Monday, August 15, 2005

Games 114 - 115: Keep On Rollin'

Final Scores:

Game 114: Boston Red Sox 9, Chicago White Sox 8
Game 115: Boston Red Sox 7, Chicago White Sox 4

The great thing about washed-out games (like the one yesterday afternoon, cancelled after a combined total of 4 hours of rain delay before the game went the requisite 5 innings) is everything gets erased from the record books, like the game never happened. The White Sox may have been winning 5 - 2 and hitting Clement pretty hard after the first delay, but it doesn't matter - the game is gone forever. A mulligan for Clement, who is struggling to avoid becoming the poor second-half pitcher he was last year. If yesterday's stats had held, Honest Abe would have a 8.39 ERA in the 8 starts since July 1.

For the rest of the weekend, however, playing through a mid-August heat wave, everything came up Boston. Although effected by nasty cold symptoms, Golden Buddha managed to keep the game close through 7 innings on Friday, giving up 5 runs (3 earned - 2 White Sox scored in the first after an error by Ramirez) on 9 hits and striking out 5. Mark Buerhle, who is 0 and 1 this year against Boston, with 11 runs (9 earned) and 22 hits in 13 innings, couldn't hold the line and BoSox scored twice in the third and once in the fourth before a swing of Jason Varitek's bat dropped a ball over the Monster seats and tied things up 5 - 5 in the fifth. Big Papi broke the tie in the seventh with a solo shot and made the difference four runs in the eighth with a three run homer off of power reliever Bobby Jenks, sent out to keep the game close for the run producing ChiSox offense. I was on the phone at that point, "watching" the game with my father and sister back in Boston and serving as stats guy, thanks to

After Jenks came out:

Me: "This guy has a .112 opposing AVG against lefties."
Jenks then strikes out Renteria and Ortiz comes up.
My father: "Eric, how well does Ortiz hit with two outs and runners in scoring position."
Me: "
He's got a .329 average and 1.098 OPS with two outs and men on and a .368 average and 1.085 OPS with runners in scoring position. He also has .305 average and a .887 OPS against lefties...why is [Jenks] still out there?"
My father reports these facts to my sister, who says something to the effect that Ortiz is going to hit a home run here...and of course, he does. It was pretty much preordained after those numbers, though.
My father: "Your sister wants you to know that she called that."

As it turns out, all of Ortiz's career-high six RBI were necessary - Curt Schilling came on in the ninth and did his usual cardiac closing job, giving up home runs to Tadihito Iguchi and Paul Konerko, prompting discussions about how save opportunities are generated, before finishing things out. By the second home run, my sister was loudly calling for Schilling's head, but I have a theory on why his closing situations are generally so fraught with tension: every time he comes in with a decent sized lead to protect, he takes the opportunity to experiment with some of his less used pitches; pitches he'll need to start, but which aren't necessarily as appropriate for a closing situation, like the splitter. I'm not entirely sure of the logic of why certain pitches don't work well for a closing situation - I guess you want as much heat as possible to overwhelm the hitter instead of giving them more finesse pitches you could make a mistake on. You need those finesse pitches as a starter because you can't throw just fastballs for seven innings without your arm falling off. Every time Schilling makes a mistake on one of those finesse pitches he's working on, the ball ends up somewhere it shouldn't. Fortunately for Boston, he's only made mistakes bad enough to lose games twice and both of those situations were about a month ago.

After the game, the Ortizzle, decked out in a Manny Being Manny shirt and a white hat with a Puerto Rican flag on it, explained to reporters just why his average against lefties has improved so much this year: he worked on fixing his problems with lefties in the off season with the help of three friends. In so many ways, he's SO Papi.

On Saturday, the BoSox continued to make White Sox starting pitching look foolish, hitting AL win leader Jon Garland hard - 5 runs on 9 hits in 5 and 1/3rd innings, including Roberto Petagine's first home run since 1998. The RBI-guy now has eight and is batting .333 since joining Boston. The Stopper, meanwhile, picked up win number 12 with his fourth quality start in a row, going 7 and 2/3rds with 2 runs on 7 hits and 5 strike outs. Gonzo and Schilling both had good relief appearances, while Mike Remlinger continues to struggle, giving up a walk, a double and a hit. He had yet to record an out in a Red Sox uniform and I heard a rumor from Robin this morning that he'll be the next to feel the axe in favor of Jon Papelbon, who will make Tuesday's start against Detroit, despite his recent training in Pawtucket as a reliever. Who knows, but Remlinger certainly proving himself less than helpful to Boston's staff.

As Tony G. continues to put up obscenely good numbers - he's batting .314 on the season and went 9 for 16 over past seven days with 8 RBI and 7 runs - and Mark Bellhorn continues to struggle in AAA, the current rumor has it that the Sox will release Bellhorn, re-claim him off waivers, option him to Pawtucket, then call him back up to be a part of the extended post-season roster. It's a clever way to be loyal and effective at the same time, if extremely odd.

Boston goes off on a three city road trip with its thirteen game home win streak, the longest since Boston won 24 games straight at home in 1988, intact; the BoSox have the best home record in the majors. Boston plays the first of three against Detroit tonight at 7:05, Guns and Corn versus Sean Douglass, looking to maintain or expand the 4.5 game lead in the AL East. GO SOX!!!

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