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Home » Monthly Archive » August 2007

August 31, 2007

Myth Information

Most of my exposure to Norse myths comes from a few chapters in Bulfinch’s Mythology vaguely remembered and allusions in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. I studied for a semester in Denmark and I enjoy many aspects of Scandinavian folklore and fairy tales, but their mythology was confusing to one weaned on the Greek and Roman pantheons. Frankly, Snorri left me snoring.

So, the mythic implications of the squirrel on the foul pole in the first game of the series eluded me, but Teddy Kidder of the New York Times provided a toothsome tidbit on the incident.

Believe it or not, the squirrel’s actions closely resembled those of Ratatosk, or “gnawing tooth,” a squirrel in Norse mythology that climbed up and down a tree that represented the world. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic scholar and poet, recorded the story in his 13th-century work “Prose Edda.”


Game 134: August 30, 2007
Red Sox 0 L: Curt Schilling (8-6) 80-54, 3 game losing streak
27-12-5 series record
WinYankees 5 W: Chien-Ming Wang (16-6)
H: Joba Chamberlain (5)
75-59, 3 game winning streak
22-19-2 series record
Highlights: Yesterday the Red Sox had one more hit than Tom Tom Club. Not a summer goes by when I don’t blast “Genius of Love” at least once a week. Who needs to think when your feet just go?

Who would have ever thought I would be thankful for being trapped in an all-day meeting without access to television, radio, or the interweb? I did, however, have a friend text me updates on yesterday’s game.

That made a day of tedium all the more dreary.

It was a rough day at the office for the Red Sox. A day after one of the boss’s boss got on their boss for his wardrobe the team’s in box was overrun with interdepartmental memos:

  • Mike: Bang up job on that 7 o’clock presentation. Can you put together some lessons learned slides & present to the team at some point before September 14?
  • Curt, see me re: heater issues ASAP. — John
  • Mr. Francona: I did a check on rule 7.08 as requested. You may have a case as the rule states, “ (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball.” Youkilis seemed to be within three feet of the base line after the attempted tag; that he trod on the infield grass is immaterial. Youkilis was also clearly avoiding interference. (Still working on your other request regarding required attire for field managers.) CC: Kevin Youkilis
  • To All Employees: Please empty your mailboxes in a timely fashion. With recent events there has been an upsurge in outside mail. Mailroom Personnel would appreciate your assistance in reducing clutter.
  • Mr. Manny Ramirez: Following up on your question on whether your strained left oblique is covered by your plan. I have a call into the HMO and will get back to you as soon as I hear anything from them. As to your query on sick days remaining, that is a different department. I’ve forwarded that to the appropriate resource; please f/u with Christine on that issue. Thanks!

The next business trip takes them to Charm City. Crab cakes are far tastier than Manhattan clam chowder and Baltimore’s team has been amenable to our road show. I expect everyone to meet the deadlines on their deliverables in a more timely and consistent fashion than previously shown.

August 30, 2007


Game 133: August 29, 2007
Red Sox 3 L: Josh Beckett (16-6) 80-53, 2 game losing streak
27-12-5 series record
WinYankees 4 W: Roger Clemens (6-5)
H: Luis Vizcaino (10)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (13)
S: Mariano Rivera (22)
74-59, 2 game winning streak
22-19-2 series record
Highlights: David Ortiz’s shoulders are broad but they can only carry his team so far. He homered in the sixth to break up the no-hitter and shutout in one fell swoop. Kevin Youkilis shared the load with his two-run longball in the eighth, drawing the Red Sox within one run, but no others partook of the burden. Kudos to the Yankee fans for changing their “Boston sucks” mantra to “Red Sox suck.”

“The circle is now complete. When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the Master.”
— Darth Vader, Star Wars

Unlike Darth Vader, this time Josh Beckett did not capitulate to the dark side and strike down his idol, Roger Clemens. The wiser, calmer Beckett returned to the scene of his World Series triumph, his face less boyish and his approach more studied.

If only the lineup supporting him showed the same deliberation with their at bats. Against Clemens they compiled just two hits. There were some loud outs and at ’em balls, but seven times they grounded bootlessly to infielders.

The Yankees excised 13 hits from Beckett, a career high for him, but only converted that gaudy total to four runs. One baserunning mistake was particularly memorable as it involved redoubtable Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees third baseman rounded first too wide and retreated too late to the bag and was erased by a 7-4-3 relay. Hideki Matsui tripled past an ill-advised dive by Coco Crisp right after the blunder.

In the fifth Jason Varitek and Beckett miscommunicated on a three-foot grounder off the bat of Bobby Abreu, permitting a one on, one out scenario. Rodriguez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Rodriguez redeemed a run and himself in the seventh with a solo jack to left on an otherwise decent curveball off Beckett’s fingertips. This was, of course, the prelude to another redundant curtain call.

Terry Francona may have left his starter in a shade too long, stretching him to save the bullpen for....

For what exactly? Hideki Okajima warmed twice in Tuesday night’s tilt but never took the hill and the same routine played out last night. As it turned out, Javier Lopez didn’t record an out but Mike Timlin secured the final one and one-third inning flawlessly. The tactic was successful but puzzling nonetheless.

Often there is greater pleasure in denying your adversary his fondest desire rather than enjoying one’s favorable circumstance. Of course anyone would take one loss for a six-game lead in the division. Which is where the Red Sox are. Still.

August 29, 2007

Daida [代打]

Game 132: August 28, 2007
Red Sox 3 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-11) 80-52, 1 game losing streak
27-11-5 series record
WinYankees 5 W: Andy Pettitte (12-7)
H: Joba Chamberlain (4)
S: Mariano Rivera (21)
73-59, 1 game winning streak
21-19-2 series record
Highlights: In the second Manny Ramirez lined his 20th home run of the season into the right field stands. Ramirez didn’t play out the game due to back spasms and was replaced by Bobby Kielty in the seventh. Kielty was still ailing from his encounter with the bullpen wall at Fenway, however, so Eric Hinske was the daida (pinch hitter) for him in the eighth. The first symbol 代 means substitution and 打 can be found in many baseball terms as it symbolizes hit.

The Red Sox chipped away at the Yankee’s early lead in fits and starts. Although the visitors matched their opponents in hits they never topped them in the run tally.

The Yankee victory deceptively painted an encouraging picture for tens of thousands of deluded Bronx fans. I almost pity them; they showed up in droves, full of beer and bitterness, thinking that a single game will alter their team’s destiny and reverse the downward trajectory of the club’s record. Even before Dustin Pedroia lined out to Bobby Abreu (who completed the catch since it was no where near a wall) a resounding chant of “Boston sucks” echoed throughout Stade Fasciste.

I was never an advocate of the Red Sox equivalent. To me it was the embodiment of decades, even generations, of futility and discontent distilled into a rote phrase of feigned disdain.

After six years of barrenness, half a dozen seasons of being denied their God-given right to a World Championship, who can blame Yankee fans for laying claim to that dirge of empty words?

As to the game itself, Daisuke Matsuzaka was out of sorts from the first inning, as jittery as the squirrel descending the right field foul pole. Johnny Damon slashed a single into center and advanced into scoring position on a fielder’s choice. Fiddling with his cap after every batter, a tell of his anxiety, Matsuzaka walked Abreu and hit Alex Rodriguez to jam the bases. Not that the always relevant Andy Rooney would care to tell this Rodriguez apart from any other, but the Yankees third baseman has been hit by more pitches than any other batter in the American League.

That is about as unexpected as the predictable induction of Philip Hughes and Joba Chamberlain into Cooperstown by their besotted minions or the supererogatory curtain call by Damon.

Matsuzaka endured six and one-third innings on the mound, composing a line of six hits, five earned runs, three bases and balls, and two strikeouts. His early shakiness never completely subsided and the equally inconsistent strike zone called by home plate umpire Derryl Cousins also contributed to an uncharacteristically poor outing. The rookie righty succumbed to his tendency to surrender the gopher ball in the fifth and seventh innings; Derek Jeter and Damon both notched their ninth home runs of the 2007 season.

Without the short porch in right, neither Yankee nor Manny Ramirez would have added four-baggers last night. Pedroia could even poke a cheap home run to right there, if he bothered to go to the opposite field.

(Note: I’m a huge Pedroia proponent, but as this interview with his coach at Arizona State University Pat Murphy shows, the second baseman succeeds when you tell him he can’t do something rather than when one feeds him fulsome flattery. His rolling dive after Damon’s grounder showcased his rough and tumble approach to the game.)

In 51 plate appearances with a career line of .348 BA, .392 OBP, and .478 slugging against Andy Pettitte, Jason Varitek never launched a home run until the seventh inning of last night’s game. Had Damon played the Canon corner like Ramirez it probably wouldn’t have even been a homer.

That clout along with Ramirez’s home run and David Ortiz’s sacrifice fly in the third were the only glimpses of the Red Sox offensive that was so incendiary against the White Sox.

J.D. Drew was included in the lineup because of his previous success against Pettitte, but .429 BA, .467 OBP, and .929 slugging meant nothing as the right fielder came up empty with a whiff and a GIDP with runners on base in the fourth and sixth. He also struck out with two runners on in the eighth against supposed future Hall of Famer Chamberlain. Actual future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera banished the final Red Sox trio in order, according Yankee fans a flicker of hope despite the odds.

It’s creepily cloying when Yankee fans ape the underdog role for two reasons: they believe they are entitled to the championship every year and the fact that their current lot isn’t as bad as they portray it to be. Obliviously they cavort through their stadium, swathed in postiche hair-shirts, bemoaning their denied destiny.

August 26, 2007


Game 131: August 26, 2007
WinRed Sox 11 W: Julian Tavarez (7-9) 80-51, 4 game winning streak
27-11-5 series record
White Sox 1 L: Javier Vazquez (11-7) 56-74, 5 game losing streak
16-22-3 series record
Highlights: David Ortiz, Boston folk hero, is locked in. Launching his 24th homer, Ortiz’s legend grew and the game spiraled out of Vazquez’s grasp in the fifth. But another player captured the attention of fans: Bobby Kielty sparked the fifth inning rally with his bunt single and he also homered in the sixth. There should be Kielty player tees available at the Souvenir Store by the next homestand, in red, navy, and kelly green.

If I were the owner of the White Sox I would not be surprised if I received letters something like this:

Dear Mr. Reinsdorf,

I write this letter in hopes of having the money I paid for two tickets for the game played on Sunday, August 26, 2007 refunded.

In all my years of attending games at Comiskey Park (both old and new) and the Cell I have never witnessed such a lackluster display of baseball by the home team. Even during the LaRussa and Fregosi years you’d have guys laying their hearts on the field despite losing records.

Now there’s players like A.J. Pierzynski just mailing it in. He failed to run out a grounder in the seventh inning and then had the nerve to get in his hitting coach’s face when called on it. He ended the game waving twice after taking one pitch for a strike.

I guess A.J. was in a rush to get out of the park and dodge all the fans who had voted him into the All-Star Game in 2006.

When I purchase a ticket to a Major League game I expect a certain caliber of performance. Ozzie Guillen’s amateur hour had rookie third baseman Josh Fields making is his first career start in left.

Why is Guillen tinkering with the defensive alignment by using a player who is already squirrelly in his own position in another spot on the field with which he is even less familiar? Is Guillen trying to be the Dusty Baker of position players?

Of course the tactic led to Fields butchering Ortiz’s fly ball in the ninth. End result: two bases and two more runs.

I was also unable to purchase hot dogs in the fifth inning. Not that it mattered as the team’s play had already made me lose my appetite. I doubt I could have held anything down.

Also, it was nice of Ken Williams to grant Mike Myers the opportunity to play his last season on a team he grew up with. If my ticket money was to be used to purchase a retirement gift to Myers, please keep the funds but send along my well wishes for Mr. Myers in his golden years.

Best Regards,

[Name censored to protect abashed]


Game 130: August 25, 2007
WinRed Sox 14 W: Tim Wakefield (16-10) 79-51, 3 game winning streak
27-11-5 series record
White Sox 2 L: Mark Buehrle (9-9) 56-73, 4 game losing streak
16-22-3 series record
Highlights: In yet another encouraging blowout, Red Sox batters scored two touchdowns not with the longball but rather with a relentless torrent of singles and doubles. The White Sox did not help their cause by dolling out ten free passes. Boston has batted around 35 times in 2007.

Bobby Kielty, the new guy, got stuck with reading the lineups. As a recent addition he doesn’t even know everyone’s nicknames and probably no one has given him any endearing sobriquet. He recited the lineup rather blandly, like how new hires in meetings act obsequiously and inoffensively. “Read the lineups for today? Right away, Mr. Vasgersian.”

But even Kielty wouldn’t play the toady to former Yankee Joe Girardi, who seemed oblivious to the fact he was on the Fox national broadcast, not his usual YES gig, yesterday.

The first thing Girardi brought up was Chicago’s sweep of the Red Sox in the ALDS two years ago. Although I alluded to 2005, it was more to demonstrate how far the White Sox have fallen. Girardi cited the series as proof that the South Siders win when it counts. At one point he talked about the rowdy home crowds at Fenway and attributed it to the large number of colleges in the area.

The fact that college students leave Boston in the summer eluded Girardi.

When Kielty just missed a home run in the eighth, Girardi’s take on the play was that rookie center fielder Jerry Owens just missed a great play.

Girardi also insisted on calling players known to him by their diminutives; it was always “Mikey Lowell,” never “Mike Lowell.” Aside from the fact that Lowell looks about 50 years old, the usage shattered any semblance of objectivity.

Oh, right. It is Fox. My expectations should be lower.

One of my all-time favorite sound clips did happen on Fox, however. Lou Piniella, while between managing gigs, provided color commentary along with Tim McCarver and called him Timmy.

Our Tim, Tim Wakefield, will never win the Cy Young. The last time he received votes for the award was in 1995, the first year he won 16 games. Since then he’s had seven seasons with ten or more wins. He’s weathered four managers to break in a fifth and witnessed an ownership change. And still he is viewed askance by the Cy Young voting establishment. He is portrayed as a quaint anachronism, someone nice to have around to remind us of simpler times.

But conventional pitching, quite simply, shreds the human anatomy. It is a repeated act of abuse played over thousands of times over every fifth day. For traditional pitchers, tendons tear, muscles rip, cartilage frays. Meanwhile, Wakefield, age 41, floats on. He’s nice to have around because he wins.

The Red Sox recognize the value of this brand of pitcher. Charlie Zink and John Barnes, two minor league butterfly ball twirlers, have bounced between Double and Triple A while honing their craft.

The only runs Chicago managed to put on the board came off Kyle Snyder in the eighth. “Pauly” Konerko knocked out a two-run four-bagger.

Trotting out Javier Lopez in the ninth to close out the game was a bit of a taunt. The White Sox bullpen is in havoc and David Riske, whom Ken Williams received in return for Lopez, is long gone from his roster.

Much is made of Theo Epstein’s inability to construct a relief corps, but Williams’s attempt has seen decidedly worse results this year. Like the path of the trajectory of the knuckleball, middle relief effectiveness is as unpredictable.

August 25, 2007


Game 129: August 24, 2007
WinRed Sox 10 W: Curt Schilling (8-5) 78-51, 2 game winning streak
26-11-5 series record
White Sox 1 L: John Danks (6-12) 56-72, 3 game losing streak
16-21-3 series record
Highlights: The lineup continued their barrage in the night game. David Ortiz led the charge with two homers. Kevin Youkilis also homered, showing reinvigorated prowess after a few weeks of futility.

The second game featured a December-May pitching match-up of crusty veteran against the much-lauded but still unproven rookie.

The number one song when Curt Schilling was born on November 14, 1966 was “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes and The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton was flying off the shelves. When John Danks was born on April 15, 1985? “One More Night” by Phil Collins. That week the New York Times fiction bestseller was Family Album by Danielle Steel while Lee Iacocca’s autobiography headed the nonfiction list.

Danks was three years old when Schilling made his major league debut on September 7, 1988. The top song of the time, appropriately enough, was “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ’n Roses, Tom Clancy’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin was the top fiction book, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time headed nonfiction works, just edging out Trump’s autobiography. On Danks’s debut, AKON’s “Don’t Matter” topped the charts; an appropriate theme song for the White Sox this season.

Age came before beauty, if youth of its own virtue is considered comely. Schilling lasted his requisite six innings, giving up just a solo shot to Juan Uribe in the second inning while walking one and striking out three. The Grinders lineup did nothing of the sort, mustering just three hits total. Neither side seemed to get the better of the other, the contest was as bland as bologna on white bread despite the deployment of fireworks for the home team’s circuit shot.

As a minor leaguer Danks’s name is well-known on top prospect lists. Major league reality is has proved harsh on the tender lefty. His ERA is verging on six (5.51) and he half as many wins as losses (6-12). He has had eight quality starts, but three of them were losses and two ended in no decisions.

In addition to the three four-baggers, four Boston hitters notched doubles, including backup catcher Kevin Cash. He profited on the host’s poor pitching in the fourth by knocking in a single and his first run as a Red Sox player; Cash also doubled in the eighth.

Games against a team like the White Sox should always be this dull. These are the potboilers that pad the division lead, just in time for another foray to Stade Fasciste.


Game 128: August 24, 2007
WinRed Sox 11 W: Josh Beckett (16-5)
H: Javier Lopez (10)
H: Hideki Okajima (24)
77-51, 1 game winning streak
26-11-5 series record
White Sox 3 L: Jon Garland (8-10) 56-71, 2 game losing streak
16-21-3 series record
Highlights: Beckett racked up another win, a statistic impressive when reeling out Cy Young criteria but one that belies the fact that this was not one of his better games. The batters picked up their starter by combining for 15 hits, three doubles, and one home run. All the more surprising is that Beckett’s sub-par outing came against one of the worst teams in baseball. Two seasons removed from their championship the White Sox have plummeted to last place in the AL Central. Who would have thought a club that so recently won it all would be vying for last place with the lowly Royals?

Even more than Red Sox fans, the adherents to South Siders are plagued with an inferiority complex. The source of their consternation is eleven miles to the north and not even in the same league (literally and figuratively, at least this year) as them. The White Sox were never redolent in the romance that swathes the crosstown Cubbies. Instead they were the stepchildren of the City of the Big Shoulders, jostled into the background in the family portrait of Chicago sports.

Cws1919logoPenance for 1919 has long been paid, mostly by “Shoeless” Joseph Jefferson Jackson’s lifetime on baseball’s banned list. Given the atmosphere of baseball in that era, Jackson can well be seen as collateral damage in Kennesaw Mountain Landis’s crusade to rid baseball of gambling.

The two Sox organizations share more than similarities in name. Allan Wood chronicled the Red Sox’s 1918 championship and presents some evidence that this series was also fixed. But the resolution of the Great War and the ravages of a flu pandemic distracted Americans from sports, so that championship series escaped scrutiny.

Joe JacksonIf World War I had ended a year earlier, it could have been Babe Ruth running a liquor shop (and undoubtedly drinking down the profits) in Greenville, South Carolina in his golden years, not Jackson. Maybe kids would be playing in Shoeless Joe Jackson League baseball and you would see his plaque in Cooperstown.

As much as I appreciate the loyalty of Chicago’s senior circuit club, exploring the web sites of White Sox followers was eye-opening, fascinating. I believe on this very site I had criticized these fans based solely on a single visit to U.S. Cellular Field. These fans have an upstart quality to them that reminds me of Red Sox devotees and many of them back it up with extensive knowledge of their team’s history.

The 1919 Black Sox site is a multimedia recounting of that infamous year. Not only does it transport visitors to that era, it also compares the scourges of gambling and steroids.

White Sox Interactive states it is “totally biased,” but what true fan isn’t? Current quandaries are discussed in its fan forums and WSI Extras chronicles previous seasons in prose and sound. I will always be envious of this club’s fight songs, especially “Let’s Go Go Go White Sox!” by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers. “Brass Bonanza” and “Sweet Caroline” just don’t compare.

Not that the Red Sox don’t inspire music. According to Remy and Orsillo, Hideki Okajima has a theme song that will be played when he next takes the mound at Fenway. Entitled “Okajima’s Okey Dokey,” it can’t be any worse than “Gyroball.” One endorsement is that the ditty inspired dancing in the clubhouse during the rain delay, whereas as the only thing Daisuke Matsuzaka’s song has prompted is turning down the volume.

How do I know how silly a song about a non-existent pitch is? Because I bought it, just like any blinded fanatic would. USA Today captured this zealotry in a recent feature which highlighted the fact that the Red Sox possess a hegemony on road attendance, a dominance they wrested from the Yankees. Everywhere Boston goes, the nation follows.

Just ask the Bobbledesk Kids.

Chicago White Sox logo from 1919 courtesy of Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos. Shoeless Joe in front of his Greenville liquor store ca. 1940 courtesy of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Virtual Hall of Fame.

August 23, 2007

Shiai [試合]

Game 127: August 22, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-10) 76-51, 1 game losing streak
26-11-5 series record
WinDevil Rays 2 W: Edwin Jackson (4-13)
H: Dan Wheeler (10)
H: Gary Glover (7)
S: Al Reyes (19)
48-78, 1 game winning streak
10-26-5 series record
Highlights: Matsuzaka dropped his tenth game but it wasn’t due to lack of effort on his part. He went six strong with eight strikeouts; he gave up only two hits and four walks, but one of the hits was a homer off the bat of B.J. Upton with Carlos Peña at first thanks to a free pass. Meanwhile, Boston batters left 14 batters on base in this shiai [試合, the Japanese word for game]. The first symbol means test, try, attempt, experiment, or ordeal; the second stands for join and meeting and is also a counter suffix for covered containers and battles. It certainly was an ordeal requiring the imbibing of the contents of several covered containers.

Raymond zooming a remote control car about the field with a plush replica of himself taking a Jerry Remy bobble head hostage. The entire game should have been played with remote control cars.

The infielders would have little baskets on the front fender that could move from side to side while the outfielders could have maneuverable nets on the top.

The pitcher RC car would have a spring loaded widget on the top to deliver pitches and the batter car could have a similar mechanism but with bat device to make contact.

RC Raceball™, coming soon to Tropicana! This would be the only way RC enthusiast Craig Hansen could currently contribute to the Red Sox.

Proxies for real players would have been preferable, especially with Dustin Pedroia getting drilled in the left elbow and Eric Hinske due to a muscle cramp in his right leg.

Boston had a poor showing at the dish and Jason Varitek in particular highlighted the team’s futility. He grounded to first the end the third with a runner on and struck out to kill potential rallies in the fifth and seventh innings with two runners on.

B.J. Upton not only logged the winning runs but also hosed David Ortiz at home in the fifth. DeMarlo Hale was perhaps a bit too hale in his estimation of Ortiz’s speed, but it’s easy to be deceived given that the designated hitter proved his velocity the night before with his first triple of the season.

A scrap of solace could be found in the performance of two of the more questionable bullpen arms. Mike Timlin and Eric Gagne held the home team scoreless in their respective innings. Timlin worked out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh and punched out Upton to end the frame with a flourish.

August 22, 2007


Game 126: August 21, 2007
WinRed Sox 8 W: Jon Lester (2-0)
H: Manny Delcarmen (7)
H: Hideki Okajima (23)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
76-50, 2 game winning streak
26-11-5 series record
Devil Rays 6 L: Andy Sonnanstine (2-9) 47-78, 2 game losing streak
10-26-5 series record
Highlights: I rarely delight in the suffering of others unless it is truly deserved, so observing carnage visited upon the Yankees in California was exquisitely satisfying. A tip of the hat to Garret Anderson, who up until his 10-RBI detonation last night was doing his best Bernie Williams ca. 2006 impersonation. I wish I could buy David Ortiz’s Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG and present it to Anderson. The West Coast combustion and Raymond assailing Remy and Orsillo with all manner of weaponry (Silly String, a plush rat on a string, baseballs) made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The Wily Mo Peña three-way trade was finalized yesterday. Chris Carter did indeed get traded to the Nationals (for right-handed pitcher Emiliano Fruto) who then flipped the left-handed first baseman to the Red Sox. Carter was assigned to the Pawtucket Red Sox and will likely get called up when rosters expand.

This trade aided me greatly in the addictive franchise league I’ve written about. I’m the general manager of the Diamondbacks, so week after week I’d watch Carter crush the ball for the Tucson Sidewinders and patiently wait for him to be moved so that he would have a chance to emerge from under the shadow of Conor Jackson. (If anyone is interested in lurking on the league’s site, e-mail me and I can issue a guest account.)

I think the real-life Diamondbacks did right by him as he’ll be moving from one division leader to another. Carter produced at all levels, maintaining his power with an acceptable K/BB rate. There are questions about his defensive ability and he isn’t as flexible a bench player as Eric Hinske, but Hinske’s ceiling has likely been seen while Carter’s has not yet been glimpsed.

Once again the Red Sox secured a win against a team they should get the better of, but unlike the series opener the Devil Rays made a game of it.

Jon Lester is the smartest pitcher in the majors not because of his vast knowledge or intensive preparation but because he found a way to get out of meetings. In the pre-game show John Farrell talked about how Lester overemphasized the minutiae of hitters rather than pitching his own game. So, Lester was told he didn’t have to attend pitchers’ meetings.

Coming soon, a motivational and business management book by Lester on how he survived cancer and then broke out of the everyday doldrums of professional life.

He would go on a speaking tour with Carlos Peña, another player who overcame odds to become a productive major leaguer and also had a book to sell. They’d replay a clip of Lester relinquishing the two-run homer in the first. “Sure, Carlos got his knocks off me back when we were young,” Lester would boom from behind the podium, carrying more of a paunch but a few less hairs, to a gathering of white collar workers seeking inspiration. “But does he have one of these?” Lester would ask as he raised his fist to show a championship ring.

Jonathan Papelbon would join them when he wasn’t hunting moose and describe how he was the first Red Sox player to notch 30 saves in multiple seasons with Boston thanks to his slutter, a cross between a slider and a cut fastball.

“But enough of Pap’s night life,” Lester would break in.

August 21, 2007


Game 125: August 20, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Tim Wakefield (15-10) 75-50, 1 game winning streak
25-11-5 series record
Devil Rays 0 L: Scott Kazmir (9-8) 47-77, 1 game losing streak
10-25-5 series record
Highlights: Mike Lowell reached base each of the four times he got in the box; the third baseman walked twice, doubled, and homered. The Red Sox improved to 11-5 in shutout games.

I’m not going to go overboard in ooh-ing and ahh-ing the Red Sox’s performance against the Devil Rays because Tampa Bay is a team that will lose much more often than win. Even with ace Scott Kazmir tallying eight whiffs the visitors hit early and often to put away the game. The charge was led by Mike Lowell and Manny Ramirez who combined for five RBIs.

The early lead had the Tampa Bay batters even more impatient than usual. Jitters at the dish when facing a knuckleballer does not a good combination make for the home team. The audio onslaught of cowbells and the Tropicana Heckler combined could not will runs.

Tim Wakefield clocked in with a workman-like seven innings with four hits, a solo walk, and five strikeouts. Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin ended the shift with perfect identical innings with one punchout apiece.

Most of the notable action happened before the game and in the booth.

Raymond riffed on Coco Crisp’s encounter with the Mariner Moose by brandishing a fan-made “Coco Crossing” sign during the pregame.

Don and Jerry were accosted by a rodent from the fourth inning. With a substantial Red Sox lead, the mouse (or rat, according to Orsillo) became the story for the evening. Some may be annoyed by the pair’s diversions, but for me it’s a sign of a relaxing jaunt over another team’s home field.

These games in Florida take on the lackadaisical attitude of the organization. Delmon Young’s languid pursuit of Crisp’s fly ball near the right field line in the second inning is the epitome of his club’s bearing. He drifted toward the ball insouciantly. It clipped the tip of his glove before nicking the line and bounding into the stands for a ground-rule double

As is usually the case in Tampa, baseball wasn’t the true spectacle.

August 20, 2007


Game 124: August 19, 2007
WinAngels 3 W: Joe Saunders (7-1)
H: Justin Speier (15)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (31)
72-51, 1 game winning streak
22-13-5 series record
Red Sox 1 L: Julian Tavarez (6-9) 74-50, 1 game losing streak
25-11-5 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox are now 1-1 when wearing the alternate red jerseys. Saunders is undefeated this season against Boston, whose batters scraped together a single run only after relievers took the hill. In turn, the Angels only produced two runs against a spot starter. The cameraman for the jumbotron, Keith Packry (?) demonstrated more fielding prowess in the fifth than Wily Mo Peña did in 157 games.

Who would have expected a pitchers’ duel on Sunday? The home team had swingman Julian Tavarez starting while the visitors glided in under the auspices of Joe Saunders. Just 12 days prior Saunders held on for a win against the Red Sox in Anaheim because of a potent offensive outburst.

Familiarity did not breed contempt as Boston batters conscripted six hits against the opposing starter. Not one of those strokes were for extra bases, although Mike Lowell’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth with two on and two out rattled the scoreboard in left to shatter the shutout.

Kevin Cash made his Red Sox debut as the backup backstop and went 0-for-3. His last MLB appearance was on July 19, 2005 against the Red Sox at Fenway, so the lack of success can be attributed to a touch of rust. By the seventh the rhythm of the game infused him and he caught Maicer Izturis attempting to swipe second. He couldn’t anticipate Kyle Snyder’s wild pitch to Robb Quinlan, however, and Kotchman crossed home to take back the run stolen from him.

Bobby Kielty had more of an impact in the game than Cash, literally and figuratively. The outfielder collided against the right field wall to rob Casey Kotchman of a homer in the first. His reaction was so subdued it was difficult to tell if he had made the out or not. Kielty was so winded by the impact he didn’t raise his arms in triumph but remained hunched over while trying to regain his breath and was still restrained as he ambled toward the dugout.

The former Minnesota, Toronto, and Oakland player was born and raised in California but his father is a product of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Perhaps he has finally found a home in his father’s former stomping ground. He seemed at ease despite the press of fans’ expectations; he was the first Red Sox player to notch a hit in the game and ended with a 2-for-3 showing.

If the playoffs include a go-around between these two teams, expect the atmosphere to be even more tense than usual. Orlando Cabrera stepped toward the mound after Julian Tavarez grazed his uniform with a pitch inside in the third inning. The dugouts emptied but there wasn’t anything resembling a scuffle let alone a full-fledged donnybrook.

In the post-game press conference Tavarez did say he didn’t appreciate Cabrera looking in pilfer signs between the catcher and pitcher and told him such. Cabrera thought the inside pitch was retaliation for his chicanery.

We all know the truth: Vladimir isn’t as cuddly as Manny Ramirez and Cabrera still pines for the daily dose of Manny Love that Tavarez receives.

August 19, 2007


Game 123: August 18, 2007
Angels 5 L: Jered Weaver (8-6) 71-51, 1 game losing streak
22-13-4 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Curt Schilling (7-5)
H: Mike Timlin (6)
H: Hideki Okajima (22)
74-49, 1 game winning streak
25-11-4 series record
Highlights: Schilling has yet to put together consecutive quality starts since his return from the disabled list. He lasted six innings but surrendered two homers; a cheapie to Chone Figgins in the second and a more costly souvenir to Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth. David Ortiz had Schilling’s back, though: Papi blasted a grand slam in the fifth to grant his team the lead. J.D. Drew hit his 1,000th hit in the same inning.

David Ortiz has launched more monstrous homers in his career. He has delivered in more dramatic circumstances and he has hit farther, but last night’s jackpot shot was a perfect balance of both. Hit Tracker has yet to plot the distance for the moonshot, perhaps because the force of the swing knocked the requisite surveillance equipment off kilter.

Theo Epstein made an appearance in the fourth inning to promote the Third Annual Hot Stove, Cool Music: The Fenway Park Sessions, which is happening this Friday, August 24. The Wily Mo Peña trade was lightly touched upon but no further light was shed on the player to be named later in the return. In the Boston Globe Gordon Edes stood pat in his on-air assertion that Chris Carter of the Diamondbacks organization is the PTBNL.

In addition to Jim Bowden’s fascination with Peña (he traded for the slugger when he was GM for the Reds), the connections between the Arizona, Boston, and Washington front offices may have helped in constructing a rather Byzantine waiver deal. The general manager of the Diamondbacks is former Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes and the current assistant GM of the Nationals is the former Arizona vice president of scouting.

If the Red Sox can complement their farm’s weaknesses in a symbiotic way with both the Padres and Diamondbacks, Epstein’s vision of building continually contending teams may come to fruition.

Carter has been blocked from contributing on a major league roster by Conor Jackson. Mouldering in the Tucson Sidewinder lineup for two years now, this season Carter has amassed a line of .327 BA, .386 OBP, and .527 slugging. To be sure this is in the offense-bolstering Pacific Coast League and Carter’s home and away splits show his production is somewhat bolstered by Tucson Electric Park, but Fenway isn’t exactly a pitcher’s haven, either.

Twice in the game shattered bats allowed base hits. While playing third Kevin Youkilis evaded the remnants of Vladimir Guerrero’s lumber on a single that advanced Orland Cabrera to third. Cabrera went on to score the first run of the game.

Jered Weaver couldn’t cover first on Eric Hinske’s splinter single to the right part of the infield in the fifth because of airborne shards. Hinske would come around to score on Julio Lugo’s gutshot single and later in the inning Lugo was part of David Ortiz’s salami sandwich (now available at D’Angelo).

Special mention should be made of Coco Crisp. His double in the fifth was part of the pivotal rally and he played impeccable defense in center. Unfortunately he is up against the likes of Grady Sizemore, Torii Hunter, and Ichiro Suzuki, so he may never get official recognition of his achievements with the glove. But Boston fans will always show him love for his glove.

August 18, 2007


Game 122: August 17, 2007
WinAngels 7 H: Justin Speier (14)
H: Scot Shields (27)
BS, W: Francisco Rodriguez (4, 5-2)
71-50, 1 game winning streak
22-13-4 series record
Red Sox 5 BS, L: Eric Gagne (3, 3-1) 73-49, 1 game losing streak
25-11-4 series record
Highlights: David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez doubled back-to-back to give their team the lead in the eighth.

Season 106: Episode 122

Radio Play-by-Play Voice: Joe Castiglione
Fan #1: Tina Fey
Fan #2: Fred Armisan
Fan #3: Amy Poehler
Debbie Downer: Rachel Dratch
Bob Bummer: Steve Carell
Eric Ennui: Eric Gagne

[Open on Debbie Downer and Bob Bummer in the bleachers behind the home bullpen at Fenway attending the night game of yesterday’s doubleheader]

Radio: Temperature today at Fenway is 78 degrees, wind out to right field at 17 miles per hour.

Fan #1: What a gorgeous summer day! A perfect day for baseball at Fenway.

Downer: All this wonderful weather we’re having is surely a sign of global warming. Just ask the polar bears as they slip off their melting icebergs. [Camera closes in on Debbie’s face with sound effect: wah wah]

Bummer: Yes, and since the polar bears can’t hunt their usual quarry the fur seal they have protein deficiency issues and therefore diminished immune response. [Camera closes in on Bob’s face with sound effect: bwom]

[Dissolve to jingle montage]

Jingle: You’re enjoying the game
The team’s full of acclaim
Then along comes Debbie Downer
She’s got a new boyfriend named Bob
Who’s just as bad at making you sob
You’ll beg them to spare you, “It’s not that big a prob!”
But you can’t stop Debbie Downer! [Zoom on Debbie and Bob’s sad faces]

Fan #3: Hey, that was pretty clever of Lowell to let that ball drop in the infield to try and get a double play.

Bummer: Amazing he can think on his toes given that I’m an insomniac from worrying about feline AIDS every evening. [Camera closes in on Bob’s face with sound effect: bwom]

Downer: It’s the number one killer of domestic cats.

[Eric Ennui pokes his head out of the bullpen]

Ennui: I keep telling my teammates that and they act like these deaths are meaningless! Well, then again, life is meaningless and when we die our existence and consciousness winks out of existence for all eternity and the struggles and triumphs we experience don’t survive us. [Camera closes in on Eric’s face with sound effect: cracking of the bat for a game-winning hit and crowd response of “Awwwww!”]

Fan #2: Hey, it’s that choker that blew the game against the Orioles a few nights ago! Boo! You suck, Gagne!

Jingle: The Red Sox were in the lead
Until Eric Gagne took the mound
To Francona you can only plead
Why go with someone batters pound
Like Eric Ennui [Zoom in on Eric’s sad face]

Fan #3: Don’t be such a downer like these guys. [Gestures to Debbie and Bob] See, look, we’re trailing 4-1 but Lugo just got on with a walk.

Downer: Yeah, but he did have two errors tonight and is seventh amongst major league shortstops in errors with 16. [Camera closes in on Debbie’s face with sound effect: wah wah]

Bummer: And there are those domestic abuse accusations that were [air quotes] “recanted” by his wife. [Camera closes in on Bob’s face with sound effect: bwom]

[General hubbub from the field and all the fans cheer boisterously except for Bob and Debbie]

Radio: In a remarkable turn of events the Red Sox have taken the lead in the bottom of the eighth! They scored four runs off Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez, two of the better bullpen arms in the American League. Consecutive walks by Lugo and Ellsbury, Pedroia single to jam the bases. Crisp pinch ran for Pedroia and Scioscia called for K-Rod. Wild pitch by the closer Rodriguez plates Lugo and the other runners advance. Ortiz and Ramirez both double and the home team wrests back the game; the score is now 5-4, Red Sox.

[Gagne warms]

Fan #3: Come on, Eric! Give ’em your best!

Fan#2: Yeah, here’s your chance. Don’t blow it!

Bummer: Hopefully you won’t rupture your biceps tendon or anything out there. [Camera closes in on Bob’s face with sound effect: bwom]

Downer: Or herniate your discs again. [Camera closes in on Debbie’s face with sound effect: wah wah]

[Dissolve to montage of Gagne blowing the lead in the top of the ninth]

[Camera closes in on Eric’s face with sound effect: cracking of the bat for a game-winning hit and crowd response of “Awwwww!”]


Game 121: August 17, 2007
Angels 4 L: John Lackey (15-7) 70-50, 1 game losing streak
22-13-4 series record
WinRed Sox 8 W: Clay Buchholz (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (21)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (29)
73-48, 1 game winning streak
25-11-4 series record
Highlights: In his major league debut Buchholz pitched six innings, struck out five, walked three, and gave up eight hits with three earned runs. Casey Kotchman hit the rookie well: he went 4-for-4 and was the only batter to tally extra base hits.

Clay Buchholz’s debut was similar to Philip Hughes’s; on April 26 the Yankees’ best pitching prospect’s line was 4 1/3 innings pitched, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. But Hughes was saddled with the loss while Buchholz won.

He could have unraveled when he allowed Chone Figgins to reach on a leadoff walk in the first. Bruce Froemming seemed to be squeezing the zone slightly to give Buchholz a taste of major league umpirical whimsy. The young righty could have allowed J.D. Drew’s subsequent flub of Vladimir Guerrero’s line drive to unnerve him as well, but the greenhorn buckled down. Although Garret Anderson’s ground out to first plated Figgins, Buchholz rebounded by striking out Gary Matthews, Jr. to end the inning.

The crowd particularly enjoyed that Matthews was the victim given the center fielder’s criticism of Red Sox fans.

The home team offense would surge in the bottom of the first to support Buchholz’s debut effort. Dustin Pedroia doubled and was driven in by David Ortiz’s long ball into the stands near the visitors’ bullpen.

John Lackey was surprisingly hittable given he leads his team in wins and is considered the staff ace. Manny Ramirez continued the onslaught with a single and Drew made penance with an RBI triple to center. Drew’s hit clanged off the wall and gave Reggie Willits fits as he stumbled after it in center.

Mike Lowell, Doug Mirabelli, and Alex Cora all got to Lackey and the Red Sox batted around for the 28th time this season. The rally cost Mirabelli’s services for 15 days, however, as the backup backstop strained his right calf and was pulled from the game.

Despite the simpletons I was sitting near early in the game, most of the crowd was engrossed by the game even though Boston led for the entire game. The audience collectively winced as Guerrero’s throw to third glanced off Kevin Youkilis’s face into the dugout in the fourth and murmured in amusement at Chirs Bootcheck’s balk in the fifth.

Hideki Okajima’s two-strikeout seventh set off an earthquake of support from the stands, the masses rumbling their approval as he mowed down the top of the order.

Okajima had more difficulty with the middle third of the order, departing in the eighth with two on and two out. Again the assemblage provided a groundswell of support for the succeeding pitcher.

Jonathan Papelbon closed out the eighth and returned for the final inning He allowed a single to Orlando Cabrera after striking out Willits and Figgins.

Power matched power with the Red Sox closer facing off against Guerrero. Papelbon did not shy away from hurling fastball upon fastball over the plate and, true to form, the former MVP swung to foul off pitch after pitch, his bat covering a vast arc around the plate. At last Guerrero straightened out an offering but the fly ball did not have enough force to carry it beyond the reach of Coco Crisp’s glove.

Would the Red Sox outdo themselves in the nightcap?

Clay Day

I snagged a standing room ticket but was able to sit in the loge seats on the third base side until the middle of the second. It was a good run considering the Red Sox scored six in the bottom of the first.

The caliber of fans in the row in front of me was poor. They came in the middle of the top of the first and as soon as they sat down they whipped out their mobile phones to call their friends and brag about where they were sitting.

“Where are we in the standings? Are we in first?” asked the guy wearing Prada sunglasses of the rest of his entourage. A few minutes later this same clueless clod spouted on about how he was in St. Louis for the final game of the World Series in 2004. His companions weren’t terribly impressed by this tidbit and I quelled the urge to ask him detailed questions about the goings-on.

“We’re like four and a half games back,” replied his pal, despite the standings board being just 50 feet away that clearly displayed “5 ½.”

At that point I knew I wouldn’t mind if I had to move, but lingered as long as I could. For the remainder of the game I was in Section 23, a much more enjoyable and knowledgeable area.

I never realized how large this sign was. I take a picture of the pitching match-up every game but usually frame it so people aren’t in it.

After warming up Clay Buchholz did the “I’m walking up and down stairs thing” to amuse the people on the opposite side of the wall from him.

Orlando Cabrera, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez hang out before the game.

There wasn’t even time to get a picture of Buchholz in a Boston Red Sox uniform for the jumbotron.


Buchholz approaches the mound.

He’s as thin as Bronson Arroyo or Casey Fossum. He needs Papi’s beans and rice recipe.

J.D. Drew chats with DeMarlo Hale after his first-inning triple.

Theo Epstein visits John Henry in his isolation chamber.

David Mellor’s latest creation.

Ortiz banters with Hale; the designated hitter wanted to be waved home on Drew’s second-inning single to center.

Jonathan Papelbon gives Eric Gagne some pointers. Apparently Gagne didn’t listen.

Buchholz draws back.

Had he not called out Boston fans, Gary Matthews, Jr. wouldn’t have been booed as much as he was.

This pigeon relieved itself on a fan, much like Gagne would in the night game.


Buchholz’s final line.

The victory high give line.

The final line score.

The Walpole Little League team won their game in dramatic fashion.

August 16, 2007

Claymation, Stop Mo-tion

The Wily Mo Peña Experiment, Boston phase, draws to a close. The erratic, brawny outfielder will likely be designated for assignment tomorrow morning to free a spot for the Red Sox’s best pitching prospect, Clay Buchholz. The Old Towne Team requires a starter for the day-night doubleheader on Friday and Julian Tavarez pitched in the closing game of the Devil Rays series.

The Hardball Times opined that Buchholz could supplant Jon Lester as the fifth starter with a superlative showing. Sox Prospects dubbed him a right-handed version of Cole Hamels. Baseball Prospectus ranked the pitcher number one in the Red Sox organization and gave him the “excellent” rating, the only one in the system to attain the label. He slid in at number two, just under Jacoby Ellsbury, in Baseball America’s list.

After Buchholz’s major league debut, which I just got a last-minute ticket for, the twirler will be recalled to Pawtucket. The corresponding move will have either the recently inked Bobby Kielty or Ellsbury summoned to bolster the bench.

Will it be something like July 31, 2005? Or perhaps June 10, 2006? If I had my druthers I’d take April 5, 2006 but with a touch more run support.

Buchholzpaw1The lineup for Buchholz’s Pawtucket debut.

Buchholzpaw2Buchholz gearing up to hurl a strike.

Karaburi [空振り]

Game 120: August 15, 2007
WinDevil Rays 6 W: Andy Sonnanstine (2-9)
H: Dan Wheeler (9)
S: Al Reyes (18)
46-74, 1 game winning streak
10-24-5 series record
Red Sox 5 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-9) 72-48, 1 game losing streak
25-11-4 series record
Highlights: With the tying run in scoring position three Boston batters went down swinging. In Japanese one would say karaburi [空振り]. The first ideogram 空 signifies empty or open; it’s the same symbol used for karaoke, or “empty orchestra” and karate, which means “open hand.” The second symbol 振 is the same kanji used in sanshin (strikeout), but in this case it is pronounced bu. The final character is hiragana for the mora ri.

After I graduated from college I soon regretted doing so. Mundane, routine reality began to wear away at my psyche. You really don’t know just how good you’ve got it until you have to enter the workforce.

Still, years after I had graduated, on the anniversaries of the time finals and term papers would have been due I would often wake up in a cold sweat. Panic seized my entire body as a cascade of indistinct thoughts clouded my frontal lobes: Did I oversleep? Where is my final for Japanese 302 scheduled? Is it all the away across campus in some building I don’t know my way around?

Fumbling around my desk, clawing at my mouse, anxiously clicking away into my folders, shuffling through my backpack for my class notes....

Except there is no backpack. No syllabi, no crib notes, no drafts of theses on my computer. Just emptiness.

The mind recalls those panicked moments and forces the body to react. Back in the days of hunting and gathering it was easy to work off the excess adrenaline just trying to seize some sort of victuals. But now the closest thing modern humans have today in acting out the flight or fight response are through watching or playing sports.

It’s a razor fine balance between using that adrenaline and letting it control you.

In the bottom of the ninth with victory a stone’s throw away, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Manny Ramirez lost that balance.

August 15, 2007


Game 119: August 14, 2007
Devil Rays 1 H: Gary Glover (6)
H: Dan Wheeler (8)
BS, L: Al Reyes (2, 1-2)
45-74, 3 game losing streak
10-24-5 series record
WinRed Sox 2 W: Eric Gagne (3-0) 72-47, 2 game winning streak
25-11-4 series record
Highlights: Of all people to get the win instead of Jon Lester it had to be Gagne?

Couldn’t an honorary win be granted to Lester instead? Or to Mike Lowell for his game-tying circuit clout into the Monster seats in the ninth? Jason Varitek for his ground-rule double over the wall in the right field’s curve and Coco Crisp for his game-winning liner into center both deserve consideration to be sure. And we wouldn’t even be talking about these offensive heroics without Mike Timlin tidying up the bases loaded mess Manny Delcarmen got himself into in the eighth.

But the “W” will hopefully buoy Eric Gagne’s flagging spirits. He did, after all, strike out the side in the top of the ninth. Just ignore Brendan Harris’s fly ball double and it was almost a return to form.

Jon Lester’s Fenway homecoming was powerful, riveting... all those puny words one uses to try and conjure emotion that you feel in the corners of your soul. To the television audience his every gesture seemed fraught with significance: the restrained hand pounds with the bullpen pitchers as they crossed paths, the warm, firm handshakes with the coaches, the hugs with teammates in the dugout. To Lester, however, it was the return to the norm, the resumption of his life as a major leaguer, that held the most meaning.

Not that fan appreciation didn’t inspire Lester. It elevated him high enough to snag Delmon Young’s comebacker in the seventh.

I installed and enabled high definition just in time for the game so perhaps I was merely enthralled by the novelty of seeing every pore on players’ faces, the stitching of the logos embroidered on their caps, and Pedroia’s dental work as the cameras documented the opened/closed mouth middle infielder sign system.

The Red Sox batters were equally entranced but their siren was Scott Kazmir’s delivery. They mustered just four hits over six innings and struck out eight times. Only Dustin Pedroia managed an extra base hit with his double in the first. In the third Manny Ramirez thought he could sneak to second since B.J. Upton fielded the left fielder’s liner and attempted to hose Mike Lowell at third.

Unfortunately for Ramirez, Akinori Iwamura quickly relayed the ball to the keystone bag into the waiting glove of Brendan Harris for the final out of the frame.

But that slip-up will fade from the memory, effaced by the walk-off win and the promise of future match-ups between these two outstanding young left-handed pitchers.

August 14, 2007


Game 118: August 13, 2007
Devil Rays 0 L: James Shields (9-8) 45-73, 2 game losing streak
10-23-5 series record
WinRed Sox 3 W: Tim Wakefield (14-10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (28)
71-47, 1 game winning streak
24-11-4 series record
Highlights: The last time the Red Sox were part of a shutout was July 25; they were on the receiving end against the Indians. This way is better.

David Mellor’s elaborate “B” in center field boded well for a team in need of the home field advantage. Fittingly the current Red Sox player the longest tenure, Tim Wakefield, was the lynch pin for a win in a series opener.

Wakefield knuckleball eluded the aimless bats of the young Devil Rays; six times they were dismissed from the box. Only Carl Crawford and Jonny Gomes managed to drop balls for hits across eight innings of work, and just three other visitors managed to reach base.

The Tampa Bay players may have been a bit peaked from their 5 AM arrival and abrupt awakening at 8 AM because of a fire alarm in their hotel room. (Thanks, helpful hotel workers who shall remain anonymous.)

Julio Lugo led off the game with a sharp line drive that ricocheted off James Shields’s arm and dribbled past Carlos Peña. Shields was slightly shaken but remained in the game for six innings.

David Ortiz drove in Lugo (who was just safe at home) with a fly ball to the deepest part of center field. To prove his strength, Ortiz pumped a few push-ups in the sixth after being knocked down by James Shields’s errant throw towards the knees.

Lugo had an RBI of his own in the seventh. His ground ball up the middle was so perfectly positioned that Doug Mirabelli managed to score from from second. Terry Francona was sure to compliment the backup backstop for taking the secondary lead that enabled the run to score. A good secondary lead for Mirabelli to have a stress-free traverse of home plate is standing two-thirds of the way to home from third base.

The consistent Mike Lowell continued to defy the naysayers who predicted a downturn after the All-Star break. He laced a one-out single into center to plate Manny Ramirez in the eighth.

Jonathan Papelbon provided the punctuation mark to yet another satisfying chapter in Wakefield’s dominance of Tampa Bay with a two-strikeout save.

The players don’t panic; why should we?

August 13, 2007


Game 117: August 12, 2007 ∙ 10 innings
Red Sox 3 H: Mike Timlin (5)
H: Hideki Okajima (20)
BS: Eric Gagne (2)
L: Kyle Snyder (2-3)
70-47, 1 game losing streak
24-11-4 series record
WinOrioles 6 W: Chad Bradford (1-4) 54-62, 1 game winning streak
16-20-2 series record
Highlights: Hindsight made Terry Francona look terrible. He pulled Okajima in the eighth with one out, one on, and Miguel Tejada in the box. In an inappreciable sample size of two at bats against Okajima the shortstop has made an out and jacked a home run. Against right-handed batters have a .221 BA and .263 slugging; compare this to .225 BA and .188 slugging versus lefties.

“The French can be annoying. Come to Greece. We’re nicer.”
— Crazy People

Eric Gagne is not actually French, but French Canadian is close enough. There are some, like the members of Parti Québécoise, who would like Quebec to be a separate country.

Gagne should lead a separatist movement that liberates him from the shackles of any semblance of responsibility in high-leverage bullpen situations.

Je me souviens, indeed. J’espère qu’il se souvienne à lancer. (Did I use the subjunctive correctly? I barely remember to use it correctly in English.)

With the margin between the Red Sox and the Yankees winnowed down to four games, the inevitable media onslaught begins. As I type this Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon just finished yelping about the AL East and distraught New Englanders.

“Despair” is not the word I’m resorting to, not yet. I’m not even to “worry.” Irked, flustered, peeved. In short, annoyed.

Vexed that whatever ineptitude propagated in Baltimore’s bullpen spread like a contagion into the Red Sox relief corps. Despite the two blown games in this series, however, Boston’s bullpen is still the best in the league in ERA.

David Ortiz is soldiering on despite the shoulder; he doubled in the second over Nick Markakis’s head (he’s Greek, so he’s nice). Ramirez wore out the same part of the field, lodging his ball under the padding in right for a two-run double.

But it was their old partner in crime Kevin Millar who would overpower them. With the aggressive eye black pattern he learned from fellow Red Sox castoff Trot Nixon, Millar deposited the fifth pitch he saw from Kyle Snyder into the left field seats with two men on for the walkoff win.

Hopefully this knocks the complacency of having had so sizable a lead for so long out of the Old Towne team. To be sure everyone says the right words about playing hard everyday no matter what the standings say, but when your nearest competition is trailing you by double digits it is easy to be content with one’s station.

If playing against Tampa Bay doesn’t rekindle their desire, “worry” may make an appearance here.

August 12, 2007


Game 116: August 11, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Josh Beckett (15-5)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (27)
70-46, 1 game winning streak
24-10-4 series record
Orioles 2 L: Garrett Olson (1-1) 53-62, 1 game losing streak
15-20-2 series record
Highlights: Beckett had Fox overuse the flame graphic and sound effect with his punishing 96 MPH and over heat. His fastball was harmonized by his devastating curveball to the tune of eight strikeouts over eight and two-thirds on the mound. The Cy Young candidate just missed throwing a complete game shutout.

Let it not be said that I would abandon a friend in the midst of a life-changing event because of baseball. Loyal to a fault, I had to forgo Futures at Fenway because of a wedding in Vermont. The date of the wedding was set after I had bought eight tickets for another set of friends.

After hearing drunken messages from my pals at Fenway after each game since both the Lowell Spinners and Portland Sea Dogs both had walk-off wins and given current divorces rates, I do admit a tinge of regret over my decision. Scores of minuscule but scrumptious crab cakes, pastry puffs stuffed with ground sausage, and grapes ensconced in goat cheese, finely chopped pistachios, and herbs seemed bland in comparison to my favorite nibble at Fenway, a kosher dog.

Not only did I miss the doubleheader but also Josh Beckett’s complete game shutout bid. Despite being broadcasted by Fox the game for once wasn’t marred by Tim McCarver’s idiocy.

The condensed game version on MLB.com, though truncated, showed enough to cause me worry over David Ortiz’s health. The designated hitter grimaced as he struck out three times in five plate appearances, leaving six men on base.

The slack was picked up two unlikely sources, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, both of whom drove in pairs of runs into Jay Payton’s territory. Lugo’s came on a line drive in the second and Drew’s the inning after. The latter hit was a short fly ball that just nicked the left field line to stay fair.

While on second Mike Lowell saw that Payton had no play on the ball, judged on his own that it would land fair, and took off for third. Manny Ramirez had his back to the play while at third, poised to dash home at DeMarlo Hale’s prompt. Lowell was close enough to Ramirez on the basepaths he could count the left fielder’s dreadlocks.

So, I missed some great baseball and I am scrambling to get accounts of the games from hither and yon.

It could have been worse. I could have a friend who decided to get hitched in the first few weeks of October.

August 11, 2007

Gihi [犠飛]

Game 115: August 10, 2007
Red Sox 5 BS, L: Hideki Okajima (1, 3-1) 69-46, 1 game losing streak
24-10-4 series record
WinOrioles 6 W: Jim Hoey (1-0) 53-61, 1 game winning streak
15-20-2 series record
Highlights: The Mother’s Day miracle was avenged in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings. To say Eric Gagne was ineffective is like saying Sagarmatha (Everest to you and me) is a somewhat sizable hill. Okajima had his first loss and blown save because of Nick Markakis’s gihi [犠飛], what we would call a sacrifice fly. The kanji used are quite literal; the first means sacrifice and the second means fly in the baseball sense.

Exactly one-eighteenth of this game was enjoyable. The Red Sox offense sparked to life even after Kevin Youkilis’s leadoff strikeout. It was the final glimpse of Bedard’s dominance for the evening. He managed seven punchouts despite C.B. Bucknor’s ever-transforming strike zone. Bedard was openly disdainful of the umpire’s decrees.

Daisuke Matsuzaka also struck out seven but did not outwardly display contempt for Bucknor. Perhaps he was following the Japanese saying deru kugi wa utareru [出る釘は打たれる], which translates as “the nail that sticks out will be hammered down.”

Back to the one-eighteenth part of goodness: with one out Mike Lowell walked and Jason Varitek singled to left. Coco Crisp then nubbed a grounder to shortstop Miguel Tejada who shoveled the ball to Melvin Mora despite an initial bobble.

Wily Mo Peña grounded a single past the mound to shatter the shutout, tie the score, and knock Bedard out of the game. The Orioles starter glared at Bucknor as he was pulled as he thought he had Peña struck out on a pitch Bucknor called a ball.

The floodgates opened as the Boston lineup knocked four consecutive singles off the Orioles bullpen. The base hits were as varied as the home plate umpire’s pitch judgment, from Julio Lugo’s bunt to Manny Ramirez’s rocket to left. By the middle of the eighth the visitors had what seemed to be a commanding lead and Camden Yards converted into Fenway South.

Unfortunately the other seventeen-eighteenths of the match-up also count.

August 10, 2007


Game 114: August 8, 2007
WinRed Sox 9 W: Hideki Okajima (3-0)
H: Eric Gagne (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (26)
69-45, 1 game winning streak
24-10-4 series record
Angels 6 L: Justin Speier (1-3) 66-47, 1 game losing streak
21-12-4 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox salvaged a win from the AL West-leading Angels. Mike Lowell provided much of the firepower by doubling in three of his four at bats. Three bus loads of fans from Sonny McLean’s (with their ersatz Wally in tow) had something to cheer about.

It took six pitchers, fourteen hits, and four hours and two minutes, but Boston averted a sweep last night.

Jon Lester was hittable and ineffective, succumbing after just three and one-third innings on the mound. Nothing he could muster fooled the Angels lineup and he was knocked around for eight hits and five runs.

Julian Tavarez relieved Lester in the fourth after the lefty issued two consecutive walks. Chone Figgins converted the free baserunners into runs with an opposite field double, but not before the runners executed a double steal. An unassisted double play turned by Dustin Pedroia off the bat of former Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera killed the inning

The Red Sox had just secured the lead in the top of the fourth with a pair of singles and a trio of doubles authored by a partially jury-rigged lineup. With Eric Hinske unavailable due to family emergencies and David Ortiz mending his strained shoulder Manny Ramirez acted as designated hitter, Wily Mo Peña in left, J.D. Drew in center, and Brandon Moss in right.

Terry Francona’s shakeup seemed to work. In the fifth Julio Lugo and Pedroia duplicated their teammates’s effort in the fourth. Like Mike Scioscia did in the fourth, Francona called for a double steal. The ploy was successful as both runners crossed the plate to knot the score at 6-6. Francona took a page out of Scioscia’s playbook and rattled him by doing so.

Pedroia, already a key in previous innings, launched the pivotal home run off the tip of Garret Anderson’s glove in the seventh.

The mimicry and loss of the lead flustered the home team further. Coco Crisp, who took over center in the seventh to bump Peña out of the lineup and rotate Drew to right and Brandon Moss to left, reached first on a passed ball by Jeff Mathis despite striking out.

Moss got a hit with his cup of coffee at last. Perhaps due to the earlier double steal, Scioscia overreacted with runners on first and second with no out. He had Scot Shields attempt a pickoff at second that bounded into center, in effect allowing what he had attempted to avoid.

Lugo sacrificed a run in and Pedroia (yes, him again!) moved Moss over to third with a ground out. Shields hit Youkilis and then pitched so wildly to Ramirez that Moss scored. Both runs in that inning can be directly attributed to the Angels’ loss of composure.

How their disposition or lack thereof carries them into the postseason is an aspect to be closely observed.

A similar lack of sangfroid plagued Eric Gagne in his three Red Sox appearances so far. He has allowed at least two runners via hit or walk in each of his games. Perhaps Jonathan Papelbon can give him some pointers.

August 8, 2007


Game 113: August 7, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Tim Wakefield (13-10) 68-45, 2 game losing streak
24-10-4 series record
WinAngels 10 W: Joe Saunders (6-0)
H: Chris Bootcheck (1)
66-46, 3 game winning streak
21-12-4 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox had a medium-sized fifth inning punctuated by a Doug Mirabelli two-run homer. Unfortunately the Angels supersized their half of the same inning.

Truthfully, I fell asleep as Joe “Random Lefty Who Pitches Just Well Enough to Stymie the Red Sox” Saunders took the mound. This morning I watched enough (perhaps too much) of the carnage in condensed game format thanks to MLB.com.

Between this clanker and Barry Bonds surpassing Hank Aaron’s career home run record I’m rather glad I did snooze through the evening.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about until I got home. In my mailbox I had two things only, which is remarkable in itself given all the junk mail that usually clutters it.

The first of the two pieces of mail: the August 13 issue of Sports Illustrated featuring Bonds crushing number 755 in Petco.

Peaking from the periodical was Volume 29, Number 4 of Memories and Dreams, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s bi-monthly publication. This particular issue doubled as the induction ceremony program for Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Their faces smile from the cover, garbed in the only uniforms they ever wore, redeeming the love I feel for this game, a love that endures despite Bonds.

It is so transcendent that I don’t think it needs protection from or admonition of Bonds. Asterisks, testimony, hearsay all fall away.

For the love of the game.

August 7, 2007


Game 112: August 6, 2007
Red Sox 2 L: Curt Schilling (6-5) 68-44, 1 game losing streak
24-9-4 series record
WinAngels 4 W: Justin Speier (1-2)
H: Scot Shields (25)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (28)
65-46, 2 game winning streak
20-12-4 series record
Highlights: Schilling missed a quality start by a single run. He was fairly sharp until his fingertips were scorched by a line drive off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero in the fourth. When Garret Anderson batted next the starter failed to cover first for the double play. Anderson eventually crossed home for the first run for the Angels followed by Gary Matthews, Jr. for the tie thanks to Casey Kotchman’s single up the middle.

Brandon Moss’s big league debut was marred by a trigger-happy umpiring crew. Moss wouldn’t have played so prominent role in this loss if the boys in blue were as percipient as they should have been.

Home plate umpire James Hoye ejected Manny Ramirez in the fourth inning after the slugger questioned the judgment of a checked swing.

Ramirez was right to dispute Hoye, who in the eighth called Mike Lowell out on a foul tip on a pitch that was in the dirt and furthermore wasn’t caught by Angels backstop Jeff Mathis. The miscall had an inordinate impact as the tying runs were on first and second. Jason Varitek flied out to left and Coco Crisp struck out looking, frittering away a rally.

In the seventh Mathis was the beneficiary of a blown call by third base judge Jerry Crawford, who called a liner fair even though it first bounced outside of the left field base line. The double in name only and the preceding solo shot by Maicer Izturis knocked Curt Schilling off the mound.

Julian Tavarez gamely tried to staunch the rally but Moss’s bobble of Chone Figgins’s fly ball plated Mathis for an insurance run. The ball never touched ground and Terry Francona came out again to argue with the officials but even Moss knew that the runner had the right to tag up once the ball is touched. The definition of “catch” in Section 2.00 Definition of Terms makes this clear.

Tom Werner made an appearance and hinted that Wally might be enlisted to enact revenge upon the Mariners Moose for his near-collision with Coco Crisp.

The best revenge is living well, however. Kevin Youkilis demonstrated this by taking a blow to the helmet on a pickoff attempt to second in stride and proceeded to smash a two-run four-bagger in the third.

When calls both good and bad harm you, and you are 3,000 miles from your home park, a loss seems inevitable. Despite the fervor of Boston fans hollering “Let’s go Red Sox” unrelentingly, the support of devotees can only spur you so far.

Just ask Moss, who found himself in the top of the ninth in the box representing the go-ahead run. With two on, two out, facing one of the best (and most demonstrative) closers in the game, Moss struck out on a (real) foul tip; a tough end to abrupt debut.

August 5, 2007


Game 111: August 5, 2007
WinRed Sox 9 W: Josh Beckett (14-5) 68-43, 2 game winning streak
24-9-4 series record
Mariners 2 L: Miguel Batista (11-8) 60-49, 2 game losing streak
21-14-3 series record
Highlights: A stats-padding day for the Red Sox; only Jason Varitek went hitless (although he still got an RBI thanks to a bases-loaded walk in the first). Alex Cora and Julio Lugo were the only starters who didn’t have any RBIs. Manny Ramirez acted the bull to Wily Mo Peña’s matador after the former’s fifth inning circuit clout. Beckett struck out nine over the course of his six and two-thirds innings of work.


Sanshin [三振]

Game 110: August 4, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-8)
H: Eric Gagne (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (25)
67-43, 1 game winning streak
23-9-4 series record
Mariners 3 L: Jarrod Washburn (8-8)
60-48, 1 game losing streak
21-13-3 series record
Highlights: Boston broke a nine-game losing streak when playing at Safeco behind a seven-inning sparkler by Matsuzaka, who struck out 10 while walking two and allowing a pair of earned runs. Sanshin means strikeout in Japanese and the symbols translate to three [三] and shake, wave, wag, or swing [振].

Just as in American baseball jargon, types of strikeouts are delineated in Japanese:

  • Renzoku sanshin [連続三振]: consecutive strikeouts. Daisuke Matsuzaka accomplished this in the first and seventh innings.
  • Karaburi no sanshin [ 空振りの三振]: swinging K. Inquire with Jose Vidro, Raul Ibañez, Jose Guillen, Ben Broussard, and Jose Lopez for details on what this is like. Joses Vidro and Guillen are particularly expert as they did so two times each.
  • Minogashi no sanshin [見逃しの三振]: strikeout looking. Guillen was also called out on strikes twice; Yuniesky Betancourt’s only strike out was a called one.

The series evened with pairs of runs in evenly numbered innings for the Red Sox. David Ortiz waited on second in the fourth inning; he advanced there thanks to Ibañez’s bobble of his arcing single to the opposite field. With first open Manny Ramirez wasn’t given a real pitch to get a hold of so he lingered at first. Both came home on Jason Varitek’s line drive to deep left.

In the sixth Kevin Youkilis started things off with a fly ball double to the gap that not even Ichiro Suzuki could catch up to. Guillen played Ortiz’s single to right on the short hop and sailed his throw over Adrian Beltre, allowing Youkilis to score and Ortiz to take second. Ramirez’s double found the gap on Ibañez’s side of the outfield to drive in the last of the visitors’ runs.

Neither Eric Gagne and Jonathan Papelbon had the easiest time of it in the final two innings. After securing two outs in the eighth, Gagne allowed a run to score with two consecutive singles. Mariners second baseman Lopez then doubled to set up runners at the corners with two out. After a visit by John Farrell, Gagne extinguished hot hitter Betancourt. The shortstop had homered in the seventh for his second homer in as many games, but the begoggled Gagne caused the infielder to ground harmlessly to the mound for the last out of the penultimate inning.

Like Gagne, Papelbon began his inning easily enough by striking out Suzuki and Vidro. Then he fell into a jam by walking Guillen and Ibañez, rekindling the fire of the Mariner fans. Just as the crowd rose to a fevered roar Papelbon induced a weak pop up in foul territory the bat of Beltre. The Safeco losing streak was smothered and the series equaled to make for a dramatic series ender this afternoon.

August 4, 2007


Game 109: August 3, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Mike Timlin (1-1) 66-43, 1 game losing streak
23-9-4 series record
WinMariners 7 W: Sean Green (5-1)
H: Mark Lowe (2)
H: George Sherrill (17)
S: J.J. Putz (32)
60-47, 2 game winning streak
21-13-3 series record
Highlights: David Ortiz committed horrible acts upon the baseball last night. It wasn’t enough that a cow gave its hide for the ball; Ortiz also had to punish it further with his 3-for-5 showing. The designated hitter homered in the third and knocked an opposite field RBI single in the fifth. There was also a two-out single in the seventh but it came to naught.

Aside from alternative music and coffee, Seattle also distinguishes itself for being the stomping ground of several renown serial killers. Theodore Robert Bundy and Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River Killer, are two of the most notorious.

Bundy was born in Vermont but spent most of his formative and young adult years in the Seattle area. While attending various universities in Seattle, Bundy held a wide array of positions: bagboy at Safeway, suicide hotline volunteer, and, upon his graduation from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology, a staffer for the the state’s Republican Party. He was accepted to law school at the University of Utah. An intelligent and solicitous-seeming, he would lure women by pretending his arms was hurt and getting them to help him.

Like Bundy, Ridgway was born elsewhere (in Utah, oddly enough) but spent much of his life in the environs of the Emerald City. He was one of the most prolific murderers, confessing guilty to 48 murders but likely responsible for more. Coarser than Bundy, he specifically targeted prostitutes since he couldn’t charm his victims to be alone with him otherwise.

Reading about serial killers proved more intriguing than last night’s game and just slightly more gruesome.

Jon Lester’s sort-of homecoming fell short of expectations. If this were later in the series, if his pitcher weren’t playing in a place close to his heart (which happens to be a pitchers’ park), if it weren’t the last man in the lineup in the box, Terry Francona probably would have pulled Lester in the fourth.

But it was Yuniesky Betancourt, of all players, a hitter from the nine hole. Just like how Bundy was merely a likable law student or Ridgway was just a good old boy looking for some evening fun.

Seattle’s shortstop had a monstrous night. His three-run jack in the fourth was impressive but he also plated the go-ahead run in the sixth. With his respectable stat line for a middle infielder (.287 BA, .311 OBP, .393 slugging), it’s bizarre that Betancourt is batting so low in the order.

In the first two innings the Red Sox loaded the bases but only a single run resulted from that abundance of baserunners. Manny Ramirez made a baserunning blunder in the first. He went too far on Mike Lowell’s single to right and was caught loitering at third for the second out.

Dustin Pedroia grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the second inning with the bases jammed and no out. One run scored but Kevin Youkilis also grounded to short to end the top half of the inning.

These trips to Safeco rarely end well but Boston has two more games to turn the series around.

August 3, 2007


Game 108: August 2, 2007
Orioles 4 L: Rob Bell (3-2)
50-57, 2 game losing streak
14-19-2 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (13-9) 66-42, 2 game winning streak
23-9-4 series record
Highlights: A day game, a knuckleballer, a tribute to a Hall of Famer. Yesterday was redolent of old-time baseball.

Even the voices of Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien (not Glenn Geffner, thankfully) were reminiscent of a bygone time... even though I was listening to them via streaming audio over the internet.

Robert “Bobby” Pershing Doerr was driven to the pole named after his friend, Johnny Pesky, who was also in the vintage Cadillac whose color echoed the walls of Fenway. Dom DiMaggio and Dave Boo Ferris rounded out the quartet, gathered together to remember the good old days.

Doerr autographed the pole and the car trundled towards the mound for him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. It was just 60 years ago that the first Bobby Doerr Day was celebrated. Fittingly just a few days after the weekend after the induction of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. another Hall of Famer was honored.

A new generation of fans could gaze upon Doerr, who wore jersey number “1” and is one of 17 second baseman to have a plaque in Cooperstown. He was inducted in 1986, when Dustin Pedroia was about to turn three years old.

A connection between the middle infielders crosses time and place; Doerr watches every Red Sox game and enjoys what Pedroia brings to the game.

The current second baseman came through for his admirer with a 2-for-3 showing, two RBIs, and two walks. Pedroia doubled in the midst of the seventh-inning outburst, his liner rapidly falling so that Nick Markakis only managed to parry the ball off his glove into his face. The ricochets were such the distraction that not only did Alex Cora score but so did Doug Mirabelli... from second base, no less! It was Pedroia’s atonement for whiffing in the second with the bases jammed.

Earlier in the seventh Mirabelli drove in Coco Crisp with a looping single to center to give his team the lead. He had cost the team the go-ahead run the inning before when he tagged up off third too early on a sacrifice fly attempt arced by David Ortiz to the warning track, re-tagged, and then was hosed at home by Markakis by way of Miguel Tejada to Paul Bako, concluding the inning.

Eric Hinske and the backstop homered in the fourth, but the Orioles roared back in the fifth to knot the game at three. Those were the only runs Tim Wakefield surrendered in his seven innings, during which he walked one batter and struck out five.

To the delight of fans who remembered Jay Payton’s truculence in 2005 (and probably Terry Francona), the outfielder had a rough go of it in left field. He misjudged batted balls by Ortiz and Manny Ramirez leading to a run.

The antithesis to Payton’s fits was Crisp’s elegance in center. Crisp trotted in reverse and hopped to rob Payton of a hit in the fourth. In the seventh the center fielder made a more remarkable play: he drifted toward the deepest part of center field wall and flawlessly timed a leaping reception of a Jay Gibbons fly ball. The jump was so high it brought his head above the wall’s padding.

Eric Gagne made his debut in less than familiar surroundings but in what once was a customary inning for him. After striking out two Aubrey Huff siloed a ground-rule double that dropped between Mike Lowell and Cora near the right field stands. The trajectory and placement of the ball would have been a pop out in any other park. Payton mustered a ground ball single right but it was for naught as Gibbons flied out to left to end the game and the series.

August 2, 2007


Game 107: August 1, 2007
Orioles 4 L: John Parrish (2-2)
BS: Chad Bradford (3)
50-56, 1 game losing streak
14-18-2 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Javier Lopez (2-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (19)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (24)
65-42, 1 game winning streak
22-9-4 series record
Highlights: Kevin Garnett hugging David Ortiz after the ceremonial first pitch. Breaking a losing streak in a close and late game at Fenway makes for tasty home cooking.

For the second game in a row a Red Sox starter allowed a first-inning home run, but this time the home team was able to overcome the early deficit with late-inning heroics.

David Ortiz absorbed some of the energy exuded by Kevin Garnett after the designated hitter caught the forward’s pitch. With that power Ortiz turned the course of the game in the bottom of the seventh. Garnett couldn’t be happier as he strode to the mound with his Red Sox jersey, beaming a smile brighter than the diamond earrings he usually wears and just as broad as Ortiz’s.

I wonder if Ortiz and Garnett compared jewelry? Their proclivity to diamond earrings makes me think their combined holdings may rival the crown jewels of the United Kingdom.

Neither team pitched a gem, practically a given with the terrible Ts Julian Tavarez and Steve Trachsel taking the mound.

And yet Trachsel outlasted Tavarez by an inning and held the Red Sox to a single run. It took the impuissance of relief trio Paul Shuey, John Parrish, and Chad Bradford to give Boston the victory.

Southpaw Parrish was brought in to face Ortiz, who lately has been showing signs of success against lefties. With two on and none out Ortiz clanged a double off the wall for one run.

Usually Ortiz’s bat means lights out for the opposition, but last night his swing was like the flick of a switch to turn on the rest of his own team.

Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked to set up Kevin Youkilis against Bradford, and again conventional baseball strategy failed Dave Trembley. Taking umbrage at being seen as less of a threat than Ramirez, Youkilis rocketed a two-run double into center for the lead.

Jason Varitek drove in an essential insurance run with a gutshot single and Ramirez, who traversed home for the additional run, stood attentively in the box to guide the runner behind him if the need arose.

Hideki Okajima relinquished a solo shot to Miguel Tejada in the eighth. Although the run pushed his ERA to 1.03, it did not cost the game. Jonathan Papelbon shored up the team with a dominating ninth, striking out the final two batters who dared enter the box.

August 1, 2007


Game 106: July 31, 2007
WinOrioles 5 W: Erik Bedard (11-4)
H: Rob Bell (1)
H: Chad Bradford (14)
S: Jamie Walker (4)
50-55, 1 game winning streak
14-18-2 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Josh Beckett (13-5) 64-42, 2 game losing streak
22-9-4 series record
Highlights: Eric Gagne was not yet in the team, but another “G,” Kevin Garnett, was the acquisition of the day. Garnett charmed Bostonians despite having first refused to come to the city, while Gagne called the Red Sox the Montreal Canadiens of baseball. Thanks, I guess, Eric. Gagne will be using “83,” which is his usual number, “38,” reversed.

Killer “B” pitchers Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard faced off last night and it wasn’t a taut tightrope like a true pitchers’ duel. Orioles hitters were all over Beckett’s fastball; with the first swing of a bat the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout was erased.

Brian Roberts is one of those annoying players who shine against the Red Sox. He tallied two hits and two RBIs in his five at bats; only old friend Kevin Millar matched him in RBIs. Beckett was out of sorts; although he lasted eight innings, he gave up a nine hits, five earned runs, two bases on balls, and struck out a middling six.

Millar’s dribbling single up the middle in the third plated two runs and prompted Beckett to lose it in the dugout. He took it out on a few coolers, causing Kevin Youkilis to bolt from the immediate vicinity.

One of a the few positive happenings was David Ortiz crushing Bedard’s offering in the third with Dustin Pedroia on base thanks to a free pass. The rope of a home run rocketed into the stands right near the visitors’ bullpen. Unfortunately, just before Pedroia’s walk Julio Lugo emptied the bases with a twin killing.

Pedroia and Ortiz shared a Bash Brothers-like thudding of the forearms at home, looking a bit like a Big Brother celebrating with his Little Brother.

Like a meteorite crashing into the earth’s crust, Wily Mo Peña dove to catch Ramon Hernandez’s swiftly falling line drive in the fourth. It was almost as graceful as a John Deere plowing through a dilapidated shack.

Disappointing games such as this will happen, especially against a pitcher such as Bedard. At least Ortiz is getting into his stroke; he also lobbed a long ball into the bullpen in the eighth.

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