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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Teixeira’

This is fun.  I like this.  I like how playing in Yankee Stadium is no big deal anymore.  Actually, with the way we’ve been performing there recently, it feels kind of like Fenway.  I mean, except for the fact that Fenway is so much better in every conceivable way, of course.  I just mean we’re ruling it as if it were Fenway.  We have now swept the Evil Empire on their home turf in less than a month’s time.  In this series, we scored twenty-five runs to their ten.  Yankee fans must be in a world of hurt right now.  Cool.

Beckett totally dominated.  Seven full innings, two runs on four hits, two walks, six strikeouts.  104 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  Lethal cutter.  Lethal two-seam.  Excellent curveball.  The rest of his pitches on the whole weren’t at the level of those three, but they were still effective.  Beckett didn’t record his first strikeout until the third inning, when he rang up Mark Teixeira with a curveball.  He would record a second strikeout with his curveball later on.  Two other strikeouts were ultimately achieved using the changeup, and one each with the four-seam and the cutter.  The two runs he allowed came in the first; he drilled Derek Jeter, and then Curtis Granderson went yard.  But Beckett went on lockdown after that, and that was it.  It was his fifth win of the season, three of which have come opposite CC Sabathia.

May I say that I derived an immense amount of pleasure from observing the complete and total meltdown of the Sabathia’s entire baseball universe in the seventh inning.  Right through the seventh, the game was every bit a pitcher’s duel that the Yankees were in the process of winning by two runs, and we had yet to score.  Our best opportunity came in the second with two men on base.  The seventh inning erased all those zeroes that came before it.  In the seventh inning alone, we scored seven runs.

Papi singled to lead it off and scored on a triple by Lowrie.  Crawford grounded out for the first out of the frame.  Then Cameron promptly doubled to bring Lowrie home.  Tek singled, and Ellsbury singled to bring in Cameron.  Scutaro lined out for the second out of the frame.  Then Gonzalez singled and brought Tek home.  Then Sabathia left, and David Robertson came in.  Ellsbury scored on a single by Youk, and Gonzalez and Youk scored on a double by Papi.  Eight of our twelve total hits were made in that inning alone.

Scutaro doubled and scored on a double by Gonzalez in the top of the ninth; the Yanks got that run back in the bottom of the inning.  But we won, 8-3.  No home runs.  Nothing too flashy.  Just hit after hit after hit in an incredibly huge inning.  That one bad inning is pretty bitter medicine, isn’t it.

We are the first team this year to beat the Yanks in six consecutive games, something we haven’t done on the road since 1912.  And we did it even with a rain delay of three hours and twenty-seven minutes.  In other words, by the time the game could have been over already, which is a fair statement to make considering the fact that the game itself lasted three hours and eleven minutes, we were just getting started.  But it was worth the wait.  I’ll be taking a break for about two weeks; we’re two games in first, and I expect that, within that time, our first-place lead will widen considerably.  If we keep playing like we played during this series, that’s as good as guaranteed.

In other news, from a Bruins perspective, no other time to take a break could possibly be worse.

Reuters Photo

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Wow.  Carl Crawford.  His third of the year.  If he continues like this, he wouldn’t even need to make every single hit.  He’d just need to make the right ones.  He may not be on a hot streak at the plate, but he’s pretty hot as far as walkoffs are concerned.  So maybe his average is still pretty bad, but he’s been making those right hits, and for now I think that’s pretty good and a sign that things are improving, slowly but surely.

Beckett delivered another stellar start.  One run on five hits, two walks, and three K’s over six innings.  He threw eighty-three pitches, fifty-two for strikes.  So he had at least another solid inning in him for sure.  He came out of the game because he had a stiff neck.  After the game he said his neck wasn’t loose at all that night.  He’s not injured, but since two of our starters are already on the DL, Tito wanted to play it safe.

But those were some awesome six innings.  About half his curveballs were thrown for strikes, and he was working with a two-seam, a four-seam, a cutter, and a changeup that were just deadly.  They were unhittable.  Beckett led off the game with a one-two-three first that began with a strikeout on four pitches ending in the four-seam at ninety-four miles per hour.  He allowed his run in the second; he opened the inning with a walk and then allowed two consecutive singles.  In fact, after obtaining the inning’s first out, Beckett allowed another single to load the bases.  Fortunately, the inning’s last two outs followed, and his next two innings were both one-two-three; he threw eight pitches in the third and only five in the fourth.  That’s the thing about non-strikeout outs; they’re usually more efficient.  He notched his final two strikeouts in the sixth, back-to-back K’s to end it.  Both were five pitches long, and both ended with a fastball.  Last night, he procured his outs by other means like groundouts, flyouts, lineouts, and popups.  Obviously what’s important here is that nobody on the Tigers was able to make constructive contact with his pitches.  Not one of the hits he allowed were for extra bases.

Meanwhile, we recovered that run in the bottom of the second.  Youk and Papi both singled, and Youk came home on Drew’s sac fly.  The tie at one held until the fourth, when, with two out, Drew launched a home run into the first few rows of seats in right field.  It was a fastball that should have been away but wasn’t.  And that’s pretty much what happens all the time when you don’t locate a fastball.

So Beckett exited with a 2-1 lead, and Albers came on and pitched a scoreless seventh.  Papi added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to lead it off, a towering blast into the first few rows of seats behind the bullpen.  A changeup up in the zone.  See, this is why location is so important.

At that point, we were feeling pretty good.  A pitcher’s duel is always a game in which one run seems like five, so a two run lead felt pretty solid.  Obviously with Daniel Bard coming up, it would have to be, right? No.  Not really.  And the number of times we’ve said that this year is pretty scary.

He came on for the eighth and allowed two consecutive solo shots.  The first was on a changeup, the second on a slider.  It was the second time in his career that he’d given up two home runs in one appearance.  (Unfortunately, the first time was on August 9, 2009 when we were playing the Yankees in New York and he gave up consecutive homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, of all people.) So he tied the game and was rewarded with a well-deserved blown save.  Unbelievable.  Again, the importance of location; obviously it goes both ways.  If he keeps on doing this, there’s no way he’ll be fit to be a closer in the near future.  He finished that inning, and we went down in order in the bottom of the frame.  Paps pitched us through a ninth inning that could have gone just as badly, if not worse, run-wise.  After inducing a groundout, he allowed two consecutive singles and a walk to load the bases.  Thankfully, he followed that with a strikeout on three pitches and a strikeout on a foul tip of the third and fourth hitters in Detroit’s lineup.  Red Sox Nation exhaled as one.

So we were tied at three in the bottom of the ninth.  Youk worked an eight-pitch walk, and Iglesias came in to pinch-run.  Papi singled.  Drew was intentionally walked (I know, it’s pretty strange, but hey, the man earned it) to load the bases.  Lowrie hit what looked like it would be a routine fly ball.  But it dropped in very shallow left field.  Iglesias was coming around from third.  The crowd was going wild.  We were all expecting walkoff.

And then he was out at the plate in the fielder’s choice.  Talk about anticlimactic.  And then of course you’re thinking, how many chances at a walkoff are you going to get?

Enter Crawford.  He took a four-seam for a ball and a slider for a strike.  And then, on the third pitch of the at-bat, one a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball, he hit a single.  It was just a single.  But it was well-placed, and it was all he needed.  McDonald had come in to pinch-run for Papi, and he scored from third easily.  And with one swing of the bat, we were done, and we didn’t even have to go into extra innings, either.  4-3.  Carl Crawford, ladies and gentlemen!

Hideki Okajima was designated for assignment so that another lefty specialist, Franklin Morales, recently acquired from the Rockies for cash or a player to be named later, can join the roster.  Iglesias and Bowden are both going back to the minors.

Our winning streak is now at six games.  The last three of them were won in our last offensive chance of the game.  And we are about to enter a truly exciting weekend the likes of which we haven’t seen in almost a century, literally.  For the first time since we beat them in the World Series all the way back in 1918, the Chicago Cubs are coming to Fenway for three games starting tonight.  A lot has happened in those ninety-three years.  A lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of ugly.  On Saturday, both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms.  I’m psyched.  It’s going to be a blast.

In other news, the Bruins took a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning last night with a 2-0 shutout, courtesy of Tim Thomas.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Last night’s game could not have been a more quintessential example of Sox-Yanks.  It was long (all told, the whole game lasted three hours and forty-one minutes and spanned two days), it was suspenseful (both pitchers were struggling so the teams were going back and forth), it was powerful (five home runs were hit between the two teams), and it was close (the final score was 7-5).

And it had a winner and a loser.  The Yankees lost.  (I can only imagine John Sterling having to announce that on the air.) We won.  We swept the Yankees, and for the first time this season, we are now at .500! Forty games in, we are twenty and twenty.  Finally! The key of course will be staying at .500 and getting significantly above .500, but one step at a time.

It turns out that all this realigning of the rotation was done specifically to ensure that our top three starters would take on New York.  But that wasn’t why we won last night.  It may have been Lester up against Freddy Garcia, but he sure didn’t pitch like it.  Lester struggled early.  He hit Derek Jeter, who scored on a single by Mark Teixeira in the first.  He allowed two home runs in the second for a total of three runs.  Clearly his cut fastball wasn’t cutting or doing much of anything.  When he threw only nine pitches in the third, his only one-two-three inning of the night, I thought it would be smooth sailing from there, but his turnaround wasn’t quite that complete.  He didn’t allow any more runs, but he did walk four over the course of his six innings.  He allowed those four runs on five hits and struck out seven.  Not his best night, but not his worst either.  If those two cut fastballs actually cut or did something, he would only have allowed one run.  Still, overall, his pitches weren’t quite as effective as they usually are.  In the sixth, he threw twenty-two pitches, only nine of which were strikes.  He’s won five consecutive decisions, but in his last two starts, he’s walked nine.

Aceves came on to pitch the seventh and allowed New York’s fifth run; Curtis Granderson walked and scored on a double by A-Rod that should have been caught by Crawford, who instead made his first error in a Boston uniform.  Bard came in after that for the eighth, Paps took care of the ninth for his second save in three days, and finally the game was over.

Our lineup kept pace through the first three innings.  The Yankees scored first in the first; we got that run back in the second.  Youk struck out but reached on a passed ball.  A single and a walk later, the bases were loaded for Lowrie; all he could manage was a sac fly to bring home Youk and tied the game at one.  Papi tried to put us ahead; Crawford reached on a fielder’s choice, and Papi tried to come home but was out at the plate.

The Yankees put up a three-spot in the second with home runs; we put up a three-spot in the third, and we needed only one homer.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a double.  Two batters later, Gonzalez walked on five pitches.  And then, with the count full, Youk blasted one into the seats in left.  I mean, come on.  It was a fastball right down the middle.  It was eighty-nine miles-per-hour, which is obviously slow for a fastball, but it was right down the middle, and I don’t think anybody should have been surprised at what happened to it.

We put ourselves ahead by one in the fifth.  With two out, Papi broke his bat hitting a solo shot to right field.  (I also appreciated his dance performance during Tito’s in-game interview.) But the way the game had been going, we knew a one-run lead wouldn’t be good enough.  In the seventh, Pedroia walked, stole second base, and scored when Youk seemingly grounded to third.  But the ball rolled – wait for it – between A-Rod’s legs and Pedroia came home.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.  Oh, how the tables are turned.

Then the Yankees got that one back in the bottom of the seventh, so we were back to a one-run lead.  Joba Chamberlain came on to pitch the eighth and got Crawford to ground out on his first pitch.  He had two strikes on Salty before throwing two balls.  With the count even at two, Chamberlain threw a slider that didn’t slide.  Salty was all over it.  He hit his first home run since August 2, 2009 and the first this year for our catchers.  He sent it to the first few rows of seats in right.  It was barely out.  In fact, it hit the top of the wall.  But it was still awesome.  And that was it for scoring last night.

To recap, we swept the Yankees.  In New York.  To get to .500.  We’ve won five of six games against the Yankees this year.  During this three-game set, their number three, four, and five hitters went six for thirty-four.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get to .500; in 2011, it’s taken us 40.  This past weekend was one of the best weekends in our entire 2011 baseball lives.

But we’ve still got work to do.  Onward and upward.  We start a seven-game homestand today when we take on the Orioles.  This is a perfect opportunity to actually do something with the momentum we’ve created.  We’re at .500.  We need to pass that.  We need to keep on winning.  It’s Dice-K today, but as a team, we should be able to do something with the Orioles.

AP Photo

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The phrase “that’s more like it” came to mind last night in every baseball sense with the exception of one.  We all know what that one was; more on that later.  Meanwhile, there were plenty of positives to go around before we got there.

Let’s start with Buchholz.  Buchholz delivered his best start of the season when it mattered most.  He kept us in it and started this series right.  He used every one of his pitches.  Okay, so his curveball wasn’t as effective as you’d think it would be for such a good outing.  But although his fastballs were thrown for strikes only about half the time, they were thrown for strikes nonetheless and had plenty of good movement on them.  And his cutter actually had some life to it, which is way more than we could say about his previous starts.  His cutter and changeup were extremely, extremely effective.  No matter how effective or how ineffective a particular pitch was overall, in true Buchholz fashion he wasn’t afraid to go to any pitch in any count and throw it for a strike.  This is the third consecutive start he’s won, but that’s really how you know he’s back.

Essentially, he cruised.  All told, he pitched through seven innings.  He allowed two runs on five hits while walking only one and striking out a season high seven.  He threw 110 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  And finally, the paradoxical mark of a fantastic outing: those two runs were both allowed on a homer by Russell Martin in the fifth inning on the first pitch of the at-bat, one of the few cutters that didn’t cut.  Otherwise, everything was totally fine.

Buchholz enjoyed a one-two-three inning in the first that included two back-to-back strikeouts; first, Derek Jeter swung and missed on a fastball, and then Curtis Granderson swung and missed on a curveball.  Buchholz opened the second by striking out A-Rod, who swung and missed on a cutter.  He struck out Granderson on three pitches to end the third, featuring a changeup followed by a cutter and then another changeup that induced a swing and a miss.  (The third inning should have been one-two-three, but Jeter reached on a fielding error by Youk before that K.  The ball looked like it would be a routine grounder to third, but it bounced off Youk’s hand.  Luckily, he’s okay.) Nick Swisher struck out by swinging and missing on a cutter to end the fourth.  Mark Teixeira struck out by swinging and missing on a changeup to end the fifth, Buchholz’s longest inning at twenty pitches.  The sixth was the only frame in which Buccholz did not notch a single K.  Buchholz ended his outing with another one-two-three inning that started with his only called strike of the night, which he achieved using a changeup with which Martin could do absolutely nothing.

Martin’s home run actually tied the game at two.  In the fourth, Gonzalez led off with a solo shot.  First he took a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam up and away for a ball; then he took a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam up and straight down the middle out of the yard and into the first few rows of the second deck of seats in right field.  So was I annoyed when they intentionally walked him in the ninth to get to Youk? Obviously.  Speaking of Youk, he walked later in the inning and scored on a groundout by Crawford.

We secured some insurance in the seventh.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, moved to third on a single by Pedroia, and scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  With Pedroia on base and two out, Youk unleashed on a fourth-pitch fastball at ninety-eight and also sent it to right field.

Clearly, everyone felt pretty good going into the eighth, especially with Bard coming up.  Wrong.  It seems like, when you feel most at ease and most secure with the lead and you feel most confident in Bard to protect it, he lets you down.  He hadn’t pitched in three days; he needed the time off, but even when you need time off, sometimes it still messes with you.  Granderson led off the inning with a triple.  Then Teixeira popped out, and after that Bard lost all sense of the strike zone.  Granderson scored on a wild pitch to bring the Yankees within two.  Then A-Rod walked, Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch, and finally the inning was over with a strikeout and a groundout.

Crisis averted but not yet defeated.  Paps came on in the ninth; by that time, Bard had already put me on edge, so I wasn’t as surprised when, after Martin struck out swinging and Brett Gardner grounded out, Jeter singled, took second on defensive indifference, and scored on a single by Granderson to bring the Yankees within one.  Finally, Teixeira popped up on his first and only pitch of the at-bat.  Paps recorded his first save since April 22, ending the longest stretch of his career without one at twenty days.  The game was over, 5-4.

That was immensely satisfying.  Not only did we beat the Yankees, but we beat them by not only besting their starting pitching and hitting but also by putting down two late-inning comebacks.  Just a few days ago we came back three times and lost. We know how crushing that is.  It’s bitter medicine indeed.  So, yes, I was furious with Bard and Paps that they even put us in that position.  But you also have to admit it was nice to crush those rallies.

So the offense took care of business, Buchholz reigned supreme, and the relievers who are supposed to be the best of the best of the bullpen almost lost the game for us.  If you think about it, we haven’t had that many games this season where everything, the hitting and starting pitching and relief and fielding, went right.  But even with the rocky relief, I’ll take a win over New York any day.  A win today wins us the series, so let’s do it again.

Getty Images

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Wow.  Just, wow.   I mean, what? But in a good way.

Yes, I am completely aware that that made absolutely no sense.  It’s just hard not to be too pumped for words after last night’s game.  It was epic.  Not only were we at home, but we won.  Not only did we win, but we won against the Yankees.  Not only did we win against the Yankees, but we won against the Yankees because Josh Beckett came home again.  Everything about that game was immensely satisfying.

The phrase you’re going to hear in almost every article you read about last night’s game is “vintage Beckett.” What does that mean? That means he made a start the likes of which he hasn’t made since 2009, when he went seventeen and six with a 3.86 ERA.  Before 2009, he hadn’t made a start like this since 2007, the year CC Sabathia stole his Cy Young.  I guess he’s on some sort of strange two-year cycle.  Last night, he had his revenge.  Last night, he looked every bit like a Cy Young winner, and he stole the W from Sabathia.

Beckett was wolf-like in his ruthlessness and his ability to detect fear in opposing batters.  He shook of Tek, not because they weren’t on the same page, but because he had the number of every hitter he faced, and he knew exactly what he needed to do to get them out.  And once Tek realized that letting him command his own game would not result in a ridiculous amount of runs, he let him.  The results speak for themselves.

Eight shutout innings.  Two hits.  One walk.  Ten strikeouts.  103 pitches.  Sixty-eight strikes.

That was his first double-digit strikeout total since July 27, 2009.  Back problems? What back problems? Shoulder problems? What shoulder problems? He went out there and he attacked the strike zone like a strike-throwing machine.  He pulled out some nasty stuff.  His fastball was formidable, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour and in for a strike about eighty percent of the time.  His curveball was unhittable and perfectly located.  His cutter was sharp.  His two-seam put away Mark Teixeira.  But his changeup was the real evidence of his return to form.  His arm was so alive that he threw his changeup at an average speed of eighty-eight and a top speed of ninety.  Most pitchers in the Major Leagues are lucky to throw a fastball at that speed.  And the hitters could do absolutely nothing with it.

He threw nineteen pitches in the first inning and only improved from there.  During his last two innings, he needed just eight pitches to secure the three outs.  His speeds varied.  His release point tightened as the game went on.  The strike zone? Peppered.  This was, without a doubt, one of the best starts I have ever seen from him.  Ever.

Fortunately, it didn’t go to waste.  We loaded the bases in the third with nobody out.  Then there was a double play that scored a run.  Then second base umpire Mark Wagner retracted the run and called the post-double play runners back to their bases because Youk apparently “interfered” with the play.  Basically, Youk obstructed Jeter’s ability to field when he slid into second.  But that slide is a slide you see all the time.  It was one of those that prompts a jump by whoever’s covering second in order to clear the bag in time.  It’s a very obscure rule; since this sort of thing happens almost every day, nobody really enforces the rule.  In this particular situation, we fortunately didn’t have to be livid for long.  Cameron managed to eke out an infield hit, and Pedroia came home.

And guess what? Beckett held that lead.  The score was 1-0, and Beckett held it.  He held it through numerous terribly frustrating abandonments of men on base and of prime opportunities squandered in such an irksome fashion that it reminded you that on Saturday we went one for seventeen with runners in scoring position.  But then who should come up big with the bases loaded in the seventh but Marco Scutaro, who smacked a ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam for a two-run double that looked so natural and so confident that it made you wonder, for that moment, what he was doing batting ninth, until you remembered that placing a hitter who has moments reminiscent of a leadoff man in the ninth spot lengthens your innings because it means you’ve got basically two leadoff hitters in a row.  The ball ended up in left and rolled all the way to the Monster.  Now would be a good time to mention that he’s nine for sixteen with the bases loaded over the course of his Boston career.  Who knew?

And Beckett held that lead until the eighth, when Papi increased it with a one-run double on an eighty-three mile-per-hour slider that was perhaps one of the most powerfully hit doubles Fenway has ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  It bounced off the very top of the wall in right-center field.  As in, pretty much exactly at the 420-foot mark.  We’re talking inches away from a home run.

So Scutaro went two for two, Papi went two for four, and Pedroia went three for four last night and nine for thirteen in the series.  He read Yankees pitching like a book this weekend.  Paps didn’t necessarily come on during a save opportunity, but the moment was just as suspenseful.  He handled it beautifully.  Three up, three down.  Two strikeouts.  Twelve pitches.  Done.  4-0.

The only bad news is that Sabathia drilled Gonzalez’s hands on an inside pitch in the fifth.  The ball landed squarely on his left pinky and ring finger.  He took his base and, instead of squeezing his batting gloves in both hands, as some baserunners are wont to do to create some extra cushioning to avoid injury, he held both of his gloves in his right hand.  He didn’t swing especially hard after that, but he did stay in the game, and after the game he said he felt fine.  We dodged one serious bullet right there.  Now would be a good time to mention the fact that more batters have been hit during our games with the Yankees than have been hit in games between any other two teams.

Two more counts of good news: the infield at Fenway is brand new, so bounces are truer and fielding is cleaner.  But let’s not forget to tell everyone that, so we don’t have situations like Lowrie had where he expected the ball to bounce as it would on the old infield when instead it actually bounced correctly.  And we signed Buchholz to a four-year extension.  In its most basic form, it’s worth thirty million dollars, but it includes two club options that together are worth about twenty-seven million.  For a pitcher of that caliber, that’s a steal.

Yes, we left sixteen men on base.  Yes, we only went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position.  But we win the series! It’s amazing how different your perception of those things becomes when you win.  But that’s natural, because if you win, at least in the short term it really doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the three, not the fourteen.  The long term is a different story, but we haven’t seen this club get into any sort of groove that would indicate that the lineup won’t be able to produce with runners in scoring position in the long term.

Wow.  Josh Beckett, man.  Josh Beckett.  Welcome back.  It’s good to see you.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils.  An anticlimactic way to end an awesome season.  Which isn’t over yet.  Our first playoff game is Thursday against the Habs.  I’m psyched.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That wasn’t good.  And that was an understatement.  I was afraid this would happen.  First, I was afraid that we would do all kinds of goodness during our first win on our home opener only to pretty much forget all of it and do none of it the game after.  That didn’t exactly happen.  Instead, we repeated the only badness we had on Friday: starting pitching.  Our starters have a collective ERA of 7.09 and have allowed a grand total of nineteen home runs.  Both stats are the worst in the Major Leagues.

I knew it was going to be a long day as soon as I saw Buchholz missing his spots.  It’s not that hard to figure out.  When a starting pitcher misses his spots, you’re going to have a long day.  That’s pretty much a hard and fast rule.

He only lasted three and two-thirds innings, and by all accounts, even that was too long.  This Buchholz didn’t look like the Buchholz who won seventeen games last year.  This Buchholz looked like the Buchholz of 2008, a year so bad for him that I’m embarrassed to repeat these numbers: in fifteen starts, he pitched only seventy-six innings and fifty-seven earned runs on ninety-three hits, eleven of them homers; he went two and nine with a 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.  Not exactly a year to revisit.

He gave up four earned runs, five in total (you can thank Lowrie for that one, who made an error on a grounder that was as routine as they come), on eight hits, one of which was a three-run home run by Russell Martin.  He walked three.  He struck out two.  He threw ninety-two pitches, fifty-five for strikes, four for swinging strikes.

It all started with two runs in the second: the error, a double, a fielder’s choice groundout, and another double.  No big deal, right? I mean, they scored two runs first on Friday as well, and we came back.  The problem was that Buchholz was so much worse than Lackey.  Buchholz made Lackey look like an ace.  The Yankees scored three more runs in the fourth.

Buchholz threw mostly fastballs, with just as many sliders as changeups thrown in as well as a couple of handfuls of curveballs.  His fastball got all the way up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His curveball was his most effective pitch as well as his least frequently thrown pitch, which is something we’ve seen more than usual lately; the bad starts have tended so far to be paired with the starter not using his most effective pitch very often.  It may have been his most effective strike-wise, but it wasn’t perfect.  He threw three pitches on which the Yankees scored runs; one was a fastball, one a changeup, and one a curveball.  He varied his speeds, he kept his release point tight, and he definitely threw some good pitches.  But not enough.  What can I say? If he didn’t hit his spots, he didn’t hit his spots, and that’s the end of it.

During the first inning, it looked like he was going to be okay.  It looked like he was having a rough first inning that would prove to be the end of his troubles.  In the first, it looked like he had potential to settle down.  He threw eighteen pitches, ten for strikes, and it looked like things would only improve from there.  Not so much.  His pitch count climbed, and he threw thirty-two pitches in the fourth before he was removed.  If only that were the end of our misery.

Doubront came on and gave up a home run of his own, this one for two runs.  Not wanting to be left out, Aceves gave up two solo shots.   Wake was the only pitcher to go out there and deliver.  Two shutout innings with one strike out.  Too bad he was only out there for two innings.

It didn’t matter that Lowrie went three for four.  It didn’t matter that we scored three runs in a single inning in the fourth to answer their three-spot in the top of that frame.  It didn’t matter that that three-spot brought us within only one run.  Or that Youk made an incredibly precise and well-placed throw home to prevent Granderson from scoring in the second.  Or that Gonzalez left the bag to make a spinning catch and fire to first in time for the second out of the third.

It didn’t matter that Pedroia was again the man of the hour.  Or that didn’t just go three for four; he went three for four with three doubles and a walk.  Or that it was his second consecutive three-hit performance.  Or that he batted in two RBIs on one of those doubles, an extremely hard-hit, ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam that bounced off the center field wall a few feet to the right of the 379-foot marker with two out in the fourth.  Or that he robbed Teixeira of a line drive in the sixth with a spectacular diving grab.

It didn’t matter that, all told, we stroked ten hits, our second double-digit hit total in as many days, which signifies that, slowly but surely, this team is figuring out how to deliver, produce, and win collectively.  It didn’t even matter that Kevin Millar, the great galvanizer of 2004, was in the stands.  None of that mattered even one iota.  All that mattered was that we left ten men on base, went an obscenely pathetic one for seventeen with runners in scoring position, and therefore scored only four runs.  We lost, 9-4.  To the Yankees.  Because we couldn’t pay our pitching staff to not give up runs (oh, wait) and because our lineup looked like it had no idea what having runners in scoring position meant.  It was crushing in every sense.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are frustrated beyond words at this point.

So we had our seventh non-quality start in eight games.  We’re one and seven.  And the best we can do now is win the series.  Let’s at least just do that.  Our starters are into their second rotation now.  They’ve seen action.  We’re at home.  This should bring goodness.  Until today, it has.  Beckett has the ball tomorrow, and he needs to deliver.  There’s no getting around it now.  First, we had to deal with everything going wrong: bad pitching coupled with bad hitting coupled with bad baserunning.  At this point, we seem to have gotten the baserunning and hitting parts down, or at least they’re better than they were.  What we need to do now is pair good starting pitching with good hitting.  No baseball team can win with just one or the other.  You need both.  We have both on paper.  We need both in practice.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Sens, and we clinched our division! We now fill the third seed with 103 points; Philly fills the fourth with 104.  The Caps have clinched the conference.  We have one game left to play in the regular season – this afternoon against the Devils – and then it’s go time.

AP Photo

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Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

NESN.com

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