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Posts Tagged ‘Will Middlebrooks’

It was very, very clear that the team did not get my memo.  I specifically said that we need to play better baseball, baseball that was more appropriate and commensurate to the stage on which we currently find ourselves, namely the World Series.  That means that we need to be at our absolute very best, and it was quite obvious from last night’s performance that we simply weren’t.

Let’s start with Peavy.  His outing was great but short.  He gave up two runs on six hits while walking one and striking out four.  He threw sixty-four pitches.  And he only pitched four innings.

His first inning was his worst.  He gave up a single, a sac bunt, an RBI single, another single, and another RBI single.  Then he ended the inning on two quick outs, went one-two-three in the second and third, and pitched cleanly out of a nobody-out bases-loaded situation in the fourth.

Doubront relieved him, pitching around his own jam in the fifth and going one-two-three in the sixth.  Breslow took over in the seventh and continues to have issues.  I shouldn’t have to say that this is epically the wrong time for issues of any kind.

He gave up a single, hit a batter, and was relieved by Tazawa.  Although Tazawa should not have given up a double, it’s also true that he shouldn’t have had to inherit runners either, both of which scored.  The inning ended four batters later.

Workman pitched around two baserunners in the eighth, and then we lost the game in the ninth.

In order to understand the similarity in disappointment and frustration between Game Three and Game Two, we obviously have to talk about the offense.  While we only sent up the minimum through three, we showed signs of life in the fourth, when Ellsbury singled and Papi walked.  We finally scored in the fifth.  Bogaerts led it off with a triple and scored on a force out by Carp to reduce the deficit to one.

Victorino led off the sixth with a walk and scored on a single by Nava to tie the game at two.  After the Cards’ two run double in the seventh, the score was 4-2, and I was really hoping that we weren’t about to lose by the same score we used to lose Game Two.

Fortunately, we managed to tie the game at four in the eighth.  Ellsbury singled, Victorino got hit, Pedroia grounded out and moved both runners into scoring position, and Papi walked intentionally to load the bases.  Nava grounded into a force out to score Ellsbury, and Bogaerts singled to score Victorino.  That was very small ball in a bases-loaded situation; that wasn’t exactly the blow-this-game-wide-open scoring play that I was hoping for.  But it allowed us to pull even, and we took what we could get.

That brings us back to the ninth.  We went down in order in the top of the inning and were hoping to force the game into extras.  Workman recorded the first out of the inning and gave up a single, and Uehara came in.  Uehara, as we all know, has been exceptional in the closer’s role.  Exceptional.  So it was not unreasonable to expect him to take us into extras, where we’d figure out a way to win, big hits or no big hits.

He gave up a double.  By itself, a double is no big deal.  And giving up a double in that situation, since there was only one other baserunner, was not, by itself, a problem.

It became a problem because Middlebrooks committed interference at third.  Uehara’s next batter had reached on a fielder’s choice.  The first runner was successfully thrown out at home, thanks to one of Pedroia’s signature diving catches.  Salty then threw the ball to third because he saw the runner trying to get back there.  But it was a bad throw, and in Middlebrooks fell down trying to make the catch.  He didn’t end up making the catch, but apparently he did end up impeding the runner’s path home.  So Middlebrooks got caught up with the baserunner, and soon he was just running toward home.  Fortunately, it looked like it wouldn’t matter because Nava made an excellent throw home.  But third base umpire Jim Joyce ruled Middlebrooks’s actions an obstruction.  And we lost, 5-4.

It’s always possible that that call was debatable.  In my opinion, umpires have to be very, very careful not to affect what is supposed to be a game’s natural outcome.  And while there are rules on the books that explain and determine what is and is not obstruction, one also has to consider the fact that it’s also possible that Middlebrooks did the only thing he could do given the circumstances.  Salty threw the ball; it wasn’t a great throw, but Middbelrooks still had to catch it.  And he did the only way he could do; he can’t be expected to simply not try to catch a ball, and there was no way out of that situation.  The whole thing was a complete mess.  I don’t recall having seen a play so messy and confusing, especially not during a postseason or a World Series.  I was too devastated after I understood that it had cost us the game to register what had happened, but after I saw it on replay a few times I was able to add some fury and outrage to that devastation.  Losing because it’s blatantly all your fault is a really hard thing to accept.  Losing based on a called play that can be questioned, especially during the World Series, is undeniably infuriating.  Of course, Joyce explained later that rules are rules, whether or not there was no alternative for Middlebrooks.  But to have the entire game decided on a play like that is just really, really hard for me to get on board with.

It’s bad enough that we lost.  It’s even worse that we lost during the World Series, on a walkoff on the road no less, and worse still that this has created a 2-1 series deficit.  But I also am really uncomfortable with the fact that we lost our second home game and have now lost our first away game.  We’re supposed to be the team that doesn’t let things like that get to us.  We’re supposed to be the team that can reestablish our momentum anywhere and carry it with us anywhere at any time.  I don’t care that now we’re stuck on the road.  We have no choice but to pick up, and fast, in St. Louis.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils, 4-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin
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What we did not need for Game Two was a repeat performance of Game One.  What it looked like we were going to get was a Game Two performance even worse than our performance in Game One.  But what we got was something completely unexpected in all of its familiar glory.

We were no-hit through six innings.  And if Victorino hadn’t gotten hit, and if Ellsbury and Papi hadn’t walked, we would have had no baserunners at all.

The same can not be said of the Tigers, who were busy capitalizing on Buchholz’s mistakes.  Admittedly, there weren’t that many.  But when your offense is completely turned off, one run against you can feel like ten.

Buchholz went one-two-three in the first.  After striking out his first batter of the second, he gave up a single, a double, and an RBI single.  He went one-two-three in the third and contended with two baserunners in the fourth after he recorded the first two outs and then hit a batter, issued a wild pitch, and dealt with Drew’s fielding error.  Then he went one-two-three in the fifth and gave up more runs in the sixth.  He gave up a solo shot with one out, and then he gave up another run thanks to two consecutive doubles, and then after securing the inning’s second out he gave up a two-run home run.  Plenty of mistakes.

He gave up a single after that and was replaced by Workman, who issued a walk and induced a groundout.  Two outs into the seventh, Doubront came in and ended it and pitched a fine eighth.

Fortunately, we finally got on the board in the seventh when Victorino singled and scored on a double by Pedroia with two out.  So we broke both the no-hitter and the shutout bid.  But we didn’t follow that with a rally.  Instead, we went down in order in the seventh.  Drew opened the eighth with a groundout, and then Middlebrooks doubled, Ellsbury walked, Victorino struck out, and we were all bracing ourselves for some very unpleasant flashbacks.

Then Pedroia singled to load the bases, and then I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  I don’t know what it is.  It could be everything aligning perfectly at exactly the right moment.  It could be the ideal combination of a number of factors.  Or it could simply just be something in the air.  It’s just really hard to figure out.  But somehow we just have this thing.  I can’t explain it.  It’s just a thing that we do that happens at a certain time of year.  And I guess there are just some people who can tap into that, and then things just happen and it’s perfect.

So when David Ortiz stepped up to the plate, I started bracing myself for flashbacks of a different sort.  I didn’t even have time to feel it in the air.  It just happened.  It happened faster than any of us could recall the same kind of thing having happened in the past.  It was just David Ortiz at home, standing at the plate, connecting with the ball.  Simple.  Just like that.

And he worked the magic.  It was an eighty-six mile-per-hour changeup.  It was the first pitch thrown by Detroit’s latest reliever.  And it ended up beyond the right field fence into the bullpen.

With one swing of the bat all the way in the eighth inning, David Ortiz tied the game and paved the way for us to tie the series.  David Ortiz hit a grand slam.

And then Uehara pitched the ninth.  And then Gomes singled, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Salty.  It was a walkoff.  Just like old times.  We won, 6-5.

In other news, the Pats eked out a win against the Saints, 30-27.

Boston Globe Staff/Stan Grossfeld

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially American League Division Champions! One series down, two more to go! We are a strong team.  We are a really strong team, and we should feel very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.  But I have to say, I’m still hungry, so I’m psyched to keep it going.

Peavy was an absolute master.  The game was tied at zero until the sixth inning.  Peavy was just mowing right through the Rays’ lineup like they were minor leaguers.  It was awesome.

Except for the fact that it was Peavy who cracked first.  It was a double-single combination.  And we didn’t have answer for it.  I just can’t believe we actually lost a playoff game with a final score of 1-0.  That’s rough.  And the series could have been tied.

Breslow came on for the inning’s last out. If it were not for the seventh inning, during which Gomes flied out, Bogaerts walked, Middlebrooks struck out, Ellsbury singled, and between a steal, a wild pitch, and a single, Bogaerts and Ellsbury both scored.  And we took the lead.  Just like that.

Tazawa replaced Breslow one out and one single into the eighth.  We added insurance in the ninth thanks to two walks, a hit batsman, and a sac fly.

And so the final score was 3-1.  Think about how close we were to having the series tied at two.  And then think about how the relief corps and the offense rallied to keep that from happening.  Now the Rays are eliminated and we’re moving on to the ALCS.  Life is good.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Okay.  It’s no big deal.  I mean, it better not turn into a big deal.  Just because the Rays managed to stave off elimination doesn’t mean that this whole thing is going to be a disaster.  Granted, I really would have liked to wrap this up already, but the extra playing time can’t hurt.  Still, I want to get this done.

This was just a close game all around.  We scored first; Ellsbury led off the game with a single and came home when Pedroia batted into a force out.  Then both teams went one-two-three in the second and third, and both teams had opportunities to score in the fourth, of which they did not take advantage.  Ellsbury doubled in the fifth and scored on a wild pitch to make it two-zip.

Buchholz gave up his first run in the bottom of the fifth; en route to securing the inning’s first two outs, he gave up a single and a double, and then he made a mistake that resulted in a three-run home run.  In total, Buchholz gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings while walking three and striking out five.  So that was really the only blemish of his performance, and it tied the game at three.

Neither team scored again until the eighth.  The sixth had been Buchholz’s last inning; Breslow and Tazawa pitched the seventh, and Morales and Workman pitched the eighth, during which the Rays edged ahead by one run.  This should not have been the case, because we had plenty of opportunities ourselves to score, but Morales opened the inning with a walk that turned into a run two singles and a popout later on a groundout.

Things were looking up in the ninth, when Pedroia managed to tie the game at four; Middlebrooks led off the inning with a walk, and Bogaerts came in to pinch-run.  Bogaerts scored when Pedroia grounded out, which at the time was critically important.

I thought we would hold out and settle it in extras.  Instead, Uehara came on for the ninth, and with the Rays two strikes away from playoff elimination, they came back to win it with a walkoff solo shot.  It was absolutely awful.  It was really crushing.  I mean, we were so close.  We were so close to putting them away, or at least to setting the stage for us putting them away.  The Rays are still down to elimination, but it was just really awful to see them come back like that.  The final score was 5-4.

In other news, the Pats dropped one to the Bengals, 13-6.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Soxtober has officially begun! And the beginning is good! We’ve got our first win very much in the bag; it was a slugfest.  That’s what I call starting the playoffs off right!

We got to play the Rays, and we really put them in their place.  Lester got the nod to start this one, as we knew he would, and he delivered an absolutely excellent performance.  He pitched seven and two-thirds innings and gave up two runs on three hits while walking three and striking out seven.  His two runs were the results of two mistakes; in other words, he gave up two solo shots, the first one with two out in the second and the second one leading off the fourth.  Other than that, he was a master.

Tazawa pitched the rest of the eighth, and Dempster pitched the ninth.

And that brings us to the offense.  Both of Lester’s home runs occurred before we got on the board, so I’m sure the Rays thought they had a real shot at winning this one.  Man, were they sadly, sadly mistaken.

We didn’t waste time; we scored our first runs, but certainly not our last, in the bottom of the fourth.  Pedroia singled, Papi doubled, and both scored on a double by Gomes.  After Salty struck out, Gomes scored on a single by Drew, who scored on a double by Middlebrooks, who scored on a single by Victorino.

With one out in the fifth, Napoli doubled, Gomes walked intentionally, and both scored on a double by Salty.  After Drew struck out, Middlebrooks walked intentionally, and Salty scored on a single by Ellsbury, with a little help from a deflection.

We put on the finishing touch in the eighth.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Victorino.  Then Pedroia singled and Papi walked to load the bases.  Then Napoli walked in a run.  Pedroia scored when Gomes grounded into a double play, and Papi scored on a single by Salty.

And that’s how we won our first playoff game, 12-2.  Done.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Welcome back, Jacoby Ellsbury! And just in time, too.  I’m telling you, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  We’ve played so well without him; imagine what we can do now that he’s back.  He looks comfortable, controlled, and, most importantly, very, very hungry.

Ellsbury hit his seventh pitch, the seventh pitch of the game, for a single.  Then Victorino singled, Pedroia grounded into a force out, Papi doubled in both of the baserunners, Nava lined out, and Papi scored on a single by Salty.  And with two outs in the third, Nava singled and scored on a double by Salty.

Things got powerful in the fourth when Peavy actually doubled, which was so cool, and Ellsbury walked, and Victorino went yard on a full count with one out.  It was a monster of a home run all the way out to left for three runs.  Salty singled to lead off the fifth, and then Drew doubled, and it was Middlebrooks’s turn to turn it on to right field.  For him, it was a slider, the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

And last but not least, the eighth.  Victorino singled, Pedroia flied out, Snyder got hit, and Nava singled to load the bases.  Salty singled in Victorino to score a run and keep the bases loaded.  Drew popped out, and then Middlebrooks was at it again.  He took a fastabll for a strike, fouled off a curveball and another fastball, and got a curveball that missed.  But Middlebrooks picked up on it and made the Rockies pay.  We were already well on our way to burying the Rockies under a mountain of runs (pun intended).  But when that ball ended up beyond the left field fence, the deal was officially sealed.  Four runs.  One grand slam.  Epic.

Unfortunately, it was kind of an off night for Peavy.  I should say it was kind of a mediocre night for Peavy.  With one out in the second, he gave up a solo shot followed by a lineout, a walk, and an RBI double.  Then in the third, he gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out.  One strikeout later, he gave up a successful sac fly and an RBI single.  He gave up a walk followed by an RBI double in the fifth.

Peavy’s night was over after the sixth; Tazawa pitched the seventh, Breslow pitched the eighth, and Dempster pitched the ninth.  The final score was 15-5, which is the same score with which we won Game Three of the World Series in 2007 except with five more runs for us.

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So, yeah, this wasn’t exactly our finest hour.  I’m not really okay with losing to a National League team in a slugfest, especially if that National League team is the same National League team that we beat when we slugged our way to World Series victory in 2007.  Anyway, we lost, and it was ugly.

Lackey didn’t waste time putting us in a hole.  His third pitch of the game was hit for a solo shot, and two outs and a double later, he gave up an RBI single.  He gave up another solo shot in the third.  And another one in the fifth.

So we spent most of the game down by four.  We didn’t even score a single run until the seventh, and even that was basically a giveaway from the Rockies.  Salty and Drew grounded out, and then Middlebrooks doubled and scored when Bradley reached on a missed catch, with a little help from a throwing error.  But then Bradley was out at home.

But just when we shrunk the deficit from four to three, it more than doubled.  Britton came on for the seventh, but evidently that wasn’t even remotely close to an improvement.  He gave up a double, a single, and a walk to load the bases with nobody out.  Then he gave up a two-run single.  Following a double steal and another two-run single, Morales came on and finished the inning.  De La Rosa pitched the eighth.

We brought our six-run deficit down to four again when Papi singled to lead off the fifth, and Salty went yard on the third pitch, and third four-seam, of the at-bat.  All the way to right center field.  Too bad it basically didn’t even make a dent.

We lost, 8-3.  It was awful and humiliating and just generally very unpleasant.

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