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Posts Tagged ‘Nolan Reimold’

It happened.  I can’t believe it happened.  I’m going to force myself to save my opinionating for the end because, if I don’t, I’ll never be able to get through my last game analysis of the year.

Lester pitched well.  He ended a three-game slump he’d been in, and he did so on only three days’ rest.  He gave up two runs on four hits while walking four and striking out five.  He gave up a two-run shot with two out in the third.  He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-four of which were strikes.  So hits and walks were a problem, which made efficiency a problem.  But even our best pitches haven’t been at their best lately, so if he got through six innings after having given up only two runs, both via a home run that represented one major mistake, I’d say in light of everything on the pitching front recently, that’s not so bad.  Was his cut fastball biting and devastating like it usually is? No, and neither was his sinker or curveball, although his changeup was good, but he only threw at most a handful of those.  He threw twelve pitches in the first, fourteen in the second, twenty in the third, eleven in the fourth, thirteen in the fifth, and twenty-three in the sixth.  He got the job done.

Aceves pitched the seventh and received a hold; he threw twelve pitches, seven of which were strikes.  Bard pitched the eighth and received a hold; he threw nine pitches, six of which were strikes.  Red Sox Nation signed in relief as one.

Why? Because our lead was almost nothing.  We had one on base in the first and second and got on the board in the third.  Aviles walked to start the inning, Ellsbury singled, and Pedroia singled in Aviles.  Gonzalez was intentionally walked later in the inning to put two on base, so Lavarnway had runners at the corners with two out but struck out swinging.  Then the home run gave Baltimore a one-run lead.  Baltimore served that to us on a silver platter in the fourth when Scutaro doubled, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a balk.  Then, with the count 2-2 and one out in the fifth, Pedroia took a four-seam deep.  It was high and inside, and it ended up in the first few rows of seats in left center field.  Don Orsillo said at the time that that was Pedroia’s way of willing himself into the postseason.  He was exactly right.

There was, as you know, a problem.

We put two on base after that but Lavarnway and Drew were out in succession to end the frame.  We went down in order in the sixth.  A four-pitch walk, a single, and an intentional walk had the bases loaded for Lavarnway, who grounded into a force out with two outs to end the inning.  Scutaro singled in the eighth and tried to score on a double by Crawford but was out at home because he hesitated during his hustle because he thought the ball was caught.  Ellsbury reached on a missed catch, and then there was a rain delay of one hour and twenty-six minutes.  After that, Pedroia singled, and Gonzalez was intentionally walked for the second time, loading the bases again for Lavarnway with two out in the ninth.  And he grounded into a double play.

And then Paps took the ball.  Sure, he almost lost us the game on Tuesday.  But this was Wednesday.  It was a new day, and the season was on the line even more than it was on Tuesday.  At that point, the Rays were tied at seven with the Yankees, and we had a one-run lead.  If ever there were a time this season with absolutely no room for mistakes, this was unmistakably it beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And since Paps has been our rock this year, we were going to turn to him to close it out.  Just like we did for Game Three of the 2009 ALDS against the Angels.  In this situation as in that one, our ability to stay alive was at stake.  And in this situation as in that one, he blew it completely.

Pedroia went three for four, and Papi and Scutaro both went two for four.  Scutaro and Crawford both hit doubles, Pedroia of course hit that home run, and Ellsbury stole a base.  Gonzalez singled but walked three times.  We didn’t make any errors; Baltimore made two.

We lost, 4-3, and the Rays won in the twelfth inning.  The lights are off at Fenway.  The ride has ended.  The 2011 season, which held such promise in the offseason, lost almost all of that promise in April, and regained it completely since then until now, is over.  I literally just can’t believe it.  I love this game and this team way too much to be able to believe that, in the last game of the regular season, this team was eliminated from the playoffs.

I’m obviously not familiar with the nuances of the rules in this situation, but they could have just called the game during the delay.  They could have just called it when we had that one-run lead.  At least there would have been at least one more game to play.  It was the last game of the regular season, and Baltimore’s record going into it was sixty-eight and ninety-three.  They were about thirty games out of first.  It was literally an impossibility for them to make the playoffs for quite some time already.  It’s not like they had anything to gain by returning from the rain delay to win the game.  Although I’m sure Buck Showalter thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it was his team that had a hand in knocking us out.  If you ask me, I’d say it was Paps and the offense and the baserunning and the fielding: Paps for making that mistake, the offense for not scoring sufficient runs in order to make Paps’s mistake inconsequential, Scutaro for hesitating because he thought the ball was caught, and Crawford for not holding onto the ball that would have prevented this entire conversation.

The next question, of course, is why we engaged in such a remarkable decline.  Obviously the injuries had something to do with it.  But that shouldn’t have made the decline as severe as it was.  We made sure to rest Beckett and Lester earlier in the year so that they’d be fresh and raring to go; I don’t know why they didn’t continue their dominance this month.  I don’t know why the hitting fell off completely since the injuries didn’t deplete the starting nine to a significant extent on a regular basis.  And I certainly don’t know why we suddenly couldn’t field.  As I’ve said, it’s possible to have a bad day on the mound or at the plate, and it’s possible to slump at both.  But how do you enter a fielding slump? You either can field or you can’t; it’s not like the ground suddenly changes or you suddenly just lose your ability to see the ball approaching you.

Our collapse this September was legendary.  It was the worst in the history of the sport because we were the first team ever to blow a lead that large in September.  We’re the first team in the history of the Wild Card to blow a ten game lead, which we had on August 17.  The last time we won two consecutive games was August 27, when we swept a doubleheader.  And the whole thing was capped by a walkoff loss.  It was Paps’s third blown save in thirty-four chances.  What were the chances that the third one would be this important? Probably the same as the chances that he would blow a save in the deciding game of the 2009 ALDS.  We went seven and twenty this month and lost a nine-game Wild Card lead.  Paps was one strike away.  Just one strike away.  But Nolan Reimold doubled, and then of course Robert Andino singled to left.  Crawford charged the ball.  He slid, and the ball made it into his glove.  And then it made it out of his glove.  Both literally and figuratively, as he did all season long, Carl Crawford dropped the ball.

So that’s it, I guess.  We finish in third place with a record of ninety-one and seventy-one at .556 and seven games out of first.  But I’m not ready to go home.  I’m not ready to stop playing.  And I can’t believe that the team that was responsible for the fact that we are going home and we did stop playing was Baltimore.  I don’t think there are words to describe the crushing sensation that we all felt on Wednesday.  It was crushing and devastating and frustrating and disappointing and infuriating and humiliating in every sense of every one of those words and on every conceivable level.  Ultimately, I can’t believe it happened.  I saw it with my own eyes, and yet I just can’t believe it.  Seriously.  I just can’t.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter.  It just hurts.  Bad.

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I never thought I would be able to seriously consider the possibility that Andrew Miller might be in the middle of a no-no bid.  But you would be lying if you didn’t say that that’s exactly what you were doing too.

It was going to be an unbelievably huge story.  If Andrew Miller had the repertoire, the composure, and the stamina to pull that off, it was going to be enormous.

And then Craig Tatum singled with one out in the fifth.  After that, hits five and two-thirds innings just seemed run-of-the-mill.  But unlike many experienced Major League pitchers who sometimes completely unravel after losing a no-no bid, Miller kept himself in line.  He maintained his shutout, allowed only two hits, and struck out three.  He walked a whopping six.  And he threw 103 pitches.  So his composure was obviously there.  His command and control, not so much.  In six starts with us, he now has sixteen strikeouts and twenty-one walks to his credit.  A pitcher’s walk total should never be higher than his strikeout total.  Still, when you look at the start in its entirety, it was really impressive.  Sure, he loaded the bases in the second inning by issuing three straight walks, but then he got out of it by inducing a double play to end the inning.  And the second hit he allowed was also a single.

Miller picked up the win; Albers took the ball from him, and he, Bard, and Paps just cruised and combined to extend the shutout.  One of the most threatening jams that any of them encountered was a two-on, two-out situation in the sixth; Albers got Nolan Reimond to ground into an inning-ending force out.  Done.

We managed a single in each of the first two innings, and that was about it.  Ellsbury, as he is wont to do, made things a little more interesting in the third.  He came into the game batting .467 against the Orioles.  If I’m an Orioles pitcher, he is the last person I would ever want to see.  So the first thing he did when he stepped up to the plate for his second at-bat of the game was show everyone why.  He got us on the board with a home run to right center field on a fastball.  They wanted the fastball inside.  It stayed out over the middle.  That’s pretty much what happens when you leave a fastball out over the middle.  In retrospect, that would have been it.  But he was just getting started.

Reddick singled to open the fourth, and Crawford followed that up with a double to move him to third.  He scored on Tek’s groundout.

That was it until the seventh, when Ellsbury went deep again.  It was another shot he pulled to right, this one on a changeup.  This one was an even bigger statement.  Harder, higher, faster, deeper.  For the second time in his career, he went deep for the first time in three years and the second time in his career.

We added the finishing touch in the eighth.  A single, a double, and a walk loaded the bases for Crawford, who walked in a run.  Good for us.  Extremely terrible and totally demoralizing for the pitcher.

Pedroia hit an infield single in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to eighteen games, a new career high.  Ellsbury went two for four and finished the series six for twelve.  He extended his hitting streak against Baltimore to twenty-nine games, the longest in the team’s history since they moved there.  And he’s posted multi-hit performances in eighteen of his last thirty-eight games.  Reddick and Crawford both went two for three; Crawford stole a base.  And in an incredibly emphatic demonstration of an absence of a slump, Gonzalez went four for five.  None of them were for extra bases, but each one was a great piece of hitting.

We left eight on base and went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.  But twelve hits later, we won the game and the series.  That was a foregone conclusion.  It should’ve been a sweep.  But there’s nothing we can do about that now, and it obviously could have been worse; we could have lost the series.  That would have been terrible.  We’ll just have to make our point next time by sweeping with slugfests.  Meanwhile, we go into our off day with some momentum and then we’re going home to take on Seattle and Kansas City.  I want to see us running away with the standings by the start of August.

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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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And there we have our answer.  Last night’s win establishes us as unfazed.  Of course, it helps when the team you’re playing is Baltimore and you could pretty much beat them with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back, but a win is a win and I’ll take whatever win I can get.  And there’s no denying what playing such a team does for your confidence.  Trust me.  We needed this one to bounce back from that loss to Texas which, like I said, could easily have slid us back into our route to nowhere.

Lester’s outing was good but short.  He was one out shy of six innings but threw 113 pitches, so he’s obviously still struggling.  But he allowed only four hits, so his struggle last night had more to do with command of the strike zone and less to do with hittability.  Sure enough, he pretty much stayed completely away from the top fourth of the zone and threw his fair share of balls, walking four.  But that’s definitely a step up for him; he’s obviously improving.  He allowed no runs and seven K’s.  That’s definitely a start.  Most of his pitches were good, but his slider and changeup weren’t very effective, and his sinker could’ve been a bit sharper.  Tito took the ball when Nolan Reimold walked to load the bases.

Something we haven’t seen during the recent skid reared its ugly head last night: a bullpen implosion.  This one was pretty minor, and the bullpen’s been tired lately, but still.  Bard got out of the bases-loaded jam but allowed a two-run shot.  How does someone even hit a ninety-five mile-per-hour fastball? Anyway, if it weren’t for that outstanding play by Beltre earlier in the inning where he barehanded Izturis’s swinging bunt and fired to first in time from his knees.  And that, my friends, is why Adrian Beltre is our third baseman.  Okajima got a hold and allowed one run.  Delcarmen got both the win and a blown save; the O’s tied it on his watch.  Paps worked through two walks and got some help from Hall’s assist in throwing Markakis out at second to lock up his fourth save.

Beltre ended up being the man of the hour.  But before we even got there, Big Papi hit his first home run of 2010 in the second inning.  Right into the Monster seats in good old Papi-esque fashion, with special thanks to the K Men for their bow of tribute.  That was as classic a David Ortiz home run swing as I’ve ever seen.  He was all over that ball.  When Ortiz is about to hit a home run, you just know it.  The ball has no chance, and it’s out.  In this case, way out.  Opposite field.  Great stuff.  Looks like the extra batting practice has paid off.  Besides, he had a lot to prove.  Being pinch-hit for with the game on the line is pretty humiliating for a guy who makes his living swinging for the fences.  I mean, that hasn’t happened since 2003.  But he knew he was being benched for a reason.  This home run confirms that there won’t be a long drought like last year’s, and it ended an eight-game streak of letting our opponents score first.

In the third, Drew sacrificed Hermida home.  In the fifth, Beltre scored on Reddick’s double-play ball.  And now we have the eighth inning.  You gotta love these late-game heroics.  (Although locking a lead early and keeping it is nice, too.) The O’s tied it in the top of the inning.  With two outs and the bases loaded, Beltre drew a walk.  That ended up being the winning run.  4-3.  A bases-loaded walk.  For the opposing pitcher, that is the absolute worst way to lose a ballgame.  Especially when you consider the fact that this isn’t a guy known for patience at the plate.  That was only his third walk this year, the second coming earlier last night as well, but it was the fifth that Orioles pitching had allowed in the last inning and two-thirds.  We have officially now won three of our last four by one run.  But that’s way better than being two and fifteen and in the dregs of the AL East.

Ortiz’s home run was our only hit for extra bases.  Scutaro went two for four and had the only multi-hit game in the lineup, although V-Mart walked twice.  Thankfully, there were no errors.

Thus, we continue to chip away at our early deficit in the standings.  Our record is now seven and ten, five games out of Tampa Bay in first (New York is half a game out).  Tonight, Lackey seeks to redeem himself from his previous outing, which was horrendous.  Let’s see if we can win two series in a row! That would do a lot in cementing us out of our skid.  Plus, we need the win.  Plus, we’re Boston, so we should win anyway.

We lost, 4-1, to the Sabres in Buffalo last night.  Next game is on Monday.  If we keep playing like we have been, I think we can win this series.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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That was not a pretty win.  It was a win, but it wasn’t pretty.  Your first instinct would probably be to attribute this to the fact that Byrd was on the mound, but that would actually be pretty incorrect.  To tell you the truth, for the most part he did fine.  Two runs on six hits with three walks and a strikeout isn’t bad.  He prevented the other team from scoring a lot of runs and put us in a position to win.  The problem was that he didn’t do that much to keep us in a position to win because he only pitched five innings.  Anytime a pitcher comes out of a game before the sixth, you’re looking at a long night for the bullpen, and we’ve had too many of those recently for this one to have gone well.

And indeed it didn’t.  Delcarmen came on in the sixth and barely recorded an out.  He retired only one of the five batters he faced and walked in the Orioles’ third run to tie it before leaving the mound to Ramon Ramirez with the bases loaded.  (And he also made a fielding error, which is why only one of the two runs he allowed was earned.) Ramirez let Felix Pie single in a run before retiring Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis.

Up to this point, we’d scored three, going back and forth with the Orioles to tie and re-tie the score.  Bay stroked a two-run single in the first, Tek stroked an RBI double in the fourth, and then Gathright scored in the sixth when Pedroia singled to the pitcher, which tied the game back up at four.  Ellsbury tried to score in the second as Pedroia got caught in a rundown after trying to stretch a double, and Youk tried to score from second on Lowell’s single in the fifth, but they were both thrown out at the plate.  The stage was therefore set for something big.  Something unexpected.  Something so necessary you almost thought it wouldn’t happen.

That something would be V-Mart coming in to pinch-hit for Kottaras in the seventh on his day off.  And this was huge.  I mean, it couldn’t have been better if it were scripted.  One out with bases loaded, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we would’ve been thankful for anything.  One run.  Two.  But V-Mart had something else in mind.  He took the very first pitch of the at-bat and planted it at the base of the scoreboard.  The bases cleared.  All three runners scored.  The Orioles would eventually score another run but would not take back the lead, and we went on to win it, 7-5.

Delcarmen got a blown save.  Billy Wagner, who took care of the top of the seventh in spectacular fashion, was rewarded for his efforts with his first career American League win.  Bard got a hold as usual, and Paps collected his thirty-fifth save, a not-so-clean four-out effort during which he allowed a run on two hits.  His ERA is straying dangerously close to 2.00.

So like I said, it was a win but it wasn’t pretty.  But you know what? Ugly wins count just as much as pretty ones, and we’ll take that one, thank you very much.  And the timing was perfect, because we used five relievers just before our day off.  We’ve been fortunate because that’s happened often this season.  So we’ll take a rest today and get back in the saddle tomorrow against Tampa Bay.  We’re in good shape.  We’ve got Lester on the mound, and we’re at home.  Should be a good game.

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