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Posts Tagged ‘Manny Delcarmen’

Whenever a ballclub scores seven runs in a single inning and homers five times in a single game and still loses, you know there’s plenty of blame to go around among that day’s pitchers.  The offense did its job and then some.  It’s the pitchers who took that great job they did and tossed it out the window.  And unfortunately we’ve seen games like this before.  It’s absolutely painful to witness, especially when you just went through a stretch where you weren’t scoring much, especially when you’re down in the standings, and especially when you’re playing a potential playoff opponent.

Texas scored two runs before we got started, but when we got started, we didn’t look back.  Or rather the offense didn’t look back.  The pitching is another story.  Anyway, Lowrie started us off with his second home run in as many days, this one his first batting left-handed.  There was no fooling around with this one.  He crushed a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball down the middle into the bullpen.

Then came the fourth inning, the masterpiece of the entire game.

Papi, Beltre, and Drew went back-to-back-to-back.  I’m not kidding.  It was so incredibly awesome.  And in those situations, you never quite believe it because you think you’re seeing a replay of the previous home run, but it’s actually a new one.  It’s absolutely fantastic.  It was the most since the four homers we hit to back Dice-K in the third game of our first series against the Yankees in 2007 that would result in our first sweep of New York since the ‘90s.

Papi’s blast was an eighty-nine-mile-per-hour cut fastball he took to left on the first pitch of the frame.  Beltre’s blast two pitches later was also a cut fastball, roughly to the same location, but deeper.  And Drew’s blast four pitches later was just a rocket to right that he pulled on an inside pitch.  So that’s three home runs in a single inning, four so far in the game.

The onslaught continued in the fourth with some small ball.  Scutaro batted in two with a single, V-Mart batted in one with a single, and Scutaro scored when Papi grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Drew brought the game home run total to five with yet another home run in the seventh, lifting an inside pitch for a towering shot to right.  It’s the tenth time this season we’ve hit at least four homers in a single game.

At that point, we had a three-run lead.  We would’ve obviously had a much greater lead if Beckett had given us any semblance of a quality start at all.  Thankfully some good starts have given the bullpen a break recently because Beckett only lasted five innings, during which he managed to give up six runs on ten hits, three of them homers, two of which were back-to-back, while walking one and striking out four.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-two for strikes.  His curveball, cutter, and fastball were good, but his pitch counts ran away from him because he left some pitches up and threw some down the middle, which would explain his high hit total even though he threw pitches for strikes and maintained a low walk total.  The bottom line is that if he’d gone out there and just done his job, we would have won easily.

Drew’s homer in the seventh was the last run we’d score.  Our last eleven batters were retired in order.  Meanwhile, Richardson and Atchison had shared the sixth, and Doubront and Bard shared the seventh.  The latter two allowed the three runs that tied the game.  Delcarmen handled the eighth.  Paps thankfully handled the ninth.  And that’s where the problem started.

Paps can only stay in there for one inning, and Tito had already emptied the bullpen.  His hands were tied.  His only other option was Wakefield, who doesn’t tire out and who was going to stay in there no matter what happened.  And Tito would have to sit back, try to relax, and watch whatever unfolded because there was nothing he could do about it.  Obviously something unfolded, and it wasn’t good.  Wake gave up a home run on the first pitch of the at-bat in the bottom of the eleventh for the walkoff and took the loss.  Now, I don’t want to talk about it, but that reminded me very much of a certain game involving a certain home run during a certain postseason before a certain curse was certainly broken, if you know what I mean.  It was just terrible.

We haven’t suffered consecutive walkoff losses since July 1-2, 2004.  We lost yet another game that we clearly should have won in eleven innings.  So the whole team is tired, the bullpen is especially tired, and in the first inning Ellsbury collided with Hunter at first.  Hunter is a big guy, and he was just completely in the way of Ellsbury’s path.  He stayed in until the fourth but then his ribs started acting up.  He’s in Boston today for an MRI.  On top of that, V-Mart fouled a ball off his left toe, the same toe he had injured previously.  He was in a lot of pain at the time.  We’ll see what happens.  Specifically, we’ll see what happens tonight when Lester takes on Lewis.  Lester needs to build on his previous win in New York, and we need to build on whatever momentum is left over from our win in New York and subsequent series with Toronto.  We need to stop losing all of our momentum just because of one or two losses.  Losses need to stop carrying over.  They also need to stop occurring.  So we’ll see.

Otto Greule, Jr.
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Again, the theme of eyes on the prize.  We won.  We didn’t win by much, but we won.  And we did some bad things, but obviously we did some good things too.  In fact, the whole game was yet another miniature version of the whole season, with the important exception being that in this game we got a good start.  Actually, it reminded me of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, where we had the lead several times but allowed the opposition to tie it, although we never fell behind and ultimately won out.  And it was especially important to win the first game of this series, being that Toronto is surging right now.  So despite all the badness that was present in the game, this is good.

We came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and scored three runs in the second inning: RBI doubles for Beltre and Lowrie and an RBI single for Ellsbury.  We scored one more in the third when Lowell sacrificed V-Mart in with the bases loaded.  It would have been nice for him to have done more with that opportunity, but I’ll most definitely take the run.  But the Jays did the same thing in reverse; they scored one in the second and three in the third.

In the fifth, Drew hit a solo shot and continued his great numbers against Romero by depositing his fastball middle-in into the second right field deck.

Meanwhile, Dice-K didn’t deliver his best performance.  He lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three and striking out seven on 110 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  His two-seam, cutter, slider, and changeup were very much on, but his curveball and four-seam, his two most frequently used pitches, were very much off.  He threw thirty-three pitches when he gave up that three-spot in the third, which was the result of a home run, while needing only five pitches to get through the very next inning.  So this start was a miniature version of his entire season as well.

He ran into trouble in the sixth, walking the first two batters he faced.  With one out to go in the inning, Lewis hit your average ground ball to Scutaro, but unfortunately, Lowrie was slow getting over to second, so Scutaro hesitated before making his throw.  Doubront took care of it by striking out Snider on three pitches.  That’s poise.  Especially from a young guy.

But in the seventh, Bautista hit a solo shot of his own to tie it back up.  Doubront picked up a blown save for that.

The eighth was when we locked it up.  With two out, Lowell hit a solo shot over the left field fence.  It was a sinking fastball, and he basically golfed it out of the park.  And that put us out in front for good, not to mention the fact that Lowell is clearly returning to form very nicely.  Lowrie added one for insurance with an RBI double.  Delcarmen held the fort, Paps made the save, and the final score was 7-5!

Lowrie finished the night two for three; Ellsbury finished the night two for four.

And it just goes to show you that man can not win on long balls alone.  If they could, Toronto would be at the top of the standings by now.  But they’re not.  And we beat them, with both big and small ball.  We took advantage of our opportunities, leaving only five on base as opposed to Toronto’s eight.  So the first bit of good news is that we won.  The second is that the Yankees lost to the Rangers.  And the third is that Pedroia passed all his running drills; he ran the bases a bit yesterday and will run them again today, and he’ll be evaluated on Friday.  If everything checks out, Pedroia will spend the weekend in Pawtucket and start at second on Tuesday.  The only bad news was that the Rays managed to win, but we’re still inching ahead.  Next is Buchholz opposite Marcum.  Let’s win the series.

Reuters Photo

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There are a couple of reasons why our loss yesterday technically isn’t the end of the world.  The first is that we won the first game, so we’re no better off than we were heading into the series, which is good considering it could be worse. The second is that the Rays also lost, so there’s that.

Either way, we still lost to the Evil Empire in the Bronx when we needed to win.  And I loathed that experience just as much as I enjoyed winning on Friday.

Lackey was not helpful.  His scouting report always says he’s a big-game pitcher, and Tito always says that on a day he starts we’ll still be in the game in the seventh inning because of him.  Technically we were because we were only down by three, but in my book a big-game pitcher and one who keeps you in the game in the seventh inning when you’re the Red Sox and playing the Yankees in the Bronx will either have you with a lead, a tie, or a one-run deficit if that’s true.  We had each of those over the course of the game and Lackey couldn’t hold on to any of them.

He gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings.  He walked three, struck out seven, and took the loss.  He threw 116 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  He started the second by giving up a walk and eventually the lead by allowing the bottom half of the order to tie it.  He allowed four consecutive two-out hits in the fifth that broke the tie for good, throwing a total of thirty-one pitches in the inning.  And may I say that Drew was not helpful either; Cano’s bloop hit fell right in front of him, and I can only assume the sun prevented him from seeing it properly because there’s otherwise no excuse for why he didn’t catch that ball.  There was also the throwing error by V-Mart in the sixth that was aimed for Scutaro to prevent the steal of second, but it bounced off Scutaro’s glove and ended up in the outfield, allowing the lead runner to advance to third and eventually to home plate.

In the beginning of the game, Lackey threw his fastball more often, but eventually he abandoned that plan because his fastball wasn’t that great.  His curveball was his stellar pitch, followed by his changeup and slider.  Not coincidentally, his next-most abundant pitch, his cutter, was mediocre.  He mixed his pitches well and put good movement on them.

But he let the game slip through his fingers.  When we play the Yankees, everything has to be working: run prevention as well as run production.  Yesterday, we basically had neither.

The game began with such promise.  We were the first to get on the board when V-Mart hit a solo shot in the second to left, right after FOX’s commentators finished expounding on the fact that V-Mart has lit up lefties this season.  The count was 3-1, so he was sitting on an inside fastball, and that’s exactly what he got.  It was V-Mart’s first homer in sixty-seven at-bats and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Then Beltre extended his hitting streak to thirteen games with a double and scored Lowell’s subsequent double.

And that was it for us for the rest of the game.  We lost it, 2-5.  Sabathia’s velocity was noticeably low, but of course the problem is that when that happens to him, he just switches to finesse.  If we won, we could have been four games out of first and three and a half out of the Wild Card.  But we didn’t.  We lost.

And I’ll tell you another thing.  Jerry Layne’s strike zone was way too wide.  Papi showed a lot of composure out there, because some of those supposed strikes were miles off the plate.  And that bothers me.  An umpire is supposed to be invisible, and the action of the game is supposed to unfold in front of him.  Jerry Layne was very visible, and instead the action was unfolding around him.  That’s not good.  If he wants to impact the action that much, he should put on a uniform and play, in which case I doubt he’d be very happy with his own strike zone.

I should mention that Delcarmen and Doubront were both excellent in relief.  I should also mention that we did in fact acquire Delgado.  As predicted, we signed him to minor league deal, which he can waive if we don’t put him on the Major League roster by September 1.  And last but not least, Ellsbury wasn’t in the lineup today because it was a scheduled day off against a lefty, not because his diving catch on Friday injured him again.  Kalish sat for the same reason.

But like I said, it could be so much worse, so we should at least be thankful we won the first game, but it just feels like a waste.  The day was scripted for a win.  The Rays lost, we won the night before, we had a big-game pitcher on the mound who would take us into the seventh inning, V-Mart hits a home run, Lowell bats one in, and then it just stopped.  I can’t adequately express my frustration.  I mean, it seriously just stopped.  Sabathia locked, Lackey unlocked, and that was the end of it.

We’re throwing Beckett against Burnett tonight.  We need to get this one.

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Last night was just bad.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.

Let’s start with Lackey.  After those first three starts after the break, I was convinced this one was going to be even better.  It certainly started out that way; Lackey fanned six of his first eleven batters.  But things quickly unraveled starting in the fourth, his worst inning for pitch count with twenty-six.  He had two outs with nobody on base, and the entire game just got away from him with a single, another single, and an RBI double.  Thankfully Kalish ended it with an excellent and pinpoint throw to the plate.

After that, Lackey was terrible.  He lacked almost everything a dominant pitcher should have.  He was inefficient; he threw 107 pitches during his five and one-third innings.  He was not effective; he gave up six runs on nine hits while walking five.  He was mediocre: his best pitches were his slider and cutter, while his curveball, changeup, and fastball left much to be desired.  He did get his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour, and he did strike out seven, but that’s not really helpful after presenting your team with a deficit that large.  By the time he came out of the game, he had allowed three runs to score in the sixth while recording only one out.

The relief corps was excellent.  Delcarmen, Richardson, Wakefield, and Bard pitched the rest of the game.  While Lackey was busy taking the loss, the four relievers were busy showing the world why it wasn’t technically all that necessary for Theo to go all out at the deadline for another reliever.

So that’s one high point.  That was the only high point.

Papi scored on Beltre’s sac fly in the second.  That was it for us until the seventh inning.  Again with the missed opportunities.  Scutaro was gunned down at the plate.  We had runners at the corners with nobody out in the fifth and failed to do something with it.

And of course there was the third, when Youk left the game.  He had jammed his right thumb in the first while lining to short and tried to play through it but ultimately couldn’t.  V-Mart moved to first, Cash moved behind the plate, and Red Sox Nation moved their hands to their mouths in complete and total disbelief.  I mean, seriously? Is this for real? We had a ton of very significant injuries, we were just starting to get healthy again, and now this happens? And to make matters worse, Cameron is back on the DL with abdominal issues.  Technically we should be happy about that.  He’s been playing the past few months in pain.  Not days.  Not weeks.  Months.  Nobody knows his status for the rest of the season.  So we recalled Nava.  But all of this begs the question of Ellsbury, who’s played in four minor league games and in his most recent one made an extremely difficult jumping catch over the fence in classic Ellsbury style.  Nobody but Ellsbury knows what he’s feeling, but if Cameron can see Major League action for months with a muscle tear, and Youk can stay in the game until the pain becomes unbearable, and V-Mart can return to action the split-second he’s feeling fine, I would expect Ellsbury to return to action very soon if he’s making catches like that.  Of course, a rib issue is more serious than other issues, but we need him.  We really need him.

Then in the seventh, Beltre homered into the Monster seats on an offspeed.  And then I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we all had a comeback on our minds.  We were losing, we entered the last third of the ballgame, and given our performance in recent games, we had every reason to expect something to happen.  Something did happen, but not what we had in mind.  Nava pinch-hit for Patterson and hit a single, so Kalish was waved around.  Santana was waiting with the ball.  They collided; Kalish was out, and so was Santana with an injury.  But the hit was completely clean.  Kalish was pretty shaken by it, as a rookie is wont to be.  Also, that was a bad decision on Bogar’s part.  We have one out in the inning and we’re losing by four runs, and he sends the runner on that hit? Not a good idea at all.

Still, Beltre raised our hopes even further with two out in the eighth, with his three-run blast, also into the Monster seats, also on an offspeed: a hanging slider.

Then it’s a one-run game heading into the ninth.  It’s crazy.  And now we’re really thinking we’re going to do something here.  We’re going to lock this up.  We’re going to start the series off right.  We’re going to show this team who’s boss.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s going to be the third walkoff in a row.  Isn’t it?

No.

Kalish went three for three, Papi went two for four, and Scutaro went two for five.  But Beltre alone batted in all of our runs, scoring two of them himself.  He finished the night two for three.  For one night, Adrian Beltre played Yaz carrying the entire team on his shoulders.  And we all know what happened in 1967: we were almost there, but we lost to the Cards in seven games in the World Series.  Similarly, last night we were almost able to overtake the Indians, but in the end we couldn’t do it.

We’re six and a half games behind the Rays and the Yankees, who are now tied for first.  There’s really not much to say.  We need wins.  We need them in abundance.  And we need them now.  Seriously.  Every game from this point on is a must-win.  Beckett takes the hill tonight opposite David Huff.  It must start tonight.  We must win.  Tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  But if the horse is really, really thirsty, you don’t have to make him drink.  He just drinks.

It’s the same with a baseball team.  You can give a team a scoring opportunity, but you can’t make the team score.  Either the team scores or it doesn’t score.  But if the team hasn’t scored in a long enough while, chances are they’re going to score because they’re thirsty for runs and wins.

Yesterday, we were mighty thirsty.  There was so much goodness packed into those awesome nine innings that I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s start with pitching.  Josh Beckett picked up his first win since April 10, only his second of the season.  But you have to start somewhere.  He tossed a full seven solid frames.  Three runs on five hits, one walk, five K’s, 112 pitches, sixty-nine strikes.  Had some trouble that wasn’t his fault: Hermida’s failure to make a difficult but doable play in left, and Hall turning a popup into a double because he lost the ball in the sun.  But other than that, Beckett was his old self again.  That fastball was smoking by hitters, he regained all of his intensity, and really he just made you excited about the race down the stretch.

And that’s not even the best part.  The offense was the best part.

The final score was 7-3.  We scored all of our runs on four long balls: two in the second, one in the seventh, and one in the eighth.

Beltre started things off with his seventeenth homer of the season, burying a two-seam that was supposed to be away but stayed inside in the first few rows of the left field bleachers.  Hermida’s out provided a brief interlude before Hall stepped up and smashed a Pesky-style home run around the left field foul pole, actually cracking his bat in the process.

Then the Angels rallied for a tie that held through the first half of the fifth.  Then they took the lead by one.  Then in the seventh, Youk re-tied it with a fastball that was supposed to be inside but hung over the middle.  That’s a deadly mistake every time.

So the game stayed tied until the very next inning, and this is really the grand finale right here.  And the man of the hour is Marco Scutaro.

Actually the man of the series is Marco Scutaro.  He batted .500 over these last three games, walked twice, scored four runs, and batted in four runs.  Both of those walks and all four of those RBIs came yesterday, the RBIs all on one swing.  Alright.  Here we go.

Before stepping up to the plate in the eighth inning, Scutaro had already been on base four times that day, twice via hits and twice via walks.  He’d struck out once.  Hermida and Hall led off the inning with back-to-back walks.  Patterson went for a sac bunt that was located flawlessly and ended up beating the throw to first.  So the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Which didn’t necessarily mean anything, because how many times had we had scoring opportunities like this, with multiple runners in scoring position and even the bases loaded with no outs or one out or even two outs and failed to do anything with it? It’s not even like this game was that different; we stranded nine baserunners through the first seven frames.  And it wasn’t like Papi or Youk or Beltre or some other guy with massive power that was coming to the plate.  It was Scutaro, who’s the guy who rolls out the carpet for the power guys.  But things had been a little different since we arrived in Angel Stadium, and we were about to give ourselves a right proper send off.

Scutaro fell behind in the count, 0-2.  After taking a ball, he took the sixth pitch of his at-bat, a changeup, and sent it into left field also in Pesky fashion.  That would be the second grand slam of his career.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be the end of the game.  That was awesome.  I couldn’t believe it.  You know a guy like Scutaro has it in him, but you never know when you’ll see it or if you’ll see it.  And he just uncorked a whole world of power on that ball.  That was amazing.  So awesome.  Seriously.  So unbelievably awesome.  A grand slam!

Bard and Paps had the day off, and the Angels had runners on first and second with two out against Delcarmen in the eighth, but Hall quickly took care of that with a tremendous flash of leather.  It was a bloop that was on the outfield grass, too close to the infield for Patterson and supposedly out of Hall’s reach.  Not so.  He jumped, caught it, and fell.  That was a huge out.  Ramirez held down the ninth.

V-Mart went two for five.  He wasn’t even supposed to play.  He literally just talked his way into it.  He told Tito he really really wanted to play after Tuedsay’s game.  He told him again yesterday morning.  Drew was out, so Tito agreed.  And he went two for five.  How ‘bout that.  By the way, Drew’s hamstring issue isn’t serious.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

Let’s look back over the road trip, shall we? Our first stop was Oakland, where we lost the series.  Then we went to Seattle, where we split.  And now, we just swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  A sweep.  How sweep it is.  We finished the road trip six and four, which isn’t amazing but it’s absolutely decent and I’ll take it.  That sweep was a whole lot of goodness.  That was just what the doctor ordered.  Time to go home and do something with this momentum.  We’ve got a set with the Tigers, who’ve had injury problems themselves, so this might actually be a good matchup.

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That was a very strange game.

Jon Lester is the absolute man.  He’s basically the best lefty in the game.  He’s totally an ace.  At twenty-six years old, he’s accomplished more than some people do in their entire lifetimes.  As a pitcher, he already has a no-hitter to his credit.  It only made sense that a perfect game would follow, with a Cy Young after that.

And he almost had one.  He was bidding very actively for a perfect game into the sixth inning.  I’ve watched him pitch countless times, but this without a doubt was the best I’ve ever seen him pitch, ever.  It would have to be if he were bidding for perfection.

He took the hill and proceeded to retire his first sixteen batters.  His cut fastball was absolutely nasty.  Nobody was going to hit that.  Nobody was going to hit his curveball or changeup either.  He was incredibly crafty and had hitters completely fooled; eleven of the strikes he threw were swinging.  He threw thirteen pitches in the first and eight in the fifth.  He concentrated on the bottom half of the zone, controlled his movement, and was literally just owning all the action.  If Lester didn’t want it to happen in the game, it seemed like it just wasn’t going to happen.

Eric Patterson changed everything.  With one out in the sixth, Wilson hit your average fly ball.  Patterson had a long way to go to make the play, but he was absolutely one hundred percent in position to make the play.  And for some unexplainable reason that I’m sure is completely inadequate, Patterson dropped it.  He just dropped it.  An elite pitcher had a perfect game on the line and he just dropped it.  And Wilson took second base.  We know from experience that if you’re a pitcher in the middle of making history like this and you don’t have good D behind you, chances are you won’t make it after all.  Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz can tell you all about that.  And Patterson ruined the whole thing completely.  Seriously.  The entire game went downhill after that one colossal snafu.  I don’t even think I can describe the fury I experienced with actual words.

So that ruled out perfection.  The no-hitter and the lead were both destroyed in the very next at-bat, when Saunders hit a hanging breaking ball out of the park.  That wasn’t a great pitch to call in that situation, so while it’s true that Lester didn’t locate the pitch well, Cash probably shouldn’t have called for it and Lester.  They had been feeding Saunders a steady diet of fastballs, so naturally he would have been lying in wait for something off-speed.

Suddenly we were…losing?

It would only get even worse.  Lester stayed in almost through the eighth inning, which was our final blow.  A sacrifice, a double, and a hit batsman scored three.  He issued his lone walk of the night in that inning as well.  We lost, 5-1, the one run courtesy of a homer by Papi in the fourth.  Delcarmen recorded the final out.

He gave up all of Seattle’s runs on four hits.  He walked one and striking out a whopping thirteen batters, a new career high and the most in a game by a Boston southpaw since Bruce Hurst K’ed fourteen Athletics on May 5, 1987.  He threw a grand total of 124 pitches, eighty of which were strikes.  That’s a ton.  Among Major League lefties, he’s sixth in ERA, third in innings pitched, tied for second in wins, second in WHIP, and first in strikeouts.  And he ended up with the loss.  I ask you: where is the justice? There is absolutely no justice in that whatsoever.  Eric Patterson should take the loss, but there is no way on this Earth that Jon Lester deserves a loss after a start like that.  Absolutely no way.  I can understand if a pitcher can’t quite eke out a perfect game.  I can understand if a pitcher gives up a hit at the last minute.  But I can’t understand how a pitcher nursing both bids can end up losing.

And it just goes to show you how valuable Pedroia, V-Mart, and Ellsbury really are.  The offense has not been performing well lately.  We’ve either squandered all of our opportunities or we haven’t even given ourselves opportunities to squander.  It’s terrible.  And last night’s contest highlights it in the extreme; we were down by four and couldn’t even muster five runs to earn the win for a pitcher who deserved it and more.  That’s bad.  That’s really bad.  Luckily, V-Mart could return as early as Monday, but still I’d rather be cautious and have him healthy for the long haul than bring him back early and have him fail down the stretch as a result.  On the bright side, we have a chance to win this series with Dice-K on the mound.  Hopefully he’ll continue his positive trend and earn a win if he pitches well.

Reuters Photo

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Whoa.  I mean, just, whoa.  We sign John Lackey in the offseason partly because he has that formidable first-pitch strike.  We bring him here.  We expect lights-out.  That’s not necessarily what we get.  We chalk it up to first-season blues and patiently observe his improvement as the season goes on, trusting that next year will be even better.

And then a game like last night’s comes along and shows you what exactly it is you have to look forward to.

After Dice-K did something similar earlier this season, I was almost speechless because I was surprised.  But when a pitcher does it whom you know has it in him every single night, it’s not surprising.  But it is awe-inspiring.

John Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  Let me say that again: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth.  One more time: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth! It was insane! He was four outs away from closing the deal – only four outs! – when it happened.  Bard hit a single into right field with two outs in the eighth.  Technically, it wasn’t Lackey’s fault; he located the pitch were he wanted.  Bard just read it.  And there was no way a fielder was getting to that so the D had nothing to do with it.  Lackey pulled a Schilling, that’s all.  Minus the shake-off, of course.

So he tossed eight frames.  He gave up no earned runs on two hits, walked one, and struck out six.  Eighty of his 116 pitches were strikes.  That’s a sixty-nine percent strike rate.  That’s ridiculously high.  So obviously his strike zone was absolutely packed.  His fastball, cutter, slider, and curveball were all firing on all cylinders.  He had command of everything.  He threw at most twenty pitches in the fifth inning and at least ten in the eighth.  So it wasn’t the most economical no-hitter bid we’ve seen, but hey, a no-hitter bid is a no-hitter bid.  And the man was on the ball.  He was all over it.  He was commanding like a general.  He held the entire game in his hands, and he was mastering it.  He just couldn’t come out with it in the end.  Which is crushing, but the most important thing you can do in that situation is keep your cool.  I say this time and time again when we see no-hitter bids get spoiled: it’s so easy for the pitcher to unravel completely because of it that the other team goes on to win the ballgame.  We’ve taken advantage of that on several occasions.  Also, let me say it’s nice to not be on the receiving end of one of these.  The closest Lackey ever came to pitching a no-hitter was actually against us at home on July 29, 2008.  He was two outs away when Pedroia the Destroyah ruined everything.  It’s so much more fun to watch a power performance from Lackey and not be the victim of it.  That’s an understatement.

Anyway, Lackey did indeed keep his cool.  He finished the eighth inning and then left.  Meanwhile, we were leading, 6-1.  (That run had scored on a passed ball in the second and was therefore unearned.) We almost scored our first run in the first, when Papi hit what everyone thought was a home run.  Ichiro, of course, had other plans and managed to snag it as a fly ball with a leaping catch.  In classic Papi style, Ortiz had this to say:

Next time, I’ll make sure I hit into the upper deck. He won’t get that.

We finally got on the board two innings later.  In the third, following a very hard-hit ball by Cameron, Hall jacked one out of the park to send himself and Cameron home.  The ball went into the bullpen on a changeup away.  Papi followed it with an RBI single.  In the sixth, Drew jacked one out of the park for another two runs; two of his now twelve homers have come against southpaws.  In seventh, Scutaro homered himself in behind the scoreboard on an inside fastball.

So through eight and a half innings, we were riding high.  Then the bottom of the ninth hit, and it all unraveled.  So, to review, it wasn’t Lackey who had a meltdown.  It was Delcarmen.

Delcarmen came in and allowed four runs, three earned, on two hits without recording an out, mostly via Paps and inherited runners, but we’ll get to that.  There was a two-run homer on a fastball down the middle, a walk, and a failure by Scutaro to handle a ground ball.  So all of a sudden, we went from an assured win to a save opportunity.  No day off for Paps.  He came in.  And he blew it.

He struck out Smoak to start things off.  But then he gave up an RBI single and a walk to load the bases.  Then another ground ball came Scutaro’s way; he threw to second for the force out, but Hall’s throw ended up being an error that scored two to tie the game.  If it’s any consolation, the runner would have been safe even if the throw were on target, but still.

Paps got a blown save, and most deservedly so.  It was an incredibly ugly half-inning.  He ruined everything.  He gave Seattle a tie.  A tie! After Lackey’s no-hitter bid, we found ourselves tied? That is so wrong.

Paps was duly removed after finishing the inning, and Bard came in.  So no day off for him either.  He held the fort.  Okajima pitched two innings, but it wasn’t easy.  He had the bases loaded with one out in the twelfth but managed to neutralize the threat.  Ramirez pitched one inning.  And that was the end of the night for the pitching staff.

Paps got a blown save.  Ramirez got the save.  But what hurt most of all is that Lackey had to accept a no-decision for an obviously winning performance.  It was Okajima who picked up the win.  That stung.  That really stung.

Meanwhile, the offense got to work.  We didn’t do much until the top of the thirteenth.  Youk singled up the middle.  Beltre would’ve sent everyone home with a two-run shot if it stayed fair.  Cameron walked to put Youk in scoring position.  And Patterson, who was only playing because he pinch-hit two innings before, after a steady diet of breaking balls, with two outs and one strike away from being the third, sent a curveball into left-center field for a double.  Youk and Cameron both came around.  The final score was 8-6.

Wake will move to the bullpen to make room for Beckett.  Hermida will start against righties.

So, ultimately, we won.  It was an incredibly ugly and roundabout way to win, but it was a win nonetheless.  That game pretty much summed up our entire season: it was a wild fluctuation.  We started out with so much potential, which we squandered and had to fight for our lives, but then we came out on top.  Resilience.  It’s so much easier to roll over and take a loss with a ninth inning like that than it is to absolutely refuse to go down.  We went from a no-hitter to a win with a whole lot of complications in between, but we can be proud of it anyway.  What a game.  That was indeed a real triumph.

AP Photo

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