Saturday, July 01, 2006

Game 77: Unlucky Number 13

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 2, Florida Marlins 5

Round one of the Jason Johnson experiment: maybe it’s time to adjust the hypothesis a bit? Struggling right from the get go, Johnson started the game on a poor note by giving up a single to Hanley Ramirez (remember him? That trade seems to have worked out pretty well for both sides, although obviously even with Ramirez’s decent numbers this year, there’s no way in hell I’d second-guess the decision to move him to Florida) that turned into three runs after a hit-by-pitch, RBI double, run-scoring fielder’s choice and an RBI single. Tack on two more runs in the second with two more singles (including another hit by Ramirez), a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly and you have the Marlins’ runs for the night. Johnson settled down in the third, getting the side over the next two innings, but after four innings and 73 pitches it was the end of his night.

Given Johnson’s reputation as a sinkerballer, I’ll hazard a guess that pitches weren’t sinking properly this evening at first and Johnson didn’t have enough time to get his head straightened out before the damage had been done. Unfortunately, this year Johnson’s done poorly at the starts of games (.722 OPS against that rises as the game goes on), terrible facing batters when the bases are empty with no outs (1.085 OPS against) and absolutely wretched against lead-off hitters (1.338 OPS against) so receiving a beating in the first two innings isn’t terribly surprising, as much as we all would have hoped otherwise. Still, every player gets at least three chances before they develop a bad reputation in my book (especially when they’re the fifth starter), so I’m willing to wait and see Johnson’s next start.

Johnson had another problem tonight: he and his offense were facing a revived D-Train whose ERA has been steadily dropping since a poor start in May. Willis had no problems dominating the Red Sox tonight, striking out seven and shutting down Boston for six innings until a walk to Crisp, a single to Youkilis, a balk and a two run single by Manny brought home the only Sox runs of the night, ending the Red Sox winning streak at twelve games and stopping the “sweeping” tour of the NL East one team shy of complete victory. On the bright side, however, tonight marked Boston’s seventeenth error-free game, snapping a sixteen-game streak set by the Cardinals in 1992. If nothing else, Boston’s glove work remains the best in the majors.

Tomorrow evening at 6:05 Tim Wakefield will try and even the series score at one, going up against Brian Moehler, whose ERA is in a perpetual battle to stay below seven runs per game. I have a feeling the Boston bats will come roaring back into action. GO SOX!!!