Sunday, July 15, 2007

Game 90: Seventh, Eighth and Ninth

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 9, Toronto Blue Jays 4

This year's team does seem to have a wonderful effectiveness against their AL East opponents, don't they? In stark contrast to the 2006 campaign, when it felt at the end like they couldn't beat anyone on the East Coast, Boston now stands with a combined 21 and 10 record versus the AL East. As of today, if you arrange the winning percentage of Boston against the four AL East teams in order from top to bottom, it matches the league standings. Thus our team's dominance.

Back in May I gushed happily about Okajima and Papelbon and their ability to lop two innings off the end of a game with their filthy, filthy dominance. More recently, I've found a new thing to love about the Red Scare: Manny Delcarmen. MDC entered this year a question mark, a subpar 2006 behind him, consigned to Triple A until he found the stuff that brought him to the majors for the first time in 2005. I recall reading about a turning point game where he and Craig Hansen gave up a pile of runs; MDC resolved afterwards to fix the problems and move back up. Fortunately for us, he did so with aplomb.

As of today, the Red Sox starting rotation has pitched 551.2 innings over ninety games, which works out to a bit more than 6 innings per start. In a close game - say Red Sox on the over by three runs - the likely scenario has shifted twice over this season in wonderfully unexpected ways. At the start of the year, we'd expect the starter for six, some combination of the Red Scare for the seventh and eighth and then Paps in the ninth. Then Okajima became a dominant force and the first shift occurred: now the Red Scare only needed to cover the seventh inning in tight games.

Today, I'm ready to declare the second shift as past and the seventh inning covered, MDC style. It's been 8.2 innings, seven appearances and almost a month since he's surrendered a run. In that time, opponents have managed a paltry four hits and two walks, while striking out 12 times. Close game, Red Sox on top? Opponents now have six innings to score some runs...if they're lucky.