|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
The Mariners beat the Red Sox 5-4 Friday night. Read on for a full live blog of the game…
Which Matsuzaka will we get tonight– the dominant one of his last two starts, or the guy who was slapped all over the park by the Cleveland Indians? The slow worker who seems to go to a full count on every hitter and be done after 5 innings, three hours and 4 or 5 runs? Or the guy who has been efficient, quick and downright dominating lately?
Tonight, the Red Sox roll the dice with Matsuzaka as they face Seattle and lefty starter Jason Vargas. Vargas is 0-2 with a 5.53 ERA this season and is 0-9 over his last 13 starts. In his most recent start, he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings against the light-hitting Oakland A’s. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see Vargas trouble the Red Sox tonight, as he does throw the ball with his left hand, and Boston’s lineup often struggles against lefties.
Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Lowrie SS, Cameron RF, Varitek C, McDonald LF, Matsuzaka P. No Carl Crawford or JD Drew against the lefty. Varitek will be handling Dice-K again.
Quick, name 5 Seattle Mariners. Ichiro, and King Felix– that’s two. After them? Good luck, unless you are an Official Expert of Baseball Knowledge. Here’s their lineup tonight, see how many players you recognize.
Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Bradley LF, Olivo C, Smoak 1B, Cust DH, Kennedy 2B, Saunders CF, Ryan SS.
Miguel Olivo bating cleanup, yikes.
Tonight is the 25th anniversary of the night a then-still-likable Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in Fenway, setting the all-time record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game. Trivia question: who is the only pitcher in major league history to strike out MORE than 20 hitters in one game? If you can get that one (without looking it up of course) then I hereby decree you to be an Official Expert of Baseball Knowledge and award you a free year’s subscription to SportsofBoston.com.
Suzuki leads off for Seattle. Dice K doesn’t throw many in the strike zone, but Ichiro reaches for one and pops out to McDonald in shallow left. Shawn/Shaun/Sean/Shawne Figgins follows. Matsuzaka falls behind 3-1, then Figgins hits a squibber foul, then reaches out of the zone to hit another foul. The next pitch is well high and away, and Figgins walks. Dice not showing the command of the two previous starts just yet.
Milton Bradley is up next. He’s got game! He helps out Dice K by swinging at the first pitch– he belts it hard to right, but it’s right at Mike Cameron for the second out.
Miguel Olive Oil, cleanup hitter, strides up to the plate and smashes a liner that clangs loudly off the Green Monster. Figgins holds at third as Olivo chugs into second. Darnell McDonald kind of fumbled the ball off the wall, so he’s charged with an error.
Justin “Johnny” Smoak follows with a smoked grounder through the right side, scoring both runners, giving Seattle the 2-0 lead. Already.
Folk hero Jack Cust is the next hitter. Known for his brute power, his tendency to strike out several times per game, his indifferent defense and his comical baserunning, Cust has earned the nickname “Three True Outcomes” as he usually either homers, walks or whiffs. The fielders might as well take a seat with this ornery Cust up there. With a shaky Dice K against Cust, my money’s on a walk here.
To the surprise of no one, the count gets to 3-2. But then Matsuzaka slices the edge of the strike zone with a darting slider and Cust takes strike 3. End of half an inning, Seattle leads 2-0.
Jacoby Ellsbury is leading off tonight for the Sox. He rolls one down to Justin Smoak at first base for an easy out. Pedroia follows by tapping back to the mound for another easy out. No trouble so far for the struggling Jason Vargas.
Adrian Gonzalez has seen enough of this, and lofts a single into right. Youkilis is next, but he quickly whiffs, ending the inning. Still 2-0 Seattle after 1.
Adam Kennedy leads off by flying out to Cameron on the first pitch. Thanks for keeping that pitch count down for us AK. Michael Saunders is next, and unfortunately, it’s not the same Michael Saunders who used to write for the Boston Globe. Dice K falls behind 3-0, then tosses a get-me-over fastball for strike one. Saunders fouls one off, then takes ball four. More ominous lack of command from Matsuzaka.
On the first pitch, Saunders easily steals second, moving into scoring position with one out. Brendan Ryan hits a towering pop to Youks for the second out. That brings up Ichiro, who is the only player who gets to wear his first name on the back of his uniform for some reason. Luckily Alex Rodriguez hasn’t noticed this yet and insisted on doing it too. Probably just a matter of time until he does.
Suzuki flies out routinely to McDonald to end the inning. 2-0 Seattle in the 2nd.
Ortiz will start the inning at the plate. He bounces one up the middle, but the shortstop Ryan is playing on the first-base-side of the bag, and easily makes the play.
Jed Lowrie flies out to Saunders for the second out.
Mike Cameron is next and he hits a little pop fly down the right field line, not ery vfar beyond first base. But the ball carries in the wind and lands past the Pesky Pole in right field for the cheapest home run you’ll ever see! Sox on the board. Varitek quickly flies out to end it, but after 2, it’s now 2-1 Seattle.
Chone/Shawne/Shon Figgins bounces out routinely to Pedroia for the first out. The controversial Milton Bradley is next. Fill-in announcer Peter Gammons charitably describes Bradley as “a complicated guy.” That’s polite talk for “jerk.” Matsuzaka up near 50 pitches already. Count goes full, of course, but Matsuzaka fans him for the second out.
Olivo steps in, and Dice Ks him too. Matsuzaka suddenly settling down nicely. 2-1 bad guys in the third.
Darnell McDonald leads off by whiffing feebly at a pitch in the dirt. But the third base ump jumps in for some reason and insists that McDonald foul-tipped the ball. Replays show conclusively that he didn’t. The next pitch is ball four and Darnell is on with a walk. McDonald, you deserve a break today. Sorry everyone, couldn’t help myself.
Ellsbury is up again. Somehow he already has more home runs than David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez combined. This time he bounces one to Kennedy at second, who tries to tag the runner but drops the ball. He’s able to pick it back up and get McDonald at second for the force, though.
Pedroia lofts one to center that gets the crowd roaring, but unfortunately Saunders barely has to move to catch it, about 40 feet in front of the warning track. Way to represent, Fenway.
Gonzalez follows with a groundball single up the middle, his second hit of the night. Ellsbury scoots to third. Youkilis up now with two on and two out against Vargas. He smacks a liner to left that Bradley charges, then pauses to study contemplatively, then allows to hit the ground on a hop, clang off his glove and bounce away from him! Ellsbury scores, and the game is tied! Which Milton Bradley game was that play? Ants in the Pants? Bonkers?
Ortiz follows with a grounder past a diving Kennedy, into right field, scoring Gonzalez! Sox lead 3-2. Vargas in reverting to his essential Vargasness. But Lowrie skies a popup to right field that Suzuki grabs, ending the inning. 3-2 Sox after 3.
Oh yeah, the answer to that trivia question, the only pitcher to strike out 21 hitters in a major league game? That was Tom Cheney. Not Dick Cheney, Tom Cheney, a journeyman pitcher in the 1960s who struck out 21 hitters in 16 innings of pitching in one game. Why isn’t that performance more celebrated?
Justin Smoak flies out to Ellsbury in center to start the inning. Cust is next, and of course he works the count full, fouling off a couple pitches in the process, before drawing a walk. One of those three true outcomes, of course.
Adam Kennedy is next. Dice K falls behind 3-0. He’s up near 70 pitches already, so he’ll be gone by the 6th, probably. He walks Kennedy too, bringing out pitching coach Curt Young to the mound for a conference. What’s Japanese for “throw strikes fer chrissake”?
Michael Saunders is the next hitter, with two on and one out. Matsuzaka gets him to fan on a darting changeup. He’s doing great when the hitters swing at pitches out of the zone, but not so good when they stand there and don’t do anything.
Brendan Ryan hacks at the first pitch like the all-glove, no-hit shortstop that he is, and flies out weakly to McDonald to end the threat. 3-2 Boston.
Mike Cameron leads off, and this time he belts a shot over the Green Monster for his second homer of the night! Nothing cheap about this one. 4-2 Sox now.
Varitek follows with a base hit, as Vargas is now really Vargassing out there.
NFL Draft update: The Patriots have drafted a cornerback named Ras-I Dowling out of Virginia. Ras-I? Yep, Ras-I.
Back in the baseball game, McDonald whiffs on a curve in the dirt, and this time the umps don’t bail him out.
Back to the top of the order with Ellsbury. He cracks a shot that hits pitcher’s mound and bounces high in the air. Kennedy tries to bare-hand it, but drops it and everyone is safe. (Well, all the baserunners in this baseball game are safe, at least.) Two on, one down for Dustin Pedroia.
Now the Patroits draft Cal running back Shane Vereen. No relation to dancer/entertainer Ben Vereen, I assume.
At Fenway, Pedroia bounces into a double play to end the inning. 4-2 Sox after 4.
Now replay shows that the umps blew another call last inning, as Brendan Ryan didn’t really tag Varitek on the inning-ending double play. Don’t you just love the “human element” of bad calls that the whole world except for the umps can see were missed?
Dice K falls behind Ichiro 3-0, then after a called strike, Ichiro grounds a leadoff single to center. Now Francona and the trainer are out visiting the mound, checking on Matsuzaka, who is apparently injured. He’s coming out of the game now, not clear at all what the injury is. Now Matt Albers comes in from the bullpen to take over. Hey hey hey, it’s Matt Albers!
Figgins is the first batter to face Albers, and he greets him with a lined single to left. First and second, no one out for Milton Bradley. He grounds to Gonzalez, who starts a double play– except for the problem that Albers, covering first, completely misses the throw from Jed Lowrie. Suzuki scores and Bradley is safe at second on the error. KerPlunk! 4-3 now.
Olivo is next and he flies out to Cameron for the second out. Bradley stays at second. And Albers fans Smoak, catching him looking, to end the inning. Hopefully Matsuzaka is okay, he was pitching well lately. 4-3 Boston in the fifth.
Adrian Gonzalez will lead off for the Red Sox. He bounces to the right side– Smoak grabs it and awkwardly throws it behind the pitcher covering; but Vargas makes the grab and steps on the base for the out. It seems like the Sox are well ahead, but Vargas is hanging around, only down 4-3, and keeping his team in the game.
Youkilis up next, and he draws a walk. I haven’t checked, but I believe that is Youkilis’s 1,057th walk of the young season. Ortiz follows by smashing a scorching liner to the right side. But Smoak grabs it and steps on the base to double-off Youkilis and suddenly end the inning. Still 4-3 Boston, moving to the 6th.
Cust steps in for Seattle. Meanwhile, the Patriots are on the clock, and have the next two picks in the NFL draft. While Cust inevitably works the count full, we’ll see who New England drafts.
As the Pats draft another running back, Stevan Ridley from LSU, Cust works the count full, then walks on a close pitch that sure looked like a strike. Adam Kennedy then pops out to Lowrie, as the Patriots choose 6’7″ quarterback Ryan Mallet from Arkansas.
Back at Fenway, Saunders flies out to Cameron for the second out, then Ryan rolls out to Lowrie to end the inning. 4-3 Sox in the 6th.
Lowrie leads off the home half by grounding a one-hopper to Figgins, who easily makes the play for the first out.
That brings up Mike Cameron, who has two home runs already tonight– but he’ll need to hit two more just to tie the best night of his career. Of course, two more would tie the best night of anyone’s career, ever. Nothing doing this time though, as Cameron pops out to Smoak. Boo! Only two home runs tonight Cameron, what a huge disappointment! You stink!
Then Varitek quickly whiffs to end the inning. This consarned Vargas is kind of turning this into a quality start, as his team is only down one run after 6 innings.
Big Bobby Jenks is in to pitch for Boston now. Suzuki starts the 7th by slapping a single to left. Figgins follows by stinging a double past McDonald in left. Ichiro holds at third. Two runners in scoring position with no one out now. Milton Bradley is up, and he could be Trouble, a real Headache. But Jenks sends him to Fireball Island, whiffing him for the out. But Jenks isn’t out of the Crossfire yet, as Miguel Olive Oil grounds to the right side, driving in the tying run as Pedroia throws to first for the out.
Smoak draws a four-pitch walk, as Jenks is having less fun than a Barrel of Monkeys. Jack Cust steps in, and he crushes one off the Monster, scoring Figgins and giving Seattle the 5-4 lead.
Jenks stays in and gets Kennedy to ground out, but the damage has been done. Seattle up 5-4 in the 7th.
Jason Vargas and his uninspiring high-80s stuff is still in there, and now he’s got the lead late in the game and is cruising. He gets McDonald to pop out to right field to start the inning.
Ellsbury is next, and he whiffs, watching an 88-mph fastball that slices the outside corner. Pedroia pops out weakly to center on the first pitch he sees, giving Vargas an easy out, ending the inning on his 104th pitch of the night.
Boston should have knocked out Vargas when they had him on the ropes earlier, but they didn’t, and he has really settled down to take command of this game. 5-4 Mariners after 7.
Hideki Okajima is in now to pitch for the Sox. (Alas, with Jerry Remy ill and not broadcasting the game, we don’t get to hear him pronounce his name Okerjeemer.)
Saunders starts the Seattle 8th by drawing a walk. Brendan Ryan bunts him to second, bringing up Suzuki with a runner on second and one out. He draws a walk too.
Figgins steps in and cracks a sharp one-hopper up the middle. But Pedroia was playing near the bag, so he can grab it, step on second and throw to first for the inning-ending double play. Seattle still leads 5-4 in the 8th.
Adrian Gonzalez steps in to start the home half of the inning. He’ll face Jamey Wright, in to replace Vargas, who gave them 7 good innings and leaves with the lead.
Gonzalez lofts a fly ball to right center– Ichiro comes racing over and makes the catch, then slides on the grass for some reason. He could have caught it without the slide, but it was a nice job to get there, so he’s entitled to slide if he wants to I guess.
Youkilis follows by taking a sweeping curveball for strike three. Ortiz is next, and he gets the easily- fooled Fenway crowd roaring with a routine flyout to centerfield. That’s 10 straight outs by the Red Sox, who haven’t had a baserunner since the 5th inning. 5-4 Seattle after 8.
Daniel Bard is on to pitch now, and he gets Bradley to ground out to Pedroia to start the inning. Bard then blazes a 99-mph heater past Olivo for a called strike 3, though to be fair, it was high and outside. Two down and no one on now for Smoak. He rolls one to the right side, and Pedroia ranges far to his left to grab it and throw him out at first. Going into the bottom of the 9th, it’s 5-4 bad guys.
Last chance for the Old Towne Team. Brandon “Major” League is in to close for Seattle. Jed Lowrie steps in and crushes a shot to deep center, about 410 feet away, but the wind blows it down and Saunders is able to make a running catch in the triangle in center. Wow, a really solid shot that would have been a double or triple without the wind, and a homer in a lot of parks, but tonight it’s only an out.
Mike Cameron is next, and he flies out routinely to Suzuki in right center.
Last hope for the Sox is JD Drew, on to pinch hit for Varitek. League guns a 96-mph fastball over the heart of the plate, but Drew can only foul it off with a big cut. Hittable pitch there, just missed. Count now even at 2-2. League paints the inside corner with another heater, and Drew is called out to end the game.
Seattle wins, and by my calculations, that means that the Red Sox lose again. They fall to 11-14 on the season. And Dice K is hurt. And Lackey pitches tomorrow.