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Posts Tagged ‘Marco Scutaro’

We just scored enough runs to have won several baseball games, let alone one.  I mean, we buried the Giants.  We buried them under a whole mountain of runs.  We played the small ball, and we played the long ball, and we won.  And we won big.

I’ll start by saying this.  We did not score in the first, the fifth, the sixth, and the ninth.

Gomes struck out to lead off the second, Salty walked, Drew flied out, and Middlebrooks homered on his second pitch of the game, a cutter.  He sent the ball beyond the left field fence.  It was huge.

Ellsbury and Victorino hit back-to-back singles to lead off the third.  Ellsbury scored on a double by Pedroia, Papi struck out, and Victorino and Pedroia both scored on a single by Papi.

Middlebrooks led off the fourth with a walk and scored on a double by Victorino.

Ellsbury led off the seventh with a single, Victorino flied out, Pedroia doubled, Napoli struck out, and Gomes walked to load the bases.  Salty singled in both Ellsbury and Pedroia.  And it’s a shame that the bases had been partially cleared, because Drew ripped a curveball beyond the right field fence.  Three runs on one swing, and five runs in the inning.  Easy.

Nava reached on a fielding error in the eighth by who but Marco Scutaro, and he scored when Xavier Bogaerts reached on a force.

Meanwhile, Doubront had it turned on all the way up throughout the whole start and was one inning shy of going the distance.  He pitched eight innings of one-run ball; he walked one, struck out three, and gave up five hits.  He gave up a solo shot with one out in the second; that was his only mistake.  He got the win, and Uehara closed it out.

The final score, ladies and gentlemen, was 12-1.

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The big news this week is that we’ve traded Scutaro to the Rockies for Clayton Mortensen.  Make no mistake about this deal, folks.  This deal was not for Mortensen.  This deal was to dispose of Scutaro’s six million dollars in order to free up salary for a starter, possibly Roy Oswalt.  So don’t think of it as a neat exchange; think of it as exchanging Scutaro for a to-be-determined pitcher, and Mortensen just happens to be there.  Mortensen, a righty, as pitched in only twenty-four Major League games, thirteen of which were starts.  He is four and eight with a 5.12 ERA but had problems with his command, which yielded a high walk ratio.  With the Rockies, he posted a 3.86 ERA in sixteen appearances, performing better in relief than in a starter’s role.  He’ll come to camp and fight for a spot just like all the other pitchers.  Meanwhile, I’m more concerned with which veteran superstar we’re going to get.

We’ve signed Bard to a one year deal and Ellsbury to a one-year deal worth upwards of eight million dollars.  First of all, if we signed Crawford, who by the way just had wrist surgery, to as large a contract in terms of years as we did, Ellsbury deserves exponentially more than one year.  Has he not proven that he’s worth it? I mean, if we’re going to play the long-contract game, we should at least play it responsibly.  It’s ridiculous that we signed Crawford for as long as we did, and we only talked to Ellsbury about one year.  Although he did get a nice raise; he’ll make twice as much this coming year as he has in his entire career to date, and he’s worth every penny and probably more.  We’ve signed Morales to a one-year deal, and we’ve signed Vicente Padilla to a minor league deal, but according to Ben, he’ll come to camp as a starter.  But don’t worry because it’s all good.  Bobby V. spoke to Dice-K and saw a “good look in his eye,” so naturally all of our problems are immediately solved.

Orlando Cabrera has decided to retire.  We’ll never forget what he did for us in 2004.

In other news, the B’s beat the Panthers in a shootout.  We lost to the Bolts, beat the Devils, and lost to the Rangers in sudden death.

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It happened.  I can’t believe it happened.  I’m going to force myself to save my opinionating for the end because, if I don’t, I’ll never be able to get through my last game analysis of the year.

Lester pitched well.  He ended a three-game slump he’d been in, and he did so on only three days’ rest.  He gave up two runs on four hits while walking four and striking out five.  He gave up a two-run shot with two out in the third.  He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-four of which were strikes.  So hits and walks were a problem, which made efficiency a problem.  But even our best pitches haven’t been at their best lately, so if he got through six innings after having given up only two runs, both via a home run that represented one major mistake, I’d say in light of everything on the pitching front recently, that’s not so bad.  Was his cut fastball biting and devastating like it usually is? No, and neither was his sinker or curveball, although his changeup was good, but he only threw at most a handful of those.  He threw twelve pitches in the first, fourteen in the second, twenty in the third, eleven in the fourth, thirteen in the fifth, and twenty-three in the sixth.  He got the job done.

Aceves pitched the seventh and received a hold; he threw twelve pitches, seven of which were strikes.  Bard pitched the eighth and received a hold; he threw nine pitches, six of which were strikes.  Red Sox Nation signed in relief as one.

Why? Because our lead was almost nothing.  We had one on base in the first and second and got on the board in the third.  Aviles walked to start the inning, Ellsbury singled, and Pedroia singled in Aviles.  Gonzalez was intentionally walked later in the inning to put two on base, so Lavarnway had runners at the corners with two out but struck out swinging.  Then the home run gave Baltimore a one-run lead.  Baltimore served that to us on a silver platter in the fourth when Scutaro doubled, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a balk.  Then, with the count 2-2 and one out in the fifth, Pedroia took a four-seam deep.  It was high and inside, and it ended up in the first few rows of seats in left center field.  Don Orsillo said at the time that that was Pedroia’s way of willing himself into the postseason.  He was exactly right.

There was, as you know, a problem.

We put two on base after that but Lavarnway and Drew were out in succession to end the frame.  We went down in order in the sixth.  A four-pitch walk, a single, and an intentional walk had the bases loaded for Lavarnway, who grounded into a force out with two outs to end the inning.  Scutaro singled in the eighth and tried to score on a double by Crawford but was out at home because he hesitated during his hustle because he thought the ball was caught.  Ellsbury reached on a missed catch, and then there was a rain delay of one hour and twenty-six minutes.  After that, Pedroia singled, and Gonzalez was intentionally walked for the second time, loading the bases again for Lavarnway with two out in the ninth.  And he grounded into a double play.

And then Paps took the ball.  Sure, he almost lost us the game on Tuesday.  But this was Wednesday.  It was a new day, and the season was on the line even more than it was on Tuesday.  At that point, the Rays were tied at seven with the Yankees, and we had a one-run lead.  If ever there were a time this season with absolutely no room for mistakes, this was unmistakably it beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And since Paps has been our rock this year, we were going to turn to him to close it out.  Just like we did for Game Three of the 2009 ALDS against the Angels.  In this situation as in that one, our ability to stay alive was at stake.  And in this situation as in that one, he blew it completely.

Pedroia went three for four, and Papi and Scutaro both went two for four.  Scutaro and Crawford both hit doubles, Pedroia of course hit that home run, and Ellsbury stole a base.  Gonzalez singled but walked three times.  We didn’t make any errors; Baltimore made two.

We lost, 4-3, and the Rays won in the twelfth inning.  The lights are off at Fenway.  The ride has ended.  The 2011 season, which held such promise in the offseason, lost almost all of that promise in April, and regained it completely since then until now, is over.  I literally just can’t believe it.  I love this game and this team way too much to be able to believe that, in the last game of the regular season, this team was eliminated from the playoffs.

I’m obviously not familiar with the nuances of the rules in this situation, but they could have just called the game during the delay.  They could have just called it when we had that one-run lead.  At least there would have been at least one more game to play.  It was the last game of the regular season, and Baltimore’s record going into it was sixty-eight and ninety-three.  They were about thirty games out of first.  It was literally an impossibility for them to make the playoffs for quite some time already.  It’s not like they had anything to gain by returning from the rain delay to win the game.  Although I’m sure Buck Showalter thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it was his team that had a hand in knocking us out.  If you ask me, I’d say it was Paps and the offense and the baserunning and the fielding: Paps for making that mistake, the offense for not scoring sufficient runs in order to make Paps’s mistake inconsequential, Scutaro for hesitating because he thought the ball was caught, and Crawford for not holding onto the ball that would have prevented this entire conversation.

The next question, of course, is why we engaged in such a remarkable decline.  Obviously the injuries had something to do with it.  But that shouldn’t have made the decline as severe as it was.  We made sure to rest Beckett and Lester earlier in the year so that they’d be fresh and raring to go; I don’t know why they didn’t continue their dominance this month.  I don’t know why the hitting fell off completely since the injuries didn’t deplete the starting nine to a significant extent on a regular basis.  And I certainly don’t know why we suddenly couldn’t field.  As I’ve said, it’s possible to have a bad day on the mound or at the plate, and it’s possible to slump at both.  But how do you enter a fielding slump? You either can field or you can’t; it’s not like the ground suddenly changes or you suddenly just lose your ability to see the ball approaching you.

Our collapse this September was legendary.  It was the worst in the history of the sport because we were the first team ever to blow a lead that large in September.  We’re the first team in the history of the Wild Card to blow a ten game lead, which we had on August 17.  The last time we won two consecutive games was August 27, when we swept a doubleheader.  And the whole thing was capped by a walkoff loss.  It was Paps’s third blown save in thirty-four chances.  What were the chances that the third one would be this important? Probably the same as the chances that he would blow a save in the deciding game of the 2009 ALDS.  We went seven and twenty this month and lost a nine-game Wild Card lead.  Paps was one strike away.  Just one strike away.  But Nolan Reimold doubled, and then of course Robert Andino singled to left.  Crawford charged the ball.  He slid, and the ball made it into his glove.  And then it made it out of his glove.  Both literally and figuratively, as he did all season long, Carl Crawford dropped the ball.

So that’s it, I guess.  We finish in third place with a record of ninety-one and seventy-one at .556 and seven games out of first.  But I’m not ready to go home.  I’m not ready to stop playing.  And I can’t believe that the team that was responsible for the fact that we are going home and we did stop playing was Baltimore.  I don’t think there are words to describe the crushing sensation that we all felt on Wednesday.  It was crushing and devastating and frustrating and disappointing and infuriating and humiliating in every sense of every one of those words and on every conceivable level.  Ultimately, I can’t believe it happened.  I saw it with my own eyes, and yet I just can’t believe it.  Seriously.  I just can’t.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter.  It just hurts.  Bad.

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I did say almost, so here’s that story.

Bedard’s night wasn’t great.  He gave up three runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.  He gave up a two-run home run.  He lasted three and a third innings.  He threw eighty-four pitches, forty-eight of which were strikes.  He left the fourth after having allowed that homer, and on top of that Aceves came in with two on base.  He got through it without a hitch and stayed on to pitch three and two-thirds innings, giving up a solo shot to lead off the sixth in the process.

Baltimore struck first, but we answered mightily for a change.  Scutaro doubled in the third, and Ellsbury smacked a two-run shot on a changeup right down the middle.  He hit it to right center field and with one swing gave us a one-run lead.

Two singles into the fourth, Lavarnway did the same thing.  Tek had a sore right knee, and Salty had taken that foul ball on the collarbone on his throwing side on Monday night and had to leave in the eighth.  Thankfully, x-rays were negative.  But it was up to Lavarnway to do the catching.  May I say he did a truly phenomenal job, starting with a three-run shot on a fastball to left after already having thrown someone out at third.  Talk about playing well under pressure.  There was one out, a full count, and a Wild Card hanging in the balance.  And that was his first career home run right there.

He flied out to end the inning with the bases loaded in the fifth but made up for that by leading off the eighth with a solo shot on another fastball to left center field.  Meanwhile, Crawford had tripled in the sixth and scored on Scutaro’s two-run shot on a curveball, also to left center field.

So heading into the eighth we had a comfortable 8-4 lead.  I’ve been pretty frustrated lately so I have to say I was hoping that we’d just crush Baltimore.  But four runs isn’t bad; it’s twice as many as they’d scored, and Bard was getting the ball for the eighth.  Obviously there was a stretch during which there was no point in feeling good about that, but lately he’s been alright.

Bard had a relapse.  It wasn’t enough to give up the lead, but it was definitely enough to make us extremely nervous.  A couple of singles and a triple resulted in two runs.  The whole inning took twenty-five pitches, and suddenly our lead was cut in half.

When Paps took the ball for the ninth, we started breathing sighs of relief.  It turns out that they were substantially premature.  It took him a grand total of four pitches to allow two singles and eleven pitches to get his first out of the inning, a groundout.  Another groundout brought in a run.  So now we have two outs in the inning and we’re clinging to a one-run lead.  I know Paps likes excitement and adrenaline rushes and all, but honestly that was a bit much for us.  We’re barely in the playoffs at this point; it wasn’t funny.  A third and final groundout finally ended the inning, and then we could relax.  But I’m telling you, I was not amused.  The final score was 8-7.

And don’t forget Crawford’s spectacular catch in the left field stands for the second out of the first.  Nice read on an extremely high popup.  It was sweet.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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I had high hopes for this game.  Very high hopes.  After all, it is the Orioles, and we are throwing Beckett.  Oh, wait.

Beckett lasted six innings.  He gave up six runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs, the first a solo shot with one out in the second and the second a three-runner with two out in the sixth.  That three-run home run was an inside-the-park home run.  Ellsbury looked like he was about to make a particularly Ellsbury-esque catch, the kind of catch that only Ellsbury could make.  Instead, he collided with the wall and lost the ball.  It was the first inside-the-park homer the Orioles have hit at home and the first we’ve allowed since 2006.  Thankfully, Ellsbury is okay.  The game’s result, not so much.

Beckett walked four and struck out five.  He threw 108 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  What can I say? He didn’t have it.  We’d just played fourteen innings against New York and some terrible games overall this month.  We needed a big night.  He didn’t deliver.

We actually struck first.  The bases were loaded with two out in the first, but Lowrie flied out.  What a waste of an opportunity.  We plated one in the second; Drew led off the inning in the first and was out on a force by Scutaro, who scored on a double by Ellsbury with a little help from some bad fielding.  Lowrie must have felt really bad about that because he homered to lead off the fourth on the second pitch of the at-bat, a changeup he walloped to right field.

We didn’t have many opportunities after that until the eighth, when the bases were loaded with one out and Salty and Scutaro both blew it.  Then Ellsbury was hit in the ninth and scored on a single by Pedroia.

And that was it.  Aceves and Weiland pitched the last two innings.  And they were scoreless.  Not that that counts for anything at all whatsoever, since we lost, 6-3.

To recap our predicament, we are now officially tied for the Wild Card with the Rays with two games left to play in the regular season.  In the month of September, our record is six and nineteen with a nine-game drop in the standings, and exactly one month ago today was the last time we had even a two-game winning streak.  On August 17, our Wild Card lead was ten games.  If we don’t right this ship, like, immediately, we will be the first team in the history of the existence of the Wild Card to blow a double-digit lead.  We’re Boston fans.  We believe.  We’ll always believe.  But words can not describe the anger, frustration, denial, and fear that Red Sox Nation is currently experiencing.

We have to win today.  At the very least, Johnny Pesky deserves a happy ninety-second birthday.

In other news, the Pats lost a close one to the Bills, 34-31.  It should never have come to that.

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I hope it doesn’t take Wake as long to get win number 201 as it did for him to get win number two hundred.  We lost the opener.  Wake gave up five runs, three earned, on five hits, including a two run shot with one out in the third.  There was a missed catch and a wild pitch in the first and a fielding error in the fifth.  He walked five, struck out four, lasted four innings, and threw eighty-two pitches, forty-seven of which were strikes.  Albers gave up another run before Atchison and Andrew Miller finished the game scoreless, Atchison having had to leave with a groin problem.

Ellsbury led off the fourth with a homer on a fastball to right center field.  It was a power blast.  He homered again in the sixth with one out on a sinker into the second deck in right field.  He is now the first player ever to achieve thirty-thirty in a single season.  That was the extent of our offense.  Ellsbury was our offense.  He went three for four; those three hits from him matched the total for the rest of the team combined.  But as we know, a team can not live on one man alone, which was proven by the final score of 6-2.

The nightcap lasted fourteen innings.  If we didn’t win it, it would have crushed me.  The very last thing we would have needed when we’re down and out with pitching, fielding, hitting, injuries, and standings was to play fourteen innings only to lose at the very end to the Yankees.  Thanks to Ellsbury, crisis averted.

It was Lackey of all people who broke the cycle and gave us our first quality start in a while.  Lackey gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits.  You can thank Tek and his throwing error in the first for that unearned run, which helped the Yanks put up a three-spot.  Lackey walked three and struck out four.  He threw eighty-six pitches, fifty-seven of which were strikes.  He was replaced by Aceves after allowing a single to start the seventh.  May I say that this is probably the most efficient I’ve ever seen him.  Most of the time, he’s thrown at least a hundred pitches by the time the seventh inning rolls around.  He kept his hit count down, which obviously helped a lot.  And the offense should have easily scored at least four runs.

We didn’t get on the board until the fifth, when Lowrie tripled and scored on a single by Drew, who’s back in action.  Crawford led off the sixth with a single and scored on a groundout by Gonzalez.  Lowrie led off the seventh with a double, and then back-to-back hits, a double for Scutaro and single for Tek, brought in two and gave us a one-run lead.

Aceves received a blown save for allowing his inherited runner to score and tie the game at four.  Then Bard, who issued two intentional walks in the ninth but ended the inning on a strikeout, and Paps, who threw twenty-two of twenty-nine pitches for strikes, held the fort for three-plus innings.  Morales pitched two scoreless frames and picked up the win; Doubront got the save.

We had one on in the eighth and two on in the ninth.  We had one on in the tenth and went down in order in the eleventh.  We had one on in the twelfth and thirteenth.  Let’s not forget that, also in the thirteenth, Pedroia picked a ball and fired from his knees to first for the first out of the inning, if he didn’t do that, we could have had a different outcome.

Aviles led off the fourteenth with a flyout.  McDonald came in to pinch-hit for Drew and singled.  Scutaro worked a seven- pitch walk.  Salty flied out.  Then Ellsbury took a curveball for a ball.

And then he smacked a three-run shot on a fastball into the bullpen.  It was exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.  That was the final score right there.  7-4  What a relief.

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And sweep we clearly did not.  Although we obviously should have, being that it’s Baltimore and all, which makes it so much worse.  At least we split.  It was a day of opposites.

Kyle Weiland started and did not have anything close to resembling a good day.  He cruised through the first two innings with one of the better cutters I’ve seen from him and then all of a sudden everything went wrong both in the field and on the mound.  He threw eighty-five pitches through four and two-thirds innings.  Fifty-two of those were strikes; he walked two and struck out five.  He gave up six runs, five earned, on five hits.  Only two of the runs he gave up did not score via the home run.  Yup.  You read right.  He gave up three: a two-runner and two solo shots.  And you can thank McDonald’s sun-induced fielding error in the third for that unearned run.  Doubront and Aceves combined for a scoreless rest of the game after that.

We did our best to battle back.  I guess McDonald really felt bad about that error because he led off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot on the second pitch of the at-bat, a fastball that he promptly sent into the Monster seats.  We got another run back in the fourth on Salty’s RBI triple.  And we got two back in the fifth with the progression of Scutaro’s walk, Gonzalez’s RBI double, and Pedroia’s RBI triple.  Scutaro’s double and Gonzalez’s single combined to bring in another in the seventh for what would be our last run in a 6-5 loss.  Oh, and by the way, that foul ball that Papi hit in the fifth wasn’t foul at all.  It was fair.  It was fair by a mile.  The worst part is that it wasn’t a potential home run, so it couldn’t be reviewed.  But it was fair, and it made the difference.  He went on to fly out, although that ball was almost out too.  Did I mention that Jeremy Guthrie leads the American League in losses? There’s no way it should even have come to that.

Lackey started and did not have anything close to resembling a good day, either.  The difference was that the offense turned itself on in a big way.  Without that, the O’s would have embarrassed us completely.  Lackey lasted four and a third innings and gave up eight runs on eleven hits.  He walked two and struck out three.  He threw 105 pitches, seventy-five of which were strikes.  It was Atchison who relieved him and picked up the win.  Morales allowed another run, and then Albers and Bowden finished the game scoreless.

Let’s get to the good stuff.  The O’s may have put up a three-spot in the top of the first, but we answered with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning.  Pedroia brought in one on a groundout, and then Lowrie unleashed on the eighth straight four-seam he saw in his first at-bat for a three-run shot.  He also put it in the Monster seats.  It stayed just fair and got out of the park in a hurry.  We added two more in the second; Scutaro doubled in one (had McDonald not been out at home, it would have been two), and Pedroia stroked an RBI single.  We busted it open in the third with a five-spot.  McDonald started the scoring plays with an RBI single and a little help from a bad throw.  Ellsbury doubled him, and he scored on a single by Scutaro.  Pedroia and Papi brought in two more with back-to-back RBI singles.

But if you thought that that inning was big, it was nothing compared to the seventh, when we put up a seven-spot.  Seven runs in seven innings.  We scored more runs in that one inning alone than we have in some of our games recently.  The highlight was the first to occur.  Ellsbury led it off.  He took a fastball for a ball, fouled off another, and took a changeup for a ball.  Another changeup made the count 2-2.  And then it happened: a rare result of the perfect combination of hitting and speed, a manifestation of skill and luck.

Jacoby Ellsbury hit an inside-the-park home run.

It was the first on the team since Youk did it on May 28, 2007.  I saw it and I couldn’t believe it.  It was perfect.  It’s one of those things that you always imagine in your head, trying to draft the perfect conditions under which something like this would result and then hoping you’ll see it but assuming you won’t.  It’s the triple play of offense.  And he executed it without a flaw.

The ball sailed out to center field.  It bounced off of the top of the bullpen wall sharply at some sort of strange angle and ricocheted out to center field.  The outfielders couldn’t get to it in time; meanwhile, Ellsbury had his head down and put the pedal to the metal.  He was safe with some time to spare.

And then Lowrie hit an RBI single.  And then Conor Jackson hit a grand slam on a fastball, which he also put into the Monster seats.  It was the first time we’ve ever had an inside-the-park home run and a grand slam in the same game.  And then we were done.  No big deal.  The final score was 18-9.

As a result, the whole doubleheader was a surreal experience.  I felt like I was watching two different teams in the two different games.

In other news, the Pats made the Chargers look like amateurs.  The final score was 35-21.  This is going to be a truly fantastic season.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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