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Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

I can’t even believe that this day has finally arrived.  Out of the interminable slog that was all of last year, out of the rounds and rounds of speculation that was this offseason, we have finally emerged to welcome baseball back to Boston with open arms! I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I’ve earned this one.  It’s been rough, man.  With the way last season went, I felt like it was winter before the season was even over.  It was a long and cold one.  We’ve done without for way too long.  And then, suddenly, April arrived, and we enjoyed the glorious first opportunity of kicking back, relaxing, and taking in three hours and thirty-seven minutes of pure, unadulterated glory.  Man, it’s good to be back.

Where do I even start? I don’t even know.  It was all so divinely inspired.  I can’t even talk about it.

Lester.  I’ll start with Lester.  Wow.  What can I even say? Pretty much the whole staff got it together at camp, and Lester most definitely did not disappoint.  His start lasted only five innings, but this is so epically not the time to be picky.  Five solid innings on the first day of the season is fine as far as I’m concerned; he’ll pick it up as time goes on.  Besides, those five innings were pretty impressive.  Two runs, five hits.  Two walks.  Seven strikeouts.

There was a four-pitch strikeout of his first batter of the season on four pitches, ending with what was technically a cutter, but at ninety miles per hour with his movement, whether it was a cutter or cut fastball is a question that will probably not be answered anytime soon.  Then there was the seven-pitch strikeout that ended with a cutter, and the six-pitch strikeout that ended the second with a cutter, and the seven-pitch called strike in the third that ended with a cutter.  Lester had himself another seven-pitch strikeout in the fourth, this one ending with a fastball, but like I said, whether it’s really a fastball or a cut fastball is hard to answer.  And irrelevant, since a strike is a strike.  Lester bookended his fifth with strikeouts, the first five pitches ending with a changeup and the second his only one comprising three pitches: a sinker clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, a changeup at eighty-four, and a fastball at ninety-three, which wasn’t even his fastest of the day; he got up to ninety-four.

Ninety-six pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  He was on with the cut fastball.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were cut fastballs, as we’d expect.  And he put that fabulous Lester-esque bite on them, too.  They were moving exactly the way he wanted them to.  And he mixed in some nasty sinkers, changes, and curves in there as well.  He stood up there and he was a master.  I almost felt bad for the hitters until I remembered that we were squaring off against the Evil Empire.  And then I felt better.

Anyway, Lester threw seventeen pitches each in the first two innings, sixteen in the third, and twelve in the fifth.  The fourth was the big one; Lester threw thirty-four pitches.  He loaded the bases that inning and couldn’t completely escape without allowing a two-run single.  Other than that, Lester was solid gold.

Farrell then rolled out five relievers.  Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa, and Hanrahan combined to shut out the Yanks for the rest of the game.  All told, the Yanks were limited to six hits.

Alright, here we go.  Offense.  Let’s get down to it, because our hitters were as hot as our pitchers.  The starters stayed in for the whole nine, and they were great.  Great patience and eyes all around.  Great baserunning, too.  Ellsbury led off, followed by Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli in cleanup, Middlebrooks, Salty, Gomes, Bradley, and Iglesias.  Look for Farrell to change the lineup around pretty frequently, but this one worked out just fine.  Iglesias went three for five, Ellsbury went three for six, Gomes went two for four, and Pedroia and Victorino both went two for six.  Salty doubled, and Ellsbury tripled, and that was it for extra-base hits.  This was Bradley’s debut in the big show, and he certainly made the most of it.  Of our four total walks, Bradley accounted for three, not to mention his obvious speed on the basepaths as well as his run-saving, inning-ending, outstanding haul in left in the third.

Pedroia singled in the first, but we didn’t score.  Our big inning was the second.  Middlebrooks grounded out, and then Salty walked in five pitches, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Then Iglesias singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, bringing home one and reloading the bases.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out, causing Gomes to be out at home.  But then Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, bringing in three before Napoli flied out to end it.

We went down in order in the third and put two on but didn’t deliver in the fourth.  A double and two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth, but we didn’t deliver on that either.  Ellsbury tripled to lead off the sixth, but still nothing.  Then, in the seventh, Middlebrooks and Salty fought hard for back-to-back walks on eight pitches each.  Middlebrooks moved to third on a flyout by Gomes and scored on a groundout by Bradley.  We went down in order again in the eighth but closed it out with a bang in the ninth.  Middlebrooks was called out on strikes before Salty walked, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Iglesias struck out and then Ellsbury and Victorino singled back-to-back to bring in three.  Gomes accounted for the second of those runs, rocketing home all the way from second base.  The dugout and everyone else went appropriately insane.

And that, my friends, is the story of how we cleaned the field with the Yanks, 8-2, on their soil.  To me, this is much bigger than just winning the first game of the season.  We’ve had just abysmal starts out of the gate for the last two seasons.  This game means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to us.  We’re a new team now, and it shows.  There’s nothing like a more-than-auspicious start to the year to provide a good feeling about what’s to come.  Let’s get it!

I’ll say one last thing.  Seeing Kevin Youkilis in an enemy uniform was downright bizarre and torturous.  It’s a shame.  It’s a real shame.  And I guess that’s that.

In other news, the B’s lost to and beat the Leafs and lost to the Habs in a shootout; it was painful, but at least we get a point out of it.  We beat the Sens, lost to the Leafs, and beat the Sabres.

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Honestly, it doesn’t get much more infuriating than that.  I’m just going to jump right in because it’s really tough to deal with it all.

Cook pitched decently.  He only lasted five innings, and he gave up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and second, and gave up a double in the third.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth followed by a single and then a two-run home run.  Following  two quick outs, he gave up a single, and then a fielding error put another runner on, but the inning ended there.  He allowed a single in the fifth and a double to lead off the sixth, at which point he was replaced by Hill, who was replaced by Aceves after three batters.

Meanwhile, we reduced our deficit from three runs to two; in the bottom of the fourth, Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single by Loney.

Aceves came out for the seventh and gave up a single followed by a two-run home run of his own, which made the score 5-1.  Two outs later, he gave up a double and was replaced by Carpenter, who ended the inning.  In the bottom of the seventh, we made another dent in the score.  Ross began the inning by striking out, but then Salty and Nava hit back-to-back doubles.  The Yanks sent out their third pitcher of the inning, and then Salty scored on a groundout by Gomez and Nava scored on a double by Aviles.  5-3.

Carpenter handled the eighth without incident baseball-wise but with incident drama-wise; when Bobby V. came out to the mound and Aceves saw Carpenter coming in, he walked to the other side of the mound to avoid Bobby V. when he left the field.  In terms of the bottom of the inning, we failed to score.  But it was not without further drama.

Ross ended the inning on a called strike; the at-bat featured seven pitches, all but one of them sliders, and the count had been full.  Ross and everyone else who had a pair of decently functioning eyes could see that that last supposed strike was actually a ball because it was low, and he let home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez know it immediately. So Marquez rejected him; it was only the second rejection in Ross’s career.  Several minutes later, Bobby V., who had separated Ross and Marquez, went back out there to have a talk with him that obviously got heated pretty quickly and was ejected for the sixth time this year, which sets the record for the most single-season ejections by any manager we’ve ever had in our long, illustrious history.  And at some point even third base coach Jerry Royster was ejected for some reason, so bench coach Tim Bogar was managing and coaching third at the same time at the end of it all.  The whole situation was just absurd and could have been neatly avoided had Marquez just done his job and saw reality.

Anyway, Miller and Padilla teamed up to shut out the Yanks in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set for another possible walkoff.  Salty’s leadoff at-bat was exactly the kind of at-bat you hope for most in those situations.  The count was full and he got an eighty-three mile-per-hour slide as his sixth pitch.  He’s a big guy, and he unleashed his formidable power on it and sent it out of the park to right field for a solo shot that only he could have powered out of the park.  We were now one run away with nobody out, and between Salty having made it look so easy and our last-minute heroics of the previous night, we were daring to believe that we could potentially pull it off again.

But we didn’t.  Nava flied out, Gomez grounded out, and Aviles reached on a fielding error.  Ellsbury could have put the whole thing away right then and there.  But he grounded out instead.

So we lost, 5-4.  But no one can say we didn’t put up a fight.  Because we did, both literally and figuratively.  We manufactured our own runs and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps in the face of a deficit and dared to call a ball, a ball.  We just kept going at it all night long, but we came up just short in the end.  It’s just so infuriating.  I mean, I have to think that we’ve lost this way to plenty of other teams this year since clearly we’re in the business of losing every way to every other team this year, but to do it against the Yankees is particularly brutal.  We were almost there; we just needed one more run to tie it, and we could take care of them in extras.  And we couldn’t get it done.  It’s the story of our 2012 baseball lives.

On a more cheerful note, we have next year’s schedule, so assuming that we’re optimistic, it’s a reminder of something to look forward to.  The season starts for us on April 1 in the Bronx; we follow Opening Day with a day off and then conclude the three-game series.  We then head off to Toronto for three games, and then we head home for our home opener against Baltimore, which is followed by another day off.  We then finish our series with Baltimore and play the Rays before spending three games in Cleveland and going back home to face the Royals, A’s, and newly-AL Astros.  Then we have a day off and we go back to Toronto and then to Arlington, our first full series of May.  The Twins and Jays comprise another homestand, followed by a day off and another road trip against the Rays, Twins, and Other Sox.  Then back home we’ve got the Tribe and the Phillies, followed by a series at Philadelphia and then the Bronx, followed by a day off.  That takes us to June, our first full series of which is at home against the Rangers and then the Angels.  Then we head off to Toronto and Baltimore before another day off and coming home to face the Rays.  Then we head off to Detriot before another day off and another homestand featuring the Rockies, the Jays, a day off, and the Padres in July.  Then it’s off to the West Coast for the Angels, Mariners, and A’s before the All-Star break.  When play resumes, we host the Yanks and Rays before a trip to Baltimore and a day off.  The west then comes to us as we host the Mariners and D-Backs at home, which brings us to August.  We then travel to Houston and Kansas City before taking a day off and traveling to Toronto.  We host the Yanks at home after that, followed by a trip to San Francisco, a day off, a trip to Los Angeles for the Blue Sox, another day off, and then a homestand featuring the Orioles, Other Sox, and Tigers, which brings us to September.  We go to the Bronx after that, take a day off, go to Tampa Bay, and return home for the Yanks, a day off, the Orioles, the Jays, and another day off.  Then we go to Colorado for two games, take a day off, and go to Baltimore for the last series of the season.  So we’ve got at least three days off every month except one: May, our most packed month, when we only have one day off.  But it’s a good schedule.  It’s interesting that Interleague is sort of spread out this year instead of being clustered in June.  It’s often a tough schedule, and we have to play some worthy opponents, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to hold our own next year.

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Congratulations, folks! We are officially underway! The Opening Day game has come and gone, which means that the regular season has officially started, and we’ve watched our first nine innings of consequential baseball in too long a time.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives.

Which is why it’s too bad that we lost.  I am in no way about to join any doomsayers that are out there who are already making pronouncements based on one loss to start the season.  It’s the first game; there was plenty of good in addition to the bad.  Honestly, like I said, I’m just glad to have been able to watch baseball again.  It feels good.

Two very interesting things occurred.  The first was that Tito was on the air for ESPN at the time.  He said something very noteworthy.  He said that, had the extra playoff berth been added last season, we probably would have made it in, and it probably would have changed everything, even if those who affected and were effected by the changes claim that said changes were not the result of the collapse.  The second was that, when Justin Verlander pitched to Ellsbury in the top of the first, it was the first time that a pitcher who’d just won the MVP Award started the season by pitching to the runner-up.

Okay, down to business.  Let’s talk about Lester.  Lester pitched really well.  He gave up only one run on six hits over seven full innings.  He walked three and struck out four.  Sixty-three of his 107 pitches were strikes.  I would have preferred less hits, less walks, and less pitches, which would have come naturally with the first two.  Still, he held his own against Verlander and kept us very, very much in the game, so he did his job.  He threw plenty of signature cut fastballs as well as curveballs, sinkers, and changeups mixed in to good effect.  He got his fastball up to ninety-three miles per hour.  Also of note is that he got through the first inning with only five pitches but needed a game-high twenty-three to get through the third.  His release point was nice and tight, and he varied his speeds.  Despite all of that, the final score was 3-2, but it totally wasn’t his fault.  At all.

Both of our runs were scored in the top of the ninth, which means two things: firstly, we couldn’t crack Verlander, and secondly, we were resilient and took advantage of a pitcher we could crack by getting ourselves on the road toward a comeback.  Pedroia opened the inning with a double, and Gonzalez followed that with a single.  With nobody out and runners at the corners, all Papi could come up with was a sac fly that brought Pedroia home.  At least it was something; it was better than nothing, which is what he gave us when Pedroia and Gonzalez both stood on base with two out in the sixth.  Anyway, then Youk struck out.  Then Sweeney tripled in McDonald, who came on to pinch-run for Gonzalez.  If only more men had been on base.

Now, at the time, those two runs had tied the game.  There had been an RBI double in the seventh on Lester’s watch and then a sac fly in the eighth on Padilla’s watch, before Morales pitched the rest of the inning.  So the first run of the entire game was scored in the seventh inning.  That forced Detroit to come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and it forced us to get a taste of what life may or may not be like with our current closing situation, or lack thereof.

Melancon came out to start the inning.  He induced a flyout but then gave up two back-to-back singles at which point he was replaced by Aceves.  You may have been thinking at the time that Aceves should have simply started the inning and finished it, but if his ensuing performance had been any indication, it probably wouldn’t have been much better.  Aceves proceeded to hit a batter to load the bases and then let the winning run cross the plate by giving up an RBI single on a full count that scooted just out of the reach of Punto, who’d come in to play third.  Game over instantly.  So it was the relief corps that lost it for us.  So much for Bobby V.’s strategy of loading the Opening Day roster with pitching.

It’s not like the rest of the offense was very helpful, either, but that tends to be what happens when Verlander starts.  The only multi-hit game of the day belonged to Sweeney, and the team collectively managed only two extra-base hits and nine total bases.  We left five on base and went two for seven with runners in scoring position.

Melancon took the loss since the winning run was assigned to him, and Lester was stuck with a no-decision, which is better than being stuck with the loss since he really did such a good job for his first start of 2012.

It was just a big disappointment.  You start the season hoping to put your absolute best foot forward, especially after the events of the end of last season and this offseason.  We don’t want to move backward; we want to move forward.  It was only the first game of the season, so it’s important not to sweat it, but I still would have liked to start things off with a win.  But at least we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that Lester was in top form, that we only lost by one run in a game started by Verlander, and that we made it to the first game of the season.  Even if that first game was pretty crushing in the end.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sens, 3-1.

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We finally made it! There are no more days to count, no more Spring Training games to play, no more side sessions to throw, and no more simulated games to complete.  There is nothing left.  It’s happening now.  Today is officially Opening Day, our first game of the regular season! As we all know, we’ll be playing the Tigers in Detroit, and Lester will be starting.  As we all know, this season is going to be interesting, to say the least.  Now, the wait is over.  The long, cold winter has come to an end.  The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Papi, Youk, Sweeney, Ross, Salty, and Aviles, obviously in that order.  Baseball is finally here!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our final two pitchers: Doubront and Bard, respectively.  Since Lester is a lefty, it wouldn’t have made sense to have Doubront be the fifth starter, since then you’d have two lefties starting back-to-back.  Anyway, are we surprised? No.  Should we be surprised? No.  Doubront had a phenomenal spring, and he’s had some experience starting in the Majors before, even if that experience wasn’t always the best.  As for Bard, you and I both know that Bobby V. wasn’t about to move him back to the bullpen after he declared that he was going to train him as a starter.  And that bothers me because unlike Doubront, who as I said had a phenomenal spring and who was therefore awarded a spot in the rotation based on explicit merit, Bard did not have a great spring and seems to have been awarded a spot in the rotation based on potential and possibility alone.  I’m not saying he won’t be a phenomenal starter; I’m saying that I have yet to see consistent glimmers of phenomenalness from him in that role.  Still, he’s shown that he can learn from his mistakes.  He probably picked up that skill while en route to becoming the next elite closer in the Major Leagues; oh, well.

Aceves had a fantastic spring also, and when he did have bad days, he rebounded nicely in his next outing, which is a critical quality for a starter.  At least we can count on him for solid long and middle relief.  And late relief, at least in the beginning, since Bailey will start the season on the disabled list with a thumb issue that will require surgery and that will make him stay on the disabled least until the All-Star break.  This is ridiculous.  He started last season on the disabled list with an arm injury, and he started Spring Training on the disabled list with a lat injury, and now he’ll start the beginning of the season on the disabled list with a thumb injury.  And don’t even get me started on the fact that we had to trade Josh Reddick to get Bailey in the first place.  So Aceves is in line to replace him, in case you were wondering.  Yeah, that gives us huge confidence in our new closer.

And as if that weren’t enough, Beckett apparently is having some sort of issue with his right thumb.  Apparently he’s had this issue for eighteen months.  He was examined and is fine to pitch now, but he said surgery could be inevitable at some point down the road.

In addition to actually knowing who are starters are going to be, we can be happy that Pedroia is healthy, Papi is in shape, and both Bobby V. and McClure have really connected with the team.  We can be unhappy about the fact that Crawford is still out and that Youk, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury haven’t hit a home run all spring.  And we will begin the season with nine guys on the DL.  Before the season even gets underway, we will have nine guys on the DL.  That’s just great.  As if we didn’t have enough to contend with during the start of this year’s season already.  Those nine guys account, in case you were curious, for $59.7 million.  And let’s not forget the fact that Chris Carpenter, the supposedly significant compensation that we were looking forward to receiving from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, is injured and has no command.  He is one of those nine.

Of course, you might say that at least that frees up some roster space.  And that’s true, but that’s only a plus if it’s used wisely.  The twenty-five-man Opening Day roster is carrying thirteen pitchers, which means that Bobby V. only has three backup bats on the bench, one of whom is a backup catcher.

We beat the Twins, 5-1, on Sunday.  Padilla and Atchison both appeared.  Sweeney singled, Ross and Aviles doubled, and Ellsbury tripled.  Since our record against Minnesota this spring has been four and two, we have won the Mayor’s Cup series, which began in 1993.  Since then, the Twins have won eleven series; we have won five of the last six.

We beat the Nationals, 4-2, on Monday.  Cook pitched five innings and gave up one run on two hits.  He walked one, struck out two, and threw forty-three of seventy pitches for strikes.  Padilla pitched the sixth.  Gonzalez and McDonald both singled, and Papi doubled.

We beat the Nationals, 8-7, on Tuesday.  Buchholz retired his first twelve hitters but also gave up a solo shot and a three-run home run.  All told, those four runs were his only runs; he gave up four hits in five and two-thirds innings.  He struck out five and walked none.  Bowden and Aceves both made appearances.  Pedroia went two for three with three RBIs, but the hero was Jason Repko, who ironically replaced Ellsbury and proceeded to hit a tie-breaking double and make a perfect throw home to secure the win.

In other news, the B’s beat the Rangers and Penguins.

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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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Last night’s game was the epitome of disappointment.  I am disappointed, I am exhausted, and I don’t know about you, but I just feel crushed.  Yes.  Crushed would be the right word to describe it.  It’s bad enough that we have to spend the rest of the season digging ourselves out of the hole we’re currently in, although we’re certainly getting there; we’re in third place now, four and a half games out of first.  But Toronto is right behind us five and a half games out, and if tonight’s game proceeds as last night’s did, that could change.  The point is that we already can’t afford to lose any more than we have to, so to speak; to play so many extra-inning games in such a short time span, which exhausts the bullpen, and to lose them after all those frames, which exhausts the entire team because morale takes a nosedive, is just not what we need right now.

Lester started, but he was not at his best.  It was his first non-quality start since Opening Day.  There was no command in sight.  He didn’t have a pitch that would get him ahead in the count.  He didn’t have a pitch that would make him stay ahead in the count.  And he didn’t have a pitch that would put away the count.  He went five and a third innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, including two home runs.  He walked five and struck out five.  I mean, he walked in a run in the first inning.  He opened the inning with a walk, then he allowed a single, then another walk, and then a walk with the bases loaded.  That pretty much says everything you need to know about his outing right there.  By the time the first inning was over, we were losing by three runs.

His second inning was one-two-three; at thirteen pitches, it was his best and most efficient.  But that didn’t last.  After throwing twenty-five pitches in the first, he came right back and threw twenty-two pitches in the third.  He opened the fifth by allowing a home run on a curveball that didn’t curve.  He opened the sixth in exactly the same way.  I thought I was watching a replay of the previous inning.

In short, it’s really, really bad when a starting pitcher comes on knowing he has to go deep and hold it together because the bullpen needs a night off and then doesn’t.

Luckily, the Toronto pitching staff seemed to be having many of the same problems.  We got on the board in the second when Papi led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a single by Drew.  With runners at the corners, Crawford extended his hitting streak to ten games with a single that brought Papi home.  We went down in order in the third, but Papi led off the fourth by unleashing on the second pitch of his at-bat, a cutter that did nothing, and sending it out of the yard for a rocket of a home run.  The top of the fifth wasn’t that different; Pedroia led off with a walk, and he and Gonzalez both came home with one swing of the bat.  Gonzalez unleashed on the second pitch of his at-bat, a fastball, and sent that out of the yard.

At that point, we had a one-run lead, and the more we saw Lester try but fail to grind it out, it became increasingly clear to us that that one-run lead was incredibly fragile.  Sure enough, Lester allowed his first homer in the very next inning, which tied the game at four; his second homer of the day gave the Jays a one-run lead.

After allowing his second home run, Lester allowed a walk, secured the first out of the inning with a strikeout on eight pitches, and hit a batter.  Rich Hill came on to replace him.  He got out of the sixth and into the seventh.  After securing the first two outs of the inning, Aceves replaced him walked two but got through the rest of the inning.

After Drew struck out swinging to lead off the eighth, Lowrie doubled and Iglesias came in to pinch-run.  He scored on a single by Salty and we tied the game at five.  Bard came on for the bottom eighth.  I thought that finally even a tie could last long enough for us to get ahead for good.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  He threw seven four-seam fastballs to David Cooper.  The seventh one didn’t last long.  Home run.  Jays lead by one.

Toronto made a pitching change for the ninth, and Gonzalez welcomed him with his second blast of the day, a solo shot again on the second pitch of his at-bat, again a fastball.  Tie game at six.  That was the last run we would score.

Albers replaced Bard for the ninth; he had a one-two-three inning.  Tek led off the tenth with a flyout.  Ellsbury grounded out.  Pedroia singled, but Gonzalez flied out.

The bottom of the tenth began innocently enough.  Albers struck out John McDonald on three pitches.  Then he threw a strike to Rajai Davis.  He followed that with three balls.  He battled back and threw a strike to work the count full.  And then he singled.  And stole second on a pitchout.  (As far as the throw is concerned, Tek was catching at that point; Salty had nothing to do with it.) And stole third because, well, we weren’t really holding him on.  (Tito thought that was Iglesias’s fault.  Albers thought it was his own fault.  Either way, he still stole.) So when Cooper hit a fly ball that represented the second out of the inning, Davis scored.  And we lost, 7-6.  If only Yunel Escobar hadn’t hurt himself.

I would just like to point out that the offense put up a huge fight.  The offense put up as big a fight as it could possibly have been expected to put up.  We came back three times.  We came back three times, and the pitchers didn’t provide any protection whatsoever for any of those comebacks.

Ellsbury went three for six.  Gonzalez obviously had a monster night, going three for six with the two home runs, both to the opposite field.  Pedroia went two for four.  Drew went two for five.  Papi went three for five with the double and the home run.

Last night’s game was the fourth of the season that could finally have put us at .500.  Instead, we head into tonight’s game at .472 and need to win just so we can hope to reach .500 when we play the Yankees on Friday.  What a vicious cycle.  We’re 0-4 in games that could put us at .500, so clearly we don’t want to play those games because if the past is any indicator we’d lose.  But we need to win one.  All we need is to win just one, and then we’ll be over that hurdle.  The trick, of course, would be staying over that hurdle.  If we drop back below .500, we’d be one and however many of those we’d have lost at that point.  This is the longest we’ve gone into a season without reaching .500 since 1996.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get there.  1996 wasn’t exactly a red-letter year for us.  Let’s not repeat it this year.

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So, again, that was the opposite of what I had in mind when I thought of what the outcome of last night’s game would be.  Same as Opening Day: I was expecting a win because Lackey was on the mound, we returned to our regular lineup for the righty, and our team is amazing.  Again, no big deal.  Right? Wrong.  So incredibly, totally wrong.

Lackey’s line was utterly abysmal.  It was literally one of the worst starts of his career; his current career high for runs given up is ten, and he gave up nine.  Those ten runs were also given up to the Texas Rangers, on September 26, 2008.  Aside from that start, the only other time Lackey took a similar beating was when he gave up nine runs to us on August 5, 2003.

Nine runs on ten hits.  Seven of those ten hits were extra-base hits.  Two of those seven extra-base hits were home runs.  One of those home runs was a leadoff shot by Ian Kinsler, who is now the first player in history to hit two leadoff homers to start a season.  The other was a grand slam by none other than Adrian Beltre after an intentional walk of Josh Hamilton.  So for this afternoon, I’d say intentionally walk Kinsler during his first at-bat, but if you do that, you might end up with a grand slam later.  Lackey walked two, struck out three, and never made it to the end of the fourth inning.

Every single time we tried to get back in it, Lackey would just give up more runs.  Papi tied it in the fourth with a fielder’s choice, and Lackey sent down his first two batters of the fourth.  And then there was the badness: a double, a triple, a walk, a double.

Lackey threw eighty-six pitches, fifty for strikes.  They were mostly cut fastballs and curveballs.  Like Lester’s outing, it’s easy to explain a cut fastball pitcher’s bad outing: the cut fastball doesn’t cut.  When a batter makes contact with a lame cut fastball that tops out somewhere around ninety-three miles per hour, you can pretty much bet you’re in trouble.  His curveball got up to eighty-five miles per hour.  Unlike Lester, Lackey’s cut fastball, his most frequently used pitch, actually was his most effective one, so he did get some strikeouts with it.  Seven of his fifty strike pitches resulted in swings.

His release point was not tight.  There were some pitches were released completely out of it.  And when he missed, he missed to the upper left and lower right corners of the zone.

As on Opening Day, the relief corps was not helpful.  Wheeler gave up two runs, and Wake gave up a run.  After that, things settled down; Reyes and Jenks both turned in very solid innings.  Bard was unavailable because he threw thirty-two pitches on Friday.  I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Bad pitching again detracted from a very strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, who is currently earning his contract like nobody’s business.  It’s a great feeling when your general manager does everything possible during the offseason to field a championship team and it actually seems to be working.  Three for five with a double and two runs.  Youk doubled.  Ellsbury blasted a two-run shot in the seventh on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball down and in, which is exactly the place you don’t want a fastball to end up if you’re facing lefties because they do things like hit home runs if it does.  The best part was that his swing looked totally natural, like all he does is just hit home runs all day.  Hopefully we’ll get some more of those from him this year.

And last, but of course certainly not least, Papi followed the fourth Opening Day home run of his career with his second of the season in the second inning! An eighty-nine mile-per-hour high fastball ended up in the first few rows of right field seats, good for two runs.  By the time the night was over, he made history.  He both tied, with number 1,003, and surpassed, with number 1,004, Edgar Martinez for most RBIs ever hit by a DH.  And in just two days, he already is showing more offensive prowess than he did during this entire month for the last two years combined.  During his last two Aprils, he batted .169 with one home run.  He’s currently batting .250 with two.  The monster year has begun.

The final score was a completely pathetic 12-5.  We are now 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2005.  Not exactly the auspicious start any of us were expecting or hoping for.  All I’m saying is that Lackey is pitching our home opener on Friday against the Yankees, and we better not have a repeat performance, because that would just be unacceptable.  Meanwhile, we’re getting our first look at Buchholz and Tek this afternoon; Salty will probably get the day off.  Maybe Buchholz should stay away from cut fastballs.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Thrashers by a goal.

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