Sunday, August 05, 2007

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.