Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Twins’

It’s never good to lose, and it’s especially crushing when you lose via the walkoff because that means you couldn’t score sufficiently or in time to prevent it or that your relief corps made a big mistake.  Either way, it tends to leave you with this sense that it was totally and completely preventable and that it was all your fault that it happened.  So losing a walkoff against the Rangers was awful, but winning a walkoff against the Twins felt about right.

Buchholz’s start was terrible compared to his usual work, which says a lot about his usual work.  He gave up four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out nine in six innings.  Was it a quality start? No.  He would have had to allow one less run for that.  But his strikeout count was high.  He just labored; he had to throw a lot of pitches to get the job done, and you could see that the job wasn’t easy.

He recorded the game’s first out using only two pitches, but he then gave up two consecutive doubles and a single that he deflected, which scored two runs all together.  He gave up two straight walks before ending the inning with two strikeouts.  That first inning was his worst so far this year; he threw thirty-six pitches to eight batters.  The rest of the game wasn’t really that bad, but that first inning didn’t set a great tone.

Buchholz had one-two-three innings in the second and third.  He opened the fourth with a strikeout but then gave up two consecutive doubles that resulted in a run.  He ended the inning with two strikeouts.  He gave up a double, a single, and a successful sac fly before recording the first out of the fifth.  And he had a one-two-three inning in the sixth.

So there were great innings when he looked like his usual self, and then there were mediocre innings in which he looked like a mediocre version of himself.  Overall, however, it wasn’t a terrible start.  It just wasn’t what we’re used to seeing from him this year.  Hey, if this is as bad as it gets, that’s not bad at all.  Besides, we should have been able to overcome four runs easily.

In the end, we did.  But it wasn’t easy.  We pulled ahead by scoring one run in each of the fourth through eighth innings.  Victorino uncorked a massive swing on the sixth pitch of the fourth; it was a slider on a full count, and it ended up past the right field fence.  I think he’s back.  Nava doubled and scored on a single by Drew in the fifth.  Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth; Victorino moved to third when Papi hit into a double play and scored on a single by Napoli.  Middlebrooks grounded out to lead off the seventh, but Drew joined the day’s power club.  He got a curveball followed by a steady diet of fastballs; he worked the count 3-1 before he got a fastball he really liked and sent that one beyond the right field fence as well.

And then it was Pedroia’s turn.  He led off the eighth and fought quite the battle to stay alive.  His at-bat involved a total of ten pitches.  He took three for balls, fouled off six, and homered on a particularly nice changeup.  It was the perfect time to end a dry spell that reached almost two hundred games.  Nice for Pedroia, I mean.  Not so nice for the Twins, since at the time that represented the winning run.  Wilson and Miller had combined to pitch the seventh; Miller inherited runners but fortunately kept them on the bases.  Breslow had a one-two-three inning in the eighth.  And then Pedroia happened.  Like I always say, it’s so much fun to watch him unleash on a ball.  He’s a small guy, but he’s got a lot of power.  It was only a one-run lead, but things were looking good.

And then Hanrahan took the mound for the ninth, and things were not looking so good.  He induced a flyout on four pitches to start things off.  But I think he got his memos mixed up, because he let an opposing hitter join the day’s power club too.  The count was full; after throwing five consecutive fastballs, he threw a sixth, and it was bad, and it was hit well.  And the game was tied at five.  We didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, so we had to play extras.  All because Hanrahan made a big mistake.  He is so fortunate that all that run did was tie the game and even more fortunate that we ended up winning.  Otherwise it would have been plausible to say that the process of losing the game had started with him and that home run.  He did the exact thing that no pitcher, let alone a closer, is supposed to do.  Needless to say, after Hanrahan notched a strikeout and then issued a walk, he was replaced by Mortensen, who vindicated himself pretty thoroughly.  (It turned out that Hanrahan would leave the game with a strained right forearm.)

Neither team scored in the tenth, and the Twins didn’t score in the top of the eleventh.  But they did make a pitching change.  Napoli and Nava were each out on three pitches to start it off.  But then the tide turned.  Salty singled right toward the mound; he kept his head down, ran hard, and beat it out, an especially challenging feat when you consider the fact that he’d been behind the plate for eleven innings already.  Middlebrooks singled to left.  And then Drew took a slider for a strike.  Then he got a good-looking fastball and laid into it.  It was a double, and it was enough to bring Salty home.

We won via the walkoff, 6-5.  Drew was obviously the man of the hour with a four-for-five performance at the plate and of course his vital two extra-base hits.  And we’re back on top with the best record in the Majors.

In other news, the B’s beat the Leafs, 5-2.  So far, we lead the series, 2-1.

AP Photo

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It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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Honestly, it doesn’t get much more infuriating than that.  I’m just going to jump right in because it’s really tough to deal with it all.

Cook pitched decently.  He only lasted five innings, and he gave up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and second, and gave up a double in the third.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth followed by a single and then a two-run home run.  Following  two quick outs, he gave up a single, and then a fielding error put another runner on, but the inning ended there.  He allowed a single in the fifth and a double to lead off the sixth, at which point he was replaced by Hill, who was replaced by Aceves after three batters.

Meanwhile, we reduced our deficit from three runs to two; in the bottom of the fourth, Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single by Loney.

Aceves came out for the seventh and gave up a single followed by a two-run home run of his own, which made the score 5-1.  Two outs later, he gave up a double and was replaced by Carpenter, who ended the inning.  In the bottom of the seventh, we made another dent in the score.  Ross began the inning by striking out, but then Salty and Nava hit back-to-back doubles.  The Yanks sent out their third pitcher of the inning, and then Salty scored on a groundout by Gomez and Nava scored on a double by Aviles.  5-3.

Carpenter handled the eighth without incident baseball-wise but with incident drama-wise; when Bobby V. came out to the mound and Aceves saw Carpenter coming in, he walked to the other side of the mound to avoid Bobby V. when he left the field.  In terms of the bottom of the inning, we failed to score.  But it was not without further drama.

Ross ended the inning on a called strike; the at-bat featured seven pitches, all but one of them sliders, and the count had been full.  Ross and everyone else who had a pair of decently functioning eyes could see that that last supposed strike was actually a ball because it was low, and he let home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez know it immediately. So Marquez rejected him; it was only the second rejection in Ross’s career.  Several minutes later, Bobby V., who had separated Ross and Marquez, went back out there to have a talk with him that obviously got heated pretty quickly and was ejected for the sixth time this year, which sets the record for the most single-season ejections by any manager we’ve ever had in our long, illustrious history.  And at some point even third base coach Jerry Royster was ejected for some reason, so bench coach Tim Bogar was managing and coaching third at the same time at the end of it all.  The whole situation was just absurd and could have been neatly avoided had Marquez just done his job and saw reality.

Anyway, Miller and Padilla teamed up to shut out the Yanks in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set for another possible walkoff.  Salty’s leadoff at-bat was exactly the kind of at-bat you hope for most in those situations.  The count was full and he got an eighty-three mile-per-hour slide as his sixth pitch.  He’s a big guy, and he unleashed his formidable power on it and sent it out of the park to right field for a solo shot that only he could have powered out of the park.  We were now one run away with nobody out, and between Salty having made it look so easy and our last-minute heroics of the previous night, we were daring to believe that we could potentially pull it off again.

But we didn’t.  Nava flied out, Gomez grounded out, and Aviles reached on a fielding error.  Ellsbury could have put the whole thing away right then and there.  But he grounded out instead.

So we lost, 5-4.  But no one can say we didn’t put up a fight.  Because we did, both literally and figuratively.  We manufactured our own runs and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps in the face of a deficit and dared to call a ball, a ball.  We just kept going at it all night long, but we came up just short in the end.  It’s just so infuriating.  I mean, I have to think that we’ve lost this way to plenty of other teams this year since clearly we’re in the business of losing every way to every other team this year, but to do it against the Yankees is particularly brutal.  We were almost there; we just needed one more run to tie it, and we could take care of them in extras.  And we couldn’t get it done.  It’s the story of our 2012 baseball lives.

On a more cheerful note, we have next year’s schedule, so assuming that we’re optimistic, it’s a reminder of something to look forward to.  The season starts for us on April 1 in the Bronx; we follow Opening Day with a day off and then conclude the three-game series.  We then head off to Toronto for three games, and then we head home for our home opener against Baltimore, which is followed by another day off.  We then finish our series with Baltimore and play the Rays before spending three games in Cleveland and going back home to face the Royals, A’s, and newly-AL Astros.  Then we have a day off and we go back to Toronto and then to Arlington, our first full series of May.  The Twins and Jays comprise another homestand, followed by a day off and another road trip against the Rays, Twins, and Other Sox.  Then back home we’ve got the Tribe and the Phillies, followed by a series at Philadelphia and then the Bronx, followed by a day off.  That takes us to June, our first full series of which is at home against the Rangers and then the Angels.  Then we head off to Toronto and Baltimore before another day off and coming home to face the Rays.  Then we head off to Detriot before another day off and another homestand featuring the Rockies, the Jays, a day off, and the Padres in July.  Then it’s off to the West Coast for the Angels, Mariners, and A’s before the All-Star break.  When play resumes, we host the Yanks and Rays before a trip to Baltimore and a day off.  The west then comes to us as we host the Mariners and D-Backs at home, which brings us to August.  We then travel to Houston and Kansas City before taking a day off and traveling to Toronto.  We host the Yanks at home after that, followed by a trip to San Francisco, a day off, a trip to Los Angeles for the Blue Sox, another day off, and then a homestand featuring the Orioles, Other Sox, and Tigers, which brings us to September.  We go to the Bronx after that, take a day off, go to Tampa Bay, and return home for the Yanks, a day off, the Orioles, the Jays, and another day off.  Then we go to Colorado for two games, take a day off, and go to Baltimore for the last series of the season.  So we’ve got at least three days off every month except one: May, our most packed month, when we only have one day off.  But it’s a good schedule.  It’s interesting that Interleague is sort of spread out this year instead of being clustered in June.  It’s often a tough schedule, and we have to play some worthy opponents, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to hold our own next year.

AP Photo

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I really don’t want to talk about this.  I mean, I really, really don’t want to talk about it.  It’s bad enough that I had to watch it unfold before my eyes in real-time; to have to relive it is torturous.  So let’s just get it over with, shall we? I’d rather not spend time dwelling on it if I can help it.

We’re going to start with the good and end with the bad, since that’s how it happened.  Buchholz was absolutely stellar.  He gave up one run, zero earned, over seven innings.  He walked one and struck out three.  He threw 103 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  The Twins went down in order in the first, third, and seventh.  He pitched around a two-out, bases-loaded situation that he created with two singles, a walk, and an error in the second.  He pitched around a two-out double in the fourth.  He allowed his run in the fifth as a result of the exact same error he made in the third: a pickoff attempt gone awry.  That advanced the runner to second, and one single later the Twins were on the board.  So it was an unearned run because it scored due to an error, but it was the pitcher who made the error, so in a way he still earned the run.  And then he pitched around a single in the sixth.  Truly fantastic fastball, changeup, curveball, and splitter.  Not-so-fantastic cutter, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, the hitters seemed to be doing their part in supporting Buchholz for the win.  Kalish walked and scored on a double by Crawford in the first.  With one out, Aviles hit a solo shot on the second pitch of his at-bat, a eighty-two mile-per-hour changeup, out toward the Monster.  It was a towering home run.  And it’s been quite some times since Aviles last hit one of those.  We went down in order in the third, and aside from Salty’s walk we did nothing in the fourth.  We went down in order in the fifth, and aside from Gonzalez’s single and Salty’s single we did nothing in the sixth and seventh, respectively.

At that point we were leading, 2-1.  Miller came on for the eighth and allowed a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases, and that was when Aceves replaced him.  Obviously we’re not supposed to foresee that our closer would blow the entire game, so we didn’t know what was coming.  The irony is that, as much as Miller clearly needed to be replaced, I wonder if he actually would have been able to dig deep and get through that situation as Buchholz had done.  And then presumably not blow the game afterwards.  Anyway, Aceves allowed a sac fly that tied the game at two and finished the inning.

We got that run back in the bottom of the eighth.  Ciriaco, who has been on an absolute tear since he came up, hit a solo shot on the second pitch of the inning, a two-seam fastball for the first Major League home run of his career.  Actually, both pitches he faced in that at-bat were two-seam fastballs only one mile per hour apart.  Anyway, the home run was awesome; it went out to the Monster and, more importantly, swung the momentum back in our direction.  That was exactly the kind of thing we needed at that moment.  Between Crawford and Gonzalez striking out, Pedroia got hit and then scored on a single by Ross to put us ahead by two.

And then the ninth inning happened.

It started off innocently enough.  Aceves struck out his first batter and then allowed a run via a double-single combination.  At that point, you could allow yourself to think that he just needed to settle down and that the rest of the inning would be fine.  And that the final score would be 4-3 and we would win and all would be well.  Unfortunately Aceves never got that memo and made other plans instead.  He secured the second out of the inning via a flyout and then allowed another single.  And then Joe Mauer sent a ninety-five mile-per-hour fastball to the Monster on a full count for a home run that scored three runs and destroyed everything completely on one swing.  Breslow replaced Aceves for the last out of the top of the ninth as a pathetic token gesture.  Obviously we went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

The final score was 6-4.  Aceves received an incredibly well-deserved blown save as well as an incredibly well-deserved loss.  Nobody in the lineup had more than one hit, and the Twins’ hit total was actually twice as much as ours.  And we made three errors.  But the fact remains that we headed into the ninth inning with a lead that we should have been able to hold.  Easily.  This loss was crushing, it was devastating, it was viscerally painful, and it was severely infuriating in every way.  He was one strike away from ending it all.  Can you believe that? One strike away from a win, and instead we got a loss.  And it wasn’t helpful that Aceves’s 2-2 pitch to Mauer was actually a strike that was called a ball.  The win could have been ours right there.  And then it just wasn’t.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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This was a really tough break.  We’ve seen this before.  Unfortunately, we’ve already seen most of the extensive variety of losses that’s possible.  But these are tough.  These are the ones where your struggling ace has himself a start that, while not absolutely stellar, is really great based on some of the abominations we’ve seen from him and yet he doesn’t get the win because the starter against whom he’s squaring off has an even better night.

Lester really deserved a win in this one but had to take the loss.  He worked through eight full innings and pitched around seven hits to give up only three runs.  He walked none and struck out seven, two swinging and five looking.  And he threw 105 pitches.  So the only downside to his start, aside from the runs of course, was the hit total.  That’s almost one hit per inning on average.  But Lester even handled that well; 105 pitches is right about where he should be for eight innings.  He was efficient, so it’s not like he got behind the hitters and threw a lot because of those extra batters.  And his seven strikeouts show that he had no problem sealing the deal.  He threw some truly fantastic and Lester-esque cut fastball with all the classic bark and bite you’re used to seeing from him.  And his off-speed pitches were masterful as well.

The Twins went down in order in the first two innings.  Then Lester gave up a single to open the third; after securing the first two outs of the inning, he gave up an RBI double followed by an RBI single.  Lester had another one-two-three inning in the fourth, and he pitched around a double with three straight groundouts to end the fifth.  A pair of doubles in the sixth resulted in Lester’s third and final run.  And may I say that Lester is really unlucky, in case you hadn’t noticed from the fact that we lost through no fault of his own, because both of those doubles that brought runs in for the Twins were barely fair.  The seventh and eighth were both one-two-three.  So in all but one of the innings during which Lester gave up no runs, he went one-two-three.

Unfortunately Aceves was much less solid.  He gave up a two-run home run in the ninth.  I would love to be able to say that that alone cost us the game, but as we know and as I said, it’s not like the offense was battling at all.  Maybe it was, but if it was, it was battling just to get a hit.  If you take that literally, then we succeeded.  We didn’t get a hit. We got a grand total of two.  That’s right.  We were two hits away from being no-hit.

We worked back-to-back walks in the first, but to no avail.  We went down in order in the second and third.  Gonzalez got our first hit of the night, a double in the fourth, to go along with a walk, but to no avail.  We went down in order again in the fifth.  Gonzalez got our second and last hit, a single, in the sixth, again to go along with a walk, but again to no avail.  That, obviously, makes Gonzalez the only member of the lineup who hit anything as well as the only member of the lineup with a multi-hit performance.  We went down in order in the seventh, eighth, and ninth.

The final score, obviously, was five-zip.  Lester’s winless streak of six starts is a new career high for a single season.  And we’ve found our way right back to .500.  We just can’t catch a break, can we.

Kansas City Star

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We barely squeaked by in this one.  Still, we completed the sweep, and we, the team, and our record can all certainly feel mighty good about that.  Also, pretty much the entire bullpen was rolled out to secure the victory; we’ll get to their performance later.

Buchholz didn’t pitch that well, even though he got the W.  He allowed five runs on ten hits in five and one-third innings while walking three and striking out two.  He threw four pitches; most of them were four-seams, but he threw a substantial number of curveballs and cutters.  He threw only a handful of changeups; he himself admitted to lacking confidence in that particular pitch.  In total, it came to 107 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.  It was obviously not his best work in the least.  But thanks to the offense and the bullpen, it was enough.

Ironically, he faced the minimum in the fifth, the inning right before most of his problems started.  See, he had allowed only one run previously; the other four were inherited runners that Atchison, Thomas, and Albers allowed to score.  You read right.  There were four pitches in that inning alone.  What is it with the starters and their bad innings lately?

The inning began with a strikeout that was followed by two consecutive singles, an RBI double, and a walk.  Then Atchison came on and allowed a two-RBI single.  Then Thomas came on and allowed an RBI double and hit a batter.  Then Albers came on and allowed an RBI single.  And then, and only then, did he manage to induce a double play to end it.  Padilla then pitched the seventh, Morales pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth.  Albers, Padilla, and Morales received holds, with Aceves obviously receiving the save.

So here’s the problem, and it’s a problem I’ve often spoken of in the past.  You can’t afford to take the attitude that, since this one time they only allowed the maximum number of runs that they could possibly allow and still keep a lead intact, the bullpen was successful.  The bullpen was not successful.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is not success.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is failure.  We were fortunate that we scored one more run than they did in the end, but what if we didn’t? It’s not like the bullpen made a conscious decision to not allow one more run.  If the offense hadn’t scored seven runs, we may have lost.  It doesn’t matter if runs scored by inherited runners are charged to the starter; when a reliever inherits a bases-loaded situation, damage should not be expected, and we should not have to be surprised if the reliever is indeed lights-out.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, the offense didn’t waste much time getting on the board.  Papi opened the second with a walk, and then Youk singled, Salty struck out, Ross hit an RBI single, Byrd lined out, and Aviles smacked a three-run shot to left on a slider, the second pitch of the at-bat.  With that one swing, we had a four-run lead.  He crushed that ball.  He is absolutely on fire.

The very next inning, Salty hit a two-RBI single.  Pedroia led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We went down in order in the last four innings of the game.  Fortunately, we’d already scored all the runs we’d need.

The final score was 7-6, and we posted ten hits.  Only three of those were for extra bases, and two of them, a double and a triple, were hit by Pedroia, who went three for four and was one homer shy of the cycle.  That was our only multi-hit performance.  So we were fortunate that, last night, it was enough.  Although the absolute last thing that we needed was Ross leaving in the sixth due to soreness in his left knee.  He better not be out for long.

In other news, the season, the playoffs, and the aspirations of the Bruins were officially ended by a positively heart-wrenching Game Seven.  We lost, 2-1, in sudden death overtime at 2:57.  Tyler Seguin scored our only goal, and Tim Thomas made twenty-six saves.  For the first time in the history of the playoffs of the National Hockey League, an entire seven-game series was ecided by one goal.  The three Game Sevens that we played in order to win the Stanley Cup last year was a record; since I was hoping for a repeat, I was hoping that this Game Seven would prove to be just as joyous as the others.  Clearly I was sorely and sadly mistaken.  Well, it’s been both frustrating and fun.  It’s a painful, painful way to go out, but as we’re used to saying in Boston, there’s always next year.

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See, this is good.  This is what we should be doing.  That’s what I call building on momentum.  We won, and then we won again.  So it can’t really be so impossible to win multiple times in a row, can it? I mean, that was awesome.  It was a slugfest, and we left Minnesota in the dust.  The team made it look so easy, like we’ve been playing that way all season so far.  This better not be the latest episode in our grand motif of inconsistency.

For now, at least, we can celebrate this one.  The final score was 11-2.  We posted eighteen hits to their six; eight of our eighteen hits were for extra bases.  Two of those were home runs, and six of them were doubles.  And we went six for sixteen with runners in scoring position.

Aviles started things off in the first with a double with two strikes; not a bad way to battle back and start the game.  Then Sweeney singled him in.  After Pedroia grounded out, Gonzalez and Papi hit back-to-back singles which resulted in another run.  Then Youk singled, making that three in a row, and Gonzalez scored on Ross’s groundout.

Beckett didn’t seem like he was going to uphold his end of the bargain; he loaded the bases in a hurry in the bottom of the first while securing only one run.  Then he proceeded to walk in a run on ten pitches to Joe Mauer.  That’s three consecutive bases on balls.  I have to tell you, at that moment I got really scared that it was going to be a repeat of our performance against the Yankees when we dropped our eight run lead, except this time the blame would fall squarely on Beckett.  Beckett’s exchange with home plate umpire Adrian Johnson probably didn’t help the situation at all.  There were angry stares, and then Beckett said words, and then Johnson said words, and then Bobby V. had to intervene.  It clearly could have been a lot worse.

Fortunately, that fear turned out to be moot.  Beckett’s very next inning was one-two-three, and we went back to scoring; Gonzalez led off the third with a walk, and then Papi tore a homer to right on a cutter.  It was so fierce that Jerry Remy said that he couldn’t even see the ball when he was going out.  Papi knew it as soon as the ball connected with the bat that there was no way it was staying inside the park.

Beckett got into a bit of a jam in the third when he had runners on second and third with one out, but he secured a lineout followed by a flyout to end it made possible by a very Ellsbury-esque diving and sliding catch by Byrd.  Not a bad way to begin his time in Boston, especially since he started out on the play with the absolute wrong read on the ball.

Aviles led off the fourth with a solo shot to left on a full-count fastball right down the pipe that he just crushed.  It was a fair ball by inches, literally.  Then Sweeney doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.

Beckett had a one-two-three fourth.  Byrd led off the bottom of the inning with a single.  Shoppach struck out swinging, and then Aviles hit an RBI double.  Then Sweeney struck out swinging, and Pedroia and Gonzalez hit back-to-back RBI doubles.

Beckett allowed his last run of the night in the fifth on a pair of doubles.  Both teams went down in order in the next two innings.  Then, in the eighth, a single and two five-pitch walks loaded the bases for McDonald, who score two by grounding into a force out.

So that was basically it.  Papi, Youk, Byrd, and Sweeney each had two hits, one of which for Sweeney was a double.  Papi’s twenty-eight hits so far this month are the most in the ball club since Joe Cronin hit thirty in April 1937.  Aviles went four for five with two doubles and a home run – those four hits being a new career high – and Gonzalez was a perfect three for three at the plate with one double.  Beckett pitched up the win and allowed only two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out five in six innings.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches; his best pitches for strikes were his changeup, cutter, and four-seam, and he also threw in a few two-seams and curveballs.  He threw thirty-seven pitches in the first inning, which is a higher inning total than even Dice-K would throw (I’ve used that comparison a lot, but firstly, if I shouldn’t use this comparison then he should pitch better, and secondly, thirty-seven pitches is really exorbitant), but he obviously settled down considerably after that first inning.  Indeed, his first inning was essentially his one bad inning, but as we know he escaped with the minimal damage of only one run.  Atchison pitched in the seventh and eighth, and Albers pitched the ninth.

Well, I’m obviously thrilled with the win, but I wonder if it’ll actually take us somewhere this time.  What are the chances we play like that again today?

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