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Posts Tagged ‘Justin Morneau’

We lost our Spring Training opener with the Twins, 8-4.  And this is the part where everyone collectively remembers how insignificant the outcomes of Spring Training games actually are.  They’re good workouts and warmups for the teams, and they’re essential for roster spot contests, but it really puts it in perspective for you when you see all the starters being unconditionally pulled by the fifth inning.  However, there are still observations to be made.  Beckett started and pitched two innings, allowing one run on two hits.  Buchholz followed with two scoreless frames.  Okajima followed with a truly uninspired performance, and Wheeler gave up a home run.

We beat the Twins on Monday, 7-6.  Dice-K started and allowed a hit in the first inning, but that was it for his two innings.  He threw twenty-five pitches, fourteen of which were strikes.  All in all, not too shabby.  Wake gave up three unearned runs, and Bard was terrible.  Papi went two for two with a home run.  In his debut, Crawford went 0 for 3.  More importantly, Beckett was hit in the head by a ball during batting practice in left field.  He’s been diagnosed with mild concussion symptoms, with an emphasis on the “mild.” He didn’t have to go to the hospital and was treated right at the park and was sent home to get some rest.  He was back at the park the next day feeling good, and although he missed his next start on Thursday, he simulated an outing on Friday.  It went well; he threw forty pitches over three innings to minor leaguers, and he’ll pitch again on Tuesday.  Twins fans will tell you after Morneau’s bought with his concussion last season that it’s the most frustrating injury a player could possibly have due to its unpredictability; it could be mild one day and severe the next, and you might think that a sting on the fifteen-day DL is enough but you end up on the sixty.  All I’m saying is that I’d rather he stay on the DL than be terrible and lose a whole bunch of games.  I’m also glad his back is still fine, because Beckett on the DL with a concussion is better than Beckett not on the DL with a bad back.  Recall all of last season.  But we should focus on the positive: it doesn’t look too serious, and it’ll affect his Spring Training, but perhaps by the time the regular season rolls around, he’ll be good to go.

We beat the Twins again on Tuesday, 5-0.  Lester cruised through his two innings, yielding one hit, one walk, and one K.  Paps pitched a one-two-three fifth.  Reddick and Lowrie each recorded an RBI, and Salty walked on eight pitches.

We lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 6-1.  Lackey gave up a run, a solo homer, on four hits during his two innings; he threw forty-one pitches, twenty-five for strikes.  He threw one two-seam, and the rest were all four-seams.  We saw this from him last spring as well; he pitches to contact so he’ll be healthy by the time Opening Day rolls around.  But he needs to find a balance between pitching to contact for that purpose and maintaining arm strength.  Ellsbury hit, Pedroia walked on a full count, and Papi had three hits and a stand-up stolen base.  Okajima struck out two in a perfect inning of work.

We were shut out by the Phillies on Thursday, 2-0.  Stolmy Pimentel filled in for Beckett.  Jenks debuted with a scoreless inning, and Wheeler allowed two hits.  Oh, and Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phillies’ general manager, said that we’re the best team in the Majors.  Us.  Not them.  Us.  Keeping in mind of course that this is Spring Training, not a preview of October, so that doesn’t count for much.  Although I’m rather inclined to think that it does at least count for something.  At the very least, it’s someone recognizing what Red Sox Nation already knows.

On Friday, we beat the Yankees.  5-3.  I don’t care if it’s Spring Training, the regular season, or the postseason; I love beating the Yankees anytime, anywhere.  Buchholz pitched three scoreless innings.  Adrian Gonzalez took his first batting practice.  He took eighty swings, five more than his scheduled amount.  Everything looked good

On Saturday, the Marlins crushed us, 11-2.  Dice-K allowed seven runs, five earned on six hits.  It wasn’t pretty.  Wake gave up two runs on five hits in two and two-thirds innings of work.  Salty caught him for the first time and, given the fact that he’d hardly had any experience with knuckleballs in his career, he actually fared quite well.  Paps turned in a scoreless inning, and Jenks was impressive.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury and Crawford played into the seventh, with Crawford posting his first hit, against the Orioles.  He went two for three with a walk.

Lester was supposed to start today but he’s got the flu, so Michael Bowden will fill in.

One other thing.  Yes, the Cardinals failed to iron out a deal with Albert Pujols, despite the fact that he made it perfectly clear that he’s not interested in negotiating during the season.  Why they didn’t just fork over the cash, I have no idea.  It’s not like they could possibly spend it on anyone better.  Whether the Cards will actually allow Pujols of all people to reach free agency is unclear.  What is clear is that he is not coming to Boston.  No matter how great of a player he might be, it makes absolutely no sense to bring him here.  We just traded substantially for an awesome first baseman; we didn’t do that to purposefully not work out a deal with him, let him walk during free agency, and sign away all our financial resources for the next decade for one guy.  So, provided we keep Gonzalez, which is basically the whole point of that entire move, what would we do with Pujols? We could make him a DH, I guess.  But he’s thirty-one years old and headed for the Hall of Fame.  He’s not a DH.  He’s a first baseman.  And he is not coming to Boston.  But that’s fine.  We don’t need him.  What we do need is to work out a deal with Gonzalez before Pujols hits free agency so that Pujols in no way affects Gonzalez’s contract.  Gonzalez is awesome, like I said, but if we’re not going to sign away all our financial resources for the next decade to Pujols, we’re not going to sign away half our financial resources for the next decade on Gonzalez just because he’s the next best thing.  Will not happen.  I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the deal is already done but they’re keeping it quiet until after the season starts to minimize luxury tax ramifications.  The point is that we’re going to keep it reasonable and responsible.  That’s just how we roll.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Oilers and shut out the Sens, and beat the Lightning.  We lost to the Pens in overtime, but at least we got a point.  So we crushed this week.  By the way, we’re second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Flyers, but we’ll close that gap.  Yup.  This could be the year.

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We won.  Plain and simple.  The final score was 3-2, and we can thank Buchholz, Papi, and Hall for that.

Clay Buchholz pitched a wicked outing last night.  He is the future of this staff.  He’s morphing into an ace right before our eyes.  It’s fantastic.  He pitched over eight innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and only one free pass while striking out seven.  Morneau and Cuddyer were back-to-back strikeouts, Cuddyer swinging on a changeup.  Hudson froze on the inside corner, as did Morneau on an inside fastball before getting heated with the umpire.  Thome struck out swinging on a ball that was down for the first out of the inning, and Kubel watched a slider go by for Buchholz’s second set of back-to-backs.  Thome also watched a slider for Buchholz’s seventh K, three shy of his season-high of ten against the Rangers.  And he needed only 104 pitches to do it.  He would’ve pitched a complete game, his first since his no-no, but Tito lifted him after he allowed a leadoff infield hit to Span.  I support that decision; the game was close, and you don’t want to take chances with victory in sight.

Every single one of his pitches except his curveball was effective.  And I mean really effective.  All of them were moving just the right way.  That in itself shows a lot of maturity; he usually throws more curveballs but saw that they weren’t working, so he threw more sliders instead.  That’s adaptability, and it something you don’t always see in the veterans.  Buchholz is a pitcher to marvel at when he’s on; it takes a special kind of kid to be that good at throwing mainly off-speeds.  There are veterans who can’t even do that.  He concentrated on the left portion of the strike zone.  The few balls he did throw were above but mostly below the zone, probably off-speeds that curved down a little too much.  He varied his speeds really nicely, throwing his fastball for gas at ninety-five miles per hour, and kept the batters guessing, as evidenced by the fact that, of all the strikes he threw, only seven were swinging.  An expertly mixed salad, as Eck would say.  He needed a game-low of nine pitches to clear the seventh and a game-high of seventeen-to clear the fourth.  He threw a majority of strikes in all of his innings.  The interesting thing is that his release point isn’t as tight as others we’ve seen from the staff, but I guess that comes with the territory when you throw off-speed pitches that require varying grips and angles.

His ERA is now down to 3.26, his five wins are the most on the staff, and his eleven wins since August 19 are the most by any pitcher in the American League.  In those eleven games, we’re fourteen and four.  And all of that after having landed in Boston from New York at 4:00AM.  It’s no coincidence that Buchholz was the only member of the team that slept well, having flown ahead on Tuesday.  All of which is to say that I would not be surprised if he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this year.  It was really an incredible outing.  Solid, confident, efficient.  Everything you look for from a pitcher against a quality lineup, and here was this kid who just marched in there and shut them down.  There was also that nifty pickoff move to get Punto out at first to end the third.  And he’s a righty, too.  Punto knew he was out; he smiled because he knew he’d gone too far off.  Awesome stuff.

Paps, as we know, was unavailable after the set with New York, so Bard came on and pitched around a hit and a walk to get the save.

In the fourth, Papi hit what was initially called an RBI triple just over the Monster.  But after review, which occurred for the second time this season, it was ruled a home run, Papi’s seventh of the month.  Why it wasn’t ruled a home run initially is something I’ll never know, because it was very clearly out.  He did a good job of hustling to third once he realized they didn’t call it out, for which I give him credit.  But the ball bounced up into the air after it hit the wall.  That meant it didn’t actually hit the wall; it hit above the wall, which is dinger territory.  It was that ledge up there.  Thankfully, they ultimately got the call right.  It was a nice, balanced swing that propelled the ball to the opposite field, which has been a theme this month.  He’s hit .405 over his past eleven games and .358 with seventeen RBIs in May.

Hall tacked on our third run with a single in the sixth.  That ended up being the winning run after Bard allowed his inherited runner to score in the top of the ninth.

V-Mart and Beltre both went two for four.  Hermida made a fielding error.  We left eight on base, as compared with Minnesota’s four, but we also collected ten hits, as compared with Minnesota’s six.  Basically, we missed more opportunities than they did because we had more opportunities than they did.

Surprise, surprise: Beckett’s been placed on the DL with a lower back strain; he slipped on the mound in the fifth while throwing to A-Rod on Tuesday.  He’ll be out of commission until June 3 but will probably be able to solidly return at that time, being that putting him on the DL at all as opposed to letting him skip a start again was being generous.  Wakefield will start Sunday.  See? I knew his move to the bullpen wouldn’t be permanent.  Joe Nelson will replace Wake in the ‘pen.  Scutaro’s left elbow has been sore, so he received a cortisone shot before last night’s game and could be back tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, Angel Sanchez will replace him so that Hall doesn’t have to try his luck at short for one more game, which surprisingly worked out fairly well.  He stole a line drive and turned it into a double play; it’s a tribute to his athleticism and intuition for the game that he can handle all these positions.  To make room for Sanchez on the roster, Schoeneweis has been designated for assignment.

Also, did you see that Twins fan at Fenway yesterday who brought a Twins sign? You don’t see opposing signs very often at Fenway, especially not for teams that are out-of-the-way and not in our division.  Maybe he forgot that the Twins are in our house, not theirs.  And while we’re on this subject, something I didn’t mention yesterday was the fact that most of the seats behind home plate in Yankee Stadium were empty.  Either Yankee fans just aren’t robust fans or the ownership is charging exorbitant amounts for those tickets.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Tonight it’s Liriano at Lester.  The pitching matchup here is good, but it’ll be even better after we win and sweep a series.  That would be good for us, no?

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To put it succinctly, yesterday was a bad day.

Yesterday could’ve seen Wakefield become our all-time winningest starter.  Through the first four innings, he was certainly on track; he allowed an RBI single in the second and that was it.

Then we hit the fifth.  Three runs scored, and Morneau avenged his at-bat from Wednesday.  That was only the beginning.  By the time Wakefield left, we were just over five innings into it and were down by six.  Five earned runs on ten hits with a walk and two strikeouts.  Ninety-nine pitches.  The overwhelming majority were knuckleballs, three were fastballs, and three were curveballs, all of which were thrown for strikes.  That’s the chance you take with a knuckleballer; if he’s on, he’s on, but if he’s not, it’s a complete disaster.  This was one of those complete disasters.

We have officially established that Target Field is a hitter’s ballpark.  The wind blows outward and everything.

Schoeneweis contributed to the mess by allowing two runs on three hits.  Ramirez didn’t want to miss out, so although he didn’t allow any runs, he didn’t finish his job before allowing two hits and a walk.  It was just an all-around mess on the mound.

To make matters worse, the fielders didn’t help much, either.  Hall made a fielding error in the second that allowed runners to advance.  Wake’s unearned run scored on a throwing error by Beltre.  And V-Mart didn’t want to be left out, so he made a fielding error of his own.  Three errors in one game.  In one game, we topped our total for the entire season thus far.

We find out that Ellsbury is taking longer than expected to heal and could be out tonight as well.  Also, Cameron has been scratched due to a lower abdominal strain.  That’s what put Hall in center and Hermida in left.  So for two-thirds of our starting outfield, playing status is uncertain.

And now for the offense.  There was none.  The end.

I’m serious.  The final score was 8-0.  This was the best I’ve seen Liriano against us, ever.  We managed only one hit between the second and seventh innings.  Our only extra-base hit was a double by V-Mart, which partly makes up for that fielding error.  We left eight on base.

Hard to believe, but there were some bright spots in this whole fiasco.  Not many, but there were.  Mauer went 0 for 4; Schoeneweis struck him out in the sixth.  That was pretty cool.  Lowell hit the ball hard to left center twice.  (The second time, Kubel robbed him of a base hit.  He charged and dove for the out.) Jose Mijares  came on in relief of Liriano and promptly loaded the bases.  (The fact that we did absolutely nothing with that golden opportunity is not the point.  And thanks for that, Beltre; he hit into a double play that ended the inning.) And then there was the guy who’s been a bright spot since coming out of the gate: Dustin Pedroia, obviously.  The man went three for four yesterday.  He alone equaled the entire rest of the team’s offensive output.  I’m convinced that he just can’t be contained.  And this isn’t just me talking; check out what a Twins blogger had to say about him:

Dustin Pedroia is good.  As in ridiculously, disgustingly good.

Eat your heart out, MLB.  (By the way, that blog is called Twinkie Town.  What?)

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Yesterday, all players across the league wore No. 42.  I’ve always thought that pretty neat.  Dice-K probably just pitched himself off the DL.  He tossed six shutout innings for Pawtucket yesterday, dominating completely.  He’s now pitched eleven innings in the minors, and I think he’s ready.

Now we get to go home.  Thank goodness.  We’re four and five, and we need to play some games in Boston to get back on track.  We’re taking on the Rays, starting with Davis at Beckett tonight.

The Bruins lost to the Sabres, 2-1.  We played well.  I’d rather lose by that score than by a blowout.  Next game is tomorrow afternoon.

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The important thing is that we picked up the win yesterday.  That win is important to establish momentum, infuse Target Field with a positive and friendly vibe, help the club settle into a groove, and advance us in the standings.  Of those four things, the third is the most important for our long-term success.  Just to prove that it’s still too early to get anything constructive out of the standings, let’s take a gander at them, shall we? We are currently in third, one and a half games behind Toronto and Tampa Bay, who are both tied for first.  Yeah.  Like that’s going to last.

With that 6-3 win comes Lackey’s first decision in a Red Sox uniform.  It was pretty decent.  Two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings with four walks and two K’s seems fine enough, especially when you consider that he finished with a pitch count of 107, reasonable for an outing of that length.  I would’ve preferred less hits and less walks; essentially, it was a command issue that may get lost if you only look at the two runs he allowed.  He struggled through most of the outing.  He threw more cutters than anything else, topping out at ninety-two miles per hour on one of them (he threw fastest when his vertical movement was greatest), but his most effective pitch for strikes was his curveball.  He had some nice speed variation, bottoming out at about seventy-three.  His strike zone was heavy on the left side.  He was roughed up a little in the third and left (peacefully) with a one-run lead when, with one out in the seventh, Mauer stood in.

V-Mart took a passed ball, so Francona intentionally walked Mauer to first.  Morneau ended it.  Done.  Props to Okajima because, with two inherited runners, it could’ve been a lot worse.  Bard and Paps barely got through their shifts.  Bard allowed a run on two hits.  Paps allowed two walks.  Honestly, has it been written somewhere that these two can’t just get their jobs done cleanly? Is there something going on, some new pronouncement of their shakiness, that I don’t know about? I mean, where did all the lights-out go? I’ll tell you one thing: the worse Bard gets, the more Paps’s monetary value at contract time increases.

So much for Ellsbury’s return.  They’re saying Friday now, so he’ll miss the rest of the road trip.  Thankfully, Scutaro has some skills in leadoff, starting the game with a single.  Scutaro, Pedroia, and V-Mart all went two for five.  Scutaro batted in a run.  Pedroia batted in two on a double and a solo dinger to very deep left.  To put that in perspective, last year he didn’t hit his fourth home run until July.  I’ve read a call for the Red Sox to learn themselves some small ball because we don’t have sluggers in the lineup.  Sir, Mr. Pedroia would like to speak with you.

Papi and Beltre also hit doubles.   Papi tried to steal a base which, as usual, was really funny.  Needless to say, he got caught, although Slowey’s last name would’ve indicated that he might have been able to reach safely.  Youk went one for three but walked twice.  Drew walked and scored twice.

But the big offensive story (other than Pedroia, who’s always the big offensive story) is none other than Jeremy Hermida, who hit a loaded-bases-clearing double in the eighth.  In each of his last four games, Hermida has hit for extra-bases from the starting lineup.  How’s he for a nice surprise? At the very least, I’d leave him in as DH for a few more games.

That’s a wrap, folks.  We’re four and four and getting better.  Wakefield will try his hand against Liriano this afternoon; Papi will sit in favor of Hermida.  Also, what’s with these afternoon starts during the week? I’m just saying.  Anyway, this should definitely be interesting.  It’ll be a real test for Wakefield, who only seems to improve with age.

The Bruins begin their playoffs on Thursday when we take on the Sabres.  We ended the season on a high note with a win against the Caps.  It’s a tough way to start, but who knows? Maybe we’ll go somewhere this spring.

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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

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That’s something I really can’t stand.  It’s unfair, it’s frustrating, and to see it happen after almost half a game’s worth of solid innings is crushing.  It just spoils the whole thing.  Jon Lester was cruising.  He was cruising, doing his thing, one hundred percent on, no runs whatsoever through four.  And then the fifth came around, the Twins scored five runs, and that was all they needed.  The entire start was ruined by that one inning.  We knew it.  Terry Francona knew it.  Jon Lester knew it; he was back in the dugout and he was mad.  He slammed his towel down, tossed an empty water bottle, grabbed his jacket.  That wasn’t the outing he or Terry Francona had planned.  He was having himself a great start until that one inning ruined it completely, largely because of a single mistake to Justin Morneau that resulted in a three-run home run.  It was just sad.  Really, it was.

Of course, it helps when you give your starter some run support to work with, and we didn’t do that.  We were one for eleven with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.  We lost by a score of 5-2, and the second run wasn’t even earned.  Ellsbury extended his hitting streak and went two for five, scored twice, and stole twice.  He also made one of his signature spectacular catches in center field in the fifth inning, which is a lot harder at the Metrodome with that vast expanse of an outfield.  The ball could’ve fallen.  It could’ve been for extra bases.  But it didn’t, because Jacoby Ellsbury, the fastest man in the universe, ran it down, jumped, made the catch, and crashed down.  Beautiful.  I seriously shuddered to think of him in a Twins uniform.  Pedroia made a great catch of his own in the first and then went two for for with his sixteenth RBI of the year.  Lugo went two for four, and luckily for him Morneau saved him an error.  Morneau hit a routine grounder to short, but Lugo ran right past the ball.  Luckily, Morneau wasn’t practicing heads-up baserunning, and he paid for it.  He rounded first and was tagged out in a rundown.  Youk, Ortiz, and Tek each had hits.  Nothing else.  Strange.

Ortiz batted sixth last night.  He hasn’t batted anywhere but third since 2005.  This should take some pressure off him to be the slugger and let him just bat around.  But we know it’s not over.  His hit was a double, and in the fourth he popped a foul that hit one of the speakers suspended from the roof of the Metrodome.  That’s not as easy as it looks.  Those things are high up.  And to hit one, you need to have some serious bat speed.  He ended up walking, so it was a nice at-bat.  Any at-bat that gets Ortiz on base is productive.  We’re going to have to take this one step at a time.

Now, about Span getting hit by a pitch in the third.  The pitch came in on his right elbow, but it was clearly an accident.  Span was angry so he threw his bat and pads down. Lester wasn’t too happy about that behavior so he took a step or two forward.  Nothing happened, but it’s a very finely balanced relationship between pitcher and hitter, and you want to keep it balanced by not indulging in unwarranted angry impulses.  And about Drew being tagged out in the seventh.  That clearly should not have happened.  Ellsbury was able to score on the play but Drew was caught in a rundown and tagged out because of the second-base umpire.  The umpire was in the way, so Drew had to put some brakes on and go around him which slowed him down.  How do I know? Because the umpire almost fell over trying to jump out of his way.  So Drew should’ve been safe at second.  That was blatant umpire interference.

That loss snapped our winning streak against the Twins at six.  But there’s still baseball to be played yet in Minnesota.  We’re good.  Our staff is good.  Our lineup is good.  We need to play like it, and this time it would be nice if the score reflected it.

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That was the theme of the past two days.  The game on Tuesday was rained out and postponed to yesterday, making yesterday a double-header against the Twins.  And since the series was only two games to begin with, we basically crammed the whole series into twenty-four hours.  And we didn’t even finish the first game; it was called after seven innings due to the weather.  I mean from Minnesota’s standpoint there really wasn’t a point in finishing it because we were up, 10-1, at that point, but still.  If we were meant to score five more runs in that game, I would’ve liked to see those five runs.  But the nightcap stayed dry after being delayed an hour, and all in all it was a phenomenal day.  We swept the doubleheader and showed the Twins who’s boss, and the Bruins knocked the Canadiens completely out of the playoffs.  A four-game sweep and a burial in Montreal yesterday by a final score of 4-1.

I’m getting ahead of myself here.  First, let’s talk about Wakefield and the gem he pitched in the first game.  He went the whole seven innings, allowed one run on five hits with a walk and four K’s.  He became the oldest pitcher in baseball history to pitch back-to-back complete games.  I’m telling you, the man’s still got it.  Year in and year out we question how much he has left, and he never ceases to amaze us.  His ERA is 2.45.  Tim Wakefield’s ERA is 2.45.  That’s ridiculous.  Somehow, he just keeps getting better and better.  And the offense had an absolute field day.  Youk hit a two-run shot into the right field seats in the first, Green hit a two-run shot into the Monster in the second, and Lowell hit a two-run shot also into the Monster in the third.  Ellsbury went two for four, extending his hitting streak to eight games.  Papi went two for four, including a double.  Drew went three for three with a walk.  Lowell would finish the night three for four, and Green two for four.  So all in all we teed off.  Ellsbury stole, got caught, and was picked off.  Green made an error.  And because it was such a masterful event, I’m going to repeat that the final score was 10-1.  So as you can see the Twins were pretty much done.  “Blame It On the Rain,” as Milli Vanilli says, but if I were in a Minnesota uniform I’d be loathing Tim Wakefield all the way back to Minneapolis.

And those were just the afternoon festivities.  We rocked the nightcap, too.  For starters, Dave Roberts threw out the first pitch.  I’m telling you, whenever I remember that moment I start to lose it.  It all started with that one stolen base.  Pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, pickoff attempt, he runs, he’s safe, we win seven straight, the curse is broken.  Just like that.  And it all started with that one stolen base.  Penny was on, a relief after his previous start against Baltimore.  Two earned runs on six hits with a walk and two K’s in six innings (the third run was the courtesy of another error by Green).  Justin Morneau hit a solo shot in the fourth.  After that, the relief came in and was perfect as usual.  Ramon Ramirez still has an ERA of 0.00 after pitching just over nine impeccable innings, Okajima was solid with a strikeout, and Paps came out to get some work in, because with all the runs we’ve been scoring he’s gotten a little bored lately.  And he was perfect, of course.  As far as the offense was concerned, it wasn’t so much teeing off as it was walking and making Francisco Liriano pay for it.  Liriano gave up seven runs in four frames.  And many of those were the result of walks.  If there’s one thing opposing pitchers know about us, it’s that if you walk our batters, chances are we’ll score some runs.  So that was not an outing you’d want out of your Number One starter.  Which is why he doesn’t pitch for Boston.  Jeff Bailey was added to the roster after Baldelli was placed on the fifteen-day DL with a left hamstring strain, and Lowell had the game off, so Youk moved to third and Bailey played first, and Bailey’s only hit of the night and first at-bat of the year was a three-run homer that probably had the skin taken off the ball.  Papi doubled again, and it seems like he’s hitting for extra bases consistently now, a trend I’d love to see continue.  Green had the only multi-hit performance, finishing his night at two for three.  Ellsbury, Drew, Bailey, and Bay, who leads the American League in walks, each logged a base on balls.  Pedroia was caught and picked off.

Did I mention that yesterday was Terry Francona’s fiftieth birthday? I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest managers in the game!

So we extend our winning streak to seven games, tying New York for second only one and a half games out of first.  That won’t last long.  We get the day off today and are facing New York tomorrow night at home.  It’s going to be Chamberlain at Lester, and quite frankly if Lester stays vintage we should make quick work of the Yankees.  I’m so psyched.

And last but most certainly not least, in other news the Bruins swept Montreal in four games.  We win the Stanley Cup quarterfinal for the first time in ten years.  We fell to the Habs last year, in 2004, and in 2002, but not this year.  This year we completely dominated them.  They stood no chance whatsoever.  Sweeps are hard to come by in hockey but we basically just finished a textbook model for how to do it.  Michael Ryder, former Canadien, scored twice and assisted David Krejci.  Phil Kessel shot out of the penalty box in the second period, got the puck, and put it in the net pretty much immediately.  Timmy Thomas made twenty-six saves.  It was awesome, unbelievable, and very satisfying.  But we’ve still got work to do.  Round Two coming up.  How sweep it is.

So just to recap, in a single day we sweep a series and a doubleheader, get two solid starts out of our Number Four and Five guys, let the offense go to town, welcome back the man whose stolen base started it all in 2004, extend our winning streak to seven days, advance in the standings, celebrate the birthday of our brilliant manager, sweep the Stanley Cup quarterfinal, bury our arch-rivals underneath a mountain of goals, eliminate them from the playoffs completely in their house, and advance to Round Two with all the momentum in the world.  I would say that that is one seriously good day.  All in a day’s work in Boston.  Even in the rain.

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