Posts Tagged ‘Justin Smoak’

We swept the Mariners.  No big deal.  No, seriously, it really wasn’t a big deal.

Wake delivered six and a third innings.  He walked one and struck out four.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches, seventy-two of which were strikes.  But he gave up seven runs on ten hits, including two home runs.  The first one was a two-run shot in the first.  The second one was a grand slam in the seventh, caused by three consecutive singles before the home run.  He made mistakes.  His knuckleball was off in the first and the seventh; in between it was on.  It’s a cantankerous pitch; it has a mind of its own.

Fortunately, we had scored so many runs by that point that, even with the grand slam, the Mariners were still losing.

We didn’t waste any time, either.  The Mariners picked up two in the top of the first; if it weren’t for Reddick, it may have been more.  With two out in the inning, Justin Smoak doubled and then Mike Carp singled.  The ball was hit hard, and Reddick got to it and fired home to end the inning.  The throw was timely and precise.  He’s going to be big.

We buried them in the bottom of the frame.  Ellsbury hit a double on his second pitch of the game and moved to third on a wild pitch.  After Pedroia flied out, Gonzalez singled to score Ellsbury, and he and Youk both came home when Youk hit a two-run shot of his own.  It was a letter-high inside fastball, and it landed in the very last row of the Monster seats.  Then Papi singled and Crawford doubled.  Reddick struck out swinging.  And a single by Salty brought in two more.  At the conclusion of the first inning of play, we were already up by two.

The Mariners scored a run in the top of the fifth; we buried them even more in the bottom of the fifth with another five-spot.  Pedroia led off the inning by grounding out.  Two singles and a walk later, the bases were loaded for Crawford, who singled in two.  Reddick then doubled in one.  And Salty singled in two more.  At that point, we were up by seven.

Wake ended the top of the sixth with his two thousandth strikeout in a Boston uniform.  It was excellent.  Mike Carp struck out on three straight knuckleballs.  Called strike, called strike, and foul tip.

Pedroia doubled to lead off the bottom of the frame and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  Then the grand slam in the top of the seventh.  Then two singles in the bottom of the inning, and Ellsbury brought in our twelfth and final run with another single.

Aceves took the ball from Wake for the rest of the game; he allowed a home run in the top of the ninth via a single followed by a double, but obviously that didn’t really do much.  We won, 12-8.

Over the course of the sweep, we scored twenty-three runs.  Wake’s next win will be his two hundredth.  Our lead over the Yankees in the division is growing.  We’ve scored at least ten runs in a game fourteen times this season.  That’s more than any other team in the Majors has done it, and it already ties our total from last season.  And the Royals are coming to town.  We got this.

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Mike Cameron was basically the only good thing that happened last night.  The rest of it was all bad.  It was all just really, really bad.

First, there was Dice-K.  Early in the game, his right elbow started to tighten up.  He went out to the mound, and he did not deliver a start similar to what he should us his last two outings.  He pitched to one batter in the fifth, failed to record an out, and was finally pulled.

So he only pitched four innings but threw eighty-two pitches.  He gave up three runs, only one earned (thank you, Lowrie and McDonald), on three hits.  He walked four.  He struck out four.  So as you can see, he was not on the way to pitching another fantastic outing.  He actually claims that he could have kept on pitching but that it was Tito’s decision to remove him.  A truly inspired decision, I might add.  He was officially pulled due to right elbow stiffness.

Albers came on and pitched two solid innings.  And then things started to get interesting.

Seattle scored two runs in the top of the first, but we got one back in the bottom of the second when Cameron walloped a home run on his first pitch of the night, an eighty-eight-mile-per-hour two-seam outside.  It was a home run right after Johnny Pesky’s own heart.  It wrapped right around that pole for a run.

McDonald led off the third with a walk, and Ellsbury grounded into a force out.  Pedroia flied out, Gonzalez singled, Ellsbury came home on a single by Youk, and Gonzalez came home on a single by Papi.

Cameron led off the fourth with another home run.  This one was on the third pitch of the at-bat, an eighty-mile-per-hour changeup down and away.  And there were no doubts about this one.  This one sailed all the way to the Monster seats.  So, note to opposing pitchers: do not throw pitches with speeds in the eighties range that are away to Mike Cameron.  This was his first multi-homer game since 2009.

So we scored four runs.  Those four runs were the only runs we would score.  We didn’t score a single run over the game’s last five innings.

This is the interesting part.  Jenks came on to pitch the seventh.  At that point, we were leading Seattle by one.  But Ichiro singled, Chone Figgins doubled, Milton Bradley struck out, and Suzuki scored on a groundout.  Justin Smoak walked.  Figgins scored on a double.  Adam Kennedy grounded out.  And that was it for Bobby Jenks.  Okajima and Bard did what they could to keep us in it after that.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  This is not a one time thing with Jenks.  Lately, every time he comes out, you know your lead is not safe.  I really hate to say this, but if he doesn’t do something soon, he’s going to become Eric Gagne, and we all know how that turned out.  In Jenks’s first ten games with us, his ERA is 8.64, opposing batters are hitting .324 against him, and he has allowed runs in four of his last six appearances.  All this after he was untouched in his first four appearances this season.  Now that is more than I can say for Gagne, so it’s just strange.  This is the longest struggle of his career.  Tito thinks it’s location, and I have to agree.  He doesn’t have a velocity or versatility problem.  He throws his pitches well.  He just doesn’t throw them precisely enough to hit his spots.  That’s a problem you can fix, which is a good sign, because to this day I have no idea what was going on with Gagne.

For a few seconds, it looked like Lowrie would come through in the ninth.  He hit what I was convinced was a home run until it turned out to be a fly ball because, as luck would have it, he hit it to the 420-foot mark, the deepest part of the park where the center fielder actually had room to corral it.  And them Cameron stepped up, and you know you were thinking that this could be the day he hits three.  So he hits one, and it’s sailing through the air, and you’re thinking that if this ball could just get out, we’ll get this thing in extra innings.  But no.  The ball ends up right in Ichiro’s glove.  Drew struck out looking to end it, 5-4.

So that was the first game of an eleven-game homestand.  Not really the type of opening, or should I say closing, you hope for.  We’ve lost three of our last four games and are now eleven and fourteen.  And we had Dice-K looking like Dice-K, Jenks looking like Jenks, and Drew looking like Drew when he struck out looking to end the 2008 ALCS.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Drew striking out looking the same way again.  Well, we have Lackey coming up.  My goal right now is just to get to .500.  That should not be that difficult.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Whoa.  I mean, just, whoa.  We sign John Lackey in the offseason partly because he has that formidable first-pitch strike.  We bring him here.  We expect lights-out.  That’s not necessarily what we get.  We chalk it up to first-season blues and patiently observe his improvement as the season goes on, trusting that next year will be even better.

And then a game like last night’s comes along and shows you what exactly it is you have to look forward to.

After Dice-K did something similar earlier this season, I was almost speechless because I was surprised.  But when a pitcher does it whom you know has it in him every single night, it’s not surprising.  But it is awe-inspiring.

John Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  Let me say that again: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth.  One more time: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth! It was insane! He was four outs away from closing the deal – only four outs! – when it happened.  Bard hit a single into right field with two outs in the eighth.  Technically, it wasn’t Lackey’s fault; he located the pitch were he wanted.  Bard just read it.  And there was no way a fielder was getting to that so the D had nothing to do with it.  Lackey pulled a Schilling, that’s all.  Minus the shake-off, of course.

So he tossed eight frames.  He gave up no earned runs on two hits, walked one, and struck out six.  Eighty of his 116 pitches were strikes.  That’s a sixty-nine percent strike rate.  That’s ridiculously high.  So obviously his strike zone was absolutely packed.  His fastball, cutter, slider, and curveball were all firing on all cylinders.  He had command of everything.  He threw at most twenty pitches in the fifth inning and at least ten in the eighth.  So it wasn’t the most economical no-hitter bid we’ve seen, but hey, a no-hitter bid is a no-hitter bid.  And the man was on the ball.  He was all over it.  He was commanding like a general.  He held the entire game in his hands, and he was mastering it.  He just couldn’t come out with it in the end.  Which is crushing, but the most important thing you can do in that situation is keep your cool.  I say this time and time again when we see no-hitter bids get spoiled: it’s so easy for the pitcher to unravel completely because of it that the other team goes on to win the ballgame.  We’ve taken advantage of that on several occasions.  Also, let me say it’s nice to not be on the receiving end of one of these.  The closest Lackey ever came to pitching a no-hitter was actually against us at home on July 29, 2008.  He was two outs away when Pedroia the Destroyah ruined everything.  It’s so much more fun to watch a power performance from Lackey and not be the victim of it.  That’s an understatement.

Anyway, Lackey did indeed keep his cool.  He finished the eighth inning and then left.  Meanwhile, we were leading, 6-1.  (That run had scored on a passed ball in the second and was therefore unearned.) We almost scored our first run in the first, when Papi hit what everyone thought was a home run.  Ichiro, of course, had other plans and managed to snag it as a fly ball with a leaping catch.  In classic Papi style, Ortiz had this to say:

Next time, I’ll make sure I hit into the upper deck. He won’t get that.

We finally got on the board two innings later.  In the third, following a very hard-hit ball by Cameron, Hall jacked one out of the park to send himself and Cameron home.  The ball went into the bullpen on a changeup away.  Papi followed it with an RBI single.  In the sixth, Drew jacked one out of the park for another two runs; two of his now twelve homers have come against southpaws.  In seventh, Scutaro homered himself in behind the scoreboard on an inside fastball.

So through eight and a half innings, we were riding high.  Then the bottom of the ninth hit, and it all unraveled.  So, to review, it wasn’t Lackey who had a meltdown.  It was Delcarmen.

Delcarmen came in and allowed four runs, three earned, on two hits without recording an out, mostly via Paps and inherited runners, but we’ll get to that.  There was a two-run homer on a fastball down the middle, a walk, and a failure by Scutaro to handle a ground ball.  So all of a sudden, we went from an assured win to a save opportunity.  No day off for Paps.  He came in.  And he blew it.

He struck out Smoak to start things off.  But then he gave up an RBI single and a walk to load the bases.  Then another ground ball came Scutaro’s way; he threw to second for the force out, but Hall’s throw ended up being an error that scored two to tie the game.  If it’s any consolation, the runner would have been safe even if the throw were on target, but still.

Paps got a blown save, and most deservedly so.  It was an incredibly ugly half-inning.  He ruined everything.  He gave Seattle a tie.  A tie! After Lackey’s no-hitter bid, we found ourselves tied? That is so wrong.

Paps was duly removed after finishing the inning, and Bard came in.  So no day off for him either.  He held the fort.  Okajima pitched two innings, but it wasn’t easy.  He had the bases loaded with one out in the twelfth but managed to neutralize the threat.  Ramirez pitched one inning.  And that was the end of the night for the pitching staff.

Paps got a blown save.  Ramirez got the save.  But what hurt most of all is that Lackey had to accept a no-decision for an obviously winning performance.  It was Okajima who picked up the win.  That stung.  That really stung.

Meanwhile, the offense got to work.  We didn’t do much until the top of the thirteenth.  Youk singled up the middle.  Beltre would’ve sent everyone home with a two-run shot if it stayed fair.  Cameron walked to put Youk in scoring position.  And Patterson, who was only playing because he pinch-hit two innings before, after a steady diet of breaking balls, with two outs and one strike away from being the third, sent a curveball into left-center field for a double.  Youk and Cameron both came around.  The final score was 8-6.

Wake will move to the bullpen to make room for Beckett.  Hermida will start against righties.

So, ultimately, we won.  It was an incredibly ugly and roundabout way to win, but it was a win nonetheless.  That game pretty much summed up our entire season: it was a wild fluctuation.  We started out with so much potential, which we squandered and had to fight for our lives, but then we came out on top.  Resilience.  It’s so much easier to roll over and take a loss with a ninth inning like that than it is to absolutely refuse to go down.  We went from a no-hitter to a win with a whole lot of complications in between, but we can be proud of it anyway.  What a game.  That was indeed a real triumph.

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