Posts Tagged ‘Scott Schoeneweis’

We won.  Plain and simple.  The final score was 3-2, and we can thank Buchholz, Papi, and Hall for that.

Clay Buchholz pitched a wicked outing last night.  He is the future of this staff.  He’s morphing into an ace right before our eyes.  It’s fantastic.  He pitched over eight innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and only one free pass while striking out seven.  Morneau and Cuddyer were back-to-back strikeouts, Cuddyer swinging on a changeup.  Hudson froze on the inside corner, as did Morneau on an inside fastball before getting heated with the umpire.  Thome struck out swinging on a ball that was down for the first out of the inning, and Kubel watched a slider go by for Buchholz’s second set of back-to-backs.  Thome also watched a slider for Buchholz’s seventh K, three shy of his season-high of ten against the Rangers.  And he needed only 104 pitches to do it.  He would’ve pitched a complete game, his first since his no-no, but Tito lifted him after he allowed a leadoff infield hit to Span.  I support that decision; the game was close, and you don’t want to take chances with victory in sight.

Every single one of his pitches except his curveball was effective.  And I mean really effective.  All of them were moving just the right way.  That in itself shows a lot of maturity; he usually throws more curveballs but saw that they weren’t working, so he threw more sliders instead.  That’s adaptability, and it something you don’t always see in the veterans.  Buchholz is a pitcher to marvel at when he’s on; it takes a special kind of kid to be that good at throwing mainly off-speeds.  There are veterans who can’t even do that.  He concentrated on the left portion of the strike zone.  The few balls he did throw were above but mostly below the zone, probably off-speeds that curved down a little too much.  He varied his speeds really nicely, throwing his fastball for gas at ninety-five miles per hour, and kept the batters guessing, as evidenced by the fact that, of all the strikes he threw, only seven were swinging.  An expertly mixed salad, as Eck would say.  He needed a game-low of nine pitches to clear the seventh and a game-high of seventeen-to clear the fourth.  He threw a majority of strikes in all of his innings.  The interesting thing is that his release point isn’t as tight as others we’ve seen from the staff, but I guess that comes with the territory when you throw off-speed pitches that require varying grips and angles.

His ERA is now down to 3.26, his five wins are the most on the staff, and his eleven wins since August 19 are the most by any pitcher in the American League.  In those eleven games, we’re fourteen and four.  And all of that after having landed in Boston from New York at 4:00AM.  It’s no coincidence that Buchholz was the only member of the team that slept well, having flown ahead on Tuesday.  All of which is to say that I would not be surprised if he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this year.  It was really an incredible outing.  Solid, confident, efficient.  Everything you look for from a pitcher against a quality lineup, and here was this kid who just marched in there and shut them down.  There was also that nifty pickoff move to get Punto out at first to end the third.  And he’s a righty, too.  Punto knew he was out; he smiled because he knew he’d gone too far off.  Awesome stuff.

Paps, as we know, was unavailable after the set with New York, so Bard came on and pitched around a hit and a walk to get the save.

In the fourth, Papi hit what was initially called an RBI triple just over the Monster.  But after review, which occurred for the second time this season, it was ruled a home run, Papi’s seventh of the month.  Why it wasn’t ruled a home run initially is something I’ll never know, because it was very clearly out.  He did a good job of hustling to third once he realized they didn’t call it out, for which I give him credit.  But the ball bounced up into the air after it hit the wall.  That meant it didn’t actually hit the wall; it hit above the wall, which is dinger territory.  It was that ledge up there.  Thankfully, they ultimately got the call right.  It was a nice, balanced swing that propelled the ball to the opposite field, which has been a theme this month.  He’s hit .405 over his past eleven games and .358 with seventeen RBIs in May.

Hall tacked on our third run with a single in the sixth.  That ended up being the winning run after Bard allowed his inherited runner to score in the top of the ninth.

V-Mart and Beltre both went two for four.  Hermida made a fielding error.  We left eight on base, as compared with Minnesota’s four, but we also collected ten hits, as compared with Minnesota’s six.  Basically, we missed more opportunities than they did because we had more opportunities than they did.

Surprise, surprise: Beckett’s been placed on the DL with a lower back strain; he slipped on the mound in the fifth while throwing to A-Rod on Tuesday.  He’ll be out of commission until June 3 but will probably be able to solidly return at that time, being that putting him on the DL at all as opposed to letting him skip a start again was being generous.  Wakefield will start Sunday.  See? I knew his move to the bullpen wouldn’t be permanent.  Joe Nelson will replace Wake in the ‘pen.  Scutaro’s left elbow has been sore, so he received a cortisone shot before last night’s game and could be back tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, Angel Sanchez will replace him so that Hall doesn’t have to try his luck at short for one more game, which surprisingly worked out fairly well.  He stole a line drive and turned it into a double play; it’s a tribute to his athleticism and intuition for the game that he can handle all these positions.  To make room for Sanchez on the roster, Schoeneweis has been designated for assignment.

Also, did you see that Twins fan at Fenway yesterday who brought a Twins sign? You don’t see opposing signs very often at Fenway, especially not for teams that are out-of-the-way and not in our division.  Maybe he forgot that the Twins are in our house, not theirs.  And while we’re on this subject, something I didn’t mention yesterday was the fact that most of the seats behind home plate in Yankee Stadium were empty.  Either Yankee fans just aren’t robust fans or the ownership is charging exorbitant amounts for those tickets.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Tonight it’s Liriano at Lester.  The pitching matchup here is good, but it’ll be even better after we win and sweep a series.  That would be good for us, no?

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We followed Saturday night’s loss with a similar one yesterday afternoon, except that yesterday afternoon’s loss wasn’t the bullpen’s fault.  It was the starter’s fault.

The scary part is that this is very reminiscent of the losing streak we had at the beginning of the season.  We were starting to actually play well up to this point.  We moved within five and a half games of first place, and we were coming on strong.  Only to suffer losses like this, where one aspect of the team is on while the others are off.  You’ll lose ballgames every time you play an incomplete style of game.  It would be a different story had the opposing pitcher been dominant or our starting pitcher turn in a good performance.  But these were failures of a nature that makes it hard to determine whether we would in fact have come out on top.  I suspect we would have, especially on Saturday, as I said.

Lackey takes the loss and all the blame that that entails in this one.  Baseball theoretically shouldn’t be discussed in terms of faults and blame, but every once in a while you know who’s responsible, and that makes a difference in how you interpret the loss.  Had Lackey been as dominant as we’ve seen him be, our lack of offense either would’ve resulted in a loss anyway, which would’ve been more respectable and healthy for the team as a whole because we would’ve been playing our whole game but got beat by a team that happened to be better at that particular moment, or our lack of offense wouldn’t have mattered.  Maybe Lackey would’ve allowed no runs, or maybe he would’ve allowed one and we would’ve gone into extras.  It’s hard to say.  But it’s not hard to say with the performance he actually gave yesterday.

The final score was 5-1 in favor of Detroit, and all of those runs were given up by Lackey, who stayed in the game for seven innings because our bullpen was entirely shot.  He gave up five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and four walks.  All four walks occurred in the first two innings, and the third was the result of a twelve-pitch at-bat that loaded the bases.  Then a minor leaguer making his Major League debut broke his bat on a dribbler that he beat out because Lackey missed the bag with his foot.  The fourth walk was yet another bases-loaded walk awarded to Johnny Damon, of all people, but if you ask me that was yet another umpiring mistake.  Lackey, Tek, and Tito agree with me; Tito spent two whole minutes “discussing it” with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale.  (Tek also made a very strong throw and caught Damon stealing second.  It was great.) The final blow was a two-run shot in the fourth on a curveball that didn’t curve.

I’ll say this for him: eight of the nine hits he allowed were soft singles, so it wasn’t like Detroit truly had his number all the way.  But sometimes those are hard to deal with as well; you need to be in exactly the right position defensively to convert those into outs.  Boesch snuck one by Youk somehow.  Then, Scutaro flashed leather in the third when he dove for Inge’s ball; he fired well to first but wasn’t in time.  So those can be tricky.

He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, which weren’t outstandingly effective.  His two-seam was, but he only threw eight of them.  He needed only eight pitches to finish off the sixth, but fired at least thirteen in every other frame, using at most thirty-eight in the second.  He varied speeds well and kept his release point together, and his strike zone was more concise than Barksdale would have you believe; it just included some extra area on each side.  It was at least heartening that not many of his balls were way off the plate, but there were pitches thrown outside the zone on all sides.  Eventually he did recover some semblance of command, retiring ten of his last twelve batters.  But not before we were firmly in a position to lose.

That also has to do with the fact that somehow Galaraga was on.  We collected seven hits on the day but left ten men on base.  Again with the squandering of opportunities.  Van Every doubled to lead off the third; Hermida doubled him home two batters later.  That was our only run.  We loaded the bases in the seventh, but Drew struck out, which has been a theme over the course of the past few games of which I’m really not a fan.  Youk went two for four, and McDonald went two for two.  I venture to guess that it didn’t help that Beltre, V-Mart, and Pedroia all had the day off, Pedroia for the first time this year.  Pedroia may have had a sore knee and should be back in the lineup tonight.  Hall took his place at second, which was interesting to say the least.

Schoeneweis pitched a quality eighth.

Ellsbury begins rehabbing in the minors today, which means he’s on the final stretch back to the Majors.

So that’s that.  We’re going to the Bronx tonight without momentum.  And to make matters even more uncertain, Dice-K is starting.

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There are losses that are truly team losses, when the entire team fails collectively and contributes to a negative outcome.  There are also losses that are more individual, when you know exactly whose fault it is and can therefore lay the blame squarely where blame is due.

Last night was one of the latter losses.  It was all the bullpen’s fault.  It really was.  The starting pitching, backed by the defense, laid the groundwork for the win.  The offense put us in a position to get it.  But the bullpen squandered everyone’s efforts and lost the entire thing completely on four pitches.  It was disgusting on every level.

Lester pitched a solid, seven-inning outing.  He was slightly heavier on the runs than usual, allowing four on four hits.  His command wasn’t as, well, commanding as usual; he walked four, three in the first four innings.  But his strike zone was fine enough; he amassed ten K’s, at least of which he’s done for the second time this season and the ninth time in his career.  His fastball and changeup weren’t as effective as they usually are, but all his other pitches were gold.  He stayed almost completely away from above the strike zone, but he peppered the bottom half, both within and without the zone.  His horizontal and vertical movement was solid, and his release point was as tight as ever.  Basically, this was a tamer version of Buchholz’s outing on Friday.  But the defense backed him up in what was a show of what run prevention can actually do for you if you do it right.  A double was the Tigers’ only hit through five; Lester induced seven groundouts and five of his strikeouts in that time.  He finally ran into trouble in the sixth, when he allowed three runs, and needed twenty-five pitches to get out of it.  But he rallied to strike out the side in the seventh, throwing his fastest fastball of the night for the strike that ended the inning and the 117th pitch that ended his night.

In the bottom of the third, Beltre made a diving catch and fired to first in time to throw out Jackson, who’s fast.  And he still had time to check the runner at second.  Then in the bottom of the fourth, in an epic feat of concentration, Drew ran like the wind into foul territory to make a sliding catch at the right field wall.

The offense was solid as well.  Willis needed thirty-eight pitches to clear the first two frames; in the third, he finally cracked.  After two walks and two outs, Papi singled in a run.  Another walk loaded the bases for Drew, who doubled in two with a line drive that traveled at least four hundred feet to the center field wall.  Yeah, Comerica Park is huge.  Needless to say, Willis only lasted three and a third innings and in that time threw more balls than strikes.  If only we hadn’t stranded five baserunners in that time.

Papi singled in another run with two out in the fourth.  It would’ve been two, but Pedroia was thrown out at the plate.  Hall followed that play by going deep for two runs in the next frame, his second in two games.  That ball was very hard-hit; it ended up somewhere in the Detroit bullpen.

At that point, we were the proud owners of a 6-1 lead.  If you ask me, we should’ve scored more because we walked twelve times.  Youk alone walked five times.  Five.  We left a grand total of thirteen men on base by the time the night was over, though, so by math we squandered all our walks and then some.  Even worse, we stranded runners in scoring position in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth, when it ended up mattering most.  If we had only capitalized on those walks, we probably would’ve been the ones doing the victory dance right now.  Detroit was practically handing us the win on a silver platter; the bullpen apparently didn’t want it and handed it right back.

Okajima came on in the eighth and allowed a leadoff homer (on a pitch he left up), a walk, a single, and an RBI double that resulted in two runs scoring and his second blown save of the season.  Those two runs were the first earned runs he’s relinquished since allowing as many in his appearance against the Jays on April 26.  He finally finished the inning with a strikeout and a lineout.  Tito pretty much explicitly said he wished he could’ve gone to Bard instead.  But Bard pitched almost two innings on Friday.

Paps came on for the last out of the eighth and was solid, preserving the tie.  For two and a third innings, he limited the Tigers to one hit while striking out two and throwing twenty-six pitches.  His delivery was excellent.  A very strong outing.  Of course, that means that Tito will be reluctant to use him today, so we hope the offense and starting pitching can just get the job done on its own.

Delcarmen came on after that; he allowed a run and took the loss.  Schoenweis came on but failed to record an out.  Then Ramirez came on and that’s when we lost.

In the bottom of the twelfth, after two singles and a walk, the bases were loaded.  Ramirez struck out Avila and then faced Santiago.  Ramirez then proceeded to walk Santiago on four pitches.  Game over.  We lost because of a bases-loaded, walkoff walk.  That is the absolute worst way to lose.  The locations of the pitches weren’t even close.  It’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating, and it’s just sad.  It was painful to watch because you were willing Ramirez to throw a strike.  Did he? No.  Not even one.  It had to be a bases-loaded, walkoff walk on four pitches.  That was, without a doubt, one of the worst losses of the entire season.  And that says a lot because unfortunately there have been many.  I can’t believe it.  I really can’t.  I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.

I also can’t believe how solid Detroit’s bullpen is.  They’re the best in the American League.  I mean, that was us last year.  Cue the wistful thinking.

In short, the whole thing was a disaster.  The final score was 7-6.  Although we stranded runners, I technically can’t fault the offense for the outcome because six runs should be more than enough to win a ballgame.  If it were up to Lester, it would’ve been more than enough.  So it really was all the bullpen’s fault.  Especially Ramirez.  Seriously, who issues a four-pitch, bases-loaded, walkoff walk? Who does that? I don’t even want to think about it.  Hopefully Lackey will turn things around this afternoon.

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So yesterday I called for a win.  A win is not what we got.  A win is epically not what we got.  A win is so far from what we got, the entire team forgot what winning meant and had to look it up in the dictionary before preparing for tonight.  In short, yesterday’s game was exactly like Friday’s game with one important difference: it was worse.

The final score was 14-3; the Yanks scored four more runs and we recorded one less hit.  Cue the frustration and despair.  Times ten.

Buchholz was not on.  You could tell after the first at-bat that this was going to be a long afternoon.  He gave up five earned runs on nine hits over nine hits, including a home run, with five walks and one strikeout.  He threw ninety-four pitches.  He managed to keep his ERA under four because he’s been doing well up to this point, but wow.  He had absolutely no command whatsoever.  His fastball topped out at about ninety-six miles per hour, which was good, and it was decently effective for strikes, but he’s an off-speed pitcher.  And none of his off-speed pitches were very effective, period.  As far as location is concerned, there pretty much wasn’t any.  He focused on the left half of the zone, with many of his pitches ending up outside it or below it.  Five walks in five innings.  He threw almost as many balls as strikes.  He threw at least twelve pitches in every inning he pitched, throwing a game high of twenty-six in the fifth.  But his least effective inning was definitely the fourth, when less than half of his pitches were strikes.  So that was pretty much his entire problem: he lost his command completely.  And when that happens, between the walks and the hits, you’re going to relinquish a good amount of runs.  He took the loss.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.  Delcarmen had a decent inning.  Ramirez threw three pitches, the second of which was hit out by Teixeira and the third of which was a ball to A-Rod.  He failed to record an out.  Turns out he had a right triceps strain.  Fortunately, it’s not very bad.  Not that he’s been pitching especially well this season but we need all the relievers we can get.  Schoeneweis allowed four runs on three hits with three walks and two K’s.  Bard allowed one run on two hits with a walk en route to recording an out.  Which meant that we exhausted almost the entire bullpen, and why waste a perfectly good arm at the end of a slaughter, so Van Every took the hill and tossed an inning.  He gave up two runs on two hits with one strikeout and is the proud owner of an ERA of 2.00, which is better than most of our relievers.  But that strikeout was one of the highlights of the game.  Think about it: some Yankee got struck out by a backup outfielder.  Ouch.

Again, there wasn’t much offense to speak of.  In the third, McDonald went deep to center, and V-Mart hit one into the Monster seats with Pedroia aboard.  The end.  Those were our only extra-base hits.  Youk went two for three with a walk; that was our only multi-hit game.  In another show of squandered opportunities, we left nine on base.  Lowell was in the lineup because Sabathia is a lefty, but he didn’t do much.  Tek is sore but won’t miss time.  He didn’t do much either.

With the exception of Beltre’s throwing error, we had some flashes of brilliance in the field.  McDonald recorded two assists, we turned three double plays, and we had some nice throws home.  That was the only silver lining to the whole affair that I could find.

To be honest, I thought that rain delay would give us a break.  It lasted for at least an hour and chased Sabathia, so I thought we’d just have our way with the Yanks’ bullpen.  That did not happen.  Before the delay, we were losing, 6-3, and after the delay, they just piled it on.  Seriously.  Two more in the seventh, four more in the eighth, and two more in the ninth.  By the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, all you wanted was to make it stop because the site of seeing so many Yankees cross the plate was just excruciating.  Teixeira alone brought five of them home and went deep three times.  Teixeira, who came into the game batting only .181 with two home runs, had his way with us.  It was disgusting.  The first time up, he grounded into a double play.  The next time up was a completely different story.  (So was the fastball that was fired out of position.)

Carlton Fisk was on hand to witness the destruction.  So were many Yankee fans, more Yankee fans than I remember seeing a Sox-Yanks game at Fenway in recent memory.  That’s an insult to Red Sox Nation.  There’s no way we should be able to pack the house so full that there’s hardly room for anyone else.  We’ve been doing it for years.  That’s why the team has historically played so well at home.  Usually opposing cheers from the crowd aren’t even audible.  It was painful to hear, “Let’s go Yankees.” Just painful.  The whole thing in every way was just…painful.

Say goodbye to .500.  They’ve taken four of five from us this season, and the worst part is that all five of those have been at home.  Getting beaten at home by the Yanks is the worst.  On the bright side, I don’t think this will last.  The Yanks are too old and too hurt to be too good for too long.  But before we come to that point of their demise, we need to end our own demise.  Starting with tonight.  Lester will get the start opposite Burnett, and if there is one team by which we absolutely can not afford to be swept, it’s the New York Yankees.  We absolutely need this win.  This is our arch-enemy; a win tonight would galvanize the team and raise the morale a bit.  That’s important, considering they haven’t been able to sustain an ounce of momentum all season long.  We can’t keep playing like this, where we’re gold in one series and Baltimore-esque the next.  We need to snap out of it.  Starting with tonight: a strong, solid, and deep performance by Lester and a strong, solid, and deep showing of the bats will set the tone for the following week.

Plunking Gomez

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Revenge, with a capital R, was what last night’s game was.  It would’ve been much more effective had the Angels not scored almost half the runs that we did, but with the way we’ve been playing lately, we’ll have to take what we can get and like it.

But still.  The final score was 17-8.  And that’s what you call a good, old-fashioned Boston beat-down.

Mr. Clay Buchholz led the charge.  He was one out shy of pitching a full six innings.  He gave up four runs on eight hits, walked three, and struck out two while throwing 109 pitches.  So he kept his pitch count relatively low, although if you ask me he should’ve gone deeper and given up less runs.  He obviously wasn’t on.  He topped out at ninety-seven miles per hour on his fastball, but it just wasn’t as effective as usual.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were fastballs, followed by sliders and changeups with the occasional curveball.  He threw the first three pitches for more or less the same strike rate, which wasn’t very high.  He had a good time of it during the first and third innings, but otherwise he was just mediocre.  And his strike zone more or less even, but there was some spillover out of there.  So the movement on his pitches could’ve been better, and his command could’ve stood some improvement.  To be fair, he battled and picked up the win, and if he had his way, the Angels would’ve finished with the four runs and that would have been it.

Delcarmen got a hold, and he and Ramirez pitched perfectly.  It was Schoeneweis who had other ideas; dude gave up four runs in the top of the ninth.  And with the way we’ve been playing recently, you can’t not be furious about that.  Why? Because had this been a close game, Schoeneweis probably would’ve lost it for us right there.  You just don’t give up four runs in the top of a ninth inning.  You just don’t.  Because that likely means you’re done.  Four runs on four hits with two walks.  That’s completely uncalled four.  Luckily, we had runs to waste.

Which brings me to the fun part: how we got the seventeen runs, and I can assure you it was an absolute blast to watch.  Pun most definitely intended.

So, to start things off, Youk belted a home run in the bottom of the second.  His first at-bat in the lineup and he smashes a fastball up the middle completely over the Monster.  And all Mike Scoscia could do was just watch that go.  He did well batting clean-up, finishing two for three with a double and two walks.

Three batters later, Hall stepped up with Beltre on base and belted one of his own.  His first home run in a Boston uniform was kept within the Monster seats by inches.  Inches, folks.  It was a changeup down in the zone and he just made that look easy.  He just got up there, took his cut like it was the easiest thing in the world, and just like that two more runs were on the board.  He had to reach way down for that and kind of just poke it out of there.  He finished two for four with a walk.

Then, in the third, Lowell doubled in two.  In the fourth, Drew singled in two.  And that brings us to our seven-run sixth.

Drew singled in Youk.  Lowell doubled in Drew.  Beltre smacked a two-run shot for his first homer of the year.  That landed in the back of the Monster, and let me tell you: he was swinging for the fences.  Cue the usual dugout ritual for first home runs.  And finally, the big one that cemented this game as out of reach for the Angels: Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah’s not one, not two, but three-run monster shot into that same-named wall.  The first row.  That swing was huge.  He uncorked massive power on that ball.  Why pitchers continue to even think that they might be able to get an inside fastball by Pedroia is completely beyond me.  To this day, I have absolutely no idea why they still think they can do that.  No idea.

So all the home runs landed in our outside of the Green Monster.  That’s a lot of power in those swings.  It’s not easy to launch balls over there.

We added three more runs in the seventh just to make sure they got the message.  Lowell and Beltre each doubled in a run, and Beltre scored when McDonald grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Every single member of the starting lineup got a hit.  All but two had multi-hit games; Scutaro just hit a single, and Pedroia we’ll forgive for not hitting more because, come on, three runs scored on his one swing.  V-Mart went two for six with a double, Beltre went two for five (and made an error), and McDonald went two for four.  But guess what.  Drew went four for five.  I’m not kidding.  And Lowell went four for four with three doubles.  Three! Man, talk about hot hitting! On Sunday, he struck out twice and hit two dribbling nothings in front of the plate.  But Lowell just gave Tito something to think about lineup-wise.  And, of course, Drew’s April blues are officially over, if that wasn’t established already.

Seventeen runs on twenty hits.  How ‘bout that.

And that, my friends, is how you open a ten-game homestand against two of, I hate to say it, the toughest teams in baseball.  Goodbye, three-game losing streak; hello, one-game winning streak that will hopefully expand.  And, you see? That’s what happens when everyone plays to their full potential; we can afford to be gutsy and take some risks because we’ve got plenty of insurance.  We won by nine runs; that’s the first time we won by more than two since we beat the Twins, 6-3, on April 14.  I would just like to put that bad baseball behind us once and for all; maybe this is the homestand to do it.  If we do really well against tough teams, it might be just the thing we need to find our groove.  Last night’s performance was certainly heartening for exactly that reason.  And let’s remember that we don’t have to deal with Lackey anymore.  Lester’s taking on Santana tonight.  Let’s keep this going.

Unfortunately, we’ve got some very bad and serious news: Dave Roberts has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  He was diagnosed during Spring Training.  Apparently, the prognosis is good because they caught it early.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we wish you nothing but the best of luck in your fight against cancer and a very speedy recovery.

And the B’s just keep rolling right along! One goal in each period, and we won 3-2 in regulation! Milan Lucic, ladies and gentlemen! Next game on Wednesday.  There’s still a lot of hockey to be played yet, but all I’m saying is that this is by far the best hockey we’ve played all season.

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Well.  That was a win.  Barely.  With the emphasis on the “barely.” Of course, I’ll take the win, but that’s not the way I want to do it.  I don’t think this can continue for very long.

We just managed to hold on for the W, beating the Jays, 13-12.  We used seven pitchers over nine innings.  Starting with Beckett.  Who was awful.  He had to leave after three innings.  He gave up eight runs on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts.  A three-run home run.  Six runs in the third and two in the fourth without recording an out.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  It was just disgusting.  I actually felt mildly insulted that I was expected to watch his outing and believe that that was actually Josh Beckett pitching up there.  Of course, it was really Josh Beckett, which makes the whole thing substantially worse.  I mean, where did that come from? As far as I know, unlike Lester he hasn’t been known throughout his career as having bad Aprils.  But I think that this is a recent trend.  Last April, he tossed 530 pitches over 28.2 innings and gave up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out thirty-one, and walked sixteen with a .303 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of two and two, and a team record of three and two in his starts.  He went fifteen and four with a 3.33 ERA the rest of the season.  This April, he’s tossed 502 pitches over 28.2 innings and given up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out twenty, and walked thirteen with a .316 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of 1-0, and a team record of four and one in his starts.  So luckily, April is over in a few days.  It actually hurt to watch those three innings.

The bullpen failed to stop the bleeding.  Atchison and Schoeneweis each allowed a run.  (Beckett walked two in the fourth before leaving; Schoeneweis let Alex Gonzalez hit the triple that brought them home.  Yeah.  Remember him?) Okajima allowed two and is currently the Beckett of the bullpen.  Bard got a hold and Paps got a save; they and Manny Delcarmen were our only saving graces.  The three of them combined for four hitless, scoreless innings.  Delcarmen retired all the Jays he faced.  I hope Beckett and the rest of the bullpen thanked them profusely afterwards for bailing them out.  Again.  Somehow, Schoeneweis got the win even though he allowed hits for the two lefties he faced.

The whole ugly affair lasted four hours and thirteen minutes.  Ugh.

So it was Delcarmen, Bard, and Paps who made it possible for the offense to carry us through.  Drew singled in Scutaro in the first.  (Then, Youk was thrown out at home.) Tek singled and Beltre doubled in the third, each plating two.  Scutaro scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, followed by another two-RBI single by Tek.  Youk singled in Pedroia in the fifth.  In the sixth, McDonald doubled and Scutaro singled, each plating a run, and Pedroia doubled in two.  The starting lineup had five multi-hit games; all five were three-hitters.  Scutaro, Beltre, and Tek (yes, Jason Varitek) all went three for five, Pedroia went three for six, and Youk went three for four.  Pedroia stole himself two bases.

So, to emphasize: Jason Varitek has been tearing it up.  He has the best slugging percentage of any American League catcher, is currently batting .357, and has gone seven for twenty against righties.  I mean, what? Hey, if you’re hot, you’re hot, so I say leave him in.

Dice-K threw a simulated game in sixty-nine pitches.  He’s starting on Saturday.  Maybe that’s what this club needs to get the rotation going.

So, yes, that was pretty ugly.  We won, but it was ugly.  We’re still digging ourselves out of our hole in the standings, so we still technically can’t complain, but trust me, after we climb out we’ll have a lot to say about the starters’ performance this month.  So far, our aces in practice this month have been Wake and Buchholz.  Not Lester.  Not Beckett.  Not even Lackey.  Wake and Buchholz.  That says something.  The rotation needs to take care of itself.  It’s allowed 137 hits and seventy-eight runs, more than any group in baseball and the American League, respectively.  Although we can be extremely happy about the offensive production and hitting with runners in scoring position that we’ve seen recently.  Tonight Buchholz takes on Shaun Marcum.  Let’s try to have the starting pitching and the offense on at the same time.

In other news, the Bruins advance to the next round of the playoffs! Krejci racked up three points in our 4-3 defeat of the Sabres last night.  I’m telling you, I saw better hockey from the B’s this series than I’d seen all season long.

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Same score, but very different ending: we lost, 6-7, in ten innings.  Again, it was all the bullpen’s fault.

Wake pitched very well.  He was an out shy of seven frames, during which he gave up two runs on seven hits, one walk, and five K’s.  That’s a good outing.  108 pitches.  Really an excellent outing.  He’ll now transition to a bullpen role to make way for Dice-K.  That’s huge.  That’s one significant role reduction right there.  Appropriate that when he returned to the dugout, he was greeted by a hug from Papi, who’s gone through the same thing this week.  I mean, Wake has been pitching in this rotation for fifteen years.  It’ll be sad to see him go, and it would be a waste, too, because clearly he’s still got it.  He’s still a great starter.  He’d be the number one starter on some teams.  But between you and me, I think he’ll have his fair share of starts coming down the pipe.  I think they’ll want to ease Dice-K back into the starting rotation, so I think Wake will make some starting appearances here and there.  I don’t think it’ll be a flat-out end of an era.  I’d be surprised if he just spends the entire rest of the season in the bullpen.

But Okajima, who quite frankly has been awful lately, game on to pitch an inning and an out and gave up two runs.  Lately, it’s gotten to the point where the second he steps out of the bullpen and onto the outfield grass, runs just start scoring.  He got a blown save for his trouble.  Bard turned in a perfect inning.  But Atchison allowed three runs and took the loss.  Schoenweis worked around two hits and allowed an RBI single, and Delcarmen pitched well for two outs.  We lost in ten innings.  The bullpen’s sure been getting its work in lately, but as far as this game is concerned, that’s what they get for letting our lead slip away and losing us the ballgame.  Paps was unavailable.

Baltimore led by one until they arrived at the bottom of the sixth inning, when we scored four runs.  And if you wanted manufactured runs, you got them right then and there.  Youk singled in Pedroia and moved V-Mart to second.  Papi singled in V-Mart and moved Youk to third.  Drew sacrificed Youk home.  And Lowell doubled in Papi.  We almost recovered our lead in the bottom of the tenth, which would’ve been wild.  Imagine that for a second: three walkoffs in six games.  Five wins in our last six.  That would’ve been something.  But alas, it was not to be.  Drew doubled in Youk and Hall singled in Drew and moved Beltre to second, but the rally ended there, one run short of tying it up.  McDonald popped out.  Scutaro stepped up with two on and two out, but he hit it right at Wigginton.

Youk went three for five with a double, Drew finished two for four (the day off did him good), and Pedroia hit a double.  Beltre made an error.

Ellsbury and Cameron will in fact join the team during the road trip to Toronto and Baltimore.

This game is the perfect example of the concept of “bright side.” Yes, we lost; yes, we take a further hit in the standings; yes, Wake is going to the bullpen.  But we manufactured runs! That was the one thing we wanted to see our offense do, just to know it’s capable of it, and we saw it.  We saw it in a big way, because we almost won us a ballgame that way.  (If it weren’t for the bullpen’s failure.) So we lost, but we’re in a good position because we’ve laid all our offensive skills on the table, we know where they stand, and we can draw from all of them.  The homestand is done; now we hit the road for Toronto, followed by Baltimore.  Beckett on the hill tonight at the Rogers Centre.  Let’s start this road trip right.

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