Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Games 49 and 50: Boomerville and the Return of the Lopez

Final Scores:

Game 49:
Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 2
Game 50: Boston Red Sox 1, Baltimore Orioles 8

Good recaps of both games at Joy of Sox and Surviving Grady. I was in exhausted transit back from Massachusetts yesterday, but clearly I didn't miss anything enjoyable; any time the namesake of the Rodrigo Lopez Club pitches up to his reputation isn't a good day for Red Sox bats. Poor Bronson Arroyo, on the other hand, seems to have lost his pitching groove. Seven runs in two and two-thirds innings? Ouch. I have confidence he'll get back on track shortly though.

Sunday, on the other hand, was like confidence run in full swing. 8:05 game time, with a TV and NESN indoors while the party was outside. Robin, myself and a few others came in at around 8:20 to find Edgah on base and Big Papi at the plate. Mussina throws a low, inside pitch that Ortiz crushes...just foul. 'He's not gonna throw that again,' I think and then watch as Moose does, in fact, throw another inside fastball, which Papi obligingly smashes into the third deck in right field. 2 - 0, Red Sox. I go back outside.

Boomer comes out and promptly gives up solo homeruns to Jeter and Sheffield. The news is reported to those of us outside, much to the dismay of Red Sox fans; I start yelling incoherent things about Donut and Robin begins to worry he'll have to go into baseball isolation.* Wells gives up single to A-Rod...then gets Posada to end the inning in a double play and doesn't look back, becoming pretty much the unhittable beast he should be on regular occasions. Mussina, meanwhile, is struggling and the Sox knock him out in the third after he's given up five runs. All is jubilation out in the yard.

An interesting tidbit that occured before Sunday's start: Edgar Renteria gave David Wells a check (supposedly in the range of five figures) to switch uniform numbers. Boomer is now number 16 and Edgah number three. The two switched in the hopes of improving respective performance (i.e., superstition) and clearly it worked, at least for that night: Wells won his game and Renteria extended his hot streak by going four for five. The odd thing, of course, is that Renteria was wearing number three (Babe Ruth's number on the Yankees) when he hit the final out of the World Series last year...a number that Wells grabbed when he came to the Red Sox because he idolizes the Babe. Numbers are fun.

Golden boy Wade Miller goes up against Daniel Cabrera tonight in game two of the three game series against Baltimore. This series is pretty important for obvious reasons; winning the next two games could help break the Orioles' hold on the AL East, or at least weaken it. Last night's game was Baltimore's first win after losing three straight to Detroit, so there's hope yet for the Sox to take the series. Besides, they're at Fenway (and will be for an incredible two straight series!) and have already faced Lopez...Danield Cabrera who? GO SOX!!!

* - Before the Yankees series, Robin told me that if the Sox did not take two out of three in New York, he was going to stop talking about baseball all together for some open-ended period. I'm not sure how long his will would have lasted, but I suppose it's better for all humanity (or at least the humanity who read this blog) that he didn't - where would we be without the examples of his sparkling wit to top my posts?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Game 48: All Aboard Clement's Revenge

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 17, New York Yankees 1

"You know something, Tim? Pedro had 10 strikeouts and has been great for the Mets this year......Yeah, Joe, he also managed to save 2500 children from a burning orphanage in between innings."
-Steven's take on FOX commentators

"I'm like a new bride...I'm so happy...[sob]"
-Robin after I updated him on the score in the sixth inning

Is there any better way to break a four game losing streak? Eight out of nine starting players scored runs, ten out of thirteen total players scored runs, Renteria went 3 for 3 with a grand slam, Nixon hit a three run dinger and Jay Payton, in as defensive replacement, hit a two run homer. Manny went 4 for 4, Ortiz two for four with two walks. John Olerud, making his Red Sox debut, went 3 for 6 with an RBI. Out of 28 hits, the Sox left 13 men on base and grounded into no double plays. Everyone came up big and did so against every pitcher the Yankees trotted out. The game was near club record for hits (the record is 28) and the worst the Sox have ever beaten the Yankees. It was beautiful.

The Sox drew first blood in the first four pitches of the game: Damon doubled on Pavano's second offering. Renteria bunted him down to third on the next pitch and Big Papi hit a sacrifice fly on the next pitch to knock Damon in. The Sox got another two in the second off a group of singles and a fielder choice. In the third, Pavano looked like he might be settling down, giving up only two hits, but came out in the fifth after another three singles and a walk combined to drive in another two runs. Mike Stanton came on to close out the inning, but ran into trouble in the fifth when, with Mueller up, the Sox pulled the exact same sequence as the other night in Toronto: single, single, single, bases loaded. This time, however, Renteria came through in a BIG way, dropping a grand slam over the center field wall off of Paul Quantrill. Then Big Papi and Manny singled and Nixon hit another bomb to get three more runs.

After that, the defensive replacements came in. Kelly Shoppach had his major league debut behind the plate. Vasquez took over for Renteria, Payton came in for Ramirez (and hit his own homerun in the seventh) and Youkilis for Mueller. The Sox scored five more runs and went on to win.

Matt Clement maintained his golden god status easily, giving up no runs, five hits and four walks over six innings with seven strikeouts. Timlin made the only pitching mistake of the game for the Sox, giving up a run in the seventh, but he, Myers and Foulke did very well in effort to get Clement his sixth victory.

Edgah Rentahrier seems to legitimately hitting a groove; he's now ten for his last twenty-five with a double, a triple and three runs and his fielding has been much improved. Psychologically, I'm much less worried about the two spot in the batting order; it seems, especially after the past few days, that many of the holes in the Sox offense, including the one created by Renteria's poor start are beginning to fill themselves nicely.

The only negative to any of this wonderfulness is the speculation of whether or not the Sox had it in them to blow last night's game open as well, assuming the Moron did not commit his fifth and sixth screwup. I suppose that sort of speculation isn't fair, especially considering the performance of Olerud today in the place of Millar - it seems likely, based on today, that Olerud would have hit a single in that bases loaded situation in the first that Kevin ended with a fly out. For now, I'll bask in the glory, look forward to tomorrow evening and hope that today is the sign of the revitalization Red Sox Nation has been eagerly awaiting.

Tomorrow night is the rubber game of the series, with Donut* against Mussina. I'll be in Worcester, MA for a Memorial Day party, surrounded by the Faithful and in view of a TV for ESPN's take on the proceedings. GO SOX!!!

* - The Embedded Yankee


Glad I'm not alone in my feelings about Boston's useless third base coach. And that's a small sampling of the blogosphere and print media.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Game 47: Fire Dale Sveum

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 6

We actually had a chance in this one. Some missed opportunities, including a bases loaded situation in the first that Millar flied out to end (take note: another 13 men left on base), but the Sox finally, finally, FINALLY got ahold of the idea of clutch hitting in the fifth and sixth, only to see it ruined yet again by their idiot first base coach, Dale Sveum, who shall henceforth, until he is fired, be referred to as The Moron.

In the fifth, the clutch hitting came in the form of a gorgeous homerun by the Cap'n, who dropped a Randy Johnson offspeed pitch into Monument Park for a two run shot. In the sixth, the Sox had the makings of an inning: double by Jay Payton, single by Bellhorn to center. The Moron makes an attempt at a saving grace by not sending Payton because Matsui had the ball before Payton even got to third. 'There's hope yet for him,' I thought. RBI single by Damon. The Sox are now smacking balls through holes and building momentum. Bellhorn is now on second. Single by Renteria (who 3 for 4 again tonight) to mid-left field...and THE MORON IS SENDING BELLHORN HOME?! Womack, who has the ball as Bellhorn is hitting third, guns down the Sox second baseman at the plate easily. Two out. Johnny Damon advances to second. Big Papi (who had a tough night at the plate) comes up, smacks a ball to Robinson Cano, who knocks it down and lets it get behind him...and OH MY GOD THE MORON HAS DONE IT AGAIN. HE'S SENT DAMON FROM SECOND. Cano easily guns Damon down at home and the inning is over. Out of five hits and an error, the Sox get ONE LOUSY RUN. Words fail me as I contemplate how our third base coach has killed a rally by committing two major errors in the span of two outs. And, of course, I knew at that point that The Moron would once again cost the Sox the game, up two runs or no.

Self fulfilling prophecy, as Wakefield gave up a two run homerun to Robinson Cano in the bottom of the inning and Embree, who was once again misused by Fracona, pitched a three run homerun to right handed Gary Sheffield to make the score 3 - 6. After that, the Sox couldn't mount a rally against the combined forces of Sturze, Groom, Gordon and Rivera and the game was over.

Tomorrow afternoon, Matt Clement goes for win number six against Carl Pavano. With any luck, Sox baserunners will start ignoring their third base coach entirely and really score some runs. GO SOX!!!

Game 46: They Brought Brooms

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 8

I was pretty glad I missed this one; Wade Miller had nothing (two innings, six runs, seven hits, three walks, one strikeout), the offense had nothing (eight men left on base, one double play, one run on nine hits) and the rookie Chacin got his fifth win. Kevin Millar was one of the few bright spots, going three for four in the losing effort. Perhaps he heard about Olerud's call up (see below) and he heard the bell tolling. Jeremi Gonzalez also did well, giving up only one run on three hits of four-inning relief. In the end, it wasn't enough and with the Yankees outlasting the Tigers 4 - 3,* the Sox are now in sole possession of fourth place, with Toronto and New York in a virtual tie for second. It's scary down here. Clearly the team is in a big slump right now, but of course, on the other hand, it's the end of May; this is when the team goes into the dumps for about a month. Last year they did it for two months and still won, so I'm not too worried.

As mentioned above, John Olerud has been called up to the Bigs, along with home grown catcher Kelly Shoppach. To make room, catcher Shawn Wooten was designated for assignment and pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez was optioned back to Pawtucket. There was some speculation that Shoppach would be behind the plate tonight for Wake's start against Johnson, but Francona has gone with Varitek instead. Olerud may very well be here just to light a fire under Millar's ass; he hit pretty well for the Yankees last year and it was a good thing for the Sox that he was on the DL after Game 3 of the ALCS last year. Shoppach, of course, is up to serve as backup, since Mirabelli is on the DL, although I find it a mite strange that Varitek is catching tonight. He did hit REALLY well against the Yanks earlier this season.

Yankees / Red Sox tonight, Tim "Yankee Killer" Wakefield and Randy "My Theme Song is Metallica's 'Seek and Destroy'" Johnson. I'm decked out with the Shirt (which I haven't really worn much) and the Yankee Hater hat (but of course) to try and generate some positive karma. GO SOX!!!

* - Pretty fun game to watch until the Yankees finally woke up and started scoring runs. There were even a few errors to make New York look goofy. All for naught, of course, but I could hope. I was with Micah, who was pitching Tiger's starter Jeremy Bonderman for his fantasy league and thus wanted some weird confluence of the stars where Kevin Brown would have the ability to get into a pitcher's duel, leading to a 1 - 0 Yankees win off the Tigers' bullpen. He was also booing Giambi and every run the Yankees scored. Meanwhile, I was pitching Rivera as my closer and thus had to be happy with his strikeouts/save at the end of the game. Fantasy baseball does terrible things to people.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Game 45: The Rodrigo Lopez Club

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 6

Interesting analysis of the game over at The House That Dewey Built, especially the idea of a Rodrigo Lopez Club, "a collection of non-aces who pitch like Cy Young winners against the Red Sox," although Lilly only beat the Sox for the first time last year. Personally, I'm starting to get a mite sick of Toronto.

Arroyo, coming off of eight days rest so as to serve his six game suspension, was not the golden god of pitching he's been so far this year, so I guess we can blame Tampa Bay and the MLB discipline office for the end of a streak, dating back to Aug. 21, 2004, that saw Arroyo go 9 and 0 with a 3.48 ERA over 17 starts. Pretty disappointing, but there were other, mitigating factors that made last night's contest a memorable one.

As I mentioned yesterday, Robin and I planned to finally see the game at The Hairy Monk, scene of frustrations on the fourteenth. This time there were no such restrictions; we both arrived around 6:00 and sat down at a table facing the projection screen, got something to eat, something to drink and killed time until the game started at 7:07. 7:00 roles around and the TV switches from ESPN to NESN...and then switches to SKY Sports Network in Britain. A gentleman, who I believe was the bar owner, comes over and tells us that because Liverpool won the English Premier League today, they wanted to keep the TV on SKY for about 20 minutes, because there were celebrations on TV and people celebrating in the bar. In confusion, we agree with the terms...and spend 20 minutes watching commentators talk about the results of the game, without highlights or sound, while behind us in the front of the bar red-clad Liverpool fans make all kinds of noise. By the time they switch back to NESN, the Sox are down 2 - 0. Five minutes later, as the Sox get out of the inning, the TV switches back to SKY again, for more silent commentary. We complain to the waitress, who gets things back on track, but by this point the Jays are up again. The rest of the game is watched uninterrupted as the Sox fail to score,* Lilly pitches like he's become one with the ball and Toronto continues to find holes in the outfield to drop balls, while knowing exactly where to catch those balls when playing the field themselves.

In the fifth or so, we have a conversation with a English guy (or bloke, I believe they call them) who was not a Liverpool fan, although he was there anyway. I guess it would be like going out to celebrate the Yankees winning the World Series even if you hated the Yankees because your friends were Yankee fans. Maybe he really liked drinking and just needed a reason. We talked baseball for a while (and as it turned out, as little as he cared about baseball, he did like the Yankees), discussed English fanaticism for soccer and then he made his way back to the front. Good enough.

In the eighth, a group of four blokes sat at the table next to us. The guy next to me, clearly smashed out of his gourd, was staring intently at the screen, then asked me if I was for the Yankees.

"No," I said, "I'm for the Red Sox."

He took offense at this, telling us we need to leave the bar right now.

"No," said Robin, "but we'll leave in an inning and a half."
"I'm going to hit you in the face."
"I don't want you to hit me in the face."
"Stand up."
"So I can see how tall you are."

Robin told me afterwards he was about the same height as the drunk guy. My only thought was, 'if drunk guy has to get into a fight, let him wait until AFTER the game is over - I don't want to miss anything.'

"I'm going to hit you in the face."
"I don't want you to hit me in the face."

Drunk guy half reaches back to take a swing, waves, stumbles, catches himself on a chair and falls on the floor. His friends escort him to the front of the bar, where he calms down. The game ends and as we're getting the check, I hear he's getting into it with one of his friends, threatening to smack him on the face. "If you do that," one of the other guys says, "he's going to kick your ass." Drunk guy, being an intelligent individual, hits the other guy anyway and two seconds later, they're both grappling on the floor. Tables fall over. Glass breaks. Beer spills all over my bag and umbrella, much to my chagrin. Several guys are now trying to separate the two combatants, who are now locked in a wrestling match of epic proportions. I try to help at one point, but decide I'm much more interested in guarding my stuff against damage than I am in helping two drunk morons. Finally, bouncers drag the drunk guy out of the bar half naked and the combat ceases. Like I said, it was a memorable night.

I will be at Yankees Stadium tonight, watching Tigers versus Yankees (free tickets) and hoping that the Sox can hold on to their second place standing in the AL East as Wade Miller faces off against Gustavo Chacin. GO SOX!!!

* - Except a string of singles and a Johnny Damon sacrifice hit off Lilly in the seventh, eliciting my comment: only the Sox could hit three singles in a row and load the bases.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Game 44: Everybody Blew It

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 9

If the Sox offence was a chick... and she was pulling things this much.. she would need a towel for the mess I leave on her face.

I would say that the Embedded Yankee struck again, but he wasn't the entire cause of the problem. Nor is it just Mike Timlin's fault for blowing a save by giving up a home run to Reed Johnson, nor all Alan Embree's fault for allowing the same hitter to hit a three run walkoff homerun two innings later. It was, all in all, a pretty crappy game for the Sox.

The Embedded Yankee, who pitched well for the first three innings, ran into a hiccup in the fourth, giving up four runs, blowing the 3 - 0 lead the offense had given him. He settled down for his last two innings, but the damage was done. I think Surviving Grady puts it a bit better than I did, but basically, he sucked.

Once again, clutch hitting did not come through: only four men left on base, but another two double plays. Dale Sveum got into the act too, sending Ortiz home on a close play that led to the Boston DH being tagged out. There's no video replay up that I can find and though Joe and Jerry claimed he was safe, I still don't get
why Sveum is playing with runners like he does, especially when the Sox have such difficulty getting men in scoring position to score. And it's not like David is a particularly fast runner, either, so why take the risk? Does Sveum assume that the Sox wouldn't bat Ortiz in and thus he must send the man on, despite the enormous risk of being gunned down? Doesn't such behavior only encourage lack of scoring by the Red Sox, because it takes away outs? I frequently wonder why he still has his job.

While we're at it, we have to blame Francona too, of course. The Sox had a day off yesterday and made no use of their bullpen on Sunday for Clement's complete game...and yet Alan Embree, left-handed specialist, was out there pitching to righties. Mantei or Halama are perfectly viable options for situations like Reed Johnson, but Francona still chose to go with a left-handed pitcher, against whom lefties are hitting .182, while righties are hitting .262 and have about 250 points higher in OPS. Mantei especially would have been a good option; his splits of .118 average and .378 OPS against righties are so good as to make him a right-handed specialist. Bring Mantei in to face Zaun, Hudson and McDonald and you're out of the inning.

El Guapo's Ghost has run numbers and determined that not only will Renteria start hitting better for the Sox as the season goes along, but that his career numbers as a whole are on the rise. He did smack a triple last night against the starter Bush, but he's still three for his last seventeen with a walk. The book is still out on him, his .245 batting average, eight errors and $40 million contract, but I hope he'll start pulling out his old numbers shortly. As Cla Meredith recently proved, young players like Hanley Ramirez aren't majors bound any time soon.

Miserable day in New York today, but Robin and I are making the pilgrimage to The Hairy Monk for another shot at the big screens and Bronson Arroyo versus Ted Lilly. Hopefully he remembers his ID this time...GO SOX!!!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Games 41 - 43

Final Scores:

Game 41: Boston Red Sox 4, Atlanta Braves 3
Game 42:
Boston Red Sox 5, Atlanta Braves 7
Game 43:
Boston Red Sox 5, Atlanta Braves 2

"I think there should be a deal in place where every time Keith Foulke gives up a run, he has to make a $1000 donation to the cardiac care center at Mass General"

Here's how the weekend went: on Wednesday, my buddy Alan called me to see if I wanted to come with him down to Baltimore on Saturday to see the first day of the NCAA lacrosse championship quarterfinals, held at Johns Hopkins. 'Sounds cool,' I thought, so we made the plans. He showed up on Friday night, just in time for the end of the Sox game. I had been listening to the broadcast on the radio, forgetting that, because TBS and the Atlanta Braves are both owned by Ted Turner, the Braves broadcast their games on TBS, meaning I could be watching the game. Alan kindly pointed this fact out when he arrived and we watched Timlin and Foulke close out the game. Boston got their scoring done early: a triple by Damon and a ground ball out to first base by Renteria got one run in the first and when I turned the game on in the second, The Cap'n smacked his ninth home run of the season. He was followed by a single by Millar and Bill Mueller's first homerun (a Peske poll shot) to make the score 4 - 0. Mueller's homerun means that every starter finally has a home run. I'm not sure how often this situation happens/doesn't happen on other teams, but I suppose when your team stands in the shadow of the '03 and '04 run scoring behemoths, you look for every offensive marker you can. Of course, this 2005 team is lacking in other offensive categories, so maybe that's why such a big deal was made of the homeruns. Eight men left on base for this evening and two more double plays hit into by the anti-klutch kids.

In any case, Wade Miller was once again indomitable, even though he felt that this outting was the worst of the three he's had so far in terms of pitch placement. Coulda fooled the Braves, though; they only scored when a Brian Jordan double and a Raul Mondesi groundout set up a run scoring situation. Otherwise, Miller's yet another physical manifestation of Theo's genius. And he's got a sick curveball.

Mike Timlin, who seems to rediscovered his "I don't give up runs, I don't give up hits, I don't give out walks, I just strike people out" persona from 2003 did terrible things to the Braves bats in the seventh and eighth innings, throwing sixteen pitches over an inning and two-thirds and getting three strikeouts. CRAZY. Then Foulke came on for the ninth and we had a bit of cardiac fun, as Keith gave up two runs before getting the double play I had asked for only seconds before to end the game. Wade Miller gets his first win in 11 months.

Instead of waiting until early Saturday morning to head south, Alan and I decided to leave on Friday night, which was probably just as well, because they were doing funny things to the bridges in Staten Island on Saturday morning. By mid-day we were at Hopkins with Chris, preparing to watch two games: Hopkins versus UMass (rooting for UMass) and Navy versus UVA (rooting for Navy). Gorgeous day, plenty of sun...but the favored teams weren't winning. Down 0 for 2 for the day, we headed back to Chris's place and sure enough, watched the Sox lose to Atlanta's rookie pitcher, Kyle Davies, making his first start. It was a wet, nasty night in Boston, with the wind blowing in, flattening out Wakefield's knuckleball. Wake did get five strikeouts, but gave up six runs and four walks in his five innings of work. The infield committed three errors. The offense left ten men on base and of course, grounded into another double play. The wind even conspired to dampen the Sox bats, knocking down a number of potential hits, including a fly ball by Varitek that would have hit the Monster in normal weather, killing the Sox rally in the ninth and ending the game.

Yesterday Alan and I drove back up to New York, leaving around 1:00 and not getting back to Brooklyn until around 5:45 because of traffic in Delaware and New Jersey. We missed the Sox game entirely as a result, settling for Pedro versus the Yankees at Shea Stadium instead and making me wish that I had one of these little gadgets. Pedro did really well against a Yankee lineup full of substitutions, but lost a chance for a win when his bullpen blew the game in the eighth. The Sox, meanwhile, had an excellent day behind Matt Clement, who finally got his fifth win in a four hit, two run, seven strikeout
complete game, pitched on an economical 110 pitches. Besides some trouble in the fourth inning, Clement had no real problems the whole game and although the Sox stranded another thirteen men and hit into their fourth double play of the series, they were able to capitalize on enough of John Smoltz's mistakes to drive the Atlanta starter out of the game in the fifth. Manny hit his 11th home run, a two run blast in the sixth and Kevin Youkilis broke open an 0 for 8 runners in scoring position drought in the fifth with a line drive single.

Sox and Tigers play today in the annual Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown. Not entirely sure who's pitching, but it's exhibition so it's probably going to be like Spring Training anyway. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Game 40

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Oakland Athletics 13

Manager's Aptitude Test, Question 157:

When your almost-42-year-old starting pitcher, a man who is notoriously out of shape, comes back from a leg injury, you should do one of the following:

A.) Allow him to return without going through a rehab assignment through your AAA minor league team.
B.) Make him go through several of those assignments, just like injured pitcher your team picked up in the off season, who spent some time on the DL during the regular season and has already had two quality starts.

If you answered A, congratulations! Your pitcher will make it through an inning and a third during his first start back and give up seven runs to a team who is last in the AL in runs scored this season and will probably be headed back to the minors to do those rehab assignments anyway. Why answer B, anyway? That would make FAR too much sense.

So anyway, not only was this a crappy game for Boston (and for the Embedded Yankee), but it was a weird one as well. I was at work for about half of it. I turned on the game at 3:40. The Sox don't score in the first. The bottom of the inning starts and my boss needs to talk to me for a few minutes. When I come back to the game, it's 4 - 0. The Sox don't score in the second. Someone starts talking to me again in the bottom of the second and when I come back, Eric Chavez is hitting his three run homerun. Varitek gets his homerun, Bellhorn gets his homerun and when I leave to go home, it's 10 - 2. When I get back home around 6:15, it's 13 - 6. The game flew by and every time I turned away, the A's scored more runs. Meanwhile, the Sox couldn't string together anything really effective, at least in comparison to thirteen runs. Boston winds up two and four on the roadtrip and thank God, there's no more travelling around the West Coast, no more Seattle and no more Oakland for the rest of the year. Now we get to face the tough teams: Atlanta, a road trip to Toronto and New York and then at home against Baltimore and the Angels, then a roadtrip to play the Cardinals and Cubs in Interleague. Of course, up until now, the Sox have played the tough teams much better than the easy ones.

Friday night, 7:05: Wade Miller and Tim Hudson face off in the first games of Interleague play at Fenway. Going home always seems to do good thing for the Sox and given the way this road trip went, they need the shot in the arm that Fenway and a Boston crowd gives. GO SOX!!!

Game 39

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Oakland Athletics 5

A metaphor:

I was in Italy for about six month in spring 2002, studying abroad through IES in Milan. There were two people in my program, Michael and Maria, who were both particularly generous and stubborn people, to the point where Maria once spent the night in our apartment and she and Michael (who was my roomate) got into a rediculous fight about who was going to have Michael's bed. Each insisted that the other person had better rights to it and they ended up getting so upset at each other that for about half an hour, Maria tried sleeping on the floor next to Michael's bed (while Michael was camped out on the couch) before she finally relented.

Last night's game was like Michael and Maria quarrelling all over again. The Sox drew eight walks over the course of the game and capitalized on three of them. The A's made three errors and Boston made good on two of them. Although Boston scored two runs in the first, Clement (who narrowly avoided a loss yet again) and Mantei ended up giving up five runs over three innings (fourth through sixth) and the A's led 5 - 3 through the eighth. One might say that by that point, Maria was sleeping on the floor, while Michael had taken over the couch (and the win). Then the Sox finally remembered what clutch hitting means.

It's the top of the eighth. In my frustration, I've donned full rally gear: the Shirt and my World Series Champions hat, which hasn't seen much use since my trip at the beginning on the month.* Much to my surprise and pleasure, Ricardo Rincon loads the bases by hitting Varitek and walking Mueller and Jay Payton (who also had an excellent throw to nail catcher Jason Kendall as he was trying to score). Johnny Damon taps an RBI in with a hit that would have been an out...if Rincon was covering the bases. Needless to say, Rincon left the game afterwards. 21 year old Huston Street, who was wickedly effective against the Sox on May 11, comes on to try and put out the fire. On comes Edgar Renteria, smacking a single on the first pitch he sees to right field. Eric Byrnes boots the ball, it goes past him to the wall, three runs score and Renteria ends up on third. CLUTCH. I call Robin, who signed off AIM before the inning started in a huff, to tell him to stop being such a wuss and pay attention. His response, as soon as he picks up the phone (and the lack of punctuation is accurate): "Are you kidding of course I didn't go to bed I couldn't go to bed I'm watching the whole thing right now." Yes folks, baseball turns Robin into a speed freak.

The boys weren't able to score Renteria from third, nor do much to Street in the ninth, but it didn't matter, as Embree, Timlin and Foulke combined for two innings of one hit baseball. Maria had finally taken the much more comfortable bed, so to speak and at the point, I was ready for bed as well, since it was now 1:00 AM. I am SO glad the West Coast trip ends today with a day game.

Can we kill Dale Sveum yet? The game might have been a lot less stressful if our vaunted third base coach had not tried to send David Ortiz home on an infield hit by Manny in the fifth. It wasn't funny last year and it's even less funny this year. Do they assign a fielding percentage to base coaches the way they to do fielders? Does Dale Sveum top the list for most errors made? Does he, as Bill Simmons worried last fall, have some sort of depth perception problem?*** Shouldn't we have a base coach we can trust to do his job properly?

Oh and lest I forget to mention it, there's this. Robin had to call me after seeing that one (he bought MLB.tv for a month and thus gets to witness these things) because he was rendered unable to type. Hillarious.

David "Boomer" Wells is officially the starter for this afternoon's game, going up against Seth Etherton, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2003. I call it "Battle of the Gimps" and it will be going down at 3:35 Eastern. Cla Meredith has been optioned back to Pawtucket to make room on the roster, which means the Sox are now carrying six starters. Hopefully Cla will be allowed to develop a little more before he gets called up again; I'm sure a guy who progressed that quickly through the minors (he, like Huston Street, was drafted last year) has a pretty good shot at being very effective in the future, but clearly now was waaaay too soon. No word on what Jeremi Gonzalez's role will be now that Boomer is back. Bullpen, perhaps? GO SOX!!!

* - Before heading off to Yankee Stadium for the first game of that tour, I dubbed that hat the "I'm A Tremendous Asshole" hat, because anyone who would wear that hat to watch two other teams play must be an pretty big jerk. Not to mention the fact that with the bandwaggoning that's being going on with the Red Sox, wearing a World Series Champions hat makes you look like a poseur**. I wore it around the East Coast to be ironic, because that's what us cool kids do.
** - I found this image through Google image search. Ironically enough, the website it comes from is very much in favor of the president's visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln. I don't understand Google sometimes.
*** - I tried finding a link for this, because I know it's on Page 2 on the ESPN site somewhere, but the ESPN search box has this fun feature where you can't actually search for anything. Instead, you click on the box where you would type in the words and nothing happens. Quite thrilling. Oh wait, no, I'm wrong...they just don't believe in cursors, so you'd have no idea that you'd selected the box until you started typing. Very clever, guys. Way to design a user interface that conforms to people's expectations of how computers work. Doesn't matter, because I still can't find the damn link.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Game 38

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Oakland Athletics 6

Oh God, it makes my eyes bleed. THIRTEEN MEN LEFT ON BASE! That's probably the real story of the night: the Sox had the bases loaded TWICE and failed to take advantage. Bill Mueller grounded into his league-leading EIGHTH double play. The pitching staff blew a 2 - 0 lead and a 4 - 4 tie because the offense couldn't score runs and I'm starting to feel like the only way to score runs is through homeruns...which doesn't make for very interesting baseball because homeruns don't happen that often. Hell, the A's were begging to drop their ninth straight through this one - Dotel almost gave up another blown save by getting two runners into scoring position before Mueller flied out to end the game. It's frustrating and the team needs to get its head back on and start scoring runs when they have the chance.

In our nightly conversation I like to call, "Robin's Drunking Ramblings About Baseball," Robin told me that Nixon has some sort of injury, involving his knee, that he should have surgery on...but won't until the offseason. And he won't talk about it otherwise. Meanwhile, he'll just bat against righties only and come out early for Jay Payton. Friggin' hard core. My hat's off to you, Trotsky.

Manny's been distracted from his game because his mother has been sick with arthritis. I tell ya, if that ain't a story to make you love the goofy bastard, I don't know what will. Manny Ramirez, mother-loving American. In any case, his mother is supposed to be on the mend, so hopefully Manny's average and OPS, which have been off track since last All Star break according to Peter Gammons, will be on the mend as well.

Clement and Zito rematch tomorrow night at 10:05 Eastern. I'll probably be there, once again, braving the late hour in the hopes of victory. GO SOX!!!*

* - And score some damn runs!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Game 37

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Seattle Mariners 5

The good news: the Sox aren't playing Seattle for the rest of the year. The bad news: the Mariners took two out of three at home. Wakefield didn't have his stuff yesterday and the Sox were having problems plugging the offensive gap, with nine left on base and ANOTHER double play. The day was dark in New York and there's something gloomy about the broadcasts from Seattle, which made the game that much harder to listen to. On the bright side, Big Papi and Ramirez both hit homeruns, Manny joining 39 other players by hitting 400+ homerun mark. The difference in the game, though, was Mariners' backup catcher Miguel Olivo, who had struggled before yesterday's game...and had a breakthrough day, going three for four with what turned out to be the go-ahead solo homerun in the fourth. Wake went seven and Embree picked up the eighth, so there was no exhausting of bullpen arms.

The lineup has been reset again in what Robin refers to as "the perfect alignment:" Nixon has moved back to batting fifth, where his power, which is coming more and more to the fore this season now that he's healthy, will be more useful. Renteria is now batting second and if he continues to slap singles he'll be doing a great deal of good. Manny is batting cleanup again, putting Ortiz, who I'm told hates batting fourth, in the three spot. Quoth Manuel: "'It doesn't matter where I hit. I'm Manny Ramirez." Now give us the Manny Point. Now old school style. God, I love it.

Depending on whether or not Boomer feels up to it, he'll be back in on Wednesday instead of Jeremi Gonzalez. The Sox aren't pushing Wells so that he's actually ready to come back, which is fine: a.) it's not like Boston is hurting for pitchers right now and b.) it's moving everything closer to that next Big Question, What Are We Going to do When Curt Comes Back? Ok, maybe I'm jumping things a bit, since Schilling isn't even out of his boot yet, but it'll be a weird little contest when the Sox have six pitchers to play with. Maybe a six man rotation? Maybe someone will end up getting hurt again.

The Sox go south tonight to the city by the city by the Bay: Oakland, CA with a match up of Bronson "Golden God" Arroyo versus Kirk Saarloos, hoping to sweep the A's in their home turf like they did last week in Fenway. Late start, though and it's not a weekend this time, so we'll see if I make it to the end of the game. GO SOX!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Game 36

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Seattle Mariners 3

What a WEIRD game. A pitchers duel where one team's pitcher leaves because his pitch count is so high and the other leaves because he's just given up back to back homeruns. A game where it looked like the Mariners, though they weren't as dominant offensively as they were on Friday night, would still win because the Sox couldn't string hits together and score...and then they did in a big way. On top of it all, of course, the fact that this game started at 10:05, so all of the action was fraught with the surreal feeling that people were playing baseball at the ungodly hour of past midnight, turning all into an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Or at least that's how I feel about it now, twelve hours later.

In any case, Miller once again had a pretty good outting and we can see where he's heading, once he gets strong enough to get beyond six innings: five and 2/3rds innings, five hits, three runs, two walks, five strikeouts on 105 pitches. He kept the Mariners without a base runner for three innings, started making some mistakes in the fourth and was clearly pretty tired by the fifth. Once he gets in his groove, though, he should start getting the wins.

Miller was relieved by a parade of Myers, who got the win; Mantei; Timlin and Foulke, who got his first 1 - 2 - 3 inning in about a month. Manny Ramirez hit his 399th homerun in the sixth to tie the game up at one apiece and made an excellent leaping/over the shoulder catch in the eighth to help out Timlin.* After Miller gave up back to back homeruns to Sexson and Ibanez, the score went to 3 - 1 Mariners and it took a hot seventh inning to get the Sox back on top for good.

By the seventh inning, I was doing dishes. Ron Villone had come on for the Mariners and the Sox lit him up: Bill Mueller gets a single, then scores from first when Bellhorn doubles. Bellhorn goes to third on a Renteria single, then Ortiz (who switched with Manny, to some good effect, for third slot last night) was hit by a pitch. On comes J.J. Putz, who strikes out Manny (oh Manny, you make me so flip-floppy now) but pitches a high fastball to "noted fastball hitter" Trot Nixon, who cranks it out of the park for the Sox fifth grand slam of the season. I get so excited I fling soap all over the place in a victory salute. The bullpen is smooth sailing from there on out and the Sox pull off a grinder in Seattle, staying at .500 on the road and continuing their hot streak.

"Early" game today with a 4:05 start, Wakefield versus Gil Meche. GO SOX!!!

* - This catch was made after I wondered why Jay Payton was put in for Trot Nixon, the Sox best regular outfielder, in the eighth instead of Manny. Boy, that crow was DELICIOUS.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Game 35

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Seattle Mariners 14

I have a simple explanation for what happened yesterday, all of it: it was Friday the 13th. No, I'm serious, if for no other reason than that I didn't realize it was the thirteenth yesterday until Joe Castiglione mentioned it at the end of his broadcast. But things were going so poorly for the Sox and for us three adventurers, attempting to watch the game, that clearly something cosmic was up. The story:

I decide after writing my blog post yesterday that I was going to do a tour of Red Sox bars.* I then go out with my coworkers after work and have a few beers at Flight 151, a bar that features popcorn and tableclothes you can draw on. I tell the coworkers about the bar tour, they approve. Everything is good.

I go home, make dinner, prepare to meet Robin so we can go to the Hairy Monk in time for the 10:05 start. We pre-party a beer each (just like college!) and head out. On the way, we let Nikki (who's meeting us, at least for part of the game) know what's what and where to go. Nikki's had a tough day; at work until 8:30 doing billing, so she's psyched to get out and do something. We get to the Hairy Monk at 9:30...and the problems start.

As we approach the bar, we notice they've got the Mets on the projection TV. A bit perterbed, we cross 3rd avenue to go in...and discover they're carding tonight. Nikki lost her wallet at some point last weekend, so she's without ID and Robin left his at home, because he's useless. Clearly we're not going to the Hairy Monk this evening. Thinking quickly, I suggest the ESPN Zone in Times Square as a possibility. With the hour drawing late and the subways not terribly convenient to where we're going, we take a cab up to 44th street and stream our way through the crowds to ESPN Zone.

They're showing the game, but only in the upstairs section. The good news: the players are just taking the field when we're seated. The bad news: they're so full tonight with people watching the NBA playoffs on the big screen that they've instituted some policy with a clever name that I've forgotten, where you have to spend ten dollars per person, per hour. Yes, you read that right. With baseball games running between three and four hours, we're talking between thirty and forty dollars a person for the night. I've eaten already because of the late start and I don't do a lot of quick drinking, especially when I'm watching baseball. Nikki can't drink, because she's on antibiotics. Clearly this isn't going to work out well. The TV was close, though, which made it easy to watch and Nikki was happy that the Yankee game was on the other big screen.

The game starts and Jeremi Gonzalez (who I've picked up on my fantasy team for this game) does not have a good night. By the end of the first inning it's already 3 - 0 Seattle and it gets worse from there. Manny makes a base running mistake in the top of the first (or maybe Dale Sveum made it for him; Fox Sport Net, which was broadcasting the game, had a great time showing slow-motion replays with odd camera angles, but did not show the third base coach on the play. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, it is Fox after all). Varitek gets thrown out at home in a weird play where he tried to dance around the catcher. Scoring opportunities were wasted.

We decide to head back home at the middle of the fourth inning, with the Sox up 6 - 5, with the hopes that the Sox will hold it together until we get back and we can listen to the rest of the game and drink for free. We hop on board the subway and get back at around 12:30...

...to discover that all is chaos. Jeremi "Gonzo" Gonzalez gave up two additional runs and then the Mariners tee-ed off on Halama for five more runs, making the score 12 - 6 in favor of the Mariners. Cla Meredith, who pretty clearly is not ready for the Big Time and is probably despressed as hell that he's had so many problems, gives up a run in each of the two innings he works. The Sox get an additional run in the eighth, but don't rally and go on to lose in their worst beating this season. All the fault of Friday the 13th.

The Sox are back tonight with another late start of Wade Miller versus
Ryan Franklin and hopefully they pick up the pieces a little better than they've been doing so far this season. Runners left on base are a bad thing, guys. Just remember that and start being clutch and we won't have to rely entirely on the pitching staff to get the job done. GO SOX!!!

* - Robin told me later he decided this was a good idea as well and that we should do it. Clearly, I'm a genius.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Game 34

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Oakland Athletics 5

"I had to explain to my boss why I was watching the Red Sox in my office and why I jumped up and yelled, 'Jason Varitek I love you and want to have your man-babies!'"

Well, I nearly blew that one, but I'll get into that in a bit. First, let us bask in the glory that is Matt Clement. Seven innings pitched, five hits, one walk, four strikeouts. All this goodness from a man who was seven and eight before the All Star break last year and was dropped from the Cubs rotation before the end of the year. Clement was helped out by Barry Zito's continued pitching problems, resulting in a Bill Mueller RBI single, Jason Varitek RBI double and Manny Ramirez two run Monster shot. The A's got a run in the fourth but couldn't pull anything off of Clement or his relief of Timlin and
Myers. Foulke came in right around when I was posting yesterday and got the two outs easily enough, striking out Erubiel Durazo, giving up a walk to Bobby Kielty but getting him when Scott Hatteberg hit into a fielder's choice. Joe and Jerry were even commenting on how Foulke has settled down lately and how nasty his changeup was looking...and then things fell apart. A double by Marco Scutaro and a single by Keith Ginter lead to two runs scored. Eric Byrnes drops one up on top of the Monster for a two run home run...and then, with the save blown and the score 5 - 4, advantage Athletics, Foulke finally finishes the inning. The whole time, oddly enough, Tito did not bother warming anyone else up, apparently trusting his closer to get the job done eventually. As it turned out, this behavior was justified, but it makes me wonder if Francona had either a.) given the game up, b.) gone to sleep and forgotten he could put SOMEBODY in to get that third out or c.) consulted his crystal ball and figured out what would happen in the ninth inning.

Octavio Dotel came on in the ninth again to try and seal the deal properly this time and once again walked David Ortiz. "Interesting," I thought, "he's setting us up for another walk off comeback. But that's not going to happen again..." Millar came up and almost repeated his Tuesday heroics, but got under a pitch and hit a routine fly ball to left instead. Up comes Jason Varitek, El Capitan,* murder with a stick. And with a 1 - 1 count, Dotel hangs a pitch and Varitek pulls it screaming down the first base line. Away it flies into the right field corner as I'm willing it mentally to make it, make it...HOMERUN. I'm dancing in my seat. I'm loving it. The crowd is going nuts. On the replay, you can see Varitek moving so slowly up the line before the ball goes into the crowd that it looks like he's moving in slow motion, as if he's trying to move the ball with his mind. Rightfielder Bobby Kielty made a valiant effort to leap for the ball as it sailed into the crowd, but it was almost as if the collective will of the hundreds of fans in that corner of the ballpark and the thousands in Fenway drove him back and he fell off the retaining wall and on his back. Sox win on their second walkoff homer in as many nights, a feat which has a bit of its own interesting history.

Sox are off tonight and tomorrow night are off in Seattle for the start of a West Coast road trip against the Mariners and Athletics. I've discussed how much I hate West Coast road trips before, but Friday nights game at least will be ameliorated when Robin and I go to the Hairy Monk, a Red Sox bar on the East Side. Unlike The Riviera, the Hairy Monk is supposedly designed to be a Red Sox bar, with Sox memoriabilia on display. From the description here, it also sounds like they have decently sized TVs, too.** I'll definately have a review in my next post. GO SOX!!!

* - Who by the way is hitting .520 against lefties like Zito right now. Doesn't really come into play in this story, although it explains his double earlier in the game. Also, Johnny Damon has a sixteen game hit streak, the longest running in the majors right now and one game shy of his career high. I love it.
** - There a few places on that list that sound like they could be interesting. I may have to make a mini tour...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Game 33

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Oakland Athletics 2

Bronson Arroyo lives a charmed life. When I came back home around 8:30, the score was tied at one. Next inning, Arroyo got himself into trouble: runners on first and third. A ground ball; Arroyo stabs it, looks outfielder Bobby Kielty back to third, then flips to first...and Millar fields it too far in front of the bag. Kielty takes off for home and manages to score, everyone is safe and Millar commits his second costly error of the night. A's starter Kirk Saarloos had a good game, reliever Huston Street, who came on in the sixth and stayed until the eighth, was unhittable (and only gave up one walk) and Ricardo Rincon got two quick outs and gave up another harmless walk. It's starting to look like the Sox aren't going to pull this one off after all and Arroyo's streak of perfection will end with his first loss.

It's now the ninth inning. Mantei, who's relieved Embree (another scoreless inning and a third), gets the Oakland batters without incident in a one-two-three with a strikeout and the Sox are down to their lasties.* Octavio Dotel, fireballer who throws in the mid-90s, comes to the mound. Dotel has a reputation for being inconsistent, but he's still formidable...and he's throwing fastballs. He gets Manny to strike out, a pitch that was described as being "in Manny's wheelhouse" but Manny was looking offspeed. No offspeed here, just heat. One out. Suddenly, Dotel gets wild and walks Ortiz. Kevin Millar strides to the plate, looking to atone for the two errors. Dotel gets him to a count of two and two, working the first baseman with inside fastballs. Then, a slip. A fastball across the middle of the plate and a crack of the bat, climbing, climbing...my arms are now raised over my head in victory salute as the ball hits the top of the Green Monster, just below the light tower and KEVIN MILLAR HAS WON THE BALLGAME. Incredible ending. Watching the replay from NESN today, Don Orsillo's voice gives me estatic little chills. The Sox are now 20 and 13, 1.5 games back from the first place Orioles and in place for their second sweep of the season. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

David Wells thinks he'll be back by the end of the month. Less injured the better and this news is certainly good news, especially with the way Boomer was pitching right before he hurt himself. The Sox pitching has been so hot lately that having another good starter in the mix will not only relieve the stress of performance on individual pitchers but will probably also pull Wells back up to where he belongs as well. I was wrong about Cla Meredith; apparently he's supposed to stay around in the majors for a bit. After Sunday's grand slam, he ditched number 51 (Byung Hung Kim's old number) and chose number 40 instead. Curse of the BK, maybe?

Sox are leading the ninth against Oakland, going for the sweep, although I probably won't get a chance to write about it until later/tomorrow. Let's just say that Matt Clement is joining Bronson "Guns and Streams of Corn" Arroyo in the pantheon of the gods. GO SOX!!!

* - I don't know if they even use this term on the professional level, but one thing I do remember from playing various levels of little league was that it was always better to be the home team, irrespective of what field you were actually playing on, because you got to bat in the bottom of the inning and get your lasties at the end of the game. It certainly helped for the Sox.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Games 29 - 32

Final Scores:

Game 29: Boston Red Sox 7, Seattle Mariners 2
Game 30: Boston Red Sox 6, Seattle Mariners 3
Game 31: Boston Red Sox 4, Seattle Mariners 6
Game 32: Boston Red Sox 13, Oakland Athletics 5

The major highlights of the past few days:
  1. Rain sucks. Especially when it's cold. Actually, it sucks more for me than it did for the Sox who took two out of three from Seattle, despite a rainout on Saturday that turned Sunday's contest into a day/night doubleheader.
  2. Wade Miller is going to be everything advertised. Six strikeouts, three hits, two runs and one walk in five innings...in the cold rain. If he was healthy enough to pitch a full game, the Sox probably wouldn't have lost the night game, but I'm not complaining.
  3. The Sox pitching staff is pretty amazing right now...and they're still technically short handed. I may be saying this in part because Arroyo is pitching tonight and I'm starting to worship the ground he walks on (and he's only 28!), but the starting pitching especially has really pulled off some miracles in this eight for ten hot streak.
  4. It kinda sucks to be Cla (rhymes with "may not be ready yet") Meredith right now. Sped through the minors, called up to the majors to fill a bullpen spot in place of Blaine "the Sox got the poor end of the Hyzdu trade" Neal, who was designated for assignment along with his 9.00 ERA and then give up a grand slam to Richie Sexson and a stiff wind. Of course, Meredith was only meant to be up for one appearance (to further his development) and he gave up a game winning hit...but he's being touted so highly by Theo and Tito that I'm sure he'll be back in better form later.
  5. The Athletics gave up nine unearned runs last night, including five after first baseman Scott Hatteberg made two errors in the same play. I'm sure pitcher Danny Haren was thrilled that his ERA wasn't effected, but the A's certainly seem to have lost a lot of their luster over the past season and change. Kevin Millar also finally broke his homerun drought with his career high 112th at bat. Fenway works miracles for the faithful, I tell ya.
  6. In a team where "walking wounded" is starting to become a bit too common of a phrase (especially this early in the year) Manny Ramirez seems to be developing his own special category of injured. Last night he was hit in the shoulder and head by an 81 MPH Danny Haren breaking ball in the first inning and had to leave the game. Sunday, he took a Joel Pineiro pitch on the left knee during the first game and was out until the end of game two. And, of course, there was the ankle twisting thing in Detroit. Ramirez did not suffer a concussion after the latest incident, but it would be nice if the Sox version of the Bash Brothers could get back together and go back to doing what they do best.
Arroyo versus Saarloos tonight for the second game of the series. I'm going to do my darndest to actually listen to this one; I'm really starting to look forward to day games during the week because I know I'll get to listen to them. Ah well...GO SOX!!!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Game 28

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Detroit Tigers 1

"The man is guns and corn."
- Robin. Even though on the surface this statement seems to be a comment on the sources of Bronson Arroyo's first and last names (Charles Bronson and the Spanish word for corn*), it really means he throws a hella ballgame. Robin's deep like that.

Three hits. One run. Two walks. Eight strikeouts. Eight innings, six and 1/3 of them with no hits. One sweet, sweet victory (number four) for Bronson Arroyo. The kid with the sometimes cornrows could do almost no wrong for most of the game, helped out by a nice grab by Millar which saved a hit from squirting down the first base line. The Sox scored first in the second. Nixon singled (one of four), Varitek doubled, moving Nixon to third. Renteria tried to lay down a bunt and ended up hitting the ball off of his finger, bruising it (yeah, I was pretty surprised too). He left the game for x-rays. With Payton in the lineup so Manny could take a night off and rest his ankle, which he turned running after a double on Wednesday, Ramon Vasquez came in to pinch hit. Despite Vasquez's aching quad muscle, he singled in Nixon then went on to play shortstop for the rest of the game.

In the seventh, the no hitter was spoiled when Arroyo hung an offspeed pitch and Carlos Guillen sent it the other way, over the rightfield wall near the foul pole for a solo homerun. Arroyo gave up another two hits over the course of the seventh and eighth. In the ninth, with the score still tied, Alan Embree started warming and it looked like we would be heading into extra innings. Then Nixon singled for the fourth time and Ortiz, who has been slumping recently and has never had much luck against pitcher Ugeth Urbina, smacked a double to deep right. The rightfielder had difficulty playing the carrom and Nixon, who was digging it (and thanking God for that healthy leg) scored from first. Foulke came in for a perfect ninth and all turned out well. Sox are now in second place, half a game up on the Blue Jays and two and a half behind the first place Orioles.

Matt Clement faces off against Jamie Moyer tonight in Fenway, the start of a homestand versus the Mariners and Athletics until next Wednesday. With three straight wins and a five and two record on the most recent roadtrip, Clement's perfect 3 - 0 record, Moyer's perfect 4 - 0 record and Seattle's relative misfortunes in the AL West promise for an exciting game...which I'll be missing, because I'll be on a bus. A bus to the Boston area, though, so maybe there will be radio updates available. GO SOX!!!

* - Except, of course, that arroyo means stream, not corn; Babelfish told me so. Of course, Robin is a frequent feature in this blog for two reasons: first, his insight and second, his amusing statements. I guess if you don't get one, you get the other.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Game 27

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Detroit Tigers 3

Mike Maroth's problem was walks. Nate Robertson's problem was hits. Nine of them over six and two thirds innings, all singles. The Sox bunched enough of them together in the third to get three runs (incredible how many singles it takes to score three runs) and were helped by an error by Brandon Inge, who is still getting used to playing at third. Wakefield had a good night, giving up three runs over seven innings and the wind was blowing in, so for the most part his knuckleball danced, striking out five. Johnny Damon's hitting streak is up to eleven and Kevin Youkilis continues to tear the cover off the ball, knocking in the game winning RBI in the eighth off of Kyle Farnsworth. Renteria, for all the talk of him being the anti-Tejada, made an incredible play in deep short, gunning down a batter at first with an off-balance throw that made it to first without a bounce. He keeps doing that and we'll all be eating crow. Wakefield is now fifth on the all time wins list for the Sox and Timlin has gone eight straight appearances without a run (sounds like the Timlin of old...). The Red Sox are four and two on the roadtrip.

I was switching between Gameday Audio and ESPN last night, depending on the activity. This was after going to the gym and wishing on the way back that I had one of those XM radios to get a high quality, portable broadcast. It's incredible how much lag there is between Gameday Audio and ESPN; we're talking a good two or three pitches worth of lag. Fortunately, the switch was reasonably pleasant otherwise; getting to watch instead of listen is nice, even if baseball is a very listenable game (with very descriptive announcers) and it was the ESPN crew that included Eric Karos and didn't include Joe Morgan, always a mercy.

Wade Miller is pitching Sunday! After five and two thirds innings, three runs and seven strikeouts in Pawtucket on Tuesday, Miller is ready to make his return and will be facing off against the Mariners. Jeremi Gonzalez will stay on in the rotation and John Halama will go back to the bullpen. It's possible we're coming out of the woods. Bronson Arroyo is defending his perfect three and nothing record in Detroit today. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Game 26

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Detroit Tigers 3

This was a fairly tense game until the fifth. A run in the first for the Sox. Matched by Detroit in their half of the inning. Lots of missed scoring chances by Boston against Detroit starter Mike Maroth, who gave up six walks and five hits. Detroit went up in the fourth against Halama with a run...and then Boston loaded the bases and Doug Mirabelli uncorked on a thigh-high pitch and drove it over the right field fence for a grand slam. It was a bit like Manny's homerun in Boston, although not nearly as long, you knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat, even on the radio. It was, of course, right after Joe and Jerry were talking about how Mirabelli hasn't had that hot of a start, especially after a career year in '04 where he was probably the most dangerous backup catcher, if not one of the most dangerous pinch hitters, that the homerun occured, but ain't that always the way?

You're probably wondering why Mirabelli was playing when Wakefield wasn't pitching. Heck, with a little more information, you might wonder why the beloved backup catcher was the designated hitter. Blame Bob Watson, who felt it meet that Trot Nixon serve a two game suspension for his role in the Tampa Bay fracas. Yes, two games. Bob Watson is a Nazi. Nixon was going to appeal the decision, but with the Sox facing lefties last night and tonight, chose to serve the suspension when it would be convenient for the team. As in Tampa Bay, of course Nixon's sacrifice was the Red Sox gain, with yet another grand slam doing the job. David Ortiz had his first night off all season (also lefty-related) and so Mirabelli came in to do the DH job.

I admit, I shut the game off after that. New domestic arrangements have made it more difficult to listen to games in their entirety and I decided it would be a better idea to have dinner without one ear on the game. Foulke gave up a homerun to Marcus Thames in the ninth, but got the three outs to get the save and the Sox are now 3.5 games back of first. ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball tonight, Wakefield versus Robertson. Love that TV thing...GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Games 22 - 25

Final Scores:

Game 22: Boston Red Sox 2, Texas Rangers 7
Game 23: Boston Red Sox 9, Texas Rangers 2
Game 24: Boston Red Sox 6, Texas Ranger 5
Game 25: Boston Red Sox 3, Detroit Tigers 8

I think this weekend could be described as "wild and woolly." Actually, in my case, it WAS a wild and woolly weekend, but that's a separate story. The wildness in this case was the pitching: Wakefield fell apart in the seventh against Texas in Game 22, Foulke gave up two runs in Game 24 and Neal and Embree gave up a combined five runs last night against the Tigers. The woolly was the various happenings: the series win against Texas was the first one since 2000; the Sox signed John Olerud to a minor league deal and Dave McCarty is now out on waivers; last night was the Red Sox debut of pitcher of Jeremi Gonzalez, who gave up three runs and struck out seven over six innings.

My wild and woolly was a five day, five game, five ballpark tour serving as a bachelor party for my friend Alan, who is getting married next month. While the Sox had their night off on Thursday, Alan and I were in the Bronx with Micah, watching the Yankees fall to the Angels. On Friday, as the Sox fell apart in the face of the Texas assault, we saw the Nationals (who are now my second favorite team) beat the Mets in DC with Alan's friend Chris. The next day the three of us went off to Baltimore (
beautiful park there) and watched the Orioles beat the tar out of the Devil Rays. Even though the practical part of me wanted Baltimore to lose (since they're in first place and all), it was nice to see Lance Carter tagged for not one, but two homeruns. On Sunday, we went to Philadelphia and saw Josh Beckett inexplicably fall apart in the first inning. The Phillies went on to win the game eight to six, but the game also featured such wonders as Dontrelle Willis pinch hitting for Beckett just to get a hit and score a run, the voice of Satan on the loudspeaker announcing a foul ball and the Philly Phanatic flying in on a helicopter. Last night, Alan, Robin and I waited in the cold and the rain (alright, less in the rain, since we were sheltered under one of the decks, but it was cold) for the Mets and Phillies to do battle at Shea. It was completely worth it - we watched the whole game from right behind home plate, had an excellent time cheering on the Mets and even ended up on TV during highlights on a local news station. I finally got to see Pedro pitch again. Beautiful. There really is nothing like chanting "Pedro!" madly, over and over again, with about 10,000 other people, pulling for a strikeout. Also, lest I forget, Jose Offerman pinch hit for the Phillies last night. Taunting him was one of the other highlights of the night.*

The entire time, of course, I was representing the home colors, bringing around the World Series hat (and the Shirt to the games at Baltimore and Philly), staring intently at the out of town scoreboard in each park and even watching Game 23 on a TV in ESPN Zone in Baltimore. We even got into a jeering match with a group of drunk Orioles fans in a different section at Camden Yards. Apparently they think "Who's Your Daddy" still applies to the Sox...I had to remind them that Pedro now pitches for the Mets and that being in first place in April isn't that great of a feat.

Overall, things aren't too bad on the Red Sox front, although Schilling gave an interview on WEEI where he said that the chemistry of '04 (and '03 for that matter) is gone with Gabe Kapler, Dave Roberts, Dave McCarty and Derek Lowe. He also said the ankle is healing, but that's to be expected. Wade Miller also has one more rehab start in Pawtucket before he should be ready, which is excellent news. Kevin Youlkilis is back up in the majors and kicking ass and taking names, which rocks the party that rocks the body. The chemistry thing is, well, worrisome. The team wasn't exactly broken up and on-the-paper improvements were certainly made, but I've certainly heard thoughts from websites like Boston Dirt Dogs and from friends that there's a big risk that the team isn't the same and that the old chemistry that made the teams of the past two years so special is gone. Again, it's a little early to call it one way or another, but bad chemistry could be a killer later. Sox and Tigers going on right now, getting interesting again. GO SOX!!!

* - Jose Offerman (or Jose Awfulman, as he was not so affectionally reffered to) predates this blog, but he was one of those terrible players who dogged the Sox at the end of the '90s. His departure for somewhere else (and wherever it was, it didn't really matter) was a gift from God, greater even than having BK Kim go to Colorado. SOOOO good to taunt him while Pedro got him to fly out. Robin even suggested (quite loudly, of course) that Pedro beam him, which wasn't such a bad idea.