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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Capitals’

I’m wary of getting psyched too early, but it really seems like we’re starting to get on the right track.  They key, of course, is to stay on the right track, which as we know from experience is much easier said than done.  Still, you have to start somewhere, and scoring a lot of runs to support solid pitching performances seems like a good place.

To be fair, it’s not like Buchholz’s start was that solid.  It may have meant a loss for us in some of the games we’ve been playing to start the season.  Fortunately, the offense picked up his slack, but if they hadn’t, the outcome of the game probably wouldn’t have been so good.

He picked up the win for the first time since June 16, 2011 but gave up five runs on six innings.  He walked three and struck out five.  He threw 104 pitches in seven innings, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Obviously, most of his pitches were offspeeds; he used an effective combination of cutters, curveballs, and changeups, with his fastball topping out at ninety-three miles per hour.

He definitely settled in as the game went on.  His first inning was rough, and it was when most of the damage was done.  Twenty-seven pitches after the game started, he’d given up four runs in that frame alone: a walk, an RBI double, a groundout, a strikeout, another walk, and a three-run home run to right on a full-count fastball.  Needless to say, I’m sure the offense didn’t appreciate having to go to bat in a hole already.

But as I said, he settled down after that; he allowed another run in the third on via a four-pitch walk and a double, but other than that, he was pretty clean.  He threw sixteen pitches in the second, eighteen in the third, thirteen each in the fourth and fifth, and only nine in the sixth and seven in the seventh.  Not coincidentally, the sixth and seventh were also his only two one-two-three innings; he retired twelve of his last thirteen batters.

Morales received a hold for the eighth, and Aceves saw the minimum in the ninth.  Neither reliever allowed a baserunner.

Meanwhile, the offense was essentially taking batting practice.  It was awesome to see two run-heavy performances back-to-back; it’s food for morale, and it’s most certainly food for momentum.  And the best part is that it was a true slugfest because we did it mostly with the long ball.

Salty got us on the bard in the second with a two-run shot (Sweeney had walked on five pitches) on a changeup straight back to the center field seats, which is no small feat considering how deep that part of the park is; it takes serious power to launch the ball out there.  It landed in the covered seats.  The changeup was down and away, so he totally went golfing with that one.

The very next inning, Pedroia hit a solo shot on a fastball to left.  He cleared the Green Monster completely; the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street.  The trend continues; the fastball was high.

In the fifth, Youk singled and Papi went yard to the bullpen and tied the game at five, but we were about to leave the Rays in the dust.

The sixth was the only inning in which we went down in order, but we more than made up for it.  Aviles led off the seventh with a homer on a slider down and in the middle into the Monster seats.  If you want to make up for leaving the bases loaded in your previous at-bat, that’s a good way to do it.  And after Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez doubled, Youk walked, and Papi singled to load the bases.  Ross doubled, scoring two.

In the eighth, McDonald walked, Aviles doubled, and Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Gonzalez grounded into a double play that saw McDonald out at home, but then Youk walked to re-load the bases, Papi hit a bases-clearing double.  And then Ross hit a two-run shot on a changeup to left.  He too cleared the Monster, and the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street.

So let’s tally it up.  The final score was 13-5.  We scored two in the second, one in the third, two in the fifth, three in the seventh, and five in the eighth.  We posted fifteen hits; of those, ten were for extra bases, and of those, half were home runs, and of those, four were firsts of the season (only Pedroia had homered previously).  Four members of the starting lineup had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for five with a home run and one RBI; Ross went two for five with a double and a home run and four RBIs; Aviles went three for five with a double and a home run and one RBI; and yesterday’s man of the hour, Big Papi, went four for five with a double, a home run, and five – count ‘em – five RBIs.

You know, for a team that’s been struggling, how refreshing was this? We entered the game with only two home runs, the fewest in all of Major League Baseball to date, and then look at us.  As I’ve said, it was like a whole new team up there.  Really.  All we have to do is stay the course.  If we play this way for the rest of the season, I’d think we’d be in pretty good shape.

In other news, the B’s lost the second playoff game, 2-1, to the Caps.

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That’s the game that we were all hoping we’d play.  Fenway was a sight for sore eyes; something about the players being introduced at the home opener just makes you feel refreshed and ready, and after the start to the season we’ve had, we needed that.  And the final score was a sight for sore eyes, too.  12-2.  Now that’s what I call taking care of business on your first day home.  Ladies and gentlemen, here’s hoping that yesterday was the first day of the rest of our baseball lives!

First things first.  The opening ceremonies were as fitting and fantastically done as ever.  Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek threw the first pitch, as they should have.  It was so great to see them back there received with the standing ovation that they clearly deserved.  Dwight Evans caught Wakefield’s pitch, and Jim Rice caught Varitek’s, which was especially fitting since Rice was our captain before Varitek played.  Needless to say, the pitches were thrown quite well (I was hoping Wakefield would deliver a knuckleball, but apparently Evans warned him against that beforehand), and there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards.  All in all, it was a supremely feel-good event.  In the bottom of the second, Wakefield and Varitek joined the NESN booth for the first time ever; apparently they’d never been to that part of the park before.  Wakefield was right when he said that it was a special day that the two of them shared together; opening the hundredth season of baseball at Fenway was a task that was absolutely fitting for them to complete.  And we’ll see them again this year; during the season each of them will be honored with their own day.  We certainly haven’t seen the last of Varitek, who will probably re-join the organization in some sort of professional capacity.  Their comments on the start to the season we’ve had were interesting to hear, and ultimately it was just a pleasure to have them back.  It really was.

Beckett pitched like an ace.  These are now back-to-back gems by our two best starters; it’s a good sign, and it’s some solid momentum that we can build from.  Beckett pitched eight innings and gave up only one run on five hits, two of which were doubles, and that was it for extra bases.  He walked one and struck out one, the eleventh time in his career that he posted only one strikeout but the first time in his career that he posted a win with only one strikeout.  That one strikeout came against Carlos Pena with one out in the eighth; it took him six pitches, and the clincher was a curveball going seventy-four miles per hour that resulted in a missed swing.  Beckett threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-one of which were strikes, so he was right on pace.

He brought his fastball up to ninety-two miles per hour, and they were good, but the real stars of his arsenal were the cutter and the changeup.  Almost all of his cutters were thrown for strikes, and a little less than half of all of his pitches were changeups, which he threw for strikes almost two-thirds of the time.  Other than that, he also introduced a curveball that was pretty good.  So he pitched like an ace, but not necessarily like the ace we’ve seen him be in most of his gem starts.  This was less about dominating and overpowering the hitters and more about getting around them with craftiness and finesse.  It was a side of Beckett that we rarely get to see, but nevertheless it was obviously an effective side of Beckett and one that speaks to his overall skill and versatility as a pitcher.

Regarding efficiency, as I said, he was pretty much on the ball.  He wasn’t remarkably efficient, but he wasn’t inefficient, either.  Around a hundred pitches is where you should be by the time the ninth inning starts, and there are plenty of pitching staffs out there whose aces are lucky if they can make it to the sixth or seventh around a hundred pitches.  He threw at most seventeen pitches in one inning, and he did that twice, once in the first and again in the fourth.  He threw sixteen in the second and thirteen in the eighth.  Other than that, he threw nine in the sixth, eight in the third, and seven in the fifth and seventh.

Beckett allowed his lone run in the second pretty quickly; the inning started with a single, and the next hit was one of the two doubles he gave up, which scored Ben Zobrist.  But then he ended the inning with three straight groundouts, and under his watch, it was the end of the scoring for the Tampa Bay Rays.  (Incidentally, Zobrist also scored Beckett’s only walk, in addition to his only run.) Three of his innings were one-two-three: the third, the fifth, and the eighth.

Meanwhile, the game did not begin auspiciously for our offense, as we went down in order in the first.  We put two on base in the second, but three straight outs erased that threat.  We first got on board in the third: Shoppach got hit, Ellsbury doubled, and Pedroia walked on five pitches to load the bases.  Then we put up three straight scoring plays: Gonzalez singled, Youk hit a sac fly, and Papi singled.  It was small ball, but it was effective small ball.  McDonald re-loaded the bases by also walking on five pitches, but Ross ended the inning by grounding into a double play.  Still, that was three runs right there.

We added one in the fourth; Aviles began the inning by grounding out, but then Shoppach doubled and scored on a single by Ellsbury.  (Speaking of the fourth, Ross made a fantastic diving catch to prevent a base hit and secure the first out in the top of the inning.) We went down in order in the fifth again, and we had two baserunners again erased in the sixth and one erased in the seventh.

Now, at that point, the score was 4-1, and with the way Beckett was pitching, that lead alone would have held up fine.  Honestly, if that had remained the score, Bobby V. would have let Beckett stay in there and finish it up.  He’s a beast against the Rays; he’s got four wins and is undefeated in six starts with a 0.84 ERA going back to September 12, 2009.  As it turned out, Melancon came out to pitch the ninth.  He faced four batters.  Three of them represented outs, but between the first and second one was a solo shot to right on a 2-1 fastball.  Those two runs were the only runs that the Rays would have scored.  In plenty of other scenarios, which unfortunately we have seen first-hand this year, that may have cost us the game.  Fortunately, Melancon made that one isolated mistake and recovered.  So if we had only scored four runs, in this particular game we would’ve been fine.

But we didn’t only score four runs.  We exploded majorly in the eighth.  It was fantastic.  It was like a whole new team up there.  Almost every batter in that inning contributed to the run total in one way or another, and it was just a string of well-orchestrated scoring plays.  It really looked and felt like the team was playing like a team.

It all began with a pitching change; Joel Peralta replaced Wade Davis.  What a cold, cold greeting we gave him.  McDonald opened the inning with a very patient at-bat that concluded with a double.  Then Ross walked, and McDonald moved to third on a wild pitch.  Then Aviles walked to load the bases.  Then Shoppach doubled and scored two.  Then Sweeney singled and scored two.  Then Pedroia and Gonzalez singled back-to-back to reload the bases.  Then Youk singled and scored two.  Then Papi doubled and scored one.  Then McDonald got hit to reload the bases.  Then Ross hit a sac fly that scored one.  Then Aviles singled to reload the bases.  And then Shoppach and Sweeney provided the last two outs.  So, before Ross hit his sac fly, we sent ten men to the plate with nobody out in the inning, and our first out of the inning was still a scoring play.  We scored eight runs in the eighth inning alone.

We posted sixteen hits to their six.  We posted five extra-base hits to their three, even though ours were all doubles and they had a homer.  We left ten on base to their five, but – are you ready for this? – we went ten for seventeen with runners in scoring position to their 0 for 5.  Ten for seventeen.

Youk and Papi both went two for four, the latter with a double, and Gonzalez went two for three.  But the man of the hour, who went three for four with two doubles, was Kelly Shoppach.  Not bad for a catcher.  Not bad at all.  All told, we had five multi-hit games.

There was only one downside to the game, and unfortunately it was extremely significant.  Ellsbury went two for three but left in the bottom of the fourth with an injured right shoulder.  Right after his RBI single that inning, Pedroia grounded into a double play to end it, and Reid Brignac landed on the shoulder at second base after he threw to first.  Hard.  It looked bad; he grabbed it and stood up with some difficulty.  He walked off the field holding his arm pretty delicately.  Make no mistake, folks: this is a complete and total disaster in every conceivable way.  The incident quieted Fenway pretty quickly, and rightly so.  He was examined after the game, but there is no definite word yet on his condition; you can be sure, though, that he’ll be temporarily replaced for at least five or six weeks.

So the team does indeed start to celebrate Fenway’s one hundredth birthday with a win! It was a win for Fenway, a win for Red Sox Nation, and a win for the team, and we all badly needed it.  And so we should feel happy about that.  But we should also be aware of the fact that we hope we didn’t just trade in a win in the short term for a win in the long term; in other words, we hope that Ellsbury isn’t injured for the long term as a result of what occurred in this game.  Seriously.  This is an extremely, extremely big deal.

In other news, the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins have officially begin, and on a high note at that.  We beat the Caps, 1-0! As I said, I’m really thinking repeat.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Aviles is officially our starting shortstop.   We still don’t know who will officially be our fourth and fifth starters; in classic Bobby V.-esque fashion, he has heightened the drama by waiting to announce it this morning.  There are those who have been predicting all Spring Training who it’s going to be, but I’ve learned my lesson that you can’t really predict much of anything when it comes to Bobby V.  So we’ll just have to wait and see.

We lost to the Jays, 6-5, on Sunday.  Bard pitched six innings and gave up five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out five.  Aviles went three for four with two doubles, and Ellsbury and McDonald both tripled.

We shut out the Phillies on Monday, six-zip.  Lester’s seven innings were a thing of beauty.  He allowed just two hits and struck out ten.  Salty, Sweeney, and Papi all singled, and Pedroia and Ross both homered, Pedroia to the opposite field.  Paps experienced for the first time what it’s like to socialize with the team while wearing the opposition’s uniform; he didn’t pitch.

We shut out the Rays on Tuesday, eight-zip.  Beckett threw eighty-four pitches in five innings.  He walked three and struck out five.  Papi doubled, Pedroia tripled, and Ross homered.

We los to the Jays on Thursday, 3-2.  Aceves pitched six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits.  He walked two and struck out four; fifty-four of his eighty-seven pitches were strikes.  Sweeney hit an RBI double, and Papi homered.  The winning run was scored by Anthony Gose, who, with the game tied at two in the eighth, reached first on a walk and then stole second, third, and home, all in the same inning.  You know what they say: walks will haunt.

We beat the Twins on Friday, 9-7.  Bard pitched six innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out seven, which was awesome.  Ross hit two two-run home runs.  Ellsbury fouled a ball off of his right knee in the top of the fifth and left the game in the bottom of the inning but is totally fine.

Yesterday, we tied the Rays at seven.  Ross Ohlendorf started.  Ciriaco, Nava, and Shoppach each doubled.  Ciriaco had a fantastic Spring Training; look for him to be chosen for the final roster spot.

In other news, the B’s beat the Ducks, Bolts, and Isles; we lost to the Caps in a shootout.

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It seems like everyone’s focus this spring is on the question of who will be our fifth starter.  Obviously that’s a worthy focus because the identity of the fifth starter is important, and I think it says a lot about who’s managing this team that we don’t even have a sliver of a clue as to who it would be.  But we should also keep in mind that there are other things to watch for, like making sure that Papi and Youk get on a roll early, that Ellsbury’s season last year was the norm rather than the exception, that the catchers are handling the staff properly, and that the starters whose identities we do know are healthy and effective.

We beat the Orioles on Tuesday, 5-4.  Bard made his first start of spring and was awarded a no-decision.  He pitched two scoreless innings.  Aceves also fired two innings, striking out two and walking none.

Our game against the Jays on Wednesday ended in a tie at three.  Lester stayed behind and pitched two and two-thirds innings in a B game against the Twins; he walked two, struck out one, and gave up a hit.

The Cards bested us, 9-3, on Thursday.  Beckett pitched three scoreless innings; he walked none, struck out none, and allowed two hits, a single and a double.  Jose Iglesias whacked a triple with the bases loaded and looks more like a starter with every passing game.

Buchholz took Friday’s 7-4 loss to the Pirates.  He gave up two runs on three hits, struck out one, and walked none.  He threw some really beautiful changeups.  Papi hit his second homer of spring on a 2-1 count.

We shut out the Rays, five-zip, on Saturday.  Bard delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out one, walked two, and gave up two hits.  Thirty of his forty-nine pitches were strikes.  He relied heavily on his changeup.  It was his first three-inning stint in a single game since 2007, then a starting pitcher in the minors.  Supposedly, though, it technically hasn’t officially been decided that he’ll be starting; I guess they want to ensure that his stamina and arsenal are sufficient.  Aceves also delivered three scoreless innings; he struck out two, walked none, and gave up two hits.  Salty coaxed a walk with the bases loaded in the first, BJ Upton’s error on Iglesias’s fly ball brought in another two runs, and Youk smacked an RBI double.

McClure says that Dice-K looks great.  I just want to see if he pitches great.

Even after Papelbon is traded, it seems we can’t escape the drama that naturally seems to emanate from his person.  He claims that Red Sox Nation is more hysterical, while Phillies fans are more knowledgeable about the game because the Phillies are in the National League.  That’s ridiculous.  First of all, it’s possible to be hysterical and knowledgeable at the same time; just because we love our guys, a fact from which he was all too happy to benefit when it suited him just fine, doesn’t mean we also don’t know what we’re talking about.  We do indeed most definitely know exactly what we’re talking about.  And the fact that the Phillies are in the National League means absolutely nothing and is completely irrelevant.  I’m just saying.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Caps but beat the Leafs and Sabres.  We have eighty-three points so far this season, two above the Sens in our division and tied with the Devils if, as division leaders, we were not automatically seeded second.

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You know that spring is just around the corner when Truck Day has come and gone.  Truck Day was yesterday, so that must mean we don’t have much longer to go.  It’s been a long, cold winter, folks, and we’ve been without baseball for way too long.  There have been some interesting decisions and some interesting non-decisions made this offseason; I don’t know how this season will turn out.  It may be better or worse than we expect.  All I know is that Pitchers and Catchers is coming – in fact, Lester is already down there – and soon we’ll be talking about Spring Training! Finally!

Speaking of Pitchers and Catchers, just so everyone knows what we’re getting into, apparently Bobby V. doesn’t believe in pitch counts.  He says that they’re completely arbitrary and cites his experience in Japan as evidence.  As Dice-K has amply informed everyone who will listen already, in Japan there essentially are no pitch counts.  But this is not Japan, these are not Japan’s players, this is not Japan’s six-man rotation, and this is not Japan’s schedule.  All I’m saying is that if something’s not broken, Bobby V. should not attempt to fix it.  Discarding the legitimacy of pitch counts is not a way to account for the fact that we still need two starters, and he seems to think that moving Bard and Aceves from the bullpen to the bench as starters wouldn’t be a big deal for either.  It probably wouldn’t be a big deal if it were done properly, but I don’t think discarding pitch counts completely constitutes “properly.” At most, Bobby V. should be approaching this issue on a case-by-case basis.  There may be some pitchers who are naturally inclined to throw more, and there may be some pitchers naturally inclined to throw less.  If the pitch count has to be ignored, it should be ignored in a situation where it’s within a pitcher’s natural comfort zone and ability to do so.  Otherwise he runs the risk of running all of our pitchers into the ground because a good pitcher will stay out there and compete for as long as he’s allowed to do so.  I don’t even want to think about all the games we would have lost if Tito didn’t pull people at the right time; I venture to guess that total would be more than the games we would have done by doing the exact same thing.

Speaking of pitchers, Roy Oswalt is still on the market, and we have indeed made it an offer.  The offer itself is acceptable, but someone from his camp has stated that, geographically, he just doesn’t want to be in Boston and would rather play in places like Texas or St. Louis which, as I’m sure is readily recognizable, are warmer and potentially National League and therefore more pitcher-friendly.  As they say, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.  But if you can’t take the cold, don’t even think about coming into the kitchen in the first place.

Last but not least, congratulations to Kevin Youkilis, who apparently is engaged to Tom Brady’s sister, Julie.  Two great Boston sports franchises unite.

In other news, the Super Bowl was obviously a painful disappointment, quite literally in fact.  I can’t believe it.  I just can’t believe it.  During the offseason, this Patriots team was touted as the Patriots team that differed from other Patriots teams in recent years due to its defense.  It’s no secret that, while the Patriots have had a good defense, the defense has been just that: good.  Not great, and certainly not extraordinary like the offense.  This team was supposed to be a step in the right direction of addressing that issue.  When we barely squeaked by the Ravens, we knew the Super Bowl was going to be a close game.  And it was.  I personally just never thought it would be close not in our favor and that we would lose, 21-17.  It was 2008 all over again: the Giants’ defense was better than ours, and it matched evenly against our offense, which meant that they were able to make more plays.  Honestly, I still thought we had a chance even after that last touchdown.  There was less than a minute on the clock, but that would have been enough for a successful drive downfield had we not been put in a position where we had to waste time getting another first down after that string of three unsuccessful attempts, the last of which was a sack.  It was painful to watch, and it forced Brady to have to deliver a Hail Mary that would have won the whole game instantly, right then and there, had it been caught.  And it almost was.  But it wasn’t, and that’s how wins and losses are determined, isn’t it.  And it’s not like it’s all the defense’s fault either.  They did well, given the circumstances, especially on the Giants’ third down.  The offense also made its fair share of small mistakes that added up big time.  It seemed like a million of Brady’s passes were just a little off this way or that way or that this one fumbled or that one should totally have caught it, and that would have given us the points necessary such that the fact that the defense allowed the twenty-one points wouldn’t have mattered.  We all know Wes Welker should have made that catch with his eyes closed – he led the NFL with 122c catches – but obviously it’s ridiculous to attribute an entire loss to only one play.  In the end, we made it to the Super Bowl, we kept it a close game, and Brady set a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions.  We lost, and it was crushing and devastating and, as I said, painful.  But we’ll be back.  If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that we’ll be back for sure.  And the B’s beat the Caps and Predators and dropped a 6-0 shutout to the Sabres.

Boston Globe Staff/Steve Silva

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It was yet another quiet week.  That seems to be the theme these days.

We signed Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth three million dollars with a high performance bonus thrown in.  He’s a right-handed bat renowned for his ability to slug against southpaws; since 2007, his numbers are truly fantastic.  Then again, he had a fantastically terrible year last year.  If last year was just a blip on the radar screen, I think he’ll find the dimensions of Fenway quite conducive to letting it rip in an otherwise left-skewed lineup, which will be very helpful.  If last year wasn’t just a blip on the radar screen, we’ll use him minimally and only when we absolutely need a righty in there.

All may be quiet on the baseball front, but not so the football front.  The Patriots won and are now in the Super Bowl; no surprise there.  I knew they would beat the Ravens.  What I didn’t know was that the final score would be 23-20.  That’s a little too close for my comfort.  A win is a win, and this one is definitely worth celebrating, but we’ll have to be on our toes when we play the Giants.  Although I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m definitely relishing this prime opportunity for revenge.  Bring it on.  I’m hungry.  It’s so unbelievably good to be back.  The B’s trumped the Flyers but lost to the Caps.

TripAdvisor

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That wasn’t good.  And that was an understatement.  I was afraid this would happen.  First, I was afraid that we would do all kinds of goodness during our first win on our home opener only to pretty much forget all of it and do none of it the game after.  That didn’t exactly happen.  Instead, we repeated the only badness we had on Friday: starting pitching.  Our starters have a collective ERA of 7.09 and have allowed a grand total of nineteen home runs.  Both stats are the worst in the Major Leagues.

I knew it was going to be a long day as soon as I saw Buchholz missing his spots.  It’s not that hard to figure out.  When a starting pitcher misses his spots, you’re going to have a long day.  That’s pretty much a hard and fast rule.

He only lasted three and two-thirds innings, and by all accounts, even that was too long.  This Buchholz didn’t look like the Buchholz who won seventeen games last year.  This Buchholz looked like the Buchholz of 2008, a year so bad for him that I’m embarrassed to repeat these numbers: in fifteen starts, he pitched only seventy-six innings and fifty-seven earned runs on ninety-three hits, eleven of them homers; he went two and nine with a 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.  Not exactly a year to revisit.

He gave up four earned runs, five in total (you can thank Lowrie for that one, who made an error on a grounder that was as routine as they come), on eight hits, one of which was a three-run home run by Russell Martin.  He walked three.  He struck out two.  He threw ninety-two pitches, fifty-five for strikes, four for swinging strikes.

It all started with two runs in the second: the error, a double, a fielder’s choice groundout, and another double.  No big deal, right? I mean, they scored two runs first on Friday as well, and we came back.  The problem was that Buchholz was so much worse than Lackey.  Buchholz made Lackey look like an ace.  The Yankees scored three more runs in the fourth.

Buchholz threw mostly fastballs, with just as many sliders as changeups thrown in as well as a couple of handfuls of curveballs.  His fastball got all the way up to ninety-five miles per hour.  His curveball was his most effective pitch as well as his least frequently thrown pitch, which is something we’ve seen more than usual lately; the bad starts have tended so far to be paired with the starter not using his most effective pitch very often.  It may have been his most effective strike-wise, but it wasn’t perfect.  He threw three pitches on which the Yankees scored runs; one was a fastball, one a changeup, and one a curveball.  He varied his speeds, he kept his release point tight, and he definitely threw some good pitches.  But not enough.  What can I say? If he didn’t hit his spots, he didn’t hit his spots, and that’s the end of it.

During the first inning, it looked like he was going to be okay.  It looked like he was having a rough first inning that would prove to be the end of his troubles.  In the first, it looked like he had potential to settle down.  He threw eighteen pitches, ten for strikes, and it looked like things would only improve from there.  Not so much.  His pitch count climbed, and he threw thirty-two pitches in the fourth before he was removed.  If only that were the end of our misery.

Doubront came on and gave up a home run of his own, this one for two runs.  Not wanting to be left out, Aceves gave up two solo shots.   Wake was the only pitcher to go out there and deliver.  Two shutout innings with one strike out.  Too bad he was only out there for two innings.

It didn’t matter that Lowrie went three for four.  It didn’t matter that we scored three runs in a single inning in the fourth to answer their three-spot in the top of that frame.  It didn’t matter that that three-spot brought us within only one run.  Or that Youk made an incredibly precise and well-placed throw home to prevent Granderson from scoring in the second.  Or that Gonzalez left the bag to make a spinning catch and fire to first in time for the second out of the third.

It didn’t matter that Pedroia was again the man of the hour.  Or that didn’t just go three for four; he went three for four with three doubles and a walk.  Or that it was his second consecutive three-hit performance.  Or that he batted in two RBIs on one of those doubles, an extremely hard-hit, ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam that bounced off the center field wall a few feet to the right of the 379-foot marker with two out in the fourth.  Or that he robbed Teixeira of a line drive in the sixth with a spectacular diving grab.

It didn’t matter that, all told, we stroked ten hits, our second double-digit hit total in as many days, which signifies that, slowly but surely, this team is figuring out how to deliver, produce, and win collectively.  It didn’t even matter that Kevin Millar, the great galvanizer of 2004, was in the stands.  None of that mattered even one iota.  All that mattered was that we left ten men on base, went an obscenely pathetic one for seventeen with runners in scoring position, and therefore scored only four runs.  We lost, 9-4.  To the Yankees.  Because we couldn’t pay our pitching staff to not give up runs (oh, wait) and because our lineup looked like it had no idea what having runners in scoring position meant.  It was crushing in every sense.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are frustrated beyond words at this point.

So we had our seventh non-quality start in eight games.  We’re one and seven.  And the best we can do now is win the series.  Let’s at least just do that.  Our starters are into their second rotation now.  They’ve seen action.  We’re at home.  This should bring goodness.  Until today, it has.  Beckett has the ball tomorrow, and he needs to deliver.  There’s no getting around it now.  First, we had to deal with everything going wrong: bad pitching coupled with bad hitting coupled with bad baserunning.  At this point, we seem to have gotten the baserunning and hitting parts down, or at least they’re better than they were.  What we need to do now is pair good starting pitching with good hitting.  No baseball team can win with just one or the other.  You need both.  We have both on paper.  We need both in practice.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Sens, and we clinched our division! We now fill the third seed with 103 points; Philly fills the fourth with 104.  The Caps have clinched the conference.  We have one game left to play in the regular season – this afternoon against the Devils – and then it’s go time.

AP Photo

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