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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Lincecum’

There’s the reminder of good pitching that we’ve been looking for! You can always count on Lester for one of those.  I mean, that wasn’t just good pitching.  That was great pitching.  That was outstanding pitching.  That was you-have-absolutely-no-chance pitching.

Dude went the distance for the second time this season and sixth time in his career.  That’s what I call taking one for the bullpen, although for him it really wasn’t that hard.  He had, as he is wont to have, the right stuff.  103 pitches in nine innings.  One run on five hits.  One run. Nine strikeouts.  His ERA is now down to 2.86.  Ridiculous.

His cut fastball was a thing of beauty.  He topped it out at ninety-three miles per hour.  His sinker, changeup, and curveball were excellent.  With the exception of the slider, of which he only threw one, the vast majority of all his pitches were thrown for strikes.  Really, he had a seventy-four percent strike rate for his pitch total.  That’s obscenely high.  Three-quarters of his pitches were thrown for strikes.  No wonder he was so efficient.

He threw a game-high of sixteen pitches in the sixth.  For a lot of pitchers in the Majors, that’s the least number of pitches they throw in a game.  He packed up the ninth in only six pitches.  Only six! That’s what I call taking care of business.

Beyond that, he pretty much had everything going.  The tight release point, the mix of pitches, the speed variation, the excellent movement.  He used every pitch in any count.  He was fearless.  You name it, he had it.  Including the win, of course.  He totally stole the show from Lincecum.  By the time Lester finished the ninth, Lincecum had been watching from the dugout for six innings.  You read right.  Tim Lincecum, the gem of the National League, the winner of the Cy Young Award, was removed after the third after throwing seventy-nine pitches.  If Lincecum thought he’d be able to go out there and hold his own opposite Lester, he had quite another thing coming.

The final score was 5-1, and we scored four of our runs against Lincecum alone.  Starting with Papi’s home run in the first.  I’ve heard it called a water shot, because essentially that’s what it was.  It was arguably the farthest, most powerful home run that David Ortiz has ever hit in his career.  It sailed over the infield, over the outfield, and right into McCovey Cove, the body of water behind the right field stands.  Two outs, full count, an eighty-six mile-per-hour split-fingered fastball up in the zone and he gave a kayaker a nice memnto.  It was the seventy-second time someone hit a ball in there in the history of AT&T Park, the twentieth time by a visitor.  It was Papi’s sixteenth long ball of the season, and man, was it long.  Right field is 365 feet, and then you have the stands, and then the water.  So yeah.  That was a long home run.

In the second, Lester helped his own cause by scoring V-Mart on a well-hit sac fly, followed by an RBI single by Scutaro.  Speaking of V-Mart, as if our injury list couldn’t possibly get any worse, guess who’s out for the count? He fractured his left thumb and left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.  Great.  Just great.  This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it.  Well, then.  We’ll have to step it up even more, won’t we.

In the third, Youk singled, Drew walked, Hall singled in Youk, and Lincecum left.  And Beltre ended the run-scoring in the ninth the way Papi started it, with a long ball of his own, this one hit deep to left field.  This one barely cleared the fence, but like I said, in these expansive parks even that takes some power.  And he only came into the game for defense.  Nicely done.

So that’s what I was talking about.  If our pitching staff ramps up the run prevention and the lineup contributes, we can still win without the guys on the DL.  Although of course we wish them all a speedy recovery.  Like, a really speedy recovery.  Meanwhile, we can celebrate.  Not only did we win the game, but we won the series, we finished Interleague thirteen and five, and we snapped our tie with the Rays! Ladies and gentlemen, we now officially own second place and are two games out of first.  Tomorrow night, the fun begins; we take on the Rays and widen the gap in a two-game set at Fenway.  It’ll be Shields and Lackey followed by Dice-K and Garza.  We have a chance here to put ourselves out in front in the standings.  Let’s make the most of it.

AP Photo
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Are you kidding me? Seriously? Really, National League? This is the second time in five games that the league itself has found a way to best us.  This is the second time in two games that we’ve lost someone to injury during a National League game.

If you thought losing Pedroia on Friday was bad, things just got a whole lot worse.  Firstly because his injury is, in fact, serious.  He’s got a non-displaced fracture in his foot and will be out for at least the next few weeks.  Of all the position players, we have the least bench depth at second base.  Great.  Just great.

And if you think that’s bad, things just got even worse last night.  Buchholz hit a single in the first Major League at-bat of his career with one out in the second inning.  After Scutaro hit into a double play, he promptly left the game with a hyperextended left knee sustained on his strange landing at second base.  He wasn’t sure if he should slide in or veer off, so he came up with some weird mixture of both which caused him to land at a weird angle, and the rest is history.  Yeah.  It was pretty ugly.  Our ten-game winner, tied for second place in the American League in that category, is out because we happened to be playing in a National League ballpark.  That’s just ridiculous.  I can’t even believe it.  Luckily, it doesn’t appear serious, and he might even make his next start.  Hopefully that doesn’t change tomorrow morning with a Pedroia-like report.

So because of this National League absurdity, the bullpen suddenly found itself in charge of the entire rest of the game.  That’s no small task on any given day, but especially with the workload the bullpen’s had this past week.  But they got the job done, turning in a final score of 4-2.

Atchison pitched the next two innings plus an out, giving up a hit on two runs and a walk and earning the win.  He was working with a four-run lead, so he pounded the zone and got his outs.  It was essentially a repeat performance of those three innings he pitched after Dice-K left.  With a little help from Youk, who stole away a line drive with a diving catch.  Ramirez finished the inning he started and was followed by Delcarmen, who gave up a run on three hits and left Richardson with runners at the corners with nobody out.  But Richardson, Okajima, and Bard combined to pitch the next three innings perfectly, each earning holds.  With a little help from Cameron, whose diving catch in the eighth reminded everyone of Jacoby Ellsbury.  As soon as that ball left Sandoval’s bat, Cameron was on the run.  He tracked it all the way to the center field wall and fell down on the warning track in the process but got the out.  That was some agility right there, which wasn’t easy since technically he’s still not the picture of health.  Paps recorded his seventeenth save.  Only eight pitches.  No hits, runs, walks, or errors.  What a nice change of pace.

Collectively, the bullpen tossed eight frames and gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.  That’s remarkable.  That’s as good an outing as Buchholz or Lester or any elite starting pitcher would turn in.  They had the novelty factor on their side; opposing batters don’t have a chance to figure a pitcher out if that pitcher is replaced in the next inning.  And they used that to their advantage.  We talk about manufactured runs all the time; this was a manufactured win all the way through.  This was the bullpen’s best game all season.  And if this game doesn’t prove that we have one of the best bullpens in the Majors, then I really don’t know what does.

In the first, McDonald smashed a solo shot to left field.  In the second, Cameron smashed a three-run shot to center field.  With one swing, he posted his first homer in his ninety-two at-bats in a Boston uniform as well as his most productive performance of the season so far.  So we scored twice as many runs as the Giants on one less hit.  But those were some seriously powerful hits.  Substantial swings.  Both balls were hit deep.  They didn’t land too far behind the fences, but this is an expansive park.  It’s tough to hit home runs in places like that.  You need some power to get it done.

So, we find ourselves in a bit of a precarious situation.  Buchholz’s injury isn’t that bad; he’s a pitcher, so he automatically gets five days off anyway, and if he misses one start, we’ll live.  Pedroia is the problem.  Our starting second baseman will be out for a few weeks.  That’s serious.  If we’re going to get through those weeks without damaging our position in the standings, we’re going to need the B team and the pitching staff to step up.  We need to win with fewer runs, and that takes contributions from everyone.  Luckily, we’ve seen that happen and we know we’ve got it in us.  Our first test comes tonight, when Lester starts opposite Tim Lincecum.  We’re still tied with Tampa Bay.  Maybe a win tonight will break it.

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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

Sawxblog/Derek Hixon

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