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Posts Tagged ‘Joba Chamberlain’

Last night’s game could not have been a more quintessential example of Sox-Yanks.  It was long (all told, the whole game lasted three hours and forty-one minutes and spanned two days), it was suspenseful (both pitchers were struggling so the teams were going back and forth), it was powerful (five home runs were hit between the two teams), and it was close (the final score was 7-5).

And it had a winner and a loser.  The Yankees lost.  (I can only imagine John Sterling having to announce that on the air.) We won.  We swept the Yankees, and for the first time this season, we are now at .500! Forty games in, we are twenty and twenty.  Finally! The key of course will be staying at .500 and getting significantly above .500, but one step at a time.

It turns out that all this realigning of the rotation was done specifically to ensure that our top three starters would take on New York.  But that wasn’t why we won last night.  It may have been Lester up against Freddy Garcia, but he sure didn’t pitch like it.  Lester struggled early.  He hit Derek Jeter, who scored on a single by Mark Teixeira in the first.  He allowed two home runs in the second for a total of three runs.  Clearly his cut fastball wasn’t cutting or doing much of anything.  When he threw only nine pitches in the third, his only one-two-three inning of the night, I thought it would be smooth sailing from there, but his turnaround wasn’t quite that complete.  He didn’t allow any more runs, but he did walk four over the course of his six innings.  He allowed those four runs on five hits and struck out seven.  Not his best night, but not his worst either.  If those two cut fastballs actually cut or did something, he would only have allowed one run.  Still, overall, his pitches weren’t quite as effective as they usually are.  In the sixth, he threw twenty-two pitches, only nine of which were strikes.  He’s won five consecutive decisions, but in his last two starts, he’s walked nine.

Aceves came on to pitch the seventh and allowed New York’s fifth run; Curtis Granderson walked and scored on a double by A-Rod that should have been caught by Crawford, who instead made his first error in a Boston uniform.  Bard came in after that for the eighth, Paps took care of the ninth for his second save in three days, and finally the game was over.

Our lineup kept pace through the first three innings.  The Yankees scored first in the first; we got that run back in the second.  Youk struck out but reached on a passed ball.  A single and a walk later, the bases were loaded for Lowrie; all he could manage was a sac fly to bring home Youk and tied the game at one.  Papi tried to put us ahead; Crawford reached on a fielder’s choice, and Papi tried to come home but was out at the plate.

The Yankees put up a three-spot in the second with home runs; we put up a three-spot in the third, and we needed only one homer.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a double.  Two batters later, Gonzalez walked on five pitches.  And then, with the count full, Youk blasted one into the seats in left.  I mean, come on.  It was a fastball right down the middle.  It was eighty-nine miles-per-hour, which is obviously slow for a fastball, but it was right down the middle, and I don’t think anybody should have been surprised at what happened to it.

We put ourselves ahead by one in the fifth.  With two out, Papi broke his bat hitting a solo shot to right field.  (I also appreciated his dance performance during Tito’s in-game interview.) But the way the game had been going, we knew a one-run lead wouldn’t be good enough.  In the seventh, Pedroia walked, stole second base, and scored when Youk seemingly grounded to third.  But the ball rolled – wait for it – between A-Rod’s legs and Pedroia came home.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.  Oh, how the tables are turned.

Then the Yankees got that one back in the bottom of the seventh, so we were back to a one-run lead.  Joba Chamberlain came on to pitch the eighth and got Crawford to ground out on his first pitch.  He had two strikes on Salty before throwing two balls.  With the count even at two, Chamberlain threw a slider that didn’t slide.  Salty was all over it.  He hit his first home run since August 2, 2009 and the first this year for our catchers.  He sent it to the first few rows of seats in right.  It was barely out.  In fact, it hit the top of the wall.  But it was still awesome.  And that was it for scoring last night.

To recap, we swept the Yankees.  In New York.  To get to .500.  We’ve won five of six games against the Yankees this year.  During this three-game set, their number three, four, and five hitters went six for thirty-four.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get to .500; in 2011, it’s taken us 40.  This past weekend was one of the best weekends in our entire 2011 baseball lives.

But we’ve still got work to do.  Onward and upward.  We start a seven-game homestand today when we take on the Orioles.  This is a perfect opportunity to actually do something with the momentum we’ve created.  We’re at .500.  We need to pass that.  We need to keep on winning.  It’s Dice-K today, but as a team, we should be able to do something with the Orioles.

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Wow.  Okay.  Where do I start? The beginning.  Sometimes the end result isn’t nearly as significant as the road to get there.  Then again, sometimes they’re equally significant but you have to start from the beginning anyway because if you don’t you’ll just jump right to the good part and the whole discussion will be a mess.

The most important thing to keep in mind here is that this win was tremendous.  It was tremendous because it was a win and we needed a win for the standings and for our morale.  But it was also tremendous because this win required a relentless, night-long effort.  We couldn’t have afforded to give up even once, even for a second.  And we didn’t.  And it paid off.  We ground it out and were rewarded for our efforts.  (Just like we would’ve been for the previous two nights as well had the bullpen not completely ruined everything, but that’s not the point.) The spirit of this win reveals a very valuable quality embodied by this team: the spirit of never say die.  This team absolutely refuses to let go.  We may be off to our worst start of the decade this season, but nobody can say we haven’t been trying to dig ourselves out.  I like the fight of this team.  This win shows that, when we dig ourselves out of this hole, we are going to be one seriously difficult team to beat.

Now down to business.

So.  Beckett.  Beckett wasn’t good.  He left after recording two outs in the fifth.  He allowed five runs on five hits, only three of which were earned, and you can thank Marco Scutaro, who channeled Julio Lugo’s spirit, and his two fielding errors for the two unearned runs.  The first one was just a complete miss of a sure-fire double play that probably would’ve saved a few important runs.  The ball never got off the ground.  The second occurred in the ninth, which we’ll talk about later.

Beckett walked three and struck out one.  He allowed a solo shot in the fourth.  He threw mostly two-seams and a fair amount of changeups with some cutters, curveballs, and four-seams thrown in.  His cutter and four-seam were his most effective pitches; the rest of his pitches weren’t thrown for strikes very often.  Indeed, he fired 101 pitches and almost an equal number of balls and strikes.  He threw at least fourteen pitches in each of his innings; that minimum was good enough to get out of the first, which was his only one-two-three inning as well as his most effective.  Everything pretty much went downhill from there.  He fired a game high of twenty-seven in fifth before he left, or in other words, in an inning he didn’t even complete.

His strike zone was very clearly shifted downward.   By that I mean that he did throw in a concentrated area, but that area extended downward beyond the strike zone and ignored the top of it.  The amount of balls he threw down and to the sides in the bottom half of the zone were concentrated enough that it actually looks like he somehow redefined the zone for himself to include those areas.  That would explain the three walks in almost five innings as well as the low strike rate of most of his pitches.  Also, he just didn’t throw as hard as we know he can.  He barely topped out at ninety-three miles per hour even though we’re all well aware of the fact that he can easily throw at least ninety-five.

Fortunately, we may have an answer as to why Beckett’s been funky lately.  He left the game with back tightness.  He missed his previous start with back spasms.  Coincidence? I think not.  I also don’t think the weather helped any.  The weather was terrible.  It was raining, it was windy, and it was just a raw day.  The mound was disgusting.  The start of the game was delayed by about an hour.  But I hope this isn’t a repeat of a few years ago when his back made him awful for the entire year.  Here’s a man who needs to thank the bullpen profusely for pulling him through.

Meanwhile, after Beckett left, as a pathetic last-ditch effort, Joe Girardi declared that the Yankees would continue to play under protest, claiming that Beckett wasn’t really injured and that we called the bullpen before we removed him.  But because Beckett obviously was injured, walking off the mound with assistant trainer Greg Barajas, the umpires game Delcarmen as much time as he needed to get loose.  Girardi was annoyed that Delcarmen got all the time he needed instead of the usual eight pitches allowed.  If you ask me, he’s just whining.  Girardi knew the mound was bad because Sabathia had it fixed when he went out there.

Delcarmen finished the fifth and recorded an out in the sixth, somehow working around three walks.  Okajima picked up a hit and a walk while striking out two.  Bard recorded the last out of the eighth and ended up with the win.

The offense didn’t kick in until the sixth inning, after which point, with the exception of the bottom of the ninth, we owned and proceeded to claw our way out of a five-run deficit.  Youk started it off right with a home run to left field.  Coming into the game, Youk was batting .381 against Sabathia and now has a homer against him to his credit.  Fastball down and in and it was out.

But we really took off in the eighth, when we scored four runs against Joba Chamberlain.  Scutaro reached on A-Rod’s throwing error and scored on Drew’s opposite-field double.  Youk tapped a bloop single with the middle of his bat to right that scored two.  That brought us within a run, and Papi tied it with a powerful RBI single on a slider off the wall in right-center field.  The ball was hit so hard and looked so much like a home run that Papi essentially pulled a Manny Ramirez and watched it go.  That hesitation was what caused him to be out at second; had he hustled from the plate immediately, he would’ve had second easily.  Pedroia did tell him not to stretch it, but did he listen? No.  He learned a lesson for next time.

But let’s concentrate on the fact that he got a hit with runners on base against Sabathia, because Papi and Sabathia are both lefties and, as a result, Papi traditionally would’ve sat out.  The fact that he started the game at DH tells you that his bat is just on fire and Tito trusted him to get the job done against a tough southpaw.  Tito turned out to be right, as he often is.  Sabathia has been tougher on righties lately, and Papi in the past has been able to read him well.  So as if you needed even more proof that Papi is his old self again, that was it.  But that has obvious implications for Mike Lowell, who expressed ample frustration before the game to the media about his lack of playing time and had an animated conversation with Tito in the dugout probably concerning that as well.  Lowell explicitly stated that there’s no place for him on this team anymore, that because he’s not playing, he’s just taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone else, and that maybe the team would be better off without him.  If you ask me, I think that, at this point, it’s him who’d be better off without the team.  Let’s face it: Lowell was guaranteed a spot in the lineup opposite every lefty we faced, but only as long as Papi was slumping.  Now, Papi is no longer slumping, and Cameron and Ellsbury very close to coming off the DL.  Once they return, the reserves that have been replacing them will need playing time, which could come in the form of DH if Papi slumps in the future.  Lowell, ever the classy guy, was careful to emphasize that he’d never root against Papi, which I appreciated.  But it’s a very difficult situation.  Tito is obviously also very frustrated; if he gets through this, he should definitely be up for manager of the year or something.  We just need to find a solution that would benefit both the club and the player; I think Lowell’s name will end up coming up around the trading deadline if nothing ground-breaking affects the situation before then.  The problem, of course, is that he’s still an offensive threat, and because he can’t play defense, he’ll have to DH, which means we’ll have to deal with his bat in an American League lineup.  But such is life in baseball.  I think he’s handling the situation as best as anyone could, and I applaud him for that.  I don’t doubt that something will be worked out soon.

Returning to the action, we’re now at the top of the ninth.  With the game tied and very much on the line, Mariano Rivera came on.  With one out, McDonald singled.  Scutaro reached base when Thames couldn’t catch your average fly.  Now, Drew tweaked his right hamstring in the previous inning, so he left (he’s sure he’ll be able to start tonight, though) in favor of Hermida.  Hermida proceeded to crush a cutter that stayed over the plate for an opposite-field, line-drive, hard-hit double over Winn’s head that scored two to give us a lead.  A lead we would not, in fact, relinquish.  Believe it or not, that’s quietly been business as usual for Hermida, who leads the league with seventeen RBIs with two outs.  What did Drew have to say?

I told those guys I’m a smart kind of player like that.  I take myself out just in time for Hermida to hit a big double like that.  It worked out ultimately for the best.

Thank you for the quip, sir! The truth of the matter is that Chamberlain and Rivera were both terrible.  Fortunately, that seems to be the theme against us.  Speaking of closers, we now come to the bottom of the ninth, which I hereby entitle Papelbon’s Redemption.  It was a save, but it was by no means a clean one.  I’m a big fan of his competitive spirit; he was chomping at the bit for another chance to get that ball, go out there, and prove himself:

I was hoping all night long that I’d get another chance tonight.  I just want to show my team it’s a heavyweight title fight.  You might get one good blow on me, but you ain’t going to knock me out. I just wanted to prove that to my teammates tonight.

But he induced Nation-wide breath-holding in the process.  It took him twenty-eight pitches to barely escape, and he didn’t exactly escape unscathed.  A-Rod scored on a double by Cano.  But with runners at the corners, Miranda hit a one-hop single up the middle.  Paps nabbed it, checked A-Rod at third, and fired to first for out number two.  Then, he finally struck out Winn on eight pitches to seal the deal by pitch and by glove.  The final score was 7-6 and, ladies and gentlemen, it was in our favor!

Besides Lowell’s frustration, the other controversial side story was the fact that Dice-K and V-Mart just did not agree on Monday night, and V-Mart was frustrated because was trying to guide Dice-K and help him out, but like he said, ultimately Dice-K is the one with the ball, so he has the last word.  Dice-K shook him off numerous times, and both of them were miffed afterwards.  Before last night’s epic battle, Tito sat down with them to try to talk things out.  As Tito said, the shaking-off itself wasn’t so much the issue because if a pitcher feels that a certain pitch is right and should be thrown, if he throws it with confidence and locates it properly, it’ll probably be effective even if it’s not what the catcher called for.  It’s interesting to note that the one good start that Dice-K has had this season, the only one without a noticeably abysmal inning, was caught by Tek.  Whatever Tito decides to do about it, I think something central will be off-field as well as on-field work between them.  They have the potential to be a good battery and we need V-Mart’s bat in there so he can heat up properly, so the sooner they work it out, the better.

I would also like to point out that, if the team were winning and doing really well, neither Lowell nor V-Mart would’ve expressed as much frustration as they did or in the explicit manner in which they did.  Because when the team is winning, the attitude is that everything is working and there’s obviously nothing to fix, so why fix something that’s not broken.  But with the team losing and morale taking a hit, side conflicts like this fester and come to the surface.  Of course, we can feel fortunate that, at the very least, neither of these things is going to blow up in our faces like the Manny Ramirez debacle.  Lowell is way too classy to let that happen.

So four hours and nine minutes after starting the game an hour late, we got ourselves a win! It was really an incredible show of spirit and determination.  What a game.  It was like all of a sudden we decided that we just weren’t going to lose it.  We just weren’t.  So we won it instead.  Really incredible stuff.  Those types of wins do a lot to lift a clubhouse.

We’re now back at .500, eight and a half games out of first and five and a half games out of second, occupied by New York.  Our record is twenty and twenty.  But like I’ve been saying all along, we need to start somewhere, and this tough schedule may be just the ticket to bring out that spark that may have been missing up to this point.  Tonight Buchholz confronts Baker and the Twins at home.  Yet another series it would behoove us to start on the right foot.

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And dominate we most certainly did not.  Again, Red Sox fans work from nine to five to come home and watch the Red Sox lose, 9-5.  But the loss isn’t important.  The nine runs we gave up and the five runs we scored aren’t important.  Jon Lester is what’s really important.

Lester pitched two and a third innings of very shoddy ball.  One of his worst outings all season.  Five runs on eight hits with three walks, three strikeouts, and a two-run shot by A-Rod.  He was inefficient, he was nervous, and he was ineffective.  At one point, John Farrell and Jason Varitek came out to the mound to talk to him, but what do you say to a guy in that situation? It’s not like he’s pitching like that on purpose.  The postseason’s around the corner, and he’s feeling pressure, like this is his big audition to prove that he can handle being our Number 1 starter.  Obviously, no pitcher of his experience should feel that way at this stage, especially not since he was our Number 1 starter last year.  But it wasn’t just that.  The Yankees were figuring him out.  Suddenly, he was an easy pitcher to hit.  That’s never been the case.  It was easy to see, though, that his timing was off, as evidenced by the fact that the Yankees were running all over the place.  A-Rod stole three bases.  Even Robinson Cano was running, and when Cano is running, you know something’s up.  Never mind the fact that everyone tries to run on Tek; this was just ridiculous.  Lefties are notoriously slow in their delivery, but still.  Seven stolen bases in a single game.  But that’s not important.

Lester’s seventy-eighth pitch was a line drive by Melky Cabrera that came straight back to him.  It hit him on the side of the knee, just above the bone, inches away from his kneecap.  Lester went down, and he stayed down, and you could literally see his pain.  Red Sox Nation held its breath as one as the fate of the World Series rested on the knee of Jon Lester.  He finally made his exit, walking off the field on his own, and was taken for x-rays immediately.  The x-rays were negative.  It’s just a contusion.  He’s listed as day-to-day put plans to make his next start on Thursday.  Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one as the dream was kept alive.

And that’s what was important.  Right now, the division would be absolutely fantastic, but it would be more valuable to us in the long run if the starters rested and the bullpen got its work in so that we’re raring to go when the playoffs start.  And if Jon Lester were injured, the entire timbre of the playoffs would have changed.  Our expectations of how deep we would go would have changed.  All you need is your ace writhing on the ground in agony to make you realize just how valuable he is to your club.  But thankfully, and when I say thankfully I mean thankfully, he’s okay.

So the bullpen was in for a long night.  Hunter Jones, Michael Bowden, Delcarmen, and Ramirez each had shifts.  Between them, they pitched 5.2 innings, gave up four runs on six hits, walked six, and struck out five.  Not the greatest.  Not at all the greatest.

Heading into the fourth inning, all we wanted was at least a hit off Joba Chamberlain to get us started.  It came in the fourth in spectacular fashion; a home run by Victor Martinez with two out in the inning.  That was quite a hit.  He finished the night two for four.  Youk also went two for four with an RBI.  Drew went two for three with a double.  And Big Papi hit quite the two-run shot with two out in the sixth; he would finish the night with three RBIs.  Pedroia stole.

Tek went 0 for 4 and struck out twice.  He’s currently batting .208 and only .124 since August 1.  He has a neck injury that’s been bothering him since June.  He just had a bad night, period.

Guess who finally convinced Billy Wagner to come to Boston? His wife, Sarah.  Smart woman.  Very unlike one Leigh Teixeira.

Okay, so we’re six and a half games behind the Yankees.  That’s fine.  Lester is okay and will be ready to go, and that’s all that matters.  We’ll get to the playoffs, have our way with the opposition, make it to the World Series, win the World Series, and enjoy the Rolling Rally.  It’s all good.  Although a win today would be just what the doctor ordered.  Speaking of orders, it’ll be a tall one; Dice-K at Sabathia won’t be easy.  But it’s doable.  The key is that, because the bullpen worked overtime last night, Dice-K will have to go deep.  Which is also doable.  Should be an interesting game.  And hey, we could still clinch on Yankee soil, which means their attendants will play bartender for us as we celebrate.  That’s always a plus

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This is the best time of year, and with the Yankees series this weekend, it feels like it’s October already.  This could be it.  After last night’s win, we reduced our magic number to three.  We could clinch in Yankee Stadium and celebrate on New York soil, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is absolutely, positively, without a doubt something to smile about.

But let’s talk about last night first.  The final score was 10-3.  Buchholz was brilliant and was not responsible for any of those runs.  Six and two-thirds shutout innings pitched.  No walks.  Eight strikeouts.  If he didn’t allow five hits, he would’ve been on his way to a perfect game.  But even with the five hits, that outing was absolutely brilliant.  You can’t even get an outing like that out of some veterans, let alone some young upstart who had a horrible season last year.  But he’s on the rise.  All of his outings this year have been at least decent, and this was his sixth straight quality start.  He’ll be starting in October.  Just watch.

It was Ramirez who was responsible for the runs.  All three of them.  He recorded only two outs but gave up three runs on three hits, partly the courtesy of Billy Butler, who hit a two-run shot off him in the eighth.  In some ways, this is more concerning than if Buchholz had given up the runs, because this is a star of the bullpen we’re talking about.  We all know the importance of the bullpen in the postseason.  Now more than ever, they need to hold it together.  Especially Ramirez and Delcarmen, who haven’t been at their best lately.  Saito wasn’t great either; he pitched the rest of the game and allowed two hits and a walk.

Ellsbury went three for six with an RBI and two steals.  Pedroia went two for five with a double and an RBI.  Martinez went two for five with a walk.  Bay was hitless but walked.  Ortiz had a fantastic night, going three for five with a double, a walk, and three RBIs, one of which came on a leadoff homer in the fourth that he absolutely crushed.  Lowell hit and walked twice.  Kotchman and Gonzalez both went two for four with a double and a walk.  Gonzalez also stole.  Reddick walked twice.  So every single member of the starting lineup reached base at least once.

Needless to say, this was not Kansas City’s best work, but with five errors and two ejections, it was pretty entertaining.  Zack Greinke was ejected in the third for heckling home plate umpire Greg Gibson.  Then Anthony Lerew knocked Lowell’s helmet off in the fourth with a curveball, so Gibson warned Lerew and both benches.  Trey Hillman came out and had the liveliest exchange with an umpire that I’ve seen in a while, and he got tossed.  And the words continued even after that.  I’d say this particular crew was pretty sensitive.  I don’t think Lerew was trying to hit Lowell on purpose.  If you’re going to hit a batter on purpose, you do it with a fastball, not an off-speed pitch that’s notoriously difficult to control.

Congratulations to Terry Francona for recording his 561st win last night! With that win, he surpassed Mike Higgins to reach second place on the Red Sox all-time list, right behind Joe Cronin.  That’s heady company!

And so it begins.  Lester will take on Joba Champerlain in the Bronx tonight at 7:00PM.  There’s really nothing else to say, is there.  Except perhaps the always-appropriate, “Go Sox!” Let’s dominate.

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I really don’t like being right in these situations.  Remember that I said that the first game of our series with the Rays is important because it sets the tone for the series? Remember that I said that the bullpen was shot? Remember that I said that, as a result, Brad Penny would have to stay at his sharpest while going his deepest? Yeah.  About that.  That did not happen.  We lost, 4-6, and I can assure you that Brad Penny’s performance was riveting.

Rivetingly awful.  He nailed the deep part down; he pitched six innings, which I believe is the most he’s ever pitched this season.  But we sort of saw that coming because of the bullpen situation.  Terry Francona wasn’t taking him out before the fifth inning no matter what, and if he can get a sixth inning out of him, awesome, even if it meant losing.  So that wasn’t the problem.  It was the five runs on six hits with three home runs that was the problem.  (He walked two and struck out five, by the way.) Carlos Pena took him deep in the second for two runs, Carl Crawford did the same in the third, and Pat Burrell hit a solo shot in the sixth.  There were actually four home runs given up by Red Sox pitching; Manny Delcarmen let Jason Bartlett go deep in the seventh.  That means that every single run the Rays scored was plated via the long ball.  That, my friends, is just a disgrace.  Okajima was pretty good in the eighth, though.  But anyway, that was a disgrace.  It was very ugly, very painful, and very unlucky; the Yankees won so now we’re back to two and a half games out.  And again, it was one of those wrecks that Tito had no way to stop.  The bullpen needed a night off and he had to give it to them if he wanted them to be fresh for the Yankees.

To make matters worse, we failed to do anything with runners in scoring position, even though we scored four runs and matched the Rays’ seven hits.  Bay hit a solo shot in the fourth, his first since July 7, and let me tell you: he swung the bat with a vengeance.  That ball had no chance of staying in.  And Victor Martinez went two for four with a homer to lead off the sixth.  Another extremely hard-hit ball.  The other two runs were plated by Lowrie and Youk.  Lowrie made a fantastic defensive play in the first, throwing Bartlett out at first base from shallow left field.

Paul Byrd signed a minor league contract.  That’s pretty much all the news there.

Bay aggravated his right hamstring, so he’ll probably sit out tonight.  Bummer.  I was really looking forward to him proverbially slaughtering some Yankees.  Victor Martinez, who’s never been involved in Sox-Yanks before, is in for a treat.  Or rather, he will be when the rivalry returns to Fenway Park.  We’re in New York this time around, so it’ll be a lot less nice, but either way I think he’ll do well.  Anyone who enjoys playing in Boston so much will get the hang of it quickly.  We’re throwing John Smoltz, so the lineup’s going to have to be ready to dig us out of any holes that will probably result from his work on the mound.  The Yankees are throwing Chamberlain, who’s seven and two with a 3.58 ERA.  He doesn’t scare me so much that it concerns me about being in the predicament of having to put more pressure on the offense to back up Smoltz’s probably spotty performance.  Whatever.  I’m psyched.  We’re currently undefeated against New York; let’s keep it going!

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And another sweep it is! Ladies and gentlemen, we remain undefeated against the New York Yankees! 5-0.  Wow.  That’s something.  That’s awesome, is what it is.  Let’s keep that up, because we sure could use the wins, and we don’t like the Yankees, so why not? I’ll tell you, when I watch us get win after win after win against the Yankees it feels great.  It feels just, and it feels right.  And there’s also some relief mixed in, knowing you can get it done even if some injuries come to pass. Youk was out last night with side tenderness, Ellsbury left after the third with a tight hamstring, and Paps was unavailable because of his thirty-two-pitch save on Monday.  And we still won.  And it wasn’t that close of a final score, either.  7-3.  I like it.

Okay.  Beckett.  I was hoping this would finally be a properly Beckett-esque outing.  It ended up being about half a Beckett-esque outing.  Really, when you think about it, the only start during which Beckett’s been himself was Opening Day.  On Opening Day he was bringing.  Now he’s struggling in start after start.  But last night did provide some hope.  Six innings, three runs on ten hits, a walk, and five K’s.  I should say the three runs came on a Damon homer in the third.  So Damon had back-to-back nights, courtesy of a 93 mile-per-hour mistake.  As I said, last year the problem for Beckett was home runs.  I’m noticing that this year he’s having a bit of an issue with that but also with walks.  Last year he didn’t walk anybody.  So ultimately which is better? The obvious answer is the Beckett of ’07, who allowed neither.  Beckett’s most recent victory before last night was April 18 against the Orioles when he gave up four runs, three of them earned, so that wasn’t Beckett being Beckett either.  And one more word about this new park the Yankees have.  They’ve hit at least one home run in every home game they’ve had this year.  That has to stop.

Anyway, that was it for the Yankees.  After that home run it was close; the score was 4-3 for a while, but Okajima, who got a hold, and Saito held the fort.

As far as our offense, it was all Pedroia, Ortiz, and Bay.  Pedroia went three for four with a walk and two runs.  So he was perfect at the plate and scored twice.  It’s the beginning of May, I know, but this is the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player right here.  I mean just look at the kid.  He’s ridiculous.  Not to mention the fact that his fielding is top-notch; he has a .991 fielding percentage.  He’s got AL MVP written all over him.  Again.  Ortiz walked with the bases loaded (I love Yankees pitching, I really do), and Bay clobbered a three-run moonshot into the left field stands in the first inning.  I mean that ball was smoked.  Joba Chamberlain had no chance.  And that was a horrible inning for him, too.  Bailey, our seventh batter, was the first he managed to get ahead of in the count.  Lowell’s bat was pretty quiet last night, but his glove wasn’t; a very nice catch over his shoulder in the third.  Surgery? What surgery?

And I have to talk about the eighth inning, because that was just a great example of why we’re so good.  An error by Ramiro Pena allowed Bay to reach base, and then he stole second.  Then the Yanks intentionally walked Drew to get to Bailey, who reached base on a hit-by-pitch.  So we loaded the bases without a hit.  That’s the way you do it.  That’s the way you capitalize and make another team pay for their mistakes.  We ended up sending seven batters to the plate, and two runs later Okajima was back from a nice, long rest.  Incidentally, Ellsbury and Green also stole second last night.

Bailey got an error in the fourth at first.  He was charging a ball and it skipped off his glove.  That’s our eighteenth error of the season.  We are currently twenty-first in the Major Leagues with a fielding percentage of .982.  That has to improve.  One way to do that is to keep Julio Lugo out of the lineup, but aside from that it has to improve.

A word about Joba Chamberlain.  Joba Chamberlain is neither a good pitcher nor a good man.  He hit Bay in the upper back with a pretty hard pitch in the fifth inning.  This after having pitched up and in to Youkilis twice in a row last year.  That’s not good.  I mean you just don’t do that.  You pitch cleanly, or you don’t pitch at all.  But pitching into a guy’s numbers is not a good idea.  That’s low.  That’s beyond Red Sox-Yankees, because you just don’t do that, period.  Bay gave him a look on his way to first, and rightly so.  I mean it was a stupid move; the Red Sox dugout is already not on speaking terms with Chamberlain, so to speak.  David Ortiz even warned him before the last series not to take shots at anyone.  So that’s not mature at all.  I don’t know what the kid’s problem is, but he needs to handle it.  And let’s not even talk about his DUI conviction.

But it’s all good.  We’re out of New York and done with them for a while, and we left on a high note.  Starting the season series undefeated makes the message pretty clear.  Anyway, on to bigger and better things, like Cleveland.  Pavano at Masterson tonight, followed by Laffey at Wakefield tomorrow, and then we’ve got another series with the Rays.  As far as the standings are concerned, the Yankees are soundly in third, and we’re still a game out.  Let’s change that tonight.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are undefeated against the New York Yankees! And we inaugurated their new stadium in spectacular fashion, with a win of course.  I have to admit, I was a little sad to see the old one go, mainly because it echoed with memories of 2004, but I have no doubt that we’ll engage in plenty of epic performances at the Yankees’ expense on their new turf.  It’s the first time I’ve seen its interior, and I’ll say this: it’s an ugly park.  It’s an ugly, ugly, ugly park.  And they still have that ridiculous fence thing.  I don’t really know what that’s about, but to each his own I guess, even if it is an ugly park.

Either way, we rocked it.  6-4.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m looking forward to playing the Yankees not only because I love beating up on them but also because it’s starting to be a sure-fire win.  For us, they’re starting to be the new Tampa Bay Rays.  I don’t dislike them any less, I’m just relieved to play them, from a standings perspective.  Because they’re just bad.

Lester was awesome.  Seven innings, three runs on six hits, two walks, and ten K’s to tie his career high in a single game.  That was definitely one of his best starts this season, if not the best.  And those three runs were the result of only two mistakes, a two run home run for Damon and a solo shot for Teixeira in the fifth.  They went back-to-back.  I was not pleased.  But Lester collected himself after that and did well.  And that was a start that shows you how mature he is.  He’s had some shaky ones lately, but on the road in our arch-rivals house he pulls himself together and dominates.  Although if I had to pick one moment that really revealed Lester’s maturity, I’d say that press conference he gave after he was diagnosed with cancer would be it.  A young man just diagnosed with cancer, and he faced the media and all their questions.  That’s brave.  And he was diagnosed and came back in less than a year.  That’s really brave, to say the least.

Ramon Ramirez no longer has an ERA of 0.00, either.  His is 0.59 after a mistake of his own, another solo shot for Teixeira in the eighth.  Papelbon gave up two hits but ultimately aced and got the save as usual.

The offense was beautiful.  Only two members of the lineup failed to reach base, Varitek and (ironically) Youkilis.  In fact, in the second inning, Youk had a repeat performance of a ball skipping off his glove.  It was a rushed double play situation, Green threw him the ball to get Cano at first, and it skipped off his glove and Cano was safe.  No error, but still.  Anyway, the other seven batters batted or walked their way on, or both.  Ellsbury went two for five with a walk and a steal, Pedroia went one for four with a walk, Drew went one for two with two walks, Bay went three for five, Lowell went two for four with a walk, and Green walked.  As far as RBIs are concerned, Lowell and Bay each had two.  Lowell absolutely crushed a ball into the left field bleachers in the second inning for one of his, and Bay hit a two-run shot out in the seventh for his sixth home run of the season.  But guess who else had a good night.  None other than Big Papi! Two for three with two walks and an RBI.  This could be it.  He could be coming back.  I said maybe a mental break would be a good idea, but you never know.  Different guys in different slumps at different times need different things.  Last year he needed a mental break, maybe this year all he needed was the high-pressure, adrenaline rush of our first game in the Bronx.  I mean on Saturday Tampa Bay walked Pedroia to get to Ortiz.  That can’t be good for his psyche.  But last night certainly will be.  Let’s see what happens.

Jerry Remy’s still out, but of all his substitutes I liked last night’s broadcast team of Don, Eck, and Dave Roberts best.  They did a good job.

Girardi was ejected last night, by the way.  Apparently he didn’t appreciate the fact that home plate umpire Jerry Meals called a third strike on Derek Jeter in the fifth.  I have news for you: it happens.  Even Jeter does strike out sometimes, as hard as that may be for you to believe.  Johnny Damon chided us for almost letting Jason Varitek walk, substantiating this with a statement that in Boston we don’t keep our guys but in New York they do.  I really have nothing to say to that.  It’s so completely and obviously wrong and untrue that I can’t dignify it with a response.  Us let people walk while New York keeps people there? Alternate universe! I think somebody has a chip on his shoulder.  And finally, people started leaving the stadium in droves during the rain delay and stadium personnel wouldn’t let them back in.  The gates were closed in their faces.  This is the kind of operation the New York Yankees run.  Honestly, that’s low, even for them.  Fans drive, they fly, they take the train, they pay money to see a ballgame and you just don’t let them back in even though they have tickets? Seriously? Yeah, that speaks for itself too, I think.

So I’d say that was a very nice Boston welcome to New York’s new grounds.  Establishes early on who’s boss.  Doesn’t give the Yankees any ideas about shedding the past just because they’ve built a new house which, incidentally, is a lot like the team: they spent millions of dollars on things they don’t need.  So we did good work, and tonight it continues.  Beckett at Chamberlain.  Let’s sweep this one, too.

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