Thursday, June 30, 2005

Game 77: The Stoppers

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Cleveland Indians 2

I ended up going with the NESN broadcast and for the first time this season had a well pitched game by a Boston pitcher on display on my computer for my viewing pleasure. In my lazy and hung over state, I elected to work from home yesterday, giving me the power of TWO computers at my disposal. So, with the desktop in front of me completely devoted to full screen Red Sox broadcast, I was able to happily putter away on laptop and watch the festivities.

Now, while I'm glad the Sox won, this game was also a pretty good contest - both starters kept runs and hits to a minimum until the sixth, when the Sox offense had one of its characteristic explosions; an explosion small enough to keep the game interesting, but also big enough to win.

But Wakefield and Mirabelli, man...I think it was in the postgame show, Dennis Eckersly made a comment to Tom Caron about how the two of them come in every five days and make a lot of noise. Yesterday, Wake had two knucklers that went flat and ended up over the wall in left and enough pitches that were off target enough to end up with four walks, but still got three strikeouts, scattered five hits and only allowed those two runs over seven innings.

Mirabelli was key to the explosion in the sixth: in the fourth, Boston drew first blood with a double by Nixon, a walk by Mueller and an RBI single by John Olerud, who started at first yesterday and continues to tear things up every time he plays, going 2 for 4 and keeping his average at .405. The Indians tied it up with a homerun by Casey Blake in the fifth and went ahead 2 - 1 with a homerun by Victor Martinez
in the sixth. After Wake got out of the inning, the Sox came back with a vengeance: Manny hit a massive double in the centerfield corner of the Green Monster and Nixon scored him with his second double of the game, tying things up for Mirabelli, who came in and launched a bomb over the left field wall and on to Lansdowne Street. Bellhorn, inspired by his example, came up next and made the score 5 - 2 with a solo shot into the right field stands.

After that, it was a matter of holding the fort until the game was over. After six straight balls in the eighth and a talking to by Dave Wallace, Matt Mantei got the next three batters on two fly balls and a strikeout. Ironically enough, the end of the balls also came after NESN played a portion from a Mantei interview with Eckersly where Matt said his control wasn't completely back and his velocity still down because he hadn't entirely relaxed on the mound. Timlin pitched the ninth to give Keith Foulke - who's a bit of a persona non grata in Fenway right now - the day off. After giving up two hits, Timlin got a strikeout, a groundout and a fly out to get his first save of the year and avoid the sweep at home.

Curt Schilling had a successful rehab start with the Paw Sox in South Carolina last night, giving up five hits, one walk and one run in five innings and striking out three. Because Schilling's rehab starts all seem to have some sort of introspection involved - it's never just, "I had a good start, I made some progress" - the ace felt that he really worked through some questions in the second and third inning and started making real progress in the fourth and fifth innings. Pitching has been viewed as science since the days of Harry Wright in the nineteenth century, but Schilling always manages to inject a bit of mysticism into the process. Of course, this is the guy with the Everquest addiction, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. In any case, Schilling is reserving judgment on how many more rehab starts he'll need before he can come back, even though I keep hearing he'll return right before the All Star break. In a way, his reticence makes sense - he's already tried to come back once this year and didn't have much luck and the Sox, although they've done very well in the first half of the season, will need Schilling back and pitching well to keep their hold on their AL East in the second half. If that means waiting until after the break to come back to the rotation, I'm cool with that.

The Sox are off tonight, preparing for the Toronto season this weekend when they get to face the trio of Jays' top pitchers: Lilly on Friday versus Honest Abe, Chacin on Saturday versus the Golden Buddha and Halladay on Sunday versus Guns and Corn.* Toronto may be a .500 team right now, but they've beaten the Sox six out of eight times this year, so it would be good to at least win this series, if not sweep. Orioles and Yankees were rained out last night, so the Sox are back up to two games over the AL East. GO SOX!!!

* - I observed to one of my coworkers that I've given three Red Sox pitchers nicknames that sound like names pro wrestlers would use. She thought about it for a moment, then said that she had been referring to David Wells as Fatty Arbuckle, but that she hadn't been able to get it to catch on.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Game 76: Foulked Up

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Cleveland Indians 12

One thing about TV: it makes me angry very easily, because I can see for myself what's going on; no intermediaries who can't say terrible things about the umpire or the players, no commentators for major networks who are obligated to sound neutral in their description. Just pure, moderately unadulterated clarity of vision. Like last night, when I tuned into, only to find that the $50 I paid does NOT guarantee me NESN. No, instead I had the smarmy remarks of the FSN Ohio broadcasters, who were already jumping for joy before the game even started. Then Miller started to pitch.

I know there are people out there who hate QuesTec, but within the first few pitches I was wishing Fenway Park was QuesTec equipped - the umpire may have said Miller threw five balls to start the game, but at least two of those "balls" were strikes. Within minutes it was 2 - 0 Indians and by the second inning, Aaron Boone (of all people) made it 3 - 0 with a Green Monster homerun.

Thinking that I am truly jinxing games by watching them (and getting a little tired of FSN) I switch to audio, only to find that Joe and Jerry have a booth guest: a woman from the Make a Wish Foundation. Now, this may make me sound like a heartless bastard, but I hate charity booth guests. Why do I hate them? Because they're not there to watch the game - they're there to talk about their charity. Now, since I'm relying on the commentators to describe the game for me and the mic time is instead taken up with someone talking about their cause, with short updates from Joe or Jerry about the progress of the game, all continuity is lost. I can't focus on what's happening, or imagine the scene. The worst was when one guest was so insistent on getting all her ideas out that she tried to cut Joe off when he gave an update on a hit that resulted in runs being scored against the Red Sox. That's why I hate charity booth guests.

Now, since I have the option of switching, I just go back to TV, but turned the volume off this time. An inning ends and I go eat dinner, coming back about 15 minutes later for the start of the rally in the fifth. Lots of first pitch swinging again, but this time balls are dropping when they should, or going deep enough to advance/score runners. Taking up an invitation to go to Robin's place, my girlfriend and I leave the house and take the ten minute subway ride.

When we get there, it's the bottom of the sixth and the guns have started up again. Robin, who is watching the whole thing on Gameday is in a state (possibly brought on by the heat in his place): dancing around, jumping up and down, screaming things like "Guh-guh-
guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh!" every time the Sox score another run. By the time Cliff Lee (who really does alternate between seven inning two run starts and five inning four or five run starts), Arthur Rhodes and Matt Miller combine to get three outs, the score is 8 - 5 in favor of Boston. We commence drinking and playing cards (an excellent activity for a work night), availing ourselves of the occasional update. Myers gets through 2/3rds of the seventh with only one hit. Timlin finishes the seventh, but only makes it through 2/3rds of the eighth before giving up three hits. Foulke comes on and by the time the eighth is over, it looks like it's going to be another close save - the Tribe have scored two more, making it 8 - 7, Sox.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Sox fail to pull off anything further against Miller and out comes Foulke again, to try and get one of those 1 - 2 - 3 innings that he's been getting with increasing regularity this month. No dice - Foulke gives up the tying run to the number nine hitter, then a grand slam to Grady Sizemore before finally getting the last out. It might not be all Foulke's fault, though - apparently the umpire's strike zone was on the fritz again and we might have escaped with the game tied. No rally in the bottom of the ninth against Bob Wickman and the game is over. Bah.

Hanley Ramirez was up at the Sox clubhouse two days ago,* taking in the sights, hanging out with Manny, Ortiz and Renteria and wishing he could jump straight to the big time. Clearly his visit isn't much more than a fluff story - until you read in the Globe that Renteria, who has had an especially close relationship with Ramirez since spring training, said without any prompting that he'd be willing to give up his shortstop position to Ramirez and play another position. Besides being incredibly generous, a move like that would set up some very interesting possibilities - Mueller, Bellhorn and Millar are all free agents at the end of the season. With an up and coming second baseman in Dustin Pedroia (currently in AAA) and Kevin Youkilis now able to play first, an infield of Youkilis, Pedroia, Ramirez and Renteria (at third) is a possibility. Of course, since Ramirez looks like he'll be in AA for a bit longer (
.269 batting average with only two home runs and 22 RBIs in 57 games), the confluence of the stars might not happen. What's more, there are still rumors that Ramirez will be converted into a center fielder to stave off the Scott Boras assault this winter when Johnny Damon's contract comes up, so Renteria may stay at short for a while yet. Interesting to contemplate, though.

1:00 game today, hopefully with the NESN broadcast this time - although I see that ESPN is carrying the game as well. Tim Wakefield will be trying to get his fourth straight quality start and avoid the sweep, going up against Scott Elarton. GO SOX!!!

* -
Thanks to Joy of Sox for the heads up

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Game 75: Let's Pretend This One Didn't Happen

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 0, Cleveland Indians 7

"When stuff like that happens to Trot, I don't go ask him. He'll wring somebody's neck."
- Terry Francona

Yeesh. My friend Micah has a rule about betting on baseball: don't bet on the team who's won more than five in a row...and last night was a good example of why. Not a good night in Red Sox Land - after three scoreless innings, Arroyo suddenly couldn't pitch, giving up seven runs in 4 and 2/3rds innings and three costly walks. Even when he was hitting the strike zone, the pitches weren't breaking properly and two of them ended up over the wall in the seventh.

In the field, the defense took the night off: Bellhorn had a double play throw from Mueller bounce off his glove, leading to the first two runs; a fly ball to Nixon in the seventh glanced off his glove and into the bullpen for Grady Sizemore's two run homer (it's ok Trot, you're still a walking highlight play) and in the ninth, Ramon Vasquez, who came on for Bellhorn (Francona was in scrubs mode), let a routine ground ball go between his legs. Ugly.

And finally, the offense was checked out too - swinging at first pitches, striking out (eight total), flying out (twelve total), grounding out (seven total), not being able to hit period, let alone with men on base. Three hits and two walks for the night with nothing to show for it. Not so good. Since I tuned into NESN right around when Arroyo fell apart, my record with so far is one close win, two losses and every time I've tuned in, the pitching goes south almost immediately, I'm starting to wonder if I should see if offers refunds. Law of averages should catch up soon, though.

The positives: Damon had one of those three hits, so his hitting streak is alive and well at fourteen games. The Yankees beat the Orioles, so we're still 2.5 games up on first. Arroyo hit Aaron Boone on the hand and the face with the same pitch (woo! sour grapes) and Tito supplied the quote of the day (see above). Wade Miller will go up against Cliff Lee tonight for rematch number two and attempt to regain the glory. GO SOX!!!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Games 72 - 74: First Place, Baby

Final Scores:

Game 72: Boston Red Sox 8, Philadelphia Phillies 0
Game 73: Boston Red Sox 7, Philadelphia Phillies 1
Game 74: Boston Red Sox 12, Philadelphia Phillies 8

Sometimes, it's good to be wrong. Like when you expect a .500 roadtrip and get two sweeps in a row. With a flawless performance from Wakefield, who's had excellent starts since Mirabelli came off the DL (not giving up an earned run in 22 innings) on Friday and Honest Abe's ninth win, a seven hit, seven inning, four strikeout effort on Saturday, the stage was set for yesterday's showdown.

I was wrong about the starting time so I missed everthing up to the fifth, when my buddy Alan called me to find out if I had seen the fireworks so far - Manny hitting his 19th career grand slam, David Wells legging out a single, scoring an RBI in the process and later coming home and of course, pitching like the Golden Buddha should. The score at the time was 8 - 1, so I tuned in, expecting a rollover for an easy victory.

Now, earlier this season I had toyed with the idea of getting and ended up balking at the cost, opting for Gameday Audio instead. Normally, I would have fired up Joe and Jerry without a second thought, but I've been toying with upgrading...and was provided with an excuse when my girfriend had to use my laptop to do some research because her computer wasn't cooperating. She was trying to concentrate, so she needed quiet; she was working in our living room, where my computer is, so sound was not an option and I'm lazy, so I didn't want to plug headphones into my desktop. $50 later, video to the rescue.

Of course, right away it was starting to look like a repeat of the game against the Cardinals that I had watched on - as soon as I turned on the broadcast, Boomer starts giving up runs, walking people and generally not pitching the way he had the previous four innings. He made it through the fifth, but the score was now 8 - 5. The offense, which had already gone through its five run explosion in the fourth wasn't adding anything. Mantei, surprisingly enough, made it through the sixth with only a walk, but in the seventh the Phillies picked up three off of Embree and Timlin, right after I had to wonder what the game would be like it got closer, say like within a run or two.

Now, I know there are a lot of Embree haters out there, but for once this wasn't entirely his fault - he did give up a single and a walk, but would have gotten one, if not two outs had Ramon Vasquez, who was playing for Renteria on his day off not let a groundball through his legs. Embree went on, with the help of Timlin, to give up three runs, two of them earned and the game was tied when the Sox came up in the eighth...for literally all of three minutes. Johnny Damon, who now has a thirteen game hitting streak, hit a single. Mark Bellhorn, batting second and going a surprising 3 for 4, smacked his eighteenth double of the year and Damon flew around the basepaths to score: 9 - 8 Sox. Bellhorn came home on a sac fly by Manny and then Varitek crushed a two run homer to center to make it 12 - 8. Timlin was scoreless for the eighth and Foulke had another easy outting, completing the sweep. As an added bonus, the Orioles are in a five game slide - after surrendering first place to the Sox on the 24th (happy birthday to me), they're now in second place, 2.5 games back.

Damon's flight around the basepaths in the eighth makes for an interesting contrast with the experience of the starting pitchers on both sides of field - David Wells vented to reporters after the game that the dimensions of Citizens Bank park are small enough to raise a pitcher's ERA to a five or six, while Phillies' starting pitcher Brett Myers could be clearly seen on camera asking how Manny's grand slam had managed to leave the park. Citizen's Bank: old school look and feel, new school dimensions.

The triumphant return to Fenway tonight for the Arroyo/Millwood rematch. The Sox will be home against the Indians and Toronto before heading on the road again. The current hot streak (12 for their last 13, seven wins in a row, playing like the champions they are) couldn't come at a better time - the June swoon is headed off at the pass and Boston is entering the stretch where most of the games will be at home. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Game 71: Sweepsville

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Cleveland Indians 4

See Wade, that's pretty much what I was talking about. Two runs, six hits, four strikeouts, five innings. Three walks isn't so hot and definately contributed to that 112 pitch count, but overall Miller kept the Sox in a game on a night when Cliff Lee was in his two run, seven inning mode.

After Miller left, the bullpen had its usual spate of difficulties - two singles off Embree in the seventh and neither Myers nor Timlin could hold the runners. Fortunately, we're in the midst of a hot streak right now, so the offense was able to pick up the slack, picking up a run in the seventh with Olerud's first homerun with the Sox and another two in the eighth with a set of singles from Millar, Ramirez, Olerud and Mueller and some base running help from Johnny Damon, resting his rotator cuff last night. In the ninth, center fielder Grady Sizemore misplayed a Jay Payton double, allowing Payton to go to third on the play. Edgah, up next, seized the opportunity and hit a double of his own, knocking in Payton for the winning run. An eight pitch ninth from Foulke closed it out and the Sox pulled off the first sweep of the Indians in Jacobs Field since 1999.

The Sox promoted Dustin Pedroia, hot second base prospect, from AA to AAA yesterday. Looking at the Sox top prospects, there are some names that have excited a fair amount of interest and it looks like the Sox will have good players coming through the system for a while. Although the Sox only have one player (Hanley Ramirez) in the top ten of Baseball America's 2005 Top 100 Prospects list, the Front Office's commitment to building a farm system begs an interesting question: what happens to players like Ramirez, Pedroia, Jon Papelbon and Anabel Sanchez when and if they make it in the big leagues? Although team President and CEO Larry Lucchino called the Yankees an Evil Empire because they have the reputation of winning exclusively on the back of talent they picked up somewhere else, Boston certainly had more than a taste of that out-of-town success last year, winning it all with only one home-grown player, Trot Nixon and continuing it this year with the signings of Edgar Renteria, David Wells, Matt Clement, Wade Miller and John Halama. Clearly, Theo will have to balance bringing up a farmhand and gaining the moral high ground with doing what's necessary to win championship titles, which is the whole point of the exercise.

Sox have the night off tonight and start a three game set tomorrow in Philadelphia for the last of 2005 interleague play, with Wakefield facing off against former Yankee Jon Lieber. Lieber has a mixed overall record against Boston (4.19 ERA and a .240 opposing batting average), but did well against the Sox last fall. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Game 70: Big Papi's House

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Cleveland Indians 2

"Right now it's Ortiz: four, the Indians: nothing"
- The Cleveland TV broadcasters after David's second homerun

Guns and Corn was on last night for his second start in a row and its looking like he's recovered from his post-suspension funk. Seven innings, four hits, one walk, four's going to be a real tragedy if he has to be sent bullpen-side when Schilling comes back. Of course, with the exception of Miller, who's still shaky, the starters have been solid gold ever since the last game against the Cubs. Assuming Curt's progress is as good as he thinks it is, he should be back in full form the game before the All Star break, so decision time is looming. In a way, that will make Wade Miller's start tonight that much more important - if he can start getting not only wins (three out of his last four starts) but lowering that ERA, he's got a better chance of not being bullpen bound.

But all of Arroyo's pitching would have been as wasted as Wakefield's performance last Saturday if not for the offense, led by Big Papi: a two run homerun, a solo shot and sacrifice fly all off Kevin Millwood, who gave Ortiz two outside fastballs that ended up over the wall in the deepest part of the park. And let us not forget Manny, who took an inside fastball that just wasn't inside enough and drove it off the signs in left field for a two run rocket in the ninth. The Latino Longball League strikes again.

In the eighth, John Halama came on to hold the 7 - 1 lead and got an out before giving up three singles. With the bases loaded, Ben Broussard comes up to try and spark a rally. Halama gets a 0 and 1 count before giving him a low inside fastball that Broussard crushes to right...and Nixon makes an INCREDIBLE Michael Jordan-style leaping catch, slamming into the wall and saving the ball from going off the wall, if not over over the fence. The Indians get a run on the sacrifice, but Halama finished out the inning without any further trouble. A walk from Mantei in the ninth was the last chance the Indians had and then it was all over. Even though a grand slam would not have tied the game up, it could have sparked a potentially larger rally (like, say, what the Yankees pulled last night) and at the very least forced Mike Timlin to come on and put out the fire instead of resting his arm, so the psychological value of that catch was huge.

Tonight the Sox go for their second sweep in three series and try for their ninth win in the past ten games with Wade Miller against Cliff Lee. Lee's had two starts against Boston in the past, going 1 and 1 with .189 opposing average. Rob Zeitz has a pretty good line on this game, although I doubt Francona will start Mirabelli just because of his bat. Tek is still batting about .430 against lefties and is Miller's normal catcher. Changing that might throw Miller off his concentration, which would be far more disasterous than Varitek not hitting well tonight. We'll see if it's the five inning or the seven inning Lee who shows up tonight. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Game 69: They Just Wouldn't Die

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Cleveland Indians 9

Good recaps courtesy of The Joy of Sox and The House that Dewey Built. I was about ready to tune out by the eighth inning...the Sox were up by five runs and I was apparently under the misapprehension that we were still in Fenway where bullpen problems are much less frequent. Clearly, I had not counted on the Indians, who went to score four runs in two innings off our benighted bullpen and made the save a bit more whiteknuckled than I would have originally expected or desired.

Actually, I'm being unfair. I missed out on FOX/ESPN broadcast, so I don't know how much squeezing was going on, but the Indians managed to tarnish the Golden Buddha a bit with 10 hits, four runs and two walks. Given his recent performances, it sounds like Wells was being squeezed pretty heavily, but he only lasted five innings. C. C. Sabathia fared much worse - nine runs on nine hits in 4 and 2/3rds innings as both Manny and V-Tek hit three-run jacks. Manny enjoyed his return to Cleveland, going 3 for 5 with four RBI and two runs.

As for the bullpen problems, it's the Indians. At home. Coming off a nine game winning streak. To expect that Boston would shut them down completely is unrealistic. Although last night's last two innings were even more unnerving than the first four, when the Indians kept pulling out leads, Embree did get two strikeouts to go along with that homerun and Foulke got one to go along with the dinger he gave up. It was a cause for excitement, not panic and dismay.

Game 2 tonight, with Guns and Corn against Kevin Millwood. Hopefully the nasty breaking balls will be on, the strikezone squeeze will be off and Boston can stop the Tribe's bats cold. GO SOX!!!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Games 66 - 68: Bucin' A Right

Final Scores:

Game 66: Boston Red Sox 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 5
Game 67: Boston Red Sox 0, Pittsburgh Pirates 2
Game 68: Boston Red Sox 8, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

A little bit of Priest, a little bit of graduation and a little bit of The Dark Knight and I end up missing pretty much all of all three games, so recaps here instead: Game 66, Game 67 and Game 68. I will say that during the party for that graduation on Saturday I did nip off a few times to check the score using Gameday and called Mantei giving up that run. That he, Embree (excellent performance yesterday notwithstanding) and Halama were at the center of the scoring debacle is not surprising to me, but of the three I feel that Mantei is the most expendable for three reasons:
  • Neither Embree nor Halama had worked in several days. They were rusty. Embree came in and hit a batter with a pitch and although that man came around to score, the scoring was just as much the responsibility of Mantei for not getting strikeouts when it would have been timely.
  • Halama was put in the wrong situation (again): mop up, long reliever guy put in as a stopper. Now it's true that Timlin has pitched a lot recently, but aren't you counting your chickens a bit by assuming you're going to need him in extra innings? Should you be relying on your long reliever in an extra innings situation at all? Wouldn't you go through Timlin and Foulke first and hope that some of the Sox offense figured out what the Pirates were throwing that day?
  • I still have this weird feeling Embree will pull out of his slump. Call me crazy.
Also, who the heck is Dave Williams? We dropped his ERA by a third of a run on Saturday. Woo. Although I suppose after Dave Borkowski last year, I shouldn't be surprised.

The mental image of Big Papi running a triple is hillarious, made even funnier by Francona's description of his return to the dugout.

Jay Payton wants out, but the ESPN rumor mill (quoting Peter Gammons) says that Gabe Kapler is interested in coming back from Japan. Since the site is subscribers only, I'll quote here:

"There is a good chance Gabe Kapler will return from Japan and rejoin the Red Sox, ESPN's Peter Gammons reports. Craig Shipley, assistant to GM Theo Epstein, is in Japan scouting, and one front office executive says he is working on a deal for Kapler's return."

Since Payton was signed as a Kapler replacement, the return of the Great Jewish Hope could be a good thing for the Sox - they get a fourth outfielder who wants to be there and can use Payton, who's been hot lately (six for his last eleven, four runs, three doubles, a homerun and two RBI) as trade bait for a quality right-handed reliever. Besides, who doesn't like Gabe Kapler? He was a good utility player, had decent speed and beat the crap out of Tanyen Sturze.

Golden Buddha tonight versus C. C. Sabathia for the start of a three game set in Cleveland. The Sox are on the road for the next two sets, then home again for another two, which is the pattern for games until the end of July. If the Sox can keep up a .500 road record and keep kickin' ass and takin' names at home, a playoff berth should be no problem. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Game 65: Nasty Little Sliders

Final Score

Boston Red Sox 6, Cincinnati Reds 1

It was clear to me that Aaron Harang was going to have trouble in this game when Arroyo struck out the side in the top of the second. It helped that he picked off Ryan Freel after walking him in the first (that was beautiful, by the way - check it out on the game summary page), but striking out the side cinched it. After that, the Sox started hitting doubles, scoring their first run in the third (a pair of doubles from Edgah and Big Papi) and exploding in the fifth with a two run double by Ortiz and a two run single by Bill Mueller. Ortiz's second double was pitched right to his low and outside power zone and he absolutely crushed it - weird off-balance homerun swing and all - but the wind knocked it down enough to hit the wall instead. Meanwhile, Arroyo was striking out eight, scattering six hits and shutting down the Cincinnati bats for third night in the row. Timlin and Foulke again combined for five strikeouts of flawless relief. The team ERA over the past four games is 1.15.

For his part, Harang did strike out seven batters, including Varitek three times (Tek is 0 - 6 lifetime again Harang, with a strikeout each at bat), got Nixon to ground into a double play and stranded 10 runners, but only lasted until the fifth after nine hits and five runs. Hopefully the cold weather in Boston doesn't continue, but even if it does, it's good that it hasn't cooled off the Sox bats.

The most important thing about this sweep, though, is not that the offense heated up and beat up on two mediocre pitchers and one good one, it's that the pitching staff held Cincinnati, with its .336 OPS (tenth in the MLB), .435 SLG (fifth in the MLB) and 323 runs (sixth in the MLB) to four runs on fifteen hits over the whole series. After a terrible run through the rotation last time (and very iffy efforts by the bullpen), it's an excellent thing that the pitching staff has pulled through its slump.

The Sox have the day off today, so I'll be without my fix tonight. Tomorrow night the Pirates come to town for the weekend and the close of this oh-so-short homestand. Wade Miller faces off with Josh Fogg at 7:05. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Game 64: Golden Buddha

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Cincinnati Red 0

Seven innings. One hit. Five strikeouts. Two walks. No runs. After four quality starts in a row, including two straight shutouts, Wells has acquired Golden God pitching status...but of course, since he's a fat, bald guy, the moniker Golden Buddha* is infinitely more appropriate.

I was a bit nervous for the Buddha when the game started, but as he kept setting down Reds and the Sox scored runs, it was more nervousness about losing the no-hitter than a worry about losing the start. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason why Ryan Freel hit that single in the sixth was because Alan called me to ask what was up with the announcers**, distracting me long enough for a hit to slip past my concentration. Because I've got psychic powers like that. Robin was of the opinion afterwards that the only reason why Buddha broke his streak of 20+ innings without a walk in the seventh was because he was tiring (he threw 110 pitches)...or maybe because of all of those batters he set down. Timlin came on in eighth and did his usual magic, striking out two in the process, followed by Foulke who had an easy 1-2-3 with a strikeout of his own. In other words, a flawless performance by the Boston pitching staff and the first combined one-hitter by Boston since 1990. I'm sure the bullpen is enjoying the rest.

On the hitting side of things, Manny hit his third homerun in as many games and Millar went 2 for 2 with a run. Clearly the 50 degree temperatures that beset Fenway yesterday hurt neither player's stroke; Francona described Manny's homerun as having been hit through the wind. Renteria and Mueller both grounded into double plays, but Mueller made up for his gaffe by driving in three runs on two hits and maintaining his .500 average (5 for 10) with the bases loaded this year. All around, with the exception of a weird inning where Damon grounded into a fielder's choice that was nearly a double play, followed by Edgah's DP to end the inning, the hitting was excellent. It's good to be home.

I realized during the game that this series features the league leaders in strikeouts for both the American League (Mark Bellhorn) and the National League (Adam Dunn). Clearly Dunn comes out better than old Ding-Honk in the head to head, since Dunn also leads the NL in walks and has a lot more homeruns, but I can imagine the two of them squaring off over who's more selective. Of course, since Dunn was a football players in college and Bellhorn looks like he'd gut you without a second thought, I'm not sure who'd win.

Interesting post on Surving Grady about what the team's rallying cry will be this year. Since both "Cowboy Up" and "The Idiots" didn't emerge until a bit after the All Star Break, it's likely the '05 Sox won't find their voice until late July at the earliest, but it's interesting to speculate on what's going to define this team. Another factor to consider is that both the '03 and '04 identities were born out of a desperation which doesn't exist this year. The Sox have been on an upward rising track ever since Theo became the GM; having achieved their goal of winning it all, they need to crystalize around the more difficult concept of winning it again and becoming a perenially successful powerhouse. These past few games (and heck, going .500 over the last set of tough games too) certainly speak well to that direction, as does the
immanent return of Schilling and the possibility of improving the bullpen through trading.

The tough game of the series tonight: Arroyo versus the Red's best pitcher, Aaron Harang (whose name is soon to be co-opted by a Swedish Prog-Rock group). Arroyo had a good start against Anaheim two starts ago (the one the bullpen blew open), but didn't do so well against the Cubs last time out. Harang has a 3.52 ERA, almost nine K/9, and a 1.10 WHIP...but three of his four losses were against St. Louis and Baltimore. Should be an interesting matchup. GO SOX!!!

* - Thanks to Robin
** - Joe Castiglione is out for two days because of his mother-in-law's death, so it was Jerry, one of the Red Sox execs who used to be an announcer in San Diego and a former member of the Angels who went to UMass Amherst. Not a bad job calling the game, truth be told.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Game 63: "Game 8"

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Cincinnati Reds 3

Ok, not Game 8; that would be rediculous. Even if Fisk was there, getting his own personal foul pole. When I turned on the game last night, the Sox were up 2 - 0 thanks to a two run double from Edgah, which completely fooled Red centerfielder Ryan Freel and I got the overwhelming feeling of good, like I knew that this game was not going to be one of missed opportunities and bad playing. Well, not on the Boston side, anyway. Right after I tuned in, the Sox easily pulled off a three run inning, going up 5 - 0. Key to that rally was another Reds miscue, when a wild throw by catcher Jose Valentin back to Eric Milton allowed Manny to advance from second to third. With two outs, Varitek singled him in, starting the scoring.

Manny was also in the center of another piece of wackiness - a hit in the sixth that went into the right field corner and appeared to be caught by Wily Mo Pena as he slammed into the wall...but the ball smacked off his glove and into the stands for a three run homerun. Manny gave the wall a "holy cow I can't believe that just happened" look and trotted around the bases for his second homerun in as many days.

The Railsplitter was deviously efficient, going eight solid innings with six hits, three runs, one walk and nine beautiful strikeouts on 107 pitches. In the ninth, Matt Mantei came out with a 10 - 3 lead, presumably to do some confidence building. He was a little wild at first, throwing a walk, but struck out two to end the game.

Tonight, game two: Wells versus Luke Hudson, making his second start off the DL. First time out Hudson gave up five runs off of three hits in six innings against Tampa Bay, but went on to get the win. I have a hunch that tonight, assuming Boomer continues to throw the way he's been throwing, that Hudson won't be so lucky this time around.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Game 62: He Just Needed His Catcher

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Chicago Cubs 1

...Or I need to stop watching/listening to games entirely. I missed another pitching/hitting gem, as Wakefield pitched a solid seven with one run, four hits, three strikeouts and no walks to get his fifth win. Johnny Damon was a single short of the cycle and Kevin Youkilis, playing for Ortiz on his night off, was a triple short of the cycle. Manny brought his homerun swing, ending his enormous drought...Robin described his double Saturday as "the best swing I've seen him take in a while" so maybe things are going to finally get back on track and we can look forward to a summer full of Manny points. Plus, the Sox are going back to Fenway tonight (finally) for a two series homestand against the Reds and the Pirates, so the momentum from yesterday might be maintained.

In what's presumably an attempt on the part of the front office to mark the return of the Reds to Fenway for the first time since the 1975 World Series as well as the historic Fisk Homerun, the left field foul pole will be renamed The Fisk Pole in a ceremony before tonight's game. Or, because people like balance and harmony, it'll probably be referred to as "Pudge's Poll" to match "Pesky's Pole" on the right side. Although the level of karma won't be quite the same as the home opener, Fisk and possibly Luis Tiant will be there for the ceremony, increasing the chances of Honest Abe getting revenge for '75 AND his last start all in one go. Clement has had an iffy record in the past against Cinncy, but then again, he didn't have Fenway behind him either. GO SOX!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Game 61: Prayer of the Fan

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Chicago Cubs 7

Oh Lord, listen to this our daily prayer: send us more Mike Timlins, who with his strong arm and outstretched hand doth smite the opponents of thy servant's team most mightily coming out of the bullpen. Make them swift in arrival, Lord and make at least one of them left-handed to strike down the left-armed. Do this speedily, Lord; this is thy humble servant's prayer.


Red Sox Nation

Recap here, thanks to Joy of Sox. Two runs in the eighth inning equals ouch is what it came down to for me yesterday. Now, for something completely different:

First, there's this interesting tidbit. Two things: first, it's good that Theo is on the case about finding a Matt Mantei replacement. It was an experiment (which God knows he's entitled to perform), it didn't work, he's going to find someone else. The rest of the bullpen is still an unknown factor, with the exception, of course, of Mike Timlin. Embree's fastball is still running flat, Mike Myers might be verging on overuse, Halama has been called into too many games this roadtrip because of bad starts and Foulke seems to be improving. Justin Neill has some interesting analysis that suggest hope is in the future. Second, to panic now is ludicrous. Yes, ludicrous. Two reasons: first, the Sox are on the verge of completing a set of series against four of the toughest teams in baseball (Orioles, Angels, Cardinals and Cubs) and two of those four series were in National League ballparks, where the Sox offense is shorthanded.. And, for the record, the Sox split the series with Baltimore and won the series against Anaheim. Give Boston a chance to play more at home and things will improve.

Then we've got this sweetmeat. Let's deconstruct: first, there are the reasons I gave up above about not panicking. Second, we don't need to trade for a first baseman; we have two. Our regular guy, Kevin Millar, has been on a tear recently: he's raised his average 20 points since the beginning of the month, has been four for his last eight with a .556 OBP...and this on a National League roadtrip, when he hasn't been playing lately. The backup/defensive replacement, John Olerud, who's also serving as Millar's Sword of Damocles, is hitting .364 with a .400 OPB over 22 at-bats. The keys are there; we don't need to switch them. Bill Mueller has been steadily raising his average since the beginning of May; he's up 40 points. Renteria had a pretty terrible series against St. Louis, but he's still hit in six of his last ten games and has a four game hitting streak going. Manny does need an intervention and Schilling's return will be a godsend, but it's not like it's September and the season is doomed. That leads me to my final point: it's June. You know, the time of the historical June swoon? Last year the Sox were terrible for about two months of the year, ended up many more games behind first place than they are now...and still won it all. Theo will make the moves he has to make, Schilling will come back, Manny will get his head back together and we'll go from there.

Tonight, 8:05, Wakefield versus Glendon Rusch to avoid the sweep. Wake is 0 and 5 since Mirabelli went on the DL. GO SOX!!!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Game 60: Lost in the Ivy

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Chicago Cubs 14

It was not a pleasant first visit to Wrigley for the Sox or us, the fans. Arroyo slipped from the second inning, Halama and Embree didn't have much of value to offer and for the most part, Greg Maddux was the unhittable Greg Maddux. By the sixth, with his win pretty much assured, Maddux could start really challenging hitters and gave up the first of two homeruns that David Ortiz hit today, but neither he nor his relief had much to worry about from the Sox offense.

It's the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cubs are up 11 - 3...and Francona pulls another one of his "I've given up on the game" moves. He takes out Varitek, who was 2 for 3 on the day and puts in Ramon Vasquez, takes out Renteria, who was 1 for 4 with an RBI and puts in Kelly Shoppach...and puts in Alan Embree, in whom he seems to have far too much faith. Either that, or he's punishing the guy by putting him into situations where innings need to be wasted. Even if that's the case, why take out good offense (especially Tek) for second stringers who haven't really shown much value? Vasquez didn't get any hits, Shoppach struck out twice and the Cubs teed off on Embree, who gave up three runs on five hits in one inning. The Sox don't play again until tomorrow afternoon, so there's no "early game" excuse. There were no reported injuries. It's not like the Sox have a terrible offense - with the pitching staff (especially the relief corps) struggling the way it has been lately, that offense should be encouraged to get runs back. It just doesn't make much sense to me.

Tomorrow afternoon it's Wade Miller versus Carlos Zambrano (the good Zambrano, as I've called him in the past), with Miller hoping to get the Sox back on track. Hopefully this weekend will not end up with Boston limping back home to Fenway after this difficult stretch of games. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Game 59: In Boomer We Trust

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, St. Louis Cardinals 0

I must confess to weakness: with the overwhelming humid heat crouched on New York since this past weekend and the West Coast-style 10:05 start, brought on because of a three hour rain delay, I went to bed after the fourth inning, a mere hour after the game started and, of course, missed a beauty of a ball game. That's why Al Gore* invented the Internet, though.

Matt Morris pitched a one run complete game in 103 pitches on Monday you say? Well, Boomer threw 94 pitches to get eight complete innings with four hits, two strikeouts, no walks and no runs. In fact, he only got to three balls once and there was never more than one base runner in any one inning. I'm salavating over here. Foulke gave up two hits to close it out, which means that the Cardinals scored a grand total of no runs throughout the ballgame...making the Red Sox the only team in Major League Baseball to have not been shut out this season. How appropriate is it for Boston to claim that crown away from St. Louis. I guess Cardinals fans will just have to wait for a shot at complete revenge for 2004. This game is also, if I remember correctly, the first time the Cardinals have been beaten at home in an interleague game.

Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter made his own solid effort until the sixth, when Lord Papi the Glorious hit a sinking fastball out for a solo shot. Nixon and Millar hit singles and the Cap'n smacked a two run double to make it 3 - 0. It didn't matter that nine men were left on base, or that the Sox hit into two more double plays, making a total of nine for the series. Those runs that scored were enough for the win.

The amusing thing about all this winning is Boomer's reaction, which is much like it was when he shut out Baltimore: the old man does it again. In a way, it's kind of appropriate: it's the middle of the draft, the Red Sox are picking up players between the ages of 18 and 21 to keep the juice in the farm system flowing and a guy who's 42, in the twilight of his career comes out and shuts down the best offense in NL like it's nothing. Even further,
the victory, as unimportant as it is to the season as a whole, had a nice psychological lift: a pitcher still starting to prove he's worthwhile to Red Sox fans (and if he wins his next one, especially in such dramatic fashion, he'll start to become a golden boy) coming in and shutting down a prime offense that had hurt much of the pitching staff. Boston can go into their next series with their heads held high.

Kevin Millar was in for Manny Ramirez last night, to take advantage of Kevin's recent hot streak. Pitching coach Ron Jackson mentioned mechanics as being the problem for Ramirez, who's gotten out of his slump, but is now hitting like a slap hitter: single, single, single. Certainly not a situation to get concerned over as of yet; on those days when the Sox do hit, there's power to spare until Manny becomes Manny again.

The Sox have one of those crazy "day off" things the kids are so wild about today and only have to make the trip to the North Side of Chicago for tomorrow's early (2:20 Eastern) matchup against the Cubs, the first in 87 years. You know, since the 1918 World Series. Bronson Arroyo versus Greg Maddux, for what should a pretty fun game. GO SOX!!!

* - Ha!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Game 58: St. Louis Blues

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, St. Louis Cardinals 9

I decided before the game started that I
really wanted to watch this one instead of listen to it, so I paid the $3.95 for rights to the game for the day on This move turned out to be a big mistake, as I have to say today was the angriest I've gotten at a Red Sox game since at least last July and I have a feeling that watching made it worse.

Right from the beginning, there was trouble. Johnny Damon singles...and then Renteria grounds into a double play, his first of two and one of three over all. The Sox only left six men on base tonight, because they were too busy doubling them off. In the bottom of the inning, Clement gives up a number of long outs and a two run homer to Jim Edmonds, all symptomatic of the troubles that would plague him for the first three innings of the game: his location was off. Tonight was not the Abe Lincoln we know and love. The Sox scored in the second off a Varitek solo shot and things started to look up...until Clement fell apart in the bottom of the second and gave up four runs. He picked up after the third...but then had to come out after the fourth (and two straight perfect innings), because the Sox mounted a rally and needed a real batter for the pitchers spot. Some times I hate the National League.

The Sox pick up another run in the fifth, Halama's pitching and although the Sox still can't really score, the pitching has settled down...until the real weirdness starts. Halama hits Larry Walker with a pitch in the sixth. It was pretty clearly accidental. The next inning, Cardinal reliever Al Reyes hits Varitek with a pitch, in a pretty clear case of retaliation for an accident. In the bottom of the inning, Matt Mantei comes on and retaliates back by hitting second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. Both sides are warned. Later in the inning, Mantei throws what amounted to a wild pitch and hits Larry Walker. Tony La Russa comes out screaming bloody murder and Mantei gets tossed. I am, of course, estatic at this debacle, especially when I am reminded by the NESN announcers that this ejection will probably result in a suspension. Actually, because the MLB discipline office hates the Red Sox, it WILL result in a suspension, along with one for Terry Francona. And, to top it all off, Reyes hits Youkilis at the top of the eighth inning, in the wrists (just to be malicious, I guess) and gets himself and his manager tossed as well. The only good part was that Youkilis wasn't hurt, but at this point I am screaming for a fight to break out, like it almost did when Mantei hit Walker in the seventh. I am willing to go on record right now and say that there will be a fight tomorrow unless things go
very smoothly for the Sox; I think they're reached that level of frustration with St. Louis right now.

In the ninth, the Sox mount a mini-rally: Ortiz singles. Millar, batting for Manny, who had a dismal night, flies out on the second pitch. Jay Payton, batting for Nixon, who also did poorly tonight (not that most of the offense didn't) hits a single. Varitek singles. Bases are loaded. Things look like they could be happening. But then Ramon Vasquez, pinch hitting for Alan Embree/Bill Mueller* lines out to center and Mark Bellhorn, does his classic strikeout routine to end the game. With the bases loaded. But then again, it was that sort of night. I'm throwing my hat on the floor with gusto.

Cardinals fans: take no offense at what I'm about to say, because I think you have a really nice looking ball park in St. Louis and I'd like to see it (or its replacement) at some point and it's pretty clear that the fans get dressed up for the game...but your grounds crew is
terrible. First there was Lake Busch back in World Series Game 3, then tonight, players and umpires were slipping on the grass and the Cardinals got a hit at one point because the ball took a ridiculous hop over Renteria's head...not because of the way it was it. Because it hit a poorly groomed spot in the infield dirt. I just checked the forecast for St. Louis from yesterday and there wasn't any what's the excuse? Do they pay the grounds crew in beer, which is consumed before the field is cared for?

Let's see, while I'm complaining: did the scheduling people sit down before the season started and decide to screw over the Sox? The past three series have been against division leaders. The next one is going to be against a team (the Cubs) who would probably be division leaders themselves if their team wasn't attacked by the injury gods for some unknown offense. The last time they had a day off, they had to play in the Hall of Fame game. Yes, I know that the end of the year will be much kinder, when all of those missing home games are made up for and Boston plays 10,000 games against Tampa Bay. I suppose I should be grateful; the Yankees are playing mediocre teams and can't buy a win** and the standings didn't change that much tonight, since Baltimore didn't win either. These roadtrips are starting to get to me, though.

Tomorrow night Boomer tries to avoid a sweep against Chris Carpenter in a 7:05 start. I'll be waiting for that cathartic fight to start and hope no one gets hurt. GO SOX!!!

* - Another thing I hate about the National League: as fun as the strategic substitutions are, it can be
really hard to remember who's batting for whom.
** - Ha, I made a pun.

Game 57: Not So Much

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, St. Louis Cardinals 7

I missed most of this game, but from what I gather, the best part of the night for the Sox was the standing ovation Edgar Renteria received when he came out for the first time. Of course, he then had a terrible night. Matt Morris threw a complete game with one run, five hits and 103 pitches. The Sox, even if they were Sox-lite, couldn't throw up anything and the Cardinals were their usual deadly selves.

The draft is in full swing; the Sox selected 21 year old Jacoby Ellsbury from Oregon State in the first round. The center fielder is most noted for his OPS and speed; Baseball America rated him the fastest baserunner in the NCAA. The article mentions that the Sox have been going after speed in the past few years, which means that eventually more of that speed will filter towards the top. The question is whether or not that speed will end up with Sox in the majors, or be sent to other teams in exchange for players with other strengths. If Theo continues to adhere to the Moneyball philosophy, speed is not the important factor here - base stealing is an anathema to the Moneyball freak (much like sacrifice flies and bunts), because of the risks of wasting an out. At the same time, speed is good in the outfield, especially when, like Johnny Damon, your arm isn't strong enough to make long, accurate throws. The fact that Ellsbury also had a .504 OPS this past season makes him more important than the average speedster - if he can continue to get on base and ends up with a high number of steals, he might have more lasting value.

The Sox selected 21 year old reliever Craig Hansen in the second round, a power pitcher who picked up 13 saves in 28 appearances this year and had a perfect ERA and struck out 41 in the Cape Cod leagues last year. Again,'s commentary is that Hansen is almost ready to hit the bigs...but clearly there's a big risk there, as Cla Meredith has already proven this year.

Tonight it's Abe Lincoln versus the Supah-Runnah; maybe the Sox bats and defense will show up tonight too. GO SOX!!!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Games 54 - 56: How the West Was Won

Final Scores:

Game 54: Boston Red Sox 7, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4
Game 55: Boston Red Sox 6, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 13
Game 56: Boston Red Sox 6, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3

Recaps of Games 54 and 55 at Joy of Sox.

This weekend was my buddy Alan's wedding up in Massachusetts; beautiful ceremony and he and his lovely wife are now off on St. Thomas...where's it's just as hot as it is here. For the purposes of this blog, the wedding provided a backdrop to this weekend's baseball activities.

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner at the Red Parrot in Hull. There were about 30 of us in a banquet room on the top of the restaurant and after we ate we realized that the bar outside was broadcasting the game. We couldn't see the score from where we were standing, so a few of us went outside just as Papi tied up the game with a sacrifice fly. After that, we went back in to avoid the stigma of being called anti-social, but of course, stood near the window and watch events unfold. When Damon cleared the bases with his double, I was cheering at a game I couldn't hear in a different room. It was a mite rediculous but still pretty fun. Foulke, being Foulke, got the first two batters of the ninth without problem, then had to load the bases to get the third out on a strikeout. My life expectancy dropped a few years watching that as I was being hustled out of the door.

The wedding was the same time as the game on Saturday, so once the reception started it was my duty as best man to go and check the scores occasionally on the radio in Alan's car. The first time I came out, it was still 5 - 3 with Embree pitching and Angels threatening to score. I had a bad feeling when I went back to the reception and of course, when I went back out I found that the bullpen had imploded and taken the lead (and the game) with them. Alan Embree was understandably upset at himself; don't get mad, get even. Also hope that Francona starts pitching you in better situations.

Yesterday, I was at my parents' house doing some gardening work and discovered that the schedule had bucked its early season pattern and the game was being played on a Sunday afternoon instead of at 7:05. Tuning in, I found it was the fourth inning with a scoreless tie...and then the Sox remembered they could beat the crap out of Jarod Washburn. Three singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly and the Sox were up 3 - 0. Wade Miller, who had enough stamina to hold through his longest outting this season (110 pitches) but not overpower the hitters he faced, made it into the seventh inning, giving up three runs in the process. Myers, who has been absolutely golden this weekend, came on to get Miller out of his jam and Boston went into the bottom of the inning ready to rip it up. Reliever Jake Woods hit Mueller to start the inning, then gave up a single to Olerud. His relief, Joel Peralta, gave up a single to Jay Payton that loaded the bases, putting the rally in the hands of Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn, who struck out seven times over the series, listened to my pleas to do something useful and with a full count hit a sacrifice fly to depp center to score Mueller. Renteria struck out, but Big Papi was once again a force to be reckoned with, smacking a two run double and setting the final score. I could see certain members of the Angels reacting this way when they see him next. Timlin had no problems in the eighth and Foulke had an outting so forgettable it was wonderful: seven pitches to retire the side.

Other things of note:
  • Kevin Millar remembered to bring his swing this weekend, hitting two homeruns and an RBI double. I've heard it suggested that the warm weather is what he needed, or the threat of replacement finally got to him, but it doesn't matter to me; as long as he keeps hitting it's all good.
  • Orlando Cabrera was pleased as punch to be back in Boston this weekend and Boston was just as happy to see him. I missed the standing ovation he got on Friday, but I wasn't surprised to hear about it: hell, I was psyched to see him in New York back at the end of April.
  • Speaking of Cabrera, Johnny Damon is day to day with a strained rotator cuff he hurt while robbing O-Cabs of a hit. Jay Payton is subbing for him; in an odd change, Mark Bellhorn batted leadoff yesterday. I'm not sure I understand the logic behind having the league's strikeout leader bat first; I thought the point was to have a contact hitter, but what do I know.
  • Terry Francona thinks Bob Watson is a dick. I find this hillarious. Good on you, Tito.
  • Why God, why?
Sox tonight back in St. Louis, where the Cardinals will hope for a better showing than they put up in last year's World Series. Tim Wakefield and Matt Morris square off at 8:05. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Game 53: BIG PAPI!!!

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Baltimore Orioles 4

"He's so man, if I was to stand next to him, my testosterone levels would increase."
- Robin on David Ortiz

Now THAT was a win. Hard fought, neither team giving quarter, coming right down to the last out...and all within the standard nine innings. I sat through the whole thing, crouched in my chair, upset at any interruption that required the removal of my headphones.

Good enough start: double by Youkilis, who advances to third on a Renteria ground out and goes home on a Big Papi sacrifice fly. Then the Orioles tie it up in the second with a Jay Gibbons solo shot. The Sox, who did a bit better against this rookie than they have against other rookie pitchers this year (leaving seven on base) got another two runs in the fourth after Ortiz walked, Manny singled and Varitek hit a two run double. That kept the score at 3 - 1 until the sixth, when the Orioles pulled the exact same combination (plus a groundout) to get two runs of their own. Clement, who had a decent outing today (three runs, six hits, three walks, four strikeouts) but seemed bothered by something (or so Joe and Jerry thought) made it out of the sixth ok. Timlin, Myers and Foulke got the game to the ninth, when a series of infield hits and a botched double play allowed a run to score. There wasn't really anyone to blame on this one; the ball hit by Palmeiro wasn't hard enough to turn two effectively and Foulke did pretty well pitching around some of the scariest bats in the league. Orioles were up 4 - 3 when Foulke got B.J. Surhoff to ground out.

Bottom of the ninth. B.J. Ryan, closer extraordinaire, comes on to pitch. Johnny Damon, who had been sitting out to rest his knee but came in to pinch hit for Jay Payton, hit his second monster out of the game. One out. Mark Bellhorn hits an infield single. Youkilis strikes out swinging. Two outs. Edgah, in a gutsy move, bunts his way on. Big Papi comes up, against a pitcher who does pretty well against lefties (.207 average in 29 at bats). A pitch inside. A foul. Two balls outside. I've now minimized everything on my screen and am actively praying for a hit. A swinging strike, low and in, just where David likes 'em. A high strike. A low, outside fastball...CRUSHED. Up and up it flies, deep into center field for the game winning three run homerun. As the ball clears the wall, Alan calls me to celebrate. I'm hyperventilating, tears in my eyes. It's beautiful. I love David Ortiz.

Oh lord, the Hate.

Tomorrow night, the Boston Red Sox of Fenway start a three game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who lead the AL West, Boomer versus Escobar. We'll see if the big man can keep throwing those nasty curves. GO SOX!!!

Game 52: Inconsistency

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Baltimore Orioles 9

I guess I kinda brought on last night's effort with my "black and blue" comments yesterday. Darn those jinxes.

In all seriousness, things were bad from the start. I missed the first twenty minutes of the game and by that point, it was already clear that the knuckleball wasn't knuckling: a three run homerun had been given up to Geronimo Gil. Very quickly it was 5 - 0 after a Tejada solo shot and Sosa's first homerun in about a month. Meanwhile, the Pontoon was unhittable enough that the Sox could not mount an effective rally. By the seventh inning, when the Sox got three runs, I was just hoping that they wouldn't be shut out and end the streak from last September. Varitek came out in the sixth in place of Kelly Shoppach, who killed a rally by grounding to second. Originally, I was surprised by this decision,* but come to find out there's a game today at 1:05 and Francona wanted to rest up his starting catcher. If the Sox were winning, we'd all be ok with V-Tek getting some rest and Tito was making the best of a bad situation. Also, it's not like the rest of the offense was being particularly effective either - taking out one guy shouldn't be life or death for this team.

Boston is becoming about as inconsistent as last year, although I disagree with Surviving Grady about losing confidence in particular starters (except maybe David Wells). I trust Wakefield when he says he's got some issues to work out and he'll take the time to find them before his next start. I will take the time to lay some of the blame at the feet of Kevin "Sunshine" Millar, who did his fair share of rally killing last night.** An interesting statistic: of the four games that John Olerud has played for the Sox so far, Boston has won three of them...and the fourth was against Rodrigo Lopez, so it shouldn't count. I think we all know who our regular first baseman should be. Millar should be hired as team cheerleader until he finally gets out of his slump...and even then, Olerud is a better fielder.

Some possible good news from last night: Bronson Arroyo came on in relief of Wakefield in the sixth and retired all four batters he faced on 18 pitches, eliminating the need for a side session that he would have done today. Arroyo's supposed to make his next start on Saturday; maybe he's gotten his head around his problems too. Another piece of good news is that both Toronto and New York lost last night, so although the Red Sox are now four games back, they're still in second place.

1:05 game today, so I don't have to miss any action tonight (w00t!): Clement goes for win number seven against rookie Hayden Penn, who gave up three runs on five hits in four and two thirds his first start. Let's see what Boston can do against him to try and get the series split. GO SOX!!!

* - I was thinking about this entry ALL last night: I even had a dream where I asked Tito why he took out Dave Roberts. He got upset until I told him that I was asking him a straight up question, not second guessing him. No, I don't understand what I was thinking either.
** - What I'd really love would be an online scoring card, all filled out after every game, so I can remember exactly how certain plays went instead of trying to scrounge through the game summary on or some other news site. Some day, I will be granted this wish.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Game 51: Outwit, Outlast, Outplay

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Baltimore Orioles 1

Wade Miller and the Red Sox played a bit of Survivor last night with Daniel Cabrera and the Orioles, or at least that's what it felt like, watching on ESPN. Every inning, until about the fifth, when it was clear Miller was going to have a normal length outting, Rick Sutcliffe had to make some comment about Miller's shoulder falling off, especially after Miller gave up a run in the third. Meanwhile, the Sox couldn't hit wonderboy Daniel Cabrera with his Big Unit-style height, power fastball and nasty sinker...until wonderboy fell apart in the fifth, much as I expected he would. It was really a matter of catching up with that 97 mph fastball and all the sudden, it might have been last year, when the Sox beat up on Cabrera twice, scoring eleven runs on twelve hits in two starts/six innings. Clearly, the guy's got talent and with control he really could be the next Randy Johnson, but not at age 24.

Oddly enough, the problem wasn't stranding runners for once (seven LOB); it was getting hits. It took until the fourth inning until Mark Bellhorn broke up the no-hitter with a single; before then, the only baserunners Boston had were from walks and an error on the pitcher. With Bellhorn on first and Mueller, who had walked, on second, John Olerud smacked an RBI double. Renteria hit an RBI single, Big Papi added his own RBI single and Trot Nixon hit an RBI fielder's choice off the pitcher. The Sox picked up another run in the seventh to make it and hold it at 5 - 1. Nixon also made a great sliding catch in the fifth to prevent a single (or a double if he had missed it entirely). Yeah, he's the Man.

Meanwhile, Miller's only problem inning came when Jay Gibbons hit a triple to start the third...and that was under special circumstances. Johnny Damon, tracking the ball all the way back into the triangle, missed the catch by feet but plowed into the fence, hitting his right wrist and then his head. He played out the rest of the inning as Gibbons scored on a double by catcher Sal Fasano, but came out afterwards to have his head examined.* He was listed as day to day and said last night he wants to be back in the lineup tonight. Meanwhile, Miller, "bad shoulder" and all, went on to get out of the inning without further disaster and shut down Baltimore for the rest of the night. Heck, besides those two hits, the only other time he was in danger was in the first, when he gave up a homerun distance fly ball from Sammy Sosa that was knocked down by the wind and caught as it was sailing into the wall in center.** The amusing thing was that Sosa was so sure he had just hit another long bomb that he did his homerun hop...only to discover that he had been robbed. Miller made it into the seventh in what he described as his best outting of the year and was relieved by Timlin and Myers, who were perfect to close out the game. Sox are now in sole possession of second place, three back from Baltimore.

Tonight, Sidney "Pontoon" Ponson against Wakefield. ESPN decided to point out last night that every starter the Orioles have comes from a different country, creating some sort of pretty rainbow of multi-cultural starterdom. I think I prefer black and blue, as in the colors the Sox offense will make that rainbow when they shell those pitchers. GO SOX!!!

* Yes, I'm punning off his being the chief Idiot. I'm so damned clever!
** Yes, center field was a popular spot for Orioles hitting in the early innings.