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Posts Tagged ‘Jose Bautista’

Just to prove the point that we should do more of what we did on Friday to win, we won again when we did essentially the exact same things yesterday.  I love it when being right means the team plays well.

Doubront picked up the win; he pitched six and one-third innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits.  He walked one and struck out seven.  He threw 101 pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  The similarities between Doubront’s start and Buchholz’s start are readily apparent; Doubront gave up one more run, although it was unearned, on one more hit, and he walked one less.  Doubront also pitched less but struck out the same number of batters.  The striking similarities continue; like Buchholz, Doubront’s only two earned runs were scored via the long ball.  Doubront gave up a solo shot in the third with one out and a solo shot to lead off the fifth.  The unearned run was scored in the fourth, which began with a groundout and a strikeout.  Then he made a fielding error that resulted in a baserunner at first, who move to second and eventually scored on another single before a groundout ended the inning.  So the run may be unearned, but it was also completely his own fault.

Albers finished the seventh and allowed a single to begin the eighth, Miller got the first out of the eighth, and Padilla finished the eighth, but not before he and Sweeney gave up an unearned run; Miller’s baserunner scored on a single he gave up because of a throwing error that Sweeney made.  And then Aceves had a peaceful, three-out save in the ninth.

Again, as on Friday, we went down in order in the first and then got the ball rolling in the second.  And as on Friday, during one of the innings in which we scored, we scored big and took the Jays for four runs.  Papi struck out, Salty walked, Youk struck out, Sweeney singled, and then Middlebrooks singled in Salty, Punto doubled in Sweeney, and Nava singled in Middlebrooks.  Three runs.  Boom.  It’s amazing what small ball can do.

We went down in order again in the third, and then in the fourth, Youk doubled but moved to third on a throwing error and Sweeney walked.  With runners at the corners, Middlebrooks grounded into a double play, but it still scored one.  We went down in order in the fifth and sixth and erased some potential opportunities in the seventh.  After Gonzalez flied out to begin the eighth, the bases were loaded after a single and two walks for Sweeney, who could only muster a groundout that scored one.  Byrd didn’t fare better, lining out to end the inning.

Punto batted in and scored our last run by leading off the ninth with a solo shot to right on a fastball.  It was the third pitch of the at-bat, and all three had been fastballs, all four-seams, all at eighty-seven miles per hour.  He took the first two for balls, but he was all over the third.  Jose Bautista just watched that go.  It was hit well, too.  It ended up in the second deck of seats out there.  And that kind of power is not something you see Punto wield very often, if at all.  He’s only hit one long ball in each of his previous three seasons.  The most long balls he ever hit in a single season in his career was four in 2005.

So, at the end of the day, Doubront and Buchholz had another thing in common: they each picked up wins.  We won, 7-4, which is almost the exact same score as Friday’s 7-2, especially when you consider that only two of those four runs that Toronto scored were earned.  Punto had the only multi-hit game of the night, and it was a big one: three for four with the double and homer, so he was a triple away from the ever-elusive cycle, but the game did end on his throw.  Youk’s double was the only other extra-base hit.

And don’t look now, but we just clawed our way into fourth place and put the Jays in fifth.  Just like I said yesterday, that’s the way to play and that is exactly what we should be doing every time out.

AP Photo

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a shutout.  That’s pretty much as solid as you can possibly be, and since Lester is on pace to have a twenty-win season, I would be very surprised if both he and Buchholz are not in the running for this year’s AL Cy Young.  And I fully expect the absence of the Beckett injustice, where he clearly should have won it but didn’t for some unfathomable reason.  As it is, the eighteen wins is a new career high.  Anyway, the point is, Lester blinded the Jays with his supreme brilliance, and by the time they could see what was going on, the game was over and they lost.

He pitched seven innings.  He gave up four hits.  He walked four.  He struck out four.  And that was it.  He lowered his ERA to 3.06.  That’s ridiculous.  If he continues like this, he’s going to end up with a closer’s ERA by the end of the season.  He threw 112 pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  We’re talking filthy cut fastball at ninety-six miles per hour.  Nobody can hit that.  Nobody can hit his sinker, either.  His changeup and curveball were good enough, but honestly that cut fastball and that sinker were just absolutely filthy.  His release point was nice and tight, and his zone was packed to the gills.  He recorded his highest inning pitch total in the third with twenty-five, but obviously he escaped all of his jams unscathed.  And it’s not like there were that many to begin with.

But there was two, and they were huge.  One of the advantages of disposing with opposing hitters efficiently is that you don’t have to see them too often.  But Lester had to face Bautista twice.  With the bases loaded.  Twice.  In that inflated third inning, Bautista stepped up after back-to-back walks.  He grounded out.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

An inning later, it was like instant replay.  Another groundout, which fed a force out to end the fourth.  And again, Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.  And may I just say that Lester is officially a rock; you’d have to be a rock to maintain such composure in those situations.  He rolled out his entire repertoire for both of those at-bats so that Bautista didn’t know what was coming.  And if you think about it, that wasn’t even Lester’s best day.  If that were Lester on a good day, he probably would’ve gone the distance, and we may have seen a no-hitter.

It’s almost like our offense was too tense from the two Bautista encounters to do anything, and only after that did they join in the relief-sighing and loosen up enough to back the gem.  V-Mart homered to right in the fourth, Pesky-style.  It was a slider.  You know what they say: to the Victor go the spoils.  We would only score again in the fifth, but it was more than enough.  We put up a five-spot.  Lowrie scored on Nava’s ground-rule double, Navarro hit an RBI single, and Drew blasted a two-run shot.  And it was a shot.  The ball ended up in the seats in right center, past the bullpen.  It was an eighty-seven mile-per-hour fastball he hooked right out of there.  The final score? Six-zip.

Beltre injured his left wrist diving for a ground ball in the fourth on Saturday, so he was out yesterday and expected to play today.  All I’m saying is that now even Beltre has been bitten by the injury bug.  This is completely unprecedented, and I don’t really know what to tell you.

That was a great game.  It was a great game because it showed what we’re capable of.  It showed how good our pitching can really be and how potent our bats really are.  I think we all needed to watch a game like that after the first two of this series.  Standings-wise, every little win helps.  By the way, as long as we’re on the subject of the standings, I would just like to point out that the Rays are the problem here.  If the Rays stayed the course and continued to be that team that every other team beat up on in order to boost themselves in the standings and our record against them were reversed, say eleven and seven instead of seven and eleven, we would be leading the Wild Card above the next team by about the same number of games the Rays are currently leading it over us.  I’m just saying.  Anyway, we’re hosting the Orioles next.  Apparently they’ve managed to orchestrate some sort of resurgence.  I say we need to remind them who they’re dealing with.  The O’s are one team to whom we can not lose.  Dice-K is kicking off the series.  Let’s open with a W.

In other news, the Pats dropped the second game of the regular season to the Jets, 28-14.  I don’t care what sport it is: I really do not appreciate losing to New York.  I just don’t.

Getty Images

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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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Again, the theme of eyes on the prize.  We won.  We didn’t win by much, but we won.  And we did some bad things, but obviously we did some good things too.  In fact, the whole game was yet another miniature version of the whole season, with the important exception being that in this game we got a good start.  Actually, it reminded me of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, where we had the lead several times but allowed the opposition to tie it, although we never fell behind and ultimately won out.  And it was especially important to win the first game of this series, being that Toronto is surging right now.  So despite all the badness that was present in the game, this is good.

We came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and scored three runs in the second inning: RBI doubles for Beltre and Lowrie and an RBI single for Ellsbury.  We scored one more in the third when Lowell sacrificed V-Mart in with the bases loaded.  It would have been nice for him to have done more with that opportunity, but I’ll most definitely take the run.  But the Jays did the same thing in reverse; they scored one in the second and three in the third.

In the fifth, Drew hit a solo shot and continued his great numbers against Romero by depositing his fastball middle-in into the second right field deck.

Meanwhile, Dice-K didn’t deliver his best performance.  He lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three and striking out seven on 110 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  His two-seam, cutter, slider, and changeup were very much on, but his curveball and four-seam, his two most frequently used pitches, were very much off.  He threw thirty-three pitches when he gave up that three-spot in the third, which was the result of a home run, while needing only five pitches to get through the very next inning.  So this start was a miniature version of his entire season as well.

He ran into trouble in the sixth, walking the first two batters he faced.  With one out to go in the inning, Lewis hit your average ground ball to Scutaro, but unfortunately, Lowrie was slow getting over to second, so Scutaro hesitated before making his throw.  Doubront took care of it by striking out Snider on three pitches.  That’s poise.  Especially from a young guy.

But in the seventh, Bautista hit a solo shot of his own to tie it back up.  Doubront picked up a blown save for that.

The eighth was when we locked it up.  With two out, Lowell hit a solo shot over the left field fence.  It was a sinking fastball, and he basically golfed it out of the park.  And that put us out in front for good, not to mention the fact that Lowell is clearly returning to form very nicely.  Lowrie added one for insurance with an RBI double.  Delcarmen held the fort, Paps made the save, and the final score was 7-5!

Lowrie finished the night two for three; Ellsbury finished the night two for four.

And it just goes to show you that man can not win on long balls alone.  If they could, Toronto would be at the top of the standings by now.  But they’re not.  And we beat them, with both big and small ball.  We took advantage of our opportunities, leaving only five on base as opposed to Toronto’s eight.  So the first bit of good news is that we won.  The second is that the Yankees lost to the Rangers.  And the third is that Pedroia passed all his running drills; he ran the bases a bit yesterday and will run them again today, and he’ll be evaluated on Friday.  If everything checks out, Pedroia will spend the weekend in Pawtucket and start at second on Tuesday.  The only bad news was that the Rays managed to win, but we’re still inching ahead.  Next is Buchholz opposite Marcum.  Let’s win the series.

Reuters Photo

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The way I would describe last night’s start by Dice-K can be summarized in one phrase: that’s more like it.

In last night’s start he showed glimmers of why we signed him in the first place and why he was so effective in 2007.  In last night’s start he dominated like he was an ace who’d been around the league long enough to know exactly how to handle these Jays.  In last night’s start he gave Red Sox Nation a reason to hope that maybe signing him, sticking with him in the long haul, and having faith he’ll come around wouldn’t have been in vain.

He pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and allowed only three hits.  No walks whatsoever for the second time in his career.  Nine strikeouts, only one of which was not on a fastball (Snider struck out on an eighty-one mile-per-hour changeup), and only two of which were looking.  He faced twenty-four batters and also induced ten flyouts and two groundouts.  107 pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  That’s a very high rate.  That’s one of the highest such rates we’ve seen all season.  He got the win, and very deservedly so.  He started the game striking out Lewis on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  I mean, this Dice-K was completely different than the Dice-K we’d been seeing until this point, and it just confirms that he was in fact on the trajectory of improvement we all thought he was on.  In one night, he lowered his ERA from 9.90 to 6.35.

His four-seam was excellent.  He only topped out at ninety-three miles per hour, but he threw about seventy percent of them for strikes.  Which was good because that was his dominant pitch; he threw about sixty-eight of them.  The reason his four-seam was so effective was that it has fantastic vertical movement on it.  His fastest pitches don’t do much horizontally, but vertically they’re real sharp.  Like off the charts sharp.  His two-seam, cutter, curveball, and slider were excellent; his changeup still needs work.  And if you ask me, even if his fastball does move, I still think he should mix his pitches more effectively.  This outing was a good first step, but he won’t last the season if his pitch mix looks like that.  A pitcher can’t live on fastballs alone.  There are those who would argue that a fastball is only as good as the pitches thrown before and after it.  So I think it would greatly behoove him and therefore us if he’d work on that.

His lowest per-inning pitch count was eleven, which he threw twice.  He threw between sixteen and twenty pitches in each of the remaining five innings, with twenty being his highest count in the third and nineteen being his highest in the sixth.  So he ran into some trouble there, but of course every pitcher who’s on gets into at least one jam.  That’s a trend we’ve seen with him; in each of his last two starts, he’s had one disastrous inning.  In last night’s start, it could be that that disastrous inning was just much more controlled and contained.  Although ideally he wouldn’t have any disastrous innings at all.

Of course it helps when you have good relief.  Ramirez pitched around a hit and a walk to finish an inning, and Okajima followed that with a perfect inning.

And it also helps when you have good offense.  Unlike Dice-K, Eveland only lasted a little more than four frames.

Scutaro led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Pedroia’s double, scoring on Drew’s groundout.  Pedroia scored on Youk’s sac fly.  Tek unloaded for a home run in the second; a 2—0 fastball that completely cleared the Monster and Lansdowne Street.  Dude got power.  That would be his sixth of the season, fifth from the right side, in forty at-bats.  To put that in perspective, he didn’t hit his sixth home run last hear until at-bat number 125.  He led off the fourth with a single; his bat broke, which confused Bautista, so the ball rolled between his legs, which we don’t have to worry about because it was the opposing team.  Hall followed that with a popup to shallow left-center that dropped between Lewis, Gonzalez, and Wells and has quietly been getting some hits in lately.  Then, Tek scored again on McDonald’s double in the fourth.  So, not the Jays’ best inning in the field.  Drew led off the fifth with a bunt.  Youk walked.  Eveland left with a ball on Lowell; Camp entered and walked him to load the bases.  Drew scored on a wild pitch and Youk scored when Hall grounded into a fielder’s choice.  We recorded twice as many hits and six times as many runs as they did.

By the way, Youk was hit by a pitch in the third for the sixty-third time in his career.  He’s one HBP shy of tying Jim Rice for second place on the franchise all-time list.

Pedroia and Drew both went two for four.  Drew stole second and appears to be in good health.  Tek went two for three, continuing to impress.  Can’t say I didn’t see that coming; in the beginning of the season I said that Tek’s Renaissance would last because extra rest would draw it out.  I hope that’s what we’re seeing here.  And finally, last but not least, 6-1 says we won.

A quick update on our absent outfielders: Cameron is doing a rehab stint with the PawSox, and Ellsbury took batting practice and did baserunning drills yesterday, so that’s a very good sign that he’ll be back in action soon.  Seriously this time.

So that was a good game all around.  I just hope that Dice-K builds on it.  His number one problem has been inconsistency, so this start was a good first step, but it’ll be really important to observe his performance in his next start to see if this is the establishment of a new norm or just one more piece of evidence of his irregular performance.  Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime Wakefield will try for the sweep against Marcum tonight.

SI.com

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