Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Kalish’

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  This, my friends, is how it’s done.  This is the kind of win we need consistently.  This is the way we need to play on a regular basis.  This was awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.  Good pitching, good hitting, and good fielding; what a winning combination, to state the obvious.

Cook was the starter, and he delivered.  That was the sinker we’ve been missing during those starts where he was just awful.  He’s still got it in him, and he just made a statement that he can’t be counted out yet.

To be even more corny, he cooked up quite the start.  He pitched seven extremely solid innings, giving up only one run on six hits.  That one run scored in the second as a result of a double-single combination.  Other than that, he had only isolated threats that he expertly negotiated by mixing his pitches and keeping his head down.  He seemed to really find his stride starting in the third; over the course of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, he faced only two above the minimum.  He walked three and struck out two.  And he was efficient, throwing a total of ninety-eight pitches.

He was relieved by Tazawa for the eighth and ninth.  Tazawa gave up a solo shot to lead off the ninth, but fortunately by that time we were in a position where the game was more than put away.

We didn’t score until the third, so Texas had the smallest of leads for a very short time before we promptly took it back and never gave it up, which was a nice change of pace. Ellsbury and Crawford opened the third with back-to-back doubles that scored one, and Gonzalez doubled in Crawford one out later for two.  We gave ourselves more of a cushion in the fourth; Middlebrooks flied out to open the inning, but then Kalish walked, Aviles singled, and we had three straight scoring plays: Ellsbury hit a double, Crawford hit a sac fly, and Pedroia hit a double.  Three more runs just like that.

We took a break in the fifth and sixth before adding another run in the seventh.  Pedroia doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We put the final touches on the win in the eighth.  Aviles started out with a groundout, which was not at all an indication of things to come.  I can imagine that it may have put Texas in a bit of false security for a bit.  But then Ellsbury singled and scored on a double by Crawford.  Pedroia then walked to put two men on base.  Crawford scored on a single by Gonzalez, and Ciriaco, who had come in to pinch-run for Pedroia, scored on a sac fly by Ross.

So let’s tally it up, shall we? The final score was a grand 9-2.  We scored in four of eight innings during which we made plate appearances.  We had fourteen hits, eight of which were for extra bases.  All of those eight hits were doubles; none were homers.  Our starters in spots one through four all had multi-hit games, and they were huge: Ellsbury went three for five with two doubles, Crawford went two for four with two doubles, Pedroia went three for four with three doubles, and Gonzalez went three for five with one double.  Only two members of the starting nine went hitless, Salty and Middlebrooks, but even they walked once.

So not only did we win, and not only did we do it on the back of strong performances from pitching and hitting and fielding, and not only did men who have been struggling, including Cook, end up delivering, but we also managed to have a slugfest without slugging.  In this game we did it all, which shows that we have it in us to do it all.  All we have do now is, well, keep doing it.  How awesome would it be to win like this all the time?

The Canadian Press

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That was a close one.  Both the game and the series, I mean, in the sense that we narrowly and barely avoided the sweep.  I really did not want to be swept.  I mean, who does? But especially after that loss on Saturday night, I really, really didn’t want to lose today and be swept.  So it’s a good thing that we weren’t.  And it was pretty nice to win by the same final score that they won by on Saturday, as a taste of their own medicine, so to speak.

Morales got the nod today and pitched really well.  His six innings were solid, and he gave up one run on only three hits while walking three and striking out four.  He picked up the win after throwing 106 pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes.

He shut out the Twins for the first four frames.  In the fifth, Morales gave up a walk, and the runner advanced to second on a stolen base, third on a groundout, and home on a sac fly.  Morales ended his fantastic night on an appropriate note with a one-two-three sixth.

Melancon rolled up the seventh and most of the eighth; Breslow got the last out.

Meanwhile, we scored first in the third.  Aviles singled, Ellsbury doubled, and Aviles scored on a groundout by Crawford.  Then Pedroia singled, and Gonzalez singled Ellsbury in.  Unfortunately, two runs was the extent of that rally.  Fortunately, while we did go down in order in the fourth, it was not our last rally of the night.  We scored another two runs in the fifth; Crawford singled, and then with two outs Gonzalez let one rip to the Monster for a two-run shot, doubling our run total with one swing of the bat.  I’m telling you, we’ve really been putting the Monster through its paces, but that’s exactly what you want to see.  It was the fourth pitch of the at-bat; all four pitches were two-seam fastballs at almost exactly the same speed.  He took the first for a ball and the next two for strikes, but clearly he got all of the fourth.

We didn’t score in the sixth.  Crawford led off the seventh with a single and scored on a single by Ross.  And we scored our sixth and final run in the eighth; Kalish doubled and scored on a sac fly by Ellsbury.

And now for the top of the ninth.  The ninth inning was again a problem.  At the time the score was 6-1.  But Padilla came on and promptly relinquished a solo shot; that made it 6-2.  He then issued a five-pitch walk followed by another home run, which made the score what it was in the end.  And then Aceves, ironically enough, sent down all three batters he faced.  So, ironically, perhaps if he’d been the one to come out first, the inning would have proceeded without incident.  So if we hadn’t scored enough runs throughout the rest of the game, we actually would have been in the exact same position we were in on Saturday night.  And that’s not good at all.  So we can celebrate and be happy that we staved off the sweep and all, but let us not overlook the fact that we could just as easily have lost.  That’s never a good thing to be able to say about a win.

The final score, as I said, was 6-4.  We posted fourteen hits to their six.  Only three of ours were for extra bases, but it was enough.  It’s always good to have a mix of extra-base hits and small ball.  We had five multi-hit games; Middlebrooks and Ross went two for four, Aviles and Gonzalez went two for three, and Crawford celebrated his birthday with a three-for-five performance as well as a spectacular jumping catch in the second.  And look for Morales to stay in the rotation.  He’s earned his spot and was certainly one of the highlights of the win yesterday.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you don’t get swept.

AP Photo

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I really don’t want to talk about this.  I mean, I really, really don’t want to talk about it.  It’s bad enough that I had to watch it unfold before my eyes in real-time; to have to relive it is torturous.  So let’s just get it over with, shall we? I’d rather not spend time dwelling on it if I can help it.

We’re going to start with the good and end with the bad, since that’s how it happened.  Buchholz was absolutely stellar.  He gave up one run, zero earned, over seven innings.  He walked one and struck out three.  He threw 103 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  The Twins went down in order in the first, third, and seventh.  He pitched around a two-out, bases-loaded situation that he created with two singles, a walk, and an error in the second.  He pitched around a two-out double in the fourth.  He allowed his run in the fifth as a result of the exact same error he made in the third: a pickoff attempt gone awry.  That advanced the runner to second, and one single later the Twins were on the board.  So it was an unearned run because it scored due to an error, but it was the pitcher who made the error, so in a way he still earned the run.  And then he pitched around a single in the sixth.  Truly fantastic fastball, changeup, curveball, and splitter.  Not-so-fantastic cutter, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, the hitters seemed to be doing their part in supporting Buchholz for the win.  Kalish walked and scored on a double by Crawford in the first.  With one out, Aviles hit a solo shot on the second pitch of his at-bat, a eighty-two mile-per-hour changeup, out toward the Monster.  It was a towering home run.  And it’s been quite some times since Aviles last hit one of those.  We went down in order in the third, and aside from Salty’s walk we did nothing in the fourth.  We went down in order in the fifth, and aside from Gonzalez’s single and Salty’s single we did nothing in the sixth and seventh, respectively.

At that point we were leading, 2-1.  Miller came on for the eighth and allowed a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases, and that was when Aceves replaced him.  Obviously we’re not supposed to foresee that our closer would blow the entire game, so we didn’t know what was coming.  The irony is that, as much as Miller clearly needed to be replaced, I wonder if he actually would have been able to dig deep and get through that situation as Buchholz had done.  And then presumably not blow the game afterwards.  Anyway, Aceves allowed a sac fly that tied the game at two and finished the inning.

We got that run back in the bottom of the eighth.  Ciriaco, who has been on an absolute tear since he came up, hit a solo shot on the second pitch of the inning, a two-seam fastball for the first Major League home run of his career.  Actually, both pitches he faced in that at-bat were two-seam fastballs only one mile per hour apart.  Anyway, the home run was awesome; it went out to the Monster and, more importantly, swung the momentum back in our direction.  That was exactly the kind of thing we needed at that moment.  Between Crawford and Gonzalez striking out, Pedroia got hit and then scored on a single by Ross to put us ahead by two.

And then the ninth inning happened.

It started off innocently enough.  Aceves struck out his first batter and then allowed a run via a double-single combination.  At that point, you could allow yourself to think that he just needed to settle down and that the rest of the inning would be fine.  And that the final score would be 4-3 and we would win and all would be well.  Unfortunately Aceves never got that memo and made other plans instead.  He secured the second out of the inning via a flyout and then allowed another single.  And then Joe Mauer sent a ninety-five mile-per-hour fastball to the Monster on a full count for a home run that scored three runs and destroyed everything completely on one swing.  Breslow replaced Aceves for the last out of the top of the ninth as a pathetic token gesture.  Obviously we went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

The final score was 6-4.  Aceves received an incredibly well-deserved blown save as well as an incredibly well-deserved loss.  Nobody in the lineup had more than one hit, and the Twins’ hit total was actually twice as much as ours.  And we made three errors.  But the fact remains that we headed into the ninth inning with a lead that we should have been able to hold.  Easily.  This loss was crushing, it was devastating, it was viscerally painful, and it was severely infuriating in every way.  He was one strike away from ending it all.  Can you believe that? One strike away from a win, and instead we got a loss.  And it wasn’t helpful that Aceves’s 2-2 pitch to Mauer was actually a strike that was called a ball.  The win could have been ours right there.  And then it just wasn’t.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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First of all, let me just say that honoring Papi before the game for his four hundred career home runs was a very nice and well-deserved touch.

When I emphasized our need for a strong series, a game like last night’s was not exactly what I had in mind because we lost.  We are now eight and a half games out of first place, a new season high, or more accurately a new season low.  To be fair, it wasn’t one of those games where the Yanks just scored a mountain of runs and then we had to battle all the way back from scratch but failed to score those few extra we needed at the end.  Our hitters did not procrastinate.  We stayed right with them, neck-and-neck throughout the contest.  That was why the outcome was crushing.

Beckett did not have a good night by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s always funny how a bad night against any other team looks so much worse against the Evil Empire.  He only lasted five innings and gave up six runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out five.  He threw ninety pitches, forty-nine of which were strikes, so just over half or so.

It was not pretty.  He faced the entire starting nine in the first inning alone, and this is how it went: two straight singles, a hit batsman to load the bases, a five-pitch walk to walk in a run, an RBI single that scored two, a sac fly that scored one, another single, and another sac fly to score another one, and finally a groundout to end it.  It was painful, it was humiliating, it was horrific, and if it wasn’t a sign for things to come, I don’t know what was.

Fortunately, at least at the time, we actually succeeded in getting all of those runs back and tying the game at five before the first inning was even done.  It was amazing, and it gave us a reason to believe that we were still in this thing, because for most of the game we actually were.  Nava led off the first for us with a double, advanced to third on  wild pitch, and scored on a sac  fly by Kalish.  Then Papi singled, Ross reached on an error, Gonzalez doubled in Papi, and Salty hit a huge three-run shot on his second pitch that ended up in right several feet away from the foul pole.  I mean, that’s basically what happens if you throw a middle-in fastball to Salty.  It was his seventeenth of the year, a new career high.

We continued playing cat-and-mouse for pretty much the rest of the game, right up until the Yanks scored their two winning runs that we obviously did not answer.  Beckett gave up a triple followed by a groundout for another run in the top of the second; Nava got hit, Kalish singled, and Nava scored on a single by Papi in the bottom of the second.  Both teams went down in order in the third.  Neither team scored in the fourth, either.  The Yanks didn’t score in the top of the fifth, and we gave ourselves our first lead of the night in the bottom of the frame; Gonzalez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Gomez, which made the score 7-6.

Neither team scored in the sixth, which Albers pitched.  But it turned bad again in the seventh, when Miller came on.  He gave up a walk and a single followed by a strikeout.  Then Padilla came on and gave up a triple that scored two.  He followed that with a strikeout and then a double that scored one.  Atchison came on and then allowed his inherited runner to score on a single.  And the squandering of the one-run lead continues.

Ross homered to lead off the seventh on his third pitch, which ended up in the Monster seats.  Salty’s home run scored more runs, but Ross’s home run was a moon shot.  The ball went over the Monster.  Not in it.  Over it.  And it’s hard to hit a homer more moon shot-esque than that.  We put two men on over the course of the rest of the inning, but it didn’t amount to anything because Derek Jeter just had to convert what would have been a surefire hit into a force out, and then Punto struck out to end it.  Melancon pitched a solid eighth and ninth, during which we did not score.  And then we went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the Evil Empire won, 10-8.

Gomez went two for four, Gonzalez went three for five, and Papi went three for four.  Both teams posted fourteen hits each and converted four of their opportunities with runners in scoring position.  Beckett received a no-decision, Albers received a hold, Miller received both a hold and the loss, and Padilla received a blown save.  Defensive highlights included Punto gunning down A-Rod at home in the fifth for the second out.  It was an absolutely perfect block and tag.  What a textbook play.

The reason why this loss was so rough was not only because we lost to the Yankees, which is obviously a really big part of it.  It was also because we were right in that game until, well, until we weren’t anymore, until they scored those two runs that would go unanswered.  To have to witness the Yanks get five runs off of Beckett and then to watch as we got every single one of those runs back, three of them on one swing of the bat, before the first inning was even over was just truly awesome and amazing.  And then to watch us stay right there with them almost every step of the way, like I said, was a real testament to what we have in us and how great we can really be.  And, like I said, that was why the loss was so devastating.  It was because we could have won just as easily as we lost.

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We have now officially picked up our first win in extras! It’s nice to be the one celebrating after the nailbiter is over.  We split the series and can feel good about our performance, because for some reason we haven’t had much luck against Seattle’s pitching.

For us, Doubront lasted only four and one-third innings.  He gave up one run on three hits while walking five and striking out four.  It was a miracle the game wasn’t won by the time he was pulled.  He had absolutely no command, and how Seattle managed to not take advantage of that is completely beyond me.  Whatever groove he was in at the start of the season appears to have taken a vacation; he needs to find it again and get back in the game.

He lasted about half as long as Seattle’s starter, so he shares credit for the win with the rest of the bullpen.  Indeed, he didn’t even pick up the win; Padilla did.  Albers finished the fifth and pitched the sixth, Atchison pitched the seventh and eighth, Padilla pitched the ninth, and Aceves picked up a save for his work in the tenth.

We went down in order in the first but had a fantastic opportunity to score in the second; Ross and Gonzalez hit two straight singles to lead it off.  After two quick outs, Shoppach walked to load the bases, but Punto lined out to end it.  Until the eighth, we had at most one base runner per inning.  In the eighth, we finally got on the board for the first time thanks to Pedroia’s power.  With one out, he went yard on his second pitch, which was actually pretty similar to his first pitch.  Both were eighty-eight mile-per-our two-seam fastballs.  The difference was that he took the first one for a ball and he took the second out of the park, sending it beyond the fence in left.  It was his first home run since May, so it was about time.

That home run tied the game at one.  In the third, Doubront had given up two straight singles followed by a sac fly for the first run of the game.  And the game remained tied at one until the tenth, when Brandon League replaced Tom Wilhelmsen. League got Punto to ground out, but then gave up a double to Kalish and a single to Pedroia, which moved Kalish to third and set the table for what happened next.  Then League was replaced by Lucas Luetge, who gave up a sac fly to Papi, which scored what would shortly become the winning run.  The final score was 2-1.

So it was Pedroia who had the clutch hitting, and it’s been far too long since we’ve been able to say that.  Hopefully this is him getting something going here.  We could really use that.  We’re alone in third, one game ahead of the Rays and half a game behind Baltimore.

Additionally, the All-Star votes are in, and Papi is making the trip again for the eighth time in his ten seasons with us! His vote total was the fifth highest in the Majors! This year, he’ll be skipping the Home Run Derby; he said that it made him tired last year, especially at the end of the season, and he doesn’t want that to happen again this year.  I have to say, that’s a team player right there.  Unfortunately, he’s the only one who’ll represent us.  We’ve got only one All-Star for the first time since 2001, and let me tell you, it feels really strange.  Especially since we all know that Salty should have been voted in, hands down.  Clearly it’s not important that he leads American League catchers in most of the important categories.  I mean, there’s nothing to be done about it, but I’m just saying that it’s completely and totally wrong.

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Beckett was finally back in action yesterday, and he pitched well.  That was the silver lining.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to be thrilled about because there were way too many similarities to Thursday’s game, including the outcome.  It was just eerie.  And just sad.  But mostly just crushing.  Again.

Beckett gave up two runs on four hits in six innings; he walked three and struck out four.  He threw eighty-five pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes.  He had a phenomenal fastball and changeup as usual; his curveball and cutter were effective as well.  He cruised through five; it was the sixth that did him in, if you could say that.  In his first five innings, he faced only two above the minimum.  He didn’t even allow his first hit until four and two-thirds innings were already under his belt.  In the sixth, he threw twenty-seven pitches and faced eight batters.  It began auspiciously enough with a groundout on the second pitch of Beckett’s first at-bat.  But then he allowed a single, a walk, and a single to load the bases.  (That didn’t have to happen.  Nava and Aviles both converged on the ball of that first hit, which was actually kind of a popup, and neither caught it due to a lack of communication.  It was humiliating and the absolute worst, especially given what was about to happen next.) He was luck he only allowed a double that brought in two.  After another groundout, an intentional walk reloaded the bases, but Beckett ended the frame with a third groundout.  So all in all, Beckett escaped with minimal damage given the circumstances.

Similar to the Mariners, we ourselves didn’t score at all until the seventh.  Three straight singles loaded the bases for Kalish, who grounded into a force out, which brought in one; a passed ball brought in another.  More similarly, the inning’s last scoring play was followed by a groundout, a walk (although this one was unintentional), and a groundout that ended it.  So like the Mariners, we had a fantastic opportunity to really blow the game wide open, and like the Mariners, we could do nothing with it.

Melancon relieved Beckett and pitched the seventh without incident.  With two out and a runner on in the eighth, Padilla replaced him and ended the inning.  With one out and one on in the ninth, Aceves replaced him and ended the inning with a double play.  He also pitched a one-two-three tenth inning as well as the eleventh, which was not one-two-three because he allowed the winning run.  After a groundout, Aceves gave up two straight singles as well as a fly ball.  The ball sailed right to Ross, who caught it cleanly and quickly fired to Salty, who was waiting for the throw.  Although the play ended similarly to how it ended on Thursday, this time the problem was Ross and not Salty.  The throw wasn’t as precise as it needed to be, and the ball sort of skipped by Salty’s glove, and that was the end of it.

The final score was 3-2.  Ross went two for four, and Gonzalez went three for five.  Ross also made a spectacular leaping catch to end the third inning.  He caught a fly ball in the air and landed against the wall when he came down; that’s how far the ball was hit.  Too bad he couldn’t have made one of those in the eleventh.  But to blame the whole thing on Ross wouldn’t be fair.  That throw had nothing to do with the fact that we were only one for twelve with runners in scoring position.  It was crushing.  Crushing, crushing, crushing.  We have yet to win in extras this year.

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