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Posts Tagged ‘Milan Lucic’

The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

AP Photo
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You will see in short order that the title of this post couldn’t be dripping with more sarcasm, but you will also see eventually that somehow it’s strangely appropriate.  Yesterday’s game was nothing short of excruciating.  We won, but it was not easy.  That was one of the most difficult games we’ve played this year.  The whole monstrosity took five hours and seventeen minutes.  That means that if you were driving from Boston to New York for the series opener on Tuesday and were listening to a complete replay of yesterday’s game on the radio, you could make that drive within the span of that game and would still probably have to sit in the car once you got there to finish it.

Well, let’s start from the beginning.  I suggest you get comfortable.  It’s going to be a long one.

The story starts with Beckett.  Shoddy changeup, shoddy curveball, shoddy cutter.  Brilliant two-seam, brilliant four-seam.  Game-high twenty-three pitches in the sixth; the only other time he came close was twenty-one in the second.  So his efficiency was there.  He varied speeds, he attacked the zone.  And yet he was saddled with his sixth no-decision of the season.

Beckett was removed after giving up a walk and a single in the seventh.  All told, he pitched six innings, gave up three runs on four hits, walked three, and struck out four.  He fired 102 pitches, fifty-eight for strikes.  He made a wild pitch and hit a batter.  So technically it wasn’t his best night, but it was far from his worst.

We scored first.  With two out in the first, Gonzalez launched a changeup into the Monster.  The pitch stayed up, and his timing was perfect, even given the wind.

Starting in the bottom of the second, every inning was one-two-three and nobody scored until the fifth, when we added another run.  Crawford singled and scored on a single by Drew.  In the sixth, Beckett let the A’s tie the game.  After inducing a flyout to start it, he hit that batter, gave up a walk on four pitches, and made his wild pitch.  A subsequent single brought in two.

We put ourselves ahead the very next chance we got.  In the sixth, we scored three.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Gonzalez struck out.  Pedroia scored on a double by Youk.  Papi grounded out.  And Youk scored on a single by Crawford.

Albers replaced Beckett in the seventh and allowed one of his inherited runners to score.  He was then replaced by Hottovy.

Both teams went down in order in the next two half-innings, thanks in his half to Bard.  In the eighth, we picked up two more; Gonzalez singled, Papi doubled and was replaced by Reddick as a pinch-runner, and both scored on a double by Crawford.

So at this point, we were the very proud owners of a four-run lead.  The rest of the game should have been a walk in the park (pun intended).  But could Paps let us half our easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy win? Not in the least.  Not even remotely in the least.  That ninth inning was an unmitigated disaster.

He gave up a single and a walk.  It took him seven pitches to notch the first out in the inning, an eventual strikeout.  Then of course Pedroia had to make a fielding error, his third of the season, which allowed Coco Crisp of all people to reach base and a run to score.  The ball had all the makings of the beginning of a routine double play that would end the game promptly with a win for us.  Pedroia had to move toward second base to corral the ball anyway.  But he didn’t.  Instead – and these are words that no member of Red Sox Nation will ever feel comfortable hearing – the ball went through his legs, and the game continued.  I think Paps’s reaction to that – crouching and covering his head in complete disbelief – pretty much says it all.

If Paps had rallied and ended the inning there, it wouldn’t have been his fault, and we still would have won.  But it didn’t.  He gave up a double that brought in another.  And that’s when Tek lost it.  He turned around and unleashed a verbal storm on home plate umpire Tony Randazzo, who in Tek’s eyes had been making questionable calls that inning that greatly affected the game.  It was the fifth ejection of his career and his first since 2009.  It was strange seeing him let loose like that.  He’s usually so composed.  But the way the game was going was bound to get to someone, and it wasn’t finished yet.

Salty came in to catch, and Paps allowed two more runs to score on a single that deflected at third.  And then Paps lost it.  Randazzo called a strike on Paps’s first pitch to Ryan Sweeney, but after receiving the ball, he sort of glared at him for a few seconds and looked away.  So Randazzo started to make his way toward the mound.  Salty made a move to keep Randazzo away and go to the mound to keep Paps stationary, but Paps would have none of it.  Randazzo started talking, and Paps said something to Salty and then just went right past him and got right up in Randazzo’s face.  Thankfully, Paps didn’t touch him.  Tito had to come out and get in the way.  Paps was ejected for the first time in his career.  It’s funny; you would think that, with his personality, he would have had more, but he knows how to keep his composure when he needs to.

Jenks came in after that and gave up a single but followed with back-to-back K’s.  He pitched the tenth and was replaced by Aceves in the eleventh.  Aceves gave up a walk, a double, and a sac fly.  So naturally it was do-or-die for us in the bottom of the inning.  Lowrie struck out swinging.  Drew struck out swinging.  Salty doubled.  And it was Ellsbury with the game-saving hit, a double that brought Salty home to preserve the tie at eight apiece.  Without that hit, we would have lost, plain and simple.

Aceves pitched a one-two-three twelfth and thirteenth.  He put two on base in the fourteenth.

Youk flied out to open the bottom of the inning.  Cameron did the same.  Then Crawford doubled, and Lowrie was intentionally walked.  And of all the batters in our entire lineup, the one who had to come up at that moment was JD Drew.  Two outs, bottom of the fourteenth, the game on the line, and you have stepping up to the plate a batter who had struck out four times in his previous four at-bats.  He watched a fastball go by.  Strike one.  And we’re all thinking of his called strikeout that ended the ALDS for us in 2008.  Fortunately, it was not to be.  His next pitch was a fastball right down the middle, and he hit a single! It was so simple! One single, one run, one win! 9-8! Cue the walkoff mob! After all that, it was absolutely glorious.

Youk went two for five with two doubles.  Gonzalez went three for five with his homer.  Ellsbury and Crawford both went four for a whopping seven.  And Drew, the unlikely man of the hour, went two for seven.  But it was enough.

I am convinced that, if there were any team that could eke out a win under those circumstances, it would have been us and nobody else.  You have to have matchless grit to play more than five hours of baseball, roll out the entire bullpen, lose two players through ejections, give up a lead, come back, and then finally win for good.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you separate the men from the dirt dogs.  Plain and simple.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Canucks, 3-2.  Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic forced sudden death, but we lost there.

Boston Globe Staff/Jonathan Wiggs

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Simply put, a knuckleball pitcher either has it or doesn’t have it.  Yesterday, Wake didn’t have it.

That’s a pretty simple statement, but when you lose to the Twins for the first time at Fenway since 2007, what can you say? For the second straight night, we basically had nothing.

He took the loss.  He allowed eight runs, six earned, on nine hits.  Wake walked four and struck out only one.  He gave up a solo home run in the first inning.

The second inning was quite the interesting one.  Michael Cuddyer led off with a walk, Danny Valencia singled, and Ben Revere singled to load the bases.  Then Drew Butera flew out and Alexi Casilla struck out swinging.  Right when it looked like we were about to get out of the inning, Denard Span singled in two runs.  Then home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk on Wake that allowed another run to score.  He called the balk because he thought that Wake didn’t finish his move to third; he stepped toward third in order to fake a throw but threw to first instead; in that situation, you would have to actually make the fake throw to third and have the third baseman fire to first.  Wake, meanwhile, thought that it was just a routine pickoff at first.  Tito came out to argue the call; naturally he was ejected.  Then third base umpire Joe West intervened, and then Tito got really angry.  Joe West will probably get in trouble for putting his hands on Tito.  Good, because first of all he put his hands on Tito, and secondly that balk scored a run and started what would end up being a three-run rally.

Wake was pulled after giving up two runs on a double in the fifth after having recorded one out.

He was replaced by Aceves, who replaced Atchison, who was sent down.  Upon entering the inning, Aceves allowed both of his inherited runners to score on a fielding error by Lowrie, the first of two errors he’d make on the day.  He also allowed a runner of his own to score.  At least he got through the rest of the game.  By the time the sixth inning rolled around, the two teams had already posted the final score: 9-2.

Our two runs were scored via the solo shot.  First it was Drew in the second inning with one out.  He’d been fed a steady diet of sinkers in that at-bat and worked the count full; he took the first one for a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a shot behind the Pesky Pole.  Then it was Gonzalez in the fourth inning with none out.  He took a sinker for a ball and fouled off another before sending a slider into the Monster seats.  Together, those two home runs brought us within two.  We were right in it.  And then we gave all the momentum back to the Twins, and they put up a four-spot in the fifth and one more in the sixth for good measure.

Ellsbury went two for four; that was it for multi-hit games.  We collected seven hits, left four on base, and went 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

I can not believe the Twins used us to break their winning streak.  That’s really bad.  I mean, when I said we need to play better, I was serious.  We need to play better.  Immediately.  We need to win this series, and we should be able to do it.  With Jenks on the DL with a right bicep cramp that apparently started a week ago (figures), our relievers can actually be expected to get the job done.  And Dice-K, whose elbow has been okayed, will start on Sunday.  (Beckett will pitch on Monday to allow Lester to pitch Tuesday on extra rest.) Our starter needs to deliver.  Our offense needs to deliver.  And our defense needs to deliver.  Seriously.  We can’t keep playing like this.

In other news, the Bruins have made quick work of the Flyers.  We won last night, 5-1! A sweep! We scored once in the first and four more in the third.  Milan Lucic scored twice.  On to the Lightning.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the home stretch of home stretches.  Truck Day is two days away.  Tuesday, February 8, the equipment goes down, and we have a week until the pitchers are catchers are off.  No matter how much snow is on the ground, spring is definitely now in the air.  I mean, it’s Truck Day.  It’s the light at the end of the cold, wintry tunnel.  I see that eighteen-wheeler pulling out of the players’ parking lot on Van Ness and I know I’ve only got a number of weeks until Opening Day.  Two more days.  Just two more days.  We’ve made it this far.  We got this.

And now, a word on the brass.  In October, a handful of executives went on a Listening Tour of New England, where they basically drove around listening to fans air their grievances.  On Monday, they sat down for a Q&A session to listen to more airing of grievances.  But here’s the kicker: they actually listen.  We have more Saturday day games and additional food options as a result, and we do not (I repeat: we do not) have tiered ticket pricing.  (That’s where the brass charges more for Yankee games than they do for Jays games, for example.  Not that it would matter.  Who really gets their tickets at face-value these days anyway.  But still, it’s the gesture that counts.) It just seems like there’s always a new reason to be proud of being a Sox fan.  Having a brass that actually cares is a big one.

Did I mention that Tuesday is Truck Day? I’ll mention it again: Tuesday is Truck Day! Finally!

In other news, the Bruins did crush, in multiple ways and at multiple times.  We bullied our way to a win over Carolina on Tuesday, 3-2.  But that wasn’t nearly as exciting as our game with the Stars on Thursday.  Which we won, by a 6-3 beating of a final score.  But wait; it gets better.  Let’s consider the first half of the  first period by itself.  In total, that half of a period featured forty-four penalty minutes, four fights, four goals, one shot off the post, one pulled goalie, and one replaced glass panel.  One second into the game, Greg Campbell had it out with Steve Ott.  One second into the next faceoff, Shawn Thornton had it out with Krys Barch.  Two seconds into the next faceoff, Adam McQuaid had it out with Brian Sutherby.  Thirty-five seconds into the game, Lucic scored.  Forty-five seconds after that, Bergeron scored.  So Andrew Raycroft was pulled for Kari Lehtonen.  And three minutes and fifty-one seconds into the game, Ference had it out with Adam Burrish.  Bergeron scored his second and final goal of the game nine minutes and thirty-five seconds into it.  And that was the first half of the first period.  Yeah.  It was awesome.  That is something I can’t say about our game yesterday, which we lost to the Sharks, despite having outshot them, twenty-six to eighteen.  We play the Habs on Wednesday.  Let’s win.

Let’s Go Red Sox

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We have a less than a month until pitchers and catchers report.  This is the home stretch, people.  Less than a month.  It’s been a long winter.  It’s been too long a winter.  And like I said, the last few weeks are the most difficult, but we got this.  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Only a few more weeks and then before you know it, it’s Spring Training followed by Opening Day.  I’m psyched.

Meanwhile, Marco Scutaro is officially our starting shortstop.  This is not surprising.  But it’s not like Lowrie isn’t going to get any playing time.  Trust me on that.

Theo avoided arbitration yet again.  Also not surprising.  Paps and Ellsbury each have one-year contracts for twelve million dollars and $2.4 million, respectively.  This is the third time we’ve signed Paps to a one-year deal, and I think that speaks to his wavering performance.  Three years ago he was golden, two years ago his walks were up, and last year just wasn’t a good year for no particularly apparent reason.  It’s going to be really interesting when he becomes a free agent for the first time.  I have no predictions for that because Paps hasn’t given us much reliability to work with.  This is a contract year, but so was last year.  He has some competition from Bard, but he did also last year.  The only impactful external difference is Bobby Jenks, who represents more competition and more insurance.  Or maybe Paps will just return to form after making various adjustments and working on various pitches, which is obviously preferable because that would show some future value we can more easily project.

As far as Ellsbury is concerned, that’s a steal.  That’s as good a bargain as you’re going to get.  He played in eighteen games last season due to his injury, so that’s a pretty hefty raise from his previous salary of slightly less than half a million.  So don’t get used to it.  He’s a good player with a ton of worth, and if he stays healthy and has a good year this year, $2.4 million will seem like peanuts compared to what we’re going to have to shell out to keep him here.

I would just like to note that our payroll for 2011 will be somewhere around $163 million total, which is close to what it was last season.  It’s all about responsibility and financial flexibility.  And only Theo would be able to maintain both of those and still make two major signings, one with a large contract and the other hopefully with a similar one pending.

In other news, the Bruins played back-to-back games with the Canes earlier this week.  We won both.  First, we shut them out, seven-zip.  It was awesome.  They had no chance whatsoever.  Then we beat them again, 3-2.  Then we lost to the Sabres, 2-4.  Then we beat the Avs, 6-2.  Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand each scored twice.  Barring that one loss, I’d say it was a good week.  For hockey, at least.  Because finally, last but not least, the Patriots.  Let’s get this over with.  The Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs by the Jets.  There will be no Super Bowl this year because we scored only two touchdowns en route to a 21-28 loss.  For the first one, Brady threw a two-yard pass and then went for a two-point conversion, and that was it.  The rest we accomplished with field goals.  And there were sacks.  There was an interception.  He set a league record of 335 passes this season without an interception, and yet somehow there was an interception.  We had the best record in the entire NFL, and we lost our third straight postseason game.  I hate to say this, but it felt a lot like the Pats-Giants Super Bowl, where we spent the entire season basically steamrolling over everybody, but when the final moment came, our ridiculously good offense was matched up against a defense that was just as good, and our defense didn’t match up as well to their offense.  That’s kind of what happened here.  It was just surreal and incredibly disappointing.  I had us winning the Super Bowl before the game even started.  Well, what can you do? As we like to say, there’s always next year.

AP Photo

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Revenge, with a capital R, was what last night’s game was.  It would’ve been much more effective had the Angels not scored almost half the runs that we did, but with the way we’ve been playing lately, we’ll have to take what we can get and like it.

But still.  The final score was 17-8.  And that’s what you call a good, old-fashioned Boston beat-down.

Mr. Clay Buchholz led the charge.  He was one out shy of pitching a full six innings.  He gave up four runs on eight hits, walked three, and struck out two while throwing 109 pitches.  So he kept his pitch count relatively low, although if you ask me he should’ve gone deeper and given up less runs.  He obviously wasn’t on.  He topped out at ninety-seven miles per hour on his fastball, but it just wasn’t as effective as usual.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were fastballs, followed by sliders and changeups with the occasional curveball.  He threw the first three pitches for more or less the same strike rate, which wasn’t very high.  He had a good time of it during the first and third innings, but otherwise he was just mediocre.  And his strike zone more or less even, but there was some spillover out of there.  So the movement on his pitches could’ve been better, and his command could’ve stood some improvement.  To be fair, he battled and picked up the win, and if he had his way, the Angels would’ve finished with the four runs and that would have been it.

Delcarmen got a hold, and he and Ramirez pitched perfectly.  It was Schoeneweis who had other ideas; dude gave up four runs in the top of the ninth.  And with the way we’ve been playing recently, you can’t not be furious about that.  Why? Because had this been a close game, Schoeneweis probably would’ve lost it for us right there.  You just don’t give up four runs in the top of a ninth inning.  You just don’t.  Because that likely means you’re done.  Four runs on four hits with two walks.  That’s completely uncalled four.  Luckily, we had runs to waste.

Which brings me to the fun part: how we got the seventeen runs, and I can assure you it was an absolute blast to watch.  Pun most definitely intended.

So, to start things off, Youk belted a home run in the bottom of the second.  His first at-bat in the lineup and he smashes a fastball up the middle completely over the Monster.  And all Mike Scoscia could do was just watch that go.  He did well batting clean-up, finishing two for three with a double and two walks.

Three batters later, Hall stepped up with Beltre on base and belted one of his own.  His first home run in a Boston uniform was kept within the Monster seats by inches.  Inches, folks.  It was a changeup down in the zone and he just made that look easy.  He just got up there, took his cut like it was the easiest thing in the world, and just like that two more runs were on the board.  He had to reach way down for that and kind of just poke it out of there.  He finished two for four with a walk.

Then, in the third, Lowell doubled in two.  In the fourth, Drew singled in two.  And that brings us to our seven-run sixth.

Drew singled in Youk.  Lowell doubled in Drew.  Beltre smacked a two-run shot for his first homer of the year.  That landed in the back of the Monster, and let me tell you: he was swinging for the fences.  Cue the usual dugout ritual for first home runs.  And finally, the big one that cemented this game as out of reach for the Angels: Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah’s not one, not two, but three-run monster shot into that same-named wall.  The first row.  That swing was huge.  He uncorked massive power on that ball.  Why pitchers continue to even think that they might be able to get an inside fastball by Pedroia is completely beyond me.  To this day, I have absolutely no idea why they still think they can do that.  No idea.

So all the home runs landed in our outside of the Green Monster.  That’s a lot of power in those swings.  It’s not easy to launch balls over there.

We added three more runs in the seventh just to make sure they got the message.  Lowell and Beltre each doubled in a run, and Beltre scored when McDonald grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Every single member of the starting lineup got a hit.  All but two had multi-hit games; Scutaro just hit a single, and Pedroia we’ll forgive for not hitting more because, come on, three runs scored on his one swing.  V-Mart went two for six with a double, Beltre went two for five (and made an error), and McDonald went two for four.  But guess what.  Drew went four for five.  I’m not kidding.  And Lowell went four for four with three doubles.  Three! Man, talk about hot hitting! On Sunday, he struck out twice and hit two dribbling nothings in front of the plate.  But Lowell just gave Tito something to think about lineup-wise.  And, of course, Drew’s April blues are officially over, if that wasn’t established already.

Seventeen runs on twenty hits.  How ‘bout that.

And that, my friends, is how you open a ten-game homestand against two of, I hate to say it, the toughest teams in baseball.  Goodbye, three-game losing streak; hello, one-game winning streak that will hopefully expand.  And, you see? That’s what happens when everyone plays to their full potential; we can afford to be gutsy and take some risks because we’ve got plenty of insurance.  We won by nine runs; that’s the first time we won by more than two since we beat the Twins, 6-3, on April 14.  I would just like to put that bad baseball behind us once and for all; maybe this is the homestand to do it.  If we do really well against tough teams, it might be just the thing we need to find our groove.  Last night’s performance was certainly heartening for exactly that reason.  And let’s remember that we don’t have to deal with Lackey anymore.  Lester’s taking on Santana tonight.  Let’s keep this going.

Unfortunately, we’ve got some very bad and serious news: Dave Roberts has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  He was diagnosed during Spring Training.  Apparently, the prognosis is good because they caught it early.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we wish you nothing but the best of luck in your fight against cancer and a very speedy recovery.

And the B’s just keep rolling right along! One goal in each period, and we won 3-2 in regulation! Milan Lucic, ladies and gentlemen! Next game on Wednesday.  There’s still a lot of hockey to be played yet, but all I’m saying is that this is by far the best hockey we’ve played all season.

Getty Images

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Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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