Posts Tagged ‘Nick Markakis’

Lester is officially our Opening Day starter.  In a very sportsmanlike gesture, Beckett told Bobby V. in January that Lester was the man for the job even though Beckett’s season last year was better.  It’s all good, though, because Beckett will be starting our home opener.  Speaking of pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller are out of the running for the rotation, and we’ve only got a short time left until decisions are made and the season gets underway!

We’ve got two rotation spots to fill, and Bard, Aceves, Doubront, and Cook will be fighting for them.  Here are some Spring Training numbers to date.  Bard is one and two with a 7.11 ERA.  He has pitched twelve and two-thirds innings; he has given up ten runs on eleven hits while walking ten and striking out six.  Aceves’s only decision has been a loss, and he has posted a 7.50 ERA.  In four appearances, he has walked one and struck out eleven.  Doubront’s only decision has been a win, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA.  He has pitched sixteen and two-thirds innings; he has walked six and struck out ten, and his average-against is .290.  Finally, Cook has posted a 1.93 ERA.  He pitched nine and one-third innings; he has given up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 8-4.  Buchholz allowed one run on four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in five innings of work during which he threw plenty of curveballs and felt fine doing it.  That run came on a solo shot, Evan Longoria’s first of Spring Training.  Ross hit a home run.

The Twins beat us on Monday, 8-4.  Doubront made the start and pitched four and two-thirds innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.  Forty-nine of his seventy-four pitches were strikes.  Ellsbury had two hits.

The Jays beat us on Tuesday, 9-2.  Bard pitched five innings, four of which were decent.  In total, he gave up three runs on three hits, walked three, and struck out two.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  All three of those runs occurred in the second inning.  Shoppach hit a two-run home run in the second.  Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation sends their condolences to the family of Mel Parnell, who passed away.  He is the winningest southpaw in club history.  He spent his entire career here and pitched a no-hitter against the Other Sox in 1956, his last season.  According to Johnny Pesky, it was Parnell who coined the name “Pesky’s Pole” for Fenway’s right-field foul pole.  Mel Parnell was indeed a character who will be missed, and as I send, we send our condolences to his family and friends.

We lost to the Pirates on Wednesday, 6-5.  Lester pitched three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and didn’t exactly inspire much confidence in his presumed ability to hit the ground running next month.  Salty hit a two-run home run and a double, and Gonzalez hit an RBI double.

We tied the Yankees at four on Thursday.  In four innings, Cook gave up two runs on four hits while walking none, striking out two, and picking off two.  Pedro Ciriaco and Lars Anderson both doubled, and Sweeney scored the tying run.  Interestingly enough, or perhaps the better phrase for it would be “conveniently enough,” Joe Girardi announced that the Yanks had a bus to catch just as Clay Mortensen was getting ready to pitch the tenth.  Girardi claimed that his team wouldn’t be pitching extra innings because they didn’t have enough arms, which the travel list indicated was false.  Mortensen warmed up for no reason in that case, and Bobby V. was not amused.  Honestly, in that situation, who would be? Adding to that drama, Tito returned, this time to broadcast the game for ESPN.  He’ll be in the both for Opening Day and for the April 22 Yankee game.  But you could totally tell that this meeting brought up a lot of raw memories.  Meanwhile, Beckett started a minor league game opposite the Orioles.  He faced twenty-two batters in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out six.  He threw eighty pitches, all called by Salty.

Friday began with a most unpleasant surprise: Jenks was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and fleeing a crash.  I must say, I am extremely disappointed; if he doesn’t want to act like a stand-up citizen because that’s the kind of conduct that we as Red Sox Nation expect from our team in Boston, then he should act like a stand-up citizen because he should recognize his position as a role model and public figure.  He apologized for it today, but still.  Friday ended with a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in which Buchholz pitched five innings, during which he gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  A strange sight: Nick Markakis hit what everyone thought was a flyout but what turned out to be a home run, thanks to the wind.  He even threw his bat down and everything.  McDonald went three for three.

We played two split-squad games on Saturday.  First, we beat the Marlins, 4-1.  Doubront threw seventy-eight pitches over six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two.  Lavarnway went two for three with an RBI.  Ross, Sweeney, and Ciriaco also batted in a run each.  Then, the Phillies beat us, 10-5.  Aceves did not have a good outing at all; he only lasted three innings and gave up nine runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out three.  Bowden pitched two innings and gave up a run on three hits.  Padilla pitched a scoreless inning.  Bailey pitched a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one.  Ellsbury tripled in two runs.  Aviles had two hits.

In other news, the B’s decimated the Leafs, eight-zip.  Then we lost to the Sharks, 2-1, and beat the Kings, 4-2.

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Well, that really wasn’t good, was it.  As far as offense is concerned, the team appears to be back to its old self.  To say, based on last night’s performance, that Beckett is also back to his old self is not true.  But the frustration is clearly understandable.  I mean, come on.  We’re playing the Orioles.  I understand that April is their one month of glory and all, but let’s be realistic.  There is no way we should ever have lost a series to the Orioles, especially not after the tear we’d started to be on.  The best we can do now is not get swept.  And we better not get swept.

Beckett only lasted six innings, during which he gave up four runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs that accounted for three of those four runs.  He didn’t walk anyone but struck out only four.  So basically what this comes down to is isolated mistakes.  I’ve said this before.  Power pitchers have this problem where they cruise with the occasional jam.  The problem is getting out of that jam.  If a power pitcher tries to get out of a jam but makes a mistake, chances are it’ll be a home run because mistakes in those situation usually consist of pitches with no movement and no location.  Well, there is a location: right out over the middle of the plate where even the worst hitter could get the sweet spot on it.

He threw ninety-two pitches, fifty-nine for strikes.  Early on, he was as masterful as ever.  He retired ten of his first eleven batters.  Then in the fourth, there was a bloop double.  Not a bloop single.  A bloop double.  Which was obviously incredibly frustrating to watch.  Pedroia and Ellsbury both converged on it.  It dropped literally right in front of Ellsbury, who specifically did not catch it because he thought Pedroia was on it.  Communication, people.   Communication.  Anyway, then Vladimir Guerrero popped out.  And then there was home run number one, a ridiculously powerful swing on the second pitch of the at-bat, a cutter that didn’t cut.  The very next at-bat resulted in home run number two on a four-seam that didn’t do much of anything.  A fourth run scored in the fifth; a wild pitch from Beckett put two runners in scoring position, one of whom came home on a sac fly.

He threw between thirteen and nineteen pitches in each of his innings.  He wasn’t as efficient as he could have been.  He varied his speed and kept his release point solid and tried to attack the zone, and a few of his pitches were thrown for strikes frequently, most notably both fastballs as well as his changeup, but his cutter and curveball weren’t great, and he was missing that definitive put-away-ness.

Did the lineup provide any support for Beckett? Not in the least.  We didn’t score any runs until the eighth.  By that time, Beckett had come out and Wake had pitched an inning.  But it looked like we were on the verge of a comeback.  And it turned out that we were.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a single.  Pedroia walked.  And then there was a pitching change.  And Gonzalez promptly singled in Ellsbury.  And then there was another pitching change.  And Youk promptly smashed a three-run homer.  It was the fourth pitch of the at-bat in a 2-1 count, and it tied the game.  And I thought for sure this one would be in the bag.  We would work it out in extra innings if necessary, but there was no way we would let this one slip away.  Not after a four-spot in the eighth.  Not after a three-run blast.

And then Bard came in.  Two consecutive singles and one passed ball later, Nick Markakis was coming home.  He had thrown Papi out at the plate in the fourth when he tried to score on a single by Lowrie, so we kindly returned the favor.  Tek was lucky to record that out. Otherwise, he would be looking at another passed ball.  Did it matter in the end? Absolutely not.  The infield came in, and Guerrero singled in a run.  And that was the end of that.  Scutaro flied out, Ellsbury popped out, and Pedroia grounded out.  Three different varieties of quick outs, just to keep things interesting.  And we lost, 5-4.

Ellsbury went three for five, and Gonzalez and Papi both went two for four.  And we went three for six with runners in scoring position.  That’s another .500 average.  But we couldn’t score the two runs that, in the end, we needed the most.  And yet again, that’s what matters.

In other news, the Bruins won! We won Game Seven at home! 4-3 in overtime with Nathan Horton’s goal seventeen seconds in! Onward to the Flyers! We are en route.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are most definitely en route.

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We almost completed the sweep.  Almost! The entire game was a manifestation of suspense.  The two teams went back and forth, trading runs and keeping pace until finally we had to resort to extra innings and the concluding badness.

We stranded eleven baserunners; the Orioles stranded thirteen.  But we notched eight hits while they notched nine, resulting in three runs for us and four runs for them.  The difference-maker occurred in the bottom of the eleventh.  Markakis hit a walkoff single.  It was terrible.  We are now one and seven in extra-inning games.  In theory, you want to win in regulation and not have to go there, but all I’m saying is that if you have to go there, I’d like to win there too.

Here’s how we got there.  We scored two in the top of the second when V-Mart hit a home run on a high fastball 378 feet into the seats in left center field.  So when I say hit, I mean really hit.  You could tell immediately that it was going out.  Between V-Mart and Tek, our catchers have fifteen long balls, the most in the American League.

The Orioles took back those two runs in the bottom of the inning with small ball.

We showed some promise in the sixth.  With Pedroia on first and nobody out, Papi appeared to sneak a line drive down the first base line.  But it was on its way to foul territory and bounced off Wigginton’s glove, which was in fair territory, so it was ruled foul.  Then Papi struck out.  But we had our revenge; Matusz loaded the bases with two consecutive walks before leaving the game.  Too bad we couldn’t make him pay.

They gained another in the eighth, and you can thank Delcarmen for that.  He lost control because he had a tight lower back.  Although you can thank Jones for an out; he attempted a sac bunt, but it was hit too hard and right back to Delcarmen, who barehanded it on two hops and fired to second.  Ramirez came in and ended the inning with two flyouts, the second of which culminated in a fantastic long-distance running basket catch by Cameron.  We answered in the ninth and forced extras; Cameron singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on McDonald’s sac bunt and third on Scutaro’s single.  Cameron scored on Pedroia’s sac fly, hit to the deepest, most distant part of the entire park.  If that ball had been hit any farther, it would’ve been out.  Meanwhile, Scutaro stood at second for Papi, who launched one that ended up being a fly to right that ended the inning.

Scutaro and, especially rare, Pedroia of all people each made an error.  Pedroia also stole second base for his fourth theft this year.  V-Mart provided the only multi-hit game, going two for three with a walk.  Cameron returned to the lineup to start in center field but won’t be playing every day.  Beltre was back in the lineup.  Hermida was not back in the lineup but was available if necessary.

Papelbon pitched an inning of relief, firing twenty-one pitches, twelve of which were strikes.  Then Okajima came on and pitched an inning and, when he came back out for his next one, the final damage occurred.  A walk, a sac bunt, and the walkoff single.  And that was that.  What’s sad is that the walkoff single was hit by a batter who, until that point, had been 0 for 14.  It wasn’t a terribly bad pitch; Markakis just softly tapped it in there.  It was terrible.  He picked up the loss, and most deservedly so.  Of all the batters, of all the teams, and of all the times.  Really? We were so close to sweeping! And it’s Baltimore; it’s not like sweeping should be that difficult!

By the way, apparently the Orioles know how to win in extras; they’ve won five of their seven extra-inning games.  Who knew? Their problem, obviously, is that they’re so bad that they usually don’t see extras.  They just lose in regulation.

Last but not least, John Lackey’s performance.  We as a workhorse all right, as promised.  He fired 124 pitches in seven innings.  That’s a lot of pitches, so, yeah, we can talk about inefficiency.  Only seventy of them were strikes.  His curveball was his best pitch for strikes, followed by his cutter and then his four-seam, not coincidentally the pitches he threw most often.  His slider was decent.  His two-seam and changeup were just bad.  He needed a minimum of nine pitches to clear the fourth and a maximum of twenty-nine pitches to clear the second.  That’s a lot, especially for an early inning.  Strike zone was very concentrated on the left, with a fair share of balls thrown outside it on that side.  It is therefore not surprising that he only struck out two batters.  His speed variation was good but could’ve been better.  His movement was good.  He gave up two runs and three walks.

If he can handle the high pitch count, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  I’m concerned that, as the season progresses, he’ll get tired, and then there is the other obvious concern that, if he doesn’t go deep into ballgames, the bullpen will have to step in earlier than usual, which will make them tired.  To make matters worse, Dice-K is starting tonight, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what to expect from him.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  We can at least take heart that we’re playing the Indians, who may not be as bad as Baltimore, but they’re still pretty bad.

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So, what, we’re bipolar now? One series we sweep, and the next series we’re swept? I don’t get it.  Especially because the team that just swept us is Baltimore.  No, I’m serious.  We were just swept by the Baltimore Orioles for the first time since September 2, 3, and 4, 1974.  This is the first time since 1943 that six of our first twenty-five contests have gone into extras.  It doesn’t get much lower than that, folks.

And now, the usual commiseration.

Beckett was finally outstanding.  Finally.  Seven innings of two-run ball; he allowed six hits but no walks and six strikeouts.  Ladies and gentlemen, Josh Beckett has finally arrived! Thankfully, he didn’t take the loss.  We’ll get to that later, and with the proper amount of fury, I assure you.

Beckett was awesome.  He threw 105 pitches and basically did everything right.  He topped out at about ninety-five miles per hour.  He threw all of his pitches effectively, especially his two-seam, only two of which weren’t called strikes.  His most effective inning was the third, when seventy-five percent of his pitches were strikes.  Most of the balls he did throw were around the upper left corner of the zone; he stayed away from the lower left and upper right corners, so most of his strikes distributed themselves diagonally through the zone there.  His fastest pitches didn’t have a lot of horizontal movement on them, but vertically they were dancing all over the place.  That’s a really long way of saying that he was on.  Period.  He was efficient.  He had command.  He mixed his pitches effectively and kept the batters guessing.  He didn’t allow any hits in the clutch; the O’s left nine on base.  He did everything that his former self in April didn’t do and more.

Bard came in in relief; his inning was not clean.  He allowed two hits and a walk before making way for Paps.  But I’ll give him this: Scott struck out on a ninety-nine mile-per-hour fastball, and it was all Reimold could do to look at his changeup go by.  The kid’s good.  He struggles, but he’s good.

Paps ruined the whole thing.  Markakis walked on a full count and moved to second on Paps’s errant pickoff attempt.  What did Paps have to say?

I just didn’t get hips around and rushed it a little bit.

Then, Wigginton hit one of his signature sliders for a walkoff double.  There’s a man who’s had a good series.  So two hits, one walk, and one run later, he walked off the mound having earned himself and the team a loss, and I don’t think I have to tell you which game against which team during which October came to mind after that.  All I’m saying is that a leaky closer isn’t something that we can afford.  Besides, when did this start at all? Paps used to be lights-out.  Last night, he let Wigginton walk up to the plate and change the bulb, so to speak.  It’s maddening, all the more so because he appears to be healthy, so there’s nothing actually wrong with him.  Which is good, but you know what I mean.  The final score was 2-3 in ten innings.  Our record is now eleven and fourteen, and we are seven games out.

Tek continues to be hot at the plate and went yard in the fifth to right field.  He loves to hit Millwood.  A high fastball, and there was no doubt about that one; he pounded it.  Four hundred and two feet later, the deficit was cut in half.  Drew continues to be hot at the plate and went yard in the seventh to center field, his third jack of the weekend.  That was it.  Drew and Pedroia both finished two for four, and Scutaro walked twice.  McDonald stole; Scutaro got caught.  Youk sat out with a sore left groin but may be put back in tonight.

We left only five on base, so not only did we not make good on our opportunities, but we didn’t even have that many opportunities to make good on.  We had one in the top of the eighth, though.  With two on and two out, Pedroia singled to left, and Bogar told Tek to go home, but he was throwing out quite a few feet from the play.  Tito later backed Bogar; I don’t know about that.  Seems like it would’ve been more correct to be conservative and hold him at third, especially since he’s not exceptionally fast.  We had one in the top of the tenth.  A good one.  But with runners on first and third, Scutaro grounded to Lugo for a double play.  Yes, The Julio Lugo.

Of course, one could argue that Millwood just had an exceptional night, but it just didn’t feel like that was the only reason why we only mustered two runs.  Part of it was Millwood, but part of it was also our fault.  We need to play better.  And not constantly go to extra innings.  And not waste stellar outings by starters.

It’s like we’re just finding ways to lose now.  We’re battling and all, but we’re not winning.  Like Pedroia said, we could’ve swept Baltimore too and had a great road trip.  But we didn’t.  What we need to do is start winning.  Leaks must be stopped in the bullpen.  Starters need to pull their own weight.  And the offense needs to start putting balls in play with runners on base.  In short, we need to start playing like the good baseball team we know we are but somehow just forgot.  And we need to remember quickly.  I didn’t exactly envision us going into our series with the Angels with absolutely no momentum whatsoever.  I mean, this is an important series after last October.  We need to show the Angels now who’s boss.  And let’s not forget who’s coming to town after that.  These are opponents we need to study and games we need to win.  With a schedule like that, there’s no room for mistakes and no room for fooling around.  Buchholz has it; hopefully he can continue his strong showing.

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Last night’s game wasn’t disappointing only because we lost.  Of course, a loss will be disappointing.  But this particular loss carried added weight in light of the skid that was our month of April because everything that we’d been doing wrong during our losing streak, we did last night.  It was a total regression.

John Lackey’s outing was one of only a few bright spots.  He pitched seven innings, gave up two earned runs on six hits, walked three, and struck out six on 120 pitches.  I’m still waiting for that pitch count to go down.  I think that’s the highest pitch count we’ve had so far this season.  He topped out at only ninety-two miles per hour.  Both of his fastballs as well as his changeup weren’t very effective.  Luckily, the majority of his pitches were sliders, cutters, and curves, which were excellent.  He threw a lot of pitches down and in, but his command was decent.  Overall, with the exception of the fact that the Orioles started the game with three straight hits which gave them a two-run lead after the first, I’d say that that was a glimpse of what we’d been looking for from him all along.  All he has to do is get that pitch count down, and he’ll be all set.

I can not in good faith say that about the rest of the team.  The rest of the team was too busy embodying our losing streak last night to warrant such an overall compliment.   Last night was our chance to rise over .500 for the first time since Opening Day.  That did not happen.  Thus, I hate to say this, but it’s only fitting that we end this month with this particular kind of loss.

Bard blew the save when Tejada homered to tie it; a 1-0 pitch over the middle.  Ramirez took the loss.  He gave up a double to Jones, and Okajima came on after they intentionally walked Markakis.  He struck out Wieters.  Maybe there was something to be said for his three days of rest, even if it was only one out.  After all, what is a good relief outing but the ability to string together a slew of single outs? Delcarmen came on, and Tejada hit is 1-2 breaking ball, which he left up over the plate, up the middle for a two-out, walkoff single.

The final score was 4-5; we lost in ten.

Drew homered twice, once in the second on something down the middle over the wall in left center and once on a high fastball in the eighth all the way through center field.  Cue the end of Drew’s April blues, which would be another bright spot.  I mean, those were good swings.  That first one was kind of an adaptive swing; he went with the pitch instead of trying to pull it, like he usually does.  Pedroia hit a rare opposite-field jack of his own that barely cleared the wall in right in the sixth, his sixth of the season.  The only run of ours that did not come via the long ball was also courtesy of Pedroia, who singled in McDonald in the seventh.  So, just like during our losing streak, we didn’t convert opportunities.  All three of those homers were solo shots.  We drew ten walks but ended up having left eleven on base.

Which brings us to point of failure number two: we were sloppy in the field.  And by “we,” I of course mean Adrian Beltre who, ironically enough, was acquired for his supposed defensive ability.  We’ve seen this all month.  Actually, it started with McDonald in the third; he bobbled a single by Tejada.  Then, Lackey walked Scott.  Then, Wigginton hit a grounder that Beltre should’ve fielded cleanly, but he threw too low and it resulted in an unearned run.  Beltre needs to thank Atkins for ending it; the bases were loaded, but Atkins hit into a double play that got Lackey out of that jam.  There was also the matter of the killed rally in the seventh; Beltre supposedly interfered on Hermida’s grounder.  A review of the footage will tell you that he had the bag; no doubt about that.  But his left hand caught Wigginton’s foot, which caused him to throw in the dirt.  However, it was clear that the double play would’ve have happened anyway.  And this yet again fuels the fire of debate over instant replay.  He was also caught stealing, by the way.

Nomar will be honored at Fenway with a pre-game ceremony on Wednesday, on Cinco de Mayo.  Perfect! And cue the well-deserved massive standing ovation.

We’re now six games out.  Considering that, before last night, we’d lost three of our four extra-inning contests, we theoretically should’ve seen this coming.  On the bright side, April is now officially over, and we can move on.  Again, we hope.  I think May will bring better things, starting of course with Dice-K.  The moment we’ve all been waiting for has now arrived.  Dice-K will start tonight in Fenway South.  But don’t necessarily expect him to go too deep because, like I said, they’ll probably want to bring him back slowly but surely.  Thankfully, his first start is coming against Baltimore, which should help ease him back into it.  After last night’s despairing loss, a win from Dice-K would be just the ticket.

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