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Home » Monthly Archive » October 2008

October 22, 2008


ALCS Game 7: October 19, 2008
Rays 3 W: Matt Garza (2-0)
H: Dan Wheeler (1)
H: J.P. Howell (1)
S: David Price (1)
WinRed Sox 1 L: Jon Lester (0-2) 3-4
Highlights: Garza had a kerfuffle with his own catcher, Dioner Navarro, back in June. His on-field implosion made SportsCenter and threatened to be the lasting image of his first season with Tampa Bay. But like any good modern father, Joe Maddon got his son a therapist. Ken Ravizza, a friend of Maddon’s and a professor in Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, cured Garza of his temper tantrums and enabled the pitcher to become this year’s ALCS MVP.

I miss them already. I didn’t want to have to have to miss them.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Maui to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday. For weeks I had envisioned being with my family not only for the birthday but also to watch my favorite team repeat as World Champions.

My parents visited me in July 2004 during the series against the Yankees. Since then Dad has adopted the Red Sox as his own team.

The people of Maui have embraced the Phillies as their team even though it is over 4,800 miles away. Shane Victorino was born and raised on the Valley Isle, and any team that has a local boy on its roster is immediately and unconditionally adored by local folks half an ocean and a continent away.

Rooting for the Phillies for this Fall Classic will momentarily and inadequately replace the void left by Boston’s departure from the postseason, but it’s better than nothing.

Nothing: what filled the top half of the line score from the second inning until the last.

Nothing: what the Red Sox came up with in the eighth inning with the bases loaded.

Nothing: what you’ll see under H, R, and ER in David Price’s stat line for the postseason thus far.

Nothing: what you’d find in the majority of the seats in Tropicana Field for most of the season. (The other thing you’d encounter: Red Sox fans.)

Nothing: what I would give up to have Manny Ramirez on the team for the entire season, even if he could have helped Boston get past the ALCS.

Terry Francona said he enjoyed managing this team more than 2004’s idiots. He deserves any accolades that come his way for squeezing 95 wins and a postseason berth with key injuries and a franchise-altering trade along the way. I always thought it was Dustin Pedroia that was a pain in his tuchis but in actuality Francona has needed back surgery since May.

For some players I’ve been missing their former selves for a while now. Now that Mike Timlin has attained the all-time relief appearances record for right-handers there is little else for him to accomplish in the game. Jason Varitek will likely head for greener pastures with Scott Boras napalming bridges behind them. This may have even been Tim Wakefield’s last season with the Red Sox (and in baseball).

But where there was a void new talent may blossom; Nature, and the Red Sox, abhor a vacuum. Julio Lugo was hobbled and Jed Lowrie not only replaced him but exceeded his predecessor. Curt Schilling was out of commission but Justin Masterson sneaked into the rotation and then slipped into the bullpen to become the set-up man almost unnoticed, which is difficult for a 6'6" man.

I’ll miss them, but on Maui it will feel like summer. It will remind me of this remarkable summer, of the summer to come, that spring isn’t all that far away.

October 19, 2008


ALCS Game 6: October 18, 2008
Rays 2 L: James Shields (0-2) 3-3
WinRed Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (2)
H: Justin Masterson (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
Highlights: Craig Sager could not help but attire himself in the bright blue jacket with a tie with a swirly blue and yellow pattern. I think he was trying to match Raymond and the Rays’ color scheme; last night for once Sager’s togs would correspond to something. As for mismatches, “Big Game” James Shields didn’t live up to his sobriquet. He was more like “Deici Game” Shields.

Good thing TBS locked itself in with the MLB until 2013; last night’s router in issue in Atlanta left millions of fans scrambling for coverage. I logged into MLB’s internet feed to hear Joe Castiglione and Dale Arnold telling me that Coco Crisp had bunted to get on base. On the radio one doesn’t have to be visually exposed to ugliness such as Sager’s suits, Tropicana Field, “Frank TV” commercials, and Crisp being picked off.

Whatever bedlam affecting the cable feed didn’t impact the internet feeds that powered TBS Hot Corner. I wish I had known about this sooner; the four split screens of the Dugout, PitchTrax, Pitcher, and Batter cams outclasses Fox’s Diamond-Cam.

So much is being made of the Rays’ youth, but James Shields is just a year and a half younger than Josh Beckett. Shields doesn’t deserve the nickname granted him, especially in light of Beckett’s accomplishments.

Beckett is not in the World Series MVP form that catapulted the Marlins to the 2003 title, but this time a compromised Beckett proved up to the task of extending the series to the final game. He allowed two homers over his five innings of work. One of them, a soaring shot that found the catwalk in the first inning, was not a surprise as it came off the bat of B.J. Upton.

It was the fifth-inning dinger by nine-hole hitter Jason Bartlett that was a shocker. Fortunately it was just a solo homer as Dioner Navarro thought he could get a jump on his counterpart’s arm and was erased from the basepaths. When Bartlett’s first postseason home run ever slipped just fair past the pole in left the score knotted at 2-2.

Jason Varitek has more of a postseason resume than Bartlett but his recent production has been nonexistent. But it was he who answered back in the sixth with a solo four-bagger to right, breaking his hitless and RBI-less streak with a single swing.

Bartlett, the hero of the prior inning, airmailed a throw to the foul territory behind first to allow Dustin Pedroia to reach and Crisp to advance to second. Given the extra out, David Ortiz dropped a single into right-center for an insurance run.

Joe Maddon can’t like the turn his team has taken these past two games: his hitters have lost momentum, his starters have not been equal to the Red Sox’s rotation, his bullpen has faltered, and his defenders have bungled routine plays.

While Bartlett’s error was costly, just as Evan Longoria’s was in Game 5, Maddon’s outfielders have had subtle lapses as well. Gabe Gross had a bad read and route on J.D. Drew’s game-winner on Thursday night and the scene was recreated in the fifth frame with another Drew fly ball floating over his retreating figure. Maddon pinch hit Ben Zobrist for Gross in the bottom of the inning.

Boston responded to the Rays’ every offensive in kind: Upton homered, Kevin Youkilis did the same. Bartlett scored, Varitek matched his feat. In a span of two games the defending World Champions recreated their hopes to repeat.

One game more. They’ve been here before, where the Rays have never been. Let’s see who belongs.

October 18, 2008

Gyakutengachi [逆転勝ち]

ALCS Game 5: October 16, 2008
Rays 7 BS: Dan Wheeler (2)
L: J.P. Howell (0-1)
WinRed Sox 8 W: Justin Masterson (1-0) 2-3
Highlights: Not only does Japanese have a term for “come-from-behind victory” (逆転勝ち, gyakutengachi) but also one for “come-from-behind loss:” gyakutenmake. In fact, if you search the kanji for the latter term (逆転負け) in Google, the first result is an article about the Red Sox team’s stunning victory on Thursday night.

*Pinches self for the thousandth time.* That really wasn’t a dream, then. I woke up Friday morning expecting it to be a delirious hallucination. Saturday morning I double-checked just to be sure: Craig Sager had clothed himself in earth tones rather his preferred palette of audacious shades of cochineal, chartreuse, or cobalt. He did have sequins on his orange and brown tie, but other than that he was garbed in a rather sedate beige jacket gridded with brown lines.

That was just as if not more shocking than the home team overcoming a huge deficit with a mere nine outs remaining.

Terry Francona still thought his team had a shot. He quickly yanked Manny Delcarmen from the mound in the top of the seventh after he walked two batters. Jonathan Papelbon faced the incandescent B.J. Upton. The slim slugger knocked a double off the wall to notch two runs. The hit sent fans to the exits and hopes down the drain.

I was actually frustrated when Jed Lowrie’s double to left didn’t clear the right field wall in the seventh. At that point I was rooting for a non-shutout. Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay’s fly outs to center stranded Lowrie at second and I thought that wishing for even a single run would be in vain.

Coco Crisp displayed why he was in the lineup instead of Jacoby Ellsbury with a single to advance Lowrie and Dustin Pedroia followed up with a liner to right to plate the first run. I sighed with relief rather than expectation.

David Ortiz had been a shell of himself in the 2008 postseason. To think that he could rekindle the spark his bat once held was pollyannaish at best. How could I forget that Pollyanna Whittier, resident of the (fictional) town of Beldingsville, Vermont is of course a life-long Red Sox fan?

Ortiz’s homer soared deep into that right field stands and I mimicked the 38,437 fans (or those who remained, that is) by standing up in my living room with my arms upraised. 7-4, Rays.

Jason Bay led off the eighth with a walk. The onlookers roared their approval and a woman holding a sign jumped up and down in glee. Her jouncing sign said, “Manny is playing golf today. This is better.”

When the camera followed J.D. Drew’s batted ball into the right field seats you could see a Rays reliever warming. Joe Maddon, who had passed over James Shields in favor of Scott Kazmir to start the game, declined to call off Dan Wheeler. 7-6, Rays.

Maddon would have continued to be hailed as a genius had Upton not misread Kotsay’s fly ball to deep center. The arcing ball sailed over Upton’s glove, but given the center fielder’s speed he could have made the play had he gotten a better jump.

At any time in Crisp’s 10-pitch standoff against Wheeler Maddon could have called on another pitcher. But he allowed an obviously gassed reliever struggle to toss fastballs over the plate. Boston’s center fielder fought off five pitches foul before at last lining a single to Gabe Gross.

Gross’s impetuous throw home was more like a running back spiking the ball after a touchdown rather than an assist attempt. Yet he was granted an assist since his short fling was fielded by cutoff man Carlos Peña and Crisp was attempting to get to the keystone sack. 7-7, tie game.

It took an inning-ending double play to save Justin Masterson’s bacon in the top of the ninth, but he care with which he pitched to Upton was understandable given the threat his bat posed.

With the score frozen at 7-7 and a few outs too late Maddon summoned J.P. Howell. The southpaw lucked out when Pedroia’s batted ball glanced off Evan Longoria to Jason Bartlett, who then secured the first out. Ortiz’s woes against lefties continued: the designated hitter struck out on four pitches. At least this time the “Youk” cheers didn’t sound like boos as they had in the first, third, and fifth innings.

Longoria made a spectacular stop of his counterpart’s scorcher but seemed to seize up on his throw to first. Or maybe he was trying to hit Sager, who was standing unshielded in the photographers’ well. Whatever the cause, Youkilis stood in scoring position with two out.

Pitching around Bay to get to the lefty-on-lefty match-up must have been preordained by the numbers on the sheaves of paper Maddon flips through throughout the course of the game. Drew defied those odds with an RBI single that defied both logic and belief. Like Upton, Gross could have made a key play in the outfield to stifle the home team’s rally but failed to do so. 8-7, Red Sox.

For Maddon’s part, he may have forgotten the adage “No lead is safe at Fenway” when he pulled Kazmir from the game in the sixth. However, Kazmir had thrown 111 pitches, so perhaps Maddon thought he was saving what he could from his starter for his presumed World Series rotation.

Whatever the case, Maddon failed to retrieve his relief arms when they were in peril while Francona was quicker with his pink slips than a failing Wall Street investment bank. Francona’s bailout plan actually works; he gets my vote.

Postscript: In the post-game show, Tom Caron noted that the Red Sox’s win happened on the five-year anniversary, to the minute, of Boston’s defeat at Yankee stadium in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

October 16, 2008


ALCS Game 4: October 14, 2008
WinRays 13 W: Andy Sonnanstine (1-0) 3-1
Red Sox 4 L: Tim Wakefield (0-1) 1-3
Highlights: In a music montage set to “Walk This Way,” Dustin Pedroia threw a glove at a television camera to cover up the lens from shooting the Red Sox dugout. If only someone could have done that for the cameras trained on the field or on Craig Sager (velvet Tyrian purple jacket, coordinating mauve tie with a paisley design, and a light lavender shirt with shiny stripes).

That was not good. Time to turn the page

Go Red Sox!

A sibylline sign?
Photo courtesy John Tlumacki/Boston Globe Staff

October 14, 2008


ALCS Game 3: October 13, 2008
WinRays 9 W: Matt Garza (1-0) 2-1
Red Sox 1 L: Jon Lester (0-1) 1-2
Highlights: Bad things tend to happen to the Red Sox in Game 3s of the ALCS. Of course you’ll remember the 19-8 debacle on October 16, 2004, no matter how much you’ve tried to forget it. Just last year Boston dropped the third game to the Cleveland Indians on October 15 to render the series 2-1

The best part of last night’s game was Craig Sager’s lecture on how the eye works. He talked about how light passes through the cornea, is then is cast upon the retina, which then sends this information through the optic nerve to be processed by the brain. His extensive knowledge on the subject is not surprising given his ability to best assault our peepers. His navy and blue striped blazer as rather sedate given his past ensembles. His tie had the appearance of oil on water; irisdescent swirls of blue surrounded lighter azure blotches.

TBS televised Carl Beane’s announcements to introduce the lineups. Surprisingly there weren’t many catcalls during the visitors’ introduction. My friend said it was intentional, an indication of the disdain in which the home crowd held the upstart Rays. I thought it might be because admittance to the game could only be had by the fat cats of the world.

Jon Lester, like Josh Beckett before him, was out of sorts. He surrendered a three-run homer to B.J. Upton in the third. With the bases mercifully empty, Evan Longoria also sent a ball out of the park. Unlike Upton’s, however, his dropped into the Monster seats. Upton’s shot ended up in Manny Ramirez Memorial Parking Lot across Lansdowne Street.

Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli had a three-run longball of his own. When his name was announced there was a smattering of cheers, but in the eighth inning the only sound that could be heard was that of his homer slapping off of the Sports Authority sign.

Another player with local ties, Carlos Peña, made a deposit into the First Savings Bank of Souvenir City. The federal government wasn’t there to offer a bailout package to the Red Sox.

It took two of the most anemic Boston bats to team up for a run. Jacoby Ellsbury slashed a ball into right field for a sacrifice fly that plated Jason Varitek. In this ALCS, Ellsbury is 0-for-14 and Varitek is 0-for-10. Both of them are out of the lineup tonight.

The fate of this evening’s game, and perhaps the series, is clutched in Tim Wakefield’s powerful grip.

Jon the Lesser.
Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

October 13, 2008


ALCS Game 2: October 11, 2008 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox 2 L: Mike Timlin (0-1) 1-1
WinRays 0 H: Chad Bradford (1)
BS: Dan Wheeler (1)
W: David Price (1-0)
Highlights: Sam Holbrook, the home plate umpire in Saturday night’s debacle, would have been better off announcing through the public address system that he was going to hand the game over to the Rays. At least then it wouldn’t seem as if Price was the second coming of Francisco Rodriguez when he struck out Mark Kotsay on a called strike that was half a foot outside of the strike zone in the 11th inning. Timlin, despite his 17 years in the league, was squeezed as if he was as wet behind the ears as Price. Might I suggest to Holbrook that he and his crew stock up on on Red Bull for these extra inning affairs; they are obligated to make the calls according to their best judgment, not according to their convenience.

John Farrell was ejected in the eleventh for arguing balls and strikes. For someone as restrained and dignified as Farrell it would take a lot to get thrown out of the game, and Farrell’s limit was reached when Sam Holbrook strike zone narrowed for Mike Timlin. Holbrook seems to melt on the big stage:

The story isn’t about Timlin’s lack of effectiveness but of the failure of Holbrook to judge the zone. Did visions of cowbells and newly-purchased Rays gear being tossed from the stands dance through Holbrook’s head as he failed to apply to Timlin the same standard he granted to David Price?

The story is also about Terry Francona sticking with an ineffectual Josh Beckett for one more out than he should have, allowing the lead to slip away in the fifth. It’s also about Javier Lopez failing to get an out against Carl Crawford, who singled in an insurance run in the fifth.

It should have been about the Red Sox offense bailing out the beleagured starter Josh Beckett. It should have been about Dustin Pedroia, his two home runs, and him scoring the tying run in the eighth on a wild pitch. It should have been about Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay’s consecutive four-baggers in the fifth.

It should have been about the visiting team coming through in ninth to cash in on Coco Crisp’s two-out ground-rule double over B.J. Upton’s head and then over center field fence. Or how back-to-back fly balls off the bats of David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis to center again evaded Upton in the tenth gave the Red Sox the win. I would even take regular old timely hitting by Mark Kotsay or Crisp at the top of the eleventh with two men on. But who knew Holbrook would give David Price leeway the size of Raymond’s waist?

Craig Sager tried to complement Raymond’s color scheme with his electric blue jacket, light blue striped shirt, and boisterously blue-hued paisley tie.

How far apart are Farrell and Holbrook in their opinions? About as far apart as Price’s strike zone was wide.
Photo courtesy Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

October 11, 2008

Jinkōshiba [人工芝]

ALCS Game 1: October 10, 2008
WinRed Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (1)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
Rays 0 L: James Shields (0-1) 0-1
Highlights: Could the glory of the game of baseball overcome the shoddy surroundings of Tropicana Field? Indeed it could, particularly with a performance like the one Matsuzaka had. After a rough first inning in which he walked the bases loaded, the visiting starter roared back to hold the Rays hitless for 18 outs. Matsuzaka struck out nine and walked four, and for once I was thankful that a national broadcast team covered the contest rather than sit through Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy’s griping about their least favorite hurler. Dustin Pedroia saved the no-hit bid in the sixth with a play on Carlos Peña’s sharp grounder into the shift. The infielder slid on the jinkōshiba (artificial turf) and pivoted to first to notch the second out of the inning.

The Tampa Bay organization did their best with the opening game of the second playoff series in their young existence. They remembered to change the “D” to “C” in the ALCS logo on the field. The bunting looked a bit chintzy and the uppermost seats were vacant, perhaps due to fire code restrictions? Which would make the twenty-foot flames shot into the air during the pre-game events all the more inexplicable.

The heat was on and the Rays blinked under the pressure.

James Shields matched Daisuke Matsuzaka’s challenge for four innings. Shields led off the fifth by issuing a free pass to Jason Bay, who advanced to third on a shallow double to left off the bat of Mark Kotsay. Rookie Jed Lowrie got a hold of a fat change-up and sent it far enough to plate Bay.

So once again three players that were not on the opening day roster contributed a crucial run.

The eighth inning featured timely hitting by lineup stalwarts. Dustin Pedroia singled up the middle and then swiped second. With the Destroia in scoring position Kevin Youkilis roped a liner to left that befuddled Carl Crawford.

The Rays outfielder couldn’t decide whether to let it drop to stop it from getting past him or make a diving attempt. Like an equivocating politician, he waited until it was too late and dove headlong into a crisis. Speaking of politics, Rays fans remind me of Sarah Palin supporters. Just as Tampa Bay believers only recently discovered this team, so have Palin devotees just lately came to know the governor.

Both groups also threaten African Americans and other minorities: Coco Crisp and Latin players received death threats, John McCain and Palin countenance baseless slurs on their opponent’s reputation and allow threats on Barack Obama’s life to go unchallenged in their rallies.

It’s not often that Craig Sager’s apparel (last night: purple silk dupioni jacket, lavender gingham shirt, and Pucci-inspired tie) isn’t the most ghastly thing on the field. When he’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, he will always be outdone by the facility itself.

Jonny Gomes can attest that they like to set fire to things in the South.
Photo courtesy Doug Benc, Getty Images

October 9, 2008


ALDS Game 4: October 6, 2008
Angels 2 L: Scot Shields (0-1) 1-3
WinRed Sox 3 H: Hideki Okajima (2)
BS: Justin Masterson (1)
W: Manny Delcarmen (1-0)
Highlights: By the end of the evening Craig Sager’s orange windowpane blazer and Gustav Klimt-like mosaic tie were doused in champagne. The bubbly did not wash away the suit’s gaudiness, just as the Angels’ regular season dominance did not do away with their disappointing playoff showing. Mike Scioscia’s affected approach to managing a game failed him in a short series once again. He called for the suicide squeeze in the top of the ninth and was stymied by Erick Aybar’s lack of contact and Jason Varitek’s pursuit of Reggie Willits.

I talk to the wrong people about sports sometimes. The day after the Red Sox punched their ticket to the ALCS I chatted with a woman who said that “the clubhouse celebration thing was getting old.” (She is also the one who said “Too bad the Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl” after the Celtics garnered their 17th championship.)

Well, it’s not old to Jason Bay. At the major league level, Bay has never played for a team with a winning record. In 2003 he had a cup of coffee with the Padres who ended up 64-98 and was traded to the Pirates along with Oliver Perez for Brian Giles. The Bucs had 75 wins that year, the closest they were to .500 since 1999. Typically the Pittsburgh club would have as many wins as the Red Sox had losses.

Sean Casey would beg to differ. Casey toiled from 1997 to 2006 before he had his first game in October. That year he played a bigger role on the Tigers than he now does for the Red Sox, but who can forget his takedown of James Shields in the regular season skirmish back in June? Casey is there to keep the team on an even keel, but even he celebrated like a rookie on Monday night.

Neither is it a banal happening for Jed Lowrie. A mere three years ago Lowrie was drafted by Boston as a compensatory pick for losing Orland Cabrera to free agency and already he has all but supplanted Julio Lugo at short. While he was in the minor leagues his organization went to the playoffs twice and earned their second championship title of the new millenium. He was ecstatic, and those players who had been there before were just as joyful, if not moreso.

Although his name does not appear as the game winner, Jon Lester pitched masterfully over seven innings, keeping the slim two-run margin granted him secure. The pair of runs came in the fifth following four innings of futility. Waiver trade acquisition Mark Kotsay led off with a single to center and advanced to third on Jason Varitek’s batted ball that evaded the usually sure-handed Mark Teixeira.

Kotsay scored on a ground ball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. Varitek crossed the dish on Dustin Pedroia’s first hit of the series: a laser (or maybe a rocket?) off the left field wall.

Had Lester not surpassed the 100-pitch threshold to end the seventh he may have been on the mound for the eighth. Instead the rejuvenated Hideki Okajima induced two quick ground ball outs before walking the lethal Teixeira on four pitches. Justin Masterson had previously demonstrated remarkable aplomb on the hill, but knowing that his success or failure meant advancing seemed to perturb him.

Masterson issued a walk to Vladimir Guerrero, a man who will swing a pitch “from nose to toes,” as Buck Martinez would say. Both Teixeira and Guerrero scored on Torii Hunter’s liner to right, tying the game and silencing Fenway’s taunts of “Torii! Torii! Torii!”

Weary of extra inning games, the Red Sox mounted their comeback in the final inning of regulation. Fittingly, it was two relative newcomers to the team and to the playoffs who teamed up to tally the series-winning run.

Bay smacked a ground-rule double to right. Fenway crowds are keen, of course: the hit elicited a cheer but then a mild groan as it bounded into the stands. Had the ball rolled around the bend in the right field fence Bay could have had an inside-the-park homer to clinch the series.

Lowrie’s seeing-eye single past the diving Howie Kendrick precipitated that raucous, euphoric clamor that I will never tire of hearing.

Looking forward to the ALCS, there have been rumors of roster moves. Mike Timlin, one of Terry Francona’s favorite toys, will probably be added to the ALCS roster. When I think of Timlin, I think of all the things parents parrot when warning their kids about anything and everything:

  • How many times do we have to tell you, be careful when playing with Timlin?
  • Who left out the Timlin and didn’t put it away? The Maddons’ kids always put their Timlins away.
  • The more you touch your Timlin, the more it will hurt.
  • The Timlin contains small parts and is a choking hazard.
  • How many times have I told you not to run around the house with your Timlin?
  • You got Timlin all over your nice clothes!

Bring on the Rays and their inane dome and mundane cowbells; the Red Sox won’t pull any punches.

October 6, 2008


ALDS Game 3: October 5, 2008 ∙ 12 innings
WinAngels 5 W: Jered Weaver (1-0) 1-2
Red Sox 4 L: Javier Lopez (0-1) 2-1
Highlights: This game attained dual dubious distinctions: it was the longest game in ALDS history as well as the singular occasion where Craig Sager was garbed in a mostly tasteful manner (pinstriped navy jacket, lavender tie with a kimono-like design, light blue shirt with subtle stripes). Beckett wasn’t his dominant, efficient self; he left the game with 106 pitches over five innings, six strikeouts, four walks, and the score deadlocked 4-4. It seemed he was rushed back into service but soldiered on because his team is in the postseason.

Was it an omen that the movie that was interrupted on TNT for Game 3 was Titanic?

That seemed to foreshadow doom for the Angels. They failed to catch Jacoby Ellsbury’s bloop hit to shallow center with the bases loaded and two out in the second inning, allowing three runs to score.

But Mike Napoli was the iceberg to the Red Sox’s listing ship. The Angels backstop smacked a two-run homer in the third to knot the game 3-3 and then granted his team the lead with a solo four-bagger in the fifth. He led off the twelfth and final inning with a single that bounded between second and third and came around to score thanks to Howie Kendrick’s bunt and Erick Aybar’s single, which dropped just a few paces out of Ellsbury’s range.

Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis paired up for soaring doubles in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. Both their hits had Angels outfielders Garrett Anderson and Torii Hunter retreating to the wall, betraying their unfamiliarity with Fenway’s quirky dimensions.

David Ortiz led off the bottom frame of the last inning with a walk but was stranded in the looming fog. Youkilis flied out to center and Jason Bay froze on a fastball inside, which left the home team’s fate in Alex Cora’s bat.

Cora grounded out sharply to Chone Figgins, but even if the ball had gotten beyond the hot corner there was no pinch-running option off the bench. Manufacturing a run with both Ellsbury and Coco Crisp in the lineup proved impossible.

Mike Lowell may be held out of the lineup tonight (and potentially for the ALCS), further reducing Terry Francona’s offensive options. The Red Sox may prevail in this series, but their future success is foggy given Lowell, J.D. Drew, and Josh Beckett’s health issues.

October 5, 2008

Kattobase [かっ飛ばせ]

ALDS Game 2: October 3, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 H: Hideki Okajima (1)
H: Justin Masterson (2)
BS, W: Jonathan Papelbon (1, 1-0)
Angels 5 L: Francisco Rodriguez (0-1) 0-2
Highlights: Jason Bay rhymes with kattobase (pronounced ka to BAH say), which means belt out, crush, or kill a pitch for a home run. Japanese fans will yell this when exhorting their hitters. Despite the preponderance of Thunderstix®, cheers for the visitors could be heard. In the first inning Bay smashed a 2-2 slider to the boulders left of the batter’s eye with two men on and two out.

How refreshingly enjoyable it was to watch a start by Daisuke Matsuzaka without the roiling undercurrent of contempt that Jerry Remy brings. It may not be pretty, but most fans have long accepted that the pitcher will not efficiently work through the lineup, but he will more likely than not leave the mound with his team ahead. Even with the early lead Matsuzaka nibbled at his plate like Keira Knightley at supper (her only meal). The three runs the Angels scored over Matsuzaka’s five innings were the result of singles and bases on balls.

In the seventh Justin Masterson inherited two baserunners from Hideki Okajima with no outs. The towering reliever then alternated between outs and walks, a problem when the bases are loaded. Despite pushing across a run thanks to a five-pitch walk to Mike Napoli, whatever John Farrell said to his charge during his mound visit refocused Masterson. The reliever buckled down to strike out Erick Aybar and escape the bottom of the frame with a one-run lead.

Jonathan Papelbon was called upon to secure six outs. Masterson had surrendered a leadoff triple to Chone Figgins to start the eighth; the three-bagger was the Angels’ only extra base hit of the series. Garrett Anderson got under a ball that seemed destined for the photographers’ well but for Kevin Youkilis’s reach. Buck Martinez recognized it for the impressive play it was, but Youkilis would have done well to take a gratuitous dive over the fence to heighten the drama.

Mark Teixeira’s fly ball to center was deep enough to plate the tying run. Angels attendees responded with intense jubilation as the Jumbotron told them to do. The home fans had no teleprompter to aid them after J.D. Drew’s two run bomb in the top of the ninth off of record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez.

The success that characterized the Angels of the regular season has not carried over into the playoffs. Sixty-two times Rodriguez had converted save opportunities while blowing a mere seven chances. The AL Los Angeles team’s offense has been as laughable as Torii Hunter nearly taking himself out of the game with his third-inning tantrum. The center fielder jumped in protest at first base umpire Kerwin Danley’s out call and fell awkwardly.

In contrast was the Red Sox right fielder’s clutch performance on the field. Not only did he smack the game-winning blast but also excelled in defense. The ball hawk tracked down a high fly off the bat of Anderson in the sixth to end the inning cleanly. The ball could have easily clanked out his glove as it did to Reggie Willits on David Ortiz’s ninth inning double, but Drew held firm.

On the whole TBS’s coverage of the divisional series has been acceptable. I much prefer Buck Martinez’s analysis to Chris Berman’s bumbling, although the former tends to talk over the action rather than allowing the play to unfold. Informed commentary is always appreciated over inane sound bites.

Craig Sager’s attire has grown on me. His light green blazer was accented by a floral tie along with a brown and yellow pocket square. Perhaps he was trying to meld in with the emerald field. Maybe his ensemble was an homage course of the baseball season: the viridescence of his jacket symbolizing the tender buds of spring growing into the abundant blooms of summer that give way to the fiery foliage of fall. Most likely he is colorblind.

October 2, 2008


ALDS Game 1: October 1, 2008
WinRed Sox 4 W: Jon Lester (1-0)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
Angels 1 L: John Lackey (0-1) 0-1
Highlights: Craig Sager donned a blazer as close to pink you can get without actually being pink along with an outrageous red paisley tie. It wouldn’t be a Boston postseason run without Sager searing our retinas. He graced the parquet during the Celtics’ championship run and now reports from the field for the Red Sox’s quest for an eighth title. Lester met and exceeded expectations with seven innings of tenacity: six hits, one earned run, one walk, and seven strikeouts

In the office I was walking on cloud nine thanks to Boston’s victory last night. In the universe of my mind the binary stars that tether my thoughts are the Red Sox and the election. Since talking politics at work is risky, my default conversation starter is baseball.

Surprisingly, the more-than-casual fans have not yet gravitated to the team. They were aware the ALDS started last night, but the time difference was enough to put off one of my acquaintances.

Another one of my friends is a big enough fan to use the name of our favorite team as an e-mail handle. I strolled in bleary-eyed and asked if she watched the game. She gave me an odd smile, replying, “In a way....”

Not yet in the mood to riddle with a sphinx, I excused myself to get some coffee. Some java would fuel me to engage in lively chinwagging.

I returned to my cube with vitalizing brew and fix my ailing laptop. As blue screens of death flashed across my screen my friend came by to talk about the boys.

“So, me and [name withheld to protect the embarrassed] were watching the game with my friends, but then we decided to go to the bedroom to flip between a New Kids on the Block special and the game.”

I made a joking grimace at the mention of the group’s name; she knew I was more of a Duran Duran or Cure girl than boy band fanatic.

“We thought it was kind of odd how Remy kept on raving about Ellsbury just being called up,” she continued.

“Wait a second,” I interrupted. “You do know that NESN doesn’t do postseason games?”

Her expression turned sheepish. “We were half paying attention to the game, since we were flipping back and forth.”

“Oh. My. God.” I was laughing very loudly, something I try not to do often so as not to disturb my fellow denizens of the cube farm.

Even while blushing she laughed. “It didn’t even occur to me until afterward that we had seen Manny come up to bat.” They had been watching a classic game on NESN, not the first game of the ALDS on TBS.

So for the rest of the day when I walked by I would say things like, “Yeah, I knew something was up when I saw Nomar in a Red Sox uniform adjusting his gloves....”

At least she spared herself the five innings of futility authored by the Red Sox lineup. For a long while it seemed that the Angels had at solved the riddle of how to succeed against Boston in a playoff game. Had they finally learned to harness the spirit that powered them to a 8-1 regular season record against their AL adversaries?

In all of those games, Angels pitchers never faced Jason Bay. How would the left fielder, a newcomer to October baseball, respond to the second season? Would he shrink in the face of pressure or blossom in the spotlight?

His soaring home run shot to left with one on and two out provided the resounding answer. Bay also doubled to Gary Matthews, Jr. with two out in the eighth but was stranded.

Unlike his cross-field opponent, Matthews faded in the spotlight. In the seventh, the Angels right fielder was positioned perfectly to field Jacoby Ellsbury’s rope. At the last second Matthews flinched, apparently blinded by the lights, allowing a three-base error to Ellsbury. In the box his results were no better: 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

In the top frame of the final inning Terry Francona showed that his team can manufacture runs just as the competition. Jed Lowrie led off with a single and was bunted over by Jason Varitek. Ellsbury singled to right to plate Lowrie and then proceeded to pilfer second. The center fielder advanced to third on Dustin Pedroia’s ground out and then scored on David Ortiz’s gut shot single.

Leave it to Francona and his team to crib a page from his adversary’s book and improve upon it.

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