Sunday, April 30, 2006

Game 25: The Big Tease

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Not gonna give up the goods. Just a dirty flirt.

I can barely write rationally about this one. I just want to kick and scream and yell… and cry. They got me this time. They really got me. After Seanez came in (why would Francona use this worthless pile of organs?) and gave up a 2 run shot negating the good job Schilling did keeping it close, I thought I was removed enough. I thought I could step back and write a good old generic paragraph on the absent clutch hitting, a short essay on Schillings good but flawed performance and a symposium the various acids I would like to dunk Scott Kazmir in. NOPE!! The Red Sox have to make it interesting so I can have the glimmer of hope grow in my naive little mind.

“Lowell and Pena go back to back in the 9th? We can win this!”

Sure we can. Willie Harris steals second, the ball skips into the outfield and he’s at third. Tying run 90 feet away, one out, we got it. It’s so money. Go get ‘em… J.T. Snow? Well he didn’t get an out, but he DID get hit on the foot (if he MOVES a run scores) and takes first base. Then Youk looks at 3 pitches. All strikes.


Then my brain melted. I seem to remember Loretta feebly grounding out to end the game, but it’s all a haze of cursing and splinters of broken furniture so I can’t be sure.

It was all just a tease. The Sox got me back into the game just to break my heart (and chair). Now they take the long flight home and we are stuck thinking about what could have been. I want to yell some more but I am out of breath. And it doesn’t even get any easier now because the Great Pinstriped Menace has been spotted in the Boston area. Nothing caps off a losing road trip like the return of Johnny Damon. Oh, I’m not booing you John… I’m booing your love of money. Nice haircut…


Game 24: Come Back to Where You Once Belong

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6

We are back baby

It was the 9th inning, behind 5 to 6 and looking at a 4 game losing streak. How did we get here again? DiNards was the starter and gave up 4 runs early. The bullpen faltered with both Tavares and Foulke giving up a run and it looked like another loss due to anemic batting. Back to the 9th inning. That is the first and only time when the Red Sox had the lead. In the 6th inning Dr. Frankenstein held his electrodes to the offence collective chest and screamed “IT’S ALIVE!” and suddenly 4 runs scored. Manny hit a solo shot (and the weirdest triple ever), Youk kept his fugly ass on base and Pena hit some RBI’s (yes the Wily Mo hate-wagon is leaving town). Now in the 9th the lead is taken on some bases loaded walks, hits and sac fly’s. Clearing base runners? That’s like the OLD Red Sox! The ones we knew from last year and the year before. Surely they won’t be doing that again, will they?

Well they better. The starting pitching (especially out of the 4th and 5th spots) isn’t as WORLD CLASS as we were all lead to believe, so some extra runs now and again are going to be essential. The 6th inning of this game really did look like a turning point. The offence finally said “hell, lets hit when it matters” for the first time in the road trip. This nearly washed away some of the vomit stained dreams left from the last 3 late inning colonoscopies. I almost forgot how fun it is to watch timely hitting.

After all the runs were scored, it was left in the capable hands of
his holiness: Papelbon. Three batters, three strikeouts and one league leading (and rookie record breaking) save later and that’s all she wrote for the Rays. This Papelbon guy is huge. If he beats the Yankees next week (like he did on XBOX) he might get the whole “one name” treatment. Then you can have great conversations like this:

“I remember when he was called ‘Jonathon’ Papelbon.”

“Really? I thought his name was Sam.”

“Nope. He was born ‘Jonathon’. Like Jon Stewart or
Lil’ Jon.”

“Whoa that’s awesome.”

“I know. It IS awesome.”

Anyway, it’s Schilling vs Kazmir (ugh) in the rubber match before the Sox head home and take on the Yankees. Let’s end the road trip on a good note. GO SOX

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Keep Your Sox On In Brooklyn Sells Out!

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel a certain unfulfilled longing in your chest, a feeling that all is not quite in the world, but you’re not quite sure what to do about it? Well, so do we, but we think we have the answer: Keep Your Sox On In Brooklyn apparel, now available in our store and from the link in right navigation bar. As an added bonus, dear reader, we present our first design to you below. Representing all of our love for Boston’s newest pitching star, we hope it’s the first in a long string of inspirational designs:

Hilarious, aren’t we? You definitely want one now.

And remember: by supporting your favorite Red Sox blog with one of our stylish shirts, not only will you be the coolest kid on your block, but all of the previous coolest kids on the block will come to you and apologize for even presuming to try and take what is clearly your territory. Yup, these shirts are that nice.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Game 23: Dude, Where's my Team?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Did you know you could strand 14 baserunners inside that thing? It surprised me, too.

I’m not kidding, either. For the first two thirds of the eighth, the Red Sox we know and love were there, knocking in runs, not being stymied by Casey Frickin’ Fossum and the Rays bullpen, not stranding fourteen men on base (14! Do you know how many runs that is?) or, even worse, not leaving nine of those men on base in scoring position (9! That’s not as many as fourteen, but dear God those were closer to being runs!). Heck, Francona was even doing wacky things like putting in J.T. Snow to pinch hit for Gonzalez so he could hit an RBI single and then have Alex Cora pinch run so that the rally might continue and someone could play shortstop in the ninth. It was great, it was awesome…it lasted for about five minutes.

I doubt I have to remind you, but this is the pitching staff of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays we’re talking about here, a group of pitchers who inspire so much confidence in manager Joe Maddon that his pitching coach has to console him every time he makes a move to the bullpen. I doubt I have to remind you, but we’re facing the Yankees in three games and we still have to get through Scott Kazmir. I doubt I have to remind you, but even with Clement’s lack of control for much of his start, even with two terrible calls by the umpires, the Boston Red Sox had the opportunity to win this game with their bats four or five times tonight…and they didn’t.

Lenny DiNardo versus Doug Waechter tomorrow evening at 7:15. I believe at this point everyone’s had their opportunity to bottom out during this most recent, terrible run through the rotation; it’s time for the boys in red and grey to step things up, start scoring runners, making outs, winning ballgames and ending this slump. GO SOX!!!

Game 22: Step Into My Office

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Cleveland Indians 15

“I been bad… I know it”

Terry Francona: “Josh, come on in. Take a seat. We got some things we gotta work out.”

Josh Beckett: “Coach… I know I didn’t do so hot…”

TF: “’Didn’t do so hot’?
You got shelled out there boy! 8 runs and 100 pitches in less than four innings. Owned by Ben Broussard? Who the hell is that? You got your clock cleaned and good. Now what am I gonna do with you?

JB: “Coach… listen. It was one game. I couldn’t get loose. Manny got his dread wax in my jock again. Ortiz made his mango salsa and you know how that stuff gets ya. But I’m really sorry.”

TF: “Sorry? Son, like it or not we are a pitching team this year. We can’t run the bases, we don’t have a good outfield defense, and we haven’t been scoring runs. That means that we NEED good pitching to win games. You understand me?”

JB: “I understand 100%. Really I do.”

TF: “I know Papelbon has been good. He and Foulke have been carrying the bullpen. Schilling has been better than we hoped and HELL even Clement hasn’t embarrassed himself. But with Wakefield and Bard playing “slap nuts” and you dropping a load like you did your last two starts… well it don’t take a
sabermetric-magician to figure out we’re sunk.”

JB: “You don’t need to worry about me coach. Next time I'm gonna be better. I swear.”

TF: “Well you goddamn better be because “next time” it’s the Yankees and they score 15 runs in their sleep. Alright… who’s next to get yelled at?”

JB: “Well the entire offence was supposed to be next, but it looks like they haven’t shown up.”

TF: “Well at least they're consistent at something. Damn it! Send Delcarmen in. I need to remind him that his ERA shouldn’t equal his age. OH and if anyone tells you ‘It’s only April’ you kick ‘em square in the junk.”

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wily Molicious

A true connoisseur, Wily Mo Peña carefully tastes each bat before he uses it to make sure it's properly seasoned.

Props to Wily Mo for getting the only run of the game last night on his second home run of the year, a line drive shot to deep center. Robin and I had a fifteen-minute conversation yesterday about whether or not the Peña trade was a mistake for Boston or not, with Bronson Arroyo now 4 and 0 for Cincinnati after pitching eight innings of one hit, no run ball on Monday night. My stance is that the trade makes sense for Boston in the long run. If Wily Mo learns to stop swinging at everything that comes across the plate and gets better at hitting righties, he could be the next Papi and can step in to fill the shoes Manny will leave when his contract is up in a few years – and it will take a while for Peña to get to that level. Bronson Arroyo is certainly a good pitcher, but Wily Mo Peña has the potential to be a great power hitter, given the right instruction and more practice.

The instruction will come, but Tito seems inclined to give Peña the practice now. Perhaps because he’s displeased with the offensive performance of Willie Harris and Dustan Mohr and doesn’t want to waste Nixon’s newfound ability to hit both sides of the mound (his OPS splits are within 20 points of each other), Francona is hinting that Wily Mo might start some games in centerfield instead of platooning with Nixon in right, citing the need to give Peña more at-bats to see a more consistent power stroke and to do so before Coco comes back from the DL. I’m all for it; it might reduce the number of games where the offense takes a break for the night, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

I think I convinced Robin, but every jack Peña hits certainly helps my position, so thank you, Wily Mo, from the bottom of my opportunistic little heart. But we also want to know what you think – was the trade a good idea? Will it pay off in the long run? Leave a comment about your thoughts.

Game 21: Code Red

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Cleveland Indians 7

"You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall -- you need me on that wall."

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tim Wakefield. Known last year on this very site as The Stopper, Mr. Wakefield is proud owner of the improbable combination of a one and four record and a 3.90 ERA in 32 innings. Indeed, a quick perusal of his Baseball Prospectus Player Card shows that he’s actually giving up the average number of runs for a major league pitcher. And yet still we see the one and four record, making him the very antithesis of a stopper this year. Why, you ask, dear reader? The reason is two-fold:
  1. Josh Bard is still learning how to catch a knuckleball. Looking at fielding stats on ESPN for catchers, we see that Josh leads all major league catchers, even the ones who play every day, with ten pass balls. The next closest guys have three. I don’t have the exact linkup in front of me, but you gotta figure that most of the five unearned runs Wake has given up so far come from those ten (10!) pass balls. Still, Bard is still learning and in a backhanded way, there’s some hope for the future: with his four pass balls last night, Bard tied Doug Mirabelli’s record from three years ago…and look how good ‘Belli ended up being as a catcher. A Code Red might not be necessary after all.

  2. There is no run support. Seriously, it’s been almost non-existent: the Red Sox offense has scored a grand total of ten runs for Wakefield this year. If your offense scores two runs a game for you and you give up something closer to four, you’re not going to win many games. There doesn’t seem to be a good answer to this problem, although Tito said, “[the lack of scoring] will change” after the game last night, which could mean anything from the lineup changing again to waiting until Coco Crisp comes back to Papa Jack delivering lectures about giving all of your starters enough run support using a baseball bat and a pumpkin as visual aids.
In any case, bad loss – not even including the Indians lighting up poor MDC for four runs on his first time back up from Pawtucket – and we’ll try to avoid mentioning it again. Beckett versus Byrd tonight for the series finale; let’s have us some more of our boy wonder, eh? GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Game 20: What Makes a Champion?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 8, Cleveland Indians 6

There goes a champ

Shilling didn’t have it tonight. He won’t tell you that (he sure as hell didn’t tell Francona that) but it's the truth. 6.2 innings, 8 K, 5 R and 133 pitches(!!!!) is one hell of an outing and it might have been good enough to win if it weren’t for parts of the offence stalling out of the gate (Trot and Tek were BAD and Willie Harris should NEVER START AGAIN), but that’s not the point.

Sometime during this game, Tito asked Schill if he was ok to go on (middle of the 7th I think) and Schilling said he was 100% ready, fired up, and would go “Tom Cruise Nuts” if he got pulled before he said he was done. Francona said “OK” and let him start the 7th. Schilling left that inning after a run had scored (re-tying the game), he got a lucky double play, and only one guy (Schilling walked Peralta) was on. Francona then came out to relive a VERY upset Curt Schilling before he had to face Travis Hafner (Foulke K’ed him).

Was Schilling mad at himself? Was he mad at Francona for not letting him finish? Was he mad he wasn’t getting the win? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that the Red Sox #38 is a champ, and a champ wants the ball when the game is on the line. Champions KNOW they are winners and they KNOW they can get it done. It's the manager who is responsible for telling those champs to “pack it in” or “you are running on fumes, you’re done”. A champ like Schilling won’t quit, so it’s up to Francona to shut him down. He should have done it before the 7th even started. Curt running out of steam and twisting in the wind gave me acid flashbacks to a game (and a manager) some have poured a lot of time into. It was a bad feeling to have this early in the season.

Luckily, Manny is also a champion. And when a champ sees somebody like Ortiz (total champ) intentionally walked in front of him, it just gives him that little extra drive to make a sucker pay. Thanks for the blast Manny. Glad to see you’re back.

Papelbon is a “champ in training”. So far his marks are off the charts (0.00 ERA, 9th Save).

2 more in Cleveland. Get ‘em Wake, you’re a champ too. GO SOX!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Taking Stock

A nice day off before the road trip continues and I think it’s about time we sit back and look at how things have been going thus far. In order by jersey number:

2 Willie Harris: Who? Oh, the guy who replaced Adam Stern. He can run, field, and not hit. Didn’t we already have a guy like that? OH YEAH! Adam Stern.

3 Mark Loretta: I am loving what I see from this guy. He’s a timely hitter, a patient hitter, a good fielder and a snappy dresser. Whatever he does, he does it professionally. He has drawn some favorable comparisons to the dear departed Billy Mueller and that’s a damn good thing.

7 Trot Nixon: He missed some starts due to a leg injury, he has been platooning with Wily Mo and his hat is looking really gross. All that stuff aside, Trot is killing the ball. This guy is still as hard-nosed as ever and some decreased playing time won’t affect his impact on the lineup. When he’s actually playing, that is.

10 Coco Crisp: Broke his finger on April 8th and got an extension on his contract anyway. The front office obviously likes what they’ve seen with him and is willing to go the distance. I just want to see him back in the line up. Youk has done a great job replacing him, but I would like to see a little more action from the guy we are sticking with through 2008.

11 Alex Gonzalez: This guy is wearing a big sign that says “As Advertised”. A-Gon is a fielding wiz who is second to none in the infield. As an upgrade over Rent (remember that terror?) he is irreplaceable in the field. At the plate? Not so much. As of right now he is batting just over his weight… but it’s a long season.

16 David Wells: Looks like he just about ate himself out of a starting spot. This Hungry Hungry Hippo is on the DL for who-knows how long. The current rumor is that he might retire and be done with it. Well, that’s just freaking great. I know it’s a near physical impossibility, but try not to let the door hit your huge ass on the way out.

18 Dustin Mohr: He has been doing a serviceable job replacing Coco in center. In reality he’s another guy who can’t really hit. How’s that finger, Coco?

19 Josh Beckett: Except for a small (and hopefully not TELLING) breakdown in Toronto, Josh has been “Ace the Second”. He is 3-0, has a 2.54 ERA, eats gun powder and farts fire. If he and Schill can stay healthy, it’s the best one/two punch of any staff in the league.

20 Kevin Youkilis: His emergence has been one of the bright spots with this Red Sox team. Getting the leadoff spot with Coco hurt has really helped Youk as a hitter and he has been taking advantage of the AB’s. He has been great with the glove at first base too. Finding the right batting order for him when Coco does return could be a problem.

22 Wily Mo Pena: The fielding mishaps are well documented, but can be explained away by youth, lack of experience and plain old nerves. The hitting is what the Sox got this guy for and that’s what needs to pick up soon. If he gets the AB’s, he has an outside shot at 200 strikeouts. Take a pitch, Wily.

23 Alex Cora: Remember him? Cora is the guy who usually rounds out the worst lineups this team can field. As an offensive step down from A-Gon, Francona usually puts him in the game when he is resting somebody else in the infield or if he has money riding on the opposing team.

24 Manny Ramirez: Oh thank God he is starting to hit. Manny is just about to settle into one of those grooves where he hits everything that can possibly be pitched. Once he really gets off on a tear maybe everyone will forget he is wearing a ski cap under his helmet. Probably not.

25 Mike Lowell: Not a Zombie! He is actually alive and hitting. Lowell is a doubles machine and can still field like a Gold Glover. Check back in September to see if he's still this hot, but as of right now it’s nothing but an improvement over his dismal 2005 showing.

29 Keith Foulke: Losing his job to Papelbon might have been the best thing for him. As a middle reliever, Foulke has pretty much been top notch. It’s also very comforting to know that when he comes into a game there are other options if he screws up. VERY comforting.

30 Matt Clement: As the number 3 starter he makes a pretty good number 5 starter. Clement has been inconsistent so far this year. He always allows a ton of base runners but has been getting better about not letting them score all the time. He just better not collapse down the stretch like he did last year. Duck this time, Matty.

33 Jason Varitek: He has had a slow start and it might have to do with a pain in his ass. No really, his butt hurts. Tek should be able to find his swing once his embarrassing muscle pull is healed up and the sooner the better. His new back up (Bard) is having problems of his own.

34 David Ortiz: Papi got a contract and he will be OUR Papi for many years to come. Thank goodness too, because with Manny being in prolonged slump, he has been carrying this team offensively. This guy does everything (except play the field). He even bunted through the shift on the same day he hit one out. He’s a beast, he’s a monster, he’s Big Papi.

37 Rudy Seanez: This guy stinks. He needs to be taken out into the back woods of West Virginia where he can find some nice hillbilly to make him his “Wilderness Bride”. Hey there Rudy…you gots a purdy mouth.

38 Curt Schilling: The prognosis on Schill after last year was not good. He looked hurt, old and just about done. Now at 4-0 with an ERA well below Wells pant size, I think Schill just told every one to “shut the hell up”. He also said a bunch of other stuff, then he said it on the radio, and then on TV, and on the internet, and in the paper, and I bet he would come to your house and say stuff too. Thanks for your input, Schill.

39 Adam Stern: He fields like the Canadian Olympian we remember from the WBC. Unfortunately, he hits like the Canadian Olympian we remember from women’s figure skating. Tito sent him to AAA to get some more AB’s. Keep swinging, Stern.

46 Jermaine Van Buren: One performance in a losing game and he gets shipped back to AAA and replaced by Delcarmen. To tell you the truth, if he wasn’t named for a president, I would have no idea who this guy is.

49 Tim Wakefield: He has pitched MUCH better than his 1-3 record indicates. Wake has had NO run support and is working with a new catcher that can’t…well…CATCH. I hope circumstances improve for our boy Wake, because he could easily be 3-1 right now.

50 Mike Timlin: A bullpen staple for years, Timlin is starting to show his age. Maybe it was all the extra work in the WBC, maybe it’s still the stigma he has with inherited runners, and although his record doesn’t show it, he has looked less and less reliable as the games progress. This bullpen has enough problems and doesn’t need its veteran to break down.

51 Julian Tavarez: From Williams to Rice, Pedro to Manny, the Red Sox and their fans have always put up with the anti-social crazy types as long as they get the job done. If Tavarez keeps pitching like a gimp, he is going to lose his immunity. Ask Carl Everett what that’s like.

54 David Riske: Pitched like crap in one game and then went on the DL. Maybe he should change his name to Sucke.

55 Lenny DiNardo: A lefty who was to be the long reliever in the pen and is now spot starting for Wells. DiNards got put in a tough situation and is doing what he can. Too bad he’s not that good. Why did we trade Bronson again?

58 Jonathan Papelbon: 11.1 innings and still no runs. 8 saves, 9 strikeouts, but not a run to be seen. He made a bet with Youk that he could go 10 innings scoreless, he won and now he looks like this. I can no longer think logically about this guy. He is just too awesome.

77 Josh Bard: His only job is to catch a knuckle ball and hit every 5 days. It’s not working out so far. Bard is just one bad start away from Tek sneaking into his hotel room and giving him the “Code Red” from A Few Good Men: “General Wakefield did you order the Code Red?” “YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!”

84 J.T. Snow: A first base defensive master who was to offset the lack of experience Youk had at the position. Yet it turns out Youk has been great at first base and he is MUCH better than the weak hitting Snow at the plate. Sucks to be you, J.T.

Well that’s everyone who’s had any playing time this year. It’s been a great season so far and the Red Sox have started it by leading the AL East. I hope the front office can patch some of the holes and the Sox can continue rolling along. Tomorrow Schilling goes for win #5 in Cleveland. GO SOX.


Two things I neglected to mention yesterday, in my haste to get up a post about the game:

  1. Matt Clement might not have had the game of his life yesterday, but he did beat the Jays for the first time in his career. As I recall, Ted Lilly became a member of the Rodrigo Lopez Club after a similar record and a turnaround game against the Sox, so maybe there’s hope for Clement against Toronto in the future.

  2. Apparently if you become a baseball player, you enter a Bizzaro World where winning bets means you have to pay forfeits. To wit: Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis had a bet, where Paps bet that he could reach ten scoreless innings before Youk either hit five home runs or reach a .350 batting average. Paps passed the ten-inning mark on Friday night, making him the winner. Now, where I come from, if you win a bet, you get to dictate the terms to the loser, either in the form of money, some sort of act, or what have you. Like I said, though, baseball is actually Bizarro World: by winning the bet, Paps had to shave his head in a pattern similar to the one sported by Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Major League. When the Herald asked Youkilis about what he would have to do if he had won the bet, he said that Papelbon hadn’t decided yet, which makes me wonder if Paps was just looking for an excuse to get a mohawk without getting in trouble with his wife. Either that or he has a really big thing for Charlie Sheen.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Game 19: Blame Canada

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 3

"With their little beedy eyes/and their mouths so open wide..."

It’s official: the Blue Jays give me the willies and I’m glad we’re done with games with our neighbors to the north for the time being. Part of the problem was the production choices by the Rogers Centre sports network, which opted to show onscreen graphics only when a new batter came to the plate. No ball and strike counts, no way of knowing who was on base, no score…makes it a little tough to follow the game when you can’t look away from the screen for two seconds without losing track of what’s going on. But even without onscreen graphics, this afternoon’s contest was a tough one to watch. Boston took the early lead against Towers with a two-run bomb by Big Papi in the first, added another run when Mike Lowell singled in Manny later in the inning, then made it four to nothing when Youk knocked in Harris with a single in the fourth. So far so good, one might say.

But the Sox are having trouble, as usual, sealing the deal and scoring enough runs to knock out a tottering starter. They loaded the bases twice during the game and failed to produce a run in either situation, allowing Towers to hang on just long enough to get a normal start. Meanwhile, Clement did his best to make things interesting on the pitching side and kept the Jays as much in the game as the lackluster offense. After giving up a three-run homer to the always-troublesome Gregg Zaun in the fourth, Clement had to weasel out two more outs in the fourth, wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth (getting Zaun to fly out to Nixon on the warning track on a hit that screamed grand slam) and gave up two more singles in the sixth before ending his day. Basically, Clement gave new meaning to “scattering hits” to get his second win of the year.

Unlike yesterday though, the Sox had their class A relievers available to finish things off. Foulke, Timlin and Papelbon stopped any further Blue Jay threats, Foulke not only shutting down the threat in the sixth, but going perfect and striking out three in the process. Papelbon gave up two hits and nearly started a rally in the ninth, but came back to end the threat and pick up his eighth save on a strikeout and a double play.

Day off tomorrow as the Sox flee Canada to the dangerous climes of Cleveland and a three game series against the Indians. Maybe a series win this time around? GO SOX!!!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Game 18: Hangover

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 8

There is always a let down after a big extra inning loss. After playing late into the night and having that game end in disappointment, you can expect some lethargy during in a following morning game. But this was ri-goddamn-diculous.

DiNardo got absolutely shelled (O Bronson where art thou). Van Buren came in as a mediocre stopgap but the game was over in the 1st. Francona, knowing how tired his regulars were and sensing a butt whooping was the works, decided to use his JV lineup. Cora, Snow and Bard all got starts with Willie Harris taking over for Manny in the 7th. Halladay only gave up one run, but he didn’t pitch that great. His location was off and looked weak in the velocity department. I think on a different day, with a different cast of characters, the Sox could have done some surgery on the ailing ace. The Jays pen however, was awesome. They completely shut down the tired Sox hitting from the 6th inning on.

I know it’s still only April, but the front office better have a shopping list already set up in their heads. Hmmm what do we need? Eggs, milk, a 5th starter, bullpen help, mango salsa and a case of Slim-Fast for David Wells.

Tomorrow morning Clement is going to try to prevent the sweep when he faces Josh Towers. The Sox hit Towers pretty well so hopefully this can be a change of momentum game. Then let’s get the hell out of Canada. Go Sox.

Game 17: The First of the Year

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 7

But we… he could… why the… but he… son-of-a…!!

If you have watched the Red Sox for any amount of time in the last 4 years, you might recognize this type of game. The winnable, the lost, the ashamed. This game should have been OVER (that’s O-V-A-R, over) for Josh Beckett’s 4th win. He and Schilling would have been tied and I would have done this song and dance about how “Josh looked shaky but the hitting pulled him out of it”. Yeah well… enter Mike Timlin with a man on. Better yet, enter Rudy “Somebody put me out to pasture” Seanez in the 12th inning. I am as mad as I have ever been. Yeah I know it’s April. Shut up!

Eric is the logical one. He is they guy who would say “Manny hit 2 homers tonight! He went back to back with Papi” or “Beckett had a quality start and didn’t get the loss” or “Don’t scratch that rash! It will just spread” but I don’t care. I know/feel/use my arcane sense when the Sox lose a winnable game. I understand when to find comfort in stats and when to drink to forget a loss. This was the latter. Call me a problem drinker. I drink when the Red Sox have problems.

I don’t even want to go into what a THRILLER this game was. 12 innings and the bullpen keeps it in sight? What a nail biter! But the fact is the Sox lost their first 1 run game of the year, and that hurts.

Tomorrow it is a rare TRAP game for an opposing team. The recuperating Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay vs Lenny “Not Fatso” DiNardo. On paper a mismatch, but payback’s a bitch. GO SOX!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Game 16: The Difficult Life of Josh Bard

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Knuckleball, knuckleball, where for art thou, knuckleball?

Poor Timmy Wakefield can’t seem to catch a break so far. He’s had that one win against Baltimore, had the hurt put on him by Texas and now, even worse, has had two good starts ruined by a lack of run support. Last time it was the shutout by Pineiro, tonight Wake gave up two runs, two hits and two walks and still managed to lose horribly. One would think that two runs (well, three with another pass ball from Josh Bard) would be enough, but no. And then Tavarez came out and did that thing he does, where he gives up three hits and two runs, doesn’t get an out and pushes the game beyond reach. Finally, just to make things interesting, the Sox loaded the bases in the ninth and somehow failed to score a single run. It was truly a site to see. All in all, if I was to pick a way to end the first home stand of the season, it wouldn’t have been like tonight’s game.

An aside: some day Josh Bard will get to Mirabelli levels with Wake and I’ll be very happy, or at least not nervous with every pitch. Tonight, though, I found myself actively praying for no strikeouts just so the batter wouldn’t make it to first base as the ball skipped past Bard’s waiting glove.

But let’s be positive and do a quick perspective check. Boston has the best record in the majors, even after tonight’s loss. They’ve won or tied every series they’ve played except for the one against Toronto and we get to lay part of the blame for that loss at the feet of David Wells. Who will probably try to eat it afterwards. Finally, the Sox finish this first home stand of the year with a six and four record. There’s room for improvement, but not a bad start.

Tomorrow night is start of a three game series against Toronto, with Beckett going for win number four against former teammate A.J. Burnett. Can Beckett keep matching Schilling win for win? Let’s see it, guys. GO SOX!!!

Game 15: Sometimes You Just Have To Kick A Little Ass

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1

Look, I like the close games as much as the next guy. Only one run separating victor from humiliated loser, suspense at every at bat, closers coming in to nail down the game for good. But every once in awhile you need to have a real drubbing. A one sided smackdown of the highest order. A Jean Claude Van-Damme snap kick to the figurative nuts. I mean, after all the one run wins the Sox have had this year (5 and counting) it’s nice to sit back, relax and watch the Devil Fish get squished. The pitching from Schilling was fantastic (4-0 in 4 starts, a first for Curt) and the pen (Seanez, Tavarez, Foulke) only allowed 1 hit over 3 innings. Great stuff, but who cares? We like the BIG RUNS!

Youk (3 for 4 and 2 RBI) set the pace with a HUGE leadoff homerun off Doug “Clock” Waechter’s third pitch of the night. Waechter got a Chuck Norris style beating in the 3rd inning when the Sox sent 12 men to the plate and scored 7 times. The Tampa Bay bullpen was as bad as advertised (real bad) and even after Waechter was pulled the carnage continued. The Sox got 2 more off Jason Childers before pen was able to stop the bleeding. But I can’t place all the blame on the awful pitching or give total credit to the bats. The Rays made 4 costly errors and allowed 3 unearned runs. That’s fish-faced ugly.

Lowell, Loretta, Trot and Youk all had good nights at the plate. Lowell got his 8th double and went out of his way to make sure I stop making jokes about him looking as old as Julio Franco. Trot and Loretta each had 2 hits and 1 run, but the real story is Youkilis. There was a lot of talk about the offensive production dropping at 1st base this year. Well I think the critics can tone it down a bit. He gets on base, hits the big hits and does it (so far) consistently. Youk isn’t going to hit 40 homeruns, but he has an outside shot at 25 while batting .310. Those are numbers I’ll take any day. The only issue is where to bat him once Coco comes back. 9th? 6th? Well wherever they put him, it’s just nice to see him play every day. You have to love the YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUK!

Now for what I am sure is to be a complete change of pace, Thursday is going to be Wakefield vs. Scott Kazmir. You may already know that Kazmir is a card carrying member of the “Sox Killers”. He, Rodrigo Lopez and Ted Lilly are like the Legion of Doom to the Red Sox Justice League. So far they are 1-1 against these villains this year. Hopefully they can make it 2-1. GO SOX!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fight Song for Papelbon

What'll be playing when he strikes YOU out?

Every good closer worth his kill pitch needs entrance music; something to pump up the crowd and himself and strike fear into the hearts of the batters who are about to face him. Of course, some might argue that very best closers don’t need entrance music to get ready to cow the opposition; they’re just intimidating by themselves and having the entrance music is a bit like sounding trumpets before a hanging: it gets the crowd ready for blood and loosens the bowels of the condemned. Since baseball is entertainment and entertainment thrives on spectacle, even closers like Rivera, who could care less, get their trademark sound that (hopefully) lets everyone know that stuff is about to hit the fan. As an article on details, some closers have made better choices in this department than others; the best selections of entrance music are the ones that show how much of a badass the pitcher is and by implication, how he’s going to win the game for the home team. The article details some of the selections over the past 40 years and looking at it, it seems being a closer is a bit like being a gangsta rapper; you use your music to show how much tougher you are than everyone else.

For the past two years in Boston, of course, we’ve had Keith Foulke coming out of the bullpen to Glenn Danzig proclaiming precisely how he’s going to corrupt your children in “Mother,” which rates pretty highly on the awesomeness scale and helps bolster Foulke’s image of a somewhat wimpy finesse-pitching closer. But for now, with Foulke still regaining his 2004 form, Jonathan Papelbon is the go-to man…and he doesn’t have entrance music. Paps put out a call for suggestions and RSN responded in force, although nothing struck Papelbon’s fancy. Still, it begs the question: if you were closing for the Boston Red Sox, what song would you pick? Robin and I each put our top five choices below (in no particular order); let us know what you’d pick in the comments section.

  1. Ozzie Osbourne - Crazy Train
    Today’s closer is part fastballer, part psycho killer, so “Crazy Train” seems an obvious choice. Plus, with an ominous intro and a riff that slowly builds in speed, this song will get the crowd going every time.

  2. Anthrax - I am the Law
    Fantastic opening riff and the song is about the ultimate representative of cold, hard justice? You can almost imagine all of Fenway headbanging along to this selection.

  3. The Doors – L.A. Woman
    Start with the “Mr. Mojo Rising” section, which builds up in speed, is appropriate to someone who just got off a bench to rise to the occasion and is good song for the crowd to get into (36,000 drunken idiots screaming “Rising, rising!” should do the trick).

  4. Slayer - Raining Blood
    Skip the first minute or so of this song and it’s perfect for the closer looking to present the image of a complete and utter fiend on the mound. Combine pouring rain, drums like thunderclaps, squealing guitars leading to one of the best doom riffs ever and then pure metal pandemonium, all with a theme of blood pouring from the sky and you get entrance music that will make batters think that you spend your spare time sacrificing goats to your dark pitching gods. Plus, the mental picture of Fenway turning into a massive mosh pit is pretty appealing.

  5. Mötley Crüe - Shout at the Devil
    So obvious it’s easy. “Shout! Shout! Shout at the Devil!” Any closer who likes to go toe to toe with the Devil is probably going to throw some high, hard heat, too.

  1. Van Halen – Hot for Teacher
    I have been pushing for SOMEONE to use this for a long time. The opening drums and guitar make ME want to pitch 97 mph. "I DON'T FEEL TARDY!!"

  2. Tool – 46 and 2
    Deep, dark and brooding with an opening riff that makes teenagers (and hitters) want to cut themselves.

  3. Korn – Blind
    Can you imagine 36,000 Bostonians screaming "ARE YOU READY?" I can. And it rocks.

  4. The Beastie Boys – Sabotage
    Nothing says Red Sox Closer like three Jews rapping!

  5. The Toadies – Tyler
    Doesn't really work for closing music I guess. Anyway it’s a great song until you listen to the lyrics and realize, "Oh my God...he's gonna rape that girl!"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Game 14: Hero By Committee

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

This was one of those manic depressive games. The kind with lead changes and blunders and amazing plays and timely hitting and tight pitching situations and broken beer bottles and roommates saying “keep it down” and cops banging on the door and bail that’s set at the same amount that you won betting on the game. You know the kind right? Well it was like that. Clement pitched a hell of a game (7 innings, 3 R, 6 K) but didn’t get the win because Francona had him start the 8th (walked Travis Lee on 4 pitches) and then Timlin came in to do his “Oh no! Inherited runners!” routine than makes my eyes bleed and ties games up. So it was up to late inning heroics AGAIN. Sigh… they can’t make it easy.

It started with the heralded return of Manny Ramirez. Man-Ram was 2 for 4 with 3 RBI, a double (his first extra base hit of the season) and a timely hit that tied the game in the bottom of the 7th. Manny was the “Fuego Grande” that we all have come to love/put up with throughout the season. I want 20 more games like this from him in a row. Maybe some homeruns too? Is that too much to ask?

Following up their amazing performance from yesterday, we have Youlkilis and Loretta, who just may be the two secret ingredients that will make this team work as a delicious souffle. Youlkilis hit a 2 out, 2 run, go ahead double in the 8th that made me tip my chair over. Loretta immediately followed suit and did the AFLAC, All-State and Geico shuffle by brining Youlk home for the insurance run. These guys could put Papi out of a job, they’re so clutch.

So we head to the 9th with Papelbon as the Ultimate Warrior (my buddy DC claims that it was the Warrior's entrance music that Paps used as he came in from the pen). It started like all of his save situations: Paps just DOMINATING. The trouble came after two outs were recorded (both K’s) and Paps looked (gasp!) human. With Carl Crawford already on base, he walks the bases loaded and Damon Hollins comes to the plate representing the go ahead run. Nerve wracking! Hands were shaky, teeth clenched, pupils dilated, bowels loosened… I was on edge. Paps gives up a line drive to center, Adam Stern is there… has to dive… and… SNOW CONE!!! Game, set, match. Oh Canada!

This awesome win makes it 3 in a row. Tomorrow it’s Schilling and you know he’s ready to give the Devil (Rays) their due.
Go Sox!

Jim "Beam" Bowden

Another reason to be grateful that Theo came back: not only are the Nationals, GMed by Jim Bowden (interviewed over the winter to take over the Sox GM position) in last place in the NL East, but Bowden was either so depressed by the Nats’ four and nine record or so happy they won two in a row against Florida this past weekend that he decided to get loaded…then drive around the Miami area.  Things were going well at first, I’m sure – the weaving, the driving way too slow or way too fast (depending on his outlook on drunk driving), the motion sickness that could eventually lead to a pit stop and hugging a guard rail – but then the long arm of the law caught up with old Jim and hauled him off to jail.  I don’t know what the drunk driving laws are like in Florida, but since Bowden didn’t hit anyone, I have a feeling a slap on the wrist and a suspended license is probably in his future.  

Monday, April 17, 2006

Game 13: Excellent Game, Excellent Ending

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Seattle Mariners 6

Patriots’ Day. It’s an annual event celebrating a battle in the Revolutionary War in a state that loves obscure holidays (did you know St. Patrick’s Day is also Evacuation Day in Boston?), with the running of the Boston Marathon and Red Sox at 11:00 in the morning; an excuse to take the day off and watch some baseball in warm Spring sun. It isn’t always pretty for the home team (and it isn’t always sunny), but today it was certainly both; in a hard fought contest, Boston emerged victorious with last-out heroics from both Youkilis and Loretta.

As a starter, Lenny DiNardo still makes me a bit nervous, but it’s clear he’s got some ability – he scattered six hits and two runs over five innings and battled his way out of a few jams that could have turned this game into a rout very quickly. Although he never held the lead during the day, he kept things close enough to keep Boston in the game and it’s clear that while he’s certainly not an overpowering pitcher, he’s clever enough to work outs. If we traded up David Wells for these sorts of performances and DiNardo can build his strength to get above 80 pitches, I’ll be happy. Mariners starter Gil Meche deserves credit for his performance, too; he stymied the Boston offense enough to keep the Sox in a position where they could answer each Mariner run with a run of their own, but never take the lead. In other words, he kept the game close and very interesting…and that’s what we really care about, right?

The two teams kept pace until the very end, when Foulke, after a seven pitch top of the eighth that shut the door long enough for the Sox to tie the score in the bottom of the inning, ran into trouble in the top of ninth, allowing runners to get to first and third. Timlin came on and preserved his perfect ERA for another outing by getting two outs, but not before Roberto Petagine knocked in a run with a pinch-hit grounder to deep second base that Loretta just managed to grab and flip to first. With Seattle ahead at the middle of the inning and the possibility of yet another comeback seeming slim, NESN played one of their “Classic Moment” clips: a 10 second flashback to last year when Renteria bunted his way on and came home moments later when Big Papi (who hit two home runs today, keeping Boston in the game) drove a three and two fastball into center to win the game. In the karma department, this move was probably about the functional equivalent of bringing in a truckload of Red Sox greats to be on hand for ring presentation, although it took a few minutes for the baseball gods to signal their approval.

It’s now the bottom of the ninth. “Everyday” Eddie Guardado, who’s got a seven and one record in save chances against Boston, is on the mound, trying to slam the door. The sun comes out and gives the field an angelic cast as Wily Mo Peña, pinch-hitting for Alex Cora, works his way to a count of three and two. The crowd is on their feet, Peña looks expectant, Guardado rears back…and blows Peña away with strike three. Some of the air goes out of the mood, but possibility still dances in the mind’s eye as Dustan Mohr, pinch-hitting for Adam Stern, comes to the plate and tries to get something started. Four pitches later, Guardado catches Mohr looking and we’re all looking at two outs. Crap. All’s not lost, though: our man Youkilis is on the job, one for three with a walk today and ready to kick ass, take names and hopefully get on to base to make sure we all go home happy.

A ground ball to deep second base. Jose Lopez snags the ball, but he had to dive for it and his throw is just behind the hustling Youkilis, who practically stumbles into first base with an infield single. Phew. Now Loretta just needs to keep things moving and then we’ll have Papi and another huge hit. Suddenly, Guardado can’t find the plate, going to two and nothing on two pitches. A walk is as good as a single here, although a pitch to hit would be good…and there it is. It’s high, it’s deep, it’s gone into the Monster Seats and just like that, Loretta goes from the second baseman that makes some good plays and has a good bat to a game-winning hero. With the win, Boston win the series, three to one.

Tomorrow the Sox wind up the first home stand of the year with the first game in a set of three against Tampa Bay, Clement facing Casey “The Blade” Fossum (now sporting facial hair that makes him look like he’s taken to snorting speed and driving big-rigs) and hoping to bounce back after his last bad outing against the Jays. GO SOX!!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Game 12: Bad-Ass Pitching, Bad Hitting

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Seattle Mariners 2

6 – 0 Combined. Yeah… they’re that good

I think Beckett celebrates Easter Sunday by pumping his fist and screaming “Chocolate EGGS!! I am gonna eat chocolate-mother******-eggs!” He was a monster again today with 7 strong innings, 1 earned run off 6 hits, 1 walk and 5 K’s. He got into some trouble thanks to the lax defense (Loretta and Wily Mo I am looking at you) but he seemed to get out of every jam with a well placed strike out or popup. After a double play in the 4th, Beckett did his usual flurry of fist pumps and screaming and then went to the dugout to have a nice meal of rusty nails and magma. I bet the first line of his resume says “Bad-Ass” and he always gets the job.

The bullpen was just as good. Timlin had a one hit 8th but kept his ERA at zero thanks to Manny making two AMAZING catches (not a typo). Papelbon got his 6th save with a perfect 9th and in 7 innings he has only given up 2 hits. Like Beckett, he is also a RSBA (Red Sox Bad-Ass) and will be so for the foreseeable future.

Other than all of that awesomeness… this game sucked. This hitting is totally absent in a Twilight Zone/bad thriller-movie sort of way. Men on base? Forget ‘em. They’re gone for ever! They only scored in the first inning because of a bad call by the first base ump (Tek should have been out at first). The only extra base hit was a double from Loretta and he was stranded at third, surprising nobody. Manny got a (infield) hit today, causing audible gasps from the crowd and raising his average to a LOFTY .215. Yeah, I know he always starts slow… but this is really crazy.

The defense was just as painful. Loretta had the only scored error with his bobble that allowed Ichiro to reach, but Wily Mo was truly unwatchable in the field. He gave up triple when a ball bounced over his head and to the wall in the 3rd and another on a similar play in the 6th. With clean fielding, Beckett might have had a shutout.

Ok enough whining. They win again with excellent pitching, poor fielding and absent hitting, but it’s still a win. Tomorrow is the running of the Boston Marathon and the annual Patriots Day 11AM start. DiNardo is trying to win the 4 game series against Seattle.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Game 11: Good News/Bad News

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 0, Seattle Mariners 3

Good News: Wake went 9 innings with only 2 earned and saved the bullpen from overuse.
Bad News: Wake gave up 9 hits and Bard allowed an unearned run off passed balls. One bad inning ruined the whole day.

Good News: Francona gave some of the starters the day off. Much needed rest for those guys.
Bad News: Cora, Stern, Bard, Snow and Gonzo do not make for a potent lineup.

Good News: Manny got a hit. Perhaps a sign he’s getting out of the slump?
Bad News: Manny had 2 strikeouts and is batting .205. He’s playing like a lost kitten.

Good News: Wily Mo had 2 hits and was the offensive star of the day.
Bad News: Wily Mo had more trouble in the outfield when he badly misjudged a ball and let it go over his head.

Good News: Ummmm…
Bad News: It wasn’t like guys didn’t have chances. The Sox left 9 runners on base.

Good News: Hey… quit it!
Bad News: In the 2nd inning, the Red Sox had the bases loaded with no outs. Gonzo (K), Stern (K) and Cora (groundout) couldn’t get the job done. No runs.

Good News: No, really. Cut it out…
Bad News: David Wells is going back on the DL after only one start.

Wait… is that even considered bad news?
I'm unsure. Go Sox?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Game 10: Win 200, Schilling Style

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Seattle Mariners 1

There may have been a big hole in the middle of the lineup: one for eleven with a walk between Ortiz, Manny and V-Tek. The Sox might have hit five (yes, five) doubles off starter Jamie Moyer and his relief and only been able to turn those doubles into two runs in the fourth, leaving eleven men on base. However, even though the offense was almost non-existent with runners in scoring position, it didn’t matter: Schilling was on the mound and he was on. Giving up no hits to Seattle until Kenji Johjima hit a single in the third. Striking out the side on fourteen pitches in the second. Pitching like he had ice water instead of blood in his veins when the Mariners managed to get the tying run to third base. It was a site to behold in a season where Schilling has already made two quality starts. One run, three hits, seven strikeouts and pinpoint control over eight innings with Papelbon’s fifth save to finish off the ninth give Schilling a 3 and 0 record and Francona’s 200th win as the Red Sox manager.

Moyer, who’s normally pretty god-awful against Boston (seventeen runs over thirteen innings/three starts over the past three years), deserves some credit for his pitching performance – normally Ortiz and Ramirez own him and tonight they couldn’t touch his pitching with a ten foot pole. A ten foot pole that was also ten feet high. Moyer had a singular ability to wriggle out of tight situations tonight and if it wasn’t for Alex Gonzalez (yes, the Alex Gonzalez who boosted his average about 100 points tonight by going three for four and who will hopefully be making many appearances in the future), we’d probably still be watching that game.

Tomorrow afternoon, Wakefield and Pineiro face off as Wakefield tries to keep the ball rolling against the Mariners. Ortiz and Manny both have career numbers against Pineiro that are comparable to their success against Moyer, so maybe we’ll see some slugging from the heart of the order go down tomorrow. GO SOX!!!

Game 9: Seeking Help

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 8“Hello… My name is Matt (Clement had 7 earned in 4 innings). I am a member from last year and I have a problem. I let too many runners score and don’t give my team a chance to catch up. I used to be good in the first half of the season, but not anymore. I have been told I suck.”

Hi Matt. Welcome.

“Hey there… My name is David (Wells was the big loser last night), and I have the same problem Matt has. Also, I can’t stop eating snacks and drinking booze. Does anyone have a Hostess cake or Jello shot?”

Nope. Sorry David, but welcome.

“Sup? I’m Manny. I like long walks on the beach, swinging at the first pitch and asking for trades during the off-season and all-star break. I usually don’t show up at these things, but since I haven’t had an extra base hit in the first 9 games, they asked me to come.”

Hi there Manny!

“My name is Alex, but people call me Gonzo. I am not sure if I’m in the right place. Is this where you go if you bat around .167?”

Yep. Welcome Gonzo!

“Hello again. My name is Keith and I think this may be my last meeting (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 K's, no runs). Last year I had a problem closing games out or keeping them close. However, with your help and the support of my coaches, I may be past that forever. Thanks for your faith and patience.”

Bye Keith. Hope we don’t see you soon!

“Yo man. People call me “Big Papi” and I do that nasty thing I always do. Is this where I go to tally my homeruns (3 in 3 games) and RBI’s?”

Nope. MVP consideration is across the street. Whose next?

“Yo! What’s up mother*****? Name is Ted Lilly and you better remember it! I am a badass with mad-skillz who likes to take apart teams like the “Pink Sox” and tip over cars and drink Everclear. Also I drive a dirtbike and I got a cousin named Road Hog. Touch me and I’ll break your face! JAYS BABY!”

Alright, I have had just about enough out of you Mr. Lilly. I wish you would use those “mad-skillz” on some other team. Awww…. Forget it.

Go SOX!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Game 8: Meltdown at the all You can eat Buffet

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Toronto Blue Jays 8

Trust me, the starting pitching was not this keyed up tonight

This was not your late 90’s Wells tonight, fastball steaming past the hitters inside, curveball dropping out of sight as hitters swing and miss and look foolish. No, tonight he got hit like a redheaded stepchild on a rented mule. There was one streak of seven batters where the old magic returned, but seven runs on ten hits over four innings does not a good outing make.

On the plus side, long relief Lenny DiNardo made a quality showing, scattering six hits over three innings, striking out two, walking one and giving up a run. He even worked himself out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth without surrendering a run, showing some quality poise that might turn him into a mid-rotation starter at some point. For some reason, though, every time I see a young pitcher escape a tight situation without damage I think of Bronson Arroyo two years ago, giving up a triple at the start of an inning and then getting three outs without allowing a run to score.

Speaking of Arroyo, it was a big night for Wily Mo. Either last night’s debacle was so embarrassing that he decided to stop swinging freely, or Manny or Ortiz sat him down and told him what’s what, or he really liked the furniture he got today, because Wily Mo started out the night with a walk (a walk, for God’s sake; he took four pitches without swinging at them!) and worked a single before hitting his first jack of the year into the photographers’ well in centerfield. It was awesome. Papi had a perfect night with two walks, a double and homerun number three and Dustin Mohr hit his first homer on his second at bat (seeing a common theme?). Although it wasn’t the best night for the offense, the good news is that the only weak point in Boston’s game was Wells’ less-than-stellar stuff. Of course, the bad news is that one of the Sox starting five is still working through his Spring Training issues.

Tomorrow, Night of the Nemesis Part 2, as Boston faces the vice-president member of the Rodrigo Lopez Club, Ted Lilly. Will the magic that worked a win against Lopez on April 9 be back again? Only time will tell. GO SOX!!!

Wily Mo Peña, Family Man

Bob's Furniture: delivering bedrooms, dining rooms, bat speed...?

So, apparently Wily Mo Peña has plans to stay in Boston for a while. Frankly, I approve of these plans highly; yesterday and Bronson Arroyo’s two home runs to Wily Mo’s none notwithstanding, the Sox have their hands on a talented slugger who will develop more discipline at the plate, learn the confines of the Fenway outfield and, most likely, take Manny’s spot behind Ortiz when Ramirez and his big contract move on. For now, with Nixon out five to seven games with his minor groin injury and Coco Crisp nursing his finger fracture, Peña, Adam “Canadian Idol” Stern and Pawtucket-call up Dustin Mohr will have the chance to split time playing center and right field and Peña will have the chance to get past his nerves, stop swinging at every pitch and avoid running into walls. But how I do know Peña plans to stay in Boston for a while? Because, my friends, I have inside sources.

Ok, one inside source. And by inside source, I mean my buddy Alan, who works for Bob’s Furniture and called me to brag that he had just met Peña by delivering three bedroom sets, a dining room set and a living room set to Peña’s new home. That’s right; Keep Your Sox on in Brooklyn, coming at you with the hot scoops. Next, we’ll be the first to announce that Manny Ramirez has decided that flailing wildly at pitches might not be the best way to hit them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Game 7: Stand on Ceremony

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 3

Playing hooky today? You are not alone! It is opening day at Fenway and the truant officers are busy all over New England (here as well because the Mets and Yanks started early). Everyone called in sick to see Josh Beckett take on Josh Towers and the Jays. I heard that the loser of this match up will be referred to as “Joshua” for the rest of the season, spreading shame and added vowels to his family and loved ones.

Before we get to the actual baseball however, we need to sit through the presentation that never ends. Introductions for every player and coach (followed by “DUH DUH” increasing in pitch to the point that when it got to the bat boys, only dogs could hear the tones), the Canadian National Anthem sung by a children’s choir and Adam Stern (must have been a hazing thing), a Jimmy Fund kid signing the American National Anthem (I will go to hell for even THINKING that was funny), and the surviving members of the 1946 Pennant winning team driving on the field in classic cars to throw out the first pitches. By the time the A-10 aircrafts did the fly-over I think the ceremony had been going on for 7 hours. I lost track of time and feeling in my legs.

Anyway, it seems that I was not the only one driven to distraction by the morning events. Beckett gave up a single and walked 3 (one with the bases loaded) to start off the game. Luckily a well timed double play ended the threat and we were treated to a flurry of fist pumps and high fives. The following 6 innings he looked like a different guy. Only 2 more hits and a walk for the rest of the game. Will someone let me know if Beckett is going to start off shaky and then be amazing till the 7th inning of all his starts? Cause if he is it would be nice to make that common knowledge. Might decrease the chance I have a mental collapse every fifth day.

The defense helped him again in the 4th with one of the more amazing double plays I have EVER seen. Molina hits a line drive to a jumping Loretta who just manages to tip the ball to Gonzo who touches second and then fires to first. Amazing, but I think they could have dropped the ball, dusted it off and walked it to first base. Molina has cat like speed, but it’s Garfield the cat.

Meanwhile, Towers got roughed up by some of the newer guys. Lowell went 4-4 with 3 doubles (not a typo), Stern had a steal and a 2 RBI double and Youlk was 2-4 with a RBI. Big Papi added a solo shot in the 7th off reliever Chulk, but most of the damage was done to Towers in the 2nd inning. The bad news is that Manny looked completely lost, Gonzo has infield power, and Wily Mo (who didn’t even start) had an all around horrible day.

Wily was replacing Nixon who hurt his groin in fielding a ball in the 2nd (they are calling it a minor sprain). He swung at every pitch he saw and looked like he was in a hurry to get some lunch after the game. Unfortunately, his hitting WASN’T the worst part of his afternoon. In the 8th Foulke came in with a 5-1 lead and after a single by Russ Adams, left fielder Frank Catalanotto hit a DEEP fly ball to right. Wily went back… over the bullpen wall… and… it bounced out of his glove for a 2 run homer. Ugh. Well if Trot is going to miss some significant time over this groin thing, Wily will get some more practice. It looks like he needs it.

Papelbon slammed the door in the 9th with another strikeout to keep his ERA at a lofty 0.00. I love this guy (check out his Weird Mitigating Factor score)! Another save for him and another win for Beckett. A nice finish to a day of gilded lilies, pomp and circumstance.

Tomorrow, lock up your snack foods. David Wells makes his 2006 debut and he is hungry for a win… and just plain hungry. GO SOX!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Body Parts: Finger of the Team

Sidelined for now...

In the less happy news, Coco Crisp will have the opportunity to plan out his new reality show a bit more over the next week or so: the centerfielder, who’s started to win the hearts and minds of RSN with his bat, speed and a few excellent catches gave himself a non-displaced fracture in his left index finger in a botched slide into third while caught stealing against the Orioles on Saturday. He’ll be out for ten days with a splint on his finger and then reevaluated to see if he’s ready to play. Another point in Crisp’s favor: he didn’t want medical attention for the sore finger and said he could have played yesterday, pain and all. Perhaps we have another Dirt Dog in the making?

Losing Crisp for ten days or more is bad because he’s been hot with the bat and in the field, but it’s a lot better than it could be: we have the hero of Canada/US WBC game, Adam Stern, to take his place. Stern, who’s plenty speedy and went two for five with two RBI yesterday will hopefully continue to solidify his place on Sox teams of the future before heading back to Pawtucket when Crisp comes back.

Speaking of the future, if this rumor pans out in favor of Boston, we might finally be able to declare the AL East – if not the whole post-season – a lock for the first time in eleven years. A rotation sporting a healthy Schilling, Beckett and Dontrelle Willis with Wakefield and either Wells or Clement to mix it up would be disgustingly good – certainly worth the price of dealing Jon Lester to Florida (see The Hanley Ramirez Corollary) – and a great challenge to the pitching juggernaut the Other Sox have set up in Chicago. I have a feeling that the D-Train action won’t go down until closer to the trading deadline, but with the Marlins continuing to dump salary to afford a move, I think it’s only a matter of time.

Tomorrow afternoon, Beckett opens up the first home stand of the year against Josh Towers and the Blue Jays. So far, the Oracle has been right about both Beckett and Papelbon; let’s see if the magic continues. GO SOX!!!

Body Parts: Face of the Team

Numero uno, baby

Just announced: David Ortiz will stay a Red Sox through the 2010 season, with an option for 2011. That’s four years at least, kids…four years of balls crushed to all fields, of hilarious press conferences, of big grins and complicated high fives. Four years of late inning heroics and MVP, supah-clutch hitting. As no doubt most of you have noticed, David Ortiz is my favorite Red Sox, so I’m beyond ecstatic that the team got this deal done now before it could become an issue in the off-season or, more importantly, before another team could swoop down and snatch Boston’s franchise player away. As it turns out, Theo not only agreed with me by making the signing he’d be foolish to ignore, but actually said so in the post-signing press conference: Ortiz was the signing the team had to do now, because they wouldn’t be able to afford to wait for free agency. Varitek is the Captain, Wakefield is the Elder Statesman and now Ortiz is the Face of the Team.

Speaking of the heroics of the 2004 ALCS, Robin and I were watching this clip on The San Diego Serenade, where a guy took the audio feed Vin Scully’s broadcast from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and put it with video he captured from R.B.I. Baseball to recreate those last few fateful moments where the Red Sox blew their chances to win. It’s worth checking out – if nothing else, it’s incredible how much emotional power some audio can give to a bunch of 8-bit characters playing baseball – but while we were watching Mookie Wilson foul pitch after pitch, Robin commented that the tension we were feeling about Bob Stanley being unable to close the door was probably how Yankee fans felt at the end of Games 4 and 5. Rereading the posts now, a year and a half later, I’m still not entirely sure how it all happened. I’m just really, really glad that the man at the center of it all wants to be in Boston for the rest of his career.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Game 6: According to Plan

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 1

2004 and 2005 stats for Rodrigo Lopez:
vs the Red Sox: 2.87 ERA
vs the rest of the league: 4.50 ERA

You see? You see? He’s not THAT good. Trust me he isn’t. The Sox just have a mental block when facing him. Any Red Sox that has consistently faced him does poorly. However, the front office (using wheelbarrows of cash and infinite wisdom) has found a solution:

Step 1. Use a lineup of guys he has never (or almost never) faced before.

Adam Stern (Coco just jammed his pinky on the ugly slide into third yesterday)
J.T. Snow
Alex Gonzalez
Mike Lowell
Mark Loretta (3 previous AB’s)
Josh Bard (6 previous AB’s)

Step 2. Forget slugging. Use the “small ball”.

All 9 of the Red Sox hits were singles. For a team that has lead the league in OPS for 3 consecutive years “small ball” usually means “a double that only scores 1 run”. There was a sac bunt (!?!?!), a few hit and run plays and heads up running that took advantage of sloppy defense. It was like watching one of those boring NL teams that win all those close games. It’s Bizzaro World.

Step 3. Have the pitching keep you in the game.

Wakefield was good for 6. He got into some slight jams (errors by Loretta and Gonzo didn’t help) but he got out mostly unscathed. Timlin had a shaky but scoreless 7th and Foulke looked like he was going to pitch in the 8th but then Mr. Peabody and Sherman used the Way Back Machine to unleash the 2004 version of Foulke. Either this stuff just kicked in or he was perfect with 2 K’s. Damn. He was perfect with 2 K’s. Finally, Papelbon proving that his weakness isn’t Kryptonite and red sunlight, gave up a double and hit Tejada before getting the last three outs. That’s his third save this week for those keeping score at home.

It's a SWEEP in Baltimore and a successful win vs a known Red Sox killer. The plan works! Hear that Ted Lilly? We gonna get ya!

Next up: Toronto and the home opener on Tuesday. The boys are back in town.

Game 5: Cold As Ice

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Baltimore Orioles 1

You know that you are…

Just like the Foreigner ballad, it WAS chilly in Camden Yards. The rain finally let up after a 1 ½ hour delay and we had a ballgame where mittens and sweaters were not an uncommon sight. It was about 44 degrees at game time (that’s Fahrenheit for all you metric using nerds) and it only got colder as the innings progressed. The fans were bundled, the players were bundled and I think I saw a memorabilia collector using his signed Rafael Palmeiro bats as kindling. To reiterate: IT WAS COLD.

And yet the Sox pitching was still red hot. Schilling (now 2-0) gave up 3 hits and one earned run (a Matos solo shot) over 7 strong innings. Again, he looked like the guy from 2004. He has the stuff to win 20+ games as long as he remains healthy. And like before, he was real fired up to strikeout Conine to end his performance. A dominating show. Timlin also had a good showing in the 8th. He allowed a single but no more and he too looked like he was at the top of his game.

Unfortunately, the Sox bats were as cold as the weather. Sure they had 7 hits and 6 walks (it seemed like they were going to hammer Bruce Chen in the 6th) but they only ended up with 2 runs and left the bases loaded twice. “Leave em on” Lowell stranded 4 all by his lonesome and Wily Mo (getting the start against the lefty Chen) looked AWFUL with 2 big strikeouts. There were also some base running blunders. In the 3rd, Crisp with his blinding speed stole second and immediately had aspirations on third base. Chen saw him and gunned him down like a clay pigeon. His late and awkward slide was as poor as the attempt itself. Nice idea… poor execution.

After all this talk about temperatures, I must say that the coldest thing in the park wasn’t the air or the hitting. It was the blood coursing through Jon Papelbon’s veins which must be at Absolute 0. Just 100% lights out. When he trotted in from the bullpen in the 9th he looked as if he were jogging in to pitch BP. Tejada: pop out, Gibbons: pop out, Millar: a WICKED K. He was throwing heat the whole time (94-97) and looked as if he could go 2 more innings. Not since Foulke was in his prime in 2004 (and maybe Tom Gordon in 1998) was I this confidant in a closer. He looks as if he could do this every day.

1:35 tomorrow is the final game in the series and the last game before the home opener on Tuesday. Tim “Bard is not ‘Bellie” Wakefield will face Rodrigo “Sox Killer” Lopez. Could someone PLEASE inform Mr. Lopez that he is a mediocre pitcher and NOT the Cy Young candidate he looks like when he faces us? Thanks…


Friday, April 07, 2006

Game 4: Grind It Out

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 14, Baltimore Orioles 8

Ah, those long grinders. Although it’s always nice when the good guys score early and often, it doesn’t make for a particularly exciting game. After the initial burst of Red Sox runs, where the Boston offense lit up Cabrera like fireworks on the Esplanade on July 4th, the fun was mostly in watching Clement work – one or two hits and a walk through six innings as Ole Matty made the Baltimore hitters look foolish. By the seventh, though, Clement started to tire, pitches started to hang and the Orioles started building a comeback. Not a real comeback, mind you; just enough to make the game drag for the next three innings. Rudy Seanez came in to put out the fire or, if you prefer, waste outs and absorb runs (four runs on six hits before he got all three outs in eighth). By the time Foulke came on for a confidence building nearly perfect ninth, the end was just a matter of time. Really slow time.

Obviously, tonight was a breakout night for the offense picking on some weak pitching, but with luck, it’s the start of some momentum: Lowell went two for three, Youkilis had a perfect night with a walk, three hits and two runs, Nixon hit home run number two and Manny rocked the house with three hits, three runs, two RBI and a walk…and he ran out a single that shot down the left field line and off of Matos’ glove at third like he would go for a double if possible. In other words, he’s motivated and that’s always good for Red Sox bats.

Tomorrow afternoon at 4:35, the rotation starts over again as Schilling goes for win number two against Bruce Chen, pride of Panama. When Chen is on he throws a pretty good game, so this should be a good match up. We’ll see if fourteen runs tonight kills the offense for tomorrow, or if Boston can keep the momentum going. GO SOX!!!