Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City’

Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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That was completely different from what was in my head when I pictured Lackey’s debut in a Boston uniform against the Yankees.  Completely different.  Because his debut, which was everything we expected it to be, was rewarded with a no-decision.  Not a win.  He was an Angel, and one good thing I can say about the Angels despite last October is that, historically, they’ve had New York’s number in just about every facet of the game.  And Lackey was a part of that, so between that, the first-pitch strike, the atmosphere which was perfect for someone who thrives on the pressure of competition, he had this locked.

He threw exactly one hundred pitches, which carried him through the sixth inning.  Fifty-eight of those hundred pitches were strikes, and only five were swinging strikes.  So New York had no idea what to do with him.  He threw basically the same number of four-seams as he did curveballs and cutters, and all three of them were thrown for roughly the same number of strikes, with the four-seam being a little less successful than the curve and cutter.  He allowed no runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts over his six innings.  All in all, I’d say had New York’s number all the way through.  Six shutout innings is no accident.  He owned New York.  His first pitch in a Boston uniform may have been a ball, but his first-pitch strike was on.  He thrived on the atmosphere.  He had it locked.  He was spectacular.  It was a sight.  And let me tell you something: if he pitches like this throughout the season, we’re set, no questions asked.

One other thing about Lackey: he works exceptionally fast.  We got through nine innings in less than three hours.  For a Sox-Yanks game, that’s warp-speed.

So where did the loss come from? What went wrong? The bullpen.  The theme of this series is officially that all of our strengths heading into the season failed.

In the bottom of the third, Pettitte gave Pedroia something in the inside of the strike zone, so naturally Pedroia sent it deep down the left field line, with his usual throwing his whole weight into the swing.  Then Papi came up to the plate, and over the course of his at-bat he gives a swing and a miss.  While all the sports writers across New England were focusing on the miss, I’d tell you to focus on the swing.  All of his power was behind that swing, and with a hitter as good as Papi has been throughout his career, if he’s still got his power, it’s only a matter of time before he starts hitting.  Sure enough, a few pitches later, he plated Pedroia.

Lackey held the score at 1-0 until he left.  Enter Schoeneweis and a tie game.  Schoeneweis leaves; enter Bard, who earns a blown save by letting the game tie (Swisher punched a changeup through the hole in right, and V-Mart couldn’t hold Drew’s throw), followed by Papelbon, who earns a loss, followed by Atchison.  The game went into the tenth.  Papelbon allowed a home run (who leaves a belt-high fastball right over the middle of the plate?) and a fielder’s choice.  Papelbon.  Brought back painful memories of October.  He’s positive about it so we know his confidence isn’t shaken, but ours is.  The one thing Red Sox Nation needed at the start of this season was a positive performance from him for a few games.  We didn’t get it, because that was the third contest of 2010, and already he has a loss to his credit.  The loss of this series is on him.  But at the same time, let’s not get carried away.  A solo home run is not two runs on three hits, for example; it indicates one mistake.  Just one.  Let’s see how he does next time.

Still, not what I envisioned to the start of his season, and not what I envisioned for Lackey’s debut.  I never thought Lackey’s efforts would be rewarded with a no-decision.  A win, sure, but not a no-decision.

So Pedroia and Cameron both doubled, and Papi batted in the only Red Sox run of the night.  As far as the defense is concerned, thankfully we didn’t commit any errors.  In the top of the third, Beltre missed a possible out; Jeter was running to first, and Beltre could only make the throw if he barehanded the ball.  Fine, I’ll grant that Jeter probably would’ve beat it out, but that’s not the point.  Beltre failed to barehand the ball, and that was my problem.  A third baseman of his caliber should make that play.  I guess that’s what the first week of the season is for, although I’d have preferred that not have happened against New York.  Although perhaps the throw would’ve been high and Jeter would’ve been able to advance, so maybe it’s a good thing.  You never know.  And Drew made a nifty catch in the sixth; he chased down a ball and caught it without batting an eyelash.  Seems routine, but consider the amount of territory he has to cover out there, and consider the unique challenges presented by Fenway’s right field.  Everyone’s so busy harping on the fact that his offense doesn’t measure up to his contract, but his fielding skills are pretty underrated.  Besides, heading into last night, he’s hit .361 against Pettitte with three homers.  Not that that was evident at the plate but still.

And now let’s talk about the hit batsmen.  Pettitte hit Youk in the helmet in the fifth inning.  That’s epically not okay.  That ball is traveling goodness knows how fast, and you hit someone in the head with it? You could kill someone that way! To be fair, I don’t think Pettitte was actually concertedly trying to hit him, but it was still very unsettling.  Lackey then hit Jeter in the elbow in the next inning.  The home umpire warned both benches.  Although Lackey said he wasn’t trying to hit Jeter either, and I believe him.  It was a one-run game against the Yankees; Lackey wasn’t born yesterday.  It was just a weird couple of incidents.

We welcome Jimmy Piersall, Tommy Harper, and Don Zimmer to the Red Sox Hall of Fame.  The J. Geils Band and Aerosmith will share a bill for a concert at Fenway in August; should be awesome.

So the first series of the season is officially over, and we lost it.  To New York.  Again, most definitely not what I had in mind.  But you can’t afford to read into it much since it’s too early to tell which negatives are there to stay and which are just temporary.  Moving forward, we’re taking a road trip to the Midwest; Wake pitches in Kansas City tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to that.  Wake’s still got it, and Kansas City doesn’t, so it should be a good opportunity to score some runs and get a win.  After that it’s Buchholz, and the starters will have completed one rotation and the first week of the season.  Folks, we’re underway!

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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That’s a hard loss for Penny to swallow, but hey, you make two mistakes, and even the guys on a bad team will make you pay.  A solo home run for Chipper Jones with two out in the first, followed by a solo home run for Garret Anderson the lead off the fourth, and that was all Atlanta needed.  Varitek went two for three and did manage to plate Youk in the ninth, but the final score stayed at 2-1.  Penny pitched six solid innings with no walks and two strikeouts, but if you get the outs, you get the outs, no matter how you get the outs.  And Penny just seems to get better and better as the season goes on.  He did have a control issue when he hit Francoeur in the helmet.  Yeah.  In the helmet.  But everyone, including Francoeur knew it wasn’t intentional.  He’d fallen down but got right back up with a little help from Varitek and stayed in the game.  He’s fine.

Saito and Bard pitched well in the seventh and eighth.  As far as the offensive spread is concerned, the only other guys who made constructive contact at all were Youk and Papi, who each had a hit.  Youk fouled a pitch off his shin, which kills.  Trust me.  He spent a few minutes walking it off and stayed in the game.  Papi made a fielding error, but we’ll forgive him citing inexperience at first.  This was the last Interleague weekend of the season, so he’ll be back to DHing tonight in Baltimore.  He’s been putting up great numbers lately, too.  Since June 6, he’s batting around .335 with seven home runs.  It’s not only that; he’s also been working deep counts, something he hadn’t been doing during his slump.  I’m telling you, it’s so refreshing to see him get back to his old self again.

Mikey Lowell’s still out, and he’ll be receiving an injection in his right hip to lubricate the joint.  For some guys, it works wonders; for others, it doesn’t do much and extra steps are necessary.  But it’ll probably help Lowell, because he’s not injured.  It just hurts.  John Henry got married on Saturday.  Congratulations! The event was packed with notables, everyone from Larry David to Carl Edwards.  The ceremony was held on his yacht, the”Iroquois,” with the reception at Fenway Park.  Now there’s a venue.  I don’t care what the occasion is; how awesome would it be to host an event at Fenway.

And so concludes another exciting Interleague.  We’ve put together a record of 11 and 7 over those eighteen games.  Could’ve done better, but not too shabby in the least.  Dustin Pedroia tore it up as usual.  But, again, a bad National League team barely avoids a sweep by the American League’s best.  I don’t really know how that happens.  First Washington, now Atlanta.  We could’ve won those third games easily.  But hey, you win some, you lose some, as they say.  And it would just be that easy to walk it off except that now our lead over the Yanks is down to three games.  I much preferred it when it was five.  But we’ll increase it.  We continue with our great schedule: three games in Baltimore, then we come home to face Seattle, followed by Oakland and Kansas City.  Not bad.  Lester at Jason Berken.  And don’t look now, but we’re gaining on the Dodgers for best record in the league.  They’re at .632, we’re at .613.  A few wins here, a few losses there, and we’ll be on top.

AP Photo

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