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Posts Tagged ‘Howie Kendrick’

That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

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Every time we talk about a start by Beckett, we always cut right to the chase.  That’s what happens when a guy is on the radar.  You’re ever-vigilant, ever-cautious, and ever-analytical when it’s over to figure out if he’s getting worse or better and if that trend is long-term or short-term.  And that approach makes sense.  You watch a Beckett start these days, and it’s him you’re noticing most prominently.  So without further ado, Beckett did well.  Three runs on seven hits over eight innings pitched.  Absolutely no walks.  Seven strikeouts.  A homer for Howie Kendrick to lead off the third.  (As a matter of fact, it was pretty much all Kendrick.  He also scored on a wild pitch and ended up batting in the winning run.) Other than that, solid gold.  He threw 114 pitches, 78 of which were strikes.  So his efficiency was there, his command was obviously there, his sense of symmetry was there (starting in the third, the Angels scored one run in every other inning) and as if it couldn’t get any better, he went the full eight innings and let the bullpen have a breather.  Speaking of the bullpen, it was Wagner who allowed the fourth run in the ninth, it was Wagner who kept that symmetry going, and it was Wagner who got the loss.  Good.  I would have been pretty annoyed if Beckett got stuck with the loss after an outing like that.

Being that the final score was 4-3 and not in our favor, we didn’t sweep the Halos.  In fact, their pitchers, I am sorry to say, handled us pretty well.  We scored three runs in the fourth and that was it.  So it was a very even match decided by Billy Wagner who, again, took the loss for exactly that reason.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a really nice home run, and Bay homered with a man on and a man out, even if he was caught stealing second.  And how about Victor Martinez in the fifth? I’ll tell you, it’s good to have him back.  His slide back to the bag to get Gary Matthews out at first was executed perfectly.

So all of our runs scored by the long ball, but unfortunately we don’t have a W to show for it.  What can I say? You can’t win ’em all, and you can’t always come back in the end, even though you know you’re able to.  The winning streak stops at seven, but hey, Beckett pitched nicely and we played well so we can be happy about that.  Especially with October right around the corner.  We have the Wild Card, so right now it’s all about making sure everyone is healthy and firing on all cylinders.

Schedule-wise, we’re on the road until September 28 and then home for the rest of the season.  This road trip is crucial for a number of reasons.  First of all and perhaps most importantly, there will be road games in the playoffs, and we need to win them.  This road trip is good preparation for that.  We know we’re set at home, so if we can get our act together on the road, we’ll be in great shape and have a good idea of where we stand as far as our strengths and weaknesses while away are concerned.  The trip is also crucial because of who we’re facing.  We ease into the trip by first taking on Baltimore followed by Kansas City, not exactly your most intimidating opponents.  Then we head to the Bronx for a three-game set against the Yankees.  That’s probably the most important series left in the season.  That series could be a preview of a possible ALCS matchup.  We need to do well in that series.  And to be honest, that series is our last chance to make a run for the division.  If we sweep it and the Yankees get some losses while we get some wins, it’s entirely possible that we just might squeak it out.  I’m just saying.  And then, once we come back home, we have three with Toronto and four with Cleveland, and that’s it.

Can you believe the 2009 season is almost over? It feels like it just started yesterday.  Wow.  Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess, and trust me, there is much more fun still to be had in October.  We’re going deep this year.  I can feel it.

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