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Home » Monthly Archive » April 2007

April 30, 2007


Game 24: April 29, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Julian Tavarez (1-2)
H: Hideki Okajima (5)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (8)
16-8, 1 game winning streak
6-2-1 series record
Yankees 4 L: Chien-Ming Wang (0-2) 9-14, 1 game losing streak
2-6-1 series record
Highlights: Alex Cora, who had never had a hit in Yankee Stadium, laced a two-run homer in the fifth for the lead. Tavarez notched his first win of the season; a fifth starter besting the Yankees’ ace of the moment demonstrated how this season is unfolding for the Bronx Bromides. Joe Torre was getting advice on his resume from Larry Bowa, Joe Kerrigan, and Tony Pena. For example, what do you do if no one from your previous position will act as your reference?

The first inning, the first pitch he glimpsed, the first swing he took, David Ortiz knew the nanosecond the ball left his bat that he hit a home run. Manny Ramirez, Alex Cora, and the designated hitter made a triple decker hero sandwich on Sunday.

The Yankees showed signs of life in the third inning from an source as unlikely as Cora. Doug Mientkiewicz smacked his second home run of the season with Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano on the base paths. The sudden power surge gave the Yankees a brief claim on the lead.

Just two innings later Cora wrenched back the lead with an unexpected and go-ahead circuit clout of his own. Ramirez, trying to avoid another baserunning mishap like he had in fourth, would add to the lead in the eighth with a two-run shot of his own. The short porch giveth and the short porch taketh away.

The third featured exhilarating baserunning, to a point. Coco Crisp led off with a triple to the gap between center and left and he scored on Cora’s ground out to short. Julio Lugo blooped a single just outside of the dirt. He cannily advanced to third despite seeing that Kevin Youkilis’s single wasn’t deep. In a battle between Lugo’s legs and Johnny Damon’s arm, take the former.

Then Ortiz nubbed a ball just in front of home in what was effectively a bunt. As he lumbered down first, Lugo thought it was the ideal opportunity to poach a run, but Chien-Ming Wang backed up home. Mientkiewicz alertly threw to the plate and the inning died an abrupt death.

Hideki Okajima pitched two near-perfect innings, and his former Yomiuri Giants teammate grounded out to him to finish the sixth. “I’m willing to be a hero in the dark,” he said in this article on the official Red Sox website.

Without Okajima, we’d be seeing a lot more of Mike Timlin. This is not a good thing, as evidenced by Derek Jeter’s solo shot in the eighth, but Alex Rodriguez saved Timlin’s hide by grounding into a double play to end the eighth and pave the way for Jonathan Papelbon.

Although Papelbon gave up a leadoff double to Jason Giambi, the next three batters were neutralized with little fanfare, thus ending the latest chapter of this Bronx tale.

April 29, 2007

Triple Take

Today Troy Tulowitzki became just the thirteenth man to turn an unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball history. See it courtesy of MLB by clicking this link.

It is my favorite play in baseball because it requires a perfect and serendipitous coincidence of circumstances: the person who catches the ball must do so on a line, pivot in time to the base, and tag the approaching runner. All this must be in place and, of course, must be no other outs in the inning.

For these reasons the triple play is more rare than the perfect game. There’s seventeen of those, and two of them have been by Yankees. Only Cy Young has thrown a perfect game for the Boston American League team, while George Burns and John Valentin are immortalized as unassisted triple play turners.

I thought Tulowitzki might have been the first rookie to have made this play, but shortstop Ernie Padgett of the Boston Braves accomplished the same feat on October 6, 1923. It was the first game of a doubleheader and Padgett’s second professional game. Cotton Tierney was the second out of that play, the man who is the namesake for Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The most amusing aspect of this very specific type of triple play is that the players always overcompensate. After tagging both second base and Edgar Renteria, Tulowitzki threw to first base when it wasn’t required. Valentin tagged both Mike Blowers (who was on second when Marc Newfield was at the dish) and Keith Mitchell (who was advancing from first to second) when he only needed to tag second base and Mitchell.


Game 23: April 28, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Tim Wakefield (2-3) 15-8, 1 game losing streak
5-2-1 series record
WinYankees 3 W: Kei Igawa (2-1)
H: Brian Bruney (1)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (2)
S: Mariano Rivera (1)
9-13, 1 game winning streak
2-5-1 series record
Highlights: The “i” [井] in “Igawa” means “well” and the “gawa” [川] means “stream.” “Kei” [慶] means “joy.” The Yankees were joyful that when they visited their shallow well of pitching talent that one of their twirlers were able to stymie the Red Sox. Streams of tears were shed and the Grand Tradition of the Yankees was foisted upon us once again. Alleluia.

Fox is regressing to its old gimmicks. They had a little kid announcing the Red Sox lineup... oh, that’s Dustin Pedroia. Good job, rook.

Jeff Karstens looks like a pitching version of Nick Johnson; a bit less pudgy, but not what you’d call the paradigm of masculine magnetism. The first pitch Karstens threw to Julio Lugo recoiled back to the mound as if drawn to the pitcher’s leg by magnetic force.

Karstens insisted that he was fine and faced the next batter. The youngster surrendered a line drive to Kevin Youkilis and was immediately pulled in favor of the previously unimpressive Kei Igawa.

Except Igawa, cloaked with his sunglasses, pitched competently. He lasted six innings and only gave up two hits while walking four and striking out six. It was his second quality start, the first coming against Cleveland on April 18.

The Yankees bullpen rose to the occasion; Brian Bruney, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mariano Rivera combined for three innings of work. Only Farnsworth gave up an earned run.

Tim Wakefield came within two outs of a quality start. The knuckleballer was once again deserted by his offense, which left 10 on base.

One member of the New York club was achingly desperate, however. Bobby Abreu had bunt attempts in the third and fifth. I repeat, Abreu, who bats third in that potent lineup, tried to bunt twice. In sum the Yankees left 12 men stranded.

Bruce Froemming made himself more of the game than he should have. In the late innings, perhaps smarting from being pelted by foul shots or hunger pains, called the outside strike a little more outside than one Red Sox player would have preferred. With men on first and second and two out, Coco Crisp had the first two pitches away called as strikes against him. Farnsworth needed only to work him away because Crisp had to protect against the outside.

Crisp hurled his helmet and bat when Froemming called the final strike against him. The newly-coiffed Crisp was ejected and may face suspension.

Today is the rubber game, but even if the Red Sox drop this game and the series, the best result the Yankees will have is tied for last while Boston will still hold the division lead.

April 28, 2007

Shiroboshi [白星]

Game 22: April 27, 2007
WinRed Sox 11 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2)
H: Mike Timlin (2)
H: Hideki Okajima (4)
15-7, 3 game winning streak
5-2-1 series record
Yankees 4 L: Andy Pettitte (1-1) 8-13, 7 game losing streak
2-5-1 series record
Highlights: Julio Lugo outshone the hometown shortstop with his 3 for 4 showing, including his first homer of the year. Mike Lowell barehanded an Alex Rodriguez grounder in the first to end the inning, showing his counterpart how it’s done. In the seventh, Lowell swiftly transferred to Dustin Pedroia to get Derek Jeter on a force out to kill the frame, also on a Rodriguez ground ball. “Shiroboshi” literally translated means “white star.” Carried over from how rikishi (the correct term for “sumo wrestler,” which is a redundancy, by the way) are noted as winners on the torikumi (win/loss chart) during a honbasho (official tournament). Somewhat confusingly, the symbol is actually a white circle, not a star-like shape.

I’ve mentioned before that the number four is considered unlucky in Japanese culture because it is pronounced like the Japanese word for death. Again Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled in the fourth inning, just as he did in his start against the Blue Jays.

Rather than any psychological affect, I attribute his hardships to the lineup turning over. The fourth inning usually coincides with hitters seeing the pitcher the second time in the evening, provided the starting pitcher doesn’t get lit up early.

Matsuzaka walked Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui consecutively to begin the fourth. The Bronx crowd was in a frenzy and further goaded by the organist. Although the Boston rookie was able to strike out Robinson Cano and induce a pop out from Doug Mientkiewicz, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter each had cheap hits to drive in runners to give their team the lead. Damon’s was particularly egregious; it was more a of a failed check swing than an actual hit.

Just as he did before, Matsuzaka regained his composure quickly and easily. He sat the lineup in order in the fifth and sixth, but since he had thrown a season-high 117 pitches, his fate lay in the hands of his bullpen. Mike Timlin, Hideki Okajima, and Joel Piñeiro, of all people, shut down the typically implacable New York offense for the final three innings.

Stalwart Andy Pettitte had troubles of his own in the top of the fifth. Rather than tamp the visiting lineup after his team’s rally, the lefty allowed a base on balls to Julio Lugo. The floodgates opened; Kevin Youkilis rang a hit off Jeter’s glove to set up runners at the corners. David Ortiz singled to plate Lugo and Manny Ramirez walked to load the bases.

J.D. Drew seemed to be the only Red Sox hitter Pettitte could dominate. The normally patient hitter struck out twice and didn’t have a base hit. Lowell got a free pass and the score was knotted at four apiece.

Hip hip Jorge! Although the scorer ruled it a wild pitch rather than a passed ball, Ortiz scored on the Yankee battery’s misplay, granting the Red Sox a lead they would not relinquish. The interlopers tagged on five extra runs on the already wearied Yankees bullpen.

All Red Sox fans carry the scars from having labeled the Yankees “vulnerable” too early. This year, however, the tide of desperation runs so deep you don’t see the froth on the surface of the water. If the Yankees lose this series, a profound upheaval may result.

One game into a series might be too early to say, but it’s still sweet to imagine the turmoil churning in Yankee offices in Tampa Bay and the Bronx.

April 27, 2007


Game 21: April 26, 2007
WinRed Sox 5 W: Josh Beckett (5-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (7)
14-7, 2 game winning streak
5-2-1 series record
Orioles 2 H: Danys Baez (6)
H: John Parrish (5)
BS, L: Chris Ray (2, 2-2)
11-11, 4 game losing streak
4-4-0 series record
Highlights: Beckett joined Pedro Martinez (2000) and Cy Young (1908) as the only Red Sox pitchers to have a 5-0 record in April.

Glimpses from the Baltimore Orioles’ television broadcast booth with Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer.

Fourth Inning

Thorne: J.D. Drew breaks up the no-hitter with a nubber up the middle.

Palmer: If I recall correctly, Drew also broke up the no-hitter that Felix Hernandez was throwing against the Red Sox up in Boston in the opening series.

Thorne: Drew didn’t really break up that no-hit game. It was actually a powerful gust of wind that blew the ball past the infielders and then stopped suddenly, dropping it just in front of the outfielders.

Palmer: Is that a fact?

Thorne: Oh, yes. I heard it directly from Wally the Green Monster. He says it happens every couple of years.

Palmer: Gary, Wally is a mascot in a thickly furred costume. How in the world could he have felt a breeze?

Thorne: Knocked his mascot head clear off, it did. Made a kid in the front row cry.

Eighth Inning

Thorne: Bases loaded for Wily Mo Pe�a. Parrish walked Ramirez and induced a fly out from Drew. See what happens when there’s no wind aiding him. Then Ray took the mound to get the last five outs but gave up a ground-rule double into the left field stands. Perlozzo called for the intentional walk of Varitek to get a force at each plate.

Palmer: Smart move by Perlozzo, but now it’s up to Ray to get Wily Mo to slap a grounder to any infielder, or back to himself. Pitcher’s best friend, the double play is.

Thorne: Swing by Pe�a... and he crushes it. Grand slam. Deep to center, far. Right into the Red Sox bullpen. They’re celebrating. Red Sox take the lead, 5-2.

Palmer: Ray seemed to get nervous after he fell behind the count and just let too much of his fastball over the plate. If there’s anyone you shouldn’t do that to, it’s Wily Mo.

Thorne: I was talking to a Boston clubhouse source and he tells me Pe�a is actually an android.

Palmer: An... android?

Thorne: Yes.

Palmer: As in, not human?

Thorne: Yup, Wily Mo Pe�a is a robot. I was talking to Ino Guerrero and he let me in on that little tidbit. They roll him into a triple-wide locker after games, oil his joints every two weeks, that sort of thing.

Palmer: I’m... just astounded by this. It can’t be—

Thorne: Why do you think he has such incredible strength? Also, his fielding algorithms aren’t correctly programmed yet, but once they are, say bye-bye to Crisp.

Palmer [away from mic]: Can someone do something about this?

Ninth Inning

Palmer: So, Papelbon enters the game to secure the win for the Red Sox.

Thorne: This will Papelbon’s seventh save attempt. He’s converted six this season so far and blown none.

Palmer: Just a spectacular young pitcher. He was to have been a starter, but the Red Sox looked at the options in their bullpen for closer and saw no one that could do the job. If Papelbon doesn’t have any health issues, this is a coup for Boston.

Thorne: There won’t be any health issues. He’s an android, too. He doesn’t bleed.

Palmer: [Sounds of headset mic being slammed down, footsteps, and door slamming.]

Thorne: And Corey Patterson strikes out to end the game and the series. The Orioles have been swept by the Red Sox and now they make their way to Cleveland for a three-game series. This has been Gary Thorne for MASN.

April 26, 2007


Game 20: April 25, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Curt Schilling (3-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (3)
13-7, 1 game winning streak
4-2-1 series record
Orioles 1 L: Daniel Cabrera (1-2) 11-10, 3 game losing streak
4-3-0 series record
Highlights: Wily Mo Peña walked! Cabrera only walked five! Alex Cora homered! Is it Armageddon? In a more mundane vein, Schilling lasted seven innings and single run; a solo shot by Miguel Tejada. Okajima continued his dominance pitching a perfect eighth while whiffing two batters and Donnelly got back into the action with a flawless ninth.

Description of a Baltimore-area opthalmologic center commercial.

[Clip of Daniel Cabrera on the mound in a generic uniform, un-trademarked cap, and goggles. He heaves a pitch and umpire Angel Hernandez doesn’t make a strike call. Shoulders slumped, Cabrera returns to the rubber and hefts another pitch outside of the strike zone. As the batter tosses his bat to the attendant, Cabrera rips off his goggles and attempts to clean them with the hem of his jersey.]

Cabrera [voice over]: That was me in 2006. I was missing the zone and losing more and more of my confidence every game. My strikeout to walk ratio was 1.5 and Leo Mazzone was yelling at me all the time.

[Cut to headshot of a smiling Cabrera without goggles.]

Cabrera: But now, thanks to the eye experts at Katzen Eye Group, my control and confidence has greatly improved. So far this season I’ve struck out 31 and walked only 12.

[Cut to montage of Katzen Eye Group offices. Various people looking at eye charts and nodding gratefully at white-coated personnel.]

Cabrera [voice over]: I had LASIK surgery. Sure, the word is scary, but LASIK just stands for Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. That last word is long, but I just pretend the “K” is a symbol for the thing that pitchers love and hitters fear: the strikeout!

[Cut to home plate umpire Angel Hernandez vociferously calling a strike. He strides up to Cabrera.]

Hernandez: Wow, Danny. You’re really dealing today! What’s your secret?

Cabrera: I owe it all to my friends at Katzen. [Winks at the camera.]

[Terry Francona joins the duo.]

Francona: Hey, Angel. Maybe you oughta get their number, huh? I mean, after that catcher’s interference call  in the first with Tejada at the plate....

[Hernandez crosses his arms in front of his chest.]

Francona: Not to mention that you didn’t notice Lugo was calling for time in the third....

[Hernandez goes face-to-face with Francona, pushing Cabrera out of the shot]

Hernandez: Now you listen here, mister. There’s a new rule we’re enforcing here, just check out 6.02(d).

Francona: Plus you gave a ball to Huff when Oki supposedly went to his mouth in the eighth. I don’t know what you were seeing, but he clearly didn’t.

[Volume decreases on Hernandez and Francona as they continue to argue. Cabrera has circled in front of them and pops into the shot on the right side.]

Cabrera: Avoid situations like this in your life. [Gestures with thumb to the arguing pair.] Call my buddies at Katzen, and be sure to visit their website for limited time promotional offers. [Points to his right.]

[Katzen Eye Group’s logo, address, URL, and telephone number appear under the spot where Cabrera points.]

[In the background, Francona and Hernandez take a moment to write down the information Cabrera points to, then go back to arguing.]

April 25, 2007


Game 19: April 24, 2007
WinBlue Jays 10 W: Roy Halladay (3-0) 10-10, 2 game winning streak
3-2-2 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Julian Tavarez (0-2) 12-7, 2 game losing streak
4-2-1 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox didn’t ground into any double plays, although that was because there were only five Red Sox baserunners the entire evening. Julio Lugo did try to jump start the team with two steals, however, and one of them led to a run. Tavarez reprized his role as traffic cop; he actually directed two double plays.

This is what happens when you send your stopgap fifth starter out against the staff ace. Jerry and Don weren’t even that funny.

Vernon Wells is an inveterate Red Sox slaughterer. His partner in crime Frank Catalanotto got shipped away, thankfully, but he seems to have a replacement in Aaron Hill. Adam Lind is a much-lauded prospect and threat-in-training. In some ways the Blue Jays frighten me more than the Yankees. They are much more appealing, too, like how dying by prolonged exposure to arsenic is preferable to a lethal dose of cyanide.

On the Toronto team, it’s always the case of picking your poison. Roy Halladay can throw BBs at your lineup for eight innings, walking none and striking out 10 like he did last night. The asthenic bottom of the order can be sated by facing the soft, scrumptious middle of the Red Sox bullpen. Or Wells can decimate your hurlers with well-placed shots into the Monster seats, as he did in the first inning.

Note well that Mike Lowell’s home run in the fourth landed in the last row of the same section as Wells’s. It was the one thing Boston did better than the Blue Jays during this two-game series sweep. The home team was out-hit, out-pitched, out-fielded, out-run, just plain overran.

The Red Sox retreat to Camden Yards to hopefully regroup and avoid running afoul of another winged nemesis. Kevin Millar will once again have fun with his real team and all will be right with the world.

April 24, 2007


Game 18: April 23, 2007
WinBlue Jays 7 W: Tomo Ohka (1-2)
H: Casey Janssen (4)
H: Scott Downs (3)
H: Jeremy Accardo (1)
S: Jason Frasor (2)
9-10, 1 game winning streak
2-2-2 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Tim Wakefield (2-2) 12-6, 1 game losing streak
4-1-1 series record
Highlights: Tim Wakefield had his fourth quality start of the season while striking out five. Dustin Pedroia notched his first two RBIs of the season with a double off the F.W. Webb sign with the bases loaded in the fourth.


Vernon Wells muscled a two-out double that hit the warning track before caroming off the scoreboard. He would steal third and score on a throwing error by Doug Mirabelli.


In the fourth Aaron Hill got caught up between first and second while eying Royce Clayton’s fly ball to center and the second base umpire Adan Dowdy. Ironically, because Hill was on the base paths, Dowdy was watching him and it was third base umpire Dan Iassogna’s call. To add insult to irony, Iassogna’s call on Wily Mo Peña’s “catch” may have been incorrect. The result: an 8-1-3 double play to end the inning.


Frank Thomas launched his third homer of the season off the Volvo sign in the sixth with Wells on base.


Mike Lowell pulled a single past the diving shortstop for a leadoff single. The Red Sox third baseman would later score on a throwing error by Clayton.


Hill doubled to left in the eighth, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Clayton, and tagged up on a sacrifice fly to right by pinch hitter Adam Lind. John Gibbons does his best imitation of Tony LaRussa.


The relentless Wells tripled in the ninth and Hill, of all people, deposited the ball onto the ledge of the Monster.


Ten Red Sox runners left on base.

April 23, 2007

Honruida [本塁打]

Game 17: April 22, 2007
Yankees 6 H: Andy Pettitte (1)
BS, L: Scott Proctor (2, 0-1)
8-9, 3 game losing streak
2-3-1 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2)
H: Hideki Okajima (2)
H: Brendan Donnelly (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (6)
12-5, 5 game winning streak
4-1-1 series record
Highlights: Red Sox had not swept the Yankees at Fenway in 17 years until last night. Terry Francona got an early birthday gift: his team bought him a broom to sweep their American League nemesis out of town. The Red Sox tied the record for consecutive home runs in an inning with four. Terry Francona’s father, Tito, was part of the only other quartet of hitters to launch four consecutive home runs off the same pitcher, Paul Foytack, on July 31, 1963. Tito’s birth name is John Patsy, so it’s no mystery why he went by an alias. J.D. Drew was also part of the Dodgers foursome that teed off against San Diego on September 18 last year. There were two other teams to accomplish this feat: the Milwaukee Braves on June 8, 1961 and the Twins on May 2, 1964. “Honruida” is a Japanese word for “home run.”

Baseball is said to be the most individualistic of all the team sports. Although the first act of every play is an intimate dialogue between the pitcher and catcher, in an instant an entire cast can be part of the scene.

And that is why, as much as the media want to place Daisuke Matsuzaka at the center of their dramas in every one of his starts, there is always the chance that their scripts will be instantly replaced with improbable improvisation, as it was last night.

For who would have thought that Matsuzaka’s first (supposedly) real challenge, his debut against his team’s decade-long antagonist, could be overshadowed? He had been upstaged by Felix Hernandez’s one-hitter in his first Fenway start. It would take something historic, something earthshaking, for the spotlight to waiver from the pitcher’s mound.

Wily Mo Peña did hit the left field wall fielding Melky Cabrera’s fly ball in the second inning, but surprisingly the resultant tremors registered only 3.7 on the Richter scale.

No, the watershed moment came in the third inning. Chase Wright, who has pitched about 20 innings at any level above Class A ball, did not have to be in the big leagues long to have his name forever etched in people’s minds and the history books. The 24-year old induced the first two outs easily enough: mirror fly ball outs off the bats of Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.

Then Manny Ramirez rocketed a home run up and over the deepest part of the Monster, allowing Ramirez the chance to flaunt his “guts pose” [ガッツポーズ ], or home run pimp. J.D. Drew launched the next pitch into the short bleachers behind the home bullpen, just a few feet away from where Anne Quinn sits.

Mike Lowell proved outfielders don’t get all the long balls and curtain calls; his shot just cleared the Monster. Jason Varitek felt badly no one on the wall had a physical keepsake, so he made sure his four-bagger landed in the stands so a loyal patron could treasure his parcel of history.

The foursome’s performance gave the Red Sox their first lead of the game, but there would further plot twists. The leading adversary, Derek Jeter, led off the fifth with a game-tying homer. Another, less dramatic but still galling go-ahead run would plate in the sixth on a double play by Cabrera

One couldn’t tell by the actors Joe Torre called upon to participate that this was an April off-Broadway production. Andy Pettitte was brought in for relief in the sixth. Torre ran through every actual catching option to pinch hit until he was down to his third understudy, Josh Phelps.

The seventh inning featured a final late plot twist authored by the home team. Ramirez singled to the opposite field to begin the rising action. Drew heightened the drama by scraping a lofty double off the left field wall. His expert use of timing along Cabrera’s interplay along the warning track had the audience wondering until the last second if it would be a routine fly out, a spectacular jump or play off the wall, or a base hit.

Lowell brought the production to its climax with his three-run go-ahead circuit clout. Although Cabrera would gamely ground into another out in the eighth to bring his team within a run, with Jonathan Papelbon warming in the bullpen the outcome was all but preordained.

Despite the almost rote ending, this theatrical work will surely win worldwide accolades and will see repeated showings for the remainder of the season. Whatever reviews or spoilers you may have read about this work of theater should not sully your enjoyment. The cast and crew is adept at keeping the production ever innovative, vibrant, and provocative.

In the Midst of it All

A sampling of photos from April 21; click for a larger version. You may see more from Jere at A Red Sox Fan at Pinstripe Territory.

Derek Jeter: Yeah, outfielders are so dumb compared to shortstops like you and me... oh, hi Manny!

Larry Lucchino, Mike Lupica, and Brian Cashman conversing.

John Sterling: Oh, it’s so bright and sunny. Hope my ring here doesn’t blind you.

This year Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will make $47M combined, which is more than the 25-man payroll for three teams (Devil Rays, Marlins, and Nationals).

Walk like an Egyptian.

An anxious Red Sox dugout wondering if the wave will complete its circuit.

Josh Beckett has his outing cut short.

Although he was upset he was pulled before having a chance to finish the inning, Beckett left with a chance for his fourth win.

One day after Hideki Okajima secured his first major league save, the southpaw earned his first hold.

What more needs to be said than “Papelbon”?

Contaminated dihydrogen oxide.

The scoreboard showing the other scoreboard.

Twilight at Fenway.

April 22, 2007


Game 16: April 21, 2007
Yankees 5 L: Jeff Karstens (0-1) 8-8, 2 game losing streak
2-3-1 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Josh Beckett (4-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (1)
H: Mike Timlin (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (5)
11-5, 4 game winning streak
4-1-1 series record
Highlights: Jere of A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory invited me to this game so I was thankfully spared of Tim McCarver. The Fenway deejay played the usual suite of Saturday songs: Saturday in the Park, Saturday Night (by the Bay City Rollers, not the Misfits), Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), and so forth. The last song was not particularly well-suited for the occasion; it was a day game and the rambunctious fans that did try to fight weren’t “alright” with security.

It seemed Jeff Karstens didn’t stand a chance. He was the starter by default because of injuries to Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, and Carl Pavano. Karstens was drafted in 2003 in the 19th round, the same year Abe Alvarez, David Murphy, and Jonathan Papelbon were drafted by the Red Sox. Since he was converted to pitcher as a prospect, Karstens has relied upon his sinkerball and therefore his infield defense to convert nibbling pitches into outs. That he had five ground outs compared to seven fly ball outs is indicative of his outing.

The first two times through the rotation the Yankee starter managed to contain David Ortiz to warning track shots to the right. But in the fourth, with Kevin Youkilis on first due to a five-pitch free pass, Ortiz turned on a pitch and neatly deposited it just beyond Pesky’s Pole to add to the Red Sox lead.

As magnificent as a home run can be, that was hardly surprising. What was an astonishing spectacle, at least for Red Sox fans, were the consecutive bunts for base hits in the second inning by Coco Crisp and Alex Cora. I leaned over to Jere and said, “Now there’s something you won’t see the Red Sox do often.” In fact, OttoC of SoSH, using Retrosheet data, found just six instances of this for Boston since 1967. Both runners would eventually score after a giddy sequence of a wild pitch, ground out by Julio Lugo, and single authored by Kevin Youkilis.

Josh Beckett persevered through six and two-thirds innings of work with a line of 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts. He opened the seventh frame easily enough with two quick outs. This lulled the crowd into complacency and disinterest, prompting a group of bleacher fans to commence the wave. Just as the wave finally rippled around the entire bowl Beckett allowed an RBI single to Alex Rodriguez, placing the tying run at first and the go-ahead run at the dish. Beckett was pulled from the mound with much ovation, and that same fervor greeted Hideki Okajima when he toed the rubber and notes of “Praise You” drifted through the sultry air.

The wave’s adherents settled and the crowd bleakly realized their team faced a resurgent Yankee threat. Okajima struck out Jason Giambi, skillfully showing Mike Myers what a LOOGY should do. The wiry southpaw stuck around for the top of the eighth to eliminate Robinson Cano before yielding to Mike Timlin.

Jonathan Papelbon turned in a textbook save but for walking Melky Cabrera, but that seemed more a function of Bob Davidson putting the squeeze on rather than the relief ace’s ability.

So, in the American League East the balance tips to the Red Sox favor early. I offered the Yankee fan with whom I had a bet with last season to wager again in 2007 and haven’t heard from him. If the Yankees continue to perform like this, even with Rodriguez’s remarkable production, I doubt I’ll hear from him for the next few months.

Photos from yesterday’s game to be posted shortly.

April 21, 2007


Game 15: April 20, 2007
Yankees 6 H: Scott Proctor (3)
BS, L: Mariano Rivera (2, 1-2)
8-7, 1 game losing streak
2-2-1 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Kyle Snyder (1-0)
S: Hideki Okajima (1)
10-5, 3 game winning streak
3-1-1 series record
Highlights: So it begins. The Red Sox donned green jerseys to honor Arnold “Red” Auerbach. There have been 60 finals for professional basketball and the Celtics have won 16 titles, or 26.67% of the time. The Yankees have won 26 championships in 102 series for a success rate of a little over 25%. Bob Cousy, who had behind-the-backed the first pitch of the game, visited the broadcast booth in the third. For someone who claimed he didn’t like to talk to people, he revealed that he didn’t think Rick Pitino was a good pro coach and thought the Celtics should draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. The traitorous Doug Mientkiewicz dared show his face in pinstripes at Fenway since his underhanded... oh, wait. He was At Fenway as a Royal in 2006. It’s not only ESPN that hypes Yankee players; Jerry Remy showed side-by-side video of Robinson Cano and Rob Carew in the sixth. Sure, and in a certain light at an obscure angle I look like Gong Li.

Trumpeter and Berklee professor Toru “Tiger” Okoshi led a kumi-daiko (modern taiko drum troupe) in his arrangement of the national anthem to kick off the first series against the Yankees for the 2007 series. Fittingly, taiko were used to rally and coordinate troops in times of battle. When you hear taiko live, you can feel the sound waves move your internal organs, as if a spirit were possessing your body.

Taiko were also a part of daily life, alerting villagers about weather or when hunting parties were about to depart. The drum became was so much of the pulse of daily, essential activities that it became associated with divinity. This association evolved into a tradition in which only designated holy men in Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples were allowed to play taiko. Since the advent of kumi-daiko, however, anyone with the dedication and desire can join a taiko group.

Perhaps some sort of consecrated power has to be invoked to dissolve whatever unholy pact Alex Rodriguez entered into this season, and I’m not referring to profane Scott Boras-brokered contract. Some sort of Faustian rider must have been taken effect this April because what else could account for Rodriguez’s inhuman performance thus far?

Curt Schilling should look into some sort of devilish arrangement himself. Although he lasted seven innings, the aging pitcher surrendered 8 hits, 5 earned runs, and 2 home runs, both to Rodriguez in back-to-back innings. Notably, Schilling’s ground outs equaled his fly outs with eight apiece and he struck out five. Many of those fly outs weren’t puny fly balls to the shallow outfield, but rather were solidly struck and caught on the warning track. Perhaps the taiko pleased the wind gods.

Opposing pitcher Andy Pettitte started in a place he knew so well, a place where the loyal Yankee lefty wouldn’t ever start in the top of the inning. Pettitte was pulled in the seventh; he had allowed consecutive singles to Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp but struck out pinch hitter Wily Mo Peña. He left with the score 5-2, a seemingly safe margin. Scott Proctor finished off the seventh, dismantling a two-on, one-out scoring opportunity in six pitches to Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis.

But the home team did not sit idly by in this key game. Two players whose effectiveness has been called into question broke out, no longer playing tight as a drumskin. A previously dormant Jason Varitek launched a two-run, right-handed homer to the opposite field in the fourth and was pivotal in the eighth inning rally. Another slow-starter, Crisp, would also catch fire, perhaps spurred by his fifth-inning somersault over the bullpen wall while pursuing Rodriguez’s home run.

Much was made of Mariano Rivera’s meltdown in the eighth, but some of the blame should also be shouldered by Mike Myers and Luis Vizcaino. The former allowed a deep double to David Ortiz to lead off the inning while the latter walked Manny Ramirez and gave up an RBI single to Mike Lowell. With one out and runners at the corners, however, Rivera was unable to staunch the bleeding. Varitek singled to right to plate Ramirez. Next Crisp tripled on the first pitch he saw, sprinting madly to the hot corner while the ball shimmied down the first base line all the way to the curve in the right field wall.

Alex Cora, who never seems to accumulate rust, blooped a single over the infield just high and deep enough for Crisp to score the go-ahead run. Cora did, however, overshoot the keystone sack and was swiped out by Cano, who deftly played Wil Nieves’s misfire into an out.

Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable this game since he had been required in the series in Toronto. Surprisingly and hearteningly, Terry Francona did not automatically opt for his more veteran bullpen staff members. Instead, he summoned the little-known and hardly tested Hideki Okajima, whom the team calls “Oki.” Okajimer, as Remy calls him, was shocked into the major leagues thanks to seeing the first pitch he ever let fly turn into a John Buck homer. In the five innings he’s pitched since then the southpaw had not allowed a run to score, walked one, and struck out six.

Okajima induced a ground out from Derek Jeter to open the frame. The walk by Bobby Abreu could have well been a strikeout if someone other than Randy Marsh was judging the strike zone last night. Rodriguez managed contact but softly lined to Cora’s glove for the second out. For the final out, Okajima struck out Kevin Thompson. While it wasn’t a dominant performance in the Papelbon vein, Okajima’s save embodied the spirit of the game: inspired contributions from unexpected sources.

April 20, 2007


Game 14: April 19, 2007
WinRed Sox 5 W: Mike Timlin (1-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (4)
9-5, 2 game winning streak
3-1-1 series record
Blue Jays 3 H: Scott Downs (2)
BS, L: Shaun Marcum (1, 1-1)
8-7, 2 game losing streak
2-1-1 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox have their first late-inning, come-from-behind win of the 2007 season with their stopgap starter, Julian Tavarez, facing staff ace Roy Halladay. Boston also benefited from a balk for the first time this year, too, the infraction coming against Scott Downs in the eighth with Coco Crisp on first.

Yesterday Alex Rodriguez was not the only one to have a late-inning dinger to help win a game, even though ESPN would have you believe otherwise. To be sure, Manny Ramirez’s game-tying shot came in the eighth, but since the Red Sox were the visitors, a walk-off wasn’t possible, anyway.

There would a lot of second guessing of John Gibbons’s decision if the hockey playoffs weren’t going on. Actually, that’s not entirely true, as there would never be any questioning of a Blue Jays manager because baseball falls beneath curling and lumberjack contests in importance for inhabitants of the Great White North. Gibbons pulled Roy Halladay in favor of Scott Downs to match the southpaw against David Ortiz. The stratagem was initially successful as the Red Sox designated hitter struck out after a seven-pitch battle.

Then Gibbons called on Shaun Marcum to put away Ramirez. Marcum fell behind with two consecutive balls. Ramirez knew that the righty would have to get a pitch over the plate and crouched in calm anticipation. Trailing by a run with Coco Crisp on second thanks to a balk, Ramirez tied the score with a single swing. It was a response to the left fielder’s critics for his cold start as well as redemption for grounding into an inning-ending double play in the third.

Two of Toronto’s runs came by the home run: Frank Thomas in the second and Alex Rios in the sixth. A second run in the sixth plated thanks to Vernon Wells’s double to left.

Mike Timlin got into a jam in the eighth by surrendering yet another double to Wells. Wells advanced to third on a ground out by Thomas. Lyle Overbay was intentionally walked to set up the double play. Aaron Hill, who had so deftly nullified Red Sox baserunners throughout the series with his radiant defensive play, had a reversal of fortune at last and became the victim of a superb 1-6-3 double play.

The visiting team took the lead in the ninth. Versatile bench player Eric Hinske (who had sacrificed in the second for the first run of the game) walked to lead off the inning but was effaced from the basepaths on Dustin Pedroia’s bunt attempt. Julio Lugo pinch ran for Pedroia and had a chance to flash his speed thanks to Alex Cora’s go-ahead RBI triple. Cora would score on a sacrifice fly launched by Crisp into center to give his team some breathing room, although with Jonathan Papelbon closing, such a concept is superfluous.

Gregg Zaun certainly knew how to wait out Red Sox pitchers this series. It seemed that with each appearance he finagled a free pass and this was no different in the bottom of the ninth facing Jonathan Papelbon. Jason Smith and Matt Stairs are not made of the same mettle; both struck out on a combined 10 pitches. Rios battled for 10 chances of his own, but against Papelbon the strength of Rios’s final swing only extended as far as J.D. Drew’s glove.

April 19, 2007


Game 13: April 18, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Tim Wakefield (2-1)
H: Brendan Donnelly (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
8-5, 1 game winning streak
2-1-1 series record
Blue Jays 1 L: Tomo Ohka (0-2) 8-6, 1 game losing streak
2-0-1 series record
Highlights: A hat trick of home runs by Mike Lowell in the fifth, Doug Mirabelli in the sixth, and David Ortiz in the seventh. Papelbon notched his third of the young season but allowed a hit to Aaron Hill. Speaking of Hill, he played a huge role impervious shift against Ortiz. Hopefully Joe Maddon wasn’t taking notes on this game.

Where’s all the hype for Tomokazu Ohka [大家友和]? The kanji in his family name mean “big house” and his given name means “friend of peace.” At one point in time I doubt Sun-Woo Kim would agree with such a name, but since their dust-ups in triple A they have supposedly buried the hatchet.

Like Daisuke Matsuzaka he’s a Japanese right-handed pitcher, too, but unlike the highly regarded rookie Ohka switch hits. But there’s no uproar over the former Red Sox farmhand. His path diverges from the chosen one narratives typified by Hideki Matsui or Matsuzaka. Instead, he had sparked the interest of Dan Duquette’s front office, demonstrating that general manager’s interest in acquiring players from Asia like Kim and Ohka. Although Theo Epstein didn’t invent scouting in other continents despite what his adherents proclaim, he and his crew have bettered it.

The Red Sox purchased Ohka’s contract from the Yokohama BayStars in 1998 and made his debut less than a year later on July 19, 1999 against the Marlins. He took the loss in that game and pitched in Pawtucket in 2000, where he tossed a perfect game on June 1. Since then, Ohka has eked out a marginal major league career in Montreal, Washington, Milwaukee, and now Toronto.

Ohka was out-dueled by another Duquette acquisition, Tim Wakefield. Wakefield’s tenure with Boston has turned out much better, but Wakefield can’t brag about being mentioned on “The Simpsons” like Ohka has.

Like Matsuzaka the night before, Wakefield ran into a snag in the fourth inning. Coincidentally, the number four is considered bad luck in Japan because it is a homonym with death. The knuckleballer walked Frank Thomas, Lyle Overbay, and Aaron Hill in sequence after getting two outs under his belt. Without a change in demeanor throughout the ordeal, Wakefield calmly struck out Jason Phillips in four pitches to cool the brewing rally.

Wakefield only allowed a single run to score in his seven innings of work. In the seventh the light-hitting Royce Clayton managed a two-out double. He would eventually score on John McDonald’s single to Manny Ramirez. I can hear Ramirez’s detractors muttering under their collective breath that the Red Sox left fielder should have legged out a run or dove mightily to intercept the ball, but that same rabble would be the first to vilify him had he made the effort and failed or worse injured himself in the attempt.

Jonathan Papelbon commanded the mound with fastballs clocking in over 95 MPH and reaching as high as 97. Hill snuck a hit into center and Gregg Zaun pinch walked to bring the tying run to the dish. John Gibbons summoned another two pitch hitters to face Papelbon, Jason Smith and Adam Lind. The pair was dismissed in seven pitches.

April 18, 2007

Gyakuten [逆転]

Game 12: April 17, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-2) 7-5, 1 game losing streak
2-1-1 series record
WinBlue Jays 2 W: Gustavo Chacin (2-0)
H: Casey Janssen (3)
S: Jason Frasor (1)
8-5, 2 game winning streak
2-0-1 series record
Highlights: But for the fourth inning Matsuzaka pitched well: a quality start of 6 innings, 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts. Toronto scored those two runs in the fourth for a “gyakuten,” which is how one says “come-from-behind victory” in Japanese. Judging by his circuit clout in the third, Wily Mo Peña is 23,572 times stronger than Magnús Ver Magnússon.

The third time wasn’t the charm for Daisuke Matsuzaka. His fourth inning of a horror show of misguided pitches and anxiety for the rookie hurler. After handily striking out fellow tyro Adam Lind to begin the frame, Matsuzaka quickly became undone.

Matsuzaka had been ahead of the count 0-2 and began to attack Vernon Wells inside when Ed Montague made a call that rattled him. The Blue Jays center fielder tapped the ball towards Mike Lowell, who barehanded the ball and very nearly got Wells out at first. With a runner on and pitching from the stretch to the fearsome Frank Thomas, Matsuzaka rapidly became unacquainted with the strike zone. Thomas walked on four pitches and Lyle Overbay advanced the runners with grounder that skirted the glove of a diving Julio Lugo.

Aaron Hill walked to load the bases after an eight-pitch showdown, prompting John Farrell to visit the hill. The discussion was to no avail. Gregg Zaun was unmoved by the feckless tosses that Matsuzaka was lucky to get near the batter’s box, let alone the strike zone. The go-ahead run crossed the plate thanks to this base on balls. With the specter of Kyle Snyder warming, Matsuzaka salvaged what remained of his nerves to strike out Royce Clayton and induce a long fly out from Jason Smith to end the inning.

Just as suddenly as the meltdown began it concluded, like a huayco’s waters ripping through a valley and leaving behind quiescent devastation. Matsuzaka took the mound in the fifth and struck out the side, including Wells. But the damage had already been done.

The only Red Sox offense to be found was Wily Mo Peña’s monumental homer in the third inning. The platooning outfielder launched it to dead center right above Windows restaurant, an overwhelming shot. But, without runners on base, the longest of home runs are still only worth a single run.

The game notes from the Boston Red Sox are now updated and telling me that the two games against the Mariners and the three games against the Angels are indeed series unto themselves. So, does that mean there can be one-game series?

April 17, 2007

Ballistic Pizza

Red: Patriot fan/pizza hurler
Yellow: Pepsi Fan of the Game/pizza recipient
Light blue dotted line: Probable pizza trajectory

Who comes to baseball games scheduled for 10 AM in hurricane-like conditions? Red Sox fans.

In the landscape of extinction, precision is next to godliness.
— Samuel Beckett

Cabrera and Youkilis were kibitzing when the shortstop got on in the fifth thanks to a walk.

Hideki Okajima shut down the side in the seventh.

Francisco Rodriguez’s violent delivery on display in the eighth.

The Red Sox celebrated a successful homestand.

Papi and Tina converse post-game.

The final line.


Game 11: April 16, 2007
Angels 2 L: Ervin Santana (1-2) 6-7, 4 game losing streak
1-1-1 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Josh Beckett (3-0) 7-4, 3 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: Julio Lugo played like Derek Jeter’s over-hyped defensive reputation. Beckett gave up his first home run of the season to old friend Orlando Cabrera in the first inning; the wind was kind to the Angels shortstop. Wally donned a slicker to protect himself from the nor’easter.

I abhor when people come late to games. I am a long-time heckler of these shirkers and ne’er-do-wells who typically appear in the fourth inning after having spent innings the first third of the game at an area watering hole and yet still somehow managed to stumble through the turnstiles and make their way to a seat near enough to me for me to wonder if there’s such a thing as sidestream drunkenness.

So imagine my embarrassment when it was me who entered the game just as David Ortiz hit his fourth homer of the season. Yesterday my street was flooded because of the storm and it didn’t help that my departure time coincided with high tide. My first attempt to leave my block was foiled by rushing water. I felt my car float as I desperately tried to navigate to the nearest T station.

I decided to wait until the tide had abated, and even then I was less than comfortable driving around and over the softball-sized rocks that the ocean had carried onto my street. Two street detours later I finally made it to the Blue Line.

Is it worth it? It’s always worth it. My friend and I emerged from the tunnel near Gate E just as Papi jacked a souvenir into the the center field camera hut. We ran along the aisle between the field and loge boxes with him as he rounded the horn. As Ortiz high-fived his teammates in the dugout we arrived our seats in the right field grandstand.

Matt (who feels mojo has run its course, unfortunately) was there and he gave a concise update of the scoring fit in the first inning. We had cheered the anti-Bartman in the seventh but we were oblivious to the pizza incident as it happened. Only when I watched the replay on NESN and read about the sideshow in the Boston Herald would the details become clear.

I promise even clearer details tonight when I post the picture I snapped of the hometown hero who thwarted Garret Anderson’s catch, along with other photos from my first Patriots’ Day game.

Until then, I have a question. If three games out of a four-game series are played, does that count as a series? Or is the result of that series held in abeyance until the makeup game is played? According to the official Red Sox pre-game notes, the two games of the Seattle series did not constitute a series. I’m holding off on labeling this as a series sweep until the April 15 game is played on August 17.

April 15, 2007

Pitchers’ Premiere

Wednesday wasn’t just Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Fenway debut but also Felix Hernandez’s. I’m trying to find some way to deduct the electricity generated that evening from my federal income tax as alternative fuel credit. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

Peter Gammons casted his knowledgeable eye over the proceedings.

Ichiro Suzuki during batting practice.

Two Fukuoka Softbank Hawk fans, one American, one Japanese, bond over their favorite NPB team. Kenji Johjima used to play for them and the great Sadaharu Oh is the team’s manager.

Jere of A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory in a meta moment.

The new Third Base Deck.

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography. — George Santayana

Photo assignments taped to a column near grandstand section 24.

Carl Beane spoke in both Japanese and English when introducing Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Due to ESPN’s 7:10 start time, Matsuzaka tossed to Kevin Youkilis along the first base line after having warmed up in the bullpen.

The signature windup.

My goal was to get photos of each Red Sox players’ first at bat. Hernandez’s quick work made this a challenge. Captions below state the ultimate outcome, not necessarily what is happening in the shot. Julio Lugo grounded out to short.

Kevin Youkilis popped out to second.

David Ortiz grounded out to second.

Manny Ramirez grounded out to pitcher to third.

J.D. Drew struck out looking.

Mike Lowell grounded out to short.

Jason Varitek struck out swinging.

Coco Crisp struck out on foul tip.

Dustin Pedroia walked.

The K Men count on Matsuzaka.

Visual evidence of Hernandez’s one-hitter.

King Felix.


Game 10: April 14, 2007
Angels 0 L: Hector Carrasco (0-1) 6-6, 3 game losing streak
1-1-1 series record
WinRed Sox 8 W: Curt Schilling (2-1) 6-4, 2 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: Schilling baffled the Angels offense for eight solid innings with a line of 4 hits, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. Carrasco made his first start for the Angels; Carrasco’s first career start was with the Red Sox on October 1, 2000. Both third baseman made tremendous plays: Mike Lowell in the third on Jose Molina’s screamer and Maicer Izturis in the fifth robbed Jason Varitek of extra bases.

Fox, Fox, all the same
McCarver do some other game
If you don’t, we’ll still smile
Bemused by your lack of guile

I logged on to MLB.TV to relive the wonder that is Tim McCarver only to discover that the archived online highlights of the game have someone else doing the voice over. I’m certain that humanity will be eliminated by an intelligent species residing elsewhere in the universe because a broadcast by McCarver will have made its way to their corner of creation and they simply could not allow such inanity to exist.

The old coot just can’t let a broadcast go by without chiding the Red Sox and their fans. McCarver called the crowd at Fenway “studious,” but Dick Stockton did point out that they were probably subdued because they trying to keep warm.

Ah, yes, those tormented, bedraggled Red Sox fans, already admitting defeat in the first inning. They bah-humbugged the bases loaded in the second inning and threw up their arms in despair as their team came up fruitless. They barely roused themselves in the third inning as the first runs of the game scored thanks to Gary Matthews, Jr.’s error; they knew those two runs were ill-earned and would be futile.

The run by Dustin Pedroia in the fourth also came because of an Angel’s miscue rather than by any dint of effort by the home team. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez did have those consecutive RBI singles in the sixth, but you really would expect such sluggers to stroke extra base hits in such situations.

So, there was the three-run dinger into the batter’s eye seats by Ortiz in the eighth, but that was probably aided by the wind.

My opinion on Fox presentations are elegantly summarized by two fans they gave screen time. J.D. Drew snagged the last out of the top of the eighth and gave the ball to a guy right near Pesky’s Pole. The recipient reveled, standing tall, arms outstretched with beer in one hand and ball in the other, right in the face of his friend. His ball-less friend pointedly gave him the finger.

Oh, those studious Fenway fans.

April 14, 2007


Game 9: April 13, 2007
Angels 1 L: John Lackey (2-1) 6-5, 2 game losing streak
1-1-1 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Tim Wakefield (1-1)
H: Brendan Donnelly (1)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
5-4, 1 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: Tim Wakefield’s sparkling seven innings of work was supported by his offense (at last). Jonathan Papelbon’s six pitches of pure dominance coupled with Manny Ramirez’s snag of Garret Anderson’s line drive slammed the door on the Angels in the eighth. Terry Francona’s use of the bullpen deviated from slapdashery of last season.

Orlando Cabrera still makes me smile. Prior to the game he was interviewed by an unusually well-prepared Tina Cervasio. She asked the Angels shortstop to grade the Ortiz/Matsuzaka handshake. Cabrera deigned to do so at first, stating that anything that Papi could invent would be beyond reproach, but after Cervasio demonstrated the moves Cabrera did hint that the particular combination had been done before.

I suspect Wakefield despises NESN’s “Elder Statesman” moniker. To be associated with one of T.S. Eliot’s lesser works probably grates. At least “The Wasteland” would more accurately describe how the Red Sox offense typically produces with Wakefield on the mound.

For four innings it seemed that the offensive rut that began Wednesday against Felix Hernandez would carry over into the series against the Angels. But then Doug Mirabelli tied the game with his solo shot into the home bullpen, where the ball was deftly caught by Mike Timlin. Julio Lugo doubled to the right field corner curve and was driven in by Ortiz’s single for the lead.

The home club added two more runs, one each in the sixth and seventh. But the three-run margin for the Red Sox proved itself vulnerable in the top of the eighth.

Maicer Izturis led off by singling and then advancing on a throwing error by Mike Lowell. With a runner in scoring position Terry Francona immediately pulled Wakefield in favor of Brendan Donnelly. The goggled reliever induced a ground out off the bat of Gary Matthews, Jr. but hit Cabrera with a pitch.

The game hung in the balance with runners at the corners, one out, and the tying run at the plate. Francona sensed this and tipped the scale into his team’s favor by summoning Jonathan Papelbon.

Francona’s timely decision was overshadowed by his team’s offensive explosion in the bottom of the eighth. However, had the Angels tied or narrowed the gap in the top of the eighth, Mike Scioscia may have called on his own relief ace, Francisco Rodriguez.

I think the Francona of 2006 probably would have brought out Timlin in the eighth and stuck by him until the lead was lost. The Francona of 2007 has a few more reliable options out of the bullpen and seem to better recognize in-game situations, such as the strength of opposition’s bullpen and the run margin.

In the pre-game show, much was made of the Yankees’ reduction of the advance scouting department in favor of video scouting while the Red Sox bolstered their own advanced scouting staff. Furthermore, Tom Caron and Nick Cafardo discussed how players from NPB rely heavily on data gleaned from scouts. During the course of the season it should prove compelling which teams’ strategy prevails.

April 13, 2007

Greeting the Season

At last, here is a sampling of my photos from Opening Day. Later on tonight I should have a few pictures of Opening Night posted. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

Media vans dominated Van Ness Street.

McGruff the Crime Dog (ineffectively) combating public drunkenness on Lansdowne Street.

A bouncer pays homage to newest addition to the Red Sox rotation.

Hi, baby. Bunting!

It’s baseball o’clock.

For Fenway’s 90th anniversary there was a nattily-designed logo without any corporation branding. Hopefully this isn’t the shape of things to come.

Mariners pose in front of the left field wall.

A day early for Matsuzaka’s first home start, but this fan is understandably eager.

All season long the 1967 Impossible Dream team will be honored.

After his introduction Matsuzaka saluted his teammates.

Members of the Impossible Dream team ready themselves to toss the ceremonial first pitch of 2007.

These Beckett fans ran out of either space or Ks to commemorate all eight of their icon’s strikeouts.

April 12, 2007

Make [負け]

Game 8: April 11, 2007
WinMariners 3 W: Felix Hernandez (2-0) 3-2, 1 game winning streak
1-0-0 series record
Red Sox 0 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-1) 4-4, 1 game losing streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: Not only did Matsuzaka make his Fenway Park debut, but so did phenomenon Felix Hernandez. In his two-season career, the Mariners’ right-handed pitcher has allowed just seven more home runs than his age (he turned 21 on April 8). For Jason Varitek’s birthday all he got was a $52M pitcher that weathered seven innings while surrendering 8 hits, 3 earned runs, a walk, and 4 strikeouts. “Make” (pronounced mah-kay) means “loss” in Japanese.

The light of the flashbulbs used during Matsuzaka’s first at-home mound appearance must have disrupted optical telescopes as far away as Mauna Kea.

The last time a pitching outing at Fenway was a true spectacle was June 28, 2006, when Pedro Martinez returned as a Met. As much as Schilling begs for adoration and Beckett attempts to recreate Clemens, there hasn’t yet been a starting pitcher that generates the idolization and excitement that Pedro did.

Until Daisuke Matsuzaka, that is. (Jonathan Papelbon comes extremely close, but he has gone the way of the closer.)

Not since Pedro do Boston fans willingly don gear with the flag of a foreign country. A foreign country we were at war against, no less. For all the lip service the Hub gives freedom, liberty, and opportunity, this is a city that rioted against racial integration in schools. This is a team that was the last to include an African American player on its roster.

Times have changed. On Brookline Avenue, I saw a billboard trumpeting the emergence of “The United Nations of Red Sox,” and I find myself believing in the feel-good marketing.

I’m not a Japanese citizen but my ethnic heritage is part Japanese. What people in the majority sometimes take for granted is that they can see people who look like them excel in many endeavors. It is nice to see someone that is similar to me placed in such renown. However, I questioned my motives for such feelings and wondered if ultimately they support intolerance.

While I was at the game, part of the time I found myself watching other fans that appeared to be Japanese citizens. I’m such a fan of the Red Sox and baseball, I don’t think highly of anyone that would cheer a player’s nationality above that of the team. In fact, it annoyed me that merely because of my racial appearance I would be categorized with the Matsuzaka Mania Minions.

And I realized that yes, drawing conclusions based on stereotypes is improper. Who am I to question why anyone attending the game is there? I don’t appreciate it when it is done to me, so I shouldn’t do it to others. That Golden Rule, it goes a long way.

This is why I never waved the banner of anti-pink hatism or railed against the “casual fan bitches.” To be sure it was a well-executed comedic trope by Mr. Hart Brachen, but I know it caused a backlash against women attending games being harassed just because of their fashion sense. Proving how much you love baseball based on what you wear is just an extension of having to prove how American you are or not.

I really was thinking these as I watched the game last night from loge box 125. There weren’t any primal moments of baseball being blasted into the bleaches. The event that conjured a visceral reaction was Matsuzaka’s beaning of Jose Guillen in the fourth inning. The Red Sox rookie had already struck out the first two batters of the inning, so he gifted Guillen with a bruise on his shoulder. It took chutzpah and undoubtedly earned Matsuzaka respect in the clubhouse.

That same respect should also be extended to J.D. Drew, the only member of the starting nine that was able to both make contact off a Felix Hernandez pitch while evading the wonderful glove of Jose Lopez.

Hernandez proved yet again that he is a true marvel. Against him the home team managed only three baserunners, one in the form of Drew’s hit and the two others were free passes to Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. In his nine-inning appearance, however, the Mariner had just four strikeouts. Not to take away from the performance, but his infielders, and specifically second baseman Lopez, saved a few hits throughout the course of the evening.

I bought tickets to tonight’s game as insurance for last night’s game, just in case Matsuzaka’s first home start got juggled due to weather. If the game does get played, at least Tim Wakefield will be pitching. His brisk pace should keep up with the even brisker weather.

April 11, 2007


Game 7: April 10, 2007
Mariners 3 L: Jeff Weaver (0-1) 2-2, 2 game losing streak
1-0-0 series record
WinRed Sox 14 W: Josh Beckett (2-0) 4-3, 2 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: McGruff the Crime Dog prowled Lansdowne Street for miscreants. Harry Connick, Jr. sang “America the Beautiful” but not the national anthem. How dare! J.D. Drew hit his first home run of the season, a two-run blast over the center field wall in the second inning.

My first home opening day game was somewhat disappointing. The Red Sox did not score in bottom of every inning; they actually put up goose eggs in the sixth and eighth. Beckett, although he pitched seven innings and struck out eight, did not throw a complete game shutout, let alone the no-hitter I was expecting.

The half-hearted attempt at a benches-clearing brawl in the eighth was hapless. Brendan Donnelly and Jose Guillen’s conflict has its roots in Guillen’s dismissal from the 2004 Angels playoff roster (in which Donnelly supposedly played a role) and Guillen’s subsequent outing of the relief pitcher’s use of pine tar. There is more embittered emotions between Tom and Jerry than these two minor players. But, it did get the Fenway crowd roused despite the blowout.

The opening day ceremony honored the 1967 American League Championship team. Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Elston Howard, and many others emerged from the billowing flag draped over the left field wall. Some ambled, some jogged, some trotted but reverted to a stroll as they made their way to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch.

One of the things I most enjoyed was the video montage set to songs from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Hearts Band.” Images from all of the Red Sox past World Series flitted across the screen while the Beatles’ timeless music wafted across the field. The sound of frenzied crowds were mixed into the montage so that I couldn’t always tell the difference between what was actually happening and what was audio engineering, which I am told is the entire point of the 60s.

While the first symphonic crescendo in “A Day in the Life” played, Jason Varitek took the field and strode towards the bullpen. Beckett also exited the dugout made his way to Williamsburg, this time during the song’s final climax. Like their interplay during the game, their timing was impeccable.

The weather wasn’t ideal, but the game’s outcome left little to be desired. Just as Fenway Park has its flaws, its the imperfections that render it memorable.

Note: Pictures of the day’s events will be posted separately, probably after I attend tonight’s game.

April 9, 2007


Game 6: April 8, 2007
WinRed Sox 3 W: Curt Schilling (1-1)
H: Javier Lopez (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
3-3, 1 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Rangers 2 L: Vicente Padilla (0-1) 2-4, 1 game losing streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: It doesn’t matter which uniform Frank Catalanotto wears; the Red Sox killer hit a solo homer in the first inning. Catalanotto also had a 10-pitch at bat in the sixth. David Ortiz did Catalanotto one dinger better. Boston’s designated hitter was responsible for driving in all of the visitors’ runs in this game. Coco Crisp will don Jackie Robinson’s number on April 15, a day dedicated to the extraordinary second baseman, and man, period.

Why am I even bothering to write about this? Schilling has probably already spilled the beans over at his blog, hasn’t he? Well, in case he humbly declined to describe his outing, Schilling lasted seven innings, walking a single batter and striking out six. The righty disposed of the three hitters in his final inning with just eight pitches.

The jaunt on the base paths Schilling gave Kenny Lofton in the third ended in the rare 8-6-3 double play, which also entailed the rarer still outfield assist by Coco Crisp. The well-traveled Ranger ventured too far away from first on Michael Young’s fly out to center. His days of 50+ steals are long past; perhaps he was reminiscing about them when he got thrown out at first for the last out of the inning.

Everyone knows Ortiz can deliver late and close and last night launched two circuit clouts early to make it not so close. Ortiz’s shots were parabolic marvels deposited neatly into the right field seats. It’s wonderful that Ortiz decided to break out of his “slump” on Sunday Night Baseball; any on-field entertainment the team could provide goes towards mitigating the misery of listening to Joe Morgan’s commentary.

Julio Lugo is no Alex Gonzalez, but in the fourth the latest shortstop in the Red Sox’s ever-revolving personnel in the hole turned a play almost as gracefully as his predecessor. Lugo ranged to his left on Brad Wilkerson’s and allowed his momentum to elegantly carry him to second for the force out to end the inning.

Joel Piñeiro seemed to be in league with Morgan, furthering the latter’s ploy to leach the game of any enjoyment for its audience. The ersatz bullpen pitcher fell 3-0 behind Gerald “Eight Hole” Laird, grooved two called strikes, but then walked the leadoff batter anyway. Ian Kinsler also walked and Lofton bunted to jam the bases.

Mercifully Javier Vazquez relieved Piñeiro and promptly induced a liner off the bat of pinch hitter Nelson Cruz to Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox would have gladly exchanged two outs for a run on the play, but Vazquez couldn’t cover first in time and Youkilis bobbled the ball.

With a single out and runners at the corners, Papelbon was brought in to notch the final five outs and preserve the one-run lead and his team’s dignity.

The Red Sox relief ace overpowered Young, Mark Teixeira, Sammy Sosa, Hank Blalock, and Wilkerson. Two weak pop-ups and three strikeouts against the heart of the order. In short, pure dominance.

I would recommend some baserunning drills. For the second game in a row the final out of the inning happened at third. This time J.D. Drew was thrown out when trying to steal third in the top of the ninth. Tom Emanski videos will be looped on the clubhouse DVD player until the situation improves!

April 8, 2007


Game 5: April 7, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Julian Tavarez (0-1) 2-3, 2 game losing streak
1-1-0 series record
WinRangers 8 W: Kevin Millwood (1-1)
H: Ron Mahay (1)
2-3, 2 game winning streak
1-1-0 series record
Highlights: Julian Tavarez montage to “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” a song by Tavares. The band was founded by five New Bedford brothers in 1964 and signed their first record deal in 1973. Tavarez, the pitcher, is nicknamed “Yo-yo.”

Well, at least the Red Sox weren’t shut out.

Kevin Youkilis seemed to relish calling off Tavarez when grounders come to him. On every ball to first Youkilis raised his hand to the enthusiastic Tavarez. “Got it, Yo-yo.” “It’s mine, dude.” The lanky pitcher did have rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia to orchestrate, and he never failed to do so with each ground ball.

The first inning showed promise after Julio Lugo struck out on four pitches. Youkilis and David Ortiz lined nearly duplicate singles into center field. Youkilis advanced on Manny Ramirez’s force out to short, leaving runners at the corners for J.D. Drew. Drew lofted a fly ball to shallow left, scoring Youkilis. Even though Ramirez was off on contact, he become the last out of the inning at third, which is, as every little leaguer knows, a no-no.

The top of the second inning featured a play that in my living memory recall the Red Sox ever trying: a double steal. With two out, Coco Crisp advanced to second by thievery only to have Dustin Pedroia take first on a free pass. There must have been some sort of super-secret code between players who man the middle of the field, because the next thing you know Crisp and Pedroia attempted a double steal on the first pitch to Lugo.

Lugo foiled the multiple theft attempt by fouling off a pitch, perhaps jealous of the sudden brotherhood between his two teammates. On the next pitch the shortstop shot a single up the middle to plate the center fielder. Millwood issued another walk, this time to Youkilis, loading the bases for Ortiz. The Texas pitcher was let off the hook, however, as Ortiz rapped a grounder right back to the mound for the final out of the second.

Two more runs trickled in late in the game for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek showed signs of life at last with a gap double to drive in Drew in the sixth. It was the veteran catcher’s first extra base hit and second hit in the 14 at bats he’s accumulated so far in 2007. Ramirez drove in Lugo in the eighth with a single to center; it was the left fielder’s second RBI of the young season.

The Rangers offense surged in the third and sixth innings, scoring four runs in each. It could have been a monumental blowout if Tavarez wasn’t able to pitch out of a bases loaded jan in the second inning, so it was more like an island in the middle of a cul de sac maintained by a local real estate agency sort of defeat.

The third inning featured a misplay in right by Drew on Michael Young’s shot that bounded down the right field line deep into the corner. Drew was unable to dig out the ball quickly and his throw skittered past two cutoff men before weakly nestling into Varitek’s glove about a half a dozen feet from home. By the time the backtstop lept back to the plate, Young was sliding for the tying run. The bases filled with Rangers once more, Ramirez chose to play Nelson Cruz’s liner on a hop rather than risk the dive that could allow the ball to slip by him and two more runs would score.

In the sixth the Rangers batted around, facing a troika of Boston bullpen pitchers: Kyle Snyder, J.C. Romero, and Brendan Donnelly. As demonstrated by the triumvirates of the Roman empire, power wielded by three individuals might be convenient at first but usually degenerates into utter chaos, or, at the very least, two-run homers by Sammy Sosa.

Curt Schilling takes the mound this evening to answer the questions about the team and himself that are already galling the minds of the impatient Red Sox fans. Speaking of galling, the game is on ESPN.

April 7, 2007


Game 4: April 6, 2007
Red Sox 0 L: Tim Wakefield (0-1) 2-2, 1 game losing streak
1-0-0 series record
WinRangers 2 W: Robinson Tejeda (1-0)
H: Joaquin Benoit (1)
S: Akinori Otsuka (1)
1-3, 1 game winning streak
0-1-0 series record
Highlights: Coco Crisp hit his first extra base hit this season; a double to left in the fifth inning. Hideki Okajima and Kyle Snyder combined for a hitless seventh and eighth inning. The Red Sox were shut out for the first time this season. MLB’s Gameday is spectacular when you’re stuck at work.

The Red Sox are like a touring megaband this season. Tom Hicks and David Glass must be leaping into mountains of gold coins, Scrooge McDuck-style, given the enthusiastic crowds that follow the Boston club wherever they perform.

The Boston batters didn’t provide much of a show, though. Their patience seemed to evaporate in the Texas heat. Tejeda threw just 77 pitches in seven innings while Wakefield had 96 through six.

Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew, and Manny Ramirez were the only hitters who reached base through contact. Crisp and Ramirez also finagled free passes from Texas hurlers, along with Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis. With a muster of seven baserunners, it would take a near-perfect and lucky show by the Red Sox to continue their two-game winning streak.

Wakefield pitched solidly but not perfectly and luck was not on his side. In the first inning Sammy Sosa drove in Michael Young with a bloop hit that glanced off his bat as he was attempting to check his swing.

The only other glimpse of offense came in the second. The leadoff hitter of that inning reached on a fielding error by Dustin Pedroia. Rather than rookie nerves, the gaffe seemed to be a result of an unexpected hop. Wilkerson swiped second and scored on a single to left by Gerald Laird. Wilkerson was very nearly just another notch in the defensive belt of Ramirez, who can relay to home with surprising speed and accuracy. Doug Mirabelli was unable to corral the ball, however, and the only other run of the game crossed the plate.

Ramirez did have another chance to flash his fielding prowess. Beginning in shallow left and ending on the warning track, the left fielder snared former teammate Kenny Lofton’s fly ball on the run to kill the seventh inning.

When the game isn’t terribly inspiring, I feel obligated to mention something that is. The enhancements made to MLB Gameday are simply remarkable. In addition to placement of the pitches, the latest release now includes pitch speed, break in inches, and a metric called PFX I don’t understand and haven’t been able to find out a definition for, but I suspect it is horizontal break. The next thing they need to incorporate is the trajectory of hit balls, not just the point where the ball ends. Also, the “Field” graphic does not change with the selection of the “Strike Zone” graphic, something that I have always found annoying. Perhaps I can make a suggestion for that enhancement at the Gameday blog.

April 6, 2007

Kachi [勝ち]

Game 3: April 5, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
2-1, 2 game winning streak
Royals 1 L: Zach Greinke (0-1) 1-2, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Matsuzaka won his major league debut; the first Red Sox pitcher to do so since Juan Pena in 1999. Jason Varitek, a season after breaking Carlton Fisk’s record for games caught in a Red Sox uniform, went 0 for 4 and left four men on base. The backstop’s season is off to a slow start: 1 for 10 with no walks and two strikeouts. “Kachi” is one of the Japanese words for “win” or “victory.”

Zach Greinke pitched well enough to win. His line of 7 innings pitched, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts was not terribly different from his esteemed opponent, who lasted just as long, had two less hits, struck out three more, and surrendered a home run. This is what happens to otherwise outstanding young pitchers who have Mark Teahen playing right field like Wily Mo Peña or Alex Gordon learning the hot corner at the major league level on the job.

Most of Greinke’s season last year was scuttled because of his bout with social anxiety disorder. Don Orsillo mentioned that the pitcher was afraid of crowds, an inconvenient phobia for a major league pitcher to have. Unless that pitcher plays for the Royals, that is. The only overwhelming crowds he’ll have to contend with are when the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals are in town.

Beneath the usually congenial veneer of Midwesterners was a hint of menace. They booed Matsuzaka when he stepped off the mound and did a few jumping jacks in the first. The impromptu calisthenics were designed to keep him warm as shown by the constant blowing into his hand. They home crowd made sure to jeer at every mound visit, too. Rather than attribute this unseemly behavior to an inherent flaw in the character of these bread basket inhabitants, I’m fairly certain the intemperate weather was to blame.

Matsuzaka’s face did not betray nervousness but his first inning performance did. David DeJesus muscled a single into center but was erased from the basepaths by Esteban German’s grounder to Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman relayed to Julio Lugo who nearly turned a double play.

The rookie righty then relinquished his only walk of the game to Mark Teahen. Matsuzaka induced a ground ball off the bat of Emil Brown, fielding it cleanly to initiate the 1-6-3 inning-killing double play.

Matsuzaka settled into a groove the next three innings and sat 10 batters in order. Alex Gordon disrupted the flow with his first major league hit, a single in the top of the fifth. Despite being advanced by John Buck’s single to center (which Coco Crisp mishandled), the Royals third baseman wouldn’t go on to score his major league run.

DeJesus led off the sixth with the 25th homer of his career and German followed up with a single to center. Yet again a double play spared Matsuzaka of further damage. Teahen inexplicably took a fat pitch on what seemed to be a hit and run play for the third called strike and Varitek hosed German at second. Next Brown launched a double deep into left, prompting a mound visit by John Farrell.

Although Gordon riddled himself out of a slump earlier in the game, in the sixth it was Matsuzaka’s chance to pad his Rookie of the Year resume against one of his primary competitors. Gordon fell behind in the count quickly. He chased a low splitter and then laid off the same pitch, which was called a strike. Matsuzaka went high with a fastball to tempt his nemesis to chase the heat. The third baseman admirably took that pitch but chased a low splitter again and was able to foul it off. The batter froze as Matsuzaka painted the outside black for the final strike.

There will be many more Matsuzaka/Gordon standoffs in the years to come; it will be odd to see this sequence played five, ten, twenty years from now.

Without the offensive support of Manny Ramirez’s RBI double in the first and Julio Lugo’s leadoff double and relentless exploitation of the Royals’ lackluster defense in the fifth, Matsuzaka could have been Greinked out of a victory. In the top of the eighth, the Red Sox notched a couple of insurance runs by David Ortiz (who scurried home on a wild pitch by Joel Peralta) and Crisp’s RBI line drive single to plate J.D. Drew.

The visiting team considerately did not score more and J.C. Romero pitched a solid, 15-pitch eighth, allowing Jonathan Papelbon to earn his first save of the season.

Although not entirely flawless, Matsuzaka displayed facets of brilliance that, with further polish, will continue to dazzle for seasons to come.

April 5, 2007


Game 2: April 4, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Josh Beckett (1-0) 1-1, 1 game winning streak
Royals 1 L: Odalis Perez (0-1) 1-1, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis hit the first Red Sox first home run of the 2007 season in the seventh inning. Mike Lowell committed three errors, half of his total errors in 2006. Orsillo and Remy enjoy Austin Powers references five years after everyone else is already over it.

J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell hit back-to-back doubles in the visitors’ half of the first inning and it was all the runs Josh Beckett needed to secure his first win of the season.

Earlier that inning Odalis Perez walked David Ortiz with two outs. Manny Ramirez followed by lining a shot just over Royals shortstop Tony Pena, Jr.’s glove. Drew’s sharply-rapped grounded danced down the first base line to plate Ortiz and Lowell’s did the same to drive in two more runs.

The doubles were like mirror images of each other, just as the final score of this game was a reversal of the season opener’s score.

The oddest reflection was Mike Lowell’s defensive shakiness at third. The one weakness cited of Alex Gordon, his Kansas City counterpart, is the rookie’s lack of fielding polish. Lowell seemed the greenhorn in the third with his sequential errors on erratically bounding grounders to the hot corner. These are the Royals, however, and they failed to capitalize on the extra outs. Lowell also threw galley-west to Kevin Youkilis in the ninth, allowing the Royals an additional baserunner with two outs.

These are the Royals, however.

Drew had a chance to do the “outstanding defensive play in the bottom of x inning and home run in the top of the y” thing, with x=3 and y=4. But when batter=Drew, x+y=K.

I have a dreadful confession to make that may repulse all those who visit this site thinking that its author is terribly highbrow with impeccable credentials. (And to those who cling steadfastly to this notion, have I really been fooling you for so long?)

I did not witness each nuance and every pitch of last night’s game. I cannot claim illness or emergency.

It was because I was switching back and forth to “American Idol.”

It’s not just a guilty pleasure. It’s a “convicted of a major felony and serving 25 to life” pleasure to be sure.

For some reason I’ve been completely taken by Melinda Doolittle. She’s like the David Ortiz of this season, the first season I’ve watched in complete earnest. Just as when Papi is at the plate, every time Melinda takes the stage I know in my bones something remarkable is likely to happen. And even if it isn’t a spectacular shot into the bleachers, it will still be an entertaining experience.

Hopefully as entertaining as the rubber game of this series will be.

April 2, 2007


Game 1: April 2, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Curt Schilling (0-1) 0-1, 1 game losing streak
WinRoyals 7 W: Gil Meche (1-0) 1-0, 1 game winning streak

It’s been 22 years since the Royals’ last championship. They did have a winning season in 2003, but prior to that their last winning seasons were the year before and the year of the 1994 strike.

So it’s hard to begrudge a club so far removed from glory the joy of cheering for their team. Especially in such a beautiful place like Kauffman Stadium, with its fountains and waterfalls. I especially love the tapering ends of the upper deck and the lofty lights in center field.

Those fountains have been newly-rigged to blast higher and more powerful jets. This renovation along with the wind-borne mist contrived to obscure the center field camera’s focus. If only the geysers could have been selectively increased during Curt Schilling’s turns on the mound. It wouldn’t have been a waste of water because he lasted a mere four innings.

The barrage of criticism Dayton Moore faced for signing Gil Meche was vindicated for today at least. But just as one heinous outing by Schilling does not render him a scrub, neither does a single seven and one-third gem transform the Meche contract into a brilliant decision.

Schilling wasn’t the only one not in mid-season form. In the top of the first John Buck nearly caught an easy foul ball but for a fan. The poor bystander wasn’t so much angling for a souvenir but more protecting his head. It’s unlikely he was going to pocket an authentic baseball cowering beneath two cupped hands. Reaching for my well-worn book of baseball cliches, page 499 tells me, “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Perhaps that is what Dustin Pedroia didn’t do when he decided his short legs could stretch a single into a double in the top of the second. It could have been a two-out base hit but instead became an inning-ending out at second. Kevin Youkilis also had a mishap at the keystone sack, but his happened in the sixth. The Red Sox corner infielder nubbed a hit towards third. Rookie Alex Gordon threw errantly to first and Youkilis took for granted that he would reach second with ease. Mark Grudzielanek had other ideas as he nattily covered the play, scuttling the visitors’ chance at having a leadoff hit.

Gordon could be the Royals’ Nomar Garciaparra. How fitting, as third base is the new shortstop in terms of blossoming talent. The crowd simply, unrequitedly adores him. That he grew up in the region and a Kansas City fan endears them to him all the more. Gordon struck out in the home half of the first with the bases loaded and has yet to knock in his first hit as a major leaguer. He may wait two more games to do so.

I’ve taken to calling David Ortiz’s current facial hair style the Reverse Clement. He was booed for not being a litterbug in the eighth inning. If I visit Kansas City, I hope I won’t be accosted for helping pick up wayward bits of rubbish, like ripped up bits of Angel Berroa Rookie of the Year memorabilia.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ross Gload singled on a ball that Youkilis had perfectly lined up save for the ricochet off the first base bag. Fortunately he elevated in time to stop the ball from bounding into the outfield. One batter later Tony Pena, Jr. tripled for the second time and drove in Gload. Manny Ramirez hit cutoff man Julio Lugo flawlessly, but Pena’s hand evaded Mike Lowell’s glove even as the third baseman tagged Pena’s torso.

Pages 3 and 43, respectively, of cliched spring sayings: “Just not our day” and “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

April 1, 2007

At Last

opening day 2007

At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
At last the skies above are blue
And my heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you
Mack Gordon & Harry Warren

I haven’t written as much as I would like because I have been consumed by fantasy baseball preparations. Last year was my first year and I had surprisingly good results: I finished in the top three in three rotisserie leagues (first, second, and third) out of four and made it to the semi-finals in a head-to-head league.

This year I started participating in a franchise league that requires managing rosters from Class A all the way to the majors and doing so under a salary cap (which is more than can be said for real-life baseball general managers). It’s been engrossing and challenging, but shouldn’t detract from my writing here once the season gets underway.

Play ball!

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