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Posts Tagged ‘Vernon Wells’

The way I would describe last night’s start by Dice-K can be summarized in one phrase: that’s more like it.

In last night’s start he showed glimmers of why we signed him in the first place and why he was so effective in 2007.  In last night’s start he dominated like he was an ace who’d been around the league long enough to know exactly how to handle these Jays.  In last night’s start he gave Red Sox Nation a reason to hope that maybe signing him, sticking with him in the long haul, and having faith he’ll come around wouldn’t have been in vain.

He pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and allowed only three hits.  No walks whatsoever for the second time in his career.  Nine strikeouts, only one of which was not on a fastball (Snider struck out on an eighty-one mile-per-hour changeup), and only two of which were looking.  He faced twenty-four batters and also induced ten flyouts and two groundouts.  107 pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  That’s a very high rate.  That’s one of the highest such rates we’ve seen all season.  He got the win, and very deservedly so.  He started the game striking out Lewis on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  I mean, this Dice-K was completely different than the Dice-K we’d been seeing until this point, and it just confirms that he was in fact on the trajectory of improvement we all thought he was on.  In one night, he lowered his ERA from 9.90 to 6.35.

His four-seam was excellent.  He only topped out at ninety-three miles per hour, but he threw about seventy percent of them for strikes.  Which was good because that was his dominant pitch; he threw about sixty-eight of them.  The reason his four-seam was so effective was that it has fantastic vertical movement on it.  His fastest pitches don’t do much horizontally, but vertically they’re real sharp.  Like off the charts sharp.  His two-seam, cutter, curveball, and slider were excellent; his changeup still needs work.  And if you ask me, even if his fastball does move, I still think he should mix his pitches more effectively.  This outing was a good first step, but he won’t last the season if his pitch mix looks like that.  A pitcher can’t live on fastballs alone.  There are those who would argue that a fastball is only as good as the pitches thrown before and after it.  So I think it would greatly behoove him and therefore us if he’d work on that.

His lowest per-inning pitch count was eleven, which he threw twice.  He threw between sixteen and twenty pitches in each of the remaining five innings, with twenty being his highest count in the third and nineteen being his highest in the sixth.  So he ran into some trouble there, but of course every pitcher who’s on gets into at least one jam.  That’s a trend we’ve seen with him; in each of his last two starts, he’s had one disastrous inning.  In last night’s start, it could be that that disastrous inning was just much more controlled and contained.  Although ideally he wouldn’t have any disastrous innings at all.

Of course it helps when you have good relief.  Ramirez pitched around a hit and a walk to finish an inning, and Okajima followed that with a perfect inning.

And it also helps when you have good offense.  Unlike Dice-K, Eveland only lasted a little more than four frames.

Scutaro led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Pedroia’s double, scoring on Drew’s groundout.  Pedroia scored on Youk’s sac fly.  Tek unloaded for a home run in the second; a 2—0 fastball that completely cleared the Monster and Lansdowne Street.  Dude got power.  That would be his sixth of the season, fifth from the right side, in forty at-bats.  To put that in perspective, he didn’t hit his sixth home run last hear until at-bat number 125.  He led off the fourth with a single; his bat broke, which confused Bautista, so the ball rolled between his legs, which we don’t have to worry about because it was the opposing team.  Hall followed that with a popup to shallow left-center that dropped between Lewis, Gonzalez, and Wells and has quietly been getting some hits in lately.  Then, Tek scored again on McDonald’s double in the fourth.  So, not the Jays’ best inning in the field.  Drew led off the fifth with a bunt.  Youk walked.  Eveland left with a ball on Lowell; Camp entered and walked him to load the bases.  Drew scored on a wild pitch and Youk scored when Hall grounded into a fielder’s choice.  We recorded twice as many hits and six times as many runs as they did.

By the way, Youk was hit by a pitch in the third for the sixty-third time in his career.  He’s one HBP shy of tying Jim Rice for second place on the franchise all-time list.

Pedroia and Drew both went two for four.  Drew stole second and appears to be in good health.  Tek went two for three, continuing to impress.  Can’t say I didn’t see that coming; in the beginning of the season I said that Tek’s Renaissance would last because extra rest would draw it out.  I hope that’s what we’re seeing here.  And finally, last but not least, 6-1 says we won.

A quick update on our absent outfielders: Cameron is doing a rehab stint with the PawSox, and Ellsbury took batting practice and did baserunning drills yesterday, so that’s a very good sign that he’ll be back in action soon.  Seriously this time.

So that was a good game all around.  I just hope that Dice-K builds on it.  His number one problem has been inconsistency, so this start was a good first step, but it’ll be really important to observe his performance in his next start to see if this is the establishment of a new norm or just one more piece of evidence of his irregular performance.  Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime Wakefield will try for the sweep against Marcum tonight.

SI.com
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What did I tell you? I said that Clay Buchholz is currently an ace in the hole.  Last night, he proved me right.  I hate to say, “I told you so,” but not when being right means we win.

We won by a final score of 2-1.  So we continue to rack up the close wins; that’s our sixth consecutive one-run game.  But it takes a pitcher with some skills to preserve a win like that.  (Apparently, it takes a pitcher with some skills to pitch at all, but that’s not the point.)

Clay Buchholz fulfilled a big responsibility last night, despite his age and despite his usual MO.  He did two very, equally important things: he gave the bullpen a rest to recharge and he won us the ballgame.  And I can say that absolutely because it was a pitcher’s duel, not a slugfest.  And Buchholz won out, besting Shaun Marcum to carry home the W.  Buchholz pitched eight innings.  Eight.  He threw 117 pitches, eighty of them strikes.  One run on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, three swinging and one looking.  He now has an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.30.  This was undoubtedly his best outing of the season, and one of the best of his career.  No, seriously.  His next-closest pitch count was 115, which he threw on September 1, 2007 during his no-no.  Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the return of the kid who threw the no-no.  If there was an off-speed pitch that can be thrown in baseball, he threw it effectively.  Maybe a handful of his breaking balls stayed up with righties at the plate, but that’s really the only complaint.  A singe and double in the first resulted in the Jays’ lone run, but that was it.  His two-seam and changeup were stellar.  His command was fantastic.  He worked calmly and efficiently and alertly; how about that line drive right into his glove in the second? He got the job done better than any of our starters this season.  I think that was our best outing from a starter so far, period.

Ramirez followed that spectacular performance with one of his own.  A clean, one-inning, eleven-pitch save.  Finally.

We manufactured our two runs ourselves; for the offense, this was really a grind-it-out type of contest.  In the first, we tied it when Ortiz worked a two-out walk, and he came around to score via singles by Beltre and Hermida.  Lowell worked a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  My, that’s embarrassing.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to lose a ballgame.  Trust me, I know.  Eric Gagne was an expert at it.

In the eighth, Wells singled and reached second on Beltre’s throwing error.  He clutched at the ball twice before firing wide to first.  That could have been it.  But naturally Buchholz caught Overbay looking at a four-seam and got Gonzalez to fly out on an off-speed.

We have good news: Ryan Westmoreland was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Saturday.  He’ll continue rehabbing as an outpatient.  He’s doing well, which is a relief.  Hang in there, buddy.  Embree is coming up to the bullpen from the minors today.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I was expecting that type of outing left and right from Beckett or Lester or Lackey, but we haven’t gotten that at all, which is why the bullpen’s been fried this week.  We needed someone to get in there and give them a rest.  Buchholz did that and more because, not only did he secure the win, but he secured the win without much input from the offense.  (That had more to do with Marcum being on than the offense being off.) Our other starters need to take a page from Buchholz’s book after that outing.  That was absolutely fantastic.  He just blew everyone out of the water.  I don’t really know what else to say.  That was a rock-solid performance.  Rock-solid.  I mean, way to go, kid! Lester is starting tonight.  I have a feeling that there’ll be quite the contrast between the two outings, but that’s one thing about which I hope I can’t say, “I told you so.”

Reuters Photo

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Once the rain delay was over, it was a great game.  And let’s give a round of applause to the grounds crew, who worked so hard and so well last night.  We weren’t even supposed to start the game last night.  Games were getting rained out left and right across the eastern seaboard, but because of the double-header today we had nowhere to put it.  And it was clearly an affirmation of our status as the best fans in the world.  Nobody left.  It was coming down like nobody’s business and nobody left the ballpark.  There was even a fan wrapped in what looked like toilet paper to keep dry.

As it turns out, this game was just what we needed.  Exactly what we needed.  We’ve got a tough day ahead today, and yesterday gives us momentum and a fully rested bullpen.  It’s funny; when you have a good season somehow these things just work out.  The baseball gods give you a chance to jump out ahead.  Of course taking advantage of that is another story, but we’ve been doing that lately.  We’re chipping away at Tampa Bay’s lead.  The division is by no means locked up.

Toronto came into last night’s game first in the league in ERA.  Against Toronto this season, we were 4-7 with a .217 average.  We came into last night’s game first in the Major Leagues in batting average at .283.  We won, 7-0.  We out-hit them, 8-3.  And we made no errors, as opposed to their two.

Tim Wakefield was one of the stars of the show.  He pitched eight (count ’em: eight) shutout innings and held the Blue Jays to just three hits.  He walked none and struck out four.  And for once he received good run support.  He improves to 9-10 with a 3.92 ERA.  I think it’s safe to say that this was one of his best starts all season.  And this came after that disaster of an outing in Texas, his shortest since the ’90s.  And that was just sad, because it was his 500th start, but it certainly wasn’t something he’ll want to remember.  It’s just good to see him bounce back so quickly and effectively.  And it really gave the bullpen an extra day of rest, which is a godsend considering we’ve got two games today.  So for all of these reasons, Wake will be pitching for us for a long, long time.  And that’s definitely a good thing.  He’s also a really nice guy.  Vernon Wells, who doesn’t have a home run against Wake, said something funny to him and Wake thanked him and smiled.  That’s pretty unusual for an opposing player.

Manny Delcarmen pitched the ninth and allowed nothing, lowering his ERA to 3.59.  He’s allowed only four hits in his last fifteen innings, or twelve games.  How about that? Whatever he did to adjust himself from his earlier inconsistency has worked like a charm.

Two RBIs for Lowrie, two for Ortiz, and three for Cash.  Lowrie went two for two with a walk, scored twice, and continues to be an RBI machine.  His swing, from both sides of the plate, is just very conducive to getting that runner home.  He’s now six for his last seven, and how about that lengthy at-bat in the eighth? That’s what we need to do, and that’s what we’re good at: being patient at the plate and exhausting the opposing staff.  Ortiz came through with a clutch double.  And as for Cash, he came into last night’s game without an RBI in his last eighteen games.  In the eighth inning he hit a monstrous three-run home run, his fourteenth of the season.  Bay was held hitless but scored the game’s first two runs, and he made a stellar leaping catch on the warning track in the third inning, right in front of the Tampa Bay-New York entry in the scoreboard.  And Coco extended his hitting streak to twelve games.

In other news, Sean Casey is getting close to returning, but Drew could take a little longer.  After his back acted up again, he received another injection, so he’ll need a little more time.  But he’s anxious to get back out there and says he hasn’t thought for a second that he’d shut it down for the season.  I think it’s safe to say his days of long stints on the DL are over.  And it’s good he wants to get back in there, because this time last year his production was off the charts: .393 with fifteen doubles, four home runs, and fifteen RBIs in the last eighteen games of the season.  But sadly that’s not the only thing keeping him away from right field.  He learned yesterday that unfortunately his grandmother passed away.  So I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I offer condolences to the Drew family.  He’ll rejoin the team in Tampa Bay.

Yesterday’s contest was Don Orsillo’s 1000th game.  There was a cake and everything, and Meryl Masterson, Justin Masterson’s wife, even baked him cookies.  Last October, he worked the Rockies-Phillies NLDS, and this year he’ll be working the ALCS.  He’s also signed a new contract with NESN that has him broadcasting the Sox through 2012.  So congratulations, Don! Here’s to 1000 more.

Speaking of this year’s postseason, TBS has the rights to the four ALDS series and the ALCS.  Personally I don’t think that’s so great.  I mean I thought the commentary was a little lacking.  When you’re talking about the ALDS, it’s the first round so it’s not so bad.  But I’d much prefer watching the ALCS on Fox.  TBS wanted to bring in Curt Schilling for one of the ALDS series that didn’t involve us, but the authorities vetoed that, and besides Schilling said he wasn’t interested.

So here’s where we stand.  We’re two games behind the Rays and six games ahead of the Twins for the Wild Card.  We’ve been doing well with good pitching; Toronto and Tampa Bay have lately been No. 1 and 2 in the league in pitching.  And we’re pitching well ourselves.  We’ve got everything going in our direction, so this stretch should be fun.

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