May 8, 2012

G29: Royals 6, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 020 110 000 - 4  9  0
Royals  - 030 000 03x - 6  7  1
Billy Butler cranked a three-run home run off Matt Albers in the eighth inning - after Daniel Bard (7-6-5-4-1, 96) may have been left in one batter too long.

Bard began the eighth with a 4-3 lead and had thrown only 86 pitches; after a rough second inning, he had become extremely economical (41 pitches in the first two innings, 45 through the next five). But he seemed to tire in the seventh, allowing two singles to start the inning and getting away unscathed thanks to a superb play by Adrian Gonzalez on a bunt to cut down a runner at the plate.

So Bard opened the eighth by throwing three balls to Jarrod Dyson, battled back to a full count, and then lost him on ball four. This is when Bobby Valentine should have pulled Bard. Maybe. I'm not sure. I go back and forth. Bard was preoccupied with the baserunner, throwing over to first three times, and ended up walking Alex Gordon on four pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone. (Bard's obsession with runners on base cost him in the second inning, as well, as he balked twice and threw a wild pitch.) Now Albers came in, and Butler crushed his 1-1 pitch to deep left, wiping out Boston's lead and giving the Royals their margin of victory.

It's easy to shovel the blame on Valentine for this one, as he has had a slow hook with the starters and a bad habit of not having relievers ready. Valentine may have needed to stay with Bard because Albers did not have enough time to get ready. If so, that is unforgivable. These types of situations have often ended badly - I should make a list - and tonight was no different. But regardless of what Valentine did or didn't do, the serious blame has got to fall on Albers for giving up the meatball.

Will Middlebrooks doubled and scored in the second inning, but left the game mid-inning with a strained left hamstring. Middlebrooks joined Enos Slaughter as the only two players in major league history to have an extra-base hit in each of their first five games.

Kelly Shoppach had an RBI single and Dustin Pedroia walked with the bases loaded in the second. Pedroia singled in Mike Aviles in the third. Gonzalez (2-for-3, with a walk) doubled and scored on an error in the fifth. Marlon Byrd also had two hits.
Daniel Bard / Danny Duffy
Aviles, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ross, RF
Gonzalez, 1B
Middlebrooks, 3B
McDonald, LF
Byrd, CF
Shoppach, C
Will Middlebrooks is the first player in MLB history to have six extra-base hits in his first four games.

He is also only the second Red Sox player to record a 5-RBI game within the first four games of his career; Arquimedez Pozo did it on July 28, 1996.

Middlebrooks has nine RBI in his last two games. He has tied the record for most RBIs (9) in his first four games:
Jack Merson, 1951 Pirates
Joe Cunningham, 1954 Cardinals
Dave Kingman, 1971 Giants
Arquimedez Pozo, 1995 Mariners/1996 Red Sox
Mike Jacobs, 2005 Mets
Will Middlebrooks, 2012 Red Sox
Since April 23, the Sox bullpen has a 1.41 ERA (9 ER/57.1 IP) with 16 walks and 54 satrikeouts. (That also included the three runs allowed by Darnell McDonald.) It's the second best bullpen ERA in MLB since that time. (In the Baltimore series, the bullpen threw more than six innings in three straight games for the first time since August 26-28, 1950.)

Boston - facing a lefty tonight - leads all MLB teams with a .513 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. The Sox are 5-3 in games started by left-handers.


9casey said...

Life is tough for Will Middlebrooks

Maxwell Horse said...

I'm now in the camp that Valentine is losing games for the team. There are going to be a lot people saying the same old stuff about how this was on Bard. Valentine can't pitch and hit for the players. They're a bunch of overpaid primadonnas, whiners and quitters. Why, if I ate chicken at my job, I wouldn't have my job very long ... to play a children's game .... blah, blah.

But man, I bet the Sox wouldn't look quite so much like a bunch of whiny quitters had Valentine made some different decisions throughout the season. I think some people think it's being "old school" of Valentine to leave starters out there for a long time. But when he's bringing in relief pitches after they've only been warming up for like 3 seconds, and relievers are getting up for no reason never to be used in the situation they're meant for (which I think may have happened in the first win against the Royals), that doesn't seem so much like a deliberate, hard-nosed old school decision, but rather more like a guy who isn't quite sure what he's doing.

And it's really weird because I thought the manager conferred a lot with bench coaches and stuff. That's what Francona seemed to do. Shouldn't they also be stepping in and saying stuff like, "Bobby, maybe we should have someone warming up here." Or, "He's leaving pitches up now. I think he's gassed."

laura k said...

I hate Bobby Valentine.

FenFan said...

I hate Bobby Valentine

I may second that...

allan said...

Who was it that said managers can only lose ballgames, they cannot win them?

Valentine has got to put his players in the best position to succeed (which he has not been doing regularly) and then get the hell out of the way.

Philip said...

At the beginning of the season, he had the excuse that the bullpen was playing horridly. But now they're putting it back together, he's got a few good weapons in the pen (and certainly some better than Albers this season) and yet he still mismanages the pitching staff.

I also think, indirectly, he's partially responsible for Bard's baserunner trouble. Under Tito, the policy was to ignore baserunners in almost all instances, which led to a lot of SBs but not many throws over. It seems this season that Valentine has changed the emphasis and wants his pitchers to worry about baserunners.

allan said...

And aren't they trying to limit Bard's IP so that he can pitch deep into the season? It also seems like BV should have taken his 7 innings and said thanks and let the pen take the next two.

9casey said...

At 79 pitches he should be fine and not walk back to back hitters. It easy to blame Bobby V , but the fact remains going back to last season our starting pitching stinks.....