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Posts Tagged ‘Gabe Kapler’

Two games up on the Rays in the series? Life is pretty great, isn’t it? That’s called inching our way back, slowly but surely.  Eventually we’ll be on top.  It’s what everyone has been saying all along: we’re too good to fail.

That and run prevention.  We’ve been saying that all along too.  But, ironically, starting with our ballgames against baseball’s toughest teams, we’re proving that it works and that you really can get ahead with it.  Say hello to the long-awaited 2010 baseball season!

Collectively, our pitching staff one-hit and shut out the Tampa Bay Rays last night.  Lester pitched an outing shorter than usual; he lasted only six innings, which jives with the fact that he gave up a season-high five walks all of which proved to be harmless.  It just made him throw a lot of pitches at 111.  So his command was obviously present; he was just inefficient.  Don’t get me wrong; that’s inherently a big deal on its own and something that shouldn’t have happened.  But if that’s the only thing that constitutes a bad day for Lester, and it would seem from his recent performances that it is, I think I can live with it.

What it basically came down to was the fact that he just didn’t throw his cut fastball for strikes as often as usual.  It was a location issue.  When you don’t locate, you throw more pitches, and there you go.  He threw a decent amount of pitches to the left and right of the zone.  He threw a minimum of eleven pitches in an inning but mostly needed around twenty to get three outs in each.

His usual qualities were there: the mix of pitches, the variance of speeds, the sharp movement.  He threw the ball well.  He just threw the ball too much.  And you could see that it was going to be a long night of sorts for him from the beginning; something just wasn’t right.  He wasn’t completely settled, and the flow of the contest didn’t exactly fit with him.  So I wouldn’t worry.  Oh, yeah; he got the win.

Delcarmen and Bard each received holds; Paps collected a save.  All innings were clean and would’ve been perfect had Paps not handed out one free pass.

The final score was a tame 2-0.  Papi doubled off the wall in left center to bring in Drew and Youk.  Of the four hits we collected last night, that was the only one for extra bases.  But it was enough.  Why? Run prevention.  Run prevention, run prevention, run prevention.  I’m telling you, now that that’s actually come together, we’re going to win us some ballgames.  Just like we’ve been doing for the past several days.

As far as the defense was concerned, it was all Adrian Beltre.  In the second and again in the sixth, he dove to catch would-be base hits and sprang up to fire to first for the outs in time.  There’s your Gold Glove at third.

We had a bit of excitement in the fifth.  Two frustrated Rays were ejected: Crawford and Maddon for arguing balls and strikes.  They took issue with the wide strike zone – we of all people should know that Gabe Kapler isn’t a complainer, so when he says something it’s worth looking into – but if that wide strike zone is consistent, there’s no argument.  And from Lester’s strike zone plot, I can tell you that it wasn’t that wide.

To clear up the roster confusion, here’s what happened.  McDonald was originally supposed to be sent down Monday night to prepare for Cameron’s return.  But Ellsbury had some soreness in his side before last night’s game, so they kept McDonald and designating Atchison for assignment instead.  Good move.  Why anyone would designate McDonald after everything he’s done and continues to do is a mystery to me.

Additionally, there have been some changes in the outfield, changes I think are for the better.  Cameron is no longer slated to be our primary center fielder.  Ellsbury is.  Every start Cameron makes will be followed by a day off, and those starts will probably start coming in left or perhaps right when Drew has the day off.  The corner outfield positions are less strenuous, so it’ll be easier for him to recover that way.  That could only be potential defensive problem in Fenway, where you need someone at those corners who knows the weird angels there like the back of his hand.  On the road it’s definitely worth it to have him flank center, and I think in due time he’ll be able to pick it up at home.

Over our last four games, our starting pitching is undefeated with a 0.32 ERA.  That’s ridiculous.  That’s a closer’s ERA, and there are closers in the Major Leagues who wish they had that ERA.  Starters aren’t supposed to have that ERA.  Starters collectively are not supposed to have that ERA.  Wow.  Alright.  Lackey takes the mound tonight; he’s the missing link in the current rotation.  He’s the fifth starter who needs to turn in a quality effort to make it five in a row.  We’re one game away from the sweep, which would indeed be sweet retribution for those four games in April, so I strongly recommend he go for it.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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All of Dice-K’s pitches were off.  We can ask ourselves, was it the World Baseball Classic, was it not the World Baseball Classic? Only time will tell.  But one thing’s for sure: last season he was perpetually on.  It’s a commonly known fact that a player’s first year in Boston is not necessarily his best, and last year Dice-K resolved many of the issues he had in 2007.  The last thing we need now is for new issues to crop up and give him trouble.  Yesterday it was the long ball that did him in; four runs on nine hits, three of them homers, in just over five innings pitched.  Joyce, Longoria, and Riggans.  Four runs on three mistakes.  Dice-K will take the loss.

The bullpen did okay yesterday.  Delcarmen, Ramirez, and Masterson all did fine; all still have ERAs of 0.00.  Hideki Okajima is another story.  He posted another shaky outing.  He got out of it, but not before allowing a hit and two walks.  Something’s up, and it’s not just his ERA.  I know, I know, it’s only the second game, but really? Is he ever coming around? Because if he isn’t, I’d like to know sooner rather than later.

Offense.  There’s a bit of an interesting story.  This game had walk-off home run written all over it.  After Papi walked, that responsibility fell to Youkilis who, sadly, did not deliver.  He did, however, have a very good day at the plate; three for four with a walk and two runs.  The only multi-hit performance in the lineup.  An RBI for Bay, coming on a triple in the sixth inning.  You don’t see triples too often, especially not “true triples,” the ones you don’t have to leg out.  He got to third easily.  Too bad we stranded him.  Also an RBI for Lowell, who robbed Iwamura of extra bases in the eighth by making a spectacular catch.  He dove to his left and picked the ball out of thin air.  That was a play he would never have been able to make before the surgery, and with every game he’s becoming more and more comfortable in the field.  Speaking of spectacular catches, in the ninth Jacoby Ellsbury kept us in the game by hauling in a well-hit ball by Gabe Kapler with the bases loaded.  If it falls it’s three runs for sure.  And sometimes a play like that is worth the RBIs Ellsbury could’ve or should’ve batted in himself.  And who comes to the plate in the ninth but Jason Varitek, who proceeds to hit a long ball of his own to bring us within one! Two home runs for the captain, and it’s only our first series.  I’m telling you, comeback year.  But, alas, at the end of the day we lost, 4-3, dropping our opening series for the first time since 1988.

But I did notice a crack in the Rays’ pitching staff: Troy Percival.  He pitched the ninth and gave up the homer to Tek and a walk to Papi.  If Longoria hadn’t taken a base hit away from Pedroia, we probably would’ve won.  So this wasn’t exactly his best outing.  Reports have it that, since last year, his endurance is down, and it’s a big question for the Rays whether he’ll be able to fill the closer’s role, or any role, effectively for an entire season.  And when he starts to fall, we’ll be ready.

It’ll be Wakefield at Weaver in the late start tonight, something I’m not looking forward to if we continue to play like we did in our last two games.  On the bright side, this is one of only two road trips to the West Coast this year, so we’ll be done with those by May.

In other news, the Bruins edged the Habs in overtime, 5-4.  Only the Sabres and Islanders left.

XML Aficionado

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Well.  That did not go very well.  And sometimes it takes only one inning to turn sour.  I don’t know what went wrong with Lester in the fifth inning last night, but whatever it is, I don’t want to know about it.  He gave up four runs in the bottom of the fifth.  And that, my friends, may as well have been the ballgame.  Not that we can’t come back from that.  We can.  But we didn’t.  We had our opportunities; we left nine on base and went two for nine as a team with runners in scoring position.  I just really hope this isn’t an introduction of what’s to come later on in the season, because if it is, we’re in trouble.

So the full breakdown for Lester is five runs on eight hits with two walks and five K’s in five innings pitched.  I mean that’s a little misleading.  Really he seemed to be cruising along until the fifth; he allowed a run in the third but otherwise posted zeroes through four, and he collected all his strikeouts in the first two.  But then we had the two-run home run by Carlos Pena and it all went downhill from there.  It’s his first loss at home in about a year.  Before last night he’d won sixteen home games, the second-longest streak in the Majors.  And Gabe Kapler certainly didn’t help the situation.  Delcarmen came on in the sixth, followed by a perfect Ramon Ramirez in the seventh, followed by Takashi Saito in the eighth who allowed a home run and Javier Lopez in the ninth who allowed a run on four hits.  And that doesn’t sound like him either.  I hope last year wasn’t a blip on the radar as far as his consistency was concerned, because he was solid day in and day out, something that historically had been a problem for him.

RBIs for Youk and Bay for the two in the 7-2 loss.  Youk actually had a great game offensively, going three for four, the only multi-hitter in the lineup.  But a not so great game defensively.  He committed an error.  A throwing error.  Kevin Youkilis made an error.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t even know he knew how to make an error.

So we move to a record of 1-1 after our first two for the fourth year in a row.  The important thing here is to remember that, for the next two weeks or so, we’ll be dealing with a lot of firsts.  This was Lester’s first outing.  I don’t have to be happy about the result but I do have to consider the kind of pitcher he is and the fact that he will, without a doubt, bounce back from this.  Would I like to have swept the Rays? Absolutely.  But I’ll accept a series win because Lester still has to get his feet under him.  As for Youk’s error, which I still can’t believe, there goes another errorless season, but I guess I’d be okay with a one-error season, too.  We just need to establish our rhythm.  Last year the trip to Japan made that a little more complicated than usual and we still almost made it to the World Series (again, who doesn’t swing in the ninth on a 2-2 pitch?).  So I don’t think we have to worry just yet.  I’m annoyed.  I’m very annoyed.  But as far as the long run is concerned, I’m not worried.  Garza at Dice-K this afternoon.

In other news, Dave Roberts may be retiring.  It’s not official yet, but he’ll broadcasting the Padres on the radio and has accepted a job with Comcast in San Francisco.  I’ll tell you something.  We will never forget this man.  We have a lot to thank him for.  That had to be, without a doubt, the most famous, the most memorable, the most important, the most daring, the most ridiculous stolen base ever.  Thanks, Dave, for a great 2004!

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Mixed results this week, but we’ll go with the good stuff first.  And few things are better in the offseason than tipping your hat to a new Hall of Famer.  Congratulations, Jim Rice, on making it in! It’s about time; it certainly took the writers long enough.  But 382 home runs, 1,451 RBIs, and 14 tries later, the man is in! And he deserves it.  Add to those stats a .298 career batting average and the 1978 American League MVP Award and just try to tell me he’s not Hall material.  Finally, Jim Rice gets his due.  And we’re not talking landslide here; he appeared on 76.4% of the ballots and garnered 412 votes, 1.4% and 7 more than the necessary amounts.  But, he’s in.  Finally.  Just sayin’.  And who could forget his good Samaritan moment in ’82, when an opponent’s foul ball hit a four-year-old in the forehead, and the kid started bleeding heavily.  Rice ran into the stands and got to him before the medics and carried him to an ambulance.  He saved the kid’s life.  How’s that for a Hall of Famer.

John Smoltz has been officially introduced, and I think his friend Tom Glavine said it best:

I know it’s going to be fun for him playing in Boston.  I’m envious that he’ll be playing in Boston and I never got to play in Boston.

Again, just sayin’.  But wait; there’s more.  Turns out that Youk and Theo finally reached a consensus; he’s locked up through 2012 with a four-year contract extension and an option for 2013, and that, my friends, is definitely something to be happy about.  I mean he’s probably the best first baseman out there right now; two seasons ago he didn’t make an error all year and last season he split time seamlessly between first and third.  And that’s just his defense.  You have to like Theo’s style: building a team with home-grown talent.  I’m a big fan.  It’s always a plus when your team has a front office and a business side that you can respect.  That’s way more than I can say for most other organizations around the league, especially one in particular, and we all know what I’m referring to.  The Yankees will deliver $180 million to a single player over eight years.  The Red Sox will distribute $14 million to five guys for one year each.  What this does is it maintains our financial flexibility, and in a depressed market that’s absolutely key.  When other teams are busy unloading contracts in the middle of the season, we’re busy weighing our options and taking advantage of opportunities.  The whole Tex thing wasn’t pretty, but as I said you never know.  In Theo we trust, as they say.

But, as always, it’s never smooth sailing, even with the home-grown boys.  Papelbon filed for arbitration, so unless he and the front office reach an agreement within the next few days, let the games begin.  I really hope this doesn’t get ugly.  To be fair, he does deserve some kind of raise.  We paid him $775,000 last season, which was an absolute steal.  I don’t even want to think about how many figures he’d command on the market.  Javier Lopez filed also, and he was surprisingly consistent last season.  I wouldn’t necessarily give him a raise this time around, but if his consistency continues he could be in line to become our principle setup man (unless Okajima permanently returns to form, which would be awesome, because the dude was bringin’ it in ’07).

Last but not least, negotiations with Jason Varitek have taken a surprising turn.  Varitek actually asked to meet with John Henry in Atlanta and said afterwards that the meeting “went well.” That’s a very good sign.  Let’s recap: this past season was the last year in Tek’s four-year contract, so he filed for free agency in October.  He was offered arbitration but declined because who but Scott Boras was convinced that he’d be able to land a long-term deal and a nice pile of cash elsewhere, but that was not going to happen because if another team signed him, it’d have to concede a first-round draft pick to us.  Granted, it’s not over yet, and we’ll still have to wait and see, but either way I think it’s safe to say this was an epic fail on Scott Boras’s part.  An epic fail.  Scott Boras epically failed.  I think I’ll say that again: Scott Boras epically, epically failed.

One other thing I’d like to see the front office do in addition to restoring some order to our catcher situation is to lock up a deal with Jason Bay.  He was fantastic.  Came over mid-season with  some big shoes to fill but put the pressure in check and just lit it up.  He’s a natural in the postseason, he runs the bases, he plays the wall nicely, and he’s reasonable price-wise.  Lock it up.

Oh, yeah.  Gabe Kapler is a Ray, and Alex Cora is a Met.  Who knew.

One last point.  On Thursday owners approved a proposal by Bud Selig that ensures that every postseason game will be played through, clearly a response to the ’08 Series’s Game Five, the one that was stopped on account of rain, started again 46 hours later, and eventually proved to be the clincher for the Phillies.  Major League Baseball also adopted a new procedure for determining home-field advantage in tiebreakers for playoff spots.  Instead of a coin toss, it’ll be decided by head-to-head records, intra-division records, and second-half, intra-league records, clearly a response to the White Sox winning home-field advantage by a coin toss and beating the Twins, 1-0, for a playoff spot last year.  I’ll tell you something: Minnesota is not happy right now.  Minnesota is seething right now.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps yesterday, 2-1.  Marc Savard scored our only goal in the second period.  On the bright side, it wasn’t a blowout, but it wasn’t our typically dominant performance.  No, sir.

Frank Galasso

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