Posts Tagged ‘Interleague’

If Justin Masterson sought revenge, he found it.  Yes, sir; he found it.  The final score was 11-0 and most definitely not in our favor.  Masterson, in a complete role reversal with Buchholz, pitched a two-hit, complete game shutout.  How’s that for revenge.

Trust me, though; that’s not the norm for him.  Theo got the better end of the deal in that trade.  He sure was nasty on the mound last night, but I think that has a whole lot to do with the fact that he played with this team and knows the core of this lineup very well.  Naturally he’ll pitch well against us.  But that wasn’t the norm for him.  This was just one game.  In this one game, he may have maintained velocity throughout, practiced speed and location variation, thrown sliders under the hands, handled the lefties, and turned on his sinker and two-seam.  But he by no means does any of that routinely.  He’s two and twelve since the trade.  He’s two and five on the season with a 4.74 ERA (lowered by last night’s performance from five and change), slightly higher than the league average and nowhere near the league leader.  His WHIP is 1.64.  Meanwhile, V-Mart is two points shy of batting .300, slightly lower than the league leader, with eight homers, twenty-nine runs, and thirty RBIs.  We may have lost last night, but I call that a good trade.

As far as the loss itself is concerned, you may think from the score that Buchholz had a complete fail.  That wasn’t the case.  Buchholz did not by any means have a complete fail.  Buchholz was mediocre – he had command issues early in the game – but he still, as a very good pitcher is wont to do, pitched well enough on his off night to win under other circumstances, like when the offense is actually productive.  He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs on three hits, walked four, and struck out one but took the loss.  He fired 109 pitches, twenty-seven of which came in the first.  He settled down after that, needing only seven pitches for the second, following that with ten to twenty pitches in each of his next four frames, and finishing with a game low of six in the seventh.

In his first four innings, only his fastball was working for strikes; he’d throw an offspeed but it would be down, the batter wouldn’t chase, and he’d have to go back to his fastball.  Seeing that his offspeed stuff just wasn’t happening, he relied on his fastball more and more, started missing location, and then came the walks.  He said after the game that, had he not walked anyone, the game might still be going on.  He’s probably right.  So his outing was unusual for him in that he spent the night as a fastball pitcher.  He did top out at ninety-five miles per hour, but his usual speed variation just wasn’t there.  He used roughly all parts of the strike zone when he did throw strikes, and he used all parts of the strike zone boundaries when he threw balls.

So last night was definitely not his best work, but if that’s what an off night for him looks like, I’ll most definitely take it.  That would be a pitcher’s best night on some other teams.  We just have higher standards in Boston.  But my point is that he wasn’t the one who dropped the ball.  The bullpen did.

Bonser gave up four runs on two hits and two walks without recording an out.  Nelson gave up a grand slam; four runs on five hits, three walks, and one swing.  Eight runs in a single inning.  It was awful.  I absolutely can not stand bullpen meltdowns.  If a starter melts down, it’s his own mess and his own responsibility.  If a bullpen melts down, it takes everything the starter and the offense has put together and squanders it.  It’s like taking something someone has worked on really hard and just throwing it away when they were counting on you to protect it.   Think about it.  The game could have been a respectable 3-0 loss.  But no.  For Bonser, that wasn’t the first step he wanted to take on his road back to the Majors after shoulder surgery.  He says his shoulder felt fine; he was just “over-amped.” Whatever it was, he was terrible.

The offense.  This is going to be easy.  Too easy.  V-Mart singled.  Drew singled.  Youk walked.  Hermida, in his return to the lineup, walked.  Done.  Nobody got past first base.

Also, some unfortunate slump updates.  So far Pedroia is 0 for 11 in the series, and he’s 17 for 101, an average of .168, in his last twenty-five games.  Papi is 1 for his last 23.  Neither one of these slumps is cause for concern.  Both are too good to remain in them long; that’s been proven.

Delcarmen is feeling better and ready to go.  Papelbon will remain unavailable until at least tomorrow.

Yesterday, the organization unveiled a bronze statue of The Teammates a few yards from the statue of Ted Williams.  The statue, sculpted by Antonio Tobias Mendez, is based on David Halberstam’s book of that title about the road trip that Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio took to visit Williams on his deathbed.  This is a great tribute to lifelong friendship between these guys but also to the Red Sox organization, an organization that breeds such friendship between all its players.  Nicely done.

It was good to see an old friend, but it wasn’t good to lose to an old friend.  Especially, as I said, via the infamous bullpen implosion.  That was not supposed to be part of the plan.  However, as always, we’ll bounce back.  Tonight we have Lester at Talbot to finish off this series and hopefully win it rather than split it, and on Friday we return to Interleague for series with the Phillies, D-Backs, Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants.  That’s plenty of games against National League teams, so plenty of opportunities for wins.  I’ll be taking a break of about ten days.  We’re in a great place right now.  Who knows? In ten days, we could find ourselves in first place!

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I repeat: wow.

My first claim of the day: Victor Martinez should never catch Daisuke Matsuzaka ever again.  Make like Matsuzaka is Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek is Doug Mirabelli, and put Jason Varitek in there every fifth day.  I think that at this point we have more than established the fact that the disparity between Dice-K’s performances with V-Mart behind the dish and with Tek behind the dish is occurring for a reason.  Dice-K’s performances with Tek behind the dish are vastly superior, and when I say vastly I mean vastly.  So that’s the end of it.  That’s your answer right there.

As for the game itself last night, one more time: wow.  That’s the only word I’ve got to describe what I saw last night.  That entire game was absolutely incredible.  I’m not even sure I actually believe what I saw with my own eyes.  That was the best I’ve seen Dice-K pitch, ever.  Really, I was speechless.

To put it simply, Dice-K had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  You know you thought he had it in the bag when he somehow grabbed Werth’s would-be line drive in the seventh.  Tek even said that that was the hardest-hit ball caught by a pitcher he’d ever seen, ever.  I’m not really sure how he was able to snare that.  That was pure intuition right there; he just put his glove it in exactly the right position and the ball found it.  You know you thought there was no way it wasn’t going down when Beltre dove to catch Ruiz’s would-be line drive and fired to first in time for the out and the double-up of Ibanez in the eighth.  Because you know that most no-hitters are accompanied by at least one amazing play in the field.

And you saw Lester and Buchholz sitting there and knowing exactly what was going on inside Dice-K”s head.  You saw them sitting with Lackey and Beckett and thinking about what they were thinking when they were that deep into this same thing.

Dice-K was four outs away.  Only for outs away from the mobbing by the teammates; the mad cheering by Red Sox Nation, Philadelphia Chapter; the turning of a corner; and the making of history.  Only for outs away.

But Juan Castro ruined everything and dashed all hopes and convictions when he blooped a single over the reaching glove of Marco Scutaro with only one out left in the eighth inning.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  I am convinced that Scutaro could’ve caught that.  Technically, by the rules of baseball, that can’t be considered an error, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it counts for the biggest unofficial error of his career.  He had that.  He just needed to time his leap better.  And we know that’s possible because several starters on our roster do it all the time like it’s a walk in the park (pun intended).  He needed to be maybe a foot more to the right and leap a few seconds later.  So, in short, yes, Marco Scutaro wrecked Dice-K’s no-hitter.

It was crushing.  It was absolutely crushing.  Dice-K has had his fair share of struggles, and with the entire country of Japan watching, it would’ve been magical to see him accomplish that feat.  It also would’ve been a great morale booster for the entire team; we’ve seen what no-hitters can do.  They put life in a team that’s just witnessed, like I said, the magic and the history of it all.  Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball, he needed that no-hitter.  Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, we needed that no-hitter.

Sadly, and that’s the understatement of the century, it was not to be.  Crushing.

But all you can do is move on.  And that’s exactly what Dice-K did, and what impressed me immensely.  We know from personal experience that, after a pitcher gives up a no-no bid, they have the tendency to unravel completely; that’s when the opposing offense attacks and that’s when you might lose everything.  Dice-K ensured that that didn’t happen as simply and easily as getting Gload to fly out to right field.  But that says a lot about his composure on the mound.  If Dice-K can turn it around permanently, he’d have the potential to be an ideal pitcher for the postseason, where every pitch counts and you can’t afford to get skittish after one mistake.

It was kind of strange as no-no bids go because it was low on strikeouts and comparatively high on pitches.  He struck out only five, two looking, with a very even strike zone and threw 112 pitches, which again was more than Lester needed to get through an entire game.  But even during his best starts during stretches of brilliance, he’d pull this Houdini act and use this uncanny ability of his to remain perfectly calm with runners on base and get himself out of all kinds of jams that he’d personally cause.  Yet another fine quality of a postseason pitcher.  So historically we know that he’s not exactly the epitome of efficiency, but we also know from his career in Japan that throwing large amounts of pitches doesn’t scare him.  He doesn’t mind it.  And if it works, it works.

His mix of pitches was exquisite.  He threw mostly four-seams, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  He threw his two-seam at ninety-five.  He located his slider and curveball perfectly and mixed in some cutters and changeups at exactly the right moments.  His fastball, slider, and changeup were the best I’d ever seen them.  All of them had movement, and all of them had life.  A no-hitter is all about being crafty and keeping the lineup guessing.  That’s hard to do the third or fourth time around, but he did it, and it’s no small feat, especially against, as I said, an opponent like Philly.

He needed a game low of eight pitches to clear an inning, and used as few twice, in the sixth and seventh.  He needed nineteen pitches to clear the eighth.  There’s been a general trend in his starts of improving as the game goes on.  And yet another reason why he’d pitch well in the postseason.  The whole outing was just a huge begging of the question of, “What if?”

Bard cleaned up the ninth.  Together they one-hit the Phillies through nine.

The final score was 5-0.  Papi scored on Hermida’s sac fly in the fourth, hustling hard to beat the tag by Ruiz at the plate.  Scutaro opened the fifth with a double, and Dice-K bunted him to third.  Ellsbury walked.  Drew singled in Scutaro, Papi doubled in Ellsbury, and Beltre doubled in Drew and Papi.  Drew and Beltre both went two for four.  Ellsbury started in center, which was a sight for sore eyes, and Papi started at first.

Ultimately, we just have to focus on the win.  We set out to win, and we won.  We won our way, with run prevention.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  But a win is most definitely better than nothing; we need all the wins we can get.  On the other hand, we also need all the magic we can get.  But there are yet many games to be played.  Starting this afternoon with Wake taking on Halladay.

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Last night was yet another off night for Lackey.  He’s turning out to be a substantial disappointment.  I was ready for him to come in here and take the AL East and pretty much everyone else by storm.  That hasn’t happened.  At all.  His ERA is a mediocre 5.07 and his WHIP is a shabby 1.56.  His OPP AVG is a high .284.  Last night’s loss moves his record to four and three.  Not a good direction for him to be moving in.  Although I would like to point out that I don’t think this will continue beyond this year.  We’ve seen this before, especially with pitchers; a lot of guys just don’t do that well in their first year with us, but they pick it up during their sophomore season in a Boston uniform.  Boston is a tough place to play, but the reasons why it’s a tough place to play are reasons why Lackey will thrive year long term.  The key, of course, is being able to wait.  Right now, we just don’t have time to do that.

The final score was 5-1.  Four of those runs were allowed on Lackey’s watch.  He only lasted five innings, during which he allowed six hits, two of which were dingers, and five walks.  He struck out three.  He fired 107 pitches.

That means several things.  First of all, it means that his efficiency was nonexistent.  It actually just didn’t exist.  He didn’t have any.  Lester threw less pitches over a complete game than Lackey did in half a game.  Secondly, his command was nonexistent.  He issued an average of one walk in each of his innings.  Most of his pitches were curveballs, four-seams, and two-seams and they weren’t effective.  He didn’t vary his speeds much, either.  His two best pitches were his cutter and his slider, and he didn’t throw either of them very often.  He only threw one changeup, and that was for a ball.  He threw at least nineteen pitches in all five of his innings with a game high of thirty-two in the fourth.  Most of his pitches were thrown to the left half of the strike zone and beyond.  He threw so many pitches to the left and bottom of the zone that those areas may as well have been part of the zone for all Lackey cared.  He had a steady trend of speed increasing with vertical movement, and many of the pitches he threw had some good vertical movement on them, but if they end up being balls, that really doesn’t help anybody.  So between a lack of efficiency and lack of command, Lackey is really living up to his last name.

The offense didn’t do much to help things out.  V-Mart slammed a fantastic homer in the first and went two for four.  We can at least take heart in the fact that his bat seems to finally be heating up.  Beltre doubled.  That was it.  We left six on base, which seems better than Philly’s nine, except for the fact that they got nine hits and we only got four.  Yeah.  It hurt.

Papi got benched, as I suspected he would be.  Youk doesn’t need to play third this season because Lowell is waiting in the wings as a backup anyway.  Besides, Hamels is a lefty, and there’s no need to put Papi at risk of injury by making him play a position in a National League park.  So there you go.

Drew made a fantastic catch in the eight, jumping at the warning track to snag what easily could’ve been at least a double, more probably a triple.

And of course there’s also the sting of opening Interleague with a loss.  I don’t like losing to National League teams.  With Philly, we may have a plausible excuse in the fact that some of their players are products of the American League and are therefore more respectable victors, but still.  I don’t like losing to the National League.

Make no mistake: we’ve got a long way to go.  The season may be only one-fourth over, but yes, I am talking about the playoffs.  It’s never too early to talk about the playoffs, especially with a record like ours.  We can still make it.  There’s no doubt about it.  But it’s going to take some heroics, some theatrics, and some serious stepping up to the plate of, well, everybody.  Thankfully, we’re above .500 right now, but barely.  We’re at .512.  So that’s a start.  But we need to build on it.  In our entire history, and this is a ballclub with a lot of history, we’ve only been below .500 this late in the season and still gone to the playoffs twice.  Both were legendary seasons: the Impossible Dream and Morgan Magic.  That’s it.  Lately, the future of the 2010 Red Sox has looked brighter and brighter by the day, but we need to sustain that trend.

Dice-K is starting tonight with Wake tomorrow.  Pitchers are very black and white; they can be one of two things: on or off.  If they’re on and the offense pulls its weight, chances are you’ll walk away with a W.  If they’re off, it doesn’t matter whether the offense pulls its weight; you’ll be saddled with the L.  So hopefully they’ll both be on and the offense will do some damage and we can keep winning ballgames and vault ourselves over .500 for good.  We’re adding a spark to the lineup tonight: Jacoby Ellsbury returns!

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Last night’s game was full of wow.  It was full of pop.  Literally and figuratively.  The Tigers were hot heading in, but we know how to put an opposing team in its place.  And by we, I of course mean the one and only Big Papi.

It was awesome.  We had Scherzer’s number the whole time.  Scutaro led off the game with a single and Pedroia clobbered a ball on a full count over the left-field wall.  His eighth long ball of the season on a fastball middle-in.  Obviously.  Boesch clearly did not see that coming.  Then, V-Mart grounded out, Youk worked around two strikes to get a base on balls, Drew singled to the opposite field, and Papi stepped up to the plate and just unloaded on an unsuspecting 3-1 fastball down and in.  That’s the longest home run Jerry Remy has ever seen in Comerica Park.  That’s the longest home run I have ever seen in Comerica Park.  That ball sailed 450 feet to land in a part of the park where few balls have ever been hit.  Thus, we exited the top of the first after forty-one pitches with a five-zip lead.

But Papi wouldn’t be done yet.  He unloaded for a solo shot to lead off the fourth, his sixth of the season.  That one was just a straight line, also to right field, also on an inside fastball, four hundred feet of pure power.  Between those two swings, he covered a distance of 850 feet.  Last night was the thirty-sixth multi-homer game of his career, the thirty-fourth of his career in Boston.  To put that in perspective, he’s now third on our all-time list, behind Ted Williams with thirty-seven and Jim Rice with thirty-five.  That’s some heady company right there.

To review: Papi entered the month batting .143 with one home run.  He’s since had four multi-hit games; many well-timed, efficient, extended driving swings against righties; and a batting average now up to .213.  Wow.  Seriously.  You want pop.  That’s some serious pop right there.  Not to mention some serious “How do you like me now” for his critics.  That’s what the great David Ortiz getting locked in looks like.

Not wanting to spoil the party, Hall hit a solo shot of his own in the top of the ninth, his second pinch-hit homer of the season.

Of course, we can’t forget our pitchers.  Buchholz delivered a half-shaky, half-solid, and slightly short performance.  He pitched six innings plus one out, gave up a run on three hits, walked five (two of which occurred in the seventh before Bard relieved him), and struck out three.  After firing 111 pitches, he got the win.  But it didn’t look that way at first.  He needed twenty-eight pitches to clear the first inning, finally retiring Inge with two on and two out, but not before Boesch recorded an RBI.  His changeup was excellent, but his fastball, slider, and curveball weren’t as sharp as they usually are.  His command was nowhere to be found; his strike zone was all over the place.  He threw behind Sizemore, almost hit Laird four pitches later, and walked Santiago with two out in the second.  By the third inning, he was back to being an off-speed master, recording nine outs in a row from the end of the third.

Bard’s first pitch hit Santiago to load the bases.  Luckily, he followed that with a strikeout and a groundout.  Okajima pitched well.  Overall, our pitching held its own; it was only the second game during which the Tigers didn’t record at least one extra-based hit.

Congratulations to Dice-K, the Amica Pitcher of the Week for his stellar start.

Last night’s game was excellent, a final score of 7-2, with all seven of our runs coming via the long ball.  We cooled off a hot opponent and utilized all facets of our game.  But last night’s game marks the embarkation on one of our most grueling stretch of games this season.  Barring last night’s performance, the Tigers are hot, having just beat New York in three of four games and boasting a record of twelve and five at home.  Next, it’s New York in the Bronx; enough said.  After that, we go home to face the Twins for two; their record is twenty-two and thirteen.  Following that, we’re off to Philly for some Interleague play against the twice-defending National League championship.  Lastly, we play the league-leading Rays for three.  Three of these five teams lead their divisions, and we have to play all of them without a day off.

Make no mistake; this schedule is a necessary evil that we need to grin and bear.  It’s going to be tough to get through, but we’ll be all the better for it when it’s over.  It’ll separate the men from the boys; it’ll determine who plays under which circumstances and who doesn’t; it’ll establish who’s hot and who’s not; it’ll reaffirm who we can depend on in certain situations and who we can’t.  We’re certainly heading into it the right way between last night’s win and the recent lack of focus on us from the media, who’ve been busy with the B’s and C’s.  Of course, that’s about to change, especially when we get to the Bronx, but I think it’s been a good respite from the media during which we’ve been able to relax and play good ball.

All of which is to say that Lester is starting opposite Dontrelle Willis tonight and I sure hope Lester brings it.

Well, that’s it.  The end of the line.  The season is over.  4-3, Flyers.  Depending on how you look at it, it didn’t end well.  If you look at the playoffs overall, we technically have nothing whatsoever to complain about.  We played better during these spring games than we did all season long, and if the regular season was any indication of our future performance, we should never have made it as far as we did.  But we did.  So that’s the silver lining.  The really, really ugly part is the short-term.  Last night’s game was one of the sloppiest goalie performances I’ve ever seen.  Not only was it eerily reminiscent of last year’s Game Seven collapse to the Canes, but we dropped two three-nothing leads: one in the series and one in the game itself.  The Flyers are now the third team in league history to come back from that series hole.  As if it couldn’t possibly be worse, the game winner was scored when the Flyers were on a power play due to too many men, which was the same penalty that cost us a man when we lost the Stanley Cup in 1979.  I hate to say this, but over the past few years the Bruins have reminded me of the Red Sox, pre-2004: awful in some years, brilliant in other years, always finding a way to make it to the playoffs, always looking like they’ll actually take it all this year, always falling just short.  To say that last night’s game was disappointing would be to make a huge understatement.  I guess there’s nothing we can do now but look forward to next year.  That’s what gets us through it.  So here’s to going all the way next season.  I mean, we gotta believe, right?

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Toronto is shaping up to be a sight for sore bats, as it were.  Score one, or should I say seven, for sustaining momentum.  It was the offense that carried the night, but barely so, which is right in line with the idea that starting pitching has the ability to make or break us.

Lackey got the win, but he didn’t do so well.  He gave up six runs on eight hits in six innings, the most runs since relinquishing eight to the Rays on April 19 and his shortest start since that contest, when left after three and a third.  He walked three and struck out six, which ties his season high.  He threw ninety-five pitches.  So basically he was bad.  All of his off-speeds were excellent, including his cutter, which he threw about as often as he threw his four-seam.  His strike zone was messy, as is wont to be the case when he delivers a mediocre performance, and his only easy inning was the sixth, when he threw seven pitches, all of which were strikes.  His pitch count in every other inning was above ten.  He threw thirty-three in the second, which was largely responsible for his early exit in terms of pitch count.  Of course, it was also just a bad inning; he allowed six consecutive baserunners on the paths on four hits and two walks; the Jays sent nine batters up.  In the fifth, he gave up a two-run shot to Bautista.  Thankfully, that was all.

All in all, that’s all I’ve got.  It was just a mediocre performance.  Not good but not especially horrific.  And you can take that as an indication of the fact that we’ve seen some horrific starts, so we know what they look like, and this was not one of them, which speaks to its own issue but that’s a different story.  He had good movement on all of his pitches, but then he always does.  The fact that he can maintain that movement even when he’s off is part of what makes him the good pitcher he is.  But all I’m saying is that he may have gotten the win, but his loss column would’ve gotten a lot more attention had the offense not picked him up.

And by offense, I of course include Jays pitching.  After all, we must give credit where credit is due.  The first two innings of the game alone lasted for more than an hour, but if there was one person in Fenway Park who wasn’t about to complain, it was John Lackey.

In the first, V-Mart singled in Scutaro and Pedroia, but most of the action happened in the second.  Beating the Jays at their own game, both literally and figuratively, we came up ten times and scored four runs on only one hit but six walks.  Morrow was out before the inning was over.  Roenicke came on in relief and proceeded to walk Beltre on four pitches.  That’s what I call a lack of command.  Six walks.  For all you Moneyball fans out there, this proves Michael Lewis’s point, no? Six walks in a single inning.  How ‘bout that.

As for the scoring plays themselves, Hermida scored on a bases-loaded walk to Perdroia.  Van Every scored when V-Mart grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Scutaro scored on Hill’s fielding error.  Papi singled in V-Mart.  Pedroia singled in Van Every in the third.

Scutaro walked twice.  Pedroia went two for four with a double and a walk.  Youk walked.  Beltre walked.  Hermida walked.  Van Every, of course, walked, and he made a spectacular catch, nabbing Buck’s foul popup literally against the wall in shallow right.  He was in because Drew was out with vertigo.

Okajima, Bard, and Papelbon combined for three hitless innings.  They threw seven, fourteen, and thirteen pitches, respectively, to finish their innings.  Yes, Okajima threw only seven pitches.  Seven for three groundouts.  It was a gem of an appearance, really.  Probably his best inning all season.  Reminded me of how lights-out he was in 2007, actually.  Bard faced four batters (he walked one).  Paps struck out leadoff man Lewis en route to a one-two-three ninth.  He’s converted all of his save opportunities so far this year.

Also of note: Gonzalez’s fly off the Monster in the second was at first ruled a double.  Then it was reviewed, the first time that’s happened this season.  The call still stood, though, so it was pretty anticlimactic as play reviews go.

We continue to be undefeated against the Jays.  The final score was 7-6; we won three of those four games by one run, the other by two.  Dice-K is starting tomorrow, so I’m hoping he can rise to the occasion and allow us to continue that trend.  After that, Wake is returning to the rotation for a start opposite Marcum.  Apparently, this would’ve been the case anyway because Tito intended to rest Beckett no matter what, but it just so happens that this becomes oh so convenient due to the fact that Beckett tweaked his back while taking cuts in preparation for Interleague.  And thus, the age-old debate surfaces yet again.  I love Interleague because it’s an easy boost through the standings, but I don’t want my pitchers using muscles they didn’t even know they had and getting hurt in the process.  We’ll just have to hope for the best, I guess.

The Bruins tanked absolutely, getting shut out by and losing by four to the Flyers.  Next game on Wednesday.  We’ve come this far; let’s go farther.

Providence Journal

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Congratulations to Joe Mauer on winning the American League’s MVP award.  Youk and Bay didn’t fair too badly, taking sixth and seventh respectively, but they didn’t have the .365 average with the twenty-eight home runs and ninety-six RBIs to go with the starting catcher position.  Mauer took all but one first-place votes and was only the second catcher to win it in thirty-three years.  (It’s no secret that catchers usually can’t hit.  Which explains why Victor Martinez is next season’s top priority.) And those numbers also earned him the Ted Williams Award, given to baseball’s leading hitter.  And of course who but Albert Pujols won it for the National League.  Obviously.

Jonathan Papelbon was the club’s Fireman of the Year.  Daniel Bard was the club’s Rookie of the Year.  Nick Green won the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination, and let me tell you something: any shortstop who goes from non-roster invitee to four-month starter has no shortage of spirit and determination.

As far as the stove is concerned, it’s still not too hot.  We acquired Royals infielder Tug Hulett for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays for about three million dollars, with a club option for two and a half million.  Now that he’s unfortunately out of the picture, we’re showing interest in Marco Scutaro, who says it’s either us or the Dodgers.  We’re also shopping Mike Lowell.  Surprise, surprise.  Even if we do end up shipping him off, it won’t even be a fair deal, because the recipient club would be getting a top-notch, albeit health-wise unpredictable, third baseman for fifty percent off, because we’d have to swallow at least that much of his salary to make him palatable.  It’s really just sad.  He had a phenomenal season (and postseason) in 2007 and amble moments of brilliance in 2008, especially in the ALDS.  But he is getting older, and that was in California where the weather is warmer, so perhaps a team from a city with a warmer climate would be a better fit for him.

But a few big names have surfaced.  The Tigers are apparently interested in trading Miguel Cabrera (with Detroit’s financial situation, who wouldn’t be?), and we’ll probably get first dibs.  Also, it’s official: we are going for Roy Halladay and going big.  The problem is that, to close both of these deals, we’ll almost certainly have to part with Clay Buchholz.  We’d also have to part with Casey Kelly, at least, to land Halladay.  And after the performance Clay Buchholz gave in Game Three of the ALDS (walking into an elimination game as a young pitcher with no postseason experience after having seen the lineup put up zero run support), I don’t know how comfortable I would be with giving him up.  I think we owe it to him, the organization, and ourselves to see more of what he’s got before we decide that he is not, in fact, one of the greats in the making.  But the plot thickens: Halladay said he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to the Bronx.  I’m not saying we should engage in prevention via irresponsible acquisition, but I am saying that we need to weigh our actions very carefully.  Especially since Halladay is getting older.  That’s something that seems to be lost amidst the sensation of it all.  The man is not immortal.  He ages.  And while he ages, his abilities will decline.  And right now, he’s at a point in his career where we can expect his next four or five years to be considerably different from his last four or five.

Turns out that Ron Johnson is not our new bench coach.  DeMarlo Hale is.  Ron Johnson joined the Major League staff to coach at first in replacement of Hale.  I have to say I feel more comfortable with Hale as bench coach than I did when I thought Johnson would be doing it.  Not that I don’t think Johnson would be a good bench coach, but if we’re talking about the importance of knowing the players and the franchise inside-out, Hale, who’s been coaching first base for a while now, clearly has the edge there.

At the end of my recent posts, I’ve usually said something like, “All we can do now is wait and see.” I say that because it’s true.  But it’s also true that the suspense is killing me.  I keep getting this feeling that the offseason won’t come to a close until Theo Epstein does something big, but I can’t figure out what that’ll be.  A trade? A signing? Another starting pitcher? A new power hitter? It’s too hard and too early to tell.  But one thing’s for sure: something’s definitely brewing.  The front office has something up its sleeve.  The foundations have been laid for some sort of shake-up, even if we can’t quite figure out what it’ll be.

But before we conclude, I would like to report that Bud Selig will be retiring after the 2012 season.  It’s been one interesting ride.  He was named acting commissioner in 1992 and official commissioner in 1998, and since then we’ve seen a growth in the baseball market, an expansion of the postseason via the Wild Card, the introduction of revenue sharing, Interleague, a players’ strike, the first World Series cancellation since 1904 (ten years shy of a century), and the steroid era.  There was good, there was bad, and there was most definitely ugly.  What do we need in a successor? That’s an extremely open-ended question, but whoever it is will be charged with the difficult task of cleaning up baseball’s public image.  So much controversy occurred during Selig’s tenure that MLB will probably look to someone with a hard-line streak, someone who can keep the sport in line while still bringing revenue in.  We’ll see what happens.

The B’s beat the Blues, Wild, and Sens and lost to the Devils in sudden death.  The Pats beat the Jets.

AP Photo

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Dice-K has been awful this season.  To put it bluntly, every single one of his outings was an epic fail.  It was like watching a wreck, rewinding it, and replaying it over and over and over again.  Everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did.  It was absolutely downright horrible.  Two DL stints later, Dice-K was down in Florida catching up on all the Spring Training he missed while winning MVP in the World Baseball Classic, but it took three times as long because of all the fatigue that had accumulated in his shoulder.  After he graduated from that, he went down to the farms and had some good and bad outings.  The whole thing was pretty much a mixed bag, so when we found out that Dice-K was returning to the Major League rotation, we didn’t know what we were going to get.

Hold on to your hats, was my advice.  Be prepared to be blown away, or be prepared to turn them inside-out because we may be in desperate need of a rally.  But his first Major League start after his epic fail of an eight-start first half wouldn’t be about just one game.  It would be about his entire 2009 season.  To properly vindicate himself, he would need one seriously dominant, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners outing.  An outing that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is back and back with a vengeance.  An outing that effectively proved that he went down to Florida, was a good soldier and trained properly, and is now the better for it.

Last night’s outing exceeded all expectations of whatever outstanding outing you could possibly imagine.  He pitched six impeccable shutout innings.  Three hits, three walks, and five strikeouts, including some very nice no-hit, one-two-three innings.  And all of it on ninety-three pitches, more than half of which were four-seams, and let me tell you: his fastball was on.  He added some sliders and cutters as well as other off-speeds to keep them guessing and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour and going down to about eighty.  His command was sound and he went after the hitters.  Given the circumstances in which this outing took place, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to complain about.

Especially since Dice-K started against the Angels.  That’s a very important detail.  We’ll probably face the Angels in the ALDS.  We have facts on our side, namely the fact that the Angels can’t do anything against us in the ALDS, but it’s good to know that that’s still true.  Dice-K made a very strong case for his ability to sustain that tradition.  Not to mention the fact that this lightens the pressure on the staff considerably, now that there’s another starter in the mix.  Wakefield can relax a bit and let his back heal properly.

But for these same reasons, Dice-K’s next start may be even more important than this one, so he isn’t out of the woods yet.  For now, though, Red Sox Nation and I can let out a huge collective sigh of relief.

The final score was 4-1.  The relief corps was solid through Ramirez, Wagner, and Bard, who each got holds, but it hit a stumbling block when we got to Papelbon.  Only six of his twenty pitches weren’t strikes, but two hits and one run later, Dice-K’s shutout was ruined.  Again, not good.

Of course, you can’t win without offense.  Only three of the four runs were earned, but we can thank Bay and Ortiz for those.  And while we thank Ortiz, we can give him a standing ovation as well.  His two-run moon shot with two out in the eighth was his twenty-fourth of the season and the 270th of his career as a DH.  With that homer, he officially passed Frank Thomas in the record books.  David Ortiz has officially hit more home runs in his career than any other designated hitter in the history of the sport.  Congratulations! And the best part is that he’s not even finished.

Ellsbury went two for four and was caught stealing.  Ortiz finished two for four.  Drew tripled.

Youk was out of the lineup with lower back spasms that aren’t too serious.  V-Mart will be in Cleveland probably until tomorrow taking care of some personal matters, but he probably wouldn’t have played anyway after that collision with Gabe Gross at the plate.  Next season’s schedule has been released, and we’re opening and closing by hosting the Yanks at Fenway.  Excellent.  We start off by showing them who’s boss and end by reminding them in case they forgot.  We’re facing some of the National League’s elite during Interleague, which still shouldn’t be a problem because it’s still the National League.  I’m just not happy about the fact that we’re only at home for nine games in July next year.  That’ll be a challenge.

John Lackey really challenged us, I’ll admit.  Most of the game was a very close pitcher’s duel, and for a while the only difference between Lackey and Dice-K was a pair of hits Lackey allowed while Dice-K still hadn’t allowed any.  It was a great contest.  Anytime you see good pitchers get crafty and try to best each other in a battle of wits, so to speak, you witness not just the science but also the art of the game, and those are special.  The important thing is that Dice-K had himself a phenomenal outing; technically, the win was just icing on the cake.  But I’ll take it.  Believe me, I’ll take it.  Especially against the Angels less than a month away from October.  We were in good shape all along, but if Dice-K holds it together, things look even more promising.  Tonight it’s Joe Saunders at Paul Byrd.  That, I’m not so sure about.

In other news, the Patriots had themselves quite the comeback against the Bills on Monday, winning 25-24.  Obviously that probably wasn’t exactly what Tom Brady or Bill Belichick had in mind, but winning is never a bad way to start the season.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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