Thursday, April 05, 2007

Game 3: Cat and Mouse

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Kansas City Royals 1

Have you ever watched a cat toy with a mouse? The cat will trap the mouse near its hole, giving the mouse some small, pitiful hope of escape, then bat the mouse back and forth, now and then giving it a moment of free play, a chance to flee, before dropping the trap again just as the mouse starts to taste freedom. Eventually the cat gets bored and goes in for the kill; a few bats to the skull and game over, man. Watching today's game, I could sense the same dynamic going on between Boston and Kansas City, as Dice-K led the team to its first series win in 2007.

The parallels between the contest on the field and the life-and-death torments of the mouse were all too obvious: once again, the Sox scored first blood, when a walk to Youkilis and a Manny double lead to a Boston lead in the top of the first. Matsuzaka allowed a single and a walk in the Royals' half of the inning, then turned fierce, shutting down KC's hitting into the fifth inning. "Balls nasty" might not be an exaggeration of his performance; he struck out the side in the fourth, collected ten Ks over all and kept the Royals in such fits that they had trouble swinging, let alone making contact. The few lapses, coming in the second rotation through the lineup in the fifth and six innings, were mostly harmless - only David DeJesus managed to catch a bad pitch and take it for a ride for the Royal's only run. Although Dice K doesn't seem to display a lot of emotion on the mound (nothing the cameras caught, anyway), I could see where he bore down to get key outs, like a cat swatting a fleeing mouse back into its paws.

Meanwhile, Zach Greinke was doing his best attempt at running an escape act from the Boston offense. The Sox managed to get the lead off man on base seven times during the game, but Greinke would turn up the juice, get the outs he needed and move on. Eventually, inevitable as the boredom of the cat, the killing blow came: an error at third scored Lugo in the fifth to draw new wounds; a wild pitch by Peralta, Greinke's replacement, scored Papi from third (Papi speed!) in the eighth, then a miscue by third baseman Alex Gordon left the door open to score an additional run and, with Papalbon save numero uno, put the nail in the coffin of the Kansas City mouse.