Posts Tagged ‘Phil Hughes’

No need for introductions today.  The circumstances of the game say it all.  That and I can’t really describe verbally the sensation of being trampled that I am currently experiencing.  Needless to say, today’s headline is obviously the understatement of the century.

There was nothing more we could have asked of Dice-K.  The contrast between last night and his seven previous starts was so stark that I thought we were looking at a different pitcher entirely.  In his seven previous starts, he allowed at least four runs in each, the second-longest streak like that in the Major Leagues this season and the longest by one of our starters since 1943.  But last night Dice-K went in there and delivered just about the best start he could possibly have delivered.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, a walk, and seven strikeouts on 110 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.

Through seven, he faced the minimum plus one.  He made only one mistake: an 0-2 cutter that didn’t do much and ended up out of the park.  Other than that, he was spotless.  He used the first inning to establish a solid fastball, and he mixed in a formidable cutter and curveball after that.  He even added a very effective slider and changeup.  It was remarkable.  His release point was tight, and he went after hitters.  Very easily one of his top five outings this year.

So Dice-K did his job.  And the offense did its job as best it could.  Again, I feel  compelled to mention the staggering fact that this year alone we’ve had nineteen guys on the DL, nine of whom were former or current All-Stars.  V-Mart singled in Hall in the eighth.  That one run held until Dice-K’s mistake in the seventh gave the Yankees a one-run lead, and the despair was setting in.  Rivera came on for a four-out save.  We were down to the ninth with our last chance.  And that was when we proceeded to steal four bases, providing Rivera with a new career high.  Kalish and Hall both stole twice.  Granted, some of those were the result of fielder indifference, but still.

With one out, Kalish singled, stole second, and stole third.  They brought the infield in, and Hall hit one over everybody to score Kalish.  Then Hall stole second and third and scored on Lowell’s sac fly.  Just like that, we had ourselves another one-run lead.  And I’m thinking we got this.

But then Paps came on and was just as porous.  Two singles and a full-count walk loaded the bases, and a single tied it up and re-loaded the bases.  Yet another blown save.  His ERA over his previous six appearances was 14.21.  And home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was not helpful.  I’ve always said that if an umpire wants to influence the action of a game that much, he should suit up and play, but if he’s content with being an umpire, he should just umpire and that’s it.

When Okajima came out to handle the bottom of the tenth, it became very obvious that this game smacked of the taste of October.  It was windy, it was rainy, it was nailbitingly close, and the odds say that it will be our only taste of the thrill of the postseason this year.  One more loss or Yankees win and we are officially out.

Okajima made things go very quickly from bad to worse.  A single, a bunt, and an intentional walk loaded the bases.  Okajima walked in the walkoff run.  It wasn’t even remotely close.  It was utterly humiliating and severely painful.  I’m telling you, there is a wide variety of methods to win via the walkoff.  The bases-loaded walk is one of them.  And of all those methods, the bases-loaded walk is the absolute worst, hands down.  On top of that, consider the circumstances of this particular bases-loaded walk and basically you’ve hit the jackpot in the most negative sense.

It was one of the season’s longest nights, both literally and figuratively.  Dice-K isn’t the fastest pitcher in the world, but he actually did alright.  We finished ten innings in almost exactly four hours.  Hey, like I said, at least we got some October-style thrills and chills.  We can be proud of the fact that we completely owned the Yankees in the first two games of the series; winning a series in the Bronx is definitely something to celebrate.  We made Girardi scratch Dustin Moseley and go with Hughes because he was afraid of us.  And we can take pride in the fact that we’re still going to show up and play tomorrow.  We have only seven games left in the regular season and a long winter ahead.  Let’s soak it all in while we can.

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The title of this post is both very cheesy and completely unoriginal, but it’s accurate and it gets my point across, so I’m going with it.

As usual, I’ll start with the Home Run Derby, and unlike the derbies of previous years, this one actually wasn’t a drag.  All I have to say is, “Who’s your papi?” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  Your newest Home Run Derby champion is none other than David Ortiz himself! I can’t say I was surprised.  Big Papi is one of the best, and lefties own that ballpark in the evenings.  Eight homers in the first round batting sixth and thirteen in the second leading off said he was tied with Hanley Ramirez, ironically enough, but he left that tie in the dust when he clubbed eleven homers in the final round from the leadoff spot.  Ramirez couldn’t even come close.  He is the first Red Sox player to win a Home Run Derby, and after everything his home runs have done for this team, he most definitely deserves it.  And he sure did us proud.  If you want to talk about power, that right there was power.  It was home run after home run after home run.  Literally.  And he’s a classy guy; he even went out to Ramirez during the final round and told him to slow down and save his energy.  And of course the dedication of his trophy to Jose Lima.  That was special.

The game itself was a compete disappointment.  The final score was 3-1 in favor of the National League, which snapped its All-Star losing streak at thirteen games.  The American League hasn’t lost an All-Star Game since 1996.  The National League! Not only did the American League, and by the American League I obviously mean us, lose home field advantage for the World Series, but it also humiliated itself.  I mean, who loses to the National League? Sure, the NL put its best out there, but so did the AL.  It’s just not right.

Jon Lester, I am proud to say, pitched a one-two-three bottom of the sixth and was rewarded with a hold for his services.  Because he was pitching with a 1-0 lead at the time.  Of the eighteen pitches he fired, eleven were strikes.  Ramirez was the first out after he hit a ground ball hard back to the mound.  Prado then popped to short.  And Gonzalez hit a ground ball to second.  Then Phil Hughes allowed two of the runs and took the loss.  A Yankee.  Great.  Matt Thornton of the White Sox got a blown save.

The AL scored its only run in the fifth, when Longoria came home on Cano’s sac fly.  So representatives from our two rivals scored the only run.  Interesting.

Papi struck out looking, hit a single, and was left on base once.  The contrast from his performance during the Home Run Derby was striking.  I mean, it’s supposed to be, but still.  That single led off the bottom of the ninth and was halfway to second base on a bloop by Buck when Byrd caught the ball and fired to second to force him out.  It was ruled a fielder’s choice.  And it was pretty much the end of the game.  If it had been anyone faster on the basepaths and anyone less competent in the outfield, the runner would have been safe without a doubt.

It was the first time in his career that Papi ever faced Broxton.  He was actually the pitcher who served up what would become Pedroia’s first career walkoff hit on June 19, and Papi was standing in the on-deck circle at the time.

Beltre entered the game in the eighth for defense and struck out swinging in the ninth after Papi’s at-bat.

Pedroia, Buchholz, and V-Mart obviously had a blast and took it all in.  Although I would like to point out that, had the three of them been able to play, it’s not inconceivable that the American League would’ve won after all.  I’m just saying.  All three are elites in pitching or batting and defense.  So it’s an objectively reasonable claim.

So that was it.  It was a clean, short, nine-inning game.  Kind of boring, actually, as All-Star Games go.  No position players had to come in and pitch, no spectacular plays in the field were made, no tie at the very last out was broken by a walkoff, none of that.  Just simple baseball.  But that’s cool too.  We watch baseball for the love of the game, so sometimes simple baseball is just nice.  Then again, it’s even nicer when the team we want to win, actually wins.  At times like this, it makes you reconsider the concept of fan voting.  You’re talking about letting a popularity contest decide something very serious and important: home field advantage for the World Series.  Starting the World Series on the road is not ideal, but I’m not worried about our ability to get through it.  I’m just saying that it’s a weighty issue that should be given its due consideration.

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Penny had an excellent start yesterday.  Outstanding.  Top-notch.  Probably his best of the season so far. It’s interesting; every other start Penny’s made has been six innings long, alternating with two horrendous starts.  But this one was without a doubt a cut above the rest.  He pitched six innings, gave up only three runs on six hits, walked only two, and struck out eight.  He threw 110 pitches total.  He increased the speed of his fastball as the game went on, starting off at 89 to 90 miles per hour and working his way up to around 93.  He was focused, he was precise, he was efficient, he went deep, and he put us in a position to win.  What more can you ask for, especially from a fifth starter? Nothing, really.  But after a start like that, you can ask something of your offense, and it’s just incredibly frustrating when your offense doesn’t answer, especially when the deficit is small.

The final score was 5-3, so we lost by only two runs, and we did go three for eight with runners in scoring position.  Ellsbury went two for five, Pedroia went one for four, Youkilis went two for four with two RBIs, and Drew went three for four with an RBI and is really starting to turn it on.  And that was it.  So it was very one-sided, featuring only the top half of the order, with the exception of David Ortiz.  And if you ask me, I think Terry Francona should give him a day off.  I think he needs a mental break, because what we don’t want is the slump to start getting into his head.  Then it’ll be an uphill battle that’s twice as difficult.  So perhaps a bit of a rest is in order.  Tek made a throwing error.  Ellsbury got caught, but Pedroia stole second successfully.

For a while it looked like we might be able to pull out a win.  Those two RBIs by Youkilis came on a two-run homer he hit in the eight to bring us within one.  But then in the Rays’ half of the inning, between Bartlett’s bat and legs he ended up at third with two out and a ball came straight at Lugo.  He had to make a rushed throw, and the ball skipped off Youk’s glove.  It was scored as a hit and an RBI.  So Bartlett scored the insurance run and that was the ballgame.  Whether that was more Lugo’s fault or Youk’s fault is difficult to say.  A shortstop needs to make an accurate throw, even in a hurry, and a first baseman needs to catch balls, even in a hurry.

Delcarmen’s 0.00 ERA is gone.  Now it’s 0.63.  And Jones allowed a run as well.  But Ramirez is still perfect and pitched a great two-thirds.

Some other points.  In the ninth, Longoria reached into the stands to catch a foul ball and got annoyed because he thought he was interfered with by a Rays fan wearing a Longoria shirt.  So Longoria took the ball away from Longoria.  Also, the steals.  The Rays recorded eight stolen bases on the day.  Eight.  That’s a club record.  The Rays now lead the Major Leagues in steals as a team with a total of forty.  Carl Crawford alone stole six of those eight (Hernandez and Bartlett stole the other two).  That ties a modern-day Major League record for most bases stolen by one guy in a single game.  He’s the fourth player since 1900 to do it, and the most recent performance of the feat was Eric Young for the Rockies on June 30, 1996.  So in the interest of sportsmanship I tip my cap.  But I’m not happy about it.  Why would anybody be? We of all people should know that stolen bases can turn into runs really quickly.  If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have a problem with the steals.  It would be a sort of quirk in Tek’s game, kind of like Dice-K pitching his best with runners in scoring position or the bases loaded.  Yes, it’s unnecessary and I’d be happier if that weren’t the case, but if it’s not hurting anybody, why be concerned? But stolen bases do turn into runs, so it is a cause for concern.  Tek’s not bad at gunning down thieves.  It’s just not one of his fortes.  So definitely something to work on.

So with a record of 15-10, we’re playing .600 ball and are two games behind Toronto in the standings with a two-game series with New York in the Bronx.  Lester at Hughes.  I hope we sweep this one, too.  We sure could use the wins, and if we give the Yankees a good old-fashioned Boston beat-down in the process I won’t complain.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Game Two to Carolina yesterday, 3-0.  Cam Ward shut us out. We allowed two goals in the second period, the first time this postseason we’ve allowed more than one in that time.  (The third goal was an empty-netter.) But it was very well-played.  It was fast-paced, it was clean, it was physical.  It was just a great game to watch anyway, and having Andy Brickley do the color commentary on Versus made it feel like home.  Would’ve been better with a win for the B’s but it’s early in the series.  We need to get a feel for Carolina, and the more we play them, the more we can use our depth to our advantage by adapting to their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses.  Game Three on Wednesday at 7:30PM.  Our first away game of the series.  This is when we need to bear down (no pun intended).

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We’re losing ground here.  And losing ground means losing momentum, losing momentum means losing an advantage in the postseason, losing an advantage in the postseason means increased difficulty in achieving October glory.  Our record at the Trop this season is 1-8.  Even if we tie with the Rays for first place, they’ll win it by the season series.  Tim Wakefield, who’s historically owned the Trop and who was once 9-0 there, got the loss.  His ERA at the Trop is still under 3.00, but you’d never know it from the way he pitched last night.  And the pitching hurt us in more ways than one.

Wakefield pitched 2.1 innings, allowed six runs on six hits, three home runs, no walks, and two strikes.  Maybe we should have a second starter, or maybe a long reliever, specifically for days on which Wakefield and Byrd pitch.  This way, we have someone who can take care of the middle innings until late in the game, and we won’t have to use the bullpen.  So we’re guaranteed solid early and middle relief, and the bullpen is rested for the next game.

After Wakefield left, Hansack allowed two runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout.  Exit Hansack, enter Lopez, who forgot how consistent and solid he is and pitched to three batters in the third inning without recording an out.  He left, and Aardsma came in and didn’t allow a run, which is a welcome sight because lately he hasn’t been what he used to be before he went on the DL.  He had all the makings of a fixture in our bullpen, and he could still pull it together, but watching him now it’s just not the same.  Delcarmen pitched two solid innings, and he’s someone who’s been pulling it together.  He’s much more consistent now, and he’s really fixed the problems he had in the first half of the season.  Okajima pitched a perfect inning.  But Pauley allowed two runs on three hits before Smith finished things off.  We used eight pitchers last night, and all but three were perfect.  But three was enough.  The Rays won, 10-3, and out-hit us, 12-6.

We made two errors.  Both were attributed to pitchers.  Hansack made a pickoff error (he tried to pick off Willy Aybar at second but the throw went past Pedroia, so Aybar advanced to third), and Lopez made a fielding error.  And in the fourth inning, three players were going after an infield pop-up.  Aardsma had the best chance of catching it, but instead it fell.  It’s very unusual to see all of these errors and mistakes by pitchers in a single game.  All in all, it as very ugly.  I felt like I was watching a blooper reel.

The offense was a one-man show.  Big Papi batted in all three of our runs with a two-run home run in the first and a solo home run in the fourth.  He finished the night two for two.  Ellsbury also went two for two.  Pedroia went one for four, Youkilis went one for three with a walk, Cash walked, and nobody else got on base.  Very ugly.

There were some great displays of leather though.  In the third Pedroia dove into shallow right field to snag a line drive.  In the fourth Youkilis made a spectacular sliding catch on a foul ball.  Unfortunately the ball hit a catwalk before it fell foul so it didn’t matter.  That’s something to keep in mind.  It looks like the Rays will make a postseason appearance.  But their stadium has a roof, and it’s got lots of these catwalks and all sorts of irregularities so that when balls bounce off them they do strange things.  No doubt it’ll be very controversial in October.

Here’s something I really didn’t like.  Coco Crisp was booed by the crowd last night because of that brawl in Fenway.  I mean, come on.  We showed a lot of maturity when the Rays visited us.  Even Jonathan Papelbon, for all his tough talk about unfinished business, handled himself well.  It was the first time that happened in this series, and if you ask me it was a little low.

In other news the Yankees won last night, but it was Brian Bruney who got the win and not Phil Hughes, the starter.  We can be happy about that, because when Phil Hughes first came up he was highly touted as this young upstart who’d make batters shake in their spikes.  But they rushed him through development and he came up and soon he started showing weaknesses.  Then there was that stint on the DL, and that was it.  He was never the same.  The Red Sox have revealed the schedule for next season, and it looks like our first game will be our home opener, and guess who we’re playing? The Rays.  So that’ll add some fuel to the fire, no doubt.

We’ve got the day off today, so it’ll give us a chance to recuperate from last night’s ridiculous displays.  But our schedule doesn’t get any easier, because going to Toronto on Friday.  So we’ve got our work cut out for us.  Still doable, but very difficult.

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