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Posts Tagged ‘Drew Sutton’

We’ve seen this so many times before.  The one bad inning can doom even the best of pitchers.  But there are a few reasons why I am simultaneously not willing and very willing to let that appease my frustration and disappointment with this one.

Beckett literally cruised through his first three innings.  He just cruised.  Fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second, and ten in the third.  He faced the minimum in all three.  Then, everything collapsed in the fourth.  He issued two eight-pitch walks and then gave up a three-run shot on one of the more ineffectual fastballs I’ve seen him throw.  He got an out after that via a popup.  But then Jeff Francoeur reached on a fielding error by Sutton, and he scored on a double.  So Beckett gave up four runs, three of them earned.

After that, he just went right back to cruising as if nothing had happened.  He threw nine pitches in the fifth, fifteen in the sixth, and fourteen in the seventh.  In those three innings, he faced two above the minimum.  Take away that walk and single and the entire thirty-eight pitch disaster of a fourth, and Beckett has a perfect game.

So this is why the consideration of this situation is tricky.

It’s Beckett.  Beckett is back to being infallible this year.  Which leads me to my next point.  It’s the Royals.  If this were Miller who was doomed by a bad inning against the Royals, I could understand.  In fact, he was; he was doomed by several bad innings.  In the case of a fifth starter who wasn’t even originally supposed to be part of the rotation, I can see them maybe not having a good day against the Royals.  But this is Josh Beckett.  Even on the worst day of his worst year, he should be able to practically no-hit the Royals.  So between it being Beckett and it being the Royals, we should never have lost.  We scored three runs; given that scenario, three runs should have been enough.  Actually, one run should have been enough.

At the same time, it’s Beckett.  Contrary to our frequent belief, he is human.  His mistake wasn’t necessarily giving up the two walks before the home run; while it is rare for Beckett to walk anyone, walks by themselves are not harmful.  The reason why you don’t want to give up walks is because you don’t want to get tired, and you don’t want to pay for a mistake you may make later.  So Beckett’s fault was that he threw that fastball that resulted in a long ball.  If this had been almost any other team, we would also that Beckett made a mistake, we lost, and we’ll walk it off.  But because it’s the Royals, we are tempted to immediately attribute infallibility to even the worst of our pitchers.  Given the way this particular inning went down, though, I don’t think the fact that they were the Royals made any difference.  A mistake is a mistake; you can’t even get to Triple A unless you know what to do when a fastball comes down the pipe like that.  And the fact that he pitched after it the exact same way he pitched before it leads me to believe that it really was an isolated mistake he made that Billy Butler happened to spot.  Beckett said himself after the game that command was a constant problem.  If he pitches this well on an off day even to the Royals, I’m satisfied.

Beckett pitched a full seven innings, walked three, struck out eight, and threw 108 pitches, seventy-two for strikes.  Overall, he still pitched very well.  But he took the loss.  Morales and Albers combined for two scoreless innings to finish it off.

In light of all of that, the question then becomes, and rightly so, why the offense didn’t manage to score more than three runs.  Bruce Chen was as close to an ace the Royals pitching staff was going to get in this series, and we already pummeled him.  This game should have been locked by the time Butler stepped up to the plate in the fourth.

I could not believe that Ellsbury was out at first in the first inning.  He grounded to second.  Chris Getz had to range and fire mid-air to first while Ellsbury was hustling.  Somehow it was in time.

Anyway, Tek led off the third with a single, Navarro followed with a double, and both scored on a single by Ellsbury.  Pedroia led off the eighth with a home run on a fastball.  It was the sixth consecutive fastball he’d seen in that at-bat; the others skirted the strike zone, but that one was inside.  He put it in the Monster seats.  His hitting streak now stands at twenty-five games.  It was another laser.  And that was it for the lineup.  In the top of the ninth, Sutton made a great sliding catch, and Tek gunned down Getz at second, but except for Sutton’s single in the bottom of the inning, we proceeded to go down in order.  For a brief moment, when the ball came off of Crawford’s bat and started making its way to the right field stands in a hurry, I was totally thinking walkoff.  You were thinking it too.  But of course Francoeur made the catch on the warning track, literally inches from the stands.

Gonzalez and Sutton both went two for four for the only multi-hit performances of the game.  Navarro’s double and Pedroia’s homer were our only extra-base hits.  We left six on base and went one for four with runners in scoring position.

Therefore, the lack of offensive production was what made this an embarrassing loss.  We all thought we had this series swept before the Royals even got here.  Instead, we split the four games.  Well, on to Chicago and better days and betterness in general.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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This is more like it.  This is what playing the Royals is supposed to be like: a slugfest.  Granted, they had a bit of a slugfest of their own, but with Miller on the mound, that’s not surprising.  Would I have preferred it if we won, 13-0 instead of 13-9? Absolutely.  But a win is a win, and at least we picked apart their pitching staff like we’re supposed to.

Miller’s line was one of the worst we’ve seen this year.  He only lasted three and two-thirds innings and in that time managed to give up seven runs, five earned, on nine hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and gave up two home runs.  He threw eighty pitches, forty-three of which were strikes.

Those two earned runs were Miller’s own fault; he made a throwing error in the second.  Both of his home runs were allowed in the fourth.  It wasn’t pretty.  It’s never pretty when you actually need a slugfest in order to win.

Miller can thank Scutaro for making sure it wasn’t even worse.  With one out, Scutaro was perfectly in position to corral a hard-hit liner and fire to second for a quick double play to end the second with the bases loaded.  He definitely saved at least one run there.

Aceves took care of the last out in the fourth and pitched the next three; he picked up the win.  Albers pitched a scoreless eighth.  Morales gave up two runs in the ninth.  Fortunately, they didn’t matter.  (But, as I always say, what if they did matter?)

Okay.  The point is that our pitching performances were bookended with two that were not great, and that’s an understatement.  So this is the story of how we won anyway.

McDonald stood in for Ellsbury, who got the day off.  He led off the inning with a single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly.  Then Pedroia tripled and scored on a double by Papi.  At the end of the first, we were tied at two.

Scutaro led off the third with a double.  Gonzalez walked.  Pedroia doubled in Scutaro; Papi doubled in Gonzalez and Pedroia.  At the end of three, we were up by one.

Crawford walked with the bases loaded in the fourth; we were down by one.

This is when we blew the game wide open.  Reddick and Ellsbury, who came in to pinch-hit for Navarro, began the fifth with back-to-back singles.  Sutton hit a sac fly; Mike Aviles missed the catch and then made a terrible throw, so Reddick and Ellsbury both scored and Sutton went to third.  Then Scutaro walked, and Sutton scored on a single by Gonzalez.  Then Pedroia singled, and Papi singled in Scutaro and Gonzalez.  Then Crawford singled, Tek struck out, and Reddick scored Pedroia on a sac fly.  At the end of five, we were up by five and just kept on pulling away from there.

Tek led off the seventh with a solo shot on the first pitch he saw: a fastball.  The ball left the park completely.  It went over the Monster and cleared it.  The Royals had just changed pitchers, too.

And that, my friends, was the end of that.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury, who didn’t even start, both went two for three.  Papi and Pedroia both went four for five; three of Papi’s hits were doubles, and Pedroia was one homer shy of hitting for the cycle.  He almost got it, too.  That fly ball ended up staying in the park, but off the bat you thought it was going out.  Together, Gonzalez, Pedroia, and Papi, the heart of the order, combined for six runs and eight RBIs on ten hits.

It was a long game, but it was a fun game.  Like I said, we had some pitching performances that were bad.  But as far as the lineup is concerned, that’s the way the Royals are supposed to be played.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Smile, Red Sox Nation! We made it to the All-Star break! At the traditional halfway mark of the season, we’re sitting on top of the American League East, one game ahead of the Yankees.  We’re much more battered and bent than I thought we would be, and the standings don’t reflect the kind of dominance I thought we’d surely be exhibiting by now.  But given the way we started the season, I have absolutely no right to complain.  Instead, I’ll be thrilled we’ve made it this far, even if we didn’t make it this far in one piece.

In keeping with tradition, I’ve graded the entire team on their performance up to the All-Star break, as I do every year.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

He’s batting .251 with twenty-four RBIs.  He has a slugging percentage of .437; he’s hit twelve doubles, two triples, and six home runs.  He’s had ten passed balls, forty-nine stolen bases, and only sixteen caught-stealings.  His fielding percentage is .997.  He has a wicked arm.  He’s new to the club, and he’s a starter.  Given who he is as a player as well as his position, we expect him to hit fairly well and nail runners.  For the most part, he’s done the first but still needs work on the second.

Jason Varitek: A

Tek’s grade tends to be pretty consistent year-to-year.  Part of that has to do with the fact that we don’t expect as much from him as we used to.  Now that he’s technically no longer a starter, that’s even more true.  As he ages, his value to the team lies less and less in his ability to perform as a player and more and more in his ability to perform as a father figure and team leader.  And in the latter department, he excels to the utmost.  And he’s still top-notch with the pitchers and defensively, even if we consider him an out that gets easier with every passing year.

Kevin Youkilis: A

Over the course of these past few games, he’s really boosted his average, which is now up to .285.  He has forty-nine walks, which ties him for ninth in the American League.  He has twenty-six doubles, which ties him for third in the American League.  He has sixty-three RBIs, which ties him for sixth in the American League.  His average wasn’t too high before this last hot streak of his, but he’s certainly been contributing.  His fielding percentage is .967, which for him is a little low.

Dustin Pedroia: A

Earlier in the season, he was in the middle of one of the longest slumps of his still-young career.  He was getting skittish in two-strike counts, and the high inside fastball was giving him a bit of trouble.  Now, all of that is in the distant past.  His OPS is .837; his OPS over the course of the last seven days is 1.142.  As with Youk, he’s boosted his average a lot recently.  He’s now up to .284.  His fielding percentage is .990.  Even if you look at the big picture with the slump, he contributes.  If he’s not hitting, he’s walking and playing good D.  And if he is hitting, he’s still doing those things.

Marco Scutaro: B

As with Salty, consider what we expect from Scutaro.  Given the fact that our shortstops haven’t exactly been the highlight of our lineups in recent years, we expect him to hit decently but play fantastic D.  With a .259 average, six doubles, and three home runs, he has hit fairly decently, although he should be batting in more than fourteen runs.  His fielding percentage is .977; for a shortstop, I expect more.  It’s the most challenging infield position; we’re halfway through the season, and he’s already made four errors.  Last year, he made eighteen errors.  If he makes another four errors during the second half, that already would be a huge improvement.  But our standards are higher than that.  Besides, what if those four errors cost us four ballgames? We can’t afford that.

Adrian Gonzalez: A

Anyone who gives this man less than an A must have the wrong Gonzalez.  He has done everything we ever expected him to do.  He leads the American League in batting average, hits, doubles, and RBIs (ironically enough, Adrian Beltre is right behind him).  He’s third in runs and on-base percentage, fourth in at-bats, fifth in fielding percentage, and tenth in home runs.  The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases, but we have Ellsbury and Crawford for that.  Collectively, those numbers tell us that he’s a powerful, durable, and beautifully well-rounded player capable of doing damage in any situation.  In short, he is worth every single bit of his contract.

Jed Lowrie: A

It’s not his fault he’s injured.  Before that, he was swinging a hot bat and playing well in the field.

Yamaico Navarro: B

Not great at the plate but literally flawless in the field.  He’s only been filling in temporarily anyway.

Drew Sutton: B

Sutton may be on the roster for the same reasons as Navarro, but he’s the exact opposite: not great in the field but outstanding at the plate.

JD Drew: B

Same old, same old.  Perfection in the field, mediocrity at the plate.  It’s really sad that that hasn’t changed.  Although I should mention that his highest monthly average of the season, 2.69, occurred in April, when everyone else’s monthly averages were probably at their worst.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Given last year’s injury and the fact that his season was therefore cut way too short, Ellsbury has had some catching up to do.  Not only has he caught up to our expectations; he has surpassed them.  He leads the American League in stolen bases.  He’s fifth in at-bats and average, sixth in runs, third in hits, and tied with Youk for third in doubles.  He’s set a new career high in home runs so far this year, and we still have half a season left to play.  Also worth mentioning is the fact that, over the course of the last seven days, Ellsbury has batted .467.  In the field, he has five assists, a new career high, and has yet to make an error.

Carl Crawford: C

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thinking about his contract when I gave Crawford this grade.  But the truth is that he deserves it.  The contract is simply a manifestation of the expectations that both the organization and therefore the fans have of Crawford, who has proven that he can meet and even surpass those high expectations.  So far, he’s done nothing of the kind.  Before he made his way onto the DL, he batted below .250, failed to post home runs in the double-digits, and walked and stole bases less than ten times each.  He also made two errors.  He was supposed to excel in every single one of those categories.  He was supposed to be the left-handed Adrian Gonzalez who could run.  So far, not so much.

Darnell McDonald: B

He said it himself: he’s not contributing at the level he could or should.  The added playing time helped him last year; thankfully, we have more guys healthy, so he doesn’t have as much playing time this year.  But the art of the bench player is the ability to perform when necessary, playing time or no playing time.

Josh Reddick: A

He’s just as good as we’ve ever seen him.  He performs whenever we need him; he practices the art of the bench player.  Obviously, that’s because one day he won’t be a bench player; he’ll be a starter.  In the meantime, he’s a great kid to have around.

David Ortiz: A

It’s pretty simple.  He’s batting above .300 and slugging about .575 with twenty-three doubles, nineteen home runs, and fifty-five RBIs.  He’s not supposed to field; as a designated hitter, he’s supposed to slug.  And that’s what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Offense Overall: B

The team leads the Major Leagues in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Despite this and the fact that there are a good number of players performing well on an individual level, the offense as a whole doesn’t get an A because it’s streaky.  Sometimes we’ll average about seven runs a game during a stretch; sometimes we’ll be lucky to score at all.  The mark of a good, solid offense is not to sometimes average seven runs a game; the mark of a good, solid offense is to do so consistently throughout the season.  That’s not something we’ve seen yet.  Until we do, we’ll just be a lineup with great hitters in it, not necessarily a consistently great lineup.

Defense Overall: C

We lead the Major Leagues in errors with forty-four, and we’re sixth in fielding percentage with .987.  That’s not good.

Josh Beckett: A

Beckett this season has been a model of consistency in the most positive of ways.   2.27 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, eight and three record, and ninety-four strikeouts and only seven home runs.  He’s a changed man from last year; this year, he’s found his former self.

Jon Lester: A

I’m going to give him an A because his numbers are fine enough, but I expect more from him.  His ERA is 3.31; it should be under three.  His WHIP is 1.21; it should be under one.  He’s given up fourteen home runs; it should be less than ten.  But he has ten wins by the All-Star break, which means he could have twenty by season’s end, and he has more than one hundred strikeouts.  Excellent, but not as excellent as I thought he’d be.

Clay Buchholz: B

Before he was injured, he wasn’t as great as he could have been.  Unlike Lester, his numbers aren’t that sufficiently good as to warrant a better grade even though he hasn’t performed to expectations.  He has a 3.48 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a record of six and three, only sixty strikeouts, ten home runs, and thirty-one walks.  He’ll need to work hard in the second half in order to return to form.

John Lackey: C

Lackey’s most recent start was the only start this year in which I felt we were seeing the Lackey we signed.  During all the other starts, we saw some pitcher we’d never even think of signing.  His ERA is 6.84, and his record is six and eight.  But you don’t need the numbers to tell you how inconsistent, spotty, and unpredictable his outings are and how porous and lacking in command he’s been.  It’s gotten to the point where him being on the DL is a good thing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that I’ve had just about enough of this.  We’ve been waiting and waiting for years now for him to show us even a small glimpse of the greatness he exhibited in Japan.  Well, guess what.  We’re still waiting.  And now he’s done for the season because he needs Tommy John surgery.  This could go one of two ways: either he won’t recover well at all and he’ll be even worse afterwards or he’ll make a spectacular recovery and it’ll turn out that the surgery corrected mechanical issues that were the root of the problem all along.  Either way, no matter how you slice and dice it, he didn’t pitch well this season.  You don’t need numbers to tell you that either.

Tim Wakefield: A

His ERA is in excess of four, and his WHIP is 1.27.  But technically his job is no longer to be a starter who can put the team in a position to win every fifth day.  His job is now to come in for an inning or two when necessary and keep the team in a position to win, and sometimes, when a starter is injured, to put the team in a position to win.  He is on the verge of making history with his long career, and age doesn’t seem to affect him at all.  He’s like the Benjamin Button of baseball.  He’s the ultimate team player; he answers the call of duty and he doesn’t complain.  Sometimes his knuckleball doesn’t dance like it should and he has a terrible night out.  But overall, when we need him to do something, he just does it.  It sounds simple enough, but not every ballplayer can do it.

Alfredo Aceves: A

Aceves has gone above and beyond.  He went from being a question mark during Spring Training to starting material.  He has an ERA of 3.41 and a WHIP of 1.22.  He has a record of four and one with one save.  How many pitchers can say that, after both starting and pitching in relief for half a season, they have a winning record as well as a save? Not many.  He can pretty much do it all, and that’s not even what he signed up for.  He can start, he can provide reliable middle relief, and he can close too.  I don’t think anyone expect him to be the versatile pitcher that the circumstances of the injuries to our staff have demanded he become.  But he rose to the occasion and continues to impress every time out

Matt Albers: A

Here’s another guy who continues to impress.  Again, during Spring Training, I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the dominant reliever he’d turn out to be.  He’s been as solid as solid gets.  2.55 ERA, thirty-for strikeouts, and almost two innings pitched per appearance.  So he’s both dependable and durable, arguably the two most important characteristics of a good reliever.  And with the way some of our starters have been pitching, if not for Albers we’d have been in desperate need of a good reliever.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s been better.  Like Morales, he’s a pitcher, and we need pitchers, so we’ll take what we can get and we’ll have to like it.  But to be honest I never like the look of a 4.70 ERA or a 1.43 WHIP.

Rich Hill: A

He’s appeared in nine games and thrown eight innings.  His ERA is zero.  That’s pretty good.

Andrew Miller: B

Yet another Spring Training question mark of whom we’ve seen much more than we ever thought he would.  He’s pitched decently.  For what we were expecting, he’s not great but not too bad.

Franklin Morales: B

Morales came into the fold when we were desperate for pitchers, period.  He hasn’t been outstanding, but he’s a pitcher, and given our circumstances that’s been good enough for us.

Dan Wheeler: B

His WHIP and his ERA are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  The good news is that he has an ERA of zero when pitching in day games.  So all we have to do is use him in relief during the day, and we’re guaranteed success.

Bobby Jenks: D

So far, Jenks is an epic fail.  Enough said.

Daniel Bard: A

Bard’s ERA is 2.05, and his WHIP is 0.80.  His ERA was zero for all of June as well as July to date.  Of the seventeen teams he’s faced in his career, he has an ERA of zero against twelve, including the Rays and the Phillies.  He has faced only five batters after throwing fifteen pitches.  Not too shabby.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

If only Paps were as consistent as Bard.  His ERA is almost four, and his WHIP is much too large for a closer.  And yet somehow he has twenty saves to his credit and has blown just one.  He’s on pace to lower his walk total from last year’s, which is definitely a good sign.  But as long as I have to hold my breath whenever he comes out of the bullpen, I won’t be able to give him an A.

Pitching Overall: B

Giving the pitching staff an overall rating is very complicated and in some ways not even fair.  The reason why it’s fair for the lineup and not for the pitching staff is because the pitching staff doesn’t have a responsibility to perform well as a unit in the same game.  Each pitcher has his time to shine; if he has it, great, and if he doesn’t it’s on him.  Ellsbury’s ability to get himself into scoring position may be contingent on what the hitter before him does, but Beckett’s abiltiy to secure a win has nothing to do with the fact that Jenks can’t hold it down.  But in keeping with tradition, I’ll grade the pitching staff on the whole.  Such a grade must reflect the entire staff, which unfortunately includes some very sad cases.

Terry Francona: A

Arguably one of the best managers in club history.  Certainly one of the best managers active in the game today.  It’s a travesty that he didn’t win Manager of the Year last year.  The way he manages all the personalities in this club and maneuvers through injuries, he’s Manager of the Year every year in my book.

Theo Epstein: A

Jenks and Dice-K (and Lugo and Gagne, while we’re at it) were fails, but you can’t blame him for trying.  Crawford can’t be judged yet.  Besides, for Gonzalez alone, he gets an A.  That deal is one of his masterpieces.

Team Overall: B

It’s hard to argue with the fact that we lead in so many offensive categories as well as in the American League East.  Why the B? Because we’re only in first place by one game and we’re already halfway through the season.  Granted, we’re pretty injured, and it’s hard to conquer when your staff is on the DL.  But in the grand scheme of things, many of those injuries have been fairly recent.  Nobody was injured in April.  There’s no way we should have had the start to the season that we did.  We should have been running away with the division last month, if that late.  It’s all well and good to build some momentum during Interleague and take four games from the Orioles, but any team can do that.  Our team is better than being satisfied with sweeping Baltimore.  We should be sweeping New York and Philadelphia.  We have two and a half months to get our act together and show everyone why we’ll be winning the World Series this October.  So let’s get on with it already.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I think this team is trying to give us all conniptions.  The game last night was so strangely simple.  If the other team scores runs, you just score more.  What a novel idea.  We revived the concept of the one bad inning and used it to our utmost advantage.  But it was so weird.  The team was chugging along doing absolutely nothing as usual of late and then all of a sudden decided that it simply wouldn’t stand for another loss.  The turnaround was abrupt and immediate.  And because we scored more runs in that single inning that we did in any of the road trip’s first six games, nobody saw it coming.  That’s a sad statement indeed.

Scutaro led off the game with a home run to left on a high inside fastball.  He just let it rip.  So naturally we were all optimistic that finally, with this new series, we’d get something going.  For the foreseeable future, we couldn’t have been more wrong.  The rest of the inning killed that optimism pretty quickly.  As far as runs and hits, that was it for the entire lineup through the first six innings.

Meanwhile, the Astros were pretty busy.  Wake was not his best.  In five and a third innings, he gave up five runs on eleven hits.  No walks, no strikeouts, no home runs.  Just lots and lots of line drives.  He had his moments; he faced the minimum in the third and fourth and got out of the third by inducing three consecutive ground balls.  But then he’d lose his knuckleball again.  He was pulled in favor of Dan Wheeler in the fifth after Bud Norris, the pitcher, singled in the Astros’ fifth and luckily last run.  Wheeler finished off the sixth and ended up with his first win in a Red Sox uniform.  Albers and Morales combined to pitch the seventh and each got holds.  Bard pitched the eighth and got a hold, and Paps pitched the ninth and got his sixteenth save of the season.

Speaking of winning, how did it happen? This is where the fun begins.

Norris came out for the seventh; his first batter was Drew.  I think Norris and everyone else watching had some pretty obvious predictions about how that at-bat would end up.  When Drew singled, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised; it was his first hit of the night.  Salty then came up and singled as well.  Technically that wouldn’t have been a cause for alarm even for a pitcher having a fantastic night because hits happen, even for the best.  But when Reddick doubled in our second run of the game, that was it for Norris.  He may have left the game, but his line continued to suffer.  Sergio Escalona gave up a single to Sutton, which scored his first inherited runner.  McDonald replaced Wheeler and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Wilton Lopez replaced Escalona.  In perhaps the most anticlimactic at-bat ever, Scutaro, who’d led off the game by going deep and made a flying leap to corral what would have been an RBI hit in the fifth, struck out swinging.  I bet the Astros figured they finally found the reliever who’d limit the damage.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Pedroia stepped up, both literally and figuratively.  After taking issue with his 2-1 pitch that was supposedly a strike, he singled.  That single scored two runs and tied the game.  And to make sure that he’d made himself perfectly clear to home plate umpire Laz Diaz, he turned around mid-hustle to first and started shouting.  It was interesting and completely Pedroia-esque, complete with a priceless quote:

“I don’t know.  I don’t even remember, man.  I’m out of my mind half the time anyways.”

It was up to Gonzalez to put us out in front, and he definitely delivered.  It was his only hit in five at-bats, but what a hit.  He got a fastball right down the middle, and he uncorked a massive swing for a double off the bullpen fence that brought in two.  Then we were done.  Youk flied out and Drew, who ironically enough started everything, grounded out.  The seventh inning started and ended innocently enough, but those six runs won the game for us.  The final score was 7-5.  It was sweet.

So Youk and Drew both came back, but Ellsbury was scratched due to an illness, which is why Scutaro batted leadoff.  We designated Cameron for assignment.  The New York Times sold most of its stake in the team.  And of course Papi will be lighting up the Home Run Derby in a matter of weeks.  We are now halfway through the season.  We have a record of forty-seven and thirty-four, which yields a winning percentage of .580.  That’s good for two and a half games out of first place in the division and two and a half games in first place for the Wild Card.  It’s not bad, but it’s not where we want to be.  There’s always the Wild Card, but you should never settle for less than your best, and we belong at the top of the AL East.  So we’re going to have to play like it.  Starting three months ago.  But at least this win is a step in the right direction.  Let’s keep it going.

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See, that’s what we should have been doing the last few days, not just yesterday.  Winning.  Winning was what we should have been doing.  Okay, so we lost the series to the Phillies.  That’s not good.  But at least we weren’t swept.  Like I said, at this point, for some sad, strange reason, we’ll have to take what we can get and be happy with it, and right now I’m just happy we didn’t lose.  Yeah, that’s pathetic, but what can you do.  We’ll come around.  Meanwhile, at least we preserved some dignity.

We won, 5-2.  Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that we out-hit the Phillies, 13-4.  If only that were the final score, too.  But a win is a win, no matter how many runs you score.  I just would have really liked a slugfest in order to leave the Phillies with a taste in their mouths that’s extra-bad and easy to remember.

Lester was absolutely masterful.  He finally secured a well-earned tenth win.  He fired off seven shutout innings of two-hit ball like it was no big deal.  He sent down twelve of his first fourteen hitters.  He walked two, struck out five, and needed 120 pitches to do it.  Clearly he was massively inefficient.  His cut fastball was as sharp as ever, but his off-speed pitches were a bit lacking.  More affective than that was the fact that the Phillies made him work; it took him twenty-five pitches to get out of the seventh inning alone, and he never threw under ten pitches in a single frame.  He had to earn that win.  But he did.  And we needed it very badly.

Jenks was the one who allowed the runs.  Bard finished the eighth, and Jenks came on for the ninth.  He allowed two runs and left in favor of Paps, who found himself in a save situation and came through.

We didn’t get on the board until Cole Hamels was taken out due to an injury he sustained when Gonzalez hit a line drive off of Hamels’s right hand in the fourth.  Ouch.  Reddick tripled and scored on a single by Sutton, who scored on a single by Ellsbury.  That was it until Tek unleashed in the very next inning on a hanging slider, sending it out of the park and into the first few rows in right field.  But he was just getting started.  In the eighth, Pedroia and Tek hit back-to-back jacks.  These last two were hit on fastballs; all three were hit to the same location.  So of the team’s four extra-base hits, three were homers, and all four led directly to scoring.  We left eight on base and went two for eight with runners in scoring position.  But that’s the thing about home runs.  It doesn’t matter who’s in scoring position; you score anyway.  And the fact that the captain went yard twice made it all the better.

This was a much-needed win if I’ve ever seen one.  Every win of ours this days is much-needed.  It makes you wonder what might be in store as the trade deadline approaches, although we all know that thankfully Theo would never do anything rash.  It’s just like I said in the beginning of the season: we need to get on a permanent hot streak and then we’re set.  One good, long, continuous groove and it’s smooth sailing all the way to the World Series.  Hopefully that’ll start tomorrow with the Astros.

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It only took Aceves seventy-eight pitches to ruin the game for us.  Seventy eight pitches, forty-seven of which were strikes.  He pitched to two batters in the sixth before he was pulled in favor of Atchison, who allowed both of his inherited runners to score plus two of his own.  The bottom line is that this was an outing that most definitely didn’t prompt anyone to say that either Lackey or Dice-K should try their hands in the bullpen rather than forcing Aceves back in there while he’s pitching so well.  Because last night he didn’t pitch so well.  He pitched like, well, Lackey or Dice-K.  For Aceves the illusion of grandeur, at least temporarily, is over.

Eight runs, six of them earned (you can thank Lowrie and his fielding error for the two unearned runs), on eight hits.  Three walks.  Only one strikeout.  Between Aceves and Atchison, the Other Sox put up two four-pots.  Clearly not great.  Not good.  Not even decent.  It was bad.

Tek got us on the board in the third with a solo shot he hooked into the bullpen on the first pitch he saw.  After that, we barely threatened until the seventh, when we put two runners on base, but that didn’t amount to anything.  The eighth was when we started to fight back.  Reddick doubled and scored on a single by Sutton.  After Gonzalez struck out, Youk singled, and then Papi crushed a ball all the way to the Monster.

After the eighth ended, we were trailing, 10-5.  If we put up another four-spot we’d only be trailing by one.  Five runs would tie it.  Six would win it walkoff-style.  And the way we’ve been swinging the bats lately, none of those were a distinct impossibility.  When Lowrie led off with a walk, I had high hopes for the inning.  After Drew popped up, Reddick hit a sac fly to bring in Lowrie.  That was one.  Sutton doubled to bring in Tek.  That was two.  It was almost three; it was almost a Pesky-esque home run.  Gonzalez stepped up.  Up to that point he’d doubled and struck out twice.  And I’m thinking that this is the guy you want up there.  What does he do? He strikes out on three pitches.  We lost, 10-7.  Aceves took the loss for the first time in forty-eight appearances since 2009.  He is undefeated in his last twelve decisions.

Papi went two for four, Sutton was perfect at the plate, and Tek went three for four.  Drew didn’t have any hits, but he did make that spectacular diving catch in the second.

We’re now in the middle of a three-game losing streak.  Honestly, I’ve had enough of losing streaks and sweeps.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Two consecutive slugfests.  It was our biggest consecutive barrage since we scored fifteen runs in consecutive games in July in 1998.  Rain kept us from playing the ninth inning (there was a fifty-five minute delay before the game was called), but I don’t think anybody really thought it mattered.  I think the Tigers at that point just wanted to be anywhere but the ballpark.

Aceves turned in another impressive spot start.  In fact, his line was very similar to Lester’s on Wednesday.  (In fact, obviously, the entire game was similar to Wednesday’s game.) Six innings, one run on five hits, who walks, and six K’s on ninety-eight pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  I’m telling you, if Aceves continues at this rate, either Dice-K or Lackey is going to have to join the bullpen when one of them returns.

Nobody scored in the first inning.  Then we put up a five-spot in the second inning.  Papi and Crawford singled back-to-back.  Sutton doubled in Papi.  Reddick, who’s in for Drew, who’s out with a right hamstring issue, singled in Crawford.  Tek struck out swinging, and then Ellsbury walloped a three-run blast to right field on a hanging slider.  Three runs in on one swing, and the kid’s not even a power hitter.

The Tigers would have been lucky if we scored twice as many runs as we did in the second and stopped there.  But we had no intention of doing so.  The third opened with a single by Youk and a walk by Papi, followed by a two-run triple for Crawford.  We went down in order in the fourth and sent up only one above the minimum in the fifth, thanks to another walk by Papi.  The sixth opened with two consecutive singles followed by two consecutive strikeouts followed by a run scoring on a fielding error.  Papi led off the seventh with a double and came home on yet another triple by Crawford.

And lastly, the eighth.  Ellsbury walked on four pitches to start things off.  Pedroia doubled him in.  Gonzalez singled him in.  Youk and Papi provided the first two outs of the inning before Crawford singled, moving Gonzalez to third.  Gonzalez came home on a double by Sutton, who came home with Crawford on a single by Reddick.  Tek flied out for the third out of the inning and what ended up being the final out of the game.  Albers had pitched a solid eighth, and Atchison never even had a chance to get out there.

This time, every single member of the starting lineup got a hit.  Our first four and ninth hitters each had one each.  Sutton went two for five with two doubles and is really making some waves.  Papi went two for three with a double and two walks.  Reddick went three for five.  But the crown jewel of the night was again Carl Crawford, who went four for five with two triples, two runs, and three RBIs.  This after a perfect plate performance one triple shy of the cycle.  Over the course of just two days, he raised his batting average by .32.  It was the first time he’d ever collected four hits in consecutive games.  Nobody in a Boston uniform has done it since Pedroia during his MVP year in 2008.

In total, sixteen hits, seven left on base, and nine for twenty-one with runners in scoring position.  The final score was 14-1.  We have the best record in the Major Leagues in the month of May: seventeen and seven.  Oh, and by the way, we’re in first place! Finally! I mean, we’re tied for first place with the Yankees of all teams, who technically lead us in winning percentage because we have one more loss than they do, but still.  It’s better than second place, and it’s way better than fifth place.

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