Posts Tagged ‘Jose Valverde’

The series finale was rained out, so we played a doubleheader yesterday.  I like doubleheaders.  Anyone who loves baseball would love a day when baseball is played almost continuously.  Not great for the team, but good for the fan.  Doubleheaders as a rule are almost never scheduled in advance, so rare indeed is the opportunity to see one.

Buchholz started it off and wasn’t at his best.  Six innings, three runs on six hits, a walk, and two K’s on ninety-eight pitches, sixty-three for strikes.  With that pitch count, he should have gone another inning.  What that means is that he allowed himself to be worked out of pitcher’s counts a little bit.  And two of the runs he allowed came via solo shot, both on changeups.  By the time he left, the game was tied at three.

Ellsbury had doubled to start the game, stole third, and scored on a fly ball by Gonzalez.  In the second, Cameron homered into the bullpen in left.  It was his third homer of the season, and all of them have come against southpaws.  It was a breaking ball that didn’t break.  Pedroia led off the third by also homering into the bullpen in left.  He jumped on a changeup.  It was a laser all the way.

Nobody scored in the seventh.  Nobody scored in the eighth.  Drew started the ninth by flying out.  Then Papi worked the count full.  On the seventh pitch, Papi walloped one into the first few rows of seats in center field.  He has officially hit nothing but home runs off of Jose Valverde.  (I mean, he’s two for two with two homers, but still.) It was a fastball right down the middle.  There was no way he wasn’t going to blast it out of the yard.

The final score was 4-3.  Albers pitched the seventh and eighth and got the win; Paps pitched the ninth and picked up his tenth save of the year.  Lowrie went two for four.  Cameron went a perfect two for two.  And we stole four bases, one each for Youk and Ellsbury and two for Pedroia.  And let me tell you, it was nice to be the ones running for a change.

The nightcap didn’t go so well.  Beckett, for his part, did almost everything he was supposed to do.  He pitched six innings, gave up two runs on five hits, walked five, and struck out five.  That walk total ties a season high.  He threw 107 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  In the first inning alone, he gave up both of his runs and threw twenty-six pitches.  Clearly he was inefficient.  When you’re in the midst of a pitcher’s duel, it’s really, really bad to be inefficient because it means that you’ll throw more pitches, thus giving the opponent more of a look at you and generally tiring you out.  And you’ll be taken out before your opponent, which means that no matter how on you are, you won’t do your team any good because you’ll be out of the game when it matters most.  Hill pitched a good seventh.  Atchison gave up another run in the eighth.  But Beckett took the loss because he was outdueled.  As far as our offense was concerned, there was none.  We were shut out.  We only had five opportunities with runners in scoring position and did nothing with them.  The most important came in the eighth inning.  Ellsbury walked to put runners at the corners with two out, and all Pedroia could muster was a flyout.  The only extra base hit was a double that belonged to Tek; in total, the team managed only four hits.  We lost, 3-0.

At least now we get to go home again.  We finished this stint on the road with a record of five and two.  Not bad at all.  But it’ll be good to be back.

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After the final out of the game, I thought two things.  First, I thought it looked and felt eerily similar to Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, when Drew was at the plate with the game on the line, and he struck out looking.  No swing.  He just watched the ball go by.  And second, there was the classic, obligatory, and completely warranted “No!”

Lester got rocked.  Last night was not an example of his best work.  If you look up the word “ace” in the dictionary, you will usually see Lester’s picture, but last night it wasn’t there.  In six innings, he gave up four runs on eleven hits, a new career high, while walking two and striking out seven.  He threw 116 pitches, and two of those hits were home runs, both by Peralta.  The first one was hit on a changeup that Peralta dug out.  The second one was hit on a pitch that was absolutely disgusting.  The Tigers didn’t waste time either; they scored their first run in the first, no thanks to Cameron, whose glove provided a springboard for the RBI hit.

Lester’s cut fastball was sharp, but his offspeeds, his sinker, changeup, and curveball, weren’t working.  He didn’t really have one particularly bad inning; he threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and at least thirteen in the sixth.  That’s not a huge disparity, and he was pretty consistent count-wise.  So that wasn’t the issue.  The issue was that the pitches he threw weren’t good.  He just didn’t have it.  He never settled in or found any sort of rhythm.  It happens sometimes.  It’s particularly inconvenient when you’re trying to dig yourself out of an enormous hole in order to get to the playoffs.  But it happens sometimes.  He took the loss for the third time since the All-Star break.

Believe it or not, that’s not even the point.  Sure, if Lester had been his usual dominant self we probably would’ve won the game.  But that is not the point.

The point is the offense, which did almost nothing for the first eight innings of the game.  Scutaro hit a solo shot in the fifth, but that was it.  After Scutaro’s shot, Youk bounced a hard liner off Galarraga’s right ankle, chasing him from the game.  This after hitting Dan Haren with a liner in the arm that chased him from the game.  It’s just ironic that Youk is probably one of the most frequently hit batsmen in the game.  Anyway, Papi walked after that, and V-Mart hit what looked like something for RBIs and possibly extra bases, but it was caught for a flyout in front of the Monster.  That’s a shame.  It was a tough play.

Ramirez pitched the seventh, with a little help from Patterson’s right-on-the-money throw home to get Boesch out at the plate, and Wakefield pitched the eighth after ten days of rest.  In accordance with his summer of milestones, he officially passed Eck to become the oldest Red Sox pitcher to pitch in a game.  He’ll turn forty-four on Monday and might not want to remember this appearance; the Tigers took two against him, one on a wild pitch.  Also, Youk’s missed tag was not helpful.  Kind of reminds me of a less terrible version of Mike Timlin’s thousandth appearance, during which he was horrible.

Now we get to the bottom of the ninth.  Valverde loaded the bases with three walks, and Big Papi hit a grand slam.  That’s four runs on one swing.  I felt like I was back in October 2004 again.  Bottom of the ninth, game on the line, bases loaded, Big Papi steps up and completely unloads them.  It was crazy.  It was a fastball middle-in and it wasn’t staying in the park.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.  The ball ended up in the first row of seats right in the heart of right field.  And just like that, the Tigers had only a one-run lead.

Beltre doubled to left.  Drew pinch-hit, intentionally walked, and made way for Hall to pinch-run.

Cameron stepped into the batter’s box.  At this point you’re thinking it’s not possible that we just came all the way back only to lose now.  It’s only one run; we have the tying and go-ahead runs already on base.  Cameron needs to do something here.

Instead, he did nothing.  He worked the count full and waited for a fastball but got a splitter instead and struck out looking.  Kind of like Drew in 2008.

Of all our wins this season, this one would have been the most improbable and therefore one of the biggest.  And Valverde was laboring.  He ended up throwing a career-high sixty pitches.  That’s an obscene number of pitches for a closer to throw.  He was really struggling.  And that mound slap at the end just made the whole thing worse.

Of all the ways to open a homestand, it doesn’t get much lower than this.  Your offense does nothing for most of the game, all of a sudden you’ve got life in the bottom of the ninth, you climb all the way back to within one run, the table is set, and the batter just looks.  It’s agonizing.  But I guess there’s nothing to do now but hope Dice-K gets something going today.  Every game now is a must-win.  So let’s win this one.

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