Posts Tagged ‘Kendry Morales’

We did indeed split the series.  We split the series with a final game that reminded the Royals of who they are, who we are, and the fact that teams like ours don’t make a habit of losing to teams like theirs.  That’s pretty harsh, but it’s tough to sugarcoat an 8-1 beating.  What I just said with words, the team said with bats yesterday.  That’s the kind of score you expect when we take on the Royals.

And now for the compulsory but true statement of the fact that, whenever Lester pitches for the Royals, Red Sox Nation remembers one thing and one thing only: his no-hitter.  What a game.

Lester was right on.  Seven solid innings of one-run ball with four hits, four walks, and five K’s.  That would be his sixth straight win and the seventh time in his last eight starts that he’s allowed two or less earned runs.  Believe it or not, he did all of that without having his best stuff, as he said.  That’s indicated by considering the four walks and five K’s together; separately, they’re not bad numbers, but he usually throws less walks and more strikes, so there were obviously times that he tried but failed to locate, which resulted in minor inefficiency.  However, clearly this wasn’t a big deal; he tossed seven, high quality frames with a respectable pitch total.  The only thing it does is beg the question of how deep he would’ve been able to go had he relinquished less free passes in favor of more trips back to the dugout.

He worked that cut fastball up in speed, topping out at about ninety-six miles per hour.  He didn’t throw them for strikes as often as usual, but all but two of his other pitches made up for that.  His changeup and sinker were thrown perfectly.  But his slider and curveball weren’t so hot.  He threw a total of almost fifty pitches in the second and third innings but noticeably improved as the game progressed, needing only seven to get through the fifth.  He stayed away from below and the bottom half of the right of the strike zone but used the whole zone for strikes.  And when I say the whole zone, I mean the whole zone.  When he did locate pitches, you better believe he located pitches.  A pitcher who uses the entire strike zone is like a batter who hits to all fields; he can throw anywhere and still get his K.

Fortunately, I can not say the same for Bruce Chen.  That was his first start for the Royals, and he left after four innings.  I’d say that was a good meeting between him and the Sox, wouldn’t you? Not to mention the fact that our bats got pretty well acquainted with their bullpen after his exit.  Our bullpen had better luck; Delcarmen and Nelson pitched two solid frames.

And now for the eight runs, which we scored with the help of twice as many hits as Kansas City, who scored their run in the top of the second.  But in the third, Cameron walked, Scutaro doubled, and Papi hit a sac fly that brought Cameron home.

In the fifth, Hall singled, Cameron doubled, Scutaro hit a fielder’s choice grounder to the pitcher to score Hall, and then we have Papi’s absolutely massive swing that resulted in a two-run blast of a home run to center field.  If you want to talk about the return of swagger in this team, that conversation starts and ends with David Ortiz.  This month we have witnessed the complete return of not just David Ortiz but Big Papi as well.  For example, and this is perfect, before the game he talked to a friend in the stands:

I said, ‘What are you doing here today?’ He said, ‘Just waiting for you to go deep.’ So I said, ‘Alright, coming up.’

Nuff ced.

In the sixth, with two out, Tek singled, Hall singled, Cameron smacked a double off the Monster to score both of them, and Scutaro singled to score him.

In the eighth, Tek let loose a homer into the Monster seats.

So as you can see, the eight runs were really a team effort.  Everyone contributed.  The bottom third of the lineup especially did its part, going seven for eleven with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs, and five runs.  When you have the bottom of the lineup step up like that, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of it and lets the guys who usually do the offensive work relax a bit and swing easy.  For Mike Cameron, yesterday’s game was huge.  He went two for three with two doubles and two RBIs for his best performance in a Boston uniform.  Those were his first two RBIs in a Boston uniform; the last Sox player to have a streak longer than Cameron’s fifteen games with no RBIs was Ivan Calderon with seventeen games in 1993.  Also, the fact that he came up with that performance in a day game he started after a night game confirms his recovery from his injury.

Dustin Pedroia got the day off yesterday for the second time in two weeks.  He’s very quietly going through one of the worst slumps of his career.  In his last thirty-seven at-bats, he’s managed just five hits, three of which were in one game.  While May has brought a change for the better in everyone else, May has brought a change for the worse in Pedroia, who’s batted .213 with two homers and seven RBIs in that month.  Despite posting a .302 career average, he’s batting .255 on this season.  One thing we can say about Pedroia that’s not always true of other slumping position players is that he’s played an integral role in several victories through his defensive valor in the field.  So he obviously needs the mental break, which couldn’t have come at a better time because we have the day off tomorrow.  He’s too good not to snap out of it soon.

In other news, Kendry Morales fractured his lower leg while celebrating his walkoff home run.  That’s morbidly ironic.

Let’s take a look back at the month of May, shall we? We began it by getting swept by the Orioles, the worst team in baseball, in Baltimore.  But then May got underway, and since we have a day off today, we now finish the month with an eighteen and eleven record in that time.  We’re ten and four during our last fourteen games.  We’ve either won or split each of our last five series.  We’re twenty-nine and twenty-three overall and five and a half games out of first place.  Of course, a recap of the month of May wouldn’t be complete without delving further into the improvements of the two guys who made the contrast so clear: Jon Lester and David Ortiz.  For his part, Jon Lester finished April with a record of one and two and an ERA of 4.71.  He is now six and two with an ERA of 2.97, and anytime you have a starter with an ERA below 3.00, it’s a reason to be happy.  Big Papi batted .143 with one home run and four RBIs in April; he batted .363 with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs in May, his first ten-dinger month since August 2006, a season during which he hit fifty-four of them total.

Now, onward and upward to June, when we look to build on our stellar May performance, starting with Lackey (pun intended) on Tuesday night when the A’s come to town.  Here’s to being bigger and better!

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Clay Buchholz pitched a gem.  There was nothing more we could’ve asked for from our third starter.  He’s twenty-five years old.  He’d never made a postseason start in his life.  He came off a bad year, spent the beginning of this season in Triple-A, and was only able to officially join the rotation because the starting depth we started the season with didn’t last.  John Smoltz failed, Brad Penny struggled, Tim Wakefield started having health issues, Dice-K had to complete Spring Training in the middle of the season.  But Clay Buchholz earned a spot in our rotation, and he earned yesterday’s postseason start.  And he made the most of it.  Two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.  He pitched to three batters in the sixth before leaving the bases loaded for Daniel Bard, but there were too many things right with his outing to let that spoil it in retrospect.

Buchholz showed maturity and composure beyond his years.  He didn’t think too much; John Farrell and Jason Varitek sat down with Victor Martinez before the game and laid out a game plan, and Buchholz just trusted his batterymate and executed.  And when I say executed, I mean executed.  He had excellent movement on all of his pitches.  He threw with conviction.  At ninety-five pitches, his efficiency was decent.  A solo shot by Kendry Morales was his only blemish until he balked and Bard let one of his inherited runners score.  Although we were lucky it was only one; Bard induced a double play and then quickly got out of the inning.  It could have been much worse, and that speaks to Bard’s potential.  But that balk was the only time during his start that he showed his age.  The baserunners rattled him a bit, and he became distracted.  But that was one valiant effort, and one we can be proud of.

Wagner allowed two runs.  The irony is that one of the reasons he decided to come to Boston was to earn a World Series ring, and he sure didn’t help his team’s cause with that performance.  He only recorded two outs.

I was thoroughly convinced that we were going to win this game.  I thought we had this one locked.  Why? Because we looked like ourselves.  We felt like ourselves.  Without the consistent first-pitch strike, our hitters were able to be patient at the plate, to take pitches, to wear the pitcher out, to work counts, and to hit the ball.  Ellsbury had the first hit of the game (and yet another sparkling diving catch), and Pedroia, the team’s emotional leader, batted in our first two runs with a double.  V-Mart singled in Pedroia to complete a three-run third.  Drew clobbered a two-run home run to center field that made me think of his grand slam in October 2007.  So we had a four-run lead, we had momentum, we had the shadows and quirks of Fenway Park, which was all part of what made it so brutal.  And we tacked on an insurance run in the eighth; Ortiz had his first, and soon to be only, hit of the series and was replaced by pinch-runner Joey Gathright, who promptly stole second and scored on a single by Lowell.  And that run came in handy after Wagner’s mess of an appearance.

Which brings me to our closer.  A Mr. Jonathan Papelbon.  If you thought Wagner’s appearance was a mess, if you thought Papelbon’s work during the regular season was shoddy, if you thought his unusually high amount of walks would get him in trouble, then yesterday’s outing officially vindicated you.  Jonathan Papelbon lost this game for us.  I mean, you can make the argument that if the lineup scored ten runs, we wouldn’t have had to worry about our pitching, but you can never expect any lineup to score ten runs in the postseason because theoretically you’re up against the league’s best pitching.

Papelbon, after not having allowed a run in twenty-six posteason innings (the equivalent of almost three complete games!), allowed three.  On four hits.  And two walks.  No strikeouts.  He threw thirty-two pitches and was one strike away from securing the win three different times.  He ended the eighth with a pickoff, so with two out and bases empty in the ninth, Red Sox Nation and I were feeling good.  We were thinking, “Paps is the master.  This game is over.” Apparently, Paps never got that memo.  Erick Aybar stroked a single up the middle.  Chone Figgins, who we managed to contain up until that point, about which we were very happy because of his speed on the basepaths, walked.  Bobby Abreu singled in a run, shrinking our lead to one.  Then we walked Torii Hunter intentionally to load the bases.  Then Vladimir Guerrero singled in two.  After batting in only one run in his previous nineteen postseason games, he had to deliver in the top of the ninth at Fenway Park in elimination Game Three of the 2009 ALDS.

Okajima pitched the last out.  So Buchholz got a no-decision, Bard and Wagner each got holds, and Papelbon got a blown save and a loss.  He deserves it.  That’s the understatement of the century.

The final score was 7-6.  We are now thirteen and four in elimination games under Terry Francona.

We looked primed for Game Four.  We even had Dave Henderson throw out the ceremonial first pitch for good luck.  No one can forget his spin-jump on the way to first after he hit that epic two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game Five of the 1986 ALCS.  Against, you guessed it, the Angels.  We were set.  We were back at home, our young stud was well on his way to his first-ever postseason victory, we were finally hitting, and we had a game plan: put Dice-K in the bullpen, bring Jon Lester back on short rest, force a Game Five, win that, win the ALCS, and sweep in the World Series, as usual.

That didn’t happen.  The dream is over.  Baseball season is over.  The postseason, which only lasted three games, is over.  In an ALDS performance that nobody, least of all Red Sox Nation, anticipated, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim swept us.  We were completely silenced during our first two games, and just when we started to get back into our groove, our closer, the rock of our bullpen, pulled the entire month of October out from under us.  Words can not adequately express the anger and frustration I currently feel toward Jonathan Papelbon.  Seriously.  This is like JD Drew striking out looking in Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, but worse, because we never had a chance to put up the kind of fight we knew we could.  We barely even got started.  Before the game, Dustin Pedroia echoed in the clubhouse what each and every member of Red Sox Nation said all weekend: we’re not ready for the season to end.

I completely agreed with Jerry Remy; I too thought this team had the stuff to go all the way.  Instead, we didn’t even make it past the first round.  As always, it’s been a great ride.  There were injuries, hitting streaks, brawls, comebacks, walk-offs, extra-inning losses, struggles, trades, promotions, demotions, slumps, saves, shutouts, slugfests, dives, slides, steals; you name it, we did it at least once and often multiple times.  But it didn’t happen for us this year.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I still can’t quite believe it.  But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as Red Sox fans, it’s the wholehearted belief in next year.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

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