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Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Cruz’

It’s official: Lester is back to his old dominant self again.  He rolled right over the Texas lineup like it was his job.  Oh, wait; it is his job, and he did it extremely well.  Seeing Lester turn in an outing like the one he completed last night just makes you forget what he even looked like during his slump.  It’s almost like that was a completely different Lester.  Either way, he won, and he was awesome and tough as nails, so let’s talk about it.

He turned in eight full shutout innings.  He was rock-solid, he gave the bullpen a break, and he made the Texas Rangers of 2010 look like the Texas Rangers of 2009.  He allowed a grand total of five hits while striking out five and walking nobody.  So basically, take away those five hits and add on an extra inning and he’s got himself a perfect game.  And he did all of it with 109 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes, twelve of which were swinging.  He also had a very nice pickoff.  His cut fastball was unhittable, all of his sinkers were thrown for strikes, and his changeup was fantastic.  He only got into trouble once and escaped completely unscathed.  In the seventh, when the score was 1-0 us, Cruz hit a triple with one out.  And it was perfectly clear that Murphy had to be gotten out.  That was non-negotiable.  So he got Murphy to ground out to first and Cantu to ground out to second.  And he finished that inning with eleven pitches, seven less than his highest inning total, which was eighteen.

And he made all of it look easy when in fact it wasn’t in the least.  First of all, the temperature outside was 102 degrees.  It was the second hottest night in seventeen years down there.  That’s obscene.  And he was battling nausea.  Nobody should be playing baseball under those circumstances.  Nobody should be able to play baseball under those circumstances.  But if anyone can do it, Lester most certainly can, and he most certainly did.

So he defeated two division leaders with two consecutive shutout starts.  And he celebrated by buying some cowboy boots; obviously Beckett and Lackey approved.  Lester absolutely earned and deserved that win.  His thirteen wins re-ties him with Buchholz for the team lead and places both of them behind three pitchers who are first in that category in the American League and one who’s second.

Meanwhile, Kalish led off the fifth with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, moved to third on a single by Scutaro, and scored on a single by Drew.  We didn’t score again until the ninth, snapping O’Day’s twenty-six-plus-inning shutout streak, when Hall hit an RBI single and Scutaro hit a sac fly that ended up landing him at first when Borbon dropped it.

Kalish finished the night two for three, and Hall finished the night two for four with a steal.  Lowell hit a double.  In total, we collected ten hits.  Nice.

Both Bard and Paps were unavailable, so Atchison got a hold and Doubront made a pretty creative save.  Atchison came out after recording an out and allowing a home run, bringing the score to 3-1.  Guerrero was dancing at first base, so Doubront let loose a fastball very quickly to V-Mart, who then caught Guerrero stealing.  Doubront then struck out Moreland looking, revealing remarkable composure beyond his years.  I’m telling you, that kid is destined for greatness.  That score then became final.  And we won.  Plain and simple.

And hopefuly we’ll do it again this afternoon.  Dice-K will start opposite Wilson.  Dice-K has definitely become more consistent lately, so technically we can breathe easily when we see him penciled in, which is always good.  Especially because we need to win this series.  So let’s do it.

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Does anyone remember the last time Lester lost at home? April 18 against the Rays, with an ugly final score of 7-1.  We haven’t lost a series at home since May.  Yesterday afternoon marked our six hundredth consecutive sellout at Fenway Park.  More than thirty-seven thousand people turned out to see what we all expected to be a sendoff for the Rangers in the form of a rousing defeat.  I mean, Lester hasn’t lost at home since April, right?

Wrong.  He lost yesterday afternoon.

It’s not like he tanked.  He actually pitched well.  He tossed eight innings, gave up three earned runs on nine hits, walked three, and struck out six.  His pitch-count was decidedly Lackey-like at 118.  His change and curve were as effective as ever; his cut fastball wasn’t as effective as ever but was still effective.  He threw eight pitches in the first, but the game wasn’t fated to be that easy.  He threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and around there for the rest of his innings.  He let go of only one pitch outside his release point.  His strike zone was excellent. He just, for some reason, didn’t have it.  He threw his usual tricks at them but they hit the ball anyway.  His walk total was appropriate, so command wasn’t an issue.  He didn’t give up any home runs, so it’s not like he was making all sorts of mistakes.  He just got read, that’s all.  It’s rare, I know.  Thankfully.  I didn’t even know it was possible for batters to read him at all.

Lester did have a fourth, unearned run to his credit, or rather to who but Beltre’s credit.  Cruz took a breaking ball for a double, and we tried to throw out Hamilton at the plate, and when that didn’t work, Dusty Brown fired to first to contain the runner, but Beltre couldn’t handle the throw, and the runner scored.

We also have the added embarrassment of the double steal in the fifth.  While Young was busy striking out, Andrus was busy stealing second and Borbon was busy stealing home.  You read right.  It was awful.

As if that weren’t frustrating enough, in the eighth, Andrus scored on a single and was tagged before he reached home plate even though home plate umpire Gary Darling ruled him out.  I was furious.  I’m still furious.  The tag was clearly applied before Andrus’s foot touched the plate.  If that run doesn’t score, Cameron’s long ball brings us within one.  Maybe we still don’t win, but at least it’s closer and the call was right.  Plays like this are exactly why the call that ruined Armando Galarraga’s potentially perfect game won’t be overturned.  Because if you overturn that one, you have to overturn all these other ones that aren’t correct, and I don’t think Major League Baseball is too keen on opening that Pandora’s box.

On the other side of the game, the offense tried to come back but didn’t.  Speaking of more humiliation, Wilson established a new career high of ten strikeouts for himself.  Youk, fresh off his impact on Saturday night, led off the second with a single and scored on Beltre’s subsequent double.

We had some nice plays in the field, too.  Scutaro repeated his nice pivot catch from yesterday in the fifth, and Hall tried it on in the sixth.

We had our opportunities.  In the sixth and seventh, we had two runners on with two outs, but those opportunities ended with a strikeout and a popup, respectively.

Cameron did lead off the ninth with a powerful homer on a letter-high fastball into the Monster seats, cutting their lead in half.  Kinsler bobbled a ball in the infield and Hall reached.  But then of course Scutaro had to line out to short.

We designated Molina and called up Bowden as a reliever.  And Beckett is officially starting Friday.  Hold on to your hats.

Our July is quickly becoming April, Version 2.0.  I hate to say that, but it’s hard to ignore.  What is this? We just can’t have decent starts out of the gate? The All-Star break threw everyone off? I don’t get it.  We start our ten-game road trip today, and usually I dread our trip out West, but we just lost at home, and I guess if we can’t do it at home, we need some sort of change of scenery.  That’s just sad, isn’t it?

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Wow.  I don’t even know where to start.  Just, wow.  Okay.  I should probably go in order so my simultaneous excitement and relief don’t take over completely.

As usual, I’ll start with pitching.  Wake gave up six runs on seven hits with five walks and three K’s over six innings.  He threw 117 pitches and told Tito that, if necessary, he could keep on going.  He basically ground it out to save the bullpen.  After the dismal shifts some of our starters have turned in recently, that was a huge breath of fresh air.  As was the outcome of the game, but like I said, we’ll get to that.  Wake’s pitch count was heavy on the knuckleball, which didn’t find the strike zone as often as it usually does; he had quite a few that were low or high and to the left.  Of course, horizontal and vertical movement was evenly distributed for most of his pitches, which gave them their traditional extra “umph,” if you will.  Anyway, the point is, he labored, and by the time he exited, we were down, 2-6.

The bullpen was fantastic.  Between Delcarmen, Okajima, and Paps, they allowed one hit and four walks with two K’s.  Okay, maybe the four walks weren’t fantastic; in fact, if they keep allowing walks, it’ll become downright disturbing, but at least they didn’t allow any runs, and at this point you have to pick your battles.

Thefts need to be talked about.  The running must be stopped.  It must be stopped.  Wake took responsibility, V-Mart took responsibility, but it doesn’t matter who takes responsibility; responsibility shouldn’t have to be taken because this shouldn’t be happening.  If you look at a box score for this game, you’ll see Youk’s double play under our column and a gigantic paragraph of nothing but steals under their column.  They stole nine bases against us.  Nine! Newsflash: this is not a track and field event! Opposing baserunners should not be capable of swiping nine bags! Andrus and Cruz stole three each, Borbon stole one, and Guerrero, even with his age and knees, stole two.  That’s just rubbing salt in it.  This is a legitimate problem.  Tito has already made it a high priority for improvement.  Indeed, it’s something we were focusing on during Spring Training; we just very apparently have yet to see results.  We of all fan bases should know that a stolen base can turn into a deciding run real quickly.

Okay.  Now for the good stuff: the offense.  V-Mart singled Drew home in the first.  Hermida hit a solo shot to deep right in the fourth, thereby continuing to impress.  Seriously, I don’t think any one of us thought he’d be hitting balls out at this rate.  I’m not even sure people thought he’d be hitting balls out at all.  But he is, and it’s great to have that much depth on the bench.  And that, as we will soon see, is exactly my point.  So, at that time we were down by four.  Reddick plated two on a fielding error in the sixth.  (Reddick and McDonald were both called up for outfield depth; Ellsbury and Cameron were both placed on the DL.  Thankfully, Ellsbury’s stint is retroactive.)

And now, the penultimate moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Darnell McDonald hit a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth.  That home run was hit to left center, one of the deepest parts of the park.  And that home run was phenomenal for two reasons: it tied the game, like I said, and it was evidence of the power coming down the pipe in the future.  And the best part was that he was pinch-hitting.  By the way, the last in a Boston uniform to hit one out during his first plate appearance was Orlando Cabrera on August 1, 2004.  Gives you chills, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that brings us to the ninth.  Youk singled.  Hall sacrificed him to third.  Lowell was walked intentionally.  Tek walked.  Beltre popped out.  And McDonald stepped up to the plate.  He singled.  Youk came home.  McDonald was mobbed.  Game over.  7-6.  And that, my friends, is how you get it done.  That is a Win right there.  A Win with a capital W.  When you need a win, you do what needs to be done to get it.  (Which is why Tito felt he had to pinch-hit Lowell for Papi.) Our losing streak is officially snapped.  Twelve years in the minor leagues for McDonald; he deserves this one.  This is the first time since the run batted in became an official statistic in 1920 that we’ve had a game-ending RBI hit from a debut.  This, ladies and gentlemen, was huge.  It may come to pass that this might have been one of the most important games in the entire 2010 season.  We needed it, and we got it.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

To be honest, I saw glimmers of our old selves across the board.  Youk went two for four with a walk (they fed him breaking balls almost the entire night), V-Mart went three for four, and Hermida went two for three.  Pedroia, Reddick, and Tek all hit doubles.  Pedroia flied out twice before hitting his double, so he may not have made constructive contact during every at-bat but he was reading the ball well just the same.  And of course McDonald went two for two.  We’re still waiting on Beltre, Scutaro, Papi, and Drew.  They didn’t shift Drew, which was interesting.  They did pitch him away, though, which is exactly how the Rays like to handle him.  But it’s a start.  It’s definitely more of a start than we’ve seen so far.  Here’s hoping it continues and only keeps getting better.

But it’s much, much more than that.  The type of win that was, a walkoff courtesy of an unlikely hero, is exactly the kind of win that historically makes us rise to the occasion.  I mean, you could cut the relief and emotion on that field last night with a knife.  That was an extremely much-needed and much-wanted and much-deserved win.  That’s one serious understatement, but it’s all I can say.  One win won’t solve everything, but it’s reminded us who we are and what we can do.  Beckett takes the hill tonight.  Let’s make this last.

SB Nation

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We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

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Today we have our second Monday off of the month.  That’s good.  We’ll need a day to rest and take stock of everything that happened yesterday.  First of all, we lost by a final score of 6-3.  Needless to say, Dice-K did not bid for anything special.  He pitched 5.2 innings and gave up five runs on ten hits, including a home run to Michael Young.  No walks and eight strikeouts, though.  So that first part was bad, that second part was good was good, and Dice-K needs to figure out how to have the second part without the first part.  It’s tough to say what’s going on with him.  By now he should show signs of bouncing back from his time off.  Maybe he’s slow to recover.  But I don’t know if we can afford to have him stay this slow for much longer.  Masterson was good, Okajima gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz for the sixth run, and Ramirez and Papelbon were both good.  If there’s one thing we don’t need, it’s Okajima regressing to what he was last year.  This year he’s half what he was in 2007, which means he’s getting better, but backsliding won’t be helping at all.

We went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and left three on base.  That means we only had runner in scoring position four times and we did nothing with each of them.  Youk and Ortiz each had hits.  Pedroia, Youk, and Tek each had walks.  Bay walked twice.  Offensively, the man of the hour was Mark Kotsay, who went two for three with two runs, an RBI, and a towering home run to right field in the fourth for his first of 2009.  Getting it done off the bench.  His last home run was hit on August 14, 2008.  But he has good numbers against Padilla from their days in the National League, and he just rode the cut fastball out of the park to, at the time, bring us within a run.  We wouldn’t score any after that.  Before that, in the third, Ellsbury batted in two, one earned and one unearned, on a double.  Bay and Ortiz were both caught stealing and Youk was picked off.  By the way, Ortiz is on a six-game hitting streak.  No, seriously.

Let’s talk about that play with Ellsbury in the third.  So he hit a double and batted in two, but only one was counted as earned.  Kinsler misplayed his hard grounder, so Tek and Kotsay were both able to score.  Ellsbury slid into second, and that’s when the badness happened.  He hurt himself.  Strained his right shoulder on the slide.  Then he tried to play through it and made that ridiculous catch in the fourth.  Don called it “the catch of the year” and he was absolutely right.  The ball was sailing toward the 420 mark and Ellsbury ran at top speed, grabbed the ball, and stumbled on the warning track right on his right shoulder.  It was spectacular.  It was outstanding.  It was painful.  An awesome catch, but terrible timing.  It exacerbated the pain so much that he had to leave before the sixth.  Great.  Honestly, I can think of no worse time with the obvious exception of October for this to happen.  We’re locked in a battle for first with New York with whom we are about to battle for three games, and Ellsbury just came off a monster hitting streak and was morphing into one of the game’s best leadoff hitters until Tito started batting him eighth, after which he was morphing into one of the game’es best eighth hitters.  And now I don’t want to think about whether he’s facing a stint on the DL.

Of course, if we talk about defensive plays, we also have to mention the backhanded grab on the run by Dustin Pedroia in the ninth.  Nice.

JD Drew is also out.  He received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder after Friday’s game and didn’t play yesterday.  He expects to play tomorrow, and I agree.  The off day today will give him a little extra rest, and he should be good to go by tomorrow night.

We’re done with the Rangers, we’ve got the off day, and we’re staying home for a three-game set against the Yankees.  Burnett at Beckett.  And now that Beckett is back, you have no idea how much I’m looking forward to this.  I think what’s in order here is a good, old-fashioned Boston beatdown.  You know, put the Yankees in their place, which isn’t first.  This should be fun.

ProJo Sox Blog

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We tamed the Tigers.  Corny but true.  What else would you call a sweep of Detroit? We actually owe them a lot.  Not only are we technically still in first (tied with the Yanks who have the exact same record) with those wins but they also made us feel like ourselves again: dominant.  They made us feel like the Boston Red Sox who win in the long haul.  You sort of lose that feeling of that when you’re not not scoring too many runs or generally just not playing your best ball.  Sometimes all you need is a confrontation with a team that’s easy to beat to get you out of that rut, and luckily those ruts usually don’t last too long for us.  Yes, Detroit is first in their division right now, but they have twenty-eight wins.  Twenty-eight wins puts Tampa Bay in fifth in our division.  Just to give you an idea of the difference in timbre of the baseball that’s been played over the past three games.

Wakefield pitched beautifully as usual.  Six and a third, three runs on eight hits, no walks, three K’s.  Masterson and Okajima each got holds for their work, and Paps got a save.  Luckily, this was nothing like his thirty-five-pitch appearance on Wednesday.  This one was only twenty-one pitches, and he allowed only one hit.  So it’s better.  He still needs to bring his pitch count way down, though.

6-3 was the final.  Thankfully, no errors in this one.  Lowell went two for four with an RBI, Bay batted in two with a double, Baldelli batted in one with a double, and Drew and Youk each also plated one.  We scored all six runs in the third inning to answer the three they scored in the second.  Dontrelle Willis only pitched two and a third, and in that time gave up five walks.  Five.  Willis faced six batters in the first two innings, then hit Jacoby Ellsbury in the third, then proceeded to walk four of the next five batters and to thereby allow two runs without a hit while disagreeing with most of those calls.  Jim Leyland pulled him after that.  And on his way off the field, he had a very heated discussion with the home plate umpire about the outside corner of the plate, at which point he was ejected.  Detroit pitching in total gave up nine on the day.  Drew alone drew four of those.  That’s almost half.  Bad day for Detroit.  Great day for Boston.  Just goes to show you how useful walks can be and how versatile our team is.  Sure, we can get it done with the long ball, and we can get it done with some line drives.  And we can even get it done with no hits at all!

Youk left the game yesterday with a calf injury possibly related to Anderson’s kick.  It’s unclear whether he’ll play tonight.  AJ Burnett was suspended for six games for throwing a ball over the head of Nelson Cruz of the Rangers.  This doesn’t surprise me.  New York will do that.  We’ve seen it happen.

So now we’ve got three at home with the Texas Rangers.  And believe it or not, Texas is in first place in the AL West.  Three and a half games ahead of the Angels.  That’s something I did not see coming.  But that’s something that probably won’t last too long.  Besides, we’re us.  We can defeat these guys.  It’ll be Kevin Millwood at Penny.  Awesome.

Dueling Couches

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Unfortunately, this one didn’t exactly go in our favor.  Still, the final score was 15-8, and we didn’t go down easily.  The Rangers had only three more hits than us and left one more man on base.  Basically that means that we didn’t do as well with runners in scoring position, but I’d rather not do well with runners in scoring position than not do well with no runners in scoring position.  At least we had our opportunities, and we did make use of many of them.  And at least the Rays lost, so we’re still only 2.5 games back, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re comin’ to get ’em.

Wakefield only lasted 1.2 innings.  In that span he managed to give up seven runs on four hits with four walks and no strikeouts.  Smith pitched the next two innings but didn’t really limit the damage; he gave up a two-run shot to Nelson Cruz.  Lopez was the only perfect reliever but left after pitching 0.1 inning for Mike Timlin, who gave up his usual four runs on five hits, and David Pauley pitched the last two, giving up two runs on five hits and striking out four.

RBIs for Bailey, Lowrie, and Casey, who’s back in it off the DL.  Kotsay had two.  Youkilis had three; he hit a monstrous three-run blast in the third inning with one out.  It really was a valiant effort; we scored four runs in our half of the ninth.  Only three members of the starting lineup had multi-hit games; Lowell went two for four and Lowrie and Crisp both went two for three.  In some weird and twisted phenomenon of nature, Dustin Pedroia was held hitless but still managed to get on base with a walk.  You can’t help but marvel at the kid.  Even when you keep him off base, you can’t really keep him off base.

In other news, David Aardsma and JD Drew should be making their returns pretty soon.  I’m telling you, everyone’s coming off the DL at the right time, and everyone’s coming off renewed, refreshed, and ready to fight.  And that’s what we need this time of year.  And as we’ve seen Sean Casey and Kevin Youkilis are back in it too and doing their usual damage.  Youk’s back is better now and his personal issues are all cleared up, so that’s good to see.  It’s amazing how it’s all coming together at just the right time.  The Rays aren’t at their best right now, and that’s a mistake first-place clubs make, especially those that’re inexperienced.  All it takes is a few losses here, a few losses there, and what do you know, they’re knocked off the top, which is where they shouldn’t have been all along.  I mean, who would’ve thought? But that’s how it is, and we’re definitely coming.  Count on that.

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