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Home » Monthly Archive » May 2006

May 31, 2006


Game 50: May 30, 2006
Red Sox (30-20), 5
Blue Jays (29-22), 8
L: Josh Beckett (7-2)
W: Gustavo Chacin (6-1)
H: Jason Frasor (3)
H: Scott Schoeneweis (8)
H: Justin Speier (8)
S: B.J. Ryan (12)

O Vernon Wells! Our bane who can’t be fanned!*
True Red Sox pain in all thy swings command.
With aching hearts we see thee rise,
His True Worth at batting three!
From far and wide, O Vernon Wells,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep this game from our memory!
O Vernon Wells, our pitching you fatigue!
O Vernon Wells, go to the National League!

*Except once in the fourth inning

May 30, 2006


Game 49: May 29, 2006
Red Sox (30-19), 6
Blue Jays (28-22), 7
L: David Riske (0-1)
BS: Justin Speier (1)
W: B.J. Ryan (1-0)

Words That Rhyme With Clement


















Three Red Sox players, Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Varitek, hit homers in the fifth, sixth, and eighth. Crisp had his first four-bagger as a Boston player. Varitek’s three-run long jack tied the game in the eighth, but his team would not prevail.

But the Blue Jays were just as brawny, with Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay launching souvenirs into the stands in the third and fourth innings. Matt Clement turned in another unsatisfactory outing, only pitching for three and one-third innings while giving up seven hits, six earned runs, two walks, and striking out none.

Sunday’s thriller of an ending that burned Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez forced Terry Francona to turn to his untested, younger, and fresher arms. They did not fail him. Jermaine Van Buren and Manny Delcarmen combined for three and two-third shutout innings. Francona may have faltered by deciding to go with David Riske on the mound, but Riske was facing the bottom third of the order. The Red Sox manager was probably expecting the game to go into extra innings and relied on Riske to shutdown Toronto, but his gamble did not pay off. Bengie Molina hit a leadoff double (actually, his second double of the at bat, as the third base umpire Larry Young missed a call down the line where the ball actually caused an eruption of chalk) and John Gibbons had Eric Hinske run for the catcher, thereby losing the designated hitter.

Gibbons’s gambit, unlike Francona’s, was successful. Aaron Hill sacrificed Hinske to third base and the pinch runner scored on a Shea Hillenbrand single, giving his team a 7-6 advantage. It was all closer B.J. Ryan would need to secure his first vulture win of the season.

May 29, 2006


Game 48: May 28, 2006
Devil Rays (21-30), 4
Red Sox (30-18), 5
L: Mark Hendrickson (3-5)
W: Tim Wakefield (4-6)
S: Julian Tavarez (1)

The Red Sox honored all 600,000 or so inhabitants of Vermont with their very own day yesterday. Vermont is the second least-populated state in the United States and is 43rd in land area. The Green Mountain State’s motto is “Freedom and Unity.” The Red Sox bullpen was in tune with the “freedom” part, as they passed out five free passes in the last inning. But work needs to be done on the “unity” aspect; apparently Julian Tavarez was so jealous of Keith Foulke cozening his phone shtick and Jonathan Papelbon’s saves he machinated the ninth inning so that he could get his first save of the season. Just 17 more to go to tie Papelbon.

The home team was in line to record its first shutout of the season until the last inning. Rudy Seanez allowed Jonny Gomes to take first on a base on balls. Seanez struck out Ty Wigginton and induced a line drive out from Russell Branyan. An end to a leisurely Sunday game seemed to be in hand.

Seanez had other ideas as he walked the next two batters to load the bases. Perhaps he was complicit in Tavarez’s campaign to get a save.

The slim northpaw entered the game with the bases juiced and two outs to face pinch hitter Greg Norton. Tavarez did get a strikeout but Doug Mirabelli was unable to glove the ball. Gomes scored, Norton took first, and the inning continued.

Tavarez fell behind the next two batters 3-0 and was gifted strike calls for his fourth pitches. Both his old friend Joey Gathright and Julio Lugo walked on their fifth pitches, however, tallying a run each to bring their team to within two runs of their opposition.

Carl Crawford singled to Willie Harris in left to plate Norton, but Gathright laid too much trust in his speed and was gunned out at home plate in his attempt to turn in the tying run.

The last minute dramatics nearly effaced one of Tim Wakefield’s best outings of the season: eight innings pitched, five hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Mark Loretta also had an outstanding effort with his two hits and three RBIs. But what else do you expect from a member of the esteemed YoLoGoLoVa infield that Jerry Remy devised? Alex Gonzalez turned a radiant relay to Kevin Youkilis on a Josh Paul ground out in the fifth inning. Youkilis was particularly limber on the play, needing to execute a near-complete split.

Trot Nixon also demonstrated defensive adroitness in the second with his nifty catch of Travis Lee’s deep fly ball to right field just in front of the short wall. The Devil Rays were not the only ones to be gifted with a run with the bases loaded--Nixon did the same in the fourth inning. It was the third time Nixon accomplished this in 2006 and the sixth time for a Red Sox player this season. Special thanks to Don Orsillo for this statistic, although, like Remy, I do disagree with him on the Santana defense.

Just looking at the other AL East infields, how can any of them can suit “Oye Como Va” any better is beyond me.

  • Blue Jays: Bengie Molina, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Russ Adams, and Troy Glaus
    MoORoTroyAh: Nah.
  • Devil Rays: Toby Hall, Travis Lee, Ty Wigginton, Julio Lugo, and Aubrey Huff
    ToTroWoGoHa: I had to do a lot of adjustments and it’s not even close.
  • Orioles: Ramon Hernandez, Jeff Conine, Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, and Melvin Mora
    MonConRoMoDa: Hmm, there is a possible match here.
  • Yankees: Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez
    PoGoNoJoRod: Just slightly better than Bernie William’s musicianship.

Walking Wounded

Just when the Red Sox appeared to be getting healthy with Coco Crisp’s return, two key players were put on the disabled list.

Wily Mo Peña, who had been playing sporadically lately, has a sprained left wrist that warranted being pulled from the lineup at the last minute on Saturday. He won’t be accompanying the team on the upcoming arduous road trip that has the AL East division leaders facing division nemeses Toronto and New York in two series that bookend a match-up against the scorching Detroit Tigers.

Mike Timlin was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 26th due a right shoulder strain. Manny Delcarmen was recalled from Pawtucket to shore up the bullpen.

Speaking of Mannys, Ramirez has had the last two games off to rest an ailing back, which has not been deemed a serious setback. Better to take time off now against the under-achieving Devil Rays than the next ten games.

David Wells’s injury from the May 26th game turned out to less serious than it looked initially. There was no structural damage to the southpaw’s knee but an MRI did reveal a deep bone bruise. He might even make his next scheduled start against the Blue Jays this Wednesday.

As the Yankees proved when they won a series at Fenway despite injuries, Boston must also face the class of the American League with depleted ranks on their home fields. How the Red Sox perform in the next three series will reveal much about the teams’ relative strengths.

May 28, 2006


Game 47: May 27, 2006
Devil Rays (21-29), 4
Red Sox (29-18), 6
L: Seth McClung (2-6)
W: Curt Schilling (8-2)
H: Keith Foulke (7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (18)

Curt Schilling celebrated his 200th victory last night after turning in a seven inning start with a line of eight hits, four earned runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts. Past concerns of Schilling yielding too many homers have begun to dissipate; he hasn’t allowed a four-bagger since May 16th and the runs scored in this game were the result of doubles.

Most of the fans in attendance lingered long after the last out, after the final bars of “Dirty Water” wafted through the mild night air, to congratulate Schilling on his accomplishment. The right-handed pitcher did not disappoint; he emerged from the dugout to acknowledge the fans.

What the fans didn’t know was that Schilling had a few other milestones that day. During the drive to the ballpark, for the 2,000th time he had to admonish sons Gehrig (whose birthday was yesterday) and Garrison to stop fighting because someone would most certainly lose an eye. For the 100th time he had to warn daughter Gabriella (on whose birthday Schilling garnered his 199th win) not to spill her OPI “Goldilocks Rocks” nail polish on the leather seats of his Maserati. And for the 1,000th time, Schilling assured his wife Shonda that she was more attractive than Michelle Damon and Anna Benson combined.

The Devils Rays felt they were jobbed on two pivotal calls. Mark Loretta singled to right field in the second inning with Willie Harris and Kevin Youkilis on base and two out, scoring Harris. Youkilis saw that Devil Ray outfielder Greg Norton had bobbled the ball and broke for third. Aubrey Huff believed he tagged the proxy Red Sox left fielder for the final out of the inning. Instead, the inning continued with David Ortiz being intentionally walked to load the bases. Trot Nixon doubled to generate two RBIs and Ortiz crossed home on a wild pitch to Jason Varitek. Boston pulled ahead 5-2 and would not lose the lead for the rest of the game.

Huff was also part of a crucial call in the eighth. The Devil Ray third baseman checked his swing on a Keith Foulke pitch but the ball looked to be on its way past the infield. Alex Cora was playing deep enough to snare it and make a pirouetting throw to J.T. Snow. First base umpire Bruce Froemming called Huff out, immediately inciting first base coach George Hendrick and enticing Joe Maddon from the visitor’s dugout. Huff was ejected in the fray.

Youkilis proved his versatility further, adapting fairly well to his first start as a left fielder. Norton did score from second base in the second on a Josh Paul single; Youkilis’s throw was up the line and away from home. In the seventh he called off the infielders on a Josh Paul short fly, nabbing the ball on the run. Talk about uber-utilityman.

Foulke rebounded from last night’s incident with a perfect eighth inning, covering nicely for an ailing Mike Timlin. Jonathan Papelbon also pitched a perfect inning for his major league-leading 18th save.

May 27, 2006


Game 46: May 26, 2006
Devil Rays (21-28), 4
Red Sox (28-18), 8
L: Scott Kazmir (7-3)
W: Julian Tavarez (1-0)
H: Rudy Seanez (1)
H: Keith Foulke (6)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (17)

An open letter to the fan who verbally assaulted Keith Foulke after the relief pitcher had given up a leadoff home run to Carl Crawford in the eighth:

You do realize Crawford is one of the league’s hottest hitters at the moment, going 13 for 22 on the Devil Rays’ current roadtrip, with three home runs and four RBIs over the last five games?

Did you have the guts to jeer at Trot Nixon or Wily Mo Peña after they had failed to drive in runs in the second inning with two men on base? I doubt you had the temerity to do such a thing.

Perhaps you got a good laugh out of David Wells writhing in pain after getting smoked by Travis Lee’s batted ball in the fifth?

I hope you booed that slacker Manny Ramirez, too. He had no RBIs last night and obviously deserved to be ridiculed, right?

Were you too sloshed to noticed that David Ortiz hit a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning to clear the bases? Maybe you were in line for more beer when Mike Lowell hit his first roundtripper as a Red Sox player in Fenway Park in the 6th inning, too. No, Lowell is no longer with the Marlins; he is the Boston third baseman.

Perhaps you didn’t notice the song that was played after Jonathan Papelbon induced a line drive out to end the top of the ninth--it’s called “Dirty Water” and it’s played when the team you purportedly root for wins.

And a note to Foulke: Noli nothis permittere te terere. It was quite stupid to let a nobody get to you. You’re a former world champion and should act as such.

Last night I heard most of the game on XM radio on the road back from Hadlock Field. David Laurila and I journeyed to Portland to check in with a few Sea Dogs players. The interviews will be appearing on the Royal Rooters message board in the coming weeks. The proofs from Laurila’s compilation of his best pieces, Interviews From Red Sox Nation, have just been finalized and the book will be available in July.

The Sea Dogs had their five-game winning streak broken with a shutout loss to the New Britain Rock Cats. The Double-A affiliate of the Red Sox just had outfielder David Murphy and right-handed pitcher Barry Hertzler promoted to Pawtucket. They were replaced by Chris Durbin and Randy Beam respectively. If you do make the trip up to Maine from now until June 25th, you can cast your vote to send a Sea Dog the Eastern League All-Star Game in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Better yet, you could get a Jonathan Papelbon bobblehead if you go on June 7th.

May 26, 2006


Game 45: May 25, 2006
Devil Rays (21-27), 1
Red Sox (27-18), 4
L: Doug Waechter (0-3)
W: Josh Beckett (7-1)
H: Keith Foulke (5)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (16)

Sox Trax, the Red Sox strike zone data tool, is a splendid thing. And not only for the edification of the viewers at home, I’m sure. There must be some intensive behind-the-scenes analyses of not only the Boston players’ tendencies but also a wealth of data to be mined for the advanced scouts.

Much has been made of the Joe Maddon’s methods to stop David Ortiz. In the first and third innings, Ortiz demonstrated that one could sooner defy the laws of physics than prevent him from putting the ball in play. Ortiz singled in both innings, foiling Maddon’s schemes. In the third inning, Manny Ramirez followed up Ortiz with a walk and then Trot Nixon arced a deep sacrifice fly, enabling Ortiz to tag up to third base.

Little League coaches of our great land, please tell your players to emulate Ortiz in all but his head-first sliding technique.

Jason Varitek singled to bring Ortiz home. Mark Loretta was the only other Red Sox player to notch an RBI despite Doug Waechter being on the mound.

Baseball is littered with anecdotes of players that make spectacular defensive plays to end the top of an inning and then lead off the bottom of the inning with a superb offensive showing. Julio Lugo enacted the opposite of this phenomenon in the sixth inning. In attempting to stretch his leadoff double into a triple, the Devil Ray shortstop was out at third, thanks to the heady play of Mark Loretta. Wily Mo Peña’s relay throw was so strong and high Alex Gonzalez was unable to corral it. Loretta was there to back up his shortstop, retrieving the ball in time to relay it to Mike Lowell for the out.

Again, Little League coaches across the country took note to remind their players never to make the first or third out at third, especially when trailing by more than one run.

When fielding in the bottom of the sixth, Lugo threw like Peña did from center field. The problem, of course, is that Lugo plays in the infield. And to complete the circle of ignominy, Peña was the batter who received the gift single and advance to second base.

Speaking of Peña, Don Orsillo noted that the center fielder reverse engineered a defensive gem on a Ty Wigginton fly ball in the seventh inning with Keith Foulke on the mound. Peña often makes the routine extraordinary. The Red Sox center fielder was unable to make a play on the next air ball to him, but Ramirez backed him up to hold Greg Norton to a single.

Josh Beckett tallied his seventh win of the season, tied for first with six other major league pitchers. He pitched six innings and allowed just four hits and a single walk while striking out seven. Beckett is 35th in ERA with 3.80 and is in the top 30 in total strikeouts with 47.

Although it’s not hyped like other inter-divisional series, it’s an AL East match-up nonetheless. With the Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir squaring against the quondam starter David Wells tonight, any advantage in this series is essential.

May 25, 2006


Game 44: May 24, 2006
Yankees (26-19), 8
Red Sox (26-18), 6
W: Randy Johnson (6-4)
H: Scott Erickson (1)
H: Mike Myers (5)
H: Scott Proctor (5)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (6)
S: Mariano Rivera (10)
L: Matt Clement (4-4)

Matt Clement’s pitching performance last night seemed more like a promotional stunt for his upcoming movie, The Three Faces of Matt. It’s a heart-rending story of a mousy major league pitcher with multiple personalities. His slider can be unhittable as Billy Wagner’s, but his slider can also be as hittable as Billy Wagner’s. Under duress, Clement may transform into a Rick Ankiel-like basket case.

Clement’s rhythm was thrown when he was struck by Bernie Williams’s sharp liner to his leg in the second inning. He had started the inning by inducing consecutive ground outs to Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, but then walked Robinson Cano just before the Williams hit. Terrence Long then got a free pass to load the bases. With the count an even 2-2, Clement hit backup catcher Kelly Stinnett to score Cano. Clement further unraveled by yielding consecutive run-producing hits to Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter. By the time the carnage was done, the score was tied 4-4.

Manny Ramirez’s bat kept the Red Sox in the game. He hit a two-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the seventh. Ramirez tried to use Josh Beckett as a replacement hug for Kevin Millar, but Beckett doesn’t seem to have the same squeezability factor. He also ran through DeMarlo Hale’s stop sign in the third inning to score what was then the go-ahead run. Hey, you’re not a real celebrity until you can get away with running a red light.

Ramirez was joined by Kevin Youkilis, who launched a two-run, two-out homer in the second inning that didn’t go quite as far as the Red Sox left fielder’s but was just as productive.

Boston couldn’t string enough hits in row against Randy Johnson, despite his ever-diminishing effectiveness. The gawky southpaw pitched five innings and generated a line of nine hits, five earned runs, two walks, eight strikeouts, and two roundtrippers--and still got the win. He’ll have to thank his cast of thousands in the bullpen that helped hold the Yankees lead. I missed their names in the credits crawl; they should petition the MLBPA to be on-screen longer.

David Ortiz struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded. Time to get his clutch checked--I don’t think the warranty has expired yet. Mariano Rivera retired the Red Sox batters in order on 13 pitches in the ninth, sealing the series win for the Bronxites. Boston still leads the AL East by half a game, but failed to put further distance between the crowded upper echelon of the division.

May 24, 2006


Game 43: May 23, 2006
Yankees (25-19), 7
Red Sox (26-17), 5
W: Jaret Wright (2-3)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (5)
S: Mariano Rivera (9)
L: Tim Wakefield (3-6)

This loss is all on me. Yesterday was my birthday, and there have been some truly awful Red Sox players born on the same day as me. You might recall Cesar Crespo; I extend my apologies if you do. (Note: You may sponsor Crespo for a mere ten dollars.) Also, thrill to the feats of the immortal Ricky Gutierrez, who actually has a sponsor. Mike Gonzalez, who was part of the rescinded Brandon Lyon deal in July of 2003, as also born on May 23rd, as was Ramon Caraballo, Kevin Romine, Reggie Cleveland, Pat “Whoops” Creeden, Jack McGeachy, and Hugh “Corns” Bradley. There was a Bill Miller, but it wasn’t our Bill Mueller.

The only Hall of Famer born yesterday was Zack Wheat, who was a member of the National League Brooklyn Robins for all but one of his 18 years in the major leagues. The Robins were clipped by Red Sox in the 1916 World Series, 4-1.

None of that anti-New York City mojo carried into the present day, however. Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball was mostly nimble and effective until the late innings. Wakefield relinquished a leadoff homer to Johnny Damon in the first and a two-run single to Derek Jeter in the third, but had struck out five hitters while doing so. In the seventh, Terry Francona saw fit to leave his starting pitcher in against Alex Rodriguez even after he had walked Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter consecutively with two out. Rodriguez, perhaps too caught up in wondering if the cameras were training in on him with the most flattering angles, didn’t even realize he had homered into the Monster seats at first. When the ball landed, the score turned to 7-1, seemingly insurmountable.

In the home half of the seventh, Yankee pitching were giving out walks like a doggy day care center. Scott Proctor, Mike Myers, and Kyle Farnsworth combined for four walks. Manny Ramirez capitalized on the opportunity with a blast to the center field bleachers that went even farther than his homer in the first game of the series to bring the score to 7-4.

The Yankees continued to grant bases on balls in the eighth inning, prompting Joe Torre to bring in Mariano Rivera to secure five outs. Ramirez managed to line a single to plate Kevin Youkilis, but the Red Sox were unable to overcome the run deficit.

Boston scattered a few defensive gems throughout the game for the enjoyment of the fans. Youkilis dazzled at first base with a diving catch in the second inning of Jorge Posada’s smoking grounder. Wakefield leapt balletically to ensnare Youkilis’s toss, again quelling Posada’s attempt to get on base. Doug Mirabelli did dull his performance with three passed balls in the sixth, one of which led to a run. In the fifth, however, the backup catcher shined when he gunned down Andy Phillips after his battery mate struck out Damon.

With all due respect to the captain, Jason Varitek is one of those guys whose voice doesn’t suit his outward appearance. Rugged and stout in his tools of ignorance, he cuts an imposing figure behind the plate. And then, a quiet, slightly nasal, almost gentle voice escapes from his lips. I usually enjoy hearing the snatches of dugout conversation when a player is wired for sound, but Varitek won’t be conducting any trash-talking seminars in the future. He seems to prefer to let his hands do the talking.

May 23, 2006


Game 42: May 22, 2006
Yankees (24-19), 5
Red Sox (26-16), 9
L: Chien-Ming Wang (4-2)
W: Curt Schilling (7-2)

Curt Schilling is just a single victory away from 200. The workhorse turned in eight innings of work with a line of five hits, a single earned run, and six strikeouts. Reports of his arm’s demise have been greatly exaggerated; it was his hairstyle’s currency that is deceased. Thought to be extinct since Vinnie Barbarino strutted on “Welcome Back, Kotter” and David Cassidy graced the cover of “Tiger Beat,” Schilling sported a feathered cut fresh out of the 70s. Everything old became new again, his arm similarly revived.

Terrence Long was unrecognizable in left field; he seemed as sure-footed as an elephant on an ice rink. Gone are his days of robbing Manny Ramirez of the longball. So he goes where former name players go to die: the Yankees outfield. In the third inning, Long slipped while attempting to catch David Ortiz’s line drive, allowing two runs to score. Ramirez politely spared the Yankees outfielders any further gaffes that inning by sending his homer to dead center field for another two runs.

One memorable moment from 2004 was Ramirez mocking Schilling as the later filled his notebook with details on his mound performance. Unlike Ramirez, however, Ortiz had interest in Schilling’s data, or at least appeared to. Hopefully Schilling wasn’t trying to convince Ortiz to straighten his hair and go for the winged look.

Alarmingly, Keith Foulke gave up homers to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada and an RBI-double to Bernie Williams in the ninth inning, but the home town team had scored five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, providing more than enough cushion.

I have a friendly bet with a friend of mine who is a Yankee fan based on the regular season series’ outcome. The loser has a the privilege of donning the winning team’s logo gear of the winner’s choosing. I have four vibrant Red Sox aloha shirts that I believe my quarry can fit as well as various items emblazoned with 2004 memories. Victories such as this one brings me closer to my goal to be my pal’s wardrobe coordinator.

May 22, 2006


Game 41: May 21, 2006
Red Sox (25-16), 5
Phillies (23-20), 10
L: Lenny DiNardo (1-2)
W: Cory Lidle (4-4)

Manny Ramirez is rubbing off on Wily Mo Peña, and not just in terms of power hitting. In the fourth inning the center fielder shushed the crowd after he nabbed Pat Burrell air ball that tailed away from him towards the fences. Just as Ramirez had done on May 10th, Peña put his finger to his lips, Allen Iverson style, so Philadelphia fans should be familiar with this move.

Unlike the Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff game in January 2002, the Red Sox did not get the benefit of the tuck rule in the bottom of the sixth. Umpires ruled that Peña didn’t make a catch of Jimmy Rollins’s fly ball to shallow center despite it having been cradled by Peña for at least three strides. Second base umpire Phil Cuzzi and third base umpire Jerry Crawford both made the call. Indeed, Section 2.00 of the official rules defines a catch as

... the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession.... If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.

There is much more verbage associated with the definition of a catch, but the bolded sentence above shows why the umpires ruled as they did. Interestingly, if Peña was in the act of throwing the ball back into the infield and dropped it, it would have been a catch.

Bobby Abreu relived memories of his bombastic showing in the Home Run Derby last year with his three-run homer in the sixth off the recently recalled Abe Alvarez.

Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell had solo roundtrippers in the fifth and sixth respectively, but Cory Lidle pitched just well enough for his fourth win, averting a series sweep by the visiting team. Lidle probably wanted to make sure his tires weren’t slashed as retaliation for a poor performance.

Lowell has adapted his play well for American League play but also showed his senior circuit savvy. In the second inning, Shane Victorino was on third and Cory Lidle was on deck. Victorino was to break for home on contact. Instead of going for the out at first, Lowell threw to home so the run wouldn’t score and also notched the second out of the inning.

Serendipitous happenings seem to gather around Lowell; in the eighth inning he unintentionally drove in a run with a check swing grounder to third. But all the luck in the universe couldn’t overcome Philadelphia’s early lead.

Hopefully Wally’s feelings weren’t hurt when he saw David Ortiz riding with the Phillie Phanatic on the field yesterday. Sure, players may be fickle when they are on the road, but to be unfaithful to Wally after all his hardship seems heartless and cruel. I hope Ortiz has a good explanation for his infidelity. The Phanatic and Wally might share a bond because of their green fur, but the bond of being Red Sox brethren bests such superficialities.

May 21, 2006


Game 40: May 20, 2006
Red Sox (25-15), 8
Phillies (22-20), 4
W: Josh Beckett (6-1)
L: Brett Myers (2-2)

Brett Myers started off as hot as a dumpster fire in Citizens Bank Park, but was doused when Gold Glove shortstop Jimmy Rollins committed his third error of the season in the sixth inning.

What should have been a routine grounder off the bat of Alex Gonzalez evolved into a nightmare inning for Myers. Rollins sailed his throw to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard almost as high as Howard hits homers, allowing the Red Sox shortstop to land at second base. Josh Beckett softly lined a single to shallow center for the visitors’ first run of the evening, tying the game.

Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta followed with singles of their own to load the bases. David Ortiz’s sacrifice fly gave the Red Sox the lead and Trot Nixon’s two-RBI single double his team’s score.

Two Boston players jacked roundtrippers, and they were from the unlikeliest sources of power sources—Gonzalez and Beckett. Beckett’s seventh-inning solo shot cleared the fences in left. The Red Sox dugout treated him as they did Youkilis after he homered for the first time. No word on if Beckett has to wear a mohawk, but he was seen giving advice to Manny Ramirez and Ortiz on how to approach the Phillies bullpen.

Gonzalez’s two-out, two-run four-bagger in the eighth was surreal, and seemed superfluous at the time. It padded the Red Sox lead to 8-1. But the Phillies staged a rally in the home half of the eighth, tallying three runs on Ryan Howard’s home run. Until that shot, Beckett had only relinquished a homer to Chase Utley in the third inning. Ironically, Utley was on base at the time due to J.T. Snow’s error. Snow had been brought into the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement.

Before the Phillies could build any further momentum, Julian Tavarez and Mike Timlin combined to pitch get the next six outs to assure their team a series win.

With any luck, the Red Sox’s team bus was not set ablaze while they were on the field. Phillie fans are setting the tone for the upcoming World Cup.*

*With all due respect to soccer fans, who can make Philadelphia fans look like Aunt Mildred’s weekly canasta club.

May 20, 2006


Game 39: May 19, 2006
Red Sox (24-15), 5
Phillies (22-19), 3
W: Matt Clement (4-3)
H: Keith Foulke (4)
H: Mike Timlin (11)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (15)
L: Jon Lieber (3-5)

Our Papi, who art at first base, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy home runs come. Thy arm be gun, in Citizens Bank Park as it is in Fenway. Give us this day our daily RBI. And forgive Francona his trespasses, As we forgive those Phillie fans who trespass against us. And lead us not into frustration, But deliver us from upheaval. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

David Ortiz made the sign of the cross after cleanly fielding Jimmy Rollins’s biting grounder for the first Phillie out of the game. Next Matt Clement enticed Chase Utley to whiff, but those would be the easiest outs of the inning. Bobby Abreu doubled to wall in left field, where Manny Ramirez lay in wait and was about to make one of his patented “How ’Bout That” catches but was inches short. The erratic Red Sox starter walked the next batter and hit Ryan Howard to load the bases, but the foray was staunched by Shane Victorino’s fly out to center.

Victorino, who is from Maui, just like me, did hit the Phillies’ only home run of the game in the fourth inning. Philadelphia rallied in the seventh with Utley’s two-out, two-run double off Keith Foulke. But Terry Francona kept Foulke in to punch out Abreu to end the resurgence.

The way of the Philadelphia team thus far seems that they have just enough talent to make it interesting but fall just short of division leader material. They trail the Mets, a team that broke the bank to complete, by three games. How do they stack up in the National League?

  • Eleventh in OBP: .335
  • Sixth in slugging percentage: .438
  • Eighth in strikeouts against: 273
  • Fifth in home runs: 52
  • Seventh in ERA: 4.44
  • Eighth in strikeouts for: 272
  • Fourteenth in WHIP: 1.46

Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and Ortiz homered for the Red Sox, with the acting first baseman’s roundtripper almost reaching the upper deck. Hit Tracker stated that it was only 425 feet; it may not have been the farthest but it was supremely lofty in its trajectory, almost enough to convene with the heavens.

In more earthly matters, in the bottom of the ninth Dustan Mohr found himself as the fourth outfielder, a bit like Joe Maddon’s defensive alignment for Ortiz, but with an extra player. In his postgame interview, Terry Francona drawled that it wasn’t the case that Mohr didn’t understand the double switch, since it wasn’t in effect. Rather, Mohr was misled by the public address announcer who said that he would be replacing Willie Harris at center.

I may be a traditionalist in many ways, but I think both leagues should use the designated hitter. Probably because I’m used to how the American League works and I’ve read the explanation for double switches a few times and it still seems bizarre. Abolish the double switch!

May 19, 2006

Dave’s Diegesis: Age Against the Machine

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
Albert Einstein

Since I’ve retired from baseball (and I haven’t heard from NESN in eons), and had time to reflect on life, the universe, and everything, I am often struck catatonic with deep thought. I find my mind often dwells on the constructs that humans make to divide time in digestible bites--seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. Our paltry lifespan is dwarfed by geologic time, however. Most people know about the Jurassic period thanks to the movie, but do they know that the Jurassic was just an eye blink of time in our earth’s history, a mere 55 million years (give or take five to ten million years) of time in the 4.5 billion years earth has been extant.

In fact, the Jurassic is just one of three periods in the Mesozoic Era, which began 251 million years ago and ended 65 million years ago. The Mesozoic is an era within the Phanerozoic Eon, which spanned 545 million years. Since we cannot conceive of time on such a scale, I will equate different periods of time with Julio Franco’s life span, which, while vast, is hopefully not beyond the grasp of the average human.


Since time is on my side, I’d like to take the readers on a whirlwind tour of geologic time. This week, we’ll commence with the eons; each week, we’ll explore the highlights of each period of time.

The first eon is the Hadean, named appropriately enough after the Greek underworld. But in actuality, this is not a recognized geological time frame because there were no rocks except meteorites. This eon also has no official name; previously, it was also known as the Azoic (“without life”). The Solar System was in its infancy, with no planets to speak of, just debris which began to coalesce due to gravity into ever-larger bodies that would become planets. The creation of the earth’s crust started with the cooling of the earth in this eon. Around about this time, Julio Franco’s parents met.

In the following eon, the Archean, earth had an atmosphere of primarily of methane and ammonia. Under a sun that was a third dimmer than today’s sun, creative forces were astir. Seventy per cent of the continents’ mass formed within this eon, built upon the stable masses of the earth’s crust, which are called cratons. Life first appeared on the planet in the form of stromatolites, which are colonies of photosynthetic, prokaryotic cyanobacteria. Those weren’t the only things that had their first stirrings; Franco’s parents had their first kiss, which lasted a million years. It could have been longer, but Franco’s mom was worried about being caught.

The Proterozoic eon found life in greater abundance. The earth had enough oxygen to sustain aerobic, simple, multi-cellular life, known as eukaryotes. Eukaryotes differed from prokaryotes because they had discrete membranes for their nuclei and organelles and reproduced sexually. There is evidence that eukaryotes did not spontaneously generate their organelles but rather they were incorporated through endosymbiosis. Prokaryotes became the building blocks for eukaryotic cell organs by being subsumed and integrated into the eukaryote’s cell systems. Rife with similar promise for the future, Franco’s parents got married.

Much like Julio Franco, the Phanerozoic is still happening. This eon has its etymological origins from the Greek word for visible (φανερος), since life was no longer merely microscopic. At the beginning of the eon, Franco’s parents had a bouncing bundle of joy the christened Julio. Likewise, the earth gave birth to complex animals and plants.

Next week, we’ll into the details by exploring the eras of geologic time.

Every Friday, Dave McCarty will join us to discuss a topic of interest to him and probably no one else but the author of this site.

May 18, 2006


Game 38: May 17, 2006
Red Sox (23-15), 3
Orioles (19-22), 4
L: Tim Wakefield (3-5)
W: Erik Bedard (5-2)
H: LaTroy Hawkins (5)
S: Chris Ray (10)

You know it’s an odd game when the best and worst plays are catchers gunning down runners. Old acquaintance Kevin Millar, who had a two-run homer in the fourth to give his team the lead, led off the sixth with a single lined to his former partner in crime Manny Ramirez. While Luis Matos was at the dish, Millar dared to steal second base.

Doug Mirabelli wasn’t pleased with Millar’s tactic and eyed he of the frosted tips all the way back to his dugout. NESN later showed the interplay between the pair, Millar signing to Mirabelli not to call the curveball and Mirabelli miming in reply that no one should be running on him. All the while they were smiling, however. Quite a bit different from the 2002 state of affairs between these two teams, particularly July 28th.

The Orioles got to crow about their key caught stealing play since it sealed their victory and averted the series sweep. After David Ortiz had launched a no-out, two-run four-bagger in the ninth to bring his team within one run, Chris Ray calmly and assuredly punched out Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell in succession. Wily Mo Peña grounded to Miguel Tejada for what looked to be the guaranteed final out of the game. Peculiarly, Tejada slipped while trying to plant for his throw to put out the runner, allowing Peña first base. The hometown scorer didn’t give the Orioles shortstop an error.

Willie Harris pinch ran for the Red Sox center fielder and the crowd grew as loud as I have yet heard it this year, and this time for the Orioles. With the count 2-0 in Trot Nixon’s favor, however, Harris broke for second base. Ramon Hernandez, who has cut down only half of the runners attempting to swipe bases off of him, fired the ball in time to Tejada’s waiting glove.

Thus proving the adage that there is no honor among thieves. Especially thieves like Harris that may have missed a sign. That wasn’t Terry Francona winking at you like you were Dave Roberts, Willie; that was just dust in his eye.

Random moments that made a loss somewhat enjoyable anyway:

  • Kevin Youkilis made Scott Bedard throw ten pitches before getting a free pass in the first inning. He set the tone for Peña, who walked in the second inning on six pitches after falling behind two strikes. I think the two should also have a Mohawk Challenge: the hitter with the fewer bases on balls gets a mohawk.
  • Mark Loretta’s two for four showing and his propensity to get on base when it matters most.
  • Tejada made a tremendous ranging play to his right on a Lowell grounder deep in the hole. He threw across his body to arc the ball in near-perfect position into Millar’s glove. He was never made part of the shortstop holy trinity in the 90s but he deserved to be placed amongst them. Even now, he has surpassed them.
  • Tim Wakefield knuckled down and struck out Melvin Mora with the bases loaded in the second inning.
  • Jay Gibbons’s catch of Trot Nixon’s long fly ball in the fifth inning was the antithesis of Aaron Rowand. The Baltimore right fielder half-heartedly pursued the ball to the warning track and weakly jumped to fetch it, wary always of the wall behind him. I’m not saying he should have ran like a bighorn sheep into the fences, but at be sure of yourself enough to run to the wall to figure out where it is and then adjust to the flight of the ball.

May 17, 2006


One of the big lies demographics experts tell sports media machines is that that sports fans want a player that is all flash, no substance. These marketeers tell oblivious programming heads that the public wants sound bites, not hard-bitten play on the field. The more scandalous, extreme, and tawdry, the better. Twenty-four hour non-stop coverage in every conceivable mode of communication predicates the constant prowl for the next greatest, biggest, shiniest thing to catch the ever-more-distracted viewer’s eye and ear.

The truth is, sports fans probably want a mixture of both outrageous plays and extravagant sayings. Which might be why Nomar Garciaparra seems globally misunderstood and underappreciated.

Nomar is the epitome of throwback baseball. He doesn’t rehearse speeches, cares not a whit about which lighting angle flatters him most. His postgame interviews are a litany of clichés and platitudes. He is a tremendous baseball talent in a market that craves, nay, demands to have its every whim catered. Not just plain catering from the local restaurant, either: full spreads with Cristal champagne fountains, ice sculptures of Versailles, and entrées (yes, “entrées,” not plain old “entrees”) comprised of the meat of endangered game.

No, Nomar will not be your server for this evening.

Garciaparra began his first season as the Dodgers’ first baseman on April 22nd. Since that day, he has a .341 batting average, a .418 OBP, and .647 slugging percentage, with five home runs in 85 at bats.

Slowly but surely, salvos that Nomar could have released in the public relations war with certain parties of the Red Sox front office are coming to light, as this quote from Nick Cafardo’s recent article in the Boston Globe illustrates:

One of Garciaparra’s ex-teammates in Boston said the Dodgers and Yankees made the same offer, but Garciaparra chose LA because, “He always considers himself a Red Sox. That’s one thing people don’t understand about Nomar. He would have never signed with the Yankees because he always thought of himself as a Red Sox player.”

Everyone’s clamoring for Roger Clemens to come back. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Nomar return for his final seasons as a designated hitter for the Red Sox. Like Nomar himself, I will always think of him as a Red Sox player.


Game 37: May 16, 2006
Red Sox (23-14), 6
Orioles (18-22), 5
W: Curt Schilling (6-2)
H: Mike Holtz (1)
H: Mike Timlin (10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (14)
BS, L: Todd Williams (1, 1-1)

The Red Sox improved their record in one-run games for the season to 6-3. It didn’t seem that the game would be so close, especially after Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon’s solo shots in the second inning and Curt Schilling’s scoreless three innings. However, Schilling did have to work out of a jam in the second inning; Ramon Hernandez singled and Corey Patterson doubled. No runs scored, but it was a prelude to future innings against a few typically light-hitting Orioles.

Hernandez faced Schilling again in the fourth and jacked his sixth home run of the season. In the next inning, the Red Sox righty, rookie Nick Markakis grounded a single up the middle. Schilling, perhaps not having a complete book on Baltimore newbies, gave up a homer to Brandon Fahey, the first of the slight second baseman’s major league career. There’s something to tell the grandkids. Miguel Tejada doubled with two outs and was driven in by Jay Gibbons’s roundtripper. All of Baltimore’s runs were the result of home runs relinquished by Schilling. Hopefully this isn’t an augur of things to come.

Boston’s offense was not as pyrotechnic but was effective enough to garner a win. The Red Sox scored two runs in every evenly-numbered inning but the eighth.

Mike Lowell doubled (surprise, surprise) to leadoff the fourth and advanced a base on a Trot Nixon ground out. Gibbons misplayed Wily Mo Peña’s short fly ball to shallow right, but the hitter was still credited a sacrifice fly on Gibbons’s error. Peña advanced on a wild pitch to Alex Gonzalez and scored on Kevin Youkilis’s double. Markakis robbed Mark Loretta on what Baseball Tonight ranked as the second-best Web Gem of the evening.

Kurt Birkins was brought in to face Nixon and walked the right fielder on four straight balls. Todd Williams was brought in to end the threat, but after inducing ground outs from Peña and Gonzalez, Williams walked Youkilis. Loretta and David Ortiz whacked consecutive singles to win the game. Ortiz suppressed his power to take a pitch outside into center field, demonstrating the designated hitter’s supreme situational hitting ability.

Even Mike Holtz gets a mention for coming into the sixth inning and not knuckling under the pressure. With two out and a runner on first, Holtz walked Markakis. At that point, Holtz seemed to make Rudy Seanez seem a favorable option; at least he would lose the game quickly with a home run. But Holtz got Fahey to ground out to Youkilis, the pitcher able to edge the rookie in a footrace to first.

I believe the definition for “automatic” in the Oxford English Dictionary will now be revised to include the pictures of Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon.

Jerry Remy was in fine fettle, delivering dissertations on retaliation and second baseman to shortstop silent communication. Being old school, Remy thinks the umpires are too quick to issue warnings and don’t have a feel for the game. If a warning is issued too quickly, the opposing team won’t have a chance to retaliate and just get the tit-for-tat over with. Intentionally hitting a batter is appropriate, claimed Remy, as long as a pitcher does not throw at a hitter’s head.

When a runner is on first, the shortstop and second baseman engage in a bit of facial semaphore on who will cover second on a steal attempt. Typically the shortstop will watch for pitch type and location while taking into account whether a batter is left or right-handed. He then signals to the second baseman with a closed mouth if he is to cover and a open mouth should the second baseman cover. This has inspired me to reread Paul Dickson’s The Hidden Language of Baseball: How Signs and Sign-Stealing Have Influenced the Course of Our National Pastime.

Snarky comment: Gonzalez’s bat flew into the stands in the eighth. Fans fought for possession of it. That’s okay, he wasn’t using it.

May 16, 2006


Game 36: May 15, 2006
Red Sox (22-14), 11
Orioles (18-21), 1
W: Josh Beckett (5-1)
L: Rodrigo Lopez (1-6)

Listing Rodrigo Lopez as one of those Red Sox killers just doesn’t hold water any more. Hits off of the slight Baltimore righty fell like the rain in Boston. Lopez was inundated by ten hits, eight earned runs, four walks, four strikeouts, and a home run.

Buoyed by this win and the Yankees’ loss, the Red Sox floated to the top of the AL East by one game. Josh Beckett was back on board and returned to form to pitch seven solid innings: two hits, one earned run via a Miguel Tejada solo shot in the first, no walks, and six strikeouts.

The operatic Jim Joyce worked the home plate, a fish out of water with his distinctive strike call. His voice did bring back a flood of memories since he was the home plate umpire for Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. He incited the ire of Beckett, however, by allowing a late time out call during Tejada’s at bat. Joyce further annoyed Jerry Remy by his immediate issue of a warning when Julian Tavarez hit Jeff Conine eighth. Yep, Remy thought Joyce was all wet.

The bottom of the Red Sox was especially productive, with Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Wily Mo Peña, and Alex Gonzalez providing a torrent of RBIs. Varitek and Lowell hit back-to-back roundtrippers in the ninth. Peña looked like a completely different hitter than when he first donned a Red Sox uniform; he is no longer swinging relentlessly yet imprudently but seems to be carefully selecting his pitches. Ron Jackson has drawn upon his ocean of experience to guide the young slugger to shore.

I think Manny Ramirez developed webbed fingers during the weekend downpour at Fenway thereby improving his fielding. He snared a Tejada liner on the run in the seventh inning.

Jeff Conine will pay for using “Tom Sawyer” as his at bat music. As Bill Mueller’s unofficial protectorate, I must voice my extreme disapproval. The last player to try to use the classic Rush song was Tino Martinez, and look what happened to him. He’s wearing makeup and reading cue cards for Disney. For Conine, I propose a tried and true deterrent: water torture.

May 13, 2006


Game 35: May 12, 2006
Rangers (19-17), 6
Red Sox (21-14), 0
W: Kameron Loe (2-3)
L: Matt Clement (3-3)
6 innings

Life, Thomas Hobbes noted, is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, just like last night’s game. Matt Clement was not the beneficiary of the healthy run support he usually enjoys and pitched in atrocious weather conditions. Clement was also prickly about being shuffled in the rotation in favor of Tim Wakefield, and his inactivity may have manifested itself in his six inning performance of six hits, four earned runs, two walks, four strikeouts, and a Hank Blalock home run.

Several times in the course of the game Clement lost his footing in his follow-through and was attended to by Red Sox trainers and coaches. Hopefully the rotation has not lost another pitcher to injury.

Kameron Lowe looked like Derek Lowe reincarnate on the mound, inducing nine ground outs compared to just two fly outs. Loe notched a complete game shutout with a line of five hits, a single walk, and four strikeouts. Remarkably, Wily Mo Peña was not one of those who struck out. So far this month Peña’s OBP is .405, up from his March/April percentage of .340.

One of the only things of interest was the copious use of products to keep the infield in somewhat playable condition. On the the postgame show, Gary DiSarcina mentioned two different products, Diamond-Dry and Turface.

The product Diamond-Dry carries the same name as as its company of manufacture. The company is located in Atlanta, Illinois and has been in business since 1977. It claims that it has four times the absorption capability of Turface. They have a money-back guaranty promising that Diamond-Dry will outperform any other infield conditioner. Although Diamond-Dry’s site doesn’t specifically state what its active ingredient is, based on the company’s claims I think it is a diatomaceous earth product. Diatoms are the fossilized remains of microscopic organisms. Their hollow structure allows it to hold water. Crushed diatomaceous earth is also used in animal feed or powders. The sharp edges of the fossils pierce the exoskeletons of insects and other parasites that plague various domesticated animals. The protective covering of the pest insects is thus compromised, resulting in dehydration and eventual death.

Turface is a calcined clay-based infield conditioner, but claims that there is tremendous difference between it and other calcined clay products.“Calcined” refers the process of heating clay until all moisture is removed, enabling it to retain water. Compared to non-processed clays, when calcined clay is exposed to water, it resists compaction and does not stick to cleats. Turface boasts a recommendation by the head groundskeeper of Coors Field, which is akin to having Barry Bonds endorse one’s self help book.

Consider these handy facts on the science of infield maintenance a temporary replacement for Dave’s Diegesis this week. He has been feeling a bit under the weather.

May 12, 2006


Game 34: May 11, 2006
Red Sox (21-13), 5
Yankees (19-13), 3
W: Tim Wakefield (3-4)
H: Mike Timlin (9)
H: Keith Foulke (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (13)
H: Mike Myers (4)
H, L: Ron Villone (1, 0-1)
BS: Kyle Farnsworth (1)

The score probably could have been 17-3 in the Red Sox favor, but heaven forbid them supplying Tim Wakefield with such gaudy run support. Boston had difficulty converting bases loaded situations into runs in the first, fifth, and sixth innings but still managed squeak out a victory and support the knuckleballer to gain just his third win of 2006. Wakefield was lambent in his six innings; his line of six hits, three earned runs, three walks, and nine strikeouts once again demonstrated that he, not George Steinbrenner, holds the title to the Gotham club.

Joe Torre managed this game as if the pennant was on the line. And who knows, it very well could have been. These teams ended last season deadlocked in the standings, the only difference being the Yankees winning the season series by a single game. Knowing that he lost a key player in Hideki Matsui for perhaps the remainder of the season, Torre had enough foresight to maneuver as if the season depended on them winning last night’s game.

The instant Shawn Chacon showed vulnerability in the fifth inning he was pulled. The score was 3-1 in New York’s favor, but Chacon allowed walks by Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Peña and a single by Mike Lowell to load the bases with two out. Scott Proctor induced Doug Mirabelli to fly out to right for the final out.

For defensive gems, everyone will point out Kevin Youkilis’s back-handed catch of Johnny Damon’s liner in the second, Bubba Crosby’s pickpocketing of Mike Lowell in the third, or Damon’s thievery of Mirabelli in the in the fourth. But I submit Peña’s bizarre route to Jason Giambi’s fly ball in the first as the play of the night. The center fielder started back with the swing without even knowing where the ball was. He eventually figured out the ball’s trajectory, realized it was buffeted by winds back towards the infield, and had to compensate. Amazingly, he nabbed the ball, on the run as he usually does. Cat-like reflexes, like when a cat is suddenly awakened by a loud noise and darts in one direction, but then gets its bearings and discerns what it must do. (Analogy to Peña’s fielding strategy furnished by NU50.)

Speaking of catty, I must comment on Alex Rodriguez grabbing his wrist following his dive after Mark Loretta’s fair-seeming foul ground ball down the third base line in the fourth. Was that some sort of play for sympathy, so that he would have an excuse if the ball was called fair?

Rodriguez would do well to see how Loretta comported himself running down the first base line in the seventh inning. With runners on second and third with two out, Loretta knocked a hard grounder to Derek Jeter, who threw from his knees to Miguel Cairo. Cairo had to jump to catch the ball, which was not snug enough in the glove to remain there with Cairo’s tag. While Loretta was demonstrating proper baseball behavior, Willie Harris and Alex Gonzalez scored to grant the Red Sox a one-run lead.

The Red Sox illustrated they could close out tight games with shutdown innings by Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke, and Jonathan Papelbon. Foulke did have a spot of difficulty in the eighth when he gave up a leadoff of double to Bernie Williams, but Terry Francona let him work out of it by getting the next two batters out. It was only when Williams reached third on Robinson Cano’s ground out that Francona went to Papelbon. While the rookie closer allowed no earned runs, Mariano Rivera permitted Harris to leadoff with a single and eventually score an insurance run.

The game was frustrating at times but ultimately satisfying, a bit like eating a lobster. Papelbon proved he can beat Farnsworth both with the Xbox and on the field and Loretta showed that it’s not how much, but when. Thanks to the upcoming rains, we might not see Red Sox baseball for a while, so relish this series win.

May 11, 2006


Game 33: May 10, 2006
Red Sox (20-13), 3
Yankees (19-12), 7
L: Curt Schilling (5-2)
W: Mike Mussina (6-1)
H: Scott Proctor (3)

Yesterday I called for more of a challenge from the Yankees and they responded, led by their tarnished first baseman Jason Giambi. He homered in the bottom of the third to tie the game, 3-3. Not that his tainted accomplishments diminishes Giambi to his minions in Yankee Stadium. The Yankee fans joined the cause with enthusiastc jeering, their “Boston sucks” chants filling the night sky. I don’t countenance the “Yankees suck” incantation, but at least it is limited to the team. Note that Yankee fans condemn the entire city of Boston.

Terry Francona made a few baffling decisions in this game. I suppose it’s fine to start Willie Harris because of his 5 for 13 record against Mike Mussina, but to keep the mostly hapless utilityman in the entire game was imprudent.

Debuting Mike Holtz as a Red Sox player in the sixth inning with the score in the Yankees’ favor 6-3 on the road also struck me as unwise. Holtz is not the progeny of Gustav Holst, but the pitcher does remind me of the fifth movement of The Planets, “Saturn.” Not because it is subtitled “The Bringer of Old Age” and Holtz is 33 years old, but because bringing Holtz seemed to be a titanic mistake. The journeyman reliever gave up a leadof double to Bernie Williams, who would eventually score the final run of the game for either team.

All of Boston’s runs came early and were the result of home runs. David Ortiz vaulted a two-run into the upper deck, right to a tribe of Red Sox fans, in the first inning. Mike Lowell broke his streak of doubles in the second inning with his solo circuit clout.

It was Curt Schilling who was silenced last night. In a departure from his dominance at the beginning of the season, he lasted only five innings with a line of eight hits, six earned runs, two walks, five strikeouts, and a Red Sox-career high three homers.

Despite the disappointing ending, there were a few classic moments. In the second inning, with New York runners on first and second and two out, Johnny Damon darted a line drive into left field. It looked like it would be a bases-clearing double were it not for Manny Ramirez’s defensive gem. Ramirez snared the scorcher over his shoulder to end the threat and quiet the seething masses. That catch would have been enough, but then the left fielder put his index finger up to his lips to give the crowd the quiet sign.

A Red Sox fan was the recipient of Jorge Posada’s home run ball in the fifth inning. He threw it back onto the field.

Mike Myers and Ortiz squared off for another battle in the seventh inning. The designated hitter prevailed again, mostly because Robinson Cano played the shift too deep. Ortiz grounded to the second baseman but legged out an infield base hit and advanced Loretta to third.

Tonight’s match-up features Tim Wakefield (3.97 ERA) versus Shawn Chacon (3.94 ERA), who enter the game practically even.

May 10, 2006


Game 32: May 9, 2006
Red Sox (20-12), 14
Yankees (18-12), 3

W: Josh Beckett (4-1)
L: Randy Johnson (5-3)

I wonder if there’s a support group for erratic outfielders. “Hi, my name is Melky Cabrera. I got called up from Columbus. My first start will be against the Red Sox. At Yankee Stadium.”

Wily Mo Peña, Alfonso Soriano, and Adam Dunn: “Hi, Melky.”

Peña played every outfield position last night. Terry Francona might have been putting him on display to the Yankee fans as a way of saying, “Look what you could’ve had. Neener neener.”

Cabrera, you may remember, as charged with another key error back on July 15th, which was also blowout win by the Red Sox. That error was also partially Gary Sheffield’s fault, as he didn’t back up Cabrera. Last night was all on the young right fielder, however, as the ball bounced out of Cabrera’s globe, causing Little League coaches everywhere to exclaim, “Two hands!”

Cabrera did drive in Robinson Cano in the fifth inning with his single to center field, but he wasn’t joined by very many of his teammates in this regard. It might be enough to save him the trip back to Columbus.

It seems each Yankee could probably use their own special lifestyle workshops. Randy Johnson, with his three and two-thirds innings of work comprising a line of five hits seven runs (two earned), five walks, and three strikeouts, could join “Life Begins at 40: Making the Most of Middle Age” along with Bernie Williams. Alex Rodriguez could gain much benefit from “Hair Don’ts.”

Josh Beckett seemed to replicate his recent shaky starts; he surrendered a one-out, two-run homer to Jason Giambi in the first inning. He settled down to get Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui out to end the visitors’ half of the first, but it appeared the Red Sox chances for victory were in peril as they had to overcome an early deficit.

In the top of the third with two out, Rodriguez bobbled what should have been a routine grounder off the bat of David Ortiz. Since Yankees are infallible, it must have been the uneven infield dirt. I’m sure Michael Kay can attest to this. Dustan Mohr, who had singled to lead off the inning, scored the first Boston run and Alex Gonzalez, who had walked, advanced to third base. Johnson dilapidated before the frenzied New York crowd and pitched errantly to Manny Ramirez to allow Gonzalez to tie the score. Ramirez lined single to Matsui, who was swift in relaying the ball and had a chance to put out Ortiz. That speedster Ortiz was off on contact, however, and represented the go-ahead run. The Yankees would never retake the lead.

The Red Sox scored enough runs to give Rudy Seanez a chance to pitch without completely throwing the game into jeopardy. Leading the scoring barrage was Boston shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Even though Gonzalez’s batting average and on-base percentage are (.221 and .317 after last night) atrocious, it’s appealing to me how seriously he takes each at bat. He doesn’t act like a nine-hole hitter when he’s at the dish. He believes he can bat better than everyone else thinks he can, and that may make all the difference. It reminds me of the difference between Mugsy Bogues and Spud Webb; the former played with an intense fervor and never thought of himself as a sideshow while the later became the novelty act that people portrayed him to be. Most don’t think of Gonzalez as a major league hitting threat, but that doesn’t cause the shortstop to shirk his duties at the plate.

Gonzalez crushed a three-run roundtripper into the left field bleachers, just missing the upper deck. And he had the audacity to nearly strike a pose as he watched it recede into the night, as if he does this sort of thing on an Ortiz-like basis.

There was some beaning, albeit lackadaisical. In the eighth, Trot Nixon was hit by Ron Villone and Bubba Crosby was hit by Keith Foulke. It was as pro forma as sex between a couple married for a couple of decades. Dugouts were warned, yada yada yada.

As luxuriant as runaway wins are, I prefer well-played games. So, I’m calling on the Yankees to at least put up a bit of a fight in the next two games. As tarnished as the mystique and aura might be, it’s rather shameful to play the sport like profligate Romans.

May 9, 2006

Reverse the Verse

Daniel W. Bates, originally from Chicago but now a resident of Maine, has written a 65-page poem on the 2004 Red Sox entitled “The Ballad of the Beantown BoSox.”

Red Sox spokesman Doug Bailey said at least two dozen books about the team came out after the 2004 season. Though many have waxed poetic, team officials were unaware of any poetry celebrating the event, Bailey said.

Apparently, Bailey isn’t an EE reader. If he were, he would have been aware of my McSweeney’s-rejected sestina back in December of 2004. Looking back, I had said this would be “a series of poems.” Back to the pen and paper for me, as there’s no way I could write poetry on a computer.

In addition to the book, Bates is selling an audio version of the poem narrated by Gary Crocker.

May 8, 2006


Game 31: May 7, 2006
Orioles (14-19), 3
Red Sox (19-12), 10
L: Kris Benson (4-3)
W: Lenny DiNardo (1-1)

The Baltimore Orioles are a portrait of what average to awful looks like in the American League:

  • Team batting average of .264 is eighth
  • Ninth in team OBP with .321
  • Team slugging is seventh at .432
  • Second-to-last team ERA balloons at 5.74
  • Their strikeouts total at 181 for ninth place
  • Leads the league in walks at 147

This is exactly the sort of team the Red Sox should trounce. Not only did Boston sweep their second series against the ballplayers from Charm City, several players had career milestones. Jason Varitek hit his second grand slam in his major league playing career, Mike Lowell transformed into Bill Mueller Version 2003, and Lenny DiNardo tallied his first major league win.

If I’m not at the game, I am usually hunkered over my laptop taking notes on the game’s progress and hitting some of my favorite Red Sox blogs. In my ventures I found Sox Watch, which tracks Win Probability Added (WPA), a metric described by Dave Studeman in this article on The Hardball Times. Studeman is a frequent contributor to THT and is one of the forces behind Baseball Graphs. Win Probability alone, which can be calculated at Christopher Shea’s Win Expectancy Finder, is the baseline of the probability a team will win in every man on, out, inning, and score combination based on outcomes of major league games from 1979 to 1990.

WPA further nuances these probabilities by crediting and debiting each player throughout the course of a game. When the numbers are proofed, the winning team should end with 0.5 and the losing team -0.5 and the player with the most points had the greatest contribution to the team’s win.

The mysteriously initialed “jpo” of Sox Watch has endeavored to track the Red Sox’s WPA for this season. I’m eager to see what the teams results are throughout the course of the year. Although the statistic isn’t highly predictive, it does summarize crucial game situations quantitatively and provides objectivity to base how individuals players are chipping in.

I doubt that there’s a Yankee fan doing anything similar. If there were such a devoted and determined fan that would set his or her time time to the task, I’m certain some of their cherished platitudes about their hallowed players would be shattered.

May 7, 2006


Game 30: May 6, 2006
Orioles (14-18), 3
Red Sox (18-12), 9
L: Erik Bedard (4-2)
W: Tim Wakefield (2-4)
H: Mike Timlin (8)

The Red Sox improved their winning percentage to .600 last night with a game that had as much rhythm as Elaine Benes. It was an odd match-up that played out in fits and starts, as desultory as the pitches Tim Wakefield throws. But with the refreshed Doug Mirabelli as backstop and a vigorous offense, the knuckleballer recorded just his second win of the season. He pitched six innings with a line of seven hits, three earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts, and a single homer.

Erik Bedard lost the game, his standing as a member of the Red Sox antagonists club, and the distinction of being the guy on the Orioles that most resembles a high school at his first job. Taking over the later accolade would be Baltimore second baseman Brandon Fahey, who could be mistaken for a ball boy. In fact, I think I saw Miguel Tejada telling Fahey to go get him some Bengay for his knee before realizing that it was his double play partner.

At times, the Orioles looked as bad as the Devil Rays are purported to be. Bedard imploded in the second inning. He walked Manny Ramirez on four pitches and fell behind Mike Lowell 3-0 before managing to connive a called strike. Lowell ended up taking first on a base on balls anyway.

Wily Mo Peña entered the batter’s box and Bedard must have been relieved to finally work the count into his favor as the center fielder fouled the first pitch off and watched another pitch go for a strike. Here’s where Peña did something surprising, something you probably wouldn’t have seen him do before he came to the Red Sox. He dialed back his stroke on the third pitch, grounding a ball up the middle to drive in Ramirez and advance Lowell. Luis Matos’s attempted hosing of Ramirez would have been closer if his throw wasn’t deflected by the mound. The Red Sox would bat around and then some in the second, with Alex Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis also singling in RBIs of their own.

Since I mentioned Elaine Benes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remark on Youkilis’s impersonation of her dance moves. The first baseman had to avoid being nailed by Mark Loretta’s batted ball when running from first to second and executed what could be best described as a polka/jig hybrid. The motion was made all the more amusing by his dainty attempt at avoiding Chris Gomez’s tag. Honestly, it should be Youkilis in that Jimmy Fallon/Parker Posey Pepsi commercial.

Mirabelli knocked his first hit in as a Red Sox player this season in the third inning. He Lowelled, I mean, doubled, down the left field to plate Peña. What does a batter think when he initiates a pitching change, I wonder. Mirabelli’s extra base hit chased Bedard from the game.

Wakefield was totally helping Kevin Millar pad his stats. Millar singled to begin the fourth inning and scored on Gomez’s home run into the stanchion.

Not to be outdone by Gomez, Ramirez jettisoned his first home roundtripper in the bottom of the fourth. The left fielder swung low and catapulted the ball over the wall in the imperial way that only he can do.

Julian Tavarez entered the game in the seventh to a lukewarm reception. Perhaps to overcompensate for the humdrum middle innings, Tavarez spiced things up in the eighth. After two routine outs, he drilled Matos. Matos took it well enough and smiled as he took his base but also said something. Tavarez came closer to Matos, cupping his ear because he didn’t hear. The move towards the hitter was enough to empty the benches and, after some time, the bullpens. This indicated that the Red Sox protect their own, even if it is Tavarez.

The adrenaline levels were probably a tad too high for Tavarez, who gave up a towering, wall-scraping double to Gomez. Mike Timlin had to get the final out of the eighth.

Ramirez and Peña’s sacrifice flies in the home half of the eighth provided enough cushion for even Rudy Seanez, who pitched a perfect ninth. The near-brawl probably inspired the ultimate fighter to greater heights of performance.

The worm has turned in this team match-up at last. This afternoon, Boston will try to kill three birds with one stone for the second series sweep this season.

May 6, 2006


Game 29: May 5, 2006
Orioles (14-17), 3
Red Sox (17-12), 6
L: Rodrigo Lopez (1-4)
W: Curt Schilling (5-1)
H: Mike Timlin (7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (12)

At last, the first win I get to see in person. Sweeter still, it was against Rodrigo Lopez, who, up until this past season, was a charter member of the Red Sox Killers Club that includes such luminaries as Frank Catalanotto, Gregg Zaun, and Erik Bedard.

I got tickets from David Laurila who lately has been making too many withdrawals from the Spousely Goodwill Bank and needed to spend time with his family. Matt of NU50 was available on short notice despite his usually hectic social calendar, so the timing was ideal. He presciently bought a Kevin Youkilis player t-shirt before the game. Remarkably, the Red Sox first baseman scored for the home team first with his lofty homer into the Monster seats. His roundtripper tied the game.

The evening was immaculate. It was definitely difficult to concentrate on every moment of the game as I was either being caught up in that Fenway Park charm or being amused by Matt, who is a funny guy despite what you find in his blog. I kid; mojo is magnificent although the Totally True Factoids are missed.

The K Men weren’t completely overwhelmed with work; they only had to hang five Ks for Curt Schilling. Perhaps it was their slackitude that was rubbing off on the Fenway scoreboard crew. Matt noticed that in the first inning they added Boston’s hits to Baltimore’s totals for a bit. Schilling allowed eight hits, three earned runs, and no walks in his seven innings of work.

Mike Lowell sprayed three doubles around the field, one each in the second, fourth, and sixth innings. He didn’t score in the second, but was instrumental to the Red Sox resurgence in the later innings. His leadoff double in the fourth enabled him to score on Jay Gibbons’s error on Wily Mo Peña’s single, giving Boston the lead. The sixth inning double was converted into the game-tying run on Alex Gonzalez’s game-tying double. With the bases juiced, David Ortiz compromised the Orioles’ shift with an exquisitely placed double into right field. Two runs scored and the bullpen dyad of Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon combined to shut down the Orioles in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Things you wouldn’t have experienced if you weren’t sitting with Matt and I:

  • A person in the lower bleachers actively fomenting rebellion against the upper bleacher guys trying to start the wave. “If you do the wave,” he warned, “the terrorists will win.” Despite the wise man’s efforts, the wave meekly proceeded around the bowl. The wave initiators were so inebriated and/or unaware that they turned their back and tried to begin another undulation, not even realizing they had succeeded in their malevolent machinations.
  • Corey Patterson endured some of Matt’s heckling. “Your fielding skills are mediocre at best.” “Perhaps you should consider some fielding drills.” “Remember: the object of the game is to have fun, so enjoy yourself.” Matt, surprisingly enough, is not from the Midwest. I suppose he felt sympathy for the center fielder because of his collision with Gibbons in the third inning while both were attempting to snare a Manny Ramirez fly ball.
  • We watched the players’ recession from the parking lot. Kevin Millar left with Ortiz in the David Ortiz Signature Hummer. Before he clambered into the mammoth vehicle, Millar did a few double points to the crowd. Like Matt’s current ninja mojo, Terry Francona is stealthy. He departed behind crowds at the barricades, somehow exiting from Gate D on the Yawkey Way side.

You’re Beautiful

Here’s wishing Alice Evans and Grace Needleman A Night to Remember, Under the Stars, probably in Paris, but Venice or Monte Carlo are also possibilities. They’ll be with their Forever Friends, where Romance Awaits, in Portland, Maine. Theo Epstein won’t be able to make it, but perhaps the pair will have a swanky limo ride or stunning corsages.


May 5, 2006

Happy Boy’s Day

Koi BannerAs I described back in March for ohinamatsuri, people in Hawai‘i celebrate many Japanese holidays, some of which are no longer observed in quite the same way as their country of origin.

On May 5th, households would fly banners in the shape of carp for every male member of the household. Carp, or koi, symbolize luck, perseverance and strength. The Japanese used to call the holiday Tango no Sekku (端午の節句); tango has multiple meanings. Tan can mean “edge” or “first” and go can be translated as “noon.” Sekku means “seasonal holiday;” and May 5th is one of five official Japanese sekku. In Japan, the holiday has been converted to recognize kids in general and has been renamed Kodomo No Hi (こどもの日), or just plain Children’s Day. But Hawai‘i and rural parts of Japan stubbornly adhere to the old ways.

Happy Boy’s Day to our favorite bunch of boys!


Game 28: May 4, 2006
Blue Jays (14-13), 4
Red Sox (16-12), 7
L: Josh Towers (0-6)
W: Matt Clement (3-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (11)

This game featured three members of the Top Eleven Active Baseball Players Without Necks, so it had to be good.

  1. Bartolo Colon
  2. B.J. Ryan
  3. Brendan Donnelly
  4. Jason Giambi
  5. Adam Dunn
  6. C.C. Sabathia
  7. Wily Mo Peña
  8. Jeromy Burnitz
  9. Bob Wickman
  10. Ronnie Belliard
  11. Troy Glaus

Note that two of the Cleveland players, Sabathia and Belliard, have taken to offset their anatomical disadvantage by tilting their caps to the side. You’ll soon see this season’s jaunty fashion statement on all of these thickly-appendaged athletes, as the coordinating silk scarf approach with team logo approach didn’t quite pass muster, even though it a convenient method to daub away tobacco juice.

The Red Sox starting nine played a joke on one of their own. Manny Ramirez trotted out to his habitual position in shallow left--all by his lonesome. He turned back toward home plate to find himself companionless on the field. Taking the prank in stride, he smiled and did his patented double point. Boston’s looseness boded well for the game; perhaps it would rub off on the somewhat anxious Matt Clement, who always seems wound up a bit too tight on the mound.

Facing the AL East’s resident OBP and slugging percentage-improver Josh Towers wouldn’t hurt, either. The Blue Jay pitcher did get a quick out in the first inning by inducing Kevin Youkilis to ground out, but that would be only easy out. Mark Loretta doubled down the third base line, his hit jangling into the left field corner. Towers then intentionally walked David Ortiz to get to Ramirez, who walked on five pitches to crowded the bases.

Trot Nixon couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, but his grounder still scored Loretta. With two outs, the Red Sox bludgeoned Towers for two consecutive doubles (Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell) and a single (Peña), putting five runs on the board for a lead that would not be surmounted.

Did Bud Selig really bring up cocaine abuse during his interview with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy? I thought I wasn’t imaging that. Nor was I fabricating Don and Jerry’s raillery about blow during the fourth. I was severely disappointed the musical montage wasn’t “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash.

Often I fear more for the integrity of things like walls and equipment rather than the players themselves. Varitek backhanded Lyle Overbay’s pop-up in foul territory with equipment nearby in the fourth inning. I know the catcher lost the battle with the fungo circle in the past, but I’m sure he’s primed to take his vengeance out on some donuts. Peña had to pursue another Overbay offering into the triangle. The bullpen wall got the better of lesser mortals like Torii Hunter; I can picture the replacement center fielder incidentally brushing against the concrete and leaving gaping holes in his wake.

I think the Red Sox bullpen loves to give hitters their first homers of the season. Rudy Seanez did so for Carl Crawford on April 30th and Julian Tavarez did the same for Eric Hinske in the ninth inning. Combined with Glaus’s two-run homer into the far Monster seats off a Seanez pitch in the seventh inning, the Blue Jays made something of a game of it late. That pair does like to make things interesting.

The crowded chanted for Jonathan Papelbon, who got the ninth inning’s two final outs with a runner on first. He wasn’t completely perfect; he gave up a single to Frank Catalanotto. But which Red Sox pitcher doesn’t give up base hits to Catalanotto?

Pap-el-bon! Pap-el-bon! Pap-el-bon!

Note to Dave’s Diegesis fans: I got unexpected tickets to tonight’s game, so the Friday feature will be delayed until tomorrow.

May 4, 2006


Game 27: May 3, 2006
Blue Jays (14-12), 7
Red Sox (15-12), 6
H: Justin Speier (4)
H: Scott Schoeneweis (3)
BS, W: Dustin McGowan (1, 1-0)
S: B.J. Ryan (6)
L: Jonathan Papelbon (0-1)

“Joanna, we understand you really have a passion for baseball and that you have this...hobby where you write a [quote mark gesture] web log, but we have a deadline on this project.”

“But I really want to write about how the Blue Jays are the threat du jour in the AL East and how all the Yankee hysteria is passé. Did you know that Toronto scored three times in the top of the second and forced Josh Beckett to throw 32 pitches while walking two hitters and hitting Shea Hillenbrand with a pitch? Two of those runs were generated by Aaron Hill’s double to right. Did you realize that just the inning before the Blue Jay second baseman was nailed in the face by a Kevin Youkilis liner that he still managed to toss over to Lyle Overbay for the assist?”

“That sounds fascinating and all, but....”

“The Red Sox later waged a comeback in the bottom of the second. Manny led off with a wall ball single and advanced to third on Trot Nixon’s blooper over Troy Glaus’s head. Ramirez was nearly thrown at third, but DeMarlo Hale’s record is still clean.”

“DeMarlo who?”

“Hale. Boston’s third base coach. Anyway, Roy Halladay wasn’t very sharp in the second. He gave up five straight singles, two of them off the first pitch thrown. The Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out and looked to wrest the lead from Toronto, but Mark Loretta grounded into a double play.”

“Well, they came back to win, didn’t they?”

“Unfortunately, no. Josh Beckett only lasted five innings because of the weather and his high pitch count; he left the game with 101. The teams switched leads three times until the Red Sox tied the score at six in the bottom of the eighth.”

“I bet it was Foulke that gave up the run to lose the game, huh? No way that Papelbon could blow a game.”

“Well, despite Papelbon being named American League Rookie of the Month for April, he finally did give up a run. In the ninth Russ Adams managed an RBI double to score John McDonald. Actually, without Dustan Mohr’s stupendous catch of a Hillenbrand liner, Papelbon could have been touched up for more than a single run. Foulke certainly didn’t help matters when he let Hillenbrand tattoo him for a two-run, two-out jack in the seventh.”

“Huh. That all sounds pretty interesting.”

“I’d also write about how Peña takes odd routes to balls hit to center, but compensates with his speed to nab fly balls, like he did Gregg Zaun’s in the fourth inning. There was a sweet hose by the captain in the fifth of Alex Rios, who was trying to swipe third.”


“Yep. For a while, luck was on the Red Sox’s side. Manny got a double despite fan interference in the sixth inning. Lowell lined a two-out RBI single that landed in the mud of the warning track near Pesky Pole to score Ramirez. Next Peña rocketed a hit into right for what turned out to be a double because Rios kicked it as he went into his backhanded slide. Vernon Wells eventually recovered the ball, but not in time to get Lowell before he scored.”

“Sometimes you need those breaks to come away with a win.”

“And the Red Sox almost benefited from enough Toronto miscues to get the victory. In the ninth Ortiz and Manny showed nothing for their efforts and Mohr struck out for what should have been the end of the game save for Zaun’s mishandling of strike three.”

“No way!”

“Way. Willie Harris pinch ran for Mohr and stole second with Varitek at the dish. And yet again Zaun, the Red Sox killer, harmed his own team by launching the throw into center field, allowing Harris to take third.”

“Oh, man!”

“But then B.J. Ryan punched out Varitek to end the game.”

“Damn. [pause] Well, I guess it’s okay that you do that blog thing. Just keep it low key and don’t miss any deadlines.”

“No problem, boss.”

May 2, 2006


Game 26: May 1, 2006
Yankees (13-11), 3
Red Sox (15-11), 7
L: Aaron Small (0-1)
W: Mike Timlin (3-0)

With all the hype around the returns of Johnny Damon and Doug Mirabelli, the real story of the evening eluded attention. Incendiary closer Jonathan Papelbon locked horns with fireballer Kyle Farnsworth in an MLB 2K6 duel. The Red Sox won 4-2 by virtue of Papelbon’s pair of homers in the visitor’s half of the ninth. As the virtual game took place in Yankee Stadium, the rookie closer brought himself in to shut down the Yankees in the bottom of the final inning for the win. The last time I saw something as odd was when Paul Pierce was doing a promotion at the Burlington Mall Electronics Boutique a few years ago. Playing oneself in a video game must be the ultimate ego trip.

Seemingly in a panicked state, the Red Sox traded Josh Bard, Cla Meredith, and either cash or a player to be named later to San Diego for backup catcher Mirabelli. As details emerged, Theo Epstein had been in contact with the Padres as early as a week ago to retrieve the erstwhile backstop.

Mirabelli hopped on a plane from San Francisco to Logan Airport, where a police detail awaited him. He dressed into his home whites in the state police utility vehicle that swerved into the player’s parking lot just in time to return to his role as Tim Wakefield’s battery mate. As much as I appreciate Mirabelli for all that he has done and probably will do for the team, San Diego played the heartstrings of the Red Sox while tampering with their purse strings for this sweetheart deal.

Furthermore, it was reported that the Yankees also attempted to finagle Mirabelli from the Padres. In no other division would there be such a tussle over a backup catcher.

So, given the strained relations between the two titans of the AL East, it should come as no surprise that former Red Sox center fielder Damon had scorn heaped upon him like no other. At least Roger Clemens had those intervening years with the Blue Jays. With Damon, there was no buffer. For all that he did for the Red Sox from 2002 to 2005, Damon received minimal positive acknowledgment in his first at bat and was lustily mocked throughout the game. Damon did tip his helmet when he led off the first.

Fans were tremendously creative with their demonstrations against Damon. One had a sign upon which Damon, with his formerly bedraggled locks, looked a bit like Charles Manson. Instead of the swastika, there was the “interlocking NY” logo. Bleacher fans slung fake money onto the warning track. The fitful wind toyed with the replica bills just as it did the fly balls that dared exit the field.

The teams entered the opening game neck and neck in the standings. The even matching of the clubs played out on the field as the score was tied for two late innings.

The Red Sox took an early lead in the first inning. Kevin Youkilis walked on four straight balls from Chien-Ming Wang; the first baseman advanced to second on Mark Loretta’s ground out to second. With the shift on, David Ortiz took a pitch to the opposite field to drive in Youkilis. This would not be the last we would hear from the Red Sox designated hitter.

Wang seemed to have a Contrerian moment; he walked the next two batters to load the bases. The young pitcher was bailed out by Miguel Cairo’s fielding of a Mike Lowell hit, which he deftly relayed to home for the second out of the inning. Bubba Crosby dove for a last second nab of Wily Mo Peña’s liner to right and Wang would live to see another four innings of work.

Despite his defensive prowess, Crosby hobbled his team’s chances in the third inning with an ill-advised theft attempt with Damon at the dish. Mirabelli gunned Crosby out at second base. Wakefield showcased remarkably spaz-free running with his fielding of Damon’s grounder for the third and final out of that inning as the knuckleballer managed to tag the Yankee center fielder in a scurry down the first base line.

But New York would wrest away the lead in the fourth inning. Derek Jeter led off with a single and Wakefield walked the next two batters to load the bases. Singles by Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano would generate three runs. It appeared Loretta could have knocked down Cano’s grounder up the middle, but the Red Sox second baseman would redeem himself multiple times by the end of the game.

Alex Cora ably demonstrated the art of the drag bunt to lead off the fifth. Youkilis arced a hit into right field but Loretta’s bunt attempt resulted in Cora being forced out at third. Ortiz again wore out the left field, this time to load the bases. Manny Ramirez mirrored Ortiz’s opposite field strategy to drive in Youkilis. Trot Nixon’s ground ball would plate Loretta to even the run tally.

Defensive gems kept Boston in the game. Loretta aborted a possible Jason Giambi leadoff base hit in the sixth, nimbly nabbing a liner while playing deep in the shift. In the eighth, the home team turned a superb double play. Giambi grounded to Loretta who niftily tossed to Youkilis. For some reason, perhaps to deke the infielders, Jeter overshot second base. Cora immediately noted Jeter’s misplay and blocked second base from the shortstop’s attempted return.

The Yankees bullpen unraveled in the bottom of the eighth. Aaron Small began the inning promisingly enough by inducing Mirabelli to ground out to second. He then walked Cora on four consecutive balls. Willie Harris, reprising the role of Dave Roberts, pinch ran for Cora. After two pickoffs, Small nailed Youkilis in the elbow, prompting Joe Torre to call on Tanyon Sturtze for relief.

Worcester’s own Sturtze didn’t provide the needed ministration; Loretta delivered a ground ball single to center field. Ironically enough, it was a grounder that Cano could have knocked down, just like the hit Loretta permitted in the fourth.

Very few men could overpower the stiff breeze in last night, and Ortiz proved he was one of them. Mike Myers was brought in the eighth for the express purpose of getting Ortiz out. The sidearm lefty fell behind in the count 2-0, throwing gingerly to the paradigm of designated hitters. Ortiz let the third pitch cross the plate for the strike. If hitters do set up pitchers, this situation certainly felt like a frame job. Myers hurled another ball while Ortiz placidly observed his quarry. Big Papi fouled off one pitch before recalibrating and jacking the sixth pitch into the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon, who would come into the ninth inning and pitch yet another scoreless inning, caught the ball and gave a fortunate fan a souvenir.

I have tickets to tonight’s game, but I wonder if it will be played. Even if it isn’t, memories of last night will suffice until the next series in the middle of this month. The only pity is that Wakefield did not pick up the win despite going seven innings with a line of four hits, three earned runs, three walks, and two strikeouts. And some may say it was because of Wakefield’s confidence in Mirabelli behind the plate, or that the Yankees always fall prey to the flittering knuckleball, or even because of the emphatic gusts of the night. But getting run support, albeit late, is the primary reason Wakefield had a chance to chalk up his second win of the season.

May 1, 2006


Game 25: April 30, 2006
Red Sox (14-11), 4
Devil Rays (11-14), 5
L: Curt Schilling (4-1)
W: Scott Kazmir (3-2)
H: Chad Orvella (1)
S: Shawn Camp (3)

Tropicana Field: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Consider Tampa Bay’s mascot Raymond. Again he mocked Gordon Edes as the Boston Globe sports columnist as he delivered his notes from around the league. Raymond, who habitually meanders about the field without pants, also had the temerity to flash the camera. Who knows what he’s trying to put on display there, as rays don’t have mammary glands. The mascot even left a note on his publicity still in the NESN booth. He told Jerry Remy that he had fleas. We clearly have a case of mammal envy.

The Devil Rays took their cue from the Swedes and added Ws to their vocabulary, securing a game and therefore series win yesterday. The Red Sox dropped their third straight series and are now tied with the Yankees for the lead in the AL East; perfect timing as the Gotham jocks make their way for a two-game series.

There were a few highlights for the visiting team. Mike Lowell reached into the stands in the first inning to retrieve a foul ball off the bat of Carl Crawford. The third baseman actually had to jostle some Red Sox fans who exhibited horrible in-game awareness. Perhaps it was because they were on vacation on not on their best fan form.

David Ortiz hit a franchise record tenth home run in the fourth inning. It was the first run scored in the game for the Red Sox who, as was typical in this series, were trailing the opposition. Toby Hall, displaying a taste in coiffure as egregious as Kevin Millar’s, jacked a two-run homer in the second inning for the early lead.

In the seventh inning, Rudy Seanez made yet another bid to be the first player on the opening day roster to be removed by gifting Carl Crawford with the left fielder’s first roundtripper of the season. Seanez would be right at home in the Tampa Bay bullpen. Chad Orvella relinquished back-to-back homers in the ninth inning to Lowell and Wily Mo Peña, and Orvella still got a hold.

Boston continued their comeback attempt after the twin homers. Trot Nixon walked and Willie Harris pinch ran for the right fielder. Next Terry Francona had J.T. Snow pinch hit for Alex Gonzalez. During Snow’s at bat, Harris stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Hall. Tyler Walker was so spooked he was pulled mid-at bat in favor of Shawn Camp. Camp proved as unreliable by hitting Snow, who was replaced by Alex Cora. Home plate Brian Runge seemed to be in a hurry to get home; he called three straight strikes with Kevin Youkilis at the plate, not all of them as “strikey” as the others. Mark Loretta ended the rally and the unsuccessful roadtrip by grounding out to the shortstop.

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