Posts Tagged ‘Scott Atchison’

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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Naturally, it was going to be Bard who kept us from sweeping.  Bard was absolutely horrible.  It was a miracle that he didn’t give up even more runs in an even shorter period of time.  I’m telling you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a starting pitcher look that lost and with that extensive a lack of command or control.  He couldn’t find the strike zone even if we paid him to.  Oh, wait.  We do pay him to, and he still couldn’t do it.

He only lasted one and two-thirds innings, so obviously Bobby V. shouldn’t even have bothered to start him; he should have just rolled out the bullpen for the whole thing, since that’s basically what he ended up doing.  He allowed five runs on just one hit.  That was the game right there.  The Jays didn’t score any more runs, just those five.  He also walked six and struck out two.  He threw fifty-five pitches.

If you thought that all but one of those runs could be accounted for by a grand slam, you’d be wrong.  Bard wishes he gave up a grand slam.  Instead, he walked the first two batters he faced on five pitches each and then allowed a home run on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.  He then walked another batter, this one on four pitches, and somehow then induced a double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The second inning was more of the same.  He walked a batter on four pitches and the next one on six pitches.  Then, he somehow, by some miracle, posted two three-pitch strikeouts.  But then he hit a batter, walked in another run on six pitches, and then hit another batter, which brought in another run.

And that was when he was removed.  Because there’s a difference between having a bad day because you’re allowing lots of hits and having a bad day because you’re not even making the opposing batters hit the ball at all; you’re just delivering free passes to them on a silver platter.  We’ve seen plenty of pitchers this season have plenty of bad days because they’ve given up plenty of hits and home runs, but I don’t think we’ve seen a start quite like this.  I can’t even say that the Jays took batting practice off of Bard because he didn’t give them anything to swing at.  He just let them get on base.  That wasn’t even baseball; that, both literally and figuratively, was a walk in the park.

Morales finished the second inning as well as the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.  Atchison pitched the seventh, and Hill pitched the eighth.

So while the Jays were having their nice walk in the park, we were doing a whole lot of nothing.  Just like Bard, but at the plate also.  Like the Jays, we ended the game with six hits, but unlike the Jays, we also ended the game with only one run.  And that was courtesy of Shoppach, who hit a nice opposite-field solo shot with two out in the fifth.  It landed behind the fence in right center field.  It was a fastball, the third pitch of the at-bat.  Our only other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez.  Aviles had our only multi-hit performance; he went two for four.  By the way, the whole team drew a grand total of one walk.  Nava was the one who worked it, and in case you were curious, he didn’t hit anything all night.

So the relief corps deserves an absolutely incredibly hard-earned and well-deserved bat on the back and round of applause for their effective, hard work, which perhaps would have won us the ballgame if it provided the ballgame’s only pitching, but all in all it was a brutally embarrassing and humiliating game by all accounts.

I’ll give you one last anecdote to drive home how truly horrific to the point of otherworldly this game was.  Youk got hit in the sixth.  The pitch hit him in his left shoulder and then appeared to ricochet slightly off his helmet.  Youk pointed to his belt to show where the pitch should have been located.  But neither Youk nor Drew Hutchinson even made a move, and neither bench emptied.  Because the benches probably understood what Hutchinson should have understood before he hit Youk.  Now, I’m not saying that Hutchinson did it on purpose.  I’m not even saying that Hutchinson tried to do it on purpose.  But I am saying that Hutchinson very possibly did it on purpose and that, if indeed Hutchinson did it on purpose, it was almost certainly as a retaliatory measure.  But first of all he should have hit lower because you never want to aim a baseball anywhere near someone’s head, and secondly, he should have realized that it was completely unnecessary because Bard wasn’t hitting the Jays on purpose.  Bard, in fact, was just that bad.

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Now that, my friends, is more like it.  We need to be doing more of that.  And just to be clear, “that” in this particular case reverse to everything good and right about baseball.  Because that’s what we featured yesterday, and that’s what we need to be featuring every day.

Buchholz pitched an incredible gem.  It was absolutely his best start of the year, which actually says a lot because he’s been pitching well lately.  But this one blew even his former best start of the year out of the water.  He pitched a full eight innings this time, a season high, while giving up only two runs on six hits.  Granted, both of those runs came on home runs, a solo shot in the third with two out and a solo shot in the seventh with two out.  But I have said before that, when a pitcher is locked in, and I mean really locked in, it won’t be so unusual that if he does give up any runs, those runs will be scored via the long ball.  That’s because, if a pitcher is that on, the only way he’ll give up a run is by making an isolated mistake that’s detected by the opposition, and a home run is what usually results from that.  A pitcher having a spectacular night won’t usually give up too many runs, if any at all, via run manufacturing or small ball.

Anyway, Buchholz did hit a batter, but he also walked only two and struck out seven.  He threw 108 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  Phenomenal fastball and curveball, great cutter and changeup.  Excellent consistency throughout the game, including with inning pitch counts, which ranged from ten in the fourth to seventeen in the seventh.  And anytime you can associate the word “consistency” with some part of this team is always a cause for celebration.

Surprisingly enough, he had only one inning in which he faced the minimum: the sixth, a particularly impressive inning.  He threw fourteen pitches, all but four of which were strikes.  And all three outs were secured via the called strikeout, the first in five pitches ending with a curveball, the second on six ending with a curveball, and the second on three ending with a fastball.  But he faced only four in five and five in two.  He had his first strikeout in the first, a lengthy eight-pitch affair that ended with a fastball.  Same for his second strikeout in the third.  His third and seventh strikeouts in the fifth and eighth, respectively, were speedy by comparison at only four pitches, the third ending with a changeup and the last ending with a fastball.

Atchison pitched the ninth and had himself a spotless inning.  By the way, his ERA is less than one.

The lineup was having a game as awesome as the pitching staff’s.  We went down in order in the first, but that was by no means an indication of things to come.  Papi led off the second with a solo shot, and that was more like it.  The homer came at the end of a lengthy, ten-pitch at-bat and was hit, as you can imagine, with a full count.  Every single one of those ten pitches was a fastball, half two-seams and half four-seams, and all were clocked at least at ninety-three miles per hour; his home-run pitch was the fastest at ninety-seven.  He was patient, he waited for his pitch, he unleashed one of those classic Papi swings, and he ruled the opposite field.

Nava doubled in the third and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We went down in order again in the fourth and fifth.  In the sixth, Nava singled, Gonzalez doubled, and Papi walked to load the bases.  Unfortunately, compared to what we could have and should have done, we did pretty much nothing with that golden opportunity to blow the game wide open; Salty brought one run home by grounding into a force out, but then Middlebrooks grounded into a double play to end the inning.

It was alright, though, because we did plenty in the next frame.  Sweeney led it off with a double.  Aviles struck out and Punto grounded out after that.  But then we had four straight run-scoring plays, right through to the end of the frame: Podsednik singled in Sweeney, Nava doubled in Podsednik, Gonzalez singled in Nava and moved to second base, and then Papi singled in Gonzalez.  As part of the same play, Papi was then out at second base to end it.

And that was it.  Six of our fifteen his were for extra bases, and we had four multi-hit games: Sweeney went two for four with that double, Papi went two for three with the home run, Gonzalez went three for five with a double, and it was Nava who had an absolutely monster night, going four for five with three doubles.  We won by a cool 7-2 thanks to a spectacular starting pitching performance, a spectacular relief pitching performance, and a spectacular hitting performance.  And that’s what it means to win like a team.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially a winning team! For the first time ever in the year 2012, the Boston Red Sox possess a winning record! We are 25-24, and our winning percentage stands at .510! True we are fifth place in a five-team division, but the first thing we had to do was get over that hump.  Now we can concentrate on staying over it and widening that gap between wins and losses.  Anyway, we finally did it! It certainly took us long enough, that’s for sure; this is the longest it’s taken us since 1996.

Yesterday, Bard only lasted five and one-third innings.  I’m telling you, if he’s serious about being a starter, the very first thing he’s going to have to do is get over that five-inning hump.  Who ever heard of an elite starter who can’t get past five innings consistently? Maybe he doesn’t want to be an elite starter; maybe he just wants to be a starter.  But if he has no interest in trying to be an elite starter, I’m pretty sure we have no interest in him starting.

That’s not to say that his outing wasn’t a solid outing.  It was a solid outing.  It was just a short solid outing.  Bard picked up the win, walked two, and struck out four; it was his only appearance this month during which he struck out more than he walked.  He gave up two runs on five hits, but both of those runs were the result of home runs, the first with one out in the fifth and the second to lead off the sixth.  Bard got the first out in the sixth and then was relieved by Hill, who got the second out and walked a batter.  Hill was then relieved by Atchison, who allowed a single and finally ended the inning.

Miller pitched the seventh and allowed a double followed by an RBI single, and then Padilla ended the inning and pitched the eighth as well.  Aceves got the save in the ninth.

Fortunately, the offense kept just busy enough.  We struck first; Papi led off the second with a double, moved to third on a single by Salty, and scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Aviles.  Youk singled to lead off the fourth; one out later, Aviles and Podsednik hit back-to-back singles to load the bases.  Punto lined out, but then Nava crushed a bases-clearing double, and he crushed it on a fastball clocked at one hundred miles per hour.  All but one of the pitches he saw in that at-bat were fastballs, and all of those fastballs were either ninety-eight, ninety-nine, or one hundred miles per hour.  (The only exception was one curveball clocked at eighty.)

We kept it going in the fifth, which Gonzalez led off with a single and scored on a double by Papi.  We broke the trend of leading off productive innings with productive plays in the seventh, which Gonzalez began by grounding out, only to be followed by a solo shot by Papi into the first row of the Monster seats.  Just like Jerry Remy said, he has really come into his own this year with using left field.  And he hit that off of a lefty to boot.

So the final score was 6-3.  Five of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  Podsednik went two for four, and Papi had a monster night.  He went three for four, and all three of his hits were for extra bases: two doubles and the homer.  Sweeney flashed some leather, pulling off a tricky sliding catch in the second and a running catch in the third.  We even made it through a rain delay, actually one of the shortest I’ve seen in a long time at thirty-eight minutes.  Look at us, all winning and whatnot!

A word on Pedroia: it turns out that he tore the adductor muscle in his right thumb.  They’re going to try to put a brace on it and hope that he can play through it, since the alternative is spending a month on the DL.  I just hope they don’t make a mistake.  I obviously want him to play, but I also want him to be healthy and help this team win for a long, long time.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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First, a word about the pregame ceremony.  It was so great to welcome Trot Nixon back to Fenway.  He earned every bit of his nickname, “Dirt Dog,” as well as every bit of the standing ovation he got.  Papi caught his first pitch in a nice gesture of rejoining the former teammates.  He also made an appearance in the booth; it was eerie seeing that footage of those home runs he hit.  All in all, it was fantastic to reminisce and remember it all.

Now, let’s talk about the game.  That’s more like it! Honestly, our pitchers’ performances last night were pretty similar to those on Sunday, but with one extremely crucial difference: the all-important and ever-elusive win.

Doubront had a quality start.  He pitched six innings and gave up two runs on four hits.  He walked one and struck out six.  He threw ninety-five pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  So as you can see, he pitched one less inning than Beckett, thereby throwing less pitches and strikes, and gave up half as many hits, but he posted the same number of runs, walks, and strikeouts.  (Doubront’s two runs were both the result of the long ball; he gave up a solo shot in the second with one out and again in the fifth with two out, fortunately to two different batters.)

Then Atchison pitched two shutout innings.  And then Aceves imploded again.  Again, he gave up two runs.  Again, it was the ninth inning.  Only this time the runner was on because he doubled, not because he walked, and there were two outs in the inning, not one.

And yet somehow the result was different.  Somehow, we managed to win yesterday while we couldn’t seem to manage that on Sunday.  Why? What did we do yesterday that put us on top of the Tigers?

Oh, yeah.  Scoring runs.  You know, that thing that half your team is supposed to do when you’re trying to win a ballgame.

In the first, Gonzalez singled and scored on a double by Papi.  In the second, Sweeney doubled and scored on a single by Aviles, who scored on a double by Nava, who scored on a single by Pedroia combined with a deflection of the ball.  We are fortunate, therefore, that Aviles was able to stay up there and get that hit; before he singled, the Tigers argued that he struck out on a foul tip, while Aviles thought that it bounced.  Jim Leyland was even ejected over it; he came out to argue at the time, then sat down, and then came back out to argue after the fact because he was angry that the missed call let us score so many runs.  And then he sat down again, and then he was ejected; he didn’t even realize that he was the one ejected at first, but then he came back out to argue, and then he finally left.  Listen, missed calls are a part of the game.  This time, the Tigers were the victims, and next time, we’ll be the victims.  It’s the human element of the game, and it’s how the game works.  It all evens out in the end.  If the situation were reversed, I’d obviously be extremely livid, but let’s be honest.  The situation is not reversed, and we won.  And we need all the wins we can get.  And as I said, it’s just a part of the game. It happens every once in a while.

In the third, Papi singled and Salty brought the two of them both home with a long ball on a fastball, the fourth straight two-seam of the at-bat, which he blasted into the Monster seats.  The fastball was outside and missed its mark.  Well, that’s what happens when pitchers make mistakes.  In the sixth, Salty, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks hit back-to-back-to-back singles, which scored another run.  And lastly, in the eighth, Sweeney singled and scored on a double by Aviles.

And we won, 7-4.  We posted almost twice as many hits as the Tigers did, even though both teams hit the same number of extra-base hits.  While they went one for two with runners in scoring position, we went three for eleven.  And while they only had one multi-hit performances, we had four: Aviles, Salty, and Papi all went two for four, while Sweeney went three for four.  Not a bad way to return from the DL.  Speaking of which, we hope that Pedroia isn’t the next one to go down; he did have to leave the game after the fifth because he jammed his right thumb making a diving catch that ended it.  The catch was spectacular; the consequences, possibly not so much.  Obviously we hope it’s nothing too serious.

So as you can see, Sunday’s game and yesterday’s game together demonstrate the necessity of playing like a team, as one unit that takes entire responsibility for the game’s outcome.  You can’t say that a loss is necessarily the pitchers’ fault, because as yesterday showed, if you score enough runs you can always overcome a bad pitching performance.  But you also can’t say that a loss is necessarily the hitters’ fault, because Sunday showed that you should be able to give the ball to your reliever, especially your closer, and expect the game to end with the score the way it was when he came in.  You need all the aspects of the team working together simultaneously to achieve something.  You need the pitchers to pitch, and you need the hitters to hit.  Ideally, this should happen during the same game, every game.  And then we’ll have more games like yesterday’s and less like Sunday’s.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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Again, the teams were fairly evenly matched.  Fortunately, we came out on top this time.  The final score was 5-3, but a lead is a lead, and whoever holds on gets the W.  I n this particular case, we almost didn’t, but in the end the day was ours.  It was another combined team effort, which are really the best efforts for any ballclub.

Doubront’s start was short.  He lasted only five and two-thirds innings because he was inefficient as usual; he threw ninety-seven pitches.  He gave up two runs, only one of them earned, on six hits, while walking four and striking out seven.  The first one was the unearned one; in the third, BJ Upton reached base on catcher interference and went on to score.  His other run was the result of a single-advancing groundout-single combination.  He was taken out in the fifth after securing the inning’s first two outs followed by giving up a single and a double.

Hill ensured that the inning ended without incident.  Atchison came on for the seventh and was replaced after the first out by Miller, who was replaced after the second out by Padilla, who ended the inning.  He began the eighth with a strikeout but then allowed a double and hit a batter.  He then got a force out and was taken out in favor of Aceves, who allowed a single that brought home one of his inherited runners.  Fortunately, he got through the ninth unscathed and picked up a save, while Doubront was given the win.

We loaded the bases in the first with two singles and a hit batsman; Ross drew a walk to plate our first run.  Byrd led off the second with a solo shot on a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball on a full count to left field.  It was his first home run since September, and he flew around the bases like he was in a hurry to get back to the dugout.  Seriously, I don’t recall seeing anyone race around the bases after a home run knowing that it was a home run.  Not wanting to be left out of the home run action, Ross hit a solo shot of his own to center field with two out in the third on the third pitch of the at-bat.  It was Ross who provided the runs we needed to win in the eighth; Pedroia singled, Papi walked, and two outs later, Ross singled in both of them.

And now for a little drama.  Aviles was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Dan Bellino following his called strikeout to end the seventh.  It was one of the more aggressive balls-and-strikes arguments I’ve seen in a long time.  I mean, Aviles was really in his face and verbally going at it.  It wasn’t pretty.

We collected seven hits, only two of which, the homers, were for extra bases.  Predictably, Ross batted in all but one of our runs and had one of two multi-hit performances, the other belonging to Pedroia.  And believe it or not, in all its appearances in the last five games, which have amounted to fourteen and one-third innings, the bullpen has allowed only one run.  If the bullpen keeps this up, we might actually go somewhere!

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