Takeaways: Lackey wins, Pedroia errs
June, 15, 2013
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
BALTIMORE -- A few takeaways from the Boston Red Sox's 5-4 win in Camden Yards, a.k.a. the House That Lucchino Built, although we suspect a few Baltimore Orioles fans would beg to differ and say that if Babe Ruth gets credit for Yankee Stadium, Cal Ripken Jr. deserves the same for this jewel:
* If all else fails for Dustin Pedroia, there is always his power of persuasion. The Red Sox second baseman succeeded in convincing plate umpire Jeff Nelson that he had foul-tipped what would have been strike three from Orioles pitcher Freddy Garcia to open the fourth. Given a reprieve, Pedroia hit the next pitch for a single, and one out later Mike Carp ended a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings here for the Red Sox with a two-run home run.
"I've got to be honest with you, the last four, five games, the ball has looked like a baby aspirin coming in," said Pedroia, who had just three hits in 20 at-bats on this trip before his single. "I actually thought I did hit it. I swung and felt something.
"I'm like, 'I swore that ball off.' I didn't; that's how locked in I am at the plate right now. It was a break for us. I just said, 'I thought I fouled that,'" he said of the foul ball.
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMike Carp celebrates after his two-run homer.
"I thought I hit something. It was probably the ground, I don't know."
* The last time Pedroia made an error, John Lackey was still on the disabled list, recovering from Tommy John surgery. That was Aug. 29, 2012.
"That's one of the more surprising things I've ever seen on the field," Lackey said of the ground ball hit by Nate McLouth that passed under Pedroia's glove and through his legs in the fifth inning. "I told him I probably won't have to worry about seeing that again. I'll be gone before that happens again."
The error was the first made by Pedroia this season in 70 games, and his first in 97 games, one short of his club record for second basemen.
"It was weird," Pedroia said. "He hit it with a little topspin on it. It hit the lip [of the grass] and stayed down. I thought it would come up, but it sped up. I was in close, trying to turn two. [Lackey] picked me up and pitched great."
* Pedroia's error was preceded by an infield hit that handcuffed third baseman Jose Iglesias, a play that could have easily been called an error, and left Lackey in a first-and-third, no-out predicament. But he kept his composure and got out of it with the help of a terrific throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who nailed McLouth at second attempting to steal with the dangerous Manny Machado at the plate.
Saltalamacchia also made another strong throw to nail Machado trying to steal in the third.
At first blush, it might appear odd that the Orioles were running in that fifth-inning situation, down by two runs, but Baltimore has the highest success rate of steals in the league this season, having stolen 50 of 60 coming into Saturday's game, an 83.3 percent success rate.
And Lackey in his past two seasons (2011 and this one) has proven to be eminently easy to run on, opponents succeeding on 44 of 48 attempts, including 11 of 12 this season.
Given that Saltalamacchia came into the game having thrown out just 5 of 38 attempted base-stealers this season, it's no surprise that the Orioles felt like they had a license to run.
Instead, Saltalamacchia became the first catcher this season to throw out two would-be Orioles thiefs in the same game.
"Two tremendous throws," manager John Farrell said. "Salty had such clean exchanges on two occasions."
Saltalamacchia gave Lackey some credit.
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJohn Lackey has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of 11 starts this season.
"I thought he was a lot quicker [to the plate]," the catcher said. "He made good pitches for me to throw on, a cutter away and a fastball up and away that I was able get a feel for. He was moving pretty quick."
* The Sox, conversely, stole three bases, the first team to steal more than two against the Orioles this season. Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino all stole safely, with Ellsbury now at 31 in 34 attempts.
It helped, of course, that Balitmore's catcher was backup Taylor Teagarden, who had caught 1 of 3 baserunners coming in and nabbed Iglesias on Saturday. No. 1 catcher Matt Wieters leads the league throwing out attempted base-stealers, having caught 13 of 25, a 52 percent rate.
* Farrell thought Lackey's shutting down the Orioles after the first four batters had reached, two of them scoring, was key to the game.
"I didn't let the game speed up on me, minimized the damage, settled in a little bit," said Lackey, who went seven innings Saturday and has now allowed three runs or fewer (two Saturday) in nine of his 11 starts this season.
Farrell said Lackey did a good job of going to his breaking balls earlier in the count to neutralize the Orioles' aggressive approach.
"We've seen John in middle, later innings unravel a little bit," Farrell said. "He didn't let innings speed up, especially after the first four base hits."
* Closer Andrew Bailey, who blew a two-run lead in The Trop on Monday before bouncing back with a save Wednesday, was shaky again Saturday, giving up a leadoff single to Adam Jones and a two-run home run to Wieters.
Bailey has had a habit this season of giving up hits to the first batter he faces; they're hitting .350 (7-for-20) against him. That was not the case in 2011, his last season in Oakland. The first batters he faced that season were only 5-for-40, a .125 average.
"I don't know, I get ahead of a guy, try to put him away, maybe waste one too many pitches," Bailey said of the Jones at-bat. "I end up with an even count, then fall behind 3-and-2, have to throw a strike, have to throw a fastball.
"I've got to put a halt to this little bad spell I'm having. I'm missing in bad spots. I've got to focus on the glove more, throw better pitches."
"A little jumpy, much like in Tampa," he said. "When he comes to the plate too quick, it takes away the second gear on his fastball that he's known for."
* Jonny Gomes made only his seventh start this season against a right-handed pitcher, in part, Farrell said, because he had homered in his only at-bat against Garcia. Small sample size? After Gomes fouled out in his first at-bat, he singled and scored from first on a double by Stephen Drew, and homered in the sixth, his fourth of the season.
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagJonny Gomes energized the Sox by scoring from first on a double and later hitting a solo home run.
Gomes started in left in place of Daniel Nava.
"I wanted to give us some energy in the lineup," Farrell said, "not so much at the expense of Daniel. Energy was needed a day game after a night game."
Gomes had a tremendous jump on Drew's double, though the Sox could have done without the head-first slide into home plate. Too easy to get hurt that way.
"I don't think people give Jonny Gomes enough credit for the baseball player he is and the intelligence he has," Farrell said. "He's on the move from the get-go. He makes a good read, and as we look back, that was a key baserunning move in the game."
* Finally, there is Carp, who now has hit five home runs in his past 10 games, and eight in just 103 at-bats. Ellsbury, by contrast, has 1 in 271 at-bats. Baltimore's Chris Davis, who has 22 home runs, began the day leading the league in home run ratio with one every 11 at-bats. Carp is averaging one every 12.8 at-bats.