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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Swisher’

The phrase “that’s more like it” came to mind last night in every baseball sense with the exception of one.  We all know what that one was; more on that later.  Meanwhile, there were plenty of positives to go around before we got there.

Let’s start with Buchholz.  Buchholz delivered his best start of the season when it mattered most.  He kept us in it and started this series right.  He used every one of his pitches.  Okay, so his curveball wasn’t as effective as you’d think it would be for such a good outing.  But although his fastballs were thrown for strikes only about half the time, they were thrown for strikes nonetheless and had plenty of good movement on them.  And his cutter actually had some life to it, which is way more than we could say about his previous starts.  His cutter and changeup were extremely, extremely effective.  No matter how effective or how ineffective a particular pitch was overall, in true Buchholz fashion he wasn’t afraid to go to any pitch in any count and throw it for a strike.  This is the third consecutive start he’s won, but that’s really how you know he’s back.

Essentially, he cruised.  All told, he pitched through seven innings.  He allowed two runs on five hits while walking only one and striking out a season high seven.  He threw 110 pitches, sixty-five for strikes.  And finally, the paradoxical mark of a fantastic outing: those two runs were both allowed on a homer by Russell Martin in the fifth inning on the first pitch of the at-bat, one of the few cutters that didn’t cut.  Otherwise, everything was totally fine.

Buchholz enjoyed a one-two-three inning in the first that included two back-to-back strikeouts; first, Derek Jeter swung and missed on a fastball, and then Curtis Granderson swung and missed on a curveball.  Buchholz opened the second by striking out A-Rod, who swung and missed on a cutter.  He struck out Granderson on three pitches to end the third, featuring a changeup followed by a cutter and then another changeup that induced a swing and a miss.  (The third inning should have been one-two-three, but Jeter reached on a fielding error by Youk before that K.  The ball looked like it would be a routine grounder to third, but it bounced off Youk’s hand.  Luckily, he’s okay.) Nick Swisher struck out by swinging and missing on a cutter to end the fourth.  Mark Teixeira struck out by swinging and missing on a changeup to end the fifth, Buchholz’s longest inning at twenty pitches.  The sixth was the only frame in which Buccholz did not notch a single K.  Buchholz ended his outing with another one-two-three inning that started with his only called strike of the night, which he achieved using a changeup with which Martin could do absolutely nothing.

Martin’s home run actually tied the game at two.  In the fourth, Gonzalez led off with a solo shot.  First he took a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam up and away for a ball; then he took a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam up and straight down the middle out of the yard and into the first few rows of the second deck of seats in right field.  So was I annoyed when they intentionally walked him in the ninth to get to Youk? Obviously.  Speaking of Youk, he walked later in the inning and scored on a groundout by Crawford.

We secured some insurance in the seventh.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, moved to third on a single by Pedroia, and scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  With Pedroia on base and two out, Youk unleashed on a fourth-pitch fastball at ninety-eight and also sent it to right field.

Clearly, everyone felt pretty good going into the eighth, especially with Bard coming up.  Wrong.  It seems like, when you feel most at ease and most secure with the lead and you feel most confident in Bard to protect it, he lets you down.  He hadn’t pitched in three days; he needed the time off, but even when you need time off, sometimes it still messes with you.  Granderson led off the inning with a triple.  Then Teixeira popped out, and after that Bard lost all sense of the strike zone.  Granderson scored on a wild pitch to bring the Yankees within two.  Then A-Rod walked, Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch, and finally the inning was over with a strikeout and a groundout.

Crisis averted but not yet defeated.  Paps came on in the ninth; by that time, Bard had already put me on edge, so I wasn’t as surprised when, after Martin struck out swinging and Brett Gardner grounded out, Jeter singled, took second on defensive indifference, and scored on a single by Granderson to bring the Yankees within one.  Finally, Teixeira popped up on his first and only pitch of the at-bat.  Paps recorded his first save since April 22, ending the longest stretch of his career without one at twenty days.  The game was over, 5-4.

That was immensely satisfying.  Not only did we beat the Yankees, but we beat them by not only besting their starting pitching and hitting but also by putting down two late-inning comebacks.  Just a few days ago we came back three times and lost. We know how crushing that is.  It’s bitter medicine indeed.  So, yes, I was furious with Bard and Paps that they even put us in that position.  But you also have to admit it was nice to crush those rallies.

So the offense took care of business, Buchholz reigned supreme, and the relievers who are supposed to be the best of the best of the bullpen almost lost the game for us.  If you think about it, we haven’t had that many games this season where everything, the hitting and starting pitching and relief and fielding, went right.  But even with the rocky relief, I’ll take a win over New York any day.  A win today wins us the series, so let’s do it again.

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The best part about our current position is that the worst thing that could possibly happen this weekend is that we win the series.  Of course we’ll go for the sweep, but all I’m saying is that we rock.

But there is so much more goodness to the story.

Let’s start with Jon Lester, no pun intended.  Jon Lester was the absolute man.  He was on like a light.  He entered the game with a 2.48 ERA on the road and exited the game with a 2.33 ERA on the road.  That’s the best in the American League.  The impressive thing about that is that every mound is different, so to go out there no matter where you are and treat it like a walk in the park (again, no pun intended) is a big deal.

He picked up win number nineteen after tossing seven shutout frames, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out eight, five swinging and three looking.  Believe it or not, his outing was actually much better than that already stellar line.  Lester was bidding for a perfect game through the fourth, giving up his first free pass in his first at-bat in the fifth, which was duly neutralized by a double play two pitches later.  He had retired the first twelve hitters he faced and faced the minimum fifteen hitters through those five innings.  Of Lester’s first seventeen hitters, only three managed to reach the outfield in some capacity and seven didn’t even put the bat on the ball.  Then he was bidding for a no-hitter through the fifth, giving up his first hit in the sixth.  The hit was a line drive sinking fast in left field.  Nava took off for it.  And as soon as Nava took off, you had to be thinking that Lester was going to throw a no-hitter.  Lester was going to no-hit the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, and it would be sweet in every sense of the word, because you can’t have a no-hitter without a spectacular play in the field to preserve it, and this was going to be it.  Pedroia for Buchholz, Ellsbury for Lester, and now Nava for Lester.  Nava sized it up and dove.  But he dove too far, and the ball bounced off his wrist and was ruled a hit.  Terrible.  Literally and simply terrible.

Nava partially redeemed himself soon thereafter by showing off his arm throwing our Kearns at the plate.  V-Mart applied the tag with his glove, something not easy for catchers because a catcher’s mitt isn’t designed for tags, but he did it anyway, and it was a textbook play.  Nava is just lucky the play didn’t go haywire, because he missed the cutoff man.  I guess all Tito can do in that situation is deliver a slap on the wrist.  Lester’s third and final walk was also a leadoff walk in the seventh, but if you take away those three walks and those two hits and add two innings, he would have had a perfect game for sure.

He threw 103 pitches, fifty-eight for strikes.  Every single pitch he threw was absolutely electric.  Well, his changeup and curveball weren’t that great, but everything else was spot-on.  He had his slider.  He had his sinker.  And I would not want to be on the receiving end of a Jon Lester cut fastball.  No, thank you.  He kept his two-seam down, and his cutter cut everywhere.  He caught Swisher looking on a cutter with a full count.  Then, he got Teixeira on three pitches: a sinker, a curveball, and a fastball, which Lester worked up to ninety-four miles per hour.  That’s four different pitches.  Four different and extraordinarily filthy pitches.  It was a thing of absolute beauty.

Yesterday, Lester had one of the tightest and most precise release points I have ever seen.  He was a machine.  He was aggressive.  He used every pitch in every count.  He basically told the hitters to come get him, but there was no way they were going to.  His season ERA is now down to 2.96.

And he had the full support of the offense.  We scored three runs in the third, all of them manufactured.  It all started when a ball brushed Kalish’s jersey.  He then moved around and scored on Scutaro’s single.  Nava scored when Drew grounded into a double play.  And Anderson scored on Papi’s single.  In the fifth, Drew scored on Papi’s single.  In the seventh, Drew and V-Mart smacked back-to-back jacks.  Both lasers.  Both to almost exactly the same location in right field, a few rows from the field and to the right of the bullpen.  For Drew, this is now his sixth twenty-plus-home-run season.  For V-Mart, that nineteenth jack and seventy-fourth RBI puts him on top of all American League catchers in those categories, and a Red Sox fan caught the ball.  We added one more in the ninth when Kalish doubled in Navarro.

Scutaro finished two for six with a double, Drew finished two for five, Papi finished two for four, and Kalish finished two for three.  Anderson hit and scored on his birthday.  And if Tito doesn’t win Manager of the Year, something will be horribly wrong, because he has used 136 different batting orders this year, he has kept the clubhouse together, and despite the fact that most of our key players have been out for prolonged periods of time, we are not dead-last and are rather still fighting for a chance.

The Yankees would score three runs: two against Bard and one against Okajima, but it was much too little, much too late.  The final score was 7-3 in our favor.

For Lester, this could be a twenty-win season if he wins his final start in Chicago on Thursday.  For us generally, we’re keeping hope alive.  But as always in these situations, it’s all about taking it one game at a time.  And last night’s game was pretty ridiculously awesome.  Tonight, we have Dice-K, and I sincerely hope he takes a page from Lester’s book.  It doesn’t even have to be a whole page.  Maybe just half a page.  Or a quarter of a page.  Just part of a page, and we’ll be alright.

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Okay.  We split the series.  We can be happy with that.  In terms of the division, we’re no worse than we were going into the  series, which is better than being worse off than we were going into the series, so I’ll take it.  In terms of the Wild Card, however, the Rays’ recent implosion means we’ve actually advanced without our own help.  So even though we didn’t help ourselves, the Rays helped us out, which is better than nothing.

In terms of yesterday’s game, I honestly felt like I dodged one serious baseball bullet.  That was a nailbiter if I’ve ever seen one.  A win is a win, regardless of the number of runs you win by, but all I’m saying is that I was glad when Paps finally threw his last pitch.

Lester, for his part, was brilliant.  He picked up his first win since the All-Star break by tossing six and one-third shutout innings, giving up four hits, walking three, and striking out six.  He actually took a no-no bid into the fifth, which was broken up by Kearns singling up the middle.  But even then Lester cruised until the seventh.  His sinker and cut fastball were deadly, his changeup and curveball less so but still good.  He threw ninety-nine pitches total.  He threw at most sixteen pitches in an inning and did so three times.  He packed the strike zone, put movement on his pitches, and kept the Yankees guessing.  He was awesome.

Meanwhile, we scored both of our runs in the second.  Kalish singled, stole second, and ran to third on a heads-up play when he saw that Posada’s attempt to throw him out sent the ball into the outfield.  He then came around easily on Hall’s single past Jeter.  Hall came around on Drew’s subsequent fielder’s choice groundout.

Then in the seventh inning he ran into trouble.  A single, a double, and a hit batsman loaded the bases with nobody out.  Lester struck out Granderson on four pitches, the last of which was a nasty curveball.  Tito, in yet another show of managerial brilliance, took him out and put in Bard, who proceeded to strike out both Jeter and Swisher, each on three pitches, exclusively fastballs above ninety-eight miles-per-hour.  Threat neutralized.  Swisher looked like he had absolutely no idea what was going on.  As escapes go, and there have been many for Bard, this was probably the most important.

But that sense of security unfortunately wouldn’t last long.  Teixeira, who historically has been a problem for Bard, took him deep, which cut our lead in half.  And if you thought the game was a nailbiter before, it was really a nailbiter now.  After Bard ended up with runners on first and second with two out in the eighth, Tito lifted him in favor of Paps, who proceeded to take care of Kearns on one pitch by inducing a groundout.

But it still wasn’t over.  Jeter led off the ninth with a walk and a steal.  Finally, with the help of his ridiculous fastball and splitter, Paps struck out Swisher and Teixeira.  That’s what I call a save.  That was a save in every sense of the word.

And you can mark that down as a Win, with a capital W.  2-1.  Yes.

Also of note is the fact that Ellsbury finally recorded his first hit since coming off the DL.  He also walked.  And he also stole a career high four bases, which tied the franchise record originally set by Jerry Remy on June 14, 1980.  Add to that the steals of Drew and Kalish, and that’s six on the day.

We’re done with the Evil Empire until we go back to the Bronx at the end of September.  Like I said, we can be happy with the split.  The Rays look pretty bad these days, so all we need now is a hot streak and we’ll be alright.  Dice-K is leading us into the Rogers Centre tonight.  Toronto is going through its usual late-season surge a little early this year.  All we have to do is keep our head on and get this done.  We can handle Toronto.  Yesterday’s game proves it.  Oh, by the way: we just beat the New York Yankees.  Obviously.  But I just thought I’d mention it again.

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Last night’s game was as fun as it was immensely satisfying as it was incredibly necessary.  Ladies and gentlemen, we trounced the Evil Empire in the first game of four! In the Bronx! So many things to feel great about in that game.  Man, that game was good.  I love watching us win, but I especially love watching us beat the Yankees, especially when it helps us in the standings.

And one of the best parts of the game was that part of it was us beating the Yanks, and part of it was the Yanks beating themselves, which is also obviously always fun to watch.

Buchholz wasn’t as dominant as he could have been, but he was just dominant enough.  He pitched seven and a third innings.  He gave up three runs on nine hits.  He didn’t walk anybody and didn’t even throw three balls to a single batter until the seventh.  And he struck out four.  He gave up a home run and the lead to Teixeira in the first, which was decidedly unpleasant, but he settled down after that.  Don’t let the high hit total fool you; he was efficient, getting through his entire start with only ninety-seven pitches, sixty-five of which were strikes.  He threw at most eighteen and at least eight in each of his full innings.

Most of those pitches were fastballs, which were excellent, but his outstanding pitches were his changeup and slider.  Seven of his strikes were swinging.  Three of his strikeouts were swinging.  His first striking of the night was a swinging strikeout to end the fourth; his second was a swinging strikeout to start the fifth.  He essentially did not use the top quarter of the strike zone, and he concentrated mostly on the left three-quarters of it.  His movement was excellent.

He got the win, passing Lester for the team lead, and lowered his ERA to 2.66.  And what a time for him personally to get the big win; last night was his first start since his wife gave birth to their daughter earlier in the week.  Congratulations to the Buchholz family!

Buchholz left in the eighth after giving up a double, but Bard came in and shut them down with a lot of help from Ellsbury, who dove face-first to the ground, right on his left ribs, to turn a potential RBI hit into a flyout.  Bard picked up a hold.  Paps did the same in the ninth and picked up the save after a twelve-pitch at-bat to Jeter that ended with a walk on a pitch that should’ve been a called third strike.  It was absolutely a strike.  In the end it didn’t matter because Paps got Swisher to fly out, but I’m just saying.  It was a strike.

That’s only half the good news, the other half of course being the offense.  We won the game, 6-3, and here’s how.

With two out on a full count in the first, Papi let rip a rocket home run behind the center field fence.  The irony is that it was a fastball low and down the middle, and it was the only pitch Vazquez threw in that at-bat that was actually a strike.  The other two were borderline but technically balls.  And you know when that happens that you and the home plate umpire are looking at a long night.  But if you ask me, that’s the way I’d want to start any series with the Yanks: a Big Papi long ball.

Then in the second, we broke the tie with the help of the Yankees themselves.  That whole half-inning was a big embarrassment for New York.  So let’s talk about it.  Beltre led off with a double.  After Drew’s out, Lowell hit a popup about halfway to first base.  Cervelli and Vazquez both gave chase; Cervelli called for it while the two of them were basically right on top of each other and then dropped it, which isn’t surprising since he actually closed his eyes right before the ball reached his glove.  So Lowell was safe at first and Beltre was safe at third.  Kalish struck out, and Lowrie walked on nine pitches to load the bases.  Then Vazquez walked in a run.  Ouch.  Then he proceeded to give up a double to Scutaro, with the bases still loaded, that scored two and atoned for his throwing error.

The Yanks got one back in the fifth, but it wouldn’t matter for long because in the sixth, Ryan Kalish hit his first Major League home run! After striking out twice on a grand total of six pitches, he smacked that low fastball into the bullpen for two runs.  It was beautiful.  He’s going to remember that forever.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the ballgame.  We beat the Yankees.  Let me say that again: we beat the Yankees!

We add yet again to the disabled list; Okajima is out with a strained right hamstring.  Good.  I’d rather have a reliever be out than be in a game and lose it for us.  Speaking of the disabled list, Theo gave Carlos Delgado a workout before last night’s game.  I’m not sure Theo will acquire him; he was a great hitter before his hip issues overtook him, so we’d basically be acquiring a younger version of Mike Lowell, and not even because Mike Lowell seems to be doing fine so far.  Delgado would need time in the minors before he’d be able to help us out, and by the time he’d be ready, Lowell would probably have worked himself into some sort of groove.  So I’m not sure Delgado would be the best answer.

So the Yankees obviously lost, but so did the Rays, which means we’re now five games back, the fewest since the All-Star break.  Hopefully we’ll keep it going and beat the Yankees again tonight.  We need the win for the standings, but we also need the win because it’s just fun to beat the Yankees.  It’s really fun.  It’s awesome.  So let’s do it.  Sabathia is currently undefeated at home; Lackey changes that tonight.

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Whoa.  I don’t even know what that was.  I think that was our lineup trying to make up for our lack of offense during the Rays series in a single night.  Whatever it was, it definitely worked.  Although if you ask me, I would’ve liked to have borrowed some of the runs from last night and used them against the Rays.  We definitely had enough runs to go around.

Last night’s game as absolutely fantastic.  It was an absolute rout of a team that stood absolutely no chance.  It was a decisive, dominant defeat that absolutely snapped our four-game losing streak.  You don’t get much more absolute than that.

We continue to be undefeated at the Rogers Centre this year and have won thirteen of our last nineteen contests there.  We have a grand total of eighty-nine wins there, more than any other visitor.  Can we say Fenway North?

The final score was a whopping 14-3.  That was our second-highest game run total this year, our highest being seventeen against the Angels on May 3.  (Buchholz picked up that win.) It featured a three-run second, a seven-run third, a three-run fourth, and a one-run sixth.  Four of those runs were unearned, but in the final score a run is a run, and it just goes to show you that Toronto’s pitching as well as its defense were terrible.

Cameron started us off with an RBI single, which Hall promptly followed with a two-run home run hit deep out to center, his seventh of the season.  Romero fed him a steady diet of up and away, and he finally got just enough bat on one to line it out to the opposite field.  But that was nothing compared to what we were about to unleash on Romero in the third.

Simply put, he got rocked.  Hard.  Here we go.

Youk hit a sac fly to start things off.  Then McDonald scored when Drew hit into a fielder’s choice.  Then Romero left with the bases loaded.  It’s the second straight start in which he’s been unable to get past the third.  Something I readily noticed: his changeup was horrible.  Then Cameron walked with the bases loaded.  Then Hall hit a sac fly.  Then Scutaro hit a two-RBI single, followed by an RBI single by McDonald.

So that was the seven-run third, which gave us a ten-run lead, but we weren’t about to stop there.  The three-run fourth was still to come.  If the third showed the power of small ball, the fourth was about to show pure power, period.

Youk and Beltre belted back-to-back jacks.  That was the third time this season they did that.  Youk’s ball cleared that left field wall in a hurry.  I’d like to see Nick Swisher do that! (Actually, I wouldn’t, but you know what I mean.) I can’t believe that Youk lost the Final Vote to Nick Swisher.  Nick Swisher! I don’t even understand how that’s possible! Of all the people on the list to lose to, it had to be Nick Swisher? Whatever.  Youk is over it, so I guess we should move on as well.

Anyway, then Drew grounded out, and Cameron added another jack.  His ball landed in left as well.  Three home runs is a lot for one inning.  It’s even a lot for one game, and we finished the game with four! The last time we hit at least three jacks in one frame was the fifth on May 20, 2009, when Tek, Papi, Bay, and Lowell all went deep against the Jays, appropriately enough, at Fenway.  I’m telling you, I watched those home runs and I thought they were showing replays.  That’s what it looks like when you watch jack after jack.  It was so awesome.

So all four home runs were lined out, lasers as Pedroia would say.  Hall finished the night three for four with the home run and two doubles as well, batting in a game-high four runs.  It was his first time hitting in Rogers Centre with the roof open; it’s amazing how much of a hitter’s park it becomes when it’s open.  Youk’s home run was his only hit, and we’ll take it.  Beltre finished two for three.  Cameron finished three for four; he’s had six hits in his last two games.  And Drew has also quietly been on a tear in his last six.

And last but most certainly not least, Jon Lester.  He wasn’t as economical as he usually is, but his outing was still excellent.  He tossed six frames, gave up two runs on four hits including a solo shot, walked two, and struck out six.  He threw ninety-six pitches total and picked up the win.  I agree with Hall; Lester should totally start the All-Star Game.

His cut fastball was sharp, as were his changeup, sinker, and curveball.  He threw his game high of twenty pitches in the second and game low of eleven in the third, and he was pretty consistent in his other four innings.  His release point was perfect.  He didn’t throw any balls around the upper left or bottom right corners of the zone, but his zone itself was nice and even.  His movement was spot-on.  So he mixed his pitches well, varied his speeds, and did everything he usually does.

Manuel allowed the third Jays run, and Richardson pitched the ninth.  Done.

Unfortunately, the prediction that V-Mart will return soon after the break was a bit too ambitious.  He’ll be out longer.  Ellsbury, on the other hand, is back with the team.  He’s in Toronto, working out with the team and seeing team doctors.  I can’t wait to see him back in the outfield again.

So last night was a spectacular night for everybody.  Tito won his nine hundredth Major League game, the starters got to rest because of the big lead, we received a big boost to our morale, and we won! This afternoon, we hope to give Lackey a similar offensive cushion – that wasn’t even a cushion, that was a mattress or something huge – as he takes on Morrow.  Most importantly, we look to build some momentum going into the break so we can start the second half on good footing.

Wow.  That was powerful.  Absolutely.

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That was the most infuriating regular season loss I have ever experienced.  It was completely unjust.  It was completely unfair.  And I will even be so bold as to make the claim that it was completely improbably; the Marlins just got excruciatingly lucky.  Lucky that Nolasco was on and that then we didn’t get a chance to demolish their bullpen.  After five and a half innings of play, the score of 2-1 in favor of the Marlins became official, and rain stopped play for the rest of the night.  They called the game.  Baseball is the only sport where you don’t have to finish a game for the score to be set down in the record books.  That makes sense when we’re slaughtering the Twins, 10-1.  That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when we’re playing a bad National League team at home and we’re losing by a run at the halfway mark.  In what alternate universe could that possibly be presented in a logical light? I have no idea, and quite frankly I have no desire to find out.

Lester pitched five, gave up two runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out four.  The two runs came on two long balls, one to Uggla and one to Ronny Paulino.  He just didn’t keep the ball down in the zone on those pitches.  His strength is that deadly cut fastball, and those fastballs didn’t do much of anything.

Youk hit a huge solo shot in the first.  Landed in the Monster.  I’m telling you, it’s impossible to throw a fastball by this man.  He may be in a bit of a slump now but he’ll come out of it.  Besides, he still walks, so even though his average may be taking a bit of a dip, his on-base percentage is still through the roof.  That’s all we were able to do before we were rudely interrupted by the rain and subsequently told to take a loss we probably didn’t deserve.  I firmly believe that, given more time, we had a very legitimate chance of limiting the Marlins to two runs while scoring more ourselves.

Dustin Pedroia lost an RBI from Chien-Ming Wang’s start in the Yankees series.  Major League Baseball decided to make it an error on Swisher instead of a ground-rule double.  Speaking of Pedroia, his slump is over.  Not that it was actually going to last.  And David Ortiz moved up from sixth to fifth in the batting order.  That’s a good sign.  That’s a very good sign.

So, yeah.  We lost the series finale to the Marlins.  Whatever.  It’s done, it’s over, onward and forward to the Braves.  Kenshin Kawakami at countryman Dice-K.  If Dice-K can just keep us in it, we’ll find a way to win this one.  Besides, it’s about time he had himself another win.  The man is one and four.  Our second starter is one and four.  That needs to change.  He hasn’t been solid, but once he finds his groove and establishes a rhythm for the season, we’ll be good to go.  But I’ll say this.  No matter how badly we play, and no matter how we lose, why we lose, or who we lose to, we can take comfort in the fact that we are not the New York Yankees, who just dropped two games to the Washington Nationals, worst team in baseball.  Although, technically, for just this series, that is now no longer true.  At least for this series, the Yankees are, technically and by the numbers, the worst team in baseball.  And that is most definitely something to smile about.

In other news, the Bruins cleaned up at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas last night.  Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender.  Zdeno Chara, with the fourth most goals and twelfth most points among defenders, won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman.  Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez both won the William Jennings Trophy for each having played a minimum of twenty-five games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.  And finally, last but most certainly not least, Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Award, given to the coach of the year.  Congratulations to the boys in black ‘n’ gold! They most definitely earned it.  Why they couldn’t add the Stanley Cup to that list is completely beyond me.  Just sayin’.  They’re obviously capable, but in Boston if there’s one thing we know, it’s that sometimes these things just happen.

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That’s the only way I can describe last night.  I experienced pain when I watched that.  I honestly felt like I was in some strange alternate universe.  Garza was making a bid for a perfect game into the sixth.  It was a very surreal experience, like an especially bad nightmare, only worse, because it was real.  Awful.  Just awful.  Beckett took the loss, and rightly so.  Only 4.2 innings and he gives up seven runs on ten hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.  One home run, the first of Michel Hernandez’s Major League career, and an ERA of 7.22.  All I have to say to Hernandez is that he should enjoy it, because he won’t be hitting another homer off Beckett anytime soon.  But seriously.  He reached one hundred pitches in the fifth.  I don’t know who this guy is or what he’s doing wearing Number 19, but he isn’t Josh Beckett.  I know Josh Beckett.  Josh Beckett would never pitch this way.  Which brings me to my next point: I have no idea what’s going on with him.  We know he’s healthy.  That was his problem last year, that and the long balls, but this year he’s fine and in great shape.  So I don’t know.  He started the game fine, had a fourteen-pitch, one-two-three first inning, but it all went downhill from there.  But whatever it is, he needs to take care of it.  Now.  Right now.

But wait, it gets worse.  Hunter Jones gave up his first run of the year.  Fine.  It happens.  We knew the 0.00 ERA wouldn’t last for ever.  One bad pitch and Evan Longoria hit it out.  Saito had a perfect seventh.  So for all intents and purposes we cruised until the eighth, when Javy Lopez gave up five runs.  Five.  On four hits and a walk with no strikeouts.  He didn’t even finish the inning.  Then Jonathan Van Every came on to pitch the rest of the eighth and got us out of it.  Incidentally, he has a 0.00 ERA.  And now I get to explain why we, unlike the Yankees, have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.  It’s one thing to throw your outfielder on the mound when your starter has an ERA above 20.00 because your bullpen has an ERA above 5.00 and is the shallowest in the league.  It’s quite another to have multiple relievers with ERAs under 2.00, including two that’re still 0.00, who’ve been working long shifts lately and who need a rest.  Van Every got two outs.  That was it.  We’re not talking about an inning of work to bail out an abysmal starter.  We’re talking about giving the best relievers in the game a break during a blowout.  So, no, Van Every is not Nick Swisher, because our bullpen is actually functional, thank you very much.  (Technically, saying that our bullpen is “functional” is the understatement of the century, but you know what I mean.)

I’ll say this about being on the receiving end of a bid for a perfect game or no-hitter.  It makes losing less painful, because the only thing you’re focused on is ending that bid, is getting a walk and then a hit.  So it takes the edge off of losing, because as long as you end the bid, you’re happy, and everything else just seems like icing on the cake.  And for that, we thank Jacoby Ellsbury, who jammed a ball back to Garza, who couldn’t come up with it.  Jason Bartlett tried to throw him out at first, just like everyone else in the league, but as we know there’s no way he doesn’t beat that out.  So a masterful infield hit for Ellsbury, and a great hustle down the line to end it.  Two batters later, Ortiz was his first walk.  I mean we knew all along that Garza wouldn’t actually be able to fully contain a lineup like ours.  It just doesn’t happen.  Unfortunately we’ve been in this situation before, like last year with the Angels, but we always get out of it somehow.

By the way, Pedroia was safe.  Ortiz walked with nobody on base because the umpire ruled that Pedroia was the second out in a double play.  Let me tell you something.  Pedroia was safe by a mile.  It was so good to see Tito go out there, because it doesn’t matter what the score is.  If a guy hustles, he deserves a fair call.

So that’s pretty much it for last night.  As you  can imagine, the box score is really boring.  Very one-sided.  All these stats for Tampa Bay and for us, nothing.  I’m telling you, it was painful.  Lowell’s hitting streak stopped at thirteen games.  Dave Roberts will be joining NESN, which I’m psyched about.  Jerry Remy was sick yesterday so Buck Martinez filled in, which was interesting.  Turns out that, not only did Van Every hit his first career home run off his former team, but he hit it off his former roommate.  Apparently he received congratulatory text messages from the Tribe but wants to give Jensen Lewis some time to cool off a little bit.  I’d say that’s wise, because that was a monster of a home run.  And last but not least, A-Rod was probably on steroids as early as high school and HGH in 2004 with the Yankees.  And he tipped his friends on opposing teams to pitches.  It’s sad that these things don’t surprise me anymore.  Seems like A-Rod always manages to come up with a new low.

We need a win.  A win would be nice.  We’re tied for first, but I think we could use a little something to break that tie.  And to maintain our good record.  And to improve.  And to make sure we don’t fall behind.  Yes, I think a win would be very nice indeed.

In other news, it’s go time at the TD Banknorth Garden tonight.  Round Two, Game 1, 7:30PM.  Let’s do it.

AP Photo

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