Category Listing
Monthly Archive
Baseball Reference
Red Sox Links

Recent Posts
Recent Comments
Essential Empy

Home » Monthly Archive » August 2006

August 31, 2006


Game 133: August 30, 2006
Red Sox (71-62), 2
Athletics (77-56), 7
L: Curt Schilling (14-7)
W: Barry Zito (15-8)

Curt Schilling earned the 3,000th strikeout of his career yesterday. He undoubtedly would have liked to reach this milestone under better circumstances than in the midst of his team’s free fall in both the AL East and wild card standings. However, I am fairly certain he is honored to have attained this mark with the Boston Red Sox. His career has brought him time and again back to Olde Towne Team.

It was the same franchise that drafted him in the second round of the 1986 draft. Two years later he was traded, along with Brady Anderson, to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Boddicker. On September 7, 1988, in the second inning of a match-up between the Orioles and the Red Sox at Memorial Stadium, Schilling induced Todd Benzinger to half-heartedly swing in the second inning for the first major league strikeout of his career. Oddly enough, Benzinger’s jersey number: 38. Schilling wore 43 with the Orioles.

Schilling wasn’t given the opportunity to distinguish himself in Baltimore and was shuffled off to the Houston Astros in 1991. It was the year that Roger Clemens approached him and told Schilling to get his act together, but with more rustic terminology, as befitting a man born in Ohio and raised in Texas. They had crossed paths when Schilling was a fledgling hurler in the Red Sox organization, and Clemens was not impressed with how the younger man was squandering away his potential.

Since that encounter, Schilling crafted himself into the clutch pitcher you see today.

Congratulations, Curt, for turning it around for yourself and all the teams on which you’ve played.

August 30, 2006

Lester Has Cancer Tests

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald revealed that Jon Lester has been tested for cancer. The measure was taken as a result of Lester’s enlarged lymph nodes and continual back pain.

I’ll be going to the first game of the series against the Blue Jays, but baseball will be far from my mind. The scourge of injuries as the result of the wear and tear of a long season are understandable, but when potentially fatal diseases afflict otherwise healthy young men, it’s difficult to focus on a mere game.

Good luck, Jon.


Game 132: August 29, 2006
Red Sox (71-61), 1
Athletics (76-56), 2
L: Josh Beckett (14-9)
W: Kirk Saarloos (7-6)
H: Kiko Calero (20)
H: Joe Kennedy (8)
S: Justin Duchscherer (6)

So, yesterday I said, “Even if Oakland had only a two-run lead, the game would still seem unwinnable.” I didn’t really mean it. Until Doug Mirabelli hacked at the backup closer’s last pitch I truly believed the Red Sox would prevail.

Such is the nature of faith. It knows knows no bounds, like how foul lines used to extend to infinity. Ah, the good old days, when there was a complementary 90 degrees of foul territory behind home plate.

That was never actually the case, mind you. I was researching the definition of foul territory and uncovered this bit of history from Interesting Baseball Issues and Facts:

With the exception of a couple of months at the start of the 1920 season, from 1906 to 1930 the foul lines were “infinitely long”: A fly ball over the fence had to land in fair territory (as determined by the infinitely long foul lines), or be fair when last seen by the umpire, in order to be a home run.

The rule is now found in Section 6.09d and was changed to its current state in 1930:

A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally. A fair fly ball that passes out of the playing field at a point less than 250 feet from home base shall entitle the batter to advance to second base only.

Am I reading that wrong? It seems to me that seems to say that there can be ground-rule homers as long as the ball was hit 250 feet or more. I read the rest of 6.09, and nothing else seemed to contradict my interpretation.

The Red Sox could have used some ground-rule home runs last night. For the ninth game in a row of the team had ten or fewer hits, but at least they were able to score a run. In the sixth, Kevin Youkilis propelled a two-out double into mid-right field near the foul line. Eric Hinske muscled a grounder past Kirk Saarloos into shallow center and Youkilis hustled to halve the run deficit.

Carlos Peña laced his first hit as a Red Sox player into center with one down in the seventh and advanced on a single by Mirabelli that just cleared the hole between Eric Chavez and Marco Scutaro.

Ken Macha brought out Kiko Calero to face Dustin Pedroia, who grounded out but advanced the runners. The struggling Coco Crisp (.311 OBP for the month of August, which is actually up from his July percentage) struck out to kill the nascent rally.

Most pitchers’ duels have a few defensive dazzlers to their credit, and this match-up was no exception.

In the bottom of the fourth, after Oakland had scored the first run of the game on a two-out double by their shortstop, Crisp made a stupendous catch of a fast-falling Jay Payton fly. Crisp covered an incredible amount of ground on his route and timed his last-second leap perfectly. Following the nab, the center fielder slid another five feet or so, such was his momentum. Josh Beckett actually yelled, “Wow!”

Manny Delcarmen relieved Beckett in the eighth and waged a monumental 13-pitch standoff against Frank Thomas. Thomas eventually prevailed on a line drive single to Youkilis, who promptly relayed to Alex Cora. Cora flawlessly positioned himself for receipt of the ball, turned, and fired to home plate on one bounce to an expectant Mirabelli. Mark Kotsay had an unpleasant encounter with catcher’s shinguards and ball embraced by glove waiting for him at home plate.

Beckett deserved a “wow” of his own. He lasted for seven solid innings, compiling a line of five hits, two earned runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. Despite the cut to his middle finger, Beckett was able to snap off his curveball. The fireballer seemed more confident with Mirabelli as his backstop, a fact that Terry Francona should note. I hope Beckett will be able to use that digit upon his return to Boston to flip off the motorist who got into an accident with Jon Lester on Storrow Drive, causing the rookie’s back injury.

Sad as it may seem to focus on these minor triumphs, at least the events of this game shows they have the talent to accomplish plays that will eventually win games for them.

Faith, unlike foul lines, will always extend endlessly, no matter what the rules say.

August 29, 2006


Game 131: August 28, 2006
Red Sox (71-60), 0
Athletics (75-56), 9
L: Kason Gabbard (0-3)
W: Esteban Loiaza (8-7)

Like Sunday’s game, the only Red Sox highlights were on the defensive side. Eric Hinske began the exploits in the first inning. The Red Sox right fielder chased down Milton Bradley’s fly ball to the gap at full stride and stretched at last second to glove the ball for the second out of the first inning. The play saved a run from scoring and stopped Bradley from an extra base hit.

Don Orsillo compared Hinske to Dwight Evans, eliciting a quick rebuke from Jerry Remy.

Alex Cora followed up with a superb diving stop and glove flip to Dustin Pedroia to turn in the final out of the first.

Cora also had a marvelous double play to end the fifth inning. The shortstop ranged far into the shallow outfield to make a basket catch of Mark Ellis’s pop fly. He then turned and fired the ball to first on a single bounce in time to double up the retreating Nick Swisher.

As has been the story lately, the Red Sox struggled offensively. The were shut out for the fifth time this season and have played eight games in a row with ten hits or less. With David Ortiz as a late scratch due to heartbeat irregularity, the lineup was:

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Alex Cora, SS
  3. Mark Loretta, DH
  4. Kevin Youkilis, LF
  5. Eric Hinske, RF
  6. Mike Lowell, 3B
  7. Javy Lopez, C
  8. Carlos Peña, 1B
  9. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Despite success after his stint on the disabled list, last night Keith Foulke reverted to 2005 form. He allowed home runs to Frank Thomas, Swisher, and Adam Melheuse. The game was already out of Boston’s grasp at the time, however.

Even if Oakland had only a two-run lead, the game would still seem unwinnable.

September can’t come soon enough.

Ortiz’s Health Question

David Ortiz was a late scratch from last night’s lineup. At first, I thought he was suffering from the stomach flu that afflicted Kevin Youkilis and, more recently, Kyle Snyder. Instead, Ortiz was sent back to Boston because of a recurrence of the irregular heartbeat he had felt during the Yankees series.

Time and again he’s passed the test at the plate. These tests at Massachusetts General Hospital are infinitely more important.

Get well, Big Papi.

August 28, 2006


Game 130: August 27, 2006
Red Sox (71-59), 3
Mariners (61-69), 6
L: Kyle Snyder (3-3)
W: Cha Seung Baek (1-0)
H: Sean Green (3)
H: Rafael Soriano (17)
S: J.J. Putz (27)

Fans of the Tekken series of fighting games will recognize the family name “Baek.” Doo San Baek is a practitioner of tae kwon do, a martial art characterized by kicks to take advantage of the greater length of the leg compared to the arm.

The Mariners’ Baek knew how to use his arm, though. Looking over the list of moves for the Tekken Baek in the fifth iteration of the game, the maneuver Baek probably unleashed on the visitors was “Hunting Serpent.” He kept the Red Sox hitless for five and one-third innings. It wasn’t a dominating no-hitter, however; he gave five Boston batters free passes and struck out four. Since the Red Sox’s offensive ranks were diminished because of injuries to Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Peña, it was still enough for the starter to notch his first win.

David Ortiz broke up the no-no with a flourish in the sixth. His 47th homer glided majestically into the right field stands. Mike Lowell followed the leader with a roundtripper that cleared the scoreboard on the left field wall, but no other Red Sox batters managed to cross home for the rest of the match-up.

Carlos Peña has been unstoppable in Triple-A and has been called up to help fill the gaps on the depleted Boston bench. It is, perhaps, too little, too late. Which is the story of August.

Some observations gleaned from the Boston Red Sox Game Notes:

  • The starters are 52-44 with a 5.05 ERA.
  • The bullpen is 19-15-37. Amazingly, they have a winning record, but only thanks to Ortiz and Mark Loretta’s walk-off hits. Their ERA is 4.38.
  • The team is 9-20 when only three or four runs are scored.

For specific details on last night’s game, click below.

top 1st: Coco Crisp reached first on BB. Mark Loretta lined into DP on hit and run
David Ortiz BB
Kevin Youkilis returned to lineup

bottom 1st: Dustin Pedroia’s throw pulled Loretta off of first. Throw tailed away because of sidearm approach. Chris Snelling base hit.
Adrian Beltre BB
Alex Cora bobbled grounder off the bat of Richie Sexson; all runners safe

bottom 2nd: Youkilis having all sorts of trouble in left field.
After Snyder fell behind 2-0, Ichiro Suzuki was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Crisp basket catch of on the run, allowing Betancourt to tag up from third

bottom 3rd: Raul Ibanez reached on error by Pedroia
Inexplicable call to have Ibanez try to steal second. Strike out, throw out double play

top 5th: Leadoff walk by Eric Hinske
Pedroia fouled ball off himself and crumpled. Thirteen-pitch at bat.
Hinske showed how to evade a tag with a slide
Broussard’s toss to Baek, who was on the run and covering first, was off-target allowing Hinske to score. Pedroia was tagged out to end the inning as he was caught up between second and third.

bottom 5th: Suzuki single
Snelling double
Snyder walked Beltre; bases loaded
Ibanez grand slam
Sexson ringing liner to left
Julian Tavarez took the mound
Bases loaded again after singles by Sexson, Betancourt, and Rene Rivera.
Loretta got force out at home but Lopez’s throw to first went awry and another run scored.
Seattle batted around
Suzuki IBB again
Snelling strikeout

top 6th: First hit is Ortiz’s homer
Next hit is also a roundtripper, this time by Mike Lowell

bottom 6th: Cora unassisted double play to end the inning

top 7th: Pedroia, sliding, tagged out by Broussard

bottom 7th: Hinske diving catch for second out

Swept by Seattle; first time since September 1989.

August 27, 2006



Rochester vs. Pawtucket
Red Wings (75-60), 4
Red Sox (65-70), 5
L: Beau Kemp (7-4)
W: Craig Breslow (7-1)
S: Jermaine Van Buren (15)

In general, they were bigger (if you don’t include Willie Harris), older (Quinton McCracken was born in 1970), and stronger (two players, one from each team, hit home runs) than their Class A counterparts.

Some of them had already played on this inviolable ground, so the field trip to Fenway may have vexed them. They may well feel that it shouldn’t be some special event that brings them back to this particular diamond.

For those who had been recently denied the chance to play in a major league park with a major league team, it was a chance to show that they didn’t deserve to be demoted.

Lenny DiNardo started the game despite the scuttlebutt that Chris Smith was tapped for the honor. The Boston Red Sox are probably looking to shore up their flagging rotation and the nod for DiNardo was probably to gauge if he could help the big league team. The lefty’s first inning saw him ill at ease; he pitched behind to all four batters he faced and allowed a leadoff single.

By the next two innings, however, the peripatetic reliever settled significantly. He pared down his ERA to something less than infinite, struck out two, and walked none.

Smith, who replaced DiNardo in the fourth, however, seemed shaky and yielded the first runs to Rochester via a home run to Kevin West with Chris Heintz on the bench.

The Pawsox responded in the home half of the sixth. First-round draft pick David Murphy grounded into a double play with Harris on third and Carlos Peña on first and no out, enabling the tying run to cross the plate. Jeff Bailey’s two-out single kept the inning going, and Ron Calloway, who had driven in the home team’s first run in the fourth, followed up with an RBI double for the go-ahead run.

As he did to get himself demoted, Craig Hansen gave up the lead almost immediately. Former Red Sox farmhand Shawn Wooten, with his fly ball over the head of Bailey and speedy pinch runner Andres Torres at first, was the culprit.

Craig Breslow, the Pawsox pitcher in the eighth, would also give up an RBI single. Tigers first baseman Garrett Jones gave his team the lead.

Unlike their major league brethren, the Triple-A’s offense proved up to the task of a comeback win. In the bottom of the eighth, Harris dropped a single into shallow right field. Peña, the recipient of the second-loudest laudation of the day, launched a Papi-like longjack into the bleachers abutting the home bullpen.

Jermaine Van Buren made quick work of the first two batters he faced in the ninth, Wooten in particular. The backstop struck out on three pitches. Crafty McCracken worked a walk and Tommy Watkins put up a nine-pitch battle before flying out to left for the final out.

There were less between-inning shenanigans and freebies compared to the Lowell game, probably because those firework shows cost a pretty penny. For some reason, the public address announcer repeatedly called the left field corner the “Yaz Corner,” something I had never heard before. Was there some official memorializing of the area I missed? Is “where Duffy’s Cliff used to be” too long?

I mentioned I had pavilion seats for this game. Just as it was the first time for some of the players to play on the venerable field, this was my first time in this newly-constructed section. There are many peculiarities of the upper deck-like structure I will share in an upcoming post.





Oneonta vs. Lowell
Tigers (35-29), 1
Spinners (31-33), 3
L: Thomas Thornton (1-3)
W: Justin Masterson (2-1)
H: Brian Steinocher (1)
S: Josh Papelbon (10)

Since the Gulf Coast League Red Sox won the championship of their league on Friday, six members of the team were recognized prior to the Spinners game and four of them got to take part of the game: catcher Jonathan Egan, first baseman Mike Jones, outfielder Ryan Kalish, and infielder Kris Negron. Southpaw pitcher Felix Duobront and lefty-hitting second baseman Chih-Hsien Chiang were also promoted but did not see playing time at Fenway.

Spinners starter Kris Johnson gave up a run early; perhaps he was nervous pitching in such a setting. He allowed my nominee for Baseball Player Name of the Year Deik (pronounced “deke”) Scram to ground a double to left; Scram advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Santo De Leon. The first inning ended with a dizzying 6-2-5-2-3-6 double play.

Fittingly, “One”onta scored only one run the entire game.

For a team that had such esteemed personages such as John Elway, Al Leiter, Don Mattingly, and the homegrown Yankees of the most recent dynasty don their uniforms, the current Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and the former affiliate of the AL New York club does very little in the form of team promotion. Its official URL is inactive and the only information I found on them was through Wikipedia, the minor league portal, Ball Parks of the Minor Leagues and this devoted fan’s page.

The Spinners did all their scoring in a single inning as well, but the three runs they notched in the fourth garnered them the win. Luis Exposito doubled off the base of the wall. The smiting Paul Smyth was hit by a pitch and Kalish outpaced visiting first baseman Ryan Strieby to the first base bag to load the bases.

Londonderry native Mike Chambers arced his hit into right field to plate Exposito. Ryan Khoury, who had made solid contact in the first and second innings, duplicated his second inning fly out to left field in the fourth, but this time Smyth was on third to score.

Reid Engel drove in the third and final run by Lowell with his grounder to center field.

It was all the breathing room Justin Masterson would need. The former Cape Cod leaguer took the mound in the third inning and pitched for four, allowing only two hits and striking out four.

By far the loudest ovation was for Josh Papelbon. The name recognition alone would have been enough to excite the crowd, but the submariner pitched a perfect ninth for his tenth save of the year. Lost in the transition between the electric Masterson and the younger Papelbon was Brian Steinocher, who ably bridged the gap between the pair with two shutout innings of his own.

Because of the intervening Class A exploits between innings, the progression of the game was surreal. There was a toothbrush running the bases and sumotori battling along the third baseline. Blue, the Frisbee-retrieving border collie, did his best imitation of unsure Red Sox outfielders, camping out under a seemingly easily-caught projectile only to flub the catch at the last moment. These things are the custom at LeLacheur Park, but these tiny spectacles were dwarfed by history and sweep of Fenway.

It was like a game at US Cellular Field, but with charm.




Game 129: August 26, 2006
Red Sox (71-58), 3
Mariners (60-69), 4
BS, L: Mike Timlin (6, 5-4)
W: J.J. Putz (3-1)

Yet another quality start by a Red Sox pitcher trifled by Mike Timlin. I wonder if David Wells even bothered to stay in the dugout after his seven innings of work. Wells gave up eight hits, including the tying home run to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the seventh inning.

It was a tenuous and hard-fought lead to have lost. Coco Crisp lined his seventh roundtripper of the season in the third and Mark Loretta willed a two-out ground ball single up the middle to plate Gabe Kapler.

After the Mariners evened the score in seventh, Boston briefly held the lead in the top of the eighth. After Rafael Soriano notched two easy outs, retread manager Mike Hargrove played the lefty-lefty match-up and inserted George Sherrill to face David Ortiz.

The splits were not borne out, however, as the Red Sox designated hitter smacked the 0-2 pitch to the opposite field for a double. With first open, Hargrove intentionally walked Manny Ramirez but kept Sherrill in to face Mike Lowell, who pulled a single deep enough to plate the lead runner.

If only Ramirez not been called out at third after Ortiz put up the go-ahead run, the Red Sox could have scored more.

If only Ramirez had slid into third, a questionable call could have been avoided.

If only the Red Sox only scored more, Timlin’s earned run parades, now an all-too-routine occurrence, would march the basepaths with less assurance. The macerated middle reliever surrendered the tying run (a homer by Adrian Beltre) and the go-ahead score (Ben Broussard’s sacrifice fly to plate Raul Ibanez) for his sixth blown save of the season.

If. The word can drive you mad. At least we can say, “If 2004 hadn’t happened, we’d be much more upset than we are now.”

The closeness of games have rendered the Red Sox’s margin of error minuscule; five of the last six games have been decided by a single run. But, had Boston been a shade luckier and better, these close losses could have been wins. When our injured mainstays return and are supplemented by September call-ups, it’s highly likely these games will fall our way.

If it still matters.

August 26, 2006


Game 128: August 25, 2006
Red Sox (71-57), 0
Mariners (59-69), 6
L: Curt Schilling (14-6)
W: Jake Woods (4-1)
H: Julio Mateo (7)

I didn’t expect many runs when I saw the lineup card:

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Mark Loretta, 1B
  3. David Ortiz, DH
  4. Wily Mo Peña, LF
  5. Mike Lowell, 3B
  6. Gabe Kapler, RF
  7. Doug Mirabelli, C
  8. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  9. Alex Cora, SS

Manny Ramirez was unavailable because of his balky knee and Kevin Youkilis was scratched due to a case of stomach flu, an ailment that has been making its rounds in the Red Sox clubhouse.

With Curt Schilling, pitching, however, there was a chance. Although the ace struck out seven batters (falling one punchout short of his 3,000th) and didn’t walk anyone, he still relinquished nine hits and five earned runs in his six innings of work. A few of the runs were the result of defensive miscues by Boston.

The Mariners scored early with Raul Ibanez’s RBI double in the first. The left fielder was also part of the Red Sox’s defensive debacle in the sixth inning. Cora was unable to flip Ibanez’s grounder to Pedroia cleanly, allowing Jose Lopez to advanced to third. Schilling backed up the play at second and threw galley-west to third, permitting Lopez to pick himself up, dust off, and make his way home. Ben Broussard and Kenji Johjima both tacked on additional runs in the sixth and Lopez did the same in the seventh to put the game out of reach for the hobbled Red Sox offense.

Crisp took an ill-advised dive for a liner in the fifth. Willie Bloomquist’s hit dribbled to the outfield wall and Gabe Kapler had to dig it out. By the time Kapler’s throw was back in the infield, Bloomquist stood at third with an RBI.

Credit must be given to the trio of Mariners pitchers that combined to shut out the visiting team and hold them to just five hits.

Speaking of minor league-like play, today I’ll be at the Futures at Fenway doubleheader. It will be my first time in the pavilion seats.

August 25, 2006


Game 127: August 24, 2006
Red Sox (71-56), 2
Angels (67-61), 1
W: Josh Beckett (14-8)
H: Mike Timlin (20)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (34)
L: Jered Weaver (9-1)

So this is what a series win feels like. I had forgotten. It’s nice, like cocoa on a chill night like last night. The last time the Red Sox enjoyed a series win, back in mid-August, lemonade iced tea was the required drink.

Josh Beckett tossed an effective six innings, displaying renewed confidence in his curveball until the seventh inning. He cut himself and had to leave after walking Garrett Anderson. Thankfully, it wasn’t a blister, a chronic injury that has plagued the fireballer.

David Ortiz continued his pursuit of the franchise home run record. In the fourth, after watching a called strike two traverse the plate, Ortiz nodded. He knew, with the count 1-2, exactly where the pitch was going to be. With a single mighty swing, the designated hitter jolted his team into the lead.

The Angels starter, Jered Weaver, slumped his shoulders and kicked at the dirt after relinquishing his fifth roundtripper of the season. Like brother, like brother. And if he metamorphoses into anything like his older sibling, he should get used to seeing such shots being hit off of him. Like his brother, he began his career in a pitcher-friendly park and impressed the masses with his ability. Perhaps Jered will follow in Jeff’s footsteps and the Yankees will overestimate the younger one’s talent as well. The Angels’ Weaver is currently sporting a 0.65 G/F ratio and benefits from Angel Stadium dimensions, which are 330' left, 387' left-center, 400' center, 370' right-center, and 330' right.

Two pivotal plays on defense determined the outcome of this game.

In the seventh, Orlando Cabrera could have flipped the ball to his second baseman, Adam Kennedy, to end the inning but opted to race to the keystone sack himself and then relay to first base. The Angels shortstop failed to touch second with the sliding Alex Cora toppling him in mid-throw, but did nab Doug Mirabelli for the second out. Mike Lowell, part of trio that lined three straight singles to load the bases, scored an insurance run through the backdoor.

That run would prove vital as the Angels clawed back into contention in the bottom of the seventh.

Mike Timlin took the mound in relief of Beckett. In addition to inheriting Anderson, the veteran gave a free pass to Juan Rivera. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch to Howie Kendrick. There must have been some sort of advisory to the Angels crowd, for they began to cheer madly.

Kendrick singled to left field, where Wily Mo Peña prowled. Anderson crossed home easily enough, but sending Rivera was a risky play because the rookie’s hit meandered into the shallow left.

Peña’s toss to home was a near-perfect arc to Mirabelli, who deked the runner by merely standing akimbo in front of home plate. Just as Rivera slid, Mirabelli gloved the ball and tagged the runner on the arm. Replays showed that Rivera was probably safe for the tying run, his hand sweeping across the plate before the tag. Although the preference is for the outcome of a game not to rely on a blown call, I believe the Red Sox would have worn out the weaker Anaheim hitting crew.

Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Anaheim lineup in his one and a third innings of work despite allowing a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero. The rookie tallied his 34th save and is three saves from matching Kazuhiro Sasaki’s rookie saves record, which he set in 2000.

August 24, 2006


Game 126: August 23, 2006
Red Sox (70-56), 5
Angels (67-60), 4
W: Jon Lester (7-2)
H: Julian Tavarez (2)
H: Mike Timlin (19)
H: Keith Foulke (9)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
L: Kelvim Escobar (9-11)

Step away from the ledge. The Red Sox didn’t lose. In fact, a strong contingent of Red Sox fans were at Angels Stadium to cheer on their team, outdoing the Angels devotees. Perhaps the home town supporters were waiting for their cues from the rally monkey or their Jumbotron was on the fritz.

The Red Sox broke a six-game losing streak through the power of sluggers David Ortiz and Wily Mo Peña. Both players launched two-run homers, Ortiz’s in the first and Peña’s in the second. Even more remarkably, Boston scored one more run in the second after Javy Lopez lined a double into right and was driven in by Coco Crisp’s single to center.

To add to the astonishing turn of events, those five runs withstood the onslaught of Julian Tavarez and Mike Timlin on the mound. Keith Foulke, who has been performing surprisingly well since his return (no earned runs in four and one-third innings pitched, two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts for August), and Jonathan Papelbon combined to shut down the Angels for the last two innings.

Timlin did hurl into a jam in the seventh inning. He allowed a leadoff double to our old friend Orlando Cabrera but did induce a ground out from Vladimir Guerrero. Juan Rivera walked on a 3-2 pitch and Robb Quinlan followed up with a single to right that looked as if it were going to be caught. The ball’s trajectory was the only thing keeping Cabrera from scoring the tying run.

Until recently, ducks on the pond didn’t trouble Timlin, fittingly, because the middle reliever is a hunting enthusiast. In fact, Timlin hardly put himself into such situations. Recently, however, the veteran looked ragged on the mound, leading some to conjecture that his participation in the World Baseball Classic may have worn him out. The huntsman buckled down, however, and struck out Tim Salmon for the second out. Rookie sensation Howie Kendrick tapped weakly to Timlin, who neatly tossed the orb to home for the force out.

In light of Timlin’s decline, Foulke’s seeming return to near-2004 form is timely. His baffling change of pace pitch seems to complement Papelbon’s electric stuff well. After a few seasons of intoning “Timlin in the eighth, such-and-so in the ninth,” it might be time to update the timeworn phrase.

August 23, 2006


Game 125: August 22, 2006
Red Sox (69-56), 3
Angels (67-59), 4
L: Kason Gabbard (0-2)
H: Brendan Donnelly (9)
BS, W: Scot Shields (4, 7-7)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (35)

You know how when you were small and you did something very, very bad? If you were like me, perhaps you accidentally scratched your mom’s new car with your Big Wheel or you broke one of your dad’s tools while attempting to make a mongoose trap? To make up for it, you tried to gather as many pretty blooms to make a bouquet of apology.

But tiny legs can only bring you from plant to plant slowly and little fingers can only hold so many wildflowers. By the time you brought back your token of contrition, your grubby fingers extended a mass of wilted flowers, roots, and dirt.

The Red Sox gifted their fans with such a posy last night. “We’re sorry,” their play seemed to say. “Won’t you forgive us? Aw, shucks. Come on....”

If such a bundle were presented to you by Dustin Pedroia, you can’t say you wouldn’t be tempted to gush, “Of course I forgive you! Look at you, you’re just so... so adorable!” And then pinch his cheeks.

The cheeks of his face. Get your minds out of the gutter, people.

Pedroia does exude that boyish enthusiasm that fans love. In his interview, he told the story of how Adam Stern was joking with him about his impending call-up being a trade instead. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of him believed it and was relieved to be starting for the team that drafted him.

In the second inning, Pedroia had his first major league at bat. Wily Mo Peña led off the inning with a line drive to shallow right. He should have been limited to a single, but his heads-up baserunning bought him second base because Vladimir Guerrero catapulted the ball to first. Then Mike Lowell’s short line drive single to right advanced Peña to third and Doug Mirabelli walked to load the bases. Gabe Kapler struck out flailing and Pedroia took the dish.

The shortstop watched ball one cross the plate. The next pitch he starched solidly to Orlando Cabrera, who sauntered easily to the keystone sack for the third out.

In the fourth the infielder would get his first major league hit--a two out single to center. He would not tally a run or RBI in this game, however.

In fact, only a single visiting player notched an RBI. In the seventh, David Ortiz got a free pass with two outs and was driven in by Kevin Youkilis. The other two runs came on an error by Chone Figgins in the third. Youkilis worked an eight-pitch walk after Ortiz grounded into a fielder’s choice. Peña hit the ball deep (does he hit it any other way?) to center and the versatile utility player proved the adage about the Jack of all trades, master of none.

Figgins was masterful enough to single in the fourth to plate Robb Quinlan. The Angels scored the majority of their runs in smallball fashion; only in the second inning did the home team go deep by virtue of Juan Rivera’s longball. Rivera is having a career year, improving in batting average, power, and patience.

Manny Ramirez did not start the game but pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning. His long fly nearly cleared the center field wall to tie the game, but Figgins made the play to put him away.

Which is more than what can be said for Kapler, Mark Loretta, and Youkilis in the third. All three pursued a lazy pop up off Guerrero’s bat yet none of them came up with the catch. Guerrero would be credited with a double and a run would score in the next at bat.

Hopefully the inauspicious beginning to Pedroia’s major league won’t take too much of the bloom off the rose. Watching him blossom is one of the few joys Red Sox have these days.

August 22, 2006

Busting Out Dustin

Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope. – Aristotle

Dustin Pedroia, the future shortstop or second baseman of the Red Sox, will be in the major leagues shortly (pun unintended). The 5'9" middle infielder’s line is so far this season in Pawtucket is .305 BA, .384 OBP, and .426 slugging. Alex Gonzalez, who has been ailing with a Grade 1 oblique strain, will likely have a spell on the disabled list.

Craig Hansen was demoted before yesterday’s debacle as a direct result of his nudiustertian troubles. Javier Lopez will probably be recalled as well and Kason Gabbard will likely take his spot.

The pitching youth movement is now in partial abeyance. Its sole success story, Jonathan Papelbon, will attempt to bounce back from Saturday’s blown save on the Red Sox’s second tour of the West Coast.

August 21, 2006



Game 124: August 21, 2006
Yankees (75-48), 2
Red Sox (69-55), 1
W: Cory Lidle (10-9)
H: Octavio Dotel (1)
H: Mike Myers (12)
H: Scott Proctor (18)
S: Kyle Farnsworth (2)
L: David Wells (2-3)

Fuck you, Yankees pitching staff, for making me type each of your names for your fucking holds for this game. A useless statistic.

Fuck you, fourth inning bases-loaded futility, symbolized by Javy Lopez.

Fuck you, Bobby Abreu, with your two-out RBI double in the sixth for the first run of the game.

Fuck you, Brian Cashman, and bottomless pit of cash at your disposal. You and your organization are the epitome of all that is amiss in baseball. The Deus ex machinations you execute to contrive lineups that would be ridiculous in video games are abominable.

Fuck you, Nick Green and Robinson Cano, for not letting me enjoy your sixth inning error. Especially fuck Green, who led off the eighth with a double and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Keith Foulke.

Fuck you, David Wells, for not telling Terry Francona to shove it when he came to get you in the eighth. You should have pulled a Schilling-like tantrum. Your fat ass would be out there for nine innings and your team would be headed for the West Coast on a somewhat high note. I don’t blame you if you stayed in California and retired.

Fuck you, Javy Lopez, with your utter lack of agility behind the plate. May you be relegated to catching Tim Wakefield’s simulated games for the rest of the season. Also, fuck your weak grounders, pop ups, and flails at the ball.

Fuck you, Manny Ramirez. Sure, you were one of the few bright spots during this series, but how bad is your hamstring, really? In the postgame interview, Terry Francona said, “I don’t want guys that wanna come out of the game” in reference to David Wells. A veiled reference to his left fielder?

Fuck you, Johnny Damon, and fuck your cheesy mustache, too. I don’t care if you make AL Player of the Month. You’ll be playing like the overpaid stiff you are next season.

Fuck you, Coco Crisp, and your 1-for-19 showing. You can start being better than Damon any time now. We’re waiting.

Fuck you, Joe Torre, for bringing in Damon as a defensive replacement for Bernie Williams. That is like replacing a hole-ridden condom for prayer as birth control.

Fuck you, Mike Lowell, and your declining production.

Fuck you, blimp pilot. You look way too fucking happy up there in your asinine blimp. Perhaps NESN will make a bobbleblimp.

Fuck you, Scott Proctor, and your Tom Gordon/Paul Quantrill impersonation. May you be just as toasted as they were in the postseason.

Fuck you, Wily Mo Peña, for not hitting that eight inning home run last night, too.

Fuck you, Kyle Farnsworth, for being Kyle Farnsworth.

Fuck you, Red Sox, for being swept at home in a five-game series for the first time since 1943.


Game 123: August 20, 2006
Yankees (74-48), 8
Red Sox (69-54), 5
W: Mariano Rivera (5-5)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (6)
L: Craig Hansen (1-1)
10 innings

Something is rotten in the state of New York.

The reinvigorated Jason Giambi launched two home runs and was responsible for five runs batted in last night. Without his ill-gotten RBIs, the Red Sox would have won this game. (That is, unless Terry Francona’s idiocy increased in inverse proportion to his team’s lead.) They would have won the 2003 ALCS as well.

It’s disappointing to me that Giambi has been allowed to evade criticism given the unwavering scrutiny and vitriol heaped against, say, Barry Bonds. Bonds is a vestige of his former self, playing in a weak division on a team with a sub-500 record. His impact on playoff standings is and probably will continue to be negligible.

And yet Giambi is allowed to participate in season-deciding games with a wink and a smile.

In twenty years or so, when his career is over, when his body is ravaged by illicit drug use, when his bank account is depleted by having to pay off his conspirators, Giambi will cash in again with a tell-all biography detailing how he eluded detection, just as David Ortiz’s grounder escaped the Yankee first baseman’s grasp in the ninth. It seems human growth hormone or whichever designer performance-enhancing drug regime Giambi may allegedly partake in doesn’t heighten fielding reflexes. If it did, I imagine he’d pass some over to his fellow corner infielder.

I’d rather my team lose honestly than win fraudulently, just as they did last night. Honestly, Francona’s in-game decisions are bewildering.

Of course the Red Sox have a large portion of the blame in this defeat, and the hour-long rain delay after the second inning didn’t help matters. Curt Schilling did face the minimum number of hitters in the third, but labored in the fourth, allowing consecutive singles to Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu and then the go-ahead roundtripper by Giambi. Schilling defied Mother Nature and Father Time to compile seven innings of near-pristine pitching during which he walked only one batter and struck out seven.

(Side note to Bonnie Bernstein: comparing Schilling to Mike Mussina, who exited the game in the fifth due to tightening of the groin, is like comparing the Hoover Dam to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.)

Although he had to counter against the advantage gained by the cheating Yankees, Francona didn’t put his team in the best position to win. Boston inched two runs ahead with a fourth-inning Doug Mirabelli bloop and an Oritz-patented go-ahead four-bagger in the fifth.

After the home team squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh, Francona went to Mike Timlin for the top of the eighth. Johnny Damon squibbed a single just past Mark Loretta. Since it wasn’t hit hard, you can’t fault the field manager for staying with Timlin. The aged reliever hit Jeter with his first pitch.

Like a ponderous pendulum, everyone could feel the momentum shift. But Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t be permitted to be General Lasalle. Instead, lefty submariner Javier Lopez walked Abreu to load the bases.

One batter too late, Francona called on Papelbon. He induced a deep fly ball to right off the bat of Giambi, far enough for Damon to tag up and bring New York within one run. Papelbon walked Rodriguez but struck out Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada with the bases loaded.

Perhaps it was Francona’s decision on outfield position, or perhaps the fault of Gabe Kapler’s route-running, but in the ninth Jeter accomplished one of his signature bloop RBI singles with Melky Cabrera on second to push the game into extra innings. There could have been more damage, but Papelbon struck out Bernie Williams and Damon after giving up the leadoff double.

For the bottom of the ninth, Joe Torre elected to insert Rodriguez as third baseman. Since Rodriguez started as the designated hitter, for the remainder of the game Yankee pitchers would have to hit.

Torre’s gambit paid off, unlike Francona’s. Ortiz hustled on Giambi’s misplay to reach second. Since first base was open, Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked so that Mariano Rivera could face Kevin Youkilis. For some inexplicable reason, the sacrifice bunt was called for despite Youkilis being an excellent contact hitter and Rivera being extraordinarily difficult to bunt against. Rivera reached the ball in time and Ortiz was effaced from the basepaths.

You can’t tell me that Francona had such faith in his bullpen that he thought he should leave Ortiz in on a bunt play. Ortiz could have had eight more at bats and hit a solo home run in each, and the Red Sox bullpen would have given up nine.

Sure, the runners advanced on a passed ball with the next batter, Mike Lowell, at the dish. But the Yankees faced far less pressure because of that wasted out. Lowell would be intentionally walked so there would be a force at every station.

Not that New York needed it. Eric Hinske pinch hit for Gabe Kapler and struck out. Mirabelli tapped weakly back to Rivera to end the inning.

In sum, Torre’s ploy, along with his team’s unfair advantage, worked, while Francona’s maneuver, accompanied by his players’ lack of execution, failed.

Craig Hansen grew up a fan of the Yankees. Judging by his choice of agent, he’s also a fan of money. But he’s so not money, and he knows it.

August 20, 2006


Game 122: August 19, 2006
Yankees (73-48), 13
Red Sox (69-53), 5
W: Randy Johnson (14-9)
L: Josh Beckett (13-8)

Thanks to Jere at A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory, I was present at yesterday’s game. I’m not being facetious. Really.

Despite the game’s outcome, a relieved crowd did get to see Peter Gammons in fine fettle.

In honor of what turned out to be Happy Rudy Seanez DFA Day, the pitchers obviously planned a tribute to our dearly designated middle reliever. Josh Beckett did a great Seanez imitation by walking a career-high nine batters. What a cut-up Beckett is! Terry Francona must have been in on it, too, because he just left Beckett out there in sixth after walking Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez.

And just when you thought you’d die laughing at Beckett’s send-up, Francona called in Manny Delcarmen to take over, and he walked in the go-ahead run! Just flawless comedic timing on Delcarmen’s part. You can’t teach that.

Jermaine Van Buren, who replaced Seanez on the roster, contrasted Seanez’s style with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. But, feeling left out of the festivities, he allowed two extra base hits in the eighth (including a three-run homer to Robinson Cano) and walked Rodriguez. Fans were pretty tired of the joke by then, however.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m using words associated with each of the five senses for the titles of this five-game series.

Both Beckett and Randy Johnson haven’t performed to their abilities this season. Which one would prevail?

The Red Sox were three and a half games back after being swept on Friday.

This is not interpretative dance, this is Beckett warming up.

I tried to get a shot of the blimp so that an amusing combination of letters would appear on its LED screen. Tried.

If I hadn’t seen him enter the Yankees bullpen earlier, I would have mistaken Randy Johnson for Joe Kerrigan.

Two rows in front of me, a woman found a “Yankees Suck” sticker. At her boyfriend’s behest, she placed it on the railing. Sadly, the sticker’s sentiment wasn’t borne out yesterday.

Welcome back, Peter Gammons, with apologies for having to witness such carnage.

August 19, 2006


Game 121: August 18, 2006
Yankees (72-48), 14
Red Sox (69-52), 11
W: Mike Myers (1-0)
H: Scott Proctor (17)
H: Craig Hansen (8)
BS, L: Mike Timlin (5, 5-3)

We were lulled into thinking the game was in hand after the fifth inning. After all, the Red Sox had scored in every inning until then and held a three-run lead.

The home team had knocked around Sidney Ponson for three innings, and granted the same discourteous treatment to University of Massachusetts-Amherst alumni Ron Villone and former Diamondbacks prospect Brian Bruney.

Julian Tavarez’s outstanding two and one-third innings of work were rendered moot by the failure of Craig Hansen and Mike Timlin to shut down the Bronx Bombers. Perhaps Hansen is too young and Timlin too old. Whatever the reason, Hansen only secured a single out in his appearance and then proceeded to walk Jason Giambi and allow consecutive singles to Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada to load the bases.

Fenway’s basepaths became a carousel for Yankee hitters. They batted around, plating seven runs in their scoring carousal. Timlin’s recent criticism of his team’s offense seems even more laughable now; The Red Sox would be scoring a lot more if they were facing pitchers of Timlin’s ilk. Timlin’s ERA for August is 8.64, up over three runs from his July mark of 5.56 and five runs above his career ERA of 3.52.

Pressing Hansen and Jon Lester into critical situations before they are completely prepared to pitch to hitters of major league caliber is not ideal. Lester has been incredibly resilient and fortunate; his 6-2 record belies his 1.49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Other notable rookie starters have far better K/BB figures: Justin Verlander of Detroit is at 2.178, the Twin Francisco Liriano’s is a gaudy 4.44, and Jeremy Sowers in Cleveland holds steady at 2.4.

Hansen’s much-vaunted slider and fastball outclassed his peers in Double- and Triple-A but are no mystery to players in the show. Some critics have voiced concern that this early exposure may scar the young players, but I would counter that if they are so fragile, can they ever be expected to excel in professional sports at the highest level, let alone in one of its greatest rivalries?

I think it is the fans’ expectations that need to be tempered. Detroit had seasons of worse than mediocre performance before this, their breakout season. It seems fans of the Olde Towne Team expect to follow up a recent World Series title with repeat upon repeat.

The 2006 team is a hodgepodge of players young and old aggregated to be competitive but not necessarily dominate. “Hodgepodge” does imply a certain amount of confusion, and that is because of the Theo Epstein Incident last year. I think that Epstein would have preferred to hold on to Anibal Sanchez to continue to incubate his clutch of young players.

I’m going to the Futures at Fenway game this coming Saturday to witness the foundation of Boston’s future success, a triumph that is going to be accomplished on their terms. Only the Yankees can sustain their stockpiling of mercenaries in their perpetual campaign to dominate. If that is how the Red Sox decided to run their team, it would be difficult for me to stomach them.

Winning at the cost of aping the opposition isn’t winning.


Game 120: August 18, 2006
Yankees (71-48), 12
Red Sox (69-51), 4
W: Chien-Ming Wang (14-5)
L: Jason Johnson (3-12)

Hopefully a picture does say a thousand words, because that would be 999 more than I would like to waste summarizing this game.

One good memory: a father sitting near me was wearing a Red Sox handerchief on his head, biker-style. His son was playing with a hanky of his own. The child tugged on his father’s sleeve and looked up at him imploringly. The father took the square of fabric and carefully created headwear like his for his son.

Insert joke here.

It was Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon day. I bought a Jimmy Fund t-shirt that I will wear to the park today.

The Goodyear blimp took precedence over Hood airship. If you look closely, you’ll see a hawk riding a thermal. It could be the raptor that killed Wily Crow Peña.

Joey McIntyre remains an icon. When he was announced, neighborhood dogs howled in response because of the supersonic emissions of the females at Fenway. The screen is oddly colored because I snapped the picture in mid-refresh.

Terry Francona turns in his lineup card. Tony Randazzo sniggered, “Having Coco bat leadoff again, eh?” Note in the background the AL East standings.

The 2002 AL Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske makes his debut as a Red Sox player.

The “Menasha Masha” right before he smoked a liner into center for a double. By the end of the evening he would hit two more two-baggers.

From their usual perch on Yawkey Way, Tom Caron and Dennis Eckersley prepare for the NESN pregame for the night game.

This might be Jeremy Schaap. I know there’s another ESPN talking head that resembles him, and it could be that person instead. In fact, it probably is the Schaap look-alike, because this person was just too tan. For series with the Yankees, the media coverage is at least twice as extensive as any other match-ups.

August 17, 2006


Game 119: August 16, 2006
Tigers (78-42), 4
Red Sox (69-50), 6
L: Justin Verlander (14-6)
W: David Wells (2-2)
H: Craig Hansen (7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (32)

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a monkey shall throw out the first pitch, and the umpire shall hug the baseball player; and a little child shall lead them.

Rookie of the Year candidates were in steady supply last night. Detroit’s Justin Verlander hurled six innings but didn’t sparkle as usual; he gave up five earned runs and walked seven batters.

Boston’s nominee, Jonathan Papelbon, nailed his 32nd save of the season in six pitches and kept is ERA below one point at .89.

Age before beauty, goes the adage, and David Wells proved it last night. At 43, Wells is nearly as old as Verlander and Papelbon combined. The guileful lefty surmounted the raw power of the opposition with his precise location and flummoxing approach. Wells was able to exploit the impatient nature of the Tigers hitters to his own ends and lasted six and two-thirds innings with four earned runs, a single walk, three strikeouts, and two home runs.

Terry Francona defied his ingrained tendency to allow pitchers to finish innings and pulled his starter in the third after he had secured two outs. The field manager seemed to recall that Magglio Ordóñez jacked a solo shot in the sixth against Wells and slugs the lefty at a .519 clip.

In any other year or if he were a Yankee, Craig Hansen may have gotten a vote or two as an outstanding rookie. The lanky reliever induced a pop out by Ordóñez and continued into the eighth. Although he relinquished a single to lead off that inning, a 4-6-3 double play eased his burden and he cooled the scorching Sean Casey to finish off the side.

Speaking of Casey, there was much rending of garments and hair when the Red Sox didn’t acquire the first baseman at the trading deadline. Instead, Theo Epstein traded for the cheaper, younger, and more versatile Eric Hinske, a former Rookie of the Year himself. The deal between the teams has Hinske coming to Boston and a player to be named later going to Toronto and was announced after the game last night. Boston now has some of the bench strength required for the stretch. Separately, Boston also acquired Northeastern University product Carlos Peña. Both left-handed batters will fill the lacunae left by Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek’s injuries. Hinske’s arrival may spell doom for Nixon’s re-signing.

The dormant Red Sox offense exploded, led by David Ortiz’s fifth inning two-run homer. Coco Crisp, Mark Loretta, and Mike Lowell also had RBIs of their own to help secure the win for the home team. Crisp’s two-run wall ball double in the sixth should have been a three-run hit, but home plate Bruce Froemming, perhaps a bit blinded by tears of sentiment from the pre-game ceremony celebrating his 5,000th game, called Alex Cora out at home. Lowell’s sacrifice fly to right to plate Ortiz in the seventh tallied an insurance run, however, and the Red Sox scavenged one game from the team with the best record in the majors.

August 16, 2006


Game 118: August 15, 2006
Tigers (78-41), 3
Red Sox (68-50), 2
BS: Wilfredo Ledezma (1)
W: Fernando Rodney (6-3)
S: Todd Jones (33)
L: Mike Timlin (5-2)

See Curt and Mike. Curt and Mike are old. See Curt and Mike pitch. See Curt and Mike pitch and pitch and pitch. Mommy said they were cooked, but they looked alive to me.

See Coco. See Coco hit. Coco hit a home run! Yay, Coco!

Listen to the funny men. Mommy, what is Jewish? Who is Mel Gibson? Are we Jewish? Can I be Jewish? Why not? What is rehab?

See Sean. See Sean score more runs. Mommy said she wishes they kept Chris Shelton around, like how Terry did with Kevin last year.

See Placido. See Placido end the inning and hurt himself. See Wily stuck on second base. Poor Placido and Wily!

See Ivan. See Ivan play second base for the first time ever. They used to call him “Pudge,” but Mommy said there’s only one Pudge and he played for the Red Sox. Daddy said it’s funny how “Pudge” ain’t so pudgy any longer and it must be because he’s off the juice.

There’s no such word as “ain’t.” I told Daddy that maybe if he got off the juice he would lose weight, too.

See David. David and Coco are friends. See Coco hit again, and watch David help him score. Score, Coco, score! Daddy said Ortiz was good late, but I thought the early bird catches the worm.

See Wily. See the ball. See Wily drop the ball. Run, Carlos, run.

See the score. See the Red Sox lose.

For me, the Detroit Tigers bring out both child-like wonderment and grownup appreciation. From what I’ve seen, they don’t play like a group of highly-paid stars, and those who are paid the best don’t act it. Half the team makes less than a million dollars, whereas over 20 Red Sox players make seven figures and above. They abide by the decrees of Jim Leyland, a flinty manager that calls his team out publicly and acts as a real manager rather than a babysitter or guidance counselor.

So much of their success is tied into their extraordinary bullpen. Constructing a winning bullpen is like trying to turn lead into gold. I am thoroughly convinced that there is nothing more capricious than the relief pitchers’ performance. If Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez had been able to perform in the AL as they did in the NL, Keith Foulke rebounded, and Mike Timlin not show the effects of age, the baseball world would be lauding Theo Epstein as general manager of the year.

Instead, the Red Sox have shown only a tenuous capacity to compete with the class of the AL and a seeming inability to keep pace down the stretch run.

I do see a future ball club with younger, hungry players combined with consistent but cost-effective veterans leading a campaign into the playoffs. But I wonder if someone like Francona would be the proper manager for such a team.

August 15, 2006


Game 117: August 14, 2006
Tigers (77-41), 7
Red Sox (68-49), 4
W: Nate Robertson (11-8)
H: Joel Zumaya (25)
S: Todd Jones (32)
L: Josh Beckett (13-7)

In the Battle of Repugnant Pogonotrophy, Josh Beckett came up short. You would think that his pseudo-soul patch cum goatee would prevail, but Nate Robertson’s better grooming reigned supreme.

Perhaps it had nothing to do with coifing, but more to do with Tigers leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson smoking the first pitch of the game for a triple that dallied along the bend in the right field wall. Josh Beckett walked Craig Monroe and ceded an RBI single to Dmitri Young. By the time the third out of the top of the first was recorded, the Red Sox had spotted the visitors three runs.

Against any other team, such a deficit is conquerable. Against Detroit, however, you may as well concede defeat and hope for a series win in the next two match-ups. Which is what Terry Francona seemed to be doing when he called on Rudy Seanez to take the mound in the eighth inning. Seanez escaped the seventh unscathed but Francona pushed his luck by allowing the inconsistent righty to allowing alternating bases on balls and singles for two more runs by the Tigers.

Craig Breslow, the left-handed pitcher who was recalled from Pawtucket yesterday, pitched for an inning and two-thirds, allowed a single hit, and struck out three. Will he be the long reliever the Red Sox, with their threadbare starting rotation, so desperately require?

Twenty-one year old Joel Zumaya, despite being barely able to shave, had a Beckettesque scruff of his own. Only his whiskers were accompanied with 100 mph heat and a change of pace pitch in the high eighties. His stuff is tailor-made for the vastness of Comerica Park, but we shall see if his speed alone can continue to baffle hitters. The rookie whiz pitched two innings, allowed a run, and struck out one batter.

Kevin Youkilis, a former practioner of bizarre facial hair configurations but now fully recovered, kept his team in the game with his two-run homer in the sixth and his RBI single in the eighth. In the top of the ninth, the first baseman fought off powerful wind that pawed at Young’s pop fly in foul territory. The infielder prowled the area, making minute adjustments that allowed him to adeptly capture his prey.

DeMarlo Hale’s pimpstache failed later in the eighth. He had been doing exceptionally well avoiding media critique with sound judgment at third, but he erred last night by sending Manny Ramirez home on a line drive single by Mike Lowell to short center field. Ramirez seemed surprised that Hale wanted him to go, but when he was given the signal the left fielder did book it to the pay-station. The 8-6-2 hosing wounded the home team’s momentum. Wily Mo Peña finished the killing by whiffing, making way for Todd Jones’s modified handlebar and 31 saves.

Make that 32.

August 14, 2006


Game 116: August 13, 2006
Orioles (51-67), 9
Red Sox (68-48), 11
L: Daniel Cabrera (5-8)
W: Jon Lester (6-2)
H: Kyle Snyder (1)
H: Manny Delcarmen (13)
H: Craig Hansen (6)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)

Everything’s all unicorns, puppy dogs with big eyes and fluffy tails, rainbows, ice cream, and Kylie Minogue tunes now that the Red Sox swept the Orioles. I’m going to be contrarian, however, just as I was (or tried to be) when Boston was swept by Kansas City. I attempted to be a voice of equanimity while the majority of my fellow fans were on the ledge. But now I’m going to comment on some potentially fatal flaws in this team’s composition.

When your team heads into the last two innings of the game with the score 10-4 (good buddy), it shouldn’t have to bring in its shutdown closer (Jonathan Papelbon) who had pitched two innings the day before to nail down the win.

There shouldn’t be damage control by a rookie (Manny Delcarmen) who hadn’t pitched since August 9th to bail out a veteran journeyman relief pitcher (Kyle Snyder) who paints corners like Vermeer one day and splatters solo shots around the park like Pollock the next.

A championship-caliber team shouldn’t require a Mike Lowell first inning grand slam, a Kevin Youkilis seventh inning three-run roundtripper, and yet another circuit clout by Doug Mirabelli in the eighth inning to overcome the second weakest team in the AL East.

It was a win, a resounding thumping, an offensive bombardment that hadn’t been seen since, well, the other two times the Red Sox played the lowly birds.

The next two teams on the docket have pitching that is quite a bit better than Baltimore’s. In Detroit’s case, one could argue that they have a veritable dream team of arms who combine to lead the majors in team ERA with 3.69 (home team’s ERA is 4.64), shutouts (13; Red Sox have three), and saves (40; Boston 34) and who have given up the least number of earned runs (429; compare Boston’s 535) and home runs (113; Red Sox pitchers have 142) in the AL.

I’ll enjoy these victories for now, but the next eight games will be a test. Theo Epstein characterized the next two series as “a gauntlet.” In a few days, we’ll have a better indication of whether or not Boston can make the playoffs for the fourth year in the row and, if they do survive, what sort of showing we can expect.

“So, did you like anything about yesterday, sourpuss?” you might be asking yourself. There were two things that I enjoyed.

From Jerry Remy a bit of levity regarding the opening of the center field gate during Coco Crisp’s at bat in Saturday’s game. The perpetrators were none other than Tom Werner and John Henry. The pair was making rounds of Fenway, something they typically do to observe the state of the park. Henry pulled the lever, not knowing that it operated the door. Werner took advantage of the situation and waved at Mike Timlin from the opening.

Larry Lucchino forbade them from further wandering that day and forced them to remain in their seats.

Dave McCarty had an interview with fellow World Series champion Kevin Millar during the pre-game show. The two talked about the special bond shared by that team that continues to this day. Millar said that they still text message each other and keep in touch. McCarty brought out a silver dollar and Millar explained its provenance: after being defeated in three straight games, Millar bought in a brand new roll of dollar coins and passed them around. They did not lose a game from that point forward.

Does the 2006 team have this same tenacity? We shall see.

August 13, 2006


Game 115: August 12, 2006
Orioles (51-66), 7
Red Sox (67-48), 8
L: Bruce Chen (0-7)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (4-2)
10 innings

This is how the Red Sox should have played against Tampa Bay and Kansas City, but at least the downturn in play throughout the road trip didn’t continue against the Orioles.

Jason Johnson reminds me of John Burkett. Those aren’t exactly fond memories, but everyone knew when pitchers of that ilk took the mound the offense had to be prepared to score at least five runs and probably more to have a chance at victory. Indeed, Johnson lasted five and one-third innings, gave up seven runs, walked two, and struck out four.

Again the bullpen had to bail out the starter, and the four-headed beast of Julian Tavarez, Craig Hansen, Mike Timlin, and Jonathan Papelbon kept the bases almost completely bird-free, permitting only two hits and a walk between them. Tavarez swayed over some fans with his bases-loaded strikeout for the second out of the sixth only to lose them five pitches later with Brian Roberts’s two-RBI single. He rebounded to whiff Fahey for the final out in the sixth.

Baltimore took an early lead in the first after Johnson gave up consecutive singles to the first two batters. Melvin Mora sacrificed to center and the ancient Jeff Conine doubled to left, each notching RBIs. The Orioles also had multi-run innings in the fourth and sixth to bring their total to seven runs.

Wily Mo Peña made a bid to hit for the cycle but came just a single short. His sharp, two-out, line drive double in the second threatened the structural integrity of the wall and put him in position to score on Doug Mirabelli’s RBI single to left. To begin the fifth, the slugging outfielder belted a humongous home run over the Monster seats closer to center than left, which is jaw-droppingly far. Fellow ballhawk Coco Crisp also made a longball souvenir this his deposit into the short bleachers behind the home bullpen, making up for being thrown out home to kill the third inning.

Peña continued his dominance into the sixth, bringing back his team to within one run with his three-run triple. Mirabelli launched his fifth roundtripper of the season to even the score.

The home team kept the Orioles caged as well as they could with sharp defensive plays. In the third Mark Loretta flashed the leather with a slick snag of Brandon Fahey’s grounder for the first out and Mike Lowell allowed Mora’s bunt attempt to wander foul just before reaching the third base bag. All three of the batters in the third ended up grounding out to second. Mora was victimized by the infield again in the seventh when Alex “Gold Glove” Gonzalez backed up to adjust for the high hop and quickly released the relay to Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox first baseman had to bellyflop and backhand for the put out, but he was able to keep his foot on the bag to keep the leadoff hitter off the basepaths.

The turning point of the game pivoted on Orioles left fielder Fahey. The slim outfielder doubled in the ninth but tried to stretch his hit to third base when he saw that Manny Ramirez was having difficulty fishing out the ball in the left field corner. Ramirez made a quick relay to cutoff man Gonzalez who impeccably transferred to Lowell to hose Fahey, erasing him from scoring position.

Fittingly, it was Fahey’s fumbling of Ramirez’s ground ball that allowed Gabe Kapler to traverse home for the winning run in the tenth inning. The crowd raucously chanted “Manny! Manny! Manny!”--it seemed as if the force of their cheers alone pushed the ball past the diving Miguel Tejada. Ramirez kept his hitting streak alive and is now seven games away from tying Dom DiMaggio’s 34-game mark.

Jerry Remy, who was part of the Fox broadcasting team yesterday, has a story about why the garage door in center field opened during Crisp’s at bat in the seventh. I’m looking forward to knowing why this distraction happened with the good guys at bat rather than the birds.

August 12, 2006


Game 114: August 11, 2006
Orioles (51-65), 2
Red Sox (66-48), 9
L: Adam Loewen (2-4)
W: David Wells (1-2)

For five long games we have not heard the stifled giggles of Don Orsillo courtesy of Jerry Remy’s gibes. Mirth in the broadcast booth over bobbleheads is an indication of a blowout, as is the replacement of Manny Ramirez in left by Wily Mo Peña, who slid over from right field with the defensive insertion of Gabe Kapler in the top of the seventh inning. The neat thing about the upcoming NESN bobbledesk set is that Orsillo’s head didn’t even need to scaled up.

David Wells proved the savior Curt Schilling wasn’t in the final game of the road series. It was partially the result of the veteran southpaw’s precise location, but also because Terry Francona realized that it’s probably not a good idea to keep 40-ish guys on the mound for eight innings. Wells electrified the crowd with his two consecutive strikeouts in six pitches to begin the game. He would not allow a run until the seventh inning, striking out four and walking only one.

Wells had the benefit of an early lead. Coco Crisp led off with first with a bleeder past Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and scored when Miguel Tejada failed to glove a line drive by Manny Ramirez. Baltimore should have been out of the inning with a double play, but the visiting shortstop couldn’t palm the dart. In a bit of homefield scoring, Tejada’s error was converted to a base hit to extend Ramirez’s streak to 26 games. For anyone questioning the validity of the streak, Ramirez did have another solid RBI ground ball single up the middle during the scoring outbreak in the third inning.

The player of the game, however, had to be Mike Lowell. In the first inning the third baseman was spun around in the box and beaned in the head by rookie pitcher Adam Loewen to load the bases. Despite the scare, Lowell remained in the game and excelled. In the top of the third he fell into the first row box seats in pursuit of Nick Markakis’s pop fly. Not only did he corral the ball, but did so after tumbling into the laps of a Yankee and Met fan. How did they get such great seats? In his next plate appearance, Lowell singled to generate a run and stole third base.

Loewen appeared shell-shocked after hitting Lowell in the melon and was hesitant to pitch inside to righties the rest of the evening. The rookie began the third by walking Mark Loretta and David Ortiz, throwing only a single strike to the two batters. He would be replaced only after relinquishing RBI singles to Ramirez, Lowell, and Peña.

Rodrigo Lopez would provide no relief to the Orioles. He allowed RBI singles to Javy Lopez and Loretta. Alex Gonzalez shot a ground ball through the infield with enough force to carom about the left field corner for an RBI triple.

In the sixth inning Ortiz-san doubled to deep right and assumed the crane pose popularized by Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid. Everyone was deeply touched by Ortiz’s expression of sympathy for Wily Crow Peña at the keystone sack.

Kyle Snyder may have found his bullpen role as the middle reliever. In his two innings of work, Snyder struck out two, walked one, and gave up a homer. It was to the formerly maligned Corey Patterson, but it should be noted that the outfielder has improved his on-base and power ratios this season.

As they were for Abe Vigoda, reports of the Red Sox demise have been greatly exaggerated. ESPN probably won’t air retractions, showing they have less journalistic integrity than People magazine.

August 11, 2006


Game 113: August 10, 2006
Red Sox (65-48), 4
Royals (41-73), 5
L: Curt Schilling (14-5)
W: Andrew Sisco (1-2)
S: Ambiorix Burgos (18)

Second verse, same as the first!

A faithful reader noted the disparity between the posts for games 111 and 112 and said it was the prototypical Red Sox fan response to the waxing and waning of our team’s fortunes. I endeavor ride the ebbs and flows of the tide with serenity, but the loss of the second game of the series guaranteed a series loss as well as a losing record for this short road trip.

Theories abound on Boston’s recent decline. Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek’s absence could have been seen as a positive given their recent slumps. The pitching staff’s unease on the mound, especially for the younger pitchers, has been palpable, so there is a basis for bemoaning the loss of the Captain. Wily Mo Peña has been an upgrade over Nixon in terms of power, .516 slugging versus .426, but the former needs to work on his plate discipline as shown by his OBP of .359 (compare to Nixon’s .396).

A popular supposition of the talking heads at ESPN is that the team is flagging because the front office didn’t make any deadline moves. There is a logical fallacy named post hoc, ergo propter hoc, translated as “after this, therefore because of this.” Just because events occurred in a certain temporal sequence doesn’t necessarily mean that the first event caused any event after it.

In the course of a season, there will be stretches where the team does not perform to its capabilities. It’s frustrating because the Red Sox were supposed to have an easier time against two of the worst teams in the AL, but recall how unusually well Boston played against NL during interleague. It seems to be regression toward the mean in action. During interleague we observed a winning percentage we hoped the Red Sox would maintain. But as the season continues, the wins and losses begin to even themselves out. That rebalancing is happening at a bad time, but not the worst time, i.e. late September.

With any luck, the Red Sox’s ultimate record will be enough to get them into the postseason.

Again, if you’d really like to relive last night’s debacle, click below.

top 1st: Coco Crisp leadoff infield single
Crisp CS
David Ortiz BB
Manny Ramirez lined single to left

top 3rd: Doug Mirabelli homer
“Mira-beautiful,” I said to NU50.
“Mira-bellisimo,” he replied.

bottom 3rd: David DeJesus two-out double

top 4th: Ramirez bounded a single past the Royals shortstop

bottom 4th: Emil Brown two-out double
Reggie Sanders RBI double over the glove of Ramirez. Score tied.

top 5th: Mark Grudzielanek ball popped out of glove but he snatched it with his bare hand.

bottom 5th: John Buck leadoff double
Angel Berroa sacrifice bunt
Inning-ending double play to kill the threat

bottom 6th: Brown homer for the lead.

top 7th: Kevin Youkilis leadoff double down the left field line.
Lowell single over Mark Teahan.
Wily Mo Peña three-run home run; Red Sox take the lead

bottom 7th: Lowell deftly avoided the broken bat shards to field the ball and got the put out at first.

bottom 8th: Mike Sweeney one-out double to the right field
Teahen RBI double to make it a one-run game
Reggie Sanders RBI double down the right field line
Terry Francona could take Schilling out of the game anytime now! Please? Pretty please? With sugar on top?
Ryan Shealy liner tipped by Schilling, Alex Cora couldn’t come up with rebound, and the go-ahead run scored.

top 9th: Keep moving, folks, nothing to see here.

August 10, 2006


Game 112: August 9, 2006
Red Sox (65-47), 4
Royals (40-73), 5
H: Manny Delcarmen (12)
H: Mike Timlin (18)
BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (5, 3-2)
W: Scott Dohmann (2-2)

I’ve had all day to think of ways to blow sunshine up the collective asses of Red Sox Nation, but to no avail. Last night was atrocious. Perhaps the one positive thing is that Jonathan Papelbon’s ERA, despite the blown save and loss with two earned runs in the ninth, is still under one.

The game results are so embarrassing, I don’t want them on the front page. Click below if you would like the match-up in some detail. Those three double plays to kill scoring opportunities loom large.

To avoid utter mortification, let’s try and not get swept tonight, boys.

top 1st: Manny Ramirez extended hitting streak to 24 with a two-run homer in the first.

top 2nd: Lopez GIDP with two runners on.
Gonzalez popped out.

bottom 3rd: No attempt by Angel Berroa to get to first base on the strikeout and is booed by the KC fans.

top 4th: Gabe Kapler double to David DeJesus in the spacious outfield of Kauffman Stadium.
Javy Lopez two-RBI double down the left field line.

bottom 4th: Mark Grudzielanek broke up the no-hitter and advanced on Ramirez’s throw to third.
Mike Sweeney (first game back after a trip to 60-day DL) made it to second base.
Mark Teahen double to the left center gap for two runs.
Runners advanced on strikeout and passed ball and then a run scored with another passed ball.

top 5th: Mike Lowell leads the Red Sox in GIDPs. He stifled the bases loaded situation to end the inning.

top 7th: Peña GIDP with ducks on the pond to end the inning.

bottom 9th: Blown save for Papelbon with DeJesus sacrifice fly to plate Esteban German; score tied.
Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
Sweeney with a game-winning, two-out, RBI single lined to left field.

August 9, 2006


Game 111: August 8, 2006
Red Sox (65-46), 4
Royals (39-73), 6
L: Jon Lester (5-2)
W: Luke Hudson (5-3)
H: Jimmy Gobble (6)
H: Joel Peralta (10)
H: Joe Nelson (5)
S: Ambiorix Burgos (17)

A Few Meditations for Discomfited Red Sox Fans

  1. Stop complaining about not making any deadline deals. Remember how Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck worked out for us in 2003.
  2. Fifty-one. That’s the number of regular season games left. It’s one game.
  3. David Ortiz’s 1,000th hit came in the form of a seventh-inning home run to bring his team to within one run of the lead.
  4. It’s not like Jose Offerman is on the team any longer.
  5. Bronson Arroyo is winless in his last nine starts. He did have two quality starts in the mix, but his monthly ERA nearly doubled from June to July.
  6. Kevin Youkilis is able to play both corners with near virtuosity.
  7. Four hundred fifty-one. The distance in feet of Peña’s fourth-inning four-bagger, the 13th longest in Kauffman Stadium history.
  8. Alex Gonzalez, aside from his stellar defense, has been above the Mendoza line for quite a while now and has a .284 batting average, .333 OBP, and .434 slugging, a good .40 above his career averages.
  9. Dave Wallace is back and patting his pitchers on the mound.
  10. Look where the “win now at any cost” Yankee philosophy has gotten them. Well, okay, they’re leading the division, but the Red Sox organizational talent is now in the top ten according to Baseball America. Meanwhile, the Yankees were ranked fifth in 2002 and have plummeted to 24. Do you want to be a fan of winning like them or a fan of a team that wins on its own terms?
  11. One year, ten months, and 12 days. Was October 2004 really that long ago?

August 8, 2006


Spinners Vermont vs. Lowell
Lake Monsters (16-31), 3
Spinners (23-23), 4
L: Cory Van Allen (1-2)
W: Travis Beazley (2-2)
H: Jean Guillen (5)
S: Josh Papelbon (7)

I adore Class A baseball. There’s something infinitely appealing about the naïve nature of the players. You know very well they yearn for the riches that their major league counterparts rake in, but in this emergent stage they show that they must temper themselves to instruction and adhere to their club’s philosophy.

LeLacheur Park is a place of whimsy. The tiny confines must loom large to freshly drafted players inured of metal bats and makeshift fields. Here they pursue their dreams as they track down fly balls or chase down grounders, rough edges yet to be polished through countless repetition of these tasks that will, with the refinement of time, turn into mundane undertakings.

Until then, however, fans can expect errors like Luis Sergovia’s in the second inning. With two out and two on, the Spinners shortstop flubbed an easy pop fly that more properly should have been caught by the left fielder. This allowed two runs to score. The inning continued with Richard Caputo’s RBI single up the middle to give Vermont the early lead.

The Spinners didn’t respond with a run until the bottom of the third. Second baseman Michael Chambers led off with a line drive single to right field and would score on a Paul Smyth ground ball single to left field. Whenever Smyth came to bat, a video clip of Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty would play on the Jumbotron (using the term “jumbo” loosely), where the spastic actor hollers, “Smite me, o mighty smiter!”

With two out and two runners on, left fielder Zachary Daeges knocked in a three-run homer to grant his team a lead they would not relinquish. If Daeges keeps his pace of .343 batting average, .459 OBP, and .493 slugging, he might find himself joining Bubba Bell in Wilmington.

The Lowell Spinners have as many promotional events on the field as the White Sox do. The best interlude was the on-field “Chicken Dance” with Jonathan Papelbon, Hazel Mae, Dan Roche, Tina Cervasio, and Tom Caron guiding the crowd through the Jumbotron . If major league clubs ever got their clutches on this videotape, I am certain their view of the rookie shutdown closer would change, and not for the better. The opposition could just imagine the eldest Papelbon flapping his arms like a chicken, rendering him innocuous. Conversely, it could work to the rookie closer’s advantage, for it could double over batters in laughter and make their eyes tear with hilarity.

There was a similar ho-down to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” which should be made illegal. This ditty is simply too reminiscent of Yankee Stadium and the festivities at any Red Sox affiliate should not be contaminated with its filth.

The sound booth went to town with movie clips that mocked the visitors’ names. For Francisco Guzman, the visiting right fielder, they would play a snippet of Will Ferrell from Elf where Buddy savors the name “Francisco.” When Lake Monsters shortstop Jeremy Goldschmeding took the plate, Mike Myers (the actor, not the left-handed relief pitcher) as Goldmember would pop into view on the screen. “I love gold,” Myers intoned. The ploy worked on the infielder judging by his line of 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.

Josh Papelbon’s entrance music is the same as Mark Loretta’s (“Lowrider” by War), but was not selected because of wordplay. The younger Papelbon has an extreme sidearm delivery. Rather than the twirling motion of a Byung-Hyun Kim, Papelbon drives his lower body towards the plate in his follow-through. With a perfect one and a third inning, the underhanded pitcher tallied his seventh save of the season.

As I walked back to my car, a small boy skipped along the sidewalk with his father, chanting “Papelbon, Papelbon, Papelbon” as if it were his mantra. It doesn’t matter to which one he was referring, if he even knew. He found his Zen in baseball, in the city that begot Jack Kerouac.

August 7, 2006


Game 110: August 6, 2006
Red Sox (65-45), 6
Devil Rays (47-65), 7
H: Mike Timlin (17)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (4)
L: Julian Tavarez (2-4)
W: Shawn Camp (4-0)
10 innings

This internal monologue is inspired by the negativity currently circulating on Red Sox message boards. Many are inveighing against Theo Epstein’s lack of moves before the trading deadline, especially since the Yankees significantly improved their team with the addition of Bobby Abreu and made an effort to shore up their rotation with Cory Lidle. The screeds below aren’t actually my opinions but rather are a glimpse into the minds of fans on the verge of insanity who have lost all perspective during this slump.

Positive Joanna: Well, that was somewhat disappointing. One would have hoped that the Red Sox wouldn’t have lost ground in the AL East or wild card races while playing the lowly Rays. Despite their record, Tampa Bay is a talented young team.

Negative Joanna: Squirts on the teams congregating for the 2006 Little League World Series could have gotten the winning run off of Seth McClung.

Positive Joanna: Bullpen performance can fluctuate over time. The woes of Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin are an aberration. Jonathan Papelbon can’t be expected nail down every save. Julian Tavarez had been reducing his ERA over his last three appearances and had it under five until last night.

Negative Joanna: Delcarmen is too green, Timlin is obviously cooked, and Papelbon is falling back to earth. I wish Witch City Sox Girl directed Tavarez to LeLacheur Park and the Spinners all pretended they were the Red Sox. He’d still be pitching there today. And if Theo weren’t so hung up on hoarding his prospects, we’d have Rheal Cormier for these key spots in games. He was awesome for us in 1999 and 2000--he had a 100% winning percentage.

Positive Joanna: He got two vulture wins. Well, at least Jason Johnson is showing that he can be competent on the mound. He pitched six innings and gave up only a single earned run to rookie Ben Zobrist.

Negative Joanna: Kip Wells would so kick Johnson and Kyle Snyder’s collective asses. Kip Wells, Theo! Is that so much to ask for?

Positive Joanna: David Ortiz hammered his 40th roundtripper of the season and became the only Red Sox player to reach this milestone three consecutive seasons.

Negative Joanna: Figures. We never get the best sluggers.

Positive Joanna: You’re deranged. You just have to calm down. Do you really expect the team to go for it now and lay waste to the farm system like the previous ownership did?

Negative Joanna: We could have had Roy Oswalt; we just had to give up Coco Crisp, Craig Hansen, and Jon Lester.

Positive Joanna: But, we’d still need help in the rotation....

Negative Joanna: The answer to that? Four-man rotation.

Positive Joanna: I need for you to breathe deeply and supply your brain with just a bit more oxygen.

Negative Joanna: Yup, like Wily Mo took the keys from Raymond’s buggy, I need to take the keys from Theo and drive this team down victory lane. Speaking of Peña, he wouldn’t be in my lineup; I would have kept Arroyo.

August 6, 2006


Game 109: August 5, 2006
Red Sox (65-44), 5
Devil Rays (46-65), 8
W: Casey Fossum (6-4)
H: Jon Switzer (4)
S: Brian Meadows (8)
L: David Wells (0-2)

David Ortiz is many things, but a natural first baseman he is not. Entering the bottom of the fourth the Red Sox had the lead and David Wells had a no-hitter going. But the irksome Damon Hollins led off with a single and Carl Crawford squibbed a grounder to Ortiz that should have been fielded to erase the lead runner.

Instead, the sometime first baseman fumbled with the ball in his haste. Jorge Cantu, Greg Norton, B.J. Upton, and Josh Paul singled for a carousel inning of four unearned runs.

Wily Mo Peña did have his first outfield assist as a left fielder when he snatched Cantu’s hit and gunned out Crawford for the first out of the inning. The slugging outfielder is still working on his fielding; he dove awkwardly for Hollins’s leadoff line drive in the fifth. The extra base hit would be rendered harmless because Wells was able to recover from the fiasco in the fourth, striking out Crawford and inducing ground outs from Cantu and Travis Lee.

Coco Crisp impressed both at the plate and in the field. In the bottom of the second he ranged far to nab the final out and rob Norton of extra bases and led off in the top of the third with a double to left field. But he would be stranded, a recurrent theme in this game that saw ten men left on base.

Ortiz thwarted Joe Maddon’s unorthodox shift in the eighth with a bunt single that flirted down the third base line. Manny Ramirez launched his 31st dinger of the season, extended his hitting streak to 21 games, and brought his team to within one run. The designated hitter for the day tied Mo Vaughn’s club total of 230 roundtrippers, and the pair is now tied for fifth for the franchise mark for homers.

In the home half of the eighth, Craig Hansen showed that his closer abilities have not yet translated to the major league level. He did strike out Jonny Gomes on three pitches, but there aren’t many pitchers against whom the slumping sophomore Ray looks good against these days. The bottom third of the Rays’ order scored three runs to seemingly put the game completely out of reach.

The visitors would get a run back after Ortiz lined a single past the shift to plate Mark Loretta. The wan Tampa Bay bullpen seemed poised for another meltdown as Ramirez singled and Kevin Youkilis walked to load the bases. But Javy Lopez can make even Brian Meadows, a member of the rotating arms that make up the closer’s role who possesses a 4.20 ERA, seem like relief pitcher of the year. Lopez grounded into a double play to end the game by weakly swinging at the first pitch he saw. Perhaps pitching coach Ron Jackson needs to remind Lopez what the club’s preferred approach at the plate is.

August 5, 2006


Game 108: August 4, 2006
Red Sox (65-43), 3
Devil Rays (45-65), 2
W: Curt Schilling (14-4)
H: Manny Delcarmen (11)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
BS: Shawn Camp (2)
L: Seth McClung (3-11)

The one thing that needs less cowbell: Tropicana Field. One of the few entertaining options in this baseball mausoleum is the Rays’ mascot, Raymond. The ever-buoyant cult figure donned a Ben Affleck mask that was actually more expressive than the actual actor’s own face.

Kiddies, don’t forget to head to the Rays Touch Tank located just beyond the right-center fence. In addition to the prodding fingers of toddlers, the poor rays will have to avoid missiles into their abode. For every home run hit into their home, $5,000 will be donated, half to the Florida Aquarium and half to a charity selected by the hitter of the home run.

Other fan outreach programs that the commissioner’s office did not approve:

  • Injection Connection at AT&T Park in San Francisco: Become a “Giant” just like Barry Bonds
  • Friar Fun Time at Petco: Have your kids get up close and personal with members of the local clergy
  • Tame a Tiger in Detroit: Whip and chair provided by the club; children 12 and under get free slabs of meat
  • Bernie Brewer’s Cheers for Beers: Microbrewing made easy enough for your tween to build a fermenter in the basement
  • Bird Flu and You: While enjoying the beauty of Camden Yards, partake in an interactive educational experience on cross-species epidemics

Perhaps Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett mentoring system isn’t working as it should. Schilling surrendered two homers in his seven innings of work last night, one to Damon Hollins in the first and the second to Carl Crawford in the third. Fortunately both were solo shots and were the only runs Tampa Bay could muster.

The panicky unloading of Josh Bard (.339 BA, .413 OBP, and .533 slugging in 164 at bats) in May looked even more foolish with the current dearth of catchers able to suit up for the Red Sox. For the final out of the inning, Carl Crawford slid into the plate as well as Doug Mirabelli’s ankle, hobbling the backstop. Mirabelli (.183 BA, .264 OBP, and .321 slugging in 109 at bats) was able to hold on to the ball to end the inning, but was pulled from the lineup in favor of the recently acquired Javy Lopez (.261 BA, .310 OBP, and .406 slugging in 283 at bats). As likable as Mirabelli seems, his being sidelined is perhaps the best thing for the team at the moment.

Proud product of the Yankee scouting system Dioner Navarro demonstrated that he can’t count past two in the fourth inning. After Kevin Youkilis struck out, the Rays catcher bolted for the dugout although there were only two outs in the inning. Perhaps he was struck dumb by David Ortiz’s colossal circuit clout or so stunned that Youkilis didn’t walk that his basic counting skills escaped him.

As if Mirabelli’s injury wasn’t worrisome enough, Schilling had a scare after B.J. Upton’s liner deflected off his pitching hand in the fourth. Schilling would do well to remember he has a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop behind him and doesn’t need to submit his body to unnecessary risks. But the veteran righty would remain in the game, impressively dialing up his velocity to 97 miles per hour when striking out Upton and Tomas Perez with the bases loaded in the sixth.

Key defensive plays kept the Rays at bay. Mark Loretta turned a key double play in the fifth with rookie Ben Zobrist called out for running out of the basepath to avoid the Red Sox second baseman’s tag and relaying to first to nab the zooming Crawford. In the bottom of the eighth, Gabe Kapler ran down Travis Lee’s liner to shallow right. The Rays first baseman had a single and thought the ball had gotten past the right fielder, and was therefore visibly shocked that the ball made it back to second to get him out.

“Clutch” doesn’t just mean walk-off hits but also coming through when the game is late and close. In the eighth inning with the score knotted at two runs apiece, Ortiz jacked a longball into straight away center.

“Clutch” also shouldn’t apply just to hitting. Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon combined for two scoreless innings; the shut down dyad struck out three, walked none, and allowed a single hit.

August 4, 2006


Game 107: August 3, 2006
Indians (47-60), 7
Red Sox (64-43), 6
W: Jake Westbrook (8-7)
S: Jason Davis (1)
L: Josh Beckett (13-6)

Sadly, not only did the Red Sox lose last night’s game and consequently their position as the leader of the AL East, but it was confirmed by Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald that the baserunning grackle from Tuesday’s game was killed by a hawk. There were rumors of this posted on SoSH on Wednesday.

As soon as Wily Crow Peña’s feathers were removed from the field the Red Sox replaced him with another (former) bird, Javy Lopez. The 35-year old catcher might become the full-time backstop due to Jason Varitek’s recent knee injury and surgery. It won’t be difficult to tell Javy from Javier Lopez; the former is the one with the rollator.

Last night was all the more tormenting because throughout the evening David Ortiz had crushed pitches that would have been roundtrippers had the wind been in his favor. Manny Ramirez also had a long fly ball out in the ninth that could have tied the game.

After an effective first five innings during which he allowed just a single earned rum (a home run to the despicable Aaron Boone, who had the audacity to assail the Fisk Pole), Josh Beckett collapsed in the sixth. He relinquished singles and homers in an unfortunate pattern, enabling a two-run lead devolve into a four-run deficit. Shin-Soo Choo, who was slugging .182 this season, was able to propel the ball into the bleachers above the home bullpen in the with ducks on the pond for his third major league four-bagger.

Beckett continued to raise concerns because of his tendency to surrender the longball. It seems that he is stubbornly adhering to his fast but ruler-straight fastball and doesn’t always have the confidence that he can hurl his curveball for strikes. The young righty can’t expect to blow away AL hitters with his heater because even though it is hard it doesn’t have natural movement and he doesn’t have a slow enough change-up to baffle batters. If Varitek is able to hobble around and beat some sense into Beckett’s brain with his cane while he’s on the mend, he should take the initiative and do so.

The home team countered in the bottom half of the sixth by loading the bases with no outs. Ken Huckaby grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to plate Peña and Kevin Youkilis singled to notch his second RBI of the evening. The Red Sox first baseman brought his team within a single run in the eighth with his sacrifice fly, but Boston was unable to overcome the breach.

Huckaby did tally his first hit as a Red Sox player with a ground ball single in the fourth. So, he does have uses beyond dislocating Derek Jeter’s shoulder, but that should be his primary function.

August 3, 2006


Game 106: August 2, 2006
Indians (46-60), 5
Red Sox (64-42), 6
BS: Brian Sikorski (1)
BS, L: Fausto Carmona (2, 1-2)
H: Manny Delcarmen (10)
BS: Mike Timlin (4)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (3-1)

Every season there’s a player that brings out the fangirl in me. A player that I can justifiably cheer for because of his performance on the field but who else makes my heart race when I see him in person. While Bill Mueller was here, he was my Red Sox Crush.

It has to be someone that not everyone is idolizing, since I tend to stray from the mainstream. In high school when my peers were drooling over the faux soul and fades of The New Kids on the Block or the epicene dreaminess of Duran Duran, I idolized Johnny Marr. And I could reasonably claim it was because of his superb craftsmanship with the guitar, and the music highbrows would be impressed.

In part it was because of his artistry, but also it was because I found him attractive. My friends were perplexed. “If I were going to select a somewhat obscure group, why not pick the lead singer?” they would wonder.

Obviously, they didn’t realize how futile the pursuit of Morrissey would be.

This year’s Red Sox Crush is Mark Loretta. I needed a replacement for Mueller, and Loretta fit the bill. Quiet, unassuming, consistent, but comes through with the big hit when required. He even has a quirky at bat song (“Low Rider” by War) to boot.

Not that he’s had a lot of boots this season--just four errors this season. For AL second basemen with over 300 at bats this season, he’s:

  • third in OBP (.355)
  • eighth in slugging (.385)
  • tied for first in batting average (.303)
  • fifth in RBIs (43)
  • first in hits (130)

He strikes out 10% of time and could stand to improve his walk-to-strikeout ratio, which is currently .682. In comparison to his peers in a traditionally weak offensive position, Loretta has proved his worth.

I always ensure that my crushes have statistical evidence to be admired. Otherwise, it would be so transparent that I scribble “Mrs. Mark Loretta” on my Hello Kitty notebook in sparkly purple ink. Too bad there aren’t any “i’s” in his name, because I would dot them in iridescent pink.

Loretta’s walk-off double last night, his second game-winning hit this season, sealed the deal for me. Let us not forget that Loretta also scored the second run of this game in the fifth with his squibber up the middle, bringing his team to within one run. I <3 Mark, and I don’t care who knows it. Big Papi this, Papelbon that; of course I cheer them on. But the modest infielder is my secret (well, not so much now) infatuation.

The game itself was rife with promise. The starters were both left-handed rookies that had captured the imagination of their fans with their outstanding performances. Jeremy Sowers is more of the finesse pitcher, a latter-day Tom Glavine hopeful, while Jon Lester is a power lefty in the mold of Andy Pettitte. (Lester even displayed a Pettitte-like pickoff move in the first when he caught Jason Michaels off guard.)

The Cleveland pitcher didn’t quite live up this his billing, however. Sowers may have been fatigued by his back-to-back complete game shutouts. He lasted only five innings and turned in a line of two earned runs, two walks, and five strikeouts.

Although Lester was sapped by a strenuous first inning during which he gave up three earned runs and threw over 30 pitches, the Red Sox rookie was unperturbed and pitched for five scoreless innings. He walked a single batter and struck out three. There could have been more chances for peril were it not for Coco Crisp’s defensively prowess.

In the second, the Red Sox ballhawk in center ranged for Andy Marte’s fly ball while Kelly Shoppach, who had led off the inning with a double, suddenly believed himself bequeathed with great speed and tagged up get to third. Crisp hit the cutoff man, Alex Gonzalez, to complete the twin killing.

The defensive pair collaborated again in the sixth. Retreating to the point where the left field wall abuts the center field wall, Crisp made an over-the-shoulder catch of Casey Blake’s rainbow. Crisp was off the mark with his throw to the infield, aiming his throw more towards first rather than Gonzalez. The shortstop was able to catch up to the ball, spin, and flawlessly relay to Kevin Youkilis’s mitt in one polished motion to eliminate Victor Martinez from the basepaths.

The two-pronged attached of Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Peña in the sixth was stunning. Ramirez first distracts opponents with his haughty clout, so olympian in stature with its refined arc. They can’t help but admire its magnificence. Then, thus preoccupied, Peña is brought in with his destructive swing, annihilating what’s left of the morale of their foes and almost taking along a fan’s head with it. There are herds of cattle around the globe whose biggest fear isn’t bovine spongiform encephalopathy or slaughterhouses, but being made into a baseball that Peña crushes.

August 2, 2006


Game 105: August 1, 2006
Indians (46-59), 6
Red Sox (63-42), 3
W: C.C. Sabathia (8-7)
L: Jason Johnson (3-11)

Of all the major sports in the United States, baseball seems to be the least removed from nature. Perhaps because this is because baseball’s nascency coincided with the Second Industrial Revolution, which seized pristine land from leisurely pursuits and rendered it a cog in the machine of progress. The sport requires a luxuriant expanse of green, too indulgent for a society gearing up to feed the beast of commerce.

But here and there, pockets of viridity withstood the onslaught and on those precious parcels players share the acres with other creatures. It continues to this day, specifically last night, as we saw a fledgling take a jaunt about the field. (Did Larry Lucchino check the bird to make sure she at least paid for a tour? Can’t have any freeloaders!)

The connection between baseball and nature permeates into the very language of the game. The pastoral pastime is infused with terms associated with birds.

A “ball hawk,” also called a “hawk” or “flyhawk,” is an exceptionally skillful outfielder who can cover a lot of ground. As in, “Wily Mo Peña is proving to be quite the ball hawk since Trot Nixon’s injury. Did you see his nab of Joe Inglett’s fly ball in the third to end the inning?”

Old-time slang for a catcher’s mask is “bird cage.” We won’t be seeing Jason Varitek don the bird cage for four to six weeks because of his torn meniscus. The Red Sox catcher will be undergoing surgery shortly. Replacement catcher Doug Mirabelli laid a goose egg with no hits in his three at bats.

Many different birds are associated with the rapidly-falling pop fly. There’s “ducksnort,” “swan dive,” and dying quails, seagulls, or swans. David Ortiz departed from the norm and hit something of a dying quail for a double in the third inning. The rookie Inglett needed a bird dog to help him spot fly balls.

The word “rookie” is supposedly a corruption of the word “recruit,” but some sources cite a more fanciful but evocative origin. A rook (Corvus frugilegus) is a bird much like a crow or a raven, but is far more social. Rather than in pairs, rooks live in immense colonies. Indeed, their breeding trees are called “rookeries,” and the word has been extended to the barracks where human military recruits live during their training, before they become full-fledged members of their troop. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that rookie sprang from rookery.

“Ducks on a pond” is another way to say that the bases are loaded, alluding to how the runners bob up and down in anticipation of the batter making contact. Neither team accomplished this last night.

Mike Lowell, feeling impish, may have summoned the trainer with a “quack, quack” in the eighth after fouling a ball off his foot. In days gone by, players used to get medical attention with this call, mocking their trainers’ lack of knowledge in genuine health care.

With the Red Sox loss and the Yankees’ win, Boston lost its position as the sole occupant of the “catbird seat” in the AL East. This phrase, meaning a position of control and mastery, was popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers announcer Red Barber. Catbirds (two species, grey [Dumetella carolinensis] and black [Melanoptila glabrirostris]), relatives to the mocking bird, have a mew-like call and evade predators by dwelling as high as possible.

Baseball terms used in post were gleaned from The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson.

August 1, 2006


Game 104: July 31, 2006
Indians (45-59), 8
Red Sox (63-41), 9
H: Rafael Betancourt (4)
BS, L: Fausto Carmona (1, 1-5)
W: Kyle Snyder (3-2)

My voice is hoarse from exultation. I was at Fenway last night and it was as boisterous as Pedro Martinez’s homecoming. The unrelenting heat of the day games I had recently attended left the masses especially enervated, although Game 102’s ending restored a semblance of spiritedness into the crowd.

David Ortiz somehow supplanted his weekend brilliance with yet another game-winning home run. There just isn’t a vocabulary to describe what Boston’s designated hitter accomplishes on the field. New words need to be invented to encapsulate his grandeur. Perhaps German or Finnish, with their endlessly agglutinating compound nouns, may one day harness all that is Ortiz.

There should be special ground rules made for Wily Mo Peña:

  • A ball being propelled with such force as to become embedded in the left field wall is a ground-rule triple.
  • A ball lodging itself into the wall in center field on the line or to the right of same is a home run and the other team will have one run deducted from their total.
  • A ball striking the earth and causing a crater of 50 meters or greater in diameter and reducing the global temperature by one or more degrees Fahrenheit for six months due to tons of impact dust blocking the sun is a grand slam, regardless of whether there were men on base or not.

Peña almost hit for the cycle. The only other Red Sox player who nearly for the cycle when I was at a game was Bill Mueller, so Peña’s performance brought back fond memories despite how disparate these two players are. From my vantage point in the left field grandstand, the outfielder’s fourth inning roundtripper kept on elevating; I lost track of it because of the box seats above, but even as it winked from my view it looked as if it were powered internally rather than merely being hit.

In contrast, Manny Ramirez’s two-run homer in the first was beatific in its loftiness as it soared into the night. It’s like the difference between meteorites and meteors: Peña’s blast will eventually pummel the face of the planet causing massive destruction while Ramirez’s will elegantly illuminate the evening sky.

Ortiz’s circuit clouts are akin to comets, predictable but still eliciting delight when they make their exactingly prescribed visits.

Now that the non-waiver trading deadline is past and the Red Sox have decided to stand pat, it’s time to analyze the more pressing issues that plague the club. Such as, why is Doug Mirabelli so slow? He runs, or should we say plods, even slower in person than on television. Does television subtract 20 miles per hour as it adds 10 pounds? Or does NESN charitably speed up footage of the backup catcher as he rounds the bases? “This catcher has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and air within the time allowed.”

The gathered tribe listens as Papi tells them how he is going to beat them.

I had one of those peculiarly placed seats one can only find in Fenway: Section 32, Row 7, Seat 1.

At least I had a lot of leg room.

As well as a cupholder.

The lineup board on Yawkey Way.

My view if I sat completely in my seat. Home plate? What’s that?

When I leaned forward, I could see the batter’s box.

Andy Marte and Ortiz talking. We barely knew thee, Andy!

Don’t call it a comeback. Well, okay, you can call it a comeback.

« Top « Home » Category ListingMonthly Archive


RSS Feed



  • Visitors to EE since November 2004
  • Boston Phoenix Best of ’06
    Phoenix Best
  • Blog contents, images, and design
    © 2004-2015 by Joanna J.M. Hicks.
    All Rights Reserved.
    Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law.