Tagged: Jon Lester

Spoke too soon

Remind me not to marvel at how the team seems to win against all odds.  That seemed to kill it.  Still, as far as I can remember, the six game winning streak the Sox had going until last night was longer than any they had during the regular season in all of 2007.  Last year’s team was the anti-streak.  They were a model of consistency, never getting too hot, but never getting too cold either.  After a brilliant start, they actually spent most of the season playing what seemed like win-one-lose-one ball.  So at the least, this has been better to watch.

As soon as I found out Jon Lester would be making an emergency start on three days rest (a first for him) in place of Dice-K (flu-like symptoms), I was worried.  I’ve never been, as a rule, impressed with Lester, though I see potential for him to be a lot better.  For a guy that nibbles incessantly at the plate and walks a plethora of hitters, starting on three days rest seemed like an awful idea.  I guess there was no other option, but still.  Before the game started, I predicted Lester would go four innings and give up four runs.  OK, so he went five innings, giving up four.  He wasn’t dreadful, and while his first couple innings were spotty, he really seemed to turn it around as the game went on.  He gave the club a chance to win, which is really all they could have asked for.

And props to my fellow Long Island native, Craig Hansen, pitching in the bigs for the first time since 2006.  Sure, you could focus on the Glen Cove-raised Hansen giving up the decisive run, but I think that’s missing the point.  In 2006, he didn’t look all that good on the mound, and in 2007 he was more or less dreadful at the AAA level.  Last night he looked very good.  Made a mistake with that one pitch and paid for it, but what I saw last night out of him was better than anything I saw in 2006.  He’s already been optioned back to Pawtucket, but it looks like there may be an opportunity for him to help this club in a big way later in the season.  I much prefer to see the homegrown talent over free agent signings and trades, so if this kid can continue to turn it around, it would be great for the team.

So, in the end, a team missing Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Alex Cora, Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Manny Delcarmen was able to keep it a close game ’til the end.  That they didn’t embarrass themselves was already a pretty good thing in my eyes.  That they kept themselves in it against a very good Angels ballclub really says something.  They didn’t come back this time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.

Justin Masterson, one of the top prospects in the organization, is temporarily being bumped up from Double-A ball to start this afternoon (Lester’s originally scheduled start).  Trying to decide if I should just follow the highlights on the internet or radio, or wait until I get home to watch it on DVR.  Guess we’ll just see how busy work gets in the next couple hours.  I honestly wouldn’t mind waiting and checking it out later.  It’s the guy’s first major league start.  Call me sentimental, but that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing.

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Ugly

No matter which way you look at it or what side you were on, last night’s Red Sox/Yankees game was an ugly mess, an embarrassment.

For both teams.

There are no winners when the score gets to 15-9, not in any practical sense.  You don’t get to 15-9 without there being spectacular failures on each side.  Both teams flat out stunk.  And you know what?  I’d be saying the same thing if the Red Sox had come in on top.  Coming in at four hours, eight minutes, this was entirely too long for a nine inning game of no special consequence.

Clay Buchholz looked pretty bad, but I suppose it wasn’t all terrible.  He did have a scoreless inning in the second, I guess that should count for something.  Just seemed that he couldn’t locate the ball.  Whether that was some bad strategy, hoping players would swing and miss those bad pitches, or whether it was an off night, who knows.  Chien-Ming Wang was awful, flat-out awful.  If it seems like I’m being harder on him than Buchholz, it’s not because one’s a Red Sox player and one’s a Yankee.  It’s because Buchholz is the #5 man in Boston’s rotation, and Wang is the #1 man in New York’s.  You expect more out of your #1 guy, you have to.  And after his tremendous start last Friday, you really expected more out of Wang.  And Buchholz… well, he’s got great stuff, undeniably, amazing potential, but I’m still not sold on him being ready for prime time.  For that matter, I’m not sold on Lester either.  I know they’re going to be very good, and very important parts of the rotation for a long time to come.  But Buchholz has looked anything but unhittable, and Lester takes seven hours to pitch four lousy innings.

And no Red Sox starter has pitched 7 innings this season.  Not a one.

I give Josh Beckett a free pass on that because he essentially missed spring training.  He hasn’t had the chance to get stretched out, and with each game he’s gotten better.  He pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start and looked brilliant through the first three or so before he started getting tired, and last time around, he pitched 6 2/3, looking brilliant through about five before wearing out.  So there’s been measurable progress there, and he’s had great stuff.

But everyone else?

Tim Wakefield is hit or miss, and he’s probably always going to be that way.  With the knuckleball, you just never know… but he knows what he’s doing, and I feel at least when he goes out there that he’s going to give the team a chance to win.  He’s a professional, he doesn’t get rattled easily, and somehow he always finds a way to get outs.  Daisuke Matsuzaka started off the season with a less than stellar start, threw two back-to-back quality starts, and then returned to the ways of old in his fourth start.

But you know what?  All of the pitching in the world can’t help you if your shortstop makes more errors than Hillary Clinton recalling her achievements as first lady.  Who knows what might have happened if Lugo had turned the ground ball that Julian Tavarez so desperately needed into the inning-ending double play it was meant to be?  Then you have a tie score with your best relievers waiting to be used, instead of a deficit not worth using your best guys to hold on to.  I’ll never know what the front office sees in this guy.  Sometimes he hits, more often than not he doesn’t, and even if he does have a multi-hit game, it seems as though he finds the least important moments to get those hits.

Timlin?  It’s hard to tell if he’s been unlucky, had an off night, or if he’s out of gas altogether.

And Jacoby Ellsbury continues to demonstrate that despite what the Pink Hats might say, despite all of the ladies fawning over how “dreamy” he is (note to people in my office: just because I’m in my cubicle doesn’t mean I can’t hear you when you talk about him right outside of it), he’s not ready to be an every day major league player.  He gets fooled each and every time they throw the ball inside on him.  0-5 last night.  Meanwhile, Coco Crisp has been off to a great start but the idiots are too busy demanding he be traded/hung/shot to notice that he should be the everyday center fielder.

In a perfect world, Ellsbury, Lester, and Buchholz would all be headed back to AAA to refine the areas of their game that need the most work.  Wishing these problems away isn’t going to make it so.  Printing more merchandise with their names and numbers to sell to fair-weather fans isn’t going to make them better.  But alas, the surplus of starting pitching we were supposed to have isn’t there, and there’s simply no better options available to the Sox.  (Please remind me why they traded Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne?  Someone like Gabbard would be perfect right now.  If you had Kason Gabbard, you could send Buchholz back down to the minors to work his problems out.  If you had a healthy Curt Schilling, you could send Lester down too until he figured out where the strike zone was and remembered how to challenge hitters.)

Make no mistake, the Yankees didn’t have a good night either.  I don’t care what team you are, if you give up nine runs, you should lose the ballgame, period.  They stunk; we stunk more.

Game 4: Lester comes through, bats start to warm up

I followed the first three innings of this one online before rushing home, discovering my cable box was out of whack, unplugging it and hoping that would fix it (it did), and finally getting NESN on just in time to watch them waste a bases-loaded opportunity.  Scoreless after six, this was another well pitched game, the kind I really like.  Lester works a little slower than I’d like, but that’s a small complaint when you see him pitch like he did today.

LESTER
Everything he was supposed to be in his first start, everything he showed during the fourth game of the World Series, it all came out today.  6 2/3 scoreless innings, this from a guy who didn’t make it past four barely a week ago.  Just as Dice-K bounced back masterfully last night, Lester was equally impressive today.  Was it the trip to Japan and the unfamiliar atmosphere and jet lag and all of that stuff that made these guys lackluster last week, was it that it was basically still spring training time of the year?  Maybe one, maybe both.  But back in semi-familiar locations and routines, things are starting to look up.  I’m really psyched to see if this translates to the rest of the rotation.  I’m looking forward to Wakefield’s start (in a dome, his preference), wondering if Buchholz can get it together for his start,  and wondering what we’ll see when Josh Beckett returns and faces major league hitters for the first time in ’08.  I hope these last couple of games set the tone for the start of the season: well pitched games, well-played, with hits coming when they’re needed most.

YOUK
Kevin Youkilis just got the Major League record for most consecutive games at first without an error, a nice thing to have in addition to that (well-deserved) Gold Glove he won for last season.

BATS!
Though they wasted plenty of opportunities early on, the bats really started coming to life at the end.  David Ortiz broke out of his 0-12 start with a single, and followed that up with a two-run homer later on.  Varitek, Crisp, Cora, Pedroia and Youkilis all single consecutively, bringing it to 4-0 in the 8th.  Varitek added a solo homer in the 9th.  Tight pitching matchup all through the beginning, and then towards the end the bats wake up.  Brian Corey pitched 1 1/3 innings, flirted with trouble a couple times but kept it scoreless, and then Manny Delcarmen finished it in the 9th.

I LOVE MLB EXTRA INNINGS
Seriously… I’m lucky to live in an area where I don’t have any blackout restrictions, and I’m watching the Mets come alive… 3-0 against the Marlins early on… I love baseball time of year.