Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Athletics’

Lester has started opposite the Orioles seventeen times in his career.  He remains undefeated.  14-0 with a 2.33 ERA, and as a team we are sixteen and one in those seventeen games.  That’s the longest ongoing streak by any pitcher against any team.  Tom Brewer was our last pitcher to win fourteen consecutive starts against one team.  He did it from 1954 through 1957 against the Athletics, both the Philadelphia and Kansas City varieties.  (To clarify, that was the same team.  They just moved around a bit before finally settling in Oakland.)

So you obviously know that he picked up the win.  He fired eight solid innings to do it.  He gave up two runs on four hits.  He walked three and struck out five.  The only complaint I would have with his outing is that he should be lower on walks and higher on strikeouts.  But again, if that’s the extent of his April badness this year, I will most definitely take it.  Besides, he threw 108 pitches total across eight innings, and he only walked three, so it’s not like he was being inefficient.  He just recorded outs through other means, that’s all.

Sixty-four of his pitches were strikes.  His most effective pitch by far was his changeup.  All but two of his changeups were strikes.  His curveball and sinker were also working, but he’s still looking for that extra life on his cut fastball.  It hasn’t been as effective as it’s going to be soon, I suspect.  He doesn’t have a velocity problem; he got it up to ninety-four.  It’s just a movement issue.  His cut fastball is his everything pitch.  It’s his pitch to start at-bats and end at-bats.  It’s his pitch to get out of jams and just generally display mastery.  That’s not to say he isn’t versatile.  That’s only to say that it’s understandable that, although his outings lately have been great by anyone’s standards, they haven’t been truly great by our standards because we know what he’s capable of doing at his best.  When your signature pitch isn’t quite right, neither is your outing, for one reason or another.

He threw twenty-one pitches in the first.  He gave up a walk and two consecutive singles that inning to allow his first run.  but he settled down after that.  He only threw nine in the fifth.  The other run was scored via the homer; Vladimir Guerrero hit a ninety-one mile-per-hour cut fastball out.  (We’ve known this for a while, but I’d just like to specifically point out that Vladimir Guerrero is now playing for the Orioles.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.) Paps came on for the ninth and did a fine job.  No save necessary.

The final score was 6-2.  Six runs is a pretty low total for a team that racked up thirteen hits to the opposition’s four and that recorded four multi-hit games: Ellsbury and Gonzalez both went three for five, and Pedroia and Papi both went two for five.  One explanation might be that only four of our thirteen hits were for extra bases, and they were all doubles.  Gonzalez hit two of them, so he clearly had a great night.  And two were hit in the first inning; Ellsbury led off the game with a double, and after Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez doubled him home.  There was a similar outcome in the third; Ellsbury singled, and after Pedroia grounded out, Gonzalez singled him home.  Crawford led off the seventh with a double and came home on a single by Pedroia.

And then we got busy in the eighth.  Youk led off the inning with a walk.  Papi singled.  Cameron pinch-hit for Drew and walked.  Youk came around on a single by Salty.  Two outs later, Ellsbury brought home Papi and Cameron on a single.

We left nine men on base and went five for sixteen with runners in scoring position.  Nobody hit his way past second base.  But we manufactured runs when we needed to and won with a four-run lead.  When you play the Orioles, you just expect to score more.  Then again, when you play the Orioles, you don’t expect to lose the series, but at least we weren’t swept.  And at least we’re no longer in last place.  The Orioles are now in last place.  We’re in second-to-last place.  But at least we’re moving up.  And Youk left the game in the bottom of the eighth with a sore left hip.  At least he stayed in the game for as long as he could; he jammed his hip on a slide into first base in the first inning.  Luckily, all signs point to his return tonight, when we go home to host the Mariners.

AP Photo

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The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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