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Posts Tagged ‘Felix Hernandez’

Oh, man.  Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man.  That was a terrible loss.  It was absolutely crushing.  Crushing, crushing, crushing.  It doesn’t get much more devastating than that.  To hold on and do everything right (I can say that because the only error we made did not result in damage, luckily; it wouldn’t have made a difference, as it turned out, all else being equal, but at least we can hold our heads high the way the score turned out) and play so well until the very last possible minute and then give it all up will bring the pain every time.

The matchup was exceptionally even, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be going into it, which is a huge credit to the pitchers we sent out there.  Morales was nothing short of stunning, both literally and figuratively.  He pitched a full seven shutout innings.  He gave up only three runs, walked two, and struck out seven.  He threw 109 pitches, seventy of which were strikes.  He threw a really nasty curveball as well as a nasty two-seam fastball, and his four-seam and changeup were also fantastic.  He took advantage of his arsenal, mixing pitches well and varying speeds.  He was efficient for the most part as well; he threw eleven pitches in the first, nine in the second, twenty in the third, nineteen in the fourth, eighteen in the fifth, thirteen in the sixth, and nineteen in the seventh.

The first and second were his only one-two-three innings.  He gave up his first walk in the third and his second in the fifth.  He gave up a single in the fourth, sixth, and seventh, his only inning in which he had to deal with more than one baserunner thanks to a missed catch by Gonzalez, which put runners at the corners with two out.

Miller had himself a one-two-three eighth inning.  It was Atchison who took the loss for giving up the walkoff RBI single that ended it all.  He began the inning with a flyout but followed it with a double and then an intentional walk.  And then John Jaso pinch-hit for Miguel Olivo and singled on the first pitch of the at-bat to right field, scoring one run to win the game.

If that had been all, the loss would have been crushing but not so devastating because we would have known that we tried our best and it simply wasn’t enough that day against the Mariners.  But it doesn’t end there.  Ross threw to the plate to try to get the runner, and Salty had it and was ready to tag and go into extra innings.  He was ready.  He had the ball and he was in position and everything with ample time and distance to spare.  There wasn’t even a doubt that no run would score.  And if the play had gone according to plan, who knows? Maybe we’d still be out there playing baseball.

But no.  As Salty tried to make the tag, he lost the ball.  I saw it with my own eyes, and even as it was happening, I couldn’t even believe it.  I didn’t want to believe it.  It was one of the more pathetic things I’ve ever seen; Salty didn’t even know he lost the ball until after he applied the tag and saw that the run had scored.  Only then did he notice that the ball was lying several feet from the plate.

Meanwhile, the offense was completely and totally stymied by Felix Hernandez, who pitched a complete game shutout and held us to five hits and one walk.  We struck out thirteen times, which tied a career high for Hernandez.

We went down in order in the first, second, fifth, sixth, and eighth.  We singled in the third, fourth, seventh, and ninth.  Our best opportunities to score were the two innings in which we somehow managed to put two runners on the basepaths: the third, when we had two on with two out thanks to two singles which were for naught when Pedroia ended the threat by hitting a ball too hard to left center field, and the ninth, when we had two on with one out thanks to a single followed by our one walk, which went to Salty.  And then Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and was quickly 3-0.  The situation looked good.  Then, all of a sudden, he swung through a fastball and then fouled off four straight pitches.  So the count was full, and all of Red Sox Nation was hanging on the edge of their seats.  And of course it ended very anticlimactically: with a flyout on the ninth pitch of a valiant at-bat.  And you can thank the spaciousness of the outfield at Safeco for that.

So the final score was indeed 1-0, and it was the most intense pitcher’s duel I’ve seen in a very, very long time.  I mean, it was a real, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.  It had to be when the final score is 1-0.  But it didn’t have to end the way it did.  Even if we would have lost eventually anyway, it didn’t have to be decided by something so humiliating as simply having lost the ball.  It was actually literally just horrifying.

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I definitely did not see that coming at all.  If you told me before last night’s game that Lackey was going to pitch like that, if it weren’t for the hit count I would have insisted you had him confused with Beckett.  I would have said there’s no way Lackey could randomly hurl an outing like that.  And, again, I am happy to say that I would have been totally wrong.

Out of nowhere, Lackey dominated.  He just dominated.  He just pitched really, really well like it was no big deal.  He gave up only one run on only eight hits (for him, that’s low), striking out four and walking none in seven innings.  He threw 101 pitches, sixty-eight for strikes.

Wait.  What?

Seriously.  He figured out how to be awesome again overnight.  I don’t know if this will last.  I don’t know if he’ll turn into Dice-K and have a cluster of great outings followed by a cluster of abysmal outings.  All I know is that a few of his preceding starts weren’t as bad as some of the others we’ve seen from him, and now we’ve witnessed a sliver of glory.

For strikes, his worst pitch was his cutter; he only threw it for strikes fifty-six percent of the time.  There have been times when he’d only throw his best pitch for strikes fifty-six percent of the time.  But he rolled out his arsenal and executed all of his pitches precisely and effectively.  His changeup and curveball were unhittable.  His slider and four-seam were baffling.  (He only threw about one or two two-seams the during entire game.) Of all 101 of his pitches, only seventeen were fastballs; he has thrown a higher percentage of offspeed pitches this season than he has in any other season of his career.  You might say that that’s been his problem, but as you can see, as long as the offspeed pitches are working, there’s no problem in sight.  So he just has to get them to work consistently.

He was also randomly efficient.  He gave up twenty-two pitches in the first, when he allowed his run; a single, two steals, and another single later, we were down by one before Ellsbury even stepped into the batter’s box.  But I’ll take that any day over being down by, like, seven.  After that, he just cruised.  His second inning was one-two-three, beginning with strikeout on a curveball.  His third inning, his best by far, was one-two-three on just nine pitches.  In the fourth, he faced one above the minimum.  In the fifth, he faced five.  In the sixth, four.  In the seventh, four with two strikeouts, one on the curveball and the other on the changeup.

Morales took the ball in the eighth, and the irony is that we probably all thought that, for one day at least, if we didn’t have to worry about Lackey, we certainly wouldn’t have to worry about the bullpen.  That was when Morales, with two out in the inning, allowed a three-run home run and another double before Bard took the ball for the last out in the eighth.  Paps took the ball in the ninth; three up, three down on seven pitches for the save.

Thanks to run support from the lineup, Lackey walked away with an incredibly well-deserved win and has won three consecutive starts for the first time since June 5.  This is also the fifth straight game in which he has issued at most one walk.  Considering the fact that the overall percentage of the pitches he’s thrown this season for strikes is the lowest it’s ever been in his career, I think the solution is simply to limit the walks.  That will increase his efficiency and decrease his fatigue, which means he’ll be able to pitch deeper into the game.  He already gives up a ton of hits, so limiting the walks won’t exacerbate the baserunner problem, and of course throwing less balls is usually a function of throwing more strikes.  So I think limiting walks is a good place to start.

We wasted no time in getting his allowed run back.  In the bottom of the first, Pedroia singled, moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez and third on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Youk.

In the second, Ellsbury continued his massive power tear by leading it off with a home run over the bullpens.  At times like this, you really get to see how smart a hitter he is.  The ball was low, and he stayed back until just the right time, when he unleashed for his seventh dinger this month alone.  Jacoby Ellsbury is officially a five-tool guy.  His sixteen home runs ranks him third on the team, three behind Papi and only one behind Gonzalez.  I never thought I’d see that either.  But his awesome running catch in center field to end the fourth was classic Ellsbury.  So was Reddick’s sliding catch in right for the first out in the fifth.

Also worth mentioning in terms of defense is Youk’s throw to first in the second.  Youk knocked down a ground ball but recovered perfectly and fired in time.  And of course his barehanded catch in the on-deck circle of Gonzalez’s foul ball in the fifth.

We didn’t score again until the seventh, but we made up for it in a big way with a five-spot.  Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Gonzalez.  The beauty of this lineup is that, if the bases are loaded, there are several guys you’d want up there.  Gonzalez is certainly near on that list.  All he did was single, but it brought in two.  Youk doubled in two more and moved to third on a throwing error.  And then Papi singled in Youk.  That was it for us for the rest of the game, but even with Morales’s fail, it was enough.

Mike Lowell visited the park before the game; he insisted that Pedroia would get four hits in the game, but I don’t think anyone would complain about his three-for-three performance.  His average is now .299.  On June 4, his average was .239.  Wow.

The final score was 7-4.  We put a man on base during each of Felix Hernandez’s innings.  We have the best record in July in the Major Leagues.  We all know that Seattle is cold as ice right now, but I still think Lackey’s outing is a big deal.  It may have been what he needed to figure some things out, or maybe he just needed a boost in his confidence.  Either way, a win is a win, and Lackey more than got it.  He pitched the way he should have pitched against a team like the Mariners.  Actually, he pitched the way he should have pitched against any team in baseball.  The key now will be for him to do it consistently.  I can’t say whether that will happen for sure, but either way it’s hard to dispute the fact that last night was pretty great.

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Jon Lester we are accustomed to seeing.  Finally.  It’s a testament to his ability that his April this year wasn’t that bad but still bad for him.  His outings this past April were outings that some number one starters on some teams would be lucky to have on a great day, but for Lester, those were some of the most mediocre outings we can expect from him all season.  He wasn’t his greatest, and yet he still stands now with a record of four and one and an ERA of 2.33.  And that’s how you know you’ve got an ace on your hands.

And if you still weren’t aware, his line last night clarifies it further.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball.  He gave up six hits, walked only two, and struck out – wait for it – eleven.  Eleven batters.  Double-digit K’s for the fifteenth time in his career.  His first K of the day occurred in the first; he struck out Howard Kendrick on three pitches.  The third was a ninety-four-mile-per-hour cut fastball on which Kendrick swung but missed.  Lester opened the second with another swinging strikeout on three pitches, the last of which again was a cut fastball at ninety-four.  Lester achieved back-to-back K’s in the third, the first on five pitches ending with a cutter and the second on seven pitches also ending with a cutter.  He allowed his only walk of the day in the fourth but ended that inning with another strikeout, another on three pitches ending with a cutter.  He ended the fifth with a called strikeout on four pitches ending with the cutter.  The sixth was Lester’s only one-two-three inning; he opened and closed it with K’s, the first ending with a cutter and the second ending with a nasty curveball.  He opened the seventh with back-to-back K’s, the first ending in a cut fastball and the second ending in another curveball.  After allowing a single, he closed the seventh with a third K, ending with a cutter.

Yes.  I would say that this is the Lester we’ve been waiting for.  The one run he allowed came via the long ball in the second.  It was a solo shot on a fastball at ninety five.  But that was the only mistake he made.

I mean, Lester left nothing to be desired last night.  Okay, I would have liked his pickoff attempt to not result in an error, but still.  Over seven innings, he threw less than one hundred pitches.  He threw ninety-three, and sixty-six of them were strikes.  He threw about sixty cut fastballs.  About three quarters of them were strikes.  That’s ridiculous.  His curveball was deadly, and his changeup was literally unhittable; all of his changeups were thrown for strikes.  He even mixed in his sinker now and then.  It’s one thing to roll out your entire arsenal of pitches, but it’s quite another to do it effectively.  He did both exceptionally well.

He threw nineteen pitches in an inning twice, once in the third and once in the seventh.  His most impressive inning was the second.  He threw ten pitches.  All ten of them were strikes except one, the one taken yard for a home run.  His release point was as tight and consistent as I’ve seen it, and he packed the zone, largely staying away from the upper left corner.

It was a pitcher’s duel all the way, but Lester kept it going opposite Dan Haren.  Lester may have given up a run first, but we were the ones who came away with the win.

Neither team scored again until the sixth, and all your thinking is that this gem of an outing by Lester better not go to waste and that if all we need are at least two runs, we should be able to score them for our starter, even with Haren on the mound, even if he’s having a good day.  So that’s what we did.

It wasn’t flashy.  It wasn’t powerful.  It was just doing what needed to be done.  Ellsbury doubled and just barely came home on a single by Gonzalez, who came home on a single by Lowrie.  There you go.  Two runs.  You hope for more, but at least you’ve got a one-run lead.  We tacked on an insurance run in the seventh, when Crawford came home on a double by Salty.

That two-run lead was safe with Bard in the top of the eighth, but it was apparently unsatisfactory to Gonzalez, who wasn’t finished yet.  And then things got flashy and powerful.  He led off the eighth and unleashed on the second pitch of his at-bat, an eighty-nine-mile-per-hour two-seam he sent to the seats in right field.  That was his first home run in Fenway Park.  The first of many.

Papi wanted in, so he went back-to-back.  He also hit a solo shot, also on the second pitch of his at-bat, this one a seventy-nine-mile-per-hour slider, also to right field.  We know by now that his home runs tend to come in bunches, so we  can expect several more before he hits another quiet streak.  Then Lowrie stepped up to the plate, and we’re all thinking three-peat.  That did not happen.  He singled.  Then Drew struck out looking.  Then Scutaro stepped up, and he did not hit a home run on the second pitch of his at-bat.  He took that pitch for a ball and hit a home run on the third pitch of his at-bat instead! An eighty-seven-mile-per-hour changeup into the Monster seats and that had to withstand a review.

By the time Paps completely dropped the ball in the ninth inning, we had already amassed a six run lead that could withstand the two runs he allowed on three hits.  Because by that time, over half our lineup had posted multi-hit games; Gonzalez, Papi, Lowrie, and even Scutaro, who was in because Youk is sick, went two for four.  Crawford went two for three.  Of our twelve hits, five were for extra bases.  Of those five, two were doubles and three were dingers.  Three in a single inning.  It was phenomenal.  When Papi hit his home run, I thought for a second that it was a replay.  Three powerful, towering, rockets of shots.  Two solo shots and a two-runner, and they had their balls’ numbers all the way through.  It was awesome.

The message that our win over Felix Hernandez and our 6-0 record against the Angels send is that our lineup is perfectly capable of handling the game’s toughest pitchers (or at least the ones not already on our team).  We are now fourteen and fifteen.  For the first time this year, we are only one game below .500.  I would just advise to make way.  Because we’re on our way, and we’re coming.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Awards season has come and gone and left disappointment and injustice in its wake.  Seriously.  I can’t even talk about it.  This goes beyond even Sabathia stealing Beckett’s Cy Young and Guerrero stealing Papi’s Silver Slugger.  This time, it’s personal.

Lester and Buchholz both finished in the top six in the AL Cy Young voting, but both ultimately lost to Felix Hernandez, who won it with his numbers alone since the Mariners didn’t offer any help of any sort at any time.  And if a Cy Young were awarded to best one-two punch, Lester and Buchholz would totally sweep that vote.

A new award was introduced this year: the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.  We won it, and I can’t think of any team more deserving.  The Red Sox Foundation now gets ten thousand dollars.  I have to say, if any award is worth winning, this one is obviously most definitely up there.

So, obviously, that’s not where the disappointment and injustice come in, although I will say that both Lester and Buchholz were spectacular this past year, and I’d be very surprised if neither wins at least one Cy Young in each of their careers.  No.  All of that comes in here: Tito did not win Manager of the Year; cue the disappointment.  Furthermore, he finished fourth in the voting; cue the injustice.  We won eighty-nine games last year with half our starting lineup ending up being out for the season, more than 136 different batting orders, and a majority of our starters out of Spring Training on the DL by the end of it.  And you’re telling me that’s not Manager of the Year material right there? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a very long time.  All three managers who finished ahead of Tito, perhaps not coincidentally, had teams that ended up in the playoffs.  But that’s not supposed to be what this is about.  Putting a team in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily indicate a good manager; it indicates a good team with a good schedule.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly frustrated I am with any system that could possibly have resulted in this outcome.  Tony La Russa even said in print that it should unquestionably be Tito as AL Manager of the Year.  And not only does he not get it, but he finishes fourth? That is complete insanity if I’ve ever seen it, ever.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but it’s true.  The three managers who finished ahead of him were Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington, and Joe Maddon, all worthy opponents and all perennial appearance-makers in votes for this award.  All of them obviously had to deal with major injuries to major players at inopportune times this past year, Gardenhire much more than the other two.  And they all get their usual credit for maintaining stability in the clubhouse, handling big personalities, and just generally being good at what they do.  But only one of them did it with some of the biggest of the big personalities in one of the most pressurized of cookers called Major League Baseball teams every single day for an entire season during which the team, on any given day, looked entirely different.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain morale in that kind of competition environment with that kind of scenario going on, and yet Tito made it look like a walk in the park (pun intended).  Maddon arguably had it easiest of the four, following by Washington.  So we’re talking Tito and Gardenhire, but at least Gardenhire had more peace and quiet in which to conduct his business and less potential clubhouse drama to worry about.  We’re talking about the man who managed a minor league baseball team that had Michael Jordan on its roster, and don’t even get me started on Manny Ramirez.  Obviously, neither of those two episodes had bearing on this year, but they’re just great testimonies to his managerial abilities.

All I’m saying is that Tito will have another spectacular year this coming year, and even then he probably won’t have any Manager of the Year award to show for it, but one of the reasons he deserves such an award is that he doesn’t do any of what he does with the award in mind.  He does it anyway, day in and day out, injuries or no injuries.  So here’s to you, Tito.  We all know who the real Manager of the Year is.

The GM meetings have also come and gone, hopefully having greased the skids for the Winter Meetings next month.  Cue the rumors.  We are one of three teams in hot pursuit of Carl Crawford, and we might trade Paps.  The former is true; the latter couldn’t be more false.  Lou Merloni is all in favor of taking the plunge, making the trade for some elite relievers, and giving Bard the closer’s job.  I don’t think that’s prudent at this point.  When Paps first burst onto the scene, he looked a lot like Bard: a new phenom nobody had seen and everybody loved because his fastball found triple-digit speeds.  If we give the ball to Bard too early, we could have another Paps on our hands.  Paps had a bad year this past year, but let’s see how he does this coming year before we just give away our closer in favor of a young guy who isn’t yet tried-and-true in that role on a regular basis.

And finally, last but totally not least, we have some news from Bud Selig, who is obviously trying to make waves before he retires.  He wants to add another Wild Card to each league in order to expand the playoffs from eight teams to ten.  I mean, what? I guess the Wild Card teams would play each other to determine the Wild Card champion, and then everything would return to business as usual? And then the Wild Card champion would of course be able to sell untold amounts of shirts, hats, and other merchandise? He wants to implement this change by next season, which convinces me that he’s doing this to leave his mark.  Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations of Major League Baseball, basically said that’s not in the cards (pun intended) due to collective bargaining issues.  Michael Weiner, the head of the player’s union, says the players aren’t necessarily opposed to the potential change, but the union hasn’t been approached formally yet.

I am not in favor.  Selig claims that eight is a fair number of total teams, and so is ten; therefore, why not ten? I would counter that with the age-old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The playoffs are a whole month long with eight teams as it is, and baseball should not be played in November.  Also, how would you approach the scenario of one of these newly added Wild Card teams winning the World Series? It’s similar to the steroids issue.  Does the juiced player who breaks a record go into the books with or without an asterisk, or does he not go into the books at all? Similarly, this new team wouldn’t even have made the playoffs under the old system, so do we really consider them World Series champions or don’t we? Granted, the current organization of the playoffs isn’t that old; expansion was voted on and passed in 1993.  But because this format is so new, let’s let it get its footing first.  There are those who point out that expansion would have gotten us into the playoffs this year.  But then we’d have more levels of competition to clear once we get there, so it’s not necessarily all that helpful.  Like I said, there’s been no indication so far that it needs fixing by the addition of two teams.  This is Selig wanting to make waves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been having some nice talks with the networks about it too.  I’m just saying that I think he’s proposing this change for all the wrong reasons, and there are no clear benefits from a baseball standpoint.

Also, Selig’s second in command and right-hand man, Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, resigned last month.  What’s up with that.

We claimed Taylor Buchholz.  Yes, he is Clay’s cousin.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Devils and Panthers this week, with the help of Lucic’s hat trick in the latter, and bested the Rangers by one goal.  We lost to the Kings yesterday by one goal, but it was in overtime, so we still get a point.  The Pats beat the Steelers last week.  In Pittsburgh.  39-26.  It was nothing short of awesome.

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Tuesday’s game was rained out, so we played a double-header yesterday.  We split, so standings-wise, it’s like we didn’t play at all.

Beckett started first.  As it turns out, we barely eked out a win.  Beckett was phenomenal through six; in that time, he shut out and one-hit the Mariners while striking out six.  He handled the lefties with his two-seam and used his breaking ball.  Meanwhile, we tabbed a four-spot in the bottom of the inning.  Beltre singled in Scutaro, V-Mart scored on Lowell’s sac fly, and Nava hit a two-run single in a beautiful at-bat during which he totally had Pauley’s number.  He was sitting on the corners, and that’s what he got.  Then Beckett almost squandered everything by giving up three runs in the seventh before he left, having recorded only one out.  That makes his line three runs on four hits, two of which were homers, with a walk and seven K’s over six and a third innings.  And he is very, very lucky that the offense pulled it together in the sixth and that McDonald provided some insurance in the eighth with an RBI single.  We ended up winning, 5-3.  Beckett’s best pitches were his changeup and his cutter, which is always a problem if you’re talking about a fastball pitcher who depends mostly on his power.  Both of his fastballs only got up to ninety-three miles per hour.  He was his usual aggressive self, but I’m not a fan of this one bad inning business.  I’m telling you, we were very lucky that the offense was able to do that damage in the sixth.  He picked up the win, which still makes him undefeated against the Mariners this season.  He has a 2.04 ERA and thirty-nine K’s in those six starts since coming to Boston.  Bard took care of business, followed by Paps who notched yet another save.

Dice-K’s back was sore, so Lester’s start was rescheduled from yesterday afternoon so he could take Dice-K’s spot in the rotation, and Wake was given two hours’ notice before he took the mound yesterday.  I give Wake a lot of credit for his performance as someone who was given two hours to prepare for something he hasn’t done in a long time.  He tossed one out shy of six innings, he gave up four runs, three earned and one thanks to his own throwing error, on eight hits, walked none, and struck out two.  He took the loss.  But his pitches were thrown well, he located his knuckleball about as well as anyone can locate a knuckleball, and he gets an E for Effort.  Atchison, Delcarmen, and Doubront collectively shut out Seattle.  Kalish doubled, moved to third on the first of two errors that Wilson would make, and scored on a wild pitch.  Drew hit a solo home run to center on a full-count fastball down the middle.  V-Mart did some nice glove work.  But we lost, 4-2.  It wasn’t exactly helpful that we also lost Beltre.  In the second, Beltre struck out looking, complained to home plate umpire Dan Bellino about it, and razzed Hernandez about it in the third while he was on his way to third base and Hernandez was in the dugout.  According to Beltre, he bet Hernandez before the game that he’d hit a home run, and Hernandez bet Beltre that he’d strike him out three times.  When Beltre took his position, he wasn’t happy and may have also said something to Bellino, who ejected him for only the second time in his career.  Naturally Tito, as well as the entirety of Red Sox Nation, was very incensed, so he went out to demand an explanation.  He talked to Bellino, who ejected him also, and then second base umpire Angel Hernandez got in the way, so he never really got the explanation he was looking for.

I’ve never seen that before.  Beltre and Hernandez had what Beltre said and what appeared to be a perfectly normal and benign razzing session between friends, although I will admit that he didn’t look too happy, and he got tossed for it.  That’s very strange.  And it was early enough in the game that it’s entirely possible that we lost the game because we lost Beltre.  No one can know who would have won that bet, but the umps took away our opportunity to find out and move up in the standings, which is something we desperately need to start doing.  I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t believe it.  I think it was just a big misunderstanding.  Given Beltre’s track record, I don’t think that what he said could’ve really been that bad.  And Bellino is a young umpire.  Maybe he was just trigger-happy.

Now we turn up the heat.  We are about to play the most important series of the season to date.  We have the day off today to rest up and get zoned in, and we’re off to Tampa Bay for three games.  It is absolutely and ridiculously essential that we win.  We must win.  We absolutely, positively must win.  There’s nothing else to it.  We have our three most consistent pitchers going: Lester on Friday, Buchholz on Saturday, and Lackey on Sunday.  It’s time to play our game.  We need this.  So let’s get it.

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Wake really needed this one.  He knew it, the team new it, we knew it.  But he ended up with a no-decision.  It was good and bad.  When he pitched well, he pitched really well.  The knuckleball was dancing and everything.  But when he pitched badly, he really pitched badly.  But that’s how it works.  Sometimes it moves, sometimes it doesn’t, and it fluctuates even within a game.  So you never know, really.  Compared to some of the outings he’s had in the past, this was excellent, but compared to the way he’s been pitching lately, you scratch your head and wonder where this came from.  He pitched eight innings but gave up five runs on ten hits.  He struck out three and didn’t walk anybody, but three of the runs he gave up were due entirely to the long ball.  So good and bad as always with Wake.

In theory, this complicates his All-Star fate.  If he won last night, it would’ve been a lock.  He would’ve already been packing his bags.  In practice, it might not be as bad.  For one thing, he didn’t actually lose.  We were tied, 5-5, through ten.  After Wakefield left, Delcarmen and Paps held the fort.  Then Ramon Ramirez allowed two runs in the top of the eleventh, and we only scored one in the bottom.  So the final was 7-6.  Ramirez took the loss, as he should.  And it’s not like the Mariners lit Wakefield up.  There was no slugfest, really.  So it wasn’t great but it could’ve been a whole lot worse.

And the rest of the team knew exactly how important this was and put up a fight until the bitter end.  Even if Felix Hernandez’s changeup alone is ninety miles per hour, which is just obscsene.  For some reason, it looked like every other ball was heading for the Fisk pole.  Drew went two for six with a solo homer in the seventh.  First pitch he saw in that at-bat and he went for it.  Boy, did he go for it.  A ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball and it ended up over center field.  Drew has made constructive contact on the first pitch twenty-seven times this year, and for those he’s batting .308 with three home runs.  Pedroia hit and scored.  Ortiz walked and scored.  Bay hit, walked, scored, and plated one for an RBI.  And he’s a United States citizen.  Congratulations! Great timing, too, with the Fourth of July.  Kotsay went two for five with a run, and he’s turning out to be quite the player.  The key is his versatility; he plays outfield, he plays first base, and he’s really maximizing his playing time and getting more hits.  He improves every time he’s out there.  Ellsbury hit and stole, as usual.  Green went two for two, plated two, and walked once.  And George Kottaras, who lately proves every time he plays that Theo Epstein was absolutely right to tap him for the job, went two for five.  He hit a solo home run in the eleventh inning.  He was responsible for that late-game run.  And you have to give him a lot of credit for that.

Sean Casey joined Don Orsillo in the booth today, which was great.  Casey has quite the personality.  Affable guy.  Talkative.  And then Lenny Clarke came and made it interesting, as always.  So it was very entertaining.  After having fluid removed and an injection put into his right hip, Mikey Lowell says he feels great.  And he’s got a sense of humor about it too, which is what you want to see from someone chomping at the bit to get back in the field:

I figure we took the junk out and put good stuff in so we had a good oil change.

Dice-K is headed to Florida on Monday to start a Spring Training-esque strengthening program, which pretty much officially affirms that it’s all the World Baseball Classic’s fault.  If he’d participated in Spring Training with everyone else, he wouldn’t be having these problems.  Looks like the construction on the Twins’ new home, Target Field, is coming along nicely.  It’s actually got natural grass.  And a draft of next year’s schedule sees the Red Sox playing the Twins in their home opener.  I’d hate to see them lose their first game at the new field, but hey, we can’t help being that good.

Happy Fourth of July! And to celebrate Independence Day, Brad Penny will take the mound against Garrett Olson.  Penny’s turned out to be one of the most consistent pitchers on our staff.  With consistently short outings.  Which is another reason to appreciate Wakefield’s eight innings of work last night, even if we did end up going into extras, which was also a good thing because it showed we weren’t ready to lose.  Anyway, because Penny’s outings are short, he needs all the run support he can get, and Olson will probably help us out with that.  Should be a good game.

AP Photo

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I’m happy we won.  I’m very happy we won.  Nothing like administering to the O’s a taste of their own medicine.  We were down, 5-1, through eight.  Pedroia plated Drew with a double in the third but that had been it.  Meanwhile, we were in that position because Beckett pitched seven, gave up five runs on six hits with two walks, five strikeouts, and two home runs.  Both were leadoff solo shots, one to Luke Scott in the second and one to Ty Wigginton in the fourth.  This start smacked of last season, when he’d have low walks, decent strikeouts, and give up a lot of long balls.  Luckily, he went deep and gave the bullpen a rest.  So basically he did his job but he didn’t do it well.  He put us in a position where a comeback was necessary, which was something I personally didn’t appreciate.  It’s Beckett.  He wasn’t supposed to do that.  And if I know Beckett, I know he’s seething right now.  But in times like those you find out what tricks the lineup has up its sleeve.

We scored four runs in the top of the ninth.  We scored one in the top of the eleventh.  We won, 6-5.  We put the Orioles in their place, we took the series, and we cruise into our off-day today with our heads held high.

In the ninth, Youk clobbered a two-run shot over the head of Nick Markakis.  Then Baldelli stroked a two-run single past Robert Andino to tie it with two out in the inning.  Bard and Ramirez put up zeroes.  And in the top of the eleventh, Julio Lugo hit another ball past Andino to plate what would become the winning run.  Julio Lugo.  Who knew? And Paps put up the last zero to lock it up.

So Beckett gets a no-decision, Bard pitched the eighth and ninth, Ramirez pitched the tenth and gets the win, and Paps pitched the eleventh and gets the save.  And it was a clean save.  Another one-two-three inning.  His twentieth save of the season, and enough to surpass Bob Stanley’s record.  He now stands alone at the top of the Red Sox all-time list.  Congratulations! Rough patch or no rough patch, overall he’s still the best closer in the game, and he earned each and every one of those saves.  Overall, the bullpen did a pretty nice job of apologizing for the badness on Tuesday.  Retired twenty-four straight Orioles yesterday.  Not too bad.

Our lead over the Yankees stays the same.  We have the day off today and tomorrow we’re playing Seattle.  Wakefield at Hernandez.  This game is more important than you’d think.  We want to go into the All-Star break with as much momentum as possible, and that starts right now.  We want to start this series on the right foot.  And for Wake, he needs to pitch well tomorrow to affirm his legitimate contention for a spot on the All-Star roster.  Between you and me, he’ll probably get one.  Or at least he should.

By the way, All-Star voting ends tonight at midnight.  Youk is currently leading Teixeira, but Pedroia the Destroyah is just barely behind Ian Kinsler.  We know who really should be starting at second for the American League in St. Louis.  Dustin Pedroia can’t not be an All-Star.  Vote and help bring him there.  You can find a link to the All-Star ballot to the right of this page.

Reuters Photo

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