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When was the last time that we scored literally no runs? I remember scoring a lot of runs.  I remember scoring a handful of runs.  I even remember scoring almost no runs, a scenario with which we have both won and lost.  But I find myself now in the fortunate position of being unable to recall exactly when we lost and scored zero runs.  It was a bad case of extremes.  Our pitcher’s horrendous day happened to coincide with their pitcher’s great day.  What are the odds?

Doubront had a great first inning; he gave up a single but then recorded three straight outs to end the frame.  After recording the first two outs in the second, he gave up a double and two singles that resulted in only one run that inning.  He gave up three singles in the third but didn’t allow any runs.  All in all, his first three innings were perfectly respectable.  There were signs of trouble; he allowed too many hits than he should have and was fortunate to escape relatively unscathed.  But it all unraveled in the fourth.

Doubront induced a popout and then gave up a single.  He got a strikeout and then gave up two consecutive singles, a walk, a double, and another single.  All told, five runs scored.  That last single was technically given up by Wilson, but the runner who scored was inherited, so there you go.  Wilson, taking his cue from Doubront, gave up two singles and a double in the fifth that plated the game’s final run.  The sixth proceeded without incident, as did the first half of the seventh.  Mortensen pitched the rest of the seventh as well as the eighth.

Doubront’s three-and-two-thirds innings constituted the absolute worst start of his career.  That’s a fact.  He walked one, struck out two, and gave up six runs on twelve hits.  We have seen him, start in and start out, maneuver himself into and out of jams repeatedly.  At some point, some lineup was bound to figure out a way to capitalize on those jams.  It happened yesterday.

Our performance at the plate was nothing short of disgraceful.  We went down in order in the first.  Papi singled to lead off the second.  We went down in order again in the third and fourth, the latter despite Victorino’s single thanks to a double play.  The same occurred in the fifth when Middlebrooks walked and the inning still ended after three came up.  Ciriaco and Ellsbury hit back-to-back singled in the sixth, but nothing materialized.  Gomes singled in the seventh, Ellsbury singled in the eighth, and we went down in order in the ninth; Derek Lowe of all people closed it out.

And that’s how we managed six hits, one walk (belonging to Gomes), and only two runners in scoring position all game long.  The final score was seven-zip, most definitely not in our favor.

AP Photo
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Finally! Okay, now we’re in business.  I don’t want to necessarily say that the news is big news; I think a year or two ago it would have been really big news, but players age year to year, and last year’s phenom is this year’s solid, all-around acquisition who’s good but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor anymore.  But given our needs and our situation, I’d say Ben’s moves during and after the Winter Meetings were good and much-needed ones.  He’s putting together a stable team while maintaining a healthy amount of financial flexibility, and John Farrell is happy with the developments.  All in all, I’d say we’re definitely going in a great direction.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.  We’ve signed Mike Napoli to a three-year contract worth thirty-nine million dollars.  Don’t let last season’s aggregate stats fool you.  He batted .227 with twenty-four home runs and fifty-six RBIs with an on-base percentage of .343, but look at his numbers in his new home: .307 batting average, nine home runs, twenty RBIs, and a 1.14 OBP.  Admittedly, the sample size of seventy-five at-bats is small, but numbers aside, he’s known for pulling the ball, and his swing will thrive in Fenway.  As for defense, he’s a catcher by trade, but don’t expect to see him behind the plate.  He’ll probably end up at first.

Our next name is Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  It’s another three-year, thirty-nine-million-dollar deal.  Last year, he batted .255 with eleven homers, fifty-five RBIs, and a .321 OBP.  Don’t forget that he bats switch, though, and while he batted .229 as a leftie, he batted .320 as a rightie.  But he had vastly more at-bats from the left than the right, so again, the sample size must be considered.  Still, versatility has never been frowned upon in our organization.  As for defense, like Napoli, Victorino will not field in familiar territory.  All trade rumors concerning Ellsbury are patently false, and Victorino will not be playing center.  He’ll be playing right for sure.  And it’ll be a welcome relief.  Fenway’s right field can break any veteran, but Shane has the stuff to handle it.  He has three Gold Gloves and a center fielder’s speed and arm, and that combination in right, once he learns the fatal angles out there, will be formidable.  It’ll be nice breathing easy with a steady patrol out there.

It’s worth noting that Ben and John met in person with Josh Hamilton, but don’t get too excited.  We already have Ellsbury, and Hamilton wants either Texas or a long-term deal, neither of which we will provide.

And we signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million.  Granted, he has spent almost all of his time in the National League aside from a few handfuls of games last season, which he started for Texas.  But his ERA was 3.38 last season, and his WHIP was 1.20; not too shabby.  Just as important, if not more important, to why we were interested in him in the first place is the fact that, before last season, his last for seasons totaled at least two hundred innings, and last season he clocked 173 innings which isn’t too far behind.  That means three things: durability, durability, durability.  On the other hand, durability doesn’t mean much unless you’re good, and his brief stint in the American League didn’t go well at all, so I’m concerned as to how he’ll make out in the AL East, which, as we all know, is the toughest division there is, basically.  So I’d say we can approach this one with cautious expectations.  But at least we got some sort of starting pitcher, which is a step in the right direction.  We also added Koji Uehara, who signed a one-year deal.  In thirty-six innings last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP.  That means good late-inning work for us.

We finished the Zach Stewart trade by acquiring Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates and assigned him to the PawSox.  We also claimed Sandy Rosario from the A’s, and he has since been claimed by the Cubs.  Gary DiSarcina, formerly the Angels’ minor league field coordinator, is now the PawSox manager.

So we had gaps and voids, we identified them, and we set about filling them with solid, stable choices who will fit in both on the field and in the clubhouse.  We now have some powerful hitters and defenders in the lineup whose numbers admittedly were not great last year but who stand, given the right circumstances, to do great things, and we have some great additions to the clubhouse as well.  We also have a starter who’s spent hardly any time in the AL and whose time he did spend in the AL was nothing to write home about but who has considerable potential.  We still have a lot of work to do; we need more and better starting pitching, for one thing.  That’s a big one.  But slowly but surely we’re getting it done.  We don’t need to make the world’s biggest splash to put a team together that can go the distance.

In other news, the Pats beat the Dophins, 23-16, and the Texans, 42-14.

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We officially have our new manager, and this shouldn’t be a surprise either.  It’s John Farrell! Honestly, it was supposed to be John Farrell all along, but last year he had two years left on his contract and the Jays instituted that rule that their employees couldn’t make lateral moves to other clubs.  Now, he already managed the Jays for two years and had one year left on his contract so we’ll have to compensate the Jays; look for Mike Aviles and Adam Lind to be included in the deal.  There isn’t much to say by way of introduction because we already know him.  Over the last two years, Toronto’s record has been 154-170.  Obviously that’s not great.  But if the whole Bobby Valentine fiasco taught us something, it’s the value of the intangible factors that come into play when one is managing.  Farrell has been with us through plenty of good, bad, and ugly, and if we can’t have Terry Francona, then Farrell is probably the next-best thing.  Obviously he has a ridiculous amount of work to do, but I believe that he can take the first step down the long road of recovery that’s facing us right now.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick either.  It’s not going to happen overnight.  But it’ll be that much better with the right man on board.  Welcome back!

Unfortunately, Dave Magadan was lured away by the Rangers; he’s now their hitting coach.

Speaking of the Yankees, the Tigers swept them right out of October.  That was pretty sweet.  It still hurts that we weren’t the ones doing the sweeping, but at least somebody did it.

In other news, the Pats experienced another nailbiter loss, this one to the Seahawks, 24-23.

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Honestly, it doesn’t get much more infuriating than that.  I’m just going to jump right in because it’s really tough to deal with it all.

Cook pitched decently.  He only lasted five innings, and he gave up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and second, and gave up a double in the third.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the fourth followed by a single and then a two-run home run.  Following  two quick outs, he gave up a single, and then a fielding error put another runner on, but the inning ended there.  He allowed a single in the fifth and a double to lead off the sixth, at which point he was replaced by Hill, who was replaced by Aceves after three batters.

Meanwhile, we reduced our deficit from three runs to two; in the bottom of the fourth, Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single by Loney.

Aceves came out for the seventh and gave up a single followed by a two-run home run of his own, which made the score 5-1.  Two outs later, he gave up a double and was replaced by Carpenter, who ended the inning.  In the bottom of the seventh, we made another dent in the score.  Ross began the inning by striking out, but then Salty and Nava hit back-to-back doubles.  The Yanks sent out their third pitcher of the inning, and then Salty scored on a groundout by Gomez and Nava scored on a double by Aviles.  5-3.

Carpenter handled the eighth without incident baseball-wise but with incident drama-wise; when Bobby V. came out to the mound and Aceves saw Carpenter coming in, he walked to the other side of the mound to avoid Bobby V. when he left the field.  In terms of the bottom of the inning, we failed to score.  But it was not without further drama.

Ross ended the inning on a called strike; the at-bat featured seven pitches, all but one of them sliders, and the count had been full.  Ross and everyone else who had a pair of decently functioning eyes could see that that last supposed strike was actually a ball because it was low, and he let home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez know it immediately. So Marquez rejected him; it was only the second rejection in Ross’s career.  Several minutes later, Bobby V., who had separated Ross and Marquez, went back out there to have a talk with him that obviously got heated pretty quickly and was ejected for the sixth time this year, which sets the record for the most single-season ejections by any manager we’ve ever had in our long, illustrious history.  And at some point even third base coach Jerry Royster was ejected for some reason, so bench coach Tim Bogar was managing and coaching third at the same time at the end of it all.  The whole situation was just absurd and could have been neatly avoided had Marquez just done his job and saw reality.

Anyway, Miller and Padilla teamed up to shut out the Yanks in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set for another possible walkoff.  Salty’s leadoff at-bat was exactly the kind of at-bat you hope for most in those situations.  The count was full and he got an eighty-three mile-per-hour slide as his sixth pitch.  He’s a big guy, and he unleashed his formidable power on it and sent it out of the park to right field for a solo shot that only he could have powered out of the park.  We were now one run away with nobody out, and between Salty having made it look so easy and our last-minute heroics of the previous night, we were daring to believe that we could potentially pull it off again.

But we didn’t.  Nava flied out, Gomez grounded out, and Aviles reached on a fielding error.  Ellsbury could have put the whole thing away right then and there.  But he grounded out instead.

So we lost, 5-4.  But no one can say we didn’t put up a fight.  Because we did, both literally and figuratively.  We manufactured our own runs and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps in the face of a deficit and dared to call a ball, a ball.  We just kept going at it all night long, but we came up just short in the end.  It’s just so infuriating.  I mean, I have to think that we’ve lost this way to plenty of other teams this year since clearly we’re in the business of losing every way to every other team this year, but to do it against the Yankees is particularly brutal.  We were almost there; we just needed one more run to tie it, and we could take care of them in extras.  And we couldn’t get it done.  It’s the story of our 2012 baseball lives.

On a more cheerful note, we have next year’s schedule, so assuming that we’re optimistic, it’s a reminder of something to look forward to.  The season starts for us on April 1 in the Bronx; we follow Opening Day with a day off and then conclude the three-game series.  We then head off to Toronto for three games, and then we head home for our home opener against Baltimore, which is followed by another day off.  We then finish our series with Baltimore and play the Rays before spending three games in Cleveland and going back home to face the Royals, A’s, and newly-AL Astros.  Then we have a day off and we go back to Toronto and then to Arlington, our first full series of May.  The Twins and Jays comprise another homestand, followed by a day off and another road trip against the Rays, Twins, and Other Sox.  Then back home we’ve got the Tribe and the Phillies, followed by a series at Philadelphia and then the Bronx, followed by a day off.  That takes us to June, our first full series of which is at home against the Rangers and then the Angels.  Then we head off to Toronto and Baltimore before another day off and coming home to face the Rays.  Then we head off to Detriot before another day off and another homestand featuring the Rockies, the Jays, a day off, and the Padres in July.  Then it’s off to the West Coast for the Angels, Mariners, and A’s before the All-Star break.  When play resumes, we host the Yanks and Rays before a trip to Baltimore and a day off.  The west then comes to us as we host the Mariners and D-Backs at home, which brings us to August.  We then travel to Houston and Kansas City before taking a day off and traveling to Toronto.  We host the Yanks at home after that, followed by a trip to San Francisco, a day off, a trip to Los Angeles for the Blue Sox, another day off, and then a homestand featuring the Orioles, Other Sox, and Tigers, which brings us to September.  We go to the Bronx after that, take a day off, go to Tampa Bay, and return home for the Yanks, a day off, the Orioles, the Jays, and another day off.  Then we go to Colorado for two games, take a day off, and go to Baltimore for the last series of the season.  So we’ve got at least three days off every month except one: May, our most packed month, when we only have one day off.  But it’s a good schedule.  It’s interesting that Interleague is sort of spread out this year instead of being clustered in June.  It’s often a tough schedule, and we have to play some worthy opponents, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to hold our own next year.

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I think that, by the time this season comes to an end for us, we will have experienced almost every single way a ballclub could possibly lose.  Including the most painful ones.  Like when you’re down by a substantial amount of runs and then come back to tie it and then drop it anyway.

What a ride.  It was spectacular for just long enough to get our hopes all the way up.  Of course, that means it hurts that much more when you fall down.  And we fell down yesterday.

It started with Beckett.  If Beckett hadn’t pitched horribly, we wouldn’t have had to come back in the first place.  He gave up eight runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out two.  He lasted only five innings and threw eighty-six pitches.  It was horrible.  His pitches were off, he got behind hitters, and he couldn’t close the deal.  He just kept giving up hit after run after hit after run.

Beckett’s first at-bat should have been an indication of what was to come; he threw nine pitches and ended up giving in for a walk.  And then he gave up a single, and then he gave up a triple and a sac fly which brought in three runs.  Beckett closed out the Rangers in the second, third, and fourth; he actually went one-two-three in the second and fourth.  But he fell apart some more in the fifth, during which he gave up two home runs.  The first was a solo shot to open the frame.  The second was a two-run home run after allowing a single.  And as his last act of the game, Beckett gave up another two-run home run in the sixth, after giving up another single.

And that was when Mortensen replaced him.  And he gave up a solo shot of his own in the seventh before going one-two-three in the seventh and giving up a walk and a single in the eighth.

And this is the part where I talk about the offense.  We were down by three heading into the bottom of the first; we got two of those runs back when Pedroia singled and scored on a double by Gonzalez, who scored on a single by Ross.  We pulled even at three in the third when Ross powered the fourth pitch of his at-bat, a cutter over to the Monster for a solo shot with two out.  Thanks to Beckett’s home runs, the Rangers pulled ahead by three, a deficit that we reduced to one in the bottom of the fifth, when Crawford tripled and scored on a double by Gonzalez, who later scored on a passed ball.  The Rangers extended their lead to three again after Beckett’s third and final home run and to four on Mortensen’s home run.

And then it happened.  We made a comeback in the seventh, and we made it look easy.  We made it look like it should have been us with the lead all along.  We made it look like all we do is hit and run on a regular basis.  More importantly, we made it look like we might actually win this game.

Pedroia singled and scored on a double by Gonzalez.  Then Ross walked.  And then it was Middlebrooks’s turn to bat.  And he gave us a repeat performance.  The power, the perfect timing, the intensity with which we needed those runs were all present.  Middlebrooks saw two curveballs before getting the fastball with a speed increase of more than twenty miles per hour.  And he just unleashed.

And that’s how we tied the game at nine and how we really believed that it was ours to win.  Actually, it was ours to win.  We just didn’t win it.  Instead, Mortensen was relieved by Aceves, who did something as innocent as get a flyout.  Normally this kind of thing ends innings or is of little consequence.  But this mistake was so egregious that it resulted in a loss.

The final score was 10-9, and I am just so tired of this situation.  How often has this happened to us? Way too often.  Everyone knows the whole deal by heart: promising pitcher doesn’t live up to expectations, offense does its best to compensate, relief corps squanders offense’s effort.  The fact that we are so well acquainted with this whole story is absolutely pathetic.

The Boston Globe

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What a game.  It could have been so good.  It could have been really, really great.  And yet ultimately it was just so, so bad.

Lester, for his part, was great.  His numbers don’t even tell half the real story of how his start went.  His line says that he gave up four runs on six hits over the course of six and two-thirds innings and that he walked two and struck out four and that he threw 116 pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  But as decent as that line is for Lester, it’s not an accurate reflection of how truly good he was.

He was really great.  He completely shut out the Rangers through five.  He faced the minimum through four, and they would have been four perfect innings if he hadn’t given up a single in the second, which ended with a double play.  He finally faced one above the minimum in the fifth after allowing a single; unlike the fourth, the fifth did not end with a double play.  The sixth and seventh were when the Rangers got to him.  So essentially almost his entire line was created during those two innings alone, which, as I said, is obviously not an accurate reflection of how truly excellent he really was.  I mean, his cut fastball was as good as I’ve ever seen it, and he mixed in his other pitches to provide a rich variety of utter devastation for Texas.

He allowed a double to lead off the sixth.  He notched a called strikeout for the first out of the inning, and then the run scored on a single.  A groundout secured the second out but moved the runner to second, and another single brought it in.  The inning ended with a flyout.  The seventh was very similar; Lester induced a flyout for the frame’s first out and then gave up a walk, a single, and a sac fly that scored his third run.  Then he allowed another walk and was relieved by Melancon, who gave up a single that allowed his inherited runner to score, which accounts for Lester’s final run.

Clearly Lester fell apart late.  He allowed all of his walks, all of his runs, and most of his hits over the course of two innings; those two walks both came in the seventh.  But before that, how good was he.  Yeah.  Pretty good.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the offense, which was shut out through six.  We headed into the bottom of the seventh with a four-run deficit.  And I was thinking that it was going to be one of those nights.  Until we ultimately, finally turned it on just in time for us to think that we might actually be able to pull out a win in this one.

Three runs scored in the seventh put us within one.  There was a single with one out by Salty, and a trip to first on an error with two out by Kalish.  And then a pitching change.  And then the huge and enormous power of Middlebrooks.  It was one of those times where you knew we desperately needed something as drastic as a monster shot, and so naturally if you really need it you question whether you’re going to get it.  And then you do get it and it’s almost just surreal.  Except that it happened, and it was literally a monster shot because he hit it to left field and all of a sudden we scored three runs on one swing of the bat and suddenly we were right back in it.

Except that the relief corps couldn’t keep us in that position.  Which is pathetically funny and sadly ironic since the whole point of a relief corps is to preserve leads.

Melancon gave up a walk and a single that increased the deficit to two in the eighth.  And we didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth.  Breslow was put in for the ninth, and he hit a batter and induced a popout before being replaced by Tazawa, who got a strikeout and then allowed a single that brought in his inherited runner.  That increased the deficit to three.  So after we swung the momentum back in our direction so late in the game, after we rallied to pull it together after having done absolutely nothing for most of it, after Middlebrooks powered us right back in there and made Texas’s lead unsafe, we were right back where we started in ever sense: with a loss.  Salty singled in the bottom of the ninth, but then there was a double play, and we ended up going down in order.

The final score was 6-3.  At least it wasn’t 6-0.  But after not scoring for almost the entire game and then coming back so late and then ultimately losing, it’s a very, very tough one to swallow.

And as far as Pedroia not checking his swing in the ninth, he checked his swing.  First base umpire Paul Nauert was wrong.  I have absolutely no idea what he was looking at, but it sure wasn’t Pedroia, who was a mile off from a swing at least.

The Boston Globe

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Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  This, my friends, is how it’s done.  This is the kind of win we need consistently.  This is the way we need to play on a regular basis.  This was awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.  Good pitching, good hitting, and good fielding; what a winning combination, to state the obvious.

Cook was the starter, and he delivered.  That was the sinker we’ve been missing during those starts where he was just awful.  He’s still got it in him, and he just made a statement that he can’t be counted out yet.

To be even more corny, he cooked up quite the start.  He pitched seven extremely solid innings, giving up only one run on six hits.  That one run scored in the second as a result of a double-single combination.  Other than that, he had only isolated threats that he expertly negotiated by mixing his pitches and keeping his head down.  He seemed to really find his stride starting in the third; over the course of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, he faced only two above the minimum.  He walked three and struck out two.  And he was efficient, throwing a total of ninety-eight pitches.

He was relieved by Tazawa for the eighth and ninth.  Tazawa gave up a solo shot to lead off the ninth, but fortunately by that time we were in a position where the game was more than put away.

We didn’t score until the third, so Texas had the smallest of leads for a very short time before we promptly took it back and never gave it up, which was a nice change of pace. Ellsbury and Crawford opened the third with back-to-back doubles that scored one, and Gonzalez doubled in Crawford one out later for two.  We gave ourselves more of a cushion in the fourth; Middlebrooks flied out to open the inning, but then Kalish walked, Aviles singled, and we had three straight scoring plays: Ellsbury hit a double, Crawford hit a sac fly, and Pedroia hit a double.  Three more runs just like that.

We took a break in the fifth and sixth before adding another run in the seventh.  Pedroia doubled and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We put the final touches on the win in the eighth.  Aviles started out with a groundout, which was not at all an indication of things to come.  I can imagine that it may have put Texas in a bit of false security for a bit.  But then Ellsbury singled and scored on a double by Crawford.  Pedroia then walked to put two men on base.  Crawford scored on a single by Gonzalez, and Ciriaco, who had come in to pinch-run for Pedroia, scored on a sac fly by Ross.

So let’s tally it up, shall we? The final score was a grand 9-2.  We scored in four of eight innings during which we made plate appearances.  We had fourteen hits, eight of which were for extra bases.  All of those eight hits were doubles; none were homers.  Our starters in spots one through four all had multi-hit games, and they were huge: Ellsbury went three for five with two doubles, Crawford went two for four with two doubles, Pedroia went three for four with three doubles, and Gonzalez went three for five with one double.  Only two members of the starting nine went hitless, Salty and Middlebrooks, but even they walked once.

So not only did we win, and not only did we do it on the back of strong performances from pitching and hitting and fielding, and not only did men who have been struggling, including Cook, end up delivering, but we also managed to have a slugfest without slugging.  In this game we did it all, which shows that we have it in us to do it all.  All we have do now is, well, keep doing it.  How awesome would it be to win like this all the time?

The Canadian Press

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