Thursday, June 12, 2008

Game 69: Loving That Intensity

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 9, Baltimore Orioles 2

I was all set to call this a "new" Lester standard: Lester the escape artist no more, Johnny (I thought) pitches better when he's got a close lead to protect. However, I see the numbers disagree with me: Lester's about the same whether he's leading by one run or four. I guess you could say he let off the intensity a bit after Lowell hit his grand salami in the fifth, but can you blame him? The Orioles handed all of us four runs by choosing to give Manny an IBB to load the bases, forgetting all too readily that Mike Lowell is the Man Who Hits Doubles (and double doubles) and that the Green Monster is tailor made for his swing.

Speaking of tailor-made: J.D. Drew may have hit yet another home run (continuing to bury the "I have no intensity" statements that we've all ascribed to his character), but tonight was a breakout for Kevin Youkilis; after falling into a bit of a dry spell (before tonight, three for his last twenty with two walks), he went all twos tonight: two for two, two walks, two runs, and two RBI...and one big home run with that sweet swing into the Monster seats to tack on two more to the score.

One final observation: not to knock on the Orioles, but here's the difference between Boston and Baltimore this year, reduced to one set of plays:
with two in the top of the fifth, Ramon Hernandez pops a foul along the first base line at a point midway between first and home. Youkilis and Cash both give their all trying to make the play, running full tilt and then sliding into each other (and into the wall) while trying to get a fix on the ball. It's a 1 to 0 game, and they know that every out counts and every pitch they can save their pitcher can make the difference, even if they get a little dirty. Neither player makes the play, but you can tell they're really trying, that they really care.

Contrast that with a pop foul to the backstop in the bottom of the previous inning, where Hernandez and Melvin Mora both charge in, lose sight of the ball, and end up giving up on an easy out, walking away with disgusted looks on their faces. Caring isn't quantifiable in a stat, so it's messy, but it's all too obvious which team - in June, with the season half over - cares about the game, and which one doesn't. Not surprisingly, the one that seems to care more is in first.