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Royals ace Zack Grienke was magnificent against the Red Sox Tuesday night, tossing six shutout innings to earn his 15th win of the season. The righthander is now 3-0 with a 0.26 ERA in his last five starts, and in the process he lowered his ERA to 2.08 and increased the likelihood of earning his first Cy Young award.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are still in good shape for the playoffs with a seven-game lead with 12 games to go. They had a chance at catching Yankees, but two straight losses to the Royals have dropped them six games back, with a series in New York looming this weekend. Read Dan’s live blog below for more…
Last night, the Red Sox lost a game where the opposing starter was Lenny Dinardo. Lenny Dinardo! Who are we facing tonight, Vaughn Eshelman? Frank Castillo? Bruce Chen? (Ha-ha, Bruce Chen. Remember him? I wonder what that guy is up to these days?)
No, tonight we face obvious Cy Young favorite Zack Greinke. Having to face Greinke instead of some of the Royals other starters is like having the chamber stop on the only bullet in a game of Russian Roulette.
Blowing the 8-2 lead last night was excruciating enough, but to follow that up with this pitching matchup makes it even worse. Greinke is 14-8 (a terrific record pitching for the horrible Royals) with a league-leading 2.14 ERA. And despite their overall suckage, KC has been playing very well as of late: 11-3 so far in September. Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Paul Byrd has gone 0-1, 8.53 in three September starts.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, 1B
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. David Ortiz, DH
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. J.D. Drew, RF
8. Jason Varitek, C
9. Alex Gonzalez, SS
Paul Byrd, 1-1, 5.79
1. D. DeJesus, LF
2. M. Maier, CF
3. B. Butler, 1B
4. M. Jacobs, DH
5. Callaspo, 2B
6. Teahen, RF
7. M. Olivo, C
8. A. Gordon, 3B
9. Y. Betancourt, SS
Zack Greinke, 14-8, 2.14
Speaking of that horrendous loss last night, we can only hope that it doesn’t lead to another 3-week spiral, like the time the Red Sox blew the 10-1 lead to the Orioles.
You know, there have been some truly horrible losses this year, and it seems like I have Live Blogged most of them, from the aforementioned Orioles debacle, to the time the Yankees slaughtered Brad Penny and Co. for 20 runs, to the rain delay ripoff against the Marlins. Let’s not add tonight’s game to that ignominious list, okay?
Ellsbury steps in against Zack Cranky, and takes strike one. Greinke misses with one, then induces Ellsbury to roll out easily to Callaspo for the first out.
While Orsilo and Sean Casey effusively praise him on the NESN broadcast, Greinke falls behind Pedroia 3-0. Greinke throws a Gentleman’s Called Strike, then Pedroia belts a shot to deep right that one-hops the wall for a double.
He quickly flies out to left for the second out, bringing up Youkilis. On a 2-2 count, Greinke pours in a 98-mph fastball that Youkilis just fouls off. The next pitch is a nasty curve in the dirt that Youkilis can’t help but chase, whiffing for the third out. 0-0 in the first.
Paul Byrd takes the hill for Boston, wearing his socks high and doing his old-timey windup. David DeJesus immediately rips a one-hopper past Alex Gonzalez at short for a base hit.
Mitch Maier is next, and the Royals start the runner on a hit and run. And Maier hits, a sharp grounder past a diving Pedroia, and DeJesus runs, scooting all the way to third on the single. After about 4 pitches, Byrd is already in trouble.
Byrd, looking about 67 years old tonight, falls behind 3-0 to Billy Butler, and then walks him on the fourth pitch. Yikes.
Mike Jacobs is up with the bases loaded and no one out. Usually, all Greinke needs for a win is two or possibly three runs. So this already is a big at-bat.
Byrd misses with the first two to Jacobs. Make that three straight balls. Make it four straight balls, as Byrd walks Jacobs to force in the run on a close pitch. Many Sox fans were predicting a sweep of this series. Still could happen, but not the way they expected.
Alberto Kyasspo is next. He rips a single to right to score another run. The runner holds third, so the bases are loaded with no one out for Mark Teahen. He hits a bounding ball to second, and Pedroia’s only play is to throw to first to finally get an out. But another run crosses the plate.
Miguel Olivo hits a pop fly to shallow left. Bay grabs it, and Jacobs has to hold third. Byrd has a chance to get out of this with the Red Sox still barely in the game, if he can get an out here.
But he can’t. Commissioner Gordon hits a little flare to shallow left that falls between Gonzalez and Bay, and suddenly it’s 5-0 Royales, with Zach Greinke on the mound. Wow, this got horrendous so quickly.
The worst player in baseball, Yuniesky Betancourt, is up, as the Royals have batted around. Betancourt pops out to Pedroia to finally end the inning. KC has scored almost as many runs in the first inning tonight as they scored in all of July. 5-0 Royals after 1.
Some guy with a .326 OBP who looks just like David Ortiz leads off for the Sox, and hits a weak popout to Betancourt. On the next pitch, Jason Bay grounds out to Kyasspo.
Greinke so far tonight is featuring a fastball that arrives anywhere from 93 to 98 mph on the NESN gun, mixed in with a darting curve, a tailing slider in the high 80′s, and a change in the 80′s. JD Drew is next, and he quickly flies out to right field, as the Royals continue to kick the Red Sox butts all over Kaufman Stadium. 0-5 Royals in the 2nd.
David DeJesus will lead off this inning, as he will apparently do every inning tonight. He flies out to left on the first pitch.
In a taped interview with Baseball Annie, Sox pitching coach John Farrell says that Byrd has had some “mechanical issues” lately. It’s probably the ball bearings. It’s all ball bearings nowadays. You need to prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads.
Mitch Maier hits a flyball to fairly deep center, but Ellsbury has it easily for the second out. Billy Butler follows by hitting a chopper to Youkilis at third, who fields it and throws him out at first. So Byrd gets the top of the order in a quick 1-2-3 inning near the start of the game. Too bad it’s the second inning, because he threw batting practice in the first inning. 5-0 KC after 2.
Weak-hitting catcher Jason Varitek leads off the third by hitting a little squibber that Alex Gordon ranges over to grab. Gordon nonchalantly blows his bubblegum while easily throwing Varitek out at first. Seriously, he blew a bubble in the middle of making a running play. At least he’s playing relaxed out there.
Grienke blows away the overmatched Alex Gonzalez on a series of mid-90′s fastballs for the second out.
Ellsbury falls behind 0-2, then skies routinely to Maier for the third out. That inning took about 43 seconds, mostly because it took three pitches to annihilate Gonzalez. 5-0 Royals in the third.
Mike Jacobs starts the bottom of the third by fouling out to Varitek. That’s five in a row retired by Byrd. He’s actually had a great start, if you completely disregard the five runs he coughed up in the first inning.
Alberto Calypso bloops a single to center. As long as he’s on base, I’m going to randomly start naming titles of Calypso songs. “Sailor Man in Donkey Pants,” by Mighty Cypher.
Teahen skies out to Ellsbury for the second out. “We Mourn the Loss of Sir Murchison Fletcher,” by Lord Executor.
Miguel Olivo (which is Spanish for Mikey Olive Oil) is up next. “Too Botheration,” by The Growler. “Belmont Jackass,” by Lord Melody.
Olivo grounds a base hit to left, Calypso holding second. My personal favorite Calypso song is “Yankees Gone,” by Mighty Sparrow.
Gordon up with two on and two out. “Mildred Don’t Cry,” by Small Island Pride. Gordon flies out routinely to Drew to end the inning. 5-0 bad guys after 3.
Greinke faces the only man to get a hit off him tonight, Dustin Pedroia, and walks him on 5 pitches, bringing up Victor Martinez. If he can get on base, then we’d only need two more additional baserunners after him to reach to get the tying run up to the plate.
Greinke dials up a 97 mph fastball, according to the NESN radar gun, then on the next pitch, an 89-mph slider, gets Martinez to fly out to Teahen.
Tonight’s Affleck trivia question: “What Red Sox infielder hit for the cycle against the Royals in a 22-11 win in 1994?” I know this, I remember listening to this game on the radio, it’s got to be 2-time all-star Scott Cooper.
Youkilis is next, and he battles Greinke to a 2-2 count, before whiffing on a sliding slider. Greinke is really mixing up all his pitches really well, very impressive stuff. It’s really going to totally suck when he gets traded to the Yankees in 2012.
Ortiz is up with a man on and two out. 2-2 count. Grienke dismisses Ortiz with a slider that just disappears, fanning him to end the inning. Still 5-0 KC in the 4th.
Yuniesky Betancourt starts the home half by grounding out to Gonzalez. The top of the order is up again, and DeJesus hits a little bloop to shallow right that hangs up for about 13 seconds before falling in for a hit.
Mitch Maier follows with a high popout to Youkilis. Turns out my guess on the Affleck Trivia question was correct, it was indeed Scott Cooper. So that proves that those many hours spent listening to the 1994 Red Sox on the radio were not a waste!
Billy Butler, who has an impressive 49 doubles this year, steps in. If Byrd can get him, then his start will have gone from truly horrendous to just bad. And he does get him, Butler grounding to Gonzalez for the 6-4 to end the inning. 5-0 Royals after 4.
Greinke looks like he could pitch about 38 innings tonight before the Red Sox could get 5 runs off him.
He starts the inning by K-ing Bay with a zooming 90-mph slider on the outside corner. Sean Casey calls it a “power changeup” in the NESN booth. Whatever it was, it was powerful, and it slid, and it was pretty unhittable.
Pitchers should make up names for their pitches like they used to back in olden times. Satchel Paige used to throw the Hesitation Pitch, and Setve Hamilton called his slow ball the Folly Floater. Greinke’s 90-mph pitch that breaks away from righties and sinks could be called the Chumper, or the Owner, since it owns hitters and makes them chumps.
Drew is next, and Greinke falls behind 3-0. Here’s our chance! If Drew can just hit a 5-run homer, we’re right back in it. But no, the bum only walks.
Weak-hitting catcher Varitek is next. He falls behind 0-2, then wisely decides to just stand there and let Greinke’s pitches dip and zoom out of the strike zone. He draws a walk, and the Red Sox have their only threat of the night going.
Weak hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez is next. Greinke decides to stop fooling around and fires in some high 90′s fastballs. Gonzalez gets a hittable one, but doesn’t hit it very hard at all, instead popping out weakly for the second out.
Greinke starts Ellsbury off with another 95 mph heater. I dub his fastball the T-shirt Cannon, because hitters lunge at it like fans do in arenas for t-shirts shot out of the cannon.
This time Greinke lays off the T-Shirt Cannon and the Chumper, and gets Ellsbury to fly out on that sharp-dropping curve he’s got. What should that pitch be called? The Jaw Dropper? The Humpback Whale? Send in a comment if you can think of a good name for it, or for any of the pitches that are dazzling the Red Sox tonight. 0-5 KC in the 5th.
Too bad this game was over 5 minutes into the bottom of the first, because Byrd has pitched decently lately. He starts the 5th by getting Jacobs to hit a towering popout to Youkilis. Callaspo follows with a base hit to center, his third hit of the night. Sorry, but that means I’m going to have to randomly name more Calypso songs as long as he’s on base.
“Where You sleep Last Night Caroline?” by Wilmoth Houdini. “Tie-Tongue Mopsy,” by Lord Kitchener.
Luckily for everyone, Teahen follows by grounding into an inning-ending double play. 5-0 KC after 5.
Pedroia hits a flyout to Teahen to start the 6th.
Victor Martinez is the next to face Ol’ Cy Greinke. At the rate we’re going now, it will take Grienke less than two hours to complete his 2-hit, 9-0 win.
Wait, now I have to re-mathify that, as Martinez belts a single to right. Is Greinke now on pace to throw a 3-hitter or a 4-hitter? Youks is next and Greinke gets him to fly out on an 84-mph Chumper.
Greinke gets ahead of Ortiz 0-1, then gets a break from the ump on a pitch a couple inches outside, making it 0-2. Ortiz gripes, but it doesn’t much matter. Ortiz cracks a shot up the middle, but Betancourt skies for it, leaping up high to grab it to end the inning. Nice vertical, Yuni. Maybe now you’re not the worst player in baseball anymore? 5-0 Royals in the 6th.
This is the part of the game where Byrd usually tires. Olivo tries to help him stay fresh by grounding out on the first pitch, Gonzalez ranging up the middle to make a nice play.
Commissioner Gordon is next, and the cagey veteran Byrd gets him to fly out. Byrd is surprisingly only at 75 pitches, despite the horror show in the first. KC wasn’t wasting many pitches to get all those runs, keeping Byrd’s pitch count down.
Betancourt steps in. Byrd gets ahead 1-2, then gets Betancourt to pop out to Martinez to quickly end the inning. Too bad this game started at 8:00 instead of 8:30, or we’d be having a great pitcher’s duel going. 5-0 KC after 6.
What?? The Royals are taking out Zack Greinke. Only 6 innings pitched, 91 pitches. I assume he’s probably slightly injured, as he got hit with a ball about a week ago. But still, why give KC’s bullpen three innings to try to save his win?
Jason Bay starts the 7th against new hurler Roman Colon. (Pronounced roamin’ colon?) Colon whiffs Bay to start the inning.
Drew is next, and he hits a sharp grounder to the right side. Butler dives for it and grabs it, then flips to the roamin’ colon for the out. Sweet play by Butler, who is supposed to be a poor fielder.
Varitek is next, and Colon blows him away on three pitches, just like they do to pitchers in the NL. I have to admit I feel a little cheated that they didn’t leave Greinke in there for that inning. He certainly could’ve Chumped out those guys just like Colon did. Anyway, it’s still 5-0 in the 7th.
Against all odds, Rear Admiral Byrd is still in the game to start the 7th. Maybe not for long, though, as he walks DeJesus on 4 pitches.
He stays in to face Maier, who rolls a base hit through the right side. John Farrell is out to talk to Byrd, probably to tell him to quit being so old and soft-throwing.
Manny Delcarmen is warming up in the bullpen; we’ll have to see if he can continue to his late-season drive to pitch himself off of the playoff roster.
Byrd stays in to face William Butler Not Yeats, though. Byrd falls behind 3-0, the third one a strike over the heart of the plate. “Byrdie’s got to have that!” interjects Sean Casey in the NESN booth. Byrd fights back to a full count, then gives up a shot to deep right center. Ellsbury goes racing back to the wall and makes a nice running catch for the first out. DeJesus tags up and races to third.
Byrd will stay out there to face Mike Jacobs, for some reason. Greinke is out of the game, so it seems imperative that we keep the lead at 5 now. Jacobs hits a pop to shallow left center, and four Sox players run out there, none of them looking like they’re going to arrive in time. At the last instant, Gonzalez drops down to his knees and basket-catches it! He whips the ball in underhanded to keep the runner at third.
The left-handed Callaspo, 3-3 off Byrd tonight, is next. Seems like it’d be a good time to go to a lefty reliever, but Byrd labors on. He falls behind 3-0, but then throws the Gentleman’s Called Strike, and gets Callaspo to foul one off. Full count now, and he finally walks Callaspo. That will end his night, as Francona is out of the dugout to hand the game over to Delcarmen. Pitching change.
Delcarmen has a chance to lower his ERA of over 6000.00 this month. Teahen steps in, and the first pitch is approximately 5 feet too high. But he swings at the next pitch and hits a routine fly to center, right at Ellsbury, to end the inning. Delcarmen came up with one decent pitch three to strand three baserunners. 5-0 Royales after 7.
KC moves Maier to RF, and brings in Josh Anderson to play center. Wait, didn’t the Red Sox just pick up Josh Anderson the sucky-hitting backup outfielder? No, that is Brian Anderson the sucky hitting backup outfielder, this is Josh Anderson, a completely different sucky-hitting backup outfielder named Anderson.
Josh Reddick will pinch-hit for Gonzalez to start the 8th. Colon, still in the game, gets him to fly out routinely to center. Ellsbury follows with a walk, bringing up Pedroia, the only hitter in the lineup sad to see Greinke leave the game.
And Colon balks Ellsbury to second. The pitching coach comes out to talk to Colon, obviously to say something along the lines of “Yo, you’ve got a 5-0 lead in the 8th, stop balking and walking everyone like Charlie Brown, you moron.”
Colon falls behind 3-1 to Pedroia. Colon’s next pitch is a borderline called strike, filling the count, then he misses badly, walking him. We cut to a shot of Royals manager Trey Hillman talking on the dugout phone. Is he ordering a hit man to off Colon? Why not just take him out of the game instead?
No, Colon stays in to face Martinez. The runners take off on the first pitch, and make it without a throw when Olivo can’t handle the pitch. A base hit could make this game a lot more fun.
But not this time, as Martinez hits a sharp grounder to the right side that Billy “Suddenly Keith Hernandez” Butler grabs nicely. He flips to the pitcher for the out, the run scoring on the play.
Youkilis is next, two out and a man on third. He cracks one hard to center, but it’s right at Brian Josh Pamela Anderson for the inning-ending out. 5-1 KC in the 8th.
Young Mike Bowden is in to pitch for Boston. He gets Mikey Olive Oil to fly out to Bay for the first out, bringing up Alex Gordon. With his funky, jerky delivery, Bowden blows him away with a 94-mph fastball.
Betancourt is next, and he pops out to shallow center to end the quick inning. 5-1 KC going to the 9th.
Ortiz will start the 8th against Jamey “Not Jamie” Wright. Ortiz is hitting .207/.305/.355 on the road this year, not counting his 0-3 tonight.
This time he walks on four pitches though, bringing up Jason Bay. Bay falls behind 1-2, then takes a ball that was actually a strike. It doesn’t matter, because Bay whiffs on a curve on the next pitch.
Drew is up, one on, one out. He works the count full, then fans on a nasty fastball.
Kotchman is in to hit for Varitek, and he hits a little roller down the first base line. Butler trots over, picks it up, and ends the game by– wait, no, he fumbled it! Everyone’s safe, as Butler booted the little grounder.
Now Hillman comes out to yank Wright and bring in his closer, Joakim Soria. Pitching change.
Lowell is in to pinch hit, with two on and two out. The tying run is on the on-deck circle. The drama builds, and– wait, no, Lowell hacks at the first pitch and hits a routine fly right at Billy Josh Tommy Anderson in center to suddenly end the game. So much for the drama. Royals win 5-1.
Greinke was impressive tonight, but it’s a real shame that the game was over 10 minutes after it started. It would’ve been a nice pitcher’s duel if Byrd had pitched halfway decently in the first inning. But it was not to be. This was kind of predictable when looking at the pitching matchup tonight. It makes last night’s horrendous loss even more excruciating, though.