Monday, June 27, 2005

Games 72 - 74: First Place, Baby

Final Scores:

Game 72: Boston Red Sox 8, Philadelphia Phillies 0
Game 73: Boston Red Sox 7, Philadelphia Phillies 1
Game 74: Boston Red Sox 12, Philadelphia Phillies 8

Sometimes, it's good to be wrong. Like when you expect a .500 roadtrip and get two sweeps in a row. With a flawless performance from Wakefield, who's had excellent starts since Mirabelli came off the DL (not giving up an earned run in 22 innings) on Friday and Honest Abe's ninth win, a seven hit, seven inning, four strikeout effort on Saturday, the stage was set for yesterday's showdown.

I was wrong about the starting time so I missed everthing up to the fifth, when my buddy Alan called me to find out if I had seen the fireworks so far - Manny hitting his 19th career grand slam, David Wells legging out a single, scoring an RBI in the process and later coming home and of course, pitching like the Golden Buddha should. The score at the time was 8 - 1, so I tuned in, expecting a rollover for an easy victory.

Now, earlier this season I had toyed with the idea of getting and ended up balking at the cost, opting for Gameday Audio instead. Normally, I would have fired up Joe and Jerry without a second thought, but I've been toying with upgrading...and was provided with an excuse when my girfriend had to use my laptop to do some research because her computer wasn't cooperating. She was trying to concentrate, so she needed quiet; she was working in our living room, where my computer is, so sound was not an option and I'm lazy, so I didn't want to plug headphones into my desktop. $50 later, video to the rescue.

Of course, right away it was starting to look like a repeat of the game against the Cardinals that I had watched on - as soon as I turned on the broadcast, Boomer starts giving up runs, walking people and generally not pitching the way he had the previous four innings. He made it through the fifth, but the score was now 8 - 5. The offense, which had already gone through its five run explosion in the fourth wasn't adding anything. Mantei, surprisingly enough, made it through the sixth with only a walk, but in the seventh the Phillies picked up three off of Embree and Timlin, right after I had to wonder what the game would be like it got closer, say like within a run or two.

Now, I know there are a lot of Embree haters out there, but for once this wasn't entirely his fault - he did give up a single and a walk, but would have gotten one, if not two outs had Ramon Vasquez, who was playing for Renteria on his day off not let a groundball through his legs. Embree went on, with the help of Timlin, to give up three runs, two of them earned and the game was tied when the Sox came up in the eighth...for literally all of three minutes. Johnny Damon, who now has a thirteen game hitting streak, hit a single. Mark Bellhorn, batting second and going a surprising 3 for 4, smacked his eighteenth double of the year and Damon flew around the basepaths to score: 9 - 8 Sox. Bellhorn came home on a sac fly by Manny and then Varitek crushed a two run homer to center to make it 12 - 8. Timlin was scoreless for the eighth and Foulke had another easy outting, completing the sweep. As an added bonus, the Orioles are in a five game slide - after surrendering first place to the Sox on the 24th (happy birthday to me), they're now in second place, 2.5 games back.

Damon's flight around the basepaths in the eighth makes for an interesting contrast with the experience of the starting pitchers on both sides of field - David Wells vented to reporters after the game that the dimensions of Citizens Bank park are small enough to raise a pitcher's ERA to a five or six, while Phillies' starting pitcher Brett Myers could be clearly seen on camera asking how Manny's grand slam had managed to leave the park. Citizen's Bank: old school look and feel, new school dimensions.

The triumphant return to Fenway tonight for the Arroyo/Millwood rematch. The Sox will be home against the Indians and Toronto before heading on the road again. The current hot streak (12 for their last 13, seven wins in a row, playing like the champions they are) couldn't come at a better time - the June swoon is headed off at the pass and Boston is entering the stretch where most of the games will be at home. GO SOX!!!