Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Flyers’

Simply put, a knuckleball pitcher either has it or doesn’t have it.  Yesterday, Wake didn’t have it.

That’s a pretty simple statement, but when you lose to the Twins for the first time at Fenway since 2007, what can you say? For the second straight night, we basically had nothing.

He took the loss.  He allowed eight runs, six earned, on nine hits.  Wake walked four and struck out only one.  He gave up a solo home run in the first inning.

The second inning was quite the interesting one.  Michael Cuddyer led off with a walk, Danny Valencia singled, and Ben Revere singled to load the bases.  Then Drew Butera flew out and Alexi Casilla struck out swinging.  Right when it looked like we were about to get out of the inning, Denard Span singled in two runs.  Then home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk on Wake that allowed another run to score.  He called the balk because he thought that Wake didn’t finish his move to third; he stepped toward third in order to fake a throw but threw to first instead; in that situation, you would have to actually make the fake throw to third and have the third baseman fire to first.  Wake, meanwhile, thought that it was just a routine pickoff at first.  Tito came out to argue the call; naturally he was ejected.  Then third base umpire Joe West intervened, and then Tito got really angry.  Joe West will probably get in trouble for putting his hands on Tito.  Good, because first of all he put his hands on Tito, and secondly that balk scored a run and started what would end up being a three-run rally.

Wake was pulled after giving up two runs on a double in the fifth after having recorded one out.

He was replaced by Aceves, who replaced Atchison, who was sent down.  Upon entering the inning, Aceves allowed both of his inherited runners to score on a fielding error by Lowrie, the first of two errors he’d make on the day.  He also allowed a runner of his own to score.  At least he got through the rest of the game.  By the time the sixth inning rolled around, the two teams had already posted the final score: 9-2.

Our two runs were scored via the solo shot.  First it was Drew in the second inning with one out.  He’d been fed a steady diet of sinkers in that at-bat and worked the count full; he took the first one for a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a strike, then a ball, then a shot behind the Pesky Pole.  Then it was Gonzalez in the fourth inning with none out.  He took a sinker for a ball and fouled off another before sending a slider into the Monster seats.  Together, those two home runs brought us within two.  We were right in it.  And then we gave all the momentum back to the Twins, and they put up a four-spot in the fifth and one more in the sixth for good measure.

Ellsbury went two for four; that was it for multi-hit games.  We collected seven hits, left four on base, and went 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

I can not believe the Twins used us to break their winning streak.  That’s really bad.  I mean, when I said we need to play better, I was serious.  We need to play better.  Immediately.  We need to win this series, and we should be able to do it.  With Jenks on the DL with a right bicep cramp that apparently started a week ago (figures), our relievers can actually be expected to get the job done.  And Dice-K, whose elbow has been okayed, will start on Sunday.  (Beckett will pitch on Monday to allow Lester to pitch Tuesday on extra rest.) Our starter needs to deliver.  Our offense needs to deliver.  And our defense needs to deliver.  Seriously.  We can’t keep playing like this.

In other news, the Bruins have made quick work of the Flyers.  We won last night, 5-1! A sweep! We scored once in the first and four more in the third.  Milan Lucic scored twice.  On to the Lightning.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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The game last night lasted five hours.  Five minutes more than half of those five hours were comprised of a rain delay in the fifth.  And on top of that, it lasted thirteen innings.  This was the longest game we’ve played since we lost to the Yankees in fifteen innings in New York on August 7, 2009.  It was the longest game we’ve played at Fenway since we lost to the Rays in fifteen innings on September 10, 2008.  I guess there should have been no surprise that we lost this one too.

Before the rainout, Beckett was in the process of delivering one of his sharpest outings of the season.  When the rain delay was called one out into the fifth inning, he had been pitching one-hit shutout ball.  He had walked three and struck out three.  He had thrown sixty-eight pitches, thirty-eight for strikes, and was on pace to pitch through at least the sixth inning.  His pitches weren’t the most effective I’ve seen them; only half his four-seams and curveballs were thrown for strikes, and his most effective pitches, the changeup, cutter, and two-seam, were also the pitches he was throwing most infrequently.  It seems like he was probably not as efficient as he could have been, but that was mostly because he threw twenty-two pitches in the first inning.  He settled down after that, throwing fourteen in the second, thirteen in the third, and fourteen in the fourth.  He only had the opportunity to throw five in the fifth.  He used those five pitches to strike out Howard Kendrick, putting him away with a curveball.  His release point was extremely consistent, and he was attacking the zone.  I have no reason not to assume that his stellar performance would have continued beyond the first out of the fifth inning.

And it was a performance we desperately needed to continue.  The Angels pitching staff was taking a collective no-no bid into the seventh.  Youk, who was hit by a pitch for the seventy-first time in his career in the fourth, which ties a franchise record, led off the inning with a walk and Papi struck out looking; thankfully Lowrie shattered it with a single on the fourth pitch of his at-bat.  Red Sox Nation signed in relief as one.  He had seen three straight sinkers; he took the first two for strikes and fouled off the third.  He put the curveball in the outfield.  Being no-hit is probably one of the most embarrassing occurrences that can befall a baseball team, second obviously to being on the receiving end of a perfect game.  We haven’t been no-hit in eighteen years.  That still stands.  What a relief.

Meanwhile, Albers had pitched the rest of the fifth as well as the sixth.  Wheeler came on to pitch the seventh.  By the time we broke the no-hitter, he had already allowed two runs on a home run.  After walking a batter and inducing a flyout, he was replaced by Okajima, who got out of the inning without allowing any further damage.  Okajima pitched well in the eighth.

We didn’t score a single run until the bottom of the eighth inning.  Tek doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  Scutaro came in to pinch-run for him and remained in the game at shortstop; Lowrie moved to first.  Ultimately it didn’t help; Youk singled, but Papi flied out to end the rally.

Okajima opened the ninth with a ground out, but after allowing two consecutive singles, he was replaced by Wake.  Wake allowed a walk and a run on a single.

We threatened again in the bottom of the ninth, and it looked like we were going to celebrate another walkoff.  Lowrie led off with a walk.  Cameron singled.  Lowrie scored on a wild pitch; Cameron tried to advance to third but was gunned down.  You can thank third base umpire John Hirschbeck for that; had he not blocked the ball, Cameron probably would have been safe.  Crawford doubled.  Tek struck out swinging.  Ellsbury singled Crawford in to tie the game at three.  Then Pedroia grounded into a force out to end it.  I was hoping for another epic at-bat, but he jumped on the first pitch he saw.  He needs to break out of this slump.

After that it was just a matter of who would strike first and whether we could come back if it wasn’t us.  Paps took care of the tenth; we didn’t score.  Bard took care of the eleventh and twelfth; we still didn’t score, although we threatened in the latter inning.  And if you thought we would be celebrating another walkoff in the ninth, you really thought we would be celebrating another walkoff in the twelfth.  Pedroia struck out swinging, but then Scutaro singled and Youk smacked a hard-hit double off the Monster.  I actually thought it was going to be a home run.  I thought it was going out the yard, the team was going to home plate for the walkoff mob, and we were all going to celebrate.  But it missed the top ofhte wall by maybe a foot, and that’s being generous.  Scutaro was coming around.  I was thinking that this was it; another walkoff, and an undefeated record against the Angels preserved.  But no.  He was gunned down at the plate.  McDonald, who had come in in the tenth to pinch-run for Papi, singled, but Lowrie grounded out.

Dice-K came on to pitch the thirteenth for the first relief appearance of his career.  What else was Tito supposed to do? He had gone through his entire bullpen already except for Jenks, who wasn’t available because, as it turns out, he has a cramp in his right arm.  He allowed a single.  Then he induced a flyout and a popout.  Then another single followed by a walk to load the bases.  He allowed another single, which brought in two runs.  We went down in order in the bottom of the inning.  Dice-K took the loss, and the final score was 5-3.

If it’s any consolation, I doubt the result would have been different had Jenks been able to pitch in relief.  It was an incredibly difficult decision for Tito to make because Dice-K had left his previous start with tightness in his right elbow and he’s scheduled to start on Friday.  But he had no one else to send out.  It’s just one of those games where you feel the manager’s pain because he sees that the team is in a difficult situation and he knows exactly how to fix it but he doesn’t have the means to do so.  He just couldn’t.  The game wasn’t out of reach; sending in a position player to pitch a little was not an option.  We were tied; we were very much in it, and we weren’t about to give it up.  So he went with Dice-K probably because technically this would have been his day to pitch and probably also because of all our starters, he’s the one who’s most used to throwing exorbitant amounts of pitches.  Turns out it was a fail, but it wasn’t Tito’s fault.

At least we weren’t no-hit, although taking comfort in the fact that at least we managed some semblance of an offensive attack isn’t necessarily a huge cause for celebration.  That game had plenty of ups and downs.  We put up a good fight.  We threatened and had our opportunities.  But we didn’t take advantage of them.  So we still lost, and the fact that at least we weren’t no-hit isn’t great consolation either.  Not only were we almost no-hit, not only did we lose, but we lost in thirteen innings with a rain delay that exhausted the entire bullpen the day before we’re supposed to play an afternoon game.  The only thing we can do now is try to play that afternoon game and get some hits, preferably early as well as late, preferably with runners in scoring position, and preferably many of them.

In other news, the Bruins won last night, 5-1! We haven’t lost a single game in this series.  We have one more game at home before we’re scheduled to go to Philly.  Let’s keep this streak going.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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See? I knew it.  Once we got out of April, we’d start seeing some changes.  Starting with Buchholz.  That was as good an outing as we were going to get to open this month, and by all accounts, it wasn’t bad at all.  We’re accustomed to seeing him pitch a full even innings, but six and two-thirds isn’t bad, especially when you consider the fact that he was pulled after allowing a single and stolen base but securing two outs in the inning.  He had only thrown seven pitches.

He scared me quite a bit when he started out, though.  He allowed three consecutive hits to lead off the game.  Thankfully, Drew gunned down Maicer Izturis at second when he tried to stretch a single into a double.

Buchholz allowed eight hits, but other than that, it was two across the board: he allowed two runs, walked two, and struck out two.  He threw 107 pitches, sixty-six for strikes.  His fastball and changeup were both moving and really effective.  All but one of his cutters were thrown for strikes, but he only threw one curveball for a strike all night.  He mixed his pitches effectively and varied his speed; he mostly stayed between seventy-five and ninety-five miles per hour, but he threw a two-seam at ninety-six and at one point went down below fifty-five.  He attacked the zone and had a tight release point except for this one pitch that was released differently and ended up being fouled off.  Each of his runs were allowed in each of the innings when he threw his highest pitch totals: twenty-five in the third and a whopping thirty-one in the fifth, during which he allowed a hit as well as both of his walks.

The bottom line is that this was his first quality start in six starts.  Bard came in to secure the last out in the seventh.

Meanwhile, our lineup put on quite a show.  Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? We were the first to score when Ellsbury singled and came home on a single by Youk in the first.  That lasted us until the fifth, when Crawford walked, Ellsbury reached on a force out, and both scored on a single that Pedroia hit on the thirteenth pitch of his at-bat with two out in the inning.

That at-bat was epic.  You may have been able to cut the suspense with a knife, which was obviously incredibly frustrating because you were watching foul ball after foul ball after foul ball for what seemed like forever, but that was a textbook example of how we play our game.  Everyone involved in player coaching and development stresses patience at the plate, because eventually it does pay off.  And that right there was patience at the plate if I’ve ever seen it.  He took a changeup for a ball, fouled off a slider, took a four-seam for a ball, fouled off a changeup and two four-seams, took a cutter for a ball, fouled off two more sliders as well as a changeup and two cutters, and finally put a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam in play.  To review, he worked the count full, hit five consecutive foul balls, and then hit the single that basically ignited the rest of our offense.  That’s what makes a hitter dangerous.  He’s patient, so he makes you work and waits and waits and waits until he gets his pitch to hit, and when he does, there’s nothing you can do about it except sit back, relax, and watch those runners cross the plate.

You could seriously tell that that hit was one huge momentum shift, obviously partly because it gave us a one-run lead, but also because it was just a real galvanizer.  Pedroia has that effect on people.

Torii Hunter led off the sixth with a double.  But when Alberto Callaspo grounded to first, Gonzalez, who is not shy about flashing the leather, fired to Youk at third to get Crawford.  It was a pinpoint throw, even though it was in the dirt, and Youk dug it out expertly.  I think the Rally Monkey went home after that.

The seventh was one long inning.  Crawford opened it with a groundout, and then Tek singled and Ellsbury doubled.  After a pitcher change, Pedroia walked.  Gonzalez cleared the bases with a double off the Monster.  That was the first time in his Boston career that he hit the wall, and trust me, the scoring play was very aggressive.  Ellsbury crashed into Jeff Mathis so hard he bruised his left knee and was out of the game for the last two innings, leaving his status for tonight unknown.  And Pedroia was just a few feet behind him.  I’m telling you, we raise some scrappy guys on our farms.  Then Gonzalez came home himself on a double by Youk also off the Monster.  Then Papi did what he does best: crush long balls.  He unleashed on a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball on the fourth pitch of the at-bat to end his homerless streak at eighty-eight at-bats.

To be absolutely clear, that was a six-spot we put up in the seventh.  We scored six runs in a single inning.  Obviously, that’s a season high.  Most of last month was one giant stretch of us scoring less than that amount over multiple games in total.  So when Wheeler allowed two runs in the eighth and Okajima allowed his inherited runner to score in the ninth, that, ladies and gentlemen, was also something that did not matter.  (Does it matter long-term that our relievers allowed three runs in the last two innings of the game? Of course.  It’s not good.  But like last night, we should be able to score a sufficient number of runs such that it doesn’t matter.)

Crawford, Papi, Youk, and Ellsbury all went two for four.  Ellsbury stole two bases.  We left only five on base and went five for eight with runners in scoring position.  Almost half of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  As for Pedroia, he’s now six for twenty-nine opposite Jered Weaver.  But he came through in the clutch, so it’s all good.

Beckett will start on Wednesday after six days of rest, so it’ll be Lester tonight.  Meanwhile, we won, 9-5, and I’m going to enjoy this.  We should play the Angels more often.

In other news, the Bruins won Game Two! Thomas made fifty-two saves, and Krejci netted the winning goal in sudden death for the 3-2 win!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Last night’s game was even worse, not because specific bad things happened, but because good things didn’t happen.  We lost, 2-0, so the only good thing that happened was pitching, but without hitting, you lose, and it doesn’t matter.  To clarify, though, when I say that things don’t matter, I mean it in the sense that a win is a win and a loss is a loss, whether it involved good or bad pitching or good or bad hitting.  Wins and losses aren’t the only things that matter, but what matters for wins and losses is the final score only.  But things of that nature matter a lot for the long-term welfare of the team, although you could argue that wins and losses are just as important for the long-term welfare of the team.

Lackey pitched six innings.  He gave up only two runs on seven hits.  He walked four and struck out three.  No pitcher should ever deliver more walks than strikeouts.  No wonder he threw 113 pitches in six innings.  Sixty-three of them were strikes.  That number is not as high as it should have been; if it were as high as it should have been, Lackey would have stayed in the game for more than six innings with the same pitch total but less walks and less hits.  Almost half of his pitches were curveballs, which were thrown well.  He locked down two of his three strikeouts with the curveball; both were called back-to-back strikes in the first on the sixth pitch of each at-bat.  He locked down his third strikeout with a changeup in the second, which induced a swing and a miss.  So as you can see, the wind went right out of his strikeout sails early on.  His other pitches weren’t so great.  His changeup, cutter, slider, and especially his four-seam weren’t locating as precisely as usual, although all but one of the two-seams he threw were strikes.  Too bad he only threw about a handful of them all night.

He threw twenty-eight pitches in the third, when he gave up his first run.  He threw only eight pitches in the fifth.  That’s a disparity of twenty pitches, which is the total he more or less threw during each of his other innings.  But he kept us in it.  Any pitcher who keeps us in a ballgame during an off day deserves a hefty round of applause.  Even if the sad fact is that we lost and that as a result, that pitcher’s record now matches that of his opponent.  Doug Fister, who pitches, need I remind you, for the Seattle Mariners, also has a record of two and three.

The first inning was a microcosm of the entire game. Ellsbury led off the game with a walk.  Pedroia grounded into a force out.  Gonzalez singled.  Youk walked.  So we had the bases loaded with one out.  And what do Papi and Drew do? Strike out swinging and fly out, respectively.

We went down in order in the second.  In the third and fourth, with the exception of a double in each inning, we failed to threaten.  Then Salty led off the fifth with a double, and Ellsbury and Pedroia both walked.  Again the bases loaded, this time with nobody out.  And what do Gonzalez and Youk do? Hit into a double play and pop out, respectively.

In the sixth and seventh, we put two men on base in each inning via a walk and a double but did nothing else.  We went down in order in the eighth and ninth.

Salty had the only multi-hit game; he went two for four.  Gonzalez currently has a seven-game hitting streak; Ellsbury’s hitting streak stands at nine games.  Papi’s hitting streak stopped at six games.

We lost, 2-0.  We’ve been shut out three times this year.  We left eleven men on base, eight of whom were in scoring position.  That’s the largest number of runners we’ve left in scoring position in a shutout since 2005.   We went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.  We have the worst batting average with runners in scoring position in all of Major League Baseball.  Yeah, we’re definitely back to our old selves now.  I don’t understand this.  We sweep the Angels in four games on the road, but we can’t even score runs against the Orioles and the Mariners at home? Our starting pitching sparkled just a few days ago, and now we’ve lost four of our last five games.  Yup.  Back to our old selves we go.

In other news, the Bruins won, 7-3, in their first game of the series with the Flyers.  David Krejci scored four points.  Nothing overtime about it, folks.

Getty Images

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Well, that really wasn’t good, was it.  As far as offense is concerned, the team appears to be back to its old self.  To say, based on last night’s performance, that Beckett is also back to his old self is not true.  But the frustration is clearly understandable.  I mean, come on.  We’re playing the Orioles.  I understand that April is their one month of glory and all, but let’s be realistic.  There is no way we should ever have lost a series to the Orioles, especially not after the tear we’d started to be on.  The best we can do now is not get swept.  And we better not get swept.

Beckett only lasted six innings, during which he gave up four runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs that accounted for three of those four runs.  He didn’t walk anyone but struck out only four.  So basically what this comes down to is isolated mistakes.  I’ve said this before.  Power pitchers have this problem where they cruise with the occasional jam.  The problem is getting out of that jam.  If a power pitcher tries to get out of a jam but makes a mistake, chances are it’ll be a home run because mistakes in those situation usually consist of pitches with no movement and no location.  Well, there is a location: right out over the middle of the plate where even the worst hitter could get the sweet spot on it.

He threw ninety-two pitches, fifty-nine for strikes.  Early on, he was as masterful as ever.  He retired ten of his first eleven batters.  Then in the fourth, there was a bloop double.  Not a bloop single.  A bloop double.  Which was obviously incredibly frustrating to watch.  Pedroia and Ellsbury both converged on it.  It dropped literally right in front of Ellsbury, who specifically did not catch it because he thought Pedroia was on it.  Communication, people.   Communication.  Anyway, then Vladimir Guerrero popped out.  And then there was home run number one, a ridiculously powerful swing on the second pitch of the at-bat, a cutter that didn’t cut.  The very next at-bat resulted in home run number two on a four-seam that didn’t do much of anything.  A fourth run scored in the fifth; a wild pitch from Beckett put two runners in scoring position, one of whom came home on a sac fly.

He threw between thirteen and nineteen pitches in each of his innings.  He wasn’t as efficient as he could have been.  He varied his speed and kept his release point solid and tried to attack the zone, and a few of his pitches were thrown for strikes frequently, most notably both fastballs as well as his changeup, but his cutter and curveball weren’t great, and he was missing that definitive put-away-ness.

Did the lineup provide any support for Beckett? Not in the least.  We didn’t score any runs until the eighth.  By that time, Beckett had come out and Wake had pitched an inning.  But it looked like we were on the verge of a comeback.  And it turned out that we were.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a single.  Pedroia walked.  And then there was a pitching change.  And Gonzalez promptly singled in Ellsbury.  And then there was another pitching change.  And Youk promptly smashed a three-run homer.  It was the fourth pitch of the at-bat in a 2-1 count, and it tied the game.  And I thought for sure this one would be in the bag.  We would work it out in extra innings if necessary, but there was no way we would let this one slip away.  Not after a four-spot in the eighth.  Not after a three-run blast.

And then Bard came in.  Two consecutive singles and one passed ball later, Nick Markakis was coming home.  He had thrown Papi out at the plate in the fourth when he tried to score on a single by Lowrie, so we kindly returned the favor.  Tek was lucky to record that out. Otherwise, he would be looking at another passed ball.  Did it matter in the end? Absolutely not.  The infield came in, and Guerrero singled in a run.  And that was the end of that.  Scutaro flied out, Ellsbury popped out, and Pedroia grounded out.  Three different varieties of quick outs, just to keep things interesting.  And we lost, 5-4.

Ellsbury went three for five, and Gonzalez and Papi both went two for four.  And we went three for six with runners in scoring position.  That’s another .500 average.  But we couldn’t score the two runs that, in the end, we needed the most.  And yet again, that’s what matters.

In other news, the Bruins won! We won Game Seven at home! 4-3 in overtime with Nathan Horton’s goal seventeen seconds in! Onward to the Flyers! We are en route.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are most definitely en route.

AP Photo

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That wasn’t good.  And that was an understatement.  I was afraid this would happen.  First, I was afraid that we would do all kinds of goodness during our first win on our home opener only to pretty much forget all of it and do none of it the game after.  That didn’t exactly happen.  Instead, we repeated the only badness we had on Friday: starting pitching.  Our starters have a collective ERA of 7.09 and have allowed a grand total of nineteen home runs.  Both stats are the worst in the Major Leagues.

I knew it was going to be a long day as soon as I saw Buchholz missing his spots.  It’s not that hard to figure out.  When a starting pitcher misses his spots, you’re going to have a long day.  That’s pretty much a hard and fast rule.

He only lasted three and two-thirds innings, and by all accounts, even that was too long.  This Buchholz didn’t look like the Buchholz who won seventeen games last year.  This Buchholz looked like the Buchholz of 2008, a year so bad for him that I’m embarrassed to repeat these numbers: in fifteen starts, he pitched only seventy-six innings and fifty-seven earned runs on ninety-three hits, eleven of them homers; he went two and nine with a 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.  Not exactly a year to revisit.

He gave up four earned runs, five in total (you can thank Lowrie for that one, who made an error on a grounder that was as routine as they come), on eight hits, one of which was a three-run home run by Russell Martin.  He walked three.  He struck out two.  He threw ninety-two pitches, fifty-five for strikes, four for swinging strikes.

It all started with two runs in the second: the error, a double, a fielder’s choice groundout, and another double.  No big deal, right? I mean, they scored two runs first on Friday as well, and we came back.  The problem was that Buchholz was so much worse than Lackey.  Buchholz made Lackey look like an ace.  The Yankees scored three more runs in the fourth.

Buchholz threw mostly fastballs, with just as many sliders as changeups thrown in as well as a couple of handfuls of curveballs.  His fastball got all the way up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His curveball was his most effective pitch as well as his least frequently thrown pitch, which is something we’ve seen more than usual lately; the bad starts have tended so far to be paired with the starter not using his most effective pitch very often.  It may have been his most effective strike-wise, but it wasn’t perfect.  He threw three pitches on which the Yankees scored runs; one was a fastball, one a changeup, and one a curveball.  He varied his speeds, he kept his release point tight, and he definitely threw some good pitches.  But not enough.  What can I say? If he didn’t hit his spots, he didn’t hit his spots, and that’s the end of it.

During the first inning, it looked like he was going to be okay.  It looked like he was having a rough first inning that would prove to be the end of his troubles.  In the first, it looked like he had potential to settle down.  He threw eighteen pitches, ten for strikes, and it looked like things would only improve from there.  Not so much.  His pitch count climbed, and he threw thirty-two pitches in the fourth before he was removed.  If only that were the end of our misery.

Doubront came on and gave up a home run of his own, this one for two runs.  Not wanting to be left out, Aceves gave up two solo shots.   Wake was the only pitcher to go out there and deliver.  Two shutout innings with one strike out.  Too bad he was only out there for two innings.

It didn’t matter that Lowrie went three for four.  It didn’t matter that we scored three runs in a single inning in the fourth to answer their three-spot in the top of that frame.  It didn’t matter that that three-spot brought us within only one run.  Or that Youk made an incredibly precise and well-placed throw home to prevent Granderson from scoring in the second.  Or that Gonzalez left the bag to make a spinning catch and fire to first in time for the second out of the third.

It didn’t matter that Pedroia was again the man of the hour.  Or that didn’t just go three for four; he went three for four with three doubles and a walk.  Or that it was his second consecutive three-hit performance.  Or that he batted in two RBIs on one of those doubles, an extremely hard-hit, ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam that bounced off the center field wall a few feet to the right of the 379-foot marker with two out in the fourth.  Or that he robbed Teixeira of a line drive in the sixth with a spectacular diving grab.

It didn’t matter that, all told, we stroked ten hits, our second double-digit hit total in as many days, which signifies that, slowly but surely, this team is figuring out how to deliver, produce, and win collectively.  It didn’t even matter that Kevin Millar, the great galvanizer of 2004, was in the stands.  None of that mattered even one iota.  All that mattered was that we left ten men on base, went an obscenely pathetic one for seventeen with runners in scoring position, and therefore scored only four runs.  We lost, 9-4.  To the Yankees.  Because we couldn’t pay our pitching staff to not give up runs (oh, wait) and because our lineup looked like it had no idea what having runners in scoring position meant.  It was crushing in every sense.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are frustrated beyond words at this point.

So we had our seventh non-quality start in eight games.  We’re one and seven.  And the best we can do now is win the series.  Let’s at least just do that.  Our starters are into their second rotation now.  They’ve seen action.  We’re at home.  This should bring goodness.  Until today, it has.  Beckett has the ball tomorrow, and he needs to deliver.  There’s no getting around it now.  First, we had to deal with everything going wrong: bad pitching coupled with bad hitting coupled with bad baserunning.  At this point, we seem to have gotten the baserunning and hitting parts down, or at least they’re better than they were.  What we need to do now is pair good starting pitching with good hitting.  No baseball team can win with just one or the other.  You need both.  We have both on paper.  We need both in practice.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Sens, and we clinched our division! We now fill the third seed with 103 points; Philly fills the fourth with 104.  The Caps have clinched the conference.  We have one game left to play in the regular season – this afternoon against the Devils – and then it’s go time.

AP Photo

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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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