Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Want My Funeral to Be a Rolling Rally

How do you describe pure unadulterated joy? How do you comprehend that feeling when it’s experienced by a whole city? And PLEASE someone tell me how NOT to get caught up in it! The emotion is just too strong to fight. You just take the wave and ride it into shore. The comforting arms of a city that has had its dreams fulfilled… a second time.

Unlike 2004, I was lucky enough to partake in the rolling rally this time. What a majestic sight to witness 50,000 people celebrate something that they have followed religiously for a whole year. I felt like I was mashed in a tuna can the size of Government Center with a couple thousand of my brothers. Brothers that when cut, would bleed the names of every player to ever don the Red Sox laundry. Brothers who skipped class, work, hospital appointments and if they could, their own funeral arrangements to be part of a city wide party.

By the time the duck boats cruised my way, I was comfortably compact with the rest of the mob waiting to catch a glimpse of heroes. I rubbed elbows with an elderly couple from Newton excited that they were able to attend two such events in their lifetime. I met Sam, a banker from Miami who flew up just incase there was a game 6 or 7 and decided to stay for the rally as the best consolation prize ever. I even helped 9th grader Evan start one of the MANY “Re-sign, clap clap, Mike Lowell, clap clap” chants that forever dogged the procession. Sox Nation had the biggest town hall meeting ever… and they want to make it an annual event.

When the core of this slithering amphibious line stopped in front of my position, the roar of the crowd was deafening. Newly appointed dance instructor and official rockstar of the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon was joined by the Dropkick Murphy’s and a very inebriated Mike Timlin. To make good on his promises, Papelbon wearing a tartan kilt, grabbed a Rockie sweeping broom and danced, air guitared and embarrassed himself into another collection of unflattering poses. It’s just too bad everyone was too busy enjoying it to make him stop. He was a man about town that had suddenly brought the town to him.

As of this point, I am not ready to discuss signing, firing, quitting or trading of any member of the 2007 World Champs. Just please gimmie a few days or more to enjoy the party while it lasts.

Like when Youk when asked about the future of many of his free agent to be teammates his reply was simple and complete: “no comment.”

I agree. I’m too busy loving life right now to worry about next year… at least let me clean the confetti out of my clothes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series Game 4: We Are The Champions

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Colorado Rockies 3

I've paid my dues/Time after time/I've done my sentence/But committed no crime

I've been trying to figure out what to write about last night ever since Papelbon threw that final strike and leaped straight up in the air like a caricature of a celebration, as the people all around screamed and shouted for joy, as I jumped from my seat like I was shot from a gun. Three years ago, I couldn't process it all at once; bits of happy kept leaking out and I'd start grinning for no good reason. This time around, the feeling is different; I'm satisfied, like I've just eaten a good meal with a fine wine, and I'm sitting on a screen porch watching the sun go down on a warm summer evening. This Red Sox team was the team intended to win it all, with a catalyst for winning hidden like genetic coding in Pedroia's swing and Ellsbury's feet and Lowell's glove work. That catalyst finally ignited when the Sox had their backs to the wall in Game 5 of the ALCS, but looking closely you could see that ability to win everything was there from the start.

And bad mistakes/I've made a few/I've had my share of sand kicked in my face/But I've come through

As for the game itself, well...before last night, Jon Lester hadn't thrown a ball in anger about a month, a length of time that seems inconceivable in a World Series starter until you look at his opponent, Aaron Cook, who hadn't pitched since August. Lester's reputation for high-risk, five-run outings with low inning totals and high pitch counts made a loss a very real possibility, but the results were otherwise: nearly six innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, a night spoiled only by losing the plate before he departed to Terry's wonderfully quick hook. The overused Okajima might regret the placement of the pitch that Garrett Atkins smashed over the wall in left, but excellent bullpen management and the sheer awesome factor embodied by our godlike closer (no runs, two hits, three strikeouts, and three saves in four and a third innings? There is no stopping the Cinco Ocho!) meant that we can now define a "Colorado Rally" as "not quite good enough."

I've taken my bows/And my curtain calls/You brought me fame and fortuen and everything that goes with it/I thank you all

On the hitting side, there was plenty to enjoy, too. Draw first blood? Check: Ellsbury and Papi connecting in the first for a double/single combo to score Boston's last first run of 2007. Contributions from the all-pistons firing lineup? Check: solo shot from MVP Lowell, RBI single by Varitek, a .333 batting average and a .936 OPS as a team through the Fall Classic. Random off-the-bench contributions? Check: Bobby Kielty, coming off the bench to hit the home run that made the difference in one of those odd baseball events that make great trivia and stories for the grandkids ("I remember when Bobby Kielty hit that home run that won the Red Sox the championship in one expected it to make a difference...").

But it's been no bed of roses/No pleasure cruise/I consider it a challenge before the whole human race/And I ain't gonna lose

All in all, this game, this series, and the championship with it are confirmation of the transition of the Red Sox from hard-luck underdogs or misguided over-spenders who tinkered with their winnings to winners, pure and simple. As the winter progresses and you pine again for Spring and baseball, remember: the Red Sox have a built a powerhouse in Fenway; a group of guys capable of going the distance for years to come. It's time to revel in what they've put together. GO SOX!!!

We are the champions - my friends/And we'll keep on fighting - till the end/We are the champions/We are the champions/No time for losers/'Cause we are the champions - of the world

Sunday, October 28, 2007

World Series Game 3: For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Colorado Rockies 5

Stand up and be counted /For what you are about to receive /We are the dealers /We'll give you everything you need.

Here we are once again. On the precipice of greatness, on the cusp of ultimate victory, on the forefront of… you know… GOOD THINGS. Anyway, the Red Sox are close to achieving the same goal they reached in 2004. They are one victory away from being champions of the baseball world!

The strange thing is that I’m just not feeling the same excitement I found in 2004. Maybe you can’t go back to the tip top of mount awesome once you’ve reached that summit. Or maybe it’s the fact that the Rockies aren’t really putting up much of a fight. They try to look all tough (and even gave me a scare in this one), but the mountain men are rolling over even quicker than the red birds did 3 years ago (which is actually impossible, cause we swept them too).

Game 3 had all the makings of a blowout in just the 3rd inning when the Sox bats sent Josh Fogg running like a scared woodland deer. Ellsbury rocking doubles (he had 4 freaking hits!!), Pedroia spraying singles and Lowell driving them all in. When Dice-K has 2 RBI along with a fantastic pitching performance… let’s just say Sox victory was a foregone conclusion.

Or so I thought…

With a 6 run lead I was so busy making fun of Rockies players (we had a great Yorvit Torrealba as the Swedish Chef joke going) that I forgot to focus on the near bullpen collapse. After Dice-K was yanked in the 5th, Lopez and Timlin did a great job not doing much of anything, so in saunters Okajima to cool off the suddenly hot Rockies. Thank God cause Holliday was up and he can really… crush… oh… wow… um… yikes… that… oh wow… that’s not coming back.

Ok, so they made it close for a few innings and managed to suck the life out of the room at the same time. Not fun at all. We had to routinely check pulses and buy more beer. Was the earlier gloating out of hand? Was the collective Sox Nation hubris suddenly catching up with us? Yeah… not so much.

We're just a battery for hire with a guitar fire /Ready and aimed at you /Pick up your balls and load up your cannon /For a twenty-one gun salute.

After limiting the damage from the Fogg disaster, the Rockies bullpen finally came apart in the 8th and 9th. The last two insurance runs completed a metaphor I was working on earlier in the game.

“See this was like a great Chinese food dinner. It was awesomely delicious staring off (the 6 run lead) but it left you feeling nauseous and sick (suddenly 6-5) and everything feels better once you take a big dump (4 insurance runs).”

Too visual? Sorry.

So in the end, Papelbon locked it down, the Sox are up 3-0 and we are all about to return to the land of milk and honey. Just thinking about that parade is giving me the chills that this series is lacking. We are about to rock… and it’s gonna be great.

For those about to rock, we salute you
For THOSE about to rock, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee salute YOU!

Friday, October 26, 2007

2007 World Series Game 2: We Rock

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Colorado Rockies 1

You watch their faces/You'll see the traces/Of the things they want to be/But only we can see

Hope you were watching tonight, because you might have just watched Curt Schilling's swan song performance in a Red Sox uniform. Opinionated, loud-mouthed, self-promotional, unlikable; whatever your opinion may be of the man, he's always delivered when it really, really counted, whether it be a particularly pivotal start in the regular season, or when elimination loomed in the post-season, or just to establish a commanding lead in the World Series.

They come for killing/They leave and still it seems/The cloud that's left behind/Oh, can penetrate your mind

Tonight, I sat and stood and stomped and pounded and clapped amongst the crowd at Professor Thom's to an effort was no different: vintage Schilling - he of the power pitch and the massive shift in speeds - may not be anything more than a shadow of a memory, but the wily pitcher Schilling's become ain't no schlub, either. Here in the autumn twilight of the season Curt suffered the Rockies to garner a single run, scored only as a result of a tight inside pitch and a poorly-produced play at second. Throw in four strikeouts, two walks and four hits over five and a third and you have Curt Schilling, playoffs 2007 edition: still deadly effective. Far more sublime than masterful, it was an effort - along with those of Okajima and the indomitable Papelbon - that was still more than enough to keep Colorado from taking the final lead.

We pray to someone/But when it's said and done/It's really all the same/With just a different name

Meanwhile, we all awaited the glacial cracking of the edifice of Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, whose high-speed heat and tricky off-speed pitches are not yet paired with the pin-point control that can keep an offense like Boston's on its toes. The offensive strategy was simple but deadly: wait for Jimenez to show his wild side, leave a pitch where it shouldn't be or hand out a walk, then strike viper-quick for the run. We all loved to see its fruition, even as we despaired of our team's ability to break the score open for some breathing room, our frustrations epitomized by the mass celebrations that broke out during David Ortiz's Pesky Pole-bound foul ball in the fourth - the one we were all so sure was a home run that we did not watch its flight out of fair territory.

They come for killing/They leave and still it seems/The cloud that's left behind/Can penetrate your mind

Although the great thunder of last night's bats passed with the Game 1 rainstorms, there were enough hits, and enough runs: after two innings and two-thirds innings and a trip round the lineup, the Boston hitters seemed to realize they weren't going to catch up to Jimenez and his 97+ mph heat, but they could wait for him to hang himself. Ground outs and strikeouts quickly turned to walks, which became hits, two runs scored and 12 men left on base. Jimenez retired in haste in the fifth, the victim of his own inability to control his pitch count. Meanwhile, innings mounted, outs decreased, and excitement in Professor Thom's rose to a fever pitch, as 150 or so Sox fans lived and died by Cinco Ocho; his death mask pitching fast, his fastball, his brilliance. The win became collective, as good wins always do: the players put the ball in the right places at the right times, but we - the screaming masses in Fenway, and their counterparts in a crowded Red Sox bar in New York - pushed them to make the moves.

Sail on, sing a song, carry on/Cause we rock...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2007 World Series Game 1: Don’t Stop Me Now

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 13, Colorado Rockies 1

Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time /I feel alive and the world turning inside out, yeah! /And floating around in ecstasy

That's a pretty damn good start. Call it Red Sox momentum, call it Rockies rust, call it whatever you want but it was still a pants-down spanking of world serious proportions. I don’t want to say anything too awful about these Rockies, because it’s not nice to pick on people you don’t know… and I still don’t know ANY of these Rockies players. Well, whoever they are, the 9 days of rest seems to have snapped them out of their hot-streak.

Blood was in the water and the Sox bats played the part of Jaws. Right out of the gate Dustin “the littlest rookie who could” Pedroia smashed a Monster shot and grabbed the Sox an early lead… one they never looked back from. I mean, are you kidding me Colorado? That’s your “Ace,” your #1, your big shot? Wait… wasn’t this supposed to be a pitching duel? Francis got absolutely OWNED by every single member of the starting lineup. It wasn’t pretty. And the bullpen? Like I said before, I have never heard of those guys, and now I know why. Every Sox starter but one (Ellsbury) got a hit, every starter but one (Lowell) got an RBI and every starter but 3 (Lugo, Pedroia and Ellsbury) got a double. The Sox had 8 doubles (tied a WS record) in the night, they had 13 runs (sets the WS game 1 record) and had a 12 run victory margin (sets WS record). These jokers even managed to walk in three runs! Unreal. When you take candy from a baby, at least the baby has the decency to cry about it. The Rockies pitchers didn’t even manage to look that tough.

I'm burning through the skies, yeah! /Two hundred degrees /That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit!

Speaking of pitching, the Red Sox could have scored 11 fewer runs and still walked away with this one thanks to the mastery of the gladiator named Josh Beckett. 4-0 in the playoffs? Check. Post season ERA slightly lower than Kevin Millar’s blood alcohol content? Check. Another World Series win under his belt along with 9 fresh strike outs? Big freaking check. The guy is a man-amal: half man, half animal. And that animal? I think it’s a grizzly bear cause he tore through the Rockies like a top of the food chain predator. It is a down right pleasure to see this guy blow away hitters. Beckett retired the first 4 batters by way of the K and could have pitched much longer than the 7th if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sox were already up by more than a touchdown.

Unlike our purple clad adversary, the Sox bullpen looked great considering we were using the B-squad. Timlin and Gagne didn’t allow a base runner in either of their innings of work. You know it’s a great night when you get text messages like “I feel good about Gagne” and “hey I think it’s Gagne time” or my favorite “If Gagne isn’t too busy crushing children’s dreams, I think he could pitch in this game.” Hell, I was happy to see him.

Anyway, do I think every game is going to be this one sided? Of course not (see: yes) but I think the Rock-mes may be a little overmatched. Maybe it’s the lack of World Series experience (only Wily Tavarez has seen action) or maybe it was the roaring Fenway crowd, but the Rockies looked rattled. Their tale of destiny now rests on the shoulders of their game 2 starter, the mighty Ubaldo Jimenez while the Sox have to turn to some guy named Curt Schilling. I heard this Ubaldo guy had some good stuff (I did not hear this) so this could be a good one… but I might have to lean towards the Red Sox in this match-up. They just look unstoppable.

Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time) /Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time) /I don't wanna stop at all

PS: Thanks, but no thanks Rudy. Sox Nation doesn’t want you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Taking Stock: How to Beat the Rox

Over the past three and a half years, we've all gone through a lot of changes as Red Sox fans: we've had our outlook fundamentally changed by a miracle string of victories, sworn we could face adversity without the passionate rages that characterize our past, had those promises shatter like a glass beer mug hitting the floor during one of the many draw-dropping, heart-breaking collapses of 2005 and 2006, come to terms anew with the passion that never left our hearts, seen our faith tested when our GM left in an ape suit, when our star prospect came down with cancer, when our injury-plagued team hit its nadir over eight games in August and tumbled into third place. Three and a half years later, we're better fans: we still care a whole lot freakin' lot, but we're not so crazy, and we don't give up so easily. We've grown, and we should be proud of it. And now we're back in the World Series.

We're facing a team that may not have the same history as the Red Sox had coming into the Fall Classic, vintage 2004, but definitely has that same fire, coming out of nowhere at the last second to pile on win after win, capture wild card and National League pennant, sweep all comers and generally surprise everyone. With their large crop of home grown young players, much smaller overall salary, and inexperience with the limelight, the Rockies are the true underdogs, darling of non-New England fans who love to see the David and Goliath story reenacted once again. I'm not saying we should root for them to win, though; it's just good to know what we're facing on an emotional level. Now for the stats:

Season Record
Thanks to Bud Selig, Boston's actually faced Colorado this year, and thanks to wretched performances by pretty much everyone on the team except for Tim Wakefield (who won't be on the World Series roster), the Rockies left town with a 2 and 1 record against the Sox, while we put up posts with clever titles. Of course, that series fell in the middle of a 54 game stretch where Boston played .500 ball (how did they win the AL East again?), so we can hope that it's not indicative of World Series performance. Otherwise, we're completely screwed.

Batting Versus Pitching
The sample sizes in question between both teams are absolutely useless, I'm going to focus on post-season stats instead. There are three things that interest me:
  1. Colorado put up a 2.33 ERA and a .172 batting average against when playing Philadelphia in the divisional series, and a 1.89 ERA and a .254 batting average against when playing Arizona in the championship series. Arizona was not a particularly strong hitting team this year, but Colorado made both teams look absolutely silly at the plate. The Rockies' game one starter is Jeff Francis, a 26-year-old who posted slightly above average numbers in 34 starts this year, but gave the Sox screaming heebie-jeebies over five innings back in June. Their game four starter is Aaron Cook, a 28-year-old who posted slightly above-average numbers in 25 starts, but who hasn't pitched in two months because of an injury. Somehow this translates to pitching domination in the junior hitting league. If the Sox offense keeps ticking like it did over the last three games of the ALCS, that pitching advantage might be for naught, which is good because...
  2. ...the Rockies hit poorly in the NLDS and wretchedly in the NLCS, cracking a total of 57 hits over 236 at-bats. That's pretty wretched, and wouldn't seem to be a sign of a vibrant offense, except that about half of those hits turned into runs. Boston had a higher success rate overall, but they had four games where they won by seven or more runs, and they've had a much more productive offense in 2007. Colorado seems to have the ability to be productive when it matters, and they'll be a huge threat if they're allowed on the base paths.
  3. Much has been made of the Rockies and their Christian clubhouse, how the team might be operating under a divine mandate to win everything. That may be the case, but remember: we have Curt Schilling, who's more avid about his religious beliefs than 10 Matt Hollidays, and prays on the mound before making a start. Who knows: speculation about who will win might be a moot point when Schilling takes the mound in Game 2, as Jesus might suddenly decide He prefers Armageddon to trying to pick favorites.
Both teams in this series live and die by pitching; the Rockies because they can't seem to hit anything, the Red Sox because they need to keep the Rockies from scoring any runs, because the offense might just disappear in the face of unknown starters. Assuming we all survive Game 2, I'm calling Red Sox in seven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 7: Don't Stop Believing!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, Cleveland Indians 2

Working hard to get my fill/Everybody wants a thrill/Payin' anything to roll the dice/Just one more time

This is step two...Sox win the pennant for the 2nd time in 4 years and they did it again with a miraculous comeback. I am too excited to be happy, too happy to be drunk and too drunk to be awake… but somehow I am all of those things. It’s like a euphoric waking coma that I now share with the rest of Red Sox Nation. What a place to be.

Oh man, I need to unwind a second. That was a rough week of baseball, any way you cut it. When I step back and see that the Sox outscored the Indians 30-5 over 3 games I can’t believe it… weren’t these all so close? Game 7 was a game of inches right?

With all of the old mojo the Sox trotted out before the game, I kept checking to make sure I didn’t accidentally go back in time to 2004. Kevin Millar threw out the first pitch and read off the Sox starting lineup. Last time I checked he was on the Baltimore Orioles, one of our division rivals… but who cares! It was just great to see Millar drunk, happy and in Fenway again. Sure he called Ellsbury “Jacob” and Dice-K “Danielle” but it was worth it just to reconnect with a former player that came up big… with a walk… in game 4… of a series that happened 3 years ago. Hmmmm… maybe I am reading too much into this… it was just great to see Millar!

Anyway, Dice-K came out looking like he might be worth SOME of that $51 million, while Westbrook was hankering for one of Paul Byrds HGH shots. Sox put up runs in the first three innings, every little break was falling for Boston, the Indians looked rattled and the road to the Rockies looked a lot shorter. That’s usually when the wheels come off.

Dice-K got hit and hit quick in the 4th and 5th innings. He looked completely gassed, but Francona let him finish the 5th while the rest of Sox Nation tried not to have flashbacks to Grady Little. Lofton pounded a ball off the Monster and Manny gunned him down at second (looked safe). Then it was hit after hit before Dice-K managed to strike out Asdrubal to end the inning. The Tribe only plated two runs, but this happened to coincide with Westbrook suddenly remembering how to pitch. The Sox must have hit into a billion inning ending double plays and I think I was downing a beer after each one. The tension was unbearable.

Some will win, some will lose/Some were born to sing the blues/Oh, the movie never ends/It goes on and on and on and on

The Sox sent out Oki for a two inning hold, and he participated in the one of the scariest sequences of the season. With one out in the 7th, Lofton (why is he ALWAYS involved?) slaps a shallow popup down the leftfield line… and Lugo drops it. The string of obscenities that flowed from my mouth as Lofton reached second would make a sailor blush. And then the momentum shifted again…

For some reason I still don’t understand, Lofton was held at third on a Gutierrez single down the line. He could have walked in and tied the game… but he got the stop sign. So now with runners in first and third, Oki gets Casey “Bad Beard” Blake to ground into a inning ending, rally killing, thought only Sox could do that, double play. Suddenly I could breathe again.

Then it was like someone let the air out of a balloon. The pressure just disappeared. With Jacoby reaching on an error, Pedroia SLAMMED a ball over the Monster for 2 insurance runs. Then in the 8th the Sox took the formally un-hittable Betancourt to school for the tune of 4 runs (Dusty with a bases clearing double) and Youk slammed a 2 run shot off Lewis and the Coke bottles. What the hell happened? No more drama! No more finger chewing! No more doubt! Papelbon came in to clean up the 9th (with a great catch by Coco to end it) and it never looked so routine. The rough and tumble Indians left the ALCS with a whimper. Not their proudest moment.

Un-freaking-real. This series comeback might not be as sweet at it was in 2004 (it’s not the Yankees and it’s not 0-3) but it still tastes mighty good. The bizarre thing about this series is that I never thought it was over and done for the Sox… sure I felt down when they fell into the 1-3 hole… but I never felt like it was over for them. Is that what 2004 did for us as a fan base? Instead of pessimism when the chips are down, is our faith now bolstered by the fact that we KNOW the Sox can comeback from anything? I never stopped believing, never stopped hoping, cause I knew… somehow I just knew… that this was going to go our way. This is the apex of the strange new world of the Red Sox fan. No longer underdogs, now we’re perennial contenders and our belief has never been stronger. Go crazy people… party like it’s 2004 'cause the Sox are going to the World Series.

Don't stop believin'/Hold on to the feelin

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 6: Aces High

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 12, Cleveland Indians 2

There goes the siren that warns of the air raid/Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak/Out for the scramble we've got to get airborne/Got to get up for the coming attack

Baseball is a game of statistics, a math geek's wet dream of numbers and outcomes and probabilities that make it one of humanity's more perfect endeavors. However, within this perfection lies the paradox of improbability and uncertainty, the human element that defies prediction and makes the games worth watching. This human element takes, among other forms, the guise of shifting momentums, tied up in morale; the same unpredictable, intangible feeling that drives armies on a battlefield towards crushing defeat or overwhelming victory. It's why we all hold hitting streaks and strings of victories in such high acclaim: put inertia on your side and you gain the aura of invincibility.

Before this series started, I mentioned that I was excited for the upcoming battle; I focused on the pitching match ups, which have proven disappointing in many ways, but instead I find myself satisfied with the pure baseball appeal of this series thanks to the frequent shifts in momentum. Boston took command with Beckett's first win, then Cleveland asserted itself with three straight victories that put Boston on the edge of elimination. The Sox slowed the rush with Beckett's second win that sent the series back to Fenway, but they really regained the upper hand tonight using both bat and glove in two key moments.

Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines/Remove all the wheelblocks there's no time to waste/Gathering speed as we head down the runway/Gotta get airborne before it's too late.

Moment 1: While Beckett is the golden god of the 2007 playoffs, Curt Schilling is the wild card: his abilities as a big game pitcher are set in stone, but after a weak Game 2 showing and the ongoing concerns about his ability to adapt to his advancing age, a strong outing was more of a fond hope than a clear certainty. However, fortune - and Schilling's own dogged refusal to look bad twice in a row - smiled upon the evening, giving the big righty a stat line that would make anyone proud: two runs on six hits, with five strike outs and a home run, all over seven innings. But this sterling performance might never have happened if not for a lucky call in the first inning.

Grady Sizemore drove the third pitch of the game high and deep to right field, a towering fly ball that screamed home run from the moment it left the bat. It sliced into the seats around the foul pole, as Red Sox Nation drew its collective breath, and watched helpless as the season started to swirl down the toilet. A home run from the first batter of the game: momentum would scream back into Cleveland's court faster than a Boston driver weaving through traffic on the Southeast Expressway. The Indians would go on to score five or six runs in the first inning alone, and the Sox would be on the golf courses by Monday morning. But the baseball gods were kind: umpires ruled the ball, which looked like a home run on the replay, was foul - no gopher ball, no first blood, no nothing. Sizemore grounds outs, Lugo to Youkilis, three pitches later.

Running, scrambling, flying/Rolling, turning, diving, going in again.
Running, scrambling, flying, Rolling, turning, diving...

Moment 2: J.D. Drew has not had a good year. He's getting a lot of money for below average production, he hasn't lived up to his role as a key member of the offense, etc. We all know the story, and we all expect less of Drew - who was 0 for 6 with men in scoring position coming into tonight - as a result. Boston loads the bases in the bottom of the first inning, as Pedroia, Youkilis and Ortiz all reach safely with no outs. Manny strikes out looking after a tough battle with Carmona, Lowell flies out to Trot Nixon in shallow right - too shallow to score a run - putting the burden on Drew. A walk would have been a fine - a single seemed too much to ask for. The fate of the whole game hung in the balance of that one moment, and J.D. Drew shocked us all to the very core: he smashed a 3 and 1 fastball into the camera well in center field for a grand slam.

Pandemonium. I'm in a bar, and though every fan in the place is yelling and screaming his or her head off, we can't believe it. We yell through the shock: J.D. Drew delivered. Ill fortune hangs over him like a cloud, a reputation for injury-plagued selfish play and missed potential dogs his footsteps, but for a shining moment - the shining moment of the whole game, on par in orders of magnitude with Manny's walk off from Game 2 of the ALDS - Drew baptized away all of his Red Sox sins. The rest of the evening was a state of grace: three for five, two runs, five RBI, a one-man wrecking team armed with a bat and the will to make up for lost time. Pour some gasoline on that fire tomorrow and we might finally see the birth of a monster.

Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die/Won't you run, live to fly, fly to live
Aces high!

Friday, October 19, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 5: Ace of Spades

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Cleveland Indians 1

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man/You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me

Like many other Red Sox fans, tonight, for this game, I chose not to venture out into the communal world of bars, where interaction with other members of Red Sox Nation could quickly turn uncomfortable if tonight's game went ugly. In Beckett we all trust, but that didn't stop those with a fatalistic outlook - or a strong dislike of the grief of others - from bunkering up with the home TV and a beer or two. Like wounded animals, we retreated to our caves where we could die with dignity if necessary.

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil/Going with the flow, it's all a game to me

Fortunately, any such preparation was completely and totally unnecessary; if there was a meter that measured awesome on a 10 point scale, they'd have to replace it: Beckett kept hitting 11 all freakin' night. I gushed about his pitching after Game 1 of the ALDS, I sang his praises after Game 1 of the ALCS, but tonight...tonight was something special.

It wasn't just the mere-mortal first inning that burned off like fog from Boston Harbor in the fiery sunlight of Beckett's other eight, or the career-high-tying 11 strikeouts, or the economies of pitching that kept his fastball still sparking after a full night of 96 mph heat - these things we've come to expect from Beckett the 20 game winner, or Beckett the post-season maniac. Here, tonight, Red Sox fans got to experience in full emotional depth how Marlins fans felt in 2003 when Beckett pitched his first post-season shutout in the exact same situation, picking up his team on their way to eventual world championship glory. Josh Beckett was a big game pitcher before tonight, but this win was his biggest big game test in a Red Sox uniform - and he passed with flying colors.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby
I don't wanna live for ever/And don't forget the joker!

It didn't hurt that for most of the game, it felt like Beckett was doing everything himself. Youkilis took Sabathia yard on the fourth pitch of the game, and Manny knocked in Big Papi in the third on what might be the longest single ever hit in Jacobs Field, but getting to that eventual 7 to 1 total took so many stranded bodies, Boston might have being trying to re-stage Custer's last stand. These feints toward a breakout weren't the usual cat and mouse game of the Red Sox offense, either; the gaspings and heavings of a fat man mid-heart attack on a treadmill might be a more appropriate metaphor. A typical inning would consist of one or two members of the lineup between Youkilis and Lowell getting on base, followed by the intense pain of delayed gratification and frayed nerves as the Sox failed to score a run (strike outs, double plays, even getting thrown out at home all played their part), leaving the door open for what seemed like the eventual apocalypse when the Indians finally started scoring runs.

I see it in your eyes, take one look and die/The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be

However, even gaspings and heavings must eventually turn into something positive, and in the end the Sox broke through, scored an insurance run or five, and set what we all hope to be the precedent for additional offensive explosions on Saturday (and Sunday, fingers crossed) post-triumphal return to Fenway. Tonight's game might not have been fun in the pedestrian sense, but if we're lucky it shifted the momentum back to Boston's side of the court.

The Ace Of Spades/The Ace Of Spades

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 4: No Excuses

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Cleveland Indians 7

Layin low, want to take it slow /No more hiding or disguising truths I’ve sold

All you nay-sayers, all you chicken littles, all you threat makers, deal talkers and promise fakers… shut up. Seriously just shut the hell up. I don’t have the energy to argue with what “should” have happened with what “might” have been.

Starting Wake in this game was the right move… simple as that. You can’t gamble on the sort rest starter, I don’t care who it is. The fact that analysts and fans alike are going to jump on Francona for this move is just idiotic. You want to scream at Tito? Bring up his quick hook for starters and his bad choice in relievers. On no days rest, Delcarman was not able to keep the match up as close as I would have liked it.

But enough sour grapes. To be frankly honest, it was Indians ability to perform with runners on and a quick solution to the Sox knuckleballer that ended this one. Wake didn’t go any farther than the starters before him and that just won’t cut the mustard. He left with men on… and MDC (who was nasty before this outing) made sure they all reached safely… ugh. A seven run disaster inning. Lester was awesome in relief, but it was too late by then.

Its okay, had a bad day /Hands are bruised from breaking rocks all day /Drained and blue I bleed for you /You think its funny, well you’re drowning in it too

So once again, looking at a deep hole, the Sox can’t get any runs in. Paul Byrd did just about as well as he could have keeping the Sox bats in check. The back-to back-to back homerun parade in the 6th was amazing... and nothing but a big tease. Youk, Papi, and Manny might have made history with those big swings, but they were the only guys to cross the plate for the Sox. The Tribe’s bullpen preformed as well as it’s had the previous nights leaving no opening for Boston to inch its way back into the game.

There were opportunities… and the Sox didn’t take them.
There were great performances… and the Indians were the ones making them.

I guess the sense of urgency has been heightened now huh? No longer can we say that “these aren’t must win games” with the record at 3-1. Bottom line? Lose and go home. Simple as that. It’s now up to Josh Beckett to save us from that fate… let’s hope he stays to form and does the job.

Oh, and sorry this was a late posting… but I currently have the worst hangover in the history of these biological nightmares. Hey… just because I can accept that the Sox got beat doesn’t mean I’m not gonna go ahead and drink myself stupid. Now gimme a minute so I can go puke this all away like a bad memory.

Everyday its something hits me all so cold /Find me sittin by myself no excuses, then I know

Monday, October 15, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 3: Misery (Frustrated Incorporated)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Cleveland Indians 4

They say misery loves company /We could start a company /And make misery

Forget Soul Asylum, I may need an insane asylum after this mess is over. Between McCarver’s moronic ramblings and the near subliminal TransFormers pomos Fox has been showing, it’s amazing to think that the GAME was the most infuriating distraction of the evening. Almost everything that could have gone wrong with this game went that way… and quickly.

Dice K couldn’t get out of the 5th inning. He looked effective out of the gate, but AARP member Kenny Lofton got the cheapest homerun ever, making it 2-0 early (and who the hell takes a curtain call in the 2nd inning????). Then in the 5th, the Japanese import collapsed like a grass house in a tsunami. Before Bono could unite celebrities and get him some foreign aid, the Indians put up two more runs and Timlin came in to save his expensive ass from further humiliation.

And while Dice-K was being beat, Westbrook was handling the Sox with smoke and mirrors. I guess I can’t totally blame magic on Westbrook’s performance, the Sox had the bases loaded in the second with no outs (0 runs), a leadoff double in the fourth (0 runs) and a pile of walks with nothing to show for it. It was like drinking glass. Double play after double play. I just wanted to hide my head after every at-bat before the 7th inning.

Put me out of my misery /I'd do it for you, Would you do it for me? /We will always be busy, making misery

Not helping ANYBODY was the home plate umpire and his ever shifting, ever shrinking strikezone. It’s up, it’s down, it’s left, it’s right. Inside, outside, high, really high… but never very low. How much do you suck when the best thing I can say about your game calling is “well, at least he didn’t call a low strike ever?” If Dice-K crap performance had left me with any energy, I would be throwing things around the room.

Other random notes from this game:

Sizemore has a cheering section called “Grady’s Ladies” and are made up of the hottest chicks in Cleveland. 8 women and 6 teeth.

Cleveland is full of those awful white towel swingers. Doesn’t that mean you’re surrendering? If this ever started in Fenway it would force me to jump under the T in Kenmore.

I think Timlin’s playoff diet is gunpowder and dead babies. Mixed together.

Tek hit his 2 run shot to dead center and had me screaming thanks to the terrible Fox camera angle. I was sure it was going to be caught by the short stop.

Speaking of Fox, I thought I would miss them after the disaster on TBS… I got over that quick. McCarver and Buck still talk like they learned the sport last week and graphics like “Asdrubal Cabrera is the first player to be named Asdrubal in MLB history!” gives me an urge to just watch the MLB GameCast and listen to the radio.

All I wanted to see this series was Cleveland’s closer, and finally Wedge put the awful Borowski in with a 2 run lead. Careful what you wish for. He got the Sox in order with very little drama. No breaks, no luck, just more frustration.

Put me out of my misery /All you suicide kings and you drama queens /Forever after happily, making misery /Frustrated, incorporated, Frustrated, incorporated.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 2: Mind Riot

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Cleveland Indians 13

I was crying from my eye teeth and/Bleeding from my soul
And I sharpened my wits on a dead man’s skull

Even though J.D. Drew's first season with the Red Sox has fallen far short of anyone's expectations - witness the OBP and SLG scores, the home run totals, the numbers of hits, all off last year's mark, far short career highs and, at $14.4 million a season, not what Boston paid to see - no one in a logical, rational frame of mind would say that Drew is not an upgrade over Trot Nixon, whose market value might be five times less than Drew, but whose returns on investment - fewer hits, about 150 less plate appearances in 40 fewer games, less power, etc. all in a body a year older and far more banged up - has removed him from consideration as a starting right fielder. Trot Nixon has dirt dogged himself into a veteran utility role, pure and simple.

I built an elevator from his bones/Had climb to the top floor just/To stamp out the coals

We look at the stats and the history and we know all of these things to be true on an intellectual level. The higher courses of our brains reassure us with facts and figures, telling us that while day-to-day baseball is fluky, things eventually trend out to prove the superiority or inferiority of a choice. J.D. Drew is the better right fielder; this is known. But that current of rational thought is just a cheap veneer, cracking and melting away from the pressure of the primitive, emotional parts of the brain that focus all too easily on one thing: when J.D. Drew came up to bat in the eighth inning with a chance to start the third (and final) Red Sox rally, he hit a liner to center field. When Trot Nixon came up in similar situation in the eleventh inning, he hit the single that scored the go-ahead run. "Trot Nixon beat us," we rage, "why isn't he on the Red Sox anymore?"

And the candle was burning yesterday/Like somebody’s friend died
And I‘ve been caught in a mind riot/I’m tied within

Though Nixon's single pierces our mind with its sheer ironic temerity, claiming its place as tonight's unkindest cut of all, it was not the only stab of the night: from Schilling's lackluster line (4.2 innings, nine hits, five runs, two gopher balls) to the return of the Red Scare (two blown saves and a seven run, last nail in the coffin eleventh inning), tonight was a blood-stained affair that Red Sox Nation would rather forget. And you know what? I'm happy to do so, to focus on the positive: Manny and Ortiz remain the Castor and Pollux of the 2007 playoffs, the heart of the order continues to rock the party that rocks the body, and tonight Fausto Carmona's deal with the devil looked like it expired in Cleveland sometime last week. Give tonight a pass, and move on to Cleveland ready to get back on track to victory.

I’m luck’s last match struck/In the pouring down wind

Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 1: Cowboys from Hell

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Cleveland Indians 3

Here we come reach for your gun/And you better listen well my friend, you see

You're just as surprised by the outcome of this game as I am, right? Not that Boston won - that sort of thinking just plain not becoming of a fan - but that what should have been a pitchers duel turned unbalanced in the third inning and into a blowout by the fifth? Not that Beckett made one mistake that ended his scoreless post-season streak, but that Sabathia - in retrospect - didn't have a prayer against the Boston offense from the moment Pedroia rocketed the third pitch of the first inning back to the mound? We're in the post-season, and I'm bored enough by the course of the game to take part in conversations about World War II documentaries in the middle of the fifth inning. Very surprising.

It's been slow down below/Aimed at you we're the cowboys from hell

What's not so surprising: when Sabathia foolishly opened the floodgates in the first inning by giving up a brace of singles to Youkilis, Papi, and Manny, the Sox offense came rushing out, ready to not only right the wrong that Beckett committed by surrendering a first inning home run to Travis Hafner, but completely dominate the score for the rest of the game. Boston couldn't quite pull the trigger in the first - Lowell double played to end the inning - but you could feel the rumble, the tremors of the coming earthquake that would eventually tear the park - and Cleveland's pitching - asunder. Taking a commanding lead was just a matter of time.

Deed is done again, we've won/Ain't talking no tall tales friend

The Indians' home run was a fluke, and Beckett immediately returned to his dominating ways. Meanwhile, Ortiz and Manny solidifying the triumphant return of their two-man wrecking crew, building on flawless nights to garner walks, get hits, score runs, and operate as the unquenchable heart of the offensive attack. The Sox loaded the bases three times, in what must have seemed like a twilight zone for Cleveland pitching: Ortiz would come up, Ortiz would walk, then Manny would wait for the fat pitch that never came and walk in a run.

'Cause high noon, your doom/Comin' for you we're the cowboys from hell

I don't expect such disparate results tomorrow night; looking at how Sabathia and Carmona did in the ALDS (and Sabathia's performance tonight), it seems that Carmona might have better post-season success, put a damper on the potent offense, and keep the scoring down. Indeed, because Schilling is Schilling, capable of performing under such pressure, tomorrow night might be the best game of the series for pitching. However, the Indians have to be wondering right now: with Sabathia in poor form, how far can they get on one star pitcher? If the Red Sox strike when the iron is hot, this series could turn into a rout quicker than the sell out time for a Sox/Yankees game.

Step outside/Cowboys from hell

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Taking Stock: How to Beat the Tribe

My first thoughts after last night's slightly surprising victory revolved around disappointment. Not because I was looking for another media-fest fueled Red Sox/Yankees championship series; far from it. I just wanted a five game series to mess up Cleveland's rotation, to make things a little easier for Boston coming into Friday's start.

However, I've mended the error of my ways, and I'm excited about both this series and the opponent Boston will be facing for a whole of reasons, starting with the glee over the depression some FOX executive is feeling over the loss of ratings that departed with the Yankees, and ending with the scheduled match ups of the first two games: Beckett versus Sabathia? Schilling versus Carmona? It's like someone took the joys of alcohol and distilled it into pitching form. Even better, because it's not Yankees and Red Sox head-to-head, there's no hype. It's pure baseball, and our team happens to be one of the contestants. I think my head might explode from the sheer geeky bliss.

Speaking of geek bliss, let's get on with the series breakdown:

Season Record
Boston and Cleveland played seven games this season; the Sox won five of them. Two of those wins came at home, three on the road, which is a nice even split, and speaks well for Boston's chances in either park. Unlike the Angels, when Cleveland wins, they win with their starting pitching: Carmona and Paul Byrd have both shut down the Boston offense long enough to garner wins, and their bullpens backed them up. Relief pitching should be a much bigger factor in this series, and all things being equal, the team with the most consistent pen will likely emerge the victor.

Batting Versus Pitching
The Indians are a harder team to hit than the Angels: about 31 percent of balls Boston knocked into play turned into hits, and the Sox averaged about 1.46 hits or walks per inning. What's interesting is that the split between Sox wins at home and in Cleveland continues here with hits and walks per inning: it's consistently about 1.44 per inning at both locations. What's even more interesting is that the splits of percentage of runs scored is about the same in both parks, too: 36 percent at Fenway, 38 percent in Cleveland. Boston's overall runs success rate against Cleveland is about 37 percent.

The Indians present a slightly different picture. 32 percent of the balls they put in play against Boston pitching became hits, but the Tribe could only muster about 1.10 hits or walks per inning - not a particularly good success rate. Cleveland converted 40 percent of those base runners into runs, which is not only higher than Boston's percentage but a point higher than the team's 2007 average. The Indians have the same weird near-equal split in percentage of runs scored at both parks: a 34 percent success rate at Fenway, and a 40 percent success rate at The Jake.

Boston has one key hitting statistic that's giving them the edge over Cleveland: they're able to get more men on base. The Sox haven't been able to score as many of those men as Cleveland in 2007, and they've also found Indians pitching much harder to score against than the rest of their opponents - about 9 percent fewer runs scored than the 2007 average. One of the big keys to this series for Boston will be keeping Cleveland off the bases to eliminate the scoring threat, especially when pitching at Jacobs Field.

In overall pitching, the two teams are very closely matched: ERAs of about 4.20 for both groups of starters, 3.10 for Boston relievers and 3.75 for the Cleveland pen. Over 2007, Boston starters given up about 3 runs per game, while Cleveland starters surrendered 3.1 runs per game.

This series will be about two things: which pitching staff can last the longest, and which offense can break through. With such equal pitching match ups, the Sox will have to exploit their superior base runner-creating ability to manufacture runs, break down starters and force the Indians to exhaust their bullpen. Boston's relatively equal hitting success both at home and in Cleveland is an advantage, but Boston's pitching needs to keep Cleveland off the bases so they don't score runs. However, both teams are capable of such excellent performance that I foresee nothing but a hard fought series that could go all seven games. I call Boston in six. GO SOX!!!

A Tribute to the 2007 Yankees

Ok I didn’t WANT to do this… but it felt like I HAD to. Call it a comedy lay up. You have to sink these shots when you get the chance.

And I can’t freaking believe this is all gonna be put on Joe Torre. Like A-Rod being a walking coma, Clemens being old and Wang being awful were his fault (although if you want to be mad at him for pitching Joba 2 innings in an 8-4 game… go ahead). I think he did the best he could with the pieces he was given. I wish him the best of luck in Pittsburgh or Baltimore or wherever he ends up.

And bring on the Indians!! I bet Manny and Papi watch footage of Joe Borowski pitching like it was porn. Maybe like a snuff film.

Anyway, as for the Yankees… I salute you!

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2007 ALDS Game 3: The Pretender(s)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 9, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 1

Send in your skeletons/Sing as their bones go marching in... again

Anaheim played with all the desperation of a Beer League softball team after a three day bender. Who were those guys? That couldn’t have been the Angel team that has been nipping at our heels all season, and when you think about it, I guess this really WASN’T the team they were in the regular season. Gary Mathews Jr. was out with an injury, Kotchman was sick, Vlad had a bunch of nagging physical issues affecting his performance, and Anderson had to LEAVE this game because his swollen eye was grossing everybody out. What remained of the Angel offense looked like it was put together with duct tape, string and bubblegum. Lots of speed, but not much else that would instill any fear.

Oh, and speed doesn’t really matter when you don’t get on base. Schilling was the real-freaking-deal with a performance that was different (he is definitely not a power pitcher anymore) but just as dominating. He had a little trouble with a bases loaded jam and a first and third problem in the 7th, but he came on like gangbusters killing any chance of an Angels rally.

What if I say I'm not like the others?/What if I say I'm not just another one of your plays

From a batting standpoint the Sox were keeping things close early. The only runs came from MONSTER back-to-back shots from Papi and Manny. It’s shocking that this was the first time they did it all season. You couldn’t have picked a better time for these two sluggers to get red hot.

Then things started to go bad for the poor Angels. Shields, Speer and Oliver combined for 7 runs in a disastrous (if you’re from California) 8th inning. It was batting practice for pretty much every hitter. Pedroia, Lowell and Tek all decided to do a two bag dance and put the Sox up up up up… it was glorious. The Sox hitters really took advantage of an overused and overrated bullpen. That’s 9 playoff wins in a row against the Angels. Like I said, these jokers didn’t have anything that resembled a competent playoff team.

Unfortunately, it’s highly likely the team the Sox face in the ALCS will be ready for battle. The Indians have two dominant starters and a potent offence and we ALL know what the Yankees are packing… if they make it (now only down 1-2 in the series). Can they handle Boston though? Can they stand up to the momentum we have? Are they the real deal? It may be too soon to tell... but I'm not buying any other team but the Sox.

You're the pretender/What if I say I will never surrender?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

2007 ALDS Game 2: Here I (we) Go Again

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3

I don’t know where I’m going/But I sure know where I’ve been…

Remember this? Huh? Remember this freaking team? The team where all the crazy stuff goes OUR way and we are never out of the game no matter what the situation is? We are suddenly that team again… and oh my freaking GOD it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Unlike game 1 this was NOT about the starting pitching. Dice-K looked ummm… uhhh… well if I was polite I might refer to him as “pedestrian” but I’m not. So I’m gonna go ahead and say he sucked. Yeah that feels better… he sucked BAD and made me cringe after EVERY pitch. He looked like a guy relearning every pitch before he threw it. I thought Tek was gonna throttle him after ever pitch out of the zone. Not only was it brutal, it took forever! The Sox got 2 runs of Escobar in the 1st (big J.D. Drew RBI) but Dice-K gave them back plus one. The Sox were coming from behind with heavy bullpen use all game.

I’m just another heart in need of rescue/Waiting on loves sweet charity…

Then the game got weird. The Sox bullpen (Lopez, Delcarman and Oki) went into total shutdown mode. 3 innings of no-hit, no-walk ball from these superstars. Any nervousness that this game started with was sucked out of Fenway by this crew. Now they just needed to tie it up.

Enter Danny Vinik. In the 5th, with runners on the corners, Manny pops a foul ball up near the stands that is playable by Angels catcher Mathis… but this kid Danny won’t be stopped. Maybe he knew he wasn’t just getting a souvenir. Hell, maybe Stephen King (who was right behind him) gave him some crazy voodoo powers or something. I’m not sure, but he dominates the mad dash for this ball and yanks it JUST out of the reach of Mathis. Manny stays alive for the walk and Lowell ties the game with a sac fly. The Sox thrive on the sweet charity of Danny Vinik. Jeffery Maier, eat your heart out.

You give me strength to carry on/cos I know what it means/To walk along the lonely street of dreams…

So it’s the 9th and the score is still knotted at 3. Papelbon pitched 2 solid innings (with a little added drama due to a Lowell throwing error) but it looked like this game was destined for extra frames when K-Rod entered the fray. Still, the mighty closer had to deal with some inherited runners and would give Papi an IBB to face the rusty Manny with 2 on and 2 out. It looked like a safe bet. I give him and Scioscia credit for picking the “right” move. Problem is… sometimes the “right” move can bite you in the ass just as hard. Manny, with all the spunk and verve and presence that we have come to know and love, deposits a K-Rod fast ball into the stratosphere over the Monster. This 447ft walkoff shot was one of the all time epic homeruns. I expected this ball to land right outside my house in Brighton. Manny being Manny being awesome.

Cue the chorus, cue the shock, cue the pandemonium. The Red Sox are back with shades of 2004. It’s a beautiful thing. Here we go again. (oh and btw, I know this video has other connotations now that Tawny Kitaen moved on from writhing on car hoods to beating up Chuck Finley and then becoming a plastic surgery nightmare… but it fit the feeling I think).

Here I goooooooooooooooooooooooo again!!!!!!!

(oh and btw again, the Yankees lost in extra innings and Joba was eaten by bugs. Not even kidding).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2007 ALDS Game 1: Thunderstruck

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 0

THUNDER Ohwoahwoaaaahwoah...THUNDER

About two years ago, when rumors about Josh Beckett's impending arrival in Boston first hit the tubes of the Internets, my first thought was of the final game of the 2003 World Series; a game that went down in the record books as Josh Beckett's second complete game shutout of the 2003 post-season, and sealed his claim for the 2003 World Series MVP award. That moment in time crystallized all of my expectations of the coming Josh Beckett era: the Sox would return to the post-season, Beckett would be on the mound, and good things would happen. As simple as that.

I was caught/In the middle of a railroad track (THUNDER)
Looked around/And I knew there was no turning back (THUNDER)

Two post-seasons later, the stars had finally aligned, and Beckett, now the clear ace of the staff, made the start that flirted with perfection while it stayed grounded in reality. Despite - or perhaps as a result of - blowing the opportunity for his 21st win about a week ago, Beckett took matters in hand for game one and set the table for the rest of the series, with nine innings of eight strikeout gas, a host of emotional, fiery pitching bottled down into strikeouts and ground outs and fly balls that went nowhere outside of a fielder's glove. The masterful Texan even managed to add a glaze of humanity to his dish of seared Angel by starting the game by taking Chone Figgins to three and two, before surrendering an anti-climactic single off the glove of Pedroia. Was there a hint of panic in the eyes of the pitcher? A sinking feeling in the stomach of every Red Sox fan? Of course - these are the moments that define the playoffs. Then all of the nervousness disappeared, the clouds parted, and a demi-god took control.

My mind raced/And I thought what could I do? (THUNDER)
And I knew/There was no help, no help from you (THUNDER)

Nineteen batters. That's how many men came and went to the plate in succession of 1-2-3 innings between the first and second Angels hits of the game, between Chone Figgins off the glove of Pedroia, and Vladimir Guerrero past the legs of the surprised Beckett and into center field. In between, four Red Sox runs, blessings of the long bomb off the bats of Youkilis and Papi, a single by Lowell to score Ramirez. Shaky John Lackey escaped with less damage than one might expect, but the Boston bats probably wondered, "why let our starter get cold on a night like this one?" and punctuated the evening air with only those offensive actions necessary to carve a win in the stone of Beckett's unhittable fastball.

Beatin' in my heart/The thundering guns!/Tore me apart/You've been...THUNDERSTRUCK

I read something earlier today about teams that win the first game of the ALDS having especially good odds of winning the series; something about the momentum of the victory carrying the winning team on to eventual victory. It's something to mull about over the next two days, as we wait to see whether or not that momentum will carry our $110 million Zen Master to victory in game two on Friday. Until then, I'll have the savor of this sweet victory to tide me over. We'll be waiting, Angels...


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Taking Stock: How to Beat the Halos

Now that the dust has settled, it's time to start contemplating the next step: winning the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Three years ago, of course, the Sox bent the Angels over a chair for a series that was ultimately exciting for two reasons: it really started the Legend of Senor Octubre for David Ortiz, and it turned Curt Schilling into the gimpy warrior of bloody sock fame. But that was before the Halos gave Anaheim the shove and started claiming they were from Los Angeles - also, they're a different team - so we probably shouldn't expect a rollover coming into the series. So how do things stack up this time around? Let's break it down:

Season Record
The Sox won the season series six to four, but there are two things that are even more interesting:
  1. Boston won five of the seven games in Boston, and lost two of the three games in Anaheim. With home field advantage, Boston's looking at three games in Boston and two in Anaheim; based on this small sample, winning three of them should be doable.
  2. Four of Anaheim's six losses to Boston came at the hands of their starters; the other two were the responsibility of the bullpen. Boston has a good shot at getting the wins if they score the runs early.
Batting versus Pitching
When Boston puts the ball in play against Anaheim, they get hits about one-third of the time, but that one third of the time looks even better when you realize that Boston gets about 1.65 walks or hits per inning against Angels pitching - papa like that, let me tell you. About 46 percent of those base runners turn into runs, which ain't half bad; Boston's 2007 overall success rate is 39 percent, and higher equals better, especially when the playoffs are concerned. Meanwhile, the Halos got hits from about 30 percent of the balls they've put in play against Boston this year, and generated 1.26 walks and hits per inning in the process. Los Angeles turned about 38 percent of those base runners into runs, falling about a percentage point shy of their 2007 overall success rate.

Boston not only has a more potent offense (the higher percentage of runs scored overall), they actually become more likely to score runs against Angels pitching, while the Los Angeles rate not only has lower overall success rate but even becomes slightly less effective when facing the Sox. On the pitching side, Boston gives up a half run less per game than Los Angeles, and the ERA of Boston's ever-so-important bullpen is more than a full run lower than that of its starters (3.10 versus 4.22), while the both Angels starters and relievers give up about 4.23 runs per nine innings. Neither team has proven itself to be particularly effective pitching in the other team's ballpark, so - especially with the home field advantage - Boston seems to have the clear edge heading into the series.

Boston's definitely the clear winner on paper; they've not only got the better team, but they've done better in all aspects of head-to-head play. However, we all know stats aren't the be-all end-all predictor of success; plenty of factors will appear at the last second - like Tim Wakefield not being to pitch because of back pain - that could make the paper predictions as worthless as a stack of Monopoly money. Maybe John Lackey will buck his previous record against Boston and pitch the Angels in a game one loss. Maybe the gaps between games will throw off everyone's rhythm, and turn each team into bizzaro versions of themselves. Maybe J.D. Drew will become a playoff god. I say Red Sox in four, with a round 2 clinch in sunny LA. GO SOX!!!

The Sox Will Rock Your Face!

I am freaking excited that the Red Sox are like the best team in baseball thus far (that’s what the stats say so gimme a break) and I like to celebrate that fact by blasting some tunes on my computer/stereo/Ipod what-have-you. I like to listen to all things that get me fired up after a win, or real depressing stuff to help the booze go down cleaner after they dump one in the latter innings. Even though we no longer have Bronson Arroyo and his guitar “talents”, I like to think I have channeled a part of the Red Sox musical muse.

I know you’re thinking “why the hell are you telling me this stuff, you psychotic idiot?” but hear me out cause this is gonna be good.

Ok, so this is how it’s gonna work: Eric and I are going to go all “rock star” with the Sox playoff games this year. We are gonna lay down some “fat tracks”, some “fresh beats” and some “utter clich├ęs” for each and every playoff game the Red Sox are involved in. Now what I need from readers (if we still have any) is some suggestions (just leave them as comments) on what songs might fit different situations that might pop up during this series with the Angels (and hopefully beyond). Maybe something like “Big win = AC/DC, Thunderstruck”, or “Big Loss = Smashing Pumpkins, F*@# You An Ode To Nobody”. These are things we like… but I am always looking for fresh views.

I hope this catches on… cause we’re doing it anyway. Please post a comment if you have any suggestions, and hey, maybe if it’s any good we’ll use it and you can bitch and moan about how we stole your idea. Oh, and I bet Eric will have a post season match-up post or something coming soon too, because I’m “fun dad” and he’s “work dad”. Sure, he’ll help you with your science project volcano, but I’ll take you to Disney World.