Friday, August 31, 2007

Game 135: Ouch Ouch Ouch

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 9

Days of pain are among us. With Belli and Manny already down with injuries, it was only a matter of time before other players would follow suit. Wake (tonight’s original starter) was scratched with a sore back (could mean anything) and the long over due for an injury winner J.D. Drew bounced a foul ball off the top of his foot, managed to finish the at-bat, and then cried like a girl as he limped his way back to the dugout. Wuss. Other potential trouble in this game happened to Coco (banged into a wall), Ortiz (hit in the ribs) and Youk (hit in the arm).

Anyway, so that means we have Tavarez starting, Hinske in left and Kielty (who’s ALSO hurt) playing right. This has all the makings of a disaster. If I only knew.

It was a travesty. Apparently nobody told Tavarez that he was pitching past the 3rd inning and fell apart like Brittney Spears career. Now I remember why this guy is a reliever. And speaking of relievers, Timlin’s 1,000th appearance was one I wish he didn’t make. He came in, looked tough, and sucked hard. I just cry when I remember how money this guy was for us over the years… and what he’s become now. PLEASE RETIRE after this year. It’s time to bow out gracefully.

To add some salt and lemon to these wounds, the Sox almost managed to WIN this embarrassment. In the 9th, the ALWAYS atrocious Danny Baez tried to throw the game away, but Tek wouldn’t let him. He hit into a double play to end it with the tying run on 2nd. Where is the clutch? Where are the walk-offs? Where are the heroes? The pain… the pain...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Game 134: Must Find the Silver Lining...

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 0, New York Yankees 5

How about that? Francona managed not to keep his starting pitcher in too long, just like he did in the first and second games of this series! Of course, that might be because he got himself tossed (et tu, disassociated rage?) in the seventh inning in the first of two weird situations involving Kevin Youkilis, but we have to look for the silver lining, right? Because besides Curt Schilling's six hit, two run, four strikeout performance this afternoon to reflect back on with some pride - it was his second quality start in a row, after all - there wasn't much that happened today that wouldn't give a good Red Sox fan the beginnings of an ulcer.

First of all: two hits? Two days in a row where "late inning magic" meant just putting the ball where the players weren't for the first time all game? And at least yesterday we had Youkilis's long bomb to liven the contest; today the highlights were Youk getting called out for running out of the base paths on the way to a double play and Youk getting two pitches above the head that an umpire translated into headhunting and a pitcher ejection.
Oh, and Mike Lowell is awesome, but it's a contract year (and I'm feeling a little cynical). I guess I'm a little freaked because we just saw exactly how the Red Sox will look when Manny's no longer in uniform. Ugly, right? How much is he going to ask for, again? The White Sox may be the second worst team in the majors, but are we sure these are same Red Sox who executed a massacre in Chicago last week? Because that team could hit.

Here's the real silver lining, though: besides the series against the Yankees in the middle of next month (in Boston), the toughest opponents the Sox have left are Oakland and Minnesota, both within the confines of Friendly Fenway. Every other game is against our AL East also-ran co-conspirators and we've been beating them up better than any other team in the division. A five game lead isn't nearly as secure as an eleven game lead, but this ship isn't sunk by a long shot.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Game 133: Don’t Get Any Ideas

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 4

Now before anyone starts jumping off bridges or “waiting till next year” or burning J.D. Drew jerseys (oh too late?) let’s put this whole thing into perspective. The Yankees are still 6 games back. Even if they win tomorrow and sweep the series they are still 5 games back. That’s a lot of breathing room. There is no reason to go all Owen Wilson just yet.

Yes these games are high tension and they have a slight scent of the playoffs… remember that they’re not. The Yankees are a dangerous team because of a scary potent offence and the front of their rotation. Once you get to the 4/5 starters… they are garbage or unproven at best!

Look, I can’t say that I’m happy Beckett pitched as bad as he did (and was still super lucky) and Clemens cherry picked his way through a free swinging Sox lineup… but it’s not the end of the world… or even the season.

Anyway, if you WANT to freak out about something, focus on Manny’s strained oblique that might keep him out 10 games. Yeah it’s the stretch run and we are short our cleanup hitter. And with Bobby Kielty having back problems, it’s up to Eric Hinske to hold down the fort. So much for run production.

So remember… 5 game lead no matter what happens with the Yankees. Then it’s a bunch against Baltimore, Tampa Bay and other dregs of the AL. Calm down… take deep breaths.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Game 132: Bitter Balance

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 5

Well, that didn't go as well as expected. Five to three isn't exactly an ass-beating, but for all of the run scoring against Chicago this past weekend and New York's worst-in-a-hundred-years road thrashing yesterday, there wasn't exactly a pinstriped collapse in the Bronx tonight. Instead of a blowout, we had a classic Sox/Yankees match - a throwback to a time not too long ago when these two teams were at a much closer parity -
a back and forth shoving match that ended as perhaps all of these matches should: with a single swing of the bat.

That's not to say I'm not bummed there's no sweep, no sugar on the top of the revenge the Sox are trying to serve up for last year's five loses of humiliation. I'd love to bury our implacable, time-honored foes so far down the loss column they're playing golf while Detroit or Seattle claims the spoils of the wild card. I'd love to celebrate a World Series victory that doesn't involve a march through New York and the removal of five years of my life in the process. I'd love to have that pitch that went from Matsuzaka's hand to Damon's wheelhouse to the right field porch back and keep the game tied until the Sox could, for the first time in the game, take the lead and hold it with the dominant beast the Red Scare has become.

However, as I said back in April, this ain't the Biggest Rivalry in Sports without a real fight by both sides. Take that pitch back from Damon and the game achieves a balance, a fight to a standstill. Here was a contest of sumo wrestlers, equally matched. Tonight, New York found a way to drop their weight and push at just the right time. A bitter balance, but they won't be so lucky tomorrow night.

Like looking into your neighbor’s yard… and laughing hysterically.

Who says the grass is always greener? Losing by 16 runs in a must win game doesn’t look that green to me buddy. The Yankees embarrassed themselves, beat up their own bullpen and plopped behind the Sox a full 8 games. The only DOWN side to this whole ordeal is that it kinda takes the fun out of the 3 games this week. I know nothing is over and the Yanks are only 2.5 games back of the Wild Card… but this was pretty f-ing sweet.

If the Red Sox can pull off a sweep in that Bronx mausoleum then that’ll be the white lily on New York’s season. This is sooo good it HAS to be fattening.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Game 131: I Almost Feel Bad (almost)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, Chicago White Sox 1

Was this like taking candy from a baby? Not really. It was more like taking candy from a baby, then beating up the baby’s dad right in front of the play pen and nailing his mother on the jungle-gym just for fun. This was a pants down spanking. A brutal butt kicking with some embarrassment sauce. Every Red Sox hitter was firing on all cylinders and kept the dominance that was rolling all weekend. 4 win sweep, 10+ runs in every game and 46 total. I mean the White Sox are BAD… but the credit has to go to the Red Sox bats. I mean EVERYONE has been hitting well. Papi, Pedroia, Drew, Kielty, Theo and the hotdog vender hit like gangbusters in this assault on Chicago. To put this beating into perspective, the last time the Sox had an offensive explosion like this was in the 1950’s.

With all these runs (46!! Ha Ha) it’s easy to lose track of what the pitching has done. Tavarez has been crazy good (and just plain crazy) for this team. His 6 awesome innings killed any chance that this DISMAL White Sox team could crawl back into this game. They never had a chance with J.T. Killer and the bullpen super crew running things. MDC (good), Gagne (better), Papelbon (masterful). I mean come ON! Paps in an 11 run game? That’s like using a rocket launcher to swat a fly. He struck out the side just to put the final touch on this crap fest.

This was a great warm up for the Yankees this week. It was like playing a junior varsity team right before you play the state champs. Oh, and those champs? Well, they lost their game with the Tigers and now sit a cozy 7.5 games back. With the Sox having an off day on Monday and the Yankees finishing off their series in Detroit, we could be 8 games up before the Yankees even throw a pitchI hope we can have that 11 game back lead by the end of the week. So much for the sky falling.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Game 130: His Name is Tim Wakefield...

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 14, Chicago White Sox 2

...And he is a bad ass mofo, just like Mr. Jackson here. After all of the excitement about Matsuzaka earlier this year, the speculation about Schilling's potential, Papelbon's role, Jon Lester the walking human interest story and all of the other pitcher-related mini dramas we've enjoyed this season, it still - and always - comes back to Wakefield. Far from being the odd man out in the rotation, or the stick in the mud oddball starter that some hacks might make him out to be, Wake has come out of nowhere - if any veteran pitcher can really come out of nowhere - to take, with Josh Beckett, the Major League lead of sixteen wins. He also lives by the sword and dies by the sword: 26 starts, 26 decisions. I feel like that means taking ownership somehow, but it could just be because he pitches an average of somewhere between six and seven innings a game.

I'm not sure why this level of success even surprises me; Wakefield is having a bit of a banner year. Assuming - and this is not an unreasonable assumption at the moment - he gets another two wins by the end of the season, it will top his current season high of 17 from 1998. He might even become a 20 game winner for the first time in his career and totally exceed all expectations for a fourth starter. How cool is that?

Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's faced two very weak teams over his past three starts and a spate of weakness - with the exception of the Angels - since his 500th career game against Chicago back on July 22. Today's victory was eerily similar to the first two games of this series: the Chicago starter does well enough at first - Buehrle made it a series-best five strong innings - before falling apart. Then the bullpen comes in and Boston blows the game wide open, never scoring less than 10 runs total. Today the Red Sox took things to the next level of slaught with an 8 run eighth inning beat down that probably made Ozzie Guillen wish he'd hadn't gotten out of bed this morning.

One more of these likely farcical encounters tomorrow; let's do it up proud!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Game 129: The White Sox are Bad at Baseball

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Chicago White Sox 1

Maybe they should start a knitting club or something. I mean really. That’s NOT a good team. Schilling, although solid through his first few innings, didn’t seem to have his best stuff (or is that his best stuff now?) and fooled the Chicago hitters like they were a Japan little league team. He threw a ton of strikes, his location was superb and looked good enough to win… but as I said… Clement probably looked good enough to beat this White Sox team today.

The “pitching” we faced today wasn’t any crisper. The Sox ran the Dankes/Floyd combo through the slaughterhouse. Papi found his long ball, so did Youk, doubles from Lowell and Coco… even Cash got some freaking hits! Yeah, the 4th and 5th innings were just about as good as we get for scoring (oh, and the 9th inning of game one today). They did such a number on these guys that when Gagne came into the game, I didn’t even flinch! I guess the only down note would be my reaction to all this.

The Red Sox have been in such an up and down slump recently, my first assumption after rattling off two blowout wins isn’t that “Boston looks good” or “we look like we’re getting hot!” Nope. It’s that the White Sox should be run out of town for being such an embarrassment to the game. That’s not the guy I want to be. I don’t want to be the “oh… we suck and can only win if the other team is bad” kinda guy. So, I’m gonna shut up and let the Sox (Red) roll with this. Sweeping here shouldn’t be a problem for the caliber of team we put on the field. Let’s get these next two wins and then on to NY. Cause we rock. We are really awesome… yes… we uhhhh….

Awww who am I kidding? The White Sox suck hardcore! These next two games should qualify for assisted suicides if everything goes to plan.

Game 128: The Right Way to Start

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, Chicago White Sox 3

Not a particularly inspiring start for Josh Beckett - seriously, how many 16 game winners/staff aces start out a game by walking in a run - but despite the 70+ pitches over three innings Beckett finally settled down and held on long enough to pitch five and two-thirds, surrendering three runs (including a two-run shot that brought the Other Sox back within striking distance), seven hits and three walks while striking out four. He won't look back on it as his best work, but a win's a win's a win, or something like that.

Jon Garland, on the other lucky SOB, although in the end his escape act ways didn't mean anything more than a loss. Still, he last for seven innings and while he didn't exactly keep his team in the game, he did keep the pot from boiling over with Red Sox runs. In many ways I'm grateful for that; Texas aside, blowouts, especially early blowouts, always seem to guarantee offensive failure in the second game. By keeping the Sox bats relatively quiet, Garland might have done Boston a big service. I guess we'll see in about an hour.

His successors, though; well, they were the gift that kept on giving. Two innings, four pitchers and none of them managed to record an out with letting at least one man on base. Mike Lowell especially had a field day: 3 for 4 with two runs, two RBI and a walk. In the eighth inning, Francona started making replacements - Youkilis and the now very intriguing Bobby Kielty - and they knocked in runs. The revolving door on the mound had another bonus, too: as the game quickly moved out of Papelbon zone and then out of Gagne zone, the potentially big problem of three innings of bullpen use in the first game of a doubleheader became a non-issue, leaving plenty of big guns on standby for tonight. I'm liking our chances.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rainy Hand of Doom

I guess people can be forgiven for not wanting to play baseball when the weather forecast reads "Thunderstorms likely - possibly strong, especially this evening. Storms may produce large hail and strong winds." Batters might get confused and start whacking at the hail and really, no one wants that.

Instead, we'll do things the hard way (the right way!) and - for the second time in a week - play a two-fer tomorrow afternoon and evening. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon with all the Other Sox-bashing fun that's fit to print!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Game 127: “I love Tampa” (not so much)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 1, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2

You can’t help but be in awe of Curt Schilling. He didn’t pitch today, he didn’t pitch in this series, and yet he manages to get everyone (including me) talking about him. On WEEI he mentioned that he wouldn’t mind being on the D-Rays next year. EXCUSE ME?? Curt… baby… sweetheart… would you mind shutting up for a few months till we get this season done before you talk about going to a perennial last place team? Yeah thanks bud. Oh, and while you’re at it… put a bid on Papi’s car so we can get that out of the way too.

Back to the game… the Sox played the last of this series in Tampa like they wanted to leave as soon as possible. In fact, I think they wanted to leave an hour before game time. Manny took the night off and Pedroia and Hinske were removed for an elbow bruise and leg strain respectively (both day-to-day).

Anyway, the Sox left base runners on with a fierceness and verve I have NEVER seen. Runners on in every inning, most of them are still there. 9 hits, 6 walks, 1 HBP and only one run?? That has to be some kind of freaking record.

Pitching-wise Dice-K looked amazing through his first few innings. Well placed pitches, strikeouts, the whole shee-bang. But in the 6th he gives up a 2 run homer to Upton and it’s all done! With this pathetic run support, 2 runs look more like 30 (oh wait… that was the Baltimore/Texas game... craziest thing EVER!!).

Timlin had some trouble in the 7th, but gets out of it with no damage (great throw home by Youk). Gagne was soooo close in getting his first perfect inning with the Sox, but managed to squeak a walk in there. But again, it doesn’t matter without the run support.

14 left on base. 14. That’s a big number. Couldn’t BUY a clutch hit? Well then I got something you can clutch. Just add this to the pile of games that make me sick to my ass.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Game 126: Johnny Dangerously

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6

After last night's cruise to win - a fine wine of victories if ever there was one - I admit to entering tonight's contest expecting more of the same. Two runs in the first bolstered my expectations to almost arrogant proportions, but really, any game where Big Papi hits a triple should be declared over and done with in favor of the Red Sox by way of minor miracle.

Of course, I had failed to incorporate the past results of our pitcher, Johnny "Dangerously" Lester, into my egotistical calculations. Lester special talent is to somehow make a game in the Trop, nominally a walk in the park, into a tension-wrought voyage, but do so just well enough to win. Much like, say, swimming in a pool of Tiger Sharks with a set of bloody steaks strapped to your legs, watching Lester pitch makes you very, very nervous and apt to lose your lunch. It doesn't help that his Houdini-like escape acts so frequently revolve around the inducement of the double play ball (including one tonight), making me wonder about the single season record for most double plays as I twist my hat and stomach into knots hoping Lester will avoid the death blow. Don't get me wrong: I think Lester will be a major force in the future. He's just wildly inconsistent in a very aggravating way right now.

Tonight we all got lucky: the Sox won a war of attrition simply by scoring more runs than Lester surrendered. Powered by a brace of doubles by Youkilis, Crisp, Lugo and Pedroia, Boston surged in the fourth to reclaim the lead lost in the bottom of the first, in spite of two mistakes by Lester that ended up on the far side of the fence. It doesn't make for the prettiest of wins, but we'll take it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Game 125: Chairman of the Board

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 0

Remember when Scott Kazmir owned the Sox? Yeah, that sucked. Was it already (over) a year ago that Kazmir's final 0wn4g3 of Old Towne Team took place? How time flies...just like the ball off the Boston bats tonight. High-O!

Wakefield came into tonight's game with an 8 and 0 record with a 2.33 ERA in 18 games at Tropicana Field; an 18 and 2 record with a 2.83 ERA in 33 games overall against the Devil Rays. He is, as per Robin's witty quip from a conversation this afternoon, a shareholder in the Tampa Bay front office. He comes to the town, Red Sox in tow, and demands the respect accorded to the chairman of the
mutha-frickin' board. Who cares if Doug "Chicken Parm" Mirabelli, the only catcher alive who has a hope of wraslin' the bounding puppy we casually refer to as a knuckleball to the ground in good order is nursing a messed up leg and can't play? It matters not that secondary option Kevin Cash is a fall guy in place to keep the Captain from looking ridiculous chasing bounders back to the backstop; Wake's here, he's ownin' some Ray ass, get used to it.

It didn't hurt that the Sox offense sweetened the deal by winning the game before The Chairman even took the mound: single, walk, two-run double by Lowell to score Pedroia and Youkilis took the lead in hand right from the get go, setting the stage for seven innings of Wake dominance where Tampa Bay managed to a runner to third once, but no further. Kevin Cash even managed to catch the ball when it really mattered, turning a possible Achilles heel into an afterthought in the path of victory. Now's the time to pave that path with some more Rays losses and turn this first win into a steamroller streak.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Game 124: A Bad Finish

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 1, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3

Sunday afternoon game right before the road trip… why not rest everybody? Sox debut for Bobby Kielty cause our expensive left fielder can’t hit lefties, Sox debut for Kevin Cash cause our backup catcher is a hurt fat ass and the return of Tavarez cause we need more crazy in our lives.

Cash (a defensive specialist) had nothing that resembled a good at-bat, while Kielty had 2 hits and an AMAZING catch to rob Kotchman of a 2 run homer. Must be that ginger-kid luck. Those guys freak me out.

Meanwhile, Julian had trouble in the first (the kind that scored 2 runs) and then trouble in the 3rd (the kind that clears benches). In the 3rd J.T. Killer hit O-Cabs on what looked like innocent wildness. Lando didn’t think so as he and Julian exchanged pleasantries. Everyone joined the discussion but no pushes or punches were thrown. I honestly think this wasn’t intentional. Why would he hit a guy loved by every other person on the Sox? Looked like it was just frustration from O-Cabs because he’s been so hot lately.

But he couldn’t have been as frustrated as the Sox were against Joe Saunders. Tavarez actually pitched a good game, but he had no support due to Saunders (rhymes with squanders) shutting the Sox down all day. By the time they got to him, it was already the 8th and Angels bullpen limited the damage to 1 run.

Enter Gagne (oh God no), who sprinkled 2 hits around striking out the side in the 9th. Good job you Canadian jerk. Where were you Friday night?

Didn’t matter cause the Sox couldn’t get to K-Rod and the series ends in a split. Now only 4 games up on the Yankees. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Game 123: An Epic Tale

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5

"Gather 'round, young and old, so that I might tell you a tale of witches and wizards, dragons and giants, captains and kings glorious and full of splendor; a story to excite your emotions and sate your taste for adventure."

So might be said of last night's contest, a victory that transcended the realm of mere sport, moving into a higher plane of contest, featuring dark beginnings (the loss the day before; the Yankees victory earlier in the day), a brave but doomed warrior (Schilling), compounding troubles sinking to a nadir of forlorn hopes (down five to nothing after four innings, with no expected relief in site) and the reemergence of a hero, long dormant (Papi!), who led the charge to claim victory from the jaws of defeat with fearless style. No wizards, but man, what a game.

After the gut punch the day before, a stumble start from the beginning was probably to be expected. The Angels were riding high on their unexpected treasure, the Sox forced to wonder whether or not any run scoring effort was safe. Enter Schilling, who balances out his above-average record against Los Angeles with his recent inconsistent starts and anything was possible. In the end, Schilling's part in the process was particularly interesting: three innings where he gave up at least one run, matched with three innings where he gave up a grand total of one hit. The three innings weren't all against the same batters, either, so what do these results mean? Is Schilling still adjusting his pitches to further his development from strikeout to ground ball pitcher? Is he going to be consistently successful before the end of the season, when his contract comes into play? I guess we'll have to see.

Thankfully, all of these questions became a little irrelevant after the fifth inning, when Boston finally staged a breakout on the backs of a two-run Lugo single and, of course, the David Ortiz grand slam that built the second Ortiz-led comeback in as many days. Boston added four more
insurance runs in a wild eighth inning wallop of the Angels bullpen, but Ortiz coming up with big hits in the clutch, two days running, after a season of missed chances is a big, big deal. The relative occurrence of those hits might be rare, but their psychological value makes the middle of the lineup that much scarier to face.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Game 122: Let’s Play 2! (part 2)

A good, great and grand win in game one that saw Clay Buchholz get his first major league victory. The only down note was the injury to Doug Mirabelli who hurt his calf rounding third and is now going on the DH for an undisclosed period of time. With Tek taking over from the 2nd inning on, it leaves us with a disturbing question… who’s catching game 2?

Leave it to the Red Sox to throw cash at the problem… actually its minor league catcher Kevin Cash who is being flown in and might get the same police escort/red carpet treatment Belli got last year. I hope he gets to Fenway in time or we might be looking at emergency catcher Alex Cora… yikes!

So Beckett will have to deal with a replacement backstop as he goes for the double-header sweep. I hope he can keep his winning ways as he faces underachieving Ervin Santana. I’ll be typing live (sorta?) as the game progresses so drop me a line in the comments.

I’ll be back for the first pitch.


Some breaking news! Ellsbury will be starting in center tonight and leading off, while replacement catcher Kevin Cash won’t be in the clubhouse till about an hour after the first pitch. As of right now it’s going to be Tek starting behind the plate but he may be relieved by Cash as the game progresses. This also pushes Wakefield’s start back to Monday (so he can go back to owning Tampa) and Tavarez will be going Sunday. So it’s kinda a whirlwind of activity as the Sox try to make the best of a bad situation. Hopefully the Sox only lose Belli for two of Wakefield’s starts. Any more and it could mean a slide for our favorite knuckleballer.

First Inning:

A different lineup in the nightcap. Coco, Youk and Cora are sitting for Ellsbury, Hinske and Lugo respectively. To celebrate his return to the lineup, Lugo flubs O-Cabs ground ball that was hit right to him. Welcome back. Maybe he can redeem himself like Drew did in game one. No problem though as Beckett climbed his way out of the mess.

Santana didn’t have much problem dropping the Sox in order. I hope we didn’t use all our runs in the first game.

Sox 0, Angels 0

Second Inning:

This could be a quick game if it wasn’t for all the pitches Beckett is using. He seems to be at a full count to ever batter he faces. Angels go down in order though.

Santana is just as quick and a little more economical. Sox go 1,2,3 and seem to have lost any momentum they had from game one. No hits, no base runners.

Sox 0, Angels 0

Third Inning:

Beckett breaks down. It looked like he was on the verge with all the pitches he was using, but the levee finally burst with a single by O-Cabs and the RBI double from Vlad. Only one run, but he’s already threw 51 pitches through only 3 innings. Not a good sign.

Nothing doing on the Sox end however. Tek (fly out), Hinske (K) and Lugo (K) go down like blades of grass to a weed whacker. Something needs to happen soon or Santana is going to pitch a complete game without breaking a sweat. In fact… he’s pitching a NO HITTER!!!

Sox 0, Angels 1

Forth Inning:

Gary Mathews goes down swinging as Beckett regains his composure. Only took 6 pitches to retire the Angels bats this time. NESN was in the middle of an interview with a cancer survivor and wasn’t able to show the last out of the inning cause it only took one pitch. This game is FLYING by. I won’t even be drunk by the time this is done.

It’s ugly when the most time consuming moment in this half of the inning was when Ortiz went down on one knee. He is obviously hurting and I was shocked to see him stay in the game. He struck out anyway. Did I mention that Santana is pitching a NO HITTER? Actually, it’s a PERFECT GAME at this point. Wow… a PERFECT GAME.

Sox 0, Angels 1

Fifth Inning:

Lugo flubbed another one. Not an error but well within his reach when he dove for it. Instead it went into center field. Not a problem as Beckett gets a popup and then 2 K’s to end it. O-Cabs looked VERY silly taking his last strike on the outside of the plate.

OH! A chink in the armor! After Manny grounded out, Drew floated a single into shallow right. Total bloop hit that didn’t really lead to anywhere. Santana gets Lowell to pop out and Tek struck out swinging. This… is… sad…

Sox 0, Angels 1

Sixth Inning:

AHHHHH Lugo did it again! This WAS an error as he boots a hard hit grounder from Vlad to lead off the inning. I want to set him on FIRE. Singles from Anderson and Izturis lead to another run and my fists to clench as pound my computer desk. Beckett is still dealing and K’s Mathews, Quinlan and Budde, but the damage already done… done by LUGO…

And now Lugo with some redemption! He doubles to deeeeep center back by the triangle. Now all he needs is two more hits to make up for all his mistakes today. I’m not holding my breath. But guess what? He never left second base. This squander business is really getting old.

Sox 0, Angels 2

Seventh Inning:

Beckett still in and pitching as best he can. It’s really been the defense and bats that have let him down in this one. Angels go in order and Lugo was even able to cleanly field a hard hit shot by O-Cabs to end the inning. Give him the slow clap. Beckett is now over 100 pitches so this might have been his last inning. He should have got a win today, but I don’t think it’s in the cards.

Papi with a leadoff single, Drew with a double and things are looking bright. Santana seems to be weakening… and he’s pulled by Scioscia. I’m not sure the Sox are going to get anywhere with this Angels bullpen. Lowell gets a sacrifice off reliever Speier to get Papi in… some sunlight… but Drew is stranded in scoring position. We needed to break that open and it didn’t happen. Closer, but still looking bleak.

Sox 1, Angels 2

Eighth Inning:

As the rain starts to fall Delcarman comes in and MDC wastes NO time in giving up a triple to Vlad. Jacoby could have fielded this better… but NOT a good showing for MDC. One sac fly later and Vlad is in. There goes that daylight. Mathews follows that showing with a solo shot and in JUST 5 PITCHES the lead is extended by 2. This is a disaster. Beckett final line was 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 ER and 8 K. Oh and he’s on the hook for the loss. What a mess.

Scott Shields is now in pitching to the bottom of the order. I’m not saying I don’t have faith… but I’m not too hopeful. After a Hinske K, Lugo manages a walk and so does Ellsbury as Shields begins to lose his control. Then Pedroia lines one into left to load the bases… for Big Papi… the hurting Big Papi. Hoo boy. But before that drama, Scioscia goes and gets K-Rod to try and end the threat. I’m chewing my nails here. Crazy wild pitch scores Lugo from third and all the other runners move up… AND PAPI TIES IT!!! Big double to the wall and BOOM 4-4!! Wow! THEN MANNY!!!! RIGHT IN THE GARAGE!!! SOX LEAD!!! We couldn’t get to the bad starter so we take on the better than solid bullpen? I don’t get it at all! But I LOVE IT!

Sox 5, Angels 4

Ninth Inning:

Holy crap am I nervous. The whole infield and outfield has been switched, Coco in center, Jacoby in left, Cora at second and Youk at first. Also… Gagne in pitching. BIG FREAKING GULP. Paps saved the first game so our closer mark 2 is tapped to finish off this one. Given his up and down performance lately (mostly down) I think Sox Nation should be understandably on edge. After about 10,000 pitches, pinch hitter Willits flies to center. That didn’t help my nerves much. Next up is Kotchman who KILLED in the first game and he walks on 5 pitches... it’s maddening. Figgins takes another dozen or so pitches and then lines one into left leaving runners on the corners. When O-Cabs lines a single into right… I’m not even surprised. This is only his 2nd actual blown save, but it’s the 3rd time in less than 7 games he screwed the Sox out of a win. Vlad lines a double to the wall… I can barely type right now. I have never been so mad in my life. 3 runs and still only one out. Where is Francona? Does he need someone to wake him up so the game can end? It’s LUCK that they get Anderson and then double the sleepy Vlad off second. Gagne is a joke… a total freak-show disaster. The bearded fool.

Crest fallen, the Sox look limp at the plate. Tek ground out weakly and then Youk is rung up on an AWFUL non-foul call (the ball obviously hit the bat) and Francona wakes up just in time to get tossed from the game… Youk too. They are as mad as me… but decorum says you can’t yell at your reliever so they pick on the ump. Call it displaced rage. I want Lugo to strike out and end this miserable disaster and he can’t even do THAT right. On the 8th pitch of the at-bat he lines one right to Mathews in center… ballgame.

This loss brought to you by Lugo, Delcarman and of course Eric Gagne. Call him a loser, call him washed up or call him a Yankee spy, but whatever you call him… make sure it’s not when the game is on the line. Thanks for sticking around those who read this mess… I’m gonna go kick a puppy.

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 7

Game 121: Let’s Play 2!

I will be live blogging BOTH games today! That’s right… I will distract you at work AND at home on this fantastic double-header Friday. I will be updating inning by inning (maybe?) and I wait with bated breath for the debut of Clay Buchholz. Wait… he has a double “H” in his last name? Clay desperately needs a nickname… I vote “Butch” but I am willing to hear some other alternates. I’ll be back with more before game time.


Good morning everyone (or afternoon? I gotta stop drinking). Well, whatever time of day it is, I am more than ready for the all-day 2 game Sox explosion. However, before they can play ANYTHING the Sox need to change the roster a bit and it looks like Wily Mo is the odd man out. He has been given his walking papers to make room for Buchholz who will in turn be sent back down to AAA before the second game so Jacoby Ellsbury can start in the outfield. Now this means that new pickup Bobby Kielty might be out of luck for the time being, but he looked unready anyway. Interstingly the big problem with this move is WHAT is happening to Wily Mo. Is he DFA’ed? Has he been traded? It hasn’t been announced yet, but he is NOT in the park and his locker is empty.

ADIOS Wily Mo… I hope you get the at-bats you need, want and have been asking for. I just hope curveballs don’t make you go insane. Godspeed.

So let’s get this party started. I’ll be back with a little hair of the dog, first inning insights and thoughts on the man with the pending nickname: Clay Buchholz.

See you in 30.

First Inning:

Mmmmm. That first beer is always the smoothest. Anyway, Clay looks like he’s 12 years old. It’s Jimmy Fund Day at the ballpark and I thought Clay was gonna be one of the little kids that reads off the lineups and calls everyone “Mr.”

Clay is having trouble finding the strike zone and his first 4 pitches were balls to Figgins. Great… not like this guy can run or anything. After a popup from O-Cabs, J.D. Drew just gave me another reason to hate his guts. Vlad hit a LAZY fly ball and Drew just dropped it. No excuses, he just freaking dropped it. If Clay could shoot lasers out of his eyes, I know who he’d be looking at. Figgin scores on Andersons groundball out. He strikes out Gary “I have a contract cause I had one good catch” Mathews Jr. to end the threat. Angles got a run… but they didn’t get a hit? Gimme a break.

As for the Sox turn at the plate, Don and Jerry were JUST saying how good Lackey is when Pedroia lines one into the corner. It was going to be a double anyway but some moron touched it. DON’T TOUCH BALLS IN PLAY JERKS!! Youk struck out (weakly) but it didn’t really matter… cause Papi had the tomahawk chop and BLASTED a homer off Lackey. Then Manny singled deep, then Drew redeemed himself with a mighty triple (?!?!?!?!) and then Lowell singled him home. After Coco popped out, Belli ALMOST was a stud who hit a bomb, but settled with a DEEP RBI double. Cora doubled him home… but he comes up lame! Oh man… I hope we got enough runs cause Belli looks really hurt. If your keeping score at home, the Sox have batted around and hit for the cycle in the first inning… fun fun fun.

Almost lost in all this fun was the destiny of Wily Mo Pena. Sox just announced he is going to the Nationals for a player to be named later. I hope that player isn’t Wily Mo Pena.

Sox 6, Angels 1

Second Inning:

ANNNNND Belli is done. Tek (who might be catching BOTH games?) is now behind the plate. This could get ugly later. More bad news… the no hitter is now over as Kotchman lines a single into center. Another walk and Clay looks like he is having some location troubles. Tek and Lowell hold a mound meeting to tell him that he better throw strikes or he is getting the WORST pink belly ever. It works. He gets a big double play to end the inning.

After Ortiz gets a single through the shift, Manny steps in and has some choice words for himself or Lackey or SOMEBODY after a powerful foul ball. Lackey gets mad and puts one on his jersey. Smart move for a guy who is letting everyone hit EVERYTHING… why not put another guy on base? Drew quickly gets a single up the middle and loads the bases.

Oh man… they just showed the pizza throwing thing again on NESN. I’m laughing so hard I’m ALMOST ok that the Sox just squandered the bases loaded situation. Almost.

Sox 6, Angels 1

Third Inning:

Official word is that Belli has a strained right calf and may not be available for the second game tonight. Who knows what this really means. They might have to amputate his leg for all we know. The problem now is what do we do for a backup? Is Cora gonna catch?? Yikes.

Anyway, Clay is STILL having control issues. He’s not missing by much, but he IS missing. Seems like a nibbler type of pitcher. I hate that. One thing he does have going for him is that his location creates some awesome opportunities for double plays… and he gets another one here. Another thing he has is a nasty changeup that makes hitters looks silly when they expect a low 90’s fastball. The kid looks a little rough… but has a very high upside. Another walk to Figgins and a single to Vlad don’t amount to anything as Clay wiggles his way out of trouble.

Now, who’s this guy pitching for the Angels? He looks like Lackey and is wearing his uniform, but he actually looks like a good pitcher! Shocking! The Sox go down in order. I hope we aren’t letting these guys off the hook.

Sox 6, Angels 1

Fourth Inning:

Wow… Gary Mathews has NO answer for Clay’s changeup. It’s just a nasty pitch that fooled the overrated outfielder for the second time today. A double from Kotchman spoils the perfect inning, but Clay is unfazed. If his wildness today is just nerves then this guy is gonna be really good. His fastball, curve, slider and changeup all look like major league stuff.

Reports of Youk’s demise were false indeed as he gets in on the hit parade and singles into center to start off the top of the fourth. Then something I never seen occurred. After Papi and Manny pop up, Drew hits a soft single to Vlad in right. Vlad quickly throws into third to try to get Youk… and he gets him alright… gets him right in the shoulder. The ball bounces into the dugout and Youk is given home plate and Drew stands on third. Really weird way to get a run. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Sox 7, Angels 1

Fifth Inning:

Clay seems to be coming apart a bit. Single, single, single, single and the Angels get 2 more runs on the board before I get a chance to open another beer. He struck out Willits to start the inning, but has looked like a T-ball pitcher since then. Thankfully Gary Mathews Jr. is his bitch and lines into a prefect double play to end the inning.

Awww… Lackey is cut loose and Chris Bootcheck gets the mound and mop-up duty. Coco greets the new pitcher with a single into left and now every Sox starter has a hit in this game. Little stats like that are why I get up in the morning. Coco moves to second on a questionable balk from Bootcheck, but the Sox can’t manage to get him home. I hope the bats wake back up because I have the feeling we are going to need some more runs in this one.

Sox 7, Angels 3

Sixth Inning:

Clay (82 pitches) is still in but Oki is now warming. Kotchman (kinda owns this kid) doubles and Aybar bunts him over to third (nice slide to first from Youk to beat Aybar). Sac fly plates Kotchman and I’m stating to get pissed. The Angels freaking small ball makes me sick to my ass. Just hit the ball like a normal team and pick a city to call your own while you’re at it. Can you imagine the Harford Red Sox of Boston? Yeah… it sounds stupid. Willits strikes out and that should be the end for Buchholz. His line is a solid 6 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 3 BB and 5 K. Good job kid.

Eliza Dushku in the booth with Don and Jerry. Sooooooo hot. She’s talking about cancer and the Jimmy Fund (good cause… call the telethon line at 1-877-738-1234), but wow… really hot. Watching Don and Jerry flirt (LOL) is just distracting enough to almost miss Youk and Ortiz go down quickly. Manny singles, but is left on when Drew lines out. Mmmm Eliza Dushku…. but she's dating Brad Penny? Ewwww.

Sox 7, Angels 4

Seventh Inning:

Oki is in and Oki is freaking amazing. 2 K’s (made O-Cabs look BAD with an Oki-dokie) and the first 1,2,3 inning of the day for the Sox. We need to see this guy in the 8th. I am calling it right now… he MUST pitch the 8th inning. He only threw 10 pitches! Don’t screw this up Francona.

Bootcheck is back for a 3rd inning. The more I look at this guy, the more I realize his name is stupid. I guess his family comes from a long line of cobblers. Well shoemakers or not… he shuts the Sox down in order. Somebody tell Don and Jerry. They were too busy laughing about losing Bill Simmons registration for Sox Nation President to watch the game. I haven’t really commented on the whole President of Sox Nation thing… because I don’t care! It’s a marketing thing and a silly one at that. Great… now I sound like a stick in the mud. Damn you Sox Nation.

Sox 7, Angels 4

Eighth Inning:

YES! Oki is back! And he gives up a lead off single? Whoops… my bad. After a pop out, Kotchman gets his 4th hit today and now the tying run is at the plate. Oki gets Aybar swinging and then Francona goes to Papelbon for the 4 out save. Well, he got the first one with no problem. It only took 2 pitches to get pinch hitter Izturis to pop out and to get me to spill a beer with a yelp of joy.

Angels switch things up with pitcher Greg Jones. Good thing too cause we couldn’t touch Jackboot or whatever his name was. Pedroia is particularly thankful cause he takes Jones deep with a big ‘ol swing over the Monster. Then he couldn’t find the plate. Walked Youk and hit Manny (not intentional), but reclaimed his composure and K’ed Drew. They got the one run, but I think Francona is still gonna stay with Paps to close it out.

Sox 8, Angels 4

Ninth Inning:

Jerry Remy just called out Bill Clinton and Kevin Garnet for not getting anyone in Arkansas or Minnesota to call in and donate to the Jimmy Fund. That was a little surreal. Anyway, Papelbon hasn’t been donating money… he IS money. He K’ed Willits then punched out Figgins on a nasty pitch on the outside corner. O-Cab singled to Manny, but Vlad pops out to the triangle to end it.

So a good win for the Sox and the first for Clay Buchholz. Still working on a nickname for this guy. So far “Butch”, “Buck”, “Clay” and “Double H” are on the board, but I am willing to hear others.

Next game starts at 7, so I am gonna take a little break. This got kinda long so I’ll split the second game into another post. Great job taking the first one guys… I want to see Beckett go 8 strong in the second match-up so our bullpen isn’t too taxed. Hopefully we will have more info on the catcher situation soon. I would really hate to see Tek catch both games… but what are the other options? See you at 7.

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Game 120: Looking a Gift Horse In The Mouth

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6

Rays Bullpen: I got you guys something!

Sox Bats: Again? Oh no… we couldn’t

And that’s basically how it went from the 7th inning on. They TRIED to give us the lead and we wouldn’t take. Those Red Sox are just too damn polite. Dice-K looked awfully unremarkable for his 6 innings while Sonnanstine or Sondheim or whatever his name was, looked like a Cy Young pitcher we all know he isn’t. This loser baffled us until he reached his magical pitch count and then turned into a pumpkin called the Tampa bullpen. But noooooo we couldn’t fully carve the damn thing. Our pen did its job holding on (Timlin was ballz again today), but we couldn’t capitalize. Close, yet no cigar.

In the 9th, Reyes looked primed to give it up like a prom date on her fifth glass of champagne. Coco’s perfect bunt, Lugo’s RBI double and then K, K, B, K. Just some ugly ugly letters. Ortiz and Manny both fouled off pitches that would be on Lansdowne Street if it was any other year. The power numbers are now bordering on pathetic.

Fortunately, our neighbors to the south had some trouble of their own. The pinstriped menace in New York tied their game in the 9th, but Mo Rivera gave up a 3 spot in the 10th to lose it against Baltimore. So we hold pat at 5 games ahead.

This 5 game lead is a little too close for comfort and I see some interesting changes in the Sox fan base as a result. People are getting… squirrelly. Some more than others and they break down into separate categories:

The Pessimistic Realists: This group knows that the Yankees are playoff bound if they keep scoring runs like this, but they think the Sox can hold on to the lead in the East if we can focus and maintain. I fall into this category, give or take a few freak-outs.

The Blind Optimists: The close race is a bit too much for these nervous fellas to bear, so they’ve convinced themselves that EVERYTHING IS FINE. Yep, the Sox are rollin, they are 20+ games up and a lock for the playoffs and beyond. Nothing anyone says can convince them otherwise. Be careful with this crew. Any mention that the race is getting tighter or any talk of a slide will set them off into a maddened frenzy.

The Chicken Littles:
These folks think we are back 15 games instead of up 5. They know the Yankees are going to play .700 ball for the rest of the season and we might as well pack it in now. These guys have called for Francona’s firing, Theo’s resignation, and the head of any pitcher who gives up a run. You can always spot a Chicken Little by his tinfoil Red Sox hat.

The Jose Offermans:
These poor guy(s) have cracked under the strain of this close division race (or were hit by a pitch) and have resorted to violence. They are often found beating pitchers and catchers with a bat or with a police escort and shiny handcuffs. Proceed with caution. Actually, just leave these under-achieving-ex-Red Sox-turned-scary-joke alone.

Game 119: The Return of Lester and The Return of Walk-offs

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Tampa Bay 1

Ok before I get into the great comeback details and the grandeur of Jon Lester, I just want to get something out of the way. Please excuse me a moment.



Ahem… thank you for that.

I know it was only the Rays, but Lester looked as good as I have EVER seen him. Low on the walks, got ahead of hitters and listened to every word Tek said. Maybe it was the OVERPOWERING THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE he got upon entry, but he looked mighty fine. He allowed just one run in that first inning and otherwise it was a spotless day.

It’s just too bad Scott Kazmir tossed near perfect ball and our collective salads for 6 innings. I was freaked out happy when he didn’t come out in the 7th, but it hardly mattered cause another mediocre nearly shut us down again. Some bad calls (another low strike calling ump), a bad bunt and a KILLER double play almost led to me to my window ledge. I’m just going by our track record and when I look at Delcarman, Timlin, and Gagne and I see some late inning runs being tacked on.

I guess I need to look again. Delcarman scared me… until Timlin came in a slammed the door on the 8th like it owned him money. Bedlam. Biggest strikeout of his season by far.

Then the REAL test. Eric “I make Robin’s eye twitch” Gagne for the 9th. The sounds you heard when he took the mound was thousands of Sox fans gnashing their teeth and preparing to rip him to shreds. So he did the exact opposite of what we thought… and struck out the side. Mayhem. Yeah there was a double mixed in, but it was near redemption (but not quite).

Then, like a bolt form the blue… down 0-1 in the 9th… Mike “LOL” Lowell hit one into the black. Pandemonium. Now it’s a tie game and for the first time… I think we can win this one. That’s depressing. Remember when NO lead was insurmountable? Now they’re 2-41 when trailing in the 9th. Sad days indeed.

Well actually TODAY wasn’t really sad. Tek hit a double that was THIIIIIIIIIS close to being a walk off homer and then Coco (who I full out man love now) knocked him home with the game winner. Chaos. Nuff Said.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Game 118: Wakefield Finalizes His Acquisition of the Rays

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 0

After another dominating performance by Wake against these flat fish fellas, only one question remains: how much money will he make when this team is inevitably sold?

I mean think about it. Wake OWNS this team… he freaking OWNS it. Therefore it stands to reason that he should make a profit when the ownership group up and decides to move to another Florida town NOT full of displaced Sox and Yankee fans (I can imagine the pink uniforms of the “South Beach Devil Rays”). That’s how it should be. If you get 18 career wins against somebody, then you should get stock that team or something.

Anyway, we needed this. We need to make sure there is NO slack after the (ahem) disappointing (ahem) losses to Baltimore (who seem content to roll over for NY) we need regain the winning ways. Thankfully Timmy Knuckles was thinking the same thing as he rocked 8 awesome innings and even had a no-no going into the 7th. He is line of 2 hits, 2 walks and 6 K’s were just what the doctor ordered for getting back on track. Oh, and to finish up, Francona went to a relief pitcher that WON’T blow it every time he gets a chance. Paps brought the “no panic” late innings we were getting used to.

And lastly, as for runs… we got Lugo and… umm… wow… at least we got Lugo? Even with Wake being all amazing and stuff, this was WAY to close to be comfortable. Maybe Papi needs to keep doing those pushups if we are ever going to put some formidable numbers back on the board again.

Now, is it asking too much to get some back to back wins against this last place team? Can we act like the division leaders that we are? BTW: Eric is on vacation so you have to put up with me all week and if we dip any closer to the Yanks I may explode. Just saying.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Game 117: I Am Sorely Disappointed

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Baltimore Orioles 6

Deep breath.

Count to ten.

Put down that chair; neither it nor the wall you're about to break it on ever did anything to you.

Ok, I'm pretty sure I can type rationally now. I've accepted that Eric Gagne has proven once and for all that he can't come into a game with less than a five run lead to protect. Because now we all know Francona won't go to him in situations where there's even the possibility of a blown save - he'll put someone off the bench on the mound first. If he's lucky, Gagne will have the opportunity to earn the trust he brought with him back bit by bit through some sort of cleanup program. If he's not...well, there's always designation for assignment. To the fifth circle of hell.

Watching Gagne's second game-losing meltdown in three days brought to mind another pitcher who came to Boston with high hopes in the spring of 2006, one Rudy Seanez by name. You might remember Rudy from such tragi-comedy works as "I Put the Game Out of Reach" (staring the Detroit Tigers), "I Nearly Lost the Game for Us" (with Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur) and "Yes, I Just Walked the Winning Run." Or, if you're like me, you blocked out Seanez's second coming to Boston
just as hard core as you did the first time he wore the red stirrups. Except now Gagne's pulling the exact same stunts in the exact same role and I'm starting to get PTSD flashbacks.

Let's wind up this little Gagne hate fest with Robin's theory, which he imparted to me to share with you, dear reader, after he called me up in a blind rage this afternoon. In his opinion, the Yankees actually did win the Eric Gagne bidding sweepstakes, but somehow bought Gagne's silence in the process. Much like Ramiro Mendoza, Gagne's actually an embedded Yankee, determined to bring the Sox down enough for New York to win the AL East. So far, I'd say he's succeeding.

Game 116: A Big Orange Tombstone

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Baltimore Orioles 2

Maybe it twas my viewing choice AFTER the game... but to my eyes Beckett had a glimmer of Wyatt Eyarp in him today. A tall standing sonova’ bitch that won’t take any guff from some upstart bird wearing bastard. Oh the pain he inflicts with this 6-Shooter (fastball) and the ruffians he stares down. He stood 8 and two thirds strong before the ill flavor of the deeply hit double infected him with some sort of sickness. This same infliction carried to reliever Delcarmen before the fever was quelled by ‘ol Papelbon (maybe Doc Holliday?) in this endeavor. That’s right people.. 8 strong innings of Beckett... and hell was coming with him. But make no mistake. It’s not revenge he’s after... it’s a reckoning.

As for the bats? Well, they struck a mighty blow with thoughts of revenge and redemption after the horrors that were inflicted in Friday’s affair. The hate, still warm on their lips, spilled into the Saturday afternoon. The high sun cooked it till it was ready to boil over into the mouths of the waiting Baltimore pitching. Poor Olson, Shuey and Burres. Had they known what horrors were in store for them (6 runs counts as Red Sox horrors now) then they would have stayed home. Drew and Lugo lead the charge (hey this is sounding more like a fantasy every minute) and they were all that was needed with Beckett’s brilliance.

So it’s all tied up now. It’s over and done. Even Steven.... and you know what? I always hated ties. Come on Schilling, let’s win the series and go back home with some modicum of pride. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Game 115: The Umpire Giveth With One Hand and Taketh Away With the Other

Boston Red Sox 5, Baltimore Orioles 6

...and then Eric Gagne gives it back like a five dollar hooker during Fleet Week. I was a little wary of Gagne already because (unlike Robin) I did not watch the end of the Wednesday's game, which means I have yet to see a post-trade Gagne appearance where he did not give up a run. After tonight, though, I think we can call the honeymoon over; the Second Coming our newest pitching arm is not.

For a second, here's the rational part of me thinking: this loss was a betrayal of trust. That's a bit bothersome in its own way, because there's absolutely no rational reason for a fan to put trust in his team, but you follow a sport closely enough and you expect certain outcomes. Sure, Gagne had a particularly bad night, but he happened to have it on a really bad night for failure; the time we when fans needed that trust reinforced as much as possible. In addition, because Gagne's new and unproven with this club, he gets the brunt of a blame he should probably share with Okajima.

Ok, rationalization over. I can't believe we lost. I was ready to declare this game over and done by the seventh. Bedard was dealing; he had one sketchy inning that he escaped from thanks to home plate umpire CB "My Strike Zone is Shaped Like an Amoeba" Bucknor and a poorly-placed ground ball. Dice-K pitched great, but the team had the one run lead hanging over them the entire time. I had been reduced to praying for members of the laughably bad Baltimore bullpen to make an appearance when something happened in the eighth. Part of it was CB Bucknor, who sent a call or two the other way, giving Wily Mo enough chances to start a two-out, five run rally with an RBI single. Part of it was magic, but the sort of magic that kills your family when you wish for a million dollars. It was magic with an ugly side.

So, after hours of frustration, the Sox had their moment in the sun (or the park lights) for half an inning until first Gagne and then Okajima (who will escape tonight relatively scar free thanks to an established trust with RSN) did their clever lead disappearing acts, snatching away all of the glory and stuffing it down a black hole, leaving naught but gloom and irritation in its wake. Trust is a pain in the ass.

Simulating the Playoff Odds

Got an email from Ken Roberts of Sports Club Stats, a site that purports to determine playoff odds based on an algorithm Ken wrote. Being a bit of a stat-head, I was intrigued: cold, rational numbers are the security blanket I use to quantify emotional things in life like the results of baseball games. In fact, the reason I love baseball so much may be due in part to its close association with statistics as a meaningful measure of value. It's a control thing; some people have hordes of underlings or big houses to remind them who's in charge, I have baseball statistics. No wonder I run a blog.

Anyway, I went to check it out. Ken's got a page for just about every professional sports permutation possible, which is cool - I could see how this could become a destination site for sports nuts if it proves to be reasonably accurate. The Red Sox page breaks things down into three big sections for the Home Towne Team: Today's Big Games (which games have the biggest effects on the Sox playoff hopes), Big Games (how games across the AL affected playoff chances for Boston) and What If (how many games the algorithm thinks Boston needs to win for a guaranteed playoff berth). Each section has explanations, but the page is complex enough to require quite a bit of exploration to start to understand.

One thing that jumped out at me: in the What If section, Ken records the team's chances of entering the playoffs based on their win/loss record over the remainder of the season and how many times that particular win/loss record came up over the millions of repetitions. The results play out in a bell curve, centered around a .500 record, which isn't surprising - .500 is supposed to be the average, after all - but that .500 record does predict a playoff berth no matter what, welcome news for all of us nervous fans. Next question: will Ken's method, which does not take match-ups, injuries or scores above 1 - 0 into account be at all accurate? I'll certainly be keeping my eye on his results.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Game 114: Finding Ways to Win

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 9, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 6

This looked like it was going to be a game I tell my therapist about when I finally have my Sox induced psychotic break. Instead, it turned into a game I want to tell my children about… when I create them out off old jerseys and baseball cards during my psychotic break.

The score went back and forth so often, it seemed like it was keeping up with my pacing around the room. Lester looked pretty bad (more on him later) and the Sox offence was doing its typical anemic squander mumbo-jumbo it’s been doing lately… until everyone remembered how to hit at the same time. In the 4th the Sox came back with a 4 run inning on 3 doubles and a whole lot of smiles from the crowd at Fenway west (I’m not sure I even saw any Angels fans there). Then Lester and the constantly mediocre Tavarez gave the lead right back… and then the Sox came back… and then Timlin gave up the tying run… and then Pedroia went deep… urrrp! Excuse me. I got sea sick again just thinking about this rocking boat.

Anyway, just when you figured that the score could go either way, the Sox finally unleashed a weapon I hope makes some regular appearances. The “Oki, Gagne, Paps” combo is devastating to other teams. Call it the 6 inning game. If you don’t have the lead in the 6th… you won’t have the lead EVER. When you see these guys it’s like the Death Star blowing up, the Titanic sinking and Harold and Kumar getting to White Castle… the show is OVER… file out in an orderly fashion. It is always worth staying up to the wee hours just to see those 3 guys in action. Well, that and the fact that for the first time since I-have-no-idea-when the Sox managed to put up some late inning insurance.

The offence was firing, the bullpen was hot and the Sox won to prevent the sweep and regain a 6 game lead over the Yanks. So why am I still unhappy?

Something about this game didn’t sit well with me and it’s a feeling I had before during the first game in the Seattle series. I am hesitant to bring this up for fear of being unpopular, but here goes:

Maybe Jon Lester isn’t that good…

Now hear me out before you get your torches and pitchforks. Lester throws a TON of pitches and very often none of them are strikes. He never goes late into games and he always looks like he’s two batters away from getting creamed. I know he does the Houdini act to get out of those jams and I know he is only the 5th starter and I even know that this guy is a hero who beat cancer… but he really hasn’t looked good out there. Look, I’m not giving up on the guy and I think a bunch more starts will be good for him… I just don’t think he makes a playoff start or anything like that.

Maybe he’s green, and maybe he’s rusty, but I hope we don’t have to depend on him to go the distance when it counts. I don’t think he’s ready.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Game 113: Knuckleball as Metaphor for a Game

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 10

Tim Wakefield stands and glares in at the plate with that straight-backed look he gets before he throws a pitch, the one where he looks like he's contemplating something. His windup looks almost old fashioned, like the movies you see of pitchers throwing to a young Babe Ruth. His pitch of choice is as old as the hills, too and rarely practiced in this modern day, but it leaves his hand all the same and meanders towards the plate with just a little spin and a whole lot of spring in its step. To see it curve in two directions is not uncommon, to see it baffle batters trying to get a bead on its speed and direction is the expected result. The knuckleball thrives on frustration through shifting momentum.

The courses of last night's game were that shifting frustration mutated into contest; the dance of knuckleball echoed back in the score column. The Sox scored first, the Angels recovered for two over three innings. Boston started to drive a stake into Angels' starter Saunders in the fifth, as The Stud Who Hits Bombs went deep on a no-doubter and Youkilis drove in Pedroia with a double, but the winds shifted again, putting the Angels back on top, driving Wakefield from the game for his second-worst start of the year and his worst since June 1 and turning another potential victory into a total loss. Damn you, winds of fate. Damn you straight to hell.

I'll admit it: I'm dispirited. It's hard to make with the happy face when you're mired in a heat wave where the air is so thick you can taste it, while your team is playing to lose on late night and their rival is gaining ground. However, this trip may truly be the test that tries men's souls and in that test, despair is found only those who are wanting. I have faith: I want that AL East crown so bad I can taste it. This team is too good for anything else to happen.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Game 112: Treated Curt-Ly

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4

Fresh off a dominating stint in rehab (honestly who dominates rehab? Well besides Lindsey Lohan?) Schilling took the mound against the mighty City Winged Humans of Another City. It was good to see him back, he seemed to have command on all of his pitches… but honestly I’m not sure how he did. Keep in mind that I watched this game from beginning to end, I looked at the stats and the box score, I was aware of his mound presence... and yet with the inconstancy and awful umpiring from James Hoye in this game, you could make an argument that Schilling was WORSE than he appeared. The same argument could be made for Weaver. They (and the bullpen) got some head scratching strike calls that borderline on criminal offenses.

Assisted pitching lines aside, Schill did look ok in his return. His shoulder looked as strong as advertised and he seemed to be making his pitches. Unfortunately, the hits came so quickly it was almost as if they were just subtle mistakes during an otherwise well pitched game. It just so happens that he made a few more mistakes than Weaver. In the 7th, things really started to fall apart and Tavarez came in to… I dunno… prove his near worthlessness? Just an ugly inning full of homeruns, weird plays and distraught looks from me. Combine that with the dozen or so wasted opportunities the Sox had batting and this makes for an awesome pile of puke.

Going back to what I was talking about before, there was some really odd officiating in this game. Well I guess it’s only “odd” if you think a “totally rage inducing event” is “odd”. On an 0-2 count, Manny held up (and replays show he HELD UP) on an inside pitch, James Hoye said he swung and then tossed him after less than 5 seconds of arguing as he walked back to the dugout. This forced roster move meant that it was call up Brendan Moss facing K-Rod in the 9th inning as the go-ahead run. Guess how that turned out. It was HOGWASH all around and it wasn’t the first time it’s happened this season. Add this to all the OTHER awful calls he made (Lowell’s phantom strikeout comes to mind) and I think this game should be protested by the Sox management… I’m not even kidding.

Maybe umps are getting power hungry or something because they wield the “I’m tossing you!” penalty like a 7 year old with his dad’s gun. These zero tolerance ejections are counter intuitive, counter productive and seem to be for the sake of the umpire’s ego. There needs to be a serious investigation into the conduct of these “eject first, ask questions later” umpires. But lord knows I don’t expect Bud Seilig to do anything worthwhile as he’s busy following those record breakers around… somehow that’s the true priority with this messed up sport.

Please excuse me as I step down from my soap box. Didn’t mean to make things uncomfortable. Kinda awkward huh? Good thing we signed that Carrot Top looking freak Bobby Kielty to lighten the mood.

Yeah… it’s not working for me either.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Game 111: Putting the Boots to Them, Medium Style

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 9, Seattle Mariners 2

What's the best way to celebrate the little comeback from the dead that was yesterday's game? How about a no holds barred, full-scale beatdown, cementing what I can only hope is the start of a long run of wins (or at least some .500 baseball) at Safeco Field for the Old Towne Team. Cuz that nine in a row crap, that was ridiculous.

Actually, it was almost the beatdown that wasn't. Boston scored early, it's true, notching two runs in the first thanks to some good hitting, a fielding error and a pitcher who took somewhere in the area of 10 million pitches to settle down and get three outs. But the Sox, who continue to do a much better job of putting men on base (2nd in OBP) than they do driving them in (5th in runs scored), played a game of cat and mouse with Seattle that went on for long enough to keep the game more than a little tense. We're talking 13 men left on base here, eight men coming to the plate in the first, one squandered bases loaded opportunity in the second, etc. Ultimately less frustrating than it could be, of course, because we finally saw the true underside of the Mariners: the bad side of their bullpen.

Over six innings, Seattle starter Miguel Batista gave up two earned runs. In half that time, his bullpen nearly tripled that figure, in a 'round the order slug fest that brought a minimum of six Red Sox to the plate in each inning. It seriously felt like being the kid who finally stands up to the bully and beats him to a bloody pulp because he can't stop hitting him. By the end of the game, every starter had touched base; four guys combined for five doubles and Big Papi, who's on a tear, picked up a hit, three walks and two runs. He even stole a base, just to add insult to injury. I'm just hoping all of this domination establishes a precedent that extends not only to the rest of this trip, but to future trips to the Seattle area. It's time the West Coast was fun again.

Game 110: Our Pitching Staff Makes Me Crazy

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Seattle Mariners 3

Nine game losing streak in Seattle, finally snapped, but man, the hoops the Sox had to jump through to win that game were something else; enough to make me wish Pedro was on the mound tonight instead, even if he's still rehabbing that arm. Jarrod Washburn was true to form against the Boston offense (thanks, Tek!) - he hasn't beaten Boston since 2005 - so what was the problem, then? Why, our vaunted pitching staff, of course: getting the job done, but costing me a few years off the end of my life in the process.

Take Dice-K, for instance. Worth the asking price? Most definitely: he sports an ERA+ of 122, picks up more than a strikeout an inning, pitches an average of six and two-thirds innings a game, has a winning record (for what that's worth), etc. He's also a pleasure to watch, at least as long as there are no runners on base, working in a quick, effective rhythm, pounding the strike zone and getting the necessary outs. However, I've come to loathe those times when Dice-K gives up a hit or a walk, not because of the potential threat to score, but because the game s-l-o-o-o-o-w-s d-o-o-o-o-w-n so much, turning a tight situation into an interminably long one as Matsuzaka looks around for a second or two, gives the batter a dead-eye look, winds up, kicks and finally throws. It wouldn't be so bad if Matsuzaka didn't allow men on base, but one problem he does have is that WHIP of 1.22, which leads to lots of those slow downs.

Then there's our newest bullpen acquisition, Eric Gagne. He's the great mid-season pickup, the record-holding former closer looking to get back on his game after some major injuries, the Man Who Would Platoon Papelbon. So far, he's struck out three guys in two innings (good), but given up five hits and (gulp) two runs in the process. Last night Gagne got two quick outs before surrendering a run and loading the bases, with Yuniesky Betancourt, the Mariner's hottest hitter, coming to the plate. With the losing streak on the line, the scoring opportunities coming few and far between and Gagne's still unproven status as a member of this bullpen, it was a worse situation for me than Papelbon's tight spot against the White Sox a couple of weeks ago. I'm still not sure how Gagne escaped.

Speaking of Paps, the ninth inning wasn't so pretty, either. I think I have a particular emotional sensitivity to Papelbon not hitting the strike zone, especially with two outs in a close game at 1:30 AM. Because I trust our closer I wasn't climbing up the walls with anxiety as I might have been doing in the bottom of the eighth, but the moments before Papelbon induced a pop up to end the game were full of the uncomfortable tension you don't like to see before the playoffs.

A quick note and then I will say no more: I'd much rather think about the implications of this event than this one. The second event saddened me; the first one gives me hope that the new record, wherever it finally stands, won't last for more than 10 years, making an ending
fraught with poetic justice to this whole stupid saga.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Game 109: Sucking in Seattle

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Seattle Mariners 7

I don’t know what the problem is with Safeco Field. Is it the long flight over? Is it the horrible 10:05 start? Is it the rainy Seattle weather? Is it all those coffee houses and head shops? Well, whatever it is, the Sox always suck when they go there.

I freaking hate it. We looked good starting off, stranding a bunch of runners but still putting up a run an inning… but then Lester fell apart, Timlin followed suit (thanks for the crappy defense) and those jerks in grey and sea foam green uniforms jumped all over us with both feet. What the hell? How do they take us down a notch so effectively?

So going into a no win situation always stinks, but it must be so much worse for J.D. Drew right now. He made the flight all the way over after spending the week in the hospital with his infant son who just had surgery to fix the messed up bones in his hips. Good news is that the kid should be ok, but still… I bet the Drew is wiped out. If he manages to get a hit this entire road trip it will be a miracle and he should get a standing ovation.

Next up is Dice K who will try his hand a breaking this drought we have in the Pacific Northwest. We better get SOME wins here because the Angels are next and not any easier.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Game 108: Bobby Doerr Day

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Baltimore Orioles 4

Bobby Doerr Day? On what may be the great second baseman's final appearance in Fenway Park? You can't beat that karma, baby. You just can't. It was like the Yankees coming to Fenway on Ring Day, 2005; the Orioles should have just called a forfeit beforehand and saved themselves the time.

Instead, they decided to give it the old college try against Wakefield, going for win number lucky thirteen. Wake's been on a bit of tear lately, recovering from his early June eight-inning rock star showing (and subsequent two game slump) by winning four out of his last five innings and not going under six innings of work. Today sweetened the pot that much more by being his best outing in more than a month: seven innings, six hits, three runs and five Ks. A bit of a slip in the fifth inning - damn you, Aubrey Huff - but really, no complaints wanted or needed for today's job.

Meanwhile, the Sox pulled another turn-around from their collective hat, rocking the decrepit Orioles bullpen for four runs in the seventh to recover and hold the lead. And while credit must be given to the P-Dawg's two run double that put the icing on the cake (and saved Paps another appearance) for today's scoring efforts, the real stud was none other than the Stud Who Hits Bombs, Doug Mirabelli, sporting a shiny 3 for 3 with 2 runs day. And let there be no mistaking it: Dougie went deep today. Booyah.

Game 107: Baby Come Back!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Baltimore Orioles 4

Oh that feels so good. Throw some Player on the hi-fi and listen to a golden oldie… cause any kind of fool could see, there was something in everything about you (man, I don’t think anybody is gonna get that).

70’s music aside, this was a fantastic win in a fashion I thought was no longer viable. With Tavarez making his spot start an exercise in stranding runners and Trachsel dealing (yeah Steve freaking Trachsel), I thought it was going to be another depressing night for the Red Sox. Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time they had a comeback like this. Was it all the way back to Mother’s Day? That’s awful.

Anyway, the Sox were trailing by 2 in the 7th when Baltimore picked some random guys off the street and decided to call them a bullpen. Seriously, Paul Shuey RETIRED 4 years ago (not a joke) and “Hanging” Chad Bradford was bad when he was on our team. However, even with the lower degree of difficulty the Sox have had trouble getting late runs. Not tonight thankfully. Papi, Youk (biggest hit of his season?) and Tek all came up huge when it mattered. The other big contributor Dustin Pedroia (still quietly having a ROY season) was 3 for 4 and had the other RBI of the night. Timely hitting from the Sox makes me smile like a curveball pitcher throwing to Wily Mo.

Great comeback aside, I think the biggest excitement came from the guy throwing out the first pitch. New Celtic Kevin Garnett threw a floater in to Ortiz and then came up for one of those big Papi bear hugs (he should raffle those off) and then I think he ended up pitching for the Orioles later in this game. Seeing KG there with Papi made me realize something… Minnesota must freaking HATE everyone in Boston right now. The Sox turned a Twins castoff into Big Papi the superstar, the Pats grabbed their former Vikings star wider receiver Randy Moss and now KG is a Celtic and the talk of the town. Kinda funny when you think about it… except if you’re from Minnesota. No hard feelings, ok guys?