Posts Tagged ‘Luke Scott’

So, what, we’re bipolar now? One series we sweep, and the next series we’re swept? I don’t get it.  Especially because the team that just swept us is Baltimore.  No, I’m serious.  We were just swept by the Baltimore Orioles for the first time since September 2, 3, and 4, 1974.  This is the first time since 1943 that six of our first twenty-five contests have gone into extras.  It doesn’t get much lower than that, folks.

And now, the usual commiseration.

Beckett was finally outstanding.  Finally.  Seven innings of two-run ball; he allowed six hits but no walks and six strikeouts.  Ladies and gentlemen, Josh Beckett has finally arrived! Thankfully, he didn’t take the loss.  We’ll get to that later, and with the proper amount of fury, I assure you.

Beckett was awesome.  He threw 105 pitches and basically did everything right.  He topped out at about ninety-five miles per hour.  He threw all of his pitches effectively, especially his two-seam, only two of which weren’t called strikes.  His most effective inning was the third, when seventy-five percent of his pitches were strikes.  Most of the balls he did throw were around the upper left corner of the zone; he stayed away from the lower left and upper right corners, so most of his strikes distributed themselves diagonally through the zone there.  His fastest pitches didn’t have a lot of horizontal movement on them, but vertically they were dancing all over the place.  That’s a really long way of saying that he was on.  Period.  He was efficient.  He had command.  He mixed his pitches effectively and kept the batters guessing.  He didn’t allow any hits in the clutch; the O’s left nine on base.  He did everything that his former self in April didn’t do and more.

Bard came in in relief; his inning was not clean.  He allowed two hits and a walk before making way for Paps.  But I’ll give him this: Scott struck out on a ninety-nine mile-per-hour fastball, and it was all Reimold could do to look at his changeup go by.  The kid’s good.  He struggles, but he’s good.

Paps ruined the whole thing.  Markakis walked on a full count and moved to second on Paps’s errant pickoff attempt.  What did Paps have to say?

I just didn’t get hips around and rushed it a little bit.

Then, Wigginton hit one of his signature sliders for a walkoff double.  There’s a man who’s had a good series.  So two hits, one walk, and one run later, he walked off the mound having earned himself and the team a loss, and I don’t think I have to tell you which game against which team during which October came to mind after that.  All I’m saying is that a leaky closer isn’t something that we can afford.  Besides, when did this start at all? Paps used to be lights-out.  Last night, he let Wigginton walk up to the plate and change the bulb, so to speak.  It’s maddening, all the more so because he appears to be healthy, so there’s nothing actually wrong with him.  Which is good, but you know what I mean.  The final score was 2-3 in ten innings.  Our record is now eleven and fourteen, and we are seven games out.

Tek continues to be hot at the plate and went yard in the fifth to right field.  He loves to hit Millwood.  A high fastball, and there was no doubt about that one; he pounded it.  Four hundred and two feet later, the deficit was cut in half.  Drew continues to be hot at the plate and went yard in the seventh to center field, his third jack of the weekend.  That was it.  Drew and Pedroia both finished two for four, and Scutaro walked twice.  McDonald stole; Scutaro got caught.  Youk sat out with a sore left groin but may be put back in tonight.

We left only five on base, so not only did we not make good on our opportunities, but we didn’t even have that many opportunities to make good on.  We had one in the top of the eighth, though.  With two on and two out, Pedroia singled to left, and Bogar told Tek to go home, but he was throwing out quite a few feet from the play.  Tito later backed Bogar; I don’t know about that.  Seems like it would’ve been more correct to be conservative and hold him at third, especially since he’s not exceptionally fast.  We had one in the top of the tenth.  A good one.  But with runners on first and third, Scutaro grounded to Lugo for a double play.  Yes, The Julio Lugo.

Of course, one could argue that Millwood just had an exceptional night, but it just didn’t feel like that was the only reason why we only mustered two runs.  Part of it was Millwood, but part of it was also our fault.  We need to play better.  And not constantly go to extra innings.  And not waste stellar outings by starters.

It’s like we’re just finding ways to lose now.  We’re battling and all, but we’re not winning.  Like Pedroia said, we could’ve swept Baltimore too and had a great road trip.  But we didn’t.  What we need to do is start winning.  Leaks must be stopped in the bullpen.  Starters need to pull their own weight.  And the offense needs to start putting balls in play with runners on base.  In short, we need to start playing like the good baseball team we know we are but somehow just forgot.  And we need to remember quickly.  I didn’t exactly envision us going into our series with the Angels with absolutely no momentum whatsoever.  I mean, this is an important series after last October.  We need to show the Angels now who’s boss.  And let’s not forget who’s coming to town after that.  These are opponents we need to study and games we need to win.  With a schedule like that, there’s no room for mistakes and no room for fooling around.  Buchholz has it; hopefully he can continue his strong showing.

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What can I say? Camden Yards is basically our home away from home.  If you’re the Red Sox and you have to go on the road, you want to start the trip at Camden Yards with some wins and some encouragement from Red Sox Nation.  It’s sad that the Birds have fallen from glory.  It used to be that the Yankees’ big rivalry was with Baltimore and not with us because Baltimore was actually really good.  But that fall from glory isn’t as sad as their performance in this day and age.  Bottom of the pile in the American League East, can’t buy a win, and don’t even have the support of their own fan base when we’re in town because Red Sox fans flood the stands.  It’s like being at Fenway.  Good for us, but quite sad for the Orioles, I’d say.

That first paragraph would be very out-of-place without a win.  Turns out there was a win.  3-1, thanks to Buchholz, Kotchman, Bay, and Ellsbury.  Buchholz had a terrific night, working six innings and relinquishing just one run on five hits with three walks and a strike out.  That one run was Luke Scott’s long ball with two out in the second.  It happens.  But it’ll be interesting to see Buchholz’s strikeout count progress in the long run.  Right now he doesn’t record many strikeouts per game, because he relies heavily on off-speeds, which usually induce outs not of the K variety.  But as he gets older, he may discover more power on his fastball, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll use that and incorporate it into his already remarkable mix of pitches.

Bard, Okajima, and Papelbon got a hold, a hold, and a save, respectively.  No incidents to report.  Finally.  Three no-hit innings that would’ve been perfect if Bard didn’t allow that walk.  So aside from a very gratifying sense of satisfaction, nothing to say about an impeccable performance like that.  I will say that it was a breath of fresh air after what we’ve seen from the ‘pen over the past few days.

Kotchman singled to left to score Bay in the second.  Bay hit an absolutely fantastic home run to lead off the fourth (ever notice how a lot of our home runs lately are lead-offs?).  He was all over it.  Perfect swing, perfect trajectory, perfect result.  Perfect.  And Ellsbury singled to left to score Reddick in the sixth.

Ellsbury and V-Mart both went two for five; Kotchman went three for four.  Ellsbury stole second.  Pedroia almost scored in the third on a hard-hit double by V-Mart, but he was out at the plate.  A valiant effort, though.  I mean, he was hustling, and that’s really what we love about Dustin Pedroia the dirt dog.  Youk was back in the lineup last night.  He went hitless but ran in to gather up a grounder and fire to first to get Melvin Mora out in the fourth, which was good because you need to be pretty healthy to make a play like that, so it appears that Youk will be fine.

Wakefield is officially scheduled to pitch Monday! I hope all goes well.  I know the rest of the rotation is rooting for him; they could use the extra day off.  The Angels’ coaches will be fined for bad deportment following Wednesday’s win, which they view as controversial.

So as usual, we beat the O’s.  Also as usual, Clay Buchholz got that win.  And for the third and final “as usual,” we discuss the Red Sox’s annual rookie hazing ritual, which involves the rookies dressing up in altogether hilarious costumes.  This year’s theme? “The Wizard of Oz.” Junichi Tazawa was Dorothy, Josh Reddick was Glinda, Dusty Brown was the Scarecrow, Daniel Bard was the Cowardly Lion, Michael Bowden was the Tin Man, and Jed Lowrie was the Wicked Witch of the West.  (This is actually Lowrie’s second time around because he hasn’t completed a full Major League season yet; last year he dressed up as a character from “High School Musical.”) All in all, it was a great day.  Tonight should be even better.  Something tells me a Lester-at-David-Hernandez matchup will be a very good game to watch.

In other news, we traded Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs for two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick in 2010 and a first-round pick in 2011.  Can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and to be honest with you, at this point I don’t think I’d want him in a Bruins uniform this season.  His head wouldn’t be in the right place after all that’s happened, and so it wouldn’t be fair to him or the team.  He didn’t even want to come back; he didn’t particularly like Claude Julien’s approach.  Besides, the Leafs gave him $27 million for five years.  For us to match that, we probably would’ve had to either send down or trade Michael Ryder and Andrew Ference.  So good luck to him in Toronto.  I know he’ll be great there.  He’d be great anywhere.  That’s the unfortunate part.  If only it had worked out, right? But that’s the downside of a salary cap.  Kessel was asking for a lot of money, so Peter Chiarelli had a choice: he could sign him, or he could sign all of our other young guys who were free agents, not to mention all of the guys who’ll be free agents after this season.  He chose the latter, which was wise I think, because having one Phil Kessel won’t do much for you if you don’t also have a David Krejci and a Matt Hunwick, for example, to support him.  But he’s got his own work to do.  He may be great in Toronto, but it’ll have to be without Milan Lucic creating space and without Marc Savard sending him pinpoint passes.

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The losing streak is over.  Done.  Finished.  Snapped like the Yankees’ first-place lead will be in a matter of days.  That was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.  The only thing that would’ve made it better was a Yankees loss, but I’d rather the standings don’t change than they change but in the wrong direction.

I want everybody who called for a trade of Brad Penny to consider this proof that so would’ve been a huge mistake.  I think we can safely say that one thing we’ve learned from our experiences this season is that you can never have too much pitching.  After Theo worked his magic in the offseason, people started dreaming about a six-man rotation.  Clearly that did not happen.  Beckett and Lester are right where they should be, now at least, but Wakefield is on the DL, Smoltz’s return to form is progressing exceptionally slowly (I know, I know, the goal is to peak late), and Dice-K is redoing all of the Spring Training he missed by pitching for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.  So we’ve added Clay Buchholz to the rotation and kept Penny.  And clearly that paid off.

Penny got the win last night, improving to seven and four with a 4.71 ERA, which is still deceptively high.  He went six and a third, gave up zero earned runs on five hits (one unearned), didn’t walk anybody, and struck out four.  How’s that for solid? Delcarmen took care of the last two outs in the seventh with one pitch, Okajima controlled through the eighth with ten, and Papelbon racked up save number twenty-five.  Another less-than-beautiful twenty-four-pitch effort.  He had to work himself out of a bases-loaded situation and did so by fanning Luke Scott and Melvin Mora in order.  Why he couldn’t just get the two strikeouts before the bases became loaded is beyond me.  He was doing so well up to this point; he seemed to have largely gotten over his I-forgot-how-to-make-a-save-in-less-than-fifteen-pitches phase.  Maybe this time the sloppiness will prove to be the exception rather than the rule.  But it hasn’t been pretty.    Only seven of his twenty-five saves have been one-two-threes.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s already allowed nineteen walks, which is already twice his total for last season.  That needs to be fixed.  Definitely before October.  Prefereably before September.  But hey, if he figures it out before August, I won’t complain either.

The unearned run scored because Tek made a throwing error.  That does not happen often.  But it’s all good because he hit an RBI single to plate Drew in the fourth.  Ellsbury went two for four with a theft and a textbook forward diving catch in the third.  I’m telling you, you can bat any ball at him at any speed and any angle and make it travel any distance, and not only will he catch it but also he’ll make it look easy.  Pedroia went two for three with a walk and a repeat performance of that play he made to save Buchholz’s no hitter; a dive to the right, springing up, and firing to first for the out.  Ortiz hit, and Bay and Lowell hit and walked.  Lowrie hit a sac fly to bat in Lowell in the fourth, and who but JD Drew finally got a hit.  And he got an RBI in the fifth.  How ’bout that?

Things to be happy about.  We won.  We may be two and a half games behind the Yankees, but it could’ve been three and a half.  Tampa Bay is not close to catching up to us, even if we were planning on staying in second place.  The only two members of the lineup who went hitless were Youk and Lowrie, and Youk walked and scored and Lowrie hit a sac fly to plate somebody, and if that’s our version of hitless, that’s okay with me.  And that means that the seven other members of the lineup did hit.  And two members of the lineup enjoyed multi-hit games.  We went three for eight with runners in scoring position, but that’s a .375 average.  All in all, not a bad way to break the losing streak and not a bad building point for going forward.

We designated Mark Kotsay for assignment to make room for Adam LaRoche.  That’s fair.  When he wasn’t on the DL this season, he was batting .257 with an on-base percentage of .291, slugging percentage of .324, and home run and RBI totals of one and five, respectively.  LaRoche is posting comparable numbers: a .247 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, .441 slugging percentage, and home run and RBI totals of twelve and forty, respectively.  So the one thing that LaRoche has that Kotsay doesn’t have, offensively speaking, is gap power.  When people refer to LaRoche as a left-handed power bat, they mean more that he hits line drives for extra bases than home runs, but with the abysmal state of our offense over the past few games, I’ll take that.

Jeremy Guthrie at Lester, and Gio Gonzalez at Pettitte.  Speaking of the Yankees, did you know that Eric Hinske’s been tearing it up over the last six games? That’s just poor timing if you ask me.  In those six games, he’s got four home runs and six RBIs to go along with a .333 batting average.  Since when does that happen? And why couldn’t he have just done that with us? That right there is just unfair.  Anyway, unfortunately the A’s are nothing to be feared (unless you’re a Twins fan, in which case you support a team that lost to the A’s, 16-1, in one game only to drop a ten-run lead to lose in another).  But neither are the O’s, and if Lester keeps pitching the way he has been, we’ll have this locked.

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I’m happy we won.  I’m very happy we won.  Nothing like administering to the O’s a taste of their own medicine.  We were down, 5-1, through eight.  Pedroia plated Drew with a double in the third but that had been it.  Meanwhile, we were in that position because Beckett pitched seven, gave up five runs on six hits with two walks, five strikeouts, and two home runs.  Both were leadoff solo shots, one to Luke Scott in the second and one to Ty Wigginton in the fourth.  This start smacked of last season, when he’d have low walks, decent strikeouts, and give up a lot of long balls.  Luckily, he went deep and gave the bullpen a rest.  So basically he did his job but he didn’t do it well.  He put us in a position where a comeback was necessary, which was something I personally didn’t appreciate.  It’s Beckett.  He wasn’t supposed to do that.  And if I know Beckett, I know he’s seething right now.  But in times like those you find out what tricks the lineup has up its sleeve.

We scored four runs in the top of the ninth.  We scored one in the top of the eleventh.  We won, 6-5.  We put the Orioles in their place, we took the series, and we cruise into our off-day today with our heads held high.

In the ninth, Youk clobbered a two-run shot over the head of Nick Markakis.  Then Baldelli stroked a two-run single past Robert Andino to tie it with two out in the inning.  Bard and Ramirez put up zeroes.  And in the top of the eleventh, Julio Lugo hit another ball past Andino to plate what would become the winning run.  Julio Lugo.  Who knew? And Paps put up the last zero to lock it up.

So Beckett gets a no-decision, Bard pitched the eighth and ninth, Ramirez pitched the tenth and gets the win, and Paps pitched the eleventh and gets the save.  And it was a clean save.  Another one-two-three inning.  His twentieth save of the season, and enough to surpass Bob Stanley’s record.  He now stands alone at the top of the Red Sox all-time list.  Congratulations! Rough patch or no rough patch, overall he’s still the best closer in the game, and he earned each and every one of those saves.  Overall, the bullpen did a pretty nice job of apologizing for the badness on Tuesday.  Retired twenty-four straight Orioles yesterday.  Not too bad.

Our lead over the Yankees stays the same.  We have the day off today and tomorrow we’re playing Seattle.  Wakefield at Hernandez.  This game is more important than you’d think.  We want to go into the All-Star break with as much momentum as possible, and that starts right now.  We want to start this series on the right foot.  And for Wake, he needs to pitch well tomorrow to affirm his legitimate contention for a spot on the All-Star roster.  Between you and me, he’ll probably get one.  Or at least he should.

By the way, All-Star voting ends tonight at midnight.  Youk is currently leading Teixeira, but Pedroia the Destroyah is just barely behind Ian Kinsler.  We know who really should be starting at second for the American League in St. Louis.  Dustin Pedroia can’t not be an All-Star.  Vote and help bring him there.  You can find a link to the All-Star ballot to the right of this page.

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We are two games ahead of Tampa Bay in first place, ladies and gentlemen, and Baltimore, New York, and Toronto are all tied for last place at seven games out. We’re playing .600 ball. This is definitely something to be happy about. I think we may have found our groove.

It was a long time coming this year. The Japan trip sort of threw the team off balance for a bit. And after that, it just seemed like the Sox were slightly out of sorts. But not now. What I see now is tight, precise baseball. Getting it done with the offense and defense. Starting a deep and diverse lineup that covers all five tools. Maintaining an elite rotation. Good chemistry in the clubhouse. Winning significantly more often than losing. Gritty, run-it-out play. With the possible exception of the road issues, this team is good to go. And speaking of the road issues, the Sox improve with every trip. Soon there won’t be any road issues at all. That’s a day the Nation and I would love to see, and I don’t think it’ll take long. We’re getting there.

The Red Sox are 28-7 at home so far, and we haven’t lost a series at home since April. We’ll be playing Cincinnati (.463) and Philly (.582). I hope we’ll be able to keep our momentum going and widen that two-game lead we’ve got.

As for yesterday’s game, what a performance by Bartolo Colon. One run (solo home run by Luke Scott in the fifth) on five hits. One walk and seven strikeouts. Can you believe that? One walk and seven strikeouts in six innings. This is the man who won the Cy Young. Right here. And he’s got red socks on, folks. 3.41 ERA, 4-1 record. Superb. It isn’t just that he made a comeback and that the comeback was successful. He’s dominating. He’s going out and making his pitches and getting the innings, and when he’s got the rock, there’s nothing to worry about. Always a good thing from a starter.

Timlin allowed the other two Baltimore runs in the ninth. There’s a shock. Don’t get me wrong; he’s actually been pretty solid the last couple of outings. He’s a good pitcher, and he has his moments. But he’s aging and he’s lost velocity. He’s not the pitcher he used to be. And that can manifest itself in late-inning runs a little too often for comfort sometimes. Papelbon with the save, of course. His nineteenth of the season. Definitely no surprise there.

And, finally, the five-run first inning. Drew and Lowell each had an RBI. Varitek had three. He crushed a three-run homer with two outs. You read right. The captain with the bat in the ballpark. Yes, sir. His leadership and handling of the pitching staff is outstanding, his defense is spot-on, and here’s proof that he also has offensive power. It doesn’t show itself as often as it used to, but it’s there. He can clear the Green Monster on a good day and hit a hard line drive on an okay day. He’s invaluable to the club without the offense. With the offense, he’s absolutely indispensable. Best catcher in the game. Why? Because offensive stats don’t tell the whole story.

And congratulations, of course, to David Ortiz on becoming an American citizen. Way to go, Papi!

Jason Varitek, 6/11/2008

Boston Globe Staff/John Bohn

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