|Bard’s not-so-special Fenway debut||05.20.09 at 9:57 pm ET|
The unveiling of rookie Daniel Bard at Fenway Park prompted plenty of oohs and aahs thanks to his high-90s velocity readings on the scoreboard. But the right-hander with a fastball that registered from 97-99 mph on the scoreboard also got touched for his first big-league run, and the Jays took a number of healthy cuts at his fastball dominant approach.
Vernon Wells jumped on Bard’s first pitch of the eighth (a 97 mph fastball) and lined it off the Wall in left for a hard, hard, single. Adam Lind then caught up with a sinking fastball (98 mph) below his knees, lining another single into center. Two more fastballs resulted in a first out, a soft liner to second by Scott Rolen. But Lyle Overbay followed by driving a full-count, 99 mph fastball off the base of the Wall in left-center for a run-scoring double.
Following a visit by pitching coach John Farrell, Bard threw a first-pitch slider for a called strike (one of just two sliders he threw, and the only one for a strike), then came back with a pair of fastballs that resulted in a Rod Barajas foul out. That was the end of Bard’s night: 2/3 of an inning, 14 pitches, 12 fastballs, three hits, one run, no swings and misses.
Still, the way he came back against Barajas was noteworthy, suggesting an ability to settle down under adverse circumstances. One gets the sense that there will be more impressive outings from Bard in his new home ballpark going forward.
Hideki Okajima came on to retire pinch-hitter Kevin Millar on a fly to third, and the Sox lead, 8-3, entering the ninth.
|Penny’s strange night ends||05.20.09 at 9:25 pm ET|
It has become standard operating procedure. Once again, Brad Penny didn’t strike anyone out (more literally, he struck out two). Once again he succeeded despite that fact.
Penny, after making it through the first six innings without permitting a run, was touched for a pair of runs in the seventh before leaving with two outs following an infield single, the ninth hit he’s allowed this year. He turned in his fifth quality start of the season, tied with Josh Beckett for second on the team behind Tim Wakefield’s six. For the sixth time in his eight starts this year, Penny struck out two or fewer. He was hittable, having permitted nine hits, but thanks to excellent defense (notably, the work of Jacoby Ellsbury to track down 11 fly balls, and a sharp double-play turned by Mike Lowell), he held the Jays in check throughout the night.
|Ellsbury takes a place in Red Sox annals||05.20.09 at 9:02 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury ran down another pair of fly balls in the sixth inning, and now has an unbelievable 11 put-outs with three innings left. He broke the Red Sox record of 10 put-outs by an outfielder in a single game, accomplished four times, and stands just one shy of the major-league record of 12 put-outs, accomplished 10 times (but just twice in a nine-inning game) with nine outs left.
|Ortiz ends the drought: goes deep in 5th||05.20.09 at 8:48 pm ET|
It was a long, long, long time coming. One-hundred forty-nine at-bats had passed since David Ortiz last homered. The slugger’s struggles had reached epic status.
But in at-bat No. 150, Ortiz unloaded on a 1-1 fastball with a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, sending it deep towards center. The crowd roared, and the extra breath may have helped to push the ball just over the wall and into the camera well. The crowd erupted as Ortiz went from a sprint to a trot, and when the slugger crossed the plate, he stopped, taking a bit more time than usual for his point towards and conversation with the heavens. At home, Ortiz was embraced, first by Dustin Pedroia, then Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay. The Sox gave him the silent treatment for just a moment when he entered the dugout, before the pile-on occurred, the full team erupting in celebration. The fans joined, until Ortiz accepted the invitation to a curtain call for his first homer of the season.
Now, the wait for No. 2 commences.
Ortiz’ blast followed Jason Varitek’s. The inning continued with the Sox hitting Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil like a pinata, with a Kevin Youkilis single, Jason Bay homer, and Mike Lowell homer driving the rookie from the game. Cecil left having allowed eight runs on 12 hits, including a Toronto-record-tying five homers.
The Sox are up, 8-0, in the fifth. The eruption has ended a team-wide drought for the Sox, who had gone eight straight games with five or fewer runs.
|Jason Varitek in the waaaay-back machine||05.20.09 at 8:40 pm ET|
Leading off the fifth, Jason Varitek jumped on a 2-1 fastball from Jays starter Brett Cecil, lining the ball a few rows into the center-field bleachers for his second homer of the game. It is Varitek’s first multi-homer game since August 16, 2005.
Worth noting: Varitek leads all major-league catchers with seven homers.
|UPDATE: Jacoby Ellsbury on pace for a record||05.20.09 at 8:12 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury recorded a pair of put-outs in each of the first four innings, then called off Dustin Pedroia on another pop up just behind the infield in the fifth. He has a total of nine put-outs as the game enters the bottom of the fourth. In case you were wondering, the record for most put-outs by an outfielder in a nine-inning game is 12, done twice:
–Lyman Bostock, Twins, 5/25/77
–Earl Clark, Boston Braves, 5/10/29
Interestingly, no one has ever exceeded 12 put-outs, even in an extra-inning game. Eight centerfielders have recorded 12 put-outs in extra-inning games, most recently Oddibe McDowell of the Rangers in 1985.
|Sox Rally Behind…Varitek and Lugo?||05.20.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
Jason Varitek can still hit left-handed pitching. That was the case even during his abysmal 2008 campaign, when he still hammered southpaws for a .284 average and .863 OPS, and it remained the case this year, when he carried a .238 average but with a .918 OPS thanks to two homers in 21 at-bats against southpaws.
Varitek improved on those totals against Jays starter Brett Cecil, jumping on a cookie of a 2-2 slider and lining it off the shelf just above the Wall in left-center for his sixth homer of the year. The launch gave the Sox and 1-0 lead, and improved Varitek to a .273 average and 1.098 OPS against lefties this year.
Julio Lugo then followed by jumping on a full-count fastball, which he lined off the left-field wall for a double. Lugo reached third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s bunt single (which extended the centerfielder’s power-deficient hitting streak to 15 games), then scored on Dustin Pedroia’s double-play groundout.
After Pedroia’s twin-killing, David Ortiz had another sad at-bat, fouling off a fastball in the heart of the strike zone, taking a slider for a strike and swinging feebly through another fastball over the middle for a strikeout. Ortiz has not gotten the ball out of the infield while striking out three times in six plate appearances since returning to the lineup on Tuesday.
Red Sox are ahead after three, 2-0.
|Kevin Youkilis resumes the chase for .400||05.20.09 at 7:42 pm ET|
His 15-game exile on the disabled list concluded — a stretch that included an inglorious 0-for-6 on a reha assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket — Kevin Youkilis stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second, armed with a .393 average, .505 OBP and .719 slugging mark. He promptly set about the process of improving on those numbers. Facing Jays rookie Brett Cecil for the first time in his life, Youkilis went to a 2-2 count. Cecil went back to a changeup — a pitch on which Youkilis had swung and missed earlier — and the Sox cleanup hitter hooked it towards the hole between third and short. The ball bounced off the glove of the diving Scott Rolen and into shallow left for a leadoff single.
Though Jason Bay followed with a single to right to put runners on first and second with no outs, the Sox wasted the opportunity. Mike Lowell grounded to short for his major-league leading 12th double play ball, and with Youkilis on third, Rocco Baldelli grounded to deep third.
It’s scoreless after two.
|The Saga Continues for Ortiz||05.20.09 at 7:32 pm ET|
David Ortiz has never faced Brett Cecil before in his career. Often, hitters will take a pitch or two against a thrower whom they have not encountered in order to familiarize themselves with his release point and movement. But Ortiz, seemingly eager to take a cut at a fastball, hacked at a sinking 93 mph offering, the ball grounding feebly to first for the final out of the first inning. He’s now hitting .201, and is fighting to stay above the Mendoza line today.
Brad Penny has kept the Jays off the board through the first two innings, keeping Jacoby Ellsbury busy in the process. Ellsbury has four put-outs through the first two innings, including a brilliant over the shoulder catch on an Aaron Hill liner to the warning track. Penny’s given up a pair of hits and a pair of loud outs, but has not been harmed.
Entering the bottom of the second, it’s still scoreless.
|Wakefield and the Pop-Up As Weapon||05.20.09 at 6:42 pm ET|
After Tim Wakefield elicited an astonishing 16 flyball outs on Tuesday, positioning himself with the second highest number of air outs (80) in the majors this year, Gary From Chapel Hill mined his usual statistical gold to come up with this gem about the rarity of the outing:
Most Air Outs (Flyouts/Popouts/Foulouts) In One Appearance Since 2004 (includes sacrifice flies):
19 – Greg Smith, OAK – 6/30/08
17 – Brad Radke, MIN – 7/15/05
17 – Javier Vazquez, NYY – 4/30/04
16 – 15 times including Wakefield twice (8/26/05 and last night), Lester (7/28/07), Schilling (7/28/04)
15 – 18 times
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