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Home » Category Listing » May 2007 Game Comments

May 31, 2007

Haiboku [敗北]

Game 52: May 30, 2007
WinIndians 8 W: Paul Byrd (6-1)
H: Tom Mastny (5)
S: Aaron Fultz (9)
32-19, 1 game winning streak
12-5-1 series record
Red Sox 4 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-3) 36-16, 1 game losing streak
14-3-2 series record
Highlights: It was headband-o-rama by the camera crew who happily advertised Remy’s latest wares. One bright spot was the extension of Kevin Youkilis’s hit streak to 22 games with his single in the third inning. The word haiboku can mean beating, black eye, checkmate, defeat, discomfiture, loss, reverse of fortune, setback, trouncing, and tumble. The first kanji [敗] translates simply as failure, defeat, or reversal and the second symbol [北] means north, giving the word a spatial aspect of someone at the top of one’s game being toppled.

Just like men to get all iffy when you declare your love for them, isn’t it?

I just had to drop the four-letter “L” word yesterday, replete with googly-eyes and tremulous voice. In return I get half-hearted, barely audible “Uh, yeah.... Me, too.” Then comes your shifty glance, your flop sweat, and your muttered promise of a call at some indefinite point in the future.

You guys played last night’s game like a noncommittal libertine. Dallying on the base paths, scoring with grounders hither and thither. Only Mike was determined to go all the way as he ably demonstrated with his eighth inning home run with J.D. on base. What’s going on with the rest of you?

Daisuke totally freaked and regressed to his early season behavior like when we first started seeing each other. What was up with that sixth inning? I thought we had worked on that particular character flaw.

And I saw Manny throw that tantrum in the fourth, trying to break that camera.

Were you put off with me mentioning that I rather enjoyed watching Cleveland play? Maybe you misinterpreted my gibes as insinuations of deeper affection. Can’t I watch other teams in a platonic way? Why are you acting like such a kid about this? Can we discuss this issue like adults?

See how Kelly Shoppach rebounded after being dropped by you? He hit a homer in the eighth because he’s not afraid of commitment. You probably just think he’s trying to get under your skin, but in reality he’s completely over you and he’s just doing his thing. Geez, must you try and read into everything?

Well, anyway, I’m going to come by on Friday. You’re going to be there, right?

May 30, 2007


Game 51: May 29, 2007
Indians 2 L: Jeremy Sowers (1-5) 31-19, 2 game losing streak
12-5-1 series record
WinRed Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (8-0)
H: Brendan Donnelly (7)
H: Javier Lopez (7)
S: Hideki Okajima (4)
36-15, 5 game winning streak
14-3-2 series record
Highlights: Okajima was presented with his Rookie of the Month award for April by none other than Dennis Eckersley and went on to convert his fourth save opportunity. Kevin Youkilis, batting in David Ortiz’s spot, had multiple hits in a game for the 25th time this season and extended his hitting streak to 21 games.

Can this Red Sox team make even a hardened cynic believe in true love?

Worry not, this isn’t a promotional spot for “Sox Appeal” (premiering in July on NESN, if you hadn’t heard). After a few weeks of first ignoring, then actively combating against, the flutterings that have played in my heart, I have to say it.

I love this team.

And that includes Julio Lugo (because he at least makes it more interesting than Alex Gonzalez, both at the plate and in the hole) and J.D. Drew (who was part of the home run quartet and who believe will eventually out-produce Trot Nixon), even Wily Mo Peña (that grand slam in Baltimore granted him a lifeline) and Julian Tavarez (who simply must pitch when we play at a National League park because I believe he will do something patently insane, like get on base and try to steal home in an effort to be the first pitcher to do so since Curt Simmons on September 1, 1963).

Other years would have had me and every other Red Sox fan wringing our hands in collective despair over the disabled list stint of Josh Beckett and the recent lack of David Ortiz. Other teams would not have been able to sustain their success with the loss of these key players.

This team is not like any other team.

Last year I had a few Sox Pax and as the end of the season dwindled so did my enthusiasm. I would joylessly check the remaining stack of tickets to see when I had to fulfill my next obligation. This year I’ve been counting the days until the next time I get to visit Fenway. I’ll even consider broiling on the metal benches in Conigliaro’s Corner come July.

True love knows no bounds.

Beckett was infuriating last year. He was that reckless brute of a man, the kind you spend endless hours talking to your girlfriend about, trying to help her get the fact that he just won’t change. Except that he did. He matured, learned his craft, and treated the game with respect. No longer does he merely attempt to blow away batters but has them guessing by mixing in his remarkable curve. He may not know how to spell “emphatic,” but he can work for seven innings, allow three hits, walk one, and strike out seven, just as he did last night.

I like Cleveland as a team and I respect its general manager Mark Shapiro. I enjoy watching them play much more than the Tigers or Twins and even read up on some of the players as a result, but as long as they are playing against the Red Sox they are open game.

So much for Jhonny Peralta’s eye surgery. It may have helped him at the dish, but the shortstop misjudged Coco Crisp’s handling of Travis Hafner’s fly ball to center and was doubled off first base to end the first inning.

Does Jeremy Sowers have his parents’ permission to go on an out-0f-city excursion all the way to Boston? The sophomore pitcher is 24 but looks half his age. Dustin Pedroia should share his Flintstone multivitamins with him so he can grow up big and strong.

Grady Sizemore deserves all the acclaim and admirers he garners. The snag he made of Wily Mo Peña’s swiftly falling fly ball to deep center was spectacular; he was in full sprint to the wall and precisely extended his arm to rob Peña of an extra base hit. He’s young, talented, and handsome, so the creation of something like Grady’s Ladies was inevitable. Red Sox fans cannot claim superiority because the squeals that accompany Jason Varitek’s saunter from the dugout to the bullpen are minion.

Varitek does deserve recognition for his circuit clout in the fifth, his shot soaring over the wall onto Lansdowne. But if fan reaction were based just on production, Kevin Youkilis should have panties thrown at him as if he were Tom Jones. The first baseman plated the first Boston run of the game in the first with his double off the left field wall and homered in the sixth to the first row of the Monster seats.

Indians relief pitcher Fernando Cabrera was the anti-Javier Lopez. He took the mound in the sixth with Mike Lowell camped at second and two out. All he needed was a ground ball to an infielder but instead he walked Varitek, Peña (you read that right), and Pedroia, adding another run to Boston’s total.

Cleveland rallied in the top of the seventh with two odd balls to right field. Drew took Peralta’s line drive to the face as he dove; fortunately Coco Crisp backed him up to limit the shortstop to a single base. Then Travis Hafner’s fly ball to right took an outlandish bounce away from him as Drew pursued it near the warning track. It dribbled to the wall and followed the curve far enough so that Crisp dug it out from under the padding to return it to the infield. Hafner scored on Victor Martinez’s ground out to first, but the home team had already built enough of a lead for their bullpen to maintain despite Brendan Donnelly.

Donnelly hit Ryan Garko to lead off the eighth but dismissed the next two hitters with ease. Pinch-hitting Casey Blake got the better of the window-wearer with a liner to left. Terry Francona brought in ground ball pitching guru Lopez and Sizemore complied with a roller to second base.

Is it fair for a team to have two relief aces? Hideki Okajima could be the closer on most teams in the league. Okajima operated on the heart of the Indians order and extracted a win to put a clamp on the series.

May 29, 2007


Game 50: May 28, 2007
Indians 3 L: Cliff Lee (2-2) 31-18, 1 game losing streak
12-4-1 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Curt Schilling (5-2)
H: Javier Lopez (6)
H: Brendan Donnelly (6)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (13)
35-15, 4 game winning streak
13-3-2 series record
Highlights: Trot Nixon returned to Fenway since he signed with the Indians. It was the seventh anniversary of his home run off Roger Clemens with the Yankees in a game that also featured a complete game by Pedro Martinez.

They swept the cowboys; how would they do with the Indians? First-place American League Central teams come to Fenway to have their mettle tested. Shortly after the Tigers slunk away from Boston with a series loss they were swept by Cleveland to fall to second in their division. Already dominating their own division, the Red Sox sought to wreak havoc in other divisions.

Curt Schilling dispelled growing worries about his declining performance with his dominant seven-inning showing. He gave up a six hits, no walks, and a single earned run. He struck out 10 batters, dismissing Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner twice. Every Cleveland hitter except Trot Nixon struck out at least once.

Schilling’s rebound was overshadowed by Kevin Youkilis’s inside-the-park home run in the seventh. I was sitting in the upper third of Section 37, so the triangle was not visible from my seat. I used the crowd reaction to gage whether Sizemore had robbed Youkilis as he did Wily Mo Peña in the fourth inning. A cheer erupted, so I knew at the very least that the center fielder didn’t make the play. My first assumption was that it was a ground-rule double because the clamor wasn’t loud enough to be home run.

But then I saw Youkilis motoring hard around the keystone sack. With mounting excitement, the spectators eyes widened with amazement as the Red Sox first baseman strode across the plate for the fourth run of the game. Fittingly, the previous inside-the-parker was accomplished by none other than Trot Nixon on July 15, 2005 against the Yankees.

All of the Red Sox production came on doubles or homers. In the fourth Youkilis led off with a double; J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell followed suit. Manny Ramirez slugged a traditional four-bagger in the fifth against the third row podium. In the eighth Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo both aimed two-baggers into right field.

Jonathan Papelbon’s less than overpowering save in the ninth was obscured by the Casey Blake incident. David Dellucci led off the inning with a walk, Ryan Garko singled, and Josh Barfield doubled. The latter two batters did not tarry at the dish and swung early in the count. The gambit paid off in a run scored and a possible comeback.

Papelbon induced a pop fly off the bat of Sizemore, granting runners at second and third with one out for Blake. The controversial fourth pitch hit Cleveland’s third baseman on the hands and home plate umpire Rick Reed called it as such. The canny Lowell was part of the Red Sox lobbying party that insisted that first base official Chuck Meriwether rule on whether or not Blake had swung at the pitch.

The call was revisited and Blake was called out. Confusion reigned in the stands as the ball was clearly deflected by something, and if it wasn’t Blake’s flesh it must have been his bat. Jason Varitek didn’t catch the ball and no throw was made to first, but Blake also didn’t even attempt to take first. As it turns out, such an action wasn’t necessary. The SoSH game thread found the two rules that applied to the at bat:

Section 2.00, Definition of Terms
A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which
(a) Is struck at by the batter and is missed;
(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone;
(c) Is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes;
(d) Is bunted foul;
(e) Touches the batter as he strikes at it;
(f) Touches the batter in flight in the strike zone; or
(g) Becomes a foul tip.

Section 6.05, The Batter
A batter is out when --
(f) He attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him....

Even after watching the replay of the game when I got home I still question if Blake was swinging. What was unquestionable was Papelbon’s ability to collect himself to strike out the lethal Hafner, ending the threat and the game.

May 28, 2007


Game 49: May 27, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Joel Piñeiro (1-0)
S: Hideki Okajima (3)
34-15, 3 game winning streak
13-3-2 series record
Rangers 5 H: Joaquin Benoit (5)
BS, L: Akinori Otsuka (2, 1-1)
18-32, 5 game losing streak
4-11-2 series record
Highlights: Did you see Coco’s catch? (I had forgotten that NESN commercial, too, but now it’s running through my head like a much-detested but catchy pop song du jour.) His run-stealing dive in the seventh came with two out and two on to preserve the one-run deficit. Even more gratifying: it came off the bat of Frank Catalanotto.

This game neatly summed the 2007 team’s strengths as well as its disposition. Tenacious. Adamant. Hungry. Even though they already had the series in the bag, they did not relent. Even though they have the best record in the majors and lead all the other teams in their division by double digits, they didn’t allow this game to fall by the wayside. Even though comeback king David Ortiz sat out because of his hamstrings and Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin were on the mend, other players came through to sweep the Rangers for the first time since 1973, on August 20, 21, and 22.

Jason Varitek launched his fourth four-bagger in the fourth with J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell on base and no out for the early lead.

Julian Tavarez holds the position as fifth starter for now, but he doesn’t treat it as if it is a desultory responsibility. He was impressive through five and even managed to plunk Frank Catalanotto in the second without repercussion, not to mention his rolling ball to first on Catalanotto’s grounder to the mound.

By the sixth inning, however, Tavarez displayed why he has never held a spot in the starting rotation for long. The Rangers riddled a walk, a single, and a home run to begin the inning. With the score tied in a flash of Mark Teixeira’s bat, Tavarez came further undone and the ever-menacing Catalanotto traversed home plate for the go-ahead run.

Does Rangers Ballpark make a huge production out of every homer? The fireworks and soundtrack accompanying Teixeira’s spin around the bases were as cloyingly sentimental as a Steven Spielberg production. Do those majestic strains carry through the Texas air even if, say, Ian Kinsler hits a solo shot into the stands when the score is 11-2 in the visiting team’s favor? Such an overwrought opus easily slips into parody.

Akinori Otsuka, former closer and now set-up man, was summoned in the eighth. Kevin Youkilis, batting in place of Ortiz, singled to commence the inning, bringing his American League-leading multi-hit game total to 23. Youkilis swiped second with Drew at the dish, advanced to third on the right fielder’s single to right, and then scored the tying run on Sammy Sosa’s poor relay to the infield. Lowell lined a dart to left to plate the go-ahead run, and the Rangers again witnessed the winning margin evaporate.

Until yesterday Joel Piñeiro proved a dubious option in the pen. The former closer-in-waiting stepped up his efforts, twirling for two outs in the seventh and the entire eighth for a perfect appearance with three strikeouts for good measure.

In a season still young but already marked by distinctive moments, another season-defining event emerged in the top of the ninth. Rookie Dustin Pedroia faced off against Cy Young-winning but recently recovered Eric Gagne. The slight second baseman battled for 11 pitches, fouling off eight in all directions. But on the 12th pitch he would vanquish Gagne’s offering to the seats in left field

The leadoff solo shot avoided the necessity of extra innings as Hideki Okajima allowed a run to score in the bottom of the ninth. With Jonathan Papelbon unavailable because of his two straight days of work, Okajima persevered to notch his third save of the season.

This team has won games in a myriad ways: shutouts to blowouts, coming from behind to early inning scoring feasts; through starting pitching or relief pitching; with the meat and potatoes of the order or with positional mainstays on the bench. What is the use of an All-Star payroll (Yankees, I’m looking in your direction) when everyone, including the pine-riders, must contribute with the call to muster.



Syracuse vs. Pawtucket: May 26, 2007
WinSky Chiefs 10 W: Brian Wolfe (2-0) 19-28, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 7 H: Craig Hansen (3)
H: Bryan Corey (7)
BS, L: Mike Burns (5, 0-4)
19-26, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Brandon Moss and Russ Adams were afire with 4-for-5 efforts. The most impressive pitchers of the evening were steadily progressing Justin James and perennial minor leaguer Brian Wolfe. The duo pitched five and one-third shutout innings with five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.

Russ Adams wants a major league job back badly. He proved as much with his 4-for-5 showing including a first inning home run and a fifth inning triple. He hit them off a major league pitcher, Runelvys Hernandez. Upon further consideration, since Hernandez played for the Royals, I use the term “major league” in its loosest sense.

The Paw Sox responded in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single and Ty Taubenheim hit Joe McEwing and Jeff Bailey to load the bases. Brandon Moss doubled to tie the score.

Moss matched Adams’s 4-for-5 effort and fell a home run short of hitting for the cycle. I had predicted a game-tying three-run jack in the ninth with David Murphy and Bailey on base, but Moss and his teammates failed to comply. The right fielder battled back from a 1-2 count to work it full, but on the seventh pitch Moss grounded out to first to end the game.

The crowd got to see the much-ballyhooed Craig Hansen in the seventh. His velocity was stupefying and consistently in the mid-90s, but with men on he lost his movement on his slider. He disposed of the first two batters he faced handily but once Wayne Lydon reached on a single the lanky reliever became unhinged. Two singles and a run later Pawtucket pitching coach Mike Griffin visited the hill to settle his young charge. Whatever Griffin did to settle Hansen worked; Kevin Barker grounded to second for the final out of the inning.

Bryan Corey relinquished a homer to John-Ford Griffin (no relation) in the eighth, leaving Mike Burns with a slim margin to protect.

No words could halt Burns’s ninth inning disintegration. Adams drove in the tying run after Wayne Lydon’s one-out double and Chad Mottola finished off the job with his three-run shot to left. The ball cleared the home team’s bullpen in left to the walkway to the berm seating.

Paul Bunyan-sized petition to get Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame.

Hernandez’s name didn’t inspire confidence, but as it turned out a completely different pitcher blew the game.

Anxious fans await player autographs.

This fan got a few autographs from the Sky Chiefs.

Trot Nixon’s picture on the walls of the spiral ramps. I’ll be seeing him tonight at Fenway.

Jim Rice’s portrait.

Punsters of the world, unite.

Hernandez giving up one of two first-inning homers.

Ellsbury prowling the basepaths. He singled twice and scored both times.

Murphy hanging out on the first base sack. Murphy walked, stole, and scored in the third and had an RBI single the fourth.

Hansen hurling in the seventh.

The final score.

McCoy at Sunset.

May 27, 2007


Game 48: May 26, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (5-5)
H: Brendan Donnelly (5)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (12)
33-15, 2 game winning streak
13-3-2 series record
Rangers 4 L: Vicente Padilla (2-7) 18-31, 4 game losing streak
4-11-2 series record
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis remained unstoppable. He leads the American League in multi-hit games with 22 and has an 18-game hitting streak. Papelbon secured his 12th save and has a 1.47 ERA.

I didn’t witness the first four innings of this because I went to Pawtucket to catch the Triple A affiliate against the Syracuse Sky Chiefs (more on that affair later). The McCoy crew showed the NESN broadcast at the bottom of the fourth, reassuringly displaying proof that Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball was as baffling as ever.

By the time I made it to my car and changed the station to WEEI (which sounds so much better in FM) the Rangers had something going in the bottom of the fifth. Frank Catalanotto was plunked. I don’t blame Wakefield whatsoever, I would have done the same to that irksome batter, especially since he homered in the first game of the series. Feel the wraith of a 70 MPH knuckler!

After Marlon Byrd popped out in foul territory, Ian Kinsler darted a single into left. Gerald Laird propelled the ball to left, the ball dying as it may have hit the ball girl seated right before the dog leg bend of the wall. Terry Francona came out to discuss the ruling, but just as Jason Varitek’s ball came to rest at the same spot on the other side of the field remained live for his sixth inning triple last night, so did Laird’s for a double. The ball girl or boy and their associated paraphernalia are in play, and I’m not talking about their marital status.

The Red Sox took back the lead with ferocity. By the time I exited 95 North for 93 North, Kevin Youkilis had singled to leadoff the sixth. Manny Ramirez tripled to right to drive in Youkilis and then tied the score on Vincente Padilla’s wild pitch to J.D. Drew.

Drew walked, but Ron Washington had little choice but to stay with Padilla as long as he could since he had to use four bullpen arms in Friday night’s losing effort. Mike Lowell shot a liner into left for a single and the Rangers starter was finally pulled with two runners to his name lingering on base.

Joaquin Benoit’s name isn’t pronounced as it is spelled parce qu’il est français, hunh hunh hunh. And just like the French, Benoit surrendered in the face of even the least menacing of threats. Coco Crisp nudged a single up the middle that second base umpire Mark Carlson had to dodge. Drew traversed home for the go-ahead run while Lowell and Crisp advanced to third and second respectively, taking advantage of Kenny Lofton’s weakened arm.

Glenn Geffner helpfully spelled Benoit’s last name so that his radio audience wouldn’t think he was talking about a random reliever named Ben Wah. Geffner was grasping for material as Benoit was glacially slow between pitches and wasn’t throwing heat to boot. The reliever walked Doug Mirabelli to load the bases. Boston tacked on a pair of insurance runs with Alex Cora’s sacrifice fly and consecutive free passes to Julio Lugo and Youkilis. It was the 14th time the Red Sox batted around this season.

I had lost reception of the game as I passed through Ted Williams Tunnel, ironically enough. With his bias against pitchers, perhaps Williams was shielding me from the lack of hitting in the final third of the game.

Nailing down the series washed away some of my disappointment over the Paw Sox’s loss. Although a series sweep would be sweet, leading the division by 11 games cleanses away the rest of my chagrin.

May 26, 2007

Giri [義理]

Game 47: May 25, 2007
WinRed Sox 10 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-2) 32-15, 1 game winning streak
12-3-2 series record
Rangers 6 L: Wes Littleton (0-1) 18-30, 3 game losing streak
4-10-2 series record
Highlights: Matsuzaka pitched the minimum number of innings for the win due to nausea. Following the game he issued this statement through his translator: “I tried my best to take the team as deep into the game as possible to fulfill my responsibility as the starter. I regret that I ended up being a burden on my teammates (Friday). I’ll do my best to prepare for my next start.” The statement demonstrated giri, a complex Japanese cultural concept that translates variously as sense of duty, social obligation, or debt of gratitude. It is a multi-faceted ideal, better described by the examples cited here than by English words.

Old Pluvy delayed the game for two hours, but neither starter had limbered up for the originally scheduled time for the first pitch. Despite knowing that the game would be delayed and taking their warm-up pitches accordingly, both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Brandon “Highpockets” McCarthy didn’t look sharp taking the mound for the series opener.

Matsuzaka got out of a first-inning jam where he walked Kenny Lofton and allowed a single by Michael Young by instigating a two-ply killing from Mark Teixeira. The hurler then worked Sammy Sosa inside and had the reinvigorated slugger whiffing for the final out of the inning.

McCarthy mowed quickly through the first inning but his control deserted him in the second. He walked the bases loaded in 16 pitches, presenting Jason Varitek with the opportunity to hit the third grand slam of his career. The Boston catcher gave it ride to center and it seemed for a moment that Lofton would be unable to glove the ball, but the subtle center fielder was innately aware of how to take the shortest, most effective route to the ball.

Manny Ramirez tagged up on the play for the first of many Red Sox runs. Highpockets emptied his bag of tricks, but the Boston batters knew better than to fall for his rag-armed offerings. Coco Crisp walked to jam the bases again and Dustin Pedroia dropped a fly ball into shallow right to plate two runs.

Julio Lugo drove in the fourth run of the inning when Sosa failed to field a can of corn while the Ranger right fielder straddled the foul line. Sosa did have the wherewithal to hose Pedroia at second, resulting in an odd fielder’s choice that involved an outfielder. McCarthy escaped the inning without any further damage, but the final out was a high-flier by Kevin Youkilis that was less than two feet short of a home run. It was the last action McCarthy would see.

Jerry Remy mentioned that Varitek and Matsuzaka’s signs are more complex than any other batterymates as there are signals not just for type of pitch but location. I wonder if they have code for “I am feeling incredibly nauseated and my pitching in the fourth inning is going to make you feel that way, too.” The Rangers unleashed a barrage of runs in that inning, including a pair of two-run home runs by the exasperating Frank Catalanotto and the light-hitting Ramon Vazquez.

The Red Sox reclaimed the lead in the top of the next frame. Youkilis extended his hit streak to 17 games with a one-out single that dropped in front of Sosa (a common sight last night). David Ortiz smoked a grounder by the glove of Teixeira; no mean feat considering the first baseman’s renown as a fielder. The ball gamboled all the way to the right field wall as Youkilis ran hard to score from first. Ortiz was driven in by Ramirez’s grounder off the second base sack for the go-ahead run.

Unlike McCarthy, Matsuzaka was permitted to retake the mound for a chance to notch the win. The fresh leaguer found himself in the crunch with no men out; Young line a two-sacker and Teixeira walked on four pitches. Sosa provided a timely and courteous room service double play. Matsuzaka quelled his queasiness long enough to strike out Catalanotto with six pitches after having fallen behind in the count 2-0.

Although Matsuzaka’s statement on his performance last night may seem foreign, there are similarities in American sports. You see it when Tom Brady gives his lineman guest spots in his commercials or pricey gifts at the end of the season. As a group-oriented society, concepts that build successful teams are already part of their culture. Matsuzaka just might be giving Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez, Brendan Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon a token of his appreciation for keeping the Rangers at bay for the rest of the game.

May 24, 2007


Game 46: May 23, 2007
Red Sox 3 L: Curt Schilling (4-2) 31-15, 1 game losing streak
12-3-2 series record
WinYankees 8 W: Andy Pettitte (3-3) 21-24, 1 game winning streak
5-9-2 series record
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis extended his hit streak to 16 games in the second inning with his hard liner paralleling the left field line. He would be stranded there, however, a pervasive theme in series finale. Coco Crisp lofted his first four-bagger in the eighth off Kyle Farnsworth; it was of a towering height but short distance, plopping into the short porch in right.

Curt Schilling, although old, was not his old self. He didn’t walk any batters as he did in his previous outing, but he had little command. The veteran northpaw was so out of sorts he was not able to deliver the requisite payback for Alex Rodriguez’s cheap play on Tuesday evening. Furthermore, C.B. Bucknor’s variable strike zone didn’t help matters.

One of Bucknor’s listed hobbies is refinishing furniture. Prolonged exposure to stains and finishes may have addled his senses as there was no rhyme nor reason to judgments last night. In a 2003 survey of MLB players by Sports Illustrated, Bucknor was voted as the worst umpire. It seems like this survey went over like Manhattan Clam Chowder at Legal Seafoods as I have been unable to find any published accounts of annuals surveys since then. Bucknor’s performance was appalling enough to consider reviving the practice. Tom Verducci, please take note.

Even Andy Pettitte made long looks to home after questionable calls throughout his seven innings of work. The Red Sox bailed out both Bucknor and Pettitte by hacking aimlessly and early in the count in a few innings.

Blaming Bucknor is a convenient excuse shrouded a more nagging concern: Schilling has been shaky in his starts since May 12. It seems that he’s been adapting his approach to accommodate an age-related decline in power. Last night he may have been overcompensating for his wildness against Detroit, a start in which he walked four batters and seemed to revert to his feckless youth. Schilling could consult with Roger Clemens and drink from whatever fountain of youth his former mentor has discovered, but I think that what the Rocket has to offer may be contrary to all that Schilling attested to before Congress.

As Jason Giambi slogged along with his 0-4 night, insinuations that he is not long for this team swirled through the city. Word that he failed an amphetamines test within the last year surfaced and he had to meet with league lawyers regarding his recent comments about steroids.

The Yankee organization can’t be happy about the controversies surrounding their designated hitter, but they brought it upon themselves by pursuing him as a free agent despite the rumors. Now this blemish on their sparkling reputation mars the celebration of the embodiment of Yankeetude, Derek Jeter.

Jeter tied a Yankee immortal in the first inning with his RBI infield single. Jeter’s 2,214th hit equaled Joe DiMaggio for fifth place on the franchise’s list for hits leaders. By the end of the evening Jeter would surpass that mythic figure in the Yankee pantheon.

George Steinbrenner, wizened and overwrought, strains to rebuild that monument, stone by stone. He’s summoned past champions still able to play in a macabre séance of the pre-millennial teams. Their spirit may be willing but flesh goes the way of all flesh. To dust, to stone, then to dust again.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
“Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley

May 23, 2007


Game 45: May 22, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Julian Tavarez (3-4)
H: Javier Lopez (5)
31-14, 1 game winning streak
12-2-2 series record
Yankees 3 L: Mike Mussina (2-3) 20-24, 1 game losing streak
4-9-2 series record
Highlights: ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Julian! For his birthday, the Red Sox gifted their fifth starter with generous run support and three pairs of Big Papi 2M Mids. Dennis Eckersley is back on the pre- and post-game shows, and he’s back big. Amongst his gems are this one about Roger Clemens: “One million dollars a start?! I’ll go five for that deal.” Not to be forgotten: “I was down on [Kevin Youkilis] because he was in that Moneyball book. I hate everything in that Moneyball book.” Which leads me to believe Hall of Famers have a junto against the supposed over-analysis of baseball. How quaint. Jerry Remy went anecdotal in-game: “I was leaving the park and it was where fans also exit. A Yankee fan spotted me and he said, ‘Getting a little scared now? Remind you of ’78?’ And this is after one game of the series....”

Julian Tavarez was born on May 22, which is on the cusp between Taurus and Gemini. The eccentric one definitely leans towards the mercurial side, so I’d place him under the sign of Hermes. Yesterday Tavarez’s horoscope on Yahoo said:

Try as hard as you can to keep the conversation light today -- avoid big debates.

The stars say it’s time to go large or go home. So what are you waiting for? Those plans of yours need implementing, and pronto. Start with small steps and set reasonable goals. You’ll be there before you know it.

See how accurate and precise astrology is? Obviously Tavarez’s plan of action was to shut down one of the most potent lineups in the American League, a sensible hope. He proceeded to do so by no-hitting them through three and one-third innings of work. Baby steps, indeed.

Tavarez didn’t complain about Ed Hickox’s strike zone, quite unlike how Derek Jeter did for the final two outs of the game, so he obviously followed the “quickie” advice provided. So, the Red Sox started compiled four walks over five and two-thirds innings while striking out only two batters.

Manny Ramirez, born on May 30, was also born under the sign of the twins. He went large and went home in the first inning with Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz on base, granting his fellow Gemini an early lead.

As a Sagittarian, yesterday Mike Mussina’s outlook was hazy:

Today you’ll be happy to sacrifice any short-term gains for long-term growth.

A sense of fun comes back into your life, and just in the nick of time. Of course, when you want to have fun, everyone wants in on the action. It might be tough trying to work with these numbers, but you can do it.

So, in the short-term Mussina lost the game but in the long-term perhaps throwing in the mid-80s preserved the veteran’s arms for future mediocre starts later in the season. Oddly enough, despite the wretched velocity, Boston batters were the ones who had a tough time with the Yankee starter. The score could have, and should have been, much worse than it turned out to be and Mussina was fortunate to have lasted the six and two-thirds innings he did.

The prediction did miss on one aspect: “fun” is a foreign concept in Mussina’s life.

The stars preordained Alex Rodriguez’s collision with Dustin Pedroia in the eighth inning. Both are Leos, moreover Pedroia was born in the year of the pig and Rodriguez in the year of the rabbit, two of the most compatible signs in the Chinese zodiac. Rodriguez was manifesting his latent jealousy that Pedroia, Rodriguez’s perfect match, is already bound to another in matrimony. The third baseman’s unrequited feelings are a bit like how little boys pull the pigtails of their puppy loves.

Chin up, Alex! This year is the year of the pig and an auspicious one for you: “Your finances are secure. If you deal with money directly you are likely to increase your wealth.”

No amount of divination could have foretold that the Red Sox’s crosstown companions, the Celtics, would have suffered the worse possible outcome in the NBA’s draft lottery last night. Just as Tavarez loaded the bases in the fourth with two out, ESPN explained the arcane rules driving the lottery, and they were surely more complex than graphing one’s natal chart.

Galaxies clashed and Tavarez flung a wild pitch not even in the same sphere as his backstop. Hideki Matsui scored on the errant throw as statistical chaos in Secaucus erupted.

As the Celtics’ doom was pronounced, Jeter hung over home plate (as is his wont) with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Shock over the boys in green’s tumble from second worst record to fifth pick barely subsided when the Yankees shortstop grounded to his Red Sox counterpart to notch the fielder’s choice RBI.

The Red Sox lineup tacked on three runs in the seventh in large part because of Coco Crisp’s speed. Crisp was born in the year of the goat and that is its own punchline. Perhaps sensing fan frustration with his performance and knowing that Jacoby Ellsbury has been coming on like gangbusters, Crisp ignored his advice outright (“Do not tempt fate by doing anything foolish that will jeopardize or inflame your health situation today.”)

Crisp ran the bases with abandon in that inning. He avoided being erased from first, Robinson Cano and Jeter both rushing on the outfielder’s ground ball because they knew how fast he is. Crisp swiped second with Julio Lugo at the plate and scored on the shortstop’s liner to right.

“A melodramatic colleague is trying to cast you in a personal soap opera. Say no!” stated Mike Lowell’s quickie forecast. I believe colleague refers to Rodriguez, his opposite number at third. Lowell’s fourth inning quadrangular dramatically recoiled off the foul pole netting.

Youkilis (also a Pisces; their overview: “You’re a social butterfly. In fact, you might be an entire social menagerie! That appointment calendar of yours is nearly bursting at the seams. Normally you love peace and quiet, but right now this suits you just fine.”) has been flitting about, chumming up with second basemen on many different teams lately has he been on a two-bagger binge. Last night was not an exception as he proved against Mussina.

The Scorpian Ortiz’s prognostication, “Normally, you’re very vigilant about keeping your boundaries well tended, but those protective walls have fallen by the wayside.” This definitely speaks to Ortiz’s increasing tendency to use all parts of the field. His RBI single off Mike Myers was lined to right-center this time, but in the first inning he held back on a pitch and launched it into the opposite field for a single.

My astrologically-based prediction for Curt Schilling and the final game of this series? “You will overcome hardship in your work. Typically, you speak before thinking, but now is the time for action. Defense of a colleague will lead to accolades.” So yes, I do anticipate a Rodriguez plunking tonight. You don’t need a chart to figure that one out.

May 22, 2007


Game 44: May 21, 2007
Red Sox 2 L: Tim Wakefield (4-5) 30-14, 1 game losing streak
12-2-2 series record
WinYankees 6 W: Chien-Ming Wang (3-3)
H: Scott Proctor (7)
20-23, 2 game winning streak
4-9-2 series record
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis extended his hit streak to 14 games; 43 more to go. David Ortiz drove in the only two Red Sox runs of the evening; he now leads Boston in RBIs for the season. Manny Delcarmen wore the number 17; during 2005-6 he wore 57.

From an imagined 17-year old female Yankee fan’s blog.

I totally called this game!! There’s NO WAY the Red Sux would ever sweep us in the Bronx!!!

My man Derek was hot, in looks (as usual!) and hitting. To all the doubters that keep on dissing his defense, all I gots to say is THREE GOLDEN GLOVES IN A ROW. Just ten more to tie some guy with a funny name. I know the Captain can do it. Anyways he was robbed by the umpire in fifth when that brute Ortiz bumped the ball out of the glove when he slid into second headfirst. I think there’s some sort of rule like pass interference or something that should have been called. I asked my dad who has been a Yankees fan since forever and he said, yeah, it was something like that and worse over it was a dirty play and there shouldn’t have been a run.

Oh, and Joel Piñ-head-ro or Piñata or Piña Colada, you are going to PAY for hitting our Captain.

The fat ump at third also screwed over Wang when he was biting his nails on the mound. That was so weird and biased against us yet AGAIN.

Also Georgie was robbed in the fifth. He was safe at first on that alleged double play. Despite the refs being in favor of the Sux we pulled out a W.

ARod is the hawtness. He homered in the first like it was cake. Like what is the deal with the pitcher the Red Sox started last nite? We pwnd him so bad in that game a couple of years ago. He throws all weird and slow and that is supposed to be effective? I’ll take Darrell (get better soon, sweetie! *kiss*) and The Yankee Clippard (such an AWESOME nick) any day. They are young and developing, I bet they are going to be just as good or better as when Clemens was young.

K so I don’t know why Jason is bringing up all that steroids stuff AGAIN (didn’t this happen like three years ago???) but he totally redeemed himself in my eyes in the second. I bet Ortiz never hit a home run that high and far. There’s no ways he’s back on the juice because they have all these more strict rules. Besides I was reading that even if you take steroids you still need to have the skills and Jason is an example of that.

Robinson isn’t as cute as Derek or Arod but he put the game on ice in the fifth. There was a cheap run by the Sux in the seventh. You-kill-us doubled and Yugo (that’s what I call Lugo cuz he’s like a cheap and crappy version of our Captain, who is an Escalade at least) went to third and then Yugo scored on Ortiz’s sack fly. Guess Papi isn’t so great, huh, if he didn’t homer there? So much for clutch.

I don’t know what the math sez about the Yankee’s chances at winning the division. I’m not a casual fan, in fact I’m a very knowledgeable fan. I listen to Mike and the Mad Dog and I KNOW they are negative so that they can get ratings and stuff.

Suffice it to say that I grew up with the Yankee Dynasty at its height and I have seen it at its lowest. But I think last nite was a sign that the Bronx Bombers are in it to win it. Like I said, maybe the odds and numbers are against us, but the Yankees are used to making history. My dad said something like this happened a long time ago when we came back from super far down. And OF COURSE it was the Sux that got beat in the end. When we come back from that deficit, it will be like 2004 never happened and they will be crying in Beantown again, book it.

PS: I almost forgot to mention the other hawtie, Johnny. He ran all the way to third on Derek’s fly ball to center in the fourth. And they say HE has a weak arm! Not only did they replace Johnny with someone just as weak in the throwing department, he’s not even as good-looking.

PSS: Tonight is going to be soooooo stressful because the Yankees HAVE TO win and I’ll also be sending massive amounts of texts to vote for JoRdIn SpArKs for AI! She’s so incredible AND she’s the same age as me. Every1 thought Melinda had a better voice but she was just so old and sang all these songs I never even heard before so yeah, Jordin all the way! I’ll post her numbers here so you know where to call/text, k?

May 21, 2007


Game 43: May 20, 2007
Braves 3 L: Tim Hudson (5-2) 26-18, 1 game losing streak
9-3-3 series record
WinRed Sox 6 W: Kason Gabbard (1-0)
H: Javier Lopez (4)
30-13, 1 game winning streak
12-2-2 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox are 1-0 wearing the alternate red jerseys and are 6-0 on Sundays. Gabbard displayed a formidable arsenal of pitches, striking out seven and reversing the tables on what so often happens to the Red Sox. Instead of Boston facing the conundrum of a young unknown lefty, the home team deployed a secret weapon of their own. Gabbard was optioned after the game and Manny Delcarmen was called up to shore up the bullpen for the impending series against the Yankees. Hideki Okajima in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, and keep the faith.

The baseball team owners approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves from Time Warner to Liberty Media Corporation on May 17. The deal was approved the night before to forestall an impending tax law change. With the change in ownership comes the promise that Hank Aaron will play a more prominent role in franchise operations.

Perusing Liberty Media’s website doesn’t give much insight as to exactly what the company produces because it is something akin to a shell corporation than a true business interest. Liberty Media has two tracking stocks, Liberty Interactive and Liberty Capital, that hold interests in larger concerns, such as QVC, Expedia, Starz, News Corporation, and, lo and behold, Time Warner. Liberty Media bought the Braves with the 68.5 million Time Warner shares it held. In return Liberty Media gets the newly-created Times Warner subsidiary that will hold the team, Leisure Arts, and $960M in cash.

Greg Maffei is one of those recyclable captains of industry who land on their Prada-shod feet when the rank and file of the companies he ran are laid off in the name of bookkeeping. Just as you wonder how guys like Mike Hargrove and Charlie Manuel keep getting jobs, you’ll see men like Maffei leapfrog from Expedia to Microsoft to Oracle, lining the pockets of his bespoke suit with each new foray.

Hopefully it’s not just corporate lip service Maffei is paying when he says that Aaron will play a larger role in the team’s operations. What the Hall of Famer will bring is a face, a heart, a soul, an ideal to an otherwise bloodless business transfer. Aaron has met with Bud Selig and, although his role in the league doesn’t have a title, he is determined to make “baseball a more diverse sport.”

At least it’s already more than a bit diverse than the boardrooms of the Fortune 500.

The things you learn during a two and a half hour rain delay....

Kason Gabbard learned quickly that rookies don’t get calls. If he were named Tom Glavine, he may have summed strikeouts in the double digits. Gabbard lasted for five innings with a line of 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 7 whiffs. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth; with two out, Jeff Francoeur on a bloop fly to right. Pitching with the early lead granted him the chutzpah to face one of the National League’s better lineups.

With the bases packed in the first and two out in the first, Jason Varitek tripled down the right field line to tidy the basepaths. Next Eric Hinske rapped a grounder past second baseman Martin Prado to plate his captain.

The crowd, which had two and half hours worth of imbibition, was completely free of inhibition. A mocking chant of Tim Hudson’s surname rang through the brumous air. Welcome back to the American League; I’m sure he hasn’t missed it.

David Ortiz added to his RBI total in the second with a grounder to Chris Woodward that had Prado bobbled on the transfer.

In the fifth, Kevin Youkilis racked up his sixth home run of the season. The solo shot came with none out and no one on, shouldering itself between the first row spectators near Pesky’s Pole. It might be the shortest home run possible in the majors, but they all count the same.

The Red Sox moundmen kept the Braves off the board until the sixth. Chipper Jones led off with a single and the red-hot Francoeur laced a ground-rule double into the bullpens. Gabbard was relieved by Brendan Donnelly who promptly relinquished a looping single to the opposite field off the bat of Matt Diaz.

Donnelly struck out Andruw Jones (but then again, who didn’t) and then gave consecutive free passes to Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

That entire sequence could have been avoided had Terry Francona called on Javier Lopez, a ground ball out-producing machine. Scott Thorman turned over on Lopez’s second pitch and a 3-6-1 double play ended the threat.

Diaz snagged a short fly from Alex Cora’s bat in the bottom of the sixth, colliding with the wall that parallels the left field line in that minute strip of foul territory. Not to be outdone, Manny Ramirez backhanded Chipper’s pop fly in the same area, completing the catch despite a shower of beer.

Andruw Jones ended the day with five strikeouts, also known as the platinum sombrero or Olympic rings. Enjoy this list courtesy of Baseball Reference Play Index of other batters that have struck out five or more times in a single game.

May 20, 2007


Game 42: May 19, 2007
WinBraves 14 W: John Smoltz (6-2) 26-17, 1 game winning streak
9-2-3 series record
Red Sox 0 L: Devern Hansack (0-1) 29-13, 1 game losing streak
11-2-2 series record
Highlights(?): Kelly Johnson didn’t hit for the cycle; he fell a single short. Smoltz didn’t tally his 200th win; it was just his 199th. Hansack wasn’t injured when he was hit by Edgar Renteria’s comebacker in the fourth inning, whereas Yankee rookie starting pitcher Darrell Rasner succumbed to a batted ball in the first inning, breaking his right index finger which will leave him out of action for three months.

Shrouded in mist and past triumphs the Red Sox could not dispel the specter of John Smoltz. Smoltz dismissed Red Sox batters seven times over seven innings, racking up his 2,833th strikeout to surpass Micky Lolich into 17th place on the all-time punchout list. The bearer of the pornstache permitted three hits and walked one in the shutout. Happy belated birthday, codger.

Meanwhile, former teammate and pride of Billerica Tom Glavine summed his 295th win against the Yankees. Local boy did well and helped the Red Sox maintain a double-digit lead over the American League New York ball club. Much obliged for the assist, Mr. Glavine.

Converted outfielder to second baseman Kelly Johnson said saucily, “That was probably the weirdest doubleheader that I’ve been a part of, but I think we got them overall.” Thanks for the bulletin board material, Johnson.

In the fifth, Edgar Renteria flashed leather Red Sox fans were unfamiliar with during his tenure here. Alex Cora lightly lined just over Renteria’s reach, but the Braves shortstop hopped high enough to snowcone the ball for the out. Appreciate the belated defensive prowess, E.

Alarms went off in eighth in the Fenway luxury areas. It signaled the end of the Red Sox’s winning streak with Cora in the starting lineup, but it was also a call to arms as the home town team seeks to defend their territory and secure the series this afternoon.

Dameoshi [駄目押し]

Game 41: May 19, 2007
Braves 3 L: Anthony Lerew (0-2) 25-17, 3 game losing streak
9-2-3 series record
WinRed Sox 13 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-2) 29-12, 3 game winning streak
11-2-2 series record
Highlights: Matsuzaka came close to notching his second complete game with a sturdy line of eight innings, nine hits, three earned runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. Mike Lowell launched his sixth career grand slam in the fifth with the score 3-0, adding more than enough dameoshi, or insurance runs. Dame (pronounced with two syllables: dah-may) originates from the game of go and refers to placing a piece that won’t add to a player’s points but does keep that player’s position safe. Lowell has been excelling with a 10-game hitting streak, but he has yet to execute the hidden ball trick in a Red Sox uniform.

Of the Red Sox player t-shirts on the remainder rack at the Souvenir Store, Edgar Renteria’s 3 or 16 are the most distant and dusty reminders of the shortstops sought after to plug the infield hole. Renteria’s brief stint as a Red Sox player in 2005 marked one of his worst years both hitting and fielding.

Yesterday Renteria made his first appearance at Fenway since being traded to the Atlanta Braves after the 2005 season. He seemed more at ease in the National League and accustomed to the lower profile playing for the Braves affords him; 2007 is shaping up to be the best year of his career.

Shades of his former self surfaced in the sixth. The Braves shortstop bobbled a grounder pushed off the bat of Dustin Pedroia and made a turbulent toss to third that Chipper Jones couldn’t contain. Pedroia advanced to second on the error and scored, along with Coco Crisp, on Julio Lugo’s line drive double to the gap in left-center.

In the Renteria trade the Red Sox acquired Andy Marte. Marte, along with Guillermo Mota and Kelly Shoppach, was flipped to Cleveland for Coco Crisp, Josh Bard, and David Riske. While Crisp has had injury woes and offensive outages, Marte hasn’t been setting the world on fire in Cleveland and just recently came off the disabled list this season. Bard was part of the panicked reacquisition of Doug Mirabelli last May, but Riske did bring Javier Lopez to Boston. Lopez has proved a steadfast bullpen arm with the flexibility of having options.

The book isn’t closed on the various and sundry player transactions made post-2004, but with Boston winning at a .700 clip, there’s not much to regret.

Lugo set the tone early with his first inning homer into Monster seats. Kevin Youkilis smoked a two-run jack into the batter’s eye in the second that was just a smidgen shorter than his previous shot to that region. With the bases loaded in the fifth, Mike Lowell impressively lofted his grannie over the wall. Wily Mo Peña blew away the others with his moonshot that dinged more than one car sitting in the Lansdowne Street parking lot.

In addition to his Rookie of the Year bid, Daisuke Matsuzaka made a case for the Gold Glove award in the second. With Jeff Francoeur at first, Matsuzaka induced a ground ball off the hot-hitting Scott Thorman. Youkilis played up to the ball and slung it to Lugo. With Francoeur bearing down hard, Lugo had just enough time to hurl it to first but not accurately. Matsuzaka vaulted to snag the toss and swiped Thorman just before his foot came down on the first base sack. The rookie pitcher also deftly fielded a sharp Andruw Jones comebacker in the seventh.

If the Gold Glove were awarded on style rather than just reputation, Crisp should be in the running as well. In the fifth the center fielder made a Willie Mays-like catch (an over-used analogy, I know) of Thorman’s fly to deep center. Perennial Gold Glove center fielder Jones mirrored that play in the sixth, foiling Jason Varitek. The Boston backstop was the only Red Sox starting player without a hit.

Manny Ramirez undeservedly takes heat for his fielding, but he has a knack for understanding an outfield as outlandish as he is. Matt Diaz learned this firsthand when he tried to stretch his lines shot off the wall from a single into a double. The Braves designated hitter was hosed by Ramirez’s patented quick trigger action to the infield. Replay showed that Diaz might have been safe, but like so many runners unfamiliar with Fenway, the play was much closer than they imagined.

As we shall see, the Red Sox should have saved some runs for the second half of the doubleheader. But even if they had, it still wouldn’t be enough.

May 18, 2007


Game 40: May 17, 2007
Tigers 2 BS, L: Wilfredo Ledezma (2, 3-1)
24-16, 2 game losing streak
8-3-3 series record
WinRed Sox 4 W: Brendan Donnelly (2-1)
H: Javier Lopez (3)
S: Hideki Okajima (2)
28-12, 2 game winning streak
11-2-2 series record
Highlights: Donnelly came off the schneid with a one and one-third inning appearance in which he struck out two, walked none, and allowed just one hit. The one hit he allowed was erased by Javier Lopez’s twin-killing pitch to Omar Infante. Okajima: he holds, he closes. He chops, slices, and juliennes opposing teams’ lineups. The pitching coaches speak of his split-change as the “Okey Dokey,” but it should also be noted that if it is spelled “Oki Doki,” you can create a sort of bastardized Japanese catch phrase that means “Okajima time,” as doki means “time” in Japanese.

Doubleheaders are twice as nice. Both teams doubled the runs they produced in the afternoon game, resulting in the local nine sweeping the two Thursday games on the last day of the Tigers’ only visit to Fenway this year.

Curt Schilling was the only hospitable Boston player. He kept on inviting Tigers to come home, but inexplicably the visitors declined his bidding. Schilling walked a season-high four batters, struck out six, and allowed two earned runs (one a Gabe Kapler-like homer off the Green Monster’s countertop lofted by Brandon Inge in the fourth). The other run scored in the third with consecutive doubles to right by Magglio Ordóñez and Carlos Guillen.

Schilling was a workhorse, if by workhorse one means “labor intensively in the first two innings of the game and leave three innings of work for your bullpen.” For the third start in a row the starter didn’t make it beyond the sixth inning.

Coco Crisp, who also scored the first run in the first game, singled to right to leadoff the game. The speedster swiped second with Alex Cora at the dish and advanced on Cora’s ground out to first. Jim Leyland had his infield defense pull in and Kevin Youkilis responded by scooting a single by them to plate Crisp.

The rest of the evening revolved around bench player Eric Hinske. It was he who neatly knelt to make the final out of the first after Schilling had loaded the bases. It was his facial imprint in the right field warning track that marked where he made the spectacular catch of Mark Rabelo’s fleetly falling fly. Hinske was the one who crossed the platter in the sixth to tie the score, and he was the one to launch the two-run home run into the home bullpen in the seventh to break the tie.

Wily Mo Peña, perhaps spurred by his benchmate’s performance, walked a season-high three times and struck out once.

The game capped a satisfying end to a pivotal series, but questions remain in its wake. Has Hinske opened enough eyes to give him more at bats? If so, is it time to make some moves involving him or Peña? Is Schilling’s effectiveness being hampered by age?


Game 39: May 17, 2007
Tigers 1 L: Zach Miner (0-1)
24-15, 1 game losing streak
8-2-3 series record
WinRed Sox 2 W: Julian Tavarez (2-4)
H: Hideki Okajima (10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (11)
27-12, 1 game winning streak
10-2-2 series record
Highlights: Tavarez pitched a season-high seven innings even as he walked more (4) than he struck out (3). The mantra for 2007 is “Okajima in the eight, Papelbon in the ninth.”

An odd mix of miscreants inhabited the stands for yesterday’s makeup game. Five rows down from my friend Matt and I there was a throng of extremely inebriated guys whose raison d’être was to stand at inappropriate times, raucously cheer for the most mundane of fly outs to the shallow outfield, and jeer at Gary Sheffield. (Actually, that last item should be on any true baseball fan’s “Things To Do” list, but it should be about the performance-enhancing drug allegations, not just because he is a former Yankee.) These must have been the kinds of fans Lee Elia ripped in his 1983 tirade on the mobs at Wrigley Field when he ranted, “That’s why they’re out at the f*ckin’ game. They oughta go out and get a f*ckin’ job and find out what it’s like to go out and earn a f*ckin’ living.”

Most of the remainder of the crowd were befuddled parents with their children, flocks of familial units that wanted to get an early start to the weekend and thought a jaunt to Fenway would be the perfect way to kick off their days off. These Fenway tyros are pleasant enough but tend to clog the aisles as they desperately clutch their tickets in search of their seats.

There was no notation on the tickets I bought in Section 16, Row 5, Seats 25 and 26 that they were obstructed view. But when I got to the location it was apparent the batter would be blocked by a post. Knowing that a weekday nooner wouldn’t be jammed to the gills, I slid over one section towards home in the same row and secured an infinitely better vista that allowed me to watch the drunkards mingle with the nuclear families.

Inexplicably, one of these families sat for the entire game in the seats that I had forsaken. In fact, the mother sat in the best seat of their block and she made her toddlers sit in the lousy seats, their little necks crooking the entire nine innings. Aw, heck, they won’t remember anyway, right?

The Tigers were in a cattish mood and that demeanor may have cost them the game. In the first inning Coco Crisp singled to left with one out. David Ortiz nubbed a grounder to Carlos Guillen, who was shifted to the right since Ortiz was batting. The path of the ball intersected with Crisp’s run from first to second but Detroit’s shortstop missed the tag when Crisp hit the dirt. As the Tigers argued the call, Crisp jogged to third uncontested since the defense was aligned on the right side of the field. The shift, capricious as Jim Leyland’s temper.

Leyland had emerged from the dugout’s depths to argue with the umpiring crew but to no avail. That run proved vital as the only other Red Sox run came in the third. Julio Lugo reached base because of his counterpart’s failure to corral a grounder. Lugo was driven in by the candent Kevin Youkilis. Boston’s two-corner infielder rode a nine-game hit streak with seven of those games being multi-hit appearances.

The Tigers only run was tallied in the fifth; Placido Polanco’s RBI single to center came with two runners on and two out. The damage was minimized even though Julian Tavarez walked Sheffield to load the bases. Pitching coach John Farrell visited just before Magglio Ordóñez got in the box and a more placid Tavarez induced an inning- ending fly from the cleanup hitter.

Matt is a wordplay fan like me, or at least pretends to be so when we go to games together. We devised some puns and also played our game of “Player Factoids” as we mocked the drunk guys (which consisted of chanting “Drunk guys! Drunk guys!” to the two-clap cheer that gradually increases in speed as the strike count increases). We also sing every other Neil Diamond song but “Sweet Caroline” during “Sweet Caroline.” Some memorable morsels from our pun battle and factoid face-off:

  • Placido Polanco: Lake Placido Polanco
  • Tim Byrdak: Byrdak of the Killer Tomatoes, The Byrdaks of Life, One Byrdak in the hand is worth two in the bush, The early Byrdak catches the worm, Mars Byrdaks
  • Hideki Okajima: Ohhhhhh-kajima where the wind comes sweeping down the plains, Okajimama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll
  • Curtis Granderson: Has a newly-discovered species of penguin named after him, Curtii grandiosislenii.
  • Sean Casey: Is one of two major league players born in a submarine.
  • Julio Lugo: His hobby is the Japanese dance form, butō.
  • Alex Cora: Is attempting to master origami

When dinged on the multiple Japanese cultural references, I defended my position by stating the Red Sox have been inspired by the arrival of Hideki Okajima and Daisuke Matsuzaka and as a result have committed themselves to expanding their cultural horizons. This weekend there will be some mochi pounding in the clubhouse. Ortiz swears by it, believing it has given him more versatility to the opposite field and has, along with vitamin water, significantly improved his badminton game.

Photos from yesterday’s game to be posted later this evening.

May 16, 2007


Game 38: May 15, 2007
WinTigers 7 W: Justin Verlander (4-1) 24-14, 1 game winning streak
8-2-3 series record
Red Sox 2 L: Tim Wakefield (4-4) 26-12, 1 game losing streak
10-2-2 series record
Highlights: Despite the loss, the Red Sox defense had two dazzlers. In the fourth, Manny Ramirez hosed Ivan Rodriguez at home to end the inning. Doug Mirabelli deftly handled a pop fly in foul territory off the bat of Gary Sheffield, bare-handing the ball after it sprang out of his glove while avoiding the equipment on-deck.

Last night in the poker match between the two top teams in the American League, Jim Leyland saw Terry Francona’s ante of a rookie pitcher turning in a notable performance and raised him a former Jackie Robinson Award winner hurling a dominant seven and two-thirds innings. Justin Verlander matched Daisuke Matsuzaka’s feat of not permitting any free passes. Unlike Matsuzaka, the Tiger sophomore had paint all night, striking out seven.

The Red Sox lineup could only muster two runs against Verlander. The first run came in the first inning: Kevin Youkilis singled up the middle and advanced on Manny Ramirez’s single to the opposite field. J.D. Drew lined to left and DeMarlo Hale took the risk of sending Youkilis home from second as Craig Monroe foundered in the outfield. Youkilis did touch home and even in retrospect the risky all-in move by Hale this early in the game was a smart move.

Youkilis also posted the only other run with his two-out homer in the eighth. It sent Verlander packing, but he left with a sizable lead that Fernando Rodney did not relinquish.

In four of the innings Verlander pitched he sat down the side in order. The only weak hand he showed was Mike Lowell limping in on the turn with a single but he was still unable to cash in on the river. David Ortiz had a high pair after the flop but Verlander raised the stakes on fourth and fifth street, the pitcher sucking out the hand by striking out Ramirez and inducing a fly out from Drew.

Tim Wakefield wasn’t aided by the elements; Jerry Remy continually mentioned the strong summer breeze to left that lent some loft to the two gopher balls the knuckleballer gave up. The veteran persisted for seven innings, sparing the bullpen of undue stress but not without causing suffering to others. The tater he tossed to Brandon Inge in the third was the same air ball that Drew pursued with reckless abandon. The left fielder crashed into the bullpen wall and crumpled in front of it after impact. To his credit and in contrast to his reputation, Drew stayed in the game until the eighth inning.

Brendan Donnelly has hit a cold streak; his last time out he didn’t secure an out and last night he allowed three RBI shots in the eighth. Kyle Snyder was summoned and he stumped the remaining Detroit hitters with near perfection, allowing just one base on balls in one and two-thirds innings of work.

A disappointing loss in light of the heroics of the past two games, but the odds have a way of evening out if you have an ace like Verlander in your hand. Tonight I’ll be at Fenway to see the showdown between Mike Maroth and Julian Tavarez. Perhaps Tavarez can bluff his way to his second win of the season.

May 15, 2007

Kantō [完投]

Game 37: May 14, 2007
Tigers 1 L: Nate Robertson (3-3) 23-14, 2 game losing streak
8-2-3 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-2) 26-11, 3 game winning streak
10-2-2 series record
Highlights: Kantō translates to “complete game.” The first kanji [完] means “perfect” or “complete” and the second [投], in this context, means “throw.” There are homonyms for kantō that use different ideograms: 関東 means the the seven provinces of Tokyo, the region in which Matsuzaka was born; 巻頭 refers to the opening page of a book, in which a historic chapter was written last night; and finally 敢闘, which means “to fight bravely.” All fittingly describe the Red Sox rookie pitcher as he evolves into the pitching phenomenon that most hoped (and some dreaded) he would be.

He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed

But for one long jack in the third by Curtis Granderson Daisuke Matsuzaka would have had has first complete game shutout last night.

So far his career has progressed in fits and starts. At times he has been dominant as Roy Oswalt and other times as erratic as Rich Ankiel. On a bad day.

Rather than bursting onto the scene with blistering heat, Matsuzaka warms his fan base with his gradual improvement. A shutout over nine innings this early would too quickly bring his creation to a boil, so a complete game will suffice for now. How tantalizingly he works the crowd, like how he entices hitters to whiff on his toothsome slider, how Cake tapped into their audience’s anticipation as their lead singer’s drone builds into earnestness in “The Distance.”

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank.

Along with Boston and the Los Angeles Angels, Detroit stands at the top of its respective division. With respect to the American League, the Tigers are second in slugging, fifth in OBP, third in runs scored, fourth in home runs, and third in RBIs. These were not the Royals -- the Tigers are a bona fide, blue ribbon major league force that Matsuzaka went the distance against.

Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns

The Tigers became the prey, feeding off their own anxiety with slipshod defensive play. It wasn’t the “unproven” rookie who couldn’t withstand the pressure, but the former American League champions who skittishly, and ineffectively, dove for ground balls. Carlos Guillen flopped uselessly after a ground ball nubbed by Jason Varitek in the second after Mike Lowell had singled on another infield hit to his counterpart Brandon Inge. Although no run resulted, it were these minute misplays that ate into Nate Robertson’s psyche and pitch count.

Robertson departed the game with five innings under his belt but 115 pitches on his arm.

Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

The home team supported their starter with timely shots. Kevin Youkilis doubled into left in the bottom of the third and was driven in by David Ortiz’s slicing single into center field to tie the score.

With two outs in the fourth, Varitek reached for the pitch on the outside of the platter as he batted right-handed and poked it down the left field line. Magglio Ordóñez had difficulty digging out the ball and by the time he did the backstop stood defiantly at second. Varitek was driven in by Coco Crisp, who benefited from Granderson’s bad read of the fly ball to center. Perhaps the Tigers outfielders are too inured of the spaciousness of Comerica Park and are unable to adapt to new environments.

Ortiz smacked a double high off the wall in the fifth, further demonstrating that he is not just a dead pull hitter. Manny Ramirez singled in Ortiz with a grounder that leapt over the third base bag and kicked off the stands. Inexplicably, Craig Monroe held the rebound rather than even attempt to hose Ortiz at home.

As they speed through the finish, the flags go down

Matsuzaka disposed of three hitters in nine pitches in the top of the eighth. It was the first time he made it beyond the seventh inning. With his pitch count at 110, Terry Francona seemed tempted to allow his starter to begin the ninth. Matsuzaka dwelt in the dugout expectantly even as Jonathan Papelbon warmed up.

Bobby Seay was summoned by Jim Leyland to hold the opposition’s lead. Seay began promisingly enough by inducing a line out off the bat of Lowell. Then he walked Varitek and was inexplicably concerned with picking the runner off. Crisp sprayed a single to right and Dustin Pedroia pushed the ball past the infield to load the bases for one of Sunday’s heroes, Julio Lugo.

But he’s driving and striving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

Lugo’s line drive to center-left bounded all the way to the wall. With his speed, the shortstop easily notched a triple. Three runs passed, and Youkilis added to the lead with a single to left. Instead of the relief that more runs provide, anticipation grew. What would Francona do?

Matsuzaka would be permitted go for the complete game. The pitcher had waited almost a half an hour during the scoring barrage, but Francona already had arms at the ready should the heart of the Tigers’ order prove too powerful. Gary Sheffield, Ordóñez, and Guillen, three of the more productive bats in one of the best offensive teams in baseball, were aligned between Matsuzaka and what would be a milestone in his career.

The pitcher relinquished a leadoff single to Sheffield that wasn’t much of a hit. Sheffield didn’t get around on it and rather just barely jammed the ball into left. The designated hitter wasn’t a bellwether, as the next three batters were dismissed by Matsuzaka in ten pitches. Easy as cake.

The fans get up and they get out of town
The arena is empty except for one man
Still driving and striving as fast as he can

May 14, 2007


Game 36: May 13, 2007
Orioles 5 BS, L: Chris Ray (3, 3-3) 18-20, 2 game losing streak
5-7-1 series record
WinRed Sox 6 W: J.C. Romero (1-0) 25-11, 2 game winning streak
10-2-2 series record
Highlights: Astounding ninth inning comeback! A defining moment for this season’s Red Sox? Josh Beckett departed the mound after four innings and seven strikeouts. Whatever he was dealing was so potent it caused the skin on his finger to rip.

As innings one through eight plodded through the afternoon, I took notes on plays in a perfunctory manner. I imagined the different ways to write about a clunker: I could focus on Josh Beckett’s avulsion (a quick search on Medline confirmed it is a five-dollar word for a cut or tear), or perhaps write about all three hits the home team had compiled through that point (that would be a short but satisfying rant), or rewrite a Woody Guthrie song to parody the futility the Red Sox against the eponymous pitcher (“This team is my team, this team is your team/ From Eric Hinske to....”).

Fortunately, Sam Perlozzo’s itchy trigger finger interceded in the ninth, especially opportune for me because no Boston players’ name rhymes with “team.”

Jeremy Guthrie had neutralized the Boston lineup for most of the game. With one out and the Red Sox trailing by five, Coco Crisp popped out in the infield for what should have been a routine infield catch. Was it because the infield was mottled by odd shadows from the light towers? Or could it have been the wind, the same wind that buffeted Kevin Youkilis’s fly ball in the second, turning what was a can of corn to a shallow double?

Whatever the cause, the misplay of a simple snatch by Ramon Hernandez for the second out catalyzed an unlikely chain of events. Perlozzo was more agitated by the error than Guthrie was and immediately pulled his starter from the game in favor of Danys Baez.

As Beckett said in the post-game press conference, he looked at Tim Wakefield at that moment, knowing that their team would win.

I had called my friend in North Dakota at the beginning of the bottom of the ninth, thinking that it would be a quick and painless three outs to end a dreary game. Fortunately he is a devout Red Sox fan (and something of my editor and proofreader, so blame any errors on him), so he understood when I let out a gloating “whoops” as Hernandez botched the catch.

When Crisp was doubled in by David Ortiz to shatter the shutout, I jokingly said that calling him was good mojo. “At least we aren’t being shutout any longer.”

Then Wily Mo Peña, who had entered the game in the top of the ninth as a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez because of the latter’s tweaked hamstring, crouched his mighty frame in the batter’s box, his countryman Ortiz in his field of view at second. Inspired by the embodiment of clutch in his vision, Peña propelled a ground ball past the infield for single.

Perlozzo again called upon his pen, this time opting for the somewhat reliable closer Chris Ray. J.D. Drew took every one of the six pitches he saw to load the bases. Kevin Youkilis did the same in his at bat, and the second run of the inning made it to the pay station.

Much is said about Lou Mazzone’s mastery, but when he visited the mound nothing in his power could bend the will of a Red Sox team attempting to defy fate.

(As my friend can attest, what I lack for in eloquence as a play-by-play man I make up for in exuberance. “Aww, man. Chris Ray is fa-reaking out, dude.”)

Jason Varitek was next. The catcher has had only two grand slams in his career, but the second one he thumped was against the Orioles. As tempting as swinging from the heels could be, Varitek didn’t overreach but instead neatly lined a double into right-center gap to plate Peña and Drew.

With runners at the corners and one out, Perlozzo made the by-the-book move of walking Eric Hinske to load the bases so there would be a force at every station. Alex Cora tried his best to get the ball out of the infield so that Youkilis could come home for the tying run, but Cora’s grounder to second was swiftly fielded and relayed to Hernandez, who this time secured the ball as well as the out.

(“Why is he out! There’s no way he got the tag down. Here comes Francona, he’s going to get into it with Cederstrom. Oh, right. Force play.”)

Julio Lugo, an easy target for fan derision given his salary and the fact that the lacuna at shortstop has been an ever-shifting site of concern, hunkered into his batting stance. History indicates he’s not going to walk like a Drew or a Youkilis, so the game, the series, lives or dies on how he makes contact with the pitch.

(“Lugo’s freezing out Ray! He keeps on asking for time. He takes the first pitch low for a ball. The second pitch, too. He’s ahead in the count! Takes a pitch inside for strike. He’ll have to swing away now.”)

The count ticked full as Ray’s sixth pitch was called a ball.

(“This is crazy! Come on, don’t pop out! Don’t pop out! He swings... Millar has it, throws to the pitcher on the run... he can’t glove it! Oh my god!”)

Millar’s toss to Ray was adequate, but Ray was clearly concerned about reaching first because of Lugo’s speed. As Lugo slid to avoid a tag by the running Ray, the pitcher failed to connect with the ball. The tying and go ahead runs sealed the comeback.

(“Six runs in the bottom of the ninth! Holy crap!”)

This could be a team-defining moment for the 2007 version of the Red Sox. Not only did the usual suspect, Ortiz, contribute to the victory, but Hinske and Peña played key roles as platoon players. And, when our team is trailing in the ninth, my friend in the Midwest can now expect an urgent, mojo-inducing call from me.

(“Tina’s interviewing Lugo. Her mouth is gigantic; she can fit his entire head in her mouth. [Pause.] Not that head. You know, sort of like a female praying mantis eats the male after they mate. Never mind.”)

May 13, 2007


Game 35: May 12, 2007
Orioles 4 L: Jon Leicester (0-1) 18-19, 1 game losing streak
5-6-1 series record
WinRed Sox 13 BS, W: Javier Lopez (1, 1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (9)
24-11, 1 game winning streak
9-2-2 series record
Highlights: Okajima shutdown the Orioles lineup in his one and two-thirds innings of work. Julio Lugo went 4-for-5 with with one RBI, although he was picked off in the first inning after lining a single into left. One could blame it on Chris Guccione, however; he waited until the fifth to call Steve Trachsel on his balky pitch delivery.

This game went from a nail-biter to a laughter in short order. The offensive Orioles pitching staff saw that nearly every Red Sox starter had an RBI to his name. Everyone, that is, except Dustin Pedroia. What can a rookie do when The Smartest Player in Baseball (trademarked by Jerry Remy) Alex Cora is nipping at your, well, in Pedroia’s case, torso.

Cora continued to ignore the fact that he is Cora whenever he pinch hits. He came to the dish with runners at second and third, two out, and the score 5-4 in his team’s favor thanks to Coco Crisp breaking the 4-4 tie in the prior at bat. With his signature aplomb, the utility man laced a ground ball into right field to notch two insurance runs.

Curt Schilling usually attempts to make himself the center of the story, especially on his starts. He was solid until the sixth when he abruptly was boxed around. Schilling relinquished three consecutive singles and eventually allowed the visitors to come within one run. The beleaguered righty turned the game over to the bullpen, but not before the veteran starter had the chance to jaw at Chris Guccione for the called ball that rendered the count for Jay Payton full and eventually led to a run being walked in.

In just his second outing this season, Javier Lopez bore down in his inning of work. He inherited a shoddy legacy of a bases loaded, one out situation and allowed only one run to score by inducing two ground outs. He bequeathed a unstained estate to Brendan Donnelly in the seventh, and even gifted his heir an out via strikeout. Donnelly quickly squandered it, however, and left his successor with two runners. If anyone can salvage such a ruin, it is Okajima. After too long a time laying fallow, Jonathan Papelbon got in some work.

Today Mike Lowell and Pedroia get the day off. Perhaps Terry Francona sensed a touch of fatigue in Lowell’s high throw to first in the seventh yesterday. The off-target toss had Kevin Youkilis elevating and toeing the first base sac for the final out of the inning. Youkilis will have to summon his muscle memory of playing at the hot corner while Eric Hinske and Cora have their chance to start in the rubber game of this series.

May 12, 2007


Game 34: May 11, 2007
WinOrioles 6 W: Brian Burres (1-1)
H: Todd Williams (1)
H: John Parrish (6)
H: Chad Bradford (7)
H: Jamie Walker (6)
S: Chris Ray (8)
18-18, 4 game winning streak
5-6-1 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Julian Tavarez (1-4) 23-11, 1 game losing streak
9-2-2 series record
Highlights: Javier Lopez, recalled from Pawtucket to replace Devern Hansack, pitched a perfect sixth inning. Julio Lugo had a 3-for-5 evening while Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis both went 2-for-5 with a double apiece, but the remainder of the lineup was stagnant. Crisp’s double clanged about the garage door in left field, one of those quirky Fenway hits.

Nick Markakis was born one year after Wily Mo Peña, although the former was born late in 1983 while Peña was born in the beginning of 1982. Much is made of Peña being rushed through the ranks because he was signed to a major league contract. He hacked his way through the Gulf Coast League to the MLB in just three years, from 1999 to 2002.

Meanwhile, Markakis was drafted in 2001 and 2002 by the Cincinnati Reds, but he decided to go to Young Harris College both years. When the Orioles drafted him in 2003 in the first round as the seventh pick all-around, Markakis finally signed on to a professional team. Markakis advanced gradually through the levels, although his production 2005 warranted a promotion from High A to Double A. He debuted last season and secured himself a starting position.

Last night Markakis went 4-for-5 and made a dazzling catch of Jason Varitek’s line drive destined for the bullpens in the fifth. In contrast, Peña looked as awkward as ever in right field, botching an easy fly ball off the bat of Jay Gibbons in the top of the fifth.

To be certain, Peña was always lauded for his power hitting, so much so his development, or lack thereof, in fielding was ignored. He was pushed through the minors at a dizzying pace so that a player who had signed a major league deal did not wither away on the farm.

As strapping as Peña may seem, his fielding skill is acutely atrophied. In the Reds organization he was a peripatetic outfielder. Markakis was wise to have rejected the Reds twice; perhaps he saw how young players were stunted there and decided on a club that, although not at the top of the American League, would at least afford him a resolute chance to develop as not just a hitter but an all-around player.

Last night there were some contretemps with the umpiring crew*, but the Orioles also made outstanding defensive plays to avert their first loss in since May 7. Miguel Tejada elevated for two line shots, first in the seventh against J.D. Drew with the bases loaded (where he was so adroit the shortstop very nearly turned a double play) and again in the ninth, where he intercepted what could have been a leadoff hit for Kevin Youkilis.

*In the bottom of the third, first base umpire Chris Guccione called Peña out when he should have been safe. The result was an inning-ending double play. Third base umpire Lance Barksdale made a questionable call when he said David Ortiz went around in the eighth for the third strike. Mike Lowell and others had issues with home plate umpire Jim Reynolds’s low strike calls. But nevertheless, the Red Sox have their share of slumbering lumber; thirteen men were stranded.

May 11, 2007


Game 33: May 10, 2007
WinRed Sox 8 W: Tim Wakefield (4-3) 23-10, 4 game winning streak
9-2-2 series record
Blue Jays 0 L: Roy Halladay (4-2) 13-21, 9 game losing streak
4-5-3 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox tallied their third shutout of the season. Wakefield joined forces with Hideki Okajima and J.C. Romero for the five-hit win. Halladay pitched poorly for the second start in a row while B.J. Ryan had Tommy John surgery. If Canadians cared about baseball, they would be up in arms.

The composition of the game was fleshed out early. Kevin Youkilis lined a double that recoiled against the right field wall as Alex Rios struggled to contain it. Perhaps unnerved by the presence of David Ortiz’s monstrous bat dangling over the scant 17 by 17 inch tableau upon which he must paint, Roy Halladay reeled off the rubber in a pickoff attempt at second. John McDonald wasn’t there to complete the scene, ruining the symmetry of the work.

Youkilis, he of the six stolen bases in his career, loped to third. He would score easily on Ortiz’s ground out to first.

The Blue Jays were poised to counter in the bottom of the first frame. After a flailing strikeout by Rios, Adam Lind and Vernon Wells singled. Tim Wakefield pitched gingerly to Troy Glaus, who walked on four balls. With the bases loaded and one out, Frank Thomas fit himself, just barely, into the batter’s box.

With one cut Thomas could give his ace a three-run advantage. Halladay could stretch that canvas just a bit wider and render the Red Sox batters in his typical compositions, such as Still Life with Bat On Shoulder While Observing Curveball Crossing Plate for Strike or Hacking at Sinker to Ground Into Room Service Double Play.

Instead Toronto’s designated hitter whiffed at a pitch inside. Glaus, tarrying too far off first, was picked off by Doug Mirabelli’s snappy throw to Youkilis for the final out.

Halladay’s inspiration deserted him in the third; the subject took control and overpowered him. Boston batted around, splattering hits like Jackson Pollock about the field and, in the case of Mike Lowell, one shot beyond the fences. By the time Halladay got the last out, the picture looked bleak for the home team, who would have to work their way out of a seven-run deficit.

They would have to do so against the masterful Tim Wakefield. The knuckleballer is the American League leader in ERA (1.79) and batting average against (.189), and Toronto would follow that trend to defeat.

May 10, 2007

Ensei [遠征]

Game 32: May 9, 2007
WinRed Sox 9 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-2) 22-10, 3 game winning streak
9-2-2 series record
Blue Jays 3 L: Tomo Ohka (2-4) 13-20, 8 game losing streak
4-5-3 series record
Highlights: Four Red Sox batters slugged home runs, locking a series win on Boston’s ensei, or “road trip.” The first character [遠] means “far” or “distant” while the second [征] means “to subjugate,” “attack the rebellious,” or “to collect taxes.” Which makes me very frightened of Japan’s National Tax Agency. Julio Lugo, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell each exacted a tariff on Toronto’s bullpen of a home run apiece. Will there be hachimaki (headband) to commemorate the event available soon at the Rem Dawg on-line shop? Do you even need to ask?

Last month I compared Tomo Ohka to Daisuke Matsuzaka and last night they went head-to-head for the first time. It had been five years since the most recent showdown between Japanese pitchers, where Ohka, then with the Expos, defeated Mac Suzuki of the Royals. Their win/loss records are reflections of one another, tangible evidence of their divergent destinies.

Ohka was brought into the Red Sox organization in 1998 with very little fanfare and was dealt in 2001 to the Expos for Ugueth Urbina with even less bravado. Suffice to say, Red Sox fans were not anxiously tracking Ohka’s commercial flight from Kyoto to Boston. Ohka was never enrobed in the folk hero-like glory that Matsuzaka was, much like how the man who signed him, Dan Duquette, doesn’t carry the cachet of Theo Epstein.

And yet, Epstein’s 2004 team owed more than a few key players to Duquette’s expertise, and moving Ohka through the Red Sox system taught the franchise valuable lessons about integrating a player from the Japan. Lessons such as, “Don’t room players from Korea and Japan together just because they are Asian” and “Hiring translators would probably be a good idea.”

Matsuzaka looked sharp for most of the seven innings he pitched. Comparing his two outings against the Blue Jays:

Date IP H R ER HR BB K Pitches/
Ground Outs/
Fly Outs
April 17 6 9 2 2 0 3 10 105/68 2/6
May 10 7 5 1 1 1 3 8 108/70 6/7

One concern is that opposing teams, particularly those within the division, scheme to unravel a pitcher’s approach and grow to be more effective against the staffs they most often face. There’s not enough information to draw a conclusion yet, but it something to keep in mind as Matsuzaka racks up innings against the AL East.

The infield reincarnation of Frank Catalanotto, Aaron Hill, did not rob David Ortiz of any hits last night. Ortiz’s four true outcomes were: deftly lining over Hill’s reach (innings one and five), taking the outside pitch the other way for an RBI double (second inning), striking out (on six pitches in the sixth), or merely putting out of the reach of everyone (homer in the eighth).

How bad does one have to be to be replaced by Victor Zambrano? Josh Towers bad. The fascination with this pitching project must originate in the novel ways the Blue Jays’ marketing staff derive market synergy from CN Tower and Towers’s surname, because it has nothing to do with his twirling aptitude. In his three innings of work the right-handed reliever didn’t walk a batter and struck out one while surrendering two home runs, proof of his inability to command the strike zone.

Odd that I compared the Blue Jays to “American Idol” contestant LaKisha Jones. Toronto faces another series sweep as Kiki (as her mom and Diana Ross call her) was swept off the stage last night. My own idol, Melinda Doolittle, survived another week, but said the judges’ comments gave her “a wakeup call.” That should put Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks on notice, like the Red Sox have done with the usually irksome Blue Jays.

Oh, and “American Idol” far surpasses its Canadian counterpart. They invented Labatt’s but Americans refined and elevated schmaltz to its most sublime.

May 9, 2007


Game 31: May 8, 2007
WinRed Sox 9 W: Josh Beckett (7-0) 21-10, 2 game winning streak
8-2-2 series record
Blue Jays 2 L: Victor Zambrano (0-2) 13-19, 7 game losing streak
4-4-3 series record
Highlights: Dustin Pedroia jacked his first home run of the 2007 season in the second inning with two men on and two out, just as Jerry Remy maligned the rookie for his “big swing.” For some reason Remy is almost Morganesque with his disdain of this particular second baseman. Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and Kevin Youkilis also homered off Zambrano. Beckett clipped Toronto’s wings, holding them to five hits and an earned run over seven innings.

Who here is anti-close games on the road? Wow, that many of you. As well you should be, given how pesky the Blue Jays can be. Especially that Aaron Hill character. Who infused him with the spirit of Frank Catalanotto? Obviously Catalanotto crafted a poppet of that Toronto second baseman while on the disabled list, controlling Hill’s movements from afar to torment his nemeses. How he must miss playing the Red Sox 19 times a year to pad his stats.

Blowouts afford fans and broadcasting crews alike the chance to decompress. Rather than a nine-inning stress fest your mind can meander through the game while you test your hand-eye coordination by avoiding yet another Bob’s Furniture commercial with acute remote control manipulation.

For example, Don Orsillo had the opportunity to display his unspeakably awful paper airplane-making skills. He spent far too much time with his replica Green Monster as a youth. And I was able to indulge in my great weakness, “American Idol.”

I think Victor Zambrano is an Idol fan this season like I am. I can’t otherwise explain the rapidity with which he gave up home runs in each consecutive inning. He must have been hurriedly making his way back to the clubhouse after the top of each inning and controlling the remote much better than he ever did his pitches. Then there is the parsimonious explanation of Zambrano’s performance: that he just isn’t that good. In fact, he is very, very bad.

Like how Blake Lewis performed last night. Blake’s delivery of Bee Gees chestnuts was about as smooth as Pat Neshek’s windup. I didn’t realize tweeny girls think Tourette’s Syndrome is hot.

I would like for the Red Sox to arrange blowouts every Tuesday and Wednesday night until the May 23, when my disgusting obsession with America’s most-hyped karaoke contest ends. This assumes that Melinda Doolittle makes it to the finals, of course. If she doesn’t, the show will be further branded as a fraudulent panderer of disposable icons. With Melinda, they have the chance to legitimize themselves.

Melinda sings very much like how Pedro Martinez pitched in his heyday. Every performance is superlative compared to the rank and file, but if she is just a whit below her established standards, she appears to have slipped.

Josh Beckett, while pitching extraordinarily so far, is like Jordin Sparks for me. He is the beneficiary of copious run support while turning in good if not great outings, just as Jordin is the recipient of leniency from the judges on her faults because of her age as she ranges from decent to outstanding. At least Beckett doesn’t participate in anti-choice rallies, as far as I know.

The entire Toronto team is akin to LaKisha Jones, who came in like gangbusters in the first show with her show-stopping “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” but has failed to impassion a strong fan base or grow as much as others have a performer over the course of the show. Just as the splashy acquisitions the Blue Jays have made neglected to parlay them into the playoffs, LaKisha’s early breakout will not sustain her into the finals.

May 7, 2007


Game 30: May 6, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Curt Schilling (4-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (8)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (10)
20-10, 1 game winning streak
8-2-2 series record
Twins 3 L: Sidney Ponson (2-4) 16-15, 1 game losing streak
3-5-3 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox improved to 5-3 in one-run games. They have a day off until their next series, a three-game stand in another dome, the Rogers Centre. Schilling turned in his fifth quality start, Okajima was solid, and Papelbon seemed to have fully recovered from his blown save. Who needs Clemens?

The following was inspired by NESN’s long-lingering observance of Manny Ramirez and Julian Tavarez in the dugout.

Ramirez, a bit jealous of all the attention Tavarez had been lavishing on Daisuke Matsuzaka, had the day off and decided to spend it with his recently estranged friend.

MANNY: Finally got a day off! Come sit by me, esse. Let’s watch the game together.

JULIAN: I get every four days off, mang. I’m gonna go talk to Dice about the cut fastball thing.

MANNY: [Pouts.]

JULIAN: [Sighs deeply.] Fine, fine. [Sits down next to MANNY on the bench.]

MANNY: [Hugs Julian.] Yay!

[The pair snack on sunflower seeds together, occasionally flipping the shells at one another as the first inning wears on.]

MANNY: Ha! Papi got hosed at home!

JULIAN: He runs like a windup toy, tiny little steps.

MANNY: [Yells to PAPI.] Eh, Papi! You not supposed make the final out at home!

PAPI: You mean never make the first or third out at third.

MANNY: [Looks quizzically at JULIAN.] Is that how it goes?

JULIAN: You asking me? I’m the one that tried to pick a runner off second when the ball was dead.

MANNY: The ball died? Isn’t it already dead?

JULIAN: [Sighs.]

[The sixth inning plays out before the pair.]

MANNY: Oh, yeah! That little guy can hit.

JULIAN: Pedroia? Yeah, he’s got ground-rule double power.

MANNY: [Looks confused.]

JULIAN: It’s a joke, esse.

MANNY: Oh, okay!

[The duo watch as Pedroia’s run is erased by Cora tagging up and getting nailed at second on Papi’s fly to left in the sixth inning.]

MANNY: What just happened?

JULIAN: [Begins to try and explain but thinks the better of it.] Papi was just part of another weird double play. Here, have more sunflower seeds.

MANNY: Okay!

[Schilling gets into a spot of trouble in the seventh.]

JULIAN: That Redmond is owning Red Light.

MANNY: He freaked after he gave up that single.

JULIAN: Rub my head for good luck.

MANNY: [Rubs his friend’s head.] Hey, it sort of feels like the interior rug of my 1967 Continental. Mang, I miss that car. [Continues to rub JULIAN’S head.]

JULIAN: Um, Oki just got Morneau to ground out to end the inning. You can stop now.

MANNY: But it feels just like my car....

May 6, 2007


Game 29: May 5, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Julian Tavarez (1-3) 19-10, 1 game losing streak
7-2-2 series record
WinTwins 2 W: Johan Santana (4-2)
H: Matt Guerrier (2)
H: Jesse Crain (6)
H: Pat Neshek (2)
S: Joe Nathan (8)
16-14, 1 game winning streak
3-4-3 series record
Highlights: Tavarez was more ace-like than Santana, but he failed to tally his second win. The fifth starter pitched six innings and struck out seven; only four other times has he whiffed the same or greater number of batters. Joel Piñeiro tacked on two perfect innings in relief. The Red Sox batters were dormant, however, leaving 12 men stranded.

No one, not even the most optimistic fan, expected the Red Sox had a chance of winning this game. Going into the contest our highest goal was not to be the victim of one of Johan Santana’s patented double-digit strikeout clinics.

Santana was not his usual self, however, and the Boston lineup forced him to throw strenuous innings. The pitch count for each of his five innings in order: 30, 11, 13, 32, and 14. The Cy Young winner also walked three, tying his game-high mark this season.

In the fourth Santana threw two wild pitches to Dustin Pedroia, allowing Wily Mo Peña to stampede into scoring position. The pocket-sized second baseman would double down the left field line, his flyer bouncing fair before leaping into the stands.

It would be the only run of the game for the visitors, however. They were stifled not by Santana but by the Twins’ defense and their own lack of clutch hitting.

The Red Sox had the bases loaded in the first inning with two out, Santana showing early signs that he was not on his game. Nick Punto bailed out his twirler with his diamond-cutting throw from the knees to nail Mike Lowell at the plate.

The next inning Santana was on the ropes again. Jason Varitek had led off with a single and Pedroia blooped a single just over his counterpart Luis Castillo’s head. Julio Lugo sharply rapped the second pitch he saw, but it was an at ’em ball to Justin Morneau and another rally abruptly ceased.

The Twins’ only runs came in the bottom of the second frame. Peña played a Morneau fly into a double, eventually scoring when some combination of Twins named “Jason” drove him in. Minnesota had four players with this given name at the dish last night, Kubel, Tyner, and Bartlett, and they all bat in the bottom half of the order. Forgive me if I can’t keep them straight.

Does third base coach Scott Ullger can confound them with vague baserunning directions? “Run, Jason, run! No, not you! You!”

Today our ace goes up against Sidney Ponson. I’ll eat my hat if the Red Sox don’t wrest this series away from the home team. That is, if Ponson hasn’t already noshed it.

May 5, 2007


Game 28: May 4, 2007
WinRed Sox 2 W: Tim Wakefield (3-3)
H: J.C. Romero (2)
H: Brendan Donnelly (4)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (9)
19-9, 3 game winning streak
7-2-2 series record
Twins 0 L: Carlos Silva (2-2) 15-14, 3 game losing streak
3-4-3 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox tip their first game of the series record into positive territory, 6-5. This win was especially key since Julian Tavarez is slated to start against Johan Santana this evening. This is the second shutout of the season but the first one on the road for Red Sox pitching; the first came on April 14 against the Angels at Fenway. Rebuking the Joe Torre Method, Terry Francona has sought assistance from pitchers other than his trusted core of middle relief and has been rewarded. Wakefield, though granted a narrow lead, notched his third win and fifth quality start.

On June 15, 2006, David Ortiz was robbed in Minnesota.

It wasn’t his wallet, his bling, or game-used memorabilia. The designated hitter had a home run stolen from him that evening, erased from history by a protruding speaker in that wretched edifice the Twins call home. That disallowed homer would prove the difference between tying and breaking Babe Ruth’s record for fourbaggers hit on the road.

But last night Ortiz exacted revenge on both indoor baseball and his former team with a massive shot into the top deck of the Metrodome in the sixth.

That run along, with an RBI single by Coco Crisp in the ninth, was the slender margin between victory and defeat. Flimsy as the evidence of J.D. Drew being called out by Jim Wolf in the second on his tapper to second. Slight as Josh Rabe’s mistiming in his pursuit of Alex Cora’s fly ball, as tenuous as Torii Hunter’s subsequent attempt to clutch the rebound off Rabe’s glove.

Scant as the difference between a home run and a putout in the bottom of the ninth, when Crisp collared Justin Morneau’s swift fly ball to the deepest part of the field just before it escaped over the makeshift outfield fences.

It was difficult enough to scrape two runs off Carlos Silva, tonight’s task is all the more daunting. The Red Sox chances may be slim, but Johan Santana’s past two starts have been rough (by his standards) and he hasn’t won since April 19.

May 4, 2007

Nakatsugi [中継ぎ]

Game 27: May 3, 2007
Mariners 7 L: Chris Reitsma (0-1) 12-11, 1 game losing streak
6-3-1 series record
WinRed Sox 8 W: Brendan Donnelly (1-1)
S: J.C. Romero (1)
18-9, 2 game winning streak
7-2-2 series record
Highlights: A bullpen pitcher not named Hideki Okajima (who was named April’s AL Rookie of the Month) pitched well and a reliever who doesn’t take the field to “Wild Thing” notched a save. Kyle Snyder, Brendan Donnelly, and J.C. Romero took the mound on a night where Daisuke Matsuzaka expended his arsenal early. “Nakasugi” means “middle relief pitching,” one of the keys to the Red Sox capturing this one-game series win. (Ah, quirky baseball, only you would have the temerity purposefully create an oxymoron such as “one-game series.”) Manny Ramirez was the other; his two circuit blasts salvaged what would have been a disappointing end to this brief homestand.

Joanna attended the game with Jose Melendez of Keys to the Game fame. Inspired by the meeting, Joanna decided on a one-time only foray into the jaunty realm of referring to herself in third person for this game post. It’s time for Joanna’s EEs TO THE GAME.

  1. Joanna had been a fan of Jose since he posted on the ezboard incarnation of SoSH. While many celebrity encounters are disappointing, Joanna is pleased to report that Mr. Melendez was much like his blogsonality with the added benefit of expletives peppering his speech and the skill to execute a decipherable scorecard, although neither of us could determine how to express David Ortiz and Yuniesky Betancourt’s inning-ending embrace in the sixth. Coco Crisp gloved nine total putouts, just three shy of the single game record for a center fielder. In scoring script, center fielders are represented by “8,” a harmonious and lucky number in Chinese culture. Over a billion people would be extremely impressed by Jose’s scorecard.

  2. Joanna mentioned to Jose that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s problems happened in the fourth inning and that the pronunciation of four in Japanese sounds exactly the same as their word for death. Jose recalled that when changing from long sleeves to short the rookie hurler would reassert his dominance. After Matsuzaka’s first inning meltdown, both Jose and Joanna hoped that a wardrobe change was in order or that the pitcher had decided to have his traditional inning of difficulty early. Matsuzaka settled into a groove and pitched innings two through four unscathed. After the game Joanna talked with Jere and he showed her how the first five innings’ line score was like a mirror image of each other. She and Jere commiserated over Matsuzaka’s performance and how the K-Men had so little to do all game but were encouraged by Ortiz’s increasing tendency to hit to the opposite field and Manny Ramirez’s dominance to all fields. Joanna urges any visitors she may receive to visit Jere’s site; he has discovered digital zoom and has great photos to share. For once Joanna had seats in foul ball territory so she was more concerned with preserving her bodily integrity than getting photos. Fortunately her computer problems have been resolved and pictures from the past three games will be posted shortly.

  3. Julio Lugo (who, Joanna learned later, was miked for the game) had an inferior day on the field. In the first the shortstop bungled what should have been a room service double play ball off the bat of Kenji Johjima. The very next play a Yuniesky Betancourt blooper glanced off Lugo’s glove as he pursued it into shallow center; this play was first called an error then converted into a hit. Jose noted there were many Lugos (Lugii? Lugae?) in the crowd; one just three rows in front of us a fan botched an easy fly and an entire section was labeled Lugo for their inability to catch a ball lobbed by the ball girl, who was herself a Lugette. This Lugo section, the ultra-exclusive first rows of a field box just to the side of the visitors’s dugout, jostled one other like bamboos stirred by the breeze for the orb and still the souvenir trickled back onto the field. Foie gras does make one’s fingers slick. As an aside, Joanna is in the midst of writing a strongly-worded letter to NESN management, with a carbon copy to the Red Sox front office, which expresses her extreme opprobrium of the miking of players. It lists in excruciating detail the reasons why such a programming tactic is pandering to the lowest denominator of baseball audiences (clearly not the target demographic that the majority of Red Sox fans inhabit) and that this gimmick obviously compromises on-field play. Rest assured that Joanna also mentioned that the verb “to mike” and its conjugations make her skin crawl.

I’m Joanna and those are my EEs TO THE GAME.

May 3, 2007


Game 26: May 2, 2007
Athletics 4 BS, L: Jay Marshall (1, 1-1) 13-14, 1 game losing streak
3-5-2 series record
WinRed Sox 6 W: Josh Beckett (6-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (7)
S: Mike Timlin (1)
17-9, 1 game winning streak
6-2-2 series record
Highlights: Beckett dazzled with seven innings of seven-strikeout ball. He had a no-hitter going into the fifth, which, despite what my friends said, I did not jinx. Okajima notched his seventh hold and Timlin his first save. Alex Cora, Baseball Genius, started instead of Dustin Pedroia. Cora drove in two runs, more than the rookies has in 58 at bats.

The reward Sox Pax purchasers get for suffering through a few April games are nearly perfect May days where Josh Beckett puts hitters into a daze. The young northpaw extended his win streak to a career-best six games. He joined former Red Sox greats such as Roger Clemens and Luis Tiant (who had two half-dozen runs in a row) and current staff member Tim Wakefield. Going by the data in Baseball Reference Play Index, which goes back to 1957, listed the knuckleballer as the holder of the longest streak at 10.

While Beckett threw between inning warm up pitches, I noted to my friends that Beckett was pitching very well, as in there had been no Oakland baserunners. Believers in jinxing blamed me for Mike Piazza’s leadoff single in the fifth. Until then, Beckett had retired each batter in order. The grounder bounded into center field as I weathered the withering glares from two of my friends. Well, they should be happy (and a bit frightened) to know that since I control the destinies of others with my mere thoughts, in the very next inning I commanded Mike Lowell’s movements, making him dash to third with Piazza. My powers were too potent, as I knocked Piazza out of action with a separated shoulder for the next month.

For the second time in as many games, Coco Crisp made a stunning play to staunch an Athletic rally. In the ninth with one on and one out, Crisp sprinted into shallow center to seize a quickly falling liner off the bat of Jason Kendall. The ball hawk has said he’d rather execute a game-winning catch than a game-winning hit and has lived by that quote.

To contrast, Oakland’s outfielders, perhaps enthralled by my supposed hexes, were ungainly at best. In the fourth Ryan Langerhans too casually handled a Crisp fly that popped out after nestling square in the pocket of the glove.

Danny Putman coughed up a routine liner by the hopefully recovered J.D. Drew in the eighth. As the ball dribbled by him Drew advanced all the way to third. David Ortiz was called out at home, so at least the cutoff man Mark Ellis did his job.

Ortiz had a double to the opposite field in the first inning, rendering the shift useless. It seems he’s had his share of bloops and bleeders to left. Perhaps it’s purposeful and Ortiz is looking to add yet more weapons to his deadly set of tools. Even though it’s odd not to have not written about spectacular slams into the bleachers for a few days, if the reason is because such production has been eclipsed by brilliant pitching, there’s no reason to vex the lineup. There’s not many synonyms I haven’t already used for “home run.” With Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on the team, I’ve exhausted my supply three times over.

Pictures from this series as well as tonight’s game should eventually be posted. Since my sorcery doesn’t extend to computer hardware, my home computer has been beset with my ill-considered efforts to upgrade my own RAM. Last night I got a picture of Langerhans dejectedly patrolling center after his error and today I just found out he was traded to the Nationals for Chris Snelling. I can say I saw the entirety of Langerhans’s Oakland career in person. Both games.

May 2, 2007


Game 25: May 1, 2007 ∙ 10 innings
WinAthletics 5 W: Justin Duchscherer (2-1)
S: Huston Street (7)
13-13, 1 game winning streak
3-5-1 series record
Red Sox 4 H: Hideki Okajima (6)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
16-9, 1 game losing streak
6-2-1 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox lose their first extra innings game of the season and Papelbon blew his first save of 2007. On the bright side, Okajima continued to devastate hitters; he sat the heart of the order in the eighth on 17 pitches. In the eighth, Manny Ramirez lined a single to center field for his 1,000 hit as a Red Sox player. The pitch was thrown by old friend Alan Embree. Alex Cora pinch hit in the ninth and was intentionally walked for the 29th time in his career according to Baseball Reference Play Index.

It was a reunion night of sorts. Lenny DiNardo (available from the bullpen but didn’t make an appearance), Justin Duchscherer (drafted by Boston in 1996), Alan Embree, and Todd Walker were there and I went to the game with Andrew of 12eight.

He’s not really the Mysterious Baseball Hermit as GYS names him but rather the Enigmatic Semi-Social Baseball Aficionado. Emerging from his Salinger-like seclusion, we sat just one section to the left and three rows back from his usual spot.

At least a half a dozen different groups descended upon the area and misinterpreted the obvious signs indicating section and row. They seem to have missed the episode of Sesame Street that continued beyond the number ten. There is an inverse correlation between the fussiness of grandstand ticket holders and their ability to navigate Fenway.

Usually in the bleachers when there is a slight seating deviation fans surrender the battle easily and use the numbers on the tickets as seating suggestions. Such is the difference between paying $23 or $45.

Curt Schilling pitched well, or “good enough for the win,” as they say. He worked out of an early jam in the second where, after disposing of Mike Piazza and Dan Johnson, consecutive singles by Bobby Crosby and Travis Buck threatened Boston’s lead. Schilling battered Jason Kendall through five pitches and finally on the sixth struck out the opposition’s backstop.

Johnson and Buck would exact their revenge, however. Johnson, seizing his opportunity with Nick Swisher’s recent injuries, homered into Papi territory in the fourth. Buck led off the seventh with a ringing double to center and would would later score on Walker’s line shot to center. It looked as if the former 2003 Red Sox player was going to be standing at first or possibly second or third if Coco Crisp wasn’t patrolling center field. Walker was robbed by Crisp with a trademark full sprint, dive, and tumble catch.

It wasn’t the ideal way to open May or the series, but at least our starting pitcher didn’t come up lame like some other American League East team I could mention. Not that they are of any note since they are in last place.

Not to be paranoid as Andrew (who called the blown save), but Papelbon’s velocity was down to 90 to 92 MPH compared to his habitual 95 to 98. He also wasn’t able to locate his breaking pitches. This might be something to keep tabs on in his future appearances.

Pictures to be posted eventually; I’m attending games tonight and tomorrow night. Some tantalizing hints of what’s to be seen: David Ortiz up in Charlie Reliford’s grill, Mike Piazza making a rare Fenway appearance, Ramirez’s 1,000th Red Sox hit, action shots of Schilling, Okajima, and Papelbon.

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