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Archive for May, 2012

Red Sox Win Third Straight Against Tigers at Fenway

With all the injuries the Red Sox have had this year especially to a number of their better players and with their little sparkplug, Dustin Pedroia, out with a sore thumb, you would think this team would chuck it all in. No way.  Tonight they came back from a three run deficit to overtake the Tigers by a score of 6-4.  It wasn’t just offense that brought them back but defense played a big part in this win.

After the Tigers tagged John Lester for a run in the first and two more in the second inning David Ortiz came up in the fourth and hit a nice fastball from Tiger starter Drew Smiley over the wall in center field. Adrian Gonzalez was on second after hitting the first of his two doubles in the game. Youkilis followed with a single and before you could stuff your mouth with another peanut or potato chip rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks lined a shot over the wall for a two run home run to put the Sox ahead 4-3. Detroit tied it up in the seventh but right fielder Adrian Gonzalez lined a ground rule double to right field for the go-ahead run. Kevin Youkilis got an important insurance run with a long home run in the eighth to left field.

The two defensive plays that kept the Sox in the game were by Daniel Nava and Marlon Byrd. When Tiger catcher Alex Avila hit a line drive off the wall in left and tried to stretch it to a double, Nava made a perfect throw to second to get Avila. The next hitter hit a double and eventually scored but the throw from Nava kept things from getting out of hand.

In the eighth inning DH Gerald Laird hit a soft line drive to short center with a man on first and two out. He made up his mind to go all out after the ball. He dove outstretched completely and snatched the ball before it could hit the ground. What a great catch by Byrd.

Lester started but looked tight. He seemed to be pressing out there. When a hitter presses he’s tight and tense. He chases bad pitches and has problems relaxing. Lester started the game and just didn’t look right. That is until the Red Sox took the lead. You could see the difference in his tempo and concentration. He eventually ran out of gas in the seventh and could not get the win. He could pitch on my team anytime. He’s a gamer. Acevis came in the game in the ninth. It was his fourth game in a row and he didn’t disappoint. He got his 14th save of the year. Watch out, Mariano Rivera.

By the way, the only player the Red Sox cannot afford to get injured for any length of time. Hint? He hit a two run home run to center field tonight.

Sox Lose 6-4 in the City of Brotherly Love

If the Red Sox and Daniel Bard could have eliminated the first inning in tonight’s ballgame against the Philadelphia Phillies they would have walked away with a victory. Instead it was Daniel Bard doing the walking. He walked three batters in the first inning that led to four Philadelphia runs. Bard seemed to be aiming the ball and did not get his arm up into his ideal release point. I saw one fastball that reached 96 mph. The rest hit 92-93 mph. His best pitch in the five innings he worked was his slider. He kept it down and away from hitters from right handed hitters and utilized his changeup to lefties. It wasn’t a bad outing but Bard continues to have problems with his control. As I’ve said in the past, if he doesn’t throw his fastball 95-97 mph, as he did as a set-up man, to go along with a much improved slider and changeup, he’ll have problems becoming a successful starter.

There was some drama in this game as Jonathan Papelbon came in the ballgame in the ninth to close the game. His adrenalin must have been running high as he faced his old team. He gave a leadoff hit to Kelly Shoppach but then got the next three outs including a game-ending strikeout by Nick Punto. It was Papelbon’s twelfth straight save this year. He looked weird in a Phillies uniform.

Bobby Valentine got thrown out of the game after arguing the first base umpire’s call on a high throw from shortstop Jimmy Rollins. It looked like Bobby had a good argument because replay showed his foot did seem to come off the base. Unfortunately the call was not reversed and the runner was out.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia got hit with a foul ball that caromed off his arm and hit him in the left ear. He suffered a left ear laceration. He was down on the ground in pain for a good length of time and finally had to come out. My guess is that he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow.

Lefthander Cole Hamels pitched a very good game. He mixed his pitches effectively and struck out nine Red Sox hitters. Many of those strikeouts came when he needed them most, with runners in scoring position. Philadelphia has their share of injuries to star players but one thing they do have that can make up for those injuries and that’s outstanding starting pitching. Let’s hope the city of brother love and their Phillies will be kinder to the Sox tonight.

Red Sox Balk Their Way to a 2-1 Loss vs. Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Rays are in first place in the AL’s Eastern Division. Last night they showed the Red Sox why  they’re in first place and why they have a good chance to stay there all year. No surprise to anyone, it’s their pitching. Right-hander  Jeremy Hellickson,  the Rays starter last night, and a guy who’s had problems with the Red Sox in the past, kept them way off balance in the six innings he pitched. He had a good change up and a fastball with lots of movement.  The only offense the Sox could muster was in the fourth inning when Daniel Nava knocked in Saltalalmacchia  after he doubled to right. The Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney was really impressive. He featured a 97 mph fastball and a wicked split-finger fastball that acted like a knuckleball and 10 mph slower than his fastball.

As for the three Red Sox balks in this game, well, it is highly unusual. Fortunately only one of them cost the Sox a run. That happened in the second inning with Tampa runners on first and third. Clay Buchholz made a movement in his motion and then stopped. The run scored from third and that was all the damage. The other two balks were by Franklin Morales. One balk came in the 7th and the other in the 8th with no damage done from either one. Let’s not panic about the balks. The problem can be easily solved by pitchers focusing more when there are men on base. Balks usually occur when a pitcher is unsure whether to throw to the base to keep the runner close or to go home with the ball. They still should keep runners close and not be concerned about balking.

I wasn’t concerned about the balks that much but what concerned me more was the terrible play in right field by Cody Ross. In the 6th inning the Rays hit back to back singles by Matt Joyce and Carlo Pena. Joyce sprinted around to third so that left runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Luke Scott came up and hit a shallow fly ball to Ross in right field. He ran in for the ball and suddenly darted to his right and caught the ball with his body almost turned around towards center field. When Joyce saw the awkward catch he tagged up and scored the go-ahead run. That’s the second poor attempt at catching an easy fly ball by Ross. The other was at Fenway in left field. It cost the Sox both games.

The other unusual thing that happened in this game was when Franklin Morales hit second baseman Will Rhymes with a fast ball on his right arm. You could hear the sound of the impact on TV. Rhymes wanted to stay in the game so he started to walk to first base when all of a sudden his knees started to buckle and he went down on the ground. It looked like he had a seizure but when the trainers came out they calmed him down. They finally took him off in a cart and drove him to the hospital. He may have a broken arm because it was swollen to twice the size. Every sport has its risks and fortunately for Rhymes it was his arm and not his head.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention clay Buchholz. He pitched a pretty good game and didn’t deserve the loss. A lot of people think Bobby Valentine should have left him in the game but I agree with taking him out. You had lefties coming up and he was not throwing as well as he was earlier in the game. I loved the way he was going at the hitters. He should get more stamina as he goes further along in the season.

At this point in the season I can’t judge how good or bad this team is going to be .  I want to see them with Crawford, Ellsbury, Youkilis and Baily all healthy then we can all make a fair judgment. Whether they’ll all be healthy at the same time remains to be seen.

Sox Honor Carl Beane – Beckett Shelled by Tribe 8-3

The Red Sox paid a wonderful tribute to the late Carl Beane before tonight’s game at Fenway Park. Carl was known as the Voice of Fenway. He passed away Thursday when his car veered off the road and hit a tree at the end of a gorge. The accident might have been caused by a heart attack.

 I knew Carl for over thirty five years. Prior to getting his “dream job” with the Red Sox he worked in radio interviewing players from all the major Boston professional teams. He carried his tape recorder and backpack everywhere he went. He worked diligently and professionally at all times. He did the same as the Voice of Fenway. I also knew him personally as well as professionally. Carl was also a terrific family man. He was also a man of faith, a born again Christian, who lived out his faith. His faith in Christ gave him new meaning to his life. He was so thankful for everything he had.  There’s no doubt where he is right now, probably announcing the name of each person that enters  heaven because that’s where he is. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. We’ll all miss him very much.

As for the game, Josh Beckett got shelled by the Cleveland Indians. He lasted 2 1/3 innings giving up 9 hits and 2 home runs. He’ll probably play a few rounds of golf today to keep his handicap low. Too bad his ERA isn’t low and too bad his lack of velocity and command isn’t very good. There’s talk about him having arm problems again. Sorry, I have no compassion for him at this time. If he has a problem with his arm put him on the disabled list and get someone who is healthy and wants to pitch. He’s acting like a prima donna, a spoiled brat, a self-centered narcissist. He’s changed so much from his years with the Marlins and early years with the Red Sox. He had fire in his eyes coupled with a 97 mph fastball. He showed it in 2007 but has been going downhill from there. I don’t think he can get it up to 97 or 95 any longer. I think he’s worn his body down including his arm and can’t do it any longer. Stop babying him. Trade him if you can before it’s too late. I won’t change my opinion even if he does have a sore arm. Five bullpen pitchers had to be used in last night’s game because Beckett couldn’t get through the third inning. Jason Kipnis and Jack Hannahan, (who the hell are they) hit home runs off him. There was a time he would have blown both of them away and many other hitters a lot better than those two. I hate to see any player’s ability diminished but it looks like Josh Beckett has seen his better days.

Visions of Last September as Sox Lose to A’s 4-2

Good teams are supposed to beat up on the weaker teams but it wasn’t the case in this series against the Oakland A’s. The Sox lost two of three games to the worst hitting team in the league. I’ll give credit to Oaklandstarter Brendon McCarthy. He had good movement on all his pitches and also had Sox hitters off balance. But c’mon he wasn’t Pedro Martinez. Sox hitters missed hittable pitches all evening. Right hander Ryan Cook entered the game in the 7th and struck out Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded. The Red Sox offense battled back in the ninth when Mike Aviles beat out a grounder to short for a base hit. Dustin Pedroia then hit a double to left to knock in Aviles. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a chance to keep the rally going or possibly tie the game with a home run but lefthander Brian Fuentes got him to ground out to end the game.

There were two important incidents that were the turning points in last night’s game and they were both by the Red Sox. The first came in the 5th inning. Saltalamacchia reached first base on an error by Josh Reddick in right field.  Reddick, by the way, is a terrible outfielder. Rookie Will Middlebrooks, who was in the lineup at third base, beat out an infield hit to third base. It was his first hit in the major leagues (but not his last for sure). That left runners on first and second and no outs. The next batter was Marlon Byrd. Bobby Valentine gave Byrd the bunt sign which was a good move since the score was 1-0 in favor of Oakland. Byrd made two weak attempts at bunting the ball but fouled both pitches off. He then swung away and hit a short fly ball to right field. Here we go again. A simple bunt by a major league player is all you ask for but he couldn’t do the job.

The second incident came in the 6th inning. After a base hit by Reddick and a fly ball out by center fielder Yoenes Cespedes, DH Seth Smith hit a high fly down the left field line. Cody Ross loped toward the ball like someone coming off one of those dizzying rides at an amusement park. He ended up overplaying the ball to his right and then tried to circle back to make the catch. After doing a 180 dippsy-doodle the ball landed on the warning track to his left. Oakland ended up scoring three runs in the inning. These are fundamentals that must be executed in order to win games. It didn’t happen last night. Those two mistakes were critical.

Finally, I want to comment on Daniel Bard’s performance. He started the game and went into the 6th inning before Matt Albers relieved him. Bard was clocked at 92-93 mph most of the night. Who talked him into throwing his fastball slower so he can have better command? If he throws 92-93 mph the rest of the year he will not become a successful starter. What happened to the 97 mph fastball? It’s a speed he can put hitters away with. He had one strikeout last night. Bard’s slider is not that good, either. He hangs it a lot and doesn’t have a good enough change-up to consistently fool hitters. He also needs to throw a two seem fastball. You don’t put a scare into opposing hitters with a 92 mph fastball but a 97 mph fastball? Ouch!