Posts Tagged ‘Joe Nelson’

I predicted about ten days ago that we might find ourselves in first place about ten days later.  I am so psyched to say that I was absolutely right.  The key word in that prediction of course being “might,” because we’re currently tied with the Rays for second, only half a game out! Unfortunately, New York currently occupies the top spot, the key word there of course being “currently.”

We played some excellent baseball all around.  We’ve played better and better baseball every day.  The pitchers and offense lit it up.  Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all the naysayers out there that they were so incredibly wrong, it’s not even funny.  In Boston, you really do have to keep the faith.  Because, one game at a time, it all works out.

Okay.  Let’s finish up the series with Cleveland and then start with the series against the Phillies.  We ended up splitting with the Tribe; the lack of win rests squarely on the shoulders of Bard.  With two out in the ninth, Beltre smacked a two-run shot, but Bard blew his save.  It was disgusting.  We had the W in the back, and he lost it completely.  As for the Phillies series, we won it.  We whipped them completely in the first two and barely lost the last game, kicking the three games off right by handing Jamie Moyer what was probably the absolute worst start of his entire Major League career.  It was glorious.  Moyer hasn’t recorded at most three outs since 1998; we got him for nine runs before he left in the second.  Fantastic.  It’s time that dude realizes he’s forty-seven years old.  A season high eight doubles, and Lackey was on the ball; a full seven innings of two-run, no-walk ball.  Lowell hit his second home run of the season in that 12-2 victory.  The second game featured the Major League debut of Daniel Nava, an undrafted prospect from an independent league.  He steps up to the plate and crushes the first pitch of his Major League career out of the park for a grand slam.  He’s the fourth player to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat and the second to do so on his first pitch.  That was one of the most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen.  Pure gold.  Right into the bullpen.  That kid deserved it.  It was one of those moments that galvanizes an entire team.  We all needed it.  So here’s to you, Nava; congratulations and more to come! The third game was lost in the fourth, when Wake gave up four runs.  I guess Fenway really is one of Hamels’s top three favorite ballparks.  I guess I can’t really blame him, though.

Then the D-Backs came to town, and we swept them right out.  While the Drew brothers got reacquainted, Buchholz plowed through mediocrity to earn the win in the first game.  He notched eight K’s, tying his season high, but couldn’t finish the sixth inning.  It was his shortest outing since five innings against New York on May 8.  He was inefficient, firing 113 pitches, but at least he gave up only three runs.  You know you’ve got an elite pitcher on your hands when his bad day is the equal of other teams’ best pitcher’s good day.  His fastball wasn’t so great, but his offspeeds were right on.  We went on to win the second game, despite Lester’s struggle with his command.  He adjusted throughout the game, putting his adaptability on display.  He’s now on an eight-game winning streak.  His two HBPs tie a career high he’s achieved three other times, none coming since 2008.  The third game wasn’t easy for Lackey, either.  That’s three grinds in a row for our starting pitching.  As usual, it was the fastball on the glove side that gave him trouble.  But a win is a win, and a sweep is a sweep, and Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey are now the first three pitchers in the Majors to have won more than eight games this year.

We followed our sweep of the D-Backs with a sweep of the Dodgers, our way of avenging the Celtics.  Friday marked Manny’s first plate appearance at Fenway since his trade.  The response was mixed; he received ample cheers and ample boos.  Red Sox Nation always does it right; we know how to remember an integral part of two World Series championships, but we also know how to remember an unreasonable tantrum-thrower with a bad attitude.  The at-bat came in the second inning and resulted in a flyout to center field.  He did not acknowledge the crowd at all, and after Nomar’s numerous acknowledgements and obvious display of emotion during his first at-bat back with the A’s, that’s something that’s hard not to notice.  Although I have to admit that that wasn’t the highlight.  Felix Doubront started, his Major League debut, earning a win in five innings, giving up five runs (three earned) in six innings, walking two, and striking out two.  That also wasn’t the highlight.  The highlight was our seven-run fifth.  Now that’s a highlight.  The game featured homers by Beltre, Papi, and Drew, who strained his right hamstring after robbing Manny of a line drive and left the game, hopefully to return to the lineup tonight.  His homer, by the way, was a close call.  Inches determined that it fell into the Monster, not off of the monster, and a review was needed.  That was his eighth dinger of the season, the seventh use of replay since Major League Baseball allowed it, and Drew’s first at-bat since opting out of the Dodgers.  The middle game had “Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah” written all over it.  On a 1-2 count with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Pedroia sent a ninety-eight mile-per-hour fastball into right field for a walkoff single, his first career walkoff hit! Thanks to Bill Hall for starting the rally, thereby redeeming his two errors in right field.  And last but most certainly not least, the third and final win confirming the sweep.  Buchholz provided the prevention, with special appearances by Bard and Paps, who held down the fort with a hold and a save, respectively.  The final score was 2-0.  Pedroia hit a single to third base.  No, seriously.  He singled to first, stole second, and hustled to third because of Papi’s shift.

In his usual display of grit, it turns out Pedroia’s been playing with a right knee injury since May 15, which obviously jives with his slump.  Since that date, he’s batted roughly .190, his season average dropping by about forty points.  But an MRI shows he’s good to go, as his recent stunts have shown.  During this last homestand, he’s batted .484.  Youkilis exited a game with back spasms, only to return to get hit in the right elbow with a pitch and exit again.  He’s now good to go.  Scutaro got a day off due to a nerve-root injection, and he’s good to go.  Dice-K landed himself on the DL with a right forearm strain but has now been cleared to start Thursday against the Rockies.  Cameron is back to seeing time in center field.  Beckett is making great strides in his recovery from his back pain.  Hermida has five fractured left ribs and is not so good to go.  He’s on the DL.  That is one powerful right knee Beltre’s got.  Speaking of which, Ellsbury continues to serve time on the DL, now with a different fracture in his left ribs, which he probably sustained on May 23 with a diving catch.  No baseball activities for two weeks and then a slow but steady rehab.  Don’t expect to see him back before the All-Star break.  Wow.  Our outfield situation is now terrible.  Seriously.  This is why it pays to have an abundance of reserves.  Paps was reactivated from the bereavement list, just in time to prevent any more blown saves.  Nelson and Bonser were designated for assignment, Atchison was recalled, and Doubront was called up but then sent down in favor of Robert Manuel.

Well, that’s a wrap.  If we thought we were in a good place before, we’re in an even better place now.  We’re poised to take the AL East by storm.  At this point, one win is all it takes.  Lester faces the Rockies tonight at Coors Field.  Let’s do it.

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If Justin Masterson sought revenge, he found it.  Yes, sir; he found it.  The final score was 11-0 and most definitely not in our favor.  Masterson, in a complete role reversal with Buchholz, pitched a two-hit, complete game shutout.  How’s that for revenge.

Trust me, though; that’s not the norm for him.  Theo got the better end of the deal in that trade.  He sure was nasty on the mound last night, but I think that has a whole lot to do with the fact that he played with this team and knows the core of this lineup very well.  Naturally he’ll pitch well against us.  But that wasn’t the norm for him.  This was just one game.  In this one game, he may have maintained velocity throughout, practiced speed and location variation, thrown sliders under the hands, handled the lefties, and turned on his sinker and two-seam.  But he by no means does any of that routinely.  He’s two and twelve since the trade.  He’s two and five on the season with a 4.74 ERA (lowered by last night’s performance from five and change), slightly higher than the league average and nowhere near the league leader.  His WHIP is 1.64.  Meanwhile, V-Mart is two points shy of batting .300, slightly lower than the league leader, with eight homers, twenty-nine runs, and thirty RBIs.  We may have lost last night, but I call that a good trade.

As far as the loss itself is concerned, you may think from the score that Buchholz had a complete fail.  That wasn’t the case.  Buchholz did not by any means have a complete fail.  Buchholz was mediocre – he had command issues early in the game – but he still, as a very good pitcher is wont to do, pitched well enough on his off night to win under other circumstances, like when the offense is actually productive.  He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs on three hits, walked four, and struck out one but took the loss.  He fired 109 pitches, twenty-seven of which came in the first.  He settled down after that, needing only seven pitches for the second, following that with ten to twenty pitches in each of his next four frames, and finishing with a game low of six in the seventh.

In his first four innings, only his fastball was working for strikes; he’d throw an offspeed but it would be down, the batter wouldn’t chase, and he’d have to go back to his fastball.  Seeing that his offspeed stuff just wasn’t happening, he relied on his fastball more and more, started missing location, and then came the walks.  He said after the game that, had he not walked anyone, the game might still be going on.  He’s probably right.  So his outing was unusual for him in that he spent the night as a fastball pitcher.  He did top out at ninety-five miles per hour, but his usual speed variation just wasn’t there.  He used roughly all parts of the strike zone when he did throw strikes, and he used all parts of the strike zone boundaries when he threw balls.

So last night was definitely not his best work, but if that’s what an off night for him looks like, I’ll most definitely take it.  That would be a pitcher’s best night on some other teams.  We just have higher standards in Boston.  But my point is that he wasn’t the one who dropped the ball.  The bullpen did.

Bonser gave up four runs on two hits and two walks without recording an out.  Nelson gave up a grand slam; four runs on five hits, three walks, and one swing.  Eight runs in a single inning.  It was awful.  I absolutely can not stand bullpen meltdowns.  If a starter melts down, it’s his own mess and his own responsibility.  If a bullpen melts down, it takes everything the starter and the offense has put together and squanders it.  It’s like taking something someone has worked on really hard and just throwing it away when they were counting on you to protect it.   Think about it.  The game could have been a respectable 3-0 loss.  But no.  For Bonser, that wasn’t the first step he wanted to take on his road back to the Majors after shoulder surgery.  He says his shoulder felt fine; he was just “over-amped.” Whatever it was, he was terrible.

The offense.  This is going to be easy.  Too easy.  V-Mart singled.  Drew singled.  Youk walked.  Hermida, in his return to the lineup, walked.  Done.  Nobody got past first base.

Also, some unfortunate slump updates.  So far Pedroia is 0 for 11 in the series, and he’s 17 for 101, an average of .168, in his last twenty-five games.  Papi is 1 for his last 23.  Neither one of these slumps is cause for concern.  Both are too good to remain in them long; that’s been proven.

Delcarmen is feeling better and ready to go.  Papelbon will remain unavailable until at least tomorrow.

Yesterday, the organization unveiled a bronze statue of The Teammates a few yards from the statue of Ted Williams.  The statue, sculpted by Antonio Tobias Mendez, is based on David Halberstam’s book of that title about the road trip that Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio took to visit Williams on his deathbed.  This is a great tribute to lifelong friendship between these guys but also to the Red Sox organization, an organization that breeds such friendship between all its players.  Nicely done.

It was good to see an old friend, but it wasn’t good to lose to an old friend.  Especially, as I said, via the infamous bullpen implosion.  That was not supposed to be part of the plan.  However, as always, we’ll bounce back.  Tonight we have Lester at Talbot to finish off this series and hopefully win it rather than split it, and on Friday we return to Interleague for series with the Phillies, D-Backs, Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants.  That’s plenty of games against National League teams, so plenty of opportunities for wins.  I’ll be taking a break of about ten days.  We’re in a great place right now.  Who knows? In ten days, we could find ourselves in first place!

Reuters Photo

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I don’t think it’s physically possible for Jon Lester to lose to the Baltimore Orioles.  And not just because Lester is an elite pitcher and the Orioles are playing some of the worst baseball I’ve ever seen.  Also because he’s never lost to the Orioles.  Ever.  Meanwhile, the Orioles are now on a ten-game losing streak.  Ouch.

Lester pitched six and a third shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out four.  He fired 102 pitches in that time; we’ve seen him be much more economical, and he would’ve had himself a nice seven-inning start if it weren’t for his sudden but ultimately harmless implosion in the seventh.  All three of his walks were consecutive, after he recorded the first out in the seventh, which was why he was removed.  So he didn’t walk a single batter until right before he left, and then he walked all of the batters he faced after that point.  He walked Jones and Atkins on five pitches each, and he walked Lugo on four.  It was mostly because he stopped throwing his fastball and cutter for strikes.  Luckily, Bard induced two popups and bailed him out of possible bases-loaded damage.  He used ninety-nine mile-per-hour fastballs and ninety-one mile-per-hour changeups.  Ridiculous.  Kid doesn’t mess around.

If those three walks were the only problem he had, I’ll take it.  For the majority of his start, his cutter and fastball were located perfectly, as usual.  His sinker, slider, and curveball were fantastic.  He was low on the changeups.  He mixed them well, and he put good movement on them.  He used all parts of the strike zone and didn’t throw below it.  His best inning was the fourth, in which he threw only eight pitches.  But he needed between twelve and seventeen pitches to complete his other frames.  He fired twenty-one before he was taken out in the seventh.  The batters just made him throw and created opportunities; they left nine on base but only went one for nine with runners in scoring position.

Nobody scored any runs until that frame.  Then, Youk led off the seventh by clobbering the first pitch of his at-bat for a 378-foot home run, his twelfth of the year, after Pedroia broke Guthrie’s streak of fifteen consecutive retirements in the sixth.  It was a fastball he left up, and he just lined that ball out.  He’s now batting .320.  Incidentally, Youk started at third for the first time this year, while V-Mart started at first and Tek caught.  In the first, V-Mart showed he still got it with a fantastic diving catch in mid-air that robbed Patterson of a base hit.  Honestly, I saw that play and I thought it was Youk out there making that grab, because he’s the only one who can make those plays.  Apparently not.  It was awesome.

In the eighth, Reddick tripled and scored on Scutaro’s single.  Atchison was optioned, and Reddick was called up because Hermida was out for the day.  And in the ninth, McDonald ripped a double to bring in two.  Hall and Youk both followed suit.

Scutaro went two for five, but Youk went three for five with two doubles, that home run, and a grand total of three RBIs.  Collectively, the offense went five for eleven with runners in scoring position, collecting a total of nine hits while leaving only six on base.

The final score was 8-2; it was Nelson who allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in the ninth, the first two runs of Samuel’s career as interim manager of the Baltimore Orioles.  Ramirez pitched the final two outs of the game perfectly.

Despite Beltre’s pleading, Tito sat him yesterday to be extra cautious about his soreness from the collision.

I’d like to commend Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce on their composure and professionalism.  Especially Jim Joyce.  Rarely do you see an umpire both admit a mistake and lament it.  Cue another instant replay debate.

Thus, we continue to climb! We’re only three and a half games out of first now, still tied with Toronto for third but only one and a half games out of second and coming on strong.  I bet we’ll see some shifts in the standings before the All-Star break.  Ah, the thrill of the chase.  It’s pretty exciting stuff! We turn to Lackey this afternoon to make it happen.

The Boston Globe

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I will tell you right now what John Lackey needs to do.  John Lackey needs to go up to every member of last night’s starting lineup, shake his hand, and thank him profusely for providing heaps of insurance.  Especially V-Mart, but we’ll get to that later, because that was the highlight yesterday.  It sure wasn’t Lackey.  John Lackey allowed a season-high twelve hits in six innings last night.  I give credit where credit is due, so I’ll admit that it was impressive that somehow only four runs scored on those twelve hits, so Lackey may have gotten the win, but that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for some big bats.

In addition to those four runs on twelve hits, he walked two and struck out four.  The offensive bailout has been a theme.  He’s six and three with a 4.95 ERA, which means that he’s allowing runs but somehow he’s getting those wins.

In the fourth, the A’s loaded the bases with nobody out, but Lackey got out of it.  But that valiant effort was sandwiched between a two-run homer in the third and another two runs in the fifth.  Not surprisingly, he needed twenty-two and twenty-six pitches to get through those bookend innings and then another game-high twenty six to get through his last.  He started off promising with an efficient, ten-pitch first, but ended up firing a grand total of 116, mostly cutters and fastballs.  His fastball and slider were outstanding, his curveball was decent, his changeup was mediocre, and his cutter, not coincidentally his pitch of choice last night, was really just not that great.  He only threw it for strikes half the time.  His whole strike zone shifted to the left.  His release point, which was pretty loose, didn’t help either.

I think I’m going to write this season off.  We’ve seen this plenty of times before.  It’s a commonly known fact that a player in a Boston uniform is only as good as his sophomore season in said uniform.  I think we should wait until we see what he’s got next year before judging the signing.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t expect him to pitch well this year.  I very much expect him to pitch well this year.  I’m just saying that we don’t have to worry about him here in the long run because I have a feeling he’ll right himself eventually.  Is the meantime a cause for concern? Yes.  But that’s a separate issue, one that the offense, luckily, is currently taking care of.

And speaking of the offense, let’s delve into that, shall we? The final score was 9-4, so we scored more than twice their runs with only one more hit.  Beltre got us on the board with two out in the fifth with a three-run shot into the Monster seats.  And when I say a shot, I mean a shot.  That was what Pedroia might call a laser.  That, ladies and gentlemen, was a hard-hit ball.  A lesson to all the pitchers out there: don’t hang your curveballs.  In his last thirteen games, Beltre is batting a hot .451 with four dingers and sixteen RBIs.  He loves two-strike counts.  He’s going all out with the power.  It’s awesome.

In the sixth, Pedroia got warmed up by grounding into a double play, allowing Hall to score and McDonald to move to third.  Then V-Mart came up and smacked a ground-rule double, the first of many, to score him.  In the seventh, Drew scored on Hall’s triple.

Then we have the eighth.  V-Mart hit another ground-rule double to score Pedroia, and Youk singled him in and then promptly scored on Drew’s single.

Pedroia’s double in the eighth snapped his hitless streak at seventeen at-bats.  Plus, he snared Cust’s potential line drive in the second with a backhanded diving stop.  Only Pedroia makes plays like that.  Youk went two for four.  Beltre went three for five.

But Victor Martinez went five for five! Perfect at the plate with four doubles! A single right up the middle to center field.  Then a double off the scoreboard.  Another double off the wall with a swing so powerful he almost tripped over it.  A third double into the triangle out in center.  And his fourth down the right field line, just fair by inches.  That was one of his best performances at the plate, ever.  When V-Mart told Lackey before he tossed his final pitch that he should hang in there because he’d take care of him, he wasn’t kidding.  If there was a hole, V-Mart found it.  If there was a good swing to be made, he made it.  And he made history, too.  He was the first Major League catcher to hit four doubles in one game since Sandy Alomar did it for the Indians on June 6, 1997, also at Fenway.  And he was the first in a Boston uniform to do it since Rick Miller on May 11, 1981 in Toronto.  He’s had sixteen hits in his last thirty-one at-bats, improving his average to .279.  If he continues at this rate, it won’t be long before he hits that .300 mark.

Delcarmen and Bard each got a hold.  Nelson didn’t get a save.  Too much of a blowout.

Cameron was out with soreness.  Hopefully his performance on Sunday didn’t take too much out of him.

For the team, that would be our eleventh hit in fourteen games.  And it was a good one.  If there is a team in this league that’s on a roll, it’s us.  We’re five games out of first, but by taking it one game at a time and building on our momentum, we’ll be at the top soon enough.  Dice-K will hopefully help us get there when he takes on Sheets tonight.  But with him, you really never know.  I’ve never meant that statement about a pitcher more than I do when I make it about him.  When he takes the hill, you really just don’t know what you’re going to get.  Hopefully, we’ll get the Dice-K who almost threw a no-no.  But you never know.  Hold on to your hats.

AP Photo

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We did indeed split the series.  We split the series with a final game that reminded the Royals of who they are, who we are, and the fact that teams like ours don’t make a habit of losing to teams like theirs.  That’s pretty harsh, but it’s tough to sugarcoat an 8-1 beating.  What I just said with words, the team said with bats yesterday.  That’s the kind of score you expect when we take on the Royals.

And now for the compulsory but true statement of the fact that, whenever Lester pitches for the Royals, Red Sox Nation remembers one thing and one thing only: his no-hitter.  What a game.

Lester was right on.  Seven solid innings of one-run ball with four hits, four walks, and five K’s.  That would be his sixth straight win and the seventh time in his last eight starts that he’s allowed two or less earned runs.  Believe it or not, he did all of that without having his best stuff, as he said.  That’s indicated by considering the four walks and five K’s together; separately, they’re not bad numbers, but he usually throws less walks and more strikes, so there were obviously times that he tried but failed to locate, which resulted in minor inefficiency.  However, clearly this wasn’t a big deal; he tossed seven, high quality frames with a respectable pitch total.  The only thing it does is beg the question of how deep he would’ve been able to go had he relinquished less free passes in favor of more trips back to the dugout.

He worked that cut fastball up in speed, topping out at about ninety-six miles per hour.  He didn’t throw them for strikes as often as usual, but all but two of his other pitches made up for that.  His changeup and sinker were thrown perfectly.  But his slider and curveball weren’t so hot.  He threw a total of almost fifty pitches in the second and third innings but noticeably improved as the game progressed, needing only seven to get through the fifth.  He stayed away from below and the bottom half of the right of the strike zone but used the whole zone for strikes.  And when I say the whole zone, I mean the whole zone.  When he did locate pitches, you better believe he located pitches.  A pitcher who uses the entire strike zone is like a batter who hits to all fields; he can throw anywhere and still get his K.

Fortunately, I can not say the same for Bruce Chen.  That was his first start for the Royals, and he left after four innings.  I’d say that was a good meeting between him and the Sox, wouldn’t you? Not to mention the fact that our bats got pretty well acquainted with their bullpen after his exit.  Our bullpen had better luck; Delcarmen and Nelson pitched two solid frames.

And now for the eight runs, which we scored with the help of twice as many hits as Kansas City, who scored their run in the top of the second.  But in the third, Cameron walked, Scutaro doubled, and Papi hit a sac fly that brought Cameron home.

In the fifth, Hall singled, Cameron doubled, Scutaro hit a fielder’s choice grounder to the pitcher to score Hall, and then we have Papi’s absolutely massive swing that resulted in a two-run blast of a home run to center field.  If you want to talk about the return of swagger in this team, that conversation starts and ends with David Ortiz.  This month we have witnessed the complete return of not just David Ortiz but Big Papi as well.  For example, and this is perfect, before the game he talked to a friend in the stands:

I said, ‘What are you doing here today?’ He said, ‘Just waiting for you to go deep.’ So I said, ‘Alright, coming up.’

Nuff ced.

In the sixth, with two out, Tek singled, Hall singled, Cameron smacked a double off the Monster to score both of them, and Scutaro singled to score him.

In the eighth, Tek let loose a homer into the Monster seats.

So as you can see, the eight runs were really a team effort.  Everyone contributed.  The bottom third of the lineup especially did its part, going seven for eleven with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs, and five runs.  When you have the bottom of the lineup step up like that, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of it and lets the guys who usually do the offensive work relax a bit and swing easy.  For Mike Cameron, yesterday’s game was huge.  He went two for three with two doubles and two RBIs for his best performance in a Boston uniform.  Those were his first two RBIs in a Boston uniform; the last Sox player to have a streak longer than Cameron’s fifteen games with no RBIs was Ivan Calderon with seventeen games in 1993.  Also, the fact that he came up with that performance in a day game he started after a night game confirms his recovery from his injury.

Dustin Pedroia got the day off yesterday for the second time in two weeks.  He’s very quietly going through one of the worst slumps of his career.  In his last thirty-seven at-bats, he’s managed just five hits, three of which were in one game.  While May has brought a change for the better in everyone else, May has brought a change for the worse in Pedroia, who’s batted .213 with two homers and seven RBIs in that month.  Despite posting a .302 career average, he’s batting .255 on this season.  One thing we can say about Pedroia that’s not always true of other slumping position players is that he’s played an integral role in several victories through his defensive valor in the field.  So he obviously needs the mental break, which couldn’t have come at a better time because we have the day off tomorrow.  He’s too good not to snap out of it soon.

In other news, Kendry Morales fractured his lower leg while celebrating his walkoff home run.  That’s morbidly ironic.

Let’s take a look back at the month of May, shall we? We began it by getting swept by the Orioles, the worst team in baseball, in Baltimore.  But then May got underway, and since we have a day off today, we now finish the month with an eighteen and eleven record in that time.  We’re ten and four during our last fourteen games.  We’ve either won or split each of our last five series.  We’re twenty-nine and twenty-three overall and five and a half games out of first place.  Of course, a recap of the month of May wouldn’t be complete without delving further into the improvements of the two guys who made the contrast so clear: Jon Lester and David Ortiz.  For his part, Jon Lester finished April with a record of one and two and an ERA of 4.71.  He is now six and two with an ERA of 2.97, and anytime you have a starter with an ERA below 3.00, it’s a reason to be happy.  Big Papi batted .143 with one home run and four RBIs in April; he batted .363 with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs in May, his first ten-dinger month since August 2006, a season during which he hit fifty-four of them total.

Now, onward and upward to June, when we look to build on our stellar May performance, starting with Lackey (pun intended) on Tuesday night when the A’s come to town.  Here’s to being bigger and better!

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Tim Wakefield completely dropped the ball, both literally and figuratively.  He recorded the first two outs in the fourth inning and then had to leave because, quite frankly, if he stayed in, it would have been more of the same, which was so bad that I almost got whiplash from watching so many Royals cross the plate.

He gave up nine runs on twelve hits while walking three and striking out one.  He even allowed a grand slam.  It doesn’t get much worse than that.  It was terrible.  We had a 5-2 lead heading into the fourth, which the Royals promptly eliminated by scoring seven runs in that frame.

He was terrible.  He fired eighty-nine pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes.  His most effective pitch was his fastball.  Too bad he only threw ten of them.  He actually cruised through the first, needing only thirteen pitches, twelve of which were strikes, to clear the frame.  It all sort of unraveled from there.

His release point was sort of flat and long; it wasn’t so much a point as it was a kind of oval-shaped general vicinity within which he’d let go of the ball.  His strike zone was an absolute mess, with no clearly discernible pattern of emphasis on one part or another.  His horizontal and vertical movements were, as usual, completely random and, as is typical of a knuckleballer’s bad outings, completely nonexistent on most of his pitches.  When knuckleballs don’t move, the opposing lineup can read them, and because they’re so slow, they’re going to get hit.

All of which is to say that he’s a knuckelballer, and sometimes he has good days, but sometimes he has really, really bad days.  That’s really the only way to explain it because the knuckleball works in mysterious ways; it’s either on or off.  Last night’s game was one of the latter – the final score was 12-5 – and Wake took the loss.  He himself said he was disgusted with his outing.  So were we all.

Thus, the parallels between Wake and Dice-K are striking.  Dice-K pitched a gem only to turn around and blow his next start with all kinds of wildness.  Wake also came off one of his best outings to toss one of his worst.  And it didn’t help that for the second straight night, the bullpen was emptied.  Last night, Atchison, Ramirez, Okajima, Nelson, and even Bill Hall took the hill.  Together, they allowed almost as many hits as Wake but only a fourth of his runs.  Hall had himself a perfect inning.  Not bad for a Major League pitching debut.  If you ask me, he should have started.

Scutaro led off the first with a double and scored on Papi’s shift-beating single.  V-Mart then doubled in Papi and Youk and hit a two-run shot to right in the third.  So if there was a silver lining to last night’s mess at all, it was that Beltre and V-Mart both went two for four.

To make matters worse, Ellsbury is back on the DL.

So, to put it succinctly, it was a mess.  It was a mess, and it was painful to watch it.  But like I said, it happens to knuckelballers sometimes, and there’s nothing you can do about it but move on to tonight’s matchup, which is the one we’ve all been waiting for.  Buchholz versus Greinke.  Bring it.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Our winning streak went out the window.  Our string of dominant starts went out the window.  And the theory that Dice-K pitches well for Tek and not for V-Mart also went out the window.  Because Tek was behind the dish last night for the fourth straight game, and Dice-K reverted to his old abysmal self.  The final score was 4-3, in favor of the Royals.  Believe me, that’s a score to be happy about, because you’ll see in a moment that it could’ve been infinitely worse.

There’s also the embarrassment of losing to the Royals, who are traditionally Royal-esque, which means they’re royally bad.  Although that’s lessened by the fact that they only won by one run.

Dice-K didn’t even complete the fifth; he left after four and two-thirds.  In that time, he gave up three runs on two hits.  But no home runs.  So how did his run total exceed his hit total? Here we arrive at the crux of the problem and the absurdity of his outing: he walked eight.  Eight! That ties a career high.  His five walks in the Royals’ three-run fifth inning sets a career high for free passes in a single frame.  The last pitcher to do that for us was Darren Oliver against the Mariners on May 11, 2002; not coincidentally, we lost, 3-1.  For Dice-K, that fifth inning also represented a continuation of his trend of having one bad inning in almost all of his starts this year.  He’s allowed twenty-two earned runs, eighteen of them in only four innings.  He’s allowed only three hits in his last two starts, but that doesn’t help when you give up a mountain of walks because essentially a walk may as well be a single.  He gives up only two hits and strikes out only one, but he walks eight? How does that happen?

He threw 112 pitches in less than half a game.  That’s the same number of pitches he threw on Saturday in the best outing of his career with Boston.  It was the absolute worst display of command that we’ve seen this season and one of the worst within the last decade.  We’ve unfortunately had games with high walk totals, but we fortunately haven’t had many with that many walks by a single pitcher in such a short time frame.  He led off the game with a nine-pitch walk to Podsednik.

The pitch he threw most often for strikes was his changeup, but he only threw ten of them.  His curveball and slider were kind of decent, but he only threw about twenty of them total.  So those pitches didn’t help him any.  His fastball was only thrown for strikes about half the time; it’s no coincidence that that was the pitch he threw most frequently.  And don’t even get me started on his strike zone.  Basically, he didn’t have one.  He threw a ton of balls outside the upper left and lower right corners.  He threw some balls that were completely off the charts.  Unsurprisingly, he earned himself a wild pitch and a hit-by-pitch; Tek had a passed ball.  And his release point was huge.  It was neat, but it was huge.  What I mean by that is this.  A pitcher wants his release point to be tight; he wants his pitches to be released from the same point.  Dice-K was releasing from the same place, from the same area.  It wasn’t a point.  It was a small circle and he was just letting the ball go somewhere in there.  So it wasn’t like he was releasing from random points in his delivery; it was all from generally the same area, but it wasn’t tight.  Sometimes, he threw too early.  Sometimes, he threw too late.

It’s an extreme form of what we’ve seen from the beginning.  Even amidst the eight walks, there were flashes of brilliance that reminded you of 2007.  He pitched his way out of a significant jam in the fourth – bases loaded with nobody out – without even flinching, breaking out his old Houdini act.  He of course led off the inning with a walk, then gave up a single for Kansas City’s first hit, and then had his HBP.  But then he turned right back around and induced tow lineouts and a flyout.  So he can do that, but he can’t control the ball enough not to walk eight batters?

This is a huge mystery.  It really is.  Tek doesn’t know what’s going on.  John Farrell doesn’t know what’s going on.  Dice-K’s comments never shed much light on what’s going on, either.  Eventually, someone’s going to figure it out.  So I’m not worried about eventually.  I’m worried about the meantime.

If you ask me, the bullpen should’ve started the game.  They collectively tossed one out less than Dice-K’s inning total and gave up one run on two hits while striking out two.  No walks.  I repeat: no walks.  Nelson, Delcarmen, and Ramirez.  Dice-K has some serious apologizing to do.

Beltre singled in Youk in the fourth, after Youk and Drew both singled their way on base and Drew neatly avoided a double play when his ball hit the second base umpire, which happens every now and again since the second base umpire moved to the infield.  Hall launched one into the Monster seats in the fifth.  And Tek doubled off the Monster to score Drew in the sixth for our only extra-base hit of the night.  Drew had himself a great game; he went three for four for our only multi-hit game of the night.

To sum up the entire game: we left six on base as compared with the Royals’ nine, but we collected nine hits, three times our run total, as opposed to the Royas’ four.

So Dice-K is still wild no matter who’s behind the plate, and nobody really knows why.  Great.  We can’t afford to lose every fifth game unless we can guarantee a win in the first four, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, although the past week would certainly suggest that.  It’s quite the conundrum.  Everybody has a theory, and in the end none of them prove to be correct.  It might be something obvious that was right under our noses, or it might be something much more complicated and complex that we never would’ve seen coming.  Either way, it’s got to be handled because meanwhile, we slipped a game in the standings.  Wake will start opposite Davies tonight and try to get that game back as well as our first win on this homestand.

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