Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Games 156 - 157

Final Scores:

Game 156: Boston Red Sox 7, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3
Game 157: Boston Red Sox 10, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8

"Our team was a lot more professional about clinching a playoff berth than a few of us thought. We're a bunch of idiots, but we're grown-up idiots now. We celebrated the right way. We did it for a little bit and that was it."
-Johnny Damon

I really should have updated yesterday, but clearly I was remiss. In any case, the past two days: On Monday night, I came home from the gym around 8:00, opened up and discovered that the Devil Rays were up 2 - 0. On went the hat, on went the game and all of the sudden David McCarty is sparking a rally that led to a three homerun by Damon and a two run homerun by Manny (a bomb that went 458 feet into center) and the Sox going up 5 - 2. McCarty and Varitek each hit solo shots off of Rays' reliever Lance Carter in the eighth and even though Timlin gave up a solo homerun to Midre Cummings in the bottom of the eighth, T-Bay couldn't mount an effective comeback. I'm awesome for being a good luck charm, Sox win and in so doing, clinch a playoff berth...end of story. Or not. As it turned out, the Sox might not have scored a run on Monday night, if not for some exceedingly odd circumstances.

Bronson Arroyo is not known for being the most controlled pitcher in the majors - he leads the AL in hit batsmen. In the bottom of the third, Arroyo hit two batters in a row. In the top of the next inning, Tampa Bay's starter, Scott Kazmir, who was working on a 1 walk, 6 strikeout no-hitter, hit Manny. Warnings were issued by the umpires to both benches. The next batter, Millar, was hit by a Kazmir fastball in the ribs. Both benches emptied, although no altercations broke out and both Kazmir and manager Lou Piniella were ejected. Lou, in classic form, went ballistic - Robin told me that not just one, but three umpires went over to eject him and it took a while to get him off the field. In part, it's understandable - "bad blood"* from the past or no (although it's true that TBay loves to get into it with the Sox), it doesn't make a lot of sense for a pitcher working on a no-hitter to throw deliberately at a batter, especially after warnings have been issued. I guess, though, that this incident will add to the developing TBay mystique and make the Sox/Tampa Bay games that much of a competition next year. Should be fun to watch.

Last night, it was time for us to question once again whether or not Derek Lowe is in his right mind right now. For the second time in three starts, Lowe did not make it past the third inning, giving up 5 runs in 2.1 innings. Terry Adams, who has yet to prove himself as an effective middle reliever, gave up an additional three runs. After that, though a team of five relievers (Embree, Williamson, Astacio, Mendoza and Foulke) combined to bring home the bacon...along with an offense too hungry for the AL East title to give up easily. Each time the Rays scored, the Sox were able to even up the score, until Millar won the game in the 11th with a two run homer off of closer Denys Baez. The win closes the AL wildcard race with the Sox on top for the second year in a row.

Meanwhile, in New York, Hurricane Jean sent forth a rainstorm that dropped a disgusting amount of rain on the City (I'm not kidding - there were sheets of rain falling most of the day and the wind wasn't above blowing them into your face, either), then disappeared overnight. The first game of the Yankees/Twins series was postponed until today, when they have another single-ticket doubleheader starting at 3:05. The AL East magic number is still 4.

Across the rest of the league, the playoff standings are locking up. Minnesota has the AL Central, Anaheim, who's on a hot streak, are tied with Oakland for the AL West with Texas three games behind, Atlanta has the NL East, St. Louis the NL Central, the Dodgers have a magic number of three to take the NL West from San Francisco and the winner of a virtual three way tie between Chicago, San Francisco and Houston will determine the NL Wildcard winner. As someone mentioned recently, this is why the Wildcard was invented; it's keeping a lot more interest in baseball across the country, even as the season is about to end. GO SOX!

* - Part of the reasoning given by third base umpire Gerry Davis for the heads up the umpires were given by Major League Baseball coming into this series.