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Posts Tagged ‘Yamaico Navarro’

What a rout! Where were all these runs on Friday? If we took half our runs from yesterday and moved them to Friday, we still would have won both games.

Lester totally cruised.  Yeah, he’s fine.  Eight innings, two runs on four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts.  Ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes.  Those two runs he allowed were the result of two solo shots, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, both with one out in each inning, both to left center field.  The first on a fastball, the second on a changeup.  So basically what that means is he made two mistakes during his entire outing.

He faced the minimum in five of his eight innings.  In the second, he gave up a double; in the seventh, he gave up his first homer and his lone walk; in the eighth, he gave up his second homer.  That was it.  That was the extent to which he encountered any jams whatsoever.  As you can see, at no point was he made to feel truly threatened that a rally might be coming if he made a mistake.  (A huge part of why that was true was our run production, which we’ll obviously get to.)

Let’s take a look at his strikeouts.  Anytime a pitcher posts a high strikeout total in one of his outings, it’s fun to break them down because it gives you a sense of the dominance he displayed.

Lester struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches, ending in a curveball.  He struck out the second batter he faced using a fastball that the batter didn’t even attempt to hit.  In the second, again four pitches ending in a curveball.  In the third, fastball, fastball, cutter; done.  In the fourth, sinker, cutter, fastball; done.  In the fifth, one ending in a cutter and the other in a fastball.    In the seventh, cutter, curveball, fastball; done.  That makes the sixth and eighth the only innings during which he did not record a strikeout, but he averaged one strikeout per inning.

Let’s talk about his pitches.  Quite simply, they were nasty.  He threw an unhittable cut fastball and a punishing sinker.  His only pitches that weren’t stellar were his curveball and changeup, but he didn’t throw many of them overall so his line didn’t reflect that.  Twice, during the third and fourth, he finished innings with seven pitches alone.  He threw at most eighteen pitches; that was in the seventh.  Let me just repeat this because it’s remarkable: he finished eight full innings having thrown less than one hundred pitches.  He executed and located literally almost all of them in all counts against all batters in all parts of the zone.  And as Lester said himself, Salty did a great job of maintaining a potent and deceptive mix.  If the only thing wrong with him last night was that he made two mistakes on some cut fastballs and his curveball and changeup weren’t up to their usual snuff, I’d say he pitched a downright gem.

He got the win, and Wheeler pitched a scoreless ninth in an epically non-save situation, being that we won, 10-2 and all.

It’s hard to believe from looking at that score that the game was actually locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth inning.  That means that we spent almost half the game going up and going down pathetically like we did on Friday, and you were thinking there’s no way this could possibly be happening to a lineup like this two nights in a row.  Maybe you were thinking that in April, but not now.  And you’d be absolutely right.

We put up a four-spot in the fifth just to get loose, because trust me, there was much more to come.  Crawford singled to lead off the inning; he stole second and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick singled and moved Salty to third, and he scored on a sac fly by Scutaro.  Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a sac fly by Pedroia that scored Reddick.  Gonzalez took an intentional walk, and Youk singled in Ellsbury.  Papi grounded out to end the inning.  That entire inning was a textbook example of what it means to manufacture runs.  The team to that point was not producing, which is unusual on a night when Lester pitches because Lester has the most run support of any other pitcher on our whole staff.  So you force opportunities and do whatever it takes to get runners across the plate.  And that’s what we did.

Our next threat came in the seventh, but we did nothing with it.  We made up for it in the eighth.  We scored only one run that inning, but it was a remarkable run.  With two out and a full count, Reddick walked.  He saw five fastballs before a changeup sent him to first base.  Scutaro singled, and Reddick actually scored all the way from first.  Nobody made an error; it was an earned run.  The reason why he was able to score was because Alex Rios decided to stroll over to Scutaro’s ball in right.  That’s what it looked like.  He just took his own sweet time about getting to that ball.  By the time he realized that his lackadaisical attitude had prompted Tim Bogar to send Reddick home, he fired to the infield but the throw was cut off by Gordon Beckham, who bobbled it anyway.  That would never happen in Boston.  I can’t even believe you’d see that anywhere in the Major Leagues.  Well, that’s what they get for not hustling in the field.

At that point, we were up by three but still refused to back down.  We put up a five spot in the ninth.  Pedroia singled to lead off the inning, and Gonzalez homered on a fastball.  The count was 2-1, and the shot was hard and fast to right field.  Whenever Gonzalez hits anything, he just makes it look so easy.  Then Youk went back-to-back on his ninth pitch in a full count.  It was also a fastball, but he shot it high to left.  It was massive.  Papi flied out for the first out of the inning.  Crawford singled and scored on a double by Salty.  Reddick popped out.  Scutaro then singled; Beckham dove for it, but it bounced off his glove into center field, so Salty scored.  Then Ellsbury struck out.  The end.

This is how a team should play every day.  A team should always manufacture runs and maximize chances because you never know what the rest of the game has in store.  In this case, we scored so many runs and our pitcher overwhelmed the lineup to such an extent that it didn’t matter how many defensive plays Brent Morel had up his sleeve.  It was awesome.

In other news, as expected, Theo did not try to fix what isn’t broken just because of the trade deadline.  We traded Navarro for Mike Aviles of the Royals; he’ll be an experienced bench player.  Theo was also going to trade Lars Anderson for Rich Harden of the A’s, who would obviously add depth to a rotation with sometimes questionable health and ability.  It would be tough to part with Anderson, but since acquiring Gonzalez and signing him to a long contract that he seems amply able to earn, it didn’t seem like we had much room for him anytime soon.  But the deal ended up falling through, apparently because we were unsatisfied with Harden’s medical records and were not certain he could be depended on to get through the rest of the season healthy.  And if that’s true, that makes a lot of sense, considering the reason why we’d want to add a starter to our roster is because the health of our rotation is sometimes in question.  All around, I’d congratulate Theo on a trade deadline well, or rather not, spent.

AP Photo

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We’ve seen this so many times before.  The one bad inning can doom even the best of pitchers.  But there are a few reasons why I am simultaneously not willing and very willing to let that appease my frustration and disappointment with this one.

Beckett literally cruised through his first three innings.  He just cruised.  Fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second, and ten in the third.  He faced the minimum in all three.  Then, everything collapsed in the fourth.  He issued two eight-pitch walks and then gave up a three-run shot on one of the more ineffectual fastballs I’ve seen him throw.  He got an out after that via a popup.  But then Jeff Francoeur reached on a fielding error by Sutton, and he scored on a double.  So Beckett gave up four runs, three of them earned.

After that, he just went right back to cruising as if nothing had happened.  He threw nine pitches in the fifth, fifteen in the sixth, and fourteen in the seventh.  In those three innings, he faced two above the minimum.  Take away that walk and single and the entire thirty-eight pitch disaster of a fourth, and Beckett has a perfect game.

So this is why the consideration of this situation is tricky.

It’s Beckett.  Beckett is back to being infallible this year.  Which leads me to my next point.  It’s the Royals.  If this were Miller who was doomed by a bad inning against the Royals, I could understand.  In fact, he was; he was doomed by several bad innings.  In the case of a fifth starter who wasn’t even originally supposed to be part of the rotation, I can see them maybe not having a good day against the Royals.  But this is Josh Beckett.  Even on the worst day of his worst year, he should be able to practically no-hit the Royals.  So between it being Beckett and it being the Royals, we should never have lost.  We scored three runs; given that scenario, three runs should have been enough.  Actually, one run should have been enough.

At the same time, it’s Beckett.  Contrary to our frequent belief, he is human.  His mistake wasn’t necessarily giving up the two walks before the home run; while it is rare for Beckett to walk anyone, walks by themselves are not harmful.  The reason why you don’t want to give up walks is because you don’t want to get tired, and you don’t want to pay for a mistake you may make later.  So Beckett’s fault was that he threw that fastball that resulted in a long ball.  If this had been almost any other team, we would also that Beckett made a mistake, we lost, and we’ll walk it off.  But because it’s the Royals, we are tempted to immediately attribute infallibility to even the worst of our pitchers.  Given the way this particular inning went down, though, I don’t think the fact that they were the Royals made any difference.  A mistake is a mistake; you can’t even get to Triple A unless you know what to do when a fastball comes down the pipe like that.  And the fact that he pitched after it the exact same way he pitched before it leads me to believe that it really was an isolated mistake he made that Billy Butler happened to spot.  Beckett said himself after the game that command was a constant problem.  If he pitches this well on an off day even to the Royals, I’m satisfied.

Beckett pitched a full seven innings, walked three, struck out eight, and threw 108 pitches, seventy-two for strikes.  Overall, he still pitched very well.  But he took the loss.  Morales and Albers combined for two scoreless innings to finish it off.

In light of all of that, the question then becomes, and rightly so, why the offense didn’t manage to score more than three runs.  Bruce Chen was as close to an ace the Royals pitching staff was going to get in this series, and we already pummeled him.  This game should have been locked by the time Butler stepped up to the plate in the fourth.

I could not believe that Ellsbury was out at first in the first inning.  He grounded to second.  Chris Getz had to range and fire mid-air to first while Ellsbury was hustling.  Somehow it was in time.

Anyway, Tek led off the third with a single, Navarro followed with a double, and both scored on a single by Ellsbury.  Pedroia led off the eighth with a home run on a fastball.  It was the sixth consecutive fastball he’d seen in that at-bat; the others skirted the strike zone, but that one was inside.  He put it in the Monster seats.  His hitting streak now stands at twenty-five games.  It was another laser.  And that was it for the lineup.  In the top of the ninth, Sutton made a great sliding catch, and Tek gunned down Getz at second, but except for Sutton’s single in the bottom of the inning, we proceeded to go down in order.  For a brief moment, when the ball came off of Crawford’s bat and started making its way to the right field stands in a hurry, I was totally thinking walkoff.  You were thinking it too.  But of course Francoeur made the catch on the warning track, literally inches from the stands.

Gonzalez and Sutton both went two for four for the only multi-hit performances of the game.  Navarro’s double and Pedroia’s homer were our only extra-base hits.  We left six on base and went one for four with runners in scoring position.

Therefore, the lack of offensive production was what made this an embarrassing loss.  We all thought we had this series swept before the Royals even got here.  Instead, we split the four games.  Well, on to Chicago and better days and betterness in general.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Wow.  So much awesomeness in this game.  Where to start? The beginning.

Lackey.  Lackey picked up his fourth consecutive win.  He was shaky at first; I didn’t know if he would make it through.  In the first, he made a mistake; he gave up a three-run shot, and I was thinking back to our pathetic loss to open the series and how much I really did not want to see a repeat performance, ever.  But he settled down after that.  He allowed another home run in the fifth, a solo shot, but that was it for the rest of his night.

All told, he tossed five and two-thirds innings.  He gave up four runs on eleven hits, but only three of those runs were earned; Youk, who returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule, made a fielding error, which never happens.  Just to be clear, I don’t think he made a fielding error because he returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule.  Anyway, Lackey walked only one and struck out three.  Objectively, his start wasn’t great, but we’ll take anything we can get from him as long as he gets on the path to long-term consistent success.  With the two-seam, four-seam, and cutter working as well as they did last night, he should have no problem getting there, although his changeup, slider, and curveball may prove to be stumbling blocks; although they’re excellent, they need to hit their spots more consistently.  One mistake and you could have a night like the one Lackey just had where you allow two home runs.  Granted, one of those was on a fastball, but still.  Worth mentioning was his third inning: three up, three down, nine pitches.  Done.  Williams and Wheeler finished the game.  Nobody earned a save because, trust me, it was nowhere near a save situation.

The offense all began with back-to-back home runs by Ellsbury and Pedroia.  That was as good an indication as any of the explosive run barrage that was to follow.  Ellsbury hit his on the second pitch he saw last night.  It was a sinker, and he bounced it off the Pesky Pole.  It was a laser after Pedroia’s own heart.  He saw that ball as clear as day, and it got out in a hurry.  Pedroia, on the other hand, duked it out with Bruce Chen.  He hit his home run on his seventh pitch, an inside fastball.  Don was right; that ball had more than enough to get out of the park.  On Monday night, he was a homer shy of the cycle, and late in the game he actually almost hit one out.  So what does he do during his first time up last night? He hits one out beyond the shadow of a doubt.  It was a laser in every sense of the word.  To the Monster in a hurry.  Pedroia’s hitting streak now stands at twenty-four games, the longest of any Red Sox second baseman ever.

The bases were loaded for Ellsbury in the second.  Ellsbury walked, Pedroia hit a sac fly, and Gonzalez grounded out.  All of that brought in three more.

But we really blew the game wide open in the fourth.  McDonald doubled and scored on a single by Navarro.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out and stood at first.  Pedroia singled and Ellsbury tried to score but was thrown out at the plate.  Gonzalez and Youk then singled.  So the bases were loaded for Papi.

When the table is set, Big Papi knows how to feast.

It was the fifth pitch of the at-bat.  So far, Papi had received a fastball, two sinkers, and a slider.  The count was 3-1.  Chen dealt another slider belt-high.  And the ball ended up in the seats behind the bullpen.  Big Papi hit his tenth grand slam and batted in his thousandth run for Boston.  The only other players who have batted in a thousand runs for Boston are Yaz, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, and Jim Rice; Papi now finds himself among the headiest company.  Think about it.  They spent their whole careers here; he’s reached that milestone in his ninth year.  That’s a big accomplishment.  And it was against a southpaw.  The ball was absolutely crushed.  He unleashed massive power and just skinned it.  Big Papi hit a grand slam.

Ellsbury and Pedroia led off the sixth with a double and a single, respectively, so Gonzalez brought in another run with a single.  The Royals picked up another run in the eighth, but Gonzalez got it back in the bottom of the inning with another RBI single.

McDonald and Navarro went two for four.  Gonzalez went three for five.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for four.  Five extra-base hits: two doubles and three homers.

And that’s how we came to win, 12-5.  That, my friends, is how it’s done.

Grand Slam

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This is more like it.  This is what playing the Royals is supposed to be like: a slugfest.  Granted, they had a bit of a slugfest of their own, but with Miller on the mound, that’s not surprising.  Would I have preferred it if we won, 13-0 instead of 13-9? Absolutely.  But a win is a win, and at least we picked apart their pitching staff like we’re supposed to.

Miller’s line was one of the worst we’ve seen this year.  He only lasted three and two-thirds innings and in that time managed to give up seven runs, five earned, on nine hits.  He walked two, struck out one, and gave up two home runs.  He threw eighty pitches, forty-three of which were strikes.

Those two earned runs were Miller’s own fault; he made a throwing error in the second.  Both of his home runs were allowed in the fourth.  It wasn’t pretty.  It’s never pretty when you actually need a slugfest in order to win.

Miller can thank Scutaro for making sure it wasn’t even worse.  With one out, Scutaro was perfectly in position to corral a hard-hit liner and fire to second for a quick double play to end the second with the bases loaded.  He definitely saved at least one run there.

Aceves took care of the last out in the fourth and pitched the next three; he picked up the win.  Albers pitched a scoreless eighth.  Morales gave up two runs in the ninth.  Fortunately, they didn’t matter.  (But, as I always say, what if they did matter?)

Okay.  The point is that our pitching performances were bookended with two that were not great, and that’s an understatement.  So this is the story of how we won anyway.

McDonald stood in for Ellsbury, who got the day off.  He led off the inning with a single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly.  Then Pedroia tripled and scored on a double by Papi.  At the end of the first, we were tied at two.

Scutaro led off the third with a double.  Gonzalez walked.  Pedroia doubled in Scutaro; Papi doubled in Gonzalez and Pedroia.  At the end of three, we were up by one.

Crawford walked with the bases loaded in the fourth; we were down by one.

This is when we blew the game wide open.  Reddick and Ellsbury, who came in to pinch-hit for Navarro, began the fifth with back-to-back singles.  Sutton hit a sac fly; Mike Aviles missed the catch and then made a terrible throw, so Reddick and Ellsbury both scored and Sutton went to third.  Then Scutaro walked, and Sutton scored on a single by Gonzalez.  Then Pedroia singled, and Papi singled in Scutaro and Gonzalez.  Then Crawford singled, Tek struck out, and Reddick scored Pedroia on a sac fly.  At the end of five, we were up by five and just kept on pulling away from there.

Tek led off the seventh with a solo shot on the first pitch he saw: a fastball.  The ball left the park completely.  It went over the Monster and cleared it.  The Royals had just changed pitchers, too.

And that, my friends, was the end of that.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury, who didn’t even start, both went two for three.  Papi and Pedroia both went four for five; three of Papi’s hits were doubles, and Pedroia was one homer shy of hitting for the cycle.  He almost got it, too.  That fly ball ended up staying in the park, but off the bat you thought it was going out.  Together, Gonzalez, Pedroia, and Papi, the heart of the order, combined for six runs and eight RBIs on ten hits.

It was a long game, but it was a fun game.  Like I said, we had some pitching performances that were bad.  But as far as the lineup is concerned, that’s the way the Royals are supposed to be played.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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That start was lousy as lousy gets.  Now when you look back to the game that started the second half, you’re saddled with a memory like this.  It provides no momentum, no morale, and no message to any other team that says, “Here we come.” Instead it just sort of says, “There we went.”

Miller gave up seven runs on five hits while walking five and striking out zero in two and two-thirds innings.  As is often the case, you can learn everything you need to know about why his outing was bad from the kinds of scoring plays that occurred because they’re manifestations of the issues that were plaguing him all night.  Or all two and two-thirds innings, anyway.  The game began with such promise; Johnny Damon hit a ball that would have fallen in if not for Scutaro’s Ellsbury-like running, diving catch.  Things quickly unraveled after that.  The first run, scored in the first inning, resulted from two walks followed by a single; this tells his that his command, control, and efficiency were lacking.  The next four runs, scored in the second inning, were the result of a single, a walk, a sac bunt (the runner ended up at first), a force out at home (a perfectly executed play by Pedroia and Salty, by the way), and a home run.  In theory, it was supposed to be a changeup.  In practice, it was a grand slam.  This tells us that his location and execution were also lacking.  The fifth run, scored in the third inning, was again the result of singles and walks.  After he walked Damon on four pitches to load the bases, Aceves replaced him and walked in an inherited runner.

Clearly, we had some catch-up to play, and we did our best to play it.  McDonald got us on the board in the second with a solo shot to left.  Heat doesn’t scare him, so it was really fun to watch him get up there and swing away at this ninety-six-mile-per-hour fastball.

An inning later, Ellsbury also homered on the exact same pitch at the exact same speed but to right field, which brought in his fiftieth RBI of the year.

We didn’t do anything else until the sixth, which Pedroia led off with a solo shot on the exact same pitch at almost the exact same speed to left center field.  You knew as soon as the ball left the bat that it was going out.  You knew it.  His swing was just massively powerful.

Wheeler came in for Aceves in the sixth and gave up a two-run home run, which set us back.  In the seventh, Navarro worked a seven-pitch walk and Scutaro smacked a two-run shot on the exact same pitch but a little slower, about ninety miles per hour.  It was a big lob out to left.

The only run we did not score via the long ball was the result of Pedroia’s double to lead off the eighth followed by Youk’s single to bring him in.

Morales and Albers went in to pitch the late innings, and then it was over.  It was a truly valiant effort of course, but we lost, 9-6.

Oh, and Papi was suspended for four games for the brawl, which he is appealing.  So between the loss and the suspension, that is not even remotely how you want to start the second half.  No, sir.

AP Photo

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