Nothing screams EXCITEMENT like a late-night West Coast game in a National League Park, am I right?
Well, the first game of the Xander Bogaerts era began with Jon Lester squaring off against Tim Lincecum. Unfortunately for one of those pitchers, he was facing a lineup capable of actually hitting the ball—even if it did include a pitcher. (Hint: it's not the lineup containing Jeff Francoeur.)
Tonight's game, for lack of a better description, was an anomaly: weird stuff wall-to-wall with wildness and wacky to watch. What kind of game was it? Well, only the kind of game that happens in a National League park. Consider the following:
- Will Middlebrooks had four plate appearances, but only one at-bat. He was walked intentionally twice, so that Lincecum could face Lester. The other was a sacrifice fly to score Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the game's first run, in the top of the second.
- Shane Victorino reached base in his first four appearances—three times by hits, and once with a hit by pitch.
- Dustin Pedroia hit into two double plays, wiping out Victorino in the process each time.
- Daniel Nava scored the second run of a game on a Lincecum balk—against Jon Lester.
- Jacoby Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch by Guillermo Moscoso, making Tim Lincecum's line for the night look even worse in the process.
- Pedroia also had a triple in the top of the ninth. (His tiny little legs must have been working overtime on that one.)
- David Ortiz got himself an adorable sombrero for his efforts. Apparently playing first base doesn't help his hitting.
So, yeah, it was a "huh?" buffet with a "what the...?" dessert bar.
In the battle of struggling former aces, Lincecum didn't seem to have much ability to keep the Red Sox off the base paths—except for the unlikeliest of suspects, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. And, of course, Lester, but come on, he's not getting credit for getting an AL pitcher out.
(And, while we're on the subject of annoying NL habits, can we talk about not having the designated hitter for a moment? Seriously, NL, look into it. It's not such a big deal. I mean, you already do these ridiculous "double switches" so that you avoid having the pitcher come up to bat. That's why your lineups tend to look like Swiss cheese, with holes everywhere after about the fifth inning. At least we don't have to deal with this trip in September and the 40-man lineups. Yeesh. Just do the smart thing and get yourselves a designated hitter. You'll be glad you did. Trust me on this.)
(Or, on second thought, how about this. We let the American League teams have the DH wherever they play, and the NL gets to have the pitcher hit wherever they play. I like that idea a lot better, actually. Don't worry about fairness.)
On the other hand, Jon Lester looked very much like the Lester of old. He torched the Giants' lineup, making them look very, very foolish indeed the first time through, with three consecutive 1-2-3 innings on a svelte 36 pitches. He was helped out by some very aggressive swinging, doing his best Koji Uehara impression by retiring Andres Torres, Marco Scutaro, and Brandon Belt in the first on just six pitches. Only two Giants made it to second base, and both of those were quickly dispatched by Lester and the Red Sox defense, with a big assist by way of Marco Scutaro grounding into a double play in the bottom of the eighth inning.
While Lester would leave the game with one out and two on in the bottom of the ninth (Brandon Workman would get the last two outs by way of strikeout), it's hard not to be very, very encouraged by this start, which puts a bit of an exclamation mark on a deceptively impressive second half (2.54 ERA!). We can only hope that it carries forward in the final sprint toward the end of the season.
Read more Red Sox:
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- Do the Red Sox need an ace to contend?
- How have the Red Sox' free agent signings impacted 2013?
- Red Sox at third: Why Will Middlebrooks over Xander Bogaerts makes sense