|Papelbon finishes Wakefield’s gem||05.19.09 at 9:26 pm ET|
The Red Sox took their first game against the Blue Jays, with Jonathan Papelbon finishing Tim Wakefield’s excellent outing by pitching a scoreless ninth for his 11th save. The Sox are now 7-7 in one-run games following their 2-1 win.
Papelbon started the inning with seven straight fastballs that resulted in a three-pitch strikeout of Adam Lind, a three-pitch groundout to second by Scott Rolen, and a first-pitch strike to Lyle Overbay. He finally missed the zone with his eighth pitch, a splitter. Overbay worked the count to 3-2, before grounding out to first to conclude the frame.
Wakefield improves to 5-2. The Sox are now 2.5 games behind the Jays in the A.L. East.
|Ellsbury, Ortiz and the bottom of the 8th||05.19.09 at 9:18 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury apparently wanted to avoid the infamy of being less powerful than Willy Taveras during a 14-game hitting streak. He lined a double down the right-field line to open the inning, though he was thrown out trying to steal third (with no outs!), a gaffe that proved costly when Dustin Pedroia lined the next pitch to center for what would have been a run-scoring base hit.
David Ortiz followed Pedroia to the plate, and his fourth plate appearance was not good. Against Toronto lefty B.J. Ryan (a very, very tough at-bat for lefties, even now with a diminished arsenal), Ortiz struck out on four pitches, including a swing-and-miss on an 86 mph fastball on his fists and another at a slider that bit the dirt, down and away.
Barring a Jays comeback in the ninth, Ortiz finishes the night 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a walk. All of his at-bats were against left-handers, against whom he his now hitting .208 this year.
|That’s it for Wakefield||05.19.09 at 9:13 pm ET|
Tim Wakefield just accepted a congratulatory handshake after working his way out of a first-and-second jam (partly the byproduct of some poor defense) by getting a pair of lazy fly-outs to shallow left-center. Wakefield completes his night having done his part to get the Sox a victory, pitching eight innings and allowing just one run on five hits to a Blue Jays lineup that entered today leading the majors in runs (234) and batting average (.289).
Wakefield needed just 97 pitches (61 strikes) to navigate a lead to closer Jonathan Papelbon, who is currently warming. Wakefield’s success tonight was of a very odd sort: he got 16 fly-ball outs, an absurdly high total. Yet the Jays, aside from Kevin Millar on his homer, could not make firm contact on anything that Wakefield threw. Aside from a warning-track flyball to left-center by Adam Lind, most of the outs Wakefield recorded were by harmless flies that traveled no more than 200 feet.
|The Blue Jays have something to prove||05.19.09 at 8:55 pm ET|
Toronto’s 27-14 record entering tonight was little short of a marvel. The team has been without its Nos. 2-4 starters (Dustin McGowan, Shawn Marcum, Jesse Litsch), without its closer (B.J. Ryan) for a few weeks, and without one of its youn hurlers (Ricky Romer) who was supposed to be the depth option of first resort. The succession of woes should have been devastating.
But the Jays have been nothing if not resilient. Their starters entered tonight with a 4.00 ERA that ranked third in the A.L., and the team has permitted just 4.2 runs per game, second fewest in the A.L.
Even so, there has been some skepticism, or at least curiosity, about whether the Jays could sustain that position. Their outstanding start, after all, has been forged not only with a patchwork rotation, but also without having faced the cream of the A.L. East.
Of the Jays 41 games, just six were against their divisional opponents: three (all wins) against the Orioles, and three (one win, two losses) against the Yankees. Toronto will soon make up for lost time.
Including tonight’s game, the Jays will play the Sox in six of the next 12 games, a span in which they will also play the Orioles three more times. Then, interleague will give the team another four-week reprieve.
But, starting on June 29, when the Jays will return to division play against the Rays, Toronto will play more than two-thirds (57) of its final 84 games against members of its division.
That is not to discount what Toronto has done thus far. By all accounts, their early-season run has been extremely impressive. But it is fair to suggest that it won’t be until July that the Blue Jays will truly have the opportunity to prove how well they stack up in the best division in baseball.
|Jacoby Ellsbury Keeps Streaking||05.19.09 at 8:37 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a soft liner up the middle for a single in the bottom of the fifth, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. The streak is the longest active run in the majors, and the second longest of the centerfielder’s career, behind only an 18-game run that he had last September. Ellsbury is 1-for-3 tonight, and is hitting .348 during his streak, though he has just four extra-base knocks during the run. Ellsbury is the 10th major leaguer to hit in at least 14 straight this year. His extra-base hit total is the lowest during such a streak of that group, one behind Willy Taveras, who had five extra-base hits in his 14-game streak.
|Ortiz’ third at-bat||05.19.09 at 8:34 pm ET|
With Jacoby Ellsbury on first and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, David Ortiz grounded harmlessly to second on a 1-1 pitch. Tallet has been living down and away against the Sox’ No. 3 hitter, who is now 0-for-2 with a walk tonight.
|Kevin Millar: Knuckleball Killer||05.19.09 at 8:24 pm ET|
One can make a case that there is no active player in Major League Baseball who owns as much success against Tim Wakefield as Kevin Millar. The former Sox entered tonight with a .444 average against Wakefield, is the second highest by any opponent who has faced the pitcher at least 25 times, behind only Dave Nilsson’s incredible .640 average. (Perhaps one should train to face the knuckleball by growing up in Australia and playing cricket?) Of his 12 hits entering tonight, Millar had three homers off of the Sox starter.
That number just inflated to four: Millar, leading off the fifth, crushed a hanging knuckler into the back row of the Monster Seats for a solo homer. But Wakefield retired the next three Jays in order, and so the Sox still possess a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of the fifth.
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