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Posts Tagged ‘John Lackey’

Oh, the glory.  Oh, the epic glory and elation.  Oh, the epic glory and elation and wonder and virtue and justice that has been delivered again to Boston this year.  I don’t even know.  I can’t even adequately verbalize the truly awesome epicness of this entire situation.  Oh, the glory.

I just have to say this.  Ladies and gentlemen, we, Red Sox Nation, are the official diehard supporters of the Boston Red Sox, the official World Series champions.

Actually, I have to say this multiple times.  THE BOSTON RED SOX JUST WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!! THE CROWN HAS RETURNED TO ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE!!!! THE UNIVERSE HAS NOW AGAIN BEEN MADE RIGHT!!!!

And again.  WE ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!!!

Think about where we were this time last year.  We were not busy winning the World Series.  We were busy trying to deal with the pain of watching some other team win the World Series, let alone play in the World Series, let alone make it to the playoffs.  The circumstances surrounding the team were so disappointing and disillusioning so often, and we were just hoping that we could turn it around in the offseason.

After that offseason, since day one of this season, the pieces have fallen into place.  This year’s team is brand new in so many innumerable and yet vitally important ways.  And it was really a team, from the first game of Spring Training to the last game of the World Series; even through everyone said we wouldn’t amount to anything this year, a different guy was getting it done every night, and everyone was relying on everyone else to deliver their own core strengths.  The clubhouse dynamic has been healthy, and that really translated well onto the field.  So in terms of big-picture team qualities, I think this year’s team just had so much in common with past teams that have won the World Series.  And I don’t think that that’s a coincidence.

To go from worst to first, it takes a team.  A whole team.  It definitely takes a team.

This posteason hasn’t been easy.  We had our work cut out for us the whole way through.  And this is the first of our last three championships that we hadn’t been able to sweep.  It was nerve-wracking and nail-biting.  It was like that all the way down to the wire.  Of course, in the end, part of that had to do with the fact that, even though I was seeing it with my own eyes, I couldn’t quite believe it until the field was mobbed and the goggles were donned and the champagne was sprayed and the trophy was hoisted and and we won it all.  That last out was just so brutal; the seconds lasted forever, and then it was over so fast.

And we won the World Series.  This whole organization turned itself around, and we became champions of the world.  I am so proud of this organization and this city, and I am so proud to be a member of Red Sox Nation.

Alright.  Down to the monumental contest itself.  Obviously, we came home needing to win only one more game to cap the year with the greatest accolade that the Major Leagues has to offer.  Lackey got the call, and he most definitely did not disappoint.  He delivered one of the best starts this month, giving up only one run on nine hits over the course of six and two-thirds innings while walking one and striking out five.  He threw 105 pitches, two of which were wild and seventy-six of which were strikes.

But that doesn’t even tell the whole story.  He went one-two-three in the first.  He gave up two singles in the second and ended the inning with three straight outs.  He went one-two-three in the third despite giving up a single thanks to a double play.  He gave up a single and contended with a second baserunner in the fourth thanks to a fielding error by Pedroia but escaped unscathed.  He pitched around another two singles in the fifth and went one-two-three in the sixth.

His problem was the seventh.  Lackey is an incredibly fierce competitor, which is something you really, really want in a starting pitcher.  Unless they aren’t very good at letting go.  Two outs into the inning, he gave up a single, a double, and an RBI single.  That run was the Cards’ first of the night, which broke up a potential shutout.  I’ll be honest with you.  A win is a win no matter how many runs the opposition scores as long as you score more, but after having played close games against this team, I just really, really wanted the shutout.  Whatever.  We won the World Series, so in the end it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, then Lackey convinced John to leave him in but proceeded to issue a walk.  And that was it for Lackey.  But not before he received an incredibly well-deserved standing ovation.  The organization turned around, and so did he.  And earned the start last night, and he earned that standing ovation.

Then Tazawa ended the inning.  Workman came out for the eighth and mowed right through, going one-two-three in the inning.  And then I could taste it.  I could just feel that glory about to wash over this great city.  A city that’s been through a lot this year, and a team that’s helped everyone get through it.

The epic awesomeness was supplemented by offense.  Obviously.  Because without hitting and scoring, you can’t even win a single game, let along a World Series.  Whoever hunkered down for a long night after two scoreless innings looked really, really incorrect really fast.

We scored three runs in the third and another three in the fourth.

Ellsbury singled to lead off the third and moved to second on a groundout by Pedroia.  Papi walked intentionally, Napoli struck out, and Gomes got hit to load the bases.  Victorino yet again came up with the big hit, clearing the bases with one swing.

Then Drew homered on the first pitch of the fourth.  It was a fastball clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, and he powered that ball out of the park in right center.  It was epic.  It was also the lone power display of the night.  So in this game we had some of everything: small ball, long ball, and most importantly, everything else.

Ross struck out, Ellsbury doubled and moved to third on a flyout by Pedroia, and Papi walked intentionally again.  Then Napoli singled in Ellsbury, Gomes walked to load the bases, and Victorino singled in Papi.

And that was it.  Six runs in two innings.  We couldn’t have known this at the time, but the game was won after we scored our second run in the third.

And then Uehara came on for the ninth.  And he recorded the first out.  And the second out.  And the third out.  It was happening right in front of me and it was something so beautiful and incredible to see, and I couldn’t believe it.  And yet simultaneously I could, because I knew that this is where we were, in Boston, at the end of October.  Right here.  Right now.

And then it was over.  And the field was full.  And we won.  We won it all.  And The Standells played, because now Boston is everyone’s home.

The final score was 6-1.

It was the first time we won the World Series at home in ninety-five years.  The last time? 1918.  Against the Cubs.  The first time we won the World Series since? 2004.  The team we played? The St. Louis Cardinals.  Coincidence? I think not.

Again, I point out the glory.  The sheer beauty of the thing and the glory, glory, glory that is Boston’s this year.  The glory that belongs to every single player, and coach, and manager of course, and staff member, and brass of this illustrious organization.  The glory that belongs to Big Papi, the official World Series MVP, and to everyone who was a part of this win.  The glory that belongs to each and every beard, real or fake, that’s been feared.  The glory that belongs to each and every rally cap that’s been turned upside-down.  The glory that belongs to the people of Boston after having endured such tragedy this year.  The glory that belongs to Red Sox Nation the world over, because the World Series is ours.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I congratulate ourselves on a truly incredible journey that has brought us to the end of a truly incredible year.

WE DID IT!!!!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Everyone knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.  Well, it’s not as cold in St. Louis as it is in Boston, but winning by the same score by which we lost our first loss of the series while on the road will do just fine.  Now the series is even, but we’ve got to keep up the good work.  There can be no mistakes from now on.  Granted, there could be no mistakes from the first game on, but at least we have time to make up for it.

Now that those cautionary remarks are out of the way, we can get down to the business of feeling good about our win! Buchholz pitched an absolute gem.  It was a short gem but a gem nonetheless.  He pitched four innings and gave up one run that was unearned on three hits while walking three and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and pitched around two baserunners in the second.  With one out in the third, he gave up a single, which would turn into the unearned run thanks to Ellsbury, whose deflection and missed catch put the runner in scoring position.  He again pitched around two baserunners in the fourth, and that was it for Buchholz.

Meanwhile, our hitters had gone down one-two-three in the first four innings.  We finally scored in the fifth, when Papi led off with a double and scored on a sac fly by Drew.  But when Doubront came on for the fifth, during which he went one-two-three, we were still down by one.

That changed in the sixth, when we scored our second, third, and fourth runs, what turned out to be our last three runs of the game.  Ellsbury and Nava provided two quick outs, but then Pedroia singled, Papi walked, the Cards made a pitching change, and Gomes received five straight sinkers.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third for a ball.  He fouled off the fourth.  And he homered on the fifth.  He rocketed that ball beyond the fence in left center field.  It was one of those moments where you really feel like you really need a home run and then you just get one, like it’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  And, because you need it, it is, but that alone makes it so unlikely.  Anyway, it was awesome, and it won the game for us right there.

Doubront had a one-two-three sixth and got the first two outs of the seventh before giving up a double.  Breslow continues to struggle, entering the game and giving up an RBI single.  After he issued a walk, it was Tazawa’s  turn.  Tazawa ended the inning and turned the ball over to Lackey for the eighth.  Uehara pitched the ninth, obtaining the game’s last out with a pickoff.

So it was Doubront who picked up the win; Breslow, Tazawa, Lackey, and Uehara all held down the fort.  And we won, 4-2.  Which is awesome and spectacular and really great and extremely essential and important.  But I would much prefer not having to come from behind.

In other news, the Pats walked away with the win, defeating the Dolphins, 27-17.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Okay.  There’s no need to be scared or read into this.  Just because the last two times we’ve been to the World Series we’ve been able to sweep and get it done in four games doesn’t mean that we’ll lose the World Series just because we lost the second game.  It’s fine.  Honestly, we shouldn’t even have lost this one.  My point is that there is plenty of baseball still to be played.  True, we’re going away now, but that hasn’t stopped us before.  We’ll just have to get past it.

So Lackey did a great job while he was on the mound.  He pitched six and one-third innings and gave up five hits and two walks while striking out six.  He gave up a single in the first, a single in the second, and nothing in the third.  He cracked in the fourth when he gave up a triple to lead it off that turned into a run on a groundout.

That one run was a big deal because we had yet to score.  We went down in order in the first, and Napoli walked to provide our first baserunner in the second.  Ellsbury provided our first hit in the third with a single, and the bottom of the fourth looked promising.  Pedroia doubled and Papi walked, setting up Napoli.  Who then grounded into a double play.

Lackey went one-two-three in the fifth; Salty walked in the bottom of the inning, but that was it.  Lackey gave up a single in the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the game might be ours after all.

I’ve often said that, in a close game, one run feels like ten.  This one was no exception.  Because the longer you go without scoring runs, the more difficult it feels to score them.  After Victorino grounded out, Pedroia walked, and then it was Papi’s turn.  And I was busy thinking how great it would be if he just went yard, just like that, just because we really needed him to.

He took a fastball for a ball, fouled off a second fastball, and then received four straight changeups.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third in the dirt.

And he went yard on the fourth.  Hit that ball into the Monster seats.  Seriously.  Just like that.  Just because we needed him to.

It was huge.  It didn’t tie the game.  It gave us the lead.  In a close one.  In which scoring one run felt like scoring ten.  And as a result of that phenomenon, scoring two runs on one swing felt like a real jump out in front.

Unfortunately, the whole thing unraveled in the seventh.  That can not be overstated.  Literally the whole game was completely undone in the seventh inning alone.  It was one of the worst innings you can possibly imagine to occur during, of all things, the World Series.  Honestly, that kind of bad baseball is not even excusable during the regular season, let alone the postseason, let alone the pinnacle of the entire postseason.

Lackey led off the seventh with a strikeout.  Then he issued a walk and gave up a single, so John went with Breslow.  The Cards managed to execute a double steal, putting both runners in scoring position.  And Breslow walked his first batter to load the bases.

A double play would have ended it all.  But Breslow induced a sac fly.  Technically, that’s not so bad; you take the out in exchange for the run, which in this case would not be winning but rather tying.

But the whole thing went completely and epically awry.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I think that that had something to do with the fact that I didn’t really want to believe it was happening.

Not one but two runners scored on the sac fly, indeed providing the Cards with the winning run.  Salty missed the catch, Breslow made an error on the throw, and the whole thing turned into a huge mess as a result.  And then, to top it off, Breslow gave up an RBI single.  Thus, while Lackey was charged with three runs, he was also the victim of a situation in which some of them scored on someone else’s watch.

The final score was established right there.  We lost, 4-2.

Tazawa pitched the last out of the seventh, after which we went down in order.  Workman pitched the eighth, which for us looked like it had some potential.  Ellsbury reached on a fielding error, and Papi singled two outs later.  But Napoli popped out to end it.  Uehara pitched the ninth, after which we went down in order.

So at one point the game looked like it would be really good.  Then it was really, really bad.  All because of one play that was supposed to be routine but that instead cost us Game Two.  We need to pull it together.  Not only were those errors completely inappropriate for the World Series, but we also didn’t even have enough hits or runs to absorb that damage.  At the same time, I saw too many swing-and-misses and too many stare-at-strikes.  All of that needs to change immediately.  If we’re going to get this done, we need to take the proper steps.

In other news, hockey is back in Boston as the Bruins began their new season this month.  So far, we’ve beaten the Lightning, Red Wings, Panthers, Lightning again, Sabres, and Sharks, and we’ve lost to the Avalanche and Red Wings.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Oh, yes.  Bitter medicine indeed.  For Detroit.  For us it was absolutely awesome.  These have been some seriously close games, too close for comfort too often.  But someone has to win, and it’s so awesome when it’s us.  Especially when you’re basically beating your opposition at their own game (pun not intended).

Lackey delivered a stellar performance.  He pitched six and two-thirds innings of shutout ball; it’s hard to get much better than that.  He gave up four hits and no walks, and he struck out eight.  So yes, if he’d pitched the rest of the game without having given up those four hits, he would have had a perfect game.

He gave up two singles in the first, a double in the fifth, and a single in the seventh.  And that was it.  The rest of his performance was blemish-free.  He just mowed right through.

But even though he didn’t last longer, our relief corps was just as solid.  Breslow ended the seventh, and he, Tazawa, and Uehara teamed up for the eighth.  Uehara went on to own the ninth, recording a four-out save.

As I said, the games have been close, and this one was by no means an exception.  Papi led off the second with a walk to become our first baserunner of the night.  We didn’t have another one until Gomes singled in the fifth.  Then Ellsbury singled in the sixth, and the game was won in the seventh with one out.  Napoli went up to bat and took a four-seam for a strike.  He took another four-seam for a ball and then two sliders for balls.  Then Napoli got another four-seam.  Big mistake.  You can’t make mistakes with Napoli.  You just can’t.  It was Justin Verlander’s hundredth pitch, and Mike Napoli made Verlander pay.  He powered way up and launched the ball out of the park out to left center field.  It was huge.  It was epic.  And it was the only run that either team scored.

The game was delayed due to a power outage in Detroit.  I’ll bet the Tigers wished that would have extended to everyone else.  Like Napoli.  No power outage there.  And that’s how we won by a final score of one-zip.

Boston Globe Staff/Stan Grossfeld

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Cue win number two! We’ve cornered the Rays to elimination already! I must say that this series is proceeding quite swimmingly thus far.  We are taking the field and dominating every aspect of the game, and that is a wonderful site to see.  It’s good to be back.

Lackey’s performance was probably the downside of Game Two.  He lasted only five and one-third innings and gave up four runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out six.  Lots of hits and lots of runs.  That would have been really bad news had the offense not stepped it up.

He gave up a walk that turned into a run after a single and sac fly in the second.  En route to securing the first two outs of the fifth, he gave up a double and hit a batter, and both turned into runs on another double.  And he gave up his last run in the sixth on a single-single combination before he was lifted.

We scored first.  Ellsbury singled in the first, stole second, advanced to third on the throw, and scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  And then Papi went yard on his second pitch of the game to right center field.  No big deal.  Just Papi doing what Papi does during the playoffs.  Yeah.  Back indeed.

Ross and Ellsbury hit back-to-back doubles to lead off the third, thereby scoring a run.  Then Victorino singled, and Ellsbury scored on a force out by Pedroia.  Napoli walked to lead off the fourth and scored on a triple by Drew.  Ellsbury led off the fifth with a single and scored on a double by Pedroia.

And then Papi did in the eighth what he did in the second: he homered on the second pitch of his at-bat, this one straight up to right field.  Yes.

Breslow finished the sixth and pitched the seventh, Tazawa pitched the eighth, and Uehara took care of the ninth.  And then we won, 7-4.  Let’s get this done.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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So, yeah, this wasn’t exactly our finest hour.  I’m not really okay with losing to a National League team in a slugfest, especially if that National League team is the same National League team that we beat when we slugged our way to World Series victory in 2007.  Anyway, we lost, and it was ugly.

Lackey didn’t waste time putting us in a hole.  His third pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot, and two outs and a double later, he gave up an RBI single.  He gave up another solo shot in the third.  And another one in the fifth.

So we spent most of the game down by four.  We didn’t even score a single run until the seventh, and even that was basically a giveaway from the Rockies.  Salty and Drew grounded out, and then Middlebrooks doubled and scored when Bradley reached on a missed catch, with a little help from a throwing error.  But then Bradley was out at home.

But just when we shrunk the deficit from four to three, it more than doubled.  Britton came on for the seventh, but evidently that wasn’t even remotely close to an improvement.  He gave up a double, a single, and a walk to load the bases with nobody out.  Then he gave up a two-run single.  Following a double steal and another two-run single, Morales came on and finished the inning.  De La Rosa pitched the eighth.

We brought our six-run deficit down to four again when Papi singled to lead off the fifth, and Salty went yard on the third pitch, and third four-seam, of the at-bat.  All the way to right center field.  Too bad it basically didn’t even make a dent.

We lost, 8-3.  It was awful and humiliating and just generally very unpleasant.

Getty Images

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The second was our big inning.  If by big, I mean three runs.  And I do.  Because we scored three runs.  And it was enough.  Salty doubled, Middlebrooks struck out, and Drew didn’t waste time turning on the power, going yard on his first pitch of the game a cutter clocked at ninety-two miles per hour, which he promptly deposited out of the park.  And then Bradley doubled and scored on a single by Pedroia.

And those were the only three runs we scored in the entire game.  Good thing Lackey was on the ball.

But he wasn’t just on the ball.  He was amazingly epic.  He was insane.  He was ridiculous.

His first walk in the third and his second walk in the sixth were the only blemishes of his performance until he gave up a solo shot with one out in the seventh.

Just take a minute to let that sink in.  That means that those two walks were the only two things standing between him and a bid for a perfect game.  As it was, until that home run, he was well on his way to pitching a no-hitter.  He threw a cutter for a strike to start the at-bat, and then I saw that second cutter leave his hand on the release, and I saw it travel towards the plate, and I just didn’t know what was going to happen.  And then I saw the bat swing through, and I heard that sound.  It was the sound we’re so happy to hear when we’re the ones on the homering end.  But once the ball and the bat collide to make that sound, you know the ball is going out of the park.  And I knew it well before I saw it.  And it was awful, and devastating, and crushing, and unbelievable, even though I saw it play out in my mind before I saw it play out right in front of me.  It was just awful.

I’m proud of Lackey for keeping it together after that.  He didn’t unravel.  He gave up a single in the eighth, and he faced only three in the ninth.

In the end, we won, 3-1.  Lackey went the distance and gave up only one run on just those two hits while walking only two and striking out eight.  I’m proud of Lackey.  But I’m also crushed.  I really thought he had it in the bag.

And by the way, we are now officially in the playoffs.  It is an indisputable scientific fact.  So now it’s fun to look at the standings.  After certain recent seasons, I’ve been kind of wary of doing that, first of all because the standings fluctuate and secondly because, as we painfully know, being in first place at a certain time of the year doesn’t always deliver what it’s supposed to deliver.  But it’s later rather than earlier in September, and ladies and gentlemen, we are going to Soxtober!

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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