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Posts Tagged ‘JD Drew’

While Theo is busy taking kudos in Chicago, we still don’t have any news on his compensation, but life goes on.  Eight members of the team filed for free agency; none of the filings are surprising: Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, Bedard, Drew, Wake, Tek, Papi, and Paps.  Okay, maybe I was surprised that Drew chose to file instead of retire.  But everyone knew the rest of them were going to be filing.

Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about whether to keep Papi and Paps on board.  The difficulty with Papi is that he’ll want more money for more years, although his recent performance, certainly in the last season, suggests that that’s warranted.  Paps wants more money.  Like, a lot more money.  You might say we can afford to lose him because we have Bard, but I have a feeling that you won’t know how valuable it was having Bard as a closer-esque setup man packing that one-two punch with Paps unless Paps were to leave and then you’d be fishing around for an eighth inning guy as good as all that.  Trust me, it wouldn’t be Jenks, folks.

As far as Wake and Tek go, we don’t have much to lose by keeping them.  Their market value is relatively low as it is; it’s not like they can leverage high demand to induce a bigger deal from us.  Tek’s powers of leadership are here with this team; it’s unclear how valuable he’d be in another clubhouse since that was always his main contributor anyway, especially in recent years when his plate production has markedly decreased, although it is worth noting that he seemed to share in Tito’s experience of having his leadership be less effective this past year.  Either that or he pulled back on his leadership.  Either way, the results were the results; how much that had to do with Tek is unclear.  Regarding Wake, he’s still an effective pitcher, more so in the bullpen now than as a starter; I guess age does eventually take its toll even on a knuckleballer.  So Wake will have to figure out if he’d be satisfied as a reliever.  Ben, like Theo, will be unlikely to dish out coin if he’s not absolutely sure that he’s paying for the player’s worth alone; if Ben is interested in retaining Wake as a reliever but Wake wants to start and demands a starter’s salary, that could potentially be a problem.

Speaking of Ben, apparently he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1992, so the school has reportedly posted a sign out front that says, “Congratulations Ben Cherington Class of ’92 Free Tickets?” Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Jackson, Miller, and Bedard were late-season playoff fixes that we obviously didn’t end up needing.  The decision of whether to retain them doesn’t strike me as epically impactful, although given the fact that we’re technically short a starter now, Bedard may make sense if there’s no one better out there.

We picked up Scutaro’s option, probably as insurance until Jose Iglesias is ready to permanently assume the starter’s role.  We declined options on Wheeler and Atchison.

Congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Pedroia on their Gold Gloves! And congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Papi on their Silver Sluggers! All very well deserved; I can’t think of anyone who deserved them more.  Finally, congratulations to Luis Tiant for landing on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.  It’s about time!

Lackey had his Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.  Supposedly it went well.

This week, the managerial interviews began.  First up was Phillies hitting coach Pete Mackanin.  Then we had Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, our former third base coach.  We’ve got Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Cleveland bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr.  Of those four, Mackanin and Maddux would obviously be preferable, which is why Theo is interviewing them also.

Add to our growing list of vacancies a strength and conditioning coach and an assistant athletic trainer.  Apparently we fired Dave Page and Greg Barajas.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets will construct a few walls in Citi Field for the explicit purpose of decreasing the size of the field.  Among those walls will be an eight-foot installment in front of the sixteen-foot Great Wall of Flushing, between which will be built a new section of seats a la the Green Monster.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most blatant agenda-pushing moves I’ve ever seen.  So they constructed an enormous ballpark that is forcing well-paid power hitters, like David Wright and, oh, yeah, Jason Bay, to struggle.  Big deal.  You don’t see any other ballclub undergoing offseason construction to shrink the field size just to increase home run production to make more money.  That is ridiculous, and I’m surprised that it’s being allowed.  Maybe Bud Selig is considering it yet another step forward toward making baseball even more popular; we all know how much he praises the home run as a tool to accomplish that.  But still.  I can’t believe this is flying under the radar.

In other news, the Pats lost to the Steelers, 25-17.  Before the season started, I think we all picked that one as a possible loss.  At least the score was respectable.  The Bruins scored a ton of goals this week.  We beat the Sens, 5-3, and then we absolutely buried the Leafs, 7-0.  Tyler Seguin posted his first-ever NHL hat trick en route.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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I had high hopes for this game.  Very high hopes.  After all, it is the Orioles, and we are throwing Beckett.  Oh, wait.

Beckett lasted six innings.  He gave up six runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs, the first a solo shot with one out in the second and the second a three-runner with two out in the sixth.  That three-run home run was an inside-the-park home run.  Ellsbury looked like he was about to make a particularly Ellsbury-esque catch, the kind of catch that only Ellsbury could make.  Instead, he collided with the wall and lost the ball.  It was the first inside-the-park homer the Orioles have hit at home and the first we’ve allowed since 2006.  Thankfully, Ellsbury is okay.  The game’s result, not so much.

Beckett walked four and struck out five.  He threw 108 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  What can I say? He didn’t have it.  We’d just played fourteen innings against New York and some terrible games overall this month.  We needed a big night.  He didn’t deliver.

We actually struck first.  The bases were loaded with two out in the first, but Lowrie flied out.  What a waste of an opportunity.  We plated one in the second; Drew led off the inning in the first and was out on a force by Scutaro, who scored on a double by Ellsbury with a little help from some bad fielding.  Lowrie must have felt really bad about that because he homered to lead off the fourth on the second pitch of the at-bat, a changeup he walloped to right field.

We didn’t have many opportunities after that until the eighth, when the bases were loaded with one out and Salty and Scutaro both blew it.  Then Ellsbury was hit in the ninth and scored on a single by Pedroia.

And that was it.  Aceves and Weiland pitched the last two innings.  And they were scoreless.  Not that that counts for anything at all whatsoever, since we lost, 6-3.

To recap our predicament, we are now officially tied for the Wild Card with the Rays with two games left to play in the regular season.  In the month of September, our record is six and nineteen with a nine-game drop in the standings, and exactly one month ago today was the last time we had even a two-game winning streak.  On August 17, our Wild Card lead was ten games.  If we don’t right this ship, like, immediately, we will be the first team in the history of the existence of the Wild Card to blow a double-digit lead.  We’re Boston fans.  We believe.  We’ll always believe.  But words can not describe the anger, frustration, denial, and fear that Red Sox Nation is currently experiencing.

We have to win today.  At the very least, Johnny Pesky deserves a happy ninety-second birthday.

In other news, the Pats lost a close one to the Bills, 34-31.  It should never have come to that.

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I hope it doesn’t take Wake as long to get win number 201 as it did for him to get win number two hundred.  We lost the opener.  Wake gave up five runs, three earned, on five hits, including a two run shot with one out in the third.  There was a missed catch and a wild pitch in the first and a fielding error in the fifth.  He walked five, struck out four, lasted four innings, and threw eighty-two pitches, forty-seven of which were strikes.  Albers gave up another run before Atchison and Andrew Miller finished the game scoreless, Atchison having had to leave with a groin problem.

Ellsbury led off the fourth with a homer on a fastball to right center field.  It was a power blast.  He homered again in the sixth with one out on a sinker into the second deck in right field.  He is now the first player ever to achieve thirty-thirty in a single season.  That was the extent of our offense.  Ellsbury was our offense.  He went three for four; those three hits from him matched the total for the rest of the team combined.  But as we know, a team can not live on one man alone, which was proven by the final score of 6-2.

The nightcap lasted fourteen innings.  If we didn’t win it, it would have crushed me.  The very last thing we would have needed when we’re down and out with pitching, fielding, hitting, injuries, and standings was to play fourteen innings only to lose at the very end to the Yankees.  Thanks to Ellsbury, crisis averted.

It was Lackey of all people who broke the cycle and gave us our first quality start in a while.  Lackey gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits.  You can thank Tek and his throwing error in the first for that unearned run, which helped the Yanks put up a three-spot.  Lackey walked three and struck out four.  He threw eighty-six pitches, fifty-seven of which were strikes.  He was replaced by Aceves after allowing a single to start the seventh.  May I say that this is probably the most efficient I’ve ever seen him.  Most of the time, he’s thrown at least a hundred pitches by the time the seventh inning rolls around.  He kept his hit count down, which obviously helped a lot.  And the offense should have easily scored at least four runs.

We didn’t get on the board until the fifth, when Lowrie tripled and scored on a single by Drew, who’s back in action.  Crawford led off the sixth with a single and scored on a groundout by Gonzalez.  Lowrie led off the seventh with a double, and then back-to-back hits, a double for Scutaro and single for Tek, brought in two and gave us a one-run lead.

Aceves received a blown save for allowing his inherited runner to score and tie the game at four.  Then Bard, who issued two intentional walks in the ninth but ended the inning on a strikeout, and Paps, who threw twenty-two of twenty-nine pitches for strikes, held the fort for three-plus innings.  Morales pitched two scoreless frames and picked up the win; Doubront got the save.

We had one on in the eighth and two on in the ninth.  We had one on in the tenth and went down in order in the eleventh.  We had one on in the twelfth and thirteenth.  Let’s not forget that, also in the thirteenth, Pedroia picked a ball and fired from his knees to first for the first out of the inning, if he didn’t do that, we could have had a different outcome.

Aviles led off the fourteenth with a flyout.  McDonald came in to pinch-hit for Drew and singled.  Scutaro worked a seven- pitch walk.  Salty flied out.  Then Ellsbury took a curveball for a ball.

And then he smacked a three-run shot on a fastball into the bullpen.  It was exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.  That was the final score right there.  7-4  What a relief.

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I don’t believe this.  Really.  I am having a lot of trouble accepting the outcome of this game.  This is not okay by any stretch of the imagination.  It is so completely opposite of what should have transpired.  I can’t fathom it.

It is inconceivable for several reasons.  First of all, we lost.  We lost to the Royals.  Not even the Orioles should be losing to the Royals.  We are the best offensive team in Major League Baseball.  This game should have been a blowout by the fifth inning.

Instead, not only did we lose to the Royals, but it took us fourteen innings to do it, and it was close.  The final score was 3-1.

See? Inconceivable.  Completely inconceivable.

Lester made his return and looked good.  This had nothing to do with him.  He pitched five and a third innings and gave up only one run on seven hits while walking two and striking out six.  He threw eighty-nine pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes.  Considering his target for the night was eighty-five pitches, that’s good to see.  He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth, followed by an RBI double, followed by a five-pitch walk, but he was pulled more because he’d surpassed his pitch count limit for the day.

His stuff was pretty good.  He gave up more way more hits than he usually would, and normally his strikeout total would be higher.  So he was a clearly a little rusty from his time off, and I don’t think the two-hour, twenty-one-minute rain delay helped either.  His sinker was as potent as ever, his cut fastball was almost as potent as ever, and his off-speed pitches were not great.  His best inning was far and away the third; it was one-two-three, ending in two consecutive swinging strikeouts.  He threw sixteen pitches.  His best inning pitch count-wise was the fourth; two singles followed by three consecutive outs, all on ten pitches.

Ultimately, he received a no-decision because the run he allowed tied the game.  With Drew on the DL with a left shoulder impingement (how timely), Reddick started in right again.  Papi walked and was out on a force by Crawford, who stole second base during Reddick’s at-bat; when Reddick doubled, he scored.

That’s right, folks.  The Royals’ one run tied the game, because we scored one run in the second inning, and that was all we scored through six.

We had runners at the corners in the fifth; nothing.  Same thing in the bottom of the ninth, prime for a walkoff; nothing (Crawford supposedly struck out on swing that he supposedly did not successfully check.  That is false.) We had two base runners in the eleventh via a single and an intentional walk; nothing.  Two singles in the twelfth; nothing.  A walk and a single in the thirteenth; nothing.

Three of those two-runner opportunities in extra innings came with less than two outs.  The twelfth was particularly maddening.  Reddick singled, Salty flied out, and Scutaro stepped up to bat.  A throwing error on a pickoff attempt of Reddick moved him to third.  Tim Bogar then signed for a suicide squeeze, so Reddick started going home.  Scutaro missed the sign.  He missed it.  He just missed it.  And he let the pitch go by, and Reddick was caught in a rundown.  Then Scutaro was out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Meanwhile, we’d gone through Albers, Bard, Paps, Morales, Wheeler, and finally Randy Williams, who ultimately took the loss because, in the top of the fourteenth, he allowed a double, a single, a successful sac bunt (the ball went in the air, so Gonzalez had no play because he was charging already), another single, and a successful sac fly.

Reddick doubled in the bottom of the fourteenth.  We did not come back.

This is profoundly enraging.  They collected twelve hits to our thirteen.  We both had eleven opportunities with runners in scoring position; they took advantage of three of them; we only took advantage of one.  They left nine on base; we left eleven on base.  They won; we lost.

Gonzalez went two for six, Papi went two for four, and Reddick went three for six.  Pedroia extended his hitting streak to twenty-two games.  Youk won’t play today due to a tight right hamstring he sustained while running out a ground ball in the sixth; he left the game in the seventh.  He gets points for hustling.  Apparently, though we need him in the lineup, because apparently we need all the help we can get against the Royals.

The bullpen obviously gets points for pitching almost a full game’s worth of shutout innings.  Salty gets points for throwing out two runners.  Reddick gets points for possibly saving the game in the tenth with a forward diving catch.  Crawford does not get points for striking out four times for the second time in his career.

We missed all sorts of scoring opportunities.  Scutaro missed a sign.  Ultimately, you could say the entire game was one huge miss.  It’s thoroughly embarrassing.  It’s inconceivable.  I have nothing more to say.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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This one, I obviously saw coming.  Seeing Beckett start after Lackey is sometimes really funny.  You have a model of consistency following a guy who’s become in Dice-K’s absence the model of inconsistency on this team.  Beckett is back to his old self again.  You see him going out there, and you know the team is going to win.

Beckett made quick work of the Mariners, but his hit count and pitch count were a little high.  In seven innings, he allowed one walk and one run on one solo shot.  It actually led off his last inning; it was a cutter, and it was the only mistake he made all night.  It was a full count, and Tek wanted the cutter away, but it went inside.

He struck out seven.  He allowed seven hits on 118 pitches, eighty-one of which were strikes.  That means that about sixty-nine of his pitches were strikes.  That’s ridiculously high.  So the high pitch count doesn’t bother me as much since the ratio of strikes to pitches is the same.  Also worth noting is that, aside from the home run, he gave up only one other extra-base hit: a double.  The rest were singles.

His only pitch that wasn’t totally amazing was his curveball, and he still threw it for strikes a little more than half the time.  Both of his fastballs as well as his cutter were indeed totally amazing.  His best pitch was his changeup.  About three quarters of the changeups he threw were strikes.

Let’s break down his strikeouts.  His first one came in the first inning on a cutter.  His second ended the second inning on a changeup.  His third was one-two-three; he didn’t post any K’s but induced three consecutive flyouts.  His fifth was one-two-three with two K’s; the first led off the inning and ended in a two-seam, and the second ended the inning on a four-seam.

He allowed only four runners on base through his first five innings.  He saw his worst jam in the sixth: two singles meant two runners on base in the same inning, who advanced a base on a groundout.  He posted one more strikeout after that with a changeup, followed by a flyout to end the inning.  His last K, the first out in the seventh right after the solo shot he gave up, was his last K of the day and his only called K.  It ended in a two-seam.  None of his strikeouts were achieved with only three pitches.

Incidentally, Beckett can thank Youk for the last out of that inning.  Beckett induced a ground ball, and Youk had to dive for it and had just enough time to make an off-balance throw to first that was still in time.

Actually, believe it or not, Beckett almost lost.  Since the solo shot occurred in the top of the seventh, he left down by one because we had failed to score up to that point.  If it weren’t for that solo shot, not only would the game have been a shutout through seven, but as always in baseball, there’s no guarantee that we would have pulled it together in the bottom of the frame.  Who knows? Maybe we would have had another supremely long scoreless marathon.

Crawford struck out swinging to start the bottom of the inning.  Clearly that was not promising.  Reddick flew out to left, and already two outs were on the board.

A quick note about Reddick.  He’s clearly ready to assume the role of a starter.  Since Drew is another model of consistency on the team, meaning of course that he’s consistently underproductive in every conceivable aspect of the game with the obvious exception of defense, it’s good to see Reddick get some regular playing time.  That will increase his sample size, and if he can earn a starting job during the second half of the season in the middle of a run to the playoffs, I’d say he’s got it.  Everyone knows it.  Theo knows it, Tito knows it, and Drew knows it.  One thing you have to admire about Drew, in addition to his defense, is that he’s a quiet guy.  He doesn’t get cranky and complain after every single failed at-bat, which would be really bad for the clubhouse.  If you had to have a guy on your team as consistently underproductive as Drew, Drew’s demeanor is perfectly suited for that role.  Of course, it’s ironic to say that about Reddick after he went 0 for 4 last night, but of course that’s just one game.  He almost got us on the board in the fourth; Papi doubled and moved to third on a single by Crawford, but Reddick’s fly ball wasn’t deep enough to allow him to score.  He tagged up but was thrown out at home.

Anyway, with two out in the inning, Tek singled.  Scutaro doubled, which could have scored Tek had a fan not reached out and taken the ball out of play.  In the end it didn’t matter because Ellsbury singled them both in.  But still.  You never know, so you should never do anything to affect the outcome of the ballgame (unless you’re on the team, and preferably unless it’s to affect it for the better).

Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Pedroia singled to extend his hitting streak to twenty games.  Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Gonzalez stepped up to bat.  Pedroia stole second, Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch, and Pedroia moved to third on a throwing error.  And Gonzalez ended up walking anyway.  Youk ended the inning by grounding into a force out.

Bard took the ball from Beckett and did not have a very good eighth.  He loaded the bases with nobody out.  He gave up a single and a four-pitch walk, and then a sac bunt turned into an infield hit.  Luckily he was able to get the three outs after that, on one of which he was extremely lucky, because he missed his location on the deciding pitch of a strikeout.  He ended up getting the strikeout, but as Beckett showed, we all know what happens when pitchers make mistakes.  Paps’s ninth was much better: a single and steal followed by three outs.

The final score was 3-1, and Beckett walked away a winner after all.  An interesting stat to let you know why we shouldn’t be surprised: we have now outscored the opposition 93-33 in the seventh inning.  I mean, it makes perfect sense.  Either you’ve got a starter out there who’s exhausted or a reliever who hasn’t had a chance to find his rhythm yet.  The Mariners shouldn’t be surprised either; they’ve now lost their last fourteen games, which sets a new club record.

Last but most certainly not least, we doff our caps to Tito, who with last night’s game earned his 715th win as our manager and the thousandth win of his managerial career! Here’s to you, Tito.  You gave us our first championship in eighty-six years in your first year here.  You gave us another one in 2007.  You made it through Manny Ramirez and other characters.  And you’ve done it all with the utmost class.  You’re one of the best ever.  Congratulations!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I’ve seen many truly great first innings of ballgames, and yesterday’s was not one of them.  A throwing error, four singles, a force out, and a double play later, we were already down by three.  (Officially, you can thank Scutaro for one of those, since he made a throwing error.  Unofficially, you can thank Scutaro for two, because one was the error and the other wasn’t technically an error; he just couldn’t come up with a clean play.  That first inning was not Scutaro’s finest hour.) That is not an auspicious start to a baseball game by any stretch of the imagination, and since it was Lackey on the mound, I was already thinking, “Here we go again.”

I am pleased to report that I was wrong.  Lackey only lasted five and two-thirds innings, but he really settled down after that twenty-seven-pitch first.  The turnaround was actually quite remarkable.  One might we’re writing off his start for good, and the next minute we’re cruising through the game’s first half.  Those three runs he gave up in the first and a solo shot he allowed later were the only runs he allowed.  Normally I wouldn’t be so thrilled with a starter who gave up four runs in less than six innings, but considering who the starter was and his circumstances, I can’t complain.  He walked one and gave up ten hits but struck out seven.  He threw 107 pitches, seventy-four for strikes.  So he was really inefficient, but he threw good pitches.  He rolled out all six of the pitches in his arsenal and used them all effectively.  Of all the pitches, his curveball had the lowest strike percentage, and that was about sixty.  (Technically, it would actually be his two-seam; he threw only one of them for a strike, but considering he threw only about two in total, that doesn’t exactly count.)

Lackey was removed in the sixth.  And then we saw a bit of a replay of what happened when he pitched for the Angels in the 2009 ALDS.  When he saw Tito come out of the dugout, he was not happy, and he said so.  On one hand, that’s what you want to see from every play on the team.  You want to see that fierce competitiveness.  That’s not something we’ve seen from Lackey in a long time.  I mean, he’s always a competitor with perseverance and work ethic, but the fact that he showed it in that way technically can be considered a good thing.  It means he had confidence that he could finish what he started and that he knew he rescued himself from an outing that could have tanked to an epic degree and was now on the right track.  And he didn’t want to let it go until he did everything he could to ensure that his start would be as top-notch as it was going to get.  But on the other hand, it’s not really compatible with the way Tito likes to manage.  Tito is a pretty quiet guy.  He would never call out a player in public, and what Lackey did was kind of like calling out the manager in public.  When Tito goes out of his way to be discreet, he deserves the same courtesy from his players.  If Lackey had a problem with being removed, he could have told Tito about it behind closed doors, just like Tito would have gone behind closed doors to tell Lackey he had a problem with him.  I’m sure they talked it out afterwards and everything’s all good.  I guess what I’m saying is that Lackey should feel free to be himself as a ballplayer but to also be mindful of the impact it has and not go out of line.

He was taken out in favor of Randy Williams; he left two outs and two baserunners (Damon reached on a fielding error by…Gonzalez? I didn’t really know he knew how to make fielding errors) in his wake.  Williams secured the last out of the inning as well as the first two in the seventh, and then we went to Bard, who finished off the seventh and allowed a double in the eighth that facilitated a steal of third but ultimately finished that inning too.

Paps came on for the ninth and allowed a triple followed by a single.  Luckily, that run didn’t matter.  But, like I always say, what if it did matter? It’s possible that that inning would have lost us the game in that case.  Closers can’t afford to pitch weakly under any circumstances whatsoever because you never know.

The reason why that run didn’t matter is because we totally dominated.  Salty walked in the second on five pitches, and Reddick sent a cutter to the very back of the first deck of seats in right field.  It was hugely huge; I’m sure his family, who was present at the game, really enjoyed seeing that.  It just goes to show you why walks will haunt.  We’ll make you pay every time.

The festivities continued in the third.  Gonzalez led off the inning with another five-pitch walk, and Youk followed with a single. Papi brought them both home with a double and scored himself on a double by Drew.

Ellsbury led off the fourth with a home run.  It was a slider, the ninth pitch he saw overall and the first of that at-bat.  It ended up in the first few rows of seats in right field.  It was his second dinger in as many games.  Ironically enough, hitting home runs is not something he was ever supposed to do.  Nobody ever thought of him as a power hitter.  Not that I’m complaining.  The more tools, the merrier.

We took a break for a while and didn’t score again until the seventh, when Pedroia smacked a fastball into the stands in right.  For the first time in his career, it was his third home run in as many games, and he’s hit seven home runs in his last four teen games.  This one was another hugely powerful swing.  Here’s another guy who was never supposed to hit home runs.  It really is so much fun to watch Pedroia hit home runs.  You think he’s such a small guy, but then he just uncorks this massive swing on an unsuspecting baseball and it goes way deep.

Even in the ninth, we were still piling it on.  Scutaro opened the inning with a single.  Ellsbury then reached on interference by the catcher.  He swung late, and Jose Lobaton reached out too soon for the pitch, so his glove got in the way.  Then Pedroia singled to load the bases, and Gonzalez of all people proved to be the first out of the inning.  Youk walked, and Ellsbury scored on Papi’s groundout.

And then we were done.  The final score was 9-5.  It was awesome.  I can’t say Friday’s game was avenged because every game counts in the grand scheme of things, but it was heartening to see that the team’s still got it, and the All-Star break may have done more good than bad as far as players’ rhythms and our momentum is concerned.

Bobby Jenks is back on the DL for the third time this season.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s good news.  I haven’t seen anything from him that I’m in a rush to see again.  In contrast, Beckett is pitching today in the series finale.  Remember that his absence from the All-Star Game was a precautionary move.  So we expect good things.

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Smile, Red Sox Nation! We made it to the All-Star break! At the traditional halfway mark of the season, we’re sitting on top of the American League East, one game ahead of the Yankees.  We’re much more battered and bent than I thought we would be, and the standings don’t reflect the kind of dominance I thought we’d surely be exhibiting by now.  But given the way we started the season, I have absolutely no right to complain.  Instead, I’ll be thrilled we’ve made it this far, even if we didn’t make it this far in one piece.

In keeping with tradition, I’ve graded the entire team on their performance up to the All-Star break, as I do every year.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

He’s batting .251 with twenty-four RBIs.  He has a slugging percentage of .437; he’s hit twelve doubles, two triples, and six home runs.  He’s had ten passed balls, forty-nine stolen bases, and only sixteen caught-stealings.  His fielding percentage is .997.  He has a wicked arm.  He’s new to the club, and he’s a starter.  Given who he is as a player as well as his position, we expect him to hit fairly well and nail runners.  For the most part, he’s done the first but still needs work on the second.

Jason Varitek: A

Tek’s grade tends to be pretty consistent year-to-year.  Part of that has to do with the fact that we don’t expect as much from him as we used to.  Now that he’s technically no longer a starter, that’s even more true.  As he ages, his value to the team lies less and less in his ability to perform as a player and more and more in his ability to perform as a father figure and team leader.  And in the latter department, he excels to the utmost.  And he’s still top-notch with the pitchers and defensively, even if we consider him an out that gets easier with every passing year.

Kevin Youkilis: A

Over the course of these past few games, he’s really boosted his average, which is now up to .285.  He has forty-nine walks, which ties him for ninth in the American League.  He has twenty-six doubles, which ties him for third in the American League.  He has sixty-three RBIs, which ties him for sixth in the American League.  His average wasn’t too high before this last hot streak of his, but he’s certainly been contributing.  His fielding percentage is .967, which for him is a little low.

Dustin Pedroia: A

Earlier in the season, he was in the middle of one of the longest slumps of his still-young career.  He was getting skittish in two-strike counts, and the high inside fastball was giving him a bit of trouble.  Now, all of that is in the distant past.  His OPS is .837; his OPS over the course of the last seven days is 1.142.  As with Youk, he’s boosted his average a lot recently.  He’s now up to .284.  His fielding percentage is .990.  Even if you look at the big picture with the slump, he contributes.  If he’s not hitting, he’s walking and playing good D.  And if he is hitting, he’s still doing those things.

Marco Scutaro: B

As with Salty, consider what we expect from Scutaro.  Given the fact that our shortstops haven’t exactly been the highlight of our lineups in recent years, we expect him to hit decently but play fantastic D.  With a .259 average, six doubles, and three home runs, he has hit fairly decently, although he should be batting in more than fourteen runs.  His fielding percentage is .977; for a shortstop, I expect more.  It’s the most challenging infield position; we’re halfway through the season, and he’s already made four errors.  Last year, he made eighteen errors.  If he makes another four errors during the second half, that already would be a huge improvement.  But our standards are higher than that.  Besides, what if those four errors cost us four ballgames? We can’t afford that.

Adrian Gonzalez: A

Anyone who gives this man less than an A must have the wrong Gonzalez.  He has done everything we ever expected him to do.  He leads the American League in batting average, hits, doubles, and RBIs (ironically enough, Adrian Beltre is right behind him).  He’s third in runs and on-base percentage, fourth in at-bats, fifth in fielding percentage, and tenth in home runs.  The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases, but we have Ellsbury and Crawford for that.  Collectively, those numbers tell us that he’s a powerful, durable, and beautifully well-rounded player capable of doing damage in any situation.  In short, he is worth every single bit of his contract.

Jed Lowrie: A

It’s not his fault he’s injured.  Before that, he was swinging a hot bat and playing well in the field.

Yamaico Navarro: B

Not great at the plate but literally flawless in the field.  He’s only been filling in temporarily anyway.

Drew Sutton: B

Sutton may be on the roster for the same reasons as Navarro, but he’s the exact opposite: not great in the field but outstanding at the plate.

JD Drew: B

Same old, same old.  Perfection in the field, mediocrity at the plate.  It’s really sad that that hasn’t changed.  Although I should mention that his highest monthly average of the season, 2.69, occurred in April, when everyone else’s monthly averages were probably at their worst.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Given last year’s injury and the fact that his season was therefore cut way too short, Ellsbury has had some catching up to do.  Not only has he caught up to our expectations; he has surpassed them.  He leads the American League in stolen bases.  He’s fifth in at-bats and average, sixth in runs, third in hits, and tied with Youk for third in doubles.  He’s set a new career high in home runs so far this year, and we still have half a season left to play.  Also worth mentioning is the fact that, over the course of the last seven days, Ellsbury has batted .467.  In the field, he has five assists, a new career high, and has yet to make an error.

Carl Crawford: C

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thinking about his contract when I gave Crawford this grade.  But the truth is that he deserves it.  The contract is simply a manifestation of the expectations that both the organization and therefore the fans have of Crawford, who has proven that he can meet and even surpass those high expectations.  So far, he’s done nothing of the kind.  Before he made his way onto the DL, he batted below .250, failed to post home runs in the double-digits, and walked and stole bases less than ten times each.  He also made two errors.  He was supposed to excel in every single one of those categories.  He was supposed to be the left-handed Adrian Gonzalez who could run.  So far, not so much.

Darnell McDonald: B

He said it himself: he’s not contributing at the level he could or should.  The added playing time helped him last year; thankfully, we have more guys healthy, so he doesn’t have as much playing time this year.  But the art of the bench player is the ability to perform when necessary, playing time or no playing time.

Josh Reddick: A

He’s just as good as we’ve ever seen him.  He performs whenever we need him; he practices the art of the bench player.  Obviously, that’s because one day he won’t be a bench player; he’ll be a starter.  In the meantime, he’s a great kid to have around.

David Ortiz: A

It’s pretty simple.  He’s batting above .300 and slugging about .575 with twenty-three doubles, nineteen home runs, and fifty-five RBIs.  He’s not supposed to field; as a designated hitter, he’s supposed to slug.  And that’s what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Offense Overall: B

The team leads the Major Leagues in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Despite this and the fact that there are a good number of players performing well on an individual level, the offense as a whole doesn’t get an A because it’s streaky.  Sometimes we’ll average about seven runs a game during a stretch; sometimes we’ll be lucky to score at all.  The mark of a good, solid offense is not to sometimes average seven runs a game; the mark of a good, solid offense is to do so consistently throughout the season.  That’s not something we’ve seen yet.  Until we do, we’ll just be a lineup with great hitters in it, not necessarily a consistently great lineup.

Defense Overall: C

We lead the Major Leagues in errors with forty-four, and we’re sixth in fielding percentage with .987.  That’s not good.

Josh Beckett: A

Beckett this season has been a model of consistency in the most positive of ways.   2.27 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, eight and three record, and ninety-four strikeouts and only seven home runs.  He’s a changed man from last year; this year, he’s found his former self.

Jon Lester: A

I’m going to give him an A because his numbers are fine enough, but I expect more from him.  His ERA is 3.31; it should be under three.  His WHIP is 1.21; it should be under one.  He’s given up fourteen home runs; it should be less than ten.  But he has ten wins by the All-Star break, which means he could have twenty by season’s end, and he has more than one hundred strikeouts.  Excellent, but not as excellent as I thought he’d be.

Clay Buchholz: B

Before he was injured, he wasn’t as great as he could have been.  Unlike Lester, his numbers aren’t that sufficiently good as to warrant a better grade even though he hasn’t performed to expectations.  He has a 3.48 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a record of six and three, only sixty strikeouts, ten home runs, and thirty-one walks.  He’ll need to work hard in the second half in order to return to form.

John Lackey: C

Lackey’s most recent start was the only start this year in which I felt we were seeing the Lackey we signed.  During all the other starts, we saw some pitcher we’d never even think of signing.  His ERA is 6.84, and his record is six and eight.  But you don’t need the numbers to tell you how inconsistent, spotty, and unpredictable his outings are and how porous and lacking in command he’s been.  It’s gotten to the point where him being on the DL is a good thing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that I’ve had just about enough of this.  We’ve been waiting and waiting for years now for him to show us even a small glimpse of the greatness he exhibited in Japan.  Well, guess what.  We’re still waiting.  And now he’s done for the season because he needs Tommy John surgery.  This could go one of two ways: either he won’t recover well at all and he’ll be even worse afterwards or he’ll make a spectacular recovery and it’ll turn out that the surgery corrected mechanical issues that were the root of the problem all along.  Either way, no matter how you slice and dice it, he didn’t pitch well this season.  You don’t need numbers to tell you that either.

Tim Wakefield: A

His ERA is in excess of four, and his WHIP is 1.27.  But technically his job is no longer to be a starter who can put the team in a position to win every fifth day.  His job is now to come in for an inning or two when necessary and keep the team in a position to win, and sometimes, when a starter is injured, to put the team in a position to win.  He is on the verge of making history with his long career, and age doesn’t seem to affect him at all.  He’s like the Benjamin Button of baseball.  He’s the ultimate team player; he answers the call of duty and he doesn’t complain.  Sometimes his knuckleball doesn’t dance like it should and he has a terrible night out.  But overall, when we need him to do something, he just does it.  It sounds simple enough, but not every ballplayer can do it.

Alfredo Aceves: A

Aceves has gone above and beyond.  He went from being a question mark during Spring Training to starting material.  He has an ERA of 3.41 and a WHIP of 1.22.  He has a record of four and one with one save.  How many pitchers can say that, after both starting and pitching in relief for half a season, they have a winning record as well as a save? Not many.  He can pretty much do it all, and that’s not even what he signed up for.  He can start, he can provide reliable middle relief, and he can close too.  I don’t think anyone expect him to be the versatile pitcher that the circumstances of the injuries to our staff have demanded he become.  But he rose to the occasion and continues to impress every time out

Matt Albers: A

Here’s another guy who continues to impress.  Again, during Spring Training, I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the dominant reliever he’d turn out to be.  He’s been as solid as solid gets.  2.55 ERA, thirty-for strikeouts, and almost two innings pitched per appearance.  So he’s both dependable and durable, arguably the two most important characteristics of a good reliever.  And with the way some of our starters have been pitching, if not for Albers we’d have been in desperate need of a good reliever.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s been better.  Like Morales, he’s a pitcher, and we need pitchers, so we’ll take what we can get and we’ll have to like it.  But to be honest I never like the look of a 4.70 ERA or a 1.43 WHIP.

Rich Hill: A

He’s appeared in nine games and thrown eight innings.  His ERA is zero.  That’s pretty good.

Andrew Miller: B

Yet another Spring Training question mark of whom we’ve seen much more than we ever thought he would.  He’s pitched decently.  For what we were expecting, he’s not great but not too bad.

Franklin Morales: B

Morales came into the fold when we were desperate for pitchers, period.  He hasn’t been outstanding, but he’s a pitcher, and given our circumstances that’s been good enough for us.

Dan Wheeler: B

His WHIP and his ERA are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  The good news is that he has an ERA of zero when pitching in day games.  So all we have to do is use him in relief during the day, and we’re guaranteed success.

Bobby Jenks: D

So far, Jenks is an epic fail.  Enough said.

Daniel Bard: A

Bard’s ERA is 2.05, and his WHIP is 0.80.  His ERA was zero for all of June as well as July to date.  Of the seventeen teams he’s faced in his career, he has an ERA of zero against twelve, including the Rays and the Phillies.  He has faced only five batters after throwing fifteen pitches.  Not too shabby.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

If only Paps were as consistent as Bard.  His ERA is almost four, and his WHIP is much too large for a closer.  And yet somehow he has twenty saves to his credit and has blown just one.  He’s on pace to lower his walk total from last year’s, which is definitely a good sign.  But as long as I have to hold my breath whenever he comes out of the bullpen, I won’t be able to give him an A.

Pitching Overall: B

Giving the pitching staff an overall rating is very complicated and in some ways not even fair.  The reason why it’s fair for the lineup and not for the pitching staff is because the pitching staff doesn’t have a responsibility to perform well as a unit in the same game.  Each pitcher has his time to shine; if he has it, great, and if he doesn’t it’s on him.  Ellsbury’s ability to get himself into scoring position may be contingent on what the hitter before him does, but Beckett’s abiltiy to secure a win has nothing to do with the fact that Jenks can’t hold it down.  But in keeping with tradition, I’ll grade the pitching staff on the whole.  Such a grade must reflect the entire staff, which unfortunately includes some very sad cases.

Terry Francona: A

Arguably one of the best managers in club history.  Certainly one of the best managers active in the game today.  It’s a travesty that he didn’t win Manager of the Year last year.  The way he manages all the personalities in this club and maneuvers through injuries, he’s Manager of the Year every year in my book.

Theo Epstein: A

Jenks and Dice-K (and Lugo and Gagne, while we’re at it) were fails, but you can’t blame him for trying.  Crawford can’t be judged yet.  Besides, for Gonzalez alone, he gets an A.  That deal is one of his masterpieces.

Team Overall: B

It’s hard to argue with the fact that we lead in so many offensive categories as well as in the American League East.  Why the B? Because we’re only in first place by one game and we’re already halfway through the season.  Granted, we’re pretty injured, and it’s hard to conquer when your staff is on the DL.  But in the grand scheme of things, many of those injuries have been fairly recent.  Nobody was injured in April.  There’s no way we should have had the start to the season that we did.  We should have been running away with the division last month, if that late.  It’s all well and good to build some momentum during Interleague and take four games from the Orioles, but any team can do that.  Our team is better than being satisfied with sweeping Baltimore.  We should be sweeping New York and Philadelphia.  We have two and a half months to get our act together and show everyone why we’ll be winning the World Series this October.  So let’s get on with it already.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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