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Posts Tagged ‘Home Run Derby’

Prince Fielder won the derby with twenty-eight total home runs, four of which were the longest hit by any batter.  He and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the only players to have won multiple derbies.  Robinson Cano failed to hit any, which I enjoyed.

The National League somehow managed to win its third straight All-Star Game by a most embarrassing and humiliating score of eight-zip.  How that was even possible, I have no idea.  The American League seriously needs to step it up.  Fortunately it wasn’t the biggest run difference in the history of the All-Star Game.  The American League earned that when it beat the National League, 12-0, in 1946 at Fenway, of course.

They scored five runs in the first thanks to a two-run home run, a bases-clearing triple hit with the bases loaded, and an RBI single.  You can thank Justin Verlander for those; each of the American League pitchers pitched only one inning, but clearly his inning was by far the worst, ironically enough.  Why couldn’t he pitch like that when we’ve had to face him? He’s the third pitcher to give up at least five runs in at most one inning and the first to do it since 1983.  The last time an inning like this happened was in 2004, that most illustrious year, when the AL lit up the NL for six runs in the first.

They scored another three runs in the fourth thanks to an RBI single and another two-run home run.  You can thank Matt Harrison for those.

The AL posted six hits to the NL’s ten, none of which were for extra bases.  The AL also went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.  Nobody had a multi-hit performance, but at least Papi didn’t go hitless; he went one for two.  The entire team worked only three walks.  Melky Cabrera won the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award, and Ron Washington is the second manager to lose two straight World Series as well as two straight All-Star Games at the same time with the same teams.

Lastly, let it be stated here that the 2012 All-Star Game should have been held in the only ballpark that should have been the only logical choice in the first place: America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park turned one hundred years old this year and deserved to celebrate by hosting the All-Star Game.  It’s been long enough since we last hosted one, and the fact that the ballpark is small shouldn’t have entered into it.  The team, the brass, the city, and the fans deserved it.  What’s done is done, but I’m just saying.

SBNation.com
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Papi and Gonzalez went head-to-head in the Home Run Derby, but neither of them walked away with the trophy.  Papi actually didn’t do so well; he hit five dingers in the first round and four in the semifinals, so he was eliminated and never made it to the finals.  Gonzalez hit nine dingers in the first round, eleven in the semifinals, and tied a derby record of eleven in the final round that Papi set last year when he won the derby with thirty-two total.  It looked like the stage was set for a victory.  Even the park was cooperating; Gonzalez has only hit more home runs at his former home park in San Diego.  But Robinson Cano hit eight, twelve, and set a new derby record with twelve in the final round and therefore managed to beat him by one.  One! That is frustrating.

As far as the All-Star Game is concerned, that didn’t have a great outcome either.  The American League lost, 5-1.  I mean, come on.  If we have to lose, at least put up a fight.  At least lose by only one run or, even better, tie it and force extras and rise to the occasion.  That’s what the National League has been doing for the past few All-Star Games.  The American league went two for five with runners in scoring position; the National League went three for eight.  The American League left six men on base; the National League left three.  The American League had six hits; the National League had nine.  The difference-maker was Prince Fielder’s three-run shot in the fourth; CJ Wilson gave that up.  After that, there was an RBI single in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh.

We had nothing to do with that.  Beckett ended up pulling out due to soreness in his left knee.  He says it’s a minor thing and expects to start Sunday.  It takes a big man and an even bigger team player to pull out of the All-Star Game so he can make his scheduled start with his team.

In two at-bats, Ellsbury struck out twice.  In one at-bat, Youk singled.  In two at-bats, Papi struck out once.  Gonzalez was a different story.  Adrian Gonzalez is the reason why the American League wasn’t shut out.  He went yard off of Cliff Lee on the second pitch of his first at-bat of the game with two out in the fourth inning, a cut fastball.  It was a hugely powerful swing that ended up in the first few rows of seats in right center field.  It was the first home run hit in an All-Star Game since JD Drew’s blast in 2008.  It’s funny; that home run didn’t make the American League win the game, so if he’d hit it in the derby instead of in the game, he would’ve forced a tiebreaker with Cano and maybe carried home the trophy after all.

Well, it’s not like we didn’t try to secure home field advantage for ourselves.  It just goes to show you that, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  I can’t speak for anyone else.  None of our pitchers played in the game so the National League’s runs were not our fault.  Did I expect our guys to make a bigger impact at the plate? Yes, but I also expected everyone else on the team to chip in.  After all, it is the All-Star Game.  All-stars appear in All-Star Games because they’re supposed to be the best of the best.  I guess that goes for both sides, but if it’s the American League versus the National League, the American League should at least be giving the National League a run for its money every time.  Well, I guess come October we’ll just have to boost our away game.  But you have to get there first.  Let’s see what happens in the second half.

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This was a win with which we can be thoroughly happy because there were no health issues to bring us down.  I mean, there are health issues with which we must be concerned, but they weren’t connected to the game.  Yes, the fact that Gonzalez was out of the lineup with a stiff neck is obviously worrisome, and yes, the fact that Lester has been placed on the DL could not be more disastrous or troubling.  (Atchison was called up to take his roster spot, and the prediction is that he’ll be ready to go as soon as he’s eligible.) But technically those were news items that had nothing to do with the win.  (Actually, that’s technically not entirely true.  Youk moved to first, and Navarro took Gonzalez’s spot at third.  Technically the game could have had a different outcome had he not been in the game.  But I’m going to assume that, had Gonzalez played, he would have contributed even more positively than Navarro did.  Given the outcome of the game, that would mean that the impact of Gonzalez would not have changed it.)

Wake was fantastic.  He had his knuckleball going all the way.  He gave up three runs on nine hits while walking only one and striking out seven, a season high, over seven full innings.  He threw 106 pitches, seventy-six of which were strikes.  So he threw a strike about seventy-two percent of the time.  So he hit his spots (whatever that means for a knuckleball pitcher), and he was efficient, and he went deep into the game to give the middle relief corps some much-needed rest.  Bard and Wheeler combined to pitch a scoreless eighth; Bard didn’t finish the inning because it was interrupted by a forty-minute rain delay.  Paps almost blew it in the ninth.

The second pitch fired by Jays pitching went out of the yard.  Ellsbury took Ricky Romero deep.  He cleared the bullpen, too.  His swing was huge.  He got all of that fastball.  This makes a career-high ten home runs on the season, and it’s far from over.

Youk did almost the exact same thing an inning later.  He also led off the frame, and he received the same pitch at the same speed.  He just hit the ball to left instead.  He hit the ball into the first row of Monster seats.  And he got all of his fastball, too.

We had some fun in the fourth; we put up a four-spot.  After Papi and Youk made two not-so-easy outs, Drew doubled and scored on a single by McDonald.  A single by Salty moved him to third, and he came around on a double by Navarro.  Salty and Navarro both came around on a double by Ellsbury.  Ellsbury and Youk both had fantastic nights; Ellsbury went three for five, and Youk went three for four, each with two doubles.  All told, eight of the team’s eleven hits were for extra bases, and six of those eight were hit by either Ellsbury or Youk.  Ellsbury, by the way, also stole third base.  And let’s not forget his catch in the fifth inning.  So what if the umpires revoked it because they called time? The catch was a phenomenal diving catch, one of those that only Ellsbury can pull off.  He made the catch literally at the Monster.  He was at the wall.  He had nowhere else to go, and he still managed to leap and snare the ball.  We got our second out anyway via the strikeout, but man, what a catch.  He did it all last night.

Things got pretty hairy in the ninth.  Paps came on.  He struck out his first batter on six pitches but then hit his next one, who left the game.  Paps struck out his next batter on three pitches but then gave up an RBI single.  That brought the Jays within two and Red Sox Nation to the edge of their seats.  Fortunately he was able to post another strikeout to nail down the save and close the game.  The final score was 6-4.  I could have done without the extra suspense of a rocky relief outing.

We are slowly but surely clawing our way back up the AL East ladder.  For the first time this season, we are sixteen games over .500.  We are only half a game out of first place.  We have one more series before the All-Star break.  We play the Orioles.  By the time Papi takes his stance for the Home Run Derby, I want to be out in front of the Yankees once and for all.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I think this team is trying to give us all conniptions.  The game last night was so strangely simple.  If the other team scores runs, you just score more.  What a novel idea.  We revived the concept of the one bad inning and used it to our utmost advantage.  But it was so weird.  The team was chugging along doing absolutely nothing as usual of late and then all of a sudden decided that it simply wouldn’t stand for another loss.  The turnaround was abrupt and immediate.  And because we scored more runs in that single inning that we did in any of the road trip’s first six games, nobody saw it coming.  That’s a sad statement indeed.

Scutaro led off the game with a home run to left on a high inside fastball.  He just let it rip.  So naturally we were all optimistic that finally, with this new series, we’d get something going.  For the foreseeable future, we couldn’t have been more wrong.  The rest of the inning killed that optimism pretty quickly.  As far as runs and hits, that was it for the entire lineup through the first six innings.

Meanwhile, the Astros were pretty busy.  Wake was not his best.  In five and a third innings, he gave up five runs on eleven hits.  No walks, no strikeouts, no home runs.  Just lots and lots of line drives.  He had his moments; he faced the minimum in the third and fourth and got out of the third by inducing three consecutive ground balls.  But then he’d lose his knuckleball again.  He was pulled in favor of Dan Wheeler in the fifth after Bud Norris, the pitcher, singled in the Astros’ fifth and luckily last run.  Wheeler finished off the sixth and ended up with his first win in a Red Sox uniform.  Albers and Morales combined to pitch the seventh and each got holds.  Bard pitched the eighth and got a hold, and Paps pitched the ninth and got his sixteenth save of the season.

Speaking of winning, how did it happen? This is where the fun begins.

Norris came out for the seventh; his first batter was Drew.  I think Norris and everyone else watching had some pretty obvious predictions about how that at-bat would end up.  When Drew singled, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised; it was his first hit of the night.  Salty then came up and singled as well.  Technically that wouldn’t have been a cause for alarm even for a pitcher having a fantastic night because hits happen, even for the best.  But when Reddick doubled in our second run of the game, that was it for Norris.  He may have left the game, but his line continued to suffer.  Sergio Escalona gave up a single to Sutton, which scored his first inherited runner.  McDonald replaced Wheeler and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Wilton Lopez replaced Escalona.  In perhaps the most anticlimactic at-bat ever, Scutaro, who’d led off the game by going deep and made a flying leap to corral what would have been an RBI hit in the fifth, struck out swinging.  I bet the Astros figured they finally found the reliever who’d limit the damage.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Pedroia stepped up, both literally and figuratively.  After taking issue with his 2-1 pitch that was supposedly a strike, he singled.  That single scored two runs and tied the game.  And to make sure that he’d made himself perfectly clear to home plate umpire Laz Diaz, he turned around mid-hustle to first and started shouting.  It was interesting and completely Pedroia-esque, complete with a priceless quote:

“I don’t know.  I don’t even remember, man.  I’m out of my mind half the time anyways.”

It was up to Gonzalez to put us out in front, and he definitely delivered.  It was his only hit in five at-bats, but what a hit.  He got a fastball right down the middle, and he uncorked a massive swing for a double off the bullpen fence that brought in two.  Then we were done.  Youk flied out and Drew, who ironically enough started everything, grounded out.  The seventh inning started and ended innocently enough, but those six runs won the game for us.  The final score was 7-5.  It was sweet.

So Youk and Drew both came back, but Ellsbury was scratched due to an illness, which is why Scutaro batted leadoff.  We designated Cameron for assignment.  The New York Times sold most of its stake in the team.  And of course Papi will be lighting up the Home Run Derby in a matter of weeks.  We are now halfway through the season.  We have a record of forty-seven and thirty-four, which yields a winning percentage of .580.  That’s good for two and a half games out of first place in the division and two and a half games in first place for the Wild Card.  It’s not bad, but it’s not where we want to be.  There’s always the Wild Card, but you should never settle for less than your best, and we belong at the top of the AL East.  So we’re going to have to play like it.  Starting three months ago.  But at least this win is a step in the right direction.  Let’s keep it going.

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Simply put, if you thought Friday’s game reminded you of 2004, you didn’t see anything yet until you saw yesterday’s game.  In Friday’s game, we had the potentially winning grand slam but it wasn’t enough.  Yesterday, it was enough.  It wasn’t deep, but it was as dramatic as ever.  We won it in true 2004 fashion.

Dice-K’s performance was mediocre.  He pitched six innings, gave up four runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out five on 108 pitches.  His efficiency is clearly improving, but it’s easy to see that his hit total prevented him from staying in longer past a reasonable pitch count.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were actually thrown well.  He did not throw a single changeup for a strike, though.  His bad inning wasn’t actually so bad labor-wise; he threw only twenty-two pitches in the first, but he gave up a two-run shot in the process.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction.  It could have been worse.  He could have given up twice the runs in twice the pitches.  And we’ve seen him do that before.  So technically we should be thankful.  His strike zone was completely random.  He didn’t deliver any wild pitches, but he certainly made some pitches that were pretty wild.

Richardson and Atchison combined to pitch the seventh, when we got on the board.  Ryan Kalish, promoted as Hermida was designated for assignment, hit an RBI single and scored on McDoanld’s double.  Kalish would finish the night two for four.  And he started in left field without making an error, which is kind of a big deal.  (It was actually Beltre who made our error.  Unfortunately no surprise there.) That’s a great kid we’ve got here.  Looks kind of like Trot Nixon when he’s out there, actually.  The future in the outfield looks bright.  Anyway, those were part of a string of four straight hits.  So we cut the deficit in half.

Before the inning was over, Papi found himself at the plate with the bases loaded and two out.  He struck out.  Worst.  Foreshadowing.  Ever.

Atchison and Okajima continued to hold the Tigers at bay.  And now we come to the bottom of the ninth.  The grand finale.  I’m telling you, this will smack of 2004 like you wouldn’t believe.

McDonald led off the inning with an infield single.  Then Lowrie pinch-hit and stroked a double.  Then Youk was intentionally walked (after being hit by a pitch earlier; the irony continues).  So the bases were loaded, and Youk would be on the move no matter what because he was the winning run.

Then Big Papi stepped up, in all his Big Papi glory.  He took some pitches.  He even showed bunt.  Then he ripped a double into the hole in left-center field and emptied the bases.  We won, 5-4.  Just like that.  Sometimes one swing is all it takes.  As soon as I saw that ball reach the Monster, I knew Youk was coming home and we were going to win.  So the Tigers walked the winning run.  How ‘bout that.

And I was watching all of this and reminiscing like crazy.  After Friday night and yesterday, how can you not? Especially when you see Papi get mobbed.

They say that the more successful you are in the All-Star Home Run Derby, the worse your timing and average are afterwards.  David Ortiz has officially disproven this theory.  He finished the night two for five, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s batted .308 with twelve RBIs.  That’s his eighteenth walkoff hit, and it’s particularly impressive considering Coke is a southpaw and Papi’s average against southpaws coming into yesterday’s game was a mere .190 with one home run.  Particularly against Coke, Papi didn’t have even one hit to his credit in eight at-bats.  Well, he changed that in a hurry.  Coke’s fastball ended up away.  Papi was waiting for a fastball away.  That’s pretty much how it happens.

And I think the outcome of Friday’s game played a big part in our win yesterday because it shows you that you have no way to know which run will be the winning run.  You can’t afford to give up because you don’t know who’ll turn it around when.  So you just have to keep chipping away because something like yesterday might happen, and you’ll walk off with a win.  Literally.  It was epically awesome.

The trading deadline came and went yesterday.  Nothing earth-shattering happened, although we did go against the grain.  The theme of this year’s trading deadline was bullpen improvement for most teams, but Theo decided to go for catching improvement.  He traded Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for a minor leaguer.  It’s been fun, but he wasn’t as good as he’d been when he first arrived, and his impact has been minimal of late.  And we landed Saltalamacchia (that is spelled right – I triple-checked) from the Rangers for two prospects, a player to be named later, and cash considerations.  Salty will spend some time in the minors for now while Cash continues to play for Tek.

The market on the whole was loaded with starters and bats but skimpy on outfielders and relievers.  Figures.  We don’t need any of the former; we need the latter.  The problem of course is that our current status in the standings is deceiving.  We’re playing without key members of our lineup.  It wouldn’t make sense to make an earth-shattering move because we’re not really as bad as we look right now.  We don’t need another bat; we have bats.  They just happen to be on the disabled list at the moment.  It’s a tough position to be in.  But I think Theo ultimately made the right choice in standing pat.  Our performance with those bats present in the lineup before the break proves it.  In Theo we trust.  It’ll all work out.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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All I can say is, “Finally.” I was beginning to forget what scoring runs looked like and what winning felt like.  Thankfully, the team reminded me just in the nick of time.  Whew.  That was close.

In fact, the game pretty much went to the other extreme.  A final score of 6-3 doesn’t indicate a slugfest (it actually should have been 7-3 because Drew did score on that wild pitch in the ninth; his foot clearly slid into the bag before the tag), but four of the six scoring plays in the game were home runs, and two of them were ours.

Wait; what? We can hit home runs? Who knew?

Yes we can, and by we I mean Big Papi, who pretty much ran the show last night.  He hit both of ours.  A solo shot in the third on the first pitch of his at-bat, an eighty-one mile-per-hour slider down and in with two outs in the inning that he sent past the foul pole in right field.  And then a two-run shot in the eighth on a full-count fastball with one out all the way out to deep left field.  I knew that ball was going out the minute I heard the crack of the bat.  Those were his twentieth and twenty-first homers.  It was his thirty-fifth multihomer game, tied with Jim Rice for second all-time; Ted Williams leads with thirty-seven.  And it is now his eighth consecutive twenty-homer season with us.

So this would be the second time in our last twelve games that we scored at least four runs, and it felt good.  It felt really good.  For the first time in almost two weeks, the pitching staff had some room to work.  Unfortunately that ended up coming in handy because Atchison gave up two.

Papi’s timely picking up where he left off at the Home Run Derby was bookended by V-Mart’s RBI single in the second and Drew’s two-RBI double in the ninth, also on a full-count fastball.  V-Mart’s RBI was scored by Beltre after he hit a triple that barely evaded Hunter.  After he scored, Lowrie’s double put runners on second and third with nobody out, but again with the missed opportunity.  Fortunately, that didn’t come back to haunt us this time.

We had three multihit games last night: Youk went three for five with a steal, Papi obviously went two for four, and Beltre went two for three.

And Paps chose an excellent night on which to record a save.  Bard was unavailable, but Paps converted his first four-out save opportunity of the season.

But if V-Mart set the tone for the offense, Buchholz set the tone for the pitching.  And picked up the win for his services.  He tossed a full seven innings, gave up one run on five hits walked one, and struck out seven.  He threw 115 pitches, most of which were fastballs and sliders.  But he also mixed in his curveball and deadly changeup.  All four of the pitches he used were very effective in every category you can think of: speed, variation, movement, and strike potential.  He picked up seven swinging strikes with his changeup, six with his slider, and one with his curveball.  He threw twenty-four pitches in the second when he found himself with the bases loaded and nobody out and somehow managed to escape completely unscathed.  And then he only threw seven pitches in the fifth, six of which were strikes.  So he’s now eleven and five with an ERA down to 2.71.  Wow.  At this point, is there any member of our starting rotation who either isn’t an ace or doesn’t have ace potential? I honestly don’t think so.

Now that the starting rotation is on its feet, our offense needs to follow suit.  Tonight was a step in the right direction.  Speaking of which Pedroia and Ellsbury are both making strides in their recoveries, which is obviously good.  So in light of last night’s incredibly positive results, I would just like to suggest to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t get too comfortable with the way the AL East looks now.  It’s so easy for us to find ways to score runs.  The trick, of course, is actually stringing hits together and plating people.  So the problem isn’t our ability to score runs; it’s starting to use that ability.  Once the offense actually gets the ball rolling, pun intended, I would definitely recommend watching out.

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It’s that time yet again.  Since we’re now halfway through the season, an evaluation is in order.  Given where we started and where we are now, there’s a lot to evaluate.  But it’s going to be tricky.  It’s always hard to assess overall performance when it fluctuates wildly, and as a team, that’s what we’re looking at here.  Some players were extremely good for a while and then they petered out, but the team collectively is doing well because when one player declines, another rises.  Of course, it would make the whole thing easier if we could take the entire month of April and throw it out the window, but naturally we can’t.  It was an anomaly, but it’s the reason why we’re close to first place rather than actually in first place.

Alright.  Let’s do this.  Here we go.

Jason Varitek: A

He’s doing alright.  We’ve seen the same Renaissance from him this year that we did last year.  He landed on the DL on July 1, but before that, he was batting .263 with seven homers and sixteen RBIs in thirty-four games.  His numbers were somewhat similar to these last year with the important difference being that last year he posted the same numbers in more games last year.  That has to do with V-Mart moving permanently into the starter’s role and of course with the DL, but if he got an A last year, he should get an A this year for the same reasons.  Given his role, he deserves it.

Victor Martinez: A-

He’s picked it up, but he didn’t get the same start to this season as he did to last season.  He was less consistently good this year.  With that said, he’s still good, period.  He’s started to pick it up, he’s worked very hard on improving his arm with runners on the basepaths, and it’s his first full season, and in the starting role.  So it’s been and continues to be a season of changes for him, but he’s adapted nicely and continues to improve.

Kevin Cash: B+

He’s back behind the dish as a result of the injury onslaught.  He hasn’t been back here for very long, but he’s done his job: he’s manned his position while the usual pair are doing time on the DL.  We haven’t asked much of him, and he hasn’t given us anything spectacular.  He gets points for catching Wake really well after a long absence.  So I don’t have anything to complain about here.

Kevin Youkilis: A

As usual, nothing to complain about.  His average is at the cusp of .300, his defense is spick-and-span, and if you ask me he absolutely should have won the Final Vote.  His on-base percentage is a bit lower than last year because his strikeouts are up, but he’s been walking a ton, his slugging percentage is right where it should be at .575, not to mention his eighteen doubles, five triples, and eighteen home runs.  I think he’s one of the most consistent members of this lineup.

Dustin Pedroia: A

For a decent part of the season, he wasn’t performing up to expectations, which is inherently hard to do when you’re Dustin Pedroia.  But look at his numbers.  They clearly show his turnaround.  In April, he batted .302.  His average took a nosedive in May: .213.  But he got it together in June and batted a huge .374.  The turnaround was complete and absolute, and that was why his injury caused so much concern.  His defense is where it always is; he’s the quintessential dirt dog.  But he definitely gets an A for his resilience.

Marco Scutaro: A-

As with Beltre, we acquired him mainly for defense, and any offense was technically a bonus.  Our luck with shortstops post-Nomar hasn’t been great, and we just came off an abysmal fielder at short, so it’s been nice watching his range, athleticism, and .967 fielding percentage.  By general standards, that’s not that great, but compared to some other shortstops we’ve had recently, it’s great.  He’s already racked up 223 assists and turned thirty-seven assists.  And on top of that, his .283 average isn’t too shabby by any means.  Neither are twenty-two doubles, twenty-eight RBIs, and thirty-four walks.

Adrian Beltre: B+

No explanation needed here either.  Dude’s the best hitter on the team.  I’ll bet nobody expected that.  He’s third in homers and RBIs.  And his D is absolutely impeccable.  If you watch the highlights on SportsDesk.  If you watch the games too, you’ll be able to relate to my exasperation and disappointment.  The 159 assists and nineteen double plays are nice and all, but there’s no getting around his .943 fielding percentage, borne of his fourteen errors at third, which are tied with Miguel Tejada for most by a third baseman in all of Major League Baseball.  His improvement throughout the season is apparent; his errors were much more frequent and harmful in the beginning, which was obviously a contributing factor to the April fiasco, but still you can’t ignore them.  I guess it evens out, though.  Theo acquired him primarily for defense and didn’t expect much offense.  What he got was a ton of offense but mediocre defense.  So fulfilled our expectation of getting a lot of one and not much of the other; it was just the opposite.  As he spends more time in the park, his defense will also be above par.  So even though his knee has single-handedly sidelined some significant starters, we give him a decent mark for his bat.  In Theo we trust.  His fielding will come around in no time.

David Ortiz: A

This really doesn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give one anyway, just for fun.  He batted .143 in April and followed it with a huge surge in May, posting a .363 average with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs and a slugging percentage of .788.  He had a mediocre June but is on the upswing again this month.  Not to mention the Home Run Derby.  Big Papi is back!

Eric Patterson: A-

Again, it’s all about the expectations and the job he was brought here to do.  Like Kevin Cash, we brought him here in a pinch because we were dropping like flies.  And just by virtue of the fact that he’s healthy and can play, we’ve done well enough.  So I can’t dock him for mediocre baseball, because he wasn’t brought here to be the next Ted Williams.  So he gets a good grade for holding up under all the pressure of being thrown into an extremely competitive environment to keep us from crashing and burning.

Mike Lowell: C-

This is a difficult one to judge because of the dramatic decrease in playing time he’s seen this year.  But even if you look at his performance only in the context of his playing time, it’s not that great.  The highest he’s batted in a month this year is .250, and that was in April; he’s currently batting .213.  He has two homers and twelve RBIs.  He’s only walked eleven times.  His age is clearly showing.  It’s a harsh reality, but there’s nothing you can do but be honest.

Mike Cameron: B+

When Cameron came here, we expected good enough offense and stellar defense.  We have the good enough offense; he, like most of the team, batted horribly in April but picked it up in May before tanking again in June.  His fielding, however, has been subpar.  His fielding percentage so far is .976.  For him, that’s low; his fielding percentage is usually above .990.  And considering the fact that he replaced Ellsbury, whose fielding percentage was exactly one last year, he’s got to do better than that.  Part of it is getting used to his new territory – he’s never played in Fenway before this year – so look for him to improve his fielding in the second half.

JD Drew: A-

If you toss April out the window, he’s been great this year.  The improvement in his hitting between last year’s first half and this year’s is easy to see.  He had a fantastic May, a decent June, and is on his way to a fantastic July.  Overall, he’s batting .275.  His OPS is just .836, but again, it looks like he’s picking it up this month.  You also can’t argue with his fielding percentage: an even one.  No errors whatsoever this year in seventy-one games.

Bill Hall: B-

Hall is listed on the roster as an outfielder, even though he’s really a jack-of-all-trades.  It’s hard to beat the athleticism he’s exhibited in that role.  He can pretty much play any position.  We didn’t sign him for offense; we signed him for defensive depth on the bench, and to some degree that’s what we got.  He’s played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field this year, and he’s even pitched a bit.  While he has been a go-to guy whose value to the team has increased tremendously since the onslaught of injuries began, he’s not automatically excellent in the field.  With the conspicuous exception of one position: left.  He has a fielding percentage of one in nineteen starts and thirty games in left field.

Darnell McDonald: A

Darnell McDonald absolutely gets an A.  Think about it.  The guy is old, he traded hands in the minors, he was probably settling in for a long and hard career there without much hope of advance, he comes up, and he’s instantly a hero.  He’s been nothing but a hero to this team in its time of need.  Without the contributions of McDonald and Nava, we’d be in dire straits, trust me.  His .271 average is just ahead of the league leader.  His fielding percentages in left and right are both one, and his fielding percentage in center is a neat .988.  This guy exceeded all of our expectations, if we even had any, and for that, we salute him.

Daniel Nava: A

Same with this kid, and when I say kid, I mean kid.  He was called up in a pinch and delivered big time.  Literally.  A grand slam on the first pitch of your first Major League at-bat is no small talk.  Even putting that aside, he’s batting .300 with twelve extra-base hits and sixteen RBIs in twenty-four games.  He’s started twenty-one games in left field without making an error.  At such a young age and on such short notice, we were asking a lot of Nava, and he delivered.  For that, we also salute him.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Before his injury, Ellsbury was his usual self offensively.  His season average is only .250, but if you look deeper, you’ll notice that he only played a month and a half of baseball.  In April, he basically played every day and batted .333.  Then, in May, he only played three games.  Same with defense.  In fact, he sustained his injury while being his usual self in the field.  He was error free in both center and left.  So he was on track to have another fantastic year.  Too bad his ribs ended it.

Jeremy Hermida: B

We acquired Hermida your usual fourth outfielder.  After Ellsbury became injured, he stepped up majorly to get us through before he himself got injured.  While he played, he was decent.  He had some flashes of brilliance, but overall he was consistent and stable, providing defensive depth and nothing too fancy at the plate.  Still, as the fourth outfielder, he played a very important role.

Jon Lester: A

He’s an ace.  His ERA is 2.78, good for sixth in the American League.  His WHIP is 1.09.  He’s got 124 strikeouts – nobody hits his cut fastball – and a record of eleven and three in eighteen starts.  He’s given up only six homers in exactly 120 innings, proving his endurance and durability.  He had his usual horrible April, but his turnaround was so sharp and so complete, and he’s been so dominant for the rest of the season.  How do you not give him an A? He is definitely a backbone of this staff, especially this year with Beckett out.  And to think at one time he may have been on the block for Johan Santana.  Always, in Theo we trust.

Clay Buchholz: A

You can’t talk about Buchholz without talking about how much fun it is to see this kid mature into an ace right before your eyes.  We remember his no-no, we remember his abysmal season in 2008, we remember his improvement last year, and we’re seeing right now everything we knew he had in him.  He’s yet another example of why in Theo we trust.  Our farm system hasn’t failed us yet, and we know a good pitcher when we see one.  Buchholz tosses some of the salad I’ve ever seen.  His ERA of 2.45 is second in the American League and eighth in the Majors.  Wow.  He’s ten and four with only one no decision.  He’s pitched ninety-two innings and has given up only three home runs.  Phenomenal.  Absolutely phenomenal.

John Lackey: B

When we signed Lackey, I was so psyched.  I immediately started counting the automatic outs that his mean first-pitch strike would generate.  I envisioned a one-two-three punch in the rotation that would be impossible to beat.  But that’s not what I got.  His reputation as a workhorse did come through.  He pitched 113 innings in eighteen starts, which is less than Lester’s total, but he usually throws more pitches per start than Lester.  But his record is only nine and five, his ERA is 4.78, his WHIP is 1.60, and his OPP AVG is .298.  He’s given up ten home runs and has only racked up sixty-eight strikeouts.  Those are bad numbers.  They’re certainly not what any of us was expecting, that’s for sure.  In his defense, it is his first season in a Boston uniform, and we know from experience that pitchers usually perform better in their sophomore season with us, but still.  It takes good pitching and good defense to play the run prevention game.  We have the good defense.  It takes five starters to give us good pitching. Lackey is an integral part of that, but we haven’t seen him at his best.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: C

Just to be clear, that’s a C for inconsistency.  That’s his theme.  If I had to use one word to describe Dice-K as a pitcher, that would undoubtedly be it.  If he goes out and has a terrible outing, you have no reason to expect that from him in his next start.  But if he pitches extraordinarily well, like he did when he almost no-hit the Phillies, you sure can’t expect a repeat performance like that either.  Every time you think he’s turned a corner, he reverts.  Every time he reverts, you hope he’ll turn a corner.  And it just goes on and on with no progress.  His ERA is 4.56, his WHIP is 1.39, he’s six and three in twelve starts.  It’s frustrating.  Also, he’s not a good fielder.

Tim Wakefield: B-

Wakefield is obviously not performing as well this year as he did last year.  Last year, he was an All-Star.  This year, he was moved to the bullpen and is only starting now because Beckett is out.  His record is three and seven in fourteen starts.  He didn’t get his first win until May 23.  His ERA is 5.22 and his WHIP is 1.32.  In exactly one hundred innings, he’s allowed fifteen homers.  His numbers don’t reflect his flashes of brilliance.  He’s known for not receiving a ton of run support.  He could be pitching a lot better.  However, he’s an integral part of this staff, which clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.

Josh Beckett: D

He almost won the Cy Young three years ago, and should have in my opinion, and then all his dominance went out the window along with his back.  In eight starts this year, he’s one and one.  His ERA is over seven.  In about forty-five innings, he’s allowed thirty-seven earned runs, six homers, and nineteen walks.  It was painful to watch.  Then he got injured and he’s been on the DL working his way back for a while.  His recover has been proceeding nicely, and we hope when he returns, he’ll return with his health as well as his skills.  Meanwhile, he epically failed.

Felix Doubront: A

For a young kid who’s only made two Major League starts, he’s done well, and he’s shown us that the future of our rotation is in good hands.  He’s won one and barely lost the other.  His inexperience clearly shows, but so does his potential.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s old.  It shows.  But he’s still pitched decently this year.  He’s not an elite reliever, but then again we never expected him to be.

Manny Delcarmen: C+

He hasn’t been healthy; he started pitching really badly, and then they figured out he had to go on the DL.  He’s a great pitcher, so if he gets better and picks it up, he’ll help the team a lot in the second half.  But until then, he’s left much to be desired.

Hideki Okajima: C+

Same story.  He wasn’t that great, turned out he was hurting, he went on the DL, he came off the DL, and he still wasn’t that great.  I think it’s safe to say that the league has figured him out.  I don’t think we’ll see the dominance he exhibited when he first came over any time soon.  Back then his delivery, where he turns his head, was very disorienting.  It was a novelty.  Now that everyone’s seen it and got used to it, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore.  He’s still got stuff, but he needs to work on his precision.

Ramon Ramirez: B

His story is similar, plus a little better performance.  He just hasn’t been that great.

Dustin Richardson: B

He was called up to add some depth to the bullpen and to compensate for some injuries.  He’s done a fairly decent job.  He’s still a kid, so you can’t fault him for inexperience.

Robert Manuel: B

Same thing.  He was called up even more recently and has done what he can to help out in the ‘pen.  Given the circumstances of his and Richardson’s callups, they’ve both done admirably.

Daniel Bard: A

What can I say? He’s the ultimate setup man because he was built to close.  His fastball is on fire.  His ERA is under two.  His WHIP is under one.  He’s got three saves and nineteen holds.  It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still just a kid and has a long way to go yet, but he’s halfway there already.

Jonathan Papelbon: B+

His ERA at 3.50 is astronomically high for a closer.  There’s absolutely no disputing that fact.  His WHIP of 1.11 isn’t great for a closer either.  Especially not one of his caliber.  Nevertheless, he’s pitched thirty-six innings and converted twenty saves while only blowing three.  Of course, those three blown saves were blown pretty badly, but at least he’s only blown three.  His improvement since last year has been good.  He’s expanded his repertoire and worked on his delivery.  So despite his ERA, he’s still a fantastic closer.

Terry Francona: A

Terry Francona should be the Manager of the Year.  He’s a wizard.  It takes profound managerial skill to manage your club while eleven guys from the forty-man roster are on the disabled list, eight of whom are regular players and five of whom are starters.  He’s a genius.  He has such intuition for the game.  I’m not even sure how he’s been able to guide us through this, but it absolutely is a testament to his ability.  He’s the best there is.  This episode of injuries proves it.

Theo Epstein: A

I say, “In Theo we trust,” all the time for a reason.  In this post alone, that right there was the fourth time.  It’s because it’s true.  After April and before everyone landed on the DL, the run prevention game he’d planned showed that it was working.  In fact, it was working so well that, despite the awful April we had, we were about to steal first place away from New York. The man knows what he’s doing.  And there are also the previously mentioned examples of Beltre, Lester, and Buchholz.  He’ll get us there.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B

The team overall gets a B because, even though most individual players received As, the team overall hasn’t been performing as well as the abilities of its individual members would suggest.  This is the direct result of two things: April and injuries.  Our April, for whatever reason, was disgusting.  We played like minor leaguers and dug ourselves into a hole that we spent the entire first half trying to get out of without succeeding.  The starting pitchers, most notably Lester and Beckett, were terrible in April, as was essentially the entire offense, which didn’t do much of anything at all that month.  But after we exited the month of April, we played like everyone expected us to play when the season started.  Our starters started dominating, our hitters started hitting, and our run prevention game started working.  We looked like a team that will go all the way.  We even put ourselves into position to seize the entire division.  Then all of the injuries to many key people happened all at once, and it’s a testament to the team’s gritty attitude, resilience, and never-say-die determination that we are where we are in spite of that.  The fact that we’re five games out of first and three games out of second after a first half with an abysmal first month and injuries to three of our most important starting bats, which is a third of the entire lineup, and two of our most important pitchers, one of whom hasn’t really been out significantly but the other of whom has been out since said abysmal April when we originally expected him to be as dominant as ever only confirms the fact that we have what it takes to win the World Series.  Because if we’ve come this far with the B team, just imagine what we can do with a healthy A team.  We’d be so good, it’s not even funny.  So we have a lot to look forward to in this second half.  There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and I have a feeling that we’ll play it very well.  Get psyched.  It’s about to be on.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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