Posts Tagged ‘Derek Lowe’

The Indians are nothing special.  The fact that they beat us doesn’t make them special.  It doesn’t even make them a good team.  These days, the sad and pathetic fact is that beating us doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  It just means that the opposition is a decent team that happened to catch us on one of our oh-so-frequent off nights.

Beckett is the latest supposed ace to falter.  He lasted only two and one-third innings, his shortest start since 2008, and in that time managed to give seven runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs, a two-run home run with two out in the second and a leadoff solo shot in the third.  He walked two, struck out two, and threw fifty-six pitches.  Needless to say, it was not even a decent performance.  It was simply horrible.

He threw a good four-seam and two-seam.  His changeup, curveball, and cutter were all mediocre.  He was off to a fairly good start; he allowed a double in the first but secured three solid outs.  In the second he allowed one run on a sac fly and the first home run; in the third he allowed the second home run followed a few batters later by two back-to-back RBI doubles.  Miller replaced him after that and secured two quick outs to end the inning.

Miller retired the side in the fourth.  Hill retired the side in the fifth.  Atchison allowed two singles in the sixth but got through it and retired the side in the seventh.  Morales allowed a single and a hit batsman in the eight but got through it.  And Aceves came on in the ninth.  He allowed a single and a hit batsman to start things off; after a lineout, he allowed a run on a sac fly.  Then he walked one and finally ended the inning on a groundout.

Ironically, Beckett’s nemesis on the mound last night for the Tribe was none other than Derek Lowe, who picked up the win.  Also worth noting is the fact that Johnny Damon was their leadoff man.

For our part, we went down in order in the first.  Gonzalez led off the second with a double and later scored on a single by Aviles for our first run.  We hit two singles in the third but didn’t convert either of them to runs.  We loaded the bases with two out for Sweeney, who grounded out to end the fourth.  Gonzalez and Middlebrooks hit back-to-back singles, and Gonzalez scored on a double by Daniel Nava for our second run in the fifth.  We went down in order in the sixth.  Pedroia hit a solo shot to right center field to lead off the seventh for our third and final run.  He hit it on the second pitch of his at-bat, and both pitches were four-seams clocked at ninety-one miles per hour.  The first was a strike.  The second, Pedroia crushed out of the park.

In the eighth, three walks loaded the bases with two out for Pedroia, who this time simply popped out.  And in a fitting end to what was an altogether sad, pathetic, and frustrating game, we went down in order in the ninth and lost, 8-3.  So it goes.

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And bounce back he did.  That was just what the doctor ordered.  Josh Beckett is a beast.  Maybe, just maybe he isn’t human after all.  With a final score of 3-0, Beckett racked up his third career shutout.  And he pitched a complete game.  And he only threw ninety-four pitches.  That’s so efficient it scares me.  Ninety-four pitches in nine innings.  Who throws ninety-four pitches in nine innings? I saw it and I still don’t quite know exactly how one throws less than a hundred pitches in nine innings.  And he didn’t walk anybody.  Not one base on balls.  Five hits, seven strikeouts, an ERA down to 3.74, and a WHIP down to 1.26, both falling fast.  He crushed.  He just crushed.  I give Derek Lowe a lot of credit for holding us to only three runs, and it was good to see him pitch after five years.  He had his flaws, but ultimately he gave us a lot of great memories in Boston, and we’ll never forget what he did for us in 2004.  Last night, his sinker was on.  But so was Beckett’s fastball.  His four-seam reached a maximum speed of ninety-seven miles per hour.  I don’t even know how hitters can see that.  And his two-seem wasn’t far behind at ninety-five.  So, in short, the Braves had absolutely no chance.  That was classic Beckett.  An epic performance.

RBIs go to Green, Youk, and Pedroia.  Drew hit, walked, and scored.  Ortiz hit.  And Varitek had his first multi-hit game of the month of June.  Two for three with two runs.  A pair of doubles into left center.  He’s now hit 281 doubles in his career, which breaks his tie with Nomar Garciaparra to give him sole possession of eighth place on the Red Sox all-time list.  Jacoby Ellsbury made yet another spectacular catch.  He ran out a ball hit hard by Jeff Francoeur to left center.  He caught it on the run and went into the slide before he hit the scoreboard.  Beautiful play, and it shows his experience.  Anybody else probably would’ve slowed down to see if the ball would be off the wall, but Ellsbury knows his turf.

Dice-K took an MRI yesterday that revealed weakness in his shoulder.  Shocker.  He could be headed for the DL.  Fantastic.  No, seriously.  This will give him time to rest and fix whatever is wrong with him.  Hopefully he’ll come back harder, better, faster, and stronger.  I just don’t want this to be the new thing with him; he goes on the DL, then comes off, pitches horribly, goes back on, comes off, and still pitches horribly with no improvement.  I hope this is the last stint of the season and that this will help him kick whatever the problem is.  Either way, Smoltz is scheduled to start Thursday, which was supposed to be Dice-K’s start, so he’ll have some much-needed extra rest.  It all works out.

Still can’t really get over Beckett’s outing.  I mean, crush.  That simple.  Crush.  The Braves could do nothing with his stuff, and the best part is that he always pitches like this.  Maybe not always a complete game shutout, but you know what I mean.  He gave the bullpen a rest, got the job done, and bounced back from his last anomalous outing with all the Beckett anger and competitiveness we know and love.  Awesome game.  A lot of fun to watch.  And it’s always so cool to know you’re watching greatness unfold right before your eyes.

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We lost, 8-2, to the Atlanta Braves.  The loss was half Dice-K and half Kawakami; Dice-K gave up runs, and Kawakami didn’t.  It’s that simple.  Dice-K gave up two runs in the first, fourth, and fifth.  Six runs on eight hits with four walks, and only two strikeouts.  Nate McLouth led off the game with a solo home run, and that should’ve been a clue that we had a long night ahead of us.  It was abysmal.  He’s one and five and showing no signs of improvement.  These losses wouldn’t be so bad if there were at least evidence that progress is being made, but there isn’t any.  It just seems like this is how he’s pitching this season.  It seems like this is the groove he’s settled into.  One thing’s for sure: this is not okay, especially not for our second starter.  At this point something drastic may be necessary.  Like giving him a day off and asking Clay Buchholz to pitch once or twice.  Or conveniently inserting John Smoltz into the rotation during one of his scheduled starts.  Or giving Masterson a chance to show what he can do, just like when Dice-K was on the DL.  I’m not so sure we can afford to support this new trend of his, because part of that trend seems to be an inability of the lineup to give him any run support.  We lost, 8-2, not 8-4 or 8-6.  The Braves out-hit us, 11-2.  They were 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position; we were 0 for 3.  Changes must be made.  Now.

Masterson pitched a little over two innings and allowed a run in the seventh.  Bard was good for an inning and two thirds, and then Saito pitched the rest of the game and allowed another run in the ninth.

Bay went two for three with a walk and his eighteenth long ball of the year, a two-run shot in the seventh to score himself and Youk.  That was a mistake on the part of Kawakami.  You do not throw a fastball belt-high to Jason Bay.  He completely cleared the yard.  The ball ended up in some parking lot on Lansdowne Street.  Anyway, that was it for the night.  The hits were all Jason Bay.  The runs were all Jason Bay.  Drew and Ellsbury walked, but that was it for everybody.  High points in the field were Bay’s fantastic sliding catch of ball barely in foul territory.  He slid all the way to the wall, turned his glove, and caught the ball.  A run scored but man, what a play.  And Drew’s catching of Kotchman’s hard-hit ball to right.  He ran back and caught the ball on the jump, never turning his back on it.  Nice.  Lowell made a fielding error; always a strange sight.

Tonight is going to be interesting.  Tonight, Derek Lowe will pitch against Josh Beckett.  If I know Derek Lowe, I know he partied heavy last night after the win and he’ll have some explaining to do after tonight’s loss.  Okay, maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I still say we win this one.  After seeing Josh Beckett get so angry after the loss that was his last outing, I’d be very surprised if he allows any lineup, especially one like that of the Braves, to get to him.  Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing how Lowe has changed since wearing our letters and how Beckett bounces back.

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Wow. Dustin Pedroia is on an absolute roll. He is clearly the best second baseman in the league. Clearly. And if he doesn’t get MVP I’d say there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. We’re talking CC-over-Beckett-for-Cy-Young wrong. Pedroia the Destroyah’s latest honor is his first career Silver Slugger award. He’s the fourth player in Red Sox history to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season; Dwight Evans, Ellis Burks, and Tek were the first three. We’ve had a player on the Silver Slugger team in each of the past eight seasons. Unfortunately, Aubrey Huff of the Orioles snapped Ortiz’s four-season Silver Slugger streak. Understandable, though, considering his injury-ridden season this year. Anyway, the MVPs are announced on Tuesday, and I fully expect Dustin to win it.

Jon Lester won the Hutch Award for courage from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Jacoby Ellsbury won the James Bell Legacy Award for steals. He led the American League and broke the rookie record with fifty. Dice-K placed fourth in the Cy Young voting. True, his outings this year were on the short side, but I thought he would’ve done a lot better. The winner was obviously Cliff Lee, followed by Roy Halladay and Francisco Rodriguez. Dice-K’s 18-3 record was good for fourth in the American League in wins, his 2.90 ERA was good for third, and his .211 opponent’s average was good for first. He truly perfected his Houdini strategy; opponents finished the season 0 for 14 with the bases loaded. The only drawback? His 94 walks led the American League. That and his short outings did him in.

Baseball Insider of USA Today evaluated all thirty Major League Baseball teams in nine categories over the past five years and ranked us number one overall. I have to say I’m not surprised. I mean look at what we’ve done over the past five years: four postseason appearances and two World Series titles. Not to mention our successes in the regular season, in the offseason, in the front office, and in the farms. So it’s true. It is absolutely true. We are the team to beat, and we are in the process of becoming the team of the decade.

The two-week exclusive negotiation period between Tek and the Sox is over. Theo had some discussions with Scott Boras, but obviously as I said the length of the deal is likely proving to be an issue. Big Papi has stated that he wants another slugger on the team; in my opinion, that would be Teixeira. I would say that Matt Holliday could be an option, but he’s already been traded to the A’s. Of all the teams, it had to be the A’s. Every team has a few teams that, for whatever reason, they just can’t handle. For us, it’s the Jays in September, lately the Rays, and the A’s. The A’s sweep us at least once a season. So of all the teams to which he could’ve been traded, it had to be Oakland. That’s great. That’s just great. As far as the rest of the free agent market is concerned, we’re also probably looking into Ben Sheets, AJ Burnett, Derek Lowe, Sean Casey, and Alex Cora. Rumor has it that we might even be interested in Rocco Baldelli.

In other news, the New York Jets defeated the Pats on Thursday to secure first place. They won it by a score of 34-31 with a field goal in overtime. But I think the Boston sports highlight of the week had to be Thursday’s game between the Bruins and the Habs. We completely crushed them, literally and physically. Our 6-1 rout ended our twelve-game losing streak against the Canadiens. And the fight between Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek was absolutely epic. I mean that was a great hockey fight. Complete and total domination. Lucic clearly won that one. We did lose to the Rangers in overtime last night, but on the upside we’ve won eight of our last ten, and our 24 points is good for first place.

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Wow. Where should I start? We sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates so that we could get Jason Bay from the Pirates. Craig Hansen could throw hard but the truth is that he’s been inconsistent throughout his Major League career without showing signs of improvement. Brandon Moss was a good outfielder with a decent bat. We have four outfielders right now and could use a fifth. Last season we had Bobby Kielty. Now that Moss is gone, who’s going to fill that role? So that’s something that should probably be addressed.

As for Manny’s role in this, it’s complicated. Downsides: he’s Manny Ramirez. The combination of Ortiz and Ramirez strikes fear into the hearts of the best of pitchers, and for good reason. Even by himself Manny is a formidable opponent. His offensive production is through the roof, and his bat has been instrumental in our postseason success. He’s very well acquainted with Fenway’s left field. The angles and corners over there are not easy to play. We know that because we’ve watched opposing left fielders look like fools in there. Manny is an expert at reading the wall and judging which balls will be off the wall and which won’t. He gets rid of the ball very quickly, too. He also has an unheard-of work ethic, watching tape for hours, showing up before and after games to practice hitting, always developing drills and training and studying the game. Plus, the whole Manny being Manny aspect did have some positive features. He relaxed the clubhouse a bit, contributed his own character and flair to the team, and basically befriended the entire lineup and eased the pressure on everybody with his talents as a ballplayer. And he’s been a fixture in Boston for 7.5 years. That’s a long time.

Upsides: just look at his track record over the past month or so. In that span, he’s shoved a teammate, manhandled a 61-year-old traveling secretary, accused the principal owner of his team of being dishonest, removed himself from the lineup twice due to knee soreness undetectable by MRI, failed to run out long grounders that could’ve been turned into hits and possibly runs, and stated publicly that he’s tired of his team and that his team doesn’t deserve a player like him. These are not the Manny being Manny moments from past years. This isn’t Manny running on the field with an American flag to celebrate his becoming a citizen. This isn’t Manny doing his usual fooling around. This is big. This is a blatant lack of effort and a complete and total offense to teammates. And when something like this happens, it’s hard to ignore. As I said, since the Manny rumors have surfaced, the team’s performance has taken a nosedive, even at home. That doesn’t happen unless there’s a major distraction, and that’s what Manny had finally become: a distraction too intolerable for the current course of action that Terry Francona and the Red Sox front office had engaged in for years, which was basically looking the other way. No amount of slugging could take away the fact that he was disturbing the clubhouse. You can’t have a team full of do-or-die guys and then a guy like Manny. After a point you just can’t. As Curt Schilling said, you can’t have players like Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek, who play through pain and keep their soreness to themselves and live and die with every at-bat, and a player like Manny Ramirez, who’s one of the best there is but who toys with the team and takes himself out of the lineup just to prove a point. Not giving your all is something that doesn’t fly in Boston. In addition to all of this, Manny is aging, can not for the life of him run the bases, and is now in the National League, which means the only times he’d be able to do any damage against us is during Interleague and the World Series, if the Dodgers manage to get there.

You might say that the trade was a mistake because Jason Bay could never hope to fill Manny’s shoes. You might say the Red Sox should’ve sat tight and kept Manny. But at what cost? Either we lose games and keep someone who, while one of the best ballplayers in the Major Leagues, is an unhealthy distraction, or we win or lose games with a new guy who’s younger, faster, and having an offensively comparable season. Manny wasn’t going to play baseball in Boston forever. At the very least, he’d eventually have to retire. Sooner or later, we would’ve had to secure a future for our left field beyond him. We’ve just had to do it sooner than expected.

This trade has proven to be a disappointment for me. I am disappointed in Manny for not being able to keep his head on during a three-way pennant race. I am disappointed in Manny because of his flagrant misbehavior due to a contract dispute and whatever other baggage he might have. I am disappointed that he couldn’t just put himself aside for the sake his teammates, some of whom have been with him for the majority of his years in Boston, and help us win a World Series. Usually, when a veteran has played in a Red Sox uniform for the last time, I’m more sad than angry to see him go. But thanks to Manny Ramirez and his recent displays, I’m more angry than sad.

With something like this, we’ve got to trust. Nomar was traded right in the middle of the 2004 season for Orlando Cabrera, someone new who like Jason Bay had to adjust to his teammates and his new city. But he did it and then helped us win a World Series, in historic and spectacular fashion to boot. There’s no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen here. Perhaps the clubhouse needed some sort of invigorating force. One thing’s for sure: we can finally move forward. Red Sox Nation and I will no doubt feel like something’s missing when we look to left field and see no dreadlocks, no big smile, no ridiculousness going on. And we’ll all feel like we’ve lost something valuable the first time we see Manny Ramirez dressed in a Dodgers uniform. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss the man. I was a huge fan of Manny Ramirez, and he did so much for our team and therefore Boston. There was always that knowledge when he came to the plate that with one swing he could win us a ballgame, that since he was young it was clear that he was born to play ball. He was one of the greats. He could’ve been even greater. But I guess we have to let this one go.

I still say Manny had no idea how good he had it. He’s going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fans in Los Angeles are very different from the fans in Boston. The fans in LA like to see spectacles like Manny high-fiving a fan before throwing a caught ball back into play. So in that sense he’ll be happy. But fans in LA also tend to leave the stadium at around the seventh inning. Let’s face it; Manny was an icon in Boston. For 7.5 years he’s been loved by a city, a region, and a Nation. He’s won two championships and hit five hundred home runs wearing Red Sox letters. Will he really be happy going from baseball god to guy in left field who does funny stuff for fans who leave during the seventh inning?

Well, he’ll have to be. He wanted out, and now he’s out. He’s Joe Torre’s problem now. That’ll be interesting. I can’t wait to see how Torre handles Manny’s first episode. He’ll also be reunited with Nomar, Derek Lowe, and Bill Mueller, who works in the organization. In the meantime, I’m anxious to check out the new guy and see how quickly he can make the adjustment.

By the way, the Yankees landed Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees could’ve used the extra pitcher, but instead they wanted the 38-year-old catcher who’s batting .295 with five homers and 32 RBIs. I’m just saying.

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Usually, I’d be one to try to find the bright side of something, but there was nothing bright about Dice-K’s performance, or lake thereof, yesterday. Dude misses three weeks with a rotator cuff injury and comes back to start against the Cards. He’s undefeated and has an ERA lower than 3.00. He pitched a complete first inning and part of the second inning until he was pulled before he could record an out but not before he allowed seven runs on six hits (including a two-run shot by Aaron Miles), walking three and striking out one. Chris Smith made his first Major League appearance in relief of Matsuzaka, going four innings and allowing one run (a home run) on three hits while striking out three and walking none to give him an ERA of 2.25. If you ask me, he would have stolen the show if it weren’t for the fact that that home run was actually a grand slam by Troy Glaus. Sorry; I forgot to mention that Dice-K loaded the bases before her left. Obviously the Smith has some stuff, and it would have been more apparent if Dice-K hadn’t left in time for Smith to clean up his mess. Matsuzaka now has an ERA of 3.46. This, after just a single inning of work. Lopez allowed one run, Aardsma was perfect, and Hansen allowed a hit and a walk to finish a Cards slugfest. It was not pretty.

Alex Cora batted in two of Boston’s three runs, and Drew homered for the third. I’m going to use this as evidence that bolsters my argument of yesterday: the Red Sox should seriously consider starting Cora and giving Lugo the day off. Or the week off. Drew doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down, either, which is something to watch for. We know from the 2007 ALCS that, as Pedroia and Drew go, so go the Red Sox. That’s putting it very simply, but the point was that the entire lineup had to be hitting for the Sox to succeed, not just No. 1 though 5, say. So, if we want to win, chances are we’ll have to start getting offensive output from batters besides the heavy hitters which, in 2008, does in fact include Drew.

The Red Sox haven’t lost a series at home since April 22-24, when the Angels came in and took two out of three, and Dice-K’s outing was the shortest by a Red Sox pitcher since Derek Lowe’s start at Skankee Stadium on September 18, 2004. It was his own shortest start since September 8, 2007 against the Orioles. To be honest, this surprises me more than it worries me. Something I can disclose now without fear of jinx was that for a while it seemed like Dice-K would do what Josh Beckett couldn’t last year: set a record for consecutive starting wins while being undefeated. If you think back to his work before May 30 (when he was placed on the DL), you can see that it really did look like he turned a corner. And it’s possible that that still holds true. But it’s definitely true that that’s not what we saw yesterday. But it doesn’t worry me because we were doing just fine without him. We have plenty of arms in the rotation that can produce wins, and we have a few in Triple A that we can count on down the stretch. I mean, if he’s healthy he has to start, but we can be confident in the fact that we can take him out early and freeze the score until the Sox can do some damage. I guess all we can do is wait for his next start, pray it won’t be like this one, and see what happens.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, 6/21/2008


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