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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Manuel’

The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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That was terrible.  Nobody deserved a twentieth win more than Lester, but not when Lester pitches like that.  Last night’s loss was nobody’s fault but his own.  The final score was 2-8, and one could possibly argue that the offense had something to do with it because the offense should have scored more runs.  Obviously we want the offense to score as many runs as possible, but for a true ace, and certainly for Lester, there have been times when two runs were more than enough.  So I’m discounting that argument.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all wanted so badly to see Lester gift-wrap Chicago.  But Lester blew this one himself.  He got rocked.  Hard.

He was nothing short of abysmal.  That’s something you don’t see too often.  He only lasted four innings and in that time managed to give up eight runs on nine hits, including two home runs, one of which was a grand slam, while walking five and striking out five.  He threw ninety-nine pitches over the course of those four innings, only fifty-two of which were strikes.  There have been times where that exact pitch count would get him through entire games.

That grand slam, by the way, was the first he’s allowed in his career.  He left a fastball up.  That’s pretty much what happens when you leave a fastball up.

His command was missing in action.  His pitches were remarkably ineffective; all of his offspeeds, his sinker, slider, changeup, and curveball, were hardly ever thrown for strikes.  His cut fastball was conspicuously missing something.  And he threw a whopping thirty-eight pitches in the fourth.  He threw another eight in the fifth, when he issued a four-pitch walk before he was finally removed.  His release point was fine, but his zone looked barren.  He had good movement, although movement without command is rarely a good thing.

The bullpen, however, was impeccable last night.  They tossed five innings of scoreless, two-hit ball with two walks and two K’s.  Robert Manuel, Robert Coello, Rich Hill, and Michael Bowden.  It was one of those days where the bullpen should have started and the starter shouldn’t even have relieved; he should have just taken the day off and let a pitching machine fill in because it looked like batting practice out there.

Our two runs scored courtesy of V-Mart.  He hit a two-run shot, his twentieth long ball of the season and twelfth from the right, deep to left.  At the time, that shot gave us a 2-1 lead.  Six of Lester’s eight runs were allowed in only two innings: four in the fourth and two in the fifth before he left.  He unraveled in a hurry.

The only other highlight was the serious leather-flashing we had going on.  Anderson’s leaping grab of a line drive in the fourth, Kalish’s catch of a fly literally at the wall in the sixth, and McDonald’s diving catch in the eighth were all defensive gems.

I should mention that the game was delayed in the bottom of the sixth because the neighborhood around US Cellular Field lost power.  I’ve seen some game delays, but I’ve never seen one like that before.  It was both annoying and interesting.

That’s basically all there is to it.  Lester had the chance to become the first twenty-game-winning southpaw since Mel Parnell in 1953, and he blew it.  Nevertheless, nobody will argue the fact that his season was basically the opposite of Beckett’s.  His season was spectacular.  He had his usual rough April, but after that he basically cruised.  He finishes nineteen and nine with a 3.25 ERA and 225 K’s over 208 innings.  And we can only expect even more greatness from him next year.

Today is the first day of October, and tonight we’re starting the final series of the season at home against New York.  Wow.  What an agonizing thing to say.  Either way, the weather isn’t great, so just remember: revenge is a dish best served cold.  Let’s do this.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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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

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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.

AP Photo

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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.

AP Photo

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This whole injury thing is just getting ridiculous.  We’re seriously dropping like flies.  This is definitely one way to test the mettle of your team and to find out who your core players really are whom you can’t do without.  But I’d just as soon find out some other way and not be in this position.

Youk is the latest to fall.  Ironically, he also may be All-Star-bound.  Halfway through the Final Vote, he’s in the lead with some support from Senator John Kerry.  Anyway, he left in the top of the fourth with a right ankle issue.  Thankfully, it’s minor, and he expects to play tonight.

This is extraordinarily good news, because Youk being out was a complete managerial nightmare.  It completely destroyed the effectiveness of the configuration of our lineup.  Niuman Romero was called in to replace him and had had only fourteen at-bats in his entire career.  Which meant that there was absolutely no reason for Rays pitchers to pitch to Papi, who was intentionally walked in all of his last three plate appearances.  (He is officially participating in his first Home Run Derby this year, so he’ll have plenty of chances to make up for it, but still.) Including the second-to-last at-bat of the game.

In the fourth, Nava hit an RBI single; Drew had taken advantage of Longoria’s two-base throwing error and moved into scoring position.  In the eighth, Patterson hit an RBI triple to bring us within a run.  Up stepped Papi.  He was given a free pass, and Tito put in Cameron to run, and he would be running, just in case we converted our slim chance of tying or taking the lead with Romero at the plate.  That did not happen.  Romero grounded to second.  Game over.

We basically just got beat by our own lineup.

It’s easy to unleash a world of fury at Romero, but technically it wasn’t his fault that Youk had to come out and he was the only one left.  We seriously just completely depleted our bench and didn’t have any other choice.  Tito did his best with what he had, but it’s tough to manage well or manage at all when you literally have no players to manage.

Through all of that ugliness, Doubront shone in his second Major League start.  He was saddled with the loss, but he still shone.  The final score was 3-2; he gave up two runs on five hits over five and two-thirds; he walked four and struck out three.  He threw 101 pitches.  He relied very heavily on his fastball, followed by his changeup, with some curveballs thrown in.  His changeup was his most effective pitch; he only threw his fastball for strikes about half the time.  As far as pitch counts per inning are concerned, he followed his game low with his game high: nine in the fifth and twenty-four in the sixth before he was removed.  In fact, he allowed one of his five hits and three of his four walks in that inning alone.  Fortunately, we picked off Longoria at third for the third out.  (The second out was pretty sweet too; Hall made this diving catch, pivoted with his knee on the ground, and threw to first in time.  It was awesome.) His strike zone was evenly distributed, as was the border where all his balls ended up, including some very wild ones up.  You could see that it was hard for him at times to control his movement.  But, overall, not bad for someone’s second start in the Big Show.

Atchison pitched very well.  Okajima allowed a solo home run in his first relief outing in a week.  His back looked fine, but he left a splitter up and what he got was the winning run.  Manuel recorded the final out.

We just lost the first two games of the series, giving us a three-game losing streak overall.  We need to step it up and win tonight.  Otherwise, we’re looking at another steep climb out of third place.  We’re one and a half games out of second.  We can’t let it get any bigger than that.  We also need to stop hurting ourselves, literally.  Papi even said he’s never seen an injury report like this one before, where nine players who see action on a regular basis are on the DL.  That’s absurd.  That’s almost comical; you want to laugh until you actually realize what that means.  It means we’re fighting the steepest uphill battle in the Majors, but if we can do it, it also means we’ll pretty much have the most experienced bench in the Majors as well.  One step at a time.  That’s how we’ll get through this.  One step at a time.  Starting tonight, when Wake takes on David Price.  Let’s not get swept.

AP Photo

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Jon Lester is the man.

He is now 12-0 against the Orioles.  Undefeated.  That’s the longest winning streak by any active pitcher against any team.  And it wasn’t some wishy-washy win, either.  That was a Win.  With a capital W.

Seven innings, one run on five hits, one walk, seven K’s, one hundred pitches, even.  That one run in the fifth snapped his streak of sixteen and two-thirds scoreless innings against Baltimore.  His cut fastball was ridiculous.  You could tell that nobody was going to hit that.  His curveball was curving.  His sinker was sinking.  His changeup was changing and, by Cash’s observation, has improved a lot.  Cash hadn’t caught Lester since ’08, so he can really see how much Lester has improved.  Apparently, his changeup has most definitely improved.  He used everything, mixed everything, and threw everything for strikes, sixty-seven percent of the time.  A game-high of twenty-two pitches in the first and fifth; a game-low of nine pitches in the fourth and seventh.  He loaded the bases in the first with one out, but he followed it with a double play that featured a very long stretch by Youk to touch the bag.  After that, he settled down really quickly.  He gave up only three hits from the second to the seventh.  Efficiency.  Evenly distributed strike zone.  Movement.  Tight and precise release and location.

He’s now ten and three on the season, racking up wins in the double digits for the third consecutive year.   And he’s got a 2.76 ERA to go with it, and every time he starts, it just keeps going down.  If he doesn’t go to the All-Star Game, there is no justice.  No justice whatsoever.

Ramirez came on in relief and pitched well.  Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Robert Manuel.  He was recently recalled, and it most definitely showed.  The score would’ve been 9-1, but instead it was 9-3 because he gave up a two-run homer that required review.  We did, however, end the game on a high note pitching-wise by getting a flyout from Lugo.

And speaking of those nine runs, here’s how we scored them.  We tagged Guthrie for four in the first inning alone.  That’s almost half our run production in the first.  What a great way to start a game! (For us, not for Guthrie.) Youk hit an RBI double.  Then Drew hit a two-RBI double.  Then Nava hit an RBI double.  In the fifth, Youk hit a two-run shot, and when I say a shot, I mean a shot.  A hanging breaking ball that stayed up.  It sailed over the Green Monster in a hurry, bouncing right off the Sports Authority sign.  Complete with a bow from The K-Men.  I bet Guthrie saw that coming as soon as he released the ball.  You can’t hang a breaking ball and not expect it to be hit for extra basis with our lineup.  We tagged the Orioles’ ‘pen for three more runs in the eighth; Cameron hit an RBI double and scored on Wigginton’s throwing error, and Papi hit an RBI double.

Patterson started at second base admirably.  He started that double play; his throw was a little off, but he did have to hurry.  He made no errors.  Which is more than I can say for Wigginton, who plays regularly.

So, doubles for everyone! Two doubles for Papi, one for Youk, one for Drew, one for Nava, and one for Cameron.  A home run that scored double runs for Youk.  A double play.  Double, double-out RBIs.  That was the theme of the game, ladies and gentlemen, and I have to say, I like it.  I like it a lot.  Unfortunately, the win didn’t change the standings.  The Rays are still two games out (yet another double!), but we’re still half a game out of first place.  Today, Lackey looks to celebrate the Fourth of July with a win at home for Boston.  What better way to celebrate?

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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