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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Lowell’

Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

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We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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Even this late in the game (pun intended), we’ve got more goodbyes to say.  This time, we’ve got to say goodbye to someone who’s been there for most of everything that’s happened in our most recent baseball memory: Tim Wakefield, who retired on Friday at Spring Training.  Here’s the tribute.

Obviously I’m one of the world’s biggest sabermetrics fans, but even with sabermetrics, it’s hard to determine how a signing will turn out, and of course it was even harder to do so before baseball professionals saw its light.  After what Wake has given us, it’s hard to believe that we picked him up in 1995 after he was released from a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in 1988 as a first baseman, if you can believe it.  At the time, the signing was a low-risk move, and I doubt that anyone had the foresight to predict what would happen next.

In 1995, his first season with us, he won all but one of his decisions, and thus began one of the best relationships between a pitcher and a team in a long, long time.  He’s played all but two of his Major League seasons with us; his career spans nineteen years old, and he retires at the age of forty-five.  It’s hard to come by anyone else who embodies the term “veteran” so completely.  He has started 463 games and pitched in 627.  He has hurled 3,226.2 innings.  Those start and inning totals are the highest of any pitcher in club history.  He finishes his career with a 4.41 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, and finally, both literally and figuratively as we all know, two hundred wins.  His two hundredth win was the last game he will ever have played: September 13, 2011 at home.  His 186 wins in a Boston uniform leave him seven shy of breaking the club record, currently held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.

But that’s what’s special about a guy like Wake.  He, like Mike Lowell, is the utmost of class and professionalism.  Seven wins and breaking the record mattered less to him than bowing out gracefully when his time had come.  To me, that demonstrates a heightened sense of self-awareness and self-security with what he accomplished.  He feels happy about what he’s done and who he has become; for him, baseball was both a game and a career.  And I think the club handled this one wisely.  The front office didn’t offer him a contract but also wouldn’t allow a pitcher of his standing and status to compete for a spot during Spring Training like some untested kid.  More than that, he was as active off the field as he was on the field.  On the field, his skills were always apparent; even on his bad days, you know the next time out he’d have a good day.  His knuckleball was second to none; he was a specialist to the utmost and executed his pitch as surgically as he could possibly have executed it (which doesn’t say much, since most of the mechanics of the knuckleball must be left up to chance, but still, if anyone could execute it surgically, he could).  He was a competitor, a leader, and a rock who always did what was best for the team, including moving to the bullpen when it became clear that the sun had set on his role as a regular starter.  And he took that in stride, and it says something that that was his attitude under five different managers.  His dependability and versatility in terms of his role made him absolutely invaluable throughout even the last moments of his career, and it’s rare to be able to make that statement.  It’s unclear whether anybody else in his position would have been able to do the same.  He was also a rock in the clubhouse who, at all times, exhibited sportsmanship, leadership, and friendship, but he was also a fixture in charity work in the Boston area and made a real difference in the lives of the less fortunate.  Nobody deserved the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award more than he did.

And of course we can’t forget what he gave to this city in October.  One of the lowest points of my entire baseball life was Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS when Wake gave up the you-know-what to you-know-who.  But he bounced all the way back during the following season and, as we know, carried that momentum right through to the finish.  We were losing Game Three of the 2004 ALCS, but if Wake hadn’t sacrificed his start during the following game by volunteering to take the mound in relief in order to preserve the bullpen, who knows what would have happened? We might still be without a championship, for all we know.  And that right there, that nondescript simple act in which there was nothing for Wake himself, exemplified what kind of a teammate and a man he really was.  Then of course those three shutout innings he delivered in Game Five were simply crucial; he won that fourteen-inning epic saga of a contest as a result.  And when we won the World Series three years later, Wake had himself seventeen wins that season and became an All-Star for the first time two years after that.

Throughout his career, it was always apparent that he loved it here, and this was where he was meant to play.  And he knew it and enjoyed every minute of it.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that, even though he had his fair share of doozies, we were behind him every step of the way.  Even when he was losing, you could always tell that he was trying and that he was just as disappointed in himself as we were in him.  He was a real ballplayer in every sense of the world, and he was with us every step of the way.  It was here that he started his success and here that he always wanted to finish it:

I just think the time is now.  I never wanted to pitch for another team.  I always said that I wanted to retire a Red Sox, and today I’m able to do that.

Rare indeed in this day and age of the game is the ballplayer who possesses any sort of special attachment to a particular team that is so deep that he’ll make a statement like this.  So here’s to you, Wake.  We doff our caps to you like you’ve done to us so many times over the years.  Here’s to the elation and grief that your knuckleball has caused, and here’s to what you’ve accomplished over the many years of your venerable career.  Here’s to the fact that you were happiest when you were playing here, in this city, for us.  We’ll never forget what you’ve done for us and for your team.  You’ll most certainly be missed, but the strength of your character shows even in the manner of your retirement.  So here’s to you.  Congratulations!

Wow.  Talk about close calls.  That, my friends, was a close call.  That was a really close call.  Hours before the arbitration hearing was scheduled to take place on Monday, Papi signed a one-year deal worth $14.575 million.  That figure is halfway between what he wanted and what we originally offered, and it’s still a raise up from the $12.5 million he earned last season.  And it’s still the highest salary ever intended for a DH.  It’s a fair deal.  He gets a raise, and we maintain our flexibility.  Plus, anytime you avoid arbitration, it’s automatically a win-win.  We avoided the mudslinging that was sure to come from both sides and, as Ben said, it’s better in the long run to have just resolved it.  The no-arbitration streak continues since 2002.

Beckett and Buchholz have reported; today is officially Pitchers and Catchers.  As is the case with any good, dedicated team that expects itself to vie seriously for a title, by the time Pitchers and Catchers has rolled around, most of the pitchers and catchers are already down there.  For everyone who’s down there, this year’s Spring Training is going to be a bucket of cold water.  Bobby V. is a demanding guy who doesn’t take no for an answer.  His regimens are strict.  He wants to lengthen some games and add others to the schedule.  It could be what the team needs, or it could be badness.  As always with the changes expected of Bobby V., we’ll see.

Crawford is expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season as his recovery from wrist surgery continues.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Rangers and Jets but squeaked by the Habs in a 4-3 close one.

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I definitely did not see that coming at all.  If you told me before last night’s game that Lackey was going to pitch like that, if it weren’t for the hit count I would have insisted you had him confused with Beckett.  I would have said there’s no way Lackey could randomly hurl an outing like that.  And, again, I am happy to say that I would have been totally wrong.

Out of nowhere, Lackey dominated.  He just dominated.  He just pitched really, really well like it was no big deal.  He gave up only one run on only eight hits (for him, that’s low), striking out four and walking none in seven innings.  He threw 101 pitches, sixty-eight for strikes.

Wait.  What?

Seriously.  He figured out how to be awesome again overnight.  I don’t know if this will last.  I don’t know if he’ll turn into Dice-K and have a cluster of great outings followed by a cluster of abysmal outings.  All I know is that a few of his preceding starts weren’t as bad as some of the others we’ve seen from him, and now we’ve witnessed a sliver of glory.

For strikes, his worst pitch was his cutter; he only threw it for strikes fifty-six percent of the time.  There have been times when he’d only throw his best pitch for strikes fifty-six percent of the time.  But he rolled out his arsenal and executed all of his pitches precisely and effectively.  His changeup and curveball were unhittable.  His slider and four-seam were baffling.  (He only threw about one or two two-seams the during entire game.) Of all 101 of his pitches, only seventeen were fastballs; he has thrown a higher percentage of offspeed pitches this season than he has in any other season of his career.  You might say that that’s been his problem, but as you can see, as long as the offspeed pitches are working, there’s no problem in sight.  So he just has to get them to work consistently.

He was also randomly efficient.  He gave up twenty-two pitches in the first, when he allowed his run; a single, two steals, and another single later, we were down by one before Ellsbury even stepped into the batter’s box.  But I’ll take that any day over being down by, like, seven.  After that, he just cruised.  His second inning was one-two-three, beginning with strikeout on a curveball.  His third inning, his best by far, was one-two-three on just nine pitches.  In the fourth, he faced one above the minimum.  In the fifth, he faced five.  In the sixth, four.  In the seventh, four with two strikeouts, one on the curveball and the other on the changeup.

Morales took the ball in the eighth, and the irony is that we probably all thought that, for one day at least, if we didn’t have to worry about Lackey, we certainly wouldn’t have to worry about the bullpen.  That was when Morales, with two out in the inning, allowed a three-run home run and another double before Bard took the ball for the last out in the eighth.  Paps took the ball in the ninth; three up, three down on seven pitches for the save.

Thanks to run support from the lineup, Lackey walked away with an incredibly well-deserved win and has won three consecutive starts for the first time since June 5.  This is also the fifth straight game in which he has issued at most one walk.  Considering the fact that the overall percentage of the pitches he’s thrown this season for strikes is the lowest it’s ever been in his career, I think the solution is simply to limit the walks.  That will increase his efficiency and decrease his fatigue, which means he’ll be able to pitch deeper into the game.  He already gives up a ton of hits, so limiting the walks won’t exacerbate the baserunner problem, and of course throwing less balls is usually a function of throwing more strikes.  So I think limiting walks is a good place to start.

We wasted no time in getting his allowed run back.  In the bottom of the first, Pedroia singled, moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez and third on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Youk.

In the second, Ellsbury continued his massive power tear by leading it off with a home run over the bullpens.  At times like this, you really get to see how smart a hitter he is.  The ball was low, and he stayed back until just the right time, when he unleashed for his seventh dinger this month alone.  Jacoby Ellsbury is officially a five-tool guy.  His sixteen home runs ranks him third on the team, three behind Papi and only one behind Gonzalez.  I never thought I’d see that either.  But his awesome running catch in center field to end the fourth was classic Ellsbury.  So was Reddick’s sliding catch in right for the first out in the fifth.

Also worth mentioning in terms of defense is Youk’s throw to first in the second.  Youk knocked down a ground ball but recovered perfectly and fired in time.  And of course his barehanded catch in the on-deck circle of Gonzalez’s foul ball in the fifth.

We didn’t score again until the seventh, but we made up for it in a big way with a five-spot.  Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Gonzalez.  The beauty of this lineup is that, if the bases are loaded, there are several guys you’d want up there.  Gonzalez is certainly near on that list.  All he did was single, but it brought in two.  Youk doubled in two more and moved to third on a throwing error.  And then Papi singled in Youk.  That was it for us for the rest of the game, but even with Morales’s fail, it was enough.

Mike Lowell visited the park before the game; he insisted that Pedroia would get four hits in the game, but I don’t think anyone would complain about his three-for-three performance.  His average is now .299.  On June 4, his average was .239.  Wow.

The final score was 7-4.  We put a man on base during each of Felix Hernandez’s innings.  We have the best record in July in the Major Leagues.  We all know that Seattle is cold as ice right now, but I still think Lackey’s outing is a big deal.  It may have been what he needed to figure some things out, or maybe he just needed a boost in his confidence.  Either way, a win is a win, and Lackey more than got it.  He pitched the way he should have pitched against a team like the Mariners.  Actually, he pitched the way he should have pitched against any team in baseball.  The key now will be for him to do it consistently.  I can’t say whether that will happen for sure, but either way it’s hard to dispute the fact that last night was pretty great.

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The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Last night’s game was nothing special.  Nothing especially groundbreaking occurred.  As usual this season, Beckett was disappointing.  As usual this season, the offense just didn’t have enough.  As usual, the bullpen wasn’t all that great.  There really wasn’t all that much to be happy about.  There was also something about being eliminated from the playoffs the night before.  Or something like that.

Beckett pitched six innings, through which he absolutely cruised.  He gave up only one run during those six innings.  He looked like a master.  He looked like he was going to take his last start of the 2010 season and turn it into a preview of what we’d be packing in 2011.  But then he gave up three runs in the seventh without recording an out.  And the fact that V-Mart tried to throw a bunted ball to first for an out in a very obviously impossible play was not helpful, because obviously it ended up somewhere down the first base line.  Obviously.  Thus, the infamous one bad inning reared its ugly head yet again.  And that made his line very ugly indeed.  He gave up four runs on eleven hits, ten of which were singles.  Eleven hits.  That ties a season high.  The only starter who has any excuse whatsoever to give up eleven hits is a fifth starter on a very bad day.  Not a starter who, theoretically, is supposed to be an ace.  He walked four and struck out five.  So eleven hits and four walks, although to be fair, one of those was intentional.  But then there was an RBI single, and intentional or unintentional, we paid for it.  All on 105 pitches.  His curveball, changeup, and two-seam didn’t have it.  His cutter and four-seam were great.  His inning pitch counts were reasonable.  His variation of speed was good, his movement was excellent, and his strike zone was packed.  His back limited him to twenty-one starts this year.  He finishes with a record of six and six and an ERA of 5.78, a new career low.  (Or should I say high? Either way, you know what I mean.)

We opened the scoring early.  Scutaro scored on Papi’s single in the first.  We would not score again until the eighth, when Lowell homered to left.  That was one of the best home runs I’ve seen all season because of who hit it and when it was hit.  Ted Williams hit a home run in his last at-bat at Fenway Park.  That’s how a ballplayer’s season should end.  For Lowell, that was his fifth long ball of the season and his first in 106 at-bats.  But that was it for us.  The final score was 5-2.  Wake allowed the  fifth Chicago run.

Thus ends an immensely disappointing and altogether mediocre season for Josh Beckett.  I don’t think he ever truly embodied the ace he used to be once this season.  And if he did, he did it only once  at a time and not consistently, which for a starter is as good as saying that he wasn’t good at all.  But tonight we have a real ace on the mound.  Tonight Jon Lester goes for twenty wins.  So tonight we win for us and we win for him.

Reuters Photo

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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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