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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Mirabelli’

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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Wow.

I repeat: wow.

My first claim of the day: Victor Martinez should never catch Daisuke Matsuzaka ever again.  Make like Matsuzaka is Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek is Doug Mirabelli, and put Jason Varitek in there every fifth day.  I think that at this point we have more than established the fact that the disparity between Dice-K’s performances with V-Mart behind the dish and with Tek behind the dish is occurring for a reason.  Dice-K’s performances with Tek behind the dish are vastly superior, and when I say vastly I mean vastly.  So that’s the end of it.  That’s your answer right there.

As for the game itself last night, one more time: wow.  That’s the only word I’ve got to describe what I saw last night.  That entire game was absolutely incredible.  I’m not even sure I actually believe what I saw with my own eyes.  That was the best I’ve seen Dice-K pitch, ever.  Really, I was speechless.

To put it simply, Dice-K had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  You know you thought he had it in the bag when he somehow grabbed Werth’s would-be line drive in the seventh.  Tek even said that that was the hardest-hit ball caught by a pitcher he’d ever seen, ever.  I’m not really sure how he was able to snare that.  That was pure intuition right there; he just put his glove it in exactly the right position and the ball found it.  You know you thought there was no way it wasn’t going down when Beltre dove to catch Ruiz’s would-be line drive and fired to first in time for the out and the double-up of Ibanez in the eighth.  Because you know that most no-hitters are accompanied by at least one amazing play in the field.

And you saw Lester and Buchholz sitting there and knowing exactly what was going on inside Dice-K”s head.  You saw them sitting with Lackey and Beckett and thinking about what they were thinking when they were that deep into this same thing.

Dice-K was four outs away.  Only for outs away from the mobbing by the teammates; the mad cheering by Red Sox Nation, Philadelphia Chapter; the turning of a corner; and the making of history.  Only for outs away.

But Juan Castro ruined everything and dashed all hopes and convictions when he blooped a single over the reaching glove of Marco Scutaro with only one out left in the eighth inning.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  I am convinced that Scutaro could’ve caught that.  Technically, by the rules of baseball, that can’t be considered an error, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it counts for the biggest unofficial error of his career.  He had that.  He just needed to time his leap better.  And we know that’s possible because several starters on our roster do it all the time like it’s a walk in the park (pun intended).  He needed to be maybe a foot more to the right and leap a few seconds later.  So, in short, yes, Marco Scutaro wrecked Dice-K’s no-hitter.

It was crushing.  It was absolutely crushing.  Dice-K has had his fair share of struggles, and with the entire country of Japan watching, it would’ve been magical to see him accomplish that feat.  It also would’ve been a great morale booster for the entire team; we’ve seen what no-hitters can do.  They put life in a team that’s just witnessed, like I said, the magic and the history of it all.  Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball, he needed that no-hitter.  Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, we needed that no-hitter.

Sadly, and that’s the understatement of the century, it was not to be.  Crushing.

But all you can do is move on.  And that’s exactly what Dice-K did, and what impressed me immensely.  We know from personal experience that, after a pitcher gives up a no-no bid, they have the tendency to unravel completely; that’s when the opposing offense attacks and that’s when you might lose everything.  Dice-K ensured that that didn’t happen as simply and easily as getting Gload to fly out to right field.  But that says a lot about his composure on the mound.  If Dice-K can turn it around permanently, he’d have the potential to be an ideal pitcher for the postseason, where every pitch counts and you can’t afford to get skittish after one mistake.

It was kind of strange as no-no bids go because it was low on strikeouts and comparatively high on pitches.  He struck out only five, two looking, with a very even strike zone and threw 112 pitches, which again was more than Lester needed to get through an entire game.  But even during his best starts during stretches of brilliance, he’d pull this Houdini act and use this uncanny ability of his to remain perfectly calm with runners on base and get himself out of all kinds of jams that he’d personally cause.  Yet another fine quality of a postseason pitcher.  So historically we know that he’s not exactly the epitome of efficiency, but we also know from his career in Japan that throwing large amounts of pitches doesn’t scare him.  He doesn’t mind it.  And if it works, it works.

His mix of pitches was exquisite.  He threw mostly four-seams, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  He threw his two-seam at ninety-five.  He located his slider and curveball perfectly and mixed in some cutters and changeups at exactly the right moments.  His fastball, slider, and changeup were the best I’d ever seen them.  All of them had movement, and all of them had life.  A no-hitter is all about being crafty and keeping the lineup guessing.  That’s hard to do the third or fourth time around, but he did it, and it’s no small feat, especially against, as I said, an opponent like Philly.

He needed a game low of eight pitches to clear an inning, and used as few twice, in the sixth and seventh.  He needed nineteen pitches to clear the eighth.  There’s been a general trend in his starts of improving as the game goes on.  And yet another reason why he’d pitch well in the postseason.  The whole outing was just a huge begging of the question of, “What if?”

Bard cleaned up the ninth.  Together they one-hit the Phillies through nine.

The final score was 5-0.  Papi scored on Hermida’s sac fly in the fourth, hustling hard to beat the tag by Ruiz at the plate.  Scutaro opened the fifth with a double, and Dice-K bunted him to third.  Ellsbury walked.  Drew singled in Scutaro, Papi doubled in Ellsbury, and Beltre doubled in Drew and Papi.  Drew and Beltre both went two for four.  Ellsbury started in center, which was a sight for sore eyes, and Papi started at first.

Ultimately, we just have to focus on the win.  We set out to win, and we won.  We won our way, with run prevention.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  But a win is most definitely better than nothing; we need all the wins we can get.  On the other hand, we also need all the magic we can get.  But there are yet many games to be played.  Starting this afternoon with Wake taking on Halladay.

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If there is one thing I absolutely can not and will not stand for, it’s being in second place behind New York.  Good thing we won’t be in this position for long.  New York is not actually that good, and we are not actually that bad, so the fact that we are in this position doesn’t reveal anything because firstly it’s early in the season, secondly it’s only temporary, and thirdly it’s only by half a game.  Like I said, we know how the Skankees play; they enjoy a few hot streaks in the first half of the season, have a mediocre second half, surge to the forefront in September, and peter out in October.  The other thing that’s more applicable to the way we got into this is that there is no shame in losing to Toronto.  They were in first place not  too long ago, before we ousted them and they helped, so we lost to a worthy opponent.  There’s never any shame there.  So, yes, it’s true that we don’t have to worry about this particular standings situation in the long run, and it’s true that we have nothing to defend, but the fact that it’s New York still make it irritating.  Very irritating.

And in large part we have Wake to thank for that, surprising as it may seem.  We lost, 3-6, so the run support argument doesn’t work that well here.  Wakefield gave up five runs in the fifth inning.  That seems to be the trend lately, and I have to say I’m not a fan.  I don’t like our pitchers throwing beautifully through half the game and then blow it completely in just one frame.  Wake threw 4.2 innings, gave up all six runs on nine hits, walked four, and struck out five.  Bard and Saito stopped the damage, but it was too late.  Bard did have time to strike out five in a row, though, which rocked.

Ellsbury went two for five with two RBIs on a double, Bay went two for four, and Lugo went two for three.  And then Drew had what could be described as the ultimate hitter’s at-bat in the seventh inning.  The bases were empty, but there was only one out and he worked a hitter’s count: three and one.  What a perfect time for a home run, right? So what does JD Drew do? He hits a home run over the center field wall! And he’s right on schedule; we’re days away from the month of June  which, judging by last season, has the potential to bring out his best.  Pedroia missed a catch.  Didn’t really know that was possible.  Hey, I didn’t think it would be possible for the Yanks to give up fourteen runs in a single inning and twenty-two runs in a single game, but you learn new things everyday.

For George Kottaras, a native of Ontario, Canada, this was his first trip home.  He had a chance to catch up with his mother and even hit a double in the fourth to boot.  By the way, ever wonder what happened to Doug Mirabelli? Apparently he’s selling real estate in Michigan.

I’m very psyched to report that Tito is one hundred percent.  Fully healthy.  In Minnesota when he confronted Todd Tichenor his blood pressure shot up to the point where he felt very weak coming off the field.  He went to his office and couldn’t slow his heart down.  He thought he was going to pass out.  So doctors and medical techs looked at him, and eventually he calmed down and got over it.  He’s fifty, takes blood thinners, and has had medical issues in the past though so it was definitely a concern.  But I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we’re very happy to hear he’s back on track.

So there you have it.  We’re again done in by one horrendous inning.  And during that inning Wakefield looked like his old self, not the ace who’s been largely lights-out thus far.  A five-run fifth was not something I was prepared to see, but it’s something that, coming from him, felt all too familiar.  Luckily, that seems to be the anomaly, rather than the other way around.  Here’s to hoping it stays that way.  As far as tonight is concerned, it’ll be Penny at Brian Tallet, who’s nursing an ERA of 4.31.  Penny’s got an ERA of 5.96, but as we all know that’s very deceiving because he’s five and one and pitches way better than that.  But there is a bright side to all of this: in this series, Roy Halladay is not scheduled to pitch.  And that, my friends, is most definitely something to smile about.

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Smile, Red Sox Nation; the All-Star break is just around the corner, and we’re in good shape. We’ve survived a clubhouse-wide flu epidemic, injuries to one of our best offensive producers and one of our best pitchers, a shaky ace, a disappointing set-up man, and an error by a previously errorless first baseman. All of that’s good for at least two sighs of relief, three congratulations, and some pats on the back. We’re barely in second place with one of the deepest teams we’ve ever had. Our pitchers are bringing, and our batters are hot. But what’s even better is that we’ve made it this far and we’re showing no signs of slowing down. I said in the beginning that we’re in it to win it, and I have full confidence in this team’s ability to go all the way. We can repeat, and we will.

I’ll be taking a break of about ten days, but I’ll leave you with this. Now that we’re halfway through, it’s time for report cards. In the middle of every season, Boston.com invites you to grade the Red Sox offense and pitching player by player and overall. Here’s what I came up with:

Jason Varitek: A

He’s getting old, and he’s not as offensively productive as he used to be, but that was never what was important with him. He’s not our captain because he can hit or because he can field, which he does extremely well by the way (two errors, .996 fielding percentage). He’s our captain and we love him because he’s a team leader and because he does wonders with the pitching staff (3.72 catcher’s ERA). You try catching in a club full of high-profile personalities, aces, and rookies; it’s difficult, but Varitek makes it look easy. In 2006, he was out with a knee injury and the whole team fell apart. If that doesn’t show how important he is, I don’t know what will.

Kevin Youkilis: A

Youk…nuff ced. Errorless at first base for 233 games. One error in 2008. That alone is grounds for an A, but he also is batting above .300 and slugging above .500. He was hit below the right eye with a ball being thrown around the horn between innings and returned to the lineup two days later with a black eye. He moved to third in the middle of a game and looked like he’s been there for months. He even played a little right field. Definitely an A.

Dustin Pedroia: A

The only thing that stopped me from giving him an A was his lack of offense until July. Other than that, he’s a perfect second baseman, and I think he’s the best there is. He can hit, now more than ever since he’s at a torrid pace of offensive production. He can field like no other. He’s lightning fast when making plays and was largely responsible for preserving Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter. He rarely gets through a game without dirt on his letters. He even runs a bit; he’s perfect in thefts so far. And he’s got a great personality, which comes in handy in the clubhouse. When he first came up, he took his veteran teammates’ cracks and then cracked right back. He’s even told the likes of David Ortiz to put on his sunglasses during a game in preparation for the laser show he intends to put on with his bat.

Julio Lugo: C

We all know his offense has made some sort of improvement since last year (if you think he’s out for sure now, think back to ’07), and we all know he can fly around the bases. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s already made 16 errors. And those errors are turning into runs for the opposition. Cora’s hitting just as well as Lugo but only has two errors on the season. At this point, I’d suggest having Cora start more often.

Mike Lowell: B

Spent some time on the DL earlier, but he’s fine now. He isn’t producing as much as he did last year, but he’s finally well on his way to getting there. His average is .297, but his slugging percentage is above .500. His fielding is as good as ever, with only six errors on the season. Who knows? A Gold Glove at third may come to Boston this year.

Manny Ramirez: A

Manny joined the 500 club this year. He’s grappled with hamstring issues, but he’s back in the field and he hasn’t lost a step. The quality of his fielding could never be matched by any other left fielder in Fenway’s left field conditions. He’s a pro at playing the Green Monster, even if the depth of his position is sometimes controversial. As far as his hitting goes, it’s Manny being Manny. He’s slugging above .500 and hitting in the high .200s.

Jacoby Ellsbury: B

While I hope he’ll win Rookie of the Year, one can not survive on stolen bases alone, even if he is the fastest in the game. His numbers are down from what they were last year, the reason being that pitchers have figured him out. But that’s when the hitter makes adjustments to the pitchers, but his numbers haven’t reflected this process as much as they should. He’s started to snap out of his slump, but I think Ellsbury could be producing much more than he is now.

JD Drew: A

Whoever doesn’t give JD Drew an A has been sleeping for the past month and a half. If JD Drew doesn’t deserve an A, I don’t know who does. He’s doin’ it all: hitting, slugging, fielding, throwing (what an arm), and running (not many thefts, but speed comes in very handy in right field). He’s mastered the right field corner, and he’s as good as any right fielder we’ve ever had. His offense doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all, his personality is coming through, and he’s officially a dirt dog (I’ve seen him make diving catches, sliding catches, and every other kind of catch just to get the out). Welcome to Boston, my friend.

David Ortiz: B

At the start of the season, David Ortiz found himself in the worst slump of his career. Basically, if the ball stopped right in front of him, he couldn’t hit it. He snapped out of it when the Yankees brass excavated his jersey from the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium, and he snapped out of it in classic Papi fashion: with a grand slam. But he hadn’t been out of his slump long enough to raise his batting average above .252. Even his slugging percentage, while still impressive, is down at .486. It’s been a bad run so far for Big Papi, but he’s still the best DH, hands down.

Coco Crisp: B

He’s hitting now, that’s for sure, and that’s more than we could say for him last year. He’s fast, and he makes catches in center field that I never thought could be made. He even jumped into the Green Monster to make a catch. Personally, I thought he should’ve won a Gold Glove for his work in center last year, and he’s just as good this year, with only one error so far. He’s 13 for 16 in stolen bases as well. But I’d say his biggest and most valuable contribution by far is his work in center field.

Alex Cora: B

He was hitting above .300 and then saw his average drop, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s an excellent shortstop. He should definitely start more often.

Sean Casey: A

Basically, what we have here is a backup first baseman of starting caliber. What more could you want? He’s hitting above .350 and slugging above .400. He hits line drives like nobody’s business, and there’s nothing to complain about as far as his fielding is concerned.

Brandon Moss: C

His offensive numbers are low, and that seems contrary to his experience as a ballplayer. His production just hasn’t shown what other outfielders in the system have shown, Jacoby Ellsbury notwithstanding. But offensively speaking, he’s coming out of his shell more and more. I refer you to his recent game-winning efforts on our behalf.

Kevin Cash: B

Not bad for a backup catcher, and certainly better than Doug Mirabelli. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having Belli on the team just as much as the next person, but the truth of the matter is that Belli couldn’t hit. Cash can. His first home run of the season and in three years was a three-run shot, and his average is above .200. That’s already better than Belli. Belli was perhaps better at catching Wakefield, but Wake’s knuckleball is no longer what it was when it made John Flaherty retire. Kevin Cash is perfect for his role.

Offense Overall: B

Simply put, we could do more. A few more runs here, a few more runs there, and we could win a lot more games. The close calls, the contests decided by one or two runs, and the bullpen snafus could be ours if we increase our production even just a little bit. The key, of course, is to have offensive contributions from up and down the lineup. That’s what we learned in the 2007 ALCS. As soon as the whole lineup started producing, we were playing the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series.

Josh Beckett: B

2008’s Josh Beckett is not the same as 2007’s Josh Beckett. He’s still a dominating power pitcher, and he’s still an ace in our staff, but it’s clear that he just isn’t the same, and it’s difficult to pinpoint why. I don’t think it’s the neck problem he had in Spring Training that’s somehow carrying over. Maybe it’s an off-year for him. And if this is what his off-year looks like, you can be sure he hasn’t lost his touch.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: A

His record is 9-1. His ERA is 2.84. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s turned the corner. He used last season as an adjustment period and still managed to walk away with a win after starting Game 3 of the World Series, and he’s got a ring to prove it. The adjustments and improvements he’s made have been outstanding. This is the Dice-K we saw in Japan, and he’s just been dominating hitters this year for Boston.

Jon Lester: A

The Jon Lester we’re seeing now is the Jon Lester the Minor League coaches have been raving about. He started and won Game 4 of the World Series and no-hit the Kansas City Royals, and his numbers are fabulous. He has a nasty cut fastball that hitters just can’t seem to figure out. And after all that he’s been through, he’s as good as ever and an inspiration to all of us.

Tim Wakefield: A

For a 42-year-old knuckleballer, he’s pitching a lot better than I thought he would. His last few starts have been lasting seven or eight innings, and he’s been dominant. I don’t know what it is, but I hope it sticks.

Bartolo Colon: A

Acquiring Bartolo Colon was a great move. What he’s given us is a reliable extra arm that can supply quality innings, and we saw his value when Dice-K was on the DL. The problem? He thinks he’s David Ortiz during Interleague; he’s on the DL with back stiffness because he took one of the mightiest swings I’ve ever seen.

Justin Masterson: A

This kid has really gone above and beyond. He was called up from Double A for his first Major League start, a valiant effort spoiled by the bullpen. He proceeded to win his next two starts before transferring to Triple A. He was again called up, and he’s been cruising ever since. It’s unusual when a start of his doesn’t last at least six innings, and according to Terry Francona he’s a great guy with a mature personality who can shoulder the responsibility of pitching in the Major Leagues. It’s a joy to watch him in action.

Clay Buchholz: B

Although he has the nastiest off-speed stuff I’ve ever seen, his command is lacking, especially of his fastball. So, he was sent down to work on it. He no-hit the Baltimore Orioles last year, proving that he’s Major League material, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for the big time yet. It’s difficult to say exactly why, but I think the best explanation is that you need to have a fastball to pitch in the big leagues, and Clay’s fastball isn’t as good as it should be. But he’s on the brink of returning, and his Triple A stats say that his Minor League stint has done him good.

David Aardsma: A

He’s the only player who precedes Hank Aaron alphabetically. But more importantly, he was a great move; he was such a nice surprise. His stuff is unbelievable. His ERA is currently 2.84. At times he shoulders a pretty heavy workload, but he’s done it with a lot of success. He’s becoming an ’07 Hideki Okajima.

Craig Hansen: C

Inconsistency is perhaps his worst enemy. His stuff is there, no question. Dude can throw in the high nineties. But for some reason, he hasn’t been able to find stability and lock into a groove at the Major League level. He’s a young guy, only 24, so he’s got time. But he’s also got his work cut out for him.

Manny Delcarmen: B

A great power pitcher, he gives Boston a lot to be happy about. He dominates hitters, but he sometimes makes mistakes, like when he took the loss against the Houston Astros after allowing three runs late in the game. It just seems like that type of thing will inevitably happen with Delcarmen on the mound. The question is how often. The answer? Often enough to give him a B.

Javier Lopez: A

Javier Lopez is also quickly becoming an ’07 Hideki Okajima. Last year, inconsistency was his worst enemy. This year, he’s been in top form for a significant stretch. His lefty sidearm delivery confuses hitters, and he’s really finding the strike zone.

Mike Timlin: D

This is the worst grade I gave. Simply put, Mike Timlin is old. When he’s not on the DL, he’s not finding the strike zone. His velocity is rapidly diminishing, and he just hasn’t been able to transition well to a pitching style more centered around finesse. Might want to think about retiring.

Hideki Okajima: C

He’s lost his touch in 2008. Definitely not the lights-out set-up man he was last season. I’m not sure what it is; maybe we worked him too hard in 2007 and it’s carried over. Maybe the league suddenly woke up one morning and figured out how to hit the Okie-Doke. But he’s healthy, he’s in shape, and he’s gotten plenty of rest. He’s still a great pitcher, and who knows? Maybe before the season’s over he’ll return to form.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

Jonathan Papelbon is, without question, the best closer in the game. His velocity is overpowering and his glare is intimidating. Not to mention the fact that his personality and his dancing have become staples in Boston. He adds fire to the club, and he always brings. He’s been a little inefficient lately, and he’s blown some saves, but that could happen to anybody. One of the reasons why he’s so great is that with him, these things never last long.

Pitching Overall: B

As with the offense, we could do more. We could find the strike zone more, have better command, get just a little sharper. And you’d be surprised how many more runs we could prevent and how many more games we could win. Last year, our pitching was, in the long run, spic-and-span. This year, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.

Boston Red Sox Overall: B

We’re doing a good job. As I always say, we’ve got a deep team that puts up a fight in every game. We’ve got all five tools covered to the max: hitting for average (Casey, Dusty, Youk, Drew, etc.), hitting for power (Manny, Papi, Drew, etc.), fielding (Crisp, Manny, Drew, Ellsbury, Youk, Lowell, Dusty, Tek, etc.), arm strength (Drew, Youk, Lowell, etc.), and running speed (Ellsbury, Crisp, Lugo, etc.). If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll eventually find ourselves at the top. If we just tighten up a little bit, we’re as good as gold. Either way, it’s a win-win, and with momentum favoring us again as of this homestand, I think it’s safe to say that the Red Sox are having a good season so far.

Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Tim Wakefield, Dustin Pedroia, etc.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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A lot of stuff going on in Boston baseball these days. We’re embarking on a schedule that isn’t as easy or pushover-y as the Yankees’ (we’ve got the Cards, the D-Backs, the Astros, and the Rays, while New York has the Reds, the Pirates, the Mets, and the Rangers). And then we play the Yankees. Dice-K is starting today and is undefeated thus far (8-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 55 strikeouts). Julio Lugo’s infuriating errors are starting to add up at an alarming rate (both errors in last night’s game were throwing errors and were his, giving him 16 on the season, making him responsible for almost a third of the team’s total errors). The Red Sox wore green jerseys to honor the NBA champion Boston Celtics (a very nice gesture, I thought). And we’re forced to say goodbye to Curt Schilling, a master of the playoffs and a key to our success in 2004. We all knew it would end sometime, but it’s sad that it must end like this. Here’s to the bloody sock. Here’s to the almost-no-hitter. Here’s to 216 career wins, a 3.46 career ERA, 436 stars, 569 games. Here’s to 83 complete games, 20 shutouts, 22 saves, and 3,116 strikeouts. Here’s to all the October contests you won, Curt, and all those you would have won; there surely would have been many more. We thank you. And we salute you.

As for last night, we put up a good fight. Unfortunately, so did the Cards. We ended up losing, 4-5, which is a shame because Wakefield gave a great start. Four runs on seven hits in seven innings pitched. Another long outing from the knuckleballer. I’m telling you, he’s pitching way better than I thought he would and certainly way better than his age would suggest. Surprisingly enough, Lugo collected two RBIs last night, one of which was himself on a solo home run he crushed over the Green Monster seats, his first home run of 2008. Lowell batted in a run as well, and the fourth Boston run was unearned. One of the Cards’ runs was also unearned, and this is what I mean when I say that Lugo’s errors are starting to add up. It’s infuriating when errors like that turn into runs for the opposition, especially when you lose by a one-run deficit. That run could have made all the difference. And on a day when the Yankees lose, winning is certainly the priority, not error-making. At this point, I say Alex Cora should start at short. He’s hitting in the .300s and he’s better defensively. Mostly, the damage yesterday was done by hitting into double plays and by a lack of home runs. But, as I said, we put up a good fight, scoring one run in the bottom of the ninth and matching the Cards’ ten hits with ten of our own. The difference appears to be that we made two errors to the Cards’ one. Lovely.

The difference also appears to be that Okajima allowed one run on three hits in his one inning pitched. The hit was a solo homer by Yadier Molina. Okie struck out two, walked none, and did not show signs of the phenomenal set-up man he was last year. It’s just sad.

Kevin Cash is currently hitting at .240. He’s had eighteen hits, scored four times, and batted in six runs in 75 at-bats over 28 games played. It doesn’t seem like much until you consider the fact that, earlier this season, he was batting in the .300s. And the fact that even his current numbers are a substantial offensive improvement over Doug Mirabelli’s. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having Belli on our team when he was here. He was excellent defensively and had a good arm that he rarely got credit for. But with all the injuries we’re having, we’ll need the extra punch wherever we can get it.

We’re still in first. And we’ll stay in first. The Red Sox have experience with situations in which we have the tougher schedule and the Yankees have the easier. We’ve made it out. And we will again. I say this all the time, but I’m a firm believer in it: we have the depth to get through an entire season in first place. A lesser team with our injuries would have fallen apart like that. There’s a reason why we haven’t and why it’s impossible for us to do so.

Curt Schilling

The Red Sox Times

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