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Posts Tagged ‘Lars Anderson’

Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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What a rout! Where were all these runs on Friday? If we took half our runs from yesterday and moved them to Friday, we still would have won both games.

Lester totally cruised.  Yeah, he’s fine.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts.  Ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Those two runs he allowed were the result of two solo shots, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, both with one out in each inning, both to left center field.  The first on a fastball, the second on a changeup.  So basically what that means is he made two mistakes during his entire outing.

He faced the minimum in five of his eight innings.  In the second, he gave up a double; in the seventh, he gave up his first homer and his lone walk; in the eighth, he gave up his second homer.  That was it.  That was the extent to which he encountered any jams whatsoever.  As you can see, at no point was he made to feel truly threatened that a rally might be coming if he made a mistake.  (A huge part of why that was true was our run production, which we’ll obviously get to.)

Let’s take a look at his strikeouts.  Anytime a pitcher posts a high strikeout total in one of his outings, it’s fun to break them down because it gives you a sense of the dominance he displayed.

Lester struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches, ending in a curveball.  He struck out the second batter he faced using a fastball that the batter didn’t even attempt to hit.  In the second, again four pitches ending in a curveball.  In the third, fastball, fastball, cutter; done.  In the fourth, sinker, cutter, fastball; done.  In the fifth, one ending in a cutter and the other in a fastball.    In the seventh, cutter, curveball, fastball; done.  That makes the sixth and eighth the only innings during which he did not record a strikeout, but he averaged one strikeout per inning.

Let’s talk about his pitches.  Quite simply, they were nasty.  He threw an unhittable cut fastball and a punishing sinker.  His only pitches that weren’t stellar were his curveball and changeup, but he didn’t throw many of them overall so his line didn’t reflect that.  Twice, during the third and fourth, he finished innings with seven pitches alone.  He threw at most eighteen pitches; that was in the seventh.  Let me just repeat this because it’s remarkable: he finished eight full innings having thrown less than one hundred pitches.  He executed and located literally almost all of them in all counts against all batters in all parts of the zone.  And as Lester said himself, Salty did a great job of maintaining a potent and deceptive mix.  If the only thing wrong with him last night was that he made two mistakes on some cut fastballs and his curveball and changeup weren’t up to their usual snuff, I’d say he pitched a downright gem.

He got the win, and Wheeler pitched a scoreless ninth in an epically non-save situation, being that we won, 10-2 and all.

It’s hard to believe from looking at that score that the game was actually locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth inning.  That means that we spent almost half the game going up and going down pathetically like we did on Friday, and you were thinking there’s no way this could possibly be happening to a lineup like this two nights in a row.  Maybe you were thinking that in April, but not now.  And you’d be absolutely right.

We put up a four-spot in the fifth just to get loose, because trust me, there was much more to come.  Crawford singled to lead off the inning; he stole second and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick singled and moved Salty to third, and he scored on a sac fly by Scutaro.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a sac fly by Pedroia that scored Reddick.  Gonzalez took an intentional walk, and Youk singled in Ellsbury.  Papi grounded out to end the inning.  That entire inning was a textbook example of what it means to manufacture runs.  The team to that point was not producing, which is unusual on a night when Lester pitches because Lester has the most run support of any other pitcher on our whole staff.  So you force opportunities and do whatever it takes to get runners across the plate.  And that’s what we did.

Our next threat came in the seventh, but we did nothing with it.  We made up for it in the eighth.  We scored only one run that inning, but it was a remarkable run.  With two out and a full count, Reddick walked.  He saw five fastballs before a changeup sent him to first base.  Scutaro singled, and Reddick actually scored all the way from first.  Nobody made an error; it was an earned run.  The reason why he was able to score was because Alex Rios decided to stroll over to Scutaro’s ball in right.  That’s what it looked like.  He just took his own sweet time about getting to that ball.  By the time he realized that his lackadaisical attitude had prompted Tim Bogar to send Reddick home, he fired to the infield but the throw was cut off by Gordon Beckham, who bobbled it anyway.  That would never happen in Boston.  I can’t even believe you’d see that anywhere in the Major Leagues.  Well, that’s what they get for not hustling in the field.

At that point, we were up by three but still refused to back down.  We put up a five spot in the ninth.  Pedroia singled to lead off the inning, and Gonzalez homered on a fastball.  The count was 2-1, and the shot was hard and fast to right field.  Whenever Gonzalez hits anything, he just makes it look so easy.  Then Youk went back-to-back on his ninth pitch in a full count.  It was also a fastball, but he shot it high to left.  It was massive.  Papi flied out for the first out of the inning.  Crawford singled and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick popped out.  Scutaro then singled; Beckham dove for it, but it bounced off his glove into center field, so Salty scored.  Then Ellsbury struck out.  The end.

This is how a team should play every day.  A team should always manufacture runs and maximize chances because you never know what the rest of the game has in store.  In this case, we scored so many runs and our pitcher overwhelmed the lineup to such an extent that it didn’t matter how many defensive plays Brent Morel had up his sleeve.  It was awesome.

In other news, as expected, Theo did not try to fix what isn’t broken just because of the trade deadline.  We traded Navarro for Mike Aviles of the Royals; he’ll be an experienced bench player.  Theo was also going to trade Lars Anderson for Rich Harden of the A’s, who would obviously add depth to a rotation with sometimes questionable health and ability.  It would be tough to part with Anderson, but since acquiring Gonzalez and signing him to a long contract that he seems amply able to earn, it didn’t seem like we had much room for him anytime soon.  But the deal ended up falling through, apparently because we were unsatisfied with Harden’s medical records and were not certain he could be depended on to get through the rest of the season healthy.  And if that’s true, that makes a lot of sense, considering the reason why we’d want to add a starter to our roster is because the health of our rotation is sometimes in question.  All around, I’d congratulate Theo on a trade deadline well, or rather not, spent.

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We knew it was coming: the last game of the 2010 season and the start of a long.  It’s been one interesting year; we started off with a horrendous April, and just when we were well on our way to the top, the injuries struck us right back down.  It’s crushing.  That’s the best way I can explain it.  Like a car in a junkyard that’s been crushed into a cube.  and it’s disappointing, and it’s frustrating, and there’s just nothing more to say.  It wasn’t even our fault.  The whole season just begs the huge question of what the team would have been able to do had it been healthy.  I personally think we would’ve gone all the way.  But we’ll never really know, will we.

Ironically but ultimately appropriately, that was probably Lackey’s best start of the year.  He pitched through the seventh inning for the seventh time in his last ten starts and was one out shy of pitching a full eight.  He allowed three runs, only two earned, on six hits while walking two and tying a career high with ten strikeouts, six swinging and four looking.  Strangely enough, you can actually thank Drew for that run.  He dropped a routine fly ball.  But in a manifestation of how completely underrated his defense is, that was the first error he’s made in 183 games.

Lackey threw 118 pitches, eighty-one for strikes.  He threw every single one of his pitches effectively; he commanded all of them, he mixed and matched them, he was aggressive with them, and he really challenged the batters to come and get him.  They couldn’t.  His zone was absolutely full.  So he didn’t have the best or most consistent year, but he certainly finished on a high note, giving us a preview of what we can expect from him next year.  His final record is fourteen and eleven with a 4.40 ERA.

The bats backed Lackey and established themselves early.  It was a thing of beauty.  Drew clobbered a two-run shot in the first, his twenty-second and last of the season.  He hooked a fastball down the middle to right field beyond the bullpen.  Lowrie did the same in the fifth; he clobbered a two-run shot also to right.  Lowrie was getting a steady diet of breaking balls, so he caught one down the middle and sent it out.

We broke it open in the sixth, when we scored three.  Kalish hit an RBI single, Anderson hit a sac fly for a run, and Kalish stole home on a double theft.  We’ve really been running more than usual this weekend.  Lowrie hit his second homer of the day an inning later.  He took a cut fastball inside and sent it around the Pesky Pole, the shortest home run distance in the Major Leagues.

Meanwhile, the bullpen wasn’t having its best day ever.  Hill allowed his inherited runner to score.  Bard received a hold for recording one out.  Paps came on and allowed an unearned run for the second straight day.  There was the unearned run, a hit, a walk, and a strikeout before the season finally ended with us on top, 8-4.  I’m just as unprepared as the next fan to say goodbye to baseball and the team for a whole six months, but I’m glad we ended it on a high note.  I’m glad we won the final season series, kept the Yankees from winning the division, and went out with a bang like we wanted to.

So that’s it.  That’s all for 2010.  We finish in third place with a record of eighty-nine and seventy-three.  For the first time since 2006, we won’t win ninety games.  So we split the season series with the Yankees evenly at nine and nine.  And we have no idea what we’ll look like next year.  Beltre, V-Mart, and Papi, who ironically ended his season with a successful bunt of all things but received a massive standing ovation and a curtain call afterwards, will all be free agents.  Tek received an enormous and very well-deserved standing ovation after almost hitting a home run.  He almost lost it, and we almost lost it.  The captain.  He was there for 2004 and 2007.  Most likely he’ll be back next year, but there’ll be plenty of time to talk about that.  Right now, we can feel crushed and devastated and all those things that show the kind of loyal and dedicated fans that we are.  We can be proud of ourselves for what we’ve accomplished this season despite our vast limitations.  It’s been one interesting ride.  I can’t believe it’s over, but I think we all saw it coming a mile away.  But no matter how much you’re forewarned, you’re never quite ready.  One thing’s for sure: there’s always next year, and next year we’ll be back with a vengeance.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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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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The best part about our current position is that the worst thing that could possibly happen this weekend is that we win the series.  Of course we’ll go for the sweep, but all I’m saying is that we rock.

But there is so much more goodness to the story.

Let’s start with Jon Lester, no pun intended.  Jon Lester was the absolute man.  He was on like a light.  He entered the game with a 2.48 ERA on the road and exited the game with a 2.33 ERA on the road.  That’s the best in the American League.  The impressive thing about that is that every mound is different, so to go out there no matter where you are and treat it like a walk in the park (again, no pun intended) is a big deal.

He picked up win number nineteen after tossing seven shutout frames, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out eight, five swinging and three looking.  Believe it or not, his outing was actually much better than that already stellar line.  Lester was bidding for a perfect game through the fourth, giving up his first free pass in his first at-bat in the fifth, which was duly neutralized by a double play two pitches later.  He had retired the first twelve hitters he faced and faced the minimum fifteen hitters through those five innings.  Of Lester’s first seventeen hitters, only three managed to reach the outfield in some capacity and seven didn’t even put the bat on the ball.  Then he was bidding for a no-hitter through the fifth, giving up his first hit in the sixth.  The hit was a line drive sinking fast in left field.  Nava took off for it.  And as soon as Nava took off, you had to be thinking that Lester was going to throw a no-hitter.  Lester was going to no-hit the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, and it would be sweet in every sense of the word, because you can’t have a no-hitter without a spectacular play in the field to preserve it, and this was going to be it.  Pedroia for Buchholz, Ellsbury for Lester, and now Nava for Lester.  Nava sized it up and dove.  But he dove too far, and the ball bounced off his wrist and was ruled a hit.  Terrible.  Literally and simply terrible.

Nava partially redeemed himself soon thereafter by showing off his arm throwing our Kearns at the plate.  V-Mart applied the tag with his glove, something not easy for catchers because a catcher’s mitt isn’t designed for tags, but he did it anyway, and it was a textbook play.  Nava is just lucky the play didn’t go haywire, because he missed the cutoff man.  I guess all Tito can do in that situation is deliver a slap on the wrist.  Lester’s third and final walk was also a leadoff walk in the seventh, but if you take away those three walks and those two hits and add two innings, he would have had a perfect game for sure.

He threw 103 pitches, fifty-eight for strikes.  Every single pitch he threw was absolutely electric.  Well, his changeup and curveball weren’t that great, but everything else was spot-on.  He had his slider.  He had his sinker.  And I would not want to be on the receiving end of a Jon Lester cut fastball.  No, thank you.  He kept his two-seam down, and his cutter cut everywhere.  He caught Swisher looking on a cutter with a full count.  Then, he got Teixeira on three pitches: a sinker, a curveball, and a fastball, which Lester worked up to ninety-four miles per hour.  That’s four different pitches.  Four different and extraordinarily filthy pitches.  It was a thing of absolute beauty.

Yesterday, Lester had one of the tightest and most precise release points I have ever seen.  He was a machine.  He was aggressive.  He used every pitch in every count.  He basically told the hitters to come get him, but there was no way they were going to.  His season ERA is now down to 2.96.

And he had the full support of the offense.  We scored three runs in the third, all of them manufactured.  It all started when a ball brushed Kalish’s jersey.  He then moved around and scored on Scutaro’s single.  Nava scored when Drew grounded into a double play.  And Anderson scored on Papi’s single.  In the fifth, Drew scored on Papi’s single.  In the seventh, Drew and V-Mart smacked back-to-back jacks.  Both lasers.  Both to almost exactly the same location in right field, a few rows from the field and to the right of the bullpen.  For Drew, this is now his sixth twenty-plus-home-run season.  For V-Mart, that nineteenth jack and seventy-fourth RBI puts him on top of all American League catchers in those categories, and a Red Sox fan caught the ball.  We added one more in the ninth when Kalish doubled in Navarro.

Scutaro finished two for six with a double, Drew finished two for five, Papi finished two for four, and Kalish finished two for three.  Anderson hit and scored on his birthday.  And if Tito doesn’t win Manager of the Year, something will be horribly wrong, because he has used 136 different batting orders this year, he has kept the clubhouse together, and despite the fact that most of our key players have been out for prolonged periods of time, we are not dead-last and are rather still fighting for a chance.

The Yankees would score three runs: two against Bard and one against Okajima, but it was much too little, much too late.  The final score was 7-3 in our favor.

For Lester, this could be a twenty-win season if he wins his final start in Chicago on Thursday.  For us generally, we’re keeping hope alive.  But as always in these situations, it’s all about taking it one game at a time.  And last night’s game was pretty ridiculously awesome.  Tonight, we have Dice-K, and I sincerely hope he takes a page from Lester’s book.  It doesn’t even have to be a whole page.  Maybe just half a page.  Or a quarter of a page.  Just part of a page, and we’ll be alright.

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Wow.  Just, wow.  If I had to describe the ideal opening of a series against Seattle in Seattle, last night would pretty much be it.  It was a textbook example of what you’re supposed to do when you play a team that’s bad.  Okay, maybe I envisioned a slugfest, which obviously didn’t happen, but everything else was exactly right.  I can live with the absence of offensive domination so massive that if the lopsided score had a weight it would tip over immediately so long as we win, and we win nicely.  Not by barely eking it out but by posting a healthy lead and maintaining it.  That’s something we didn’t do the last time we played Seattle, so it’s nice to actually play like we can for a change.

You could tell when Lester took the mound that he wasn’t about to play games.  You could tell that he knew he had a job to do and that he was going to do it.  He had his way with the Mariners, who looked like minor leaguers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.  His cut fastball was the best I’ve seen it all season.  So were his sinker and curveball.  And he threw in a good changeup every now and then.  You’d be hard-pressed to find an at-bat where he fell behind in the count, and he threw his offspeeds effectively for strikes.  He completely befuddled the hitters en route to twelve strikeouts over eight of the most solid innings you could possibly get from a pitcher.  Seven were swinging, and four were looking.  I’m telling you, there’s something very satisfying about watching the opposition take cuts at air.  He was very aggressive and packed the zone with a world of nasty.  This was his fourth consecutive start with ten-plus K’s, the longest such streak in the Majors since Jake Peavy in 2007 from April 25 to May 11 for the Padres.  Nobody in the American League did it since Johan Santana with five starts in 2004.  The last pitcher to do it for us was obviously Pedro Martinez with five in 2001.  But Lester is the first lefty in franchise history.  That brings his K total for the year to 209, making him one of five Sox pitchers to post at least two hundred K’s in consecutive seasons.  The other four are Cy Young, Smokey Joe Wood, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez.  That’s some heady company.  And if anyone belongs there, it’s Lester.  The best part is that technically he’s not even a strikeout pitcher.  He just wants outs, period.  And if he can do it more efficiently with groundouts, lineouts, and flyouts, he will.  The strikeouts are just a side venture, if you will.  That’s why he’s the man.

He last pitched at Safeco Field on July 24 and took a bid for a perfect game past the first out in the sixth, but we ended up losing.  Not so last night.  He picked up his seventeenth win of the year, also a new career high, en route to a twenty-win season.  He allowed only one run on three hits while walking three.  That’s it.  So it’s not that the Mariners had opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them.  They just didn’t have any opportunities on which to capitalize.  He strode out there and showed everybody how it’s done.  He was extraordinarily dirty, and that’s all there is to it.

We won, 5-1, showcasing the young talent because they’re the only ones still healthy.  We racked up three in the second.  Beltre scored on a groundout by Reddick, Lowrie scored on a double by Nava, and Nava scored on a double by Anderson.  It’s good to see Reddick and Anderson back in action; it reminds you that the future is bright, even if the present may be grim.  In the eighth, Kalish ripped a two-run homer into the right field seats.  Fister hung a change at the belt.  For Kalish, it was only a matter of doing what he’d always been taught to do with something like that: clock it.

The kids had some nice plays in the field, too.  No errors last night while Seattle made two, so they were pretty comfortable.  Speaking of defense, how about Scutaro’s flip in the third? Ichiro chopped one to Scutaro who made a running flip out of his glove to Anderson at first.  It was masterful.

You’ll never believe this, but the barrage of injuries continues.  Honestly, you’d think it would just stop by now being that there’s only half a month left in the season.  But no.  The injury bug has to rub salt in it.  Turns out that Drew left the game on Sunday because of a full-fledged injury.  He took a wide turn around first on a single, and you could tell that something was wrong when he ran back.  He jammed his right ankle.  And Doubront, one big reason why we traded Delcarmen, will probably be done for the season with his upper pectoral injury, specifically the left collarbone area.  “Done for the season” is such a funny phrase these days being that we’re in the middle of September.  If I sound bitter about it, it’s because I am.  We get it.  Enough with the injuries already.

We’ve got a two-game winning streak going, so that’s good.  Mostly it was just a blast to watch Lester go to work.  As far as Cy Young candidates are concerned, he has to be one of them.  He’s been outstanding, and it’s the middle of September and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Dice-K would do well to take a page from his book when he takes the hill tonight.  Let’s win a series.

In other news, football season officially started yesterday, and the Pats kicked it off (pun intended) on a high note by beating the Bengals, 38-24.

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Happy Pitchers and Catchers, everybody! They officially reported on Thursday.  Soon Spring Training will be in full swing, and before you know it, we’ll be gearing up for Opening Day.  (I mean Opening Night.  Again, thank you, ESPN.) I’m telling you, spring is definitely in the air.  When the pitchers and catchers head south, it’s time to start getting ready for the regular season, which is about a month away! It’s so close, I can almost hear the cracks of bats already.  Get psyched.

Guys to keep an eye on so far: the prospects, Bonser, Kelly, Wakefield, Delcarmen, and Papelbon.  Jed Lowrie and Lars Anderson, especially, are going to look to bounce back in an absolutely huge way, and if they do, watch out.  Bonser has a lot to prove.  Kelly has to show us what he’s got.  Wakefield needs to secure a spot in the rotation.  Delcarmen needs to bounce back.  And Papelbon, well, we all know he’s got work to do.

Speaking of Jonathan Papelbon, the New York Post just stated flat-out that Papelbon “may be closing for the Yankees sooner than you think.” Arrogant much? Papelbon said in an interview that he doesn’t know how his future played out.  He’d also said in another interview that, once his career in Boston is over, he’d be open to signing with another team.  So between those two comments, somehow we have Papelbon closing for the Yankees imminently? No.  What we have is a dictionary with the definition of “arrogant” and a picture of the New York Post next to it.  That’s what we have.  Please.  Papelbon is not pitching for the New York Yankees.  In case you haven’t noticed, he’s still very much with Boston.  Need he remind you of that fact with numerous crushing saves against you during the regular season.  No, but he’ll do it anyway.

In the latest chapter of the Dice-K saga, he was shut down until Friday with a sore upper back.  That better be the extent of it.  We need him healthy this year, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we won’t be very happy with a repeat of last season’s performance.  If he’s got a sore back and he sits out at first, fine, but his conditioning better ensure that he’s ready to go.  And none of these communication issues, either, because that was just sad.  Luckily, he passed his physical on Friday, and he’ll be throwing imminently.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

Jacoby Ellsbury is no longer No. 46; he’s taken No. 2.  That used to be Brad Mills’s number, but now that he’s with the Astros, it’s free.  It was Ellsbury’s in high school, and it was Jerry Remy’s when he was playing.  I’ll be good to have a No. 2 back on the team.

That’s a wrap.  All we can do is play the waiting game for another month and a half until the real action begins.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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