Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Red Sox in the Bronx: 2003 All Over Again

This team is bipolar.

When the starting pitching is going bad, the offense has the ability to fight back and scrap together runs and compete (case in point: last night's game). When the starting pitching is going well, the bullpen can implode rapidly. Last night was an insane back and forth of polarized emotional states. It was all of this wrapped up in the highs of mania and lows of crushing defeat.

It was 2003 all over again.

At 7 pm last night I discovered that the YES Network was--for once--not the only broadcast showing the game last night.  Oh cool, I thought. No annoying ass-licking Michael Kay and the douchebaggery of the rest of the YES Network. Woo hoo! Instead I could watch ESPN with color commentary from Nomar, some dude, and Aaron Boone.

Yeh, that Aaron Boone--that mutha-freakin' lucky, hanging knuckle-ball hitting, 2003 Game 7, ALCS-killing, SOB. Whatever. Boone has been erased by rings in years after. Boone Schmoone.

Talk about irony.

He and Nomar were entertaining, actually. We learned they have known each other a long time. They both grew up playing ball in Southern California, that they were on the same team in amateur Summer leagues on Cape Cod between their sophomore and junior years in college. Both Nomie and Boonie were self-deprecating, made fun of their ages, and took swipes at their own rail-thin body types.

After Jonathan Papelbon entered last night's game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead in the Bronx, but before he threw a pitch, it was Boone talking up the effectiveness of Boston's closer. It was one of those filler moments where they come back from commercial with the pitcher still warming up, throwing his last pitches and getting his rhythm as they flash stats and talk about the man on the hill.

Boone and Nomar were talking about how Papelbon was 9 for 9 in save opportunities in 2010, and that it was Papelbon's use of his splitter and secondary pitches that was helping keep batters off kilter. They even brought up how Papelbon had watched his blown save against the Angels in the playoffs last year over and over and over as a reminder to mix it up a bit more.

Secondary pitches? Not last night.
Now, I'm not writing this to take insanely reactionary swipes at the closer,  nor would I suggest that management needs to make changes in the pen to the closer (the pen should be shaken up, a good lot). It's not as if Daniel Bard makes me feel any more comfortable. He was a bit shaky in the 8th himself.

But I will say this on Paps: You now have another video to watch over and over from 2010, and you need to mix up your pitches. You may be able to blow a heater by a guy a few times here and there, but not mixing it up is only going to screw you when you have to face strong hitting teams.

Every closer is going to blow saves. Even the great Rivera can walk in a run and give up grand slams (as happened Sunday in the Bronx). A blown save is accepted.

But last night was another huge emotional blow. Your offense gets you back in the game after Andrew Dice-K sucks it up in the first giving up 5 runs, and another in the second. It was 6-1 in the 3rd with the Yankees best pitcher on the hill--Phil Hughes.

Hats off to the Sox offense. Timely walks and hits and the big bomb were in play last night. Sox hit 5 homers with Victor Martinez hit two solos, Ortiz, Youkilis and  J.D. Drew hit a huge 3-run homer off of Hughes to tie the game. It was all for not.

Will that be the cliche of this season? The irony this season could be clawing your way back in to a playoff run only to give it up on your supposed strength in pitching.

Oh, and you want more irony? It was Wakefield's 2 innings in relief of Dice-K who was in line to get the win. Screw you, Aaron Boone. Screw you.

[Image by Mike A. (RAB) via Flickr cc 3.0]