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Posts Tagged ‘George Kottaras’

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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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

Sawxblog/Derek Hixon

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Well, that’s a wrap.  That’s the end of the road for 2009.  The regular season is over.  Done.  Finished.  And we made it! Bumps, bruises, trades, designations for assignment; you name it, we did it, and we made it through it.  We made it to the second season and beyond.  The way in which we got in was a little strange, but I’ll take it.  It doesn’t matter what your record was in the regular season, or how you played against a particular team, or who was injured in Spring Training.  Once you get to October, you start with a clean slate.  And if you’re right, you’re right, and you go all the way.  And we, ladies and gentlemen, are right.

Yesterday’s game was good and bad.  The bad was Buchholz.  He gave up six runs on five hits in three innings with two walks and six strikeouts.  And when I say six runs in three innings, I mean one in the first and the rest in the third.  This was his second bad start in a row, and I don’t like where this is going.  The regular season ended just in time; he’ll get some extra rest before his next start.

The good was pretty much everything else.  Ramirez, Bard, Cabrera, and Paps didn’t allow any runs.  Bowden allowed a run but got the win.

The final score was 12-7, so very similar to Saturday, and in more ways than one.  Pedroia hit a two-run shot in the fifth.  Kottaras, who played third base, went two for two.  V-Mart, Varitek, and Dusty Brown each walked.  Ortiz batted in two.  Drew went two for three; two solo shots, one in the fourth and one in the sixth.  Drew is a pretty quiet guy, so it’s been hard for some fans to relate to him.  But one thing everyone can relate to in Boston is a dirt dog, and that’s exactly what Drew is.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but make no mistake about it.  “Dirt dog” is the only way to describe someone who was out of the lineup due to a shoulder issue and who comes roaring back, with exactly the same swing (and I mean exactly the same), and uses it to belt two out of the park.  Speaking of coming back from injuries, Gonzalez hit a home run in the second, so we know everything’s good there.

And last but not least, we had another grand slam yesterday! Jed Lowrie in the sixth inning.  He only finished the night one for three but when you plate four runs with one swing of the bat that’s okay.  The ball ended up in our bullpen, keeping his batting average with the bases loaded decently above .300, which is uncanny, especially for a young guy.  But speaking of injuries, he did grimace when he hit that ball, something not uncommon for him when batting from the left side of the plate.  So unfortunately, he’s not completely out of the woods health-wise, but you couldn’t help but cheer for him personally when he hit that slam.  It was a much-needed epic ending to a disappointing season.  That’s what I call going out with a bang.  By the way, before V-Mart’s slam on Saturday, our last grand slam was hit on April 25 against the Yankees by who but Jason Varitek.  Just sayin’.

In the fifth inning, Ellsbury reached base on a wild pitch even though he went around.  That puts his seventieth steal in context.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the fastest man in Major League Baseball.  No, really, he’s the leader in steals for 2009.  Carl Crawford didn’t even come close.  And he’s tied for fifth in triples.  (Stephen Drew, JD’s brother, is second.) Pedroia finishes the season second in the Majors in runs and tied for third in doubles.  Bay is tenth in walks, fifth in RBIs, and tied for ninth in home runs.  Youk is sixth in on-base percentage and OPS.  Drew is ninth in walks and tenth in both on-base percentage and OPS in the American League.

So those are our league leaders.  We have a pretty good amount of guys in the top ten of the Majors.  I think we’ll be in good shape against the Angels.  Regarding the schedule, there are two: start on Wednesday and get Thursday off or start on Thursday.  The Yankees have scheduling preference, and they technically don’t have to pick a schedule until after today’s playoff between the Twins and Tigers.  But they’d be crazy not to start on Wednesday since they’d be facing an opponent who had to play full-force the day before.

The playoff is in Minnesota.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we won’t be too sorry to see the Metrodome go, but apparently they want to keep playing baseball in it.  As of this season, home field advantage is given to the winner of the season series.  The change was made because, last year, the Twins lost a playoff to the White Sox in Chicago, 1-0, as a result of a coin toss.  That was a ridiculous rule.  So now the Twins can exact revenge.  We obviously have a substantial interest in this game, and nobody will be rooting for the Twins more than me.  I hate to say it, but the Twins are the hottest team in the AL right now, and if anyone is in a good position to steamroll over New York, it’s Minnesota.  And I’d be perfectly happy with the Thursday start.  I don’t think I’d want a day off in there.  Think about it.  If we win the  first game, we have momentum we want to sustain.  If we lose, we have a bad taste in our mouths we’d like to get rid of quickly.  So it works out.

But either way, October is here at last, and Lester has officially gotten the nod to start Game 1.  And Don Orsillo is calling the series on TBS.  Get psyched!

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That was not a pretty win.  It was a win, but it wasn’t pretty.  Your first instinct would probably be to attribute this to the fact that Byrd was on the mound, but that would actually be pretty incorrect.  To tell you the truth, for the most part he did fine.  Two runs on six hits with three walks and a strikeout isn’t bad.  He prevented the other team from scoring a lot of runs and put us in a position to win.  The problem was that he didn’t do that much to keep us in a position to win because he only pitched five innings.  Anytime a pitcher comes out of a game before the sixth, you’re looking at a long night for the bullpen, and we’ve had too many of those recently for this one to have gone well.

And indeed it didn’t.  Delcarmen came on in the sixth and barely recorded an out.  He retired only one of the five batters he faced and walked in the Orioles’ third run to tie it before leaving the mound to Ramon Ramirez with the bases loaded.  (And he also made a fielding error, which is why only one of the two runs he allowed was earned.) Ramirez let Felix Pie single in a run before retiring Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis.

Up to this point, we’d scored three, going back and forth with the Orioles to tie and re-tie the score.  Bay stroked a two-run single in the first, Tek stroked an RBI double in the fourth, and then Gathright scored in the sixth when Pedroia singled to the pitcher, which tied the game back up at four.  Ellsbury tried to score in the second as Pedroia got caught in a rundown after trying to stretch a double, and Youk tried to score from second on Lowell’s single in the fifth, but they were both thrown out at the plate.  The stage was therefore set for something big.  Something unexpected.  Something so necessary you almost thought it wouldn’t happen.

That something would be V-Mart coming in to pinch-hit for Kottaras in the seventh on his day off.  And this was huge.  I mean, it couldn’t have been better if it were scripted.  One out with bases loaded, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we would’ve been thankful for anything.  One run.  Two.  But V-Mart had something else in mind.  He took the very first pitch of the at-bat and planted it at the base of the scoreboard.  The bases cleared.  All three runners scored.  The Orioles would eventually score another run but would not take back the lead, and we went on to win it, 7-5.

Delcarmen got a blown save.  Billy Wagner, who took care of the top of the seventh in spectacular fashion, was rewarded for his efforts with his first career American League win.  Bard got a hold as usual, and Paps collected his thirty-fifth save, a not-so-clean four-out effort during which he allowed a run on two hits.  His ERA is straying dangerously close to 2.00.

So like I said, it was a win but it wasn’t pretty.  But you know what? Ugly wins count just as much as pretty ones, and we’ll take that one, thank you very much.  And the timing was perfect, because we used five relievers just before our day off.  We’ve been fortunate because that’s happened often this season.  So we’ll take a rest today and get back in the saddle tomorrow against Tampa Bay.  We’re in good shape.  We’ve got Lester on the mound, and we’re at home.  Should be a good game.

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Paul Byrd has had two starts this year.  One was pure gold, and the other was just so much scrap.  So which one was the real Paul Byrd and which is the fluke? It’s hard to tell with only two outings.  On the one hand, maybe that initial adrenaline rush made him pitch better than usual.  On the other hand, maybe anxiety made him pitch worse than usual.  Either way, he’s got some serious apologizing to do to the bullpen after leaving the game only two and a third innings into it.  But he had to get out.  There was no way he was staying in.  Seven runs on ten hits with no walks, three K’s, and an extremely ironic two-run shot by Mark Kotsay later, Junichi Tazawa found himself on the mound preparing for a long night.

And when I say long I mean long, because Tazawa didn’t do much to limit the damage.  In three and two-thirds innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.  Delcarmen needed twenty-nine pitches to take care of the seventh, and Saito needed nineteen.  It wasn’t a good night.  At all.

Incidentally, I wonder what our winning percentage is for games during which the starter leaves before the fifth inning.  We have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues, so it has to be higher than most teams, but it’s very difficult to win those.  We should be very thankful for Tazawa, though.  Yes, we lost and he was a reason why, but he also ate up innings.  This loss would have been so much worse in the long run had we gone to the bullpen proper instead of to a starter-by-trade.  For example, if Justin Masterson were still here, this is exactly the kind of situation in which we’d use him.

The offense, essentially, did absolutely nothing.  It was ridiculous.  Every member of the starting nine, with the exception of Alex Gonzalez, was gone by the time the game was over.  They were all replaced by the B team and callups.  Pedroia, Green, V-Mart, Youk, Ortiz, Gathright, Drew, Kottaras, and Gonzalez each had hits.  With the exception of Kottaras’s, which was a double, none of them were for extra bases.  We batted .333 with runners in scoring position, but that was because we only had three such chances and made good on one of them.  Youk singled to center field to plate Pedroia, and Kottaras doubled in Gathright.  End of story.  Oh, and Green made a throwing error.

Ozzie Guillen had a lot of praise for Youk and Pedroia.  Ironic this praize came after we lost.  But then, it’s Ozzie Guillen.  You never know.  Mikey Lowell says it’s hard not playing everyday, and I believe him.  He’s a starter by trade.  He wants to be out there, but he can’t so often anymore because of his hip.  Still, since the All-Star break he’s hitting .339 with six home runs and twenty-six RBIs, coupled with a .389 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage.  Since Tazawa is unavailable, we’re calling up Michael Bowden for today’s start, just in case Wakefield has to make an early exit.

The final score was 12-2.  So we scored once in the fourth and once in the ninth.  They scored twice in the second, five times in the third, and five times in the fourth.  This loss was infuriating but not as worrisome as its ramifications.  And when I say ramifications, I’m referring to its impact on the bullpen, its effects on the starting rotation, its alterations of both the Wild Card and division standings, and its impact on the team’s morale.  Any way you look at them, lopsided scores are never good.  There’s never a silver lining.  There may be a silver lining to how you deal with them at the time, like putting a pitcher in to eat innings in an effort to save arms and substituting for your starters to give them some rest, but there’s never a bright side to the outcome.  With the possible exception of identifying areas of improvement, but that happens after every game.  The only thing we can do after a game like this is move on and hope the team does the same.  Tim Wakefield will be leading that charge this afternoon opposite Gavin Floyd.  And I really hope this goes right.

In other news, Peter Chiarelli announced an extension of Claude Julien’s contract.  Well done.  In his first two season as head coach, Julien took us from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the top, with playoff appearances after both season.  Last year was our first Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance since 1999.  That says something.  All we have to do is lock up Kessel, and we’ll be all set!

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Smile, Red Sox Nation; it’s officially September! And there are a whole lot of reasons to love September baseball.  First of all, it’s cooler.  August in Boston is oppressively hot, and the fall brings a second wind for the fans but also the players.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you’re not drenched in sweat and struggling to breathe the humid and muggy air.  Secondly, it’s exciting.  Every game this month takes on a whole new meaning, and that meaning can bring the best or the worst out of a ballclub.  After such a long season, the rejuvenation that September brings makes a player want to put his entire skill set on display.  Especially because it’s so close to the offseason, when free agents are courted and extension contracts are signed.  And last but not least, it’s only a month away from October! September helps to decide who gets there and who doesn’t, who’s likely to go deep and who isn’t, who’s in the best position and who isn’t.  During the month of September, fans of teams across the country watch their rivals in the standings as much as they watch their own clubs.  And for us, that includes the Rangers and the Yankees, with whom we have a series at the end of the month that could either make or break the division for us.

So, in light of all that, it’s important to begin September on the right foot.  Which is exactly what we did last night.  Against the Rays.  In the Trop.  Which makes it even better.

We’ll start with pitching.  Look at a box score of last night’s game.  Look down at the pitching.  It’s so comical that I actually laughed out loud.  They used eight pitchers to our four! That’s just absurd.  But I digress.  Lester was nothing short of brilliant.  Two runs on seven hits over six innings with two walks and nine strikeouts.  (He was pulled after six because he’s had a sore groin recently and Tito was being cautious.  Good move.) I really like the fact that he’s consistently recording around ten K’s per game now.  In fact, he has now surpassed Bruce Hurst’s record, set in 1987, for most strikeouts by a southpaw in a single season.  Hurst had 190; Lester now has 196, and the season isn’t even over.  He gave up a home run to Carlos Pena to lead off the fourth, but it happens.

Wagner was again spectacular.  It may be early to tell yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s clear to me that Billy Wagner is most definitely not Eric Gagne.  So far, he’s faced seven batters and retired six, five with strikeouts.  (Meanwhile, the Mets’ disabled list is worth a little under $90 million.) Okajima, not so much.  He pitched to five batters in the eighth inning without recording a single out while instead allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.  Not very 2007 of him, if you ask me.  Paps earned his thirty-third save, a two-inning, twenty-eight-pitch effort (twenty of those were strikes, by the way) which included escaping a bases-loaded situation.  I knew in the long run he’d give us nothing to worry about.  Paps always buckles down.  Yet another reason to love September baseball.

As for the other main attraction, the offense, we were all over it.  The final score was 8-4, so we scored runs and more to spare.  We scored a run in every inning except the first, third, and seventh, and we scored three runs in the fourth.  Ellsbury went two for six with a triple, two RBIs, and one of his best plays of the season.  In the top of the eighth with the bases loaded, Ellsbury snagged a hard-hit fly on the slide and fired into the infield.  No runs scored.  That’s what I call a play of the game.  V-Mart went two for four.  Lowell went two for three with a double, an RBI, and a throw across the diamond to end the first that would make you wonder whether there really was something wrong with his hip.  Every member of the lineup reached base.  Even Pedroia, who failed to record a hit, walked twice.  Gonzalez made a throwing error, but I’ll take our one error over Tampa Bay’s three any day.

Three home runs last night: Drew, Bay, and Youk.  The usual suspects.  Fourth inning, 1-0 count, man on second, and Drew buries a ball about a third of the way up the right field stands.  Fifth inning, 1-2 count, nobody on, and I thought Bay was trying to remove the cover from the ball.  That was a very loud crack of the bat, and the ball went around the left field pole for the home run.  Eighth inning, 1-1 count, nobody on, and Youk gets it out of left field by inches.  That, my friends, is power.

One more reason to love September: callups.  We’ve added five to our roster: outfielder Joey Gathright, George Kottaras, infielder Chris Woodward, Junichi Tazawa, and outfielder Brian Anderson.  Expect Jed Lowrie and Dice-K’s to also join the roster within the coming days.

Jerry Remy will provide color commentary only for home games for the rest of this season.  Another cautious and good move.  It seems that A-Rod has actually altered his batting stance to imitate that of Albert Pujols.  He thinks this is going to turn him into a clutch hitter.  I’m serious.  Apparently, a ballplayer’s psyche and natural style has nothing whatsoever to do with it; the entire skill is solely dependent on the stance.  Yeah, right.

It’s Beckett at Matt Garza tonight.  We should watch for his command in the lower half of the strike zone, as I said, but I hope that this outing will be the start of a string of good ones that lasts through the end of October.  And speaking of October (or should I say Soxtober), you can’t imagine how psyched I am.  Seriously.  It’s the second season, and it’s just around the corner!

On a football note, we say goodbye and good luck to Tedy Bruschi, who announced his retirement on Monday.  He spent thirteen seasons with the Patriots during the team’s most successful era, and he was integral to molding the team into the powerhouse it is today.  Bruschi had strength, but he also had heart, and it was the mixture of both of these that made him, as Bill Belichick said, the “perfect player.” Belichick actually got emotional while making his statement, and as much as he’s usually a rock, that’s something I believe because, yes, Tedy Bruschi was that important to the Patriots.  He was a professional.  He was such a mainstay on defense.  He was talented, and not only because he helped lead New England to three Super Bowl championships.  And because of all of that, he will be missed.  So goodbye, Tedy Bruschi, and good luck.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Ballplayers don’t come cheap, but the acquisition of Paul Byrd was just about the lowest-risk investment the front office could’ve possibly made.  He kept himself in shape during the offseason, and we signed him to a minor league contract.  If anything had gone wrong, we had flexibility and we had options, like trading for someone younger and better, and at least it wouldn’t have gone wrong at the Major League level, where right now that would have been extraordinarily inconvenient.  And trust me, things could’ve gone very wrong.  He could’ve injured himself early.  He could’ve pitched consistently horribly.  But as it happens, everything went right.

During his first outing in almost a year, Paul Byrd pitched six shutout innings of three-hit ball with three walks and a strikeouts.  He starts 2009 with an ERA of 0.00 and an undefeated record of 1-0.  And he did it all with just eighty-three pitches, the vast majority of which fit a mixture of cutters, sliders, and changeups, with a fastball here and there.  Pretty impressive for a non-knuckleballer who’s thirty-nine years old and hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch since the end of last season.

Delcarmen pitched the seventh.  Wagner pitched the eighth, and after striking out the side, the inning was over.  Not bad.  An auspicious start to Wagner’s Boston career.  Let’s hope it continues in that direction; for an example of the other direction, I refer you to Eric Gagne.  Saito pitched the ninth.

We had a nice spread yesterday.  We scored one run in each of the first four innings and three more in the seventh, making the final score a very decisive 7-0 to complete a sweep with the Jays.  Pedroia and V-Mart both doubled.  Youk went two for three with a double and three RBIs.  Gonzalez went three for two with an RBI of his own.  Baldelli went yard on Halladay to lead off the second with an RBI of his own (Bay had the day off).  And then two of our runs were unearned (the Jays can thank Shawn Camp for making the throwing error that scored both).  And that was pretty much the ballgame!

Wake will receive a cortisone shot today and could be back in action in a week.  And finally, today is the last day of August! And we all know what that means: September callups.  The first set will join the roster tomorrow, and the next on September 7 after Pawtucket’s season is over.  George Kottaras, Jed Lowrie, Junichi Tazawa, Brian Anderson, Josh Reddick, Jeff Bailey, Michael Bowden, and Hunter Jones will probably be on that list.  Especially Lowrie.  Being that he’s technically our starter, when his wrist is healthy, which is where Alex Gonzalez comes in.

It doesn’t get much better than that, folks.  A shutout, a sweep, a very clear display of our offensive prowess.  Last night’s contest had it all.  Just to keep tabs, last night extended our Wild Card lead to three and a half games, even though our rank in the division remains static.  (The Yankees won yesterday; again, I don’t know how I feel about that.)  We’re on the road now for a series with Tampa Bay, and Lester will take the hill opposite Andy Sonnanstine on Tuesday.  I never liked Tropicana Field; it’s an indoor ballpark with lots of strange angles which complicates the game in a way that’s very unnecessary.  But hey, the more comfortable we get playing there, the easier it’ll be each time.  Hopefully that’ll be the case this time around.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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