Monday, July 18, 2005

Game 92: The Hitting Streak Is Over, Now Let's Start Hitting

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3

Poor Wade Miller. At some point he's going to get another win, but not tonight. He seems to be effected the Pedro factor: after a certain number of pitches, he's pretty much useless. In Miller's case, it seems to be over 106 pitches: his opposing AVG and OPS each jump about 400 points after that point. The sample size is only 16 ABs, but it seems pretty telling. Tonight, Miller was at 106 pitches when he left the game and surprise, surprise, that's around when his game fell apart: a walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases for a two run single by Joey Gathright to make the game 3 - 1.

After Miller left, the bullpen was flawless: Embree, Bradford, Myers, Timlin and Schilling combined for no runs, two hits and three strike outs. There was a catch: a controversial put-out at first in the top of the ninth involving Curt Schilling and Julio Lugo. Lugo grounded to Olerud, who tossed to Schilling, who got to first literally half a second before Lugo did. It's impossible to tell if Schilling actually touched first - you'd need a camera in first base to tell - but initially the umpire called Lugo safe and a run scored. Schilling protested, Francona protested and the umpires agreed to consult, making the surprising decision to overturn the call and call Lugo out. Piniella exploded, as we all wanted him to do at least once this series and the top of the ninth ended. Not that it mattered in the end, but it did give me a false sense of hope going into the bottom of the ninth.

Poor Johnny Damon: the closest thing he got to a hit this evening was an error by Jorge Cantu in the first. The Sox pulled out three hits all evening (two, surprisingly enough, from Alex Cora), all off Scott Kazimir and failed to take advantage of eight walks. The only run came when the Sox loaded the bases in the first and Manny Ramirez grounded into a double play, scoring Damon. Damon's streak ends at 29 games. The Sox offense needs to snap out of this funk where they can't get clutch hits or they're going to go to Chicago in middle of a big slide. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Yankees are both involved in close contests, so the fate of first place in the AL East is still uncertain.

For reasons unknown, Manny Ramirez wandered into the left field scoreboard for a conversation with the scoreboard attendant during a mound visit to Miller and barely made it back before the next pitch. I wonder if these things pop into Manny's head and he does them because he doesn't think anyone will notice or because he doesn't care if anyone notices or because he knows most of us will find them amusing, especially if he hits a home run afterwards. Whatever the reason, it amused the heck out of me.

Mark Bellhorn is on the 15 day DL with a sprained left thumb after hurting himself fielding a grounder on Sunday. Kevin Youkilis returned from Pawtucket in the interim; Terry Francona, recanting on his statement yesterday, said that the Sox will start Cora at second base and will use Bill Mueller as a stop-gap at second if necessary. Francona also said that Youkilis had taken some ground balls at second and "played one or two innings," so he might be an option as well. Tito said the reason for his outburst about Cora last night was because he wants to give Cora the chance to prove himself again as a hitter. The Sox did not call up Dustin Pedroia because of concerns about a jammed wrist and even went so far as to move Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to second base in the lineup in AA Portland to give the athletic prospect exposure to the position. Bellhorn's absence might mean the end of his tenure with Boston - Cora, perhaps taking Francona's praise to heart, went 2 for 4 tonight and if Pedroia heals up soon, he may be able to take over the job at second base. The Sox have filled out their 40 man roster, so a player would have to be designated for assignment...perhaps Bellhorn would be dropped entirely? The front office's understandable unwillingness to trade prospect(s) for a second baseman suggests that some of those same prospects will be coming up before the season is over to try and fix holes in the offense.

Tomorrow night, Guns and Corn (with no late night rock show the night before to mess up his start) against Casey "The Blade" Fossum. Time to snap out of this losing streak before it gets really serious. GO SOX!!!

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