Posts Tagged ‘Tropicana Field’

It is an unfortunate sight indeed when a pitcher falls victim to the ugly specter of the one bad inning.  In the beginning, it looked as if Tampa Bay would be no stranger to this phenomenon.  In the end, however, they had the last laugh.  Their one bad inning was our one good inning; our one worse inning was their one better inning.

The game began on such a high note.  Ellsbury got hit by a pitch.  That, in and of itself, was obviously not the high note.  That was an unfortunate accident.  His getting on base was the high note.

Victorino then struck out, Pedroia singled, and then it was Papi’s turn.  He got two fastballs.  The first, a two-seam, he took for a ball.  The second, a four-seam, he sent beyond the right field fence.  It was a straight-shot rocket; if it had stayed in the park, it would have been one of those hard-hit line drives.  The ball couldn’t wait to get out of the park.  With that one swing, we scored three runs in the first inning alone.

It was the first and last time we scored.

We went down in order in the first, second, and third.  Drew doubled and Ellsbury walked in the fourth, giving us runners at the corners with two out, but all hope for a rally died out when Victorino flied out.  Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, and Drew and Ellsbury both walked in the seventh.  But we didn’t turn those opportunities into rallies.  We went down in order in the eighth and the ninth.

Tampa Bay’s experience was about the same.  The only difference was that they scored two more runs than we did.

The Rays went down in order in the first and second.  Lackey gave up a single, a double, and a walk to load the bases with two out but bore down to end the inning on a groundout.  Lackey’s poison of choice was the fourth inning.  He gave up two consecutive singles and an RBI double before recording the inning’s first out with a strikeout.  But he was right back at it with a two-run single followed by another single, a flyout, and a second two-run single.  The fourth ended almost exactly as the third had: with Ben Zobrist grounding out on an off-speed pitch at the end of a five-pitch at-bat.

I’ll say something else about that second two-run single.  Pedroia and Napoli both had their eyes on it, but Napoli had that ball.  At least, he should have had it.  He should have had it, the game should have tied at three, and we should have forced it into extras if necessary and eventually won.  The fact that Napoli missed that catch and let the ball drop is egregious.  Make no mistake, folks.  It happened because of the roof.  That white roof is a criminal backdrop against which to try to pick out and track a baseball.  It’s awful.  This is not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.  But it should not be an issue.  Players, not ballparks, play ballgames.  And I do not fault Pedroia’s decision not to touch it; if it rolled foul, it’s possible that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  He had no way to know that the ball would stay fair.  In the end, however, he made a good effort, but there was nothing that could have been done at that point.

One out and one double into the fifth, Miller relieved Lackey; the frame ended with a strikeout and a caught thief.  After he allowed a single to lead off the sixth, Mortensen came in and gave up a walk but nothing else.  Two flyouts into the seventh, Breslow came on and ended that inning, recorded the first two of the next, and gave up a double.  Wilson came in and ended the eighth.

The final score was 5-3.  We spent three and a half innings under the assumption that it was us who would be celebrating the deleterious effects of the one bad inning.  We could not have been more wrong.  This game was essentially a pitcher’s duel.  The question not only was who would crack first but also who would crack worse.  We scored first but lost.

In other news, in one of the most suspenseful nailbiters I’ve seen on the ice lately, we have emerged victorious! We vanquished the Leafs, 5-4, and are moving on to the Rangers! Both teams each scored a goal in the first period.  The Leafs took the lead by one in the second and scored two in the third, but we scored three to tie it up, and Toronto fell in sudden death.  Wow.  I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make quick work of the Rangers, that’s for sure.

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That was absolutely brutal.  I know of no other way to describe it.  Cue the anguish, because from here on out, things get mighty uncertain.

Technically, we’re not out of it yet.  Watching games like last night’s make you think that we’re out of it and there’s no point believing anymore, but actually there is.  There is a point in believing because of pitching gems like Lester’s and Buchholz’s, because of timely heroics at the plate, and because we’re Red Sox fans and no matter what happens, that’s just what we do.  We believe.  We believe until the math tells us that it’s not humanly possible to make the playoffs.  Then the devastation sets in.  But until then, we believe.

We still have a lot going for us.  We have guys in the lineup it’s still hard to get out, and we have a starting rotation that will be difficult for any team to match.  And when you line up your best pitchers with others who aren’t as good, theoretically that’s a recipe for winning.  Our problem has been our inability to hit and win consistently.  That’s kind of a huge problem.

We lost last night.  We lost the game, we lost the series, and we lost the opportunity to make large swaths of ground in the standings.  If we’d swept the Rays, which we could have done because we had leads in both of the games we lost, we would have been only two and a half games out.  If we were only two and a half games out, there would have been an incredibly substantial possibility that we would make the playoffs, especially given the games we have yet to play against the teams above us: we have three left against the Rays at home and six against the Yankees, three away and three at home.  If we were only two and a half back, those games would be something to look forward to with assurance.  Now they’re something to look forward to with apprehension.

There are thirty-one games left to play.  We would have to win a week’s worth of games and the Rays or Yankees would have to lose a week’s worth of games just for us to tie.  We have a better record than the Rangers, who are sitting comfortably on top of the AL West.  We are just one game behind the Twins, who lead the AL Central.  But we are not in either of those two divisions.  We are in the AL East, the toughest division of baseball.  And we’re still holding on and trying to make a run despite all the injuries we’ve had, which is admirable, and we can be proud of that.  So clearly we are very good.  But we need to do more.  We need to play better.  The offense has to back the pitchers.  The defense has to back the offense.  And the pitchers have to back everything.  The entire team needs to step up in a truly enormous way and either the Rays or the Yankees need to step down in a truly enormous way in order for us to make the playoffs.  That’s the cold, hard math.  The month of September begins in two days.  There’s nothing for us to do but wait and see what happens.  Anything is possible.  But some things are more possible than others.  They’re still completely possible, but they’re just less possible.  That’s all I’m saying.

Lackey was a fail.  His start began with such promise; he allowed one run through five.  Then came the three-spot in the sixth that tied it, and the Rays never looked back.  Lackey’s final line was five runs on nine hits with three walks and seven K’s in six and a third innings.  He threw 107 pitches, seventy for strikes.  He gave up two home runs, one on a fastball he left down the middle and one where he missed his location entirely because he used a slide step.  His fastball got up to ninety-three miles per hour, but believe it or not that wasn’t his fastest pitch; his cutter got up to ninety-four.  His cutter was his best pitch for strikes, followed by his slider, two-seam, curveball, four-seam, and changeup.  He was very aggressive, challenging hitters and pounding the zone.

After the second home run in the sixth, which tied it, things got really ugly.  There was a double, an intentional walk, an unintentional walk, and an RBI single by Johnson that would easily have scored another had it not been for V-Mart’s highly superior plate-blocking skills.  Okajima allowed an inherited runner to score.

Our offense didn’t do much.  In the fifth, Navarro and Scutaro hit two RBI singles.  In the sixth, Nava hit an RBI single.  That was all we could manage.  We had only two extra-base hits all night, both doubles, one for Lowell and one for Beltre, who is obviously playing through some pain as shown by his slight limp to second in the sixth.

We had a two run lead.  It was fun while it lasted.  It lasted for a while.  But then it disappeared.  And we ended up losing by two runs instead.  The final score was 3-5.

We claimed Mike Napoli off waivers.

We have today off to regroup.  Then we’re going to Baltimore, which should give us a boost.  In September, we alternate a week on the road with a week at home with a day off every week.  It’s a nice schedule; we’re playing some soft teams in addition to Tampa Bay and New York.  I’ll have to step away for the next twelve days, which is particularly unfortunate to an unimaginably epic degree because these are going to be the deciding twelve days.   If in twelve days we find ourselves in our current or a worse position, we fall victim to a math problem.  If in twelve days we find ourselves in a position better than our current one, we have something on our hands.  And I seriously, seriously hope that it’s the latter.

Kevin P. Casey

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That was just crushing.  It had all the markings of a devastating loss: good performances from everyone that weren’t enough, a lead we maintained for a good while before dropping it, a walkoff in extras, and an outcome that was the direct result not from any one major mistake but from several small and insignificant mistakes that on any other day would have been small and insignificant.  That’s pretty much the best recipe for a real disappointment that you’re ever going to get.  And if you needed a picture to go with that recipe, you’d make a freeze frame of Johnson’s home run to go with it.

Pitching-wise, Buchholz delivered.  As far as the Rays were concerned, he was still zoned.  The Rays had absolutely nothing against him.  He tossed seven frames plus one out, gave up one earned run on four hits, walked two, and struck out five.  He allowed a solo shot to Upton in the eighth that chased him, but even that wasn’t technically his fault.  Buchholz threw a curveball, a pitch Upton hadn’t seen all night.  It’s not like we’re talking fastball down the middle.  Buchholz threw 110 pitches, sixty-seven for strikes.  He worked his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour.  His curveball was real sharp.  But his changeup and slider weren’t that great.  Nevertheless, he pitched very well, no-hitting the Rays into the fourth and aggressively challenging them.  In fact, he has Kalish to thank for that because Kalish made one of those plays you associate with the preservation of a no-hitter.  With a runner on first and one out, Upton hit what looked like an RBI triple but ended up being a fly ball when Kalish made an absolutely phenomenal diving catch, complete with somersault.  That is making highlight reels for the next year.  That was incredible.

The real problem was the unearned run he gave up in the seventh.  Buchholz attempted a pickoff, but the throw somehow ended up in our bullpen, allowing Pena to move from first to third.  Pena wasn’t even a threat to steal there.  And as if the situation couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse, Joyce followed that with a foul ball to right.  Drew lit out for the Rays’ bullpen to “catch” it.  He said after the game that he had absolutely no intention whatsoever of catching it; he was just going to let it drop, which is what you’re supposed to do with a runner ninety feet away with less than two outs and the game on the line, because if the ball is caught, it becomes a sac fly and a run scores.  So according to Drew, he was fully committed to not catching that ball.  And it seemed like the ball itself was going to help him out because it was shaping up to be a very difficult play, had he wanted to make it.  But somehow he ended up in position, casually stuck out his glove, and the ball landed in it.  And after he caught it, he was in one of the worst possible throwing positions in which you can find yourself in the outfield, and that’s how we were tied at one.  Seriously, I don’t really know what to make of it.  It was all very bizarre.  I mean, why would you purposefully catch that? It kind of looked like he didn’t expect to find the ball in his glove, but we have no way to know for sure.  But we do know that it ended Buchholz’s twenty-six-inning shutout streak.

Meanwhile, Beltre had hit a sac fly in the fourth to give Buchholz a one-run lead.  V-Mart’s solo shot in the eighth had given him another one-run lead.  That home run was huge, and I was exceedingly pleased to hear Red Sox Nation, Florida Chapter giving some hearty vocal representation.  It’s awesome to flood parks on the road.  Feels like home.  It was a fastball at the letters that he hooked out.  It was a very solid swing.  So he can do it all from both sides of the plate.

Doubront and Bard pitched perfectly.  It was Atchison who allowed the final blow.  To be completely honest with you, when he walked on the mound, I didn’t have a good feeling about it at all.  Johnson hit a home run on a fastball down the middle that was supposed to be inside.  And we had to watch something we all despise: a walkoff celebration at our expense against a division rival.  It was terrible.  I started having flashbacks of September 2008 when we were at home in a similar but better situation, fighting for October with the game on the line, and it was Johnson who took Paps deep for a walkoff.  And it’s just as horrible now, in fact probably more so, than it was then.  The final score was 3-2, most definitely not in our favor.

This win would have been tremendous.  We would have shortened our deficit to three and a half games.  But no.  Now we’re back to five and a half games.  It’s like our win on Friday didn’t even happen.  Lackey gets the ball tonight and we must win.  That is non-negotiable.  We don’t have a choice.  We’re fighting a war to get into the playoffs, and every game is like a battle.  We can’t afford to lose this battle because we don’t want to lose the war.  So let’s not lose.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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After Lester’s shellacking, I said that we could all look forward to his next start, when he would surely be so dominant and so in control of everything that that egregious excuse of an outing would be a mere blip on the radar.  Lester most certainly delivered, confirming that in a do-or-die situation, he’s the one you want with the ball.  Or Buchholz.  But you know what I mean.

It was awesome.  Lester manhandled the Rays.  He had their number all the way through.  He tossed seven innings, gave up no earned runs on only two hits, walked five, and struck out ten.  He no-hit the Rays through the first three.  You can thank Scutaro and his throwing error for the unearned run.  Overall, the outing was spectacular and I will most definitely take it, but what was interesting was his walk total.  He threw 106 pitches, but his strike rate was just above fifty percent.  That’s pretty low.  But his pitch, strikeout, and hit count would all indicate efficiency.  So he had some bumps along the way, but he adapted perfectly and used what was working.  He worked his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour and made it cut like none other.  His offspeeds weren’t there as much.  But you could tell from the first pitch he threw that he wasn’t about to let this one get away.  This was the first of a series of three with the Rays, and he wasn’t about to disappoint.  Adaptability is the mark of a great mature pitcher.  Lester has come a long way and the best part is that he’s still going.  Shellacking? What shellacking?

But last night was really a two-man show, the other being Lester’s batterymate.  V-Mart provided two-thirds of our offense.  He blasted a solo shot to left in the first and again in the seventh.  Both were rockets.  Both were deep.  Both were off Price.  Both were on fastballs up.  Thus, he continues to own Price specifically and southpaws generally.

V-Mart was as stellar behind the plate as he was at the plate.  In the sixth, Bartlett hit a base hit into center field.  Upton started from second and rounded third.  McDonald fired home.  And V-Mart positioned himself exactly right and was waiting for Upton with the ball.  Out at the plate.  That was huge.  It was McDonald’s seventh assist of the season.  Honestly, there was no way Upton was going to score.  He hesitated before he took off and wasn’t prepared for the wave home.  I don’t even know why they decided to send him home with nobody out.  That was an error.  Whatever.  More goodness for us.  It was a perfect play.  If you look up “plate-blocking” in the dictionary, you will see a freeze-frame of this play.

The blasts bookended Lowrie’s RBI single in the fourth.  And Lester’s characteristically strong outing was punctuated by equally strong performances by Bard in the eighth for the hold and Paps in the ninth for the save.  Paps gave us a scare, as unfortunately he occasionally does; the Rays had two on with two out.  But it was all good.  Jaso struck out looking, and we won, 3-1.

So the battery got it done.  Lester handled the Rays, and V-Mart handled both Lester and the Rays.  It was fantastic.  It was the absolute right way to start off this series.  With this win we are now four and a half games behind the Rays and Yanks.  That’s the closest we’ve been to first since July 7.  It doesn’t sound like much, but at least it’s something.  One step at a time.  We’ve won seven of our last ten, and we need to build on that.  It won’t be easy; Pedroia is probably done for the season because he’ll probably need surgery, which means that we’ll have to proceed with about half our starting lineup out for the season.  On the bright side, the bench has plenty of experience covering for him because he’s been out for so long.  We have already shown that w can win as we are.  I’m telling you, if there’s any team that could pull that off, it’s this one.  Nobody has a deeper or more experienced bench that’s been playing ball as good as starters out there than we do.  I wouldn’t count us out.  We have a long way to go, but we can get there.  Buchholz will take on Garza tonight.  This is going to be great.  Buchholz will so have it.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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I’m not entirely sure that last night’s loss was entirely the fault of our depleted lineup.  We faced David Price.  Facing David Price is no walk in the park, even when your lineup is healthy and even if the park were real.  (I really don’t like the Trop.  It has a roof and they play on turf.  It’s totally unnatural, both literally and figuratively.) So we can take heart in that fact.  What we can’t take heart in is the fact that it was still a loss, the last of three, meaning they yanked their plastic grass from right under our feet and swept us out.

But we didn’t go out without a fight.  Our first run scored in the sixth when Patterson came home on Papi’s double off the wall.  An inning later, Cameron hit a home run out to left field.  And finally, Garza came in for the ninth and it looked like we just might win after all.  Nava led off the ninth with a triple and scored on Cameron’s sac fly.  Then, with two outs, McDonald put together a massive at-bat that totaled eleven pitches before he scored Drew with a double to bring us within two.  The lineup showed promise, with Papi followed by Youk scheduled to come up.  Papi walked.  But Youk, with a 1-0 count, lined out to center field.  I hate to say it, but he’s really not helping his own cause in the Final Vote with all these unfortunate at-bats.

McDonald and Cameron both had stellar nights; McDonald went three for five, and Cameron went three for three.  Cash’s leave of absence showed in his passed ball.

The final score was 6-4.  Our bullpen did its best to keep us in it, but six runs is a decent amount of runs to be expected to overcome.  All six runs were given up by Wakefield.  Traditionally he’s been dominant against the Rays, but watching him last night, you’d never know it.  He gave up all six on four hits with six walks and three strikeouts in only five and two-thirds innings.  He threw 115 pitches.  He handled the first three innings, but then Longoria hit a solo shot in the fourth and everything more or less went downhill from there.  He went on to issue two free passes and a wild pitch.  He threw nine pitches in the third but twenty-seven pitches in the fourth.  His knuckleball was absolutely not as effective as it could have been; he only threw it for strikes fifty-three percent of the time, and when you’re talking about your dominant pitch by far, that’s not that great.  And when his knuckleball is less effective, his fastball is less effective because the effectiveness of his fastball is rooted in the fact that, when the knuckleball is on, you never see the fastball coming and therefore can’t hit it.  He only threw about three curveballs, but they were awful.  His strike zone was an absolute mess.  There was a random pocket in it to which he didn’t throw much of anything, and he threw all sorts of nonsense around the upper-left corner of the zone.  Both his horizontal movement and his vertical movement forced his pitches a little out there.  Tito described his movement as violent, which was completely true.  He did pick off Brignac to end the fourth, which was neat, because he doesn’t have too many successful pickoffs, being that it’s so easy to steal against him because he holds the ball for so long.  So that was good.  But on a night when we really needed his best stuff, he just didn’t have it.  He walked way too many.

The bullpen handled the rest of the game admirably, especially since he left so early.  Richardson allowed his inherited runner to score, but Ramirez, Paps, and Manuel were lights-out for the rest of the game.

But the bullpen’s solid performance and Garza’s weak one were too little, too late to salvage the contest.  Not that we haven’t come back from greater deficits in more significant situations than this, because I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I assure you that we most definitely have, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards last night.  What can I say? You lose, and then you move on.  Hopefully to a win.

We now bring our losing streak to four games, and we are four and a half games out of first place, two and a half behind the Rays.  We have an off day today and a three-game set with the Jays starting tomorrow, followed by the break.  Potentially, we could at least lock second place before the break, but the best we can do with first is be half a game out.  We were so close! Fortunately, there’s an entire second half of the season to be played.  But we’ll get there eventually.  First it’s Lester at Romero.  We need this one.  When you’re in the middle of a losing streak, you need every one you can get.

AP Photo

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A quality start from John Lackey just in time to sweep the Rays.  Right on schedule.  And now we have five quality starts in a row.  Lackey completes the puzzle.  We’d been waiting for a start like that from him.  It was a little short and could’ve been better, but I’ll take it.  Believe me, I’ll take it.

Now is the time to revel in the fact that we just avenged our terrible April performance against the Rays with a sweep of our own.  It’s time someone brought them back down to Earth.  We were the right team for the job.  We owned.  We swept them in their house for the first time since 2002.  Thankfully, the Trop didn’t rear its ugly head in any defensive plays.

That was as decisive a third game as you’re ever going to get.  The final score was 11-3.  So when I say owned, I mean that as literally as possible.

Lackey picked up the win and improves to five and three.  He pitched one out beyond the sixth inning, but those were some solid six innings.  He gave up two runs on eight hits with four walks on a strikeout.  So no wonder he didn’t last as long as he could have. Yesterday, I said that Lester had a harmless location issue.  Today, I’m saying that Lackey had both a location and a hittableness issue, and those together aren’t so harmless.  He lucked out here that the Rays didn’t do much with anything he gave them – they left twelve on base – but it’s a habit he needs to lick.

He fired 115 pitches, to drive that point home.  His fastball stayed in the low nineties, and he actually threw his cutter faster.  He threw mostly cutters and curveballs.  His slider, fastball, and as usual his changeup all need work.  His lowest pitch count in an inning was eleven, but he needed sixty-two to finish the first three.  He varied his speeds nicely, but his location left much to be desired.  He got a little wild at times above and below the zone.  So last night wasn’t the end of his struggles.  He’s still having the same recurring problems that have resulted in mediocrity up to this point.  The difference last night was that the opposing team just didn’t do anything with it.

Why that was exactly is hard to say.  Sometimes a lineup just can’t read a pitcher that well.  Lackey came from the AL West and the Rays don’t have much postseason experience, so they really haven’t seen him much.  That could be one reason.  Another reason is the more obvious and more convincing one: even though Lackey didn’t fire off a Lester-like start, he still fired off a quality start; he may have been inefficient and his command may have been mediocre, but he still hit his spots at important times against important guys.  So even though this wasn’t necessarily what we’ve seen from him in the past as an Angel, it was still a good effort, and it was enough to stymie the Rays.

Okajima worked around a hit to finish off the seventh.  Ramirez handled the eighth.

Which brings me to tonight’s man of the hour: Adrian Beltre, ladies and gentlemen! He hits well against Garza, but I don’t think anyone was expecting a night quite like that.  He went four for five with two home runs, a triple, and six (count ‘em: six!) RBIs! All he needed was a double and he would’ve hit for the cycle.  (He beat out the throw to first in the sixth for his single.) That is huge.  That is an absolutely huge night.  Those six RBIs tie a career high that he achieved against the Rockies at Coors Field in 2000.  His offense was incredible.  He peppered all fields.  He exercised his power.  He made aggressive swings.  With runners on base.  It was absolutely fantastic.

He got the ball rolling with a towering and very powerful home run to left in the second on a fastball.  He followed that with the exact same thing in the third but on a breaking ball and with the important difference being that there just happened to be two men on at the time.  Papi got in on the action with a two-run shot to right in the fifth.  The spotlight returned to Beltre in the top of the ninth, when he smacked his triple off the right field wall to score two.  Hermida singled him home.  And McDonald added another two before Nelson surrendered a solo shot in the ninth, which would have been so much worse if it weren’t for the eleven runs we’d put together.  And that was the ballgame!

That was the last game of our road trip, during which we went five and one.  That’s our best six-game road trip since May 2007.  We only gave up seven runs in those six games, only three of which came from the Rays in this series.  That was also the last game of our particularly grueling thirteen-game schedule, during which we posted a record of nine and four.  We’re now only five and a half games out of first place.  We’re the proud owners of a five-game winning streak and, perhaps most significantly, we’re sixteen and seven since May 3.  That’s the best record in that time in the entire American League.  To repeat, we’re the best in the American League since the beginning of May.  That’s huge.

And the best part is that it really was a truly complete team effort.  Every night of those thirteen games featured someone else leading the team to victory.  You had Dice-K’s no-no bid.  You had Wake’s complete and total domination.  Last night, Adrian Beltre was without a doubt the man of the hour.  And we hope that Dice-K will assume that position tonight and build on his last incredible start to best the Royals.  It’s Bannister, not Greinke, which helps.

On behalf of Red Sox Nation, I’d like to express condolences for the death of former pitcher Jose Lima.  You’ll certainly be missed.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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Two games up on the Rays in the series? Life is pretty great, isn’t it? That’s called inching our way back, slowly but surely.  Eventually we’ll be on top.  It’s what everyone has been saying all along: we’re too good to fail.

That and run prevention.  We’ve been saying that all along too.  But, ironically, starting with our ballgames against baseball’s toughest teams, we’re proving that it works and that you really can get ahead with it.  Say hello to the long-awaited 2010 baseball season!

Collectively, our pitching staff one-hit and shut out the Tampa Bay Rays last night.  Lester pitched an outing shorter than usual; he lasted only six innings, which jives with the fact that he gave up a season-high five walks all of which proved to be harmless.  It just made him throw a lot of pitches at 111.  So his command was obviously present; he was just inefficient.  Don’t get me wrong; that’s inherently a big deal on its own and something that shouldn’t have happened.  But if that’s the only thing that constitutes a bad day for Lester, and it would seem from his recent performances that it is, I think I can live with it.

What it basically came down to was the fact that he just didn’t throw his cut fastball for strikes as often as usual.  It was a location issue.  When you don’t locate, you throw more pitches, and there you go.  He threw a decent amount of pitches to the left and right of the zone.  He threw a minimum of eleven pitches in an inning but mostly needed around twenty to get three outs in each.

His usual qualities were there: the mix of pitches, the variance of speeds, the sharp movement.  He threw the ball well.  He just threw the ball too much.  And you could see that it was going to be a long night of sorts for him from the beginning; something just wasn’t right.  He wasn’t completely settled, and the flow of the contest didn’t exactly fit with him.  So I wouldn’t worry.  Oh, yeah; he got the win.

Delcarmen and Bard each received holds; Paps collected a save.  All innings were clean and would’ve been perfect had Paps not handed out one free pass.

The final score was a tame 2-0.  Papi doubled off the wall in left center to bring in Drew and Youk.  Of the four hits we collected last night, that was the only one for extra bases.  But it was enough.  Why? Run prevention.  Run prevention, run prevention, run prevention.  I’m telling you, now that that’s actually come together, we’re going to win us some ballgames.  Just like we’ve been doing for the past several days.

As far as the defense was concerned, it was all Adrian Beltre.  In the second and again in the sixth, he dove to catch would-be base hits and sprang up to fire to first for the outs in time.  There’s your Gold Glove at third.

We had a bit of excitement in the fifth.  Two frustrated Rays were ejected: Crawford and Maddon for arguing balls and strikes.  They took issue with the wide strike zone – we of all people should know that Gabe Kapler isn’t a complainer, so when he says something it’s worth looking into – but if that wide strike zone is consistent, there’s no argument.  And from Lester’s strike zone plot, I can tell you that it wasn’t that wide.

To clear up the roster confusion, here’s what happened.  McDonald was originally supposed to be sent down Monday night to prepare for Cameron’s return.  But Ellsbury had some soreness in his side before last night’s game, so they kept McDonald and designating Atchison for assignment instead.  Good move.  Why anyone would designate McDonald after everything he’s done and continues to do is a mystery to me.

Additionally, there have been some changes in the outfield, changes I think are for the better.  Cameron is no longer slated to be our primary center fielder.  Ellsbury is.  Every start Cameron makes will be followed by a day off, and those starts will probably start coming in left or perhaps right when Drew has the day off.  The corner outfield positions are less strenuous, so it’ll be easier for him to recover that way.  That could only be potential defensive problem in Fenway, where you need someone at those corners who knows the weird angels there like the back of his hand.  On the road it’s definitely worth it to have him flank center, and I think in due time he’ll be able to pick it up at home.

Over our last four games, our starting pitching is undefeated with a 0.32 ERA.  That’s ridiculous.  That’s a closer’s ERA, and there are closers in the Major Leagues who wish they had that ERA.  Starters aren’t supposed to have that ERA.  Starters collectively are not supposed to have that ERA.  Wow.  Alright.  Lackey takes the mound tonight; he’s the missing link in the current rotation.  He’s the fifth starter who needs to turn in a quality effort to make it five in a row.  We’re one game away from the sweep, which would indeed be sweet retribution for those four games in April, so I strongly recommend he go for it.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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