Posts Tagged ‘Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome’

I just stunk. Didn’t make pitches, and I really don’t know what else to say.

Who am I to disagree? The man said it himself, didn’t he? Four runs on nine hits with three walks over five innings.  107 pitches.  Bad bounces every which way.  His cut fastball was all over the place.  No control whatsoever.  Looking at Pitch FX graphs will show you that his release point was concise, but his movement and strike zone were a mess.  He loaded the bases in the first inning! His first decision is a loss.  His ERA is now 7.20, and his WHIP is 2.00.  And the bad April continues.  All we have to do is make it through this month with him, and then we’re set.

Kubel hit a home run off Atchison in the seventh just to make sure we got the message.  I don’t think that was necessary.  We got the message from the first batter up.

The offense was nonexistent.  Papi doubled in Youk in the fourth and continues to slowly but surely but naysayers in their places.  In the eight, Pedroia sacrificed Hermida home, so at least he continues his production.  Youk hit a double of his own.  Scutaro went two for four but I’m officially banning him from stealing.

If only that massive foul by Cameron had gone out.  That ball was hit at least four hundred feet.  And don’t deny it: you were picturing Mauer in a Red Sox uniform one last time, weren’t you.  Especially after that incredibly odd bounce of the ball off second base and then off Scutaro’s glove.  That was scored an RBI hit, by the way.

And in the final blow, Pavano took home the win.  Yes, Carl Pavano.  I know; I’m shocked too.  Shocked and, to be honest, a little humiliated.  Pavano wins over Lester? I didn’t even know that was possible.

And finally, the obligatory commentary on the field.  Target Field is nice.  It’s very fan-friendly.  Very polished.  Very new.  Not something I can relate to being a Red Sox fan who’s used to America’s oldest ballpark, with its original seats and close quarters and sections wherever the ownership group can put them while maintaining the soundness of the structure and Green Monster and history in every sod patch.  But if you’re into that sort of stadium, Target Field is a good one.  They did well.  But there is a very good reason why Red Sox Nation can love Target Field: it isn’t the Metrodome.  That alone makes it one of the most beautiful parks in the Major Leagues.

Ellsbury will probably be back in the lineup tomorrow, and Lackey will be on the mound.  I think tonight will go a little differently.  Tomorrow, if Lackey dominates, we’ll be able to show what run prevention means.  It doesn’t mean you don’t score runs.  It means you don’t need as many runs to win.  But we’ll score runs anyway because we feel like it.  I want to leave Target Field with some wins in our belt.

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And take the series we did! We’ve got eight runs and a stellar starting performance to revel in.  This was a good series for us.  Nothing like a beat-down of a bad team to get your confidence up and your footing under you.  It’s a great way to start a road trip.

The final score was 8-6, but Buchholz was excellent.  Two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout over five.  (Hall played short yesterday; Podsednik scored on Hall’s fielding error when he should’ve ended the inning by firing to first to get Callaspo out.  Way to make a first defensive impression…not.) Gave up a homer and an RBI single.  He threw ninety-five pitches; forty-six fastballs, about an equal number of sliders and changeups, and a few curveballs thrown in.  His movement was fantastic.  All of his trajectories were very precise; his sliders were sliding, his cuts were cutting deep.  In short, if Buchholz pitches like this for the rest of the season, it’s alright by me, with the exception of the seven hits over five innings.  If he’d allowed less hits, his pitch count would’ve been lower, and he would’ve gone deeper, which would’ve preserved the bullpen, not to mention given the Royals less opportunities to score.  (The fact that they didn’t score in retrospect isn’t the point.) But considering his age and past, I’ll chalk this one up to jitters.  I’m just relieved his first start went well because what we absolutely don’t want and quite frankly can’t afford is a repeat of 2008.  But I think that’s long gone.  I think the consistently good Buchholz is here to stay, finally.

The other three runs were given up by Ramon Ramirez.  Ramon Ramirez! The supposed rock of the bullpen! What happened to him? He struggled at the end of last season and never came around, I guess.  But whatever’s wrong with him needs to be fixed immediately.  This is something we can’t have.  We won because we scored eight runs and there was no way the Royals were going to score more than that, but what happens when we don’t have eight runs behind us? Badness, apparently.  So he has work to do.  He allowed three hits, the last of which was a three-run homer that made good on the other two.  Then he left without retiring a batter.  Awful.

On the bright side, before he came on, Delcarmen pitched two almost-perfect innings, and when I say almost perfect, I literally mean almost perfect: he gave up one walk, and that was it.  No hits, no runs.  One walk.  Multiply those two innings by 4.5 and remove the walk and you have yourself a perfect game.  Clearly, working on his extension paid off.  When he struggled, he was cutting it short because it bothered his shoulder to go long, but now that his shoulder is back to normal, he’s working out of that habit.  And it seems to be working!

Bard and Papelbon pitched the eighth for a hold and ninth for a save, respectively.  Both innings were perfect. Finally.

The top of the first featured two RBI singles and an RBI double.  The top of the second featured another RBI single and a very convenient Royals fielding error.  And the top of the fourth featured a home run and a two-RBI double.  All that makes Ellsbury two for five, V-Mart two for four, Beltre three for five, and a certain second baseman four for five.  You read right.  Four for five, and I’ll give you one guess who hit that ball out of the park.  That was his second dinger in two days! All I can say is this barrage of offense from Pedroia is spectacular.  I mean, this is exactly how he won MVP in 2008.  I know it’s early and all, but I’m just saying that if he continues on this pace, the sky is the limit.  (I mean that literally, because if you think about it, a home run can only travel so high.) He’s doing all the right things at the plate and in the field, and he’s galvanizing the team, which is equally crucial.  Every season, we speculate who the early breakout man is going to be.  Pedroia was on everyone’s list but probably not to this extent.  I mean, this is huge.  And how about Beltre? I knew he’d work out.  Ellsbury is officially a leadoff man; V-Mart is the man, period; and Hermida even got in on the action with a double of his own.  (Drew was out of the lineup with a stiff neck.  If Hermida keeps on hitting the way he has been over the past couple of days, Drew can take his time as far as I’m concerned.)

Point being, we have officially established that this lineup is very offensively capable.  Oh, right; Ellsbury and Youk each stole a base.  More importantly, Ellsbury is day-to-day rather than out for at least a few weeks.  He left with one out in the ninth after that nasty  collision with Beltre over a foul ball.  Neither caught the ball, but Beltre’s knee caught Ellsbury’s left ribs.  He’s okay, though; nothing was broken, so it’s just a contusion.

Buchholz was the last in the rotation to go.  (Because ESPN nabbed Opening Day, we had Monday off in addition to our travel day on Thursday, so Beckett was able to pitch yesterday on regular rest.) We have now officially completed one pass through the starting rotation.  We have two decisions to show for it, as unlikely as that sounds; we have losses by the bullpen, as unlikely as that sounds; and we have revealed that the extent of our offensive prowess is large, as unlikely as that may sound to some.  Next stop: Target Field for the Twins’ home opener.  Things to be positive about: the Twins have absolutely no home field advantage aside from the fans because the field is brand-new and they haven’t played there either, and perhaps just as importantly, Target Field isn’t the Metrodome, because as we all know, almost any park would be better than the Metrodome.  Lester starts opposite Pavano and hopefully wins.

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To put it simply, we won! On Opening Day! Against the Evil Empire! The first of many, folks.  The first of many.

The opening ceremonies were un-announced and very nicely done, complete with fireworks, Don Orsillo, and Joe Castiglione, with special guests Steve Tyler, Keri Hilson, LeBron James, Dr. Dre, and Neil Diamond.  You read right.  Neil Diamond finally sang “Sweet Caroline” live.  And it was so good to see Ryan Westmoreland in attendance.

The highlight? Pedro Martinez threw out the first pitch! That really takes you back, doesn’t it? They unfurled the American flag over the Green Monster and who should step out from behind it.  Papi was pretty psyched.

I feel compelled to mention that YES didn’t show any footage of Pedro.  Apparently, they previewed the season like they’d been doing every day for the past half-year because every moment must revolve around the New York Yankees.  Ugh.  Just another occurrence that reveals why they’re, well, the Yankees.

And I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all of the naysayers that it was the offense, not the defense, that carried the day.  You really don’t get much more proof that the offense packs a powerful punch than a final score of 9-7.

We were down by three heading into the sixth.  That was when our bats pretty much exploded.  Youk smacked a triple that scored two, and Beltre hit a sac fly to score Youk.  Tie game.  The Yanks scored two more runs in the top of the seventh.  Then Dustin Pedroia hit one of those home runs everyone told him he couldn’t hit while he was growing up because there’s no way someone of his size should have that kind of power.  A two-runner into the Monster.  Huge.  After that, Youk scored again on a passed ball.  Pedroia added another RBI in the eighth.  And there you have the nine runs in all their glory.

The best part of it is that those nine runs were scored due to many different kinds of offense.  You had big ball, and you had small ball.  There were manufactured runs, and there were opportunistic runs.  What that shows is that the offense can get it done in any situation; we know we can always score when we need to.

The only bad part of the game was the only part of the game everyone was sure would be great heading into it: Josh Beckett, our supposed ace in the hole.  Yeah, not so much.  He got rocked.  Five runs on eight hits with three walks and back-to-back jacks in less than five innings is not what we wanted to see from him during the first game of the year.  I mean, they were all over his fastball, and he wasn’t locating his off-speeds.  That’s a terrible combination.  Thankfully, we’ve got a day off tomorrow so the bullpen can rest up.  But I feel pretty safe in saying that nobody saw that coming.  There was absolutely nothing that occurred during Spring Training to even remotely suggest that he would have any sort of issue.  If this were any other pitcher, I’d chalk it up to nerves.  But this is Josh Beckett: not only has he been in Boston for years, but he thrives on pressure situations.  He should have owned.  He didn’t.  I won’t worry about it unless he bombs his next start, but all I’m saying is that it was really unsettling.

Schoeneweis relieved him and did work; a scoreless, spotless frame.  Ramirez came on and allowed the sixth and seventh New York runs.  Okajima got the win, Bard got the hold, and Paps got the save.  He allowed a hit and threw ten pitches, seven for strikes.

We have a day off tomorrow, as I said, and then we’re back to the usual start time of 7:00PM for the remaining two games of this series.  Then another off day, then a road trip to the Midwest.  We’ll be the first to break in Target Field.  Hey, anything is better than the Metrodome.  So, to emphasize: we beat the Yankees to win Opening Day.  We took advantage of two rallies to bounce back twice.  Resilience.  Dominance.  Awesomeness.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  That was the first regular season ballgame we’ve seen in a good, long time, and with the exception of Beckett, it didn’t disappoint.  Just drink it in, folks.  Baseball is back!

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Well, that’s a wrap.  That’s the end of the road for 2009.  The regular season is over.  Done.  Finished.  And we made it! Bumps, bruises, trades, designations for assignment; you name it, we did it, and we made it through it.  We made it to the second season and beyond.  The way in which we got in was a little strange, but I’ll take it.  It doesn’t matter what your record was in the regular season, or how you played against a particular team, or who was injured in Spring Training.  Once you get to October, you start with a clean slate.  And if you’re right, you’re right, and you go all the way.  And we, ladies and gentlemen, are right.

Yesterday’s game was good and bad.  The bad was Buchholz.  He gave up six runs on five hits in three innings with two walks and six strikeouts.  And when I say six runs in three innings, I mean one in the first and the rest in the third.  This was his second bad start in a row, and I don’t like where this is going.  The regular season ended just in time; he’ll get some extra rest before his next start.

The good was pretty much everything else.  Ramirez, Bard, Cabrera, and Paps didn’t allow any runs.  Bowden allowed a run but got the win.

The final score was 12-7, so very similar to Saturday, and in more ways than one.  Pedroia hit a two-run shot in the fifth.  Kottaras, who played third base, went two for two.  V-Mart, Varitek, and Dusty Brown each walked.  Ortiz batted in two.  Drew went two for three; two solo shots, one in the fourth and one in the sixth.  Drew is a pretty quiet guy, so it’s been hard for some fans to relate to him.  But one thing everyone can relate to in Boston is a dirt dog, and that’s exactly what Drew is.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but make no mistake about it.  “Dirt dog” is the only way to describe someone who was out of the lineup due to a shoulder issue and who comes roaring back, with exactly the same swing (and I mean exactly the same), and uses it to belt two out of the park.  Speaking of coming back from injuries, Gonzalez hit a home run in the second, so we know everything’s good there.

And last but not least, we had another grand slam yesterday! Jed Lowrie in the sixth inning.  He only finished the night one for three but when you plate four runs with one swing of the bat that’s okay.  The ball ended up in our bullpen, keeping his batting average with the bases loaded decently above .300, which is uncanny, especially for a young guy.  But speaking of injuries, he did grimace when he hit that ball, something not uncommon for him when batting from the left side of the plate.  So unfortunately, he’s not completely out of the woods health-wise, but you couldn’t help but cheer for him personally when he hit that slam.  It was a much-needed epic ending to a disappointing season.  That’s what I call going out with a bang.  By the way, before V-Mart’s slam on Saturday, our last grand slam was hit on April 25 against the Yankees by who but Jason Varitek.  Just sayin’.

In the fifth inning, Ellsbury reached base on a wild pitch even though he went around.  That puts his seventieth steal in context.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the fastest man in Major League Baseball.  No, really, he’s the leader in steals for 2009.  Carl Crawford didn’t even come close.  And he’s tied for fifth in triples.  (Stephen Drew, JD’s brother, is second.) Pedroia finishes the season second in the Majors in runs and tied for third in doubles.  Bay is tenth in walks, fifth in RBIs, and tied for ninth in home runs.  Youk is sixth in on-base percentage and OPS.  Drew is ninth in walks and tenth in both on-base percentage and OPS in the American League.

So those are our league leaders.  We have a pretty good amount of guys in the top ten of the Majors.  I think we’ll be in good shape against the Angels.  Regarding the schedule, there are two: start on Wednesday and get Thursday off or start on Thursday.  The Yankees have scheduling preference, and they technically don’t have to pick a schedule until after today’s playoff between the Twins and Tigers.  But they’d be crazy not to start on Wednesday since they’d be facing an opponent who had to play full-force the day before.

The playoff is in Minnesota.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we won’t be too sorry to see the Metrodome go, but apparently they want to keep playing baseball in it.  As of this season, home field advantage is given to the winner of the season series.  The change was made because, last year, the Twins lost a playoff to the White Sox in Chicago, 1-0, as a result of a coin toss.  That was a ridiculous rule.  So now the Twins can exact revenge.  We obviously have a substantial interest in this game, and nobody will be rooting for the Twins more than me.  I hate to say it, but the Twins are the hottest team in the AL right now, and if anyone is in a good position to steamroll over New York, it’s Minnesota.  And I’d be perfectly happy with the Thursday start.  I don’t think I’d want a day off in there.  Think about it.  If we win the  first game, we have momentum we want to sustain.  If we lose, we have a bad taste in our mouths we’d like to get rid of quickly.  So it works out.

But either way, October is here at last, and Lester has officially gotten the nod to start Game 1.  And Don Orsillo is calling the series on TBS.  Get psyched!

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That was Beckett’s 100th career start in a Red Sox uniform, and he did not disappoint.  After pitcher’s milestones like this I sometimes think of Mike Timlin’s 1000th appearance, and that isn’t something he’ll want to remember at all.  But this was nothing like that.  This is something Beckett will recall for years.  This, my friends, was a gem.  Plain and simple.  Seven full innings, only tree hits, only one run on a solo shot by Joe Crede in the second, four walks, eight strikeouts.  He started the game with four consecutive K’s, had a one-two-three fifth, and retired eleven in a row before walking Morneau in the sixth.  He tied his second-highest K count by throwing 69 of 111 pitches for strikes.  Like the Twins actually expected to beat Beckett anyway.  Please, with the way he’s been pitching? No chance.  If the Twins were going to do anything, it would’ve been in the fourth; after Crede hit his jack, Beckett gave up back-to-back walks.  But he stayed with it, regained his control, and was air-tight for the rest of his outing.  If doesn’t prove he’s back, I don’t know what does.  Okajima got a hold, and Paps got a save, and this time it wasn’t half bad.  Brian Buscher struck out via swing and a miss to end it.

Jason Varitek was solely responsible for our first two runs, and the long ball was solely responsible for plating them.  The captain hit two leadoff home runs last night, one in the fifth and one in the seventh.  Both of them were beautiful swings.  Both were never going to stay inside the park.  And both are reasons why it’s realistic to consider Varitek in the All-Star voting this year.  That second homer ended up in the second tier of seats.  Power.

Ellsbury snapped his hitting streak at twenty-two games.  During the streak, he batted .340.  Pedroia was batting .462 heading into last night but then went hitless in the final game of the series.  Jason Bay got the day off.  Hey, if he’s eighth in the Majors in runs, sixth in home runs, second in RBIs, and sixth in walks, he earned it.  Drew went hitless but almost had himself a triple in the sixth, had Span not outran it and hauled it in for an out.  Youk had a hit and a beautiful diving catch on a right-handed line drive.  That’s a tough play for a first baseman to make, and it almost looked like the ball took him off his feet, but he made the catch and ended the inning.  Ortiz didn’t do well.  In the sixth he struck out swinging and was furious.  Early in the at-bat, he broke his bat and got a new one, and after the at-bat, he broke that one across his knee in the dugout.  So we know he has strength and power; all he has to do is use it on a baseball.  As angry and frustrated as we are about his slump, you better believe he’s that much more angry and frustrated.  And it’s not just the lack of home runs.  During the first month or so of the season, he wasn’t seeing the fastball.  He’d be late or get under it or something.

And then we have our third run scored by Bailey in the seventh.  Pedroia hit a sac fly to Kubel, who threw the ball to Redmond at home, but home plate umpire Todd Tichenor called Bailey safe.  Redmond disagreed so he got in Tichenor’s face, at which point Tichenor threw him and Gardenhire, who came out to protest, out of the game.  To be fair, Redmond didn’t swear or touch the umpire, but he was livid and you could see it.  Same with Gardenhire, which was unusual because he’s so mild-mannered.  Then in our half of the frame, Beckett was noticeably frustrated that a close pitch that’d been called mostly for a strike earlier had been called a ball.  Beckett was showing a little bit of body language, so Tek turned around to talk to Tichenor and keep Beckett out of it, at which point Tichenor threw him and Francona, who came out to protest, out of the game.  Wow.  You don’t see that too often.  It was like Tichenor was hitting for the circuit in umpire terms.  And I have to say it was completely uncalled for to toss either Tek or Francona.  Tek wasn’t expressing himself angrily; not only was there no swearing or touching, but there wasn’t even harsh language, angry gestures, or unsportsmanlike conduct.  There was a conspicuous difference between Redmond’s and Tek’s behavior, and his ejection of Tek disregarded that completely.  As for Francona, he came out to defend his catcher who shouldn’t have been ejected in the first place.  There was no way he wasn’t going out there to say something about this absurd action.  So that was just ridiculous.  It was a farce.

I’ll say something about Anthony Swarzak.  I give him credit for limiting us to three runs and, for six frames, seriously engaging Beckett in a pitcher’s duel in only his second career start.  Ultimately we won but from the way we were playing, that was to be expected.  We made Swarzak work, and that’s key because he’s a young guy who hasn’t reached his maximum endurance.  Long at-bats made him throw more pitches, which tired him out and which allowed us to see more of him and adapt to him quickly and effectively.  It’s the classic situation of not having much luck against a starter, so you wear him out and wait him out, and eventually he’ll break, you’ll figure him out, and/or you’ll get into the bullpen.  The other thing is that he had to watch Beckett every half-inning from the dugout.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  For a young kid to watch a pitcher like that work can put incredible pressure on him to match that pitcher fastball for fastball.  And that just wasn’t going to happen.

Ron Coomer partnered with Don Orsillo in the booth last night.  Apparently Coomer played for Tito when he managed Double-A which, according to the good man himself, makes him feel old.  Small world.  Tito even managed Michael Jordan in 1994.

And just like that, we’ve played our last game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  It’s been a great ride.  Next year, the Twins will have a new park, outdoors, with real grass.  I’m a purist in that regard, because I’m not a fan of turf.  When someone slides into a base, I want to see dirt stains, and when an outfielder dives for a catch, I want to see grass stains.  But leaving an old park is a difficult thing to do.  Especially when you’ve played well there, and that goes for the Twins and Red Sox.  Unfortunately for the Twins and fortunately for the Red Sox, our last contest in the Metrodome ended with us showing them who’s boss.  Not that I’m complaining.

Chris O’Meara
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