Sunday, September 30, 2007

Game 162: Why Do I Care? The Season Is OVER!!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox Cupcake, Minnesota Twins Banana

How the hell did the Sox find a way to make this a tense game? Unlike last night that locked up the best record in baseball, the final game of the season had absolutely no meaning what-so-ever! The final score was Cupcake to Banana for crissake! How did they manage to suck me in and make me think that the outcome of this game would matter?

Down by a sprinkle, bases loaded in the 9th, and back to back K’s sink the last chance to salvage the season ender and the Sox hopes for… oh wait that’s right… this game didn’t freaking matter!!! It’s like the Red Sox use some crazy mass mind control device to make me freak out about every game possible.

Bottom line, this game was like “Whose Line is it Anyway” where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. We end the season 96-66 tied with Cleveland with the best record in MLB (but we win home field advantage due to the head-to-head record) and head into the playoffs footloose and fancy free. Our pitching will be rested, our big bats are back and momentum is building.

What a season this was. Winning is always sweet, but being the best is so much sweeter. Eric and I will have some pre-postseason info for everyone before Wednesday’s match up with the Angels, but for now, relax, crack a bottle of bubbly and enjoy this picture of the crazy man that is Papelbon.


Game 161: Irrelevant Game Number One

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Minnesota Twins 4

Another victory, and with the AL East in hand (woo!) everything came down to one thing: who would get the more advantageous schedule for the ALDS, with the day off this coming Thursday. Well, wrap up that prize: thanks to an Indians loss in Kansas City yesterday, Cleveland is mathematically eliminated from schedule choice, even if they tie up the record today.

Truth be told, I wasn't particularly worried about winning the scheduling privilege - that seemed like gravy that would be play out as it will - but yesterday's win makes me glad about two things:

  1. Tim Wakefield may not be able to break his career high win total, but at least he tied it, picking up 17 wins for the first time in nine years and capping a remarkable regular season where he pitched an average of a bit over six innings per game and, for a lengthy period at the beginning of the year, was one of the best pitchers in baseball. More importantly, Wake pitched seven innings for the first time in more than a month, which you have to figure means he's no longer sore in the back. Past experience tells us that seeing Wake come in for some playoff long relief is not out of the question, so having him healthy is a very good and necessary thing.
  2. J. D. Drew, finally showing why the Sox paid the money for the big contract. Drew's OPS for September is a Barry Bonds-level 1.072, and yesterday he knocked in three of Boston's runs, extending his RBI streak to eight games. Drew's hot streak not only closes that ugly hole in the fifth or sixth slot; it gives Boston's lineup scary good potential from nearly top to bottom.
So, one game left and we can go off to the dance. Everything's in place, all of the major decisions have been made, and the afternoon, for the first time since the last Spring Training in March, we can watch a baseball game without a care in the world. Enjoy it, fans; we'll be back in the thick of tension soon enough.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Game 160: Step One… Win the AL East

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Minnasota Twins 2

Frankly, I’m still in shock. I’m not usually one of those pessimistic Sox fans (more like suicidal) but with this crazy up and down season, I wouldn’t put it past Boston to find a way to blow this. Even after the Sox knocked down the Twins, I was bemoaning the fact that we would have to find a way to pull another one out because LORD KNOWS the Yankees won’t drop one to that disaster of a Baltimore team…

Wait… excuse me? Are you kidding me? Are you pulling my chain? Yanking my crank? Touching me in an inappropriate manner that you will later blame on booze, but I’ll know that you’re just a weirdo and then I’ll need years of therapy?

I seriously didn’t expect a 9th inning Yankees collapse to catapult the Sox into the AL East title for the first time in 12 years. I’ve always HOPED… but never expected. What happened to Rivera and the rest of that that bullpen? The Joba rules better go out the window in the postseason cause there is NOBODY in that pen that is worthwhile besides that tub-o-rookie.

But let me digress a second. Before any awesome screen watching could take place, the Sox first had to take care of business at home. Cue Dice-K, Lowell and Big Papi. The Asian Import finally found his groove again and locked up his 15th win with a 7 inning, 8K performance. Meanwhile, Lowell and Papi were a two man wrecking crew. You want runs? These primetime players got the runs. Mix this all with a healthy dash of Papelbon (37th save) and call that a win, a division title and a 6 foot Red Sox erection with a big shiny B on the tip. Title clinching should come in a little blue pill. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since we’ve popped one of those suckers.

So in the wildness of my baseball priapism I almost forgot about a bunch of other interesting things that happened today:

Papi now the DH double king. He passed Edgar Martinez with his 51st two bagger of the season in the DH spot.

Dice-K first 200K rookie since Kerry Wood. Pretty damn impressive.

Clay Buchholz shut down for the season. The “No Hit Kid” has shoulder fatigue and is done till spring training. Gonna miss you in the postseason, but we shall solider on.

So now what’s in store for the Sox while we wait to face the Angels in the ALDS? Well the best record in the AL would be nice, but I expect the Sox to flash a little “season shutdown” mojo in these last two games. No use stretching anyone too thin before the real fun begins.

Deep breaths… we have crossed into the other side. The land of milk and honey is just over the rise and the shores of redemption are nearer still. It’s amazing when I think back on the effect this season has had on me. I have been pulled back to Boston, seen almost every good pint glass I own break under the stress (my stress), scared the bejeezus out of most of my friends and neighbors with a healthy showing of crazy, and lost about 35% of my liver function all due to the Red Sox.
Was it worth it you ask? All I can say is:

So far… so good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Game 159: Damn Twinkies

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Minnesota Twins 5

Well eff all that noise. Seriously, that was so completely the opposite of what I wanted, it's not only a clear sign that baseball gods exist, but that they either hate me, or they're really spiteful bastards. I mean, come on: all I wanted was for Boston to win, the Yankees to lose, and the Sox to clinch the AL East before tomorrow night, when I spend the evening in the Bronx helping my brother-in-law celebrate the wonders of legalized drinking. Making Josh Beckett a 21 game winner would have been icing on the cake, but totally unnecessary. So, to recap: win, necessary. Clinch, necessary. 21 game winner, cool, but not a vital part of my weekend. Damn Twinkies.

Instead: Beckett surrendering the lead in the first with a single and a triple, then pitching in a manner totally uninspiring and, quite frankly, completely unlike what he's been doing in the past two months. Bonser, the Boof Man himself, ripe and ready for a Boston-sponsored beat down (in a way Baseball Reference tells he was not before), throwing 40 million pitches in the first inning, escaping with two runs, and then turning into Cy Young himself in the middle of the unexpected pouring rain. The offense...ah, the offense. Two double plays, and twelve men left on base? Sounds about right. Damn Twinkies.

But the worst - the real worst - was how this little soul death ended. Bases loaded, one out, Boston ready to strike...and no one could pull the trigger. Or they (Kevin Youkilis) did - the official record says he struck out swinging - but really, I think that umpire just wanted to go home, because he was way too interested in calling strikes that didn't seem to exist. And there's no way Youkilis went around on that last swing. But you know what? Like I said, eff all that noise. We'll get 'em against tomorrow. And Saturday, too, if necessary. And really, damn those Twinkies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Game 158: Back in the Saddle Again!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, Oakland Athletics 6

YOUK! MANNY! I remember these guys! These are guys that get on base. Guys that score runs. Guys that have weird hair. These are the Red Sox I remember. Enough of this Hinske, Moss, Kielty garbage. Those guys are fine in small doses, but this is the stretch run and we need to dance with the boys that brung us.

Jon “The Molester” Lester brought his “A” game when it comes to strikeouts (9) but not his best night on everything else. 4 earned in just 4.2 innings from the golden boy. Might not make the playoff rotations with outings like that, buddy.

So it was up to our offense (remember that struggling thing?) to cap off the night. Lowell was ready, Pedroia was ready, and yes Manny was ready! Lowell got his 115th RBI giving him more than any Red Sox third baseman EVER! Pedroia got his 8th homer and 2 doubles pretty much locking up the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Finally there was Manny again batting second and hitting like he has been here all month. We’re back baby and ready to restart the Red Sox Nation of Domination.

With the magic number at 2, the best news of the night might be the realization that the Sox don’t have to face Johan Santana in this 4 game clash with Minnesota. Come on you Great Lake jokers… drop a few for your Boston buddies. We need this.

Oh… and the Yankees clinched a playoff birth. Good for them… have fun with the Wild Card.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Game 157: Christmas Came Early

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Oakland Athletics 3

With the exception of one hiccup in the first, where Schilling left a ball out over the plate that Daric Barton (who?) neatly deposited in the right field seats, this game could not have gone any better. On the surface, of course, we have the win, the additional step towards AL East victory bolstered (until a few moments ago, when their bullpen blew the lead) by Tampa Bay's lead over the Yankees. But tonight's near-perfect contest extends much further than a simple +1 in the win column; it's a compilation of all the pleasant little surprises that popped up tonight like mushrooms after a rain shower or gifts under a Christmas tree. A bit like this list, actually:

  1. We had Manny and Youkilis, both back in the lineup after interminable waits. Not at the same time, and not for the whole game, but at least they're both back in the field and returning to 100% capacity. Youkilis didn't have anything offensively tonight, but Manny batted second (just to switch things up), and went 1 for 2 with a walk and scored Boston's first run on a patented Mike Lowell double. I'm pretty sure David Ortiz was so happy he hit one and a half home runs to celebrate.
  2. J.D. Drew had a near-perfect night. No, I'm serious: he went 3 for 4 with a walk, a run and an RBI. He only left two men on base! Dating back to his hitting streak at the beginning of the month, Drew is now batting .383 (18 for 47) with 11 walks since September 7. If he gets hot in time for the playoffs I will take back every bad thing I ever said about him.
  3. Curt Schilling, loved by Satan. Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number: its number is six (innings), six (hits), six (strikeouts). Somehow I doubt Jesus would approve, but it was more than enough to keep Boston in the game and put Curt in line for his ninth win.
  4. Eric Gagne didn't blow the game! Oh, he tried, and did so even before the Sox pulled out their eighth inning magic to score a few insurance runs. As usual: two quick outs, then no love from either batters or umpires. He might have gotten squeezed on a strike three, but by then it didn't matter, and to stave off a potential riot Tito went to Papelbon for a one pitch out. Needless to say, I was very proud. I feel like we've all grown a little bit over the past few weeks, and learned to see our weaknesses for what they are. Or at least not let one pitcher spoil a good night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Games 155 and 156: Sometimes You Get the Bear, and Sometimes the Bear Gets Tim Wakefield

Final Scores:

Game 155: Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6
Game 156: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Well, we're in, come hell or high water. It wasn't easy - the Devil Rays showed the sort of fight that, while it doesn't necessarily make for pretty baseball, must make their managers and ownership wonder how far they could take their team given the right set of circumstances. Of course, Boston isn't playing anywhere close to full strength, while the Rays have a field full of guys with abilities to prove and 2008 roster spots to secure, which creates the end-of-the-year parity that frustrates wins (or makes them harder to secure), but a couple of hard-fought contests none-the-less.

On Saturday, Julio Lugo was the hero, making the Sox the first team in baseball to secure an official spot in the first round of the dance with a two run homer off of Rays' closer Al Reyes that pulled Boston ahead seven to six in the top of the ninth. The homer (one of four in the game) not only erased a one-run deficit, but pulled Javier Lopez out of the hot water for blowing Matsuzaka's most recent attempt at win number fifteen. It also marked the fourth time in five years that Boston's secured a post-season berth, and made Terry Francona the only manager in Red Sox history to bring Boston to the post-season three times. That figure blows my mind, by the way; it's hard to believe that with all of the good teams Boston's had over the years (enough for 18 post-season appearances, third all time in the AL after New York and Oakland), there's never been a core team good enough to get one manager three post-season entrances until this year. We truly live in the best of times to be a Red Sox fan.

Today the Rays rallied from defeat, taking Wakefield - who, you might recall, is Chairman of the Board of all things Tampa Bay - and beating him like a rented mule. Four runs on seven hits and three walks spells the end of the perfect streak in St. Pete for Wake, who has run out of chances to do any more than tie his career season win total of seventeen. By the way, Tim, if I'm any way responsible for jinxing you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I let my enthusiasm get the better of me while you were on a screaming hot streak and I'm sorry.

One last off day tomorrow to gather resources and prepare for the final home stand of the year, a six game effort against Oakland and Minnesota. These games will be the acid test: two potentially difficult teams and a 1.5 game lead (that the Yankees with expand or contract tomorrow with a final game against the Jays) balanced by the home field advantage, all adding up to one exciting (if balanced) final run at the AL East crown. A combination of six Boston wins and New York losses means electric victory; anything else means close defeat. The end of the homestretch beckons.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Game 154: The Heroes Return

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1

Robin called me earlier this evening, and made a deal with me - a win/win bargain with the Devil, if you will. "If the Sox win tonight," he said, "you write the post. If they lose, I'll take it, and you'll be reading the gibberings of a madman tomorrow morning." If the outcome of tonight's lopsided contest had been different, I can't say I would have blamed him for his choice. But the baseball gods had other plans; plans I might have tuned into from the beginning had I noticed that the Red Sox (90 and 63) and the Devil Rays (63 and 90) had polar opposite records as the night began.

Enter our heroes. David Ortiz, mighty slugger, bereft of his fellow sultan of swat but struggling mightily against the vicissitudes of New York and Toronto. Coming into tonight, he is one for his last fourteen with three walks and seven strikeouts. He's popped out against Rivera to end a tough game at home, then done virtually nothing against the surprisingly resilient Canadians. He's hungry for some good hitting.

Josh Beckett, prodigal son, ace of the staff, heir apparent to Curt Schilling's mantle. In his short career, he's come closer and closer to the vaunted - if meaningless - twenty win mark, sniffing the milestone in last year's wretched campaign but falling short at sixteen wins. A winner in his last three outings coming into tonight, he has not given up more than four runs since July, dipping under six strikeouts a game only once. He has become the pitcher the Red Sox traded for in 2005, and he's ready to halt the skid.

Together, supported by the odd cast of characters that now makes up the dysfunctional lineup the Sox send to the field every evening, they don't just beat the Rays. They outlast once and future nemesis Scott Kazmir and massacre the rest. Bullpen pitchers fall like ears of corn before the might of Sox bats, as Papi adds home run number thirty-two to his collection, joining Varitek and Lowell in the jack-fueled onslaught. Beckett throws 113 pitches over six innings, gives up four hits and two walks but strikes out eight, while his relief stays perfect over three innings and four pitchers to get him the vaunted twentieth win. Even better: a perfect storm, as those same deadly Torontonians beat New York in extra innings and extend Boston's AL East lead. Hope dawns again in the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation, and all can go to their rest excited for the morrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Taking Stock: Sit Back, Relax, Have Some Dip

Last night, I hit my nadir for the season. My sister, who's a hardcore enough fan to have gotten the B logo and "2004" tattooed on her back, was over at my apartment last night while Paps was giving up his spirit-crushing grand slam to super utility all star Russ Adams. She could see my disappointment, and - being a good sister - she provoked me into a diatribe about how the AL East is lost, no one on this can pitch and a third of our starting lineup is in injury land with only a handful of games left to play.

When I was done, she pointed out that I was being a defeatist, a 162-seasons-a-year Chicken Little, the type of overly-involved fan I can't stand because they take no long view what so ever. The ball left Adams bat and flew into the upper deck and she called me out.

And you know what? She's right. We all need to chill out about our playoff situation, stop demanding heads and get back to the business of enjoying this season while it lasts. Do I want to win the AL East? Sure, it's been 12 years and - to be honest - it would complete whatever revenge we started against the Yankees in 2004 with the ALCS comeback. But winning the pennant is much more important, and that exponentially more important second World Series ring in three years would be more than enough sweetness to make up for a missed AL East victory. If getting that ring means licking the collective wounds and struggling along while the Tigers drop us through the back door into the Wild Card, I'm more than happy to make the exchange, and all of you should be, too.

Just to drive the point home: need further proof of the irrelevance of winning the AL East? Let's look at the numbers:
  • Since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995, 8 of the 22 teams playing in the World Series were Wild Card winners. Half of those 8 teams went on to win everything. In other words, being an also-ran gives you an almost 50% chance of getting to the pinnacle series of the year.
  • In those 11 years, only three Championship Series match ups did not feature a Wild Card winner in at least one league. The last time at least one Wild Card winner did not it to the second round of the playoffs was in 2001.
  • As Tony Massarotti pointed out in yesterday's Herald, the home field advantage winning a division can give a team doesn't necessarily mean that much of the course of the playoffs: "In the AL playoffs last season, the home team won six games, the road team five. In the National League, the count was 7-6."
In other words, just making it to the post-season is enough for anything, anything to happen. Let's stop acting like we've come to the end of the world, enjoy what our team can win, get past what they can't and prepare to move on to October. The Magic Number is now 3...and counting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Game 153: Rehab

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 6

That’s where the Red Sox are gonna send me. To freaking rehab. I am gonna be a burnt out shell by the time this season is over. The daily stress from being a fan of this up (the highest heights) and down (getting swept by the Blue Jays) baseball team is turning me into a zombie. I can’t believe how hard this team is trying to choke the season away.

And this isn’t even the real freaking team! Are they planning on starting Hinske and Kielty in the playoffs? Youk (wrist), Coco (back) and Manny (who freaking KNOWS anymore) not being in the lineup is as good a reason as any for only scoring 5 runs in this series. It’s a nightmare.

What’s happened to our bullpen? Once a mighty force, now it’s a sick joke. Oki is worn down and finally resting, Timlin and Delcarman are inconsistent and Gagne needs to be locked in a dungeon underneath the monster. The only guy I had ANY faith in was our boy Papelbon… and after the grand-slam he gave up today… I got nothing. He looks a worn out and beat as everyone else.

So now only 1.5 games up on the Yanks (who are hotter than the sun right now), must we look to the wild card? Detroit is sucking just as badly as the Sox, so it looks like we will make the playoffs… but man… this is ugly and sad. The Sox need to win some of these “must-win-games” or my head (and liver) might literally explode.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Game 152: Pitching His Way Off the Post-Season Roster

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Toronto Blue Jays 4

Words do not describe my level of rage right now. It's ridiculous, over-the-top two-thousand-frickin-four levels of pure, seething, burst your eyeballs, make the vein in your temple throb anger and disgust at the stupid, stupid stupid ending of that game. I've given Eric Gag Me a first chance. And a second one. I've dealt with his melt downs and moved on; I've accepted his explanations about tipped pitches and looked forward to a time when he could be as reliable as any other member of the Red Scare this year. But I'm done. With an AL East lead slipping away like water through our porous palms, with every possible win another struggled step closer to whittling that magic number down to nothing, this travesty of pitching cannot go on. Put Gag Me out on the mound if you must, Tito, but don't let him go out there without backup ready and waiting in the wings, so that when he gets two outs and his control starts to slip and a 2 to 1 lead disappears like so much sand in the wind, you can pull him before he gives up the winning run again.

Then again, I might not be bitching right now if the Sox had a lineup that wasn't one-third utility player and one-third tape and glue. A lineup that could score some runs when the opportunity arose, as it did more than the three runs scored might suggest. I had a metaphor ready for you all, about how the Red Sox are like the Scottish army at Bannockburn at the end of Braveheart (without the kilts and with a few more million dollars on hand): with fading hope, with few weapons, but still fighting like warrior poets (whatever that means). Manny would be our William Wallace, Youkilis would be was going to be great, especially after Tek knocked in the tying run in the fourth and Papi the go-ahead run in the fifth.

Instead, I taste the dregs of the bitter cup, contemplate how that win against New York on Saturday grows daily in importance, and dream of tomorrow, when Boston faces Jesse Litsch, who's gifted 8 runs on 16 hits over the course of two appearances against the Sox, for the finale. I'm begging you guys: score so many runs that it won't matter who we have on the mound. Do it for the sake of the veins in temples. Do it for the sake of Robin's liver. Just win the damn game.

Game 151: Dismal Drunken Disaster

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 6

Yeah yeah yeah… I’m drinking again.

The Sox fled to Toronto like an abused wife hides from her husband. Sometimes you need to leave the country.

We couldn’t hide from our troubles. Wakefield ran headlong into a new adversary. Now beaten and bruised… Wake will no doubt be getting little sleep tonight what with that constant and brutal Frank Thomas rape dream. You know the one where he comes back for more 3 times! What’s that about?

Ellsbury and Lowell continue their hot streak but they seem alone in this endeavor. The unkempt locks of Dustin “Don’t call me Rose” McGowan shown for 9 innings. That’s right, 9 innings of shutdown for our struggling Beantown team.

To top this crap sundae with some undigested corn, the Yankees (playing the ALWAYS AWFUL Orioles) won and shrunk our lead to a flaccid 3.5 games. Our magic number is holding steady at 9 and suddenly doesn’t look so “magic” anymore. I want another drink but I don’t think they’ll serve me.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Game 150: I’m As Mad As I’ve Ever Been

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 4

I’m gonna start out by saying I’m not very pleased with the powers that control the TV schedules. My remote is going to have the “previous channel” button worn off from flipping to the Patriots/Chargers game. Pitch, flip, snap, flip, pitch, flip. Yeah it got annoying, but what other option did I have?

Luckily the Pats were DOMINATING and they didn’t get much air time on my TV. I guess I can call that the silver lining of the night. Pats won… woo freaking hoo.

The problem is that I can barely concentrate on football. I really can’t focus on anything till after October. My mind is totally filled with baseball… and hate.

I’m a raging fireball of anger and rage. I want to burn the world… to let everyone feel my disappointment with how things have gone tonight. To quote Fight Club: “I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I'd never see. I wanted to breathe smoke.”

Schilling looked like his vintage self, but so did Clemens. The Sox defense was top notch, but the Yankees were amazing (especially Mientkiewicz). They matched each other pitch for pitch, hit for hit, play for play. It was a staring contest into the 8th inning.

The Sox blinked first.

With two on, Jeter hit a homer over the monster and into the deep, unforgiving night. That Jeter… his little smirk, his movie starlet dance card, his awful strut around the base path. I loath him. I want nothing but the worst for him. I want all bad things in life to fall right in his lap… while he’s on the toilet.

Oh how I wish this was the end of it. If Jeter just breaks my heart and the game calmly ends… so be it. I’m mad, but it’s just one bad day added to the bushel you get from becoming a Sox fan.

But it wasn’t that simple was it? I can’t just mope in peace. They need to tease me with the most painful of human emotions… hope.

Lowell responds to Jeter’s blast by taking the untouched Joba Chamberlain deep with a solo shot. Take that wunderkid. Popped your cherry but GOOD. Then in the 9th, Tek walks, Coco moves him over, and Lugo doubles him home. Like I said, hope. The evil mistress. My guard is down, my spirits soar and the bases are loaded. When Papi flew out to end it, I was caught unprepared.

Hate is such an ugly emotion and I may have scared people… some of my friends… some people who trust me… definitely my neighbors. I know I should take solace in the fact that the Yankees are still 4.5 games back, and maybe I will later this week or even tomorrow…but now? I’m just too damn mad.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Game 149: Screaming for Vengeance

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, New York Yankees 1

After last night, everyone from Josh Beckett to Billy the Bat Boy to the drunken old codger sucking down whiskeys in the dark, dusty corner of the bar knew that the only way to avenge the ignominious enormity of defeat was a complete and total victory today. Nothing less would satisfy the need for vengeance that burned inside every fan and - we hoped - inside every bat and arm on the bench and in the bullpen marked "home team" in Fenway; even a close win would mark an untoward weakness of fighting spirit while underscoring the all-too-true axiom: you can never have too much money or score enough runs on the Yankees.

Incredibly, lighting the spark that exploded Boston's offensive powder keg took some doing, while the Yankees struck first - Derek Jeter's solo shot to the center field bleachers crowning a first inning where Beckett looked totteringly unsure and need thirty pitches and six batters to get three ground outs. A combination of Pedroia, Ortiz and Lowell scored Boston's first run in the bottom of the inning, but from there the score remained tied for five innings, a tense balance of occasional squandered opportunities, slowly rising pitch counts and the excellent, excellent pitching this match-up promised.

The spark that finally launched the explosion came from one of those odd, unexpected happenstances that fulfill the promise of any competition (the spirit of the statement, 'that's why they play the game') with their unpredictability: Wang, now throwing his sinker higher and higher in the zone, hit Youkilis on the wrist. Out goes Youkilis with a contusion, in comes Jacoby Ellsbury, the fresh-faced kid with the powerful stroke and the fleet legs, to pinch-run. A Big Papi single to the right side puts Ellsbury on third; J.D. Drew's clutch hit (seven games in a row, baby!) two batters later jogged the runner home for the second Boston run.

Over the next two innings, as the Sox disposed of Wang and tore into the Yankees bullpen like a pack of starving wolves into a weakened deer, Ellsbury took center stage, going two for two and knocking in three runs, raising his average back to .396. Perhaps the best moment of all: one batter after Eric Hinske dropped a shoulder into Jorge Posada trying score from third, Ellsbury tried the same trick, but used his slide to push the confused Yankees catcher off the plate and take his second run. Posada, dazed, forgetting to apply the tag to get the out; Ellsbury, triumphant with victory: this moment was the microcosm for how much things could change in a day, and it felt really, really good.

Game 148: Steps for Dealing with Grief

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 8

Step 1: Denial

There is no freaking way we should have lost that game. I won’t believe it! I can’t believe it! I SHANT believe it! I mean how… HOW do they piss away a 5 run lead after Dice-K pitched so well? It’s unfathomable. Honestly, this can’t be happening.

Step 2: Anger

I will take a tire iron and go right upside Francona’s head. Where does that freakshow get off leaving Oki in there for as long as he did? Forget the back-to-back homers, I wouldn’t have let him START that inning. And freaking Papelbon? What the hell man? You blond disaster! How is it possible that you let EVERY FREAKING BASERUNNER score in that inning? I want to make a map of New England in you entrails. And don’t get me started on the goddamn Yankee lineup. May all their children be born with tiny penises… even the girls.

Step 3: Bargaining

It’s fine though. Really it’s all ok. We drop the first one (I had it in my head as a loss anyway) and we’ll win the next two. Not a big deal. We’re still in first by 4.5 games and even if we lose everything we’re STILL in first by 2.5. Really… not a big deal at all.

Step 4: Depression

(This step happened last night from about 12:00 till I passed out. I am amazingly hung over right now.)

Step 5: Acceptance

What a way to lose. It was the biggest tease of the season, but yes, even this shall pass. Getting to the playoffs is the ultimate goal and if they can learn from losses like this then it might just have to be the price we pay. The bullpen is taxed, there are holes in the line up and some of the starters are beginning to slow down. Take it all in a move on. The next two days don’t get any easier.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Was Saying “Drewwww Drewwwww”

As fans, sometimes we get fed up. We get annoyed with the mediocrity of some of our players. We complain about their lack of passion and their wasted ability. Earlier this season Lugo was the focus of our vitriol… but now… there is only J.D. Drew.

He has been the lighting-rod of this sometimes anemic offense and the main target of recent boos from fans. Now to Drew’s credit, he has gotten on base all year and he has begun to turn it around at the plate (although some would argue it hasn’t been in key situations). However, this doesn’t change the fact that his offensive numbers are WAY below what we expected from our highly paid left-fielder. So the boos were constant and loud from the home field crowd. I heard them first hand when I was at Fenway last week.

Well, let’s cut that crap out… cause the Captain told us to. Yep, in a statement in the Eagle Tribune Jason Varitek says that the fans have the power (really?) and that we should give Drew standing ovations (really?) to give him the push he needs to turn it around. According to Tek, the much maligned Drew is going to be with us a long while and we need to get used to him (really?) and get behind him.

I feel like a scolded child that KNOWS he’s in the wrong. We gave Lugo a standing O and he came around… I supposed the over hyped, over paid and under performing Drew deserves the same treatment. With the Yankees in town this weekend, I guess it’s time for us to let Drew know that we support the laundry, no matter who’s in it.

Give him a hand. Lord knows he needs it.

Conspiracies of the Post Season

I was looking through Google for any news of the return of Manny to the lineup this weekend when I came across this notes page on The stuff about Manny (which is no longer up to date) is at the top, but the last item concerns Brandon Moss, the Pawtucket call-up who did duty in left against Tampa Bay to spell the aching Jacoby Ellsbury. This sentence in particular jumped out at me: "Moss, an outfielder by trade, will play a little bit of first base in a winter ball stint in the Dominican Republic."

Unlike Ellsbury, Moss is not a top-rated prospect, and the section's conclusion, "with all the outfielders that the Red Sox have under their contractual control, Moss might increase his chances of making the 2008 team by learning a new position," gives the impression of a super-utility player in the works. But Moss's minor-league numbers give the profile of a potential slugger, and I wonder if the Sox are preparing Moss to be an "only if necessary" option if they can't sign Mike Lowell or Alex Rodriguez for next year, where Youkilis would move to third base and Moss would take over at first.

Speaking of post-season doings, the Yankees made things a little easier for the Sox last night by losing the final game of their series to Toronto, pushing Boston's AL East lead to 5.5 games. Should another disastrous sweep occur, that half game might become pretty important. On the more positive side, though: the Sox stand poised to win their 90th game tonight, with fifteen games left to play. Smashing the franchise record (105 games in 1912) is impossible for this year, but how about breaking 100 wins for the first time since 1946?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Game 147: Big Papi Just Breaks Down Your Fences and Runs Off With Your Women

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

Run for the hills!!! Big Papi is back with a vengeance. Screw the rest of the hitters, he’ll score ALL YOUR RUNS! The 2 homers and 5 RBI (including the amazing walk-off that exploded my clothes off my body) meant that Papi ate his morning Wheaties and they had Devil Ray blood in them. And the city of Boston? It’s a crazy love-fest for Ortiz here. More than I ever realized was possible. If he ran for mayor tomorrow it would go:

“Hey, my name is Big Papi and I don’t speak English too good and I don’t know a lot about public works or anything like that… but I’m running for mayor and… ummm I hit a ton of homeruns?”

(cue the stampede caused by every citizen running out to vote for Ortiz. Hell I’d vote twice.)

Now THANK FREAKING GOD that he did the whole heroic thing today, cause this game pretty much SUCKED otherwise. Lester spotted the Rays 4 runs in the first inning and I was calling for the guy’s head right there. He could not throw a strike to save his life. I was climbing the walls and I am still shocked that the Rays only managed to score so FEW runs. Lester was out of there in a hurry… and Tavarez stepped in to put out the fire.

And he really did it! Yeah it’s amazing. Tavarez shut down the Tampa bats for 3 innings and made me smile at his normal scary faced chicanery. Is that blood on your cleat? Oh Julian you big joker!

Meanwhile, besides the Man Mountain that is Ortiz, the rest of the Sox could not get it done with men on base… again. Francona needs to start asking players for 10 pushups for every man they leave on base. Tek and Hinske would be doing 100 between the two of them. It was so ugly that once Papelbon came in and shut the door on the Rays in the 9th, I had pretty much chalked this one up as a loss. I’m such a quitter.

But when Lugo reached… and I saw Papi waiting there with that tree trunk of a bat that he made out of redwood he chopped down with his bare hands… it made me believe again. I KNEW he would do it. He has that look in his eye that we saw in the 2004 playoffs. The look that says:

“Nothing’s over until I say so… and you better vote twice.”

So now I feel ready for New York. Bring on the Yankees because the confidence is back, the swagger is back and no matter HOW far up we are, these games always bring out my venom and hate. You can’t teach a hammer to love nails. That dog won’t hunt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Game 146: Red Sox as Tragedy

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 16, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 10

After Pedroia hit the home run that finally tied the game in the sixth inning, I called up Robin, who was busy dominating a trivia night at a bar, and compared this game to a Greek tragedy, a comparison stemming from the progression of stages in the classic tragic form, proceeding from the Aristotelian mistake (starting a seemingly ailing Wakefield, Wakefield's lifeless knuckleball, etc.) to the dramatic change in fortune (the comeback). Then we left the canon a bit for the glorious surmounting of all difficulties (Pedroia's homer; Youkilis's go-ahead triple) and resultant victory, but by that point it was clear to all we were witnessing sport as theater - and it was damn good.

The first stage was full of enough hubris to give income to whole host of book-writing, finger-wagging moralists, who would be happy to trot out all kinds of clich├ęs about egg counting and chicken hatching. However, to expect any less of Wakefield would be inexcusable; the man dominates that team with a vengeance. True, he's more likely to hold them hitless in the Trop than at Fenway (which makes me wonder what his career would have been like had he been a Devil Ray), but the safe money was on a close game between the reliable Wakefield and Rays starter Sonnanstine, who had an ERA of around 1.50 in his last three starts.

Of course, safe money was wrong money tonight and as the full extent of the damage unfolded, I will confess to more than a little frustration at the situation. Scott Kazmir is one thing, but losing to the worst team in baseball two nights in a row at home is a disgrace for any team with playoff pretensions. Ellsbury's home run in the third shone a small ray of hope and made Sonnanstine a more human target, but the Rays quickly extinguished that hope by doubling their score in the top of the next inning. Hopelessness settled in and settling for another loss seemed likely.

The transition to the second stage, the change in fortune, came slowly, as the Red Sox slowly drove the Rays' starter to the showers by singling him to death. Four runs score and the light of hope flickers. Tampa Bay answers with another run in the fifth, but Boston comes roaring back with another four in the bottom of the inning and pulls the seemingly insurmountable lead down to one run. There's momentum now and with four innings to go, the truth is inescapable: the Red Sox are going to win this game, no matter how many times Rays manager Joe Maddon stumps out to the mound, looking like he wished he'd never heard of baseball, to switch relievers in an effort to put out the fire.

Boston can't get it done in the fifth, but Dustin Pedroia takes the third pitch he sees in the sixth and hammers it into the Monster Seats to tie things up. Single, single and a walk follow and with do-or-die on the line, Youkilis comes through, just like we knew he would, and drives a ball to the left of the triangle for a bases-clearing triple. Boston's finally back in the driver's seat, avenging the dearth of runs last night and the humiliation of tonight's early setbacks by piling on sixteen runs in five straight innings. They pulled off one hell of a win tonight and left no doubt as to how these games should end.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Game 145: Sometimes You Get The Horns

Final Score: Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1, Boston Red Sox 0

I have very little to say about this mess. Schilling pitched a HELL of a game. He really pitched a 6 inning gem minus a double and a sac fly in the 5th. The Sox bullpen was solid, the defense was money… but great googley-moogley there was nothing the bats could do against Kazmir. He went 7 strong, had 10 K’s and made the Sox look stupid at the plate. I am left here looking at a 5 game lead and nursing a sour stomach. It’s one of those games where you shake your head and wonder how your beer got so empty so fast. It’s a game you wish you could UNwatch.

We just got dominated by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Man... that looks even worse in writing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Game 144: Bitching and Pitching

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Baltimore Orioles 2

Josh Beckett threw another good 7 innings and is now an 18 game winner, but I’m not happy. Okajima threw a perfect 8th inning and has an ERA smaller than his wispy mustache, but I am not happy at all. Paps got his 35th save and struck out two, but I have to be happy or he’ll come to my house and stare me down.

116 pitches. That’s what it took to get Beckett through 7 innings. Yeah I know our relief core is a bit depleted right now, but that’s a TON of pitches for a guy who should be prepping for the playoffs soon.

Part of that aforementioned relief core is the increasingly tired Oki. He has pitched in pretty much every single game this season and I think it’s starting to get to him. He looked pretty sharp today, but his overuse could be devastating in October. I know this problem almost totally contradicts the first issue… but what are we gonna do? They need to stretch these innings somehow and not overwork these guys before it counts. With Gagne out, they need someone to step up and fill this space. Be it Buchholz, Tavarez or Corey… there needs to be another step before we get to Papelbon.

Oh… and it would be GREAT if we could score these guys some runs too. Another 9 guys left on base and a ton more hair pulled out of my head. What’s with all the bunting? This epidemic of bad bunting is making me crazy and it’s NOT scoring any runs. Hit the ball you morons. A double moves guys over just as effectively.

Thankfully, Coco came through in the 8th with an RBI single and that magic number shrinks to 14. Know how he did it? Not bunting, that’s how.

Game 143: Meltdown

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Baltimore Orioles 11

Hmm...I don't think anyone expected that to happen. Our $100 million import crept one step closer to a .500 season with yesterday's full-on collapse, one of those 8 run on 6 hit on too few innings affairs that goes down about as smooth as a protein shake seasoned with shards of glass. What's even worse is that Matsuzaka is regressing back to Dennis Miles mode from earlier this season, where he fires on all cylinders the whole game - except for that one problem inning where all of the machinery falls apart and he turns into baseball's version of Glass Joe. There were stirrings of the return of Dennis Miles against the Yankees (it's always because of the Yankees, isn't it?), then a full-on relapse on September 3 against Toronto and now last night's mess. Are we seeing the stress of pitching differently to meet the needs of American baseball finally catch up with Dice-K?

The persons of interest in this equation (Matsuzaka, Francona and pitching coach John Farrell) deny any injury or fatigue in the papers and Farrell goes as far as to deflect the issue on Dice-K overthrowing when he gets in trouble, relying on his fastball, which Farrell mentions is still in the mid-90s, to get him out of any bad situations. Hitters aren't fooled, of course and the result is a Dennis-Miles-style escalation.

So that means it's all in his head, right? In fact, doesn't this sound like a situation we saw last year, where Beckett refused to pitch to the instructions of The Captain and gave up a metric ass-ton of home runs as a result? Haven't I made this point before? It sounds like Dice-K isn't hurt, which is great - injuries are a quick solution to a problem, but they have that downside of missed time - but I have to wonder why this problem would reoccur. Why stop listening to your catcher? Could it be the frustration of losing all of those close games in the middle of the summer, where Boston wasn't hitting and two runs was enough to lose the game? I could see that sort of negative stimulus make you work that much harder to make every game perfect so you'll stop losing.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Game 142: You gotta FIGHT for your RIGHT to… huh?

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 0

Let me set this up for you:

Coco tries to bunt off Daniel Cabrera.

Coco blows it, but Cabrera is still pissed Coco had the gall to try.

Coco hits a single and is moved over to third on two fielder choices.

With Pedroia batting, Coco dances off third causing Cabrera to balk in the run.

Cabrera throws behind Pedroia intentionally, forcing the ump to warn both benches.

Cabrera goes nuts, O’s catcher Hernandez goes nuts, benches clear.

Order is restored when Julian Tavarez talks everyone down (not a joke) and then Cabrera is tossed from the game.

WHAT??? I feel like I’ve been taking CRAZY PILLS!!!! I don’t even understand why Cabrera was mad at Coco for bunting. It makes no sense whatsoever. Then Hernandez goes ballistic yelling at someone in the Sox dugout… and THAT made no sense because I’m pretty sure he was yelling in Spanish to Jason Varitek. And WHY for the love of all that is HOLY was Trembley fighting this issue? It was OBVIOUS that Cabrera threw behind Pedroia on purpose and then he had the nuts to go crazy right on an ump. There was NO WAY he wasn’t getting tossed.

But I guess the craziest thing is that Tavarez was the voice of reason. That may make my brain explode if I think about it too much. Tavarez usually uses these confrontations to try out some new Jeet Kune Do moves he learned from Mortal Kombat 3.

As all this wacked-out tomfoolery was happening, Lester was throwing a gem. He tossed 7 shutout innings to remind everyone that HE was the first rookie pitcher darling before this Buchholz guy stepped into the limelight. However he did get a little help from the ump who called every pitch for EVERY pitcher a strike. Not really kidding here… everything was a K to this joker.

So yeah, a big ruckus, a great pitching line and another win. Ho hum. This Orioles team is awful. A sweep here would be big.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Game 141: Clay Buchholz Doesn't Like the Orioles

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Baltimore Orioles 6

Somewhere, in the wilds of Ballmer, where the signs on the benches, buildings and barrels say Believe, where the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is publicly venerated, where someone forgot to tell the Orioles that this season wasn't their chance to escape from fourth place in the AL East, someone is planning to kill Clay Buchholz. Probably in a slow and painful fashion, perhaps something elaborate involving torture. But you know someone's out there thinking about it.

And really, how could they not? Clay's quickly becoming an Oriole nemesis, another page in the book of 2007 injuries that already includes the Mother's Day Miracle and the biggest one day beat down in the past 50 years. Things were bad enough with the shutout, but tonight...well, that's just cruel.

You gotta hand it to them birds, though: they put up a real fight. Wearing Black Sox uniforms to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the championship of the Negro League team of the same name, they supervised one of Tim Wakefield's worst starts of the year, a six run, nine hit shelling over 3.2 innings that left him with his first no decision of 2007. Baltimore's pitching kept giving the lead away, but their offense kept winning it back, the two teams tossing the lead back and forth like a hot potato over the first two thirds of the game. Then Clay comes in, for his first-ever relief performance. Maybe Baltimore learned something from last time, because they combo up and load the bases with no outs for Miguel Tejada, which seems like the baseball equivalent of trapping a person inside a fuel depot and tossing in a live hand grenade.

Clay has other plans, though: with two strikes he drops a curve into the strike zone that Tejada hot shots down to third, setting up the oh-so-rare 5-2-3 double play. Throw in a Millar strikeout to end the inning and you're looking at the perfect gut punch, completed for final effect when Coco Crisp and a pinch-hitting Varitek combine for the go ahead run in the ninth against Danys Baez. It was tough, it was sweet, it was completely satisfying and it makes a reason for Orioles fans to hate Clay Buchholz just a little more.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Game 140: Big Blue Squander

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Toronto Blue Jays 6

If that didn’t just bite all kinds of ass then I don’t know what does. The Red Sox have gotten into the habit of leaving thousands of men on base to waste away like the exposed corpse rotting in my basement (please send Febreze).

I don’t even want to talk about this steaming pile of squander. I mean the bases loaded disaster in the 8th made me want to puke shards of glass as a pick me up. And for God’s sake SOMEBODY learn how to bunt!! Coco got it right on his second try… but Ellsbury and Cora looked like spastic 9 year olds. Just freaking ugly.

On the pitching side, Curt looked fine until Toronto nibbled away in the 5th to the tune of “single SINGLE single SINGLE single….ahhhhhhhhh”. Yeah, it’s kinda hard to dance to. So with the lead (thanks to a big Tek homer) the Sox go into the 8th with Delcarmen and all kinds of optimism. It was unfounded. Glaus quickly ties up the game with a monster shot.

Then it got painful. I have been inundated with IMs, emails and verbal complaints (from DC in the chair next to me) that Okajima is WAY over used and should be shut down for a week or two. But who else do we have?? Paps just pitched 3 days in a row, Gagne is hurt and Timlin scares the crap out of me. Oki is all we got… tired or not! That was my de-facto response to all those critics saying Francona is running him into the ground… he isn’t tired at all!


FINE… I can’t be right all the time! Sonava’bitch.

Game 139: Manny Who?

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 3

Two series ago, I conjured up the frightening specter of Manny-less Red Sox as the reason for the dead bats in the Bronx. Take away Manny, it seemed and you took away the run-scoring hits the Sox so desperately needed to win. It was a frightening thought when you contemplated the future in all forms: the immediate future (winning the AL East), the near future (the playoffs) and the far future (the expiration of Manny's contract in 2008). What were we going to do while that oblique healed itself?

At the risk of making a tenuous connection, the answer now seems clear: we were going to wait for the September 1 call-ups and the triumphant return of Jacoby Ellsbury. The speedy rookie is tearing the cover off the ball on his third trip up to the majors in 2007, hitting well over .500 in his first four games and knocking in at least one run a day. In the field he's made some excellent catches, mixing well with the speed of Coco and Drew in the other parts of the outfield. He's taken the pressure off of Hinske's weat bat and Kielty's sore back, not to mention Manny, turning our bated breath for the return of our slugger into
consideration for a measured return. Last night Ellsbury opened the first major wound in Doc Halladay's armor with his second home run, a first-pitch blast that came right after a close play at first (thanks to a speedy Coco) broke up an inning-ending double play. It's not enough to say the kid's for real; he's at a higher, sublime level, burning off the rarefied gas of his ascent into our collective consciousness and begging the wonderful question, "Manny who?"

However, all of Ellsbury's success makes me wonder about his future. Making the (dangerous) assumption that he continues to hit at an even a reasonable level after he's faced the same clubs a few times, there's no room for Ellsbury in the outfield in 2008 without a trade or the decision to risk of making him a fourth outfielder for the next year or two. Alternatively, does he become part of a massive trade; something that brings a high-powered first baseman to the Sox while Youkilis moves back to third in place of Mike Lowell? Or does Ellsbury go back to Pawtucket again for another year to continue to post massive numbers against Minor League pitching? I'd hate to see Ellsbury depart, but I'm a bit of a sentimentalist when it comes to ball players and I could see Ellsbury becoming a big fixture in the mind of Sox fans everywhere.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Game 138: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 13, Toronto Blue Jays 10

Ladies and gentlemen, let's give a big round of applause for the incredible pitching by the only two teams in the American League with ERAs under 4.00! That's right: the Red Sox and Blue Jays, home of some true pitching phenoms; can't you tell from the score? I mean, that's a low score for baseball, right? 13 to 10? Or was that football...

Actually, what really boggles my mind is that this game was a laugher, an out-of-reach cruise to victory for Boston that seemed unassailable. Dice-K was dealing, making everyone not named Matt Stairs look like a fool at the plate, Boston was tooling on Jays' starter Jesse Litch (seven runs on seven hits over 3.1 innings), reliever Joe Kennedy (three runs, one earned, over two-thirds of an inning) and old friend Josh "Faulty" Towers, who lived up to his nickname with a stellar three runs for three outs deal. 10 to 1, Boston leading and I made what was almost a mistake: I walked away from the game for a while. I put my trust in the pitching staff. I got overconfident.

When I came back, it was the bottom of the sixth and Boston was putting the finishing touches on their final rally of the evening, a rally that moved the game back into breathing territory after the eight runs of devastation Toronto unleashed in the top of the inning. Eight runs! How does this happen? Suddenly the endgame went from relaxing to a little tense, as the Sox found themselves using pitchers (Timlin; Okajima; Papelbon, of all people) who by all rights should be bound for the hotel when the Sox are up by nine runs. I guess we can count ourselves lucky to have won, but the middle of this game was nothing but ugly pitching.

Fortunately, like an opiate for the masses we have Mike Lowell and his god-like ways to distract us. The last time he didn't have a hit two days in a row was July 31; since then he's had two games with an 0-fer (and one of those was game two of a doubleheader, so I think it shouldn't count). He's got a sixteen game hitting streak, he's hitting over .400 for the past month plus and his OPS from August 1 to today probably topped 1.000 tonight. With Manny sidelined, Lowell's been the front line for driving in Ortiz, Pedroia, Crisp, Youkilis, etc. and the catalyst for so many rallies that win games, including the home run that got things started against Litsch tonight. I doubt the Sox will be the team paying Lowell's salary next year, but at least he's going out with a Fourth of July on the Charles River Esplanade-level fireworks display.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Game 137: Can I get a Witness? The Defense Of The Fens

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Baltimore Orioles 2

I love being in Boston and being able to sleepwalk to the 57 bus on a lazy Sunday and wander into Fenway without any bothers or troubles whatsoever. It’s a privilege that has no equal in Brooklyn. I never knew what I was missing.

My first visit to Fenway this year came complete with an awesome victory from our super B squad. Cora, Moss, Ellsbury and Cash were in the lineup in an attempt to play down to Baltimore’s level. It almost worked. Moss, Cash and Cora (and Drew and Youk for that matter) were plain old horrible at the plate today. Nothing but 0’s and K’s for this crew. From my seat in the grandstand I could hear boos for Drew, but not for the other mooks who couldn’t manage to reach on Daniel Cabrera of all people. At least Drew got a WALK.

Anyway, it was Pedroia, Lowell, Papi and Ellsbury (first HR!) who stepped up and got the Sox the measly 5 hits and 3 runs it took to finish this puppy. The real story was the defense that protected the slim lead for starting pitcher Jon Lester. The fans at the Fen went CRAZY for Ellsbury’s diving catch, Pedroia’s diving stop, Youks sick snag at first, Moss crashing into the scoreboard (knocked down an inning plank) and Drew’s nasty outfield assist. When Coco replaced Ellsbury in center (who replaced Drew in right) to back up Papelbon in the 9th, something big just HAD to happen. Coco didn’t fail to excite with an awesome sliding catch to get one of the 3 outs to end this little match-up. Lester got the win, Oki got the hold, Paps got the save and that’s all she wrote. I filed out with a big smile on my face and gained a hop in my step when I saw the final in the Yankee/Tampa game. Love the 6 game lead.

So going back to the great defense again, who (if anyone) is inline for a Gold Glove this year? I say there should be 3 handed out to the Sox players. Coco needs some props for his outstanding acrobatic skills in center (might be tough with Ichiro out there), Youk has something like a million games without an error at first (the man is a beast) and Pedroia should get a golden mitt for his efforts at second this season. No kidding. Dispite his small size and less than swift feet, Dusty P has been a vacuum and has now has a saved no-hitter added to his repertoire. The little guy should walk out of this season with a ROY and a GG no questions asked.

Game 136: A Moment of History

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 0

Robin wanted me to let you know that he made Clay Buchholz's no hitter happen. He called me last night in a state of high excitement and insisted that I let all of you know that his sacrifice meant that Clay could become the first Red Sox rookie in the history of some truly great Red Sox rookie pitchers to throw a no hitter. Sacrifice, you say? Yes, truly a Devil's bargain: Robin moved to Boston during the day, turned on the TV in the seventh, saw that Clay was knee-deep in a column of zeros and then made a willful decision to turn the TV off, to ignore the reams of voicemails and text messages spewing into his phone from excited family and friends looking to point out the possibility of a no-no and get on with it until the game was safely in the bag, with a ball on the way to that rack of no hitters in the Hall of Fame. He keep the jinx away and we salute him.

Ironically enough, after Clay hit Nick Markakis with a pitch in the first, my first thought was, "well, there goes the perfect game," a (admittedly weak) joke my friend Alan and I used to make whenever a pitcher didn't have a 1-2-3 first inning. Then Boston scored their first run in the bottom of the second when Coco FC'd Youkilis in from third and I had the odd fantasy that I always do whenever Boston goes up 1 - 0: what if Clay (and maybe a couple of relievers - let's not get greedy here) pitched a complete game, fraught with the tension of the close score and maybe a runner or two in scoring position. What can I say: I love the stomach-twisting anxiety of a pitcher's duel.

A couple of hours later, I watched Clay sit by himself in the dugout, while the Red Sox tacked on two more needless runs in the bottom of the eighth. The string of zeros had continued for much longer than any pitcher has the right to expect, Dustin Pedroia had made the incredible diving stop to keep the sliding Tejada from taking first in the top of the seventh and Clay was contemplating the field and the final three outs he had to make to enter history. He looked like he had swallowed a snake. I'd like to say that Clay's anxiety struck a chord with me and that I knew he'd get the job done so effectively that the last batter of the game would go down looking, but all I could think of was how human he looked just then and how wonderfully that contrasted with the machine he'd been on the mound. Who knows? Not to jinx anything, but one day we could all look back on this game the way we look at the two 20 strikeout games Clemens threw in 1986. And that would be very, very cool.

Monthly Recap: Awesome August? Yes and No

August Record: 16-13
Overall Record: 80-55

As the summer winds down and the thoughts of baseball fans turn to playoff races the Red Sox surged and struggle almost simultaneously. To make sense of such a varied month, one almost needs to break it down into simple YES and NO questions. Well, one did. Let’s light it up.

YES the three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees was just about as awful a moment in this season. Horrible way to end the month and even with the 5 game lead it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Pass the Listerine and get past it because there STILL is a 3 game series to play with the Bronx Bombers.

NO I don’t think anyone but the Red Sox have a chance at winning the East. Get over yourselves you chicken-little bastards.

YES I think someone needs to get fired over the Francona fashion police incident during the second game against the Yankees. MLB has no business messing with a manager when there are runners in scoring position. The Red Sox at LEAST need a formal apology.

YES Joba Chamberlain threw at Youk’s head on purpose. I don’t care if he’s the second coming. That young punk better learn his place from someone OTHER than Roger Clemens.

NO I don’t think the Red Sox showed what they are made of in that series against the White Sox.

YES I think the White Sox showed that they are the biggest joke in baseball. Just so happens Boston got the joke.

NO I don’t think the Gagne trade is going to be a problem down the line. He is an A+ reliever when he gets his stuff working.

YES I thought it was the worst trade EVER when he blew the 2 games against Baltimore and then that double header against the Angels. I wanted his head on a platter and I don’t think I was the first in line to carve him up. Actually, it might have been a 2 hour wait.

YES I think he’s trustworthy now.

NO I don’t think Dice-K can be measured by his record. This guy has gotten NO run support and is inline to become the Tim Wakefield of the “whoops sorry about the 0 runs” string of games. He might go nuts and return to Japan if this keeps up.

YES I think Schilling is done in 2008. Not just with the Red Sox (he made that clear with his thoughts on Tampa), but also with the rest of the league. He is D-U-N done and I will be amazed if he makes 20 starts in any uniform next year. Not that I don’t love the guy… but he’s over the hill.

YES we can replace Curt. Are you kidding me??? Have you heard of Clay Buchholz?

YES I am worried about the injuries. With Manny out and Drew hurting (“ouch my foot”) I think the Sox out field offense leaves much to be desired.

NO I don’t think it’s an unfixable issue. The September call ups feature Brandon Moss and Jacoby Ellsbury who are more than capable to fill the outfield corners. Also, waiver pickup Bobby Kielty is a stud… who knew?

YES I think that Lowell is going to stay this hot, Papi is back for real and Lugo has turned a corner. I also think Youk is in a small slump (and is breaking free) and Pedroia is the Rookie of the Year. No question.

And YES I have finally moved to Boston from Brooklyn (via a month in Western Mass). The support I’ve gotten here is fantastic and I hope to keep it going for many a week (into late October at least)! GO SOX