Posts Tagged ‘Matt Albers’

Oh, wow.  I don’t even know what to say about this.  This is a tough situation.  It really is.

As we all know, Beckett has been painfully mediocre this year.  And when I see painfully, I mean painfully.  To the point where even labeling him as mediocre is being generous.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can just do without him.  Technically when we headed into Spring Training, we were short on starters as it was.  And now he had to leave last night’s contest after pitching two and two-thirds innings with a back spasm.  That is bad news.  Back problems didn’t leave him alone in 2010, and they better not be back in 2012.  Not now.  Especially not now.

It was noticeable, too.  He mowed through the Tigers in the first and second, and I really wanted the opportunity to settle in and watch some vintage Beckett.  He secured the first two outs in the third, and then things turned bad on a dime.  He gave up a single, hit a batter, and loaded the bases with a walk.  And then he walked in Detroit’s first run.  That was when he called the trainers, and then he left.  It’s hard to say at this point how serious it is, I guess.  It all depends on whether the problem persists despite treatment and rest, which themselves take time.  Either way, like I said, we can’t very easily do without him at this point, especially not if he was just about to return to his usual self.

Mortensen relieved him and finished the third.  He gave up two walks in the fourth but got through it, and he pitched through the fifth and part of the sixth.

We had the bases loaded with two out in the first but didn’t do anything with it.  We barely threatened in the second and went down in order in the third.  We finally scored runs in the fourth, and we scored a handful.  We started the rally with two straight singles by Ross and Salty.  Then Middlebrooks struck out.  Shoppach walked to load the bases, and then we made up for for throwing away the same opportunity in the first.  Ciriaco singled in our first run.  Ellsbury walked in our second.  Crawford singled in our third.  And we scored our fourth thanks to a little help from a fielding error.

The game ended early, which was a good thing, too, because the Tigers left the bases loaded in the rain; Morales had come in to pitch.  The final score was 4-1.

Ben kept it quiet at the deadline; we traded Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik to the D-Backs for southpaw Craig Breslow.


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That, my friends, was incredible.

In keeping with the recent close-game tradition, we were really biting our nails in this one.  It was close.  It was really close.  It was almost really close in the worst way.  Fortunately, we handled ourselves well.

We scored two runs in the second; Gonzalez singled, Ross struck out, Salty walked, Middlebrooks struck out, and Sweeney doubled in two.  But we really have to thank the pitchers for carrying us, because pitching, not hitting, is how you get through games in which you score only two runs in the second inning.

Doubront gave up nothing through six.  The Yanks finally got to him in the seventh when he made a mistake and gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning.  One single and one strikeout later, he was relieved by Albers.  Albers gave up a single and was relieved by Miller.  Miller pitched the rest of the seventh and then secured the first two outs of the eighth before allowing a double.  Then he was relieved by Aceves, who blew his save completely by giving up an RBI single that tied the game.

It was beyond infuriating.  Here we’d managed to take a one-run lead to the ninth, and the pitcher who blows the lead is the closer.  It’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that.  Actually, it’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that, ever.  And there he was, allowing RBI singles like somebody told him to do it.

Anyway, he got through the ninth and ended up pitching the tenth.  The offense fortunately bailed him and the entire team out.  In the top of the tenth, Salty walked, and Bobby V. and Beckett were both ejected by two different umpires for maintaining that Middlebrooks got hit.  The umpires thought he was faking it, but Middlebrooks was hit in the wrist, and you could clearly see afterwards that his wrist was bruised.  I mean, he was trying to bunt; it’s natural for his wrist to be in the line of fire.  If it wasn’t hit by the baseball, what was it hit with? I’d really like to know.  The irony is that home plate umpire Brian O’Nora went down with Middlebrooks on that pitch because he was hit by it as well.  So he should have known what it felt like.  To claim that all you have to do is listen for the sound of impact of the pitch on the batter is nothing short of absurd.

Anyway, Middlebrooks ended up singling after that and was out on a force out by Sweeney.  Ciriaco was the big hero yet again, delivering a single in the clutch that scored one run.  Just enough to get the W.

The final score was 3-2.  All told, Doubront gave up one run on four hits over six and one-third innings while walking five and striking out eight.  Aceves received both a blown save and the win.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury each had two hits, and Salty was the only member of the lineup who went hitless, although he did walk twice.

If you have to beat the Yanks, one of the best scenarios in which to do it is a late-inning situation on their soil.  That really gives them a taste of their own medicine.  It was beyond awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.

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Alright.  We may be way behind in the division standings.  We may be way behind in the Wild Card standings.  And we may even be behind .500.  But just like the Yanks are the absolute worst team in the world to lose to, they’re also the absolute best team in the world to beat.  Because when we beat the Yankees, there is a derivative satisfaction unparalleled by any other victory against any team ever, unless of course a particular game against another team is critically important in deciding our fate or something.  Other than that, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that beating the Yanks is one of our favorite things to do.  It’s really a ton of fun.

Especially when they help you do it.  Which they did.  It was awesome.  And lucky.  We scored a good amount of runs but spent too much time letting the Yankees get them back to have been able to have won without some help from them as well.  That’s the only thing I didn’t like about last night’s victory, even though the humiliation of having handed over the win to us was nice.

Last night, it wasn’t always clear that we were going to win.  First of all, it wasn’t even clear we were going to play; the game started two hours and four minutes late due to rain.  But when it did start, it started with us scoring three runs.  Not a bad way to start if you ask me.  After Ellsbury struck out, Ciriaco and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, and Gonzalez doubled in one, while Middlebrooks doubled in two more one out later.  Then we turned it over to Lester, who had a one-two-three first.  Not a bad start to his start, either.  Both teams went down in order until the bottom of the third, when Lester gave up a solo shot with two out.  But we answered in a big way in the fifth.  With two out, Ciriaco singled, and Pedroia walked.  And then Gonzalez completely unleashed on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, a slider.  It was going eighty-one miles per hour, but he saw it as clear as day all the way.  And he sent that ball all the way out to right center field.  And we doubled our run total with one swing of the bat, just like that.

Unfortunately, Lester let the Yanks answer back; he gave up a walk in the fifth followed by another home run.  Then he put two more runners on base and, after securing another out, secured the second out with a groundout that scored another run.

Neither team scored again until the bottom of the eighth; Albers had pitched the seventh, and Padilla came on as the setup man and allowed a single and then a home run with two out.  That tied the game at six, and clearly I was not happy.  We’d played solid ball and had a chance to beat them only to have a setup man erase our lead.  A setup man is not supposed to erase leads.  A setup man is supposed to preserve leads for the closer so we can win and get out of there.  Miller replaced Padilla after that.

Fortunately, the hitters bailed him out in the ninth.  After Sweeney flied out, Ellsbury walked and scored on a triple by Ciriaco, made possible by a bumbling Curtis Granderson who couldn’t field it.  If it had to be anyone on their team who messed up the play, I’m glad it was Granderson after Friday’s grand slam.  Ciriaco then scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  And Aceves picked up the save.

So Lester gave up four runs on four hits, two of them home runs, while walking two and striking out six.  He threw 101 pitches and didn’t get the win.  He was solid early and not late; mostly it was just a labor.  Albers got a hold, Padilla got a very well-deserved blown save, Miller got the win which is ironic because he pitched the least of all our staff who made appearances last night, and then, as I said, Aceves got the save.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Ciriaco and Gonzalez went three for five.  We posted eleven hits to their six, and the final score was 8-6.  And that’s a wrap.  Isn’t it sweet?

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One thing that can be stated is that Beckett pitched his heart out last night, except for one pitch in particular.  It wasn’t easy; you could tell that he was laboring.  The fact that it shouldn’t have been such a labor, Arlington heat notwithstanding, is an entirely different story. What matters is that he gritted his teeth and got the job done, except for one pitch in particular.  At least we know that the competitive spirit of Josh Beckett is alive and well, even if his command and all of his pitches aren’t.  Particularly one pitch in particular.

He kept the threats to a minimum through two and pitched around a jam in the third.  He had a bad inning in the fourth; he gave up a double, a groundout, an RBI double, a single, a sac fly that scored another run, and an RBI single for three runs.  Obviously it could have been worse.  He settled down again after that but gave up another run in the seventh; he induced a groundout for the first out of the inning but then hit a batter who scored two at-bats later on a wild pitch.  That one hurt the most.  It was the winning run that ultimately sealed our fate, and it was scored on a wild pitch.  That’s like having your starting pitcher walk in a run.  It’s embarrassing, and it hurts.  A lot.

All in all, he pitched a full seven innings, throwing 114 pitches.  He gave up four runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out three.  He was mediocre at best, but mediocre is a lot better than totally horrendous.

And the hitters did their part, kind of.  Actually, not really.  I mean, it’s all relative if you think about it.  We scored three runs; there have been times when we’ve won games after scoring only three runs and obviously times when we’ve lost games after scoring only three runs.  Last night just happened to be one of the latter.  We for the most part kept neck-and-neck, but ultimately someone has to come out on top, and it wasn’t us.

Ellsbury walked to start the game and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Middlebrooks hit a huge solo shot with two out in the fourth out to left field.  It was deeply hit.  I’m telling you, that guy has some serious power, and it’s all the better knowing that he’s home grown.  His future certainly is bright, but in the meantime it’s nice to see him continue that power and keep helping the team win.

Wanting to get in on the home run action, Pedroia walloped a solo shot with one out in the sixth.   Not only was it very refreshing and inspiring to see him belt one during a slump that’s basically lasted the entire year, and not only was it as awesome as always to watch him pour every last inch of himself into this enormous swing to power that ball all the way out to left field, but it also tied at the game at the time.

And then Beckett allowed his fourth and final run.  And then Albers relieved him for the eighth and promptly gave up a solo shot to double the deficit to two.  It could have been the case that we were tied at four at the time, in which case it would have only been a one-run lead, had Pedroia’s enormous fly ball not been caught on the warning track, which was obviously just such a huge disappointment like none other.  And then we went down in order in the ninth.

The final score was 5-3.  Ciriaco and Middlebrooks both went two for four.  Those two home runs were our only extra-base hits, and we had five hits total, while the Rangers racked up twice as many.  What can I say? We lost again.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.

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First of all, we honored Tek before the game for his fifteen years of service to this ballclub, city, and Nation at the plate, behind the plate, and in the clubhouse.  It was awesome.  The brass always does a nice job, and Tek of all people really, really deserved it.  He got emotional during his speech, but then again, who wouldn’t.  Papi gave him two Fenway seats, and Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz gave him the home plate from his last game.  He also threw a knuckleball to Wake for the first pitch.  It was just a really classy way to honor a really classy guy.  We miss you, Tek.  And we salute you.

If only we could have honored him further with a win.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Cook did not have a good night in the least.  He gave up five runs, only three of them earned, on four hits over six and one-third innings pitched.  He walked one and struck out one, and he threw eighty-six pitches.

He had fantastic innings in the first and second without incident.  He gave up a sac fly with the bases loaded in the third that scored one unearned run thanks to a fielding error by Ciriaco.  He again had stellar innings in the fourth and fifth.

And then the badness began in the sixth.  After securing two quick outs, Cook handed out a free pass on five pitches and then gave up a home run.  And then he gave up a solo shot to lead off the seventh.  After a groundout and another fielding error, this one by Middlebrooks, which put a man on base, Cook was replaced by Morales, who secured the second out and dished out a walk before he was replaced by Albers.  Albers gave up a single that scored two, both of which were scored by inherited runners, one from Cook and the other from Morales.

So there are those who say that two pitches caused Cook’s downfall last night.  I would beg to differ; clearly a home run could account for one run only, and it’s not like Cook gave up only two runs, both of which happened to be homers, in which case you could claim that he only made two mistakes.  That’s not what happened.  Cook gave up three earned runs and two unearned runs, and it wasn’t only because he gave up two home runs.  Of course, the issue of how to interpret the unearned runs is always interesting, but ultimately you have to hope that the starter is positioning the team so well that a couple of unearned runs won’t hurt it.  The pitcher can’t control what errors the fielders make, but he can largely control whether runners are on base and therefore score on those errors.  And those runners would have had to be there before the error, so in that sense the pitcher is responsible.  Then again, you have to expect the fielders to field correctly.  So it’s an interesting question.  Since errors are so unpredictable and can’t necessarily be helped, I’m going to say that Cook should have been able to do more to ensure that those errors didn’t cause runs to score.

So in that sense, two pitches didn’t cause Cook’s downfall.  There were many other pitches he threw before those two that had a hand in the loss, even if he did only give up three earned runs.

Some of those other pitches were thrown by the Jays, because clearly we didn’t do much with them, and that didn’t help things.  Salty hit a mammoth three-run shot in the second that was totally awesome.  Gonzalez singled, Ross doubled, and Salty fouled off a slider and a fastball and took a slider for a ball before getting something down and in that he knew he would hit and unleashing on that one.  He sent that into the bullpen.

Padilla pitched the eighth, and Tazawa came on for the ninth.  He allowed a double, a sac bunt that moved the runner to third, and then a run on a fielder’s choice.  The final score was 7-3.  Only two of our five hits were for extra bases, and those five hits were distributed among five of our starting nine.  So there were no multi-hit games and there were not enough hit games.  We even walked only twice.

So here’s the kicker.  At the time, Salty’s home run gave us a three-run lead.  So all these questions of how you look at the unearned runs and how many pitches caused Cook’s downfall don’t have any impact on the fact that let a three-run lead slip through his fingers.  Admittedly, the offense should have done more.  But so should have Cook to preserve that lead.  And that’s why it was crushing, because philosophy aside, we had a lead and then we lost it, and at that point there’s really not much explaining to do.

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What a game! It certainly didn’t start off as auspiciously as it ended.  But that’s the game, and that’s why you always have to keep the faith.  You never know what will happen.  Ultimately, that goes both ways, and that’s why it’s unpredictable.  And even though it’s usually enough to make you furious, it’s still a reason to love the game.

Anyway, getting back to the game at hand, Doubront pitched excellently.  He gave up one run on four hits over six innings while walking three and striking out two.  He threw ninety-six pitches.  Obviously we always want to see more strikeouts than walks from our starters, and the wider the gap, the better.  But he got his outs and that’s really what it all boils down to.  He gave up an RBI single in the first, and that was it for him.

Actually, that was it for the Other Sox for the rest of the game; Albers, Melancon, and Miller each turned in a shutout inning for a combined total of zero runs on zero hits while walking zero and striking out three.

Meanwhile, we got busy, and we got busy fast.  Ellsbury led off the first with a double and scored two outs later on a single by Gonzalez.  At first, we felt happy just to have tied the game at one.  When we went scoreless in the second, we were probably all preparing to settle in for a potential duel of some sort.  Then the third happened.

We scored three in the third and four in the fourth; how appropriate.  Ellsbury and Crawford hit back-to-back singles to lead off the third, and then Ross homered on his third pitch, an inside fastball.  It was huge.  Both figuratively and literally.  It was huge because it suddenly gave us a three-run lead with one swing of the bat.  And it was huge literally because it was hit high and far.  It was barely fair; it stayed just inside the Fisk Pole.  He completely unleashed on that ball.

And then there was some serious déjà vu going on in the fourth inning.  Shoppach opened it with a strikeout, but then Ciriaco and Ellsbury hit back-to-back singles.  After Crawford popped out, Ross again stepped up to the plate.  Again, that’s both literal and figurative.  He stepped up to the plate literally because he actually stepped up to the plate.  And he stepped up to the plate figuratively because he delivered in a major way.  Again, he sent it high and far and way out of the park out toward the Monster.  Two swings.  Six runs.  Thankfully we knew it was the fourth inning and not the third inning not only because of the two outs and whatnot but also because, as a reminder, Gonzalez went back-to-back to the opposite field with a solo shot on his second pitch, also a fastball, which he launched toward the Monster as well.

And then, just to put the icing on the proverbial cake, Crawford was hit by a pitch to begin the sixth, Ross doubled, and then Gonzalez singled them both in.

And that, my friends, was the end of that.  The final score was a lopsided 10-1.  We posted a grand total of fourteen hits to their four.  We went four for ten with runners in scoring position.  And we had three stellar multi-hit games: Ellsbury went three for four and scored three runs, Gonzalez went three for four and batted in four while scoring one, and the man of the hour went three for five with six – count ‘em: six – RBIs and three runs scored.  Those six RBIs are a season high, and this was his third multi-homer game in his career.  His third hit was a double, so he failed to hit anything less than an extra-base hit all night.  Cody Ross, ladies and gentlemen!

As epic as that all was, we also can’t help but think about the fact that Papi is now on the disabled list with a strained right Achilles tendon.  Fortunately, there is no deeper damage to the Achilles tendon, so we obviously hope he recovers quickly and effectively.

Still, we have a lot to celebrate.  I mean, it was a total slaughter.  And it was completely and ridiculously awesome.

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We just couldn’t keep it going, I guess.  It would have been nice to rack up the wins right out of the gate, but hopefully we’ll win tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Buchholz took the loss but actually pitched pretty well.  There are teams out there who would feel lucky to get this type of start from their first starter.  Fortunately, we are not such a team, or at least historically we’re not, even if we may have been lately, and we know he can do better.  Still, he kept us in the game, and given what some of his other starts have been like, I’d say this is a positive step forward in the right direction.  He gave up four runs on three hits over six and one-third innings while walking one and striking out eight, which we should feel really good about.  He threw eighty-seven pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes.  Excellent curveball and cutter, great fastball, decent changeup.

He had a one-two-three inning in the first and second.  He gave up two singles and a sac fly for one run in the third.  He had another one-two-three inning in the fourth.  He allowed a double in the fifth, which turned into a run when Aviles put another runner on base with an error.  He went one-two-three in the sixth again, his most efficient inning at eight pitches, and then allowed a walk, a hit batsman, and a sac bunt to put both runners in scoring position.

That was when he was replaced by Albers, who loaded the bases with an intentional walk and then walked in one inherited runner and allowed a sac fly that brought home another.  Miller recorded the last out of the inning before giving up a solo shot in the eighth.  He was replaced before the final out by Melancon.

So technically, if you disregard the inherited runners, Buchholz allowed only two runs, and he was solid for most of the game.  Upon returning from the disabled list, I’d say we would have been hard-pressed to ask for more.  Except maybe some more runs and some better control in situations with inherited runners and then finally maybe a win to top it off.

For our part at the plate, we rarely put up any threat at all.  We got on the board in the fourth, when Papi singled with one out, and Middlebrooks homered one out later to left center field on a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball.  He golfed it, and it just made it into the first row or two of seats out there.  Again with the attempting of the sneaking of the fastball.  I don’t understand why they bother.

We scored our last run of the game in the sixth; with one out, Ross walked, moved to second on a passed ball, moved to third on a groundout by Middlebrooks, and scored on an erroneous pickoff attempt.  Like I said, we were pretty docile the rest of the game.

The final score was 5-3.  There were two multi-hit games yesterday; Aviles went two for four, and Ellsbury went two for four with a double, the other of our two extra-base hits (besides Middlebrooks’s home run).

Even when we had opportunities, we didn’t take advantage of them.  We had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, and the inning ended on a double play that included a throw to the plate.  We went one for eight with runners in scoring position and left six on base, so as you can see, this wasn’t the great example of the threat potential we’ve seen on other occasions, which have been too few and far between if you ask me.

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