Posts Tagged ‘Lyle Overbay’

It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

Boston Globe Staff

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Well.  If you ever really wanted to know what it feels like to have your parade not just rained on but completely and totally soaked, you just found out the hard way.  I say the hard way because it was hard to watch because it was painful because it lacked win particularly conspicuously.  The only plus side of the entire night was the bright return of the Citgo sign after being out while approximately 218,000 lights were replaced with more energy-efficient and weather-resistant ones.  That brief respite from utter disappointment occurred in the seventh, which was after most of the damage was inflicted, and you were thinking that the deficit isn’t so bad, so maybe we’ll come back in honor of the sign or for whatever reason.  Nope.

Lackey was utterly lacking.  What a cliché pun, but what’s true is true.  The man did not have it.  Tito still trusts him as a big-game pitcher; ultimately, I can see why.  When it comes down to it, Lackey’s signature is big games.  He’s just having a hard time of it this year because it’s his first season with us.  Next season will show his return to form.  Meanwhile, he’s durable, capable, and competitive, qualities that make him a good starter, his line notwithstanding.  But sometimes you can’t escape from the line.  Unfortunately, last night was one of those times.

Lackey gave up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits while walking two and striking out three.  At first glance, his hit and walk totals may seem low, but after you consider the fact that he did that under five innings, you realize that he was on pace to have one awful night.  In fact, he did, and he was removed before he could allow further damage to occur.  But that didn’t change the fact that his most frequently used pitch, the cutter, wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been.  His curveball and slider were better.  His changeup was extremely effective; all but a few were thrown for strikes.  Unfortunately for us, man can not live on one pitch alone.  Don’t even get me started on his fastball.

He threw only seven pitches in the first inning.  Seven.  It’s like tuning in to a new episode of your favorite TV show, seeing a fantastic cold open, and watching everything go downhill from there, except you obviously can’t look away because you’ll miss all the details.  His worst inning for pitch count was the very next one with twenty-three.  That’s basically when you figured out where the night was headed.  He finished having thrown eighty-three pitches, forty-nine for strikes.  His command wasn’t there, he left pitches up, he hit batters, he misfired.  He essentially did every single thing every pitcher knows never to do.  Ever.  And he managed to do them all in less than half a game.

The bullpen was not helpful.  After McDonald’s bobble, Bowden came on and allowed three more runs.  Hill recorded two outs before Matt Fox allowed one.  Wake was our only salvation, and even he couldn’t pitch through two and a third innings with a successful pickoff without allowing three hits.  Finally the game was over, but the outcome wasn’t pretty.

Part of why it was so disappointing was that the offense did everything right.  The final score was 9-11.  Not 0-11, not 1-11, not 5-11, and not even 8-11.  9-11.  No team, and I mean no team, should lose when it scores nine runs.  Nine runs should be a blowout win, not a close-call loss.

Those nine runs were the product of a never-say-die attitude.  We got started early when V-Mart blasted a two-run homer into the Monster seats in the first .  Toronto tied it an inning later and scored five runs in the fifth inning alone, thanks in part to Lackey hitting his third batter to load the bases with nobody out for Overbay only to give him a changeup that didn’t do much of anything except stay up, and three more in the sixth.  We answered in the bottom of the sixth with three of our own; Scutaro scored on V-Mart’s groundout, Beltre hit an RBI double, and Lowell hit an RBI single.  Toronto took one back in the seventh, and we would have to score six more runs just to tie it.  Time was running out, but it didn’t seem to matter.  In the eighth, V-Mart blasted another two-run shot, launching a first-pitch fastball right over the Monster and into the parking lot for his third multi-homer game of the season.  In the ninth, the kids went to work; Navarro hit an RBI single and Nava hit an RBI double.  We only needed two more to win.

With two out in the bottom of the ninth, we had the tying run at the plate.  That tying run was Victor Martinez, who had already been responsible for about half our RBIs up to that point.  At that point you’re thinking that, no matter what happens, the stage is set perfectly.  No matter what happens, that is the exact scenario you want under those circumstances.  So you could sense that the probability of something good happening was substantial.

But we couldn’t do it.  V-Mart took a 1-0 cutter and popped it up.  The game ended there, and we took the loss.  We erased the progress in the standings we’d made two days before and snapped our winning streak.

V-Mart had the right attitude after the game.  Despite his heroics in earlier innings, this was all he said:

It doesn’t matter.  We lost.

In the grand scheme of things known as the standings, he’s right.  The standings don’t record individual at-bats; entry into the playoffs is decided by wins and losses.  I don’t agree with him wholly because I think every run, every play, and every move made impacts where we go from here, and as a Red Sox fan I obviously believe that baseball should be dirt-dogged and played with heart and hustle no matter what the circumstances, but as for the despair that this statement expressed, I’m totally with him on that.  Absolutely and one hundred percent with him on that.

What makes matters inexpressibly worse is that the Yankees were in the exact opposite situation.  They were one strike away from losing – not one out; one strike – when A-Rod obviously just had to hit a three-run home run.  Honestly.  I don’t think we’ve caught a major break all season long.

Thus, I lay the responsibility of this loss squarely on the shoulders of John Lackey.  Had he performed up to par, we would have been fine.  Our nine runs confirm that there is no doubt whatsoever about that.  And despite all that frustration, the only thing we can do is hope that Beckett shows the Jays who’s boss in game two.  So that’s it.  Let’s do that.

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Literally everything exciting in last night’s game happened in the eleventh inning.  It was one of those tied affairs that you just had to wait out and see what happens.  And it’s tense because the tie could swing either way.  There was a time when you were confident that the tie would swing our way because our offense and bullpen were both solid beyond question.  Currently, our offense and bullpen are solid, but being that an entire third of our starting lineup is out for the season, I’d say we have a good amount to worry about.

For the most part, Dice-K was stellar.  He tossed a full eight innings which was an extremely welcome break from Lester’s sad excuse of a performance.  He gave up four runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out eight.  He threw 109 pitches.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were all working with some nice movement.  His changeup still needs work but he only threw about four of them so it didn’t feature prominently.  He gets points for going deep, lasting past five in his last thirteen starts, and only giving up four runs.  But he loses points for earning a no-decision instead of a win because he gave up our lead, partially through giving up a two-run home run to Overbay.

In the third, McDonald walked, Scutaro doubled, and Drew was hit to load the bases, and V-Mart singled in two runs.  In the fifth, V-Mart turned a full-count fastball into another RBI single.  Beltre’s bloop single added another run.

In the fourth, we thank V-Mart for limiting the damage to one Jays run and not two by holding onto the ball at the plate through the collision with Overbay.

We were up by three before yet another return of the one bad inning.  It was the sixth this time.  Dice-K gave up three runs on nineteen pitches, which is pretty economical considering his past pitch counts during his bad innings.  And it was a real shame; he mowed right through the Jays before and after that but for some reason had to fail at locating that pitch.

We could have sent everybody home in the eighth.  Escobar dropped Lowell’s routine popup, which ended up in the stands, so Lowell reached second with nobody out.  But Hall and McDonald struck out and Scutaro grounded out.

Fortunately, all the relievers who cleaned up Lester’s mess got the day off last night because we used only Bard and Paps, who both pitched well and held down the fort.  But Bard had to toss two full frames, so he’ll probably be unavailable today.

And now we come to the theatrics of the eleventh inning: a walkoff home run from one of the most unlikely sources in our lineup.  In the top of the inning, Lowrie made a very strange fielding error.  He stood under a popup waiting to catch it and just didn’t catch it.  There was no wind; I think he was just slightly out of position.  So it proved, thankfully, to be consequential, but it was just bizarre.  But he made up for it; he used all the power and extension he had to send a hanging curveball over the fence in right! It’s his first career walkoff homer and third homer of the season.  Clearly those hours in the weight room have paid off.  He is currently in the middle of a career-high nine-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .357 with three doubles, seven homers and runs, and five RBIs.

V-Mart improved his already strong average against Romero by going three for five.  Scutaro also went three for five for his third consecutive multi-hit game and is currently in the middle of an eight-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .406 with four doubles, six runs, and three RBIs.  Drew went two for three.

And so it was good.  It turned out alright.  The bullpen got a rest, we got the win, we had three multi-hit games in the lineup, and we can be happy about that.  We need every hit, every run, and every win that we can scrape together.  So there’s nothing to do now but do it again.

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Whenever I talk about a truly great pitcher after a sub-par performance, I make the inevitable joke that I had no idea said pitcher was capable of allowing, say, five runs instead of the usual three or three runs instead of the usual one or one run instead of the usual shutout.  The degree of badness of a pitcher’s bad day is directly correlated with the degree of goodness of a pitcher’s good day.  That’s why a good pitcher’s bad day is a bad pitcher’s good day.

And that’s exactly why I can honestly say in all seriousness, joking aside, that I truly had absolutely no idea that Jon Lester was capable of bombing a start to the egregious extent that he did so last night.

Lester got shelled.  I haven’t seen a start this bad from any pitcher in a very, very long time.  At his worst, I don’t even think Dice-K was this bad.  This is going to be painful to talk about – it’s bad enough I had to watch the whole thing – but let’s do it.

Lester only lasted two innings.  He was finally and mercifully pulled in the third without having recorded an out.  And in those career-low two-plus innings, he somehow managed to give up a career-high nine runs on eight hits, two of which were homers, while walking three and striking out one.  We’re lucky he didn’t give up as many walks as he did runs, and we’re lucky he at least collected one K.  That’s how truly awful he was.  And he threw fifty-one pitches.  That’s half the usual total in less than half the time.  This was, without the shadow of a doubt, the absolute worst start he has ever made in his entire career.  This one start raised his ERA from 2.80 to 3.26.  And he knew it right from the first pitch.  He knew what was coming.  V-Mart knew it when he warmed him in the bullpen.

His command was utterly lacking.  His location was utterly lacking.  His movement was utterly lacking.  His cut fastball was totally lame.  His cutter and sinker were his only working pitches; too bad he threw a grand total of eight of them combined.

Both of those home runs were three-runners by Overbay on pitches that were up and right down the middle.  It was like watching a replay, and I’m thinking I already saw this once already; I don’t need to be reminded of it again.  Of course it would’ve been a replay if we were lucky.  And it was the second homer that chased Lester in the third, leaving us in a 9-zip hole that would only get deeper.

Usually this is where I say that every pitcher has his bad day and it’s particularly unfortunate and inconvenient for us that his bad day is coming now, when every game is a must-win, but I can’t say that here.  I can’t say that here because this is so incredibly beyond everything we know about the kind of bad day Lester usually has.  Usually, when Lester has a bad day, he gives up five runs.  If it’s a really bad day, he gives up six or seven.  But this I’ve never seen from him.  And I don’t really know what to make of it.

Of course that meant that the bullpen had to work overtime, and as is typical for days like this, they didn’t exactly stop the bleeding.  Atchison allowed two runs.  Bowden allowed three.  Delcarmen allowed one.  And Wake, though unearned, allowed one.

In the seventh, Dusty Brown batted in two runs with a double.  That was it for our offense for the entire game.  We lost to the Toronto Blue Jays by an incredibly painful and frustrating and disappointing and just plain miserable final score of 16-2.  It still hurts.

And as if last night couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse, Pedroia is back on the DL with soreness in his foot.  He was only back for two games.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Thankfully, the baseball gods had a world of mercy on us; the Yanks and Rays both lost last night.  The only other bright side was that the starters got a good rest.  And Yamaico Navarro, called up to take Pedroia’s roster spot, collected his first Major League hit, a pinch-hit single on a fastball down the middle for Scutaro in the fifth.  But other than that, there really wasn’t much to cheer about.  And as a result, I look forward to Lester’s next start, when he will undoubtedly unleash a world of dominance in order to make all of Red Sox Nation forget that last night even happened at all.

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I can not believe we lost that game.  I seriously can not believe we lost that game.  That falls squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen.  The starter did his job by limiting the opposition and keeping us in it.  The offense did its job by scoring runs and putting us in a position to win.  All the bullpen had to do was record three outs.  Only three outs! And they couldn’t even do that! They imploded completely and managed to erase everything we’d worked for in the entire game in a single inning! And by “they,” I mean specifically Jonathan Papelbon.  He’s been pitching so well lately, but this one is on him.

The frustration that I experienced, and am still experiencing, is of epic proportions.  We had the sweep in line. We had it in the bag.  And the bullpen, pun intended, completely dropped the ball.

Lackey was superb.  He pitched eight full innings, gave up three runs on eight hits, walked one, and struck out four.  His efficiency was perhaps the best it’s been all season; he did all that on only ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes for a strike rate of about sixty-seven percent.  That’s very impressive.  So were all of his offspeed pitches; his cutter, his most frequently used pitch, was very on, as were his slider, curveball, and changeup.  His fastball was decent.  And he just cruised.  He threw seventeen pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, ten in the third, nine in the fourth, and never looked back.  He got into trouble in the fourth too; he had runners at the corners with nobody out and managed to escape with only one run and nine pitches because even that one run was scored while a first-pitch double play was made.  The exact same thing happened again in the sixth inning.  Like Buchholz, he was mowing right through the Blue Jays and making it look really easy.

Meanwhile, the offense was right behind him the whole way through.  Ellsbury led off the game with a single, Lowrie followed with a walk, a double steal moved both of them into scoring position, Ellsbury came home on a sac fly by V-Mart, and Lowrie came home on a single by Papi.

The fifth was a flashback to Wednesday’s heroics.  Lowrie and Papi both went deep.  Lowrie had us fooled the whole way.  He lifted a high changeup, and it just kept lifting until it got out, but off the bat it didn’t look at all like it had enough to get out.  That’s his first homer of the season, and, landing in the center field seats, it was very powerfully hit.  There was no question about Papi’s homer.  That left the bat and you knew it was headed straight for the bullpen.  It was a changeup again.  No wonder Mills was chased.

That was Papi’s twenty-fifth home run of the season, giving him seven consecutive such seasons, which ties Jim Rice for second in the franchise.  Ted Williams is of course first with fourteen.  Double that.  Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived.

In the eighth, McDonald tripled in Saltalamacchia.  By the way, Salty did very well in his debut; he finished the day two for four with two doubles and handled Lackey very nicely.

Lackey didn’t even leave the ballgame until the ninth inning when, in search of his first complete game of the season, he led it off by allowing a home run.  But life was good.  We had a 5-3 lead, we were in the ninth inning, and we were handing that lead over to a bullpen that had recently handled much smaller leads against much tougher opponents.  What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.  Too much.  Way too much.

After Lackey left, Paps took the ball as is customary.  But his appearance would prove to be anything but customary en route to blowing his sixth save this season in thirty-five opportunities.  It was because he left all of his pitches up.  That’ll do it every time.  You absolutely can not throw lethargic pitches and then leave them up with the game on the line.  That is a complete recipe for disaster.

The first batter that Paps faced doubled.  An RBI single followed.  Then came a grounder off Paps’s left foot that bounced away, and Paps had no idea where it was, and the runners took the  corners with nobody out.

But this time, there would be no first-pitch double play.  Paps struck out Snider, but that was merely setting up false hope.  The very next batter hit an RBI double to tie the game.  Then, with runners on second and third, Paps intentionally walked Overbay.  Then he promptly handed the ball to Bard with one out and the bases loaded.

To review, Jonathan Papelbon, our closer, not only blew the save and took the loss, but he left in the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, and the game tied, and handed the ball to the setup man.  I mean, what? Never before in his entire career has Paps walked off the mound in the ninth in a tie.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stay tied for long.  Lewis hit a sac fly for the walkoff.  And that was the only time the Jays enjoyed a lead in the entire series.  But that’s a bad time for the Jays to enjoy a lead because that lead was permanent.  And I refuse to say that Bard entered an impossible situation because he has entered that situation before, and in New York no less, and gotten out of it.

A win would have swept Toronto.  A win would have cut our deficit in the Wild Card standings.  A win would have kept pace with New York.  And we had that win.  But then we didn’t win.  We lost.  We lost the day before we start a three-game set with the Rangers.  One thing’s for sure: we absolutely can not afford to have this win slow us down.  We can’t.  Not when we’re facing the Rangers for three games on the road before a day off and a homestand. We absolutely can not.  Tonight is yet another must-win, and it is essential that we get it back together and win us a ballgame.  Beckett’s got it.

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What did I tell you? I said that Clay Buchholz is currently an ace in the hole.  Last night, he proved me right.  I hate to say, “I told you so,” but not when being right means we win.

We won by a final score of 2-1.  So we continue to rack up the close wins; that’s our sixth consecutive one-run game.  But it takes a pitcher with some skills to preserve a win like that.  (Apparently, it takes a pitcher with some skills to pitch at all, but that’s not the point.)

Clay Buchholz fulfilled a big responsibility last night, despite his age and despite his usual MO.  He did two very, equally important things: he gave the bullpen a rest to recharge and he won us the ballgame.  And I can say that absolutely because it was a pitcher’s duel, not a slugfest.  And Buchholz won out, besting Shaun Marcum to carry home the W.  Buchholz pitched eight innings.  Eight.  He threw 117 pitches, eighty of them strikes.  One run on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, three swinging and one looking.  He now has an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.30.  This was undoubtedly his best outing of the season, and one of the best of his career.  No, seriously.  His next-closest pitch count was 115, which he threw on September 1, 2007 during his no-no.  Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the return of the kid who threw the no-no.  If there was an off-speed pitch that can be thrown in baseball, he threw it effectively.  Maybe a handful of his breaking balls stayed up with righties at the plate, but that’s really the only complaint.  A singe and double in the first resulted in the Jays’ lone run, but that was it.  His two-seam and changeup were stellar.  His command was fantastic.  He worked calmly and efficiently and alertly; how about that line drive right into his glove in the second? He got the job done better than any of our starters this season.  I think that was our best outing from a starter so far, period.

Ramirez followed that spectacular performance with one of his own.  A clean, one-inning, eleven-pitch save.  Finally.

We manufactured our two runs ourselves; for the offense, this was really a grind-it-out type of contest.  In the first, we tied it when Ortiz worked a two-out walk, and he came around to score via singles by Beltre and Hermida.  Lowell worked a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  My, that’s embarrassing.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to lose a ballgame.  Trust me, I know.  Eric Gagne was an expert at it.

In the eighth, Wells singled and reached second on Beltre’s throwing error.  He clutched at the ball twice before firing wide to first.  That could have been it.  But naturally Buchholz caught Overbay looking at a four-seam and got Gonzalez to fly out on an off-speed.

We have good news: Ryan Westmoreland was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Saturday.  He’ll continue rehabbing as an outpatient.  He’s doing well, which is a relief.  Hang in there, buddy.  Embree is coming up to the bullpen from the minors today.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I was expecting that type of outing left and right from Beckett or Lester or Lackey, but we haven’t gotten that at all, which is why the bullpen’s been fried this week.  We needed someone to get in there and give them a rest.  Buchholz did that and more because, not only did he secure the win, but he secured the win without much input from the offense.  (That had more to do with Marcum being on than the offense being off.) Our other starters need to take a page from Buchholz’s book after that outing.  That was absolutely fantastic.  He just blew everyone out of the water.  I don’t really know what else to say.  That was a rock-solid performance.  Rock-solid.  I mean, way to go, kid! Lester is starting tonight.  I have a feeling that there’ll be quite the contrast between the two outings, but that’s one thing about which I hope I can’t say, “I told you so.”

Reuters Photo

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