from the staff, but I guess that comes with the territory when you throw off-speed pitches that require varying grips and angles.

His ERA is now down to 3.26, his five wins are the most on the staff, and his eleven wins since August 19 are the most by any pitcher in the American League.  In those eleven games, we’re fourteen and four.  And all of that after having landed in Boston from New York at 4:00AM.  It’s no coincidence that Buchholz was the only member of the team that slept well, having flown ahead on Tuesday.  All of which is to say that I would not be surprised if he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this year.  It was really an incredible outing.  Solid, confident, efficient.  Everything you look for from a pitcher against a quality lineup, and here was this kid who just marched in there and shut them down.  There was also that nifty pickoff move to get Punto out at first to end the third.  And he’s a righty, too.  Punto knew he was out; he smiled because he knew he’d gone too far off.  Awesome stuff.

Paps, as we know, was unavailable after the set with New York, so Bard came on and pitched around a hit and a walk to get the save.

In the fourth, Papi hit what was initially called an RBI triple just over the Monster.  But after review, which occurred for the second time this season, it was ruled a home run, Papi’s seventh of the month.  Why it wasn’t ruled a home run initially is something I’ll never know, because it was very clearly out.  He did a good job of hustling to third once he realized they didn’t call it out, for which I give him credit.  But the ball bounced up into the air after it hit the wall.  That meant it didn’t actually hit the wall; it hit above the wall, which is dinger territory.  It was that ledge up there.  Thankfully, they ultimately got the call right.  It was a nice, balanced swing that propelled the ball to the opposite field, which has been a theme this month.  He’s hit .405 over his past eleven games and .358 with seventeen RBIs in May.

Hall tacked on our third run with a single in the sixth.  That ended up being the winning run after Bard allowed his inherited runner to score in the top of the ninth.

V-Mart and Beltre both went two for four.  Hermida made a fielding error.  We left eight on base, as compared with Minnesota’s four, but we also collected ten hits, as compared with Minnesota’s six.  Basically, we missed more opportunities than they did because we had more opportunities than they did.

Surprise, surprise: Beckett’s been placed on the DL with a lower back strain; he slipped on the mound in the fifth while throwing to A-Rod on Tuesday.  He’ll be out of commission until June 3 but will probably be able to solidly return at that time, being that putting him on the DL at all as opposed to letting him skip a start again was being generous.  Wakefield will start Sunday.  See? I knew his move to the bullpen wouldn’t be permanent.  Joe Nelson will replace Wake in the ‘pen.  Scutaro’s left elbow has been sore, so he received a cortisone shot before last night’s game and could be back tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, Angel Sanchez will replace him so that Hall doesn’t have to try his luck at short for one more game, which surprisingly worked out fairly well.  He stole a line drive and turned it into a double play; it’s a tribute to his athleticism and intuition for the game that he can handle all these positions.  To make room for Sanchez on the roster, Schoeneweis has been designated for assignment.

Also, did you see that Twins fan at Fenway yesterday who brought a Twins sign? You don’t see opposing signs very often at Fenway, especially not for teams that are out-of-the-way and not in our division.  Maybe he forgot that the Twins are in our house, not theirs.  And while we’re on this subject, something I didn’t mention yesterday was the fact that most of the seats behind home plate in Yankee Stadium were empty.  Either Yankee fans just aren’t robust fans or the ownership is charging exorbitant amounts for those tickets.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Tonight it’s Liriano at Lester.  The pitching matchup here is good, but it’ll be even better after we win and sweep a series.  That would be good for us, no?

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That was Beckett’s 100th career start in a Red Sox uniform, and he did not disappoint.  After pitcher’s milestones like this I sometimes think of Mike Timlin’s 1000th appearance, and that isn’t something he’ll want to remember at all.  But this was nothing like that.  This is something Beckett will recall for years.  This, my friends, was a gem.  Plain and simple.  Seven full innings, only tree hits, only one run on a solo shot by Joe Crede in the second, four walks, eight strikeouts.  He started the game with four consecutive K’s, had a one-two-three fifth, and retired eleven in a row before walking Morneau in the sixth.  He tied his second-highest K count by throwing 69 of 111 pitches for strikes.  Like the Twins actually expected to beat Beckett anyway.  Please, with the way he’s been pitching? No chance.  If the Twins were going to do anything, it would’ve been in the fourth; after Crede hit his jack, Beckett gave up back-to-back walks.  But he stayed with it, regained his control, and was air-tight for the rest of his outing.  If doesn’t prove he’s back, I don’t know what does.  Okajima got a hold, and Paps got a save, and this time it wasn’t half bad.  Brian Buscher struck out via swing and a miss to end it.

Jason Varitek was solely responsible for our first two runs, and the long ball was solely responsible for plating them.  The captain hit two leadoff home runs last night, one in the fifth and one in the seventh.  Both of them were beautiful swings.  Both were never going to stay inside the park.  And both are reasons why it’s realistic to consider Varitek in the All-Star voting this year.  That second homer ended up in the second tier of seats.  Power.

Ellsbury snapped his hitting streak at twenty-two games.  During the streak, he batted .340.  Pedroia was batting .462 heading into last night but then went hitless in the final game of the series.  Jason Bay got the day off.  Hey, if he’s eighth in the Majors in runs, sixth in home runs, second in RBIs, and sixth in walks, he earned it.  Drew went hitless but almost had himself a triple in the sixth, had Span not outran it and hauled it in for an out.  Youk had a hit and a beautiful diving catch on a right-handed line drive.  That’s a tough play for a first baseman to make, and it almost looked like the ball took him off his feet, but he made the catch and ended the inning.  Ortiz didn’t do well.  In the sixth he struck out swinging and was furious.  Early in the at-bat, he broke his bat and got a new one, and after the at-bat, he broke that one across his knee in the dugout.  So we know he has strength and power; all he has to do is use it on a baseball.  As angry and frustrated as we are about his slump, you better believe he’s that much more angry and frustrated.  And it’s not just the lack of home runs.  During the first month or so of the season, he wasn’t seeing the fastball.  He’d be late or get under it or something.

And then we have our third run scored by Bailey in the seventh.  Pedroia hit a sac fly to Kubel, who threw the ball to Redmond at home, but home plate umpire Todd Tichenor called Bailey safe.  Redmond disagreed so he got in Tichenor’s face, at which point Tichenor threw him and Gardenhire, who came out to protest, out of the game.  To be fair, Redmond didn’t swear or touch the umpire, but he was livid and you could see it.  Same with Gardenhire, which was unusual because he’s so mild-mannered.  Then in our half of the frame, Beckett was noticeably frustrated that a close pitch that’d been called mostly for a strike earlier had been called a ball.  Beckett was showing a little bit of body language, so Tek turned around to talk to Tichenor and keep Beckett out of it, at which point Tichenor threw him and Francona, who came out to protest, out of the game.  Wow.  You don’t see that too often.  It was like Tichenor was hitting for the circuit in umpire terms.  And I have to say it was completely uncalled for to toss either Tek or Francona.  Tek wasn’t expressing himself angrily; not only was there no swearing or touching, but there wasn’t even harsh language, angry gestures, or unsportsmanlike conduct.  There was a conspicuous difference between Redmond’s and Tek’s behavior, and his ejection of Tek disregarded that completely.  As for Francona, he came out to defend his catcher who shouldn’t have been ejected in the first place.  There was no way he wasn’t going out there to say something about this absurd action.  So that was just ridiculous.  It was a farce.

I’ll say something about Anthony Swarzak.  I give him credit for limiting us to three runs and, for six frames, seriously engaging Beckett in a pitcher’s duel in only his second career start.  Ultimately we won but from the way we were playing, that was to be expected.  We made Swarzak work, and that’s key because he’s a young guy who hasn’t reached his maximum endurance.  Long at-bats made him throw more pitches, which tired him out and which allowed us to see more of him and adapt to him quickly and effectively.  It’s the classic situation of not having much luck against a starter, so you wear him out and wait him out, and eventually he’ll break, you’ll figure him out, and/or you’ll get into the bullpen.  The other thing is that he had to watch Beckett every half-inning from the dugout.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  For a young kid to watch a pitcher like that work can put incredible pressure on him to match that pitcher fastball for fastball.  And that just wasn’t going to happen.

Ron Coomer partnered with Don Orsillo in the booth last night.  Apparently Coomer played for Tito when he managed Double-A which, according to the good man himself, makes him feel old.  Small world.  Tito even managed Michael Jordan in 1994.

And just like that, we’ve played our last game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  It’s been a great ride.  Next year, the Twins will have a new park, outdoors, with real grass.  I’m a purist in that regard, because I’m not a fan of turf.  When someone slides into a base, I want to see dirt stains, and when an outfielder dives for a catch, I want to see grass stains.  But leaving an old park is a difficult thing to do.  Especially when you’ve played well there, and that goes for the Twins and Red Sox.  Unfortunately for the Twins and fortunately for the Red Sox, our last contest in the Metrodome ended with us showing them who’s boss.  Not that I’m complaining.

Chris O’Meara
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That’s something I really can’t stand.  It’s unfair, it’s frustrating, and to see it happen after almost half a game’s worth of solid innings is crushing.  It just spoils the whole thing.  Jon Lester was cruising.  He was cruising, doing his thing, one hundred percent on, no runs whatsoever through four.  And then the fifth came around, the Twins scored five runs, and that was all they needed.  The entire start was ruined by that one inning.  We knew it.  Terry Francona knew it.  Jon Lester knew it; he was back in the dugout and he was mad.  He slammed his towel down, tossed an empty water bottle, grabbed his jacket.  That wasn’t the outing he or Terry Francona had planned.  He was having himself a great start until that one inning ruined it completely, largely because of a single mistake to Justin Morneau that resulted in a three-run home run.  It was just sad.  Really, it was.

Of course, it helps when you give your starter some run support to work with, and we didn’t do that.  We were one for eleven with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.  We lost by a score of 5-2, and the second run wasn’t even earned.  Ellsbury extended his hitting streak and went two for five, scored twice, and stole twice.  He also made one of his signature spectacular catches in center field in the fifth inning, which is a lot harder at the Metrodome with that vast expanse of an outfield.  The ball could’ve fallen.  It could’ve been for extra bases.  But it didn’t, because Jacoby Ellsbury, the fastest man in the universe, ran it down, jumped, made the catch, and crashed down.  Beautiful.  I seriously shuddered to think of him in a Twins uniform.  Pedroia made a great catch of his own in the first and then went two for for with his sixteenth RBI of the year.  Lugo went two for four, and luckily for him Morneau saved him an error.  Morneau hit a routine grounder to short, but Lugo ran right past the ball.  Luckily, Morneau wasn’t practicing heads-up baserunning, and he paid for it.  He rounded first and was tagged out in a rundown.  Youk, Ortiz, and Tek each had hits.  Nothing else.  Strange.

Ortiz batted sixth last night.  He hasn’t batted anywhere but third since 2005.  This should take some pressure off him to be the slugger and let him just bat around.  But we know it’s not over.  His hit was a double, and in the fourth he popped a foul that hit one of the speakers suspended from the roof of the Metrodome.  That’s not as easy as it looks.  Those things are high up.  And to hit one, you need to have some serious bat speed.  He ended up walking, so it was a nice at-bat.  Any at-bat that gets Ortiz on base is productive.  We’re going to have to take this one step at a time.

Now, about Span getting hit by a pitch in the third.  The pitch came in on his right elbow, but it was clearly an accident.  Span was angry so he threw his bat and pads down. Lester wasn’t too happy about that behavior so he took a step or two forward.  Nothing happened, but it’s a very finely balanced relationship between pitcher and hitter, and you want to keep it balanced by not indulging in unwarranted angry impulses.  And about Drew being tagged out in the seventh.  That clearly should not have happened.  Ellsbury was able to score on the play but Drew was caught in a rundown and tagged out because of the second-base umpire.  The umpire was in the way, so Drew had to put some brakes on and go around him which slowed him down.  How do I know? Because the umpire almost fell over trying to jump out of his way.  So Drew should’ve been safe at second.  That was blatant umpire interference.

That loss snapped our winning streak against the Twins at six.  But there’s still baseball to be played yet in Minnesota.  We’re good.  Our staff is good.  Our lineup is good.  We need to play like it, and this time it would be nice if the score reflected it.

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