Posts Tagged ‘John McDonald’

Well, that’s a wrap! That, my friends, is officially a wrap.  The 2013 regular baseball season is now over.  That’s it.  We finish with a record of ninety-seven and sixty-five.  That’s good for a winning percentage of .599, which is the best in the American League and tied with the Cards for the best in the Majors.

Look at how far we’ve come.  New manager, new players, new team.  And new record.  Better record.  Look at how far we’ve come.  Look at all the changes we’ve made and the transitions we’ve gone through.  And we made it on the other side.  Not to say I told you so, but I knew good things were in store for us from the very beginning.  And in this particular case I’m so psyched I’m right.

We ended the season, unfortunately, with a loss.  But the pitching staff got some last-minute work in while Lackey got the day off, which is good.  Webster pitched three shutout innings to start us off.  Doubront took over in the fourth but got into trouble in the fifth.  He gave up two singles followed by a strikeout and a walk to load the bases.  A double, a single, a walk, and a single ended up scoring five runs.

Then it was De La Rosa’s turn.  He ended the inning and gave up a single in the sixth.  Dempster took over and gave up a double, a wild pitch that scored a run, and a groundout.  Dempster came on and, while ending the inning, also gave up an RBI double.  Breslow pitched the seventh, and Uehara pitched the eighth.

The game started very nicely with a solo shot on the fourth pitch, courtesy of Ellsbury.  It was his third cutter of the at-bat, and all four pitches were about the same speed.  But he hit this one beyond the fence in right center field.  And he looked comfortable doing it, too.  It’s his third leadoff shot this year and tenth of his career, which is a new club record!

After Bogaerts struck out, Papi singled and then scored on a groundout by Carp.  With one out in the second, John McDonald singled, and Quintin Berry went yard on a changeup to right.  So the pitchers were taking this opportunity to get their work in, and so was the bench.  Which, as we all know, is very important.  Salty singled and scored on a single by Ellsbury in the fourth.  And Papi singled and scored on a single by Napoli in the ninth.

So we lost, 7-6.  But that’s so opposite of everything we’ve accomplished this year.  I’m so proud of us.  Now, this moment is really all about us.  But I want to say one thing.  The New York Yankees will be missing the playoffs this year.  Wow.  Life is good.

Okay.  So.  The whole team gets the day off on Monday, when the Rays and Rangers play for the final Wild Card spot.  Whoever wins will play Cleveland.  Then the division series will start on Friday.  The first two games will be at home, followed by a day off, then two games away, and then the last game would be back at home.

Oh, man, it’s good to be back.  Let’s get this done.

In other news, the Pats bested the Falcons, 30-23.

AP Photo

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I can literally cut my despair with a knife and serve slices of it to Red Sox Nation if I thought for a minute there isn’t plenty to go around already.  All of the progress we made with our modest winning streak – which at this point does indeed seem to be like spitting in the ocean and seeing if the tide goes up – has been duly erased.  We’re back to eight games out of first with fourteen games left to play, and since the Rays are only half a game out of first, the Wild Card is looking unfortunately similar.  So we’re right back where we started but with less time to fix it.  If we dropped the first two of a homestand that was supposed to be a huge boost in the standings to set the stage for a showdown between us and New York that would decide our fate once and for all, you know it’s grim.  The frustration is epic.

For once, Beckett managed to deliver.  Not that he was an ace exactly, but considering what he’s been to date, he was pretty good.  He pitched a full seven innings, gave up four runs, three earned, on ten hits, walked two, and struck out four.  On paper, his pitches were great; he was aggressive with his fastball and threw it for strikes, he mixed in a very effective curveball that moved really well, and he added a decent cutter and changeup every once in a while.  But he started the game by throwing twenty-five pitches in the first inning alone; he threw about a quarter of his pitch total in the first seventh of the game.  That was what told you we were in for a rough night.  His line was good, but not good enough.  He kept us in the game, but the offense just didn’t pick up where he left off.

To make matters worse, Bautista opened the scoring with a home run in the first.  Great.

Papi answered with an RBI single an inning later.  Toronto got it back and added two, thanks wholly to Beckett.  Molina dropped a bunt that looked like it was headed for foul territory.  Beckett and Salty both chased it.  As soon as the ball was fair game, Salty snared it.  But he had nobody to throw to.  Beckett didn’t cover home plate.  And McDonald scored from second base.  Unbelievable.  Fortunately we answered their two in the sixth when Beltre scored on Lowrie’s groundout and Papi scored on McDonald’s fielding error.

But the ninth inning was the worst.  The score was 3-4, and with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Kalish looked like a veteran and worked a nine-pitch at-bat that finally resulted in a single.  And we had V-Mart at the plate.  The scenario, like the night before, had comeback written all over it.  But the scenario, like the night before, was all for naught.  Kalish got a little greedy and aggressive with his lead off first; he saw V-Mart get a changeup in the dirt and gambled that Molina wouldn’t be able to contain it.  Molina most definitely contained it.  He didn’t block it, which is the usual strategy; he stayed on his feet, somehow caught it, fired to first, and picked Kalish off.  The worst part is that nobody has any right to blame Kalish for it because for once the baserunner was actually correct.  Kalish did everything you’re supposed to do given the situation; it was Molina who made the mistake by actually catching the ball.  That one play was the difference-maker.  Molina lost us the ballgame.

To make matters unbelievably worse, V-Mart delivered.  He bounced a triple off the Monster.  And what did Beltre do with it? He grounded out.  Of all the things he possibly could have done in that situation, he grounded out.  The score stayed 3-4.

What can I say? Like so many games this year, last night’s was a microcosm of our entire season.  Our pitcher dashed our high expectations, we made errors in the field, and we couldn’t buy a clutch hit to save our October lives.  That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing since April.  Even that spectacular throw by Beltre in the fourth to record the inning’s final out while a runner was on his way home amounted, in the grand scheme of things, to nothing.  In the not-so-grand scheme of things, we played with all the usual heart and hustle, but it’s not enough.  It’s just not enough.  Today Lester goes for his eighteenth win of the season opposite Shaun Marcum.  I hope he gets it.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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When you look up “tagging a runner out at the plate” in the baseball dictionary, you will see footage of the play that saved the game for us last night.  That play was, without a doubt, the perfect execution of every fundamental theory in the sport for that particular situation.  Nothing could have made that play better because it proceeded exactly as it should have.  Every once in a while, you watch a baseball game and you see what you realize is the perfect double play, the perfect curveball, the perfect swing, and you know it’s perfect because the movements are fluid and confident, and somehow they just all fit.  That was precisely the case with the play last night.

Let me paint the picture for you.  Beckett pitched five innings, gave up five hits on five runs with five walks and, sadly for the symmetry, nine strikeouts.  Again, the home runs were a problem.  He gave up a two-runner and a three-runner on a bad breaking ball and a misplaced fastball, respectively.  It was a tradeoff; at least he didn’t give up five homers, but each homer was worth more runs.  Saito pitched the sixth.  Bard the seventh and two outs of the eighth.

At that point we were tied at five.  We’d scored three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.  Drew singled in Youk and moved Papi to third.  Tek hit a sac fly to score Papi.  Ellsbury doubled in Drew.  Then Bay hit a monstrous two-run home run in the fifth to score himself and V-Mart.

Okay.  So.  Tied at five.  With one out in the eighth inning, John McDonald doubled into the left field corner and Travis Snider was coming on home from first.  Now, what I am about to describe is the textbook example of what to do in this situation.  Jason Bay threw the ball to the infield, and Alex Gonzalez immediately relayed it to Jason Varitek, who extended his left leg for the block.  Snider never touched the plate but was rather tagged out.  That was one small step for Jason Varitek and one big sigh of relief for Daniel Bard.

In the bottom half of the inning, after about an hour-long rain delay and with one out, Kotchman pinch-hit for Gonzalez into a fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded that scored Papi.  Okajima got the win, and Paps got a save, eventually; two strikeouts followed by two bloop singles and a grazed jersey followed by a strikeout to end it.  On the bright side, opponents are one for twelve with nine strikeouts against him with the bases loaded this season.  Anyway, the final score was 6-5.  Beckett has some serious thanking to do, because if Bay didn’t hit that home run, he would’ve been on the hook for the loss.  Beckett’s ERA over his last three starts is a depression-inducing 9.82, and in that time he’s given up a despair-increasing ten home runs.  Ouch.  No, seriously, it really hurts to read that.

As for the rest of the lineup, Ellsbury was obviously back in there and finished two for three.  Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis, Ortiz, and Gonzalez also each had a hit.  Drew finished two for four.

Dice-K’s rehab start with Portland has been postponed from today to tomorrow due to the weather.  After that, he’ll start for the PawSox on Friday and then he’ll be back in action on September 9 at Fenway against the Orioles.  Hopefully, that’s a good thing.  Lowrie, who felt pain in his left wrist on Wednesday, will start again for the PawSox today.  Apparently the soreness is no big deal.  The Yankees won, but we did as well and the Rangers did not.

All in all a great game, with the obvious exception of Beckett’s shoddy work.  Plays like Tek’s not only win games but also boost the morale of a team down the stretch after a long and demanding season.  Unlike other sports, ballplayers work almost every day, but moments like this make it all worth it, so to speak.  Slowly but steadily, we’re making the full circle to come back to where we started: solid pitching and solid hitting.  I’m telling you, it’s a veritable recipe for October.  But before we can think about that, we have to think about Ricky Romero at Clay Buchholz.

Reuters Photo

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