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Home » Category Listing » August 2008 Game Comments

September 1, 2008


Game 136: August 31, 2008
WinWhite Sox 4 W: Gavin Floyd (15-6)
H: Matt Thornton (16)
H: Octavio Dotel (20)
S: Bobby Jenks (27)
77-59, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 2 L: Tim Wakefield (8-9) 79-57, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Completing a series sweep is taxing for the Red Sox (unless it is the World Series). Runs were scarce for the Red Sox on Sunday. Even the hot bat wielded by Dustin Pedroia cooled off; his streak of reaching base safely ended at 11 in the third inning when he tapped back to Floyd. Pedroia represented the go-ahead run in the bottom of the ninth. Boston scraped back one run on Jed Lowrie’s ground out, and two men were poised to score with the 2007 Rookie of the Year in the box.

It would have been a storybook ending to a memorable series, but not every wish over the course of 162 games can be realized.

Tim Wakefield allowed two runs in the first inning on Jim Thome’s homer. The shot wasn’t one of Thome’s typical bombs to the bleachers or bullpen; instead, this one curved around Pesky’s Pole like a tetherball. Carlos Quentin had doubled to the left field corner right before Thome, so the early lead gave Gavin Floyd some cushion.

Not that I wanted to see the Red Sox lose, but I was amused that the Pale Hose succeeded based on a strong performance by Floyd whereas Mark Buehrle crumpled under the pressure in the middle game of the series. Buehrle stated that he thought Floyd would succumb to the strain of a playoff race while stating that he thought John Danks had a better attitude because he was “laid back.”

Three games into having video replay available it still hasn’t been used at Fenway, but the umpires applied their capricious judgments in the usual manner. In the third, David Ortiz took issue with third base official Eric Cooper’s call that he went around for the third strike. The decree caused so much animosity that DeMarlo Hale had to intercede, halting Cooper as he made his way up the third base line to confront Ortiz.

Home plate umpire Marty Foster applied the recent call-up rule to pinch-hitting Jon Van Every in the ninth, calling the first pitch he saw a strike despite it being outside. It will be amusing to see when these prima donna officials are entirely replaced by technology.

August 31, 2008


Game 135: August 30, 2008
White Sox 2 L: Mark Buehrle (11-11) 76-59, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 8 W: Michael Bowden (1-0) 79-56, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: The left field pavilion seats are among the best seats under $100 in the park. I highly recommend snagging tickets in this section if they are available.

Last night the weather was perfect despite the warnings of passing showers or even thunderstorms. The late August game had a perfect combination of summer conditions and playoff implications. Both Sox teams have their division championships within reach and, if they are not successful in that, the wild card would be their only other option.

Into this turbulent playoff picture entered Michael Bowden, a 21-year old pitcher whom the Red Sox drafted out of high school in 2005. That draft has already yielded Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jed Lowrie (as well as Craig Hansen, who was packaged with Brandon Moss to bring Jason Bay to Boston). Bowden was the 47th overall pick was compensation for losing Derek Lowe to free agency.

I sat next to a fan who was scoring the game and had an iPhone through which he accessed SoSH and other baseball resources. He said the closer you sit to the press box the better the connection is. We were both tickled by Dustin Pedroia batting fourth. We wondered when the last time a second baseman batted clean-up was, and Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant reported that it was the first time since Carlos Baerga had in 2002.

At the opposite end of spectrum was the guy wearing a Boston Dirt Dogs shirt in front of me. He claimed our section was lame because we didn’t stand up when there were two strikes on the last batter of each inning. As far as I am concerned that is a Yankee Stadium tradition, not a Fenway one. He and his friend were attempting to land two different pairs of single women sitting in their row. One twosome left in the sixth inning or so and the second duo left in the bottom of the eighth. Before she left, the woman from the second pair said, “That’s horrible and you’re horrible. I feel really sorry for you, but I can’t deal with someone like you.”

That was one of the more memorable and honest letdowns I’ve witnessed, but I will never know what prompted such a reaction. If only this were an episode of “Sox Appeal,” or if fans could be miked up like they do for players for certain broadcasts.

Mark Buehrle was a letdown for his teammates. The lefty couldn’t live by guile alone for the required innings for a decision; in just four and two-third innings the starter surrendered 11 hits and seven earned runs, incluidng Jeff Bailey’s first MLB homer of this season and second of his career. I noticed that his teammates didn’t give him the silent treatment (the tactic the first women used until they got so fed up with Boston Dirt Dog fan they left) when he got to the dugout. Instead, the Red Sox immediately came up to high five Bailey and thump him on the back.

They know that Bailey’s stay in the majors won’t be long, that he probably won’t be an everyday player on this or any other team. That moment might be one of the few that he will have in the bigs.

The view from the left field pavilion is stupendous. A.J. Pierzynski’s eighth inning double soared right in front of us. I looked down to watch Bay track the ball and I saw the intensity in his eyes. As he ran towards the wall he followed it until he realized he was running out of real estate. He changed course and positioned himself to gather the carom. Bay pivoted and fired to second, but even a poky catcher could cruise to second on such a shot.

It would take quite an outing to overshadow a premiere prospect’s successful debut, but Pedroia had that kind of outing. In his post-game intervew, the infielder said, “I told David he better quit bitching about getting pitches to hit, because he got plenty tonight.” For the second straight game Pedroia went 4-for-4. He sparked a mini-rally in the fifth with his fifth inning double. Pedroia faked out Orlando Cabrera by reaching for the bag but then evaded the tag at the last second to get the safe call.

Terry Francona must have missed Derryl Cousins’s call or was playing the practical joke of a lifetime on his second baseman. The field manager came out to argue but then changed his tack once he realized Pedroia just knocked in his third hit of the night.

Ozzie Guillen also took note of Pedroia. With two out and a man on Guillen intentionally walked Pedroia to get to Mark Kotsay, who had already had three hits and drove in three runs. During Pedroia’s at bats, the crowd would chant “MVP!” While Pedroia’s production combined with his position and defense should get him some votes, sluggers such as Carlos Quentin and Josh Hamilton will garner more attention with their gaudy home run totals and RBIs. But he definitely is the Most Valuable Peewee.

August 30, 2008

Gaiyu [外野]

Game 134: August 29, 2008
White Sox 0 L: Javier Vazquez (10-12) 76-58, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 8 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (16-2) 78-56, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Seven Red Sox players (Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mark Kotsay, Alex Cora, Jason Bay, and Kevin Youkilis) got balls to fall in the gaiya (outfield); what they lacked in home runs they made up for in timely shots with runners on base. There were two outstanding plays by gaiyashū (outfielders): Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving snare of Orlando Cabrera’s fly ball to the fringe of the turf at the entry to the triangle. Ellsbury was a last-minute addition to the lineup because of Coco Crisp’s illness and the gem was the first pitch of the first at bat of the game. Long and lean Jermaine Dye similarly robbed Jed Lowrie in the bottom of the second. The ball was slicing towards the stands near the curve in the right field fence and Dye sprung up like a cornerback intercepting a Hail Mary.

If one can improve as a pitcher even though he leads his team’s rotation in wins, ERA, strikeouts per nine innings, hits per nine innings, and slugging percentage against, Daisuke Matsuzaka is doing so. He has quietly compiled an impressive sophomore season in the shadow of Josh Beckett’s struggles and Jon Lester’s success.

The White Sox possess one of the most prolific offenses in the majors: they lead the league in homers, are second to the Rangers in slugging percentage, and are third in total bases behind Rangers and Cubs. Matsuzaka shut them down for eight solid innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while punching out seven. Sadly, he neither figuratively nor literally punched out A.J. Pierzynski. Mike Timlin pitched a perfect inning of relief to secure the 44th home victory of the season.

Last night was the first game that video replay was available in Fenway. I would recommended a camera dedicated solely to Pesky’s Pole because that angle is too difficult for the umpires to judge and the camera crews are not positioned well to capture definitive proof. I disagree with the seemingly haphazard deployment of these systems with the majority of the games played, but on the other hand Commissioner Bud Selig did not turn a blind eye to the rash of missed calls and took action. If all the kinks can be worked out in the remaining games of the season, I am hopeful that postseason controversies will be averted.

A swarm of bugs descended in the third inning, but Javier Vazquez showed more fortitude than Joba Chamberlain in facing them. Vazquez had already weathered a first-inning bases-loaded jam in which he allowed just one run; a few midges wouldn’t unhinge him. Most of the game was a pitchers’ duel until the fifth, when the Red Sox finally deciphered Vazquez’s pitching patterns.

In the fifth Dustin Pedroia blooped a one-out single to left (not quite a laser that time) and swiped second with David Ortiz in the box. The designated hitter foiled the shift with a rope to right that had him sliding into second while Pedroia notched the second run of the game. Youkilis laced a humpback single to left that dropped a few feet in front of the warning track to advanced Ortiz, who was driven in by Mark Kotsay’s double, which was reminiscent of Ortiz’s own two-bagger.

Jason Bay struck out in that rally, but his bases-clearing double that had Nick Swisher careening off a center field sign provided the exclamation point to the sixth inning surge.

Tonight will be a night of firsts for me and the Red Sox. I managed to get a ticket to the new left field pavilion and Michael Bowden will make his major league debut.

August 29, 2008


Game 133: August 28, 2008
Red Sox 2 BS: Hideki Okajima (8)
L: Justin Masterson (4-4)
77-56, 1 game losing streak
WinYankees 3 W: Mariano Rivera (5-5) 71-62, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Marvel at the Yankees and their disintegrating stadium. For the third straight game the Bronx Bromides tallied three runs, but this time that paltry production proved sufficient to upgrade this series from utter humilitation to moderate embarrassment. That deserves a few curtain calls and potentially a bronze monument in the Nouveau Stade Fasciste.

Not only did I not want to write about this game that Jon Lester should have won but I also just bought a Wii. The latter cheered me up after the former. I had hoped Boston would complete the sweep and devastate the Yankees and their fans, but it was not to be. The mustachioed Jason Giambi played the villain with his game-tying two-run longball in the seventh and game-winning RBI single in the ninth.

If Bud Selig had any sense of judgment, the extent of Giambi’s participation in this sport would equal that of Barry Bonds’s contributions this season. But the (somewhat less) bulky slugger continues to drag the lumber to the box, notch his ill-gotten hits, and cash his undeserved paycheck.

Recent news out of 4 Yawkey Way has more resembled a hospital intake list combined with new hire orientation directory.

On Wednesday Mark Kotsay was traded from the Braves for A-baller Luis Sumoza. The next evening he made his Red Sox debut with a pedestrian 1-for-4 showing with a strikeout and three men left on base. With J.D. Drew on the disabled list due to to a herniated disk, another outfielder was needed and Kotsay filled the bill as well as any platooning ball hawk available could.

Josh Beckett was placed on the 15-day disabled list but a visit to James Andrews confirmed no structural damage. Terry Francona mentioned that Mike Lowell accompanied him because of their strong relationship, which I found rather touching. Backup catcher David Ross was promoted so that he could be eligible for the postseason roster.

Heidi “Homewrecker” Watney just announced that Sean Casey will be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained neck after tonight’s game. Julio Lugo was moved to the 60-day DL.

I’m firing up Mario Super Sluggers until the game starts tonight. With all the injuries, one never knows who’ll be summoned next to Fenway.

August 28, 2008


Game 132: August 27, 2008
WinRed Sox 11 W: Paul Byrd (9-11)
H: Manny Delcarmen (17)
77-55, 3 game winning streak
Yankees 3 L: Sidney Ponson (7-5) 70-62, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Come on now, Yankee lovers. Some of you are up in arms because your team is “inconsistent.” Your guys scored three runs on consecutive nights; that’s pretty consistent. You’ve got that going for you.

How I’ll remember Yankee Stadium…

Jason Bay, with his lightning-quick swing, lacing a double to his best friend Xavier Nady, off whom the ball deflected to the noodle-armed Johnny Damon. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz trotting home on the hit, with both having about the same length to their strides.

The scintilla of hope granted by Alex Rodriguez’s first-inning RBI double and fourth-inning run that drifted into obsolescence, just as the haughty expressions Yankee fans are so used displaying dimmed with each passing inning. Frustration was meted out by, of all pitchers, Paul Byrd.

Sidney Ponson, sweating and puffing, walking in the go-ahead run in the fifth and then allowing a sacrifice fly. Dismissed from the mound he slouched on the bench, the top rail of the dugout fence covering his eyes as if NESN was attempting to protect his identity. All that was needed was a computer-distorted voice for his post-appearance interview: “If it weren’t for the money I wouldn’t even be in this uniform. Everyone knows the one thing the Steinbrenners are good about is signing checks. I’d rather be at Manchebo Beach sipping some coecoei, but that doesn’t earn me the money I need to bribe police officers when I drive drunk.”

An idiotic Yankee fan (sorry, redundant) attempting to disrupt Byrd by flashing a laser pointer on him. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons was not only charitable with the zone but also with his allowance for Byrd to stop pitching while security guards tried to find the culprit. Little did the fan know that such an act riled Byrd up rather than distracted him; instead of his customary mid-80s fastball Byrd turned up the heat to a toasty 87 against Jason Giambi to begin the sixth inning.

Dustin Pedroia smashed his first major league grand slam in the eighth. Given that he runs his mouth when he sprays doubles to the gaps or pops the occasional solo homer I can only imagine what sorts of hyperbole (ICBMs instead of rockets? Plasma cannons rather than lasers?) the diminutive infielder was regaling his teammates with after that blast.

…all interspliced with images of the despondent visages of Yankees fans who saw their playoff wishes destroyed, just as the stadium they sat in soon will be.


Game 131: August 26, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 W: Tim Wakefield (8-8)
H: Justin Masterson (2)
H: Hideki Okajima (20)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (34)
76-55, 2 game winning streak
Yankees 3 L: Andy Pettitte (13-10)
70-61, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Thus begins the first part of three wherein paeans to the nearly departed Yankee Stadium are sung, a national pastime in which even NESN will indulge. Bring your Bose QuietComfort headphones, at least until the Red Sox bullpen begins their drumming. Don’t discredit the buzz that musicians generate; the release of Masterson’s Olympia Sports commercial demonstrates that musical ability, solid pitching, and charisma can garner one endorsement deals. The lanky pitcher made the leap from Double-A to the majors with nonchalance; as Jed Lowrie has taken to making big league contributions without much fanfare so has Masterson assumed the role of spot starter and then reliable reliever without the ballyhoo of a Clay Buchholz. He made the rounds between Portland, Boston, and Pawtucket, but Fenway is where he’ll stay for the rest of the season.

As heartening as Manny Delcarmen’s “local boy does good” story is, the pitcher that impresses most is Justin Masterson. Not every 23-year old rookie possesses the sang-froid to take the mound with the bases loaded with one out and the tying run in the box in Yankee Stadium. A single swing by a man with multiple MVPs would stoke the dying embers of hope Yankee fans hold for their team’s playoff chances.

Both Yankee and Red Sox adherents may deride Alex Rodriguez for his lack of timely hitting, but that merely deprives Masterson of the praise he richly earns for inducing the two key outs of this game.

That acclaim should also be shared by Tim Wakefield, whose .500 record belies how well he has pitched in 2008. In his numerous quality starts either the batters weren’t providing the requisite runs or his bullpen failed to close down the opposition, robbing him of the victories that would give him a winning season.

Two of the three runs the Yankees managed were bloop homers provided by Johnny Damon. As a Red Sox player his homers silenced the crowd at Stade Fasciste; as a Yankee he can bask in gratuitous curtain calls for four-baggers that bring him and his team no closer to playoff contention.

For every Red Sox batter who started the game except Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Cash tallied a run. No one-man shows of supposed Yankee splendor could overcome the concentrated effort of nine men with a shared purpose: to see October baseball in Boston again. If the Red Sox weren’t reaching on hits they were getting bases on balls.

Pettitte uncharacteristically lacked control, though not-so-subtle lobbying by Jose Molina, Joe Girardi, and the lefty himself widened the strike zone as the game wore on. If the Yankees can’t have their PEDs, filibustering home plate umpire Jim Reynolds is the classy Yankee way of putting their thumb on the scale.

August 25, 2008

Enchōsen [延長戦]

Game 130: August 24, 2008 ∙ 11 innings
WinRed Sox 6 W: Jonathan Papelbon (5-3)
S: Manny Delcarmen (1)
75-55, 1 game winning streak
Blue Jays 5 L: Brandon League (0-2) 67-63, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Enchōsen means extra innings or overtime. The first symbol means prolong or stretch, the second stands for long, and the last symbolizes battle, war, or match.

Jerry Remy reined in his criticisms of Daisuke Matsuzaka significantly, primarily because the pitcher didn’t unintentionally walk a batter throughout his six innings of work. The formerly moribund, suddenly productive Vernon Wells took a fat yakker to the second deck in left field, one tier below Manny Ramirez territory. The center fielder drove in Toronto’s version of Alex Cora, Marco Scutaro for a quick lead.

A.J. Burnett imitated Matsuzaka in the top of the third, walking Cora and Coco Crisp in succession with one out and then getting a quick out off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. Where Burnett failed, however, was escaping from his errant pitches. Dustin Pedroia shot a rocket, fired a laser, blasted a bomb, whatever hyperbole the loudmouth second baseman enjoys employing when he gets a hold of a pitch and sends it to souvenir city.

David Ortiz followed up with a double roped to right that probably earned some of Pedroia’s feigned derision in the dugout. “A double?” the squirt would ask increduously. “Next time you want to really launch one over the fences, come talk to me, I can give you some tips, Papi.”

Kevin Youkilis plated Ortiz with a single to center, which likely increased Pedroia’s amusement. “So, the clean-up guy gets a single? I mean, it is an RBI single, but I got a homer off this guy,” the middle infielder would quip whilst flexing what one would charitably call his biceps.

Matsuzaka got himself into a rhythm that was derailed with a long injury delay in the fourth. The starter whiffed Wells on three pitches and then watched in amazement as Ellsbury retreated to deep right to glove Adam Lind’s drive right before crashing into the chain link fence that hems in the visiting bullpen. Even with the tremendous collision the rookie outfielder held onto the ball.

For about 10 minutes Paul Lessard and Terry Francona hovered around Ellsbury trying to help him with his contact lens. He finally replaced it himself, which is what he should have done in the first place. I never understood letting someone do that; it would be like making someone else brush your teeth for you.

Lyle Overbay took the long timeout to collect himself. When Matsuzaka hurled a cut fastball inside Overbay cleaned it out for his eleventh homer of the season. Matt Stairs sneaked a single into center but got no farther thanks to a ground out by Rod Barajas. The four pitches that the Blue Jays backstop saw in that at bat would help his team out in the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth Toronto again displayed offensive prowess that only seems possible when the Jays face Boston. Alex Rios led off with a single to Jason Bay and Wells wore out the same part of the field with a ringing double to tally the tying run. Lind provided a productive out that advanced Wells to third, prompting Francona to pay tribute to Stairs with the four-finger salute. Stairs is the type of hitter that can dial back his swing to make contact and get runs across the dish when needed, so giving him a free pass with Barajas in the offing was the right move.

But Barajas learned from his prior at bat and Matsuzaka was flagging at this stage of the game. After taking fastballs that skirted the zone, the rotund catcher cracked a fastball below the knees down the third base line to push across the go-ahead run.

Just as it seemed the Red Sox would fall to two games under .500 against the AL East, Coco Crisp lofted a game-tying homer to right-center field. The motivation must have come from trying to hit the ball hard enough to destroy the garish wall scoreboards that ring the field.

Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon held the home team scoreless for four innings. Only Masterson allowed a baserunner: who else but the pesky Scutaro singled to reach in the seventh. Papelbon gave up a heart-stopping drive to Rios in the bottom of the tenth that was snatched before hitting the padding in left by a well-timed jump by Bay.

Jed Lowrie isn’t just nailing the coffin shut on the Julio Lugo era but bringing a blow torch and sealing the veteran shortstop’s chances to reclaim his starting job in a lead sarcophagus. The rookie shortstop arced a solo shot to the right of the 375 marker in right-center for what would be the winning run.

Manny Delcarmen notched his second major league save despite allowing a leadoff walk to Wells. The Red Sox departed the Great White North with the series and their dignity intact. Now to continue to improve their record against the AL East against the loathsome and lowly Yankees.

August 24, 2008


Game 129: August 23, 2008
Red Sox 0 L: Jon Lester (12-5) 74-55, 1 game losing streak
WinBlue Jays 11 W: Jesse Litsch (9-7) 67-62, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: J.L. versus J.L. Cancer survivor against former ball boy. Litsch allowed just seven baserunners over six innings while Lester looked unusually out of kilter. Throughout the season the Blue Jays suffered from an anemic offense, but their bats come alive against the Red Sox. Toronto scored runs in each of the first five innings.

The lackluster Red Sox performance had me switching over to the Little League World Series. As in 2005, another team from Hawai‘i made it to the United States championship game.

The team represents the best Little Leaguers from the Waipi‘o and Waipahū towns of O‘ahu. “Wai” means water in Hawaiian; the first town name means “curved water” and the second means “[where] water gushes forth.” Waipi‘o straddles a meandering gorge and Waipahū is named after an artesian spring.

Pre-contact, native Hawaiians considered Waipahū the capital of O‘ahu. This is not surprising given the importance of potable water. That water made the town the hub of sugar plantations on the island. Today, one can revisit that past in Hawaii’s Plantation Village. On one street there are homes representing Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican cultures; people from around the globe came to Hawai‘i to find better lives for themselves and their families.

The diversity of the islands can be seen in Hawaiian team’s names and faces. Two standout hitters are Pikai Winchester and Iolana Akau. But it is not their names that are chanted by the families in the stands.

“Paliku! Paliku! Paliku!” The Little League ‘ohana (family, whether blood-related or not) rallied the team with this name in tense moments. Paliku is the name of Pikai’s five-year old brother, who is back in Hawai‘i being treated for lymphoma.

Pikai went 2-for-2 and his team mounted a six-run rally in the sixth and final inning over the team from Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Today at 3:30 the Waipi‘o Little Leaguers play against the Matamoros, Mexico team for the world title. Best of luck to these true amateur athletes.

August 23, 2008


Game 128: August 22, 2008
WinRed Sox 8 W: Paul Byrd (8-11)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
74-54, 1 game winning streak
Blue Jays 4 L: Shaun Marcum (8-6) 66-62, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Byrd reminds me of John Burkett, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in late 2001 and turned in two adequate seasons in 2002 and 2003. What these pitchers don’t have in stuff they make up for in guile. When pitchers such as these are on the hill, the offense must be prepared to score more than four or five runs, which is what they will typically surrender. The bullpen should be ready for three, or, if they are lucky, two innings of shutdown ball. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for the Red Sox last night for a road win, something that has been a more common occurrence for Boston lately.

How the visiting team would muster up the requisite number of runs to support Paul Byrd was uncertain. J.D. Drew was scratched from the lineup because his herniated disk was acting up, Mike Lowell is in the midst of his disabled list stint due to a strained oblique, and Julio Lugo had a setback with a left quadriceps pull a few days ago.

I was just being polite mentioning Lugo. Jed Lowrie has been a superior option both offensively and defensively up the middle. Unlike Lugo, Lowrie can also cover second and third. The rookie demonstrated this flexibility by starting at the hot corner. Lowrie went hitless but scored a run after reaching base on a free pass in the fourth.

I was reminded of Lugo when Blue Jays second baseman Joe Inglett fell victim to two double plays to staunch rallies in the seventh and ninth. Inglett was also picked off for the final out of the third with Vernon Wells in the box. Unlike Boston, Toronto has no Lowries to call up to spell Inglett, but John McDonald is mouldering on the bench. Nor did the Red Sox get trigger-happy contract extensions like the Blue Jays did: McDonald and Alex Rios seemed to have slid into complacency in the aftermath of their multi-year extensions.

With power threats Drew and Lowell absent, other outlets have been tapped. One source has been consistent the season so far: Dustin Pedroia, who had his first hit (a home run, no less) against Shaun Marcum in the first. Another source, Kevin Youkilis, has sustained his consistency in his trademark skill, getting on base, and has added a dimension to his game. Youkilis’s previously unseen store of power has been unleashed, enabling Terry Francona to place the versatile infielder behind David Ortiz in the batting order with confidence.

One player that most fans, including me, had written off was Jason Varitek. The backstop has had a late-season resurgence at the most opportune time; in the last three games Varitek has exceeded his home run production of in June and July combined. Perhaps the road trip was particularly well-timed for Varitek, who recently filed for divorce from his wife Karen.

With the runs on the board, the final piece of the puzzle to be put into place would be the bullpen’s performance. In any major league team, this component is often the most ill-fitting, if it is present at all. Yesterday, however, the relief corps completed the picture with the trio of Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon closing out the final third of the contest.

Surprisingly, it was Masterson’s first major league hold. He had come into so many games to clean up Clay Buchholz’s mishaps I thought there must have been some point where he met the criteria for a hold.

Some day somebody’s gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye
Until then, baby, are you going to let them hold you down and make you cry?
Don’t you know, don’t you know things can change, things’ll go your way
If you hold on for one more day

I didn’t think there would be a song as lame as the hold statistic. Silly me.

August 21, 2008


Game 127: August 20, 2008
Red Sox 6 L: Clay Buchholz (2-9) 73-54, 1 game losing streak
WinOrioles 11 W: Chris Waters (2-0) 61-65, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Last night the Orioles got back all of the hits and runs they were deprived of back on September 1, 2007. Is Clay Buchholz the next Billy Rohr but with a better story? Buchholz got the no-hitter while Rohr fell one hit short, Buchholz got the World Series ring while the 1967 Red Sox got to be runners-up in one of the best Fall Classics ever. Rohr’s major league career lasted a mere two years, Clay’s future is hazy.

I don’t have a living memory of Billy Rohr but I have seen clips from his auspicious debut on April 14, 1967, a game where the 21-year old carried a no-hitter into the ninth. His brush with baseball history happened in Yankee Stadium, which is probably why Rohr is still remembered. The game log dryly recounts the first out of the second half of the ninth inning as “Flyball: LF,” but the image of Carl Yastrzemski at full sprint to intercept Tom Tresh’s screamer is seared into my mind. In The Impossible Dream Remembered, Ken Coleman recounted the incident eloquently:

His drive to left over the head of Carl Yastrzemski left a rising trail of blue vapor… At the crack of the bat, Yaz broke back, being guided by some uncanny inner radar. Running as hard as a man fleeing an aroused nest of bees, Yaz dove in full stride and reached out with the glove hand in full extension, almost like Michelangelo’s Adam stretching out for the hand of God. At the apex of his dive, Yaz speared the ball, and for one moment of time that would never register on any clock, stood frozen in the air as if he were Liberty keeping the burning flame aloft.

It would be a pity if all that is remembered of Clay Buchholz is his moment of brilliance in a championship year, but I believe his demotion to Double-A Portland is but a temporary setback. If he doesn’t, the teenyboppers will tire of squealing at Jacoby Ellsbury’s every dive back to first.

The adulation of Ellsbury has reached Sizemorian proportions. Now, if only his production matched his Cleveland counterpart’s. The outfielder has seemingly snapped out of his June through July doldrums to retake the leadoff spot and lead the team to victory… but not last night.

Even though Chris Waters pitched with as much uncertainty as Buchholz, the Orioles starter settled down after a couple of innings and was supported by a surprisingly solid outing by the mercurial Dennis Sarfate.

At least Bartolo Colon is primed for big league action. Tonight he went four no-hit innings tonight against the Syracuse Sky Chiefs with a matched pair of walks and strikeouts. He’ll slip right in Buchholz’s spot, perhaps requiring the aid of a shoehorn.

August 20, 2008

Natsukashii [懐かしい]

Game 126: August 19, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-2) 73-53, 2 game winning streak
Orioles 2 L: Daniel Cabrera (8-8) 60-65, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: In the post-game show Dennis Eckersley boasted that, aside from his rookie year, he hadn’t walked five or more batters in a game. A quick check of Baseball Reference Play Index shows that there are 16 games in which he walked five or more batters; six of those games were in his debut year 1975, but there were a smattering of such outings in the starting pitcher phase of his career. Often when reminiscing of former glories the details of the past become worn, hewn to the shape of what we wished rather than what actually was. The Japanese have a word for nostalgia, natsukashii, that describes the object that stirs one’s idealized memories.

Dennis Eckersley, Jerry Remy, and even Lou Merloni, who is not so far removed from the game, seem to hold Daisuke Matsuzaka up to some unattainable ideal of a pitcher. Anything short of Sidd Finch is deemed unacceptable.

Remy, in particular, has identified Matsuzaka as his object of scorn, replacing his former target, Dustin Pedroia. As Melvin Mora fouled off pitch after pitch in the fourth inning with ducks on the pond and one out, Remy proclaimed with doom, “Hitters are 0-for -2 with the bases loaded against Matsuzaka, but that may change quickly.” Change it did—to 0-for-14.

I didn’t expect him to bring out a pair of pompoms from under the broadcast desk, but Remy seemed to want Matsuzaka to fail at that point of the game. I’m glad Remy isn’t a complete homer like Ken Harrelson or Ron Santo, but the analyst has incessantly harped upon what he sees as Matsuzaka’s shortcomings. And as Remy goes, so do the rest of the NESN talking heads; Heidi Watney even asked Pedroia about what it’s like to play behind someone that walks so many batters.

The fact that Matsuzaka leads his team in wins and has an ERA of 2.77 is brushed aside. Such statistics don’t have a lot of currency in advanced statistical analysis, as well they shouldn’t. Using VORP, amongst Red Sox pitchers Mastsuzaka’s 38.6 is second only to Jon Lester’s 44.7.

(As I write this Remy appeared on the pre-game of tonight’s game and basically said he doesn’t like calling a game when Matsuzaka ptiches. It’s a pity he’s allows his personal feelings to color his judgment. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson told the visitors’ dugout to drink decaf when they were getting chirpy in the top of the eighth. I recommend the same to Remy.)

In an era where on-base percentage, which doesn’t devalue walks, is hailed as a greater indicator of offensive production, it seems pitchers who walk a lot of batters take a corresponding hit in their perceived value.

Boston batters have finally found a way to produce on the road, and facing the volcanic Daniel Cabrera added heat to their fire. Jason Varitek homered for the second game in a row in the second inning. Kevin Youkilis continued to fill the role of clean-up hitter with a longball of his own in the fifth; the two-corner infielder has a line of .328 batting average, .403 on-base percentage, and .625 slugging percentage batting fourth over the course of 64 innings.

It doesn’t bother me so much to see Manny in Dodger blue these days.

August 19, 2008


Game 125: August 18, 2008
WinRed Sox 6 W: Jon Lester (12-4)
H: Manny Delcarmen (16)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
72-53, 1 game winning streak
Orioles 3 L: Jeremy Guthrie (10-9) 60-64, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Lester’s performance last night was the antithesis of his peers’ collective outing on Sunday. He had a minor hiccup in the fourth, surrendering a home run to the hot-hitting Aubrey Huff that carried beyond the center field fence. Other than that four-bagger, only Millar mustered an extra base hit against Lester, but his one-out double to left proved fruitless. Huff’s double in the eighth off Papelbon, however, plated two runs and brought his club to within one run of the visitors. The Red Sox scored two more run themselves thanks to sloppy play by Alex Cintron and Millar at first.

Kevin Millar went from Rally Karaoke Guy to “Orioles Magic” conjurer with his Charm City club. Wonderfully cheesy from the establishing shot which shows Jeremy Guthrie puffing on a clarinet when the instrument actually heard is a french horn to the players spelling out their team’s nickname with their arms, it made me wish the Red Sox had a song that was specifically written for them.

We do have “Sweet Caroline,” “Dirty Water,” and “Tessie” but there are flaws with each. The “Sweet Caroline” sing-along is a tradition for other teams, not just the Red Sox, although it is very singable. The Standells’ song is more marks the occasion of a victory and is not easy for a large crowd to sing. The remake of “Tessie” does spectacular job of tying in Red Sox history from the team’s inception to the present day, but again, not a particularly easy song to sing.

“Orioles Magic” is what I fear a Red Sox fight song would sound like. Ideally, the tune would be like an amiable ditty like Steve Goodman’s “Go, Cubs, Go!” or a jaunty jingle such as Al Trace and Walter Jagiello’s “Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox.”

Not that Jason Bay requires any motivation. The self-effacing left fielder enjoyed his first multi-homer game and drove in four of his team’s runs. Bay also swiped his first bag as a Red Sox player in the sixth. (The second inning was a great inning if your name were “Jason;” Varitek went back-to-back with Bay, the catcher’s first homer since July 21.) I look forward to post-game shows when Bay performs well as I am enamored of Bay’s vocal quirk: before he answers a question he makes a sound that is hybrid of “yeah” and “uh” that for some reason I find utterly charming.

Josh Beckett is experiencing some numbness and tingling in his fingers which will cause him to miss his next start, but that is a minor concern in light of a former Red Sox player’s health issues.

Best wishes to Carl Yastrzemski, who requires heart bypass surgery and is a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital.

August 18, 2008


Game 124: August 17, 2008
WinBlue Jays 15 W: Shaun Marcum (8-5) 64-60, 2 game winning streak
Red Sox 4 L: Josh Beckett (11-9) 71-53, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia launched solo homers in the fourth and seventh innings respectively, but the Red Sox were far from working out of a six-run deficit from the first. Jed Lowrie chipped in with three hits, one run, an RBI, a walk, and fell a home run short of hitting for the cycle. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays piled on early, chased Beckett out of the game in the third, and continued to pad their stats against all of the home team’s relievers except Jonathan Papelbon.

Too much of the Texas pitching staff’s tendencies and not enough of the their hitters’ habits rubbed off on the Red Sox. Boston was swept in the rain-shortened two-game series over the weekend, which does not portend well for their upcoming road trip. At least the stopper, Jon Lester, will take the mound in Fenway South tonight.

In times of turmoil, it is at least amusing to turn the attention a few states south and heed Hank Steinbrenner’s latest pronouncement on the state of his team. “We’ve been devastated by injuries. No team I’ve ever seen in baseball has been decimated like this,” he proclaimed. “It would kill any team.”

What a pale imitation of the elder Steinbrenner his progeny is. Hank blusters and blasts his way through the press corps, but all of that puffery is a disguise to hide what he truly is: a mollycoddled milquetoast that shrinks at the slightest sign of adversity.

August 17, 2008


Game 123: August 16, 2008
WinBlue Jays 4 W: Roy Halladay (14-9) 63-60, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 1 L: Paul Byrd (7-11) 71-52, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: This bird has flown. Byrd had 8 ground outs compared to 13 fly ball outs, an unfavorable ratio for an aging control artist who relies on location rather than power. In stark contrast was Toronto’s workhorse starter Halladay, who turned in his eighth complete game of the season. Later the same evening Michael Phelps secured his eighth gold medal.

I saw neither Paul Byrd’s Red Sox debut nor the Olympics live last night because of a day-long power outage in my town. It was odd to be disconnected from information, so I asked my friend to send me text messages with Red Sox and Olympic updates. Unfortunately, the only Red Sox update came from Dustin Pedroia’s solo shot in the ninth, but the previously unimaginable feat of eight gold medals in the Olympics was realized by a thewy kid from Baltimore.

Most Americans take access to the internet, like so many other modern conveniences, for granted. But for the global citizenry in countries less well-off than ours, internet access could be a person’s only access to information. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” National Grid deprived me off my human rights for an entire day; perhaps Michael Tigar will take my case.

But seriously, these Olympics have put into conflict two parts of me, the sports fan and the person with a political conscience.

I love sports because they are stories where the ending is unscripted. The human endeavor for excellence culminates in events where the gap between first and second is one-hundredth of a second. That infinitesimal difference is the coalescence of years of rigorous training and preparation outside of the spotlight. For Olympians whose sports are neglected in the off years, the games are their one time to capture the imagination of their spectators (at least those who have access to television, the internet, and other media).

The backdrop in which these dramas are being played out are a beautifully rendered scroll by the Chinese government; a landscape of tradition melded perfectly with modernization. Just as the image of one girl replaced the face of the true voice of another child in the Opening Ceremony, the pleasing façade of these games hide the People’s Republic China’s poor human rights record.

In China, due process is ignored, ethnic minorities and indigenous people are persecuted, torture is employed, the death penalty is in effect, and the country is complicit with genocidal regimes. It’s as if they followed the American blueprint to modernization to a tee. To take a Biblical bent, Romans 2:1 intones, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”

I fear that this global debutante ball is more about increasing the products available on www.amazon.cn rather than enhancing the rights of its people. I am still learning about human and civil rights in China, but I found the website organized by Human Rights in China to be extremely enlightening. From this source I learned about how artist Zhang Hongtu’s work was seized by Chinese officials but then returned for display in the United States for fear of being criticized.

August 15, 2008

Settopojishon [セットポジション]

Game 122: August 14, 2008
Rangers 0 L: Tommy Hunter (0-2) 61-61, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 10 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-2) 71-51, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: Matsuzaka pitches from settopojishon (set position) expertly; as Jerry Remy noted, the starter’s splits shows that hitters are 0-for-12 against him with the bases loaded. Perhaps he should assume the Mike Timlin approach to twirling and always pitch from the stretch. New Boston Globe correspondent Matt Porter reported that the pair was practicing archery in right field today. The arrows were flying prior to batting practice, fortunately.

The Rangers’ visit to Fenway was the much-needed tonic for the Boston batters. Texas came into town with wild card aspirations and departed with their pitching staff in shambles and a .500 record. They have the firepower to put up runs, but, much like the Rays, until a reasonable facsimile of a big league pitching staff is assembled in Arlington the team will only be able to bash their way to victory.

When the Red Sox are hitting on all cylinders as they did in the second inning last night, not even the brawn of the Lone Star state’s bats can match them. For the 22nd time this season the Red Sox batted around. David Ortiz was a standout with a two-run blast that reached the occupants of the first row of the right field stands with an alarming quickness.

Two-baggers were sent hither and yon by Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jed Lowrie in the same inning. Lowrie has been a marked upgrade in the infield and yet another testament to the Red Sox front office’s ability to develop major leaguers. Not only has he been a more consistent producer than Julio Lugo at the dish, but he also brings added versatility in being able to play short, second, and third who can switch hit.

Lowrie’s swing, with the natural lift at the end, enables him to stroke doubles from both sides of the plate. From the right he recalls Bill Mueller in his breakout year in 2003 and from the left dare I say I see a glimmer of a young John Olerud, but with less power.

It was a great game, but it’s just a game.

Today is the second day of the Jimmy Fund radio-telethon. Cancer is usually on my mind because my job involves writing about clinical trials and many of them test cures for cancers, but lately it has touched my life personally. My boss’s husband just recently recovered from colorectal cancer but my friend’s cousin was not as fortunate.

I met my friend’s cousin at my friend’s wedding last year. At that point she appeared healthy enough: she was enjoying food, drink, friends, and, most of all, family. Amongst the wedding photos there is a wonderful picture of her cradling her eight-year old daughter. It wasn’t because of a winning smile or an alluring pose that made the image so stunning.

The mother didn’t even notice the camera. She was looking down at her daughter with pure and utter love. And her daughter was looking like kids at weddings do, oblivious to the adult proceedings surrounding her but enjoying the comfort of her mother’s lap.

My friend’s cousin died just days ago because of undiagnosed kidney cancer. For over two years she went to doctors complaining of lower back pain, but no physician caught the problem.

Cures are important, but detection is just as important. My boss’s husband is still alive because his disease was caught in time. My friend’s cousin is dead, won’t see her daughter grow up and have a wedding of her own, won’t be able to give motherly advice if her daughter has own kids, because her cancer went unnoticed.

I donated to the Jimmy Fund because I know the money goes to fight cancer on all fronts, including better methods to diagnose cancer earlier and therefore have a better chance of defeating it.

August 14, 2008


Game 121: August 13, 2008
Rangers 4 L: Luis Mendoza (3-6) 61-60, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 8 W: Jon Lester (11-4) 70-51, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Mendoza has bounced about the league as hitters bounce his pitches about parks. The Red Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in 2000. In 2005 the Padres claimed him off waivers on July 8 and the Red Sox claimed him right back on July 27. About a year later Boston found itself in need of major-league ready arms and traded Mendoza for Bryan Corey. Corey was an indispensable member of the bullpen band; since Corey was designated for assignment, the unit was never the same although it still had its appeal. Sort of like Genesis with Peter Gabriel and the following incarnation with Phil Collins.

Speaking of drummers, Luis Mendoza was beat like a drum. Continuing from the first game of the series the Red Sox put up crooked numbers early in the game.

Just as J.D. Drew picked up the slack when David Ortiz was ailing, Kevin Youkilis did a yeoman’s job at the plate covering for the injured Mike Lowell. Youkilis had Josh Hamilton sliding after a double to the right-center gap to commence the second inning.

Jason Bay continued his consistent ways with a line drive single to left to advance Youkilis to third. A sloppy throw to second by “Jeh-red Salterler...er, Salty” allowed the Red Sox third baseman to score and put Bay in position to score on Sean Casey’s ground out to first.

Youkilis returned the disdain Ron Washington showed him in the third by intentionally walking Ortiz with a ground ball past his counterpart that hugged the line and ricocheted off the stands to shallow left. Both Coco Crisp (who reached on a single) and Dustin Pedroia (a double that just being a four-bagger) scored.

Not to be outdone, Bay smacked a two-run double of his own to center. Not only did Hamilton have to deal with the balls that came his way but also with his wife going into labor.

As they are inclined to do, the Rangers binged on the offerings of pitchers and mounted a rally in the eighth. For seven and one-third innings Jon Lester had fended off an onslaught, but Ian Kinsler shattered the shutout with a towering shot to the Monster seats. Mike Timlin showed that barely has mop-up stuff, if that, but Javier Lopez and Justin Masterson were there to close out the game and guarantee the series win.

August 13, 2008


Game 120: August 12, 2008
Rangers 17 H: Warner Madrigal (1)
H: Jamey Wright (14)
BS, L: Frank Francisco (5, 24)
61-59, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 19 BS: Manny Delcarmen (3)
W: Hideki Okajma (3-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (32)
69-51, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: This was not the sort of bash Charlie Zink expected for his major league debut. By the time the dust settled, his four and one-third innings of work was but a footnote in a massive tome of offense dropped on the unwitting feet of both pitching staffs. Zink, an eminently likable young man, is, at 28, the oldest pitcher to have made his major league debut since Orlando Hernandez. He came from a working class background; his parents were wardens at Folsom State Prison. The facility is best known for hosting Johnny Cash as a performer twice. Coincidentally, Zink was in tandem with Kevin Cash.

Last night the Red Sox and Rangers tied the American League record for most runs scored in a game. Back on June 29, 1950, the Red Sox and the Philadelphia Athletics clashed at Shibe Park and combined for 36 runs with the visitors winning 22-14. It was remarkable that the Athletics were able to score that much as at the end of the season the team sported a paltry 52-102 record.

David Ortiz pummeled a pair of three-run homers in the first and the Rangers didn’t help themselves with slipshod defense behind the hapless Scott Feldman. For Ortiz’s second homer, the second base umpire Scott Barry applied a peculiar Fenway Park ground rule somewhat incorrectly. The rule states, “A fly ball striking wall left of line and bounding into bullpen is a home run.” The sphere clearly caromed into the lower bleachers, not the bullpen, but the liberal interpretation of the rule seemed to be appropriate as Ortiz crushed that cookie of a pitch.

The umpiring crew gave a bit of a makeup call to the Rangers in the fifth by ruling that Coco Crisp didn’t catch Gerald Laird’s fly ball to deep center. The replay showed that Crisp squeezed the ball and dropped it in transition, but the officials stood stubbornly by their call. The visitors would go on to score six more runs (with Ian Kinsler contributing a three-run longball of his own) to the two they already had in the frame to bring the score to 12-10.

One man that was vulnerable to Feldman was Kevin Youkilis who, as patient as he is, struck out twice in the first. But it was Youkilis who put his team ahead in the bottom of the eight with a three-run jack to give his team the lead once and for all.

The grueling win came at a cost, however: Mike Lowell strained his oblique muscle and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The gamer that he is, he continued to play with his hip issue and likely incurred this more serious injury by overcompensating with his torso. David Pauley will take Lowell’s spot on the 25-man roster, perhaps a bit too belatedly considering Clay Buchholz’s ineffectiveness.

I take notes throughout the course of the game; after the jump you can revisit the absurdity of this game. At least with the Red Sox prevailing it will be something that won’t be a misery to recollect.

Continue reading “Bash” »

August 12, 2008


Game 119: August 11, 2008
WinRed Sox 5 W: Josh Beckett (11-8) 68-51, 1 game winning streak
White Sox 1 L: John Danks (9-5) 66-52, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: The White Sox are trying, badly, to imitate the eccentric facial hair and hairstyles of the 2004 Red Sox. Danks looks as if he has a paintbrush affixed to his chin, Nick Swisher has Don Johnson-life stubble sprinkled on his mug, Juan Uribe has blond-colored moss limning his jaw, and A.J. Pierzynski has bleached his hair platinum.

The questionable style tactics seem to have some positive effect last night.

Nick Swisher and Juan Uribe smacked back-to-back singles to begin the third. Swisher advanced on Orlando Cabrera’s fly ball to center and A.J. Pierzynski sacrificed to Coco Crisp to put the first run on the board.

John Danks was throwing smoke and on course for a perfect game until Kevin Youkilis muscled a single into shallow center with one out in the seventh inning. He then walked Mike Lowell on five pitches and briefly regained his prior dominance by striking out Jason Bay.

J.D. Drew, whose 2008 splits against lefties show very little difference from his performance against right-handed hurlers, took a fastball that got too much of the outer edge of the plate to the opposite field for a two-RBI double. As quickly as the perfect game was over so was the Pale Hose’s lead over their crimson counterparts. Scoring came late for the visitors, but this was a key win for Boston as the Yankees continued their descent and the Rays were dealt blows to their lineup.

Jonathan Papelbon was robbed of a save opportunity in the top of the ninth. Jed Lowrie erased the memory of Julio Lugo’s many fruitless at bats with his bases-clearing double to left. Two of the three runners on base scored; Drew was out at home only because of a perfect relay from Carlos Quentin to Cabrera.

Lowrie aggressively tagged up on Jason Varitek’s fly ball to center. Ken Griffey, Jr., surely didn’t appreciate the upstart testing his arm, but blame Ozzie Guillen for allowing the old-timer to attempt to relive his old glory in the most challenging outfield position.

The rookie tag team of Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury teamed up for their team’s final run in a manner reminiscent of the best team in the American League, the Angels. Josh Beckett played the role of John Lackey, staff ace and shutdown arm, with an eight inning showing with a line of no walks and eight strikeouts.

This is the way Boston will have to play to supplant the Rays, who were dealt major blows with Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria being placed on the 15-day disabled list on consecutive days. At least the Red Sox are adding players, even though it is Paul Byrd, and not losing them.

August 11, 2008


Game 118: August 10, 2008
Red Sox 5 L: Clay Buchholz (2-8) 67-51, 1 game losing streak
WinWhite Sox 6 W: Gavin Floyd (12-6)
H: Matt Thornton (12)
H: Octavio Dotel (17)
S: Bobby Jenks (24)
66-51, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: The weight of August expectations seems too heavy a burden for Buchholz’s slender shoulders. The rookie hasn’t been able to sustain effectiveness against major league bats multiple times through the lineup. Jerry Remy said that clubs have a book on him and know that he tends to pitch backwards. A pitcher might be able to sneak a yakker by Jim Thome once on the first pitch, but not twice.

At this point it might be better to bring up David Pauley for another go-around or reinsert Justin Masterson back into the rotation. Clay Buchholz simply has not been able to get the job done. Masterson was the most impressive pitcher on the mound yesterday, inclusive of White Sox arms. The lanky sinkerballer struck out five, walked none, and allowed a single to Nick Swisher in his two and two-thirds innings toeing the rubber.

Mike Lowell put his team on the board first with his three-run four-bagger in the first. At the hot corner, however, Lowell proved to be an uncharacteristic liability.

Perhaps he was mesmerized by Juan Uribe’s blond goatee, for both of the Red Sox third baseman’s errors came on balls batted by his counterpart.

In the fourth Lowell played Uribe’s sharp grounder to the side, allowing it to glance off his glove and into left. That misplay didn’t result in a run, but it did the White Sox an extra out and more opportunity to observe Buchholz’s tendencies.

In the bottom of the next inning the White Sox had Paul Konerko at third, Alexei Ramirez at first, and one out. Masterson took the mound in relief of David Aardsma and the infield came in to go over the various iterations of who would cover what given the situation.

Uribe chopped the ball high on the third base side and Lowell jumped to intercept it with his bare hand, knowing that even Konerko could score on such a high ball. As keen as his catch was, his throw to home went awry.

As Boston scraped together two runs in the sixth, that run was the margin of victory. The Rays won their third straight to break their franchise single-season wins record, putting the Red Sox four and half games behind the improbable leaders of the AL East.

August 10, 2008

Kontorōru [コントロール]

Game 117: August 9, 2008
WinRed Sox 6 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-2) 67-50, 1 game winning streak
White Sox 2 L: Boone Logan (2-3) 64-51, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Five years ago, Theo Epstein lost out on the Jose Contreras sweepstakes. The Yankees traded Contreras to the White Sox in 2004 for Esteban Loiaza. Of course we all know what happened in 2004, and the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. Two years ago, the Red Sox outbid the Mets, Yankees, and Rangers for the exclusive bargaining rights to Matsuzaka. The Red Sox again won the championship in 2007. Both pitchers are renown for their exquisite control (called kontorōru in Japanese), though only Matsuzaka displayed his to great effect last night. He went eight innings with three walks and four strikeouts and his defense turned in four double plays for him.

In his first start since being activated from the disabled list for right elbow tendinitis, Jose Contreras ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left foot when attempting to outrace Jacoby Ellsbury to first base in the second inning. Despite the blow to the pitching staff, D.J. Carrasco turned in an outstanding performance given the circumstances.

The reliever allowed a single run in the Red Sox’s favor over his four and one-third innings while striking out four. Ozzie Guillen decided to go with Boone Logan in the top of the seventh with the score knotted at 1-1 as Carrasco appeared to be losing his acuity. Guillen quickly learned that a tiring Carrasco might be the preferred option to a fresh Logan.

Logan allowed consecutive singles to Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Varitek before breaking up the monotony with a free pass to J.D. Drew. Guillen delivered words of encouragement to Logan personally with the bases loaded and none out.

The mound visit did not bring the desired outcome for Guillen. Dustin Pedroia, of course, singled to left to break the tie. The second baseman probably promised this in his verbal repartee with the White Sox manager prior to the game.

David Ortiz broke the game open with a bases-clearing double to the opposite field. He has been walloping the ball of late; his first inning single up the middle broke Juan Uribe’s glove.

Ellsbury smacked a solo shot in the eighth. With his recent streak of success, Terry Francona has reinstalled him as the leadoff hitter for today. But just as the Red Sox hitters have clicked into gear their rotation suffered a blow.

Tim Wakefield was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder tightness. There has been corresponding move as of yet, but Devern Hansack might be called up to start in the knuckleballer’s spot on Tuesday.

August 9, 2008


Game 116: August 8, 2008
Red Sox 3 L: Jon Lester (10-4) 66-50, 1 game losing streak
WinWhite Sox
5 W: Mark Buehrle (9-10)
H: Matt Thornton (11)
H: D.J. Carrasco (4)
S: Bobby Jenks (23)
64-50, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Dustin Pedroia plated the only runs by the Red Sox of the game in the eighth inning with his tenth home run. Jason Varitek singled and J.D. Drew walked before him.

Otherwise it was a fruitless night for the Red Sox at the dish.

Two rundown plays in the bottom of the seventh changed the complexion of the game.

Juan Uribe was the victim in the first sequence. He had reached on a single and was to have been off with contact on a hit and run play with Orlando Cabrera in the box. Jon Lester, being a lefty, was privy Ozzie Guillen’s ploy and initiated the 1-3-6-3 put-out.

But Cabrera would come back to haunt the Red Sox, and not in a pleasant “we loved your handshakes and contributions in 2004” sort of way. He had already doubled to plate two runs in the fifth. The shortstop walked to reach first and hung around the keystone as A.J. Pierzynski’s caromed off the right field fence.

Drew got the throw into the infield quickly and Dustin Pedroia decided to throw to Jed Lowrie instead of going home with the relay. Lowrie received the ball just as Cabrera approached third. Just as Pedroia did, instead of going home with the ball Lowrie decided Pierzynski was the quarry.

As the rundown unwound, Cabrera was able to reach home before the White Sox backstop was tagged out, making the score 4-0. Had the Red Sox stopped the run, Pedroia’s homer would have tied the score.

Carlos Quentin’s eighth inning longball perhaps renders the outcome of the Pierzynski rundown moot, but it was a frustrating play. Cabrera probably developed a special handshake with Pierzynski as a result.

August 7, 2008


Game 115: August 6, 2008
WinRed Sox 8 W: Tim Wakefield (7-8) 66-49, 2 game winning streak
Royals 2 L: Luke Hochevar (6-10) 53-62, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: The pronunciation of Hochevar’s surname borders on obscene, but his stuff is not as nasty as his name. The visitors secured a series win with J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie, David Ortiz, and Jacoby Ellsbury driving in runs.

Jacoby Ellsbury was rewarded by Terry Francona for his improving results at the plate by being moved up from the nine-hole to seventh in the order. Ellbsury responded with a 3-for-4 showing, including homer to dead center. The three-run longball in the seventh was the ball hawk’s first dinger since June 15.

Ellsbury made a patented dash-and-dive catch in the fifth, but this one was especially remarkable as the center fielder encroached into the fringes of the infielder’s territory. He bellyflopped with Alex Cora and Jed Lowrie sprinting to the same spot and gloved his counterpart Mitch Maier’s short fly.

The camera captured Cora saying what millions of people watching the game said. “Wow.”

Even though he is one of the hottest hitters in the league, Dustin Pedroia got last night off and Cora got the chance to shake off some rust. Like Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie was recompensed for his solid production with a promotion: the shortstop moved from the seventh slot to Pedroia’s usual spot in the two-hole.

The shifting lineup created the exact number of runs as the regular lineup did the prior evening, even with an unexpected replacement. Luke Hochevar uncorked a pitch inside to Kevin Youkilis that nailed the Red Sox first baseman’s right hand in the first. Youkilis stayed in the game only to be doubled off first when Mike Lowell lined out to the pitcher.

The hand that so artfully flutters about the handle of the bat before a swing was merely contused, not broken. Youkilis will not have to be placed on the disabled list, but even if he did Sean Casey is a more than serviceable backup plan at first.

As whiffling as Youkilis’s hand and as slow as Casey rounding the bases was Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. The Royals batters were perplexed by the eccentric pitches that Frisbeed at them; they only managed to score on a sequence of three singles in the fifth. Even in that spate of hits Kansas City needed help from their opponents’ misfortune. A passed ball with John Buck at the dish allowed two runners to move into scoring position, but otherwise Kevin Cash had as tranquil a night behind the plate as one can have when in a tandem with Wakefield.

August 6, 2008


Game 114: August 5, 2008
WinRed Sox 8 W: Josh Beckett (10-8) 65-49, 1 game winning streak
Royals 2 L: Brian Bannister (7-10) 53-61, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Beckett attained double digits in wins at last. In 2007 he was one of the first in the league to reach 10 wins on his way to 20. This year has proved to be a struggle for consistency and run support, but a perfect balance was struck last night. Beckett went six and two-third innings with a tally of four hits, two earned runs, two walks, and two strikeouts. One of the runs was allowed by Mike Timlin, but the mop-up man settled in to shut down the home team lineup in the eighth. In a mere nine pitches Chris Smith dismissed three Royals, securing the win.

Kauffman Stadium ground rules state:

Foul poles -- above surrounding fenceline is a home run. Below surrounding fenceline is in play.
Ball going into dugout, camera bays or hitting padded protective railings along dugout is out of play.
Ball hitting guy wires supporting backstop screen is the same as ball going into stands.
Batted or thrown ball that hits tarpaulin area cover is in play.
Thrown ball lodging in or under backstop protective canvas and remaining: 2 bases; Pitched ball: 1 base.

Furthermore, the page for Universal Ground Rules incorrectly states that Kauffman, along with Yankee Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field, have no specific ground rules of their own.

At any rate, all the rules are strangely mute on the padded walls of the outfield. So neither page came handy for the sixth inning of last night’s game. Jason Bay’s leadoff hit to left-center was knocked on top of the wall by Mitch Maier and then pulled back into the field of play by left fielder Ross Gload. After the spectacle in center resolved, Kevin Youkilis scored, Mike Lowell advanced to third (painfully), and Bay stood at second.

Lowell and Bay scored on Jed Lowrie’s fence-hugging triple. He was rewarded for his achievements by being moved into the two slot for tonight’s game. Who-lio Lugo who? Lowrie also smothered a sharp grounder by John Buck in the second far to his right, verging on Lowell’s territory. He popped up with a quickness and made an unerring throw to Youkilis for the out.

Other rookies contributed as well: Jacoby Ellsbury swiped his first base since July 1. Emboldened by his steals, in the sixth Ellsbury tried to score on Alex Gordon’s fielding error. Jason Varitek crossed the plate but the center fielder was thrown out at home.

It was Bay who got the accolades in the form of a foam pie in the face from David Ortiz. If that is the reward for going 4-for-5, hopefully Bay enjoys menthol freshness and won’t be dissuaded from future stellar showings.

August 5, 2008


Game 113: August 4, 2008
Red Sox 3 L: Clay Buchholz (2-7) 64-49, 1 game losing streak
WinRoyals 4 W: Gil Meche (10-9)
H: Ramon Ramirez (15)
H: Ron Mahay (19)
S: Joakim Soria (32)
53-60, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Crown Vision, the mammoth high definition screen in Kauffman, looks about as big as Fenway’s center field. Finding this link to a video of its construction was the highlight of my night.

Lou Merloni is a no holds barred commentator. He intimated that teams are playing poorly on the road because of the stricter control of amphetamines. Kathryn Tappen cut to commercial after his comment, although it seemed to be a planned transition rather than a forced one.

In the first inning Mark Teahen played Dustin Pedroia too shallow, allowing a double to soar over his head and advance J.D. Drew to third. Drew was plated on David Ortiz’s ground out to first for the first run of the evening.

Teahen didn’t learn his lesson and allowed Kevin Youkilis to double to right for another score. But Gil Meche settled down for the next five innings to shut out his opponents.

So far this season Clay Buchholz has been far removed from the rookie who hurled a no-hitter in his second start. Bartolo Colon made a rehab start for Pawtucket tonight and lasted just two outs while giving up four hits and three earned runs, so an upgrade to the rotation is not on the horizon.

With a little more luck and a tad more incompetence from the Royals’ quarter Boston could have pulled out a win last night. Coco Crisp smacked a single to center to commence the ninth after strikeouts in his three other at bats. Drew was called out when third base umpire Lance Barksdale said he went around, but Pedroia dropped a single into shallow left because Esteban German, unlike Teahen, didn’t underestimate the Red Sox second baseman.

Ortiz advanced the runners on a ground out to Ross Gload, the defensive replacement at first who didn’t try for the game-ending double play. Terry Francona had Jacoby Ellsbury pinch run for Pedroia and Trey Hillman countered by intentionally walking Youkilis to get to the new guy, Jason Bay.

Bay reached on a ground ball that had Alex Gordon and Tony Peña, Jr. colliding; ironically, the latter was inserted by Hillman as a defensive replacement. Crisp scored from third and a come-from-behind win seemed to be in the offing.

But by the ninth Teahen learned his lesson and played deep enough to glove Sean Casey’s fly ball for the final out.

August 4, 2008

Autokōsu [アウトコース]

Game 112: August 3, 2008
Athletics 2 L: Dallas Braden (2-2) 53-57, 6 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 5 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (12-2)
H: Hideki Okajima (19)
H: Manny Delcarmen (15)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)
64-48, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Autokōsu has nothing to do with cars but rather means the outside pitch, which the Japanese refer to as “out-course.” Of course there is also inkōsu [インコース] for the inside pitch. Matsuzaka was working both yesterday in his 12th victory of the season. Incidentally, both terms also apply to golf and mean the front nine and the back nine respectively. Matsuzaka plays a mean round of golf, sporting a 7 handicap.

Maybe Jerry Remy is jealous of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s golfing prowess, for he sure has a burr under his saddle when it comes to this particular starting pitcher. Remy was on Matsuzaka’s case in the top of the fourth after Jack Cust worked the count full after falling behind 0-2.

“Another typical start by him,” groused the announcer. Cust proceeded to whiff on the next pitch and Matsuzaka struck out the side. Cust had walked in the first inning in an eight-pitch at bat, but even Remy admitted the final called strike by Brian Gorman was bogus.

Just another typical start by Matsuzaka in that the game was won. With Jon Lester’s no-hitter and emergence, other starters’ successes have paled in comparison. But outside of the spotlight the sophomore pitcher has put together a tidy season whether or not Remy deigns to acknowledge it.

Jason Bay didn’t homer this game but he did benefit from a fortuitous carom off of the left field stands in the first inning, intercepting Mark Ellis at the keystone sack before he extended a single into a double. It seems with every play by Bay on the field the fans rejoice, thinking to themselves that Manny would have never gotten that (even though in some cases, like this most favorable ricochet, he would have).

Rookie Carlos Gonzalez profited from another odd bounce off the center field garage door opening that had Coco Crisp chasing after the ball into the triangle. Gonzalez stood at third in the top of the second with no outs; in such situations at least one run will score more than 50% of the time. Matsuzaka struck out the next two batters and induced a fly ball out off the bat of Daric Barton.

The center field giveth and the center field taketh away, or rather, lackluster play by a young player that should be trying to impress both his peers and the brass taketh away. Gonzalez drifted lazily after Jed Lowrie’s fly ball and found himself waving his glove in vain after the missile. This time it was Lowrie who stood at third, but he had two runs to boast of for his efforts.

Barton would come back in the fifth to extract two runs out of the otherwise stingy arm of the Red Sox pitching staff with a homer into the visitors’ bullpen. But that only brought his team within two runs of the home team.

A rain delay broke up Jason Varitek’s sixth-inning at bat. He had worked the count full against Joey Devine batting lefty and then switched to righty with Alan Embree taking over for Devine after the 37-minute rain delay. Varitek chased a slider away for the final strike, and Embree got credit for the punchout even though he only threw a single pitch against the backstop.

Hopefully the rain delay gave Mike Lowell the chance to rest up. Despite the availability of Sean Casey and Kevin Youkilis at the corners and the fact that Lowell looked less sound than Kirk Gibson circa 1988 running the bases, Terry Francona used the grizzled third baseman for the entirety of the game.

August 3, 2008


Game 111: August 2, 2008
Athletics 2 L: Dana Eveland (7-8) 53-56, 5 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 12 W: Jon Lester (10-3) 63-48, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: After an unsteady beginning Lester found his bearings to secure a series win. The southpaw allowed a two-run homer by his personal nemesis Emil Brown with one out in the first, but those would be the only runs the visitors would put on the board. Lester whiffed five batters, walked a lone hitter, and permitted seven hits over seven innings.

Just a few days ago a two-run deficit seemed insurmountable to the Red Sox’s deficient offense. Last night, Kevin Youkilis alone generated four RBIs on his pair of two-run homers. Just as the clubhouse composition has radically changed, so did the course of last night’s game with a revivified lineup.

Catalyst Dustin Pedroia led off with a humpback to left that caught Emil Brown in between playing on a hop and charging. Kevin Youkilis made fielding simple for Brown by lofting it over his head into the Monster seats to tie the game.

David Ortiz and Mike Lowell singled to center consecutively, demonstrating that Dana Eveland’s offerings were no mystery to the Boston hitters.

In his first game, Jason Bay showed that he could navigate the idiosyncrasies of Fenway’s left field. Last night, Bay proved that he could take to AL pitching quickly; he catapulted his first home run as a member of a the junior circuit with two on and none out on a 3-1 fastball that was numbers-high and slightly away. In the instant it took Bay’s lightning-fast swing to complete its circle his new team found itself with a comfortable lead.

The reinvigorated Red Sox tacked on more runs in the third, led by Lowell’s hustle double to the right field. Despite his balky hip, Lowell hurtled himself at second base while simultaneously evading Mark Ellis’s tag. Bay walked on five pitches, deftly taking sliders that are known to be his weakness. A single by J.D. Drew deflected off Daric Barton into right to load the bases for Jed Lowrie.

Perhaps lost in the hubbub around the shifting outfield is the solidity of Lowrie up the middle. Error-free in 132 innings at short, Lowrie has also been productive at the dish. The shortstop scorched a double up the first base line to clear the bases. It could have been a triple if right fielder Ryan Sweeney did not spontaneously develop a novel way of stopping the ball from eluding him and following the curve: like a goaltender Sweeney stood in the path of the ball and let his shins block the ball and then gathered the ball for a throw back to the diamond.

Based on last night’s results sending Craig Hansen to Pittsburgh was a positive move as well. The revamped Justin Masterson and the recalled Chris Smith combined for two perfect innings of relief.

Not only was the majority of the infield comprised of talent developed by the Red Sox, but so were all the pitchers used last night.

August 2, 2008


Game 110: August 1, 2008 ∙ 12 innings
Athletics 1 L: Alan Embree (1-4) 53-55, 4 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 2 H: Manny Delcarmen (17)
BS: Hideki Okajima (7)
W: Mike Timlin (4-3)
62-48, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Jason Bay selected 44 in honor of Eric Davis, who was not only a multi-year All-Star and Gold Glover but a survivor of colon cancer. Bay connects himself numerically with another player he idolized: 4 + 4 = Carl Yastrzemski. In his introductory press conference, Bay revealed that he had posters on his wall of Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. His father is an ardent Red Sox fan who dressed him in a Boston onesie. So he knows what this is all about.

He knows he is not going to replace Manny Ramirez: he stated this plainly and repeatedly in his press conference and interviews. This may be both good and bad. Good because the melodrama of the past week will be replaced by stability, but bad because normality can be damn boring. Bad because perhaps Bay’s career years will never approach Ramirez’s career years, but good because Ramirez is past his peak seasons and the Red Sox may have acquired Bay as he builds towards his zenith.

He knows how to take a pitch: Bay patiently waited out Justin Duchscherer in the second inning, watching four pitches away pass by and not getting tied up on a slider inside on the 3-1 count. He did this despite the long standing ovation he received that had him leaving the batter’s box twice and self-consciously tipping his helmet.

He knows how to be hit by a pitch graciously: by spinning his vital parts out of the path of the ball and allowing it to plunk him in the back to leadoff the fourth.

He knows how to field a short fly on the slide: the left fielder skimmed the turf legs-first to glove Ryan Sweeney’s batted ball to end the top half of the fifth frame. The scrutiny of the fans in the bank of seats looming over left field did not unnerve him.

He knows he has to learn how to play the wall to his advantage: but he seems to be a quick study. In the sixth he held Kurt Suzuki to a single by field the ball off the wall in his own style; not barehanded like Ramirez but with quick feet and a quick throw back to the infield that had Suzuki retreating to first.

He knows how to make a key hit at a crucial time: as witnessed by his twelfth inning triple high off the wall towards center. Bay legged it to third and almost immediately engaged DeMarlo Hale in intense conversation about the quirk of that hit in this capricious new park he patrols.

He knows how to run on contact: which allowed him to cross the plate with the winning run in extras on Jed Lowrie’s infield single.

He knows not to take take all the credit: when Heidi Watney proclaimed him a hero, he instantly deferred to his teammates and their efforts in this protracted game.

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