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Home » Category Listing » June 2006 Game Comments

June 19, 2008

Parallel

Game 75: June 18, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 W: Justin Masterson (4-1)
H: Manny Delcarmen (10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (21)
46-29, 2 game winning streak
Phillies 4 L: Kyle Kendrick (6-3) 42-32, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: The consonance between Phillies starting pitcher’s first and last names calls to mind a character from a comic book. Kendrick was unable to summon “Above Replacement Level Man,” however, and abandoned the mound with a mere three innings under his belt and six earned runs ballooning his earned run average. Joba Chamberlain’s start today was actually better than Masterson’s; this is the first time this has happened since I began my informal comparison of the two. It should be noted that the Padres’ offensive is as weak as Pau Gasol in the post, however.

Four of Boston’s seven runs came on first-inning homers by J.D. Drew (a three-run shot) and Mike Lowell (a solo blast to left right after Drew’s). David Ortiz recently had his cast removed, but with key players stepping up to fill the void, the designated hitter should be able to rest and completely recover rather than be immediately pressed into action.

I do enjoy the interleague match-ups against the Phillies. Philadelphia, like Boston, is an East Coast city that has an inferiority complex from playing second fiddle to New York City. They are passionate about their sports, but unlike Boston their clubs, with the exception of the Flyers, are in a collective and long-running slump. They know when to cheer and certainly when to jeer independent of cues from the Jumbotron, setting them above the likes of Rockies adherents. They stew in their miserable futility with determination. They seem to take as much pleasure unleashing their cat calls when their team fails as they do hollering hurrays when their squad succeeds.

At least they recognize they are fortunate to have Shane Victorino prowling center and have adopted him as favorite. Victorino was born and raised on Maui where he excelled as a sprinter. The Dodgers drafted him in 1999 and was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft of 2002.

While he was with the Friars he got to play 36 games in the majors but turned in a paltry .151 batting average, .232 on-base percentage, and .179 slugging. The Padres returned him to the Dodgers organization where he did not sniff the majors again.

The Phillies picked Victorino up in the 2004 Rule 5 draft. This time the peregrinating outfielder found a home and was given a chance to get into the lineup. He took that opportunity and ran with it. The way he runs, no one is going to take away his job for a long, long time.

I’ll be at tomorrow night’s game. The World Champions of basketball will be visiting the defending World Champions of baseball. I hope Gino will make an appearance on Fenway’s screen.

July 1, 2006

Seined

Game 77: June 30, 2006
Red Sox (48-29), 2
Marlins (35-41), 5
L: Jason Johnson (3-9)
W: Dontrelle Willis (5-7)
H: Randy Messenger (6)
S: Joe Borowski (15)

Somehow Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez managed to execute a suck transplant from their arms to Jason Johnson before his start last night. It is typically a complicated, extensive procedure, but Johnson seemed to be able to assimilate the combined suckage from the bullpen mates with unusual alacrity. The journeyman starter quickly gave up five run in the first two innings, showing that he probably had pre-existing pockets of suck that readily combined with the introduced suck.

Said procedure allowed Tavarez and Seanez to combine for three scoreless innings. The unfortunate aspect of suck transplants, however, is that they are rarely permanent. Nature abhors a vacuum, and those who suck likely always will. See Bob Stanley.

Former Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez went two for four with two runs scored, a walk, and a strikeout. In light of how well Mike Lowell rebounded from his atrocious production in 2005 and Alex Gonzalez’s recent success at the plate, no longer having the younger Ramirez on the farm feels like less of a loss for the time being. In fact, the change of scenery may have benefited both the Red Sox and the shortstop. There were rumors of Ramirez’s lack of work ethic while in the minors. I give him the benefit of the doubt and equate his situation to a very gifted child in a class of his peers in age who simply isn’t challenged by the material provided and becomes bored.

Miamians, if they cared, have an exciting club to watch develop. Miguel Cabrera is the wizened veteran of the team with his three years of MLB experience and he’s only 23 years old. In addition to Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida and Dan Uggla, a Rule 5 pick, round out the young standouts of the Marlins. The “fans” will come out in droves when this team wins the World Series again and they’ll pretend that they watched these players ever since they were small fry. Then their stars will be released to swim bigger oceans. It’s the circle of life, Florida Marlins style.

The organist at Dolphin Stadium is canny. In the seventh inning he played a snippet of “Puff the Magic Dragon” with Coco Crisp at the dish. Coco... Puff. Somewhere in San Diego, Mark Bellhorn smiled.

David Ortiz titillated in the ninth with a deep fly ball that would have kept his team at bat, but it was nabbed by Hermida just at the lip of the wall. Boston’s third-longest win streak was snapped at a dozen, although they did break the record for error-free games with their total of 17.

June 30, 2006

Relentless

Game 76: June 29, 2006
Mets (47-31), 2
Red Sox (48-28), 4

BS, L: Aaron Heilman (4, 0-3)
W: Curt Schilling (10-2)
H: Mike Timlin (14)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (24)

This game had everything but the kitchen sink. Both starting pitchers showed that age cannot wither them, nor custom stale their infinite variety. As time has taken its toll on their arms, Curt Schilling and Tom Glavine compensated for this impairment by pitching smarter, not harder. Glavine had a no-hitter until Mark Loretta lined a single into center field. Billerica’s own pitched five innings, leaving the sixth after relinquishing a home run to Loretta, a double to David Ortiz, and a base on balls to Manny Ramirez. With the bases loaded and one out, Jason Varitek arced a fly ball just deep enough to plate Ortiz to tie the game. Notably, Ortiz and Ramirez were able to tag up with Mike Lowell’s fly ball to center because Carlos Beltran’s throw missed the cutoff man.

Schilling was similarly effective but pitched more efficiently, enabling him to last until the seventh inning. The only blemish on his line was the two-run roundtripper off the bat of Carlos Beltran in the top of the sixth. He struck out six and only walked a single batter on the way to a double-digit win total for the season.

The Red Sox offense responded to Schilling’s gutty performance by putting on a small ball clinic in the seventh. Coco Crisp bunted to get on base, swiped second, advanced on Alex Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt, and finally touched home on Kevin Youkilis’s sacrifice fly to garner the lead. Terry Francona used these tactics in the correct circumstances: late and close. In the NL, you’d see someone like Dusty Baker or Tony LaRussa making these calls earlier and often.

To say this game was crisply played is a high compliment in light of the spectacular catch that Crisp made in the eighth inning. With two out, the tying run at first, and MVP candidate David Wright at the plate, Mike Timlin battled to keep Schilling’s win intact. Wright lined a shot that would have tied the game were it not for the marvelous read and flawless execution of Crisp, who momentarily resembled Deion Branch with his complete commitment to make the highlight reel play.

There were two other key defensive plays that didn’t make the headlines. Jose Reyes was caught stealing in the first inning after reaching on a bunt and Beltran at the plate. Stolen bases are risky enough but to do so with such a hitter at the plate so early in the game isn’t the wisest call. In the fifth inning, Julio Franco hit a ground-rule double and threatened to tally the first run of the game. But he strayed too far from the bag and was picked off thanks to the alertness of Loretta. Defensively the Red Sox have made the quotidian and the extraordinary play consistently; last night they tied the major league mark of 16 errorless games.

Ortiz placed a home run souvenir in nearly the same spot in the center field bleachers where Beltran’s had descended earlier in the game. He was probably granting the wish of some little Red Sox fan who, although happy to get a souvenir, really preferred to have a home run ball hit by her team. Don’t get to thrilled though, kid; there’s 200 of those in existence.

June 29, 2006

Reminiscence

Game 75: June 28, 2006
Mets (47-30), 2
Red Sox (47-28), 10

L: Pedro Martinez (7-4)
W: Josh Beckett (10-3)

When Pedro Martinez pitched for the Red Sox, the atmosphere on Yawkey Way was like Carnaval. Grown men waited at the gates with smiles adorning their faces, happy as kids on swings. Mothers would show their daughters how Pedro would hold the ball for his change of pace pitch, “But your fingers are quite a bit shorter than his. Throw it with the same motion and arm slot, that’s how you fool the hitters.” Scalpers would stalk the streets with the monotonous murmur of “Anybody selling, selling tickets, anybody selling” trailing behind them, demand outstripping supply. Electricity crackled in the air, fueling the spirits of haggard workers who felt the day’s labor lifted from their shoulders as they crossed the threshold.

Even though Pedro is now with the Mets, that same intensity could be felt last night. The reception of Pedro was a cross between a rock star mesmerizing his devotees and a war hero from a distant land. He received four distinct standing ovations: when he traversed the field to the strip of turf just outside the visitors’ bullpen, when he walked back to the dugout after long toss, when his name was announced by Carl Beane, and as he stood on the mound before his first pitch. Four times, which is one more than the number of innings he pitched.

For the version of Pedro we most fondly remember, the Martinez of 1999, has abated. But when the skill of a man who is one of best in baseball history subsides, it’s like saying the sun is diminished because it loses six million tons of matter a second to shine its light upon us.

He shone briefly: in the second inning he allowed no hits and he struck out Kevin Youkilis, a man not known for his futility at the plate, to end the third. But otherwise, Pedro looked like he’d rather be playing in the home whites. In the first, fielded a bleeder of the bat of his brother in all but blood David Ortiz. He turned to third but David Wright wasn’t there because of the Ortiz shift. Martinez motioned as if he were going to make the throw to second, but came up short, reconsidered, and relayed to first for the out as Youkilis and Mark Loretta advanced. They would go on to score, and two more would cross the plate due to an egregious error by Lastings Milledge.

Perhaps seeing the wall in the background and the Red Sox uniforms in motion Petey was momentarily befuddled. “Why am I not throwing to Nomar to start the double play? I don’t see Manny’s dreads in left field.”

He wasn’t the only wistful one. I remembered marking the days on my calendar hoping my tickets were for his start.

You can go home again (remarkably, Alex Gonzalez proved you can do it two nights in a row). Martinez didn’t depart Fenway on the team bus but in Ortiz’s Hummer. I waited by the barricades that separated the fans from the players’ cars after the game. We chanted his name. He waved giddily from the passenger seat, the frenzied movement apparent despite the tinting. They drove off together down Yawkey Way onto Boylston.

I miss him.

Martinez may have gotten more ovations, but Josh Beckett received thundering acclaim for his seven and two-thirds innings of work that was louder than those for Pedro. Beckett would have gone eight but for the thirteen pitches he threw to Carlos Beltran, the last of which was a ruled a ball. As Beckett left the field, he tipped his cap angrily, upset that he hadn’t nailed down the last out of the inning. He even slapped away the hands of guys in the dugout trying to give him high fives as if he didn’t deserve them.

There might never be another Pedro Jaime Martinez, but having Beckett in his prime may bring that spark back to the park.

June 28, 2006

Renascence

Game 74: June 27, 2006
Mets (47-29), 4
Red Sox (46-28), 9

L: Alay Soler (2-2)
W: Jon Lester (3-0)

Two years ago rendered 20 years ago, 31 years ago, 39 years ago, and 60 years ago painless.

Two years ago helped us recognize a remarkable set of players throughout the decades, striking mute the litany of failure and putting in its place a rapprochement of teams that could have been with the fans who almost had.

Three years ago Bill Buckner meant E3. Two years ago Buckner meant 22 years of major league service, a 22-season career of .289 batting, .321 OBP, .408 slugging, 2,715 hits, and 174 home runs. And last night it meant a standing ovation at Fenway Park rather than mislaid scorn.

Joe Castiglione was the emcee for the ceremony celebrating the 1986 American League champion team. More succinctly than I Castiglione noted that 2004 enabled Red Sox fans to acknowledge their history in a positive way. “For those who had come before, for those who had come so close.”

Several members of that team were not able to make it: John McNamara, Dave Henderson, Roger Clemens (who was starting for the Astros), Rich Gedman, Bob Stanley, and Buckner. Castiglione made special care to note that the former first baseman was always welcome to return to Fenway.

Those who were there in person: Lou Gorman, Marty Barrett, Oil Can Boyd, Steve Crawford, Pat Dodson, Walt Hriniak (hitting coach), Bruce Hurst, Tim Lollar, Joe Morgan (not that one, of course), Al Nipper, Spike Owen, Ed Romero, Joe Sambito, Calvin Schiraldi, Dave Stapleton, Mike Stenhouse, Marc Sullivan, La Schelle Tarver, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and Wade Boggs (who, it shall be noted, wore his New York Yankees World Series ring). Time’s passing has plucked a few hairs and added a couple of inches to waistlines, an amusing counterpoint to the scenes from their near-triumphant season played on the screen

The seven ages of man were surmised in the park’s panorama: infants and children in the stands, rookies Alay Soler and Jon Lester on the mound, battle-weary veterans like Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek soldiering on, umpires acting the judge, along with older umpires representing the aged buffoon, and even older fans who can just barely recall those long-gone teams, but now with something more than mere yearning.

Twenty years from now the details of this game will fade from my memory. But for far longer than twenty years I will remember this ceremony, and how one of my inspirations, Peter Gammons, was stricken by a brain aneurysm on that very day.

This game of baseball can be appreciated on levels grandiose to minuscule, but the importance of games pale in the light of struggling for one’s life. If thoughts and well wishes can speed recovery, all of mine go to Groton’s own Baseball Hall of Fame journalist. Get well, Mr. Gammons.

June 27, 2006

Divinity

Game 73: June 26, 2006
Phillies (35-40), 7
Red Sox (45-28), 8

BS, L: Clay Condrey (1, 1-2)
H: Javier Lopez (2)
H: Mike Timlin (13)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
W: Craig Hansen (1-0)
12 innings

Baseball is replete with threes and multiples of threes: three strikes, three bases, three parts of the outfield, nine players on the field and in the lineup, nine innings. Each league has three divisions and a minor league player must be promoted through three levels to reach the big leagues. According to some, batters parse a pitch into three components: sensory gathering, computing, and swinging. Baseball front offices supposedly divide the 162-game season into thirds as well, with the first third learning what the team’s nature is, the second third determining what the team needs and getting it, and the last third fusing the old and new together for the playoff push.

The Red Sox have swept the last three series, each series with three games. And David Ortiz is three times more clutch than your replacement level player. (Okay, I made that last thing up.)

This game had three phases itself. At first we enjoyed a pitchers’ duel with Cory Lidle (or, as my friend called him, “Cy Lidle”) and Tim Wakefield threw goose eggs until the sixth. With the scoring barrages in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh, the game entered into the second, offensive stage, with that seventh inning particularly offensive to Boston fans. And finally came the third episode, in which David Ortiz made his case for knighthood (even though there is no order of knights in the United States, one will be established because of him), sainthood (to make the St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Philomena duo a trio), and possibly godhood. Divinity in threes.

How difficult is it to not get fired while listening to a day game at work? Let’s just say I’m expecting a memo from human resources regarding excessive use of vulgarity. If my case is arbitrated by someone who dislikes Rudy Seanez, which is pretty much a lead pipe cinch, I’ll probably get by on just a suspension.

Jonathan Papelbon gave up his first home run to Chase Utley in the ninth inning. It was a cheap hit off of Pesky Pole, too, hardly warranting the term “longball” as it would have sliced foul in any other park. It was Papelbon’s second blown save out of 24 opportunities and his scoreless inning streak of 21 and two-thirds innings ended with a thunk. But the baseball gods are mordant, knavish, and capricious, and in this game granted rookie Craig Hansen his first major league win even though the double he allowed to Jimmy Rollins gave the Phillies the lead.

June 25, 2006

Zenith

Game 72: June 24, 2006
Phillies (35-39), 3
Red Sox (44-28), 5

L: Tom Gordon (2-3)
BS: Manny Delcarmen (1)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (2-1)
10 innings

It was with more than unmixed delight that I watched as Brett Myers, the alleged abuser, nearly get decapitated by Alex Gonzalez’s liner up the middle in the second inning. If Myers did get beaned in the face, I must admit that would have been even more enjoyable than David Ortiz’s game-winning homer or the fact that Jonathan Papelbon locked down for two and a third innings for a win.

Curt Schilling endured for only six innings, perhaps due to his 24-pitch first inning that resulted in two runs but more likely because he couldn’t buy an out in the seventh inning even though he was pitching to the bottom of the order. He began the frame with consecutive singles by Aaron Rowand and David Dellucci and walking David Bell. Terry Francona truly lived up to his promise that he would test the young bullpen by having Manny Delcarmen face pinch-hitter Shane Victorino with the bags jammed and no out.

The hometown pitcher did induce a line out from Victorino but relinquished a game-tying RBI single to Jimmy Rollins. Javier Lopez took the mound to face lefty Chase Utley, who had been on fire but grounded bootlessly to Alex Gonzalez for the inning-ending double play.

A few of the Phillies seemed out of sorts; perhaps they were put off by having to play behind Myers. Rowand threw galley-west in the second inning on his attempt to return Mark Loretta’s gutshot grounder, permitting Kevin Youkilis to score and Loretta to advance to second. In the ninth Jimmy Rollins failed to seize third base on the Utley grounder to Gonzalez that saw his teammate Chris Coste gunned out at home. Rollins would have been the third out at third, so perhaps the caution was warranted, but he is fleet enough for the task and he represented the go-ahead run.

In contrast, the Red Sox prolonged their error-free streak to 12 games and made key plays on defense to keep Philadelphia at bay. Manny Ramirez scaled the left field wall to nab Pat Burrell’s foul fly ball in the sixth. Gonzalez and Youkilis tandemed for the pivotal double play in the seventh. If the Red Sox play another four games without an error, they will have tied the major league record for this streak held by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jonathan Papelbon was miked up for the game and bragged of his Scrabble expertise. I’m fairly good at the game if I’ve consumed enough qat tea, purchased from a suq, and am not waylaid on a umiaq trip or playing the crwth near a ghyll. So, Mr. Papelbon, if you are reading this, I humbly challenge you to a Scrabble contest. If you're intimated by my skills, we could have a hybrid Scrabble Strikeout Scuffle, taking the amalgamated pastime of chess boxing as our inspiration.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver spoke glowingly of Papelbon, touting him not only as a potential Rookie of the Year or Cy Young winner but as a MVP candidate as well. After Craig Hansen yielded a double to Ryan Howard and walked Rowand, Papelbon toed the rubber to strike out Dellucci to end the eighth. The closer had a spot of trouble in the ninth with two sequential base hits but was bailed out by his shortstop’s on-target toss to home to keep the Phillies off the scoreboard. In the tenth he exhibited his near-effortless authority, striking out Howard and Rowand and making Dellucci ground out feebly.

David Ortiz was given the four-finger salute in the second. In the preceeding inning he showed his prowess at breaching the shift. Although intentional bases on balls ostensibly show respect, such tactics are prone to inspire annoyance in the Red Sox designated hitter. As he said in his postgame interview following his eighth walk-off roundtripper, Ortiz knew the rain was coming and had to get the job done.

zenith
NOUN: 1. The point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer. 2. The upper region of the sky. 3. The highest point above the observer’s horizon attained by a celestial body. 4. The point of culmination; the peak: the zenith of her career. See synonyms at summit. ETYMOLOGY: Middle English senith, from Old French cenith, from Medieval Latin, from Arabic samt (ar-ra’s), path (over the head), from Latin sēmita, path.

Eighthortizwalkoff

June 24, 2006

Bruised

Game 71: June 23, 2006
Phillies (35-38), 2
Red Sox (43-28), 10

L: Ryan Madson (7-5)
W: Josh Beckett (9-3)

Josh Beckett was brilliant, dallying with a perfect game until the sixth inning. David Bell insinuated himself between Beckett and perfection with a banausic single up the middle. Until that blemish, the right-hander hurled the apple for five strikeouts, including two of Ryan Howard. Howard would have attained the dubious distinction of the “golden sombrero” had he had enough at bats, but in the three times the slugger faced Beckett he was baffled.

Behind Beckett the Red Sox defense played flawlessly. Alex Gonzalez played a bounding, spin-inflicted pop-up that dropped just in front of second base, nimbly gloving it to throw out Aaron Rowan to kill the inning.

The Phillies, Nationals, and Braves seem like clones of each other: just enough talent to wade in the kiddie pool of the NL East but not yet ready to take part in adult swim. Here’s how Philadelphia stacks up against the rest of the majors:

  • An OBP of .330, placing them in the 20th spot
  • Slugging percentage of .430 is 13th
  • Seventh in strikeouts, a team total of 523
  • Ninth worst in team ERA 4.76
  • Fifth worst in OBP against with .351
  • Second worst in slugging against with .466

Ryan Madson is the fourth pitcher in the Phillies’ rotation and is seemingly responsible for the bulk of the atrocious pitching statistics of his team. Madson lasted only one and two-thirds innings during which he relinquished six earned runs. In particular, Manny Ramirez was his bane with his three-run homer in the first inning and RBI double in the second. The double was Madson’s undoing and the Phillies’ starter was yanked from the mound.

Another issue in the Phillies’ pitching staff is Brett Myers’s domestic violence incident. He allegedly hit his wife Kim on the face with his fist. Just because this is the first time we’ve heard of a such a thing about Myers, it’s highly unlikely it was the first time she’s been abused. The ontology of abuse is such that the abused will act in denial and defend her abuser for fear of further retribution. That might be why Kim bailed out her husband.

And yet Philadelphia doesn’t reprimand or sanction Myers. Neither does the MLB suspend him. Honestly, I’m hoping for a bench-clearing brawl in which the wife-beater gets his come-uppance. I’m certain Curt Schilling will be one of the first to render on Myers’s face what he did to Kim’s.

Notably, the Family Violence Prevention Fund uses the trope of Coaching Boys into Men with images of baseball. Perhaps Myers can prove himself a real man and not hit people when he’s angry.

June 22, 2006

Debate

Game 70: June 21, 2006
Nationals (32-42), 3
Red Sox (42-28), 9

L: Shawn Hill (1-2)
W: Jon Lester (5-8)

An imagined conversation between my “friend” Matt of NU50, who got to go to last night’s game, and me:

M: Dude, you should have been there when Papi hit that grand slam in the second inning. It was suh-weet!

J: Oh yeah? Well, Kevin Youkilis was miked up and I got to hear all of the secrets of the Red Sox clubhouse. Youks is hilarious; he was ribbing Tito, asking if Tito got fired, would he get sent down to Triple-A.

M: For Papi’s grand slam, the cheering was so loud I thought the stands would collapse from the vibrational pressure of our voices.

J: Well, since you didn’t get the insider’s view of the dugout that NESN provides, you didn’t see how Ortiz gave Johnny Pesky a great big hug.

M: That’s actually pretty dangerous. Did he compress Pesky into a diamond?

J: [Indignantly] No! Even though they do say Johnny is a gem of a guy.

M: [Groans] I’ll pretend you didn’t say that. That was just cell phone distortion. Incredibly unfunny cell phone distortion.

J: Youk is the best guy to wear a mic. When Soriano reached on a single in the third inning, they chit-chatted about playing left field. They were all, “Yeah, it’s easy.” Then first base coach Davey Lopes came by and tipped off Soriano that Lester’s pickoff tell was that he looked at the runner or dropped his head.

M: Really? That’s pretty interesting... I mean, so? I got to crane my neck for nine innings in my seats from the right field boxes.

J: The broadcast also showed how Al Nipper would talk to Lester after he got off the mound to discuss his approach. Since I can read lips....

M: You can’t read lips!

J: Uh, yeah I can. Nip was saying, “Hey, maybe that girl with the blog will write make-believe letters by you instead of Pauley.”

M: Nuh uh!

J: Yeah huh! And then Lester’s all, “Yeah, what’s up with that dude that’s supposed to write the mojo? He hasn’t done anything in weeks.” Then Nipper said, “Guess he can’t cut it in the blogger big leagues.” Lester nodded in agreement and said, “Slacker!”

M: Whatever. When Trot almost hit a triple in the triangle in the fifth, it was almost as exciting as the grand slam. Did I mention that Papi hit a grand slam? Gotta love that Red Sox offensive machine; they scored more runs in the second and the sixth than the Nats did the entire game.

J: And you got to see your bullpen faves Tavarez and Seanez almost create a save opportunity for Papelbon.

M: Don’t get me started on them. When Seanez took the mound I was tempted to jump the wall and take him down so that he wouldn’t be able to pitch. There were audible groans as both those guys gave up runs.

J: Meanwhile, Delcarmen twirled a perfect eighth.

M: Yeah, I was sending brain waves to Tito, reminding him that he just had a meeting with his young pitchers and told him they were going to be relied on heavily. Guess some of their names just eluded him. Until I used my powers of suggestion, of course.

J: What do you think of the Jason Johnson move?

M: Wish it were a different JJ, as in Josh Johnson. But it’s a warm body that can hurl, unlike Matt Clement and Keith Foulke, the constant inhabitants of the DL.

J: Hey, another JJ is updating her blog, JJ’s Space. Unlike you.

M: What? I can’t hear you over the booming sound of “Dirty Water” coming over the speakers!

June 21, 2006

Dominion

Game 69: June 20, 2006
Nationals (32-41), 3
Red Sox (41-28), 11

L: Livan Hernandez (5-8)
W: Tim Wakefield (5-8)

The game last night proceeded as leisurely as Tim Wakefield’s pitches do to the plate. Easygoing, unforced, flowing, and yet not predictable. Enough variation to be pleasing, not so much fluctuation as to be discomfiting, like finding a newly-opened used bookstore or hot dog and ice cream parlour along your usual walk.

Haute cusine hot dogs seem to be a new trend. One called Hot Diggity opened up in my town and I drive by the New England Hot Dog Company on my commute. The NEHDC offers a little more in terms of types of hot dogs, from kosher to vegetarian dogs, but Hot Diggity has that mom and pop, hometown feel.

Coco Crisp didn’t hot dog it when he hit his first home run in Fenway in the seventh inning. It was an offensive onslaught to be remebered, with every Red Sox player except Mike Lowell and Willie Harris enjoying at least one hit. The home team had a season-high total of 17 hits in the game.

I feel as if I’ve been too verbose of late. Pictures say a thousand words, and Pine Tar Helmet’s Artpad creations say even more than that, and all of them are hilarious. If you’re wondering what to expect, think Choi Hoon’s cartoons, but set mainly in the Red Sox universe.

June 20, 2006

Capital

Game 68: June 19, 2006
Nationals (32-40), 3
Red Sox (40-28), 6

L: Tony Armas, Jr. (6-4)
W: Kyle Snyder (1-0)
H: Jermaine Van Buren (2)
H: Javier Lopez (2)
H Rudy Seanez (3)
S: Mike Timlin (1)

Of course, the Washington Nationals aren’t the successors to the Washington Senators but rather the Montreal Expos. Major League Baseball has fled the District of Columbia twice before; in 1960 the team became the Minnesota Twins and in 1971 yet another incarnation of the Senators departed to become the Texas Rangers. The Nationals received their name from two teams of the 1880s. It’s a shame the franchise didn’t chose to honor the Homestead Grays of the Negro League instead. Despite the oversight, perhaps the third time is the charm for a franchise in the District.

The third team seemed to be the charm for Kyle Snyder. The strapping righty (6'8", 215 pounds) was originally drafted by the Devil Rays (also known as best party farm system) in 1996 and then again by the Royals in 1999. Snyder garnered his fourth career win with a line of five innings pitched, four hits, three earned runs, no walks, six strikeouts, and two home runs. The longballs he gave up to the Joses, Vidro and Guillen, were both solo shots. Could Snyder be this year’s version of the last year’s Aaron Small?

It’s remarkable how run support can raise a mediocre pitcher’s game. Coco Crisp, Gabe Kapler, and Alex Cora of the bottom third of the order combined for four RBIs, out-producing the other two-thirds of the lineup.

Representing the top third, Mark Loretta just missed a homer in the fourth inning, his clout richocheting just a few feet below the top of the wall, but scurried to second for a stand-up double. Loretta could have scored on Ortiz’s ground ball to center but was out at home on an outfield assist by Marlon Byrd. Jerry Remy was of the mind that Manny Ramirez should have been in position to direct his second baseman on whether or not to slide, but Brian Schneider seemed to have the plate blocked regardless.

Ramirez remedied this lapse with a soaring spaceshot over the wall in the eighth. With his 18th home run of the season the left fielder surpassed the career tater total of Carl Yastrzemski.

June 19, 2006

Aquit

Game 67: June 18, 2006
Red Sox (39-28), 10
Braves (30-40), 7
H: Manny Delcarmen (3)
BS, W: Rudy Seanez (1 , 2-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (22)
H, L: Macay McBride (1, 1-1)
BS: Chad Paronto (1)

I couldn’t tell if Joe Morgan was being a color analyst or pimping his new book, Why Coco Crisp Should Leadoff and Other Baseball Anachronisms. Hopefully Fire Joe Morgan is working on a new entry for last night’s game. There was more than enough material, from lauding John Smoltz’s bunt attempt in the sixth to get the second out to criticizing David Ortiz for allegedly not getting out of the way of a pitch in the eighth. The slow motion replay clearly showed Ortiz trying to evade Mike Remlinger’s pitch. Hold on a second, that wasn’t slow motion? Hard to tell with Remlinger pitching.

Ortiz gave his team the early lead by depositing the first pitch he saw into the center field stands. The sometime first baseman must have shared his insight into Smoltz’s pitching because Manny Ramirez duplicated the feat in the fourth inning after getting ahead in the count 2-0. Ramirez’s power clout tied the score as the Braves managed to scratch two runs in the third by stringing together singles and productive outs (you know, what Morgan calls good old-fashioned baseball). The Boston left fielder also tied Carl Yastrzemski in career homers with 452.

In the sixth inning when Jason Varitek grounded into a double play with the bases juiced and no outs but still plating Ortiz for the lead, Morgan did not go so far as to call the play as a productive two outs. He was probably tempted to but was too put off by the Red Sox uniform.

Alex Gonzalez and Trot Nixon turned in the defensive plays of the evening. With Marcus Giles on first in the third, Gonzalez broke to the bag to cover second the instant Edgar Renteria made contact. Gonzalez then changed course, crawling back to get the ball that was barreling towards the hole to gun Renteria down. Nixon saved extra base hits in the seventh by running full-bore to make a sliding snatch of Scott Thorman’s line drive towards shallow right field.

The seventh had started out promisingly enough with Manny Delcarmen’s strikeout of Renteria and Nixon’s catch. But Terry Francona impatiently pulled Delcarmen after the young pitcher gave up a single to Andruw Jones. Javier Lopez promptly walked Brian McCann, the only batter he faced. Francona summoned Rudy Seanez, relying on his veteran canniness to get the final out. But Jeff Francoeur, with his .263 OBP and five walks to his name, launched a three-run homer to take the lead on the first pitch. He even took a bow at his fans’ behest.

Surprisingly, it was only Seanez’s first blown save. Make no mistake, however: he is one of the reasons Jonathan Papelbon has had so many save opportunities. When Papelbon accepts his Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and/or Relief Pitcher of the Year awards, a shout out should go to his mates in the bullpen.

The Red Sox offense bailed Seanez out with a scoring frenzy in the eighth inning with eleven of their batters seeing time at the dish. Ortiz and Ramirez’s back-to-back whiff made the Boston retort all the more stirring. With two out, the visitors scored six runs, which was two more runs than Atlanta had scored in the previous two games. Pinch hitters Mike Lowell and Alex Cora marshaled three RBIs, Lowell with a line drive double that found the gap between right and center and Cora with a lined single up the middle. Kevin Youkilis jacked a two-run homer, which of course to Morgan was further proof that he shouldn’t be leading off. In the ninth, Crisp singled to drive in Nixon and then stole second base. Case closed, eh Morgan?

Red Sox nation citizenship runs deep: Chad Paronto, the Braves pitcher who blew the lead, was born in Haverhill, New Hampshire and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Thanks, Chad, for helping your real team secure the series sweep.

Note: “Aquit” means “one” in Wampanoag, a language of the indigenous people who originally inhabited the eastern part of what is now known as Massachusetts. It is a relative of the Algonquin language and is being revitalized through the efforts of the Aquinnah Cultural Center.

June 18, 2006

Mekko

Game 66: June 17, 2006
Red Sox (38-28), 5
Braves (30-39), 3
W: Josh Beckett (8-3)
H: Manny Delcarmen (2)
H: Julian Tavarez (1)
H: Javier Lopez (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (22)
L: Lance Cormier (2-2)

Braves fans really get into the game... when they are out-numbered by the visiting team’s fans and shown up in their own house. Never has the perfunctory and derogatory chanting reached such levels, not even during all of Atlanta’s playoff appearances. Even John Smoltz, who was miked up by Fox, noted the prevalence of Red Sox fans in the Turner Field stands. When Kevin Youkilis launched a leadoff homer in the first inning, those weren’t boos.

Lou Piniella was the color commentator for the game, a job that seemed to be described to him as “just repeat what the play-by-play guy says but in your grizzled jock voice.” When Jason Varitek missed a foul pop fly near the plate, Piniella opined that someone should get an error on the play. He did later note that Varitek missed the ball because he tripped on the discarded bat, but still maintained that David Ortiz should have taken control of the situation. I suppose it’s because a guy like Ortiz, who started 13 times at first base the last two years, has a lot of credibility on the field.

Generic play-by-play guy said that Bruce Froemming once ejected the entire press box in a minor league game he was officiating. Supposedly it was because the media members were disdainful of Froemming’s calls, but more than likely it was because Froemming feared they would completely consume the postgame spread.

With slumping left fielder Manny Ramirez out of the lineup for the fourth time this year, the Red Sox received contributions from the usual suspects as well as some unpredictable sources. Ortiz drove in a run in the third and homered in the fifth, making up for the lack of Manny Ramirez. Trot Nixon batted in his place, going 1 for 5 with an RBI. Josh Beckett singled in the fourth to plate Alex Gonzalez, who had reached on a double that shunned the mitt of Braves left fielder Matt Diaz.

Beckett quelled worries of his recent rickety starts with a six inning, three hit, two earned run, four walk, and five strikeout outing. He threw 105 pitches, of which 56 were for strikes. The Boston bullpen tandemed for three outings of effective hurling with only Julian Tavarez having a run scored against him. Indicative of how the season is going for Tavarez, this was his first hold in 28 appearances. There was a moment of confusion as Terry Francona went to swap Manny Delcarmen for Tavarez as Javier Lopez made for the mound instead. That’s what happens when you’re the new guy. His security badge hasn’t even been activated and he has to follow Mike Timlin around to get through checkpoints.

No one could mistake the muscular physique of Gabe Kapler, who returned to the big league club on Friday, with anyone else. Well, perhaps Michaelangelo’s David or a model photographed by Lon of New York. Kapler made his presence felt by not only making his teammates feel woefully inadequate physically but also making a tremendous pounce on a Jeff Francoeur line drive in the eighth.

Note: “Mekko” is the word for “chief” in Creek, the language of the people that lived in what is now called Georgia. The Creek were just one of the aboriginal groups displaced in the 1830s by Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy.

June 17, 2006

Skookum

Game 65: June 16, 2006
Red Sox (37-28), 4
Braves (30-38), 1
W: Jon Lester (1-1)
H: Rudy Seanez (2)
H: Mike Timlin (12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (21)
L: Tim Hudson (6-5)

Jon Lester should probably consider this his actual major league debut as his premiere start was marred by a five-hour rain delay. Lester tallied his first big league win against the Braves, a team that had long been NL East contenders but is now mired in the middle of the standings with a losing record. The left-handed pitcher turned in six innings allowing five hits, a single earned run, three walks, and five strikeotus.

The only run came in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Sox rookie pitcher worked himself into a jam after giving up a leadoff single to Todd Pratt, who could eat no fat. Marcus Giles, who is not a farmer, also singled and Lester walked old acquaintance Edgar Renteria to load the bases. But Lester buckled down, permitting only a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chipper Jones, who is not so square. Mr. Jones will stick around; he’s everybody’s friend.

In the second inning, Mike Lowell singled to the opposite field to plate Trot Nixon for their team’s first run. Nixon slid nimbly to evade an attempted tag by Pratt, licking the platter clean. The Red Sox third baseman also ended the game with a dazzling snatch of Brian McCann’s sharp liner.

Jason Varitek, known for chasing the high cheese and pressing too hard with the bases loaded, launched the pivotal hit in the third inning. After Tim Hudson littered the bases with Red Sox runners with his walks, the visiting team’s backstop dispatched a double off the base of the wall in center field to tidy things up.

The Braves’ home uniforms have nifty belt loops: they are of standard cut but have navy blue trim outlining them. This foray into the fashionable may have sissified the team. Former football player Brian Jordan was pelted by Alex Cora’s batted ball in the fourth and left the game. Has Jordan turned into Tony Womack?

How sad to see the mighty Braves franchise falter. Winner of their division for the past 14 seasons, perhaps they are entering a period of malaise and complacency, mirroring their fans. As much as I respect the organization, I hope this trend continues for two more games.

Note: “Skookum” may have been derived from Salish, a people of the Northwest, and means “strong in body.” In popular usage, it has come to mean anything positive.

June 16, 2006

Bagged

Game 64: June 15, 2006
Red Sox (36-28), 3
Twins (31-34), 5

L: Tim Wakefield (4-8)
W: Carlos Silva (3-8)
H: Juan Rincon (9)
S: Joe Nathan (8)

For the second time this season the Red Sox were swept by the opposition. Sure, it was by a team that has a losing record. Indeed, two of the games were tantalizingly within Boston’s ambit to win. And yes, the Yankees took over first place in the AL East as a result. But on the positive side, perhaps the Twins now have the momentum to make the AL Central more competitive and notch wins against the Tigers and White Sox.

Jason Kubel hit another home run, his third in as many games, this time in the second inning. Such power is quite the contrary to the Minnesotan approach at the plate described by David Ortiz in Tom Verducci’s Sports Illustrated feature story this week. The Twins seemed to have learned a hard lesson when they pigeon-holed Ortiz into a contact hitter’s role and are perhaps making amends by allowing Kubel to develop into a power hitter.

No one could be happier than Ortiz to leave the Metrodome. In the sixth he propelled a ball so high it seemed destined for the upper deck. Instead, the speakers attached the roof robbed the Red Sox designated hitter of a homer. Ortiz also jawed with home plate umpire Tim Timmons. But compared to losing his mother in 2002 in a car accident, where he missed saying goodbye to her by just eight minutes.

“I was there eight minutes after it happened, and she was dead already. That’s why I don’t worry about baseball. I don’t feel like I put any pressure on myself when I’m playing baseball. Not after that.”

The past is complete; it cannot be undone. Rather than dwell on it, you can look to the future. The future could already be taking the field on the field of Boston’s Class A affiliate. Today I’ll be attending the Lowell Spinners Media Day and interviewing a few of the 2006 draftees.

June 15, 2006

Swoon

Game 63: June 14, 2006
Red Sox (36-27), 1
Twins (30-34), 8

L: Matt Clement (5-5)
W: Brad Radke (5-7)

There was one good thing about last night’s game and that was that Kevin Youkilis is batting in the leadoff position where he should be. His OBP compared to Coco Crisp: .436 versus .327. Crisp, perhaps miffed, jacked a leadoff longball in the fifth inning. No other Red Sox mustered a run against the Twins’ version of Matt Clement, Brad Radke.

Since NESN didn’t show the fans who seized the field in the eighth inning, there was very little entertaining aspects to last night’s game. The audience was only offered a glimpse of the Red Sox bat boy’s head as he tackled the interlopers near home plate. One can only imagine the devilments that David Ortiz witnessed as he waited near the batter’s box for his turn at the plate.

This three-game losing streak is what a Royals blogger must contend with seasonally, but to a lesser extent. Just imagine post upon post of defeat after defeat. Of course, I would still love the Red Sox if they weren’t a contending team. It would be like the unrequited crush I had on a under-achieving high school senior when I was a sophomore. He was bad in academics and his only claim to fame was being an All-State wrestler. But he was cute and drove a purple Karmen Ghia.

But the Red Sox are supposed to be class president while excelling in athletics and posting a 3.78 GPA. They’re the team other teams’ fans swoon over. They just have a temporary case of acne to ride out.

Today the Red Sox traded David Riske for White Sox left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. I know how much you’ll miss Riske, so I’ll be sure to make a sign for him when I travel to Chicago in July to watch the two teams tangle.

June 14, 2006

Garbage

Game 62: June 13, 2006
Red Sox (36-26), 2
Twins (29-34), 5

BS, L: Julian Tavarez (1, 1-2)
W: Dennys Reyes (1-0)
12 innings

Some Twins blog writer somewhere is probably exuberant with joy about last night’s game. In that parallel universe, Annaoj might be pretending that she is rookie Jason Kubel writing letters back home to South Dakota. They probably have pictures of Kubel getting drenched by Michael Cuddyer, as if they were Super Bowl champions or something. Perhaps they should save the festivities for when they have a .500 record.

Speaking of, Cuddyer has a fan page. Who knew Mrs. Cuddyer had the wherewithal to put together a site for her son? Updates have been sparse, however, with no new content since May of 2004. Anyway, there’s 34 Twins blogs compared to 127 Red Sox blogs, according to Baseball Blogs. So, top that, St. Paulites and Minneapolitans.

In my head, perhaps I thought it would have been better to lose with a batter of the opposition belting a grand slam rather than walking in the winning run as Rudy Seanez did back on June 6th against the Yankees. At least if you throw a strike, you give your fielders a chance to fend away the opponent. But it’s frustrating to watch a greenhorn attain glory with a gopher ball that just barely clears the garbage bag that comprises the makeshift right field wall.

Except for the bottom of the dozenth inning, the game was brilliantly played. In his eight inning appearance, Johan Santana confounded a season-high 13 batters, including David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez twice each. The left-handed Cy Young award winner struck out the side in both the first and fifth innings and looked for all the world unhittable. It made Jason Varitek’s line drive homer in the seventh inning all the more remarkable. He smashed the scoreless tie with his seventh roundtripper of the year with two out and on Santana’s first pitch of the at bat.

Curt Schilling was similarly sharp although not as untouchable as his adversary. He compiled a line of eight innings, six hits, one walk, five strikeouts, and a single blemish in the form of a Cuddyer circuit clout in the seventh. The reborn utilityman mashed his tenth home run to tie the game, mirroring Varitek by doing so with two outs.

A shame that one of the best pitchers’ duels this season had to take place in the jury-rigged Metrodome. With the new ballpark approved, the Twins have already removed references to the tomb-like edifice on their official site and in their place uploaded artists renderings of the yet-to-be-corporate-branded stadium. There doesn’t appear to be a retractable roof, so there might be one other town that has more miserable April games than Boston. But at least baseballs won’t be disappearing into the nooks and crannies of suspended sound systems any longer.

Both teams showed defensive polish with their faceted play on the field, supporting the outstanding efforts their starters put forth. The Red Sox turned three double plays, including a strike ’em out, throw ’em out to end the fifth inning when Torii Hunter threatened to score with Kubel at the dish.

Ramirez also made two key catches in the eighth inning. Hunter again menaced the visiting team, this time with a leadoff single. In two consecutive at bats, Ramirez made a running catch of Luis Rodriguez’s shallow fly ball to left and then just managed to backhandedly glove pinch hitter Terry Tiffee’s sinking liner.

Of course Minnesota had a pivotal twin killing of their own. With Trot Nixon and Alex Gonzalez reaching base on consecutive singles in the eighth and just a single out, Santana bore down on Coco Crisp. The Red Sox center fielder grounded right to the mound and Santana initiated the 1-6-3 double play to complete his virtuoso performance. Hunter returned Ramirez’s favor in the 11th inning with his contorted capture of a Ramirez deep line drive that would have been extra bases.

The Red Sox scored in the top of the 12th. After Varitek struck out to begin the inning, three Red Sox batters reached base in sequence. Only a single run was notched with Gonzalez’s ground ball to his counterpart Nick Punto, who very nearly doubled up Gonzalez.

If only there were Jonathan Papelbon or Mike Timlin clones to pitch the 12th inning. Things got ugly, and I’m not limiting the discussion to Julian Tavarez’s face. The middle reliever struck out the American League’s leading hitter, Joe Mauer, easily enough, but then proceeded to hit Cuddyer with a pitch and relinquish a ground-rule double to Justin Morneau. If the ball hadn’t bounded over the baggies in center field, the game would have ended in a somewhat less painful manner. Instead, Hunter was walked intentionally to give the Red Sox the force at every plate, one out in the inning, and the outcome of the game in the balance.

Perhaps the Twins have found an Ortiz of their own in Kubel.

June 12, 2006

Missive

Game 61: June 11, 2006
Rangers (34-29), 13
Red Sox (36-25), 6
W: John Wasdin (1-0)
H: Ron Mahay (5)
H: Rick Bauer (1)
L: David Pauley (0-2)

Dear Mom and Dad,

Whatever you put into the cookies you made for Big Papi, you’d better keep on using it. Did you see that homer he whacked in the ninth inning to win the game yesterday? It was so incredible. I ran out to home plate to join in on the jumping up and down. I almost got knocked over by a few guys and Coach Nipper was looking at me all stern since I was supposed to start in a few hours. Caught red-handed!

I hope you’re not too worried about how Sunday went for me. I know it looks bad with my line being 5 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. But, hey, I only walked one guy. Besides, quite a few of those hits weren’t completely clobbered, especially in the beginning. The ball was being hit to where guys weren’t. Stuff like that happens and you just gotta keep plugging along. I was talking to Rudy afterwards and he knows exactly how I feel because the same thing happens to him. I think he might be able to give me some good advice about how to handle it when things just don’t go your way.

One thing that got me sorta nervous was when I was taking my warm-up pitches this girl was taking lotsa pictures of me. It’s not like I’m Mr. Big Time or anything. Anyway, I overheard her talking to her friend (who was wearing a tie--who wears a tie at Fenway?) and she was talking about some blog thing she writes. These Boston fans are insane.

But I gotta admit I love it. Standing on the mound nearly deafened by the crowd’s cheers is something I will tell my grand-kids. (And no, Mom, I don’t have anyone serious right now. It’s just a figure of speech!) They even applauded as I left the mound even though I stunk up the place because it was my first start on the home field. Just incredible.

I’m relieved that Leftster finally got called up. Remember that pink backpack I told you guys about? Guess who has to carry it now? Red Sox top prospect or not, he’s still greener than me. Will send pics.

I’m getting the feeling that I’ll be heading back down soon, just when I really started to bond with the guys. Like, Me and Grecian Formula (Mike Lowell) have got the hidden ball trick down pat and I pretty much have a complete handshake routine with Big Papi (will send video). But that’s ok, because I know someday in the future I’ll be able to contribute even more than I can now.

Love,
Your Son David

(P.S. Mom, when you send packages, can you put “David” instead of “Davey” on the label? I’ve been getting hassled because of that. For now, you have to send things to Ben Mondor Way, Pawtucket, RI 02860. Thanks....)

Present

Game 60: June 11, 2006
Rangers (33-29), 4
Red Sox (36-24), 5
H: Ron Mahay (4)
H: Scott Feldman (4)
BS, L: Akinori Otsuka (2, 2-2)
W: Manny Delcarmen (1-0)

Up until late Saturday night I had no plans to attend this game in person. But I am always game should a friend contact me with tickets, even at the last minute. Too bad about what happened at Troy, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Coincidentally, this game was the Sons of Sam Horn’s outing and one of their members got to throw out the first pitch because she was the “Leader of the Pack” (insert motorcycle engine sound effect here).

Am I ever grateful Matt decided to tell me he procured tickets for the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday. Sure, I was 11th or so on the list, but those other 11 folks are despondent that they didn’t get to go. Even though I had to contend with a hungover and disheveled buddy not-so-fresh from a wedding and reception, the game was worth it. Also, it was breezy enough so that any residual fumes wafted away and the bright sun in the bleachers seemed to have blanched away any other unsavory aromas.

I had yet to see Josh Beckett pitch live and was somewhat gratified by his five and one-third inning appearance. Although he gave up an RBI double to Mark DeRosa in the first inning, Kevin Youkilis’s inability to field a relay throw by Alex Gonzalez with Michael Young bearing down on him at first base.

The Red Sox mustered runs of their own early in the game. Manny Ramirez homered to the opposite field, giving fans in the stands a palpable reminder of his 16th roundtripper of the season. Sadly, Matt missed this pivotal play due to a restroom visit. Alcohol is the drink of the devil, people. David Ortiz lofted a single over the shift into center field in the third inning to plate Mark Loretta.

Beckett would not allow another run until the fifth inning when he allowed back-to-back doubles from Rod Barajas and Ian Kinsler to tie the game. The Kinsler double was questionable as third base umpire Paul Schrieber appeared to call the ball foul but was actually fleeing for his life. Home plate umpire Jim Joyce called the ball fair, provoking an extended conversation between Terry Francona and the officials that ended with the extra base hit remaining on the scoreboard. Beckett then allowed a base on balls to Gary Matthews, Jr., but settled to sit Young, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock, issuing strikeouts to the Ranger’s shortstop and third baseman. The sixth inning began promisingly enough with a DeRosa whiff, but Brad Wilkerson walked on five pitches and scored on a Kevin Mench homer deposited into the Monster seats.

David Riske and Manny Delcarmen combined for three and two-thirds scoreless innings, doing their best Mike Timlin impersonations. Delcarmen struck out both Wilkerson and Mench and worked himself out of a jam in the top of the ninth to set the stage for Ortiz.

What Ortiz does is beyond clutch at this point. It’s superhuman. Shaquille O’Neal claims he’s an alien, but the real extraterrestrial is Ortiz. O’Neal says he’s from another planet but Ortiz isn’t even from this galaxy. With Trot Nixon, who had pinch hit for Gonzalez, and Coco Crisp on base with singles and two outs, Ortiz entered the batter’s box with the singular mission of winning the game for his team.

He is so money. And he knows it.

As Ortiz’s home run receded out of my view into the teeming masses in the bleachers, I clapped my hands raw, I hollered my throat dry, and exulted in a glorious day of baseball.

June 11, 2006

Baptism

Game 59: June 10, 2006
Rangers (33-28), 7
Red Sox (35-24), 4
L: Julian Tavarez (1-1)
W: Bryan Corey (1-0)
H: Francisco Cordero (8)
S: Akinori Otsuka (11)

For many years Red Sox fans have eagerly awaited the major league debut of left-handed prospect Jon Lester, so what’s another five hours? Yesterday’s day game turned into an early evening affair between two rookie standouts, Lester and the Rangers’ John Rheinecker. Neither pitched long enough to be a part of the decision, but both showed they had every right to play at this level.

Lester is a different animal from Jonathan Papelbon. As a southpaw with heat, he probably has been inured to dominating and confounding his opposition throughout his career. As a result, initimidation was probably not a required trait to contribute to his success. His presence on the mound seemed less assured than Papelbon’s in his debut. In his postgame press conference, Lester mentioned that he was relieved that he could get pitches over for strikes, which isn’t very confident language. Nevertheless, he was able to strike out Gary Matthews, Jr. twice (the first time was Lester’s first major league out), Gerald Laird, and Mark Teixeira. Notably, the Teixeira whiff was in the second inning with the bases juiced and two out.

In his four and one-third innings Lester also issued four walks, but only the bases on balls to Hank Blalock in the first inning resulted in a run. Blalock scored on a double by Mark DeRosa, who doubled into the soggy left field corner to put the Rangers up by two runs. The Red Sox would never have the lead in this game.

Adverse field conditions didn’t help play, but the defense behind Lester made questionable decisions. For example, in the second inning Alex Gonzalez attempted the force at second base on a Jerry Hairston, Jr. sharp grounder. With the alacrity the Boston shortstop loosed the ball to Mark Loretta, perhaps he thought a double play could be turned. Or, he wanted to erase the speedy Kinsler from the basepaths. At any rate, the hurried throw handcuffed Loretta and the net result was no outs produced. As noted above, Lester would leave the second unscathed, but the bases loaded situation could have been avoided with more prudence.

The fourth inning witnessed another fielder’s choice by the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis, fresh from a foray into the fair territory near the tarp that resulted in a tangle with Loretta’s cleats and a leadoff double by Laird, tried to delete the Ranger’s catcher at third. Youkilis’s throw nearly eluded Mike Lowell and required his third baseman to vacate third. With runners on first and third, Matthews managed to make contact on a sacrifice fly to right field. Trot Nixon slipped when the tried to set himself up for the throw back into the infield, allowing Laird to tag up to break the 2-2 tie.

The second out of the fourth came on a nifty play by Lowell. At last the Red Sox were able to catch the lead runner; Hairston was too far off second base with Michael Young at the plate. Lowell fielded Young’s grounder and relayed to Gonzalez, who tagged the stray Texas right fielder.

All three of Boston’s runs came from the heart of the lineup. Manny Ramirez drove in a run in the first inning on a ground out that vaulted high enough to plate Loretta and launched a solo four-bagger in the eighth. David Ortiz grounded into a twin killing in the third but Coco Crisp scored despite the carnage.

Unfortunately, as generous as Red Sox management was with hot dogs the bullpen, specifically Julian Tavarez and Keith Foulke, was with runs. Tavarez allowed a two-RBI single in the seventh off the bat of another Ranger rookie standout, second baseman Ian Kinsler. Only Kevin Mench’s not-too-heady charge for third halted that inning from becoming a scoring barrage. Foulke was touched for a home run by Blalock in the ninth after walking Teixeira to commence the inning. All three of Foulke’s outs were fly balls to fairly deep right field, which was not comforting.

Lester’s initiation to the major leagues did not come with the panache and flash of Papelbon’s, but his steady and calm demeanor indicated to me a difference in style, not talent. His intensity manifests itself differently than his peer. At any rate, I hope he avoided being seen by his family with the dreaded pink backpack and am excited to see him hand off said atrocity to Clay Buchholz in a few years.

Thanks to Matt of NU50, I’ll be able to attend the first game of today’s double header. Of course I’ll try to get day of game tickets for the second game as well. I understand David Pauley will be pitching....

June 10, 2006

President

Game 58: June 9, 2006
Rangers (32-28), 3
Red Sox (35-23), 4

H: Craig Hansen (1)
BS, W: Jonathan Papelbon (1, 1-1)
L: Francisco Cordero (5-4)

Scene: The All Farm Party convention where Trot Nixon officially confirms that he will run for president of Red Sox Nation and announces his running mate. Signs like “A Nixon You Can Trust,” “Hometown Hero,” and “Hats Off to Trot,” the later with a recreation of Nixon’s grubby cap, jounce joyously in the swarm. Raucous fans erupt into deafening cheers as Nixon takes the podium.

Nixon: My fellow Red Sox Nation citizens. I am here to announce my intention to represent the All Farm Party in opposition to the incumbent president, Larry Lucchino.

[Thunderous applause.]

Nixon: Last night, you witnessed a resurgence of pride and prosperity in our great Nation. With men on first and second in the first inning, I catapulted a three-run homer into the home bullpen.

[Further frenzied laudation. Chants of “Let’s go Nixon!” burst forth. Nixon beckons the crowd to simmer down.]

Nixon: But I wasn’t content to sit idly by, resting on the laurels of early inning performance. I went on to hit in each and every subsequent at bat to bolster our team’s 20th come-from-behind victory.

[Robust cheering.]

Nixon: As you know, offensive prowess is not sufficient to repel the invading Rangers. That is why I have secured the services of Kevin Youkilis, an All Farm Party stalwart, as my confidante in matters of defense. Youkilis has demonstrated nothing but stellar achievement in protecting the Nation from insurgency along our vulnerable borders. He has been able to overcome partisan snipping by working cooperatively with the Former Fish Party leaders like Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to strengthen us.

[Isolated jeers with the mention of the opposition party. Again Nixon quiets the crowd.]

Nixon: A perfect example is the collaboration between Lowell and Youkilis in the eighth inning. The pair forged a connection, a bond. With up and coming All Farm Party star Craig Hansen on the mound--

[Outburst of cheers for Hansen. Nixon allows the hubbub to subside.]

Nixon: With Craig Hansen on the mound, Lowell put aside politics and timed a perfect leap to intercept emerging threat Ian Kinsler, who sharply grounded to him. Youkilis picked the throw perfectly to eliminate the menace.

Lowell and I joined forces in the eighth inning. With the score tied, I singled to advance Manny Ramirez to third base. With party ally Ramirez in position, Lowell sacrificed to right field to drive in the winning score.

[Subdued applause.]

Nixon: All this shows that a president cannot accomplish his job alone. He needs another conjoined in purpose, intensity, and commitment. A man who ascribes to our party’s ideals and is the epitome of all that the All Farm Party represents.

[Audience hushes with anticipation.]

Nixon: And that man has cut a swath of destruction across the batting averages of hitters in late innings since the beginning of the season. That man shattered the records of past relief pitchers. That man propelled himself through the All Farm Party with his blazing fastball. That man will be my running mate in the upcoming presidential election. That man is Jonathan Papelbon.

[The fans jump to their feet and roar their approval. Papelbon shakes the hand of Nixon vigorously. They pose for the photographers.]

Papelbon: Well, y’know, I just, uh, y’know... I accept the nomination!

[The throng laughs appreciatively.]

June 9, 2006

Fend

Game 57: June 8, 2006
Red Sox (34-23), 9
Yankees (35-23), 3
W: Curt Schilling (9-2)
L: Jaret Wright (3-4)
BS: Scott Proctor (4)

I must applaud Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, and Robinson Cano for their restraint last night. Despite their solo home runs in the first, second, and fifth innings respectively, the trio did not make curtain calls.

Also deserving credit was the crowd at Yankee Stadium, which demonstrated refinement by chanting “Boston sucks!” only 1,159 times rather than the typical 3,408.

As Damon is the center of his universe, he seemed to forget that other center fielders such as Coco Crisp can make the throw from shallow center field to double off runners on second base. The solipsistic nouveau Yankee was erased from the basepaths to bring an inglorious ending to the third inning.

Jason Varitek looked to be the goat of the game when he grounded into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded in the first inning. The Red Sox backstop did as he always preferred to do: speak softly and carry a big stick. Curt Schilling also was in line for the dishonorable mention because of the three taters he tossed, but he would eventually be bailed out by his battery mate.

How quickly was Alex Rodriguez text messaging the official scorer to have the error called against him in the sixth inning? I can imagine the conversation now:

MVPAlex: Yo dat wznt err
BillShannon: It clearly was. That ball ate you up.
MVPAlex: No wA chng it nw
BillShannon: No can do; it’s about integrity.
MVPAlex: I cn gt u table @ il mulino
BillShannon: ...well, it’s not like Wright has any pull. Ok.
MVPAlex: Cll scott he cn h%k u ^

So, Alex Gonzalez benefited by the official scorer’s call with an RBI double to grant his team the lead. Earlier that inning the Red Sox tallied two runs, including a Varitek RBI single that somewhat squelched recent concerns of his declining production. The Captain would have more to say on that matter with his three-run homer in the seventh inning.

Averting the sweep, the Red Sox will make their way back to Fenway for a brief series against the Rangers. The weekend promises to be rife with revelations: Jon Lester will make his major league debut, Josh Beckett and Matt Clement will seek redemption, and David McCarty returns to broadcasting.

June 7, 2006

Chagrin

Game 56: June 6, 2006
Red Sox (33-23), 1
Yankees (35-22), 2
L: David Pauley (0-1)
W: Chien-Ming Wang (6-2)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (8)
S: Mariano Rivera (12)

Dear David,

Your mother and I just watched the terrific game you pitched against the Yankees. It was really incredible, son. We’re both so proud of you. It’s hard to find the words.

You struck out Slappy Rodriguez in the second and you had a key whiff of that Phillips kid in the fourth with Passedballa on third. Hey, I just looked up Phillips and he’s almost 30!

Speaking of old, don’t feel too bad about Williams hitting that homer off of you in the fifth. You probably don’t remember this since you’re so young, but he was a good player in his prime, which was about 25 years ago. By the way, that curtain call nonsense is ridiculous.

I can’t believe the score was so close! Your team had a lot of chances to score more runs but just didn’t capitalize. If any of them aren’t playing hard behind you because they don’t have faith in me, you just let me know and I’ll be on the first plane there. I’ve got a few words for Rudy Seanez, too, ultimate fighter or no.

Not only did you perform well on the field, but you spoke well and with poise at your postgame interview.

Just be patient, son. Your day will come.
Dad

P.S. from Mom: Davey, you look so thin! Are you eating enough? Did you get the cookies I sent? You could use a haircut, too. I mean, it doesn’t have to be Yankee short, but your sideburns are a little long. Is that something that Jonathan Papelbon told you to do? I like his pitching and all, but his hair...! And what did I tell you about leaving pitches up in the zone against power hitters? Much love, Mom


Dear Mom and Dad,

It’s not Rudy’s fault at all that he walked in the winning run in the seventh. I’ve been kinda beating myself up about not fielding that grounder to me by Cairo. I couldn’t get my glove on it and Lowrider tried to barehand it. All the guys are telling me not to sweat it, but I won’t shirk my responsibility for the loss. I got two outs easily that inning and I didn’t close it out.

Did you see Papi’s homer in the third? After he rounded the bases and came back in the dugout I congratulated him. He calls me “Cookie Monster” and he really loves the oatmeal chocolate chips you make, Mom. Can you send some more? He calls them his energy bars!

Dad, I find it hard to believe Williams was ever any good. Did you see him kicking around the ball Lowell hit to him in the seventh. I’ve seen Sea Dogs bench players field better than that.

Lowell is a great leader for our team. He took some time to come see how I was doing during Josh’s outing last night. He’s sorta obsessed about the hidden ball trick and was trying to convince me to do it at some point during the game. Coach Mills kept on coming by and saying, “Stop trying to do that damn trick play, Lowell! Kid’s got enough on his mind as it is.” Which was very true; I watched hours of video on the Yankees. All that preparation almost paid off with a win.

If only Manny got that ball out of the park. I thought for sure his fly ball in the eighth was gone. That Melky guy got sent all the way down to Double-A after making a pretty bad showing last year in the majors. He’s really come around, though. But not so much he should be making curtain calls. That stuff really annoys me.

Anyway, we’ll see how things go. Boomer may not ever pitch again. And now that MmmBop has been called up, guess who doesn’t have to carry the pink backpack any more? Technically, it should still be me, but Paps and me are making up some arbitrary rule so that Hansen will have to.

Love,
Your Son David

June 6, 2006

Curtains

Game 55: June 5, 2006
Red Sox (33-22), 5
Yankees (34-22), 13
L: Josh Beckett (7-3)
W: Mike Mussina (8-1)

The second inning was notable for its curtain calls and the Miguel Cairo at bat. I’ve been reading through the various game summaries and none have attempted to puzzle out home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth’s call except Gordon Edes:

That came the next inning, when the Sox thought they had turned Miguel Cairo’s tapper in front of the plate into an inning-ending double play and left the field. But plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled that Cairo’s foot had come in contact with the ball, which made the batter out and the ball dead, allowing Bernie Williams to return to first base.

But Culbreth didn’t rule the batter out. There are a multitude of rules about the batter, and all but one of them run counter to Culbreth’s ruling. Rule 6.05(g) states, “A batter is out when his fair ball touches him before touching a fielder.” According to 6.05(i), the batter is also out when, “after hitting or bunting a foul ball, he intentionally deflects the course of the ball in any manner while running to first base. The ball is dead and no runners may advance.” As much as I enjoy ascribing untoward motives to Yankees, Cairo clearly didn’t intend to touch the ball with his foot, if he did indeed touch it at all. Perhaps I finally found the rule Culbreth was applying in 6.05(h):

A batter is out when, after hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair territory. The ball is dead and no runners may advance. If the batter-runner drops his bat and the ball rolls against the bat in fair territory and, in the umpire’s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, the ball is alive and in play;
Rule 6.05(h) Comment: If a bat breaks and part of it is in fair territory and is hit by a batted ball or part of it hits a runner or fielder, play shall continue and no interference be called. If batted ball hits part of broken bat in foul territory, it is a foul ball.
If a whole bat is thrown into fair territory and interferes with a defensive player attempting to make a play, interference shall be called, whether intentional or not.
In cases where the batting helmet is accidentally hit with a batted or thrown ball, the ball remains in play the same as if it has not hit the helmet.
If a batted ball strikes a batting helmet or any other object foreign to the natural ground while on foul territory, it is a foul ball and the ball is dead.
If, in the umpire’s judgment, there is intent on the part of a baserunner to interfere with a batted or thrown ball by dropping the helmet or throwing it at the ball, then the runner would be out, the ball dead and runners would return to last base legally touched.

Cairo’s foot would be the foreign object, I suppose. Perhaps Culbreth judged the ball to be in foul territory when it was “touched.” It is ridiculous that the one rule that would allow Cairo to continue his turn at the plate is a comment in a section devoted to detailing every possible permutation of situations where the batter is out.

The only bright spots for the Red Sox were:

  • No Jeter Fist Pump™.
  • Manny Ramirez killed the second inning with his on-the-run dazzling catch of Robinson Cano’s fly ball.
  • Doug Mirabelli’s first pitch homer and J.T. Snow’s RBI single in the sixth, breaking Mike Mussina’s streak of quality starts.

June 5, 2006

Domesticate

Game 54: June 4, 2006
Red Sox (33-21), 8
Tigers (37-20), 3
W: Matt Clement (5-4)
H: Jermaine Van Buren (1)
L: Zach Miner (0-1)

“And you’ve got Manny... being Manny.” In the fourth, Ramirez gunned out Ivan Rodriguez at second base for his second assist of the season. He also jacked his 14th homer in the seventh.

“Did you see that catch Coco made?” I sure did. In the bottom of the eighth, Crisp executed a remarkable catch of Magglio Ordóñez’s air ball in the depths of Comerica, right near the center field wall where the zip code changes.

“You want them on the corners. You need them at the corners.” Kevin Youkilis went two for four with a home run and stolen base. In the eighth, Youkilis was hit by a Jason Grilli pitch to load the bases, and  the contused infielder remained on the basepaths for the next few hours as Grilli unraveled. With the bases loaded, the journeyman pitcher walked three consecutive batters for three runs. The monotony was momentarily derailed by Jim Leyland’s dramatics. He tangled with home plate umpire Paul Nauert as the pair fundamentally disagreed on the nature and definition of the strike zone. Leyland leisurely meandered into the dugout following his performance, drew water from a cooler, and then dashed the cup to the ground without taking a sip.

“Can the leather be any better than Lowell and Loretta?” Although having both Alexes, Cora and Gonzalez, are downgrades at the plate, they aren’t slouches with the glove. Gonzalez did his level best to astound fans by launching his third roundtripper of the year with Jason Varitek on first.

“And he has such a great smile.” David Ortiz certainly does, particularly after hitting his 16th circuit clout, going back-to-back with Youkilis in the fifth inning.

The persistent NESN commercials should be revised. “Van Buren, Seanez, and Riske: they’re so intense on the mound.”

June 4, 2006

Clawed

Game 53: June 3, 2006
Red Sox (32-21), 2
Tigers (37-19), 6
L: Tim Wakefield (4-7)
W: Jeremy Bonderman (6-4)
S: Fernando Rodney (7)

Both Detroit pitchers involved in last night’s game have have hit songs as their namesakes. Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” is about a teenager who shoots himself in front of his class while ABBA’s “Fernando” is about a man that was part of the Mexican Revolution against the tyranny of President Porfirio Díaz. Songs with women’s names usually aren’t statement songs; these ditties are typically mawkish motifs designed to get the composer and/or lyricist laid.

Which is perhaps why Chris Berman uses song lyrics in his pathetic nicknames. “You’re with me, leather,” just doesn’t cut it, even when you’re a flagship anchor of the worldwide leader in sports. Although lately, in terms of bulk, he and John Kruk seem to comprise more than their fair share of the entire fleet.

Of the Red Sox batters, only Alex Cora, Doug Mirabelli, and Trot Nixon, were able to unravel the riddle of Bonderman. Nixon drove in a run in the first inning to give his team a short-lived lead. Cora led off the eighth inning with a Comerica triple and eventually scored on Coco Crisp’s ground out to second.

In contrast to the dearth of Boston hitting, all of the Tigers’ runs were the result of the longball. Tim Wakefield, despite pitching seven quality innings with a line of six hits, three earned runs, two walks, and six strikeouts, was burdened with his seventh loss of the season. He relinquished a third of the homers he did on August 8, 2004, a game in which the Red Sox were able to out-muscle their fellow charter members of the American League.

The Red Sox were in the game until Julian Tavarez conceded a three-run home run to Magglio Ordóñez in the bottom of the eighth. As heartening as it is to see a historic franchise regain its prominence, it could have continued to do so against the Royals and Twins of the world rather than the Olde Towne Team.

June 3, 2006

Tame

Game 52: June 2, 2006
Red Sox (32-20), 3
Tigers (36-19), 2
W: Rudy Seanez (1-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (20)
H: Joel Zumaya (13)
BS, L: Todd Jones (2, 0-3)

If baseball wasn’t being played on it, the outfield of Comerica Park could be used to supply the country with a year’s supply of grain. Even David Ortiz is unable to belt a ball out, as was the case in the eighth inning when he was able to lay wood on phenom Joel Zumaya’s heater. With the score 2-1 in the Tigers’ favor, two out, and Coco Crisp on base, the Red Sox designated hitter seemed to have at least tied the score with his deep fly ball. But Curtis Granderson was able to cover the vastness of center field with his speed and snared the final out of the eighth.

Kevin Youkilis committed just his fourth error of the season in the bottom of the eighth. With two out, Youkilis dropped a toss from Alex Cora, allowing Carlos Guillen to take first and Placido Polanco to advance to third base. Rudy Seanez was close to being the co-goat of the game by pitching wildly and allowing Guillen to proceed to second base. But Seanez was able to overcome his genetic programming that compels him to lose games and secured the third out by causing Chris “Orange Crush” Shelton to pop out. Shelton has gone flat comparing his April stats to May’s: OBP from .404 to .340 and slugging from .783 to .363.

Youkilis redeemed himself in the top of the ninth with his two-run, two-out homer to grant his team the lead. Mike Lowell returned last night, quelling fears that his left hamstring would entail a long-term absence. The third baseman went three for four, including the key single to set up his co-corner infielder for the game-winning jack. The win marked the ninth win of the 14 one-run games the Red Sox have played and just the third victory after having trailed in the eighth inning.

The game may have been a less stressful affair if the home plate umpire Larry Vanover had functional retinas. Manny Ramirez was called out on strikes in the second and sixth innings on questionable pitches.

There are eight subspecies of tiger (Panthera tigris), and sadly all of them are the victims of habitat loss and dwindling population. Perhaps after facing the cream of the America League, the Detroit variety will be similarly endangered. But at least their skins aren’t being poached and peddled at the Build -A-Bear Workshop like Wally’s is.

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