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Posts Tagged ‘Ubaldo Jimenez’

Papelbon’s disgraceful performance last night insults the entire concept of Soxtober on two fronts.  Firstly, it provides a painfully stark contrast to his last save opportunity at Coors Field: on October 28, 2007, he converted the save opportunity that clinched the World Series win.  Secondly, it provides a painfully stark reminder of last October, when he blew it, both literally and figuratively.

When he entered the ninth, his only responsibility was to record the final out of the game.  That, theoretically, can be done with one pitch.  Instead, he dropped the ball on only the second pitch he threw.  A one-run homer on a fastball erased our 6-5 lead, one we had painstakingly built against the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.  Then it was a single on a slider, and then it was a walk-off on a splitter.  That was one of the worst splitters I’ve ever seen him throw.  Really, all of his pitches were just flat and did nothing.  To make matters worse, it was a walk-off two-run home run.  And to make matters unbearable, it was hit by Jason Giambi.

Everything else about the game was fine enough.  Lackey lasted for six and two-thirds innings, giving up five runs on ten hits and a two-run shot in the second inning.  He did, however, walk none, strike out seven, and retire ten of his last eleven batters.  He threw 110 pitches total, ratcheting up his pitch count in his first four innings, during which he threw about twenty pitches per inning, but settled down starting in the fifth, during which he only threw nine.  His most effective pitches were his fastball, slider, and curveball, his pitch of choice.  He threw beautiful curveballs last night.  His cutter, his second pitch of choice, wasn’t that great.  He threw a good amount of strikes, though.  He pounded the zone and used all parts of it.  About sixty-five percent of his pitches were strikes.  So he allowed a lot of hits, which happens sometimes when a pitcher relies on power rather than finesse (a finesse pitcher usually has higher walk totals), but he did what I predicted he’d need to do to get the win.  And he would’ve gotten the win had Papelbon not ruined the outcome completely.

Bard pitched perfectly.  He threw thirteen pitches by the time he left, but perhaps if he’d stayed in for the final out, we would’ve walked off with the W.

Meanwhile, was a fantastic night for the offense.  The offense did practically everything right.  We were down by four against the Majors’ best before we got ourselves on the board.  But we came roaring back.

Nava got things started with two men out in the fourth when he smacked a two-run double into right center field.  The Rockies replenished one of those runs when Lackey gave up a single to who but Jimenez.  (You read right.  An American League pitcher gave up a hit to another pitcher.  How embarrassing.) That single scored Barmes from second.  Reddick delivered a fantastic throw to V-Mart, but Barmes ran right through it.

We really got to Jimenez in the sixth, when we scored four.  That was when we officially built our lead.  It was again Nava who started it off, doubling in Beltre.  Then McDonald brought Nava and himself both home with a towering home run to left center.  That’s not easy to do.  Coors Field is a deep park, so McDonald’s power was definitely on display there.  It was fantastic.  Even Lackey got in on the action, avenging Jimenez’s early hit.  He actually grabbed himself a double and then scored on Scutaro’s bloop single.  He finished the night two for three against Jimenez after entering the game one for thirty-one in his career.  How ‘bout that?

Scutaro finished two for five, V-Mart three for five, Nava two for three with Colorado’s only walk, and McDonald two for four.  Twelve hits total, four of which were for extra bases.  It was nice to see offensive contributions from up and down the lineup, and that’s a big part of what would have made a win last night particularly satisfying.  Papelbon may have missed that memo.  The final score was 8-6.  That was his second blown save this year.

So now we’re two and a half games out of first.  Fortunately, Tampa Bay lost yet again.  Tonight it all comes down to Dice-K.  If Dice-K doesn’t win, we’re going to fall father behind in the standings, and we’re going to get swept by the National League team we trounced in the World Series three years ago, which won’t actually be as fun as it sounds.  (Notice the sarcasm.) I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want either.

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Last night was the first time we played a game at Coors Field since October 28, 2007.  We all know what happened on the night of October 28, 2007: we won the World Series and became the team of the decade.  We witnessed many an Irish jig and spilled many a bottle of champagne.

Last night wasn’t exactly what I would call a suitable follow-up to that auspicious moment in Red Sox history.  Because last night two things beat us, neither of which were the Rockies.  We literally got beat first by the National League itself and then by a random rock or something that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We loaded the bases in the seventh.  We were down by a run with two men out.  And it was Lester’s turn to bat.  Naturally, because we were losing a close one, Tito had to lift him, even though he’d thrown only ninety pitches and was far from running on empty.  Papi stepped up to pinch-hit, so the Rockies turned to a lefty reliever.  On a 2-1 count, Papi hit a ground ball directly to Herrera at second, and that was the end of that.

That was one of a few opportunities of which we conspicuously did not avail ourselves.  For example, with only two outs in the game, we had the bases loaded with V-Mart at the plate with a 3-0 count.  He ended up grounding out on a full count fastball.

He certainly did his part to keep us in it.  It was a pitcher’s duel, and he kept pace with Chacin all the way through.  He tossed six frames of one-run ball.  He gave up six hits, so an average of one hit per inning, all singles, only one hard-hit.  He struck out six.  He located on both sides of the plate but concentrated on the left; he threw all of two balls to the right of the strike zone.  His cut fastball was excellent, as were his changeup and sinker.  He mixed them really well and kept the batters guessing; six of his fifty-nine strikes were swinging.  He threw twenty-one pitches in the fifth during the Rockies’ only substantial rally of the night, which included Lester’s only walk and the first run of the game.  But through between thirteen and fifteen pitches in four others, needing a game low of nine to finish off the fourth.  He had movement.  He had a tight release point.  But he had to take the loss for the first time since April because of the National League’s rules, and I couldn’t help recalling that the opposite was the case on the night of October 28, 2007.

Ramirez got his job done, but Okajima didn’t help things when he allowed what turned out to be the winning run.  Although that wasn’t completely his fault, either.  You can blame that run on Coors Field itself.  With one out and two on, Spilborghs hit into what appeared to be an excellent double play.  Instead the ball careened off of something on the ground and escaped Scutaro.  Delcarmen handled the last out.  The final score was 2-1.

We scored our one and only run in the ninth inning.  Beltre opened the frame with a double, our only extra-base hit of the night, and scored on Cameron’s single.  He finished the night two for three, our lineup’s only multi-hit performance.  Tito then put Lowell in as a pinch-hitter.  He landed one in the hole, but Barmes had, by Lowell’s own admission, ample time to throw him out at first because he’s so slow.

So between the National League and one particular rock or pebble or uneven dirt patch or whatever it was that caused that odd bounce, we lost.  It was absolutely frustrating, infuriating, and unbelievable.  It was painful to watch.  Because we would’ve had it in the bag! Our bats were more or less silent, but we pitched well and perhaps would’ve found a way to manufacture some runs.  Maybe we would’ve gone into extras, when anything can happen.  So as losses go, that was a tough one – especially considering that we’re now one and a half games back, although we are fortunate that Tampa Bay also lost – and an even tougher way to start off a series.  Pure bad luck.  But we’re going to need to gear up tonight if we want to go for the series win because the Rockies are starting Ubaldo Jimenez, whose 1.15 ERA is currently the best in the Majors.  He’ll take on Lackey.  All we need to do is practice patience at the plate; that’s a hallmark of our game, and it’ll help us get a handle on Jimenez early while tiring him out.  Then, after we’ve seen him toss to a few batters and know more or less what to expect, we need to be aggressive and get on him.  We don’t want a repeat of the first-pitch-strike-induced destruction we experienced, ironically at the hands of Lackey, last October.  Meanwhile, Lackey will need to be as efficient and powerful as possible.  If he uses his speed and pounds the zone, he’ll get some early outs and stay in longer.  So we’ll see what happens.

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