Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Lightning’

Just so you know, this is not going to be a happy post.

First of all, it’s pretty much unofficially official.  Theo is going to take over the Cubs.  It’s a five-year deal, and the only thing left is for the two clubs to agree on compensation since Theo is technically entering the last year of his contract with us.  The deal is currently worth twenty million dollars, which reportedly includes said compensation.  As of late, Theo’s title within the Cubs organization is unclear, but it supposedly is something higher up.

The bottom line is that he’s leaving us, so we’ll have to find a first-base coach, a manager, and a general manager.  Here’s an understatement: this offseason, we’ve got some serious work to do.  With any luck, we won’t actually have to find a general manager and will instead be looking for an assistant general manager; I wouldn’t mind having Ben Cherington take the helm.  That’s where it looks like we’re headed, anyway.  He’s been included in all club dealings so far during the offseason.  He’s been Theo’s right-hand man for years, and the two of them started with Larry Lucchino in San Diego anyway.  It obviously won’t be the same, but it’ll be pretty close.

That is, if you like the job Theo did.  Sure, he made some huge mistakes.  Eric Gagne and Dice-K were the most notable of those; if Jenks doesn’t recover properly he’ll be another, and if Crawford and Lackey don’t turn it around they’ll be a third and fourth.  But I would argue that his good so epically and completely eclipsed his bad that this discussion isn’t even necessary.  His drafting and farming decisions were legendary and include Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, and Lester.  He is the youngest general manager to be hired, and he is the youngest general manager ever to win a World Series.  After almost delivering us in 2003, his first season, he lifted us out of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and reminded us that we weren’t dreaming in 2007.  His acquisition of Gonzalez was absolutely masterful.  He brought sabermetrics to Boston and made it feel at home here.  He wasn’t just a professional removed from everything; he was a baseball guy and, worth noting, a Red Sox fan.  He’s from Boston, specifically Brookline about two miles from Fenway Park, and that’s something Chicago will never change.  Chicago’s dysfunction as an organization goes well beyond any single position that Theo could possibly fill.  Make no mistake; he won’t simply waltz in there and have them winning World Series left and right.  If he could do that in Chicago, we would have been winning every single World Series title since his takeover of our team, and clearly that didn’t happen.  And if it didn’t happen here, it’s not going to happen there.  But that’s neither here nor there.

This is about what Theo did for this city in his nine memorable years here.  He brought a new approach to the game and put the pieces in place for us to win.  He established a winning culture here.  He’s a genius and will be sorely, sorely missed.  Here’s to you, Theo.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us and for the game of baseball.  Here’s to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and here’s to smiling through all of it because, all along, in Theo we trusted.  We know that other fans in other places rooting for other teams will be trusting in you from now on.  But we also know that you can take the general manager out of Boston but you can’t take Boston out of the general manager.  We just hope that the great things you’ll accomplish will not be at our expense.

Secondly, all of the pieces to the devastation puzzle are now coming to light.  It’s an ugly story.  Here goes.

It wasn’t one pitcher responsible for the beer-drinking between starts.  First of all, it wasn’t just drinking beer; it was also ordering in fried chicken and playing video games.  Secondly, it wasn’t just one pitcher; it was three.  Beckett, Lackey, and Lester.  I never thought I’d see Lester on that list, although I should point out that the degree to which he actually participated in these goings-on is highly speculative, and it’s possible that he wasn’t really a mainstay.  Apparently they not only drank beer but ordered fried chicken and played video games, all at the expense of working out, and they were starting to get more players involved.  All I know is that when we needed them to deliver most, they didn’t, which is unusual for them so something must have been going on.  We knew they were health, so that should have tipped us off, but I never thought I’d see the day when such people would actually knowingly put on pounds and thereby sabotage everything the team worked for.  It’s sacrilegious. Pedroia probably couldn’t believe his eyes and must have been seething.

Meanwhile, Tito was losing influence with both old and new guys, he was having health issues, and he was living in a hotel due to marital issues.  He insists that the former wasn’t due to the latter two, but I’m also sure that Beckett, Lackey, and Lester insisted that their very visible extra fat and subsequent tanking wasn’t due to their clubhouse habits either.  I’m actually inclined to believe Tito, though; he’s focused, dedicated, and committed, and we can’t just assume that he doesn’t know how to handle personal issues in his life and balance them with his job.

Then, apparently, the team accused the brass of caring about money more than results when they scheduled the doubleheader in response to Hurricane Irene.  Then the veterans on the team, including Tek, started pulling back on leadership.  Wake exacerbated this problem by calling for a return next year so he could break the all-time wins record; neither the time nor the place when you’re days away from playoff elimination.  And Youk, as you can imagine, was more of a clubhouse pain than usual, which we all knew but didn’t feel because all of these other issues weren’t present before.  At least, if they were, we didn’t know about them to this extent.  Youk was the only player to call Ellsbury out for his time on the DL last year due to his rib injuries.  And it’s obviously admirable and dirt-doggish indeed that he played through his injuries this year, but doing so apparently brought the worst out of him socially in the clubhouse.  And when you’re hanging on by a thread in the standings, that is so not something you need.  Gonzalez, of all people, joined in the pettiness by complaining about the late-season schedule.  I honestly thought he would be much more Pedroia-like than that.

Ellsbury, by the way, is officially the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year.  I can’t think of anyone who would deserve it more.  He earned every last bit of that honor this past year, so hats most definitely off to him.

Add to that the fact that the signing of Crawford was largely a push from Theo over which the brass was divided.  If you ask me, I would have said it was the other way around.  Crawford’s strengths, both in practice and in numbers, aren’t that compatible with sabermetrics, the philosophy used to build the team.  So I thought that we would all find out that it was Theo who was against it, and it was the brass who was pushing him to sign Crawford because of the wow factor of bringing in a star or something.

All in all, the team this year turned out to be one big, dysfunctional family on every front.  Nobody, from the players to the brass, was spared.  Everyone who had issues let them loose at exactly the wrong time and in exactly the wrong ways.  Players on whom you depended to carry your team through the stretch in the clubhouse either withdrew or sunk to the level of the players you never thought would sink to that level in the first place.  It seems like it was just an awful atmosphere completely non-conducive to anything positive or constructive.  Obviously you’ve got to consider sources of this information when you read stories about this, but I guess now that we know the end story, we saw the signs all along.  That’s true of Theo’s departure as well.  At the time to us on the outside, all of the signs were too subtle for us to keep putting two and two and two and two together to come with what is clearly a very elaborate set of social circumstances that spiraled out of control and led to our painful and epic downfall.

Organization chemistry, both in the clubhouse and in the front office, is a very difficult thing to fix and cultivate.  It’s organically grown, and you either have it or you don’t.  You can’t force it.  Now Papi is claiming that he’s seriously considering free agency as a way to escape all the drama.  It’s all been meshing so well recently; how, in such a short time, could we become “that team” with all the drama? It’s like a soap opera.  Seriously.

John Henry even drove down to 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday completely on his own because he felt like he had some records to set straight.  He said that Crawford was not signed to boost NESN ratings, although he confirmed that he did oppose it but ultimately approved it because baseball operations were for Theo and Larry to govern.  Henry also implied a confirmation that Theo is going to Chicago while saying that he wishes that Theo would stay.  He said that, during the season, he let the brass know that he was all in favor of picking up Tito’s options and that the only time he thought that that maybe wasn’t such a good idea was when Tito told the brass that he didn’t want to come back.

Significant changes to the organization could potentially be afoot, and that’s either good or bad.  There’s no way to know who’s on the radar or what we should expect.  There’s nothing to do.  No amount of speculation would ever shed any light because this organization keeps everything under wraps, as is appropriate and right even if it is annoying for us fans hanging in the breeze.

The whole situation is crushing.  Make absolutely no mistake whatsoever about that.  It’s crushing.  It’s devastatingly epically crushing in every conceivable sense.  We’ll get through it because we’re Sox fans and we always do, but it’s just so remarkably and epically depressing and crushing.  I can’t even believe that this whole situation is happening.

Ultimately the big question is short and sweet and simple but revealing of the trepidation that’s currently racking all of us.

What’s next?

Also, Scott Williamson is auctioning off his 2004 World Series ring.  Why in the world would you ever do that? That’s completely sacrilegious.

In other news, the Pats summarily disposed of the Jets, 30-21.  Would I have preferred a blowout? Obviously.  But hey, that score is a lot better than the score we put up against them the last time we played them last season, so I’ll take it.  And the Bruins, since beginning their season on October 6, have beaten Philly, Colorado, and Chicago and have been beaten by Tampa Bay and Carolina.

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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.

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The Tribe never stood a chance.  Literally.  Their first pitch of the game was a ball.  Their second was in play for a single.  We went down in order only twice.  The rest of the time, we cruised in every sense.

As I said, the game started with a ball followed by a single.  That was Ellsbury, who also technically scored the game’s first run.  His stolen base wasn’t even necessary to do it because Pedroia smashed it into the left field seats.  Obviously taking a day off worked out; the homer broke a dry spell of 137 at-bats.  But that, my friends, was only the beginning.

Gonzalez and Papi singled back-to-back before Lowrie grounded out.  What followed was one of the most impressive displays of ruthlessness I’ve ever seen and certainly the most impressive this year.  What followed were four consecutive scoring plays.  It would have been five consecutive scoring plays, but Ellsbury singled again to break it up.  Gonzalez flied out to end the inning.  But let’s go back to the beginning.  Crawford singled in a run.  Salty singled in another run.  Crawford and Salty advanced to second and third on an error.  Cameron hit a sac fly to bring in another run.  Drew Sutton, in for Youk who was scratched late due to a sore left hand, singled in another run.  Then the single by Ellsbury.  And then a single by Pedroia for the final scoring play and final RBI of the inning.

By the time the Indians came to bat for the first time yesterday afternoon, they had seen our entire lineup once and the first third of it twice.  And, oh, by the way, they were down by seven.

In contrast to all of that, Lester’s first pitch of the game was a strike.  It may have been followed by a ball, but it was still a strike.  And that strike was a sign of even better things to come.  Lester was on.  He pitched six shutout innings of three-hit ball while walking only one and striking out seven on ninety-seven pitches, sixty-three for strikes.  His cut fastball was fantastic, and he located his off-speed pitches.  That game-opening strike turned into a game-opening strikeout for the Indians, and the inning ended with another strike.  The Tribe went down in order in the second thanks two four-pitch strikeouts to start and end it.  The Tribe went down in order in the third thanks to another four-pitch strike.  Same thing in the fourth, his most efficient inning at nine pitches.  No strikeout, but same thing in the fifth, his second-most efficient inning, along with the second inning, during both of which he threw eleven pitches.  He peaked in the sixth at twenty-seven pitches, not coincidentally when he finally got in trouble.  After securing the first two outs via a popup and his seventh strikeout, he gave up a double followed by a four-pitch walk.  He induced a groundout to end it, but he was done after that.

Meanwhile, the offense stayed pretty busy.  Even when we didn’t score in the second, we still put two men on base.  We opened the third by putting two men on base again; this time Gonzalez delivered to bring in one on a single.  With one out in the fourth, Crawford hit his second home run of the series, a solo shot on a low breaking ball he launched into the seats in right field.  At that point, he was one triple shy of the cycle.  He never did hit that triple.  He doubled again in the sixth, though.

But before he doubled again in the sixth, Papi hit a solo shot to lead it off.  Different pitch, same place.  There was no way that ball wasn’t going out.  But it got even better.  Lowrie walked after that, then the double by Crawford, and then, if you thought Papi’s home run was a monster shot, you should have seen Salty’s.  Slightly different location, same pitch: the inside fastballs.  Clearly not a pitch they should have been throwing to lefties yesterday.  And even after that, the inning still wasn’t over.  Cameron doubled and came home on a double by Ellsbury.  The inning ended after that, and we didn’t score again for the rest of the game.

Except that by that time, even with the two runs the Tribe scored off of Morales in the eighth, who had come on for Wheeler, who had pitched the seventh, we had scored enough runs to win even if Morales had given up eleven more.  Atchison pitched the ninth.  Clearly this was not a save situation.  The final score was 14-2.

The only member of the starting lineup who didn’t get a hit was Lowrie, who still managed to score two runs.  The remaining eight members of the lineup not only got a hit but each posted multi-hit games.  Pedroia, Papi, and Gonzalez all went two for six (Pedroia would have gone three for seven had Kearns not robbed him of an extra-base RBI hit in the third); Cameron and Salty both went two for four; Sutton went three for five; Ellsbury went three for four; and the best performer of the night, Crawford, was perfect at the plate.  Four for four.  With two doubles, a homer, three runs, and two RBIs.  We put up a seven-spot in the first and a five-spot in the sixth.  That means that it only took us two innings to score twelve runs, and in the first six innings, we didn’t score in only two of them.  We collected a grand total of twenty hits, six of them doubles and four of them home runs, the fourth time in franchise history that we’ve posted at least those totals in a single game.  We left nine on base, and we went eight for a whopping twenty with runners in scoring position.  Lester picked up the win for his seventh of the year, which leads the Majors.  We’ve won ten of our last twelve games, and we’re half a game out of first place.  Bring it, Detroit.  Bring it.

In other news, the Bruins lost, 5-4.  On the bright side, we’re going back home.  It’s our last chance.  It’s time to finish this.

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It was epically uncanny how similar last night’s starting pitchers’ performances were.  It was uncanny.  They were almost identical.  Justin Masterson – remember him? – pitched seven and two-thirds innings, gave up two runs on four hits (one of them a homer), walked two, and struck out three.  Buchholz pitched seven and a third innings, gave up two runs on four hits (one of them a homer), walked two, and struck out four.

Buchholz had both fastballs and his cutter working really well, and he mixed in his changeup and curveball very effectively.  He kept the hitters guessing and the lineup in the game all the way through.  He went deep into the ballgame, and he did it with efficiency: he only needed ninety-four pitches this time, fifty-five for strikes.  Four of his innings were one-two-three, including his last full frame, and he was pulled in the seventh after giving up a single and inducing a groundout.  He set a new career high in pitch count his last time out, so there was no way Tito was going to let him stay out there for much longer.

To be clear, only one of those two runs was allowed on Buchholz’s watch.  He made a bad pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera to open the fourth, and he hit a solo shot.  More on that second run soon.  By the way, later in the fourth he made a solid defensive play; Travis Buck chopped it back to him, and he just leapt up, caught it, and fired to first for the second out of the inning.

In the third, Crawford singled, moved to second on a groundout by Salty, and scored on a single by Pedroia, who batted in his first run since May 2.  In the fifth, it was again Crawford who scored, erasing the home run hit by Cabrera with a leadoff solo shot of his own on a slider that ended up in the first few rows of seats in right.  It was his first home run in ninety-seven at-bats and his second of the season.

The top of the eighth was a pretty eventful half-inning.  Salty led it off by flying out.  Then Ellsbury chopped one to Matt LaPorta, who fired to Masterson at first.  Ellsbury would have been out by a mile, but first base umpire Rob Drake ruled that Masterson missed the bag entirely and that therefore Ellsbury was safe.  Tribe manager Manny Acta came out to argue and was ejected.  Then Pedroia walked on five pitches, and Gonzalez hit what looked like a fly ball, but it dropped in for a hit.  Pedroia rounded second, tripped over second base, fell, and hustled back.  He turned his left ankle, which is especially painful for him because of that pin that was put into it when he had surgery in August.  He limped off the field and left the game, but it’s not serious.  It’s the second time this has happened this season, and fortunately he’s been fine.

So I was feeling pretty good.  We only had a one-run lead, but Buchholz was on and, thanks to Crawford, one step ahead of Masterson.  When he came out of the game, we knew Tito would call for Bard both because it was the eighth inning and that’s Bard’s territory but also because Bard was rested.  He was rested because he’d been used a lot lately, and Tito wanted him to be good as new.  He was not good as new.

He gave up at least one run for the fourth time in his last seven appearances.  He came on with only one runner on second.  The double play wasn’t an option, but it looked like he would be on pace to exit the inning smoothly when he got Carlos Santana to pop up in an 0-2 count.  But then he gave up a single to allow his inherited runner to score (hence the two runs charged to Buchholz), which tied the game.  That was bad enough.  But he allowed another run when he gave up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera.  Then he was replaced by Rich Hill, who recorded a strikeout to end the inning, but not before the Tribe garnered a 3-2 lead.

That ended up being the final score.  Papi flied out.  Drew singled and moved to third on a single by Lowrie.  We had runners at the corners with one out, and up comes Crawford.  He’s had his fair share of walkoffs, and he’d already collected two hits on the night.  So he actually wasn’t a bad guy to have up there.  The tying run was ninety feet away, and all Crawford had to do was put the ball in play in any way.  What does he do? He grounds into a game-ending double play.

Bard took both the blown save and the loss, and deservedly so.  Buchholz pitched an absolute gem in which a one-run lead was totally secure, and he has nothing to show for it now because Bard was an epic fail.  I feel comfortable in making the claim that, if Buchholz hadn’t thrown so many pitches in his last outing and was able to remain in the game, we’d be looking at a more positive outcome.

And we’re talking really positive.  A win last night would have put us in first place.  Instead, we remain half a game out behind the Rays and Yankees, who are both tied.  We could have another chance tonight.

In other news, the Bruins again lead the series after winning, 3-1, last night!

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So Aceves started, and it actually wasn’t that bad.  He only lasted five innings and in that time threw eighty-six pitches and hit two batters, one of which was really ugly; in the second, he hit Marlon Byrd just under the left eye.  Byrd walked off the field but was hospitalized and remained so overnight.  But he allowed only one run on three hits while walking two and striking out two.  And fifty-six of his pitches were strikes.  In terms of pitch count, he actually did better than Carlos Zambrano, who needed 122 pitches for five and two-thirds innings, and he’s a consistent starter.  Considering that Aceves really hasn’t been a consistent starter ever, his outing was actually pretty good.  It was his first start since making only one start in 2009.  So really not bad.  Not bad at all.  Quite admirable, actually.

Aceves allowed his only run in the third between two walks, a steal, and a double.  We recovered it in the fourth and put ourselves ahead on one swing.  Youk led off the inning with a single, extending his hitting streak to nine games, and Papi crushed his three hundredth home run in a Boston uniform.  It was a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball that ended up in the first row of the Monster seats.  And just like that, we were ahead, 2-1.  (I should mention that Youk was hit by a pitch in the fifth and that, after that, home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez warned both benches.  That was the seventy-second time he was hit in his career, which broke a franchise record previously held by Mo Vaughn.)

Wheeler, fresh off the DL, replaced Aceves for the sixth.  He had a one-two-three inning in the sixth and secured the first out in the seventh before Hill came on to finish it off.  Meanwhile, we added to our lead in the sixth when Crawford singled, moved to second on a walk by Tek, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

So by the time the eighth inning rolled around, we were up by two, which was pretty impressive considering that Aceves was our starter, although I was surprised we didn’t do more with Zambrano.  Indeed, we left eleven on base and went one for ten with runners in scoring position.  We only went down in order twice, once in the third and once in the ninth, so we had opportunities.  We just didn’t use them.  And it came back to haunt us big time.

Bard was unavailable, so Albers came on for the eighth inning, and that right there was basically when everything fell apart.

Let me paint a picture for you.  Coming into this game, we had a chance not only to start Interleague off right and win the series but also to extend our winning streak to eight games and finally vault ourselves into first place after being in fifth just two weeks ago.  The Rays had already lost yesterday, so it was sure-fire.  All we needed to do was secure six outs and we would erase the abysmal start to our season.  That’s what this game meant.  That’s what this game could have accomplished.

So enter Albers.  He gave up two consecutive singles followed by a ten-pitch walk.  So the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Then he walked in a run on his twenty-eighth pitch of the inning.  He allowed two more when he gave up a double.  At that point the Cubs were ahead by one, so it was already pretty bad that our reliever just put us back in a hole.  But it would have been merciful if it had stopped there.  Alfonso Soriano hit an epically routine popup to shallow left field.  Lowrie went out to catch it.  He caught it.  Then he dropped it, so another run scored.

Albers was duly removed after that.  He threw thirty-one pitches and failed to record an out.  His ERA jumped from 1.56 all the way up to 4.15.  Less than one inning, and he inflated his ERA by 2.59.  That difference by itself would be an ERA he’d be lucky to have right now.  He took a blown save as well as the loss.

He was removed in favor of Franklin Morales, who ironically was just as bad.  He allowed another run by giving up a double to Jeff Baker on his first pitch of the game.  At that point the Cubs had twice as many runs as we did, but a three-run deficit is still manageable.  But again, it would have been merciful even if it had stopped there.  In an all-too-brief flash of brilliance, Morales struck out Koyie Hill on three pitches but went right back to his old form after that when he allowed a walk.  Then it got even more ugly, if that were possible.  Darwin Barney flied out to Drew, who fired the ball back into the infield.  Salty caught the ball but the Cubs were a mess.  Soriano, who’d been on third, and Baker, who’d been on second, were both running.  So they were both doubled up.  Salty threw to third to start the rundown at the plate, but his throw went just over Youk’s glove.  Soriano scored easily.  Crawford came in and corralled the ball and fired to Morales, who had moved next to home plate, but it was off target.  Baker scored as well.  And just to add insult to injury, Morales allowed another double, which brought in another run.

The only other member of the bullpen available after Albers was used was Paps.  Tito didn’t go to Paps.  He went to Morales.  He’s the manager of the team and he made that decision.  Obviously Morales would have to make his debut at some point, but it wasn’t a situation where we were leading by ten runs or something.  Even in Interleague, it was a close game.  He probably didn’t go to Paps because he figured that, if we managed to tie the game after Albers came out, all he’d have for the extra innings was Morales and nobody behind him.  And Paps is the one you really want in those situations.  So, again, he had no choice, really.  But it was ugly.  It  was ugly, ugly, ugly, and we have a lot of work to do to make up for it today.

Twelve batters were sent up in that frame alone.  That’s the entire lineup plus another third of it.  An eight-run eighth inning.  Only five of those runs were earned.  Of course Morales had a one-two-three ninth inning.  That was a total disaster.  It was one of the ugliest losses I’d ever seen.  It was thoroughly disgusting, and I can’t believe it came at the hands of the Cubs, of all teams.  Talk about your one ruinous bad inning.  That was the mother of ruinous bad innings.  No repetition of our 1918 glory, not even with the throwback uniforms.  No pitching.  No fielding.  No winning.  No first place, no winning streak, no sweep.  We lost, 9-3.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Lightning, 5-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Wow.  Carl Crawford.  His third of the year.  If he continues like this, he wouldn’t even need to make every single hit.  He’d just need to make the right ones.  He may not be on a hot streak at the plate, but he’s pretty hot as far as walkoffs are concerned.  So maybe his average is still pretty bad, but he’s been making those right hits, and for now I think that’s pretty good and a sign that things are improving, slowly but surely.

Beckett delivered another stellar start.  One run on five hits, two walks, and three K’s over six innings.  He threw eighty-three pitches, fifty-two for strikes.  So he had at least another solid inning in him for sure.  He came out of the game because he had a stiff neck.  After the game he said his neck wasn’t loose at all that night.  He’s not injured, but since two of our starters are already on the DL, Tito wanted to play it safe.

But those were some awesome six innings.  About half his curveballs were thrown for strikes, and he was working with a two-seam, a four-seam, a cutter, and a changeup that were just deadly.  They were unhittable.  Beckett led off the game with a one-two-three first that began with a strikeout on four pitches ending in the four-seam at ninety-four miles per hour.  He allowed his run in the second; he opened the inning with a walk and then allowed two consecutive singles.  In fact, after obtaining the inning’s first out, Beckett allowed another single to load the bases.  Fortunately, the inning’s last two outs followed, and his next two innings were both one-two-three; he threw eight pitches in the third and only five in the fourth.  That’s the thing about non-strikeout outs; they’re usually more efficient.  He notched his final two strikeouts in the sixth, back-to-back K’s to end it.  Both were five pitches long, and both ended with a fastball.  Last night, he procured his outs by other means like groundouts, flyouts, lineouts, and popups.  Obviously what’s important here is that nobody on the Tigers was able to make constructive contact with his pitches.  Not one of the hits he allowed were for extra bases.

Meanwhile, we recovered that run in the bottom of the second.  Youk and Papi both singled, and Youk came home on Drew’s sac fly.  The tie at one held until the fourth, when, with two out, Drew launched a home run into the first few rows of seats in right field.  It was a fastball that should have been away but wasn’t.  And that’s pretty much what happens all the time when you don’t locate a fastball.

So Beckett exited with a 2-1 lead, and Albers came on and pitched a scoreless seventh.  Papi added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to lead it off, a towering blast into the first few rows of seats behind the bullpen.  A changeup up in the zone.  See, this is why location is so important.

At that point, we were feeling pretty good.  A pitcher’s duel is always a game in which one run seems like five, so a two run lead felt pretty solid.  Obviously with Daniel Bard coming up, it would have to be, right? No.  Not really.  And the number of times we’ve said that this year is pretty scary.

He came on for the eighth and allowed two consecutive solo shots.  The first was on a changeup, the second on a slider.  It was the second time in his career that he’d given up two home runs in one appearance.  (Unfortunately, the first time was on August 9, 2009 when we were playing the Yankees in New York and he gave up consecutive homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, of all people.) So he tied the game and was rewarded with a well-deserved blown save.  Unbelievable.  Again, the importance of location; obviously it goes both ways.  If he keeps on doing this, there’s no way he’ll be fit to be a closer in the near future.  He finished that inning, and we went down in order in the bottom of the frame.  Paps pitched us through a ninth inning that could have gone just as badly, if not worse, run-wise.  After inducing a groundout, he allowed two consecutive singles and a walk to load the bases.  Thankfully, he followed that with a strikeout on three pitches and a strikeout on a foul tip of the third and fourth hitters in Detroit’s lineup.  Red Sox Nation exhaled as one.

So we were tied at three in the bottom of the ninth.  Youk worked an eight-pitch walk, and Iglesias came in to pinch-run.  Papi singled.  Drew was intentionally walked (I know, it’s pretty strange, but hey, the man earned it) to load the bases.  Lowrie hit what looked like it would be a routine fly ball.  But it dropped in very shallow left field.  Iglesias was coming around from third.  The crowd was going wild.  We were all expecting walkoff.

And then he was out at the plate in the fielder’s choice.  Talk about anticlimactic.  And then of course you’re thinking, how many chances at a walkoff are you going to get?

Enter Crawford.  He took a four-seam for a ball and a slider for a strike.  And then, on the third pitch of the at-bat, one a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball, he hit a single.  It was just a single.  But it was well-placed, and it was all he needed.  McDonald had come in to pinch-run for Papi, and he scored from third easily.  And with one swing of the bat, we were done, and we didn’t even have to go into extra innings, either.  4-3.  Carl Crawford, ladies and gentlemen!

Hideki Okajima was designated for assignment so that another lefty specialist, Franklin Morales, recently acquired from the Rockies for cash or a player to be named later, can join the roster.  Iglesias and Bowden are both going back to the minors.

Our winning streak is now at six games.  The last three of them were won in our last offensive chance of the game.  And we are about to enter a truly exciting weekend the likes of which we haven’t seen in almost a century, literally.  For the first time since we beat them in the World Series all the way back in 1918, the Chicago Cubs are coming to Fenway for three games starting tonight.  A lot has happened in those ninety-three years.  A lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of ugly.  On Saturday, both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms.  I’m psyched.  It’s going to be a blast.

In other news, the Bruins took a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning last night with a 2-0 shutout, courtesy of Tim Thomas.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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So, if last time out we saw the better Buchholz, then last night we must have seen the best Buchholz.  Only we didn’t see the best Buchholz, because Buchholz is even better than last night’s outing, which was already better than his previous outing.  Basically, what all this comes down to is that this is what we’ve been waiting for from him.

It wasn’t just the four hits or the seven strikeouts that confirmed it.  The fact that he only walked one and allowed zero runs by themselves don’t even tell the whole story.  It’s the fact that he allowed only four hits while walking only one and striking out seven over seven shutout innings while throwing 127 pitches, seventy-nine for strikes.  Obviously, he still has work to do in the efficiency department.

That pitch count of 127 is a new career high.  I’m surprised that Tito let Buchholz stay in the game for so many, but when you’re hot, you’re hot, and Buchholz was hot.  His first inning? One-two-three.  Two back-to-back swinging strikeouts on fastballs.  His second inning? One-two-three with a swinging strike on a cutter to end it.  He opened the third with a strikeout on three pitches (and later gave up his only walk).  He notched another K in the fourth, when he allowed his first hit.  He put up his last two strikeout in his last inning; the first was his only called strike, also on three pitches, also on a cutter.

But his last strikeout was by far the most epic.  After starting the inning by inducing a groundout from who but Victor Martinez, back for the first time since walking in the offseason (and may I say that the ovation was a very nice touch; naturally Red Sox Nation always does it right), he hit a batter and allowed a single.  Then the called strike.  Then he hit another batter to load the bases with two out.  Given his pitch count and the fact that he was clearly losing his sense of the strike zone, it was obvious that, for better or worse, this would be his last inning.  The question was whether he’d be able to get out of it.  Before Austin Jackson even got up there, Buchholz had already surpassed his career-high pitch count by one.  But Buchholz put his head down and took care of business.  First, a cutter for a called strike.  Then he took a changeup for a ball.  Then Buchholz threw a fastball in the dirt.  Then a cutter for a swinging strike.  What followed were five straight fastballs.  The first two were fouled off.  Then a ball.  Then a foul with a runner going.  And then finally, finally, a swinging strike.  Even after all those pitches, he threw that last one at ninety-four miles per hour.  First base umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled that Jackson went around on what otherwise would’ve been a ball, and that was it.  Fist pump.  Inning over.  Exit Buchholz just in time for a twenty-six-minute rain delay.  And yes, he did go around.

The fact that he threw that many pitches over that many innings showed us that he’s getting back on track.  He can get deep into ballgames and throw a lot of pitches.  You don’t want to see a lot of pitches thrown, but you want to know that he can throw them.  And he did.  Like it was the easiest thing in the world.

More than half of his four-seams as well as his two-seams were thrown for strikes.  Almost three quarters of his changeups were thrown for strikes.  Exactly three quarters of his cutters were thrown for strikes.  And eighty-two percent of his curveballs were thrown for strikes.  His stuff was absolutely filthy.  Even though his innings were efficient in terms of batter count, his lowest pitch count was thirteen in the second; he threw fourteen in the fifth.  His highest pitch count was twenty-six in the first.  Those first two strikeouts of his were incredibly long; the first one took eight pitches, and the second took seven.

In short, the start was easily his best of the year so far.  Hands down.  It was awesome.  But even though it had win written all over it, he never received a decision.

Nobody scored until the eighth inning.  It was wet, visibility was low, and nobody scored until the eighth inning.  Our first four innings at the plate were all one-two-three.  We didn’t send out more than the minimum until the fifth, when we sent out only one above.  The sixth was one-two-three, the seventh was again only four batters, and finally in the eighth we put up our only threat.

If you can’t hit the starter, just wait him out and then pounce on the reliever.  And if you can’t hit the reliever, just wait him out and then pounce on another reliever.  And that’s exactly what we did.  Ryan Perry came on for Phil Coke.  Lowrie grounded out and Cameron popped up.  Daniel Schlereth then replaced Perry, and then things got offensively interesting.  Crawford walked on a full count and Salty hit a double off the Monster.  With Crawford’s speed, that was all it took.  I can’t even believe they thought firing the ball back into the infield would keep him from scoring.  Fitting of course that, on the night when V-Mart returned to Fenway, his replacement drove in the winning run.  Ellsbury was hit by a pitch after that, but the Tigers made another pitching change and Pedroia grounded into a force out.

Thankfully, Bard had had an easy inning in the eighth.  Paps came on and promptly gave up a double to V-Mart, and suddenly that one run was looking pretty shaky.  But it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  A groundout and back-to-back K’s later, Paps picked up his eighth save and the game was over.  1-0, most definitely in our favor.

We are now nursing the longest winning streak we’ve had all year: five games.  Not too shabby.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that two of our starters are on the DL: Dice-K has a sprained ligament in his right elbow and will be out for at least a month, and Lackey has a regular right elbow strain that he wanted to pitch through but wasn’t allowed.  So Lackey will obviously get better soon.  Dice-K is a different story, but having him on the DL for a while may not necessarily be a bad thing.  Wheeler should be back on Friday, and Michael Bowden has joined the bullpen; whether that news is good or bad remains to be seen.  Back to the bright side, we have moved up in the standings and are now two and a half games out of first, good for a tie for second (with the Yankees, which I obviously don’t appreciate, but like I said, we’re moving up).  So clearly things are starting to improve.  The better Buchholz is becoming even better.  And the better Red Sox are becoming even better.  This is good.  This is very good.  We must continue in this direction.  Let’s win ourselves another series.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 6-5, thanks in large part to Tyler Seguin, who scored four points in the second period alone.  So now the series stands even at one apiece.  We got this.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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