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Posts Tagged ‘Roger Clemens’

We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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Revenge is a dish best served cold.  Well, it wasn’t cold last night, but we certainly did take our revenge.  It was awesome.  I don’t think anyone was expecting it, but with this team these days I guess you should simply expect the unexpected.  The success we’ve been able to derive from the most unlikely of places is really a breath of fresh air, and I just hope we keep up the great work.

I don’t think anyone thought that Cook would deliver the start he did.  Certainly not during Spring Training before the season started, and probably not now either.  Cook pitched a complete game shutout with no walks.  That means that, had he not given up his two hits, he would have had himself a no-hitter! (It wouldn’t have been a perfect game because of an error by Aviles, which resulted in a baserunner in the sixth aside from those two hits.  Each of those hits was accompanied by a double play, so thanks to that error, he faced twenty-eight batters instead of the minimal twenty-seven.) I saw it with my own eyes, and I still couldn’t quite believe what was going on.  More than that, I couldn’t believe he did it with only two pitches: a sinker and a curveball.  He threw more than seventy sinkers, and less than ten curveballs and was brutally efficient, ending the night having thrown a grand total of only eighty-one pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes.  I mean, we’ve seen some regular starters have games where they need more than eighty-one pitches just to get through five innings.

It was amazing.  He was amazing.  He threw six pitches in the first, eight in the second, twelve in the third, only five in the fourth, eleven in the fifth, ten in the sixth, twelve in the seventh, nine in the eighth, and eight in the ninth.  His variation of speeds wasn’t as complete as it would have been if he’d thrown more pitches, but it was enough.  His maximum sinker speed was about ninety-one miles per hour, and his maximum curveball speed was about seventy-seven.

He faced the minimum in all but that sixth inning; he gave up his first hit, a single, in the fourth but erased it with a double play, and the same happened in the eighth.  Here’s a breakdown of all of his outs: two called strikeouts, two double plays, four popouts, five flyouts, eleven groundouts, and a lineout to end the whole thing.

For the first four innings, our hitters looked a lot like the Mariners did against Cook, so I was preparing to steel my nerves for another epic duel.  But then the fifth happened, and it was clear that that wouldn’t be necessary.

Middlebrooks and Ross smacked back-to-back jacks to lead off the fifth.  Middlebrooks went yard on his fifth pitch, a slider, which ended up in the left field stands.  Ross went yard on his fourth pitch, a fastball, which ended up in the upper deck in left.  Two easy outs later, Nava just unleashed on his fourth pitch, also a fastball, also clocked at ninety-two miles per hour, which needed up far back in the right field stands.

Papi led off the very next inning with a double, and then Salty went yard! It was the first pitch of the at-bat, and he had its number all the way.  It was also a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball, and it ended up in left center field.  Both swings looked quick, easy, and pretty perfect, if you ask me.

We went down in order again in the seventh and eighth.  We loaded the bases in the ninth with a single, double, and walk, but Pedroia lined out with two out to end the threat.

We won by a final score of five-zip.  That means that all of our runs were scored via the long ball.  Six of our nine hits were for extra bases, and four of those were the home runs.  Middlebrooks had the team’s only multi-hit game; he went two for four.  Salty was the only member of the team that batted in more than one run; he batted in two.  Defensive highlights include Pedroia’s classically awesome double play with one out in the eighth to end it; he dove to corral the ball and threw it, still prone on the ground, to second to get it started.

But the man of the hour was obviously Cook.  He was leading a clinic out there.  I would say it had to have been one of the best starts of his entire career.  It was certainly one of the best starts any of us have ever seen.  In fact, since pitch count research started in 1988, no other Boston pitcher has been able to throw a nine-inning complete game of any kind, shutout or not, with eighty-one pitches or less.  It outdoes Roger Clemens’s eighty-six-pitch one-hitter complete game that same year.  It’s not something that’s new for cook, though; he’s pitched three other complete games with less pitches than this one.  Ultimately, this game has reminded us just how good Cook is capable of being.  All of his perseverance, determination, and hard work certainly have paid off so far, and we hope that this will continue.

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2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess.  It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once.  I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train.  I think we’ve had enough.

The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson.  The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract.  The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson.  Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish.  Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.

And it was.  Congratulations, Paps.  You have just set the record for closer compensation.  He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option.  Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it.  They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money.  We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones.  This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better.  This is fact.  Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list.  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet.  He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first.  Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role.  While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away.  One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once.  Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door.  You just don’t.

What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight.  If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck.  All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.

And now, the tribute.

Paps started his career here.  He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners.  He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind.  He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that.  He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse.  He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways.  He was a Boston baseball guy.  He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme.  He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys.  I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here.  Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that.  He did blow his share of saves.  He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed.  He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in.  And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves.  But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it.  He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter.  In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02.  He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.  He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities.  And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver.  Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps.  He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime.  So here’s to you.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles.  Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse.  Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.

Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek.  I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team.  It would be too surreal.  Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.

Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran.  He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time.  But wait; the plot thickens.  We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.

There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle.  This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff.  Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic.  Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight.  Think Aroldis Chapman.

Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list.  Obviously.  This should not surprise anybody.  We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont.  If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are.  Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001.  And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates.  Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum.  I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago.  Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive.  It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job.  He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager.  Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo.  If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue.  Oh, the potential irony.

Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009.  Heady company.

On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game.  John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform.  Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship.  McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky.  Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.

Tito is interviewing with the Cards.  Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20.  Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth.  It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made.  The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Wow.  Just, wow.  If I had to describe the ideal opening of a series against Seattle in Seattle, last night would pretty much be it.  It was a textbook example of what you’re supposed to do when you play a team that’s bad.  Okay, maybe I envisioned a slugfest, which obviously didn’t happen, but everything else was exactly right.  I can live with the absence of offensive domination so massive that if the lopsided score had a weight it would tip over immediately so long as we win, and we win nicely.  Not by barely eking it out but by posting a healthy lead and maintaining it.  That’s something we didn’t do the last time we played Seattle, so it’s nice to actually play like we can for a change.

You could tell when Lester took the mound that he wasn’t about to play games.  You could tell that he knew he had a job to do and that he was going to do it.  He had his way with the Mariners, who looked like minor leaguers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.  His cut fastball was the best I’ve seen it all season.  So were his sinker and curveball.  And he threw in a good changeup every now and then.  You’d be hard-pressed to find an at-bat where he fell behind in the count, and he threw his offspeeds effectively for strikes.  He completely befuddled the hitters en route to twelve strikeouts over eight of the most solid innings you could possibly get from a pitcher.  Seven were swinging, and four were looking.  I’m telling you, there’s something very satisfying about watching the opposition take cuts at air.  He was very aggressive and packed the zone with a world of nasty.  This was his fourth consecutive start with ten-plus K’s, the longest such streak in the Majors since Jake Peavy in 2007 from April 25 to May 11 for the Padres.  Nobody in the American League did it since Johan Santana with five starts in 2004.  The last pitcher to do it for us was obviously Pedro Martinez with five in 2001.  But Lester is the first lefty in franchise history.  That brings his K total for the year to 209, making him one of five Sox pitchers to post at least two hundred K’s in consecutive seasons.  The other four are Cy Young, Smokey Joe Wood, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez.  That’s some heady company.  And if anyone belongs there, it’s Lester.  The best part is that technically he’s not even a strikeout pitcher.  He just wants outs, period.  And if he can do it more efficiently with groundouts, lineouts, and flyouts, he will.  The strikeouts are just a side venture, if you will.  That’s why he’s the man.

He last pitched at Safeco Field on July 24 and took a bid for a perfect game past the first out in the sixth, but we ended up losing.  Not so last night.  He picked up his seventeenth win of the year, also a new career high, en route to a twenty-win season.  He allowed only one run on three hits while walking three.  That’s it.  So it’s not that the Mariners had opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them.  They just didn’t have any opportunities on which to capitalize.  He strode out there and showed everybody how it’s done.  He was extraordinarily dirty, and that’s all there is to it.

We won, 5-1, showcasing the young talent because they’re the only ones still healthy.  We racked up three in the second.  Beltre scored on a groundout by Reddick, Lowrie scored on a double by Nava, and Nava scored on a double by Anderson.  It’s good to see Reddick and Anderson back in action; it reminds you that the future is bright, even if the present may be grim.  In the eighth, Kalish ripped a two-run homer into the right field seats.  Fister hung a change at the belt.  For Kalish, it was only a matter of doing what he’d always been taught to do with something like that: clock it.

The kids had some nice plays in the field, too.  No errors last night while Seattle made two, so they were pretty comfortable.  Speaking of defense, how about Scutaro’s flip in the third? Ichiro chopped one to Scutaro who made a running flip out of his glove to Anderson at first.  It was masterful.

You’ll never believe this, but the barrage of injuries continues.  Honestly, you’d think it would just stop by now being that there’s only half a month left in the season.  But no.  The injury bug has to rub salt in it.  Turns out that Drew left the game on Sunday because of a full-fledged injury.  He took a wide turn around first on a single, and you could tell that something was wrong when he ran back.  He jammed his right ankle.  And Doubront, one big reason why we traded Delcarmen, will probably be done for the season with his upper pectoral injury, specifically the left collarbone area.  “Done for the season” is such a funny phrase these days being that we’re in the middle of September.  If I sound bitter about it, it’s because I am.  We get it.  Enough with the injuries already.

We’ve got a two-game winning streak going, so that’s good.  Mostly it was just a blast to watch Lester go to work.  As far as Cy Young candidates are concerned, he has to be one of them.  He’s been outstanding, and it’s the middle of September and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Dice-K would do well to take a page from his book when he takes the hill tonight.  Let’s win a series.

In other news, football season officially started yesterday, and the Pats kicked it off (pun intended) on a high note by beating the Bengals, 38-24.

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History was made last night, folks.  Not only did Wake have himself a fantastic outing, but that fantastic outing lasted seven innings plus one out, which means that he’s pitched 2,777 innings in his career.  One more than Roger Clemens.  Ladies and gentlemen, with that dancing knuckleball of his, Tim Wakefield has pitched more innings than any other Red Sox pitcher in club history!

That’s a lot of innings.  A lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of ugly.  But overall, a lot of consistency, a lot of valiance, and a lot of win.  Remember when he came over here, back in 1995? Here’s to you, Wake, for all of those innings and many more! Thanks to V-Mart, who told him to throw the ball to the dugout at inning number 2,776 and one-third, he’s got a memento.  The victim? Russell Branyan on a strikeout.  The funny thing is that, in classic Wake fashion, he had no idea what was going on until after he finished.  Next stop: the top of our all-time wins list; he needs fifteen more to tie Clemens and Cy Young for the record.

Thankfully, he was masterful, so this is an occasion he’ll want to remember.  He gave up only one earned run on four hits in that time via a solo shot.  He didn’t walk anyone and struck out six.  All but one of those strikeouts were swinging.  That’s what the knuckleball does; it keeps you guessing.  And we can thank John Farrell in part for that, who helped Wake with his mechanics and timing to get him back on track.  74 of his 105 pitches were strikes; his fastball and breaking ball were excellent as usual and he threw every single one of his curveballs safely in the zone.  His knuckleball was dancing all over the place.  It was great.  He needed a high of twenty-two pitches in the first, but he finished off the fifth inning with only six pitches! His strike zone was packed; almost everything he threw was in there.  What else can I say? It was an excellent, record-breaking start.  He’s put in a lot of work here over the years, so nobody deserves this more than him.  He’s certainly earned it.  Congratulations!

Wake did give up an unearned run, thanks to Cameron’s unsuccessful diving catch and Beltre’s fielding error.  Cameron would later redeem himself with a nice running catch in the sixth.

Between Okajima, Ramirez, and Bard, the bullpen pitched the rest of the game almost perfectly, with no hits and only one walk.  Okajima and Ramirez each got holds; Bard, providing a glimpse into the future, got the save.  When asked if setting up is really that different from closing, Bard made an important comment:

The game is on the line, but it’s on the line in the seventh and eighth, too. Once swing of the bat can end it. Every pitch matters.

We don’t usually consider the setup man with the same degree of awe and importance that we reserve for closers, but Bard is absolutely right.  A close game may be just as close in the ninth as it is in the seventh and eighth, and an earlier inning may be even more crucial than the last depending on what part of the lineup we’ll be facing when.  Having a future closer as a setup man is a luxury that few teams can enjoy, but it’s a luxury that’s become pretty important for our success.

With two out and none on in the fourth, V-Mart hit a routine fly ball to center field.  Crowe dropped the ball, both literally and figuratively, and V-Mart wound up at second base.  Youk followed that with a double off the left field wall to score him.  Papi stroked a single to score him.  And Hall hit a double to score him.  So all three of the runs we scored were unearned.  But they’re still runs, and we still won.  Let that be a lesson to fielders everywhere: errors lose ballgames.  Just ask Julio Lugo.

Beltre went two for four with a double.  Youk went three for four.  The final score was 3-2.

I have to say, it feels good having Wake on top of that list.  He really earned this one.  This is his fifteenth season with us; he’s a durable, unique pitcher, and the club just wouldn’t be the same without him.  What’s amazing is that clearly, he’s still got it.  He’s baseball’s own Benjamin Button.  He teaches the rookies and learns from the veterans.  Again, here’s to you, Wake! Meanwhile, we’re the sole owners of fourth place.  We’re four games out of first and two out of second.  We’ll look to reduce that tonight by taking on an old friend; Justin Masterson will take the hill for Cleveland opposite Buchholz.  This should be interesting.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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So the Orioles fired Dave Trembley, hired Juan Samuel for the interim, and asked us to welcome him last night in his first game as skipper of this sorely misguided team.  We gave him a welcome, alright.  A nice slugfest blowout of a welcome.  Note to all other Major League Baseball teams: don’t play us if you want to ensure that a debut goes well, because if you play us, it won’t.

The story of last night’s theatrics starts and ends with Buchholz, literally.  He pitched a complete game (third in his career) shutout (second in his career) and got the win, giving up five hits and only one walk while striking out two.  That was his career-high eighth win and the ninth in his winning streak on the road.  It’s the first time in his career that he’s won five straight.  That’s the second-longest streak in the history of the franchise, right behind Clemens’s twelve from September 20, 1987 through July 4, 1988.  He joins heady company; only four pitchers in the history of the franchise have won at least eight consecutive starts on the road: Buchholz, Clemens, Lefty Grove, and Babe Ruth, and Buchholz and Clemens are tied for second.  For now.

His ERA is now 2.39.  His ERA during his eight road wins is 1.22.  That’s ridiculous.  I can’t believe that.  It just keeps getting lower and lower.  I know I’ve said this before, but that’s a closer’s ERA.  This kid just continues to amaze.  He’s so confident.  He’s so dominant.  He throws any pitch in any count.  It’s remarkable.  Watching that game made me think back to his no-hitter, also against the Orioles.  You know you were thinking about it too.  Maybe he just has this team’s number.  Or maybe he’s just that good.  I have a feeling it’s a good mixture of both.

He was extremely stingy, throwing only 101 pitches.  A big part of that was his use of the double play (last night we turned two), his incredibly low walk total, and his profuse use of the first-pitch strike.  Last night, Buchholz recorded eight first-pitch outs.  After Izturis singled in the third, he retired twelve consecutive batters.

His changeup was absolutely nasty.  Really, all of his pitches were thrown well; his slider and fastball were spectacular, while his curveball continues to improve.  He needed a game high of nineteen pitches to clear the first.  He needed a game low of only six pitches to clear both the fourth and sixth.  Six pitches.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a pitcher complete a frame with only six pitches.  That’s absurd.

He threw 66 strikes, and his strike zone was beautiful.  He threw to all parts of it.  If he threw a ball, chances were it was to the left or at the upper left corner, but there really weren’t many of those.  Speed variation? Check.  Tossed salad? Check.  Movement? Check.

Wow factor? Check.  Absolutely.

The final score was 11-0, and as Buchholz said, having a lead that huge gives a pitcher the opportunity to pound the zone, be aggressive and creative, and experiment to get batters out.  So the offense most certainly did its part.

Tillman started the game by loading the bases with nobody out by giving up a single to Scutaro and walking Pedroia and Papi back-to-back.  Scutaro scored on a groundout by V-Mart, and with two outs Drew doubled in two.  Hermida led off the second with a double, moved ahead on a single by Hall, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Thus, Samuel made his first call to the bullpen as the manager of a Major League Baseball team; he removed his starter after he gave up four runs in less than two innings.  Welcome to the big show.

We were just getting started.  Cue the long balls; we had three of them.  In the fourth, Hall struck out by reached on a passed ball, Scutaro singled, and with two out Youk went yard high and long to send everyone home for the eleventh time this year.  He buried a 1-0 fastball up into the seats out in left field.  Not wanting to feel left out, Beltre did the same with nobody on base an inning later on a breaking ball.  Complete with that really compact swing of his where he puts his whole back into it such that he ends up kneeling on his back leg during the follow-through.  Not wanting to feel left out either, Scutaro did the same to lead off the eighth on an inside hanging breaking ball.  In the ninth, Beltre doubled in V-Mart, and then Drew scored on McDonald’s groundout.

Pedroia went two for four.  Beltre, Drew, and Youk went two for five.  V-Mart went three for four.  Scutaro went three for six.  We recorded sixteen hits.  We scored five of our runs with two outs.  In short, we delivered a good, old-fashioned Boston beatdown.  We had a brief scare when Hermida collided with Beltre on Markakis’s popup (thankfully, Scutaro pulled out of the chase early), but they’re okay.  Hermida left with a left forearm contusion, and Beltre has a bruised left knee, but that’s all.  Thankfully.  The last thing we need is yet another outfielder on the DL as a result of a collision.

Tonight’s the second game of the series; Lester will take on Guthrie to secure at least the series win.  I’m looking forward to this.  Hopefully, Lester will turn in a performance just as dominant but from the other side of the mound.  We’re currently four and a half games out of first and continue to surge.  Life is good.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Don’t look now, but the season just got underway.

We’re seven and a half games out with two more games to play in this series against the first-place team.  We’re one and a half out of third and two out of second with no signs of slowing down.  Let’s face it: the baseball we’ve played during this stretch of difficult schedule is the baseball we’d been waiting for all along.  And it’s no coincidence that we broke out against the best of the best, because deep down we were always one of them.  Now that that’s come to the surface, I have one thing and one thing only to say to the rest of Major League Baseball: watch out.

We are doing things right now that I haven’t seen this team do since last year.  We’re mixing every facet of the game perfectly.  We’re getting solid starts backed by solid defense and fueled by solid offense.  When all three go at once, so go the Red Sox, and in a big way.  Last night was case in point.

Clay Buchholz took on the team with the best record in all of Major League Baseball and not only won but won decisively.  He’s the first Sox pitcher since Clemens in 1992 and 1993 to rack up eight consecutive wins on the road.  His outing was a little shorter than it could’ve been because he encountered some early jams that inflated his pitch count to 108; for example, the Rays loaded the bases with one out in the first (he escaped via the double play) and threw his highest inning pitch totals in the first three frames.  But his six innings were still quality; he gave up only one run on a solo shot, walked only one, and struck out eight.

He tossed his usual salad, but his fastball had a nice bite, coming in at ninety-six miles per hour.  His curveball is still not as effective as it could be – for some reason the curveball and the changeup have been off for our pitchers – but the rest of his pitches, the ones he threw most often, were located really well.  He threw almost nothing above the zone or to the upper right corner.

Keeping in mind of course that he’s technically just our fifth starter, the point being that he’s not pitching like it.  His composure on the mound was impressive; one of the things that had held him back in the past was his immaturity in pressurized situations.  But the Buchholz we have on our hands now is very definitively past that.  He struggled early but stayed focused and improved as the game went on.  He did well and was rewarded with the win.

Okajima and Bard handled the last three innings perfectly.

The final score was 6-1, so it was all us.  Incidentally, no run scored for either team after the fourth.  Papi put us on the board with literally a shot off the bat in the second.  It was a line drive home run, and you could tell from the minute that ball left the bat that it was gone.  It was the second pitch of his at-bat and there was just no way the ball was staying inside the park.  It got out of there in a hurry.

We officially broke Davis in the third, when his command quit completely.  He threw forty pitches and gave up four runs in that frame alone, all with two out and all with the bases loaded.  Drew drew (pun intended) a bases-loaded walk and Beltre and Hermida both singled.  And the guys just kept moving on down until they got home.  Unfortunately, we even left the bases loaded at the end of the inning.

Also unfortunately, V-Mart had to exit in the bottom of the third inning with a contusion on his toe that he received in the bottom of the second when Bartlett fouled something off his foot.  V-Mart drew a four-pitch walk in the third but limped to take his base and was replaced by Tek, who caught the rest of the game.  He’ll skip his start tonight but isn’t expected to stay out long.

The barrage continued in the fourth, when Youk unleashed some serious power for a two-run shot into the left field seats that was also unquestionably going out.  That would be his tenth of the season to raise his batting average to .321.  Believe it or not, he’s not the best hitter on the team.  Very quietly, Beltre has himself a hot .335.

Papi went two for four, Belte went three for four, and Pedroia, who’d been 0 for 19 heading into the game, his longest hitless streak since that drought last June, went three for five.  We accumulated twice as many hits as the Rays.

Ellsbury didn’t do much at the plate, but he did well in center.  Tonight that comes to an end with Mike Cameron’s return.  Although, if you ask me, Tito should leave the outfield alone for now because Hermida is shining at the plate.

So how about this now: we’ve won six of our last seven games and are on a three game winning streak.  We’re seventeen and ten since April 26 but fourteen and seven since May 3.  All against baseball’s best teams, like I said.  That’s not an accident.  That’s what’s been dormant up to this point.  The team we’ve seen lately looks like a completely different team, one that’s finally come together.  This is the real Red Sox, and I sure hope the league is ready.  The fun continues tonight with Lester at Shields.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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