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Posts Tagged ‘Javier Lopez’

We’re more than halfway through the season.  In fact, it’s already August, when more than the weather gets hot.  Each and every Major League club goes into playoff mode, but only a select few will get there.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we will most definitely be one of the few.  We’ve dominated our division.  Toronto started the season strong but has since slipped into fourth place and was seriously contemplating trading Roy Halladay to get some much-needed fresh blood into the clubhouse.  The Baltimore Orioles did the usual: fell to the bottom of the pack.  They’re twenty games out now, which is quite pathetic.  The Rays have been nonexistent in third place, even though somehow they just managed to sweep us in a two-game set, and we’ve been wiping the floor with the Yankees and are ready for another go-around.  It’s been fantastic.  We’re currently undefeated against New York.  Let me say that again.  We’re currently undefeated against New York.  Feels good, doesn’t it? So we start the two-month playoff rush in a decent place: two and a half games out and ready to rock and roll.  Not great but it could be worse.

Every year, Boston.com grades the team individually and overall at the All-Star break, with a little help from Tony Massarotti.  You can find Boston.com’s report card here.  I’ll be taking a break for about twelve days, but I’ll leave you with a report card of my own: a late-season grading of that team we all know and love.

Jason Varitek: A

Compare this year to last year.  So far this year, he’s hit thirteen home runs, batted in forty-four runs, scored thirty-seven runs, and has sixty-four hits.  Last year, he hit thirteen home runs, batted in forty-three runs, scored thirty-seven runs, and had ninety-three hits.  And this season isn’t even over yet.  So he’s significantly exceeded his numbers from last year in all of those categories, and he’s thirty-seven years old.  Experiencing a renaissance at the catcher’s position and at that age isn’t easy, but he worked closely with hitting coach Dave Magadan to make that happen with very positive results.  And we still get all of the goodness behind the plate; he’s got a 3.72 catcher’s ERA, the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball.

Victor Martinez: A

Theo landed him at the trading deadline to add another big bat to the lineup.  Victor Martinez has done that and more, making an immediate impact and finding a groove right away.  He adds his .294 average, sixteen home runs, and seventy-three RBIs as well as a fielding percentage of upwards of .990 at first base.  He hasn’t made an error at catcher all season.  He plays first, he catches, he DHes; he does it all in the field and, as a switch-hitter who bats .307 from the left and a decent .258 from the right, at the plate.  A brilliant acquisition yet again by our general manager.

Kevin Youkilis: A

I have nothing to complain about here.  He consistently bats at or above .300 with a .422 on-base percentage and a .580 slugging percentage.  He’s hit twenty home runs this year, so his power numbers are up but not at the expense of his walks (fifty-six) or other hits.  That, plus his defense.  He moves between third and first like it’s the easiest thing in the world.  And these are his numbers with a stint on the DL and a slump during which he batted .194 over twenty-eight games.

Dustin Pedroia: A-

I give the kid an A.  Unlike many reigning MVPs, he’s not having a bad season the year after winning the award.  He’s batting above .300.  His power numbers are down, but he’s batted in forty-six runs and hit thirty-one doubles.  He’s second among Major League second basemen in runs and doubles, third in hits, fifth in walks, third in batting average, and fourth in on-base percentage.  Of course the top-notch fielding can’t be ignored, even though his .987 fielding percentage is low.  Still, he’s a dirt dog if I’ve ever seen one.

Mike Lowell: B

His 2007 season was outstanding.  His 2008 season, not as much.  His season this year will be a test of whether he can successfully rebound from his hip surgery.  He’s done that so far, posting a .296 batting average and .817 OPS, good for fifth in the American League among third basemen.  And after his three weeks on the DL in the first half, he’s really come on strong in the second.  We headed into the All-Star break thinking we needed another bat, and now we have one.  (Actually, we have two, since the acquisition of V-Mart.) As far as his fielding goes, the hip does prevent him from going the extra mile sometimes, but that’s rare enough.

Nick Green: B

Nick Green really stepped up to the plate.  Definitely an unsung hero of the team.  Jed Lowrie was out, and we were looking at a long stretch of errors from Julio Lugo.  Then some non-roster Spring Training invitee stepped in and lo and behold.  Lugo lost his job, and Green made the most of his opportunity to start.  His offense is his weakness, walkoff home run notwithstanding.

Jason Bay: A-

This man is phenomenal.  Theo Epstein hasn’t been able to lock him up yet, but he will.  Jason Bay is too good to let walk into the free agent market.  We’ll sign him.  Anyway, he does the usual.  He hits for average (the .252 is a little low but the .279 career gets the point across) and power (twenty-one home runs).  He fields (no errors at all this season).  He’s seventh in the American League in RBIs and first in walks with seventy-one.  He did go through a rather pronounced slump during which he batted .153 and struck out twenty-five times in seventeen games, but with a strong second half, which may be hampered by his right hamstring issue, he could be in the running for MVP along with Youkilis and Pedroia.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Whatever issues he may have had at the plate last year have been solved.  Ellsbury batted .287 in April, then .308 in May, then .313 in June.  He’s now batting .301.  With six home runs and thirty-five RBIs.  He’s gotten really comfortable at the top of the order, and there’s that whole stolen bases thing.  Since the start of last season, only Carl Crawford has more thefts.  And that steal of home against Andy Pettitte will be playing on highlight reels for the rest of the decade.  This speed translates perfectly from the basepaths to center field, where he makes the most difficult and convoluted catches look like walks in the park.

JD Drew: B

Theo Epstein knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Drew to a five-year, $14 million-per-season contract.  He’s batting .248.  With an on-base percentage of .365.  Consistently.  That’s the key.  You always know what you’ll get with Drew: nothing great, but nothing too bad, either.  And get this: the Red Sox are fourth in the American League in OPS in right field.  He’s put those numbers to good use in the leadoff spot, and the one-two punch of him and Pedroia has become something to be feared by opposing pitchers.  With Ellsbury fitting perfectly into that leadoff role now, he finds himself batting lower in the order, but his consistency remains intact.  He mans right field well, which isn’t something you can say for everyone who plays the position in Fenway Park.

David Ortiz: B+

I never thought I’d give that grade to David Ortiz, but you can blame it on his horrendous first two months.  His lowest point was June 2, when he batted .186 with one home run, eighteen RBIs, and an OPS of just .566 in forty-seven games.  Ugh.  But then, what a turnaround.  I want everyone who said he was done to take a good, long look at the following numbers: in his next thirty-four games, he led the team in home runs with eleven, RBIs with 29, and OPS with 1.011.  That, my friends, is Big Papi.  So far he’s batted .225 with fifteen home runs, so the numbers continue to climb.  With a solid second half, the season might not turn out to be so bad for him.

George Kottaras: B-

Let’s remember why he’s here.  He’s here to catch Tim Wakefield.  He’s not here to hit or to take the reins from Jason Varitek; those two responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of Victor Martinez.  He’s here to catch knuckleballs every fifth day and give the captain an extra day of rest if he needs it.  And he’s done a great job of that.  Less than ten passed balls and a 5.08 catcher’s ERA.  As far as offense goes, there really isn’t any, but again, that’s not the point.

Jeff Bailey: C

Again, we knew what we were getting here.  Key players were out with injuries, and we needed someone to fill in.  He’s significantly better against lefties (.400) than righties (.111), and the defense is fine enough (no errors).  He wasn’t staying in the Majors anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

Rocco Baldelli: A-

He was signed to provide backup in right field and to handle southpaws.  He hasn’t seen much playing time because of his health concerns, but he’s still batting .261.  Something he’s not usually credited with is a really strong arm.  He practically won the game for us when Lester dueled with Kansas City’s Brian Bannister on July 10; Ellsbury had been ejected for throwing equipment in frustration when called out at the plate, so Rocco Baldelli came in.  He gunned down a Royal at second, something Ellsbury probably would’ve have been able to pull off.  That was key.

Josh Beckett: A

Obviously.  Quite simply, he is an ace.  He is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen.  He had a 7.22 ERA to start June, but look at him now.  In his last thirteen starts before the All-Star break, he’s 9-1 with a 2.14 ERA.  Currently, he’s thirteen and four with a 3.27 ERA that just keeps dropping.  This is shaping up to be a Cy Young year.  Again.  Hopefully they’ll get it right this time.

Jon Lester: A

It’s almost the exact same story.  His rough patch was about two weeks longer than Beckett’s, but his turnaround was just as rapid and just as dramatic.  He is now the best southpaw in all of Major League Baseball.  In the middle of May, he was looking at a 6.51 ERA.  In his ten starts before the All-Star break, he was 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA.  He’s now nine and seven with a 3.79 ERA, but don’t let that fool you.  Theo knew what he had here.  Who needs Johan Santana when you have Lester.

Tim Wakefield: A

He’s eleven and three with a 4.31 ERA.  He’s an All-Star.  He carried a no-no bid into the eighth inning on the road against the A’s this year.  By the way, did I mention he’s forty-two years old? He’s the longest-tenured member of the club, and all he does is consistently give us quality innings and put us in a position to win.  It’s not his fault if he doesn’t get any run support.

Daizuke Matsuzaka: F

Fail.  Epic fail.  Without a doubt, this is the lowest grade I gave this year.  Eight starts, 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA.  The Sox’s record is 2-6 in those starts.  Awful.  Just awful.  And we can thank Bud Selig and the World Baseball Classic for that.  Dice-K went hard during the Classic and basically blew his season along with his shoulder.  He finally seems to be receptive to adapting to the Major League way of doing things (but only after airing his grievances), and after a stint on the DL, he’s now down in Fort Myers basically catching up on all the Spring Training he missed while pitching for Japan.  Just a big, huge, epic fail.

Brad Penny: C

He’s a number five starter.  He never pitches less than five innings, and he never pitches more than six.  He usually gives up about three runs per outing.  And he does this every single time he starts.  Consistency has been the name of his game, but it’s withered considerably in the second half.  He’s been struggling lately.

John Smoltz: C

Two and four with a 7.12 ERA isn’t the John Smoltz I was expecting, but then I stepped back and remembered why we signed him.  We signed him for October.  He has more wins in the postseason than any other pitcher, and he’s here to bring some of that success to us.  We can weather regular-season spottiness if it means some major Ws in the postseason, but the problem is that it just doesn’t seem like he’s peaking at all.  If the goal is to peak late, we should see glimmers of brilliance this month.  Maybe we will, starting tonight.  It doesn’t look likely, though.

Ramon Ramirez: A

The bullpen’s unsung hero.  Theo’s trade of Coco Crisp for this man was genius.  During his sixteen-game rough patch in the first half, his ERA was 5.02, and we all know it wasn’t pleasant to watch him during that stretch.  But he’s gotten better.  And he’s one of the best overall.  His ERA is 2.28, and less than ten relievers in the Majors have an ERA lower than his.  One of them being Jonathan Papelbon.

Daniel Bard: A

Daniel Bard has a long way to go, but he’s getting there fast.  As his confidence grows, so does Terry Francona’s.  He’s using him more and more, and Bard is stepping up and delivering.  A 2.25 ERA, and keep in mind that what you are seeing here is our setup man of the future.  Who tops out at one hundred miles per hour.  Imagine that.  The one-two punch of Bard and Papelbon.  Unhittable.

Takashi Saito: C

He was supposed to be our third-day closer, but with the bullpen being the best in baseball and all, he hasn’t really been used that consistently.  Actually, he’s mostly used when we’re losing.  If the bullpen stays healthy, we don’t really need him that much.  He’s been decent; 3.32 ERA.  But we have better.

Manny Delcarmen: B

He’s a workhorse who gets the job done and keeps the ERA low at 3.05.  Delcarmen is consistent, healthy, and can handle more than one inning of work if necessary.

Hideki Okajima: A

We keep talking about his epic season in 2007 while he’s having one of those right under our noses.  Since the start of that season, he’s been among the top ten relievers in the game in ERA.  A 2.98 ERA is not something to be taken for granted.  He’s a fantastic setup man.

Javier Lopez: D

He had a horrible start to the season and was optioned to the minor leagues.  Tito used him when he shouldn’t have been used: against righties.  But now the bullpen is having some trouble handling lefties, and he’s improved in the minors.  If he’s able to works his way back up, we could be all too ready to welcome him back.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

Many of his saves have been sloppy.  The one-two-three inning that’s been his trademark in the past hasn’t been as common this year.  But that’s changing.  Here’s the thing.  Papelbon has to be used every so often whether we need him or not because he needs to get his work in.  But when you put your closer in again where the team is leading, he doesn’t get the same high-pressure, adrenaline-rush-inducing sensation, and he relaxes.  And when he relaxes, he can’t sustain that fierce competitiveness.  I think Papelbon’s experienced that this year, which incidentally is a credit to our lineup.  The point is that recently, in close games, the one-two-three inning has resurfaced and seems to be appearing more and more often.  Numbers-wise, his problem is walks.  He’s giving up many more walks this year than he did last year.

Terry Francona: A

Again, obviously.  We’re almost leading the division again.  We’re set to appear in October again.  We’ll win the World Series again.  All with Terry Francona at the helm.  This is the first year of his three-year contract extension, and he’s the first Boston manager to begin a sixth season in about sixty years.  Sixty years.  Finally.  And rightfully so.  There are a lot of different personalities floating around in that clubhouse, and they all blend together seamlessly without a hitch.  A lot of that has to do with Tito.  Now that the revolving door for manager has closed, it’s time to seal the one at shortstop, too.

Theo Epstein: A

The man is a genius.  In Theo we trust, and he always comes through.  He’s made two major mistakes that I can recall: Eric Gagne and Julio Lugo, and so far that’s been it.  And even those weren’t that bad in the long run.  He went after bargain pitchers this offseason, and it paid off; we have one of the best rotations and definitely the best bullpen in the game.  All we need to do is work on hitting for the long-term and we’ll be all set.  Theo Epstein is someone Red Sox Nation and I can trust to do that.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B+

We’re heading into August and we are poised to go on a tear.  The postseason is approaching.  Expect us to win it all.  We have what has to be the deepest team in Major League Baseball.  We have hitting.  We have pitching.  We have fielding.  We have the wherewithal to bring another World Series trophy to the city of Boston.  And we will.  Because we can.

Boston Globe Staf/Jim Davis

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So we avoid the sweep, we’re back to being only half a game behind New York, and Lester pitched beautifully.  Fantastic.  But that doesn’t mean all’s quiet on the Boston front.  Before yesterday, Lester lost three of his previous four decisions, his last win coming against Toronto, apparently not an easy team to beat.  The fact that Lester’s season has been mediocre at best but with a few very high-quality starts tells us it’s not a health issue or anything as serious or straightforward as that.  It’s a consistency issue.  And because we don’t really know what’s causing it, it’ll be a lot harder to fix.  Consistency is always a difficult problem to grapple with.  Take Javier Lopez.  Two seasons ago, he was inconsistent to the point where he could win or lose us a ballgame.  Last year he was perpetually lights-out.  This year it was so bad he had to be designated for assignment in the minor leagues.  We don’t need to go that far with Lester; I think the worst that could potentially happen is giving him a day off or switching Beckett and Lester in the rotation.  But it is something that, if it continues, will need to be addressed sooner or later.  And whether it’s addressed sooner rather than later depends on an entirely separate set of variables.  So, yeah.  Consistency is complicated.

But there was no sign of that in his start yesterday.  That was probably his best outing of 2009.  Six solid innings.  One run on three hits.  Three walks.  A career-high twelve strikeouts.  Twelve.  That’s ridiculous.  He faced twenty-four batters.  He threw 115 pitches, 72 of which were strikes.  He induced three fly balls and three ground balls.  And no home runs.  This start single-handedly lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 5.65.  Masterson pitched two and allowed a run, and Ramirez pitched one and managed to redeem himself from his performance, or lack thereof, two nights ago.

The offense was as on as the pitching.  We won, 8-2, and after watching the bats be silenced for a few days it was so refreshing to watch them bat around.  Youk started it off with a solo shot to right center field in the first inning.  Then the man of the hour, Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah, had one hit all day but that’s nothing to complain about because the hit he got was an absolutely monstrous three-run shot.  With runners on second and third, he smoked a breaking ball over the left field wall for his second home run of the year.  He was definitely due.  But it just goes to show you that he’s not a power hitter; if this were in Fenway, the ball would be a line drive, not out of the park.  He’s indispensable to the team in many, many ways, but he’s not a power hitter, so any power that comes from him is icing on the cake.  Lowell went two for five and had himself an RBI.  Drew also had himself an RBI.  Then in the eighth, Youk hit his second home run of the day and went back-to-back with Bay.  Another solo shot, this one into the bullpen in left field.  It was a low fastball, and he loves to clobber those.  The interesting thing is that, like Pedroia’s shot, both of Youk’s probably would’ve been doubles in Fenway.  That’s what you call adapting.  We do it all the time, and it’s a big part of why we’re so good.  We adapt to the pitcher, we adapt to the lineup, and we also adapt to the park.  Anyway, Bay then stepped up to the plate and hit a solo shot of his own on the very first pitch.  That ended up in the left field seats.  Inside fastball and there was no way it was staying inside the park.  Bay finished the day going two for three with two walks.  So he reached base four times.  All-Star Game.  Just sayin’.

Then there was also that really ugly rundown in the second.  At the time the score was tied, 1-1, with Green on first, Ellsbury on second, and Pedroia at bat.  Rod Barajas threw to Millar at first, who tagged Green out.  Green saw Ellsbury going and was thinking double steal, but then he saw Ellsbury retreat back to the bag, so he had to do the same, but by that time the ball was waiting for him.  Somebody missed a sign there.  Although he did successfully steal yesterday.

Today is our first of three Mondays off in June.  It’s a nice schedule.  We have the series at Detroit, followed by a series home against Texas, then another Monday off, a series against New York during which we will undoubtedly bury them, an Interleague series in Philly that should be interesting, another Monday off, two series at home, another Monday off, and then another extended road trip.  Looking ahead to Tuesday, it’ll be Dice-K at Rick Porcello who’s been alright for the Tigers so far.  This’ll be a good opportunity for Dice-K to definitively get back in his groove and propel us back into first.

NESN

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What a night to be a Boston fan.  First the Bruins won to stave off elimination and live to play another day, and then the Red Sox break a tie late in the ballgame to come away with the win and take the series.  So we win the battle and the war.  Nice.  And for a while it looked like we were even going to have another Beckett-esque start.  Turns out it wasn’t quite as Beckett-esque as we’d hoped, but at this point I think we have to take what we can get.  Sad but true.  Beckett pitched six innings, gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, and struck out five.  Considering the way his starts have been going lately, that feels like a shutout to me.  Not bad.  Besides, for my Number One starter, I’ll take Beckett on his worst day over almost all other Number One starters on their best days, because you have to think long term, and that includes October, and come October there’s only one man you want out there starting a series for you, and that’s Josh Beckett.  No question about it.

Unfortunately, he got a no decision because that third run he allowed was the tying run.  Okajima pitched just under two perfect innings, Ramirez finished off the seventh, and Papelbon made the ninth interesting but ultimately got the save.  He gave up a walk and a hit, made a pickoff error, and has a steal in the background before he did any damage at all.  Then he proceeded to strike out Pena, Upton, and Crawford in order.  Why he couldn’t just start the inning that way, I don’t know.  But the bottom line is that Ramirez got the win and Paps got the save.  You might say it’s good for Paps to keep everyone on their toes, but the way this season’s going I’m on my toes enough, thank you.  Paps can go ahead and have a clean, straight save if he wants to.  But he’s still the best closer in the game.  That’s his eight save of the season.  Eight saves in eight save opportunities.  One hundred percent.  And usually that lasts for a long, long time.

We won the game, 4-3.  The Rays tied it in the sixth and we scored the winning run in the eighth, batted in by who but Jason Bay.  I think the man was born to hit in the clutch late.  A ballgame is never over, not even in the late innings, until Jason Bay’s had his final say.  And usually that amounts to him hitting for at least one bag, very commonly four bags.  Yesterday it was two bags.  Bay went two for four, and both of those hits were doubles, the latter of which coming in the eighth to plate David Ortiz and give us a permanent lead.  He also scored once.  So basically the man is awesome on all counts.  He might be in the mix for AL MVP.  Incidentally, that would be something, if Boston dominated the voting and we had three guys in the first three places.  Wow.  Anyway, Drew, Bailey, and Green batted in the other runs.  Green also had a good night, finishing two for three.

Lowell made an error.  Youk’s still out.  Dice-K pitched four shutout innings in Pawtucket.  Lopez was thankfully designated for assignment as we finally bought Daniel Bard’s contract from Pawtucket.  Let me tell you something about Daniel Bard: he’s considered our best relief prospect for a reason, and a very significant part of that reason is his fastball.  Trust me.  This is going to be fun.

So as I said we take two out of three against the Rays.  Good.  We’re gradually building up to a sweep.  We get the day off today and then it’s off to the west coast again for a series with the Angels.  First it’ll be Masterson at Weaaver.  I hope his struggles of late aren’t a permanent turn for the worse.  Either way, the sooner we’re done with the west coast, the better; this is actually our last trip out there, which is nice.  So let’s make it count.

In other news, the Bruins won.  To say they pulled out a win or that they hung on by the skin of their teeth would be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever heard.  Because we absolutely dominated.  Even if you didn’t know the score, there is no question in your mind who won that hockey game.  The score, by the way, was 4-0.  It was Timmy Thomas’s first career playoff shutout.  Kessel scored two of those goals; would’ve been sweet if he’d had himself a hat trick but technically anything besides simply winning is icing on the cake.  Recchi also had himself a goal, and he’s the oldest Bruin ever to score in the playoffs.  Milan Lucic accounted for the fourth goal.  I have to say I was terrified when I saw Chara go down in the second period; Jussi Jokinen delivered a stick to his left shin and he stayed down for a few minutes.  And he’s not one to fool around.  He skated off on his own but didn’t start the third.  But with 19:12 left, he began his first shift of the period.  What a relief.  Then Scott Walker drew a seven-minute penalty.  No, that’s correct; a seven-minute penalty.  Two minutes for misconduct and five for fighting because Aaron Ward never dropped his gloves.  Unfortunately there were only two minutes left in the game at that point so we really couldn’t take full advantage of it, but still.  First of all it was a classless move, and second of all any penalty against the opposition lasting longer than two minutes is awesome.  Game Six on Tuesday at 7:00PM.  Let’s keep it going.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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I don’t know who started for us last night.  No idea whatsoever.  He looked like Jon Lester.  He sounded like Jon Lester.  He was wearing Jon Lester’s number.  And sometimes, though very occasionally, he even pitched like John Lester.  But there was no way that was actually Jon Lester.  I know Jon Lester, and Jon Lester would never pitch this way.  Eight runs on ten hits with a walk over 4.1 innings? And a two-run homer for Evan Longoria in the first inning? Impossible! Like I said, there were moments; he did have six strikeouts on the day.  But still.  There’s no way that was actually Jon Lester.  There’s just no way.

But there was plenty of blame to go around.  Hunter Jones allowed four runs on four hits in less than an inning.  Saito and Lopez each allowed another run.  Delcarmen was finallly able to stem the damage just in time for the eighth inning, at which time we lost, 14-5.  So basically, our pitching yesterday was as bad as our offense was good on Friday.  Why we can’t have a solid start and good offense at the same time against the Rays is beyond me.

We were two for twelve with runners in scoring position.  We left ten men on base.  Ten.  There were occasional high points, though.  Mikey Lowell continued to build his RBI total with two more and finished the day two for four.  Baldelli went two for five and hit a beautiful solo shot in the second inning off Kazmir.  His first home run of the year and in a Red Sox uniform against his old team.  It’s funny how that works out a lot in baseball.  Bailey, and not Lugo, made a throwing error.  Actually, Lugo went two for four with (you’ll never believe this) a solo home run off Joe Nelson in the sixth.  His first of the year.  It was a breaking ball that just sort of hung over the plate and Lugo put it in the Monster seats.  So it was a home run, and a well-hit home run at that.  I saw it with my own eyes and could not believe what I was seeing.  Julio Lugo.  A home run.  A powerful home run.  I still think I’m recovering from the shock.  Bay also had an RBI, and those were our five runs.

Drew was out with a tight left quad but should be back tonight.  Youk could be back as early as Tuesday.

We’re back to one game behind Toronto, while Tampa Bay and Ne York are tied for third at five and a half games out.  Things I’d like to see happen this week are us finally becoming the sole occupants of first place and us having good starts and good offensive production consistently and often at the same time.  I think that’s a pretty good game plan.  Tonight it’s Garza at Beckett.  What an excellent time for a Beckett-esque start.

Getty Images

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Last night was epic.  Epic.  I have to say that for a while it looked close and it kept me on the edge of my seat.  And then suddenly it was wide open.  The guys said, “I’ve had just about enough of this,” and we went from 2-1 Tribe to 13-3 us.  We scored once in the first and twelve times in the sixth inning before Cleveland recorded an out.  Twelve.  Without an out.  Twelve runs in a single inning with nobody out.  You look at the linescore and you see that big twelve up there, and we scored all of those runs with nobody out.  I mean I know it happened because I saw it with my own eyes, but that’s a little insane.  I mean it was awesome.  Epic.  Beautiful.  And it’s tough to do.  Scoring all of those runs takes time, and you would think Cleveland would some how be able to piece together an out somewhere.  Nope.

Ironically, who but Julio Lugo started that mother of all rallies with a single.  Then Pedroia walked.  Then Jason Bay hit a double to plate Lugo, tying the game.  Jeremy Sowers loaded the bases, walking Mikey Lowell intentionally to get to Baldelli.  Big mistake.  In his first hit since coming off the DL, Rocco Baldelli stroked a two-run single up the middle! Welcome back, dude! But it gets better.  Drew walked.  Then they pulled Sowers, who gave up seven runs on five hits.  Masa Kobayashi came on, and Jeff Bailey greeted him with a two-run double.  Then Nick Green hit an infield single to re-load the bases.  Kottaras got in on the action by also stroking a two-run single.  Then Lugo, miraculously, reached base again on an infield single.  Then Pedroia hit an RBI single.  And just like that Kobayashi’s night was over, after giving up five runs on five hits.  Matt Herges came on.  And Jason Bay proceeded to hit a huge three-run home run into right center for his eighth homer of the year.  And that just shows you that he has power to all fields, because trust me, hitting the ball there in Fenway takes power.  So the bases were empty for Lowell, who proved to be the first out of the inning when he grounded to short.  And that, my friends, was the sixth.

It was like a dream.  The bases were loaded so many times, and there were so many hits with the bases loaded, and so many runs scored.  That sets a new American League record and ties a modern-day Major League record for most runs scored in a single inning without an out recorded.  They now share it with the Brooklyn Dodgers, who did the same in the eighth against the Phillies on May 24, 1953.  And this is a season high for us through several years; our twelve runs were the most we scored in a single inning since we scored fourteen in the first against the Marlins on June 27, 2003 to win, 25-8.  Mikey Lowell can tell you more about that:

I remember telling Trot when he got to third, if Johnny Damon got his third hit in the first inning, I was going to walk off the field.  After he got his hit, Trot scored and he looked back, and I kind of had to swallow my pride.  It’s better being on this side.

Can’t say I wouldn’t agree.  Wow.

So that’s pretty much all of the offense right there.  The only batters who didn’t have a hit all night were Lowell and Drew, and they still managed to reach base on walks.  So everyone reached base at least once, and everyone scored at least one run.  No steals, no errors.  Only two left on base.  We went nine for eleven with runners in scoring position.  Yeah.  Like a dream.  And part of what made it so unreal was that Julio Lugo did very well, going three for five in the lead-off spot.  Maybe the lead-off spot is the answer; maybe he just bats really well from there.  Or maybe last night was a fluke for him, which seems like the more probable explanation.  Either way, it was convenient because he wasn’t in the field.  Papi was out with a stiff neck so Lugo was DHing.  Whatever.  The whole thing was just unbelievably awesome.

And our pitching was spectacular.  Another five-star start from Wakefield.  He pitched six innings, gave up only two runs on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts, inflating his ERA slightly to 2.92.  Delcarmen and Saito were both perfect, but Lopez gave up a run in between.  I don’t know what changed between last year and this year; last year he was so consistently solid, and this year he’s just not.  But I hope he figures it out and fixes it.

On behalf of Red Sox Nation, I’d like to express my condolences to the DiMaggio family for the loss of Dom DiMaggio today.  Dom was a good man, a great player, and a Teammate, right there beside Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams.  One of the masters.  We’ll remember you, buddy.  We’ll definitely remember you.

So now we move to within one game of Toronto and we go into tonight’s game with the Rays with a huge amount of momentum.  And we’re at home for this one.  Shields at Penny.  If Penny holds it together, breaking his pattern of good start alternating with bad start, that would be great.  If he doesn’t, that wouldn’t be great, but at least we know we can score all the runs we need!

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We lost majorly, by a score of 9-2.  If all I knew about last night’s game was that final score, you would’ve been hard-pressed to convince me that Masterson was the starter.  Masterson is brilliant.  He’s masterful, as his name would imply.  He’s not someone who gives up six runs on eight hits in just over six innings.  Six strikeouts, sure, but add to that three walks and you’ve got yourself just another mediocre pitcher up from the minors.  But that’s not who Masterson is.  Masterson is better than that.  But in his last two starts he hasn’t shown it.  Last night was his first loss at Fenway Park, and trust me, it unfortunately was most definitely a loss.

And the relief corps didn’t help either.  Jones and Lopez combined to give up three runs on five hits with two walks and a K in 2.2 innings.  Those runs were exclusively procured by the use of the long ball.  So Masterson takes the loss and his record becomes two and two.  Great.  He was supposed to be sure-fire.  And against Carl Pavano! You don’t get much more sure-fire than that! But as is often the case in baseball, it is what it is, you win some and lose some and dress for all of them.  But that doesn’t mean it’s okay, and that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

An RBI for Van Every, and Bay also scored.  Van Every went two for three, and Tek was perfect at the plate.  No home runs, no steals, no errors.  That’s it for the run spread.  Seriously.  I know; I can’t believe it either.

Dice-K has one more minor league start left in his rehab, and then he’s back.  I think he’ll be the better for that break in Pawtucket.  He’ll come back healthy, well-rested, and ready to go.  And he’ll be relieving Masterson in the rotation at what seems like just the right time.  Speaking of Pawtucket, Michael Bowden had a no-no going through 6.2 innings but then lost everything, the no-hitter, the shut-out, and even the decision.  Bowden threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-three of them strikes, and lowered his ERA to 1.01.  He walked four.  I say we have him replace Javy Lopez in the bullpen.

We need to play better.  That’s the only thing you can say after a loss like that.  And if we have to lose, we shouldn’t be losing by inordinate amounts of runs.  We need to play better.  We need to pitch better and hit better.  The fielding was good, so there’s nothing to complain about there from last night.  But we need to improve.  We’re a deep, solid, and dominating team and it’s time we act like it consistently.  We’re two games out of first now with Toronto ahead of us.  It’s time to finally overtake them in the standings and reach our rightful place in first.  Just sayin’.

And last but certainly not least, Jerry Remy.  Remdawg quit smoking just this year and had a small cancerous area removed from his lung in November but then developed an infection coupled with pneumonia right before he left for Spring Training.  He went down to Fort Myers anyway and it became worse.  He continued work in the booth and it became even worse.  So he’s been under the weather for the last few games and is now taking a leave of absence for an indefinite period so that he can fully recover.  On behalf of every citizen of Red Sox Nation, I’d like to wish Remdawg good luck and a speedy recovery.  We’re all rooting for you and we want you healthy and back in the booth as soon as possible.  And if anyone can beat this, we’re pretty sure you can.

In other news, the Bruins lost Game Three of Round Two to Carolina in sudden death overtime by a score of 3-2.  It was brutal.  We need to do better on the power play; last night we allowed our first power play goal in seven playoff games.  I will say that the whole series so far has been very well-played, but we clearly dominated that third period and most of the overtime.  And now the Hurricanes lead the series, 2-1.  But this was a bigger win for them than it was a loss for us.  We can come back from this.  Carolina wouldn’t have been able to come back from a loss.  So a win would’ve been very nice for us, but it wasn’t completely necessary.  Game Four is Friday at 7:30PM.  We got this one.

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That’s the only way I can describe last night.  I experienced pain when I watched that.  I honestly felt like I was in some strange alternate universe.  Garza was making a bid for a perfect game into the sixth.  It was a very surreal experience, like an especially bad nightmare, only worse, because it was real.  Awful.  Just awful.  Beckett took the loss, and rightly so.  Only 4.2 innings and he gives up seven runs on ten hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.  One home run, the first of Michel Hernandez’s Major League career, and an ERA of 7.22.  All I have to say to Hernandez is that he should enjoy it, because he won’t be hitting another homer off Beckett anytime soon.  But seriously.  He reached one hundred pitches in the fifth.  I don’t know who this guy is or what he’s doing wearing Number 19, but he isn’t Josh Beckett.  I know Josh Beckett.  Josh Beckett would never pitch this way.  Which brings me to my next point: I have no idea what’s going on with him.  We know he’s healthy.  That was his problem last year, that and the long balls, but this year he’s fine and in great shape.  So I don’t know.  He started the game fine, had a fourteen-pitch, one-two-three first inning, but it all went downhill from there.  But whatever it is, he needs to take care of it.  Now.  Right now.

But wait, it gets worse.  Hunter Jones gave up his first run of the year.  Fine.  It happens.  We knew the 0.00 ERA wouldn’t last for ever.  One bad pitch and Evan Longoria hit it out.  Saito had a perfect seventh.  So for all intents and purposes we cruised until the eighth, when Javy Lopez gave up five runs.  Five.  On four hits and a walk with no strikeouts.  He didn’t even finish the inning.  Then Jonathan Van Every came on to pitch the rest of the eighth and got us out of it.  Incidentally, he has a 0.00 ERA.  And now I get to explain why we, unlike the Yankees, have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.  It’s one thing to throw your outfielder on the mound when your starter has an ERA above 20.00 because your bullpen has an ERA above 5.00 and is the shallowest in the league.  It’s quite another to have multiple relievers with ERAs under 2.00, including two that’re still 0.00, who’ve been working long shifts lately and who need a rest.  Van Every got two outs.  That was it.  We’re not talking about an inning of work to bail out an abysmal starter.  We’re talking about giving the best relievers in the game a break during a blowout.  So, no, Van Every is not Nick Swisher, because our bullpen is actually functional, thank you very much.  (Technically, saying that our bullpen is “functional” is the understatement of the century, but you know what I mean.)

I’ll say this about being on the receiving end of a bid for a perfect game or no-hitter.  It makes losing less painful, because the only thing you’re focused on is ending that bid, is getting a walk and then a hit.  So it takes the edge off of losing, because as long as you end the bid, you’re happy, and everything else just seems like icing on the cake.  And for that, we thank Jacoby Ellsbury, who jammed a ball back to Garza, who couldn’t come up with it.  Jason Bartlett tried to throw him out at first, just like everyone else in the league, but as we know there’s no way he doesn’t beat that out.  So a masterful infield hit for Ellsbury, and a great hustle down the line to end it.  Two batters later, Ortiz was his first walk.  I mean we knew all along that Garza wouldn’t actually be able to fully contain a lineup like ours.  It just doesn’t happen.  Unfortunately we’ve been in this situation before, like last year with the Angels, but we always get out of it somehow.

By the way, Pedroia was safe.  Ortiz walked with nobody on base because the umpire ruled that Pedroia was the second out in a double play.  Let me tell you something.  Pedroia was safe by a mile.  It was so good to see Tito go out there, because it doesn’t matter what the score is.  If a guy hustles, he deserves a fair call.

So that’s pretty much it for last night.  As you  can imagine, the box score is really boring.  Very one-sided.  All these stats for Tampa Bay and for us, nothing.  I’m telling you, it was painful.  Lowell’s hitting streak stopped at thirteen games.  Dave Roberts will be joining NESN, which I’m psyched about.  Jerry Remy was sick yesterday so Buck Martinez filled in, which was interesting.  Turns out that, not only did Van Every hit his first career home run off his former team, but he hit it off his former roommate.  Apparently he received congratulatory text messages from the Tribe but wants to give Jensen Lewis some time to cool off a little bit.  I’d say that’s wise, because that was a monster of a home run.  And last but not least, A-Rod was probably on steroids as early as high school and HGH in 2004 with the Yankees.  And he tipped his friends on opposing teams to pitches.  It’s sad that these things don’t surprise me anymore.  Seems like A-Rod always manages to come up with a new low.

We need a win.  A win would be nice.  We’re tied for first, but I think we could use a little something to break that tie.  And to maintain our good record.  And to improve.  And to make sure we don’t fall behind.  Yes, I think a win would be very nice indeed.

In other news, it’s go time at the TD Banknorth Garden tonight.  Round Two, Game 1, 7:30PM.  Let’s do it.

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