Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Game 21

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 11

"If you score eight runs, you're supposed to win the ball game."
- Red Sox announcer Jerry Trupiano

I was going to write before I even started this entry that the Sox pitching staff is starting to look pretty beat up, but it just got worse: Schilling is going on the DL for a mild bone bruise on his right ankle. Wade Miller coming back is starting to look better and better.

I came home last night to a scene fraught with tension: Mike Timlin, facing down the Orioles in scoring position, with the score eight to seven. Matt Clement and Rodrigo Lopez both had terrible outtings, Clement giving up seven runs (including two allowed to score by Alan Embree, who came on to give up a two run double) over four and two thirds innings and and Lopez eight runs over three and a third innings. Timlin got out of the inning, but the Sox failed to lengthen their lead and when Foulke came on in the eighth, he gave up two two run homers: one to Tejada and one to Javy Lopez. There were fielding errors. There was sloppy play. The Sox blew leads of five to one and eight to three. And at the end of it all, there was another loss to Baltimore and the MLB's best offense, who seem pretty well venged for last week's shutouts. At least Clement didn't hurt himself.

Today's game was supposed to start at 2:00, but the rain that this morning was over New York seems to have gone north with alacrity and the game was postponed. As much as I would have liked to listen to it, this cancellation may be a good thing, for two reasons: first, with both Schilling and Wells on the DL, we're down a starter. Halama will be filling one of the starting roles, but it's TBD as to who will fill the other roster spot. Having an accidental day off (along with a day off on Thursday) gives two days where someone doesn't have to pitch and saves the arms until that point, somewhere on the horizon where the Sox have seven potential starters instead of four. Second, I think the bullpen needs a few days to recover from extended pitching in relief of bad starts and the fielding needs to get its collective head together and get past the sloppiness. The Sox are in Texas over the weekend and the Rangers' bats are only slightly less scary than those of Baltimore. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Game 20

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 8

All was pretty much woe in the Riviera last night. Some pretty poor umpiring at the plate (the inside part of the strike zone seemed to be drifting, especially where Sox pitchers and batters were concerned), TWO sprained ankles/feet (Wells and Mantei), Ramon "Somehow I Was Two For Two With A Walk Despite Being Singlehandedly Responsible For Two Oriole Runs And Breaking Up A Boston Rally" Vasquez, a decent outting by one Bruce Chen and lack of air flow in the Riviera made for some tough baseball.

It all started well enough. Robin, paranoid about not getting a seat down in the sports bar section, showed up at 5:45. I arrived about 20 minutes later and we commenced the eating and drinking. Nikki showed up at around 6:30, game began at was good. From where we were sitting, I had a good view of several TVs with the Sox game, plus a TV with ESPN on mute (indeed, the experience of being surrounded by TVs broadcasting NESN was pretty cool). The NESN broadcast was piped through the speakers, the main TV in front of me was large enough for comfortable viewing (although the closest thing they got to a big screen was somewhere between 27 and 32 inches and wasn't anywhere near where I was sitting...very disappointing). Game started up and from the beginning it would look like it would be a back and forth slugfest...and then the Boomer sprained his right foot while getting in position to backup a throw, the Orioles lineup jumped all over him and it turned into a five inning slog. Blaine Neal came in and put out the fire, giving up one run over two and a third, then Mantei came in, lasted for two thirds of inning, then sprained HIS ankle, also while backing up a throw. Meanwhile, despite a Varitek homer and a three for three (with two walks) night for Damon and a three for four night for Ortiz, the Sox couldn't string together an effective offense. Part of it was the umpiring, part of it was Vazquez attempting to stretch a wall-ball single into a double and being thrown out by a mile (all the while NOT hustling to second), part of it was the atmosphere of the game. Also on the subject of Vasquez: the man pretty clearly isn't meant to be playing third base; not only only did he mess up a pickoff throw from Varitek that ended up scoring a run, but he made what would have been an excellent throw to first...if first base was ten feet closer to third. Instead, the ball bounced and the runner reached and I believe went on to score.

Back in the Riviera, our prime TV had been taken away by another party sitting in front of it to watch the Mets/Braves game...even though we were there watching the TV first. I was forced to switch to a smaller, much higher TV, craning my neck in the rising heat and humidity as more people came into the bar. We left after the eighth inning; it was pretty clear nothing more was going to happen that night and the place was stiffling. Needless to say, that's the last time I go to the Riviera. Robin has heard of a Red Sox bar called the Hairy Monk somewhere uptown, which we may try to hit up at some point.

So, oddly enough, it's April and we're reaching for the scrubs because of injuries. Wells is on the 15 day DL, Halama will be starting and Lenny DiNardo has been called up from Pawtucket to fill the extra spot on the roster. Meanwhile, Manny played DH last night to rest his sore quad, which put Millar in left field (freak out) and Ortiz at first (slightly smaller freak out). As mentioned, Vasquez is at third, because Bill Mueller still doesn't feel well. I have to wonder (and we did wonder last night) why the Sox have a subpar player like Vasquez (who's hitting .167 or so and isn't an every day player) on the bench instead of Kevin Youkilis, who would be perfect in a situation like this one.

Matt Clement versus the Nemesis (Rodrigo Lopez) tonight. Here's hoping that we're not looking at the beginning of a skid and that the Sox can score some legitimate runs off this guy. GO SOX!!!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Games 17 - 19

Final Scores:

Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5
Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6
Boston Red Sox 11, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3

So the big story of the weekend wasn't the Sox losing twice and coming on the verge of being swept by the Devil Rays for the first time since the team was founded seven years ago. It wasn't the lackluster pitching that saw Alan Embree give up a walkoff homerun on his first pitch after Johnny Damon had knocked in the tying run in the ninth on Friday, or a Schilling outting so poor on Saturday that the ace knocked himself harder than any reporter would dare do. It was the fact that they really do hate us down in St. Pete.

The Boston Globe has a good short history of the blood feud that started five years ago, but suffice it to say that the seven batters hit by pitches over this weekend were pretty much in line with what's been happening since August 29, 2000. To be honest, I had forgotten that the Devil Rays and the Sox don't really get along; the first series between the two teams this year didn't bring up any of the bad blood. Clearly something about being in Florida or how close the first two games were reignited things and once again we're all reminded that Tampa Bay has created this weird rivalry that revolves entirely around the two teams getting pissed at each other roughly once a year for no good reason. Created some great highlight footage, not only of the fight, but of the results...but to lay that out, I'll have to explain what happened, as told to me by Robin, who called me as I was boarding as bus coming back from Albany.

Bronson Arroyo, not known for his control when it comes to inside pitches (he was a league leader in hitting batters last year), hit Aubrey Huff in the sixth. Lance Carter came in at top of the seventh in relief of Hideo Nomo and threw a ball behind Manny. Warnings were issued and the next pitch, Ramirez smashed a fastball over the fence in left for a solo homerun. Ortiz came up next and Carter, for reasons unknown (perhaps stupidity? why would you
ever want to piss off a man that big? Especially someone who's smiling all the time, so you know he's pissed if he gets upset) threw a pitch at Big Papi's head. Benches clear, Ortiz is restrained by combination of Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall and the home plate umpire and Doug Mirabelli and Trot Nixon get into it with Dewon Brazelton (a screaming match, though, for pure violence, The Brawl definately leaves this fracas in the dust). It was at this point that Brazelton allegedly stuck his finger in Nixon's eye, leading to the rightfielder to explain afterwards: "I wasn't threatening him. I was giving him information." Someone needs to incorporate that into an action movie. Carter, Nixon and manager Lou Piniella were all ejected. Nixon had to restrained by Blaine Neal and John Halama for several minutes - the man was pissed.

Ortiz struck out afterwards, but got his revenge later in the eigth with a solo shot off the catwalk, after Jay Payton, subbing in for Nixon, hit a grand slam to put the Sox up 10 - 3. Arroyo and Francona were ejected after Arroyo hit Chris Singleton in the thigh with what Arroyo claimed to be a cutter that got too far inside. The Boston pitcher had the capping subtle insult, too: "Any time you come here to Tampa, these guys aren't supposed to take two out of three, much less all three, from us. Yeah, I definitely felt an urgency to come out and have a good outing and make sure we get out of here with at least one."

Tonight, The Riviera Part 2, featuring an Embedded Yankee*/Bruce Chen rematch in Boston. Robin, Nikki and I will be down in the bar this time with the real fans and the big TVs. Time to go party down with the crowd. GO SOX!!!

* - only because it seems to be working

Friday, April 22, 2005

Game 16

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Baltimore Orioles 0

AIM conversation yesterday afternoon:

Robin (4:04:49 PM): but I have yet to trust Clement...
Eric (4:05:13 PM): he looked pretty good last outting
Robin (4:06:13 PM): i know... but these O-birds are swinging big lumber and he is a fenesse groundball pitcher ... and Camden Yards is a bandbox
Eric (4:06:29 PM): hmm
Eric (4:06:32 PM): could be deadly
Robin (4:07:12 PM): if he keeps the ball low and out of the sweetspots... AND he doesnt walk to many people... he will be fine

Oh we of little faith. Last time the Sox pulled back to back shuttout was April 25 - 29 of last year, when they had three in a row (lest we get too cocky), but the '05 team is certainly well on its way, as Clement and Foulke combined, much as Wells and Neal did last night, for a pitching gem. The main differences from last night: first, Lopez did (essentially) as well; the only run scored was unearned, after Millar scored from third on a Ramon Vasquez groundball to second. The man just knows how to pitch to the Sox: five hits, three walks and only one run with six strikeouts over eight innings. Second, as Robin mentioned, Clement is a finesse pitcher, with eight hits to go with seven strikeouts over eight innings. It seemed, though, like every time he gave up a hit, he'd get an out to go with it and the Orioles would end up leaving runners on first or second. He was also helped by a play at home in the fourth, when Rafael Palmiero was thrown out trying to score from third on a Jay Gibbons double to the right field corner. Nixon dug the ball out, fired the ball in to Millar, who relayed the ball perfectly to Varitek for the tag out. Sweeeeeeet.

There was another close play in the eighth, when Tejada beat out a tag from Millar at first. The ball was grounded in on the infield and Millar fielded it, but instead of flipping directly to Clement for the third out, Kevin dived after Tejada, who skidded out of the way. Millar claimed he taged Tejada's foot, but it looks like from the replay he missed and in any case, the umpire can't see that angle. Clement then went after Sosa with a cutter and the slugger smacked a grounder back to the mound for the final out. Then, in the top of the ninth, Tejada and Sosa robbed Millar and Renteria of hits with excellent stops and kept the game close.

Tonight is a Wakefield and Kazimir rematch, this time in Tampa Bay for the start of a three game series. The Ray Killer looks to improve his record to twelve and one (and hopefully pick up another shut out?) and further consolidate the Sox one game lead in the AL East. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Game 15

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Baltimore Orioles 0

So I insult the man, call him The Embedded Yankee and he wins two in a row. And not only does he win two in a row, but he hasn't been scored on in his last fifteen innings of work. And not only has he shut down the competition, but he shut down Baltimore, who was alone on top of the AL East and eight for their last eleven. Meanwhile, Bruce Chen does his part of the pitchers duel for four innings, pitching around danger zones, then starts making mistakes: he balks in Varitek, then gives the Cap'n a meatball that Varitek served up for a three run homerun in the fifth. Chen leaves in the seventh and the Orioles bullpen collapses, giving up three runs and the blowout to the Sox. Wells works eight innings, Blaine Neal, who is doing a lot better at one run in his last three innings (as opposed to three runs in his first inning and 1/3) finishes it out and the Sox are tied for first place.

Wade Miller is scheduled to make another rehab start in Portland on Saturday and the pitcher feels he may need one more start after that to be ready to come back up to the Bigs. If he's in top form, he's going to be a monster and at the moment, he's in pretty good company. All five starters are pitching pretty well, which begs the question of who's going into the bullpen when Miller comes back. My guess at this point is Arroyo; Clement seems like he'll be able to float in fourth/fifth starter land, Schilling is a no-brainer, Boomah and Wakey are, well, on fire right now and Arroyo's the youngest member of the staff besides Miller and has bullpen experience. The solidity of the staff, of course, also gives Theo's pet project time to recover properly; he doesn't have to be rushed back in because things are going so well.

Red Sox and Orioles part 2, tonight - Clement and old Red Sox nemesis Rodrigo Lopez go head to head at 7:05. Lopez is eight and three lifetime against the Sox and I remember his only loss against Boston last year well because of how close the Sox came to losing it. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Game 14

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Toronto Blue Jays 4

Well, I was going to start by saying that even though they lost a tough one, it's been a good homestand. Which is has been. A hell of a good one, in fact. However, I'll start instead by asking why, on a night when Manny Ramirez hits a ball that landed on the train tracks beyond Lansdowne, if not on the Mass Pike itself, his homerun doesn't end up on the Plays of the Game reel that produced. Yes, it's all well and good that Russ Adams made two excellent stops at short to get Boston runners, but I kinda want to see Manny's homerun. Ortiz's too.

As mentioned, Manny hit another Lansdowne Bomb, the first time he was up against Halladay. It was one you knew from the voice on the radio was gone as soon as it left the bat and of course, it was right after Joe and Jerry were talking about how Halladay doesn't give up a lot of homeruns. Love it when that happens. Unfortunately for Arroyo, who had a pretty good start, gave up one homerun and seven other hits, plus a walk, while garnering three strikeouts. As has been the case in the past though, he didn't get a lot of run support and the bullpen picked tonight to have a bad night: two runs from Embree in the eighth to tie in, one run from Foulke in the ninth to give the lead to the Jays and it all came down to the last out...and Ramon Vasquez (playing for a sick Bill Mueller) couldn't pull it off, hitting a pop fly to center field to end it. I told you those Blue Jays didn't give up easily. Still, even though I missed the middle innings by going out to dinner,* it was a pretty exciting game.

On the contract front, Tim Wakefield has signed a contract extension that not only gives him $4 million next year, but gives the Sox an option on his contract in '07 and any year beyond that. Since Wakefield qualifies for the "Jason-Varitek-Do-Not-Trade-Clause" and because he's said several times he doesn't want to leave Boston, this means that Wakefield will almost definately stay with the Sox until he retires, presumably seven years or so from now, at around age 45. I think this is great; the man is a fixture in Boston (as I think I've gushed before) and the sort of no-ego guy you can feel good about having on a team, especially when your team is the defending champs.** Knowing that this is one part of the '04 team we're not going to lose for a while feels pretty good.

Tomorrow night the Sox are in Baltimore, with the Embedded Yankee going up against the first place Orioles and Bruce Chen, who's had a surprisingly good start for a Baltimore pitcher. Ok, good for any pitcher. The guy makes me nervous, as does the Baltimore lineup. Should be a good match, although I may miss all of it. GO SOX!!!

* - A part of the Dining in Brooklyn thing a bunch of restaurants run every year. Basically a prix-fixe deal, but because it's the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers winning the World Series, the price was $19.55. I'm capping off the evening with a Brooklyn Brewery "Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55" and feeling very cultured.
** - Nikki's brother Steven said it best: "when your team is the champs, you gotta deal with a bunch of asshole players." Or something to that effect. The less assholes to deal with, the better, I say.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Game 13

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 12, Toronto Blue Jays 7

Marathon game on Marathon Day. It took 117 pitches for Schilling to get through five innings in a game that took three hours and forty-one minutes to play, with the ace racking up 10 strikeouts and later the win. Manny made the biggest bid ever to be the team's DH, making two errors (one of which was later ruled a hit) in one inning and belting two more homeruns. Renteria, Millar, Mueller and Bellhorn all hit doubles in the 15 hit effort and the Sox improved to eight and five, extending their win streak to five games and pulling to half a game behind the first place Orioles. The defense improved as the day went on too (Jerry Troupiano blamed Manny's bungles on the early start and he might be right - like rockstars, baseball players are not meant to function professionally before noon), as Nixon made a homerun-robbing leaping catch near the Penske poll, which I really wish they'd post on already. I just went and looked and they had two of Schilling's strikeouts and Manny's first homerun, which like the one from two days ago went over the Monster streets and onto Lansdowne. Seems like people down there will really need their glass insurance this year - that's the third Lansdowne Bomb the Sox have hit on this homestand.

To be fair, the Jays didn't give up their portion of 2nd place easily; 17 hits and seven runs are generally enough to win most ballgames and it probably wasn't the most pleasant day to be a Red Sox pitcher. Tomorrow night the Sox finish out their first set of home games with a Halladay/Aroyo matchup at 7:05. GO SOX!!!

Game 12

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1

Tim Wakefield has certainly earned a reputation as a Yankee killer, but he's definately a Ray killer as well, improving his record to 11 and 1 against Tampa Bay yesterday. I missed this one too; Nikki and I spent the day walking around our new neighborhood and as I lamented afterwards, the Sox did not see fit to schedule Saturday's game during the day and Sunday's game at night, when it would have been more convenient. No matter; the Sox have now won five in a row and pulled off their first sweep yesterday.

Unlike his last appearance, Scott Kazimir did not have good command and gave up four walks and in the third, a solo homerun to Edgar hit to the triangle that Francona described as "Manny-like" and a two run single to Jay Payton that set the Sox on top. Wakefield, on the other hand, was sublime, giving up three walks and four hits over six innings and striking out five, moving him to third on the all-time Red Sox strikeouts list (ahead of Cy Young) behind Clemens (2,590) and Pedro (1,683) with 1,343. The win moves Wake up to seventh place on the Sox all-time wins list, ahead of Bob Stanley (115) with 116. With his second win, Wakefield seems like he's settling well into the new season and establishing himself as a reliable backend starter. But we all knew that; this is the guy who pitched all those scoreless innings in relief during the ALCS, the guy who's performed pretty much every pitching role the Sox have to offer and done pretty well over all.

Something I noticed yesterday as I was walking around: Park Slope (where I live) is full of Red Sox fans. I had seen a few in my old neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights, but I must have seen ten or twelve Sox hats yesterday. I have a few theories about all of these Sox caps. First, even though the stereotype is that when the Dodgers left for LA, the forming of the Mets picked up a lot of Brooklyn fans who felt abandoned by their beloved team, I'm not so sure that many of them became or have become Red Sox fans instead, especially given the recent renewal of the Yankees/Red sox rivalry (ah, cross-Borough relations). Second, Park Slope is the sort of neighborhood that would attract ex-New Englanders, so maybe many of these people are from the home territories of Red Sox nation. Third, a few of them could be bandwagoners (how elitist is that); I mean, I have to think about which hat I wear, depending on the day and where I'm going, so that the hat I'm wearing looks old enough so I don't look like a bandwagoner too. I have to stop worrying about things like that.

I woke up this morning, having taken a sick day and discovered that today is Patriot's Day, which means the annual doubleheader of baseball and the Boston Marathon - all starting early, with an 11:05 start for the Sox - Schilling versus Bush and Toronto at home. I'll be back later with the full update. GO SOX!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Game 11

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2

A first win for another Red Sox pitcher, this time all on the back of Manny Ramirez, who knocked in his first two homeruns of the year: a two run shot in the third that like Varitek's homerun a few nights ago just kept going and going until it cleared the park. Watching the highlight clip, it was pretty obvious to everyone (including Manny) that it was gone when he hit it, it sailed through the night sky like some leather-wrapped harbiger of baseball doom, as the slugger broke the longest start of season homerun drought in his career. The Manny hit another one in the fourth, off the Coke bottles tower. With the bases loaded. Which, of course, means grand slam. Two. Nights. In. A. Row. I'd say the big hitters are back. With his 18th career grand slam, Manny ties Willie McCovey and Robin Ventura for third most grand slams ever and is the only active leader in that category.

Clement, meanwhile, finally had the sort of night we're all expecting of him, giving up one run and seven hits over seven innings, with the combined efforts of Timlin and Embree finishing out the game. I realize this is Tampa Bay (the hapless Devil Rays, as King and O'Nan called them in
Faithful) playing at Fenway, but it looks like right now, everything's coming up Theo. All of those off-season acquisitions are certainly paying big money this week. If this sort of thing keeps up, the man may develop a cult following.

Wakefield versus phenom Scott Kazimir tonight for the potential sweep. Kazimir became the youngest left hander to beat the Sox in Fenway since 1941 last year and did it by shutting down the guns entirely. We'll see if the newly rejuvanted lineup can avoid that fate this time around. GO SOX!!!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Game 10

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 0

Tonight's game could have easily been subtitled "The Destruction of Hideo Nomo." The 1995 rookie of the year lasted a mere two innings, could not get his fastball above 87 miles per hour, walked five and gave up five hits, including a line drive grand slam by Ortiz to break open the game; his third total (all three at Fenway) and his first since last year against Joel Piniero. His relief was much more poised, giving up a mere two runs, although the Tampa Bay offense could do nothing against Sox pitching.

Meanwhile, the Embedded Yankee had a decent game for his first win, giving up six hits and striking out three over seven innings. He was helped by some excellent defense, including an incredible full length leaping catch by Renteria on a line drive that got Wells out of a jam. Not exactly the toughest situation to pitch in, but he did a fair job anyway. Maybe there's hope for him. Speaking of Edgah, the shortstop seems to finally be coming into his own, going two for four tonight along with that catch. A productive player is a good thing. Matt Clement tomorrow; a game that I will miss most if not all of, since I'm hosting a party during gametime. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Game 9

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, New York Yankees 5

Besides a quick interlude where I happened to spot the game through a window in the two room pub where I was eating in Chelsea, I missed all of the action except for the last two outs, which fraught with enough tension to make me know I missed a real dinger of a game. Joe Castiglione used the term "grinder" when the game ended and that's how it reads from the description: back and forth scoring, Edgar Renteria having a breakout night with a three run homerun and a go-ahead RBI double that scored Johnny Damon from first, a four inning 5 - 5 tie, Randy Johnson getting a no decision even though he struck out 9, Bronson Arroyo walking three in a row, including walking in a run on a call that lead to hitting coach Ron Jackson's ejection for arguing, Gary Sheffield and a fan exchanging swipes in right field during a Varitek triple, Varitek hitting a bomb onto Lansdowne Street for his 100th career homerun, Terry Francona ejected for arguing a strike call against Bill Mueller...and Keith Foulke ending it all by getting Reuben Sierra to pop up with the bases loaded (after walking Giambi on two more close calls) to Varitek, who made a difficult one-hand catch in the web of his glove. I listened to five minutes of it all and still got excited. Heck, reading the description now is pretty exciting. It sounds, however, like maybe the offense is starting to pick up a little bit. At the very least, if Renteria is finally out of the woods, run scoring opportunities will be acted upon with more frequency.

In other news, with the return of the Schill to the 25 man roster, the Sox were forced to send Kevin Youkilis back to Pawtucket. Their option, Blaine Neal (he of the grand slam in Toronto), is out of options and the Sox risk losing him to waiver claims if they send him to the minors again. This situation upset me greatly, of course - who doesn't like Kevin Youkilis and it's not like Neal is terribly popular right now - but then again, after I spent five minutes cursing about it, Neal came in as part of the scoreless relief effort last night.

Hideo Nomo and The Emplanted Yankee open up a series at home against Tampa Bay tomorrow night at 7:05. The Emplanted Yankee will be making another shot at his first win against what is probably the fastest team in baseball; the irony of the fatso pitching to the speedsters is just sublime, but maybe there's hope for him yet. If not, a healthy Miller will send him to the bullpen yet. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Game 8

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, New York Yankees 5

Terry Francona does not care about my fantasy team. The manager was quoted before the game as saying that he expected his ace to have a bit of rust on him and that this start would be to shake that rust off. As a rust shaking start goes, it wasn't too bad, especially first first four innings plus; Curt Shilling was virtually untouchable, striking out five. By the end of the sixth, however, at 108 pitches, his high fastballs weren't sailing past the Yankee hitters, they were flying out of the park. After five runs, including two homeruns, Tito pulled his starter, leaving me with a terrible score on the day. Not too big in the scheme of things, I suppose, but a mite upsetting. The bullpen kept the rest of the game scoreless, but the offense seemed to have lost its drive today - maybe we should have a group of Sox legends running around center field before every game?

Unlike in his previous start, Jared Wright, while not commanding, had enough control to last until the seventh without too much of a beating. The Sox failed, as they have a few too many times so far, to capitalize on offensive opportunities and Renteria, even though he went 2 for 4, has gotten to the point of liability in my mind. He can't seem to get hits when it really matters. Mueller hit into another double play; Big Papi went hitless for the second game in a row, Manny has reverted to looking a bit lost again, Johnny Damon can't seem to start anything out...where is the offense that was fun to watch? Where is the back to back powerhouse? Where is my 2004 team?

I'll be missing tomorrow night's rubber match of Arroyo versus Johnson, but this evening's game reminded me again why I don't like watching YES; the announcers just rub me the wrong way. I think in the scheme of things, I would rank TV broadcasts as follows:

1. NESN - duh
2. ESPN - palatable, although Joe Morgan is the most boring man to ever sit in front of a microphone. Also, the man can't do a radio broadcast to save his life.
3. WPIX - Actually, this is cheating, because I've only watched them once (this past weekend, Mets vs. Atlanta, when Smoltz had 15 strikes before his bullpen bottomed out on him) and it was on mute the whole time so I could listen to the Sox simultaneously.
4. YES - I can stomach the secondary announcer for about 5 innings and then it needs to be muted.
1,000,000. FOX - The world would be a better place if Joe Buck and Tim McCarver just realized how terrible they are and disappeared without a trace one day. Maybe took on fake names and moved to other countries in their shame. Then FOX could hire Al Leiter and move up to number two on my list.

Some day FOX will find this list and try and sue me for libel. You can't deny if it's true! HA! Go Sox!!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Game 7

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, New York Yankees 1

Marvelous. But then again, with the jubilant mood in Fenway,
full of confidence, how could things go any different? Heck, half of Boston's sports heroes from past 50 years were in the Park; the amount of pro-Sox karma in the place practically guaranteed a win itself.

The ceremony itself was broadcast for free courtesy of MLB, although the connection was so poor that much of the time it was freeze frame instead of full motion. Parts of it were kinda cheesy - the song by the baseball balladier, for example, was a bit much; listening to the equivalent of a bar tune sung by the "baseball balladier" at Fenway seemed a bit over the top - but the enormous 2004 banner dropped from the top of the Green Monster was a great touch, as was having the rings delivered to center field by a group of disabled Iraq War vets. The rings were displayed in digitized form on the main scoreboard as each player received his hardware, although oddly enough, that was the only form of name announcement; the event handlers had a woman on a headset telling the players when to go out of the dugout to get their rings. Present were Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts, who both got a great reception from the crowd. Not present was Pedro, who's apparently still got beef with the Red Sox management; I'm not sure how well he would have been taken in by the crowd anyway.

After the rings were distributed, the current players headed out to centerfield end of the Monster to be celebrated by past Red Sox greats, including Eckersly, Tiant, Yaz, Pesky and Petrocelli (I told you there was a sick amount of pro-Sox karma there). Then the two teams were announced, the fans booing everyone on the Yankees staff (including the bat boy and the message therapist) except for Rivera and Torre. Rivera, playing along with the irony, tipped his hat to the crowd; all pretty surreal. Speaking of surreal, the cameras did pan over to the Yankee dugout during the ceremony, where the entire team could be seen on the top steps, watching the festivities. Torre had apparently promised this past winter to have all of his players up for the whole ceremony and he certainly kept his word, although I can imagine some sort of encouragement beforehand to the tune of, "watch this so you can remember it in October and use it as inspiration to beat the snot out of Boston this time."

The broadcast cut out before the first pitch, so I missed the group toss by Tedy Bruschi, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr and Richard Seymour.* Alan supposedly caught the whole game on VHS, so maybe I'll get to see it at some point in the future. I switched over to radio and the game began.

Wakefield was brilliant from the start, striking out five over seven innings and giving up five hits and one run. Mussina had trouble the whole game and never got into a groove; the Sox were able to jump all over him in several different innings. Although another two double plays were added to the season total (and I know Renteria was responsible for at least one of them), the Sox hitting was much improved and the fielding, although not error-free, wasn't costly. The Yankees (*cough* A-Rod *cough* Sheffield *cough*), on the other hand, made some goofy plays, had no luck with the hitting and looked entirely overmatched. Francona was back as promised and although he didn't have to make any managerial decisions, it's still good to have him back at the helm. At least now if he screws up a pitching choice, I don't have to resort to what-ifs about the manager. I'm curious to see if this new Sox confidence lasts through to Wednesday and the return of Schilling, whether the Yanks will still seem stunned or whether it's just another year of the massive home-field advantage for both teams. GO SOX!!!

* - What's up with the NHL that they don't have bios of past players, especially important ones, on an official site? And we wonder why they're in a lockout...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Game 6

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Toronto Blue Jays 4

My question after this one was over: would Francona have left Timlin in if he was there making the decisions, or would he have brought in Foulke, as he usually did last year when there was a tie? Once again, I think we can all be grateful that Brad Mills isn't running this team after today.

Not that it was all his fault. Although the Sox again scored first, Matt Clement continues to struggle with his control, giving up 5 walks and getting deep into a number of counts, shortening his inning total. The bats couldn't seem to create enough of a spark to really light an offensive fire and there were a number of squandered scoring opportunities, with nine men left on base. Even the ninth inning rally, where the Sox tied the game up on a Renteria single, came on a two strike, two out pitch and Manny was unable to seal the deal by sending Damon home. So it doesn't seem like everyone's got their heads together as of yet.

On the positive side, before Manny killed the rally, he had was described on the radio as a "shaky" double and then a strong single, whereas up until now he's looked kinda lost. Maybe he's having his moment of epiphany and will rejoin the Manny/Ortiz tag team, already in progress. Speaking of Ortiz, the Big Papi not only has a six game hitting streak, but he's had at least one extra base hit in every single one of those games. He's a monster who eats baseballs for breakfast and I love him.

Home opener tomorrow, starting, for whatever weird reason, at 3:00 in the afternoon. The ring distribution and *gulp* championship banner display ceremonies start at 2:00 and I'm wondering if they're going to broadcast any of it on the radio/tv. I also wonder if YES would bother broadcasting the ceremonies, since their target audience wouldn't really be what I call interested. We'll see. It's also the Wakefield/Mussina rematch and maybe being home will finally get the offense going the way it should be. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Game 5

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 12

Robin, after Blaine Neal gave up a grand slam in the bottom of the 8th: "Yeah, so the bullpen needs work."

Having the Embedded Yankee didn't help, either. Before settling down to do his job in the last two and 1/3 innings he worked, David Wells gave up five runs on seven hits, including back-to-back-to-
back homeruns. The Sox managed to tie things up in the sixth and seventh, getting to starter Roy Halladay with a string of hits that ended with a David Ortiz three run smash. Next inning, Wells retires one then leaves, bringing on Matt Mantei, who still can't seem to get the hitters out. He strikes out one, gives up three hits and bleeds the go-ahead run, reinforcing my impression that despite our best hopes, he's going to end up being a gamble that Theo lost. Mantei is pulled for Halama, who can't get anyone out, giving up three runs on one hit and a walk. I think he may have driven in a run by hitting a batter, but I was out of the room at that point, so I can't be sure. The bases are now loaded and on comes Blaine Neal, who promptly gives up a grand slam. I thought we got this guy in exchange for Kim, which would have made the whole thing excusable (Kim would have given up the grand slam too), but no, I see he comes from San Diego, so we probably got him for Dave Roberts. Not so good. Neal gets out of the inning and the Sox are unable to rally. Jays win and the series is split at 1 apiece.

Robin's take on all this is that we have the same problem as the Yankees: no bullpen outside of two middle relievers (Embree and Timlin vs. Quantrill and Gordon) and one closer (Foulke vs. Rivera). He may be correct, although I wonder if part of it is the way interim-manager Mills was using his bullpen. Halama is supposed to be long relief and although Wells did manage to recover at the end of his start, Halama should not have been brought in to cover a situation where Mantei wasn't working out. Long relievers are supposed to eat up innings, not get out of tight situations like the one Halama faced in the eighth. In fact, because the first batter that Halama faced in the eighth, Corey Koskie, is a left hander, Mills screwed up: he should have brought out Mike Myers, the
left hand specialist, to get Koskie. Then use Embree or Timlin (probably Timlin, because Embree has been out more lately) to get two more outs and out of the inning. Mills might make the argument that he was saving the more important parts of the bullpen for next week's series against the Yankees, but this team works best going a game at a time; the end of last season, especially the ALCS, proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Also, we shouldn't assume we'd even need most of the bullpen tomorrow, giving them time to rest for Monday. I guess it's a good thing Mills isn't the guy normally running the team. As Robin put it, "I can't believe there's a time I'd miss Francoma."

Matt Clement tomorrow, hoping to make good against Ted Lilly, who has only beaten the Sox once in his career. Let's see if he can put the Sox back on the winning track for the home opener. GO SOX!!!

Game 4

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 5

I have a confession to make: I play fantasy baseball. Actually, most of you reading this blog knew that, but it leads to awkward situations. For example: last night, I
finally made it to The Riviera Cafe, the accidental Red Sox bar in the Village. I was a mite disappointed, although it's probably because Nikki, Robin and I didn't go down into the bar section - we stayed up in the restaurant, ate some halfway decent food, drank Sangeria and watched the game on two smaller tvs instead of the big screen I was expecting. Pitching for the Blue Jays was young Dave Bush, who is one of the pitchers on my fantasy team. I pitched him because otherwise I would be down a starter and I figured better to hope the Sox don't do too much damage to the guy than to lose the points he might give me. Now, not only does Robin play and not only does he play in my league, but my team is up against his this weekend. So, of course, Robin's got twice as many reasons to pull for the Sox to win and I have just as many reasons to hope for a tie game until after the starter leaves. Didn't quite work that way, but I was definately more relaxed after the fifth inning and Bush's departure.

Arroyo did well, better than the score might indicate. He's still got some control issues, but when those offspeed pitches are, they're
nasty. He held the Jays to three runs and after the Sox pulled ahead 6 - 3 in the seventh I figured it was all over. Then Foulke came on in the ninth and had one of those shaky saves that makes you nervous, managing to load the bases and give up two runs before getting that crucial third out. Robin was so aggitated he started jumping up and down, which is pretty amusing when you're in a restaurant where most people are NOT paying attention to the baseball game (although we could hear the cheers and groans from downstairs pretty well), but in the end all's well that ends well.

Terry Francona is home from the hospital resting. His doctors diagnosed the chest tightness as being symptomatic of a virus, not heart problems and he expects to be back in the dugout for the home opener. Good to hear; obviously a dead/sick manager is not the way to go. Ok, that sounds a mite calloused. It's good that he's feeling better, no matter what his role is with the team.

Johnny Damon cut open his left elbow on the score board in The Rogers Centre (the new name for the Skydome) while retrieving an Eric Hinske double, requiring six stitches after the game. He's listed as day to day and is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow. Robin and I noticed the scoreboard, which is located across the middle of the center field wall, last night. Apparently it's made of Plexiglass and sharp bolts. It's ugly and it hurts players. Way to go, Rogers Cable. After last night, the owners have agreed to investigate the issue at least, although I don't understand why they'd want to put the players they've invested money in (like Vernon Wells, who has expressed concern about the scoreboard) at risk to being hurt. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Game 3

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 3

[Steven]: On second thought, I think a retired number and a hall of fame spot is enough respect.
[Steven]: Tanyon is our new closer against the sox.

That would be because Mariano blew his second save in a row for the year, his fourth straight including the post-season last year and six out of his last eleven attempts against the Sox. I think the Sox have got Mo's number.

That was the ninth inning, though. Before that, it was a grinder. These three games have been like a second Spring Training, almost. Sunday, the Sox worked on pitching. Tuesday, it was hitting. Today was advancing runners. Three double plays. Ten men left on base. Wakefield pitched fairly well, giving up two gopher balls, but Mussina didn't fare much better and the Sox were up 2 - 0 at one point. Then no one could advance runners, the Yankees struck back and we were knotted 2 - 2. Then in the seventh, no one could seem to get out of the bottom of the inning, as Timlin hit Jeter on the shoulder/head, then had a meltdown on the mound, allowing the go-ahead run to score before somehow escaping. Enter Rivera.

There was speculation as to whether or not Rivera would blow another save and indeed, he almost avoided it. After walking Mueller to start the inning, Mo gave up two singles and struck out Trot before Manny hit a grounder to third that A-Rod bobbled, missing a tag on Bellhorn that would have ended the game. Everyone is safe and the game is tied. Ortiz hits a dribbler past the mound just slow enough to score Bellhorn and avoid the double play at home. Sox take the lead, 4 - 3. Renteria drives in two more with a single and the Yankees bring in a new guy, Felix Rodriguez. Rivera is booed as he leaves the field and YES, which I am now watching, shows about a minute and a half of footage of the closer staring out of the dugout, biting his lip. Rodriguez gives up another run when Posada loses track of a ball, then strikes out Mueller to end the top of the ninth. Foulke comes in, gives up a double, then gets the next three batters. I'm dancing inside. Joe and Jerry, in their broadcast, made the supposition that Rivera's problems in the past two days might be due to the elbow problem he had over Spring Training - they noticed yesterday and today that Mo's trademark cutter did not make much of an appearance.

Kevin Millar, who had an excellent day today, left the game hobbling after getting a single in the sixth, but apparently was just suffering cramps. Several million dollars go into a guy's legs and arms and it's amazing how quickly a little muscle ailment becomes important. More of a comment on the situation than anything else, though. Tito was taken to the hospital this morning after feeling stiffness in his chest and bench coach Brian Mills ran the game in his stead. No announcement on the results of tests, but the article announcing the news mentioned that Francona had suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2002 and that he suffered permanent respiratory damage as a result, so this stiffness may be related.

Next game is Friday evening against Toronto; Arroyo versus new guy Dave Bush. GO SOX!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Game 2

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 4

Edgar Renteria needs to relax and stop making errors and hitting into double plays. Manny needs to relax and get hits. The Boston pitching staff needs to relax and make it past the fifth inning. Actually, that's a little unfair; Clement only gave up three runs today, it's just that Matsui is starting to give me creeping horrors. He is, in a word, monstrous.

Really, the big problem right now is hitting, Varitek's tying homerun and Foulke's walkoff homer not withstanding. Pavano had a good day for himself and he was helped by two double plays (including one from Edgah in a tight situation). The Sox did manage to climb out the hole created by Matsui and his two run homerun, but they can go better than tit-for-tat with Yankee hitting and will, as soon as they get their heads wrapped around the new season. It was pointed out to me by Nikki's brother Steven that the '98 Yankees lost their first four games - not that the comparison is there to be made yet, but it eases my mind a bit. Also, it's the second game of the year. No biggie yet. GO SOX!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Game 1

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, New York Yankees 9

Not auspicious beginnings. Boomer kinda well, boomed (or is it bombed?), giving up four runs in four and a third innings. And hit Giambi twice. And balked in a run. Ugh. Then Mantei came in and looked
horrible; couldn't find the plate to save his life. Iffy defense, including a Bill-Buckner-style gaff by John Halama, who finished the game up for the Sox, helped complete the Yankee revenge on the first night of the season. Micah and Robin were in attendance at the new apartment, which did well for the proceedings, thanks mainly to the massive couch which dominates my living room and we had a good time discussing such baseball arcana as "which current players are borderline Hall of Fame eligible" and "what does George Steinbrenner really have control over at this point? (with thanks to Nikki)." It really wasn't that interesting of a game, all told.

My thoughts:

Obviously, this is the first game in a long season and I'm not particularly worried. The boys were not up to form tonight and even though they drew first blood (and last blood, although it was a bit late by then) there were either some jitters going on, or the mindset isn't in yet. I also wonder a bit how the rain during the game effected the action from the Sox side; they clearly couldn't handle the wet turf or the wet ball as well as the Yankees did and it hurt them a lot. My own reactions were fairly muted (no crazy is good) and I didn't feel a lot of the energy that gestates behind the Sox to create wins. I'm told that this is the fifth straight year the Sox have lost their home opener, which makes even less of a case for worrying.

Letting YES have the monopoly on showing this game in the "tri-state area" was a terrible idea. I'm not a fan of the ESPN announcers by any means, but the YES love fest is a far cry worse. Also, Paul O'Neill should never be a color commentator for anything. He adds about as much value to the broadcast as a wet sock. Bring back Al Leiter!

Next game is on Tuesday, so the rest of the MLB can catch up tomorrow night, now that the Sox/Yankees "big draw ratings night" is over. See ya then...GO SOX!