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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bowden’

The story that I am about to tell has been all too familiar to us this season so far.  It’s a story that’s a recipe for disaster going forward; indeed, it’s already been a recipe of disaster every single time it’s taken place.  It’s an ugly and unfortunate story, and technically it’s a story that could have been avoided (but that’s another story).  Right now, on this team, it’s the worst story of all.

It’s the story of the bullpen.

Everything started out so nicely.  Doubront allowed one run on four hits while walking three and striking out seven.  That one run was the product of a solo shot with two out in the sixth.  His only one-two-three inning was the fourth, during which he threw fifteen pitches, but his game low was eleven in the third; at the other extreme, he threw twenty-two in the second and twenty-one in the fifth.  All in all, a very solid start indeed and one that was half of why we were in the game after he left.

The other half was the offense, which made itself busy by scoring nine runs before the Evil Empire scored any: two in the first, three in the second, two in the third, and two more in the fifth.

In the first, Gonzalez and Papi both hit RBI doubles.  In the second, Aviles and Pedroia both hit RBI singles, and Sweeney hit a sac fly.  In the third, McDonald hit a sac fly with the bases loaded, and Aviles hit an RBI single.  In the fifth, Salty opened with a double after which Ross homered to center field.  It was a wallop of a swing on the second pitch of the at-bat, a slider clocked at eighty-seven miles per hour.  It sailed straight out.

Those were the only runs we scored in the entire game.  Even after Doubront allowed the home run, we were up by eight.  I don’t know about you, but I was looking forward to that drubbing going on record in order to even our record against the Yanks this year and to deliver some sort of thrashing before they left Boston.  I was hoping that it was going to be the first step in a series win and a compensatory measure for the loss we had to accept on Fenway’s hundredth birthday.

And then the bullpen entered the picture, and it ruined everything in the worst way.

It began almost immediately; the seventh inning saw three different pitchers alone.  Padilla was first; he managed to secure the first out with a strikeout on four pitches.  Then there were two consecutive singles and a four-pitch walk followed by that insult of insults: a grand slam, which was exactly what we needed on Friday to tie it.  To add further insult to that insults of insults, it was hit on the first and only pitch of the at-bat.  It was a thoroughly horrible experience to have to witness it.  Now, you would think that at that point Bobby V. would change pitchers; more likely, after the bases were loaded you were probably thinking that he should change pitchers.  Only after Padilla allowed a double after that did Bobby V. change pitchers.

He went to Albers.  Aviles put runners at the corners thanks to a fielding error, and then Albers allowed another home run.  Then he was replaced by Morales, who allowed a single followed by two quick outs, including a strikeout on three pitches.

The eighth saw four different pitchers.  Morales stayed on the mound long enough to allow a single before he was replaced by Aceves.  Aceves allowed an eight-pitch walk and an RBI double followed by an intentional and an unintentional walk.  Then there was another RBI double and another intentional walk, at which point Aceves was relieved by Thomas.  Thomas induced a double play but then allowed another RBI double followed by a single, at which point he was replaced by Tazawa, who allowed an RBI single and then the final out of the inning.

We went down in the eighth, the Yanks went down in the ninth, and in the bottom of the ninth we hit two singles and that was it.

So just to recap: the Yanks scored fifteen runs.  One in the sixth, and seven each in the seventh and eighth.  Not seven total over two innings, which would have been bad enough.  Seven each.  As in, they scored seven runs twice in two separate innings, during which our bullpen faced a combined twenty-three batters, in the same game.  It was actually sickening to watch it.  Sickening.  It was so egregiously bad that I just don’t know what to think anymore.  Something obviously has to be done; it’s not like we can afford to have a bullpen that keeps doing this.

It’s humiliating and embarrassing and gut-wrenching and completely pathetic to hold an eight-run lead and then lose it over the course of essentially two innings.  But did we really have to go through that at the hands of the Yankees? Of all teams, why did it have to be the Yankees?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the bullpen fail so epically and totally.  I mean, it was a whole failure in every sense of that phrase.  The bullpen left absolutely no stone unturned in ensuring that Red Sox Nation was privy to one of the worst losses we’ve ever had the displeasure to see in a very long time, and that includes all of the other badness that’s happen to us this season so far.

Aviles, Pedroia, and Ross all went two for five; Papi was perfect at the plate with a four-for-four performance.  We posted seventeen hits, seven of which were for extra bases, all but one of which was a home run.  So even if the Yankees had scored seven runs in only one of those innings and not the other, we would have managed to win by one.  But no.  Our bullpen had to let the Yankees take batting practice.  And our closer, in case you were wondering, didn’t even record a single out for the third time this year.  The final score was 15-9.

By the way, we traded Michael Bowden and a player to be named later to the Cubs for Marlon Byrd, being that most of our outfield is on the DL and whatnot.  And Youk left the game in the fourth with a left quad contusion.

In other news, the Caps beat us again, 4-3.  There is no room for mistakes anymore.

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Well, the euphoria, or whatever there was of euphoria after a mediocre win but a win nonetheless like that, apparently seems to have been short-lived.  There was plenty of blame to go around with this one.

Bard took the loss and gave up five runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out six.  He threw ninety-six pitches, sixty-five of which were strikes.  From his repertoire alone, you could tell that he wasn’t a starter by blood.  He only threw three pitches: a four-seam, a changeup, and a slider.  He threw mostly four-seams and sliders, which were fantastic; about eighty percent of his fastballs were strikes, and about two-thirds of his sliders were strikes.  The few changeups he threw weren’t great, and only a quarter of them were strikes.

Naturally, he was also inefficient as well as erratic.  He threw twenty pitches in the first, nine in the second, twenty-eight in the third, nine again in the fourth, eighteen in the fifth, and twelve in the sixth before he was pulled.  His release point was not tight at all, which also gave him away.

Remarkably, he only gave up one extra-base hit: a double that turned into a run in the first.  His second inning was one-two-three.  He gave up two RBI singles in the third.  His fourth was, again, one-two-three.  His fifth was even one-two-three, and just when it looked like he’d finally settled in for the night and found his stride, his command evaporated.

He gave up a walk and a single to open the inning, at which point Bobby V. pulled him in favor of Thomas, who gave up a single that batted in two runs followed by a sac fly.  When Bobby V. saw the first sign of trouble from Thomas, he clearly should have gone with another reliever, perhaps Albers as he himself suggested after the fact, when he took ownership of his mistake.  So only two of the runs that Thomas gave up were attributed to Bard; the third was his.  Obviously we all know the principle behind attributing runs scored by inherited runners to the pitcher’s predecessor, but you still can’t deny the fact that, if Thomas did the job he was supposed to do, no runs would have scored.  Anyway, Bowden came on for the seventh; after securing two outs, he gave up a solo shot on the second pitch of the at-bat, a two-seam.  He pitched the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, we failed to score until the sixth inning; before that, we went down in order in three of our innings.  Then, in the sixth, Ellsbury walked after a fantastically patient at-bat that lasted for eight pitches, Pedroia doubled, and Ellsbury scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  At the time, it reduced the deficit by one-third, and it looked like our comeback would have been mounted right there when Papi walked on five pitches, but obviously Youk had to ground into a double play to end the inning.  Obviously.

We failed to score again until the ninth, when, after two back-to-back strikeouts, Punto singled, Ellsbury walked, and Pedroia singled to load the bases for Gonzalez.  All Gonzalez managed was a sac fly that scored two.  Honestly, after Monday’s game, who wasn’t thinking we were going to come back again? The stage was set, and we had a power hitter at the plate in the top of the ninth on the road with two out.

Youk went two for four with a double, and Pedroia went three for five with a double.  Ellsbury walked twice.  Of our nine hits, five of them were for extra bases, all of them doubles.  We left ten on base and went two for twelve with runners in scoring position.

So, in sum, Bard didn’t keep us in the game, Thomas didn’t prevent Bard from not keeping us in the game, Bobby V. didn’t prevent Thomas from not preventing Bard from not keeping us in the game, Bowden made the situation worse, and the offense failed to convert scoring opportunities into runs.  That’s pretty much a recipe for a loss right there if I’ve ever seen one.

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Yeah…so…that was not pretty.  In no conceivable way was that pretty.  There was nothing pretty about it.  Usually, you expect a baseball game to have some balanced ratio of good, bad, and ugly; if you’re lucky, you’ll have mostly good, very little bad, and almost no ugly.  Yesterday, we had just ugly.  Like, really ugly.

So there’s no point sugar-coating it.  The Josh Beckett we saw on the mound yesterday was not the Josh Beckett we saw in Spring Training or in our mind’s eye when we pictured how we expected this game to go down.  He wasn’t himself yesterday.  If you told me that he would last only four and two-thirds innings and in that time give up seven runs on seven hits, five of which were home runs, I would not have believed you at all.  You read right.  Seven runs on seven hits, five of which were home runs.  Those seven runs were the most he allowed since 2010.  Those five home runs ties a career high first set in 2009.  Just to give you an idea of how bad this is for Beckett, last season he didn’t allow his fifth home run of the season until June 28.  Yesterday was April 6.  This better not have anything to do with his thumb, which is what he stated.

There was a two-run home run in the first with one out on a two-seam by Miguel Cabrera; obviously that hurts.  Then there was a lead-off solo shot in the fourth on a cutter by Prince Fielder.  Then there was a two-run home run in the fourth, still with nobody out, on a changeup, the first pitch of the at-bat, by Alex Avila.  Then Cabrera and Fielder hit back-to-back solo shots in the fifth, both on changeups.  Cabrera’s home run was initially ruled a double; the ruling was overturned using instant replay.

He also walked one and struck out only three.  He threw eighty-three pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes.  No command.  No control.  No efficiency (nineteen pitches in the first, nine in the second which was his best inning and not coincidentally his only one-two-three inning and also one of only two in which he did not allow a home run, fifteen in the third which was the other homerless inning, twenty-one in the fourth, and nineteen in the fifth before he was pulled).  No effectiveness.

I will say that his cutter and his two-seam were fabulous; ninety and eighty-two percent, respectively, of the ones he threw were strikes.  Too bad both pitches accounted for only thirty-one combined.  Also, he maxed his fastball at around ninety-three miles per hour.  And obviously he took the loss, which he totally deserved.

Unfortunately, the damage didn’t stop there.  Atchison relieved Beckett, finished the fifth and sixth, and gave up another run.  Albers pitched the first two outs of the seventh and gave up two runs, only one of them earned, the other thanks to a throwing error by Salty right after a spectacular play at home to get Fielder out.  Thomas finished the seventh, and Bowden pitched the eighth.  The latter two were our only pitchers not to allow runs.  It was a sad, sad day indeed.

By the way, did I mention that the offense did almost nothing? No, really.  The offense actually did almost nothing.  We collectively hit only one extra-base hit; it was a double by Salty.  We left seven on base and when a whopping 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.  Gonzalez went two for four and Sweeney went two for three for the only multi-hit games.  Ellsbury, Youk, Ross, and Aviles are all hitless in these last two games.  And, lastly, we failed to bat in and score a single run.  That’s right.  We lost, 10-0.  And in addition to Salty’s error, Aviles made a fielding error.  It was not a good day whatsoever by any stretch of the imagination.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sabres yesterday in a shootout, 4-3, battling back from a two-goal deficit.  The regular season is now over! The Rangers clinched the Eastern Conference, but we’ve clinched our division and therefore a playoff spot.  Our 102 points are good for second in the conference; the Panthers are third with ninety-two points.  Are you thinking repeat? I’m thinking repeat.

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We finally made it! There are no more days to count, no more Spring Training games to play, no more side sessions to throw, and no more simulated games to complete.  There is nothing left.  It’s happening now.  Today is officially Opening Day, our first game of the regular season! As we all know, we’ll be playing the Tigers in Detroit, and Lester will be starting.  As we all know, this season is going to be interesting, to say the least.  Now, the wait is over.  The long, cold winter has come to an end.  The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Papi, Youk, Sweeney, Ross, Salty, and Aviles, obviously in that order.  Baseball is finally here!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our final two pitchers: Doubront and Bard, respectively.  Since Lester is a lefty, it wouldn’t have made sense to have Doubront be the fifth starter, since then you’d have two lefties starting back-to-back.  Anyway, are we surprised? No.  Should we be surprised? No.  Doubront had a phenomenal spring, and he’s had some experience starting in the Majors before, even if that experience wasn’t always the best.  As for Bard, you and I both know that Bobby V. wasn’t about to move him back to the bullpen after he declared that he was going to train him as a starter.  And that bothers me because unlike Doubront, who as I said had a phenomenal spring and who was therefore awarded a spot in the rotation based on explicit merit, Bard did not have a great spring and seems to have been awarded a spot in the rotation based on potential and possibility alone.  I’m not saying he won’t be a phenomenal starter; I’m saying that I have yet to see consistent glimmers of phenomenalness from him in that role.  Still, he’s shown that he can learn from his mistakes.  He probably picked up that skill while en route to becoming the next elite closer in the Major Leagues; oh, well.

Aceves had a fantastic spring also, and when he did have bad days, he rebounded nicely in his next outing, which is a critical quality for a starter.  At least we can count on him for solid long and middle relief.  And late relief, at least in the beginning, since Bailey will start the season on the disabled list with a thumb issue that will require surgery and that will make him stay on the disabled least until the All-Star break.  This is ridiculous.  He started last season on the disabled list with an arm injury, and he started Spring Training on the disabled list with a lat injury, and now he’ll start the beginning of the season on the disabled list with a thumb injury.  And don’t even get me started on the fact that we had to trade Josh Reddick to get Bailey in the first place.  So Aceves is in line to replace him, in case you were wondering.  Yeah, that gives us huge confidence in our new closer.

And as if that weren’t enough, Beckett apparently is having some sort of issue with his right thumb.  Apparently he’s had this issue for eighteen months.  He was examined and is fine to pitch now, but he said surgery could be inevitable at some point down the road.

In addition to actually knowing who are starters are going to be, we can be happy that Pedroia is healthy, Papi is in shape, and both Bobby V. and McClure have really connected with the team.  We can be unhappy about the fact that Crawford is still out and that Youk, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury haven’t hit a home run all spring.  And we will begin the season with nine guys on the DL.  Before the season even gets underway, we will have nine guys on the DL.  That’s just great.  As if we didn’t have enough to contend with during the start of this year’s season already.  Those nine guys account, in case you were curious, for $59.7 million.  And let’s not forget the fact that Chris Carpenter, the supposedly significant compensation that we were looking forward to receiving from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, is injured and has no command.  He is one of those nine.

Of course, you might say that at least that frees up some roster space.  And that’s true, but that’s only a plus if it’s used wisely.  The twenty-five-man Opening Day roster is carrying thirteen pitchers, which means that Bobby V. only has three backup bats on the bench, one of whom is a backup catcher.

We beat the Twins, 5-1, on Sunday.  Padilla and Atchison both appeared.  Sweeney singled, Ross and Aviles doubled, and Ellsbury tripled.  Since our record against Minnesota this spring has been four and two, we have won the Mayor’s Cup series, which began in 1993.  Since then, the Twins have won eleven series; we have won five of the last six.

We beat the Nationals, 4-2, on Monday.  Cook pitched five innings and gave up one run on two hits.  He walked one, struck out two, and threw forty-three of seventy pitches for strikes.  Padilla pitched the sixth.  Gonzalez and McDonald both singled, and Papi doubled.

We beat the Nationals, 8-7, on Tuesday.  Buchholz retired his first twelve hitters but also gave up a solo shot and a three-run home run.  All told, those four runs were his only runs; he gave up four hits in five and two-thirds innings.  He struck out five and walked none.  Bowden and Aceves both made appearances.  Pedroia went two for three with three RBIs, but the hero was Jason Repko, who ironically replaced Ellsbury and proceeded to hit a tie-breaking double and make a perfect throw home to secure the win.

In other news, the B’s beat the Rangers and Penguins.

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Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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