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Posts Tagged ‘Gio Gonzalez’

Right back on track.  Well, as far as the starting pitching is concerned, not completely right back on track.  I don’t think we’re quite where we should be.  Our first three starters – or rather, now with the resurgence of Beckett, our first four – should be turning in seven-plus-inning performances day in and day out.  I wasn’t aware that Lester’s April badness was contagious, but I think it left him and went straight to Buchholz.  On the bright side, ten days and we’re in May, so we’ll see what happens.

Buchholz allowed one run on six hits; Crisp hit his very first pitch, a ninety-one mile-per-hour fastball, out of the park for a solo shot.  Epically not the way you want to start an outing.  He seemed to settle down after that but not by much.  He only struck out two, he walked four, and he was pulled after allowing a double, groundout, eight-pitch walk, and six-pitch walk in the sixth.  He hasn’t struck out more than three batters in any of his starts so far.

None of his pitches were as effective as we know they could have been.  They weren’t thrown for strikes as often, he wasn’t hitting his spots, and he had trouble finding the strike zone.  He threw a whopping twenty-four pitches in the fifth; he threw his lowest total, thirteen, in the first and fourth, and he threw seventeen in the sixth and 102 pitches total before Bard came in.

Bard, on the other hand, was incredibly stellar.  He got out of that inning and pitched the next while giving up only one hit.  A three-pitch strikeout and a popup got him out of Buchholz’s bases-loaded jam.  The following inning, he may have allowed a single, but he just cruised.  Masterful.  That appearance embodied everything you want from a reliever: power, precision, confidence, and most importantly, success.

Then Jenks came in for the eighth.  He began with a strikeout.  But then there was a walk and three consecutive singles, which added a run.  Then there was another strikeout, and Paps came in to end the inning with a third strikeout.  But his ninth wasn’t great either.  A single, a popup, a hit-by-pitch, an RBI single, and then finally, after all that, two popups to end the game.

So Bard rescued Buchholz, and Paps rescued Jenks.  Nobody rescued Paps but, thankfully, his appearance, courtesy of the offense, wasn’t a total mess.  Buchholz wasn’t at his best but kept us in it; the rest of the relievers completely failed.

Thankfully, it didn’t matter.  What a difference pairing good offense with really any sort of pitching makes.  We made up for Crisp’s homer in a hurry.  Youk led off the second with a single and who but Carl Crawford brought him home.  Youk then led off the fourth with a homer, the ideal conclusion to the ideal at-bat.  He took a ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam, the sixth pitch of the at-bat after working a full count, and pulled it behind the fence in left center field.  So I think we can say now that he’s back in rhythm.

And what kind of game would it be if we didn’t get some offensive production from Lowrie? Gonzalez led off the sixth with a single, and Lowrie took the first pitch he saw in that at-bat, a curveball, and sent it to the same exact location as Youk’s opposite-field rocket.  He read that curveball well all afternoon.  He’s read lefties well all season; all of his homers have come off southpaws.  Gio Gonzalez was pulled in the seventh in favor of reliever Jerry Blevins; the strikeout of Ellsbury with which he began his appearance was promptly avenged by Drew, who took the second pitch of his at-bat, an inside fastball, out of the yard in right for his first long ball of the season.

We won, 5-3.  Our first road win.  Ten hits, three of them for extra bases.  In fact, the only extra-base hits we collected were homers, and all but one of our RBI hits were homers.  We left four on base and went one for four with runners in scoring position.  Youk, Scutaro, and Lowrie all went two for four.  Lowrie should have had two more hits, but he was robbed by David DeJesus in right.  So aside from all of our pitchers with the exception of Bard, very nice.  Very nice indeed.  We’re done with the A’s and head south for the Angels.  Bring it.

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Fast-forward to October.  What do you see? I see Beckett, followed by Lester, followed by who? Neither Dice-K nor Wakefield, so Smoltz? Penny? Buchholz? None of those options seem appealing or sure-fire, and we’ll have to endure two nights of it.  Buchholz isn’t as bad as the others quality-wise; the problem is that his outings are never that long, and as the most recent implosion of the bullpen shows, they can’t always be counted on.  So basically we’re going to have to shake things up somehow.  I know Theo has made some mistakes in the past, most notably with Lugo and Gagne, but he’s made less mistakes than other GMs, and the mistakes he has made have been of a lesser impact.  Gagne didn’t cost us the division.  He came close, but he didn’t.  I trust in Theo’s judgment, is all I’m saying.

I don’t trust in Penny’s arm anymore.  He’s got some stuff left in the tank but at this point I’m inclined to think it’s just the residue of his military-like consistency in the first half.  After the first inning alone, the score was 5-3, Oakland.  That’s not a mid-game score.  That’s a final score.  Teams win games by that score.  And that was only after one frame.  Things quieted down until the fifth and sixth, when Oakland scored three more runs.  Then we scored one run in the bottom of every inning until it was over.  We lost, 8-6.  We put up a real nice fight, though, and even though we can’t buy a win, we’re raking in our share of hits, which is a welcome respite from the previous nonexistence of any offense whatsoever.

To be fair, the eighth run was given up by Masterson but was unearned.  Still, Penny only lasted five innings and a batter, gave up the seven runs on seven hits, walked four, and struck out three.  Adam Kennedy hit the first pitch of the game out of the park.  Way to set the tone.  Kurt Suzuki led off the fifth with a solo shot as well.  The whole thing was just mighty ugly.  Saito and Ramirez were fine.  After last night it was a sight to sore eyes.

Like I said, the offense did its part to rescue this one but in the end just couldn’t pull it off.  Ellsbury went two for four with a walk, three runs, a steal of third, and a beautiful sliding catch to end the eighth inning.  Pedroia went two for five with an RBI and a missed catch, during which he looked like an absolute amateur.  Youk and Bay both walked and scored.  Lowell had an awesome night, going two for three with a run and five RBIs.  He DHed last night, so LaRoche played first and Youk played third.  Good move by Tito.  Partly due to a two-out, three-run moonshot in the fifth. Lowell was trying to take the skin off the ball, the way he hit it.  Fantastic.

So there you have it.  The game that could’ve been a win was just as easily a loss, and that’s not a position we want to be in.  That’s a really bad position to be in.  We just can’t seem to bat around and win in the same game, and quite frankly it’s very disturbing.  Oh yeah, one more thing: we’re three and a half games behind the Yankees now.  Great.  Just great.  This is not a complete and total disaster.  Yet.  If we continue like this, it will be.  We need solid and consistent pitching.  We had that in the first half, and we were in first place.  I highly doubt it’s a coincidence.  In Theo we trust.  Gio Gonzalez at Lester.  Let’s take ’em down.

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The losing streak is over.  Done.  Finished.  Snapped like the Yankees’ first-place lead will be in a matter of days.  That was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.  The only thing that would’ve made it better was a Yankees loss, but I’d rather the standings don’t change than they change but in the wrong direction.

I want everybody who called for a trade of Brad Penny to consider this proof that so would’ve been a huge mistake.  I think we can safely say that one thing we’ve learned from our experiences this season is that you can never have too much pitching.  After Theo worked his magic in the offseason, people started dreaming about a six-man rotation.  Clearly that did not happen.  Beckett and Lester are right where they should be, now at least, but Wakefield is on the DL, Smoltz’s return to form is progressing exceptionally slowly (I know, I know, the goal is to peak late), and Dice-K is redoing all of the Spring Training he missed by pitching for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.  So we’ve added Clay Buchholz to the rotation and kept Penny.  And clearly that paid off.

Penny got the win last night, improving to seven and four with a 4.71 ERA, which is still deceptively high.  He went six and a third, gave up zero earned runs on five hits (one unearned), didn’t walk anybody, and struck out four.  How’s that for solid? Delcarmen took care of the last two outs in the seventh with one pitch, Okajima controlled through the eighth with ten, and Papelbon racked up save number twenty-five.  Another less-than-beautiful twenty-four-pitch effort.  He had to work himself out of a bases-loaded situation and did so by fanning Luke Scott and Melvin Mora in order.  Why he couldn’t just get the two strikeouts before the bases became loaded is beyond me.  He was doing so well up to this point; he seemed to have largely gotten over his I-forgot-how-to-make-a-save-in-less-than-fifteen-pitches phase.  Maybe this time the sloppiness will prove to be the exception rather than the rule.  But it hasn’t been pretty.    Only seven of his twenty-five saves have been one-two-threes.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s already allowed nineteen walks, which is already twice his total for last season.  That needs to be fixed.  Definitely before October.  Prefereably before September.  But hey, if he figures it out before August, I won’t complain either.

The unearned run scored because Tek made a throwing error.  That does not happen often.  But it’s all good because he hit an RBI single to plate Drew in the fourth.  Ellsbury went two for four with a theft and a textbook forward diving catch in the third.  I’m telling you, you can bat any ball at him at any speed and any angle and make it travel any distance, and not only will he catch it but also he’ll make it look easy.  Pedroia went two for three with a walk and a repeat performance of that play he made to save Buchholz’s no hitter; a dive to the right, springing up, and firing to first for the out.  Ortiz hit, and Bay and Lowell hit and walked.  Lowrie hit a sac fly to bat in Lowell in the fourth, and who but JD Drew finally got a hit.  And he got an RBI in the fifth.  How ’bout that?

Things to be happy about.  We won.  We may be two and a half games behind the Yankees, but it could’ve been three and a half.  Tampa Bay is not close to catching up to us, even if we were planning on staying in second place.  The only two members of the lineup who went hitless were Youk and Lowrie, and Youk walked and scored and Lowrie hit a sac fly to plate somebody, and if that’s our version of hitless, that’s okay with me.  And that means that the seven other members of the lineup did hit.  And two members of the lineup enjoyed multi-hit games.  We went three for eight with runners in scoring position, but that’s a .375 average.  All in all, not a bad way to break the losing streak and not a bad building point for going forward.

We designated Mark Kotsay for assignment to make room for Adam LaRoche.  That’s fair.  When he wasn’t on the DL this season, he was batting .257 with an on-base percentage of .291, slugging percentage of .324, and home run and RBI totals of one and five, respectively.  LaRoche is posting comparable numbers: a .247 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, .441 slugging percentage, and home run and RBI totals of twelve and forty, respectively.  So the one thing that LaRoche has that Kotsay doesn’t have, offensively speaking, is gap power.  When people refer to LaRoche as a left-handed power bat, they mean more that he hits line drives for extra bases than home runs, but with the abysmal state of our offense over the past few games, I’ll take that.

Jeremy Guthrie at Lester, and Gio Gonzalez at Pettitte.  Speaking of the Yankees, did you know that Eric Hinske’s been tearing it up over the last six games? That’s just poor timing if you ask me.  In those six games, he’s got four home runs and six RBIs to go along with a .333 batting average.  Since when does that happen? And why couldn’t he have just done that with us? That right there is just unfair.  Anyway, unfortunately the A’s are nothing to be feared (unless you’re a Twins fan, in which case you support a team that lost to the A’s, 16-1, in one game only to drop a ten-run lead to lose in another).  But neither are the O’s, and if Lester keeps pitching the way he has been, we’ll have this locked.

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