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Home » April 2007 Game CommentsApril 2007 » Shiroboshi [白星]

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.

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