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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’

That was an excellent use of the off day function.  Rest, recuperate, and regroup.  And, more importantly, make it count.  It’s always a shame when you have an off day and then take the field with nothing to show for it because you had to roll out the full pitching staff or you had to play extra innings or you didn’t hit or pitch that well and just lost. But yesterday’s game was an excellent example of a post-off day performance.  We rest so we play better.  And look what happened.  We rested.  And then we played better.

You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a downside in last night’s performance.  Let’s start with pitching.  Dempster turned in an admirable performance: two runs on six hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and six innings.  He gave up a solo shot with one out in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.  His other innings were solid.  He had his fair share of one-two-three frames mixed in, and he kept the jams to a minimum.  All in all, I’d say it was a quality start, and not just because his final line says so.

Wilson came on for the seventh and gave up two unearned runs; that wasn’t so great.  He gave up a single, and then Victorino made a fielding error that caused a run to score and a runner to get on base.  Two strikeouts later, Breslow gave up a single that allowed that runner to score.  But he did fine in the eighth, and Beato turned in a decent effort in the ninth.

Now let’s get to the fun stuff.  Not that the pitching wasn’t fun.  It was fun.  But in order to be on par with the mammoth hitting performance that we turned in last night, our starter would have had to throw at least a no-hitter.  The Rockies managed to get eleven hits off of us, and you might think that that’s a lot.  Actually, it is, and I guess that’s kind of a downside that you could find in this game.  But even that total was no match for us.  We racked up a season-high twenty hits in total.  And of the eight innings during which we sent batters to the plate, we only failed to score in two.  Similarly, only two members of our lineup failed to turn in a multi-hit performance, but no one failed to turn in at least one hit.  In fact, only Salty reached base only once due to the fact that he singled but didn’t walk.  Ellsbury, Pedroia, Nava, and Iglesias all went three for five.  Victorino and Drew went two for five.  Napoli went two for four.  And Papi went only one for two but walked three times.

First there was the first.  Ellsbury doubled on the Rockies’ second pitch of the game, moved to third on a sac bunt by Victorino, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Then Papi and Napoli worked back-to-back walks, and Pedroia scored on a single by Nava.

Two outs into the second, Victorino, Pedroia, and Papi hit back-to-back-to-back doubles, with Napoli following that with a single.  Three runs scored.

With one out in the fourth, Iglesias, Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back singles, at one point with a little help from a fielding error, and brought in two runs in the process.

Nava led off the fourth with a single but was out on a strikeout-plus-caught-stealing double play.  Drew’s reviewed triple stood, though, and he scored on a double by Iglesias.

We took quite a break in the fifth and sixth; spanning those two innings, a walk by Papi accounted for our only baserunner.  But we were back at it in the seventh, which Iglesias and Ellsbury led off with back-to-back singles; both scored, Iglesias on a sac fly by Pedroia and Ellsbury on a single by Napoli.

And last but not least, Salty and Drew led off the eighth with back-to-back singles, and Salty scored on a groundout by Victorino.

So, there you have it.  Nine innings, twenty hits, and an 11-4 victory.  Against the Rockies.  Why does this feel so familiar?

In other news, that’s the end of that.  I can’t believe it.  I saw the whole thing with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.  There was a time when we were in the lead.  There was a time when it seemed so certain that the Stanley Cup was going to return to Boston, where it belongs.  And then suddenly, two goals in seventeen seconds in the third period, and we walk away the proud owners of crushing devastation instead.  It hurts.  It really, really, really hurts.  It just seemed like we had this in the bag.  I guess we were wrong.  At least we made it this far, and at least we put up a great fight, and at least we didn’t make it easy, and at least we were better than everyone else besides, but it hurts.  I’m glad we made it to the final, but the higher you climb, the harder you fall, and it’s pretty tough to sustain yourself during the offseason with a conference championship alone.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We barely squeaked by in this one.  Still, we completed the sweep, and we, the team, and our record can all certainly feel mighty good about that.  Also, pretty much the entire bullpen was rolled out to secure the victory; we’ll get to their performance later.

Buchholz didn’t pitch that well, even though he got the W.  He allowed five runs on ten hits in five and one-third innings while walking three and striking out two.  He threw four pitches; most of them were four-seams, but he threw a substantial number of curveballs and cutters.  He threw only a handful of changeups; he himself admitted to lacking confidence in that particular pitch.  In total, it came to 107 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.  It was obviously not his best work in the least.  But thanks to the offense and the bullpen, it was enough.

Ironically, he faced the minimum in the fifth, the inning right before most of his problems started.  See, he had allowed only one run previously; the other four were inherited runners that Atchison, Thomas, and Albers allowed to score.  You read right.  There were four pitches in that inning alone.  What is it with the starters and their bad innings lately?

The inning began with a strikeout that was followed by two consecutive singles, an RBI double, and a walk.  Then Atchison came on and allowed a two-RBI single.  Then Thomas came on and allowed an RBI double and hit a batter.  Then Albers came on and allowed an RBI single.  And then, and only then, did he manage to induce a double play to end it.  Padilla then pitched the seventh, Morales pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth.  Albers, Padilla, and Morales received holds, with Aceves obviously receiving the save.

So here’s the problem, and it’s a problem I’ve often spoken of in the past.  You can’t afford to take the attitude that, since this one time they only allowed the maximum number of runs that they could possibly allow and still keep a lead intact, the bullpen was successful.  The bullpen was not successful.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is not success.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is failure.  We were fortunate that we scored one more run than they did in the end, but what if we didn’t? It’s not like the bullpen made a conscious decision to not allow one more run.  If the offense hadn’t scored seven runs, we may have lost.  It doesn’t matter if runs scored by inherited runners are charged to the starter; when a reliever inherits a bases-loaded situation, damage should not be expected, and we should not have to be surprised if the reliever is indeed lights-out.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, the offense didn’t waste much time getting on the board.  Papi opened the second with a walk, and then Youk singled, Salty struck out, Ross hit an RBI single, Byrd lined out, and Aviles smacked a three-run shot to left on a slider, the second pitch of the at-bat.  With that one swing, we had a four-run lead.  He crushed that ball.  He is absolutely on fire.

The very next inning, Salty hit a two-RBI single.  Pedroia led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We went down in order in the last four innings of the game.  Fortunately, we’d already scored all the runs we’d need.

The final score was 7-6, and we posted ten hits.  Only three of those were for extra bases, and two of them, a double and a triple, were hit by Pedroia, who went three for four and was one homer shy of the cycle.  That was our only multi-hit performance.  So we were fortunate that, last night, it was enough.  Although the absolute last thing that we needed was Ross leaving in the sixth due to soreness in his left knee.  He better not be out for long.

In other news, the season, the playoffs, and the aspirations of the Bruins were officially ended by a positively heart-wrenching Game Seven.  We lost, 2-1, in sudden death overtime at 2:57.  Tyler Seguin scored our only goal, and Tim Thomas made twenty-six saves.  For the first time in the history of the playoffs of the National Hockey League, an entire seven-game series was ecided by one goal.  The three Game Sevens that we played in order to win the Stanley Cup last year was a record; since I was hoping for a repeat, I was hoping that this Game Seven would prove to be just as joyous as the others.  Clearly I was sorely and sadly mistaken.  Well, it’s been both frustrating and fun.  It’s a painful, painful way to go out, but as we’re used to saying in Boston, there’s always next year.

AP Photo

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The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

AP Photo

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Well, we’re more or less right back to where we started.  We’re only half a game out of first place.  This past two-week stretch didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped; I thought that Interleague would power us way past the Yanks for good.  Apparently not.  But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s recap.

After we swept the Yankees, we played the Jays, who we also swept before heading into a day off.  We won the first game by a score of 5-1; Buchholz pitched a stellar outing and the first third of the lineup delivered in a big way.  We absolutely crushed them the following day, 16-4; Lackey’s mediocrity didn’t matter in the face of eighteen hits, five of which were for extra bases and two of which were three-run homers, one each for Tek and Papi.  The 14-1 series closer was just as decisive; Lester pitched eight innings of one-run ball, and we hit six doubles and four homers.

We completely failed to carry any of that momentum into our series opener with the Rays; if only we could have transferred some runs from those games to that one.  We were shut out, four-zip.  Beckett returned the following day to pitch a complete-game shutout, his finest performance of the season, hands down.  In fact, take away a ridiculous and nonsensical hit down the third-base line that was barely a hit at all, and he’d have had a perfect game.  Not a no-hitter.  A perfect game.  He did not issue a single walk during those nine innings.  He was absolutely remarkably brilliant.  It was the first one-hitter of his career, and in retrospect, that was one of the most infuriating hits I have ever witnessed in my entire baseball-watching life.  I really can’t stress that enough.  We ended up winning the series; Buchholz pitched a short but ultimately sweet five innings, and our four runs were enough to handle the Rays’ two.

We then went home to take on the Brewers.  We crushed, 10-4; Lackey, Gonzalez, and Papi delivered solid performances.  We lost the next day, 4-2; Lester just didn’t have it.  But we crushed in the rubber game, scoring four times as many runs to win it, 12-3; Wake pitched masterfully for eight innings.

Then the Padres came by and we crushed again, 14-5.  Andrew Miller started that one; he didn’t pick up the win, but he did have some flashes of brilliance.  We lost the series by dropping the last two.  First, we lost, 5-4; Aceves didn’t have it.  Then, we lost, 5-1; Lackey really didn’t have it.  He didn’t even make it through the fourth.

Then we had another off day, and we are now in Pittsburgh playing the Pirates.  On Friday, we lost again, 3-1.  Lester didn’t have it, and the lineup was obviously out of whack due to the fact that we were in a National League park, so the pitchers had to hit.  On Saturday, we lost again, 6-4, despite three long balls.  Thankfully we preserved a shred of dignity on Sunday with a win, 4-2, to close out the series.  Miller pitched decently, and we only had one extra-base hit; naturally it helped that the Pirates made four errors, since all but one of our runs were unearned.

Youk and Beckett got sick.  Drew has a bruised left eye.  Lowrie, Crawford, and Buchholz hit the DL.  Jenks is still on it.  Paps was given a two-game suspension as the resolution of the brawl earlier this month.  Gonzalez tallied his one thousandth career hit, a triple against the Brewers.  Ellsbury garnered American League Player of the Week honors.  Our nine-game hitting streak that ended with our series opener with the Rays was the longest winning streak in the Major Leagues to date.

When we won, we played really, really well.  It’s just that we shouldn’t have lost to those Interleague teams.  The health issues are concerning, but the best you can do is hope they’ll end quickly so that everything can return to normal and we can get back to steamrolling over the opposition.  Right now, we’re in a good place.  I don’t think we’ll be phased by any amount of health issues after what happened last year.  Would I have liked to head into Interleague firing on all cylinders? Obviously.  But at least we’d been playing easier teams.  Now, though, we’ve got the Phillies.  That series will obviously be pitched as a World Series preview.  More importantly, we’re just going to have to keep our heads down and play our game.  You have to win first in order to get to October.

In other news, for the first time since 1972, the Boston Bruins have brought the Stanley Cup to what with this championship has truly become, in every sense and on every front, Title Town.  On June 15, 2011, down to Game Seven, the Boston Bruins became the champions of the entire National Hockey League.  The final score was 4-0.  A thirty-seven-save shutout by Tim Thomas, winner of the 2011 Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophies.  Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each scored two goals, the last of which was an empty-netter.  There was a victory parade.  There was an appearance on the Today Show and at Fenway Park.  But it really started to sink in when Zdeno Chara, winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award, hoisted the cup.  He picked it up like it weighed nothing, and you knew every single Boston fan could see it, and not because he’s so tall.  To see that cup being held by a Bruin in Vancouver was just incredible.  It was at once unbelievable and thoroughly believable.  The glory-basking is epic.  It was one of the greatest moments in any Boston sports fan’s Boston sports life.  Congratulations to the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins! Welcome home to Title Town!

Getty Images

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Last night wasn’t Wake’s finest hour.  Collectively, though, it was a pretty fine hour for the team as a whole.  Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the one and only possessor of first place in the AL East division.  We beat the Yankees again, so the worst we can do now is win the series.  The best we can do, of course, is sweep.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Last night had plenty to recap.

As I said, Wake wasn’t feeling it.  He gave up five runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-six for strikes.  He made his exit in the sixth, leaving behind one out and two on.  Aceves came on and loaded the bases.  Then he allowed an inherited runner to score.  At that point we had a three-run lead that was looking pretty shaky.  It took him six pitches, but Aceves finally got Derek Jeter to ground into a double play to end the inning.  Crisis averted.  He later gave up a run of his own in the bottom of the ninth.  Wake picked up the win, and Aceves picked up a three-and-two-thirds-inning save.  The final score was 11-6.  We are seven and one against the Yanks this year, we’ve won all of our last six contests against them, and we’ve won five of those six on enemy soil.  Not bad for a team that started out in last place.  And those two, Wake and Aceves, are model team players, given the way they’ve pitched in when Lackey and Dice-K were on the DL.  So the whole game was just a great one to watch.

The game started out innocently enough.  Ellsbury singled and scored when Gonzalez grounded out.  Youk walked after that.  And that’s right around the time when you start thinking about how totally awesome it would be if Papi hit a home run.  So that’s what he did.  He launched a two-run shot into right center field.  Papi had been fed a steady diet of pitches away to that point.  But then he got a great one right down the middle.  Why pitchers think they can throw fastballs down the middle right by us is beyond me.  He didn’t flip his bat this time, but trust me, he was thinking it, and he was thinking it loudly.

The game only got better from there.

Scutaro singled to open the second inning, stole second base, moved to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sac fly by Drew.  After AJ Burnett loaded the bases with an intentional walk in the fourth, Tek hit into the force out as planned, but a run still scored.  Ellsbury doubled in another after that, and Pedroia singled in another.  His hit just barely cleared Jeter’s glove.

Wake gave up a homer to A-Rod in the fourth, and they added three more runs in the fifth.  We got one of them back in the sixth; three walks were issued in the bottom of the sixth alone, and one of them scored a run.  Seriously, there are few things more humiliating than a pitcher walking in a run.

The Yankees added another run in the sixth.  And then nobody scored anymore until the ninth.  Going into the inning, the Yankees were down by only three, and that just didn’t seem like enough to hold them.  I think Crawford and Drew heard it too because they both hit home runs in that frame.  Crawford went first with a solo blast on a changeup down and in.  Scutaro doubled after that, so it was even better when who but JD Drew smashed a towering plast into the bullpen.  It was a good thing, too; Aceves would allow his run in the bottom of the inning, which would trim our lead.  But only by one.

We still won by five.  We’re still on the verge of increasing our first-place lead to two games.  And we scored eleven runs against the Yankees.  Life is most excellent.

In other news, the Stanley Cup finals is now even at two apiece.  The Bruins shutout the Canucks last night, four-zip.  Tim Thomas made thirty-eight saves en route.

AP Photo

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This is so ironic.  I’m really impressed with the outings Aceves and Wake have been turning in.  I’m telling you, it’s really getting to the point where Lackey and especially Dice-K have a new standard to live up to.  In four starts, the two of them combined are undefeated in their three decisions with a 1.82 ERA.  Everybody can clearly see that Aceves and Wake still have it, so if those two want to keep their roles in the rotation, they’re going to need to at least match these performances.

Wake was wonderful.  Seven innings, two runs on five hits, one of them a solo shot to lead off the second.  Two walks, two K’s.  And the win.  Eighty-three pitches, fifty-eight for strikes.  A thoroughly deceptive knuckleball.  That’s all there is to say about Wake.  If he had a bad outing, it would have been because his knuckleball didn’t dance.  But it did, and with remarkable efficiency.  It took Wake eighty-three pitches to get through seven innings.  We have pitchers on our staff – you know who they are – who sometimes can’t even get through five innings with that pitch count.

Bard had a three-up, three-down eighth.  Paps allowed a run on a single followed by a double, which thankfully didn’t matter.

In the first, Ellsbury singled to start the game and later scored on a wild pitch.  In the third, Ellsbury led off the inning with a homer that ended up just inside the foul pole in right.  It was a fastball out over the plate, and he hit a rocket of a line drive into the seats.  Pedroia walked after that, and Gonzalez singled.  Both scored on Youk’s double, who scored on Crawford’s home run.  Also a fastball, this one high and inside.  Also ended up in the seats in right.  But this one was a towering blast.  Over his last nine games, he’s batting .429.

Gonzalez and Ellsbury both went two for five.  And Ellsbury even threw in one of his classic, epic, running, diving catches to end the sixth.  Not to mention the fact that he’s having a monster year so far with a .299 batting average, .365 on-base percentage, twenty-seven RBIs, six home runs, and eighteen thefts.  And those numbers are only going to go up.

And that was it.  That was all we needed to win.  6-3.  Another short and sweet one.  We are twelve and two in our last fourteen games.

Oh.  One other thing I should mention.  Because, you know, it’s extremely important.  We are now in sole possession of first place in the American League East division! The Yankees, after losing to the Mariners, must now be content with second.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  More importantly, we have risen!

In other news, the Bruins beat the Bolts! 1-0 courtesy of Nathan Horton in the third period! We are now officially the Eastern Conference Champions, and we won’t stop there.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to Vancouver.  We are going to beat the Canucks right out of the Stanley Cup finals.  This could be the year that Boston, in every sport, becomes Title Town.

AP Photo

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Pitchers and catchers came and went.  It was actually pretty uneventful.  Most of them were already down there.  The entire rotation and most members of the bullpen are already there.  As they should be, because for some of them, like Dice-K, Beckett, and Lackey, if they weren’t early for Spring Training, they were late.  But they look good.  Everyone seems to have lost some weight, and the extra time should pay off in the long run.  Everyone is heading down to Fort Myers next week.  Although I doubt that will be very eventful either, because many of the position players are there early as well.  That’s obviously something to be very proud of and very reassured by, that we’ve got guys on our team who are dedicated, responsible, and raring to go.  I just want some baseball already, is all I’m saying.  At least we’re that much closer.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Leafs on Tuesday, 3-4.  But we made up for it with back-to-back wins on Thursday and Friday against the Islanders and Sens.  6-3 and 4-2.  We also traded a second-round draft pick to the Sens for center Chris Kelly.  Oh, and we also traded a first-round Entry Draft pick, forward Joe Colborne, and a conditional second-round pick in 2012 provided we make the Stanley Cup finals this year or re-sign the object of this whole string of perks after this season to the Leafs for Tomas Kaberle.  Finally.  This trade has been bandied about for at least a year.   So I can’t say I’m surprised.  I’m just glad that it’s finally finished so we can all just play some hockey and maybe actually get to the Stanley Cup finals this year.  That would be nice.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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