Posts Tagged ‘Target Field’

Bedard really could be the reason why Lackey is pitching so well lately.  Lackey lives to compete, and the sudden insertion of a direct competitor is probably what he lives for.  That’s not an excuse for his previously poor performance; he shouldn’t need that to pitch well because pitching for his team should be enough to get him going.  But at this point it’s important that Lackey find his footing regardless of the reason why.

Bedard hurled another quality start.  Inefficient but quality.  Two runs on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings.  Ninety pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  The key to his success, by his own admission and by common sense, will be to get ahead of hitters and keep the counts down, clearly not something he was doing when he issued almost one walk per inning.  But he kept the team in it for more than half the game.  It’s just frustrating that now the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day.

The heartening thing about that is that, for this start at least, it’s somewhat misleading.  He got his one bad inning over with in the first and was dominant from there.  But that one bad inning was one epically bad inning.  He allowed all of his runs as well as all of his walks and threw thirty-six pitches in the first inning alone.  Only sixteen of those were strikes.  We’ve seen Dice-K throw a ton of pitches in an inning before; thirty-six is an astronomical number of pitches to throw in a single frame.  It was terrible.  No command, no control, no location, no precision.  So, really, it was the first inning that by all accounts gave anyone anything negative to say about the entire outing.  And you could even make an argument that home plate umpire Tim McClelland, who’s widely recognized as one of the best umpires around, was partially responsible because, for whatever reason, he just had a bad day back there.  He made some severely questionable calls.  So by all accounts that was one glaringly negative first inning.  There are two bright sides to it: it’s a wonder he escaped from that inning with only two runs allowed and not more, and he was fully able to bounce back completely.

The highlights of his repertoire were his four-seam and changeup, which would explain his inefficiency; he threw mostly curveballs and two-seams, which were not the highlights of his repertoire, to say the least.

After that first inning, he shut the Twins down.  Did he get the win? No.  Why? The middle relief.

The bases were loaded with two out in the first for Lowrie, who did nothing with that opportunity.  We didn’t have another serious opportunity to get on the board until the sixth, so McDonald created his own in the fifth.  Tek walked to lead off the inning, and McDonald went yard on a hanging slider to the second deck in left.  It was an enormously powerful shot.  Fancisco Liriano wants that one back.  Hey, don’t call it Target Field unless you want us to treat it like one.

Lowrie and Crawford worked back-to-back walks in the sixth; Lowrie scored on a single by Tek, but Crawford was gunned down at third.

As you can see, we had a one-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth, which meant that it was Bedard’s game to win.  He received a no-decision because Albers gave up a game-tying RBI double.  Tek took the blame for it; he insisted he made a bad call.  Either way, Bedard did not earn the W.

But for the second straight night, a reliever received a blown save and the win.  We loaded the bases for Papi in the seventh; he singled one in, and that was enough.  A hold for Morales, a hold for Bard, a save for Paps, and a 4-3, grind-it-out win for the team.  Two hits each for Gonzalez and McDonald, plus the usual leather-flashing by Youk and Pedroia.

Honestly, if you saw Papi step up to the plate with the bases loaded, are you really thinking single? I don’t know about you, but my mind was on the possibility of a grand slam.  I would have been thankful for anything, but you know, something for extra bases.  Instead, there was absolutely no power whatsoever.  It wasn’t even a rocket of a single into the outfield.  It was just a dribbler that Phil Dumatrait couldn’t get his hands on – literally, because he slipped and fell when he tried to field it – but even if he could, Pedroia still would have scored.  A win is a win, and it takes all kinds of wins.  When your team becomes an expert in the art of science and winning, you know you’re going somewhere.

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To put it succinctly, yesterday was a bad day.

Yesterday could’ve seen Wakefield become our all-time winningest starter.  Through the first four innings, he was certainly on track; he allowed an RBI single in the second and that was it.

Then we hit the fifth.  Three runs scored, and Morneau avenged his at-bat from Wednesday.  That was only the beginning.  By the time Wakefield left, we were just over five innings into it and were down by six.  Five earned runs on ten hits with a walk and two strikeouts.  Ninety-nine pitches.  The overwhelming majority were knuckleballs, three were fastballs, and three were curveballs, all of which were thrown for strikes.  That’s the chance you take with a knuckleballer; if he’s on, he’s on, but if he’s not, it’s a complete disaster.  This was one of those complete disasters.

We have officially established that Target Field is a hitter’s ballpark.  The wind blows outward and everything.

Schoeneweis contributed to the mess by allowing two runs on three hits.  Ramirez didn’t want to miss out, so although he didn’t allow any runs, he didn’t finish his job before allowing two hits and a walk.  It was just an all-around mess on the mound.

To make matters worse, the fielders didn’t help much, either.  Hall made a fielding error in the second that allowed runners to advance.  Wake’s unearned run scored on a throwing error by Beltre.  And V-Mart didn’t want to be left out, so he made a fielding error of his own.  Three errors in one game.  In one game, we topped our total for the entire season thus far.

We find out that Ellsbury is taking longer than expected to heal and could be out tonight as well.  Also, Cameron has been scratched due to a lower abdominal strain.  That’s what put Hall in center and Hermida in left.  So for two-thirds of our starting outfield, playing status is uncertain.

And now for the offense.  There was none.  The end.

I’m serious.  The final score was 8-0.  This was the best I’ve seen Liriano against us, ever.  We managed only one hit between the second and seventh innings.  Our only extra-base hit was a double by V-Mart, which partly makes up for that fielding error.  We left eight on base.

Hard to believe, but there were some bright spots in this whole fiasco.  Not many, but there were.  Mauer went 0 for 4; Schoeneweis struck him out in the sixth.  That was pretty cool.  Lowell hit the ball hard to left center twice.  (The second time, Kubel robbed him of a base hit.  He charged and dove for the out.) Jose Mijares  came on in relief of Liriano and promptly loaded the bases.  (The fact that we did absolutely nothing with that golden opportunity is not the point.  And thanks for that, Beltre; he hit into a double play that ended the inning.) And then there was the guy who’s been a bright spot since coming out of the gate: Dustin Pedroia, obviously.  The man went three for four yesterday.  He alone equaled the entire rest of the team’s offensive output.  I’m convinced that he just can’t be contained.  And this isn’t just me talking; check out what a Twins blogger had to say about him:

Dustin Pedroia is good.  As in ridiculously, disgustingly good.

Eat your heart out, MLB.  (By the way, that blog is called Twinkie Town.  What?)

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Yesterday, all players across the league wore No. 42.  I’ve always thought that pretty neat.  Dice-K probably just pitched himself off the DL.  He tossed six shutout innings for Pawtucket yesterday, dominating completely.  He’s now pitched eleven innings in the minors, and I think he’s ready.

Now we get to go home.  Thank goodness.  We’re four and five, and we need to play some games in Boston to get back on track.  We’re taking on the Rays, starting with Davis at Beckett tonight.

The Bruins lost to the Sabres, 2-1.  We played well.  I’d rather lose by that score than by a blowout.  Next game is tomorrow afternoon.

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The important thing is that we picked up the win yesterday.  That win is important to establish momentum, infuse Target Field with a positive and friendly vibe, help the club settle into a groove, and advance us in the standings.  Of those four things, the third is the most important for our long-term success.  Just to prove that it’s still too early to get anything constructive out of the standings, let’s take a gander at them, shall we? We are currently in third, one and a half games behind Toronto and Tampa Bay, who are both tied for first.  Yeah.  Like that’s going to last.

With that 6-3 win comes Lackey’s first decision in a Red Sox uniform.  It was pretty decent.  Two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings with four walks and two K’s seems fine enough, especially when you consider that he finished with a pitch count of 107, reasonable for an outing of that length.  I would’ve preferred less hits and less walks; essentially, it was a command issue that may get lost if you only look at the two runs he allowed.  He struggled through most of the outing.  He threw more cutters than anything else, topping out at ninety-two miles per hour on one of them (he threw fastest when his vertical movement was greatest), but his most effective pitch for strikes was his curveball.  He had some nice speed variation, bottoming out at about seventy-three.  His strike zone was heavy on the left side.  He was roughed up a little in the third and left (peacefully) with a one-run lead when, with one out in the seventh, Mauer stood in.

V-Mart took a passed ball, so Francona intentionally walked Mauer to first.  Morneau ended it.  Done.  Props to Okajima because, with two inherited runners, it could’ve been a lot worse.  Bard and Paps barely got through their shifts.  Bard allowed a run on two hits.  Paps allowed two walks.  Honestly, has it been written somewhere that these two can’t just get their jobs done cleanly? Is there something going on, some new pronouncement of their shakiness, that I don’t know about? I mean, where did all the lights-out go? I’ll tell you one thing: the worse Bard gets, the more Paps’s monetary value at contract time increases.

So much for Ellsbury’s return.  They’re saying Friday now, so he’ll miss the rest of the road trip.  Thankfully, Scutaro has some skills in leadoff, starting the game with a single.  Scutaro, Pedroia, and V-Mart all went two for five.  Scutaro batted in a run.  Pedroia batted in two on a double and a solo dinger to very deep left.  To put that in perspective, last year he didn’t hit his fourth home run until July.  I’ve read a call for the Red Sox to learn themselves some small ball because we don’t have sluggers in the lineup.  Sir, Mr. Pedroia would like to speak with you.

Papi and Beltre also hit doubles.   Papi tried to steal a base which, as usual, was really funny.  Needless to say, he got caught, although Slowey’s last name would’ve indicated that he might have been able to reach safely.  Youk went one for three but walked twice.  Drew walked and scored twice.

But the big offensive story (other than Pedroia, who’s always the big offensive story) is none other than Jeremy Hermida, who hit a loaded-bases-clearing double in the eighth.  In each of his last four games, Hermida has hit for extra-bases from the starting lineup.  How’s he for a nice surprise? At the very least, I’d leave him in as DH for a few more games.

That’s a wrap, folks.  We’re four and four and getting better.  Wakefield will try his hand against Liriano this afternoon; Papi will sit in favor of Hermida.  Also, what’s with these afternoon starts during the week? I’m just saying.  Anyway, this should definitely be interesting.  It’ll be a real test for Wakefield, who only seems to improve with age.

The Bruins begin their playoffs on Thursday when we take on the Sabres.  We ended the season on a high note with a win against the Caps.  It’s a tough way to start, but who knows? Maybe we’ll go somewhere this spring.

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I just stunk. Didn’t make pitches, and I really don’t know what else to say.

Who am I to disagree? The man said it himself, didn’t he? Four runs on nine hits with three walks over five innings.  107 pitches.  Bad bounces every which way.  His cut fastball was all over the place.  No control whatsoever.  Looking at Pitch FX graphs will show you that his release point was concise, but his movement and strike zone were a mess.  He loaded the bases in the first inning! His first decision is a loss.  His ERA is now 7.20, and his WHIP is 2.00.  And the bad April continues.  All we have to do is make it through this month with him, and then we’re set.

Kubel hit a home run off Atchison in the seventh just to make sure we got the message.  I don’t think that was necessary.  We got the message from the first batter up.

The offense was nonexistent.  Papi doubled in Youk in the fourth and continues to slowly but surely but naysayers in their places.  In the eight, Pedroia sacrificed Hermida home, so at least he continues his production.  Youk hit a double of his own.  Scutaro went two for four but I’m officially banning him from stealing.

If only that massive foul by Cameron had gone out.  That ball was hit at least four hundred feet.  And don’t deny it: you were picturing Mauer in a Red Sox uniform one last time, weren’t you.  Especially after that incredibly odd bounce of the ball off second base and then off Scutaro’s glove.  That was scored an RBI hit, by the way.

And in the final blow, Pavano took home the win.  Yes, Carl Pavano.  I know; I’m shocked too.  Shocked and, to be honest, a little humiliated.  Pavano wins over Lester? I didn’t even know that was possible.

And finally, the obligatory commentary on the field.  Target Field is nice.  It’s very fan-friendly.  Very polished.  Very new.  Not something I can relate to being a Red Sox fan who’s used to America’s oldest ballpark, with its original seats and close quarters and sections wherever the ownership group can put them while maintaining the soundness of the structure and Green Monster and history in every sod patch.  But if you’re into that sort of stadium, Target Field is a good one.  They did well.  But there is a very good reason why Red Sox Nation can love Target Field: it isn’t the Metrodome.  That alone makes it one of the most beautiful parks in the Major Leagues.

Ellsbury will probably be back in the lineup tomorrow, and Lackey will be on the mound.  I think tonight will go a little differently.  Tomorrow, if Lackey dominates, we’ll be able to show what run prevention means.  It doesn’t mean you don’t score runs.  It means you don’t need as many runs to win.  But we’ll score runs anyway because we feel like it.  I want to leave Target Field with some wins in our belt.

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And take the series we did! We’ve got eight runs and a stellar starting performance to revel in.  This was a good series for us.  Nothing like a beat-down of a bad team to get your confidence up and your footing under you.  It’s a great way to start a road trip.

The final score was 8-6, but Buchholz was excellent.  Two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout over five.  (Hall played short yesterday; Podsednik scored on Hall’s fielding error when he should’ve ended the inning by firing to first to get Callaspo out.  Way to make a first defensive impression…not.) Gave up a homer and an RBI single.  He threw ninety-five pitches; forty-six fastballs, about an equal number of sliders and changeups, and a few curveballs thrown in.  His movement was fantastic.  All of his trajectories were very precise; his sliders were sliding, his cuts were cutting deep.  In short, if Buchholz pitches like this for the rest of the season, it’s alright by me, with the exception of the seven hits over five innings.  If he’d allowed less hits, his pitch count would’ve been lower, and he would’ve gone deeper, which would’ve preserved the bullpen, not to mention given the Royals less opportunities to score.  (The fact that they didn’t score in retrospect isn’t the point.) But considering his age and past, I’ll chalk this one up to jitters.  I’m just relieved his first start went well because what we absolutely don’t want and quite frankly can’t afford is a repeat of 2008.  But I think that’s long gone.  I think the consistently good Buchholz is here to stay, finally.

The other three runs were given up by Ramon Ramirez.  Ramon Ramirez! The supposed rock of the bullpen! What happened to him? He struggled at the end of last season and never came around, I guess.  But whatever’s wrong with him needs to be fixed immediately.  This is something we can’t have.  We won because we scored eight runs and there was no way the Royals were going to score more than that, but what happens when we don’t have eight runs behind us? Badness, apparently.  So he has work to do.  He allowed three hits, the last of which was a three-run homer that made good on the other two.  Then he left without retiring a batter.  Awful.

On the bright side, before he came on, Delcarmen pitched two almost-perfect innings, and when I say almost perfect, I literally mean almost perfect: he gave up one walk, and that was it.  No hits, no runs.  One walk.  Multiply those two innings by 4.5 and remove the walk and you have yourself a perfect game.  Clearly, working on his extension paid off.  When he struggled, he was cutting it short because it bothered his shoulder to go long, but now that his shoulder is back to normal, he’s working out of that habit.  And it seems to be working!

Bard and Papelbon pitched the eighth for a hold and ninth for a save, respectively.  Both innings were perfect. Finally.

The top of the first featured two RBI singles and an RBI double.  The top of the second featured another RBI single and a very convenient Royals fielding error.  And the top of the fourth featured a home run and a two-RBI double.  All that makes Ellsbury two for five, V-Mart two for four, Beltre three for five, and a certain second baseman four for five.  You read right.  Four for five, and I’ll give you one guess who hit that ball out of the park.  That was his second dinger in two days! All I can say is this barrage of offense from Pedroia is spectacular.  I mean, this is exactly how he won MVP in 2008.  I know it’s early and all, but I’m just saying that if he continues on this pace, the sky is the limit.  (I mean that literally, because if you think about it, a home run can only travel so high.) He’s doing all the right things at the plate and in the field, and he’s galvanizing the team, which is equally crucial.  Every season, we speculate who the early breakout man is going to be.  Pedroia was on everyone’s list but probably not to this extent.  I mean, this is huge.  And how about Beltre? I knew he’d work out.  Ellsbury is officially a leadoff man; V-Mart is the man, period; and Hermida even got in on the action with a double of his own.  (Drew was out of the lineup with a stiff neck.  If Hermida keeps on hitting the way he has been over the past couple of days, Drew can take his time as far as I’m concerned.)

Point being, we have officially established that this lineup is very offensively capable.  Oh, right; Ellsbury and Youk each stole a base.  More importantly, Ellsbury is day-to-day rather than out for at least a few weeks.  He left with one out in the ninth after that nasty  collision with Beltre over a foul ball.  Neither caught the ball, but Beltre’s knee caught Ellsbury’s left ribs.  He’s okay, though; nothing was broken, so it’s just a contusion.

Buchholz was the last in the rotation to go.  (Because ESPN nabbed Opening Day, we had Monday off in addition to our travel day on Thursday, so Beckett was able to pitch yesterday on regular rest.) We have now officially completed one pass through the starting rotation.  We have two decisions to show for it, as unlikely as that sounds; we have losses by the bullpen, as unlikely as that sounds; and we have revealed that the extent of our offensive prowess is large, as unlikely as that may sound to some.  Next stop: Target Field for the Twins’ home opener.  Things to be positive about: the Twins have absolutely no home field advantage aside from the fans because the field is brand-new and they haven’t played there either, and perhaps just as importantly, Target Field isn’t the Metrodome, because as we all know, almost any park would be better than the Metrodome.  Lester starts opposite Pavano and hopefully wins.

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