Posts Tagged ‘Hideki Okajima’

The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

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Wow.  Carl Crawford.  His third of the year.  If he continues like this, he wouldn’t even need to make every single hit.  He’d just need to make the right ones.  He may not be on a hot streak at the plate, but he’s pretty hot as far as walkoffs are concerned.  So maybe his average is still pretty bad, but he’s been making those right hits, and for now I think that’s pretty good and a sign that things are improving, slowly but surely.

Beckett delivered another stellar start.  One run on five hits, two walks, and three K’s over six innings.  He threw eighty-three pitches, fifty-two for strikes.  So he had at least another solid inning in him for sure.  He came out of the game because he had a stiff neck.  After the game he said his neck wasn’t loose at all that night.  He’s not injured, but since two of our starters are already on the DL, Tito wanted to play it safe.

But those were some awesome six innings.  About half his curveballs were thrown for strikes, and he was working with a two-seam, a four-seam, a cutter, and a changeup that were just deadly.  They were unhittable.  Beckett led off the game with a one-two-three first that began with a strikeout on four pitches ending in the four-seam at ninety-four miles per hour.  He allowed his run in the second; he opened the inning with a walk and then allowed two consecutive singles.  In fact, after obtaining the inning’s first out, Beckett allowed another single to load the bases.  Fortunately, the inning’s last two outs followed, and his next two innings were both one-two-three; he threw eight pitches in the third and only five in the fourth.  That’s the thing about non-strikeout outs; they’re usually more efficient.  He notched his final two strikeouts in the sixth, back-to-back K’s to end it.  Both were five pitches long, and both ended with a fastball.  Last night, he procured his outs by other means like groundouts, flyouts, lineouts, and popups.  Obviously what’s important here is that nobody on the Tigers was able to make constructive contact with his pitches.  Not one of the hits he allowed were for extra bases.

Meanwhile, we recovered that run in the bottom of the second.  Youk and Papi both singled, and Youk came home on Drew’s sac fly.  The tie at one held until the fourth, when, with two out, Drew launched a home run into the first few rows of seats in right field.  It was a fastball that should have been away but wasn’t.  And that’s pretty much what happens all the time when you don’t locate a fastball.

So Beckett exited with a 2-1 lead, and Albers came on and pitched a scoreless seventh.  Papi added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to lead it off, a towering blast into the first few rows of seats behind the bullpen.  A changeup up in the zone.  See, this is why location is so important.

At that point, we were feeling pretty good.  A pitcher’s duel is always a game in which one run seems like five, so a two run lead felt pretty solid.  Obviously with Daniel Bard coming up, it would have to be, right? No.  Not really.  And the number of times we’ve said that this year is pretty scary.

He came on for the eighth and allowed two consecutive solo shots.  The first was on a changeup, the second on a slider.  It was the second time in his career that he’d given up two home runs in one appearance.  (Unfortunately, the first time was on August 9, 2009 when we were playing the Yankees in New York and he gave up consecutive homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, of all people.) So he tied the game and was rewarded with a well-deserved blown save.  Unbelievable.  Again, the importance of location; obviously it goes both ways.  If he keeps on doing this, there’s no way he’ll be fit to be a closer in the near future.  He finished that inning, and we went down in order in the bottom of the frame.  Paps pitched us through a ninth inning that could have gone just as badly, if not worse, run-wise.  After inducing a groundout, he allowed two consecutive singles and a walk to load the bases.  Thankfully, he followed that with a strikeout on three pitches and a strikeout on a foul tip of the third and fourth hitters in Detroit’s lineup.  Red Sox Nation exhaled as one.

So we were tied at three in the bottom of the ninth.  Youk worked an eight-pitch walk, and Iglesias came in to pinch-run.  Papi singled.  Drew was intentionally walked (I know, it’s pretty strange, but hey, the man earned it) to load the bases.  Lowrie hit what looked like it would be a routine fly ball.  But it dropped in very shallow left field.  Iglesias was coming around from third.  The crowd was going wild.  We were all expecting walkoff.

And then he was out at the plate in the fielder’s choice.  Talk about anticlimactic.  And then of course you’re thinking, how many chances at a walkoff are you going to get?

Enter Crawford.  He took a four-seam for a ball and a slider for a strike.  And then, on the third pitch of the at-bat, one a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball, he hit a single.  It was just a single.  But it was well-placed, and it was all he needed.  McDonald had come in to pinch-run for Papi, and he scored from third easily.  And with one swing of the bat, we were done, and we didn’t even have to go into extra innings, either.  4-3.  Carl Crawford, ladies and gentlemen!

Hideki Okajima was designated for assignment so that another lefty specialist, Franklin Morales, recently acquired from the Rockies for cash or a player to be named later, can join the roster.  Iglesias and Bowden are both going back to the minors.

Our winning streak is now at six games.  The last three of them were won in our last offensive chance of the game.  And we are about to enter a truly exciting weekend the likes of which we haven’t seen in almost a century, literally.  For the first time since we beat them in the World Series all the way back in 1918, the Chicago Cubs are coming to Fenway for three games starting tonight.  A lot has happened in those ninety-three years.  A lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of ugly.  On Saturday, both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms.  I’m psyched.  It’s going to be a blast.

In other news, the Bruins took a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning last night with a 2-0 shutout, courtesy of Tim Thomas.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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It’s funny but obviously not surprising what a difference the win makes.  Suddenly, when you win, going extra innings doesn’t seem so bad and actually seemed worth it to make it all the more exciting, and hey, you got to watch more baseball.

It was just really unfortunate that Beckett couldn’t receive a decision, because he was in line for the win for sure.  Seven shutout innings during which he allowed six hits, walked one, and struck out five.  He threw 103 pitches, seventy for strikes.  So, tons of strikes.  His ERA at home this year is 0.34.  That’s absurdly low.  I don’t even know what to do with an ERA as low as that.

He threw every pitch in every count for a strike.  He rolled out his full arsenal: two-seam, four-seam, changeup, curveball, cutter.  He went up to ninety-four miles per hour and went down to seventy-three.  His first and last innings were one-two-three; he faced four batters in each of the other frames.  There were no extra-base hits.  There were no jams.  There was nothing but Beckett steamrolling over Twin after Twin after Twin.  It was excellent.

Tek led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  That was our only run for a very long period of time.  But that was the only run Beckett needed.  Beckett wasn’t inefficient; he threw thirteen pitches in each of his first three innings, a game-high twenty-one in the fifth, and only eight in the seventh.  But had he been just that much more efficient and had he pitched the rest of the game, it’s not unreasonable to think that the final score would have been one-zip.

The only point at which we ceased to lead was basically the point at which Beckett did not step on the mound for the eighth inning and Aceves did.  Entering the game, Bard was tied for most appearances in the American League and needed a day off.  Meanwhile, Aceves allowed a single.  He allowed it in every sense of the word.  His stance when he threw was off and he was blocking Gonzalez, so Youk could not make a timely or precise throw.  And then he balked for the first time in his career.  One batter later, he was replaced by Paps, who allows his inherited runner to score on another single on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.  Obviously Paps was rewarded with a blown save, his first of the season.  It may have had something to do with the fact that, although he’s had appearances, he hadn’t had a chance to make a save in sixteen games, the longest drought of his career.  In the bottom of the ninth, our winning run was on base and McDonald got caught in a rundown after trying to steal.

Okajima came on for the tenth.  In each of his two innings, he put two runners on base via a walk and a single.  But he held down the fort well enough.  In the tenth, Papi rocketed a ball right into a wildly skewed shift with two out and the winning run ninety feet away.

Drew flied out to open the eleventh inning.  Because after that, Lowrie walked.  Jose Iglesias, who replaced Marco Scutaro on the roster after he went on the DL with a strained left oblique, came in to pinch run.  And after that, Crawford doubled him in.  Extra-inning walkoff.  2-1.  Game over.  Oh, and by the way, that was Crawford.

That at-bat, by the way, was agonizing.  Crawford took his first pitch for a ball.  He followed that with a called strike and a foul.  Then there was another ball, another foul, and another ball that resulted in a full count.  Finally, he got something on a ninety-five-mile-per-hour fastball and bounced it off the Monster.  It was the eighth walkoff hit of his career and his second in this homestand, which we have indeed concluded with a winning record and a three-game winning streak to boot.  Tek went two for four, Gonzalez went two for five, the team hit four doubles, and Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to a Major League-leading eighteen games.

It was painfully obvious that, had we lost that game, it would have been crushing.  We would have gone to extra innings again, the bullpen would have been rolled out again, and Beckett’s gem of an outing would have been all for naught.  But we won.  So it’s all good.  Back on the road we go; we’ve got two games in Toronto before we get a much-needed day off followed by a three-game set with the Yankees.  After that, we’re back home.  We are about to play teams we can beat.  So let’s just beat them.

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The game last night lasted five hours.  Five minutes more than half of those five hours were comprised of a rain delay in the fifth.  And on top of that, it lasted thirteen innings.  This was the longest game we’ve played since we lost to the Yankees in fifteen innings in New York on August 7, 2009.  It was the longest game we’ve played at Fenway since we lost to the Rays in fifteen innings on September 10, 2008.  I guess there should have been no surprise that we lost this one too.

Before the rainout, Beckett was in the process of delivering one of his sharpest outings of the season.  When the rain delay was called one out into the fifth inning, he had been pitching one-hit shutout ball.  He had walked three and struck out three.  He had thrown sixty-eight pitches, thirty-eight for strikes, and was on pace to pitch through at least the sixth inning.  His pitches weren’t the most effective I’ve seen them; only half his four-seams and curveballs were thrown for strikes, and his most effective pitches, the changeup, cutter, and two-seam, were also the pitches he was throwing most infrequently.  It seems like he was probably not as efficient as he could have been, but that was mostly because he threw twenty-two pitches in the first inning.  He settled down after that, throwing fourteen in the second, thirteen in the third, and fourteen in the fourth.  He only had the opportunity to throw five in the fifth.  He used those five pitches to strike out Howard Kendrick, putting him away with a curveball.  His release point was extremely consistent, and he was attacking the zone.  I have no reason not to assume that his stellar performance would have continued beyond the first out of the fifth inning.

And it was a performance we desperately needed to continue.  The Angels pitching staff was taking a collective no-no bid into the seventh.  Youk, who was hit by a pitch for the seventy-first time in his career in the fourth, which ties a franchise record, led off the inning with a walk and Papi struck out looking; thankfully Lowrie shattered it with a single on the fourth pitch of his at-bat.  Red Sox Nation signed in relief as one.  He had seen three straight sinkers; he took the first two for strikes and fouled off the third.  He put the curveball in the outfield.  Being no-hit is probably one of the most embarrassing occurrences that can befall a baseball team, second obviously to being on the receiving end of a perfect game.  We haven’t been no-hit in eighteen years.  That still stands.  What a relief.

Meanwhile, Albers had pitched the rest of the fifth as well as the sixth.  Wheeler came on to pitch the seventh.  By the time we broke the no-hitter, he had already allowed two runs on a home run.  After walking a batter and inducing a flyout, he was replaced by Okajima, who got out of the inning without allowing any further damage.  Okajima pitched well in the eighth.

We didn’t score a single run until the bottom of the eighth inning.  Tek doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  Scutaro came in to pinch-run for him and remained in the game at shortstop; Lowrie moved to first.  Ultimately it didn’t help; Youk singled, but Papi flied out to end the rally.

Okajima opened the ninth with a ground out, but after allowing two consecutive singles, he was replaced by Wake.  Wake allowed a walk and a run on a single.

We threatened again in the bottom of the ninth, and it looked like we were going to celebrate another walkoff.  Lowrie led off with a walk.  Cameron singled.  Lowrie scored on a wild pitch; Cameron tried to advance to third but was gunned down.  You can thank third base umpire John Hirschbeck for that; had he not blocked the ball, Cameron probably would have been safe.  Crawford doubled.  Tek struck out swinging.  Ellsbury singled Crawford in to tie the game at three.  Then Pedroia grounded into a force out to end it.  I was hoping for another epic at-bat, but he jumped on the first pitch he saw.  He needs to break out of this slump.

After that it was just a matter of who would strike first and whether we could come back if it wasn’t us.  Paps took care of the tenth; we didn’t score.  Bard took care of the eleventh and twelfth; we still didn’t score, although we threatened in the latter inning.  And if you thought we would be celebrating another walkoff in the ninth, you really thought we would be celebrating another walkoff in the twelfth.  Pedroia struck out swinging, but then Scutaro singled and Youk smacked a hard-hit double off the Monster.  I actually thought it was going to be a home run.  I thought it was going out the yard, the team was going to home plate for the walkoff mob, and we were all going to celebrate.  But it missed the top ofhte wall by maybe a foot, and that’s being generous.  Scutaro was coming around.  I was thinking that this was it; another walkoff, and an undefeated record against the Angels preserved.  But no.  He was gunned down at the plate.  McDonald, who had come in in the tenth to pinch-run for Papi, singled, but Lowrie grounded out.

Dice-K came on to pitch the thirteenth for the first relief appearance of his career.  What else was Tito supposed to do? He had gone through his entire bullpen already except for Jenks, who wasn’t available because, as it turns out, he has a cramp in his right arm.  He allowed a single.  Then he induced a flyout and a popout.  Then another single followed by a walk to load the bases.  He allowed another single, which brought in two runs.  We went down in order in the bottom of the inning.  Dice-K took the loss, and the final score was 5-3.

If it’s any consolation, I doubt the result would have been different had Jenks been able to pitch in relief.  It was an incredibly difficult decision for Tito to make because Dice-K had left his previous start with tightness in his right elbow and he’s scheduled to start on Friday.  But he had no one else to send out.  It’s just one of those games where you feel the manager’s pain because he sees that the team is in a difficult situation and he knows exactly how to fix it but he doesn’t have the means to do so.  He just couldn’t.  The game wasn’t out of reach; sending in a position player to pitch a little was not an option.  We were tied; we were very much in it, and we weren’t about to give it up.  So he went with Dice-K probably because technically this would have been his day to pitch and probably also because of all our starters, he’s the one who’s most used to throwing exorbitant amounts of pitches.  Turns out it was a fail, but it wasn’t Tito’s fault.

At least we weren’t no-hit, although taking comfort in the fact that at least we managed some semblance of an offensive attack isn’t necessarily a huge cause for celebration.  That game had plenty of ups and downs.  We put up a good fight.  We threatened and had our opportunities.  But we didn’t take advantage of them.  So we still lost, and the fact that at least we weren’t no-hit isn’t great consolation either.  Not only were we almost no-hit, not only did we lose, but we lost in thirteen innings with a rain delay that exhausted the entire bullpen the day before we’re supposed to play an afternoon game.  The only thing we can do now is try to play that afternoon game and get some hits, preferably early as well as late, preferably with runners in scoring position, and preferably many of them.

In other news, the Bruins won last night, 5-1! We haven’t lost a single game in this series.  We have one more game at home before we’re scheduled to go to Philly.  Let’s keep this streak going.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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See? I knew it.  Once we got out of April, we’d start seeing some changes.  Starting with Buchholz.  That was as good an outing as we were going to get to open this month, and by all accounts, it wasn’t bad at all.  We’re accustomed to seeing him pitch a full even innings, but six and two-thirds isn’t bad, especially when you consider the fact that he was pulled after allowing a single and stolen base but securing two outs in the inning.  He had only thrown seven pitches.

He scared me quite a bit when he started out, though.  He allowed three consecutive hits to lead off the game.  Thankfully, Drew gunned down Maicer Izturis at second when he tried to stretch a single into a double.

Buchholz allowed eight hits, but other than that, it was two across the board: he allowed two runs, walked two, and struck out two.  He threw 107 pitches, sixty-six for strikes.  His fastball and changeup were both moving and really effective.  All but one of his cutters were thrown for strikes, but he only threw one curveball for a strike all night.  He mixed his pitches effectively and varied his speed; he mostly stayed between seventy-five and ninety-five miles per hour, but he threw a two-seam at ninety-six and at one point went down below fifty-five.  He attacked the zone and had a tight release point except for this one pitch that was released differently and ended up being fouled off.  Each of his runs were allowed in each of the innings when he threw his highest pitch totals: twenty-five in the third and a whopping thirty-one in the fifth, during which he allowed a hit as well as both of his walks.

The bottom line is that this was his first quality start in six starts.  Bard came in to secure the last out in the seventh.

Meanwhile, our lineup put on quite a show.  Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? We were the first to score when Ellsbury singled and came home on a single by Youk in the first.  That lasted us until the fifth, when Crawford walked, Ellsbury reached on a force out, and both scored on a single that Pedroia hit on the thirteenth pitch of his at-bat with two out in the inning.

That at-bat was epic.  You may have been able to cut the suspense with a knife, which was obviously incredibly frustrating because you were watching foul ball after foul ball after foul ball for what seemed like forever, but that was a textbook example of how we play our game.  Everyone involved in player coaching and development stresses patience at the plate, because eventually it does pay off.  And that right there was patience at the plate if I’ve ever seen it.  He took a changeup for a ball, fouled off a slider, took a four-seam for a ball, fouled off a changeup and two four-seams, took a cutter for a ball, fouled off two more sliders as well as a changeup and two cutters, and finally put a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam in play.  To review, he worked the count full, hit five consecutive foul balls, and then hit the single that basically ignited the rest of our offense.  That’s what makes a hitter dangerous.  He’s patient, so he makes you work and waits and waits and waits until he gets his pitch to hit, and when he does, there’s nothing you can do about it except sit back, relax, and watch those runners cross the plate.

You could seriously tell that that hit was one huge momentum shift, obviously partly because it gave us a one-run lead, but also because it was just a real galvanizer.  Pedroia has that effect on people.

Torii Hunter led off the sixth with a double.  But when Alberto Callaspo grounded to first, Gonzalez, who is not shy about flashing the leather, fired to Youk at third to get Crawford.  It was a pinpoint throw, even though it was in the dirt, and Youk dug it out expertly.  I think the Rally Monkey went home after that.

The seventh was one long inning.  Crawford opened it with a groundout, and then Tek singled and Ellsbury doubled.  After a pitcher change, Pedroia walked.  Gonzalez cleared the bases with a double off the Monster.  That was the first time in his Boston career that he hit the wall, and trust me, the scoring play was very aggressive.  Ellsbury crashed into Jeff Mathis so hard he bruised his left knee and was out of the game for the last two innings, leaving his status for tonight unknown.  And Pedroia was just a few feet behind him.  I’m telling you, we raise some scrappy guys on our farms.  Then Gonzalez came home himself on a double by Youk also off the Monster.  Then Papi did what he does best: crush long balls.  He unleashed on a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball on the fourth pitch of the at-bat to end his homerless streak at eighty-eight at-bats.

To be absolutely clear, that was a six-spot we put up in the seventh.  We scored six runs in a single inning.  Obviously, that’s a season high.  Most of last month was one giant stretch of us scoring less than that amount over multiple games in total.  So when Wheeler allowed two runs in the eighth and Okajima allowed his inherited runner to score in the ninth, that, ladies and gentlemen, was also something that did not matter.  (Does it matter long-term that our relievers allowed three runs in the last two innings of the game? Of course.  It’s not good.  But like last night, we should be able to score a sufficient number of runs such that it doesn’t matter.)

Crawford, Papi, Youk, and Ellsbury all went two for four.  Ellsbury stole two bases.  We left only five on base and went five for eight with runners in scoring position.  Almost half of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  As for Pedroia, he’s now six for twenty-nine opposite Jered Weaver.  But he came through in the clutch, so it’s all good.

Beckett will start on Wednesday after six days of rest, so it’ll be Lester tonight.  Meanwhile, we won, 9-5, and I’m going to enjoy this.  We should play the Angels more often.

In other news, the Bruins won Game Two! Thomas made fifty-two saves, and Krejci netted the winning goal in sudden death for the 3-2 win!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Mike Cameron was basically the only good thing that happened last night.  The rest of it was all bad.  It was all just really, really bad.

First, there was Dice-K.  Early in the game, his right elbow started to tighten up.  He went out to the mound, and he did not deliver a start similar to what he should us his last two outings.  He pitched to one batter in the fifth, failed to record an out, and was finally pulled.

So he only pitched four innings but threw eighty-two pitches.  He gave up three runs, only one earned (thank you, Lowrie and McDonald), on three hits.  He walked four.  He struck out four.  So as you can see, he was not on the way to pitching another fantastic outing.  He actually claims that he could have kept on pitching but that it was Tito’s decision to remove him.  A truly inspired decision, I might add.  He was officially pulled due to right elbow stiffness.

Albers came on and pitched two solid innings.  And then things started to get interesting.

Seattle scored two runs in the top of the first, but we got one back in the bottom of the second when Cameron walloped a home run on his first pitch of the night, an eighty-eight-mile-per-hour two-seam outside.  It was a home run right after Johnny Pesky’s own heart.  It wrapped right around that pole for a run.

McDonald led off the third with a walk, and Ellsbury grounded into a force out.  Pedroia flied out, Gonzalez singled, Ellsbury came home on a single by Youk, and Gonzalez came home on a single by Papi.

Cameron led off the fourth with another home run.  This one was on the third pitch of the at-bat, an eighty-mile-per-hour changeup down and away.  And there were no doubts about this one.  This one sailed all the way to the Monster seats.  So, note to opposing pitchers: do not throw pitches with speeds in the eighties range that are away to Mike Cameron.  This was his first multi-homer game since 2009.

So we scored four runs.  Those four runs were the only runs we would score.  We didn’t score a single run over the game’s last five innings.

This is the interesting part.  Jenks came on to pitch the seventh.  At that point, we were leading Seattle by one.  But Ichiro singled, Chone Figgins doubled, Milton Bradley struck out, and Suzuki scored on a groundout.  Justin Smoak walked.  Figgins scored on a double.  Adam Kennedy grounded out.  And that was it for Bobby Jenks.  Okajima and Bard did what they could to keep us in it after that.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  This is not a one time thing with Jenks.  Lately, every time he comes out, you know your lead is not safe.  I really hate to say this, but if he doesn’t do something soon, he’s going to become Eric Gagne, and we all know how that turned out.  In Jenks’s first ten games with us, his ERA is 8.64, opposing batters are hitting .324 against him, and he has allowed runs in four of his last six appearances.  All this after he was untouched in his first four appearances this season.  Now that is more than I can say for Gagne, so it’s just strange.  This is the longest struggle of his career.  Tito thinks it’s location, and I have to agree.  He doesn’t have a velocity or versatility problem.  He throws his pitches well.  He just doesn’t throw them precisely enough to hit his spots.  That’s a problem you can fix, which is a good sign, because to this day I have no idea what was going on with Gagne.

For a few seconds, it looked like Lowrie would come through in the ninth.  He hit what I was convinced was a home run until it turned out to be a fly ball because, as luck would have it, he hit it to the 420-foot mark, the deepest part of the park where the center fielder actually had room to corral it.  And them Cameron stepped up, and you know you were thinking that this could be the day he hits three.  So he hits one, and it’s sailing through the air, and you’re thinking that if this ball could just get out, we’ll get this thing in extra innings.  But no.  The ball ends up right in Ichiro’s glove.  Drew struck out looking to end it, 5-4.

So that was the first game of an eleven-game homestand.  Not really the type of opening, or should I say closing, you hope for.  We’ve lost three of our last four games and are now eleven and fourteen.  And we had Dice-K looking like Dice-K, Jenks looking like Jenks, and Drew looking like Drew when he struck out looking to end the 2008 ALCS.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Drew striking out looking the same way again.  Well, we have Lackey coming up.  My goal right now is just to get to .500.  That should not be that difficult.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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That totally wasn’t as sweet as I thought.  I was expecting Baltimore to roll over.  I wasn’t expecting us to roll over.  It just goes to show you the importance of quality starting pitching.  Which we basically had.  It just so happens that their starting pitching was more quality.  Dice-K pitching back-to-back gems? The Orioles sporting quality starting pitching? Seriously, what is going on?

I can’t explain the first part of that, but I sure can explain the second part.  The Orioles surge in April.  That’s about the extent of any surge they could possibly be looking forward to all season long.  May is when things really start to get organized.

When I say that we basically had quality starting pitching, I mean that in the most basic of senses: runs.  Technically, we didn’t even have that, but I’d settle for four runs allowed over six and two-thirds innings.  That’s one more than three runs, the upper run limit in the definition of a quality start.  That wasn’t my problem.  Buchholz’s hit total was my problem.  He walked two, he struck out five, but he allowed twelve hits.  Twelve.  That’s ridiculous.  That’s a career high right there.  The way things are going right now, he definitely did inherit all of Lester’s April badness, and based on recent performance alone, he should be our fifth starter.  The Buchholz we’re seeing right now is a far, far cry from the Buchholz we saw last year.

He threw 104 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.  So somehow, despite his low strikeout total and sky-high hit total, he managed to maintain a respectable level of efficiency.  I suspect that had a lot to do with the fact that two of his traditionally most effective offspeeds, his changeup and his curveball, were deadly.  His four-seam, which he threw most often, was decent.  His cutter wasn’t so good, and his two-seam was even worse.  He threw less than five two-seams all night.  And between his release point and the way home plate umpire Lance Barksdale was set up, he threw almost no pitches whatsoever to the right of the strike zone; everything on the right was at worst right on the line.

The game began with such promise.  He needed only seven pitches to clear the first, and it looked like he would cruise from there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  He had to throw twenty-four pitches in the second inning alone.  And suddenly he would find himself facing the batter who represented the last out in the inning and unable to put him away.  So the inning would go on with a runner on base, and he’d have to start all over again with another batter.  He allowed his fourth and final run on a sac fly right before he was pulled in the seventh in favor of Okajima, who ended the inning by inducing a groundout.  Albers pitched the final inning.

He can not command his offspeed pitches, he can not put batters away, he can not maintain efficiency, and it is therefore no coincidence that he has yet to record a win this year.  But he gets better and better with every start and still, somehow, despite all the hits and both walks, he managed to keep the team in it.  The way we wiped the floor with the Angels last week should indicate that we are perfectly capable of eating four runs for breakfast on any given day.

We didn’t even come close to doing that.  Our lone run scored in the fourth.  Pedroia led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a groundout, stole third, and came home on a sac fly by Youk.  That’s it.  That was all we could manage.  That single by Pedroia was actually our first of the game.  He finished the day with that single, a walk, a stolen base, and an awesome diving grab to end the fourth inning.  He dove to his left and made the throw while he was still for the most part prone on the ground.  And that was as productive as any member of our lineup got.  We collected half as many hits as they did, we left eight men on base, we had only five chances with runners in scoring position, and we did nothing with each and every one of them.  Only two walks.  Only two extra-base hits, one by Ellsbury and one by Gonzalez.  And no multi-hit games.  A far cry indeed from last week.  Tek led off the fifth with a single, Ellsbury doubled, Pedroia had his walk, and with two out Gonzalez grounded out on a pitch he should have crushed for a base hit.  That was how bad it was.  He may have made that spectacular leap to corral what would have been a base hit in the first, but he did not own clutch at the plate.

So we lost, 4-1.  For Baltimore, there was nothing flashy, but evidently it was enough.  It should not even remotely have been enough.  But it was enough.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1.  So there’s one more game to play tonight.  At home.  No margin for error, but we played an entire season of excellent hockey to excel in this moment.  We got it.  And Zdeno Chara was nominated for the Norris Trophy and deserves to win it.

Getty Images

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