Thursday, July 07, 2005

Game 83: All Star

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Texas Rangers 4

Kenny Rogers? Kenny Rogers can eat it. We all know who the All Star pitcher was in Arlington last night. With eight and two-thirds innings, nine hits, four runs, nine strikeouts and no walks, Matt Clement gave the Sox their second clutch start in a row, saving the bullpen from another night of heavy lifting: Alan Embree made a three pitch effort to get the final out and the save in the ninth.

On the offensive side, Big Papi hit his 21st homerun and a two run single, Millar hit an RBI single, Varitek hit an infield RBI single and Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to a majors-leading 22 games. The Sox managed to break Chan Ho Park, who held them scoreless through five innings, leave Texas with the series win and pick up half a game on Baltimore, who did not play last night.

Keith Foulke is officially on the 15 day DL as of yesterday and will be out four to six weeks for arthroscopic surgery on his knees. In his absence, the Sox have called up 29 year old Scott Cassidy, who has a 1.15 ERA in sixteen relief appearances. Overall, Cassidy, who is more effective against right handers, had a six and three record and a 3.81 ERA in Pawtucket. With Schilling being set up to close, first in Pawtucket (tonight) and then in Boston, it sounds like Cassidy is up to replace Matt Mantei. There is no official word yet on what correctional option Mantei will take on his ankle, but it's possible the reliever could be out for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, the Boston sports media and the Red Sox blogosphere are abuzz with the idea of Schilling closing out games. Terry Francona has specifically come out and said that the solution is not a permanent one, so it doesn't sound, at the moment at least, like Schilling will be the next Dennis Eckersley, making the permanent switch from starter to closer. The Sox are certainly in the market for at least a temporary replacement - "Every day" Eddie Guardado was a possible option, but according to the Globe:

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday morning that Guardado has a limited no-trade clause (apparently, the Red Sox are one of 10 teams on his trade veto list) and would have to sign off on any deal. And considering many of Guardado's contract incentives are tied to closer-type statistics, it can be assumed he would likely veto any deal to Boston. "It's strictly a business decision," Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, told the Boston Herald yesterday. "It's nothing against the Boston franchise or their fans."

A statement like that not only makes it sound like Guardado will not be the fix for the Sox closer problems, but also suggests that Boston is still relying on Keith Foulke to come back and be his old self. Although there is a suggestion that the psychological pressure of performing in Boston may have finally gotten to Foulke, I still think the problem is more physical - otherwise, why continue to pitch through the knee pain, or continue to ask for the ball?

In other news, players don't like finding things out about their team from the media. Both Johnny Damon and Tim Wakefield expressed disappointment with the idea of Schilling as closer. Damon was especially vocal, citing Schilling's age and concequent inability to warm up quickly as reasons why he should not close out ballgames. Damon prefers Timlin or Arroyo as options for closer; Wakefield is more worried that losing a starter to the bullpen could spell trouble for the Sox rotation later on.

In the meantime, the closer by committee approach continues, as there is no timetable for Schilling's return from AAA. Hopefully the Sox starters are entering another hot stretch when the bullpen won't have to be used as often and the Sox can pull through to the All Star Break reasonably intact.

The Golden Buddha takes the ball tonight against Daniel Cabrera in the first of a four game set in Baltimore, the last four games before the All Star Break. With the Orioles in the midst of a three game slide and a record of three and twelve in their last fifteen games, this series could help push Boston on top of the AL East by a considerable margin. The Yankees, who are lurking just below second place, are playing Cleveland in four games, while Toronto, in fourth at 5.5 games back, is finishing up tonight versus Oakland before playing Texas for three games. GO SOX!!!

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