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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Houdini’

We have now officially seen the first starts of all five of our starting pitchers.  And now we’re all going to have nightmares about them, because that’s how horrifying they all were.  They were so bad that debating which one was the best, as I said yesterday, is absolutely fruitless pursuit because it makes no difference whatsoever.  The bottom line is still the same: all of our pitchers are supposed to be amazing, and all of them were the opposite so far.  You can debate all you want, but a loss is still a loss.  And right now we have five of them staring us in the face.

Dice-K was the last to fail.  But fail he did.  I was pretty hopeful he wouldn’t.  But he did.  His start was actually very similar to Beckett’s.  He pitched five innings, gave up three runs on six hits, walked three, struck out two, and took the loss.  He threw ninety-six pitches, fifty-four for strikes.  He threw mostly two-seams, curveballs, and cutters.  His curveball was his most successful pitch; seventy percent of them were strikes.  The rest of his pitches were all thrown for strikes about fifty percent of the time.

Unlike Beckett, there was no one inning during which his pitch count started to climb.  Dice-K was just his usual self.  He threw a lot of pitches because he got himself into jams and needed to get out.  Only this time he wasn’t so Houdini-esque about it; he failed to escape completely unscathed.

He threw twenty-eight pitches in the first and allowed two runs.  He threw sixteen in the second and allowed one more.  And that was it.  He wasn’t exactly economical during his remaining three innings, but he’s always been known to throw a lot of pitches.  He kept his release point together, and he varied his speeds, but he didn’t hit his spots often enough.  Since he throws a lot of off-speeds, that would explain why he gave up only one home run but three walks that mattered way too much and five singles that were way too effective.  That home run was their only extra-base hit.  Again, our lineup should have been able to bury that run total.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.  Reyes came on in the sixth, hit his first two batters, and walked his third to load the bases with nobody out.  So Tito called for Wheeler.  And then we entered the Twilight Zone.

Michael Brantley lined to Youk at third.  Youk dropped the ball; believe it or not, that’s not the bizarre part.  Youk recovered in time, stepped on the bag for the force-out, and fired home to Tek.  Tek then made a mental error so huge that it opened the floodgates and runs just started pouring in.  He stepped on the plate instead of tagging the runner.  He forgot that Youk stepped on the bag, which removed the force at home.  So the run was safe, and Tek looked completely unseasoned.  That’s the bizarre part.  Where his years and years of tried and true experience went, I will never know, but they were not anywhere near Progressive Field at the time.  That is a fact.  So Salty gets the day off and Tek starts, and his starter still fails to locate his spots, and he makes a gargantuan fielding error.  I’m just saying.  It’s way too early to write anyone off, and the only thing the entire team can do now is improve.

And then after that there was a three-run homer.  Obviously.  And then Wake allowed another run for good measure.  Obviously.

It was also epically unhelpful that nobody really did anything of note at the plate.  We tied the game at two in the second, a tie that Dice-K obviously couldn’t hold.  Papi singled, Drew managed a checked-swing single, Tek walked to load the bases, and Scutaro, with this profound opportunity to make his mark on 2011, dribbled an infield hit just good enough to get a run home.  And then Ellsbury strode to the plate in the wonderful predicament of being able to make a dent in the score.  And he grounded hard to first.  He may have brought Drew home, but he established the theme of the day for pretty much everyone in the lineup: missed opportunities.  Our hitters squandered almost everything that could have possibly been squandered.  We left a grand total of seven men on base.  The proverbial “big hit” seemed mythical.  The Indians left six on base and still managed to score eight runs, which stands in pretty stark contrast to our four.  Drew, by the way, was among the top five AL batters against the changeup last year.  He saw some changeups tonight.  Didn’t do much with any of them.  No other Red Sox player was among the top five against any other pitch.  No other Red Sox player did much with any other pitch tonight either.

You can thank Gonzalez for our other two.  He hit his first homer in a Red Sox uniform, and he earned every bit of it.  He fouled off pitch after pitch until he pulled the twelfth one of his seventh-inning at bat into the right field bleachers for two runs.  It was a blast, both literally and figuratively.  Unfortunately, that was basically our offense’s last hurrah.

Gonzalez finished his night two for three with a double and a walk in addition to that homer.  Crawford went two for four with his first two steals in a Red Sox uniform.  By the way, our thieves had an eighty percent success rate last year, tied for highest in franchise history.

LeBron James and Maverick Partner of LRMR Marketing and Branding are teaming up with Fenway Sports Management for sponsorships and such.  Great.  That won’t win us ballgames either.  To sum up, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.  This wasn’t the series with Texas where we at least could walk out with a little dignity because we know that lineup has its moments.  No, no.  This was the Cleveland Indians.  It was cold, it was empty (it looked like there were maybe three thousand people in that whole park, and that’s being generous), and it was just wrong in every way.  Our pitchers failed completely to locate anything.  Our hitters failed completely to locate anything and just stood there either swinging at air or watching prime pitches go by with men on base.  We are 0-5 for only the sixth time in our illustrious and often painful history.  Lester gets a second chance tomorrow, and if we don’t win, we’re going to be 0-6 for the first time since 1945.  1945 wasn’t a particularly red-letter year for us, so let’s not revisit that performance.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Islanders, and Tim Thomas’s thirty saves will definitely help him in his quest to set the record for save percentage.

Reuters Photo

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Wow.

I repeat: wow.

My first claim of the day: Victor Martinez should never catch Daisuke Matsuzaka ever again.  Make like Matsuzaka is Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek is Doug Mirabelli, and put Jason Varitek in there every fifth day.  I think that at this point we have more than established the fact that the disparity between Dice-K’s performances with V-Mart behind the dish and with Tek behind the dish is occurring for a reason.  Dice-K’s performances with Tek behind the dish are vastly superior, and when I say vastly I mean vastly.  So that’s the end of it.  That’s your answer right there.

As for the game itself last night, one more time: wow.  That’s the only word I’ve got to describe what I saw last night.  That entire game was absolutely incredible.  I’m not even sure I actually believe what I saw with my own eyes.  That was the best I’ve seen Dice-K pitch, ever.  Really, I was speechless.

To put it simply, Dice-K had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  You know you thought he had it in the bag when he somehow grabbed Werth’s would-be line drive in the seventh.  Tek even said that that was the hardest-hit ball caught by a pitcher he’d ever seen, ever.  I’m not really sure how he was able to snare that.  That was pure intuition right there; he just put his glove it in exactly the right position and the ball found it.  You know you thought there was no way it wasn’t going down when Beltre dove to catch Ruiz’s would-be line drive and fired to first in time for the out and the double-up of Ibanez in the eighth.  Because you know that most no-hitters are accompanied by at least one amazing play in the field.

And you saw Lester and Buchholz sitting there and knowing exactly what was going on inside Dice-K”s head.  You saw them sitting with Lackey and Beckett and thinking about what they were thinking when they were that deep into this same thing.

Dice-K was four outs away.  Only for outs away from the mobbing by the teammates; the mad cheering by Red Sox Nation, Philadelphia Chapter; the turning of a corner; and the making of history.  Only for outs away.

But Juan Castro ruined everything and dashed all hopes and convictions when he blooped a single over the reaching glove of Marco Scutaro with only one out left in the eighth inning.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  I am convinced that Scutaro could’ve caught that.  Technically, by the rules of baseball, that can’t be considered an error, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it counts for the biggest unofficial error of his career.  He had that.  He just needed to time his leap better.  And we know that’s possible because several starters on our roster do it all the time like it’s a walk in the park (pun intended).  He needed to be maybe a foot more to the right and leap a few seconds later.  So, in short, yes, Marco Scutaro wrecked Dice-K’s no-hitter.

It was crushing.  It was absolutely crushing.  Dice-K has had his fair share of struggles, and with the entire country of Japan watching, it would’ve been magical to see him accomplish that feat.  It also would’ve been a great morale booster for the entire team; we’ve seen what no-hitters can do.  They put life in a team that’s just witnessed, like I said, the magic and the history of it all.  Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball, he needed that no-hitter.  Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, we needed that no-hitter.

Sadly, and that’s the understatement of the century, it was not to be.  Crushing.

But all you can do is move on.  And that’s exactly what Dice-K did, and what impressed me immensely.  We know from personal experience that, after a pitcher gives up a no-no bid, they have the tendency to unravel completely; that’s when the opposing offense attacks and that’s when you might lose everything.  Dice-K ensured that that didn’t happen as simply and easily as getting Gload to fly out to right field.  But that says a lot about his composure on the mound.  If Dice-K can turn it around permanently, he’d have the potential to be an ideal pitcher for the postseason, where every pitch counts and you can’t afford to get skittish after one mistake.

It was kind of strange as no-no bids go because it was low on strikeouts and comparatively high on pitches.  He struck out only five, two looking, with a very even strike zone and threw 112 pitches, which again was more than Lester needed to get through an entire game.  But even during his best starts during stretches of brilliance, he’d pull this Houdini act and use this uncanny ability of his to remain perfectly calm with runners on base and get himself out of all kinds of jams that he’d personally cause.  Yet another fine quality of a postseason pitcher.  So historically we know that he’s not exactly the epitome of efficiency, but we also know from his career in Japan that throwing large amounts of pitches doesn’t scare him.  He doesn’t mind it.  And if it works, it works.

His mix of pitches was exquisite.  He threw mostly four-seams, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  He threw his two-seam at ninety-five.  He located his slider and curveball perfectly and mixed in some cutters and changeups at exactly the right moments.  His fastball, slider, and changeup were the best I’d ever seen them.  All of them had movement, and all of them had life.  A no-hitter is all about being crafty and keeping the lineup guessing.  That’s hard to do the third or fourth time around, but he did it, and it’s no small feat, especially against, as I said, an opponent like Philly.

He needed a game low of eight pitches to clear an inning, and used as few twice, in the sixth and seventh.  He needed nineteen pitches to clear the eighth.  There’s been a general trend in his starts of improving as the game goes on.  And yet another reason why he’d pitch well in the postseason.  The whole outing was just a huge begging of the question of, “What if?”

Bard cleaned up the ninth.  Together they one-hit the Phillies through nine.

The final score was 5-0.  Papi scored on Hermida’s sac fly in the fourth, hustling hard to beat the tag by Ruiz at the plate.  Scutaro opened the fifth with a double, and Dice-K bunted him to third.  Ellsbury walked.  Drew singled in Scutaro, Papi doubled in Ellsbury, and Beltre doubled in Drew and Papi.  Drew and Beltre both went two for four.  Ellsbury started in center, which was a sight for sore eyes, and Papi started at first.

Ultimately, we just have to focus on the win.  We set out to win, and we won.  We won our way, with run prevention.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  But a win is most definitely better than nothing; we need all the wins we can get.  On the other hand, we also need all the magic we can get.  But there are yet many games to be played.  Starting this afternoon with Wake taking on Halladay.

AP Photo

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That’s the only way I can describe it: drowning in runs.  Not that I’m complaining.  Over the course of this sweep, our offensive production has just been unreal.  Last night we scored nine runs in the second inning and one in the eighth to win it, 10-0.  Dice-K rocked as usual, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing six hits, five walks, and five K’s.  Dice-K is like Harry Houdini; he gets himself into all kinds of jams with runners in scoring position, even with the bases loaded, and then somehow gets out of it so easily and naturally.  That’s how good he is.  But Don and Jerry brought up a good point last night.  If he’s so good that he can extricate himself from high-pressure scenarios, why even get into them in the first place? I think Jerry had a good solution: have Dice-K picture the bases loaded at the beginning of every inning.  Then he’ll just pitch phenomenally throughout.  But if he wants to walk a bunch of guys and give up a bunch of hits and still not allow any runs, I won’t complain.  Delcarmen, and surprisingly also Timlin, were excellent in relief.

The offense, as I said, has been rocking the highlight reels over the past three days, and last night’s contest featured one of the most diverse RBI distributions I’ve seen this season.  Three RBIs for Big Papi, whose last few home runs, including this second-inning blast, have all been three-run.  And one RBI each from Crisp, Cora, Lowrie, Jay Bay, Drew, Dusty, and Jeff Bailey gave us ten.  Up and down the lineup; that’s what I like to see.  It’s this type of distribution that shows off how deep the team really is.  Dusty went three for five, and Lowrie went three for four.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that if Julio Lugo needs more time on the DL, say, until the season is over, it’s alright with us.

But the man of the hour is probably Kevin Youkilis.  He’s been white-hot.  He’s getting base hits.  He’s hitting home runs.  He’s fielding first.  He’s covering third.  He’s doing it all.  And he’s batting clean-up, and it’s working.  One of the highlights of last night’s game for me was watching the Rangers being forced to pitch to David Ortiz because they knew that Youk was behind him.  Youk, by the way, went two for four last night.  That, after a game in which all three of his hits were doubles.  Wow.

In other news, perhaps Manny is Samson.  He finally cut his hair but went hitless for the Dodgers.  And we learn that our captain is unfortunately experiencing marital difficulties; he filed for divorce in late July.  I hope that wasn’t what was really behind his sinking batting average.  Lastly, the Yankees are playing abysmally and are 9.5 games out of first and 6.5 behind us.  Welcome to New York, Joe Girardi.

Paul Byrd will be making his debut for us tonight opposite Roy Halladay.  Remember, his record is deceptively discouraging; apparently he’s been outstanding since the All-Star break.  Let’s see what he can do for us.

AP Photo

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