Thursday, September 08, 2005

Game 138: It's Not Luck...It's Confidence

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3

I’m reading Buster Olney’s The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness, which besides talking about the climb, peak, decline and fall of the great Yankee teams of the mid to late 90s (and takes its title from the loss of the World Series to the Diamondbacks in 2001 in Game 7), highlights, intentionally or not, something that the 2004 and 2005 Red Sox have enjoyed a good deal of: luck. Now luck isn’t some sort of mystical cosmic force – it’s an expression of team confidence, played out in bad umpire calls that go in favor of the team or mistakes by opponents that are exploited and it’s the major difference between the 2004 and 2005 Sox and those teams of yesteryear. There was no Curse; it was all about believing you had the team that could win it all, about luck…and the luck factor expressed itself twice last night.

The night didn’t start well for the Sox – Arroyo gave up two runs in the first and another in the second, both rallies coming with two outs. Kevin Millar got the Sox on the board in the bottom of the second with his fourth home run of the home stand, a solo shot into the Monster Seats, but Ervin Santana was taking no prisoners with his slider…until the third.

Arroyo started to settle, getting the Angels in order in the top of the inning, setting the stage for a Red Sox resurgence. Alex Cora, showing remarkable restraint, avoided several tasty pitches to work a 6 pitch walk, which Johnny Damon matched with a 6 pitch walk of his own. Down 0 and 2, Renteria hit a bloop fly ball to center…and that’s where luck reared its head. Although three players converged on the scene, the ball was clearly centerfielder Jeff DaVanon’s play to make and he let it drop, loading the bases for Big Papi. With the count 1 and 2, Ortiz tried to check his swing and third base umpire Larry Young called him safe, even though replays show pretty clearly he swung…another piece of luck for the Sox. Because you can never give Papi two chances, on the next pitch, Ortiz lofted a single to left, scoring two runs and tying the game. After Manny bounced into a double play, Trot Nixon hit a double off the wall to score Renteria and give Boston the permanent lead. Confidence rules the field again.

With last night’s win, the Sox are now 10 and 3 on their ultra-long home stand, have 4 games up on the Yankees with 24 games to go and most importantly, are starting to pitch like they know how to again. On most recent run through the rotation, only Curt Schilling did not go more than 7 innings and the bullpen pitched a combined total of 4 and 2/3rds innings, giving up three runs. As pitching becomes more and more important, Boston looks like it’s finally stepping up to the challenge of winning the division and going strong into the post-season.

Tonight, Clement goes for the sweep versus Paul Byrd, while the Pats duke it out with Oakland on ABC. I’m going to be in sports heaven. GO PATS, GO SOX!!!

tags: baseball | red sox | yankees | kevin millar | bronson arroyo | david ortiz | trot nixon