Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Howard’

We’ll start with the home run derby.  Prince Fielder won it with twenty-three long balls, averaging 439 feet.  His longest and second-longest were the longest and second-longest of the competition, measuring at 503 and 497 feet, respectively.  Nelson Cruz placed second with twenty-one long balls.  Then Ryan Howard with fifteen, and Albert Pujols with eleven.  Joe Mauer and Carlos Pena both hit five, all in the first round, and Adrian Gonzalez hit two, both in the first round.  Brandon Inge didn’t hit any.  Ouch.  If you’ve noticed, hometown heroes rarely do well in the home run derby, so Pujols would’ve been the tempting but unlikely choice for champion.  He came close, though.  Congratulations to Prince Fielder! The Prince of home runs.  Corny but it had to be done.

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game.  As expected, the American League extended its hitting streak over the National League to thirteen All-Star Games.  This doesn’t surprise me.  We all saw this coming.  It happens every year.  But the All-Star Game is just as much about the festivities as it is about the game, so we’ll start with the first pitch thrown by President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket.  It came out of his hand as sort of a lob at Pujols, who picked it out of the dirt.  Not bad.  As far as the game is concerned, I was very pleased to see that this one only lasted nine innings.  Halladay started.  He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on four hits, only two earned.  Those were the only runs the National League would score.  The American League’s eight pitchers struck out five, walked only one, and gave up only five hits (Joe Nathan gave up the other one).  Papelbon, thank you very much, got the win.  Joe Nathan got a hold.  Mariano Rivera got a save, obviously because he wasn’t trying to close a game against us.

But that’s not the point.  Papelbon came into the game in the seventh inning, when the score was tied 3-3, and Brad Hawpe rocketed his first pitch over the outfield wall.  Luckily, Carl Crawford caught it over the wall for the first out of the frame.  For that play alone, Carl Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.  Then, Miguel Tejada flied out to Adam Jones, and Paps struck out Jayson Werth after eight pitches to end a ten-pitch outing.  Another one-two-three inning.  So Paps, who’s been an All-Star all four seasons he’s closed for us, gets the All-Star win he deserves.  Before the break, he actually insisted that Mariano Rivera close, probably due to all of the irrelevant and completely unnecessary flak he received after last year’s perfectly normal comment that he, as any competitive closer would, wanted to close an All-Star Game.  Honestly.  Yankee fans.  Nuff ced.

Wakefield did not pitch.  Not once.  Not even a third of an inning.  Not even to one batter.  To me, that’s cold.  Joe Maddon could’ve put him in somewhere if he really wanted to.

We won, 4-3, and we out-hit the National League, 8-5.  One error each.  RBIs for Joe Mauer, Adam Jones, and Josh Hamilton.  Bay and Youk both had hits.  In the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson tripled and then scored on Jones’s sac fly to break the tie.  Hamilton made a throwing error.

So basically what this whole thing comes down to, what this whole home run derby and All-Star Game and MVP Award and four-day break mean, is that we have secured home field advantage for October.  Technically it means that the American League team has home field advantage, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We all know who that American League team is going to be.  We also really needed this break; we’ll come back after these four days rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go claim that spot as “the” American League team.  The home run derby was a mildly interesting event and the All-Star Game was entertaining, but really it determines something very important.  And something tells me we’ll be very thankful for this victory come the postseason.  Congratulations to the American League All-Stars on your thirteenth straight victory.  You earned it, and we thank you.  Seriously.

AP Photo

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Again, with the no decision for the starter who pitched a masterful outing because a consistently good reliever turned spotty of late gave up a very inconveniently timed and placed home run.  Really, it’s just infuriating.  Lester pitched seven innings, gave up a run on two hits, walked two, and struck out eleven.  But according to the records, he has nothing to show for it.  The kid has officially found his form.  He’s pitching like he’s always pitched, he’s found his rhythm, and ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got another ace.  Okajima came in in relief; nothing wrong there.  In fact, Okajima got a hold.  Then, Ramon Ramirez came in to pitch the ninth.  You know, the one we traded Coco Crisp for? The one who’s always been lights out? The one who’s only given up six runs this season? Well, make it seven, because Ryan Howard hit one out to tie it.  Masterson, Saito, and Bard held the fort through thirteen until we won it.  Bard earned his first Major League save.

If you ask me, it shouldn’t have had to come to that, but when you’re facing an American League pitcher and you’re in a National League ballpark, you won’t exactly end up scoring and slugging left and right.  Makes for a pretty interesting contest.  But putting that aside, it could’ve been worse.  We could’ve been the Phillies, who played their third consecutive extra-inning game last night.  So their bullpen was shot to begin with, and they still had to use five relievers just to lose.  Meanwhile, our bullpen came into last night with a 2.88 ERA, good for the best in baseball.  No relief from our relievers for the opposition.  I like it.  And during the game you could see Jonathan Papelbon sitting in the bullpen trying to take it all in.  He’s happy-go-lucky but make no mistake, he’s a competitor, and there are few things more painful to a competitive athlete than to have to sit idly by and watch a train wreck in progress while not being able to do anything about it.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly a train wreck, but anytime Ramon Ramirez gives up a run of any sort, stop the presses.  But all in all, like I said, it was a very interesting game, and it was one of those games that helped to show us what we’re made of.  Because we were in a National League park, the usual defensive changes had to be made, which means key bats had to be benched to make room for others.  On top of that, there were day-off issues.  So everyone had more or less to stretch beyond their comfort zones a little bit to fill some strange roles, but at the end of the night, we did it, and that says something about the versatility dirt-doggedness of our guys.

We ended up winning, 5-2. We had two home runs on the night, both to opposite fields.  Youk hit a solo shot to right center to lead off the fourth and extends his hitting streak to six games, and Drew hit a solo shot to left center with two out in the fifth.  Then Ellsbury (single with the bases loaded), Green (sac fly), and Lowell (RBI single to left field) put together a three-run rally in the thirteenth to end it, and that also was a textbook display of staying with the pitcher, studying his motions, adapting, and manufacturing runs.  Bay went two for five with a walk and a run.  Ellsbury finished his night two for six, and it was good to see him swinging the bat good as new.  He played the whole game.  All thirteen innings in center field.  That’s a great sign.  Not surprisingly, none of our pitches got a hit.

Dice-K’s at Antonio Bastardo tonight, and he’s going to have to do some deep pitching and give the ‘pen a rest.  Speaking of starting pitching, we seem to have too much.  John Smoltz is almost done with rehab.  Clay Buchholz has been waiting in the wings since Spring Training.  Justin Masterson is technically a starter.  And Brad Penny’s already said that he won’t be satisfied with a bullpen role.  Why would he? He’s still got plenty of starter material.  So Theo and Tito have some decisions to make, and this should be interesting.

In other news, in the interest of sportsmanship I tip my cap to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Congratulations on forcing a Game Seven with Detroit.  Congratulations on getting it done without Marian Hossa, who thought he’d have a better chance at lifting the cup in a Red Wings jersey.  Congratulations on your Stanley Cup victory.

AP Photo

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He’s 5’9″, weighs 180, and is 25 years old. He bats right and throws right. He made his Major League debut on August 22, 2006 and began his Major League career with the 2007 season. On April 21, 2007, 45 games into that Major League career, his batting average was .181, and he’d recorded one single in 28 at-bats. He was benched during a Yankee game. Before the next game, he stood at his locker and told everyone to chill out because as soon as he got a hit he’d take off. He proceeded to bat .415 in May, good for earning Rookie of the Month. In the nineteen months that followed, he won a World Series ring, American League Rookie of the Year, and during this month a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and the American League Most Valuable Player, arguably the most prestigious honor in baseball.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah.

He batted over .300 in a month eight times; batted at least .305 in June, July, and August; and finished 2008 with a .326 batting average, narrowly missing the batting title by a mere four points. He hit 17 home runs, recorded 83 RBIs, and converted 20 out of 21 steal attempts. In 157 games at second base, he made only six errors and maintained a fielding percentage of .992. He’s the third player to win the MVP after winning ROY, following Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ryan Howard. He’s the first Red Sox player to win MVP since Mo Vaughn won it in 1995. He garnered 16 of 28 first-place votes, 6 second-place votes, 4-third place votes, and 1-fourth place vote, earning a total of 317 points. All I have to say to Evan Grant is “What now?!” (For those of you who haven’t heard this story yet, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News didn’t include Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah in his top ten. To say that that was an error in judgment would be the understatement of the century.)

Congratulations, Dusty. You earned it, and no one deserved it more than you. I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we always knew you had it in you. You showed everybody, that’s for sure. You’ve done a lot for this team and this city, and we can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. And as for me, I’m feeling pretty good about the future of second base in Boston right about now. Stellar work; keep it up. No doubt you’ll be in Boston for years to come.

Youk came in third in the AL MVP voting. He was another strong candidate, and to be honest I was a little surprised he wasn’t runner-up. But Dustin won in a landslide, and like I said I don’t think anybody deserved it more than him.

Someone who won’t be in Boston next season is Coco Crisp, who was traded to the Royals for lefty reliever Ramon Ramirez. This trade happened rather quickly, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Theo’s been saying for a while that he wouldn’t hesitate to trade Crisp, and it’s easy to see why. Although Coco Crisp’s defense is impeccable, his offense was lacking, to say the least. And now we’ve got Jacoby, who’s younger, faster, comparable defensively, and more prolific offensively. True, this past season wasn’t his best, but we know what he’s capable of. And even if we assume that Jacoby and Crisp are equal offensively, Jacoby has more going for him. So it’s a win-win: we needed relievers, and Jacoby and Crisp both get to start full time. As far as Ramirez goes, he pitched in 71 games in 2008, pitching roughly one inning per game and one strikeout per inning, and posted a 2.64 ERA. So all in all if we look at this objectively it’s a pretty good deal.

We’ve officially made contact with AJ Burnett’s agent. So have the Yankees, but their negotiations with Burnett have stumbled on the hurdle of his demand for a five-year deal. I know I say this all the time, but that’s because it’s true: we could really use this guy. I say if we have the opportunity to sign him, we should go for it.

In other news, the Pats exacted their revenge on the Dolphins in Florida and won, 48-28.  The Bruins are on a major hot streak. We just served the Habs another defeat, 3-2 in overtime, officially putting us on a winning streak against them and a four-game winning streak overall. Ladies and gentlemen, this could be the year a Stanley Cup finally comes to Boston! On a side note, in Friday’s game against the Panthers Milan Lucic dropped the gloves again and gave Nick Boynton a complete and total beat-down after Lucic had scored two goals and checked him very nicely into the boards. I’m telling you, Lucic is just dominating.

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