Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Randy Williams’

The one bad inning rears its ugly head yet again.  Take away that sixth inning, and we clearly win.  The truth is, though, that that sixth inning wasn’t even that bad.  Three runs? We should be able to score twice that in our sleep.  We were up against Bartolo Colon, who wasn’t having the best outing of his life, either.  So you can look at it in one of two ways: either Lester shouldn’t have allowed those run at all or we should have been able to score more, especially off the bullpen since Colon left early.  The reality, as usual, is a mixture of both.

Lester cruised through five.  The first inning was his second-most efficient at eleven pitches; he posted two K’s in that inning.  The second inning was his second-least efficient at twenty-three pitches; he allowed two baserunners, one single and one four-pitch walk.  He opened and closed it with strikeouts, the first on three pitches.  He faced the minimum in the third, his most efficient inning at ten pitches.  He faced the minimum with two strikeouts again in the fourth.  He allowed a walk but faced the minimum again in the fifth, thanks to a double play.

And then the sixth.  It started with an eight pitch walk.  You never, ever want to begin an inning by allowing a runner on base.  It doesn’t matter how the runner gets there.  You just do not want to pitch the rest of the inning with a runner on base.  What if you make a mistake? Lester was about to find out.

He allowed two consecutive singles after that, which resulted in the first run.  It could have stopped there.  But Lester issued another walk, which loaded the bases.  A double play put two outs on the board but scored another run.  A double then allowed the third run before a groundout ended it.  He threw thirty-five pitches in that inning.  And that was the last we saw of Lester last night.

All told, he allowed three runs on six hits over five innings while walking four and striking out seven.  He threw 108 pitches, sixty-four for strikes.  What you notice first is obviously the high walk total, and the Yankees eventually made him pay.  What you also notice is that his cut fastball was by no means at its best last night.  He threw it well most of the time, but it didn’t have that nastiness to it that it usually does.  When you watched it, you just didn’t get the same lights-out feeling you get when you watch it on an on night.  His curveball and sinker didn’t help much either, and he hardly threw any changeups for strikes.  And whatever problems were plaguing him last night didn’t manifest themselves until the sixth, when he just lost everything.  He took the loss.

What the bullpen lacked on Thursday, they made up for on Friday.  Because we lost, they don’t have anything to show for it.  But it was a masterful display of collective control and dominance.  Albers, Williams, Aceves.  Three scoreless innings.

The final score was 3-2.  In the second, Reddick singled, and Scutaro grounded into a force out and scored on a double by Ellsbury.  Papi hit a solo shot in the fourth.  I guess that hug he got from Steven Tyler before the game paid off.  It was a six-pitch at-bat, and all six pitches were fastballs, only one of which was a two-seam.  The count was 1-2, and he sent the ball over the bullpen into right field.  That was not a good at-bat for Papi.  His first pitch was a called strike, then the ball, and then he just fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch.  He did not look happy.  So he packed a whole lot of angry into that swing.

The fifth inning was just terrible.  With two out and the bases loaded, the Yankees made a pitching change and Gonzalez stepped up to the plate.  For the Yankees, that’s supposed to be a recipe for disaster.  You have a new reliever stepping into a pressure cooker and facing a hitter you just epically do not ever want to face in that situation because he’ll make you pay for any mistake you make, no matter how small you think it is.  At all costs, he will get at least one runner across the plate.  If Gonzalez had plated one, then given what happened in the sixth the game would have been tied, and we would have sorted it out in the late or extra innings.  (Of course you never know because even something small changes the game completely, but you know what I mean.) But he struck out.  He struck out swinging on three pitches.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was awful.

After that, Crawford doubled in the sixth and Papi singled in the ninth, but that was it for us.

Reddick and Crawford both went two for four; Crawford also had that spectacular diving catch in left that ended the third.  Salty caught two thieves and has improved dramatically on that front.

We are eight and two against the Yankees this year but are now in second place for the first time since July 6.  We can solve that problem today and tomorrow.  Lackey takes on Sabathia this afternoon.  Hold onto your hats.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Wake, yet again, did not pick up his two hundredth win.  Why? Because, yet again, he went up against another starter who matched him pitch for pitch, so he left the game tied and received a no-decision.  Which is a real shame because, not only was Tuesday his birthday, but the way in which we won last night was perfectly conducive to history-making.

Wake pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up three runs on five hits, walked two, and struck out six.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth.  Sixty-four of his ninety-nine pitches were strikes.  Two of his innings were one-two-three; it should have been three but Scutaro made a fielding error in the third.  And it took him only thirty-five pitches to get through those three innings.  Then he gave up a solo shot, and a single followed by a double meant two runs scored in the fourth.  He issued a walk in the fifth and that should have been it, but Salty passed a ball.  (Actually, in the game he passed two.) In the sixth he issued another walk.  The seventh wasn’t great; he allowed another run before he was pulled.  After him, it was Williams and then Paps with the win.

So it’s that same debate about the fact that it’s not like Wake helped his own cause much by giving up runs, but at the same time it’s not like the offense backed him up much because they should have been able to score more than three runs.

With two out in the first and runners on second and third, Papi singled them both in.  With one out in the fourth and the bases loaded, Scutaro grounded into a force out, which scored one.  Yes, that is one of the most anticlimactic ways to score a run when the bases are loaded.

Were there opportunities after that? Again, not really.  A baserunner or two here and there, but nothing after that bases-loaded situation that could really be construed as a real rally-starter.  But there should have been more.  We picked up ten hits to their five, but we left only one more man on base than they did and we had one more opportunity with runners in scoring position.  I was sure Pedroia’s fly ball was going out in the third.  Then again I also assumed that Pedroia wouldn’t take off too early if he were to try to steal a base, and he did that in the third too.

Yet again the bottom of the ninth rolled around.  With two out in the inning, Ellsbury yet again stepped to the plate.  And yet again he pulled it off, this time in more powerful and dramatic fashion.  It was his second walkoff in as many games, but it was the first ever walkoff home run of his career.  He took a slider for a strike, and then he got a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball.  And he knew exactly what to do with it.  He powered it on a straight shot all the way to center field.  And then, of course, the walkoff mob.  That walkoff mob is a blast, isn’t it?

Ellsbury is the first to close the park in two consecutive games since Papi did it in 2006.  It was the first time Paps earned wins in two consecutive games since 2008.  We won, 4-3.  It was awesome.  All I can say is, Jacoby Ellsbury, ladies and gentlemen!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

We kept trading leads back and forth until we were locked in a tie into the eighth innings.  We handed the ball to Bard.  You think you know a guy.

Lackey pitched decently.  He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t abysmal.  Actually, I think those adjectives are too far apart on the spectrum to paint an accurate picture of what his outing was like.  Really, he wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible.  That’s more like it.  His outing can be considered yet another step in the right direction.

He pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out five.  He threw 106 pitches, seventy-four for strikes.  He mixed his pitches, got aggressive, and attacked the zone.  His fastballs were not great; thankfully that was his least frequent pitch.  The good news is that the effectiveness of his pitches strike-wise increased with the frequency at which he threw them.  He threw changeups for strikes about sixty percent of the time, curveballs about sixty-three, sliders about sixty-seven, and cutters, his most abundant pitch, about eighty-six.  He must have taken a page from Lester’s book because his cutter was downright nasty.

Three of his innings were one-two-three.  His best inning was obviously the second, during which he threw only nine pitches.  The first two runs he allowed were scored by small ball, and the last three were scored by two consecutive home runs, the first for two runs and the second a solo shot.  He was pulled after having secured the first two outs but allowing a single in the seventh.

Morales came on and finished the seventh.  Bard took the ball in the eighth.  But instead of being his usual self, his scoreless inning streak snapped.  He allowed a single and gave up a home run.  Actually, at first Asdrubal Cabrera and his teammates were the only ones who thought he hit it out.  The ball bounced off the wall in right, and everyone else, including first base umpire Todd Tichenor, thought that the ball was still in play.  Manny Acta called for a review, and something happened that seems to never occur when we need it most and always occur when we need it least: the ruling on the field was overturned, and Cabrera was sent home.  That brought in two runs.

Bard induced a groundout after that but then issued an eleven-pitch walk.  In an absurd twist of fate, it was Randy Williams who had to take the ball from Bard.  He hadn’t given up a run in twenty-six and one-third innings in more than twenty-five appearances dating back to May 27.  It was the longest active streak and the longest by any AL pitcher.  All he had to do was pitch one more scoreless frame, and he would have tied Bob Stanley’s string of twenty-seven and one-third innings in 1980.  The game was tied when he came in.  He walked away the loser, literally.

Williams gave up another run.  Albers took the ball from Williams and gave up a solo shot in the ninth.

We ended up losing.

In the second, Salty doubled, moved to third on a single by Reddick, and scored on a single by Scutaro.  I guess Reddick had a feeling that he was going to make a throwing error in the next inning and wanted to compensate in advance.  Technically, though, his throwing error didn’t matter because, while it resulted in a runner advancing to third and later scoring, that runner would have scored anyway because the scoring play was a double.

In the third, Gonzalez singled and scored on a triple by Youk.  The throw back into the infield ended up sailing wide of third, and Youk tried to score also but was thrown out at home.  A groundout by Papi later, Crawford homered into the bullpen on a hanging cut fastball.  It gave you an indication of what we should and hopefully will be seeing from him on a regular basis.  And at the time, it gave us a 3-1 lead.

Three innings later, Crawford doubles, and Salty who homered to right, this one on a changeup.  He even broke his bat on contact.  At the time, it tied the score at five apiece.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mike Aviles singled, moved to second on defensive indifference, and scored on a double by Ellsbury.  But there were two outs in the inning already, and Pedroia ended the game when he grounded out.

I hope this has given you a sense of the epic frustration that was last night’s three-hour, eleven-minute contest.  Here’s the saddest part.  Each team collected thirteen hits.  The Tribe went three for seven with runners in scoring position and left four on base; we went four for eight with runners in scoring position and left five on base.  And yet we lost, 9-6, to the Tribe.  Bard failing with the entire game on the line? Papi hitless in the last two games? Reddick, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury held to one hit each? Reddick also messing up in the field and on the base paths? (He got caught in a rundown between third and home in the second inning.  Seriously, who does that?) A ruling overturned in the opposition’s favor? It was the stuff of legend, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all.  We’re now only one game up on the Yankees.  We’re playing them in a series starting on Friday.  The implications and importance of this are obvious.

Buchholz will likely be out for the rest of the season.  Apparently it’s not just a strain anymore; it’s a set of stress fractures.  Between the seeking of a third opinion and the acquisition of Bedard, I think we all knew that the chances of him returning this year, while technically present, are slim.  Bedard, by the way, is making his Boston debut on Thursday.  Can you imagine? It will be his first time ever pitching in a pennant race.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

Read Full Post »

Wow.  So much awesomeness in this game.  Where to start? The beginning.

Lackey.  Lackey picked up his fourth consecutive win.  He was shaky at first; I didn’t know if he would make it through.  In the first, he made a mistake; he gave up a three-run shot, and I was thinking back to our pathetic loss to open the series and how much I really did not want to see a repeat performance, ever.  But he settled down after that.  He allowed another home run in the fifth, a solo shot, but that was it for the rest of his night.

All told, he tossed five and two-thirds innings.  He gave up four runs on eleven hits, but only three of those runs were earned; Youk, who returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule, made a fielding error, which never happens.  Just to be clear, I don’t think he made a fielding error because he returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule.  Anyway, Lackey walked only one and struck out three.  Objectively, his start wasn’t great, but we’ll take anything we can get from him as long as he gets on the path to long-term consistent success.  With the two-seam, four-seam, and cutter working as well as they did last night, he should have no problem getting there, although his changeup, slider, and curveball may prove to be stumbling blocks; although they’re excellent, they need to hit their spots more consistently.  One mistake and you could have a night like the one Lackey just had where you allow two home runs.  Granted, one of those was on a fastball, but still.  Worth mentioning was his third inning: three up, three down, nine pitches.  Done.  Williams and Wheeler finished the game.  Nobody earned a save because, trust me, it was nowhere near a save situation.

The offense all began with back-to-back home runs by Ellsbury and Pedroia.  That was as good an indication as any of the explosive run barrage that was to follow.  Ellsbury hit his on the second pitch he saw last night.  It was a sinker, and he bounced it off the Pesky Pole.  It was a laser after Pedroia’s own heart.  He saw that ball as clear as day, and it got out in a hurry.  Pedroia, on the other hand, duked it out with Bruce Chen.  He hit his home run on his seventh pitch, an inside fastball.  Don was right; that ball had more than enough to get out of the park.  On Monday night, he was a homer shy of the cycle, and late in the game he actually almost hit one out.  So what does he do during his first time up last night? He hits one out beyond the shadow of a doubt.  It was a laser in every sense of the word.  To the Monster in a hurry.  Pedroia’s hitting streak now stands at twenty-four games, the longest of any Red Sox second baseman ever.

The bases were loaded for Ellsbury in the second.  Ellsbury walked, Pedroia hit a sac fly, and Gonzalez grounded out.  All of that brought in three more.

But we really blew the game wide open in the fourth.  McDonald doubled and scored on a single by Navarro.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out and stood at first.  Pedroia singled and Ellsbury tried to score but was thrown out at the plate.  Gonzalez and Youk then singled.  So the bases were loaded for Papi.

When the table is set, Big Papi knows how to feast.

It was the fifth pitch of the at-bat.  So far, Papi had received a fastball, two sinkers, and a slider.  The count was 3-1.  Chen dealt another slider belt-high.  And the ball ended up in the seats behind the bullpen.  Big Papi hit his tenth grand slam and batted in his thousandth run for Boston.  The only other players who have batted in a thousand runs for Boston are Yaz, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, and Jim Rice; Papi now finds himself among the headiest company.  Think about it.  They spent their whole careers here; he’s reached that milestone in his ninth year.  That’s a big accomplishment.  And it was against a southpaw.  The ball was absolutely crushed.  He unleashed massive power and just skinned it.  Big Papi hit a grand slam.

Ellsbury and Pedroia led off the sixth with a double and a single, respectively, so Gonzalez brought in another run with a single.  The Royals picked up another run in the eighth, but Gonzalez got it back in the bottom of the inning with another RBI single.

McDonald and Navarro went two for four.  Gonzalez went three for five.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for four.  Five extra-base hits: two doubles and three homers.

And that’s how we came to win, 12-5.  That, my friends, is how it’s done.

Grand Slam

Read Full Post »

I don’t believe this.  Really.  I am having a lot of trouble accepting the outcome of this game.  This is not okay by any stretch of the imagination.  It is so completely opposite of what should have transpired.  I can’t fathom it.

It is inconceivable for several reasons.  First of all, we lost.  We lost to the Royals.  Not even the Orioles should be losing to the Royals.  We are the best offensive team in Major League Baseball.  This game should have been a blowout by the fifth inning.

Instead, not only did we lose to the Royals, but it took us fourteen innings to do it, and it was close.  The final score was 3-1.

See? Inconceivable.  Completely inconceivable.

Lester made his return and looked good.  This had nothing to do with him.  He pitched five and a third innings and gave up only one run on seven hits while walking two and striking out six.  He threw eighty-nine pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes.  Considering his target for the night was eighty-five pitches, that’s good to see.  He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth, followed by an RBI double, followed by a five-pitch walk, but he was pulled more because he’d surpassed his pitch count limit for the day.

His stuff was pretty good.  He gave up more way more hits than he usually would, and normally his strikeout total would be higher.  So he was a clearly a little rusty from his time off, and I don’t think the two-hour, twenty-one-minute rain delay helped either.  His sinker was as potent as ever, his cut fastball was almost as potent as ever, and his off-speed pitches were not great.  His best inning was far and away the third; it was one-two-three, ending in two consecutive swinging strikeouts.  He threw sixteen pitches.  His best inning pitch count-wise was the fourth; two singles followed by three consecutive outs, all on ten pitches.

Ultimately, he received a no-decision because the run he allowed tied the game.  With Drew on the DL with a left shoulder impingement (how timely), Reddick started in right again.  Papi walked and was out on a force by Crawford, who stole second base during Reddick’s at-bat; when Reddick doubled, he scored.

That’s right, folks.  The Royals’ one run tied the game, because we scored one run in the second inning, and that was all we scored through six.

We had runners at the corners in the fifth; nothing.  Same thing in the bottom of the ninth, prime for a walkoff; nothing (Crawford supposedly struck out on swing that he supposedly did not successfully check.  That is false.) We had two base runners in the eleventh via a single and an intentional walk; nothing.  Two singles in the twelfth; nothing.  A walk and a single in the thirteenth; nothing.

Three of those two-runner opportunities in extra innings came with less than two outs.  The twelfth was particularly maddening.  Reddick singled, Salty flied out, and Scutaro stepped up to bat.  A throwing error on a pickoff attempt of Reddick moved him to third.  Tim Bogar then signed for a suicide squeeze, so Reddick started going home.  Scutaro missed the sign.  He missed it.  He just missed it.  And he let the pitch go by, and Reddick was caught in a rundown.  Then Scutaro was out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Meanwhile, we’d gone through Albers, Bard, Paps, Morales, Wheeler, and finally Randy Williams, who ultimately took the loss because, in the top of the fourteenth, he allowed a double, a single, a successful sac bunt (the ball went in the air, so Gonzalez had no play because he was charging already), another single, and a successful sac fly.

Reddick doubled in the bottom of the fourteenth.  We did not come back.

This is profoundly enraging.  They collected twelve hits to our thirteen.  We both had eleven opportunities with runners in scoring position; they took advantage of three of them; we only took advantage of one.  They left nine on base; we left eleven on base.  They won; we lost.

Gonzalez went two for six, Papi went two for four, and Reddick went three for six.  Pedroia extended his hitting streak to twenty-two games.  Youk won’t play today due to a tight right hamstring he sustained while running out a ground ball in the sixth; he left the game in the seventh.  He gets points for hustling.  Apparently, though we need him in the lineup, because apparently we need all the help we can get against the Royals.

The bullpen obviously gets points for pitching almost a full game’s worth of shutout innings.  Salty gets points for throwing out two runners.  Reddick gets points for possibly saving the game in the tenth with a forward diving catch.  Crawford does not get points for striking out four times for the second time in his career.

We missed all sorts of scoring opportunities.  Scutaro missed a sign.  Ultimately, you could say the entire game was one huge miss.  It’s thoroughly embarrassing.  It’s inconceivable.  I have nothing more to say.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

When Wakefield starts, it’s so predictably unpredictable.  It’s the same story where you know you’ll either get the good Wakefield or the bad Wakefield; there generally isn’t anything in between.  And if you get the good Wakefield, the offense would have to majorly mess up to not with the game.  But if you get the bad Wakefield, it’s one big uphill battle to snare the win.

Last night we didn’t really get the bad Wakefield, but you’d never know that from a glance at his line.  The knuckleball works in mysterious ways, and when it’s not on, there’s not much you can do to right the ship, especially since the only time you ever really see a knuckleball is when you have a pitcher with no other pitches except the knuckleball (and those that it facilitates, like the occasional fastball you can barely sneak in).  But Wakefield’s knuckleball wasn’t bad last night.  In fact, he threw it for a strike about sixty percent of the time.  True, he was inefficient and let himself get too deep into counts and gave up a lot of hits, but to say that Wakefield had an off night would not technically be true.

In four and two-thirds innings, Wake walked two and struck out three.  He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes.  Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  He allowed seven runs on nine hits, but only three of those seven runs were earned.

Two singles followed by a triple accounted for two runs in the first, two home runs accounted for three in the fifth, and a double accounted for two more in the fifth.  Wake was lifted after that, and Wheeler came in.

The four unearned runs, it turns out, were all Salty’s fault because he passed a ball.  Actually he passed two balls last night, but all four of the runs were attributed to his first one, where Felix Pie struck out but reached.  Salty is a catcher.  He’s not supposed to pass balls ever.  four runs is more than some times score in an entire game.  Actually, that’s more than we’ve scored in an entire game during some of our rough stretches.  And because of that, the offense had more than its fair share of work to do to come back.

At first, things didn’t look good.  Our first six hitters were sent down until Salty actually homered to lead off the third; I guess in some way he knew he would do something bad and wanted to start redeeming himself early.  It was a sinking fastball he read like an open book, and the ball ended up in the bullpen.  Actually, Adam Jones almost fell into the bullpen when he tried to chase it down.   It should have been back-to-back jacks with Drew, but thanks to Jones’s catch, alas.  I guess he was determined to make one of those plays last night.

It was all good though because our next four hitters made constructive contact.  Scutaro and Ellsbury both singled, and then two more singles by Pedroia, who extended his hitting streak to sixteen games and has now reached base safely in his last twenty-eight games, and Gonzalez brought in two more runs.

Two singles began the fourth.  The first of those was hit by none other than Carl Crawford, who made his long-anticipated return to the lineup.  Not bad; start small, then build up.  But he’s got a long way to go in order to make up for lost time and subpar performance.  Scutaro eventually reached on a fielding error – Derrek Lee let a ball that would have been a sure-fire double play roll right between his legs, so I guess between his error and Salty’s error, everyone got their just desserts – which allowed Crawford to score.  Then Ellsbury brought in another with a sac fly.  (Incidentally, Ellsbury was serving as the DH because Papi began serving his suspension, which was reduced to three games from four.)

Reddick hit a solo shot in the fifth off the right field foul pole.  It was a breaking ball down and in, which is right where Reddick likes it.  Of the seven home runs he’s hit in his career, five have been hit against the Orioles.  We should call him up for Baltimore games more often.

With two on in the seventh, Youk singled in another run to tie the game.  And so we just manufactured some runs, made good swings, and took production where we could get it.  But none of it really looked like enough until the eighth, when we blew the game wide, wide open.

Salty grounded out to start things off; innocent enough.  But then Michael Gonzalez lost all control.  He walked McDonald, who’d come in for Drew.  Scutaro singled.  He walked Ellsbury.  And he was replaced by Mark Worrell, who after not seeing Major League action for three years was greeted by Pedroia with a two-run double that hit the right field fence and broke what had become a tie at seven apiece.  Gonzalez was, of course, intentionally walked after that.  And Youk brought in two more runs with a single.  Then the Orioles made another pitching change.  Reddick walked, and Crawford singled in Gonzalez.  Salty struck out for the second out of the inning before McDonald, batting for the second time in that frame, cleared the bases completely with a double.

Eight runs in the eighth inning and three straight swinging strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth by Morales say we won, 15-10.  Wheeler picked up the win.  I would have preferred 15-0 or something similarly lopsided, but I’ll take the win any day.  Randy Williams got some work in.  Scutaro, Salty, Youk, Pedroia, and even Crawford went two for five; Ellsbury went three for four.  Any day when we play Baltimore is a great day for baseball.  If we win today, we win the series.

Reuters Photo

Read Full Post »

I’ve seen many truly great first innings of ballgames, and yesterday’s was not one of them.  A throwing error, four singles, a force out, and a double play later, we were already down by three.  (Officially, you can thank Scutaro for one of those, since he made a throwing error.  Unofficially, you can thank Scutaro for two, because one was the error and the other wasn’t technically an error; he just couldn’t come up with a clean play.  That first inning was not Scutaro’s finest hour.) That is not an auspicious start to a baseball game by any stretch of the imagination, and since it was Lackey on the mound, I was already thinking, “Here we go again.”

I am pleased to report that I was wrong.  Lackey only lasted five and two-thirds innings, but he really settled down after that twenty-seven-pitch first.  The turnaround was actually quite remarkable.  One might we’re writing off his start for good, and the next minute we’re cruising through the game’s first half.  Those three runs he gave up in the first and a solo shot he allowed later were the only runs he allowed.  Normally I wouldn’t be so thrilled with a starter who gave up four runs in less than six innings, but considering who the starter was and his circumstances, I can’t complain.  He walked one and gave up ten hits but struck out seven.  He threw 107 pitches, seventy-four for strikes.  So he was really inefficient, but he threw good pitches.  He rolled out all six of the pitches in his arsenal and used them all effectively.  Of all the pitches, his curveball had the lowest strike percentage, and that was about sixty.  (Technically, it would actually be his two-seam; he threw only one of them for a strike, but considering he threw only about two in total, that doesn’t exactly count.)

Lackey was removed in the sixth.  And then we saw a bit of a replay of what happened when he pitched for the Angels in the 2009 ALDS.  When he saw Tito come out of the dugout, he was not happy, and he said so.  On one hand, that’s what you want to see from every play on the team.  You want to see that fierce competitiveness.  That’s not something we’ve seen from Lackey in a long time.  I mean, he’s always a competitor with perseverance and work ethic, but the fact that he showed it in that way technically can be considered a good thing.  It means he had confidence that he could finish what he started and that he knew he rescued himself from an outing that could have tanked to an epic degree and was now on the right track.  And he didn’t want to let it go until he did everything he could to ensure that his start would be as top-notch as it was going to get.  But on the other hand, it’s not really compatible with the way Tito likes to manage.  Tito is a pretty quiet guy.  He would never call out a player in public, and what Lackey did was kind of like calling out the manager in public.  When Tito goes out of his way to be discreet, he deserves the same courtesy from his players.  If Lackey had a problem with being removed, he could have told Tito about it behind closed doors, just like Tito would have gone behind closed doors to tell Lackey he had a problem with him.  I’m sure they talked it out afterwards and everything’s all good.  I guess what I’m saying is that Lackey should feel free to be himself as a ballplayer but to also be mindful of the impact it has and not go out of line.

He was taken out in favor of Randy Williams; he left two outs and two baserunners (Damon reached on a fielding error by…Gonzalez? I didn’t really know he knew how to make fielding errors) in his wake.  Williams secured the last out of the inning as well as the first two in the seventh, and then we went to Bard, who finished off the seventh and allowed a double in the eighth that facilitated a steal of third but ultimately finished that inning too.

Paps came on for the ninth and allowed a triple followed by a single.  Luckily, that run didn’t matter.  But, like I always say, what if it did matter? It’s possible that that inning would have lost us the game in that case.  Closers can’t afford to pitch weakly under any circumstances whatsoever because you never know.

The reason why that run didn’t matter is because we totally dominated.  Salty walked in the second on five pitches, and Reddick sent a cutter to the very back of the first deck of seats in right field.  It was hugely huge; I’m sure his family, who was present at the game, really enjoyed seeing that.  It just goes to show you why walks will haunt.  We’ll make you pay every time.

The festivities continued in the third.  Gonzalez led off the inning with another five-pitch walk, and Youk followed with a single. Papi brought them both home with a double and scored himself on a double by Drew.

Ellsbury led off the fourth with a home run.  It was a slider, the ninth pitch he saw overall and the first of that at-bat.  It ended up in the first few rows of seats in right field.  It was his second dinger in as many games.  Ironically enough, hitting home runs is not something he was ever supposed to do.  Nobody ever thought of him as a power hitter.  Not that I’m complaining.  The more tools, the merrier.

We took a break for a while and didn’t score again until the seventh, when Pedroia smacked a fastball into the stands in right.  For the first time in his career, it was his third home run in as many games, and he’s hit seven home runs in his last four teen games.  This one was another hugely powerful swing.  Here’s another guy who was never supposed to hit home runs.  It really is so much fun to watch Pedroia hit home runs.  You think he’s such a small guy, but then he just uncorks this massive swing on an unsuspecting baseball and it goes way deep.

Even in the ninth, we were still piling it on.  Scutaro opened the inning with a single.  Ellsbury then reached on interference by the catcher.  He swung late, and Jose Lobaton reached out too soon for the pitch, so his glove got in the way.  Then Pedroia singled to load the bases, and Gonzalez of all people proved to be the first out of the inning.  Youk walked, and Ellsbury scored on Papi’s groundout.

And then we were done.  The final score was 9-5.  It was awesome.  I can’t say Friday’s game was avenged because every game counts in the grand scheme of things, but it was heartening to see that the team’s still got it, and the All-Star break may have done more good than bad as far as players’ rhythms and our momentum is concerned.

Bobby Jenks is back on the DL for the third time this season.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s good news.  I haven’t seen anything from him that I’m in a rush to see again.  In contrast, Beckett is pitching today in the series finale.  Remember that his absence from the All-Star Game was a precautionary move.  So we expect good things.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »