Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ramon Ramirez’

Simply put, if you thought Friday’s game reminded you of 2004, you didn’t see anything yet until you saw yesterday’s game.  In Friday’s game, we had the potentially winning grand slam but it wasn’t enough.  Yesterday, it was enough.  It wasn’t deep, but it was as dramatic as ever.  We won it in true 2004 fashion.

Dice-K’s performance was mediocre.  He pitched six innings, gave up four runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out five on 108 pitches.  His efficiency is clearly improving, but it’s easy to see that his hit total prevented him from staying in longer past a reasonable pitch count.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were actually thrown well.  He did not throw a single changeup for a strike, though.  His bad inning wasn’t actually so bad labor-wise; he threw only twenty-two pitches in the first, but he gave up a two-run shot in the process.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction.  It could have been worse.  He could have given up twice the runs in twice the pitches.  And we’ve seen him do that before.  So technically we should be thankful.  His strike zone was completely random.  He didn’t deliver any wild pitches, but he certainly made some pitches that were pretty wild.

Richardson and Atchison combined to pitch the seventh, when we got on the board.  Ryan Kalish, promoted as Hermida was designated for assignment, hit an RBI single and scored on McDoanld’s double.  Kalish would finish the night two for four.  And he started in left field without making an error, which is kind of a big deal.  (It was actually Beltre who made our error.  Unfortunately no surprise there.) That’s a great kid we’ve got here.  Looks kind of like Trot Nixon when he’s out there, actually.  The future in the outfield looks bright.  Anyway, those were part of a string of four straight hits.  So we cut the deficit in half.

Before the inning was over, Papi found himself at the plate with the bases loaded and two out.  He struck out.  Worst.  Foreshadowing.  Ever.

Atchison and Okajima continued to hold the Tigers at bay.  And now we come to the bottom of the ninth.  The grand finale.  I’m telling you, this will smack of 2004 like you wouldn’t believe.

McDonald led off the inning with an infield single.  Then Lowrie pinch-hit and stroked a double.  Then Youk was intentionally walked (after being hit by a pitch earlier; the irony continues).  So the bases were loaded, and Youk would be on the move no matter what because he was the winning run.

Then Big Papi stepped up, in all his Big Papi glory.  He took some pitches.  He even showed bunt.  Then he ripped a double into the hole in left-center field and emptied the bases.  We won, 5-4.  Just like that.  Sometimes one swing is all it takes.  As soon as I saw that ball reach the Monster, I knew Youk was coming home and we were going to win.  So the Tigers walked the winning run.  How ‘bout that.

And I was watching all of this and reminiscing like crazy.  After Friday night and yesterday, how can you not? Especially when you see Papi get mobbed.

They say that the more successful you are in the All-Star Home Run Derby, the worse your timing and average are afterwards.  David Ortiz has officially disproven this theory.  He finished the night two for five, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s batted .308 with twelve RBIs.  That’s his eighteenth walkoff hit, and it’s particularly impressive considering Coke is a southpaw and Papi’s average against southpaws coming into yesterday’s game was a mere .190 with one home run.  Particularly against Coke, Papi didn’t have even one hit to his credit in eight at-bats.  Well, he changed that in a hurry.  Coke’s fastball ended up away.  Papi was waiting for a fastball away.  That’s pretty much how it happens.

And I think the outcome of Friday’s game played a big part in our win yesterday because it shows you that you have no way to know which run will be the winning run.  You can’t afford to give up because you don’t know who’ll turn it around when.  So you just have to keep chipping away because something like yesterday might happen, and you’ll walk off with a win.  Literally.  It was epically awesome.

The trading deadline came and went yesterday.  Nothing earth-shattering happened, although we did go against the grain.  The theme of this year’s trading deadline was bullpen improvement for most teams, but Theo decided to go for catching improvement.  He traded Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for a minor leaguer.  It’s been fun, but he wasn’t as good as he’d been when he first arrived, and his impact has been minimal of late.  And we landed Saltalamacchia (that is spelled right – I triple-checked) from the Rangers for two prospects, a player to be named later, and cash considerations.  Salty will spend some time in the minors for now while Cash continues to play for Tek.

The market on the whole was loaded with starters and bats but skimpy on outfielders and relievers.  Figures.  We don’t need any of the former; we need the latter.  The problem of course is that our current status in the standings is deceiving.  We’re playing without key members of our lineup.  It wouldn’t make sense to make an earth-shattering move because we’re not really as bad as we look right now.  We don’t need another bat; we have bats.  They just happen to be on the disabled list at the moment.  It’s a tough position to be in.  But I think Theo ultimately made the right choice in standing pat.  Our performance with those bats present in the lineup before the break proves it.  In Theo we trust.  It’ll all work out.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

After the final out of the game, I thought two things.  First, I thought it looked and felt eerily similar to Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, when Drew was at the plate with the game on the line, and he struck out looking.  No swing.  He just watched the ball go by.  And second, there was the classic, obligatory, and completely warranted “No!”

Lester got rocked.  Last night was not an example of his best work.  If you look up the word “ace” in the dictionary, you will usually see Lester’s picture, but last night it wasn’t there.  In six innings, he gave up four runs on eleven hits, a new career high, while walking two and striking out seven.  He threw 116 pitches, and two of those hits were home runs, both by Peralta.  The first one was hit on a changeup that Peralta dug out.  The second one was hit on a pitch that was absolutely disgusting.  The Tigers didn’t waste time either; they scored their first run in the first, no thanks to Cameron, whose glove provided a springboard for the RBI hit.

Lester’s cut fastball was sharp, but his offspeeds, his sinker, changeup, and curveball, weren’t working.  He didn’t really have one particularly bad inning; he threw at most twenty-one pitches in the fifth and at least thirteen in the sixth.  That’s not a huge disparity, and he was pretty consistent count-wise.  So that wasn’t the issue.  The issue was that the pitches he threw weren’t good.  He just didn’t have it.  He never settled in or found any sort of rhythm.  It happens sometimes.  It’s particularly inconvenient when you’re trying to dig yourself out of an enormous hole in order to get to the playoffs.  But it happens sometimes.  He took the loss for the third time since the All-Star break.

Believe it or not, that’s not even the point.  Sure, if Lester had been his usual dominant self we probably would’ve won the game.  But that is not the point.

The point is the offense, which did almost nothing for the first eight innings of the game.  Scutaro hit a solo shot in the fifth, but that was it.  After Scutaro’s shot, Youk bounced a hard liner off Galarraga’s right ankle, chasing him from the game.  This after hitting Dan Haren with a liner in the arm that chased him from the game.  It’s just ironic that Youk is probably one of the most frequently hit batsmen in the game.  Anyway, Papi walked after that, and V-Mart hit what looked like something for RBIs and possibly extra bases, but it was caught for a flyout in front of the Monster.  That’s a shame.  It was a tough play.

Ramirez pitched the seventh, with a little help from Patterson’s right-on-the-money throw home to get Boesch out at the plate, and Wakefield pitched the eighth after ten days of rest.  In accordance with his summer of milestones, he officially passed Eck to become the oldest Red Sox pitcher to pitch in a game.  He’ll turn forty-four on Monday and might not want to remember this appearance; the Tigers took two against him, one on a wild pitch.  Also, Youk’s missed tag was not helpful.  Kind of reminds me of a less terrible version of Mike Timlin’s thousandth appearance, during which he was horrible.

Now we get to the bottom of the ninth.  Valverde loaded the bases with three walks, and Big Papi hit a grand slam.  That’s four runs on one swing.  I felt like I was back in October 2004 again.  Bottom of the ninth, game on the line, bases loaded, Big Papi steps up and completely unloads them.  It was crazy.  It was a fastball middle-in and it wasn’t staying in the park.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.  The ball ended up in the first row of seats right in the heart of right field.  And just like that, the Tigers had only a one-run lead.

Beltre doubled to left.  Drew pinch-hit, intentionally walked, and made way for Hall to pinch-run.

Cameron stepped into the batter’s box.  At this point you’re thinking it’s not possible that we just came all the way back only to lose now.  It’s only one run; we have the tying and go-ahead runs already on base.  Cameron needs to do something here.

Instead, he did nothing.  He worked the count full and waited for a fastball but got a splitter instead and struck out looking.  Kind of like Drew in 2008.

Of all our wins this season, this one would have been the most improbable and therefore one of the biggest.  And Valverde was laboring.  He ended up throwing a career-high sixty pitches.  That’s an obscene number of pitches for a closer to throw.  He was really struggling.  And that mound slap at the end just made the whole thing worse.

Of all the ways to open a homestand, it doesn’t get much lower than this.  Your offense does nothing for most of the game, all of a sudden you’ve got life in the bottom of the ninth, you climb all the way back to within one run, the table is set, and the batter just looks.  It’s agonizing.  But I guess there’s nothing to do now but hope Dice-K gets something going today.  Every game now is a must-win.  So let’s win this one.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  But if the horse is really, really thirsty, you don’t have to make him drink.  He just drinks.

It’s the same with a baseball team.  You can give a team a scoring opportunity, but you can’t make the team score.  Either the team scores or it doesn’t score.  But if the team hasn’t scored in a long enough while, chances are they’re going to score because they’re thirsty for runs and wins.

Yesterday, we were mighty thirsty.  There was so much goodness packed into those awesome nine innings that I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s start with pitching.  Josh Beckett picked up his first win since April 10, only his second of the season.  But you have to start somewhere.  He tossed a full seven solid frames.  Three runs on five hits, one walk, five K’s, 112 pitches, sixty-nine strikes.  Had some trouble that wasn’t his fault: Hermida’s failure to make a difficult but doable play in left, and Hall turning a popup into a double because he lost the ball in the sun.  But other than that, Beckett was his old self again.  That fastball was smoking by hitters, he regained all of his intensity, and really he just made you excited about the race down the stretch.

And that’s not even the best part.  The offense was the best part.

The final score was 7-3.  We scored all of our runs on four long balls: two in the second, one in the seventh, and one in the eighth.

Beltre started things off with his seventeenth homer of the season, burying a two-seam that was supposed to be away but stayed inside in the first few rows of the left field bleachers.  Hermida’s out provided a brief interlude before Hall stepped up and smashed a Pesky-style home run around the left field foul pole, actually cracking his bat in the process.

Then the Angels rallied for a tie that held through the first half of the fifth.  Then they took the lead by one.  Then in the seventh, Youk re-tied it with a fastball that was supposed to be inside but hung over the middle.  That’s a deadly mistake every time.

So the game stayed tied until the very next inning, and this is really the grand finale right here.  And the man of the hour is Marco Scutaro.

Actually the man of the series is Marco Scutaro.  He batted .500 over these last three games, walked twice, scored four runs, and batted in four runs.  Both of those walks and all four of those RBIs came yesterday, the RBIs all on one swing.  Alright.  Here we go.

Before stepping up to the plate in the eighth inning, Scutaro had already been on base four times that day, twice via hits and twice via walks.  He’d struck out once.  Hermida and Hall led off the inning with back-to-back walks.  Patterson went for a sac bunt that was located flawlessly and ended up beating the throw to first.  So the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Which didn’t necessarily mean anything, because how many times had we had scoring opportunities like this, with multiple runners in scoring position and even the bases loaded with no outs or one out or even two outs and failed to do anything with it? It’s not even like this game was that different; we stranded nine baserunners through the first seven frames.  And it wasn’t like Papi or Youk or Beltre or some other guy with massive power that was coming to the plate.  It was Scutaro, who’s the guy who rolls out the carpet for the power guys.  But things had been a little different since we arrived in Angel Stadium, and we were about to give ourselves a right proper send off.

Scutaro fell behind in the count, 0-2.  After taking a ball, he took the sixth pitch of his at-bat, a changeup, and sent it into left field also in Pesky fashion.  That would be the second grand slam of his career.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be the end of the game.  That was awesome.  I couldn’t believe it.  You know a guy like Scutaro has it in him, but you never know when you’ll see it or if you’ll see it.  And he just uncorked a whole world of power on that ball.  That was amazing.  So awesome.  Seriously.  So unbelievably awesome.  A grand slam!

Bard and Paps had the day off, and the Angels had runners on first and second with two out against Delcarmen in the eighth, but Hall quickly took care of that with a tremendous flash of leather.  It was a bloop that was on the outfield grass, too close to the infield for Patterson and supposedly out of Hall’s reach.  Not so.  He jumped, caught it, and fell.  That was a huge out.  Ramirez held down the ninth.

V-Mart went two for five.  He wasn’t even supposed to play.  He literally just talked his way into it.  He told Tito he really really wanted to play after Tuedsay’s game.  He told him again yesterday morning.  Drew was out, so Tito agreed.  And he went two for five.  How ‘bout that.  By the way, Drew’s hamstring issue isn’t serious.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

Let’s look back over the road trip, shall we? Our first stop was Oakland, where we lost the series.  Then we went to Seattle, where we split.  And now, we just swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  A sweep.  How sweep it is.  We finished the road trip six and four, which isn’t amazing but it’s absolutely decent and I’ll take it.  That sweep was a whole lot of goodness.  That was just what the doctor ordered.  Time to go home and do something with this momentum.  We’ve got a set with the Tigers, who’ve had injury problems themselves, so this might actually be a good matchup.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

Whoa.  I mean, just, whoa.  We sign John Lackey in the offseason partly because he has that formidable first-pitch strike.  We bring him here.  We expect lights-out.  That’s not necessarily what we get.  We chalk it up to first-season blues and patiently observe his improvement as the season goes on, trusting that next year will be even better.

And then a game like last night’s comes along and shows you what exactly it is you have to look forward to.

After Dice-K did something similar earlier this season, I was almost speechless because I was surprised.  But when a pitcher does it whom you know has it in him every single night, it’s not surprising.  But it is awe-inspiring.

John Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  Let me say that again: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth.  One more time: Lackey had a no-hitter going into the eighth! It was insane! He was four outs away from closing the deal – only four outs! – when it happened.  Bard hit a single into right field with two outs in the eighth.  Technically, it wasn’t Lackey’s fault; he located the pitch were he wanted.  Bard just read it.  And there was no way a fielder was getting to that so the D had nothing to do with it.  Lackey pulled a Schilling, that’s all.  Minus the shake-off, of course.

So he tossed eight frames.  He gave up no earned runs on two hits, walked one, and struck out six.  Eighty of his 116 pitches were strikes.  That’s a sixty-nine percent strike rate.  That’s ridiculously high.  So obviously his strike zone was absolutely packed.  His fastball, cutter, slider, and curveball were all firing on all cylinders.  He had command of everything.  He threw at most twenty pitches in the fifth inning and at least ten in the eighth.  So it wasn’t the most economical no-hitter bid we’ve seen, but hey, a no-hitter bid is a no-hitter bid.  And the man was on the ball.  He was all over it.  He was commanding like a general.  He held the entire game in his hands, and he was mastering it.  He just couldn’t come out with it in the end.  Which is crushing, but the most important thing you can do in that situation is keep your cool.  I say this time and time again when we see no-hitter bids get spoiled: it’s so easy for the pitcher to unravel completely because of it that the other team goes on to win the ballgame.  We’ve taken advantage of that on several occasions.  Also, let me say it’s nice to not be on the receiving end of one of these.  The closest Lackey ever came to pitching a no-hitter was actually against us at home on July 29, 2008.  He was two outs away when Pedroia the Destroyah ruined everything.  It’s so much more fun to watch a power performance from Lackey and not be the victim of it.  That’s an understatement.

Anyway, Lackey did indeed keep his cool.  He finished the eighth inning and then left.  Meanwhile, we were leading, 6-1.  (That run had scored on a passed ball in the second and was therefore unearned.) We almost scored our first run in the first, when Papi hit what everyone thought was a home run.  Ichiro, of course, had other plans and managed to snag it as a fly ball with a leaping catch.  In classic Papi style, Ortiz had this to say:

Next time, I’ll make sure I hit into the upper deck. He won’t get that.

We finally got on the board two innings later.  In the third, following a very hard-hit ball by Cameron, Hall jacked one out of the park to send himself and Cameron home.  The ball went into the bullpen on a changeup away.  Papi followed it with an RBI single.  In the sixth, Drew jacked one out of the park for another two runs; two of his now twelve homers have come against southpaws.  In seventh, Scutaro homered himself in behind the scoreboard on an inside fastball.

So through eight and a half innings, we were riding high.  Then the bottom of the ninth hit, and it all unraveled.  So, to review, it wasn’t Lackey who had a meltdown.  It was Delcarmen.

Delcarmen came in and allowed four runs, three earned, on two hits without recording an out, mostly via Paps and inherited runners, but we’ll get to that.  There was a two-run homer on a fastball down the middle, a walk, and a failure by Scutaro to handle a ground ball.  So all of a sudden, we went from an assured win to a save opportunity.  No day off for Paps.  He came in.  And he blew it.

He struck out Smoak to start things off.  But then he gave up an RBI single and a walk to load the bases.  Then another ground ball came Scutaro’s way; he threw to second for the force out, but Hall’s throw ended up being an error that scored two to tie the game.  If it’s any consolation, the runner would have been safe even if the throw were on target, but still.

Paps got a blown save, and most deservedly so.  It was an incredibly ugly half-inning.  He ruined everything.  He gave Seattle a tie.  A tie! After Lackey’s no-hitter bid, we found ourselves tied? That is so wrong.

Paps was duly removed after finishing the inning, and Bard came in.  So no day off for him either.  He held the fort.  Okajima pitched two innings, but it wasn’t easy.  He had the bases loaded with one out in the twelfth but managed to neutralize the threat.  Ramirez pitched one inning.  And that was the end of the night for the pitching staff.

Paps got a blown save.  Ramirez got the save.  But what hurt most of all is that Lackey had to accept a no-decision for an obviously winning performance.  It was Okajima who picked up the win.  That stung.  That really stung.

Meanwhile, the offense got to work.  We didn’t do much until the top of the thirteenth.  Youk singled up the middle.  Beltre would’ve sent everyone home with a two-run shot if it stayed fair.  Cameron walked to put Youk in scoring position.  And Patterson, who was only playing because he pinch-hit two innings before, after a steady diet of breaking balls, with two outs and one strike away from being the third, sent a curveball into left-center field for a double.  Youk and Cameron both came around.  The final score was 8-6.

Wake will move to the bullpen to make room for Beckett.  Hermida will start against righties.

So, ultimately, we won.  It was an incredibly ugly and roundabout way to win, but it was a win nonetheless.  That game pretty much summed up our entire season: it was a wild fluctuation.  We started out with so much potential, which we squandered and had to fight for our lives, but then we came out on top.  Resilience.  It’s so much easier to roll over and take a loss with a ninth inning like that than it is to absolutely refuse to go down.  We went from a no-hitter to a win with a whole lot of complications in between, but we can be proud of it anyway.  What a game.  That was indeed a real triumph.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

That wasn’t a ballgame; that was a circus.  I know what a ballgame looks like, and last night wasn’t it.  It was so bad, it got to the point of being almost funny.  Except for the fact that, by the time we got around to playing real ball, it was the tenth inning, it was too little too late, and we lost.

We scored four runs in the first two innings.  In the first, Scutaro scored on Youk’s double for our first run.  Papi tried to do the same but was thrown out at the plate.

In the second, with one out, Hall singled into right field, and Gross fired the ball home to keep Cameron from scoring.  But Hall rounded first base by a mile, and Suzuki wanted to throw him out, but the throw ended up in right field because Barton and Ellis had no idea who should catch it.  So, in the end, Cameron scored his run, and Hall was safe at second base.  Then Davis tried diving for Scutaro’s bloop single, which ended up being ruled a double, and a stand-up at that, because he failed miserably; Hall scored on the play.  Then Scutaro came around on McDonald’s double.

We continued hammering away at Braden in the fifth, loading the bases with two out, but Hall grounded out.  So we loaded the basis in the sixth with only one out, but Papi struck out and Beltre grounded out.

Those were huge opportunities.  I think we lost the game in those innings.  We wouldn’t score another run last night, and in baseball you never know which run will be the winning run so you have to score when you can.  It turned out that the game was decided by only one run.  So if we made good on those bases-loaded situations, it’s not unreasonable to say that we would’ve won.

Meanwhile, the A’s had tied it up in the third with four runs, only three of which were earned.  (Cust had moved to third on Cash’s passed ball before scoring.) He gave up only three hits during his six innings of work, walking two, striking out five, and tossing 115 pitches.  His knuckleball was perfectly fine.  It was dancing, it was in the zone, for the most part.  He just got roughed up.  We’ve seen one-inning badness from him before.  His pitch counts per inning were mostly around twenty; his pitch count in that third inning was thirty-four.  It was a double, a walk, a hit-by-pich, a double, and a sac fly.  Some of that, namely the walk and the hit-by-pitch, are just part of the nature of the knuckleball; with a pitch so unpredictable and difficult to control, those things happen sometimes, and it’s a tribute to Wake’s skill that he only walked two.  So he definitely got his work in, even if our offense didn’t.

After that, the relief corps held the fort perfectly.  Needless to say, we’re going to need a quality start from Buchholz tonight because we used six relievers: Delcarmen, Okajima, Bard, Ramirez, Richardson, and Bowden.  The first three cruised.  In fact, after that third inning, Wake and the bullpen combined to retire the next fifteen batters they faced.  But now we come to the other part of the story.  The circus part.  The morbidly comical tenth inning part.

The tenth inning started with Ramirez, who was somehow called for a balk that put Barton in scoring position.  That was ridiculous.  He didn’t balk.  He just didn’t.  And to be honest with you I’m getting exasperated with all these bad calls.  Richardson got an out after that.  But then Bowden, who just got called up, was thrown into the mix with the game on the line and left a pitch up.  It was a four-seam.  The at-bat lasted for five pitches; the first three were four-seams, followed by a curveball, followed by the mistake.  Kouzmanoff jumped on it for a single, scoring Barton for a walkoff.  Ramirez ended up taking the loss.

And finally, last but not least, the ejections.  Crisp was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.  He swung and missed, he actually walked away from the plate, and then he actually walked all the way back and started it up.  John Farrell was ejected for arguing that Rosales didn’t check his swing and did indeed strike out.  How the umpire missed that, I have absolutely no idea.  His bat was so far in front of the plate, it looked like he was swinging for the fences.  Then Tito came out, and he wasn’t happy either.  Thankfully he didn’t get ejected, but still.  If he strikes out, the game is still tied.

In other news, the brass wants to upgrade the video screens in Fenway and bring int a new jumbotron.  As in, high definition.  The plans have to pass the Boston Landmarks Commission first, though.  I’m just thankful that our brass isn’t interested in something like the Dallas Cowboys monstrosity.  After all, we go to Fenway to watch a ballgame live, not to watch it on TV.

So that’s it.  That’s the whole story.  Every mistake that can be made in a ballgame – defensive, offensive, pitching, fielding, arguing – was indeed made.  All told, we left twelve on base, half of which were left in scoring position with two outs.  We had twice as many hits as Oakland did, but baseball games aren’t won by hits; they’re won by runs, which makes that our ninth loss in thirteen games.  Like I said, we need Buchholz to step up big tonight.  Actually, I’m pretty psyched.  We’re starting to get healthy.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

It’s that time yet again.  Since we’re now halfway through the season, an evaluation is in order.  Given where we started and where we are now, there’s a lot to evaluate.  But it’s going to be tricky.  It’s always hard to assess overall performance when it fluctuates wildly, and as a team, that’s what we’re looking at here.  Some players were extremely good for a while and then they petered out, but the team collectively is doing well because when one player declines, another rises.  Of course, it would make the whole thing easier if we could take the entire month of April and throw it out the window, but naturally we can’t.  It was an anomaly, but it’s the reason why we’re close to first place rather than actually in first place.

Alright.  Let’s do this.  Here we go.

Jason Varitek: A

He’s doing alright.  We’ve seen the same Renaissance from him this year that we did last year.  He landed on the DL on July 1, but before that, he was batting .263 with seven homers and sixteen RBIs in thirty-four games.  His numbers were somewhat similar to these last year with the important difference being that last year he posted the same numbers in more games last year.  That has to do with V-Mart moving permanently into the starter’s role and of course with the DL, but if he got an A last year, he should get an A this year for the same reasons.  Given his role, he deserves it.

Victor Martinez: A-

He’s picked it up, but he didn’t get the same start to this season as he did to last season.  He was less consistently good this year.  With that said, he’s still good, period.  He’s started to pick it up, he’s worked very hard on improving his arm with runners on the basepaths, and it’s his first full season, and in the starting role.  So it’s been and continues to be a season of changes for him, but he’s adapted nicely and continues to improve.

Kevin Cash: B+

He’s back behind the dish as a result of the injury onslaught.  He hasn’t been back here for very long, but he’s done his job: he’s manned his position while the usual pair are doing time on the DL.  We haven’t asked much of him, and he hasn’t given us anything spectacular.  He gets points for catching Wake really well after a long absence.  So I don’t have anything to complain about here.

Kevin Youkilis: A

As usual, nothing to complain about.  His average is at the cusp of .300, his defense is spick-and-span, and if you ask me he absolutely should have won the Final Vote.  His on-base percentage is a bit lower than last year because his strikeouts are up, but he’s been walking a ton, his slugging percentage is right where it should be at .575, not to mention his eighteen doubles, five triples, and eighteen home runs.  I think he’s one of the most consistent members of this lineup.

Dustin Pedroia: A

For a decent part of the season, he wasn’t performing up to expectations, which is inherently hard to do when you’re Dustin Pedroia.  But look at his numbers.  They clearly show his turnaround.  In April, he batted .302.  His average took a nosedive in May: .213.  But he got it together in June and batted a huge .374.  The turnaround was complete and absolute, and that was why his injury caused so much concern.  His defense is where it always is; he’s the quintessential dirt dog.  But he definitely gets an A for his resilience.

Marco Scutaro: A-

As with Beltre, we acquired him mainly for defense, and any offense was technically a bonus.  Our luck with shortstops post-Nomar hasn’t been great, and we just came off an abysmal fielder at short, so it’s been nice watching his range, athleticism, and .967 fielding percentage.  By general standards, that’s not that great, but compared to some other shortstops we’ve had recently, it’s great.  He’s already racked up 223 assists and turned thirty-seven assists.  And on top of that, his .283 average isn’t too shabby by any means.  Neither are twenty-two doubles, twenty-eight RBIs, and thirty-four walks.

Adrian Beltre: B+

No explanation needed here either.  Dude’s the best hitter on the team.  I’ll bet nobody expected that.  He’s third in homers and RBIs.  And his D is absolutely impeccable.  If you watch the highlights on SportsDesk.  If you watch the games too, you’ll be able to relate to my exasperation and disappointment.  The 159 assists and nineteen double plays are nice and all, but there’s no getting around his .943 fielding percentage, borne of his fourteen errors at third, which are tied with Miguel Tejada for most by a third baseman in all of Major League Baseball.  His improvement throughout the season is apparent; his errors were much more frequent and harmful in the beginning, which was obviously a contributing factor to the April fiasco, but still you can’t ignore them.  I guess it evens out, though.  Theo acquired him primarily for defense and didn’t expect much offense.  What he got was a ton of offense but mediocre defense.  So fulfilled our expectation of getting a lot of one and not much of the other; it was just the opposite.  As he spends more time in the park, his defense will also be above par.  So even though his knee has single-handedly sidelined some significant starters, we give him a decent mark for his bat.  In Theo we trust.  His fielding will come around in no time.

David Ortiz: A

This really doesn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give one anyway, just for fun.  He batted .143 in April and followed it with a huge surge in May, posting a .363 average with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs and a slugging percentage of .788.  He had a mediocre June but is on the upswing again this month.  Not to mention the Home Run Derby.  Big Papi is back!

Eric Patterson: A-

Again, it’s all about the expectations and the job he was brought here to do.  Like Kevin Cash, we brought him here in a pinch because we were dropping like flies.  And just by virtue of the fact that he’s healthy and can play, we’ve done well enough.  So I can’t dock him for mediocre baseball, because he wasn’t brought here to be the next Ted Williams.  So he gets a good grade for holding up under all the pressure of being thrown into an extremely competitive environment to keep us from crashing and burning.

Mike Lowell: C-

This is a difficult one to judge because of the dramatic decrease in playing time he’s seen this year.  But even if you look at his performance only in the context of his playing time, it’s not that great.  The highest he’s batted in a month this year is .250, and that was in April; he’s currently batting .213.  He has two homers and twelve RBIs.  He’s only walked eleven times.  His age is clearly showing.  It’s a harsh reality, but there’s nothing you can do but be honest.

Mike Cameron: B+

When Cameron came here, we expected good enough offense and stellar defense.  We have the good enough offense; he, like most of the team, batted horribly in April but picked it up in May before tanking again in June.  His fielding, however, has been subpar.  His fielding percentage so far is .976.  For him, that’s low; his fielding percentage is usually above .990.  And considering the fact that he replaced Ellsbury, whose fielding percentage was exactly one last year, he’s got to do better than that.  Part of it is getting used to his new territory – he’s never played in Fenway before this year – so look for him to improve his fielding in the second half.

JD Drew: A-

If you toss April out the window, he’s been great this year.  The improvement in his hitting between last year’s first half and this year’s is easy to see.  He had a fantastic May, a decent June, and is on his way to a fantastic July.  Overall, he’s batting .275.  His OPS is just .836, but again, it looks like he’s picking it up this month.  You also can’t argue with his fielding percentage: an even one.  No errors whatsoever this year in seventy-one games.

Bill Hall: B-

Hall is listed on the roster as an outfielder, even though he’s really a jack-of-all-trades.  It’s hard to beat the athleticism he’s exhibited in that role.  He can pretty much play any position.  We didn’t sign him for offense; we signed him for defensive depth on the bench, and to some degree that’s what we got.  He’s played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field this year, and he’s even pitched a bit.  While he has been a go-to guy whose value to the team has increased tremendously since the onslaught of injuries began, he’s not automatically excellent in the field.  With the conspicuous exception of one position: left.  He has a fielding percentage of one in nineteen starts and thirty games in left field.

Darnell McDonald: A

Darnell McDonald absolutely gets an A.  Think about it.  The guy is old, he traded hands in the minors, he was probably settling in for a long and hard career there without much hope of advance, he comes up, and he’s instantly a hero.  He’s been nothing but a hero to this team in its time of need.  Without the contributions of McDonald and Nava, we’d be in dire straits, trust me.  His .271 average is just ahead of the league leader.  His fielding percentages in left and right are both one, and his fielding percentage in center is a neat .988.  This guy exceeded all of our expectations, if we even had any, and for that, we salute him.

Daniel Nava: A

Same with this kid, and when I say kid, I mean kid.  He was called up in a pinch and delivered big time.  Literally.  A grand slam on the first pitch of your first Major League at-bat is no small talk.  Even putting that aside, he’s batting .300 with twelve extra-base hits and sixteen RBIs in twenty-four games.  He’s started twenty-one games in left field without making an error.  At such a young age and on such short notice, we were asking a lot of Nava, and he delivered.  For that, we also salute him.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Before his injury, Ellsbury was his usual self offensively.  His season average is only .250, but if you look deeper, you’ll notice that he only played a month and a half of baseball.  In April, he basically played every day and batted .333.  Then, in May, he only played three games.  Same with defense.  In fact, he sustained his injury while being his usual self in the field.  He was error free in both center and left.  So he was on track to have another fantastic year.  Too bad his ribs ended it.

Jeremy Hermida: B

We acquired Hermida your usual fourth outfielder.  After Ellsbury became injured, he stepped up majorly to get us through before he himself got injured.  While he played, he was decent.  He had some flashes of brilliance, but overall he was consistent and stable, providing defensive depth and nothing too fancy at the plate.  Still, as the fourth outfielder, he played a very important role.

Jon Lester: A

He’s an ace.  His ERA is 2.78, good for sixth in the American League.  His WHIP is 1.09.  He’s got 124 strikeouts – nobody hits his cut fastball – and a record of eleven and three in eighteen starts.  He’s given up only six homers in exactly 120 innings, proving his endurance and durability.  He had his usual horrible April, but his turnaround was so sharp and so complete, and he’s been so dominant for the rest of the season.  How do you not give him an A? He is definitely a backbone of this staff, especially this year with Beckett out.  And to think at one time he may have been on the block for Johan Santana.  Always, in Theo we trust.

Clay Buchholz: A

You can’t talk about Buchholz without talking about how much fun it is to see this kid mature into an ace right before your eyes.  We remember his no-no, we remember his abysmal season in 2008, we remember his improvement last year, and we’re seeing right now everything we knew he had in him.  He’s yet another example of why in Theo we trust.  Our farm system hasn’t failed us yet, and we know a good pitcher when we see one.  Buchholz tosses some of the salad I’ve ever seen.  His ERA of 2.45 is second in the American League and eighth in the Majors.  Wow.  He’s ten and four with only one no decision.  He’s pitched ninety-two innings and has given up only three home runs.  Phenomenal.  Absolutely phenomenal.

John Lackey: B

When we signed Lackey, I was so psyched.  I immediately started counting the automatic outs that his mean first-pitch strike would generate.  I envisioned a one-two-three punch in the rotation that would be impossible to beat.  But that’s not what I got.  His reputation as a workhorse did come through.  He pitched 113 innings in eighteen starts, which is less than Lester’s total, but he usually throws more pitches per start than Lester.  But his record is only nine and five, his ERA is 4.78, his WHIP is 1.60, and his OPP AVG is .298.  He’s given up ten home runs and has only racked up sixty-eight strikeouts.  Those are bad numbers.  They’re certainly not what any of us was expecting, that’s for sure.  In his defense, it is his first season in a Boston uniform, and we know from experience that pitchers usually perform better in their sophomore season with us, but still.  It takes good pitching and good defense to play the run prevention game.  We have the good defense.  It takes five starters to give us good pitching. Lackey is an integral part of that, but we haven’t seen him at his best.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: C

Just to be clear, that’s a C for inconsistency.  That’s his theme.  If I had to use one word to describe Dice-K as a pitcher, that would undoubtedly be it.  If he goes out and has a terrible outing, you have no reason to expect that from him in his next start.  But if he pitches extraordinarily well, like he did when he almost no-hit the Phillies, you sure can’t expect a repeat performance like that either.  Every time you think he’s turned a corner, he reverts.  Every time he reverts, you hope he’ll turn a corner.  And it just goes on and on with no progress.  His ERA is 4.56, his WHIP is 1.39, he’s six and three in twelve starts.  It’s frustrating.  Also, he’s not a good fielder.

Tim Wakefield: B-

Wakefield is obviously not performing as well this year as he did last year.  Last year, he was an All-Star.  This year, he was moved to the bullpen and is only starting now because Beckett is out.  His record is three and seven in fourteen starts.  He didn’t get his first win until May 23.  His ERA is 5.22 and his WHIP is 1.32.  In exactly one hundred innings, he’s allowed fifteen homers.  His numbers don’t reflect his flashes of brilliance.  He’s known for not receiving a ton of run support.  He could be pitching a lot better.  However, he’s an integral part of this staff, which clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.

Josh Beckett: D

He almost won the Cy Young three years ago, and should have in my opinion, and then all his dominance went out the window along with his back.  In eight starts this year, he’s one and one.  His ERA is over seven.  In about forty-five innings, he’s allowed thirty-seven earned runs, six homers, and nineteen walks.  It was painful to watch.  Then he got injured and he’s been on the DL working his way back for a while.  His recover has been proceeding nicely, and we hope when he returns, he’ll return with his health as well as his skills.  Meanwhile, he epically failed.

Felix Doubront: A

For a young kid who’s only made two Major League starts, he’s done well, and he’s shown us that the future of our rotation is in good hands.  He’s won one and barely lost the other.  His inexperience clearly shows, but so does his potential.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s old.  It shows.  But he’s still pitched decently this year.  He’s not an elite reliever, but then again we never expected him to be.

Manny Delcarmen: C+

He hasn’t been healthy; he started pitching really badly, and then they figured out he had to go on the DL.  He’s a great pitcher, so if he gets better and picks it up, he’ll help the team a lot in the second half.  But until then, he’s left much to be desired.

Hideki Okajima: C+

Same story.  He wasn’t that great, turned out he was hurting, he went on the DL, he came off the DL, and he still wasn’t that great.  I think it’s safe to say that the league has figured him out.  I don’t think we’ll see the dominance he exhibited when he first came over any time soon.  Back then his delivery, where he turns his head, was very disorienting.  It was a novelty.  Now that everyone’s seen it and got used to it, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore.  He’s still got stuff, but he needs to work on his precision.

Ramon Ramirez: B

His story is similar, plus a little better performance.  He just hasn’t been that great.

Dustin Richardson: B

He was called up to add some depth to the bullpen and to compensate for some injuries.  He’s done a fairly decent job.  He’s still a kid, so you can’t fault him for inexperience.

Robert Manuel: B

Same thing.  He was called up even more recently and has done what he can to help out in the ‘pen.  Given the circumstances of his and Richardson’s callups, they’ve both done admirably.

Daniel Bard: A

What can I say? He’s the ultimate setup man because he was built to close.  His fastball is on fire.  His ERA is under two.  His WHIP is under one.  He’s got three saves and nineteen holds.  It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still just a kid and has a long way to go yet, but he’s halfway there already.

Jonathan Papelbon: B+

His ERA at 3.50 is astronomically high for a closer.  There’s absolutely no disputing that fact.  His WHIP of 1.11 isn’t great for a closer either.  Especially not one of his caliber.  Nevertheless, he’s pitched thirty-six innings and converted twenty saves while only blowing three.  Of course, those three blown saves were blown pretty badly, but at least he’s only blown three.  His improvement since last year has been good.  He’s expanded his repertoire and worked on his delivery.  So despite his ERA, he’s still a fantastic closer.

Terry Francona: A

Terry Francona should be the Manager of the Year.  He’s a wizard.  It takes profound managerial skill to manage your club while eleven guys from the forty-man roster are on the disabled list, eight of whom are regular players and five of whom are starters.  He’s a genius.  He has such intuition for the game.  I’m not even sure how he’s been able to guide us through this, but it absolutely is a testament to his ability.  He’s the best there is.  This episode of injuries proves it.

Theo Epstein: A

I say, “In Theo we trust,” all the time for a reason.  In this post alone, that right there was the fourth time.  It’s because it’s true.  After April and before everyone landed on the DL, the run prevention game he’d planned showed that it was working.  In fact, it was working so well that, despite the awful April we had, we were about to steal first place away from New York. The man knows what he’s doing.  And there are also the previously mentioned examples of Beltre, Lester, and Buchholz.  He’ll get us there.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B

The team overall gets a B because, even though most individual players received As, the team overall hasn’t been performing as well as the abilities of its individual members would suggest.  This is the direct result of two things: April and injuries.  Our April, for whatever reason, was disgusting.  We played like minor leaguers and dug ourselves into a hole that we spent the entire first half trying to get out of without succeeding.  The starting pitchers, most notably Lester and Beckett, were terrible in April, as was essentially the entire offense, which didn’t do much of anything at all that month.  But after we exited the month of April, we played like everyone expected us to play when the season started.  Our starters started dominating, our hitters started hitting, and our run prevention game started working.  We looked like a team that will go all the way.  We even put ourselves into position to seize the entire division.  Then all of the injuries to many key people happened all at once, and it’s a testament to the team’s gritty attitude, resilience, and never-say-die determination that we are where we are in spite of that.  The fact that we’re five games out of first and three games out of second after a first half with an abysmal first month and injuries to three of our most important starting bats, which is a third of the entire lineup, and two of our most important pitchers, one of whom hasn’t really been out significantly but the other of whom has been out since said abysmal April when we originally expected him to be as dominant as ever only confirms the fact that we have what it takes to win the World Series.  Because if we’ve come this far with the B team, just imagine what we can do with a healthy A team.  We’d be so good, it’s not even funny.  So we have a lot to look forward to in this second half.  There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and I have a feeling that we’ll play it very well.  Get psyched.  It’s about to be on.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

Read Full Post »

I’m not entirely sure that last night’s loss was entirely the fault of our depleted lineup.  We faced David Price.  Facing David Price is no walk in the park, even when your lineup is healthy and even if the park were real.  (I really don’t like the Trop.  It has a roof and they play on turf.  It’s totally unnatural, both literally and figuratively.) So we can take heart in that fact.  What we can’t take heart in is the fact that it was still a loss, the last of three, meaning they yanked their plastic grass from right under our feet and swept us out.

But we didn’t go out without a fight.  Our first run scored in the sixth when Patterson came home on Papi’s double off the wall.  An inning later, Cameron hit a home run out to left field.  And finally, Garza came in for the ninth and it looked like we just might win after all.  Nava led off the ninth with a triple and scored on Cameron’s sac fly.  Then, with two outs, McDonald put together a massive at-bat that totaled eleven pitches before he scored Drew with a double to bring us within two.  The lineup showed promise, with Papi followed by Youk scheduled to come up.  Papi walked.  But Youk, with a 1-0 count, lined out to center field.  I hate to say it, but he’s really not helping his own cause in the Final Vote with all these unfortunate at-bats.

McDonald and Cameron both had stellar nights; McDonald went three for five, and Cameron went three for three.  Cash’s leave of absence showed in his passed ball.

The final score was 6-4.  Our bullpen did its best to keep us in it, but six runs is a decent amount of runs to be expected to overcome.  All six runs were given up by Wakefield.  Traditionally he’s been dominant against the Rays, but watching him last night, you’d never know it.  He gave up all six on four hits with six walks and three strikeouts in only five and two-thirds innings.  He threw 115 pitches.  He handled the first three innings, but then Longoria hit a solo shot in the fourth and everything more or less went downhill from there.  He went on to issue two free passes and a wild pitch.  He threw nine pitches in the third but twenty-seven pitches in the fourth.  His knuckleball was absolutely not as effective as it could have been; he only threw it for strikes fifty-three percent of the time, and when you’re talking about your dominant pitch by far, that’s not that great.  And when his knuckleball is less effective, his fastball is less effective because the effectiveness of his fastball is rooted in the fact that, when the knuckleball is on, you never see the fastball coming and therefore can’t hit it.  He only threw about three curveballs, but they were awful.  His strike zone was an absolute mess.  There was a random pocket in it to which he didn’t throw much of anything, and he threw all sorts of nonsense around the upper-left corner of the zone.  Both his horizontal movement and his vertical movement forced his pitches a little out there.  Tito described his movement as violent, which was completely true.  He did pick off Brignac to end the fourth, which was neat, because he doesn’t have too many successful pickoffs, being that it’s so easy to steal against him because he holds the ball for so long.  So that was good.  But on a night when we really needed his best stuff, he just didn’t have it.  He walked way too many.

The bullpen handled the rest of the game admirably, especially since he left so early.  Richardson allowed his inherited runner to score, but Ramirez, Paps, and Manuel were lights-out for the rest of the game.

But the bullpen’s solid performance and Garza’s weak one were too little, too late to salvage the contest.  Not that we haven’t come back from greater deficits in more significant situations than this, because I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I assure you that we most definitely have, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards last night.  What can I say? You lose, and then you move on.  Hopefully to a win.

We now bring our losing streak to four games, and we are four and a half games out of first place, two and a half behind the Rays.  We have an off day today and a three-game set with the Jays starting tomorrow, followed by the break.  Potentially, we could at least lock second place before the break, but the best we can do with first is be half a game out.  We were so close! Fortunately, there’s an entire second half of the season to be played.  But we’ll get there eventually.  First it’s Lester at Romero.  We need this one.  When you’re in the middle of a losing streak, you need every one you can get.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »