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Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Eckersley’

We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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After the final out of the game, I thought two things.  First, I thought it looked and felt eerily similar to Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, when Drew was at the plate with the game on the line, and he struck out looking.  No swing.  He just watched the ball go by.  And second, there was the classic, obligatory, and completely warranted “No!”

Lester got rocked.  Last night was not an example of his best work.  If you look up the word “ace” in the dictionary, you will usually see Lester’s picture, but last night it wasn’t there.  In six innings, he gave up four runs on eleven hits, a new career high, while walking two and striking out seven.  He threw 116 pitches, and two of those hits were home runs, both by Peralta.  The first one was hit on a changeup that Peralta dug out.  The second one was hit on a pitch that was absolutely disgusting.  The Tigers didn’t waste time either; they scored their first run in the first, no thanks to Cameron, whose glove provided a springboard for the RBI hit.

Lester’s cut fastball was sharp, but his offspeeds, his sinker, changeup, and curveball, weren’t working.  He didn’t really have one particularly bad inning; he threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and at least thirteen in the sixth.  That’s not a huge disparity, and he was pretty consistent count-wise.  So that wasn’t the issue.  The issue was that the pitches he threw weren’t good.  He just didn’t have it.  He never settled in or found any sort of rhythm.  It happens sometimes.  It’s particularly inconvenient when you’re trying to dig yourself out of an enormous hole in order to get to the playoffs.  But it happens sometimes.  He took the loss for the third time since the All-Star break.

Believe it or not, that’s not even the point.  Sure, if Lester had been his usual dominant self we probably would’ve won the game.  But that is not the point.

The point is the offense, which did almost nothing for the first eight innings of the game.  Scutaro hit a solo shot in the fifth, but that was it.  After Scutaro’s shot, Youk bounced a hard liner off Galarraga’s right ankle, chasing him from the game.  This after hitting Dan Haren with a liner in the arm that chased him from the game.  It’s just ironic that Youk is probably one of the most frequently hit batsmen in the game.  Anyway, Papi walked after that, and V-Mart hit what looked like something for RBIs and possibly extra bases, but it was caught for a flyout in front of the Monster.  That’s a shame.  It was a tough play.

Ramirez pitched the seventh, with a little help from Patterson’s right-on-the-money throw home to get Boesch out at the plate, and Wakefield pitched the eighth after ten days of rest.  In accordance with his summer of milestones, he officially passed Eck to become the oldest Red Sox pitcher to pitch in a game.  He’ll turn forty-four on Monday and might not want to remember this appearance; the Tigers took two against him, one on a wild pitch.  Also, Youk’s missed tag was not helpful.  Kind of reminds me of a less terrible version of Mike Timlin’s thousandth appearance, during which he was horrible.

Now we get to the bottom of the ninth.  Valverde loaded the bases with three walks, and Big Papi hit a grand slam.  That’s four runs on one swing.  I felt like I was back in October 2004 again.  Bottom of the ninth, game on the line, bases loaded, Big Papi steps up and completely unloads them.  It was crazy.  It was a fastball middle-in and it wasn’t staying in the park.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.  The ball ended up in the first row of seats right in the heart of right field.  And just like that, the Tigers had only a one-run lead.

Beltre doubled to left.  Drew pinch-hit, intentionally walked, and made way for Hall to pinch-run.

Cameron stepped into the batter’s box.  At this point you’re thinking it’s not possible that we just came all the way back only to lose now.  It’s only one run; we have the tying and go-ahead runs already on base.  Cameron needs to do something here.

Instead, he did nothing.  He worked the count full and waited for a fastball but got a splitter instead and struck out looking.  Kind of like Drew in 2008.

Of all our wins this season, this one would have been the most improbable and therefore one of the biggest.  And Valverde was laboring.  He ended up throwing a career-high sixty pitches.  That’s an obscene number of pitches for a closer to throw.  He was really struggling.  And that mound slap at the end just made the whole thing worse.

Of all the ways to open a homestand, it doesn’t get much lower than this.  Your offense does nothing for most of the game, all of a sudden you’ve got life in the bottom of the ninth, you climb all the way back to within one run, the table is set, and the batter just looks.  It’s agonizing.  But I guess there’s nothing to do now but hope Dice-K gets something going today.  Every game now is a must-win.  So let’s win this one.

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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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Our winning streak against the Yanks was snapped on the first night of the series.  John Smoltz effectively proved once and for all that he’s no longer got it.  In fact, he’s got so little of it that he was officially released.  Finally.  Anyway, we eventually got swept.  The series lasted four games, and we lost all four.  Two were shutouts.  The first was Junichi Tazawa’s first Major League decision; it was a loss in fifteen innings.  Just saying the phrase “fifteen innings” makes me feel very lucky not to be a reliever.  On the whole, I don’t really think I can even describe my rage and despair.  Let’s just say that wasn’t the Red Sox team we’d been seeing up to this point.  And that it was painful.  Really painful.  Really, really painful.  Between that and us dropping our two previous games with Tampa Bay, we’d lost six in a row to our division rivals.  Great.  But it gets better.

We took three of four from Detroit, including our win on August 12.  The one where Youk charged the mound.  Basically, it all started when Brad Penny beaned somebody the night before.  Then Youk was beaned but just took first base.  Junichi Tazawa started the next game and retaliated by hitting Miguel Cabrera on the hand.  He left the game at his next at-bat.  (That’s when the whole retaliation thing gets sticky, especially when you’ve got an inexperienced kid on the mound.  Tazawa went on to get the win, by the way.) Rick Porcello responded by going up and in on V-Mart, who wasn’t very happy.  But then when Youk came to bat, Porcello did in fact hit him on the back.  Youk snapped, charged the mound, threw his helmet at the kid, and tackled him to the ground.  Both benches cleared and the bullpen came out.  It was ugly.  Youk and Porcello were both tossed.  Now, this is a difficult situation to interpret.  The key here is to determine whether Porcello hit Youk on purpose.  If he did, Youk at least had a motivating reason for his actions.  (That’s not to say he’s excused for it; that’s to say we know why he did it.) If he doesn’t, Youk doesn’t.  So let’s look at the big picture.  The retaliation was going back and fourth; beaning attempts were made by both sides.  It looked like Porcello tried to get V-Mart and didn’t but was successful in his attempt on Youk, who for some reason always takes more of his fair share of hit-by-pitches.  On the other hand, when you analyze the pitch, it appears that the ball may have simply gotten away from Porcello.  After the brawl, Jim Leyland had a long conversation with Tito, perhaps explaining that his young arm didn’t do it on purpose.  Then again, that’s tough to buy when the kid fired on V-Mart and missed.  Either way, Youk will serve his time.  That’ll hurt, but luckily no injuries were sustained.

After Youk was thrown out, Lowell came in.  He’s been spending more and more time on the bench lately now that we have V-Mart, which is highly unfortunate.  And when he came in, he showed why.  Two balls hit well out of the park are pretty good proof he’s still got it, I’d say.

Tito was ejected in the same game.  He argued a close call at first.  Yeah.  That was quite the game.

We re-acquired Alex Gonzalez.  His fielding percentage in 2006 was a franchise-record-breaking .985.  If only he’d consistently batted a third of that.

Tim Wakefield completed a rehab outing with the PawSox and is making good progress.  Kottaras caught him.

Brian Anderson saw action in a Boston uniform, and Josh Reddick was sent down to the PawSox to take his place.  Anderson, a good defender, will replace Drew, who’s currently dealing with a sore groin (again) and isn’t expected to start until tonight.

Jed Lowrie and Rocco Baldelli are both on the fifteen-day disabled list.  Jason Bay is luckily off, which means that Youk doesn’t have to continue playing left field.  Jerry Remy says he’s got a date in mind for returning this season, and I’m looking forward to it.  Not that Eck and Dave Roberts haven’t been doing a great job.  They have.  But Remdawg’s been missed.  He says his leave of absence was lengthened by depression, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we hope he gets well soon.

There was one more thing I wanted to add.  One more very important thing I wanted to address.  What was it again? Oh, yeah.  We’re seven and a half games behind the Yankees in second place.  Only three ahead of the Rays, who are currently in third.  We’re half a game out of the Wild Card behind the Rangers.  In short, this is a complete and total disaster.  What we are witnessing here is a breakdown of the team as a whole.  Something’s gone horribly wrong.  We need hitting and pitching, when just a short time ago it seemed we had adequate or surplus amounts of both.  It’s absolutely excruciating to see a team so stacked fall so far from such high potential.  I mean, this state of affairs can not continue.  It’s pretty much impossible for this team to sustain such a low level of performance when its key members are healthy.  We are in an extremely sizable hole right now.  There can be no doubt about that.  But we’ve dug ourselves out of worse.  We’re capable.  That’s all I’m saying.  That, and I would just like to state again that it’s painful.  Really painful.  Really, really painful.  It’s like watching a catastrophe in slow motion.  At this rate, it will be a catastrophe in slow motion.  It’s starting to feel sickeningly like 2006.  Nuff ced.  Honestly, I can’t even talk about it.

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Honestly, we played the Royals last night, and Zack Greinke was not on the mound.  We should’ve won.  By a lot.  Instead we lost by a final score of 8-6.  And it had nothing to do with Brad Penny.  He hasn’t pitched past the sixth inning once this year, and yesterday he only pitched through five, but that’s okay with me if he holds the opposition to three runs.  Incidentally, that’s why his ERA is so high even though he’s been consistently solid.  He doesn’t allow many runs but his outings are short.  Anyway, we should be able to score more than three runs, and we have the best bullpen in the Majors, which can handle four innings of work with a lead.  Right? Apparently not.

Manny Delcarmen came in and only stayed for two-thirds of the sixth, allowing two runs in the process.  Somehow he was rewarded with a hold.  Masterson earned a blown save and a loss when he allowed two more runs while trying to finish the inning.  Ramirez allowed one run.  Bard didn’t allow any.  Papelbon didn’t even make an appearance.  So now we’re tied with the Evil Empire for first place, which is not a predicament I particularly enjoy.  Seriously.  And we have the Twins to thank for that one, who allowed themselves to be swept at home.  By the way, did you know Twins fans refer to their team as the Twinkies? Basically, that means a bunch of pre-packaged, pre-processed, and preserved cream-filled desserts were just swept by a bunch of greedy multimillionaires in striped pants.  And we have to pay for it.  Where is the justice.  And as if that weren’t enough, we lost the best home record in the AL.  Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone anywhere could ever have a better home record than us.  Granted, both are temporary, but it’s all just very uncomfortable.

The silver lining to this whole thing is, without a doubt, the 300th career home run hit by one David Ortiz! Big Papi, ladies and gentlemen! First inning, Youk on first, one out, and a ball down and away.  And I thought he was trying to take the skin off the ball.  It just ended up in the Monster seats.  He was all over it, as Eck likes to say.  I mean he had it.  And it cleared the yard for the 300th home run of his illustrious career.  Congratulations! And many more to come.  How impressive has he been lately.  Think about what it was like watching him bat in the beginning of the season, and think of what it’s like now.  He’s come a very long way in a very short time; already he’s been able to accumulate eleven home runs and forty-four RBIs.  And I’d say he’s most definitely got a whole lot left in the tank.  He’s on pace to have one ridiculous second half.

Speaking of home runs, Pedroia the Destroyah got in on the action as well.  His three-for-five night included a towering home run also into the Monster seats on a high fastball in the fifth.  He’s had only two home runs for a while, and then all of a sudden he’s hit two in the past week to make it four.  He just smacked it out of there.  Bay hit an RBI single, Youk went two for five with an RBI, and Kotsay had an RBI, which makes six.  Green was caught stealing and picked off, and Tek made a throwing error.

Last but not least, we should probably address all of this Roy Halladay nonsense.  We do not need another pitcher.  We need another hitter.  We will win the World Series with our current pitching staff, which eventually can include Clay Buchholz and Dice-K, if he gets his act together.  Besides, in order for JP Ricciardi to seriously consider forking him over, we’d have to present quite the package.  Which would have to include the likes of Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson, and Casey Kelly.  At least.  And trading those guys away would literally be trading away our future.  Theo would never fall for that.  Not for a pitcher who’s already more than thirty years old, and not at a time when our weakness is offense, not defense.  In Theo we trust.  He’s got a good head on his shoulders.

Lester will face Brian Bannister tonight, and we have to win this one.  We have to.  Falling into second place just before the All-Star break is not a good idea.  Obviously it won’t be the end of the world, but it’s not a good idea at all.  We’ll need Lester to be on his game.  The sad part is that Bannister and Lester have similar records and ERAs, Lester’s being a little bit worse.  But come on, these are the Royals.  We can do this.

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We just faced a month’s worth of good teams, and we rocked it and played some of our best ball.  Now we will embark on an epic journey during which we will face a month’s worth of the worst of the worst.  So we’ll rock that too and play some even better ball.  This is a great opportunity for us to finally pull away from the rest of the AL East.  Take last night, for example.  The Marlins have struck out more than any other National League team, and they have a lot of young hitters who just don’t take pitches.  Chris Volstad wasn’t exactly helping the cause.  His strength is the sinking fastball, so when the fastball doesn’t sink, he doesn’t win, and nothing was doing anything for him last night.  And their fielding is absolutely atrocious.  In the second Nick Green hit a chopper off the home plate rubber, and it went over Volstad’s head and right in front of second base.  Dan Uggla tried to handle it but couldn’t, it bounced off Hanley Ramirez, and by the time anyone knew where the ball was Ellsbury had already crossed the plate.  Green was credited with a hit and an RBI so the Marlins got lucky but still.  Ugly play.

We scored once in the second, once in the third, and six times in the fourth.  Papi started the rally with a leadoff solo shot to right.  He finally pulled the ball.  The high fastball was in the Marlins bullpen as soon as it left his bat.  Eck literally said, “See ya” at the crack of the bat.  It was huge.  Fifth of the year.  And the irony is that it was New York who helped him get going.  Papi would finish the night perfect at the plate with a run and three RBIs.  Bay batted in two, Green batted in another and finished two for four with a run.  Drew and Youk both hit, walked, and scored, Youk with a two-out double in the eighth.  Ellsbury went two for two with two runs and two steals.  Pedroia went two for five and scored.  So some signs of life from the slumping second baseman, because in case anyone hasn’t noticed, lately Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah hasn’t been destroying anything except his batting average.  He’s popping out.  He’s grounding out.  It’s painful to watch.  And the eerie part is that his swing during this stretch looks almost exactly like the badness during the first month of his rookie year.  Of course he’ll snap out of it; everyone runs into a bad spell sooner or later.  And even when he doesn’t contribute with his bat, there’s always his clubhouse presence and his defense.  And last but not least, Kottaras went two for four with a run and an RBI and got a little creative with the last out of the fifth.  He actually pushed a chopper fair and used it to tag the batter out.  Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez of course had a problem with this, but the home plate umpire stayed with his call while Tito and Kottaras had a good laugh.  I love this team.

Pitching.  Very important, and not to be overlooked, especially because Wake just notched win number nine.  Six innings, two runs on six hits, a walk, and four strikeouts.  Send Wake to the All-Star Game.  That’s all I have to say about it.  Delcarmen, Saito, and Bard were all perfect.  The advantage of pitching after a knuckleballer continues to be tried and true, and that combined with the easy Marlins lineup provided good opportunities for them to find their form again.

So a great game on all counts.  Hitting and pitching.  And fielding; we were error-free (and, not coincidentally, Lugo-free).  Still two games ahead of New York, but once they lose we’ll be all over it.  Andrew Miller at Penny tonight, which brings us to our final point of business: John Smoltz.  He’s finished his rehab and will make his first start in more than a year next week, probably against the Nationals.  Incidentally, I like that matchup; the Nationals are a bad team and are not the Atlanta Braves, and they should ease him back into his groove.  Smoltz is the only pitcher in Major League history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.  The catch is that, like I said, we have starting pitching coming out of our ears.  Like I said, Penny is not a reliever, and technically Masterson isn’t, either.  Decision time for Tito and Theo.  But, as always, the best front office in the Majors will figure it out.

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Our offense has nothing to be ashamed of.  Nothing.  We knew going into last night that Johan Santana would be challenging, in a good way; every once and a while, it’s good for a batter to face a worthy opponent just to keep you on your toes.  And Johan Santana is a worthy opponent up to our lineup’s level.  He now has an ERA of 1.50 in nine starts this year.  It’s true that he usually doesn’t do well with us; he’s now only 5-4 against us overall and 2-3 in Fenway Park, but with a start to a season like that, you can’t afford to assume he won’t have it together.  In fact, one could say he didn’t; he gave up three runs which, according to his numbers, is more than usual.  And it’s the best of both worlds.  We have nothing to be ashamed of because we know those numbers are genuine, being that he was an American League pitcher through 2007 and therefore was trained to deal with more offensive pressure.  And we have nothing to worry about, because he’s in the National League now and everyone knows the Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs, and if they do, they won’t get very far.

Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to seventeen games.  Seventeen games! And after last night his average is .299.  One more hit and he’ll be up and over.  Pedroia went two for four.  Ortiz and Youk, our leading hitter with runners in scoring position who bats over .400 in that situation, both struck out three times.  Bay went hitless but walked.  Drew and Lowell both went one for four, but each scored a run.  Lugo not only went 0 for 4 (surprise, surprise), but he came up twice with one out in runners and scoring position and failed to make any constructive contact, and he failed to turn a double play which turned what should’ve been a one-run fourth into a three-run fourth for the Mets.  So essentially he’s back to his old self, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  (On a more postivie note, Jed Lowrie says his wrist feels great, and he even took some ground balls yesterday.) But Varitek went two for four with a run and two RBIs.  We lost the game, 5-3, and the third run was unearned.  So the captain taking the reins last night.  We went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base.

Pedroia made a fielding error.  It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen so far this season.  Pedroia making a fielding error? Does that happen? I mean obviously there’s a reason why his fielding percentage is .988 and not 1.000.  But still.  A fielding error? That’s something  I couldn’t have believed unless I’d seen it.  And I did see it, and it was still weird.

So our offense was covered.  And our pitching, in a way, was covered as well.  But less.  On one hand, it was Dice-K’s first Major League start since coming off the DL for fatigue and strain, so it wasn’t going to be a long outing.  He pitched only five innings.  Good.  He walked only two and struck out four.  Fine.  He allowed four runs on five hits, including a leadoff solo shot for Gary Sheffield in the second (of all the Mets to hit one out, it had to be Sheffield?).  That’s not so great.  So on the other hand, he should’ve been able to contain the Mets lineup much more.  They’re the Mets.  And they’re a National League team.  But we’ll cut him slack because he had an ERA close to 1.00 in his rehab starts with Pawtucket, and we’ll give him a chance to settle in.

Masterson pitched the next three innings and gave up a run on three hits.  But that’s understandable as well.  It’s his first long shift as a reliever since returning to the bullpen.  The difference between a starter and a reliever is that a starter pitches most of the game and is expected to give up a run or two, which isn’t a big deal because you’ve got more innings to come.  A reliever doesn’t have that luxury.  So Masterson has to reacclimate himself to his role as a reliever after starting for so long.  (By the way, if you ask me, I still say it’s a waste to keep him out there.) Bard was perfect.

Quite the interesting broadcast from Eck, who used an expletive by accident on the air last night in the bottom of the fifth.  He was talking about Youk getting hit in the right elbow with a pitch.  Youk stared down Santana and said it, and in describing the play Eck repeated it.  Meanwhile, Don started cracking up and could barely call the at-bat by Jason Bay.  It was hilarious.  Only on NESN.  And as far as the hit-by-pitch was concerned, it was pretty clear that Santana wasn’t trying to start anything, so it’s all good.

So all in all, I can’t complain about the outcome of last night.  No, I mean literally.  I’m annoyed at the loss and want to chalk it up to something but I can’t because there’s a reasonable reason for everything, and all those reasons just sort of came together at once to produce a loss, which really was only by two runs.  Even Lugo shouldn’t be to blame, because we should be prepared to account for his incompetence.  Luckily, Toronto also lost, so we’re still only half a game back.  And that’ll change tonight, because tonight it’ll be Mike Pelfrey at Beckett.  And if Beckett’s start is even remotely close to what his last start was, we’ll be in great shape.  Last night we had an AL-level pitcher opposing a pitcher returning from the DL.  It was an anomaly.  Tonight will be different.  I still love Interleague.

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