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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Papelbon’

It’s good to be back.  It’s so good to be back.  We really needed the team to be at home, and we needed the healing effects of the pre-game ceremony which, as usual, was perfect.  There was a video tribute to the marathon and the victims of the tragedy as well as the photographs of the brave law enforcement officials who did all that they could for them and for this city.  And then there were photos of how it all ended.  Victims of the tragic events as well as law enforcement threw the ceremonial first pitch.  The American flag flew, the national anthem played, Neil Diamond led the singing of “Sweet Caroline,” Papi made a very heart-felt announcement, and Bailey even took a page from Jonathan Papelbon’s book, taking the mound for the ninth to the tune of “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.  It was truly an event of healing, of contemplation, and of class.  And it served as yet another reminder of what a remarkable place this city is and how strong our community is.  We are and will always be Boston strong.

And then it was time for the healing power of escape, facilitated by this game and this team we all know and love.

Buchholz, who repeatedly looked up to watch the moving video during his warmup, pitched eight full innings of two-run ball.  He gave up eight hits, walked one, and struck out six.  He threw 104 pitches, seventy of which were strikes.  That is ridiculously efficient; we consider pitchers efficient if they get through seven innings with one hundred pitches, and most pitchers on most teams consider themselves lucky if they get through five or six innings with one hundred pitches.

Buchholz had a one-two-three inning in the first, third, and fourth.  He gave up a single in the second and his first run in the fifth as a result of a double-flyout-single combination.  He gave up a double to lead off the sixth and a double that turned into a run thanks to a triple in the seventh.  He gave up a single and his only walk of the game in the eighth.

Bailey’s ninth was quite a close call.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning and gave up a single and a walk over the course of the rest of it while recording the three outs he needed to close the deal.  If we didn’t have a two-run lead at the time, that home run would have tied it up.

We were one run behind by the time we finally scored; we didn’t get on the board until the sixth.  Pedroia walked in the first, and Napoli walked in the second, which was erased thanks to a double play.  We went down in order in the third, and Papi, fresh off the DL, singled in the fourth (his at-bat in the first ended with a flyout).  Nava walked and Drew singled in the fifth, our biggest thus far, if you could call it that.

Finally, the sixth rolled around.  Ellsbury led it off with a single, moved to second on a sac fly by Victorino and then third on a groundout by Pedroia, and scored on another single by Papi.  We’d tied the game with that run but entered the seventh down by one yet again.  Nava got hit but was picked off trying to steal second; Middlebrooks singled, Drew reached on a force attempt, and if Nava hadn’t been picked off, the bases would have been loaded for Salty, who popped out.

We blew it as open as it was ever going to be in the eighth, when we were down by two.  Gomes led it off with a double, Pedroia walked, and Papi grounded into a double play.  But then Napoli walked, and Nava took a four-seam for a strike and another four-seam for a ball.  Then he got all of an eighty-eight mile-per-hour changeup that he sent beyond the right field fence.  The ball needed the encouragement of Nava yelling, “Stretch!” in order to get out.  Maybe it was Nava really wanted to make up for getting picked off, maybe it was baseball physics, or maybe it really was the will of everyone there who really wanted to win this one.  Either way, one swing.  Three runs.  Done.  The final score was 4-3.  We needed this one.  This one was for us.

The Bruins were also back in action, unfortunately losing to the Penguins, 3-2.

USA Today Staff

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We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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When I envisioned the start of Interleague play, I obviously envisioned us winning.  I mean, we’re an American League team.  We should be cleaning up with National League teams.  Except that the Phillies are the Phillies, and when a National League team has an American League closer that you yourself trained, it represents a special set of circumstances that’s mighty difficult.

Bard only lasted five innings; he gave up five runs on three hits, including a solo shot in the fifth, and he walked five and struck out three.  He threw ninety-four pitches.  He was wild and inefficient, and despite the fact that our pitchers collectively have pitched well in our last few games, with the exceptions of Lester and Beckett they haven’t pitched long.  If we continue like this, the bullpen may as well start every game and the starter may as well come out in relief.  Seriously.  Except that the bullpen didn’t really stem the flow yesterday; Albers pitched two shutout innings, but then Morales gave up a solo shot in the eighth.

Aviles hit a home run to put us on the board in the third.  It landed just a few feet inside the pole in left.  Our second run was plated by a sac fly in the fourth.  Ross hit a solo shot of his own in the sixth, also just inside the pole in left.  Not wanting to be left out of the action and finally delivering on his promise to go deep, Gonzalez let rip a solo shot in the eighth on a slider down and in, the second pitch of his at-bat.  This one ended up in right field; it was his third of the year, and I hope he turns it around and has many, many, many more.

And, to put a cap on the evening, Bobby V. was ejected in the ninth.  Byrd grounded out to short, and Bobby V. argued that Byrd should have been safe because the throw pulled Ty Wigginton off the mound.  First base umpire Gary Darling even lost his gum in the argument, which was a decidedly an undignified moment.  Honestly, if you slow it down and look at the play, you can see that Wigginton came off the bag.  It was close, I will admit, but if you look at it and examine it, he came off the bag.

And the fact that Jonathan Papelbon of all people got the save in the ninth did not help anything in the least.

So two hours and fifty minutes, two injuries (Salty had to get stitches on his left year after getting hit in the in the fifth,and Ross had to get x-rays after fouling a ball off his left food in the eighth), four runs, eight hits (two more than Philly), three home runs , six runs, and one Papelbon save later, we lost by two.  And that’s how we started Interleague play.  Losing at the hands of a closer who reminded us just how much we’re going to miss him.  I’m so frustrated, I don’t even know what else to say.

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Wow.  Talk about a close game.  That was a pitcher’s duel if I’ve ever seen it.  You don’t get any closer to a pitcher’s duel than a final score of 1-0.  That tells you that the match was as even as it could possibly get.  Unfortunately, we were on the losing end of the 1-0, but there were some substantial silver linings in this one.

Bard inevitably took the loss, but he pitched absolutely spectacularly.  He only used three pitches – a four-seam that got up to ninety-six miles per hour and that made you just dream about him returning to the closer’s role we’d penciled him into when Jonathan Papelbon walked, a changeup at ninety-three miles per hour, and a slider – but that was really the only aspect of his start that gave him away as someone who’s new at this.  Other than that, he looked absolutely spectacular.  He mixed those pitches really well, which is important if you don’t have a lot to work with, and we can give him credit for that, for keeping his release point pretty tight, and for overpowering hitters until the seventh inning.

Bard’s line wasn’t exactly identical to James Shields’s, number for number.  Bard lasted six and two-thirds innings to Shields’s eight and one third, Bard walked seven to Shields’s two, and obviously Bard gave up one run to Shields’s zero.  But Bard struck out seven to Shields’s five.  Bard was less efficient than Shields; he threw 111 pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes, while Shields threw 115 pitches, seventy-six of which were strikes, over more innings.  But obviously Bard completely held his own, and given the circumstances, I’d say that that’s exactly what we needed to see in order to truly believe that starting is something that he could, not simply do, and not simply do well, but do as well as we need him to do it.

Bard began his start auspiciously; he needed only eight pitches to get through the first.  He threw fifteen in the second and fourth, eighteen in the third, twenty-one in the fifth, ten in the sixth, and twenty-four in the seventh before he was pulled.  His first inning was one-two-three.  He hit a batter in the second.  He issued his second walk in the third but secured all three outs via the K.  His sixth was one-two-three as well.  In every inning that was not one-two-three, Bard issued at least one walk.

As you can imagine, he allowed his run in the seventh before he was pulled.  A groundout on two pitches and a strikeout on three provided two quick outs to open the inning, but then two walks and a single loaded the bases, and then Bard walked Evan Longoria on four pitches to score the winning run.  That was a hugely painful moment.  You could tell after the first walk that inning that he was struggling and tired, and to see him walk in what would prove to be the winning run was just heart-wrenching.  That one run cost us a four-game sweep and cost Bard what would have been, had the offense been able to muster two runs, which is not even a third of the runs that we’d scored in our two breakout games, a well-deserved win for Bard, his first of the year and as a starter.  It was absolutely, positively painful to watch.

Needless to say, he was replaced by Thomas after that, who finished the seventh and pitched through the eighth.  Albers pitched the ninth.  Both relievers obviously delivered shutout performances, and you could say that Bobby V. should have had the foresight to have gone to Albers before the bases were loaded.  In fact, you should say that.  Bobby V. said that after the game, and it’s the second such mistake he’s made this season.  Even Longoria was surprised to have been facing Bard and not a reliever at that point.  Apparently, Bobby V. wanted Bard to know that he trusts him to get out of a jam.  Well, I have to say, not extricating yourself from the jam successfully doesn’t really give anyone much to trust in after all.

At any rate, the offense was completely stymied.  We collected four hits to the Rays’ seven, and none of them were for extra bases.  Ross’s two-for-four performance was our only multi-hit game. The other two hits belonged to Gonzalez and Pedroia, who also walked.  Papi and Punto accounted for the other two walks we received.  We only had three chances with runners in scoring position and clearly did not take advantage of any of them.  We also grounded into two double plays.  Sweeney made a glittering catch in the second to end the inning; he dove and slid to make it, and it was very Ellsbury-esque.

Well, you know what they say: walks will haunt, and this one certainly haunted.  That one run felt like ten in those late innings when the bats were still silent.  Bard dazzled, and it certainly wasn’t helpful that, with two out and two men on in the ninth (Pedroia’s walk and Papi’s walk, which was intentional), Ross struck out.  I would go so far as to say that Ross’s called strikeout wasn’t his fault but the fault of home plate umpire Larry Vanover, whose three calls of strikes were incorrect, as they should have been rightly called balls.  It was one of the more infuriating umpire performances I’ve seen in a good, long while.  Ross has proven to be a great hitter; who knows? Maybe we would have been able to score those two runs after all.  To say that I was positively livid is an understatement.  The game truly ended on a sour note.

By the way, a note on Bobby V., since we’re already talking about bad decisions he’s made.  You an add to that list of bad decisions a comment he made on television that claimed that Youk is not as committed physically and emotionally to the game as he has been in the past.  Youk found out about it from his agent, and then the two spoke directly, and apparently Bobby V. apologized and said that the comment was taken out of context.  There are several things wrong with this incident.  First of all, a manager should not criticize his players in public.  Secondly, if a player is criticized, he should not be the last to know.  Thirdly, a manager should not say things that can prove to be detrimental if taken out of context.  Red Sox Nation has seen how committed Youk is, how much of a dirt dog and a team player he is and how passionate he is about the game and this team.  Red Sox Nation has also had occasion to see the positive effects of a manager’s leadership style that emphasizes privacy and discretion.  Bobby V. would indeed do well to learn from this incident.

In other news, the B’s beat the Caps, 4-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Aviles is officially our starting shortstop.   We still don’t know who will officially be our fourth and fifth starters; in classic Bobby V.-esque fashion, he has heightened the drama by waiting to announce it this morning.  There are those who have been predicting all Spring Training who it’s going to be, but I’ve learned my lesson that you can’t really predict much of anything when it comes to Bobby V.  So we’ll just have to wait and see.

We lost to the Jays, 6-5, on Sunday.  Bard pitched six innings and gave up five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out five.  Aviles went three for four with two doubles, and Ellsbury and McDonald both tripled.

We shut out the Phillies on Monday, six-zip.  Lester’s seven innings were a thing of beauty.  He allowed just two hits and struck out ten.  Salty, Sweeney, and Papi all singled, and Pedroia and Ross both homered, Pedroia to the opposite field.  Paps experienced for the first time what it’s like to socialize with the team while wearing the opposition’s uniform; he didn’t pitch.

We shut out the Rays on Tuesday, eight-zip.  Beckett threw eighty-four pitches in five innings.  He walked three and struck out five.  Papi doubled, Pedroia tripled, and Ross homered.

We los to the Jays on Thursday, 3-2.  Aceves pitched six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits.  He walked two and struck out four; fifty-four of his eighty-seven pitches were strikes.  Sweeney hit an RBI double, and Papi homered.  The winning run was scored by Anthony Gose, who, with the game tied at two in the eighth, reached first on a walk and then stole second, third, and home, all in the same inning.  You know what they say: walks will haunt.

We beat the Twins on Friday, 9-7.  Bard pitched six innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out seven, which was awesome.  Ross hit two two-run home runs.  Ellsbury fouled a ball off of his right knee in the top of the fifth and left the game in the bottom of the inning but is totally fine.

Yesterday, we tied the Rays at seven.  Ross Ohlendorf started.  Ciriaco, Nava, and Shoppach each doubled.  Ciriaco had a fantastic Spring Training; look for him to be chosen for the final roster spot.

In other news, the B’s beat the Ducks, Bolts, and Isles; we lost to the Caps in a shootout.

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It seems like everyone’s focus this spring is on the question of who will be our fifth starter.  Obviously that’s a worthy focus because the identity of the fifth starter is important, and I think it says a lot about who’s managing this team that we don’t even have a sliver of a clue as to who it would be.  But we should also keep in mind that there are other things to watch for, like making sure that Papi and Youk get on a roll early, that Ellsbury’s season last year was the norm rather than the exception, that the catchers are handling the staff properly, and that the starters whose identities we do know are healthy and effective.

We beat the Orioles on Tuesday, 5-4.  Bard made his first start of spring and was awarded a no-decision.  He pitched two scoreless innings.  Aceves also fired two innings, striking out two and walking none.

Our game against the Jays on Wednesday ended in a tie at three.  Lester stayed behind and pitched two and two-thirds innings in a B game against the Twins; he walked two, struck out one, and gave up a hit.

The Cards bested us, 9-3, on Thursday.  Beckett pitched three scoreless innings; he walked none, struck out none, and allowed two hits, a single and a double.  Jose Iglesias whacked a triple with the bases loaded and looks more like a starter with every passing game.

Buchholz took Friday’s 7-4 loss to the Pirates.  He gave up two runs on three hits, struck out one, and walked none.  He threw some really beautiful changeups.  Papi hit his second homer of spring on a 2-1 count.

We shut out the Rays, five-zip, on Saturday.  Bard delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out one, walked two, and gave up two hits.  Thirty of his forty-nine pitches were strikes.  He relied heavily on his changeup.  It was his first three-inning stint in a single game since 2007, then a starting pitcher in the minors.  Supposedly, though, it technically hasn’t officially been decided that he’ll be starting; I guess they want to ensure that his stamina and arsenal are sufficient.  Aceves also delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out two, walked none, and gave up two hits.  Salty coaxed a walk with the bases loaded in the first, BJ Upton’s error on Iglesias’s fly ball brought in another two runs, and Youk smacked an RBI double.

McClure says that Dice-K looks great.  I just want to see if he pitches great.

Even after Papelbon is traded, it seems we can’t escape the drama that naturally seems to emanate from his person.  He claims that Red Sox Nation is more hysterical, while Phillies fans are more knowledgeable about the game because the Phillies are in the National League.  That’s ridiculous.  First of all, it’s possible to be hysterical and knowledgeable at the same time; just because we love our guys, a fact from which he was all too happy to benefit when it suited him just fine, doesn’t mean we also don’t know what we’re talking about.  We do indeed most definitely know exactly what we’re talking about.  And the fact that the Phillies are in the National League means absolutely nothing and is completely irrelevant.  I’m just saying.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Caps but beat the Leafs and Sabres.  We have eighty-three points so far this season, two above the Sens in our division and tied with the Devils if, as division leaders, we were not automatically seeded second.

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The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

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