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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Green’

Congratulations to Joe Mauer on winning the American League’s MVP award.  Youk and Bay didn’t fair too badly, taking sixth and seventh respectively, but they didn’t have the .365 average with the twenty-eight home runs and ninety-six RBIs to go with the starting catcher position.  Mauer took all but one first-place votes and was only the second catcher to win it in thirty-three years.  (It’s no secret that catchers usually can’t hit.  Which explains why Victor Martinez is next season’s top priority.) And those numbers also earned him the Ted Williams Award, given to baseball’s leading hitter.  And of course who but Albert Pujols won it for the National League.  Obviously.

Jonathan Papelbon was the club’s Fireman of the Year.  Daniel Bard was the club’s Rookie of the Year.  Nick Green won the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination, and let me tell you something: any shortstop who goes from non-roster invitee to four-month starter has no shortage of spirit and determination.

As far as the stove is concerned, it’s still not too hot.  We acquired Royals infielder Tug Hulett for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays for about three million dollars, with a club option for two and a half million.  Now that he’s unfortunately out of the picture, we’re showing interest in Marco Scutaro, who says it’s either us or the Dodgers.  We’re also shopping Mike Lowell.  Surprise, surprise.  Even if we do end up shipping him off, it won’t even be a fair deal, because the recipient club would be getting a top-notch, albeit health-wise unpredictable, third baseman for fifty percent off, because we’d have to swallow at least that much of his salary to make him palatable.  It’s really just sad.  He had a phenomenal season (and postseason) in 2007 and amble moments of brilliance in 2008, especially in the ALDS.  But he is getting older, and that was in California where the weather is warmer, so perhaps a team from a city with a warmer climate would be a better fit for him.

But a few big names have surfaced.  The Tigers are apparently interested in trading Miguel Cabrera (with Detroit’s financial situation, who wouldn’t be?), and we’ll probably get first dibs.  Also, it’s official: we are going for Roy Halladay and going big.  The problem is that, to close both of these deals, we’ll almost certainly have to part with Clay Buchholz.  We’d also have to part with Casey Kelly, at least, to land Halladay.  And after the performance Clay Buchholz gave in Game Three of the ALDS (walking into an elimination game as a young pitcher with no postseason experience after having seen the lineup put up zero run support), I don’t know how comfortable I would be with giving him up.  I think we owe it to him, the organization, and ourselves to see more of what he’s got before we decide that he is not, in fact, one of the greats in the making.  But the plot thickens: Halladay said he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to the Bronx.  I’m not saying we should engage in prevention via irresponsible acquisition, but I am saying that we need to weigh our actions very carefully.  Especially since Halladay is getting older.  That’s something that seems to be lost amidst the sensation of it all.  The man is not immortal.  He ages.  And while he ages, his abilities will decline.  And right now, he’s at a point in his career where we can expect his next four or five years to be considerably different from his last four or five.

Turns out that Ron Johnson is not our new bench coach.  DeMarlo Hale is.  Ron Johnson joined the Major League staff to coach at first in replacement of Hale.  I have to say I feel more comfortable with Hale as bench coach than I did when I thought Johnson would be doing it.  Not that I don’t think Johnson would be a good bench coach, but if we’re talking about the importance of knowing the players and the franchise inside-out, Hale, who’s been coaching first base for a while now, clearly has the edge there.

At the end of my recent posts, I’ve usually said something like, “All we can do now is wait and see.” I say that because it’s true.  But it’s also true that the suspense is killing me.  I keep getting this feeling that the offseason won’t come to a close until Theo Epstein does something big, but I can’t figure out what that’ll be.  A trade? A signing? Another starting pitcher? A new power hitter? It’s too hard and too early to tell.  But one thing’s for sure: something’s definitely brewing.  The front office has something up its sleeve.  The foundations have been laid for some sort of shake-up, even if we can’t quite figure out what it’ll be.

But before we conclude, I would like to report that Bud Selig will be retiring after the 2012 season.  It’s been one interesting ride.  He was named acting commissioner in 1992 and official commissioner in 1998, and since then we’ve seen a growth in the baseball market, an expansion of the postseason via the Wild Card, the introduction of revenue sharing, Interleague, a players’ strike, the first World Series cancellation since 1904 (ten years shy of a century), and the steroid era.  There was good, there was bad, and there was most definitely ugly.  What do we need in a successor? That’s an extremely open-ended question, but whoever it is will be charged with the difficult task of cleaning up baseball’s public image.  So much controversy occurred during Selig’s tenure that MLB will probably look to someone with a hard-line streak, someone who can keep the sport in line while still bringing revenue in.  We’ll see what happens.

The B’s beat the Blues, Wild, and Sens and lost to the Devils in sudden death.  The Pats beat the Jets.

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This week was basically all about options.  If we weren’t busy exercising somebody’s option, we were busy declining somebody else’s.  Hey, why not? They’re basically cheap locks; it’s a good way to keep a guy on board for minimal funds and minimal years.  That translates to flexibility, which is always a good thing.  Plus, it postpones contract negotiations, a solid strategy if you’ve got a lot on your plate during a particular offseason.

Case in point for that last one: Victor Martinez.  We exercised his option to bring him back as our starting catcher.  No surprise there.  And it’s no surprise that locking Victor Martinez for the long run is a top priority.  But that’s going to be a big project, so keeping him under contract until we can hammer out a new one is a good strategy.  The option effectively means that there’s no rush.  Expect Martinez to be back in a Boston uniform for the first of many years in 2011.  Although the arrival of Joe Mauer in the free agent market could potentially make that interesting.  It would probably play into our hands, being that Mauer will likely steal the show that year, leaving Martinez and us to take care of business.

Speaking of catchers, we declined our five-million-dollar option on Tek, but he picked up his three-million-dollar option, which includes another two million dollars’ worth of incentives, so our captain is coming back as a backup for three million dollars.  Not too bad, I’d say.  In terms of the role he plays on this team, there’s no better backup catcher out there for us, and being that he still has something left in the tank, it’s a pretty good deal.

Wakefield is coming back, folks.  Our deadline to pick up his option was Monday, and we agreed to a two-year deal with incentives that could boost the value of the contract up to ten million.  Within those two years, he’ll likely reach two hundred wins and 193 wins in a Red Sox uniform, a total that would break the current franchise record, held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.  Make no mistake: Wakefield would definitely be deserving.  How many other starting pitchers out there accept less money in favor of a tenure with a team that hadn’t won the World Series in almost a century, then voluntarily removed himself from the roster of the second World Series that team would go on to win because he felt he wouldn’t perform as well as another pitcher? Not many.  Believe that.

We declined our option on Alex Gonzalez, which was expected, but we’re still interested.  That’s also expected.  Jed Lowrie’s wrist sidelined him for essentially the entire season last year, and we need not just an everyday shortstop, but an everyday shortstop we can depend on.  That’s a luxury we haven’t had since Nomar wrote his one-way ticket out of town.  And with the improvement in offense he showed last year, Gonzalez would be a great fit.  Of course, what this gesture shows is that he’ll have to come at the right price.  Otherwise Theo won’t bite.

That’s basically all the news so far.  The GM meetings ended on Wednesday, so aside from these moves and Jeremy Hermida, we’ve been pretty quiet, but I don’t think that’ll last long.  Before the meetings ended, Theo met with John Lackey’s agent.  Smile, Red Sox Nation; Scott Boras is not John Lackey’s agent.  Free-agent negotiations with other teams start on Friday, so it’s likely he’ll be inundated with offers, but I could see us being a big player there.  We’re also supposedly interested in Dan Uggla; apparently there is potential in turning the second baseman into a left fielder.  Frankly, I don’t see that playing out.  Congratulations to Jason Bay, who won his first Silver Slugger! And that functions as even more of a reason for us to sign him.  I think we’ll focus our efforts there before we start turning infielders into outfielders.

In addition to options, the other big story at this point is arbitration.  We’ve got eight guys eligible: Casey Kotchman, now Jeremy Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Fernando Cabrera, Brian Anderson, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and, you guessed it, Jonathan Papelbon.  The arbitration process will probably be more or less smooth sailing for the utility guys and the no-doubts, the players who have clear bargaining power due to their consistently good performances.  I’d put Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima in the latter category.  As far as Manny Delcarmen is concerned, his second half was just bad, so he’ll probably take some sort of cut.  Jonathan Papelbon will be quite the case; I’ll be very interested to see how that goes.  He obviously packs a lot of bargaining power, but there’s also no ignoring the fact that his walk total was up and his postseason performance was…well, let’s not go there.  Let’s just say he’s less able to pull off the I-should-be-paid-Mariano’s-salary routine this time around.  Especially because Daniel Bard is coming on strong and Billy Wagner has stated that he might be open to an arbitration offer that would bring him back to Boston next year.  Let’s face it: he wants a ring, and in this day and age ballplayers who want rings come to Boston.

Nick Green and Joey Gathright have opted to file for free agency rather than accept minor league assignments.  Green had back surgery at Mass. General on Monday, by the way, so he’s facing an uphill battle as far as market value goes.  Dice-K is going to begin his conditioning program early this year.  Thankfully.  Finally.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we’re ready to see him ace this year.  Or at the very least spend more time on the roster than on the disabled list.  Theo and Tito are in the throes of their search for a bench coach, and they’ve narrowed it down to four: PawSox manager Ron Johnson, Lowell Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina, minor league field coordinator Rob Leary, and outfield and baserunning coordinator Tom Goodwin.  Promoting from within.  I like it.  Really, there’s no better way to ensure that a new member of the coaching staff knows the franchise and the players; many of the players currently on the team have played for these guys in their younger days.

We’re biding our time but staying in the loop.  I think there’s a potential for a serious blockbuster deal this offseason.  Whether it’s Lackey or Adrian Gonzalez or someone else, I don’t know.  I’ll leave that to the front office.  At this point, so much is kept under wraps that it’s hard to know exactly who we’re pursuing first or what our main focus will be.  But I will say that either of those guys would have a hugely positive impact on our team.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens, I guess.  It’s a long winter; the speculation keeps us going.  That’s just what the offseason is all about.

The Bruins played three games this week.  We shut out the Penguins, lost to the Panthers in a shootout, and lost to the Penguins in sudden death.  The Sabres lead us in the division by five points, but at least we’re ahead of the Habs.  The Pats beat the Dolphins.

 

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The 2009 season is officially over.  It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun.  Seriously.  It was a great season.  Plenty of highs, plenty of lows, plenty to celebrate, plenty to scratch your head and have no idea what’s going on.  But now we have the second season on our hands: the postseason.  And with the approach of the postseason come the all-important roster decisions that must be made to give us the greatest ability to advance to the World Series.  This is what Terry Francona may have in mind, with a little help from the Portland Press-Herald.

As far as the pitching staff is concerned, there’s no surprise there: Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, and Dice-K, in that order.  Lester is starting first because, had it been the other way around, one of them would’ve been on normal rest and the other would’ve been on ten days’ rest.  Plus Lester had the better second half, plus Lester is the go-to man for Game 4 should we find ourselves in a hole.  Or we could use Beckett on four days’ rest for Game 4 and Lester on five for Game 5 since there’s an off day between the two, but I’m not a fan of that option.  Tito hasn’t announced the starter for Game 4 yet, though.

No surprises in the relief corps, either: Papelbon, Bard, Wagner, Okajima, and Ramirez.  Saito and Delcarmen will fill out the bullpen.  Wakefield has officially been scratched, Michael Bowden is still pretty new, and Byrd, while he could be a long reliever, wouldn’t necessarily be as effective.  Yes, Saito and Delcarmen (especially Delcarmen) have had their struggles, but that’s why it’s called the second season.  You take a rest, you put it behind you, and you record punchout after punchout.  If I need options for innings in October, I want Saito’s experience and Delcarmen’s power.  But Delcarmen’s health may eliminate him; after the car accident this weekend, his back and neck are pretty sore.

The catchers are obviously V-Mart and Tek. For the first time in a very long time, we don’t need a third catcher.  The third catcher was supposed to pinch-hit for the offensively challenged Tek and backup, but with V-Mart’s bat, that need is gone.  (Not to mention the fact that the role of a backup changes dramatically now that Wakefield isn’t in the mix.  Instead of having to concentrate on catching knuckleballs, the October backup catcher this year will have to concentrate on getting all the hits that Tek doesn’t.)

The infielders are obviously Youk, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Lowell, and Kotchman.  Nick Green’s back and leg will probably keep him off the roster, so Jed Lowrie and Chris Woodward will probably come on as utilities.  Jed Lowrie can hit in the clutch (I refer you to his grand slam on Sunday), and Woodward can flash leather, even if he can’t buy a hit.

The outfielders are obviously Bay, Ellsbury, Drew, and Baldelli, and you really can’t get much better than that.  We have three options with which to fill out the outfield: Joey Gathright, Josh Reddick, and Brian Anderson.  Brian Anderson is out; his speed, glove, and bat don’t compare to the other two.  Gathright has remarkable speed, but Reddick has a remarkable bat.  So you’re basically choosing between a clutch steal and a clutch hit.  Dave Roberts’s heroism wills all of Red Sox Nation to go with Gathright, but let’s remember that Dave Roberts’s steal only counted in the long run because Bill Mueller singled him home.  And it’s not like Reddick has no speed at all.  On the other hand, it’s not like Gathright has no bat at all, and it’s been Gathright who’s been seeing playing time recently as part of the reserve.  So I think Gathright is the answer.  And we may need him more than ever because of Baldelli’s hip injury.

The designated hitter will be David Ortiz.  Obviously.

And now for the lineup.  It’ll be Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Ortiz, Bay, Drew, Lowell, and Gonzalez.  If it’s a righty.  If it’s a lefty, Baldelli will take Drew’s spot.  If Tek catches, that’s a whole different story, and Tito will have to do some serious finagling to accommodate that.  Look for Tek to be at the bottom of the order.

Speaking of the lineup, in response to “Second Shift,” Jeremy commented:

Boston may have the most well-rounded team heading into October however one thing I’ve noticed is that the offense struggles a lot versus good pitching. The line-up will pound a bad pitcher or a pitcher with an off night and the offense will explode. However, for most of the season there has been very little output against great pitching. And that has to be concerning. Because that’s what your likely going to face come playoff time.

Jeremy makes an excellent point.  Remember when we played the Tigers in June? We swept.  We didn’t face Justin Verlander.  Remember when we played the Royals in July? We took three out of four and didn’t face Zack Greinke.  We just played the Royals again and split a four-game set, and one of the games we lost was pitched by, you guessed it, Zack Greinke.  We’ve been very lucky this season with pitching schedules, but this luck is about to run out.  The teams you face in October are guaranteed to be the best of the best, and part of what makes them so good is their pitching.  There’ll be no escaping a Justin Verlander or a Zack Greinke in the postseason.  So I completely agree with Jeremy, but I don’t think it’ll affect the outcome of our October.  The ALDS is a big reason why.  Playing the Angels in the ALDS is kind of like a warm-up for the rest of the month, but it’s a warm-up that counts, so you get all the pressure of the October stage, including great pitching, with all the confidence of having a pretty good feeling that you’ll advance.  Now, you’ll notice that in both 2004 and 2007, the ALDS wasn’t enough to remind us who we are offensively, which is probably why it took moving ourselves to the brink of elimination and facing postseason death in the ALCS to remind us that, yes, we actually are capable of handling these arms.  Between the ALDS and half of the ALCS, we play a lot of games against quality pitchers, so by the time we’re almost out of the playoffs completely, we come roaring back and get ourselves to the World Series, where we obviously have no problem with the National League.  And let me tell you, it helps in the long run, because nobody wants to be the team that finishes the ALCS early and just sits around waiting for the Fall Classic.  I refer you to the Rockies in 2007.

We are exactly where we need to be to make this October count.  The Yankees played the month of September like they had something to prove.  And they did.  You don’t spend a quarter of a billion dollars on three players in the offseason and not win the division.  But at what cost, both literally and figuratively? It is entirely possible that the AL East is the kiss of death for New York; they’ve exhausted all of their resources.  I refer you to 2004, when they ramped it up big time in September specifically to win the division, which they did by a hair.  Then they lost steam in the ALCS, and look what happened.

Finally, I know some people have taken issue with Terry Francona’s approach to the final games of the season.  Let me put that issue to rest.  There are two possibilities to consider here.  The first is Angels Syndrome and the other is Yankees Syndrome.  In the first, you rest on your laurels for such a long time that you’re not prepared for the intensity and competition of the playoffs.  In the second, you use all your resources to accomplish a regular-season goal and run out of steam halfway through the playoffs.  Fortunately, we are not a victim of either, because we’ve only been resting on our laurels for about a week, and the rest was absolutely necessary given the health concerns of several of our starters.  And since the division was out of the question, we had no reason to burn out.  So I’m pretty happy, although my fandom revolts at this notion of being happy with the Wild Card.  But I’d rather get in with the Wild Card than not get in at all.  And I’d much rather get in with the Wild Card than resort to a one-game playoff.  Did you know that winners of one-game playoffs haven’t won the World Series since 1978? (Of course, we all know who played that playoff against who, and who went on to win the World Series that year.  Let’s just say it involved pinstripes.  I’d rather not talk about it.)

Regarding how the teams stack up, we’re pretty even, and most of the gaping holes are in our favor.  We’re much better at home than they are on the road, hit many more home runs, have a higher team slugging percentage and ERA, and our bullpen ERA is much higher.  We also had a better September, which is key.  We’ll need David Ortiz to handle Brian Fuentes, and we’ll need Bard to be in top form as a set-up man.  The Angels’ problem will be scoring runs, so if our starting rotation keeps us in it, we should be able to come away with a win.

So that’s it.  All we have to do now is wait.  Let’s start this party.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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Dice-K turned in a nice tune-up last night.  Six innings, two runs on five hits, three walks, seven strikeouts, and that’s not bad for a fourth postseason starter.  I was disappointed that he threw 104 pitches in only six innings; usually a total like that should be getting you well into the seventh.  But he’s made great progress and, with a solid relief corps, we’ll be okay.  Wagner, Ramirez, Bard, and Saito combined for three shutout innings.  It took Ramirez two hits and twenty-four pitches to turn in an inning of work, so my guess is Tito probably won’t be going to him first and foremost in October.

6-2 was the final score.  RBIs for Pedroia, Bay, and V-Mart; Youk had two.  Ellsbury doubled, stole, and got caught.  He has sixty-nine steals on the season and will probably end up with at least seventy before it’s over.  He’s only been caught twelve times.  Sixty-nine SBs and twelve CSs.  You can’t get much better than that.  V-Mart went two for four.  Youk doubled and made a fielding error.  No, seriously.  Bay went two for four with a double.  Tek doubled.  No, seriously.  Baldelli made a nice sliding catch in the second to put away Travis Hafner.

I have some bad news, though.  Gonzalez was plunked on the right wrist with a fastball in the eighth and had to leave.  He’ll go for x-rays today.  Baldelli strained his left hip flexor while running out a grounder in the fourth and had to leave.  Make no mistake: we can not afford to lose Gonzalez.  Not now.  Somehow, he’s gotten his hitting together in 2006, and we need him in there.  Especially when you consider the alternatives; Jed Lowrie and Nick Green both have health issues already.  As for Baldelli, we need him to be available during starts by lefties.  So this is not good.

John Farrell has stated publicly that is completely focused on and committed to the Red Sox.  He won’t be becoming the Tribe’s manager when he has a World Series win on the line.

Two more games and then we’re done.  Aaron Laffey and Josh Beckett will match up tonight.  This is an important start because this is Beckett’s first start since receiving cortisone in his back.  So much like Lester, we’ll need to make sure he’s good to go.

In other news, the Bruins take on the Hurricanes tonight at home.  Let’s get it right this time.

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That’s better.  Much better.  See, this is how games with Kansas City are supposed to result.  What should have been a sweep will now be a series split if we’re lucky, but at least they can’t sweep us.  That would have been terrible.  Beckett pitched last night.  Luke Hochevar had no chance.

V-Mart caught Beckett for the second time, and I have to say it went pretty well.  Not the best, but it went well.  Beckett pitched six, gave up two runs on twelve hits, walked one, and struck out seven.  The twelve hits is what concerns me, and I think a number like that does reflect, at least a little bit, the catcher’s role in the game.  Somebody is calling those pitches.  The pitcher can shake him off, but not for every call, and I still don’t know if I’m one hundred percent sure that V-Mart’s bat is worth it.  Knowing Beckett, when he gets into playoff mode, there’s very little chance that we’ll actually need those few extra runs.

On the other hand, Beckett did only relinquish two runs, so who knows? Between now and the start of the playoffs, maybe they’ll really work it out.  Here’s the breakdown of the twelve hits.  Two were infield.  Six were grounders through holes.  One was a pop-up that dropped.  One was lined softly.  And two were really hard-hit: Yuniesky Betancourt’s triple and Billy Butler’s single in the fourth.  So we’re mostly talking about soft contacts that got lucky, and those decrease with time and experience.

With yesterday’s game, Beckett further passed the two-hundred-inning mark for the third time in four seasons.  This season alone, he’s pitched just over 207 innings, surpassing his personal best of 204 in 2006, his first year here.

Okajima, Wagner, and Papelbon were solid.  Between the three of them, three shutout innings with two walks and three strikesouts.  This was Paps’s first outing since September 18, and it looks like the extra rest was just what the doctor ordered.

And now, the 9 in the final score of 9-2.  It was absolutely fantastic; a complete and total onslaught of all that is the Kansas City Royals.  The best part? This wasn’t us one-upping them, or two-upping them, or three-upping them.  No.  This was dominance.  We seven-upped the Royals, sent a message, and exacted revenge for the first two losses, especially for that five-run first with our six-run fifth.  Maybe I’m getting a little carried away, but it was still really fun to watch.

Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Pedroia went two for three with two runs and an RBI, and he is having himself quite the September.  Since September 7, he’s batted .357 with four doubles, three home runs, ten runs, and seven RBIs to go with a .419 on-base percentage.  During that stretch, he’s also had a fourteen-game hitting streak and six multi-hit games.  He usually does well in September, batting .290 in the month in his career, so it looks like he’s right on schedule.  By the way, he’s fourth in the Majors and second in the American League in runs scored.  Bay batted in two and walked twice.  Big Papi went two for four with four (count ’em: four!) RBIs! Three of which came on an extremely Papi-esque swing for the fences that ended up putting the ball somewhere beyond the left center field fence.  Drew went two for three with two walks.  And Gonzalez went two for five with a double.

Wakefield will start Tuesday after extended rest.  Nick Green won’t come with us to the Bronx but will rather stay in Boston with a back issue.  Hunter Jones was called up.

One more in Kansas City, and then it’s off to the Bronx.  I’m really psyched for this weekend.  I think we can make some major progress here, and not just in terms of the division.  In terms of the playoffs.  If we play a strong series against the Yanks this weekend, we’ll be more confident in October and have more momentum.  Either way, should a Sox-Yanks ALCS matchup result, we’ll be ready.  But we have to get through tonight first.  It’ll be Buchholz at Anthony Lerew, so it should go well.

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How does that even happen.  I saw it with my own eyes and I’m still not quite sure how the whole thing unfolded.  Either that or I was so disgusted that I didn’t want to dwell on it for too long.  Either way, apparently it did happen, so now we have to deal with it.  You win some, you lose some.  And some you just tank awfully, washed away in the rain, as it were.

The final score was 12-9.  Not in our favor.  We blew two six-run leads.  And because the score was 12-9 and not 12-1 or 12-3 or 12-5, this one has nothing to do with the offense.  This one falls squarely on the shoulders of the staff.

Starting with Wakefield, who was horrible.  Five innings, five runs (four earned; thank you, V-Mart) on five hits, seven walks.  Seven walks! The Royals didn’t need to bat at all; all they had to do was stand there while Wakefield actually gave them an invitation to first base! Only two strikeouts, and let’s not forget Mike Jacobs’s three-run shot in the fifth.  This was one of Wakefield’s worst performances of the entire season, if not the worst.  Technically, we have to cut him slack because he just came off the DL, and technically it’s not like we haven’t seen Wakefield pitch outings like this.  On the contrary, we’ve seen plenty of these.  But even if we do take those two facts into consideration, it still doesn’t mask the fact that he was awful.  He deserved the loss.  Not more than Bard deserved it, but he still deserved it.

And speaking of the bullpen, it was worst.  Much, much worse.  Where do I even start.  I guess I’ll just go in order because it was all just really bad.  Delcarmen continued his struggles by allowing four runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout.  We have starters in our rotation who don’t allow that much in an entire game.  Then Bard with the epically blown save, when he allowed two runs on two hits with a walk before getting out of the sixth.  Not one strikeout.  Only one retired batter.  I’m still fuming about it.  Wagner decided he didn’t want to feel left out and allowed a run on a hit with two walks while striking out three.  See, I think he missed the memo on this, but you’re supposed to record the three strikeouts before you allow all the other stuff.  That way, the other stuff doesn’t actually happen and you walk away with a win.  Ironically, Bowden, with the 9.00 ERA and the absolutely abysmal outing against the Yankees, was the only bright spot.  No runs, no hits, no walks, and no K’s either but twelve pitches thrown, eight of them strikes, to close out the ninth.  Of course by that time it was too late.  The loss was already in the books.

We had only one extra-base hit (a pretty epic one at that) all night; it’s amazing we scored nine runs playing small ball, because as the name would suggest, it’s the opposite of a slugfest.  Usually you don’t score many runs.  So that was something we can be happy about.  Ellsbury batted in two.  Pedroia went two for three and batted in one, and he’s starting to pick it up at the plate.  In addition to his throwing error and passed ball, V-Mart went two for four and batted in two.  Youk, Ortiz, and Gonzalez hit.  Baldelli went two for four.  And Jason Bay, last night’s offensive man of the hour, went two for five with three RBIs, plated with one swing of the bat.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jason Bay struck again with our sole extra-base hit of the night, a towering three-run shot that practically screamed, “Sign me, Theo Epstein, sign me!”

I do have to say that the outcome was appropriate to the weather.  The downpour was so bad that Trey Hillman, Kansas City’s manager, couldn’t believe they actually played the game.  And how indeed the game wasn’t called short is amazing to me.  This has nothing to do with the fact that, had they called it, we would’ve won.  This has to do with the fact that it’s customary to call a game in torrential rain when one of the teams is significantly ahead, and I’d say we were significantly ahead.  Twice.  Which brings us back to the painful part.

This would be so much less concerning if it didn’t take place so close to October.  Wakefield reverting back to his inconsistent self is not exactly a plus heading into the playoffs.  Neither is this latest effort from the bullpen.  Like I said, we can take heart in the fact that we scored nine runs while playing small ball, but that won’t do much good if you score nine runs in a playoff game but the opposition scores more.

With Nick Green’s health a serious concern, Chris Woodward is back on the roster, courtesy of Junichi Tazawa, who was placed on the sixty-day DL with a mild left groin strain at about the same time he reached his innings limit for the season.  That’s one of the things I like and really respect about this organization.  We don’t rush our young stars through development.

Good thing the Yankees are slumping right now.  We’re still five games back.  But we need as many wins as possible if we’re seriously going to overtake them in the division standings, which is still doable.  I’m telling you, this smacks of 2004, when we surged so powerfully late in the season that we barely missed the division but had all the momentum necessary to run away with a World Series.  Kansas City’s six-run sixth inning may not make it seem like it, but I think we’re definitely a force in October, regardless of last night’s complete and total implosion.  Tonight’s matchup is Paul Byrd at Zack Greinke.  We have work to do.

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Wow.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Last night’s game was jam-packed with just about everything you’d want to see in a ballgame and everything you wouldn’t.  It was a wild ride.  All wild rides come to an end eventually, though, and at the end of this one was the win we’d been looking for.  That’s our seventh straight and our tenth straight at home! We are eight and two in our last ten, and we’re a good six and a half games ahead of the Rangers in the Wild Card standings (and that same amount behind the Yankees in the division standings).

Byrd was good.  He was two outs shy of a quality start.  He gave up three runs on nine hits with a walk and a four strikeouts.  Torii Hunter led off the fifth with a solo home run, and after recording the first out of that frame, he made way for Saito.  Saito proceeded to allow an unearned run.  He made his exit after recording an out in the seventh.  Ramirez came on and blew a potential save by allowing three runs on three hits.  Seriously.  If we reduce Byrd’s run-to-hit ratio, he allowed only one on three hits in more than five innings.  So Ramirez allowed three times as many runs and couldn’t even get through a full frame.  I’m just saying.  Okajima pitched the final out of the seventh and to two batters in eighth.  Delcarmen came on and was solid.  Finally.  And he would be the only solid reliever of the night, because Bard, who got the win, gave up a run on three hits before ending it.  It was not pretty.  Like I said, ugly wins count just as much as pretty ones, but this was definitely one ugly win.

And just to illustrate how ugly, the final score was 9-8.  A score like that is great for managers and coaches, because you get the win but you still have plenty to talk about with the team.  But a score like that isn’t great for the team itself or the fans.  Yes, we’ll absolutely take the win, but you can’t expect to go deep in October by playing in a way that relinquishes all sorts of runs to the competition, thereby forcing you to just barely squeak out the W.  Games like this are good in moderation because they get a team comfortable with doing that if need be, but games like this are bad if they recur frequently.  Good thing that isn’t the case for us.

To score our runs, we did a little bit of everything except hit it out.  Last night was all about small ball, and if I do say so myself I think we did well with it, given the bullpen’s largely ineffectual shift.  We scored five in the sixth and two in both the eighth and ninth.  But the two we scored in the ninth were the ones that one it, because without those we’d be looking at a loss or, if we were lucky, extra innings, which would’ve resulted in a loss anyway because Tito already used most of the relievers.

Green pinch-hit for Kotchman, even though his left leg, which has been cramping over the past few days, felt very weak, so he wasn’t looking for a dramatic home run.  All he wanted to do was keep the game alive.  Mission accomplished.  Two swings and misses, a checked swing, three fouls, two balls, and a very close call in our favor later, Green was on his way to first.  With the bases loaded.  With two outs.  Next thing you know, Alex Gonzalez singles in the winning run.  Game over.  Red Sox win.

And by the way, that was probably the most memorable walk Green has ever drawn in his entire career.  And you could see that he was hurt.  His swings were way off the mark, he had to walk it off between every pitch; it was a real battle, which makes it even better.  Needless to say, Mike Scioscia was not happy.  Hey, if I were him, I wouldn’t be very happy either.

Other RBIs for Baldelli, Kotchman, and Ellsbury.  Two for Bay, and two more for Gonzalez.  Ellsbury went two for four, and Bay went two for five with a steal.  Kotchman and Pedroia both doubled.  Baldelli made a throwing error and Varitek had a passed ball.

Youk and V-Mart were out of the lineup again.  Paps wasn’t available last night because he slipped in the bullpen while warming up the night before and hurt his back.  This is exactly like that flu epidemic that was going around the clubhouse, but I had no idea back injuries were this contagious.  Luckily, it’s not serious.  Speaking of back injuries, Wakefield will throw a side session on Friday and could return to the rotation on Monday.

So that was one interesting battle of a ballgame.  Green battled, the team battled, Scioscia was obviously battling some anger.  It was a battle.  And it was a very ugly battle to boot.  But like I said, a win is a win, which probably didn’t help Scioscia at all.  The point is, Byrd confirmed that he’s still a viable option, the offense confirmed it can meet any challenge, and the bullpen confirmed that Josh Beckett’s going to have to go deep tonight because it really needs a rest.

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