Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Game 64: Golden Buddha

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Cincinnati Red 0

Seven innings. One hit. Five strikeouts. Two walks. No runs. After four quality starts in a row, including two straight shutouts, Wells has acquired Golden God pitching status...but of course, since he's a fat, bald guy, the moniker Golden Buddha* is infinitely more appropriate.

I was a bit nervous for the Buddha when the game started, but as he kept setting down Reds and the Sox scored runs, it was more nervousness about losing the no-hitter than a worry about losing the start. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason why Ryan Freel hit that single in the sixth was because Alan called me to ask what was up with the announcers**, distracting me long enough for a hit to slip past my concentration. Because I've got psychic powers like that. Robin was of the opinion afterwards that the only reason why Buddha broke his streak of 20+ innings without a walk in the seventh was because he was tiring (he threw 110 pitches)...or maybe because of all of those batters he set down. Timlin came on in eighth and did his usual magic, striking out two in the process, followed by Foulke who had an easy 1-2-3 with a strikeout of his own. In other words, a flawless performance by the Boston pitching staff and the first combined one-hitter by Boston since 1990. I'm sure the bullpen is enjoying the rest.

On the hitting side of things, Manny hit his third homerun in as many games and Millar went 2 for 2 with a run. Clearly the 50 degree temperatures that beset Fenway yesterday hurt neither player's stroke; Francona described Manny's homerun as having been hit through the wind. Renteria and Mueller both grounded into double plays, but Mueller made up for his gaffe by driving in three runs on two hits and maintaining his .500 average (5 for 10) with the bases loaded this year. All around, with the exception of a weird inning where Damon grounded into a fielder's choice that was nearly a double play, followed by Edgah's DP to end the inning, the hitting was excellent. It's good to be home.

I realized during the game that this series features the league leaders in strikeouts for both the American League (Mark Bellhorn) and the National League (Adam Dunn). Clearly Dunn comes out better than old Ding-Honk in the head to head, since Dunn also leads the NL in walks and has a lot more homeruns, but I can imagine the two of them squaring off over who's more selective. Of course, since Dunn was a football players in college and Bellhorn looks like he'd gut you without a second thought, I'm not sure who'd win.

Interesting post on Surving Grady about what the team's rallying cry will be this year. Since both "Cowboy Up" and "The Idiots" didn't emerge until a bit after the All Star Break, it's likely the '05 Sox won't find their voice until late July at the earliest, but it's interesting to speculate on what's going to define this team. Another factor to consider is that both the '03 and '04 identities were born out of a desperation which doesn't exist this year. The Sox have been on an upward rising track ever since Theo became the GM; having achieved their goal of winning it all, they need to crystalize around the more difficult concept of winning it again and becoming a perenially successful powerhouse. These past few games (and heck, going .500 over the last set of tough games too) certainly speak well to that direction, as does the
immanent return of Schilling and the possibility of improving the bullpen through trading.

The tough game of the series tonight: Arroyo versus the Red's best pitcher, Aaron Harang (whose name is soon to be co-opted by a Swedish Prog-Rock group). Arroyo had a good start against Anaheim two starts ago (the one the bullpen blew open), but didn't do so well against the Cubs last time out. Harang has a 3.52 ERA, almost nine K/9, and a 1.10 WHIP...but three of his four losses were against St. Louis and Baltimore. Should be an interesting matchup. GO SOX!!!

* - Thanks to Robin
** - Joe Castiglione is out for two days because of his mother-in-law's death, so it was Jerry, one of the Red Sox execs who used to be an announcer in San Diego and a former member of the Angels who went to UMass Amherst. Not a bad job calling the game, truth be told.