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Posts Tagged ‘Ricky Romero’

The degree to which yesterday’s game was indicative of the bipolarity of this team is seriously and gravely ridiculous.  If we have one good thing going, everything else is bad.  And if that same thing is bad the next day, something else is good.  It’s bad, bad news to get started on such an inconsistent note.  Actually, to be more specific, it’s the in-game performances that are inconsistent.  The team as a whole has been surprisingly consistent. We have been consistently losing.

The only good thing about the game was Lester, and what a good thing he was.  He pitched a diamond of a gem.  He went the distance and gave up only three runs on three hits.  He walked two and struck out six.  He allowed one triple, and that was it for extra-base hits.  He threw 116 pitches, seventy-four of which were strikes.  He totally beasted the cut fastball and got pretty filthy with his curveball and a few changeups and sinkers as well.

His best inning was also his first: seven pitches, five of which were strikes.  Done.  The third inning was his worst: twenty-six pitches.  The rest were all between ten and eighteen pitches, so he was pretty consistent overall.  Good variation of speeds, good command, good control.  Obviously I would have liked him to get through the eight full innings with one hundred pitches or less, but am I complaining? No, and at this point I don’t have a right to.  That’s the best performance we’ve seen from any member of the entire team so far, and it’s not like he faired too badly in his first start, either.  At one point yesterday, he had a streak of fifteen retired hitters.  It was truly spectacular.

That’s why it’s just criminal that he was saddled with a loss he clearly didn’t deserve.  If anyone should be saddled with that loss, it’s the entire offense, which didn’t do much of anything at all to back him up.  We came up with a grand total of three hits, all three of which were singles; they belonged to Aviles, Ellsbury, and Ross.  All three of those singles were hit in the third; two back-to-back singles opened it, then Shoppach bunted into a force out, and Ellsbury then batted in the run.

We were actually the first to get on the board; the Jays scored two in the bottom of that inning (a single, a strikeout, the triple, and then a line drive) and didn’t add their third run until the eighth (a strikeout, a groundout, a walk on five pitches, and an RBI single).  Six of Lester’s innings were one-two-three, and it was very nice of him to give the bullpen a rest.

Ellsbury was the only member of the lineup to reach base more than once because he also walked; the only other walk belonged to Pedroia.  Both walks occurred consecutively to open the top of the ninth, but three consecutive outs ended it.  Thus, we went down in order in seven of our innings.  We went one for seven with runners in scoring position.  Clearly Lester and Ricky Romero were matching each other, pitch for pitch, almost literally.  It was a fantastic pitcher’s duel to watch until the score of 3-1 was finalized.  Then it wasn’t so fantastic.

On a brighter note, we’re going home! We play the Rays tomorrow afternoon in our home opener, and after getting pretty beat up on the road, the site of the friendly confines of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, which has only gotten better with age as it turns a whopping one hundred years old this season on April 20, has never looked more welcoming and necessary.  It’s Fenway’s one hundredth season; let’s kick it off with a win, shall we?

AP Photo

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This was a win with which we can be thoroughly happy because there were no health issues to bring us down.  I mean, there are health issues with which we must be concerned, but they weren’t connected to the game.  Yes, the fact that Gonzalez was out of the lineup with a stiff neck is obviously worrisome, and yes, the fact that Lester has been placed on the DL could not be more disastrous or troubling.  (Atchison was called up to take his roster spot, and the prediction is that he’ll be ready to go as soon as he’s eligible.) But technically those were news items that had nothing to do with the win.  (Actually, that’s technically not entirely true.  Youk moved to first, and Navarro took Gonzalez’s spot at third.  Technically the game could have had a different outcome had he not been in the game.  But I’m going to assume that, had Gonzalez played, he would have contributed even more positively than Navarro did.  Given the outcome of the game, that would mean that the impact of Gonzalez would not have changed it.)

Wake was fantastic.  He had his knuckleball going all the way.  He gave up three runs on nine hits while walking only one and striking out seven, a season high, over seven full innings.  He threw 106 pitches, seventy-six of which were strikes.  So he threw a strike about seventy-two percent of the time.  So he hit his spots (whatever that means for a knuckleball pitcher), and he was efficient, and he went deep into the game to give the middle relief corps some much-needed rest.  Bard and Wheeler combined to pitch a scoreless eighth; Bard didn’t finish the inning because it was interrupted by a forty-minute rain delay.  Paps almost blew it in the ninth.

The second pitch fired by Jays pitching went out of the yard.  Ellsbury took Ricky Romero deep.  He cleared the bullpen, too.  His swing was huge.  He got all of that fastball.  This makes a career-high ten home runs on the season, and it’s far from over.

Youk did almost the exact same thing an inning later.  He also led off the frame, and he received the same pitch at the same speed.  He just hit the ball to left instead.  He hit the ball into the first row of Monster seats.  And he got all of his fastball, too.

We had some fun in the fourth; we put up a four-spot.  After Papi and Youk made two not-so-easy outs, Drew doubled and scored on a single by McDonald.  A single by Salty moved him to third, and he came around on a double by Navarro.  Salty and Navarro both came around on a double by Ellsbury.  Ellsbury and Youk both had fantastic nights; Ellsbury went three for five, and Youk went three for four, each with two doubles.  All told, eight of the team’s eleven hits were for extra bases, and six of those eight were hit by either Ellsbury or Youk.  Ellsbury, by the way, also stole third base.  And let’s not forget his catch in the fifth inning.  So what if the umpires revoked it because they called time? The catch was a phenomenal diving catch, one of those that only Ellsbury can pull off.  He made the catch literally at the Monster.  He was at the wall.  He had nowhere else to go, and he still managed to leap and snare the ball.  We got our second out anyway via the strikeout, but man, what a catch.  He did it all last night.

Things got pretty hairy in the ninth.  Paps came on.  He struck out his first batter on six pitches but then hit his next one, who left the game.  Paps struck out his next batter on three pitches but then gave up an RBI single.  That brought the Jays within two and Red Sox Nation to the edge of their seats.  Fortunately he was able to post another strikeout to nail down the save and close the game.  The final score was 6-4.  I could have done without the extra suspense of a rocky relief outing.

We are slowly but surely clawing our way back up the AL East ladder.  For the first time this season, we are sixteen games over .500.  We are only half a game out of first place.  We have one more series before the All-Star break.  We play the Orioles.  By the time Papi takes his stance for the Home Run Derby, I want to be out in front of the Yankees once and for all.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Literally everything exciting in last night’s game happened in the eleventh inning.  It was one of those tied affairs that you just had to wait out and see what happens.  And it’s tense because the tie could swing either way.  There was a time when you were confident that the tie would swing our way because our offense and bullpen were both solid beyond question.  Currently, our offense and bullpen are solid, but being that an entire third of our starting lineup is out for the season, I’d say we have a good amount to worry about.

For the most part, Dice-K was stellar.  He tossed a full eight innings which was an extremely welcome break from Lester’s sad excuse of a performance.  He gave up four runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out eight.  He threw 109 pitches.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were all working with some nice movement.  His changeup still needs work but he only threw about four of them so it didn’t feature prominently.  He gets points for going deep, lasting past five in his last thirteen starts, and only giving up four runs.  But he loses points for earning a no-decision instead of a win because he gave up our lead, partially through giving up a two-run home run to Overbay.

In the third, McDonald walked, Scutaro doubled, and Drew was hit to load the bases, and V-Mart singled in two runs.  In the fifth, V-Mart turned a full-count fastball into another RBI single.  Beltre’s bloop single added another run.

In the fourth, we thank V-Mart for limiting the damage to one Jays run and not two by holding onto the ball at the plate through the collision with Overbay.

We were up by three before yet another return of the one bad inning.  It was the sixth this time.  Dice-K gave up three runs on nineteen pitches, which is pretty economical considering his past pitch counts during his bad innings.  And it was a real shame; he mowed right through the Jays before and after that but for some reason had to fail at locating that pitch.

We could have sent everybody home in the eighth.  Escobar dropped Lowell’s routine popup, which ended up in the stands, so Lowell reached second with nobody out.  But Hall and McDonald struck out and Scutaro grounded out.

Fortunately, all the relievers who cleaned up Lester’s mess got the day off last night because we used only Bard and Paps, who both pitched well and held down the fort.  But Bard had to toss two full frames, so he’ll probably be unavailable today.

And now we come to the theatrics of the eleventh inning: a walkoff home run from one of the most unlikely sources in our lineup.  In the top of the inning, Lowrie made a very strange fielding error.  He stood under a popup waiting to catch it and just didn’t catch it.  There was no wind; I think he was just slightly out of position.  So it proved, thankfully, to be consequential, but it was just bizarre.  But he made up for it; he used all the power and extension he had to send a hanging curveball over the fence in right! It’s his first career walkoff homer and third homer of the season.  Clearly those hours in the weight room have paid off.  He is currently in the middle of a career-high nine-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .357 with three doubles, seven homers and runs, and five RBIs.

V-Mart improved his already strong average against Romero by going three for five.  Scutaro also went three for five for his third consecutive multi-hit game and is currently in the middle of an eight-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .406 with four doubles, six runs, and three RBIs.  Drew went two for three.

And so it was good.  It turned out alright.  The bullpen got a rest, we got the win, we had three multi-hit games in the lineup, and we can be happy about that.  We need every hit, every run, and every win that we can scrape together.  So there’s nothing to do now but do it again.

AP Photo

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Again, the theme of eyes on the prize.  We won.  We didn’t win by much, but we won.  And we did some bad things, but obviously we did some good things too.  In fact, the whole game was yet another miniature version of the whole season, with the important exception being that in this game we got a good start.  Actually, it reminded me of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, where we had the lead several times but allowed the opposition to tie it, although we never fell behind and ultimately won out.  And it was especially important to win the first game of this series, being that Toronto is surging right now.  So despite all the badness that was present in the game, this is good.

We came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and scored three runs in the second inning: RBI doubles for Beltre and Lowrie and an RBI single for Ellsbury.  We scored one more in the third when Lowell sacrificed V-Mart in with the bases loaded.  It would have been nice for him to have done more with that opportunity, but I’ll most definitely take the run.  But the Jays did the same thing in reverse; they scored one in the second and three in the third.

In the fifth, Drew hit a solo shot and continued his great numbers against Romero by depositing his fastball middle-in into the second right field deck.

Meanwhile, Dice-K didn’t deliver his best performance.  He lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three and striking out seven on 110 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  His two-seam, cutter, slider, and changeup were very much on, but his curveball and four-seam, his two most frequently used pitches, were very much off.  He threw thirty-three pitches when he gave up that three-spot in the third, which was the result of a home run, while needing only five pitches to get through the very next inning.  So this start was a miniature version of his entire season as well.

He ran into trouble in the sixth, walking the first two batters he faced.  With one out to go in the inning, Lewis hit your average ground ball to Scutaro, but unfortunately, Lowrie was slow getting over to second, so Scutaro hesitated before making his throw.  Doubront took care of it by striking out Snider on three pitches.  That’s poise.  Especially from a young guy.

But in the seventh, Bautista hit a solo shot of his own to tie it back up.  Doubront picked up a blown save for that.

The eighth was when we locked it up.  With two out, Lowell hit a solo shot over the left field fence.  It was a sinking fastball, and he basically golfed it out of the park.  And that put us out in front for good, not to mention the fact that Lowell is clearly returning to form very nicely.  Lowrie added one for insurance with an RBI double.  Delcarmen held the fort, Paps made the save, and the final score was 7-5!

Lowrie finished the night two for three; Ellsbury finished the night two for four.

And it just goes to show you that man can not win on long balls alone.  If they could, Toronto would be at the top of the standings by now.  But they’re not.  And we beat them, with both big and small ball.  We took advantage of our opportunities, leaving only five on base as opposed to Toronto’s eight.  So the first bit of good news is that we won.  The second is that the Yankees lost to the Rangers.  And the third is that Pedroia passed all his running drills; he ran the bases a bit yesterday and will run them again today, and he’ll be evaluated on Friday.  If everything checks out, Pedroia will spend the weekend in Pawtucket and start at second on Tuesday.  The only bad news was that the Rays managed to win, but we’re still inching ahead.  Next is Buchholz opposite Marcum.  Let’s win the series.

Reuters Photo

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Whoa.  I don’t even know what that was.  I think that was our lineup trying to make up for our lack of offense during the Rays series in a single night.  Whatever it was, it definitely worked.  Although if you ask me, I would’ve liked to have borrowed some of the runs from last night and used them against the Rays.  We definitely had enough runs to go around.

Last night’s game as absolutely fantastic.  It was an absolute rout of a team that stood absolutely no chance.  It was a decisive, dominant defeat that absolutely snapped our four-game losing streak.  You don’t get much more absolute than that.

We continue to be undefeated at the Rogers Centre this year and have won thirteen of our last nineteen contests there.  We have a grand total of eighty-nine wins there, more than any other visitor.  Can we say Fenway North?

The final score was a whopping 14-3.  That was our second-highest game run total this year, our highest being seventeen against the Angels on May 3.  (Buchholz picked up that win.) It featured a three-run second, a seven-run third, a three-run fourth, and a one-run sixth.  Four of those runs were unearned, but in the final score a run is a run, and it just goes to show you that Toronto’s pitching as well as its defense were terrible.

Cameron started us off with an RBI single, which Hall promptly followed with a two-run home run hit deep out to center, his seventh of the season.  Romero fed him a steady diet of up and away, and he finally got just enough bat on one to line it out to the opposite field.  But that was nothing compared to what we were about to unleash on Romero in the third.

Simply put, he got rocked.  Hard.  Here we go.

Youk hit a sac fly to start things off.  Then McDonald scored when Drew hit into a fielder’s choice.  Then Romero left with the bases loaded.  It’s the second straight start in which he’s been unable to get past the third.  Something I readily noticed: his changeup was horrible.  Then Cameron walked with the bases loaded.  Then Hall hit a sac fly.  Then Scutaro hit a two-RBI single, followed by an RBI single by McDonald.

So that was the seven-run third, which gave us a ten-run lead, but we weren’t about to stop there.  The three-run fourth was still to come.  If the third showed the power of small ball, the fourth was about to show pure power, period.

Youk and Beltre belted back-to-back jacks.  That was the third time this season they did that.  Youk’s ball cleared that left field wall in a hurry.  I’d like to see Nick Swisher do that! (Actually, I wouldn’t, but you know what I mean.) I can’t believe that Youk lost the Final Vote to Nick Swisher.  Nick Swisher! I don’t even understand how that’s possible! Of all the people on the list to lose to, it had to be Nick Swisher? Whatever.  Youk is over it, so I guess we should move on as well.

Anyway, then Drew grounded out, and Cameron added another jack.  His ball landed in left as well.  Three home runs is a lot for one inning.  It’s even a lot for one game, and we finished the game with four! The last time we hit at least three jacks in one frame was the fifth on May 20, 2009, when Tek, Papi, Bay, and Lowell all went deep against the Jays, appropriately enough, at Fenway.  I’m telling you, I watched those home runs and I thought they were showing replays.  That’s what it looks like when you watch jack after jack.  It was so awesome.

So all four home runs were lined out, lasers as Pedroia would say.  Hall finished the night three for four with the home run and two doubles as well, batting in a game-high four runs.  It was his first time hitting in Rogers Centre with the roof open; it’s amazing how much of a hitter’s park it becomes when it’s open.  Youk’s home run was his only hit, and we’ll take it.  Beltre finished two for three.  Cameron finished three for four; he’s had six hits in his last two games.  And Drew has also quietly been on a tear in his last six.

And last but most certainly not least, Jon Lester.  He wasn’t as economical as he usually is, but his outing was still excellent.  He tossed six frames, gave up two runs on four hits including a solo shot, walked two, and struck out six.  He threw ninety-six pitches total and picked up the win.  I agree with Hall; Lester should totally start the All-Star Game.

His cut fastball was sharp, as were his changeup, sinker, and curveball.  He threw his game high of twenty pitches in the second and game low of eleven in the third, and he was pretty consistent in his other four innings.  His release point was perfect.  He didn’t throw any balls around the upper left or bottom right corners of the zone, but his zone itself was nice and even.  His movement was spot-on.  So he mixed his pitches well, varied his speeds, and did everything he usually does.

Manuel allowed the third Jays run, and Richardson pitched the ninth.  Done.

Unfortunately, the prediction that V-Mart will return soon after the break was a bit too ambitious.  He’ll be out longer.  Ellsbury, on the other hand, is back with the team.  He’s in Toronto, working out with the team and seeing team doctors.  I can’t wait to see him back in the outfield again.

So last night was a spectacular night for everybody.  Tito won his nine hundredth Major League game, the starters got to rest because of the big lead, we received a big boost to our morale, and we won! This afternoon, we hope to give Lackey a similar offensive cushion – that wasn’t even a cushion, that was a mattress or something huge – as he takes on Morrow.  Most importantly, we look to build some momentum going into the break so we can start the second half on good footing.

Wow.  That was powerful.  Absolutely.

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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.

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Well, we have no way of knowing which outcome we would’ve seen from Beckett because Beckett was scratched due to back spasms.  The spasms are in his upper back and are mild, so that’s good.  And he may actually benefit in more ways than one from the extra rest.  So Michael Bowden started, and he showed everyone exactly why he will not amount to being a Major League starter.  He’s a good reliever, and with some more experience he could turn himself into a truly great reliever.  But he’s not a starter.

Starters don’t give up seven runs on seven hits in three innings pitched with a walk, three strikeouts, and one-run and three-run homers.  Well, some starters do.  But it’s usually a fluke, and if it’s not a fluke, they usually don’t stay starters for long.  This is not a fluke for Bowden, who’s had plenty of ugly outings this season.  (I refer you to our 20-11 loss to the Yankees in August.  That’s about as ugly as you could possibly get.) So as soon as Beckett was scratched, we all knew it was going to be a long night.

Hunter Jones made it even longer.  Four runs on five hits in less than two innings pitched with one strikeout and a two-run shot will do it.  Dustin Richardson and Delcarmen each pitched two innings of shutout ball, but it was too little, too late.  The rain started coming down, and they called it after seven.  We lost, 11-5.  But I do have to say that Delcarmen pitched well.  The inning was over in ten pitches, seven of them strikes.

Youk hit two home runs last night, one in the first with one on and two out, and the other in the third with nobody on.  They were both some nice pieces of hitting, though.  Really nice pieces of hitting.  Ortiz hit a solo shot of his own to lead off the sixth.  Pedroia doubled in Gonzalez in the seventh.  And that was all we had time for.  I’d like to think that if we were actually able to finish the game, we would’ve been able to come back.  Or maybe not.  When the bullpen pitches literally an entire game, it’s tough to predict anything.

Lester was cleared to start on Thursday.  Lowell received an injection for his hip and should be back in action by the end of the week.

Tonight it’s Ricky Romero at Clay Buchholz.  One more win and we clinch.

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