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April 21, 2014

Buck Up

Clay Buchholz started off well enough but unraveled in third inning. Of the eight batters he faced in the frame only Adam Jones didn’t have a hit. But Jones came to bat with runners at the corners and even his fielder’s choice score a run.

Since returning to Fenway Park and calling up Brock Holt the Red Sox offense has improved somewhat, but not enough to overcome a six-run third inning and an extra run tacked on late in the game. The Red Sox rallied in the fifth inning, putting up a three-spot sparked by Xander Bogaerts’s leadoff walk. Jackie Bradley, Jr. drove Bogaerts in with a ground-rule double to right, Brock Holt lofted a sac fly to plate David Ross, and Dustin Pedroia fired a double down the left field line to score Bradley, Jr.

Ross and Mike Napoli homered in the seventh and eighth respectively. The local nine scraped up a run in the ninth with the bases loaded on Napoli’s ground out, but Mike Carp grounded out to Chris Davis for the final out.

Although the Red Sox didn’t win on Patriots’ Day they are showing signs that this home stand is serving them well. On every Marathon Monday the Red Sox will wear home jerseys with “Boston” across the front, not “Red Sox.”

“New Girl”? Really, Brock? I guess the old-fashioned knickers make up for that. Also, he has Dot and the People’s Republic of Cambridge represented.

Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. He wrote the names of the marathon bombings in the corners of his bib. I was proud of him, but even if an American didn’t win I’d still be inspired. Today’s race went on despite the attack and there were no major incidents.

As a wise man once said, “Nobody is going to dictate our freedom.”

Game 20: April 21, 2014
WinBaltimore Orioles
7 W: Wei-Yin Chen (3-1)
H: Ryan Webb (1), Zach Britton (3), Darren O’Day (1), Brian Matusz (3)
S: Tommy Hunter (5)
2B: Steve Clevenger (2)
Boston Red Sox
6 L: Clay Buchholz (0-2)
2B: Jackie Bradley Jr. (4), Dustin Pedroia – 2 (8)
HR: David Ross (1), Mike Napoli (4)

Boston Stronger

On the eve of Patriots’ Day the Red Sox held a ceremony for the Boston Marathon. Families of the victims, survivors, and first responders gathered while a bagpipe orchestra played. Canvases from 50 states paying tribute to the marathon ringed the field.

By the afternoon one Boston team was celebrating. The Bruins won the second game of the first round of the playoffs against Detroit 4-1. Justin Florek, Reilly Smith, Milan Lucic, and Zdeno Chara scored goals while Jarome Iginla and Torey Krug had two assists each. In a reversal of David against Goliath, Brendan Smith tried to start a fight with Chara at the end of the first period. Referees intervened, not wanting to see more red on the Detroit player’s uniform.

If the Red Sox were to be victorious they would have to overcome an early deficit. Jake Peavy was roughed up in the first inning to the tune of a Nelson Cruz home run, a free pass to Chris Davis, consecutive singles to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, and a sac fly for J.J. Hardy. Baltimore scored runs in the fifth and sixth. Jones’s line drive RBI single to Jonny Gomes in left field knocked Peavy out of the game.

No one more than Gomes illustrates the connection between the Red Sox and the community. It was fitting that his three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth breathed life back into Fenway Park.

Another life line was extended to the local nine in a surprising way. The season thus far has frustrated John Farrell’s attempts to make sense of the new rules and replay system. But his squad benefitted from the transfer rule.

In Official Rules: 2.00 Definition of Terms, the following defines a catch:

A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.

In the seventh Brock Holt came in hard at Ryan Flaherty at second base. Grady Sizemore had tapped the ball to Zach Britton, who pivoted and fired to Flaherty. Paul Schrieber ruled that Flaherty didn’t hold the ball long enough. Holt was safe at second when Flaherty dropped the ball on the transfer, and Sizemore was safe at first.

Middle infielders used to have the benefit of the neighborhood play where they didn’t have to stay on the keystone sack to get the first out of a double play. Now they have to prove “secure possession,” holding “the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.” Buck Showalter came out to discuss the ruling but didn’t challenge the call. The Red Sox tied the game in the seventh inning with an RBI single off David Ortiz’s bat and Jonathan Schoop’s throwing error.

Pedroia was determined to break the tie when his turn came up in the ninth inning. He missed a home run by inches. A few enthusiastic fans in the Monster seats reached into the field of play and he had to be satisfied with a ground-rule double.

Along with Farrell’s failed challenges another recurring theme is close-up views of Napoli in agony. Here he is seconds before a pitch ricocheted off his left kneecap. The first baseman writhed in pain for a few moments but, Napoli being Napoli, he recovered quickly. After running up and down the first base line a few times to test his knee he stayed in the game.

Mike Carp pinch hit for Gomes after Napoli’s at bat. With the bases loaded he made solid contact, sending a liner to shallow left field. David Lough caught the ball but failed to throw it in the general vicinity of Wieters. Pedroia resembled Jeff Suppan on the basepaths for a second but finally dashed home for the winning run.

Boston strong, indeed.

Game 19: April 20, 2014
Baltimore Orioles
5 H: Zach Britton (2)
BS: Evan Meek (1)
L: Brian Matusz (1-1)
2B: David Lough (1), Ryan Flaherty (3), Adam Jones (4)
WinBoston Red Sox
6 W: Edward Mujica (1-1)
2B: Jonny Gomes (2), Dustin Pedroia (6)
HR: Gomes (2)

April 20, 2014

A Pitch of Orioles

With the score tied 2-2 in the seventh and Mike Carp at first base on a base on balls David Ross stepped into the box. Ross took issue with Bud Norris throwing up high. A guy who has had multiple concussions might be sensitive about such things. Ross was so concerned about injuring his brain further he experimented with an old-fashioned mask with shock absorbers and has worn an UNCAP, made of military-grade composite, underneath his gear.

So it’s not surprising that Ross jawed at Norris to make an adjustment in his throwing. Matt Wieters did his job as a catcher and interceded. As the situation escalated the benches cleared, but unlike prior dustups against the Orioles this fracas didn’t come to blows or suspensions.

I thought that “a quarrel of orioles” would be an outstanding collective noun, but apparently sparrows have plucked that word as their own. This site suggests “a pitch,” but I think “a riffraff of orioles” has a ring to it.

Mike Napoli missed just one game due to his dislocated finger. This glove should come with an embroidered reminder: “DO NOT SLIDE HEADFIRST.”

When Brock Holt isn’t busy helping old ladies across the street he’s helping his team win baseball games. Ross ended up striking out after the melee but Holt kept the line moving. Holt powered the ball to the bullpen wall and tripled in Carp for the lead. He then scored on Jonathan Herrera’s safety squeeze.

Buck Showalter challenged in the sixth where Nelson Cruz was called out at first with Adam Jones running home and Chris Davis advancing from first to second. Replays showed that Cruz was safe so the score was knotted 2-2. Had Davis kept on running, a tactic which Joe Maddon has drilled into his team, he may have been awarded third base. Wieters reached on a throwing error by Holt in the very next at bat, which could have given Baltimore the lead. It’s a good thing Showalter isn’t as much of a genius as Maddon.

Game 18: April 19, 2014
Baltimore Orioles
2 L: Bud Norris (0-2)
2B: Adam Jones (3)
WinBoston Red Sox
4 W: Junichi Tazawa (1-0)
S: Koji Uehara (4)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (5)
3B: Brock Holt (1)
HR: David Ortiz (3)

April 19, 2014

Goofus & Gallant

On the very first pitch of the game Nick Markakis laced the ball to left field. Third base umpire Will Little ruled the ball fair. Multiple replays showed that the ball was foul. John Farrell challenged the call

Goofus umpiring crew in MLB headquarters upheld the call and Markakis tallied a double.

In the eighth inning Brock Holt knocked the ball to Steve Lombardozzi. First base umpire Mark Carlson called Holt out. Replays showed that Holt got to the first base bag a split second before the ball reached Chris Davis’s glove.

Gallant umpiring crew in MLB headquarters overruled Carlson’s call and Holt was safe at first.

Goofuses on the Red Sox side were John Lackey (5⅓ innings pitched, 6 earned runs, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts) and the Red Sox lineup with runners in scoring position (5-for-15).

Game 17: April 18, 2014
WinBaltimore Orioles
8 W: Chris Tillman (2-1)
H: Brian Matusz (2)
S: Darren O’Day (1)
2B: Nick Markakis – 2 (3), Jonathan Schoop – 2 (6)
Boston Red Sox
4 L: John Lackey (2-2)
2B: Mike Carp (2), Daniel Nava (3), Mike Napoli (3)

April 18, 2014

Glove for Sale, (Nothing But) Flowers

Chris Sales’s perfect game would have ended abruptly with just two down in the first inning were it not for Adam Eaton’s glove. Eaton’s leaping catch of David Ortiz’s line drive shot just above the center field fence was reminiscent of Mike Trout or, if you prefer to go old school, Andruw Jones. Even Ortiz gazed on in admiration.

From that point Sale only allowed two baserunners: David Ross walked in the second and Xander Bogaerts was hit by a pitch in the fourth. Perhaps Bogaerts took the plunking personally as he delivered the end of the no-hitter via air mail with two down in the sixth. Alejandro De Aza had no chance to snare Bogaerts’s blast to left field.

Jon Lester carried a perfect game into the sixth. Once again Bogaerts was pivotal to the play as Tyler Flowers sent a single just out of reach past the shortstop. Leury Garcia proved a better hitter than reliever and laced a ground-rule double to right. Eaton, hero of the first inning, tapped the ball through Mike Napoli’s dive but it was seized by Dustin Pedroia. Lester couldn’t beat Eaton to the bag and the score was tied 1-1.

In the seventh Chicago’s third base coach Joe McEwing sent Adam Dunn from first all the way home on De Aza’s double to the right field wall. Daniel Nava took a while herding the ball in the corner so he had to hit his cutoff man perfectly. Pedroia got the ball home on two bounces, requiring Ross to pick it before tagging Dunn. Dunn was done, and McEwing might be as well.

The Red Sox didn’t need to face an infielder to score runs late in the game. In the ninth Ross doubled in the Mikes, Napoli and Carp, who both singled off Ronald Belisario. Pinch-hitting Carp finally worked this season. President Obama said, “May the best Sox win!” Perhaps they did.

You can own your own animal print bathrobe courtesy of Kimpton Hotels. That giraffe robe looks rather fetching.

Game 16: April 17, 2014
WinBoston Red Sox
3 W: Jon Lester (2-2)
S: Koji Uehara (3)
2B: David Ross (2)
HR: Xander Bogaerts
Chicago White Sox
1 L: Ronald Belisario (1-2)
2B: Leury Garcia (2), Alejandro De Aza (2)

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