Monday, July 31, 2006

Game 102-104: The Skinny and the Fat

Final Scores:

Boston Red Sox 7, Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim 6
Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim 10
Boston Red Sox, 9 Cleveland Indians 8

The Sox make a great comeback after a rough Beckett start. Ortiz had a late homerun and was also the extra inning hero (who else? More on him later) so the Sox steal one from the Angels. I caught this one in the form of highlights because I was at Eric’s rehearsal dinner trying not to drink too much and eat/do/say something embarrassing. I had limited success.

Sunday: It was the national broadcast on ESPN so everyone got to see Schilling get whooped. It should have been closer, but the bullpen wasn't much better (Van Buren pitched himself back to the minors). Trot hurt himself (15 Day DL) with a wicked cut that managed to mess hip his bicep but not hit the ball. Wily Mo came in mid at-bat and promptly struck out… such was the tone of the game. I was able to see some of this one from the bar we congregated at after the wedding. I had a great time (it was a beautiful day and a mind-blowingly happy one for my blog partner and his bride) but I think the free flowing alcohol and poor play of the Sox made me an early victim of Bacchus. The “never sleep in your shoes” rule was violated. Whee.

Monday: One very hungover train ride later and I am listing to the trade deadline news rise with great fury only to be left with nothing. The Sox big move? Fat Dl’ed David Wells traded for Fat Crappy David Wells (8 runs 4 2/3 innings). That freaking lardo! This is what Theo and co. think is going to push us into the postseason? A guy who could body double for the Michelin Man? Paul Byrd wasn’t much better because both teams were beating up the starters this night. Manny and Ortiz went deep and Wily Mo was a double shy of the cycle. Then the bullpens put the kybosh on EVERYTHING. Davis and Betancourt were lights out for Cleveland and Kyle Snyder was a relief ace taking his normally good first four innings at the end of the game. He looked AWSOME (4 1/3 innings, 1 hit, 6 Ks) and probably should have had the start. With the Sox down 2 and Tek injured (please just be minor) this looked like it was going to be my second fit of nausea and big headache of the day.

Then in the 9th the Indians put in the current body that they are using as a closer who quickly gives up a single to Cora, a walk to Youk and pops Loretta up. 2 on, 1 out, Ortiz up. Everyone knows what happens next.

And it’s déjà vu. How does he do it every time? Is it magic? Is it clutch? Is it something more that we haven’t been able to put our finger on? I think Papi is beyond all of this. He just IS… and the rest of us just stare and smile.

Next up is C.C. Sabathia vs whoever we call up to take Snyder’s spot. JJ? Pauley? That other guy? Who knows. My father and brother will be in attendance for this one so maybe I will get some neat firsthand reports. Or at least an emotional and garbled voicemail. GO SOX.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Game 101: Reality entering my baseball world

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 8
I wish that rain delay went a little longer. Like 5 hours longer. After two hours of waiting, the rain finally let up and the tarp on the field followed. Lester started sharp (including a patented escape artist 5th) but really fell apart in the 7th when he gave up 4 earned and Delcarmen followed with 2 of his own. Nice guys. You really made that wait worthwhile.

The bats were not represented very well in this game either. Seven scattered hits made it possible for the Angels of Wherever to gain a big lead and then ZZ Flop came in to clean up this mess. Let me tell you, Fenway cleared out QUICK. Sox threatened with 2 outs in the 9th but Ortiz struck out to end it. Brutal stuff. Didn’t somebody tell them we need these wins? That crew in New York doesn’t seem to be going away.

Anyway, I wish I had a better game to do this with… but Eric and I won’t be around for a while. One of us is getting married this weekend (not me) and we both kinda HAVE to be in attendance (him more than me). Once we return I will take up the posting duties while he enjoys his new bride and their honeymoon.

Congrats my friend. Try not to trip or say something dumb during the nuptials and I will try not to scratch myself too much in that rented tux… no promises.

Drop a line in the comments to wish the happy couple some luck. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a weekend recap.

Till then: Go Eric and Nikki… and GO SOX.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Game 100: Same Old Song and Dance, My Friend

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Oakland Athletics 5

Kyle Snyder has an enemy. An implacable enemy, who defeats him at every turn, trampling his creations to dust, leaving him bereft of all hope and solace, as the opposing teams laughs and the other fans laugh and the papers laugh and I die a little inside. What is that enemy, my friends? That enemy is pitch number 31. Like Pedro in his days of yore, when pitch number 101 signaled a new game where wild things happen and runners scampered carefree around the base paths, Kyle Snyder’s thirty-first pitch is the end of innocence, the end of the sweet joy of Red Sox Nation enjoying their starting pitcher do his job and do it bloody well.

What happens exactly? Bad things, dear reader, bad things. To wit: BA and OPS against go from a sublime .176 and .412 to a sickening .429 and 1.095. Captain Kyle, for better or for worse, becomes eminently hittable and the result is as grotesque and startling as when a hidden creature of gothic horror removes its mask of loveliness to reveal the terrible disfigurement underneath. We’re all shrieking in horror at the awful things hitters do to baseballs when Kyle Snyder throws his 31st pitch.

How did it pan out today? Very well at first: Snyder and Haren had locked horns in what looked to be the beginnings of a pitcher’s duel, with Snyder ahead of Haren in the hits surrendered count. And then, on the second time through the order came the fateful crossing of the threshold, punched through with deadly vigor by no less than the Big Hurt himself, who crushed his first homer of the day over the centerfield fence to put Oakland on top for the day. The A’s bled another run from Snyder with three singles, then added three more in the fifth when a walk and a single set up another Big Hurt shot to push the score to five to nothing. Snyder left after the sixth and although relievers Van Buren and Hansen put out quality performances, it was too late for the Sox.

The Sox bats, meanwhile, seem to have blown their load yesterday – there’s no other reason why they did so poorly against a pitcher who’s been struggling all of July. They avoided a skunking when Manny doubled in the seventh, coming around to score on a Coco Crisp single, but Haren and his ability to induce hits to his fielders dominated throughout. That the game and the series ended on a pop up in foul ground to third baseman Eric Chavez was a fitting ending to a game where Boston looked completely overmatched.

Off day tomorrow as the Sox head home and then a three game set against Anaheim as we enter the final weekend of July. Jon Lester goes for win number six against Kelvim Escobar Friday night at 7:05. GO SOX!!!

Game 99: The Weary Rest, the Strong Sleep Confidently

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 13, Oakland Athletics 5

What the hell is a safe lead now-a-days? First, the Sox kick the crap out of A’s rookie pitcher Jason Windsor. Manny and Nixon go deep and they’re up 6-1. Now you figure you can put the kids to bed. You got work tomorrow? Never fear! Schilling has a 5 run lead so you can get your beauty rest and feel fresh for that morning meeting. Whew.

BUT NO. Nothing can be easy. We have to wade through a VERY mediocre Schilling performance (6 innings, 4 earned, 105 pitches, 13th win) while the bats just seemed to quit after being so hot. Would it KILL a Sox starter to go more than 6 innings against anyone besides the Royals? Delcarman gives one back in the 7th (where did his control go?) and now it’s a one run game! This is really a nightmare to anyone with a sleep disorder. Can anything end this madness?

You better believe it. In the 8th everything seemed to change. Oakland relievers Duchscherer and Halsey pitched like they put big money on the Sox (and picked the over). All the hits went through, everything dropped in, and every batter looked like a giant. To give Oakland some credit, the umpire was inconsistent (screw that… he was bad) and the walks really hurt them. Highlights of that inning was the base clearing double by Tek, followed by Ortiz, Manny and Nixon crossing the plate within 3 feet from each other, and then seeing eye singles from Lowell, Crisp and Youk. 6 runs and an ear to ear smile from me. Thank you… I needed that. The game is now ready for some ZZ Flop (the new moniker for Julian and Rudy). Now can we speed this up so I can get some shut eye?

Yeah right. After Tavarez got into and out of a jam in the 8th (a nice DP), Scott Sauerbeck can’t get a ball over the plate and loads them without getting an out in the 9th. One injury delay and pitching change later and we are looking at the sixth Oakland pitcher today. Another sac fly… another run… can we call the mercy rule now? I guess so! Cue Seanez and sweet mother mercy.

So later today (yawn) is the final and the chance for the sweep. Snyder vs Haren and I hope they can get to Haren early... because that pen is severely depleted. Bring the brooms. Now for the sleep of the victorious.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Game 98: Welcome...To The Future

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Oakland Athletics 3

Thank God that was a blowout from the third inning; I may have watched the whole game, but at least I didn’t have to fret about a last-second loss. Well, sort of. There was the seventh, when things almost fell apart…

I’ve been singing praises in the Church of Craig Hansen since last year (note that I managed the blasphemy of bashing the Papal-Bon in the same post and the baseball gods conspired to make him great just to show me the error of my ways). There are a number of reasons why I like the guy: he’s the future, he’s grooming to be the closer, he’s got the same last name and he grew up in a town where I lived for a few months. What’s not to like? Still, there are times this year when it’s clear that the kid has some growing to do before he’s ready. Like last night.

Tito has been putting Hansen (and MDC) into more and more pressure situations lately, pushing them along in their development, relieving the need for Mike Timlin to set up every save and pushing Tavarez to the very back of the bullpen and Saenez out altogether. It’s a good plan – I’m sure the eventual idea is to make the ideal order into starter for seven, MDC for the eighth and Hansen for the ninth, which means that both pitchers will need to learn how to pitch when the game is on the line. It does create some interesting situations that cause you to sit up and take notice, like when Hansen came in to relieve Beckett to start the seventh, got two outs but managed to load the bases in the process. Though visions of yesterday’s loss danced in my head and I would have had to resist reaching for the bullpen phone, Tito remained calm and let the kid work things out. Three pitches later, Mark Kotsay grounded to short to end the inning.

It’s a great sign for two reasons: first, that won’t be the last time Hansen faces a batter with a big inning on the line and he’ll need to know what to do. Second, he didn’t panic in the situation, didn’t let the pressure get to his head and turn him into a replica of another Red Sox pitcher we know so well. He made the pitch, got the out and stopped the bleeding before it started. It was rock.

Tonight, Curt Schilling faces young Jason Windsor, who’s pitched a grand total of one start (against Baltimore) and is the proud owner of one earned run surrendered in five innings. Let’s show him what he happens when he goes up against real bats. GO SOX!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Game 97: Rollercoaster of Crap

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Seattle Mariners 9

It’s down, it’s up, it’s down, it’s up, it sucks. Losing, wining, tied and then losing again. These are the types of games that turn pre teens into problem drinkers later in life. How can you get so many breaks and STILL not pull out the win? The Sox managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in classic style.

Lester got roughed up early, but bad defense by Seattle kept it close. Every ball Boston got into the air seemed to fall in for a hit (Adam Jones is an adventure in center). But for the first time in what seems to be a LONG while, the bullpen imploded. The Mariners tied the game off Manny Delcarman and then the Sox bats completely fell asleep. So we are in the 8th, 2 outs, Timlin cruising and Beltre hits a deep fly ball to center… Coco at the wall… misses it… Manny misses it… AND THEY STAND THERE LOOKING AT EACH OTHER!!!!! So the ball is sitting there between them and they’re having a conversation about Sartre or something. Meanwhile, Beltre is being WAIVED HOME! Bad relay, slow toss to Tek… SAFE! 8-7! PUKE!

So here comes Putz (who has been lights out) and he pops Ortiz up, fans Manny and looks down the barrel at Tek who is having an “off year” to put it mildly.

And the Capitan takes him deep. Are you kidding me?

I go crazy and the Sox go into the bottom of the 9th. Timlin back up... and he immediately gives up a walk off HR to Sexson. I repeat: are you kidding me?

It’s already just about as fun as a shovel to the face, but the west coast nightmare is just beginning. Tomorrow (freaking late) the Sox face Oak-town. Zito vs Beckett. Guns… kill them with guns.

Game 96: Gabba Gabba What?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Seattle Mariners 5

Should I be surprised at the result on this steamy July Saturday, when the humidity hovered around 100% for most of the day and storms ripped open the skies of New York? No, probably not. Seattle is the land of rain after all and King Felix its pitching monarch, dealing today as he certainly can do to make the Boston boys look foolish with the bats in their hands (four hits, six strikeouts). I can’t say I expected a win, even after lighting up Moyer last night, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.

How could it have been worse, you ask? Boston’s 11th pitcher of the year, Kason “Cool Papa Bell” Gabbard, could have done his best impression of a meatball on the mound. He could have given up fifteen runs, come out the game in the third inning and worn out the bullpen (and his welcome) in the process. Instead, he scattered eight hits, gave up two earned runs and came out of the game in the sixth when a bad call at first and a single signaled the end of Gabbard’s first outing. Francona, perhaps wise to the pitching ways of Felix Hernandez, opted to finish out the game with the Wonder Twins (Tavarez and Seanez) and Seattle pulled the game out of reach. All in all, however, the kid showed an Lester-like aptitude for getting out of jams he created and maybe there’s a future for him after all. I’m certainly interested to see how he does on Wakefield’s next start.

Coming up tomorrow afternoon, Jon Lester takes his undefeated crown against Jarrod Washburn, who some of you might remember for giving up a very important home run two years ago. Let’s light him up again like we did at the beginning of the 2004 ALDS. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Game 95: West Coast Offense Story

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Seattle Mariners 4

It’s a little more exciting than Jets vs Sharks

Let me just start this by saying that I HATE west coast road games. Forget the fact that the travel is hard on the team and that the AL west always plays the Sox tough… I just hate how LATE the games go. It’s really hard on us fans trying to see the games. How can I stay up till 2 in the morning for a week? I have a life people (ok not really, but I just felt like being dramatic).

Now that that’s out of my system… I would like to extend a BIG thank you to Jamie Moyer. I was worried that the weakened Sox bats would crumble after the coastal change, but Moyer pitched a mean BP and helped ease the transition. Ortiz, Gonzo, Tek, Youk and Manny all took the aged starter deep. That geriatric hump got smacked for 7 earned and did it UGLY. Thanks Moyer… now go back to your strained peas and Matlock.

As for Boston’s starter, well Snyder did what he always does: looked great through 4 and started to fade in the 5th. Wild pitches and errors didn’t help him, but he managed to go 5 allowing only 2 runs (both unearned). He left with what LOOKED like a calf cramp (please just be a cramp) and got the win. Good for him. If he stays healthy I think we are going to see a lot more of him over the next few months… I wish that was a good thing.

Anyway, next up is future pitching star Felix Hernandez vs… ummm… hey! Let’s play a game. See if you can pick the Red Sox starter out of this list of names. Good luck!

Kay Gabby
Karen Goddard
Kason Gabbard
Jason Gabbo
Cool Papa Bell
Gabby Hays

Tough huh? Give up? Well it’s AA stud Kason Gabbard and lets just say I am not too excited about this predicament. What I am happy about is the 5 game winning streak, the 3 ½ game lead over the Yankees and the second best record in baseball. Let’s keep doing those things.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Game 94: True Grit

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Texas Rangers 4

To Curt Schilling: he doesn’t always have his best stuff, but he brings the grit when necessary. Like today, when his pitches weren’t really fooling anyone in the first few innings and Texas kept scoring to keep themselves in the game or, horror of horrors, take the lead. Schilling buckled down, pulled out some extra gas and got enough behind his pitches to hold the volatile Texas offense to four runs. It wasn’t thrilling, shut ‘em down power like Beckett had yesterday (or Schilling had in his last start against Oakland), but it was enough.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox bats, aligned in an unconventional order with Papi on a day off and Mike Lowell sidelined by a stomach virus, batted Crisp on top, put Youkilis in the three hole, Pena at DH batting sixth and Alex Cora at third batting ninth and started scoring runs right from the first inning, creating a back and forth contest between the two clubs. With Schilling’s best stuff not at his command the two run lead Boston established in the first quickly disappeared and the Rangers led three to two for an inning – until a walk by Youkilis, single by Manny and two run double by Pena put Boston back on top.

Schilling flirted with disaster a bit in the fifth, putting two men on with two outs before getting Blaylock on a strike out. In the sixth, though, Schilling’s luck ran out: a two out double by Brad Wilkerson knocked in another run and tied up the game…for half an inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Boston scored the go-ahead run on small ball, working a single to Gonzalez, a sacrifice bunt by Cora and a single by Loretta to get their fifth run. Catcher Rod Barajas picked Loretta off second to end the inning, but Boston scored again in the seventh when Manny walked and Varitek shot a line drive past the dive of centerfielder Gary Matthews, Jr. Good stuff.

MDC, who continues to get things done in the set up role, pulled a scoreless eighth and Timlin finished things out in the ninth, picking up his second save and giving Papelbon some much-needed rest. This economy of pitchers was a pretty big contrast to the Rangers, who pulled their starter in the fourth inning and went through four relievers with varying success through the rest of the day.

Tomorrow night we start one of those hated West Coast trips where night games don’t start until 10:00 PM and you go to work the next with bleary eyes. Boston is on a nice little four game winning streak, the Yankees go up against Doc Halladay tonight and it’s time to start extending that AL East lead. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

“This is Josh. He is going to be staying with us for a while.”

Apparently fans weren’t the only ones impressed with Beckett’s performance today. After the game, the front office (Theo, et al) announced that they had inked a deal that would keep JB in scarlet hosiery till at least 2009. The deal is as follows:

$2 million signing bonus - $6 million for 2007 - $9.5 million for 2008 - $10.5 million for 2009

Plus a $12 million club option for 2010 (it’s automatic if he makes 28 starts in 2009 or 56 in 2008+2009) that has a $2 million buyout.

Beckett is gonna get at least $30 million. $40 if they take the club option for the 4th year.

The way I see it we got a 25 year old ace pitcher for a song. Look at the Burnett ($55m/5y), Pedro ($53m/4y), Colon ($51m/4y), Millwood ($48m/4y), Pavano ($39m/4y) and… heh… Clement ($25m/3y) deals in comparison. This was a robbery compared to what he would have fetched on the open market. Nice move guys… now how about a 4th and 5th starter?

Game 93: Git-R-Done

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Kansas City Royals 0

Well, the pitching did anyway. Josh Beckett, coming off his dreadful last start against Oakland on July 15, had something to prove today. Pitch with your head, not your cojones. Make use of those off-speed pitches that make your fastball almost unhittable. Complete the sweep against the Royals; a win so necessary that it had passed beyond privilege and into the realm of right. Bring it.

Well, bring it Beckett did and how: eight innings of shutout ball, pitching out of jams in the third (Angel Berroa doubles, ends up stranded on third for two outs), sixth (with two outs, Beckett hits Esteban German and loads the bases on two singles before getting a fly out) and eighth (a double by DeJesus with one out) with ease. He struck out seven batters, turning his pitch selection into an arsenal of doom, devastating the Royals’ hitting. He also had some help from the usual defensive gems, plus a leaping snag from Lowell and a rolling dive by Manny that saved potentially dangerous hits. Top all of this run-stopping goodness off with a 21 pitch save by Papelbon and the love affair continues: Beckett ties Roy Halladay for the AL lead in wins and the Red Sox sweep the Royals, hold their first place position and win by a score of 1 – 0 two days in a row for the first time since 1990 against Toronto.

Strangely enough (or maybe not, I did predict a hitting slump last Friday), All-Star pitcher Mark Redman pitched like he won the honor through his performance this season and not through his uniform. His finesse pitches stymied the Red Sox all afternoon (Kevin Youkilis got so frustrated after one strike out that he pulled a Trot Nixon on the clubhouse hallway) with one exception: Manny. After grounding out his first time up on a Redman change-up, Manny took the next pitch he saw (another change-up) and dropped it into the Monster Seats, setting the final score at one to zip to start the fourth inning.

Post-Mortem on This Series

It wasn’t the beating we all expected to give the boys from KC, but the sweep will do. What won’t do as the Sox prepare for a makeup game against Texas tomorrow and then a road trip to Seattle and Oakland is that first, no one is hitting. The strongest part of the rotation pitches yesterday, today and tomorrow, leaving Boston to start the series with the fifth starter flavor of the week. That means that barring a miracle where the entire rotation turns into pitching gods, the bats need to wake up again; we’re going to need them. Second, the official prognosis on Wakefield seems to be getting worse by the minute, even though the Red Sox are still in monitoring mode. It’s unlikely he’ll make his next start, which means yet another unknown arm in the rotation; another reason why these games out west may need to turn into slugfests.

Coming Up

Curt Schilling takes the mound tomorrow against Texas and that funny looking Rheinecker guy in the makeup game at 2:05. In Schilling we trust, but let’s see some offense, too. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Game 92: Les Is More

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Kansas City Royals 0

Two years ago, Jon Lester was too young to buy a beer in Fenway. Today, he won’t be able to buy a drink in all of New England. At 22 years old, Lester looks like the real deal. A lefty with a filthy array of pitches all of major league quality and a demeanor on the mound that backs it up. He is often wild (easily loses command of his off-speed stuff) and gives up a ton of walks, but he always seems to wiggle out of those tight spots. His era is barely over .200 with runners in scoring position. This usually leads to high pitch counts and an early exit, but the potential for greatness is there.

He certainly picked a good start to reach it.

Lester threw 8 dominating innings, only allowed 5 base runners (one single, 4 walks) and gave the Sox their second shutout of the week. Combined with Papelbon’s 28th save (do I even HAVE to talk about how much he rocks?) this was probably the best pitched game of the year. Yeah yeah yeah it was the Royals, but they still count as a major league team (last time I checked… not so sure) and the have some guys who can hit (maybe… still doing research on this). An amazing game that was one of the most thrilling of the year due to one insey winsey negative factor:

The offence sucks so hard right now that not even light cannot escape its gravitational pull.

What do Joe Blanton, Luke Hudson and Brandon Duckworth have in common? They all have 4.70+ ERA’s and they all pitched like Cy Young in Fenway this week. Who are these losers and why can’t we get any hits off them? Youk’s average has dropped like 30 points in the last few weeks, Loretta is in another big slump, Tek hasn’t looked good all year, Coco isn’t yet back to form and Ortiz and Manny can’t seem to get consecutive hits if their lives depended on it. Who the hell are these guys and what happened to the great offence that used to be here? When the difference between 2 wins and 2 losses is a pair of clutch hits by Doug Mirabelli and Alex Gonzalez… I think you can classify that as a slump.

Tomorrow its All-star pitcher Mark Redman (giggle) vs Josh “Long-ball” Beckett. The Sox need to shake the cobwebs off the bats and blast the Kansas City “Ace” back into the stone-age (which I think is the last time the Royals had a winning record). GO SOX

Welcome Back...

The wheels of change are rollin’, baby! The Red Sox announced about an hour ago that Wily Mo Pena is a major league man again, coming off his June 1 wrist surgery. Not surprisingly, with Pena’s return from the DL, the lesser Willie (Harris) found himself out of a job – he’s been DFA’ed and the Sox will most likely send him to the first team that offers a side of beef and a handful of Foxwoods tokens in exchange. Pena, who’s been rehabbing in Pawtucket, brought Jermaine Van Buren with him on the bus up; Van Buren has been tearing things up in Rhode Island, throwing scoreless ball with three saves for his past nine innings (seven appearances). Heading down south is young Javier Lopez, for his first Pawtucket stint ever; Lopez, whose output has been decent but slightly inconsistent, will hopefully get some seasoning in AAA.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Game 91: Doug Mirabelli, Hero

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Kansas City Royals 4

Doug Mirabelli here. Look, I know the only people why you Boston fans love me is because I’m the only one that can catch that Timmy Knuckles…that and my winning personality. And I love Boston for the attention and the steady supply of chicken parm from the North End, so it works out.

Anyway, after Will Ferrell did his best El Tiante impersonation before the game tonight (true story – I have no idea what that’s about), I decided it’s about time to shake the boys out of this mini slump they’ve been playing with recently. I mean, losing three out of four to Oakland? Come on. Sure, there were some tough, unexpected losses there, but nothing to get real down about. But I wasn’t sure what to do until the seventh inning…

Look, up until that point, things weren’t going so well. Timmy has some sort of back thing, I don’t know but it sounds kinda bad and he had to leave after four innings – and he was kinda stinking up the joint against the Royals, so it was probably just as well. Long-term issues aside, we’re talking down four to zip against the underdogs from Kansas City in the seventh frickin’ inning and the hits we do get seem to end up strung inside David DeJesus’s glove, like he’s using fly paper or something. First, we got some set up: Manny smacked a single, Lowell moved him over to third with another single, Coco sent him home with another single (seeing a pattern here?) and then I came to the plate.

They bring me in my own pitcher for the occasion and the guy is all over the place. 3 and 1 and he gives me what’s clearly ball four, but that turkey umpire gives me strike two. Well, I said to myself, screw it. That ball comes anywhere close to the plate on the next pitch and I’m driving it out of here. And, of course, I did. Right into the Monster Seats. Beautiful, just beautiful. Tie game, Royals don’t recover, Paps get the save and we avoid what would have been the most embarrassing loss of the year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go ask the neighbors if they saw the bomb I hit tonight.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Game 90: What the Heck was that?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Oakland Athletics 8

I mean… I mean… I mean Jeeeeeeeeze! Kyle Snyder looked pretty damn good for 4 innings. I thought we finally had the whole “which sad sack is going fill the 5 spot” problem solved. He looked like an ace. Too bad these games go longer than 4 innings.

And don’t get me started on the bats… where were they? Did Joe “freaking” Blanton scare them away? You have to me kidding me! It’s JOE BLANTON.

Games like these get me totally frustrated. When up is down and black is white and nothing seems normal it’s easy to get upset. Thankfully, there is someone on this staff with some consistence. That’s right… Julian Tavarez. His consistent crappieness warms my heart. It’s like an old pair of broken in shoes or a favorite shirt. It just feels right when he blows it.

Well now we get to face Kansas City. It is not a vacation… REPEAT: NOT A VACATION. The Sox need to reclaim some dominance (read: standings) while whipping this AAAA team. Start the winning streak now. GO SOX

Game 89: You’ll get nothing, and like it.

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Oakland Athletics 0

It's easy to grin / When your ship comes in / And you've got the stock market beat. / But the man worthwhile, / Is the man who can smile, / When his shorts are too tight in the seat.

For a team batting UNDER .250 you have to be shocked at that 15 run performance. Good job guys. What do you do for an encore? Score NO runs? Okay. I can get behind that. Way to go Judge Smalls.

Finally a shutout. Every team in baseball has 2 of those and we just got our first. Blame the middle relief if you want, but that stat is embarrassing. The Royals and the Pirates have multiple shutouts. Are we worse off compared to these .200 winning percentage teams? I think not. It’s about time we laid the smack down.

Manny, Papi and Lowell apparently agree with me. Somebody finally told Oakland they suck. Ortiz went deep (#32), Manny hit like a monster and Lowell got some of his patented doubles (#32 and 33). This game was in the bag (thankfully) it was just a question of whether or not we would hold on to the scoreless victory.

Schill answered that question. He threw 7 innings of pure “I don’t give a rat's ass if you swing or not” dominance. He struck out 9, only gave up 2 hits and tried to solve world hunger. Some would call him an overachiever. I call him badass.

We needed this… and we are going to need this afternoon too. Snyder better watch himself cause I've sentenced boys younger than him to the minors. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them. Somewhere, Jason Johnson and David Pauley are nodding.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Game 88: Et Tu, Zito?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Oakland Athletics 15

Beware the ides of July. Who is this man that stands before me? Friends, Sox Nation, lend me your ears; I come to bury Beckett, not to praise him. He is not the fireballer of old. He is but a shell of himself, letting the most worthless players stack up hits upon high. Is it a phase? A mere trifle on his stellar season? At 11 and 5, perhaps not.

This defense is also unknown to me, especially Gonzo. This was the noblest Red Sox of them all. 8 unearned runs? Is this 2004 before the Nomar trade? Is this some kind of sick joke perpetuated by the scarred one, Tavarez? “O conspiracy! Sham'st thou to show thy dangerous brow by night, When evils are most free?”

The most disturbing fact is how hittable Zito looked, but nothing came of it. Once the game was out of reach, he was pulled so the bullpen could mop up this mess. “All his faults observed, Set in a note-book, learn’d, and conn’d by rote.” Exactly! Keep it on hand for the west coast trip coming up.

Tomorrow Schilling tries to salvage the series vs Haren. May the bats be blessed and come alive in time. “Cry, 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war.”

(also GO SOX).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Game 87: Nobody's Fault but the Sox

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Oakland Athletics 5

A game with more subplots than you could shake a stick at, right down to the tenth inning rally that ended a run too short. Let’s recap:

Enter the Worm

The Worm in question is Jon Lester, who knows more escape tricks than Houdini and can wriggle his way out of any tight situation with a timely pop out or double play. Even on a night like tonight, where Lester didn’t have his best stuff, he held Oakland to one run, a Nick Swisher home run hit into the Monster Seats in the third inning, five hits and five walks over five innings. It’s bad for the blood pressure, it’s bad for the pitch count, but the little escapes he pulls make for great baseball. It’s just too bad he didn’t get the win.

Base Runners Galore, but Not a Run to be Found

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Sox as a team are entering a slump. The debacle that was the nineteen inning game last Sunday, plus a dismal fifteen men left on base tonight (eleven walks! Four runs on eleven walks! It’s disgraceful!) are definitely the beginnings of a team hitting drought. Hopefully, only the beginnings of a slump – another night like this one could easily bring on bouts of homicidal rage. Suffice it to say that with only three runs on six walks, Esteban Loaiza is one lucky SOB.

Mark Loretta: Goat of the Game

We all knew it would happen eventually, just like we all knew that the Papal-Bon would eventually make a game-losing mistake: the defense screwed up big time. Seventh inning, one out, MDC on the mound, trying to pitch around two runners inherited from Craig Hansen. Double play ball shoots towards Loretta, who bends, grabs…and misses the ball entirely as it scoots into right field. Two runs score, MDC gets a blown save (which is BS) and with the Red Sox not scoring runs, Oakland sets the stage to get the win four innings later. It wasn’t quite as bad as this play, but it was ugly – so ugly that when I called Robin afterwards, he was so shocked by the play he forgot how to curse properly.

The Julian Tavarez Honeymoon is Officially Over

Well, the run was nice while it lasted, even if I still expected things to end terribly every time the ball left Tavarez’s hand. Tavarez’s love affair with the Scoreless Streak was a tawdry one; a hushed, secretive pursuit of the noble passions that could not last in the forbidding light of the disapproving baseball gods. And tonight, when the opportunity presented itself, the Scoreless Streak slipped away, leaving Tavarez holding the bill and the tie-breaking runs scored. But did it have to be two, Scoreless Streak? Could you not have been satisfied with one run? Who knows, we might still be watching the game.

I Think It’s Time to Pack Your Bags

With Wily Mo Peña coming off the DL soon, Willie Harris knew he just had to give everyone a special surprise to let us all know how much he loves us. But what to do? All he could offer the team and the fans was his superior abilities on the base paths. Luckily, an opportunity came up tonight: Trot Nixon led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk. With the game tied, Tito decided to send Harris out to pinch-run and try and steal second to get the winning run home. Glee! Willie trotted out to first base, did his stretches, prepared to steal second…and one ball and two pickoff attempts later got caught napping and tagged out in a run down.

The man has one job and he can’t even do that properly. Loretta gets a reprieve for tonight because he does other things for the team; Willie Harris does not because he does not. As Robin pointed out before he got so choked with rage that he lost the power of speech and had to hang up, Gabe Kapler should have just come in for Nixon – as he proved in the eleventh, he can run the base paths and get the run home.

Nice Try, But Not Quite Enough

Speaking of Kapler, hats off to the Hebrew Hammer and the Cap’n for battling Kirk Sarloos into surrendering a run in the bottom of the eleventh in a two out rally. Kapler’s at-bat was especially epic and he took advantage of defensive indifference and smart (i.e. what Willie Harris doesn’t do) base running to score when Varitek pushed a single between first and second. Definitely one of the most exciting parts of the game…until Lowell grounded out to end the night.

Tomorrow, We do it All over Again

Josh Beckett versus Barry “I’m Trade Bait” Zito at 7:05. Which Josh Beckett will show up tomorrow night? Will the Red Sox be able to convert base runners into runs? Will journalists find new ways to badger Manny? Only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Second Half

Time to build the second half of the bridge to the playoffs

Robin hit you with the wrap-up of the first half of the season yesterday; now it’s time to think about the rest of the year and the long dreamed-of goal of snatching the AL East title away from New York (something that I dwell on with as much desire as I long for another title). With the season starting up again tonight with the first of a four game set against Oakland, the Herald listed the seven things that they think the Sox need to do (or keep doing) during the second half to have a shot at the playoffs. Go ahead, go check it out, because the rest of this piece is a reaction and you’ll need some context. It’s cool; I’ll wait until you’re done.

All set? Good. While I agree with most of the points Michael Silverman makes, I see two problems:
  1. If we want a good fifth starter, some of the farm is going to need to be mortgaged, which might not be all bad. Even though both Loretta and Gonzalez are in contract years, I don’t think Dustin Pedroia coming up to replace either man after this year is a done deal year – and Pedroia might be the bait needed to get Boston one of the higher quality pitchers available come the trading deadline. Sure, the risk of a repeat of the Freddy Sanchez deal is there, but if Boston goes a bit further up the quality ladder than Jeff Suppan, the risk of trading someone of Pedroia’s caliber becomes lower. That said, if there’s another young gun waiting in the wings to step up and take the fifth spot (or some mix of pitchers around long enough to get either Wells or Clement back to get some innings), I’m all for forgoing a trade.

  2. For God’s sake, enough about Manny. Yes, he didn’t play in the All-Star Game because his knee may or may not be hurting him. Yes, doing so upset Bud Selig, but to be honest, who cares? I’m willing to bet that most of the people voting for Manny to be an All Star were Red Sox fans, or they were Red Sox fans by association, part of Boston’s tremendous popularity in the Dominican Republic where having Manny and Big Papi makes Boston the team to support. In either case, if the rumors about Manny’s knee are true, none of those fans will want to see half of the Dynamic Duo cut down mid-season with a knee injury because he decided to play in an exhibition game instead of getting some rest. We all know that if he did hurt himself playing in the All-Star Game, there would be an outcry from RSN surpassing the ire at Keith Foulke for not getting knee surgery after the 2004 season.

Tonight, baseball that counts again: Jon Lester faces off against Esteban Loiaza and the Athletics. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Taking Stock #2: Halftime Report

With the All-Star break wrapping up (and the AL getting the home field advantage), I figured it was about time to do another team overview like I did earlier in the season. Once again in order by jersey number:

2 Willie Harris: Ah yes, the pinch runner. I don’t think he’s swung a bat since May. That’s a good thing. If you can keep stealing those bases and occasionally catch the ball when Manny’s cell phone rings in the 9th inning, then you can stick around… till Wily Mo comes back.

3 Mark Loretta: Hey now! He’s an All-Star! Streaky as all get out, Marky-Mark is the definition of a “hot and cold” hitter. Also, he and Lowell have a competition over who’s the more boring interview. If he didn’t have a career .300 average, Loretta would be a tax adjuster.

7 Trot Nixon: Without Wily Mo in the lineup, Trot has been getting the lion’s share of at bats. Kapler will sometimes face the tough lefty, but Trot has done most of the work… and looking at his average it’s paid off (just forget the 0-8 show in the 19 inning game).

10 Coco Crisp: Back from his broken finger, Coco has been a bit of a disappointment. He lost his leadoff spot to OBP guru Youkilis and is floundering in the 8th spot. I have a feeling he just needs to get back into the groove. Luckily he can catch a ball like nobody’s business.

11 Alex Gonzalez: He seems to have misplaced his “As Advertised” sign. Oh, he’s still fielding like a champ (only 2 errors and he now holds the Sox consecutive errorless streak), but NOW he’s also hitting. If he can keep his bat as hot as his glove… ok that’s asking a lot. Just try to stay above .250 Gonzo.

16 David Wells: I know why Wells has such a problem, His wEight and hIS poor shApe conflict with his Fierce nATure. Not an ASSet to the team. Any Dan Brown fans crack my code?

18 Jason Johnson: By the time you read this JJ will have been demoted… to SINGLE A. Better than he deserves. This hump belongs on a camel walking the desert of the DFA. Ok that went to a weird place.

19 Josh Beckett: Up and down. He looks great and then looks like a guy who throws straight fastballs right down the middle. He has an 11-4 record, but it could be 13-2 if he would start to throw with his brains over his balls. If he can get a little more discipline…yada yada yada.

20 Kevin Youkilis: Sorry Coco, I think this might be a permanent switch. Youk still drives up those pitch counts and gets on base like a fiend. He has been striking out a lot (shades of Bellhorn) but is still a better option than Crisp at the top of the order. He has been playing a mean first base too.

22 Wily Mo Pena: Still on the DL with a wrist ouchie. He may come back in the next few days… sending Trot to ride some pine vs the lefties and Harris to pinch run in AAA. By the way, Arroyo was on the NL All-Star team. Not that I’m bitter.

23 Alex Cora: Has been on a platoon with Gonzo at short. Good for singles, defense and I hear he makes a great café latte. A real utility guy.

24 Manny Ramirez: His knee was sore and he couldn’t play in the All-Star game. No really, I swear! You just can’t judge it by his scorching offensive numbers. Manny got hot just in time for Francona to demand he rest. I hope he takes the heat with him into the second half… and I hope his knee feels better… cause it’s really hurt… honest.

25 Mike Lowell: This guy is still hitting doubles like it’s going out of style, except now he’s also hitting homeruns. Somebody inform Francona that the body of Jason Varitek should probably be lower than Lowell in the batting order. I might go as far as to move this XBH master to 5th. Oh, and he’s a lock for the Gold Glove. Just sayin.

28 Doug Mirabelli: Forget that he can’t really hit, he’s as big as a house and he looks like he’s about to get seconds on linguini… I am just so happy that the only guy on the planet that can consistently catch a knuckle ball is back on the Red Sox. Wake should have a picture of him next to his kids on his mantle.

29 Keith Foulke: Born 10/19/72 - Died 11/28/04. Wait, he’s still alive? Just on the DL? Nevermind.

30 Matt Clement: He went and caught a chronic case of “teh suck” and may not get off the DL for another month. When is the front office going to realize that they won’t be able to take care of this kitten and just stick him and a rock in a pillow case and throw it all in the river? Metaphorically speaking of course.

33 Jason Varitek: His slow start has turned into an all around BAD first half. Slumping, hurting or just ageing… our captain hasn’t been the dashing pirate pimp like he used to be. Tek needs to be placed lower in the order until he can turn his game around.

34 David Ortiz: Some are born into greatness, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them… and then there are some who take greatness by the neck and hoist it over their head like a conquering warlord. Big Papi is in that last category… by himself…

37 Rudy Seanez: He just got a lucrative endorsement deal with Hoover Vacuum cleaners. Get where I am going with this?

38 Curt Schilling: He has a 10-4 record and he’s pitched better than that. He has run into some tough no-decisions and the offence has let him down a few times. Still, an amazing turnaround from last year. Almost gone unnoticed next to his performance on the mound is his leadership with the young pitching. I think Beckett, Paps, Lester and Delcarman are really learning a ton from Schill.

44 Gabe Kapler: One of the feel good stories of the year was the return of this clubhouse and fan favorite. Kap can still hit, run and catch with the best of the utility guys out there. However, I am a worried he will lose what little playing time he has when Wily Mo gets better.

48 Javier Lopez: He’s what we got from the White Sox for David Riske (suckers). Javy is not bad for a side-arm LOOGY. I bet he wishes people would stop calling him “Mike” or “Mr. Myers” though.

49 Tim Wakefield: Another guy that has pitched better than his record. God only knows how bad it would have been if Mirabelli didn’t come back. Ol’ Knuckles needs that guy like Keria Knightley needs a sandwich.

50 Mike Timlin: Here’s how you sum up Timlin: 90% lights out, 10% blowing big time. He will be rock solid for weeks and then give up 5 runs in an inning. I really think it’s an age thing. Time to let the younger arms shoulder the load. All that being said… I still want this guy as the setup man for Papelbon. I guess I’m just a creature of habit.

51 Julian Tavarez: What can I say? He’s been great lately. I really hope he can keep it up in the second half and turn into the reliable long man. I might have to stop making jokes about how crazy/ugly he is. Damn. I liked those jokes.

55 Lenny DiNardo: Another DL’ed guy and a member of the cursed 5th starter spot. If his neck gets better than maybe… nawww who am I kidding? I have no illusions about the “quality” of DiNards. Enjoy the vacation guy.

56 Manny Delcarmen: One of the young guns that’s holding the bullpen together. Had a rough start, but has been money lately. MDC is going to be a staple in the pen for years or until he’s over used and blows out his arm. Oh, sorry! That’s what would happen if he was on the Yankees. My bad.

57 Craig Hansen: Groomed to be the closer of the future, he may never get that shot if Papelbon continues to dominate (at least not this season). Hansen has a nasty fast ball that moves and he is getting better with every inning. I am loving the youth movement.

58 Jonathan Papelbon: Turns out he is human after all. So far he’s given up 3 runs and blown 3 saves. Other than that he’s as close to freaking perfect as you can get. 26 saves, a 0.59 ERA, an All-Star, a ROY candidate and can get your sisters number if he wants it. Yeah… he’s that good.

62 Jon Lester: This kid is the future, and boy is it bright. Already better than the guy he replaced (Clement who?), Lester is a lefty that will be on this staff for years to come. All these young good pitchers with high ceilings on the Red Sox? It’s almost too good to be true.

AAA’ed: Jemaine Van Buren, David Pauley, Kyle Snyder

Released/DFA’ed: J.T. Snow, Mike Holtz, Dustan Mohr

Traded: David Riske, Josh Bard

All in all, the Red Sox had a great first half. The best defense in baseball, a 53-33 record and a 3 game lead on the Yankees. Can they get 100 wins and will that get them into the playoffs? Yeah I think so. GO SOX

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Devil You Know

Note: this special feature is from our friend Mike, a Yankees fan from Connecticut. Despite that one fundamental flaw, Mike is a whiz with the stats and put together a great piece on David Ortiz’s real significance to the Red Sox that Robin and I hope you enjoy:

After Big Papi went all Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style on the Phillies for the second time in three days by ripping out the team’s still-beating heart with another clutch walk-off hit, I entered into a debate with Robin about why, for the love of all things holy, do teams still pitch to Ortiz with the game on the line. My thought, of course, was the shadow lurking on deck, in the form of Manny Ramirez. You know him, you love him and despite the Manny moments, he is an all-time offensive monster, worthy of any pitcher’s (and manager’s) fear and respect.

So I decided to look into it. What effect does Manny have hitting behind Ortiz? It reminds me of the situation in 1961: Roger Maris, despite hitting 61 homers, had no intentional walks, because pitchers feared Mickey Mantle and would always pitch to Maris to avoid a situation where they’d have to face Maris with a runner on. In the past two years, the situation against the Red Sox has been the same: pitchers think, “walk Ortiz to get to Manny? Yeah, I love that plan. I love it so much I’d be glad not to be a part of it.”

With that in mind, I decided to project Ortiz’s numbers from 2004 and 2005 and then just from 2005 to see what would happen to Ortiz’s stats without Manny coming up behind him. Then, just for fun, I turned things around and projected Ortiz’s numbers if Manny hadn’t missed any games over the past two seasons. Here are the results:

Using both 2004 and 2005 to project in 155 games (his average number between the two years):

Without Manny:
540 92 155 29 34 132 114 0.287 0.412

With Manny (not missing any games):
600 108 180 45 45 145 86 0.301 0.389

While the OBP isn’t as good, every other significant category goes up immensely.

I then decided to run projections just based on 2005. Hey, it’s baseball and while the fans all know how good Ortiz is, it took the people in charge awhile to figure that out:

Without Manny:
506 99 139 30 30 99 169 0.274 0.456

With Manny (not missing any games):
582 124 189 42 50 157 97 0.323 0.420

What these splits show me is that the league finally discovered in 2005 that Ortiz always beats you in a big spot and stopped letting him unless absolutely necessary. Also, if Manny hit behind Ortiz every game last year, the MVP debate would have been short and sweet. Look at that second set. 124 runs, 50 homeruns, 157 RBI and a .323 average. Now that, DH or no, is an MVP season. Ortiz has basically reached a level of respect just a step below the Barry Bonds of a few years ago.

Conclusion: with Manny out of the lineup, no one in the league is silly enough to give Ortiz the chance to do damage; without Manny, Papi leads the league by about 60 walks. With Manny in the lineup, you get the normal Ortiz, a guy who averages basically 40 homeruns and 130 RBI a year. For a manager, it’s picking your poison; tough to do when both options will kill you.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Game 86: Epic

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Chicago White Sox 6

“You want it all but you can’t have it. It’s in your face but you can’t grab it”
- Faith No More, “Epic”

Such words might describe the feelings of Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Timlin tonight after today’s heart breaking loss. It might also describe Robin’s mental state after watching this nineteen-inning epic; he called me after Papelbon blew what turned out to be the most important save attempt of the year and I’m pretty sure he had blown a mental circuit. But really, after nineteen innings, I was ready for an ending, any ending. After all, epic battle or not, today was just the last game before the All-Star Break, not something really important.

So, post-mortem:
  • Schilling: very awesome through five innings, fell off a bit in the sixth – might have something to do with getting hit off the shoulder by a Jim Thome line drive.

  • Contreras: should have gotten his first loss of a year, especially after the (Red) Sox scored a run in the first and Schilling decided he was bringing some bad ass to the mound.

  • Papelbon: No words against the Papal-Bon, but ouch, man, ouch. I think I heard Robin swear a blood oath to shoot down Jermaine Dye where he stands, but it might have been the blood pounding in my ears.

  • Timlin: Don’t get me started. I’m just going to pretend this appearance and the blown save that went with it didn’t happen.

  • Tavarez: Four innings of one hit baseball when it really mattered? Holy crap! Can we have this guy for the rest of the year, please? Pretty please?

  • Seanez versus Politte: In the battle between the reliever with the 4.86 ERA and the reliever with the 8.04 ERA, you’d expect the guy with the lower ERA to come out on top. Of course, the guy with the lower ERA was Rudy Seanez (yeah, I was surprised, too), so we should be grateful for the two innings of scoreless pitching we got from him and wonder what happened to the bats during the second half of the ball game.
Ok, no sweep. And it’s the All-Star Break, so no real baseball for a few days. However, fear not: we’ve got something planned for you every day during the break, so make sure to check back regularly. GO A.L.!!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Games 84 and 85: You're Only In Trouble If You Get Caught

Final Scores:

Boston Red Sox 7, Chicago White Sox 2
Boston Red Sox 9, Chicago White Sox 6

On Friday, Lester never really got caught. It looked like trouble (a few times) but Lester is a slippery devil. He’s the Roadrunner, he’s the invisible man, he’s freaking Houdini. Bases loaded and he escapes (almost) unscratched. He was hurting himself (walks walks walks) but he was saving himself too. Somebody check his glove for lock picks.

He had accomplices too. Ortiz (more on him later), Lowell and Coco put up some deep flies to put this one out of reach. Also, good work from the pen (MDC, Timlin and Tavarez) to make this one official.

Saturday was a bit more interesting. Beckett never… and I mean NEVER looked good in this game. We would get a lead, he would lose it. We would get it again, he would lose it again. The back and forth was brutal. When he came out to start the 7th (after Boston had just claimed a 3 run lead) I was in a state of shock. Was Francona awake? Didn’t he see how ineffective Beckett had been? What kind of moron rests his bullpen right before the all-star break? I was SCREAMING MAD.

And then Beckett loaded the bases without getting an out.

I just about lost my mind. With Thome, Konerko and Dye coming up I thought we were in for maybe a 6 run inning at BEST. Then Lopez struck out Thome, and Hansen got Konerko and Dye with Beckett whooping and cheering from the dugout. He was like the little kid who used permanent markers all over mommy’s new white dress… and then blamed it on the dog… AND SHE BOUGHT IT! Better yet, she got him ice cream for being such a good boy! Then Paps comes in a shuts the whole place down quick, like he has somewhere to go. Oh wait, he does… Pittsburg and the All-Star game… right.

Anyway, as unbelievable as Beckett getting a WIN for that game was, it is FAR from the most jaw-dropping thing that has happened over the last few games. That feat belongs to Mr. David Ortiz, who has been a man on fire. Papi has 8 HR in 8 games (that's 27 Abs) and his 31 homers not only lead all of MLB, but also break the Red Sox record for dingers hit before the all-star break (Yaz had 29 in 1967 when he won the triple crown). I have no idea where the ceiling is for this guy. If he has a .300/60/180 year I won’t be surprised in the least.

Tomorrow Schilling takes the mound against The Immortal Communist: Jose Contreras. After the Tampa Bay disaster I would have been happy with 1 win from this series. Now I am thinking of a word that rhymes with “creep”.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Game 83: Mr. Ortiz Pities The Fool

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 12, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Mr. T. here, wanting to talk about something. Something that’s bothering Mr. T., something he think any fool should know about. I’m talking about pitching to Mr. David Ortiz, especially when there’s a high-pressure situation on the line. Now, I pity the fool that don’t know this, but you can’t pitch to the Ortiz close and late and expect it to turn to your favor; he’ll just crush that ball and send you home crying into those fool wussy drinks I know you losing relievers drink after the games. Take tonight, for instance, against Tampa Bay. Ninth inning, Devil Rays got a good rally going. Sure, they were behind by one run, but no sweat – bottom of the ninth, they’ll get something started, make history, sweep the Red Sox for the first time.

Then Shawn Camp comes in to do his pitching thing, he gives up a single to Gonzo. Then he gives up a single to Youk, two men on. Then he walks Loretta, trouble’s a brewing. Now, Mr. T. knows that means that the bases are loaded, that you can’t just walk Ortiz because that would score a run. And then you’d have to pitch to Manny anyway. But still, you don’t pitch to David Ortiz like you’re really pitching to him. That’s just crazy. Because, guess what? First pitch, boom. I pity the fool that gives Ortiz a pitch in his zone, but Camp did just that and it went over the outfield wall like a shot. Four runs to put the game out of reach for Tampa Bay. Bye, bye, sweep. Bye, bye, Tampa Bay. Boston goes out to Chicago with the win, Shawn Camp goes home feeling like the fool he is. Mr. T. is a little surprised teams still try to pitch to the man, but he’s not going to lie: he didn’t want to listen to those fools in Boston whine about a sweep. Bring on the other Sox!

Oh, and go (Red) Sox.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Game 82: Swan Song for JJ

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

“Jason Johnson… you’re fired!”

I was relieved when Julian Tavarez started the 4th.

READ THAT AGAIN!!! I should never be “relieved” when Tavarez does ANYTHING except not die on the mound! That alone should give you an idea how much Jason Johnson sucks. He is an enigma, wrapped in a Sox uniform, locked in a box of crap. Anyone who allows a steal of home plate (Crawford stole 2nd AND home that inning) should be shot in the street. He is destined for DFA’ing and its only 2 starts too late. Theo needs to hold a one-on-one conference with Johnson and it should go like this:

Theo: Step into my office Jason.
Johnson: Why?
Theo: Cause you’re f***ing fired, that’s why!

…and scene!

Seriously, was Kyle Snyder that bad? Isn’t there a cast off from some other crappy team that could take this spot? I know Clement is weeks (Months? Years?) away from being ready and the next thing Wells is going to pitch is his hot wings into some blue cheese… but there HAS to be somebody better than this hump.

Oh and the bats seem to be dipped in ice water. Coco Crisp (now mired in a 0-for a week slump) needs to get his chin off his shoulder and stop swinging for the fences. Someone remind him that he’s a single and gap hitter. Loretta is in one of his cold streaks and Manny looks to be resting his knee a bit early. Awful... just awful.

The silver lining to this thunderhead was the relief pitching. Tavarez was great through 3 innings (did the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you read that?) and Hansen struck out the side in the 8th. Way to go guys… golf clap…

Now can we avoid the sweep and get out of Tampa with SOME semblance of pride? It’s up to you Wake. God, how I miss the NL. GO SOX.

Game 81: Outgunned

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9

“Say what you want about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but those are not the expansion Devil Rays any more. They have a very good lineup top to bottom, an AL offense that can hit. I would put that lineup against a lot of lineups in this league. When they get pitching they're going to win games.”
- Curt Schilling after yesterday’s loss

Ooooh, that was ugly. Like as ugly as any other loss I’ve seen from this team in the past few years; a loss where hitting – brutal power hitting, not finessed singles and daring base running – made the difference between the winner and the loser. The Red Sox lost yesterday because the Devil Rays put more of a hurtin’ on Boston pitching (especially Timlin) than the Sox put on Tampa Bay pitching. If Kazmir had been on the mound, it would have been a blowout. You know, like what happened in Cleveland yesterday.

However, instead of Kazmir, we had “The Blade” Fossum, throwing Eephus pitches and one-run ball for five innings. We had Gabe Kapler, subbing for a slumping Coco Crisp, going deep off of Fossum, Ortiz crushing one in seventh to start a rally to tie the game and Manny doing his best to add another come-from-behind victory to the resume of 2006 Sox with a three-run dinger in the ninth. Ortiz, by the way, is currently on pace to break Jimmy Foxx’s club record of 54 home runs. We had Schilling giving up three home runs of his own, but keeping the Sox in the game for seven innings and Timlin having a bad day, surrendering five runs over a third of an inning and taking Boston out for the duration. Schilling, by the way, picked up what is only his third loss and his first loss since facing the Yankees on May 10. On any other day, he would have picked up another no decision.

Overall, though, I think Schilling’s point about Tampa Bay’s hitting is correct – they’ve got a good hitting team and in a few years, may finally get the pitching to make them yet another contender in the AL East. They’re certainly not a team Red Sox fans can expect to beat like a rented mule anymore. Whether or not tonight will bear out that point in the form of a sweep is a good question: Corcoran, the pitcher Boston faces tonight, is a converted reliever who has two very solid starts under his belt, but then again, they’re against the NL East. He’s facing Johnson, who’s trying to avoid doing his best impression of a drowning man and also had his most recent (ill-stared) start against the NL East. Anything could happen, but if there’s another tough loss tonight look for this site to start petitioning to move Boston to the National League. GO SOX!!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Game 80: The Tampa Bay All-Star Kraken

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 0, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3

Forget being Devil Ray, Scott Kazmir is a sea monster… and the Sox are the fleeing villagers. He growls as his fastballs blow away the feeble batters. His curve sinks ships (and hopes) as hitters march slowly back to the dugout. Jason Varitek recoils in horror as he strikes out 4 times in 4 at bats. He quietly weeps while Kazmir is only hungry for more. He shows no remorse, no pity and no weakness.

Kazmir had 10 strikeouts and only allowed 2 hits in the complete game victory. The Rays offence got to Beckett in the form of 3 solo shots, but on a normal night 3 runs would be nothing that the Sox bats couldn’t overcome. Tonight, it seemed like 30 runs. Kazmir put the Red Sox over his knee like naughty children. He is a tsunami to our desert island, the Kryptonite to our Supermen, the Anna Nicole Smith to our dying billionaire.

But if you are going to lose (and lose BAD) you might was well lose to the best a team has to offer. And Kazmir is just that. He is the only all-star on Tampa (sorry Rays TV announcers who said Carl Crawford should not only be an all-star, but also that he is the most athletic player in the AL… whatever that means) and he is one of the best pitchers in the league. I would rather lose to Kazmir than to Casey “The Blade” Fossum who is on the mound for the Rays tomorrow or Tim “AAA” Corcoran who goes on Wednesday.

What am I saying? Being “beaten by the best” is still being beaten. F*** that noise. Now, I want to see Schilling take care of business and the Sox bats to remind Fossum why he is on a team that has a “Canseco’s chance in the Hall of Fame” to make the playoffs.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Game 79: The AL East > The NL East

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Florida Marlins 3

I think we can officially call the NL East a done deal. Sixteen games in this streak with one loss, a temporary setback in the face of one of the more effective pitchers in the game. Not necessarily indicative of results at the end of the year, let alone in the playoffs, but it’s gotten Boston on a hot streak after that tough series against Minnesota and it’s gotten them at least four games (and possibly five, depending on how the Mets do tonight) up on the rest of the division, so I’m not going to complain. What’s even more encouraging is that the Sox haven’t proven themselves to be one trick ponies during this incredible run: they’ve won games with pitching, they’ve won games with slugging, they’ve won with sparkling defense and well played bouts of small-ball, they’ve won with dominating performances where they’ve completely overwhelmed the opposition and walk-off thrillers where the ending was in doubt until the final pitch crossed the plate. Let’s be frank: they’ve been pretty frickin’ awesome to watch over the past few weeks.

Today Boston won with a mix of well-timed slugging and a bit of small ball to pull on top after Julian Tavarez again brought out his less-than-dominating side to pitch in the seventh. Solo shots by Youkilis, Varitek and Ortiz in the first, second and third innings set the stage for a decent performance by Lester, who scattered seven hits and two runs to leave with the victory in hand after the fifth. Unfortunately, five innings wasn’t enough; six innings or seven innings or anything that didn’t involve Julian Tavarez coming into the game would have been better. Back of the bullpen isn’t enough; having him or Rudy Seanez come into the game has become that you know I talked about back at the end of May. Even when either pitcher has a good day (like Tavarez did two days ago), you come into every pitch expecting the worse.

Anyway, Tavarez went an inning without problems before giving up the requisite game-tying home run in the seventh. In the eighth, it was time to strike back: Alex Cora reached after a fielding error at second base (another result of the streak: even when the Sox make errors, they don’t give up unearned runs), then moved to third on a single by Kapler. Youkilis hit a lined shot caught by a leaping Hanley Ramirez at third before Loretta knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left. Timlin and Delcarmen provided the hold in the seventh and eighth and Paps got his 25th save on a four out effort to complete the series win.

Next up, an old friend, as Boston goes from Miami to St. Peterburg for a three game set against Scott Kazimir and the Devil Rays. Josh Beckett gets the start against Kazimir tomorrow night at 7:15. Let the winning run continue! GO SOX!!!

Game 78: Trying not to get too defensive.

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 11, Florida Marlins 5

We had some big bats last night. Huge in fact. Manny’s 2000th hit was a homer (one of 2), Ortiz went deep twice (almost 3 times) and Lowell had three signature doubles (he leads the league again with 29). The pitching was fine (a good outing by Wake) and the Sox struck early and often to squish the fish.

But the real story is about what happened in the first inning. It’s something that hasn’t happened in the last 17 games.

Somebody messed up.

That’s right, the streak is over. Mirabelli tried to throw out Hanley Ramirez (trying to steal second) and the ball skipped over Cora and into the outfield. Error, mistake, blunder.

Then in the same inning the almost flawless shortstop, Alex Gonzalez tried to make a force at second from a tough grab in the hole. He threw it away from Cora too. Whoops, damn, yikes.

That inning aside, this is still far and away the best defensive team I have ever seen. It’s probably the best in my LIFETIME. The entire infield is playing gold-glove caliber baseball. They make the hard plays easy and make them nearly 100% of them. Seeing Derek Jeter (or Nomar for that matter) making amazing acrobatic throws (because they just barely got to a ground ball) is exciting… but it doesn’t compare to a shortstop that gets to every ball and has a simple throw to make the out. Gonzo has just been fantastic.

Today is the rubber game with Florida. Lester vs the Marlins top pitching rookie Josh Johnson. Let’s put another 10 spot on him (and try not to make any more errors).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Game 77: Unlucky Number 13

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Florida Marlins 5

Round one of the Jason Johnson experiment: maybe it’s time to adjust the hypothesis a bit? Struggling right from the get go, Johnson started the game on a poor note by giving up a single to Hanley Ramirez (remember him? That trade seems to have worked out pretty well for both sides, although obviously even with Ramirez’s decent numbers this year, there’s no way in hell I’d second-guess the decision to move him to Florida) that turned into three runs after a hit-by-pitch, RBI double, run-scoring fielder’s choice and an RBI single. Tack on two more runs in the second with two more singles (including another hit by Ramirez), a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly and you have the Marlins’ runs for the night. Johnson settled down in the third, getting the side over the next two innings, but after four innings and 73 pitches it was the end of his night.

Given Johnson’s reputation as a sinkerballer, I’ll hazard a guess that pitches weren’t sinking properly this evening at first and Johnson didn’t have enough time to get his head straightened out before the damage had been done. Unfortunately, this year Johnson’s done poorly at the starts of games (.722 OPS against that rises as the game goes on), terrible facing batters when the bases are empty with no outs (1.085 OPS against) and absolutely wretched against lead-off hitters (1.338 OPS against) so receiving a beating in the first two innings isn’t terribly surprising, as much as we all would have hoped otherwise. Still, every player gets at least three chances before they develop a bad reputation in my book (especially when they’re the fifth starter), so I’m willing to wait and see Johnson’s next start.

Johnson had another problem tonight: he and his offense were facing a revived D-Train whose ERA has been steadily dropping since a poor start in May. Willis had no problems dominating the Red Sox tonight, striking out seven and shutting down Boston for six innings until a walk to Crisp, a single to Youkilis, a balk and a two run single by Manny brought home the only Sox runs of the night, ending the Red Sox winning streak at twelve games and stopping the “sweeping” tour of the NL East one team shy of complete victory. On the bright side, however, tonight marked Boston’s seventeenth error-free game, snapping a sixteen-game streak set by the Cardinals in 1992. If nothing else, Boston’s glove work remains the best in the majors.

Tomorrow evening at 6:05 Tim Wakefield will try and even the series score at one, going up against Brian Moehler, whose ERA is in a perpetual battle to stay below seven runs per game. I have a feeling the Boston bats will come roaring back into action. GO SOX!!!