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Posts Tagged ‘Don Orsillo’

Well, would you look at that! Not only back-to-back gems, but back-to-back wins as well! Is this us turning our entire season around? I’m wary to say, since there have been times when it looked like that might be the case and then it turned out that it wasn’t so much.  As I’ve been saying, let’s just be happy with what we’ve got and hope for the best.

It was Beckett this time who, despite his recent struggles and soreness, has delivered.  He didn’t pitch a complete game like Lester did, but his performance was of extremely high quality.  In fact, it was easily one of his best starts of the year, and he just looked better during this start than he has in others.  And it resulted in our fifth straight win in as many quality starts! That’s the longest active winning streak in the American League, believe it or not.

Beckett pitched seven shutout innings during which he gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out nine, a season high so far.  He threw ninety-three pitches, sixty of which were strikes.  He went one-two-three in the first, second, third.  He gave up two singles in the fourth.  He walked one in the fifth.  He gave up a single and a walk in the sixth.  And he gave up one single in the seventh.

He struck out one in the first, the last of which was a changeup that induced a swing-and-miss.  He struck out two in the second; the first was a called strike ending with a curveball, and the second was a swinging strike also ending with a curveball.  He struck out two in the three; the first was a swinging strike ending with a fastball, and the second was a swinging strike ending with a fastball.  He struck out one in the fourth on three pitches that ended with a curveball.  He struck out two in the fifth; the first was a foul tip that ended with a cutter, and the second was a swinging strike that ended with a fastball.  He didn’t strike out anyone in his last two innings.  As you can see his curveball was exceptionally deadly.  Interestingly, his strikeouts that ended with fastballs were his longer strikeouts of the night.  Still, his mix of pitches, change of speeds, and precision, accuracy, and execution left absolutely nothing to be desired.  In addition to his curveball, his changeup, cutter, and fastball were truly excellent.  He was even efficient!

Beckett picked up the win, and fortunately Hill and Aceves both were able to pitch with a decent lead.  We had two baserunners on in each of the first two innings but failed to do anything with those opportunities.  Papi corrected that in a hurry in the third, when he blasted a solo shot into the bullpen with one out.  You could tell from the sound of the impact that the ball wasn’t going to stay in the park.  In the fourth, after Salty flied out, Ross walked, Nava singled, Ross scored on a double by Aviles, and Nava scored on a groundout by Sweeney.  In the fifth, Papi singled and scored on a single by Middlebrooks.  (He’d moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez and then to third on a wild pitch.) We scored our last run in the eighth, when Salty doubled and scored on a double by Aviles.

Thus, we won, five-zip, on a day when it was particularly fitting to do so.  Not only was it Beckett’s birthday, which he appropriately celebrated with a performance as winning as the win itself, but it was also Thanks, Wake Day at Fenway; Tim Wakefield was honored in a pregame ceremony and then threw out the first pitch.  And who caught that first pitch but none other than Doug Mirabelli himself, right after his own heart in 2006! In 2006, Mirabelli was given a police escort to Fenway so he could catch Wakefield after he was traded back to us from the Padres; yesterday, Don Orsillo, ever the entertaining master of ceremonies, claimed that Mirabelli would not arrive in time due to a flight delay which was obviously untrue, as Mirabelli again arrived in a police car, this time in center field, where the grass contained an enormous Number Forty-Nine, before preparing behind the plate to receive a classic Wakefield knuckleball.  (He actually warmed up for it.  Incidentally, it would have been a ball.) Wakefield deserved every bit of honor and recognition and applause that he received.  As always, it was so good to have him back.  And as always, Wakefield, we salute you!

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Ben called back Sveum for a second-round interview, but we didn’t make Sveum an offer, and the Cubs picked him up.  We may be interviewing Bobby Valentine next, and I’m not sure I like that.  Actually, scratch that.  I don’t like that.  I don’t like that at all.  Valentine is the antithesis of what we need right now, and the fact that he’s even being considered reflects some serious misdirection and scrambling on the part of our front office, something we haven’t seen in years.  I have full confidence in Ben, but at the moment he looks like he has absolutely no idea what in the world he’s doing, and that may be because he legitimately is lost at this point or because Larry is lost.  Either way, it’s not yielding good results.  It’s yielding a public image of an organization that is in complete and utter chaos.  Whether or not that’s actually true, I do not like that.

Speaking of managers, Tito will stay out after all next season.  I guess Jerry Remy was right.

Ben has had good talks with Papi’s camp.  Supposedly we’ve made contact with Francisco Cordero, and there has been mutual interest expressed in having Heath Bell pitch for us.  Supposedly we may be interested in Roy Oswalt.

Thankfully, Don Orsillo signed a contract extension with NESN.  Thankfully, Heidi Watney has not.  Watney is leaving for Time Warner Cable in California, who now have the Lakers.  She’ll be a sideline reporter for those telecasts.

In other news, the Pats sunk the Jets, 37-16.  The B’s barely beat the Devils and Blue Jackets but laid it on thick in our crushing assault on the Isles for an eight-game winning streak.

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It happened.  I can’t believe it happened.  I’m going to force myself to save my opinionating for the end because, if I don’t, I’ll never be able to get through my last game analysis of the year.

Lester pitched well.  He ended a three-game slump he’d been in, and he did so on only three days’ rest.  He gave up two runs on four hits while walking four and striking out five.  He gave up a two-run shot with two out in the third.  He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-four of which were strikes.  So hits and walks were a problem, which made efficiency a problem.  But even our best pitches haven’t been at their best lately, so if he got through six innings after having given up only two runs, both via a home run that represented one major mistake, I’d say in light of everything on the pitching front recently, that’s not so bad.  Was his cut fastball biting and devastating like it usually is? No, and neither was his sinker or curveball, although his changeup was good, but he only threw at most a handful of those.  He threw twelve pitches in the first, fourteen in the second, twenty in the third, eleven in the fourth, thirteen in the fifth, and twenty-three in the sixth.  He got the job done.

Aceves pitched the seventh and received a hold; he threw twelve pitches, seven of which were strikes.  Bard pitched the eighth and received a hold; he threw nine pitches, six of which were strikes.  Red Sox Nation signed in relief as one.

Why? Because our lead was almost nothing.  We had one on base in the first and second and got on the board in the third.  Aviles walked to start the inning, Ellsbury singled, and Pedroia singled in Aviles.  Gonzalez was intentionally walked later in the inning to put two on base, so Lavarnway had runners at the corners with two out but struck out swinging.  Then the home run gave Baltimore a one-run lead.  Baltimore served that to us on a silver platter in the fourth when Scutaro doubled, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a balk.  Then, with the count 2-2 and one out in the fifth, Pedroia took a four-seam deep.  It was high and inside, and it ended up in the first few rows of seats in left center field.  Don Orsillo said at the time that that was Pedroia’s way of willing himself into the postseason.  He was exactly right.

There was, as you know, a problem.

We put two on base after that but Lavarnway and Drew were out in succession to end the frame.  We went down in order in the sixth.  A four-pitch walk, a single, and an intentional walk had the bases loaded for Lavarnway, who grounded into a force out with two outs to end the inning.  Scutaro singled in the eighth and tried to score on a double by Crawford but was out at home because he hesitated during his hustle because he thought the ball was caught.  Ellsbury reached on a missed catch, and then there was a rain delay of one hour and twenty-six minutes.  After that, Pedroia singled, and Gonzalez was intentionally walked for the second time, loading the bases again for Lavarnway with two out in the ninth.  And he grounded into a double play.

And then Paps took the ball.  Sure, he almost lost us the game on Tuesday.  But this was Wednesday.  It was a new day, and the season was on the line even more than it was on Tuesday.  At that point, the Rays were tied at seven with the Yankees, and we had a one-run lead.  If ever there were a time this season with absolutely no room for mistakes, this was unmistakably it beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And since Paps has been our rock this year, we were going to turn to him to close it out.  Just like we did for Game Three of the 2009 ALDS against the Angels.  In this situation as in that one, our ability to stay alive was at stake.  And in this situation as in that one, he blew it completely.

Pedroia went three for four, and Papi and Scutaro both went two for four.  Scutaro and Crawford both hit doubles, Pedroia of course hit that home run, and Ellsbury stole a base.  Gonzalez singled but walked three times.  We didn’t make any errors; Baltimore made two.

We lost, 4-3, and the Rays won in the twelfth inning.  The lights are off at Fenway.  The ride has ended.  The 2011 season, which held such promise in the offseason, lost almost all of that promise in April, and regained it completely since then until now, is over.  I literally just can’t believe it.  I love this game and this team way too much to be able to believe that, in the last game of the regular season, this team was eliminated from the playoffs.

I’m obviously not familiar with the nuances of the rules in this situation, but they could have just called the game during the delay.  They could have just called it when we had that one-run lead.  At least there would have been at least one more game to play.  It was the last game of the regular season, and Baltimore’s record going into it was sixty-eight and ninety-three.  They were about thirty games out of first.  It was literally an impossibility for them to make the playoffs for quite some time already.  It’s not like they had anything to gain by returning from the rain delay to win the game.  Although I’m sure Buck Showalter thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it was his team that had a hand in knocking us out.  If you ask me, I’d say it was Paps and the offense and the baserunning and the fielding: Paps for making that mistake, the offense for not scoring sufficient runs in order to make Paps’s mistake inconsequential, Scutaro for hesitating because he thought the ball was caught, and Crawford for not holding onto the ball that would have prevented this entire conversation.

The next question, of course, is why we engaged in such a remarkable decline.  Obviously the injuries had something to do with it.  But that shouldn’t have made the decline as severe as it was.  We made sure to rest Beckett and Lester earlier in the year so that they’d be fresh and raring to go; I don’t know why they didn’t continue their dominance this month.  I don’t know why the hitting fell off completely since the injuries didn’t deplete the starting nine to a significant extent on a regular basis.  And I certainly don’t know why we suddenly couldn’t field.  As I’ve said, it’s possible to have a bad day on the mound or at the plate, and it’s possible to slump at both.  But how do you enter a fielding slump? You either can field or you can’t; it’s not like the ground suddenly changes or you suddenly just lose your ability to see the ball approaching you.

Our collapse this September was legendary.  It was the worst in the history of the sport because we were the first team ever to blow a lead that large in September.  We’re the first team in the history of the Wild Card to blow a ten game lead, which we had on August 17.  The last time we won two consecutive games was August 27, when we swept a doubleheader.  And the whole thing was capped by a walkoff loss.  It was Paps’s third blown save in thirty-four chances.  What were the chances that the third one would be this important? Probably the same as the chances that he would blow a save in the deciding game of the 2009 ALDS.  We went seven and twenty this month and lost a nine-game Wild Card lead.  Paps was one strike away.  Just one strike away.  But Nolan Reimold doubled, and then of course Robert Andino singled to left.  Crawford charged the ball.  He slid, and the ball made it into his glove.  And then it made it out of his glove.  Both literally and figuratively, as he did all season long, Carl Crawford dropped the ball.

So that’s it, I guess.  We finish in third place with a record of ninety-one and seventy-one at .556 and seven games out of first.  But I’m not ready to go home.  I’m not ready to stop playing.  And I can’t believe that the team that was responsible for the fact that we are going home and we did stop playing was Baltimore.  I don’t think there are words to describe the crushing sensation that we all felt on Wednesday.  It was crushing and devastating and frustrating and disappointing and infuriating and humiliating in every sense of every one of those words and on every conceivable level.  Ultimately, I can’t believe it happened.  I saw it with my own eyes, and yet I just can’t believe it.  Seriously.  I just can’t.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter.  It just hurts.  Bad.

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To put it simply, we won! On Opening Day! Against the Evil Empire! The first of many, folks.  The first of many.

The opening ceremonies were un-announced and very nicely done, complete with fireworks, Don Orsillo, and Joe Castiglione, with special guests Steve Tyler, Keri Hilson, LeBron James, Dr. Dre, and Neil Diamond.  You read right.  Neil Diamond finally sang “Sweet Caroline” live.  And it was so good to see Ryan Westmoreland in attendance.

The highlight? Pedro Martinez threw out the first pitch! That really takes you back, doesn’t it? They unfurled the American flag over the Green Monster and who should step out from behind it.  Papi was pretty psyched.

I feel compelled to mention that YES didn’t show any footage of Pedro.  Apparently, they previewed the season like they’d been doing every day for the past half-year because every moment must revolve around the New York Yankees.  Ugh.  Just another occurrence that reveals why they’re, well, the Yankees.

And I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all of the naysayers that it was the offense, not the defense, that carried the day.  You really don’t get much more proof that the offense packs a powerful punch than a final score of 9-7.

We were down by three heading into the sixth.  That was when our bats pretty much exploded.  Youk smacked a triple that scored two, and Beltre hit a sac fly to score Youk.  Tie game.  The Yanks scored two more runs in the top of the seventh.  Then Dustin Pedroia hit one of those home runs everyone told him he couldn’t hit while he was growing up because there’s no way someone of his size should have that kind of power.  A two-runner into the Monster.  Huge.  After that, Youk scored again on a passed ball.  Pedroia added another RBI in the eighth.  And there you have the nine runs in all their glory.

The best part of it is that those nine runs were scored due to many different kinds of offense.  You had big ball, and you had small ball.  There were manufactured runs, and there were opportunistic runs.  What that shows is that the offense can get it done in any situation; we know we can always score when we need to.

The only bad part of the game was the only part of the game everyone was sure would be great heading into it: Josh Beckett, our supposed ace in the hole.  Yeah, not so much.  He got rocked.  Five runs on eight hits with three walks and back-to-back jacks in less than five innings is not what we wanted to see from him during the first game of the year.  I mean, they were all over his fastball, and he wasn’t locating his off-speeds.  That’s a terrible combination.  Thankfully, we’ve got a day off tomorrow so the bullpen can rest up.  But I feel pretty safe in saying that nobody saw that coming.  There was absolutely nothing that occurred during Spring Training to even remotely suggest that he would have any sort of issue.  If this were any other pitcher, I’d chalk it up to nerves.  But this is Josh Beckett: not only has he been in Boston for years, but he thrives on pressure situations.  He should have owned.  He didn’t.  I won’t worry about it unless he bombs his next start, but all I’m saying is that it was really unsettling.

Schoeneweis relieved him and did work; a scoreless, spotless frame.  Ramirez came on and allowed the sixth and seventh New York runs.  Okajima got the win, Bard got the hold, and Paps got the save.  He allowed a hit and threw ten pitches, seven for strikes.

We have a day off tomorrow, as I said, and then we’re back to the usual start time of 7:00PM for the remaining two games of this series.  Then another off day, then a road trip to the Midwest.  We’ll be the first to break in Target Field.  Hey, anything is better than the Metrodome.  So, to emphasize: we beat the Yankees to win Opening Day.  We took advantage of two rallies to bounce back twice.  Resilience.  Dominance.  Awesomeness.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  That was the first regular season ballgame we’ve seen in a good, long time, and with the exception of Beckett, it didn’t disappoint.  Just drink it in, folks.  Baseball is back!

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And lo and behold, Theo completes the streak.  Hermida signed for one year and a little over $3.3 million.  So that’s eight years without arbitration.  A happy organization with happy players produces a good team, so you can chalk a lot of the guys’ satisfaction with the front office up to the fact that they haven’t been in a position where they have to defend themselves against their own team.

Tickets went on sale yesterday! Which means that by now everything is probably sold out.  But on the bright side, that means that pitchers and catchers is right around the corner! It’s been a long winter, but hang in there; not too much longer.

There is, however, a dark shroud of depression hanging over Opening Day.  Literally, that dark shroud is ESPN.  Figuratively, it’s the actual darkness of night.  Because guess what: since this year’s Opening Day at Fenway Park means the Yankees are coming to town, ESPN decided to make it Opening Night instead.  That’s right.  There will be no Opening Day in New England this year.  No day-long holiday in Boston.  No young kids running around taking it all in.  No sunshine to illuminate the field or warm you up.  No Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy.  Instead, we’ve got a whole day before the game starts.  We’ve got kids who have to stay home because it’s a school night.  We’ve got lights.  And we’ve got Joe Morgan.  It’s incredible; the first game of the season hasn’t even started, and the Yankees have already ruined it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love night games, but for Opening Day it just isn’t the same.

Lastly, let’s get this whole Bay thing over with once and for all.  Here’s the deal.  Remember that offer we made after the All-Star break, a four-year deal worth sixty million? Bay initially rejected it but then changed his mind.  But during the physical, the Red Sox didn’t like the look of Bay’s knees and shoulder, so they revised the deal: the third and fourth years would now depend on health and productivity, and Bay would have to have minor knee surgery in the offseason.  Bay acquired a second opinion that stated that surgery wasn’t necessary.  He and the Red Sox requested a third opinion, which yielded the same observation.  The insurance company’s doctor also vouched for Bay’s durability.  At the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox revised the deal again: they guaranteed the first three years but requested injury protection for the fourth year such that if Bay became injured because of pre-existing conditions identified by the club, they could void the fourth year.  The Red Sox also asked Bay to pay a large part of his insurance policy.  Bay refused, and we all know what happened after that.

This sounds a lot more sinister than it actually is.  First of all, the fact that Bay passed the Mets’ physical with flying colors doesn’t say much.  This is the same team that signed Pedro Martinez to a long-term contract after Thomas Gill, team doctor for both the Red Sox and Patriots, specifically told the Red Sox front office not to do that because his breakdown was imminent.  And lo and behold.  Secondly, what’s wrong with the Red Sox seeking protection for their investment? People are seizing on the fact that the Red Sox wanted Bay to have surgery on something that wasn’t bothering him, but after other opinions were produced, they revised that and simply asked for protection.  That’s it.  Gill insisted that such a protection be built into JD Drew’s contract, and Scott Boras agreed to it.  Scott Boras agreed to it.  If Scott Boras agreed to it, it must have been the world’s most just demand, because any team would be hard-pressed to get Scott Boras to agree to anything.  Lackey also agreed to an injury protection clause.  (His is a little different; if he ever has elbow surgery while under contract, the Sox can bring him back for a sixth year at Major League minimum wage.) And the Sox will probably build something like that into Beckett’s and Papelbon’s future contracts.  Look, if we’re looking to pay Bay millions of dollars, I think we have a right to ensure that those millions of dollars won’t be a complete and total waste as soon as Bay steps or slides or falls the wrong way.  The wear and tear alone is a cause for concern, and that’s yet another reason not to trust the Mets’ medical opinion.  Bay passed their physical with flying colors on his way to play left at Citi Field? That’s like stepping into a time warp; playing left at Citi Field will break you down twice as fast.  Besides, if Bay is so sure of his health, why didn’t he just take this most recent version of the deal and sign a new one when the time came? If he’d remained a specimen of health, the fourth year wouldn’t have been voided, and all would’ve been as per usual.  So that seems kind of fishy to me.  All we can do is wait to see if the Red Sox were right, but if in the future Bay does prove the Red Sox correct, rest assured that Red Sox Nation will most definitely be there to say, “We told you so.” Okay, maybe we won’t say it, but we will think it, and we will think it loudly.

The Bruins are something I don’t even want to discuss.  We are in dire straits right now.  Dire straits.  The Canes absolutely crushed us last weekend, and we lost to the Sabres on Friday and the Kings yesterday in overtime.  We have fifty-five points, good for ninth in the Eastern Conference.  The Thrashers and Habs both have fifty-six.  If we don’t firmly cement ourselves into a playoff berth soon, the playoffs will quickly cease to be an option at all.

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That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

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Well, that’s a wrap.  That’s the end of the road for 2009.  The regular season is over.  Done.  Finished.  And we made it! Bumps, bruises, trades, designations for assignment; you name it, we did it, and we made it through it.  We made it to the second season and beyond.  The way in which we got in was a little strange, but I’ll take it.  It doesn’t matter what your record was in the regular season, or how you played against a particular team, or who was injured in Spring Training.  Once you get to October, you start with a clean slate.  And if you’re right, you’re right, and you go all the way.  And we, ladies and gentlemen, are right.

Yesterday’s game was good and bad.  The bad was Buchholz.  He gave up six runs on five hits in three innings with two walks and six strikeouts.  And when I say six runs in three innings, I mean one in the first and the rest in the third.  This was his second bad start in a row, and I don’t like where this is going.  The regular season ended just in time; he’ll get some extra rest before his next start.

The good was pretty much everything else.  Ramirez, Bard, Cabrera, and Paps didn’t allow any runs.  Bowden allowed a run but got the win.

The final score was 12-7, so very similar to Saturday, and in more ways than one.  Pedroia hit a two-run shot in the fifth.  Kottaras, who played third base, went two for two.  V-Mart, Varitek, and Dusty Brown each walked.  Ortiz batted in two.  Drew went two for three; two solo shots, one in the fourth and one in the sixth.  Drew is a pretty quiet guy, so it’s been hard for some fans to relate to him.  But one thing everyone can relate to in Boston is a dirt dog, and that’s exactly what Drew is.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but make no mistake about it.  “Dirt dog” is the only way to describe someone who was out of the lineup due to a shoulder issue and who comes roaring back, with exactly the same swing (and I mean exactly the same), and uses it to belt two out of the park.  Speaking of coming back from injuries, Gonzalez hit a home run in the second, so we know everything’s good there.

And last but not least, we had another grand slam yesterday! Jed Lowrie in the sixth inning.  He only finished the night one for three but when you plate four runs with one swing of the bat that’s okay.  The ball ended up in our bullpen, keeping his batting average with the bases loaded decently above .300, which is uncanny, especially for a young guy.  But speaking of injuries, he did grimace when he hit that ball, something not uncommon for him when batting from the left side of the plate.  So unfortunately, he’s not completely out of the woods health-wise, but you couldn’t help but cheer for him personally when he hit that slam.  It was a much-needed epic ending to a disappointing season.  That’s what I call going out with a bang.  By the way, before V-Mart’s slam on Saturday, our last grand slam was hit on April 25 against the Yankees by who but Jason Varitek.  Just sayin’.

In the fifth inning, Ellsbury reached base on a wild pitch even though he went around.  That puts his seventieth steal in context.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the fastest man in Major League Baseball.  No, really, he’s the leader in steals for 2009.  Carl Crawford didn’t even come close.  And he’s tied for fifth in triples.  (Stephen Drew, JD’s brother, is second.) Pedroia finishes the season second in the Majors in runs and tied for third in doubles.  Bay is tenth in walks, fifth in RBIs, and tied for ninth in home runs.  Youk is sixth in on-base percentage and OPS.  Drew is ninth in walks and tenth in both on-base percentage and OPS in the American League.

So those are our league leaders.  We have a pretty good amount of guys in the top ten of the Majors.  I think we’ll be in good shape against the Angels.  Regarding the schedule, there are two: start on Wednesday and get Thursday off or start on Thursday.  The Yankees have scheduling preference, and they technically don’t have to pick a schedule until after today’s playoff between the Twins and Tigers.  But they’d be crazy not to start on Wednesday since they’d be facing an opponent who had to play full-force the day before.

The playoff is in Minnesota.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we won’t be too sorry to see the Metrodome go, but apparently they want to keep playing baseball in it.  As of this season, home field advantage is given to the winner of the season series.  The change was made because, last year, the Twins lost a playoff to the White Sox in Chicago, 1-0, as a result of a coin toss.  That was a ridiculous rule.  So now the Twins can exact revenge.  We obviously have a substantial interest in this game, and nobody will be rooting for the Twins more than me.  I hate to say it, but the Twins are the hottest team in the AL right now, and if anyone is in a good position to steamroll over New York, it’s Minnesota.  And I’d be perfectly happy with the Thursday start.  I don’t think I’d want a day off in there.  Think about it.  If we win the  first game, we have momentum we want to sustain.  If we lose, we have a bad taste in our mouths we’d like to get rid of quickly.  So it works out.

But either way, October is here at last, and Lester has officially gotten the nod to start Game 1.  And Don Orsillo is calling the series on TBS.  Get psyched!

AP Photo

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