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Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

Yesterday we took in the Boston debut of Ryan Dempster.  The difference between him and, say, Lester or Buchholz was unfortunately conspicuous.  He just doesn’t have the same degree of skill, versatility, and adaptability that they possess.  And as a result of that and of a subpar hitting performance (I would say mostly of a subpar hitting performance since we should have been able to score enough runs to cover those that Dempster gave up), we suffered our first loss of the season.  Unfortunately, we knew it had to happen sometime.  I wish it didn’t happen against the Yanks, least of all in New York, but at least we won the series!

Dempster tossed five innings and gave up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out eight.  We should have been able to figure out that things wouldn’t go exceptionally well for him when he walked his first batter of the year.  But two groundouts later, he got out of the inning one-two-three.  Dempster opened the second by giving up a single.  Following two quick strikeouts on a total of seven pitches, he gave up a double followed by a single that brought in his first run.  He then led off the third with a big mistake of an eighty-seven mile-per-hour fastball, which was hit out for a solo shot.  Fortunately, that was it.  He threw a grand total of 101 pitches and will obviously have to seriously work on his efficiency if he intends to stay on the mound for more than a little over half a game.

His limited arsenal is also a pain point that will probably be more concerning as the season goes on.  He threw only four pitches yesterday: both fastballs, a slider, and a splitter.  His fastest fastball was ninety-one miles per hour, and while his average slider speed was eighty-four and his average splitter speed was eighty.  A variation in pitches but also a wider range between his lowest and highest speeds would really help him confuse the hitters, increase his strikeout count, and decrease his walk count, which should also help with efficiency.

His lowest pitch count per inning was thirteen in the fifth; his highest was twenty-nine in the fourth, and he threw around twenty in each of the rest.  His release point was actually really consistent, but I still say that he’s going to have to work on his arsenal, at least refining the pitches he does through, and by extension his efficiency.

Tazawa pitched the sixth, and Mortensen pitched the seventh and eighth, giving up a solo shot of his own to his first batter as well.

As busy as our hitters were during the previous two games, we were silent for way too much of this one.  Try the first six innings.  Yeah.  We didn’t cross the plate until the seventh.  It was awful.  We didn’t even have that many opportunities.  We had two on in the first thanks to two singles by Victorino and Napoli, but Victorino was thrown out at home when he tried to score on a wild pitch.  We went down in order in the second despite a single by Middlebrooks thanks to a double play.  Basically the same thing happened in the third.  Pedroia walked in the fourth on five pitches but it was a brief inning due to quick outs for the other three batters who came up.  We went down in order in the fifth.  Iglesias led off the sixth with a single but we went down in order after that.

Finally, with two out in the seventh, Middlebrooks singled and scored on a double by Bradley.  If only we could have made it into a rally; at the time, that run shrunk the deficit to two, and even though we were in the last third of the game, two runs is by no means an insurmountable lead.  But Ross flew out to end it.  At first, I thought it might actually be out.  But it was just short and hauled in right at the wall.  Then, of course, Mortensen gave up the insurance run, we went down in order in the eighth, and all we could muster in the ninth was a run on a groundout.  Pedroia had walked on seven pitches to start the frame, and then Napoli flew out, and Gomes doubled, eliminating the double play option with two on.  Pedroia came home when Middlebrooks grounded out, and the deficit was back down to two.  And then Bradley came to the plate.  He could have tied it with a home run.  Instead, he was called out on strike three, and we lost, 4-2.

In other news, the B’s narrowly bested the Devils, one-zip.

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On day three of the regular season, we picked up right where we left off.  I know it’s only been two games, but what a great start we’re off to! And against the Yankees in New York, no less! There’s definitely something palpably different about this time.  You can feel it and see it when the game starts.  It’s so nice to remember what it feels like to look forward to something.

Buchholz was on the mound and delivered everything he had.  It was a truly masterful start, in some ways even better than Lester’s.  Buchholz pitched a full seven innings and gave up one run on six hits while walking two and striking out four.  The one run was the result of a solo shot hit in the third on the first pitch of the at-bat, obviously a big mistake of a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  Fortunately, that was Buchholz’s only major mistake.

Other than that, it was mostly smooth sailing.  Three of his seven innings were one-two-three; all but one of the others saw four batters come up.  He faced five in the seventh.  And he rolled out the full extent of his arsenal.  Both fastballs made an appearance, his fastest reaching ninety-four miles per hour.  Naturally, he included plenty of off-speeds: changeups, curveballs, cutters, and splitters.  His splitter and four-seam, the favorite pitch of the night, were particularly effective.  As far as inning pitch counts are concerned, he ranged from only seven in the second to twenty in the seventh and everything in between for a grand total of ninety-four.

Unfortunately, the relief corps was not as solid.  Miller and Aceves combined to pitch the eighth but gave up three runs.  Aceves inherited a runner and put one of his own on base before allowing a home run.  Hanrahan then pitched the ninth and picked up his first save of the season and of his time with us.

The offense was getting pretty busy in the meantime.  Yesterday’s lineup had Ellsbury leading off, Nava batting second, Pedroia batting third, Napoli batting cleanup, Salty batting fifth, Middlebrooks sixth, Victorino seventh, Bradley eighth, and Iglesias ninth.  Some changes, some constants.

Of the nine innings we played, we scored in four.  In the first, Salty singled with two out and two on to bring our first run in.  A single, a hit batsman, and a walk on four pitches by Ellsbury loaded the bases with one out in the second; when Nava got it, Bradley scored.  Salty singled in the third, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Victorino, who stole second base and scored on a single by Bradley, who moved to third on a double by Iglesias.  Both of them scored on a single by Ellsbury to complete a four-run third.  We went down in order in the fourth and fifth and scored our final run in the sixth; Iglesias led it off with a single and was out in a force out by Ellsbury, who moved to third on a double by Nava and scored on a groundout by Pedroia.

Just to give you an idea of how monumental this 7-4 win was, consider the fact that we haven’t opened any season since 1999 with back-to-back wins.  We are officially on our way!

In other news, the Bruins beat the Sens, 4-3.

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I can’t even believe that this day has finally arrived.  Out of the interminable slog that was all of last year, out of the rounds and rounds of speculation that was this offseason, we have finally emerged to welcome baseball back to Boston with open arms! I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I’ve earned this one.  It’s been rough, man.  With the way last season went, I felt like it was winter before the season was even over.  It was a long and cold one.  We’ve done without for way too long.  And then, suddenly, April arrived, and we enjoyed the glorious first opportunity of kicking back, relaxing, and taking in three hours and thirty-seven minutes of pure, unadulterated glory.  Man, it’s good to be back.

Where do I even start? I don’t even know.  It was all so divinely inspired.  I can’t even talk about it.

Lester.  I’ll start with Lester.  Wow.  What can I even say? Pretty much the whole staff got it together at camp, and Lester most definitely did not disappoint.  His start lasted only five innings, but this is so epically not the time to be picky.  Five solid innings on the first day of the season is fine as far as I’m concerned; he’ll pick it up as time goes on.  Besides, those five innings were pretty impressive.  Two runs, five hits.  Two walks.  Seven strikeouts.

There was a four-pitch strikeout of his first batter of the season on four pitches, ending with what was technically a cutter, but at ninety miles per hour with his movement, whether it was a cutter or cut fastball is a question that will probably not be answered anytime soon.  Then there was the seven-pitch strikeout that ended with a cutter, and the six-pitch strikeout that ended the second with a cutter, and the seven-pitch called strike in the third that ended with a cutter.  Lester had himself another seven-pitch strikeout in the fourth, this one ending with a fastball, but like I said, whether it’s really a fastball or a cut fastball is hard to answer.  And irrelevant, since a strike is a strike.  Lester bookended his fifth with strikeouts, the first five pitches ending with a changeup and the second his only one comprising three pitches: a sinker clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, a changeup at eighty-four, and a fastball at ninety-three, which wasn’t even his fastest of the day; he got up to ninety-four.

Ninety-six pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  He was on with the cut fastball.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were cut fastballs, as we’d expect.  And he put that fabulous Lester-esque bite on them, too.  They were moving exactly the way he wanted them to.  And he mixed in some nasty sinkers, changes, and curves in there as well.  He stood up there and he was a master.  I almost felt bad for the hitters until I remembered that we were squaring off against the Evil Empire.  And then I felt better.

Anyway, Lester threw seventeen pitches each in the first two innings, sixteen in the third, and twelve in the fifth.  The fourth was the big one; Lester threw thirty-four pitches.  He loaded the bases that inning and couldn’t completely escape without allowing a two-run single.  Other than that, Lester was solid gold.

Farrell then rolled out five relievers.  Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa, and Hanrahan combined to shut out the Yanks for the rest of the game.  All told, the Yanks were limited to six hits.

Alright, here we go.  Offense.  Let’s get down to it, because our hitters were as hot as our pitchers.  The starters stayed in for the whole nine, and they were great.  Great patience and eyes all around.  Great baserunning, too.  Ellsbury led off, followed by Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli in cleanup, Middlebrooks, Salty, Gomes, Bradley, and Iglesias.  Look for Farrell to change the lineup around pretty frequently, but this one worked out just fine.  Iglesias went three for five, Ellsbury went three for six, Gomes went two for four, and Pedroia and Victorino both went two for six.  Salty doubled, and Ellsbury tripled, and that was it for extra-base hits.  This was Bradley’s debut in the big show, and he certainly made the most of it.  Of our four total walks, Bradley accounted for three, not to mention his obvious speed on the basepaths as well as his run-saving, inning-ending, outstanding haul in left in the third.

Pedroia singled in the first, but we didn’t score.  Our big inning was the second.  Middlebrooks grounded out, and then Salty walked in five pitches, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Then Iglesias singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, bringing home one and reloading the bases.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out, causing Gomes to be out at home.  But then Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, bringing in three before Napoli flied out to end it.

We went down in order in the third and put two on but didn’t deliver in the fourth.  A double and two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth, but we didn’t deliver on that either.  Ellsbury tripled to lead off the sixth, but still nothing.  Then, in the seventh, Middlebrooks and Salty fought hard for back-to-back walks on eight pitches each.  Middlebrooks moved to third on a flyout by Gomes and scored on a groundout by Bradley.  We went down in order again in the eighth but closed it out with a bang in the ninth.  Middlebrooks was called out on strikes before Salty walked, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Iglesias struck out and then Ellsbury and Victorino singled back-to-back to bring in three.  Gomes accounted for the second of those runs, rocketing home all the way from second base.  The dugout and everyone else went appropriately insane.

And that, my friends, is the story of how we cleaned the field with the Yanks, 8-2, on their soil.  To me, this is much bigger than just winning the first game of the season.  We’ve had just abysmal starts out of the gate for the last two seasons.  This game means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to us.  We’re a new team now, and it shows.  There’s nothing like a more-than-auspicious start to the year to provide a good feeling about what’s to come.  Let’s get it!

I’ll say one last thing.  Seeing Kevin Youkilis in an enemy uniform was downright bizarre and torturous.  It’s a shame.  It’s a real shame.  And I guess that’s that.

In other news, the B’s lost to and beat the Leafs and lost to the Habs in a shootout; it was painful, but at least we get a point out of it.  We beat the Sens, lost to the Leafs, and beat the Sabres.

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The good signs continue.  We’re battling some soreness and whatnot, but the performance is good.  Victorino’s got some extra-base hits, and the pitchers continue to make a strong showing.  Drew left camp to see a concussion specialist; he resumed baseball activities, but the timetable for his full return is unclear.  Papi made his return to the batting cages.  Congratulations to the Dominican Republic; Team DR won the World Baseball Classic.  And last but most certainly not least, we and the Yanks have decided to dedicate Opening Day by honoring the community and memory of Newtown, Connecticut.  It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony, and the two teams are really doing the right thing.

We lost to the Pirates on Monday, 4-3.  Buchholz ruled the day; in five innings, he made one mistake in the form of a solo shot while walking two and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss; he gave up two runs.  Nava went two for three, and Victorino tripled.  On Tuesday, we lost to Baltimore, 8-7.  Dempster went five innings, giving up three runs on six hits.  Tazawa turned in a scoreless inning, and Bard gave up three runs on two hits.  Middlebrooks went two for three with a double, and Victorino doubled as well.  Unfortunately the Yanks shut us out on Wednesday; better in Spring Training than in the regular season.  Doubront pitched four and one-third innings and gave up four runs on seven hits.  Bailey finished the rest of the inning.  Hanrahan and Mortensen each pitched a scoreless frame.  We beat the Phillies yesterday, 6-1.  Lackey looked pretty sharp; he tossed five innings and gave up only one run on four hits while walking none and striking out one.  Bailey pitched a scoreless frame and picked up the win.  Pedroia went two for two with a double; Middlebrooks doubled, and Victorino tripled.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Jets and beat the Sens.

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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

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Still nothing to write home about yet.  Arnie Beyeler, who’s been managing the PawSox, is our new first base coach.  Greg Colbrunn, formerly of the Evil Empire, is our new hitting coach.  Victor Rodriguez, our former minor league coordinator, is our new assistant hitting coach.

As far as players are concerned, we’ve non-tendered Ryan Sweeney, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison.  We traded Zach Stewart, who we got from the Other Sox for Kevin Youkilis, to the Pirates for a player to be named later.  Last but not least, although we claim that we’re still working on resigning Cody Ross, we worked out a two-year deal worth ten million dollars for Johnny Gomes pending a physical.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 59-24, and the Jets, 49-19.

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