Posts Tagged ‘Josh Hamilton’

Finally! Okay, now we’re in business.  I don’t want to necessarily say that the news is big news; I think a year or two ago it would have been really big news, but players age year to year, and last year’s phenom is this year’s solid, all-around acquisition who’s good but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor anymore.  But given our needs and our situation, I’d say Ben’s moves during and after the Winter Meetings were good and much-needed ones.  He’s putting together a stable team while maintaining a healthy amount of financial flexibility, and John Farrell is happy with the developments.  All in all, I’d say we’re definitely going in a great direction.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.  We’ve signed Mike Napoli to a three-year contract worth thirty-nine million dollars.  Don’t let last season’s aggregate stats fool you.  He batted .227 with twenty-four home runs and fifty-six RBIs with an on-base percentage of .343, but look at his numbers in his new home: .307 batting average, nine home runs, twenty RBIs, and a 1.14 OBP.  Admittedly, the sample size of seventy-five at-bats is small, but numbers aside, he’s known for pulling the ball, and his swing will thrive in Fenway.  As for defense, he’s a catcher by trade, but don’t expect to see him behind the plate.  He’ll probably end up at first.

Our next name is Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  It’s another three-year, thirty-nine-million-dollar deal.  Last year, he batted .255 with eleven homers, fifty-five RBIs, and a .321 OBP.  Don’t forget that he bats switch, though, and while he batted .229 as a leftie, he batted .320 as a rightie.  But he had vastly more at-bats from the left than the right, so again, the sample size must be considered.  Still, versatility has never been frowned upon in our organization.  As for defense, like Napoli, Victorino will not field in familiar territory.  All trade rumors concerning Ellsbury are patently false, and Victorino will not be playing center.  He’ll be playing right for sure.  And it’ll be a welcome relief.  Fenway’s right field can break any veteran, but Shane has the stuff to handle it.  He has three Gold Gloves and a center fielder’s speed and arm, and that combination in right, once he learns the fatal angles out there, will be formidable.  It’ll be nice breathing easy with a steady patrol out there.

It’s worth noting that Ben and John met in person with Josh Hamilton, but don’t get too excited.  We already have Ellsbury, and Hamilton wants either Texas or a long-term deal, neither of which we will provide.

And we signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million.  Granted, he has spent almost all of his time in the National League aside from a few handfuls of games last season, which he started for Texas.  But his ERA was 3.38 last season, and his WHIP was 1.20; not too shabby.  Just as important, if not more important, to why we were interested in him in the first place is the fact that, before last season, his last for seasons totaled at least two hundred innings, and last season he clocked 173 innings which isn’t too far behind.  That means three things: durability, durability, durability.  On the other hand, durability doesn’t mean much unless you’re good, and his brief stint in the American League didn’t go well at all, so I’m concerned as to how he’ll make out in the AL East, which, as we all know, is the toughest division there is, basically.  So I’d say we can approach this one with cautious expectations.  But at least we got some sort of starting pitcher, which is a step in the right direction.  We also added Koji Uehara, who signed a one-year deal.  In thirty-six innings last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP.  That means good late-inning work for us.

We finished the Zach Stewart trade by acquiring Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates and assigned him to the PawSox.  We also claimed Sandy Rosario from the A’s, and he has since been claimed by the Cubs.  Gary DiSarcina, formerly the Angels’ minor league field coordinator, is now the PawSox manager.

So we had gaps and voids, we identified them, and we set about filling them with solid, stable choices who will fit in both on the field and in the clubhouse.  We now have some powerful hitters and defenders in the lineup whose numbers admittedly were not great last year but who stand, given the right circumstances, to do great things, and we have some great additions to the clubhouse as well.  We also have a starter who’s spent hardly any time in the AL and whose time he did spend in the AL was nothing to write home about but who has considerable potential.  We still have a lot of work to do; we need more and better starting pitching, for one thing.  That’s a big one.  But slowly but surely we’re getting it done.  We don’t need to make the world’s biggest splash to put a team together that can go the distance.

In other news, the Pats beat the Dophins, 23-16, and the Texans, 42-14.

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Wow.  Every time I think that we couldn’t be off to a start even more opposite than what I originally thought our start would be, it becomes even more opposite.  We just got swept by the Texas Rangers.  We haven’t been swept in our opening series since 1996, when we were swept by – you guessed it – the Texas Rangers.  Great.  Just great.

Everything we did, they did better.  They outpitched us.  They outscored us, 26-11.  They outslugged us with eleven home runs to our three.  It was the first time we’ve given up that many homers in a three-game opening series; the data supporting that statement only goes back to 1919, so it’s possible that, in the home run department, this was our worst start to a season ever.  Specifically in yesterday’s game, they outscored us, 5-1.  Everyone always says that the Rangers’ ballpark is a hitter’s ballpark.  From our perspective, I didn’t see it.  And I don’t even want to discuss the hugeness of Brian Runge’s strike zone.

Buchholz was the latest ace to fail.  Four runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six and a third innings.  He gave up four home runs.  That’s almost half his grand total for all of last season, which was nine.  As with Lackey, he was one home run shy of tying a career-high five given up to the Jays on September 29, 2009.  And guess what.  Kinsler hit one.  On a fastball that failed to locate.  Oh, yeah, like I didn’t see that one coming.

The only other hit he gave up was a single, so aside from the four homers, which represent four pitching mistakes, his outing actually wasn’t that bad.  To begin with, the pitch that David Murphy hit out wasn’t really all that bad of a pitch.  His highest inning pitch count was eighteen; his next-highest was sixteen, and below that fifteen.  The rest of his innings were reasonable, and he didn’t really find himself in any jams to speak of.  He threw eighty-six pitches, fifty-six for strikes and eight for swinging strikes.  He threw some curveballs and changeups but mostly about as many sliders as fastballs, and both were thrown well for strikes.  But that’s never the issue.  You could have a pitcher who throws ninety-nine of a hundred pitches for strikes, but if that hundredth pitch ends up in the stands, it could cost you the ballgame.  And there were way too many such pitches this afternoon.  Buchholz may have had the best outing of our three so far, but by our usual standards, I hope it’s one of the worst we’ll see from him all year.  Location, location, location.  Yesterday, comparatively speaking, he had none of it.  At one point, he just completely lost track of the strike zone.  It wasn’t pretty.  Although I quite enjoyed his two pickoffs as well as both of our double plays, which were stunning displays of defensive coordination.  Even Pedroia’s attempted tag of Hamilton when he stole second.  I couldn’t believe he was safe.

Reyes delivered two outs.  Paps pitched the eighth; he gave up a run on two hits but struck out three.  So the pitcher we were worried about, again comparatively speaking, did fine, and all the pitchers we weren’t worried about were horrible.

Unfortunately, bad pitching did not overshadow a strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, being that he went 0 for 4 and struck out three times.  We notched a grand total of five hits in the game, all of them singles.  Papi and Crawford both went two for four, Crawford being credited with our lone RBI.  I was so relieved to finally see him get his first hit in a Red Sox uniform.  We’d had to drop him to seventh because he was trying too hard.  Hopefully now he’ll relax and find his groove.

When he stroked that single and drove in that run, it brought us within two runs.  McDonald walked after that to load the bases.  There were two outs.  Ellsbury was at the plate.  And all three of his swings were misses, the last on an eighty-eight mile-per-hour cutter.  Nothing about that at-bat was relaxed.  And that was as close as we would get to a win.

I was half-wrong about Tek coming in, by the way.  Obviously Salty remained in.  Tito wanted to start Tek but decided to let Salty finish the series in the hopes of allowing him to settle in offensively; he spoke to Tek about it, and Tek was fine with it.  Salty did not, in fact, settle in offensively.

We have a much-needed day off today before we play Cleveland on Tuesday, when Beckett will debut, followed by Dice-K.  We have full reason to expect both Beckett and Dice-K to deliver truly solid outings for several reasons: we want to win, we need to win, and it would add to the general theme of irony since our original expectations for them, compared to the other three starters, were kind of low.  More importantly, though, we want to win and we need to win.  So let’s just win.

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So, again, that was the opposite of what I had in mind when I thought of what the outcome of last night’s game would be.  Same as Opening Day: I was expecting a win because Lackey was on the mound, we returned to our regular lineup for the righty, and our team is amazing.  Again, no big deal.  Right? Wrong.  So incredibly, totally wrong.

Lackey’s line was utterly abysmal.  It was literally one of the worst starts of his career; his current career high for runs given up is ten, and he gave up nine.  Those ten runs were also given up to the Texas Rangers, on September 26, 2008.  Aside from that start, the only other time Lackey took a similar beating was when he gave up nine runs to us on August 5, 2003.

Nine runs on ten hits.  Seven of those ten hits were extra-base hits.  Two of those seven extra-base hits were home runs.  One of those home runs was a leadoff shot by Ian Kinsler, who is now the first player in history to hit two leadoff homers to start a season.  The other was a grand slam by none other than Adrian Beltre after an intentional walk of Josh Hamilton.  So for this afternoon, I’d say intentionally walk Kinsler during his first at-bat, but if you do that, you might end up with a grand slam later.  Lackey walked two, struck out three, and never made it to the end of the fourth inning.

Every single time we tried to get back in it, Lackey would just give up more runs.  Papi tied it in the fourth with a fielder’s choice, and Lackey sent down his first two batters of the fourth.  And then there was the badness: a double, a triple, a walk, a double.

Lackey threw eighty-six pitches, fifty for strikes.  They were mostly cut fastballs and curveballs.  Like Lester’s outing, it’s easy to explain a cut fastball pitcher’s bad outing: the cut fastball doesn’t cut.  When a batter makes contact with a lame cut fastball that tops out somewhere around ninety-three miles per hour, you can pretty much bet you’re in trouble.  His curveball got up to eighty-five miles per hour.  Unlike Lester, Lackey’s cut fastball, his most frequently used pitch, actually was his most effective one, so he did get some strikeouts with it.  Seven of his fifty strike pitches resulted in swings.

His release point was not tight.  There were some pitches were released completely out of it.  And when he missed, he missed to the upper left and lower right corners of the zone.

As on Opening Day, the relief corps was not helpful.  Wheeler gave up two runs, and Wake gave up a run.  After that, things settled down; Reyes and Jenks both turned in very solid innings.  Bard was unavailable because he threw thirty-two pitches on Friday.  I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Bad pitching again detracted from a very strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, who is currently earning his contract like nobody’s business.  It’s a great feeling when your general manager does everything possible during the offseason to field a championship team and it actually seems to be working.  Three for five with a double and two runs.  Youk doubled.  Ellsbury blasted a two-run shot in the seventh on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball down and in, which is exactly the place you don’t want a fastball to end up if you’re facing lefties because they do things like hit home runs if it does.  The best part was that his swing looked totally natural, like all he does is just hit home runs all day.  Hopefully we’ll get some more of those from him this year.

And last, but of course certainly not least, Papi followed the fourth Opening Day home run of his career with his second of the season in the second inning! An eighty-nine mile-per-hour high fastball ended up in the first few rows of right field seats, good for two runs.  By the time the night was over, he made history.  He both tied, with number 1,003, and surpassed, with number 1,004, Edgar Martinez for most RBIs ever hit by a DH.  And in just two days, he already is showing more offensive prowess than he did during this entire month for the last two years combined.  During his last two Aprils, he batted .169 with one home run.  He’s currently batting .250 with two.  The monster year has begun.

The final score was a completely pathetic 12-5.  We are now 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2005.  Not exactly the auspicious start any of us were expecting or hoping for.  All I’m saying is that Lackey is pitching our home opener on Friday against the Yankees, and we better not have a repeat performance, because that would just be unacceptable.  Meanwhile, we’re getting our first look at Buchholz and Tek this afternoon; Salty will probably get the day off.  Maybe Buchholz should stay away from cut fastballs.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Thrashers by a goal.

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Wow.  I don’t even know where to start.  Just, wow.  Okay.  I should probably go in order so my simultaneous excitement and relief don’t take over completely.

As usual, I’ll start with pitching.  Wake gave up six runs on seven hits with five walks and three K’s over six innings.  He threw 117 pitches and told Tito that, if necessary, he could keep on going.  He basically ground it out to save the bullpen.  After the dismal shifts some of our starters have turned in recently, that was a huge breath of fresh air.  As was the outcome of the game, but like I said, we’ll get to that.  Wake’s pitch count was heavy on the knuckleball, which didn’t find the strike zone as often as it usually does; he had quite a few that were low or high and to the left.  Of course, horizontal and vertical movement was evenly distributed for most of his pitches, which gave them their traditional extra “umph,” if you will.  Anyway, the point is, he labored, and by the time he exited, we were down, 2-6.

The bullpen was fantastic.  Between Delcarmen, Okajima, and Paps, they allowed one hit and four walks with two K’s.  Okay, maybe the four walks weren’t fantastic; in fact, if they keep allowing walks, it’ll become downright disturbing, but at least they didn’t allow any runs, and at this point you have to pick your battles.

Thefts need to be talked about.  The running must be stopped.  It must be stopped.  Wake took responsibility, V-Mart took responsibility, but it doesn’t matter who takes responsibility; responsibility shouldn’t have to be taken because this shouldn’t be happening.  If you look at a box score for this game, you’ll see Youk’s double play under our column and a gigantic paragraph of nothing but steals under their column.  They stole nine bases against us.  Nine! Newsflash: this is not a track and field event! Opposing baserunners should not be capable of swiping nine bags! Andrus and Cruz stole three each, Borbon stole one, and Guerrero, even with his age and knees, stole two.  That’s just rubbing salt in it.  This is a legitimate problem.  Tito has already made it a high priority for improvement.  Indeed, it’s something we were focusing on during Spring Training; we just very apparently have yet to see results.  We of all fan bases should know that a stolen base can turn into a deciding run real quickly.

Okay.  Now for the good stuff: the offense.  V-Mart singled Drew home in the first.  Hermida hit a solo shot to deep right in the fourth, thereby continuing to impress.  Seriously, I don’t think any one of us thought he’d be hitting balls out at this rate.  I’m not even sure people thought he’d be hitting balls out at all.  But he is, and it’s great to have that much depth on the bench.  And that, as we will soon see, is exactly my point.  So, at that time we were down by four.  Reddick plated two on a fielding error in the sixth.  (Reddick and McDonald were both called up for outfield depth; Ellsbury and Cameron were both placed on the DL.  Thankfully, Ellsbury’s stint is retroactive.)

And now, the penultimate moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Darnell McDonald hit a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth.  That home run was hit to left center, one of the deepest parts of the park.  And that home run was phenomenal for two reasons: it tied the game, like I said, and it was evidence of the power coming down the pipe in the future.  And the best part was that he was pinch-hitting.  By the way, the last in a Boston uniform to hit one out during his first plate appearance was Orlando Cabrera on August 1, 2004.  Gives you chills, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that brings us to the ninth.  Youk singled.  Hall sacrificed him to third.  Lowell was walked intentionally.  Tek walked.  Beltre popped out.  And McDonald stepped up to the plate.  He singled.  Youk came home.  McDonald was mobbed.  Game over.  7-6.  And that, my friends, is how you get it done.  That is a Win right there.  A Win with a capital W.  When you need a win, you do what needs to be done to get it.  (Which is why Tito felt he had to pinch-hit Lowell for Papi.) Our losing streak is officially snapped.  Twelve years in the minor leagues for McDonald; he deserves this one.  This is the first time since the run batted in became an official statistic in 1920 that we’ve had a game-ending RBI hit from a debut.  This, ladies and gentlemen, was huge.  It may come to pass that this might have been one of the most important games in the entire 2010 season.  We needed it, and we got it.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

To be honest, I saw glimmers of our old selves across the board.  Youk went two for four with a walk (they fed him breaking balls almost the entire night), V-Mart went three for four, and Hermida went two for three.  Pedroia, Reddick, and Tek all hit doubles.  Pedroia flied out twice before hitting his double, so he may not have made constructive contact during every at-bat but he was reading the ball well just the same.  And of course McDonald went two for two.  We’re still waiting on Beltre, Scutaro, Papi, and Drew.  They didn’t shift Drew, which was interesting.  They did pitch him away, though, which is exactly how the Rays like to handle him.  But it’s a start.  It’s definitely more of a start than we’ve seen so far.  Here’s hoping it continues and only keeps getting better.

But it’s much, much more than that.  The type of win that was, a walkoff courtesy of an unlikely hero, is exactly the kind of win that historically makes us rise to the occasion.  I mean, you could cut the relief and emotion on that field last night with a knife.  That was an extremely much-needed and much-wanted and much-deserved win.  That’s one serious understatement, but it’s all I can say.  One win won’t solve everything, but it’s reminded us who we are and what we can do.  Beckett takes the hill tonight.  Let’s make this last.

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We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

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