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Posts Tagged ‘Mitch Maier’

That’s exactly what we needed.  Not to mention the fact that that’s exactly what the bullpen needed.  A good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.  We haven’t seen one of those in a while.  But you can’t get more duel-esque than the game last night.  The final score was decided by one run in the most literal sense: it was 1-0.

In our favor.  Buchholz amazed once again.  He threw seven shutout innings, gave up only four hits, walked four, and struck out four, all with 108 pitches.  All four of his strikeouts were swinging, and Maier accounted for half of them.  He improves to seven and three with a 2.73 ERA.  At this rate, he’s a contender not only for a spot on the All-Star team but also for the Cy Young.  He threw his fastball and changeup well, as per usual, and added an effective slider to his repertoire.  His curveball still needs work.  He threw a minimum of eleven pitches and a maximum of twenty-four in an inning.  He had speed variation.  He had a tight release point, which we haven’t seen from our starters in our previous two games.  He had a consistent and even strike zone, using all parts of it.  When he did leave the zone, it was usually to the right of or below it.

I know I’ve said this before, but Buchholz just continues to impress, which makes it more and more true every fifth day: we’re seeing an ace grow right before our eyes.  Seriously.  Every time he starts, we’re watching the natural maturation of a pitcher with some of the best off-speed stuff in the league.  His confidence has soared.  You can see that he’s simplified and slowed down the game and he’s able to hit his spots.  He gets craftier and craftier with each start, which is the usual progression for an off-speed pitcher.  Point being, we’re never trading him, because if you think he’s good now, wait until he hits his prime.  Yeah.  The kid’s got stuff.  That’s all I’ve got to say, literally.  Every start he makes these days just speaks for itself.  If you just sit down and watch this kid, you’ll see it right away.

Of course, Buchholz was not without his jams, but he maintained his composure and focus and escaped from all of them unscathed.  Besides, they weren’t that bad as jams go.  The Royals had two on with nobody out in the third, but Buchholz induced a double play.  Beltre corralled a very hard-hit ball to make it happen.  Then Podsednik opened the sixth with a single and tried to steal second, but V-Mart showed that hard work pays off when he gunned him down, even with his contusion.  He barely made an adequate throw; it bounced, but Pedroia came up with it.  That caught-stealing was crucial; had it been successful, Podesdnik probably would’ve scored on DeJesus’s following double.

Our only run, and the game’s only run, was basically a product of a managerial decision.  For the third time this year, Tito gave Youk the day off and penciled in Lowell to start at first for only the second time in his career.  It made sense offensively; Youk is one for ten against Greinke, while Lowell is four for seven.

Beltre opened the second with a single, and Drew’s double moved both runners into scoring position.  Beltre scored on who but Mike Lowell’s fielder’s choice groundout to second base.

We only collected five hits in the game, only two of which were for extra bases (Drew’s double as well as Papi’s) but we still did our best to make Greinke work.  He fired 115 pitches while pitching one inning less than Buchholz.  We left ten on base, so we had our chances, most notably with the bases loaded and Drew at the plate with a full count, but Greinke came back with a fastball on his hands.  You also had Papi standing at the plate with a full count, but Greinke gave him that breaking ball of his, and he couldn’t lay off.  Fortunatley, Buchholz just proved to be better.

We had a brief scare in the eighth, when Bard came on in relief.  The tying run stood at third.  Aviles struck out on a slider.  Then DeJesus hit a ground ball up the middle.  But Pedroia flashed serious leather and saved the game by making a backhanded diving catch and firing to first in time.  A truly excellent play.  As Pedroia himself said, his job is only half hitting.  The other half is defense.  One of his distinguishing qualities as a player is that both are at such a high level.  He has only one error so far this year; his fielding percentage is .996.

Paps picked up his twelfth save with a one-two-three ninth, short but sweet with only twelve pitches.

Bad news on the Beckett front: his side session didn’t go so well.  His rehab has been slowed and his return date is now indefinite due to further pain in his lower back.  That’s obviously really bad news, but I’d much rather have him on the DL where he can recuperate for however long it takes than to have him in the rotation making terrible start after terrible start.  We saw enough of that from everybody in April.

So thanks to quality pitching and defense, the bullpen gets a breather and we get the well-deserved win.  Pitcher’s duels are fun to watch.  Like I said, we haven’t had many this season that are true duels between the starters, duking it out with power and finesse with one run deciding the fate of the whole thing.  And it’s especially fun when you’ve got a kid on the mound who’s rapidly distinguishing himself as one of the best.  We hope to split this afternoon when Lester takes on Chen for the final game of this series.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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