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Posts Tagged ‘Tim McClelland’

This was one of those times when one of our aces had, on his terms, a bad night.  But what does a bad night really mean for one of our aces? We sure know what it means for one of our non-aces.  For Lester, it means seven and a third innings, four runs on eight hits, a season-high five walks (he’s walked five twice before), and four strikeouts on 119 pitches, seventy-three of which were strikes.

If you only look at the play-by-play, you would think that Tito committed one of the ultimate sins: leaving the starter in too long.  (Just saying that still conjures up painful memories.) But that’s not really what happened here.  The eighth inning was only a manifestation of problems that were plaguing Lester all night long.  You can see that from his high hit, walk, and pitch counts.  He was lacking in command and location and therefore efficiency.  His cut fastball was awesome; too bad he couldn’t throw only cut fastballs.  His sinker, changeup, and curveball were the problem.  He threw more sinkers than cut fastballs, so his off-speed pitches combined were more frequent.  And they weren’t a dominant force.

He allowed his first run in the first.  He helped himself with a pickoff, but then a walk and two straight singles scored one.  After that, he shut the Twins down.  He faced the minimum in each of his next four innings.  It was like he was warming up in the first and then really started the game in the second inning.  The turnaround was remarkable.  He threw twenty-four pitches in the first; he threw sixteen, eleven, eleven, and only eight in the next four innings.

And then he lost it again and allowed another run in the sixth on a walk and a double on fan interference.  (That means that the umpires must determine the fate of the runners had the fan not interfered, so in this case Tim McClelland determined the runner would have scored anyway.) He extracted himself from a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the seventh but wasn’t so deft in the eighth.  He led off the inning with a walk; always a bad sign.  Then a groundout and a double scored one.  And that’s when he was removed in favor of Aceves, who allowed his inherited runner to score by giving up a double.  Then an intentional walk and a single loaded the bases.  A single scored one more, but it shouldn’t have.  The ball was in position to be caught by Aviles, who was playing second base because Tito did the unthinkable.  He gave Pedroia a day off.  Pedroia is the absolute last person you would ever want to bench no matter how badly he needs it.  Pedroia doesn’t want a day off, and he’ll remind you of that every single second he’s in the dugout.  By his own admission he’s loud, and he just walks around the dugout just being his loud self with everyone who will listen.  Here’s Tito on the prospect of giving Pedroia a day off:

Oh, I’ve been listening to him since noon, so I might as well.

That’s exactly what you want: a player itching to play, even if the guys in the clubhouse can’t stand it.  (Incidentally, Pedroia ended up with some playing time anyway.  He pinch-hit for Reddick in the eighth, and Tito moved Aviles to right.) Anyway, Aviles should have caught that ball.  He didn’t.  Then a play at the plate delivered the second out of the inning.  Aceves came out, Miller came in, another walk re-loaded the bases, but luckily he ended the inning with a strikeout.

So if that’s what Lester’s bad night looks like, that’s fine with me.  He ground it out, and the lineup should be able to pick up the slack.  For a while it looked like it wouldn’t.  Then it did.  Then it didn’t.

We had a man on base in the first and the third, two on in the fourth, and one in the fifth and sixth.  Nothing.  We finally got on the board in the seventh.  With two out, Aviles walked, Ellsbury reached on a missed catch, and Scutaro singled in one.  Papi hit a solo shot in the eighth on a ninety-eight-mile-per-hour fastball right down the middle.  He put it in the bullpen.  He timed that swing perfectly and just unleashed.  He crushed it.  From the point of contact with his bat, that ball traveled an estimated 419 feet.  At the time, it tied the game at two.  But we went down in order in the ninth.  We lost, 5-2.

We don’t head into our first day off since July 21 with immediate momentum, but we’re still in a good place.  It was a frustrating game, but we won the series, we’re in first place, and we’re going to Seattle.  Seattle is a great place to be right now.

AP Photo

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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.

Reuters Photo

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