Monday, August 29, 2005

Games 126 - 128: 40 and 19

Final Scores:

Game 126: Boston Red Sox 9, Detroit Tigers 8
Game 127: Boston Red Sox 8, Detroit Tigers 12
Game 128: Boston Red Sox 11, Detroit Tigers 3

Despite the questionable home run, the Sox pulled out a tough victory, making their home streak fourteen wins.  Curious about whether or not the game could actually be protested, I checked Wikipedia – since it was a matter of fair or foul, Boston could not have played the game under protest.  So much for my little outburst.  One amusing side effect of the call was that every time a batter hit a ball foul down the first base line, no matter where it went into the stands, the fans would start waving their arms in imitation of an umpire’s home run call.  The Stopper now leads the staff with 13 wins.

Is it me, or have there been one too many “worst game of the year” calls this year?  I missed Saturday’s collapse, but it sounds as ugly as any the Sox have had this year so far, as Arroyo’s pitch control deserted him and the Tigers quickly tied then overtook the lead with a Dmitri Young grand slam and a pair of doubles of off young Jonathan Papelbon, called in to protect Boston’s 7 – 6 lead.  Epstein and Francona were quick to leap to Pap’s defense, pointing out that Papelbon pitched three times over the past week (once as a starter, twice in relief).  

I read talk about switching Arroyo and Papelbon’s positions in the staff, by making Arroyo a reliever and Papelbon a starter, but that talk quickly followed up with mention of Pap’s 130 innings pitched this year – bordering on too many for a young arm.  The 14 game home win streak ended with a pretty miserable bang – fortunately, for those worried about the state of the bullpen, September 1 and expanded rosters are but three days away and all those young arms will soon come to flood Fenway.  After six straight scoreless outings, going over 10 and 2/3rds innings, Jeremi Gonzalez has surrendered 5 runs, including 3 on Saturday.  Keith Foulke made two appearances in Single A Lowell, giving up an earned and an unearned run on four hits and walk over 2 and 2/3rds innings in the two games.  Keith plans to return to Boston after a third game, although he does not expect to be used in save situations immediately.

On a related note, the Sox solved the Matt Perisho problem by DFA’ing Mike Remlinger, with an intention to release him after the 10 day period.  Odd that the organization waited so long (perhaps to give Perisho more time to prepare); perhaps they hoped that Remlinger’s past three scoreless appearances would either help soften the blow for the reliever or make him more likely to be picked up by another team.  Abe Alvarez took Remlinger’s spot in the interim, finishing out yesterday’s game with a spotless ninth inning of three fly balls.

On Sunday, vindication from Golden Buddha: 7 innings, 9 hits, 3 runs (two earned), 5 strike outs and no walks, picking up win number 11.  Bill Mueller played like the professional he is, going 3 for 4 with a home run and two excellent fielding plays; Johnny Damon regained the lead in the race for the batting title by a point over Michael Young, getting his first multiple hit game since August 14; Big Papi hit home run number 33, tying Manny for the RBI lead and Manny deliberately went out to disprove nay-sayers by tearing down the first base line on a close play.  The offensive slump of the road trip seems to have dissipated like the heat of the Dog Days of Summer and the infusion of the expanded roster combined with the revitalized hitting may be just what the Sox need to take real advantage of this home stand.  

Again a related note: Bob Watson continues to be a dick, denying Wells’ appeal on the stupid 6 game suspension for supposedly brushing an umpire back on July 2.  Yes, not only did Wells not touch the umpire, but more importantly, it took the disciplinary office almost two months to hear an appeal on the matter, forcing Wells to miss a start while his team is in a playoff hunt.  It must be nice to able to abuse power in such a blatant manner.

How good is Terry Francona really?  This article takes a good look at Francona’s successes and limitations and makes some very good points on why Boston’s manager is so good for Boston’s team.  My favorite observation: Francona manages to be both a player’s manager and a winning manager by giving players the opportunity to play through their slumps in the regular season, gradually shortening their leashes during the stretch drive and running a very tight ship in the post-season.  The 2005 Kevin Millar is an excellent example – Millar’s playing time has decreased a great deal recently, as Francona has less and less slack to give him and still get the Sox important wins.  Assuming Francona’s management skills at the end of last year – outthinking Scioscia, Torre and LaRussa to win it all – were not a fluke, I’m much less worried about Boston’s chances this year than I was last year.

Scott Stossel: blasphemer.  Yes, being the perennial stoic losers might have been a boltering of the strong New England character, but who wouldn’t rather be fat and happy at the end of the day?  If Stossel likes losing so much, he can move to Chicago and root for the Cubs – I’d much rather have a 2004 win and a lessening of the overall intensity of baseball fever in Boston than a loss with one of the best teams Boston ever fielded.  Wishing otherwise is frankly quite sadistic.

Clement versus Seth McClung tonight at 7:05.  Clement, looking for win number 12, has no decisions in his last three starts (including two starts in the midst of the offensive slump on the road trip), but sports a 2.25 ERA.  GO SOX!!!

tags: baseball | red sox | mike remlinger | manny ramirez | kevin millar | keith foulke | david ortiz | jon papelbon | bronson arroyo | tim wakefield | bill mueller | david wells