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Home » Category Listing » July 2006 Game Comments

August 1, 2006

Reprise

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.”

31jul06pic01
The gathered tribe listens as Papi tells them how he is going to beat them.

Continue reading “Reprise” »

July 31, 2006

Diabolic

Game 103: July 30, 2006
Angels (54-50), 10
Red Sox (62-41), 4
W: John Lackey (10-6)
L: Curt Schilling (13-4)

Ten-four, message received and it’s not a good one. Curt Schilling, who had yet to lose a game at Fenway this season, usually comes into a tied series and acts the stopper. The veteran righty was unable to do so last night, lasting only five innings while striking out five and permitting no walks. He was throwing strikes, most assuredly, but most of them were non-deceptive variety.

The evening’s nadir was the third inning in which Schilling surrendered three homers, one each to Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, and Juan Rivera. Since Joe Morgan was at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, at least we the beneficiaries of Orel Hershiser’s learned commentary. Not only does Hershiser know that Billy Beane didn’t write Money Ball, he gave us an anatomy lesson in the first inning. John Lackey was struck by a Manny Ramirez come-backer right in the iliotibial band, a long tendon which connects a muscle near the pelvis to the tibia, adding stability to the knee. Hershiser is such a nerd; I adore him.

In the first, Hershiser also remarked on Jason Varitek’s subtle combination deke and block of home when Maicer Izturis came barreling in thanks to Guerrero’s single. I can almost here the mindless blather of Morgan drowning out Hershiser in my brain: “Now that’s how baseball should be played. Good baserunning, small ball. And Varitek didn’t do a good job of blocking the plate.” Morganisms have infested my brain, echoing in sympathetic responses to the interjections of Jon Miller. Is there a cure?

Mike Scioscia was at his wits’ end after both Howie Kendrick and John Lackey failed to throw to first base for easy outs in the first. The Angels’ manager must have been thankful for Schilling’s inconsistency because it cloaked his own team’s uneven performance.

Speaking of uneven performances, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were well-positioned in the front row for last night’s game. Affleck could have done more to unhinge the rookie Kendrick, who had to go to the wall to retrieve Alex Gonzalez’s pop-up for the final out of the home half of the second. But the Academy Award-winning actor was too occupied with his make-up or text messaging his agent on his BlackBerry or something. He’s an Academy Award honoree like Mark Redman is an All-Star.

Trot Nixon had a difficult evening. He really doesn’t want to get traded, does he? He misplayed Adam Kennedy’s liner to the bend in the second inning, allowing the Angel second baseman to triple and drive in the go-ahead run. Nixon wrenched something in the third inning while taking a hack at the plate and was pulled from the game. Hershiser proved less valuable here, not nailing down the anatomy affected, but we later learned that Nixon strained his biceps. Wily Mo Peña’s biceps, which are approximately the size of Nixon’s legs, replaced the right fielder at the dish with the count 2-2, two out, and both runners in scoring position. Peña swung and struck out, but the at bat, and therefore strikeout, is still Nixon’s.

The evening of frustration was summarized by Mike Lowell’s at bat in the fifth inning. Gonzalez led off by pushing a single past his Angel counterpart’s glove. Alex Cora pulled a double into shallow right, advancing Gonzalez and setting the table for David Ortiz. The designated hitter did not disappoint and arced a double into the gap between left and center for a two-run double. Peña returned the favor by doubling high off the wall. Varitek got a free pass and the momentum shifted in favor of the home team.

Replays clearly showed that Lowell was hit by Lackey’s pitch and Kerwin Danley missed the call. The Red Sox baseman flung his bat and spiked his helmet into the ground, immensely aggravated. As were we all.

The trading deadline is this afternoon at 4 PM and I’ll be going to tonight’s game. I wonder how different the team might be?

July 30, 2006

Torrid

Game 102: July 29, 2006
Angels (53-50), 6
Red Sox (62-40), 7
H: Scot Shields (17)
BS: Francisco Rodriguez (3)
L: Hector Carrasco (2-3)
W: Julian Tavarez (2-3)
11 innings

As I always try to do, I arrived at the game two hours before the first pitch. As it was a day game after a night game, I was surprised to see the batting practice screens out. Camped out near the bend in right, near where the pitchers were going through their pre-game rituals, I overheard a security guard telling someone that the Angels had requested the equipment be put out. They never came out, however, and therefore lost the game.

All that was awful about Game 90 was replicated except for the end result. Yesterday was the first of two Royal Rooters outings this year. Had the Red Sox lost, I have no doubt there would have been a re-creation of the 1903 World Series, when the rabid fans stormed the field when they discovered their seats had been sold. Except we would have invaded the field to get relief from the oppressive heat in the postgame sprinkler cycle.

29jul06pic01timlin
Still Life of Timlin, Grounds Crew, and Tomato Plants.

Continue reading “Torrid” »

July 29, 2006

Bedevil

Game 101: July 28, 2006
Angels (53-49), 8
Red Sox (61-40), 3

W: Kelvim Escobar (7-9)
L: Jon Lester (5-1)

Yesterday was Mike Lowell Day at LeLacheur Park; at least there the home team won and the fans could enjoy Mike Lowell double cheeseburgers from the concession stands. The final score of the match-up against Vermont was 7-5. Keith Foulke started the game and pitched for single inning and one strikeout. Papelbon notched his sixth save--Josh Papelbon, that is. Lowell’s at bats were played live during the Class A game. Lowell went 1 for 4; his one hit, fittingly, was a double in the second. The Gold Glover had no errors and saw a lot of action with a left-hander on the mound, fielding a total of seven balls to him for outs.

During the Red Sox broadcast, Don Orsillo mentioned that there were many Red Sox players that shared their names with Massachusetts towns, and then only managed to to conjure up Tim Wakefield. Since the NESN staff is probably occupied with researching actual statistics, I took the liberty of sending them my research on the All-Time All-Town Team.

Jon Lester was burdened with his first loss in the first meeting between these two teams this season. The young southpaw fell back to earth a bit as the Angels are a genuine major league team, unlike the Royals. Lester lasted six and one-third innings; he didn’t walk anyone but had only three strikeouts and five earned runs. Lester had a key pickoff of Vladimir Guerrero in the fourth to erase the baserunner and end the inning.

The seventh inning proved to be the rookie starter’s undoing: he allowed two consecutive singles to Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon to begin the inning and two runs crossed the plate before Terry Francona pulled him.

Francona called on Manny Delcarmen to take the hill with one out and a runner on third. Delcarmen faced Howie Kendrick, one of the Angels’ top prospects, who singled to center to plate two runs. Guerrero was intentionally walked so that Delcarmen could face Juan Rivera. The strategy was futile as the Angels’ outfielder singled, allowing Kendrick to score.

Javier Lopez was unable to exploit Anderson’s weakness against lefties. Yet another run scored in the seventh with a liner to center, but mercifully it was the sixth and final run of the inning.

David Ortiz concluded the game by striking out swinging with the bases loaded. Human, all too human.

Industriousness and conscientiousness. Industriousness and conscientiousness are often antagonists, in that industriousness wants to take the fruits off the tree while still sour, but conscientiousness lets them hang too long, until they drop off the tree and come to nothing.

July 27, 2006

Getaway

Game 100: July 26, 2006
Red Sox (61-39), 1
Athletics (52-49), 5
L: Kyle Snyder (2-2)
W: Dan Haren (7-9)

These trips to the West Coast are draining. I’m either fending off sleep and taking notes in a bleary stupor or swerving through early rush hour traffic while keeping track of the game.

Yesterday was particularly fun because I called a fellow fan during my commute. He pretended to be Don “Announcer Boy” Orsillo, since he was watching the NESN feed on MLB Extra Innings, while I was Jerry Remy. Quite apt, as Remy is known to be quite the motorist as he makes his escape from parks around the country. Sample dialog:

“DO”: With two out in the first, Kyle Snyder throws to Milton Bradley and... oh, Bradley is hit by the pitch. Fortunately, though, given Bradley’s tendency towards outbursts, it’s just a breaking ball that clipped his foot. Jerry, did you know that Bradley is a convicted serial killer?

“JR”: Why, yes, Don. He’s wanted in eight states. Enjoys cannibalizing small children, I hear.

“DO”: Exactly right. He and our own right fielder, Trot Nixon, share a similar interest. While Bradley eats children, Trot hunts them in the off season.

“JR”: Is that right?

“DO”: Indeed.

“JR”: Funny thing. Known him all these years but never heard about that. Well, I don’t know why they should be chowing down on perfectly good kids when they could have a Rem Dog, served every game day on Yawkey Way.

“DO”: And Kevin Youkilis strikes out in eight pitches for the second out of the third. You know, Jerry, Youkilis’s head is nearing Kevin Menchian proportions.

“JR”: Very true. I was talking to the clubhouse guy Pookie Jackson and he was saying that Youk’s head has gone up one and third inches in circumference this year.

“DO”: Remarkable. Bobby Kielty and his red hair in left makes a nifty catch of Mark Loretta’s fly ball to end the  top half of the third inning. I’ve heard that people with red hair are the spawn of the devil, Jerry.

“JR”: Indeed. In fact, I have found that on the whole, red-headed men are quite unattractive. You can have attractive female redheads, of course, but the rule for men seems to be that if you have red hair, you are weird-looking.

“DO”: I’m sure that will go over well in the large community of people with Irish heritage back in Boston.

“JR”: Well, am I wrong here? You’ve got that scrawny comedian guy, Carrot Head....

“DO”: Carrot Top, Jerry.

“JR”: Yeah, him. And how about that actor guy that started out on television, thought he was too good for that, went to movies, failed, and is now back on TV?

“DO”: David Caruso.

“JR”: Yep, him. He’s got a strange face. Bill Walton. What about that geek that solved Fermat’s last theorem?

“DO”: Andrew Wiles, the mathematician at Princeton?

“JR”: That’s the one. All odd-looking fellows.

“DO”: You may have a point there, Remy. Well, the score is 5-1 in favor of Oakland in terms of runs hear at the top of the ninth. It will take some doing for the Red Sox to get back into the game for the win.

“JR”: After this series, the Red Sox will get tomorrow off. Their first day off in a long while, as they had that makeup game against Texas last Thursday.

“DO”: That same Texas team faces the Rangers tonight.

“JR”: Do they now?

“DO”: [Through giggles] I mean the Yankees. We’ll be back after these commercial messages.

“JR”: We’ll be back home at Fenway on Friday for a three-game series against the Angels, whom we have yet to play against this season. Speaking of things you may not have tried yet, don’t forget to pick up Boston’s favorite hot dog, the Rem Dog, on Yawkey Way.

“DO”: We’re off the air, Jerry.

“JR”: Game’s over? Quick, let’s get to the car.

July 26, 2006

Bombardment

Oaklandlogo Game 99: July 25, 2006
Red Sox (61-38), 13
Athletics (51-49), 5
W: Curt Schilling (13-3)
H: Manny Delcarmen (8)
L: Jason Windsor (0-1)

The vision seemed to enter the house with me -- the stretcher, the phantom-bearers, the wild crowd of obedient worshippers, the gloom of the forests, the glitter of the reach between the murky bends, the beat of the drum, regular and muffled like the beating of a heart -- the heart of a conquering darkness. — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The more the fretful indigenes tried to drum their team back into the game, the more the visiting legion of Red Sox fans drowned them out. These days, if anyone tried to bring a drum to Fenway, they would either be turned down at the gates or would have to pay for another ticket because of the space the instrument would occupy. Gone are the days the Royal Rooters would bring a marching bass drum and occupy the foul territory behind home plate.

But the backing of “Tessie” and the spirit of the Royal Rooters has proved as powerful as the rebirth of the Oakland’s mascot, the white elephant. In 2004 the Dropkick Murphys breathed new life into the tattered ballad and the ditty became one of the enduring tropes of that world championship season. Similarly, in 1988 the Athletics revived the pachyderm that had represented the team since the beginning of the 20 century. The shift marked a near-dynastic run of two pennants and a world title.

When the team was created in Philadelphia in 1901, none other than Connie Mack adopted the white elephant as a symbol after rival manager John McGraw of the New York Giants scorned the team as “White Elephants.” Mack was rewarded for his impertinence with the American League pennant in 1902. Less than a decade later the team would win the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913 and the pennant in 1914.

The proboscidian logo didn’t appear on the uniforms until 1920 and was originally blue. That year the Athletics turned in a pathetic 48-106 record. Mack made the creature white in 1924 after consecutive years of losing seasons. The refreshed symbol didn’t have much of an impact as the team failed to make the postseason. Finally, in 1928, Mack reverted back to the traditional “A,” the A’s recorded a 98-55 season, and returned to their championship ways, snatching the title in 1929 and 1930.

These days the A’s are more known for their analytical approach to baseball with Billy Beane as the evangelist of sabermetrics. But with the tepid returns this approach has in postseason success, perhaps Beane must convince his ownership to resort to white elephant strategy in the sense of the time-worn idiom and open the purse strings a bit.

The Red Sox have the luxury of melding the analytic with big market budgets. Although in a recent series at Fenway Boston did fall to Oakland, in terms of success in the fall classic, Beane and his crew can only look upon his works and despair.

(This history lesson is prompted by my ever-diminishing capability to stay up late in the night. I dozed off in the sixth inning with the score 6-4. Was I ever surprised to see that Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez combined for two scoreless innings to nail down the win. Seeing should be believing, but even with the proof of the box score I am dubious. Any witnesses to this event are urged to provide evidence of this remarkable occurrence.)

Continue reading “Bombardment” »

July 25, 2006

Charmed

Game 98: July 24, 2006
Red Sox (60-38), 7
Athletics (51-48), 3
W: Josh Beckett (13-5)
L: Barry Zito (10-7)

Last night the Battle of Alyssa Milano’s Ex-Boyfriends was waged both on the field and off between starting pitchers Josh Beckett and Barry Zito.

JB: Alyssa always thought that I was cuter than you.

BZ: No way, man. She thought your goatee was stu-pid with a capital “stu.” She called you Josh Bechenezer.

JB: She did not. Well, Alex Gonzalez never hit a homer off of me, like he did you in the third inning. Guys like Papi and Manny, you expect that from them. But A-Gon...?

BZ: Whatever, Swisher got to you in the fifth, Mr. 28 Dingers this season. For the record, I’ve only given up 15 so far. And my ERA is better than yours.

JB: I thought you guys were all about the sabermetrics out here? Don’t you know ERA is an outmoded measure of pitcher efficacy because it doesn’t factor in home park and the defense’s contribution to stopping runs? Because you pitch in Software Company O’ the Month Coliseum, everyone thinks you’re awesome. I could pitch lefty like you here and win the damn Cy Young.

BZ: ... I can play guitar.

JB: My GM plays better than you and is smarter than your GM. I don’t see any recent World Series banners flying the park here.

BZ: ... I can play guitar.

JB: Oh, and Alyssa thought it was weird how you would make her wear a ponytail and barrettes while you called her “Samantha.”

BZ: She said she liked it. And “Who’s the Boss?” was such an under-appreciated comedic masterwork.

JB: You are fricking old. I only remember how hot she was in “Charmed.” Dude, I can’t believe she’s dating Brad Penny now.

BZ: Yeah, tell me about it. And Carl Pavano was in the mix there, too. Over/under on how long until Penny gets one of those freak “injuries”?

JB: Seventeen days.

BZ: Look what happened to Carl. Brad’ll be lucky if he gets out alive.

July 24, 2006

Unfathomable

Game 97: July 23, 2006
Red Sox (59-38), 8
Mariners (47-51), 9
H: Craig Hansen (5)
BS: Manny Delcarmen (3)
L: Mike Timlin (5-1)
BS: Julio Mateo (3)
BS, W: J.J. Putz (4, 2-0)

This game reminded me of the movie Artificial Intelligence: AI. Brilliant premise, promising cast, spotty execution, atrocious ending.

Jon Lester could be likened to the Haley Joel Osment character in the film, David. David was a modern-day Pinocchio, an artificial being seeking to become real. Lester was on the cusp of proving himself a real major league pitcher, but made his most compelling case against the Kansas City Royals, a big league team by convention only.

Lester got into trouble early in his homecoming game, permitting three runs in the first inning and two in the third. He pitched to a single batter in the sixth inning after his team had attained a two-run lead. Terry Francona had Lester on a short hook and pulled the rookie starter after another rookie standout, Kenji Johjima, lined a single to deep left. Craig Hansen, another greenhorn that needs seasoning, walked the bases loaded before inducing a strikeout from Adrian Beltre in three pitches.

Alex Gonzalez was as smooth as Jude Law’s character Gigolo Joe, showing the whelps how to get an out with his elevated grab of Yuniesky Betancourt’s rainbow that seemed destined for shallow left.

The World Cup has been over for a number of weeks, but yesterday Manny Ramirez looked more like soccer player in left than an outfielder. In the seventh he slid to stop the trajectory of a line drive by Johjima. Coco Crisp, who had been backing him up, was forced to change his course and Richie Sexson scored from first in the fracas.

In the eighth there was yet another run-scoring mishap by the Red Sox outfield. Crisp retreated to the wall to make a play on Beltre’s deep fly but badly anticipated the path of the ball, which ended up caroming a good distance away from him. Ramirez was standing by to assist, but literally stood by, as he was unable to glove the orb. When Crisp got back into the play, he overshot two cutoff men before getting the ball in the vicinity of Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis, the latter of which had made his way across the diamond to the third base line. By the time Lowell relayed to home plate, Beltre had secured the go-ahead run.

Jason Varitek taunted Red Sox fans with his two-out, game-tying four-bagger in the top of the ninth. It was reliever J.J. Putz’s first surrendered homer since April 4th. In a meta-narrative way, this was analogous to what should have been the ending of A.I., where David gazes upon the Blue Fairy for eternity. Audience members were pleasantly surprised because Steven Spielberg had not resorted to a schmaltzy ending, something he was known for at the time.

Then, deus ex machina in the form of future mechas come whizzing out of the atmosphere to grant their primogenitor David’s wish.

Sexson was also like the character David in the movie: on a quest for love throughout this season. Not motherly love, but rather fans that would adore him despite his .227 BA, .296 OBP, and .440 slugging. The Mariner first baseman briefly turned into a real slugger with his ninth-inning walk-off home run. It was of the traditional sort, hopping about the Red Sox bullpen where Jonathan Papelbon had been warming.

Why wasn’t Papelbon facing Sexson instead of Timlin, you may ask. Prior to yesterday’s roundtripper, Sexson had only been able to manage a single hit off of the veteran relief pitcher in 16 at bats. Furthermore, Sexson had been struck out six times. Finally, the game was tied, and had the Red Sox been unable to score at the top of the subsequent innings, the remaining options after Papelbon in the bullpen were less than savory. Given the difficulty Oakland gave Boston at home, Francona was doing his best to preserve the effective arms he may need to call upon at McAfee Coliseum.

July 23, 2006

Transmission

Game 96: July 22, 2006
Red Sox (59-37), 2
Mariners (46-51), 5

L: Kason Gabbard (0-1)
W: Felix Hernandez (9-8)
H: Mark Lowe (1)
S: J.J. Putz (19)

From: pauley.david@redsox.com
Subject: S’up?
Date: June 22, 2006 10:16:53 PM EDT
To: kason.gabard@redsox.com

Yo K-Man,

Dude, I can’t believe they spelled your name wrong for your redsox.com address. What up with that? I don’t know how soon they’ll get around to fix it--check out mine. They haven’t even deactivated mine, yet. ;)

Since I started on July 20th the game was on Fox, I got to watch your debut. Isn’t it awesome to pitch in the show? The guys are so great. I loved just sitting in the dugout with them, eating sunflower seeds, shooting the breeze. Man, I miss all that. I even miss Coach Nipper’s nagging! I bet Leftster was giving you a lot of crap.

The Fox guys were annoying as hell. They were reaming Manny and the team and stuff. But they said pretty good stuff about you and even pronounced your name right.

I totally don’t blame you giving up a leadoff hit to Ichiro. He’s so fast and he can make contact with any sort of pitch. You set up the double play for Beltre to ground into real good, I can see you’re using my strategy there. Sick thing is that dude makes more in a day than we do all year, combined.

Well, congrats and all that--you should gotten the win. That call in the sixth was bogus; Grecian Formula threw to Papi in time. Larry Poncino isn’t good enough to be working games for International League.

Cracker OUT.


From: kason.gabard@redsox.com
Subject: Re: S’up?
Date: June 22, 2006 11:26:53 PM EDT
To: pauley.david@redsox.com

Hey Crack--

Yeah, I don’t know what the deal is with these IT guys. They were going to make it “Jason Gabbard” and was all, no, man, with a “k.” And the guy went, “What, are you Roger Clemens’ son or something?” Enough with the tude, you know what I mean?

Leftster was being a pain, as usual. He kept on telling everyone I was the batboy. When they figured out I wasn’t, he then pronounced my names wrong. Guess when you get a few wins in the bigs you forget the days we were freezing our asses off together in Portland.

I know you were real positive about your experience up here, but I have to say having Tavarez and Seanez pitch behind doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. I had hoped the offense would come through, but King Felix was owning us big time. We only got four hits the whole game.

“Grecian Formula?” I guess that’s Lowell, right? I don’t think he’ll let me call him that. Good thing he was feeling better. That homer to left over the scoreboard was crushed.

You should have gotten that win on Thursday, btw, but at least we won.

Have to go now, got an early AM meeting with Coach Nipper to go over the game. Laters.

July 22, 2006

Pitchpole

Game 95: July 21, 2006
Red Sox (59-36), 9
Mariners (45-51), 4

W: Kyle Snyder (2-1)
L: Jamie Moyer (5-9)

Every game the Red Sox play against Jamie Moyer or the Mariners invariably leads to discussions about the fateful trades between the two teams:

  • August 17, 1986: Red Sox trade shortstop Rey Quinones and pitcher Mike Trujillo to Mariners for shortstop Spike Owen and outfielder Dave Henderson
  • July 30, 1996: Boston acquires a leadoff hitter when the Mariners trade outfielder Darren Bragg to the Red Sox in exchange for Jamie Moyer
  • July 31, 1997: Mariners send Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb

In addition to these trades, David Ortiz was originally signed by Seattle before he was traded in a deal to bring third baseman Dave Hollins from the Twins. The deal was made on August 29, 1996 for a player to be named later, and Ortiz, then known as David Arias, was named on September 13, 1996.

Fittingly, in a town where fish are hurled at Pike Place Fish Market, Moyer threw a school of dead mackerel to his opponents. Five hitters, Ortiz, Alex Gonzalez, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, and Manny Ramirez, hit four-baggers, with the shortstop’s, the acting third baseman’s, and the left fielder’s coming with a man on. The ancient Mariner reminds me of Tim Wakefield: no matter the score, they carry the same stoic expression and demeanor. Derek Lowe and Jeff Weaver types would do well to mimic them.

Kyle Snyder counted his second win in a Red Sox uniform with his five-inning performance. He accumulated two each of earned runs, walks, and strikeouts while nudging his ERA into the single-digit range. With the offensive barrage his team provided, Rudy Seanez could have come in for a stint. Okay, well, that’s overstating the lead a bit. I was inspired by a fellow poster on the Royal Rooters message board in yesterday’s game thread and came up with this:

Snyderman, Snyderman
Does whatever a Snyder can
Hurls a gem, anytime
Catches flies just like... flies
Look out!
Here comes the Snyderman

Is he good?
Listen dude
He’s got a good attitude
Can he pitch from the stretch?
Better than Gil Meche
Hey, there
There goes the Snyderman

In the chill of night
At the scene with a gun
Like a streak of light
He’s the one with earned runs

Snyderman, Snyderman
Friendly neighborhood Snyderman
Wealth and fame
He’s ignored
Spot starting is his reward

To him, life is a great big hors d’oeuvre
Whenever there’s a hanging curve
You’ll find the Snyderman

In other news, this past offseason Wally went to Europe. While he was there he hung with Cameron Diaz. Wally is so much more cosmopolitan than that parochial Raymond, who has never been outside of the North American continent and believes Joe Maddon to be the apotheosis of field managers.

July 21, 2006

Showdown

Game 94: July 20, 2006
Rangers (49-47), 4
Red Sox (58-36), 6
L: Bryan Corey (1-1)
W: Curt Schilling (12-3)
H: Manny Delcarmen (8)
S: Mike Timlin (2)

The showdown occurred on a lonesome, dusty hill sitting in a field of green. The plain was not usually this verdant, but constant rains showered new life on the ancient plain.

So many battles with distant tribes played out here. From the beaver hunters of the lands east bounded by rivers, with whom the home clan tussled with in key struggles about 43 and 27 turns of the seasons ago, to the savages from the lands south subsumed by concrete, who were vanquished at last six turns ago.

The skirmish was supposed to happen during the Planting Moon, but the floods swept away the gathered armies. The invading troupe vowed vengeance against their eastern foes and overran the field brandishing their crudely-wrought weapons on the twentieth day of the Blood Moon.

After a hard-fought conflict that saw gains and losses throughout the day, the home tribe at last overcame the onslaught. The tribe chieftain Jason “Big Thighs” Varitek mocked the encroaching forces’ lack of skilled warriors. He had his men gather around him to celebrate the triumph.

“They came here and thought they will defeat us with their cudgels,” he laughed as he gnawed on the jerky supplied to him by Mike “Sure Shot” Timlin. “They did not know that one of their own has joined our side.” He then winked at men gathered around him. They knew that he spoke of the grizzled hurler who provided them with meat in scarce times.

Sure Shot was born in the land of red necks but traveled throughout the peoples of the world learning their ways as if they were his own. At last he found an abode for his heart in the brotherhood of red feet.

“Yes, Hot Shot has fought three days straight and required respite. I answered the call when Blood Foot was unable to complete his task,” assented Sure Shot. “And this one helped the entire tribe with the sureness of his attack.” The older man patted the back of one of his protégés, Manny “Little Field” Delcarmen.

Curt “Blood Foot” Schilling blustered. “This warrior did not relent. I attacked ceaselessly until most of my enemies were trounced. Those rangers, those evil-doers from distant lands, did not witness the dishonor of the people of the red feet. I did not rest until they were annihilated, even if my arm would be made useless as the gristle that Sure Shot renders from the deer he slaughters. It was Shine Head who did not permit me to face those last three vermin. I was so close to completing the joyous task of plowing through their lines and salting the land they would till.”

“Enough, Blood Foot.” Big Thighs spoke at last, motioning gently yet firmly for his garrulous tribesman to be silent. “You should have kept your original name, ‘Ever Jest.’” Barely stiffled laughter rose above the clan. “Also, when we travel beyond the great mountains of the west, you will not be permitted to journey any farther south than the range of the redwoods. I understand there is some large gathering of your strange ilk in the missionary lands.”

July 20, 2006

Ennoble

Game 93: July 19, 2006
Royals (32-62), 0
Red Sox (57-36), 1
L: Mark Redman (6-5)
W: Josh Beckett (12-5)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (29)

As was the case yesterday, there were more happenings behind the scenes rather than between the chalk lines:

  • Josh Beckett signed a three-year contract extension worth $30 million. The club has an option for the fourth year that automatically kicks in should Beckett make 28 starts in 2009 or 56 starts in 2008 and 2009. Judging by the offseason deals inked by A.J. Burnett (five years, $55 million) and Kevin Millwood (four years, $48 million), Beckett could have held out for more money. I’m sure seeing the commitment the front office has to keeping the team in contention, so unlike his previous team, helped Beckett to realize that the extra few million isn’t worth giving up a spot in a pitching staff that includes Craig Hansen, Jon Lester, and Jonathan Papelbon.
  • Tim Wakefield has a stress fracture to his rib cage. He was placed on the disabled list retroactive to July 18th. Such fractures do typically present as back pain. The MRI taken on July 7th in Chicago was of his spine. Had it focused on other anatomy, the rib fracture definitely could have been diagnosed earlier as MRI is able to detect such injuries better than x-rays. With Wakefield being out for the next three to four weeks, lefty Kason Gabbard was given the nod to join the 25-man roster. The 24-year old made his Triple-A debut barely a month ago.
  • In a case of perfect timing, David Wells threw a successful simulated game. The lefty could return to the mound for another simulated game in Seattle or Pawtucket later this week.

For the second game in a row a Red Sox stater was able to pitch for eight innings. Beckett didn’t walk a batter and had seven strikeouts in his four-hit outing. Jonathan Papelbon captured yet another save; his mark of 29 leads the majors.

Manny Ramirez was brilliant with his fourth-inning home run and fifth-inning defensive exploit yesterday. After nearly two weeks without a roundtripper, the left fielder blasted All-Star Mark Redman’s tater into the seats on the wall.

In just ten days, 17 players and executives from the Negro league and pre-Negro leagues will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. One player not counted among that number is John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil. As player-manager of the Kansas City Monarchs, O’Neil sent more players to the majors than any other. He was the first baseman for the dominant Monarchs during their five-year pennant streak. Off the field, he served in the Navy during World War II and was the first African-American scout for the majors. But O’Neil won’t take his rightful place in Cooperstown this time around, he is the chairman of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

O’Neil was given proper recognition yesterday in the independent Northern League All-Star Game. The Kansas City T-Bones signed O’Neil to a one-day contract, making the 94-year-old the oldest professional player. He was intentionally walked to make his at bat official. Walk on, Mr. O’Neil. U2 originally dedicated “Walk On” to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but the words apply to all those who have stood against oppression.

Buckoneil

You’re packing a suitcase for a place
None of us has been
A place that has to be believed
To be seen

You could have flown away
A singing bird
In an open cage
Who will only fly
Only fly for freedom

Walk on
Walk on
What you got
You can’t deny it
Can’t sell it or buy it

Photo courtesy AP

July 19, 2006

Reign

Game 92: July 18, 2006
Royals (32-61), 0
Red Sox (56-36), 1
L: Brandon Duckworth (1-3)
W: Jon Lester (5-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (28)

This past Tuesday, there was more action off the field than on. Javier Lopez was optioned to Pawtucket and Willie Harris was designated for assignment to make room for Jermaine Van Buren and Wily Mo Peña. So, when I watched Harris depart Fenway on Monday night, it probably was his last time driving down Yawkey Way. I’ll miss his .156 BA, .250 OBP, and .200 slugging, not to mention his single RBI and six stolen bases. It was great to have someone around to remind everyone of Cesar Crespo, but it’s production, not nostalgia, that powers a team.

Jon Lester was phenomenal and pitched for more than six innings for the first time in the majors. It’s easy to appear masterful against a team like the Royals. Kansas City trails the rest of the AL in the major offensive categories: 12th in batting average, tenth in OBP, 13th in slugging, 12th in RBIs, and 14th in home runs. Such a team probably makes Joey Gathright long for the Devil Rays. Such a team could give a starting job to Willie Harris, and he’d probably bat in the middle third of the lineup.

Nevertheless, Lester lasted for eight innings, allowing just a single hit and four walks while striking out four. He pitched exactly 100 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. Jonathan Papelbon entered the ninth inning and pitched perfectly. There’s few things that one can appreciate the smaller they get, things like waist measurements, cholesterol levels, and golf handicaps. One of those things is ERA, and Papelbon’s is 0.55.

Brandon Duckworth pitched almost as well as Lester. In fact, he walked three fewer batters and struck out one more in his six innings of work. Even more surprisingly, Kansas City’s bullpen, Andrew Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos pitched two scoreless innings to end the game.

The fitful wind conspired against both teams. In the fifth inning, Jason Varitek doubled off the wall, just missing a home run. The visitors probably thought the evaded misfortune, but then Alex Gonzalez knocked the ball up the middle to score Varitek and notch the only run of the game. Both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had their long flys knocked down by the vengeful gales.

How disheartening to see a team like a Royals, one of the teams from the 1969 expansion, mired in such lassitude. In their short history they’ve captured six division titles, two pennants, and a World Series championship, as well as having George Brett inducted into the Hall of Fame. Unlike other cellar dwellers, like the Pirates and even the Devil Rays, they lack emerging talent to build around. Owner David Glass is content to pocket the revenue sharing checks the league sends him. I enjoyed seeing the Royals play in the Negro League Monarch uniforms this past weekend in a game against Detroit; it’s one of the few things this team does right.

July 18, 2006

Coronate

Game 91: July 17, 2006
Royals (32-60), 4
Red Sox (55-36), 5
BS, L: Joel Peralta (2, 1-2)
W: Mike Timlin (5-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (27)

Last night I had the privilege of attending the game thanks to my friends Jane (of JJ’s Space), Annie (Jane’s girlfriend), and Joe (with whom I’ve collaborated with from time to time). The seats were in Section 40, the same area as David Laurila (author of Interviews from Red Sox Nation) and Anne Quinn. I love sitting in this part of the bleachers because it’s a good mix of season ticket holders and ruffians, one keeping group keeping the other in check.

The frat boy types behind us tried to act tough by harrying the groundskeeper who was in charge of running down beachballs. They also were sub-par hecklers, resorting to coarse slurs when trying to provoke Joey Gathright. But their vacuity was countervailed by the young boy and father pair to my right. The son had a Johnny Damon jersey that he retrofitted as a Josh Beckett ensemble by duct taping over the original name as well as applying white tape to change the “8” to a “9.” “You can make a Red Sox shirt out of tape,” he advised me knowingly. “All you need is tape and you can do anything!” That’s the trait of fan initiative and invention that Larry Lucchino must hate.

Unfortunately we got to our seats too late to see Marvin Lee Aday (a.k.a. Meatloaf) and Will Ferrell throw their first pitches. Only in baseball can two portions of three thirds add to a single unit and more than one first pitch can exist. Ferrell was dressed in the polyester blend uniform of the 70s and mimicked Luis Tiant. The actor’s pitch missed the plate but Josh Beckett nonetheless was able to glove it before it bounded to the backstop.

Tim Wakefield pitched only four innings, forced to leave early due to a recurrence of his back pain. The knuckleballer did seem out of sorts early. He begin the second inning by hitting Emil Brown after getting ahead with two swinging strikes. Mark Teahen singled and Gathright walked to load the bases. Wakefield walked the nine-hole hitter John Buck to grant the Royals the first run on the board. David DeJesus singled to left to plate both Teahen and Gathright.

In Wakefield’s stead Manny Delcarmen pitched two innings and permitted only a single run to score. DeJesus was involved again, this time his grounder fielded by Kevin Youkilis, who opted for the sure force at first rather than throwing home to nab Teahen.

I must chide those who left the game early because of the 4-0 lead Kansas City compiled. They were oblivious to the fact that the Royals’ bullpen is the worst in the league. These are the casual fans for whom the Red Sox trivia has been dumbed down. Last night’s question was so obvious because one the answers was the man who started the game. “Name the three pitchers who have pitched 2,000 or more innings on the Red Sox,” commanded the Jumbotron. Neophyte fans may have been misled by the presence of Jim Lonborg as the “Red Sox Legend” of the evening, but of course the hurlers are Roger Clemens (2,776), Cy Young (2,728.1), and Tim Wakefield (2,191.1).

Those who left early missed both Coco Crisp’s RBI single and Doug Mirabelli’s game-tying roundtripper in the seventh. Mirabelli’s homer was slow and lofty; it didn’t seem to have the might required to clear the wall. But it had enough height to be pushed by the breeze into the Monster seats.

The home team completed the comeback in the eighth inning. Mark Loretta and David Ortiz hit back-to-back singles. Terry Francona had Willie Harris pinch run for Loretta at third. The switch proved prescient as Manny Ramirez’s sacrifice fly to left proved shallow enough for DeJesus to make the play at home close. Inspired by his smallball success, Ortiz stole second with Trot Nixon at the dish. The designated hitter swiped the sixth base of his career and was smiling as if he had won the game in his usual clutch way. A pity that Crisp struck out to end the inning because it was clear the Ortiz was itching to attempt a theft of home.

Joe and I hung around on Yawkey Way, a few feet away from the intersection of Boylston, to watch the procession of players leaving the park. Joe is one of the better player spotters because of his height and automobile knowledge. He recognized Jack McCormick, the Red Sox traveling secretary, and called out, “Hey, Jack!” McCormick responded with a wave and somewhat bewildered look. I can hear the conversation back at the McCormick household later that night. “Honey, do we know a real tall kid, brown hair, beard? Some guy waved at me tonight and I didn’t recognize him.” We decided right then that we would cheer the lesser-known Red Sox personalities the loudest. I said that Ino Guerrero is going to get a huge ovation, and sure enough, he was the next one to motor down the road.

We stayed long enough to cheer Mirabelli, one of the last to leave, probably because of the media obligations required of a game-winner.

July 17, 2006

Rut

Game 90: July 16, 2006
Athletics (48-44), 8
Red Sox (54-36), 1
W: Joe Blanton (9-8)
L: Kyle Snyder (1-1)

Yesterday I sat in the bleachers at Fenway. The ordeal proved to be quite probably the greatest heat I’ve endured for a prolonged period, and I’m from Hawai‘i. As Michelle Wie recently demonstrated in the John Deere Classic, heat endurance is not necessarily a given if you were raised in the fiftieth state. In the islands, the temperature rarely gets above 90 degrees and even if it does there are the cooling tradewinds. I actually got to the point of illness and it can’t be attributed to Kyle Snyder’s pitching, although I must say he takes an inordinately long time between pitches. Had Tim Wakefield pitched as originally scheduled, a win would have been more likely and we wouldn’t have been roasting in our own juices for the length of time we did.

Snyder should come with a label that states, “For use only in case of emergency. If pitching needs persist beyond four innings, call your general manager and request rotation assistance.” Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez’s dosage guidelines: “Use when game is no longer winnable. Consult your general manager should more bullpen aid be required.”

You’ll see by the pictures that Mike Timlin sprayed the crowd from the bullpen. The bullpen pitchers would lean against the wall with their backs towards to the game to look at our flushed faces, amazed that most of us stayed into the bitter end.

The single offensive bright spot came from an unforeseen source: Alex Gonzalez jacked a solo shot into the Monster seats in the fifth inning. For a second I thought it was a figment of my heat-addled brain.

Another moment that made yesterday’s game worth attending was that Jason Varitek tied Carlton Fisk for most appearances as a catcher for the Red Sox. As of yesterday, both caught for 990 games. For the Red Sox Legends segment, the “Like a Rock” Fisk montage played out on the center field scoreboard.

Continue reading “Rut” »

July 16, 2006

Resumption

Game 89: July 15, 2006
Athletics (47-44), 0
Red Sox (54-35), 7
L: Dan Haren (6-8)
W: Curt Schilling (11-3)

Judging by the small dose of Chris “Mad Dog” Russo from WFAN I was exposed to in the pre-game show, I’m not missing much. Russo was twice as coherent and enjoyable as any personality on WEEI’s Big Show, and I enjoyed Russo as much as the extraction of my impacted wisdom teeth.

Desperate times lead to desperate measures. Jerry Remy unleashed the power of the upside-down Wally in the second inning in response to Frank Thomas’s leadoff single that eluded the shallow-playing Manny Ramirez. Monster green mojo overcame athletic green moxie, so much so that the Red Sox collected their first shutout of the season.

In the third inning David Ortiz darted around the horn for his first triple of 2006. He plated Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta. Later in that inning Mike Lowell sacrificed to score Ramirez for his second RBI of the game. The third baseman persisted to make his case for comeback player of the year; he had doubled in the first to drive in the first run for the home team.

To further support his case for AL MVP, Ortiz hit a superfluous homer in the eighth inning. Although Ortiz will probably continue to flourish with the game on the line, he now realizes that it’s tawdry numbers that will impress MVP voters and will throw in an extra four-bagger from time to time.

Curt Schilling proved to be Boston’s stopper and horse with his seven-inning showing. His nine strikeouts exceeded the total for all four of Oakland’s pitchers and he allowed just two hits and a single base on balls. After Jason Varitek was hit by Dan Haren in the fifth, Schilling responded in the top of the next inning by coming in on Nick Swisher twice before eventually plunking him. Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen both permitted just two hits between them to shut down the visitors in their two innings of work.

I’ll be going to this afternoon’s game and given that there were a few beanings throughout the series I wonder if the crowd will be treated to some on-field pyrotechnics. Swisher hinted at some possible retaliatory actions and the expendable Kyle Snyder will probably be happy to oblige. After the game I’ll be attending the release party for David Laurila’s Interviews from Red Sox Nation at The Plough and Stars in Cambridge from 6:00 to 8:00. I love leisurely Sundays suffused with baseball.

July 15, 2006

Thewy

Game 88: July 14, 2006
Athletics (47-43), 15

Red Sox (53-35), 3

W: Barry Zito (9-6)
L: Josh Beckett (11-5)

The Oakland As are known for coming into the first half of the season like a lamb and roaring into the second half like a lion. So it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise that the perennial AL contenders took over Fenway last night and humiliated the Red Sox with a defeat that duplicated their worst of the season.

Momentum turned against Boston in the first inning when Milton Bradley gloved a shot off the bat of Manny Ramirez that seemed destined to reach the bullpen. Instead of the Red Sox moving ahead 2-1, they were blanked until the sixth inning.

Pitching with his team trailing adversely affected Josh Beckett. He seemed tentative and fell behind in the count, making his pitch count untenably high early. Beckett lasted just four and a one-third innings and had more walks than strikeouts (four of the former compared to three of the latter), but he only gave up a single gopher ball, this time to Mark Ellis in the fourth.

Ellis alone had more runs than the entire Red Sox team last night. Like his team, Ellis’s pattern is to have strong second halves after turning in a few tepid months of play. The visiting second baseman went three for six with five RBIs.

The Red Sox have been outstanding defensively and flaunted the leather in the second inning. Kevin Youkilis displayed impeccable footwork by nabbing Bradley’s bounding line shot and regrouping himself in time to relay to Beckett for the first out. Coco Crisp replicated his catch against the Mets with his diving collar of an Ellis fly. The degree of bedazzlement of the outs in this inning were in inverse proportion to the sculptedness of the players’ physique, as Gabe Kapler concluded the inning with a middling snare of Antonio Perez’s air ball to shallow right.

Craig Breslow, who was called up from Pawtucket to replace Jason Johnson just a few days ago, made his Red Sox debut last night with a near-perfect one and two-third inning showing. He struck out two (Nick Swisher and Mark Kotsay) and allowed only a single hit (an RBI single to Ellis). The newcomer did hit Frank Thomas with a pitch in the sixth but lived to tell the tale. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher seemed tempted to warn the dugouts because David Ortiz had been hit in the fifth inning by Barry Zito. Ortiz hits Zito at a steady clip: .381 BA, .435 OBP, .667 slugging with just a single strikeout.

The best part of the evening was watching the postgame to hear Dennis Eckersley pop off about Beckett and Zito. In a separate segment, Manny Delcarmen’s nickname was revealed to be “Delmacarena.” If Eck were a novelty dance he’d be the hustle.

July 14, 2006

Solecism

Game 87: July 13, 2006
Athletics (46-43), 5

Red Sox (53-34), 4

W: Huston Street (3-3)
H: Scott Sauerbeck (4)
S: Kirk Saarloos (2)
H: Craig Hansen (4)
BS: Manny Delcarmen (2)
L: Julian Tavarez (1-3)
11 innings

Despite scoring early and benefiting from a decent five-inning outing by Jon Lester, the Red Sox dropped their first game of the second half of the season. Lester displayed his uncanny ability to create dramas and then wangle his way out of them, reminding me of my histrionic sister, who self-diagnosed herself as bipolar. Or was it dysphoric mania? It was one of those mental disorders that characterize games such as this.

Lester only surrendered a single earned run--a solo shot in the third inning by the vastly under-rated Nick Swisher. Yet he allowed five bases on balls and struck out only three. Lester’s proclivity for short appearances forced Terry Francona to go to the bullpen in the sixth inning.

Short starts also put pressure on the relief pitchers that follow. Preferably Craig Hansen wouldn’t be extended past getting three outs, which he did easily in the sixth. But he was back on the mound at the start of the seventh inning and relinquished consecutive singles, the first of which was to the nine-hole hitter, Antonio Perez. Hansen managed to induce a ground out from Swisher, but both runners still advanced into scoring position.

Manny Delcarmen replaced Hansen to face the red-headed but now shorn Bobby Kielty. He was more eye-grabbing with his Ronald McDonald coiffure, but the remnants of his fiery locks were still enough to distract Mark Loretta from fielding the grounder that lolled toward him. Rather than fielding the ball Loretta took his eyes away from the ball to sneak a peek at home; the split second lapse was enough to allow the ball to skit his glove. Loretta’s fourth error of the season permitted to runners to cross home to tie the score 3-3. Delcarmen, along with Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon, allowed no earned runs in the three and two-thirds innings they pitched.

I’m going to do something that is very difficult for me and other Red Sox fans: I’m going to give Julian Tavarez credit. He shouldn’t have even been on the mound to lose the game in extra innings. There he was in the eleventh inning, ready to play the role of scapegoat because of Loretta’s error. The second baseman alone shouldn’t shoulder the blame, however: there was also the ineptitude of the Red Sox bats, which snoozed for much of the match-up and left 15 men on base as well as Willie Harris being picked off of first in the ninth inning with the score tied and no outs.

Tavarez did allow the Kielty and Frank Thomas RBI singles, but Boston did not capitalize in the bottom of the inning. They came within a run by virtue of Varitek’s RBI single through the heart of the infield into center, but the outs dwindled to nothing before the home team could recover.

There were some positive moments during the game despite the loss. Dave Wallace was back in the dugout in uniform. Mike Lowell’s 12th home run as viewed from the blimp was an exquisite sight. David Ortiz’s leadoff ground-rule double bounded into the stands to be caught by a fan with an Ortiz shirt on. She should treasure that, as he has fewer doubles than homers. Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek teamed up for a hit-and-run play in the third, an occurrence probably rare as a blue moon. And what is a blue moon? Sky & Telescope says:

When is the Moon “blue,” in a calendrical sense? According to the Maine almanac, a Blue Moon occurs when a season has four full Moons, rather than the usual three. This type of Blue Moon is found only in February, May, August, and November, one month before the next equinox or solstice. According to modern folklore, a Blue Moon is the second full Moon in a calendar month. This type of Blue Moon can occur in any month but February, which is always shorter than the time between successive full Moons.

July 13, 2006

Starry Night

ASG200677th Annual All-Star Game: July 11, 2006
American League (35-40-2), 3
National League (40-35-2), 2

W: B.J. Ryan
S: Mariano Rivera
H: Brian Fuentes
H: Derrick Turnbow
H: Tom Gordon
BS, L: Trevor Hoffman

Ted Williams Award for Most Valuable Player: Michael Young

Rather than a blowout or a duel between just two pitchers, this year’s Midsummer Classic was a multiple pitcher mêlée. Brad Penny pushed Fox’s mile-per-hour graphic into overdrive. Knowing that he would pitch at most two innings, Penny cajoled the radar gun in excess of 95 MPH on nearly every pitch, topping out at 99. Penny matched Pedro Martinez’s 1999 showing by striking out the side, but did not surpass Martinez, who had struck out four sluggers in a row.

Thankfully, Fox did away with the Red Carpet Show, probably because media whore nonpareil Johnny Damon was not selected as an All-Star. This year there seemed to be a changing of the guard. The camera panned across the lines of the reserves and the fresh faces Grady Sizemore, Dan Uggla, Joe Mauer, Francisco Liriano, and Ryan Howard shone, so much so I wondered if any of them actually need to shave.

Despite being 315 miles away, in a different league, and 46 years removed from their last World Series, hatred for the Yankees still thrives in Pittsburgh. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and even Robinson Cano were booed, listed in descending order of jeer lustiness. Only Mariano Rivera received a smattering of applause out of respect for his greatness.

One of the least deserving Hall of Famers, Bill Mazeroski (.260 BA, .299 OBP, .367 slugging, 2,016 hits, 138 homers, but with eight Gold Gloves and seven All-Star appearances), threw out the first pitch of the game. Then again, if only for his walk-off wallop in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, however, perhaps he does deserve a space on those hallowed halls.

PNC Park is a gorgeous arena, seeped in tradition despite its newness. One can envision Roberto Clemente casting a ball to home to gun out a runner with the yellow bridge that bears his name as a backdrop. You can almost hear the strains of “We Are Family” when your eyes peruse the home dugout roof. And on All-Star Game night, you could watch some of the greatest in the game play, as well as Mark Redman.

The teams traded roundtrippers in the second inning with Vladimir Guerrero and David Wright making the only souvenirs of the evening. Speed mavens from the NL tried to break the tie, but Alfonso Soriano, running through a stop sign, was thrown out at home by Vernon Wells in the third inning. The play at home allowed Carlos Beltran, who reached on a single to center field, to advance to second. The wheels of Beltran Industries turned as he stole second and scored on a wild pitch by Roy Halladay to manufacture a run.

It was in this splendid stadium that the AL came back in the ninth inning on Michael Young’s two-run triple. Just a mere strike away and the NL would have broken the junior circuit’s three-year run, or eight-year streak, if you don’t count the 2002 tie. Young’s team may not enjoy the fruit of his labor, but another front-running AL team will.

July 11, 2006

Clout Contest

HRDerby2006Home Run Derby: July 10, 2006
Lance Berkman
Miguel Cabrera
Jermaine Dye
Troy Glaus
Ryan Howard
David Ortiz
Miguel Tejada
David Wright

Round 1
This Home Run Derby stuff is serious business. Ramon Henderson, the man who lobbed 41 meatballs to Bobby Abreu last year, was recruited by both David Ortiz and Miguel Tejada even though he’s Ryan Howard’s hitting coach.

The 2004 derby champ Tejada only hit three in the first round, as did Lance Berkman, who is the only switch-hitter to join in this event. Berkman hit left-handed to take advantage of the shorter distance to the left field stands, which are 375 feet compared to 389 for the right, as well as his greater power potential, which is .648 lefty and .500 righty for slugging.

Troy Glaus just doesn’t seem to be able to perform under the spotlight. This year he managed a single homer, which was an improvement over the goose egg he laid in 2001.

Miguel Cabrera, a derby rookie, impressed with nine roundtrippers. Although technically in this event no trips are taken.

Remarkably, David Wright, another event newbie, defied the odds and exploded for 16 longballs in the first round. Cliff Floyd is on record for saying that Wright would only hit two.

During Jermaine Dye’s lackluster showing of seven circuit clouts, A.J. Pierzynski showed off his little girl and proved that it is his one worthwhile contribution to the world. While trying to be funny, the White Sox catcher joked about corked bats and juiced balls. He was one HGH comment away from being censored.

A huge highlight for me was the guest appearance by Yale physics professor emeritus Robert K. Adair, author of The Physics of Baseball. His demonstration of the required speed and angle of elevation to propel the ball into the Allegheny River put the Fox Scooter animations to shame. I would give more kudos to ESPN if Chris Berman weren’t part of the broadcast.

David Ortiz was the first hitter to reach the river on the fly. Ortiz hit ten in the first round and was shown relaxing with his son D’angelo after his stint at the plate. It seems Papi really, really likes D’angelo’s sandwiches. Maybe the child got a cookie for his birthday, which was last night.

Ryan Howard was the second slugger to reach the river on the fly. His eight home runs knocked out Dye.

Round 2
This year ushered in a new rule: homers from first round carry over and are added to the second round shots. Is that a huge sigh of relief escaping from the lips of Wright?

Perhaps it was just extreme exhaustion. Wright walloped only two more homebaggers and was actually robbed by one of the bully big kids shagging flys in the outfield. The kid was booed not just because he Toriied Wright but also because he faked a throw of the ball into the stands.

Jonathan Papelbon appeared as special guests during Ortiz’s second display at the dish. The closesr phenom said he had 100 large on Papi and as an incentive Papi would get 50 percent of the take. But Ortiz only managed another three homers for a total of 13.

Cabrera, younger, fresher, and perhaps carrying some of the Venezuelan mojo that elevated Abreu last year, knocked Ortiz out of the finals with his six second round dingers.

Somehow, however, Howard went out of body to launch ten four-baggers to tie Wright at 18 and join his NL compatriot in the finals.

Finals
If you weren’t a Phillies or Mets fan, the finals were a bit of a bore. Ortiz acted as Wright’s cut man, giving the youth encouragement and a quick rubdown. Papi’s ministrations fell short, however, as Howard’s five taters topped Wright’s four yard jobs.

If you have any other terms for home run that I missed, please do leave a comment. I think, like Wright, I’ve pretty much depleted my store of them.

July 10, 2006

Clocked

Game 86: July 9, 2006
Red Sox (53-33), 5
White Sox (57-31), 6
H: Manny Delcarmen (7)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
BS: Mike Timlin (3)
L: Rudy Seanez (2-1)
W: Cliff Politte (2-2)
19 innings

Fortunately, I was at Midway Airport by the time this game was underway. There were no televisions with this game on because of the World Cup final, but I logged on wirelessly and watched the game progress via MLB Gameday. I would have listened to Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano through Gameday Audio, but the new Intel Macs are not yet able to decode MLB’s streaming media through the Firefox or Safari browsers. A Jere-patented “terrible job” to MLB Advanced Media.

Despite the two-hour flight and an hour delay on the tarmac at Logan Airport, I was back in home in time to see the ending of this marathon game.

Tables were turned: Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Timlin blew saves while Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez pitched admirably. Seanez did eventually lose the game in the 19th thanks to a Tadahito Iguchi RBI single with the bases loaded and one out. Prior to that final blow, Seanez got out of a jam in the 17th inning after permitting two runners on base. With no outs, Iguchi popped his bunt directly back to the pitcher. Pablo Ozuna then grounded to Alex Cora, who ranged from third, changed directions, and made an arcing but accurate throw to Kevin Youkilis for a gorgeous double play.

In the top of the 19th, Cora launched a ball that was close to being a homer and actually flipped his bat just after contact. Jermaine Dye showed that he not only had offensive prowess but defensive chops as well as he snagged the ball at the wall on the run. Joey Cora had a laugh at his younger brother’s expense.

Apparently the 11th inning could have been the final ending and may have resulted in a win for the Red Sox. Boston scored two runs in the top of the inning to take the lead 5-3. Javier Lopez couldn’t strike out Jim Thome as he had in Saturday’s game and the slugger doubled to lead off the inning. Timlin, who we all know has difficulty entering a game with men on base, allowed Paul Konerko to single. With runners at the corners, Dye doubled deep enough that both Thome and Ross Gload should have scored and Dye should have been standing up at third base. Gload tarried between third and home, however, forcing him to retreat when the ball returned to the infield. Dye had advanced past third base and was obligated to return to second because of Gload’s blunder. On Dye’s return trip he did not touch third base.

Had the Red Sox appealed, Dye would have been out. But the visitors’ dugout is on the first base side of the field and the misstep was not perceived by Cora (thanks for the correction, Jere). So, the inning continued with no outs and runners at second and third, forcing Terry Francona to intentionally walk A.J. Pierzynski so there would be a force at each station.

Joe Crede lined out to right, which in the alternate scenario would have been the second out of the inning. Then Alex Cintron grounded into a fielder’s choice that should have been the final out, but instead Gload scored to tie the game.

Something lost in the blur of my flight and the longevity of the game was Curt Schilling’s right elbow taking a blow from Thome’s line drive in the sixth inning. Schilling stayed in the game to complete the inning, the x-rays were negative, and the right-hander has the All-Star Break to recuperate. So perhaps Ozzie Guillen was prescient when he kept the Red Sox starter off of the AL All-Star team roster.

As 1919 and this game demonstrates, the White Sox can neither lose nor win cleanly. I love the city, but I can see why the lore of the Chicago Cubs lures so many more fans than their crosstown rivals. Later on this evening I will post a few pictures from my trip and you will be able to see the differences between the two clubs.

July 9, 2006

Rocked

Game 85: July 8, 2006
Red Sox (53-32), 9
White Sox (56-31), 6
W: Josh Beckett (11-4)
H: Javier Lopez (4)
H: Craig Hansen (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (26)
L: David Riske (0-2)

Just about a month ago relievers David Riske and Javier Lopez were swapped between the two teams surnamed Sox. Although Riske’s ERA for the month of July (3.86) is better than Lopez’s (7.71), yesterday Lopez made a pivotal one-third of an inning appearance to help his team win.

Josh Beckett had pitched six innings, at times brilliantly but on occasion recklessly. He relinquished three homers, two to fellow World Series MVP Jermaine Dye. To commence the seventh inning he walked two batters and allowed another to single to load the bases. With lefty slugger Jim Thome at the dish, Lopez was brought in to staunch the bleeding and did so with a surgeon’s precision. Craig Hansen put the finishing touches on the operation by stitching together the final two outs of the seventh, although the rookie reliever did allow a run to score in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon was electric as usual, allowing no hits in his one and one-third innings appearance to nail down his 26th save of the season.

I caught a portion of the Chicago White Sox postgame show that said Papelbon was “just like our Bobby Jenks.” The two closers are tied in the number of saves, but Jenks’s 2.56 ERA, while excellent, isn’t “just like” Papelbon’s 0.41 ERA. To placate the offended sensibilities of White Sox fans over their series loss, highlights from the 2005 ALDS sweep over Boston were in high rotation.

Riske pitched two-thirds of an inning in the sixth and allowed the game-winning run to score. He ignobly walked Alex Cora after attaining two outs. With the score knotted at five runs apiece and knowing that Jenks loomed in the bullpen ready to shut down his team, Terry Francona had Cora steal to get into scoring position. Kevin Youkilis drove the shortstop in with a liner to left field.

With their second win against the White Sox, Boston guaranteed that they will go into the All-Star break with a series win under their belt. If there’s any team and fan base that needs ego deflation it would be the Pale Hose, and the Red Sox may just be the team to do so.

July 8, 2006

Socked

Game 84: July 7, 2006
Red Sox (52-32), 7
White Sox (56-30), 2
W: Jon Lester (4-0)
H: Manny Delcarmen (6)
H: Mike Timlin (16)
L: Mark Buehrle (9-6)

The Chicago mass transit system is as organized and well-planned as the rest of the city. Unlike the T in Boston, all of the trains of the L are of the same design and the naming of stops follows logic. Each stop is clearly demarcated and there is no confusing “inbound” and “outbound” nomenclature. Although initially confusing, the system is easily comprehendable and welcoming to visitors.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the White Sox fans I was sitting near during last night’s game.

To be sure, this is the first time I have been visited another major league park while I was a fan of the opposing team. And the South Side fans are justifiably proud of their status as world champions. But one would think there would a certain level of decorum and class as champions. When attending Red Sox games in 2005, in general I thought fans of my team reveled in their team’s success rather than excoriate the accomplishments of players of other teams.

In contrast, White Sox fans have expressed their success by infusing the air with bravado defined almost entirely by the fact they aren’t pathetic like Cubs fans rather than enjoying their triumph on their own terms. With last night’s loss, I heard more White Sox clamoring about how Red Sox fans were like Cubs fans, but Cub fans were worse because they cheer on perpetual losers.

What’s truly pathetic is to allow such an inferiority complex to tarnish their perceptions. I’d wager that they would rather see the Cubs lose for the next 100 years rather than see their own team win the World Series again.

As I stated, my only reference point is Fenway Park and our fans. I would truly cringe if I witnessed the following incidents on behalf of my team:

  • With Jim Thome at bat, the inebriated White Sox fans sitting next to me opined that he’s glad the White Sox are all-American, unlike the Red Sox. The Red Sox, he said, have these players from all these other countries. Apparently, he doesn’t realize Juan Uribe, Alex Cintron, Pablo Ozuna, Jose Contreras, Tadahito Iguchi, Javier Vazquez, and their tolerant leader Ozzie Guillen are not from the United States or that non-whites can be Americans.
  • Another guy heckled Manny Ramirez about his “injury,” which is perhaps warranted. But he also kept imploring Ramirez to get a haircut. Have you seen your players A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Crede, or Freddy Garcia lately? He was the same guy who suggested that David Ortiz get drilled and that the designated hitter used steroids.
  • Without the adornments of a big league logo, the promotions the team holds would render US Cellularmiskey Fieldpark a minor league stadium. Thanks to the legacy of Bill Veeck, the atmosphere is a addled mixture of dugout roof dance offs, 80s music interludes, Scooter-inspired Jumbotron animations, on-field fan feats, and badly looped music.
  • Mark Buehrle was roundly booed when he left the mound. I have been to subpar outings by Matt Clement and have heard booing, but even when he was lit up there was at least smatterings of polite applause for the starter.
  • The “Boston sucks” and “Let’s go Yankees and/or Blue Jays” chants almost inspired me begin a cheer for the Tigers, Indians, or, best of all, Cubs. But as one who is a guest in another’s park as well as a person who values her life, I did not do so.
  • Despite extensive real estate to display announcements for the upcoming Mullet Night and the Pink Hat Giveaway, no screen displayed OBP or slugging. Also, there was no board showing pitch type and in-game ERA, let alone batting average against for the current pair facing off.
  • With the score 5-2 at the bottom of the eighth, fans began to depart. The crowd that remained behind were staying for the postgame fireworks display. Since no White Sox players hit homers, they weren’t treated to such a spectacle during the game.

Jon Lester, whose name the hecklers didn’t even bother to learn and was referred to as “that rookie” throughout the game, pitched six innings and allowed only two earned runs. Both runs were nearly carbon copies of each other with Jermaine Dye sacrificing to plate Alex Cintron. Each scoring situation came with the bases loaded and as a result of Jim Thome being able to muscle opposite field grounders past the shift.

The lack of timely hitting with men on base subdued the White Sox supporters, as did the home runs by Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and Coco Crisp. Ortiz’s first inning home run gave the Red Sox the early lead that the home team could only tie, and Lowell’s and Crisp’s ninth inning circuit clouts sealed the victory.

I’ll be posting pictures from my Wrigley Park tour and the game a little later. It’s time for me to enjoy lunch at the Taste of Chicago.

July 7, 2006

Avert

Game 83: July 6, 2006
Red Sox (51-32), 12
Devil Rays (38-48), 5
W: Tim Wakefield (7-8)
H: Craig Hansen (2)
H: Manny Delcarmen (5)
H: Mike Timlin (15)
L: James Shields (4-2)

In his drive to become the AL MVP for 2006, David Ortiz took a page out of Alex Rodriguez’s book and hit a grand slam late in the game with his team in the lead. It’s apparent to the designated hitter that the Baseball Writers Association of America values this trait above all others. While Ortiz will continue to win games in clutch situations, he’ll be sure to pad his statistics with meaningless runs to garner the attention of the knights of the keyboard.

The Red Sox managed to avoid a sweep by the cellar-dwelling yet formidable Rays, especially key because this was a four-game series and the Yankees won as well. Although Tim Wakefield gave up three home runs, he still notched the win thanks to the offensive barrage provided by Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Doug Mirabelli, and Alex Gonzalez. The later three tallied two runs each and totaled Ortiz’s RBIs for the evening.

This evening I’ll attend my first non-exhibition Red Sox game outside of Fenway Park here in Chicago. It’s not the preeminent baseball venue in Chicago, but it is against the reigning World Series champions and am I not one to let pass the opportunity to see the omnipotent Ozzie Guillen in all his glory at US Cellularmisky Fieldpark. As the BWAA are the accomplished arbiters of talent so is Guillen with his All-Star selections.

Troika

Game 82: July 5, 2006
Red Sox (50-32), 2
Devil Rays (38-47), 5
L: Jason Johnson (3-10)
W: Tim Corcoran (1-0)
H: Chad Harville (2)
H: Jon Switzer (2)
S: Brian Meadows (4)

Jason Johnson has the opposite record of Curt Schilling. In so many other ways he is Schilling’s antithesis with his career 4.98 ERA and 773 strikeouts versus Schilling’s 3.41 and 2,941. One positive: Johnson has given up eight less homers than Schilling, 10 compared to 18.

But the Rays (not the Devil Rays any longer, perhaps because of the resurgence of the angelfish-based initiatives) didn’t need home runs to beat the Red Sox for the third consecutive game. AL East elitists like to label Tampa Bay as cellar dwellers, but they are in pace with the Orioles in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. They are last in the AL in team OBP with .315 but are tied for eighth with the Mariners with .415 in slugging percentage. “The Mariners?! So what?” you may think. Seattle is currently in third in the AL West but is pressuring Oakland and Texas by keeping them within sight for the division lead.

One amusing incident in this game was Mike Lowell intentionally muffing Ty Wigginton’s line drive to attempt to turn a triple play. The second inning continued on, however, as third base umpire Paul Nauert was having nothing to do with Lowell’s shenanigans. Lowell looked like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. One day I’m certain the third baseman will turn an unassisted triple play with some sort of deluxe deke. He’ll follow up that history-making play (no third baseman has ever accomplished an unassisted triple play) with a hidden ball trick to end the game.

In other news, prompted by hitting a shot off the non-home run catwalk in the third inning and being called out as Carl Crawford played the rebound, Kevin Youkilis has announced the founding of Homes Not Domes, a coalition of baseball players dedicated to the abolition of indoor baseball. Youkilis will serve as president and David Ortiz has been tapped as vice president. Notably, certain members of the Red Sox, such as Tim Wakefield, are not supporters of this endeavor but do not begrudge them the creation of this organization.

Homes Not Domes is currently attempting to select a slogan. The choices are:

  1. Sunshine Not Speakers.
  2. Raze the Roof.
  3. Reign in the Sunshine.
  4. Only you can prevent bogus baseball.
  5. Schnooked by a Ceiling.

July 5, 2006

Deficient

Game 81: July 4, 2006
Red Sox (50-31), 6
Devil Rays (37-47), 9
L: Curt Schilling (10-3)
BS: Chad Harville (1)
W: Jon Switzer (1-0)
S: Shawn Camp (4)

The Red Sox are slacking, so I decided to do so as well. Actually, I’ve been preparing for my trip to Chicago this weekend, so writing here has been less of a priority of late.

One point of interest is Casey Fossum vociferously calling for a pop fly in the second inning and promptly missing it entirely. Luckily for him it didn’t glance off him or any of his teammates before bouncing into foul territory. Unfortunately for Alex Gonzalez he swung at the next two pitches to leave Trot Nixon and Gabe Kapler stranded.

Home runs are a growing concern with both Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett. I think it’s about time the advanced scouting team is put to work to see if either pitcher is tipping his pitches or is pitching in too predictable a pattern.

Someone hid Rudy Seanez’s suck in Mike Timlin’s arm. The clubhouse prankster had better stop and stash the suck in the Tampa Bay bullpen where it belongs.

If any of you have been to Chicago, let me know if you have any ideas on cool things to do. Of course I’ll be going to US Cellularmisky Fieldpark for a game and I will be touring Wrigley Field.

July 4, 2006

Bounty

Game 80: July 3, 2006
Red Sox (50-30), 0
Devil Rays (36-47), 3
L: Josh Beckett (10-4)
W: Scott Kazmir (10-5)

The best part of last night’s game was Raymond, which says something about how the evening went. For the third time this season the Red Sox went scoreless. Interestingly, the Red Sox have only been on the receiving end of shutouts in the course of year so far. All-Star Scott Kazmir enjoyed his first complete game shutout, throwing 120 pitchers and striking out ten while allowing just two hits and two walks.

In contrast, Josh Beckett continued to be assailed by the longball. All three of the Tampa Bay runs were homers, and not off the bats of the usual sluggers; Russell Branyan hit one in the fifth while Ty Wigginton hit one each in the third and fifth innings.

Before the first pitch, Raymond was shown reading Jerry Remy’s book and demolishing Remy’s bobblehead. Remy seemed to take it in good humor at the time, but this wanted poster has been circulated around St. Petersburg. Raymond has yet to brag of his exploits in his blog, jejunely entitled The Big Blue Blog. I guess it’s difficult to update one’s site while on the lam.

Raymondwanted

July 3, 2006

Angled

Game 79: July 2, 2006
Red Sox (50-29), 4
Marlins (35-43), 3
BS: Julian Tavarez (2)
W: Mike Timlin (4-0)
H: Manny Delcarmen (4)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (25)
L: Randy Messenger (1-4)

Josh Johnson, the Marlins’ starter, was in competition earlier this season for a spot in the Marlins’ bullpen with Scott Olsen and supplanted the contender by the end of spring training. He was successful enough in the bullpen that by May he bumped Jason Vargas from the fifth spot in the rotation. Since his promotion, Johnson has been invaluable to Florida’s recent hot streak by winning six and losing only two of his last 11 starts. Much like Jon Lester, Johnson has brought a youthful dynamism to his team. Johnson did allow three home runs (to Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, and David Ortiz in consecutive innings), but all were solo shots. He ended with a line of seven innings, four hits, four walks, and five strikeouts.

His opposite number on the Red Sox lasted just five innings and also gave up a solo homer in the first inning. Lester’s brief outing was due mainly to his nerve-wracking second inning where he permitted a bases loaded situation. But three fly outs later, all to formidable hitters (Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Miguel Cabrera), he left the inning unscathed and didn’t allow another run until the fifth.

Julian Tavarez regressed to the mean in the seventh. He threw three straight balls to Cabrera to lead off the inning and paid the price for his lack of precision with a dinger that knotted the game and deprived Lester of a win. Terry Francona gave just enough rope to Tavarez to walk Josh Willingham. Mike Timlin nearly hung himself with that extra slack and Youkilis added a nail to the gallows himself with a fielding error that led to another bases loaded scenario, but Timlin induced a pair of pop flys to stay the executioner’s hand.

As with previous games where the score was close or tied late in the game, the Red Sox manufactured a run in the eighth to take the lead. Jerry Remy’s idol, Alex Cora, reached on an error to commence the inning and advanced to third with his super-duper, heads up, cracker jack base running on Gabe Kapler’s follow-up single. The tiptop shortstop tagged up with matchless grace on Mark Loretta’s sacrifice fly to secure his team the lead.

Manny Delcarmen made his case to replace Rudy Seanez with his two-thirds innings of perfect relief. It’s not so difficult a case to make; if Delcarmen only allowed three runs to score it could still be a compelling argument. Phenom and propagator of peace Jonathan Papelbon allowed a single baserunner on a base on balls before hammering down his 25th save of the season. He was obviously giving a shout out to Matt of NU50 who celebrated his quarter-century on Sunday and who swears that he bought his Papelbon player t-shirt months before all of the bandwagoners did.

July 2, 2006

Bimillenary

Game 78: July 1, 2006
Red Sox (49-29), 11
Marlins (35-42), 5
L: Brian Moehler (5-7)
W: Tim Wakefield (6-8)

A few days in advance of Independence Day David Americo Ortiz Arias and Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida provided pyrotechnics of their own. Both sluggers powered two circuit clouts each. Ramirez’s three-run, opposite field homer in the first not only granted his team the lead but also marked his 2,000th hit. Ramirez joined a dozen Red Sox players, an elite group counting Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski as members.

The Red Sox are now free of the burden of continuing the errorless streak. Doug Mirabelli threw errantly into center field in his attempt to safeguard second base from the larcenous Hanley Ramirez. Alex Gonzalez made a nearly credible deke backing up Mark Loretta, feigning possession of the ball. The Marlin’s Ramirez froze momentarily thinking his counterpart had caught the ball off the rebound, but continued on to third after realizing the ball was dawdling into the outfield. I wonder if Mirabelli was fined by the kangaroo court?

Moments later Gonzalez committed his second error of the season with an off-target throw of his own. What should have been a routine force at second base and a single runner at first devolved into runners at second and third with one out. Tim Wakefield retained his composure to strike out Jeremy Hermida and inducing a ground out by Alfredo Amezaga.

Wakefield, a Florida native, enjoyed his homecoming by tallying his sixth win. It should be more, but the knuckleballer has been the victim of paltry run support. Until last night, Wakefield was tied for third-lowest run support in the AL; his team scored 3.94 runs while in the game. In these days of itinerancy, Wakefield also reached a significant milestone with his 300th Red Sox start. It shall be noted that Jimy Williams, who wouldn’t put Wakefield in the rotation with a gun to his head, last managed a major league team in 2004 and is now a special instructor for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, wandering between the Durham Bulls, Montgomery Biscuits, and Visalia Oaks.

Another Red Sox player relished his return with his three for five showing, all three of which were doubles. With each outing Mike Lowell makes his case for comeback player of the year stronger. Along with his reinvigorated offensive production, Lowell extended his personal errorless streak to 34 games.

Theo Epstein made an appearance in the booth to spread the word on the upcoming benefit concert, Hot Stove, Cool Music: The Fenway Sessions on July 12th. Epstein said Peter Gammons is doing well given the circumstances. May Gammons never slow down, never grow old.

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