Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Francoeur’

Yet again, we lost.  Yet again, it was crushing.  Yet again, the whole thing could have been neatly avoided.

Lester lasted only five innings.  He gave up four runs on six hits, but only one of those runs was earned, if you can believe it.  He walked one and struck out three using a total of 108 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.

The Royals jumped out early; Lester began with a groundout and a strikeout but then allowed a walk that clearly should have been a strikeout as well as a single.  Byrd then made a fielding error that by itself allowed the three unearned runs: it caused Johnny Giavotella to reach, Jeff Francoeur to advance to third, Billy Butler to score, and then Francoeur and Giavotella to both score on a double by Brayan Pena.  Byrd dropped the ball, both literally and figuratively.  I’m serious.  That was the fielding error.  He just dropped it.  And Pena’s double was no less strange; it was in Ross’s glove, then as his momentum carried him back it got out of the glove and bounced against the wall, and then somehow got back into his glove without hitting the ground.  Words can not adequately express the frustration and humiliation that befell Red Sox Nation at the hands of Ross’s glove, or rather lack thereof.

Although our hitters didn’t make much of a splash in the first two innings, we answered Kansas City’s challenge in the third and tied it up.  Byrd, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his egregious mistake, began the inning with a single.  Sweeney then singled and, after Aviles flied out, Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Papi of all people then struck out of all things, but Gonzalez, continuing his journey out of his slump, smacked a bases-clearing double.  With one swing of the bat, the slate was clean once again.

We looked like we may have been poised to score more in the top of the fourth; Ross began it with a groundout, but then Salty doubled and Byrd got hit.  Two outs later, Kansas City was up at bat, and a double and sac bunt later, the winning run had scored.

So Lester wasn’t as mediocre as his line would make him out to be, although he obviously wasn’t throwing his best stuff since he needed more than a hundred pitches to get through only five innings.  Still, he did seem to settle down as the game went on.  He retired the side in the fifth and was replaced by Mortensen in the sixth, when Mortensen did the same.

The only other time we came close to threatening was in the top of the ninth, when Ross, then replaced by pinch-runner McDonald, singled and Salty walked.  Both advanced a base on Byrd’s sac fly, which Bobby V. thought should have been ruled differently because he said that Byrd was hit on the finger.  He wanted home plate umpire Jeff Nelson to ask the opinion of first base umpire Tim Tschida.  Nelson refused on the grounds that Tschida would have been too far away to have an opinion at all.  And then Bobby V. went off about it after the game because Sweeney and Aviles provided two quick outs, and you never know what would have happened had the inning not been over.

Aviles had the team’s only multi-hit game with two hits.  Gonzalez’s double and Salty’s double were the only extra-base hits we hit all night.  Our batters didn’t pick up Ross’s slack, so we lost, 4-3.  Yup.  Ross dropped the ball.  You know it’s getting out of hand when the only thing tempering your frustration is your retrospective lack of surprise.

Last but most certainly not least, the condolences of Red Sox Nation and I go out to the family of Carl Beane, the voice of Fenway Park since 2003, who passed away yesterday.  His last game was the seventeen-inning loss.  He loved this park and this team, and he and his voice will most certainly be missed.

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And just like that, we’re right back to losing.  Honestly, what is it going to take? I don’t even know what to say anymore.  You know it’s dysfunctional when you’re happy to get away from your home park and on the road if that’s what it takes to win, but we lost now and there isn’t that much else we can do.

Bard lost again.  He pitched seven innings and gave up five runs on six hits while walking four, balking one, and striking out only one.  He threw ninety-six pitches, sixty of which were strikes.  He threw only three types of pitches as usual; his two-seam got up to ninety-six miles per hour, while his four-seam got up to ninety-seven.  His best pitch for strikes was the changeup, and his slider was decent enough.

He retired the Royals in order in the first, third, fourth, and sixth.  He faced four batters in the fifth and five in the seventh, which is particularly noteworthy as one in which our lead was particularly at stake.  With one out, two on, and a fielder’s choice in progress, a play at the plate prevented the Royals from tying it.  Gonzalez’s throw home was on time and precise; he and Shoppach executed it perfectly, and Jeff Francoeur was out by a mile.  One strikeout later, Bard was out of the inning.  And the rest of the innings were either those during which the Royals scored or that in which Bard was replaced.

In the second, Middlebrooks doubled, becoming one of only two players in modern baseball to hit five extra-base hits in his first five games in the Majors (the other being Enos Slaughter in 1938) and scored on a single by Shoppach.  Byrd was already on base after singling, so when Aviles walked it loaded the bases, and when Pedroia walked it brought home our second run of the day.  Bard promptly relinquished our lead by giving up three runs in the same inning.  We tied it up in the fourth when Aviles doubled and scored on a single by Pedroia.  And we moved ahead in the fifth when Gonzalez doubled and scored when Sweeney grounded into a force out.

That was the last run we’d score all game.  And after giving up two straight walks on ten pitches to begin the eighth, Albers replaced Bard in the eighth and gave up a three-run home run on the third pitch he fired.  Just like that, we lost the game.  Albers then secured the first two outs of the inning via the flyout as if the home run had never happened.  Then he was replaced by Miller, who ended the inning with a strikeout.

Anyway, we lost, 6-4.  Almost half of our hits were for extra bases.  Our only two multi-hit performances belonged to Gonzalez and Byrd, who each hit a double.  And to make matters worse, Middlebrooks had to leave in the second with a tight left hamstring.  (Yes, you read right.  The replacement now needs a replacement.)

We should never have lost this game.  We had a one-run lead, and if Bard could hold onto it for three frames, then the bullpen should be expected to hold onto it as well.  You can never afford to have a situation where you have to score a minimum amount of runs for a lead to be considered safe.  The bullpen’s job isn’t to protect a minimum lead.  The bullpen’s job is to protect a lead, period.  This should not be wishful thinking.  How many times do I have to write it before it somehow comes true?

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We won! Finally! We finally won a game after that horrendous homestand.  Never mind the fact that we had to actually leave our home park, and that we had to play a mediocre team, and that it’s going to take more than this one game to dig us out of the hole we’ve buried ourselves in.  We won, and we should be happy about it, because with the way the team’s been playing so far, you never know when we’ll win again.

Doubront didn’t break the seven-inning mark, but he came close.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits in six and one-third innings.  He walked three and struck out two.  He threw 111 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  He threw some really good fastballs as well as quite a few changeups, cutters, and curveballs.  Most importantly, he gave the bullpen a rest.  I can’t tell you what a relief it was to see only two pitchers get up there.

Doubront allowed two runs in the second on four consecutive productive plays.  He allowed another run, his unearned one, in the third on a throwing error by Middlebrooks.  He threw twenty-four pitches, loaded the bases via singles, and walked in another run in the seventh before he was replaced by Padilla, who pitched the rest of the game and didn’t allow any runs.

We won, 11-5, so naturally I was thinking how awesome it would have been to have somehow saved some of those runs for Sunday.  We didn’t waste any time, either.  Aviles began the game with a flyout, but then Pedroia walked and Papi singled.  Ross struck out after that, but then Gonzalez, who certainly had a lot to make up for, singled in Pedoria, and then Middlebrooks, who’s made quite the splash upon entering the big show for the first time, smacked a three-run shot to right field on the first pitch he saw, a fastball clocked at eighty-nine miles per hour.  It was barely fair, but fair is fair, and that ball was fair.  Somehow, on a swing that looked like your average two-strike, end-of-the-at-bat, I’m-not-going-to-get-anything-good swing, it was fair.  It was unbelievable.

Papi got in on the home run action in the third, leading it off with a solo shot to right center field on the second pitch of his at-bat, a fastball clocked at eighty-eight miles per hour.  Jeff Francoeur had nothing to do but watch it go; it was a textbook swing right down to the follow-through.  Then Shoppach led off the fourth with the triple of his career (his 1,525 plate appearances without one was the longest such stretch by any active Major Leaguer) and, one out later, Pedroia got in on the home run action with a two-run shot to right center field on the third pitch of his at-bat, the non-sinking third of three consecutive sinkers clocked at ninety-three miles per hour.  As usual, he put his whole self into that swing.

Aviles led off the eighth with a strikeout but, to round off the scoring, Pedroia walked unintentionally, Papi walked intentionally, and Ross doubled in both of them.  After Gonzalez grounded out, Middlebrooks homered yet again, a two-run shot to left on the second pitch of his at-bat, a changeup clocked at eighty-five miles per hour.  Yet again, it was barely fair; it actually bounced off the foul pole in left, but fair is fair, and it was fair.  It was the first multi-homer game of his career, and if he keeps playing like he’s playing, he can expect many more of those in his bright future.

Half of our hits were for extra bases: three doubles, a triple, and four home runs.  Gonzalez and Byrd had two hits each, and Pedroia went two for three with three walks.  Papi went three for four with two walks, and Middlebrooks went three for five with five RBIs.

Wow.  That felt great to write and even better to watch.  What a sight for sore eyes.

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We’ve seen this so many times before.  The one bad inning can doom even the best of pitchers.  But there are a few reasons why I am simultaneously not willing and very willing to let that appease my frustration and disappointment with this one.

Beckett literally cruised through his first three innings.  He just cruised.  Fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second, and ten in the third.  He faced the minimum in all three.  Then, everything collapsed in the fourth.  He issued two eight-pitch walks and then gave up a three-run shot on one of the more ineffectual fastballs I’ve seen him throw.  He got an out after that via a popup.  But then Jeff Francoeur reached on a fielding error by Sutton, and he scored on a double.  So Beckett gave up four runs, three of them earned.

After that, he just went right back to cruising as if nothing had happened.  He threw nine pitches in the fifth, fifteen in the sixth, and fourteen in the seventh.  In those three innings, he faced two above the minimum.  Take away that walk and single and the entire thirty-eight pitch disaster of a fourth, and Beckett has a perfect game.

So this is why the consideration of this situation is tricky.

It’s Beckett.  Beckett is back to being infallible this year.  Which leads me to my next point.  It’s the Royals.  If this were Miller who was doomed by a bad inning against the Royals, I could understand.  In fact, he was; he was doomed by several bad innings.  In the case of a fifth starter who wasn’t even originally supposed to be part of the rotation, I can see them maybe not having a good day against the Royals.  But this is Josh Beckett.  Even on the worst day of his worst year, he should be able to practically no-hit the Royals.  So between it being Beckett and it being the Royals, we should never have lost.  We scored three runs; given that scenario, three runs should have been enough.  Actually, one run should have been enough.

At the same time, it’s Beckett.  Contrary to our frequent belief, he is human.  His mistake wasn’t necessarily giving up the two walks before the home run; while it is rare for Beckett to walk anyone, walks by themselves are not harmful.  The reason why you don’t want to give up walks is because you don’t want to get tired, and you don’t want to pay for a mistake you may make later.  So Beckett’s fault was that he threw that fastball that resulted in a long ball.  If this had been almost any other team, we would also that Beckett made a mistake, we lost, and we’ll walk it off.  But because it’s the Royals, we are tempted to immediately attribute infallibility to even the worst of our pitchers.  Given the way this particular inning went down, though, I don’t think the fact that they were the Royals made any difference.  A mistake is a mistake; you can’t even get to Triple A unless you know what to do when a fastball comes down the pipe like that.  And the fact that he pitched after it the exact same way he pitched before it leads me to believe that it really was an isolated mistake he made that Billy Butler happened to spot.  Beckett said himself after the game that command was a constant problem.  If he pitches this well on an off day even to the Royals, I’m satisfied.

Beckett pitched a full seven innings, walked three, struck out eight, and threw 108 pitches, seventy-two for strikes.  Overall, he still pitched very well.  But he took the loss.  Morales and Albers combined for two scoreless innings to finish it off.

In light of all of that, the question then becomes, and rightly so, why the offense didn’t manage to score more than three runs.  Bruce Chen was as close to an ace the Royals pitching staff was going to get in this series, and we already pummeled him.  This game should have been locked by the time Butler stepped up to the plate in the fourth.

I could not believe that Ellsbury was out at first in the first inning.  He grounded to second.  Chris Getz had to range and fire mid-air to first while Ellsbury was hustling.  Somehow it was in time.

Anyway, Tek led off the third with a single, Navarro followed with a double, and both scored on a single by Ellsbury.  Pedroia led off the eighth with a home run on a fastball.  It was the sixth consecutive fastball he’d seen in that at-bat; the others skirted the strike zone, but that one was inside.  He put it in the Monster seats.  His hitting streak now stands at twenty-five games.  It was another laser.  And that was it for the lineup.  In the top of the ninth, Sutton made a great sliding catch, and Tek gunned down Getz at second, but except for Sutton’s single in the bottom of the inning, we proceeded to go down in order.  For a brief moment, when the ball came off of Crawford’s bat and started making its way to the right field stands in a hurry, I was totally thinking walkoff.  You were thinking it too.  But of course Francoeur made the catch on the warning track, literally inches from the stands.

Gonzalez and Sutton both went two for four for the only multi-hit performances of the game.  Navarro’s double and Pedroia’s homer were our only extra-base hits.  We left six on base and went one for four with runners in scoring position.

Therefore, the lack of offensive production was what made this an embarrassing loss.  We all thought we had this series swept before the Royals even got here.  Instead, we split the four games.  Well, on to Chicago and better days and betterness in general.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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That’s a hard loss for Penny to swallow, but hey, you make two mistakes, and even the guys on a bad team will make you pay.  A solo home run for Chipper Jones with two out in the first, followed by a solo home run for Garret Anderson the lead off the fourth, and that was all Atlanta needed.  Varitek went two for three and did manage to plate Youk in the ninth, but the final score stayed at 2-1.  Penny pitched six solid innings with no walks and two strikeouts, but if you get the outs, you get the outs, no matter how you get the outs.  And Penny just seems to get better and better as the season goes on.  He did have a control issue when he hit Francoeur in the helmet.  Yeah.  In the helmet.  But everyone, including Francoeur knew it wasn’t intentional.  He’d fallen down but got right back up with a little help from Varitek and stayed in the game.  He’s fine.

Saito and Bard pitched well in the seventh and eighth.  As far as the offensive spread is concerned, the only other guys who made constructive contact at all were Youk and Papi, who each had a hit.  Youk fouled a pitch off his shin, which kills.  Trust me.  He spent a few minutes walking it off and stayed in the game.  Papi made a fielding error, but we’ll forgive him citing inexperience at first.  This was the last Interleague weekend of the season, so he’ll be back to DHing tonight in Baltimore.  He’s been putting up great numbers lately, too.  Since June 6, he’s batting around .335 with seven home runs.  It’s not only that; he’s also been working deep counts, something he hadn’t been doing during his slump.  I’m telling you, it’s so refreshing to see him get back to his old self again.

Mikey Lowell’s still out, and he’ll be receiving an injection in his right hip to lubricate the joint.  For some guys, it works wonders; for others, it doesn’t do much and extra steps are necessary.  But it’ll probably help Lowell, because he’s not injured.  It just hurts.  John Henry got married on Saturday.  Congratulations! The event was packed with notables, everyone from Larry David to Carl Edwards.  The ceremony was held on his yacht, the”Iroquois,” with the reception at Fenway Park.  Now there’s a venue.  I don’t care what the occasion is; how awesome would it be to host an event at Fenway.

And so concludes another exciting Interleague.  We’ve put together a record of 11 and 7 over those eighteen games.  Could’ve done better, but not too shabby in the least.  Dustin Pedroia tore it up as usual.  But, again, a bad National League team barely avoids a sweep by the American League’s best.  I don’t really know how that happens.  First Washington, now Atlanta.  We could’ve won those third games easily.  But hey, you win some, you lose some, as they say.  And it would just be that easy to walk it off except that now our lead over the Yanks is down to three games.  I much preferred it when it was five.  But we’ll increase it.  We continue with our great schedule: three games in Baltimore, then we come home to face Seattle, followed by Oakland and Kansas City.  Not bad.  Lester at Jason Berken.  And don’t look now, but we’re gaining on the Dodgers for best record in the league.  They’re at .632, we’re at .613.  A few wins here, a few losses there, and we’ll be on top.

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And bounce back he did.  That was just what the doctor ordered.  Josh Beckett is a beast.  Maybe, just maybe he isn’t human after all.  With a final score of 3-0, Beckett racked up his third career shutout.  And he pitched a complete game.  And he only threw ninety-four pitches.  That’s so efficient it scares me.  Ninety-four pitches in nine innings.  Who throws ninety-four pitches in nine innings? I saw it and I still don’t quite know exactly how one throws less than a hundred pitches in nine innings.  And he didn’t walk anybody.  Not one base on balls.  Five hits, seven strikeouts, an ERA down to 3.74, and a WHIP down to 1.26, both falling fast.  He crushed.  He just crushed.  I give Derek Lowe a lot of credit for holding us to only three runs, and it was good to see him pitch after five years.  He had his flaws, but ultimately he gave us a lot of great memories in Boston, and we’ll never forget what he did for us in 2004.  Last night, his sinker was on.  But so was Beckett’s fastball.  His four-seam reached a maximum speed of ninety-seven miles per hour.  I don’t even know how hitters can see that.  And his two-seem wasn’t far behind at ninety-five.  So, in short, the Braves had absolutely no chance.  That was classic Beckett.  An epic performance.

RBIs go to Green, Youk, and Pedroia.  Drew hit, walked, and scored.  Ortiz hit.  And Varitek had his first multi-hit game of the month of June.  Two for three with two runs.  A pair of doubles into left center.  He’s now hit 281 doubles in his career, which breaks his tie with Nomar Garciaparra to give him sole possession of eighth place on the Red Sox all-time list.  Jacoby Ellsbury made yet another spectacular catch.  He ran out a ball hit hard by Jeff Francoeur to left center.  He caught it on the run and went into the slide before he hit the scoreboard.  Beautiful play, and it shows his experience.  Anybody else probably would’ve slowed down to see if the ball would be off the wall, but Ellsbury knows his turf.

Dice-K took an MRI yesterday that revealed weakness in his shoulder.  Shocker.  He could be headed for the DL.  Fantastic.  No, seriously.  This will give him time to rest and fix whatever is wrong with him.  Hopefully he’ll come back harder, better, faster, and stronger.  I just don’t want this to be the new thing with him; he goes on the DL, then comes off, pitches horribly, goes back on, comes off, and still pitches horribly with no improvement.  I hope this is the last stint of the season and that this will help him kick whatever the problem is.  Either way, Smoltz is scheduled to start Thursday, which was supposed to be Dice-K’s start, so he’ll have some much-needed extra rest.  It all works out.

Still can’t really get over Beckett’s outing.  I mean, crush.  That simple.  Crush.  The Braves could do nothing with his stuff, and the best part is that he always pitches like this.  Maybe not always a complete game shutout, but you know what I mean.  He gave the bullpen a rest, got the job done, and bounced back from his last anomalous outing with all the Beckett anger and competitiveness we know and love.  Awesome game.  A lot of fun to watch.  And it’s always so cool to know you’re watching greatness unfold right before your eyes.

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