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Entries from Empyreal Environs tagged with “Varitek”

Thanks Tek

On a day that Jason Varitek was honored for his 15 years of service Jarrod Saltalamacchia came through with a three-run home run into the visitors’ bullpen. The Blue Jays battled to tie the game in the sixth and took the lead for good in the seventh. Boston’s sputtering offense was 1-for-6 when runners were in scoring position. The best memories of yesterday were of the ceremony for Varitek. He threw the ceremonial first pitch to Tim Wakefield. Varitek didn’t just celebrate with his Red Sox family but with his own family, too. The burly backstop didn’t break down until his daughters read their speeches. They thanked him for braiding their hair, road trips, and and being a great dad. In his booth interview Varitek seemed to send strong signals that he he wanted to keep in touch with the game and the organization. There have been a number of strong field managers that were former catchers, so Varitek entertaining thoughts about managing a team are realistic. But even if he doesn’t return as a coach or manager, we’ll never forget the two World Championships, the four no-hitters, the three All-Star appearances, the 2005 Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, and...

Take Three

Five, four, three. It’s the most common type of triple play according to SABR (although this particular page hasn’t been updated since August 2009). A play that took seconds was 17 years in the making. John Valentin’s unassisted triple play on July 8, 1994 was by far rarer than Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez’s effort. The replay of the shortstop’s feat shows that people, including his own teammates, didn’t quite seem to realize that they had witnessed the turning of just the 10th unassisted triple play. But the flawless coordination around the horn by the trio of infielders to end the top of the fourth was like Vaslav Nijinsky, Fred Astaire, and Bob Fosse on stage. Game 121: August 16, 2011 Tampa Bay Rays65-56 6 W: Jeff Niemann (8-4)2B: Johnny Damon (20)HR: Desmond Jennings (5) Boston Red Sox74-47 2 L: Erik Bedard (4-8) HR: Jason Varitek (8), Jacoby Ellsbury (22)...

Not Jaking It

Had Josh Beckett the run support that Red Sox batters usually lavish upon their starters he would have joined Jon Lester with double-digits in wins. He surrendered two solo home runs to two rookie infielders: Jason Kipnis in the first and Lonnie Chisenhall in the fourth. The Red Sox notched their first run in a unique fashion: with the bases loaded and none out in the second Jason Varitek swung at curve ball in the dirt. It was so deceptive that Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana failed to glove it. As it ricocheted to the visitors’ on-deck circle David Ortiz crossed the plate to tie the game 1-1. Kevin Youkilis tied the game 2-2 in a more conventional fashion in the sixth. His leadoff homer had a chance to reach Lansdowne Street on the fly but it caromed off the Sports Authority sign. The game threatened to trickle into extra innings, a seemingly common occurrence this season when the first pitch is delayed by rain. As the innings dwindled Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy finagled jackets from the Yawkey Way Store emblazoned with the logo for the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. Youkilis was ejected by Gerry Davis in the eighth...

Houston Homecoming

While there was much consternation about Adrian Gonzalez playing in the outfield to get David Ortiz at bats during interleague, the thing I find far more troubling is a pitcher on the basepaths. Josh Beckett reached on a bunt in the third inning and proceeded from first to third with Jacoby Ellsbury’s single to center. I held my breath expecting a ruptured hamstring or pulled groin. Dustin Pedroia walked to load the bases and Gonzalez flied out to center to end both the scoring threat and the risk to Beckett’s body. It is amusing to watch Fausto Carmona lumber down the first base line and trip over the sack, but such a scene could easily be recast with any American League pitcher unused to baserunning. Carmona will miss at least one start because of the mishap. The first score of the game came in the fourth inning. Kevin Youkilis led off with a rope to center. J.D. Drew followed up with a base on balls. Josh Reddick sported the Trot Nixon pine tar helmet look and also echoed the former outfielder’s proclivity for chasing offspeed pitches to strike out. Yamaico Navarro’s bloop single to shallow to right loaded the bases....

Fateful CaraCole

Sometimes it’s just not your day. Cole Hamels had a bandage on his chin, perhaps from his morning shave or maybe he tussled with a particularly aggressive pimple. Things seemed to turn around when he effortlessly snared Marco Scutaro’s comebacker for the first out of the third. But in the next inning a hot shot off Adrian Gonzalez’s knocked off Hamels’s glove and then knocked the Phillies’ starter off the mound. With Hamels out of the game getting his hand x-rayed the Red Sox made hay. Long reliever David Herndon gave up a triple to Josh Reddick with one down in the fifth and the replacement outfielder scored easily on Drew Sutton’s ground ball single to right. Scutaro singled and advanced Sutton to third. With runners at the corners and one out Jon Lester didn’t pull a John Lackey in the batter’s box but neither did he strike out. The lineup turned over to Jacoby Ellsbury, who sent a wormburner to the opposite field to plate Sutton. Jason Varitek clouted home runs in the sixth and eighth, but since Dustin Pedroia also hit a four-bagger it was the second baseman’s hit that was most people heard about. Particularly because it...

To Morrow and to-morrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! More like out, out, baseballs. Jason Varitek continued to produce in his part-time role by going 2-for-3 with a home run, four runs batted in, and two walks. David Ortiz benefited from his long talks with fellow southpaw Adrian Gonzalez and jolted his 16th longball of the season. His three-run homer in the fifth inning capped off a seven-run onslaught. If only the 16 runs could be converted into goals somehow to help the Red Sox’s cross-town neighbors on Monday night at the Garden for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Jerry Remy chided Roberto Luongo for the goalie’s comments on Tim Thomas. “It’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,’’ said Luongo about Thomas. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does that’s going to happen.” That’s like Derek Jeter saying something like, “If Gonzalez hit less fly balls like me he wouldn’t get as many fly ball outs as he does.” The only reason that Jeter...

Humber Pie

You could say Ozzie Guillen’s offense was “CliCing” on all cylinders. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy spent as much time commenting on Guillen’s reading glasses as the White Sox did scoring. After two outstanding starts Alfredo Aceves came crashing down to earth like Jed Lowrie tumbling after batted balls before they slip into the outfield. Lowrie missed last night’s game because of an ailing shoulder from his collision with Carl Crawford in Detroit. Kevin Youkilis almost took out Lowrie in the top of the ninth on A.J. Pierzynski’s pop out, but he’s no Adrian Beltre. Lowrie led off the bottom of the ninth with a five-pitch walk and sparked a mini-rally. Jason Varitek queued a single off Alexei Ramirez’s glove and the deflection allowed Lowrie to advance to third. Josh Reddick anxiously swung at the first pitch but his fly ball was deep enough in left for Lowrie to tag up for a run. Drew Sutton lofted a fly ball to right that was either a home run or fan interference depending on the camera angle. The officials, like Brent Lillibridge, let the chips fall where they may for an RBI double. Adrian Gonzalez struck out looking to end the...

From Blackout to Blank Out

The 50-minute delay did little to dull Justin Verlander’s skills. Although Jacoby Ellsbury quickly dismissed the notion that Verlander would get a second no-hitter with a line drive single to start the game the Red Sox batters mustered just one extra base hit (a double by Jason Varitek off Verlander in the sixth) against the Tigers staff. Just ten days prior to last night’s contest the Tigers ace held the Red Sox to three runs over eight innings only to have his team lose in the bottom of ninth. Last night Verlander triumphed in his rematch against Josh Beckett. This game was on the verge of being blacked out due to MLB’s blackout rules, which state that “each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In addition, in the event of circumstances that produce a programming conflict or change in schedule, the above blackout windows may be subject to change.” Credit should be given to ESPN, who waived its Sunday exclusivity so that NESN and Fox Sports Detroit could broadcast the game to the teams’ fans. Jim Leyland tapped...

Easy Keel

When Rich Hill punched out Jack Hannahan to end the seventh the camera lingered on an impassioned Josh Beckett. That was a moment that needed Dennis Eckersley’s lip-reading skills. Beckett had yet to win in Cleveland and Rob Drake’s called third strike brought him six outs closer to his first victory in the Forest City. In the top of the seventh Beckett’s battery mate lined a two-run homer, Jason Varitek’s first of the season, into the right field stands. That four-bagger came as a surprise from the weathered veteran, as did him throwing out two runners at second. This is the type of near stress-free win I could get used to. One anxious moment didn’t arise from the battle of wills between pitcher and hitter but rather between two outfielders. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford were both running full bore calling each other off of Michael Brantley’s fly ball to shallow left-center. The ball ended up in Crawford’s glove for the second out of the eighth and my heart ended up in my mouth. Brantley was part of the package Mark Shapiro received for CC (then known as C.C.) Sabathia from the Brewers. Brantley was the player to be named...

DFA (Dennys Reyes for Assignment)

I’m not so much concerned than I am disappointed. On paper this should be the best team in baseball, like how the Dream Team was assembled for the 1992 Olympics. Instead, the 2011 version of the Red Sox have played out like the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, who were supposed to be juggernauts of the NBA. Coincidentally, James purchased a minority stake of John W. Henry’s Liverpool Football Club today. The basketball superstar grew up a fan of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bulls. Apparently the Glazer brothers weren’t shopping shares of Manchester United. Jason Varitek made his first start of the season and over the course of the game it was clear he had not completely shaken free of the off-season rust. Dennys Reyes rolled onto the mound in the sixth and loaded the bases faster than he loads up at the post-game spread. The rotund reliever hit two batters and walked a third. Of the dozen pitches Reyes hurled only one was a strike. Terry Francona yanked him in favor of Dan Wheeler. Wheeler induced a liner off Michael Brantley’s bat into Kevin Youkilis’s glove. Youkilis dropped the ball and third base umpire Dan Iassogna...

There’s No Place Like Home

The Yankees were denied the American League East championship with their 8-4 loss before the Rays’ comeback victory against the Royals. They won’t have home field throughout the playoffs and will face the Minnesota Twins in the American League Divisional Series. Yankee Stadium is second in the league for runs scored park factor 1.182 compared to Target Field’s 0.970. Southpaws won’t have the short porch to pad their home run statistics; in fact, Homophobia Field’s (Target donated $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, a political action committee that supports anti-gay marriage Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer) home run park factor of 0.638 is last in the league while Nouveau Stade Fasciste is third with 1.440. I should be careful about how vociferously I broadcast my hopes for a quick exit by the Yankees. I might find myself stabbed in the neck like Monte Friere, a Red Sox fan from Nashua, New Hampshire who was attacked by John Mayor, a Yankee fan from New Haven. While Mayor is sitting in the clink waiting for someone to bail him out for $500,000, he should unwind with some quality television programming. On Tuesday evening at 8 PM ESPN will present the next installment of the...

Eight is Enough

Josh Kantor, Fenway’s organist, has added “And She Was” by the Talking Heads to his repertoire since I last visited. He played “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees; I would pay extra to hear him play “Everyday is Like Sunday” by the Smiths. One of my favorites and I think his too is “Day After Day” by Badfinger. It always reminds me of the NBA commercial about Kevin Garnett’s trade to the Celtics. At random times throughout the game a “Beat L.A.!” chant would erupt in the stands. I hadn’t been to Fenway yet in 2010, so I checked out the renovations. The new concession space behind home plate is a tremendous addition. I don’t think the new bathrooms downstairs from the concourse behind home plate are ideal, but I like how the bridge to get to them has a television as well as a view of the ground floor concourse and one of the exits. If the 2012 All-Star game isn’t held at Fenway it will be Bud Selig’s greatest failure since turning a blind eye to steroids. I tried a chicken burrito from the third base deck, one of the new concession stand offerings. It was surprisingly well...

A Memorable Day

Along with the Stars and Stripes the New Hampshire flag flew above Fenway. A plaque near the third base deck describing the significance of the bridge between Fenway and the Jeano Building. The new concession stands behind home plate....


Kevin Millar’s NESN debut started with a raucous jaunt down memory lane. He ran down the Yankees’ 2004 roster to Boston’s and at nearly every position the Bronxers had their Hub counterparts outmatched. The chunky slugger’s highlights (think home runs, not foiling) were spliced with his immortal rally karaoke video set to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” The montage closed with, of course, his leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera in Game 4. While Millar’s name is out of place with Hall of Famers like Dennis Eckersley, Peter Gammons, and Jim Rice, his jocular presence will lighten the show and be a constant reminder of one of the most-loved teams in Boston sports history. It was the leadoff walk that plagued Daisuke Matsuzaka. Three times out of five the starter allowed the first baserunner to reach on a base on balls. In the fifth Matsuzaka lost all semblance of control, walking five batters (one with the bases loaded to plate a run) and uncorking a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. Of the three runs the Royals scored off Matsuzaka, only one came on a hit. The disappointing start was reminiscent of...

Take These Broken Wings

And learn to flutter up the AL East standings over the molting Blue Jays. Toronto shed their early winning plumage in favor of the subdued hues of mediocrity they sport when playing the Red Sox. The Blue Jays have yet to defeat Boston this season but have been doing so well against the rest of the league that they remain a half a game ahead of the Red Sox in the standings. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched like the phenom he was promised to be when John W. Henry placed the highest posting fee ever for a Nippon Professional Baseball player. The starter struck out nine, walked none, gave up three hits, and gave up a single run over seven innings. Even Matsuzaka’s most vocal critic Jerry Remy admitted he enjoyed the starter’s improved, aggressive approach to batters. Blue Jays starter Dana Eveland carried on the tradition established by Brandon Morrow and walked more batters than he struck out. In the second inning Jason Varitek hit the sole home run off Eveland; playing part-time may have been difficult for the catcher to accept but the role has benefited him and his team immensely. Darnell McDonald had a smashing debut but has cooled...

For the Birds

Yesterday’s home run derby at Camden Yards was only carried forward to today’s game by Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew. Their two solo shots were the only runs the Red Sox managed as the team went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Josh Beckett snapped out of his April funk with one of his best starts of the season: 7 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks, and 6 strikeouts. It was a welcome change from Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield’s almost criminal performance the night before. Indeed, in one dugout shot from a NESN camera Matsuzaka was sitting next to a uniformed police officer. Other individuals who could be found guilty of malfeasance: With runners in scoring position, David Ortiz has a .136 batting average, .175 on-base percentage, and .182 slugging.Similarly, Victor Martinez has poor numbers with runners in scoring position: .211, .318, .368. Not the percentages a manager would like from the three-hole.Drew isn’t doing as badly as Ortiz or Martinez with runners in scoring position (.267, .350, .733), but he is only batting .214 and his OBP is a paltry .306.Hideki Okajima is sporting a hefty 2.13 WHIP and has just 5 strikeouts compared to...

Pretty Ugly

Win is a win is a win is a win. Even if it is a brutal back-and-forth affair that forced Terry Francona and Cito Gaston to all but empty their bullpens. Attendance at the Rogers Centre is so sparse that there were more pitchers tonight than fans in the stands. Who can blame anyone that stayed away from this 25-run bout? Jason Varitek batted righty with the bases loaded in the third and lined a single up the middle to plate two runs, giving his personal pitcher Josh Beckett a 3-0 lead. In the very next inning the Red Sox backstop switched his batting stance but again had ducks on the pond. Bill Murray-like, Varitek lined a single to Vernon Wells and rendered the score 8-6. For some relief from Beckett’s pitching I switched to the Bruins game as he was pulled in the fourth. I turned just in time to see David Krejci’s score his second goal of the game and lingered just long enough to witness Nathan Gerbe counter with a Sabres goal just 22 seconds later. The teams turned the domed edifice into a kids’ playground with the merry-go-round of relievers and the see-saw of the score,...

Taking Flight

The Red Sox bashed their way to another victory last night with three home runs. I think it has less to do with a sudden offensive resurgence but rather the fact that Orioles relievers couldn’t throw a strike past Helen Keller. Matt “Accelerant” Albers took the mound in the seventh, inheriting first and third with none out from starter Brian Matusz. Albers avoided pinch hitter David Ortiz’s bat when the slugger curiously laid off a fat fastball. Jeremy Hermida managed to swipe second on the strikeout, avoiding the double play. Marco Scutaro rendered the number of outs irrelevant, cleaning out a fastball inside for a three-run homer. A visit to the mound didn’t improve the visitors’ situation; Albers proceeded to surrender a double to Dustin Pedroia and walk Victor Martinez. Kam “Methanol” Mickolio took over and did his best Albers impersonation, serving an inside meatball that Kevin Youkilis launched into the Monster seats for a four-run lead. The local nine would need every one of those runs as Ramon Ramirez allowed Adam Jones to homer and Nick Markakis to double in the ninth. Jonathan “Pyrophoric” Papelbon toed the rubber and the next three Orioles singled to pull their team to...

Delayed Delivery

The last thing Tim Bogar wanted was his name to be uttered in the same breath as Wendell Kim and Dale Sveum. With the score knotted at one run a piece in the bottom of the sixth, Kevin Youkilis on first, no outs, and the crowd feverishly chanting “Papi,” Bogar sent his first baseman home on David Ortiz’s ringing double down the left field line. Return to sender, address unknown. No such number, no such zone. Fortunately other deliveries went well. Josh Beckett has steadily improved since his season-opening clunker, turning in a sparking 7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 base on balls, and 8 strikeouts. Jonathan Papelbon not only pitched a near-perfect ninth before the game was suspended (only allowing a single runner to reach on a walk), but he and his wife Ashley welcomed their second child (Gunner Robert weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 21 inches, or a tad bigger than Mike Cameron’s kidney stone must have felt). Ortiz led off the ninth tonight and the chants returned. He nearly won the game with a fly ball to the right that had the distance but was pulled foul. In the eleventh he took...

Fountains of Pain

Kauffman Stadium is an aesthetic delight: the upper deck is an elegant crescent, the stadium lights are a dainty diadem, and the outfield fountains mirror its home city’s sobriquet: the City of Fountains. It was all the more stunning with Red Sox batters launching home runs into its stands. Five fans now have horsehide souvenirs, two of them particularly rare as they were hit off Zack Greinke. For the first time this season Terry Francona retooled the lineup, figuring that hardly anyone has success against Greinke so he might as well start anyone. Victor Martinez slotted in as designated hitter, Mike Lowell manned the hot corner, Jeremy Hermida fielded left, Jacoby Ellsbury slid over to center, and Jason Varitek took over as backstop. The newly active players seized the opportunity and ran with it. For Hermida and Varitek that meant running all the way to home plate — twice for the catcher. Lowell wasn’t as productive at the plate (1-for-4) but played his position well. The Red Sox bench players would likely be starters in other cities. Conventional wisdom says that a deep bench is a luxury, but for a team in the American League East whose ultimate goal is...


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