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Posts Tagged ‘Portland Sea Dogs’

When you look up “tagging a runner out at the plate” in the baseball dictionary, you will see footage of the play that saved the game for us last night.  That play was, without a doubt, the perfect execution of every fundamental theory in the sport for that particular situation.  Nothing could have made that play better because it proceeded exactly as it should have.  Every once in a while, you watch a baseball game and you see what you realize is the perfect double play, the perfect curveball, the perfect swing, and you know it’s perfect because the movements are fluid and confident, and somehow they just all fit.  That was precisely the case with the play last night.

Let me paint the picture for you.  Beckett pitched five innings, gave up five hits on five runs with five walks and, sadly for the symmetry, nine strikeouts.  Again, the home runs were a problem.  He gave up a two-runner and a three-runner on a bad breaking ball and a misplaced fastball, respectively.  It was a tradeoff; at least he didn’t give up five homers, but each homer was worth more runs.  Saito pitched the sixth.  Bard the seventh and two outs of the eighth.

At that point we were tied at five.  We’d scored three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.  Drew singled in Youk and moved Papi to third.  Tek hit a sac fly to score Papi.  Ellsbury doubled in Drew.  Then Bay hit a monstrous two-run home run in the fifth to score himself and V-Mart.

Okay.  So.  Tied at five.  With one out in the eighth inning, John McDonald doubled into the left field corner and Travis Snider was coming on home from first.  Now, what I am about to describe is the textbook example of what to do in this situation.  Jason Bay threw the ball to the infield, and Alex Gonzalez immediately relayed it to Jason Varitek, who extended his left leg for the block.  Snider never touched the plate but was rather tagged out.  That was one small step for Jason Varitek and one big sigh of relief for Daniel Bard.

In the bottom half of the inning, after about an hour-long rain delay and with one out, Kotchman pinch-hit for Gonzalez into a fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded that scored Papi.  Okajima got the win, and Paps got a save, eventually; two strikeouts followed by two bloop singles and a grazed jersey followed by a strikeout to end it.  On the bright side, opponents are one for twelve with nine strikeouts against him with the bases loaded this season.  Anyway, the final score was 6-5.  Beckett has some serious thanking to do, because if Bay didn’t hit that home run, he would’ve been on the hook for the loss.  Beckett’s ERA over his last three starts is a depression-inducing 9.82, and in that time he’s given up a despair-increasing ten home runs.  Ouch.  No, seriously, it really hurts to read that.

As for the rest of the lineup, Ellsbury was obviously back in there and finished two for three.  Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis, Ortiz, and Gonzalez also each had a hit.  Drew finished two for four.

Dice-K’s rehab start with Portland has been postponed from today to tomorrow due to the weather.  After that, he’ll start for the PawSox on Friday and then he’ll be back in action on September 9 at Fenway against the Orioles.  Hopefully, that’s a good thing.  Lowrie, who felt pain in his left wrist on Wednesday, will start again for the PawSox today.  Apparently the soreness is no big deal.  The Yankees won, but we did as well and the Rangers did not.

All in all a great game, with the obvious exception of Beckett’s shoddy work.  Plays like Tek’s not only win games but also boost the morale of a team down the stretch after a long and demanding season.  Unlike other sports, ballplayers work almost every day, but moments like this make it all worth it, so to speak.  Slowly but steadily, we’re making the full circle to come back to where we started: solid pitching and solid hitting.  I’m telling you, it’s a veritable recipe for October.  But before we can think about that, we have to think about Ricky Romero at Clay Buchholz.

Reuters Photo

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My first baseball game in ten days. Feels great. It was a great game, too. Jon Lester brought heat for more than seven shutout innings and got the win. He allowed eight hits on the night, struck out six, and walked nobody. I can’t get over this kid. It’s quality start after quality start with him. His ERA is 3.20. How about that? And we needed this win badly. We’re still 1.5 games out, but at least we’re not losing anymore.

The final score was 4-0, and who was responsible for the first two runs? None other than Jason Varitek. He hit a two-run home run off Jarrod Washburn in the fifth. I’m not kidding. It was his eighth of the season. Jed Lowrie was responsible for the other two runs, which scored in the eighth. He’s another kid I love. He’s fast, he’s great in the field, and he’s got beautiful offensive numbers. Finally, a shortstop who can do it all. Remember the last time we had one of those? I hope Lowrie will be up long enough to learn Lugo a thing or two. At this point, Lugo can take all the time he wants on the DL.

Pap got the save. 1.2 innings, no runs, hits, walks, or K’s. Best closer in the game. Sometimes doesn’t know when to keep quiet, showed off his 2007 World Series ring on the All-Star parade in New York City. Hey, that’s Pap for you. It’s why we love him so much. That, and his ERA is 2.34. Just sayin’.

With Aardsma on the DL, Masterson is back. I still think they’re making a mistake turning him into a reliever completely. Let him start in the minors and relieve in the Majors. Colon will be joining the bullpen soon, and David Ortiz is still burning it up in Portland. I hope he comes back soon, but it’ll be interesting to see whether JD Drew will slow his roll. I don’t think that’ll happen. If anything, it’ll relieve some of the pressure that’s been on him lately, especially with Pedroia and Youkilis finally finding their footing.

We’re more than halfway through the season and about to hit the final stretch come August. After the Angels, the Rays are the winningest team in the Majors right now. And that’s a standing they’re barely holding on to. The series with New York will be big. But in the meantime, Dice-K (10-1 on the season, baby!) at RA Dickey (2-4, 3.73 ERA) in the late start tonight. Let’s hope we get something going on this road trip.

Boston Globe Staff/Stan Grossfeld

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The American League won the All-Star Game as usual. But, like in recent years, it wasn’t that easy. (Why this is, I have no idea.) We won it, 4-3, with a walk-off in the fifteenth inning. 2008’s contest tied 1967’s for the most frames of an All-Star Game, and this year’s contest was the longest in history at four hours and 50 minutes. None other than JD Drew was named the All-Star Game MVP. He went two for four, including a tying two-run home run. The crowd actually cheered. Terry Francona was criticized for not announcing publicly that Mariano Rivera would close the All-Star Game. This criticism is completely out of place. We’ve seen, in the recent past more than ever, that the Red Sox like to do things behind the scenes. Not announcing the rotation is no exception to that rule. It’s in context. Therefore, criticism for this incident is entirely undeserved. The true colors of the New York fans came through. Before the game, Jonathan Papelbon said that, if the game needed a save, he’d like to save it. This brought on the invention of “Papelbum,” the newest pathetic insult in the New York fans’ arsenal. Heaven for bid that a closer would express a desire to close. Sheesh.

The Red Sox are 1.5 games out of first. We took the series against Baltimore before the All-Star break and were swept by the Angels afterwards. Unusual, because the Angels have never really been a problem for us. But getting swept while still managing to be only 1.5 games out is pretty outstanding in my book. That tells us a couple of things. First of all, we’re good and we’re almost at domination. Second of all, if Tampa Bay couldn’t close the deal when the Red Sox were swept, they’re obviously slowing down.

The Yankees are only five games out of first. This doesn’t bother me. A team as inconsistent as New York will have its highs and lows but, in the long run, definitely more lows than highs.

Dustin Pedroia has been compared to Bobby Doerr. As he should be. He basically has all five tools and a great personality and clubhouse presence besides. Everyone remembers the not-so-great years at second base for Boston in between, right? Dusty has effectively redeemed the position of second base in Boston.

Manny Ramirez, who’s in the middle of a contract year, complained that the front office might try to wheel and deal behind his back. John Henry, of course, defended the brass. I never really got the impression that any other players ever had a problem with the front office when it comes to contracts. We hold one-year options on Manny for 2009 and 2010. A rare Manny moment: he says he wants to stay in Boston, and he actually seems serious.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute has found, although not beyond its margin of error, that Connecticut contains more Red Sox fans than Yankee fans. Finally. You’re in New England, people. Time to get some red out.

Finally, David Ortiz is on fire in Pawtucket. His recovery is going swimmingly. You have no idea how relieved and excited I am to hear that. I can’t wait for him to get back in the lineup and start turning it up again.

Reuters Photo

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