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Posts Tagged ‘Torii Hunter’

See? I knew it.  Once we got out of April, we’d start seeing some changes.  Starting with Buchholz.  That was as good an outing as we were going to get to open this month, and by all accounts, it wasn’t bad at all.  We’re accustomed to seeing him pitch a full even innings, but six and two-thirds isn’t bad, especially when you consider the fact that he was pulled after allowing a single and stolen base but securing two outs in the inning.  He had only thrown seven pitches.

He scared me quite a bit when he started out, though.  He allowed three consecutive hits to lead off the game.  Thankfully, Drew gunned down Maicer Izturis at second when he tried to stretch a single into a double.

Buchholz allowed eight hits, but other than that, it was two across the board: he allowed two runs, walked two, and struck out two.  He threw 107 pitches, sixty-six for strikes.  His fastball and changeup were both moving and really effective.  All but one of his cutters were thrown for strikes, but he only threw one curveball for a strike all night.  He mixed his pitches effectively and varied his speed; he mostly stayed between seventy-five and ninety-five miles per hour, but he threw a two-seam at ninety-six and at one point went down below fifty-five.  He attacked the zone and had a tight release point except for this one pitch that was released differently and ended up being fouled off.  Each of his runs were allowed in each of the innings when he threw his highest pitch totals: twenty-five in the third and a whopping thirty-one in the fifth, during which he allowed a hit as well as both of his walks.

The bottom line is that this was his first quality start in six starts.  Bard came in to secure the last out in the seventh.

Meanwhile, our lineup put on quite a show.  Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? We were the first to score when Ellsbury singled and came home on a single by Youk in the first.  That lasted us until the fifth, when Crawford walked, Ellsbury reached on a force out, and both scored on a single that Pedroia hit on the thirteenth pitch of his at-bat with two out in the inning.

That at-bat was epic.  You may have been able to cut the suspense with a knife, which was obviously incredibly frustrating because you were watching foul ball after foul ball after foul ball for what seemed like forever, but that was a textbook example of how we play our game.  Everyone involved in player coaching and development stresses patience at the plate, because eventually it does pay off.  And that right there was patience at the plate if I’ve ever seen it.  He took a changeup for a ball, fouled off a slider, took a four-seam for a ball, fouled off a changeup and two four-seams, took a cutter for a ball, fouled off two more sliders as well as a changeup and two cutters, and finally put a ninety-one-mile-per-hour four-seam in play.  To review, he worked the count full, hit five consecutive foul balls, and then hit the single that basically ignited the rest of our offense.  That’s what makes a hitter dangerous.  He’s patient, so he makes you work and waits and waits and waits until he gets his pitch to hit, and when he does, there’s nothing you can do about it except sit back, relax, and watch those runners cross the plate.

You could seriously tell that that hit was one huge momentum shift, obviously partly because it gave us a one-run lead, but also because it was just a real galvanizer.  Pedroia has that effect on people.

Torii Hunter led off the sixth with a double.  But when Alberto Callaspo grounded to first, Gonzalez, who is not shy about flashing the leather, fired to Youk at third to get Crawford.  It was a pinpoint throw, even though it was in the dirt, and Youk dug it out expertly.  I think the Rally Monkey went home after that.

The seventh was one long inning.  Crawford opened it with a groundout, and then Tek singled and Ellsbury doubled.  After a pitcher change, Pedroia walked.  Gonzalez cleared the bases with a double off the Monster.  That was the first time in his Boston career that he hit the wall, and trust me, the scoring play was very aggressive.  Ellsbury crashed into Jeff Mathis so hard he bruised his left knee and was out of the game for the last two innings, leaving his status for tonight unknown.  And Pedroia was just a few feet behind him.  I’m telling you, we raise some scrappy guys on our farms.  Then Gonzalez came home himself on a double by Youk also off the Monster.  Then Papi did what he does best: crush long balls.  He unleashed on a ninety-three-mile-per-hour fastball on the fourth pitch of the at-bat to end his homerless streak at eighty-eight at-bats.

To be absolutely clear, that was a six-spot we put up in the seventh.  We scored six runs in a single inning.  Obviously, that’s a season high.  Most of last month was one giant stretch of us scoring less than that amount over multiple games in total.  So when Wheeler allowed two runs in the eighth and Okajima allowed his inherited runner to score in the ninth, that, ladies and gentlemen, was also something that did not matter.  (Does it matter long-term that our relievers allowed three runs in the last two innings of the game? Of course.  It’s not good.  But like last night, we should be able to score a sufficient number of runs such that it doesn’t matter.)

Crawford, Papi, Youk, and Ellsbury all went two for four.  Ellsbury stole two bases.  We left only five on base and went five for eight with runners in scoring position.  Almost half of our eleven hits were for extra bases.  As for Pedroia, he’s now six for twenty-nine opposite Jered Weaver.  But he came through in the clutch, so it’s all good.

Beckett will start on Wednesday after six days of rest, so it’ll be Lester tonight.  Meanwhile, we won, 9-5, and I’m going to enjoy this.  We should play the Angels more often.

In other news, the Bruins won Game Two! Thomas made fifty-two saves, and Krejci netted the winning goal in sudden death for the 3-2 win!

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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I don’t really understand what went on last night.  I saw it with my own eyes while it was unfolding, and I’m still not quite sure how the whole thing happened.  It was bizarre.

Beckett took the mound and just cruised along for five full innings.  He held complete sway over the Angels lineup for half a game.  Angels would step up to the plate, and he would send them down.  He was throwing all of his pitches and hitting all of his spots.  He was ahead in the count constantly.  He was on fire.  During those five innings, he gave up no runs on two hits.  And that was it.

And with Beckett looking like that, we had no reason to believe that the solo shot Papi hit in the fourth was all we would need to win.  That shot was fantastic.  Santana’s changeup stayed up and cleared the bullpen and ended up in the right field seats.

Then all of a sudden in the sixth inning, the entire game got away from Beckett.  It was like he was holding the game in his hands and then let it slip through his fingers.  When his fall first began, it was painful because you had no idea when or if it would end.  Eventually it ended, but by then it was too late.

In the sixth, back-to-back doubles tied it.  Okay.  At that point you’re thinking it’s only a tie, just like a game starting out 0-0.  It’s not the end of the world.  It’s only one run.  Then Hunter’s grounder bounced off Beltre’s glove, and you’re thinking there are two men on base but if we can just escape this inning with the one run of damage, we’ll be alright.  Then Beckett wanted to throw a fastball down and away from Matsui, but it ended up low right over the plate, and he hit a home run.  Ninety-four miles per hour on that fastball, and it broke Beckett.

Unfortunately there was more.  There was a glimmer of hope when Beckett opened the seventh with a strikeout, but he followed that with a walk and a single.  Then he was finally lifted.  And it’s just the next episode in a continuing trend of frustration, exasperation, and failure that has been the 2010 season for Josh Beckett.  He’s spent almost his entire career as an ace.  All of a sudden in 2010 he’s three and three with a 6.67 ERA.  He spent two-plus months on the DL with various back issues and then came roaring back.  His first three starts after he returned from the DL were essentially spotless, and you were thinking this is it, the ace is back, and we’re good to go.  But over his last three starts he dropped the ball, literally and figuratively, posting a record of 0-2 with a 10.69 ERA.  I’m not a fan of this trend.  Neither is Beckett.  But the competitive spirit that prompts him to beat himself up after he drops a start doesn’t change the fact that we still lost.  His final line came out to six runs on seven hits in six and one-third innings with four walks and only one K.  That’s as mediocre as you can get.

Tito replaced him with Delcarmen, who allowed both of his inherited runners to score.  Delcarmen opened his appearance with a walk.  A successful sac bunt followed, then back-to-back walks, the latter of which resulted in a run scoring.  I can’t stand that.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to allow a run.  And you could see that something just wasn’t right.  His arm seemed slow.  His delivery was obviously off.

So Tito replaced him with Atchison, who allowed his inherited runner to score when Scutaro’s throw to first for the out wasn’t in time.

Wakefield pitched the last two innings of the game and provided the out only clean pitching performance of the night.  But this was also too late.  We hadn’t scored since Papi’s blast in the fourth.  But we seemed to have something on our hands in the eighth.  We loaded the bases with nobody out.  And you’re thinking there’s no way we don’t score here.  We have to score.  Anything that puts the ball in play would score at least one.  So Beltre stepped up to the plate and hit a sac fly.  We scored a run.  That was it.  Seriously.  The bases loaded with nobody out and we only managed to score one run.  We lost the game, 7-2.  And when I say we lost the game, I mean we lost it in every sense of the word.  Beckett pitched well and then he lost it.  I don’t think the offense ever had a handle on it.  Scutaro went two for five with the only multi-hit game, although Papi and Beltre both walked twice in addition to their lone hits.  Lowrie’s double and Papi’s homer were the only two extra-base hits we collected.  And the relief corps, with the exception of Wake, was epically not helpful.  We did have some flashes of brilliance on D, like Drew’s running and diving catch and Lowell’s diving catch in the third and Lowrie’s throw on the spin in the eighth.

Pedroia was scratched due to soreness in his foot, probably from stealing that base.  Salty is on the DL with some sort of infection in his right lower leg.  I seriously can not believe this.  What is happening here?

That’s the first time we’ve lost to the Angels this season.  Had we swept, we would have made the season series a perfect 10-0.  And to be honest with you, I was rather enjoying our revenge after last October.  And I don’t even want to talk about the ramifications this has for the standings.  Seriously.  I don’t even want to talk about it.  We needed that win.  I mean, we need every single win we can get our hands on, and we potentially could’ve had that one with only one or two runs.  But no.  One of our aces imploded and we lost.  So we’ll try another ace.  Toronto is coming to town tonight and we’re throwing Lester.  Lester will get it done.  Believe that.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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That is about as good a win as you can get.  We had a nice day off, we went home, we got our second baseman back, we crushed, and I think it’s safe to say that we have reestablished supremacy over the Angels.  Ironically, it doesn’t seem to matter this year.  They probably won’t make the playoffs.  Still, they’re no easy team to beat.  Except for us, of course.

There’s something so satisfying about scoring a whole bunch of runs when the other team doesn’t score any.  When you have good run production to go with good pitching performance, it’s like the universe aligns.  That, my friends, is the beauty of baseball.

Clay Buchholz’s line was very impressive.  He gave us a scare in the first after he and Izturis raced to first, but he went on to toss seven shutout frames.  So I think he’s okay.  Five hits, two walks, three K’s.  No runs.  113 pitches, sixty-four for strikes.  And he ratcheted his four-seam all the way up to ninety-seven miles per hour.  Wow.  The kid can do it all.  He can toss salads, and apparently he could close if he really wanted to.  And every time Buchholz wins, it’s also a win for Theo, who refused to trade him at all costs.  I’m just saying.

His record is now fourteen and five, his ERA is now 2.36, and it’s now the twelfth time this season, more than half his total starts, he’s limited opponents to at most two runs.  And to tell you the truth, he didn’t even have his best stuff going last night.  His command wasn’t there.  Buchholz threw eight pitches in the first, but his count per inning went up from there, peaking at thirty pitches in the sixth.  His offspeeds weren’t hitting their spots, so he was more aggressive and pounded the zone with his fastball more often.  So, basically, on an off day, Buchholz blanks.  What? Who does that? Obviously, Clay Buchholz.  I saw him pitch, and I saw he didn’t have his best stuff, and I knew he didn’t have his best stuff, and yet somehow he was shutting out the Angels.  And when it comes to the Cy Young, he’s right in that mix.

Doubront and Bowden held it down.

And the final score was 6-zip, so here we go.

Weaver held us hitless through the first two frames, thanks to Hunter who robbed Beltre of a homer in the second, but with two out in the third, McDonald made a statement.  He launched an absolutely monstrous solo home run on an inside fastball that sailed right over the Green Monster and through a car’s rear windshield.

We kept it up with two out in the fourth.  With Papi already on base, Drew and Lowell worked back-to-back walks and Kalish promptly cleared everything with a grand slam! It was beautiful.  He stayed back on that changeup like a pro.  That’s his first career grand slam and his first homer at Fenway.  And if you thought Pedroia’s standing ovation was loud, and trust me, it was loud, you would have needed earplugs for this.  With one swing, Ryan Kalish broke the Angels.

And Papi and V-Mart’s back-to-back doubles were the finishing touches.

Papi went two for four for the lineup’s only multi-hit game.  Pedroia, an absolute rarity that I didn’t even know was possible, went hitless and made an error in the same game.  That’s definitely called rust.  He turned twenty-seven yesterday, and even though he didn’t have any lasers to his credit, he still made some good plays in the field and, most importantly, returned to action, period.  More good and bad news: Youk might be able to return for the playoffs, Patterson is on the DL with a strained neck, and Ellsbury could potentially be out for the rest of the season.  That last bit is not by any means certain, but we know he’s got a rib fracture, so it’s a possibility.  I mean, this is serious.  In baseball, a wrist injury or a thumb injury has significant ramifications, so a rib injury is not to be taken lightly.  It’s a game of precision.  And anything that hinders precision is a big problem.  If he’s out for the rest of the season, it won’t be the end of the world.  It’s obviously much easier to win with him, but we’ve shown that with hard work we can win without him.

So that’s it, but it was good.  It was really good.  We opened our homestand with a very decisive win featuring dominance from pretty much everybody, and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Also, we’re being liberal with the grand slams lately, which is a good skill to hone.  It’s not easy to be productive with the bases loaded.  But whether it’s with long ball or small ball, as long as we keep winning, we’ll be alright.  But that was a great ballgame.  Really.  It was great.  Let’s do it again.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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All I can say is, “Finally.” I was beginning to forget what scoring runs looked like and what winning felt like.  Thankfully, the team reminded me just in the nick of time.  Whew.  That was close.

In fact, the game pretty much went to the other extreme.  A final score of 6-3 doesn’t indicate a slugfest (it actually should have been 7-3 because Drew did score on that wild pitch in the ninth; his foot clearly slid into the bag before the tag), but four of the six scoring plays in the game were home runs, and two of them were ours.

Wait; what? We can hit home runs? Who knew?

Yes we can, and by we I mean Big Papi, who pretty much ran the show last night.  He hit both of ours.  A solo shot in the third on the first pitch of his at-bat, an eighty-one mile-per-hour slider down and in with two outs in the inning that he sent past the foul pole in right field.  And then a two-run shot in the eighth on a full-count fastball with one out all the way out to deep left field.  I knew that ball was going out the minute I heard the crack of the bat.  Those were his twentieth and twenty-first homers.  It was his thirty-fifth multihomer game, tied with Jim Rice for second all-time; Ted Williams leads with thirty-seven.  And it is now his eighth consecutive twenty-homer season with us.

So this would be the second time in our last twelve games that we scored at least four runs, and it felt good.  It felt really good.  For the first time in almost two weeks, the pitching staff had some room to work.  Unfortunately that ended up coming in handy because Atchison gave up two.

Papi’s timely picking up where he left off at the Home Run Derby was bookended by V-Mart’s RBI single in the second and Drew’s two-RBI double in the ninth, also on a full-count fastball.  V-Mart’s RBI was scored by Beltre after he hit a triple that barely evaded Hunter.  After he scored, Lowrie’s double put runners on second and third with nobody out, but again with the missed opportunity.  Fortunately, that didn’t come back to haunt us this time.

We had three multihit games last night: Youk went three for five with a steal, Papi obviously went two for four, and Beltre went two for three.

And Paps chose an excellent night on which to record a save.  Bard was unavailable, but Paps converted his first four-out save opportunity of the season.

But if V-Mart set the tone for the offense, Buchholz set the tone for the pitching.  And picked up the win for his services.  He tossed a full seven innings, gave up one run on five hits walked one, and struck out seven.  He threw 115 pitches, most of which were fastballs and sliders.  But he also mixed in his curveball and deadly changeup.  All four of the pitches he used were very effective in every category you can think of: speed, variation, movement, and strike potential.  He picked up seven swinging strikes with his changeup, six with his slider, and one with his curveball.  He threw twenty-four pitches in the second when he found himself with the bases loaded and nobody out and somehow managed to escape completely unscathed.  And then he only threw seven pitches in the fifth, six of which were strikes.  So he’s now eleven and five with an ERA down to 2.71.  Wow.  At this point, is there any member of our starting rotation who either isn’t an ace or doesn’t have ace potential? I honestly don’t think so.

Now that the starting rotation is on its feet, our offense needs to follow suit.  Tonight was a step in the right direction.  Speaking of which Pedroia and Ellsbury are both making strides in their recoveries, which is obviously good.  So in light of last night’s incredibly positive results, I would just like to suggest to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t get too comfortable with the way the AL East looks now.  It’s so easy for us to find ways to score runs.  The trick, of course, is actually stringing hits together and plating people.  So the problem isn’t our ability to score runs; it’s starting to use that ability.  Once the offense actually gets the ball rolling, pun intended, I would definitely recommend watching out.

AP Photo

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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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So, we’ve had a week to recuperate from last weekend’s miserable postseason showing.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it because, quite frankly, I’m still bitter about it.  And I think Red Sox Nation will agree with me that it’s frustrating to make sure you can watch the playoffs in their entirety, only to find out that your playoffs that year consisted of three games during which the team you’d been watching for the entire season didn’t even show up.  I’m just saying.

Evidently we have some work to do, and when I say “we” I especially mean Theo Epstein.  There is a reason why we were swept in the first round.  We had a hitting issue.  If you think about it, we didn’t have a pitching issue.  Lester made a mistake with Torii Hunter on the mound, Josh Beckett had one bad frame in the seventh, and Clay Buchholz, the vindicator of the entire 2009 postseason for the Boston Red Sox, delivered an absolutely stellar performance, and Theo has confirmed his membership in the 2010 starting rotation.  But the hitting issue was glaring and significant.  Even reflecting on the regular season.  In past years, when the team slumped, we were at least able to manufacture runs through walks and small ball.  This year, when we slumped, we didn’t reach base at all.  So let’s discuss how to solve this hitting issue.

Starting with Tek.  This was a hot topic last offseason, and while it’s not going to be as hot this year, it’s going to be just as significant.  After we acquired V-Mart at the trading deadline, Tek became our backup catcher.  V-Mart would’ve had playing time no matter what, given his diversity in the field, but it was his offense that did the captain in.  Theo has confirmed that V-Mart will start next year.  The Red Sox probably won’t exercise their five-million-dollar option for next year, so it’ll be up to Tek to exercise his option, worth three million, and just accept the fact that he’s no longer a starter, which he did this year with composure and grace, teaching V-Mart everything he knows to prepare him to catch each arm.  Will Tek exercise the option? I think he will.  And I would even go so far as to say that Tek may join our coaching staff after he retires.  Meanwhile, Tek’s solid defense behind the plate makes him one of the best defensive backup catchers there is, and having him on the roster would allow V-Mart to play other positions if necessary.  And let’s not forget the fact that Tek is our captain.  And the fact that he was a good soldier this season proves yet again that he deserves that “C” on his jersey.

We need a shortstop.  There’s no getting around that.  We’ve needed a shortstop ever since Nomar wrote his one-way ticket out of town.  Jed Lowrie needs insurance for his wrist, but that insurance probably won’t come in the form of Alex Gonzalez.  He’s got a six-million-dollar club option for next year, but that’s a steep figure in this economy, and unfortunately Theo probably won’t be picking that up.  It doesn’t look like we’ll be making any blockbuster deal for a power bat at that position, so look for Theo to focus more on defense.  Which Julio Lugo made painfully clear.

We also need to resign Jason Bay.  Let me repeat that.  We need to resign Jason Bay.  He’s an excellent hitter and fielder, walks more than most in the American League, and, oh, by the way, he hustles and he’s drama-free.  To be honest, it’s either him or Matt Holliday, but he’s been here, he’s used to this city, and he’s put up great numbers.

Oh, and we need David Ortiz to be a force again.  None of this one-home-run-in-his-first-forty-plus-at-bats business.  That won’t fly.  We need Big Papi back.  A big part of that will be monitoring his off-season program.

Mike Lowell’s situation is a bit tricky.  Tito expects him to be healthier than ever next year, and indeed he showed flashes of brilliance in the field in Anaheim.  But that’s just it.  We were in Anaheim, where the weather was warm and stable.  In Boston, it’s either hot or cold.  I’m not necessarily saying that we should get rid of Mike Lowell because I think he’s valuable to our club, both as a third baseman and perhaps as a DH when Ortiz gets the day off.  I’m just saying that we need to watch him closely.  Very, very closely.

Even though our pitching was definitely a strong point this season, there are some interesting discussions on that end, too.  Theo is insisting that Dice-K adequately prepare himself for Spring Training this year.  I couldn’t agree more.  And I will be furious if he’s a World Baseball Classic ace at Boston’s expense.

Wakefield had surgery on his back a few days ago to correct a loose fragment in his back that’s been bothering him since July.  It’s been significant; he’s had trouble walking because of weakness in his left leg.  But the surgery has minimal recovery time, so barring any complications, expect him to show up on time for Spring Training.

Billy Wagner’s agent says that he wants to pitch next season, and why not? Dude’s still got it.  The Red Sox agreed not to pick up his option for next season, so he’ll be testing the waters, but he says his family is his top priority.

Sooner or later, we have to start restoring our faith in Papelbon.  I personally am not completely ready to do that yet.  In a broad sense, it’s the lineup’s fault that we’re sitting on our laurels right now with nothing to do, baseball-wise, for the rest of October, but Papelbon just rubbed salt in the wound.  If you’re one pitch away multiple times, there’s no reason to not record the out already.  But I digress.  The point is, he’s still our closer, and he’s obviously shaken.  At some point this winter, we’ll have to remember the fact that he’s got some of the best stuff in the Majors and that he’s one of the elite closers in the game.  Even if he did ultimately play an integral part in our postseason downfall.  On a related note, I think it’s safe to say that the eighth inning has “Daniel Bard” written all over it.

But after all is said and done, I think one of the absolutely most important roles we need to fill this offseason is that of Kevin Millar.  He was the essence of the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.  He exuded a winning spirit, kept the clubhouse loose, and helped take the team to the top.  Right now, Dustin Pedroia is the emotional leader of this team, but after this year’s ALDS I think it’s safe to say that he needs some help.  Someone to spark the squad when the going gets tough and the tough need to hit.  Someone, ironically and unfortunately, like Torii Hunter.

All of that is to say that our front office has its hands full.  It’s not like last year where we barely didn’t make it.  This year we didn’t make it by a mile.  Something must be done.  I’ll leave it to Theo to ultimately decide what, who, when, and how, but I think we have effectively established the why.  The only thing we as fans can do now is look forward to 2010.  Meanwhile, the Bruins are 3-4-0 in the first seven games of the season.  We’re in third place in our division.  We’ve had some very spotty play, so I’m looking forward to some improvements.

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That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

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