4/14/07 vs. Los Angeles
Quick note! Shonda and Team Shade are running the Boston Marathon tomorrow to raise money and awareness for the Shade Foundation which promotes skin cancer awareness and prevention. If you would like to donate please do so at http://www.active.com/donate/shadebostonteam07/schilling
Felix Hernandez is good. Wow. I remember watching Dwight Gooden when he first came into the big leagues and this kid has better stuff. He throws harder and has 4 pitches. Doc had that HOF curveball to go with his fastball but Felix was throwing a 91-93 mph slider, late breaking too, an 80 mph power curve ball and a much better change up than I remember hearing about. All that to go with a fastball that was touching 100mph on different occasions. What he did was flat out dominate a pretty good offensive team from the first pitch. He looks like he has a great pitchers body too, tall and filling out. Pretty amazing outing from anyone much less a 20 year old ‘kid’.
There are times when you watch opposing players and you can almost feel sorry for them. Our opener was one of those times. The Mariners had been sitting for 5 days, through travel and snow outs and I have no idea when the last time Jeff Weaver threw a competitive pitch before that game. Obviously glad we beat them and it was nice to see the offense hitting its stride. Were it not for Felix’s gem the following night we’d be on a pretty good run of games through today.
Warming up for this one I can say no one pitch felt good. I thought my split had good bite but I knew I wasn’t sharp with the other pitches. Fastball wise the command felt ok but the velocity felt average at best.
Nothing jump starts a game better than the lead off hitter making an out on the first pitch. Orlando hit a 1-0 fastball to left for out #2. Started Vlad off with a fastball in, for strike one, and followed that up with one farther in for ball two. Proceeded to throw the two best splits of the day (up until Mathews AB in the 8th) on the next two pitches and he chased both for the third out.
Garret led off the second by hitting a cutter in to first for the first out. Shea took strike one and then topped an 0-1 split to third for the second out. Kotchman, who I haven’t really seen yet, hit a curve ball that stayed up to short to end the inning.
Our pre-game plan was pretty accurate to this point. A VERY aggressive lineup, top to bottom, that will swing all through the count. Through 2 innings I had like 14 pitches. Carrasco started sharp and made some big pitches. Julio had him bases loaded and a 3-1 count and just missed squaring a ball up to end the second.
Kendrick starts the third by hitting a horribly thrown 2 strike fastball to left. Trying to run it way inside and instead left it middle and he hit it to left. Mike Lowell then proceeds to make the first of what will be many web gems this year. Molina crushes a line drive that Mike literally catches behind him for the first out. I think I fell behind Izturis before getting him to hit a FB away to left for the 2nd out. Mathews flies out early in the AB on a curve ball, to right, to end the inning. Still not a lot of pitches after three.
Erik drives a pitch to deep left center for a triple to start the inning. Carrasco literally pitches his way out of the inning but ‘Teks line drive is knuckling all the way to center field and it gets dropped for a 2 run error. Huge to get those runs right there the way it happened. He’d almost pitched himself out of back to back big jams in two innings.
Orlando jumps on a hanging split and Manny makes a fantastic play to hold him to a single. Vlad pops up a first pitch split to right. Garret, I think, hits another first pitch split to Erik at first and Orlando gets to second. Shea flies out to right on a 1-0 split for the final out. Another low pitch inning. We have a lead and I am thinking that this might be a chance to get to the finish line if I can keep locating early in the count.
We grab another run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning as Carrasco hits his pitch limit and the Angels bullpen takes over. I’ve never seen the Bootcheck kid throw but it doesn’t surprise me that they have another power arm to put in that pen.
Kotchman leads off the 5th by grounding a back door slider to 2B for the first out. Both Abs he’s centered breaking stuff up pretty well. I remember him coming to the big leagues and everyone was talking about his eye and how little he struck out. He has a nice approach and seems to be good enough to wait on a pitch he wants and not miss it. Key to guys like that is having them hit from behind in the count as early and often as possible. Kendrick hits a split to center, not down nearly enough and he looks like he absolutely crushes balls in the lower half of the zone that are on the plate. He’s strong for sure. Molina punches out on a fastball way down and off the outer half of the plate. Izturis lines a ball to right center that Coco runs down nicely to end the inning. I thought it was an out off the bat, then I turned and thought it was a hit when I saw Coco, then I see how fast he’s closing the gap and realize it’s an out. Ball was knuckling a little bit as well.
With one out Orlando hits a double down the left field line, and I have no idea how. First off OCab was one of the funner guys I have ever played with. I competed against him when he was in Montreal, when he first came up. He’s always been a very aggressive good bad ball hitter and one of the better shortstops in the game over the last 15-20 years. When he came here it was nice to see that he’s a great a guy in the clubhouse and off the field as he is on.
The pitch he hit was no more than 4” off the ground and moving down hard. He dragged his bathead through the zone and smoked it into the corner. It’s a 3-0 game at this point and I have an out in hand. I need to make sure that regardless of where Cabrera is after this next AB there are two outs. I get lucky as Vlad again goes after the first pitch and hits a 2 seam fastball to Mike down the line at third.
During the pre-game I had spoken at length with Luis Alicea who is handling our infield positioning and we talked about a few specific guys and our defensive alignment for them. I had wanted to switch some things around and he had the defense in perfect position every time those hitters came into play today. That’s the stuff that you enjoy, when you see the preparation lead to actual outs. No one can see it, and no one usually knows it but 2-3 guys. Garrett ends the inning by flying out on a first pitch change up.
We get more breathing room as the offense makes it 5-0 in the bottom half of the inning. For me, when you go from a 3 to a 4 run lead, it’s huge. Everything after that is gravy but from 3 to 4 is a huge swing for me as a starting pitcher.
I start the seventh off feeling like I am missing something. I fall behind Kotchman and end up getting a pop up on a FB we couldn’t have put in a better spot. With 2 outs I commit a cardinal sin and walk Kendrick. I thought ball 4 was a strike but Tim Timmons didn’t, and once again he wins….
I thought Tim had a tough game today. He wasn’t as sharp as he usually is but the great thing about good umpires is they’ll let you know, be it through the catcher or in some other way, that they might have missed certain pitches. I thought there were a few he missed and I could tell from our hitters they felt the same way. The hard part is understanding that regardless of the fact these are major league umpires, who for the most part are the best in the world at what they do, they miss pitches and they make mistakes. The only thing that bothers players more than a bad umpire is an umpire who blatantly misses one, or screws up, and refuses to admit it, instead getting pissed and making something into a confrontation that shouldn’t be. The good ones almost ALWAYS will make a point to let you know they missed one. So Kendrick walks and then Molina drags out a 10 pitch at bat. It ends with a swing at a fastball in for a swing and a miss, but in the inning, even though no harm was done, I’ve lost my shot at finishing this game. We don’t have an extra off day this time around and I know Tito is not going to send me out in the 9th with over a hundred pitches and a 5 run lead. Add to that the fact that there are quite a few guys that need an inning down in the bullpen.
5 years ago I couldn’t fathom that line of thinking. Up until I came to Boston the complete game was about as important a stat as there was to me as a starting pitcher. I figured that within the complete games all the other numbers would take care of themselves. Johnny Podres preached that mentality to me as a young pitcher and it’s something I have always thought the better pitchers strove for. Things are different now. Me getting a complete game shutout would have been great, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve done that, but in the end I’d have been going out in the 9th to satisfy a personal goal that really has nothing to do with us winning it all. I need to be healthy in October, and as fresh as I can be.
Izturis flies out to center to lead off the 8th. I get Gary to two strikes and throw as good a split as I can throw to end the AB. Orlando hits a fastball away off the end of the bat to right that JD tracks down to end the inning.
I can tell you there are two stadiums in the game that I’ve seen it happen. The fans in NY and Boston are always very in tune with the starting pitchers and pitch counts. Walking off the mound as the home guy with those fans on their feet is a rush you just can’t understand. At the core of reasons for doing what we do, beyond the love of the game and all the other stuff, are those moments that you find yourself in that you know people that haven’t experienced it just won’t get it. April 14th in Fenway and 35,000+ people are on their feet, and LOUD. It’s a rush, an incredible rush. I know it will absolutely be one of the things I’ll miss when I am done but man it’s pretty frickin’ unreal to experience.
No idea what the next two days will bring both schedule and weather wise, but it’s not looking to good. I still can’t believe we’re actually playing a game that starts at 10am, but we are. This has to be the ONLY city on the planet that sells out its ballpark for a pre-noon game start. Unreal.
Looking forward to seeing Josh head back out there. I said in spring training that this was truly going to be his coming out year and I don’t doubt that for a second. He’s matured immensely as a pitcher in a relatively short time, and it’s going to be fun to watch.
I’ll grab some questions over the next few days and post them.