Sunday, July 19, 2009

In running diary: Lester v Halladay. Boston @ Toronto Sunday night

What a treat, right after the All Star break, a little 'welcome back to MLB' peach. John Lester v Doc Halladay, an AL East showdown with a hint of playoff scent about it.

So many great side stories to this show down between two of the top starting pitchers in the game. Many would have Halladay top five and many more would have Lester banging on the door of the top ten starters in MLB.

Interesting that the Sox chose to start Clay Bulletholes on Friday, under the auspices of rewarding the talented, hard working kid for his AAA service, however doing so in Toronto, where Doc Halladay is the big catch of the day. The Jays would have to have been seriously impressed with Clay's stifling performance and maybe the Sox would pull the trigger on a move involving a few other minor league pieces for Halladay.

Enough with the chit chat. Let's get it on.

Top of the first inning
How on earth is the stadium not full? Seriously? Two huge Al East powers with two superb pitchers on the hill. It will be interesting to see the figures but not enough bums in seats, if you ask me. Ball one and here we go.

JD Drew batting leadoff, not entirely sure how I feel about that. Particularly so after Drew stands and stares at strike three. Lame JD, lame. Meanwhile Pedroia reaches on an infield single. Pedroia is really the anti-Drew in a lot of ways.

Up comes Youkilis, line drive left field and Pedroia is on third, pow, just like that. Three batters in and the price for Halladay is now down to three top tier prospects. Hard line drive to right, nice catch by the right fielder however Pedroia tags alertly and scores, picking up an RBI for Big Papi. Guess how many he has so far? 50! Bet you didn't see that figure coming?

Long fly ball off the bat of Bay to deep, deep center field, too high however, as we say in the Irish League, too high, three outs, Sox have to settle for just the one.

Bet you didn't know this guy already has 50 RBIs?

Bottom of one
Sox 1 Jays 0
Lester to the hill. Averaging just over 10 Ks a game, third best in the Majors. Not too shabby, right? Two quick outs, Lester throwing some soft stuff, not shaking V-Tek off so this has to be part of the game plan for the Sox. With Lind up, Lester breaks off a couple of 94mph heaters and strikes him out with a beautiful, sweeping curve. Nice start all round.

Top of two
Sox 1 Jays 0
What age is Scott Rolen? Five billion years old? He makes a nice play on a Jacoby grounder, one more pitch later and V-Tek is out too, two quick outs for Doc Halladay on very few pitches. Kotsay complicates things slightly by rolling a hard hit single into center field. Up comes Tricky Little Nicky Green, and Kotsay steals second to get into scoring position. Halladay sppeared to completely forget the runner. Sadly, for the Sox anyway, the number nine hitter, Green, strikes out feebly to end the top of the first. Halladay throwing pretty hard.

Bottom of two
Sox 1 Jays 0
Lester really seems to be throwing a lot of offspeed pitches. Again, assuming this is the plan of attack. Lester uses his curve to set Rolen up then blows him away with a high fastball. The blue appears to have a reasonably big zone for both starters, meaning this could lead to a pretty snappy little game of baseball. Personally, I love that. That's baseball.

Lyle Overbay has the 'Mission Impossible' theme as his walk up music, what exactly is he trying to convey by using that?! Worryingly Lester starts to nibble a little, walking Overbay and going to 3-0 against Rios, the third pitch the Blue flinches but won't give him the call. Must have heard me saying he has a wide zone tonight.

Ball four. Two men on, both free passes. No matter what level you are at, that's going to come back to haunt you eventually. Hey, old friend Kevin Millar. I wonder is he drunk? Or, at the very least, tippsy?

Millar batting .127 over his last 30 games, pops up to V-Tek, two down, much more like it from Lester who gets back to pounding the zone.

Just when Lester appears to have gotten back on track, Rod Barajas slices a ball to right, and both runners score, remember both go on through free passes. Those damn walks, they gonna getcha, every time. 2-1 Jays just like that. All this from the lower half of the Jays order.

The Canadian crowd gets all excited about a fly ball however it is too high, and the inning is over, 2-1 Jays after two.

Top of three
Sox 1 Jays 2
Happened to notice the over/under for this one was a very low 7.5. You have to feel we are going to top that, with 3 in the run column already. Drew goes after the first pitch and grounds out, Halladay has probably only thrown about 20 pitches, at most. Hard line drive single by the dirt dog that is Pedroia, who leads the Majors in '3 hit games', is that a stat now?

Cheeky little base hit to right off the bat of Youk and there is two on, one away. Difference here is Halladay hasn't walked anyone, so the Sox are just a ground ball double play away from blowing this.

Ortiz tries his best to do just that by hitting into the shift, however, credit to the big fella, hustling down the line he just beats the relay throw. Runners at the corners, two down, Halladay a lazy fly away from getting out of a jam.

And there it is, Jason Bay flies out to center. Too easy really, too easy an escape anyway for Halladay. He just threw strikes and his 'D' got him out of it. Hopefully Lester is at least paying attention on the bench.

Bottom of three
Sox 1 Jays 2
Once again Lester is nibbling, trying to pick up the outside corner but not finding it. He walks the leadoff batter, apparently he was not paying attention to Halladay throwing all those strikes.

Five straight balls to start the bottom of three. Ugly.

Ground ball out. Lester appears pretty up and down so far tonight, as if he is having a hard time finding his release point. Basically, he doesn't look entirely comfortable.

Aaron Hill steals second, from a minuscule lead. Lester only has himself to blame, horribly slow leg kick and Hill has time to make a cup of coffee, read the paper and still steal second. Lester helps his own cause though by striking out Lynd on a sweeping curve.

Fly ball off the bat of Rolen and Lester is out of the inning. After three it's 2-1 Jays

Top of four
Sox 1 Jays 2
Nice speedy little number we have going here. Ellsbury is out on a ground ball before we even blink. Halladay reminds me, and yes, I am going to go there, of Pedro in his '99-'02 glory days, he only throws strikes! He just pounds the zone, with good movement. V-Tek strikes out on a nasty, dirty, filthy fastball down and away, and the price for Halladay is definitely back up to four top tier prospects. Ten pitches, Kotsay out on a weak grounder, half inning over. Stifling.

Bottom of four
Sox 1 Jays 2
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects
Lester seems to be finding his release point, two quick outs, beautiful painted fastball outside corner to pick up strike three for the second out. Millar beats out, wait for it, a cheap infield single. Ortiz and Millar should be forced to race each other after the game, you know, for the laugh. Ridiculous scoring decision on the Millar single, they are calling it an error on the throw, even though Lester really had zero chance to throw Millar out, because of how high the ball bounced at the plate. Lester has given up just the one hit so far, if that erroneous decision stands.

Rod Barajas owns Jon Lester, apparently, slapping an inside fastball, clearing it out for a single to right field. Runners on first and second two away, Lester needs to end this little threat right now or this game could be over, the way Doc Halladay is pitching. All the damage tonight is coming from the lower half of the Jays order.

Four straight balls to Bautista and Farrell, the pitching coach, ambles out to the mound. With the sacks full of Jays and two down, this really could turn out to be the game right here. Lester v Scuttaro. Marco is, ouch, 6/12 with the bases loaded. Dangerous, I dub thee Scuttaro. lester works hard and gets a ground ball back to the mound to scrape his way out of trouble, inning over. Tense stuff, but Lester gets the job done.

Top of five
Sox 1 Jays 2
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects
If the Sox don't start lengthening their half innings, this is going to be a Halladay complete game. Strike one, well, he only throws strikes, I guess. Strike two. Halladay absolutely abusing Nick Green, who strikes out on a ball in the dirt. Completely over matched. Two at bats, two K's. Bring back Julio Lugo. Only kidding.

Up comes Drew, strike one. Right down the pipe. Strike two and Halladay is starting to toy with the Red Sox batters. Having said that, Drew does put up a fight, working to a full count. He then promptly grounds out. They haven't shown how many pitches Halladay is at as yet, we're guessing 67. Wild guess. Pedroia up, strike one. Of course.

Pedroia flies out to center. Half inning over.

Bottom of five
Sox 1 Jays 2
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects plus a case of beer
Very important for Lester to match Halladay for zeroes here, if the Sox want anything at all from this AL East show down.

Barring a crazy inning, it would also appear the bookies got it right again, with the over/under at 7.5. Lester goes right after Aaron Hill and strikes him out to start the bottom of the fifth. That big sweeping curve and Lind strikes out, two down in a hurry. That's Lester's sixth K so far.


Top of six
Sox 1 Jays 2
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects plus a case of beer
Typical start to the inning, one pitch, strike, one out, as Youk grounds to third, too easy for Halladay. The Sox chasing those pitches early in the count has just given Halladay a ticket to pitch into the late part of this encounter.

Half inning is over before it even starts really.

Bottom of six
Sox 1 Jays 2
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer and some quality snacks.
Trouble to start the sixth. Overbay slices a double into the power alley in left. Runner on second no outs. This could be tricky.

Rios wastes no time slapping a single and the Jays have first and third no outs. Not good. Old friend Kevin Millar up to bat. Stolen base, runners at second and third, nobody out, nobody at all. But wait, what's this, apparently time was called, so the runner has to go back to first. Let's see if they try that again.

Lester helps himself a little by getting Millar to pop up. One away, runners on first and third. Up comes Lester-killer, Rod Barajas. Key show down. I think we can safely say this is the game right here.

Delcarmen up in the pen. Pow. Nice pop off that fastball.

Barajas gets the job done, fly ball to center, 3-1 Jays. The way Halladay is slicing batters up that could be enough. Interestingly Lester escapes the inning without further damage. However, is it too little too late?

Top of seven
Sox 1 Jays 3
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer, some quality snacks and a jar of pickles.
Goodness gracious, V-Tek pops up the first pitch, are the Sox in a hurry to do something tonight? Have they got plans outside of this game? Still no word on Doc's pitch count however it can't be too high. Kotsay gets called out on a horrible third 'strike', up high out of the zone, even the Canuck commentary team agree it was a horrible call. Nick Green up, so you know the half inning is effectively over. Hey, Green is a nice little utility player, but is not in the same league as Halladay.

As if on cue, strike three. The half empty stadium 'goes nuts'. I wonder will this be Halladay's last start in Toronto?

Bottom of seven
Sox 1 Jays 3
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer, some quality snacks, a jar of pickles and a free subscription to MLB TV.
Hard to see how the Sox are going to get anything from this game the way it is going, they need a major momentum shift of some sort or another. It would be nice to be able to say Lester was free of blame however when you are in a big game like this you can not walk so many batters. Lester has however battled, and has at least kept the Sox within striking distance, just about.

Lind knocks a double to left but not before Lester gets the first two outs. Farrell to the mound, you have to think if this runner scores the young lefty's night is out. Wow they play really, really bad music on the Toronto stadium PA. Simply awful.

111 pitches for Lester thus far. Key at bat against Rolen. Lester does the job getting Rolen to fly out to left. Inning over.

Top of eight
Sox 1 Jays 3
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer, some quality snacks, a jar of pickles, a free subscription to MLB TV and a Blue Jays jersey with 'Halladay' on the back.
Stupid MLB TV is a little shaky tonight. Keeps stop/starting as we get into the late innings. Shocking start to the inning, Drew pops up the first pitch. What is it about Boston and the first pitch to start the inning tonight? They did not have a good strategy and you have to think it's going to cost them.

Drew, Pedroia and Youkilis are all out before we even blink.

Bottom of eight
Sox 1 Jays 3
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer, some quality snacks, a jar of pickles, a free subscription to MLB TV , a Blue Jays jersey with 'Halladay' on the back and dinner with Katherine Heigl.
Hyde Park native Manny Delcarmen is up for the Sox. Bulletholes, Bowden, Delcarmen plus one other, would that tempt the Jays? May not be enough, although that would completely revamp the Jays pitching, plus bring their overall salary down dramatically.

With one down Millar is up with Rios on first. Millar batting a feeble .230 on the season. It's feeble when you only attach 4 home runs to that.

Theo Epstein in the house, apparently, by the way. Interesting.

Millar ends the inning by drooping into a double play. Nice work by Delcarmen. We go to the ninth for all the marbles.

Top of nine
Sox 1 Jays 3
Halladay price; Four top tier prospects, a case of beer, some quality snacks, a jar of pickles, a free subscription to MLB TV , a Blue Jays jersey with 'Halladay' on the back, dinner with Katherine Heigl and the complete box set of 'The Wire', seasons one through five.

I think it is safe to say there has to be a super duper wild change of momentum here or the Sox are going to end up losing here. For my money the first batter has to reach, or Halladay will just stay in cruise control.

Ortiz instead flies out. One down. Whatever. Bay, gone, two away. Double whatever. High five to MLB TV for completely ruining the end of the game with technical difficulties by the way. Nice work.

Game over.

Hey, you can't win 'em all I guess. Goodnight, and good luck.



Brian said...

Great piece - V enjoyable read, the price for Doc really did skyrocket in the late innings!

Cormac said...

Thanks!! Well, you gotta pay up for quality!

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
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