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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Kazmir’

I don’t know who started for us last night.  No idea whatsoever.  He looked like Jon Lester.  He sounded like Jon Lester.  He was wearing Jon Lester’s number.  And sometimes, though very occasionally, he even pitched like John Lester.  But there was no way that was actually Jon Lester.  I know Jon Lester, and Jon Lester would never pitch this way.  Eight runs on ten hits with a walk over 4.1 innings? And a two-run homer for Evan Longoria in the first inning? Impossible! Like I said, there were moments; he did have six strikeouts on the day.  But still.  There’s no way that was actually Jon Lester.  There’s just no way.

But there was plenty of blame to go around.  Hunter Jones allowed four runs on four hits in less than an inning.  Saito and Lopez each allowed another run.  Delcarmen was finallly able to stem the damage just in time for the eighth inning, at which time we lost, 14-5.  So basically, our pitching yesterday was as bad as our offense was good on Friday.  Why we can’t have a solid start and good offense at the same time against the Rays is beyond me.

We were two for twelve with runners in scoring position.  We left ten men on base.  Ten.  There were occasional high points, though.  Mikey Lowell continued to build his RBI total with two more and finished the day two for four.  Baldelli went two for five and hit a beautiful solo shot in the second inning off Kazmir.  His first home run of the year and in a Red Sox uniform against his old team.  It’s funny how that works out a lot in baseball.  Bailey, and not Lugo, made a throwing error.  Actually, Lugo went two for four with (you’ll never believe this) a solo home run off Joe Nelson in the sixth.  His first of the year.  It was a breaking ball that just sort of hung over the plate and Lugo put it in the Monster seats.  So it was a home run, and a well-hit home run at that.  I saw it with my own eyes and could not believe what I was seeing.  Julio Lugo.  A home run.  A powerful home run.  I still think I’m recovering from the shock.  Bay also had an RBI, and those were our five runs.

Drew was out with a tight left quad but should be back tonight.  Youk could be back as early as Tuesday.

We’re back to one game behind Toronto, while Tampa Bay and Ne York are tied for third at five and a half games out.  Things I’d like to see happen this week are us finally becoming the sole occupants of first place and us having good starts and good offensive production consistently and often at the same time.  I think that’s a pretty good game plan.  Tonight it’s Garza at Beckett.  What an excellent time for a Beckett-esque start.

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The wait is over.  Done.  Finished.  The winter has ended, the last game of Spring Training has been played, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready.  Tomorrow, say hello to your 2009 Boston Red Sox! Do I think we’ll win the World Series this year? Absolutely.  Did I also say that last year? Absolutely.  Hey, it’s all about believing.  And about swinging on a 2-2 pitch in the ninth inning of a championship series.  But let’s not get into that.  More importantly, Opening Day is our home opener against the Rays.  Josh Beckett will indeed be starting opposite James Shields, and we’re looking at Lester-Kazmir and Dice-K-Garza for the rest of the series.  As far as the lineup is concerned, we think it’ll be Ellsbury leading off, followed by Pedroia, followed by Papi.  Youk will most likely hit clean-up, followed by Drew, followed by Lowell and Bay, with Tek batting eighth and Jed Lowrie batting ninth.  It’s definitely a creative lineup, and I’m interested to see how it’ll work out.  I maybe would’ve had Pedroia lead off with Youk batting second, Drew batting third, and Papi batting cleanup, because we know from last year when Papi was sidelined by his wrist that Drew hit cleanup behind Manny and his numbers went through the roof.  Then I’d have Ellsbury bat fifth and Lowell bat sixth, keep Bay batting seventh, and have Lowrie bat eighth and Tek bat ninth.  We know from 2007 that Lowell’s got power, and when Ellsbury’s a good hitter with tons of speed, so we want to put him on and score him.  And we know he’s had trouble in the lead-off spot.  And if we put him on in addition to Bay and Lowell, Lowrie and his unusually high batting average with runners in scoring position will come to the plate and do damage.  And Tek ninth, because of all the usual reasons why you’d put someone in the Number 9 spot.  But either way, it’s a ridiculously potent lineup and we’ll be sure to wreak a lot of havoc.

Yes, Jed Lowrie will be starting at shortstop! Julio Lugo was placed on the fifteen-day DL, retroactive to March 27.  Same with John Smoltz and Mark Kotsay, whose roster spot is being filled by Chris Carter.  Not a bad substitute, if you ask me.

We have a verdict on our fifth starter: Brad Penny.  Clay Buchholz was roughed up on Tuesday against the Rays.  We went on to win it, but in about five innings of work he allowed six runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, with a walk.  So he’ll start the year in Pawtucket with only one minor league option left.  Justin Masterson will work in the bullpen this year as expected.  I still think it’s a waste, and I’ll probably keep saying that until he’s back to a starting role, but what can you do.  That’s where we need him most I guess.  He and Manny Delcarmen will be our multiple-inning guys, and since we don’t really have a designated “long man,” they’ll mostly likely work overtime to fill that void.

Fenway Park is ready to go for the new season.  All the renovations have been completed, and the park looks fantastic as usual.  I’m telling you, this ownership group has done wonders for Fenway.  Probably the most important improvement to the park is, you guessed it, the addition of more seats which, when it’s Fenway you’re talking about, is always something to smile about.  Fenway also gets a new frank; we partnered with Kayem Foods in a multi-year sponsorship and licensing agreement, and Kayem Foods will manufacture and sell its revamped Fenway Franks.  Let’s hope they get it right.

Finally, a word about the home stretch.  At the end of September we’re looking at one of the roughest schedules in the league.  We’ll be going into the playoffs after twenty consecutive games without a day off.  And those games are no walk in the park, either.  We’re talking Angels, Yankees, Jays, and Indians.  But that’s a long way off.  And we’re going to the playoffs, no doubt about that.  For now, I’m just psyched that the season’s finally here.  Can’t wait.  Seriously can’t wait.  Tomorrow will be the start of something huge.

In other news, the Bruins seem to be back on track with a six-game winning streak.  We have four games left in the regular season against the Senators, Habs, Sabres, and Islanders.  Let’s make them count, go into the playoffs with some momentum.  We’ve finally clinched the conference and are right back in the running for the Presidents’ trophy with 112 points, only one below the Sharks’ 113.  I’m just relieved to see that we’ve emerged from our bad spell, and we seem to be the better for it.  There’s only one thing left to do to finish a season as good as the one we’re having: Stanley Cup.  Bring it back.

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It was supposed to be the first time we’d ever lost three consecutive postseason games at home.  It was supposed to make our record in elimination games with Tito 7-2.  It was supposed to make a Nation fall to their knees in anguish.  That’s what it was supposed to do.  That’s what it was supposed to be.  But there was a change in plans.

We won, baby! That’s right! What now?! Oh, man, what a comeback! Six scoreless innings at the hands of Scott Kazmir, and then a yellow four, followed by a yellow three, followed by a white one.  And that was the end of that.  That, my friends, is how you do it.  That is October baseball if I’ve ever seen it.  In the seventh, with runners at the corners, Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah hit a line drive for an RBI.  Then who steps up but Big Papi.  David Ortiz crushed a ball with two on out of the park in the seventh inning.  Papi is so back, baby! After that it was all Drew.  A three-run home run in the eighth to tie it, and the walk-off line drive to score Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the ninth!  So an RBI for Pedroia, then an RBI for Crisp, make that three RBIs for Ortiz, and three for Drew.  Can you believe that?! I saw it and I still can’t believe it! Oh, man! So the offensive spread has Crisp, Youk, Drew, and Kotsay all finishing two for four.

And just like that, with a couple swings of the bat, we won, and we live to play another day.  And Dice-K and Delcarmen can relax a little bit because we managed to dig ourselves out of the hole they created.  Dice-K allowed five runs on five hits in four innings, and Delcarmen allowed two runs.  Okajima was perfect, Papelbon was perfect, and Masterson got the win and was absolutely perfect.

I’ll tell you something right now.  The Rays are not happy.  The Rays are shaking in their spikes right now.  We’ve still got a lot of work to do, though.  We’re going to have to win the next two straight, and we’re going back to the Trop.  Our pitching will have to step it up big time, and the offense will have to keep it going.  But if this game was any indication of how the offense intends to perform, we’re in tip-top shape.  We’ve got a day off to mull this over and then it’s go time.  Beckett at Shields.  I really really hope he gets his act together.

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That was a monstrous outing by Dice-K standards.  But what a gem it was.  He had a no-hitter going through the sixth until Carl Crawford got a hit on the first pitch of the seventh inning.  That was crushing.  It was so close! But the seventh inning is usually the kicker in these situations, because by that time the opposing lineup has seen you at least twice.  I will say this, though.  Dustin Pedroia saved what was then a no-hitter with a ridiculous catch of a line drive in the sixth.  It’s the second time he’s done that (he saved Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter with leather, too).  Among second basemen, his defense is absolutely unparalleled.

But let’s step back and think about that for a second.  He had a no-hitter going through the sixth, and he pitched seven innings.  Seven innings! For Dice-K, that’s like pitching for a year! It was beautiful.  Seven shutout innings, four hits, four walks, nine K’s.  Regular season ERA of 2.90, postseason ERA of 0.00.  The relief was absolutely spotless.  And that’s why you start Dice-K in Game 1 of the ALCS.  And after the first inning he managed to do it without his usual amount of escape artistry.  (By the way, opponents are 0 for 14 with the bases loaded and batted just .164 with runners in scoring position this season.  That’s the lowest in the Major Leagues.)

The final score was 2-0, but in a pitcher’s duel that’s all you need.  One RBI each for Lowrie and Youk.  But basically the offense was all Youk.  He came into this game 0 for 17 against Shields and came out of the game having gone three for four.  He’s the only member of the lineup who had a multi-hit game.  Pedroia took care of the running and stole second.

JD Drew was hit by a pitch in the shoulder.  Luckily he’s okay (he made a spectacular catch in the bottom of the inning), and he got right back in there.  What a dirt dog.  But what a fine line the Rays were walking after that one.  After the brawl at Fenway I think the Rays should be sparing with their HBPs.  I’m not saying Drew was hit on purpose, I’m just saying that the Rays should probably be even more careful than usual.  I mean Drew already had a bad back and Dustin looked like he was ready to go out there if necessary.  And the last thing we need is to lose even more players.  Ladies and gentlemen, we could be witnessing the creation of another big rivalry here.

We’re also lucky we didn’t have to contend with any catwalk controversies.  I’m telling you, Tropicana Field is not a good place for a postseason game.  Between the roof and the catwalks there are just so many opportunities to make disputable calls.  But hopefully we’ll be able to keep those to a minimum.

The long and short of it is that we won! We won Game 1 of the ALCS against the Rays on their turf! Not only does this swing the momentum in our favor, but it gives us much-needed confidence.  It proves to us that even with all the injuries we’re dealing with, we can still win on the road against a team we haven’t played that well against this year.  That’s essential because the Rays have home field advantage.  The sooner we get on top of them in their house, the sooner we can come back to ours in a position to take it all.  Speaking of which, Beckett has publicly announced that he’s ready to go for Game 2 tonight.  I hope he means it this time.

In other news, Jonathan Papelbon broke the Major League record for most consecutive scoreless postseason innings.  Last night’s save gave him 20 2/3 innings, 2/3 more than now-former record holder Joe Niekro.  Not one to keep track of sentimentalities, Pap threw the ball in the trash because he had no idea what it meant.  Hey, that’s Pap for you.

So tonight it’ll be Beckett at Kazmir.  Let’s win this one.

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Sometimes you have to lay down the law.  Sometimes you have to go up there and bring everything you’ve got.  Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and realize where you were supposed to be all along.  Sometimes you have to destroy every ounce of confidence the opposition had.

Last night was definitely one of those times.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially tied for first place! And we did it on their turf! How about that? Say hello to the long-anticipated Rays fade.  Their time has come; our time is now.  All we have to do is take it.

It was a slugfest.  I felt like I was watching last year’s Rays.  You know, the ones with absolutely no pitching to speak of that only existed to give other teams a boost in the standings? The final score was 13-5.  I kid you not.  With all our road issues this year, and with all our troubles against the Rays, we won, and we won big.  Until last night we hadn’t won a single game in the Trop this year.  It was fantastic.  Definitely one of the highlights of the season.  A good, old-fashioned Boston beat-down.

Dice-K went his usual five innings, but they were a good five innings.  One run on three hits with two walks and seven K’s.  The run was a product of his only mistake to Iwamura in the third, who hit a solo shot out.  Other than that, Dice-K was gold.  It did take 101 pitches for him to reach that point, but who’s complaining? If that’s what it takes for him to protect a lead and if the relief can hold on to it, who are we to judge? And the relief, for the most part, did hold on to it.  Only Chris Smith wasn’t perfect; in two innings he allowed four runs on four hits, two of which were home runs.  But Timlin and Pauley held the fort through the eighth and ninth.  And that, my friends, was the ballgame.

But wait; it gets better.  The offense excelled like nobody’s business.  Scott Kazmir made his exit after three innings.  The spread was four RBIs for Ortiz, three for Youk, two for Tek, and one each for Lowell, Bay, Pedroia, and Ellsbury.  But it should be mentioned here that the way most of these runs were batted in was the long ball.  We hit six (count ’em: six!) home runs in that game.  Six.  That’s unbelievable.  Ortiz went two for four with a three-run shot.  Youk went two for four with a two-run shot.  Tek hit a two-run shot.  Lowell hit a solo shot.  Bay hit a solo shot.  And Ellsbury went two for five with a solo shot.  No outs, one out, two outs, it didn’t matter what the situation was.  If there was a baseball it was out of the park.  I felt like I was drowning in offensive production.

Rare moments of ineptitude featured Ellsbury recording a CS and getting picked off.  Yes, in the same game.  No, seriously.  I know; it threw me for a loop, too.

So all in all we flexed our offensive muscles, we embarrassed a division rival on their home turf, we tied for first place, and we let our A team take a load off in the second half and get ready for tomorrow while the B team enjoyed some playing time with a sizeable lead.  It was a great game and lots of fun to watch.

In other news, Mikey Lowell’s hip is more seriously injured than we thought.  Turns out he’s got a partially torn labrum in his right hip and he’s been playing in pain for two months.  But he says he’s staying in there anyway.  That, my friends, is a dirt dog.  The Brewers fired Ned Yost and hired Dale Sveum as manager.  Yesterday was Mike Timlin’s 1050th appearance, which breaks Kent Tekulve’s record for most appearances by a right-handed reliever.  And unlike his 1000th appearance, I am happy to report that this one actually went well.

The fate of this glorious opportunity falls in the capable hands of Josh Beckett, who’ll be starting tonight opposite Andy Sonnanstine.  I’m so psyched.  Folks, this could be it.

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It was a duel after all.  That’s not surprising, considering who the starters were.  In fact, another Cy Young might be coming Halladay’s way this year.  But in the end, Lester won out.  He pitched eight outstanding innings, allowing one run on four hits, walking two, and fanning six.  The one run came courtesy of Jose Bautista’s solo shot in the first inning.  After that, nothing.  At least not on Lester’s watch.  It was Papelbon who scared everybody, and even scarier is that he’s been doing it a lot lately.  In the ninth inning he allowed two runs on three hits to record one of the sloppiest saves of his career.  According to him, he needs to work on his fastball command and he’s pitched four times in the last six days.  Whatever change needs to take place has to happen fast.  If he needs more work to sort out his fastball, commit to using him as often as possible.  If he needs rest, give him rest and use a trusty reliever for the ninth.  That’s even more doable this days since Devern Hansack’s been called up.  I don’t know if giving Pap a long rest and then suddenly making him work frequently was the best course of action, but time will tell.  One thing’s for sure.  We can’t have him saving games like this, especially not in St. Petersburg and especially not in October.  I mean, you call that a save? What’s in a save? That save in any other game could be a loss.  Plain and simple.

Luckily the offense was in top form, or as best as you could possibly be with Halladay on the mound.  RBIs for Ortiz and Youkilis and two for Crisp.  Ortiz’s only hit of the afternoon was an extra-base hit he legged into a triple.  I mean he was hustling.  And you don’t see Big Papi hustle like that very often.  And as for Crisp, he’s still on fire.  It’s incredible.  He’s batted .452 over his last ten games.  This month alone is a better indication of what he’s capable of than his past two years in a Red Sox uniform.  He was the only member of the lineup to have a multi-hit game; he went two for three without striking out.  Pedroia was held hitless.  Ellsbury stole second and now has 48 on the season.  Bay racked up an outstanding outfield assist.  He threw Lyle Overbay out at second, and Overbay was livid.  But such is the defense of Jason Bay.

In other news, Julio Lugo is feeling better and will be traveling with the team on this road trip, but I’d be very surprised if he sees much playing time at all for the rest of the season and in October.  Jed Lowrie outplays him on both fronts, offense and defense, and he adds some spark to the bottom half of the lineup.  As I’ve said many times, a lineup that’s top-heavy won’t do well in October.  Don’t believe me? Look at Games 2 through 4 of the 2007 ALCS.  Matt Cassel and the Pats won yesterday and continue their dominance over the Jets.  And Cassel held his own.  Always a good thing to see when your starting quarterback is out for the season.

Anyway, even though the save needed a lot of work, a win is a win is a win, and that was definitely a win.  Our 4-3 victory puts us only a game behind the Rays.  Matsuzaka at Kazmir tonight.  Can’t wait.

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Talk about timely wins and losses. The Rays lost in extra innings by the long ball yesterday, and we won in dramatic fashion. Dice-K versus Scott Baker. No score. Eighth inning. Pedroia the Destroyah doubles and Manny singles him home in the clutch. The final score? 1-0, we win. Dice-K pitched six-hit shutout ball for just over seven innings with three walks (good to see a low number in that column) and five K’s, lowering his ERA to 2.84. Hideki Okajima relieved him and pitched a rare perfect inning, and Pap redeemed himself splendidly and got the save. Just like old times: Okie in the eighth, Pap in the ninth, one-two-three, we’re done. If only Okie could keep that up for the rest of the season.

Yesterday’s contest was a great game. That’s what I call a pitcher’s duel. When Okajima relieved Dice-K, there were two men on base and he pulled through it. He had the head snap going, he had the Okie-Doke, it was beautiful. Nothing like a close win at home to remind you that, hey, you’re defending champions of the world! We’ve got this series with the Twins and then three with Baltimore before the All-Star break. Should be a great opportunity to establish and maintain some momentum, and last night was just what the doctor ordered just when we needed it.

Nick Blackburn (3.78 ERA) at Lester tonight, and Scott Kazmir (2.63 ERA) at Pettitte (4.22 ERA). By the way, you may have noticed that Jason Giambi is on the All-Star final vote. Jason Giambi is not All-Star material. His juice cost us a World Series appearance. Remember the two home runs in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? Not cool. Speaking of All-Stars, an article in the Lowell Sun claims that Jason Varitek is not All-Star material and that he only made the cut because the players voted him in in what amounts to a popularity contest. The article continued to say that Tek’s expert handling of the pitching staff is not grounds for All-Stardom. Now, I don’t care what your favorite team is or who your favorite player is. Everyone respects Varitek for his knowledge of and love for the game, his leadership on and off the field, and, yes, his expert handling of the pitching staff. Batting averages and catcher’s ERAs don’t tell the whole story. Take Jose Reyes, for example. He’s currently batting .299 with a .486 slugging percentage and 32 steals. Good numbers…for someone who’s widely regarded as arrogant and conceited (the fact that his at-bat song is “This is Why I’m Hot” by Mims is now in context…just sayin’). The players didn’t vote Tek in because he’s a nice guy. They voted him in because he’s worthy of that honor. Why do you think Red Sox Nation puts up with his pathetic offensive production? Because he’s worth it in other ways. You have to love the guy.

In other news, the Red Sox would like to convert Justin Masterson from starter to reliever to provide a reliable set-up man for the bullpen. It’s true that Javy Lopez and Aardsma can’t do it all, but it seems like such a shame to restrict him to throwing a couple of innings every couple of days. He has so much potential. He has the maturity, stamina, endurance, and stuff to become an ace. He’s currently 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts. His slider and his sinking fastball are fatal for right-handers, who bat .170 against him. Those are pretty impressive stats for a young kid who hasn’t finished his Minor League stint yet. Making him a reliever seems a little drastic. Clay Buchholz is getting ready to come back, and they need to find something for Masterson because he’s too good to be sidelined for long. But here’s a thought. A really good reliever should be able to throw quality pitches in, what, maybe four innings tops per outing. Why not let Masterson work in Triple A as a starter and bring him up every so often to start and give Clay the extra rest? That way, if we need him in relief down the stretch, he’ll do what Josh Beckett did with the Marlins in ’03: pitch relief with all the power of a starter. That would be uncannily effective, no? If it worked in the World Series against the Yankees, it’s at least worth considering in the regular season.

Dustin Pedroia, 7/7/2008

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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