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Home » Category Listing » September 2005 Game Comments

September 30, 2005


Game 159: September 29, 2005
Blue Jays (78-81), 4
Red Sox (93-66), 5
H: Jason Frasor (15)
BS: Vinnie Chulk (1)
L: Miguel Batista (5-8)
W: John Papelbon (3-1)

1 game behind in the division
Tied for the wild card
1 game winning streak

This team just won’t just leave me alone. I thought it got the hint when I wouldn’t return its calls and blocked it from my IM buddy list, but like a bee insistent for nectar it just keeps buzzing around for more. Despite not wanting to get stung, I let the Red Sox continue hovering in the contours of my consciousness. The daily drone of their furtive clubhouse whispers, engrossing on-field escapades, and provocative press conferences is inseparable from the hubbub of summer. Will that clamor continue deep into the fall?

When a bee stings to protect her hive, she dies in the process, leaving a delicate trail of her innards attached to the stinger embedded in the flesh of her enemy. The Boston Red Sox left it out on the field tonight, to continue the tortured metaphor as they have tortured us this season. They have led us into contention and delivered us from evil. For theirs was the comeback, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The first Red Sox run came in the 3rd after Tony Graffanino reached on a double. He was moved over by Johnny Damon’s single and plated by Edgar Renteria’s ground out to shortstop.

Boston continued to look feeble on offense until the 6th inning. David Ortiz led off with a what was scored an infield hit. With the shift on, Russ Adams crossed up coverage with Aaron Hill, allowing Ortiz to get to first base. Manny Ramirez took over by powering a circuit clout into the visitor’s bullpen to bring Boston within one run.

In the 8th inning, Ortiz took the plate with the score 4-3. Chulk threw 2 balls in a row to the relentless designated hitter. The question was not if Ortiz would be the hero of the game yet again, but how. How about a round-tripper into the Monster in the 8th? And then single grounded up the middle into left center with Damon on second and Renteria on first with 1 out for the game-winning run? Why didn’t Ortiz hit a four-bagger there, you might ask. With the count full against erratic Blue Jays closer Batista, Ortiz showed that he was a hitter and not just a slugger, opting for a solid base hit for the victory.

I’ll always remember October 27th; that’s like July 4th for Red Sox Nation. But I’ll put up a flag of the Dominican Republic November 18th of this year to celebrate the birthday of our Founding Papi, David Americo Ortiz.

September 29, 2005


Game 158: September 28, 2005
Blue Jays (78-80), 7
Red Sox (92-66), 2
W: Ted Lilly (10-11)
L: Bronson Arroyo (14-10)

1 game behind in the division
Tied for the wild card
2 game losing streak

Red Sox lost, Yankees won. The only way Boston could have helped Lilly more is if they helped ice his shoulder after the game.

Who’s this Manny Delcarmen kid that made an appearance in last night’s game? Hardly ever see him. And we probably won’t have the chance anyway since the Red Sox picked up Mike Stanton today for right-handed pitchers Yader Peralta and Rhys Taylor. Why did we trade these prospects? Don’t the Red Sox want a bullpen full of weird names like the Kansas City Royals?

Why even have young pitchers in the bullpen? Terry Francona would much rather exhume Cy Young than pitch his rookies. I’m sure that’s the front office’s next move. Red Sox representatives are being sent to Peoli Cemetary as I type this.

September 28, 2005


Game 157: September 27, 2005
Blue Jays (77-80), 7
Red Sox (92-65), 5
W: Jason Frasor (3-5)
H: Justin Speier (11)
H: Scott Schoeneweis (21)
S: Miguel Batista (31)
L: Chad Bradford (2-1)

Tied for the lead in the division
Tied for the wild card

1 game losing streak

The 3rd inning could have been more productive than it ultimately was. Tony Graffanino began the action with a well-placed singled that floated over the head of the alienesque Gustavo Chacin and bounded up the middle. Graffanino progressed to third base on Johnny Damon’s ground ball double that knocked around the left field corner. Both runners scored when the suddenly scorching Edgar Renteria launched a fly ball double that caught the top of the Monster. The heavy lumber-bearing part of the lineup went strangely silent: both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had singles this inning. These turned out to be their only hits of the evening and the Red Sox exited the inning with only a 3-run lead.

Gregg Zaun continued to be his infuriating self with a 2-run homer in the 4th and his extra “g.” (That extra “g” riles me.) It was a cheap jack just past Pesky Pole and it was the only home run Curt Schilling allowed in this game. Since he left the game in the 7th with the score tied, he wasn’t part of the decision. His 10 hit, 5 earned run, 1 walk, and 8 strikeout line seems to be an indication that he is not quite playoff-ready.

The Red Sox batters continued to show their competence at the plate. Bill Mueller led off with an infield single in the bottom of the 4th inning. Trot Nixon followed up with a liner to Frank Catalanotto, who lost sight of the ball in the lights. I’ve so rarely seen such a thing from Catalanotto; it was oddly refreshing to see him nonplussed on a play. With runners on second and third and 1 out, Damon lined a single to the beset Catalanotto to drive in Mueller. Renteria did likewise, going to the opposite field to plate Nixon.

In the top of the 7th, Schilling faced the same situation that Jonathan Papelbon did in the day game: Blue Jays at first and third with 1 out with Vernon Wells at the plate. In his case, however, Wells lined an RBI single up the middle to tie the game. It would be hilarious if Papelbon went up to Schilling and said something like, “Hey, here’s what I did in that situation.” Mike Myers was sent in to face Corey Koskie and promptly walked him.

I thought Second-Guess Sally wouldn’t make such a quick reappearance. But lo and behold, here she is again to question Terry Francona’s bullpen tactics. For seemingly sentimental reasons Schilling came into the 7th inning to face the top of the Torontonian lineup. One would think that the field manager would have pulled his inconsistent starter when 9-hole hitter Aaron Hill managed to single. But no. It would be a real confidence booster if Schilling were left in to face Catalanotto and Wells, especially since their OBP is .526 and .444 against the veteran righty, respectively.

Chad Bradford escaped by a stitch of a baseball seam when he was left in to close out the 7th inning against lefty Eric Hinske and was brought out to start the 8th inning as well. Francona must think that Bradford had suddenly acquired the wherewithal to be a full-fledged middle reliever overnight. Who else but the heir presumptive to the title of “Red Sox killer” Zaun to walk to lead off the inning?

Also, Francona has a very different understanding of the term “tight spots,” because he seems to think that runners at second and third with 1 out in a tie game is not a precarious situation. The stage was set for Craig Hansen’s Fenway Park debut in the 8th inning, and what could be a circumstance of greater tautness? Only if the bases were juiced with no out, I suppose. “Calm down, rookie, and get yourself out of this one,” Francona seemed to be saying to Hansen. One wonders about his methodology for teaching his children how to swim; I doubt it involves waterwings. Russ Adams only saw two pitches before he was able to loft a sacrifice fly to right field to score Zaun and grant Toronto the lead. Hansen settled down to induce Koskie to fly out to center but only after loading the bases by allowing a single to Catalanotto and walking Wells.

The Blue Jays added an insurance run in the 9th. Shea Hillenbrand walked on four Chad Harville pitches after having struck out seven times in the course of play yesterday. We’re all familiar with Hillenbrand, who has 26 bases on balls this season, so we are all well aware of how incredible this occurrence is. A wall ball double by Hinske placed Hillenbrand at third, enabling Hill’s sacrifice fly to right to widen the lead to 2 runs.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played the longest 9-inning game this season at 4 hours, 16 minutes in their 17-9 loss to the Orioles. One consolation is that the New York City club had to plow through eight pitchers in their rout. The Indians were also upset by the Devil Rays, 5-4. Ground was neither lost nor gained, but this is well-worn terrain they’ve seen before. Do they have the reserve of strength to pass through this territory again? Do we?

September 27, 2005


Game 156: September 27, 2005
Blue Jays (76-80), 1
Red Sox (92-64), 3

L: Dave Bush (5-11)
W: Tim Wakefield (2-3)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (4)
S: Mike Timlin (12)

Tied for the lead in the division

Tied for the wild card
4 game winning streak

He who scores first laughs last. The Red Sox put up 2 runs in the 1st inning and it would be all that the needed. Johnny Damon led off with a single to pulled softly into right field and Edgar Renteria doubled off the wall to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. David Ortiz, saving some of his lumber for tonight’s game, grounded to second to drive in Damon. Also opting to go low-key, Manny Ramirez lined to center for an RBI single.

Toronto’s only run came in the 5th inning as the result of Red Sox miscues. Ramirez misplayed Frank Menechino’s fly ball off the wall, his 7th error of the season converted a single into a man in scoring position with no outs. Menechino, who is not the most annoying “Frank” on the Blue Jays but is vying for the title, tagged up on shortstop Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly to right field and promptly scored on a passed ball with Gabe Gross at the plate.

But Wakefield was undaunted. This was the man, you will remember, who pitched 3 scoreless innings against the Yankees despite 3 passed balls on October 18, 2004. This 5th inning run was a minor vexation and the knuckleballer finished with a line of 3 hits, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts in his 7 innings of work.

The 6th inning was double, double, then toil and trouble for Toronto. Renteria turned in a double-bagger and in turn was doubled in by Ortiz for Boston’s third and final run of the game.

It was enough. Terry Francona started warming Papelbon in a timely manner when Wakefield showed signs of strain in the 7th. The inning was extended by Renteria’s 30th error of the season. Resolute as always, Wakefield closed out the 7th with Gross’s pop fly foul caught in John Olerud’s enduring glove.

Papelbon made his 15th major league appearance in the 8th. The rookie reliever worked himself into a critical situation with runners on first and third and 1 out and Vernon Wells at the plate. He got Toronto’s leading hitter to pop fly into foul territory but neglected to cover home plate with a runner on third, which could have been a costly oversight. Papelbon redeemed himself by striking out Shea Hillenbrand for the final out, which isn’t as easy as it seems at face.

Timlin further acclimated himself to the closing role, allowing only 1 hit to the pinch hitting Corey Koskie. It’s about time, too, with only six games remaining.

September 26, 2005


Game 155: September 25, 2005
Red Sox (91-64), 9
Orioles (70-85), 3
W: David Wells (14-7)
L: John Maine (2-3)

Tied for the lead in the division
0.5 game behind in the wild card

3 game winning streak

Nearly everything about this game was encouraging except for the fact that the Yankees next face the Orioles. It seems extremely unlikely that Baltimore will put up any more fight when the New York City club comes calling at Camden Yards this evening.

From out of their bag of tricks the Red Sox pulled their patented two-out magic. In the 1st innning, after Maine struck out Johnny Damon and had Edgar Renteria ground out, the Orioles starter seemed to be on his way out of the inning. David Ortiz was treated gingerly and walked on 5 pitches. Then Manny Ramirez hit his 40th home run of the season and the 431st of his career to tie him Baltimore icon Cal Ripken, Jr. As usual, his timing was impeccable.

The rest of the 1st was an offensive frenzy since the Orioles seemed preoccupied with their offseason golf schedule. Miguel Tejada was particularly lackluster. John Olerud’s liner flashed by him into the left field even though it looked like a playable ball. Trot Nixon scored and Jason Varitek caught the opposing shortstop tarrying and was well on his to home before Tejada realized what yet another run would score. Tejada belatedly threw to home and Olerud reached second base on the throw. Bill Mueller, who ended up going 3 for 4, drove in his first baseman for the 5th and final run of the inning.

With the early lead, Wells would hopefully wear out the corners as he usually did. Home plate umpire Jerry Crawford was uncooperative and Wells had to position his pitches so they would have more of the plate than he is accustomed to. This reduction in zone likely caused the back-to-back round-trippers Wells yielded to Melvin Mora and Tejada in the 1st inning. It seemed that Wells would have another short outing, but the lefty persevered to go 6.2 innings with 6 hits, 3 earned runs, no walks, and 3 strikeouts. He may have stayed in longer had he not reaggravated his knee in the 7th inning. The gadfly Eric Byrnes called time but went unnoticed by Crawford. By the time Crawford noticed Byrnes’s request Wells was in his wind-up and the lefty had to stop in mid-stride. Wells was gone shortly thereafter.

We also continue to wait for Ramirez’s 21st grand slam; he’s had several chances this season to add to his extravagant jackpot total. In the 4th inning the left fielder had another chance to inch closer to Lou Gehrig’s 23 career grand slam total but ended up flying out to center field.

As the team returns home for the stretch run, several positive trends manifest themselves: Trot Nixon’s bat seems to have awoken from its slumber, as did his fellow outfielders’. Ramirez’s timing couldn’t be better as Ortiz is in the midst of a mild dryspell which might be exacerbated as the team faces a gauntlet of left-handed Jays pitchers. The infield’s offense is also showing signs of life, particularly Renteria and Mueller. The Red Sox are poised to prove the adage that birds of a feather do indeed flock together as they try to send both avian teams south for the winter.

September 25, 2005


Game 154: September 24, 2005
Red Sox (90-64), 4
Orioles (70-84), 3
BS: Craig Hansen (1)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (2-1)
S: Mike Timlin (11)
L: B.J. Ryan (1-4)

Tied for the lead in the division
1.5 games behind in the wild card

2 game winning streak

I once overcame the debilitating habit of nailbiting. It is now back with a vengence.

Looking through the medicine cabinet to see if I had some sort of nail biting deterrent compound to stop my gnawing, I noted that the house isn’t well equipped with the supplies that every Red Sox fan needs during this time of year. Automatic electronic defibrillator, Tums, rosary, Nexium, serenity beads, Xanax, voodoo dolls. You know, the usual. I’ll need to be stocking up for the next eight games of the regular season.

The pitching staff had a particularly bizarre game. Matt Clement had a no-hitter up until he saw Melvin Mora up the third time through the lineup in the 5th inning, when the third baseman weaved a single through the infield. You might wonder how in the world did Clement have a no-hitter going if he saw Mora so many times so quickly. Things like that happen when you walk 6 batters. Over the course of 6 innings, Clement also struck out 4, allowed 4 hits, and gave up no earned or unearned runs. This is one of the stranger lines you’ll see.

Hansen had his baptism by fire in the 7th inning. After striking out Luis Matos with ridiculous ease (3 straight strikes), Bernie Castro hit an infield single to third. Melvin Mora displayed patience, forcing Hansen to throw strikes with the rookie’s vaunted though hittable fastball. The third baseman’s patience, as it so often does, paid off with a 2-run homer pithily deposited shallow into the left field stands. That’s how a major league hitter uses a pitcher’s power against him.

How Hansen responded to this would be key. Former MVP Miguel Tejada was up next, and Terry Francona stayed with his prospect. Hansen induced a ground out from the aggressive shortstop, but gave up a single and double to the fourth and fifth hitters, respectively. Encouringly, Hansen continued to go after subsequent hitters, throwing strikes and not shying from contact. Francona kept him in long enough to show that he hadn’t lost faith in the fledgling but short enough so that the game did not get out of hand. With the score tied, Mike Myers came into get the final out of the 7th with runners on second and third and the Orioles’ potential rally lay unhatched.

The Red Sox played defense as a playoff team should and had fortune smile on them for one game. In the 4th inning, Clement had walked two batters to begin the inning. Kevin Millar displayed his jumping prowess by diverting B.J. Surhoff’s liner in mid-trajectory. The first baseman did not catch the ball, but the ricochet ended up close enough to Tony Graffanino for him to field it and force out Jay Gibbons at third base, where Bill Mueller had shifted in time to complete the 3-4-5 fielder’s choice.

The Boston infield also turned three key doubleplays. Tejada, swinging at the first pitch as usual, shot a ball right up the middle to rebound off Clement to Graffanino, who relayed briskly to Edgar Renteria then Millar for an inning-ending twin killing. The 6th inning saw a garden variety 6-4-3 double play grounded into by Javy Lopez, who might still be smarting from Greg Maddux’s rejection of him. Lopez was also the victim of stellar outfield defensive play in the 7th when Ramirez cut off his line drive before it reached the wall, holding Gibbons to third and aborting another Baltimore scoring opportunity.

Perhaps best of all was in the 8th inning. After Chris Gomez had reached first on a single up the middle, David Newhan’s pop-up bunt ended in Mueller’s glove for the first out. With Matos at the plate, Jonathan Papelbon seemingly had pinch runner Ed Rogers picked off, showing that the rookie has a fairly good pickoff move in the works. Papelbon and Jason Varitek combined for a strike ’em out, throw ’em out to end the inning with Matos hacking futilely and Rogers hung out to dry on the basepaths on a failed hit and run.

It’s one of the few games this season where you could say the defense won the game.

The Red Sox offense was not prolific but generated runs when necessary. Manny Ramirez had a chance to hit his 21st career grand slam in the 1st inning but hit a sacrifice fly for Boston’s first run. Edgar Renteria tagged from second base, putting him into position to cross home when Erik Bedard pitched wildly to Varitek. They would be shut out until the 9th, when Graffanino went to the opposite field with Trot Nixon on first, enabling Nixon to get to third. Francona replaced Graffanino with Adam Stern and Johnn Damon walked to load the bases. With ducks on the pond, Renteria blooped a single over Tejada, a hit positioned so perfectly it scored 2 runs and gave the Red Sox the lead and an insurance run.

An insurance run that proved necessary with Timlin as closer. On 5 pitches Timlin walked Castro to begin the inning. The Baltimore second baseman would score on a Gibbons double. Two-out magic failed for the Orioles as Lopez flied out to end the game. As erratic as Timlin can be, he is still the preferred option over Keith Foulke, who, depending on with whom you speak, is shelved for the season after a dismal year, both professionally and personally.

Stern will be flying to California for surgery on his right labrum shortly and played his final game of the season. Who will be the speedy pinch runner in his stead? I vote Alejandro Machado.

The Red Sox are now 26-15 in one-run games and go into the final game against the Orioles in a dead heat with the Yankees. It’s as if the season is beginning all over again with the AL East contenders starting from zero.

Where’s that antacid?

September 24, 2005


Game 153: September 23, 2005
Red Sox (89-64), 6
Orioles (70-83), 3
W: Bronson Arroyo (14-9)
H: Mike Myers (8)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
S: Mike Timlin (10)
L: Daniel Cabrera (10-12)
1 game behind in the division
1.5 games behind in the wild card
1 game winning streak

Daniel my brother you throw faster than me
Do you still feel the pain of an arm that won’t deal
Your control has died but you K more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

I do song parodies on two occasions: when I’m irrepressibly giddy or horribly discontent. Happily, it’s the former today. I awoke at 4 AM because I was excited about last night’s win.

Cabrera had a rocky game last night. I’m not looking forward to facing this kid 4 or 5 times a season in the future, however, especially if he learns to harness his power. As he is, though, he could not quell the fire of the world champions. Cabrera went 5.1 innings with 6 hits, 4 runs (only 1 earned), 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts. The young righty was a victim of Miguel Tejada’s error in the 5th inning. With 2 out, the Orioles would have had Manny Ramirez out at first to end the inning. Instead, Tejada slung the ball over Chris Gomez’s head, allowing the inning to continue, Alex Cora to score, and Edgar Renteria to reach third base. Perhaps Tejada had Rafael Palmeiro’s betrayal on his mind. Trot Nixon doubled on a liner to the right field gap to score Renteria and Ramirez.

Ramirez returned to form in the 7th inning with a sublime 2-run home run. Renteria, who himself had an outstanding evening going 2 for 4 with 1 walk and 3 runs, was on base with a single to center field.

Arroyo worked through his early difficulties to last 7 innings with a strangely symmetrical line of 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts. He showed his mettle in the 1st inning in particular. Two runs had already scored when he walked Javy Lopez to load the bases with 1 out. Bill Mueller then made an exceptional play on B.J. Surhoff’s short grounder and came home with the ball to stop another run from scoring and get the second out. The third out of the rough inning came with a trivial pop fly by Gomez. The only other run came in the 3rd: Arroyo gave up consecutive doubles to Tejada and Jay Gibbons, but got the next three batters out without a hiccup. In fact, he did not allow a runner on base from the third out of the 4th inning until the 8th inning, sitting 10 Orioles in a row.

Terry Francona judiciously used the short hook when Arroyo walked Tejada to lead off the 8th, pulling the starter in favor of Myers, Papelbon, and Timlin. This trio combined for near-perfect 2 innings with Timlin giving up the only hit.

Winning the first game of a series has not been a forte of this team; this win brings their series opening game record to 24-27. We might be seeing the return of the Ortiz/Ramirez tag team again, where if one fails, the other comes through.

As I post this, the Yankees are trailing the Blue Jays 7-3 in the 6th. Jaret Wright didn’t last 2 innings, and although Aaron Small is pitching well, the New York offense is currently ineffectual. I hope to again be using blue font in the game header shortly.

September 22, 2005


Game 152: September 21, 2005
Red Sox (88-64), 4
Devil Rays (64-89), 7
BS, L: Mike Timlin (7, 7-3)
W: Trever Miller (2-2)
S: Danys Baez (39)

0.5 game behind in the division
1 game behind in the wild card
1 game losing streak

I tend not to blame the manager for losses. In fact, I have only trotted out Second-Guess Sally once this season. Because it’s not Terry Francona that swings the bat. He doesn’t boot grounders, throw askew, get picked off second base, or let line drives whistle by him in the field. Neither does he hang curveballs, hit batsmen, give up bases on balls, or hurl wild pitches.

His sole purpose is to place players on the field who will be most likely put his team in the position to win. To do this, one hopes he considers many factors, such as:

  • Time of the year. It’s September and the team leads the division by only a half a game.
  • Men on base. Timlin has allowed 18 of 32 inherited runners to score.
  • Bullpen usage. This would be the 76th time Timlin would enter a game. He has pitched now pitched 75.2 innings. A comparable reliever is Tom Gordon with 74 appearances with 76.1 innings pitched. Remember how he worked out so well for Joe Torre last postseason when Gordon had a 8.10 ERA against the Red Sox.
  • Pitching staff characteristics. Wakefield has been nails, but when things to south for him, they do so quickly.
  • Proper timing. Given Wakefield’s tendencies, Francona could have someone warming in the 8th after the knuckleballer gave up a lead off single, a wild pitch, hit a batter, and had his bacon saved by a double play.
  • Pitching match-ups. The splits show that Timlin facing Travis Lee was a better match-up than Mike Myers, so I’ll give Francona that.
  • Empirical evidence. But after seeing Timlin getting lit up by line drive after line drive, the field manager failed to react.

Francona put his team in a position where he would be lambasted for either bringing in rookie pitchers in pressure situations or continuing with an overworked veteran. He managed himself out of options. He was lackadaisical when he should have been decisive. He was timid when he could have been bold.

Wakefield’s 7.2 inning, 7 hit, 4 earned run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, and 1 home run outing was wasted. Alex Cora, Bill Mueller, and Edgar Renteria’s 2nd inning RBIs were squandered. Manny Ramirez’s 5th inning homer was for naught.

There’s a saying known the world over: we never know the worth of water till the well has run dry. All season long Francona has drawn on Timlin. Will the reliever have anything in reserve when, or if, Boston makes the playoffs? Has the supply of good will Francona accumulated from the championship evaporated? It’s up to Francona to get water flowing again. Even if, or rather, especially if it’s dirty water.

September 21, 2005


Game 151: September 20, 2005
Red Sox (88-63), 15
Devil Rays (63-89), 2
W: Curt Schilling (7-8)
L: Seth McClung (11-6)

0.5 game ahead in the division

1 game winning streak

The absolute brutality with which the Red Sox went after Tampa Bay’s pitchers was matched by Raymond’s abuse of Wally. If you don’t have NESN, you may have missed how Raymond mocked and battered Wally prior to the game. Raymond commandeered a remote control monster truck, put a beanie replica of himself in the driver’s seat, and commenced running over Wally repeatedly. To add to the deplorable display, Raymond then pretended to give emergency care to our green hero. Jerry Remy said he wouldn’t be surprised if Raymond not only got suspended but indicted as well because of the extent of the violence. Bob Watson had better come down as hard on Raymond as he did Bronson Arroyo.

However, I would like to point out, lest it get lost in the offensive bombardment, that Manny Delcarmen stood up for one of his teammates last night by drilling Nick Green. He saw what that ruffian Raymond did to Wally and retaliated. It’s clever of the rookie to select someone whose surname is “Green,” wouldn’t you say? This is oldtime baseball; Lou Piniella would understand. You go after my mascot, I go after your backup second baseman -- that’s how the game was played in the days of flannel uniforms and sleeper cars.

Last night was a good, old-fashioned whipping behind the shed of the Devil Rays; full repayment for the plunkings the niggling Piniella ordered last series. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez started it off early with their first back-to-back home run combination of the season. That brought back sweet memories. Last season they had tied the major league record of 6 back-to-back home runs held by Hank Greenberg and Rudy York of the 1938 Detroit Tigers and Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordóñez of the 2000 Chicago White Sox. The best part was that The Heckler, whose Red Sox target this year is Ortiz, hardly had any words erupt from his maw before Ortiz hit a bomb on the first pitch he saw from McClung. Ortiz went 4 for 5 with 2 round-trippers. The outfielder Ramirez had a 4 for 4 evening with 2 homers.

The distinction between Ramirezes must be drawn for Hanley Ramirez made his major league debut. There was a chance that Hanley would bat with the bases loaded had fellow call-up Alejandro Machado got on base in the 7th. Instead, Machado grounded out to second and Hanley led off the 8th. Hanley was called out on a swinging strike which wasn’t after 8 pitches, but Bruce Froemming wasn’t impressed by Hanley’s plate discipline.

The only mar on the otherwise celebratory proceedings was Boston allowing Carl Crawford to score in the 3rd inning. After singling to get on base, Crawford tagged up on Jorge Cantu’s fly ball to deep center because of the leisurely manner Johnny Damon had returning the ball into the infield.

Each series is necessary and the rubber game will be played tonight. With Tim Wakefield and Scott Kazmir squaring off, the series finale comes down to a battle of the aces.

September 20, 2005


Game 150: September 19, 2005
Red Sox (87-63), 7
Devil Rays (63-88), 8
L: Chad Harville (0-3)
W: Mark Hendrickson (10-7)
H: Jesus Colome (2)
H: Joe Borowski (20)
S: Danys Baez (38)

0.5 games ahead in the division

2 game losing streak

Here’s where you have to present some hypothetical situations to yourself to feel better. If you had told me that the Red Sox would be leading the AL East by a half of a game with 12 games left despite Curt Schilling making around 10 starts with a 6.20 ERA, Keith Foulke having a 5.91 ERA, and the pitching staff having a team ERA of 4.77 for fourth highest in the league, I would take it. Adding to the mix the precipitous decline of Kevin Millar at first base (comparing his 2004 to 2005 statistics you get .383 to .355 OBP and .474 to .404 slugging) and a slew of ill-timed injuries made me realize that although Boston isn’t in the ideal position for postseason contention, at least my team is contending. Heck, it’s leading the division. That’s something I need to remember as I peruse Red Sox fan message boards spewing negativity.

But my optimism about the team does not mean I can’t parse out blame for last night’s loss. To begin at the beginning, Wells couldn’t have selected a worse time to have a subpar outing. Following Clement’s atrocious performance, Wells lasted only 2.2 innings and surrendered 10 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout. In a pivotal 3rd inning situation with Aubrey Huff batting, Wells did not cover first base after Millar had made a fairly good play on the Devil Ray right fielder’s grounder. Jonny Gomes scored on the play and Wells was left with 1 out and runners on first and second. Terry Francona gave the lefty a surprising amount of leeway as Wells stayed in to allow 3 more runs to score and was only pulled when he walked Carl Crawford on 4 pitches to load the bases with 2 out. The bullpen had to be tapped for the second night in a row, but there was another arm to rely on with Craig Hansen being called up this afternoon.

Tony Graffanino was pulled in the 4th inning in favor of Alex Cora because of a strained left groin. The summoning of Hanley Ramirez yesterday now seems strangely prescient.

The Red Sox have come from behind 43 times this season to win. Cora reminded us of this with his fly ball triple to center field to tie the game in the top of the 4th. Chad Harville gave up a leadoff double to Gomes, who would eventually be driven in by a Huff ground out to return the lead back to the Devil Rays.

Hansen made his major league debut in the 5th inning. His first pitch was a 96 MPH strike to Toby Hall, who struck out whiffing on Hansen’s 5th pitch. The righty then induced a pop out to Edgar Renteria from Damon Hollins, but not after 9-hole hitter fouled off 3 pitches in a row. Finally, Hansen struck out Julio Lugo to end his perfect inning. He didn’t face the meat of the lineup, but comported himself well given that he came into a game with a one-run margin.

Johnny Damon did not come through for rookie pitcher Jonathan Papelbon in the 6th. The center fielder was in position to make a catch on Carl Crawford’s fly ball for the inning’s first out, but Damon did not make the play and the official scorer actually credited Crawford with a double. The miscue proved costly when Jorge Cantu hit a 2-run round-tripper on the first pitch he saw from Papelbon. Remarkably, Papelbon weathered the shoddy defense to sit down the next three batters in a row, striking out two of them.

A glimmer of life manifested itself in the 7th inning, and who else but David Ortiz would provide the hope for a comeback. Adam Hyzdu reached base on a single to leadoff the inning but was erased on a force out. Damon and Edgar Renteria were on base to score on the fly ball that Ortiz drove into the gap in right field. Ortiz’s 2-run double cut the lead to 1 run.

The bottom of the 7th inning required defensive heroics. With 1 on second base and 1 out, Cora hustled to stop Travis Lee’s grounder from getting into the outfield. The second baseman saved a run and kept double play in order with his efforts. I’ve never seen a second baseman like him; Cora makes plays, but doesn’t necessarily do it elegantly. He’s no Roberto Alomar with his awkward pursuits of grounders, but Cora nonetheless completes the play. Cora was the pivot man in Julio Lugo double play induced by Chad Bradford to end the inning.

For me, the 8th and 9th innings summarized everything that is encouraging though frustrating about this team. On the hit and run, the usually consistent and reliable John Olerud failed to make contact and the end result was a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play to end the inning.

Renteria committed his 29th error of the season, the highest error total of his career, in the bottom of the 8th. His blunder of Gomes’s grounder allowed Crawford to score to pad the Tampa Bay lead to 2 runs. Manny Ramirez had his 16th outfield assist when he threw Gomes out at the plate thanks to Varitek blocking home.

Of course Ortiz came through by launching a home run in the 9th high into the right field seats. But it was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing since there was no one on base. The Red Sox one-run game record is now 25-15.

September 18, 2005


Game 149: September 18, 2005
Athletics (82-67), 12
Red Sox (87-62), 3
W: Kirk Saarloos (10-7)
L: Matt Clement (13-6)

1.5 games ahead in the division

1 game losing streak

Given that the middle games of this series were one-run squeakers that the Red Sox could have easily lost, I’ve gotten over my disappointment about this blowout game and am somewhat content that this series is shelved as a split. The season series closes in Boston’s favor, 6-4.

But who took Matt Clement’s arm and replaced it with Kevin Brown’s? Clement only lasted 1.1 innings, and that was 1.1 innings too long. He was touched for 8 hits, 7 earned runs, 1 walk, and 1 home run.

Jeremi Gonzalez into the game in the 2nd inning and was forced to go much longer than he usually pitches. In his 3.2 innings of work he gave up 5 hits, 5 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, and 2 round-trippers. Apparently the A’s took offense to my assessment of their offense as anemic and atrophied.

NESN has a great new video technology called X-mo that it has been showing off these past few games. Some of the footage is truly remarkable: the vibration of a bat as it absorbs the force of a Clement fastball or the torque of Gonzalez’s arm as he delivers his pitch to the plate. What we do not need, however, are multiple X-mo replays of Kevin Youkilis’s de-fingernailing. Youkilis came into the game in the 7th inning only to be mauled by Marco Scutaro’s sharp grounder in the first at bat of the inning. The third baseman managed to throw the ball to get Scutaro out at first but had to withstand agony to do so.

This prompted the following quirky defensive formation:

  • Adam Hyzdu switched from left to center
  • Roberto Petagine replaced Hyzdu in left
  • Alejandro Machado moved from center to shortstop
  • Alex Cora shifted from shortstop to third base

The game was illuminated by only a few flashes of Boston offensive brilliance. Bill Mueller hit his 9th four-bagger in the 6th inning on a 2-0 pitch in to the first few rows of seats in the right field boxes. In the 7th Machado had his first major league hit with a leadoff double that missed being a homer in the right field seats by just a few feet. The versatile call-up would go on to score after being moved over to third via John Olerud’s ground out and driven in by Tony Graffanino’s double to left field.

As I write this, there are rumors on Red Sox message boards that Craig Hansen and Hanley Ramirez will be called up to the majors shortly. Time to get a post ready in the “Player Transactions” category. Speaking of, I had ignored Hyzdu’s addition to the 40-man roster on September 15th. The move was precipitated by Gabe Kapler’s injury, which came too late to allow him to be placed on the 60-day disabled list and therefore required the unconditional release of Matt Perisho.


Game 148: September 17, 2005
Athletics (81-67), 1
Red Sox (87-61), 2
L: Danny Haren (13-11)
W: Bronson Arroyo (13-9)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
S: Mike Timlin (9)

1.5 games ahead in the division

2 game winning streak

Since the Red Sox won the World Series, my “Things I Want to See Live at a Baseball Game Before I Die” list has become completely optional. If I were to want more icing on my cake I would like to see:

  1. Perfect game
  2. No-hitter
  3. Unassisted triple play (This has only happened 12 times in major league history. Most recently for the Red Sox John Valentin did this against the Mariners on July 8, 1994. George Burns also had a triple play on September 14, 1923; sadly there is no box score available for this game. Burns was one of two first baseman to accomplish this feat.)
  4. 9 pitches, 9 strikes, side retired (This has only happened 39 times for 36 pitchers. Pedro Martinez did it against the Mariners on May 18, 2002. This is made even more astounding because Ichiro Suzuki went down in three pitches!)
  5. Batter hitting for the natural cycle
  6. Triple play
  7. Batter hitting for the cycle
  8. Hidden ball trick

I mention this because Arroyo flirted with a perfect game through 4 innings. He began the 5th by walking former Red Sox players Scott Hatteberg and Jay Payton, who were erased by a double play. A no-hitter was a remote possibility, but Arroyo lost a bit of his control this inning. Immediately following the double play he walked Nick Swisher. Fortunately, the fashionably slim righty didn’t give up any more bases on balls for the rest of the outing, going 7 innings with 3 hits, 1 earned run, and 2 strikeouts.

Haren was similarly effective with his 7 inning, 6 hit, 2 earned run, 1 walk, and 8 strikeout line, but his team’s anemic offense was unable to get on base for him. “A” is not for “Athletics” as we thought, but for “atrophied.”

In the 6th inning, a car going eastbound on the Mass Pike violently veered to avoid a hurtling object. “What the hell was that!” yelled the swerving driver.

“I do believe that is a first pitch, go-ahead home run off the bat of Manny Ramirez,” replied the passenger.

“Oh,” said the driver. “You think we can turn around and pick it up?”

“Nah, those guys in the other lane caught it on the fly.”

Alex Cora’s defensive play in the 7th to put out Dan Johnson was incredible. From our perspective in the bleachers right behind the visitor’s bullpen, we could see the ball heading through the gap towards us. We figured Trot Nixon would have to run up to field a ground ball single. Incredibly, the Red Sox second baseman ranged to his left while running into shallow right field to intercept the ball. Cora saw it was about to get by him but made a desperate but successful last second surge to nab it.

One of the team’s stated objectives in Spring Training was to improve on last season’s 16-18 record in one-run games. The Red Sox believed this could be accomplished by reducing the number of opponents’ steals. This is not a huge concern when playing against the A’s and Arroyo pitching, but the Red Sox have improved from 123 for the entire 2004 season compared to 81 steals this season so far. This year Boston’s record in one-run games is now 25-14. One of my offseason projects looks like it will be analyzing the difference between these past two seasons’ one-run games characteristics.

Besides the win, this game was made more enjoyable since it was the second Royal Rooters outing of the season. It’s fun to hang out with people that all speak the Red Sox dialect. No interpreters are required. The first one back in June was also a win against a California team. We are now 2-0. Beat that, Remy cult adherents and SoSHers. (Actually, I don’t know what the other groups’ records are. But did they win games when it mattered?) The creative forces behind 12eight, Reb Sox, Miles from Fenway, NU50 (home of mojo), and The Mind of BlackJack were also at the game. I had to stifle a Stewart O’Nan comment when I first laid eyes upon Andrew because he brought a glove to the game. A glove. Given the seats he had, however, it was a good call. (Yes, that was said in a nasally, cigarette-tinged Jerry Remy tone of voice.)

A shout-out to the Root crew: BlackJack, SoxFaninNYC, mish1231, Dewy4PrezII, DeweyRice, Tessie, OuttaThePahk, Mike LansWho, Seabass, MargoAdamsLoveChild, AnalogKid, Sox Sweep Again, NJSoxFan, gerky, beatlesfab4fan, The Ghost of Ned Martin, Timlinin8th (need to change your name), NU five oh... hope I didn’t miss anyone.

September 17, 2005


Game 147: September 16, 2005
Athletics (81-66), 2
Red Sox (86-61), 3
L: Juan Cruz (0-3)
W: Mike Timlin (7-2)
10 innings
1.5 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

September baseball can be tedious. Managers execute the same tiresome tactics: the endless substitutions of hitters, runners, and defensive players, not to mention the 6 or 7 pitchers both teams trot out for the theoretically optimal match-ups. But last night was different.

The 10th inning of last night’s game was epic. Timlin came in to relieve Tim Wakefield, who had pitched yet another complete game without a win. The knuckleballer’s line was 7 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts, supporting the case to name him team ace.

Timlin got the first two batters he faced out easily enough, but when facing the 9-hole hitter Marco Scutaro the right-handed reliever yielded a double to right field. There was a remote chance of Trot Nixon throwing out the swift shortstop, but the right fielder’s throw, though accurate, was tardy. With the count full to Mark Ellis, Timlin threw a pitch galley-west allowing the go-ahead run to third base. Ellis futilely grounded out to Edgar Renteria to kill Oakland’s chances. Because if things went badly for the A’s in the bottom of the 1oth, you-know-who was going to be at the plate.

Tony Graffanino played Cruz like his favorite playlist on his iPod. With a 2-2 count, the second baseman lined to the opposite field. Alejandro Machado pinch ran for him, and his speed enabled Boston to get the tying run to third when Johnny Damon grounded out.

Ken Macha began tinkering and September micromanaging was made manifest. He replaced left fielder Jay Payton with Keith Ginter to have five infielders with Renteria at the plate. Cruz lost control of his 3-1 pitch to hit the Red Sox shortstop and the home team sat pretty with runners at the corners, 1 out, and David Ortiz batting. You will recall that Ortiz hit a game-tying home run in the 6th inning.

The memo to major league managers finally made the rounds it seems, the one that reads Don’t pitch to David Americo Ortiz with the game on the line. Or with RISP. There is such a thing as clutch hitting. Whenever possible, just don’t. Ortiz was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Manny Ramirez has had many opportunities to get closer to Lou Gehrig’s record 23 grand slams lately. But Keiichi Yabu didn’t give the left fielder the chance; on his 1-1 pitch Yabu plunked Ramirez to move over the runners. Machado has now scored 2 runs and has had 2 major league at bats, but neither run was the result of him getting on base via the hit.

The Red Sox are 24-14 in one-run games, 2-0 in extra inning games at home, 6-2 in all extra inning games, 11-6 when tied after 8 innings, and 19-13 in games decided at the last at bat. The Blue Jays played the Yankees last night and after falling behind early actually got within one run of New York to pique our interest. But Toronto flew the coop and lost 11-10.

September 16, 2005


Game 146: September 15, 2005
Athletics (81-65), 6
Red Sox (85-61), 2
W: Joe Blanton (10-11)
H: Ricardo Rincon (16)
H: Justin Duchscherer (10)
L: Curt Schilling (6-8)

1.5 games ahead in the division
1 game losing streak

nce upon a time there was a little boy named Joseph whose fondest wish was to grow up to be a major league pitcher.

“If only one day I could pitch against an imposing lineup with a .356 team OBP, .453 slugging, and 823 runs and get a win after pitching 6.1 innings to allow only 2 earned runs with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts,” he said one day while walking through an enchanted forest.

Hearing this ardent plea, a wizened old hag emerged from the shadows of the trees. “Oh ho ho, so you’d like to be a big-time hurler, eh? Think you’re too big and important to be a regular old joe here in Tennessee, do you?”

At first Joseph was wary. His parents told him never to speak with strangers, and this harridan was particularly alarming with her rotted teeth, foul breath, and matted ash-grey hair. While shooing away a moth that fled from the depths of the hag’s travel-worn black cloak, he decided to humor the woman.

“Why, yes, ma’am. I especially want to beat those teams in the American League East with their bloated payrolls and massive media presence.”

Suddenly a gust of unnaturally strong wind blasted Joseph. It was so powerful it nearly knocked over the boy, which was no mean feat. Joseph was no stranger to bacon for breakfast everyday. His mother saw to it that her boy got all the victuals needed to properly fill out into a strapping young man. Along with the wind came a low, thunderous roar and a swirl of prismatic brilliance. In place of the bent-over shrew was now a man with a warm smile and twinkling eyes.

“Hi, I’m Billy Beane. Sign here.”

Taken aback by the sudden transformation and the man’s lack of explanation, Joseph’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Why should I trust you? What will this do for me?”

Beane was not used to going unrecognized. “Hello? Have you never heard of Billy Beane? Genius GM? The Big Three? Bringing the A’s to victory on a team made up of spit and sealing wax? Look, Joe, I see something in you. I’m trying to put together the next Big Three.” He leaned in toward Joseph conspiratorially, “And with you in the mix, it looks like it will be an Even Bigger Three.”

Joseph’s eyes gleamed gleefully. “Will I get to shut down lineups like the world champion Red Sox?”

Beane chortled. “Heck, yeah! They never hit rookies.”

Joseph signed and they lived happily ever after. At least until the young pitcher realized he would receive hardly any run support.

September 15, 2005


Game 145: September 14, 2005
Red Sox (85-60), 5
Blue Jays (72-73), 3
W: David Wells (13-7)
H: Chad Bradford (7)
S: Mike Timlin (8)
L: Josh Towers (11-11)

2.5 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray to Theo: Ortiz to keep.
And if we lose before I wake
I pray Millar a pitch to take.

In the 1st inning Tony Graffanino demonstrated his outstanding baserunning. He tore out of the batter’s box after grounding a hit to center field to leg out a double, setting himself up to score on two productive outs by Bill Mueller and Ortiz.

The Red Sox were vicitimized by a questionable call in the 2nd inning. Lance Barksdale called Shea Hillenbrand safe at second base despite Graffanino tagging the Jays first baseman. Barksdale, like Chris Guccione, is an umpire call-up from the Pacific Coast League. The botched ruling allowed Hillenbrand to stay on base and eventually score the second and final run of the inning with a Frank Menechino double to left field.

Jerry Remy noted that Toronto puts a strange shift on Ortiz. Instead of simply moving second baseman Menechino and shortstop Aaron Hill over towards first base, Hill plugged the gap between first and second because he has a stronger arm than the second baseman. When Ortiz grounded into a double play to end the 3rd inning, it was 4-5-3. John Gibbons can shuffle the infield all he wants, but he can’t have them camp out in the stands when the league’s premiere designated hitter hits a four-bagger. Which is exactly what Ortiz did in the 8th with Mueller on base to give his team the lead.

The game was not without its moment of poignancy. In the 5th inning, Gabe Kapler fell down while rounding second base on Graffanino’s home run. Since it was a line drive shot, Kapler couldn’t tell that the ball was out of the park and was therefore running at full speed. The slow motion replays showed the difference in footing between the field turf and the basepath may have led to Kapler’s downfall. Alejandro Machado was brought in to complete Kapler’s run, which is possible under the provisions of Rule 7.01. The diagnosis on Kapler is a ruptured left Achilles tendon, an injury that typically takes a year of recovery. We may have seen the last of Kapler in the major leagues. Fittingly, he went down fighting: he reached first base by running hard and taking advantage of Corey Koskie’s offline throw to Hillenbrand.

With a makeshift lineup that did not include the recovering Johnny Damon nor the fatigued Edgar Renteria, the Red Sox pulled out a pivotal road series win against the exasperating Jays and move on to another crucial series at home. As a former Red Sox player has said, how can you take Oakland seriously? They wear white shoes.

September 14, 2005


Game 144: September 13, 2005
Red Sox (84-60), 3
Blue Jays (72-72), 9
L: Matt Clement (13-5)
W: Scott Downs (3-3)
H: Justin Speier (7)

2.5 games ahead in the division
1 game losing streak

That was a bad game.

When your opponents’ 9-hole hitter gets a key home run in the 2nd inning against the pitcher that has been the team ace in function if not in name, you know things won’t be going your way. It was as if Gabe Gross took out all his childhood trauma caused by his surname on the 0-1 pitch Clement laid out for the right fielder. Grody, dude. Gag me with a runcible spoon.

Let’s not talk about it too much, okay? All right, great. Moving on.

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy tried to be more entertaining than usual since the game was not. Remy talked about how players don’t want their individual records broken. He said that those ceremonies public relations departments create when someone’s record is about to be broken aren’t appreciated by the record holder, calling them “a bunch of baloney.” The player whose record is being broken usually fake smiles throughout the pomp and circumstance, he claimed. This led to discussion of Remy’s 4 steals in a game Red Sox franchise record.

Orsillo: You still have great speed today.
Remy: Getting out of the ballpark.

Looking up Remy’s record, I found these other notable records held by Red Sox players:

  • Most hits in succession: Mike Higgins, 12 in four games in 1938
  • Most 2-base hits, career: Tris Speaker, 792 from 1907 to 1915
  • Most 2-base hits, season: Earl Webb, 67 in 1931
  • Most 2-base hits, season by a rookie: Fred Lynn, 47 in 1975
  • Most bases on balls, game: Jimmie Foxx, 6 in 1938

The Red Sox aren’t getting what they paid for from Edgar Renteria. Interesting to note that Derek Jeter and Renteria together make just a few million more than the rest of the list of shortstops below combined. Although his errors are galling, I would prefer to have Renteria’s production in the lineup, even in light of his cohorts’ higher fielding percentages and range factors. We all know what a dubious statistic range factor is, however.

Jeter’s range factor has been improving since 2004. In 2003 it was a career-low 3.75 and the next year it rocketed to 4.46. It’s a huge benefit to have the best shortstop in the American League playing to your right, it seems. Eckstein’s range factor was 3.83 last year with Anaheim; he definitely seems to have benefited by having perennial All-Star Scott Rolen next to him for part of the season. Perhaps part of Renteria’s problem is adjusting to his new infielders?

2005 to date G AB AVG OPB SLG E RF FLD% $
Cabrera 122 467 257 310 362 5 4.25 990 6M
Eckstein 142 569 288 358 390 13 5.01 981 2.3M
Jeter 140 576 307 386 444 13 4.77 980 19.6M
Lugo 142 557 296 360 397 19 4.89 972 3.25M
Peralta 124 437 284 352 513 17 4.59 970 317K
Renteria 137 560 279 336 384 27 4.31 954 8M
144 578 310 356 538 19 4.76 972 10.78M
M. Young
142 601 329 384 516 18 4.32 970 2.575M

September 13, 2005


Game 143: September 12, 2005
Red Sox (84-59), 6
Blue Jays (71-72), 5
H: Keith Foulke (1)
BS: Mike Timlin (6)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (1-1)
L: Pete Walker (6-5)
11 innings

3.5 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

At some point, one realizes there are no more superlatives to adequately express the wonder occurring before her. You need a new language, an entire grammar, and a gargantuan lexicon to express all that David Ortiz means. In Papilachian, there is no word for “futile,” no word for “choke,” and definitely no word for “lose.”

Ortiz’s homer in the 4th inning was last seen orbiting Jupiter. Inhabitants of the Jovian moons are inured to seeing round-trippers from the Red Sox designated hitter in their neck of the woods, even though they have neither necks nor woods as such.“Oh, grapinusm slamma rongalia,” they say, which translates loosely to “Oh, it’s Ortiz hail again.”

Ortiz’s slugging partner Manny Ramirez hit a bomb as well, his in 6th inning. Ramirez’s homer ricocheted off the top of the restaurant in center field and then went into orbit. NASA plans to deploy a probe to monitor its trajectory sometime in 2007. This inning could have been much more productive were it not for a key play by Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, who robbed Boston of a base hit by ranging to his right to capture Bill Mueller’s skittering grounder. The bases were loaded and reliever Vinnie Chulk was on the verge of chucking up the game.

While the big boys launched balls that could be classified as weapons with intercontinental capabilities, the rest of the lineup played station to station. Gabe Kapler led off the 7th inning with an infield single. Tony Graffanino then bunted for base hit and his tandem mate Edgar Renteria drove in Kapler with a well-placed line drive to slightly right center field. Ortiz drove in Graffanino on a grounder to Shea Hillenbrand who attempted to start a double play. Going hard into second base, Renteria caused his Jays counterpart Russ Adams to throw wildly back to first, where Ortiz found himself safe and sound.

The Red Sox pitching machine in the home half of the 7th inning failed spectacularly. Bronson Arroyo gave up 2 walks and a single to load the bases with no out. Keith Foulke was brought in and promptly yielded an RBI single to Gabe Gross, who perhaps deserved a break given his surname. The change-up artist was able to induce a sacrifice fly and strike out gadfly Frank Catalanotto before he was replaced by Timlin. Perhaps Timlin’s mind was clouded by the intoxicating ambiance of the Rogers Centre, a place where he celebrated two championship titles, for he gave up a scorching 3-run home run to Vernon Wells to tie the game.

Jonthan Papelbon pitched the next 3 innings as if he were the multi-year veteran. He had 1 walk and 1 strikeout, shutting down Toronto for his first major league win.

The home run that Ortiz hit to put Boston ahead in the 11th inning was found in the Himalayas by Sherpa Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay. Upon finding it, the younger Tengay said that he would just add it to his growing collection of Red Sox moonshots. He expressed concern over the sheer number of balls he has been accruing. “I’m beginning to run out of space, you know.”

September 11, 2005


Game 142: September 11, 2005
Red Sox (83-59), 0
Yankees (80-62), 1
L: Tim Wakefield (15-11)
W: Randy Johnson (14-8)
SW (Supporting Win): Jason Giambi (innumerable, but pharmacologically aided)
H: Tom Gordon (29)
S: Mariano Rivera (37)

3 games ahead in the division

1 game losing streak

The New York Yankees have a roster full of charlatans and fakes. In the 1st inning Alex Rodriguez unneccessarily dove into the stands going after a foul ball hit by Johnny Damon. Jason Giambi hit a four-bagger in the home half of the 1st for the only score of the game.

Isn’t it miraculous how Giambi has come back from being on the brink of being forced to the minor leagues? There are performance enhancing substances that are undetectable, and even more that can elude MLB’s detection because they do not require a blood test.

Giambi probably couldn’t face the prospect of disappointing his teammates. He’s exactly the type of guy that would just go along with an unscrupulous trainer’s suggestions to improve his performance through illicit means. That is not to say that Giambi is not culpable or doesn’t derive benefit from playing better. He at least didn’t completely shield himself within a cloak of legalese and even made a half-hearted attempt at an apology, which I lampooned back in February. But it sticks in my craw to have the team I cheer for lose to a cheater.

Wakefield pitched his second complete game loss against the Yankees this season; the other was on July 17th. He allowed only 3 hits and one ill-earned home run with 1 walk and 12 strikeouts to surpass his career high of 11 strikeouts earned on August 7th. It’s been quite a year for Wakefield on and off the field, as he was recently nominated by his team for the Roberto Clemente Award for the 6th year in a row and the 7th time overall.

The knuckleballer was nails in the 3rd inning in particular. After striking out John Flaherty, Bubba Crosby tripled to right field on a ball that Kevin Millar was unable to catch up to as it flew overhead. Wakefield mowed down Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano with 4 pitches each.

Similarly, in the 6th inning the Red Sox righty struck out Jeter but then allowed Cano to double on a line drive into right field. Wakefield buckled down to strike out Giambi and Rodriguez and not permit a run.

Shockingly, Joe Torre didn’t bring out Johnson in the 8th inning. Later we would find out that the lanky lefty had tweaked a muscle to preclude his pitching a complete game. This made the 8th and 9th innings more exciting than necessary. Tom Gordon, a former starter in Kansas City, was brought in to set up Mariano Rivera.

Tony Graffanino led off the 8th with a single to right field. Adam Stern pinch ran for the Boston second baseman, but was quickly erased. Doug Mirabelli’s infield pop fly was not caught by the entire bevy of Yankee infielders, but the ball hopped right toward Rodriguez so that he could throw to second base and get the force play. David Ortiz batted in place of Gabe Kapler and walked on 7 pitches from Rivera. Terry Francona brought Alex Cora pinch run for Ortiz, apparently thinking that he could push Mirabelli from behind as he caught up with his backup backstop on the basepaths. Damon starched a 3-2 count liner to right field that was just foul of the right field line and ended his monumental 11-pitch at bat by grounded out to first base.

Edgar Renteria nearly decapitated Rivera with a scorching comebacker on the very first pitch he saw. Trot Nixon pinch hit for Kevin Youkilis but merely grounded out to first. Ramirez sparked hope with his 6-pitch walk and Millar stoked the flame with his single to center field. John Olerud batted in place of Alejandro Machado, but struck out swinging.

The Red Sox didn’t win the series, but I would mark this game down as a moral victory for multiple reasons.


Game 141: September 10, 2005
Red Sox (83-58), 9
Yankees (79-62), 2
W: Curt Schilling (6-7)
L: Shawn Chacon (5-10)

4 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

I always thought that the saying “the worm will turn” came from the mythology of the phoenix. After immolation, some versions say the bird would be reborn from a worm in the ashes. Other variations say the bird would re-emerge from an egg or from the marrow of a single remaining bone. The entirety of the proverb is “tread on the worm and it will turn,” however, and again my knowledge is shown to be lacking. This adage is inspiring, giving hope to the downtrodden that they will have their day.

But I like the image of a lowly worm transforming into a lustrous creature so different from its meager origins. It’s not unlike how Schilling has seemingly turned around his season with his start yesterday against the Yankees. The righty threw 108 pitches over 8 innings, allowing 5 hits and 2 earned runs (including 1 home run by the resurgent Jason Giambi) with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. For nineteen of the 32 hitters he faced he had first pitch strikes.

It took a while, but Schilling has returned to last year’s postseason form, this time without his tendon being stapled. He didn’t give up a hit until the 4th inning, and that was to the aforementioned Giambi, who may have found a new regime to return to hitting competence. Schilling even had his reflexes tested with a Bernie Williams comebacker in the 1st that he nimbly snatched with his bare pitching hand. In the 3rd, however, he dropped an underhanded toss from John Olerud to allow the first baserunner of the game in the form of Matt Lawton.

Manny Ramirez had a revival of his own in the 1st inning with his 2-run home run. It wasn’t a cheap right field porch shot, either. With David Ortiz, who had reached on a walk after a 9-pitch at bat, Ramirez absolutely scorched the ball beyond center field, into the vicinity of Monument Park.

The Red Sox 6-run 4th inning sounded the death knell for the Yankees. Olerud began the barrage with a shot to the right field upper deck to score his 7th round-tripper of the year. Bill Mueller, Gabe Kapler, and Tony Graffanino all singled in a row to load the bases with no out. Although Edgar Renteria grounded into a force play that had Mueller out at the plate, Ortiz came through with what should have been a simple sacrifice fly to left. Hideki Matsui dropped the ball for only his 2nd error of the season to keep the bases loaded with 1 out. Ramirez singled to the opposite field for his 3rd RBI of the game and Trot Nixon singled to center to get 2 RBIs of his own. Jason Varitek hit a grounder that should have been a room service double play had not the spirit of Chuck Knoblauch possessed Robinson Cano, who threw the ball near Derek Jeter’s personal radar gun technician. Olerud came back to the plate and flied out to center, but meanwhile the Red Sox batted around for the 37th time this season.

Graffanino demonstrated transcendent baserunning instincts in the 8th inning by not letting up out of the box on his fly ball to center. Knowing that he was running on the weak-armed Williams, he led off with a triple. The Red Sox second baseman scored the 9th and final run of the game when his double play mate Renteria sacrifice flied to center.

The Yankees got a glimpse of Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th inning. He yielded a single to Cano, a walk to Mark Bellhorn, but struck out Lawton and induced a fly out from Jeter to end the game. To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn.

September 10, 2005


Game 140: September 9, 2005
Red Sox (82-58), 4
Yankees (79-61), 8
L: David Wells (12-7)
W: Aaron Small (7-0)
H: Tom Gordon (28)

3 games ahead in the division
2 game losing streak

You boys get up and clean your rooms right now. Right now. Do you hear me?

Four errors. Four errors?! As God is my witness, I’ve never seen such a thing. And when we’re visitors in someone else’s house, no less.

I’m appalled. Tony, you acted like that Knoblauch boy in the 1st inning. I don’t want to hear about how he won Rookie of the Year when he started, all that doesn’t matter now. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. That throw to first, well, you can’t even really call it towards first, now, can you? Yes, that one, the one where you let that despicable Rodriguez boy score and that brute Giambi get to second base.

In the 6th, I don’t know what you were doing out there, Johnny. That 250-game errorless streak you had seems so long ago now. You got the glove on Robinson’s liner just to let it fall out and skip by you like that? Which leads me to Edgar.

Edgar, Edgar, Edgar. You looked like Tom Brady spiking the ball in the AFC playoff game in 2002, except you A) didn’t just score a touchdown in the 4th quarter to keep your team in contention, B) didn’t fall down right after, but that was because there was no snow on the field, and C) aren’t playing football. I want you to go to your room and think about your two Gold Gloves. Meditate on how you can get back to that level. We know you can do better than this.

And Jason, I understand you’re trying. You stood up for the family when you bored straight into Georgie to end the 3rd inning. Just stop pressing so hard with the bases loaded like you did in the 7th inning. It seems like you let the pressure of the situation get to you. For example, where were you throwing in the 8th inning? You did make up for it by catching that Rodriguez boy’s foul ball, and they didn’t score in that inning, so we won’t dwell on it. You need to stop making threatening gestures at Dale, though. He’s getting scared of you.

As for you, Mr. Sveum. There must be some way to unadopt you.

Don’t think I’m going to let the pitching off easy, either. I’m looking at you, Chadwick Lee Bradford, who faced three batters and didn’t get an out. And will someone please tell me who bleached Jeremi’s hair? Who did it? You? You?

I’m just at my wit’s end. Where’s my Topamax?

September 9, 2005


Game 139: September 8, 2005
Angels (78-61), 3
Red Sox (82-57), 0
W: Paul Byrd (11-9)
H: Scot Shields (29)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (35)
L: Matt Clement (13-4)

4 games ahead in the division
1 game losing streak

Hey, Paul, he had a ball. Seven innings of shutout pitching, allowing only 4 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts, can do that for you. Similar to his August 21st outing, Byrd began giving up hits and losing his command in the 8th inning, so much so that he was pulled from the 8th inning.

Kevin Millar led off the 8th with a fly ball double that winged over Chone Figgins’s head and Bill Mueller walked. With no outs, Manny Ramirez pinch hit for Tony Graffanino and Byrd was replaced by Shields. Ramirez fell behind in the count and never seemed at ease at the plate. He watched the 6th pitch to strike out. Johnny Damon walked to load the bases, but Shields managed to redeem himself of his loss just a few nights ago. The Angels reliever struck out both Edgar Renteria and David Ortiz to end the threat.

Francisco Rodriguez was far from his dominant self in the 9th inning. Despite striking out the side, he allowed Trot Nixon on base with a single lined to center field and walked Jason Varitek and Mueller to load the bases. Terry Francona did a sort of reverse Cla Meredith move by pinch hitting Roberto Petagine with 2 out and the bases loaded even though the bench player hadn’t seen action since August 29th.

Admittedly, I pay less attention to umpires when they blow calls in Boston’s favor. Mike Scioscia and Angels batting coach Mickey Hatcher were both ejected in the middle of the 4th inning because they vehemently disagreed with Larry Young’s ruling that Orlando Cabrera had left the second base bag early when tagging up. Slow motion split-screen replay showed that Young erred.

This miscall somewhat marred Nixon’s stupendous catch of Garret Anderson’s fly ball near the right field stands. Nixon lunged into the wall as he nabbed the ball on the backhand. Interestingly, when a runner tags up early on a caught fly ball it is scored as a double play.

Had Clement gotten his usual run support he would have walked away with his 14th win. The Red Sox started lasted 6.2 innings with 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Four pitchers from the Boston bullpen combined for 2.1 innings of 2-hit shutout ball to keep their team in the game. Keith Foulke weathered a 9-pitch at bat against Bengie Molina to begin the 9th inning but eventually struck out his foe. The recovering closer gave up a ground-rule double as well as a walk, but no runs were allowed.

The fourth shutout of the season for the Red Sox resulted in a disappointing end to the Angels series. However, the team goes into the Bronx with a strong 10-4 homestand under their belt and a 4-game lead in the division.

September 8, 2005


Game 138: September 7, 2005
Angels (77-61), 3
Red Sox (82-56), 6
L: Ervin Santana (8-7)
W: Bronson Arroyo (12-9)
S: Mike Timlin (7)

4 games ahead in the division
2 game winning streak

Some believe there are nine orders of angels. Their names and rankings vary, but one accepted sequence is Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Powers, Dominions, Principalities, Virtues, Archangels, and Angels, from the most powerful to the least. Whichever spirit perched on Santana’s shoulder on August 20th abandoned him last night. The rookie right-handed pitcher lasted only 4 innings with 5 hits, 6 runs (all earned), 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 1 home run.

Arroyo permitted the Angels an early lead in the first 2 innings. In the 1st inning, after easily dismissing the first 2 hitters in the lineup, Arroyo gave up a single to Garret Anderson and an RBI triple to Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero is in such a groove that the biblical David could hurl stones and the right fielder would be able to launch them into the stands. Johnny Damon made a valiant attempt at the deepest part of the center field right against the wall to snag Guerrero’s missle, to no avail. With 2 out, Darin Erstad then singled to score Guerrero. Manny Ramirez had a less than effective slide to preempt Erstad’s liner from touching ground, only managing to halt its progress to the warning track with his body.

The Angels had the makings of a big inning underway in the 2nd. Again with 2 outs, Arroyo allowed a runner on base, this time by hitting Adam Kennedy with a pitch. Bill Mueller was unable to catch up to Chone Figgins anemic grounder that stayed fair as it died along the third base line. Going the opposite way with a well-placed grounder, Orlando Cabrera singled to score Kennedy and advance Figgins to third. With runners at the corners, Edgar Renteria made a jewel-like play by fielding Anderson’s grounder deep in the hole and throwing it across the diamond to halt the assault.

I mentioned last post that I was ecstatic that John Olerud was in the lineup instead of Kevin Millar in the first game of the series. Notably, Olerud had a huge impact on that game with his stellar defense. How Millar loves to prove his naysayers wrong. He hit a home run into the Monster seats in the 2nd inning, into the section I was sitting in the night before, in fact.

The 3rd inning began badly for Santana with his back to back walks of Alex Cora and Damon. Renteria then singled to load the bases with no outs for David Ortiz. It’s times like these where one must truly hate one’s job. Ortiz took a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field to drive in 2 runs. Trot Nixon doubled off the wall to score Renteria to take the lead.

Cora had a triple of his own in the 4th inning to plate Mueller, who had reached with a base on balls and ran hard to score from first base. Triples in Fenway Park are riveting. This one shot the right center gap and bounded into the maw of the triangle. Cora went on to score a run on a Damon sacrifice fly.

Don “Announcer Boy” Orsillo jested with Jerry Remy about the nationally broadcasted Red Sox-Angels game the former Red Sox second baseman participated in last month. Remy’s Fox cohort called him “Jimmy ” and also pronounced the pitcher’s surname “Sahn-tah-nah,” with the long “a” sound, as in “father.” I think these two are finally forming more of a rapport and are approaching what Sean McDonough and Remy had. Sort of like how the Red Sox are now coming together this season.

September 7, 2005


Game 137: September 6, 2005
Angels (77-60), 2
Red Sox (81-56), 3
L: Scot Shields (8-11)
W: Tim Wakefield (15-10)
SW (Supporting Win): David Ortiz (innumerable)
4 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

Oh I used to be disgusted
and now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
“(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
Elvis Costello

Great song choice by the Fenway Park DJ.

Last night was Green Monster Seat night. Good things tend to happen when I sit there; the last and only other time I was up there Pedro Martinez threw a complete game shutout against the Devil Rays. So I’ll be starting a petition to the Red Sox ticket office: make sure an EE representative is present in a Monster Seat for every home game going forward. I’m sure you’ll all sign.

I arrived in time for batting practice and stalked the first row of GM section 8 for taters. I think it was Doug Mirabelli who offered a few chances for me. One guy with a glove only 10 feet to my right caught one without moving an inch. People further away cheered him, hopefully drowning the epithet I muttered under my breath. Just a few moments later, a ball headed straight towards me, but hit the wall a few feat beneath my grasping hands. Clearly I am no flyhawk.

The all-female a capella group Broad Band opened the evening with an intricately arranged version of the national anthem. It was delightfully textured; one of the best versions of “The Star Spangled Banner” I have heard. I’d describe their sound as a hybrid of Anonymous 4 and Miranda Sex Garden.

John Lackey pitched splendidly albeit slowly for 6 innings. Red Sox offensive outs seemed to last twice as long as Wakefield’s innings, as the knuckleballer worked quickly as usual. Lackey squirmed out of multiple jams, the most notably in the 4th inning where Boston would not score despite Manny Ramirez’s leadoff double.

But one can only stifle the Red Sox lineup for so long. In the 5th inning, Lackey collapsed into a bases loaded situation. For him, the inning started off harmlessly enough with Tony Graffanino grounding out, but then he yielded a single to Johnny Damon and walked Edgar Renteria and Ortiz in succesion to crowd the corners for Ramirez. Ramirez did not get the right pitch to hit his 21st career grand slam to bring him within 2 of Lou Gehrig’s record, but he did walk to plate Damon. With Trot Nixon at the plate, Lackey uncorked a wild pitch to score the Red Sox shortstop. Surprisingly, no other runs were scored as Nixon and Bill Mueller grounded out to quell the uprising.

Wakefield pitched his 2nd and the Red Sox rotation’s 5th complete game of the season. He gave up 8 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts, and 1 home run. Orlando Cabrera blasted the Angels’ only round-tripper in the 6th inning over the Monster, but not towards my section. Given that Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero both have success against Wakefield, if I were Mike Scioscia I would have flip-flopped them in the batting order for this game. Otherwise, you leave Guerrero vulnerable to the intentional base on balls, the exact tactic Terry Francona used to defuse the intimidating bomber in the 1st and 6th innings.

With the score tied, Wakefield gave up a leadoff double to Bengie Molina, who was then pinch run for by Zach Sorensen. It seemed inevitable that a run would score save for the indomitable will of the veteran righty and his infield. Wakefield induced a ground out from designated hitter Casey Kotchman that allowed Sorensen to take third base. Pinch hitting Steve Finley grounded ineffectively to Graffanino, who went straight to home to stop Sorenson from scoring with the aid of Mueller. Wakefield struck out Adam Kennedy to go into the home half of the 9th tied.

With Ramirez and Ortiz in the offing, you knew what would happen. Scioscia knew, Francona knew, 35,060 fans with me knew. The only question was, would it be with Renteria on base? No, he struck out. So Ortiz took the plate with 1 out. Shields went after the designated hitter hesitantly and fell behind in the count 3-0. I felt a brief pang of pity for the Angels reliever, because he would be the latest victim to the ever-growing list of Ortiz’s dramatic wins. Ortiz fouled off the next two pitches, maybe giving Shields a brief glimpse of hope that he might actually get an out. Instead, it was Ortiz who got out, straight out of the ballpark and into the gap between the right field grandstand and the bleachers. Hearing it off the bat I knew it was gone despite my skewed viewing angle.

Can you give designated hitters a “W”? There ought to be a rule....

Sort of elitist, but it was nice having an uncrowded restroom. The mood of the Monster Seats is typically subdued.

You can learn a lot from David Wells, just not about how to win friends and influence people.

Don’t be a Bartman.

Fisk Pole shot.

Most of the time this flag was furled. I waited quite a while for it to wave freely in the breeze.

A Monster Dog that even Kobayashi would fear.

The Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon raised $2.4M.

During warm-ups Ortiz jests with some Angels pitchers. If they only knew what would be happening to them just a few hours from this encounter.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

September 5, 2005


Game 136: September 5, 2005
White Sox (85-751), 5
Red Sox (80-56), 3
W: Brandon McCarthy (2-1)
L: Curt Schilling (5-7)

3 games ahead in the division
1 game losing streak

“**** Everybody -- All We Have is Each Other”

So says the t-shirt unveiled this past Friday in the Red Sox clubhouse, according to Peter Gammons. Bill Mueller said, “We’ve got guys here who still [think] we can win games we’ve already lost.” Kevin Millar, the likely instigator, said that his inside source in the Yankee clubhouse told him that his new teammates leave the game as soon as it is over. “You hear stuff about teams that have each other’s backs,” said Millar, “but it’s real here.”

Even the NESN sideline reporters are tougher than their counterparts at YES. Eric “Gamer” Frede took a foul ball from Geoff Blum’s bat on the ankle in the 3rd inning from his usual perch in canvas alley. Let’s see Kimberly Jones do something similar.

In that at bat, Blum ended up dropping a line drive just into fair territory in left field. Manny Ramirez slipped while trying to get the ball and the White Sox third baseman led off with a triple. Schilling staunched the White Sox with aplomb. He induced a ground out to third of Juan Uribe, which Kevin Youkilis deftly handled while looking Blum back to his place. Scott Podsednik walked on 8 pitches but was niftily picked off after the 1-1 pitch to Tadahito Iguchi. Iguchi made contact to line a shot towards short, but Edgar Renteria dashed to his right to catch the liner that died in its flight and forced the Red Sox shortstop to make a speedy adjustment.

The Pale Hose got on the board first in the 4th inning with a Timo Perez RBI single to left field. Rhode Island native and childhood Yankee fan Paul Konerko had previously doubled off the wall and scored with ease.

Blum finally made his way to home plate in the 5th inning. After leading off with a fly ball single to center field, he was driven in by his infield cohort Uribe’s double.

Later in the 5th inning, the White Sox did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I’ll describe best as I can: Uribe, who had reached on a wallball double, reached third base on what I believe is called a sacrifice bunt by Podsednik. Then, Uribe went into motion with Schilling’s pitch that Iguchi bunted, enabling the runner at third to score. What is this mysterious play? I’ve never seen the Red Sox do this. Is this some sort of new fangled thing Ozzie Guillen invented? Guileful man, that Guillen.

The Chicago AL club showed they had power as well. Paul Konerko hit his 34th homer of the season in the 6th inning off of Schilling and Uribe hit his 11th home run on the first pitch he saw from Chad Harville in the 9th inning.

Ramirez notched his 14th assist to end the visitor’s half of the 9th inning. Even more gratifying is that the victim was former Red Sox player and paleontology enthusiast Carl Everett. Ramirez hosed Everett out at second base when the White Sox designated hitter tried to stretch his single into a double.

With a 5-run lead, it seemed that Boston would be shut out for only the fourth time this season. With runners on second and third with 2 out, Tony Graffanino hit a 3-run homer over the Monster to break the drought and perhaps mount the 41st come from behind win of the year. Gabe Kapler would ground out harmlessly to first to end the game, however. Interesting to note that rookie Bobby Jenks has given up only 2 four-baggers, but both were authored by Red Sox hitters (David Ortiz and Graffanino).

Schilling pitched for 6.1 innings with a line of 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 1 home run. Although he didn’t get a win, he looked much better than he did in his previous start where he gave up multiple extra base hits and long, arcing fly balls. I actually wasn’t expecting a win given this team’s apparent inability to hit rookie pitchers like McCarthy, who pitched 7 innings of 3-hit, shutout ball with only a single walk and 7 strikeouts.

But what do I know? **** what I say; all they have is each other.

September 4, 2005


Game 135: September 4, 2005
Orioles (64-72), 1
Red Sox (80-55), 5
L: Rodrigo Lopez (13-9)
W: David Wells (12-6)

3.5 games ahead in the division
2 game winning streak

I can tell it’s September baseball. I’m less inclined to take a blithe tangent about the mating patterns of eastern songbirds or the origins of the name “Baltimore.”

Wells pitched his second complete game of the season, but the other was the rain-shortened game on July 7th that only went 6 innings. Matt Clement and Tim Wakefield are the only members of the rotation to also have complete games, Clement’s on May 22nd and Wakefield’s on July 17th. On the occasion of his return from his suspension, Wells let his breaking pitches do the talking and instead of calling a press conference he put on a clinic. The veteran southpaw gave up only a single earned run, struck out 4, and gave up no bases on balls or homers. Such dominance late in the season bodes well (pun unintended) for the Red Sox’s drive into the postseason.

Unlike recent games where errors abounded, crisp defensive play kept the Orioles in check. In the 2nd inning, Tony Graffanino bolted hard to get B.J. Surhoff’s fly ball to shallow center, but it barely evaded him. He was immediately dispatched on a double play from Eric Byrnes’s bat straight into the teeth of the lethal infield combination of Edgard Renteria, Tony Graffanino, and John Olerud. Graffanino demonstrated baseball wizardry with his rapid transition of the ball from glove to throwing hand.

Bill Mueller pilfered Geronimo Gil of a hit in the 3rd inning. The ball bulleted toward the third baseman so quickly he barely had time to get his glove in place to nab the missle. His act of alchemy converted what would have been extra bases into the first out of the inning. In the same inning, Brian Roberts got on base with a fly ball to left field only to be caught stealing second base. Oleurd positioned himself perfectly to receive Wells’s pickoff by moving closer to the mound to clear a line of sight to Renteria.

In general I’d rather have Olerud or Roberto Petagine start at first. With Lopez starting, Terry Francona had to make Kevin Millar ride pine because he of the helmet has a batting average and OBP of .429 and a slugging percentage of .714 facing the righty. This lineup move paid dividends in the 5th inning. Trot Nixon led off with a fly ball single to center and Mueller followed with a ground ball single pulled into right field that permitted Nixon to reach third base. With no out and runners on the corners, Olerud launched the first pitch he saw into the Red Sox bullpen. The bullpen camera got a great shot of the ball receding away from Jay Gibbons’s glove.

Doug Mirabelli, who started to give Jason Varitek a break during this extended period with no days off, legged out a line drive that ended up in the left field corner into a double. Graffanino followed with an infield single to Mora upon which Mirabelli advanced to third. I really hoped Graffanino would do Manny’s shtick where he inquires vociferously of Mirabelli to get to home plate to score. Damon hit a double to right field that scored both runners on base, but was thrown out with your everyday 9-4-2-6 play. Does everyone in that jumble get an assist?

The only run the Orioles managed to score was in the 6th inning. Melvin Mora doubled on a ground ball to left field and Miguel Tejada’s subsequent double rapped the scoreboard to score the Orioles third baseman.

(I probably piqued your interest, so here’s information on the Baltimore orioles’ reproductive behaviors and here’s the man Baltimore was named after.)


Game 134: September 3, 2005
Orioles (64-71), 6
Red Sox (79-55), 7
L: Erik Bedard (6-6)
W: Matt Clement (13-3)
S: Mike Timlin (6)

3.5 games ahead in the division
1 game winning streak

Throughout the game NESN showed clips from Family Day for the players. Miniature Ramirezes, tiny Ortizes, little Schillings, and lilliputian Millers took over the field. It was also team picture day, and I note that even for this John Olerud wore his helmet.

The Orioles and Red Sox matched each other run for run in the 3rd and 4th innings. Clement led off the 3rd by hitting Luis Matos, who scored without the benefit of a single hit by anyone following him. He reached second on a wild pitch, got to third on a passed ball, and then scored on a Brian Roberts sacrifice fly. The Red Sox got their 3rd inning run much differently. Gabe Kapler legged out a double on his liner to center field. Johnny Damon moved his fellow outfielder over on a grounder to second, enabling Kapler to score on a sacrifice fly by Edgar Renteria.

The 4th inning was untidily played by the home team. Kapler missed the ball hit by Miguel Tejada that hit dead on the right field foul line. The Kevins were in chase as well, but Kapler made a tremendous effort to even come within glove range and had the wherewithal to try and throw out Tejada at second base. Jay Gibbons reached on an error by Manny Ramirez, who initially caught Gibbons’s fly ball but did not squeeze his glove tightly enough to keep it in. Manny, just be like Mr. Whipple’s customers and squeeze the Charmin. Still with no outs, Javy Lopez’s line drive got by Damon for his 5th error which allowed 2 runs to score. Despite the miscues, Clement maintained his composure and got the next 3 batters to ground out.

The Red Sox position players seemed to want to make amends for their shoddy play in the following innings. Jason Varitek walked and Millar homered into the Monster seats. The first baseman proved that his dominance of Bedard wasn’t entirely flukey.

Roberts snuck a ball past Millar for a single to lead off the 5th inning. Clement, Varitek, Millar, and Renteria executed a perfect pitch out, pickoff, and tag combination with Bernie Castro at the plate. Roberts falling down and going boom also helped matters. Redeeming himself of his previous error, Damon made great catch of Castro’s fly ball, covering a lot of territory and going into a hook slide to get the out, garnering the double point from Clement. Clement being demonstrative is like Mark Bellhorn’s smile; rare, but appreciated when seen.

In the 6th inning, Clement was reminded why he doesn’t throw his change-up much when Gibbons hit a home run to right field. David Ortiz responded with a homer of his own in the 7th inning, hit right into the section I was in the previous evening.

Alejandro Machado had his first major leage at bat in the 8th inning. It was a nice 9-pitch effort that demonstrated his awareness of the strike zone and his patience at the plate; none of the strikes were of the swing and miss variety. Melvin Mora nearly ended the at bat early with a catch of Machado’s foul ball in the stands, but it sliced away at the last moment and hit the top of the wall instead. Another foul ball was lined sharply to the right and came close to hitting Lynn Jones. Machado worked the count full but grounded out to third for the second out of the inning.

Clement went 8 innings with 6 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 1 solo round-tripper. He was in line for the winning decision when the game was handed over to Timlin in the 9th.

Renteria made an error in his rush to get ball to second base on grounder hit by Matos in the 9th inning, bringing the tying run in the form of Roberts to the plate with 1 out and 2 on. Roberts hit a double into the left field corner to plate B.J. Surhoff and advance Matos to third base. Timlin walked pinch hitter David Newhan after falling behind him in the count and getting it to 3-2. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Mora hit a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Matos and bring the Orioles to within 1 run. Timlin got ahead of MVP candidate Tejada quickly, and made the shortstop fly out to right field on the 0-2 pitch to cap off the 40th come from behind victory for Boston this season.

September 3, 2005


Game 133: September 2, 2005
Orioles (64-70), 7
Red Sox (78-55), 3
W: John Maine (2-1)
H: Eric DuBose (1)
H: Chris Ray (4)
H: Steve Kline (9)
H: Todd Williams (13)
L: Lenny DiNardo (0-1)

3.5 games ahead in the division
1 game losing streak

A mostly unremarkable game save for a number of debuts by the call-ups and Lenny DiNardo’s near-quality start. DiNardo pitched 6 innings with 7 hits, 4 runs (only 1 earned), 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, and 1 cheap home run by Alejandro Freire that curled around Pesky Pole.

Another Alejandro, this one from the Boston farm system, utility infielder Machado, entered the game in the 9th inning for second baseman Alex Cora. He didn’t get his first major league at bat yet, however. With a fully stocked bullpen, Terry Francona went to his relievers often. In the 7th inning, Chad Harville was brought in to Chris Gomez, who he walked. Luis Matos failed to move Gomez over with a bunt, erasing the lead runner. Matt Perisho made his Red Sox debut and yielded a double on his 1-1 pitch to Brian Roberts to score Matos from first. He was quickly pulled and replaced by Chad Bradford, who got Mevlin Mora out but gave up an RBI single to Miguel Tejada.

Keith Foulke made his first appearance since July 4th. He appeared unsure of his change-up, throwing primarily fastballs and sliders. He gave up a fly ball single up to Jay Gibbons to center field but then induced a fly ball out from Javy Lopez to finally bring a close to the 7th inning and the round-robin of pitchers.

I was there at the game thanks to a friend from the Royal Rooters message board, David Laurila. He’s the one that does most of the interviews. If you haven’t checked these out, you should. I had the opportunity to go out to LeLacheur Park and interview lefty reliever James Baxter. Since the Lowell Spinners are close to making the playoffs for the first time in their history, the guys are excited to have something to play for. I’ll let you know when the interview with Jim is posted.

One couple near my section brought their three-week young baby. He was wearing a Red Sox onesie and seemed tiny enough to fit in a first baseman’s glove. Anne Quinn, Red Sox fan extraordinaire, sits in this section and I had the opportunity to be introduced to her. You might remember her from her appearance in World Series Game 2, where she was interviewed briefly. She scores games as easily as I breathe. Despite the outcome, spending time with and meeting some great fans was worthwhile.

September 2, 2005


Game 132: September 1, 2005
Devil Rays (55-80), 4
Red Sox (78-54), 7
L: Doug Waechter (5-9)
W: Bronson Arroyo (11-9)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
S: Mike Timlin (5)

3.5 games ahead in the division
5 game winning streak

Reality check: These are the same Devil Rays that swept the Angels and Rangers in recent series? And beat the Yankees 2 out of 3 games? Just making sure, because the Red Sox just swept them. Also, a win streak does much to soothe the dyspepsic souls of Boston fans, as there was nary a peep about Manny Ramirez getting a day off today.

Arroyo followed the same pattern as Clement and Wakefield by giving Tampa Bay the early lead. In the 2nd inning Jonny Gomes homered with Aubrey Huff on base and Travis Lee did exactly the same in the 4th to give his team the 4-2 lead.

The respected John Olerud hit a 2-run round-tripper in the 2nd inning with his first base doppelganger Kevin Millar on base. With Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek on base in the 6th, Olerud hit another home run into right field, just as soaring and majestic as a David Ortiz production. The mellifluous swing of the Red Sox first baseman also lined a ground-rule double in the 8th to the opposite field.

The 5th inning was particularly pivotal. After giving up a single to Jorge Cantu and a double to Huff, Terry Francona called for Travis Lee to be intentionally walked to load the bases with 2 out. Arroyo took his chances with Nick Green. With the count full, Arroyo threw a gutsy curve that struck out the Devil Rays second baseman looking. Arroyo completed the evening with 7 innings pitched, 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts.

Edgar Renteria got an RBI of his own in the home half of the 5th. Jerry Remy highlighted Alex Cora’s smart base running in this inning. After reaching first on what was deemed an error on Cantu, Cora sprinted to third after having to hesitate on Johnny Damon’s single as it bounded across his path. Because of this aggressiveness, Cora was in position to tag on his double play partner’s sacrifice fly to center field.

I agree with Remy when he said that the acquisition of Cora and Tony Graffanino will be key to the push for the postseason. I also submit that if Papelbon and Timlin are able to perform as they did in this game, we might have the proper tandem to shut down opponents in the late innings. Papelbon struck out the side in the 8th inning facing batters occupying the 5th through 8th spots, although he did not get an out in the 9th inning and gave up back-to-back singles. Timlin worked out of the 2 on, no out jam Papelbon put him in, dispelling for the moment the myth that Timlin pitches badly when inheriting batters.

During the course of the game, NESN showed Alejandro Machado in the dugout, one of the September call-ups. Machado is a utility infielder that also took some turns in the outfield recently. I saw him play at Pawtucket earlier this season and I hope that Red Sox fans will be able to see this sparkplug in action soon. The other call-up was Matt Perisho, a situational southpaw pitcher. Keith Foulke was activated from the disabled list. Chad Harville, a right-handed pitcher claimed off of waivers from Houston, also joined the roster. Future anticipated additions are Lenny DiNardo and Manny Delcarmen, as well as Craig Hansen and Kelly Shoppach should the latter two mend in time.

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