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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Kubel’

Dice-K gave up three runs in the first inning, and I’m thinking that making this start on eight days’ rest wasn’t such a good idea; maybe he needed more, maybe he needed less, but the eight days’ rest probably did something because he was as unpredictable as ever.  He threw thirty-four pitches in that first inning alone.  That’s unheard of, and it could have been a really bad situation.  Wake and Aceves weren’t available, and Lackey was seen in the bullpen.  That would have been disastrous for our rotation.

When the Twins went down in order in the top of the second and we scored our first run in the bottom – Youk doubled and scored on Drew’s groundout – I started to remember that, lately, it’s been possible to relax when Dice-K is on the mound.

When we put up a four-spot in the third, that’s when things really started to be fun.  Crawford led off the inning with a triple, his first of the season, and scored on Tek’s groundout.  Ellsbury then singled and stole second, and Pedroia walked.  Ellsbury scored on Gonzalez’s single.  Pedroia scored when Youk grounded into a force out.  And Youk scored on a single by Drew.  Drew was the sixth consecutive batter in that sequence to reach base safely.

Danny Valencia led off the fourth with a home run that bounced off the Fisk Pole and stood through review, and I’m thinking this better not be the start of something bad.  Naturally, I wasn’t pleased when Michael Cuddyer threw Ellsbury out at second in the bottom of the inning.  Thankfully, Gonzalez decided to celebrate his twenty-ninth birthday with a solo shot of his own in the fifth, which he also hit on the second pitch of his at-bat, a sinker down and away.  He just sent that ball to the Monster like it was no big deal.  Youk and Papi followed that with two consecutive singles; Youk scored on a groundout by Drew thanks to a throwing error.

Dice-K’s final line was six innings, four runs on five hits, one home run, two walks, and four strikeouts.  He threw 102 pitches, sixty-two of which were strikes.  All of his pitches were excellent except his slider, of which he maybe threw one all night, and his curveball and cutter, which weren’t as effective as some of his other pitches.  Really, it was that first inning that did him in.  He probably would have stayed in the game longer had he not thrown at least two innings’ worth of pitches in that single frame.  He seemed healthy and picked up the win.  Albers came on.

By the time Jason Kubel singled in a run in the eighth, Lowrie had doubled in two more in the previous inning.  Bard closed out the ninth, and the final score was 9-5.  We won, obviously.

Ellsbury and Gonzalez both went three for five; Ellsbury has a seventeen-game hitting streak, and Gonzalez has hit safely in fourteen of his last fifteen games.  Youk and Papi went two for four.

When this series ends after our game tomorrow, our longest homestand of the year will have ended.  Currently we’re five and five during the homestand; I want a winning record.  Let’s head out on a high note.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene
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Another long game.  Another rain delay.  But this time, we had some good results.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to deal with a rain delay after you win.

In retrospect, one of the reasons why I was annoyed with the rain delay (besides the obvious fact that rain delays are just annoying) was that it resulted in the early pulling of Buchholz, who was right in the middle of his best start of the season. Easily his best outing of the year, and I really would have wanted to see how long that would have lasted and how deep he would have gone.

With the rain, he only lasted five innings; the delay started after he had finished the second inning.  To that point, he had fired only twenty-nine pitches.  But since Wake and Aceves were unavailable, we were largely without a long reliever, and we needed him to get back out there and pitch for as long as he was able to pitch.  That’s not something we usually do.  It’s bad for a starting pitcher’s routine to randomly take a break of sorts for multiple hours in the middle of a game.  Sometimes pitchers aren’t the same after even one particularly long inning.  So they sent him down to the cage every fifteen minutes to toss for a few minutes, put the jacket on, walk around, take the jacket off, toss some more.  He warmed up a bit a few minutes before the tarp was good and said he felt decent.  We knew we’d have to pull him out early, but the whole move was largely okay because he’ll have an extra day of rest going into his next start.  We put him in because we had no one else, and we needed him to deliver.  And that’s exactly what he did.

He didn’t just pitch; he pitched well.  Those were five sparkling innings of shutout two-hit ball.  He walked only one and struck out six.  He ended the first inning with a four-pitch called strikeout, putting Jason Kubel away with a two-seam.  He used a four-seam to end another four-pitch strikeout in the following inning and followed that with another strikeout on a changeup.  His third and fourth innings, the two following the rain delay, were excellent.  He threw eight pitches in the third and nine in the fourth.  He opened the third by striking out Luke Hughes on three pitches, ending with a swing and a miss on a changeup.  He struck out Kubel again in the fourth with a foul tip on a changeup.  The fifth was Buchholz’s only one-two-three inning; the Twins went down in order, starting with Rene Tosoni striking out looking on a four-seam.

He threw sixty-one pitches, forty-four for strikes.  He used a potent mix of four-seams, two-seams, changeups, curveballs, and cutters, all of which were working.  He threw any one of those pitches in any count for a strike.  That is not something we’ve seen from him yet this year.  He worked his four-seam up to ninety-five miles per hour.  He picked up a well-deserved win.  Say hello to the better Buchholz.

After Buchholz was pulled, we had quite the string of relievers.  Hill, Albers, and Bard each pitched an inning and each received a hold.  Hill walked his first batter and hit his next one but got out of it with a double play.  Albers allowed a leadoff single.  But they each preserved the shutout.  Bard pitched a one-two-three inning and was in and out after fourteen pitches.  Paps came on to pitch the ninth and mowed right through it.  He did not receive a save because it wasn’t a save opportunity.

Ellsbury led off the first with a double on a sinker, the second pitch of his at-bat.  Then Pedroia walked.  Then Gonzalez and Youk provided two outs before Lowrie singled Ellsbury home.  Pedroia, whose struggles at the plate continue, led off the third with a groundout.  Then Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double and scored on a single by Youk.  We didn’t score again until the eighth, when Salty and Crawford, who both singled and advanced a base thanks to a walk by Drew, came home on a single by Ellsbury.

Lowrie made yet another fielding error, we only had two extra-base hits, we left ten men on base, and we went three for eleven with runners in scoring position.  But we had three multi-hit games (Youk and Crawford both went two for four; Ellsbury went two for five), two stolen bases (Pedroia and Ellsbury ran together on a double steal), and we won, 4-0! It was a masterfully executed victory all around.  We beat the Twins; order has been restored.  Like I said, Buchholz especially deserves that W.  He battled it out and preserved the bullpen, all while making it look easy.  Now let’s go win this series.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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We won.  Plain and simple.  The final score was 3-2, and we can thank Buchholz, Papi, and Hall for that.

Clay Buchholz pitched a wicked outing last night.  He is the future of this staff.  He’s morphing into an ace right before our eyes.  It’s fantastic.  He pitched over eight innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and only one free pass while striking out seven.  Morneau and Cuddyer were back-to-back strikeouts, Cuddyer swinging on a changeup.  Hudson froze on the inside corner, as did Morneau on an inside fastball before getting heated with the umpire.  Thome struck out swinging on a ball that was down for the first out of the inning, and Kubel watched a slider go by for Buchholz’s second set of back-to-backs.  Thome also watched a slider for Buchholz’s seventh K, three shy of his season-high of ten against the Rangers.  And he needed only 104 pitches to do it.  He would’ve pitched a complete game, his first since his no-no, but Tito lifted him after he allowed a leadoff infield hit to Span.  I support that decision; the game was close, and you don’t want to take chances with victory in sight.

Every single one of his pitches except his curveball was effective.  And I mean really effective.  All of them were moving just the right way.  That in itself shows a lot of maturity; he usually throws more curveballs but saw that they weren’t working, so he threw more sliders instead.  That’s adaptability, and it something you don’t always see in the veterans.  Buchholz is a pitcher to marvel at when he’s on; it takes a special kind of kid to be that good at throwing mainly off-speeds.  There are veterans who can’t even do that.  He concentrated on the left portion of the strike zone.  The few balls he did throw were above but mostly below the zone, probably off-speeds that curved down a little too much.  He varied his speeds really nicely, throwing his fastball for gas at ninety-five miles per hour, and kept the batters guessing, as evidenced by the fact that, of all the strikes he threw, only seven were swinging.  An expertly mixed salad, as Eck would say.  He needed a game-low of nine pitches to clear the seventh and a game-high of seventeen-to clear the fourth.  He threw a majority of strikes in all of his innings.  The interesting thing is that his release point isn’t as tight as others we’ve seen from the staff, but I guess that comes with the territory when you throw off-speed pitches that require varying grips and angles.

His ERA is now down to 3.26, his five wins are the most on the staff, and his eleven wins since August 19 are the most by any pitcher in the American League.  In those eleven games, we’re fourteen and four.  And all of that after having landed in Boston from New York at 4:00AM.  It’s no coincidence that Buchholz was the only member of the team that slept well, having flown ahead on Tuesday.  All of which is to say that I would not be surprised if he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this year.  It was really an incredible outing.  Solid, confident, efficient.  Everything you look for from a pitcher against a quality lineup, and here was this kid who just marched in there and shut them down.  There was also that nifty pickoff move to get Punto out at first to end the third.  And he’s a righty, too.  Punto knew he was out; he smiled because he knew he’d gone too far off.  Awesome stuff.

Paps, as we know, was unavailable after the set with New York, so Bard came on and pitched around a hit and a walk to get the save.

In the fourth, Papi hit what was initially called an RBI triple just over the Monster.  But after review, which occurred for the second time this season, it was ruled a home run, Papi’s seventh of the month.  Why it wasn’t ruled a home run initially is something I’ll never know, because it was very clearly out.  He did a good job of hustling to third once he realized they didn’t call it out, for which I give him credit.  But the ball bounced up into the air after it hit the wall.  That meant it didn’t actually hit the wall; it hit above the wall, which is dinger territory.  It was that ledge up there.  Thankfully, they ultimately got the call right.  It was a nice, balanced swing that propelled the ball to the opposite field, which has been a theme this month.  He’s hit .405 over his past eleven games and .358 with seventeen RBIs in May.

Hall tacked on our third run with a single in the sixth.  That ended up being the winning run after Bard allowed his inherited runner to score in the top of the ninth.

V-Mart and Beltre both went two for four.  Hermida made a fielding error.  We left eight on base, as compared with Minnesota’s four, but we also collected ten hits, as compared with Minnesota’s six.  Basically, we missed more opportunities than they did because we had more opportunities than they did.

Surprise, surprise: Beckett’s been placed on the DL with a lower back strain; he slipped on the mound in the fifth while throwing to A-Rod on Tuesday.  He’ll be out of commission until June 3 but will probably be able to solidly return at that time, being that putting him on the DL at all as opposed to letting him skip a start again was being generous.  Wakefield will start Sunday.  See? I knew his move to the bullpen wouldn’t be permanent.  Joe Nelson will replace Wake in the ‘pen.  Scutaro’s left elbow has been sore, so he received a cortisone shot before last night’s game and could be back tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, Angel Sanchez will replace him so that Hall doesn’t have to try his luck at short for one more game, which surprisingly worked out fairly well.  He stole a line drive and turned it into a double play; it’s a tribute to his athleticism and intuition for the game that he can handle all these positions.  To make room for Sanchez on the roster, Schoeneweis has been designated for assignment.

Also, did you see that Twins fan at Fenway yesterday who brought a Twins sign? You don’t see opposing signs very often at Fenway, especially not for teams that are out-of-the-way and not in our division.  Maybe he forgot that the Twins are in our house, not theirs.  And while we’re on this subject, something I didn’t mention yesterday was the fact that most of the seats behind home plate in Yankee Stadium were empty.  Either Yankee fans just aren’t robust fans or the ownership is charging exorbitant amounts for those tickets.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Tonight it’s Liriano at Lester.  The pitching matchup here is good, but it’ll be even better after we win and sweep a series.  That would be good for us, no?

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To put it succinctly, yesterday was a bad day.

Yesterday could’ve seen Wakefield become our all-time winningest starter.  Through the first four innings, he was certainly on track; he allowed an RBI single in the second and that was it.

Then we hit the fifth.  Three runs scored, and Morneau avenged his at-bat from Wednesday.  That was only the beginning.  By the time Wakefield left, we were just over five innings into it and were down by six.  Five earned runs on ten hits with a walk and two strikeouts.  Ninety-nine pitches.  The overwhelming majority were knuckleballs, three were fastballs, and three were curveballs, all of which were thrown for strikes.  That’s the chance you take with a knuckleballer; if he’s on, he’s on, but if he’s not, it’s a complete disaster.  This was one of those complete disasters.

We have officially established that Target Field is a hitter’s ballpark.  The wind blows outward and everything.

Schoeneweis contributed to the mess by allowing two runs on three hits.  Ramirez didn’t want to miss out, so although he didn’t allow any runs, he didn’t finish his job before allowing two hits and a walk.  It was just an all-around mess on the mound.

To make matters worse, the fielders didn’t help much, either.  Hall made a fielding error in the second that allowed runners to advance.  Wake’s unearned run scored on a throwing error by Beltre.  And V-Mart didn’t want to be left out, so he made a fielding error of his own.  Three errors in one game.  In one game, we topped our total for the entire season thus far.

We find out that Ellsbury is taking longer than expected to heal and could be out tonight as well.  Also, Cameron has been scratched due to a lower abdominal strain.  That’s what put Hall in center and Hermida in left.  So for two-thirds of our starting outfield, playing status is uncertain.

And now for the offense.  There was none.  The end.

I’m serious.  The final score was 8-0.  This was the best I’ve seen Liriano against us, ever.  We managed only one hit between the second and seventh innings.  Our only extra-base hit was a double by V-Mart, which partly makes up for that fielding error.  We left eight on base.

Hard to believe, but there were some bright spots in this whole fiasco.  Not many, but there were.  Mauer went 0 for 4; Schoeneweis struck him out in the sixth.  That was pretty cool.  Lowell hit the ball hard to left center twice.  (The second time, Kubel robbed him of a base hit.  He charged and dove for the out.) Jose Mijares  came on in relief of Liriano and promptly loaded the bases.  (The fact that we did absolutely nothing with that golden opportunity is not the point.  And thanks for that, Beltre; he hit into a double play that ended the inning.) And then there was the guy who’s been a bright spot since coming out of the gate: Dustin Pedroia, obviously.  The man went three for four yesterday.  He alone equaled the entire rest of the team’s offensive output.  I’m convinced that he just can’t be contained.  And this isn’t just me talking; check out what a Twins blogger had to say about him:

Dustin Pedroia is good.  As in ridiculously, disgustingly good.

Eat your heart out, MLB.  (By the way, that blog is called Twinkie Town.  What?)

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Yesterday, all players across the league wore No. 42.  I’ve always thought that pretty neat.  Dice-K probably just pitched himself off the DL.  He tossed six shutout innings for Pawtucket yesterday, dominating completely.  He’s now pitched eleven innings in the minors, and I think he’s ready.

Now we get to go home.  Thank goodness.  We’re four and five, and we need to play some games in Boston to get back on track.  We’re taking on the Rays, starting with Davis at Beckett tonight.

The Bruins lost to the Sabres, 2-1.  We played well.  I’d rather lose by that score than by a blowout.  Next game is tomorrow afternoon.

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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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