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Posts Tagged ‘Evan Longoria’

Wow.  Talk about a close game.  That was a pitcher’s duel if I’ve ever seen it.  You don’t get any closer to a pitcher’s duel than a final score of 1-0.  That tells you that the match was as even as it could possibly get.  Unfortunately, we were on the losing end of the 1-0, but there were some substantial silver linings in this one.

Bard inevitably took the loss, but he pitched absolutely spectacularly.  He only used three pitches – a four-seam that got up to ninety-six miles per hour and that made you just dream about him returning to the closer’s role we’d penciled him into when Jonathan Papelbon walked, a changeup at ninety-three miles per hour, and a slider – but that was really the only aspect of his start that gave him away as someone who’s new at this.  Other than that, he looked absolutely spectacular.  He mixed those pitches really well, which is important if you don’t have a lot to work with, and we can give him credit for that, for keeping his release point pretty tight, and for overpowering hitters until the seventh inning.

Bard’s line wasn’t exactly identical to James Shields’s, number for number.  Bard lasted six and two-thirds innings to Shields’s eight and one third, Bard walked seven to Shields’s two, and obviously Bard gave up one run to Shields’s zero.  But Bard struck out seven to Shields’s five.  Bard was less efficient than Shields; he threw 111 pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes, while Shields threw 115 pitches, seventy-six of which were strikes, over more innings.  But obviously Bard completely held his own, and given the circumstances, I’d say that that’s exactly what we needed to see in order to truly believe that starting is something that he could, not simply do, and not simply do well, but do as well as we need him to do it.

Bard began his start auspiciously; he needed only eight pitches to get through the first.  He threw fifteen in the second and fourth, eighteen in the third, twenty-one in the fifth, ten in the sixth, and twenty-four in the seventh before he was pulled.  His first inning was one-two-three.  He hit a batter in the second.  He issued his second walk in the third but secured all three outs via the K.  His sixth was one-two-three as well.  In every inning that was not one-two-three, Bard issued at least one walk.

As you can imagine, he allowed his run in the seventh before he was pulled.  A groundout on two pitches and a strikeout on three provided two quick outs to open the inning, but then two walks and a single loaded the bases, and then Bard walked Evan Longoria on four pitches to score the winning run.  That was a hugely painful moment.  You could tell after the first walk that inning that he was struggling and tired, and to see him walk in what would prove to be the winning run was just heart-wrenching.  That one run cost us a four-game sweep and cost Bard what would have been, had the offense been able to muster two runs, which is not even a third of the runs that we’d scored in our two breakout games, a well-deserved win for Bard, his first of the year and as a starter.  It was absolutely, positively painful to watch.

Needless to say, he was replaced by Thomas after that, who finished the seventh and pitched through the eighth.  Albers pitched the ninth.  Both relievers obviously delivered shutout performances, and you could say that Bobby V. should have had the foresight to have gone to Albers before the bases were loaded.  In fact, you should say that.  Bobby V. said that after the game, and it’s the second such mistake he’s made this season.  Even Longoria was surprised to have been facing Bard and not a reliever at that point.  Apparently, Bobby V. wanted Bard to know that he trusts him to get out of a jam.  Well, I have to say, not extricating yourself from the jam successfully doesn’t really give anyone much to trust in after all.

At any rate, the offense was completely stymied.  We collected four hits to the Rays’ seven, and none of them were for extra bases.  Ross’s two-for-four performance was our only multi-hit game. The other two hits belonged to Gonzalez and Pedroia, who also walked.  Papi and Punto accounted for the other two walks we received.  We only had three chances with runners in scoring position and clearly did not take advantage of any of them.  We also grounded into two double plays.  Sweeney made a glittering catch in the second to end the inning; he dove and slid to make it, and it was very Ellsbury-esque.

Well, you know what they say: walks will haunt, and this one certainly haunted.  That one run felt like ten in those late innings when the bats were still silent.  Bard dazzled, and it certainly wasn’t helpful that, with two out and two men on in the ninth (Pedroia’s walk and Papi’s walk, which was intentional), Ross struck out.  I would go so far as to say that Ross’s called strikeout wasn’t his fault but the fault of home plate umpire Larry Vanover, whose three calls of strikes were incorrect, as they should have been rightly called balls.  It was one of the more infuriating umpire performances I’ve seen in a good, long while.  Ross has proven to be a great hitter; who knows? Maybe we would have been able to score those two runs after all.  To say that I was positively livid is an understatement.  The game truly ended on a sour note.

By the way, a note on Bobby V., since we’re already talking about bad decisions he’s made.  You an add to that list of bad decisions a comment he made on television that claimed that Youk is not as committed physically and emotionally to the game as he has been in the past.  Youk found out about it from his agent, and then the two spoke directly, and apparently Bobby V. apologized and said that the comment was taken out of context.  There are several things wrong with this incident.  First of all, a manager should not criticize his players in public.  Secondly, if a player is criticized, he should not be the last to know.  Thirdly, a manager should not say things that can prove to be detrimental if taken out of context.  Red Sox Nation has seen how committed Youk is, how much of a dirt dog and a team player he is and how passionate he is about the game and this team.  Red Sox Nation has also had occasion to see the positive effects of a manager’s leadership style that emphasizes privacy and discretion.  Bobby V. would indeed do well to learn from this incident.

In other news, the B’s beat the Caps, 4-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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We lost.  Again.  I can’t believe this.  It was devastating.

Weiland gave up three runs on six hits.  He walked three and struck out only one.  He lasted only four innings.  He threw eighty-two pitches, forty-six of which were strikes.  Clearly he was inefficient and generally sub-par.  Aceves came in and delivered four absolutely crucial innings.  Then Paps pitched two full scoreless innings.  He retired all six of his batters.  It was beautiful.  And then Bard gave up a run in extras and took the loss.  And that was pretty much the story of the latest collective pitching fail.

Lowrie plated our first run in the second with a groundout.  Then Gonzalez smacked a two-run shot in the fifth on a changeup to right.  I still can’t get over the fact that every single one of his swings is quintessential.  It’s textbook.  All of them.  He just goes up there and makes it look nice and easy.

Salty and Ellsbury smacked back-to-back jacks in the ninth, both to right field.  Salty got a sinker, and Ellsbury got a slider.  Salty’s was a hard-hit straight line drive back.  Ellsbury’s was an enormous blast to tie it up.  He had that pitch’s number all the way through.

Basically, this is what you need to know.  Heading into the bottom of the fifth, we were tied at three.  Heading into the bottom of the ninth, we were tied at five.  Heading into the bottom of the tenth, we were tied at five.  Heading into the bottom of the eleventh, we were tied at five.  And then Bard came on.  And he allowed a triple on his second pitch.  It landed in the gap between Ellsbury and McDonald.  Ellsbury called off McDonald and dove for it, but it bounced off his glove.  And then there was a groundout, and then a single that won it.  Evan Longoria hit that single in an 0-2 count on a ninety-eight-mile-per-hour fastball.  How does he even see that?

If I sound terse and exasperated, it’s obviously because I am.  Who wouldn’t be? Last night was crushing.  Every time the offense battled back, the bullpen gave the lead away again.  We put up nine hits, left eight on base, and went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.  And we have a 6-5 loss in extras to show for it.  We’re lucky it wasn’t more lopsided; the Rays had too many opportunities for comfort that they didn’t take advantage of.  And we were actually poised to win; we had some good rallies going.  And now Paps will be unavailable because he pitched two innings, and Aceves had to work overtime.  But it’s more than that.  Lately, we’re playing just like we were in the beginning of the season, and all of the injuries we’re currently dealing with doesn’t help.  We’re on a four-game losing streak.  Add to that the fact that now the Rays are only four and a half games behind us in the Wild Card standings, and you’d be hard pressed to find a reason why all of Red Sox Nation should not be terse and exasperated.

In other news, we extend our condolences to those who perished ten years ago today.  We honor, we remember, and we reunite.  When we take the field today, we take it in memory of lives lost and in celebration of the country’s patriotic spirit.

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The title of this post is both very cheesy and completely unoriginal, but it’s accurate and it gets my point across, so I’m going with it.

As usual, I’ll start with the Home Run Derby, and unlike the derbies of previous years, this one actually wasn’t a drag.  All I have to say is, “Who’s your papi?” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  Your newest Home Run Derby champion is none other than David Ortiz himself! I can’t say I was surprised.  Big Papi is one of the best, and lefties own that ballpark in the evenings.  Eight homers in the first round batting sixth and thirteen in the second leading off said he was tied with Hanley Ramirez, ironically enough, but he left that tie in the dust when he clubbed eleven homers in the final round from the leadoff spot.  Ramirez couldn’t even come close.  He is the first Red Sox player to win a Home Run Derby, and after everything his home runs have done for this team, he most definitely deserves it.  And he sure did us proud.  If you want to talk about power, that right there was power.  It was home run after home run after home run.  Literally.  And he’s a classy guy; he even went out to Ramirez during the final round and told him to slow down and save his energy.  And of course the dedication of his trophy to Jose Lima.  That was special.

The game itself was a compete disappointment.  The final score was 3-1 in favor of the National League, which snapped its All-Star losing streak at thirteen games.  The American League hasn’t lost an All-Star Game since 1996.  The National League! Not only did the American League, and by the American League I obviously mean us, lose home field advantage for the World Series, but it also humiliated itself.  I mean, who loses to the National League? Sure, the NL put its best out there, but so did the AL.  It’s just not right.

Jon Lester, I am proud to say, pitched a one-two-three bottom of the sixth and was rewarded with a hold for his services.  Because he was pitching with a 1-0 lead at the time.  Of the eighteen pitches he fired, eleven were strikes.  Ramirez was the first out after he hit a ground ball hard back to the mound.  Prado then popped to short.  And Gonzalez hit a ground ball to second.  Then Phil Hughes allowed two of the runs and took the loss.  A Yankee.  Great.  Matt Thornton of the White Sox got a blown save.

The AL scored its only run in the fifth, when Longoria came home on Cano’s sac fly.  So representatives from our two rivals scored the only run.  Interesting.

Papi struck out looking, hit a single, and was left on base once.  The contrast from his performance during the Home Run Derby was striking.  I mean, it’s supposed to be, but still.  That single led off the bottom of the ninth and was halfway to second base on a bloop by Buck when Byrd caught the ball and fired to second to force him out.  It was ruled a fielder’s choice.  And it was pretty much the end of the game.  If it had been anyone faster on the basepaths and anyone less competent in the outfield, the runner would have been safe without a doubt.

It was the first time in his career that Papi ever faced Broxton.  He was actually the pitcher who served up what would become Pedroia’s first career walkoff hit on June 19, and Papi was standing in the on-deck circle at the time.

Beltre entered the game in the eighth for defense and struck out swinging in the ninth after Papi’s at-bat.

Pedroia, Buchholz, and V-Mart obviously had a blast and took it all in.  Although I would like to point out that, had the three of them been able to play, it’s not inconceivable that the American League would’ve won after all.  I’m just saying.  All three are elites in pitching or batting and defense.  So it’s an objectively reasonable claim.

So that was it.  It was a clean, short, nine-inning game.  Kind of boring, actually, as All-Star Games go.  No position players had to come in and pitch, no spectacular plays in the field were made, no tie at the very last out was broken by a walkoff, none of that.  Just simple baseball.  But that’s cool too.  We watch baseball for the love of the game, so sometimes simple baseball is just nice.  Then again, it’s even nicer when the team we want to win, actually wins.  At times like this, it makes you reconsider the concept of fan voting.  You’re talking about letting a popularity contest decide something very serious and important: home field advantage for the World Series.  Starting the World Series on the road is not ideal, but I’m not worried about our ability to get through it.  I’m just saying that it’s a weighty issue that should be given its due consideration.

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This whole injury thing is just getting ridiculous.  We’re seriously dropping like flies.  This is definitely one way to test the mettle of your team and to find out who your core players really are whom you can’t do without.  But I’d just as soon find out some other way and not be in this position.

Youk is the latest to fall.  Ironically, he also may be All-Star-bound.  Halfway through the Final Vote, he’s in the lead with some support from Senator John Kerry.  Anyway, he left in the top of the fourth with a right ankle issue.  Thankfully, it’s minor, and he expects to play tonight.

This is extraordinarily good news, because Youk being out was a complete managerial nightmare.  It completely destroyed the effectiveness of the configuration of our lineup.  Niuman Romero was called in to replace him and had had only fourteen at-bats in his entire career.  Which meant that there was absolutely no reason for Rays pitchers to pitch to Papi, who was intentionally walked in all of his last three plate appearances.  (He is officially participating in his first Home Run Derby this year, so he’ll have plenty of chances to make up for it, but still.) Including the second-to-last at-bat of the game.

In the fourth, Nava hit an RBI single; Drew had taken advantage of Longoria’s two-base throwing error and moved into scoring position.  In the eighth, Patterson hit an RBI triple to bring us within a run.  Up stepped Papi.  He was given a free pass, and Tito put in Cameron to run, and he would be running, just in case we converted our slim chance of tying or taking the lead with Romero at the plate.  That did not happen.  Romero grounded to second.  Game over.

We basically just got beat by our own lineup.

It’s easy to unleash a world of fury at Romero, but technically it wasn’t his fault that Youk had to come out and he was the only one left.  We seriously just completely depleted our bench and didn’t have any other choice.  Tito did his best with what he had, but it’s tough to manage well or manage at all when you literally have no players to manage.

Through all of that ugliness, Doubront shone in his second Major League start.  He was saddled with the loss, but he still shone.  The final score was 3-2; he gave up two runs on five hits over five and two-thirds; he walked four and struck out three.  He threw 101 pitches.  He relied very heavily on his fastball, followed by his changeup, with some curveballs thrown in.  His changeup was his most effective pitch; he only threw his fastball for strikes about half the time.  As far as pitch counts per inning are concerned, he followed his game low with his game high: nine in the fifth and twenty-four in the sixth before he was removed.  In fact, he allowed one of his five hits and three of his four walks in that inning alone.  Fortunately, we picked off Longoria at third for the third out.  (The second out was pretty sweet too; Hall made this diving catch, pivoted with his knee on the ground, and threw to first in time.  It was awesome.) His strike zone was evenly distributed, as was the border where all his balls ended up, including some very wild ones up.  You could see that it was hard for him at times to control his movement.  But, overall, not bad for someone’s second start in the Big Show.

Atchison pitched very well.  Okajima allowed a solo home run in his first relief outing in a week.  His back looked fine, but he left a splitter up and what he got was the winning run.  Manuel recorded the final out.

We just lost the first two games of the series, giving us a three-game losing streak overall.  We need to step it up and win tonight.  Otherwise, we’re looking at another steep climb out of third place.  We’re one and a half games out of second.  We can’t let it get any bigger than that.  We also need to stop hurting ourselves, literally.  Papi even said he’s never seen an injury report like this one before, where nine players who see action on a regular basis are on the DL.  That’s absurd.  That’s almost comical; you want to laugh until you actually realize what that means.  It means we’re fighting the steepest uphill battle in the Majors, but if we can do it, it also means we’ll pretty much have the most experienced bench in the Majors as well.  One step at a time.  That’s how we’ll get through this.  One step at a time.  Starting tonight, when Wake takes on David Price.  Let’s not get swept.

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I tried to be patient.  I tried to make justifications.  I tried to be fair and objective and understanding about the fact that the start to our season was sub-par.  I think the time for that kind of gamesmanship is passing.  We’re now four and seven and four games out of first.  The Yankees are tied with the Rays for first with the Jays a game and a half out.  Now that the standings look eerily normal, I think that now we’ve reached the point where we can start expressing dissatisfaction with the team’s overall performance.  Keeping in mind that the season is barely two weeks old, of course.

The suspended game was resolved quickly.  Within sixty-eight minutes, the Rays walked off with the W.  Burrell hit his first homer of the season, which also scored Longoria in the twelfth.  Those are the first two earned runs allowed by Delcarmen so far this year; he’ll take the loss.  Even worse was that we loaded the bases in the eleventh with no out and failed to deliver.  Drew was thrown out at the plate (I’m seeing a theme and I don’t like it), and Beltre grounded into a double play (again).  So that was the end of that.

As far as the game originally scheduled for yesterday, we lost that one too.  6-5, and it wasn’t pretty.  Buchholz allowed no earned runs on three hits with four walks and seven K’s over five innings.  Decent.  Except for the first, anyway.  The first pitch of the game was a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball called for a strike, but he wouldn’t finish the inning until he pitched for twenty-six more minutes and threw forty-two more pitches.  He apparently lost concentration but quickly regained it; his next four innings were scoreless.  But guess what? Four unearned runs were plated on his watch.  The Rays picked up two (one earned) from Atchison; Ramirez turned in a solid two innings and that was the ballgame.

So, to review: that was four unearned runs.  Four.  And all of them were on Cameron’s fielding error.  Pena flied to center, but the ball bounced off Cameron’s glove.  Between his and Scutaro, I’m starting to wonder when our immaculate defense intends to show up.

We did our best to make it interesting.  Three home runs, all into the Monster seats.  Scutaro hit his first home run of the year and in a Boston uniform in the fifth.  Two innings later, he scored another run when Pedroia the Destroyah smashed one.  He now has more homers in April than any other Red Sox second baseman in club history.  Then Youk hit one of his own with V-Mart on, cutting the deficit to one.  (And I would like to point out that all of those runs were earned, thank you very much.) But alas, the win was not to be.  What a total waste of epic offense.  All those balls to the same area.  That’s one significant manifestation of the power in this lineup.

Now they’re targeting Ellsbury’s return for the middle of this week.  Congratulations to Jonathan Papelbon, who wasn’t on hand at Fenway for the continuation of Friday’s contest because he welcomed his second child.

So that’s it.  Two losses in one day, and we didn’t even have to get swept in a doubleheader to do it.  Unbelievable.  What we have here is the classic case of missed opportunities.  We put runners on bases and fail to plate them.  We need to start hitting with runners in scoring position.  It’s strange that we haven’t been because clearly we’re pretty homer-happy, and you would think that a lineup that can hit home runs would be perfectly capable of hitting line drives as well.  Apparently not.  This needs to change.  Garza at Lester this afternoon, and I would very much like to avoid getting swept.

The Bruins won, 5-3, and looked solid doing it.  Next game is tomorrow.  This series has the potential to turn out better than I thought.

Brad Mangin

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Speaking of quality starts, Clay Buchholz’s start last night was one.  Exactly.  Three runs on six hits over six innings.  One walk, three K’s.  Ninety-one pitches.  Would I have liked to limit the Rays to fewer hits? You bet.  Would I have liked to limit the Rays to fewer runs? Absolutely.  But a quality start is a quality start, and technically I can’t complain.  Buchholz takes home his fourth win after that one.

Billy Wagner (hold), Daniel Bard (hold), and Jonathan Papelbon (save) were superb.  Three innings of no-hit ball by three of the no-hittingest relievers you can find.  And let’s take a look at how Bard retired Evan Longoria in the eighth, because admittedly, that’s something we haven’t always been able to do.  Up to this point, Longoria had only seen one of Bard’s fastballs (he hit a home run, unfortunately, so that was all he needed to see).  So he used his slider, which is more effective now because he retooled his grip.  Three sliders later, Longoria was walking back to the dugout.  (I should also say it was V-Mart’s idea to go slider.  Good work!) Jonathan Papelbon was fined for delay of game for the seventh time.  By the way, we’ll be the first American League team in history to employ six relievers, all with ERAs below 3.50 and all having pitched more than forty innings.

It was a game of doubles; the final score was 6-3, and we out-hit the Rays, 12-6.  So, let’s do it to it! Ellsbury hit and stole twice.  V-Mart went two for five with an RBI.  Youk went three for five with a double and an RBI, and this is someone who’s just absolutely on fire.  I’m telling you, he’s basically what Dustin Pedroia was last year: American League MVP.  Bay went two for four with two doubles, two RBIs, and a running catch that robbed Jason Bartlett of extra bases, and this is someone who’s just absolutely deserving of a contract.  We need to sign him in the offseason.  Lowell racked up an RBI.  Baldelli went yard in the second, about two-thirds of the way up the left-field stands.  Yeah, the ball was hit deep.  And it just amazes me how consistent he is, given his lack of playing time.  He’s one of the only players I’ve seen whose game doesn’t suffer from sporadic appearances.  By the way, now that Drew is hot, we have the best outfield in the American League.

Notice that Tek wasn’t in the lineup.  He wasn’t in the lineup at the start of the series, either, which at the time surprised me because Lester always partners with Tek.  He was in the lineup yesterday but exited in the seventh when Tito put in Kotchman to pinch-hit.  It’s the only close game during which Tek’s been pinch-hit for this year.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is happening as he’s in a slump.

Josh Reddick has been called up, and he finally made it after horrendous traffic in Providence made him miss his fight.  Speaking of callups, did you know that, when Joey Gathright came into the game last night, he was our fifty-first player this season? That’s a lot of players.  Specifically, the most used in a single season since 2006, incidentally the only year in the past six we didn’t make the playoffs.  I don’t think the two are related, though.  Teams use that many players out of panic and desperation, and there were times this year when we were panicked and desperate, but not because our entire team was on the DL, as was the case in 2006.  In 2006 we were desperate because we were in a no-way-out situation.  This year we were desperate because we had a way out and wanted to make the most of it.  Case in point: we’ve used ten more players this year than we did in all of 2008, and in 2008 we didn’t make it to the World Series.  I have to believe one of the benefits of using so many players is extra rest for the studs.

So that’s it for the Trop this season, thankfully.  We play the Rays again next weekend, but we’re hosting.  But hey, we won this series! We saw some good and bad, sometimes more good than bad and sometimes more bad than good.  But that’ll happen.  It’s tipping the balance in the right direction that’s important.  And I’d say this was a series to make us feel good about the playoffs.  Our next series will be at the White Sox, and Byrd will be on the mound opposite Freddy Garcia.  And if Byrd pitches anything like he did during his last outing, we’re in great shape.

AP Photo

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