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Posts Tagged ‘Florida Panthers’

Truck Day has officially come and gone! That’s the first sign that next season  can’t be too far away.  It’s been a long, cold winter, and the long, cold winter is still going on, but at least we know that things are starting to stir down in Florida.  Nothing gets you excited about the end of winter like equipment heading south for Spring Training!

Papi wants a multi-year deal.  No news there.  That’s what every player wants.  The challenge is that it has to make sense for the team as a whole as well.  This year we will welcome Jerry Remy back into the booth for the season.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Isles, 6-3, and the Panthers, 6-2, before losing to the Habs, 4-1.  We then shut out the Oilers, four-zip, and beat the Canucks, 3-1, and Sens, 7-2, while losing to the Blues in overtime, 3-2, before the Olympic break.

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Congratulations to Papi for reeling in his sixth Silver Slugger, a very well-deserved award indeed! Pedroia has been named the AL Defensive Player of the Year, and John is up for AL Manager of the Year.

Other than that, it’s still really early in the offseason, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens as things start heating up.

In other news, the Pats walked all over the Steelers, 55-31.  The Bruins lost to the Stars, 3-2 in a shootout but went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, and the Leafs, 3-1.

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Okay.  There’s no need to be scared or read into this.  Just because the last two times we’ve been to the World Series we’ve been able to sweep and get it done in four games doesn’t mean that we’ll lose the World Series just because we lost the second game.  It’s fine.  Honestly, we shouldn’t even have lost this one.  My point is that there is plenty of baseball still to be played.  True, we’re going away now, but that hasn’t stopped us before.  We’ll just have to get past it.

So Lackey did a great job while he was on the mound.  He pitched six and one-third innings and gave up five hits and two walks while striking out six.  He gave up a single in the first, a single in the second, and nothing in the third.  He cracked in the fourth when he gave up a triple to lead it off that turned into a run on a groundout.

That one run was a big deal because we had yet to score.  We went down in order in the first, and Napoli walked to provide our first baserunner in the second.  Ellsbury provided our first hit in the third with a single, and the bottom of the fourth looked promising.  Pedroia doubled and Papi walked, setting up Napoli.  Who then grounded into a double play.

Lackey went one-two-three in the fifth; Salty walked in the bottom of the inning, but that was it.  Lackey gave up a single in the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the game might be ours after all.

I’ve often said that, in a close game, one run feels like ten.  This one was no exception.  Because the longer you go without scoring runs, the more difficult it feels to score them.  After Victorino grounded out, Pedroia walked, and then it was Papi’s turn.  And I was busy thinking how great it would be if he just went yard, just like that, just because we really needed him to.

He took a fastball for a ball, fouled off a second fastball, and then received four straight changeups.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third in the dirt.

And he went yard on the fourth.  Hit that ball into the Monster seats.  Seriously.  Just like that.  Just because we needed him to.

It was huge.  It didn’t tie the game.  It gave us the lead.  In a close one.  In which scoring one run felt like scoring ten.  And as a result of that phenomenon, scoring two runs on one swing felt like a real jump out in front.

Unfortunately, the whole thing unraveled in the seventh.  That can not be overstated.  Literally the whole game was completely undone in the seventh inning alone.  It was one of the worst innings you can possibly imagine to occur during, of all things, the World Series.  Honestly, that kind of bad baseball is not even excusable during the regular season, let alone the postseason, let alone the pinnacle of the entire postseason.

Lackey led off the seventh with a strikeout.  Then he issued a walk and gave up a single, so John went with Breslow.  The Cards managed to execute a double steal, putting both runners in scoring position.  And Breslow walked his first batter to load the bases.

A double play would have ended it all.  But Breslow induced a sac fly.  Technically, that’s not so bad; you take the out in exchange for the run, which in this case would not be winning but rather tying.

But the whole thing went completely and epically awry.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I think that that had something to do with the fact that I didn’t really want to believe it was happening.

Not one but two runners scored on the sac fly, indeed providing the Cards with the winning run.  Salty missed the catch, Breslow made an error on the throw, and the whole thing turned into a huge mess as a result.  And then, to top it off, Breslow gave up an RBI single.  Thus, while Lackey was charged with three runs, he was also the victim of a situation in which some of them scored on someone else’s watch.

The final score was established right there.  We lost, 4-2.

Tazawa pitched the last out of the seventh, after which we went down in order.  Workman pitched the eighth, which for us looked like it had some potential.  Ellsbury reached on a fielding error, and Papi singled two outs later.  But Napoli popped out to end it.  Uehara pitched the ninth, after which we went down in order.

So at one point the game looked like it would be really good.  Then it was really, really bad.  All because of one play that was supposed to be routine but that instead cost us Game Two.  We need to pull it together.  Not only were those errors completely inappropriate for the World Series, but we also didn’t even have enough hits or runs to absorb that damage.  At the same time, I saw too many swing-and-misses and too many stare-at-strikes.  All of that needs to change immediately.  If we’re going to get this done, we need to take the proper steps.

In other news, hockey is back in Boston as the Bruins began their new season this month.  So far, we’ve beaten the Lightning, Red Wings, Panthers, Lightning again, Sabres, and Sharks, and we’ve lost to the Avalanche and Red Wings.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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It’s always nice to sweep a twin bill.  I bet the Royals are having just a grand old time of it.  It was both exhausting and awful.

Ryan Dempster gave a great start in the opener.  He gave up four runs on six hits while walking three and striking out eight over the course of seven innings.  I would have preferred he’d given up less runs, though, because we didn’t score enough to make up for that damage.

Dempster gave up a solo shot in the first, but we moved ahead in the bottom of the frame.  After Ellsbury popped out to lead it off, Nava, Pedroia, and Papi hit back-to-back-to-back singles that scored one and a groundout that brought home another.  Those were the only two runs we’d score that morning.  The Royals, meanwhile, were not done. Dempster gave up two consecutive singles in the fourth; a double brought in their third run, and another single two strikeouts later brought in the last run of the game.  Mortensen pitched the eighth, and Alex Wilson pitched the ninth.  The final score was 4-2.

Allen Webster got the nod to start the nightcap.  It was a decent start.  The important thing is that we put ourselves in a position to win.  He gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits while walking one and striking out five.  He gave up a double on his first pitch of the game, and then he gave up a single that resulted in a run thanks to Ciriaco’s throwing error.  Webster was great in the second, third, and fourth.  But then he gave up two solo shots in the fifth: strikeout, solo shot, strikeout, solo shot, groundout.  Tazawa came on for the seventh.

We were a run behind by the time the second inning rolled around, but we quickly took the lead.  Napoli worked a 2-1 count to lead off the second and then got an eighty-four mile-per-hour slider.  He crushed it.  Over the Monster in left.  Watching him hit home runs is a beautiful thing; it looks so natural, like it’s the easiest thing in the world.  It’s absolutely fantastic.  Salty worked a five-pitch walk after that and scored on a double by Carp.

We added another run in the third.  Ellsbury opened the inning with a double, moved to third on a groundout by Nava, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  The rest of the inning could have seen the rally go on, but it was a complete and total mess.  Pedroia got caught stealing second base, thrown out by who but George Kottaras.  Then Napoli doubled, and Salty singled.  And then the ball was deflected by the first baseman, and Napoli tried to score but was out at home, and that was the end of that.

In the bottom of the fifth, the game was tied at three, but we scored the winning run yet again.  Ellsbury lined out, but then Nava walked, Pedroia singled, and Napoli singled in Nava.  Napoli moved to second on a passed ball, but Salty struck out and Middlebrooks grounded out, killing any rally that would have arisen.

It was all going so well.  Neither team scored after the fifth, and the fifth had left us on top by one.  But Tazawa handed the ball to Uehara in the eighth, and unfortunately he brought the badness on a day when we hadn’t scored enough runs to absorb it.  He got the first two outs of the inning but then gave up a solo shot to tie it at four.  It stayed like that through the ninth, when Bailey pitched.  Then Miller came on for the tenth.  He induced a strikeout for the first out of the inning but then gave up a single and a walk.  He got another strikeout but gave up another single to load the bases.  And then he did the one thing that we love to see opposing pitchers do.  He allowed the winning run in extra innings in the worst and most embarrassing possible way.  He walked it in.  Four pitches.  It was a completely and therefore appropriately disappointing to the end of a sweepingly awful day.  Pun most definitely intended.

In other news, the Bruins shut out the Panthers, three-zip.

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It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

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Yeah…so…that was not pretty.  In no conceivable way was that pretty.  There was nothing pretty about it.  Usually, you expect a baseball game to have some balanced ratio of good, bad, and ugly; if you’re lucky, you’ll have mostly good, very little bad, and almost no ugly.  Yesterday, we had just ugly.  Like, really ugly.

So there’s no point sugar-coating it.  The Josh Beckett we saw on the mound yesterday was not the Josh Beckett we saw in Spring Training or in our mind’s eye when we pictured how we expected this game to go down.  He wasn’t himself yesterday.  If you told me that he would last only four and two-thirds innings and in that time give up seven runs on seven hits, five of which were home runs, I would not have believed you at all.  You read right.  Seven runs on seven hits, five of which were home runs.  Those seven runs were the most he allowed since 2010.  Those five home runs ties a career high first set in 2009.  Just to give you an idea of how bad this is for Beckett, last season he didn’t allow his fifth home run of the season until June 28.  Yesterday was April 6.  This better not have anything to do with his thumb, which is what he stated.

There was a two-run home run in the first with one out on a two-seam by Miguel Cabrera; obviously that hurts.  Then there was a lead-off solo shot in the fourth on a cutter by Prince Fielder.  Then there was a two-run home run in the fourth, still with nobody out, on a changeup, the first pitch of the at-bat, by Alex Avila.  Then Cabrera and Fielder hit back-to-back solo shots in the fifth, both on changeups.  Cabrera’s home run was initially ruled a double; the ruling was overturned using instant replay.

He also walked one and struck out only three.  He threw eighty-three pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes.  No command.  No control.  No efficiency (nineteen pitches in the first, nine in the second which was his best inning and not coincidentally his only one-two-three inning and also one of only two in which he did not allow a home run, fifteen in the third which was the other homerless inning, twenty-one in the fourth, and nineteen in the fifth before he was pulled).  No effectiveness.

I will say that his cutter and his two-seam were fabulous; ninety and eighty-two percent, respectively, of the ones he threw were strikes.  Too bad both pitches accounted for only thirty-one combined.  Also, he maxed his fastball at around ninety-three miles per hour.  And obviously he took the loss, which he totally deserved.

Unfortunately, the damage didn’t stop there.  Atchison relieved Beckett, finished the fifth and sixth, and gave up another run.  Albers pitched the first two outs of the seventh and gave up two runs, only one of them earned, the other thanks to a throwing error by Salty right after a spectacular play at home to get Fielder out.  Thomas finished the seventh, and Bowden pitched the eighth.  The latter two were our only pitchers not to allow runs.  It was a sad, sad day indeed.

By the way, did I mention that the offense did almost nothing? No, really.  The offense actually did almost nothing.  We collectively hit only one extra-base hit; it was a double by Salty.  We left seven on base and when a whopping 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.  Gonzalez went two for four and Sweeney went two for three for the only multi-hit games.  Ellsbury, Youk, Ross, and Aviles are all hitless in these last two games.  And, lastly, we failed to bat in and score a single run.  That’s right.  We lost, 10-0.  And in addition to Salty’s error, Aviles made a fielding error.  It was not a good day whatsoever by any stretch of the imagination.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sabres yesterday in a shootout, 4-3, battling back from a two-goal deficit.  The regular season is now over! The Rangers clinched the Eastern Conference, but we’ve clinched our division and therefore a playoff spot.  Our 102 points are good for second in the conference; the Panthers are third with ninety-two points.  Are you thinking repeat? I’m thinking repeat.

Presswire Photo

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