Posts Tagged ‘Yunel Escobar’

Last night’s game was the epitome of disappointment.  I am disappointed, I am exhausted, and I don’t know about you, but I just feel crushed.  Yes.  Crushed would be the right word to describe it.  It’s bad enough that we have to spend the rest of the season digging ourselves out of the hole we’re currently in, although we’re certainly getting there; we’re in third place now, four and a half games out of first.  But Toronto is right behind us five and a half games out, and if tonight’s game proceeds as last night’s did, that could change.  The point is that we already can’t afford to lose any more than we have to, so to speak; to play so many extra-inning games in such a short time span, which exhausts the bullpen, and to lose them after all those frames, which exhausts the entire team because morale takes a nosedive, is just not what we need right now.

Lester started, but he was not at his best.  It was his first non-quality start since Opening Day.  There was no command in sight.  He didn’t have a pitch that would get him ahead in the count.  He didn’t have a pitch that would make him stay ahead in the count.  And he didn’t have a pitch that would put away the count.  He went five and a third innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, including two home runs.  He walked five and struck out five.  I mean, he walked in a run in the first inning.  He opened the inning with a walk, then he allowed a single, then another walk, and then a walk with the bases loaded.  That pretty much says everything you need to know about his outing right there.  By the time the first inning was over, we were losing by three runs.

His second inning was one-two-three; at thirteen pitches, it was his best and most efficient.  But that didn’t last.  After throwing twenty-five pitches in the first, he came right back and threw twenty-two pitches in the third.  He opened the fifth by allowing a home run on a curveball that didn’t curve.  He opened the sixth in exactly the same way.  I thought I was watching a replay of the previous inning.

In short, it’s really, really bad when a starting pitcher comes on knowing he has to go deep and hold it together because the bullpen needs a night off and then doesn’t.

Luckily, the Toronto pitching staff seemed to be having many of the same problems.  We got on the board in the second when Papi led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a single by Drew.  With runners at the corners, Crawford extended his hitting streak to ten games with a single that brought Papi home.  We went down in order in the third, but Papi led off the fourth by unleashing on the second pitch of his at-bat, a cutter that did nothing, and sending it out of the yard for a rocket of a home run.  The top of the fifth wasn’t that different; Pedroia led off with a walk, and he and Gonzalez both came home with one swing of the bat.  Gonzalez unleashed on the second pitch of his at-bat, a fastball, and sent that out of the yard.

At that point, we had a one-run lead, and the more we saw Lester try but fail to grind it out, it became increasingly clear to us that that one-run lead was incredibly fragile.  Sure enough, Lester allowed his first homer in the very next inning, which tied the game at four; his second homer of the day gave the Jays a one-run lead.

After allowing his second home run, Lester allowed a walk, secured the first out of the inning with a strikeout on eight pitches, and hit a batter.  Rich Hill came on to replace him.  He got out of the sixth and into the seventh.  After securing the first two outs of the inning, Aceves replaced him walked two but got through the rest of the inning.

After Drew struck out swinging to lead off the eighth, Lowrie doubled and Iglesias came in to pinch-run.  He scored on a single by Salty and we tied the game at five.  Bard came on for the bottom eighth.  I thought that finally even a tie could last long enough for us to get ahead for good.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  He threw seven four-seam fastballs to David Cooper.  The seventh one didn’t last long.  Home run.  Jays lead by one.

Toronto made a pitching change for the ninth, and Gonzalez welcomed him with his second blast of the day, a solo shot again on the second pitch of his at-bat, again a fastball.  Tie game at six.  That was the last run we would score.

Albers replaced Bard for the ninth; he had a one-two-three inning.  Tek led off the tenth with a flyout.  Ellsbury grounded out.  Pedroia singled, but Gonzalez flied out.

The bottom of the tenth began innocently enough.  Albers struck out John McDonald on three pitches.  Then he threw a strike to Rajai Davis.  He followed that with three balls.  He battled back and threw a strike to work the count full.  And then he singled.  And stole second on a pitchout.  (As far as the throw is concerned, Tek was catching at that point; Salty had nothing to do with it.) And stole third because, well, we weren’t really holding him on.  (Tito thought that was Iglesias’s fault.  Albers thought it was his own fault.  Either way, he still stole.) So when Cooper hit a fly ball that represented the second out of the inning, Davis scored.  And we lost, 7-6.  If only Yunel Escobar hadn’t hurt himself.

I would just like to point out that the offense put up a huge fight.  The offense put up as big a fight as it could possibly have been expected to put up.  We came back three times.  We came back three times, and the pitchers didn’t provide any protection whatsoever for any of those comebacks.

Ellsbury went three for six.  Gonzalez obviously had a monster night, going three for six with the two home runs, both to the opposite field.  Pedroia went two for four.  Drew went two for five.  Papi went three for five with the double and the home run.

Last night’s game was the fourth of the season that could finally have put us at .500.  Instead, we head into tonight’s game at .472 and need to win just so we can hope to reach .500 when we play the Yankees on Friday.  What a vicious cycle.  We’re 0-4 in games that could put us at .500, so clearly we don’t want to play those games because if the past is any indicator we’d lose.  But we need to win one.  All we need is to win just one, and then we’ll be over that hurdle.  The trick, of course, would be staying over that hurdle.  If we drop back below .500, we’d be one and however many of those we’d have lost at that point.  This is the longest we’ve gone into a season without reaching .500 since 1996.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get there.  1996 wasn’t exactly a red-letter year for us.  Let’s not repeat it this year.

Reuters Photo

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Literally everything exciting in last night’s game happened in the eleventh inning.  It was one of those tied affairs that you just had to wait out and see what happens.  And it’s tense because the tie could swing either way.  There was a time when you were confident that the tie would swing our way because our offense and bullpen were both solid beyond question.  Currently, our offense and bullpen are solid, but being that an entire third of our starting lineup is out for the season, I’d say we have a good amount to worry about.

For the most part, Dice-K was stellar.  He tossed a full eight innings which was an extremely welcome break from Lester’s sad excuse of a performance.  He gave up four runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out eight.  He threw 109 pitches.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were all working with some nice movement.  His changeup still needs work but he only threw about four of them so it didn’t feature prominently.  He gets points for going deep, lasting past five in his last thirteen starts, and only giving up four runs.  But he loses points for earning a no-decision instead of a win because he gave up our lead, partially through giving up a two-run home run to Overbay.

In the third, McDonald walked, Scutaro doubled, and Drew was hit to load the bases, and V-Mart singled in two runs.  In the fifth, V-Mart turned a full-count fastball into another RBI single.  Beltre’s bloop single added another run.

In the fourth, we thank V-Mart for limiting the damage to one Jays run and not two by holding onto the ball at the plate through the collision with Overbay.

We were up by three before yet another return of the one bad inning.  It was the sixth this time.  Dice-K gave up three runs on nineteen pitches, which is pretty economical considering his past pitch counts during his bad innings.  And it was a real shame; he mowed right through the Jays before and after that but for some reason had to fail at locating that pitch.

We could have sent everybody home in the eighth.  Escobar dropped Lowell’s routine popup, which ended up in the stands, so Lowell reached second with nobody out.  But Hall and McDonald struck out and Scutaro grounded out.

Fortunately, all the relievers who cleaned up Lester’s mess got the day off last night because we used only Bard and Paps, who both pitched well and held down the fort.  But Bard had to toss two full frames, so he’ll probably be unavailable today.

And now we come to the theatrics of the eleventh inning: a walkoff home run from one of the most unlikely sources in our lineup.  In the top of the inning, Lowrie made a very strange fielding error.  He stood under a popup waiting to catch it and just didn’t catch it.  There was no wind; I think he was just slightly out of position.  So it proved, thankfully, to be consequential, but it was just bizarre.  But he made up for it; he used all the power and extension he had to send a hanging curveball over the fence in right! It’s his first career walkoff homer and third homer of the season.  Clearly those hours in the weight room have paid off.  He is currently in the middle of a career-high nine-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .357 with three doubles, seven homers and runs, and five RBIs.

V-Mart improved his already strong average against Romero by going three for five.  Scutaro also went three for five for his third consecutive multi-hit game and is currently in the middle of an eight-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .406 with four doubles, six runs, and three RBIs.  Drew went two for three.

And so it was good.  It turned out alright.  The bullpen got a rest, we got the win, we had three multi-hit games in the lineup, and we can be happy about that.  We need every hit, every run, and every win that we can scrape together.  So there’s nothing to do now but do it again.

AP Photo

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