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Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Hottovy’

You will see in short order that the title of this post couldn’t be dripping with more sarcasm, but you will also see eventually that somehow it’s strangely appropriate.  Yesterday’s game was nothing short of excruciating.  We won, but it was not easy.  That was one of the most difficult games we’ve played this year.  The whole monstrosity took five hours and seventeen minutes.  That means that if you were driving from Boston to New York for the series opener on Tuesday and were listening to a complete replay of yesterday’s game on the radio, you could make that drive within the span of that game and would still probably have to sit in the car once you got there to finish it.

Well, let’s start from the beginning.  I suggest you get comfortable.  It’s going to be a long one.

The story starts with Beckett.  Shoddy changeup, shoddy curveball, shoddy cutter.  Brilliant two-seam, brilliant four-seam.  Game-high twenty-three pitches in the sixth; the only other time he came close was twenty-one in the second.  So his efficiency was there.  He varied speeds, he attacked the zone.  And yet he was saddled with his sixth no-decision of the season.

Beckett was removed after giving up a walk and a single in the seventh.  All told, he pitched six innings, gave up three runs on four hits, walked three, and struck out four.  He fired 102 pitches, fifty-eight for strikes.  He made a wild pitch and hit a batter.  So technically it wasn’t his best night, but it was far from his worst.

We scored first.  With two out in the first, Gonzalez launched a changeup into the Monster.  The pitch stayed up, and his timing was perfect, even given the wind.

Starting in the bottom of the second, every inning was one-two-three and nobody scored until the fifth, when we added another run.  Crawford singled and scored on a single by Drew.  In the sixth, Beckett let the A’s tie the game.  After inducing a flyout to start it, he hit that batter, gave up a walk on four pitches, and made his wild pitch.  A subsequent single brought in two.

We put ourselves ahead the very next chance we got.  In the sixth, we scored three.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Gonzalez struck out.  Pedroia scored on a double by Youk.  Papi grounded out.  And Youk scored on a single by Crawford.

Albers replaced Beckett in the seventh and allowed one of his inherited runners to score.  He was then replaced by Hottovy.

Both teams went down in order in the next two half-innings, thanks in his half to Bard.  In the eighth, we picked up two more; Gonzalez singled, Papi doubled and was replaced by Reddick as a pinch-runner, and both scored on a double by Crawford.

So at this point, we were the very proud owners of a four-run lead.  The rest of the game should have been a walk in the park (pun intended).  But could Paps let us half our easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy win? Not in the least.  Not even remotely in the least.  That ninth inning was an unmitigated disaster.

He gave up a single and a walk.  It took him seven pitches to notch the first out in the inning, an eventual strikeout.  Then of course Pedroia had to make a fielding error, his third of the season, which allowed Coco Crisp of all people to reach base and a run to score.  The ball had all the makings of the beginning of a routine double play that would end the game promptly with a win for us.  Pedroia had to move toward second base to corral the ball anyway.  But he didn’t.  Instead – and these are words that no member of Red Sox Nation will ever feel comfortable hearing – the ball went through his legs, and the game continued.  I think Paps’s reaction to that – crouching and covering his head in complete disbelief – pretty much says it all.

If Paps had rallied and ended the inning there, it wouldn’t have been his fault, and we still would have won.  But it didn’t.  He gave up a double that brought in another.  And that’s when Tek lost it.  He turned around and unleashed a verbal storm on home plate umpire Tony Randazzo, who in Tek’s eyes had been making questionable calls that inning that greatly affected the game.  It was the fifth ejection of his career and his first since 2009.  It was strange seeing him let loose like that.  He’s usually so composed.  But the way the game was going was bound to get to someone, and it wasn’t finished yet.

Salty came in to catch, and Paps allowed two more runs to score on a single that deflected at third.  And then Paps lost it.  Randazzo called a strike on Paps’s first pitch to Ryan Sweeney, but after receiving the ball, he sort of glared at him for a few seconds and looked away.  So Randazzo started to make his way toward the mound.  Salty made a move to keep Randazzo away and go to the mound to keep Paps stationary, but Paps would have none of it.  Randazzo started talking, and Paps said something to Salty and then just went right past him and got right up in Randazzo’s face.  Thankfully, Paps didn’t touch him.  Tito had to come out and get in the way.  Paps was ejected for the first time in his career.  It’s funny; you would think that, with his personality, he would have had more, but he knows how to keep his composure when he needs to.

Jenks came in after that and gave up a single but followed with back-to-back K’s.  He pitched the tenth and was replaced by Aceves in the eleventh.  Aceves gave up a walk, a double, and a sac fly.  So naturally it was do-or-die for us in the bottom of the inning.  Lowrie struck out swinging.  Drew struck out swinging.  Salty doubled.  And it was Ellsbury with the game-saving hit, a double that brought Salty home to preserve the tie at eight apiece.  Without that hit, we would have lost, plain and simple.

Aceves pitched a one-two-three twelfth and thirteenth.  He put two on base in the fourteenth.

Youk flied out to open the bottom of the inning.  Cameron did the same.  Then Crawford doubled, and Lowrie was intentionally walked.  And of all the batters in our entire lineup, the one who had to come up at that moment was JD Drew.  Two outs, bottom of the fourteenth, the game on the line, and you have stepping up to the plate a batter who had struck out four times in his previous four at-bats.  He watched a fastball go by.  Strike one.  And we’re all thinking of his called strikeout that ended the ALDS for us in 2008.  Fortunately, it was not to be.  His next pitch was a fastball right down the middle, and he hit a single! It was so simple! One single, one run, one win! 9-8! Cue the walkoff mob! After all that, it was absolutely glorious.

Youk went two for five with two doubles.  Gonzalez went three for five with his homer.  Ellsbury and Crawford both went four for a whopping seven.  And Drew, the unlikely man of the hour, went two for seven.  But it was enough.

I am convinced that, if there were any team that could eke out a win under those circumstances, it would have been us and nobody else.  You have to have matchless grit to play more than five hours of baseball, roll out the entire bullpen, lose two players through ejections, give up a lead, come back, and then finally win for good.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you separate the men from the dirt dogs.  Plain and simple.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Canucks, 3-2.  Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic forced sudden death, but we lost there.

Boston Globe Staff/Jonathan Wiggs
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Yet again, Buchholz simply was not at his best.  The difference is that this start made his last start look like a perfect game.  That’s how bad it was.  This snapped a streak of six straight solid starts.  And trust me, it was a pretty hefty snap.

Buchholz couldn’t even get through the fifth inning.  He was pulled in the fifth after securing the inning’s first two outs because he allowed yet another run.  All told, he allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits.  He walked two.  He struck out five.  He threw a wild pitch and made an error on a pickoff attempt during the same at-bat in the fourth of which Coco Crisp of all people took advantage.  He threw ninety-nine pitches, sixty-two for strikes.  He threw twenty-seven pitches in an inning twice, once in the first when Oakland scored four runs and again in the fourth when Oakland scored another.  His offspeed pitches were a total mess, so naturally there was no way he would be able to work efficiently, and therefore there was also no way he would keep intact the rest the bullpen had been able to enjoy during the off day.

There are two ways these kinds of games can go.  Either the bullpen comes in and they do an absolutely stellar job, or they come in and they totally blow it.  It just so happens that the former occurred.  In fact, the bullpen pitched so well for so long that I think they should have just saved Buchholz the trouble and made the start instead.  Atchison secured the last out in the fifth plus the first two in the sixth.  Tommy Hottovy finished the sixth; he is the only lefty in the bullpen and replaces Hill, who will likely require Tommy John surgery and who therefore has already pitched in his last appearance of the season.  Jenks, despite a balk, pitched the seventh.  Bard received a hold for the eighth.  And Paps picked up the save in the ninth.

Now, of course, the question becomes how we won.  That’s a good story.

So we were down by four before Ellsbury stepped up to the plate.  He singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout by Gonzalez.  So basically he delivered a textbook leadoff hitter’s performance.  Youk doubled after that and scored on a single by Papi.  So we cut our deficit in half and just kept chipping away from there.  In the second, Cameron reached base on a throwing error and scored on a sac fly by Ellsbury.  In the third, Youk walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a single by Lowrie.

At that point, we had a one-run lead that Buchholz promptly surrendered to the A’s.  Nobody scored in the sixth.  From the beginning, we knew from the way Buchholz was pitching that it would be up to the lineup and the bullpen to win the game.  As I said, the bullpen certainly did its part.  It was the lineup’s turn.

Pedroia started the seventh by grounding out.  Then Gonzalez doubled, and Youk got hit, and Papi walked, and Lowrie advanced the runners on a flyout.  With the bases loaded, all Crawford had to do was put the ball in play for a hit.  The count was full, and that’s what he did.  He singled and brought in two runs.

That gave us a one-run lead, which obviously wasn’t safe.  Salty added insurance with a solo shot to lead off the eighth.  It was a slider that stayed down, and he just cleaned it out into the first few rows behind the bullpen in center.

So we won, 8-6.  Gonzalez went three for five, and Youk and Papi both went two for three.  Crawford should have had two hits on the day; he hit what looked every bit like a home run headed for the bullpen in the second inning only to have it be caught literally right at the wall by David DeJesus.  But baseball has a funny way of evening out; Ellsbury made a similar catch literally at the Monster in the fourth.

Last but most certainly not least, Dice-K will have Tommy John surgery next week.  His season is over.  He’ll miss a good portion of next season, after which his contract expires, so even though he’s determined to return to the rotation before then, it’s possible that he won’t and that he’s thrown his last pitch in a Boston uniform.  How possible that is at this point is unclear.  Either way, it’s been quite the ride, often mediocre and always interesting.  We can take several approaches to this.  It’s entirely likely that this surgery was a long time in coming and that having it will allow him to return to the dominance he’d exuded in Japan.  It’s also entirely factual that Dice-K, despite gems earlier in the season, really hadn’t been pitching well of late, so it’s not like this loss is going to affect the team’s performance much.  We’ll be using Aceves and/or Wake for that fifth start, and either of them or a combination of both of them can perform equally as well as, if not better than, Dice-K.  So as far as the team is concerned, we’re in a good situation.  As far as Dice-K is concerned, we obviously hope that the surgery goes well and that his recovery and rehab are quick, productive, and successful.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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