Posts Tagged ‘Lansdowne Street’

I have to admit that I was hoping for another crush.  It’s always fun to wipe the field with the opposition during the home opener.  But that didn’t happen yesterday.  It was a pitcher’s duel for most of it, but fortunately, with a little help from some timely production, Buchholz held his own.  We still walked away with the win, and it was still a great day.  There’s always something that feels so right when the home opener rolls around.  It’s like the whole ballpark wakes up after a long, cold hiatus.  Baseball is finally back in Boston!

Buchholz had himself yet another masterful start.  Like Lester, Buchholz also pitched a full seven shutout innings.  And he only allowed three hits, all singles.  He walked four and struck out eight.  His fastball and curveball were truly fantastic, and his cutter and changeup added some variety.  He kept the hitters guessing throughout his start; you could tell that they were never able to get too comfortable.

His fifth pitch of the game was hit for a single.  And he began the second inning by issuing a four-pitch walk but ended it with two four-pitch strikeouts.  He gave up two singles in the third but bookended those with called strikeouts.  He had a one-two-three third despite a seven-pitch walk.  He issued a strikeout and a walk in the sixth, and had a one-two-three seventh that ended with a called K.  He opened the seventh with a nine-pitch walk but racked up two strikeouts that inning.

He could have been more efficient; some of his walks and other at-bats really dragged on.  He threw 113 pitches; the third and seventh, during which he threw twenty-four and twenty-three pitches, respectively, were particularly arduous.  But his other innings were reasonable, and all in all I’d say that there is more to smile about than criticize.  From a pitching standpoint, we had a great home opener.  Bailey received a hold for his impeccable eighth.  Even Hanrahan, who gave up a solo shot in the ninth, picked up a save.  Allowing runs in the ninth inning is obviously a red flag, since his entire job basically consists of preventing that from happening.  We got lucky this time because we had enough of a lead to absorb it, but naturally there will be occasions when that isn’t the case and we won’t be able to offset late damage.  So it’s important that he not be as porous as this very often, or at all.

Anyway, as I said, the game was a pitcher’s duel, and through six and a half, it was anyone’s guess who would score first.  We went down one-two-three in the first, and Nava’s five-pitch walk was our only highlight of the second.  The third was particularly painful to watch; three went up and three went down, all on flyouts and after only eight pitches.

It looked like we might score in the fourth, which Victorino led off with a single.  But he was caught stealing.  Pedroia kept our hopes alive with a walk, but Napoli grounded into a double play to end the frame.  Nava singled in the fifth, but to no avail.  We went down one-two-three again in the sixth.

The whole game was decided in the seventh.  Pedroia led it off with a single on the third pitch of the frame.  Napoli followed that with a double.  Middlebrooks then struck out, and then it was Nava’s turn.  He received three four-seam fastballs, all within about one or two miles per hour of each other.  He took the first one for a ball.  He fouled off the second.  And the third ended up beyond the Monster for a homer! Specifically, the ball ended up in a garbage receptacle on Lansdowne Street, ironically enough.  It was Nava’s second homer in two days and our ninth straight home opener win.  Not even the shadows made a difference in the end.  One swing.  Three runs.  3-1.  Game over.  Welcome back.

In other news, the Bruins crushed the Canes, 6-2.

Reuters Photo

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Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  I would say that I don’t even know where to start, but the truth is that I’m going to start where it’s obviously proper to start: Jon Lester.  This, unequivocally, was one of Jon Lester’s best-pitched games all year so far.  The start to this season has taught us that, as go our starters, so goes the team, and the team went with Lester and gave him everything he needed: good fielding and good hitting.  Absolutely nothing went wrong yesterday.  It was amazing.

Anyway, let’s get back to Lester, the undisputed man of the hour.  Lester went the distance.  You read right.  He pitched a complete game.  His nine-inning effort required only 119 pitches, seventy-three of which were strikes.  He posted a total of six K’s and walked absolutely nobody.  He gave up eight hits and only one run.

He went one-two-three in the first, second, third, fifth, and eighth.  He gave up one single in the fourth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh.  He was two outs away from a complete shutout performance, but besides that first out in the ninth, he had given up a single and a double, and a run scored on a groundout.

Let’s go through the six strikeouts, just because it’s fun and Lester is awesome.  His first one sent down the first batter he faced; it lasted five pitches and ended with a fastball.  His second occurred in the second inning, was three pitches, and ended with a curveball.  His third occurred in the third, was five pitches, and ended with a sinker.  His fourth occurred in the eighth, was three pitches, and ended with a changeup.  And his last two occurred in the ninth; the first was four pitches and ended with a curveball, and the second was six pitches and ended with a fastball.  Of the six strikeouts, all but one were swing-and-misses, the one being a foul tip.

While we’re at it, let’s break down his other outs as well.  Ten were groundouts, six were popups, three were flyouts, and there was one double play.

And last but not least, let’s break down his pitches.  He used an exceptionally deadly cut fastball as well as a remarkably effective curveball, changeup, and sinker.  He mixed his pitches expertly and changed speeds rapidly and fluidly.  Obviously he was also efficient: he threw fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second (all but one of which were strikes), ten in the third, fifteen in the fourth, seven in the fifth, eleven in the sixth, twenty-one in the seventh, ten in the eighth, and twenty-two in the ninth.  He was so on, and his stuff looked so good, and his pitches were so sharp and so precise in their location, movement, and execution that I knew he was going to do something big tonight.  Most of the time, something big for Lester would be a no-hitter, which we’ve seen, or something on that level.  With the way this team’s been playing, something big was a complete game that we won in and of itself; just because he gave up eight hits and one run should not diminish take away from the fact that it was still a big accomplishment and one of the best efforts we’ve seen from him.  (It was Ichiro Suzuki, obviously, who ended any possibility of a no-hitter with two out in the fourth; the ball came back to Lester and bounced off his glove, ironically enough.) Actually, if Lester had been able to preserve the shutout, it would have been his first complete-game shutout since his no-no on May 19, 2008.  Lester is the only member of the staff to have thrown a complete game this year; his first was an eight-inning effort that resulted in a loss.

Thus, while it is true that he did average almost one hit per inning, he managed to do so without allowing the Mariners to cause any damage by capitalizing on any of them.  If they allowed a hit, with limited exceptions they failed to build on it.  If they built on it, with one exception they failed to convert the potential rally.  In short, Lester was phenomenally stellar.

And now for the offense, since without it it’s possible that we would have lost by a final score of 1-0 even with Lester’s best efforts.  (Seriously, coming into yesterday’s game he was the least supported of all our starters.) In the first, Pedroia walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a double by Gonzalez.  Ross opened the fourth with a single, and then Nava smacked a two-run jack on the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball pretty much right down the pipe, into the first row of the Monster seats, and he did it from the right side.  It was the second home run of his career and the first since his first-ever-Major-League-at-bat grand slam in 2010.  One out later, Shoppach got in on the home-run action with a jack of his own completely over the Green Monster into Lansdowne Street, this one on a changeup that remained up.  It was actually the first home run of his career.  We scored our last run in the eighth; after Gonzalez flied out to start things off, Middlebrooks singled, Ross doubled, Nava walked intentionally to load the bases, and all Byrd could muster was a sac fly that scored one.  Shoppach then grounded out to end the threat, but all in all it was enough.

We won, 6-1.  Five our nine hits were for extra bases.  Ross and Shoppach each went two for four.  The only members of the lineup who went hitless were Aviles and Pedroia, although Pedroia did work one of the team’s four walks.  But in addition to the fact that we had good offense and good fielding and good pitching was the fact that the team looked like it won as a team.  Lately, during the past few games, we’ve either won as a team or lost as a team, and no matter what the outcome, that’s really the way you want to play.  I just hope it lasts this time.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Don’t look now, but we just won again! I can hardly believe it.  You know it’s gotten pathetic when you can’t believe you’ve won two games in a row at home, but that’s what it’s come to.  It’s a step forward in the right direction.  Let’s just be happy about this one.

Doubront pitched six top-notch innings.  He allowed only one run on only three hits, which means that all but one of his innings were shutout innings, while walking only two and striking out five.  He threw 109 pitches, so he still has his fair share of work to do regarding efficiency; not only does it make him tired earlier, thereby shortening his start, but it also gives the opposition a longer look at his stuff, and in throwing more of it, he gives the opposition more opportunities to use that knowledge to capitalize on any mistake he may make.  So improving efficiency isn’t only about lengthening starts; it’s about lengthening and improving starts simultaneously, and at the rate our starters are going, we could really use improvements.

Good fastball, good curveball, good cutter.  His changeup could use some work; he only threw about a third of them for strikes, so it’s lucky he didn’t rely on them and only threw about a handful.  His best pitch for strikes was his fastball, specifically his four-seam, which he got up to ninety-four miles per hour.  Doubront faced the minimum in the first, second, and fourth.  He gave up one of his walks in the third, and he gave up the other in the fifth.  He gave up his run in the sixth, which he opened by giving up a double followed by a groundout and an RBI single.

By the time the Tribe scored its first run, we had already scored three.  Aviles began the third with a single; after Sweeney’s lineout, Aviles scored on a double by Pedroia, who scored on a double by Papi.   Nava opened the next inning with a single; after Ross’s lineout, Salty doubled him to third, and he scored on a sac fly by Aviles.

Not only did we establish a lead prior to the Tribes’ run, but we also had an answer for it, and by “we” I mean Ross and by “answer” I mean a beast of a solo shot on a middle-in fastball out of the park.  And by “out of the park,” I mean literally out of the park.  It didn’t stay in the park.  It cleared the Green Monster, billboards and all.  It emphatically landed in Lansdowne Street.

After that, both teams sent only the minimum to the plate in each half-inning until the game ended.  The bullpen turned in a solid performance to match Doubront’s; Miller, Padilla, and Aceves pitched one inning each for a total of three no-hit innings.  Miller, who appeared in his third straight game, and Padilla each received holds, while Aceves recorded his seventh save.

So the final score was 4-1.  We posted eight hits to their three; half of our hits were for extra bases, while only one of their hits was.  We had twice as many opportunities with runners in scoring position as they did, and although each team only took advantage of one of those each, for us it was enough.  There were two multi-hit performances, one by Pedroia who doubled and one by Nava.  Pedroia, by the way, is quietly but certainly having himself a thirteen-game hitting streak, the longest ongoing streak in the Major Leagues.  Sweeney, Gonzalez, and Middlebrooks all went hitless, and not one of our hitters walked during the entire game.  Still, the staff turned in an all-around solid effort and, given that, the run support that was provided was enough.

AP Photo

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Whoever was concerned that it took us thirteen innings just to lose a ballgame need fear no more.  Yesterday, the team showed us that it does not, in fact, need thirteen innings just to lose a ballgame.

The team needs seventeen.

You read right.  We played a seventeen-inning game yesterday that we eventually lost.  Think about that.  That’s basically like playing two baseball games in a row, like a doubleheader without a break in between, except that it’s only one game that you’re trying to hang on to by the skin of your teeth.  The whole thing lasted six hours and seven minutes.  It was the longest game we played since 2006.

So it was demoralizing enough that we couldn’t get the job done ourselves, that both our starter and our offense delivered performances sufficiently mediocre so as to put us in a situation that the game wasn’t won by the time nine innings ended.  And it was bad enough that we had to play extra innings at all, just two days after playing another extra-inning game, a game that we lost.  And perhaps it was even bad enough that the number of extra innings we had to play was truly astronomical to the point where, as I said, it amounted to a whole other ballgame in and of itself.  But on top of all of that, as if all of that weren’t bad enough, we had to go and lose it.

We just lost a seventeen-inning ballgame.  If we had any morale going into it, and honestly it didn’t really seem like there was much there to begin with, you can pretty much rest assured that we don’t have any anymore.

Just to put the outcome in perspective, it really is true that, if you’re going to identify a point at which the game was definitively lost, it isn’t really fair to say that the reliever that allowed the winning run lost it for us.  Because the reliever who allowed the winning run, and who therefore took the loss, was not a reliever.  It was Darnell McDonald.  If you’re going to play a seventeen-inning game, you’re going to run out of pitchers no matter who your manager is.  And at that point, Bobby V. was just looking for an arm to send out there regardless of who it belonged to.  There was nothing he could do.

As a result, acknowledgement must be given to the team’s ability to last that long.  I can’t believe we just played a seventeen-inning game; that’s beyond ridiculous.  I didn’t think I’d see something like that.  It was a marathon in every sense of the word.  Everyone was tired and exhausted beyond all capacity to deliver, and yet somehow we hung in there for one more inning, and the next inning, and then the next and the next and the next until something had to give, and that something was the roster of our bullpen.  That is to say, the bullpen itself was not at fault.  Rather, the bullpen was the only aspect of the team yesterday that shone; it and it alone was responsible for preserving the tie as long as it did.  It wasn’t its fault that, by the time its roster was exhausted, the offense still hadn’t done anything to win the game.

Now down to the technicalities of it.  As I said, if the point of loss is to be identified, it should be identified as the early goings, in which Buchholz yet again provided a sub-par showing.  He only lasted three and two-thirds innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, three of which were home runs, while walking four and striking out four.  In those innings alone, he somehow managed to throw eight-one pitches, forty-six of which were strikes.

Buchholz allowed a solo shot on the first, hit by the second batter he faced, JJ Hardy, on the fifth pitch he fired in total to start the game.  He had a seamless second featuring one walk and three strikeouts, which provided a teasingly good reason to believe that perhaps he was going to settle down.  But he returned to his disappointing self in the third, when he gave up another solo shot to Hardy.  He then gave up a three-run home run in the fourth and was taken out after he allowed two straight singles after that.  He is the first pitcher since Red Ruffing did it in 1925 to give up at least five earned runs in six straight starts.

The offense woke up in the bottom of the fourth, when Aviles doubled and scored on a single by Sweeney.  At that point we had only to score three more runs to tie it.  Instead, in the bottom of the fifth, we scored four.  Papi singled.  Ross singled.  Salty walked.  And then Middlebrooks, the call-up in response to Youk’s ailing back, absolutely smashed the first pitch he received in that at-bat.  It was a curveball.  It sailed over the Green Monster seats.  Not into the Green Monster seats.  Over the Green Monster seats, into Lansdowne Street.  Now that’s power.  Not only did Middlebrooks hit his first Major League home run, but he hit his first career grand slam.

At the time, it was exactly what we needed.  Not only did it give us a tie, but it also was a major shot in the arm regarding that oh-so-elusive morale we’ve been trying to find ever since the season started.  I mean, not only was it a kid’s first home run, but it was a grand slam! It seemed like the perfect thing to rejuvenate us.

Buchholz had been replaced by Miller, who finished the fourth and pitched a one-two-three, all-strikeout fifth.  Miller was replaced by Albers, who pitched the sixth and seventh.  Albers was replaced by Padilla, who allowed an RBI double in the eighth, which gave Baltimore a one-run lead.  We tied it back up that very same inning when Papi led it off with a double and scored on a sac fly by Salty.  It was the last run we’d score all night, and the game remained tied at six for eight more innings.

Padilla was replaced by Aceves, who pitched the ninth and tenth.  After allowing a single to start the eleventh, Aceves was replaced by Morales, who finished the eleventh and pitched the twelfth.  After allowing a single to start the thirteenth, Morales was replaced by Hill, who finished the thirteenth and pitched the fourteenth.  After allowing a walk to start the fifteenth, Hill was replaced by Atchison, who finished the fifteenth and pitched the sixteenth.

McDonald came on for the seventeenth and opened it with a walk to Wilson Betemit that was promptly erased when Salty caught him stealing second base.  But he then allowed a double and a walk followed by a home run of his own.

There were a few chances along the way for us to put it away that we didn’t convert.  With one out in the ninth, Aviles singled and tried to steal second, but the scenario couldn’t have played out any worse: Aviles was caught stealing right after Sweeney struck out.  Our best chance to put ourselves out of our misery was probably the sixteenth; with two out, Byrd reached on a fielding error and tried to score on a double by Aviles but was thrown out at home for what was an incredibly crushing moment, full of such promise one minute and the next minute evocative of what was to come the next inning.

Sweeney opened the bottom of the seventeenth with a single, and Pedroia followed with a walk.  So it was not inconceivable that we could have rallied.  Except for the fact that Gonzalez struck out and McDonald grounded into a double play.

So there you have it.  We played seventeen innings and hit sixteen hits, five of which were for extra bases.  We put up four multi-hit performances; Middlebrooks and Papi had two hits each, while Aviles had three and Sweeney had four.  Three members of the starting lineup, Aviles, Sweeney, and Gonzalez, had a game high of eight at-bats each.  We went two for nine with runners in scoring position.  We were caught stealing twice, turned six double plays, and made three errors (Salty made two of them, a fielding and a throwing error, and Middlebrooks made a throwing error).  We trotted out nine different pitchers, one of whom is not even a pitcher.  (To be fair, Baltimore’s winning pitcher was Chris Davis, who spiked Aaron Cook and who is not a pitcher either.)  For the first time ever, we had a cleanup hitter go 0 for 8 (in case you can’t guess, it was Gonzalez, who apparently offered Bobby V. to pitch if necessary). We lost, 9-6, and were swept by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams for the first time since 1994.  We finished our homestand with a record of one and five.

The most important thing that Doubront can possibly do today in Kansas City is eat up innings so that the bullpen doesn’t have to come out.  Considering that he has yet to pitch through the seventh inning in eight career starts, the bullpen is hoping he’ll step up and deliver.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew Lee

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Well, this one was a miniature slugfest.  I saw us win two run-heavy landslides, and I wanted to see us win a close one, just to observe how we’d handle ourselves in light of our new momentum and just to feel some relief that we can succeed in a game that’s pretty average.

And we did.  We won, 6-4.  You always want to make sure that the team is firing on all cylinders, but like I said, sometimes that won’t happen, and I was really happy to see that it didn’t phase us.

Doubront’s start was not great.  He gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings, including a solo shot to lead off the sixth after which he was replaced by Atchison; it was a two-seam on a 3-1 count.  He walked one and struck out seven.  He fired ninety-six pitches; efficiency was obviously lacking.  He had a really good four-seam going; he threw it for strikes more than three-quarters of the time and brought it up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His two-seam and curveball were pretty solid as well.  His changeup and his cutter, less so.

Obviously the fifth and sixth were his worst innings.  Before the leadoff homer in the sixth, he gave up three in the fifth.  After posting a called strike on four pitches to start things of, Doubront gave up two consecutive singles followed by two RBI doubles.

Fortunately, Atchison secured the first out in the sixth, Padilla completed that inning and pitched through the seventh, Morales handled the eighth, and Aceves completed a one-two-three ninth.

The offense, as I said, did an adequate job.  After going down in order in the first, we mounted a substantial threat in the second when Youk singled and Papi doubled to begin the inning.  Then, after swinging through a changeup, Ross unleashed on a fastball clocked at ninety-five miles per hour and sent it over the Green Monster and into Lansdowne Street.  We’d seen him bat around in Spring Training, but seeing his power come out like this in the regular season is really exciting.  Welcome to Fenway Park’s left field.

We went down in order again in the third and scored our next run in the fourth on the play that ended the inning.  Papi singled and Ross walked on four pitches; with two out, Shoppach doubled in Papi, while Ross was out at home.  (Speaking of the fourth, the top of the inning ended with a spectacular play by Aviles that saved a base hit as well as, possibly, a run.  He ran, slid, dove, and fired, and the runner on third was caught in a rundown with two out.) We went down in order yet again in the fifth; in the sixth, Youk walked and scored on a double by Papi.  Aviles led off the seventh with a home run on a fastball down the pipe to center field, right off the top of the wall.  It was quite the mighty swing.  And that was when the final score was cemented.

We posted only eight hits to their thirteen, but as far as the standings are concerned, the 6-4 is all that matters.  More than half (five) of our hits were for extra bases.  Papi had the only multi-hit game, going three for four with two doubles.  Ross may have gone only one for two, but that one was a big one, and he walked twice.  Doubront may have started, but the record books say that the day belonged to the bullpen: Padilla got the win, Morales got the hold, and Aceves got the save.

Obviously it was fantastic to get a win on a day special to everyone throughout Major League Baseball, the day commemorating Jackie Robinson, in honor of which all of us were wearing the number Forty-Two.  Jackie Robinson, we salute you.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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I’m wary of getting psyched too early, but it really seems like we’re starting to get on the right track.  They key, of course, is to stay on the right track, which as we know from experience is much easier said than done.  Still, you have to start somewhere, and scoring a lot of runs to support solid pitching performances seems like a good place.

To be fair, it’s not like Buchholz’s start was that solid.  It may have meant a loss for us in some of the games we’ve been playing to start the season.  Fortunately, the offense picked up his slack, but if they hadn’t, the outcome of the game probably wouldn’t have been so good.

He picked up the win for the first time since June 16, 2011 but gave up five runs on six innings.  He walked three and struck out five.  He threw 104 pitches in seven innings, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Obviously, most of his pitches were offspeeds; he used an effective combination of cutters, curveballs, and changeups, with his fastball topping out at ninety-three miles per hour.

He definitely settled in as the game went on.  His first inning was rough, and it was when most of the damage was done.  Twenty-seven pitches after the game started, he’d given up four runs in that frame alone: a walk, an RBI double, a groundout, a strikeout, another walk, and a three-run home run to right on a full-count fastball.  Needless to say, I’m sure the offense didn’t appreciate having to go to bat in a hole already.

But as I said, he settled down after that; he allowed another run in the third on via a four-pitch walk and a double, but other than that, he was pretty clean.  He threw sixteen pitches in the second, eighteen in the third, thirteen each in the fourth and fifth, and only nine in the sixth and seven in the seventh.  Not coincidentally, the sixth and seventh were also his only two one-two-three innings; he retired twelve of his last thirteen batters.

Morales received a hold for the eighth, and Aceves saw the minimum in the ninth.  Neither reliever allowed a baserunner.

Meanwhile, the offense was essentially taking batting practice.  It was awesome to see two run-heavy performances back-to-back; it’s food for morale, and it’s most certainly food for momentum.  And the best part is that it was a true slugfest because we did it mostly with the long ball.

Salty got us on the bard in the second with a two-run shot (Sweeney had walked on five pitches) on a changeup straight back to the center field seats, which is no small feat considering how deep that part of the park is; it takes serious power to launch the ball out there.  It landed in the covered seats.  The changeup was down and away, so he totally went golfing with that one.

The very next inning, Pedroia hit a solo shot on a fastball to left.  He cleared the Green Monster completely; the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street.  The trend continues; the fastball was high.

In the fifth, Youk singled and Papi went yard to the bullpen and tied the game at five, but we were about to leave the Rays in the dust.

The sixth was the only inning in which we went down in order, but we more than made up for it.  Aviles led off the seventh with a homer on a slider down and in the middle into the Monster seats.  If you want to make up for leaving the bases loaded in your previous at-bat, that’s a good way to do it.  And after Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez doubled, Youk walked, and Papi singled to load the bases.  Ross doubled, scoring two.

In the eighth, McDonald walked, Aviles doubled, and Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Gonzalez grounded into a double play that saw McDonald out at home, but then Youk walked to re-load the bases, Papi hit a bases-clearing double.  And then Ross hit a two-run shot on a changeup to left.  He too cleared the Monster, and the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street.

So let’s tally it up.  The final score was 13-5.  We scored two in the second, one in the third, two in the fifth, three in the seventh, and five in the eighth.  We posted fifteen hits; of those, ten were for extra bases, and of those, half were home runs, and of those, four were firsts of the season (only Pedroia had homered previously).  Four members of the starting lineup had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for five with a home run and one RBI; Ross went two for five with a double and a home run and four RBIs; Aviles went three for five with a double and a home run and one RBI; and yesterday’s man of the hour, Big Papi, went four for five with a double, a home run, and five – count ‘em – five RBIs.

You know, for a team that’s been struggling, how refreshing was this? We entered the game with only two home runs, the fewest in all of Major League Baseball to date, and then look at us.  As I’ve said, it was like a whole new team up there.  Really.  All we have to do is stay the course.  If we play this way for the rest of the season, I’d think we’d be in pretty good shape.

In other news, the B’s lost the second playoff game, 2-1, to the Caps.

AP Photo

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Wow.  Just, wow.  All of Red Sox Nation just went on a power overdose.  That was epic.  It was just epic.

Miller actually didn’t do a bad job.  Besides, considering the circumstances surrounding our rotation lately, even if he did do a bad job we are in no position to complain.

Five innings, three runs on six hits, four walks, no strikeouts.  He made a throwing error.  He allowed ten baserunners.  He threw ninety-seven pitches, so he was extremely inefficient.  It could have been better.  Then again, it could have been worse.  I think the bullpen is just going to have to commit to working overtime on a regular basis from now on.

They did so admirably.  Aceves, Atchison, and Jenks combined to pitch four scoreless innings.

In the beginning, it seemed like, surprisingly enough, Baltimore would give us a run for our money.  By the time the bottom of the third inning rolled around, they were actually leading us by two.  With one swing of the bat, all that changed.  Scutaro walked on four pitches.  Ellsbury walked on seven pitches.  And on a 3-1 count, Pedroia put a fastball over the Monster.  Not off it.  Not to it.  Not in it.  Over it and into the parking lot in Lansdowne Street.  High inside fastball.  That ball stood no chance.

In the fourth, Reddick reached on a missed catch, advanced on a single by Salty, and came around to score on a sac fly by Drew.  In the fifth, Gonzalez hit a solo shot to the bleaches in center.  The swing was enormous.  The blast was equally enormous.  The ball landed right at the 379-foot mark.  It was his first career dinger opposite Baltimore; I’m sure it will be the first of many.  The key to this one was patience.  The pitch was a changeup, and he had its number all the way.  He waited and stayed back and uncorked the perfect swing at exactly the right time.

In the sixth, Scutaro singled and Ellsbury hit a home run into the seats in right.  It was huge.  It kept rising and rising and rising.  At times it looked like it had enough to make it into the upper deck before it dropped down.  It was a slider, so another phenomenal display of hitting acumen.  He crushed it completely.  So between that and his spectacular running catch in the fifth, I’ll forgive him for getting caught trying to go from first to third in the first inning.

But then came the seventh.  If you thought you’d seen power up to this point, you were about to think again.  We put up a three-spot in the seventh.  But not just any three-spot.  Papi, Reddick, and Salty went back-to-back-to-back.  Three consecutive home runs for the first time since August 13, 2010 against the Rangers in Arlington.  A rocket of a straight shot to center field, a towering lob over the bullpen in right field, and a wallop to the Monster seats in left field.  Fastball, fastball, fastball.  Full count, full count, 0-2.  Huge, huge, and huge.  Three home runs on ten pitches alone.  I felt like I was watching replays.  That’s always the effect that going back-to-back has.  The best part is remembering that it’s not a replay.  It’s a completely separate play and an additional run and a progression of the opposing pitcher from bad to worse.  It was epically epic.

And that’s how, despite the fact that entering the game we were thirteen and twenty-five after the opponent scores first, we used the long ball to bury the Orioles, 10-4.  Let me put this in perspective.  The team collected thirteen hits.  Of those, eight were for extra bases.  Of those, six were home runs.  So almost half of our total hits were home runs.  We’ve won seven of our last eight games.  And, oh, by the way, we are now in sole possession of first place for the first time since June 24.  This game was legendary.

Last but of course certainly not least, I’d like to extend condolences to the family and friends of Dick Williams.  He was a legendary manager, figured prominently several postseasons including our Impossible Dream, and is one of only two managers to win ninety games in a single season with four different teams and to deliver three teams to the World Series.  He managed for twenty-one seasons.  He was a real character.  And he will be missed.  Dick Williams, we salute you.

Getty Images, AP Photos, Compilation by Boston Dirt Dogs

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