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Posts Tagged ‘John Smoltz’

Entering this week, I seriously felt like I was watching the Sox in the middle of the season.  You know, that time when all the aches and pains start to set in.  And it’s not exactly the world’s most comforting feeling to see a team affected like they’ve played eighty-plus games when they’ve only played eleven.

Beckett got sick.  And it showed on Friday, when the Pirates had their way with him while he coughed up a lung between pitches.  Although he’ll probably get the nod to start Opening Day.  Also during Friday’s game, John Farrell got to watch his son get a hit.  I’m not happy that the Pirates made contact off of one of our pitchers, but I have to admit that that must have been pretty awesome for Farrell.

Dice-K strained his neck.  But progress is promising: he threw forty batting-practice pitches on Wednesday, and another ten to a still batter.  The best part is that all of them were strikes.  He’s scheduled to start a minor league game today, so I’m hopeful.  Also, congratulations to him and his family on the birth of his third child and second daughter.

Jed Lowrie contracted mono.  What is this, the All-Star break? It’s only Spring Training, and the team already looked like it was feeling it.  That’s not good news.

And that’s not even mentioning Ryan Westmoreland’s surgery on Wednesday to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain.  (Basically, that’s a mass of tangled blood cells in his brain stem.) He’s only nineteen years old and was in the process of living the dream: being one of his favorite team’s top prospects.  Thankfully, the surgery went well, and he has started his recovery.  But the recovery won’t be easy.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say he’s in our thoughts, and we hope he’ll be better soon.

On Wednesday, Beltre showed us what he’s working with.  He made a play that was basically the exact reason why we signed him.  Cora hit a ball that nailed Lackey in the bottom of his shoe.  It rolled away from him, so Beltre barehanded it while in the air to first, and the throw was a lot more powerful than it normally would have been given the circumstances.  It was one of those critics-silencing, leather-flashing, worth-proving plays you see in Spring Training that finally convinces you that, as usual, Theo Epstein knew exactly what he was doing.  Lackey was fantastic for four (it’s a joy to watch him, partly because works really quickly) but Ramon Ramirez squandered it.  I don’t care if it’s only Spring Training and the results technically don’t count: you never want to hear that your bullpen squandered it.  Ever.  Thankfully, the squandering did not involve Paps.  On the bright side, Big Papi has a hitting streak going, which included a homer on Monday.  I’m telling you, I think he’s going to come back.

Thursday was big.  The Major League squad got the day off, so Buchholz went down the street to pitch in a minor league contest.  He did so to keep on a five-day schedule, to see if he could handle joining the rotation.  Trust me, he handled it.  Forty-five pitches over four innings of one-hit ball with four K’s and no walks.  What this means is that we currently have six options for a five-man rotation.  Folks, this is about to get really interesting, really quickly.

No, seriously.  You might be thinking the decision will be easy because Wake is running out of steam, especially after he got lit up on Monday, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  He threw five shutout innings yesterday and threw another simulated two in the bullpen afterwards.  He is really on pace to put up a fight for that fifth starting spot.  (Delcarmen threw shutout frame.  What a relief, no pun intended.) Having too many starters is a very good problem to have, and this year it looks like that’s more concrete than last year.  Our abundance of starters at the beginning of ’09 didn’t exactly pan out like we thought it would, but this year all six are proven, solid, and capable, and that translates to options come playoff time.  Also, Youk and Scutaro both homered in the contest, which we won, not surprisingly.

John Smoltz has been hired by TBS and MLB Network as an analyst even though he claims that he’s not ready to retire yet.  Yeah, right.  We’ve seen this a million times, and I bet he’ll announce his retirement pretty soon anyway.  We welcome back Alan Embree, who recorded the final out in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, with a minor league contract and Major League invite.  Ah, memories.  He had a tough season last year: a line drive broke his leg and that was the end of it.  But if he can bounce back and maybe pitch effectively a bit in Fenway, that’s something I’d like to see during a slugfest or something.  Just for old times’ sake.

So the week did end up improving, with plenty of flashes of brilliance to go around.  And the best part? Opening Day is only two weeks away! And with the weather warming up like it has been recently and the first day of spring yesterday, baseball is definitely in the air.  It’s only a matter of time before we’re tuning in for that first pitch.  (Which will be thrown in the dark.  Thank you once again, ESPN.  And like I said, if I sound bitter, it’s because I am.  It’s Opening Day, not Opening Night, but apparently somebody missed that memo.) And from what I’ve seen in Spring Training so far, I really like our chances this year.  So bring it.

The Bruins lost two and won one this week.  Savard is on the injured reserve.  Thomas has no idea what’s going on.  Meanwhile, we’re four points below the Habs and one point above the Thrashers barely clinging to the last seed in the conference.  Something must be done.

Kelly O’Connor

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Clay Buchholz pitched a gem.  There was nothing more we could’ve asked for from our third starter.  He’s twenty-five years old.  He’d never made a postseason start in his life.  He came off a bad year, spent the beginning of this season in Triple-A, and was only able to officially join the rotation because the starting depth we started the season with didn’t last.  John Smoltz failed, Brad Penny struggled, Tim Wakefield started having health issues, Dice-K had to complete Spring Training in the middle of the season.  But Clay Buchholz earned a spot in our rotation, and he earned yesterday’s postseason start.  And he made the most of it.  Two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.  He pitched to three batters in the sixth before leaving the bases loaded for Daniel Bard, but there were too many things right with his outing to let that spoil it in retrospect.

Buchholz showed maturity and composure beyond his years.  He didn’t think too much; John Farrell and Jason Varitek sat down with Victor Martinez before the game and laid out a game plan, and Buchholz just trusted his batterymate and executed.  And when I say executed, I mean executed.  He had excellent movement on all of his pitches.  He threw with conviction.  At ninety-five pitches, his efficiency was decent.  A solo shot by Kendry Morales was his only blemish until he balked and Bard let one of his inherited runners score.  Although we were lucky it was only one; Bard induced a double play and then quickly got out of the inning.  It could have been much worse, and that speaks to Bard’s potential.  But that balk was the only time during his start that he showed his age.  The baserunners rattled him a bit, and he became distracted.  But that was one valiant effort, and one we can be proud of.

Wagner allowed two runs.  The irony is that one of the reasons he decided to come to Boston was to earn a World Series ring, and he sure didn’t help his team’s cause with that performance.  He only recorded two outs.

I was thoroughly convinced that we were going to win this game.  I thought we had this one locked.  Why? Because we looked like ourselves.  We felt like ourselves.  Without the consistent first-pitch strike, our hitters were able to be patient at the plate, to take pitches, to wear the pitcher out, to work counts, and to hit the ball.  Ellsbury had the first hit of the game (and yet another sparkling diving catch), and Pedroia, the team’s emotional leader, batted in our first two runs with a double.  V-Mart singled in Pedroia to complete a three-run third.  Drew clobbered a two-run home run to center field that made me think of his grand slam in October 2007.  So we had a four-run lead, we had momentum, we had the shadows and quirks of Fenway Park, which was all part of what made it so brutal.  And we tacked on an insurance run in the eighth; Ortiz had his first, and soon to be only, hit of the series and was replaced by pinch-runner Joey Gathright, who promptly stole second and scored on a single by Lowell.  And that run came in handy after Wagner’s mess of an appearance.

Which brings me to our closer.  A Mr. Jonathan Papelbon.  If you thought Wagner’s appearance was a mess, if you thought Papelbon’s work during the regular season was shoddy, if you thought his unusually high amount of walks would get him in trouble, then yesterday’s outing officially vindicated you.  Jonathan Papelbon lost this game for us.  I mean, you can make the argument that if the lineup scored ten runs, we wouldn’t have had to worry about our pitching, but you can never expect any lineup to score ten runs in the postseason because theoretically you’re up against the league’s best pitching.

Papelbon, after not having allowed a run in twenty-six posteason innings (the equivalent of almost three complete games!), allowed three.  On four hits.  And two walks.  No strikeouts.  He threw thirty-two pitches and was one strike away from securing the win three different times.  He ended the eighth with a pickoff, so with two out and bases empty in the ninth, Red Sox Nation and I were feeling good.  We were thinking, “Paps is the master.  This game is over.” Apparently, Paps never got that memo.  Erick Aybar stroked a single up the middle.  Chone Figgins, who we managed to contain up until that point, about which we were very happy because of his speed on the basepaths, walked.  Bobby Abreu singled in a run, shrinking our lead to one.  Then we walked Torii Hunter intentionally to load the bases.  Then Vladimir Guerrero singled in two.  After batting in only one run in his previous nineteen postseason games, he had to deliver in the top of the ninth at Fenway Park in elimination Game Three of the 2009 ALDS.

Okajima pitched the last out.  So Buchholz got a no-decision, Bard and Wagner each got holds, and Papelbon got a blown save and a loss.  He deserves it.  That’s the understatement of the century.

The final score was 7-6.  We are now thirteen and four in elimination games under Terry Francona.

We looked primed for Game Four.  We even had Dave Henderson throw out the ceremonial first pitch for good luck.  No one can forget his spin-jump on the way to first after he hit that epic two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game Five of the 1986 ALCS.  Against, you guessed it, the Angels.  We were set.  We were back at home, our young stud was well on his way to his first-ever postseason victory, we were finally hitting, and we had a game plan: put Dice-K in the bullpen, bring Jon Lester back on short rest, force a Game Five, win that, win the ALCS, and sweep in the World Series, as usual.

That didn’t happen.  The dream is over.  Baseball season is over.  The postseason, which only lasted three games, is over.  In an ALDS performance that nobody, least of all Red Sox Nation, anticipated, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim swept us.  We were completely silenced during our first two games, and just when we started to get back into our groove, our closer, the rock of our bullpen, pulled the entire month of October out from under us.  Words can not adequately express the anger and frustration I currently feel toward Jonathan Papelbon.  Seriously.  This is like JD Drew striking out looking in Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, but worse, because we never had a chance to put up the kind of fight we knew we could.  We barely even got started.  Before the game, Dustin Pedroia echoed in the clubhouse what each and every member of Red Sox Nation said all weekend: we’re not ready for the season to end.

I completely agreed with Jerry Remy; I too thought this team had the stuff to go all the way.  Instead, we didn’t even make it past the first round.  As always, it’s been a great ride.  There were injuries, hitting streaks, brawls, comebacks, walk-offs, extra-inning losses, struggles, trades, promotions, demotions, slumps, saves, shutouts, slugfests, dives, slides, steals; you name it, we did it at least once and often multiple times.  But it didn’t happen for us this year.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I still can’t quite believe it.  But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as Red Sox fans, it’s the wholehearted belief in next year.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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The definition of a quality start is a start that lasts for more than six innings, during which the starter gives up no more than three earned runs.  If we go by that definition, Josh Beckett’s outing barely made the cut.  He pitched six innings, gave up four earned runs on seven hits, didn’t walk anybody, and struck out nine.

But the definition of a Beckett-esque start is a start that lasts for more than seven innings, during which the starter gives up no more than two runs, earned or unearned.  And if we go by that definition, it’s hard to see whether Beckett made any improvements at all last night.  He didn’t walk anybody, but he allowed two home runs, both solo shots.  The four earned runs is double the amount the vintage Beckett usually allows, and the seven hits and three-run second inning have to go.

John Farrell made a point of saying that Beckett’s problems can be fixed in short order.  It’s now officially September .  The playoffs begin in thirty days.  That’s roughly six starts.  I have to believe Farrell can fix it before the start of October, but how many more starts will it take? Losses aren’t exactly helping us here.

To be fair, the bullpen didn’t exactly help our cause, even if it did help Beckett’s.  Ramirez pitched the seventh and two batters into the eighth (without recording an out) and gave up two runs.  Delcarmen pitched an out’s worth of the eighth and gave up one run on a two-run shot by Evan Longoria.  Saito pitched the rest of the eighth.  Ramirez, not Beckett, took the loss, because the Rays scored three more runs in the eighth.

The lineup performed less well than it has been recently.  That’s an obvious statement, but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true.  The final score was 8-5, so the runs had to come from somewhere, but only about half the starting nine got hits, let alone a multi-hit game.  V-Mart singled in a run and walked twice.  Youk went two for four with two doubles and a fielding error, and when Youk makes a fielding error, you know something’s gone wrong.  Bay hit an RBI triple.  Drew batted in a run.  Gonzalez doubled.  And that was it.  Ellsbury and Joey Gathright both stole second base.  And in the bottom of the sixth, with two out on a 3-2 count, Ellsbury made a diving catch to end the inning.  Yet another play of the game.  Basically as a rule if Ellsbury makes a catch, it’s the play of the game.

Congratulations to Youk for being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award! Apparently, Curt Schilling has expressed some interest in Ted Kennedy’s senate seat.  Oh, boy.  Brad Penny, San Francisco’s newest Giant, threw eight shutout innings yesterday.  I’m telling you, there’s nothing like a move to the National League to get a struggling pitcher going.  Speaking of which, John Smoltz was tipping his pitches while he was here.  The Cardinals figured that out and brought it to his attention, and he stopped doing it and is now suddenly solid for St. Louis.  If only he’d realized that sooner.

That’s pretty much all, folks.  It wasn’t a great game pitching-wise, and I’ll take the five runs even though we’ve done better.  It’s not that five runs is such a small amount.  It’s more that we have it in us to score more, so if it’s necessary to score more, we should’ve scored more.  Conversely, you can also make the argument that five runs is enough and it’s the pitcher’s fault for not being able to work with that.  Ordinarily I would agree, but because of Beckett’s string of bad outings, I’ve essentially stopped depending on him to work with any amount because you never know just how bad the outing is going to be.  (There’s something I thought I’d never say.) Obviously baseball doesn’t always work like that and it’s not that simple, and obviously the lineup did its best, but I still would’ve liked to see more.  But it is what it is, and we lost.  It happens.  Besides, at this point I’m more concerned with Beckett’s performance than with the loss itself.  Tonight we’ll win.  Buchholz at David Price.

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And when I say failure, I mean failure.  Last night’s game, as are pretty much all of our games until the playoffs start, was a must-win.  Win, we could have; with Josh Beckett starting, everything seemed like it would fall into place.  Win, we did not; Josh Beckett looked exactly like he did last year: shaky, porous, and beatable.  The worst part is that this isn’t surprising.  Josh Beckett is currently in the middle of what seems to be an extraordinarily inconveniently timed regression.

He pitched eight innings, probably to give the bullpen a rest, because it wasn’t like he has a lead to preserve.  Far from it.  Eight runs on eight hits is just about as far as you can get from anything that can be considered remotely related to the concept of a lead.  He threw 120 pitches, probably a new season high, so he’s got some resting to do.  He didn’t walk anybody.  He struck out five.  And now for the grand finale: he allowed five home runs.  Five.  As if they outing couldn’t have gotten any worse.  Only two of the eight runs were batted in by means other than the long ball.  The first two were lead-offs.  All but one were solo shots.  Jeter, Cano, and A-Rod each hit one.  Matsui hit two.  It was an absolute disaster.  Balls were flying out of the park every which way.  And Josh Beckett has some serious explaining to do.  If I know him, he’s probably seething over his performance and trying to figure out what went wrong.  But we’re approaching the end of August and it’s time to think, yes, but also to do.  He needs to figure out what’s up and use that knowledge to make it stop.  The sooner, the better.

On the bright side, we now know that his previous outing, during which V-Mart started at catcher and Beckett pitched horribly, wasn’t V-Mart’s fault.

Saito was good.  Fourteen pitches later and the game was over.  Another loss, 8-4.  I was hoping that we’d at least win the series, but no.  Apparently Josh Beckett had other plans and forgot to read Red Sox Nation’s memo.

V-Mart and Lowell, who DHed yesterday, each went two for four.  Baldelli knocked in two runs, and Tek knocked in another.  For the second time in a row, Ellsbury went hitless.  He was also caught stealing and picked off.  No errors; the Yankees made two.

With the way we’d been handling them, I never thought I’d have to say this this year, but I’m so glad we’re done with the Yankees, at least for another month or so.  Meanwhile, we’ve got a series with the White Sox coming up.  It’ll be our first encounter with them this year.  Strange.  Contreras at Buchholz.  Speaking of pitching, there’s a stumbling block in Theo’s attempt to require Wagner.  Apparently, Wagner is refusing to waive his no-trade clause unless Theo guarantees that the Sox won’t pick up his option for 2010 or offer him arbitration.  But this essentially means that we won’t be compensated at all if Wagner leaves, and I think that’s ridiculous.  Also, looks like Smoltz has found a home in St. Louis.  He actually gave a quality start for St. Louis yesterday.  Five shutout innings, three hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts.  Good for him, because he sure wasn’t doing any of that with us.  Everyone seems to be making it in St. Louis this year.  And last but not least, the arrival and success of Tazawa as relegated Penny to the bullpen in long relief.  Good.

So bring on the White Sox, I say.  Every series, and even every game, is an opportunity to turn thing around.  You never know what can happen so late in the season.  So I say bring on the White Sox, bring on Jose Contreras, and bring on the much-needed wins.

Batter-up with Bruno

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They always say that revenge is a dish best served cold.  Sometimes, though, you have to make an exception.  August in Boston is anything but cold, but when issuing a good, old-fashioned Boston beat-down to your archrivals, somehow you don’t even notice.  It actually feels quite pleasant.

All in favor of Junichi Tazawa permanently joining the rotation, please say, “Aye.” No, seriously, please.  Six shutout innings with two walks and two strikes.  He allowed eight hits and threw ninety-nine pitches, but he’s still young and has a lot of work to do, as shown by the fact that it hasn’t been smooth sailing since he came up here.  Still, he’s shown exponential improvement from start to start, I’ll take the eight hits and no runs over Brad Penny and John Smoltz any day.  Bard allowed the only New York run of the day.  There’s another young guy who needs work.  It’s so easy to forget that Daniel Bard has only seen Major League action for the first time this year and hasn’t even spent a full season at this level.  His stuff is so electric and polished that you forget to cut him the obligatory slack because, technically speaking, his control and execution still need the work necessary to turn him into the setup man and/or closer of the future.  Enrique Gonzalez polished off the eighth and ninth.

The best part of the whole game was the score.  14-1.  Would you look at that.  How do you like us now.  We really  needed it after Friday night’s horror, and what better way to soften that blow than to bask in the glory that was yesterday afternoon.  Not only was Tazawa on, but so were the seven members of the starting lineup who hit at least once.  Pedroia the Destroyah went three for four with two doubles and a steal.  V-Mart went two for three with an RBI.  Bay went two for four with a double and an RBI and looked an awful lot like the Bay of the first half.  Drew doubled and batted in a run.

And now for the four long balls.  Anytime you have four home runs in a ballgame, you know you’re watching something special.  Especially when those long balls account for fifty percent of the runs you score.  Alex Gonzalez hit a solo shot into the Monster seats in the second inning, and just for that instant, he looked like all he ever does is hit home runs.  If only he’d done that more often in 2006.  Youkilis followed in that same inning with a home run of his own into the Monster.  With two out in the inning and two men on base.  How the cover did not come off that ball is something I will never know.  There was absolutely no chance whatsoever that this ball was staying anywhere near the field.  Then in the sixth, with one man on, he did the same thing.  Also into the Monster.  Also extremely hard-hit.  Two home runs in a game for Kevin Youkilis.  He also hit a double to bat in Kotchman.  That makes three for five with six RBIs.  Six.  Six! The man is just on fire.  Period.  And then we have David Ortiz, who hit his twentieth homer of the season into the Monster seats and who finished the night two for five with a double and three RBIs.

A thirteen-run lead later, Tazawa got the win and there was no need for a save.  Kind of like the 2004 ALCS.  After winning 19-8 in Game 3, the Yankees thought it was in the bag, and we all know how that turned out.  And just like back then, we won the next day.  Schedules-wise, the Yanks still have a West Coast trip to deal with, and we also know they don’t always fare well on the West Coast.  But yesterday’s game spoke volumes in more ways than one.  We scored fourteen runs.  Thirteen of those were scored with two outs.  That says something huge.  It’s pretty much impossible to ever count us out.

Wakefield will start on Wednesday.  He’ll take Brad Penny’s place in the rotation.  Don’t be surprised if Tazawa becomes our fifth pitcher, and don’t be surprised to witness the return of Dice-K in September.  (That could be really good or really bad.) And if the Mets clear it, we’ll welcome Billy Wagner as well.  But that’s a bit of a strange situation.  Smacks of the whole Gagne debacle, actually.  Gagne, a closer by trade with incredible credentials, came over after having surgery, was turned into a setup man, and was absolutely horrible.  Not once was he ever effective.  Billy Wagner, also a closer by trade with incredible credentials, would be coming over after having surgery, would be turned into a setup man, and may or may not be absolutely horrible.  Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon both feel that the bullpen is copacetic as is.  On the bright side, if Wagner starts showing signs of being Gagne the Second, we’ll be able to spot it sooner, having had recent experience with this sort of thing.  And if he works out, well, that would pretty much be awesome.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Trust me, the title fits.  Penny was rocky.  The game was a horror show.  I didn’t picture this outcome going into it.  There you go.  Let’s just get this over with.

We lost, the Yankees won.  The final score was 11-20.  Penny gave up seven runs on seven hits, five earned, in four innings with two walks and four strikeouts.  He took the loss and just might be calling John Smoltz for advice.  With Wake pitching almost six strong innings for Pawtucket and scheduled to make another rehab start within the next few days, don’t be surprised if we release Penny like we did Smoltz.  Smoltz had to go; he was doing way more losing than winning and wasn’t showing any signs of improvement.  Penny’s doing the same thing; what’s holding us back is his success and consistency in the first half.  But it’s a long season, and he’s been injured.  It’s possible that at this point he’s just worn out and can’t continue.  Either way, the performance he gave last night can’t continue.

Michael Bowden came in and only lasted two innings, the final two innings of Major League action he’ll see this year, and let me tell you why.  Seven runs on eight hits with three walks, no strikeouts, and a three-run home run’ll get you demoted real quick.  Speaking of relievers, we just claimed the Mets’ Billy Wagner on waivers.

Delcarmen allowed one run in the seventh, and Ramirez gave up four runs, three earned, in the ninth.  Saito used eleven pitches, seven of them strikes, to polish off the eighth.  No runs.  No hits.  One interesting idea that maybe he should’ve started the game.

It’s not like the Yankees’ pitching sparkled, either.  We did score eleven runs of our own.  You have to admit, the offense put up a good fight.  Ellsbury batted in two and stole in the first to tie the Red Sox’ single-season steals record.  Pedroia went two for five, both of them doubles, and batted in one.  He hit what could’ve been a triple in the third inning, but A-Rod tagged him out.  Rough.  Seriously.  The ball was hit really well down the left-field line.  Had he arrived at third about two seconds earlier he probably would’ve been safe.  Martinez collected an RBI, and Tek came into the game and homered with one out in the ninth.  He’ll probably be back in the lineup today.  Green batted in two but made a fielding error.  Ortiz went two for four with a double and two RBIs.  Lowell went three for five, including a two-run shot with two out in the ninth.  It’s good to see him back at third base, and that home run tells me he’s still got plenty left in the tank.  Baldelli doubled and plated one.  And there you have your eleven runs.  We lost by a nine-run lead.  It could’ve been a lot worse.  Besides, this is nothing like the time the Tribe scored more than twenty runs against the Yanks this season.  Just sayin’.

I don’t even want to attempt to describe what it felt like to watch that.  Now that was a wreck in slow motion.  It was one of our pitching staff’s worst games of the season.  If you go by runs allowed alone, it was the worst.  It was exhaustingly excruciating. It would’ve been nice to get a win; start the series off on the right foot and welcome Jerry Remy back with a bang.  But no.

I’ve read articles claiming that, after last night, we’re officially done with the division and should instead focus on the Wild Card.  Personally, I think that’s the completely wrong approach.  If you focus on the division, the Wild Card will come.  It sometimes makes it awkward for fans who have to choose who to root for in certain situations, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.  But I don’t even think the division is a done deal yet.  We’re halfway through August with plenty of games (and plenty of home games) left to play.  You never know what’s going to happen this time of year.  It’s Burnett at Tazawa tonight.  Hopefully Tazawa will have better luck this time around.  Welcome to Sox-Yanks at Fenway Park.  It’s better here.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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