What is the opposite of a "pitchers’ duel?" Is it something peaceful, like a "pitchers’ genial conversation?" Or is it something intense but harmless, like a "pitchers’ staring competition?" No, staring competitions show real skill – a person can be a dominant starer.
There was nothing dominant about tonight’s matchup of Jon Lester versus Alex Cobb. If it had been a real duel, the powder would have been wet, the bullets made of salt, and both combatants would have recently contracted vision-distorting eye infections. And it didn’t help that umpire Mark Carlson called an extremely tight zone on the bottom and the corners, but allowed the high strike. Sometimes.
The Sox got the scoring going early, when Mike Aviles hit a hot shot toward Drew Sutton at third that Sutton booted for yet another Rays error. Aviles would eventually come around to score, and while Alex Cobb was able to limit the damage to just the one run, it took him 27 pitches to do so. Cobb really wasn’t sharp. His pitches seemed to lack movement tonight, and he had trouble getting the ball down. He would eventually exit the game after pitching five innings, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks, with two strikeouts. Out of his 96 pitches, Cobb only induced one swinging strike.
Luckily for Cobb, John Lester was even worse. He could only make it through four innings (81 pitches), allowing seven runs on six hits and three walks.
After an EJ groundout to start the third inning, Carlos Pena worked a walk. B.J. Upton then hit a bloop single into right, and Carlos Pena was able to advance to third. I know that this is like saying that my goldfish breathes air pretty well for a fish, but Pena is pretty fast for a first baseman, and he got a great read off of BJ’s hit. Next, Zobrist worked a walk to load the bases for Matt Joyce. Joyce got ahead in the count and then blasted a 3-1 breaking ball out to the bullpen in right center for the grand slam.
Tommy Rancel wrote a piece a little while back (h/t to RJ for bringing it up on Twitter) about how Lester, despite an even split, is a Danks theory candidate because he stops using his changeup and cutter against lefties. There’s definitely something to it, as Maddon batted Joyce fifth, ahead of S-Rod, despite facing a quality lefty. And it did seem like Joyce was able to zone in on Lester’s curve.
The following inning, after Sutton looped a ball the other way to get on base, Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena would hit back to back homers, both on breaking balls, to tag on a few runs and chase Lester from the game.
- In the bottom of the fourth inning, Marlon Byrd claimed to be hit by a pitch and started to go to first. Carleson [correctly] disagreed and called him back. It's funny. Players do not like to be thrown at, but they like to pretend that they were hit unintentionally.
- Gonzalez hit an outside pitch high off the monster today for a double. I only mention it because of this article.
- J.P. Howell came on to start the sixth inning facing two switch hitters in Saltalamacchia and Nava. He walked Salty on a good changeup that would have been a strikeout looking on a different day, and then walked Nava on five pitches, bringing Maddon out of the dugout to replace him with Badenhop.
- Against Badenhop, Byrd hit a soft groundball through a hole in the infield to score one run. Posednik bunted the runners over, Nava hit a sacrifice fly, and then Badenhop threw at and hit Dustin Pedroia to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of David Ortiz. No, wait. Right handed groundball specialists do not intentionally hit righties in a three run game with one of the best flyball hitting lefties in the world coming up next. If any Boston players or fans have a problem with Pedroia getting hit here, they're clearly insane.
- McGee came on to face Ortiz. After what should have been strike three was called a ball, Ortiz hit a flyball to right field, shy of the track. It was a loud out, in that the Fenway crowd made a lot of noise. It wasn't actually an extremely hard hit ball. McGee would stay on to pitch the seventh inning as well.
- Joel Peralta came on in the eighth and dominated three Boston batters, powering his fastball over their bats one batter after another. For any losing faith in Peralta after Wednesday, don't worry. He looks locked in.
- Of course, the real excitement came in the top of the ninth inning. Franklin Morales, who throws extremely hard, got the first two outs and then started throwing at Luke Scott. The first pitch was 97 mph, behind Scott. The third and fourth pitches were 97 and 98 mph well inside. Morales finally got him in the leg with a 97 mph fastball on the fifth pitch, clearing the benches (although Scott never did charge the mound). Astoundingly, after the umpires took forever to sort out the scrum, Morales was merely warned, not ejected. Classless move by the Sox to throw at Scott, horrible job by the refs for not recognizing what was happening and getting the game under control.
- But that's not all. As the Rays returned to the dugout, a Boston fan threw something at Upton, and yelled racial slurs. He probably did it just to rub in what a smart, passionate fanbase they are.