Posts Tagged ‘Paul Nauert’

What a game.  It could have been so good.  It could have been really, really great.  And yet ultimately it was just so, so bad.

Lester, for his part, was great.  His numbers don’t even tell half the real story of how his start went.  His line says that he gave up four runs on six hits over the course of six and two-thirds innings and that he walked two and struck out four and that he threw 116 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  But as decent as that line is for Lester, it’s not an accurate reflection of how truly good he was.

He was really great.  He completely shut out the Rangers through five.  He faced the minimum through four, and they would have been four perfect innings if he hadn’t given up a single in the second, which ended with a double play.  He finally faced one above the minimum in the fifth after allowing a single; unlike the fourth, the fifth did not end with a double play.  The sixth and seventh were when the Rangers got to him.  So essentially almost his entire line was created during those two innings alone, which, as I said, is obviously not an accurate reflection of how truly excellent he really was.  I mean, his cut fastball was as good as I’ve ever seen it, and he mixed in his other pitches to provide a rich variety of utter devastation for Texas.

He allowed a double to lead off the sixth.  He notched a called strikeout for the first out of the inning, and then the run scored on a single.  A groundout secured the second out but moved the runner to second, and another single brought it in.  The inning ended with a flyout.  The seventh was very similar; Lester induced a flyout for the frame’s first out and then gave up a walk, a single, and a sac fly that scored his third run.  Then he allowed another walk and was relieved by Melancon, who gave up a single that allowed his inherited runner to score, which accounts for Lester’s final run.

Clearly Lester fell apart late.  He allowed all of his walks, all of his runs, and most of his hits over the course of two innings; those two walks both came in the seventh.  But before that, how good was he.  Yeah.  Pretty good.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the offense, which was shut out through six.  We headed into the bottom of the seventh with a four-run deficit.  And I was thinking that it was going to be one of those nights.  Until we ultimately, finally turned it on just in time for us to think that we might actually be able to pull out a win in this one.

Three runs scored in the seventh put us within one.  There was a single with one out by Salty, and a trip to first on an error with two out by Kalish.  And then a pitching change.  And then the huge and enormous power of Middlebrooks.  It was one of those times where you knew we desperately needed something as drastic as a monster shot, and so naturally if you really need it you question whether you’re going to get it.  And then you do get it and it’s almost just surreal.  Except that it happened, and it was literally a monster shot because he hit it to left field and all of a sudden we scored three runs on one swing of the bat and suddenly we were right back in it.

Except that the relief corps couldn’t keep us in that position.  Which is pathetically funny and sadly ironic since the whole point of a relief corps is to preserve leads.

Melancon gave up a walk and a single that increased the deficit to two in the eighth.  And we didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth.  Breslow was put in for the ninth, and he hit a batter and induced a popout before being replaced by Tazawa, who got a strikeout and then allowed a single that brought in his inherited runner.  That increased the deficit to three.  So after we swung the momentum back in our direction so late in the game, after we rallied to pull it together after having done absolutely nothing for most of it, after Middlebrooks powered us right back in there and made Texas’s lead unsafe, we were right back where we started in ever sense: with a loss.  Salty singled in the bottom of the ninth, but then there was a double play, and we ended up going down in order.

The final score was 6-3.  At least it wasn’t 6-0.  But after not scoring for almost the entire game and then coming back so late and then ultimately losing, it’s a very, very tough one to swallow.

And as far as Pedroia not checking his swing in the ninth, he checked his swing.  First base umpire Paul Nauert was wrong.  I have absolutely no idea what he was looking at, but it sure wasn’t Pedroia, who was a mile off from a swing at least.

The Boston Globe

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Between a rainout and the schedule, we had two days off.  I thought that would be a good thing.  Two days off to regroup, re-energize, re-focus, and re-find ourselves.  For some, it was exactly that.  For others, maybe they should just have no days off and they would play better.  I don’t know.  Either way, it was ugly.

The game was preceded by a ceremony honoring Jackie Robinson Day and, as is customary on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut, everyone wore Number Forty-Two.  It’s a day that really makes you stop and think about the true significance of the impact he really had.  Here’s to you, Jackie Robinson.  We salute you.

After the conclusion of the third inning, it looked like many of the predictions I’d been hearing that this series would be the one during which we’d finally turn it around would come true.  In the first, Adam Lind hit what looked like would be the end of us: a three-run shot.  The ball hit the top of the fence, but after that, the view was terrible.  First base umpire Paul Nauert initially thought that the ball landed to the left of the pole.  Luckily, thankfully, fortunately, and correctly, the call was overturned, and it was called a foul ball.  (That would be Lind’s last approach to anything close to an extra-base hit.  In the fourth, Lind hit a ball that was sailing over center field fast, but Ellsbury had that ball’s number all the way.  He made the catch on the run on the warning track in the triangle for the second out in the fourth.)

The offense didn’t do much of anything leading up to the third, but Pedroia took two balls and then walloped an eighty-eight mile-per-hour sinker into the first row of the Monster seats for a solo shot.  This after, in the top of the inning, he made a fantastic play to get an out at first with which Buchholz should have been very familiar; the running, rolling over, spinning around, and firing was almost exactly the same play that Pedroia made to preserve Buchholz’s no-hitter.  Pedroia, in case you didn’t already know, is officially the sparkplug of this team.  And then Gonzalez walked and Youk, for the first time since last July, after taking a ball and a strike, also walloped an eighty-eight mile-per-hour sinker out of the yard.  It landed several feet to the right of the 379-foot mark in center field.  Clearly it’s only a matter of time before he gets going, because that ball was hit with some major power.

Sadly, however, that lead wouldn’t last.  The Jays got two runs back in the fifth and one in the sixth to tie it.  And now would be the time to talk about the pitching.

Buchholz didn’t have his best stuff.  Surprise, surprise.  His final line was three runs on three hits over five innings with three strikes and five walks.  Yes, five walks.  That matches a career high.  That’s more walks than he’s supposed to give up in a whole season.  Two of those walks turned into runs.  As I said, and every sabermetrician will tell you the same, walks will haunt.  Walks bring runners home on hits that otherwise wouldn’t be a big deal.

The five walks were only a manifestation in the books of Buchholz’s problem overall: a lack of command.  That’s where walks come from.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, only forty-six of which were strikes.  He was totally erratic.  He varied his speed, but it was a fail because he had to throw incredibly lame offspeeds to do so.  As he said himself, he’d try to throw one pitch and it would go one way out of the strike zone, and then he’d try to throw the exact same pitch and it would go the completely opposite way out of the strike zone.  In terms of strikes, his most effective pitch was his cutter, and only threw that for strikes sixty percent of the time.  So all of his other pitchers were thrown for strikes even less than that.  He had particular trouble with his other two offspeeds, the curveball and changeup.  His fastballs weren’t so effective either.  He only got up to ninety-four miles per hour.  A plot of his strike zone will show you that he was in out, around, and all over the lower right corner of the zone, and he threw several pitches high.  It wasn’t good.  Anytime you have a starter known for offspeeds, he has to command, because offspeeds are only as good as their execution, which produces the proper location.  If he wasn’t releasing the ball well or couldn’t find the strike zone, he wasn’t going to win.

He didn’t lose either.  He didn’t receive a decision.  Two batters into the sixth, he was lifted in favor of Alfredo Aceves, who induced a double play but then allowed his second inherited runner to score.  So he received a blown save for his trouble.  But that was nowhere near the worst of it.  Because Bobby Jenks came on after that and finished us off.

Jenks faced six batters in the seventh and recorded only one out, a swinging strikeout on four pitches.  If only that flash of brilliance permeated the rest of the frame.  Two line drives to Crawford for two runs, one run on a wild pitch, and a fourth run on another line drive to Crawford.  Those four runs are a career high; those four hits tie a career high.  It was brutal.  Single after single after single.  Run after run after run.  And suddenly our power third inning was completely erased and, not only were we no longer tied, but we were back to losing.  Jenks so far has been great, so maybe he’s allowed one majorly huge inning of badness.  It just came at the worst time because we lost the game right there.  Which is why he got the loss.

Doubront pitched the rest of the inning with ease.  Wheeler came on in the next inning, promptly sent down his three batters, and made way for the offense.

We looked like we were going to come back.  We were down by four, and we looked like we knew that we could overcome it.  Gonzalez grounded out.  Youk and Papi walked consecutively.  Drew struck out swinging.  And Lowrie, who came in to pinch-hit for Salty, singled in a run.  Scutaro doubled in two more.  And Ellsbury stood at the plate.  You could cut the suspense with a knife.  One more run would tie it, and any more would put us out in front.  And then we would make it happen in the ninth for the win.  So what did Ellsbury do? He flied out to right field on his first pitch.

Paps came on for the ninth; he walked one but, thanks to a groundout and a double play, faced the minimum.  In the bottom of the ninth, a strikeout and two groundouts ended it.  We lost, 7-6.

A note on the weather.  It was freezing outside.  Buchholz mentioned it after the game.  Did that have anything to do with his lack of performance? Only he would know.  Should it have anything to do with it? Not in the least.  First of all, we’re not the Rockies and this isn’t Denver.  If the Rockies can play all year long in Denver, we can play all year long in Boston, and we don’t even need a humidor.  Secondly, this is a team of guys that make their career here.  That means dealing with the bitter cold as well as the brutal heat.  Buchholz came up through the farms.  He’s been pitching in Boston for several years already.  Every once in a while, you have to deal with particularly uncomfortable conditions, but hey, that’s baseball in Boston.  Besides, Wheeler came over from the Rays, who play in Florida, and I didn’t see him having a problem.

Three of our five hits were for extra bases, but we left six on base and went two for eight with runners in scoring position.  Nobody posted a multi-hit game, although Youk and Papi both walked twice.  Crawford did absolutely nothing; no walks, no hits, nothing.  So I would say that, no, right now, at this particular moment in time, he is not currently in the process of earning his contract.  Gonzalez, however, is a different story.  Not only is he earning his trade, but he is also earning his contract, an extension that was announced yesterday.  We signed him for seven years and $154 million.  Money-wise, it’s the ninth largest contract in Major League history, largest of our current ownership, and second largest in club history, right behind the Manny Ramirez deal of 2000, which exceeded this one by six million dollars.  I will be the first to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of contracts that are large in either money or years because it decreases the financial and strategic flexibility of the club, but when it’s done shrewdly, it can be effective.  This contract provides us with stability at not one but two key positions, because now Youk knows he can get comfortable at third.  And so far, overall, Gonzalez has been hitting, and he’s been hitting in a particular style that shows us that he’s going to be successful here.  Let’s also remember that we’re not the Yankees.  We don’t hand out this kind of money or these types of contracts very lightly.  In Theo we trust.  And as soon as Crawford starts hitting and stealing, we’ll see returns on that too.

The bottom line is that we lost yesterday.  The good news is that we lost by only one run, which means we were right back in it.  The bad news is that we lost by only one run, which means that we only needed one more and we couldn’t get it, not even with our lineup.  We had sub-par starting pitching, and we didn’t always have the greatest hitting, but this one is on the bullpen.  Aceves allowed his inherited runner to score, but that’s only one.  That could have been the difference-maker.  Instead, Bobby Jenks comes in and starts throwing like a pitching machine.

But we need to remember something.  We may be two and ten, and we may be in last place in our division.  But we’re five games out of first with 150 games to play.  We’ve seen so much worse.  We’ve been five games out of first with less than thirty games to play.  And I still stand by my assertion that a lineup, pitching staff, and bullpen like ours absolutely can not be good only on paper and not in practice.  We will turn it around, and when we do, I would suggest that the rest of Major League Baseball take notice.  It’s the meantime before that turnaround that’s going to be tough.  Next up: Beckett and hopefully a repeat performance of his last start.

In other news, the Bruins were shutout by the Habs in our first playoff contest.  Never a great way to start.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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