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Posts Tagged ‘Francisco Liriano’

Bedard really could be the reason why Lackey is pitching so well lately.  Lackey lives to compete, and the sudden insertion of a direct competitor is probably what he lives for.  That’s not an excuse for his previously poor performance; he shouldn’t need that to pitch well because pitching for his team should be enough to get him going.  But at this point it’s important that Lackey find his footing regardless of the reason why.

Bedard hurled another quality start.  Inefficient but quality.  Two runs on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings.  Ninety pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  The key to his success, by his own admission and by common sense, will be to get ahead of hitters and keep the counts down, clearly not something he was doing when he issued almost one walk per inning.  But he kept the team in it for more than half the game.  It’s just frustrating that now the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day.

The heartening thing about that is that, for this start at least, it’s somewhat misleading.  He got his one bad inning over with in the first and was dominant from there.  But that one bad inning was one epically bad inning.  He allowed all of his runs as well as all of his walks and threw thirty-six pitches in the first inning alone.  Only sixteen of those were strikes.  We’ve seen Dice-K throw a ton of pitches in an inning before; thirty-six is an astronomical number of pitches to throw in a single frame.  It was terrible.  No command, no control, no location, no precision.  So, really, it was the first inning that by all accounts gave anyone anything negative to say about the entire outing.  And you could even make an argument that home plate umpire Tim McClelland, who’s widely recognized as one of the best umpires around, was partially responsible because, for whatever reason, he just had a bad day back there.  He made some severely questionable calls.  So by all accounts that was one glaringly negative first inning.  There are two bright sides to it: it’s a wonder he escaped from that inning with only two runs allowed and not more, and he was fully able to bounce back completely.

The highlights of his repertoire were his four-seam and changeup, which would explain his inefficiency; he threw mostly curveballs and two-seams, which were not the highlights of his repertoire, to say the least.

After that first inning, he shut the Twins down.  Did he get the win? No.  Why? The middle relief.

The bases were loaded with two out in the first for Lowrie, who did nothing with that opportunity.  We didn’t have another serious opportunity to get on the board until the sixth, so McDonald created his own in the fifth.  Tek walked to lead off the inning, and McDonald went yard on a hanging slider to the second deck in left.  It was an enormously powerful shot.  Fancisco Liriano wants that one back.  Hey, don’t call it Target Field unless you want us to treat it like one.

Lowrie and Crawford worked back-to-back walks in the sixth; Lowrie scored on a single by Tek, but Crawford was gunned down at third.

As you can see, we had a one-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth, which meant that it was Bedard’s game to win.  He received a no-decision because Albers gave up a game-tying RBI double.  Tek took the blame for it; he insisted he made a bad call.  Either way, Bedard did not earn the W.

But for the second straight night, a reliever received a blown save and the win.  We loaded the bases for Papi in the seventh; he singled one in, and that was enough.  A hold for Morales, a hold for Bard, a save for Paps, and a 4-3, grind-it-out win for the team.  Two hits each for Gonzalez and McDonald, plus the usual leather-flashing by Youk and Pedroia.

Honestly, if you saw Papi step up to the plate with the bases loaded, are you really thinking single? I don’t know about you, but my mind was on the possibility of a grand slam.  I would have been thankful for anything, but you know, something for extra bases.  Instead, there was absolutely no power whatsoever.  It wasn’t even a rocket of a single into the outfield.  It was just a dribbler that Phil Dumatrait couldn’t get his hands on – literally, because he slipped and fell when he tried to field it – but even if he could, Pedroia still would have scored.  A win is a win, and it takes all kinds of wins.  When your team becomes an expert in the art of science and winning, you know you’re going somewhere.

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We won.  Plain and simple.  The final score was 3-2, and we can thank Buchholz, Papi, and Hall for that.

Clay Buchholz pitched a wicked outing last night.  He is the future of this staff.  He’s morphing into an ace right before our eyes.  It’s fantastic.  He pitched over eight innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and only one free pass while striking out seven.  Morneau and Cuddyer were back-to-back strikeouts, Cuddyer swinging on a changeup.  Hudson froze on the inside corner, as did Morneau on an inside fastball before getting heated with the umpire.  Thome struck out swinging on a ball that was down for the first out of the inning, and Kubel watched a slider go by for Buchholz’s second set of back-to-backs.  Thome also watched a slider for Buchholz’s seventh K, three shy of his season-high of ten against the Rangers.  And he needed only 104 pitches to do it.  He would’ve pitched a complete game, his first since his no-no, but Tito lifted him after he allowed a leadoff infield hit to Span.  I support that decision; the game was close, and you don’t want to take chances with victory in sight.

Every single one of his pitches except his curveball was effective.  And I mean really effective.  All of them were moving just the right way.  That in itself shows a lot of maturity; he usually throws more curveballs but saw that they weren’t working, so he threw more sliders instead.  That’s adaptability, and it something you don’t always see in the veterans.  Buchholz is a pitcher to marvel at when he’s on; it takes a special kind of kid to be that good at throwing mainly off-speeds.  There are veterans who can’t even do that.  He concentrated on the left portion of the strike zone.  The few balls he did throw were above but mostly below the zone, probably off-speeds that curved down a little too much.  He varied his speeds really nicely, throwing his fastball for gas at ninety-five miles per hour, and kept the batters guessing, as evidenced by the fact that, of all the strikes he threw, only seven were swinging.  An expertly mixed salad, as Eck would say.  He needed a game-low of nine pitches to clear the seventh and a game-high of seventeen-to clear the fourth.  He threw a majority of strikes in all of his innings.  The interesting thing is that his release point isn’t as tight as others we’ve seen from the staff, but I guess that comes with the territory when you throw off-speed pitches that require varying grips and angles.

His ERA is now down to 3.26, his five wins are the most on the staff, and his eleven wins since August 19 are the most by any pitcher in the American League.  In those eleven games, we’re fourteen and four.  And all of that after having landed in Boston from New York at 4:00AM.  It’s no coincidence that Buchholz was the only member of the team that slept well, having flown ahead on Tuesday.  All of which is to say that I would not be surprised if he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this year.  It was really an incredible outing.  Solid, confident, efficient.  Everything you look for from a pitcher against a quality lineup, and here was this kid who just marched in there and shut them down.  There was also that nifty pickoff move to get Punto out at first to end the third.  And he’s a righty, too.  Punto knew he was out; he smiled because he knew he’d gone too far off.  Awesome stuff.

Paps, as we know, was unavailable after the set with New York, so Bard came on and pitched around a hit and a walk to get the save.

In the fourth, Papi hit what was initially called an RBI triple just over the Monster.  But after review, which occurred for the second time this season, it was ruled a home run, Papi’s seventh of the month.  Why it wasn’t ruled a home run initially is something I’ll never know, because it was very clearly out.  He did a good job of hustling to third once he realized they didn’t call it out, for which I give him credit.  But the ball bounced up into the air after it hit the wall.  That meant it didn’t actually hit the wall; it hit above the wall, which is dinger territory.  It was that ledge up there.  Thankfully, they ultimately got the call right.  It was a nice, balanced swing that propelled the ball to the opposite field, which has been a theme this month.  He’s hit .405 over his past eleven games and .358 with seventeen RBIs in May.

Hall tacked on our third run with a single in the sixth.  That ended up being the winning run after Bard allowed his inherited runner to score in the top of the ninth.

V-Mart and Beltre both went two for four.  Hermida made a fielding error.  We left eight on base, as compared with Minnesota’s four, but we also collected ten hits, as compared with Minnesota’s six.  Basically, we missed more opportunities than they did because we had more opportunities than they did.

Surprise, surprise: Beckett’s been placed on the DL with a lower back strain; he slipped on the mound in the fifth while throwing to A-Rod on Tuesday.  He’ll be out of commission until June 3 but will probably be able to solidly return at that time, being that putting him on the DL at all as opposed to letting him skip a start again was being generous.  Wakefield will start Sunday.  See? I knew his move to the bullpen wouldn’t be permanent.  Joe Nelson will replace Wake in the ‘pen.  Scutaro’s left elbow has been sore, so he received a cortisone shot before last night’s game and could be back tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, Angel Sanchez will replace him so that Hall doesn’t have to try his luck at short for one more game, which surprisingly worked out fairly well.  He stole a line drive and turned it into a double play; it’s a tribute to his athleticism and intuition for the game that he can handle all these positions.  To make room for Sanchez on the roster, Schoeneweis has been designated for assignment.

Also, did you see that Twins fan at Fenway yesterday who brought a Twins sign? You don’t see opposing signs very often at Fenway, especially not for teams that are out-of-the-way and not in our division.  Maybe he forgot that the Twins are in our house, not theirs.  And while we’re on this subject, something I didn’t mention yesterday was the fact that most of the seats behind home plate in Yankee Stadium were empty.  Either Yankee fans just aren’t robust fans or the ownership is charging exorbitant amounts for those tickets.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Tonight it’s Liriano at Lester.  The pitching matchup here is good, but it’ll be even better after we win and sweep a series.  That would be good for us, no?

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To put it succinctly, yesterday was a bad day.

Yesterday could’ve seen Wakefield become our all-time winningest starter.  Through the first four innings, he was certainly on track; he allowed an RBI single in the second and that was it.

Then we hit the fifth.  Three runs scored, and Morneau avenged his at-bat from Wednesday.  That was only the beginning.  By the time Wakefield left, we were just over five innings into it and were down by six.  Five earned runs on ten hits with a walk and two strikeouts.  Ninety-nine pitches.  The overwhelming majority were knuckleballs, three were fastballs, and three were curveballs, all of which were thrown for strikes.  That’s the chance you take with a knuckleballer; if he’s on, he’s on, but if he’s not, it’s a complete disaster.  This was one of those complete disasters.

We have officially established that Target Field is a hitter’s ballpark.  The wind blows outward and everything.

Schoeneweis contributed to the mess by allowing two runs on three hits.  Ramirez didn’t want to miss out, so although he didn’t allow any runs, he didn’t finish his job before allowing two hits and a walk.  It was just an all-around mess on the mound.

To make matters worse, the fielders didn’t help much, either.  Hall made a fielding error in the second that allowed runners to advance.  Wake’s unearned run scored on a throwing error by Beltre.  And V-Mart didn’t want to be left out, so he made a fielding error of his own.  Three errors in one game.  In one game, we topped our total for the entire season thus far.

We find out that Ellsbury is taking longer than expected to heal and could be out tonight as well.  Also, Cameron has been scratched due to a lower abdominal strain.  That’s what put Hall in center and Hermida in left.  So for two-thirds of our starting outfield, playing status is uncertain.

And now for the offense.  There was none.  The end.

I’m serious.  The final score was 8-0.  This was the best I’ve seen Liriano against us, ever.  We managed only one hit between the second and seventh innings.  Our only extra-base hit was a double by V-Mart, which partly makes up for that fielding error.  We left eight on base.

Hard to believe, but there were some bright spots in this whole fiasco.  Not many, but there were.  Mauer went 0 for 4; Schoeneweis struck him out in the sixth.  That was pretty cool.  Lowell hit the ball hard to left center twice.  (The second time, Kubel robbed him of a base hit.  He charged and dove for the out.) Jose Mijares  came on in relief of Liriano and promptly loaded the bases.  (The fact that we did absolutely nothing with that golden opportunity is not the point.  And thanks for that, Beltre; he hit into a double play that ended the inning.) And then there was the guy who’s been a bright spot since coming out of the gate: Dustin Pedroia, obviously.  The man went three for four yesterday.  He alone equaled the entire rest of the team’s offensive output.  I’m convinced that he just can’t be contained.  And this isn’t just me talking; check out what a Twins blogger had to say about him:

Dustin Pedroia is good.  As in ridiculously, disgustingly good.

Eat your heart out, MLB.  (By the way, that blog is called Twinkie Town.  What?)

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Yesterday, all players across the league wore No. 42.  I’ve always thought that pretty neat.  Dice-K probably just pitched himself off the DL.  He tossed six shutout innings for Pawtucket yesterday, dominating completely.  He’s now pitched eleven innings in the minors, and I think he’s ready.

Now we get to go home.  Thank goodness.  We’re four and five, and we need to play some games in Boston to get back on track.  We’re taking on the Rays, starting with Davis at Beckett tonight.

The Bruins lost to the Sabres, 2-1.  We played well.  I’d rather lose by that score than by a blowout.  Next game is tomorrow afternoon.

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The important thing is that we picked up the win yesterday.  That win is important to establish momentum, infuse Target Field with a positive and friendly vibe, help the club settle into a groove, and advance us in the standings.  Of those four things, the third is the most important for our long-term success.  Just to prove that it’s still too early to get anything constructive out of the standings, let’s take a gander at them, shall we? We are currently in third, one and a half games behind Toronto and Tampa Bay, who are both tied for first.  Yeah.  Like that’s going to last.

With that 6-3 win comes Lackey’s first decision in a Red Sox uniform.  It was pretty decent.  Two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings with four walks and two K’s seems fine enough, especially when you consider that he finished with a pitch count of 107, reasonable for an outing of that length.  I would’ve preferred less hits and less walks; essentially, it was a command issue that may get lost if you only look at the two runs he allowed.  He struggled through most of the outing.  He threw more cutters than anything else, topping out at ninety-two miles per hour on one of them (he threw fastest when his vertical movement was greatest), but his most effective pitch for strikes was his curveball.  He had some nice speed variation, bottoming out at about seventy-three.  His strike zone was heavy on the left side.  He was roughed up a little in the third and left (peacefully) with a one-run lead when, with one out in the seventh, Mauer stood in.

V-Mart took a passed ball, so Francona intentionally walked Mauer to first.  Morneau ended it.  Done.  Props to Okajima because, with two inherited runners, it could’ve been a lot worse.  Bard and Paps barely got through their shifts.  Bard allowed a run on two hits.  Paps allowed two walks.  Honestly, has it been written somewhere that these two can’t just get their jobs done cleanly? Is there something going on, some new pronouncement of their shakiness, that I don’t know about? I mean, where did all the lights-out go? I’ll tell you one thing: the worse Bard gets, the more Paps’s monetary value at contract time increases.

So much for Ellsbury’s return.  They’re saying Friday now, so he’ll miss the rest of the road trip.  Thankfully, Scutaro has some skills in leadoff, starting the game with a single.  Scutaro, Pedroia, and V-Mart all went two for five.  Scutaro batted in a run.  Pedroia batted in two on a double and a solo dinger to very deep left.  To put that in perspective, last year he didn’t hit his fourth home run until July.  I’ve read a call for the Red Sox to learn themselves some small ball because we don’t have sluggers in the lineup.  Sir, Mr. Pedroia would like to speak with you.

Papi and Beltre also hit doubles.   Papi tried to steal a base which, as usual, was really funny.  Needless to say, he got caught, although Slowey’s last name would’ve indicated that he might have been able to reach safely.  Youk went one for three but walked twice.  Drew walked and scored twice.

But the big offensive story (other than Pedroia, who’s always the big offensive story) is none other than Jeremy Hermida, who hit a loaded-bases-clearing double in the eighth.  In each of his last four games, Hermida has hit for extra-bases from the starting lineup.  How’s he for a nice surprise? At the very least, I’d leave him in as DH for a few more games.

That’s a wrap, folks.  We’re four and four and getting better.  Wakefield will try his hand against Liriano this afternoon; Papi will sit in favor of Hermida.  Also, what’s with these afternoon starts during the week? I’m just saying.  Anyway, this should definitely be interesting.  It’ll be a real test for Wakefield, who only seems to improve with age.

The Bruins begin their playoffs on Thursday when we take on the Sabres.  We ended the season on a high note with a win against the Caps.  It’s a tough way to start, but who knows? Maybe we’ll go somewhere this spring.

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And get it done last night we did! Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to your first-place Boston Red Sox! The Braves destroyed the Jays, we destroyed the Mets, and just like that, order was restored.  I’m telling you, it just feels right.  It feels like the universe has suddenly fallen into place.  It feels like we’ve come home.  Just in time to go on the road again for a four-game series against the Twins.  But I’m not worried.  We’re in first place.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

Things were looking pretty bleak into the fifth inning.  We were down, 3-5, and the score felt like it could potentially be a final.  That did not happen.  We scored three more runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, and four in the seventh.  The final was 12-5.  We had twice as many hits as they did and scored more than twice as many runs.  Yeah.  That’s destruction.  In the second inning with men on second and third, Mikey Lowell started everything with a three-run shot into the Green Monster.  It was an 0-1 changeup that wasn’t going anywhere except out of the park.  That’s his eighth of the season.  And that was some smart hitting, because it can be tough to stay with those at the plate.  Lowell had a really great day; he finished five for three with those three RBIs and scored twice.  Youk hit an absolutely ridiculous three-run homer in the seventh.  There was a man on first, a man on second, two men out, a ball and no strikes, and a very pathetic Gary Sheffield just watching it clear the Green Monster completely.  And that’s what happens when you leave a 95 mile-per-hour fastball over the middle when Youk is at the plate.  That was his seventh of the year, and he deserved that one.  Earlier, in the fifth, Youk hit a ball directly over the left field foul pole.  It went out of the park, over Lansdowne Street, and actually hit the Cask ‘N’ Flagon.  Joe West was working third base yesterday and called it a foul ball.  Tito of course came out to argue it was a home run, and for the second day in a row the umpires used instant replay.  The camera angles were inconclusive so they did not reverse the call, and ruled that the ball was indeed foul, although personally I disagree.  The ball was out; it could only have hit the Cask ‘N’ Flagon where it did if it were slightly to the right of the pole and therefore fair.  But putting that aside, what are the odds a ball would fly directly over the foul pole? Ridiculous.  But I still say it was fair.

Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nineteen games and scored a run.  Pedroia and Bay each batted one in.  Drew had a phenomenal day, going four for five with two runs and an RBI.  It was a double down the right field line to score Youk from third with two outs in the sixth.  And this is just about the time Drew got hot last year.  Everyone remembers his epic June.  Looks like he might be about to have another one.  Kottaras went three for five with a run and an RBI.  And Green got in on the action, going two for five with a run and two RBIs.

I’ve seen better from Wakefield, but I’ve also seen worse, and last night’s outing was luckily closer to the better than the worse.  Six innings, five runs on seven hits, four walks, three K’s, and a solo shot for Ramon Castro in the second.  Delcarmen and Saito pitched perfectly.  So Wake with the win, and Delcarmen with a hold.  By the way, Dlecarmen’s ERA is 0.86.

So there you have it.  The definitive game that put us in our place.  First.  First in the AL East.  It’s got a nice ring to it.  I have full confidence we’ll stay there.  The Blue Jays will have to be content with fighting it out with New York for second.  Meanwhile, it’ll be a rematch of Penny at Liriano in Minnesota.  And as is always the case with Penny’s starts, if he holds it together, keeps his pitch count down, and consistently locates his fastball, we’ll be in a good position to win.  If he doesn’t, we’ll have to go for another slugfest just to dig ourselves out of whatever hole he got us into.  But either is possible.  It’s a four-game series.  Perfect time to cushion ourselves in the standings.

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That was the theme of the past two days.  The game on Tuesday was rained out and postponed to yesterday, making yesterday a double-header against the Twins.  And since the series was only two games to begin with, we basically crammed the whole series into twenty-four hours.  And we didn’t even finish the first game; it was called after seven innings due to the weather.  I mean from Minnesota’s standpoint there really wasn’t a point in finishing it because we were up, 10-1, at that point, but still.  If we were meant to score five more runs in that game, I would’ve liked to see those five runs.  But the nightcap stayed dry after being delayed an hour, and all in all it was a phenomenal day.  We swept the doubleheader and showed the Twins who’s boss, and the Bruins knocked the Canadiens completely out of the playoffs.  A four-game sweep and a burial in Montreal yesterday by a final score of 4-1.

I’m getting ahead of myself here.  First, let’s talk about Wakefield and the gem he pitched in the first game.  He went the whole seven innings, allowed one run on five hits with a walk and four K’s.  He became the oldest pitcher in baseball history to pitch back-to-back complete games.  I’m telling you, the man’s still got it.  Year in and year out we question how much he has left, and he never ceases to amaze us.  His ERA is 2.45.  Tim Wakefield’s ERA is 2.45.  That’s ridiculous.  Somehow, he just keeps getting better and better.  And the offense had an absolute field day.  Youk hit a two-run shot into the right field seats in the first, Green hit a two-run shot into the Monster in the second, and Lowell hit a two-run shot also into the Monster in the third.  Ellsbury went two for four, extending his hitting streak to eight games.  Papi went two for four, including a double.  Drew went three for three with a walk.  Lowell would finish the night three for four, and Green two for four.  So all in all we teed off.  Ellsbury stole, got caught, and was picked off.  Green made an error.  And because it was such a masterful event, I’m going to repeat that the final score was 10-1.  So as you can see the Twins were pretty much done.  “Blame It On the Rain,” as Milli Vanilli says, but if I were in a Minnesota uniform I’d be loathing Tim Wakefield all the way back to Minneapolis.

And those were just the afternoon festivities.  We rocked the nightcap, too.  For starters, Dave Roberts threw out the first pitch.  I’m telling you, whenever I remember that moment I start to lose it.  It all started with that one stolen base.  Pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, he runs, he’s safe, we win seven straight, the curse is broken.  Just like that.  And it all started with that one stolen base.  Penny was on, a relief after his previous start against Baltimore.  Two earned runs on six hits with a walk and two K’s in six innings (the third run was the courtesy of another error by Green).  Justin Morneau hit a solo shot in the fourth.  After that, the relief came in and was perfect as usual.  Ramon Ramirez still has an ERA of 0.00 after pitching just over nine impeccable innings, Okajima was solid with a strikeout, and Paps came out to get some work in, because with all the runs we’ve been scoring he’s gotten a little bored lately.  And he was perfect, of course.  As far as the offense was concerned, it wasn’t so much teeing off as it was walking and making Francisco Liriano pay for it.  Liriano gave up seven runs in four frames.  And many of those were the result of walks.  If there’s one thing opposing pitchers know about us, it’s that if you walk our batters, chances are we’ll score some runs.  So that was not an outing you’d want out of your Number One starter.  Which is why he doesn’t pitch for Boston.  Jeff Bailey was added to the roster after Baldelli was placed on the fifteen-day DL with a left hamstring strain, and Lowell had the game off, so Youk moved to third and Bailey played first, and Bailey’s only hit of the night and first at-bat of the year was a three-run homer that probably had the skin taken off the ball.  Papi doubled again, and it seems like he’s hitting for extra bases consistently now, a trend I’d love to see continue.  Green had the only multi-hit performance, finishing his night at two for three.  Ellsbury, Drew, Bailey, and Bay, who leads the American League in walks, each logged a base on balls.  Pedroia was caught and picked off.

Did I mention that yesterday was Terry Francona’s fiftieth birthday? I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest managers in the game!

So we extend our winning streak to seven games, tying New York for second only one and a half games out of first.  That won’t last long.  We get the day off today and are facing New York tomorrow night at home.  It’s going to be Chamberlain at Lester, and quite frankly if Lester stays vintage we should make quick work of the Yankees.  I’m so psyched.

And last but most certainly not least, in other news the Bruins swept Montreal in four games.  We win the Stanley Cup quarterfinal for the first time in ten years.  We fell to the Habs last year, in 2004, and in 2002, but not this year.  This year we completely dominated them.  They stood no chance whatsoever.  Sweeps are hard to come by in hockey but we basically just finished a textbook model for how to do it.  Michael Ryder, former Canadien, scored twice and assisted David Krejci.  Phil Kessel shot out of the penalty box in the second period, got the puck, and put it in the net pretty much immediately.  Timmy Thomas made twenty-six saves.  It was awesome, unbelievable, and very satisfying.  But we’ve still got work to do.  Round Two coming up.  How sweep it is.

So just to recap, in a single day we sweep a series and a doubleheader, get two solid starts out of our Number Four and Five guys, let the offense go to town, welcome back the man whose stolen base started it all in 2004, extend our winning streak to seven days, advance in the standings, celebrate the birthday of our brilliant manager, sweep the Stanley Cup quarterfinal, bury our arch-rivals underneath a mountain of goals, eliminate them from the playoffs completely in their house, and advance to Round Two with all the momentum in the world.  I would say that that is one seriously good day.  All in a day’s work in Boston.  Even in the rain.

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