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Home » Category Listing » July 2008 Game Comments

August 2, 2008


Game 109: July 30, 2008
WinAngels 9 W: Joe Saunders (14-5) 67-40, 3 game winning streak
Red Sox 2 L: Josh Beckett (9-8) 61-48, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: The Angels firmly entrenched themselves as the class of the American League with their sweep of the Red Sox while on the road.

In the rush of activity and emotions around the trading deadline I didn’t realize I forgot to post about this game.

Teams love to unveil their new acquisitions at Fenway. The Yankees did so with Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte on July 26 and the Angels followed suit by placing Mark Teixeira in the in the three-hole. The switch-hitting slugger was 0-4 with two strikeouts and a walk, but his addition will further strengthen the AL West titans.

The Red Sox played the field like a troupe of clowns but without the facepaint or joviality. J.D. Drew was charged with an error in the fourth on his throw to home on Garret Anderson’s single, but perhaps the fault should be laid at the feet of Josh Beckett, who failed to back up home plate.

The sixth inning was like an interpretive dance of the turmoil surrounding Manny Ramirez. The Red Sox were not in sync on defense whatsoever. The leadoff walk to Torii Hunter and subsequent homer by Anderson set the stage for the aimless play of the defense.

Beckett threw a pickoff wildly with Jeff Mathis in the box, allowing Howie Kendrick to advance to third. The starter surrendered a double to Mathis and then a single to Chone Figgins, knocking him off the mound.

The pitching change to a fresh Manny Delcarmen did not improve play. Jason Varitek fired the ball into center on his attempt to stop Figgins from swiping second, allowing the Angels’ catcher to tack on a run. Jed Lowrie was given the error instead of Varitek, however.

After a sac fly by Maicer Izturis, Kevin Youkilis committed his fourth error of the season when Teixeira’s grounder clanged off his glove into shallow right.

Maladroitness proved contagious. Vladimir Guerrero dropped a fly ball into shallow center with Coco Crisp, Lowrie, and Dustin Pedroia all converging futilely. Youkilis didn’t rotate to second because he had been holding Teixeira at first. Perhaps Mike Lowell could have moved up to second but then if the threw came to the infield no one would be in position to cut it off nor defend third. Delcarmen didn’t have the wherewithal to commandeer second, so Crisp had to run in the ball from center.

It was as if the team were holding up a mirror to Manny: this is what we would look like if we put forth the effort on defense that he had recently shown on both sides of the ball. The team and the fans deserve better than that.

July 30, 2008


Game 108: July 29, 2008
WinAngels 6 W: John Lackey (9-2) 66-40, 2 game winning streak
Red Sox 2 L: Clay Buchholz (2-6) 61-47, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Lackey exorcised his Fenway demons last night by turning in a complete game win in which he nearly no-hit the local nine.

I am so sick of the brouhaha around this team. Dustin Pedroia is one of the few bright spots a fan can focus on in the past few days. The spark plug at second broke up John Lackey’ no-no with one out in the bottom of the ninth with firmly smacked single through the hole. Kevin Youkilis launched a homer into the Monster seats to crack the goose eggs in Boston’s line, but that was the sum total of his team offensive production.

There were just three other baserunners: J.D. Drew hit by pitch in the second, Pedroia base on balls in the sixth, and Manny Ramirez’s walk in the ninth after Youkilis’s long ball.

But all the media can concentrate on is Ramirez supposedly dogging it on a ground out to third. Even the normally objective and sedate Tom Caron ripped into the left fielder in the post-game show.

July 29, 2008

Āchi [アーチ]

Game 107: July 28, 2008
WinAngels 7 W: Jered Weaver (9-8)
H: Jose Arredondo (11)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (44)
65-40, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 5 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-2) 61-46, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Folks with Boston accents would feel comfortable with the Japanization of certain English words as they elide the alveolar approximant (a.k.a the English “R” sound). Āchi is the transliteration of “arch” and means home run in Japanese baseball slang. Matsuzaka surrendered two of them in the sixth inning and the Red Sox never recovered.

At least Jerry Remy stopped caviling about Daisuke Matsuzaka’s bases on balls for one night. Instead Matsuzaka ceded seven hits, the most harmful of them being the extra base knocks in the sixth inning. The now former Angel Casey Kotchman knocked in Chone Figgins and Torii Hunter blasted a three-run shot a couple of batters later.

Nothing in Matsuzaka’s five prior innings of work hinted at this disastrous inning. Although he only struck out three batters, he didn’t surrender anything past second base until the sixth, right after he walked Figgins. I wonder if John Farrell’s attitude towards Matsuzaka’s walks has impacted the pitcher negatively; rather than take in stride as he used to, now Matsuzaka may feel that he must avoid them at all costs. Once he handed out the free pass he became unhinged and the spate of runs began.

In that same inning, Mike Scioscia ran the squeeze play with Jeff Mathis in the box and Howie Kendrick at third. Scioscia is a manager who believes himself to be smarter than his peers but also feels that he must display how much more intelligent he is at every turn. Thanks for showing Terry Francona all of the ploys in your bag of tricks in July; I’m sure that the same chicanery won’t work in October.

Exhibits A and B in the case against trading Manny Ramirez: in the fourth, when the Red Sox finally got more than one man on base with Kevin Youkilis’s leadoff walk and David Ortiz’s opposite field double, Ramirez plated them both by taking the outside pitch to the right-center gap.

In the ninth, only Ramirez got to Francisco Rodriguez, the closer who is on a historic ride through the 2008 season. Manny took K-Rod for a ride, right into the Monster seats.

July 28, 2008


Game 106: July 27, 2008
Yankees 2 L: Sidney Ponson (6-2) 58-46, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 9 W: Jon Lester (9-3) 61-45, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Can you imagine how much dirt the grounds crew would have to wheel over to the mound if both Ponson and Bartolo Colon were pitching last night? There would be a hole the size of Chicxulub Crater where their landing feet would touch earth. But even the impact of Ponson’s foot paled in comparison to the shockwaves throughout New England caused by Manny Ramirez.

It almost is Nomar redux. The same unease is eating away at my innards. From all quarters, the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, the Herald’s Steve Buckley, and ESPN via Peter Gammons, Manny Ramirez is under fire.

The difference between l’affaire Garciaparra and the Ramirez imbroglio is that Nomar, despite all that he meant to the Red Sox, could be replaced, and there were successors who could palliate the defensive woes that plagued the 2004 team while providing a viable bat.

How would or could the 2008 Red Sox replace one of the top right-handed bats in history by July 31?

That’s a question I don’t want to have spiraling in my brain come October when some Ramirez replacement freezes in the face of a Francisco Rodriguez fastball after David Ortiz is intentionally walked to get to him.

At first I was somewhat tepid about the thorough tromping of the Yankees by the Red Sox last night. The best baseball analyst in the business, Orel Hershiser, supplanted Joe Morgan for one evening, adding to the enjoyment of the evening.

Then the requisite in-game interview came on with Terry Francona. When he spoke about Jon Lester, he looked and sounded like a proud father. That’s when you remember that there is more to the game than petty player squabbling and front office gerrymandering of their media mouthpieces.

There’s a pitcher assuming the mantle of ace against a despised adversary at a pivotal point in the series. There’s the first home run by a fully-recovered designated hitter arced into the right field stands. There’s the luxury of a summoning a four-time World Series reliever, aged 42 years, to close out a blowout.

And then the anxiety about Manny subsides, for at least with this win the Red Sox remain one step ahead of the Yankees rather than deadlocked with them.

July 27, 2008


Game 105: July 26, 2008
WinYankees 10 W: Andy Pettitte (12-7)
H: Damaso Marte (16)
H: Edwar Ramirez (3)
58-45, 8 game winning streak
Red Sox 3 L: Tim Wakefield (6-8) 60-45, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: In the first inning the Red Sox scored more runs then they did the entirety of the series opener, but this game was far from a pitchers’ duel. Pettitte started off shaky but settled down in his annoying, veteran, peek-from-behind the glove way that he has done for the better part of a decade with the Yankees. If only he stayed with the Astros.

In his career against Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez has a .416 batting average, .465 on-base percentage, and .675 slugging percentage with four home runs. But yesterday Ramirez had no hits: not on the field, nor with the Red Sox front office, nor with the Boston media.

The atmosphere of circling sharks around toothsome chum seems similar to July 31, 2004 when Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs. Add in a touch of the five-game sweep by the Yankees in August 2006 and you have the makings of a dismal phase in the defending champions’ season.

Jere and I at least got to see a superb shot by J.D. Drew into the bleachers in the sixth and Alex Rodriguez get plunked by Craig Hansen in the eighth.

July 26, 2008


Game 104: July 25, 2008
WinYankees 1 W: Joba Chamberlain (3-3)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (11)
S: Mariano Rivera (26)
57-45, 7 game winning streak
Red Sox 0 L: Josh Beckett (9-7) 60-44, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: The two starters from last night game are inextricably linked; they are both right-handed fireballers possessed of immense talent and intense personalities. Beckett reacted strongly to Chamberlain’s headhunting of Kevin Youkilis in last year's tilt on August 30. The Red Sox were blanked in that game just as they were last night, but this time Chamberlain started the game rather than relieved.

Joba Chamberlain’s aggressive tendencies manifested themselves in the bottom of the seventh against his favorite target Kevin Youkilis. Jerry Remy was adamant that Chamberlain’s high and inside fastball that seemed destined for Youkilis’s noggin was not a purpose pitch. With the score 1-0, the bases empty, and none out, Chamberlain ensured that all the circumstances supported his profession that he had no intention of beaning his quarry.

Remy is usually on target with his analysis but I think he was off base in this instance. He said Chamberlain would have to be incredibly dumb to pull such a stunt, and I believe that the pitcher is capable of such a stunning combination of idiocy and hubris. At least he is not as stupid of James Shields and actually state for the record what his intentions were.

Not only did Chamberlain risk the game to exercise his petty piece of spite, he exhibited typical Yankee cowardice in doing so. He waited until Josh Beckett was out of the game and selected a recipient with whom he had history. As home plate umpire Marty Foster was obligated to warn the dugouts after the attempt, Red Sox pitchers were handcuffed from retaliation because of Foster’s injunction.

Meanwhile, the Yankees front office made a move to bolster their outfield and bullpen by acquiring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates for pitchers Ross Ohlendorf, George Kontos, and Phil Coke and outfielder Jose Tabata. Tabata, the 37th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, is the jewel of the deal for Pittsburgh.

David Ortiz made a triumphant return in terms of spirit if not results: the designated hitter went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. His return was dampened by Manny Ramirez’s last minute scratch from the lineup. This blandly-stated Associated Press clipping belies the turmoil that the left fielder has been causing if not in the clubhouse at least in media outlets and the Boston front office.

Perhaps, like Nady, Ramirez will be wearing a different uniform than the one he started the season with by the end of this weekend.

I’ll be going to today’s game thanks to Jere from A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory. I thank him for the ticket and for sparing me from the Fox broadcast.

July 24, 2008


Game 103: July 23, 2008 ∙ 12 innings
WinRed Sox 6 W: Jonathan Papelbon (4-3)
S: Craig Hansen (2)
60-43, 3 game winning streak
Mariners 3 L: Sean Green (2-3) 38-63, 5 game losing streak
Highlights: The Rangers, the Nationals, the Mariners, and the Rays have never been to the World Series. Coincidentally, Alex Rodriguez has been on half of those teams. Since Rodriguez joined the Yankees in 2004, the team has not been to the Fall Classic, but his addition merely extended the Gotham goons trophy-free streak intact since 2001. (Just warming up for the upcoming series.)

I got home in time for the fifth inning and I thought it would be nice to catch the last four innings to put away a series sweep. Jose Vidro had other plans.

Vidro, the former second baseman converted to designated hitter, possesses a career slugging percentage of .445. In contrast, the Red Sox expect their invaluable DH to return to the lineup tomorrow, a man who has slugged .555 throughout his 11 seasons in the majors. Vidro, playing the role of the blind squirrel, found a nut in Clay Buchholz’s 2-0 fastball in the bottom of the sixth. When the unlikely homer settled into the right field stands, the score stood at 3-3 and Buchholz would continue to toe the rubber and allow a walk and single.

Starter-turned-reliever Justin Masterson was next in the procession of young and lanky Red Sox hurlers to fend off the Mariners. Masterson proceeded to strike out the next two batters in the inning and then pitched the next two innings perfectly.

The problem with extra-inning getaway games played on the West Coast is that the stomach-churning pivotal plays inevitably happen in the midst of supper time. In the bottom of the eleventh Jonathan Papelbon found himself in a jam after allowing an infield pop-up single with English drop for the hot-hitting(?!) Vidro and then a line shot single off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt.

With runners on the corners and one out Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis circuited the ball around the bases for an inning-ending, game-saving double play. And in my exultation I nearly failed to exhale as a morsel of my chicken Caesar salad went down the wrong pipe.

Craig Hansen did not close out the game as breezily as Papelbon did the night before, but he was a good boy and cleaned up his own mess. With the bases loaded and two out Vidro had another chance to tilt the game to his team’s favor, but the nominal DH failed to turn in his first multi-homer game since April 14, 2007.

Vidro tapped out to Pedroia to seal the game and the ninth series sweep this season. With momentum mounting the Red Sox return home to greet a bevy of unwelcome but obligatory guests.

Furukauntobyō [フルカウント病]

Game 102: July 22, 2008
WinRed Sox 4 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (18)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
59-43, 2 game winning streak
Mariners 2 L: R.A. Dickey (2-5) 38-62, 4 game losing streak
Highlights: There’s a sarcastic term for pitchers who get to full counts too often, フルカウント病, comprised of katakana for “full count” with the kanji for illness tacked on at the end. The English equivalent would be “full count-itis,” a malady that Matsuzaka has suffered from time to time this season. On Tuesday night, however, the hurler reached 3-2 just twice: against Jose Vidro in the fourth, which would result in a single, and in the fifth against Worcester-born Bryan LaHair, which ended in a ground out to second.

Daisuke Matsuzaka also seems to have had a base on ball-orectomy, as he allowed half as many walks as strikeouts. His success can be partially attributed to the futility of Seattle’s offense, but Matsuzaka seemed to making a conscious effort not to nibble.

J.D. Drew lofted a ball over the agile leap of Ichiro Suzuki in the first for an early lead. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia led another charge in the fifth with consecutive singles. The floundering Ellsbury had reached with a bunt single, which garnered much appreciation from Jerry Remy. The power that the center fielder flashed in his debut season seemed to have all but abandoned him, requiring that the leadoff hitter find other ways to get on base. Pedroia continued to rake, his single nicking the left field line on its trip to Raul Ibanez’s glove.

Drew sacrificed in Ellsbury while Mike Lowell doubled over Ibanez’s head to plate Pedroia. Manny Ramirez singled on a rope to left and dashed to third on Lowell’s two-bagger, putting him into position to score on Jed Lowrie’s sac fly to left.

Those runs proved crucial as Matsuzaka’s strength ebbed in the eighth and he was unable to fend off Bryan LaHair, Suzuki, and Jose Lopez, who combined for two runs. Hideki Okajima took the mound with a man on base; his baffling array of pitches confounded the Mariners and staunched the rally. Jonathan Papelbon took over in the ninth and provided a drama-free save.

I spent much of the game providing instant message commentary to Jere’s (of the renown A Red Sox from Pinstripe Territory) YouCastr broadcast, where he goes by the handle of GedMan, naturally. I may join him next week and everyone is welcome. I suspect it will be something like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” meets The Onion with a touch of Rap Replinger, if I may inflate our potential audience’s expectations.

July 22, 2008


Game 101: July 21, 2008
WinRed Sox 4 W: Jon Lester (8-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (29)
58-43, 1 game winning streak
Mariners 0 L: Jarrod Washburn (4-9) 38-61, 3 game losing streak
Highlights: Perhaps Jason Varitek wanted to vindicate Jon Lester’s loss of the “Best Moment” ESPY award to softball players Sara Tucholsky, Liz Wallace, and Mallory Holtman, who were indeed part of an inspiring moment but only because an umpire misinterpreted a rule. Whatever it was that motivated the Red Sox backstop to blast a two-run homer in the fifth will hopefully carry him through the rest of this season, which has been his poorest since his rookie season. In contrast Lester is having his best season in his young career, surpassing purported ace Josh Beckett. Besides his no-hitter, this eight-inning, six strikeout, and no walk performance was amongst his best of the year and came when his team needed it most.

Flashback: Spring Training 2008

Manny: Hey, Peewee, have you heard this before? [Passes Dustin his iPod.]

Dustin: Uh, I think I remember hearing this when I was in sixth grade or something. Are they from like Ireland or something?

Manny: Yeah, man. It’s the Cranberries! Aren’t they awesome? I love Dolores’s voice, it’s so intense, man.

Dustin: I don’t know, dude. I roll with Snoop, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, y'know, that kind of shiz.

Manny: [Sings] “Unhappiness where’s when I was young and we didn’t give a damn....” I should make this my at bat music when we get back to Fenway, yeah?

Dustin: Umm....

Manny: [Frowns] You don’t like it?

Dustin: Dude, for at bat music, it has to be loud and funky and shit. It has to strike fear into the heart of the pitcher.

Manny: [Laughs] Millar, he said the stuff that comes flying out of my hair does that.

Dustin: Not to mention that stuff that clogs up the shower drains. Isn’t there a more hardcore song on that disc?

Manny: Well, there’s one, but that one’s not the real me, man.

Dustin: I’m telling you, you bust out “Dreaming My Dreams” or “Linger” or some shit like that you are gonna be called a bitch. Like a bigger bitch than A-Rod.

Manny: Okay, okay, I got another one in mind then.

Dustin: Good! What is it?

Manny: [Winks] It’s gonna be a surprise. [Wanders off to the batting cages at Johnny Pesky Field, singing] “In your he-ead, in your he-eh-eh-ead! Zombie! Zombie! Zombie, eh eh! In your he-ead, in your he-eh-eh-ead....”

July 21, 2008


Game 100: July 20, 2008
Red Sox 3 L: Tim Wakefield (6-7) 57-43, 3 game losing streak
WinAngels 5 W: Darren Oliver (3-1)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (40)
60-38, 5 game winning streak
Highlights: Darren Oliver isn’t retired yet? The adage that when you’re left-handed and can still get the ball on the black you can pitch in perpetuity was proven by Oliver last night. The same can be said for knuckleballers like Wakefield, but definitely not of the ferocious mechanics of Rodriguez. How this man’s arm remains attached to his body is beyond me, and yet he is on pace to shatter the single season saves record. It is fitting that in such a season that the inventor of the save, Jerome Holtzman, passed away this weekend. He was 82. Numerologic coincidence: Eric Gagne pitched 82 and one-third innings in the three consecutive years where he was a dominating closer, 2002-2004.

But for back-to-back homers propelled by Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter in the second and Manny Delcarmen’s unpropitious propensity towards allowing inherited runners to score the Red Sox may have broken their post-Midsummer Classic slump.

Instead of watching this game I would have preferred three hours or so of people who have met and played with Dustin Pedroia reminiscing about the diminutive middle infielder. Peter Gammons mentioned that Pedroia even got the dour Barry Bonds to laugh; when the slugger reached second base Pedroia said to him, “Sorry about all your records I broke at Arizona State.”

Even Joe Morgan got into the act. He related an anecdote where a Blue Jays catcher told Pedroia that no one on their team knew how to get him out.

“Neither does the rest of the league,” quipped Dustin.

And that was the sum total of enjoyment from what was ultimately one of the most disappointing games of the season thus far.

July 20, 2008


Game 99: July 19, 2008
Red Sox 2 L: Josh Beckett (9-6) 57-42, 2 game losing streak
WinAngels 4 W: Jose Arredondo (4-0)
H: Scot Shields (20)
S: Francisco Rodriguez (39)
59-38, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: A disappointing loss as both the Rays and Yankees squeaked out wins.

It also showed that Mike Scioscia’s National League Lite management style can deliver a win here and there. Vladimir Guerrero homered to leadoff the seventh, and rather than wait for another moonshot as Earl Weaver would have, Scioscia had Reggie Willits sacrifice bunt.

The move, right out of Tony LaRussa’s textbook, came with two men on and none out. Terry Francona countered by having Josh Beckett intentionally walk Howie Kendrick so there would be a force at every station.

Erick Aybar pinch hit for catcher Jeff Mathis and sneaked a hit by Kevin Youkilis. If Youkilis played the line a bit closer, perhaps Aybar wouldn’t have been standing on third with three runs batted in under his belt.

If Jed Lowrie had played a few inches to his left, Torii Hunter may not have made it to first and been part of the three-run rally.

If Coco Crisp had not made a spectacular play on Casey Kotchman’s fly that would have cleared the wall that hems in the faux nature scene in center, the game may not have remained so tantalizingly within reach.

A game of ifs and inches, indeed.

The lack of inches on Dustin Pedroia’s height did not hinder him from having four multi-hit games in a row. Fellow homegrown product Youkilis homered for the second game in a row, but his two runs would be the only offense the Red Sox would muster.

Good thing the American League All-Stars overcame their National League brethren, for it seems this Boston team much prefers Fenway.

July 19, 2008


Game 98: July 18, 2008
Red Sox 3 L: Clay Buchholz (2-5) 57-41, 1 game losing streak
WinAngels 11 W: John Lackey (7-2) 58-38, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Buchholz got into trouble early. Consecutive doubles by Casey Kotchman and Maicer Izturis were followed by RBI singles authored by Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson. The latter had a superlative 4-for-5 outing with five RBIs and a solo shot in the fourth. Not only does Los Angeles have doctors that can make your face and body look younger but apparently specialists that can make you play younger, at least for one night. The regular season Angels are their usual ascendant selves, but we know how the tables turn in the postseason.

Clay Buchholz’s problem is perhaps he is too young. As bright as his future may be, his present has fell short of perhaps unfair expectations. For the fourth straight outing Buchholz surrendered four or more earned runs and lasted less than six innings.

For the Red Sox most of the action happened off the field. In the pre-game show Gordon Edes refuted Bob Lobel’s report (as posted by Steve Silva) that Manny Ramirez’s fine for his assault of Jack McCormick was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as Ramirez’s retaliation for the fine was to take three straight strikes from Mariano Rivera in the July 6 game at Yankee Stadium.

The many facets of Manny were on display in the game as well. In the third he launched a missile to the opposite field seats to tie the game in the fourth. His 19th homer of the year added on to Kevin Youkilis’s two-run longball in the second.

Just as Ramirez is adept at making breath-taking shots he is capable of side-splitting blunders. In the bottom of the sixth Ramirez slid after Maicer Izturis’s loopy fly ball and missed by the length of at least two of his dreadlocks. He then tumbled backwards over the ball and made a Twister-like move to get it out from under him. By the time it got back to the infield Izturis stood safely at third.

The three runs by Boston fell well short of keeping Boston in the game. The Angels’ offense came alive, tying their season-high run total of 11, a mark they last made on July 11 to win against the Rangers.

This loss and the Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind win had the dueling teams switch places in the AL East standings. Will superstar egos and the resulting media fallout hobble the Red Sox or will the greenhorn Rays stumble because of lack of veteran leadership?

For Boston there is hope on the horizon with David Ortiz’s successful steps towards returning to the majors (and whose presence will likely ease Ramirez’s attitude problems), but without a trade the Rays will be a youthful hodgepodge of talent without a core presence to stabilize them.

July 14, 2008

Manrui [満塁]

Game 97: July 13, 2008
Orioles 1 L: Daniel Cabrera (6-5) 45-48, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (10-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (17)
H: Manny Delcarmen (13)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (28)
57-40, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Just as he wriggles prior to delivery Matsuzaka wriggled out of a bases-loaded situation (manrui in Japanese) in the fifth. Unfortunately, the Red Sox squandered several scoring opportunities, including ducks on the pond for Manny Ramirez in the fourth, leading to 20 players left on base and a score that mimics a pitchers’ duel but was far from it.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka’s tendency to nibble and Daniel Cabrera’s predilection for wildness the pair of starters combined for 11 bases on balls. At least Matsuzaka struck out seven while doing so; Cabrera only managed two. Yet only three runs were scored, and the Orioles’ only run came in the ninth off a shaky Jonathan Papelbon.

Already Don Orsillo’s cropping out of Jerry Remy in the former’s picture with Kevin Costner became a sign meme for fans. Don and Remy dwelled on the Vermont Teddy Bears a bit too long in the bottom of the second, but some sort of relief had to be had from what was a tedious game despite the tight score.

Freddie Bynum at shortstop made Julio Lugo look like Ozzie Smith. In the bottom of the first he stumbled after a grounder off the bat of Dustin Pedroia and then worsened the situation by chucking the ball up the first base line, far away from Aubrey Huff’s mitt. Pedroia would score on J.D. Drew’s ringing double to the left field wall.

There was an audible clank when Bynum failed to glove Manny Ramirez’s batted ball up the middle in the third with one on and one out. He must have breathed a sigh of relief when the infield fly rule was called on Mike Lowell’s pop-up.

With similar finesse Sean Casey glided around the bases to stretch singles into doubles. He was successful in the fourth but failed in the seventh. I think second base umpire Lance Barksdale took pity on Casey the first time but charity can only go so far. Give a man a double, you have fed him for today; teach a man to just stop doing that and you have fed him for a lifetime.

As much as I enjoy the bullpen band I can’t help but see Craig Hansen’s vigorous pounding for the bass line and think that I have discovered the source of his inconsistency. Remember what Guitar Hero did to Joel Zumaya and real guitar playing did to Bronson Arroyo and Barry Zito. Pitching and performing music does not mix.

July 13, 2008


Game 96: July 12, 2008
Orioles 1 L: Radhames Liz (3-2) 45-47, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 12 W: Tim Wakefield (6-6) 56-40, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: A few sketchy sites on name origins tell me that the unusual name “Radhames” is derived from the Latin word for red. The Red Sox wore their red uniforms and improved their record in these particular togs to 3-1.

I have been reserving my opinion on Heidi Watney until I had enough of her work to evaluate. She certainly meets the eye candy quotient required of such a role with her perfectly sculptured features, glistening blond hair, and sparkling blue eyes. Her presentation and interview skills are better than those of her predecessor Tina Cervasio.

In yesterday’s pre-game show she had the MLB notebook segment with Gordon Edes, who talked about how the Cubs came back to win after Carlos Marmol blew the lead and the opportunity for Rich Harden’s first win as a Northsider. In an homage to Harry Caray he intoned “Cubs win!” thrice. Watney obliviously and somewhat condescendingly thanked Edes for his enthusiasm.

Of course the more appropriate response would have been something alluding to Caray. For bonus points she could have said, “Not quite as good as Will Ferrell’s, but we’ll take it.” So I adjudge her to be a competent spokesperson, but she could just as easily be selling Mercurys on commercials. She doesn’t have a soul for sports.

J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez displayed that elusive skill of power to all fields back-to-back in the first inning. Drew neatly dropped his shot off the top of wall while Mike Timlin made a rare miss with his towel of Ramirez’s blast.

Kevin Youkilis had a career-high six RBIs made possible by his career-first grand slam in the third. Youkilis took off his helmet to avoid getting his head spanked at home, but Ramirez tried to whack his head anyway. The first baseman playfully swatted Manny’s hand away. I’m sure Dan Shaughnessy will find some way to spin the incident negatively.

Tim Wakefield has been the linchpin of the shifting Red Sox rotation. Although his record sits at .500, no other stater has as many quality starts as the knuckleballer. He seems to have been rejuvenated by Kevin Cash’s presence. It was often said that Doug Mirabelli was Wakefield’s pitching coach, and Cash has assumed and perhaps even improved upon his predecessor’s performance. Not only has Wakefield’s personal backstop has applied himself to this role, he has done so while maintaining a .242 batting average, .307 on-base percentage, and .374 slugging, which is quite a decent line for a backup.

July 12, 2008


Game 95: July 11, 2008
WinOrioles 7 W: Brian Burres (7-5)
H: Chad Bradford (13)
H: Jim Johnson (15)
S: George Sherrill (28)
45-46, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 3 L: Clay Buchholz (2-4) 55-40, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Last night’s defeat marked Boston’s first loss against a southpaw since their fall to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels on June 16. A frustrating loss for the Red Sox lineup that had more hits than the Orioles, 8-7, but as a team stranded 17. Buchholz vacillated between dazzling and dreadful in his five innings of work.

In the first inning Clay Buchholz relinquished a leadoff double to Brian Roberts, who then swiped third. This set up a quick sacrifice fly off the bat of Adam Jones for an early lead by the slumping Orioles.

Buchholz was fortunate to escape the top frame with just two runs on the board as he walked three batters. Then in the third the lissome right-hander struck out the side with just 14 pitches. Such is the way of aces in training.

In the midst of the top half of the first Terry Francona got the attention of Jerry Remy and asked him to turn off a particularly bright light in the NESN booth. Next time Francona can just ask Manny Ramirez to call Jerry and Don from the Monster.

In another moment of levity, Melvin Mora shook the hand of a fan after his failed pursuit of a foul ball into the stands in the bottom of the first. I would gladly share a Polski Pump with Baltimore’s third baseman as it was his bunt single off Mariano Rivera in the 10th with the bases loaded and two outs that sealed the Red Sox’s AL East division title last year.

When attempting to be part of the home team’s rally in the bottom of the ninth Julio Lugo collapsed when running out a ground ball. He stumbled safely to first and Alex Cora was brought in to pinch run for him.

On the positive side, Lugo’s left quad injury led to Jed Lowrie being summoned for a second stint with the big league club. That will give Lugo time to work out his anger over Doug Eddings’s second inning call at first.

July 10, 2008


Game 94: July 9, 2008
Twins 5 L: Livan Hernandez (9-6) 50-41, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 18 W: Josh Beckett (9-5)
H: Javier Lopez (9)
H: Craig Hansen (7)
55-39, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: The only Red Sox player not to get a hit or run yesterday was pinch runner Jeff Bailey. Boston attained their highest run total of the season thus far.

The numbers were staggering. Crooked numbers littered the H column just as Brian Bass’s shards of self-esteem are scattered around the mound in Fenway.

The recounting of slugfests are often boring to write. Every inning is peppered with action making it hard to extract the flavor of the game. This game was different thanks to a few oddball seasonings tossed in to lend a unique taste to this smörgåsbord of scores.

From the start Josh Beckett wasn’t at his sharpest but neither was Denard Span. Perhaps Span’s looting of Red Sox hits to right field began to weigh on his conscience: he was caught stealing after earning a free pass. Despite the gift out, however, the Twins would score three runs in the first inning.

Beckett had some latitude because of the hurler (using the term loosely) opposing him. Livan Hernandez’s fastball is slower than Beckett’s change-up and the Twins starter’s change-up is slower than Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. His combination of slow and slower was a key ingredient to the four-course third inning. Manny Ramirez doubled to right-center to plate a runner and Lowell followed up with a single to left-center to score two more.

Hernandez loped leisurely to the backstop to back up Span’s throw to home. His pace was as slow as his pitches, allowing Lowell to advance to third. Sean Casey starched a single into center and Lowell represented the go-ahead run of the game.

Hernandez provided a few more snacks in the form of two more runs in the fifth. Ramirez doubled again, just missing a homer into the Monster seats, to drive in a run and was in turn driven in by Casey.

It was in the seventh where the flaming dessert was presented with a grandiose flourish. Span seemingly came up with a triple play-sparking snag of Jason Varitek’s gentle liner to center. Lowell tagged up for a run, but Casey and Varitek both saw that Span trapped the ball and advanced at their peril.

Second base umpire Greg Gibson signaled an out when Span relayed the ball to Alexi Casilla, which would have meant a triple play. After a conference, the call was reversed and the Red Sox had runners at the corners with none out.

The gorging that followed made Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut seem anorexic.

July 9, 2008


Game 93: July 8, 2008
Twins 5
H: Dennys Reyes (10)
BS, L: Matt Guerrier (3, 4-4)
50-40, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 6
W: David Aardsma (3-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (27)
54-39, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Manny being Papi in the eighth inning with a game-tying two-run shot into the Monster seats.

Last night’s game wasn’t as crisply played as the first game of the series. Just ask Coco Crisp himself, who dove after a rapidly descending fly off the bat of Nick Punto to begin the ninth, converting a single into a double. Or Jon Lester, who slogged through seven and one-third innings while surrendering nine hits, five earned runs, and three walks.

Even the fans were slacking. A few of them crowded around when Kevin Cash pursued a Carlos Gomez pop fly into the first row of the stands in the fifth. Gomez ended up striking out, as he tends to do, but it would have been a tidy out and one less pitch on Lester’s arm.

The Twins have such an unassuming lineup, much like Minnesotans themselves. They come bearing gifts of green bean casseroles and molded Jello only to make themselves too cozy and put up three quick runs in the fourth. Their fans’ signs are funny: not only do they come with “Circle Me, Bert” creations but politely bemoan how Boston acquired some of Minnesota’s best athletes (Kevin Garnett, Randy Moss, and David Ortiz) to bring success to their new home.

But Boston responded with a four-run eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury started the rally off with a double high off the left field wall that ricocheted into the triangle and Dustin Pedroia followed with an improbable bloop single to shallow right. Pedroia seemed to have to reached into the opposite batter’s box to get the head of the bat on the ball and arc it over his counterpart’s glove. Manny Ramirez carried the torch with a moonshot and Brandon Moss crossed the finish line with a scorching ground ball up the middle to plate Kevin Youkilis.

Moss even stole second on a pickoff attempt with Justin Morneau tagging the empty air at first, something I have never seen before.

A sight for sore eyes are consecutive wins of one-run games.

July 8, 2008

Kyūen [球宴]

Game 92: July 7, 2008
Twins 0 L: Brian Bass (3-3) 50-39, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 1 W: Hideki Okajima (2-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (26)
53-39, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn’t part of the decision last night, nor will he be in next week’s All-Star Game, which is called kyūen in his native language (the first character kyū means ball and the second en stands for party or celebration). But last night he proved he is capable of shutdown stuff despite a rough first inning.

In the first inning Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed three Js, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel, to load the bases after securing two quick outs. It had all the makings of one of those outings that Jerry Remy grouses about: walks galore thanks to Matsuzaka’s nibbling. Matsuzaka induced a ground ball out off the bat of Delmon Young to himself to end the inning.

From that point on Matsuzaka went right after batters. John Farrell probably worked his magic in between frames to motivate his charge to be aggressive on the mound. The result was seven and one-third innings of fine pitching supported by upper-echelon defense and a return to form by the relief tandem of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon.

Julio Lugo contributed by his diving trap of Mauer’s grounder up the middle and accurate throw to Kevin Youkilis for the last out of the third. In the seventh Youkilis turned in a gem of his own by snagging a liner off Brian Buscher and tagging Young off first for a well-timed unassisted double play; Young was the first leadoff batter to get on base for the Twins.

Red Sox baserunners were as scarce as they were for the visiting team, however. Twins starter Scott Baker twirled seven scoreless frames until he yielded to reliever Brian Bass.

Dustin Pedroia played a familiar bass line with his leadoff fly ball to left field that clanged just right of the pole and a few feet below the top of the wall. Pedroia crossed the dish for Boston’s sole run on Manny Ramirez’s sharp grounder to the opposite field. Coming through in such a high leverage situation must have tacked on a few decimals to Ramirez’s Win Probability Added (WPA).

Fangraphs calculates WPA so that each player has a positive and negative number that is combined for net wins contributed to the team. Four Red Sox players were elected by fans to the represent their team in the All-Star Game and three more were voted in by players, managers, and coaches. Here there are with their respective WPA thus far:

  • David Ortiz: 4.61 - 4.63 = -0.02
  • Dustin Pedroia: 8.16 - 6.37 = 1.78
  • Manny Ramirez: 9.07 - 5.88 = 3.19
  • Kevin Youkilis: 7.24 - 6.34 = 0.90
  • J.D. Drew: 6.50 - 5.28 = 1.22
  • Jonathan Papelbon: 4.68 - 4.03 = .65
  • Jason Varitek: 4.34 - 5.77 = -1.43

Admittedly this statistic does not calculate how a catcher may or may not improve a pitcher, one of the oft-cited intangibles that set Jason Varitek apart from other backstops. That and the fact that he is not A.J. Pierzynski.

July 7, 2008


Game 91: July 6, 2008
Red Sox 4 BS: Javier Lopez (1)
L: Jonathan Papelbon (3-3)
52-39, 2 game losing streak
WinYankees 5 W: Mariano Rivera (3-3) 47-42, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Alex Rodriguez homered to lead off the second inning last night tying him with Mickey Mantle. He emulated another Yankee immortal, Joe DiMaggio, with the furor over his entanglement with a blond bombshell, although DiMaggio was not linked to Marilyn Monroe until well after his divorce from Dorothy Arnold. Cynthia Rodriguez filed for divorce today on the grounds of a “long period of infidelity” and “emotional abandonment” by husband Alex. Media speculation is rampant on how this will impact Rodriguez on the field, imagining that he actually cares for anything or anyone outside of himself, his money, and his fame.

The saga of Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis continued last night. The Red Sox first baseman singled to begin the fifth, sending an 0-2 pitch into the opposite field. Sean Casey singled to advance Youkilis to third. Perhaps it was the mere presence of Youkilis in his line of sight that set Chamberlain off; the fiery pitcher bounced a wild slider to the plate and was forced to cover home.

Youkilis came in fast with one foot up and the other tucked beneath him. With the slide the score evened to 1-1. The antagonists did not bother to acknowledge the other after the collision as you would expect after a good, hard play. Chamberlain regained his focus and struck out Julio Lugo and Kevin Cash, but neither are formidable offensive threats. Jacoby Ellsbury walked to fill the bases and Dustin Pedroia smacked a gapper to Bobby Abreu for the lead.

Chamberlain threw behind Youkilis in the top of the next inning in obvious retaliation to which the umpires continued to be oblivious. Perhaps the umpires were too concerned with preparing to throw out Joe Girardi in the bottom of the inning, as the storyline of building up Girardi’s reputation requires.

They really need to get a better wardrobe designer for this series as Jon Miller’s outfit (blinding yellow tie, navy shirt with white collar, and navy suit) had all the tastelessness of Craig Sager yet none of his panache.

Many have noted that Joe Torre was a genius thanks to Mariano Rivera’s arm. I am beginning to think that Jonathan Papelbon’s renown as a closer is in part based on the David Ortiz’s presence. So often Ortiz would provide those final few runs that proved the margin between a loss or tie and Papelbon would come in to mow down the remaining opposition.

Where Rivera can shutdown a lineup for multiple innings in a game or a few days in a row, even at his age, it seems Papelbon tends to peter out. Papelbon surrendered a run on July 4 and last night allowed two singles, one by Robinson Cano and the other by rookie Brett Gardner, to lose the game.

The Red Sox miss Ortiz, like how DiMaggio pined over Monroe for decades. Please don’t make us wait that long, Papi.

July 6, 2008


Game 90: July 5, 2008
Red Sox 1 L: Justin Masterson 52-38, 1 game losing streak
WinYankees 2 W: Mike Mussina (11-6)
H: Jose Veras (5)
H: Kyle Farnsworth (10)
S: Mariano Rivera (23)
46-42, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Joe Girardi’s motivational tactics made an impact at last. His team held the Red Sox at bay until the top of the ninth. The teams tied the record for combined hit batsmen with seven (Masterson hit Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Jose Molina; Mussina plunked Ramirez twice; and Rivera hit Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis).

In retrospect, the game was decided in the first inning. Dustin Pedroia, cocksure as always, attempted to stretch his single to left into a double. Perhaps the infielder forgot that it wasn’t Johnny Damon who roamed that portion of the outfield but Brett Gardner.

The rookie Gardner isn’t noodle-armed like the veteran he replaced, so Pedroia was out at second easily. J.D. Drew smacked a double to right-center which could have plated Peewee.

Mike Mussina’s approach would have been different were he pitching from a deficit in his six innings of work. He already had to grapple with Kerwin Danley’s inconsistent strike zone, making the old-timer even more tetchy than usual.

But because of Pedroia’s foolhardiness and a second-inning RBI single by Melky Cabrera, Mussina and his relievers had the luxury of the lead, slight as it was. Gardner contributed on the offensive side by tacking on a run in the sixth with his sacrifice fly to his counterpart Jacoby Ellsbury.

For the fourth year in a row Kyle Farnsworth reached double digits in holds, just like his IQ. Jose Veras secured his fifth hold of the year, equaling the number of years his by which his birth certificate was adjusted.

Mariano Rivera nearly blew his first save of 2008 but for the weak pop out by Jason Varitek bookended by whiffs by Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo. I guess Rivera didn’t want to be cheered at Fenway like he was at Opening Day in 2005.

July 5, 2008


Game 89: July 4, 2008
WinRed Sox 6 W: Josh Beckett (8-5)
H: Hideki Okajima (16)
H: Manny Delcarmen (12)
H: Javier Lopez (8)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (25)
52-37, 2 game winning streak
Yankees 4 L: Darrell Rasner (4-7) 45-42, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: The score should actually be 6-3, but third base umpire Wally Bell officiated as if he were wearing a Wally mascot costume. Coco Crisp came up with Derek Jeter’s swiftly falling fly ball in the ninth but the catch was adjudged a trap, giving the Yankees a run and Jeter a gift extra base hit. At least George Steinbrenner had four runs to celebrate his July 4th birthday.

It looked to be one of those kinds of games when the Red Sox failed to score in the first inning with one out. Mike Lowell popped out to the ridiculously mustachioed Jason Giambi for the second out and Kevin Youkilis peppered a shot straight into Derek Jeter’s glove.

The Yankees jumped ahead on first inning doubles by Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. The home team looked less listless than they did Thursday: Bobby Abreu motored from first to score on Rodriguez’s double and the Yankees’ third baseman advanced to third as the attempted hosing of Abreu dribbled past both Jason Varitek and Josh Beckett.

But rookie Darrell Rasner couldn’t carry the fire that Joe Girardi’s closed-door meeting on Thursday evening presumable sparked. In the third he let Jacoby Ellsbury reach on a bunt single and Dustin Pedroia looped a single into left. J.D. Drew advanced the pair of runners with a ground ball to the Mustache and Manny Ramirez was unintentionally intentionally walked to load the bases.

Lowell reached out to a pitch outside to sacrifice in Ellsbury; the Red Sox third baseman’s ball settled uneventfully in Damon’s glove. But Youkilis’s subsequent fly found itself in far more peculiar circumstances.

Damon retreated to the left field wall which is padded save for the viewing windows. He leaped up to snowball the lofting ball but his impact jarred it out of his glove and onto the top of the wall. There it sat ensconced for what seemed an eternity until either the reverberation from Damon’s collision or the helpful nudging of a fan knocked it from its perch.

Youkilis tied the game with an assist from his former teammate. Damon left the game with a contused and sprained left shoulder.

Lowell gave no opportunity for replacement left fielder Brett Gardner to make a play on what would be the game-winning home run in the fifth. Pedroia and Ramirez crossed the plate and celebrated Lowell’s fireworks with him.

Despite Beckett not having his strikeout stuff the Yankees were limited to four hits and three actual runs. Boston’s bullpen seemed to have righted their previously listing galleon. The marauding relievers’ three innings of shutout ball helped secure at least a series split.

It is striking how different the Red Sox are playing against the Yankees compared to the Rays. The stronger part of Boston’s rotation have taken the mound, but in this long weekend series so far the lineup has stroked the timely hit and the bullpen has been lights out when called upon. The true rivalry in the AL East, based on current talent rather than reputation, has been defined.

Perhaps Joe Girardi had better time his meetings so that a rookie with a losing record isn’t on the mound the following day. Maybe he had another meeting with after yesterday’s game with the reanimated (well, as much as one can revitalize his deathly pallor) Mike Mussina scheduled to start.

July 3, 2008

Endoran [エンドラン]

Game 87: July 2, 2008
Red Sox 6 H: Hideki Okajima (15)
BS, L: Craig Hansen (2, 1-3)
50-37, 5 game losing streak
WinRays 7 W: Gary Glover (1-2)
S: Dan Wheeler (3)
52-32, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: In Japanese baseball the term for the hit and run play sounds more like a football play: endoran, the Japanized way to say end run. The Red Sox ninth-inning rally was killed by a failed hit and run with Jason Varitek in the box and Mike Lowell at first. I question the wisdom of such a tactic with a player who can’t hit at the dish and a player who can’t run on base.

With this loss the Red Sox equaled their longest losing streak of the season. The previous streak from April 23 to 27 also involved a series sweep by the Rays in St. Petersburg. That early in the season the Tampa Bay team was pshawed as a contender, but now that it is July the Rays appear to be the real deal.

Dustin Pedroia, like the Rays, had to prove naysayers that he could break into the majors. The petite infielder sustained his torrid pace going 4-for-5 with two RBI. Most intriguing was the order of his hits: home run in the first, triple in the third, double in the fifth, and another double in the eighth. He could have held up at first on his second double, but at the time his team trailed 7-5.

This season Pedroia is a shoo-in to make the All-Star team, in case his Rookie of the Year credentials from last year don’t pass muster with his doubters.

J.D. Drew was named AL Player of the Month for June. David Ortiz will likely take live batting practice next week. Mike Timlin will be activated for the Yankees series and Chris Smith will be optioned to Pawtucket. Red Sox first round pick Casey Kelly remains unsigned; I never trust people with two first names.

I’m tempted to replicate a dozen more Red Sox news links rather than relive the bottom of the seventh inning. As hard as it would be for me to write about it must be thousands of times worse for Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen. Both relievers faced three batters without tallying a single out.

Just as Boston played three games in Tropicana Field without garnering a single win.

July 2, 2008


Game 86: July 1, 2008
Red Sox 1 L: Tim Wakefield (5-6) 50-36, 4 game losing streak
WinRays 3 W: Matt Garza (7-4)
H: J.P. Howell (6)
S: Grant Balfour (2)
51-32, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: The Rays bullpen reminds me of what the Red Sox bullpen did last year. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon would close down the final two innings of games with regularity and if Papelbon wasn’t available Okajima could close out the game.

Previous incarnations of the (Devil Rays) consisted of a surfeit of talented hitters and a dearth of arms. Last year the team nailed down the makings of a dominant starting rotation by drafting David Price and spinning a powerful bat (Delmon Young) for another young gun (Matt Garza). Add these talents to the established Scott Kazmir and the emergent James Shields and the expansion franchise was two-thirds of the way to a team to be reckoned with.

That most capricious element of a baseball team, the bullpen, has solidified at last for the Rays. So many of the Red Sox’s comebacks came at a misplaced pitch by a Tampa Bay reliever.

So far in 2008 it seems the obverse is the rule: Boston’s bullpen is maddeningly inconsistent and unreliable while these Floridian upstarts slam the door on erstwhile rallies.

Yesterday Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) posted an analysis of Jacoby Ellsbury’s career arc thus far and revealed the center fielder’s troubling trend towards increasing strikeout rates with each promotion. Sheehan’s thinking was much in line with Dennis Eckersley’s analysis in his NESN segment; both observers noted that Ellsbury hasn’t sustained the power that he flashed when he first got on the big league squad nor has he got on base enough to use what appears to be his best offensive asset, his speed. The comparisons to Johnny Damon seem overly optimistic given that Damon made a major league roster at age 22, giving the former Royal and Red Sox player two more years to figure out major league pitching.

Ellsbury is at a crossroads, and last night seemed to be a step down the right path. The outfielder went 2-for-4 with one questionable call in the eighth by the official scorer that had him reach base on an error rather than a hit. Ellsbury scored the only run by the visitors, aided by a throwing error by a panicked Dioner Navarro.

There were several times in the late innings when Boston could have tied or taken the lead: J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez popped out in the sixth with two men on, Mike Lowell grounded out to short with the bases loaded to end the eighth, and Jason Varitek whiffed on high heat with Alex Cora on second to end the game.

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