Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Blue Jays’

Our winning streak stops at four.  I don’t know about you, but I miss the earlier days of the season when all we had to do to win was basically just show up.  Now it just seems like winning doesn’t come as easily, like we’re kind of uncomfortable.  We can’t put together a lengthy winning streak of note, and it’s harder to chalk our losses up to the nature of the game.  It’s true that you can’t necessarily win them all, but it’s also true that you shouldn’t have to lose just because the rotation or the bullpen or the hitters failed in some way.  And of course it never helps when fielding is involved.

Doubront gave up a walk and then an RBI single in the first, and he gave up a solo shot to lead off the sixth.  Wilson replaced him one walk and one flyout into the seventh.  Wilson took care of the rest of the seventh just fine.

So as you can see, Doubront was not the problem.  He gave up two runs on five hits over the course of six and one-third innings.  He walked three, struck out six, and did just fine.  He looked fairly comfortable, and he put us in a position to win.

Unfortunately, we scored as many runs as Doubront gave up: two.  Both of which we scored in the seventh.  The Jays had made a pitching change.  Salty and Iglesias hit back-to-back singles.  Salty moved to third on a throwing error but was out at home on a fielder’s choice by Jonathan Diaz.  The Jays made another pitching change and Ellsbury singled to load the bases.  And then Victorino singled in both Iglesias and Diaz.

Admittedly, that is not the strongest response that one would hope for in a bases-loaded situation.  But thanks to both Doubront and Wilson, that modest response ended up tying the game at two.

So the fact that we lost can’t be pinned on the offense alone.  It would have been nice to score more runs, obviously.  But is it not the job of the relief corps to be able to handle these kinds of situations?

Tazawa gave up a single followed by a two-run home run in the eighth.  And Breslow gave up a single that turned into a run on another single in the ninth, followed by a run that scored on a fielding error.

And so we ended up losing, 6-2.  The relief corps let the Jays get back on top, and we didn’t counter with any damage.

AP Photo

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We scored seven runs yesterday too.  Except we didn’t score them all in one inning.  We decided to spread them out this time.  The game was basically still decided during one inning, but this time it was two runs that made the difference, not seven all at once.  Even so, it’s fun to watch us hit in the clutch.

In the second, Napoli walked, Nava singled, and both scored on a double by Drew.  Ellsbury led off the second with a single and scored on a single by Napoli.  With one out in the fourth, Drew doubled but had to be replaced by Brandon Snyder; Iglesias singled, and they both scored on a single by Ellsbury.

And last but most certainly not least, there was the seventh inning, without which we would have lost, all else being equal.  Victorino and Pedroia led it off with back-to-back singles.  Papi struck out, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch, which didn’t matter in the long run because Napoli walked.  Gomes came in to pinch-hit for Nava and singled in the go-ahead run.  With the bases still loaded, the Jays made a pitching change but promptly walked Salty to give us insurance.

Webster took the mound to start last night.  Three of the four runs he allowed scored in the fifth.  He gave up a single and issued a walk, followed by a force out and then two consecutive RBI singles followed by a successful sac fly.  He repeated the single-sac fly combination in the sixth.

Bailey came out for the seventh.  At that point, we were leading the Jays by one.  You know where this is going.  With two out, Bailey made a big mistake and gave up a solo shot, tying the game.

He was replaced by Miller after that.  Miller pitched the eighth, and Uehara pitched the ninth.  So Webster got a no-decision, Bailey got a blown save, Miller got the win, and Uehara got the save.

Because fortunately we managed to pull off a 7-5 win.

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It’s funny how subjective this game is.  There’s a winner and a loser, and depending on which side you’re on you’re either really happy or really not-so-happy.  That’s always been in the back of my mind whenever the one bad inning features prominently in a game.  We’ve seen it happen to both our pitchers and our hitters.  Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s good.  And sometimes it’s just ridiculously awesome.

Lester did phenomenal work yesterday.  It wasn’t necessarily the best he’s got, but it’s progress.  You have to start somewhere, and his performance was a great first step.

His line was good.  He gave up four runs one five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in seven innings.  But more importantly, he actually pitched even better than that suggests.

His line is not that bad.  Actually, his line isn’t bad at all.  He gave up two singles in the fifth that both turned into runs thanks to a double.  He started the eighth by giving up two singles, so he was replaced by Tazawa, who allowed a walk to load the bases.  One run scored on a sac fly.  A wild pitch advanced the runners, and another run scored on a groundout.  Since both were inherited, they were charged to Lester.

But let us now consider his other innings.  All of which were one-two-three.  Except for the innings during which Lester was charged with runs, he had one-two-three innings.  Sure, he benefited from the double play, but who doesn’t? An out is an out, and you take it when you can get it.  This may not be the best we’ve seen from him, but it’s certainly better than much of what we’ve seen from him recently.

Tazawa finished off the eighth, and Uehara pitched the ninth, picking up the save.

Lester was rewarded with a well-deserved win, which he obtained thanks to a strong offensive showing.  And when I say strong, I mean curiously strong.  And when I say curiously strong, I mean that we managed to cram a game’s worth of runs, which can actually be considered more than a game’s worth of runs when you think about how many close ones we’ve played in recent weeks, into only one inning.

That’s right.  The entire game was won in the second inning alone.  We didn’t score before the second inning.  And we didn’t score after the second inning.  But we scored during the second inning, and that was enough.

I don’t even remember the last time we managed to score a whopping seven runs in a single frame.  That’s crazy.  I mean, it was awesome.  But how often do you get to determine a game’s fate before the first third of it is even over? Pretty cool.

Papi and Carp started the massive rally by working back-to-back walks.  Nava and Salty followed with back-to-back singles that plated one run each.  Drew doubled in Nava, and Iglesias and Ellsbury hit back-to-back singles that each scored one run.  Victorino grounded into a double play, moving Iglesias to third.  Pedroia crushed a massive shot out toward the Monster two runs, Papi singled, and Carp struck out to end it.

One inning.  Seven runs.  And a 7-4 win.  Sounds good to me.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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We really are in the middle of quite the slump.  This team looks completely different from the one that had the best record in the Majors.  Our record is now 22-16; if we continue at our current rate, we’ll have to start winning just to stay at .500, and we all remember what that feels like.  We got swept by the Rangers; at least, at the time, we felt like the Rangers were a good match.  But Minnesota’s pitching staff has one of the lowest strikeout counts in the Majors, and Toronto’s pitchers are mediocre at best and their hitters swing at almost anything.  We are losing games we should not be losing.  Not that there’s ever a game that we should lose, but still.  Speaking of the Jays specifically, it would have been very nice to escape the series without allowing them to hit a slew of home runs.  Sure, we hadn’t been able to win by doing that, but at least we, for the most part, eliminated their chief mode of attack.

Dempster was not so fortunate.  He didn’t keep the ball down.  His heat is more lukewarm than anything else, so you can see why location would have been the key to a successful performance on his part.  He lasted only five innings and gave up six runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three.  And he allowed three home runs.

It started in the second.  He gave up a single, a double, and a three-run home run with two out.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the third, and he issued a walk and then allowed a two-run home run in the fourth.  It would have been worse had Victorino gotten hurt trying to haul the ball in for an out.  He tried to catch it right at the bullpen fence but fell flat-out; he left the game in the seventh with some stiffness.  Dempster gave up another solo shot in the fifth.  On a splitter.  If Dempster is anything, he’s a splitter pitcher, so the fact that he missed his spot with a splitter says something.  Dempster, overall, has been pitching very well, at least for him.  But, yes, all of his runs scored via the long ball, which is exactly how the Jays like it.

Miller came on for the sixth and gave up a solo shot on his third pitch.  After recording the inning’s first out, he gave up a single, issued a walk, and was replaced by Mortensen.  Mortensen gave up a successful sac fly followed by a two-run home run.  He had a one-two-three seventh, and Breslow had a one-two-three eighth, making him our only pitcher to not allow any runs in the game.  Jose De La Torre came in for the ninth and gave up a double, a walk, an RBI single, and an RBI double play.

All in all, that’s twelve runs.  By the time we got on the board in the fourth, we were already down by five.  Napoli answered the Jays’ power with his own, smashing a solo shot on the second pitch of his leadoff at-bat in the fourth.  And he hit it to one of the deepest parts of the park.  It was a nice piece of hitting; if only such a phenomenon were more common for us.

We didn’t score again until the sixth, when Pedroia singled and scored on a sac fly by Nava.  We went down in order in the seventh, and then Ciriaco hit a home run.  It was also a solo shot, and he also led off an inning.  It was the second pitch of his at-bat, also a fastball.  But he hit his beyond the Monster.  Either way, it was still also a nice piece of hitting that we also could have used more of.

Then Pedroia flied out, and Napoli singled, Nava walked, and Gomes got hit.  Just like that, the bases were loaded.  It was Salty’s turn to bat, but a force out was all he could muster; Napoli scored our last run of the game.  Napoli went three for four; the only other person to have a multi-hit game was Pedroia, who went two for five.  Napoli alone scored half of our runs.

So the Jays finally got what they wanted: a win via the long ball.  Dempster, a single pitcher, accounted for half the runs they scored, while the relief corps divided the other half among themselves.  The final score was 12-4; we scored less than half the number of runs that Toronto scored.  We left eight on base and were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, so our dismal streak of being completely ineffective in situations when we need effectiveness most continues.  Dempster took the loss, but it was a team effort.

In other news, the Bruins got shut out by the Leafs, two-zip.  So it all comes down to tonight.

Boston Globe Staff

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Okay, so Buchholz didn’t almost throw a perfect game.  But he did pitch well enough to have gotten the win.  The fact that he didn’t wasn’t his fault.  Just like the offense should be expected to carry a pitcher who throws a complete-game shutout, so too should the offense be expected to carry a pitcher who limits the opposition to only two runs over eight innings.

Buchholz had a one-two-three first and second.  He gave up a walk and a subsequent RBI single in the third.  He gave up two singles that resulted in another run in the fourth.  Other than a walk in the fifth and a single in the eighth, that was it for the Jays yesterday on Buchholz’s watch.  He threw 101 pitches, yet again exhibiting his brutal efficiency.  He was aggressive and wasn’t afraid to go after the strike zone.  All in all, it was a masterful performance.  He should have gotten a win; he didn’t deserve a no-decision.

But at least he didn’t pick up the loss.  That was all Tazawa’s fault.  Tazawa came in for the ninth and gave up a solo shot on his sixth pitch.  His fastball was great, but this was a slider.  He threw a slider, and he missed.  He missed big.  Our only response in the bottom of the inning was a double by Middlebrooks.  But he never made it to home plate.  It was just awful.  There was no justice for Buchholz yesterday.  No justice whatsoever.  It is the job of the relief corps to inherit a situation that they do not make worse.  That is their function.  If they inherit a lead, they’re supposed to keep it intact.  If they inherit a loss, they’re supposed to keep a lid on it so that the offense can turn things around.  But they are not supposed to lose ballgames.

In fairness, however, we should have been able to score a sufficient number of runs so as to make that solo shot inconsequential.  After all, Tazawa gave up a solo shot; that’s only one run.  The reason why it lost us the game was because, at the time, we were tied with the Jays at two.  Had we been leading, that home run simply would have tied it up, and we would have gone into extras, and then it would have been possible that we would have won in the end.  Even better, had we been able to score more than three runs, then we would have won in nine, all else being equal.  So I think it’s fair to say that losing, in this case, was a team effort, Buchholz excluded.  (Although you could make an argument that, if Buchholz hadn’t allowed any runs whatsoever, then Tazawa could have allowed the solo shot and we still would have won.  And then it becomes a consideration of relative standards, that is, what one thinks is the threshold that acquits a ballplayer and places the blame elsewhere.)

Anyway, the game essentially came down to a pitcher’s duel, which we lost when, not coincidentally, we changed pitches.  Like the Jays through eight, we were lucky to score two runs at all and spent most of the game behind by two.  We didn’t get on the board until the eighth.

We had some opportunities.  Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles in the first.  Middlebrooks doubled and Drew walked in the second.  Pedroia and Papi hit back-to-back singles in the third.  We had absolutely no opportunities in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.  Ross led off the eighth with a walk and scored on a triple by Ellsbury.  Victorino struck out, but Ellsbury scored on a fielding error.  Pedroia reached on that error and stole second, and after Papi struck out, Napoli was walked intentionally.  But the rally ended when Gomes struck out looking.

So we lost, 3-2.  We left eight men on base, went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and have lost seven of our last nine games.

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You know, Lester pitches all the time.  And I watch him pitch, and I know that he’s a human being.  But it’s kind of hard to reconcile that fact with what you see him do.  He’s a human being, but he pitches like he’s superhuman.  Like pitching is the easiest thing in the world.  Like it’s no big deal to be truly amazing at throwing one of the best cut fastballs in all of baseball.

Yesterday, we almost witnessed something spectacular.  We almost couldn’t believe our eyes even though we knew that we were watching every second of it.  We almost stared incredulously as Jon Lester tossed the second no-hitter of his career.

But forget about the no-hitter.  What Jon Lester did yesterday almost left that in the dust.  We almost saw Jon Lester pitch a perfect game.

Maicer Izturis doubled in the sixth.  There were two outs, and it was the first pitch of the at-bat: an eighty-seven mile-per-hour changeup.  The ball ended up in left field, and Lester’s no-hitter evaporated just like that.  It would have been even more painful had it come in the ninth, and there are pitchers who could tell you what that’s like.  That would have been completely devastating.  But this wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either.  It was awful.  It was the only blemish on Lester’s line for the entirety of the game.  That was the one thing standing between Lester and a perfect game.  At least, had it been a walk, he would still have been able to pick up a no-no.  But it was a hit, and both bids were crushed instantly.

Thank about that for a minute, though.  Lester faced twenty-eight batters during the game.  That’s it.  Twenty-eight batters.  That means that he didn’t give up a hit or issue a walk before that double, and he didn’t give up a hit or issue a walk after it.  It’s not uncommon for pitchers who’ve just had their no-hitter bids broken to implode.  But Lester didn’t do that.  It was like nothing happened.  It didn’t affect him at all.  To prove it, he retired the next ten batters he faced, just like he retired his first seventeen.

I’m going to take this inning by inning because I want very much to relive the moments.  Needless to say, the sixth inning was the only inning in which Lester faced more than three batters.  In the first, Lester induced two flyouts and a groundout.  In the second, he induced two groundouts and a swinging strikeout.  In the third, he induced a lineout, a swinging strikeout, and a groundout.  In the fourth, he induced two groundouts and a flyout.  In the fifth, he induced two groundouts and a popout.  In the sixth, aside from the double, he induced a lineout, a flyout, and a swinging strikeout.  In the seventh, he induced two groundouts and a popout.  In the eighth, he induced a flyout, a groundout, and a lineout.  In the ninth, he issued two called strikeouts and a groundout.  Sensing a pattern?  The Jays have homered a lot this year, but Lester never let the ball get off the ground.

He threw six pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, twelve each in the third and fourth, fifteen in the fifth, twenty in the sixth, fourteen in the seventh, seven in the eighth, and nineteen in the ninth.  To close the deal on his strikeouts, he used changeups, sinkers, and mostly, of course, cut fastballs.  His cut fastball was absolutely lethal yesterday.  It was the epitome of everything a cut fastball should be, and Lester was the epitome of everything a pitcher should be.  He put the exact amount of movement on the ball, his release point was consistent, and his command, efficiency, and control were unparalleled.

I suppose that the seventh inning is really when it starts to occur to everyone that a no-hitter may be in progress.  If the hit came in the sixth inning and if there were more afterwards, then it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal; no-hitting the Jays through six would have just been Lester being Lester, an impressive feat for any other pitcher but business as usual for him.  The fact that Lester didn’t let the hit get to him at all, in any way whatsoever, is part of why Lester’s start yesterday was so absolutely amazing.

Obviously, we won; it’s difficult not to win when your pitcher shuts out the opposing team for a full nine innings.  We got on the board until the second, when Nava walked and scored when Middlebrooks reached on a force attempt.  We turned the order over in the seventh; Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia hit back-to-back-to-back singles to lead it off, scoring one.  Two strikeouts later, Nava and Salty hit back-to-back doubles, scoring three.

And that was all we needed.  It was a clean, crisp, five-zip win.  I will say this about the offense.  We had a runner on base in every single inning but clearly didn’t score during all of them and certainly didn’t take advantage of a prime opportunity to really mount a lopsided outcome.  Instead, we left fourteen men on base, and we went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position before Pedroia singled in the seventh.

But this is Lester’s moment now.  He threw 118 pitches in the whole game, a season high and a much-needed effort to give the bullpen the day off.  I am so crushingly disappointed that Lester didn’t get the perfect game.  So epically crushingly disappointed.  But it would be a disservice to what Lester did achieve to continue bemoaning that fact.  At the end of the day, it was a clean, crisp, five-zip win, and Lester mowed them down like grass.

In other news, the Bruins dropped one to the Leafs, 2-1.

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After our spectacular slugging performance on Tuesday, I was very glad to see that we had some runs left in store.  It certainly was an adjustment to go from seeing runs being scored with remarkable frequency and then see barely any runs score at all.  But quality always trumps quantity, meaning that if you play quality baseball, you should be able to win with any run total greater than zero.

Taking a hint from Buchholz, the American League’s Pitcher of the Month, Dempster turned in a fabulous start.  Six innings seems to be about his usual, I guess.  Still, he gave up only one run on four hits while walking four and striking out three.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches.  His third pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot; that was essentially his only mistake.

Miller and Tazawa pitched the seventh, but barely.  Miller gave up a single, bestowing a runner upon Tazawa.  Tazawa gave up two walks, loading the bases with only one out.  Thankfully, the inning ended with a strikeout.  Uehara pitched the eighth, and Hanrahan actually succeeded in converting the save in the ninth.  It was nice to see him actually doing his job correctly.

It was a pretty quiet game all around, I’d say.  The Jays were held to one run, and we were held to three.  We went down in order in the first but got on the board in the second.  Napoli doubled and scored on a single by Carp.  That double was Napoli’s twenty-second extra-base hit this year, a number that leads the Majors.  Middlebrooks had walked, and he scored on a sac fly by Drew.  We had great scoring opportunities in the third, fourth, and fifth, but we didn’t take advantage of them.  It’s worth mentioning that we walked four times in the fourth, but the Jays were saved embarrassment thanks to a double play and a groundout.  We scored the game’s final run in the sixth; Ross walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

Every game can’t be a slugfest.  Between yesterday and Tuesday, we showed that we can win with any lead, both big and small.  That skills is going to come in very handy.

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