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Tag:Jon Lester
Posted on: May 17, 2011 2:18 am
 

Another Mother's Day Miracle

The Boston Red Sox again have won a game against Baltimore that should have been out of reach late in the game. It's not Mother's Day again, but it's the middle of May, so I'm willing to call it another Mother's Day Miracle. This one pales slightly in comparison, but it should definitely be a motivator for the players to continue to improve their play.
The players that were the same: Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek; Orioles: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis. So, the names have mostly changed, with of course a few exceptions. What else is different? And what else is the same?

Both games happened at Fenway Park; I'm sure this helped the Sox as the crowd was definitely going to get behind any rally, and Sox fans are relentless and willing to give their team every opportunity to win a game. They will stick around as long as it takes until there are three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It's a passion that had earned them serious heartache for 86 years until they finally won the World Series in 2004.

Gary Cederstrom and Lance Barksdale were umpires at both games; Cederstrom was at home plate and Barksdale was at second base on May 13, 2007. Cederstrom was on second base and Barksdale was on third base on May 16, 2011.

Other than some of the players being the same, not much else can be said for similarities; even most of the players are at considerably different points in their careers than four years ago. The stars of the Red Sox and Orioles from four years ago are mostly gone, many due to retirement. David Ortiz is doing about as well as he was four years ago, but he is certainly declining as he gets older. Josh Beckett is still a star of the Red Sox pitching staff, but he lost his ace status to Jon Lester (as well as the opening day starter this year). Thankfully, his blister and finger issues have seemed to have gone away. During the game in 2007, he left the game because he had a skin tear on his finger. Kevin Youkilis was batting sixth and playing third and this year he is batting clean-up, but still playing third--though it's after a couple of years playing first. Jason Varitek was behind the plate for both games, but he is a significantly different hitter than he was four years ago. He's still a fantastic catcher and calls a great game, pitchers still love having him behind the plate, but he doesn't hit anywhere near as effectively as he did years ago. He did have a very important impact on both games though. His lines from both years are similar and impressive: (4AB, 1R, 1H, 2RBI) and (5AB, 1R, 2H, 2RBI). It was sweet to see him have a positive impact at the plate because it doesn't happen anywhere near as often as I would like to see it, but I still like the captain. Both of the other Sox players had positive impacts as well in both games.

The Orioles players that were involved in both games are at decidedly different stages in their careers also, but are amazingly enough still hitting in the same batting order that they were four years ago. Why is this amazing? Brian Roberts is still an okay second baseman, but he's hitting barely above the Mendoza line at .221 this year. Why would a team continue to hit a player that is struggling so badly at the top of the order? Even the Red Sox moved Carl Crawford down in the order after a very slow start. Crawford is in the prime of his career and has always been at or near the top of the order, but the Sox moved him down to sixth to allow him to see better pitches and to try to help him out of his funk. Markakis was just starting his career as a regular starter for the Orioles four years ago, and is now a foundation piece of their young team.

The weather was considerably different for this Miracle. Four years ago, the weather was sunny and a bit chilly at 58 degrees. This year it was raining and miserable and even colder at 48 degrees. Part of the temperature difference was the time of day. Four years ago it was a day game starting at 3:10 while tonight's game was a 7:10 start.

In 2007, Jeremy Guthrie had pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox and he was taken out in the ninth inning. This ended up being a bad decision. Guthrie had allowed only three hits and one run. In less than an inning, that would become all for naught, as the bullpen would allow six runs in the ninth to lose the game. This year's game was also becoming a gem for the Orioles starter, as Chris Tillman had allowed zero runs after five innings. Buck Showalter removed him from the game because of stiffness in his back. Mike Gonzalez would quickly allow the Red Sox to get back in the game by allowing four runs in less than an inning. The Red Sox continued to chip away at the lead until they got the two runs they needed in the bottom of the ninth inning to win. Josh Beckett had to be removed from the game in 2007 because of an injury. This year, Terry Francona may have been better served to remove Daisuke Matsuzaka after his first inning scare where he was hit just above the belt with a line drive. He pitched terribly, giving up seven walks and five runs in less than five innings.

The Baltimore Orioles had a record of 18-20 following the Mother's Day Miracle of 2007. Right now they have a record of 19-21. The team has been mediocre for quite a few years, and their place in the standings has always been near the bottom, with the exceptions of early season when they have started out hot like this year.  The outcome of the game would have drastically different results for the standings for the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. In 2007, the Red Sox would have a 25-11 record to lead the division handily. Following this Mother's Day Miracle, the Red Sox have for the first time this year, gotten over .500. They are tied with Toronto for third in the division.

Games like this can allow a talented team like the Red Sox to flourish. Wins like this bring teammates closer together as they realize that their combined struggles can only be overcome by combining their talents. Adrian Gonzalez has been hitting as well, if not better, than expected this year, while players like Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are finally starting to rebound from early season struggles. Wins like this will hopefully start the rest of the players toward better and continued success.

Posted on: April 7, 2011 10:25 pm
 

Signs of Hope

The good news has to be that Jon Lester pitched a true gem tonight against the Indians. Kudos to him for doing his part to get the first Red Sox win of the year, unfortunately, he couldn't pitch the entire game. The bad news has to be that Daniel Bard lost the game again. This wasn't a full-out wheels-off-the-bus sort of meltdown like he had his previous outing; this was merely that lone run that was one run too many. The fact that he could lower his ERA while inking a game ERA for himself of 9 isn't so promising. I have faith in him, I just need to see reciprocity from him soon.
This whole situation reminds me of that infamous circumstance that Grady Little got himself into by leaving Pedro Martinez in one out too long. Pedro was having trouble getting wins that year because the bullpen kept giving away his leads. They had solid guys in the bullpen that year too; they just couldn't pull it together. Was it complacency? Did people tell them that they were supposed to be that good, so they started to believe it? Regardless, is Jon Lester going to start having those same situations arise? We all know this is a bad thing to feel like as a starting pitcher, as a manager, or as a fan. Grady Little got fired at the end of that year--thank goodness. We as fans hung our heads. But as a starting pitcher when you can't feel comfortable handing over a lead to your bullpen, you know they just start to try a little too hard for a little too long. They try to make every pitch perfect, and work through Jello-arm and dead-arm because they feel like the team needs them to.
The Red Sox don't need anyone to try to be the hero on the mound. They have a very nice pitching staff, from the starters to the closer. Each guy has got to have the comfort of knowing that the guys around him are capable of bailing anyone out on any given night.
The pitching effort by Lester was fantastic tonight, but let's not forget that Fausto Carmona did nearly an equal job. I'd take Lester's nine strikeouts and three walks over Carmona's four strikeouts and two walks. I was excited to see that Fausto may have returned to his front-of-the-rotation ability. He was exciting a few years ago and has had his share of injuries and setbacks.
I'm a little worried about the Yankees visiting Fenway tomorrow and having Lackey start. I know he's still a quality pitcher, but his confidence didn't seem like it was in the correct spot the other night after the Rangers beat up on him. Here's hoping that we don't have to hear about him never pitching well against the Yankees. Goodness knows we need a guy to step up for the Sox and do his job while all the others are doing their jobs too.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Beckett Poised to Jumpstart Red Sox Season

Hopefully Josh Beckett can get the Red Sox started on the path everyone believes they are destined to go down this year. I'm not sure what sign Beckett is, nor do I particularly believe in astrology, but everything seems to be aligned to make this a nearly perfect situation to begin a bounceback year for both Josh and the Sox.
Josh Beckett is a big game pitcher; there is no better proof than his 2003 World Series MVP Award against the New York Yankees. More relevant to Red Sox fans was his pitching against Cleveland in 2007 that sparked a comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS. His record in that series was a stellar 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA; this effort garnered him the ALCS MVP Award. He continued that effort with a winning effort in the World Series that year in game one against the Colorado Rockies by pitching seven innings and only allowing one run off six hits, with nine strikeouts.
This game is not of the same magnitude as those previous, but the Red Sox need a jumpstart, and Beckett may be just the person to give it. His psyche still tells him that he's capable of being the ace of that staff, even with great young pitchers in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. He's still got the heart of a champion, and he knows how to carry a team that needs a lift.  
There are other factors that may lead to a breakout game by the Sox. Red Sox hitters aren't accustomed to long losing streaks, and the mix of veterans and young players should lend to a hitters' delight tonight. It's also the Cleveland Indians; this isn't to say that the Indians aren't a good team, it's just to state the obvious that they aren't on the same level as the Sox. They can certainly beat the Sox on any given night, but I'd be willing to bet that out of 100 games, the Sox would win 95 of them with current lineups. This isn't the Indians team of the early nineties when Manny roamed their outfield, and Bartolo Colon aced a staff that annually made them contenders. This is a team working with some young talented players to rebuild.
Josh Beckett will undoubtedly get these young and veteran free-swingers to flail hopelessly at his pitches. He worked on some mechanical issues in the spring, and showed some comfort in his last outing of the spring when he pitched five innings allowing only one hit. Those mechanics are starting to feel more like second nature to him, hopefully that means great things for the Red Sox. They certainly need a shot in the arm at this early juncture in the season. Hopefully one of the most clutch pitchers in recent memory can prove that he's just the guy to give the ball to.
Posted on: April 4, 2011 7:45 pm
 

Are the Red Sox in Trouble?

The Red Sox got swept in a three-game series against the Rangers to start this season. Sure the Rangers are a very good team; they were in the World Series last year, but are they that good? Or are the Red Sox just stinking up the joint to start the season? Nothing has gone particularly well for the Sox.
The hitters aren't firing on all cylinders, though some normally slow starters are showing some very nice early signs of life for the first time in a few seasons--David Ortiz are you listening? Thank you for hitting this April. Carl Crawford is being moved down in the batting order to seventh to take the pressure of the guy. He's apparently trying too hard. Woudln't you be trying super hard after signing a 9-figure deal in the offseason to play for one of the most storied franchises in baseball history? I'm not a fan of moving a guy down after three games. It's too small of a sample size to lower his confidence even more. Can you imagine the conversation in Tito's office: Carl, we're moving you down in the order to try to get you out of this funk that you're in. We think you're trying too hard. Carl sulks away from the office thinking he's the third-worst hitter in the Sox lineup; he's only better than Saltalamacchia and Scooter. If his confidence was waivering before, just think how it is now. Tito just pushed him off the ledge! Thank goodness Crawford is the professional that he is. He was able to understand that it was not a blow to the confidence the team has in him, but only a way to allow him some time to work out the kinks. He bounced back nicely with a couple of hits in his first game batting out of the seven hole. Crawford will be fine, and his stats will adjust as the year goes on, as will his confidence. I'm sure Francona will put him back at the front of the lineup once he shows signs of life.
 
 
 
 
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