Posts Tagged ‘Mike Lowell’

The name of last night’s game was, without a doubt, “Clay Buchholz.” If Buchholz had been an offense, he alone would have scored twenty runs.  That’s how good his pitching was.  It was outstanding.  After a while, I don’t even know why the Other Sox continued to swing.  And there’s obviously the added bonus of the fact that the Yankees lost, so we live to play for October another day.

Buchholz pitched eight innings of one-run ball.  He allowed five hits, walked only one, and struck out five, four swinging and one looking.  He picked up his seventeenth win of the year.  His ERA is 2.33. That’s second in the American League.  (The first is Felix Hernandez.) That ERA is so low, I can’t even understand it.  And he did all of that with 109 pitches, seventy of which were strikes.  That’s a sixty-four percent strike rate.  That’s ridiculous.

He threw his fastball at a maximum speed of ninety-eight miles per hour.  No starter should throw a fastball that fast.  He threw his slider at a maximum speed of ninety-four miles per hour.  You have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to be on the receiving end of a pitch that’s supposed to be an offspeed but that technically isn’t because there are pitchers out there whose goal is just to get their heater up to that speed.  And of course his curveball and changeup were right there working.

He threw nine pitches in the first.  He peaked at twenty in the third.  He ended with eleven in the eighth.  He pounded the zone.  He was aggressive with his repertoire.  If he wanted a pitch to cut, it cut.  If he wanted a pitch to slide, it slid.  And if he wanted a pitch to sail right by any attempt to make contact with it, it did that too.

And he was backed by solid offense.  Papi doubled in career RBI numbers ninety-nine and one hundred in the first; this is his first one-hundred-plus-RBI season since 2007.  Last year he almost made it with ninety-nine.  He would finish the night two for five.  He would almost score a third run in the first on Lowell’s single, but of course he was thrown out at the plate.  When Buchholz took the hill, he already possessed a two-run lead.  In the third, Scutaro scored on V-Mart’s sac fly.  In the fifth, Beltre singled in his one hundredth RBI this year.  In the seventh, V-Mart singled in Scutaro, extending his hitting streak to twelve games.  He would finish the night three for four.  And in the eighth, Beltre tripled in his next RBI, making him four for five on the night.  This is his first one-hundred-plus-RBI season since 2004.  Scutaro ended up going three for five.  Atchison handled the ninth.  6-1 was the final score.

That’s it.  Short and sweet.  The final score was 6-1, and basically we just cruised in every sense of the word.  We’re throwing Lackey tonight.  Remember, if we lose or if the Yankees win, we’re officially out.  Let’s not have that happen.  Seriously.

In other news, the Pats beat the Bills on Sunday, 38-30.  The final score may have been close, but we looked like we had a handle on the game the entire time.  Tom Brady, as usual, looked terrific.

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No need for introductions today.  The circumstances of the game say it all.  That and I can’t really describe verbally the sensation of being trampled that I am currently experiencing.  Needless to say, today’s headline is obviously the understatement of the century.

There was nothing more we could have asked of Dice-K.  The contrast between last night and his seven previous starts was so stark that I thought we were looking at a different pitcher entirely.  In his seven previous starts, he allowed at least four runs in each, the second-longest streak like that in the Major Leagues this season and the longest by one of our starters since 1943.  But last night Dice-K went in there and delivered just about the best start he could possibly have delivered.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, a walk, and seven strikeouts on 110 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.

Through seven, he faced the minimum plus one.  He made only one mistake: an 0-2 cutter that didn’t do much and ended up out of the park.  Other than that, he was spotless.  He used the first inning to establish a solid fastball, and he mixed in a formidable cutter and curveball after that.  He even added a very effective slider and changeup.  It was remarkable.  His release point was tight, and he went after hitters.  Very easily one of his top five outings this year.

So Dice-K did his job.  And the offense did its job as best it could.  Again, I feel  compelled to mention the staggering fact that this year alone we’ve had nineteen guys on the DL, nine of whom were former or current All-Stars.  V-Mart singled in Hall in the eighth.  That one run held until Dice-K’s mistake in the seventh gave the Yankees a one-run lead, and the despair was setting in.  Rivera came on for a four-out save.  We were down to the ninth with our last chance.  And that was when we proceeded to steal four bases, providing Rivera with a new career high.  Kalish and Hall both stole twice.  Granted, some of those were the result of fielder indifference, but still.

With one out, Kalish singled, stole second, and stole third.  They brought the infield in, and Hall hit one over everybody to score Kalish.  Then Hall stole second and third and scored on Lowell’s sac fly.  Just like that, we had ourselves another one-run lead.  And I’m thinking we got this.

But then Paps came on and was just as porous.  Two singles and a full-count walk loaded the bases, and a single tied it up and re-loaded the bases.  Yet another blown save.  His ERA over his previous six appearances was 14.21.  And home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was not helpful.  I’ve always said that if an umpire wants to influence the action of a game that much, he should suit up and play, but if he’s content with being an umpire, he should just umpire and that’s it.

When Okajima came out to handle the bottom of the tenth, it became very obvious that this game smacked of the taste of October.  It was windy, it was rainy, it was nailbitingly close, and the odds say that it will be our only taste of the thrill of the postseason this year.  One more loss or Yankees win and we are officially out.

Okajima made things go very quickly from bad to worse.  A single, a bunt, and an intentional walk loaded the bases.  Okajima walked in the walkoff run.  It wasn’t even remotely close.  It was utterly humiliating and severely painful.  I’m telling you, there is a wide variety of methods to win via the walkoff.  The bases-loaded walk is one of them.  And of all those methods, the bases-loaded walk is the absolute worst, hands down.  On top of that, consider the circumstances of this particular bases-loaded walk and basically you’ve hit the jackpot in the most negative sense.

It was one of the season’s longest nights, both literally and figuratively.  Dice-K isn’t the fastest pitcher in the world, but he actually did alright.  We finished ten innings in almost exactly four hours.  Hey, like I said, at least we got some October-style thrills and chills.  We can be proud of the fact that we completely owned the Yankees in the first two games of the series; winning a series in the Bronx is definitely something to celebrate.  We made Girardi scratch Dustin Moseley and go with Hughes because he was afraid of us.  And we can take pride in the fact that we’re still going to show up and play tomorrow.  We have only seven games left in the regular season and a long winter ahead.  Let’s soak it all in while we can.

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We beat the Yankees! That sounds so nice, I’m going to say it again: We beat the Yankees! One more time; say it with me, everybody: We beat the Yankees!

It was fantastic.  Our magic number may be at three, and our chances of making the playoffs may be slim, and our team may be sorely depleted due to injuries, and our bullpen may almost have cost us the game, but we just showed everybody that we still got it, that this is still a great team very capable of inflicting some serious damage.

We just knocked New York right out of first place, people.  Feels good.  That wasn’t the point or the general goal of the win, but it was a nice bonus.  A real nice bonus.

We looked great out there.  We looked like we were on the hunt for a win and we weren’t going to stop until we got it.  Although the pitching staff made that view a bit complicated to maintain.  Leading us out was Josh Beckett, who pitched like we’ve been wanting him to pitch all year.  He turned it on last night, even though his line doesn’t show it.  He pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out five.  Oh, and he allowed four home runs.  Terrible.  Pathetic.  It was the fourth time in his career that he allowed that many homers in a game and the first time since August 23 of last year when the Yankees just had to take him deep five times.  He left balls up, and that’s what happens when you leave balls up.  Badness.  I don’t even want to look at a line like that, especially the home run part, especially when you consider that two of them were back-to-back.  But the thing is that he cruised right up until the sixth inning.  Up to that point, he allowed only three runs, and if that had stood, his start would’ve been considered short but quality.  His fastball and changeup were fantastic, and he was able to effectively add a good curveball and cutter.  He kept his inning pitch counts low, even during the bad ones.  He varied speeds nicely.  He loaded the bottom-left corner of the zone and pretty much stayed away from the upper right, he located almost everything, he moved every pitch, and he looked great.  Then the seventh inning started and he looked like a pitcher who was exhausted and needed to come out.  I knew in the bottom of the six when he made those back-to-back mistakes that he wasn’t going to last much longer.  Ultimately, he did get the win for the first time against New York this season, but it was a real struggle toward the end.

The bullpen took its cues from Beckett, and those cues were not good.  Atchison allowed two runs.  Bard didn’t allow any runs, but Paps allowed another run en route to a save.  It was absolutely nerve-wracking.  I didn’t feel safe and secure until that last strikeout was complete.  Luckily, this time, the offense bailed the bullpen out.

It was by far the worst outing of Pettitte’s season, and it was his worst start against us since September ’03.  Lowrie set the tone.  Lowrie smashed a three-run jack in the second.  It was a laser.  Fastball outside on the first pitch.  Five of his seven homers have now come against southpaws.  It was awesome.  I’m telling you, I’m still not quite sure where his power comes from, but it’s there.  I don’t think that technically was one of the tools we were expecting him to fulfill, but he is fulfilling it.  That would be his only RBI hit, but he would finish the night four for four for the first time in his career with three runs scored as well.

In the fourth, McDonald doubled in two, and Scutaro singled in two, and that was when Pettitte was duly removed.  In the top of the fifth, we had a big scare.  Granderson hit a ground ball that took one of the most bizarre hopes I’ve ever seen and hit Lowell in the right temple.  Ouch.  He went down.  He got up with help from the trainers and stayed in the game only to be taken out an inning later.  But I give him a lot of credit for not going out right then and there.  What a dirt dog.  Speaking of which, he’ll be honored with a ceremony on October 2, the day before his last game, to commemorate his illustrious career and all he did for us here in Boston.  His whole family will be there, so it’ll be a great day for him.  He definitely deserves it.

In the fifth, Hall smacked his own three-run jack.  He golfed it into the bullpen.  He was sitting on something down and middle-in, and he most definitely got it.  I also especially enjoyed Beltre’s catch of that foul in the eighth, where he literally half-dove into the stands to get the out.

We didn’t score again after the fifth, but it was enough.  To be honest with you, I was kind of disappointed; we had worked up to a 10-1 lead before the Yankees started to rally and I wanted so much for it to stand.  I wanted this win to be a completely lopsided slugfest that reminded everybody who we are and what we can do.  In the end, though, the important thing is that we won, period.  We can not afford to be picky.  And we definitely can celebrate about that and the fact that we go into this afternoon’s contest with some momentum and with Lester.  So we’re in a great position.  Get psyched.

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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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The good news is basically yesterday’s entire game: Beckett delivered his fourth straight quality start, the offense produced, the bullpen held down the fort, we left Oakland with some dignity, and the Yanks were swept by the Rangers, providing high satisfaction on all fronts and moving us up a game in the standings.  The bad news is that it seems like spitting in the ocean and seeing if the tide goes up.  But if we’ve learned anything from this team over the years, it’s that you must keep the faith at all costs, no matter how dire the straits we seem to be in.  So let’s just keep the faith and just see what happens.

Like the entire rest of his season, Beckett may have gotten the win but it wasn’t pretty.  He only lasted six innings, allowed three runs on five hits, walked five, and struck out seven.  Thankfully, he didn’t give up any home runs, and he kept his pitch count reasonable at 109.  There was obviously some inefficiency there since one would expect a pitcher like Beckett to go through at least another inning with that pitch count, but it’s a quality start and a win so I’ll take it.  He mixed his pitches well.  Both his two-seam and four-seam were on, and in the event that they weren’t, he used his cutter and curveball.  His changeup was mediocre, but he only threw about seven of those anyway.  So he really tested the hitters with his whole repertoire.  The fastball is obviously Beckett’s go-to, Plan A pitch, but having one or two Plan B pitches can be a very powerful thing, especially if you’re a power pitcher.  He got into trouble in the third, using thirty-three pitches and walking four consecutive batters.  The last one resulted in a walk.  That’s the worst run a pitcher can allow, especially in this situation because the whole progression leading up to it consisted of walks.  It was entirely the pitcher’s fault.  That’s always awful.  It was the first time in his career that Beckett has walked four consecutive batters, and it’s the second time he’s ever walked them all in a single inning.  The first time was in 2004 when he walked five Phillies in a frame.  Ouch.  Fortunately, he escaped the situation with only the one run allowed.  So aside from that ugly episode, he only walked one other batter.  All in all I’d say that was a great outing.  And it seems to be the continuation of a trend that points in the right direction, so there’s that too.

Meanwhile, the offense provided the ever-necessary support.  One bad inning for the A’s was all it took for us to lock it up.  We tagged them for four in the sixth.  It was beautiful.  With two our and nobody on base, Beltre doubled off the wall, Papi turned a checked swing into a single, and Lowell walked to load the bases.  Then Drew doubled in two to chase Braden, and Kalish singled in two to welcome Rodriguez.  It was a short but sweet at-bat.  Kalish took a 100 mile-per-hour ball, got a feel for Rodriguez’s style, and landed his next pitch, also 100 miles per hour, in left field.  And just like that, we completely erased their three-run lead.  Never happened.  What three-run lead? Drew singled in another in the eighth just to get our point across.  Drew finished a perfect three for three.  Beltre and Papi both went two for four.

The bullpen preserved the rally.  Atchison, the relief rock in the second half, fired two perfect frames and handed the ball to Paps, who became living proof of extra rest when, after not seeing action for a whole week, struck out the side.

So the final score was 5-3.  That’s not exactly a good-looking final score, but it’s a final score that resulted in a win, and a win is a win, so there’s no arguing with that.  We’ll take a win anywhere and any way we can get it.  We did more good things than bad, so we can feel good about that.  At least we avoided the sweep and we’re done with Oakland.  Next stop will be Seattle, and hopefully we’ll do some serious damage there.  I usually say something about the standings here, but I’m not going to this time.  If we’re all going to get through this, we need to focus on just one game at a time, and that’s it.

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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.

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Tuesday’s game was rained out, so we played a double-header yesterday.  We split, so standings-wise, it’s like we didn’t play at all.

Beckett started first.  As it turns out, we barely eked out a win.  Beckett was phenomenal through six; in that time, he shut out and one-hit the Mariners while striking out six.  He handled the lefties with his two-seam and used his breaking ball.  Meanwhile, we tabbed a four-spot in the bottom of the inning.  Beltre singled in Scutaro, V-Mart scored on Lowell’s sac fly, and Nava hit a two-run single in a beautiful at-bat during which he totally had Pauley’s number.  He was sitting on the corners, and that’s what he got.  Then Beckett almost squandered everything by giving up three runs in the seventh before he left, having recorded only one out.  That makes his line three runs on four hits, two of which were homers, with a walk and seven K’s over six and a third innings.  And he is very, very lucky that the offense pulled it together in the sixth and that McDonald provided some insurance in the eighth with an RBI single.  We ended up winning, 5-3.  Beckett’s best pitches were his changeup and his cutter, which is always a problem if you’re talking about a fastball pitcher who depends mostly on his power.  Both of his fastballs only got up to ninety-three miles per hour.  He was his usual aggressive self, but I’m not a fan of this one bad inning business.  I’m telling you, we were very lucky that the offense was able to do that damage in the sixth.  He picked up the win, which still makes him undefeated against the Mariners this season.  He has a 2.04 ERA and thirty-nine K’s in those six starts since coming to Boston.  Bard took care of business, followed by Paps who notched yet another save.

Dice-K’s back was sore, so Lester’s start was rescheduled from yesterday afternoon so he could take Dice-K’s spot in the rotation, and Wake was given two hours’ notice before he took the mound yesterday.  I give Wake a lot of credit for his performance as someone who was given two hours to prepare for something he hasn’t done in a long time.  He tossed one out shy of six innings, he gave up four runs, three earned and one thanks to his own throwing error, on eight hits, walked none, and struck out two.  He took the loss.  But his pitches were thrown well, he located his knuckleball about as well as anyone can locate a knuckleball, and he gets an E for Effort.  Atchison, Delcarmen, and Doubront collectively shut out Seattle.  Kalish doubled, moved to third on the first of two errors that Wilson would make, and scored on a wild pitch.  Drew hit a solo home run to center on a full-count fastball down the middle.  V-Mart did some nice glove work.  But we lost, 4-2.  It wasn’t exactly helpful that we also lost Beltre.  In the second, Beltre struck out looking, complained to home plate umpire Dan Bellino about it, and razzed Hernandez about it in the third while he was on his way to third base and Hernandez was in the dugout.  According to Beltre, he bet Hernandez before the game that he’d hit a home run, and Hernandez bet Beltre that he’d strike him out three times.  When Beltre took his position, he wasn’t happy and may have also said something to Bellino, who ejected him for only the second time in his career.  Naturally Tito, as well as the entirety of Red Sox Nation, was very incensed, so he went out to demand an explanation.  He talked to Bellino, who ejected him also, and then second base umpire Angel Hernandez got in the way, so he never really got the explanation he was looking for.

I’ve never seen that before.  Beltre and Hernandez had what Beltre said and what appeared to be a perfectly normal and benign razzing session between friends, although I will admit that he didn’t look too happy, and he got tossed for it.  That’s very strange.  And it was early enough in the game that it’s entirely possible that we lost the game because we lost Beltre.  No one can know who would have won that bet, but the umps took away our opportunity to find out and move up in the standings, which is something we desperately need to start doing.  I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t believe it.  I think it was just a big misunderstanding.  Given Beltre’s track record, I don’t think that what he said could’ve really been that bad.  And Bellino is a young umpire.  Maybe he was just trigger-happy.

Now we turn up the heat.  We are about to play the most important series of the season to date.  We have the day off today to rest up and get zoned in, and we’re off to Tampa Bay for three games.  It is absolutely and ridiculously essential that we win.  We must win.  We absolutely, positively must win.  There’s nothing else to it.  We have our three most consistent pitchers going: Lester on Friday, Buchholz on Saturday, and Lackey on Sunday.  It’s time to play our game.  We need this.  So let’s get it.

AP Photo

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