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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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Smile, Red Sox Nation! We made it to the All-Star break! At the traditional halfway mark of the season, we’re sitting on top of the American League East, one game ahead of the Yankees.  We’re much more battered and bent than I thought we would be, and the standings don’t reflect the kind of dominance I thought we’d surely be exhibiting by now.  But given the way we started the season, I have absolutely no right to complain.  Instead, I’ll be thrilled we’ve made it this far, even if we didn’t make it this far in one piece.

In keeping with tradition, I’ve graded the entire team on their performance up to the All-Star break, as I do every year.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

He’s batting .251 with twenty-four RBIs.  He has a slugging percentage of .437; he’s hit twelve doubles, two triples, and six home runs.  He’s had ten passed balls, forty-nine stolen bases, and only sixteen caught-stealings.  His fielding percentage is .997.  He has a wicked arm.  He’s new to the club, and he’s a starter.  Given who he is as a player as well as his position, we expect him to hit fairly well and nail runners.  For the most part, he’s done the first but still needs work on the second.

Jason Varitek: A

Tek’s grade tends to be pretty consistent year-to-year.  Part of that has to do with the fact that we don’t expect as much from him as we used to.  Now that he’s technically no longer a starter, that’s even more true.  As he ages, his value to the team lies less and less in his ability to perform as a player and more and more in his ability to perform as a father figure and team leader.  And in the latter department, he excels to the utmost.  And he’s still top-notch with the pitchers and defensively, even if we consider him an out that gets easier with every passing year.

Kevin Youkilis: A

Over the course of these past few games, he’s really boosted his average, which is now up to .285.  He has forty-nine walks, which ties him for ninth in the American League.  He has twenty-six doubles, which ties him for third in the American League.  He has sixty-three RBIs, which ties him for sixth in the American League.  His average wasn’t too high before this last hot streak of his, but he’s certainly been contributing.  His fielding percentage is .967, which for him is a little low.

Dustin Pedroia: A

Earlier in the season, he was in the middle of one of the longest slumps of his still-young career.  He was getting skittish in two-strike counts, and the high inside fastball was giving him a bit of trouble.  Now, all of that is in the distant past.  His OPS is .837; his OPS over the course of the last seven days is 1.142.  As with Youk, he’s boosted his average a lot recently.  He’s now up to .284.  His fielding percentage is .990.  Even if you look at the big picture with the slump, he contributes.  If he’s not hitting, he’s walking and playing good D.  And if he is hitting, he’s still doing those things.

Marco Scutaro: B

As with Salty, consider what we expect from Scutaro.  Given the fact that our shortstops haven’t exactly been the highlight of our lineups in recent years, we expect him to hit decently but play fantastic D.  With a .259 average, six doubles, and three home runs, he has hit fairly decently, although he should be batting in more than fourteen runs.  His fielding percentage is .977; for a shortstop, I expect more.  It’s the most challenging infield position; we’re halfway through the season, and he’s already made four errors.  Last year, he made eighteen errors.  If he makes another four errors during the second half, that already would be a huge improvement.  But our standards are higher than that.  Besides, what if those four errors cost us four ballgames? We can’t afford that.

Adrian Gonzalez: A

Anyone who gives this man less than an A must have the wrong Gonzalez.  He has done everything we ever expected him to do.  He leads the American League in batting average, hits, doubles, and RBIs (ironically enough, Adrian Beltre is right behind him).  He’s third in runs and on-base percentage, fourth in at-bats, fifth in fielding percentage, and tenth in home runs.  The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases, but we have Ellsbury and Crawford for that.  Collectively, those numbers tell us that he’s a powerful, durable, and beautifully well-rounded player capable of doing damage in any situation.  In short, he is worth every single bit of his contract.

Jed Lowrie: A

It’s not his fault he’s injured.  Before that, he was swinging a hot bat and playing well in the field.

Yamaico Navarro: B

Not great at the plate but literally flawless in the field.  He’s only been filling in temporarily anyway.

Drew Sutton: B

Sutton may be on the roster for the same reasons as Navarro, but he’s the exact opposite: not great in the field but outstanding at the plate.

JD Drew: B

Same old, same old.  Perfection in the field, mediocrity at the plate.  It’s really sad that that hasn’t changed.  Although I should mention that his highest monthly average of the season, 2.69, occurred in April, when everyone else’s monthly averages were probably at their worst.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Given last year’s injury and the fact that his season was therefore cut way too short, Ellsbury has had some catching up to do.  Not only has he caught up to our expectations; he has surpassed them.  He leads the American League in stolen bases.  He’s fifth in at-bats and average, sixth in runs, third in hits, and tied with Youk for third in doubles.  He’s set a new career high in home runs so far this year, and we still have half a season left to play.  Also worth mentioning is the fact that, over the course of the last seven days, Ellsbury has batted .467.  In the field, he has five assists, a new career high, and has yet to make an error.

Carl Crawford: C

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thinking about his contract when I gave Crawford this grade.  But the truth is that he deserves it.  The contract is simply a manifestation of the expectations that both the organization and therefore the fans have of Crawford, who has proven that he can meet and even surpass those high expectations.  So far, he’s done nothing of the kind.  Before he made his way onto the DL, he batted below .250, failed to post home runs in the double-digits, and walked and stole bases less than ten times each.  He also made two errors.  He was supposed to excel in every single one of those categories.  He was supposed to be the left-handed Adrian Gonzalez who could run.  So far, not so much.

Darnell McDonald: B

He said it himself: he’s not contributing at the level he could or should.  The added playing time helped him last year; thankfully, we have more guys healthy, so he doesn’t have as much playing time this year.  But the art of the bench player is the ability to perform when necessary, playing time or no playing time.

Josh Reddick: A

He’s just as good as we’ve ever seen him.  He performs whenever we need him; he practices the art of the bench player.  Obviously, that’s because one day he won’t be a bench player; he’ll be a starter.  In the meantime, he’s a great kid to have around.

David Ortiz: A

It’s pretty simple.  He’s batting above .300 and slugging about .575 with twenty-three doubles, nineteen home runs, and fifty-five RBIs.  He’s not supposed to field; as a designated hitter, he’s supposed to slug.  And that’s what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Offense Overall: B

The team leads the Major Leagues in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Despite this and the fact that there are a good number of players performing well on an individual level, the offense as a whole doesn’t get an A because it’s streaky.  Sometimes we’ll average about seven runs a game during a stretch; sometimes we’ll be lucky to score at all.  The mark of a good, solid offense is not to sometimes average seven runs a game; the mark of a good, solid offense is to do so consistently throughout the season.  That’s not something we’ve seen yet.  Until we do, we’ll just be a lineup with great hitters in it, not necessarily a consistently great lineup.

Defense Overall: C

We lead the Major Leagues in errors with forty-four, and we’re sixth in fielding percentage with .987.  That’s not good.

Josh Beckett: A

Beckett this season has been a model of consistency in the most positive of ways.   2.27 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, eight and three record, and ninety-four strikeouts and only seven home runs.  He’s a changed man from last year; this year, he’s found his former self.

Jon Lester: A

I’m going to give him an A because his numbers are fine enough, but I expect more from him.  His ERA is 3.31; it should be under three.  His WHIP is 1.21; it should be under one.  He’s given up fourteen home runs; it should be less than ten.  But he has ten wins by the All-Star break, which means he could have twenty by season’s end, and he has more than one hundred strikeouts.  Excellent, but not as excellent as I thought he’d be.

Clay Buchholz: B

Before he was injured, he wasn’t as great as he could have been.  Unlike Lester, his numbers aren’t that sufficiently good as to warrant a better grade even though he hasn’t performed to expectations.  He has a 3.48 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a record of six and three, only sixty strikeouts, ten home runs, and thirty-one walks.  He’ll need to work hard in the second half in order to return to form.

John Lackey: C

Lackey’s most recent start was the only start this year in which I felt we were seeing the Lackey we signed.  During all the other starts, we saw some pitcher we’d never even think of signing.  His ERA is 6.84, and his record is six and eight.  But you don’t need the numbers to tell you how inconsistent, spotty, and unpredictable his outings are and how porous and lacking in command he’s been.  It’s gotten to the point where him being on the DL is a good thing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that I’ve had just about enough of this.  We’ve been waiting and waiting for years now for him to show us even a small glimpse of the greatness he exhibited in Japan.  Well, guess what.  We’re still waiting.  And now he’s done for the season because he needs Tommy John surgery.  This could go one of two ways: either he won’t recover well at all and he’ll be even worse afterwards or he’ll make a spectacular recovery and it’ll turn out that the surgery corrected mechanical issues that were the root of the problem all along.  Either way, no matter how you slice and dice it, he didn’t pitch well this season.  You don’t need numbers to tell you that either.

Tim Wakefield: A

His ERA is in excess of four, and his WHIP is 1.27.  But technically his job is no longer to be a starter who can put the team in a position to win every fifth day.  His job is now to come in for an inning or two when necessary and keep the team in a position to win, and sometimes, when a starter is injured, to put the team in a position to win.  He is on the verge of making history with his long career, and age doesn’t seem to affect him at all.  He’s like the Benjamin Button of baseball.  He’s the ultimate team player; he answers the call of duty and he doesn’t complain.  Sometimes his knuckleball doesn’t dance like it should and he has a terrible night out.  But overall, when we need him to do something, he just does it.  It sounds simple enough, but not every ballplayer can do it.

Alfredo Aceves: A

Aceves has gone above and beyond.  He went from being a question mark during Spring Training to starting material.  He has an ERA of 3.41 and a WHIP of 1.22.  He has a record of four and one with one save.  How many pitchers can say that, after both starting and pitching in relief for half a season, they have a winning record as well as a save? Not many.  He can pretty much do it all, and that’s not even what he signed up for.  He can start, he can provide reliable middle relief, and he can close too.  I don’t think anyone expect him to be the versatile pitcher that the circumstances of the injuries to our staff have demanded he become.  But he rose to the occasion and continues to impress every time out

Matt Albers: A

Here’s another guy who continues to impress.  Again, during Spring Training, I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the dominant reliever he’d turn out to be.  He’s been as solid as solid gets.  2.55 ERA, thirty-for strikeouts, and almost two innings pitched per appearance.  So he’s both dependable and durable, arguably the two most important characteristics of a good reliever.  And with the way some of our starters have been pitching, if not for Albers we’d have been in desperate need of a good reliever.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s been better.  Like Morales, he’s a pitcher, and we need pitchers, so we’ll take what we can get and we’ll have to like it.  But to be honest I never like the look of a 4.70 ERA or a 1.43 WHIP.

Rich Hill: A

He’s appeared in nine games and thrown eight innings.  His ERA is zero.  That’s pretty good.

Andrew Miller: B

Yet another Spring Training question mark of whom we’ve seen much more than we ever thought he would.  He’s pitched decently.  For what we were expecting, he’s not great but not too bad.

Franklin Morales: B

Morales came into the fold when we were desperate for pitchers, period.  He hasn’t been outstanding, but he’s a pitcher, and given our circumstances that’s been good enough for us.

Dan Wheeler: B

His WHIP and his ERA are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  The good news is that he has an ERA of zero when pitching in day games.  So all we have to do is use him in relief during the day, and we’re guaranteed success.

Bobby Jenks: D

So far, Jenks is an epic fail.  Enough said.

Daniel Bard: A

Bard’s ERA is 2.05, and his WHIP is 0.80.  His ERA was zero for all of June as well as July to date.  Of the seventeen teams he’s faced in his career, he has an ERA of zero against twelve, including the Rays and the Phillies.  He has faced only five batters after throwing fifteen pitches.  Not too shabby.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

If only Paps were as consistent as Bard.  His ERA is almost four, and his WHIP is much too large for a closer.  And yet somehow he has twenty saves to his credit and has blown just one.  He’s on pace to lower his walk total from last year’s, which is definitely a good sign.  But as long as I have to hold my breath whenever he comes out of the bullpen, I won’t be able to give him an A.

Pitching Overall: B

Giving the pitching staff an overall rating is very complicated and in some ways not even fair.  The reason why it’s fair for the lineup and not for the pitching staff is because the pitching staff doesn’t have a responsibility to perform well as a unit in the same game.  Each pitcher has his time to shine; if he has it, great, and if he doesn’t it’s on him.  Ellsbury’s ability to get himself into scoring position may be contingent on what the hitter before him does, but Beckett’s abiltiy to secure a win has nothing to do with the fact that Jenks can’t hold it down.  But in keeping with tradition, I’ll grade the pitching staff on the whole.  Such a grade must reflect the entire staff, which unfortunately includes some very sad cases.

Terry Francona: A

Arguably one of the best managers in club history.  Certainly one of the best managers active in the game today.  It’s a travesty that he didn’t win Manager of the Year last year.  The way he manages all the personalities in this club and maneuvers through injuries, he’s Manager of the Year every year in my book.

Theo Epstein: A

Jenks and Dice-K (and Lugo and Gagne, while we’re at it) were fails, but you can’t blame him for trying.  Crawford can’t be judged yet.  Besides, for Gonzalez alone, he gets an A.  That deal is one of his masterpieces.

Team Overall: B

It’s hard to argue with the fact that we lead in so many offensive categories as well as in the American League East.  Why the B? Because we’re only in first place by one game and we’re already halfway through the season.  Granted, we’re pretty injured, and it’s hard to conquer when your staff is on the DL.  But in the grand scheme of things, many of those injuries have been fairly recent.  Nobody was injured in April.  There’s no way we should have had the start to the season that we did.  We should have been running away with the division last month, if that late.  It’s all well and good to build some momentum during Interleague and take four games from the Orioles, but any team can do that.  Our team is better than being satisfied with sweeping Baltimore.  We should be sweeping New York and Philadelphia.  We have two and a half months to get our act together and show everyone why we’ll be winning the World Series this October.  So let’s get on with it already.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Another action-packed, fun-filled night of slugging, scoring, and even brawling.  Let the reliving begin.

The game started with Beckett and ended without him.  He allowed three runs on seven hits while walking two, striking out three, and giving up a home run.  He threw sixty-eight pitches, fifty for strikes.  All of his pitches were great.  Both fastballs, the changeup, the curveball, and the cutter were all working.  He was extremely efficient right up until the fifth inning, when he threw twenty-eight pitches.  He slipped a bit in the fifth, the grounds crew fixed the dirt, he finished the frame, and then he left the game after slightly hyperextending his knee.  The good news is that it’s not serious and we still won.  The bad news is that we literally can not afford any more injuries to anyone on our pitching staff at all.  His departure from the game was strictly precautionary for precisely that reason, and he’s expected to appear in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.  So those were four glorious innings and one not-so-glorious one.

After he came out, Albers, Wheeler, and Atchison came in.  Beckett got the win; the three relievers didn’t allow a run in the rest of the game.  Albers has allowed only one run in his last thirteen appearances, which amount to fourteen and a third innings.  All three of them pitched very well on a night they arguably didn’t need to.  The lineup gave them heaps of support.

We scored eight runs in the first inning.  Eight runs in the first inning alone.  When Baltimore went to bat for the second time in the game, they were already down by eight.  We had thirteen baserunners that inning.  That’s just absurd.  I mean, it’s severely humiliating for Baltimore.  But obviously for us it’s supremely awesome.

Ellsbury flied out to start it off.  Pretty unceremonious.  Then Pedroia singled, extending his hitting streak to ten games, and Gonzalez walked.  Pedroia scored on a single by Youk.  And then Papi walloped a three-run shot to right on the second pitch he saw, a fastball down and in.  He unleashed just about all of his power on that ball.  It was his fifth dinger opposite a lefty this year.  It was a monstrous blast.  There was not a shred of doubt as soon as that ball made contact with the bat that it was getting out of the park one way or another.

Then Tek walked and Scutaro singled; McDonald doubled them both in.  Navarro provided the second out with a strikeout.  Ellsbury brought in McDonald with a single.  Baltimore made a much-needed pitching change.  Pedroia reached on a fielding error, Gonzalez singled in Ellsbury, and Youk grounded out.  Boom.  Eight runs.  No big deal.

Beckett allowed all three of his runs in the fifth.  First came the solo shot to lead off the inning on a changeup that didn’t do much of anything.  Then a three-pitch strikeout followed by a four-pitch walk and a flyout, and then two singles for the scoring plays.

We recovered two of those runs.  Pedroia went yard on a high fastball to lead off the sixth.  The ball bounced off the billboard above the Green Monster.  Another extremely powerful swing.  Another home run without a doubt.  It was his second in two games and fourth in nine games.  To this day, opposing pitchers still think they can blow the high fastball right by Pedroia, and it never, ever works.  I don’t understand why they keep doing it.

As the finishing touch, Pedroia walked and scored on a triple by Reddick in the eighth.  And then the fireworks began.  Kevin Gregg had come on to pitch the inning for the O’s.  Papi stepped up to the plate.  Gregg fired three consecutive inside pitches.  So he got annoyed and approached the mound and both benches cleared and both bullpens came in and both teams were warned.  After order was restored, Papi flied out to center.  As he made his way to first base, Gregg gestured to Papi and basically told him to run to first base.  Really? Seriously? So Papi ran, all right.  He charged the mound and Gregg very nearly punched him in the head Scutaro jumped on Gregg’s back and the teams emptied out onto the field again and there was an all-out, no-holds-barred brawl.  Home plate umpire Mike Estabrook had ejected Gregg, Papi, Salty, and O’s reliever Jim Johnson.  “Wow” is all I have to say about that.  Nobody can say now that Papi doesn’t know how to hustle.  Gregg later claimed that the ethics of the game dictate that when you fly out you hustle along the basepaths.  How many times have we seen hitters from every time do the exact opposite? As Beckett said, you can’t just incite a brawl because you’re cranky that your team is in last place.

More good news: A-Rod withdrew from the All-Star Game with a knee issue, so Youk will replace him! This is his third bid.  If you ask me, it’s a perfect switch.  Of course there’s always a debate about how you define an all-star, but there are plenty of reasons why Youk deserved to be there all along.

The final score was a wonderfully lopsided 10-3.  We had fewer home runs last night than we did on Thursday, but we scored more runs.  Clearly, what Beckett lacked in pitching efficiency, the lineup more than compensated for in scoring efficiency.  We won in a big way, and we expanded our first-place lead (the Yankees were rained out).  It was certainly one interesting and entertaining game.  Wow.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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