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Posts Tagged ‘Ichiro Suzuki’

Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  I would say that I don’t even know where to start, but the truth is that I’m going to start where it’s obviously proper to start: Jon Lester.  This, unequivocally, was one of Jon Lester’s best-pitched games all year so far.  The start to this season has taught us that, as go our starters, so goes the team, and the team went with Lester and gave him everything he needed: good fielding and good hitting.  Absolutely nothing went wrong yesterday.  It was amazing.

Anyway, let’s get back to Lester, the undisputed man of the hour.  Lester went the distance.  You read right.  He pitched a complete game.  His nine-inning effort required only 119 pitches, seventy-three of which were strikes.  He posted a total of six K’s and walked absolutely nobody.  He gave up eight hits and only one run.

He went one-two-three in the first, second, third, fifth, and eighth.  He gave up one single in the fourth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh.  He was two outs away from a complete shutout performance, but besides that first out in the ninth, he had given up a single and a double, and a run scored on a groundout.

Let’s go through the six strikeouts, just because it’s fun and Lester is awesome.  His first one sent down the first batter he faced; it lasted five pitches and ended with a fastball.  His second occurred in the second inning, was three pitches, and ended with a curveball.  His third occurred in the third, was five pitches, and ended with a sinker.  His fourth occurred in the eighth, was three pitches, and ended with a changeup.  And his last two occurred in the ninth; the first was four pitches and ended with a curveball, and the second was six pitches and ended with a fastball.  Of the six strikeouts, all but one were swing-and-misses, the one being a foul tip.

While we’re at it, let’s break down his other outs as well.  Ten were groundouts, six were popups, three were flyouts, and there was one double play.

And last but not least, let’s break down his pitches.  He used an exceptionally deadly cut fastball as well as a remarkably effective curveball, changeup, and sinker.  He mixed his pitches expertly and changed speeds rapidly and fluidly.  Obviously he was also efficient: he threw fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second (all but one of which were strikes), ten in the third, fifteen in the fourth, seven in the fifth, eleven in the sixth, twenty-one in the seventh, ten in the eighth, and twenty-two in the ninth.  He was so on, and his stuff looked so good, and his pitches were so sharp and so precise in their location, movement, and execution that I knew he was going to do something big tonight.  Most of the time, something big for Lester would be a no-hitter, which we’ve seen, or something on that level.  With the way this team’s been playing, something big was a complete game that we won in and of itself; just because he gave up eight hits and one run should not diminish take away from the fact that it was still a big accomplishment and one of the best efforts we’ve seen from him.  (It was Ichiro Suzuki, obviously, who ended any possibility of a no-hitter with two out in the fourth; the ball came back to Lester and bounced off his glove, ironically enough.) Actually, if Lester had been able to preserve the shutout, it would have been his first complete-game shutout since his no-no on May 19, 2008.  Lester is the only member of the staff to have thrown a complete game this year; his first was an eight-inning effort that resulted in a loss.

Thus, while it is true that he did average almost one hit per inning, he managed to do so without allowing the Mariners to cause any damage by capitalizing on any of them.  If they allowed a hit, with limited exceptions they failed to build on it.  If they built on it, with one exception they failed to convert the potential rally.  In short, Lester was phenomenally stellar.

And now for the offense, since without it it’s possible that we would have lost by a final score of 1-0 even with Lester’s best efforts.  (Seriously, coming into yesterday’s game he was the least supported of all our starters.) In the first, Pedroia walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a double by Gonzalez.  Ross opened the fourth with a single, and then Nava smacked a two-run jack on the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball pretty much right down the pipe, into the first row of the Monster seats, and he did it from the right side.  It was the second home run of his career and the first since his first-ever-Major-League-at-bat grand slam in 2010.  One out later, Shoppach got in on the home-run action with a jack of his own completely over the Green Monster into Lansdowne Street, this one on a changeup that remained up.  It was actually the first home run of his career.  We scored our last run in the eighth; after Gonzalez flied out to start things off, Middlebrooks singled, Ross doubled, Nava walked intentionally to load the bases, and all Byrd could muster was a sac fly that scored one.  Shoppach then grounded out to end the threat, but all in all it was enough.

We won, 6-1.  Five our nine hits were for extra bases.  Ross and Shoppach each went two for four.  The only members of the lineup who went hitless were Aviles and Pedroia, although Pedroia did work one of the team’s four walks.  But in addition to the fact that we had good offense and good fielding and good pitching was the fact that the team looked like it won as a team.  Lately, during the past few games, we’ve either won as a team or lost as a team, and no matter what the outcome, that’s really the way you want to play.  I just hope it lasts this time.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Still no two hundredth win.  Obviously that’s pretty much all you need to know.  But in case you were wondering what kind of giant pang frustration it was, I’ll elaborate.

Wake pitched a complete game.  He gave up five runs, four of which were earned, on nine hits.  Wake allowed a walk to lead off the third; the runner then stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Salty, and scored on a single.  Ordinarily I’d say you can thank Salty for that run, but Wake allowed another single after that, so if all things had remained the same, the runner would have scored anyway on that second single.  That second single put runners on first and third for Ichiro, who singled to Lowrie, who initiated what looked like a double play but apparently wasn’t because apparently he missed the tag.  Tito came out of the dugout for an explanation and thankfully wasn’t ejected.

Anyway, Wake walked two, struck out four, and gave up a home run.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  He was dealing some ridiculously nasty stuff.  He gave up three runs in an ugly third that may have cost him the win in light of a lack of offensive production, one in the fifth, and the homer to lead off the sixth.

We were on the road, but clearly, if a pitcher is so good and so efficient and just so on that he throws a complete game, there has to be some way that the lineup can make that happen.  Right? Apparently not.

The bases were loaded for Lowrie in the fourth; he hit a sac fly that scored one.  That was it.

Pedroia singled in the eighth, and Youk, who returned to the lineup in the clean-up spot, hit a home run.  It was a perfect swing, which is good because some of his previous swings were pretty tough to watch.  At the time that home run brought us within two.

And that’s exactly where we stayed.  The final score was 5-3.

I emphasize what is on literally everyone’s mind: when will Wake finally get the two hundredth win that he obviously deserves, and how in the world did we lose a whole series for the first time since June to the Mariners of all teams?

AP Photo

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Beckett only pitched five innings.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes.  He walked one and struck out six.  He gave up five runs on eight hits.  He gave up two home runs, one on a fastball on his first pitch of the game and one on a cutter.  He gave up all five runs and the two homers in a thirty-four-pitch first inning.  He also loaded the bases in a thirty-one-pitch fifth, although nothing came of that.  Basically, our best pitcher had a terrible day against a terrible team, which is obviously terribly embarrassing.

Now comes the drama.  Let’s just get this over with and be done with it.

It was the top of the fourth inning.  Ellsbury led it off with a walk.  He moved to second on a missed catch.  He moved to third on a single by Crawford.  Crawford moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez.  Okay, here it is.  Pedroia hit a fly ball to right.  Ichiro caught it and threw home, where Ellsbury was headed in a hurry.  That is one of the fastest hustles I’ve ever seen Ellsbury make.  Ellsbury collided with Josh Bard.  Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger ruled that Ellsbury was safe, which gave us our first run of the game.  Ripperger thought that Bard dropped the ball because, when Bard was on the ground after the play, he didn’t see a ball in his glove.  He then realized that that was because, during the play, the ball had stayed in his bare hand.  The umpires then had a conference and ruled that Bard did not drop the ball, and Ellsbury was out, which ended the inning and did not give us our first run.  Tito came out to argue, was ejected, and then himself ejected Ripperger.  Tito was angry because he didn’t get an explanation from Ripperger.

We came back in the top of the sixth with two two-run homers.  Scutaro led off the inning with a triple, and then Ellsbury let loose on a sinker to right.  Good effort, Ichiro, but no chance you catch that.  Ellsbury is now the first in Boston with twenty homers and twenty steals in a single season since Nomar in ’97.  Crawford then flied out, Gonzalez singled, and Pedroia let loose on a fastball to right center field.  Huge swing.

Albers, Morales, and Aceves delivered a collectively scoreless performance.  But we lost, 5-4, because of that play.  That play would have given us an extra run.  That play would have tied the game at five.  Whether Bard dropped the ball or not at some point during the play, whether the umpire had it right the first time or the second time, nothing changes the fact that we lost.  We lost to the Mariners, plain and simple.  And had the initial ruling stood, we may still have lost, but we could have won.  That’s why it’s infuriating.  So I guess it really has nothing to do with the play; all I’m saying is that I’m just generally furious about losing to the Mariners of all teams, which is, of course, completely understandable.

Getty Images

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Wake got the start yesterday.  Lester’s going to pitch on regular rest on Tuesday so Beckett can throw a side session on Monday.  Curt Young insists there’s nothing wrong with him; apparently they just want to make sure he’s still feeling good.  I think that’s wise.  He’s getting older, and with the issues he’s had in the past, it’s good to just make sure everything’s still one hundred percent, especially since it won’t interfere with the rotation too much.

And Wake was on.  He had only pitched three and one-third innings this year.  Not only was it good to see him start again, but it was awesome to see him excel on the mound.  Not only was it awesome to see him excel on the mound, but it was phenomenal to see him excel on the mound opposite Felix Hernandez.  He’s a knuckleball pitcher.  He can not pitch for a season and come roaring back with huge success.  Or he could pitch every single game of every single season and totally tank his next time out.

He may have only lasted five and two-thirds innings, but he was great.  He gave up only one run on three hits while walking one and striking out four.  He threw seventy-six pitches, fifty-three for strikes.  So almost seventy percent of his total pitches were strikes.  That’s really high.  He threw about three fastballs, maybe one or two curveballs, and the rest were knuckleballs.  All of his non-knuckleball pitches were thrown for strikes.  His highest pitch total, twenty-four in the second, was flanked by his two lowest, eight in the first and nine in the second.  He even worked around Pedroia’s throwing error and Scutaro’s fielding error.

Meanwhile, our bats did what they could.  Ellsbury and Pedroia opened the third with back-to-back singles.  Then Gonzalez struck out swinging, and then Papi brought home both Ellsbury and Pedroia with a beautiful double off the Monster on a ninety-four-mile-per-hour fastball.  There was no way they weren’t scoring on that.

He opened the sixth with a strikeout (of Ichiro, no less) followed by a popout but was pulled after allowing a single.  He got a standing ovation, every bit of which he most definitely deserved.  And then Jenks came in, and suddenly we found ourselves preparing for a possible loss.  He allowed a single and a walk.  And then he allowed another walk.  Yes.  You read right.  He walked in a run, allowing his inherited runner to score.  And then he walked in another run.

After the game, he said that it was during this outing that he discovered that he had a mechanical flaw.  No; really? When the Seattle Mariners tied the game without batting in any runs, I hadn’t guessed.  (Note the copious sarcasm.)

He finished the inning by inducing a line-out.  Albers came on to pitch the seventh and eighth and was solid.  Paps was in and out after seven pitches in the ninth.

And then we were in the bottom of the ninth, tied at two.  And that was when the magic happened.  Drew grounded out to open the inning.  Then Lowrie hit what looked like a fly ball.  But Ichiro lost it in the sun, it rolled to the corner, and Lowrie didn’t even have to slide into third base to make it a triple.  Then Scutaro grounded out.

And then Carl Crawford stepped up to the plate, in every sense of the phrase.  You may have been thinking that the game was going into extra innings when he got up there, but if you were, you stopped that thought in a hurry.  He received three pitches in that at-bat.  All three were four-seam fastballs.  All three were ninety-one miles per hour.  The first one was a ball in the dirt.  The second one was a called strike.  The third one, a sinker, was a single that landed in center field.  Lowrie came around to score.  In a matter of seconds, we weren’t swept by the Seattle Mariners, courtesy of Carl Crawford.

I repeat: we won in walkoff fashion due to a hit by Carl Crawford! 3-2.  No extra innings necessary.  Papi and Gonzalez actually had a race to see who could get to Crawford first to congratulate him at first base.  Pedroia beat them both.  Then Papi joined in, followed by Gonzalez, followed by the entire team in one of those ridiculously awesome walkoff mobs.  You see the way Crawford’s teammates have been supporting him and sticking by him through this rough start to the season, and it makes you proud to be a fan of this team.  Needless to say, all of Red Sox Nation went wild.

There were only two multi-hit games in the lineup.  Pedroia and who but Carl Crawford, ladies and gentlemen, went two for four.  And that, folks, is why we signed him.  So here’s to you, Crawford.  Even if this isn’t your official corner-turning, thanks for the win, and we know you’ll come around.

A win is a good way to welcome May.  A new month, a new Crawford, a better Buchholz, an even better Lester, and a new, better position in the standings.  And the Angels are coming to town.  Let’s hope for a repeat performance.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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