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Home » June 2007 Game CommentsJune 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.


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