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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Fox’

So, last night we were officially eliminated.  For the first time since 2006 and the second time in the last eight years.  The Evil Empire and the Rays both clinched.  It was torturous.  Every time the Yankees scored another run, you still held out hope but knew that it would be dramatically less and less likely for Toronto to come back.  Sabathia pitched eight innings; Rivera pitched the ninth.  Technically, we should have been prepared for this.  Technically, we should have been expecting this.  But technically is technically, and in reality, the Royal Rooter in each of us told us to believe no matter how steep the odds were.  And to be completely honest with you, last weekend when we were leading the Yankees on Sunday night, it looked like we had it in the bag.  It looked like we were going to go to the playoffs.  But it turned out that that game would give us the only taste of the thrills of October that we would experience this year.  So the moral of the story is that you can prepare and brace yourself all you want, but when elimination comes, you’re still going to hurt big time.

I don’t know if the fact that it isn’t our fault is the best or worst part of it.  We had no control over outfielders colliding with Beltre’s knee, with sprains, with broken bones, with mono, with any of that.  There was nothing we could have done differently to have prevented it.  It’s the nature of the game that injuries will happen.  It’s not necessarily the nature of the game that so many will befall a team at once, and we can feel good and proud of the fact that we are where we are.  It’s a miracle that we were even in the running this long when you consider the fact that our disabled list this year was itself an All-Star team.  And for that, there is something seriously and horribly wrong with the world if Terry Francona does not win Manager of the Year this year.  But I just feel like, with all the injuries, the 2010 Red Sox never got a chance to show anyone what they were working with.  If we had stayed healthy, we would have won the World Series.  Before the All-Star break, before the onslaught of injuries seriously hit, we were about to land ourselves in first place.  We had started to play great baseball.  Then we lost all the guys who were playing that great baseball, many of them for the rest of the season.  Ellsbury played in only eighteen games this year.  Cameron played in forty-eight.  Pedroia played in seventy-five.  Youk played in 102.  All of them ended up out for the year.  The whole situation just begs the huge question of what might have been had we stayed healthy.

One thing’s for sure: next weekend, I hope we do untold damage to the Evil Empire’s hopes of even thinking about winning the division.  I hope we go out with dignity and give the world a taste of what they can expect from us next year, because next year we’re winning the World Series.  We’ll have the overwhelming majority of the team coming back.  In 2006, we didn’t make the playoffs because the team was injured and we won the World Series the next year.  So if we were even more injured this year, it stands to reason that next year we’ll be even more dominant than we were in 2007.  I’m psyched.  Meanwhile, I hurt.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter, folks.  A long, cold, baseball-less winter.  I feel crushed.  Seriously.  That’s the only way I can explain it.  It just…hurts.

It also hurts because, for some guys, these are the last Major League games they’ll ever play.  Lowell already announced his retirement after this season, and Tek, who has never played a Major League game for any other team, wants to keep playing but apparently it’s unclear whether the front office will be interested.  I personally think that Tek should stay with us as some sort of coach instead of going somewhere like Kansas City or Baltimore or Pittsburgh, but if he wants to play, he wants to play.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  But he’s the backbone of this team both on and off the field.  He wears that “C” for a reason, and I just wish that, for guys like Lowell and Tek, who should go out in blazing glory, and obviously also for the whole team and all of Red Sox Nation, that we had more baseball to play.

And as if last night couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse, our bullpen blew our lead against the Other Sox.

Lackey tossed six frames.  He gave up two runs on three hits, walked two, and struck out five.  That’s decent.  He used 108 pitches to do it.  That’s slightly inefficient.  He used five pitches; four of them, the fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup, were thrown very effectively for strikes.  His slider wasn’t so great, but he didn’t use too many of those.  He started the game by throwing twenty-three pitches in the first inning, so you knew he wouldn’t last that long.  Even so, he one-hit Chicago over the first three innings.  When he did pitch, he pitched very well and put us in position to win.  This was the fourth time in his last five starts that he’s done so.  So it’s also sad that the season is ending so early for players like Lackey, Lester, Buchholz, Belre, V-Mart, and Papi, guys that are on hot streaks and having fantastic years who could have unleashed a world of dominance in the playoffs.

The offense didn’t disappoint.  In the first, Lowrie doubled in Beltre.  In the third, Drew smashed a solo shot, and V-Mart scored on Beltre’s sac fly.  In the sixth, Papi smashed a solo shot.

But that would be it for us.  The Other Sox would score one run in each of the next three innings.  Atchison allowed a run via Hill.  Hill allowed his inherited runner to score and received a hold.  Bard allowed a run and received a blown save; he opened the eighth with an eleven-pitch walk to who but Manny Ramirez.  Bowden allowed the walkoff and took the loss.  There was a one-out single, which chased Bowden.  Richardson came on, and there were two steals to third and a walk.  Then Fox came on, and there was a single that barely eluded Nava, and there was a walkoff, and there was a loss, but it didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things anymore because, by that time, New York had already won.

We have five games left in the 2010 season: two more in Chicago, and three at home against the Yankees this weekend.  It’s going to be Beckett today and Lester tomorrow, and we’ll have to wait for the official starter schedule for the weekend.  Let’s make these last five games, five games to remember.  The team can relax now and just have fun playing the game.  The Nation can watch every minute of baseball we can to see the team off for the winter.  And let’s just go out there and provide a preview of 2011.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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Well.  That was terrible.  That was absolutely, positively terrible.  That was filthy in the worst way.  Sloppy.  Pathetic.  I can’t believe that just happened.  Seriously.  I saw it with my own eyes and I was still kind of hoping that it was all just a mirage and the real score was 9-1 us, not 1-9 them.  Nope.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation, including Ken Burns who was on hand to witness the badness live, that this is incredibly not good.  Understatement of the century right there.

The only good thing that happened last night was Clay Buchholz.  When Clay Buchholz happens, the other team has no chance.  And usually you walk away with a win.  Usually you don’t walk away with the exact opposite: a blowout loss.  But that wasn’t his fault.  Buchholz did his job.  Buchholz pitched six innings, allowed no earned runs on four hits, walked three, and struck out five.  He fired 112 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  His ERA is now down to 2.39.  He was comfortable with every pitch in his arsenal and used them all, even though his changeup seems to be the weakest in the repertoire.  So technically that wasn’t even his best work because he was inefficient, his walk total was up, and his strike total was down.  But like I always say, if that’s his bad day, his good day is impeccable.  And his performance was way better than literally anybody else’s.

Buchholz did allow one unearned run, and you can thank Scutaro for that.  In the sixth inning, just when all seemed well and Buchholz was en route to what looked very much like his seventeenth win, Scutaro backtracked for a popup, reached back to catch it, and didn’t.  The ball dropped and Jones scored all the way from first.  That was a cardinal mistake.  Why would you ever try to catch a popup like that? It’s a popup; you have time to track it and solidly plant yourself under it.  There’s no reason to sort of dance back to it and reach over your shoulder to get it.  Clearly, that’s when mistakes are made.  I can not believe he did that.  And that was just the tip of the iceberg.  We were about to go from Buchholz’s potential seventeenth win with Bard and Paps coming up to, well, nothing.

Buchholz did not come back out for the seventh for some unknown and unfathomable reason.  If Buchholz comes back out for the seventh, he finishes the seventh and hands off to Bard who hands off to Paps.  One, two, three.  Done.  No.

Atchison came on and managed to record the first out of the inning but left after giving up a three-run home run to Wigginton on a pitch that was up and away.  He took the loss, and rightly so.  Atchison’s ERA over his last three appearances was 0.75.  An ERA less than one for a reliever.  Imagine that.  Not so anymore.

Okajima was solid.  Fox allowed a run but honestly in the grand scheme of things that was the least of our problems.  Our next real problem was Papelbon, who loathes blown saves as much as the next closer, but you have to admit that when he blows a save, he blows it with as much force as he makes saves.  He allowed four runs.  Four.  He hadn’t pitched in a week, entered the game when we were down by four, and allowed four more.  The Orioles swung the bats early in the count.  Once he actually started buckling down, the damage had already been done.  It just happened so quickly.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Lowrie scored on Nava’s single.  That was it.  Nobody posted a multi-hit game.  Three of our eight hits were doubles, and that was it for extra bases.  Three of our most potent hitters went hitless.  The middle of the order was noticeably quiet.

We are nine games behind the Yankees and six and a half games behind the Rays in the Wild Card standings.  We have eleven games left to play, and our magic number is three.  Three.  It’s really painful to say this, but we are now officially on the brink.  We were cruising and set to go through six, and then those last three innings just exploded.  Well, let’s carry on.  We face the Orioles tonight for the last time this season.  It’s Lackey on the mound.  Then we’re going to New York.  Let’s just win this one.  Let’s just play it well and win this one.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Well.  If you ever really wanted to know what it feels like to have your parade not just rained on but completely and totally soaked, you just found out the hard way.  I say the hard way because it was hard to watch because it was painful because it lacked win particularly conspicuously.  The only plus side of the entire night was the bright return of the Citgo sign after being out while approximately 218,000 lights were replaced with more energy-efficient and weather-resistant ones.  That brief respite from utter disappointment occurred in the seventh, which was after most of the damage was inflicted, and you were thinking that the deficit isn’t so bad, so maybe we’ll come back in honor of the sign or for whatever reason.  Nope.

Lackey was utterly lacking.  What a cliché pun, but what’s true is true.  The man did not have it.  Tito still trusts him as a big-game pitcher; ultimately, I can see why.  When it comes down to it, Lackey’s signature is big games.  He’s just having a hard time of it this year because it’s his first season with us.  Next season will show his return to form.  Meanwhile, he’s durable, capable, and competitive, qualities that make him a good starter, his line notwithstanding.  But sometimes you can’t escape from the line.  Unfortunately, last night was one of those times.

Lackey gave up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits while walking two and striking out three.  At first glance, his hit and walk totals may seem low, but after you consider the fact that he did that under five innings, you realize that he was on pace to have one awful night.  In fact, he did, and he was removed before he could allow further damage to occur.  But that didn’t change the fact that his most frequently used pitch, the cutter, wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been.  His curveball and slider were better.  His changeup was extremely effective; all but a few were thrown for strikes.  Unfortunately for us, man can not live on one pitch alone.  Don’t even get me started on his fastball.

He threw only seven pitches in the first inning.  Seven.  It’s like tuning in to a new episode of your favorite TV show, seeing a fantastic cold open, and watching everything go downhill from there, except you obviously can’t look away because you’ll miss all the details.  His worst inning for pitch count was the very next one with twenty-three.  That’s basically when you figured out where the night was headed.  He finished having thrown eighty-three pitches, forty-nine for strikes.  His command wasn’t there, he left pitches up, he hit batters, he misfired.  He essentially did every single thing every pitcher knows never to do.  Ever.  And he managed to do them all in less than half a game.

The bullpen was not helpful.  After McDonald’s bobble, Bowden came on and allowed three more runs.  Hill recorded two outs before Matt Fox allowed one.  Wake was our only salvation, and even he couldn’t pitch through two and a third innings with a successful pickoff without allowing three hits.  Finally the game was over, but the outcome wasn’t pretty.

Part of why it was so disappointing was that the offense did everything right.  The final score was 9-11.  Not 0-11, not 1-11, not 5-11, and not even 8-11.  9-11.  No team, and I mean no team, should lose when it scores nine runs.  Nine runs should be a blowout win, not a close-call loss.

Those nine runs were the product of a never-say-die attitude.  We got started early when V-Mart blasted a two-run homer into the Monster seats in the first .  Toronto tied it an inning later and scored five runs in the fifth inning alone, thanks in part to Lackey hitting his third batter to load the bases with nobody out for Overbay only to give him a changeup that didn’t do much of anything except stay up, and three more in the sixth.  We answered in the bottom of the sixth with three of our own; Scutaro scored on V-Mart’s groundout, Beltre hit an RBI double, and Lowell hit an RBI single.  Toronto took one back in the seventh, and we would have to score six more runs just to tie it.  Time was running out, but it didn’t seem to matter.  In the eighth, V-Mart blasted another two-run shot, launching a first-pitch fastball right over the Monster and into the parking lot for his third multi-homer game of the season.  In the ninth, the kids went to work; Navarro hit an RBI single and Nava hit an RBI double.  We only needed two more to win.

With two out in the bottom of the ninth, we had the tying run at the plate.  That tying run was Victor Martinez, who had already been responsible for about half our RBIs up to that point.  At that point you’re thinking that, no matter what happens, the stage is set perfectly.  No matter what happens, that is the exact scenario you want under those circumstances.  So you could sense that the probability of something good happening was substantial.

But we couldn’t do it.  V-Mart took a 1-0 cutter and popped it up.  The game ended there, and we took the loss.  We erased the progress in the standings we’d made two days before and snapped our winning streak.

V-Mart had the right attitude after the game.  Despite his heroics in earlier innings, this was all he said:

It doesn’t matter.  We lost.

In the grand scheme of things known as the standings, he’s right.  The standings don’t record individual at-bats; entry into the playoffs is decided by wins and losses.  I don’t agree with him wholly because I think every run, every play, and every move made impacts where we go from here, and as a Red Sox fan I obviously believe that baseball should be dirt-dogged and played with heart and hustle no matter what the circumstances, but as for the despair that this statement expressed, I’m totally with him on that.  Absolutely and one hundred percent with him on that.

What makes matters inexpressibly worse is that the Yankees were in the exact opposite situation.  They were one strike away from losing – not one out; one strike – when A-Rod obviously just had to hit a three-run home run.  Honestly.  I don’t think we’ve caught a major break all season long.

Thus, I lay the responsibility of this loss squarely on the shoulders of John Lackey.  Had he performed up to par, we would have been fine.  Our nine runs confirm that there is no doubt whatsoever about that.  And despite all that frustration, the only thing we can do is hope that Beckett shows the Jays who’s boss in game two.  So that’s it.  Let’s do that.

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Twelve days ago, I predicted that the last twelve days would be the deciding twelve days.  I said that if we dug ourselves into an even bigger hole, we’d fall victim to a math problem, but if we managed to climb out of our then-manageable hole, we’d have something to work with.  And all I can say is that the current standings were like a huge bucket of freezing cold water.  There are no words to adequately describe the fury and depression induced by the current state of affairs expressed by the standings.  We are a full nine games out of first place.  We are a full eight and a half games out of the Wild Card.  And it’s the middle of September.  Now, I’ll never say that anything is impossible for us until that becomes the stone-cold reality, but all I’m saying is that this is a completely unmitigated disaster.  It’s so wrong.  And the worst part is that there’s no single identifiable cause of it all.  It just is, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  Between the injuries and, well, the injuries, it is what it is.  And that’s just about the worst possible situation you can be in at this time of year.

Let’s pick up where we left off.  What was supposed to be a booster for both standings and morale turned out to be a big disappointment.  We dropped the series opener to Baltimore, 2-5.  Beckett pitched a full seven innings, but he allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits.  You can thank Scutaro for that unearned run; his sore right shoulder, specifically an inflamed rotator cuff, yielded a bad and costly throw.  Doubront allowed the final two Baltimore runes, both of them solo shots; turns out he had a strained pectoral muscle.  And anytime you lose to the worst team in the American League with a supposed ace on the mound, you know that’s a bad day right there.  We certainly had our opportunities, but we didn’t take advantage of any of them.  That loss made Beckett five and two lifetime in Camden Yards.  Also, Lowell got pretty incensed but somehow wasn’t ejected.  We won the second game, 9-6; it was conspicuously not Lester’s best work, but we’ll take any win we can get.  He gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings, but he walked only two while striking out ten.  He allowed four runs in the first inning alone, but you better believe we battled all the way back.  That game was all about the extra bases; three doubles and three well-hit home runs got the job done.  Home plate umpire Tom Hallion had to leave with one out left after sustaining an injury on a foul tip.  We won the series by taking the third game, 6-4.  Dice-K was mediocre at best but picked up the win anyway.  Paps made his thirty-fifth save, becoming the first closer to post thirty-five saves in each of his first five seasons.  The offense held up its end of the bargain as well; we scored five runs in the second inning and never looked back.  Beltre, of course, hit a home run.

Hurricane Earl postponed Manny Ramirez’s return to Fenway to Saturday, when we played a doubleheader against the Other Sox.  Ramirez apologized about the way he wrote his one-way ticket out of here, and Youk confirmed that he received an apology from him after their dugout tiff in June that year.  To put it simply, we got swept.  We lost both games of the twin bill by final scores of 1-3, and we lost the finale, 5-7.  The opener was just absolutely heartbreaking.  We took a two-run lead into the ninth only to have it evaporate completely in four walks.  He may have made history a few days before, but he blew this one big time, and that was not something we could afford to have done.  There was no way on this planet that we could possibly have afforded to have done that.  That was terrible and massively costly.  And what’s worse is that he threw forty-eight pitches in the process, which made him unavailable for the next few games.

The Rays came to town on Monday, when we gave off such a flash of brilliance that I’m convinced everyone forgot about the standings completely as they witnessed the performance of what is undoubtedly a team with the caliber of a World Series champion.  And that’s what makes the results of the last twelve days so hard to bear.  This is a team that could have won it all, but then we just didn’t.  Having about half your lineup out for the season makes it hard.  But Monday was awesome.  We did everything right in that game and won it by the fantastically lopsided score of 12-5.  Lester owned.  Papi went two for three with a double and a homer; Beltre and Kalish also homered.  It was simply awesome.  That’s all I can say about it.  In the midst of profound mediocrity and inconsistency, it was a very welcome breath of fresh air.  But the series that began with such promise didn’t end that way.  In fact, Tampa Bay would mete out almost exact revenge the following night while doing us two better as they whipped us, 5-14.  It was as devastating as the previous night was elating.  Seriously.  I am convinced that the outcomes of those two games, combined with the way the season’s been going, has made Red Sox Nation bipolar.  Dice-K was absolutely awful.  I can find nothing positive to say about his performance, or rather lack thereof.  He allowed eight runs on as many hits in less than five innings while walking four and striking out four.  He allowed two homers.  And the bullpen was no help at all.  So although we collected three doubles and a homer of our own, courtesy of McDonald, we ended up right back where we started the series.  It was like our own romp didn’t even happen at all.  Until the following night, when we reenacted our first romp, just to remind the Rays who they were dealing with and just to make us even more bipolar.  We won, 11-5.  Instead of pitching Buchholz on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, Wakefield started, picked up the win to become the oldest Red Sox player to do so, and incidentally is also the recipient of Boston’s nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award.  And rightly so.  We smashed five (count ‘em: five!) home runs, two by Scutaro, who also had a double to his credit.  Beltre batted in his 1,001st career run.  It was sensational.  And it made you think about what the season would have been like and where we would be now if we’d just played like that all along.

We took that momentum right through our day off and squandered it during our first game against Oakland.  That’s pretty much the story of the entire season: we’d win a game, or maybe two in a row, and we’d build some momentum but then we’d drop it like a hot potato.  That’s corny, but that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing since April.  The A’s shut us out.  Then the A’s beat us by a run.  Tonight the A’s will try to sweep us, and I really don’t think we should let that happen.  (Note the sarcasm.)

Odds and ends: Hermida was released from the PawSox, and we traded Delcarmen to the Rockies because, even though he’s great and has a lot of potential, it never comes to fruition consistently.  You can have a guy with all the potential in the world, but if he doesn’t convert it on a regular basis, you’d be better off with a guy who’s at least consistently decent.  And it wasn’t like Delcarmen was that amazing anyway.  Doubront eclipsed him and became Tito’s go-to man in high-pressure middle-inning situations.  We picked up cash considerations and minor league righty Chris Balcom-Miller.  Pedroia has officially undergone surgery, so his season is officially over.  No surprise there.  Lowell is committed to playing through a fractured rib.  That’s a big deal.  This guy is tough as nails.  That and he’s retiring at the end of the year, so he doesn’t have an entire career to jeopardize.  We moved Cameron to the sixty-day DL to make room for righty Matt Fox, who we claimed off waivers from the Twins.  Buchholz was August’s American League Pitcher of the Month.  Tek is back in action.

So that’s it.  That’s that.  It’s cruel.  It’s just cruel.  Nobody played with more heart and hustle this year than we did, considering the fact that we spent the entire season as the walking wounded.  Technically, we’re not eliminated yet.  But you know it’s a bad sign when you’re down to technicalities and magic numbers.  A really bad sign.  It’s painful.  It’s really painful.  It’s really, really painful.  And it feels like a second version of 2006, only a lot worse.  It’s terrible and horrible and I really just can’t even talk about it.  Seriously.

Reuters Photo

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