Posts Tagged ‘Manny Acta’

We kept trading leads back and forth until we were locked in a tie into the eighth innings.  We handed the ball to Bard.  You think you know a guy.

Lackey pitched decently.  He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t abysmal.  Actually, I think those adjectives are too far apart on the spectrum to paint an accurate picture of what his outing was like.  Really, he wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible.  That’s more like it.  His outing can be considered yet another step in the right direction.

He pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out five.  He threw 106 pitches, seventy-four for strikes.  He mixed his pitches, got aggressive, and attacked the zone.  His fastballs were not great; thankfully that was his least frequent pitch.  The good news is that the effectiveness of his pitches strike-wise increased with the frequency at which he threw them.  He threw changeups for strikes about sixty percent of the time, curveballs about sixty-three, sliders about sixty-seven, and cutters, his most abundant pitch, about eighty-six.  He must have taken a page from Lester’s book because his cutter was downright nasty.

Three of his innings were one-two-three.  His best inning was obviously the second, during which he threw only nine pitches.  The first two runs he allowed were scored by small ball, and the last three were scored by two consecutive home runs, the first for two runs and the second a solo shot.  He was pulled after having secured the first two outs but allowing a single in the seventh.

Morales came on and finished the seventh.  Bard took the ball in the eighth.  But instead of being his usual self, his scoreless inning streak snapped.  He allowed a single and gave up a home run.  Actually, at first Asdrubal Cabrera and his teammates were the only ones who thought he hit it out.  The ball bounced off the wall in right, and everyone else, including first base umpire Todd Tichenor, thought that the ball was still in play.  Manny Acta called for a review, and something happened that seems to never occur when we need it most and always occur when we need it least: the ruling on the field was overturned, and Cabrera was sent home.  That brought in two runs.

Bard induced a groundout after that but then issued an eleven-pitch walk.  In an absurd twist of fate, it was Randy Williams who had to take the ball from Bard.  He hadn’t given up a run in twenty-six and one-third innings in more than twenty-five appearances dating back to May 27.  It was the longest active streak and the longest by any AL pitcher.  All he had to do was pitch one more scoreless frame, and he would have tied Bob Stanley’s string of twenty-seven and one-third innings in 1980.  The game was tied when he came in.  He walked away the loser, literally.

Williams gave up another run.  Albers took the ball from Williams and gave up a solo shot in the ninth.

We ended up losing.

In the second, Salty doubled, moved to third on a single by Reddick, and scored on a single by Scutaro.  I guess Reddick had a feeling that he was going to make a throwing error in the next inning and wanted to compensate in advance.  Technically, though, his throwing error didn’t matter because, while it resulted in a runner advancing to third and later scoring, that runner would have scored anyway because the scoring play was a double.

In the third, Gonzalez singled and scored on a triple by Youk.  The throw back into the infield ended up sailing wide of third, and Youk tried to score also but was thrown out at home.  A groundout by Papi later, Crawford homered into the bullpen on a hanging cut fastball.  It gave you an indication of what we should and hopefully will be seeing from him on a regular basis.  And at the time, it gave us a 3-1 lead.

Three innings later, Crawford doubles, and Salty who homered to right, this one on a changeup.  He even broke his bat on contact.  At the time, it tied the score at five apiece.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mike Aviles singled, moved to second on defensive indifference, and scored on a double by Ellsbury.  But there were two outs in the inning already, and Pedroia ended the game when he grounded out.

I hope this has given you a sense of the epic frustration that was last night’s three-hour, eleven-minute contest.  Here’s the saddest part.  Each team collected thirteen hits.  The Tribe went three for seven with runners in scoring position and left four on base; we went four for eight with runners in scoring position and left five on base.  And yet we lost, 9-6, to the Tribe.  Bard failing with the entire game on the line? Papi hitless in the last two games? Reddick, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury held to one hit each? Reddick also messing up in the field and on the base paths? (He got caught in a rundown between third and home in the second inning.  Seriously, who does that?) A ruling overturned in the opposition’s favor? It was the stuff of legend, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all.  We’re now only one game up on the Yankees.  We’re playing them in a series starting on Friday.  The implications and importance of this are obvious.

Buchholz will likely be out for the rest of the season.  Apparently it’s not just a strain anymore; it’s a set of stress fractures.  Between the seeking of a third opinion and the acquisition of Bedard, I think we all knew that the chances of him returning this year, while technically present, are slim.  Bedard, by the way, is making his Boston debut on Thursday.  Can you imagine? It will be his first time ever pitching in a pennant race.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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It was epically uncanny how similar last night’s starting pitchers’ performances were.  It was uncanny.  They were almost identical.  Justin Masterson – remember him? – pitched seven and two-thirds innings, gave up two runs on four hits (one of them a homer), walked two, and struck out three.  Buchholz pitched seven and a third innings, gave up two runs on four hits (one of them a homer), walked two, and struck out four.

Buchholz had both fastballs and his cutter working really well, and he mixed in his changeup and curveball very effectively.  He kept the hitters guessing and the lineup in the game all the way through.  He went deep into the ballgame, and he did it with efficiency: he only needed ninety-four pitches this time, fifty-five for strikes.  Four of his innings were one-two-three, including his last full frame, and he was pulled in the seventh after giving up a single and inducing a groundout.  He set a new career high in pitch count his last time out, so there was no way Tito was going to let him stay out there for much longer.

To be clear, only one of those two runs was allowed on Buchholz’s watch.  He made a bad pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera to open the fourth, and he hit a solo shot.  More on that second run soon.  By the way, later in the fourth he made a solid defensive play; Travis Buck chopped it back to him, and he just leapt up, caught it, and fired to first for the second out of the inning.

In the third, Crawford singled, moved to second on a groundout by Salty, and scored on a single by Pedroia, who batted in his first run since May 2.  In the fifth, it was again Crawford who scored, erasing the home run hit by Cabrera with a leadoff solo shot of his own on a slider that ended up in the first few rows of seats in right.  It was his first home run in ninety-seven at-bats and his second of the season.

The top of the eighth was a pretty eventful half-inning.  Salty led it off by flying out.  Then Ellsbury chopped one to Matt LaPorta, who fired to Masterson at first.  Ellsbury would have been out by a mile, but first base umpire Rob Drake ruled that Masterson missed the bag entirely and that therefore Ellsbury was safe.  Tribe manager Manny Acta came out to argue and was ejected.  Then Pedroia walked on five pitches, and Gonzalez hit what looked like a fly ball, but it dropped in for a hit.  Pedroia rounded second, tripped over second base, fell, and hustled back.  He turned his left ankle, which is especially painful for him because of that pin that was put into it when he had surgery in August.  He limped off the field and left the game, but it’s not serious.  It’s the second time this has happened this season, and fortunately he’s been fine.

So I was feeling pretty good.  We only had a one-run lead, but Buchholz was on and, thanks to Crawford, one step ahead of Masterson.  When he came out of the game, we knew Tito would call for Bard both because it was the eighth inning and that’s Bard’s territory but also because Bard was rested.  He was rested because he’d been used a lot lately, and Tito wanted him to be good as new.  He was not good as new.

He gave up at least one run for the fourth time in his last seven appearances.  He came on with only one runner on second.  The double play wasn’t an option, but it looked like he would be on pace to exit the inning smoothly when he got Carlos Santana to pop up in an 0-2 count.  But then he gave up a single to allow his inherited runner to score (hence the two runs charged to Buchholz), which tied the game.  That was bad enough.  But he allowed another run when he gave up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera.  Then he was replaced by Rich Hill, who recorded a strikeout to end the inning, but not before the Tribe garnered a 3-2 lead.

That ended up being the final score.  Papi flied out.  Drew singled and moved to third on a single by Lowrie.  We had runners at the corners with one out, and up comes Crawford.  He’s had his fair share of walkoffs, and he’d already collected two hits on the night.  So he actually wasn’t a bad guy to have up there.  The tying run was ninety feet away, and all Crawford had to do was put the ball in play in any way.  What does he do? He grounds into a game-ending double play.

Bard took both the blown save and the loss, and deservedly so.  Buchholz pitched an absolute gem in which a one-run lead was totally secure, and he has nothing to show for it now because Bard was an epic fail.  I feel comfortable in making the claim that, if Buchholz hadn’t thrown so many pitches in his last outing and was able to remain in the game, we’d be looking at a more positive outcome.

And we’re talking really positive.  A win last night would have put us in first place.  Instead, we remain half a game out behind the Rays and Yankees, who are both tied.  We could have another chance tonight.

In other news, the Bruins again lead the series after winning, 3-1, last night!

AP Photo

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