Posts Tagged ‘Fred Lewis’

Again, the theme of eyes on the prize.  We won.  We didn’t win by much, but we won.  And we did some bad things, but obviously we did some good things too.  In fact, the whole game was yet another miniature version of the whole season, with the important exception being that in this game we got a good start.  Actually, it reminded me of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, where we had the lead several times but allowed the opposition to tie it, although we never fell behind and ultimately won out.  And it was especially important to win the first game of this series, being that Toronto is surging right now.  So despite all the badness that was present in the game, this is good.

We came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and scored three runs in the second inning: RBI doubles for Beltre and Lowrie and an RBI single for Ellsbury.  We scored one more in the third when Lowell sacrificed V-Mart in with the bases loaded.  It would have been nice for him to have done more with that opportunity, but I’ll most definitely take the run.  But the Jays did the same thing in reverse; they scored one in the second and three in the third.

In the fifth, Drew hit a solo shot and continued his great numbers against Romero by depositing his fastball middle-in into the second right field deck.

Meanwhile, Dice-K didn’t deliver his best performance.  He lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three and striking out seven on 110 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  His two-seam, cutter, slider, and changeup were very much on, but his curveball and four-seam, his two most frequently used pitches, were very much off.  He threw thirty-three pitches when he gave up that three-spot in the third, which was the result of a home run, while needing only five pitches to get through the very next inning.  So this start was a miniature version of his entire season as well.

He ran into trouble in the sixth, walking the first two batters he faced.  With one out to go in the inning, Lewis hit your average ground ball to Scutaro, but unfortunately, Lowrie was slow getting over to second, so Scutaro hesitated before making his throw.  Doubront took care of it by striking out Snider on three pitches.  That’s poise.  Especially from a young guy.

But in the seventh, Bautista hit a solo shot of his own to tie it back up.  Doubront picked up a blown save for that.

The eighth was when we locked it up.  With two out, Lowell hit a solo shot over the left field fence.  It was a sinking fastball, and he basically golfed it out of the park.  And that put us out in front for good, not to mention the fact that Lowell is clearly returning to form very nicely.  Lowrie added one for insurance with an RBI double.  Delcarmen held the fort, Paps made the save, and the final score was 7-5!

Lowrie finished the night two for three; Ellsbury finished the night two for four.

And it just goes to show you that man can not win on long balls alone.  If they could, Toronto would be at the top of the standings by now.  But they’re not.  And we beat them, with both big and small ball.  We took advantage of our opportunities, leaving only five on base as opposed to Toronto’s eight.  So the first bit of good news is that we won.  The second is that the Yankees lost to the Rangers.  And the third is that Pedroia passed all his running drills; he ran the bases a bit yesterday and will run them again today, and he’ll be evaluated on Friday.  If everything checks out, Pedroia will spend the weekend in Pawtucket and start at second on Tuesday.  The only bad news was that the Rays managed to win, but we’re still inching ahead.  Next is Buchholz opposite Marcum.  Let’s win the series.

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Alright.  So.  With the last two games of the Toronto series done, we find the season halfway done as well.  That’s a pretty scary thought.  It seems like only yesterday we were in the dead of winter, itching to get going, and frustrated with our first month.  Now, we’ve finished the first three and are rooting for Papi in the Home Run Derby tonight.  Time flies when you’re having fun!

Our last two games were pretty much opposites of each other.  They perfectly captured our entire first half, actually.  Simply put, we lost on Saturday in a big way and won yesterday in a not-so-big but equally significant way.

Saturday’s final score was 9-5, and unfortunately it definitely wasn’t the first time we’ve lost a day game this season.  Drew walked with the bases loaded in the first, Nava and Papi doubled in three runs in the second, and Scutaro hit an RBI single in the third.  It was extremely frustrating, mostly because he entire game was one huge manifestation of the worst luck ever.  Cameron got called out on strikes in the seventh and was so frustrated he got himself ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.  It’s just as well; he got plunked on the wrist with a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball in the third.  (Hey, if he had to get plunked, his timing was excellent.  He sat out yesterday’s game but has the break.  He should be back in action when we start the second half.) Tito followed suit.  We struck out a grand total of twelve times, seven looking and five swinging.  Even though we went into the game second-highest in the AL in walks, we only walked twice.  Lackey didn’t help much.  He was absolutely terrible.  He left with two outs in the fifth inning, when Lewis tried to check his swing and ended up batting in two.  He gave up seven runs on eight hits in that brief appearance.  He walked six while pitching to a team that, heading into the game, struck out 663 times.  He struck out only two.  He fired 106 pitches.  He picked up the loss, and very rightly so.  He was extraordinarily hittable and inefficient.  So the top third of the lineup did all the offensive work, the bottom two-thirds spent most of their time hitting balls right to guys, and somehow the Jays hit pitches that were supposed to be some of Lackey’s best of the day.

We somewhat avenged ourselves yesterday afternoon, when we won, 3-2, thanks to a strong showing from Dice-K.  He gave up two runs on six hits in six innings, which for him is apparently a long outing, with no walks as a nice change of pace and five K’s.  He threw eighty-eight pitches, sixty-two of which were strikes, and picked up the win.  Even more impressive was that he barely had a cushion at all; the final score was 3-2, and we scored all of our runs in the sixth inning, all three via the long ball.  McDonald snapped the lack of score by sending a ball way deep into left field with Scutaro on base.  He has certainly proven himself to be one of the most significant members of our lineup during this first half.  Seriously.  We have fourteen guys on the fifteen-day disabled list right now, and without contributions from players like McDonald, I don’t even want to think about what the standings would look like.  Papi then went back-to-back with a homer of his own in preparation for tonight’s theatrics.  One of two things I didn’t appreciate was the fact that the roof of the Rogers Centre broke.  You read right.  It broke, and it only happened halfway, which created some conditions for the hitters and pitchers that were interesting at best and incredibly annoying at least.  McDonald said he’d never played in such conditions before, and Papi claimed he just closed his eyes and swung the bat.  Either way, it worked out.  Then Bard got the old and Paps got the save.  Boom.  Done.  The other thing I didn’t appreciate was that Beltre left in the sixth with a left hamstring issue.  He wanted to stay in the game, but Tito, being ever-cautious when basically our entire team is just finding ways to get itself on the DL, took him out.  He thinks he’ll be able to play in the All-Star Game but isn’t sure yet.  If he does play, that better not impede his ability to come back strong for the second half.

So we’re still three games behind the Rays and five behind the Yankees, but I don’t think any of us would’ve believed that we’d end the first half in such a solid position if you asked us in April.  We enter the break fifty-one and thirty-seven.  So we can at least be happy about that, and we can also be happy about an entire second half of baseball to be played! We start the second half against the Rangers.  Wake will open the series, followed by Buchholz, Lackey, Lester, and Dice-K.  I like the idea of Wake pitching on eight days of rest.  And that’s pretty much a wrap of the first half.  Wow.  Time really does fly.  See you on the other side.

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The way I would describe last night’s start by Dice-K can be summarized in one phrase: that’s more like it.

In last night’s start he showed glimmers of why we signed him in the first place and why he was so effective in 2007.  In last night’s start he dominated like he was an ace who’d been around the league long enough to know exactly how to handle these Jays.  In last night’s start he gave Red Sox Nation a reason to hope that maybe signing him, sticking with him in the long haul, and having faith he’ll come around wouldn’t have been in vain.

He pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and allowed only three hits.  No walks whatsoever for the second time in his career.  Nine strikeouts, only one of which was not on a fastball (Snider struck out on an eighty-one mile-per-hour changeup), and only two of which were looking.  He faced twenty-four batters and also induced ten flyouts and two groundouts.  107 pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  That’s a very high rate.  That’s one of the highest such rates we’ve seen all season.  He got the win, and very deservedly so.  He started the game striking out Lewis on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  I mean, this Dice-K was completely different than the Dice-K we’d been seeing until this point, and it just confirms that he was in fact on the trajectory of improvement we all thought he was on.  In one night, he lowered his ERA from 9.90 to 6.35.

His four-seam was excellent.  He only topped out at ninety-three miles per hour, but he threw about seventy percent of them for strikes.  Which was good because that was his dominant pitch; he threw about sixty-eight of them.  The reason his four-seam was so effective was that it has fantastic vertical movement on it.  His fastest pitches don’t do much horizontally, but vertically they’re real sharp.  Like off the charts sharp.  His two-seam, cutter, curveball, and slider were excellent; his changeup still needs work.  And if you ask me, even if his fastball does move, I still think he should mix his pitches more effectively.  This outing was a good first step, but he won’t last the season if his pitch mix looks like that.  A pitcher can’t live on fastballs alone.  There are those who would argue that a fastball is only as good as the pitches thrown before and after it.  So I think it would greatly behoove him and therefore us if he’d work on that.

His lowest per-inning pitch count was eleven, which he threw twice.  He threw between sixteen and twenty pitches in each of the remaining five innings, with twenty being his highest count in the third and nineteen being his highest in the sixth.  So he ran into some trouble there, but of course every pitcher who’s on gets into at least one jam.  That’s a trend we’ve seen with him; in each of his last two starts, he’s had one disastrous inning.  In last night’s start, it could be that that disastrous inning was just much more controlled and contained.  Although ideally he wouldn’t have any disastrous innings at all.

Of course it helps when you have good relief.  Ramirez pitched around a hit and a walk to finish an inning, and Okajima followed that with a perfect inning.

And it also helps when you have good offense.  Unlike Dice-K, Eveland only lasted a little more than four frames.

Scutaro led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Pedroia’s double, scoring on Drew’s groundout.  Pedroia scored on Youk’s sac fly.  Tek unloaded for a home run in the second; a 2—0 fastball that completely cleared the Monster and Lansdowne Street.  Dude got power.  That would be his sixth of the season, fifth from the right side, in forty at-bats.  To put that in perspective, he didn’t hit his sixth home run last hear until at-bat number 125.  He led off the fourth with a single; his bat broke, which confused Bautista, so the ball rolled between his legs, which we don’t have to worry about because it was the opposing team.  Hall followed that with a popup to shallow left-center that dropped between Lewis, Gonzalez, and Wells and has quietly been getting some hits in lately.  Then, Tek scored again on McDonald’s double in the fourth.  So, not the Jays’ best inning in the field.  Drew led off the fifth with a bunt.  Youk walked.  Eveland left with a ball on Lowell; Camp entered and walked him to load the bases.  Drew scored on a wild pitch and Youk scored when Hall grounded into a fielder’s choice.  We recorded twice as many hits and six times as many runs as they did.

By the way, Youk was hit by a pitch in the third for the sixty-third time in his career.  He’s one HBP shy of tying Jim Rice for second place on the franchise all-time list.

Pedroia and Drew both went two for four.  Drew stole second and appears to be in good health.  Tek went two for three, continuing to impress.  Can’t say I didn’t see that coming; in the beginning of the season I said that Tek’s Renaissance would last because extra rest would draw it out.  I hope that’s what we’re seeing here.  And finally, last but not least, 6-1 says we won.

A quick update on our absent outfielders: Cameron is doing a rehab stint with the PawSox, and Ellsbury took batting practice and did baserunning drills yesterday, so that’s a very good sign that he’ll be back in action soon.  Seriously this time.

So that was a good game all around.  I just hope that Dice-K builds on it.  His number one problem has been inconsistency, so this start was a good first step, but it’ll be really important to observe his performance in his next start to see if this is the establishment of a new norm or just one more piece of evidence of his irregular performance.  Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime Wakefield will try for the sweep against Marcum tonight.


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