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Home » Monthly Archive » June 2007

June 30, 2007

Gunfight

Game 78: June 29, 2007
Rangers 1 L: Jamey Wright (1-2) 32-47, 2 game losing streak
9-15-2 series record
WinRed Sox 2 W: Tim Wakefield (8-8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (3)
H: Hideki Okajima (13)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (19)
49-29, 1 game winning streak
18-7-2 series record
Highlights: Doug Mirabelli (I keep typing “Dough” instead of “Doug” for some reason) is a non-entity at the plate but threw a seed to first base to nail Sammy Sosa for the first out of the sixth. Sosa had swung for the third strike but the ball evaded the backstop’s mitt.

Jonathan Papelbon was angry in the ninth inning. Not George Brett pine tar incident level rage, but close.

He had just secured two outs: the closer struck out Adam Melhuse on three vicious pitches and then cajoled Ramon Vazquez to propel a loud out to J.D. Drew.

Papelbon got ahead of Kenny Lofton 0-2 but the lanky veteran outfielder worked the count full, battling for nine pitches. On that ninth pitch Lofton punched weakly to Kevin Youkilis, who gloved and relayed to Papelbon.

The relief ace thought he beat Lofton to the sack and got into it with first base umpire Mike Reilly. Fortunately Dustin Pedroia was there to diffuse the situation and Papelbon wasn’t ejected.

Lofton swiped another bag in the ninth, granting him a 4-for-4 line with matching stolen bases for each single. That left first base open for Jerry Hairston, Jr., who acquired it painfully with mid-90s cheese deflecting off his arm.

With the tying run on the basepaths Papelbon and Michael Young faced off in an epic struggle. Young fouled off pitch after pitch. A fragment of concern wedged in my mind delved a bit deeper: Was Papelbon gassed from his five-out appearance Wednesday combined with tonight’s work? Did the incident at first knock him out of focus?

My worries evaporated when home plate umpire Andy Fletcher called Young out to end the game and the three-game losing skid.

Hideki Okajima contributed a medley of outs in the eighth: ground out to short by Victor Diaz, punch out looking by Marlon Byrd, and fly out to left by Brad Wilkerson. The set-up man’s outs are as varied as his repertoire.

Manny Delcarmen reversed his downward trend in the seventh in a pivotal spot. He inherited two baserunners with two out from Tim Wakefield and walked Young to jam the bases. Mike Lowell trotted over to give the reliever some encouragement; whatever was said worked. Unfazed while facing a 600-homer slugger, Delcarmen struck out Sammy Sosa swinging.

The relief pitching heroics and Wakefield’s ninth quality start would have gone to waste had Manny Ramirez not been hit by Jamey Wright in the fourth. Unlike the pitch Hairston took, Ramirez was the mole to Wright’s listless mole-whacking mallet. Ramirez advanced on J.D. Drew’s ground-rule double and scored on Wily Mo Peña’s single deep in the hole.

Ramirez’s hustle down the first was a deciding factor in the fifth. Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz advanced to third and second respectively on a wild pitch to the Red Sox left fielder. With his sharp tapper ricocheting off Wright to the third baseman, Ramirez was out of the box quickly. He was fast enough that Vazquez went for the tag of Ortiz rather than the throw across the diamond. A hair before the tag Youkilis touched home for the go-ahead run.

The Red Sox are now 14-8 in one-run games, 17-11 in series openers, and 23-12 at home. Welcome home.

June 28, 2007

Boys and Their Toys

Like Manny Ramirez, John W. Henry likes cars. Henry’s affection was manifest in his partnership with Roush Racing announced on Valentine’s Day this year. Today the resulting entity, Fenway Roush, unveiled the 99 Ford Fusion with Red Sox logo (along with a million corporate sponsors’ decals) and baseball stitching details.

Not everyone can afford their own NASCAR racing team, but there are more affordable and equally kitschy ways to enjoy the Red Sox through toys.

Redsoxpotatohead

It’s not a political commentary on the prevalence of Irish immigrants in Boston, it’s just a toy. Pawtucket-based Hasbro produces the Red Sox Mr. Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be natty if McCoy had a Pawsox Potato Head promotion one night?

Redsoxwoolywilly

How many of you broke open your Wooly Willy to play with the iron filings? (Guiltily raises hand.) Your parents won’t be there to scold you this time around, so get your Red Sox Wooly Willy without fear of reprisal. I think David Ortiz has had every single one of those beards portrayed except for the one on the bottom left.

Redsoxuno

Red Sox are numero Uno.

Kuroboshi [黒星]

Game 77: June 27, 2007 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox 1 L: Joel Piñeiro (1-1) 48-29, 3 game losing streak
18-7-2 series record
WinMariners 2 BS: Sean Green (2)
W: Jason Davis (2-0)
42-33, 5 game winning streak
16-10-2 series record
Highlights: Kuroboshi translates literally to black mark. As I mentioned when describing its antonym, shiroboshi, the words come from sumo where winners and losers are denoted by white or black dots respectively. A disappointing loss to cap off the first three-game series sweep against the Red Sox this season. Boston is 1-3 in extra innings games this season.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this tense watching a game.

Already an avowed nail-biter, the contest rendered my fingernails to a state no manicurist could restore.

Watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch I had to wonder if someone translated Paul White’s column from USA Today for him. Expectations for him were stratospheric in Japan, where names like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were bandied about. That he isn’t leading the league in strikeouts also seems to be a mark against him; his precursor Hideo Nomo led his league whiffs and went on to be NL Rookie of the Year.

Much of Matsuzaka’s shortcomings aren’t based on actual production but rather comparisons to the unrealistic hype that accompanied his blockbuster signing.

Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Justin Verlander, ended with a record of 17-9, started 30 games total, pitched 186 innings, compiled a 3.63 ERA, and totaled 124 strikeouts. In 16 games, Matsuzaka has a record of 9-5, has notched 110 strikeouts (placing him third in the league), and has pitched 106 and two-thirds innings with a 3.8 ERA in a hitter’s park. Through June 2007 Fenway’s park factor is 1.335 runs while Comerica Park in 2006 was .980.

Matsuzaka carried a perfect game into the third inning. Mariners backstop Jamie Burke lined a double into center. Coco Crisp tried mightily to make make one of his signature snatches but it was not to be. A bloop single by Ichiro Suzuki over the heads of the infielders plated Burke for the only run allowed by the Red Sox rookie the entire afternoon.

The young starter pitched as if he were on a mission to prove he was worth every penny invested in his posting fee and multi-year contract. He struck out eight Mariners and only walked a single batter. The free pass he gave up to Jose Vidro in the bottom of the seventh seemed to be the result of having to spectate during the seventh inning offensive rally by his team.

J.D. Drew led off the top of the seventh with a liner to right and advanced all the way to third. Sean Green’s threw clumsily to first when fielding Julio Lugo’s bunt leading to runners at the corners with no one out. The reinvigorated Crisp lofted the ball deep enough to center so that even Suzuki’s lethal arm could not stop Drew from scoring the tying run.

That would be the only run in the visitor’s favor. Ryan Feierabend baffled Red Sox batters in the top halves of five innings and George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow, J.J. Putz, and Jason Davis combined to shut out Boston for three and two-thirds innings. Putz nullified David Ortiz in the ninth by striking the designated hitter out with 97 MPH heat.

The only bullpen pitchers proven safe and effective with minor side effects, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, combined to close down the Mariners offense. The southpaw did allow Suzuki to get within 90 feet of the tying run but Papelbon took over.

The relief ace looked dominant as ever. Richie Sexson popped out in foul territory on the first pitch of the at bat and Ben Broussard wafted the ball to infield for the final out of regulation play. Papelbon then struck out two of three batters in the tenth.

What’s a close loss without a web gem by the matchless Jose Lopez? Mike Lowell looked to have a surefire single with two out in the tenth but for Lopez’s range and coordination.

Terry Francona went with the hobbled Joel Piñeiro over the other bullpen options. Of course the others had all recently worked, but the move showed exactly how thin Red Sox relief pitching is after the Dynamic Duo.

Piñeiro tantalized by inducing a ground out from Burke but then walked Suzuki. Again Lopez proved pivotal to the game; his fly ball double evaded Manny Ramirez’s glove to score the series-clinching run.

Francona will be outguessed because of his choice to allow Lugo to bat with the bases loaded and three out in the eighth. It should be noted that Alex Cora, who would have likely batted in that spot, ground into a double play to end the 11th. Insert witticism regarding hindsight and optometry.

June 27, 2007

Teetertotter

Game 76: June 26, 2007
Red Sox 7 L: Javier Lopez (1-1) 48-28, 2 game losing streak
18-7-2 series record
WinMariners 8 BS, W: Eric O’Flaherty (1, 5-0)
H: Brandon Morrow (10)
H: George Sherrill (11)
S: J.J. Putz (22)
41-33, 4 game winning streak
16-10-2 series record
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis now holds the franchise record for errorless games with 120 consecutive games without an error at first base. He surpassed John “Stuffy” McInnis’s mark set in 1921. McInnis record was set in the days when a player had to play nine innings or more in a game for it to contribute to a streak. The Red Sox offense was productive: Mike Lowell tripled in the fifth to tie the game (the Mariners scored two more in the bottom of the inning) and bench player Eric Hinske launched a homer in the sixth to bring his team within a run (only to have Seattle increase the lead again).

One of my favorite rides as a kid was the seesaw, but this wasn’t always the case.

The first time I rode a teetertotter I was about four years old. I was visiting my older cousin Leroy on Oahu, something I often did during hanabata summers. Leroy was my childhood idol because he got to live on the cool island, which had an actual city, comic book stores, and Hakubundo, a Japanese sundries shop where I could get Ultraman and Kikaida toys and books.

You had less traffic, cleaner beaches, and fewer people on Maui, but that sort of thing didn’t interest a otaku tomboy in training.

I learned from one of the best geeks in my cousin Leroy. When he would come to Maui he’d comment on how behind the times we were. We went to see Star Wars and he would nudge me when he knew an exciting part was coming. Of course he had already seen it weeks before on Oahu.

My aunt was of the “kids should play outside” mindset. Forced away from the Atari to “give it rest,” Leroy and I trekked off to a nearby park.

There was a slide, of course, the surface of which was heated like a cookie tin, so we avoided that. We decided that even though Leroy was a little bigger than me we could ride the seesaw together. I clambered on to my end thinking that this was going to be the best thing ever! as my cousin endorsed it.

Then I rocketed into the air, legs dangling, no ground to support me. I looked across the metal plank and Leroy was making his “scary but exciting” expression while whooping.

Upon my first descent I was so thankful to feel the earth even through my rubber slippers. Contact with the blessed ground was too brief. Conflicting thoughts welled in me as reached the apex of the ride and lowered again. I wanted to impress Leroy, but the ride was overwhelming me.

Right at the bottom of my journey I muttered, “I’m scared! I’m getting off!”

Leroy didn’t quite hear me but when he saw me hop off the seesaw his face turned a mask of panic. “No, no, no! Don’t!”

Too late. He plummeted to the ground too quickly to brace himself from the thudding impact of the plank.

Is four too young to learn about the difference between girls and boys in such a way?

Last night’s game was like that ill-fated dandle board incident. (That’s not the word I use for the ride, but I wanted to use Narragansett Bay parlance.) Red Sox fans thought, just like my cousin Leroy thought, the team was getting into a good rhythm with each offensive comeback. But then the pitching would hand the lead back with a resounding clunk.

Kason Gabbard had the shortest outing of any Red Sox starter this season. He was so appalling Jeff Weaver was taking notes on how to have a truly calamitous outing. It started off promisingly enough with Ichiro Suzuki waving ungainly at a curve. But then Gabbard walked Jose Lopez, allowed a single by Jose Vidro, and walked Richie Sexson to load the bases.

After hitting Kenji Johjima to force the first run in, two more runs came on consecutive bases on balls to Jose Guillen and Adrian Beltre.

Gabbard is no longer permitted to face lineups with three or more Joses. Jose Melendez has yet to comment on why his name is to the young lefty is like kryptonite to Superman, but his explanation will surely involve how substituting “k” in a “j” name has angered the Gods of Those Who Have Names That Begin With the Letter “J” (Even if That Letter is Not Necessarily Pronounced With the Typical J Sound [dʒ].

June 26, 2007

Disaster

Game 75: June 25, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Julian Tavarez (5-5) 48-27, 1 game losing streak
18-6-2 series record
WinMariners 9 W: Jeff Weaver (2-6)
H: Eric O’Flaherty (2)
40-33, 3 game winning streak
15-10-2 series record
Highlights: All of Boston’s runs came from the right side of the defensive alignment; J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis had two RBIs apiece.

In my consciousness, the game was a pitcher’s duel with a smattering of sloppy defense on the Mariners’ side. As I drifted off to sleep in the fourth inning with the score 2-1 in favor of the visitors, I felt victory was assured. After all, the beginning of Jeff Weaver’s 2007 season was listed as one of the historically-awful starting pitching performances by Jay Jaffe in Baseball Prospectus’s Unfiltered blog just last month because of his six consecutive disaster starts.

What is a disaster start? According to Jim Baker of Baseball Prospectus it is when a pitcher allows as many or more runs as innings pitched.

By that definition, Kyle Snyder and Mike Timlin were the Masters of Disaster and Julian Tavarez was their Gatekeeper.

Tavarez served up a leadoff double off the bottom of the center field wall to Adrian Beltre in the fifth. Tavarez’s throw to first on Yuniesky Betancourt’s sacrifice bunt showed why he rolls the ball; the relay went askew and the Mariners short stop stood safe at first.

Three runs for the local nine later, Snyder took the hill to stem the onslaught. He walked two runs in to secure his helm as a captain of calamity.

Snyder’s descendency was subtle compared to Timlin’s meltdown in the seventh. Texas Toast relinquished back-to-back jacks off the bats of Kenji Johjima (with Jason Ellison on) and Beltre.

Even with the minuscule screen size, watching the “highlights” on my iPod were just as distressing. There were flashes of amusement, especially when Richie Sexson, gangling as a giraffe, trundled into the keystone sack for a double in the second inning with Dustin Pedroia covering the station. I thought I was watching a special on the making of the Fellowship of the Ring trilogy.

The Red Sox will attempt to equalize the series against the resurgent Felix Hernandez this evening. The young virtuoso hasn’t returned to his no-hitter form that Boston saw in the opening series, but in his last outing he lasted eight innings and struck out nine. Bear in mind that this was against the piteous Pirates.

Opposing Hernandez is the unexpectedly effective lefty Kason Gabbard. Gabbard is 1-0 in major league starts this season and sports a 7-2 record with a 3.24 ERA for Pawtucket.

June 25, 2007

Coda

Game 74: June 24, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (11-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (18)
48-26, 1 game winning streak
18-6-2 series record
Padres 2 L: Jake Peavy (9-2) 42-32, 1 game losing streak
16-7-2 series record
Highlights: In the eighth Jason Varitek slammed his eighth jack of the season off Scott Linebrink into the beach at Petco Park. Russell Branyan’s Bonoesque sunglasses didn’t help him at the plate (1-4) nor on the field (where he clashed against a teammate to convert an out into a triple for Varitek).

Welcome, Jake Peavy, to a modest simulacrum of the American League. Although I don’t often see you pitch, what I saw unfold yesterday afternoon against the brilliant blue San Diegan sky was a familiar scene: a National League pitcher getting a strong dose of what it could be like to pitch on the junior circuit.

Ask opposing pitcher Josh Beckett what it is like to adapt to the power-hitting lineups of the AL East. He struggled mightily in 2006; without the pitcher in the nine-hole and the immensity of a pitcher-friendly field behind him, he was but a shadow of himself at first.

Just as Peavy was a shade off yesterday, and he didn’t even have to face a designated hitter. Sluggish defensive play had the starter bolting hither and yon to cover bases. Adrian Gonzalez lackadaisically rounded a grounder off J.D. Drew’s bat and nonchalantly flipped it to his pitcher. Peavy had to make dash for first to beat Drew to the bag, ending up sliding headfirst to get the out.

After striking out Mike Lowell, Peavy found himself at the opposite corner fending off a baserunner. Jason Varitek blooped the ball to the no man’s land along the third base line just far enough so that both the left fielder and shortstop could make a play on the ball if they ran.

Russell Branyan and Khalil Greene did run -- into each other. While the pair was hugger-mugger in foul territory, rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff had also made a half-hearted attempt to field the ball and didn’t think to return to third to cover his position. He stared befuddled at the scene before him but avoided getting into the trajectory of Branyan’s relay to third.

Peavy and second baseman Geoff Blum both tried to converge at the hot corner to nail Varitek. Both came up empty and Peavy got the worse part of the pileup against a catcher and the infield dirt.

Despite the gift triple the Red Sox didn’t score until the next inning. The fielding bedlam took a toll on the Padres ace; in the third he allowed six singles. The sequence included impressive at bats from Coco Crisp, who worked him for 10 pitches, and Alex Cora, who extracted seven throws. David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell enjoyed rib-eyes at the hurler’s expense.

Ortiz’s run in particular was a thing of beauty and wonder. He chugged from second to home on Lowell’s soft and shallow liner, evading the tag as he slid to the outside of the plate and swept his left hand across home, much like one of his handshakes.

Despite the rough outing, Peavy’s peripherals show that he could be an ace in the junior circuit, just as Beckett transformed himself.

Beckett cruised until the fifth. Kouzmanoff redeemed himself with a leadoff walk and Blum followed up with a rope to center. Pinch hitter Termel Sledge drove both infielders in with a ringing double to the left-center gap. Power threat Gonzalez as neutralized; he grounded out meekly to second in his first at bat and struck out in his three other plate appearances.

The two runs weren’t enough to overcome Beckett, however, who looked like his National League self with a line of eight innings, six hits, two earned runs, one base on balls, and eight strikeouts. He even carved a single in the fourth inning (which was more than the massively slumping Julio Lugo summoned in his last seven games).

Hideki Okajima got the day off as Beckett covered his shift in the penultimate inning. Jonathan Papelbon polished off the lower part of the order in 14 pitches for a spot of exertion. It’s good to get in a light workout against teams like the Padres before returning to the grind of the American League. Just ask the Yankees, who had the pushover Giants for a series by the bay.

Oh, San Diego are in contention for the NL West and is considered a force in the senior circuit? And the Yankees lost the series to the cellar-dwelling San Francisco club? I really should do better research. I do know that the Yankees are now in third place in the AL East, 11.5 games behind your division-leading Boston Red Sox, a phrase that is music to one’s ears.

June 24, 2007

Requital

Game 73: June 23, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Tim Wakefield (7-8) 47-26, 1 game losing streak
17-6-2 series record
WinPadres 6 W: Chris Young (7-3) 42-31, 1 game winning streak
16-6-2 series record
Highlights: Dustin Pedroia had his first steal of his major league career in the first inning. Terry Francona was ejected in the bottom of the sixth after the second umpires’ conference of the evening. Francona has far to go to tie Bobby Cox’s mark of 131 tossings, a record the Braves manager now shares with John McGraw.

Chris Young carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. J.D. Drew, No-Hit Spoiler Extraordinaire, poked a seeing-eye single between first and second. After Mike Lowell reached on a fielding error by greenhorn Kevin Kouzmanoff, Young took matters onto his own arm. He plowed through the bottom third of the order, Doug Mirabelli, Julio Lugo, and Tim Wakefield, with a mere 11 pitches.

Mirabelli’s career, of course, is inextricably entwined with that of Josh Bard. In the panic trade in May of 2006, Mirabelli was traded from San Diego back to Boston for Bard, Cla Meredith, and cash. Kevin Towers was glad to be rid of Mirabelli as the catcher constantly bombarded him with requests to be moved.

In 2007, Bard is maintaining .263 BA, .340 OBP, and .377 slugging percentage over 175 at bats. Mirabelli has had 66 at bats with .182 BA, .239 OBP, and .288 slugging.

Bard couldn’t catch the butterfly ball but he could hit. It must have been terribly satisfying for Bard to launch a two-run home run in the sixth against the pitcher who indirectly led to his jettison from the Red Sox. Bard may have divulged his hints to Khalil Greene, as the Padres shortstop tallied two circuit clouts off the knuckler.

Aside from the visiting team the other person having a rough night of it was Brian Knight. In the fifth he called a Kevin Kouzmanoff liner trapped by Manny Ramirez an out, but the ruling was reversed after a meeting. In the next inning he called Bard’s fly ball to left foul while replays showed it was fair. Bard, showing he learned from his previous brouhaha at PNC Park, waited patiently for the call to be hashed out amongst the officials.

Terry Francona finally lost his patience over the officials’ volte-face. He probably also was trying to fire up his team by getting tossed after the second reversed call, but no dog and pony show could derail the Padres young starter. He collected 11 strikeouts over seven innings while walking only two.

Call-up David Murphy scored the only run of the evening for Boston. He laced a perfectly placed line drive to the right-center gap for a triple and plated on Mike Lowell’s near-homer to center. The rookie broke the goose egg, but Mirabelli couldn’t find a way to extend the game.

Tonight’s rubber game is the marquee match-up of Josh Beckett and Jake Peavy, the jewel of a series that already featured a star-studded slate of starters. This will be the second time these pitchers have gone head-to-head; in that contest on August 18, 2005, Beckett prevailed.

Tale of the Tape
Josh Beckett Jake Peavy
Age 27 26
Height 6'5" 6'1"
Weight 220 180
Career ERA 3.78 3.35
Career Ks 836 960
Career BBs 316 309
W-L 67-46 66-46

June 23, 2007

Kakkoii [格好いい]

Game 72: June 22, 2007
WinRed Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-5)
H: Javier Lopez (8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (2)
H: Hideki Okajima (12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (17)
47-25, 3 game winning streak
17-6-2 series record
Padres 1 L: Greg Maddux (6-4) 41-31, 3 game losing streak
16-6-2 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox tallied their first win against Maddux; they are now 5-1 against him. Despite the loss, both starters were cool customers; Matsuzaka won by overcoming his early wildness and playing with an offense that strung together a few timely hits. Grammar pundits may deride the overuse of the word “cool” in English, but in four letters it has captured the gamut of what is stylish and acceptable in youth culture for decades. The Japanese equivalent is kakkoii; kakko means appearance or manner and ii means good. It’s a concept that covers everything from awesome to stylish to having that ineffable aesthetic in attitude and demeanor that sets you apart from the rest. It’s the essence of Daisuke.

The Padres, despite their fashion sense, is a spiffy National League team. The San Diego starting rotation ranks among the best in both leagues and the NL West divisional race, featuring divergent front and field management styles of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Rockies, should prove to be one of the more exciting this season. Demonstrating the pitching prowess of the Padres:

  • They lead the majors in team ERA with 3.04. The Red Sox are no slouches themselves, ranking third with 3.69.
  • Opposing teams have plucked the fruit of the hen 11 times. Boston and Oakland are tied for second with seven shutouts.
  • Of course the vastness of Petco Park has much to do with this, but Padres pitchers have given up only 37 home runs. Fourteen of those homers came at Petco in 35 games and 23 away over the course of 36 games.

Just as the color of the names on the back of the Padres jerseys of the 80s don’t match the number, San Diego’s hitting doesn’t meet the standards of excellence set by its hurlers. Again, Petco’s park factors depresses its home offense, but consider that the Detroit lineup the similarly spacious Comerica Park is second in triples with 23 while the Padres are in the middle of the majors with 12. Other indicators of the Padres’ average offense:

  • With just .317 they are 26th in OBP.
  • Their .393 slugging matches the Cardinals and the Twins, the former being a disappointing team and the latter another pitching-heavy club.
  • Overly aggressive plate approach lands them second in the majors in strikeouts with 568.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, garbed in the sedate road uniforms of 20 years ago, was out of sorts in the first inning. He walked Marcus Giles, Jose Cruz, and Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases, throwing six strikes out of 18 pitches. Mike Cameron popped out in foul territory for a slight reprieve, but the newly acquired Michael Barrett laced an RBI single to left for the early lead. Matsuzaka collected himself to strike out Khalil Greene and induce a fly out from Russell Branyan.

In the remainder of his five innings on the hill the Padres sprinkled five hits and bases on balls here and there, but only Greene in the sixth made it to within 90 feet of the tying run. When there were runs threatening, Matsuzaka would notch timely strikeouts, like his whiff of Giles to end the sixth. Boston pitchers compiled 13 strikeouts: nine for Matsuzaka and two each for Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon.

Greg Maddux’s poor inning was, ironically enough, the fourth. A quartet of hitters, Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Varitek, scattered the hits for the only two runs of the game. The brace of scores was enough in a pitcher’s duel.

If an umpire other than Brian Knight didn’t man home plate this game could have gone into extra innings. Knight called the 0-2 pitch to Youkilis that skirted the outside corner a ball. It glanced on the spot where Maddux stakes his Hall of Fame career on. Knowing he just missed striking out, Youkilis jumped on the next pitch to plate the tying run.

It was game-hardened Maddux that let the pressure get to him, not Matsuzaka. He fell behind Varitek on his pitch, forcing him to throw one over with too much of the plate. Varitek lined the offering past the leather of the multiple Gold Glove winning pitcher for the go-ahead run.

Coco Crisp continued to show signs of his reinvigoration at the dish, going 3-for-4 and extending his hit streak to a season-high eight games. Meanwhile Julio Lugo plumbed new depths of futility; he slipped below the Mendoza line and his hitless in his last five games.

David Murphy, recalled to the major league club take Curt Schilling’s spot, replaced Wily Mo Peña in the sixth. He struck out in his only at bat, which came against Royce Ring. Kason Gabbard or possibly Jon Lester will be summoned to make a start when Schilling’s place in the rotation comes up.

Like most places where Boston visits, Red Sox fans commandeered the stadium. Petco, despite its beauty, is not the place to find steadfast home team fans. Hence the theme night gimmickry that entailed displaying David Ortiz decked out like Mr. T and Ramirez coiffed like a hair band guitarist on the scoreboard.

It is the organization that spawned Theo Epstein and employs the much-lauded Kevin Towers as general manager. With the talent infusing the front office and the rotation, combined with its spectacular location, the team should have a rabid cadre of supporters. I suppose between personal training, therapy, and cosmetic reconstruction sessions San Diegans don’t have much time for baseball.

June 21, 2007

Numbered

Game 71: June 20, 2007
WinRed Sox 11 W: Julian Tavarez (5-4) 46-25, 2 game winning streak
17-6-2 series record
Braves 0 L: Buddy Carlyle (1-2) 38-35, 2 game losing streak
13-7-4 series record
Highlights: With Curt Schilling close to being placed on the 15-day disabled list, yet another Red Sox rotation member stepped it up to score another win. Oddly enough, I called Tavarez’s line to a friend before the game. He had just dropped Yoyo and I said he’d probably have a seven-inning three-hitter. Now if I could just win the lifetime season tickets from the Massachusetts State Lottery.

In honor of the number of runs scored in this game, which happens to be Bill Mueller’s number with the Red Sox as well as my favorite number, here’s last night’s game by the numbers.

One: Walks allowed by Julian Tavarez. Kelly Johnson received the free pass in the seventh.

Two: Intentional walks by Earl “Buddy” Carlyle; Jason Varitek in the first and David Ortiz in the fourth.

Three: Hits mustered by the home team. Willie Harris broke up a string of ten Braves in a row dismissed by Tavarez in the fourth. None were for extra bases.

Four: Homers produced by Coco Crisp so far this year. Three came in this series.

Five: The number of pitchers Bobby Cox burned in the blowout. Also the number of circuit clouts authored by the Red Sox; J.D. Drew, Crisp, Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Eric Hinske made the rounds.

Six: Minutes for Ramirez and Alex Cora to complete their elaborate pre-game handshake routine.

Seven: Games in a row in which Crisp has a hit. Innings by Tavarez, by reputation Boston’s least skilled starter but by recent results a solid option.

Eight: Red Sox runners left on base.

Nine: Hits relinquished by Carlyle in three and two-thirds innings of work.

Ten: Doubles by Drew this season; his tenth came in the second.

Eleven: Four-baggers by Ramirez in 2007; the eleventh disembarked in the seventh.

Atlanta is the class of the National League and yet Boston blanked them back-to-back to nail down the series win on the road as well as the season series triumph against their natural rivals.

When Josh Beckett had to mend the Red Sox didn’t miss a beat on their march to divisional dominance. Curt Schilling’s ineffectual outings are not the result of structural damage, but the aging hurler needs time off to relieve shoulder pain. In his absence, the team’s mettle is tested again and fans may have a sneak preview of Futures at Fenway with a call-up from Pawtucket.

The long-awaited return of Jon Lester could be in the offing, but fellow lefty Kason Gabbard is also a possibility according to Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald. The countdown to this pivotal decision begins.

June 20, 2007

Gallimaufry

Game 70: June 19, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (10-1) 45-25, 1 game winning streak
16-6-2 series record
Braves 0 L: Tim Hudson (6-5) 38-34, 1 game losing streak
13-6-4 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox improved their record to 6-4 in shutout games. Curt Schilling left the team to get an MRI back in Boston (results were thankfully negative), but Beckett proved that his shoulders could carry the team until Schilling returns or Jon Lester is recalled. Dustin Pedroia went vertical to nab Scott Thorman’s extra base bid in the second. Coco Crisp out-highlighted center field counterpart Andruw Jones with an airborne snatch of Hudson’s liner in the fifth.

Where are these doppelgängers of former Red Sox players produced? Is there a lab someplace where the Edgar Renterias of the world get baseball aptitude rejuvenation shots? Perhaps it happens in those places replete with clean rooms where dirty deeds play out. Behind the doors in those pristine halls the splicing of genes of aardvarks into artichokes to make for protein-rich vegetables that also devours deleterious insects happens just the down the corridor from where the conversion of Willie Harris from bench fodder to a serviceable major leaguer also occurs. It’s a gallimaufry of horrors, those laboratories of unnatural mutation.

The Braves turned Harris from .156 batting average, .250 OBP, and .200 slugging in 45 at bats to .385, .446, and .513 in 117 ABs and Renteria from .293, .361, and .436 in 623 ABs to .333, .395, and .521 in 267 ABs. The force of change that Leo Mazzone used to bring to the pitching staff before he left the Braves has now been supplanted by the Midas touch of Atlanta hitting coach Terry Pendleton.

But Pendleton’s magic didn’t help his hitters overcome the onslaught of Josh Beckett. He didn’t tally a tremendous number of strikeouts (just three) in his rain-curtailed six innings of work, but he walked only two and allowed a mere four hits. The only extra base hit the entire Red Sox pitching staff relinquished last night was a first inning double off the wall by none other than Harris.

The Red Sox batters must have read up on literary theory before authoring this game. The first three innings comprised the rising action, the last three falling action, and the middle provided the climax, perfectly placed in the middle of the game.

David Ortiz homered for the 12th time in 2007 in the fourth inning, whetting the appetite for the next inning.

Alex Cora led off by tripling past a diving Andruw Jones and Beckett doubled to the left-center gap to plate Cora. Showing some baserunning acumen, Beckett tagged up on J.D. Drew’s fly out to center and traversed home on Dustin Pedroia’s gutshot single.

Beckett must have shared his tips with Jason Varitek in the dugout when their paths crossed. The catcher made a heads-up baserunning play with one out in the sixth. He saw that Scott Thorman was unable to corral his grounder and that Kelly Johnson didn’t back up the play. Coco Crisp singled to match his season-high hitting streak and advance Varitek to third.

Bobby Cox retrieved Tim Hudson from the mound but the switch did not stop Cora from lofting the ball deep enough into right field to allow the Red Sox backstop from tagging up.

Terry Francona seemed to be reading too many of Joe Torre’s tomes with his reliance on Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon for the final innings. But unlike the Yankees skipper, Francona realized that holding the lead in this game meant that they would not be swept by the Braves and used his assets accordingly. When Torre calls on his bullpen it’s like an addict reaching for his crack pipe; when Francona does so it’s putting a bandage over a vaccination site.

June 19, 2007

Meditate

Game 69: June 18, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Curt Schilling (6-4) 44-25, 1 game losing streak
16-6-2 series record
WinBraves 9 W: Chuck James (6-6) 38-33, 1 game winning streak
13-6-4 series record
Highlights: Coco Crisp seemed to reap the benefit of his recent change in stance. Crisp went 4-for-4 and propelled two home runs, one in the second and another in the sixth. Historically Crisp has had more power from the right side, but the tinkering has helped him on both sides of the plate. The center fielder has hits in his last five games, just one shy of his season-high hitting streak.

“Okay, Curt. Breathe deeply with me. Concentrate on just the feeling of the air filling your lungs.” Coco sat peacefully on a yoga mat with legs crossed. His eyes were closed and his face relaxed. Across from him lurched Curt Schilling, legs ungainly attempting to align themselves in the criss-crossed manner Coco so easily assumed.

“Can’t. Get my. Legs like that,” he grunted.

“Focus on your breathing,” the outfielder urged again, opening one eye to observe the awkward angles Curt’s body. “Time. Matters not. The past. Matters not. Live in the present.”

At last the pitcher’s bulk formed in to something vaguely conducive to a meditative state. “Hey! I got it! Look!”

Crisp’s eyes remained shut. “Shhh.... Close your eyes and breathe.”

“Okay, sorry.” It was Schilling’s turn to peek. He lifted his eyelids a crack to ensure he was correctly seated.

“Eyes. Shut.” Barely able to conceal his shocked expression at being caught, Curt abruptly snapped his eyes shut as directed.

Moments passed. Curt was on the verge of slumber, his deeper suspirations indicated to Crisp he had better introduce the next phase of the process before his initiate fell completely asleep. “Curt,” Crisp intoned.

Schilling started at the sound and tried to recollect himself into the correct position. Sopor got the better of him, however.

“Curt, now we will visualize your ultimate goal. For example, I envision myself arcing home runs into the stands.”

“Home runs... into the stands,” echoed Curt blearily.

“Soaring high and deep. Majestic. Deep breaths. ”

“High and deep.”

“Curt, I will count backwards from three. When you hear me say “one,” you will emerge from your meditative state. Three. Two. One.”

Schilling remained still, shoulders hunched.

Coco frowned. “Curt, did you fall asleep?” he asked sharply.

Curt’s head bobbed up and his eyes whipped open. “No, no. I was there, man. Completely meditating.” He tried to win over his mentor with a zestful grin.

The center fielder looked skeptical but was eventually convinced by Curt’s smile. “So, what did you visualize?”

“Oh, man, all sorts of things. Flying over purple mountain majesties. Real heady stuff.”

Looking pleased with his pupil’s progress, Coco reached over and clapped his charge on the shoulder. “Excellent, Curt. We’ll do this again next week?”

“Sure thing, Coco.” His words of agreement were not congruent with the grimaced etched on his face as he tried to uncoil his legs.

“Cool. Good luck on your start tonight.” Crisp leaped from the mat to his legs in a blink.

“Thanks, and good luck with that new stance thing.”

June 18, 2007

Agnatic

Game 68: June 17, 2007
Giants 5 L: Matt Morris (7-4) 30-38, 4 game losing streak
7-12-4 series record
WinRed Sox 9 W: Tim Wakefield (7-7)
H: Manny Delcarmen (1)
H: Joel Piñeiro (1)
44-24, 3 game winning streak
16-6-2 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox are 6-1 in series sweeps and have only lost two games when playing on Sunday. The win tipped Boston into a .500 record in June. Brendan Donnelly was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strain to his right forearm muscle and Delcarmen was recalled from the Pawtucket Red Sox to take Donnelly’s place on the roster. I strain my own arm just watching Donnelly’s savage delivery.

Boston swept the Giants out of town yesterday with a convincing 9-5 trouncing. But the Red Sox sweep, unlike the Yankees domination of the Pirates, garnered few national media accolades.

The expectation is that teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will clobber the cellar dwellers of the senior circuit. When the Yankees do so, it is an outstanding feat of revitalization and supremacy. When Boston mirrors the exploit, it is brushed aside as an afterthought.

Just after the completion of the U.S. Open I called my dad, Maui resident and ESPN addict, to wish him a happy Father’s Day. The first thing he mentioned was the failure against the Rockies, not the team’s most recent triumph. Five time zones away folks like him get ESPN’s message loud and clear: only the happenings in the Bronx Zoo are of any note.

We laughed about David Ortiz’s commercial for SportsCenter where he does his pre-game ritual of spitting and clapping before shaking the hands of a family touring the complex. I told him about how Ortiz’s son D’Angelo mimics his dad.

I wish I could have taken him to Fenway yesterday, and not just for my own selfish wish to play catch on the field. My dad would stand respectfully during the extended rendition of “God Bless America” but would have been to first to comment about its length. “I ain’t never heard all those words before,” he’d drawl. “He took so long my beer got warm.”

My dad moved from Oklahoma to Hawai‘i when he was 25 years old. He met my mom when she was trying to piece her life back together after divorcing my father, who had all but abandoned us before I was a year old.

There’s something to be said about a man who would love a child as if she were his own flesh, implicitly and unconditionally. He adopted me after my parents got married. It wasn’t demanded or even requested by my mom. When my dad and mom had a daughter when I was almost 10 years old, I was never treated any differently from her.

This reaches embarrassing extremes these days. My sister is struggling to make ends meet with her first job out of college, and my dad insisted on sending birthday checks of the same amount.

If me and my dad were at Fenway yesterday, I’d be the one paying.

He’d be the first to comment on Manny Ramirez’s hustle to beat out the twin killing in the first. “He really tore ass there.”

Tim Wakefield’s brisk pace would be appreciated. “I like this knuckleball guy. He just gets to work, no lollygagging around.”

I’m not a complete Barry Bonds apologist, but Dad would see and say things simply. “Look at his head, Joanna. That’s not anything natural, I can tell you that.” He wouldn’t applaud the slugger’s sixth-inning round-tripper despite being a wide-eyed tourist, but he wouldn’t boo either.

“That little guy can’t be very much bigger than you,” he’d say about Dustin Pedroia. I’m barely five feet tall.

As Ramirez’s seventh-inning homer carried through the summer air he’d exclaim, “That thing got small fast!”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

June 17, 2007

Kaibutsu [怪物]

Game 67: June 16, 2007
Giants 0 L: Matt Cain (2-7) 30-37, 3 game losing streak
7-12-4 series record
WinRed Sox 1 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-5)
H: Hideki Okajima (11)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (16)
43-24, 2 game winning streak
16-6-2 series record
Highlights: Kaibutsu means monster, and is, of course, Matsuzaka’s nickname in Japan. The first kanji means suspicious, mystery, or apparition and the second signifies thing, object, or manner. One pronunciation for the second symbol, mono, turns the idea in front of it into a tangible category of items. For example, in the word for food, tabemono [食べ物], the first two characters form the root for the concept of eating. Matsuzaka had the Giants’ lineup for a mid-afternoon snack.

The only thing that marred this classic pitching duel was that Fox televised it. At one point generic play-by-play guy called Kevin Youkilis by Mike Lowell’s name. Lowell must surely resent the physical comparison, as his goatee is tidy and Youkilis’s is verging on becoming the facial hair equivalent of Manny Ramirez’s dreadlocks.

Matt Cain remains a tough luck twirler for a hapless San Francisco offense. Ten of his 14 starts have been quality starts and yet he has only two wins to his credit. Of the 25 National League pitchers with ERAs below three, only he and Doug Davis of the Diamondbacks have less than five wins, and Davis has twice as many victories as Cain does.

Cain’s margin of error was as narrow as Fenway’s legroom. His hanging slider to Manny Ramirez in the fourth was the difference between losing in regulation and defeat in extra innings. That is how woebegone the Giants batters were.

It would be a shame if Brian Sabean allowed the scintillating pitching trio of Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Noah Lowry to toil in futility. They can look to the top of their rotation, Barry Zito, to see the outcome of promise unfulfilled. How odd that two teams of such divergent organizational philosophies, the Athletics and the Giants, would find themselves in similar situations albeit at different points in time.

Dave Roberts. (Pause for ovation.) Roberts recited the Giants lineup and because he is who he is no Red Sox fan minded that he pimped his teammates while doing so. Jim Rice was tapped for task for the Red Sox and he proved infinitely less annoying than Reggie Jackson when he acted as if he were still a part of the Yankees clubhouse. (Adjusts homer hearing aid.)

For the first time in 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t allow a run to score; he lasted seven innings, allowed three hits and three bases on balls, but whiffed eight. He came close to losing the game in the top of the fifth, allowing a leadoff walk to Randy Winn and a seeing-eye single to Ray Durham. Pitching to Barry Bonds with two on and no out usually proves perilous, but Matsuzaka induced a weak tapper to Alex Cora.

Bengie Molina’s atom ball to Cora nearly erased Winn from third, but an out, any out, was essential. Matsuzaka tried to come in on call-up Nate Schierholtz but plunked him to jam the bases. Rich Aurilia, who had struck out in his previous two appearances, was a mere spectator on the pitch that ended the inning.

Aurilia took issue with home plate umpire Charlie Reliford’s call, but how can you argue with a guy that gives away authentic baseballs? In the seventh he gifted a ball to a kid in the first row of the box seats. The child’s eyes were agog as Reliford handed it over while saying “We make it dirty on purpose. Play with it, don’t save it.”

Fortunately that’s not the motto of the Red Sox bullpen aces Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon.

Winn and Durham repeated their fifth inning performance with a walk and single combination in the eighth.  Durham was caught by the camera gazing at the figure on the hill with amazement, as if he had never seen anyone with that delivery and repertoire, but he recovered to line a base hit.

With the game in the balance John Farrell sauntered out for a visit with the rookie southpaw. Whatever words were exchanged worked: Bonds struck out without taking a hack, Molina flied out shallowly to right, and pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen poked into a force out to short.

Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew of late have weathered the scorn of fans over their unmet potential. Yet is was this twosome who granted a glimmer of hope for insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. In the day-to-day reversals only witnessed in baseball, Dustin Pedroia grounded into an inning-killing double play less than 24 hours after his best performance of his career so far.

Papelbon manhandled the three hitters he faced with little ado. Only Framingham-born Mark Sweeney saw more than four pitches, but he rolled out second to seal the series for his favorite team. Despite the loss, Sweeney probably enjoys his role as bench player more than Crowd Control Supervisor at Fenway.

June 16, 2007

Titanic

Game 66: June 15, 2007
Giants 2 L: Barry Zito (6-5) 30-36, 2 game losing streak
7-11-4 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Julian Tavarez (4-4) 42-24, 1 game winning streak
15-6-2 series record
Highlights: Alive! It’s alive! The Red Sox offense notched six runs against old friend Zito. Tavarez went seven for the second time this season with a line of two earned runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. Hideki Okajima and Joel Piñeiro got some low-leverage work in the eighth and ninth; each allowed one hit and walked and struck out none. Manny Ramirez legged out of a double play in the bottom of the third, dreadlocks jouncing in tandem with his rapid strides.

Dustin Pedroia was unstoppable with the bat last night, going 5-for-5 with five RBIs. He fell a triple short of the cycle; if he had Kevin Youkilis’s wheels he may have been able to stretch his eight-inning double to the left-center gap into a triple.

Yerkes1912 Another second baseman proved pivotal in the last series the Giants played at Fenway. It happened to be the eighth and deciding game of the 1912 World Series. The series stood tied 3-3, as Game 2 was a tie that was called on account of darkness. (I like that this weekend’s games are being played in the afternoon, probably because of network contracts and travel obligations more than anything, but it lends a throwback feel to the series.)

Contemporary written accounts of Game 8 are riveting, as this article by John Foster in Spaulding’s Official Base Ball Guide - 1913, demonstrates, but the series finale at Fenway was sparsely attended because there were rumors that the fix was on. Foster did not allude to this possible malfeasance, attributing the smaller crowd to fans’ displeasure over seating.

Giants ace Christy Mathewson started against Hugh Bedient, who had not won any of his series starts. The game was scoreless until the seventh when Jake Stahl popped a single to center and was driven in by Olaf Henriksen, who batted in place of Bedient.

Smoky Joe Wood and Mathewson matched goose eggs until the 10th. The Giants took the lead with Red Murray’s one-out double and Fred Merkle’s RBI single. Wood got the final two outs of the frame but not without being injured by Chief Meyers’s comebacker.

Clyde Engle batted for Wood, and it was his fly to deep center that Fred Snodgrass would bungle. With Engle on second, Snodgrass would make an outstanding catch of Harry Hooper’s shot to center.

Yerkes1912backYerkes, representing the series-winning run, finagled a free pass from the great Mathewson.

Mathewson bent every energy to strike out Yerkes, but the batter would not go after the wide curves which were being served to him by the New York pitcher and finally was given a base on balls.

The Giants could have ended the series but for Merkle, Meyers, and Mathewson failing to come up with Tris Speaker’s foul pop. Speaker plated Engle on a single to right which also advanced Yerkes to third. Yerkes scored on Larry Gardner’s sacrifice fly.

Yet so keen had been the struggle, so great the excitement, so wonderful the rally of the New York club after having once given the series away, that it was the opinion generally that the defeated were as great in defeat as the victors were great in victory.

Yerkes proved the difference between a $4,024.68 payday compared to $2,566.47. Yerkes jumped to the Federal League in 1914 to earn $6,500, which was $3,000 more than his Red Sox salary.

There was never a golden age of the game except in our own grandiose imaginations. Greed, hubris, vanity, and all the rest of the seven sins are the mainstays of this sport. Any player who says he plays for the love of the game is lying. If that were really the case, he would be on a dirt field in the Dominican, a side street in Kyoto, a field in Missouri, reveling in the ebb and flow of the sport without spectators; in short, anywhere but a perfectly manicured major league playing surface.

Controversy and great baseball are ever entwined. Is this classic series from 1912 any less because of unproven allegations that the series was fixed?

I am not a fan of Barry Bonds. But would he have done those things he is alleged to have done had fans like us conjured glamor in the longball? An infatuation aided and abetted by the commissioner’s office, who turned a blind eye to wrongdoings because money overflowed the league’s coffers.

Bonds is a perfect confluence of personality and circumstance to produce a scapegoat for Bud Selig’s blatant neglect to clean up his league.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

Dennis Eckersley was in fine fettle. When asked what would he do if faced Bonds in an at bat that would be the record-breaking homer, Eckersley sportingly said he’d take his chances given the slugger’s age. He said, paraphrasing from memory, “I’m not shy. I’ll throw my 89-MPH heater up there. So what if it’s history? Everywhere I go it’s Gibson, Gibson, Gibson.”

In the background, the man on stilts swerved through the crowd donning a 1908 uniform. The 1912 uniform isn’t very much different from today’s save for the lack of red piping around the placket and collar.

Dave Roberts received a thunderous ovation from the Fenway audience. Everything that could be said about him and Game 4 has been said and much better than I ever could. Bob Ryan’s column is a shining example of what The Steal meant and continues to mean.

David Ortiz acted the part of Julian Tavarez in the first, throwing a tantrum after striking out looking. The designated hitter was ejected when, after getting in home plate umpire’s face to argue balls and strikes, he hurled his helmet and bat down near at the top of the steps of the dugout. Terry Francona defended Ortiz’s actions to no avail.

Interestingly, Randazzo was part of a physical confrontation with Clint Hurdle in 2006, which was documented by Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Ray King, who complained about the strike zone, was ejected along with Hurdle.

“This guy, Tony Randazzo behind the plate today, was totally out of line,” King said. “This guy was walking right up the line, getting in your face and hoping to agitate. The guy behind the plate today, from pitch one, I thought missed a lot of calls.”

Such an erratic strike zone suits an unconventional pitcher like Tavarez. Yet again Tavarez bowled a batted ball to this first baseman, this time in the fifth with Randy Winn attempting to extend the inning. Tavarez’s momentum took him towards foul territory. He looked as if he couldn’t keep his balance and since he had touched the ball without seeing if it would dribble foul anyway, the roll seemed justifiable. Winn was in the correct path to first, so even if a relay to first hit Winn he would probably be allowed to remain on first.

Momentum, they say, only goes as far as the next day’s starting pitchers. If anyone can derail Boston’s rediscovered offense it would be ace apparent Matt Cain. He opposes another emergent star, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Images of baseball card courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Lot 13163-30, no. 117.

June 15, 2007

Lapidify

Game 65: June 14, 2007
WinRockies 7 W: Jeff Francis (6-5) 33-33, 2 game winning streak
7-11-4 series record
Red Sox 1 L: Josh Beckett (9-1) 41-24, 2 game losing streak
15-6-2 series record
Highlights: Manny Ramirez’s Cutoff in the Outfield (patent pending) attempt in the third. Ramirez’s attempt at high socks were not about tailoring to the correct length below the knee like everyone else but rather gathering up the excess material and rubber banding it above the shin for a bishop sleeve affect. C’est très sportif! On a close call at home in the seventh, Ramirez represented the only Boston run of the evening.

How sad is it that all of the Red Sox’s offensive production fits in the highlight box?

Jeff Francis played on Red Sox fans’ paranoia over unfamiliar lefties. “Our team can’t hit against them! We look like a bunch of A-ballers against pitchers we don’t know!” goes the refrain.

But yet again the oft-repeated adage played itself out to the tune of a five-inning, six-strikeout showing by the junior twirler.

I still don’t get why Rockies field manager Clint Hurdle didn’t even bother to let Chris Iannetta have one at bat while his team was at Fenway. I hope Iannetta carries resentment over Hurdle’s lack of consideration, blossoms into the catcher he was projected to be, and replaces Jason Varitek when the veteran’s contract expires and he becomes Boston’s manager.

All that is hopefully in the future. The present is somewhat worrisome, but unlike Yankee fans we no longer dwell in the past. “Nineteen seventy-eight!” doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue, does it?

I understand that much has been made to celebrate the 1967 Impossible Dream team this year. It’s partially Red Sox marketing-driven nostalgia but mostly a genuine recapturing of that season that brought the town so close to rapture.

The lineup last night featured J.D. Drew leading off. Given his OBP, this is a statistically sound decision, especially in light of the desperate pair that Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo make. Drew could have easily been the hero of the game rather than the goat if his line shot in the second wasn’t gloved by rookie Troy Tulowitzki. It was an especially memorable out because the bases were loaded with a single out and the futility twins Crisp and Lugo had reached on a base on balls and error respectively. To squander that rare occurrence as Drew and Dustin Pedroia did with his swinging strikeout set the tone for the evening.

Faced with the same circumstance in the top of the third slumping Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins lofted Josh Beckett’s offering into the first row of the Monster seats. Home plate umpire James Hoye gave an assist to Atkins by calling what was clearly a curveball strike authored by Beckett as a ball.

The Red Sox look to turn their homestand around against the Giants. The franchise hasn’t visited Fenway since 1912, the year the park opened and the season when Boston celebrated its second world championship against the New York Giants. The team is currently last in its division but does feature the inimitable Dave Roberts on its roster.

Welcome back to where everybody knows your game.

Rocky Mountain Sigh

Shocking photographic proof that the Red Sox can beat the Rockies below. The images that follow may be disturbing for some audiences. Click on the picture for a larger version.

12jun2007rockies01
Sound booth employee poised for best moment to unleash “Rocky Mountain High.” Something new: playing Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger” during visiting team’s pitching changes.

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“Where is that damn “COL” sign from 2002? Did one of you guys use it to make colon jokes again?”

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Manny deep in repose.

12jun2007rockies04
Oh noes teh yankeez r comin

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One way to paint the corners. Or should I have gone with “the easy way to tag home”?

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Office worker unchained: conservative striped shirt underneath, wacky tie-dye on top.

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Picking the daisies.

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Touching the sky.

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Local boys Chris Iannetta and Josh Fogg enjoy Fenway.

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Hugs and hand pounds in the dugout.

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The butterfly emerges.

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Mike Lowell warns Terry Francona of the perils of the hidden ball trick.

12jun2007rockies13
Bruce Froemming will retire at the end of this season. He didn’t get hit by a foul ball that evening.

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“Come on, DeMarlo. I can totally steal home.”

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Jonathan Papelbon in full stride.

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It really did happen. Sadly, just once.

June 14, 2007

Rocky

Game 64: June 13, 2007
WinRockies 12 W: Josh Fogg (2-5) 33-33, 1 game winning streak
6-11-4 series record
Red Sox 2 L: Curt Schilling (6-3) 41-23, 1 game losing streak
15-5-2 series record
Highlights: Mike Lowell atoned for his run-scoring error in the second (his 12th of the season) with his 12th homer of the season in the bottom of the same inning. The only other Red Sox run came with three consecutive singles by Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez in the third.

Well, that was a brief stint for Dustin Pedroia leading off. Using his numbers against Josh Fogg (5-11 with two home runs), Terry Francona started Alex Cora at second instead of the rookie and had the utility man batting eighth. Julio Lugo remained in the nine-hole but Coco Crisp led off, meaning the lineup’s poorest producers were back-to-back.

Fogg was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on December 13, 1976. When I went to Tuesday’s game I noticed he and Chris Iannetta, who was born in Providence, were soaking in Fenway’s atmosphere. For Fogg it seemed that playing in his birth state inspired him to transcend his 1-5 record and 5.06 ERA. By the time Fogg left the hill in the fifth the Red Sox had helped him reduce his ERA to 4.95.

The Red Sox pitchers, both starter and key relievers, did not come through in high leverage situations. Curt Schilling relinquished a three-run bomb by Brad Hawpe into Thome territory in the fifth.

In the sixth Todd Helton took the box with two out and ducks on the pond. Francona called on Javier Lopez, who can usually be relied upon for a weak tap to the infield for final outs. Instead Helton lined to a region of left field where Manny Ramirez’s usually effective tactic of playing shallow foiled the outfielder. The shot cleared the bases.

Joel Piñeiro tried to disembark from the J.C. Romero Cruise he’s currently enjoying and made a seventh-inning statement by hurling a perfect turn of relief with two strikeouts thrown in for good measure. But in the eighth he regressed to his mean and allowed yet another trio of runs, one of which plated on an errant pitch.

Iannetta hasn’t yet had an at bat at Fenway. Hopefully Clint Hurdle will let the rookie start in the final game of the series, not just so he can play in the park that he grew up loving but also because Yorvit Torrealba (or Torreabla, as Jerry Remy called him) has been particularly bothersome to Boston pitchers.

June 13, 2007

Quarry

Game 63: June 12, 2007
Rockies 1 L: Aaron Cook (4-3) 31-33, 1 game losing streak
6-11-4 series record
WinRed Sox 2 W: Tim Wakefield (6-7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (15)
41-22, 1 game winning streak
15-5-2 series record
Highlights: Terry Francona constructed a reasonable lineup at last. Now that the team is back in town, did Theo Epstein hover over Francona’s shoulder as the field manager arranged the local nine on the chart? Because having Dustin Pedroia (.314 BA, .395 OBP, .436 slugging) and Kevin Youkilis (.335, .421, .524) in front of David Ortiz instead of Julio Lugo (.215, .274, .322) and Coco Crisp (.225, .281, .300) is a fine sight to see in person.

Thanks to some last minute internetting, I got one ticket in section 29 for last night’s game. I know that grandstand seats are a mixed bag, but I felt so fortunate to snag admittance to the opening game of this interleague series I didn’t quibble or scour FenwayData to see if I purchased one of those obstructed view seats that aren’t labeled as such by the powers that be.

I was there early enough to scope out row 10 from sections  28 through 31. I was pleasantly surprised; this particular row is free of poles as long as you aren’t seated at the far ends of the section. Since I was in the middle of the row, I also didn’t have to contend with very many people crossing in front of me, either.

It really is true that the most knowledgeable fans in baseball come to Fenway Park. I enjoyed the game in complete ignorance through six innings. Fortunately two young ladies showed up in the middle of the sixth with their beers and plopped next to me. Apparently they know so much of the ins and outs of the grand old game they needn’t be present for more than a third of it.

I knew I was in for a treat when they settled into their seats and the first learned words out of their mouths were, “When do they stop selling beer?” Clearly they could determine the contours of the contest by keenly observing the box score. I was awestruck and hoped they would deign to impart upon a fraction of the vast baseball noesis they possessed.

My moment to attempt to impress them with my own paltry understanding of this splendid pastime came in the eighth, after they had returned from a beer run.

Dustin Pedroia had led off with a single to left and Terry Francona pinch ran Alex Cora. Nodding my approval of the move, I leaned toward them, saying conspiratorially, “Nice move by Tito, there. That Dustin is higher in the order gives Boston more scoring opportunities. In a 1-1 tie, replacing Pedroia doesn’t compromise the team defensively and puts them in the best position to get the go-ahead run across the plate.”

Was I ever thrilled when the girl nearest me agreed whole-heartedly. “Woooooooooooooo!” she said.

Emboldened by her approbation, I tried to engage her and her friend in baseball banter throughout the rest of the 52 minutes of the game. As John Updike wrote about another legend, “Gods do not answer letters.”

They do, however, await the wave in breathless anticipation, even as Jonathan Papelbon racked up his 15th save with two strikeouts and mid to high 90s heat. I’m usually flummoxed between watching on-field happenings and shenanigans in the stands, but this duo managed both with such ease. Their cheers for the wave and for the relief ace were so seamlessly entwined it was as if “Mira, O Norma” was reenacted for baseball.

Those minutes I spent reveling in their combined intellect was better than any Bill James treatise. I am forever indebted to those nameless mavens.

Note: Photos from last night’s game to be posted later this evening.

June 11, 2007

Uchikata [打ち方]

Game 62: June 10, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-5) 40-22, 1 game losing streak
15-5-2 series record
WinDiamondbacks 5 W: Randy Johnson (4-2)
H: Jailen Peguero (1)
H: Tony Pena (13)
37-27, 1 game winning streak
12-9-0 series record
Highlights: Mike Lowell, even injured, proved productive. He drove in the only Boston run of the afternoon in the fourth with a grasscutter down the third base line. People on this side of the Pacific got to see Matsuzaka’s uchikata against major league pitching. Uchikata means batting form or swing. The first symbol 打 means strike, hit, knock, or pound; ち is a hiragana symbol with no particular meaning in this context; and 方 means way of doing. Another kata [型] refers to the memorized forms and patterns used in various Japanese arts, from the tea ceremony to kabuki to martial arts.

Two pitchers could not look more different and yet they twirled nearly identical lines. Daisuke Matsuzaka lasted 6 innings, allowed 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 4 walks, and 9 strikeouts while Randy Johnson matched him in innings, hits, and punchados. The one additional base on balls led to the extra run that would be the difference in the game until Mike Timlin returned to the hill.

Johnson in a red uniform makes him resemble a serial killer garbed in a blood-soaked shirt. He looked a little more macabre than usual with the stuff to match.

It doesn’t take much to tame a lineup with Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp getting five at bats apiece. Has the Red Sox front office been lax in sending recommendations to Terry Francona about how to most effectively use his hitters?

Daisuke Matsuzaka had a wretched fourth inning. I’ve mentioned before that four is considered unlucky in Japan and China because the way the number is pronounced is a homophone for death. Just as some buildings in the United States skip 13, buildings in these Asian countries often lack the fourth story. Despite walking two batters and being hampered by an error by Mike Lowell, Matsuzaka collected himself and struck out two batters to allow just an RBI single off the bat of Stephen Drew. Granted it was the eighth and ninth batters in the Diamondbacks lineup, but the damage was minimized.

The only intrigue Crisp caused on the basepath was a call for obstruction in the first. The ruling prompted Bob Melvin to spring from the dugout to confront first base umpire Chad Fairchild, but the decree was not overturned. Manny Ramirez also caused a bit of a stir in the fifth, arguing vociferously that he got a piece of a pitch in the dirt. He threw off his helmet and gloves, but I think he just wanted to show off his hairstyle. “Look good, play good.”

With Timlin back in the mix, Boston baseball operations staff should have also forwarded those reams of evidence that show the veteran does not pitch well with men on base. Timlin alone should not should the blame. Javier Lopez failed to induce the grounder he was supposed to from the shortstop Drew, setting up that situation that so flusters Timlin.

Okajima in the eighth, Timlin only if you have blind faith.

June 10, 2007

Crowning Clemens

I sincerely wish that sports broadcasters and so-called baseball analysts would stop fellating Roger Clemens over his recent start over the Bucs. He lasted six innings with a line of 5 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts.

The Pirates offense is wretched even in comparison to other National League teams:

  • 14th in batting average: .250
  • last in OBP: .311
  • 14th in slugging percentage: .380
  • 12th in home runs: 50
  • 14th in RBIs: 241

Pittsburgh is 10 games under .500; even a team with losing record like the Yankees should beat them. The table below shows a wide range of pitchers who faced the Pirates and beat them.

Other Pitchers Who Defeated the Pirates in 2007
Pitcher Date Line
Braden Looper April 9 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3K
Final score: Cardinals 3, Pirates 0
Russ Ortiz April 13 8.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Final score: Giants 8, Pirates 5
Jeff Suppan April 19 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Final score: Brewers 7, Pirates 5
Matt Belisle April 28 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Final score: Reds 8, Pirates 1
Aaron Harang April 29 8 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Final score: Reds 9, Pirates 5
Claudio Vargas May 4 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Final score: Brewers 10, Pirates 0
Jason Marquis May 9 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Final score: Cubs 1, Pirates 0
Kyle Lohse May 28 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Final score: Reds 4, Pirates 0
Chris Young May 30 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Final score: Padres 9, Pirates 0

Below average and middling pitchers pitched about the same as Clemens and even surpassed him. Exceptional pitchers lasted longer than the Rocket did and had better performances.

Instead of coming up with puns about the Rocket’s reentry or his red glare, here’s the real lead-in: “Yankees offense performs to expectations and bails out its starter. Highlights up next after superfluous mentions of Paris Hilton’s incarceration.”

Protracted

Game 61: June 9, 2007 ∙ 10 innings
WinRed Sox 4 W: Hideki Okajima (2-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (14)
40-21, 3 game winning streak
15-5-2 series record
Diamondbacks 3 H: Tony Pena (12)
H: Doug Slaten (4)
BS: Brandon Lyon (2)
L: Juan Cruz (2-1)
36-27, 3 game losing streak
12-9-0 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox became the second team to reach the 40-win mark on Saturday; the Angels punished the Cardinals a few hours before for their 40th. Okajima tallied his second major league win; maybe this time Papelbon saved a game ball for him.

The Diamondbacks remind me of the 2005 Cleveland Indians. They have the raw materials to make a championship team: youthful talent in key positions (Chris Young in center, Stephen Drew at short, and Miguel Montero as the backstop), a staff ace in Brandon Young, a decent if not topflight closer with Jose Valverde, and a smart front office headed by Josh Byrnes. Round it off with steady veterans like Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, and Randy Johnson and you have a contender... in the National League West.

Once again the Red Sox proved their ascendancy over other division leaders with an extra-inning victory.

Arizona established an early lead with a second-inning RBI double by Montero and a fourth-inning two-run homer by the younger Drew. From that point on, however, the Diamondbacks mustered only five baserunners. Two of those came in the bottom of the 10th to make for a taxing 24-pitch conversion for Jonathan Papelbon.

Jason Varitek drove in all three Red Sox runs in regulation. With two out and the elder Drew on first in the sixth, Varitek took Micah Owings’s 3-1 pitch down a tunnel near the pool area. (By the way, it’s just $6,500 to rent the pool for you and 34 of your friends. Amenities include plasma television, private bar area, a $750 food credit, and logo-emblazoned beach towel and cap.)

In the eighth, J.D. was on base again with the backstop at the dish. This time Varitek golfed the ball to the base of the fences in center field. It was deep enough for the Red Sox right fielder to score from first.

The top of the tenth demonstrated how the Diamondbacks don’t have quite the right mix to prevail against more polished teams. David Ortiz drew a walk and consecutive singles by Kevin Youkilis and J.D. loaded the bases for Varitek. Boston’s captain struck out but pinch-hitting Mike Lowell aimed a fly to right just deep enough to warrant sending Ortiz.

Ortiz tagged up and scuttled to the dish safely for the go-ahead run. Carlos Quentin’s relay wasn’t in the same zip code as home plate.

Don Orsillo embarrassed Northeastern University alumni once again. In the seventh he and Jerry Remy were ridiculing Baxter the Bobcat. “He doesn’t even have a tail!” Orsillo exclaimed.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) aren’t named as they are because a guy named “Bob” discovered them. Rather, it is because they have a very short tail as if it were bobbed, or cut short. Baxter probably has a sense of decorum and refrains from having his nether bits hanging out of his uniform.

Bobcat
Photo courtesy of New Mexico State Office

June 9, 2007

Glissade

Game 60: June 8, 2007
WinRed Sox 10 W: Josh Beckett (9-0) 39-21, 2 game winning streak
14-5-2 series record
Diamondbacks 3 L: Doug Davis (4-7) 36-26, 2 game losing streak
12-8-0 series record
Highlights: Beckett faced a lineup with four players with less than two years major league experience and two other with less than three and thoroughly dominated it. He struck out eight and didn’t hand out a single free ride over eight innings. Manny Ramirez was rapped by a pitch in the sixth that dropped him to the ground in pain, but the left fielder remained in the game to cross home on J.D. Drew’s second master fly.

Red Sox, I have a confession to make. I’ve been fantasizing about another team. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. Don’t look at me like that; just listen.

There’s this franchise fantasy league I’m in, and in it I’m the Diamondbacks GM.

It’s just fantasy baseball, sweetie! Don’t get upset!

Last night I was totally thinking of you and you alone, honestly. It helps that Doug Davis isn’t on my fantasy Diamondbacks, but even if he were I’d still be cheering for you 100%.

Did you have to totally annihilate the young hitters, though? I mean, you had such a big lead. Giving Stephen Drew, Chris Young, or Chris Snyder a fair chance wouldn’t have hurt. After all, it was Arizona’s suspect pitching that ignited the dormant Julio Lugo and disappointing J.D. Drew. A few gift rib-eyes here and there would have been a nice reciprocal move.

Okay, I totally didn’t mean that. It’s cool, I understand, you have a job to do. It’s just that I have this fantasy team and it’s struggling a bit.

I’m actually glad you had Lugo tag out Alberto Callaspo in the third, mostly because he was accused of a domestic incident by his wife, who alleged that he struck, kicked, and threatened her with a knife. It was also a valuable lesson to these young players to keep their heads in the game at all time. Callaspo neither insured his foot was in contact with the bag when he took his hand off to dust himself off nor did he request time out from second base umpire Chris Guccione. Lugo stalked the utility man and swiped his prey in the millisecond he was out of contact with the sack.

Of course I was totally behind you when Lugo made that shot to left in the first and Drew had those three-run homers in the third and sixth. You’re the only one for me, baby.

It’s just fantasy baseball. I can stop anytime. I promise.

Bam Ba Lam

It should have been Joel Piñeiro, not J.C. Romero, in my opinion. I’ll just imagine that mobile phone distortion confounded Terry Francona and we’ll soon learn that it’s the former Seattle clearing out his locker. Piñeiro, Romero; a few dropped syllables make all the difference. After all, Fangraphs has Piñeiro with negative Win Probability Added (WPA of -0.60) while Romero’s is 0.48.

Oh, it’s totally official? Well, then. Mike Timlin is back on the Red Sox and Romero has been designated for assignment. As long as Francona remembers it’s 2007, not 2003, I’m not terribly worried.

June 8, 2007

Almost

Game 59: June 7, 2007
WinRed Sox 1 W: Curt Schilling (6-2) 38-21, 1 game winning streak
14-5-2 series record
Athletics 0 L: Joe Blanton (5-4) 31-28, 1 game losing streak
10-8-2 series record
Highlights: Well, duh. Coco Crisp made like Randy Moss in the sixth on a deep fly off the bat of Mark Kotsay. Another Mark was foiled by Mike Lowell in the seventh. Ellis was thrown out at first thanks to Lowell zipping the ball across the diamond after knocking it down. Kevin Youkilis’s attempt to outpace Marco Scutaro to third on David Ortiz’s ground ball in the eighth was comical. Youkilis saw that third base was vacant because of the shift and became a little too greedy. Someone has let an inside-the-park homer distort his perception of his speed.

Some may be thankful Curt Schilling didn’t twirl a no-hitter. If he was insufferable before, imagine how he’d be after such a feat. He’d be in front of every microphone and camera for weeks on end, but he and Shonda would also find some way to use paraphernalia from that game to generate money for his various charitable foundations.

For that, and for him stanching the four-game losing skid, it’s difficult to fault Schilling for being the blowhard he is. With his braggadocio comes generosity, so it’s a forgivable fault.

In a post-game clip, David Ortiz intimated that he didn’t know that a no-hitter was in progress until the ninth. He looked up at the scoreboard, saw all the goose eggs, and turned to the dugout with the same sort of look that spectators do when they watch one of his home runs sail out of the park. He was quickly shushed.

Interestingly, the first-inning Papi bomb was the only offense of the afternoon.

Schilling shook his backstop off on the pitch that would be his undoing. He hefted over a fastball that had too much of the plate to Shannon Stewart in the bottom of the ninth with two out. Stewart got a hold of the heater and lined it to shallow right. One would think that Schilling would listen to Jason Varitek, who is renown as one of the best game-callers in the majors and has presided over two no-hitters.

The near-miss prompted me to research all of the no-hitters in the long history of the Americans, a.k.a. Red Sox.

Boston Americans and Red Sox No-Hitters
Pitcher Date Notable Facts
Cy Young May 5, 1904* Against the Philadelphia Athletics at Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Americans won 3-0. The opposing pitcher, Rube Waddell, was notorious for having wrestled an alligator. Boston won the American League pennant that season, but no World Series was played that year.
Jesse Tannehill August 17, 1904 The southpaw was opposed by the White Sox in South Side Park. Tannehill’s brother Lee started at third base for Chicago.
Bill Dineen September 27, 1905 The White Sox were again victimized but this time at Huntington in the first game of a doubleheader. Chicago stormed back in the second game. Home plate umpire Francis “Silk” O’Laughlin called six no-hitters, more than any other official. O’Laughlin died in 1918 in the flu pandemic.
Cy Young June 30, 1908 Young manhandled the Highlanders at Hilltop Park. New York ended the season with the second-worst season winning percentage in franchise history, going 51-103 for a .331 winning percentage.
Joe Wood July 29, 1911 Wood no-hit the St. Louis Browns, a team that was the Milwaukee Brewers and would become the second incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles. The game was played at Sportsman’s Park, which would become the first Busch Stadium in 1953. The next year Wood would be the first pitcher to play the Yankees in their new pinstriped uniforms on April 11. He won 5-3.
Rube Foster June 21, 1916 Again the Yankees are no-hit by a Boston pitcher. It was the first no-hitter at Fenway.
Dutch Leonard August 30, 1916 The hapless Browns again were the paradigm of futility against the Red Sox. Leonard was one of the 17 pitchers who were grandfathered in 1920 when spitballs were ruled illegal.
Babe Ruth
Ernie Shore
June 23, 1917 The so-called “combined no-hitter;” it was called a perfect game until a rule change. Ruth had walked Ray Morgan and was ejected from the game for punching umpire Brick Owens. On two days rest, Shore caught Morgan stealing and proceeded to retire the next 26 Senators in order.
Dutch Leonard June 3, 1918 The lefty notched his second and final no-hitter against the Tigers in Boston. He would not pitch the entire season due to World War I.
Howard Ehmke September 7, 1923 Ehmke pitches the second no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics in four days. Sam Jones of the Yankees no-hit Connie Mack’s boys on September 4 without striking out a single batter.
Mel Parnell July 14, 1956 The South Siders were blanked by southpaw Parnell at Fenway, breaking the 33-year drought of Red Sox no-hitters. Sadly Parnell’s career came to end in 1956 because of a torn muscle.
Earl Wilson June 26, 1962 Wilson tossed the first no-hitter against Angels and helped his own cause in the third with a home run. Malzone crossed the dish in the fourth after reaching on an error.
Bill Monbouquette August 1, 1962 In a 1-0 squeaker, Monbouquette walked one and struck out seven at Comiskey Park. White Sox third baseman Al Smith walked in the second. The single run came in the eighth. Gary Gieger reached on a base on balls but was caught stealing second. Carl Yastrzemski struck out. Pagliaroni, Runnels, and Clinton all singled, with Clinton’s driving in the winning run.
Dave Morehead September 16, 1965 In an otherwise lackluster 100-loss season, Morehead dominated the Indians 2-0 at Fenway, allowing one base on balls to Colavito while striking out eight. The Red Sox were opposed by Luis Tiant, who twirled a complete game loss, allowed just two runs, and struck out 11.
Matt Young April 12, 1992** Not technically a no-hitter since he pitched only eight innings to the Indians at Cleveland Stadium. Kenny Lofton scored in the first after walking, stealing second and third, and tagging up on an Albert Belle sac fly to right. In the third Mark Lewis led off with a walk, advanced on a free pass to Lofton, ran to third on a force play at second, and was plated on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Baerga. Boston managed just a single run in the fourth thanks to Ellis Burks. John Flaherty made his debut in this game.
Hideo Nomo April 4, 2001 In his first appearance as a Red Sox pitcher, Nomo hurled a no-hitter at Camden Yards. He was the fourth pitcher to have no-hitters in both leagues. His first was on September 17, 1996 against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Derek Lowe April 27, 2002 Lowe had carried a no-hitter into the eighth in the start against the Orioles just prior to his no-hitter.
*Perfect game
**Pitched eight innings

June 7, 2007

Frigid

Game 58: June 6, 2007
Red Sox 2 L: Tim Wakefield (5-7) 37-21, 4 game losing streak
14-5-2 series record
WinAthletics 3 W: Joe Kennedy (2-4)
H: Colby Lewis (3)
S: Santiago Casilla (1)
31-27, 4 game winning streak
10-8-2 series record
Highlights: Wakefield had his seventh quality start for 2007 but was left out in the cold by his offense. Hideki Okajima pitched a near-perfect one and one-third inning. Kevin Youkilis lofted a triple in the seventh to plate Manny Ramirez; it was the first baseman’s first three-bagger of the season.

Script for a never-produced Citizens Energy Corporation commercial.

[Black-and-white scene opens with montage of various Red Sox batters sitting, dejected and shivering, in the dugout. ERIC CHAVEZ walks down the line of players handing out green fleece pullovers embroidered with the Athletics logo. The Boston players look at the articles of clothing dejectedly but are so overcome with cold they finally don them. Cut to Red Sox batters in batting practice with “Property of Oakland Athletics” sweatshirts taking batting practice, weakly grounding out pitch after pitch.]

[Fade to color three-quarter shot of JOE KENNEDY, a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.]

KENNEDY: At Citizens Energy Corporation, a non-profit energy company, we’re constantly seeking out the disadvantaged of the nation to provide them with ways to keep warm. Even if they are our competitors.

[Cut to KENNEDY and other Oakland pitches inducing ground ball outs and double plays.]

KENNEDY: In conjunction with the friendly and nearly democratic government of the Nation of Athletic Supporters, ruled by third baseman Chavez with a golden fist, the Oakland players generate heat for our opponents not via fastballs but by having them futilely ground out at bat after at bat.

[Cut to more sequences of KENNEDY and other Oakland pitches inducing ground ball outs and double plays.]

KENNEDY: [Yells as he comes off the mound while Red Sox try to beat out relays.] Run! Run faster! It’ll keep you warm! That’s it!

[Fade to three-quarter shot]

KENNEDY: The team at Citizens for Energy also explores alternative ways of generating heat.

[Cut to Joe Morgan and Dennis Eckersley burning copies of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball.]

KENNEDY: At Citizens Energy, we believe no one should be left out in the cold.

June 6, 2007

Kampū [完封]

Game 57: June 5, 2007
Red Sox 0 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-4) 37-20, 3 game losing streak
14-4-2 series record
WinAthletics 2 W: Lenny DiNardo (2-2)
H: Kiko Calero (8)
H: Jay Marshall (8)
H: Colby Lewis (2)
S: Alan Embree (5)
30-27, 4 game winning streak
9-8-2 series record
Highlights: I guess Alan Embree isn’t a mole for the Red Sox; he pitched a perfect ninth with one strikeout for the save. Kampū is the Japanese word for shutout; if only it were Matsuzaka’s first rather than DiNardo’s.

Lenny DiNardo and a slew of Oakland pitchers proved that in baseball sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. His lack of stuff and Boston’s seeming fatigue from cross-country travel coalesced into a two-hitter over six innings.

Only Julio Lugo, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell managed to muscle hits past the black hole of the Oakland infield defense. Red Sox sluggers had huge incentive to ring in runs with the Athletics staff handing out seven free passes, but their lumber never made solid contact with ball.

The Red Sox had five double plays turned against them. That’s just one shy of the American League team record shared by the Baltimore Orioles (May 6, 1972) and the Red Sox (July 18, 1990).

Boston won that record-setting game against the Twins. Minnesota helped by grounding into four double plays themselves, making this the match-up with the highest number of GIDPs by both teams in a single game.

Not only was the quality of offense poor but so was the NESN cable feed. The screen flickered between Red Sox batters flailing, Daisuke Matsuzaka tallying strikeouts, and blackness. Did the reintroduction of Sox Trax cause the spotty transmission? For a broadcasting outfit that has everything from men getting caught stealing to musical montages sponsored, it’s surprising that Bob’s Discount Furniture hasn’t grabbed the opportunity to pin their logo on a pitch chart. Could it be the move to unionize at NESN causing some strife?

To cheer you up, just imagine that Joe Torre alone had one less GIDPs in a single game on July 21, 1975 when he was on the Mets.

June 5, 2007

Haze

Game 56: June 4, 2007 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox 4 L: Kyle Snyder (1-0) 37-19, 2 game losing streak
14-4-2 series record
WinAthletics 5 H: Jay Marshall (7)
BS: Alan Embree (1)
W: Santiago Casilla (1-0)
29-27, 3 game winning streak
9-8-2 series record
Highlights: David Ortiz broke his 19-game home run drought. Wily Mo Peña launched four-baggers in the fourth and seventh. Is Alan Embree a mole?

I had my usual weekly session with my therapist after work today. Settling into the beige of his office, I told him about the odd, vivid dream I had last night.

“It started off terrifically. Papi sent a ball into orbit in the first inning off of one of the league’s best young pitchers Dan Haren. Haren was in heavy eyeliner and dressed a little like Captain Jack Sparrow. He does that shimmy that Depp does and batter after batter fall under his thrall. They all swing half-heartedly then join him to go drink some rum on the mound, which suddenly sprouted palm trees.”

My therapist nodded knowingly, scribbled a few notes, a cocked a knowing glance in my direction. “Excited about the new movie, are you?”

I reddened under his inspection. “Just a little. But then things started getting disturbing. Wily Mo was starting in center instead of Coco and Tavarez was pitching. He wasn’t wearing road greys but a red and green striped sweater. And he had ridden to Oakland on the back of one of those Japanese movie monsters.”

“You mean kaiju, like Godzilla or Gamera?” he asked, peering over the top of his glasses with concern.

“Exactly! Tavarez crossed the entire continent on a beast that was a cross between a lion, a cobra, and a humpback whale. Suddenly Mark Ellis of all people comes out to read at a podium. He’s reading from his upcoming novel and it’s all about glamorous youths with vacant eyes, fat wallets, and costly habits. It’s a farrago of nihilism and designer labels. But it’s compelling enough to transfix Tavarez long so that he can grab a Big Wheel and a roll of toilet paper. Ellis motored around Tavarez, wrapping him like a mummy. And the drums! Drums rumbling along the edge of my senses, driving my heart to beat faster. I woke up with a start just in time to see Wily Mo absolutely smoke a home run to center.”

The doctor shifted lower into his chair, perturbed yet distracted. “Now, that actually did happen, as I recall. Tied the game.”

“Yep, it did. So I watched the game, drifting in and out of sleep. Top of the ninth was great, the team worked together like gears of a machine to get those two runs.”

“Mmm hmm,” he nodded.

“I slipped back into sleep. I thought I saw a wizened old man knock Pedroia on his butt, all the while yelling about how damn punk kids don’t stay off his lawn and keep on trying to use his property as a shortcut. His hollering turned into more and more voices. The noise woke me up, and I realized it was cheering for Chavez’s walk-off homer.” I leaned back and awaited my psychiatrist’s decree.

I would have to wait awhile. “Doc, did you fall asleep on me?”

With a start he bolted upright. “Oh, sorry about that.”

Pulling a handkerchief out of his coat pocket and cleaning his glasses, he stammered further apologies. “These West Coast games kill me. Let’s reschedule for later this week, okay? Just see Trish on your way out.”

June 4, 2007

Bluster

Game 55: June 3, 2007
WinYankees 6 W: Brian Bruney (2-1)
S: Mariano Rivera (5)
24-30, 1 game winning streak
6-11-2 series record
Red Sox 5 H: Brendan Donnelly (8)
BS: Hideki Okajima (1)
L: Jonathan Papelbon (0-1)
37-18, 1 game losing streak
14-4-2 series record
Highlights: “Where is Roger?” chanting in the fifth. Peter Gammons giggled gleefully when Jon Miller asked him about the chant. Manny Ramirez winged head-first into second for his seventh-inning double, looking superhumanny.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that the Yankee defense played well save for Melky Cabrera’s snatch of Wily Mo Peña’s slicing line drive in the third inning. The visiting team was extremely lucky; numerous fly balls batted by the Red Sox were buffeted by the wind blowing in, conveniently plopping into expectant outfielders’ gloves camped on the warning track. Even unaided by the wind New York fielders were fortunate; in the eighth Bobby Abreu seized a Dustin Pedroia fly while on the run, barely able to make the grab for the third out of the inning.

Thirteen seems to be their lucky number. It’s the number on the player who blasted the winning homer and it is the number, rounded up from 12.5, of the games that the Yankees trail the Red Sox for the division lead. The season series stands at 7-5 in favor of Boston with six more games to play.

Joe Morgan must have watched only the Fox broadcasts of Red Sox games. Like Tim McCarver, he endlessly obsessed about Manny Ramirez playing too shallow in left. Looking back, Morgan has played six regular season games at Fenway and four postseason games. McCarver has 12 more regular season games than Morgan and, of course, the same number of postseason games.

Morgan and McCarver, who were for the most part career National Leaguers from the era before interleague, should be exceedingly knowledgeable about the left field intricacies of the little bandbox. Especially since one was a second baseman and the other was a catcher.

Every time Morgan is at Fenway he never fails to bring up Carlton Fisk’s immortal home run and smilingly relates that people often say Boston won that World Series in Game 6. Similarly, McCarver seems to reminisce fondly about being on the 1967 Cardinals when he is in town for a national broadcast.

Beneath their veneer of satisfaction lurks an enmity towards the Red Sox and their fans. Their championships are footnotes in the ponderous tome of Boston baseball. And because of this they belittle the Olde Towne team and its adherents whenever possible. Chiding Ramirez for how he positions himself in left is just one example of their condescension.

The former Reds second baseman said that the brouhaha over Alex Rodriguez’s shout on the basepaths was a manifestation of the day’s tendency towards political correctness. Morgan said that runners would always try to distract him when he tried to glove pop-ups by saying “hi” as they jogged by in front of him.

That sort of gamesmanship is not analogous to yelling something as if you were a teammate behind the opposing player. If “political correctness” means a code of conduct that ensures the health and safety of players on the field, then label me a bleeding heart liberal. A sport where a player can’t trust that a voice behind him is his peer warning him of potential contact is not sporting at all.

Josh Beckett reintroduced the Yankees to his Uncle Charlie. Beckett tried to be cordial, but many of them wouldn’t even make contact with friendly old Chuck. Sure he can be a big yakker, but he’s full of life, especially from 12 to 6. I guess Yankees don’t appreciate good company. Beckett got so tired of them he left in the seventh with two outs remaining.

The Red Sox supported Beckett with five runs in the fifth. Jason Varitek, Peña, and Coco Crisp singled consecutively to jam the bases. Julio Lugo battled to a full count after falling behind 0-2 but struck out. Pedroia must have been watching Andy Pettitte’s entire repertoire from the deck because he was all over the second pitch. The second baseman sent the offering off the wall and deep for a bases-clearing double, showing that the batting second becomes him as well as it did Youkilis.

Abreu, Peña-like, allowed Ortiz’s single turn into two more bases on the right fielder’s poorly executed block of a bounding fly ball. Pedroia scored on the hit and Pettitte was knocked from the game.

Ramirez was intentionally walked for the third time this series, this time by Luis Vizcaino. Youkilis drove the ball deep but the wind squalled away the chance for a four-bagger. The Red Sox first baseman’s sac fly would be the last run the home team tallied.

Bullpen stalwarts Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon allowed the tying and go-ahead runs respectively. On a night where the local nine was out of synch with each other and their environment, the fourth series of the season was dropped to a team with a worse than losing record. That is far more disappointing than losing to Yankees themselves.

June 3, 2007

Collide

Game 54: June 2, 2007
Yankees 6 L: Scott Proctor (0-3) 23-30, 1 game losing streak
5-11-2 series record
WinRed Sox 11 W: Hideki Okajima (1-0) 37-17, 1 game winning streak
14-3-2 series record
Highlights: Mike Lowell plowed over Robinson Cano on the basepaths in the fourth in an attempt to break up a double play. In no way is this in the same neighborhood as his counterpart’s recent antics as it it neither bush league or illegal. Lowell drove in the first go-ahead run prior to the body check. Lowell also homered in the sixth and Jason Varitek followed suit with a bomb into the batter’s eye for the tie. The Yankees lost the lead three times in the course of this game.

Reggie Jackson was on the field to introduce the Yankee lineup for Fox. His sycophantic roll call stood in stark contrast to Julian Tavarez. The fifth starter made up names for some of his teammates: Jason Varita, Kevin Youkilik, and Coco Crip. Perhaps he was stunned to see Dustin Pedroia batting in the two-hole, which was the highest in the order the second baseman has started the game.

After Jackson’s moment of fawning, Joe Buck thanked him and commented that the broadcast didn’t need him and Tim McCarver anymore. If only Buck meant that literally.

McCarver insisted that Pedroia considered sticking his elbow over the plate (sound familiar?) so that he would be hit by Mike Mussina’s breaking pitch inside. This would not be the only instance of telepathy the broadcasting duo would demonstrate.

Buck proceeded to relate the entire conversation between between home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi and Mussina. According to Buck, the gist of their conversation was that Cuzzi would let Mussina pitch inside and that if the gutless Pedroia took that pitch on the arm Cuzzi wouldn’t let the rookie take first. Buck is the Yankee Whisperer.

Perhaps Buck can calm Alex Rodriguez. The third baseman gloved the final out off Pedroia’s bat in foul territory in the third and pointedly took it with him into the dugout rather than throw it into the crowd as he did on Friday.

The Fox pair did have an amusing moment with Terry Francona. Francona explained that the double, sac bunt, and RBI ground out in the third did not represent a fundamental shift in philosophy but just a change in personnel. Meanwhile, David Ortiz mugged for the camera behind his manager. When told of Ortiz’s indiscretion, Terry Francona stated simply but playfully, “I’ll knock him on his ass.”

Curt Schilling started the second inning inducing two easy ground outs but then surrendered a homer to Melky Cabrera. A slow motion closeup of his delivery showed that Schilling does not shave his arms like Roger Clemens. Did he learn nothing from his pitching guru?

The Red Sox starter was steady until the sixth inning. He gave up a single to Hideki Matsui and then walked Rodriguez. With one swing, Jorge Posada granted his team the lead and knocked Schilling out of the game.

Javier Lopez was not his typical self, either. Cabrera doubled and Doug Mientkiewicz singled in the air for another run before Lopez threw a double play ball to Wil Nieves to end the inning. Joel Piñeiro took over in the seventh after Lopez whiffed Bobby Abreu and unfortunately the righty reverted to his usual form. Derek Jeter homered into the Monster seats for the lead.

Piñeiro generously set up the win for Hideki Okajima. It was the one pitching statistic he didn’t have and the his team gave it to him with a tremendous seventh inning, although the Yankees provided the decorative wrapping and gift ribbon.

Ortiz lofted a fly ball into right for a deep double. Dwight Evans or even Trot Nixon would have snagged it but Abreu dithered because of the wall. Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked by Scott Proctor, whose pitch outs were thrown as Tim Wakefield’s fastball.

Still scarred from last night, Proctor couldn’t get anywhere near the strike zone let alone pitch inside to Kevin Youkilis, who walked on four pitches to load the bases.

Lowell nubbed a grounder to second. Cano’s relay to Jeter pulled the shortstop high and away from the sack so Jeter twirled to throw to first. Jeter’s throw was also off the mark but low so that Mientkiewicz had to lean down to glove it, his posture bringing his head directly into the path of Lowell’s full-speed stride. Two runs scored and Lowell advanced to second on his second collision, this one unintentional.

The Yankees gave Varitek the four-finger salute so that Proctor could face Wily Mo Peña, who the reliever struck out easily the previous inning. This time Peña made contact right to Jeter for what should have been a room service double play. Instead the ball trickled away from Jeter’s glove after he made the initial stop and all three runners were safe. This error didn’t make the highlight reel entitled “Sox’s five-run seventh,” oddly enough.

Crisp blooped an RBI single to shallow center. McCarver had one moment of clarity and showed that because Rodriguez didn’t cover third base and Proctor didn’t cover home the Yankees muffed the opportunity for an out at those stations.

Brian Bruney relieved Proctor, the latter looking as if he needed an appointment with one of Rodriguez’s therapists. Bruney relinquished two more runs before Mike Myers was brought in to neutralize Ortiz. For the second time in as many games this tactic actually worked. Jonthan Papelbon got in some work in the top of the ninth since his last appearance was four days ago on May 28.

The Red Sox avoided a sweep at home and look to take the rubber game tonight. The television schedule this series prepares fans for increasingly annoying broadcasters in my mind. I actually like Jon Miller, but Joe Morgan alone trumps Buck and McCarver.

Ortizfrancona

Fracas at Fenway

Although the Red Sox lost 9-5 in the series opener against the Yankees, it was a loss Boston could withstand given their dominance in the American League East.

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Double digit deficit.

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Wally in his rain gear.

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The half-hour rain delay ends.

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Prior to the game there was a repeat of the 1967 Impossible Dream tribute accompanied by songs from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was released 40 years ago on June 1.

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Doug Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield, and John Farrell march to the dugout.

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Alex Rodriguez is serenaded by his most ardent fans.

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Live by the knuckleball, die by the knuckleball.

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In the second inning, Manny Ramirez playfully hassles Kevin Youkilis for not scoring on the former’s single to right. Youkilis gestured back that third base coach DeMarlo Hale was at fault.

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Joe Torre belatedly objects to the call on Bobby Abreu.

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Julian Tavarez talks with Daisuke Matsuzaka all game.

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Rhubarb!

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Dustup!

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Donnybrook! Notice David Ortiz talking with Doug Mientkiewicz near the plate.

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Melee!

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Jorge Posada approaches Youkilis as the fray breaks up.

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The fighters return to their corners.

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Just one chance is all I ever wanted
Just one time I’d like to win the game

June 2, 2007

Memorable Day

Monday was Memorial Day, a day that unofficially marks the start of summer but more importantly honors the people who have served or sacrificed to protect our shared ideals. That day the American League Central-leading Cleveland squad visited and were vanquished, 5-3.

It was also the day of the first Royal Rooters outing of 2007. One member brought his friend who had lost a bet and had to wear a pink Jeter player tee the entire game. He was also supposed to wear a pink hat, but that part of the wager was waived. The hat would make an appearance elsewhere.

We sat in the bleachers. Needless to say, his attire didn’t go unnoticed. The row behind him needled him mercilessly, chanting about the hue of the shirt and the player it represented.

My friend Matt called out cloyingly, “Miss, I for one think you look lovely. Don’t listen to these hoodlums.” Then, in a fake whisper accompanied by an exaggerated wink, “Call me later.”

That unleashed the floodgates of feminine pronoun use by the entire section.

More than a few Type As in the section to our right were obsessed with starting the wave. They relentlessly marched the aisles like a martinet assembling their troops and were unfortunately successful in their gesticulations.

Matt did his trademark “Polite Heckling” routine. When Eric Wedge argued with the crew about the Casey Blake call, Matt hollered, “Eric Wedge, I am disappointed in your lack of courtesy and respect for authority figures! Please return to your dugout!”

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The left field garage door opened to reveal groundskeeping supplies and a massive support pillar.

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A patch of sod where J.D. Drew and Trot Nixon would trod.

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Curt Schilling makes his way to the bullpen to warm up.

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Wally barreled out of the left field door but had to pause on his route because the pitchers were long tossing on his route.

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Nixon limbering up for the game.

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Nixon’s first at bat as an Indian in Fenway. He had doffed his helmet and Jason Varitek gave him him a butt slap.

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Wedge has a difference of opinion with crew chief Rick Reed.

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The identity of the pink hat-wearer has been shielded pending formal charges.

Hindrance

Game 53: June 1, 2007
WinYankees 9 W: Chien-Ming Wang (4-4) 23-29, 2 game winning streak
5-11-2 series record
Red Sox 5 L: Tim Wakefield (5-6) 36-17, 2 game losing streak
14-3-2 series record
Highlights: The streak goes on. Kevin Youkilis tapped an infield single in the sixth to bring the total to 23. Manny Ramirez partnered with the left field wall and Dustin Pedroia to hose Alex Rodriguez at the keystone sack for the second out of the third.

Ahem. So, how does this sound? “Go ahead, keep cheering. That Cano homer really helps you in that 13 and a half game difference in that standings.”

You see, I was at last night’s game and I had the oddest revelation. Despite being surrounded by Yankee fans, the universe’s experts in front-running smack talk and have been for what seems to be seasons on end, I was at a loss in how best to cuttingly remind them that their battle is not against the Red Sox. You would think some of their clever aphorisms would have thoroughly infested my cerebral cortex, but duplicating their rarefied talent is no small feat.

“Too bad those six runs in the fourth aren’t games, because then you’d be just 7 and a half games behind us.”

As usual, there were many Yankee fans strewn in the crowd. The man right in front of my group actually had the loyalty to wear his Jason Giambi jersey to Fenway, but it wasn’t even the correct format as it had both the number and the name blazoning the back. We were in section 13, part of the rather sedate right field grandstand, so he and his girlfriend sat through the night relatively unscathed. One of my crew did comment loudly that Real Yankee Jerseys are pure with just the number, and how odd it is that one of their True Fans did not even bother to wear something more genuine.

It made perfect sense to me: an inauthentic garment worn in honor of an artificially-enhanced player. Whether or not Giambi was, is, or ever will be a True Yankee is an argument for the minons at NYYFans. Such theological debates rage at that site, along with questions like, “How many relief pitchers dance in the dead of the bullpen?”

Joe Torre burned through six relief workers for the win since Chien-Ming Wang lasted five and a two-thirds innings. The David Oritz/Mike Myers match-up finally played out as Torre hoped with the designated hitter’s strikeout to draw an close to the sixth. With a six-run lead, Mariano Rivera took the mound. That scent you detected wafting from the Fens was not dirty water or Fenway Franks but Yankee desperation.

Wang out-dueled Tim Wakefield in innings and performance. The Red Sox starter went just three and two-thirds and yielded eight earned runs, six walks, and one hit batsman. Batterymate Doug Mirabelli had two passed balls, looking more like his Yankee counterpart than his sure-handed self. Terry Francona used just four relievers in the rout, and his best arms are rested and ready for the rest of the series.

What is a Yankees/Red Sox game without controversy? Maybe Alex Rodriguez’s shout out in Toronto lit a fire under his team (or at least that is what his autobiography will say). Torre was ejected in the fifth inning for disputing the call on Bobby Abreu’s attempted swipe of third with Johnny Damon at the dish. The Yankee field manager had waited until Damon completed his at bat, Derek Jeter singled, and Kyle Snyder finished his warm-up pitches to tangle with third base umpire Jerry Crawford.

How futile is it to argue a play after two at bats had transpired? As futile as this season is proving to be for the Yankees.

Mike Lowell left the game in the fifth because of being struck on the hand by Wang’s pitch in the third. He was the only player of the five batters hit by pitches to have to depart. More Yankees (Josh Phelps by Wakefield, Rodriguez by Snyder, and Robinson Cano by Javier Lopez) than Red Sox (Lowell and Kevin Youkilis by Scott Proctor) were drilled, but Proctor’s beanball to the Boston corner infielder was higher than it needed to be. The Rawlings lobotomy prompted the dugouts to empty and the bullpens to clear.

Clearly the only way Proctor gets any rest is through suspensions and headhunting. Enjoy your rounds of golf gained by buzzing hot-hitting Youkilis’s goatee.

The spectators were galvanized for the series opener, booing the star Yankees lustily in the early innings. Rodriguez was greeted by a coterie of blond mask-wearing fans for each of his at bats. The third baseman gloved a J.D. pop out to kill the second inning. As he retreated to the dugout, Rodriguez tossed the ball to jeering fans. Seconds later the ball was thrown back on to the field much to everyone’s enjoyment. Cano’s souvenir suffered the same fate.

My friend distorted my “Joslyn” mantra (said to the tune of “Daryl”) to “Josh Phelps.” He wanted the utility man to just as despised as his teammates.

Red Sox devotees left the game defeated by not despondent; Yankee followers exited victorious but not confident.

“Wait ’til next year.”

Note: I’m a bit behind in preparing my photos from recent games for the site, but I’m working on getting them posted throughout the weekend.

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