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Posts Tagged ‘Marlon Byrd’

Last night was a good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.  We didn’t lose because we made fielding errors, we didn’t lose because our pitchers made mistakes, and we didn’t lose because we squandered opportunities or even because we temporarily forgot how to hit the ball.  We simply lost because, as good as our pitcher was, their pitcher, for one night at least, was better.  The match was even.  I mean, if you have to lose, you should at least be able to lose with your dignity.

Beckett was absolutely phenomenal.  You can’t get much better than the performance that he delivered.  Actually, obviously that’s not true; it would have clearly been better had he not allowed any runs.  But still.

Beckett pitched a full eight innings, and he was brutally efficient; he threw ninety-two pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Both of his fastballs were practically impeccable.  Three-quarters of his two-seam were strikes, and over eighty percent of his four-seams were strikes.  Almost three-quarters of his cutter were strikes too.  His changeup and curveball were also good and added some variety and nasty speed changes.  He was consistent with his inning pitch counts as well, and he got through half of his innings with pitch counts in the single digits.  He finished the eighth with nine pitches, the first and fourth with seven, and the seventh, his best inning by far, with only five, if you can believe that.  He threw ten in the second, twelve in the third, thirteen and the fifth, and his game high of nineteen in the sixth.

He gave up two runs on only five hits.  Those two runs occurred, not coincidentally, in that sixth inning.  He gave up three consecutive singles to start it, the third of which scored a run.  After that, a force out scored another.  Then he got out of the inning with a double play.  That was really the only blemish.  He faced the minimum in his first five innings.  That’s over half the ballgame.  His perfect game was broken up by a single in the fourth (a double play that inning kept it one-two-three).  So the sixth and seventh were the only two innings during which he faced more than the minimum (he allowed another single in the seventh).  He walked none and struck out five.

Unfortunately, we fared about as well as the Orioles, except for the important distinction of being one run worse.  McDonald doubled to lead off the third, Byrd singled, and McDonald scored on a sac fly by Aviles.  Two outs later, the inning was over, and so was one of our best opportunities of the night.  We began the seventh with two consecutive singles, and with one out we worked two consecutive walks in the eighth, but other than that, it was a single here, a single there.

We lost, 2-1.  So it really was the sixth inning that did us in, although I’m not willing to say that this was Beckett having one bad inning because, honestly, we’d be lucky if every one of our pitchers at this point had bad innings as benign as that one in the grand scheme of things.  Middlebrooks went two for four for our only multi-hit performance, and that double by McDonald was our only extra-base hit of the game.  We collected two more hits than Baltimore and left eight on base as opposed to their one.  Padilla pitched a great ninth inning; Beckett took the loss.

But keep in mind that we may have lost with dignity, but a loss is still a loss.  We’re back at .500, and the Orioles are undefeated in our house dating back to last season.  This has to stop.  Today.

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Just to prove the point that we should do more of what we did on Friday to win, we won again when we did essentially the exact same things yesterday.  I love it when being right means the team plays well.

Doubront picked up the win; he pitched six and one-third innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits.  He walked one and struck out seven.  He threw 101 pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  The similarities between Doubront’s start and Buchholz’s start are readily apparent; Doubront gave up one more run, although it was unearned, on one more hit, and he walked one less.  Doubront also pitched less but struck out the same number of batters.  The striking similarities continue; like Buchholz, Doubront’s only two earned runs were scored via the long ball.  Doubront gave up a solo shot in the third with one out and a solo shot to lead off the fifth.  The unearned run was scored in the fourth, which began with a groundout and a strikeout.  Then he made a fielding error that resulted in a baserunner at first, who move to second and eventually scored on another single before a groundout ended the inning.  So the run may be unearned, but it was also completely his own fault.

Albers finished the seventh and allowed a single to begin the eighth, Miller got the first out of the eighth, and Padilla finished the eighth, but not before he and Sweeney gave up an unearned run; Miller’s baserunner scored on a single he gave up because of a throwing error that Sweeney made.  And then Aceves had a peaceful, three-out save in the ninth.

Again, as on Friday, we went down in order in the first and then got the ball rolling in the second.  And as on Friday, during one of the innings in which we scored, we scored big and took the Jays for four runs.  Papi struck out, Salty walked, Youk struck out, Sweeney singled, and then Middlebrooks singled in Salty, Punto doubled in Sweeney, and Nava singled in Middlebrooks.  Three runs.  Boom.  It’s amazing what small ball can do.

We went down in order again in the third, and then in the fourth, Youk doubled but moved to third on a throwing error and Sweeney walked.  With runners at the corners, Middlebrooks grounded into a double play, but it still scored one.  We went down in order in the fifth and sixth and erased some potential opportunities in the seventh.  After Gonzalez flied out to begin the eighth, the bases were loaded after a single and two walks for Sweeney, who could only muster a groundout that scored one.  Byrd didn’t fare better, lining out to end the inning.

Punto batted in and scored our last run by leading off the ninth with a solo shot to right on a fastball.  It was the third pitch of the at-bat, and all three had been fastballs, all four-seams, all at eighty-seven miles per hour.  He took the first two for balls, but he was all over the third.  Jose Bautista just watched that go.  It was hit well, too.  It ended up in the second deck of seats out there.  And that kind of power is not something you see Punto wield very often, if at all.  He’s only hit one long ball in each of his previous three seasons.  The most long balls he ever hit in a single season in his career was four in 2005.

So, at the end of the day, Doubront and Buchholz had another thing in common: they each picked up wins.  We won, 7-4, which is almost the exact same score as Friday’s 7-2, especially when you consider that only two of those four runs that Toronto scored were earned.  Punto had the only multi-hit game of the night, and it was a big one: three for four with the double and homer, so he was a triple away from the ever-elusive cycle, but the game did end on his throw.  Youk’s double was the only other extra-base hit.

And don’t look now, but we just clawed our way into fourth place and put the Jays in fifth.  Just like I said yesterday, that’s the way to play and that is exactly what we should be doing every time out.

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Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  To say that last night was awesome would be the understatement of the century.

What a thrill! Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ladies and gentlemen! We haven’t seen a walkoff in a really long time; it was our first walkoff win this year and only our tenth comeback win of the year.  It was Salty’s first walkoff homer, and it was just what we needed to lift our spirits.  I hope the spirit-lift lasts, but in the meantime, we can bask in our own glory.  Because it was awesome in every way.

Just because Salty hit a walkoff doesn’t mean that our pitching staff didn’t pull its weight.  Beckett delivered a very, very quality start.  He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings while walking none and striking out five.  He threw ninety-one pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  Good command, good control, good variation of speeds, good heat, good, good, good.  He was masterful.  He looked like the ace we always expect him to be.  It was fantastic.

Even though his line was better in every other respect than that of David Price, Beckett did give up one more run than Price did, and that’s what put us in the position of needing a walkoff.  But what kept us in that position were shutout innings from Miller and Hill.  Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, Beckett didn’t get the win; Hill got it.  But you could argue that both deserved it because without quality appearances from both the starter and the bullpen, the team would have lost, which we know from way too much experience this year.

Meanwhile, the offense did a whole lot of nothing until the sixth inning, but we were actually the first to get on the board.  We didn’t even put up much of a fight in those innings either.  In the sixth, Pedroia walked, Papi singled, Youk lined out, and Pedroia tried to score on a single by Gonzalez but was thrown out at the plate.  Middlebrooks then singled in Papi for our first run.  Then, in the top of the seventh, our one-run lead was promptly erased.  Beckett gave up two consecutive singles to start it off, and then two runs scored via a sac fly followed by another single.

Obviously we know that both teams kept quiet until the bottom of the ninth with one out.  The stage was set.  A new pitcher, Fernando Rodney, came on.  Nava walked on eight pitches, and then Punto came in to hit for Shoppach.  He hit a sac fly, moving Nava to second.  (It was fitting, by the way, that Nava was about to score the tying run since it was partially Nava’s fault that the Rays were one run ahead of us; he threw to the plate on the sac fly that tied the game, which ended up moving the runner still on base to second, which then enabled another run to score.) Little did Punto know that that would not be necessary.

It was Byrd’s turn to bat, but Bobby V. had other plans.  He put Salty in.

And Salty took a ninety-seven mile-per-hour fastball for a strike and then smacked a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, the second pitch of the at-bat, out of the park.  It didn’t even land in the bullpen.  It landed beyond the bullpen.

The crowd was deafening.  The ball was lofting.  The record is back at .500.  The final score was 3-2.

Clearly Carlton Fisk’s presence during the pregame ceremony was inspirational.  It was one of those things where you were least expecting it because you knew that you needed it most.  And all of a sudden you knew that you had it.  A home run to put us over the top, to slam the door on the game without the Rays having a chance to answer back.  As soon as you heard the bat and the ball make contact, you knew that it was going out.  And it did.  And the team mobbed Salty at the plate, which the team apparently calls “the shredder,” because it was he, after all, who brought the pepper.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Buchholz seems to have returned to his usual, inconsistent self.  Or rather his usual, consistently inconsistent self.  Or rather his usual, consistently mediocre self.  However you word it and no matter how you look at it, the result was still the same: we won, but we could just as easily have lost.  And that should never be the case when the offense does its job.  Assigning responsibility to various parts of the team seems to be the theme over the past several games, but then again, you could look at it this way: if the team made a habit of winning as a team and losing as a team on a consistent basis, divisions of responsibility within the team would seem less conspicuous.

Buchholz only lasted five and one-third innings.  He gave up five runs on six hits, which, as you can see, is about an average of one run per inning.  If you look at it that way, it’s a good thing he was taken out when he was.  He also walked four and struck out two; never a good sign when you walk twice as many as you strike out.  He threw ninety-four pitches, fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His best pitch for strikes was his curveball, followed by his cutter.  His changeup and fastball left very much to be desired if you ask me.

It was unfair.  Buchholz went one-two-three in his first two innings, and I was getting ready for a quality start.  Instead, I, as we all did, had to come to terms with the fact that those solid two innings meant nothing in light of the third, when he threw thirty-one pitches and allowed all but one of his runs.  He just collapsed; he couldn’t find the strike zone and his command vanished into thin air.  It was amazing, obviously in a bad way.  It was the complete and total disappearance of any shred of control or ability on Buchholz’s part.  He gave up a single, a walk, and a single to load the bases.  Then he walked in a run.  Then he allowed an RBI single.  Then, as if the first one weren’t embarrassing and humiliating enough, he walked in another run.  Then the fourth run scored on a double play before the inning was finally ended on a groundout.  He allowed a leadoff home run in the fourth on a changeup, went one-two-three in the fifth, and then secured the first out but left two on in the sixth before he was replaced by Miller.

Meanwhile, we were busy battling back and digging ourselves out of the hole that Buchholz had so generously put us in.  We went down in order in our first two innings as well, until we got on the board in the third.  Nava singled, Byrd doubled, Che-Hsuan Lin grounded out, Aviles singled in Nava, and Byrd scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  At that point, the score was 2-0; after Buchholz’s epic fail, we were down by two.  The home run put us down by three.  We went down in order in the fifth but tied it up in the sixth.  First, Papi started things off with a leadoff homer to right on a high fastball.  The ball actually bounced on the overhang over the seats out there and exited the park completely.  Now that’s power.  He crushed it.  He absolutely crushed it.  Gonzalez followed that with a double and Middlebrooks with a single.  Salty grounded out, but then Gonzalez scored on a sac fly by Nava, and Middlebrooks scored on a balk.  The game was then tied at five.

We broke that tie in the very next inning.  Lin struck out, Aviles singled, Pedroia doubled, and Papi walked intentionally to load the basis.  All Gonzalez could muster was a sac fly, and all Middlebrooks did was single in Pedroia, but even though those didn’t seem like the ideal results of clutch at-bats, they did supply us with two crucial runs that we’d need to win.

We added a third insurance run in the eighth; with two out, Lin singled, Aviles struck out but reached on a wild pitch, and Pedroia singled Lin in.  The scoring finally stopped after the eighth, when Hill, who replaced Miller who’d had a very solid outing featuring a one-two-three seventh, allowed three straight singles that but another run on the board for Baltimore.

The Orioles may have scored the last run, but they didn’t laugh the last laugh.  We did because we held on and won, 8-6.  Padilla and Aceves finished the game, with Miller taking the win.  The lineup featured four multi-hit performances, three for two hits each and one, that of Middlebrooks, for three hits.  All in all, what made this win so great was that, aside from starting pitching, we did everything.  We put a competent and effective relief corps out there.  We batted around; we played long ball, and we played small ball.  We covered all the bays, both literally and figuratively, and left no stone, again with the exception of starting pitching, unturned.

The win was so awesome that it gave us some hope that we can win in our current state, which we’d better get used to since Ross is now officially out indefinitely with a fracture in his foot.  With that said, showing that we have the ability to win in our current state is very different from actually winning in our current state.  Last night we demonstrated that we can do it, but will we? That’s the big question.  Either way, we wish Ross a speedy recovery.

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Again, the teams were fairly evenly matched.  Fortunately, we came out on top this time.  The final score was 5-3, but a lead is a lead, and whoever holds on gets the W.  I n this particular case, we almost didn’t, but in the end the day was ours.  It was another combined team effort, which are really the best efforts for any ballclub.

Doubront’s start was short.  He lasted only five and two-thirds innings because he was inefficient as usual; he threw ninety-seven pitches.  He gave up two runs, only one of them earned, on six hits, while walking four and striking out seven.  The first one was the unearned one; in the third, BJ Upton reached base on catcher interference and went on to score.  His other run was the result of a single-advancing groundout-single combination.  He was taken out in the fifth after securing the inning’s first two outs followed by giving up a single and a double.

Hill ensured that the inning ended without incident.  Atchison came on for the seventh and was replaced after the first out by Miller, who was replaced after the second out by Padilla, who ended the inning.  He began the eighth with a strikeout but then allowed a double and hit a batter.  He then got a force out and was taken out in favor of Aceves, who allowed a single that brought home one of his inherited runners.  Fortunately, he got through the ninth unscathed and picked up a save, while Doubront was given the win.

We loaded the bases in the first with two singles and a hit batsman; Ross drew a walk to plate our first run.  Byrd led off the second with a solo shot on a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball on a full count to left field.  It was his first home run since September, and he flew around the bases like he was in a hurry to get back to the dugout.  Seriously, I don’t recall seeing anyone race around the bases after a home run knowing that it was a home run.  Not wanting to be left out of the home run action, Ross hit a solo shot of his own to center field with two out in the third on the third pitch of the at-bat.  It was Ross who provided the runs we needed to win in the eighth; Pedroia singled, Papi walked, and two outs later, Ross singled in both of them.

And now for a little drama.  Aviles was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Dan Bellino following his called strikeout to end the seventh.  It was one of the more aggressive balls-and-strikes arguments I’ve seen in a long time.  I mean, Aviles was really in his face and verbally going at it.  It wasn’t pretty.

We collected seven hits, only two of which, the homers, were for extra bases.  Predictably, Ross batted in all but one of our runs and had one of two multi-hit performances, the other belonging to Pedroia.  And believe it or not, in all its appearances in the last five games, which have amounted to fourteen and one-third innings, the bullpen has allowed only one run.  If the bullpen keeps this up, we might actually go somewhere!

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Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  I would say that I don’t even know where to start, but the truth is that I’m going to start where it’s obviously proper to start: Jon Lester.  This, unequivocally, was one of Jon Lester’s best-pitched games all year so far.  The start to this season has taught us that, as go our starters, so goes the team, and the team went with Lester and gave him everything he needed: good fielding and good hitting.  Absolutely nothing went wrong yesterday.  It was amazing.

Anyway, let’s get back to Lester, the undisputed man of the hour.  Lester went the distance.  You read right.  He pitched a complete game.  His nine-inning effort required only 119 pitches, seventy-three of which were strikes.  He posted a total of six K’s and walked absolutely nobody.  He gave up eight hits and only one run.

He went one-two-three in the first, second, third, fifth, and eighth.  He gave up one single in the fourth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh.  He was two outs away from a complete shutout performance, but besides that first out in the ninth, he had given up a single and a double, and a run scored on a groundout.

Let’s go through the six strikeouts, just because it’s fun and Lester is awesome.  His first one sent down the first batter he faced; it lasted five pitches and ended with a fastball.  His second occurred in the second inning, was three pitches, and ended with a curveball.  His third occurred in the third, was five pitches, and ended with a sinker.  His fourth occurred in the eighth, was three pitches, and ended with a changeup.  And his last two occurred in the ninth; the first was four pitches and ended with a curveball, and the second was six pitches and ended with a fastball.  Of the six strikeouts, all but one were swing-and-misses, the one being a foul tip.

While we’re at it, let’s break down his other outs as well.  Ten were groundouts, six were popups, three were flyouts, and there was one double play.

And last but not least, let’s break down his pitches.  He used an exceptionally deadly cut fastball as well as a remarkably effective curveball, changeup, and sinker.  He mixed his pitches expertly and changed speeds rapidly and fluidly.  Obviously he was also efficient: he threw fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second (all but one of which were strikes), ten in the third, fifteen in the fourth, seven in the fifth, eleven in the sixth, twenty-one in the seventh, ten in the eighth, and twenty-two in the ninth.  He was so on, and his stuff looked so good, and his pitches were so sharp and so precise in their location, movement, and execution that I knew he was going to do something big tonight.  Most of the time, something big for Lester would be a no-hitter, which we’ve seen, or something on that level.  With the way this team’s been playing, something big was a complete game that we won in and of itself; just because he gave up eight hits and one run should not diminish take away from the fact that it was still a big accomplishment and one of the best efforts we’ve seen from him.  (It was Ichiro Suzuki, obviously, who ended any possibility of a no-hitter with two out in the fourth; the ball came back to Lester and bounced off his glove, ironically enough.) Actually, if Lester had been able to preserve the shutout, it would have been his first complete-game shutout since his no-no on May 19, 2008.  Lester is the only member of the staff to have thrown a complete game this year; his first was an eight-inning effort that resulted in a loss.

Thus, while it is true that he did average almost one hit per inning, he managed to do so without allowing the Mariners to cause any damage by capitalizing on any of them.  If they allowed a hit, with limited exceptions they failed to build on it.  If they built on it, with one exception they failed to convert the potential rally.  In short, Lester was phenomenally stellar.

And now for the offense, since without it it’s possible that we would have lost by a final score of 1-0 even with Lester’s best efforts.  (Seriously, coming into yesterday’s game he was the least supported of all our starters.) In the first, Pedroia walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a double by Gonzalez.  Ross opened the fourth with a single, and then Nava smacked a two-run jack on the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball pretty much right down the pipe, into the first row of the Monster seats, and he did it from the right side.  It was the second home run of his career and the first since his first-ever-Major-League-at-bat grand slam in 2010.  One out later, Shoppach got in on the home-run action with a jack of his own completely over the Green Monster into Lansdowne Street, this one on a changeup that remained up.  It was actually the first home run of his career.  We scored our last run in the eighth; after Gonzalez flied out to start things off, Middlebrooks singled, Ross doubled, Nava walked intentionally to load the bases, and all Byrd could muster was a sac fly that scored one.  Shoppach then grounded out to end the threat, but all in all it was enough.

We won, 6-1.  Five our nine hits were for extra bases.  Ross and Shoppach each went two for four.  The only members of the lineup who went hitless were Aviles and Pedroia, although Pedroia did work one of the team’s four walks.  But in addition to the fact that we had good offense and good fielding and good pitching was the fact that the team looked like it won as a team.  Lately, during the past few games, we’ve either won as a team or lost as a team, and no matter what the outcome, that’s really the way you want to play.  I just hope it lasts this time.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Yet again, we lost.  Yet again, it was crushing.  Yet again, the whole thing could have been neatly avoided.

Lester lasted only five innings.  He gave up four runs on six hits, but only one of those runs was earned, if you can believe it.  He walked one and struck out three using a total of 108 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.

The Royals jumped out early; Lester began with a groundout and a strikeout but then allowed a walk that clearly should have been a strikeout as well as a single.  Byrd then made a fielding error that by itself allowed the three unearned runs: it caused Johnny Giavotella to reach, Jeff Francoeur to advance to third, Billy Butler to score, and then Francoeur and Giavotella to both score on a double by Brayan Pena.  Byrd dropped the ball, both literally and figuratively.  I’m serious.  That was the fielding error.  He just dropped it.  And Pena’s double was no less strange; it was in Ross’s glove, then as his momentum carried him back it got out of the glove and bounced against the wall, and then somehow got back into his glove without hitting the ground.  Words can not adequately express the frustration and humiliation that befell Red Sox Nation at the hands of Ross’s glove, or rather lack thereof.

Although our hitters didn’t make much of a splash in the first two innings, we answered Kansas City’s challenge in the third and tied it up.  Byrd, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his egregious mistake, began the inning with a single.  Sweeney then singled and, after Aviles flied out, Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Papi of all people then struck out of all things, but Gonzalez, continuing his journey out of his slump, smacked a bases-clearing double.  With one swing of the bat, the slate was clean once again.

We looked like we may have been poised to score more in the top of the fourth; Ross began it with a groundout, but then Salty doubled and Byrd got hit.  Two outs later, Kansas City was up at bat, and a double and sac bunt later, the winning run had scored.

So Lester wasn’t as mediocre as his line would make him out to be, although he obviously wasn’t throwing his best stuff since he needed more than a hundred pitches to get through only five innings.  Still, he did seem to settle down as the game went on.  He retired the side in the fifth and was replaced by Mortensen in the sixth, when Mortensen did the same.

The only other time we came close to threatening was in the top of the ninth, when Ross, then replaced by pinch-runner McDonald, singled and Salty walked.  Both advanced a base on Byrd’s sac fly, which Bobby V. thought should have been ruled differently because he said that Byrd was hit on the finger.  He wanted home plate umpire Jeff Nelson to ask the opinion of first base umpire Tim Tschida.  Nelson refused on the grounds that Tschida would have been too far away to have an opinion at all.  And then Bobby V. went off about it after the game because Sweeney and Aviles provided two quick outs, and you never know what would have happened had the inning not been over.

Aviles had the team’s only multi-hit game with two hits.  Gonzalez’s double and Salty’s double were the only extra-base hits we hit all night.  Our batters didn’t pick up Ross’s slack, so we lost, 4-3.  Yup.  Ross dropped the ball.  You know it’s getting out of hand when the only thing tempering your frustration is your retrospective lack of surprise.

Last but most certainly not least, the condolences of Red Sox Nation and I go out to the family of Carl Beane, the voice of Fenway Park since 2003, who passed away yesterday.  His last game was the seventeen-inning loss.  He loved this park and this team, and he and his voice will most certainly be missed.

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