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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Sweeney’

Let’s start with the bad news first.  How convenient that it actually occurred first.  We lost the opener, 6-1.  Morales basically imploded and had one of the worst starts a pitcher can have.  He was the starter for the day and gave up six runs on six hits over the course of three and one-third inning.  If that had been all and he just had a bad day, it would still have been painful but at least it would have been acceptable.  The fact that all six of those runs scored via the long ball is simply unacceptable.  That means that way too many of his pitchers were just really bad mistakes.  You never want to be on the business end of a clinic-like slugfest performance.  Morales gave up two consecutive home runs in the first inning, one three-runner and one solo shot.  He somehow sent the Evil Empire down in order in the second and somehow pitched around two baserunners in the third, and then he gave up two straight solo shots to open the fourth.  One popout and one baserunner-via-error later (you can thank Gomez for that), he was replaced by Justin Germano, who, despite a bases-loaded situation in the fifth and two baserunners in the eighth, did not allow any runs.

Meanwhile, we scored a grand total of one run, and we played small ball to get that one.  Papi and Gonzalez hit back-to-back singles with one out in the fourth, and Gomez singled in Papi.  That was it.  That was all we came up with.  We went down in order in the second, third, sixth, and ninth.  The sixth was particularly infuriating because technically it didn’t have to be that way.  Papi walked to start the inning, and then Gonzalez hit something that looked like it was headed for the Monster for sure.  Unfortunately it was caught, but Papi had already rounded second and couldn’t get back to first, so obviously he was out.  We had two on in the fifth but did nothing with that opportunity.  We had only four chances with runners in scoring position, and Gomez went two for four for our only multi-hit game.  I may add that Darnell McDonald, in his first game with the Evil Empire, went hitless and dreadlock-less.  It’s always a sad day to see one formerly your own have to go to the dark side.

So that’s the bad news.  The good news is that we split the day and won the nightcap, 9-5! Revenge is a dish served cold.  Well, it’s July in Boston, so I don’t know about cold, but I can tell you that it was sweet.

Doubront gave up four runs, three earned, on four hits over six and one-third innings.  Like Morales, he gave up multiple home runs.  He gave up two: a three-run shot in the fifth and a solo shot to lead off the seventh.  So, like Morales, all of his runs were unfortunately scored via the long ball.  The unearned run scored as part of that first home run; Derek Jeter opened the inning by getting on base thanks to yet another error by Gomez.  But unlike Morales, he eventually buckled down; those home runs bookended an actually decent performance.  After that second home run and then a groundout, Albers replaced Doubront and pitched the rest of the inning.  Mortensen came on to pitch the eighth and loaded the bases with one out; he was then replaced by Padilla, who thankfully ended the inning.  And then Aceves pitched the ninth and gave up a solo shot in the process, but for the first time in at least several games, it didn’t matter because we won anyway!

We began the game quietly by going down in order in the first and in four in the second.  We got on the board in the third, when Gomez doubled, Pedro Ciriaco singled, and Nava grounded into a double play that brought in Gomez.  A very modest play, if you ask me.  We went down in four in the fourth again and then played some more small ball in the fifth; Gomez popped out, Ciriaco singled, Nava reached on an error by McDonald, and then Punto hit a sac fly that brought in Ciriaco.  We continued in the sixth; Gonzalez singled, Ross reached on an error by Jeter, Sweeney popped out, Gomez singled, and Ciriaco smacked a bases-clearing double that gave us the cushion we were looking for.

Run-wise, our big inning was the seventh.  Gonzalez began it with a double.  Then Ross lined out, and Sweeney tripled Gonzalez in, and Gomez doubled Sweeney in.  Aviles came in to pinch-run for Gomez and scored on a double by Ciriaco.  And then Ciriaco stole third and scored on an error.

So between the sixth and seventh, we sent the full lineup to the plate twice, once per inning, and scored seven runs.  And that was the game right there.  We posted seventeen hits to their six, and we made two errors to their four.  (Obviously we shouldn’t have made any, but it is what it is.) Papi went two for four, Punto went two for three, Gonzalez went three for five, and Gomez went three for four, but the man of the hour was unquestionably Ciriaco, who went four for five with two doubles, two runs, four RBIs, and a stolen base.  I’m telling you, it’s been a long time since we turned to a Pedro to lift us up and since we changed that name when he did, but it feels pretty good.

The win snapped our losing streak at five, it was our first win over the Yanks this year, and it puts us one game back up over .500.  Did I mention that we beat the Yanks? This can not be overstated: it felt good.  It felt really good.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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On June 12, we beat the Marlins, 2-1, in an obviously close game.  Buchholz was a big part of that; he pitched seven innings and gave up only one run on five hits, while walking one and striking out two.  One of those five hits was a solo shot in the seventh.  Padilla received a hold for the seventh, and Aceves got the save in the ninth.  We scored both of our runs via small ball in the seventh; Youk grounded out, Middlebrooks singled, Gonzalez flied out, Shoppach doubled in Middlebrooks, and Aviles singled in Shoppach.  We completed our series against the Marlins with a win as lopsided as that one was close, winning by a final score of 10-2.  Doubront delivered unquestionably his best start of the season, pitching a full seven innings and giving up two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out nine.  One of those three hits was a solo shot with two out in the sixth.  Padilla, Miller, and Albers combined to pitch the rest of the game.  And our hits were really busy; Aviles scored on a groundout in the third, Papi homered in the fourth, three consecutive singles and a sac fly in the sixth yielded two more, and we put up a six-spot in the eighth, when we sent eleven batters to the plate! Punto doubled, four straight singles yielded three runs, Middlebrooks got hit, Salty scored another with a sac fly, Sweeney lined out, and two straight singles scored our last run.

On June15, we started our series against the Cubs, and I am both relieved and pleased to say that Dice-K had himself a phenomenal start! He pitched six innings and gave up three runs on four hits while walking three and striking out three.  He threw ninety-three pitches, sixty-two of which were strikes.  Atchison and Melancon finished the game on the mound.  But we were shut out and lost, 3-0.  We had better luck in the next game, which we won, 4-3.  Lester went six and two-thirds innings and allowed three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out eight; he gave up a two-run shot with one out in the seventh.  Salty homered with Papi on in the fourth, Middlebrooks singled in another run in the sixth, and then Podsednik singled in our final run in the seventh.  We ended up winning the rubber game by a final score of 7-4.  Beckett was out with inflammation in his right shoulder, so all those times I called for the bullpen to start rather than the starter finally paid off.  Morales pitched five innings and gave up two runs on four hits while walking none and striking out five; all in all, I’d say he was spectacular given the circumstances, including the fact that it was his first start since 2009.  He threw eighty pitches.  Albers then received a blown save for giving up the tying run; Miller, Melancon, and Atchison held the fort until Aceves allowed a run in the ninth.  In the first, Pedroia doubled and Papi singled for two, Papi led off the fourth with a solo shot, we scored three in the seventh on a single and two sacrifices, and we scored one in the eighth on a force out.

We played the Marlins again starting on Monday, this time at home, and this time we swept them.  The first game’s score was 7-5; Buchholz gave up five runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out three.  Albers, Miller, and Padilla performed well in middle relief, and Aceves picked up the save.  Papi hit a two-run shot in the first, Shoppach hit a two-run shot in the second, Ross hit a solo shot in the fourth, Gonzalez hit a sac fly in the fifth, and Middlebrooks doubled another in in the sixth.  The second game was a 15-5 blowout.  Doubront gave up four runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out four; Mortensen gave up one run, and Melancon pitched a shutout inning.  Aviles hit a three-run shot in the second to start the scoring.  Ross hit a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double in the third for three more runs.  We blew it wide open in the fourth; Kalish singled in one, Papi smacked a grand slam, and Salty hit a solo shot! Punto scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, and Middlebrooks hit a two-run shot in the eighth.  We barely won a nailbiter to complete the sweep.  Dice-K gave up four runs on four hits over five and a third innings; he walked one and struck out four.  Miller gave up one run, and it was Atchison who picked up the win and Aceves the save.  We got on the board in the fourth when a single and a sac fly brought in two, and we tied it up in the fifth with a single.  Then they led by two until the eighth, when Middlebrooks hit a two-run shot and Nava singled in a third run.  After Aceves’s performance, we had the sweep in hand.

After the Marlins, we hosted the Braves.  We lost on Friday, 4-1, but it wasn’t for lack of starting pitching.  Lester pitched seven innings and gave up three runs on ten hits while walking one and striking out five.  This time it was Melancon who allowed a run while Mortensen recorded the game’s last out successfully.  We scored our only run in the eighth on a double by Nava.  We won on Saturday, 8-4; Morales started again and was fantastic.  He gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits over six innings while walking one and striking out eight; he threw eighty-six pitches.  Atchison, Miller, Padilla, and Aceves all appeared in relief.  Gonzalez singled in one and Middlebrooks doubled in another in the first, Pedroia doubled in two in the second, Middlebrooks homered in the third, Ross doubled in another in the fifth, and Nava singled in two in the seventh.  We ended up winning the series yesterday with a final score of 9-4.  Cook started in place of Buchholz, who was hospitalized due to a gastrointestinal problem.  Cook gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits over five innings.  He walked none and struck out none.  Albers allowed another run in relief; other than that, Miller, Atchison, and Melancon performed well and took care of the rest of the game.  Ross hit a three-run shot in the fourth, followed by a solo shot by Gonzalez.  Middlebrooks brought another one in with a sac fly in the fifth, followed by another home run by Ross, this one for two runs.  Nava doubled in another run in the sixth, and Youk tripled in our final run in the seventh.

It turned out that that run would be the last that Youk would bring home and third base would be the last base that Youk would defend and that game would be the last that Youk would play in a Boston uniform.  He was traded yesterday with cash to cover the remainder of this year’s salary before that at-bat to the Other Sox for utility man Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, who the team has been scouting apparently since his college days.

Even before the at-bat, the crowd knew it was probably their last time seeing this phenomenal player playing for them; they had already given him a well-deserved standing ovation before his first at-bat in the second, and Youk had already returned it with a tip of his helmet.  In classic dirt-dog fashion, Youk legged out that triple, admittedly with a little help from the Braves, and went into the slide, and the standing ovation that he received afterwards was huge, thunderous, and extremely well-deserved.  Punto came out to pinch-run, since Ben didn’t want him injured, and after an emotional hug, as the two have been friends for years and years through Athletes Performance in Arizona, Youk returned to the dugout.  He tipped his helmet and was greeted by everyone at the entrance for more hugs and then emerged for a curtain call for both the crowd and his teammates, initiated by none other than Big Papi himself.

On the day, Youk went two for four with the triple and the one RBI.  Obviously, he also walked once and was involved in a controversial defensive play in the third during which there was some concern that he may have sustained an injury but flashed his characteristic leather throughout.  Also obviously though, there is more to a player than his final at-bat for a ballclub.  Youk was more to us than a triple and some good plays at third.  We picked him in the eighth round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2001 and raised him ourselves on the farm, and his first year in the Majors culminated in a World Series ring, our first in eighty-six years; with this trade, Papi is now the only member of that team still playing for us today.  Three years later, he added another in 2007.  He finishes his career in Boston with a batting average of .287, an on-base percentage of .388, 728 strikeouts, twenty-six stolen bases in forty attempts, and 961 hits.  Of those, 239 were doubles, seventeen were triples, and 133 were homers.  He batted in 564 runs and scored 594.  He played in 953 games and accumulated 3,352 at-bats.  Last but not least offensively, two of the stats for which he is most renowned throughout Major League Baseball, he walked 494 times and was hit by eighty-six pitches.  Now that’s a combination of eyes and patience if I’ve ever seen it.

In addition to his offense, the second aspect to Youk’s incredible game as his fielding, and this was where his versatility really shone.  Youk was a fixture at the corners.  Both of them.  It is fitting that he ended his Boston career at the bag where he began it, but he will be remembered as someone who routinely crossed the diamond without a word or a hiccup.  His fielding percentage at third in 362 games and 320 starts is .966; his fielding percentage at first in 594 games and 546 starts is .997.  In his career thus far, he has also played second base, left field, and right field and has made 986 assists, 4,788 putouts, and only forty-four errors.

There are all sorts of comparisons to be made between his stats and those of other greats the game has seen, but he was such a unique player that he shines in his own right, which brings me to the third and final aspect of Youk’s game, which was his character and leadership off the field.  As is the case so often for veterans who have played here, he was an extremely classy player.  He gave everything he had for every single at-bat at the plate and every single play in the field; he was completely invested in the well-being of the team, as evidenced by his visible and often physical expressions of frustration at his recent lack of production.  Every extra-base hit he legged out, every diving play he made, every walk he worked, and every batting helmet he threw were all the result of a fierce desire to see this team succeed.  He was a terrific mentor to the younger guys, including his replacement even as he was conscious of the fact that he was being replaced, and had a fierce, determined, and committed will.  He earned every All-Star vote he ever received and represented us three times as someone who really embodied the spirit of what it means to play here.  He was committed to his teammates as well, as evidenced in their extremely heartfelt goodbyes.  Pedroia said he loves the guy, as do well all.

We all knew this was coming.  Youk was being sidelined by Middlebrooks constantly, and the lineup was all convoluted to try to fit him in, and he didn’t exactly get along with Bobby V., and the rumors were steady.  But putting all of that aside, it speaks volumes about the type of player but also the type of guy that Youk was that after a big win that gave us the best record we’ve had all year, the mood in the clubhouse was sad, somber, and serious.  Youk helped us win two World Series championships and gave his all to this team, this city, and this game.  To say that he will be missed is an extreme understatement.  Youk, we salute you.

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We played a good game, the key word there being “good,” as opposed to “great,” “wonderful,” “spectacular,” and “awesome.” Our game was good but not good enough.  We can’t win at home, and apparently, so far on this road trip, we can’t win away either.

Beckett pitched seven innings and gave up four runs on six hits.  He threw ninety-seven pitches, walked one, struck out five, and took the loss in his first start against his former team.  Mostly he was the victim of one bad inning, and he didn’t waste any time getting into it.  It was the first inning.  He gave up a triple, a sac fly, a groundout, a single, a double, a single, and a groundout, all of which resulted in three runs scored.  Had those three runs not scored, there is always the chance that we’d still be playing baseball.

Beckett allowed an RBI single in the second for his fourth and final run.  The Marlins then went down in order in each of all but one of the rest of his innings, the one being the seventh, during which he gave up his only walk.  Melancon relieved him and pitched a one-two-three eighth.

Unfortunately, in addition to our meek and timid work on the mound, we also didn’t put up much of a fight at the plate.  We scored a grand total of one run, and that was in the sixth; Beckett struck out to lead it off, and then Podsednik singled, Pedroia doubled, and Gonzalez hit a sac fly.  Papi flied out to end the inning.  We hardly threatened before or after the sixth.

So we lost, 4-1.  We collected five hits, only one of which was for extra bases: that double by Pedroia.  Only three members of our lineup even had hits at all; not surprisingly, Beckett was not one of them.  In addition to Pedroia, it was Sweeney and Podsednik, who went three for four for our only multi-hit performance of the game.  Pedroia and Gonzalez drew our only walks.

Our record is twenty-nine and thirty-two.  We are three games below .500 and in last place in our division, six and a half games out of first.  There is no disputing the fact that the situation is dire and has been basically since the season first started.  I’ll be taking a break of about ten days, and after that time I very, very, very, very much hope to find the team in a much better state.

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That was a tough loss.  A really tough loss.  Not only because we just got swept but also because we could have had it in the bag, and it should have been us celebrating a win.  Again, it was a situation where the two teams were remarkably evenly matched.  The fact that this other evenly matched time is Washington is still going to take some serious getting used to.  Meanwhile, we have nothing to content ourselves with but the hope that we’ll win our next game.

Lester pitched phenomenally well.  Unfortunately, so did Jordan Zimmermann.  Lester pitched seven innings; Zimmermann pitched seven innings.  Lester gave up three runs on six hits; Zimmermann gave up three runs on seven hits.  Lester walked two and struck out nine; Zimmermann walked two and struck out seven.  Lester threw 107 pitches; Zimmermann threw 105 pitches.  Lester threw sixty-seven pitches; Zimmermann threw seventy pitches.

Washington struck first; Lester’s second pitch of the game was hit for a double, which eventually turned into a run on a groundout.  Lester had a great one-two-three second inning and got a crucial called strikeout to end the third with the bases loaded.

We scored our first run in the third; Punto led it off with a walk, Podsednik singled him to third, and he scored on a force out by Pedroia.  Papi led off the fourth with a solo shot into the bullpen on a fastball.  It was a wallop of a swing in classic Papi fashion.  And at the time, it gave us a one-run lead.  Unfortunately it wouldn’t last.

Lester had a one-two-three fifth and sixth.  We had two on base in the fifth with whom we did nothing, and we went down in order in the sixth.  Lester gave up his last two runs in the seventh; he gave up two consecutive singles to start it and then obtained two quick outs before allowing a double that scored two.

We scored our third and final run in the seventh as well; Sweeney and Punto hit back-to-back singles, McDonald hit a sac bunt to move them over, and then Sweeney scored on a double by Podsednik.

Atchison replaced Lester and had himself a one-two-three eighth; so far, so good.  We had two on base in the eighth and did nothing with that opportunity.

And then everything was ruined in the ninth.  Aceves replaced Atchison and blew it completely; he took the loss.  He induced a flyout, a walk, a strikeout, and then a double that scored one.  The inning ended on a popout.  Aside from one walk in the ninth, we didn’t do anything to come back.  We lost, 4-3.  Podsednik went two for five, and Papi went three for four with the double and home run.  Lester received a no-decision, which is fine, because he didn’t deserve the loss.  Aceves deserved every bit of it.

I never thought I’d see the day when we’d be relieved to get on the road, but it wouldn’t be the first time this year.  Sad, sad, sad.

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This is the first time we’ve seen Dice-K pitch in the Major Leagues since Tommy John surgery; his previous start was May 16, 2011.  Let’s keep in mind how low our standards were for him before.  If we do that, it’s easy to be alright with how he did yesterday.  Let’s face it; he wasn’t going to wow us with some sort of complete-game shutout his first time back.  It was going to be something modest and decent and most probably mediocre, since he still has a lot of rust to shake off.  And because we’ve seen how surreally good the Nationals are at the moment, his start was pretty okay.

He pitched five innings and gave up four runs on five hits, one of which was a solo shot to lead off the second.  He walked one and struck out eight, which is a very, very good sign.  Five of the strikeouts were swinging, and three were called.  He threw eighty pitches, so he was as inefficient as ever, but again, we shouldn’t let our impatience with how bad he was before the surgery cause us to not give him his due time after the surgery.  Besides, we’ve seen days worse than this from our healthy starters this year.

He threw both fastballs plus changeups, curveballs, and cutters.  He threw less than a handful of two-seams, but the ones he did throw were awesome.  After that, the four-seam, his most frequent pitch, was awesome as well.  And then his changeup and curveball were really good, and his cutter got by.  He threw twelve pitches in the first, eleven in the second, seventeen in the third, twenty-two in the fourth, and eighteen in the fifth.  Good variation of speeds, tight and consistent release point.

He had two strikeouts and a flyout in the first for a one-two-three inning.  After he gave up the solo shot in the second, he ended the inning with a strikeout, groundout, and flyout.  He had another one-two-three inning in the third with two strikeouts and a groundout.  He got into trouble in the fourth; he gave up a walk and a single to start it, then got a strikeout, then gave up a double and a single that scored his other three runs, and then he induced a double play to get out of the inning.  And finally, he allowed a double to lead off the fifth but then posted two strikeouts and a flyout.  So as steps back from the DL go, we can feel good about this one.

We can feel less good about our hitters’ total lack of run support.  We went down in order in the first, third, fourth, and eighth.  We put one on base in the second, sixth, and ninth to no result.  We put two on base in the fifth to no result.  We finally scored in the seventh.  Youk grounded out to start it, and then Middlebrooks walked, Aviles singled, and Sweeney walked to load the bases with one out.  Salty singled in two.  And then Nava struck out looking and Pedroia popped out to end the inning.  And that was our only show of run-scoring during the whole game.

Meanwhile, Morales held the fort for three shutout innings, and Aceves pitched a shutout ninth.  But we lost, 4-2.  We had no multi-hit games and only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles, one by Papi and the other by Sweeney.  Defensive highlights included Pedroia classic backhand pick and firing to first for the second out of the inning as well as Gonzalez making a sliding catch in right for the second out of the seventh and then firing to the infield to end the inning.

We are also now below .500 for the first time since getting above .500.  I definitely liked the view better from above .500, so let’s get back up there.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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We lost to the Nationals.  The Nationals are like the Orioles: historically terrible but somehow good this year, at least for now.  Seriously, what is up with this baseball season?

Doubront, who has been arguably our most consistent starter this year, had a bad day.  To be precise, it was probably his worst start of the year.  He only pitched four innings and threw eighty-two pitches.  So you know it wasn’t his best work.  He gave up six runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out one.  He gave up three runs in the third via small ball and three more in the fourth via small ball plus a long ball.

He just didn’t throw well.  His four-seam, changeup, and cutter were weak; his two-seam was phenomenal and his curveball was fantastic, but he threw roughly the same amount of the former three as the latter two, and when half a starting pitcher’s pitches are off, it’s not always good enough that half of them are on.  As with his pitches, half his game was good and half was bad; he threw fifteen pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, thirty in the third, and twenty-four in the fourth.  He’d thrown a whole game’s worth of pitches before half the game was over.

And then Albers came in and pitched the fifth and most of the sixth, when Hill took over with two out and allowed his inherited runner to score.  Hill was then replaced by Atchison with two out in the seventh.  Atchison pitched through the eighth, and Miller pitched the ninth.

We scored in the second; Papi walked, Sweeney singled, and both came home on a double by Aviles.  Gonzalez led off the eighth with a solo shot on a sinker, the fourth pitch in the at-bat, which he rocketed to straightaway center.  In the third, he was robbed of what looked every bit like a beautiful solo shot into the bullpen in the third with one out by Xavier Nady, who reached into the bullpen for it.  But he got all of this one in the eighth for the two hundredth homer of his career.  He totally just golfed it out of there.  He made sure nobody could catch that.  And lastly, Punto walked in the ninth, advanced to second on fielding indifference, and scored on a double by Nava.

We had the bases loaded in the sixth with one out but nothing materialized.  That isn’t to say that the incident was not without its drama.  Youk was called out on strikes to end the inning and argued balls and strikes with home plate umpire Doug Eddings.  Youk was angry, heated, and vocal and was summarily ejected.  He did not go down quietly.  Bobby V. came out to talk to Eddings and looked like he had no idea what was going on.  Honestly, the pitch was low.  Youk should never have struck out; he should have walked, and had he walked, not only would the bases have still been loaded, but we would have scored another run.  The pitch was low.  And it’s easy to know that the pitch was low because, when the catcher caught it, he elevated his glove so it would look like it wasn’t low.  The whole thing was shamefully ridiculous; it’s not about whether we would have gone on to win or lose because of that one run; it’s about the fact that it’s the players’ jobs to play and the umpires’ jobs to umpire, not to interfere.

Anyway, we had two on in the seventh with two out and nothing materialized.  The innings I’ve mentioned were all the innings in which we had at least one runner on base.  So in every inning during which we did not have a runner on base, we went down in order.

So we lost, 7-4.  Nava and Gonzalez each went two for five.  Defensive highlights include a tricky catch by Sweeney for the first out of the third, during which he ran and then slid down at just the right time for it; an almost identical catch by Sweeney to his other side for the second out of the seventh; and a tricky catch by Salty for the first out of the fifth, during which he reached into the crowd on the third base side.

Mostly, though, we just lost.

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Lester pitched well.  He gave up more hits and pitched less innings than I would have liked, but he pitched well.  He walked one and struck out five.  He lasted six innings and threw ninety-nine pitches.  He gave up four runs on eight hits, but only two of his runs were earned.  In the third, Aviles made an epically egregious fielding error that resulted in a runner being safe at first and a runner moving to second.  Both runners then scored on back-to-back singles.  Lester allowed a double to lead off the sixth, which resulted in another run via a sac fly.  And finally, Lester allowed a single to begin the seventh before he was relieved by Atchison, who allowed back-to-back singles that resulted in his inherited runner scoring.

So Lester left us with a one-run lead.  After that, Atchison got the first out of the inning but then advanced the runner to second on a wild pitch and then issued an intentional walk.  He was then relieved by Albers, who promptly gave up two back-to-back RBI singles.

As for us, we were late to join the scoring party; we didn’t get on the board until the fifth, and even that was manufactured by us; the Orioles didn’t really give us much to work with that inning.  Nava and Aviles hit back-to-back singles, and then Podsednik reached on a fielder’s choice, which, coupled with a fielding error, resulted in Nava scoring and Aviles and Podsednik moving up a base.  So when Pedroia hit a sac fly, Aviles scored.

We kept our momentum going in the next inning, which was started by Salty striking out.  Then Sweeney walked, and Nava and Aviles hit back-to-back singles, which scored Sweeney.  Nava scored on a sac fly by Podsednik.

So at that point, the Orioles were leading us, 6-4.  Lester’s unbeaten streak against Baltimore was at stake, but more importantly, so was our collective dignity and ability to perform.  We hadn’t had too many big opportunities throughout the game; we had two on with one out in the third, we had one on second with two out in the fourth, and we had one on third with two out in the seventh.  Other than that, a single here, a walk there, but no real gem of an opportunity that we’d necessarily blown.

Still, two runs was well within our reach, but the way the game had been going, it would take something big to make that tie.  Something powerful.  Something that started with “home” and ended with “run.”

Fortunately, Salty was of a similar mind, and the stage was set for some major heroics.  Gonzalez began the ninth inning by grounding out.  But then Papi doubled.  Youk popped out, and Salty stepped to the plate and, down to the game’s last strike, let one rip out of the ballpark.  You could tell it was going to be out, but you almost didn’t want to believe it, because that’s how much we needed it.  The ball bounced just off the top of the Monster, but not even a review of the play could keep it in check.  It was huge.  It was exactly what we needed.

But it wasn’t enough.  Sweeney grounded out to end the inning, and while it was certainly a valiant effort, it wasn’t a walkoff, and that was what we really needed, because Baltimore came right back in the top of the tenth.  Aceves relieved Albers in the ninth and got through that just fine, but he imploded in the tenth.  He gave up a walk, a sacrifice, and three consecutive singles, two of which resulted in RBIs, effectively erasing what we should all applaud as an extremely gritty, resilient, determined effort by Salty to put us right back in it.

And then we went down in order in the bottom of the tenth.  The final score was 8-6.  Atchison received a blown save, and Aceves took the loss.

So the whole thing was just brutally crushing and disappointing.  First, we were losing.  Then, all of a sudden, after one swing of the bat, we were tied; the score was even, and anything was possible.  And then, the whole thing was completely erased by a closing performance that can only be described as subpar, and that’s putting it exceptionally mildly.  Aceves is supposed to be our closer.  The whole purpose of a closer is for situations exactly like this; a closer is someone you should be able to trust, in theory, with a tied score in extra innings, and Aceves completely betrayed that trust because he threw away the game.  That was the game right there; he literally had it in his hands, and he blew it.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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