Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Game 130: Hitting When It Counts

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6

The bad news, part 1: Tampa Bay hit Curt like Nelson hits Bart on the Simpsons for two innings. Schilling hung four split-fingered fastballs in the first two innings and paid the price, dropping the Sox down 5 – 0.

The good news, part 1: after resolving to pull himself together, Schilling made adjustments in the third inning, ditched the splitter and started getting men out. Four innings later, after 97 total pitches, having shut down the TBay offense with the exception of a walk and three hits and hit 94 on the radar gun, the big man was done for the night and the Sox were back in the game with score 5 – 4. In other words, Schilling was able to adjust to the problems and figure out how to pitch and to pitch well. Whether or not he’ll be able to use those adjustments again in his next start is a good question, but I’m encouraged: overall, he pitched better this time out than he did against Kansas City and there’s no reason he can’t continue to improve.

The good news, part 2: once again, the Red Sox offense rose to the occasion, crushing out seven runs to overcome a large deficit. For some reason, Tony Massarotti is bothered by how strong the hitting is on this team. Now, while I can understand being disturbed by how poor the pitching is in comparison, especially compared to last year, Tony’s angle is completely off. Yes, the Sox can hit. It’s a feature of the Theo years – obscene number of runs scored, a high OPS, etc. Yes, the runs scored may have already overtopped 2003 and 2004 by a healthy margin, but with Damon and Varitek both hitting as well as they have this year, that shouldn’t be such a surprise. In any case, the hitting is not important as a measure of potential failure – it’s the pitching. The Sox will go through slumps, like they did on their last road trip and lose games as a result, unless the pitching can pick them up…but don’t call the fact that Boston has scored 5 or more runs in all but one of its 17 victories in August “a very disturbing point” – it’s the result of an excellent offensive team playing to its strength.

The bad news, part 2: Keith Foulke had another weak outing against the Vermont Expos in Single-A Lowell yesterday, giving up two runs on four hits and striking out three in an inning of work. Foulke’s rehab assignment is now finished and according to director of player development Ben Cherington, Keith accomplished the major goals of his assignment: he faced live hitting, threw his pitches and made it through without injury; any other results were secondary. From that statement, one might infer that Foulke wasn’t really out in Lowell to test himself and thus his subpar performance isn’t indicative of any long term problems or a shattering of Sox hopes for the post-season. That may very well be the case – certainly we don’t scrutinize the rehabs of hitters (like Trot Nixon, for example) as closely as we do those of pitchers and maybe that’s a mistake. In any case, Foulke will be back with the club tonight.

Major League Baseball called David Wells and his agent down to Manhattan today to discuss his comments from yesterday and possibly meet with Bud Selig, who was the target of much of Wells’ vitriol. I see one of two results: Wells comes out of the meeting breathing fire, or becomes completely docile for the next month or two as the result of a threat behind closed doors.

Wakefield gets to enjoy a non-stopper role this evening, going up against Casey “The Blade” Fossum tonight at 7:05. GO SOX!!!

tags: baseball | red sox | david wells | keith foulke | curt schilling