Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the tag “Edwin Encarnacion”

Oh, Hello Clay

8 innings. 2 earned runs. 2 walks. 7 strike outs.

Chew on that.

Clay Buchholz has been worse than bad in 2012. His ERA, even with last night’s dominating performance, is a robust 6.58. It wouldn’t be a huge deal if Buchholz was still a back-end of the rotation kid, still feeling his way in the big leagues. But he’s not. The Texas native is 27-years old. Heading into the season, many Boston baseball people agreed that it would be the performances of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and especially Buchholz that would ultimately determine whether the Red Sox would sink or swim. Buchholz has been absent, often the first nomination by fans and media members to take a trip to Triple-A Pawtucket. It would be an understatement to say that Buchholz has not pitched well this year. He’s been downright miserable.

But not last night.

—–

It was the first inning, and Buchholz was in yet another tight spot. Kelly Johnson reached base on a catcher’s interference call. The supremely underrated Yunel Escobar hit a chopper to shortstop Mike Aviles in the hole who moved to his right and booted it. It certainly was not a taylor-made double play ball, but Aviles surely would have been able to cut down Johnson at second. Instead of there being one out and a man on first, Buchholz was now forced to deal with two guys on and Jose Bautista coming to the dish. Buchholz opened with three straight pitches out of the strike zone to Bautista. He battled back and ultimately struck out the dangerous righty.

After the game, it was clear that Buchholz understood the importance of that strike out.

“That’s the time when he [Bautista] rises to the occasion, hits a homer, hits a double, and clears the bags. That was a big part of the game for me,” Buchholz said. “That was just a steppingstone to get to the next inning and go out there with a little bit of confidence.’’

Buch was far from out of it as Edwin Encarnacion brought his 17 home runs and 42 RBIs to the plate. The slender righty induced a ground ball to shortstop. Aviles atoned for his mistake earlier in the inning by starting a crisp 6-4-3 double play. Inning over, damage averted.

Buchholz was able to pitch successfully with runners on-base and wiggle out of a tight spot that he did not create. He went on throw seven more strong innings. It was an encouraging sign for a hurler who has struggled mightily thus far.

For Buchholz, it’s about restoring confidence in himself. And last night was a big step in the right direction.

Put This One on Bobby

Well that didn’t go as planned.

The Red Sox notched their first win of the young season two nights ago. They pitched well and showed some late-inning heart with their bats. Naturally, as a fan, you expected the Olde Towne Team to parlay the momentum from Monday night into Tuesday. Two straight wins is one away from a winning streak, after all.

That didn’t happen.

Daniel Bard pitched fine. He induced a number of ground balls that found holes through the Red Sox infield. Bard certainly did not have a great deal of luck on his side tonight. Nevertheless, he pitched relatively well. The tall righty, however, was not the story.

The Red Sox lost 7-3 last night because of some gross mismanagement on the part of Bobby Valentine.

Let’s take a closer look.

With the score 3-1 in favor of the Blue Jays in the bottom of the sixth and Bard’s pitch count in the mid-80′s, Edwin Encarnacion walked. Promptly, Encarnacion stole second. Brett Lawrie followed with an infield single to shortstop that allowed Encarnacion to move to third. Runners on the corners. No one out. Left handed hitting Eric Thames due up.

Valentine came out to take the ball from a noticeably upset Bard–as a disclaimer, I don’t care if Bard wasn’t happy with Valentine’s decision–finish your start, and there isn’t an issue, Dan. The skipper summoned lefty Justin Thomas from the bullpen (more on this later). Thames, a left handed hitter who hits miserably against left handed pitching, was provided a free pass by Thomas. Bases loaded, still no one out. Valentine left Thomas in to face J.P. Arencibia. Matt Albers and his sinker was ready in the bullpen, but for some inexplicable reason Valentine pushed his chips in the pot with Thomas. Arencibia singled to right center, scoring two runs. Colby Rasmus would plate a run with a sacrifice fly. 6-1 Blue Jays.

Gag.

Here are the issues. Thomas should not be on this team. He’s a left handed pitcher. I get it. And it’s real neat. But he’s not a major league pitcher on the Boston Red Sox. Scott Atchison, like Thomas, does not have great raw stuff, but the former is a proven pitcher who has contributed on the major league level. Thomas, on the other hand, is a warm cadaver body that happens to use his left hand to pitch. That’s it.

Valentine and the Red Sox are carrying 13 pitchers. That is ridiculous. It is a noticeable flaw with this roster.

I can’t speak for Valentine, but I firmly believe that going to Thomas (and sticking with him) in a tight game is a result of the manager feeling like he has to keep his guys fresh. In the same fashion that Valentine used Nick Punto, Darnell McDonald, and Kelly Shoppach in Sunday’s game, he opted to go with (and stick with) Thomas tonight even though he may not have been the best option because he wants to keep his secondary players fresh. Unfortunately for Valentine, position players and bullpen arms are inherently different.

To summarize, Thomas should have never even had the opportunity to throw a pitch in a high leverage situation tonight. He should be in Pawtucket. That is on the guys in baseball operations.

Thomas should have gotten yanked after failing to do his job (walking Thames). That is on Valentine.

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