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- The Final:
Well Sox fans there really isn't much there in tonight's match-up with the Jays to hang your heads about. Always the optimist; "The Curse" has been busted up and brushed away for years now. The box score showed a single run deficit at the end and there are things that worked well for the club and others that need fine tuning. Lets discuss.
- What's Hot: Clay started tonight after the Red Sox had two days of the regular season off. The point? He threw quality innings and Lackey was pushed back. Five innings of scoreless ball for Clay working himself out of jams a few times in those innings. The bullpen worked a number of pitchers into the game that recorded key outs.
- What's Not: Bases on balls were an issue. The cold weather made it a challenge to work secondary pitches for strike outs in pitchers counts. Of the bullpen performances Jenks lacked all command of the strike zone which is uncharacteristic and unfortunate in regard to it costing the club four key runs. If you scratch that inning from the score card we win but you cannot.
- What's Hot: The third inning quickly became electric when Pedroia hit a long ball, Gonzalez drew a walk and Youkilis went yard, in that order. The pseudo-rally in the eighth gave hope for all by making it a winnable game going into the ninth. Sparked by back to back walks by Youkilis and Ortiz and taken up a notch by a solid pinch hit single by Lowery. Scutaro would double that next at bat proving good things do come in bunches.
- What's Not: Hit less innings in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings was most bothersome. The tale of this season's tape; LOB or left on base which tonight totaled a half dozen. This will stop when the bats start to work in succession. The clincher was the one, two, three hitters going down in row starting the ninth while trailing by a single run.
- What's Hot: Most of the position players and consistently at that. Ellsbury's ability to run down everything that funnels towards that deep center field.
- What's Not: Scutaro's tendency to be out of position on singles hit to the left portion of the infield and yes I understand he is usually trying to get lead runners at second in those instances. My point... play the ball, record the out and move on. Crawford seems to be struggling playing balls off "The Monster" and that is leading to extra bags every time Ellsbury is not there to back him up.
- Fenway Park:
- What's Hot: "The Faithfuls" out in droves late into the evening on a game that looked out of reach until the eighth inning
- What's Not: The seasonably cold weather effecting, in my opinion, the quality of ball games.
- Here's the bottom line from where I'm standing... two wins or ten wins we are only a few short series into a long season and we have the tools to put a winning season in place and be in the hunt for October. Last I checked we only lost ground the Rays tonight as well with all other AL East teams dropping games too.
- I would first like to thank The Boston Globe for compiling and publishing a list of regional NESN Plus broadcasts for most areas within New England. They made it possible for me to find and sit through what I thought was a good game in the first five innings of baseball. Which brings me to the point of my post game report. Matsuzaka threw a solid game tonight.
- His performance through the first two innings were shaky. He allowed three runs in that period but would serve up "goose eggs" for the next three. I have been critical of this big league pitcher since his post WBC collapse. For right now I will give him some much deserved credit even though he took tonight's loss.
- The one thing Matsuzaka did extremely well tonight after settling down was just that. He settled down. I thought he was getting squeezed to some extent and that cost the club some strike outs. When he allowed himself the ability to challenge hitters he was effective. His velocity was not there which suggested to me he located his pitches at spots. It was a close portrait to the Matsuzaka that I grew to appreciate when he first arrived from Japan.
- It was a one run differential when he was pulled and could have easily been that first win Red Sox Nation is so eagerly anticipating. Tonight's relief performance by Dennys Reyes made me madder than a hornet. Those who saw him walk a batter and hit another also saw him walk the number nine hitter who was simply attempting to move the runners over with a bunt. The potential for that out was not even conceived. That folks resulted in a bases-loaded situation.
- Did it help that Dan Wheeler gave up a big home run? Not in the slightest but that accounted for one run charged to him. The other three belonged to Reyes. Notably, had those runs not gone onto the score card it would have been our game to lose after Gonzalez hit a two run shot. Which would have come down to a nail-biting ending given the long ball given up by "Wake" potentially knotting things up.
- I agree and noticed early on that batters left on base was an issue in this game and would have been "the" issue had it not been for a poor outing early into relief. So it goes there are still a number of issues that need to be hammered out. With one game left with "The Tribe" before the home opener maybe just maybe we can see things fire in succession and pick up a game.
- CRAWFORD AND GONZALEZ: Pressure is pushing down as the Red Sox drop the first four games of the 2011 season. Unlikely, given the buzz created in the off-season by the offensively potent acquisitions of Crawford and Gonzalez. To talk down about them at this point would be jumping the gun but to be entirely disappointed by their inability to make some kind of noise within these four played seems fair. For the sake of the club and the fans that surround them I sincerely hope these two can get something started for their Red Sox careers soon. There are two more games to be played against "The Tribe" and then it's time to "Ship up to Boston" for the season's home-opener against the hated and fierce New York Yankees who are playing ball early. Of course, even if they remain quiet until the home stand and are able to produce and maybe even come to a boil it could be good things going forward. I certainly will not count that out at this juncture for the fact that Crawford and Gonzalez are big game players and once the stage is set for a battle in Boston against New York they might "remember" why they make the big bucks. I admit to my frustration about these guys early but they are high among big league players and yes, that sometimes is coupled with unrealistic expectations. They have a huge opportunity though that should play to their hands. They are in and among a laundry list of all-stars!
- SCRATCH MY BACK AND I'LL SCRATCH YOURS: Quality pitching and run manufacturing would always feed the other in a perfect world. It doesn't always work that way. Pitching hasn't been terrible. The starters have been shaky but the bullpen has been extraordinary with the exception of Bard's outing in the first game against the Rangers. I've been keeping book this season and I've been marking down a good deal of hit less innings. At this point I believe that even if more batters were reaching the hitting is so poor that the number of batters left on base would make most ill. Bats do come around but sometimes the bats are just there and right now they aren't. One thing that might surge towards breaking out of this slump would be better "early on" starts. That's a hard statement not to falter from but I think a few more early scoreless innings might give the batters an Arie of confidence.
- SHOUT OUTS: We're losing games but in every loss a team takes... there are some achievements made on the field! Here is a list of my favorites...
- Ellsbury's first stolen base of the season
- Pedroia's exceptional come back from injury (defensively and offensively)
- Ortiz's first homer of the season
- The bullpen production of Bard, Albers and Jenks
- Youkilis's ability to work the count and get on base
- Drew using the entire ball park for extra bases
- "Salty's" first hit producing an RBI
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