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Home » Category Listing » September 2007 Game Comments

October 1, 2007


Game 162: September 30, 2007
WinTwins 3 W: Matt Garza (5-7)
H: Scott Baker (1)
S: Joe Nathan (37)
79-83, 1 game winning streak
20-24-8 series record
Red Sox 2 L: Julian Tavarez (7-11) 96-66, 1 game losing streak
33-14-6 series record
2007 AL East Champions
Highlights: Terry Francona made sure to pull Mike Lowell with two outs in the sixth so that he could be acknowledged by the fans in what could be his final regular season game as the Red Sox third baseman.

Descendants of the founders of the Royal Rooters threw out the first pitch on Sunday, including 96-year old Kitty Dooley, daughter of Jack Dooley. Peter Nash’s documentary Rooters: The Birth of Red Sox Nation, presented Dooley, along with Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevy and John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, as the founders of the Rooters.

These raffish fans didn’t pay for plastic cards and ticket perks. Their fervor derived from gambling as much as following the game itself. A Rooter named Sport Sullivan laid the groundwork for the 1919 Black Sox with Chick Gandil in a room in the Buckminster Hotel. The players didn’t make the millions they do today, so grafting was an inevitable way to supplement their income.

Just as the real seediness has been leached from Las Vegas and glossed over with a glimmering veneer of respectability, baseball fandom today can be mere pageantry. The first item on the agenda of the well-manicured masses is to unveil their gadget du jour to call every member of their contact list to make sure they are seen on every acquaintances’ plasma TV. It’s about being seen, not observing.

The row behind me unleashed a swarm of beach balls after the traditional rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” They claimed it was to celebrate one of their ilk’s birthday and all in the name of a good time. The thing they most enjoyed, however, was deriding people in another section who took issue with the tossing of the tchotchkes. A few folks took it upon themselves to rip the balls.

I am all for enjoying oneself at the game as one will, but just as the purposeful destruction of the toys was over the top, so the relentless yammering of the beach ball contingent (which included threats of throwing the discarded toys purposefully at the heads of their opposition) was excessive.

For me, there’s no choosing between the self-indulgence of drunkards and the self-righteousness of killjoys, so I occupied myself with trying to keep track of Terry Francona’s revolving lineup card. Following the likes of Kevin Cash, Eric Hinske, and Brandon Moss became tedious. I simply succumbed to the realm of the sensory: the touch of the sun, the caress of the breeze, the last strokes of summer before she yields to the fall.

Hail, October.

September 30, 2007


Game 161: September 29, 2007
Twins 2 BS, L: Nick Blackburn (1, 0-2) 78-83, 2 game losing streak
20-24-7 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Tim Wakefield (17-12)
H: Javier Lopez (13)
S: Hideki Okajima (5)
96-65, 2 game winning streak
33-14-5 series record
2007 AL East Champions
Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury needs to brush up on his baseball rule knowledge. The rookie outfielder tried to advance to second when he had already grounded out. His insistence on standing on first while the Twins tried to snare Kevin Youkilis in a run down seemed to confound the Minnesota defense, so perhaps his gaffe yielded an unexpected benefit. Terry Francona, Brad Mills, and Coco Crisp were highly amused.

Tim Wakefield is the only player who experienced the previous AL East title still with the team. If the cost for his post-clinch carousing was two solo shots, it was a price the Red Sox offense could match and beat.

Especially with the regression of J.D. Drew to his expected levels of production. His poor performance in May and July are dragging down what has been an outstanding September (.342 BA, .454 OBP, .618 slugging). The right fielder fell a double short of hitting for the cycle, but more importantly his extra base hits provided the prelude and coda to the win that secured home field advantage throughout the postseason. (Later in the evening Cleveland would fall to Kansas City, leaving Boston with the best record in baseball and the edge in the season series against the AL Central champions.)

Drew’s fourth-inning triple soared over Torii Hunter’s head at the juncture of the left and center field walls. He was plated by Kevin Youkilis’s gap double that roped into left-center. It was Youkilis’s first extra base since his return to the lineup.

With two men on and two out in the seventh Drew got a hold of a hanging slider and deposited it into the bleachers for the lead.

Just before the game-breaker Coco Crisp had scored on a bloop single to shallow center off the bat of Mike Lowell. Had Hunter made a play like Crisp did against the Twins center fielder in the second, the inning would have been over. Hopefully managers and coaches voting on the Gold Glove took note.

Javier Lopez appeared to have broken up his tendency to allow the first batter he faces to reach on a walk or line drive. He sat three batters with consecutive ground outs to first. Although these easy outs came against the weakest part of the order, it was a step towards establishing some consistency and confidence in the sidearmer’s stuff.

With Jonathan Papelbon otherwise indisposed, Hideki Okajima was tapped to perform closing duties. Joe Mauer and Hunter both singled with alarming nonchalance.

With runners at the corners, Okajima rebounded by freezing Justin Morneau for the first out; the called final strike was open to interpretation. Michael Cuddyer rapped a comebacker to the mound and a 1-4-3 double play ended the threat and the game, the first win for the American League East champions.

September 29, 2007

Yūshōki [優勝旗]

Game 160: September 28, 2007
Twins 2 L: Kevin Slowey (4-1) 78-83, 1 game losing streak
20-24-7 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (37)
95-65, 1 game winning streak
33-14-5 series record
2007 AL East Champions
Highlights: Yūshōki means a championship flag or pennant; 優 symbolizes superior, skilled, or excellence, 勝 means victory, and 旗 translates to flag. After leading the division since April 18, the Red Sox prevailed in their division last night. The last clinching game I had attended was for the wild card; coincidentally it was a match-up against the Orioles. Until last night, September 25, 2003 was one of the best nights at Fenway I’ve had.

When I go to games after work I usually park at Wellington, the most convenient T stop between my office and home. The parking attendant there knows that I go to games and we chat about the team’s progress (or lack thereof) even though she is more of a basketball fan.

This past Tuesday the lot was packed. I wove through row after row until I found a guy I thought would be leaving shortly. It was a prime spot right in view of the station and kiosk. I paused behind his behind his truck for about five minutes. The attendant saw me from her booth and gestured as if to say, “What the dealio? Is that guy not moving?”

I shrugged in response and shifted into first to hunt for another spot, but she shook her head and made a stop sign. She walked over to the driver of the truck and asked him to leave. He hadn’t realized I had been waiting and left quickly. Before returning to her post she nodded at me. I smiled and waved my gratitude.

She was in the booth again yesterday. With her I don’t feel restricted by jinxes. “We’re going to do it tonight,” I stated.

As a Celtics fan, she was intimate with futility. Smiling skeptically she wished me good luck.

I arrived at Fenway around 4:30. The first picture I took was of the white 1988, 1990, and 1995 banners that signified winning the AL East pennant.

The timbre of the game was keenly intense. Having only been to one postseason game, this is the second-most rapt I had seen a Fenway crowd. There was an explosion of smiley faced yellow beachballs but it quickly subsided. A few people tried to start the wave but it thankfully never caught on. I was only distracted by text message updates from a friend observing the events in Charm City. After seemingly endless barrages of Bronxian RBIs I finally replied, “Ok just let me know if Os score.”

Polite Heckler™ Matt was so engulfed not even Nick Punto’s ramshackle performance at second diverted his attention. Cotton Candy Girl, formerly Diet Coke Girl, did, however.

Even the relief corps contributed to the ardor of the evening. While sitting on their benches they periodically pounded on the bullpen ceiling in a steady, menacing beat.

We 37,000 or so congregants were transfixed by Daisuke Matsuzaka’s eight-inning performance, especially since he came out for that final inning with 105 pitches already on the balance sheet. “Is Tito waiting for [Torii] Hunter to hit a two-run game-tying homer?” muttered the cynic behind me. Of course that man didn’t bother to stay for the entirety of the Yankees/Orioles game.

Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez had been warming since the seventh. In that frame Matsuzaka gave up two runs, one of them a solo shot to Justin Morneau who deposited a souvenir into the section next to mine. That will happen when facing MVP-caliber hitters.

Calling the Red Sox starter a rookie is something of a misnomer. This is a man who as a teenager pitched a 17-inning game, closed the ninth the next day for a win, and pitched a no-hitter in the championship game, all on his nation’s biggest stage. Matsuzaka’s eight-strikeout performance last night is just the first rung of the ladder as he elevates his game into postseason form.

The heart of Boston’s order beat as one last night to surge to an early lead. In the first David Ortiz smacked a two-out double off the wall over Jason Kubels’s head and was driven in by Mike Lowell’s liner to the opposite field. J.D. Drew golfed a shot to left that evaded Kubel’s pursuit to plate Lowell. Ortiz would tack on another run in the eighth with his 35th homer, a shot off majestic trajectory that soared through Fenway’s luster to land in the Monster seats.

Jonathan Papelbon defied the Sports Illustrated cover jinx and pounded out his 37th save of the season in flawless fashion. He would display less than chic fashion sense later in the evening after his Yankee counterpart Mariano Rivera failed where Papelbon succeeded.

As this situation was unprecedented, even as Papelbon pitched to Michael Cuddyer I nervously wondered where I could meet up with Jere, who was in the same section as me, to watch the rest of the Baltimore tilt. Red Sox management provided for us all by playing the game on the jumbotron. I tried to quell my propensity to yell obscenities at the screen while watching sporting events.

Do the tendrils of Red Sox memory extend so far as to still grow unknown in the souls of players like Jay Payton and Chad Bradford? Payton drove in the tying runs with a triple to right in the ninth against the Hammer of God, who lately has been more like the Doornail of a Minor Mesopotamian Deity.

Chad Bradford surrendered a leadoff double by Derek Jeter in the top of the 10th. When pinch runner Bronson Sardinha advanced to third on Bobby Abreu’s ground out to first, Dave Trembley walked two batters to get the force at every station. Oddly enough, the last two outs came by air.

The Orioles found themselves in a near-replica of the situation the Yankees did in the top of the frame. Tike Redman doubled with one out and Joe Torre gave the four-finger salute to Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada.

Former ranch hand Kevin Millar froze on Edwar Ramirez’s change-up for the third strike, reminding the thousands remaining why he was not entirely missed.

Melvin Mora bunted towards third, a do-or-die tactic that actually worked. The remaining Fenway faithful erupted into frenetic euphoria as Redman crossed home. It was like going to your rich buddy John Henry’s crib for a game on his massive HDTV. And it would only get better.

Pictures and accounts of the championship-clinching celebrations to follow.

September 28, 2007


Game 159: September 27, 2007
WinTwins 5 W: Boof Bonser (8-12)
H: Juan Rincon (14)
H: Matt Guerrier (14)
S: Joe Nathan (36)
78-81, 1 game winning streak
20-24-7 series record
Red Sox 4 L: Josh Beckett (20-7) 94-65, 1 game losing streak
33-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 2
Highlights: Faraway, so close.

Green light, 7-Eleven

David Ortiz must have had the green light in the bottom of the ninth, but Joe Nathan pitched to the slugger warily. Ortiz had already demolished a pitch in the fifth to tie the game. The Twins closer wouldn’t be the convenient one-stop spot to clinch the division.

Your wheels are turning but you’re upside down

The Yankees beat the Devil Rays as the Red Sox attempted to rally in the ninth. While the bats were not entirely stifled, Boston was unable to convert key scoring opportunities. Mike Lowell grounded into double plays in the third and seventh, neutralizing two of Ortiz’s four hits. In fact, Ortiz reached base in each of five plate appearances.

You say when he hits you, you don’t mind
Because when he hurts you, you feel alive

Josh Beckett may have slightly tarnished his Cy Young credentials by relinquishing two homers and taking a loss, but he struck out six and didn’t surrender a single base on balls. As the team heads into the playoffs, perhaps the frustration from dropping his final start will stoke the flame of his contained ferocity against their ALDS opposition.

Red light, grey morning
You stumble out of a hole in the ground
A vampire or a victim
It depends on who’s around

Jacoby Ellsbury, who had been replacing Coco Crisp while the senior center fielder has been battling a virus, left the game in the fifth after a few hard fouls off his legs that caused leg cramps. J.D. Drew shifted over to center and Bobby Kielty took over in right. Drew continued to build upon his recent success; the outfielder extracted two walks and drove in the first run of the evening with a shattered-bat single to center.

And if you look, you look through me
And when you talk, you talk at me
And when I touch you, you don’t feel a thing

Hideki Okajima retook the mound in the eighth, his first appearance since September 14. Beguiling batters with his precipitous head drop, he induced a fly ball out off the bat of Justin Morneau, gave up a single on a rope to Michael Cuddyer, and then whiffed Garrett Jones and Matthew LeCroy to complete his inning. He looked sharp and refreshed; the antidote to Eric Gagne’s toxin.

And if you listen, I can’t call
And if you jump, you just might fall
And if you shout, I’ll only hear you

A homer into the Monster seats in the eighth by Jason Varitek kept the contest close, but the backstop didn’t carry his power into the ninth. With the bases loaded and one out Varitek flailed at Joe Nathan’s slider for the second out. Kevin Youkilis fared worse when he pinch hit for Kielty, striking out on three pitches to end the game.

Just the bang
And the clatter
As an angel
Hits the ground

If the local nine can reverse last night’s outcome, the battered Angels club will be in the offing. I’ll be there tonight in the same seats as I had Wednesday, hoping to witness a divisional clinch.

September 27, 2007


Game 158: September 26, 2007
Athletics 6 L: Jerry Blevins (0-1) 75-84, 3 game losing streak
22-24-4 series record
WinRed Sox 11 W: Mike Timlin (2-1) 94-64, 2 game winning streak
33-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 2
Highlights: Through the magic of Jerevision I learned that I made my regional cable network debut last night. Please, no autographs. Talk to my people; they can give you an address where you can order an official autographed 8x10 glossy.

Jon Lester’s outing wavered between brilliant and banal. He fell one short of his career mark of 10 for strikeouts in a game but also relinquished two home runs. In my mind he is neck and neck to get a playoff start with Tim Wakefield, but the latter has the edge in experience. Perhaps the best route is to consider them a starting dyad with the knuckleballer getting the first part of the game. That would hopefully render the southpaw’s arsenal all the more effective given the different angle of attack and velocity change.

The Red Sox batters bailed out the spotty pitching with potent offensive bombardments. Manny Ramirez’s reinsertion into the lineup, even in the second spot, sent a jolt of electricity through the batting order. The left fielder knocked in three sound singles and walked; after this base on balls in the sixth Brandon Moss replaced him as a pinch runner.

Dustin Pedroia all but nailed down Rookie of the Year honors with his 3-for-5 showing. His leadoff longball into the second row of the Monster seats sundered the 5-5 tie. His shot fractured the fragile remnants of Oakland’s pitching and defense.

Next Ramirez finagled a base on balls and Brandon Moss replaced him as a pinch runner. David Ortiz powered a fly ball off the left field wall that was far enough to get him to second but close enough to trammel Moss at third.

Who else but Mike Lowell would bring the two runners home, his single just missing the top of the Monster. The third baseman is the new single-season RBI leader for Red Sox playing the hot corner. He had already driven in three runs in the third and fourth innings. His fourth inning RBI single was distressing; he barreled down the first base line to beat the throw to first and came up hobbling. Visions of Eric Hinske and Kevin Youkilis at the corners thankfully dissipated as Lowell waved off the trainers and remained in the game.

To see how even seemingly minute defense substitutions can impact the game one need only look so far as Nick Swisher in center. Pressed into service due to the injuries to Travis Buck and Mark Kotsay, Swisher does not fit the lithe and limber profile of the typical middle ball hawk.

He went back on a can of corn off J.D. Drew’s bat, ball inevitably trailing into his glove. From my vantage point in front row of the center field bleachers he receded from view. Instinctively I stood up to peer over the wall to see what should have been the first out of the inning.

Instead I saw the ball slant away from Swisher’s glove to hit the warning track and bounce nearly as high as the wall.

Polite Heckler™ Matt was on hand to advise the hapless Oakland outfielder. Bob Geren pulled Jerry Blevins right after the miscue. “Nick! He’s not pulling that pitcher because he’s doing badly. It’s because he’s embarrassed for you.”

For once in the Polite Hecker’s life his quarry acknowledged the jibe. Swisher looked up at him and smiled. Thus encouraged, Matt followed with, “Nick! It’s okay! I don’t think anyone noticed.” During the warm-up pitches, Swisher was also counseled to visit mlb.com and peruse the instructional videos put forth by Harold Reynolds. This last rejoinder elicited another smirk from the outfielder, laughter from the bleachers, and a visit by the usher.

Because of the warning, an audience of only one was privy to the final barb. “I was going to invite Nick out for drinks after the game,” grinned Matt. “I invented a drink called the ‘Nick Swisher.’ The bartender would make the drink and then throw it over the patron’s head.”

Terrible posture, Empy. Matt has his thinking cap on.

Screen capture courtesy of A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory.

September 26, 2007


Game 157: September 25, 2007
Athletics 3 L: Chad Gaudin (11-13) 75-83, 2 game losing streak
22-24-4 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Curt Schilling (9-8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (11)
H: Eric Gagne (4)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
93-64, 1 game winning streak
32-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 3
Highlights: Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis returned to action in the first game of the final homestand of the season. The team honed its postseason edge as the games, like the daylight hours of fall, dwindle. Judging by the performances last night, the chance for a few of the players to make the playoff roster also diminished.

Invariably when I talk with someone about my Red Sox fan credentials my sordid past as a Mets fan in Hawai‘i is uncovered. Since the islands have no professional sports franchises of their own, people there root for teams that have players with Hawaiian connections. Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling, both born in Hawai‘i, were on that 1986 team.

It is half a world, half a lifetime distant, but the same tendencies still color my perceptions. I could not help but cheer for Kurt Suzuki a little; he is from the island I grew up on and went to the high school I attended.

I revealed this parochial proclivity to the friend I went to the game with last night. As it turns out, he was an undergraduate at MIT in 1975 and had just moved to the Hub from Ohio. He was amongst the 20 or so people perched on the billboard on Lansdowne Street desperately peering into Fenway to catch a glimpse of the World Series. Back then he was not cheering for the same team he does today.

Our respective rehabilitations prove one doesn’t necessarily need to be born into Red Sox nation. There is a naturalization process that can be successfully completed with diligent study and steady devotion. If I recall correctly, one of the precepts of citizenship is to not boo the players on the team one follows.

It’s a lesson easily forgotten when J.D. Drew is at the plate. There are many strikes against him, and I’m not just talking about the ones he takes while in the box. His salary, his agent, his holdout, his seeming aloofness, the man who he replaced in right field: all these factors insinuated themselves into the collective unconscious of the fans to beget the ideal scapegoat.

We did not boo despite Drew’s strikeout in the first with two men in scoring position. “Perhaps he’s imagining everyone is yelling his last name,” my friend suggested hopefully.

Whether it be the power of positive thinking or regression to the mean, Drew ended the evening with three hits, three RBI, a walk, and an astute nab of a dying liner that could have been a hit but was instead a sacrifice fly and the first out of the ninth.

Curt Schilling gave up a homer to rookie standout Daric Barton in the first but tamped down the Athletics’ lineup for the remainder of the evening. The only other extra base hit allowed by the veteran righty was a double over the head of Brandon Moss and off the left field wall. Schilling can’t, or perhaps won’t, unleash mid-90s heat, but the stuff he did have was precise and studied. Perhaps the only reason why Barton was able to get to Schilling was because the pitcher hasn’t been able to analyze the newcomer’s tendencies yet.

Manny Ramirez electrified the crowd with his return to the lineup. It was the first time he had ever batted second and it seemed to suit him. He roped a single to right in his first at bat and scored the tying run on Mike Lowell’s double. While he popped out to second in his second at bat, he worked seven pitches out of Chad Gaudin in the fifth for a leadoff walk.

Kevin Youkilis was not as prosperous in his homecoming, going 0-for-2 and painfully fouling off yet another ball off of himself.

In the eighth Eric Gagne came in with a three-run lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Shannon Stewart but managed two fly ball outs. In an monumental at bat against Jack Cust, the reborn uberprospect earned a base on balls. While Gagne tumbled, the Devil Rays surged ahead of the Yankees on Jorge Velandia’s first home run, which also happened to be a grand slam.

It was the loudest ovation Gagne has heard on the mound as a Red Sox player since his debut, and it was not for him.

At last Terry Francona was forced to bring in Jonathan Papelbon for the the last out of the inning. One pitch, one pop out to short, and Papelbon notched his first hold of 2007.

When, not if, Francona at last abandons the notion of reforming Gagne, he need only look at the young man who nailed down the seventh inning with two strikeouts, a base on balls, and no hits. Manny Delcarmen may be the one to further prove his mettle for a spot on the postseason roster.

David Ortiz made his team’s lead bullpen experiment-proof with a two-run longball in the bottom of the eighth, adding to the sacrifice fly Bobby Kielty contributed. Kielty drove in Julio Lugo, who drew a walk from his brother Ruddy in their first fraternal face-off.

Francona used Bryan Corey as long as he could. Unlike Joe Torre, he did not need to burn through bullpen arms that he already knows would be seeing extra toil in October. Corey labored the bottom third of the order and surrendered two runs in the process.

Without the dazzling play of Dustin Pedroia, Francona may have had to resort to Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin, or even Hideki Okajima. The second baseman extended as far as his abbreviated frame could and was able to glove Stewart’s arc to shallow right. He didn’t resort to his typical tumble; instead he recovered to pivot and catch Jack Hannahan off the keystone bag.

As a reward, perhaps Francona will let Peewee win today’s cribbage match.

September 24, 2007


Game 156: September 23, 2007
Red Sox 4 L: Tim Wakefield (16-12) 92-64, 1 game losing streak
32-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 6
WinDevil Rays 5 W: Edwin Jackson (5-15)
H: Jon Switzer (1)
H: Gary Glover (15)
H: Dan Wheeler (18)
S: Al Reyes (25)
64-92, 1 game winning streak
15-30-6 series record
Highlights: It’s peanut butter jelly time! Peanut butter jelly time! Peanut butter jelly! Peanut butter jelly! Peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat! Also, Jerry Remy has been watching too many Cialis commercials.

Tim Wakefield turned in his fourth consecutive non-quality start against a team he usually owns. He was also defeated for the first time in the aseptic dome in St. Petersburg.

Delmon Young must have been inspired by the internet meme that has slid its way onto Tropicana Field; he knocked in a two-run homer in the second inning against the pitcher that used to give him fits.

Big-time nerd Alex Cora homered in the eighth. The dancing banana exhorted his inner geek, unleashing an unlikely power surge. The adrenaline rush also gave him an idea for an uproarious caption for a picture of his polydactyl cat: “I can has Alfonseca awtograf? Hiz mi idle.”

Not only is Jacoby Ellsbury fast in relation to the usual plodding sluggers that were listed in Red Sox lineups of years past, but he is genuinely possessed of blistering speed. It’s not everyday you see a runner steal a base on a pitchout as he did in the third.

The Red Sox mounted a rally in the sixth. Edwin Jackson unraveled, relinquishing four singles and two walks. The visiting exacted three runs out of the scrimmage but fell one run short.

Boston is now 22-26 in one-run games, but they eked out a series win and postseason berth while on the road.

It comes down to six games in the Fens. Welcome home, boys.

September 23, 2007

Seikan [生還]

Game 155: September 22, 2007
WinRed Sox 8 BS: Javier Lopez (2)
W: Eric Gagne (4-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (36)
92-63, 2 game winning streak
32-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 6
Devil Rays 6 H: Dan Wheeler (17)
BS, L: Al Reyes (4, 2-4)
63-92, 5 game losing streak
15-30-6 series record
Highlights: Outside of baseball seikan means to survive or to come back from the dead. The first character 生 in this context means life while the second symbol 還 means return. In the world of Japanese baseball, the word means to reach home plate. The Red Sox did both last night to bring baseball to Fenway in October.

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s line looks terrible in isolation: six and two-thirds innings pitched, six hits, five earned runs, three walks, seven strikeouts, and one home run. He was responsible Carlos Peña’s solo circuit clout in the fourth, an inning where the starter also gave up another run on consecutive singles.

After two quick outs in the seventh Matsuzaka walked two batters, prompting Terry Francona to call in Javier Lopez to face Peña. It was the correct move according to the book, but the small sample size of the resurgent slugger’s success against Lopez may rewrite that particular chapter. The book may also need an addendum about motivated players who exact a measure of revenge against a team that spurned them.

Lopez got ahead of Peña 0-2 but then wafted unappetizing pitches away that the Northeastern graduate would not bite. The count went full and the Devil Rays first baseman knew exactly what the southpaw side-armer would be serving.

With one swing Tampa Bay blazed ahead of the visiting team; Peña’s three-run homer enlivened the outnumbered Tampa Bay fans. As the Yankees had already won the second extra-innings tilt against the Blue Jays in as many days, any loss last night, let alone a late-inning comeback by one of the worst teams in the league, would be distressing.

That shot undid the lead built by perhaps the most unlikely of sources, J.D. Drew. The right fielder doubled in the fourth and homered in the sixth, providing three RBIs for his teammates.

Dan Wheeler assumed the mound in the eighth and dispatched the heart of the Red Sox order in order. David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and the rejuvenated Drew couldn’t retake the lead.

Meanwhile in Detroit, the Tigers were about to fall to their division’s cellar dwellers. A Motor City loss and a Hub comeback meant October baseball at Fenway.

Jason Varitek joined his Scott Boras stablemate in improbable clutch hits with a leadoff longball in the ninth to tie the game.

In his postgame interview Eric Hinske would say he never heard it so loud in a dome before. This is from a man who played most of his career in a dome. The amiable bench player contributed to the win with his ground ball skipped along the first base line.

Coco Crisp worked Al Reyes for eight pitches but ultimately popped out to third. His at bat may have fatigued the 37-year old closer and allowed Julio Lugo to get a bead on the pitcher’s repertoire.

Lugo turned his wiry frame on the first pitch he saw, a fastball in. The ball soared into the stands just a bit further than Varitek’s. The shortstop’s celebratory jaunt around the bases was premature since Tampa Bay would have three more outs to attempt another comeback, but the shortstop reveled with the knowledge that Jonathan Papelbon was warmed up.

There was no championship pile-up in Tropicana Field but rather restrained handshakes and hugs. Whatever postgame festivities there were the media were not privy to them. They were almost Patriot-like in their return to postseason baseball.

This is not a bunch of idiots; this may be something better.

September 22, 2007


Game 154: September 21, 2007
WinRed Sox 8 W: Josh Beckett (20-6)
H: Manny Delcarmen (10)
H: Javier Lopez (12)
91-63, 1 game winning streak
31-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 7
Postseason magic number: 2
Devil Rays 1 L: Scott Kazmir (13-9) 63-91, 4 game losing streak
15-29-6 series record
Highlights: The one thing old school about Tropicana is that the bullpens sit in foul territory without heed to safety or common sense. In the fifth, Jacoby Ellsbury hurtled his body into the Red Sox bullpen at full speed, blithely maneuvering over pitchers’ mounds, training equipment, and chairs. As he slid over the hills the ball precariously peeked out of his glove. He lay supine near the left field wall surrounded by relievers; the rookie outfielder was seemingly in shock over the rashness of his decision to pursue Greg Norton’s fly ball regardless of consequences. A few of the pitchers made the out sign; Ellsbury had held on for the second out.

Josh Beckett became the 27th man to win 20 or more regular season games for the Red Sox in a season. Early in the game it didn’t seem likely that Beckett would endure for the required innings for a decision. He threw 34 pitches in the first, eight of which were to Delmon Young for an epic standoff that resulted in a game-tying double to right.

It wasn’t one of his longest outings of the year, but it may have been one of the most pivotal collectively and individually. The Red Sox ended their four-game schneid and Beckett tallied his first 20-win season. The worries over his chronic blister problem and disappointing inaugural Boston season have dissipated and reformed into a Cy Young-caliber year.

The Red Sox bats that were silenced in Toronto made a statement in this contest, although Dioner Navarro amplified the noise with his two errors. Jacoby Ellsbury, who had doubled to lead off and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, so unnerved Tampa Bay’s backstop with his feints to home that Navarro threw galley-west to third. By the time Akinori Iwamura caught up with the ball Ellsbury had crossed home for the first score of the evening.

Scott Kazmir struck out David Ortiz and Mike Lowell to finish off the first, proving Navarro should have just kept the ball in his pocket. Navarro also hurled badly to the keystone sack in the second in an effort to stop Coco Crisp’s steal, but instead the ball pranced into shallow center. No runs would come of that error, but in the next inning Kazmir unraveled.

The bounty on Red Sox first basemen must be high. Eric Hinske was hit by Kazmir’s first pitch of the third inning. Dustin Pedroia walked without swinging while Ortiz took the opposite tack; the designated hitter was all over the first pitch he saw, lining it far enough into right to plate Hinske. Young missed the cutoff man and Pedroia advanced to third.

Given Bobby Kielty’s splits Kazmir was cautious, but overly so. He pitched wildly, allowing Pedroia to score and Ortiz to proceed to second.

That was all the breathing room Beckett and the relief trio of Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, and even Eric Gagne needed, but Jason Varitek, Ortiz, and Lowell homered in the late innings for more cushion.

There could stand to be more cushion in the AL East division race, but at last the Yankees provided some padding with their 14-inning defeat by the Toronto Blue Jays last night.

Every milestone a member of this year’s club attains leads inevitably to an appreciation of Red Sox history. The highest ERA+ of any Red Sox pitcher with 20 or more wins was Pedro Martinez’s 1999 campaign of 245, and that wasn’t even his career high ERA+. In 2000 Martinez’s racked up an inhuman 285, the highest in history.

Wins are a misleading statistic to gauge starters, but in the context of his team’s recent woes and the playoff drive, the importance of Beckett’s win cannot be diminished to simple numbers. This is a mere “W” as Ellsbury’s catch was “FO7.”

Red Sox Pitchers with 20+ Wins
Player W L Year Age GS CG SHO IP SO ERA+
Joe Wood 34 5 1912 22 38 35 10 344 258 180
Cy Young 33 10 1901 34 41 38 5 371.1 158 216
Cy Young 32 11 1902 35 43 41 3 384.2 160 166
Cy Young 28 9 1903 36 35 34 7 341.2 176 145
Cy Young 26 16 1904 37 41 40 10 380 200 136
Wes Ferrell 25 14 1935 27 38 31 3 322.1 110 135
Dave Ferriss 25 6 1946 24 35 26 6 274 106 113
Mel Parnell 25 7 1949 27 33 27 4 295.1 122 157
Babe Ruth 24 13 1917 22 38 35 6 326.1 128 128
Roger Clemens*† 24 4 1986 23 33 10 1 254 238 169
Bill Dinneen 23 14 1904 28 37 37 5 335.2 153 122
Joe Wood 23 17 1911 21 33 25 5 275.2 231 162
Babe Ruth 23 12 1916 21 41 23 9 323.2 170 158
Sam Jones 23 16 1921 28 38 25 5 298.2 98 131
Ellis Kinder 23 6 1949 34 30 19 6 252 138 130
Pedro Martinez* 23 4 1999 27 29 5 1 213.1 313 245
Jesse Tannehill 22 9 1905 30 32 27 6 271.2 113 109
Carl Mays 22 9 1917 25 33 27 2 289 91 148
Tex Hughson 22 6 1942 26 30 22 4 281 113 144
Jim Lonborg* 22 9 1967 25 39 15 2 273.1 246 110
Luis Tiant 22 13 1974 33 38 25 7 311.1 176 132
Bill Dinneen 21 21 1902 26 42 39 2 371.1 136 122
Bill Dinneen 21 13 1903 27 34 32 6 299 148 134
Jesse Tannehill 21 11 1904 29 31 30 4 281.2 116 131
Cy Young 21 15 1907 40 37 33 6 343.1 147 129
Cy Young 21 11 1908 41 33 30 3 299 150 194
Carl Mays 21 13 1918 26 33 30 8 293.1 114 122
Dave Ferriss 21 10 1945 23 31 26 5 264.2 94 115
Mel Parnell 21 8 1953 31 34 12 5 241 136 137
Luis Tiant 21 12 1976 35 38 19 3 279 131 128
Roger Clemens 21 6 1990 27 31 7 4 228.1 209 211
Derek Lowe 21 8 2002 29 32 1 1 219.2 127 171
Curt Schilling 21 6 2004 37 32 3 0 226.2 203 150
Tom Hughes 20 7 1903 24 31 25 5 244.2 112 117
Hugh Bedient 20 9 1912 22 28 19 0 231 122 118
Buck O’Brien 20 13 1912 30 34 25 2 275.2 115 133
Ray Collins 20 13 1914 27 30 16 6 272.1 72 107
Howard Ehmke 20 17 1923 29 39 28 2 316.2 121 108
Lefty Grove 20 12 1935 35 30 23 2 273 121 176
Wes Ferrell 20 15 1936 28 38 28 3 301 106 128
Tex Hughson 20 11 1946 30 35 21 6 278 172 134
Bill Monbouquette 20 10 1963 26 36 13 1 266.2 174 99
Luis Tiant 20 13 1973 32 35 23 0 272 206 120
Dennis Eckersley 20 8 1978 23 35 16 3 268.1 162 138
Roger Clemens* 20 9 1987 24 36 18 7 281.2 256 154
Pedro Martinez 20 4 2002 30 30 2 0 199.1 239 196
Josh Beckett 20 6 2007 23 29 1 0 194.2 188 TBD
Bold: Active players
*Cy Young award winner
†Most Valuable Player

September 20, 2007


Game 153: September 19, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Clay Buchholz (3-1) 90-63, 4 game losing streak
31-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 9
Postseason magic number: 3
WinBlue Jays 6 W: Jesse Litsch (6-9)
H: Casey Janssen (24)
H: Scott Downs (22)
S: Jeremy Accardo (28)
77-75, 3 game winning streak
22-20-7 series record
Highlights: Buchholz looked sharp for the first four innings of his third major league start. Rookie magic was replaced with rookie mishaps in the fifth, however, as Gregg “Superfluous G” Zaun led off with a double. Adam Lind and Russ Adams followed with consecutive singles to tie the game. The lanky starter panicked when Ray Olmedo bunted, flailing an errant toss to Mike Lowell.

Fortunately, Bobby Kielty backed up the play in foul territory and relayed the ball back to Mike Lowell. Rather than immediately returning the ball back to the pitcher, the third baseman tarried around third base, shoulders slumped, feigning dejection. In the split second Russ Adams lifted his foot off the sack Lowell swatted him with his glove, ball still ensconced within.

Joe West was on top of the play and immediately called Adams out. It was the second pseudo-hidden ball trick turned this season, the first was turned by Julio Lugo against rookie Diamondback Alberto Callaspo on June 8.

The lesson is to never take anything for granted.

One would think this is a lesson Lugo would know since it was he who victimized that unwitting tyro in Arizona, but the veteran shortstop had a lapse of his own last night in the seventh inning. While running out what appeared to be a routine grounder to his counterpart, Lugo let up. Ray Olmedo flubbed the play momentarily; the span of time where Lugo decelerated equaled the amount of time granted by the gaffe.

If Lugo were safe, Jacoby Ellsbury would have scored a run to tie the game and the frame would have continued.

Red Sox fans worldwide are panicked now that the margin between their team and the Yankees is the slimmest since April. I doubt the Red Sox players themselves are astonished by their rivals’ rebound; they were probably more astounded by New York’s long period of mediocrity.

Adherents to Boston baseball had all but declared the Bronx Bromides dead and buried in August. Carlos Camejo can attest, however, that things are not always what they seem.

Camejo was cruising along a Venezuelan highway placidly – until he got into an accident. He was wheeled to the hospital, pronounced dead, and slated for an autopsy.

He awoke to searing pain on his face as a coroner’s scalpel incised his face to begin the postmortem. He, like the Yankees, was not dead.

In the aftermath of being swept by the Blue Jays, many a Red Sox message board are overflowing with premature proclamations of the demise of their team. The division title is in jeopardy, but the postseason probability remains high.

For the sake of Camejo, forego composing witty or profound epitaphs for the 2007 season for any of the remaining contenders. This is where we see who has the mettle for the stretch run.

The anguish of this sweep could be what jolts the Red Sox out of their recent descent. Won’t the medical examiner-wannabes be shocked when their subject sits bolt upright on the morgue slab, poised for a postseason surge?

September 19, 2007


Game 152: September 18, 2007
Red Sox 3 H: Manny Delcarmen (9)
BS, L: Eric Gagne (4, 3-2)
90-62, 3 game losing streak
31-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 9
Postseason magic number: 4
WinBlue Jays 4 W: A.J. Burnett (9-7)
S: Scott Downs (1)
76-75, 2 game winning streak
22-20-7 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox scraped two runs from under the clutches of the outstanding Burnett, who would be a Cy Young contender this season if he hadn’t been injured. In the fourth Mike Lowell planted a single to the hot corner where Hector Luna couldn’t uproot it. Boston’s third baseman scored on Jason Varitek’s double to left. Dustin Pedroia sneaked a single by Aaron Hill and notched the go-ahead run on David Ortiz’s left-center double that skidded all the way to the wall. After Gagne’s eighth inning, three-run meltdown, Julio Lugo brought his team within one run with a two-out solo shot to left. But Jacoby Ellsbury watched the third strike pass him by and Jon Lester’s solid start was squandered.

EricThrow a fucking strike, Red Sox fucka
You’re a run-walking in Red Sox fucka
You’re a Red Sox fucka, yes, it’s true
Nobody fucks Red Sox quite like you

Make a fucking pitch, Red Sox fucka
You’re the one that fucked the Red Sox, Red Sox fucka
You don’t eat or sleep or mow the lawn
You just fuck the Red Sox all night long

[Farting noses]

MALE FAN: What’s going on here?

FEMALE FAN: What garbage!

ANOTHER MALE FAN: Well, what do you expect? He’s Canadian.

FEMALE FAN: Why are you blaming Canadians? Francona should have pulled Gagne after he walked in the tying run!

September 18, 2007


Game 151: September 17, 2007
Red Sox 1 L: Tim Wakefield (16-11) 90-61, 2 game losing streak
31-13-5 series record
Magic number: 9
WinBlue Jays 6 W: Dustin McGowan (11-9) 75-75, 1 game winning streak
21-20-7 series record
Highlights: I am Dustin McGowan of the Clan McGowan. I was born in 1982 in the village of Savannah on the shores of Abbhainn Savannah. And I am immortal.

McGOWAN: I have been alive for nine innings. And I cannot die.

RAMIREZ: From the dawn of time we came; moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering; when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you... until now.

McGOWAN: Dude, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I feel pretty cool because I just pitched a complete game.

RAMIREZ: When only a few of us are left, we will feel an irresistible pull towards a far away land, to fight for the Prize.

McGOWAN: My team is totally eliminated, man. No prize for us.

RAMIREZ: The Yankee. He is the strongest of all the immortals. He’s the perfect warrior. If he wins the Prize, mortal man would suffer an eternity of darkness.

McGOWAN: How do you fight such a savage?

RAMIREZ: With heart, faith and steal. In the end there can be only one.

McGOWAN: Manny, you are really freaking me out now. Maybe you should get some professional help.

RAMIREZ: Crude and slow clansman, your attack was no better then that of a clumsy child.

McGOWAN: I didn’t even pitch to you! And I struck nine of your teammates out! This cannot be, it’s the devil’s work.

RAMIREZ: You cannot die, McGowan, accept it.

McGOWAN: I hate you.

RAMIREZ: Good. That is a perfect place to start.

September 17, 2007


Game 150: September 16, 2007
WinYankees 4 W: Joba Chamberlain (2-0)
S: Mariano Rivera (28)
85-64, 1 game winning streak
26-20-2 series record
Red Sox 3 L: Curt Schilling (8-8) 90-60, 1 game losing streak
31-13-5 series record
Magic number: 9
Highlights: Tugi! Achute me Joba. Ji ama tuta Nebraska. Me jenki. Ma kilin na pich rupha. Hamporo dongol na di kato? Ma... patisa Jason pul... hampu. (Translation from Huttese to English: Greetings! I am Joba. I come from Nebraska. I am a pitcher. My head is too hot. Where is a nearby pharmacy? My... friend Jason needs... medicine.)

Roger Clemens’s apprentices, past and present, were pivotal in the game. Clemens himself lumbered through six innings before turning over the reins to Joba Chamberlain, who let the home team back in the game. Curt Schilling lasted for seven and two-third innings; he was responsible for the game-tying and game-breaking home runs.

Chamberlain is invoked as some sort of second coming of Jonathan Papelbon the way he is presented by the media. Papelbon has had four streaks with no earned runs scored against him of 14 games or more; Chamberlain’s streak ended last night at 12 games with 16 innings pitched.

Mike Lowell blasted a two-out homer into the Monster seats in the eighth to snap Chamberlain’s spell. Lowell’s thunderous clout was his response to Derek Jeter’s three-run shot in the top of the frame.

The home team would fall short in the ninth, however, after coming tantalizingly close to a comeback victory. A shaky Mariano Rivera relinquished a leadoff walk to Jason Varitek, who advanced to third on two groundball outs.

Julio Lugo laced a double to the left-center gap to plate Varitek, bringing the team within one run of a game and series win. Left-handed rookie Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t seen enough of Rivera to know just how precipitously the closer’s cutter comes in on lefties and was struck soundly in the kneecap; despite the blow he jogged off the pain and stayed on first. It was an ideal spot to watch Dustin Pedroia turn in the at bat of the evening.

Pedroia demonstrated his superb reflexes and judgment, alternatively fouling off or letting fly by eight of Rivera’s pitches. In the end the rookie prevailed over the veteran with a free pass to jam the bases.

David Ortiz did not come through, however. His pop fly was snagged by a backpeddling Jeter. The Yankees shortstop punctuated his team’s win with a fist pump, but it was more animated than usual. His usual move belies a matter-of-factness acknowledgment of the New York club’s superiority, but this time he was emotive, even fired up.

He knows, as Red Sox followers should know, that these two victories in Boston were more flukes than definitive statements of the Yankees’ resurgence. In this series the Red Sox outscored the visitors 20-13 and outhit them 30-23. Boston pitchers didn’t have the edge in strikeouts (23 to the Yankees’ 27) but were superior in bases on balls allowed (New York permitted 17 while the Red Sox had just 10).

The losses were not calamitous for the Red Sox. What was galling is that every defeat would have been devastating to the Yankees, and Boston managed only one. The small comfort the Yankees and their fans feel now that they have not been completely snuffed from contention isn’t as pleasant a sensation as leading the division outright.

September 16, 2007


Game 149: September 15, 2007
Yankees 1 L: Chien-Ming Wang (18-7) 84-64, 1 game losing streak
25-20-2 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Josh Beckett (19-6) 90-59, 1 game winning streak
31-12-5 series record
Magic number: 9
Highlights: Beckett pulled ahead of Wang in the Cy Young race with his seven-inning, three-hit showing. Wang was chased off the mound in the sixth after David Ortiz’s two-out, two-run double to center in the sixth. The sinkerballer had eight flyball outs compared to six groundball outs, an unusual ratio for him. Ortiz went 3-for-3 and walked twice; his Domino Oreo dessert pizza beard carries powerful on-base mojo.

There is no such thing as momentum in baseball. If any Red Sox fans fell off the bandwagon with yesterday’s abrupt loss, there was still time to clamber back on as the team wove through the gears to cruise to an easy victory. Clay Buchholz got more national screen time not in the form of no-hitter highlights but with a straightforward recitation of the Red Sox lineup.

In the first frame Josh Beckett seemed to have reverted to his 2006 ways. After falling behind in the count he tried to challenge Derek Jeter but instead served up a tater that was lost in the the batter’s eye. The strapping starter settled down and sat 12 batters in a row.

The streak was broken with two out in the seventh. Beckett did not pussyfoot; he hit Jason Giambi with his first pitch. The dugouts were warned and Tim McCarver yammered mindlessly about how such retaliation was uncalled for.

McCarver thought that Beckett was exacting a pound of performance-enhanced flesh from Giambi because of Chien-Ming Wang’s hit of Kevin Youkilis in the fifth. Of course no one believes that Wang is dim enough to hit Youkilis just to face the infinitely more lethal David Ortiz. The former Cardinal’s brain must have been addled by many collisions at home plate because I interpreted Giambi’s plunking as retaliation for the previous series, and I am sure I am not alone.

Momentum may not carry over, but hard feelings do. With the countless replays of every clash between Boston and New York on Fox’s broadcast schedule one would think McCarver and his play-by-play companion Josh Lewin could piece together the correct cause and effect.

The Red Sox responded to Jeter’s homer with a run by Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman sent a bounder up the middle, advanced on Ortiz’s single (a rope to center that the sun-blinded Bobby Abreu didn’t pick up until the last moment), and scored on Mike Lowell’s ricochet off the left field loge seats. The hamster exercise wheel his teammates provided him has indeed stretched him out well.

Peewee, as Terry Francona calls Pedroia, made his signature tumble and turn play on his Yankee counterpart for the second out of the second inning. According to Ken Rosenthal, Francona also calls Pedroia a “little rodent,” but to me he’s like a corgi. These dogs are built low to the ground to avoid the hooves of the ruminants they shepherd and are known to roll beneath the underbellies of them.

The game was knotted at one run apiece for the first four innings creating a taut pitcher’s duel. Youkilis’s beaning in the fifth shuffled the lineup: Eric Hinske rotated from left to first and Jacoby Ellsbury entered as a pinch runner and Hinske’s replacement in the outfield. X-rays were negative on Youkilis’s wrist and the event had another positive outcome: Ellsbury flashed around the horn on Ortiz’s single past a toppling Giambi and scored on J.D. Drew’s opposite field shot.

A numerical oddity to note: all three Yankees outs in the sixth inning were fielded by Julio Lugo and Hinske: Jeter G 6-3, Abreu G 6-3, Rodriguez G 6-3.

The full power of Boston’s offense was unleashed in the sixth and seventh innings.

Hinske clanged a double off the bottom of the left field wall for a double to lead off the sixth. The burly first baseman charged hard but clean into Jorge Posada in his attempt to jar the ball out of the backstop’s glove, but Posada held on for the second out of the inning. The setback was fleeting as Ortiz came through with a fly ball to the right-center gap. Ellsbury flew around the sacks and had a fender bender with Posada at home.

Posada seemed to shy away from contact, perhaps thoughts of Hinske were lingering in the corners of his mind. The catcher didn’t even try to tag Ellsbury; by his actions it seemed he thought there was a force at home.

The Red Sox batted around against the dregs of the Yankee bullpen in the seventh. Edwar Ramirez, Ron Villone, Brian Bruney, Sean Henn, and Ross Ohlendorf all took their turns at inflating the stat lines of the opposing batters.

It was an shoddy day for souvenir seekers. Fans reached into the field of play on Pedroia’s fly ball to right in the sixth and Jason Varitek’s in the seventh. There is so little foul territory there that fans should know not to extend past the wall because the ball may clip the line. Joba Chamberlain reached into the stands from the Yankees bullpen to try glove Hinske’s home run ball, but gravity once again was his mortal enemy.

September 15, 2007

Heshioru [へし折る]

Game 148: September 14, 2007
WinYankees 8 W: Brian Bruney (3-1)
H: Luis Vizcaino (11)
S: Mariano Rivera (27)
84-63, 1 game winning streak
25-20-2 series record
Red Sox 7 H: Mike Timlin (8)
BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (3, 1-3)
89-59, 1 game losing streak
31-12-5 series record
Magic number: 11
Highlights: Heshioru is the Japanese verb equivalent to smash, snap, or break. In baseball terms, it means to saw off a batter. With maddening regularity Mariano Rivera does this in nearly every appearance, just as he did to Bobby Kielty in the ninth. The word is also used in a phrase that translates literally to “snapping the nose of the arrogant person,” where in English we would say “bring down a peg or two” or “knock someone off their high horse.”

Just as the hopes of Red Sox fans for a series sweep against the Yankees were shattered last night, so was one of my long-held beliefs.

“May you live in interesting times,” according to Stephen E. DeLong, may not be an ancient Chinese curse after all. A geologist by training, his research covered the English-speaking lineage the of the aphorism thoroughly. The earliest reference given to DeLong was a translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, published in English in 1931, but that version described no such curse. Cary Baynes translated the work from Chinese to English and Richard Wilhelm from German to English. Perhaps something was lost in translation.

The enigmatic epigram, artificial or actual, still resonates, especially when looking back at this most interesting game.

DeMarlo Hale made an interesting call in the third when he sent David Ortiz on Mike Lowell’s single to center field with one out. The designated hitter was out at the dish because of Melky Cabrera’s faultlessly thrown relay. After Kevin Youkilis walked, J.D. Drew reached on a ham-handed attempt at a ground ball by Jason Giambi.

The ball trickled far enough for Lowell to score, so had Ortiz still been on the basepaths he would have scored, too.

Interestingly enough, one baserunner more, one chemically-enhanced home run less, and the game would have been won by the home team.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jason Varitek were on the same page, unlike their three previous collaborations. The rookie right-hander turned in a near-quality start, allowing just two earned runs over five and two-third innings while walking five and striking out seven.

The toll taken from Matsuzaka’s early toil showed in later innings. He gritted out a two on, no out jam in the fourth. Jorge Posada led off with a double and traversed the platter on Hideki Matsui’s triple off the base of the curve in the right field wall. Then Giambi walked on five pitches. Matsuzaka toyed with Robinson Cano, exploiting the infielder’s lack of patience to whiff him on a high fastball. Cabrera then rolled over to Julio Lugo and decided to slide into first, resulting in an inning-ending 6-4-3 twin killing.

When Matsuzaka walked Cabrera in the sixth, the final batter he faced, to load the bases after coming from behind in the count, the starter grimaced and turned his face skyward in exasperation. It wasn’t a scintillating outing, but departing the mound with a 5-1 lead seemed sufficient. Terry Francona tapped the brim of his charge’s cap as he took the ball from his hands.

The Red Sox rallied behind their rookies the fourth. Bobby Kielty doubled past a stumbling Alex Rodriguez and stood at second as Matsui dug out the ball from the left field corner. Jacoby Ellsbury blooped a single into shallow center and swiped second despite being picked off. Dustin Pedroia smoked an eye-level pitch to center for two runs. Pedroia scored the third and final run on consecutive singles by Ortiz and Lowell.

The local nine tacked on two more runs in the sixth thanks to Giambi’s interesting defense and even more interesting bullpen. Lugo began the mini-rally with a line shot into center. Ortiz got a free pass and should have been part of a double play to end the inning with Lowell’s fly out to right. Giambi couldn’t handle the relay and the inning continued. Youkilis and Drew both singled and drove in one run each.

Given the Boston bullpen’s consistency for the greater part of this season, a 7-2 lead should have been insurmountable. But Hideiki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon combined to surrender six runs in the eighth.

The southpaw set-up man unraveled with such rapidity (back-to-back homers to Giambi and Cano, a Cabrera base on balls, and a Johnny Damon double) that Papelbon didn’t have enough warm-up tosses.

In five pitches off the fingers of Papelbon four Yankees scored. Those were enough to get the closer limber. He induced a ground out from Posada and then struck out Matsui and Giambi with overpowering heat. An interesting turn of events, indeed.

I’m most interested in the information that Giambi proffered to league officials. Whatever it was has allowed him to remain on the Yankee roster without reprisal and he continues to support his team’s efforts to contend against (so far) untarnished teams.

Perhaps MLB doesn’t need Roger Goodell, but it could do without an omnipotent players’ union that has Bud Selig kowtowing before its every whim.

September 13, 2007


Game 147: September 12, 2007
Devil Rays 4 H: Gary Glover (9)
H: Dan Wheeler (16)
BS, L: Al Reyes (3, 2-3)
61-85, 2 game losing streak
15-28-5 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Jonathan Papelbon (1-2) 89-58, 2 game winning streak
31-12-5 series record
Magic number: 12
Highlights: David is Goliath.

Jon Lester was out of sorts; 93 pitches couldn’t carry him past the fourth inning. The frame-by-frame breakdown revealed a somber portrait of a young pitcher sputtering against a swing-happy impatient hitters:

  • First: 32 pitches, nine batters, four hits, four earned runs, two walks, one strikeout, one home run
  • Second: 22 pitches, five batters, two hits, one walk, two strikeouts
  • Third: 24 pitches, five batters, one hit, two strikeouts
  • Fourth: 15 pitches, four batters, one hit, one walk; left game with two out and two on

To be sure, B.J. Upton’s home run was a cheap shot off Pesky’s Pole; in any other park it would have been the second out of the inning. Lester appeared rattled by the shot, allowing two more hits and a walk before striking out Josh Wilson. The inning concluded, narrowly preventing the Devil Rays from batting around.

The trainer was summoned in second, but Lester remained on the mound, steadfast in spirit if not in his stuff.

Julian Tavarez assumed the greenhorn’s place and pitched three near-perfect innings of relief. Terry Francona brought in Manny Delcarmen in the seventh when Joe Maddon decided to go to his switch-hitting pinch hitter Greg Norton with one on and two out. Delcarmen nimbly backhanded the resulting comebacker and relayed to first for the last out.

In the eighth Francona again swapped out relievers with two out and men on, playing the left-handed match-up of Hideki Okajima against Carl Crawford. Maddon had home plate umpire Greg Gibson remove Okajima’s various bracelets, but the tactic failed. Crawford struck out swinging on seven pitches.

Jonathan Papelbon iced the next three batters with his typical aplomb. He didn’t strike them out, but they all failed to get the ball out of the infield.

Defying fate and ignoring those ominous plays that characterize those seemingly inevitable losing efforts, David Ortiz all but willed his team to win. He had lined out to Carlos Peña in the first, catching Dustin Pedroia shimmying off first base for an inning-ending double play. The designated hitter repeated the feat in the seventh. Destiny also flouted Jason Varitek in the second when his hard-hit shot was snared by Wilson in the hole.

Ortiz took fate into his hands in the third, turning on a fastball inside to give a fan in the lower rows of section 43 a souvenir.

Even the much-maligned and snake-bit J.D. Drew notched a groundskeeper’s extra base hit thanks to a bizarre bounce over Carlos Peña’s head. That it was scored a double was based entirely on Drew’s superb baserunning. See what happens when you don’t boo players on the team you follow?

The scene in the ninth was reminiscent of so many storybook endings in Ortiz’s illustrious career: late and close, his bat alone between victory, a game-extending tie, or a loss. This time, and for the first time this season for Ortiz, Clotho wove the priceless filigree of a game-winning two-run home run into the dazzling tapestry of the slugger’s career.


Diagram courtesy of How Stuff Works.

September 12, 2007


Game 146: September 11, 2007
Devil Rays 10 L: Jon Switzer (o-1) 61-84, 1 game losing streak
15-27-5 series record
WinRed Sox 16 W: Bryan Corey (1-0) 88-58, 1 game winning streak
30-12-5 series record
Magic number: 13
Highlights: Something old, something new -- David Ortiz and J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia all homered. Something borrowed, something blue -- Eric Gagne made his first appearance since August 26 and gave up two sharp raps and a run; Joe Maddon presides over one of the two teams tied for the worst record in baseball. Ozzie Guillen is the manager for the other team, and he was just inked to a five-year extension. I don’t think the Devil Rays ownership will be as munificent.

Whatever was ailing Tim Wakefield still seems to be nagging him. For the second start in the row the knuckleballer did not last the minimum for a decision and was knocked about soundly by a team he normally dominates.

In September Wakefield’s ERA is 17.55. Opponents are batting .512 against him while chalking up .795 in slugging.

Although the division title is nearly in hand, if Wakefield’s recent performance doesn’t turn around he may be a question mark in the playoff rotation. His woes, along with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s late-season decline, make the well-oiled pitching machine of the regular season seem like a broken-down clunker in the fall.

Tampa Bay’s second and fourth innings outbursts were unrelenting liners and grounders punctuated by a home run in the top of each frame. The entire gamut of Devil Rays talent managed to make contact off Boston twirlers: Brendan Harris, who hit his career-high 11th homer of the season, blasted a solo shot in the second off Wakefield and Carlos Peña, also on a career jag, launched his 39th longball in the fourth with two men against Kyle Snyder.

The Red Sox sluggers were able to salvage a win by exacting the same punishment on the Devil Rays pitching corps. They scored in five straight innings to surmount the Devil Rays’ early lead.

In the fourth Boston plated four runs of their own. Joe Maddon stayed with Andy Sonnanstine as Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Coco Crisp, and Julio Lugo all singled. But when Kevin Cash smoked a single down the first base line for two runs Maddon at last realized his starter was cooked.

Scott Dohman, who probably strongly dislikes preponderance of “The Simpsons,” allowed a sacrifice fly off the bat Pedroia. B.J. Upton nearly hosed Julio Lugo at home but Dioner Navarro couldn’t keep a handle on the relay. Goodness knows that 175 pounds of Lugo right on top of one would make anyone queasy, let alone a product of the Yankee farm system.

In the fifth the same Red Sox batters savaged Dohman. Lowell led off with a ground ball that Josh Wilson gloved but couldn’t dig out. Drew lined to center and Kevin Youkilis waited out for a free pass to load the bases. With three more runs thanks to two sacrifices and a Lugo double, the local nine pulled within one run.

The Red Sox completely stole the show in the next inning, the opening act being Pedroia’s Wily Mo Peña-like line drive homer into the Monster seats.

With the bases jammed, Youkilis ricocheted an arcing blow off the base of the far left field wall that receded away from Upton’s grasp. The bases emptied and the corner infielder stood at third, his team’s triumph all but assured.

From that point the Devil Rays seemed to be pondering which Landsdowne bar to visit rather than the game itself. The final total of 16 runs topped the 15 runs plated on July 5 against none other than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The magnitude of the victory hopefully eased the pain of the fan who was hit with Crisp’s fly ball in the second. It may have been the first home run preempted by face interference.

September 11, 2007


Game 145: September 10, 2007
WinDevil Rays 1 W: Scott Kazmir (12-8)
H: Dan Wheeler (15)
S: Al Reyes (24)
61-83, 3 game winning streak
15-27-5 series record
Red Sox 0 L: Curt Schilling (8-7) 87-58, 1 game losing streak
30-12-5 series record
Magic number: 14
Highlights: A strip of wood in the first seat in my Sox Pax row this year was shattered enough that my friend and I made unofficial souvenirs. The Yankee fan with us shook his head in bemusement.

It was his first visit to Fenway Park last night. He had a sense of irony, subtlety, and grace mostly unknown to his ilk. I was sure to enter through Gate E and jostle him toward the left field loge boxes so that he could get a view of the Green Monster... and the AL East standings. He took it in stride.

During the game he feigned nearly convincing sorrow when the home team failed to take advantage of baserunners (not a common condition, as the Devil Rays’ mound men gave up just five hits and three walks). The dissonance was comical, even appreciated.

He did bluster about Joba Chamberlain, the hot air he emitted attenuated the chill touch of autumn air that cloaked the evening. The events of 2004 have emboldened us just as much as they have humbled them; we found ourself discussing playoff ticket plans and there was nothing he could say in requital.

Only those without a soul would not react or respect Coco Crisp’s stunning catch and resulting double play in the ninth. I am happy to report I have found a Yankee fan with a psyche.

Despite himself he was caught up in David Ortiz’s pinch-hitting appearance in the bottom of the ninth. The sound booth played the “Lose Yourself” montage that never fails to incite the crowd.

As Big Papi strode to the box flashbulbs popped, cheers intensified, and the crowd stood as one. The designated hitter that had conjured up so many late-inning runs did not have one in him last night. After a called strike and two swats that went foul Ortiz grounded into the shift.

By the end of the evening the Yankee fan admitted that Fenway was better than Yankee Stadium. He has not (as of yet) switched loyalties, but I have hopes for him.

September 10, 2007


Game 144: September 9, 2007
WinRed Sox 3 W: Josh Beckett (18-6)
H: Hideki Okajima (27)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (35)
87-57, 1 game winning streak
30-12-5 series record
Magic number: 15
Orioles 2 L: Chad Bradford (3-7) 61-81, 1 game losing streak 17-27-2 series record
Highlights: Flipping channels between the Red Sox and Patriots proved difficult; mostly I saw Heineken, Bob’s Furniture, and Dunkin’ Donut commercials with flashes of sports action interspliced. I’m into nuggets, yo.

Jerry Remy discussed Josh Beckett’s chances for the Cy Young this season and highlighted the fact that he has cut down his home runs allowed from 36 to 12 this season. As it so often happens, the baseball divinities took this as a challenge. The only runs Beckett allowed over seven innings of labor were two longballs by Melvin Mora and Nick Markakis.

As he does every game Dave Trembley tried to wring blood from a stone. Ramon Hernandez was hit by a pitch to commence the seventh. Beckett looked annoyed not because he was retaliating against the backstop, who was particularly feisty in the second game of this series, but rather because of Hernandez’s languid attempt to avoid the pitch.

Trembley pinch ran Brandon Fahey for Hernandez and sacrificed the runner to second. Then the Orioles field manager pinch hit Kevin Millar in Luis Hernandez’s place.

Maybe he just has something against Hernandezes.

At any rate, Millar grounded out to short and Fahey perched on third hoping for Brian Roberts to drive him home. All the while I imagined a profanity-ridden tirade by Earl Weaver on this particular sequence of plays.

The Red Sox did not have tremendous success against Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched remarkably well despite having on overly avid fan mirror his every warm-up stretch from the stands. Guthrie only relinquished two runs with two out in the third.

Fellow Rookie of the Year contender Dustin Pedroia laced a single to center and advanced to third on David Ortiz’s potent double against the scoreboard in right. Both runners scored on Mike Lowell’s dancing single up the middle by virtue of Tike Redman’s precarious throw to the infield and the accompanying misstep by Guthrie.

Coco Crisp stole the game not with his glove and had an unlikely accomplice in J.D. Drew. Drew led off the eighth with a single that plopped in front Redman. Kevin Youkilis lined out to Brian Roberts on a shot that should have found the outfield but was intercepted by the leaping second baseman.

Terry Francona sensed the game would be won or lost in this frame and sent in the signal for Drew to steal, which the outfielder did with Jason Varitek at the dish.

Varitek sacrificed deep enough to center to advance Drew. Crisp’s humpback to center knocked Drew home and Chad Bradford off the mound.

The rest of the Orioles lineup were eager to leave to park. Hideki Okajima dispatched three hitters with ten pitches while Jonathan Papelbon took 13. Divisional wins at Baltimore’s expense are cheap, however; expect the same lackluster play by them when they go against the Yankees for two more series.

September 9, 2007

Oshidashi [押し出し]

Game 143: September 8, 2007
Red Sox 5 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-12) 86-57, 1 game losing streak
29-12-5 series record
Magic number: 15
WinOrioles 11 W: Jon Leicester (1-1) 61-80, 1 game winning streak 17-26-2 series record
Highlights: Oshidashi is the term for walking in a run, something Matsuzaka did twice in the third inning of this game. It was derived from a sumo move (kimarite) which translates to frontal push out. Matsuzaka was pushed out after serving Scott Moore a meatball for a grand slam with two out in the third; the pitcher has become too familiar with American cuisine. David Ortiz granted his team an early lead with a two-run homer in the first. A trio of doubles in the second plated two more runs, but the third-inning assault by the Orioles sealed the fate of the game and the starter.

I was spared watching the entirety of this game thanks to my friends’ wedding. The last time I missed a game because of a wedding it was also against the Orioles. These match-ups are one of the more dreary divisional contests (except for when Daniel Cabrera decides to have a hissy fit), so I don’t mind missing bouts against the Charm City club.

My friends have been together for seven years and I have known them for about two. There was a softball accident that prevented an elaborate engagement trip to Bermuda, but the proposal was (of course) accepted despite a lisped delivery because of a broken jaw. They make one of the most joyful and dedicated couples I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing. Going to games with them is always enjoyable, even when frigid April winds assail the fans on Opening Day or the Gobi-like sun beats down on the bleachers in July.

The ceremony took place in the mid-afternoon on the beach. Unlike the trying conditions at Fenway we have endured, the weather was perfect. The gathered family and friends followed a Native American tradition of whispering a wish to a butterfly and releasing it to give our desires wing. More than a few of the monarchs made themselves at home on the bouquets and wedding decorations.

The wedding party entered to Fiona Apple’s version of “Across the Universe” and exited to the Standells’ “Dirty Water.” They chose everything so well.

Until May 17, 2004 they would have been denied the right to be married because they both happen to be women.

I have never understood denying same-sex couples the rights and privileges granted to opposite-sex couples. When I lived in Hawai‘i I made signs and stood alongside my gay and lesbian friends to protect the constitution, which at that time did not prevent same-sex marriages. In 1998, however, the constitution was amended to specifically prohibit the word marriage to apply to non-heterosexual relationships. Those denied marriage can engage in Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationships.

How romantic. The term sounds more like a technical biology term than something that encompasses the depth and breadth of human emotion.

If anything, I believe that including couples of the same gender in the institution of marriage enhances the very idea of that bond. Straight people are so inured to the concept of our relationships being valid legally and socially we have taken it for granted until recently. Divorce rates had been climbing since the 1970s but are now declining because heterosexual couples wait until truly believe they are ready to commit themselves.

For those like my friends, the wait is over. And it is from them we can learn, and unlearn, what marriage is.

Continue reading “Oshidashi [押し出し]” »

September 8, 2007


Game 142: September 7, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Jon Lester (4-0) 86-56, 2 game winning streak
29-12-5 series record
Magic number: 15
Orioles 0 L: Daniel Cabrera (9-15) 60-80, 3 game losing streak 17-26-2 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox are 12-6 in shutouts this season. Lester matched his season high for innings pitched in a game with seven sharp turns on the mound. Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen picked up the last two innings flawlessly.

Don’t mess with people whose lot in life is worse than yours. They have less to lose than you and will go farther as a consequence.

They will take greater risks. They will take their lack of success out on you.

Witness the Baltimore Orioles. They haven’t had a winning record in 10 years. All levels of management are in disarray. After Dave Trembley was inked to a contract extension his team responded with a nine-game losing streak.

The only member of the organization who has his act together is Ernie Tyler, and even he finally asked for a few days off after 3,769 straight games working at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. He begged off to see Cal Ripken, Jr.’s induction.

An old-timer’s game on Doubleday Field would feature more heart and talent than the Orioles currently trot out every evening.

Daniel Cabrera’s idea of competition is to retaliate against those whom he thinks shows him up. If anything, the Red Sox gave Baltimore too much respect by attempting to get on base in the fourth.

The visitors held a 2-0 lead since the second thanks to Kevin Youkilis’s leadoff walk and J.D. Drew’s ground-rule double. They scored on Jason Varitek’s line drive single that eluded Brian Roberts’s glove and Coco Crisp’s sacrifice fly to left-center.

Crisp was the first target of Cabrera’s ire in the fourth. He attempted a bunt to commence the frame before singling to right. The towering pitcher eyed Crisp as he ran down the line.

The Red Sox center fielder advanced to third on ground outs and danced down the third base line as Cabrera prepared to pitch to Dustin Pedroia. Every baserunner worth his salt does this in the off chance he might induce a balk, and Cabrera was the rare case in which the feint worked.

After Crisp jogged across home plate, Cabrera was clearly seething. He threw at Pedroia’s head, prompting Mike DiMuro to warn both dugouts. Cabrera’s intent was incontrovertible and all present with the exception of DiMuro realized this. Jerry Remy was incensed that Cabrera was not immediately thrown out.

When Cabrera did get tossed, he ignited another round of ruckus. The bullpen corps charged the infield, some jumping over the fences to join the fracas. The odd thing is that the configuration of Camden forces them to enter the field of play from the same door.

After that display, it is no wonder Cabrera and his team never attained their potential. They can merely watch as their AL East adversaries outsmart and outplay them while replenishing their major league roster with homegrown talent.

Like when Tike Redman is outpaced to the first base sack by Youkilis’s relay to Jon Lester for the final out of the second. Or when Jacoby Ellsbury robbed Melvin Mora of extra bases in the eighth.

The Orioles don’t have the best lot in the division, but there are infinitely better ways to remedy that than blind retaliation.

September 7, 2007


Game 141: September 6, 2007
WinRed Sox 7 W: Clay Buchholz (3-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (34)
85-56, 1 game winning streak
29-12-5 series record
Magic number: 16
Orioles 6 L: Danys Baez (0-6) 60-79, 2 game losing streak 17-26-2 series record
Highlights: The Red Sox reversed gears by gifting a late-inning loss to the home team; the team still has a losing record in one-run games, 19-21. The winning margin wouldn’t have been so thin had J.D. Drew not grounded into a double play to eradicate the one-out, bases loaded situation in the eighth. Also, two batters were out because they came into contact with their bunted balls when outside of the box: Melvin Mora in the fifth and Julio Lugo in the ninth. Dave Trembley had best get in touch with Jim Leyland for a thorough curriculum of pitcher fielding drills to present to Garrett Olson.

Anything you can do I can do better
I can do anything better than you
No, you can’t
Yes, I can
– Irving Berlin, Annie Get Your Gun

Tim Wakefield wasn’t able to shake off the rust of 1o days rest and was chased from the game after three and two-third innings, two walks, six earned runs, and a bustle of hard-hit shots, including doubles by Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff and a homer by Kevin Millar.

Those were the only runs the Orioles would muster, however, as Kyle Snyder, Clay Buchholz, and Jonathan Papelbon doused the sparking Baltimore hitters with a five and one-third inning deluge of puzzling pitches.

Buchholz provided further evidence that, while young and unseasoned, his no-hitter was not a fluke. The slight youth began the sixth shakily by giving up a leadoff walk. Tike Redman then singled and Markakis walked to load the bases. Mike Lowell dug his starter out of the jam with a reverse around-the-horn double play, 5-2-3. The greenhorn hurler responded by ending each of his innings with an exclamation point: all three batters struck out swinging.

Lowell has all but forsaken himself the Gold Glove award this season, but has flashed the leather here and there. His appearance belies his skill, as behind the grizzled beard stealthily lurks a still-shrewd mind. And sometimes, his body keeps up with his wits; in the second inning the third baseman stabbed backhanded at Jay Payton’s ground ball before it escaped into the outfield. He then coiled, building up power for his throw and aligning his body so that the resulting relay would be accurate.

Kevin Youkilis snapped the relay just before Payton’s cleat hit the sack for the second out.


The teams dueled in the first five innings with Black and Red coming up on top from moment to moment like bets on roulette. Coco Crisp brought his team within one run of the lead in the fourth with a three-run shot into left; I like to think Terry Francona lectured the team at length about bunting with men on, but if he did Julio Lugo didn’t take notes. David Ortiz tied the game in the next inning with a terrific blow to the standing room only area in right.

The visitors finally crested the local nine in the ninth. Crisp capped off his 3-for-4 showing with an infield single and then swiped second. Next Jason Varitek took the ball to the opposite field to plate what would be the winning run.

The Orioles didn’t do the 1932 Baltimore Black Sox proudly. With the vicissitudes of the Great Depression and the inability of the East-West League to remain solvent, these Black Sox did not have the opportunity to compete for a championship despite finishing the season in first place. The 1929 Black Sox featured the “Million Dollar Infield” of Jud “Boojum” Wilson (1B), Frank Warfield (2B), Oliver “Ghost” Marcelle (3B), and Sir Richard Lundy (SS), so-named because that is the price they would have commanded had they been white.

The Baltimore Black Sox logo courtesy of Baseball Reference Bullpen.

September 6, 2007


Game 140: September 5, 2007
WinBlue Jays 6 BS: Brian Wolfe (2)
W: Jeremy Accardo (4-3)
71-68, 1 game winning streak
21-16-7 series record
Red Sox 4 H: Bryan Corey (1)
BS: Manny Delcarmen (1)
L: Hideki Okajima (3-2)
84-56, 1 game losing streak
29-12-5 series record
Magic number: 17
Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury continued to impress on both sides of the ball. From the two-hole the rookie outfielder drove in a run and scored after running out a double past a lurching Troy Glaus. He also slammed the door on the fifth-inning rally with a sliding haul of Glaus’s smoker to left. David Ortiz thought he caught Ellsbury Fever and tried to leg out a double on a clanger in the third but was thrown out to end the inning. In all but one inning Curt Schilling pitched capably; he lasted longer than Roger Clemens, at least, going six innings with eight hits, three runs, one base on balls, and two strikeouts. Delcarmen and Okajima served gopher balls late in the game to Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells respectively to snap the Red Sox’s four-game winning streak.

Seeing Matt Clement out and about made me grin. His career contribution to the Red Sox fell short of expectations (256 and one-third innings pitched, 18-11 record, 5.09 ERA), but he did make the All-Star squad in 2005 and seemed to be coming into his own with a new club and league.

Camped out on the stairs near Terry Francona, he seemed to be pleading his case to be allowed on the mound.

By the time the fifth inning rolled around, Francona may have seriously considered giving Clement a whirl. Curt Schilling went through the lineup once and the opposing hitters pounced on his first pitch strikes aggressively. Gregg Zaun was nearly clipped at home on a tight call at home but the Toronto backstop was called safe. A snappy toss from rookie firecracker Jacoby Ellsbury to cutoff man Mike Lowell to Jason Varitek was just shy of being the third out. A flock of Blue Jays flew around the bases on three consecutive hard-hit singles to give the visitors the lead.

And they ran, they ran so far away. But not so far that the Red Sox couldn’t keep up.

In the home half of the inning with none out, Alex Cora inexplicably bunted on a 2-2 count, giving away an out with two men on. Cora’s Baseball Genius credentials may well be revoked by Tony LaRusso and he had to make a withdrawal from the bank of fan goodwill. He did make a deposit into his account in the second inning with a wide receiver-like catch of Aaron Hill’s pop fly that seemed destined to drop fall in no man’s land for at least one run. That it was Hill who was robbed was terrific comeuppance as this particular second baseman’s signature moves are to rob David Ortiz of hits and knock in a timely and cheap RBI singles.

Julio Lugo flipped a single into shallow left to load the bases and Ellsbury followed up with a high sac fly to the left-center gap. Vernon Wells migrated a great distance to snatch the ball and Varitek tagged up to bring his team within a run.

Varitek made up for his near-golden sombrero performance in the sixth with a two-run longball with the much-pummeled Kevin Youkilis on first thanks to yet another plunking. He leads the team with 14 HBPs in 482 at bats. Cora trails with nine, but he has only notched 188 ABs.

Boston’s bullpen showed weakness after a stint of near-perfection. Hideki Okajima surrendered a bomb to dead center to Vernon Wells, a shot that was reminiscent of the first home run he gave up to John Buck in Kansas City. In the post-game show Tom Caron theorized that Okajima might be fatiguing while Dave McCarty opined that the Blue Jays had seen so much of the lefty that they knew his tendencies.

The splits show that Okajima has pitched five innings over five games against the Blue Jays, tied for fourth in innings against a particular team. The Yankees have seen the southpaw nine and one-third innings, the Orioles and Rangers seven and one third, and the Angels join Toronto with five innings each.

Despite the loss, Boston is well on its way to its first division title in 12 years. The sooner the team clinches the more rest it may be allotted, but it until then it is a delicate balance between keeping the competitive fire lit and burning out.

September 5, 2007


Game 139: September 4, 2007
Blue Jays 3 L: Roy Halladay (14-7) 70-68, 2 game losing streak
21-16-7 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Josh Beckett (17-6)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
84-55, 4 game winning streak
29-12-5 series record
Magic number: 17
Highlights: Beckett went eight strong to give most of the bullpen a needed hiatus; he struck out seven while capitulating three walks and three earned runs. Papelbon was summoned for the ninth for the third game in a row, but in his previous two appearances he hurled 23 pitches total. Last night he only needed nine. The Jacobyn Revolution is in full effect: the rookie outfielder fell a double short of the cycle, making the other outfielders look nervously over their shoulders while their heads are still intact.

The Royal Rooters finished the 2007 season with a 2-0 record in their outings.

It’s reassuring to be surrounded by friends in sometimes hostile territory. The bleacher crowds in Section 42 were particularly unruly last night. One upstart fan had to be restrained by three security people. Two more were required to pull him out of the area and down the stairs and the uniformed police officers also had to get involved. The raucousness amongst those I know buffered me from anonymous hooligans.

Matt, former formulator of mojo, selected Alexis Rios (his real name) as his Polite Heckling™ target for the evening. Some highlights:

  • Alexis! Your appearance is less than satisfactory.
  • (After Jacoby Ellsbury tripled in the sixth.) Alexis! Don’t feel badly about that play. It happens to all of us. Well, not Ellsbury, but you get my drift.
  • (After Rios took off his cap to wipe his brow to reveal his baldness.) Alexis! They sell wigs for that. They look very natural. You can even swim in them.

As usual, Matt’s heckling spawned hapless imitators. As drunk as he was, they were drunker, as witnessed by their hackneyed “You’re mother was great last night, Alex!” and “Alex, you suck!” numbly fumbling through the night air.

Where other fans use their words like imprecise cudgels, Matt’s phrases are scalpel-like save for the fact that they cut for no other purpose but to spill blood.

Between hollers at Rios, Matt recapped the hyperbolic entrances he and his brother devised for starters and relievers while at Monday’s game. (Of course, since I gave them the tickets, their row won the $25 CVS gift card.)

Mike Timlin would drive out of the bullpen in a star-spangled monster truck and drive over cars with sickels and stars painted on them. A bald eagle would descend onto Timlin’s shoulder and drop a ball into his glove. (Too Yankee, I opined. Bald eagles stood for truth and justice until the Yankees co-opted them.)

Daisuke Matsuzaka would plummet out of the sky on a dragon whose heart was being impaled by his broadsword. (My suggestion: a katana. His reply: Stereotype! Revised suggestion: shards of a splintered baseball bat.)

Other scenarios were not for any specific pitcher but just for the sake of exorbitance. Topless women pulling a gold chariot with the pitcher in a toga and laurel wreath, attended by dozens also wearing togas. Train tracks divergent from the existing line by a madman running through the middle of Fenway with a damsel in distress tied right next to the mound; the pitcher would leap out of the onrushing train, save the maiden, and take the mound. A water slide beginning at the top of Fisk Pole and swooped all the way to the rubber. Terry Francona touching his finger to the mound, like God to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and a pitcher springing forth from the earth fully formed.

Those entrances would be reserved for veteran major leaguers, of course. For the rookies far less elaborate ingresses would be devised, like coming out of the bullpen with a single unlit sparker and having a Bic lighter fail repeatedly. Or a lumbering hulk of a man, a gentleman about the size of Matt Stairs, making his way out to the mound and disgorging the greenhorn from his mouth onto the hill.

It would be easy to take Stairs lightly given his peregrine career and slack production. Beckett lapsed in the fifth, forgetting that the unmemorable outfielder has been incendiary lately. The Cy Young candidate was burned by his oversight and Stairs launched a three-run homer into his team’s bullpen.

The team has neatly reversed the negativity and downward spiral that it seemed to resign itself to in the sweep in the Bronx. With two straight series victories against two teams in the division, I’ve been heartened enough to begin including the “magic number” in the game summary table. First half stalwart Kevin Youkilis may have snapped out of his slump with a 2-for-4 showing that included a home run to dead center off the vaunted Roy Halladay.

Boston, you are the only, only, only
Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn
t live without you
Red Sox, you are the only, only, only

September 4, 2007

Rancho [乱調]

Game 138: September 3, 2007
Blue Jays 10 L: Jesse Litsch (5-7) 70-67, 1 game losing streak
21-15-7 series record
WinRed Sox 13 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-11)
H: Manny Delcarmen (8)
H: Hideki Okajima (26)
H: Mike Timlin (7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (32)
83-55, 3 game winning streak
28-12-5 series record
Magic number: 18
Highlights: Matsuzaka’s sixth inning could be described as rancho, the Japanese term for bad control. Riot, war, and disorder are symbolized with 乱; when combined with 調 (tone, tempo, or tendency), alludes to a pitcher being out of rhythm. It was home plate umpire Mike Everitt who was out of sorts, however; Everitt’s strike zone was narrow early in the game and widened as the innings wore on and the pitchers looked more like him. Perhaps the “avid Republican” was permitting his bias to show. Everitt would be an excellent case study for Daniel Hamermesh et al., who recently published an article on racial discrimination by umpires entitled “Strike Three: Umpires’ Demand for Discrimination.”

The pre-game show gave visual evidence that Matt Clement still breathes. Who knows how sharp his arm is, but his wits are quick enough that he quickly evaded Tina Cervasio’s question about being the fantasy baseball commissioner for the Red Sox employee league.

Since Uniform Gate failed, Cervasio all but gift wrapped the next red herring to be vigorously pursued by Bud Selig’s hooligans: fantasy baseball shenanigans in the Fenway clubhouse. Film at 11.

For the majority of his outing Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched decently enough. It became apparent that Mike Everitt wasn’t going to be generous on the corners, and this deficiency forced the Red Sox starter to leave too much of the ball over the plate.

He evaded peril until the sixth inning. Troy Glaus’s three-run homer built upon the third baseman’s success in the fourth. He had lined a single into left after exceedingly dim fans in the box seats hindered Eric Hinske’s glove.

Both Alex Rios and Frank Thomas scored with the shot into the home bullpen. They had reached on a bloop and an infield ricochet respectively, so Matsuzaka wasn’t being completely shelled. Yet.

Lyle Overbay’s ground ball single did not stir Terry Francona but Gregg Zaun’s liner into right did. Matsuzaka left the game in Javier Lopez’s hands with two on and one out.

Lopez was surprisingly ineffective, allowing both inherited runners to cross the plate and failing to notch a single out.

Against his wishes Francona had to go to his best bullpen arms to put away the game. Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, and Jonathan Papelbon were all summoned to put away the  first game of the series.

Fortunately the Red Sox hitters had built enough of a lead in the early innings to keep ahead of the offensive outburst in the eighth. Every home batter had at least one hit and Mike Lowell remained hot. He scorched a circuit clout into the first row of the Monster seats with greenhorns Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia on base.

Lowell was intentionally walked in the third to get to J.D. Drew, who again dropped hints of the hitter he once was. The right fielder responded to the slight by arcing a sac fly into center. He duplicated the feat in the fourth and also doubled in the sixth.

It was an ugly slug fest compounded by uglier miscues. Troy Glaus had a ball slip through his wickets in the fourth and Jason Frasor balked in a run in the sixth. The balk may well have been a make-up call for Kerwin Danley’s mistake. The second base umpire wrongly called Hinske out at second when Ray Olmedo’s jump to snare Aaron Hill’s relay clearly took the Toronto shortstop off the sack.

In the grotesqueness there were snatches of beauty, like Ellsbury’s diving lunge for last out of the sixth. Even Frank Thomas had to smile at that.

September 3, 2007


Game 137: September 2, 2007
Orioles 2 L: Daniel Cabrera (9-14) 59-76, 2 game losing streak
17-25-2 series record
WinRed Sox 3 W: Jon Lester (3-0)
H: Javier Lopez (11)
H: Hideki Okajima (25)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)
82-55, 2 game winning streak
28-12-5 series record
Magic number: 20
Highlights: The Walpole Little Leaguers took the field and stood with their major league counterparts during the presentation of the anthem. Insert Dustin Pedroia joke here. I was inspired by Pedroia’s play in Saturday’s game and created this avatar (features adult language). David Ortiz’s swipe in the fifth gave him his highest single season stolen base total: three.

What better way to follow up a no-hitter but with a taut pitchers’ duel in the waning days of summer?

Jon Lester stepped up with six innings of competent work: six hits, two earned runs, four walks, and one strikeout. A solo homer off the bat of Ramon Hernandez in the seventh knocked the southpaw out of the game, but a trio of bullpen arms staved off the vengeful Orioles.

As neither the local nine’s starting pitching or hitting were stellar, it was up to the defense and relievers to step up and make pivotal plays to secure the victory for the game and series.

With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth J.D. Drew snagged Hernandez’s fly ball to shallow right on the run. Drew took that momentum to power a throw to the waiting Kevin Cash. The relay was money in the bank: Miguel Tejada slid into a rally-killing out at the plate.

Jacoby Ellsbury out-Crisped the usual middle outfielder with a stunning lunge on Jay Payton’s fly ball to shallow center for the final out of the fifth.

Hideki Okajima’s new theme song was unveiled in the eighth. The tune inspired him to tamp down an insurgent rally. Nick Markakis led off with a double that battered the scoreboard to ricochet away from Brandon Moss and then advanced to third on a ground out.

A single sac fly would have tied the game, but Okajima got ahead of both Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff with first pitch strikes. Neither could solve the Oki Doki conundrum.

In the ninth Terry Francona replaced Moss in left with Ellsbury, who slid over from center in favor of Coco Crisp. Francona found it prudent to place his two best defensive outfielders behind Jonathan Papelbon. Who else but Hernandez made another bid for a hit into center; but for Ellsbury and Crisp he would have been 3-for-4.

All three runs were scored by products of the Red Sox system. Dustin Pedroia led off the first and fifth innings with hits and came around both times. Ellsbury knocked his first circuit clout into the Red Sox bullpen and in an incident more shocking than David Ortiz’s stolen base, Mike Timlin didn’t cradle the ball in a towel but barehanded it before it bounded into the bleachers.

September 2, 2007


Game 136: September 1, 2007
Orioles 0 L: Garrett Olson (1-3) 59-75, 1 game losing streak
17-24-2 series record
WinRed Sox 10 W: Clay Buchholz (2-0) 81-55, 1 game winning streak
27-12-5 series record
Highlights: That was quite a way to break a four-game skid. Buchholz became the first rookie Red Sox pitcher to twirl a no-hitter. Unlike Curt Schilling’s flirtation with the same on June 7, Buchholz’s offense provided ample run support.

David Ortiz stood at the rail of the dugout like a concerned father watching his Little Leaguer in the late innings of last night’s game. He had cleared the bases in the fourth with an arcing double off the farthest part of the left field wall.

Dustin Pedroia preserved the bid in the seventh by ranging after Miguel Tejada’s grounder. Just before it slipped by him, the second baseman tumbled, shot to his feet, and relayed to first. Kevin Youkilis went into a split as Tejada made a last-second dive for the sack. When Ed Rapuano signaled that the Orioles shortstop was out Pedroia pounded his fist into his glove and yelled, “Fuck yeah!” Tejada swatted in Pedroia’s direction as if he were killing a bug.

I half-expected Ortiz to come out and reprimand the infielder for his foul language.

Josh Beckett, usually the taunting older brother, was transformed by the event. After Joe West affirmed that the curveball to Nick Markakis did indeed paint the outside edge for the final out, Beckett charged the field and threw his arm around Buchholz.

“Better than what Curt Schilling did!” he teased.

Mike Lowell and Youkilis piled on more runs in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury came in as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth and drove in two runs with fly ball tin-rattler. Jerry Remy was distressed that the lineup was keeping Buchholz from the mound, but I wonder if the breathers between innings didn’t help the young pitcher. He had never pitched more than 100 pitches and would not have been allowed past 120 pitches, no-hitter notwithstanding.

One-hundred and fifteen proved just enough for history. I published this earlier in 2007; who knew I would be updating it this season.

Boston Americans and Red Sox No-Hitters
Pitcher Date Notable Facts
Cy Young May 5, 1904* Against the Philadelphia Athletics at Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Americans won 3-0. The opposing pitcher, Rube Waddell, was notorious for having wrestled an alligator. Boston won the American League pennant that season, but no World Series was played that year.
Jesse Tannehill August 17, 1904 The southpaw was opposed by the White Sox in South Side Park. Tannehill’s brother Lee started at third base for Chicago.
Bill Dineen September 27, 1905 The White Sox were again victimized but this time at Huntington in the first game of a doubleheader. Chicago stormed back in the second game. Home plate umpire Francis “Silk” O’Laughlin called six no-hitters, more than any other official. O’Laughlin died in 1918 in the flu pandemic.
Cy Young June 30, 1908 Young manhandled the Highlanders at Hilltop Park. New York ended the season with the second-worst season winning percentage in franchise history, going 51-103 for a .331 winning percentage.
Joe Wood July 29, 1911 Wood no-hit the St. Louis Browns, a team that was the Milwaukee Brewers and would become the second incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles. The game was played at Sportsman’s Park, which would become the first Busch Stadium in 1953. The next year Wood would be the first pitcher to play the Yankees in their new pinstriped uniforms on April 11. He won 5-3.
Rube Foster June 21, 1916 Again the Yankees are no-hit by a Boston pitcher. It was the first no-hitter at Fenway.
Dutch Leonard August 30, 1916 The hapless Browns again were the paradigm of futility against the Red Sox. Leonard was one of the 17 pitchers who were grandfathered in 1920 when spitballs were ruled illegal.
Babe Ruth
Ernie Shore
June 23, 1917 The so-called “combined no-hitter;” it was called a perfect game until a rule change. Ruth had walked Ray Morgan and was ejected from the game for punching umpire Brick Owens. On two days rest, Shore caught Morgan stealing and proceeded to retire the next 26 Senators in order.
Dutch Leonard June 3, 1918 The lefty notched his second and final no-hitter against the Tigers in Boston. He would not pitch the entire season due to World War I.
Howard Ehmke September 7, 1923 Ehmke pitches the second no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics in four days. Sam Jones of the Yankees no-hit Connie Mack’s boys on September 4 without striking out a single batter.
Mel Parnell July 14, 1956 The South Siders were blanked by southpaw Parnell at Fenway, breaking the 33-year drought of Red Sox no-hitters. Sadly Parnell’s career came to end in 1956 because of a torn muscle.
Earl Wilson June 26, 1962 Wilson tossed the first no-hitter against Angels and helped his own cause in the third with a home run. Malzone crossed the dish in the fourth after reaching on an error.
Bill Monbouquette August 1, 1962 In a 1-0 squeaker, Monbouquette walked one and struck out seven at Comiskey Park. White Sox third baseman Al Smith walked in the second. The single run came in the eighth. Gary Gieger reached on a base on balls but was caught stealing second. Carl Yastrzemski struck out. Pagliaroni, Runnels, and Clinton all singled, with Clinton’s driving in the winning run.
Dave Morehead September 16, 1965 In an otherwise lackluster 100-loss season, Morehead dominated the Indians 2-0 at Fenway, allowing one base on balls to Colavito while striking out eight. The Red Sox were opposed by Luis Tiant, who twirled a complete game loss, allowed just two runs, and struck out 11.
Matt Young April 12, 1992** Not technically a no-hitter since he pitched only eight innings to the Indians at Cleveland Stadium, but under the old rules this was once considered a no-hitter. Kenny Lofton scored in the first after walking, stealing second and third, and tagging up on an Albert Belle sac fly to right. In the third Mark Lewis led off with a walk, advanced on a free pass to Lofton, ran to third on a force play at second, and was plated on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Baerga. Boston managed just a single run in the fourth thanks to Ellis Burks. John Flaherty made his debut in this game.
Hideo Nomo April 4, 2001 In his first appearance as a Red Sox pitcher, Nomo hurled a no-hitter at Camden Yards. He was the fourth pitcher to have no-hitters in both leagues. His first was on September 17, 1996 against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Derek Lowe April 27, 2002 Lowe had carried a no-hitter into the eighth in the start against the Orioles just prior to this game.
Clay Buchholz September 1, 2007 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R , 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 HR
HBP: Markakis (1st inning)
PO: Roberts (1st base by Buchholz)
*Perfect game
**Pitched eight innings

I very nearly witnessed a no-hitter yesterday, but not a major league one. In the first game of a double bill the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, led by a tandem of Matt DeSalvo and Scott Patterson, rendered the Paw Sox hitless through eight innings.

By the bottom of the fifth my friend Joe and I were determined to get into the heads of the Triple A Yankees. You may remember Joe from our greeting of Daisuke Matsuzaka at Hanscom. We were sitting on the first base side right above the visitors’ dugout (for want of a better term in the oddly configured McCoy).

We were surprised DeSalvo wasn’t given a chance to finish what he started in the sixth. We couldn’t get to Patterson, who pitched better than the starter by not giving up a single walk along with keeping the home team hitless.

He came up and in a left-handed Cory Keylor in the seventh, prompting Joe to holler, “Is your name Chamberlain?”

“That’s the Yankee way!” I added. Four Yankee fans who had commandeered the first row of our section glared at us.

Such heckling at McCoy drew undue attention. An usher who looked like Joel Zumaya drifted to our area. Once he realized what our plan was, he let us be and focused his attention on the opposition’s fans. The usher asked to see the foursome’s tickets and requested them to leave when it was revealed that they were not in the correct seats.

Charlie Manning took the mound in the ninth. He quickly racked up two strikeouts and a combined no-hitter seemed inevitable. We refocused to encourage the recently acquired Chris Carter.

The positivity helped, or at least we let ourselves believe it did. Carter cranked a ground ball single past a diving Andy Cannizaro. As Mannings are wont to do, Charlie became undone and walked the next two batters to load the bases. Keylor exacted a small measure of revenge with a two-RBI single into center.

Colter Bean was brought in to get the final out. The post-game spread must have been a motivating factor as the rotund Bean struck out Dusty Brown with three pitches. Even that small effort left Bean wheezing as he high fived his teammates.

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