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Honestly, it doesn’t get much more infuriating than that.  I’m just going to jump right in because it’s really tough to deal with it all.

Cook pitched decently.  He only lasted five innings, and he gave up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and second, and gave up a double in the third.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth followed by a single and then a two-run home run.  Following  two quick outs, he gave up a single, and then a fielding error put another runner on, but the inning ended there.  He allowed a single in the fifth and a double to lead off the sixth, at which point he was replaced by Hill, who was replaced by Aceves after three batters.

Meanwhile, we reduced our deficit from three runs to two; in the bottom of the fourth, Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single by Loney.

Aceves came out for the seventh and gave up a single followed by a two-run home run of his own, which made the score 5-1.  Two outs later, he gave up a double and was replaced by Carpenter, who ended the inning.  In the bottom of the seventh, we made another dent in the score.  Ross began the inning by striking out, but then Salty and Nava hit back-to-back doubles.  The Yanks sent out their third pitcher of the inning, and then Salty scored on a groundout by Gomez and Nava scored on a double by Aviles.  5-3.

Carpenter handled the eighth without incident baseball-wise but with incident drama-wise; when Bobby V. came out to the mound and Aceves saw Carpenter coming in, he walked to the other side of the mound to avoid Bobby V. when he left the field.  In terms of the bottom of the inning, we failed to score.  But it was not without further drama.

Ross ended the inning on a called strike; the at-bat featured seven pitches, all but one of them sliders, and the count had been full.  Ross and everyone else who had a pair of decently functioning eyes could see that that last supposed strike was actually a ball because it was low, and he let home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez know it immediately. So Marquez rejected him; it was only the second rejection in Ross’s career.  Several minutes later, Bobby V., who had separated Ross and Marquez, went back out there to have a talk with him that obviously got heated pretty quickly and was ejected for the sixth time this year, which sets the record for the most single-season ejections by any manager we’ve ever had in our long, illustrious history.  And at some point even third base coach Jerry Royster was ejected for some reason, so bench coach Tim Bogar was managing and coaching third at the same time at the end of it all.  The whole situation was just absurd and could have been neatly avoided had Marquez just done his job and saw reality.

Anyway, Miller and Padilla teamed up to shut out the Yanks in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set for another possible walkoff.  Salty’s leadoff at-bat was exactly the kind of at-bat you hope for most in those situations.  The count was full and he got an eighty-three mile-per-hour slide as his sixth pitch.  He’s a big guy, and he unleashed his formidable power on it and sent it out of the park to right field for a solo shot that only he could have powered out of the park.  We were now one run away with nobody out, and between Salty having made it look so easy and our last-minute heroics of the previous night, we were daring to believe that we could potentially pull it off again.

But we didn’t.  Nava flied out, Gomez grounded out, and Aviles reached on a fielding error.  Ellsbury could have put the whole thing away right then and there.  But he grounded out instead.

So we lost, 5-4.  But no one can say we didn’t put up a fight.  Because we did, both literally and figuratively.  We manufactured our own runs and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps in the face of a deficit and dared to call a ball, a ball.  We just kept going at it all night long, but we came up just short in the end.  It’s just so infuriating.  I mean, I have to think that we’ve lost this way to plenty of other teams this year since clearly we’re in the business of losing every way to every other team this year, but to do it against the Yankees is particularly brutal.  We were almost there; we just needed one more run to tie it, and we could take care of them in extras.  And we couldn’t get it done.  It’s the story of our 2012 baseball lives.

On a more cheerful note, we have next year’s schedule, so assuming that we’re optimistic, it’s a reminder of something to look forward to.  The season starts for us on April 1 in the Bronx; we follow Opening Day with a day off and then conclude the three-game series.  We then head off to Toronto for three games, and then we head home for our home opener against Baltimore, which is followed by another day off.  We then finish our series with Baltimore and play the Rays before spending three games in Cleveland and going back home to face the Royals, A’s, and newly-AL Astros.  Then we have a day off and we go back to Toronto and then to Arlington, our first full series of May.  The Twins and Jays comprise another homestand, followed by a day off and another road trip against the Rays, Twins, and Other Sox.  Then back home we’ve got the Tribe and the Phillies, followed by a series at Philadelphia and then the Bronx, followed by a day off.  That takes us to June, our first full series of which is at home against the Rangers and then the Angels.  Then we head off to Toronto and Baltimore before another day off and coming home to face the Rays.  Then we head off to Detriot before another day off and another homestand featuring the Rockies, the Jays, a day off, and the Padres in July.  Then it’s off to the West Coast for the Angels, Mariners, and A’s before the All-Star break.  When play resumes, we host the Yanks and Rays before a trip to Baltimore and a day off.  The west then comes to us as we host the Mariners and D-Backs at home, which brings us to August.  We then travel to Houston and Kansas City before taking a day off and traveling to Toronto.  We host the Yanks at home after that, followed by a trip to San Francisco, a day off, a trip to Los Angeles for the Blue Sox, another day off, and then a homestand featuring the Orioles, Other Sox, and Tigers, which brings us to September.  We go to the Bronx after that, take a day off, go to Tampa Bay, and return home for the Yanks, a day off, the Orioles, the Jays, and another day off.  Then we go to Colorado for two games, take a day off, and go to Baltimore for the last series of the season.  So we’ve got at least three days off every month except one: May, our most packed month, when we only have one day off.  But it’s a good schedule.  It’s interesting that Interleague is sort of spread out this year instead of being clustered in June.  It’s often a tough schedule, and we have to play some worthy opponents, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to hold our own next year.

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You know it’s not good when the first batter of the game doubles, steals third, and scores on a missed catch error.

Lackey was as completely terrible as Beckett was good.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a start this bad, but something tells me Lackey must have made that start too.  I’d put him on the DL with a hangnail if I could; he’s so bad that anyone who at this point would take his place would be better.  This wasn’t really how I pictured celebrating the Fourth of July.

All but two of the Jays’ total runs were scored under Lackey’s watch.  In less than three innings, he managed to bury the team in a seven-run hole.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  At this point in time, John Lackey is an absolutely horrible starting pitcher.  This is the fourth time this year he’s given up at least seven runs.  There’s no sugar-coating it when the score is 7-0 after you leave.

In two and a third innings, he fired off sixty-five pitches, forty-one of which were strikes.  Before today, there had been three instances during his entire career during which he’d thrown less than sixty-five pitches.  He pitched two innings one October to get ready for the playoffs.  He was ejected after throwing two pitches because the umpire thought he was trying to drill the batter on purpose.  But it’s been eight years since he had an instance where he had an off day as extreme as yesterday.  He racked up a grand total of two strikeouts.  Those seven runs were scored on a grand total of nine hits, one of which was a solo shot.  He didn’t walk anybody, but he worked himself into heavy hitter’s counts so often I thought he made a mistake and thought that that was what he was supposed to be doing.  It was a truly terrible outing.

The offense did everything it could to climb out of the hole.  It really was a textbook example of chipping away, and the lineup deserves a pat on the back for a stellar effort.  Ultimately, though, it was to no avail.  We lost, 9-7.  It was supremely frustrating.  We scored four runs in the fifth and three in the eighth; what’s two more in the ninth? So close.  And yet so very far.

Probably the best part was that the Jays never saw it coming; up to that point, Brandon Morrow had made quick work of us.  But the fifth inning was all about us resurrecting who we were when we played the Astros.  After two week outs to start the inning, Drew singled and Scutaro walked.  Ellsbury brought both of them home with a towering triple, his first of the year.  Pedroia walked, and Ellsbury scored on a passed ball.  And Gonzalez brought home Pedroia with a double.

We went right back to being quick work until the eighth.  A single by Navarro and a double by Papi.  McDonald struck out swinging.  But then a towering triple off the Monster by Salty brought them both in, and a sac fly by Drew plated our seventh and final run.

Ellsbury singled to open the ninth, but Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Navarro went down in order.  Three consecutive swinging strikeouts.

I don’t even want to discuss the fact that Youk left the game in the fourth (he was drilled in the back) and that Navarro came in to replace him, only to let a ball through his legs that allowed a run to score.  The bullpen, of course, had to roll out, but they pitched really well.  They should have started the game in the first place; we probably would have won.  I also don’t even want to talk about the fact that Salty was out in the sixth.  That was a bad call.  He was obviously safe.

That game completely destroyed all the momentum we’d accumulated in Houston.  It made for a lousy return home, and like I said, it’s not a great way to celebrate Independence Day.  Not in the least.  It sheds some grim light indeed on Lackey’s fate for the rest of the year, and it doesn’t help our position in the standings at all.  Aside from the phenomenal performance by the bullpen, the valiant effort by the offense to make a comeback, the fact that Ellsbury went four for five to tie a career high, and last but certainly not least obviously the fact that Navy officer Bridget Lydon reunited with her family during the pre-game ceremonies, there was absolutely nothing good about the game at all.

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That, my friends, is just about as good as it gets.  We completed the sweep, we have our four-game (and counting) winning streak, Beckett completely bounced back from his rustiness, and we’re sending four to the All-Star Game.  Gonzalez is going for the fourth time but his first as a starter, Papi is going for the seventh time, Beckett is going for the third time, and Ellsbury has received his first career bid.  All four of them deserve every minute of that trip.  Let’s not forget, by the way, that the stakes are high.  We need to secure home field advantage for ourselves come October.

Speaking of Beckett and completely deserving a trip to the All-Star Game, yesterday’s start was all the proof you could possibly need that Beckett exudes all-star status.  The game was literally almost all Beckett.  He was the reason we won.  He pitched eight innings of one-run ball.  He gave up five hits and absolutely no walks.  He was supremely efficient; he threw 102 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  That’s a strike percentage of sixty-eight.  That’s high.  But my favorite part was the season-high eleven strikeouts.

His very first batter struck out swinging on a four-seam.  The second inning was the first of four one-two-three innings; the first two batters struck out swinging, the first on a cutter and the second on another four-seam.  He began the third with his only called strike, the result of four straight four-seams, and he ended the inning with another swinging strike on a four-seam.  He began the fourth with a strikeout on a cutter and ended it with a strikeout on a curveball.  Both strikeouts in the fifth were put away with curveballs; he also gave up his only run that inning, the result of the combination of a double and a single.  He followed that inning with a one-two-three sixth, during which he achieved another strikeout using four straight four-seams and a cutter.  He locked down his last strikeout in the seventh with a curveball (and hit his next batter, but still).

The outing really was a gem of purest form.  It was a thing of beauty.  And it was the reason why, to this day, we still wonder about last season.  Beckett was so dominant that, by the time Paps took the mound, the game was still tied at one.  We scored our first run in the fourth; the bases were loaded for Tek, but all he could muster was reaching on a force attempt, which led to an error.  He hit a grounder to first base, but Brett Wallace fired home very poorly indeed, so Youk scored.  Painfully.  Carlos Corporan came down on his right ankle, which as we all know is not in the best of shape these days.  We scored the winning run in the ninth; after a walk, a single, and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Youk.  Youk didn’t have to do much to bring in a run.  He didn’t.  But he brought in a run anyway.  He walked on five pitches.  Five straight cutters.  How embarrassing for the Astros.

So Beckett walked away with his third win in Houston, Paps walked away with his seventeenth save, and Tito walked away having bested our former pitching coach.  What’s up, Brad Mills; thanks for intentionally walking Gonzalez in the top of the ninth while first base was occupied, because that made so much sense and didn’t backfire at all.

All in all, the road trip wasn’t our best.  On the one hand, it was Interleague, so we should have been able to win easily.  On the other hand, we were playing in National League parks, which threw off our lineup.  But now we get to go home, and just in time for the Fourth of July.  Few things are better on America’s birthday than America’s national pastime.  It’ll be a great game.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially won the series with the Astros.  We can do no worse than that.  Our last game is this afternoon, and if we win it, we’ll sweep and be on a four-game winning streak.  It’s a pretty modest goal, but for a team that’s been down in the dumps lately, anything to boost morale and standing is a big deal.

If the team plays half as well this afternoon as it did last night, we should be able to complete the sweep easily.  I’m not kidding.  Last night we won by a final score of 10-4, and tomorrow we have Beckett.  So if Beckett allows only two runs and the offense scores five, that’s an easy win right there.

Miller started and pitched well.  In six innings, he allowed two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out three.  He was efficient, too.  He threw eighty-five pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes.  His repertoire isn’t huge, but he worked with what he had.  His four-seam was outstanding.  He threw less than a handful of two-seams, which were also outstanding.  His changeup was nasty, and his slider was decent.  He varied his speed, pounded the zone, and threw no more than nineteen pitches (in the third) and no less than eight pitches (in the sixth, his last inning, ironically enough) in a single frame.  He gave up his first run in the first on a triple followed by a single, and he gave up a leadoff solo shot in his last inning.  That home run was just the result of a bad pitch; Hunter Pence hit out the very first pitch he saw, a changeup.  He’s 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA.  For someone who was just trying for a roster spot during Spring Training, so far he’s already pitching better than some starters on the rotation.

By the time Miller left the game, we were already leading it, 4-2.  We scored three runs in the first inning alone.  (That’s half as many as we scored in the seventh inning yesterday, but still.) Ellsbury, who’s finally back in action, led off the game with a walk and ended up at third due to a dropped throw.  Pedroia singled.  And Gonzalez batted in the game’s first run.  Then Youk singled, and Papi walked in Pedroia.  Salty grounded into a double play, which scored Gonzalez.  Then McDonald flied out to end it.  Five consecutive baserunners.  Not a bad way to start a baseball game.

Things were pretty quiet until the fifth, when Ellsbury and Pedroia’s back-to-back doubles yielded another RBI.  Oh, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, Pedroia is not in a slump anymore.  His problem had been two-strike counts and high inside fastballs.  I think he has made it perfectly clear that they are no longer a problem.

That was it until the sixth, when Pence hit that homer.  But we got that run back.  After Scutaro flied out to open the seventh, Yamaico Navarro hit the first home run of his career.  It was a solo shot on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball to the first few rows of seats in left.  If you saw batting practice before the game, you wouldn’t have been surprised.  He was peppering that part of the park.  So he pinch-hit for Miller, made like it was batting practice, and became the first pinch-hitter to hit his first career Red Sox homer since Juan Diaz did it in 2002.  No big deal.

Aceves came on for the seventh but was pulled in favor of Bard after he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk.  Bard walked in a run but secured the third out.  (The fact that no pitcher, especially a late-game reliever, should ever walk in a run ever, even if it’s inherited is another story.  So the fact that technically his last fourteen appearances have been earned run-free doesn’t really console me.)

Luckily for Bard, that run didn’t matter and we avenged him anyway.  We scored four in the eighth.  Three straight singles by Gonzalez, Youk, and Reddick led up to a sac fly by Salty, which brought in one, followed by a much more impressive three-run blast of a home run by McDonald, also on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball and also to left.  It was a blast in every sense of the word.  It cleared the seats and went over the wall.  Three runs with one swing.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And that’s really good; Cameron has been designated for assignment, so McDonald is the man now

Actually, it did.  We weren’t quite done.  Gonzalez doubled in the ninth, and Youk singled him home.  Jenks had pitched the eighth; Wheeler came on for the ninth and allowed a run, but fortunately and obviously it did not matter.

In short, the game was three hours and five minutes of pure, unadulterated dominance on every front.  We batted .500 with runners in scoring position.  Our pitching was better, our hitting was better, and our defense was better.  Like I said before, if we play half as well today as we did yesterday, we’ll be the proud owners of a sweep tomorrow.

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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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See, that’s what we should have been doing the last few days, not just yesterday.  Winning.  Winning was what we should have been doing.  Okay, so we lost the series to the Phillies.  That’s not good.  But at least we weren’t swept.  Like I said, at this point, for some sad, strange reason, we’ll have to take what we can get and be happy with it, and right now I’m just happy we didn’t lose.  Yeah, that’s pathetic, but what can you do.  We’ll come around.  Meanwhile, at least we preserved some dignity.

We won, 5-2.  Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that we out-hit the Phillies, 13-4.  If only that were the final score, too.  But a win is a win, no matter how many runs you score.  I just would have really liked a slugfest in order to leave the Phillies with a taste in their mouths that’s extra-bad and easy to remember.

Lester was absolutely masterful.  He finally secured a well-earned tenth win.  He fired off seven shutout innings of two-hit ball like it was no big deal.  He sent down twelve of his first fourteen hitters.  He walked two, struck out five, and needed 120 pitches to do it.  Clearly he was massively inefficient.  His cut fastball was as sharp as ever, but his off-speed pitches were a bit lacking.  More affective than that was the fact that the Phillies made him work; it took him twenty-five pitches to get out of the seventh inning alone, and he never threw under ten pitches in a single frame.  He had to earn that win.  But he did.  And we needed it very badly.

Jenks was the one who allowed the runs.  Bard finished the eighth, and Jenks came on for the ninth.  He allowed two runs and left in favor of Paps, who found himself in a save situation and came through.

We didn’t get on the board until Cole Hamels was taken out due to an injury he sustained when Gonzalez hit a line drive off of Hamels’s right hand in the fourth.  Ouch.  Reddick tripled and scored on a single by Sutton, who scored on a single by Ellsbury.  That was it until Tek unleashed in the very next inning on a hanging slider, sending it out of the park and into the first few rows in right field.  But he was just getting started.  In the eighth, Pedroia and Tek hit back-to-back jacks.  These last two were hit on fastballs; all three were hit to the same location.  So of the team’s four extra-base hits, three were homers, and all four led directly to scoring.  We left eight on base and went two for eight with runners in scoring position.  But that’s the thing about home runs.  It doesn’t matter who’s in scoring position; you score anyway.  And the fact that the captain went yard twice made it all the better.

This was a much-needed win if I’ve ever seen one.  Every win of ours this days is much-needed.  It makes you wonder what might be in store as the trade deadline approaches, although we all know that thankfully Theo would never do anything rash.  It’s just like I said in the beginning of the season: we need to get on a permanent hot streak and then we’re set.  One good, long, continuous groove and it’s smooth sailing all the way to the World Series.  Hopefully that’ll start tomorrow with the Astros.

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Let’s start with a recap of the end of two weeks ago.  On Thursday, Andrew Miller turned in his third quality outing of Spring Training against the Rays.  One hit and one K over one and a third innings.  Good for him; his previous outing wasn’t so quality.  Cameron returned to the lineup after sitting out with tendonitis in his left knee.  Obviously the biggest story was Crawford’s debut against his former team; he got a hit and made a spectacular diving catch to end the fourth.  Crawford even stole the show from Damon, who claims that he would have approved a trade to Boston if he knew that Detroit wouldn’t re-sign him.  I think he’s just saying that now because he sees a World Series-winning team.  Anyway, we lost, 8-6, and the rest of the game was a different story.  Dice-K gave up five hits and as many runs over three and two-thirds innings with two walks to lead off the game and two K’s.  Over his last six and two-thirds innings, he’s given up ten earned runs.  In three outings, he’s got an ERA of 11.42.  He is not concerned.  Tito isn’t concerned.  And if this were any time of the baseball-playing year besides Spring Training, they would be about the only two people not concerned.  But it is Spring Training, and Dice-K is taking some liberties that he otherwise wouldn’t.  I would suggest bearing with him.  He’s working on his changeup and cutter a lot this spring, and he wants to be more aggressive with the zone this year, so while he works on that, it could look ugly.  But now is not the time to worry.

We scored five runs in the first two innings of Fridays’ game against the Astros and won it, 9-3.  Scutaro and Pedroia were the only regulars in the game because the squad was split, but they took care of business.  Pedroia went two for three, both for extra bases, plus two RBIs, and a walk.  Meanwhile, it took Paps twenty-nine pitches to record one out and three walks and give up one hit and three runs.  And that’s how the Twins won, 3-2.  Crawford made an error.  Lester, however, fired off four spotless innings; he allowed four hits and struck out five.

Adrian Gonzalez batted third and manned first on Saturday in his debut against the Marlins.  He turned his first pitch into a single.  His second and last at-bat resulted in a sac fly.  And his goal is to play in every single game this year.  If he continues his good work, that’s fine with me.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for three, the former with two doubles and a homer and the latter with a single.  Lackey gave up a run on six hits over four and two-thirds innings with three K’s and no walks.  Lackey threw forty-nine of seventy-five pitches for strikes.  We won, 9-2.  Saturday also marked the premiere of “Down the Line,” a documentary on MLB Network at Fenway’s staff.  Make no mistake; that is where the magic happens.  And according to a Major League source, the team has let it be known that they’re willing to trade Dice-K for a young catcher and Wakefield for a southpaw reliever.  Cameron and McDonald, in light of the options on Kalish and Reddick, could also be on the block, and the team may entertain offers for Scutaro.  Theo has denied all accuracy of this report, explicitly labeling it as false.  I’m going to listen to Theo for now.  At the very least, you can be confident that, given his full no-trade clause and salary and performance (or lack thereof), Dice-K will not be moving anytime soon.  Meanwhile, he’s changing his side schedule; instead of throwing both a long toss and his side session two days after each start, he’s going to throw a long toss the first day after his start, another the second, and his side session on the third.  This idea, of course, is courtesy of Curt Young.  At this point, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it’s all well and good to know everything that’s going on with his various training adjustments and throwing adjustments and workout adjustments, but I just want them to find the problem with him and fix it as soon as possible.

The Pirates beat us, 9-4, on Sunday.  Beckett gave up a run on four hits through his first four innings.  Then he gave up a homer, a walk, a double, and a bases-loading hit-by-pitch in the fifth, and that was the end of that.  Fortunately for everybody, Beckett made an extra effort to incorporate his changeup, which has been the distinguishing feature of each of the best years of his career.  Unfortunately for everybody, he lost it last year.  So he’s trying to get it back this year.  Atchison then proceeded to allow all his inherited runners to score.  Bard’s inning was scoreless.

Buchholz and Wake both threw productive simulated games on Monday rather than face the Yankees for the second time this spring.  Meanwhile, we beat the Yankees, 2-1; Paps turned in a scoreless frame.

We beat the Tigers by the same score on Tuesday.  Dice-K two-hit Detroit through five innings while striking out five.  His curveball was absolutely unhittable.  On the field and at the plate, Ellsbury stole the show with a homer and a spectacular catch.  McDonald also homered as well as DH.

We barely lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 3-4.  Lester allowed three runs on eight hits over four and two-thirds innings.  He walked two and led off the game with three consecutive singles.  Scutaro went deep on the Braves’ second pitch of the game.  Salty hit an RBI double, and Reddick hit an RBI single.  V-Mart expressed thanks for his time in Boston and believes that Salty and Tek will do well.

We beat the Mets on Thursday, 8-5.  Lackey allowed a run on five hits over five and a third innings with two strikeouts and his first walk of Spring Training.  Paps got rocked; he gave up two consecutive doubles and four runs.  He insists that he knows exactly what his problem is.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out: he’s not locating the zone right now.  Crawford went two for three with a steal.

We lost to the Tigers yesterday, 3-8.  Buchholz was not his best.  He gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.  That one earned run was the product of a homer that led off the second.  He retired the side in the fourth, but that was it for ease.  His mechanics were just off.  And you can thank Youk and Gonzalez for the unearned runs.  Pedroia homered for the first time this spring.

We followed that loss with two more today.  Wake allowed four homers, six runs on seven hits in total, and one walk in only three innings en route to a 3-7 loss to Tampa Bay.  Meanwhile, Beckett allowed one earned run and four unearned over four and two-thirds innings en route to a 5-7 loss to the Pirates.  Scutaro and Pedroia posted multi-hit games, and Wheeler’s appearance was scoreless.

We also completed our first round of roster cuts this past week, sending five down.  Our lineup, by the way, has more or less quietly taken shape: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youk, Papi, Drew, Salty, and Scutaro have batted in that order during almost all full squad games this spring.  That’s not a real surprise; it follows my prediction pretty closely, and it’s a lineup built for success.  Tito is doing his best not to cluster the lefties too much and to spread the tools evenly.  Not to mention the fact that we are so stacked, it’s not even funny.  And we have officially finalized our pitching staff.  Lester got the nod to start on Opening Day.  As it should be.  Given his general sub-par game lately, not only should Beckett not be offended by that, but he should also not be surprised that he was dropped to fourth.  And Tito had his other reasons: he’d rather have Beckett start his season against the Indians than against the Rangers.  He is not happy.  He wanted the Opening Day nod, and he explicitly disagreed with the drop.  He doesn’t think that the extra time will matter much, and he’s a competitor, so naturally he doesn’t want to accept the fact that lately he’s been not good in a general sense.  Lackey is the Number Two, followed by Buchholz, and Dice-K of course will start fifth.  So as it stands now, Lackey will be pitching our home opener against the Yanks.  I’m just wondering why it’s Lackey followed by Buchholz and not the other way around.  I’m sure Tito has his reasons, but that one-two punch was almost unbeatable last year.  I wouldn’t want to split it up.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres in overtime on Thursday and to the Islanders on Friday.  We beat the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Tuesday but lost to the Predators in overtime on Thursday and to the Leafs today.

AP Photo

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