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Posts Tagged ‘Travis Snider’

I can not believe we lost that game.  I seriously can not believe we lost that game.  That falls squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen.  The starter did his job by limiting the opposition and keeping us in it.  The offense did its job by scoring runs and putting us in a position to win.  All the bullpen had to do was record three outs.  Only three outs! And they couldn’t even do that! They imploded completely and managed to erase everything we’d worked for in the entire game in a single inning! And by “they,” I mean specifically Jonathan Papelbon.  He’s been pitching so well lately, but this one is on him.

The frustration that I experienced, and am still experiencing, is of epic proportions.  We had the sweep in line. We had it in the bag.  And the bullpen, pun intended, completely dropped the ball.

Lackey was superb.  He pitched eight full innings, gave up three runs on eight hits, walked one, and struck out four.  His efficiency was perhaps the best it’s been all season; he did all that on only ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes for a strike rate of about sixty-seven percent.  That’s very impressive.  So were all of his offspeed pitches; his cutter, his most frequently used pitch, was very on, as were his slider, curveball, and changeup.  His fastball was decent.  And he just cruised.  He threw seventeen pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, ten in the third, nine in the fourth, and never looked back.  He got into trouble in the fourth too; he had runners at the corners with nobody out and managed to escape with only one run and nine pitches because even that one run was scored while a first-pitch double play was made.  The exact same thing happened again in the sixth inning.  Like Buchholz, he was mowing right through the Blue Jays and making it look really easy.

Meanwhile, the offense was right behind him the whole way through.  Ellsbury led off the game with a single, Lowrie followed with a walk, a double steal moved both of them into scoring position, Ellsbury came home on a sac fly by V-Mart, and Lowrie came home on a single by Papi.

The fifth was a flashback to Wednesday’s heroics.  Lowrie and Papi both went deep.  Lowrie had us fooled the whole way.  He lifted a high changeup, and it just kept lifting until it got out, but off the bat it didn’t look at all like it had enough to get out.  That’s his first homer of the season, and, landing in the center field seats, it was very powerfully hit.  There was no question about Papi’s homer.  That left the bat and you knew it was headed straight for the bullpen.  It was a changeup again.  No wonder Mills was chased.

That was Papi’s twenty-fifth home run of the season, giving him seven consecutive such seasons, which ties Jim Rice for second in the franchise.  Ted Williams is of course first with fourteen.  Double that.  Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived.

In the eighth, McDonald tripled in Saltalamacchia.  By the way, Salty did very well in his debut; he finished the day two for four with two doubles and handled Lackey very nicely.

Lackey didn’t even leave the ballgame until the ninth inning when, in search of his first complete game of the season, he led it off by allowing a home run.  But life was good.  We had a 5-3 lead, we were in the ninth inning, and we were handing that lead over to a bullpen that had recently handled much smaller leads against much tougher opponents.  What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.  Too much.  Way too much.

After Lackey left, Paps took the ball as is customary.  But his appearance would prove to be anything but customary en route to blowing his sixth save this season in thirty-five opportunities.  It was because he left all of his pitches up.  That’ll do it every time.  You absolutely can not throw lethargic pitches and then leave them up with the game on the line.  That is a complete recipe for disaster.

The first batter that Paps faced doubled.  An RBI single followed.  Then came a grounder off Paps’s left foot that bounced away, and Paps had no idea where it was, and the runners took the  corners with nobody out.

But this time, there would be no first-pitch double play.  Paps struck out Snider, but that was merely setting up false hope.  The very next batter hit an RBI double to tie the game.  Then, with runners on second and third, Paps intentionally walked Overbay.  Then he promptly handed the ball to Bard with one out and the bases loaded.

To review, Jonathan Papelbon, our closer, not only blew the save and took the loss, but he left in the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, and the game tied, and handed the ball to the setup man.  I mean, what? Never before in his entire career has Paps walked off the mound in the ninth in a tie.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stay tied for long.  Lewis hit a sac fly for the walkoff.  And that was the only time the Jays enjoyed a lead in the entire series.  But that’s a bad time for the Jays to enjoy a lead because that lead was permanent.  And I refuse to say that Bard entered an impossible situation because he has entered that situation before, and in New York no less, and gotten out of it.

A win would have swept Toronto.  A win would have cut our deficit in the Wild Card standings.  A win would have kept pace with New York.  And we had that win.  But then we didn’t win.  We lost.  We lost the day before we start a three-game set with the Rangers.  One thing’s for sure: we absolutely can not afford to have this win slow us down.  We can’t.  Not when we’re facing the Rangers for three games on the road before a day off and a homestand. We absolutely can not.  Tonight is yet another must-win, and it is essential that we get it back together and win us a ballgame.  Beckett’s got it.

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Again, the theme of eyes on the prize.  We won.  We didn’t win by much, but we won.  And we did some bad things, but obviously we did some good things too.  In fact, the whole game was yet another miniature version of the whole season, with the important exception being that in this game we got a good start.  Actually, it reminded me of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, where we had the lead several times but allowed the opposition to tie it, although we never fell behind and ultimately won out.  And it was especially important to win the first game of this series, being that Toronto is surging right now.  So despite all the badness that was present in the game, this is good.

We came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and scored three runs in the second inning: RBI doubles for Beltre and Lowrie and an RBI single for Ellsbury.  We scored one more in the third when Lowell sacrificed V-Mart in with the bases loaded.  It would have been nice for him to have done more with that opportunity, but I’ll most definitely take the run.  But the Jays did the same thing in reverse; they scored one in the second and three in the third.

In the fifth, Drew hit a solo shot and continued his great numbers against Romero by depositing his fastball middle-in into the second right field deck.

Meanwhile, Dice-K didn’t deliver his best performance.  He lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three and striking out seven on 110 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes.  His two-seam, cutter, slider, and changeup were very much on, but his curveball and four-seam, his two most frequently used pitches, were very much off.  He threw thirty-three pitches when he gave up that three-spot in the third, which was the result of a home run, while needing only five pitches to get through the very next inning.  So this start was a miniature version of his entire season as well.

He ran into trouble in the sixth, walking the first two batters he faced.  With one out to go in the inning, Lewis hit your average ground ball to Scutaro, but unfortunately, Lowrie was slow getting over to second, so Scutaro hesitated before making his throw.  Doubront took care of it by striking out Snider on three pitches.  That’s poise.  Especially from a young guy.

But in the seventh, Bautista hit a solo shot of his own to tie it back up.  Doubront picked up a blown save for that.

The eighth was when we locked it up.  With two out, Lowell hit a solo shot over the left field fence.  It was a sinking fastball, and he basically golfed it out of the park.  And that put us out in front for good, not to mention the fact that Lowell is clearly returning to form very nicely.  Lowrie added one for insurance with an RBI double.  Delcarmen held the fort, Paps made the save, and the final score was 7-5!

Lowrie finished the night two for three; Ellsbury finished the night two for four.

And it just goes to show you that man can not win on long balls alone.  If they could, Toronto would be at the top of the standings by now.  But they’re not.  And we beat them, with both big and small ball.  We took advantage of our opportunities, leaving only five on base as opposed to Toronto’s eight.  So the first bit of good news is that we won.  The second is that the Yankees lost to the Rangers.  And the third is that Pedroia passed all his running drills; he ran the bases a bit yesterday and will run them again today, and he’ll be evaluated on Friday.  If everything checks out, Pedroia will spend the weekend in Pawtucket and start at second on Tuesday.  The only bad news was that the Rays managed to win, but we’re still inching ahead.  Next is Buchholz opposite Marcum.  Let’s win the series.

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When you look up “tagging a runner out at the plate” in the baseball dictionary, you will see footage of the play that saved the game for us last night.  That play was, without a doubt, the perfect execution of every fundamental theory in the sport for that particular situation.  Nothing could have made that play better because it proceeded exactly as it should have.  Every once in a while, you watch a baseball game and you see what you realize is the perfect double play, the perfect curveball, the perfect swing, and you know it’s perfect because the movements are fluid and confident, and somehow they just all fit.  That was precisely the case with the play last night.

Let me paint the picture for you.  Beckett pitched five innings, gave up five hits on five runs with five walks and, sadly for the symmetry, nine strikeouts.  Again, the home runs were a problem.  He gave up a two-runner and a three-runner on a bad breaking ball and a misplaced fastball, respectively.  It was a tradeoff; at least he didn’t give up five homers, but each homer was worth more runs.  Saito pitched the sixth.  Bard the seventh and two outs of the eighth.

At that point we were tied at five.  We’d scored three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.  Drew singled in Youk and moved Papi to third.  Tek hit a sac fly to score Papi.  Ellsbury doubled in Drew.  Then Bay hit a monstrous two-run home run in the fifth to score himself and V-Mart.

Okay.  So.  Tied at five.  With one out in the eighth inning, John McDonald doubled into the left field corner and Travis Snider was coming on home from first.  Now, what I am about to describe is the textbook example of what to do in this situation.  Jason Bay threw the ball to the infield, and Alex Gonzalez immediately relayed it to Jason Varitek, who extended his left leg for the block.  Snider never touched the plate but was rather tagged out.  That was one small step for Jason Varitek and one big sigh of relief for Daniel Bard.

In the bottom half of the inning, after about an hour-long rain delay and with one out, Kotchman pinch-hit for Gonzalez into a fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded that scored Papi.  Okajima got the win, and Paps got a save, eventually; two strikeouts followed by two bloop singles and a grazed jersey followed by a strikeout to end it.  On the bright side, opponents are one for twelve with nine strikeouts against him with the bases loaded this season.  Anyway, the final score was 6-5.  Beckett has some serious thanking to do, because if Bay didn’t hit that home run, he would’ve been on the hook for the loss.  Beckett’s ERA over his last three starts is a depression-inducing 9.82, and in that time he’s given up a despair-increasing ten home runs.  Ouch.  No, seriously, it really hurts to read that.

As for the rest of the lineup, Ellsbury was obviously back in there and finished two for three.  Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis, Ortiz, and Gonzalez also each had a hit.  Drew finished two for four.

Dice-K’s rehab start with Portland has been postponed from today to tomorrow due to the weather.  After that, he’ll start for the PawSox on Friday and then he’ll be back in action on September 9 at Fenway against the Orioles.  Hopefully, that’s a good thing.  Lowrie, who felt pain in his left wrist on Wednesday, will start again for the PawSox today.  Apparently the soreness is no big deal.  The Yankees won, but we did as well and the Rangers did not.

All in all a great game, with the obvious exception of Beckett’s shoddy work.  Plays like Tek’s not only win games but also boost the morale of a team down the stretch after a long and demanding season.  Unlike other sports, ballplayers work almost every day, but moments like this make it all worth it, so to speak.  Slowly but steadily, we’re making the full circle to come back to where we started: solid pitching and solid hitting.  I’m telling you, it’s a veritable recipe for October.  But before we can think about that, we have to think about Ricky Romero at Clay Buchholz.

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