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Home » April 2008 Game CommentsApril 2008 » Beikoku [米国]

Beikoku [米国]

Game 3: April 1, 2008
WinRed Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
2-1, 1 game winning streak
Athletics 1 L: Joe Blanton (0-1) 1-2, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: The kanji for the United States of America, pronounced beikoku, translates literally to rice country. This odd association is the result of kanji being used for their phonetic value rather than their meaning, a method of character usage called ateji. The Red Sox are back in America and Matsuzaka looked more at home here than he did in his country of birth: he lasted for six and two-third innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. Only Jack Cust managed an extra base hit, but it was a homer off a first-pitch fastball to lead off the second inning. Matsuzaka even slapped Kevin Youkilis on the butt when the corner infielder handled the ground ball out of Daric Barton and tapped fists with Hideki Okajima when his outing was over, exhibiting the starter’s gradual acquisition of quintessential American athletes’ display of camaraderie.

Wally Bell is broad man with a correspondingly wide strike zone. When it comes to judging home runs, however, the chief umpire of last night’s game was less generous.

Just ask Jason Varitek, who bounced a ball off the top of the scoreboard in left field in the sixth inning. Replays showed the shot cleared the yellow line that demarcates the difference between an automatic four bases and however many stations a hitter’s legs may grant him. But Bell, after a conference with Paul Schrieber, Rob Drake, and Brian Knight, determined that the Red Sox backstop launched an RBI-double rather than a four-bagger. Fortunately the missed call did not prove to be the difference in the game although the run provided the barest margin of victory for the visitors.

Fans of the Athletics may have a similar beef with Bell given his fifth inning call at home. Kurt Suzuki appeared to block the plate and tag Kevin Youkilis before the first baseman touched home with either his foot or hand, but Boston was granted the tying run.

The butchery of the umpires’ calls was foreshadowed by the presence of not one but two Sweeneys on the home team’s roster, Ryan and Mike. Bob Geren’s swap of the two players in the eighth should have been done to “Epiphany,” from the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd. All that remains is for Billy Beane is to acquire Mark Sweeney and he will have a complete trio.

Other carnage included Jack Hannahan bunting to his counterpart in the eighth inning with a man on first and no out. Mike Lowell read the situation brilliantly, charging the bunted ball and relaying to Julio Lugo for the force at second. Coco Crisp, despite his lack of offense, at least read his opponents’ defensive alignment correctly and bunted successfully in the ninth.

The game’s futility drove Oakland fans to drink: by the ninth inning they were holding their signs upside down and entertained delusions that a comeback was in the offing with Jonathan Papelbon on the hill. The closer sat all four batters he faced, and emphatically struck out the final three batters.

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