Friday, July 15, 2005

Game 88: No Reason To Panic

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 8

I came to a realization this morning on the way to work: although last night's loss was certainly disappointing, I'm pretty optimistic about the rest of the series and by extension, the Sox chances in capturing the division. Here's why: the Yankees brought their best game last night. Seven of their nine starters got at least one hit, the top four batters (Jeter, Cano, Sheffield and Rodriguez) went 2 for 5 or better and scored at least one run a piece. Mussina and his 4.15 ERA aren't any better than the five runs and eight hits he gave up over six innings. Sturtze, Gordon and Rivera, helped by a few questionable calls by the home plate umpire, did what they needed to do and only gave up one run in the process.

Meanwhile, the Sox brought a pretty terrible game to the park. Six men left on base (including four in scoring position), a double play, a run-scoring error, a pass ball and ten strike outs all did their part to prevent runs from scoring. The pitching was weak: Arroyo's speeds were so off that the Yankees were hitting things into the deep rightfield corner, including the two home runs in the second. Embree did fine closing out the seventh, but gave up a double to Posada to start the eighth and Timlin, who can't hold inherited runners (now three for twelve this season), allowed Posada to come around and score before finishing the eighth. Schilling, who came on in the ninth to the roar of a standing ovation, couldn't live up to the hype or stop Sheffield and A-Rod and gave up the double and the home run that made the difference in the score. Even with all these problems, the Sox blew three leads over the course of the game and still kept the final score pretty close. In other words, the Yankees best wasn't a whole lot better than the Red Sox worst...and I take a lot of comfort in that.

Schilling, as usual, blamed himself for the bad outing, saying his splitter failed him in the ninth. On the bright side, he retired the three batters after A-Rod without problem (one strike out and two fly outs). Last night was an experiment and while more data probably needs to be gathered, I have a few thoughts:
  • Not that Embree should have come out to pitch in the eighth at all (Posada's strong side and Embree's weak side both happen to be the same) and not that I like the idea of bringing in Schilling in the middle of an inning with runners on base, but Timlin can't seem to hold inherited runners at all. At this point, it seems better to bring Timlin in at the start of an inning, where his 1.65 ERA can prevent problems from occuring at all.
  • Bringing in Schilling for the first time against Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez seems to me to be a bit of a blunder, too. If Schilling had come in after Embree, he would have faced Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Derek Jeter - not a whole lot better, but probably the lesser of two evils. Of course, he could have given up the runs to any of those hitters too and I'd be second guessing the decision to bring him on in the eighth.
The LOOGY/ROOGY combo was in full effect last night, with Chad Bradford making his Red Sox debut right after Mike Myers came on in the seventh. The two did pretty well: two-thirds of an inning, no hits, one walk. Bradford got some questionable ball calls (did I mention I didn't like this umpire), but had a good start, especially for a guy coming off of back surgery. Boston Dirt Dogs has an interesting little piece on how Bradford isn't actually a submariner - he's just a limbo artist.

Johnny Damon extended his hit streak to 26 games last night in the first, stealing a base and coming around to score on a David Ortiz single, prompting a guy in the bar I was in to comment loudly that "the Red Sox are playing small ball." Damon also struck out looking to end a rally later in the game; another one of those questionable calls by an umpire who couldn't decide all night where to call the line between a strike and a ball. Speaking of strike outs, Mark Bellhorn continued to demonstrate his uselessness by going 0 for 3 with two strike outs. At what point do we ditch him entirely? He's become a big hole in a line up that doesn't need explotation points.

Kevin Millar did go 2 for 2 with two walks, but didn't score or bat in any runs, so his terrible run-scoring error at first, made even worse because Bill Mueller made a good throw after an excellent stop at third, wasn't paid back at the plate. Mueller looked like he was about to snap at Millar after the play and I can't blame him - trading Millar for anyone, especially Chad Qualls, is looking better and better. Ditch Bellhorn and Millar, bring Youkilis back to platoon with Olerud at first and either trade for a second baseman or bring up someone like Petagine or Pedroia. Gordon Edes feels that Pedroia needs a little more seasoning in Pawtucket, but that we may be seeing him later this season and a bit more of Alex Cora now. Cora may not be much of a hitter, but at least he's a defensive upgrade, which is better than nothing.

I had an interesting conversation last night with a guy who went the Red Sox Fantasy Camp this past winter and I have decided I must go once before I die. This guy was one of the few Red Sox fans in the bar; by the end of the night we were huddled in one corner, muttering into our plastic beer cups, a little enclave of Boston in what was apparently a secret Yankee bar.* Robin, who was warned by one of the bartenders to calm down after making a rather loud insinuation that Gary Sheffield would be happy to get home so he could jack up on steroids suggested that we make another trip to the Hairy Monk, but I think I'm done watching the Red Sox in sports bars outside of New England. It's more difficult to enjoy the game when most of the people around you are actively routing for the other team and cursing out yours in the process. My favorite were two guys in front of us who kept flipping off the TV.

To the guy who caught Jason Giambi's home run, blocking Trot Nixon from making an incredible play in the process: you're a dick. Nixon may have forgiven you, but I certainly haven't, especially since like a moron you then started yakking about the whole thing on your cell phone.

Game two tonight, as David Wells faces off against Tim Redding, recently acquired by New York from San Diego and sporting an 0 and 5 record and a 9.10 ERA. With Chein-Ming Wang now on the 15 day DL as of yesterday with an inflamed shoulder, joining Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano, the Sox dodged a bullet and have the opportunity to start a hot streak against a weakened starting rotation. GO SOX!!!

* - Secret because there was no memorabilia on the walls, but all of the bartenders were wearing Yankees shirts and rang a bell every time New York scored.

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