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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Blackburn’

And there you have the cushion! Incredible! We’re getting everything we need right now.  That’s good.  We’re playing .600 ball.  That’s first in the American League and tied with Milwaukee for second in the Major Leagues.  (The Dodgers are playing .674 ball.) It may seem like it’s early in the year, and it is, but it’s still a crucial time.  The month and a half leading up to the All-Star break is very important because it sets the tone for the second half of the season.  And right now we’re doing a lot of good tone-setting.  The Jays lost their seventh straight yesterday, so they’re in third with New York in second by one game.  But I’m not worried.  They may be on a hot streak, but New York isn’t going anywhere.  They always do this; they have a bad season with a few hot streaks just to scare you.  Then they’ll have a great September and ruin a bunch of teams’ playoff hopes and either not get to the playoffs or get to the playoffs and peter out in the first round.

Anyway, Brad Penny pitched a great game.  Quality start after quality start.  I like it.  And what we didn’t know is that he was battling indigestion before, during, and after battling the Twins.  Apparently he was throwing up between innings in the bathroom.  That right there is a warrior.  That’s something you don’t see too often.  And through it all he pitched five and a third, gave up three runs on six hits, no walks, seven strikeouts.  That’s about his usual; five or six innings and three runs.  He threw about seventy percent strikes.  His OPP AVG with runners in scoring position is below .200.  And he continues to improve.  The bottom line is that if the Twins couldn’t get to him in those conditions, they weren’t going to get to him at all.  Ramirez and Okajima each collected holds, and Paps got the save after almost blowing it.  Joe Mauer pinch-hit for Mike Redmond in the bottom of the ninth and hit a two-run shot.  The final score was 6-5.  Honestly I’d love to be furious with Paps right now and I am but the thing is it never lasts.  You can’t be furious when you know well and good you’ll never find a better closer in all of Major League Baseball.

We again out-hit our opponents, 16-8.  Ellsbury went two for five and scored, extending his hitting streak to twenty games.  That’s a career high, and he’s batting around .330 during that streak.  He was picked off first and caught stealing second, and it was ugly.  The Twins had him beat bad in the third inning.  The ball was waiting for him.  Very unusual.  Pedroia the Destroyah went three for five and scored twice and has a hitting streak of his own for eight games, during which he’s batting over .400.  He’s batted around .500 over his last four games alone.  That’s a hot hitter.  Youk and Bay each went two for five with a run and two RBIs.  Bay continued his dominance with runners in scoring position and is currently batting something like .340 in that situation.  Based on the way Bay’s been playing, we have two priorities this season: first, win the World Series, and second, lock up Jason Bay for the long term, because he’s establishing himself as one of the best in the game and with today’s market it’s almost impossible to find someone that good for that price.  Lowell went four for five with an RBI.  Baldelli made an error but went two for four.  Bailey took Dickey deep in the eighth for a very powerfully hit solo home run.  So what all of this means is that the first six starting spots in the lineup had multi-hit games.  It was fantastic.  Basically, it was watching one of the best teams in the American League figure out that there’s one of the best, and then there’s the best.  And when you play the best, you probably won’t win.  Hey, it happens.  We’ve now got six straight wins over the Twins and three more games to go in the series.

Jed Lowrie teed off before the game yesterday.  He took fifteen swings from each side of the plate and said he felt better hitting from the right than from the left.  His rehab is still on schedule, and they’re not going to rush.  He should be back in a few weeks.  Clay Buchholz is 3-0 with Pawtucket and almost had himself a perfect game last night.  He took it into the ninth inning but then gave up a leadoff single.  But he retained his composure.  That says a lot, because as soon as a bid like that is broken up, the pitcher can unravel very easily and very quickly, and for a young pitcher to stay with it says something.  So it ended up being a one-hit shutout, and it was the first one-hitter Pawtucket’s had since Bartolo Colon’s combined outing on April 3, 2008.

It’ll be Lester at Nick Blackburn tonight.  Hopefully Lester will build on that outstanding start against the Jays.  That was the first classic Lester start we’ve seen so far, and I’d love to see more.  The kid is good.  There’s a reason why he, and not Santana, wears our letters.  (Of course the irony is that Santana was with Minnesota, and they were after either Lester or Ellsbury.  That wasn’t going to happen.) And as soon as he remembers for good what that reason is, it won’t be pleasant for the opposition.

AP Photo
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Talk about timely wins and losses. The Rays lost in extra innings by the long ball yesterday, and we won in dramatic fashion. Dice-K versus Scott Baker. No score. Eighth inning. Pedroia the Destroyah doubles and Manny singles him home in the clutch. The final score? 1-0, we win. Dice-K pitched six-hit shutout ball for just over seven innings with three walks (good to see a low number in that column) and five K’s, lowering his ERA to 2.84. Hideki Okajima relieved him and pitched a rare perfect inning, and Pap redeemed himself splendidly and got the save. Just like old times: Okie in the eighth, Pap in the ninth, one-two-three, we’re done. If only Okie could keep that up for the rest of the season.

Yesterday’s contest was a great game. That’s what I call a pitcher’s duel. When Okajima relieved Dice-K, there were two men on base and he pulled through it. He had the head snap going, he had the Okie-Doke, it was beautiful. Nothing like a close win at home to remind you that, hey, you’re defending champions of the world! We’ve got this series with the Twins and then three with Baltimore before the All-Star break. Should be a great opportunity to establish and maintain some momentum, and last night was just what the doctor ordered just when we needed it.

Nick Blackburn (3.78 ERA) at Lester tonight, and Scott Kazmir (2.63 ERA) at Pettitte (4.22 ERA). By the way, you may have noticed that Jason Giambi is on the All-Star final vote. Jason Giambi is not All-Star material. His juice cost us a World Series appearance. Remember the two home runs in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? Not cool. Speaking of All-Stars, an article in the Lowell Sun claims that Jason Varitek is not All-Star material and that he only made the cut because the players voted him in in what amounts to a popularity contest. The article continued to say that Tek’s expert handling of the pitching staff is not grounds for All-Stardom. Now, I don’t care what your favorite team is or who your favorite player is. Everyone respects Varitek for his knowledge of and love for the game, his leadership on and off the field, and, yes, his expert handling of the pitching staff. Batting averages and catcher’s ERAs don’t tell the whole story. Take Jose Reyes, for example. He’s currently batting .299 with a .486 slugging percentage and 32 steals. Good numbers…for someone who’s widely regarded as arrogant and conceited (the fact that his at-bat song is “This is Why I’m Hot” by Mims is now in context…just sayin’). The players didn’t vote Tek in because he’s a nice guy. They voted him in because he’s worthy of that honor. Why do you think Red Sox Nation puts up with his pathetic offensive production? Because he’s worth it in other ways. You have to love the guy.

In other news, the Red Sox would like to convert Justin Masterson from starter to reliever to provide a reliable set-up man for the bullpen. It’s true that Javy Lopez and Aardsma can’t do it all, but it seems like such a shame to restrict him to throwing a couple of innings every couple of days. He has so much potential. He has the maturity, stamina, endurance, and stuff to become an ace. He’s currently 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts. His slider and his sinking fastball are fatal for right-handers, who bat .170 against him. Those are pretty impressive stats for a young kid who hasn’t finished his Minor League stint yet. Making him a reliever seems a little drastic. Clay Buchholz is getting ready to come back, and they need to find something for Masterson because he’s too good to be sidelined for long. But here’s a thought. A really good reliever should be able to throw quality pitches in, what, maybe four innings tops per outing. Why not let Masterson work in Triple A as a starter and bring him up every so often to start and give Clay the extra rest? That way, if we need him in relief down the stretch, he’ll do what Josh Beckett did with the Marlins in ’03: pitch relief with all the power of a starter. That would be uncannily effective, no? If it worked in the World Series against the Yankees, it’s at least worth considering in the regular season.

Dustin Pedroia, 7/7/2008

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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