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Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

Opening Day is today! We made it! Finally! These next few hours of waiting are going to be tough, but after that long, cold, hard winter, baseball is finally here! Too bad we have to spend Opening Day in Texas, though.  We’ll be waiting another week for our home opener against the Yanks on April 8.  Meanwhile, we’ve got some decimating to do.  This season is going to be epic; I can feel it.  So we should start it on an appropriately epic note.  Lester has the ball.  Hopefully the start of his April badness will be sufficiently delayed so as to win us this one.  We’re facing Wilson.  Wilson is a southpaw, so Drew is sitting in favor of Cameron, and Youk and Gonzalez are switching places in the order.  So it’ll be Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youk, Gonzalez, Papi, Cameron, Salty, and Scutaro.  That’s not the lineup we’ll be using for most of our games, but it’s one that’ll give us a good indication already of what we can expect.

Here’s the last of Spring Training.  The Orioles beat us on Sunday, 4-3.  Drew hit a two-run shot, Matt Albers allowed a run, and Papi was hit in the foot but appears to be fine.  Meanwhile, Lester made his final start of spring in a game against our minor leaguers.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits while walking none and striking out five over five innings.  Fifty of his seventy-seven pitches were strikes.  And that is absolutely no indication whatsoever of how this afternoon will go.

Lackey pitched a simulated game of sorts on Monday with Salty; the weather was iffy, so Tito didn’t bring him along to play the Jays.  The game was played, though, and we won, 3-2.

Our last game ever at City of Palms Park was totally anticlimactic.  We tied the Rays, 1-1, on Tuesday courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez’s solo shot.  Buchholz allowed one run on one hit over four innings with two walks and three strikeouts.  Forty-four of his seventy-eight pitches were strikes.  It was our fifteenth sellout in sixteen games this spring and the conclusion of our nineteenth Spring Training in that park.  You could say that many of our future stars and both of our championships were made there.  So here’s to City of Palms Park, the Fenway of spring.

The bullpen competition is officially over: Matt Albers and Dennys Reyes are in, and Alfredo Aceves and Okajima are out.  They’ve been optioned to Pawtucket.  Interestingly, that wouldn’t have been an option for Albers or Reyes; they don’t have options and would have had to clear waivers, which probably would have meant that we wouldn’t have been able to keep them.  Either way, it’ll be strange having Okajima in the organization but not on the roster.  Although of the other two are better, the other two are better, and that’s that.  So the twenty-five-man roster is officially set.  Lowrie is our infield utility man, and Cameron is our outfield utility man; those were really the only other question marks, and I don’t think the answers are that surprising.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a ball club!

So that’s it.  There’s nothing more we can do to prepare.  We’re ready.  We’re set.  And we’re going all the way to Soxtober this year.  It’s going to be epic.  Other than that, there’s nothing more to say.  I repeat: Opening Day has finally arrived! I’m so psyched, I can’t even believe it.  For all intents and purposes, we are about to witness the start of a championship season.  I am so ready.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Flyers, shut out the Blackhawks, and lost to the Leafs in overtime.  Oh, and we clinched a playoff spot.  No big deal.  All in a day’s work for us this year.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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Let’s start with a recap of the end of two weeks ago.  On Thursday, Andrew Miller turned in his third quality outing of Spring Training against the Rays.  One hit and one K over one and a third innings.  Good for him; his previous outing wasn’t so quality.  Cameron returned to the lineup after sitting out with tendonitis in his left knee.  Obviously the biggest story was Crawford’s debut against his former team; he got a hit and made a spectacular diving catch to end the fourth.  Crawford even stole the show from Damon, who claims that he would have approved a trade to Boston if he knew that Detroit wouldn’t re-sign him.  I think he’s just saying that now because he sees a World Series-winning team.  Anyway, we lost, 8-6, and the rest of the game was a different story.  Dice-K gave up five hits and as many runs over three and two-thirds innings with two walks to lead off the game and two K’s.  Over his last six and two-thirds innings, he’s given up ten earned runs.  In three outings, he’s got an ERA of 11.42.  He is not concerned.  Tito isn’t concerned.  And if this were any time of the baseball-playing year besides Spring Training, they would be about the only two people not concerned.  But it is Spring Training, and Dice-K is taking some liberties that he otherwise wouldn’t.  I would suggest bearing with him.  He’s working on his changeup and cutter a lot this spring, and he wants to be more aggressive with the zone this year, so while he works on that, it could look ugly.  But now is not the time to worry.

We scored five runs in the first two innings of Fridays’ game against the Astros and won it, 9-3.  Scutaro and Pedroia were the only regulars in the game because the squad was split, but they took care of business.  Pedroia went two for three, both for extra bases, plus two RBIs, and a walk.  Meanwhile, it took Paps twenty-nine pitches to record one out and three walks and give up one hit and three runs.  And that’s how the Twins won, 3-2.  Crawford made an error.  Lester, however, fired off four spotless innings; he allowed four hits and struck out five.

Adrian Gonzalez batted third and manned first on Saturday in his debut against the Marlins.  He turned his first pitch into a single.  His second and last at-bat resulted in a sac fly.  And his goal is to play in every single game this year.  If he continues his good work, that’s fine with me.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for three, the former with two doubles and a homer and the latter with a single.  Lackey gave up a run on six hits over four and two-thirds innings with three K’s and no walks.  Lackey threw forty-nine of seventy-five pitches for strikes.  We won, 9-2.  Saturday also marked the premiere of “Down the Line,” a documentary on MLB Network at Fenway’s staff.  Make no mistake; that is where the magic happens.  And according to a Major League source, the team has let it be known that they’re willing to trade Dice-K for a young catcher and Wakefield for a southpaw reliever.  Cameron and McDonald, in light of the options on Kalish and Reddick, could also be on the block, and the team may entertain offers for Scutaro.  Theo has denied all accuracy of this report, explicitly labeling it as false.  I’m going to listen to Theo for now.  At the very least, you can be confident that, given his full no-trade clause and salary and performance (or lack thereof), Dice-K will not be moving anytime soon.  Meanwhile, he’s changing his side schedule; instead of throwing both a long toss and his side session two days after each start, he’s going to throw a long toss the first day after his start, another the second, and his side session on the third.  This idea, of course, is courtesy of Curt Young.  At this point, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it’s all well and good to know everything that’s going on with his various training adjustments and throwing adjustments and workout adjustments, but I just want them to find the problem with him and fix it as soon as possible.

The Pirates beat us, 9-4, on Sunday.  Beckett gave up a run on four hits through his first four innings.  Then he gave up a homer, a walk, a double, and a bases-loading hit-by-pitch in the fifth, and that was the end of that.  Fortunately for everybody, Beckett made an extra effort to incorporate his changeup, which has been the distinguishing feature of each of the best years of his career.  Unfortunately for everybody, he lost it last year.  So he’s trying to get it back this year.  Atchison then proceeded to allow all his inherited runners to score.  Bard’s inning was scoreless.

Buchholz and Wake both threw productive simulated games on Monday rather than face the Yankees for the second time this spring.  Meanwhile, we beat the Yankees, 2-1; Paps turned in a scoreless frame.

We beat the Tigers by the same score on Tuesday.  Dice-K two-hit Detroit through five innings while striking out five.  His curveball was absolutely unhittable.  On the field and at the plate, Ellsbury stole the show with a homer and a spectacular catch.  McDonald also homered as well as DH.

We barely lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 3-4.  Lester allowed three runs on eight hits over four and two-thirds innings.  He walked two and led off the game with three consecutive singles.  Scutaro went deep on the Braves’ second pitch of the game.  Salty hit an RBI double, and Reddick hit an RBI single.  V-Mart expressed thanks for his time in Boston and believes that Salty and Tek will do well.

We beat the Mets on Thursday, 8-5.  Lackey allowed a run on five hits over five and a third innings with two strikeouts and his first walk of Spring Training.  Paps got rocked; he gave up two consecutive doubles and four runs.  He insists that he knows exactly what his problem is.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out: he’s not locating the zone right now.  Crawford went two for three with a steal.

We lost to the Tigers yesterday, 3-8.  Buchholz was not his best.  He gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.  That one earned run was the product of a homer that led off the second.  He retired the side in the fourth, but that was it for ease.  His mechanics were just off.  And you can thank Youk and Gonzalez for the unearned runs.  Pedroia homered for the first time this spring.

We followed that loss with two more today.  Wake allowed four homers, six runs on seven hits in total, and one walk in only three innings en route to a 3-7 loss to Tampa Bay.  Meanwhile, Beckett allowed one earned run and four unearned over four and two-thirds innings en route to a 5-7 loss to the Pirates.  Scutaro and Pedroia posted multi-hit games, and Wheeler’s appearance was scoreless.

We also completed our first round of roster cuts this past week, sending five down.  Our lineup, by the way, has more or less quietly taken shape: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youk, Papi, Drew, Salty, and Scutaro have batted in that order during almost all full squad games this spring.  That’s not a real surprise; it follows my prediction pretty closely, and it’s a lineup built for success.  Tito is doing his best not to cluster the lefties too much and to spread the tools evenly.  Not to mention the fact that we are so stacked, it’s not even funny.  And we have officially finalized our pitching staff.  Lester got the nod to start on Opening Day.  As it should be.  Given his general sub-par game lately, not only should Beckett not be offended by that, but he should also not be surprised that he was dropped to fourth.  And Tito had his other reasons: he’d rather have Beckett start his season against the Indians than against the Rangers.  He is not happy.  He wanted the Opening Day nod, and he explicitly disagreed with the drop.  He doesn’t think that the extra time will matter much, and he’s a competitor, so naturally he doesn’t want to accept the fact that lately he’s been not good in a general sense.  Lackey is the Number Two, followed by Buchholz, and Dice-K of course will start fifth.  So as it stands now, Lackey will be pitching our home opener against the Yanks.  I’m just wondering why it’s Lackey followed by Buchholz and not the other way around.  I’m sure Tito has his reasons, but that one-two punch was almost unbeatable last year.  I wouldn’t want to split it up.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres in overtime on Thursday and to the Islanders on Friday.  We beat the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Tuesday but lost to the Predators in overtime on Thursday and to the Leafs today.

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On Sunday, Bowden gave up two runs on three hits with a walk over two innings against the Mets, who won, 6-5.  Okajima’s inning went one-two-three, and Rich Hill retired his six batters.  Reddick hit a homer.  Beltran went one for two and is preparing to return to right field.

On Monday, Lester threw a simulated game: fifty pitches, almost no solid contact.  And we beat the Orioles, 6-5.  Lackey allowed a leadoff single to start the game.  Then he retired his next twelve batters.  Four shutout innings.  Drew, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Youk all had hits.  Youk and Crawford had a double steal.  And Crawford had an RBI single.  So now Crawford has his first hit, his first steal, and his first RBI in a Red Sox uniform, and the season hasn’t even started.  I’m psyched.  Wheeler gave up two runs.  Not so psyched about that.

We played two split-squad games on Tuesday.  First, we beat the Cards, 8-7; Ellsbury doubled, McDonald singled, and then we blew it open.  And then we beat the Astros, 3-2.  Beckett allowed one run on three hits over three and two-thirds innings of work.  He threw thirty of fifty-five pitches for strikes, walked one, and struck out four.  I’d say he’s almost as good as new.  Paps and Bard each delivered quality frames.  Salty’s first at-bat yielded a double.

On Wednesday, we signed fifteen guys, including Buchholz, Bard, Lowrie, and McDonald, to one-year deals.  The rest were prospects.  But I guarantee you that those deals for those first three are steals in every sense of the word.  We won’t be able to sign them again for anything close to the figures we offered.  Speaking of Buchholz, he remains scoreless in Spring Training, firing off four innings of four-hit, three-strike ball.  Drew homered and singled, Jenks turned in a one-two-three fifth, Pedroia shone at second, and with the game tied and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Yamaico Navarro brought home the winning run when he was hit by a pitch.  We won, 2-1.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs on Tuesday.  1-4.  It wasn’t good.

I’ll be taking a break of about a week.  I have full confidence that, within that time, Spring Training will proceed according to plan, with lots of contests, improvements, and battles for roster spots.  Most importantly, we’ll be that much closer to Opening Day!

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We lost our Spring Training opener with the Twins, 8-4.  And this is the part where everyone collectively remembers how insignificant the outcomes of Spring Training games actually are.  They’re good workouts and warmups for the teams, and they’re essential for roster spot contests, but it really puts it in perspective for you when you see all the starters being unconditionally pulled by the fifth inning.  However, there are still observations to be made.  Beckett started and pitched two innings, allowing one run on two hits.  Buchholz followed with two scoreless frames.  Okajima followed with a truly uninspired performance, and Wheeler gave up a home run.

We beat the Twins on Monday, 7-6.  Dice-K started and allowed a hit in the first inning, but that was it for his two innings.  He threw twenty-five pitches, fourteen of which were strikes.  All in all, not too shabby.  Wake gave up three unearned runs, and Bard was terrible.  Papi went two for two with a home run.  In his debut, Crawford went 0 for 3.  More importantly, Beckett was hit in the head by a ball during batting practice in left field.  He’s been diagnosed with mild concussion symptoms, with an emphasis on the “mild.” He didn’t have to go to the hospital and was treated right at the park and was sent home to get some rest.  He was back at the park the next day feeling good, and although he missed his next start on Thursday, he simulated an outing on Friday.  It went well; he threw forty pitches over three innings to minor leaguers, and he’ll pitch again on Tuesday.  Twins fans will tell you after Morneau’s bought with his concussion last season that it’s the most frustrating injury a player could possibly have due to its unpredictability; it could be mild one day and severe the next, and you might think that a sting on the fifteen-day DL is enough but you end up on the sixty.  All I’m saying is that I’d rather he stay on the DL than be terrible and lose a whole bunch of games.  I’m also glad his back is still fine, because Beckett on the DL with a concussion is better than Beckett not on the DL with a bad back.  Recall all of last season.  But we should focus on the positive: it doesn’t look too serious, and it’ll affect his Spring Training, but perhaps by the time the regular season rolls around, he’ll be good to go.

We beat the Twins again on Tuesday, 5-0.  Lester cruised through his two innings, yielding one hit, one walk, and one K.  Paps pitched a one-two-three fifth.  Reddick and Lowrie each recorded an RBI, and Salty walked on eight pitches.

We lost to the Braves on Wednesday, 6-1.  Lackey gave up a run, a solo homer, on four hits during his two innings; he threw forty-one pitches, twenty-five for strikes.  He threw one two-seam, and the rest were all four-seams.  We saw this from him last spring as well; he pitches to contact so he’ll be healthy by the time Opening Day rolls around.  But he needs to find a balance between pitching to contact for that purpose and maintaining arm strength.  Ellsbury hit, Pedroia walked on a full count, and Papi had three hits and a stand-up stolen base.  Okajima struck out two in a perfect inning of work.

We were shut out by the Phillies on Thursday, 2-0.  Stolmy Pimentel filled in for Beckett.  Jenks debuted with a scoreless inning, and Wheeler allowed two hits.  Oh, and Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phillies’ general manager, said that we’re the best team in the Majors.  Us.  Not them.  Us.  Keeping in mind of course that this is Spring Training, not a preview of October, so that doesn’t count for much.  Although I’m rather inclined to think that it does at least count for something.  At the very least, it’s someone recognizing what Red Sox Nation already knows.

On Friday, we beat the Yankees.  5-3.  I don’t care if it’s Spring Training, the regular season, or the postseason; I love beating the Yankees anytime, anywhere.  Buchholz pitched three scoreless innings.  Adrian Gonzalez took his first batting practice.  He took eighty swings, five more than his scheduled amount.  Everything looked good

On Saturday, the Marlins crushed us, 11-2.  Dice-K allowed seven runs, five earned on six hits.  It wasn’t pretty.  Wake gave up two runs on five hits in two and two-thirds innings of work.  Salty caught him for the first time and, given the fact that he’d hardly had any experience with knuckleballs in his career, he actually fared quite well.  Paps turned in a scoreless inning, and Jenks was impressive.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury and Crawford played into the seventh, with Crawford posting his first hit, against the Orioles.  He went two for three with a walk.

Lester was supposed to start today but he’s got the flu, so Michael Bowden will fill in.

One other thing.  Yes, the Cardinals failed to iron out a deal with Albert Pujols, despite the fact that he made it perfectly clear that he’s not interested in negotiating during the season.  Why they didn’t just fork over the cash, I have no idea.  It’s not like they could possibly spend it on anyone better.  Whether the Cards will actually allow Pujols of all people to reach free agency is unclear.  What is clear is that he is not coming to Boston.  No matter how great of a player he might be, it makes absolutely no sense to bring him here.  We just traded substantially for an awesome first baseman; we didn’t do that to purposefully not work out a deal with him, let him walk during free agency, and sign away all our financial resources for the next decade for one guy.  So, provided we keep Gonzalez, which is basically the whole point of that entire move, what would we do with Pujols? We could make him a DH, I guess.  But he’s thirty-one years old and headed for the Hall of Fame.  He’s not a DH.  He’s a first baseman.  And he is not coming to Boston.  But that’s fine.  We don’t need him.  What we do need is to work out a deal with Gonzalez before Pujols hits free agency so that Pujols in no way affects Gonzalez’s contract.  Gonzalez is awesome, like I said, but if we’re not going to sign away all our financial resources for the next decade to Pujols, we’re not going to sign away half our financial resources for the next decade on Gonzalez just because he’s the next best thing.  Will not happen.  I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the deal is already done but they’re keeping it quiet until after the season starts to minimize luxury tax ramifications.  The point is that we’re going to keep it reasonable and responsible.  That’s just how we roll.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Oilers and shut out the Sens, and beat the Lightning.  We lost to the Pens in overtime, but at least we got a point.  So we crushed this week.  By the way, we’re second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Flyers, but we’ll close that gap.  Yup.  This could be the year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And take the series we did! We’ve got eight runs and a stellar starting performance to revel in.  This was a good series for us.  Nothing like a beat-down of a bad team to get your confidence up and your footing under you.  It’s a great way to start a road trip.

The final score was 8-6, but Buchholz was excellent.  Two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout over five.  (Hall played short yesterday; Podsednik scored on Hall’s fielding error when he should’ve ended the inning by firing to first to get Callaspo out.  Way to make a first defensive impression…not.) Gave up a homer and an RBI single.  He threw ninety-five pitches; forty-six fastballs, about an equal number of sliders and changeups, and a few curveballs thrown in.  His movement was fantastic.  All of his trajectories were very precise; his sliders were sliding, his cuts were cutting deep.  In short, if Buchholz pitches like this for the rest of the season, it’s alright by me, with the exception of the seven hits over five innings.  If he’d allowed less hits, his pitch count would’ve been lower, and he would’ve gone deeper, which would’ve preserved the bullpen, not to mention given the Royals less opportunities to score.  (The fact that they didn’t score in retrospect isn’t the point.) But considering his age and past, I’ll chalk this one up to jitters.  I’m just relieved his first start went well because what we absolutely don’t want and quite frankly can’t afford is a repeat of 2008.  But I think that’s long gone.  I think the consistently good Buchholz is here to stay, finally.

The other three runs were given up by Ramon Ramirez.  Ramon Ramirez! The supposed rock of the bullpen! What happened to him? He struggled at the end of last season and never came around, I guess.  But whatever’s wrong with him needs to be fixed immediately.  This is something we can’t have.  We won because we scored eight runs and there was no way the Royals were going to score more than that, but what happens when we don’t have eight runs behind us? Badness, apparently.  So he has work to do.  He allowed three hits, the last of which was a three-run homer that made good on the other two.  Then he left without retiring a batter.  Awful.

On the bright side, before he came on, Delcarmen pitched two almost-perfect innings, and when I say almost perfect, I literally mean almost perfect: he gave up one walk, and that was it.  No hits, no runs.  One walk.  Multiply those two innings by 4.5 and remove the walk and you have yourself a perfect game.  Clearly, working on his extension paid off.  When he struggled, he was cutting it short because it bothered his shoulder to go long, but now that his shoulder is back to normal, he’s working out of that habit.  And it seems to be working!

Bard and Papelbon pitched the eighth for a hold and ninth for a save, respectively.  Both innings were perfect. Finally.

The top of the first featured two RBI singles and an RBI double.  The top of the second featured another RBI single and a very convenient Royals fielding error.  And the top of the fourth featured a home run and a two-RBI double.  All that makes Ellsbury two for five, V-Mart two for four, Beltre three for five, and a certain second baseman four for five.  You read right.  Four for five, and I’ll give you one guess who hit that ball out of the park.  That was his second dinger in two days! All I can say is this barrage of offense from Pedroia is spectacular.  I mean, this is exactly how he won MVP in 2008.  I know it’s early and all, but I’m just saying that if he continues on this pace, the sky is the limit.  (I mean that literally, because if you think about it, a home run can only travel so high.) He’s doing all the right things at the plate and in the field, and he’s galvanizing the team, which is equally crucial.  Every season, we speculate who the early breakout man is going to be.  Pedroia was on everyone’s list but probably not to this extent.  I mean, this is huge.  And how about Beltre? I knew he’d work out.  Ellsbury is officially a leadoff man; V-Mart is the man, period; and Hermida even got in on the action with a double of his own.  (Drew was out of the lineup with a stiff neck.  If Hermida keeps on hitting the way he has been over the past couple of days, Drew can take his time as far as I’m concerned.)

Point being, we have officially established that this lineup is very offensively capable.  Oh, right; Ellsbury and Youk each stole a base.  More importantly, Ellsbury is day-to-day rather than out for at least a few weeks.  He left with one out in the ninth after that nasty  collision with Beltre over a foul ball.  Neither caught the ball, but Beltre’s knee caught Ellsbury’s left ribs.  He’s okay, though; nothing was broken, so it’s just a contusion.

Buchholz was the last in the rotation to go.  (Because ESPN nabbed Opening Day, we had Monday off in addition to our travel day on Thursday, so Beckett was able to pitch yesterday on regular rest.) We have now officially completed one pass through the starting rotation.  We have two decisions to show for it, as unlikely as that sounds; we have losses by the bullpen, as unlikely as that sounds; and we have revealed that the extent of our offensive prowess is large, as unlikely as that may sound to some.  Next stop: Target Field for the Twins’ home opener.  Things to be positive about: the Twins have absolutely no home field advantage aside from the fans because the field is brand-new and they haven’t played there either, and perhaps just as importantly, Target Field isn’t the Metrodome, because as we all know, almost any park would be better than the Metrodome.  Lester starts opposite Pavano and hopefully wins.

AP Photo

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Now that’s the Josh Beckett I’m talking about! (And hopefully that’s the one who signed the contract extension.) Last night, Josh Beckett made the Royals look like, well, the Royals.

Three runs on nine hits with a walk and four K’s over seven innings.  I would’ve liked to see less hits and runs allowed, but after his Opening Day performance, I will take what I can get and I will like it.  That was his longest outing yet at Kauffman Stadium.  Essentially he cruised.  He got in trouble once, in the seventh, when there were runners at the corners with nobody out.  But he was able to exchange a run for a double play, which reminded all of us how nice it is to have stability at shortstop.  Also in the seventh, Beckett almost went down.  DeJesus hit a line drive up the middle that hit Beckett in the in the back of the head.  That was so scary, for an instant I didn’t even notice that a run was scoring; I just wanted to see Beckett still standing.  But he was pitching so well that, if the seventh had been an easy inning, we probably would’ve seen him come back out for the eighth.

Overall, he essentially cruised.  He had a stretch where he retired seven in a row.  He threw seventy-three pitches through the first six innings.  That’s a really low pitch count.  And his stuff was so much better yesterday than it was on Opening Day.  Unlike that performance, during which he relied too heavily on his fastball, he used all of his pitches effectively last night, mixed and located them well, and threw them for strikes.  And he had some really nice movement on his fastballs.  He’ll take the win.  Say hello to the first decision for a starter this season.

By the way, I agree with Jerry Remy; Podsednik’s swing in the third inning was awful.  That was just disgusting.  That was a desperate grasp of a swing.  If you look up the word “pathetic” in the dictionary, you see a picture of that swing.  He was looking to make any kind of contact whatsoever, but not only was he being defensive, he was also way out in front.  Very ugly.  That’s what a Beckett cut fastball does.

The final score was 8-3, and there you have your offense.  One of the things I loved about last night’s game was that it afforded no opportunity for naysayers to refute the offense’s skill based on Kansas City’s usual pitching.  Usually Kansas City is terrible.  It’s one of those teams you look forward to playing so you can beat up on them and gain a boost in the standings.  Not so last night, because last night Greinke was on the mound.  He’s no walk in the park; he throws any pitch in any count, including that slider of his.  And yet we still took him for four runs, enough to give us the lead by the time Beckett left.  (Presumably, as the season continues, those four runs would’ve represented a more significant lead, provided the starter doesn’t allow almost the same amount.) And not only that; Francona also called out the reserves, so Tek, Lowell, and Hermida started.  And none of them disappointed.

Seeing Lowell and Tek start was a sight for sore eyes.  You’re talking about one of the game’s classiest guys, who said he’ll probably retire after this season to spend more time with his family, by the way, and one of the game’s greatest team leaders, both on and off the field.  It was good to see them, period, and it was good to see them playing so well.  Both of them looked like they haven’t lost a step.  Lowell was great in the field; he made a nifty play in the fourth when a ball hit by Butler propelled his gloved hand behind him, so he turned a three-sixty and fired to first.  Also, to make room for Hermida in left, Ellsbury started the game in center.  That was great to see, and it’s good that he’ll have chances this season to return to that position, being that his skill set was made for it and all.

Okay.  Basically, in the fifth inning, Hermida and Tek went yard back-to-back.  Those were hit on hanging curveballs.  As a side note, the most home runs Hermida ever hit in a season was eighteen in 2007, but his first at-bat ever with the Marlins was a grand slam.  His second at-at bat with Boston is apparently a home run.  Then in the seventh, Ellsbury took advantage of that huge gap in right center and doubled in Scutaro, and Pedroia flied in Ellsbury, which broke Greinke and he left.  Then in the eighth, Youk went yard.  Then in the ninth, Tek went yard on a changeup; On May 20, 2001, Tek had a three-homer game at Kauffman Stadium.  Say hello to April 10, 2010.  The man still packs.  Then, Pedroia went yard with Ellsbury on base, and that game was done.  We couldn’t do anything to the Royals bullpen two nights ago.  Not so last night.  Honestly, who in his right mind throws a fastball middle-in to Pedroia.  Eight runs.  Done.  Point being, the B team brings it big.

Ellsbury finished the night three for five.  There’s your leadoff hitter! And Scutaro stole a base.  Funny; Greinke hit Pedroia in the fifth and Scutaro in the seventh.  Greinke is known for his control.  I’m not saying he did it on purpose; I’m just saying it’s interesting.  Good thing that was after Beckett left.  Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say we would’ve had some sort of retaliation.

In other news, Dice-K had a great outing for Pawtucket during which he threw forty-three of seventy-three pitches for strikes and topped out at ninety-three miles per hour.  He walked one, struck out three, and hit two over five shutout innings.  Most importantly, he felt great during all of them.  And congratulations to Boston College for shutting out Wisconsin to win its fourth NCAA hockey title!

So the bench proved itself, Beckett was sharp, our starter earned a decision, and our bullpen was flawless.  That’s the way to be.  The Royals lineup isn’t the hardest to contain, but you have to start somewhere.  Maybe this is what we needed to get the ball rolling.  It does wonders for your confidence, not to mention the standings.  After Buchholz’s start tonight, we’ll have officially completed one rotation of our starters.  He’ll start opposite Meche.  Let’s take this series.

The Bruins lost to the Caps in overtime (way to force the issue!), beat the Sabres, and finally clinched a playoff spot yesterday! They beat Carolina (oh, the irony) thanks to some short-hand goals and a heads-up play by Patrice Bergeron.  At one point, the puck careened off Wheeler’s stick toward our empty net, but Bergeron scooped it out in the nick of time, when it was mere centimeters from the goal line.  The final score was 4-2.  It’s certainly been an interesting season; Savard was injured, Lucic was injured, and basically each of our defensemen was injured.  And key players from last year couldn’t find their form this year.  We had an early three-goal lead, which we of course squandered.  But the important thing is that we’re in.  Tomorrow we have another game with the Caps and that’s it before the playoffs.  Who knows? Maybe everything will come together.

Fire Brand of the American League

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