Friday, July 14, 2006

Game 87: Nobody's Fault but the Sox

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Oakland Athletics 5

A game with more subplots than you could shake a stick at, right down to the tenth inning rally that ended a run too short. Let’s recap:

Enter the Worm

The Worm in question is Jon Lester, who knows more escape tricks than Houdini and can wriggle his way out of any tight situation with a timely pop out or double play. Even on a night like tonight, where Lester didn’t have his best stuff, he held Oakland to one run, a Nick Swisher home run hit into the Monster Seats in the third inning, five hits and five walks over five innings. It’s bad for the blood pressure, it’s bad for the pitch count, but the little escapes he pulls make for great baseball. It’s just too bad he didn’t get the win.

Base Runners Galore, but Not a Run to be Found

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Sox as a team are entering a slump. The debacle that was the nineteen inning game last Sunday, plus a dismal fifteen men left on base tonight (eleven walks! Four runs on eleven walks! It’s disgraceful!) are definitely the beginnings of a team hitting drought. Hopefully, only the beginnings of a slump – another night like this one could easily bring on bouts of homicidal rage. Suffice it to say that with only three runs on six walks, Esteban Loaiza is one lucky SOB.

Mark Loretta: Goat of the Game

We all knew it would happen eventually, just like we all knew that the Papal-Bon would eventually make a game-losing mistake: the defense screwed up big time. Seventh inning, one out, MDC on the mound, trying to pitch around two runners inherited from Craig Hansen. Double play ball shoots towards Loretta, who bends, grabs…and misses the ball entirely as it scoots into right field. Two runs score, MDC gets a blown save (which is BS) and with the Red Sox not scoring runs, Oakland sets the stage to get the win four innings later. It wasn’t quite as bad as this play, but it was ugly – so ugly that when I called Robin afterwards, he was so shocked by the play he forgot how to curse properly.

The Julian Tavarez Honeymoon is Officially Over

Well, the run was nice while it lasted, even if I still expected things to end terribly every time the ball left Tavarez’s hand. Tavarez’s love affair with the Scoreless Streak was a tawdry one; a hushed, secretive pursuit of the noble passions that could not last in the forbidding light of the disapproving baseball gods. And tonight, when the opportunity presented itself, the Scoreless Streak slipped away, leaving Tavarez holding the bill and the tie-breaking runs scored. But did it have to be two, Scoreless Streak? Could you not have been satisfied with one run? Who knows, we might still be watching the game.

I Think It’s Time to Pack Your Bags

With Wily Mo Peña coming off the DL soon, Willie Harris knew he just had to give everyone a special surprise to let us all know how much he loves us. But what to do? All he could offer the team and the fans was his superior abilities on the base paths. Luckily, an opportunity came up tonight: Trot Nixon led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk. With the game tied, Tito decided to send Harris out to pinch-run and try and steal second to get the winning run home. Glee! Willie trotted out to first base, did his stretches, prepared to steal second…and one ball and two pickoff attempts later got caught napping and tagged out in a run down.

The man has one job and he can’t even do that properly. Loretta gets a reprieve for tonight because he does other things for the team; Willie Harris does not because he does not. As Robin pointed out before he got so choked with rage that he lost the power of speech and had to hang up, Gabe Kapler should have just come in for Nixon – as he proved in the eleventh, he can run the base paths and get the run home.

Nice Try, But Not Quite Enough

Speaking of Kapler, hats off to the Hebrew Hammer and the Cap’n for battling Kirk Sarloos into surrendering a run in the bottom of the eleventh in a two out rally. Kapler’s at-bat was especially epic and he took advantage of defensive indifference and smart (i.e. what Willie Harris doesn’t do) base running to score when Varitek pushed a single between first and second. Definitely one of the most exciting parts of the game…until Lowell grounded out to end the night.

Tomorrow, We do it All over Again

Josh Beckett versus Barry “I’m Trade Bait” Zito at 7:05. Which Josh Beckett will show up tomorrow night? Will the Red Sox be able to convert base runners into runs? Will journalists find new ways to badger Manny? Only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell. GO SOX!!!