Posts Tagged ‘Joe West’

Simply put, a knuckleball pitcher either has it or doesn’t have it.  Yesterday, Wake didn’t have it.

That’s a pretty simple statement, but when you lose to the Twins for the first time at Fenway since 2007, what can you say? For the second straight night, we basically had nothing.

He took the loss.  He allowed eight runs, six earned, on nine hits.  Wake walked four and struck out only one.  He gave up a solo home run in the first inning.

The second inning was quite the interesting one.  Michael Cuddyer led off with a walk, Danny Valencia singled, and Ben Revere singled to load the bases.  Then Drew Butera flew out and Alexi Casilla struck out swinging.  Right when it looked like we were about to get out of the inning, Denard Span singled in two runs.  Then home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk on Wake that allowed another run to score.  He called the balk because he thought that Wake didn’t finish his move to third; he stepped toward third in order to fake a throw but threw to first instead; in that situation, you would have to actually make the fake throw to third and have the third baseman fire to first.  Wake, meanwhile, thought that it was just a routine pickoff at first.  Tito came out to argue the call; naturally he was ejected.  Then third base umpire Joe West intervened, and then Tito got really angry.  Joe West will probably get in trouble for putting his hands on Tito.  Good, because first of all he put his hands on Tito, and secondly that balk scored a run and started what would end up being a three-run rally.

Wake was pulled after giving up two runs on a double in the fifth after having recorded one out.

He was replaced by Aceves, who replaced Atchison, who was sent down.  Upon entering the inning, Aceves allowed both of his inherited runners to score on a fielding error by Lowrie, the first of two errors he’d make on the day.  He also allowed a runner of his own to score.  At least he got through the rest of the game.  By the time the sixth inning rolled around, the two teams had already posted the final score: 9-2.

Our two runs were scored via the solo shot.  First it was Drew in the second inning with one out.  He’d been fed a steady diet of sinkers in that at-bat and worked the count full; he took the first one for a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a shot behind the Pesky Pole.  Then it was Gonzalez in the fourth inning with none out.  He took a sinker for a ball and fouled off another before sending a slider into the Monster seats.  Together, those two home runs brought us within two.  We were right in it.  And then we gave all the momentum back to the Twins, and they put up a four-spot in the fifth and one more in the sixth for good measure.

Ellsbury went two for four; that was it for multi-hit games.  We collected seven hits, left four on base, and went 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

I can not believe the Twins used us to break their winning streak.  That’s really bad.  I mean, when I said we need to play better, I was serious.  We need to play better.  Immediately.  We need to win this series, and we should be able to do it.  With Jenks on the DL with a right bicep cramp that apparently started a week ago (figures), our relievers can actually be expected to get the job done.  And Dice-K, whose elbow has been okayed, will start on Sunday.  (Beckett will pitch on Monday to allow Lester to pitch Tuesday on extra rest.) Our starter needs to deliver.  Our offense needs to deliver.  And our defense needs to deliver.  Seriously.  We can’t keep playing like this.

In other news, the Bruins have made quick work of the Flyers.  We won last night, 5-1! A sweep! We scored once in the first and four more in the third.  Milan Lucic scored twice.  On to the Lightning.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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This is Wake’s sixteenth season with us, making him the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox in the history of the club.  And he’s eighteen wins shy of becoming the winningest pitcher in club history.  The amazing thing is that he’s still got it.

The final score was 3-4, but the final score was not his fault.  Wakefield himself pitched very well.  Two runs on six hits over seven innings with a ball and six strikes.  He went deeper into yesterday’s ballgame than any of the three previous starters went in theirs.  And he did it all with less than one hundred pitches: seventy-seven knuckleballs, eighteen four-seam fastballs, and one curveball.  His fastball topped out at the break-neck speed of seventy-five miles per hour, but thirteen of them were for strikes.  Wakefield has one of the most effective fastballs in the game precisely because he has one of the best knuckleballs in the game.  When the vast majority of your pitches are knuckleballs and you sneak a fastball or two in there, the hitter has no idea what’s coming, so he just sits and waits until the ball finds its way to V-Mart’s glove.  About sixty percent of Wake’s knuckleballs were strikes, by the way.  So, yeah.  Definitely still got it.  He allowed two home runs, though, which is unusual.  Last year, he allowed only twelve home runs the whole season.

But it was the bullpen that again ruined it.  Two runs scored on Bard’s watch, giving him his second blown save of the season as well as the loss.  With two out in the bottom of the eighth, Rick Ankiel completely shattered his bat on a Bard fastball to single in two.  Bard had the right strategy in mind: be aggressive because first base is open and there are two outs in the inning.  The point being that the bullpen needs to snap out of whatever funk they seem to currently be in.  We’ve got Papelbon losing games and Bard blowing saves? That was not at all part of the plan.  Something must be done, and soon.  They need to locate.  Bard fell behind 2-0 to Ankiel before the shattered bat; they may have been good pitches but if they miss the strike zone, they miss the strike zone.  And the more Bard locates his fastball, all the more aggressive it becomes.

In the top of the fourth, Beltre grounded to second, which allowed Youk to score.  Then Drew stepped up to the plate, both literally and figuratively, and absolutely smashed one out of the park.  A two-run shot that displayed all the power he’s capable of putting behind his bat.  It was an absolutely perfect swing.  Textbook stuff.  It’s so much fun to watch when he does that, because he comes up to the plate quietly, there’s essentially no movement in his stance, but all of a sudden he finds a pitch to hit and the next thing you know he’s jogging home.  Here’s to him doing that more often this year.

Unfortunately, that was it for runs, though we had our chances; we left eight on base.  Ellsbury went two for four with a double.  Cameron went three for two.  And Ortiz hit a double, so how about that.  An extra-base hit following a single.  He’s working his way up to those dingers, slowly but surely.  Maybe this one will buy him some time apart from all the negativity surrounding his slow start, which by the way you can cut with a knife.  If he’s hitting, he’s hitting, period, end of story.  It’s not like he’s done nothing at all.  I mean, clearly he’s frustrated.  He was ejected in the top of the sixth after arguing a called third strike with home plate umpire Mike Estabrook.  So he’s getting antsy and restless.  All I can say to that is that it shouldn’t have happened.  It’s the first week of the season, and the starters haven’t even completed one rotation.  Give the dude a bit of a break, because who knows? Maybe if he’d stayed in the game, he would’ve had his first homer of 2010 by now.

Forty-five years ago yesterday, the first indoor baseball game in history was played in the Astrodome.  Why didn’t they just smite the souls of baseball purists directly.  Baseball is meant to be played outside.  And when players slide into a base or make a diving catch, they’re supposed to get up with dirt and grass stains on their uniforms.  Apparently, when the Astrodome was first built, the roof consisted of glass panels to let the sun shine in, as it were.  But get this: the players complained that the light made it too hard to track flies, so they replaced the glass with cream-colored panels.  First of all, what did they think everyone else, everywhere else was doing when they played baseball outside? Secondly, it is most definitely not easier to track flies against a ceiling like that.  Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays.

Umpire Joe West dissed us and the Yankees for taking too long during our games:

They’re the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace.  They’re two of the best teams in baseball.  Why are they playing the slowest? It’s pathetic and embarrassing.  They take too long to play.

I’ll tell you what’s pathetic and embarrassing: that comment.  It takes long because it’s good baseball, because we carefully calculate all our moves and strategies.  Of course the two teams in baseball take long to play their games.  And I don’t even know where that sentiment came from.  I mean, it’s a ridiculous thing to say.  He’s an umpire; he should ump the game, and if he doesn’t want to ump the game, he doesn’t have to ump the game, but don’t come out with a petty statement like that.  Besides, if he really wanted to make a change, he’d talk to the networks about commercial breaks, not to us about our style of play.  You know what they say: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the ballpark.

So just like that, Wakefield gets a no-decision.  He’s the oldest pitcher to start for us, and that could’ve been victory number 190, but no.  Apparently the bullpen missed that memo.  When will the bullpen remember that it’s awesome? Tonight would be a good time, especially since we’re putting subs in.  But I’m just saying that the bullpen is so much better than its recent performances would indicate, because its recent snafus were just awful.  Meanwhile, Francona is calling out the reserves tonight; Tek is catching Beckett, and he’s putting in Lowell, Hall, and Hermida.  That makes tonight’s contest important because we need to see what our B team is working with, being that if anything goes wrong, they’ll be the first on the field.  It’s also important because I want to see something good from Beckett, because I still have absolutely no idea where his Opening Day performance came from.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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And get it done last night we did! Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to your first-place Boston Red Sox! The Braves destroyed the Jays, we destroyed the Mets, and just like that, order was restored.  I’m telling you, it just feels right.  It feels like the universe has suddenly fallen into place.  It feels like we’ve come home.  Just in time to go on the road again for a four-game series against the Twins.  But I’m not worried.  We’re in first place.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

Things were looking pretty bleak into the fifth inning.  We were down, 3-5, and the score felt like it could potentially be a final.  That did not happen.  We scored three more runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, and four in the seventh.  The final was 12-5.  We had twice as many hits as they did and scored more than twice as many runs.  Yeah.  That’s destruction.  In the second inning with men on second and third, Mikey Lowell started everything with a three-run shot into the Green Monster.  It was an 0-1 changeup that wasn’t going anywhere except out of the park.  That’s his eighth of the season.  And that was some smart hitting, because it can be tough to stay with those at the plate.  Lowell had a really great day; he finished five for three with those three RBIs and scored twice.  Youk hit an absolutely ridiculous three-run homer in the seventh.  There was a man on first, a man on second, two men out, a ball and no strikes, and a very pathetic Gary Sheffield just watching it clear the Green Monster completely.  And that’s what happens when you leave a 95 mile-per-hour fastball over the middle when Youk is at the plate.  That was his seventh of the year, and he deserved that one.  Earlier, in the fifth, Youk hit a ball directly over the left field foul pole.  It went out of the park, over Lansdowne Street, and actually hit the Cask ‘N’ Flagon.  Joe West was working third base yesterday and called it a foul ball.  Tito of course came out to argue it was a home run, and for the second day in a row the umpires used instant replay.  The camera angles were inconclusive so they did not reverse the call, and ruled that the ball was indeed foul, although personally I disagree.  The ball was out; it could only have hit the Cask ‘N’ Flagon where it did if it were slightly to the right of the pole and therefore fair.  But putting that aside, what are the odds a ball would fly directly over the foul pole? Ridiculous.  But I still say it was fair.

Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nineteen games and scored a run.  Pedroia and Bay each batted one in.  Drew had a phenomenal day, going four for five with two runs and an RBI.  It was a double down the right field line to score Youk from third with two outs in the sixth.  And this is just about the time Drew got hot last year.  Everyone remembers his epic June.  Looks like he might be about to have another one.  Kottaras went three for five with a run and an RBI.  And Green got in on the action, going two for five with a run and two RBIs.

I’ve seen better from Wakefield, but I’ve also seen worse, and last night’s outing was luckily closer to the better than the worse.  Six innings, five runs on seven hits, four walks, three K’s, and a solo shot for Ramon Castro in the second.  Delcarmen and Saito pitched perfectly.  So Wake with the win, and Delcarmen with a hold.  By the way, Dlecarmen’s ERA is 0.86.

So there you have it.  The definitive game that put us in our place.  First.  First in the AL East.  It’s got a nice ring to it.  I have full confidence we’ll stay there.  The Blue Jays will have to be content with fighting it out with New York for second.  Meanwhile, it’ll be a rematch of Penny at Liriano in Minnesota.  And as is always the case with Penny’s starts, if he holds it together, keeps his pitch count down, and consistently locates his fastball, we’ll be in a good position to win.  If he doesn’t, we’ll have to go for another slugfest just to dig ourselves out of whatever hole he got us into.  But either is possible.  It’s a four-game series.  Perfect time to cushion ourselves in the standings.

Reuters Photo

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That was Beckett’s best start.   Period.  Easily his best outing of 2009.  Even better than Opening Day.  He pitched a full eight innings, gave up zero earned runs on five hits (the unearned run was his own fault; he messed up a pickoff attempt), walked only one and struck out five.  That’s the Josh Beckett we were waiting for.  That’s the Josh Beckett who went who knows where between Opening Day and his last two starts.  And that’s the Josh Beckett who’s returned.  I think at this point it’s safe to say that, ladies and gentlemen, Josh Beckett has finally arrived! He is back, and he is back with a vengeance.

With that said, I don’t think I can adequately express how furious I am with our closer.  Seriously.  I don’t think it’s within my power to do so.  We’re leading, 2-1, into the ninth inning.  Paps comes in to close it out, to be his usual lights-out self and get a win for Beckett and a save for himself.  Right? Not so much.  That’s what he was supposed to do, but instead he decided it would be fun to let Omir Santos hit a two-run shot; Gary Sheffield was already on first base.  But it wasn’t that simple.  The ball hit the top of the Monster, that ledge above the red metal grate, and bounced back onto the field.  Santos actually stopped at second, while Sheffield stopped at third.  Crew chief Joe West actually had to use the new instant replay to review it.  So he went into this room behind our dugout, with a monitor and a telephone connected with Major League Baseball Advanced Media Headquarters in New York.  He looked at three different angles and reversed the call.  Two-run shot.  So we lost, 3-2.  Paps gets a blown save and the loss.  And rightly so.  But if you told me this was how the game would end, I wouldn’t have been able to stop laughing or take you seriously.  Jonathan Papelbon? Give up a game-winning homer in the ninth? Impossible.  He’d just struck out two guys, there were two outs in the inning, there was no way.  Just no way.  But apparently not.  Apparently it’s possible, and apparently it happens.  I mean, what are the odds.  Really.  What are the odds Paps would rack up a blown save and a loss via the long ball in the ninth inning.  All in a single game.  I’m pretty sure that just does not happen.  Well.  Until last night.  And Jonathan Papelbon was feeling it; he’s one of the biggest competitors on the team, and that’s what you want from your closer, and after the call was reversed he just hung his head.  Ouch.

Youk batted in both of our runs.  Ellsbury again extended his hitting streak, batting .298 now so still right on that cusp.  He also stole third.  Successfully.  And when you watch Ellsbury work on the basepaths, it’s textbook.  He is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, base-stealer in Major League Baseball right now.  His technique alone is just top-notch.  Pedroia went two for four with a run and a steal of second and is quietly batting a nice .327.  I’m telling you, very quietly he’s just been hot lately.  And he loves Interleague too.  Last night was his seventh consecutive multi-hit Interleague game.  That ties our club record, set by Troy O’Leary in 1998, and he’s one short of the Major League record of eight, set by A-Rod in 1998.  Man, I’d love to see him break that one.  Pedroia started the season with a .400 average in Interleague play.  That’s the best all-time for at least a hundred at-bats.  And after these two games with the Mets, that .400 average is now .406, and we all know who comes to mind when you mention .406.

So that was one infuriating loss that should’ve been a win.  Luckily, Toronto lost again, so we’re still only half a game back.  Unluckily, we’re now tied with the Yankees for second place, and the Rays shortened their deficit to three and a half games out of first.  So we’ve got some work to do.  It’s only a half-game lead they’ve got; we should be able to overtake that overnight.  Tonight would be nice.  We’re throwing Wakefield against Tim Redding.  Ordinarily, that would be a pretty even matchup but if Wake pitches anything like he has been over the course of the season, it’ll be like throwing an ace up there, and hopefully the Mets will have no chance.  Which is what should’ve happened these past two nights, and in a way it did except for some weird twists of fate.  Whatever.  Let’s just get it done tonight.

A Nation of One

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