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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Lowell’

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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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.

AP Photo

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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.

Getty Images

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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.

Getty Images

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