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!!!