Thursday, June 29, 2006

Game 76: Checklist for the 12 Game Win Streak

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, New York Mets 2

Check. Got a dozen.

Check. 4 in a row.

Check. Average of 7.5 over the 12 games.

Good starting pitching?
Check. 9 wins from the starters including a GEM from Schilling tonight for his 10th victory of the year.

Infield defense?

Check. Lowell, Loretta, Youk, Gonzo (and Cora) have been amazing. They turn a PRETTY double play and they make it look easy.

Outfield defense?
Check. Manny has his cannon loaded (great play off the monster tonight) and the NESN commercial “Did you see that catch Coco made?” finally makes sense. His dive tonight was jaw dropping.

Nope! Damn… must have forgotten to bring them. The Sox now have the AL record with 16 errorless games in a row and have tied the NL record.

Check. Paps has tied the Red Sox rookie record with 24. And he still looks like Mr. Automatic with his micro ERA.

Pitching duels?

Check. Well ONE duel. Tonight was pretty much the only game that would fall under that heading. Glavine started the game lights out. He and Schill were throwing matching “0’s” until the 6th.

Late inning heroics?

Check. Papi brought enough for 50 games. Even when ahead, he dials up State Farm and gets the insurance. The blast in the 8th was the 200th of his career.

Offense from unlikely places?
Check. Gonzo has been swinging a hot bat. He is hitting .360 in June.

Small ball?

Check. The Sox manufactured the go-ahead run in the 7th. Bunt hit, stolen base, sacrifice, and a sac fly got Coco home in one of the most unreal innings I have seen this year. Way out of character… but it worked. Also, some great base running by Ortiz and Manny (not a typo) in the 6th to tie the game. Who woulda thunk it?

Ready to rack up another NL victim?
Big Ol’ Check. Marlins trot out the D-Train (Dontrell Willis) to face Sox spot starter Jason Johnson (yikes). Call it a trap game if you want, but I think the momentum is on our side. GO SOX

Game 75: This One Goes To 11

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, New York Mets 2

Who knew the most climatic moment of the game would be Pedro coming to the mound to start the bottom of the first? Out he came from the dugout, tipping his cap even before the cheering really started, then jogged to the mound, doing his best to keep his game face going in the face of the thousands of cheers. Mike Celizic be damned; this was the home coming Pedro deserved and everyone in that park and everyone watching at home with half a brain in their heads knew it. Unfortunately for Martinez, the homecoming lasted just as long as needed: after a brain fart where Pedro neglected to use an Ortiz comebacker to the mound to start a double play, the Sox turned the first into a four-run opportunity, capping the scoring with another left field miscue by Boston secret weapon Lastings Milledge.

Pedro rallied in the second, escaping the inning without problems after hitting Mark Loretta with a pitch, but in the third the writing finally appeared on the wall: an RBI single by Nixon to score a post-double Manny, a run-scoring double play by Lowell and a two run Monster shot by Gonzalez (who seems to be playing like he’s aware of the Miggy trade rumors) spelled the end of Pedro’s night at the end of the third. Although he entered and departed each inning to a stadium full of cheers, it was certainly not Pedro’s night to pitch well: this game marks his shortest start as a Met and a missed opportunity to join the four pitchers who have beaten every team in the majors at least once. For Red Sox fans though, things couldn’t have gone much better: individual love for the man, an institutional beating for his team.

Meanwhile, Josh Beckett pitched like his game really did go to eleven. Making only two mistakes (high fastballs that ended up over the right field wall for harmless solo homers in the fourth and seventh innings), Beckett was complete gas until two thirds through the eighth, when a walk and a pitch count of 106 signaled the end of his night on his way to a well-deserved tenth win. Truth be told, a game like this one is par for the course for a man who’s owned the Mets since the start of his career (a six and two record with an ERA around 2.00), but with an overworked bullpen and a high pressure start, tonight was the night for the starter to step up like Beckett did.

So, an eleven game win streak, with a shot at the fourth sweep in a row tomorrow as Schilling tries to stop Tom Glavine’s win streak at ten games. The streak record for a professional team, by the way, is 29, set by the Single A Salt Lake Trappers, then owned by current Angels owner Arte Moreno, in 1987. Let’s see how close we can get to the title. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Game 74: 20 Years in the Making

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, New York Mets 4

Before the game I asked my father if this match up gave him any familiar feelings from the ’86 team.

“Sure!” he said “I get the same feeling when Seanez comes out of the bullpen that I got when Schiraldi did back then.”

Ouch. Well, history notwithstanding (the reunion and celebration of the 1986 pennant team was today), the Sox made it an even 10 wins in a row with Jon T. Lester (sounds like a badass action-hero, right?) in the driver seat. JTL gave up 2 earned and got a little wild, but he pitched pretty and got out of trouble on his own. He struck out Wright with juiced bags to end the 5th and his outing. This guy (like Beckett) is an anti-Clement. His head is immune to the bad juju or pixie dust or whatever that crap is that makes Clement suck long and hard.

Good defense (and bad base running) also helped the Sox rookie. In the 5th, with Jose Reyes on second, Beltran smacks a single into left and Reyes bolts for home. Manny throws a LONG strike to Tek and Reyes is dead to rights… but somebody forgot to tell Reyes. He hits Tek like a bug on the windshield. Jason (who Keith Hernandez called “a steel worker”) held the ball and gave the writhing Reyes a “Hey, when you regain consciousness… you’re OUT” kinda look. And finally, the recently overused bullpen (Tavarez, Hansen and Timlin) managed to be effective and except for 2 solo shots, they held the Mets off to preserve the win for Lester.

On the flip side of things, the Boston bats were brutal to the Mets rookie Alay Soler. They bashed him up for 8 runs in 4.1 innings. I guess you could say it was a Soler Eclipse (ugh… sorry). Tek got a 2 RBI hit (so did Manny thanks to a crap-tacular play by Lastings Millege) and Lowell and Gonzo went yard. Tell you the truth, Gonzo has been on FIRE as of late. He and Ortiz now share a .267 BA. That’s one of those Bizzaro World stats that you stare at and hope it changes before you flip out and start questioning reality.

All in all it was a run of the mill beat down that has become commonplace when facing the NL East this season. The only caveat was that it was against the Mets who happen to have the best record in the NL (and share some sordid history with us). Just more fuel for the “NL sucks” school of thought.

Tomorrow… Beckett vs Pedro vs chills vs thrills vs drama. Red Sox Nation agreed with my earlier rants and gave Pedro a standing ovation when they played his highlight reel today. Now I hope they do it again when he steps on the mound (and ignore the hate-mongering BDD). Do the right thing and cheer the man… and cheer again when they have to pull him after 2 innings. GO SOX!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Game 73: The God Of Clutch Strikes Again

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Philadelphia Phillies 7

“That strategy makes absolutely no sense to me at all.”
- Jerry Remy on pitching to David Ortiz in clutch situations

Ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you plainly: no matter how the bullpen struggles, no matter how much the balance of the game seems to swing out of control, no matter how game the opposition into giving the Sox a fight to the finish, if you bring up David Ortiz in a tight situation with a chance to win and put a bat in his hands, nine times out of ten he’s going to use that bat to get the job done. Ortiz is so reliable in his production in high-pressure situations that a positive result is simultaneously awe-inspiring and expected; Red Sox fans watch him bat, waiting for that hit to make things right and are rarely disappointed.

Nine straight wins. Three sweeps in a row, the most since Morgan Magic in 1988. Boston’s done pretty well since running headlong from the pillow dome, although the Phillies were pretty game about trying to end the fun yesterday. Wake and Lidle dueled each other scoreless for five plus innings, until the Sox jumped out with the lead on a walk by Ortiz, a single by Manny, an RBI single from Lowell and an RBI, ground rule double by Coco Crisp to knock Lidle out of the game. By the time the Phillies put out the fire, the scoreboard showed six to nothing in favor of Boston. Wake’s streak of perfection ended in the seventh, when a single, a hit batsmen and a walk loaded the bases and ended the starter’s day. Unfortunately for Wakefield, Rudy Seanez decided that the game wasn’t close enough and let four runs cross the plate – all without getting a single out, of course. My dislike of the man and his inconsistent pitching, even with a bigf lead, knows no bounds. Javiar Lopez allowed Jimmy Rollins (who had a pretty clutch day himself) to score after his bases clearing triple, making the score six to five, Boston, before he and Timlin got Boston out of the inning.

In the ninth, Papelbon got Chase Utley, the first batter he faced, to two strikes before leaving a fastball up and in – Utley turned on it and drove it off the foul pole, tying on the game. The hit was the first homerun the closer has given up all year and his second blown save, but as in the past, Paps buckled down and went through the next inning and a third without incident. Neither Philly nor Boston scored in the tenth or eleventh, with Boston flubbing an aggravating bases-loaded, one out chance in the bottom of the eleventh with two ground balls to Rollins. In the top of the twelfth, a single by Shane Victorino off of Manny Delcarmen turned into a run after small ball outs moved Victorino to third and a double by Rollins off of Hansen, Delcarmen’s replacement, sent Victorino home, making the score seven to six Philadelphia and setting the stage for the bottom of the inning and Papi’s latest triumph.

Ortiz had some help, of course: a ground rule double down the left field line by Crisp set the table for an RBI single by Youk, who moved to second when the throw missed the cutoff man. Loretta drew a walk, bringing up Ortiz. Apparently deciding that he got lucky after walking Ortiz and pitching to Manny in the eleventh, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel opted to pitch to Papi instead, practically insuring the loss for his team. Hey, I’m happy with it and I’m sure all of you are, too.

So, now that we’ve blown through the whole bullpen – seven relief pitchers in one game – it’s time to face the high-riding Mets for the first time in 20 years. John Lester goes up against Alay Soler tonight at 7:05 to kick things off. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Game 72: Papi is a Bad Man

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Philadelphia Phillies 3

Another Clutch Crush

Tom Gordon almost looked surprised. Doesn’t he follow baseball? Didn’t he know that he was facing the biggest, the baddest and the BEST clutch hitter in the league? Papi doesn’t like extra inning games… so he ends them. Papi doesn’t like standing in the rain… so he sends everyone home. Papi also doesn’t like ex-Red Sox/ex-Yankee relief pitchers…so he makes them go back to the clubhouse and cry. Can’t you see how bad he is? He’s that big kid who hits the ball into the neighbors yard so you can’t play anymore. You can almost hear Francona scolding him:

“David, don’t you dare pick on those Phillies again! It’s not nice to torment teams weaker than you! Now you go an apologize to Tom right this instant… well maybe wait till he gets his head out of his hands.”

But will he? Nope. He’s to busy giving high-fives to Schilling (another good game, but no win) and Papalbon (2.3 innings of scoreless relief) to notice how sad he made the other team. That’s just insensitive. Weren’t the Phillies upset enough? Papi is just a big bully.

I bet he does it again and sweeps them out of Fenway tomorrow. How cruel. GO SOX.


BTW: Good job by the Sox fans who LUSTLY booed Myers today. Spousal abusers like that deserve all they can get. Kudos to Red Sox Nation.

Game 71: NL East Beat Down Tour Continues

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Philadelphia Phillies 2

Ain’t it grand to riding high? With a seven game winning streak, it does seem that anyone (like, say Jason Johnson?) could go out on the mound right now and the Sox would win it for him in grand style. Of course, that’s not to denigrate the efforts of those guys starting the game: the opposition hasn’t scored more than three runs against Boston since Schilling’s last start – and that game was the scene of the most recent bullpen meltdown. To find a subpar game by a Boston starter, you’d have to go back to the last game against the Twins, nine games and a lifetime ago. Like I said, it’s great when you’re riding high; everything’s running on four cylinders and any other fun vehicle-related metaphors you can think of.

So, anyway, last night we had the Josh Beckett that we know and love, the one who’s been on the mound recently, who mows down hitters (eight strikeouts, three hits) and doesn’t give up homeruns. Or many homeruns, anyway; Chase Utley broke up the shut out in the seventh with a two run shot. Not that it mattered much at that point – the only Boston hitter who didn’t have a halfway decent night last night was Tek; the Sox scored three runs in the first and three runs in the second to knock out the starter and Manny scored half the runs himself on a night that included two home runs. Heck, even Gabe Kapler homered when he came in to play for Manny in the eighth. It was that kind of night and it’s that kind of streak and you have to love how it’s going.

This afternoon the Sox go for number eight with Curt Schilling against Myers at 1:20. With the way the Sox have been playing, I can imagine Myers doesn’t need any distractions to get him off his game…but I’m willing to bet the Boston crowd will let him hear about it anyway. Also, it’s about time Schilling got another win for the way he’s been pitching. GO SOX!!!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fact and Fiction

When I first saw Paxton Crawford in headlines this week it took me a minute to place the name. Why would ESPN and the Globe do a story about this guy? I vaguely remember him from the 2000 and 2001 teams (I think I am in the minority) and I thought the next time I would see him it would be in a stalking/robbery/sex scandal type deal (no offence Albert Bell, Jeff Reardon or Denny Neagle). So when I saw the steroid and HGH story I was a little shocked, but it makes sense when you think about it. He had an “incident” in the parking lot of a Pawtucket game, he fell on a water glass while getting out of bed in Ottawa and from then on it was the questionable back and shoulder injuries usually attributed to extra legal substances. Also, wasn’t he the brother of a famous juicer? Oh, wait… that was Jeremy Giambi.

All of a sudden there are stories about steroids and HGH “rampant” in the Sox clubhouse. Crawford even says that he once dropped his needles on the ground and people laughed at him because it was so commonplace. Manny Alexander (who got popped for ‘roids in 2000) and Jose Canseco (who used everything but gamma radiation) were once on the Sox… so maybe the problem continued into the clubhouse that Crawford was a part of.

However, according to some of his former teammates (Wakefield, Tek, Jeff Frye and Mike Stanley) there seems to be some doubt about widespread usage of performance enhancers. Wake specifically places some doubt on Crawford’s credibility:
“If he admits to taking steroids, that's his fault. He shouldn't deface the organization by saying someone else told him to take it. That's stupid. To me he sounds like a guy who's bitter at the organization. He should be thankful they gave him an opportunity to play. No one forced him to take anything. I remember him not being too bright. That's what I remember about him." –Tim Wakefield tells the Boston Herald

I have to agree. Crawford’s story is too far fetched. It makes him sound like a guy upset at a team that released him and angry with a body that failed him. Besides, it’s going to be really hard to prove ‘who did what’ with a guy who made 7 starts over 5 years ago. Why would Crawford bring this up now? This reeks of a guy who misses the spotlight.

Now can’t there be more of focus on positive stories? Like the 43 year old pitching mercenary having a $700,000 mediocre outing… or the spousal abuser that will be pitching in Fenway on Saturday? Why do we have to concentrate on the negative?

CHB Fight

A little off-day fun: Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch is running a “Think You Can Be Shaughnessy?” contest, giving anyone out there in Red Sox Nation with an ounce of writing talent the opportunity to preempt our favorite revisionist mudslinger in his anticipated “welcome back Pedro” article when the Mets come to Boston next week.  Basically, Bruce wants to see if you can out-Shaughnessy Shaughnessy: pull out his favorite clich├ęs and references, either bash Pedro for leaving or the fans and the front office for letting him go, etc.  Boston Sports Media Watch will publish the results, even if Shaughnessy surprises all of us and doesn’t publish a Pedro article and the winner will get a to-be-determined prize.  The contest ends on Monday, so if you’re in the mood to compete, get cracking.  I have a feeling you won’t see my name amongst the contestants (although you probably will see a post on this blog talking about Pedro returning to Boston), but if any of you all do enter, good luck!  Beckett versus the Phils tonight…GO SOX!!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Game 70: The Future is Now

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Washington Nationals 3

This is how Lester gets to his starts

Sure it was only a NL team. Sure it was only the Nationals. And sure it was only for 6 innings… but Jon Lester gave one of the best performances from a Sox pitcher I've seen this year. The pitcher of the future struck out 10 and only allowed one run in the process of sweeping the Nats. He showed poise, control and a willingness to step up and take a spot that has filled by Clement, Pauley and Wells. The elusive 4th starter spot on the Sox roster is officially his. I am so excited for the future of this staff: Beckett, Lester, Papelbon and Hansen as the closer. Everyone else should be worrying about their jobs…. Clement and Wells I am looking at you, DL or not.

This kid is for REAL and it is about time he saw some action in the big club. Some detractors gave Les (not sold on the nickname… he needs some help with this) and the front office some flack for “babying” him. Lester didn’t get the baptism of fire Papelbon got in 2005. Lester was eased into the majors, much to the angst of some fans. Rumor was that he didn’t have the confidence and mound presence needed in this roll. Now this is all history. Now Lester is the flavor of the month (sorta, Papelbon is still the Cherry Sour-Patch Kid, Lester is Orange) and will probably get more press than the typical 16 to 24 year old harlot/starlets are used to. And it’s all deserved.

Meanwhile, the Sox offence showed up again (Papi Grand Salami), the bullpen is still shaky (Seanez and Tevarez gave up runs), Foulke is going to need more DL time than anticipated, they picked up former Indian pitcher Jason Johnson (who?) and former player Paxton Crawford was a juicer (who cares).

So that’s 6 in a row… 2 NL sweeps and Philly is in town on Friday. Lets make it 9.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Game 69: Ezekiel 25:17

Final Score:

Boston Red 11, Washington Nationals 3

[The Boston Red Sox clubhouse, five minutes before game time. The players are sitting around their lockers chatting as Tito Francona strides into the room. All talk immediately ceases.]

Tito: All right now, fellas, you know I’m not much for speeches, but I’d like to give you all a little heads up today. Now, as you all know, Timmy Wakefield is on the mound again today. We all know he’s a heck of a guy, a great kid, but you fellas ain’t managed to get him much run support so far this year and he’s been hurtin’ because of it. I mean hurtin’ but bad – Timmy’s givin’ up about 3 runs a game, but he’s only gotten 3 wins to show for it and it’s because you guys haven’t been puttin’ the bat on the ball like you have for Schill or Beck or any of the other guys. So I want you to go out there tonight, give some of that Hernandez guy’s pitches a good look and score some runs. Oh and before we break, we have a very special guest here tonight, someone I really think will help get the idea across about how we need to score some runs tonight for Wake. He’s a heck of a guy, came all the way out here from California just to talk to you all tonight.

[Turns to clubhouse door]

Mr. Winnfield, we’re ready for you.

[Jules Winnfield enters the clubhouse and walks to the middle of the room]

Jules: Hey y'all. Just a little message for y’all to think about tonight, as you go out and play tonight. There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you. I been sayin’ that sh*t for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherf*ck*r before you popped a cap in his ass. But I’ve seen some games this year with Wake on the mound made me think twice. Now I’m thinkin’: it could mean you’re the evil men, for not scoring those runs. And I’m the righteous man for having to watch Wake lose. And Mr. 9mm here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could be that Wake’s the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that sh*t ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re all the weak. And I’m the tyranny of Red Sox Nation, waiting for those runs to come in. But I’m tryin’, y'all. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.”

[Terrified, the Red Sox offense goes out and scores six runs in the second inning. Wakefield gives up one run on four hits over six innings to get his fourth win of the season. Lester versus Hill tomorrow night for the sweep. GO SOX!!! Exeunt.]

Game 68: 5 reasons the Red Sox and I love the NL

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Washington Nationals 3

1. Interleague play is a gift from above.
Yeah, I hate how it cheapens the World Series and I may be whistling a different tune when the Mets are in town, but you gotta love the 4 game win streak Boston has with the NL. Where would the Nationals (or the Braves for that matter) be in the AL East? I’d give Tampa a 4 game lead over either. And while the Sox ride high with a 6-1 record vs the NL, our AL competitors aren’t are as fortunate. The Yankees are 2-5 and Toronto is 0-6. Good Times.

2. NL batters boost pitcher confidence.
Kyle Snyder? Who the hell is that? I expected a 13 run 1st inning that would be capped off by Theo locking him out of the clubhouse. But he looked pretty good through 5 innings in his first start in a Sox uniform (and most likely last... he's a born long reliever). The 3 K’s on Soriano almost made him look like a major league pitcher. Even the notorious bullpen looked steadfast against the Nats bats. Lopez, Seanez and Timlin all had scoreless innings. And to think I was worried about Paps' night off.

3. You get to see old friends on those NL teams.
First Mike Remlinger and Renteria, now Damian Jackson and Mike Stanton. Nothing says fan interest more than, “You sucked in ’96 Stanton!” coming from the stands in Fenway. Ahhh memories.

4. The NL is used to the pitcher batting 9th.
Sure this is a detriment when the Sox play in NL parks, but in Fenway it’s hilarious watching a pinch hitter or utility infielder start as DH. When you’re only getting 100 at-bats a season or are usually a defensive sub, it’s a safe bet you aren’t going to be in same class as Thomas, Thome or Ortiz. Also, that “instant out” at the bottom of the order isn’t there, so pitchers have to work that much harder. Sorry Arroyo, but your ERA would be upwards of 6 in the AL this year (I keep telling myself this so I feel better).

5. J.T. Snow might have another place to play this year.
Speaking of defensive subs, isn’t there a team in the NL that needs a defensive 1st baseman? Couldn’t the Marlins or Pirates use a crafty infield vet like the recently DFA’ed Snow? The Sox still control his contract for 10 days… how about a bucket of balls? Any takers?

Tomorrow it’s slumping Livan Hernandez vs Wake. Lets score him some runs this time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Game 67: Seanez Fails To Pitch Like A Man Afire

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Atlanta Braves 7

Rudy Seanez certainly lives a charmed life, doesn’t he? Javier Lopez and, to a lesser extent, Manny Delcarmen might have set the table for Atlanta’s comeback in the seventh with a walk and a single respectively, but it was Seanez’s dead fastball to Francoeur that cleared the bases and gave Atlanta the lead. Truly Seanez’s outings are baffling: freakish occurrences of perfection gleam like fool’s gold in a group of truly terrible performances in high-pressure situations, the result seeming like shattered icebergs in an icy, unforgiving sea. Bringing in a reliever, especially one who’s there to put out a fire should be a calming event, like slipping slowly into a sun-bathed tropical sea. It should be like when Papelbon came in to get the last out of the eighth for Timlin, who was having an uncharacteristically bad day.

But no lasting goat honors for Seanez, even though with his performance yesterday we add another scar to the Red Sox Nation psyche. Aggravation fades quickly when your team improves on a record of 8 and 4 in games decided close and late and pick up its 22nd come-from-behind win. With two outs in the eighth, after both Papi and Manny struck out, the Sox opened up on the Braves bullpen and scored six runs (the first time they had done so after trailing in the seventh since 2001, against Tampa Bay) on a combination of walks, singles, a double and a home run, including RBI pinch hits by Lowell and Cora. Oh yes, Mr. Seanez, you owe the offense a big debt of gratitude: not even the two runs allowed by Timlin in the eighth could erase the victory you earned by getting the final out in the seventh, post-home run. If I was the conspiracy-oriented type, I might believe that you’re taking notes from Kyle Farnsworth.

Somehow we managed to escape from that road trip with a 3 and 3 record and a game up on New York – now it’s time to return to the green walls and pastures of Friendly Fenway and lay a beat-down on the Nationals. Former Red Sox prospect Tony Armas makes his Fenway debut for Washington versus Kyle Snyder, formerly of Kansas City via the waiver wire. Snyder, 28, threw two innings in his only appearance of the year: the Royals’ 16 – 12 beating of the Rangers on June 8. He gave up five earned runs on ten hits and striking out two. Excited yet? Yeah, me, too. Fortunately, he did better in the minors in 2006: 60.1 innings pitched, a WHIP of 1.20 and only 9 walks to 43 strikeouts. I guess we’ll see what those numbers translate to in Fenway, but I’m not holding my breath. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Game 66: Oh THAT Josh Beckett

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Atlanta Braves 3

We need more from the guy in the middle

After two big losses against the Yankees and Toronto and then a (well pitched) no decision against Texas, Beckett seems to have turned the corner… again. He’s great or he sucks. He’s un-hittable or he’s a tee-ball pitcher. There really is no rhyme or reason to Beckett starts and that could be a strength, if it wasn’t such a weakness. His ups and downs in ERA and wins are totally the opposite of the way he pitches. He’s always the guy who pounds the strike zone, always goes for the heat and always challenges hitters with guts, gusto and balls. Unfortunately, that’s not always the way to get the win. Beckett needs to refine and use his off-speed stuff or he will top out at 15 wins every year. Let me just say that I freaking LOVE this guy (unhealthily so) and I think he will be the ace when Schill departs, but many teams with patient hitters can sit on that 96-97 mph fastball and hit it a mile.

the Braves aren’t that type of team. Man they stink. I thought we were in a slump… but Atlanta is in a S-L-U-M-P. As a baseball fan that grew up watching this team in the 90’s, seeing them struggle after 14 years of dominance is pretty perplexing. Worst of all are the fans. I mean, were there even any Braves fans at the game today? It sounded like Fenway (or Camden Yards for that matter). Talk about fair weather. What happens when Atlanta doesn’t make the playoffs this year? Will they cancel next season?

Slumping or not, Beckett took them apart in the first few innings. I don’t know if he was THAT good (he looked pretty good), but they were definitely THAT bad. Andrew Jones eventually caught up to Beckett’s heater and he got into trouble in the 5th, but the damage was minimal. Surrendering 2 runs in 6 innings is much better than what we got from the guy we saw facing those AL East teams. If this can be Beckett for the rest of the year… well I can live with that.

The pen was as inconsistent as ever. Delcarman ran into trouble and Tavarez allowed a run in the 8th (shocking, I know), but Lopez (I still like him better than Riske) came in and got the job done. Paps went 1,2,3 in the 9th and recorded his 22nd save to the sound of cheering in Fenway Deep South. I still can’t say enough about this guy. He’s Superman, Mr. Automatic, and a wonder of the world. This guy needs streets named after him.

The bats were decent as well, although there should have been 4 more runs scored (11 LOB). Lance “Don’t call me Rheal” Cormier might as well be a AAA pitcher (oh, he is… sorry) and when he was replaced by Mike Remlinger, I was floored! I could have sworn Remlinger was dead. Damn, I lost $40 bucks on that. Anyway, Youk went deep, Papi went deep, Lowell got his 25th double and Gonzo went 3 for 4 in an attempt to make me stop making “as advertised” jokes. However, the two biggest hits (for me anyway) came from Beckett (another RBI, what a champ) and from the Super Jew himself: Gabe Kapler. It was a meaningless pinch-hit in the 8th, but more importantly it symbolizes the return of depth to the outfield. With Wily Mo hurt, Dustin Mohr DFA’ed and Adam Stern unready, it was up to Willie Harris or Youk to fill in when Manny, Coco or Trot needed time off. With Kapler back I feel A TON better about this situation. Besides, he’s the
Super Jew… what’s not to like?

Next up is the battle of the AARP cardholders. Schilling vs Smoltz. There is no reason we shouldn’t sweep this team. GO SOX.

Game 65: Beat Down

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Atlanta Braves 1

That’s right, boys: kick ‘em when they’re down. Jon Lester, picking up the broken rotation (both Wells and Clement are now on the DL) and his first win, manned-up after his first mixed bag, rain-damaged performance last Saturday. He pitched six strong innings, striking out five, giving up five hits and the lone Atlanta run to get his first win. Supported by quality relief (Seanez pitched an uneventful seventh? With two strikeouts? What what what!?), including Pap’s 21st save and sparkling defense – a diving stop by Mike Lowell that turned a low line drive, tailor-made for a double, into an out in the ninth, grabbed the number seven spot on the list of Web Gems on Baseball Tonight last night – the Sox scored what turned out to be the winning runs of the game with some heroics by Tek. The Sox scored a run in the second off starter Tim Hudson with three singles, but were unable to take advantage of a bases-loaded situation, ending the inning with two strikeouts. In the third, they gave it another shot: three straight walks with two outs brought up the Captain, who spotted a hanging sinker and drove it for a three run double.

This game was just what the boys in grey and red needed to get out of the Minnesota Slump and start competing again. With a weakened Atlanta to beat up on, followed by a three game set at home versus the Nationals, it’s time to put together a strong drive of wins and maybe, just maybe, really establish that first place lead. This afternoon, the Sox hope to continue that beating as Beckett goes against Lance Cormier. GO SOX!!!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Game 64: Legion of Dome

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 5

Home of Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Carlos Silva and Jason Kubel

Eric is right. It HAS to be this awful dome. When Papi hit the 450ft SINGLE off the speaker, I knew this wasn’t ending well. When Silva (who up until tonight looked like he was going back to his job bagging groceries) kept every Sox hitter off 3rd base, there was no chance of it ending well. And when Manny (0-11 on the series) struck out as the tying run to end the game… well that’s all she wrote. Get away from this artificial hell hole before the Astroturf allergy turns fatal.

Wake got his “almost nada…sorry buddy” run support that he always gets. The low point of his performance was the solo shot he gave up to Jason Kubel in the 2nd inning. This Kubel guy has 5 homers on the year and 3 of them were in this series. Yeah, he owns us like that. After Wake got pulled after the 6th, the pen was ok… I guess. Tavarez pitched well in the 7th and when he walked the first batter in the 8th, Francona brought in Lopez for some new guy action. Man I forgot how much I hate watching a side-arm pitcher work. He let in the 5th run but managed to get out of the inning thanks to a double play. Welcome to the Red Sox buddy. Seanez and Tavarez finally have someone to haze.

The offence was just awful. Silva is (still) a 7+ ERA pitcher. They can’t hit this guy? You know your team is slumping when you look to Gonzo and Cora for clutch hits. Nathan came out in the 8th, then came back in the 9th to try to get his first 2 inning save. He looked totally spent by the time the tying run came to the plate, but as I already said, he had just enough in the tank to K the slumping Manny.

I really try to stay away from the whole “doom and gloom” or “blow it up” mentality (especially in June) but something needs to change here. The bullpen is suspect (like O. J. was a “suspect”), our 3 and 4 hitters have been non-factors (what happned to the best duo since Evans and Rice?) and pending injuries, the rotation could end up being Schilling, Beckett, Lester, Pauley, and Alvarez by the end of the year. Yikes. Hey Theo? I hope you got something better up your sleeve than Javier Lopez.

On to Atlanta and the NL. What better way to pick up the slumping bats than by adding the pitcher to the mix and putting Papi at first base. Right… GO SOX.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Riske Management

David “Cheap pun” Riske has just been sent to the Chicago White Sox for much more than the expected bucket of balls or rosin bags. What they actually got is Javier Lopez, a ground ball pitching lefty that has been destroying left handed bats in AAA. Finally, a guy in the pen that can get the occasional tough left handed hitter out. Whoo hoo.

Now… can we find a way to sneak Tavarez and Seanez into his carry-on luggage?

Game 63: Dead Spaces

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Minnesota Twins 8

I admit, originally this post was going to be about how Matt Clement is starting to remind me of Old Yeller and how it would be best for all for him to be taken out back and shot, or at the very least put on the DL so his “back spasms” or “bad shoulder” or whatever it is that’s made his “fastball with movement” into a “fastball that doesn’t come anywhere near the plate” can heal up. Some minor rehab starts might be good too – something to get his confidence back so we have a shot at getting back the pitcher who debuted in Boston last spring. I was going to write about all these issues, but then the rest of the game happened and I changed my tune. Now I’m starting to wonder if the Red Sox have serious issues when playing in domes.

Some statistics from this year: after playing 9 games in domes, the Red Sox have an OPS of .761, a WHIP of 1.45 and a record of 3 wins and 6 losses. In open stadiums, the OPS climbs to .815, the WHIP drops to 1.38 and the record goes to 33 wins and 21 losses. Now, besides the problem with the huge sample size difference and ignoring home field advantage, something does seem to happen to the Red Sox when they go under the faceless roof of a covered stadium, like they’re flowers who wilt without the benefit of the sun. Our two closest competitors, by the way, both hit better in domes than Boston does.

In light of these problems, I’d like to take this time to announce the official kick-off of the No Baseball in Domes campaign, devoted to the cause of end the terrible disadvantage suffered by certain teams when playing in domed stadiums. Tens of ball players and thousands of fans suffer every year as the windless, sunless environments kill rallies, propel unwanted home runs and otherwise wreck the win/loss records of their favorite teams. As official spokesman for the campaign, I’d like to bestow the It’s Clear You Truly Love Baseball award, in the form of this cheap shiny gold paint trophy, to the Minnesota Twins for building a lovely new open ballpark. Welcome to the fold, brothers and sisters, we’re glad you truly love baseball. The rest of you are on notice; the Revolution will come and we’ll consign these dead spaces to the garbage dump of history!

Wake versus the so-far ineffective Carlos Silva tonight and then we get the hell out of Dodge and head down to Atlanta. Let’s see if we can score some runs tonight for Timmy Knuckles and avoid the sweep. GO SOX!!!

PS. Totally unrelated, but I promised Robin I'd include a note about his glee over Francona putting Kevin Youkilis back in the leadoff spot and moving Coco down to batting eighth. "A game too late, but at least it's done."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Game 62: The New Nightmare

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Minnesota Twins 5

Is this what other people see when Tavarez enters a close game?

Don’t look at the score. Just trust me when I say this was one of the best pitching duels I have ever seen. The starters Johan Santana and Curt Schilling both reached milestones (Santana 1000 Ks and Curt 3000 innings), both were awesome for 8 innings and both were not involved in the decision. Santana was un-freaking real. The button must have been on his side of the felt, because he was DEALING for the 8 innings he pitched. With 13 K, he looked untouchable until the 7th when Tek lined the first pitch he saw into the stands. You know what rocks? With the way Schilling was pitching, I thought that was going to be enough. He wasn’t as dominant as Santana, but with the Sox infield defense (3 DPs and about 6 other amazing plays) he was still blanking the Twins. However, he too ran into long ball trouble in the 7th. Cuddyer hit a solo shot that knotted it at 1-1. Oh and my guts…they were knotted too.

After that it was up to the pens for both teams. Paps was awesome for the 9th and 10th (with help from Manny defensively…yeah it was hard to watch and even harder to believe) and Timlin (fresh off the DL) was awesome for the 11th. Meanwhile the Sox were blanked by Nathan and Rincon, but managed to load the bases off Jesse “Ichabod” Crain in the 12th. Gonzo (amazingly 3 for 5 on the night) lines one up the middle to the shortstop and manages to beat out the double play. Run scores. 2-1 Sox. Just 3 outs away from a sweet victory.

Now here is the inherent problem. Who do you use in this situation? Foulke has elbow tendonitis (aka: the suck) and was put on the DL today. Riske is exactly what the simple pun about his name would have you believe. Seanez is so bad that I kept flinching when they showed shots of him in the dugout, Van Buren just got called up from AAA today and has never been anything but a serviceable long man. Delcarman would be nice, but he just pitched 2 innings on Sunday. Who’s left?

Only one man…Julian “I need a facial scrub” Tavarez. This Freddy Krueger looking nut job even managed to give me hope. He struck out the AL leader in BA Joe Mauer with a sick inside pitch and then he gets 2 strikes on Cuddyer. That’s one strike and one out away from a win if anyone was keeping track. Every action Tavarez did after this point dramatically affected my emotions in rapid succession.

Tavarez: Drills Cuddyer in the ribs.
Me: Confused and annoyed.
Tavarez: Gives up ground rule double to Morneau.
Me: Scared but relieved (tying run didn’t score).
Tavarez: IBB to Hunter.
Me: Nauseated and bewildered.
Tavarez: Gives up walk-off grand slam to Jason Kubel.
Me: Cidal…Both Homi and Sui.

What the hell is wrong with this guy? Sometimes he looks like the dominant setup guy he was in St. Louis. Sometimes he looks like a psycho who is just as likely to kill and eat a batter as he is to throw them a strike. And sometimes he just sucks so bad you rock back and forth, mumbling with “are you *bleeping* kidding me?” as your only audible words.

What do you do with this mess? The pen was supposed to be a strength, NOT an Achilles heel. I say we take the hit in the wallet, DFA Seanez and Tavarez and rely on some AAA guys. It gets those kids (Hansen, Pauley, etc.) some experience and…well…they couldn’t be any worse than what we got.

And another thing, who is Francona pitching tomorrow? Hurt Wake or hurt Clement? Oh, it's hurt Clement.. greaaaaaat. This road trip isn’t starting well. GO SOX.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Games 59 - 61: Doubleheaders Are Tough

Final Scores:

Game 59: Boston Red Sox 4, Texas Rangers 7
Game 60: Boston Red Sox 5, Texas Rangers 4
Game 61: Boston Red Sox 6, Texas Rangers 13

Man, rain plays havoc with playing games, doesn’t it. As far as I can tell, here’s what happened: rain postponed the first game until today. Rather than give Beckett the start yesterday, the Sox decided to give Lester his debut last night. Lester had a pretty good start, going four and a third and giving up three runs on five hits, striking out four and walking four. His relief did not fare as well: Tavarez and Foulke gave up two runs apiece in the seventh and ninth innings, respectively and the Sox couldn’t rally. Lester’s effort might not be exactly what the Sox were expecting from their top prospect, but maybe Lester is suffering from the same nerves as David Pauley did on his first start. More on Pauley later, though.

Today, in game one, Millwood outdueled Beckett, holding the Sox to two runs over six innings, while Beckett surrendered four runs over five and a third, ending his day by surrendering a two-run homer to Kevin Mench. Fortunately for Boston, Riske and Delcarmen shut the Rangers down, while Papi came through in the clutch in the ninth and knocked an Otsuka-two-seamer into the right field bleachers for a three-run walk-off homer. With the Sox riding high on the win, the aforementioned David Pauley, riding high on his last start in New York, got the start in Game Two. Unfortunately, Pauley didn’t have the same stuff today and the Rangers saw right through his sinker, Tavarez’s fastball and Foulke’s breaking ball, racking up a record 22 hits against Red Sox pitching. John Wasdin, known to Sox fans who remember his stint with Boston as “Wayback Wasdin,” did not live up to his nickname, giving up a paltry three runs, with nary a home run to be found among them. Let’s be honest, here: it was a tough series for Boston. Fortunately, the Yankees had an even tougher series against Oakland and the Sox are now a game up on New York (and still up 2.5 games on Toronto).

Boston has the day off tomorrow before traveling to Minnesota to play the Twins. Schilling and Santana face off on Tuesday. GO SOX!!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Game 58: Pitching Madness

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Texas Rangers 3

The game was a bit like this, but with more baseball and less sunglasses

Tim Wakefield pitches what should be a winning game? Craig Hansen comes in for his first relief appearance of the year and gets two outs and a runner to third? Paps gives up his first blown save of the year, simultaneously ending his streak at twenty and demonstrating what an arbitrary statistic saves are in the first place? All this madness and more, my friends on a rainy night at Fenway.

I must confess: so distracted was I at the start of this contest that while I was not surprised that Trot Nixon started the night’s scoring with a three run homer in the bottom of the first, I was surprised that the Sox kept passing up scoring opportunities – six men left on base with two double plays – until about the fourth inning, when I remembered that Tim Wakefield was pitching and we were lucky to have scored anything. We got lucky tonight, though: not only were the Sox up by three runs after the first inning, but Wakefield had an above average pitching night, giving up only two runs (on a homer as well: a Monster shot by Michael Young in the third inning) over seven innings instead of his usual three.

Craig Hansen made his 2006 debut in the eighth and after a quick first out, gave up a pair of singles to put runners on the corners. After Hansen got Teixeira to pop out for the second out, Francona decided he liked the match up of Papelbon against Blalock better and brought in his closer to finish the eighth. Unfortunately, Blalock greeted Paps with a run-scoring single, ending the string at 20 saves. In a way, this setback, as statistically meaningless as it was, was as an important test of Pap’s character as a pitcher as the run he gave up to Toronto on May 4 – would he get upset? Would the Rangers turn the mistake into a blowout and ruin Papelbon’s confidence? The answer? Of course they didn’t. This is the Papal-Bon, Jonathan the Unflappable. He bore down, got Mench on a fly out to end the inning and then came back in the ninth to strike out the side. The man is pure gas, a pitching deity sent down to Earth to awe us mere mortals for a time with his god-like powers.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of the eighth, the offense put together a bit of magic to put the Sox on top for the duration. Manny walked, then Nixon capped his 4-for-4 night with a single that sent Ramirez scrambling for third. Up came Mike Lowell, 0-for-3 on the night, just needing to send the ball into the outfield to get the run home. Not surprisingly, The Man Who Hits Doubles delivered a fly ball deep enough to get Manny home for the sacrifice. Red Sox win. Booya.

Tomorrow: the first double-header of the year, featuring the debut of Jon Lester and a bounce-back effort by Josh Beckett. Lester, who will do his level best to live up to his reputation as the best prospect in the Red Sox farm system, faces John Rheinecker in what is surely a battle of the ugly team photos. Unfortunately, Robin and I will be incommunicado tomorrow and most of Sunday – we’re headed up to Cooperstown with some friends. Enjoy the games, we’ll be back to wrap up on Sunday and GO SOX!!!

Game 57: All Apologies

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, New York Yankees 3

"I take it back guys... well some of it."

Sometimes you say things you don’t mean. Well, sometimes you say things you DO mean but later take them back when you have a clearer head (or when you are proven wrong). Tonight was one of those times when I was… I guess you would call it “harsh” when describing the Red Sox bats before the 6th inning.

Some examples of descriptive words and phrases I used:

Over reaching
Mind numbing
Injured looking
Bench worthy
*expletive deleted* those *expletive deleted* and their mothers
Not very clutch

But can you blame me? This week has been brutal! The drubbing I attended on Monday, the squeaker that made me crazy on Tuesday and the pain of the rain on the plain on Wednesday. I was at my wits end. With Schilling looking pretty sharp (amazing night except the 3 homeruns) over 8 innings, my full attention was turned to this ^pick from the list above^ offence.

I mean it was freaking Jaret Wright and they STILL managed to leave 10 men on base. You look out in the stands and you can see the Yankee fans wondering when he was going to totally break down. Luckily he did just that in the 6th. He left with the bases loaded and no outs and then the wheels really came off for the Yankees… and by wheels coming off I mean an in-depth look into their bullpen.

By now I almost feel bad for Scott Proctor (not really, but stick with this for the effect). He has already pitched 40+ innings in 29 games and is getting that “If I don’t get some help here, I just might die” look in his eyes. Sturtze is gone, Dotel isn’t back yet, Small’s deal with the devil has expired, Myers is for lefties only, Erickson is Seanez in pinstripes, Villone is a nobody, who the hell is Matt Smith, Farnsworth is hit (single) or miss (homerun) and Rivera isn’t as automatic as he once was (and even if he is, you still have to get there). Now I know the Sox have some big “question marks” in the pen too (somewhere Keith Foulke thought he just heard his name), but the Yankees cannot be satisfied with that crew I just listed. Even with all the injured players in the lineup, that bullpen is still their biggest weakness.

Tonight that weakness was exploited. From the moment Wright left (to be fair he was about to get rocked) the game was over. The highlights of the Sox offensive production were Tek with a slump busting 3 run bomb, Gonzo with 2 amazingly long at-bats and a double, Coco trying to shake my distain for his leadoff role with RBI’s and then Manny being Manny. Schilling (again,
an amazing night) and Paps (he needed the work) solidified the pitching side and that (as they say) was that. Sweep avoided, season series tied at 5 a piece and only a half game back. A big win I can live with (despite my earlier criticism involving certain hitters and their mothers).

Tex and Wake in the Fens on Fri. GO SOX!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Draft News

Shades of Pedro and Ramon? Visions of one Papelbon starting and another Papelbon relieving? In a year or two, it might come true: the Red Sox selected Jonathan Papelbon’s submarining younger brother Josh in the 48th round of the draft yesterday. Although the elder Paps displayed the versatility in his college career to either start or relieve, Josh’s pitching style and experience makes him a clear prospect for the bullpen; he’s got 24 career saves, including 8 this season and holds the University of North Florida record for saves. Also drafted yesterday in the 19th round was Josh’s twin brother Jeremy, a lefty pitcher who went to the Cubs. What did we learn today? That the Papelbons are a pitching family and that the elder Papelbons like names that start with J (or they were looking for an easy way to keep track of their kids). If Josh signs, he’ll have the opportunity to pitch for Class A Lowell this summer.

In a minor coup, the Sox snared pitcher Daniel Bard in the 28th pick of the draft, one pick after grabbing high school power hitter Jason Place. Bard was an unexpected find, as the Sox assumed he would go earlier in the draft. However, other teams were apparently nervous about Bard’s difficult patch in middle of this past season and Boston was able to choose him with the compensation pick they got for losing Johnny Damon. According to scouts, Bard has trouble with his breaking ball – if he works out that problem in the minors and combines it with his mid-90s fastball, he could be devastating in a few years.

Unfortunately, after all the hype, Jeff Maier won’t be the savior of the Orioles after all, or of any other team for that matter, as the newly graduated Maier did not get the draft call this year. I suppose there’s always next year for the sweet, sweet irony to come true.

Game 57: How Big Is A Cubit Again?

So…who’s up for a six game set against the Yankees in August? I guess we’re all going to have to be, because while the rough weather in the Northeast from over the weekend might have given us a miss yesterday, it certainly returned today in full force, sweeping away tonight’s game as it came. Both of tonight’s starters will push their starts back a day, so it’ll be Schilling and Wright tomorrow night instead of Johnson and Wakefield. With Johnson hot and the bats behind Wakefield not, I’d say the switch is a huge relief to most of us on the RSN side of things. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Game 56: Dude, Where's My Ball?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, New York Yankees 2

It should have turned out differently in the end, but for the most of the night, David Pauley and his stoner player photo had the Yankee hitters fooled.

I’m going to ignore the negatives for the moment and talk about how well David Pauley pitched tonight, because he did a fabulous job. He went into a situation where, despite the potential he showed in Toronto on May 31, Robin, myself, the regular commenters on this blog, sports pundits everywhere and probably God Almighty thought he was going to get knocked around: pitching his second major league start in Yankee Stadium. Even Francona seemed to be a bit worried: with an overworked bullpen and a big question mark about the capabilities of the starting pitcher, Tito called up star prospect Craig Hansen from Pawtucket and put Alex Cora in at shortstop today – just because Cora can throw a weird knuckleball and could take over in relief if needed. My mind shudders to think of the possibility. But guess what? None of those preparations mattered tonight: Pauley was excellent, with six and two thirds innings of work, eight hits, two runs, two strikeouts, two walks, one double play and thirteen groundouts. The sinker sank, the change up, not well featured against the Jays, stymied the Yankee hitters and I was pretty damn impressed.

Unfortunately, the Sox had a few problems tonight. First, Chien-Ming Wang was on his game, too, making one mistake pitch to Papi in the third that ended up bouncing off the upper deck in left but keeping the Sox from advancing any other base runners past third for seven innings. Second, Kyle Farnsworth caught a huge break when Melky Cabrera robbed Manny of a home run that would have tied the game in the eighth. Words can’t describe my displeasure with that feat of athleticism, so we’ll move on. Remember when Cabrera couldn’t field? Yeah, those were fun times. Third, as good as Pauley was all night, he completely fell apart in the seventh after letting a routing grounder slip through his glove on what should have been the third out. Unable to pull it together, he left the game after walking the bases loaded, in time for the fourth and biggest problem of the night: Rudy Seanez.

Rudy, you get your own paragraph. Rudy, I don’t get it. You’re the default set-up man, now that Timlin is on the DL and Foulke is on his way there. As much as this concept scares the crap out of me, it’s the way things go for right now and you and I need to learn to accept this fact. Now, the job of the set-up man is to get holds, you know, those things where you come into a game and keep the score in favor of your team (or, in tonight’s case, even) by not giving up runs. All you had to do tonight was get Giambi out. Strikeout, pop out, ground out, fly out; any of those options were available and the Sox would have been out of the inning. Instead, you failed in your appointed task, walked Giambi and the winning run on six pitches, ending it all with a weak attempt to go inside that wouldn’t have fooled free-swinging Brad Wilkerson. You ruined the night for David Pauley and that makes me sad. Very sad.

Tomorrow night, Schilling versus Wright to avoid losing the series. I think it’s time for the big thunder to come out, time for the Sox to beat Wright like a redheaded stepchild on a rented mule. I want an old-fashioned blow out win and I want it bad. GO SOX!!!

Game 55: The Witness #2… Some things you can’t UN-see

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 13

Short takes from my long night

When my buddy (and Yankee season ticket holder) Mike asked which game I wanted to see this week, I was quick to answer “OH definitely the Beckett and Mussina pitchers duel!” In hindsight I’m not sure if that’s funny or sad.

The Yankees have a pre-game announcement warning patrons to watch out for lost children. I think all unclaimed children will be used to bolster the Yankee farm teams. Isn’t that how they got Melky Cabrera?

Speaking of Melky, in the 1st he scored from first on a wild pitch while the BEST DEFENCE IN THE MAJORS managed to look like a bad tee-ball team.

Tek gets the go ahead run home in the second while hitting into a double play. Even from the stands you can see he is laboring. Time to give him a few days off.

Total meltdown. Beckett is throwing everything right over the plate and it is ALL getting tattooed. 7 earned runs too late, Francona wakes up and replaces him with Van Buren. If this was Clement, I would cite Barbaro and make a joke about Tito using a shotgun and a glue factory to “take care” of the pitching problem. I think Beckett gets put out to stud.

Van Buren isn’t much better. It’s only the second inning and I have bought so much beer that I’m almost out of money. Ballparks should give discounts to fans during blowouts. No… that won’t work. That would bankrupt the Royals in a week.

Manny just got ROBBED by Damon. I think I just cracked a molar clenching my teeth.

The Sox manage to get out of the 3rd… OR DO THEY??? Cairo apparently kicked a ball still in play and is called out. The ball is dead, but Tek still tries to throw out Bernie at second? When he does so… the Sox leave the field, falsely victorious. After a 4 umpire conference, Bernie is back on first and the whole Sox defense has to return to the field. The crowd goes nuts. I loose hair. 5 more runs score after this debacle.

Here comes Riske. He gets a big hand from the fans. Wait a minute… are they being humorously sarcastic? Well I NEVER!

This is a disaster. The Yankees are about one inning from throwing their scrubs on the field. Wait a minute… the scrubs started. Time for more beer.

Francona listened to me and gave Tek the rest of the night off and the same for Lowell and Manny. Belli responds to the unexpected opportunity by hitting a solo shot and J.T. Snow gets and RBI single while trying to up his trade value. Nice job guys. Too bad you’re still down a touchdown and two point conversion.

I slink out during the bottom of the 6th. I’ve seen enough. I feel guilty ditching a Sox game part of the way through, but this isn’t really fun anymore. The big scoring breaks are making fans drunk and hostile and Brooklyn is a long subway ride away.

Apparently Tavarez and Delcarmen were pretty good. I wouldn’t know… I was on the D Train by then.

I stumble home. I feel like a sex crime victim: frightened, woozy, in pain and trying desperately to forget the last few hours.

Fortunately, tomorrow is another day and another game. And tomorrow the Sox are rolling out the big guns with… David Pauley?

Sigh…GO SOX.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Games 53 & 54: A Tale Of Two Pitchers

Final Score:

Game 53: Boston Red Sox 2, Detroit Tigers 6
Game 54: Boston Red Sox 8, Detroit Tigers 3

Truly, this weekend was the best of times and the worst of times, a time when two pitchers of markedly different success and reputation experienced such differing results as to try the mind and the heart.

On Saturday, Tim Wakefield, the storied pitcher, the Teflon man, the knuckleballer who has secured his place as a beloved figure in Red Sox history through years of hard work and self-sacrifice went to the mound and did what he’s done pretty much every outing this year: he gave up three runs over seven innings. And, of course, the Red Sox offense did what they’ve done pretty much every time Wakefield pitches: they scored two runs or less. Once again, one of Boston’s most consistent pitchers, the man who led the team in wins in ’05 and who should certainly be up there this year picked up the loss, seeing his record fall to 4 and 7.

On Sunday, Matt Clement, scapegoat extraordinaire, the Glue man, the pitcher with the crazy movement on his pitches who seems to melt down at the first opportunity did what he’s only done a few times this year and hasn’t done recently: he shut down the Tigers over six innings, surrendering a paltry three runs on three hits. Clement retired the first nine batters he faced and left the game three pitches into the seventh after Varitek made an executive decision that his pitcher had thrown enough for the day. The Sox offense, of course, did what they typically do for Clement: they scored lots of runs for him. The day’s tally included four homers (Ortiz, Manny, Youk and Gonzo) and a string of hit batsmen and walks in the eighth that led to three runs and a Jim Leyland meltdown/ejection at home plate that had shades of Lou Pinella greatness in its furor.

With the series win in hand, the Sox head to the Bronx tonight to start a four game set versus the Yankees. Josh Beckett takes the ball tonight against Mussina; Robin will be in attendance (lucky bastard) and will favor your readership tomorrow with another one of his special on-scene reports. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Game 52: Youk Got What I Need…

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Detroit Tigers 2

…but you say he’s just a friend

Watching the crazy, 9th inning, last out heroics gets me a little esoteric with my pop-culture references (can Biz Markie even be considered popular culture?) so there are only like 10 people who are going to get that joke… sorry. Anyway, the Red Sox lead the AL in comeback wins and this makes me so freaking happy I can barely explain it. I believe that heroism, like revenge, is a dish best served cold and Youk severed up a bone chilling plate of clutch in the 9th to win this game. It was just so… Papi-esque.

However, before all that happened, this game was basically a pitchers duel. Schilling against Kenny “don’t like cameramen” Rogers and they both were amazing. Schill gave up 2 over 6 (but racked up 8 Ks) and Rogers had the Sox hitters guessing through 7 and only allowed one run on a Crisp hit and steal and the Manny RBI. A tight game to say the least. The Sox pen was solid again (Riske, Seanez, Maalox) and the 2-1 score was still in place in the 9th even though Papi hit the longest out I have EVER seen to end the 8th. I swear there should be a little “infinity” marker at dead center in Comerica Park. This might have been a HR in the old Polo Grounds. Ok maybe not.

Anyway, with 2 outs in the 9th, Lowell (3 for 4) slaps a single and Youk steps up as the go-ahead run. Now before he preformed his amazing feat here, Youk was having an awful night. 0 for 3 with 2 Ks and he dropped a ball at first. But he puts all that behind him when on the second pitch he sees, he LAUNCHES one to blast ahead 3-2. There is nothing I like more than to see a player pick his team up in the end after letting them down to start.

Well nothing other than Paps in the 9th with a one run lead. 10 pitches, 2 Ks, 20th save. What can you say about this guy right now? Rookie of the Year? Rolaids Award? Cy Young candidate? Maybe all of it. All I know for certain is that this Sox team has at least 15 fewer wins if he isn’t as brilliant as he has been.

Saturday it’s Wake vs Bonderman. Let’s defang the Tigers again. GO SOX

Friday, June 02, 2006

Oh! The Irony

Anyone who remembers baseball history from the past ten years (especially history involving intra-league rivals) most likely remembers Jeffrey Maier – if they don’t remember his name, they probably remember what he did: lean over a wall and snatch a fly ball hit by Derek Jeter away from the waiting glove of Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco during the 1996 American League Championship Series. Umpire Richie Garcia called the ball, clearly a case of fan interference in every replay, a home run and the Yankees went on to win the game, the series and then the first of their four championships in five years. The Orioles, meanwhile, have struggled in ignominy ever since. I thought the circumstances were pretty unfair myself, but to Orioles fans I imagine that the Jeffrey Maier game is Level 1 on Bill Simmons’ 13 levels of losing.

Alright, groundwork laid, terrible game, terrible experience, Baltimore hasn’t really moved past it yet, even after 10 years…so what? Well, what if Maier ended up playing for the Orioles? Yes, I’m serious. He’s not a shoe-in, but the recently graduated Maier has the record for hits at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and is a potential pick in next week’s MLB draft. And Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, is interested in picking him. Can you imagine what that would be like, especially if he turned out to be any good? It would be like Steve Bartman coming up to replace, say, Jacque Jones and being really good at it, or Bucky Dent coming to the Red Sox in 1984 and helping them win it all in ’86. I can only imagine the psychic trauma Orioles fans would go through…although if he helped them win a World Series, I’m sure they’d be willing to bygones be bygones. As we all know, baseball fans are a very fickle lot. Maybe none of this will work out and Maier and the articles written on him will become a footnote in baseball history. Or maybe the Orioles will draft him after all and I’ll do a little dance of glee over the irony of it all.