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Home » Category Listing » July 2007 Game Comments

July 4, 2008


Game 88: July 3, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 W: Jon Lester (7-3) 51-37, 1 game winning streak
Yankees 0 L: Andy Pettitte (9-6) 45-41, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Lester is the first visiting left-handed pitcher to win a complete game shutout at Stade Fasciste since Eric Milton did on May 8, 2001. Hopefully Lester’s career follows a path more like his opposition, Pettitte, rather than Milton’s. For Pettitte, despite the performance enhancing drug accusations and his selection of friends and associates is a model of a solid southpaw starter, lest we misremember.

The Red Sox scored early, capitalizing on defensive blunders in the first inning by the home team. Dustin Pedroia, who singled on a rope to center, scored when Derek Jeter Lugoed a throw to first on what should have been Manny Ramirez’s 11th grounding into a double play this season and the end of the inning. J.D. Drew should be credited with an assist as it was his leg extension that took Jeter out of the flow of his throwing motion.

Ramirez ran on Johnny Damon’s weak arm when Mike Lowell batted a single to left and was rewarded with the second run of the inning. Compounding Andy Pettitte’s consternation was the lack of a cutoff man; neither Jeter nor Alex Rodriguez backed up the play and Lowell advanced to second.

Similarly, Julio Lugo took it upon himself to run the ball to the second base sack and attempt the double play on the batted ball he fielded off Bobby Abreu’s bat in the home half of the first. Two men were already on the bases because of bases on balls and there were none out.

With one out and runners at the corners and 54,677 fans in an uproar, Jon Lester did not wither. He struck out Rodriguez and Jason Giambi to staunch the Yankees’ momentum.

Jeter grounded into a balletic double play in the third. Lowell leaped to snare the batted ball and relayed to second base. When plucky Pedroia was given the chance to be the pivot man on the double play he didn’t allow Melky Cabrera to upend him.

In the fifth Abreu misplayed Drew’s fly ball, allowing his counterpart to double and eventually score. Drew demonstrated how to properly play left in the seventh when he backed up against the boundaries of the short porch and jumped to nab Jorge Posada’s fly to complete a 1-2-3 inning, the last of Lester’s clean innings.

Yankee batters led off with singles in the final two innings and both times were erased by double plays. Lester’s dominance (eight whiffs and just five hits allowed) coupled with crisp defense snapped the Red Sox losing streak and caused Joe Girardi to snap and have a closed-door post-game meeting. Rodriguez left the locker room in time for whatever extracurricular activities he is wont to pursue.

In the alternate universe where the Rays reign atop the AL East, it was the Red Sox who turned those key plays that led to victory while the Yankees failed to live up to the expectations of the vaunted pinstriped tradition.

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.

July 31, 2007

Hoshu [捕手]

Game 105: July 29, 2007
Red Sox 2 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (12-8) 64-41, 1 game losing streak
22-9-4 series record
WinDevil Rays 5 W: Gary Glover (4-3) 39-65, 1 game winning streak
9-21-4 series record
Highlights: Hoshu is the Japanese word for catcher. The first character [捕] means to catch and the second [手] symbolizes hand. The character for hand is the same used in karate, where it is pronounced te. Doug Mirabelli caught in place of Jason Varitek on Sunday and there wasn’t a perceptible change in Matsuzaka’s effectiveness. He lasted six and one-third inning with a line of eight hits, two earned runs, one walk, and six strikeouts.

I’ve been loathe to begin this post because of a flurry of activity in the franchise league I am a part of. Just like the real MLB, we have a trading deadline and I’ve been thinking about the direction of my team.

I had traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia before the season started and now that he was traded in real life to the Texas Rangers I have an extra bat in a scarce position. I did have to give up Adam Wainwright and Johnny Estrada, but in return I received Saltalamacchia, Chuck James, Beau Jones, and Brandon Jones.

And to think I only traded for him because he has the longest name in baseball history!

Once you have unrolled your eyes from your sockets because of all the fantasy baseball talk, your focus will fall on something even less interesting: Sunday evening’s game. Because if your ace doesn’t win a pitchers’ duel, it is inevitably boring.

It was much like the C.C. Sabathia versus Daisuke Matsuzaka head-to-head on July 24 except it didn’t go in Boston’s favor. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis had consecutive solo homers in the eighth and the first of the Devil Rays’ three circuit clouts was a bases-empty effort, too.

Manny Delcarmen took the mound and surrendered back-to-back long balls in the seventh. Delcarmen had continues to experience some growing pains adjusting to his major league role, but like any good relief pitcher he’ll have to have to be an amnesiac. Hopefully he didn’t forget his way back to Pawtucket, as Delcarmen may have to be sent down given the recent rumblings from 4 Yawkey Way.

Eric Gagne looks to be coming to the Red Sox in return for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, and Engel Beltre.

More trading deadline excitement to come!

July 29, 2007


Game 104: July 28, 2007
WinRed Sox 12 H: Julian Tavarez (1)
H: Hideki Okajima (18)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
W: Kyle Snyder (2-2)
64-40, 3 game winning streak
22-9-4 series record
Devil Rays 6 L: Brian Stokes (2-7) 38-65, 8 game losing streak
9-21-4 series record
Highlights: Papelbon’s second blown save is somewhat concerning; he’ll likely be closely monitored for any recurrence of the shoulder problem that cut last season short. Julio Lugo drew walks with the bases loaded twice, in the second and the twelfth. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis both tallied three RBIs.

Julian Tavarez got into the spirit Flower Power Night at the Tropicana and gave his impressions of the game.

Dude, playing down in Florida was far out. We were playing these cats who were just not happening, man. They just can’t win, you know? The system just keeps getting them down.

I was rapping with Papelbon and decided to spread the love, you know? I mean we’ve got over 60 wins and the Devil Rays are totally bumming out because they have that many losses.

It’s like we’re mirror images of each other. Their bullpen is a bad scene and ours is groovy. But then it’s like the mirror is sort of distorted like in a carnival or something or if you’re on a bad trip.


So anyway Papelbon and I thought why not spread the love? The Devil Rays made all these funky pictures of us in tie-dye and it was a real touching tribute, you know? It would be a real drag if we kept on coming in and oppressing them. The Man has kept them down for so long.

That’s why Papelbon blew the save in the ninth, man. Far out. And it was so cool that he gave it up to Jonny Gomes, ’cause that cat has seen some hard times. Dude almost died of a heart attack a few ago, had some shoulder probs last year, and now can’t get a regular position to play. Baseball is his bag, it’s how he makes his bread.

Thing is Snyder’s kind of a square, you know, and he digs the establishment. He didn’t let the Devil Rays score for two innings to give them the win.

In the middle of the tenth and eleventh innings I hung out with him some and tried to get him to see the light. Dude was all, “The object of this game is winning, Julian. I don’t care if they pass out love beads, puka shell necklaces, mood rings, and illicit substances. We’re winning this game.”

I was like, “Sock it to me, man. Are you a stooly for the Feds?” He looked at me as if someone busted his lava lamp, but probably he’s not groovy enough for a lava lamp. He walked away and started conversating with Mikey, Coco, Lugo, Kev, Papi, Manny....

He’s a patsy for the fuzz, man, propping up the industrial military complex that forces us to treat people like objects and put concern for wins and runs over peace. Snyder got them all riled and they scored runs like crazy. It was a real act of aggression.

Even, Manny, man. That like totally killed my buzz.

When we get back to my pad in Boston, I have to deprogram all that uptight junk Snyder put into their heads. I’ll have them crash at my place and we can rap about peace and stuff. Out of sight, dude.

Make love, not runs.

July 28, 2007


Game 103: July 27, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (12-9)
H: Manny Delcarmen (6)
63-40, 2 game winning streak
21-9-4 series record
Devil Rays 1 L: Jason Hammel (1-1)
BS: Juan Salas (1)
38-64, 7 game losing streak
9-20-4 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox offense supplied Wakefield with sufficient run support although it did come rather late in the game. The knuckleballer lasted six inning, struck out six, walked three, and allowed one run to score in the dome where he pitches so well. He is now 8-0 when starting at Tropicana Field.

In his most recent blog entry Raymond said, “On July 5th I made my Fenway debut. Wally was up on the dugout tossing out balls. I came up on the dugout, took away his bag, and generally taunted the Red Sox faithful. Of course Wally got me back by tearing off my fur. That seems to keep happening every time I visit another stadium. Jerry Remy thought it was funny. Yeah, keep laughing RemDawg. I’ve got plenty in store for you and your precious Wally when you guys come to town July 27!”

Raymond made good on his threat by festooning the booth with Raymond beanies as well as an autographed photo where he pleaded his case to appear in a SportsCenter commercial and told Jerry Remy that he stunk.

The same can be said for the team Raymond represents.

I don’t even think Devil Rays players like each other. Akinori Iwamura bruised Dioner Navarro with a batted ball to end the fourth. (I checked out Baseball Reference Play Index and there isn’t a way to find outs that occur in this manner.)

Jason Hammel had to work within the confines of pitch count of 90, so even if David Ortiz hadn’t broken up the no-no in the fourth it was inevitable that Joe Maddon would have to pull him and leave his team to the brutality of his league-trailing bullpen. Hammel departed in the sixth with two on, one out, and 88 pitches on his arm.

The number eighty-eight was not double happiness for the either the Devil Rays or the Red Sox. Juan Salas took the mound and Kevin Youkilis was quadruply joyous when his three-run homer sailed blithely toward the left field stands.

The Red Sox salted away the game in the eighth with a four-run eruption against Shawn Camp. In a topsy-turvy chain of events Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew singled and were driven in by Coco Crisp with a humpback double to left.

An outfielder with carbon copy initials, Carl Crawford, made a diving attempt at Crisp’s hit but hit the ground with such impact his glove slipped off and the ball tumbled away from the defender’s grasp.

Drew, who happened to be the Heckler’s target, had a mishap of his own in the first inning. The right fielder flubbed a near-routine catch of a wall-scraping fly ball that was ruled a double, but the gaffe did not cost a run. Between the Heckler and Raymond you have the essence of Tampa Bay baseball: loud and garish sideshows designed to distract from an uninspired and dawdling club.

July 27, 2007


Game 102: July 26, 2007
WinRed Sox 14 W: Julian Tavarez (6-8) 62-40, 1 game winning streak
21-9-4 series record
Indians 9 L: Cliff Lee (5-8) 58-43, 1 game losing streak
19-13-2 series record
Highlights: Wily Mo Peña is provided a showcase and the brawny outfielder took full advantage by going 4-for-5 with a scorching three-run homer in the seventh, four RBIs total, and no strikeouts (and he didn’t even have the best night for the Red Sox). It was a less than subtle reminder to Boston’s potential trading partners that, in the right environment, Peña can be a beast at the dish. Note that well, Jon Daniels

As meager as the previous two games were in offense last night’s RBI jamboree was not entirely unexpected. Cliff Lee’s performance has, well, fallen off a cliff and Kason Gabbard is an ace only when in the lee of Fenway’s façade.

Neither starter lasted longer than five innings; both managers seemed to be bluffing each other with 2-7 offsuits, playing their poor hands much longer than they wished because they were pot committed. A win for the visitors meant a series victory and for the home team it meant salvaging a split.

Lee attempted to reclaim some amount of dignity by defiantly tipping his cap to the swarming boos that enshrouded him as he departed the hill in the fifth without getting and out and allowing three runs to score. Rather than proud and confident it made him look insolent and weak. He didn’t live up to the fans’ expectations and they expressed it. He allowed it to permeate his mind and responded in kind. Wouldn’t someone with self-imposed standards not permit outside influences to direct his actions?

Someone so oblivious to externalities, one who is focused solely on a single mission but still graces his dedication with a touch of whimsy is none other than Manny Ramirez.

He who “ain’t got no pop” launched two homers. His first was a solo shot in the second that cleared the first stand of vegetation in dead center and bounced amongst the trees behind the shrubbery, using wood to send the ball into the woods.

The second circuit clout came in the eighth after Cleveland inched their way back into the game the inning previous with an RBI single by Travis Hafner and a three-run homer propelled by Ryan Garko. The score was a hedonistic 12-9 and Ramirez rendered it even more unseemly with a two-run jack over the head of Grady Sizemore.

Coco Crisp, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek also contributed to the outbreak, and could be potential guest stars in Ramirez’s NESN series. The obvious title would of course be “Manny Being Manny” and it would be described as a light-hearted romp in the slightly-askew world of professional slugger Manny Ramirez as he wends his way through cars shows, online auctions, and the bedsides of sickly relatives.

Julian Tavarez would be a frequent cast member, stealing the show whenever he appeared with his unique brand of humor. Despite his bizarre actions, he’d graciously accept whatever role presented him, just as he does on the field. Something Lee may consider doing when he is asked to pitch from the bullpen.

July 26, 2007


Game 101: July 25, 2007
Red Sox 0 L: Josh Beckett (13-4) 61-40, 1 game losing streak
20-9-4 series record
WinIndians 1 W: Fausto Carmona (13-4)
S: Joe Borowski (29)
59-42, 1 game winning streak
19-12-2 series record
Highlights: Beckett struck out seven and walked none in his eight innings of brilliance. Seventy percent of Beckett’s 114 pitches were strikes; just one mistake slipped from his hand into the stands in the third.

How does one write about nothingness? Last night was not an example of complete annihilation, but four hits and no runs skirts the boundary of immateriality.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about the nature of being-for-itself in Being and Nothingness. It is conscious being rather than the passive acceptance of being-in-itself. A being-in-itself accepts the roles and mores thrust upon him by others. They are the type of people who glow with pride when selected as Employee of the Month or bellow about being Division Managers of 49 people while driving Dodge Stratuses.

A being-for-itself is conscious of its own consciousness, knows that it is not the sum of the perceptions of the people around it. Such a person is not predetermined by an immutable essence but creates himself by action.

Josh Beckett is the paradigm of being-for-itself. When on the mound he pitches as if he were unconscious of everyone else’s expectations; he merely directs his energies to the task, ever actuating his self.

He carries this into his post-game interviews. He calmly comments on his performance and much to the dismay of Dodge Stratus-driving Division Managers’ kith and kin throws in a few blue words here and there.

NESN now puts a delay on Beckett’s interviews.

Fortunately for NESN microphones weren’t near Dustin Pedroia in the sixth when Fausto Carmona pitched the second baseman high and tight. Pedroia’s temper was already stoked in the fourth when Carmona hit the slight infielder with a pitch.

Despite the scare, Pedroia’s ground ball out moved Coco Crisp into scoring position. The center fielder reached on an infield single which coincidentally broke up Carmona’s no-hit bid. Crisp, however, was obliterated at home by Josh Barfield’s throw.

Speaking of unconscious of others, Manny Ramirez was no where near the dish to help Crisp know where to slide. Crisp also let up as he approached home for some reason.

Both speed and the stick failed the Red Sox. Julio Lugo pinch ran for Alex Cora in the eighth when the latter squeaked a single to short with two out. Victor Martinez, whose arm isn’t stellar for a catcher, erased Lugo to kill the inning.

In the ninth David Ortiz popped out to short to end the game. This season so far Ortiz has not been coming through in game-breaking situations, but if anyone can bridge the gap between what was and will be again, it is he.

Human-reality is free because it is not enough. It is free because it is perpetually wrenched away from itself and because it has been separated by a nothingness from what it is and from what it will be. — Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

July 25, 2007

Osae [押さえ]

Game 100: July 24, 2007
WinRed Sox 1 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (12-7)
H: Hideki Okajima (17)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (23)
61-39, 5 game winning streak
20-9-4 series record
Indians 0 L: C.C. Sabathia (13-5) 58-42, 2 game losing streak
19-12-2 series record
Highlights: The Japanese word for closer is osae, pronounced oh-sah-eh. The word also carries connotations of weight or anchor, but Papelbon ain’t heavy, he’s our brother, and he’s tenth in the majors for saves.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had just two 1-2-3 innings and walked three batters over the course of seven innings, and yet only a single Cleveland player made it within 90 feet of home. When runs threatened to score, as they did in the first and fourth, the rookie righty marshaled his resources and struck out the opposition. Jhonny Peralta whiffed in the first with the bases loaded and Ben Francisco and Josh Barfield hacked away in fourth with two men on.

Although C.C. Sabathia compiled more strikeouts than his counterpart (seven compared to five), his team couldn’t muster a run against the trio of Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon. Seven, five, and three are significant ages for children in Japan. There’s a Shichi Go San festival on November 15 to celebrate as seven-year old girls can now wear obi around their kimono, five-year old boys are allowed to wear hakama, and three-year olds of both ages are allowed to grow their hair.

The Red Sox team has had less of a coming of age in this winning streak but rather a rebirth. The cobwebs of the June swoon have been dusted away and disposed of. Shining on the mantel is the reinvigorated Julio Lugo and his 14-game hitting streak, a sparkling bullpen, and a few gems as starters. And just think: a few of the better pieces of the collection are in the shop for repair.

The only run of the game came in the fourth when Francisco couldn’t catch up to Mike Lowell’s arcing RBI single to left. Kevin Youkilis scored from second on the play.

Youkilis also made a pivotal defensive play in the seventh. With the leadoff runner on he cheated towards home to snatch Barfield’s bunt and relayed it to Lugo for erase a runner from scoring position.

The Red Sox go into the match-up tonight guaranteed at least a split against one of the better AL teams. Before Boston leaves town for Tampa Bay on Thursday the Indians had better get an estimate for the Wily Mo Peña-shaped indentation in their left field wall caused by his collision with it in the sixth. Like David Ortiz’s shoulder, however, at least there was no structural damage.

July 24, 2007


Game 99: July 23, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Jon Lester (1-0)
H: Mike Timlin (4)
H: Javier Lopez (9)
S: Manny Delcarmen (1)
60-39, 4 game winning streak
20-9-4 series record
Indians 2 L: Jake Westbrook (1-6) 58-41, 1 game losing streak
19-12-2 series record
Highlights: Coco Crisp went 4-for-5 against his old team and scored three runs. Delcarmen tallied his first major league save by striking out Ryan Garko in the eighth and foiling Jhonny Peralta and two pinch hitters, one of whom was Trot Nixon, in the ninth. Kudos to MLB Advanced Media for incorporating a link to Protrade’s Win Probability game summary on its game wrap page, but it’s a pity the company is less about baseball research and more about commercial exploitation.

NESN microphones picked up a heckler during last night’s game.

“Told you, Lester! Told you you couldn’t get past the fourth inning!” he bellowed when Jon Lester loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth. Meanwhile Kathie Lester, the lefty’s mother, sat doubled over with her head in her hands, hardly daring to watch.

Jason Varitek is never one to allow pressure get to him or to his charges. After Lester induced a ground out off the bat of Josh Barfield and Ryan Garko was out at home, Varitek moseyed to the mound to conference with Lester about the man about to take the box, Grady Sizemore.

In the inning previous Sizemore got a hold of a pitch and took it into the right field stands. A circuit clout in this situation would hand the game over to the home team.

“I warned you, Lester!”

The fifth pitch Sizemore saw was flash over his flailing bat to end the fourth.

As the evening wore on, it was clear that any insults or threats hurled from the stands did not impact the young starter. He got out of the fourth and pitched for six more outs unscathed. Although Lester walked three he also struck out six, and did so with the game on the line.

At first I was disgusted by and indignant over the Indians fan who had tried to derail Lester. If anything, however, the reprobate probably motivated the southpaw.

The young man faced and overcame cancer; how could flimsy words possibly perturb him? If anything, the badgerer probably fueled Lester.

He was treated like any other opposing player, all of whom are major leaguers, as he is. He can hold his own on a team that was the first to reach 60 wins this season.

Welcome back to where you belong, Jon Lester.

July 23, 2007


Game 98: July 22, 2007
White Sox 5 L: Jon Garland (7-7) 43-54, 3 game losing streak
12-16-4 series record
WinRed Sox 8 W: Tim Wakefield (11-9)
H: Hideki Okajima (16)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (22)
59-39, 3 game winning streak
20-9-4 series record
Highlights: Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell both propelled their 15th homers of the season, the former in the first and the latter in the fifth. Both were three-run shots but mirrored each other; Ramirez’s was an opposite field shot that Mike Timlin cradled in a towel and Lowell’s a ball pulled into the Monster seats to be gathered by a jubilant fan.

Jon Garland may have been the starter, but the real story to me was that the only two knuckleball pitchers currently in the majors were on the mound Sunday afternoon.

Charlie Haeger relieved Garland in the fifth after the former had walked two batters in succession with two out. Ozzie Guillen awoke from his afternoon nap to pull Garland when he surrendered a three-run blast by Mike Lowell.

A.J. Pierzynski must have been excited to have the chance to be the backstop for Haeger in the late innings of what should have been a much bigger blowout.

Butterfly ball aficionados were thrilled that for the first time since September 15, 2000, when the Tigers’ Steve Sparks faced off against Tim Wakefield, two practitioners of this arcane pitch shared the hill. The Red Sox edged Detroit 7-6, overcoming their AL Central opposition much as they did against the White Sox yesterday.

Haeger breaking into the majors as a knuckleballer at age 23 is highly unusual. Rany Jazayerli chronicled Haeger’s progress and potential in Baseball Prospectus at the beginning of this season.

The typical career trajectory of a knuckleballer is as erratic as the flight of the pitch itself. They are typically traditional pitchers who failed at standard fastball, curveball, slider repertoire. Wakefield was a failed position player who found his niche by mastering (if one can truly be said to control such a capricious being) the oddball grip.

With luck and time, perhaps Charlie Zink will overcome his atrocious 2005 showing and maintain the consistency he’s shown in Portland so far. Zink threw a complete game on June 19, walking two and striking out eight while allowing six hits and a single earned run. Amazingly, not one runner swiped a base that day.

He’s 27 years old, but in knuckleball years he may as well be a teenager, Haeger notwithstanding. Someday, maybe soon or perhaps years from now when Wakefield hangs up his spikes, there might yet be a match-up between the knucklers named Charlie playing for the Soxes.

July 22, 2007


Game 97: July 21, 2007
White Sox 2 L: John Danks (6-7) 43-53, 2 game losing streak
12-15-4 series record
WinRed Sox 11 W: Kason Gabbard (4-0) 58-39, 2 game winning streak
19-9-4 series record
Highlights: Gabbard carried his hot streak into yesterday’s game, lasting seven innings and holding the Pale Hose to a single run. He didn’t strike out many (just one), but neither did he walk many (again, just one). Coco Crisp anchored the offense by hitting 3-for-4 with five RBIs.

Fox broke away from the game for each Barry Bonds at bat, even staying in Milwaukee when Bonds got the four-finger salute.

At the same moment in Boston in the seventh, Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked with two out so that rookie Ehren Wasserman could face the slumping Kevin Youkilis.

Wasserman displayed his inexperience in a five-pitch confrontation that ended with Youkilis taking first on a free pass to load the bases.

Ozzie Guillen yanked the greenhorn to exploit the lefty match-up of Boone Logan against J.D. Drew. Drew watched four pitches drift around of the strike zone.

The Red Sox parade wouldn’t stop there, although Dewon Day replaced Logan as the Grand Marshall. He walked the next two batters and then relinquished a single to Coco Crisp and a triple to Eric Hinske.

Seven runs in the seventh inning granted me the freedom to return to the seventh book in the Harry Potter series. It was a relief to have my attention divided between the game and the book so that I wouldn’t have to hear the prattling of Thom Brennaman and his fixation with the Reds of 1975 nor the muddled meanderings of Joe Girardi.

It was satisfying to see Girardi’s son wearing a Red Sox cap and saying how his favorite player was David Ortiz. Sadly for that young fan and many others Ortiz is day-to-day because of the strained left shoulder, an injury sustained in his head-first slide into second base on Friday.

Meanwhile Steiner Sports Marketing filed suit against Ortiz claiming he hasn’t appeared at enough events nor has he signed enough items for them. Steiner also alleged that the value of items provided to them was diluted because he violated an exclusivity clause. The shoulder strain came a bit too late to provide an excuse.

Annoyances that didn’t matter in the wash because of the seventh-inning outburst:

  • Wily Mo Peña’s frightful fielding and paucity at the plate. Not that I miss this year’s version of Bronson Arroyo, who sports a 4.51 ERA in the NL with peripheral statistics that all indicate further decline is in the offing.
  • Mike Lowell’s apparent hosing at home in the sixth to close the frame. Home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called Boston’s third baseman out despite Toby Hall not laying a tag on the runner.

These are minor irritants in light of the Red Sox’s rejuvenation in these last two games. Terry Francona acknowledged Kason Gabbard’s contributions by allowing him to take the mound at the top of the eighth before pulling him in favor of Javier Lopez so that the southpaw started could receive the recognition he deserved.

This time Gabbard may have completely secured his place in the rotation and won’t be recalled and optioned as he was back in May.

July 21, 2007


Game 96: July 20, 2007
White Sox 3 L: Jose Contreras (5-12) 43-52, 1 game losing streak
12-15-4 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Josh Beckett (13-3)
H: Mike Timlin (3)
H: Hideki Okajima (15)
57-39, 1 game winning streak
19-9-4 series record
Highlights: A three game skid was snapped despite the incompetence of umpires. Beckett struck out ten over six innings of work and those who were once maligned have blossomed under the heat of scrutiny.

When there’s a controversial call sometimes I’d prefer to be at home watching the game so that I can know with complete certainty and through replays that my eyes didn’t deceive me. (I’m talking about real me, not mannequin me who attended Tuesday’s game. She doesn’t have terribly good depth perception.)

Thirty-six thousand, seven hundred thirty-seven other pairs of eyes (give or take a few too drunk or in obstructed seats) saw the same thing I did, but the four people whose judgment actually matters, Marty Foster, Fieldin Culbreth, Paul Schrieber, and Tim McClelland, found themselves in the minority.

Terry Francona stalked down each umpire in an effort to have them discuss the ruling. Despite their summit the incorrect call was made. The play was ruled a double and Manny Ramirez was tagged for the third out.

Francona continued the tirade even as his team took their positions to field at the top of the second. The crowd chanted “Terry! Terry! Terry!” until McClelland gave him the heave-ho, which prompted a outburst of both cheers for the manager standing up for his team and jeers at the bungling officiating crew.

For J.D. Drew’s three-run homer in the first inning I didn’t require a replay from particular angles to confirm what actually happened. From my seat in Section 4, Box 90, Row SS, Seat 21 I saw Drew’s fly ball ricochet off the back rim on the left field wall’s “tabletop,” clearly above the red line marking the boundary between home run and wall ball. I recall Gabe Kapler was similarly robbed, and in that game too the Red Sox ultimately prevailed.

When Drew doubled in the eighth off the Monster many supporters made the home run gesture.

Coco Crisp displayed why the Red Sox front office was willing to part with the touted Andy Marte. He cleared the bases with a go-ahead triple in the fifth that skidded down the right field line and harassed the wooden Jermaine Dye. (Please don’t let trade rumors about Dye to the Red Sox be true.) Crisp also hosed A.J. Pierzynski at second to close the top of the sixth frame.

Another reason to watch games from home is to avoid the fickle and ignorant so-called fans who so predominate Fenway since 2004. The cadre of baseball experts behind me mocked Julio Lugo throughout the game, without an inkling of the shortstop’s recent hot streak. When Lugo launched the grand slam their tune changed immediately; they shoddily high fived and backslapped each other. Their level of commentary was obviously informed by WEEI and other slaphappy, slipshod media.

And yet of course I won’t stop attending game after game. Long after the heated nonsense of naysayers has faded as the sun sets, after their bitterness has evaporated like their spilled beers, I’ll remain.

The best Red Sox Magazine cover as a billboard.

Parts of Fenway are continually under construction. This incomplete façade is under the Green Monster seats on Lansdowne.

Something I hadn’t noticed and never photographed: a flag of the opposing team flies in the Souvenir Store across the way from the Cask and Flagon.

Continue reading “Ignite” »

July 20, 2007

Gaman [我慢]

Game 95: July 19, 2007
WinWhite Sox 4 W: Javier Vazquez (7-5)
H: Ryan Bukvich (2)
S: Bobby Jenks (26)
43-51, 2 game winning streak
12-15-4 series record
Red Sox 2 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-7) 56-39, 3 game losing streak
19-9-4 series record
Highlights: Perseverance. Endurance. Patience. Self control. Denial of self. Things one must be in a season that spans 162 games. Gaman means all these things. These are the concepts guiding Matsuzaka has he forges into the unexplored depths of a major league season.

Half of the ballparks in the Nippon Professional Baseball league are domes. Daisuke Matsuzaka’s home field had a roof and three of the other teams in his division were also indoors. The 1:56 rain delay may have impacted Matsuzaka’s effectiveness last night, but since his previous two games were also not quality starts it’s difficult to ascribe the weather as the sole reason for his shakiness.

But for the Red Sox offense, four runs should be an easily surmountable deficit. The offense did so in Matsuzaka’s start against the Blue Jays on July 14, a game in which Boston launched three home runs.

Home cooking at Fenway has lacked the special sauce of extra base hits to add the finishing touch to games that should have been victories.

Dustin Pedroia replicated his 3-for-5 showing last night and this time sprinkled one of his singles with runners on for an RBI in the second. Julio Lugo drove in the only other run just before Pedroia’s with a tapper to short for a run-scoring fielder’s choice.

The local nine were just 5-for-16 with runners on with one walk. All the hits were one-baggers.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a superlative source for quotes about power:

There are but two roads that lead to an important goal and to the doing of great things: strength and perseverance. Strength is the lot of but a few privileged people; but austere perseverance, harsh and continuous, may be employed by the least of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irreversibly greater with time.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

John knew what he was talking about, even way back then.

July 19, 2007


Game 94: July 18, 2007
WinRoyals 6 W: Odalis Perez (5-8)
H: David Riske (10)
H: Jimmy Gobble (8)
H: Joakim Soria (9)
S: Octavio Dotel (10)
41-53, 2 game winning streak
11-17-3 series record
Red Sox 5 L: Julian Tavarez (5-8) 56-38, 2 game losing streak
19-9-4 series record
Highlights: Again, nobody died. But there were several people I wanted to have killed. One who deserved to live: Jason Varitek gunned down Alex Gordon on his steal attempt of the keystone sack to close the fifth and he drove in a run in the fourth. Other candidates for a stay of execution below.

It’s 1978 all over again! The end is nigh!

Whenever panic seizes me, I visit Baseball Prospectus’s Postseason Odds page. As of today, the Yankees have a 16.87621% chance to clinch the AL wild card and a 23.70733% of making the playoffs. Hooray, Monte Carlo simulations! Boo, irrational worry about dropping one series against the club lurking in the basement of the league.

If the static columns of Baseball Prospectus don’t inspire, click over to Baseball Race and play the 2004 AL season.

Despite the close loss, a few players shone on both sides of the dish. Manny Ramirez failed to power the tying and winning runs in the ninth but he did go yard in fifth to dead center. Beset by liners over his head, Ramirez played slightly deeper and made a lunging nab of David DeJesus’s line drive in the first.

Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 but his hits came without runners on. DeJesus was again the victim on Pedroia’s running catch and pivot of a bounding ball that seemed destined for shallow center. The throw to first was slightly off as it was cleared out so quickly, but Kevin Youkilis extended to complete the play.

Not that the positive aspects of this game matter anyway. Prepare to have your hearts ripped out still beating and trampled upon by David Ortiz’s signature cleats. This season is over!

July 18, 2007


Game 93: July 17, 2007
WinRoyals 9 W: Jimmy Gobble (4-1)
H: Zach Greinke (7)
40-53, 1 game winning streak
10-17-3 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Tim Wakefield (10-9) 56-37, 1 game losing streak
19-8-4 series record
Highlights: Well, nobody died.

Unfortunately, my friend Matt’s NU50 mojo blog is all but defunct. If he were still active, you’d get to see things like this. Originally posted in the Royal Rooters members-only section, Matt exacts his revenge on me since I had to cancel last night because of my business trip. The pictures and captions are all by him, but my responses are in italics.

So I just got back from the ball park. Oh, what a day Empyreal and I had!
Does he really think I have an Adam’s apple?

Of course, we were nearly late, she had to primp so much in the mirror before hand!
In truth, I take ten minutes tops to get ready for anything.

But eventually we got to the T and off we went to Fenway.
Can you imagine what people on the T thought? Parents were hiding their children, I’m certain.

Continue reading “Flat” »


Game 92: July 16, 2007
Royals 0 L: Brian Bannister (5-6) 39-53, 2 game losing streak
series record
WinRed Sox 4 W: Kason Gabbard (3-0) 56-36, 1 game winning streak
19-8-4 series record
Highlights: Three home runs by Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz were the only offensive moments of the evening. Gabbard went the distance, striking out eight, walking one, and allowing just three hits.

A Royals beat writer must already know what he is going to be writing by the end of August: the elimination day column. For the past decade every season is a rewrite of the previous except for that glimpse of success in 2003.

The utter futility is so rote it’s ingrained in Kansas City players’ DNA. The lackluster attitude with which Emil Brown fielded Mike Lowell’s fly ball to left in the fifth is representative of the team’s culture.

Can newcomers like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler stem the tide of apathy in a city that was once awash in baseball excellence?

They may have a chance, but they’ll need a better bullpen and top of the rotation starters. Currently Jorge De La Rosa and Gil Meche lead the team with seven and six wins, respectively.

I was at McCoy on Monday night and watched this game at the midnight replay (more on the Clay Buchholz experience later). The Pawsox crowd were treated to in-game highlights for Kason Gabbard’s complete game shutout. They recalled him fondly and cheered for both him and their big league counterparts.

I caught Dustin Pedroia make a face as Julio Lugo and Manny Ramirez hugged after the fourth inning homers. The second baseman tried to feign distaste but I think he envied them their manlove. Just like white men like Kevin Millar before him, Pedroia must embrace manlove. It is an essential component of Red Sox championship-bound teams in the new millennium.

The Royals as currently constructed would be hard-pressed to beat a team like the Ottawa Lynx, just as the Pawsox would have a good chance against the Kansas City franchise, which is a major league team in name only.

July 16, 2007


Game 91: July 15, 2007
WinBlue Jays 2 W: Jesse Litsch (2-3)
H: Scott Downs (12)
H: Casey Janssen (13)
S: Jeremy Accardo (13)
45-46, 1 game winning streak
13-11-5 series record
Red Sox 1 L: Josh Beckett (12-3) 55-36, 1 game losing streak
19-8-4 series record
Highlights: Alex Cora and David Ortiz’s double doubles in the sixth. The blustery wind buffeted the ball far away from Alex Rios that it dropped. Rios would have his revenge, however. Beckett pitched an eight-inning gem with eight strikeouts, one through nine did not feature the best hitters. Is that any way to present yourself? Whatever happened to dressing in your Sunday best?

Jesse Litsch is one of those feel-good stories, a modern-day Horatio Alger. He went from bat boy to major league pitcher and made one of the best teams in baseball look silly over the course of a Sunday afternoon.

Alger’s stories propagated the myth that anyone through dint of effort can attain success and that America is truly a meritocracy.

Then along comes someone like DeMarlo Hale to rob you of your success.

Eric Hinske, the prototype of the hardworking non-complainer who gets his day to shine, was robbed of an RBI in the sixth. He sharply lined a double to Alex Rios with Ortiz at second and Hale, for some reason, sent Ortiz home.

Yes, that same Ortiz who has to have surgery on his knee when the season is finished.

Ortiz was out at home and Boston did not get a baserunner past first for the final three innings of the game.

I’ll be taking part in another, better (if you’re a Red Sox fan) inspirational story: Clay Buchholz makes his Triple A debut tonight at McCoy and I’ll be there. Words and pictures to come later.

July 15, 2007

Gambatte [頑張って]

Game 90: July 14, 2007
Blue Jays 4 L: Dustin McGowan (5-5) 44-46, 1 game losing streak
13-11-4 series record
WinRed Sox 9 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-6) 55-35, 1 game winning streak
19-8-3 series record
Highlights: The first kanji 頑 means stubborn, foolish, or firmly and the second 張 translates to lengthen or stretch. The final two characters transform the word into a te verb form which has no tense of its own and is used to join the word to other verbs or words, a common example being kudasai (please) to turn the phrase into a polite request. Gambatte has become a set expression that means “Don’t give up” or “Hang in there.” Matsuzaka-senshu gambatte! Manny Delcarmen struck out four in two innings and Hideki Okajima finished frames to assure at least a split in this four-game series.

Despite the second rough outing in a row, Daisuke Matsuzaka persevered to tally his eleventh win of 2007. In each of his six innings of toil he had at least one baserunner and he struck out only two. Out of sync with his windup, he even resorted to pitching from the stretch with no men on base. The two free passes he turned over to Lyle Overbay in the second and Alex Rios in the third were not costly. Instead, the Blue Jays cashed in with a solo shot by Troy Glaus in the fourth and a two-run jack to by Aaron Hill (last night’s honorary Frank Catalanotto clone) to tie in the sixth.

The local nine blasted circuit clouts of their own: David Ortiz with shot to the visitors’ bullpen in the first, Eric Hinske’s shout out to his peeps in the home pen, and the two-run go-ahead jack in the bottom of the sixth by Jason Varitek. Not only did Varitek guide his charge through a difficult game but he secured the win for his starter.

Of course the Boston media will be abuzz about Matsuzaka’s downward trend. It’s not unreasonable to expect this for several reasons. June was an outstanding month for the rookie starter. His 2-2 record isn’t indicative of it but his ERA was 1.59 and 42 strikeouts show otherwise. In his first two months he compiled ERAs of 4.35 and 5.22 respectively, so some regression was to be expected.

The rigors of an MLB-style rotation and facing more powerful and patients hitters will also take its inevitable toll. Furthermore, the more he pitches, the better looks advanced scouts will get. With that knowledge, his vulnerabilities will be exploited.

The real Matsuzaka probably falls somewhere between the June version and May’s. What remains to be seen is how with his myriad of pitches he adjusts to the second half of the season.

Having a formidable offense that seems to have found its stride may give Matsuzaka and the other starters the breathing room required. Not only did the team knock out homers but also singles (a barrage of one-baggers in the sixth), doubles (a ground-rule arc by Ortiz that just missed being a souvenir in the third), and even triples (in the case of Coco Crisp, a deep fly ball into center in the third that baffled Gold Glover Vernon Wells).

John Gibbons, as I noted in his ejection in the first game, does not have a flair for the dramatic on field; it seems most of his shenanigans happen in the clubhouse (just ask Shea Hillenbrand or Ted Lilly). Troy Glaus was flabbergasted that Gibbons did not even flinch when he was called out at second by Laz Diaz in the second inning.

Crisp corralled the tin-rattling fly off the wall barehanded, à la Manny, and relayed to Dustin Pedroia before Glaus was into the keystone sack. It was the oddest sound, first a clank and then a creaking, as if the impact awakened old ghosts in the wall.

Replays showed that although the Blue Jays third baseman was there after the ball he eluded Pedroia’s tag. Discretion being the better part of valor, MLB.com did not include the top of this frame in their condensed game package available online.

A note on coiffure to Dustin McGowan: there are at most two men who can successfully wear mutton chops. One went 2-for-3 against you last night. The other is not you.

July 14, 2007


Game 89: July 13, 2007
WinBlue Jays 6 W: Shaun Marcum (5-3)
H: Scott Downs (11)
H: Casey Janssen (12)
S: Jeremy Accardo (12)
44-45, 1 game winning streak
13-11-4 series record
Red Sox 5 L: Kyle Snyder (1-2) 54-35, 1 game losing streak
19-8-3 series record
Highlights: Early runs by the Red Sox could not stave off the Blue Jays, who took the lead in the sixth and never looked back. Despite the loss, Mike Timlin, Joel Piñeiro (taking the place of the recalled Jeff Bailey), and Javier Lopez combined for three and one-third innings of near-perfect pitching. Boston has a winning record in one-run games, but just barely, 14-13.

Shaun Marcum is far from my favorite “Shaun,” and that’s not just because he possesses one of the odder spellings of the moniker. Of course, that title belongs to Chone Figgins.

My favorite Shaun is a plasticine creation from the mind of Nick Parker. The most noteworthy sheep from Wallace & Gromit in A Close Shave was named Shaun. To me, this half-hour feature was the last of the series’ charming installments. At any rate, when pronounced with an English accent Shaun sounds like “shorn,” which is exactly what happens to the sheep. The shivering lamb was given a wool sweater to wear after he was rudely disrobed of his fleece.

If only the same would happen to Marcum’s facial hair. Not that I think anyone should get the Yankee treatment, but “Marcum” must be Canadian for scruffy.

The Red Sox batters seemed disturbed by the flourishing biosphere in Marcum’s beard and did their level best to eliminate the pest emanating from the opposing pitcher’s chin. The five runs Boston notched were the result of hitters attempting to swat at the insects taking wing with the disruption each pitch delivery caused.

David Ortiz swatted a single into the opposite field in the first to combat a swarm of gnats while Manny Ramirez’s two-run home run into the Monster seats was a particularly hard swing at a cabbage moth.

By the end of the third all of the vermin in Marcum’s whiskers were expended. The last few mosquitoes prompted a double off the bat of J.D. Drew, a single by Ramirez, and a triple by Mike Lowell over the head of Vernon Wells.

If only there were a few more winged beasties to smack. Boston could have mounted ninth inning comebacks like the other division leaders, the Angels and Indians, did.

July 13, 2007


Game 88: July 12, 2007
Blue Jays 4 L: Roy Halladay (10-4) 43-45, 1 game losing streak
13-11-4 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (10-8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (5)
H: Hideki Okajima (14)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (21)
54-34, 1 game winning streak
19-8-3 series record
Highlights: With this victory three Red Sox pitchers now have double digits in wins: Wakefield joined Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka to head one of the premier pitching staffs in the majors. There were no homers by Boston players but they hit when it mattered, including two-out RBIs by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the sixth.

The frenzy around David Ortiz’s knee subsided as he stated he would not have surgery in-season but will wait until the 2007 campaign is over. He’ll play through the pain his torn meniscus is giving him. If 3-for-5 showings are the norm for a hobbled Ortiz, the temptation will be to keep him in the lineup everyday. I fear the long-term repercussions to this decision; one need only look at Frank Thomas as a cautionary tale.

How the mighty have fallen. Toronto is constantly touted as the contending team-in-waiting in the AL East thanks to J.P. Ricciardi. Several facets give this general manager a higher profile than others who are more successful: his front office lineage as a special assistant to Sandy Alderson and a peer of Billy Beane in Oakland, his recent spending spree, and a media corps that is fatigued of the Boston and New York storylines.

Vernon Wells batted in the one-hole because of his poor showing this season. Unlike another centerfielder, Andruw Jones, Wells’s locked in his (over)value last December with a seven-year, $126 million extension. Jones’s lack of production is puzzling has he should be motivated maintain or surpass his seasons, but perhaps Wells now that he has cashed in has allowed himself to become complacent.

Roy Halladay is a Cy Young-winner who has been surrounded by lesser lights in the rotation. When a number two starter has been acquired to bolster the pitching staff, they are often in down or injury-plagued years. So it has been Halladay’s task to anchor the rotation alone, and the burden sometimes appears to have gotten the better of him.

Last night was one of those times. The Red Sox fell one short of batting around in the first while Halladay expended 41 pitches. Ten of those came against Dustin Pedroia, and J.D. Drew duplicated the feat to lead off the second.

Pedroia also closed the top of the first with a diving snatch of Troy Glaus’s sharp rap up the middle. The second baseman used the ground as a gymnast works a pommel horse and pivoted around to heave to Kevin Youkilis to nail Glaus at the first base bag.

Ramirez recorded his fifth outfield assist in the fourth to the chagrin of Thomas. Although Ramirez played shallow as usual, his jog to the ball and quick release was swifter than the designated hitter’s baserunning.

There few things slower than Thomas galumphing into second. Glaciers (or what’s left of them) come to mind. Continental drift. Paris Hilton.

I think Ramirez just wanted to see Pedroia standing next to Thomas in an attempt to create baseball’s version of Bao Xishun and He Pingping’s historic meeting.

Tim Wakefield fell just short of a quality start; the sequential homers by Matt Stairs and Alex Rios in the sixth put him over the threshold. The triad of Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon has emerged as the deal-sealers for their starters.

Just after Delcarmen turned in yet another performance to secure his spot as the go-to man in the seventh inning, Blue Jays field manager John Gibbons was ejected in the least sensational manner possible. If that performance was meant to fire up his team it is no wonder it is lagging behind the division leaders by 11 games.

Gibbons’s lackluster scene was only overshadowed in incompetence by a fan in the left field stands parallel to the left field foul line. The cretin reached over on a foul ball off the bat of Rios that Ramirez could have gloved given the chance. Rios went on to double in the same area but luckily was left stranded at third.

July 9, 2007

Amaibōru [甘いボール]

Game 87: July 8, 2007
Red Sox 5 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (10-6) 53-34, 3 game losing streak
19-8-3 series record
WinTigers 6 W: Nate Robertson (5-6)
H: Jose Capellan (1)
H: Zach Miner (4)
S: Todd Jones (22)
52-34, 5 game winning streak
18-8-3 series record
Highlights: Amai is the word for sweet but it also carries connotation of being easy-going, lenient, and half-hearted while bōru is the Japanization of the English word ball. In the argot of American baseball the best equivalents would be meatball, cream puff, lollipop, grapefruit, pumpkin; in short, a fat pitch. If you ate a lot of amaimono [甘い物], or sweets, it’s very likely you’d plump out. Matsuzaka served up such a dazzling and appetizing array of produce to the Tiger hitters that their stats definitely fattened up.

Another word for the game: bassackwards. It wasn’t even a complete reversal of reality, however: Wily Mo Peña didn’t have a single web gem. He creaked aimlessly like an Alexander Calder creation in the third as Gary Sheffield’s line drive sailed over his head, his massive bulk shifting with uncertainty when confronted with outside stimuli.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was dissected over five innings for ten hits, six earned runs, and three circuit clouts. His fastballs weren’t lively and his breaking pitches had no bite. His stature took a hit but he remains a Rookie of the Year candidate. Even Justin Verlander took his lumps in his 2006 campaign; note his outings on April 13, June 1, August 16, and August 26.

Mike Timlin turned in two innings of perfection, but by that time the Tigers were already on their BlackBerries or iPhones making plans for the All-Star break.

Quadruple-A Jeff Bailey and the stagnant Julio Lugo, of all Red Sox, launched consecutive souvenir shots in the seventh inning. An usher tracked down the ball so that Bailey would have a tangible piece of his time in the majors.

Lugo shocked again in the eighth with his line drive RBI double to push J.D. Drew across the dish. Were it not for Jose Capellan’s maladroit pickoff attempt that allowed Drew to round the horn the game wouldn’t have been as close as it was. The Tigers error total was just one shy of the sum of their runs.

The flaws were largely concealed by Curtis Granderson’s season-defining play against Wily Mo Peña in the fourth. It was reminiscent of Gary Matthews, Jr.’s snag of Mike Lamb’s fly ball that seemed destined to exit Ameriquest Field.

Boston came within one run of avoiding a series sweep but proved it can go toe-to-toe with another division leader despite not eventually prevailing. Perhaps the Red Sox strategy is to save the real victories for the postseason and the moral ones for the regular season.

July 8, 2007


Game 86: July 7, 2007 · 13 innings
Red Sox 2 L: Jonathan Papelbon (0-2) 53-33, 2 game losing streak
19-8-3 series record
WinTigers 3 W: Jason Grilli (3-2) 51-34, 4 game winning streak
18-8-3 series record
Highlights: Boston is now 1-5 in games over regulation. Kason Gabbard’s two walks in the fifth and the two-out rope to left by Craig Monroe to drive them in was not the downfall of the Red Sox. Leaving 12 men on base grounding into four double plays toppled the team.

Every member of Boston’s relief corps should be given the opportunity to sucker punch a Red Sox hitter of their choice. Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, and Javier Lopez contributed all-out innings to hold the Tigers at bay while their batters squandered opportunity after opportunity. Yes, even Timlin, who pitched around ducks on the pond in the eleventh.

Broadcasters like to equate series against two division leaders as heavyweight bouts. Such an analogy implies that blows are actually being landed.

Last night’s contest was like a slow-motion quarterstaff match. The Red Sox played Daffy Duck to Detroit’s Porky Pig in that most famous of quarterstaff (or $1.25 staff) confrontations, the standoff in “Robin Hood Daffy.” Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!

Okajima parried against two leadoff walks in the tenth and battled out of a bases-loaded jam. The enmity exuded by Tigers fans was palpable; their sweetheart missed the chance at his first All-Star game appearance by losing to the Red Sox reliever. They coveted a loss to be born by Okajima in retribution for the snubbing of their ace.

Okajima wouldn’t play a part in their passion play. After intentionally walking Brandon Inge to load the bases, Okajima induced a tapper of the bat of Curtis Granderson to first to expunge Ivan Rodriguez at home. He toyed with Omar Infante; two called strikes arced over the plate with no response by the second baseman. Behind the count the infielder was forced to swing at the next pitch, which he lifted harmlessly to center field.

Bonderman acquitted himself well over eight innings. His only misstep happened in the first inning against one man whom pitchers would be loathe to throw anything but paint. David Ortiz crushed the 2-1 offering that had too much of the dish into the right field stands with Dustin Pedroia perched on third.

After Ortiz’s leadoff double in the sixth, Tigers pitchers would not repeat that mistake. They took the bat out of his hands in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth.

Terry Francona must be a fan of Kirk Gibson (or not terribly enamored of J.D. Drew’s recent exploits). He tried to recreate the pinch hitter’s 1988 World Series glory on a small scale by sending Kevin Youkilis to the plate in the twelfth. The hobbled first baseman was undoubtedly hindered by rust standing in against Bobby Seay. Nothing like a bases-loaded, two-out bat to get the juices flowing. Like Infante he watched two strikes cross the plate and had to swing behind in the count; he flied out to right to end the threat.

As Kason Gabbard succumbed baserunners without hits in the fifth so did Jonathan Papelbon in the thirteenth. The relief ace drilled Gary Sheffield to leadoff the inning and his presence on first galled the battery for the duration of Magglio Ordóñez’s at bat. Six pickoff attempts were interspersed in the four pitches it took to dismiss the right fielder but Sheffield still swiped second with the first pitch to Carlos Guillen.

Coco Crisp almost made the catch of the season on Ivan Rodriguez’s liner to the right-center gap, but the Red Sox had expended all their luck by the bottom of the thirteenth.

July 7, 2007


Game 85: July 6, 2007
Red Sox 2 L: Julian Tavarez (5-7) 53-32, 1 game losing streak
19-7-3 series record
WinTigers 9 W: Andrew Miller (4-2) 50-34, 3 game winning streak
17-8-3 series record
Highlights: Coco Crisp drove in Julio Lugo with a humpback to center in the third. Doug Mirabelli homered in the ninth. Nobody’s jaw was broken, either last night or the night before in Josh Beckett’s collision with Dioner Navarro, despite what Beckett told reporters.

Bigger loser last night: the Red Sox lineup with its measly five hits? Me doing laundry on a Friday night? Julian Tavarez in his four and two-thirds inning showing with eight earned runs bring his losing streak to three? Let’s be diplomatic and call it a toss-up.

Wily Mo Peña was close to scoring on Jeff Bailey’s fly ball to Curtis Granderson in the third. Winded from running out a triple, even Peña’s galumphing mass of muscle was unable to jar the flawlessly thrown outfield assist from Mike Rabelo’s mitt.

Peña exacted a measure of revenge when he began the assist to hose Rabelo at the plate in the fourth. Cutoff man positioned himself to receive the relay and telegraphed it to Jason Varitek. For his part Varitek blocked the plate with shin guards presented threateningly in the path of the runner.

With Jacoby Ellsbury’s return to Pawtucket, Kevin Youkilis’s ailing quadriceps, and southpaws bookending the series, Bailey got the call to platoon with Eric Hinske at first. Bailey was drafted in the second round in 1997 by the Marlins. He stalled at Double-A for three years beginning in 2001 and drifted between that level and Triple-A for a few more seasons until he plateaued at Pawtucket from 2005.

He is Crash Davis in the flesh, but his celluloid counterpart at least retained the ability to play backstop. After a labrum tear, Bailey was gun shy about throwing across the diamond to catch potential base swipers. He eventually overcame his mental block but his primary position became first base.

The saying goes that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, but in reality the first base position is a catchall for failed prospects of all stripes. It is the last refuge of potential production, lack of speed, and unfitness of fielding.

Even so, to finally have your break after over a decade of being stepped over was the thrill of a lifetime for Bailey. Especially, as Bailey said, with the Red Sox.

July 6, 2007


Game 84: July 5, 2007
Devil Rays 4 L: J.P. Howell (1-2) 33-51, 11 game losing streak
8-16-4 series record
WinRed Sox 15 W: Josh Beckett (12-2) 53-31, 4 game winning streak
19-7-3 series record
Highlights: In case you missed the Fourth of July the Red Sox had more fireworks for you last night. Rollicking runs galore in the bottom of the first, second, third, and sixth innings. Beckett sparkled in the tops of innings one through six save for a slight hiccup the second. But even in that inning he notched two strikeouts.

Boston wrapped up a series sweep against Tampa Bay in a dazzling display of offensive prowess. Coco Crisp and Mike Lowell tied for most rib-eyes with five each. Crisp’s spectacle was more showy with a right-handed grand slam off the Coke bottles in the first inning.

Or should I say “Coco Cola” bottles? Crisp capped off his total with a bases-loaded walk in the third. The center fielder came up to bat four times with ducks on the pond and in the final two instances he batted left-handed and came up empty. In the sixth he grounded into an inning-ending double play and in the eighth he struck out swinging for the final out. I suppose he can be given a mulligan for those at bats given his jackpot shot. Bill Mueller’s pair of grand slams from both sides of the plate on July 29, 2003 remains the only instance in the history of baseball this has happened.

Lowell also homered, but his second-inning smash came with two men on. The All-Star third baseman singled in the third and sixth to tie Crisp in RBIs for the evening.

In the midst of the Red Sox runs was a poignant moment when the crowd gave Hideki Okajima a standing ovation for his invitation to the All-Star game. His success served a stark counterpoint of what differentiates a playoff-bound team like the Red Sox from perennial washouts like the Devil Rays.

The four horseman of Tampa Bay’s apocalypse, J.P. Howell, Brian Stokes, Jon Switzer, and Jason Hammel, each had disaster outings in which they surrendered more runs than innings pitched.

If the Red Sox offense weren’t so successful, Josh Beckett probably would have lasted longer than six innings. He blew away the first three batters and carried over his dominance into the second by rendering Carlos Peña a spectator to a devastating curve. The tarrying between Beckett’s mound appearances seemed to detract from his intensity and sharpness, but the double-digit lead meant the few mistake pitches he did let fly were not as costly.

Beckett’s nine strikeouts made a case to Jim Leyland for a Red Sox hurler to headline the Midsummer Classic for the American League, perhaps even over the manager’s own starter, Justin Verlander. Being a crafty old salt, Leyland would probably prefer to preserve one of his best assets but couch it in terms of Beckett’s eminence.

This time it counts, to be sure. But only if you get there intact.

July 5, 2007


Game 83: July 4, 2007
Devil Rays 5 L: Edwin Jackson (1-9) 33-50, 10 game losing streak
8-16-4 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (9-8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (4)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (20)
52-31, 3 game winning streak
19-7-3 series record
Highlights: Terry Francona loaded the lineup with lefties to face Jackson. Jackson was once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Dodgers system; Baseball America ranked number one in 2003 and and number three in 2004. Five innings, nine hits, and seven earned runs later, the fact that TINSTAAPP was readily apparent.

But there are such things as positional player prospects, right? Because Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the best. Yesterday he slid over to left as part of Terry Francona’s plan to overwhelm Edwin Jackson with southpaws. There was wisdom guiding this tactic:

  • WHIP vs. LHH: 2.09
    WHIP vs. RHH: 1.68
  • Slugging vs. LHH: .534
    Slugging vs. RHH: .439
  • LHH OBA: .422
    RHH OBA: .380

David Ortiz and Mike Lowell placed singles into the outfield in the fourth to set up the chance for Ellsbury to tally his first RBI in the majors. Ellsbury lifted a fly ball over the head of Dustan Mohr, ironically enough, to plate Ortiz for the go-ahead run.

Doug Mirabelli defied the splits and earned his keep with a two-out single in the same inning to drive in Mike Lowell and Ellsbury.

The Red Sox continued the onslaught in the bottom of the fifth inning but this time the heavy artillery was unleashed. Alex Cora sneaked a double past Carlos Peña and then advanced on a haywire hurl by Jackson. J.D. Drew doubled against the left field wall for his 33rd RBI of the season. Perhaps Drew, unlike Trot Nixon, will learn to go to the opposite field on breezy summer days to take advantage of such situations.

Lowell powered a homer into the third row of the Monster seats right into a perfectly positioned and gloved fan. The two-run shot seemed a luxury at the time but proved to be the difference in the game as Tim Wakefield ran into a spot of trouble in the seventh.

It started plainly enough with consecutive singles off the bats of Ty Wigginton and Raul Casanova. Mohr was dispatched in four pitches and Wakefield seemingly regained his stride. But then Akinori Iwamura also singled to load the bases and Javier Lopez was summoned to induce one of his patented inning-ending double play.

Carl Crawford had other plans.

Despite being acutely aware of Jackson’s splits against lefties, Francona was oblivious to Lopez’s. While not drastic, they do exist:

  • WHIP vs. LHH: 1.64
    WHIP vs. RHH: 1.20
  • Slugging vs. LHH: .409
    Slugging vs. RHH: .375
  • LHH OBA: .377
    RHH OBA: .359

The sidearm lefty remained in to face both Crawford and Peña and the pair of left-handers drove in runs to pull their team within two.

Lopez’s recent troubles and Hideki Okajima’s unavailability were not worrisome since Manny Delcarmen’s emergence as a reliable middle-inning go-to guy. Delcarmen struck out three in his one and one-third inning appearance to set up Jonathan Papelbon.

I think Papelbon contrives little rules for him to keep when closing out a game to keep it interesting. The prescript for this game: get three outs, at least two of them punch outs, in ten pitches or less. Cake.

As NESN cameras panned Fenway, a spirit of camaraderie fitting of the holiday was apparent for the most part. But when a bat flung from the hands of a flailing Ortiz found its way into the stands, two patrons battled tooth and nail for the memorabilia.

Not even Wally garbed in Uncle Sam duds could have brokered peace between the combatants. One fan triumphed and greedily clutched his prize to his chest. This is what makes our country great. God shed his grace on thee.

July 4, 2007

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

July 3, 2007


Game 81: July 2, 2007
Rangers 3 L: Brandon McCarthy (4-5) 34-48, 1 game losing streak
9-15-3 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Kason Gabbard (2-0) 50-31, 1 game winning streak
18-7-3 series record
Highlights: At the exact midpoint of the season the local nine tallied their 50th win. Despite the spate of recent disappointing losses, this team has weathered injuries and slumps to have the second best record in the majors. Eric Hinske demonstrated his super-sub powers by more than adequately covering for the hobbled Kevin Youkilis.

It took facing a pitcher returning to baseball after a stint on the DL, but the Red Sox offense bloomed at last. The last time Boston scored seven runs was on June 26 against the Mariners and it wasn’t enough for the win. This time everyone did their job and the Red Sox salvaged a tie in the final series against the Rangers.

Brandon McCarthy came to the Rangers by way of trade. Texas turned over John Danks, Nick Masset, and Jacob Rasner for the lanky starter. Having either U.S. Cellular Field or Rangers Ballpark as a home field is unappetizing for a pitcher as they rank in the sixth and eighth spots respectively in park factor for home runs. McCarthy was probably ashen to be shuttled from a World Series champion with two consecutive 90+ win seasons.

The White Sox have taken a nosedive into the lower rungs of the American League and now have more in common with teams like the Devil Rays, Rangers, and Royals. It’s doubtful McCarthy misses them all that much now.

The other thing he misses is control and command of his pitches. McCarthy lasted three and two-thirds innings only, relinquishing four earned runs while walking three and striking out one.

Eric Hinske led off the boisterous third with single to right. Jacoby Ellsbury followed suit and both advanced on Julio Lugo’s sacrifice bunt.

An overzealous fan touched Dustin Pedroia’s bounding ball right, but because of Lugo’s bunt two runs would still score. For all the abuse directed in the shortstop’s direction, it was his success that rendered a fan’s mistake less costly.

Manny Ramirez continued to get great loft if not enough distance on the ball; his deep double plated Pedroia and hinted at the homers that should follow.

Ellsbury was a firecracker in the fourth. He led off with his first hit to the outfield and swiped second on the tiring McCarthy. When a pitcher walks Lugo, a manager knows his hurler is gassed.

Willie Eyre replaced McCarthy on the mound. The change in height or approach confused Gerald Laird; he was unable to block a wild pitch and it skipped far enough away from home for Ellsbury to score from second base.

Who knew there was enough foul territory for that to happen? The way the young center fielder sprang up from his slide reminded me of Dave Roberts’s spin at home in Game 4.

The Rangers clawed within one run of the Red Sox in the top of the fifth. Brad Wilkerson deposited a three-run bomb into the visitor’s bullpen, not only shocking because it was Wilkerson but also because I just recently acquired him one of my fantasy leagues, which is usually a certain recipe for a player’s undoing.

Unlike recent contests when an opposition’s rally would go unanswered, the Red Sox coolly responded to Eyre’s offerings. After David Ortiz missed a homer by less than ten feet, Ramirez and J.D. Drew earned consecutive bases on balls. Mike Lowell flied out but Jason Varitek sustained the pressure with liner to left to jam the bases.

Hinske lighted that spark that caused him to be named Rookie of the Year in 2002 in the bottom of the same inning. His fly ball evaded even Kenny Lofton in center. Lofton, though long in tooth, proved himself nearly as spry as he was in his Cleveland days. The bases-clearing triple granted enough breathing room to allow even Mike Timlin a turn on the hill.

Perhaps to bolster his All-Star campaign, Hideki Okajima was called upon to close out the series finale. Always one for variety, he coaxed a ground out, aimed a strikeout, and induced a fly out to end the game (one where Ellsbury asserted his position and called off Drew). Chants of the reliever’s name wafted through the air: O-ka-ji-ma! Clap, clap, clap clap clap! He’s in second place now and you have until 6 PM this Thursday to vote.

July 1, 2007


Game 80: July 1, 2007
WinRangers 2 W: Kameron Loe (5-6)
H: C.J. Wilson (7)
H: Frank Francisco (7)
H: Akinori Otsuka (11)
S: Eric Gagne (10)
34-47, 2 game winning streak
9-15-2 series record
Red Sox 1 L: Julian Tavarez (5-6) 49-31, 2 game losing streak
18-7-2 series record
Highlights: Oddly enough the Red Sox didn’t wear the red home jerseys on Maine Day. Tavarez was one out short of a quality start; his defense bailed him out of several jams but didn’t give him much to work with when they were on the other side of the mound.

Sleep delays my life
Get up, get up

The Red Sox batters were lulled by Kameon Loe’s sinker for the bulk of six innings. They were far from being dominated by Loe, as only the third and sixth innings didn’t have a Boston runner on the basepaths. But timely hits were not in the offing.

Where does time go?
Get up, get up, get up

The only run scratched out in the game by the Red Sox came in the middle inning. Alex Cora singled to left and Dustin Pedroia did the same with the count full. Frank Catalanotto (how I despise typing his name) briefly bobbled the liner and Cora advanced to third on the muff. Kevin Youkilis dropped a liner right in front of Catalanotto to plate Cora. I hoped that in the fifth inning the Rangers left fielder was one-millionth as annoyed as Red Sox fans are aggravated by him, because even that fraction of vexation would be colossal.

I don’t know
Sleep, sleep, sleepy head
Get up, get up, get up

Eleven men were left on base to moulder and David Ortiz alone stranded five. He flied out to left in the fifth with two men on and one out, struck out with two on and two out in the seventh, and popped out to first with one on and two out in the ninth. I think the NASCAR crews visiting Fenway messed with Papi’s clutch.

Wake it up... up
Get up, get up
You’ve got all your life
Way up ahead
Get up, get up, get up

There’s still a chance to tie the series tomorrow night and finally join the Angels in the half-century win club. Kason Gabbard will attempt to redeem himself after a horrific start against the Mariners. He will be opposed by Brandon McCarthy, who has been erratic and disappointing. Rangers GM Jon Daniels might regret the trade in which he turned over John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox in December of 2006. Then again, the only way pitchers shine in Rangers Ballpark is from sweat, either from the sun’s heat or from the constant barrage of opponent’s hits. McCarthy is 6'7", however, and Boston has been doing terribly against tall pitchers.

I’ve seen you laying pined
Get up, get up

Time to lay down some pine or ride it.

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