Monday, August 22, 2005

Games 121 - 122: Divide And Conquer

Final Scores:

Game 121: Boston Red Sox 2, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4
Game 122: Boston Red Sox 5, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 1

“He's not scared. This kid is going to help us. Period. I like him very much. I'm not going to call him kid.”
- Jason Varitek about Jonathan Papelbon

I watched two of three games this weekend and the Sox won both of them.  ‘nough said.  With the split, the Sox come out of Los Angeles with their heads held high, especially after winning last night’s close contest.  If the Angels make the playoffs again this year, the ALDS should be a good series.

Despite my disparaging comments about Ervin Santana, but the Angel’s starter was basically unhittable on Saturday, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits in 7 and 2/3rds and striking out 5 before giving way to the tag team of Shields and K-Rod.  Guns and Corn pitched fairly well, but with his offense outmatched, an average performance (the lack of efficiency – 116 pitches in 6 innings) wasn’t going to make the difference…and two errors (one by Damon and one by Renteria) didn’t help.  When Arroyo’s relief, in the form of perennial minor-leaguer Lenny DiNardo, came out to hold down the fort until the Sox started hitting again, he gave up two runs and put the score permanently out of reach.

Sunday, on the other hand, was another matter.  Although the Angels sent out another tough starter in Paul Byrd, Red Sox starter Jonathan Papelbon proved himself to be Byrd’s equal, throwing 100 pitches over 5 and 2/3rds innings, scattering 5 hits, giving up 3 walks and striking out 2.  Papelbon was scary good and I was impressed with his outing not only because he threw so well, using his fastball, the split finger that he learned from Schilling, curve and slider to great advantage, but because he didn’t get ruffled at all.  He even threw high and inside to Vlad Guerrero – not as a mistake, mind you, but to establish the inside of the plate – which is a bit like dangling raw meat in front of a shark.  Very, very impressive and it seems like he’ll only get better.  

Meanwhile, no one could string together enough hits to get a run.  The Angels got the closest, getting Cabrera to third in the first, but it wasn’t until eighth when the Sox finally broke it open in dramatic fashion: Edgar Renteria’s first home run in 199 at-bats.  Coming with two out and runners on second and third, it signaled the beginning of the end for Byrd and a definitive turning point to the game.  The next batter, Big Papi, did the only thing that could be more surprising than an Edgah bomah – he bunted.  With the overshift on and third baseman Chone Figgins too far away to make a play, Ortiz dropped a neat little bunt down the third base side and beat out the play easily.  It was Ortiz’s first bunt since playing Winter Ball while in the rookie leagues and it turned out to be very useful as well: Manny Being Manny struck next, dropping a ball just over the centerfield wall and making it 5 to 0.  

Myers and Timlin got the job done in the sixth through eighth innings and Schilling came out to finish it out for the last time before he goes back into the starting rotation on Thursday.  Schilling gave up three hits and a run before getting three outs; not the best outing and hopefully not indicative of how he’ll pitch against Kansas City, but he got the job done.

Oh, the felinity!

Along with the great news about Schilling, Trot Nixon should be back in the lineup for the Kansas City series, pending evaluation by the team.  Nixon hit well in Pawtucket yesterday and will play there again today before rejoining the Sox.  When Nixon comes back, DiNardo should be AAA-bound until after September 1.  With Schilling out of the rotation and Foulke still preparing his return, Mike Timlin will be closing some games, although he wants to avoid a defined role, saying he’ll pitch when Tito wants him to pitch.  

Kevin Millar just proved he should be cheerleading: you can’t be this positive and accepting of your new bench role and not be the team’s cheerleader.  It is pretty weird thinking of him as Magic Helmet’s defensive replacement, but then again, Olerud continues to smack the cover off the ball, bad feet or not.  

The Sox are resisting calling up Craig Hansen, who had back-to-back shutout appearances in AA Portland, despite the hole left in the bullpen.  The official reason is that they want to give Hansen more time, but I have a feeling that they’re waiting until the last second (i.e., the August 31 deadline) to monitor Foulke’s progress.  If Hansen needs to be a part of the playoff roster, they’ll call him up before the 31st; otherwise they can wait until after September 1.  Media is making comparisons between Hansen and the auspicious beginnings of K-Rod’s career in 2002, when he helped the Angels in the post-season.  

Sox are off tonight; Golden Buddha versus Zack Greinke tomorrow night in Kansas City.  KC has won its last two after a 14 game losing streak.  GO SOX!!!

tags: baseball | red sox | manny ramirez | kevin millar | john olerud | curt schilling | keith foulke | trot nixon | david ortiz | craig hansen | jon papelbon | bronson arroyo | mike timlin