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Posts Tagged ‘Yamaico Navarro’

This was a win with which we can be thoroughly happy because there were no health issues to bring us down.  I mean, there are health issues with which we must be concerned, but they weren’t connected to the game.  Yes, the fact that Gonzalez was out of the lineup with a stiff neck is obviously worrisome, and yes, the fact that Lester has been placed on the DL could not be more disastrous or troubling.  (Atchison was called up to take his roster spot, and the prediction is that he’ll be ready to go as soon as he’s eligible.) But technically those were news items that had nothing to do with the win.  (Actually, that’s technically not entirely true.  Youk moved to first, and Navarro took Gonzalez’s spot at third.  Technically the game could have had a different outcome had he not been in the game.  But I’m going to assume that, had Gonzalez played, he would have contributed even more positively than Navarro did.  Given the outcome of the game, that would mean that the impact of Gonzalez would not have changed it.)

Wake was fantastic.  He had his knuckleball going all the way.  He gave up three runs on nine hits while walking only one and striking out seven, a season high, over seven full innings.  He threw 106 pitches, seventy-six of which were strikes.  So he threw a strike about seventy-two percent of the time.  So he hit his spots (whatever that means for a knuckleball pitcher), and he was efficient, and he went deep into the game to give the middle relief corps some much-needed rest.  Bard and Wheeler combined to pitch a scoreless eighth; Bard didn’t finish the inning because it was interrupted by a forty-minute rain delay.  Paps almost blew it in the ninth.

The second pitch fired by Jays pitching went out of the yard.  Ellsbury took Ricky Romero deep.  He cleared the bullpen, too.  His swing was huge.  He got all of that fastball.  This makes a career-high ten home runs on the season, and it’s far from over.

Youk did almost the exact same thing an inning later.  He also led off the frame, and he received the same pitch at the same speed.  He just hit the ball to left instead.  He hit the ball into the first row of Monster seats.  And he got all of his fastball, too.

We had some fun in the fourth; we put up a four-spot.  After Papi and Youk made two not-so-easy outs, Drew doubled and scored on a single by McDonald.  A single by Salty moved him to third, and he came around on a double by Navarro.  Salty and Navarro both came around on a double by Ellsbury.  Ellsbury and Youk both had fantastic nights; Ellsbury went three for five, and Youk went three for four, each with two doubles.  All told, eight of the team’s eleven hits were for extra bases, and six of those eight were hit by either Ellsbury or Youk.  Ellsbury, by the way, also stole third base.  And let’s not forget his catch in the fifth inning.  So what if the umpires revoked it because they called time? The catch was a phenomenal diving catch, one of those that only Ellsbury can pull off.  He made the catch literally at the Monster.  He was at the wall.  He had nowhere else to go, and he still managed to leap and snare the ball.  We got our second out anyway via the strikeout, but man, what a catch.  He did it all last night.

Things got pretty hairy in the ninth.  Paps came on.  He struck out his first batter on six pitches but then hit his next one, who left the game.  Paps struck out his next batter on three pitches but then gave up an RBI single.  That brought the Jays within two and Red Sox Nation to the edge of their seats.  Fortunately he was able to post another strikeout to nail down the save and close the game.  The final score was 6-4.  I could have done without the extra suspense of a rocky relief outing.

We are slowly but surely clawing our way back up the AL East ladder.  For the first time this season, we are sixteen games over .500.  We are only half a game out of first place.  We have one more series before the All-Star break.  We play the Orioles.  By the time Papi takes his stance for the Home Run Derby, I want to be out in front of the Yankees once and for all.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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You know it’s not good when the first batter of the game doubles, steals third, and scores on a missed catch error.

Lackey was as completely terrible as Beckett was good.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a start this bad, but something tells me Lackey must have made that start too.  I’d put him on the DL with a hangnail if I could; he’s so bad that anyone who at this point would take his place would be better.  This wasn’t really how I pictured celebrating the Fourth of July.

All but two of the Jays’ total runs were scored under Lackey’s watch.  In less than three innings, he managed to bury the team in a seven-run hole.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  At this point in time, John Lackey is an absolutely horrible starting pitcher.  This is the fourth time this year he’s given up at least seven runs.  There’s no sugar-coating it when the score is 7-0 after you leave.

In two and a third innings, he fired off sixty-five pitches, forty-one of which were strikes.  Before today, there had been three instances during his entire career during which he’d thrown less than sixty-five pitches.  He pitched two innings one October to get ready for the playoffs.  He was ejected after throwing two pitches because the umpire thought he was trying to drill the batter on purpose.  But it’s been eight years since he had an instance where he had an off day as extreme as yesterday.  He racked up a grand total of two strikeouts.  Those seven runs were scored on a grand total of nine hits, one of which was a solo shot.  He didn’t walk anybody, but he worked himself into heavy hitter’s counts so often I thought he made a mistake and thought that that was what he was supposed to be doing.  It was a truly terrible outing.

The offense did everything it could to climb out of the hole.  It really was a textbook example of chipping away, and the lineup deserves a pat on the back for a stellar effort.  Ultimately, though, it was to no avail.  We lost, 9-7.  It was supremely frustrating.  We scored four runs in the fifth and three in the eighth; what’s two more in the ninth? So close.  And yet so very far.

Probably the best part was that the Jays never saw it coming; up to that point, Brandon Morrow had made quick work of us.  But the fifth inning was all about us resurrecting who we were when we played the Astros.  After two week outs to start the inning, Drew singled and Scutaro walked.  Ellsbury brought both of them home with a towering triple, his first of the year.  Pedroia walked, and Ellsbury scored on a passed ball.  And Gonzalez brought home Pedroia with a double.

We went right back to being quick work until the eighth.  A single by Navarro and a double by Papi.  McDonald struck out swinging.  But then a towering triple off the Monster by Salty brought them both in, and a sac fly by Drew plated our seventh and final run.

Ellsbury singled to open the ninth, but Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Navarro went down in order.  Three consecutive swinging strikeouts.

I don’t even want to discuss the fact that Youk left the game in the fourth (he was drilled in the back) and that Navarro came in to replace him, only to let a ball through his legs that allowed a run to score.  The bullpen, of course, had to roll out, but they pitched really well.  They should have started the game in the first place; we probably would have won.  I also don’t even want to talk about the fact that Salty was out in the sixth.  That was a bad call.  He was obviously safe.

That game completely destroyed all the momentum we’d accumulated in Houston.  It made for a lousy return home, and like I said, it’s not a great way to celebrate Independence Day.  Not in the least.  It sheds some grim light indeed on Lackey’s fate for the rest of the year, and it doesn’t help our position in the standings at all.  Aside from the phenomenal performance by the bullpen, the valiant effort by the offense to make a comeback, the fact that Ellsbury went four for five to tie a career high, and last but certainly not least obviously the fact that Navy officer Bridget Lydon reunited with her family during the pre-game ceremonies, there was absolutely nothing good about the game at all.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially won the series with the Astros.  We can do no worse than that.  Our last game is this afternoon, and if we win it, we’ll sweep and be on a four-game winning streak.  It’s a pretty modest goal, but for a team that’s been down in the dumps lately, anything to boost morale and standing is a big deal.

If the team plays half as well this afternoon as it did last night, we should be able to complete the sweep easily.  I’m not kidding.  Last night we won by a final score of 10-4, and tomorrow we have Beckett.  So if Beckett allows only two runs and the offense scores five, that’s an easy win right there.

Miller started and pitched well.  In six innings, he allowed two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out three.  He was efficient, too.  He threw eighty-five pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes.  His repertoire isn’t huge, but he worked with what he had.  His four-seam was outstanding.  He threw less than a handful of two-seams, which were also outstanding.  His changeup was nasty, and his slider was decent.  He varied his speed, pounded the zone, and threw no more than nineteen pitches (in the third) and no less than eight pitches (in the sixth, his last inning, ironically enough) in a single frame.  He gave up his first run in the first on a triple followed by a single, and he gave up a leadoff solo shot in his last inning.  That home run was just the result of a bad pitch; Hunter Pence hit out the very first pitch he saw, a changeup.  He’s 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA.  For someone who was just trying for a roster spot during Spring Training, so far he’s already pitching better than some starters on the rotation.

By the time Miller left the game, we were already leading it, 4-2.  We scored three runs in the first inning alone.  (That’s half as many as we scored in the seventh inning yesterday, but still.) Ellsbury, who’s finally back in action, led off the game with a walk and ended up at third due to a dropped throw.  Pedroia singled.  And Gonzalez batted in the game’s first run.  Then Youk singled, and Papi walked in Pedroia.  Salty grounded into a double play, which scored Gonzalez.  Then McDonald flied out to end it.  Five consecutive baserunners.  Not a bad way to start a baseball game.

Things were pretty quiet until the fifth, when Ellsbury and Pedroia’s back-to-back doubles yielded another RBI.  Oh, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, Pedroia is not in a slump anymore.  His problem had been two-strike counts and high inside fastballs.  I think he has made it perfectly clear that they are no longer a problem.

That was it until the sixth, when Pence hit that homer.  But we got that run back.  After Scutaro flied out to open the seventh, Yamaico Navarro hit the first home run of his career.  It was a solo shot on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball to the first few rows of seats in left.  If you saw batting practice before the game, you wouldn’t have been surprised.  He was peppering that part of the park.  So he pinch-hit for Miller, made like it was batting practice, and became the first pinch-hitter to hit his first career Red Sox homer since Juan Diaz did it in 2002.  No big deal.

Aceves came on for the seventh but was pulled in favor of Bard after he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk.  Bard walked in a run but secured the third out.  (The fact that no pitcher, especially a late-game reliever, should ever walk in a run ever, even if it’s inherited is another story.  So the fact that technically his last fourteen appearances have been earned run-free doesn’t really console me.)

Luckily for Bard, that run didn’t matter and we avenged him anyway.  We scored four in the eighth.  Three straight singles by Gonzalez, Youk, and Reddick led up to a sac fly by Salty, which brought in one, followed by a much more impressive three-run blast of a home run by McDonald, also on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball and also to left.  It was a blast in every sense of the word.  It cleared the seats and went over the wall.  Three runs with one swing.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And that’s really good; Cameron has been designated for assignment, so McDonald is the man now

Actually, it did.  We weren’t quite done.  Gonzalez doubled in the ninth, and Youk singled him home.  Jenks had pitched the eighth; Wheeler came on for the ninth and allowed a run, but fortunately and obviously it did not matter.

In short, the game was three hours and five minutes of pure, unadulterated dominance on every front.  We batted .500 with runners in scoring position.  Our pitching was better, our hitting was better, and our defense was better.  Like I said before, if we play half as well today as we did yesterday, we’ll be the proud owners of a sweep tomorrow.

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On Sunday, Bowden gave up two runs on three hits with a walk over two innings against the Mets, who won, 6-5.  Okajima’s inning went one-two-three, and Rich Hill retired his six batters.  Reddick hit a homer.  Beltran went one for two and is preparing to return to right field.

On Monday, Lester threw a simulated game: fifty pitches, almost no solid contact.  And we beat the Orioles, 6-5.  Lackey allowed a leadoff single to start the game.  Then he retired his next twelve batters.  Four shutout innings.  Drew, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Youk all had hits.  Youk and Crawford had a double steal.  And Crawford had an RBI single.  So now Crawford has his first hit, his first steal, and his first RBI in a Red Sox uniform, and the season hasn’t even started.  I’m psyched.  Wheeler gave up two runs.  Not so psyched about that.

We played two split-squad games on Tuesday.  First, we beat the Cards, 8-7; Ellsbury doubled, McDonald singled, and then we blew it open.  And then we beat the Astros, 3-2.  Beckett allowed one run on three hits over three and two-thirds innings of work.  He threw thirty of fifty-five pitches for strikes, walked one, and struck out four.  I’d say he’s almost as good as new.  Paps and Bard each delivered quality frames.  Salty’s first at-bat yielded a double.

On Wednesday, we signed fifteen guys, including Buchholz, Bard, Lowrie, and McDonald, to one-year deals.  The rest were prospects.  But I guarantee you that those deals for those first three are steals in every sense of the word.  We won’t be able to sign them again for anything close to the figures we offered.  Speaking of Buchholz, he remains scoreless in Spring Training, firing off four innings of four-hit, three-strike ball.  Drew homered and singled, Jenks turned in a one-two-three fifth, Pedroia shone at second, and with the game tied and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Yamaico Navarro brought home the winning run when he was hit by a pitch.  We won, 2-1.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs on Tuesday.  1-4.  It wasn’t good.

I’ll be taking a break of about a week.  I have full confidence that, within that time, Spring Training will proceed according to plan, with lots of contests, improvements, and battles for roster spots.  Most importantly, we’ll be that much closer to Opening Day!

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The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a shutout.  That’s pretty much as solid as you can possibly be, and since Lester is on pace to have a twenty-win season, I would be very surprised if both he and Buchholz are not in the running for this year’s AL Cy Young.  And I fully expect the absence of the Beckett injustice, where he clearly should have won it but didn’t for some unfathomable reason.  As it is, the eighteen wins is a new career high.  Anyway, the point is, Lester blinded the Jays with his supreme brilliance, and by the time they could see what was going on, the game was over and they lost.

He pitched seven innings.  He gave up four hits.  He walked four.  He struck out four.  And that was it.  He lowered his ERA to 3.06.  That’s ridiculous.  If he continues like this, he’s going to end up with a closer’s ERA by the end of the season.  He threw 112 pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  We’re talking filthy cut fastball at ninety-six miles per hour.  Nobody can hit that.  Nobody can hit his sinker, either.  His changeup and curveball were good enough, but honestly that cut fastball and that sinker were just absolutely filthy.  His release point was nice and tight, and his zone was packed to the gills.  He recorded his highest inning pitch total in the third with twenty-five, but obviously he escaped all of his jams unscathed.  And it’s not like there were that many to begin with.

But there was two, and they were huge.  One of the advantages of disposing with opposing hitters efficiently is that you don’t have to see them too often.  But Lester had to face Bautista twice.  With the bases loaded.  Twice.  In that inflated third inning, Bautista stepped up after back-to-back walks.  He grounded out.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

An inning later, it was like instant replay.  Another groundout, which fed a force out to end the fourth.  And again, Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.  And may I just say that Lester is officially a rock; you’d have to be a rock to maintain such composure in those situations.  He rolled out his entire repertoire for both of those at-bats so that Bautista didn’t know what was coming.  And if you think about it, that wasn’t even Lester’s best day.  If that were Lester on a good day, he probably would’ve gone the distance, and we may have seen a no-hitter.

It’s almost like our offense was too tense from the two Bautista encounters to do anything, and only after that did they join in the relief-sighing and loosen up enough to back the gem.  V-Mart homered to right in the fourth, Pesky-style.  It was a slider.  You know what they say: to the Victor go the spoils.  We would only score again in the fifth, but it was more than enough.  We put up a five-spot.  Lowrie scored on Nava’s ground-rule double, Navarro hit an RBI single, and Drew blasted a two-run shot.  And it was a shot.  The ball ended up in the seats in right center, past the bullpen.  It was an eighty-seven mile-per-hour fastball he hooked right out of there.  The final score? Six-zip.

Beltre injured his left wrist diving for a ground ball in the fourth on Saturday, so he was out yesterday and expected to play today.  All I’m saying is that now even Beltre has been bitten by the injury bug.  This is completely unprecedented, and I don’t really know what to tell you.

That was a great game.  It was a great game because it showed what we’re capable of.  It showed how good our pitching can really be and how potent our bats really are.  I think we all needed to watch a game like that after the first two of this series.  Standings-wise, every little win helps.  By the way, as long as we’re on the subject of the standings, I would just like to point out that the Rays are the problem here.  If the Rays stayed the course and continued to be that team that every other team beat up on in order to boost themselves in the standings and our record against them were reversed, say eleven and seven instead of seven and eleven, we would be leading the Wild Card above the next team by about the same number of games the Rays are currently leading it over us.  I’m just saying.  Anyway, we’re hosting the Orioles next.  Apparently they’ve managed to orchestrate some sort of resurgence.  I say we need to remind them who they’re dealing with.  The O’s are one team to whom we can not lose.  Dice-K is kicking off the series.  Let’s open with a W.

In other news, the Pats dropped the second game of the regular season to the Jets, 28-14.  I don’t care what sport it is: I really do not appreciate losing to New York.  I just don’t.

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Well.  If you ever really wanted to know what it feels like to have your parade not just rained on but completely and totally soaked, you just found out the hard way.  I say the hard way because it was hard to watch because it was painful because it lacked win particularly conspicuously.  The only plus side of the entire night was the bright return of the Citgo sign after being out while approximately 218,000 lights were replaced with more energy-efficient and weather-resistant ones.  That brief respite from utter disappointment occurred in the seventh, which was after most of the damage was inflicted, and you were thinking that the deficit isn’t so bad, so maybe we’ll come back in honor of the sign or for whatever reason.  Nope.

Lackey was utterly lacking.  What a cliché pun, but what’s true is true.  The man did not have it.  Tito still trusts him as a big-game pitcher; ultimately, I can see why.  When it comes down to it, Lackey’s signature is big games.  He’s just having a hard time of it this year because it’s his first season with us.  Next season will show his return to form.  Meanwhile, he’s durable, capable, and competitive, qualities that make him a good starter, his line notwithstanding.  But sometimes you can’t escape from the line.  Unfortunately, last night was one of those times.

Lackey gave up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits while walking two and striking out three.  At first glance, his hit and walk totals may seem low, but after you consider the fact that he did that under five innings, you realize that he was on pace to have one awful night.  In fact, he did, and he was removed before he could allow further damage to occur.  But that didn’t change the fact that his most frequently used pitch, the cutter, wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been.  His curveball and slider were better.  His changeup was extremely effective; all but a few were thrown for strikes.  Unfortunately for us, man can not live on one pitch alone.  Don’t even get me started on his fastball.

He threw only seven pitches in the first inning.  Seven.  It’s like tuning in to a new episode of your favorite TV show, seeing a fantastic cold open, and watching everything go downhill from there, except you obviously can’t look away because you’ll miss all the details.  His worst inning for pitch count was the very next one with twenty-three.  That’s basically when you figured out where the night was headed.  He finished having thrown eighty-three pitches, forty-nine for strikes.  His command wasn’t there, he left pitches up, he hit batters, he misfired.  He essentially did every single thing every pitcher knows never to do.  Ever.  And he managed to do them all in less than half a game.

The bullpen was not helpful.  After McDonald’s bobble, Bowden came on and allowed three more runs.  Hill recorded two outs before Matt Fox allowed one.  Wake was our only salvation, and even he couldn’t pitch through two and a third innings with a successful pickoff without allowing three hits.  Finally the game was over, but the outcome wasn’t pretty.

Part of why it was so disappointing was that the offense did everything right.  The final score was 9-11.  Not 0-11, not 1-11, not 5-11, and not even 8-11.  9-11.  No team, and I mean no team, should lose when it scores nine runs.  Nine runs should be a blowout win, not a close-call loss.

Those nine runs were the product of a never-say-die attitude.  We got started early when V-Mart blasted a two-run homer into the Monster seats in the first .  Toronto tied it an inning later and scored five runs in the fifth inning alone, thanks in part to Lackey hitting his third batter to load the bases with nobody out for Overbay only to give him a changeup that didn’t do much of anything except stay up, and three more in the sixth.  We answered in the bottom of the sixth with three of our own; Scutaro scored on V-Mart’s groundout, Beltre hit an RBI double, and Lowell hit an RBI single.  Toronto took one back in the seventh, and we would have to score six more runs just to tie it.  Time was running out, but it didn’t seem to matter.  In the eighth, V-Mart blasted another two-run shot, launching a first-pitch fastball right over the Monster and into the parking lot for his third multi-homer game of the season.  In the ninth, the kids went to work; Navarro hit an RBI single and Nava hit an RBI double.  We only needed two more to win.

With two out in the bottom of the ninth, we had the tying run at the plate.  That tying run was Victor Martinez, who had already been responsible for about half our RBIs up to that point.  At that point you’re thinking that, no matter what happens, the stage is set perfectly.  No matter what happens, that is the exact scenario you want under those circumstances.  So you could sense that the probability of something good happening was substantial.

But we couldn’t do it.  V-Mart took a 1-0 cutter and popped it up.  The game ended there, and we took the loss.  We erased the progress in the standings we’d made two days before and snapped our winning streak.

V-Mart had the right attitude after the game.  Despite his heroics in earlier innings, this was all he said:

It doesn’t matter.  We lost.

In the grand scheme of things known as the standings, he’s right.  The standings don’t record individual at-bats; entry into the playoffs is decided by wins and losses.  I don’t agree with him wholly because I think every run, every play, and every move made impacts where we go from here, and as a Red Sox fan I obviously believe that baseball should be dirt-dogged and played with heart and hustle no matter what the circumstances, but as for the despair that this statement expressed, I’m totally with him on that.  Absolutely and one hundred percent with him on that.

What makes matters inexpressibly worse is that the Yankees were in the exact opposite situation.  They were one strike away from losing – not one out; one strike – when A-Rod obviously just had to hit a three-run home run.  Honestly.  I don’t think we’ve caught a major break all season long.

Thus, I lay the responsibility of this loss squarely on the shoulders of John Lackey.  Had he performed up to par, we would have been fine.  Our nine runs confirm that there is no doubt whatsoever about that.  And despite all that frustration, the only thing we can do is hope that Beckett shows the Jays who’s boss in game two.  So that’s it.  Let’s do that.

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