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Posts Tagged ‘Rich Hill’

We lost again.  What else is new? Considering our season, what an appropriate way to usher in September.

Doubront only lasted three innings; he gave up five runs on six hits while walking two and striking out six.  His fourth pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot by Coco Crisp.  He got through the second inning alright but tanked in the third.  He gave up a single to Crisp and then a double, but Crisp was successfully thrown out at the plate, which was an awesome play to watch.  Then Doubront struck out Josh Reddick, but then he gave up an RBI single that may as well have been a triple because it was followed by two steals, and then he gave up a walk, and then he gave up a double that scored two and a single that scored one.

So Aceves came on for the fourth, fifth (when he gave up an RBI single), and sixth.  A note about Aceves: he and Pedroia had an argument in the dugout in the bottom of the fourth because Aceves got in Salty’s way of catching a popup and then dropped it and then made a bunch of pickoff attempts to second base, the last of which came when Pedroia wasn’t ready.  Third base coach Jerry Royster separated them.  Now, I wasn’t there, but I know that it’s nothing to be too shocked about.  The team is losing, the team is frustrated, and the team spends a lot of time together in the clubhouse.  Things like this are normal; it’s just surprising to outsiders because usually it happens behind closed doors.

Anyway, Bard gave up a solo shot on the fourth pitch of his appearance in the seventh.  Hill and Bailey combined to pitch the eighth.

Meanwhile, we were the victims of a bid for a perfect game through four.  Salty managed to finally eke out a single in the fifth.  It was a bunt single and the A’s fans were not happy, but you know what? That’s baseball.  Literally.  As in, players are trying to get on base.  And if the situation were reversed, we would be the unhappy ones and they would be saying that to us.

Then Lavarnway led off the sixth with a single but was out at second thanks to a force out by Ciriaco, who moved to second on a groundout by Ellsbury and scored on a single by Pedroia.  It was reasonable to hope that AJ Griffin would then unravel as so many do after losing perfect or no-no bids, but unfortunately he didn’t.  We went down in order in the seventh, Griffin’s last inning of th game, and in the eighth.  Ellsbury singled in the ninth but we went down in order after that.

Boston Globe Staff
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We lost to the Nationals.  The Nationals are like the Orioles: historically terrible but somehow good this year, at least for now.  Seriously, what is up with this baseball season?

Doubront, who has been arguably our most consistent starter this year, had a bad day.  To be precise, it was probably his worst start of the year.  He only pitched four innings and threw eighty-two pitches.  So you know it wasn’t his best work.  He gave up six runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out one.  He gave up three runs in the third via small ball and three more in the fourth via small ball plus a long ball.

He just didn’t throw well.  His four-seam, changeup, and cutter were weak; his two-seam was phenomenal and his curveball was fantastic, but he threw roughly the same amount of the former three as the latter two, and when half a starting pitcher’s pitches are off, it’s not always good enough that half of them are on.  As with his pitches, half his game was good and half was bad; he threw fifteen pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, thirty in the third, and twenty-four in the fourth.  He’d thrown a whole game’s worth of pitches before half the game was over.

And then Albers came in and pitched the fifth and most of the sixth, when Hill took over with two out and allowed his inherited runner to score.  Hill was then replaced by Atchison with two out in the seventh.  Atchison pitched through the eighth, and Miller pitched the ninth.

We scored in the second; Papi walked, Sweeney singled, and both came home on a double by Aviles.  Gonzalez led off the eighth with a solo shot on a sinker, the fourth pitch in the at-bat, which he rocketed to straightaway center.  In the third, he was robbed of what looked every bit like a beautiful solo shot into the bullpen in the third with one out by Xavier Nady, who reached into the bullpen for it.  But he got all of this one in the eighth for the two hundredth homer of his career.  He totally just golfed it out of there.  He made sure nobody could catch that.  And lastly, Punto walked in the ninth, advanced to second on fielding indifference, and scored on a double by Nava.

We had the bases loaded in the sixth with one out but nothing materialized.  That isn’t to say that the incident was not without its drama.  Youk was called out on strikes to end the inning and argued balls and strikes with home plate umpire Doug Eddings.  Youk was angry, heated, and vocal and was summarily ejected.  He did not go down quietly.  Bobby V. came out to talk to Eddings and looked like he had no idea what was going on.  Honestly, the pitch was low.  Youk should never have struck out; he should have walked, and had he walked, not only would the bases have still been loaded, but we would have scored another run.  The pitch was low.  And it’s easy to know that the pitch was low because, when the catcher caught it, he elevated his glove so it would look like it wasn’t low.  The whole thing was shamefully ridiculous; it’s not about whether we would have gone on to win or lose because of that one run; it’s about the fact that it’s the players’ jobs to play and the umpires’ jobs to umpire, not to interfere.

Anyway, we had two on in the seventh with two out and nothing materialized.  The innings I’ve mentioned were all the innings in which we had at least one runner on base.  So in every inning during which we did not have a runner on base, we went down in order.

So we lost, 7-4.  Nava and Gonzalez each went two for five.  Defensive highlights include a tricky catch by Sweeney for the first out of the third, during which he ran and then slid down at just the right time for it; an almost identical catch by Sweeney to his other side for the second out of the seventh; and a tricky catch by Salty for the first out of the fifth, during which he reached into the crowd on the third base side.

Mostly, though, we just lost.

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Naturally, it was going to be Bard who kept us from sweeping.  Bard was absolutely horrible.  It was a miracle that he didn’t give up even more runs in an even shorter period of time.  I’m telling you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a starting pitcher look that lost and with that extensive a lack of command or control.  He couldn’t find the strike zone even if we paid him to.  Oh, wait.  We do pay him to, and he still couldn’t do it.

He only lasted one and two-thirds innings, so obviously Bobby V. shouldn’t even have bothered to start him; he should have just rolled out the bullpen for the whole thing, since that’s basically what he ended up doing.  He allowed five runs on just one hit.  That was the game right there.  The Jays didn’t score any more runs, just those five.  He also walked six and struck out two.  He threw fifty-five pitches.

If you thought that all but one of those runs could be accounted for by a grand slam, you’d be wrong.  Bard wishes he gave up a grand slam.  Instead, he walked the first two batters he faced on five pitches each and then allowed a home run on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.  He then walked another batter, this one on four pitches, and somehow then induced a double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The second inning was more of the same.  He walked a batter on four pitches and the next one on six pitches.  Then, he somehow, by some miracle, posted two three-pitch strikeouts.  But then he hit a batter, walked in another run on six pitches, and then hit another batter, which brought in another run.

And that was when he was removed.  Because there’s a difference between having a bad day because you’re allowing lots of hits and having a bad day because you’re not even making the opposing batters hit the ball at all; you’re just delivering free passes to them on a silver platter.  We’ve seen plenty of pitchers this season have plenty of bad days because they’ve given up plenty of hits and home runs, but I don’t think we’ve seen a start quite like this.  I can’t even say that the Jays took batting practice off of Bard because he didn’t give them anything to swing at.  He just let them get on base.  That wasn’t even baseball; that, both literally and figuratively, was a walk in the park.

Morales finished the second inning as well as the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.  Atchison pitched the seventh, and Hill pitched the eighth.

So while the Jays were having their nice walk in the park, we were doing a whole lot of nothing.  Just like Bard, but at the plate also.  Like the Jays, we ended the game with six hits, but unlike the Jays, we also ended the game with only one run.  And that was courtesy of Shoppach, who hit a nice opposite-field solo shot with two out in the fifth.  It landed behind the fence in right center field.  It was a fastball, the third pitch of the at-bat.  Our only other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez.  Aviles had our only multi-hit performance; he went two for four.  By the way, the whole team drew a grand total of one walk.  Nava was the one who worked it, and in case you were curious, he didn’t hit anything all night.

So the relief corps deserves an absolutely incredibly hard-earned and well-deserved bat on the back and round of applause for their effective, hard work, which perhaps would have won us the ballgame if it provided the ballgame’s only pitching, but all in all it was a brutally embarrassing and humiliating game by all accounts.

I’ll give you one last anecdote to drive home how truly horrific to the point of otherworldly this game was.  Youk got hit in the sixth.  The pitch hit him in his left shoulder and then appeared to ricochet slightly off his helmet.  Youk pointed to his belt to show where the pitch should have been located.  But neither Youk nor Drew Hutchinson even made a move, and neither bench emptied.  Because the benches probably understood what Hutchinson should have understood before he hit Youk.  Now, I’m not saying that Hutchinson did it on purpose.  I’m not even saying that Hutchinson tried to do it on purpose.  But I am saying that Hutchinson very possibly did it on purpose and that, if indeed Hutchinson did it on purpose, it was almost certainly as a retaliatory measure.  But first of all he should have hit lower because you never want to aim a baseball anywhere near someone’s head, and secondly, he should have realized that it was completely unnecessary because Bard wasn’t hitting the Jays on purpose.  Bard, in fact, was just that bad.

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It’s so hard now to accurately read into our wins and losses.  As soon as we start winning and it looks like we’ve turned a corner, we start losing again.  As soon as we start losing and it looks like we’ve never recovered from our rough start in the first place, we start winning again.  We were two games over five hundred with the best record we’ve had all year, and now we lost again.  I really hope that, this time, losing is a one-time thing.

Beckett was not at his best, but he was way better than he was the last time he pitched to the Tigers.  He pitched seven innings, walked one, and threw 102 pitches; that was the good stuff.  The bad stuff, or at least the mediocre stuff, is that he gave up four runs on ten his while striking out only one.  He threw a great fastball and changeup; he threw a not-so-great curveball and cutter.  His first two innings were actually okay, but he gave up all but one of his runs in the third: a single, a double, an RBI single, a sac fly, a flyout, and another RBI single before a groundout ended it.  He gave up his fourth and final run in the fifth: a single, as sac fly, and then an RBI single, thanks in part to a throwing error by Salty.

Beckett was actually okay during his other innings.  Two of his other innings were one-two-three, and the rest of his non-run innings were alright.  Objectively speaking, his outing wasn’t all that bad, which is why I didn’t say it was bad; it was just mediocre.  There have been plenty of times when we’ve won with the opposition scoring four runs.  The fact that this wasn’t one of those times had to do with our hitters not being able to get anything going.

Salty homered to lead off the second, so we actually struck first.  It was a fastball down and in.  I’m telling you, he’s a hot, hot hitter, which is made even more impressive by the fact that he’s a catcher.  As good as we know Salty is and can be, I’m not sure anyone predicted that he would be quite this good.  Sweeney followed Salty’s homer with a single and later scored on a double by Podsednik.  We scored our third and final run in the third, a meager answer to the three runs the Tigers had scored that inning, and it was again Salty who batted it in; Youk doubled with two out and scored on his single.

So we lost, 7-3, but even if Beckett’s runs were the only runs the Tigers scored, we still would have lost by one.  Even if a loss is a loss, it certainly didn’t help things that Morales gave up a solo home run in the eighth and that Hill gave up two additional runs in the ninth via a single, triple (Sweeney deflected the ball), and single in the ninth.

That’s pretty much it.  I’m not sure that there’s a broader point to be made from this game because it’s so hard to tell what kind of impact it’s going to have.  That’s what makes it so frustrating.  Either way, I hope it’s not the start of something new; the view is nice over .500.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially a winning team! For the first time ever in the year 2012, the Boston Red Sox possess a winning record! We are 25-24, and our winning percentage stands at .510! True we are fifth place in a five-team division, but the first thing we had to do was get over that hump.  Now we can concentrate on staying over it and widening that gap between wins and losses.  Anyway, we finally did it! It certainly took us long enough, that’s for sure; this is the longest it’s taken us since 1996.

Yesterday, Bard only lasted five and one-third innings.  I’m telling you, if he’s serious about being a starter, the very first thing he’s going to have to do is get over that five-inning hump.  Who ever heard of an elite starter who can’t get past five innings consistently? Maybe he doesn’t want to be an elite starter; maybe he just wants to be a starter.  But if he has no interest in trying to be an elite starter, I’m pretty sure we have no interest in him starting.

That’s not to say that his outing wasn’t a solid outing.  It was a solid outing.  It was just a short solid outing.  Bard picked up the win, walked two, and struck out four; it was his only appearance this month during which he struck out more than he walked.  He gave up two runs on five hits, but both of those runs were the result of home runs, the first with one out in the fifth and the second to lead off the sixth.  Bard got the first out in the sixth and then was relieved by Hill, who got the second out and walked a batter.  Hill was then relieved by Atchison, who allowed a single and finally ended the inning.

Miller pitched the seventh and allowed a double followed by an RBI single, and then Padilla ended the inning and pitched the eighth as well.  Aceves got the save in the ninth.

Fortunately, the offense kept just busy enough.  We struck first; Papi led off the second with a double, moved to third on a single by Salty, and scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Aviles.  Youk singled to lead off the fourth; one out later, Aviles and Podsednik hit back-to-back singles to load the bases.  Punto lined out, but then Nava crushed a bases-clearing double, and he crushed it on a fastball clocked at one hundred miles per hour.  All but one of the pitches he saw in that at-bat were fastballs, and all of those fastballs were either ninety-eight, ninety-nine, or one hundred miles per hour.  (The only exception was one curveball clocked at eighty.)

We kept it going in the fifth, which Gonzalez led off with a single and scored on a double by Papi.  We broke the trend of leading off productive innings with productive plays in the seventh, which Gonzalez began by grounding out, only to be followed by a solo shot by Papi into the first row of the Monster seats.  Just like Jerry Remy said, he has really come into his own this year with using left field.  And he hit that off of a lefty to boot.

So the final score was 6-3.  Five of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  Podsednik went two for four, and Papi had a monster night.  He went three for four, and all three of his hits were for extra bases: two doubles and the homer.  Sweeney flashed some leather, pulling off a tricky sliding catch in the second and a running catch in the third.  We even made it through a rain delay, actually one of the shortest I’ve seen in a long time at thirty-eight minutes.  Look at us, all winning and whatnot!

A word on Pedroia: it turns out that he tore the adductor muscle in his right thumb.  They’re going to try to put a brace on it and hope that he can play through it, since the alternative is spending a month on the DL.  I just hope they don’t make a mistake.  I obviously want him to play, but I also want him to be healthy and help this team win for a long, long time.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  To say that last night was awesome would be the understatement of the century.

What a thrill! Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ladies and gentlemen! We haven’t seen a walkoff in a really long time; it was our first walkoff win this year and only our tenth comeback win of the year.  It was Salty’s first walkoff homer, and it was just what we needed to lift our spirits.  I hope the spirit-lift lasts, but in the meantime, we can bask in our own glory.  Because it was awesome in every way.

Just because Salty hit a walkoff doesn’t mean that our pitching staff didn’t pull its weight.  Beckett delivered a very, very quality start.  He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings while walking none and striking out five.  He threw ninety-one pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  Good command, good control, good variation of speeds, good heat, good, good, good.  He was masterful.  He looked like the ace we always expect him to be.  It was fantastic.

Even though his line was better in every other respect than that of David Price, Beckett did give up one more run than Price did, and that’s what put us in the position of needing a walkoff.  But what kept us in that position were shutout innings from Miller and Hill.  Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, Beckett didn’t get the win; Hill got it.  But you could argue that both deserved it because without quality appearances from both the starter and the bullpen, the team would have lost, which we know from way too much experience this year.

Meanwhile, the offense did a whole lot of nothing until the sixth inning, but we were actually the first to get on the board.  We didn’t even put up much of a fight in those innings either.  In the sixth, Pedroia walked, Papi singled, Youk lined out, and Pedroia tried to score on a single by Gonzalez but was thrown out at the plate.  Middlebrooks then singled in Papi for our first run.  Then, in the top of the seventh, our one-run lead was promptly erased.  Beckett gave up two consecutive singles to start it off, and then two runs scored via a sac fly followed by another single.

Obviously we know that both teams kept quiet until the bottom of the ninth with one out.  The stage was set.  A new pitcher, Fernando Rodney, came on.  Nava walked on eight pitches, and then Punto came in to hit for Shoppach.  He hit a sac fly, moving Nava to second.  (It was fitting, by the way, that Nava was about to score the tying run since it was partially Nava’s fault that the Rays were one run ahead of us; he threw to the plate on the sac fly that tied the game, which ended up moving the runner still on base to second, which then enabled another run to score.) Little did Punto know that that would not be necessary.

It was Byrd’s turn to bat, but Bobby V. had other plans.  He put Salty in.

And Salty took a ninety-seven mile-per-hour fastball for a strike and then smacked a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, the second pitch of the at-bat, out of the park.  It didn’t even land in the bullpen.  It landed beyond the bullpen.

The crowd was deafening.  The ball was lofting.  The record is back at .500.  The final score was 3-2.

Clearly Carlton Fisk’s presence during the pregame ceremony was inspirational.  It was one of those things where you were least expecting it because you knew that you needed it most.  And all of a sudden you knew that you had it.  A home run to put us over the top, to slam the door on the game without the Rays having a chance to answer back.  As soon as you heard the bat and the ball make contact, you knew that it was going out.  And it did.  And the team mobbed Salty at the plate, which the team apparently calls “the shredder,” because it was he, after all, who brought the pepper.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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We are finally back at .500.  It certainly took us long enough.  When a team reaches any sort of milestone, the typical questions is always, “How does it feel?” For this one, the answer is easy.  It feels really, really long overdue.  I mean, come on.  It’s just .500.  All that means is that you’ve won as many games as you’ve lost.  It’s almost two months into the year and we have yet to win more games than we’ve lost.  That says something about our team.  And what it says isn’t good.

Still, reaching .500 is better than not reaching .500, so the fact that it’s pathetic that it took us so long to get here again shouldn’t technically detract from our celebrating it.

Bard was on the mound and delivered a mediocrely decent start.  He lasted five and one-third innings and gave up two runs on five hits while walking four and striking out two.  He gave up his first run in the first, when he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk separated only by a flyout; he was luck to escape that situation with only one run scored on a sac fly.  And then he gave up a home run to start the second inning.

But something really has to be done about his efficiency if he’s going to remain a starter, because he can’t go on pitching for just five innings.  It means that the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day, it means that it erodes his durability in the long run, and it means that the opposing team gets to see more of his stuff.  He threw ninety pitches in his five-plus innings.  Of particular embarrassment were his two back-to-back walks in the fourth, which illustrates another obvious problem with pitching inefficiently: it puts runners on base, which you really don’t need when you’re trying to win a ballgame.  How he managed to conclude his start with only two runs allowed is amazing.

Fortunately, those two runs didn’t get us down in either the short term or the long term.  We loaded the basis ourselves in the top of the fourth in the same way: two singles and a walk.  And we scored our run in that situation the same way they score theirs: on a play that resulted in an out.  In our case, since we didn’t previously have any outs that inning, Youk scored on a double play by Podsednik, who started for the first time since 2010.  We then scored again in the third to tie the game at two; Pedroia singled, and Youk walked two outs later.  Then Middlebrooks doubled in Pedroia, and Youk was out at the plate to end the inning.

Neither team scored again until the sixth, when Nava launched a solo shot to right with two out.  It was a slider down and in, and he was all over it.  He had that ball’s number; you could tell by the speed with which it left the park.  It gave us our first, and fortunately not our last, lead of the night.  Then Podsednik singled, and then Shoppach launched a long ball of his own, this one to left.  It was one of those line-drive home runs, also getting out of the park in a hurry.

So at that point, we were up by three.  Bard began the sixth with a five-pitch strikeout and was then replaced by Miller.  Ironically enough, it was Miller who melted down after that, not Bard.  Miller got a strikeout but then walked a batter and gave up a home run, which shrunk our lead to one.  Hill came on in the seventh and got the first two outs, and Padilla got the third.

After Nava flied out to begin the eighth, Podsednik went yard to right center field on an inside slider, the second pitch of the at-bat.  This one was a little more lofty; it took a little more time to get out, but a home run is a home run, and when the ball goes out, the ball goes out.  And it’s a good thing, too, because the Orioles weren’t finished.  Padilla allowed a walk and a double to begin the eighth before recording the first out via strikeout, and then he allowed one run via a sac fly.  But he’s lucky that it wasn’t more than one run, and he can thank Lin for that.  It looked like it was going to land right in the gap between Gonzalez and Lin, right in right center field.  Lin ran to that territory, dove, and caught it.  It was a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch, and we can only assume that it save the game.  That catch at least saved the game from being tied; if the game were tied, who knows what would have happened?

Needless to say, Bobby V. put Aceves in after that.  Aceves finished the eighth and took care of the ninth, and we won, 6-5.  Five of our batters had multi-hit performances, all of them two hits each.  We posted one less than twice as many hits as Baltimore with thirteen, and yet we only won by one run.  That may have had something to do with the fact that we were only one for seven with runners in scoring position.  Still, we had four extra-base hits, three of which were long balls, ironically enough all hit by the bottom third of the order; the bottom third of the order hasn’t hit three home runs since 2003.  But as long as we got the W, and as long as we’re at least at .500, we can feel great.

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