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Posts Tagged ‘Patriots Day’

First of all, let me address yesterday’s tragic events.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that we hope for the safety and wellbeing of all who were affected by the tragedy at the finish line of the marathon yesterday.  Our minds and hearts are with you.

Patriots’ Day is always a fun day for baseball in Boston.  Jackie Robinson Day is always a fun day for baseball everywhere.  So when they coincide, it’s a great day to celebrate greatness in the game.  Thankfully, neither the weather nor the team disappointed.

First there was the incredible start from Dempster, easily his best start so far this year.  Seven innings, one run, two hits, two walks, ten strikeouts.  In fact, Dempster, really only made one mistake, which resulted in a solo shot with two out in the fourth.  That was about it.  And he managed to do it with only four pitches: both fastballs plus a deadly slider and a formidable splitter.  This was another quick game: three hours and three minutes.  Actually, it was yet another pitcher’s duel.  Uehara got a hold for his holding of our lead in the eighth, and Bailey, who was extremely lucky, picked up both the blown save and the win.  If you ask me, Dempster should have gotten the win on principle, but obviously that’s not how it works.

We scored first.  Ellsbury received eight straight fastballs during his first at-bat and tripled on the last one; he scored on a groundout by Victorino.  Both teams went down in order in the second and third.  Then the solo shot that Dempster relinquished tied it at one in the fourth.  But Salty put us back on top with a solo shot to lead off the fifth.  It came on the third pitch of his at-bat, a fastball at eighty-nine miles per hour, which promptly ended up beyond the right  field fence.  I suppose Dempster and his opponent really were matching each other pitch for pitch; Dempster gives up a solo shot, and then we hit one.

Both teams went down in order in the seventh, and the eighth proceeded without incident.  All indications pointed to us winning the game by a score of 2-1 until Bailey blew his save.  He gave up a single that may as well have been a double thanks to a steal; sure enough, that turned into the tying run when he gave up another single.  Fortunately, giving up the tying run is not the same as giving up the winning run.  But a porous reliever is still not what you want, especially when this guy was supposed to have been our closer.  Now we have two relievers on our staff who are closers by trade and who apparently can’t close.

Bailey was extremely fortunate that Pedroia walked and scored on a double off the Monster by Napoli in the ninth for yet another walkoff victory in just three days; the final score was 3-2, and we officially swept the Rays.  Without that quick fix, it is entirely possible that we may have lost the whole contest, and it would have been all Bailey’s fault.  That, plus the fact that Dempster’s start was as good as it gets, is why Dempster should have gotten the win.

Boston Globe Staff
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Don’t look now, but technically we’re on a winning streak.  We’ve won two games in a row.  That’s the bare minimum for a winning streak, and it came against the Jays, but it’s still a winning streak, and I will most definitely take it.  At this point, the worst that could happen is we split the series.

We won, 8-1! That’s more like it! That’s the type of score I envisioned us having after every game.  Okay, so that was wishful thinking, but I still say that such outcomes shouldn’t be rarities for us.  Yesterday afternoon, it looked like a walk in the park.  Pun intended.

Wow.  Lester.  Lester fired his third quality start and finally got a win to show for it, but he was not as efficient as the final score would make it seem.  He did give up only one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts, and he did break three bats, but he only lasted six innings and, in that time, threw 110 pitches, sixty-five of which were strikes.  He threw fifty-three pitches through the first three innings alone.  Thankfully, he was backed by two double plays, one in the second and one in the third.  He actually pitched to two batters in the seventh before he was pulled in favor of Bard, who finished out the inning, and very well, I might add; he walked a batter but between a double play and a strikeout, he was out of it in no time.  If not for that double play and thanks to Lowrie’s fielding error, Lester would have been credited with an additional run, although unearned.

Lester brought his fastball up to ninety-five miles per hour, and it was really good, but he kept missing with his offspeeds.  He mixed in sinkers, changeups, and curveballs, and he definitely settled down as the game went on, but his lack of control made him inefficient.  He clearly labored.  At times he was extremely wild.  He threw at most twenty pitches in an inning twice.  Not counting the ten pitches he fired in the seventh before he was pulled, his lowest count was twelve in the fourth.

You would think that such a performance would necessitate a heap of runs.  Not for Lester.  Lester lacked control, but he maintained just enough to keep us in it.  He and the bullpen.  The bullpen wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty scrappy and got the job done.  Well, Doubront had some trouble in the eighth; he opened the inning with a walk.  He induced a flyout but issued another walk.  Then there was a pickoff at third after a steal of second.  Good thing, because Doubront gave up a single after that.  He was pulled in favor of Jenks, who did his job and got a strikeout.  Wheeler then brought us home.  Three up, three down.  Game over.  But not before we scored – wait for it – eight runs!

The Jays may have scored first, in the top of the second inning, but man, did we avenge that run.  We responded with a four-spot in the bottom of the fourth.  Lowrie singled, Drew singled, Salty singled in Lowrie, and then Ellsbury stepped to the plate.  He took a cutter for a ball.  He took a slider for a ball.   And then he took a sinker around the Pesky Pole for a cool three-run shot.  How’s that for clutch.  Yeah.  That’s clutch.

We didn’t score again until the sixth, an inning that started out looking like we wouldn’t be scoring again then either.  After a flyout and a strikeout, Papi singled, Lowrie reached on a fielding error, Drew walked, and Salty came through yet again with another single, this one for not one but two runs.  It would have been three had Drew been safe at the plate.

As if to make double amends for his fielding error, Lowrie reached and went to second on another fielding error in the eighth, which also brought Gonzalez and Youk home after a double and hit-by-pitch, respectively.

So there you go.  Eight runs, mostly on offspeeds.  Clearly it wasn’t a good day for anyone for offspeeds; we were just better at reading them.  The final score? 8-1.  Some manufactured chances, some power.  Nothing but goodness.  Gonzalez and Salty both finished two for four, Gonzalez with a double.  We left only four on base and went three for eight with runners in scoring position.  That’s a .375 average! I wish our batters had averages like that.  Lowrie is currently batting .462 and Pedroia is batting .315; those are the only averages we’ve got above .300.  We came into the game with three members of the lineup batting under .200.  Two of them, Ellsbury and Salty, ended up bearing the brunt of the offensive load.  The third one, Crawford, continued to do absolutely nothing.  He went 0 for 4.  He couldn’t even manage a walk.

Salty, by the way, needs to work on throwing batters out.  It couldn’t hurt to have the pitchers work on their pickoff moves, too.  The Jays have been running very aggressively on us so far in this series and it must stop.  Like, immediately.

If you can believe it, it only took two days for us to double our win total.  That’s a luxury we won’t have after the month of April, so we need to keep it going.  We’ve got a morning game today on Patriots Day; the game will start at 11:00AM.  And the Boston Marathon is happening as well.  And we could extend our winning streak.  And we could win a series for the second time this year.  All Dice-K has to do is provide just a decent performance.  Just go at least five innings and give up at most three runs.  That seriously shouldn’t be too much to ask of any pitcher.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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We just got swept by the Rays in a four-game series, the last coming on Patriots Day.  We’ve lost all five of our last five.  This is the longest losing streak we’ve had at home since we dropped twelve straight in 1994.  We’re off to our worst start since 1932.  We’re 0 for our last 32 at-bats with runners in scoring position.  We haven’t had a lead in our last forty-five innings.  Steals against have been successful in twenty-three of twenty-four attempts, ten of which were by the Rays.  We’re six games out of first place.  Only once in club history have we ever been at least five games out of first in April and gone to the playoffs: 2003, and that didn’t end well.  The only team in the last fifty-six years to win the World Series after being more than three games under .500 in April is the ’79 Pirates.  The Washington Nationals have more wins than we do.  And if that doesn’t convey the darkness of our current situation, you might also want to take a gander at the batting averages of the heart of our order: V-Mart is batting .212, Youk is batting .217, Papi is batting .158, and Drew is batting .146.

Pedroia is batting .346 with five home runs and thirteen RBIs; he and Tek have more home runs combined than the entire rest of the team.  This is a team sport.  They can’t carry an entire lineup by themselves.

So what’s the explanation for our epic failure? Everything.  There are three things a baseball team needs to succeed: pitching, offense, and defense.  We don’t have pitching because our pitchers are neither locating nor executing nor mixing nor concentrating.  We don’t have offense because our batters lack timing and rhythm and groove and clutch.  We don’t have defense because players are making errors in the field.  (If the outfield alone were responsible, I’d say that’s a function of new guys acclimating to Fenway Park.  But we’re talking about infielders too, like Scutaro, who apparently is just one more in a long line of defensively incompetent shortstops.)

The best way I can sum it up is with Pedroia’s own words:

When you don’t show up, you are going to get beat.

And we haven’t shown up since mid-September of ’09.

I absolutely refuse to believe that this will last.  I don’t believe it because it can’t last.  We’re not talking about one-dimensional players, the dregs of the Majors, who can only throw or hit one pitch or field in one play.  Our roster consists of the cream of the crop, and sooner or later the objective odds will dictate that bats will make contact, that pitches will find the strike zone, and that balls will find gloves.  This is some of the worst April ball we’ve seen in a very long time; for some of us, this is the worst April ball we’ve seen ever.  But I have a feeling that if we clear this month we’ll see something different.

Anyway, on to yesterday’s pathetic display.  Lackey rightly took the loss after giving up eight runs on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in just over three innings.  Gave up a three-run homer to Upton as part of a five-run third inning.  His least effective pitches were, not coincidentally, those he used most: his cutter and his curve.  The only less effective pitch he used was his change, and he only threw five of them.  His release point was looser than usual, and his strike zone was nonexistent.  It was a complete and total disaster.

I hope he apologized profusely to the bullpen for bailing him out.  Atchison, Ramirez, and Schoeneweis pitched the rest of the game and combined to relinquish three hits, two walks, and two strikeouts over five and two-thirds.  The one thing we have seen in this miserable losing streak is some groove-finding in the bullpen, which is very good news when you consider the fact that the starters for the most part could stand some improvement.

We collected five hits in the entire game, one of which was a very powerful, very deep, and very nice two-run dinger by Hermida in the seventh.  Those were our only two runs of the game, and that plus Drew’s double were the only extra-base hits we managed.  Hermida also made a fielding error.

And to make matters worse, Ellsbury’s timing is completely up in the air at this point.  It’s possible he may just end up on the disabled list.  Great.  That’s just what we need now: our possible catalyst to be ruled out.

So all of that begs the question of what we need to do to get ourselves out of this misery.  The answer is remarkably simple: the pitchers need to start pitching, the hitters need to start hitting, and the fielders need to start fielding.  That’s it.  That’s really all there is to it.  How each of them does that is something they’ll have to figure out for themselves because, as we’ve seen, every ballplayer works differently.  The point is that we needed to start winning last week, so we need to pick it up because we have a lot to make up for.  The Rangers are coming to town tonight.  I propose we win this one and go from there.

The Bruins won! Again! 2-1! This is actually going much better than I thought.  I’ve really liked the way we’ve played these last few games.  Maybe we’ve finally found what we’ve been looking for all season long.  Next game tomorrow.

AP Photo

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I had to laugh at that headline.  Can you really say a pitcher gave a vintage performance if that pitcher’s only twenty-five years old? Apparently.  Jon Lester’s first two starts were nothing like his third.  If it’s possible to describe a young pitcher’s performance as vintage, now would certainly be the time and yesterday would certainly be the performance.  In his first two starts, Lester had a total of five strikeouts.  Yesterday, he had nine, one shy of his career high.  The cut fastball was on.  Seven innings, two walks, no runs.  He gave up two hits to Robert Andino and two to Ty Wigginton, and that was it.  He continues to be undefeated against Baltimore.  And he even showed off his pickoff move, catching Wigginton at first in the third inning for his third of the year.

I have to say George Kottaras did a great job yesterday.  He started to give Tek the day off, one of quite a few this year as Tito’s strategy will be to rest the captain a little more often.  Kottaras caught Lester once before in Spring Training, which isn’t much preparation, so hats off to the new guy.

Heading into yesterday’s contest, our bullpen gave up only one earned run in nineteen and two-thirds innings and posted an ERA of 0.46 in its last three games.  And the corps did not disappoint.  Ramon Ramirez was spot-on as usual in the eighth.  Needless to say, I’m enjoying the benefits of that trade, and I think Coco Crisp is too, because he’s a starter by trade and starters need to play regularly.  True, Jacoby’s in the middle of a slump right now, but he’s already started to come around, and he’s certainly having no trouble at all in the field.  No errors in 149 games; can we say Gold Glove? Takashi Saito, on the other hand, gave up a run in the ninth, so while Ramirez is still maintaining his 0.00 ERA, Saito’s pushing 6.23.  Paps worked the previous two games, and pitching him three days in a row is pretty much out of the question, so Saito, having been a closer, was the logical choice.  In his career he’s converted 82 of 92 save opportunities, so we know he has it in him somewhere.  I just hope he gets the kinks out so I don’t have to hold my breath every time he steps out there.

The offense was quiet but got the job done anyway.  One RBI for Mikey Lowell and one for Pedroia for a final score of 2-1.  Ellsbury went two for four, the only multi-hit performance, so slowly but steadily he’s getting there.  Drew went hitless, ending his hitting streak at six games.  Papi went hitless, which unfortunately is something we’re coming to expect.  He’s only had one extra-base hit all year.  We know he’ll snap out of it, but when? I think before the series with New York would be as good a time as any.

Beckett’s suspension was reduced from six to five games, so with some creative finagling he won’t have to miss a start.  Honestly, he shouldn’t even have been suspended at all.  Just sayin’.  Brad Wilkerson has decided to retire after an eight-year Major League career.  And David Wells will be getting in the booth for TBS in the next few weeks.  Wells broadcasting baseball? This should be interesting.  I think it’s safe to say Bud Selig will be listening.

So we’re officially on a winning streak! Four games! And we’re tied with Baltimore for third, only three games out of first.  Toronto’s still up there with New York in second and Tampa Bay in last.  It’s only a matter of time before the AL East and the universe at large are made right again with Boston on top.  Today it’s morning ball; the Patriots Day game will start at 11:00AM.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a morning game.  Anyway, Masterson will be starting in lieu of Dice-K, and if we win today we sweep all four against the Orioles.  Nice.

Game 3 of Bruins-Habs tonight in Montreal.  We’ll get it done.  Even if Milan Lucic was suspended for tonight because it wasn’t clear whether it was his stick or his glove that hit Maxim Lapierre’s helmet.  I personally thought I saw his glove.  But the point is we’re good enough to weather it for a game and come out on top.  And there’s nothing quite like showing your arch-rivals who’s boss in their house.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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