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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Saunders’

Dice-K has been awful this season.  To put it bluntly, every single one of his outings was an epic fail.  It was like watching a wreck, rewinding it, and replaying it over and over and over again.  Everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did.  It was absolutely downright horrible.  Two DL stints later, Dice-K was down in Florida catching up on all the Spring Training he missed while winning MVP in the World Baseball Classic, but it took three times as long because of all the fatigue that had accumulated in his shoulder.  After he graduated from that, he went down to the farms and had some good and bad outings.  The whole thing was pretty much a mixed bag, so when we found out that Dice-K was returning to the Major League rotation, we didn’t know what we were going to get.

Hold on to your hats, was my advice.  Be prepared to be blown away, or be prepared to turn them inside-out because we may be in desperate need of a rally.  But his first Major League start after his epic fail of an eight-start first half wouldn’t be about just one game.  It would be about his entire 2009 season.  To properly vindicate himself, he would need one seriously dominant, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners outing.  An outing that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is back and back with a vengeance.  An outing that effectively proved that he went down to Florida, was a good soldier and trained properly, and is now the better for it.

Last night’s outing exceeded all expectations of whatever outstanding outing you could possibly imagine.  He pitched six impeccable shutout innings.  Three hits, three walks, and five strikeouts, including some very nice no-hit, one-two-three innings.  And all of it on ninety-three pitches, more than half of which were four-seams, and let me tell you: his fastball was on.  He added some sliders and cutters as well as other off-speeds to keep them guessing and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour and going down to about eighty.  His command was sound and he went after the hitters.  Given the circumstances in which this outing took place, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to complain about.

Especially since Dice-K started against the Angels.  That’s a very important detail.  We’ll probably face the Angels in the ALDS.  We have facts on our side, namely the fact that the Angels can’t do anything against us in the ALDS, but it’s good to know that that’s still true.  Dice-K made a very strong case for his ability to sustain that tradition.  Not to mention the fact that this lightens the pressure on the staff considerably, now that there’s another starter in the mix.  Wakefield can relax a bit and let his back heal properly.

But for these same reasons, Dice-K’s next start may be even more important than this one, so he isn’t out of the woods yet.  For now, though, Red Sox Nation and I can let out a huge collective sigh of relief.

The final score was 4-1.  The relief corps was solid through Ramirez, Wagner, and Bard, who each got holds, but it hit a stumbling block when we got to Papelbon.  Only six of his twenty pitches weren’t strikes, but two hits and one run later, Dice-K’s shutout was ruined.  Again, not good.

Of course, you can’t win without offense.  Only three of the four runs were earned, but we can thank Bay and Ortiz for those.  And while we thank Ortiz, we can give him a standing ovation as well.  His two-run moon shot with two out in the eighth was his twenty-fourth of the season and the 270th of his career as a DH.  With that homer, he officially passed Frank Thomas in the record books.  David Ortiz has officially hit more home runs in his career than any other designated hitter in the history of the sport.  Congratulations! And the best part is that he’s not even finished.

Ellsbury went two for four and was caught stealing.  Ortiz finished two for four.  Drew tripled.

Youk was out of the lineup with lower back spasms that aren’t too serious.  V-Mart will be in Cleveland probably until tomorrow taking care of some personal matters, but he probably wouldn’t have played anyway after that collision with Gabe Gross at the plate.  Next season’s schedule has been released, and we’re opening and closing by hosting the Yanks at Fenway.  Excellent.  We start off by showing them who’s boss and end by reminding them in case they forgot.  We’re facing some of the National League’s elite during Interleague, which still shouldn’t be a problem because it’s still the National League.  I’m just not happy about the fact that we’re only at home for nine games in July next year.  That’ll be a challenge.

John Lackey really challenged us, I’ll admit.  Most of the game was a very close pitcher’s duel, and for a while the only difference between Lackey and Dice-K was a pair of hits Lackey allowed while Dice-K still hadn’t allowed any.  It was a great contest.  Anytime you see good pitchers get crafty and try to best each other in a battle of wits, so to speak, you witness not just the science but also the art of the game, and those are special.  The important thing is that Dice-K had himself a phenomenal outing; technically, the win was just icing on the cake.  But I’ll take it.  Believe me, I’ll take it.  Especially against the Angels less than a month away from October.  We were in good shape all along, but if Dice-K holds it together, things look even more promising.  Tonight it’s Joe Saunders at Paul Byrd.  That, I’m not so sure about.

In other news, the Patriots had themselves quite the comeback against the Bills on Monday, winning 25-24.  Obviously that probably wasn’t exactly what Tom Brady or Bill Belichick had in mind, but winning is never a bad way to start the season.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Wow.  If you thought Game 1 was great, Game 2 was out of this world.  I mean, wow.  How about that? Where should I start? Oh, I know.  I’ll start with the fact that we won! We’re up two-zip! And we’re coming back home tomorrow with Beckett on the mound! This win is absolutely huge for us, because the Angels are completely demoralized.  They just lost their first two playoff games at home, and now they’re coming to Boston.  If I’m the Angels, I’m shaking in my spikes right now.  But the win also gave us our old October confidence back.  Tito gave Mikey Lowell the night off to rest his hip, a wise move, and the defense and offense still rocked.  If that doesn’t tell you what a deep team we are, I don’t know what will.  This win showed us that, even though we’ve been through a lot this season, we’ve still got it.  Man, we’ve still got it.

For the few innings Dice-K pitched, his outing was just shy of unacceptable by October standards.  It’s not good to allow three runs on eight hits in five innings, but being that it’s Dice-K we let that go because that’s typical for him.  Still, he might want to tighten it up a bit.  I’ll say this, though; that slider of his was definitely on.  The relief wasn’t too pleasant last night, either.  Okie came in and allowed a run on two hits in the sixth and failed to record an out in the seventh.  Masterson came in and allowed a run on a hit.  At this level of play, the relief really can’t afford to be doing that.  Papelbon came in and pitched two absolutely perfect innings.  On paper.  In reality, he recorded a blown save because an uninherited Angel scored on a flyout.  But in the end he also got the win.  The important thing to remember here is that it’s October.  October is the second season.  All the regular season baggage goes out the window.  That’s why the Angels just lost two straight, and that’s why I’m not too worried about the relief.  Yes, they made their share of mistakes last night, but in October you have to take it game by game.  Masterson was a little leaky yesterday, but he could be lights-out tomorrow.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the offense.  Our first inning was incredible.  With two outs, we scored four runs on five straight hits.  First, Big Papi scored on a base hit and ended up going two for five.  Then the fireworks began.  Jason Bay, ladies and gentlemen.  Jason Bay hit a monstrous three-run shot out of the park and onto the rocks.  That’s two home runs in two career postseason games.  He finished the night three for five.  The man is on fire.  So that’s three RBIs for Bay.  An RBI for Ellsbury, who stole second and who’s building quite the postseason resume.  And finally three RBIs for who but JD Drew, my friends.  His timing was off in Game 1, but let him have his at-bats and he’ll do some damage.  Ninth inning.  Tie game.  One out.  One on.  JD Drew steps up and blasts it out.  A two-run home run to seal the final score of 7-5.  A two-run homer off K-Rod, no less.  He’s so good in the postseason I don’t even know what to say about it.  Between last October’s grand slam and this October’s start, he’s really becoming a postseason presence.

We also saw some good leather last night.  In the first Drew made an awesome charging catch and followed it up in the sixth with an awesome catch at the wall.  (Needless to say, that was a little scary.) And in the bottom of the ninth Youk did it all from third.  He’s such a versatile fielder, and it just gives us so many options when we need them most.  That catch he made leaning over the dugout was unbelievable.

Some funny moments.  An Angel was out at first but was so upset that he jumped up and landed awkwardly, possibly injuring himself.  And of course the rally monkey always provides some good entertainment.

Something not so funny: the Yankee fan with the “Beat Boston” Yankee shirt on.  That’s a low blow.  I mean, we’re not even playing the Yankees.  The Yankees aren’t even in the playoffs! There was no place for that, so that’s a low blow for sure.  But ultimately, guess who has the last laugh?

So, tomorrow it’ll be Joe Saunders at the incomparable Josh Beckett.  This should be good.

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So that’s what it feels like to root for the team that breaks up a no-hitter. You have no idea how glad I am that Lackey didn’t go all the way. I don’t exactly want my team to be on the receiving end of something like that. But I kept telling myself yesterday what I’ve been telling myself all season: it’s almost impossible to no-hit our lineup. Sure, we’ve had our problems, and as last night showed it’s come close, but at the end of the day we’re too good. We’re too keen at making adjustments to fall for that. Pedroia and Youkilis. What a team. That’s why they’re batting Nos. 1 and 2.

The last time the Red Sox were no-hit: 1993.

The last time the Red Sox were no-hit at Fenway: 1958.

And now it gets to stay that way. Youk and the Destroyah. Way to go, guys!

But I’d like to point out that if Manny had hustled he would’ve broken it up earlier, and Lackey probably would’ve come undone earlier, and we might’ve walked away with a win. Instead, our record against the Angels this season is now 1-7. If I were at the game, I probably would’ve booed his lack of hustle, too. It’s one thing to be a good sport. But it’s another thing to watch a pitcher almost no-hit your team and a valuable member of your team play games in a three-way pennant race.

If last night wasn’t some sort of wake-up call, some sort of bucket of cold water, I don’t know what is. Not just for Manny. For the team. Something must be done. Last year during the playoffs, it was the players-only meeting during the ALCS that got the juices flowing. Maybe we need something like that now. We definitely need something. Saunders at Beckett. At the very least, we’ll need this one.

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