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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Wakefield’

At least this series wasn’t a total loss.  In fact, we ended up winning it.  It’s always nice to end a series and a weekend on a high note, especially going into an off day.  This is the third of four off days we have in this month alone, but it’s a nice schedule before heading into the playoffs.  We’ll need to save up a lot now that our season has been extended.

Doubront pitched fantastically, giving up only two runs on four hits in seven innings.  It was great.  He gave up a run in the second thanks to a walk and two singles, and he gave up a solo shot to lead off the fifth and that was it.  Other than that, he looked like he was in complete control of the situation.

Morales, however, did not.  He almost got himself into trouble.  Scratch that; he got himself into trouble and then managed to get himself out of it.  The same can not be said of Uehara, who came on for the ninth and didn’t get himself into trouble in the first place.

We actually were down by one going into the bottom of the second, which Carp led off with a flyout.  Then Nava singled, Middlebrooks flied out, Drew singled, Nava scored on a single by Lavarnway, and then everybody came home on a blast by Bradley on his second pitch of the game, one of two knuckleballs of the at-bat.  He took the first one for a ball and launched the second one beyond the right field fence.

That was it until the sixth, which Papi led off by doing almost the exact same thing.  He went yard on his first pitch, also a knuckleball, which he also deposited beyond the right field fence.

So the final score was 5-2.  Both teams collected six hits each, but you really have to be careful when throwing knuckleballs.  I believe that this game has officially illustrated the following fact: just because you’re a knuckleball pitcher doesn’t mean you’re Tim Wakefield.

By the way, I’m glad Yaz finally has a statue.  It’s about time.

In other news, the Pats absolutely crushed the Bucs, winning 23-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

AP Photo

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We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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First of all, we honored Tek before the game for his fifteen years of service to this ballclub, city, and Nation at the plate, behind the plate, and in the clubhouse.  It was awesome.  The brass always does a nice job, and Tek of all people really, really deserved it.  He got emotional during his speech, but then again, who wouldn’t.  Papi gave him two Fenway seats, and Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz gave him the home plate from his last game.  He also threw a knuckleball to Wake for the first pitch.  It was just a really classy way to honor a really classy guy.  We miss you, Tek.  And we salute you.

If only we could have honored him further with a win.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Cook did not have a good night in the least.  He gave up five runs, only three of them earned, on four hits over six and one-third innings pitched.  He walked one and struck out one, and he threw eighty-six pitches.

He had fantastic innings in the first and second without incident.  He gave up a sac fly with the bases loaded in the third that scored one unearned run thanks to a fielding error by Ciriaco.  He again had stellar innings in the fourth and fifth.

And then the badness began in the sixth.  After securing two quick outs, Cook handed out a free pass on five pitches and then gave up a home run.  And then he gave up a solo shot to lead off the seventh.  After a groundout and another fielding error, this one by Middlebrooks, which put a man on base, Cook was replaced by Morales, who secured the second out and dished out a walk before he was replaced by Albers.  Albers gave up a single that scored two, both of which were scored by inherited runners, one from Cook and the other from Morales.

So there are those who say that two pitches caused Cook’s downfall last night.  I would beg to differ; clearly a home run could account for one run only, and it’s not like Cook gave up only two runs, both of which happened to be homers, in which case you could claim that he only made two mistakes.  That’s not what happened.  Cook gave up three earned runs and two unearned runs, and it wasn’t only because he gave up two home runs.  Of course, the issue of how to interpret the unearned runs is always interesting, but ultimately you have to hope that the starter is positioning the team so well that a couple of unearned runs won’t hurt it.  The pitcher can’t control what errors the fielders make, but he can largely control whether runners are on base and therefore score on those errors.  And those runners would have had to be there before the error, so in that sense the pitcher is responsible.  Then again, you have to expect the fielders to field correctly.  So it’s an interesting question.  Since errors are so unpredictable and can’t necessarily be helped, I’m going to say that Cook should have been able to do more to ensure that those errors didn’t cause runs to score.

So in that sense, two pitches didn’t cause Cook’s downfall.  There were many other pitches he threw before those two that had a hand in the loss, even if he did only give up three earned runs.

Some of those other pitches were thrown by the Jays, because clearly we didn’t do much with them, and that didn’t help things.  Salty hit a mammoth three-run shot in the second that was totally awesome.  Gonzalez singled, Ross doubled, and Salty fouled off a slider and a fastball and took a slider for a ball before getting something down and in that he knew he would hit and unleashing on that one.  He sent that into the bullpen.

Padilla pitched the eighth, and Tazawa came on for the ninth.  He allowed a double, a sac bunt that moved the runner to third, and then a run on a fielder’s choice.  The final score was 7-3.  Only two of our five hits were for extra bases, and those five hits were distributed among five of our starting nine.  So there were no multi-hit games and there were not enough hit games.  We even walked only twice.

So here’s the kicker.  At the time, Salty’s home run gave us a three-run lead.  So all these questions of how you look at the unearned runs and how many pitches caused Cook’s downfall don’t have any impact on the fact that let a three-run lead slip through his fingers.  Admittedly, the offense should have done more.  But so should have Cook to preserve that lead.  And that’s why it was crushing, because philosophy aside, we had a lead and then we lost it, and at that point there’s really not much explaining to do.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Well, would you look at that! Not only back-to-back gems, but back-to-back wins as well! Is this us turning our entire season around? I’m wary to say, since there have been times when it looked like that might be the case and then it turned out that it wasn’t so much.  As I’ve been saying, let’s just be happy with what we’ve got and hope for the best.

It was Beckett this time who, despite his recent struggles and soreness, has delivered.  He didn’t pitch a complete game like Lester did, but his performance was of extremely high quality.  In fact, it was easily one of his best starts of the year, and he just looked better during this start than he has in others.  And it resulted in our fifth straight win in as many quality starts! That’s the longest active winning streak in the American League, believe it or not.

Beckett pitched seven shutout innings during which he gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out nine, a season high so far.  He threw ninety-three pitches, sixty of which were strikes.  He went one-two-three in the first, second, third.  He gave up two singles in the fourth.  He walked one in the fifth.  He gave up a single and a walk in the sixth.  And he gave up one single in the seventh.

He struck out one in the first, the last of which was a changeup that induced a swing-and-miss.  He struck out two in the second; the first was a called strike ending with a curveball, and the second was a swinging strike also ending with a curveball.  He struck out two in the three; the first was a swinging strike ending with a fastball, and the second was a swinging strike ending with a fastball.  He struck out one in the fourth on three pitches that ended with a curveball.  He struck out two in the fifth; the first was a foul tip that ended with a cutter, and the second was a swinging strike that ended with a fastball.  He didn’t strike out anyone in his last two innings.  As you can see his curveball was exceptionally deadly.  Interestingly, his strikeouts that ended with fastballs were his longer strikeouts of the night.  Still, his mix of pitches, change of speeds, and precision, accuracy, and execution left absolutely nothing to be desired.  In addition to his curveball, his changeup, cutter, and fastball were truly excellent.  He was even efficient!

Beckett picked up the win, and fortunately Hill and Aceves both were able to pitch with a decent lead.  We had two baserunners on in each of the first two innings but failed to do anything with those opportunities.  Papi corrected that in a hurry in the third, when he blasted a solo shot into the bullpen with one out.  You could tell from the sound of the impact that the ball wasn’t going to stay in the park.  In the fourth, after Salty flied out, Ross walked, Nava singled, Ross scored on a double by Aviles, and Nava scored on a groundout by Sweeney.  In the fifth, Papi singled and scored on a single by Middlebrooks.  (He’d moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez and then to third on a wild pitch.) We scored our last run in the eighth, when Salty doubled and scored on a double by Aviles.

Thus, we won, five-zip, on a day when it was particularly fitting to do so.  Not only was it Beckett’s birthday, which he appropriately celebrated with a performance as winning as the win itself, but it was also Thanks, Wake Day at Fenway; Tim Wakefield was honored in a pregame ceremony and then threw out the first pitch.  And who caught that first pitch but none other than Doug Mirabelli himself, right after his own heart in 2006! In 2006, Mirabelli was given a police escort to Fenway so he could catch Wakefield after he was traded back to us from the Padres; yesterday, Don Orsillo, ever the entertaining master of ceremonies, claimed that Mirabelli would not arrive in time due to a flight delay which was obviously untrue, as Mirabelli again arrived in a police car, this time in center field, where the grass contained an enormous Number Forty-Nine, before preparing behind the plate to receive a classic Wakefield knuckleball.  (He actually warmed up for it.  Incidentally, it would have been a ball.) Wakefield deserved every bit of honor and recognition and applause that he received.  As always, it was so good to have him back.  And as always, Wakefield, we salute you!

Getty Images

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