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Home » July 2007 Game CommentsJuly 2007 » Ēsu [エース]

Ēsu [エース]

Game 82: July 3, 2007
Devil Rays 1 L: Scott Kazmir (5-5) 33-49, 9 game losing streak
8-15-4 series record
WinRed Sox 4 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (10-5) 51-31, 2 game winning streak
18-7-3 series record
Highlights: When romanized, the “e” in a Japanese word is pronounced with the long “a” sound, as in neighbor and weigh. A macron over a letter indicates stretching the sound one syllable longer. Therefore, ēsu sounds like the English word it was derived from, “ace.” Loanwords like this one are written in katakana, the more angular syllabary that is also used for emphasis and foreign names. On pace for 20 wins, it’s not a stretch to use the term to describe Matsuzaka.

Just over halfway through the season and the Red Sox clashed against the Devil Rays at last. Where have they been all season? This is exactly the type of team Boston should face to further build their lead in the AL East. To wit:

  • The Devil Rays hill staff have the worst ERA in the majors at 5.59. It has accumulated more strikeouts than any other AL team with 588 but are also fourth in the AL for bases on balls, trailing their cellar mates Texas, Baltimore, and New York.
  • That strikeout tendency carries over to the other side of the plate; their bashers lead the AL with 645 whiffs and are fifth in walks drawn with just 251. For comparison’s sake, the Red Sox have struck out 493 times and lead the AL in bases on balls with 346.

Boston gave their rookie starter an early lead by capitalizing on Scott Kazmir’s lack of control. Kazmir looked more the greenhorn as he dolled out free passes to Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Lowell to commence the bottom half of the second. Then Jason Varitek eked a single run with a ground ball bobbled by the versatile but ham-handed Ty Wigginton and Wily Mo Peña struck out spectating; he was by far the inferior Peña last night.

The scene was too reminiscent of the many squanders strewn throughout Matsuzaka’s starts. That Julio Lugo’s spot came up in this spot was doubly discouraging.

But then the Fenway crowd did something surprising and uncharacteristic. Rather than jeer they lustily chanted for the slumping shortstop. “Let’s go, Lugo!” sounded through the green as he entered the batter’s box with two on and two out.

Whether it was the cheers, regression to the mean, the desire to show up his former team, or some mystic combination of any of the above, Lugo came through with a sharp grounder up the gut to plate two runs.

The drought was broken and Matsuzaka cracked open the sky with a storm of strikeouts.

A team such as the Devil Rays was putty in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s varied pitch grips, from the four-seamer to the curve. The K-Men had to commandeer a post to commemorate the starter’s punch out of Akinori Iwamura in the eighth, bookending the first at bat of the game in which Iwamura was called out on strikes and showed up home plate umpire Paul Nauert.

Dissecting Akinori Iwaumura’s name, iwa [岩] means boulder, rock, or cliff and mura [村] denotes village or town. For his given name, aki [明] symbolizes bright or light and nori [憲] means law or constitution. Despite the name, it’s not bright to question the judgment of the officiating crew, even if they do prematurely and incorrectly make the call to the bullpen as they did in the sixth inning. The shlamozzle Jason Hammel took it in stride, jogging back to the pen and tipping his cap to the delight of the fans.

Tampa Bay fans.... Let’s try that again. That one Devil Ray fan that heckles loudly at Tropicana Field has so little to enjoy that the emergence of Carlos Peña has been a revelation. His home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth sidled past Pesky’s Pole to end the shutout. The first baseman was even cheered as he rounded the bases because of his connection to Northeastern University. Peña’s success with the Devil Rays calls into question the Red Sox front office’s handling of him, but ultimately Eric Hinske’s versatility balances out lesser production.

Papelbon probably didn’t appreciate the vacillation of the fans, but he can just download “Gyro Ball,” the first single from Music from the Mound, from iTunes and drown out the sound.

Photo courtesy AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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